August 2006 – Summer Under the Stars

August 2006 – Summer Under the Stars

August 1-9

The Three Musketeers (1948) – an all new capsule review!

Private Screenings: Angela Lansbury (2006) – a TCM premiere!

A Night at the Opera (1935) – classic comedy from the Marx Brothers added to the National Film Registry in 1993. Groucho and Sig Ruman compete for Margaret Dumont’s affections by trying to sign the best singing talent for their operas. Allan Jones is one of the tenors; Kitty Carlisle (known to many of us younger fans as Miss "To Tell the Truth") also appears.

Animal Crackers (1930) – the Marx Brothers find themselves involved in a stolen painting farce. Groucho plays a famous hunter invited to be a houseguest by Margaret Dumont; Chico’s his assistant Harpo’s a professor (!) and Zeppo appears as well. Otherwise there is almost no plot or purpose other than to feature Groucho’s monologues (including #53 on AFI’s Top 100 Movie Quotes list "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I don’t know.") Chico’s piano playing and Harpo’s harp talents as he chases a blonde around the premises or the brothers’ other antics. Lilian Roth plays Dumont’s daughter.

Monkey Business (1931) – not quite as funny as most of their movies but still a pretty good Marx Brothers film featuring a few classic scenes. The four brothers are traveling to America as stowaways on a cruise ship during which they become involved with competing "gangsters". Groucho falls for one of their molls played by Thelma Todd.

Horse Feathers (1932) – very funny Marx Brothers film in which Groucho as the newly appointed president of a college tries to improve the school’s reputation by trying to build a winning football team. Naturally Chico Harpo and Zeppo (playing Groucho’s son) assist while Thelma Todd & David Landau work at cross purposes; Nat Pendleton appears as a football recruit that’s also a hindrance for the brothers. #65 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list.

Duck Soup (1933) – this Marx Brothers classic (the last one with Zeppo) perhaps their best has Groucho playing Rufus T. Firefly the new president of Freedonia so appointed by the richest woman (played by Margaret Dumont of course) in the small country. He declares war on a large neighboring country that of Louis Calhern and spy Raquel Torres (looking an awful lot like Dolores del Rio). Many of the gags and/or lines are classics which have survived and become part of our culture. Directed by Leo McCarey the film was added to the National Film Registry in 1990. Also #5 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list.

A Day At The Races (1937) – Chico and Harpo Marx "enlist" Groucho a horse doctor to help a young woman (Maureen O’Sullivan) save a sanitarium from bankruptcy by winning a stakes race at the track. #59 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list.

The Hairy Ape (1944) – a TCM premiere!

They Won’t Believe Me (1947) – I’m afraid I don’t remember too much about this film noir starring Robert Young who’s married to Rita Johnson’s character as more or less a kept man; he has affairs with Susan Hayward and Jane Greet I believe and I think the story is told in flashback while he’s on trial for his wife’s murder. It’s pretty good was directed by Irving Pichel with a screenplay by Jonathan Latimer that was based on a story by Gordon McDonell (Shadow of a Doubt (1943)).

I Married A Witch (1942) – O.K. this is not really a great film. But how can you pass up a film starring Fredric March & Veronica Lake (Susan Hayward’s in it too as are Robert Benchley and Cecil Kellaway). And apparently director Danny DeVito’s planned a remake (co-produced by Tom Cruise) for 2006 or later. Lake plays the titled several hundred years old witch (who doesn’t look a day over 32); March is the current descendant of the man who burned her and her father (Kellaway) at the stake. Bent on ruining politician March’s pending wedding to Hayward Lake inadvertently changes his (and her) life forever with a love potion gaffe. Most memorable scene occurs in a burning downtown hotel. Features an Oscar nominated Score.

Cape Fear (1962) – I haven’t seen the updated version of this one yet but I did really enjoy this version which stars Gregory Peck & Robert Mitchum (though it is hard to watch at times). Also with Polly Bergen Martin Balsam even Telly Savalas. #61 on AFI’s 100 Most Heart-Pounding Movies list. Mitchum’s Max Cady was voted #28 villain by AFI.

