The Far Country (1954, Directed by Anthony Mann) English 7

Starring James Stewart, Walter Brennan, Ruth Roman, Corinne Calvet, John McIntire, Jack Elam, Jay C. Flippen, Harry Morgan

The Far Country (1954) — The Movie Database (TMDb)

(7-Very Good Film)

Gripping. Lean. Rewarding.

Jeff Webster: I don’t need other people. I don’t need help. I can take care of me.

From the moment Jeff Webster (Stewart in one of his five collaborations with director, Anthony Mann) drives into Dawson City, Yukon, he’s indifference personified. Something must have happened in his past to make him like this, but, as far as I can clearly recall, it’s never clearly explained. He’s a hard man; the type the people of Dawson City desperately need, if he could only care enough to help them. It’s the close of the 19th century and Yukon is booming with gold. A corrupt judge, Judge Gannon (McIntire) with dozens of men on his payroll is moving in on claims hardworking miners have already staked. Anthony Mann and Stewart’s collaborations are referred to as psychological westerns. The designation fits but it almost spoils how deceptively simple they are. The setup in all five films are a dime a dozen. Here, a jaded antihero doesn’t want to get involved but has his hand forced. You, no doubt, have seen a film or two like that before. I think the key is that this setup is infinitely satisfying. As long as you keep refreshing it with new characters and a fresh take, it can always be effective. Anthony Mann, as far as I can see, really introduced the antihero to the mainstream westerns. Classic westerns tend to revolve around irreproachable male figures. John Wayne and Henry Fonda were saints in a large portion of their westerns. We are definitely rooting for Stewart in The Far Country but we’re rooting for him to finally do the right thing as much as we are for him to fight. Judge Gannon makes for a truly despicable villain and it all builds to an immensely satisfying finale. Preeminent character actor, Walter Brennan, plays Jeff’s partner, Ben.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Woman on the Run (1950, Directed by Norman Foster) English 6

Starring Ann Sheridan, Dennis O’Keefe, Ross Elliot, Robert Keith, John Qualen, Frank Jenks, Steven Geray

Kennington Noir presents Woman on the Run (1950) on 35mm » The ...

(6-Good Film)

Efficient. Surprising. Nifty.

Maibus: So Frank is a fugitive from the law… that’s just like him!

Frank didn’t do anything wrong. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Witnessing a murder, the cops want him to be their lead witness, but he doesn’t relish the idea of risking his life to play informant so he runs. Now, the cops, the killer, a newspaperman, Dan Legget (O’Keefe), and his estranged wife, Eleanor (Sheridan), are looking all over San Francisco for him. This is a clever, ultra-efficient thriller with a neat trick or two up its sleeves. It’s also been pointed out to me how rare it is to have a noir featuring a woman as the lead. Sheridan plays the jaded, tough-talking dame who more than holds her own in this violent world she’s been thrust into. More proof that within the conventions of a noir and with the limited resources of a B-Picture, came many solid films (and some great ones).

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(976)

 

Yolanda and the Thief (1945, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 7

Starring Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer, Frank Morgan, Leon Ames, Mildred Natwick, Mary Nash

Yolanda and the Thief: An Out of the World Place | Bright Wall ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Lofty. Peculiar. Beguiling.

Yolanda Aquaviva: Mr. Brown doesn’t dance… except, perhaps, on the head of a pin.

Yolanda and the Thief, I gather, was not a success. Astaire retired for a period after and its leading lady, Lucille Bremer, hardly ever worked again. The critics sneered and modern opinion hasn’t exactly warmed to it. As it stands, I think Yolanda and the Thief will have to settle for being a niche picture; a film made for a very select group of people, and if that group doesn’t exist yet, I’ll start it, because this is a film that’s at least as special as it is flawed. Astaire plays the thief, Johnny (some people, evidently, didn’t like the idea of dapper, refined Astaire as a thief) and Bremer plays Yolanda, a young woman raised in a convent who’s suddenly inherited a vast fortune. Several con artists set their sights on her but Johnny’s got the perfect con cooking. Overhearing her prayer for a guardian angel, he poses as one, convincing her to sign over the power of attorney and all of her wealth right along with it. The trick, of course, for Johnny is getting the money and running before he falls for the mark. Set in some imagined Latin-American country, but designed on a Hollywood backlot, Yolanda and the Thief is a gorgeous fantasy with an unforgettable detour by way of a mid-movie dream sequence. In fact, it has a kind of dream-like, illusory quality all over that I enjoy very much. Bremer’s performance is heavily criticized and not without reason, but I, for one, find her artificial, syrupy performance at home with the aesthetics and tone of the picture.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(973)

Guys and Dolls (1955, Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) English 7

Starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Viviane Blaine, Stubby Kaye, Robert Keith, B.S Pully

The Ace Black Blog: Movie Review: Guys And Dolls (1955)

(7-Very Good Film)

Snappy. Colorful. Brash.

