Man in the Saddle (1951, Directed by André De Toth) English 5

Starring Randolph Scott, Ellen Drew, Joan Leslie, John Russell, Alfonso Bedoya, Richard Rober, Alexander Knox

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(5-Okay Film)

Lackluster. Ill-defined. Dutiful.

Owen Merrit (Scott) has been thrown over by Laurie (Leslie) for a wealthy land baron, Will Isham (Knox), but can’t quite give her up, believing that she still loves him. Isham, for all of his wealth and power, is a jealous, insecure man and he sees Merrit as a threat. Isham’s plot to destroy Merrit leads the latter to hiding out with a schoolmarm, Nan (Drew), and biding his time to get revenge.  Man in the Saddle hits all the familiar notes in unspectacular fashion but westerns, even at their most derivative, can be great fun. Man in the Saddle is not much fun, despite all of its technical competence, mainly because it’s too muddled early on and the characters aren’t distinct enough until too late in the film. By that time, I was pretty bored. The romance/ love triangle is also uninteresting.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(787)

Cover Girl (1944, Directed by Charles Vidor) English 6

Starring Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers, Otto Kruger, Eve Arden, Lee Bowman, Jess Barker

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(6-Good Film)

Grand. Skilled. Lacking.

Chorus girl, Rusty Parker (Hayworth), has a decent job and a boyfriend, Danny McGuire (Kelly), she loves dearly but can’t help but aspire for more. An opportunity to pose for Vanity magazine comes her way and she makes the most of it, but her newfound success puts a strain on her relationship with Danny. Like most if not all of the old, classic Hollywood musicals, this is a well-crafted, staged, and performed picture. The technicolor cinematography is bright and appealing and there are a number of inspired musical numbers. The story, on the other hand, is less inspired. Most romantic musicals are hackneyed to some degree but there’s not enough happening in Cover Girl that’s compelling. Danny and Rusty already love each other at the start of the film so they’re kind of boring as the story moves on.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(781)

Artists and Models (1955, Directed by Frank Tashlin) English 7

Starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Shirley MacLaine, Dorothy Malone, Eva Gabor, Anita Ekberg

(7-Very Good Film)

Colorful. Zany. Fun.

Colorful, manic collaboration between Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, this musical comedy marks the pair’s 14th film together. Martin plays a struggling comic artist who uses the dreams of his hapless roommate for material. Madness and romance ensue. I personally preferred Martin’s smooth crooning to Lewis’ over the top wackiness but Artists and Models is consistently fun and entertaining. Lots of beautiful women including Dorothy Malone and Shirley Maclaine is a plus.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(774)

The Glass Key (1942, Directed by Stuart Heisler) English 7

Starring Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Brian Donlevy, Joseph Calleia, William Bendix, Bonita Granville

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(7-Very Good Film)

Gripping. Enticing. Cool.

Early adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel featuring Donlevy as Paul Madvig, a big-time crook and political organizer, and Alan Ladd as his right-hand man and best friend, Beaumont. Their small empire runs into trouble when Paul alienates another powerful crook, Nick Varna, at the same time falling in love with a politician’s daughter named Janet (Veronica Lake), who happens to be the sister of a man he’s thought to have killed. It’s up to Beaumont to clean up the mess, and untangle the mystery, as he fights off the growing attraction between himself and his best friend’s girlfriend. Slick noir, with excellent supporting turns from Joseph Calleia and William Bendix. Ladd and Lake are justifiably a classic screen couple. Their smoldering makes the all too neat ending not only passable but completely satisfying.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(773)

The Lost Moment (1947, Directed by Martin Gabel) English 6

Starring Robert Cummings, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, Joan Lorring, John Archer, Eduardo Ciannelli

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(6-Good Film)

Intriguing. Beguiling. Tame.

Ambitious publisher and privileged young man, Lewis Venable (Cummings), sees the opportunity of a lifetime when he hears about a series of love letters written by famed 19th-century poet Jeffrey Ashton. A professional tip (actually something a little shadier) leads him to an old mansion in Venice owned by the still living Juliana Bordereau (Moorehead), now over one-hundred years-old, who was Ashton’s lover during his time and the recipient of his letters. Venable assumes a fake identity in order to swindle Bordereau out of those letters but finds the house a dark place that holds more secrets than just the letters. There’s the beautiful Tina, Bordereau’s cold but alluring niece, for instance. In the vein of many old gothic chillers, The Lost Moment boasts lovely black and white photography to go with its memorable set pieces. Susan Hayward’s Tina is a fantastic and baffling femme fatale and Agnes Moorehead under heavy makeup is convincing as the ancient hag. I was left disappointed, however, in the main character who shifts too quickly from scoundrel to hero. Rather than go for something truly original and outrageous, the film plays it safe and ends on a pleasant note.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(771)

A Night to Remember (1942, Directed by Richard Wallace) English 5

Starring Loretta Young, Brian Aherne, Jeff Donnell, Sidney Toler, William Wright, Gale Sondergaard

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(5-Okay Film)

Amusing. Slight. Forgettable.

A happy couple, the husband, an amateur mystery writer (Aherne), and the wife, a quick-witted beauty (Young), move into a seemingly nice apartment, but the neighbors act strange, and soon a dead body turns up. The two decide to investigate and stumble upon a large blackmailing scheme. Perhaps spurred on by the success of Nick and Nora in the Thin Man series, this mystery film’s best quality is the chemistry between the charming lead couple. The actual mystery has an intriguing premise but isn’t fully developed and lacks suspense.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(763)

If You Could Only Cook (1935, Directed by William A. Seiter) English 7

Starring Herbert Marshall, Jean Arthur, Leo Carrillo, Lionel Stander, Frieda Inescort, Gene Morgan

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(7-Very Good Film)

Light. Charming. Attractive.

Out of the Great Depression came some of Hollywood’s most charming movies, If You Could Only Cook being a nice example, though at around 70 minutes and with a premise familiar to anyone who’s seen a romantic comedy, this film can hardly be considered complex. Herbert Marshall plays a rich, car designer named James Buchanan. Unhappily engaged to socialite golddigger, James meets a woman, Joan Hawthorne (Arthur), in the park who’s desperate to find employment. She laments that the only job available to her, private cook, requires her to have a husband who can work as butler. James, being intrigued by the young woman, decides to help, and the two, pretending to be married, unwittingly become servants for a gangster, Mike Rossini (Carrillo). This is a really lovely movie. One in which all the characters are lovable, even the gangsters. Jean Arthur is one of my favorite movie stars and Marshall, who I am less familiar with, is fantastic here.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(761)