Across the Pacific (1942) – an all new full review!

They Drive by Night (1940) – Ida Lupino is oh so sexy in this remake of Bordertown (1935). George Raft Ann Sheridan and Humphrey Bogart also star in this Raoul Walsh directed film about a couple of truck driving brothers who are framed for murder by a lady psycho.

Countdown (1968) – a TCM premiere!

The Conversation (1974) – Nominated for 3 Oscars two for Francis Ford Coppola (Best Picture & Screenplay) and one for Sound. Added to the National Film Registry in 1995. Gene Hackman plays Harry Caul a surveillance expert who thinks he hears something like a murder while he’s working for corporate man Martin Stett played by Harrison Ford. Cindy Williams and Teri Garr also appear in this thriller which is somewhat overrated in my opinion.

The Godfather (1972) – a TCM premiere!

The Godfather: Part II (1974) – a TCM premiere!

THX 1138 (1971) – a TCM premiere!

Trapeze (1956) – Carol Reed directs Burt Lancaster Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida in a love triangle circus drama which also features Katy Jurado and Thomas Gomez (among others).

Crossroads (1942) – an all new full review!

Murder My Sweet (1944) – From director Edward Dmytryk & John Paxton (Crossfire (1947)) who wrote the screenplay for this Raymond Chandler novel named "Farewell My Lovely" this above average murder mystery follows detective Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) as he’s hired by two clients for different yet intertwined purposes. It also stars Claire Trevor (Key Largo (1948)) the lovely Anne Shirley (Stella Dallas (1937)) Otto Kruger and that "big lug" Mike Mazurki among others. Worth a look.

Two Weeks With Love (1950) – an all new full review!

The Girl Most Likely (1957) – an all new full review!

August 10-16

Force of Evil (1948) – Screenwriter Abraham Polonsky’s (Body and Soul (1947)) directorial debut features John Garfield as an ambitious lawyer and Thomas Gomez as his older brother in a story about the numbers racket and the mob. Added to the National Film Registry in 1994.

Man’s Favorite Sport? (1964) – Directed by Howard Hawks Rock Hudson plays a fake – a sporting goods salesman & author who uses the information he hears from others to great success making his clients & readers think he’s a great fisherman. Paula Prentiss plays his love interest the one who gets the chance to call his bluff when she’s responsible for entering him in a angling tournament. Average dated screwball comedy.

The Last Sunset (1961) – a TCM premiere!

Written on the Wind (1956) – an all new capsule review!

A Gathering of Eagles (1963) – a TCM premiere!

Pretty Maids All In a Row (1957) – a TCM premiere!

Voice in the Mirror (1958) – a TCM premiere!

Fail Safe (1964) – one has to wonder if this Sidney Lumet directed film would be better known and revered today if it hadn’t followed the widely popular spoof on this same subject the "accidental" advent of World War III by Stanley Kubrick which had been released earlier that same year; the success of War Games (1983) might have given some indication. Henry Fonda who plays the POTUS leads a cast which includes Walter Matthau Larry Hagman and Dom DeLuise (among others). Walter Bernstein (The Front (1976)) wrote the screenplay which was based on the Eugene Burdick-Harvey Wheeler novel.

Onionhead (1968) – a TCM premiere!

Charley Varrick (1973) – An entertaining film by director Don Siegel featuring Walter Matthau getting the best of the mob after his slimy partner in crime (Andy Robinson) skips. Joe Don Baker is the hit man who tracks him down; Norman Fell plays a police detective also on their trail. Sheree North plays a woman in the mix.