Sky Masterson: I am not putting the knock on dolls. It’s just that they are something to have around only when they come in handy… like cough drops.

The good girl falling for the bad guy and then vice versa isn’t a unique concept. It wasn’t a unique concept in 1955 when this film was made, or in 1950 when Guys and Dolls premiered as a Broadway musical. I doubt it was a unique concept in the 1930s when Damon Runyan wrote a pair of short stories that inspired the show. The point is “good girl and bad guy” seems to be an endless source of escapism and, perhaps, wish fulfillment. Guys and Dolls has a lot of fun with it. Sky Masterson (Brando) is a big-time gambler. His newest wager is that he can woo any girl- of Nathan Detroit’s choosing-to go to Havana, Cuba with him. Detroit (Sinatra), a fellow gambler in need of $1,000 quick, chooses prim, proper Sister Sarah Brown (Simmons), a local missionary, to win his bet for him. Sinatra is a natural in his part, turning every song he sings into a great one, and there are great songs all around. Brando is less natural in his role, mainly because of the singing that’s required, but the film doesn’t lose any points from me on that score. Brando is a movie star for the ages; one of the best. Seeing him in a role so far afield his usual dramatic fare is a pleasure, and I feel he and Jean Simmons do work in their roles. The dialogue is as fine as the music.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(972)

The Reluctant Debutante (1958, Directed by Vincente Minelli) English 6

Starring Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall, Sandra Dee, John Saxon, Angela Lansbury, Diane Clare, Peter Myers

The Reluctant Debutante | Trailers From Hell

(6-Good Film)

Vibrant. Easy. Slight.

Sheila Broadbent: No, darling, it’s Jane. She’s no good with men. She doesn’t know any, and she doesn’t want to know any.

Vincente Minelli, like most old Hollywood studio directors, was prolific. Through dozens of films of varying quality (all entertaining), his skill and level of craftsmanship were constant. The Reluctant Debutante, in a career primarily made up of musicals and romantic comedies, happens to be one of his lightest of efforts. It’s champagne bubbles and garnish; not a full-course meal. Seventeen-year-old Jane Broadbent (Dee) travels from her home in America to England to stay with her father, Jimmy (Harrison), and step-mother, Sheila (Kendall). Sheila, meaning well, wants to introduce Jane to upper-class society’s finest and most eligible young men. Instead, Jane falls for a drummer, David Parkson (Paxon), a working-class stiff with a bad reputation. The cast shines brightly (Kay Kendall is a fantastic comedienne) and there’s fun to be had in the rapid-fire dialogue.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(971)

The Cat and the Canary (1939, Directed by Elliot Nugent) English 8

Starring Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Gale Sondergaard, John Beal, George Zucco, Douglass Montgomery, Elizabeth Patterson

The Cat and the Canary (1939) – Journeys in Classic Film

(8-Exceptional Film)

Funny. Creepy. Effective.

Cicily: Don’t big empty houses scare you?

Wally Campbell: Not me, I used to be in vaudeville.

Quentin Tarantino once explained why Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was his favorite film as a kid, “it bent my mind that my two favorite genres could be put into one movie.” Bob Hope, my favorite classic Hollywood comedian, made a career’s worth of films in this mold-he’s lampooned westerns (The Paleface), private detectives (My Favorite Brunette), spies (My Favorite Blonde), costume dramas (Monsieur Beaucaire), and pirates (The Princess and the Pirate). Among his best films, however, are his ventures into horror. Horror and comedy (both dependent on the element of surprise) go well together and they go well together here. The Cat and the Canary is one of Hope’s finest. He arrives at a creepy secluded mansion on the bayou along with a host of other guests including Joyce Norman played by Paulette Goddard to find out the will of their wealthy deceased relative. When Joyce is named the sole heir, she spends the rest of the night with a target on her back with only Bob Hope as an ally. Psychics, murder, mystery, secret passageways, monsters in masks, and Bob Hope, it’s Scooby-Doo meets Agatha Christie. Sheer fun.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(969)

Satan Met a Lady (1936, Directed by William Dieterle) English 5

Starring Warren William, Bette Davis, Arthur Treacher, Marie Wilson, Alison Skipworth, Winifred Shaw

HAMMETT, DASHIELL, ADAPTED FROM) SATAN MET A LADY (1936) | WalterFilm

(5-Okay Film)

Amusing. Watered-down. Forgettable.

