Watched a number of classic Hollywood pictures with an emphasis on noir. The private detective subgenera has long been a passion of mine, and so I’ve seen these films at least a dozen times each. I made it to the theater once last week, to see Kingsmen: the Golden Circle, which I very much enjoyed, despite its mixed reception from critics.
San Francisco 100% on Rotten Tomatoes 7 (DVD)
Starring Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, Spencer Tracy
Plot Summary-A midwestern girl and pastor’s daughter (MacDonald) moves to the raucous urban sprawl of 1906 San Francisco. There, she falls for the roguish club owner Blackie Norton (Gable) while being pursued by the more reliable and wealthy Jack Burley.
My Take-Special effects and melodrama. An early example that I believe set the template for later classics such as Titanic. The climactic earthquake sequences are remarkable. While the surrounding drama is at times heavy handed and somewhat hackneyed (perhaps due to age), Gable gives his best performance as the selfish man changed by love. Tracy is excellent in essentially a supporting role (although he was nominated for the Oscar in the lead category). MacDonald is lovely as the fish out of water songstress and rising star.
-Directed by W.S Van Dyke, 1936
24 Frames Per Second No Rotten Tomatoes Score 5 (Filmstruck)
Plot Summary-Avant-garde cinema centered around an exhibition of a Persian rug.
My Take- The real art here is in the technical achievement. Clarke manipulates frame rate through editing to create a jarring, albeit brief experience. Like most experimental work, I question what was it in the service of? A.K.A what’s the point?
-Directed by Shirley Clarke, 1977
The Maltese Falcon 100% on Rotten Tomatoes 9 (VHS)
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook Jr.
Plot Summary- What begins as a simple case of following and protecting a beautiful brunette for private eye Sam Spade, soon leads to three murders, the death of his partner, and a quest for an ancient treasure.
My Take-Benchmark Hollywood filmmaking. Very few characters, but all distinct and expertly played. I couldn’t imagine a single other actor in any one of these roles. Bogart’s is an indelible persona and Sam Spade was his first great role. Other, more complex noir would follow, but Huston’s pic remains the standard.
-Directed by John Huston, 1941
Another Thin Man 81% on Rotten Tomatoes 7 (DVD)
Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy
Plot Summary- Nick and Nora Charles visit an old family friend who’s grown paranoid, certain that someone’s out to kill him. He’s proven correct not long after, and pretty soon Nick (a former detective) is asked to come out of retirement, this time with the help of his wife.
My Take- The gritty, sophisticated edge that the original Thin Man movie had is gone from this, the third entry in the long running series of films. What’s left is Powell and Loy’s charm, light comedy, witty dialogue, and a decent murder mystery. Good enough.
-Directed by W.S Van Dyke, 1939
You’re Never Too Young No Rotten Tomatoes Score 5 (Youtube)
Starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Raymond Burr
Plot Summary-Unwittingly involved in a major heist and murder, Wilbur (Lewis) has to take it on the lam, disguising himself as a 12 year old as he hides out at an all-girls school.
My Take-A promising setup and a bright, colorful disposition, this Lewis-Martin film should have been more fun. They miss opportunities throughout to push the humor or mix in suspense by being over reliant on Jerry Lewis shenanigans. A couple of those land, but there’s no tension making anything more exciting. Martin’s relegated to frown face and wet blanket. There was also an opportunity for an odd romance that the film conveniently drops and does nothing with.
-Directed by Norman Taurog, 1955
Shadow of the Thin Man 83% on Rotten Tomatoes 8 (DVD)
Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Donna Reed
Plot Summary- Nick and Nora Charles return, this time getting wrapped up in a murder case involving a friend on a casual trip to a wrestling match.
My Take- After the first film which is a great movie, this and the second one compete for the next best. It’s a return to a slightly more serious tone, with an engaging murder mystery and juicy characters. Powell and Loy are always the selling point though. What they bring to this series seems effortless. I also love the return of Lieutenant Abrams who first appeared in After the Thin Man.
-Directed by W.S Van Dyke, 1941