The Bad News Bears (1976) – hilarious sports comedy featuring Walter Matthau as a washed up pool cleaner (that drinks!) who gets hired to coach a bunch of misfit Little Leaguers whose parents think playing baseball will teach their kids some of life’s lessons. It does but not in the way in which they’d anticipated it. After assessing his losing team’s players Matthau recruits a whiz kid pitcher (Tatum O’Neal) who just happens to be the daughter of one of his ex-girlfriends and the tough motorcycle riding hoodlum (Jackie Earle Haley) that haunts the ballfield upsetting all the adults including Joyce Van Patten and Vic Morrow who coaches his son on the number one team.

The Odd Couple (1968) – this second successful comedy pairing of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau later made into a TV series with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman earned Neil Simon his first Academy recognition (an Oscar nomination for his writing; its Editing was also nominated).

Ride a Crooked Trail (1958) – a TCM premiere!

Gangster Story (1960) – a TCM premiere!

The Sunshine Boys (1975) – Neil Simon’s Oscar nominated script turned out to be just the ticket for George Burns who earned a Supporting Actor Academy Award on his only nomination in this story about a vaudeville comedy team who agree to reunite for a TV special even though they haven’t spoken for years. Walter Matthau earned a Best Actor nomination for his role as the other half of the team; Richard Benjamin plays his son the TV producer.

Imitation Of Life (1959) – though vastly inferior to the 1934 version with Claudette Colbert & Louise Beavers this film is still probably worth your time. This one stars Lana Turner and Juanita Moore’s Oscar nominated performance. Susan Kohner who plays Moore’s daughter was also nominated; syrupy Sandra Dee plays Turner’s. John Gavin Robert Alda and Troy Donahue also appear in this Douglas Sirk directed soap opera.

Green Dolphin Street (1947) – an all new full review!

Men Against the Sky (1941) – an all new full review!

The Whistler (1944) – a TCM premiere!

Orson Welles: The Tragedy of Othello The Moor of Venice (1952) – though highly thought of I couldn’t stay awake watching this Cannes Film Festival winner from Orson Welles.

F for Fake (1976) aka Vérités et mensonges (1974) – a most unusual documentary from writer-director-lead actor Orson Welles who claims to tell ‘nothing but the truth’ for the film’s first hour and along the way exposes three hoaxes: the exploits of painter and forgery artist Elmyr de Hory of Ibiza writer Clifford Irving’s phony ‘authorized’ biography of Howard Hughes (this story has just been made into a movie starring Richard Gere The Hoax (2006) to be released later this year) and sashaying Oja Kodar’s alleged relationship with an aging Picasso and her grandfather an art forger legend himself. Uniquely shot and edited in a style which may induce a headache. Joseph Cotten (among others) appears briefly.

Soylent Green (1973) – though there is no great mystery or intrigue about what the titled substance is made of in this futuristic film focused on the problems of overpopulation this Charlton Heston film is noteworthy in that it features the great Edward G. Robinson’s last performance on film that of a man who would give his life to see the beauty of our unspoiled country once again (even if it’s only a virtual reality).

Love Letters (1945) – a TCM premiere!

August 17-23

The Racketeer (1929) – a TCM premiere!

Swing High Swing Low (1937) – a TCM premiere!

The Princess Comes Across (1936) – a TCM premiere!

Love Before Breakfast (1936) – a TCM premiere!

Hands Across the Table (1935) – a TCM premiere!

We’re Not Dressing (1934) – a TCM premiere!

Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) – one of the best horror movie spoofs featuring this famous duo in one of their best comedies. The "boys" play shipping company employees charged with handling the delivery of Dracula (Bela Lugosi) & Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange) artifacts to Frank Ferguson’s museum. Abbott is upset that Costello has a beautiful girlfriend (Lénore Aubert) who only really wants the dim-wit’s brain – she and Dracula have a plan to restore the monster. The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.) warns the duo but has problems of his own given the full moon. An attractive insurance investigator (Jane Randolph) and a duped professor (Charles Bradstreet) also figure in the story as does Vincent Price (uncredited) the voice of the Invisible Man. Added to the National Film Registry in 2001.