Valerie Purvis: Do you mind very much, Mr. Shane, taking off your hat in the presence of a lady with a gun?

Private detective, Ted Shayne (William), finds his partner, one he’s not particularly fond of, murdered, and weaves through a complicated search for lost treasure to find the killer. A film with Bette Davis as a femme fatale ought to be more memorable than this. Too much playing around with the source material. Based on Dashiell Hammett’s masterpiece The Maltese Falcon, this is an okay adaptation, but five years later John Huston made the ultimate adaptation by sticking to the book.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(968)

Gunfight at the O.K Corral (1957, Directed by John Sturges) English 6

Starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Jo Van Fleet, DeForest Kelly, Dennis Hopper, John Ireland, Jack Elam, Lee Van Cleef

Classicman Film en Twitter: "'Gunfight at the OK Corral' (1957 ...

 (6-Good Film)

Solid. Dramatic. Rousing.

Wyatt Earp: All gunfighters are lonely. They live in fear. They die without a dime, a woman, or a friend.

You can see the outlines of a more thoughtful western in Gunfight at the O.K Corral. Wyatt Earp, as portrayed in the film, is unmarried (historically inaccurate, for those who care) and we see the toll his duty, his profession take on his personal life represented by miss Laura Denbow (Fleming). He’s a marshall in title, but above all, he’s a man who brings law and order to western towns without scruples. Why does he do this? It’s a thankless job. One that pays in notoriety rather than material wealth. This is the root of John Sturges’ take on Wyatt Earp and it’s an interesting take, but apparently, Sturges had his hands tied to a degree by Paramount and producer, Hal B. Wallis. The result is a film that feels compromised and unfulfilled intellectually while still delivering as a rousing, solidly made western superficially. Kirk Douglas plays Doc Holliday and the strength of this movie is the compelling, budding friendship between him and Earp. The ending, eponymous gunfight is also nicely done.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(967)

Dragonwyck (1946, Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) English 6

Starring Gene Tierney, Vincent Price, Glenn Langan, Walter Huston, Anne Revere, Jessica Tandy, Spring Byington

Dragonwyck (1946) with Gene Tierney – Classic Film Freak

(6-Good Film)

Atmospheric. Eerie. Grandiose.

Miranda Wells: Nicholas – you do believe in God?

Nicholas Van Ryn: I believe in myself, and I am answerable to myself! I will not live according to printed mottoes like the directions on a medicine bottle!

Miranda Wells (Tierney) has lived a cloistered life courtesy of her strict, religious parents in early 19th century Connecticut. When the opportunity comes for her to live with a wealthy relative, landowner Nicholas Van Ryn (Price), she leaps at it and quickly finds herself drawn to the imposing figure, despite his being married. I imagine Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is the standard for all romantic gothic novels and their adaptations, though I haven’t read any of the books and have only seen a handful of the movies. There’s an affected, very mannered air about the dialogue and acting in these films. As a result, Vincent Price is perfect for his gaudy role here. He once remarked about many of his films, “(they) don’t date because they were dated to begin with.” I think that’s accurate, in general, and accurate about Dragonwyck in particular. Dragonwyck is a handsome, elaborately staged affair. The costumes, the house, and all of the trinkets inside it are expertly crafted. That’s the main pleasure of watching most period films and, on that score, Dragonwyck delivers while its story happens to be predictably maudlin and ultimately not up to as much as its busy, intriguing premise suggests. And I’m putting it as a side note but it’s very much front and center in the film: Gene Tierney is staggeringly, timelessly beautiful.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(966)

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944, Directed by Vincente Minnelli) English 8

Starring Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor, Leon Ames, Lucille Bremer, Tom Drake, Harry Davenport, Marjorie Main, Hugh Marlowe, June Lockhart

Meet Me in St. Louis” is always as cool as a cucumber | Cinefilia ...

(8-Exceptional Film)

Endearing. Picturesque. Classic.

Esther Smith: I can’t believe it. Right here where we live – right here in St. Louis.

Like the March sisters of Little Women, the Smiths of Meet Me in St. Louis are a family to cherish. Made up of four daughters-led by Esther (Garland), the second oldest-a son, a loving mother (Astor), a stubborn but caring father (Ames), a spirited grandfather (Davenport), and a sassy maid (Main), the film follows the Smith family through one eventful year in their lives leading up to the famed World’s Fair of 1904. Everything about Meet Me in St. Louis inspires affection. The characters are wonderful. Garland is a star. The production, from the sets to the costumes to the vibrant technicolor, is astounding, and the music is timeless.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(961)