Arabesque (1966, Directed by Stanley Donen) English 6

Starring Gregory Peck, Sophia Loren, Alan Badel, Carl Duering, Kieron Moore, John Merivale, Duncan Lamont

Film - Arabesque - Into Film

(6-Good Film)

Entertaining. Vibrant. Superficial.

David Pollock: Let us through! That man’s about to be killed!

Policeman: I hardly think so, sir. This is England!

Written with Cary Grant in mind to star, Stanley Donen (the director), himself, admitted to the script not being very good, “Our only hope is to make it so visually exciting the audience will never have time to work out what the hell is going on.” I think his comments are spot on and I guess, with that in mind, he succeeded. Arabesque, off the heels of Donen’s Charade (which had a phenomenal script), is convoluted rather than clever, exciting rather than romantic. As far as I could work out, Peck plays a professor, David Pollock, asked to spy on a nefarious middle-eastern tycoon, Nejim Beshraavi (Badel), who wants him to crack a code. David gets tangled up with Beshraavi’s mistress, Yasmin (Loren), who is hard to trust but even harder to ignore. Arabesque is solid light entertainment but far from essential.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,005)

The Major and the Minor (1942, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 7

Starring Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Diana Lynn, Rita Johnson, Lela E. Rogers, Edward Fielding, Robert Benchley

The Major and the Minor (1942)

(7-Very Good Film)

Awkward. Nifty. Fun.

Mr. Osborne: Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?

I’m not sure if things were less sordid then or if sordid things were just less exposed, but a film like this could never work today. I don’t think it’s any deep cynicism on my part that passages of The Major and the Minor are slightly uncomfortable and awkward viewed in today’s day and age. Ginger Rogers plays a disgruntled New York working girl packing it in and heading back to small-town Iowa. Unable to afford standard train fare, she poses as a 12-year-old to get the discounted rate, which leads to one mess after another. Eventually, she stays with Major Philip Kirby (Milland) at his military academy for young boys, and the two fall for one another…even though he thinks she’s a child for most of the movie. Taken too seriously, I suppose, the film is kind of creepy, but with a little effort, it’s not hard to enjoy this, Billy Wilder’s first time directing an American film. This isn’t the real world put on the screen. It’s a screwball comedy and everybody’s a little crazy, but mostly harmless. On its terms, The Major and the Minor is a wonderfully entertaining film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,003)

The Lady Eve (1941, Directed by Preston Sturges) English 7

Starring Henry Fonda, Barbara Stanwyck, Charles Coburn, Eugene Palette, Eric Blore, William Demarest, Melville Cooper

The Lady Eve | film by Sturges [1941] | Britannica

(7-Very Good Film)

Absurd. Witty. Eccentric.

Jean: I need him like the ax needs the turkey.

The Lady Eve might be the most romantic bout of cat-and-mouse ever. This battle-of-the-sexes comedy follows a con artist team made up of an elderly gentleman, Colonel Harrington (Coburn), and his daughter, Jean (Stanwyck), who set their sights on the heir to a massive fortune built on ale, Charles (Fonda). Their plan goes awry once the daughter falls for their mark, and the rest of the movie unfolds in a classic screwball manner. Stanwyck is divine in her demanding role, alternating between femme fatale and vulnerable woman in love with ease and great charm. Fonda and Stanwyck are a prototype for movie couples, and the supporting players are fantastic too. Like the writer-director himself, apparently, The Lady Eve is a strange, often absurd romantic-comedy. Best to just go with it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,001)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953, Directed by Howard Hawkes) English 6

Starring Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn, Elliot Reid, Tommy Noonan, Steven Geray, Taylor Holmes

American Dreams: How Joyce and Faulkner Fell For a Blonde

(6-Good Film)

Breezy. Witty. Fun.

Lorelei Lee: Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?

Much like the stereotypical, ditzy blondes being lampooned in its story, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is mostly superficial amusement, but that’s not to say it isn’t charming, at times witty, filled with catchy songs, or filmed with panache by Howard Hawkes. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell get a great vehicle for their personas. Monroe is the money-crazy, beautiful chorus girl (Lorelei); perhaps a little naive. Russell is the tough-talking dame (Dorothy) who does her best to look out for her friend. When Lorelei gets engaged to a millionaire’s son, the father hires detectives to dig up some dirt on her and break up the engagement. Fun, light entertainment that makes good use of its stars and Charles Coburn is always a scene-stealer.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(999)

Flower Drum Song (1961, Directed by Henry Koster) English 6

Starring Miyoshi Umeki, Nancy Kwan, Jack Soo, James Shigeta, Juanita Hall, Reiko Sato, Benson Fong, James Hong

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: KA SHEN'S JOURNEY / FLOWER DRUM SONG ...

(6-Good Film)

Unique. Important. Enjoyable.

Wang Ta: This is not China. This is a different world. And here a man has the right to choose his own wife.