Island of Lost Souls (1933) – a TCM premiere!

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) – a TCM premiere!

The Children’s Hour (1961) – though not quite as good as These Three (1936) this remake does restore the Lillian Hellman’s original plot-line and features great acting by Audrey Hepburn Shirley MacLaine James Garner Miriam Hopkins and Fay Bainter. Directed by William Wyler.

Charade (1963) – an entertaining romp pairing Audrey Hepburn with Cary Grant in a comedy mystery that includes some other named actors in humorous roles: Walter Matthau James Coburn & George Kennedy. Directed by Stanley Donen.

Love in the Afternoon (1957) – cute romantic comedy drama from writer-director Billy Wilder starring Gary Cooper with Audrey Hepburn and Maurice Chevalier (among others)

Funny Face (1957) – Fred Astaire plays a much older photographer than Audrey Hepburn’s character but that doesn’t keep a romance between them from blossoming when Astaire’s character "discovers" Hepburn’s making her a famous model the world over. Directed by Stanley Donen this average musical features several George & Ira Gershwin tunes as well as one of Kay Thompson’s three on-screen roles. It received four secondary Academy Award nominations for: Art Direction-Set Decoration Cinematography (Ray June’s last of three unrewarded) one of Edith Head’s many & Hubert de Givenchy’s only for Costume Design and Leonard Gershe’s only for his Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.

The Rack (1956) – an all new full review!

Pillars of the Sky (1956) – a TCM premiere!

Seven Men From Now (1956) – an all new capsule review!

Eight Iron Men (1952) – a TCM premiere!

Soldiers Three (1951) – an all new full review!

The Bishop’s Wife (1947) – another great Samuel Goldwyn produced film with Cary Grant playing an angel who helps a church bishop (David Niven) and his wife played by Loretta Young. Initially Grant was signed to play the bishop Niven the angel. And Billy Wilder was asked to improve the script. The film and its director Henry Koster were Oscar nominated; it won for Sound Recording.

The Loves of Carmen (1948) – a TCM premiere!

Gilda (1946) – Rita Hayworth’s signature (hair flip &) role! She’s the wife of a shady casino owner Ballin Mundson (George Macready) who’s reunited with ex-lover Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) when Farrell becomes Mundson’s right hand man. Joseph Calleia & Steven Geray (among others) also appear. Directed by Charles Vidor. Hayworth’s "Put the Blame on Mame" is #84 on AFI’s 100 Top Movie Songs of All Time.

The Lady From Shanghai (1948) – Peter Bogdanovich deems this film an Essential and it is noteworthy because it features one of the worst accents you’ll hear attempted by a great actor (Orson Welles in this film). IMO though one famous "hall of mirrors" scene & a beautiful blonde (!) Rita Hayworth does not a great movie make. Also with Everett Sloane.

August 24-31

Shadow on the Wall (1950) – an all new full review!

Brother Orchid (1940) – an all new capsule review!

Bell Book and Candle (1959) – the inspiration for TV’s Bewitched series? A publisher played by James Stewart is attracted to a witch (Kim Novak) whose brother (Jack Lemmon) and aunt (Elsa Lanchester) can also conjure up spells as can "rival" a witch (Hermione Gingold). Like Stewart’s character Ernie Kovacs plays a writer who is also a mere mortal but unlike him he believes in them (e.g. witches and warlocks).

Monkey Business (1952) – Howard Hawks directed this comedy starring Cary Grant as a scientist searching for a fountain of youth formula. Unfortunately the product he doesn’t realize he’s invented and administered makes him act like a child in lieu of changing his physical appearance etc.. Ginger Rogers plays his wife; Marilyn Monroe his boss’s (Charles Coburn) non-typing secretary; Hugh Marlowe a friend of the family. Oh yeah and there’s a chimpanzee too! A little too silly and too late to be classified as a screwball comedy. No relation to the 1931 Marx Brothers comedy of the same name.

Operation Petticoat (1959) – an above average comedy (nominated for a Best Writing Story & Screenplay Oscar) from director Blake Edwards starring Cary Grant as the Captain of a submarine Tony Curtis as his first officer that can get him anything he needs and Dina Merrill as the head nurse of a group which Grant & Co. must transport in close quarters;-) Also features four future television stars: Dick Sargent (Bewitched) Gavin MacLeod (The Love Boat) Marion Ross (Happy Days) and Arthur O’Connell (various).

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) – a terrific comedy with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy poorly remake in the 80’s as The Money Pit about a businessman who dreams about having a house in the country. It includes an unforgettable sequence with Ms. Loy and the local painters. Support provided by Melvyn Douglas. #72 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list.

Stagecoach (1939) – Western classic from director John Ford starring John Wayne. Don’t miss it!

In Harm’s Way (1965) – long average war drama with a familiar plot directed by Otto Preminger with an all-star cast that includes John Wayne Kirk Douglas Patricia Neal Paula Prentiss Brandon De Wilde Dana Andrews Stanley Holloway Burgess Meredith Franchot Tone Carroll O’Connor Slim Pickens George Kennedy Larry Hagman and Henry Fonda (among others). Nominated for a B&W Cinematography Academy Award.

Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) – this film is really about the Marine Corps and the rigorous training that was done before the Pacific campaign of World War II could become a reality. It stars John Wayne (True Grit (1969)) who received his first Best Actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of unyielding leadership in the person of Sergeant John M. Stryker and culminates with the famous flag raising. The film also received 3 other Oscar nominations including for Best Writing.

Hatari! (1962) – an all new capsule review!

Rio Grande (1950) – better than average Western by director John Ford with John Wayne as a post-Civil War cavalry commander charged with fighting off the Apache Indian attacks. Maureen O’Hara plays his estranged wife; Claude Jarman Jr. his new recruit son. Familiar story-lines. Ben Johnson Harry Carey Jr. Chill Wills and Victor McLaglen are in his unit.

Ziegfeld Girl (1941) – an all new capsule review!

Tortilla Flat (1942) – Victor Fleming directed this John Steinbeck story about the simple life in a fishing community. Spencer Tracy (gotta love that accident;- ) Hedy Lamarr (beautiful as ever) John Garfield and Frank Morgan (who was Oscar nominated for his role) star. You’ll also see some great character actors like Sheldon Leonard Henry O’Neill and Allen Jenkins as Portagee Joe.

Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1941) – though nominated for 3 Oscars (B&W Cinematography Editing and Score) most agree that this was one of Spencer Tracy’s lesser films – a waste of a good cast which included Ingrid Bergman as the street woman the Hyde character menaces Lana Turner as Dr. Jekyll’s comely fiancée Donald Crisp as Turner’s disapproving father Ian Hunter as Jekyll’s closest friend Barton MacLane and C. Aubrey Smith among others.

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) – an all new capsule review!

Cactus Flower (1969) – Dizzy Goldie Hawn earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar opposite Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman in this silly 1960’s sex comedy. Single swinging dentist Matthau pretends he’s married to avoid complications. When he decides to propose to Hawn he has his assistant Bergman pretend to be the wife he’s leaving to satisfy his girlfriend.

Adam Had Four Sons (1941) – a TCM premiere!

Red Ball Express (1952) – a TCM premiere!

For Love of Ivy (1968) – a TCM premiere!

Christmas In Connecticut (1945) – I was reminded of Man’s Favorite Sport? (1964) with Rock Hudson when I first saw this favorite of many for the first time last year on TCM. Barbara Stanwyck plays a fake Martha Stewart-like woman who’s "forced" to portray the character of her creation when her unknowing publisher (Sydney Greenstreet in a most untypical role) bullies her into hosting a soldier (Dennis Morgan) for Christmas as a circulation boosting gimmick. S. Z. Sakall steals every scene he’s in as her "Uncle" Felix.

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