The Orient has always held a strong fascination for us westerners as a world so unlike our own; it’s exotic. Flower Drum Song isn’t so much about that as it is the inverse. A Chinese father and his daughter, Mei Li (Umeki), sneak into America on an arrangement for a wedding. Mei Li is set to marry the fully Americanized, Sammy Fong (Soo), but he’s in love with nightclub performer, Linda Low (Kwan), and Mei Li falls for Wang Ta (Shigeta). Flower Drum Song offers many fish-out-of-water moments, some nice Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, and a look at the sixties from a unique perspective. Mainly, it’s notable for being a rare vehicle for Asian-American performers and they make the most of it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(997)

Mr. Deeds (2002, Directed by Steven Brill) English 5

Starring Adam Sandler, Winona Ryder, Peter Gallagher, John Turturro, Alan Covert, Jared Harris, Peter Dante, Blake Clark, Steve Buscemi, Erick Avari, Conchata Ferrell

Mr. Deeds (2002)

(5-Okay Film)

Amusing. Likable. Juvenile.

Crazy Eyes: I wasn’t talking to you, Deeds. I was talking to that squirrel over there.

Adam Sandler and his Happy Madison production company have their own brand of comedy and they’re not changing it for anybody. No amount of negative criticism can affect them, apparently, because there are enough people who enjoy their juvenile sense of humor. I’m one of these people, and you should know by now whether you are or not. If you’re not, there’s no point in watching any of his Happy Madison movies. Sure, you can start with the early superior ones like Happy Gilmore or The Wedding Singer but his output hasn’t matured with age if that’s what you’re hoping for. Mr. Deeds is somewhere in the middle as far as his comedies go. A remake of the wonderful Frank Capra film, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, you won’t be getting anything like the charm or sweetness of that classic. Sandler takes over as Longfellow Deeds, a small-town Joe (a little eccentric) with a good heart who inherits a vast fortune and moves to New York. There, he’s tricked and reported on by Babe Bennett (Ryder), who begins to feel guilty as she falls for him. Silly, breezy and enjoyable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(995)

The Princess and the Pirate (1944, Directed by David Butler) English 7

Starring Bob Hope, Virginia Mayo, Walter Brennan, Walter Slezak, Victor McLaglen, Hugo Haas, Mike Mazurki, Maude Eburne

The Princess and the Pirate (1944) David Butler, Sidney Lanfield ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Madcap. Irreverent. Fun.

Sylvester: My act is known all over Europe; that’s why I’m going to America.

In a long, prolific career with several dozen films, each chock-full of snappy one-liners, Bob Hope’s best lines might be found in The Princess and the Pirate. It also happens to be a pretty good swashbuckler. Hope plays The Great Sylvester, a not-so-great performer working in 18th century Europe, who gets caught up in the middle of feared pirate, Captain Barrett (McLaglen), and his crew’s abduction of Princess Margaret (Mayo). The production is first-rate and Hope is surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast. Mayo is winning as his love interest. Brennan is a blast as Featherhead (bearing a strong resemblance to Dopey from Snow White) and McLaglen lends the film just the right amount of austerity to work even apart from being funny.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(992)

I’ll Never Forget You (1951, Directed by Roy Ward Baker) English 6

Starring Tyrone Power, Ann Blyth, Michael Rennie, Irene Browne, Dennis Price, Beatrice Campbell, Kathleen Byron

Screenshots - I'll Never Forget You

(6-Good Film)

Romantic. Sentimental. Imaginative.

Roger Forsyth: You’re sort of a mystery man even to your friends.

Peter Standish (Power) is a brilliant scientist. Unhappy in his own time, he dedicates his life and research to traveling back through the centuries to the 1700s, just after the revolutionary war, specifically. Eventually, he succeeds but finds that life in 18th century England is not at all what he expected, and his love life is complicated by the kind, understanding Helen Pettigrew (Blyth). It’s beyond me why anyone would think that life would be better in the 18th century, but this is a romantic fantasy not meant to be analyzed to death. The conceit is more or less an excuse to turn the film into a costume drama. Tyrone Power, matinee idol for the ages, is convincing as the fish out of water and romantic lead. The romance is sweet if treacly, and the story is light and compelling.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(986)

Shakespeare in Love (1998, Directed by John Madden) English 6

Starring Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench, Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, Anthony Sher, Jim Carter, Simon Callow, Ben Affleck, Imelda Staunton, Rupert Everett, Martin Clunes

Shakespeare in Love – a minor masterpiece. | Tim Haslett's Blog

(6-Good Film)

Amusing. Attractive. Overrated.

Viola De Lesseps: This is not life, Will. It is a stolen season.

What to do with this film? I can’t agree with what seems to be the majority’s consensus; I don’t consider Shakespeare in Love a great film. That’s forgivable, and it’s not because of the Best Picture Oscar that I say that, but I don’t even consider Shakespeare in Love a superior romantic comedy. It follows the famous playwright early in his career, played by Joseph Fiennes, toiling in obscurity and struggling for inspiration until he meets the beautiful Viola (Paltrow). A romance ensues and motivates him to write Romeo and Juliet.  There’s a lot more involved and most of it is very interesting. I enjoyed the period detail, the backstage antics, and much of the humor. I enjoyed Judi Dench’s portrayal of Elizabeth I, and the supporting cast, in general, is fantastic. I’m less enthusiastic about what might be considered the heart of the film; the romance. I don’t wish to pile on Paltrow or Fiennes, who strike me as easy targets (Fiennes especially), and I don’t say that they are bad, but I’m mostly indifferent to their characters and their relationship. It’s superficial and dull.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(975)

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)