Crazy Knitter Reviews

The place where this crazy knitter reviews books, TV, movies and recipes

Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory - #12

I adored this book. This is the story of Mary Boleyn, the sister of the second wife of Henry VIII. Mary comes to court as a young girl and is quickly married. Eventually her sister, Anne, joins her and their love-hate relationship begins in earnest. Mary is chosen by her family to seduce the king and do what his wife, Queen Katherine, has not been able to do - produce a son. She does as her family bids her and begins a passionate love affair with the king. Eventually she bears him two healthy children. However, Henry's interest in her begins to wane and her family sees their chance to the throne slipping away. This is when they decide to put Mary aside in favor of Anne. Mary is to help Anne seduce and keep Henry's attention. As Mary's life begins to unravel and Anne's climb to the throne begins Mary realizes that she does not have the stomach for court anymore. She wants to live out her days in the country with her children and new husband. However, the debauchery of the court keeps pulling her back until it threatens to destroy her and her happy life.

This was the first novel by Gregory that I read but it will not be the last. She is an amazing storyteller and knows how to keep you enthralled. She makes you feel every emotion that Mary is feeling and you really begin to sympathize with her. I was afraid at first that the book would be heavy and difficult but it was not like that at all. There was a BBC version of the novel made in 2003 starring the beautiful Natascha McElhone as Mary. There is also a major movie version that will be released in 2007 starring Scarlett Johansson (Mary), Natalie Portman (Anne) and Eric Bana (Henry VIII). It will be interesting to see this beautiful novel come to life.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

An interesting movie that does not seem to be very well known. Rynn (Jodie Foster) is a very independent 13 year old girl. So independent that she lives in a house all by herself. Some of the members of the little village are beginning to get suspicious because they never see Rynn's father who she is supposed to live with. Among the people who wonder where the father is are the richest woman in town, Mrs Hallett (Alexis Smith) and her pervert son, Frank (Martin Sheen). What they do not know is that Rynn has gotten rid of all the people who threaten her lifestyle and is not afraid to do it again. She meets Mario (Scott Jacoby), a local crippled boy and they begin to fall in love. Can she trust Mario with her secret and can she keep her secret hidden from the prying eyes of the small town?

I was very surprised by this movie. I thought it would be a typical cheesy mystery from the 70s but it as not like that at all. Jodie Foster shows early signs of the brilliant actress she would become. Martin Sheen is wonderful as the extremely creepy and strange Frank Hallett and Alexis Smith is equally great as his snobby mother. A good movie for all mystery fans to see.


The Bad Seed (1956)

This is one of the creepiest movies I have ever seen. Christine Penmark (Nancy Kelly) seems to have the perfect life. She is married to Kenneth (William Hopper), a Colonel in the Army and they have the perfect little girl, Rhoda (Patty McCormack). Soon Kenneth is told he has to report to Washington, DC for duty. Christine and Rhoda are alone with their landlady, Monica Breedlove (Evelyn Varden) and the strange handyman Leroy Jessup (Henry Jones). On the day of the school picnic Rhoda throws a fit about the penmanship medal she feels she should have won instead of Claude Daigle. As Christine and Monica sit around having tea with some friends an announcement comes over the radio that a child was drowned at the school picnic. Eventually another announcement is made that Claude Daigle is the child who has drowned. Soon it comes out that the penmanship medal he was wearing is missing. When Christine finds the medal hidden in the lining of Rhoda's treasure box she realizes that her perfect little angel maybe the devil in disguise.

This movie was very engrossing. McCormack is so creepy as the seemingly perfect Rhoda. Kelly is at times way over the top as the distraught mother but is also brilliant at times. The scene stealer is Eileen Heckart as the drunk grieving mother, Hortense Daigle. There was a Korean remake made in 1996 called Nabbun ai. There was also a made for TV version made in 1985 starring Blair Brown, Lynn Redgrave and David Carradine. Finally, according to IMDB there is is a remake in the works to be directed by Eli Roth who did Cabin Fever and Hostel. However, I do not think anything can ever top the creepiness of the original film.


Friday, December 29, 2006

The Two Mrs Carrolls (1947)

An interesting mystery thriller. Barbara Stanwyck is Sally Morton, a young woman on vacation in Scotland. There she meets Geoffrey Carroll (Humphrey Bogart), a handsome young artist. As they take shelter from a rain storm a letter falls from Geoff's pocket. He comes clean and tells her that he has a wife and child back in London. Sally runs away and Geoff returns home. Once there his wife becomes very sick and he begins painting her as the angel of death. Eventually she ends up dying. The movie then fast forwards two years. Sally and Geoff are married and living in the house Sally's father has left her. Geoff's work is once again not up to his standards and he is struggling. A young woman, Cecily Latham, comes over to their home with her mother and asks Geoff to paint her portrait. At first he refuses but he eventually relents hoping it will get him out of his slump. However, Cecily and Geoff begin to fall in love and he has an impulse to paint Sally as the angel of death. Now Sally is getting the same strange symptoms the first Mrs Carroll had. Is Geoff trying to get rid of Sally or is this all her imagination?

While this is not the best mystery I have ever seen it was still worth seeing. Bogart actually downplays a role that could have been played way over the top. Stanwyck is wonderful as she always was. The movie stealer to me was Ann Carter as Geoff's daughter, Bea. This is worth catching when you can get a chance.


The Philadelphia Story (1940)

One of the best movie comedies I have ever seen. Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) is a high society woman who is about to be married. The only problem she has is her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant). It seems that he is bound and determined to ruin her big day. He has returned from South America and is summoned to the office of the editor of Spy magazine, Sidney Kidd. Kidd wants to get the scoop on Tracy's wedding and sees Dexter as his ticket in. Kidd has Dexter help his reporter Macaulay "Mike" Connor (James Stewart) and photographer Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) pose as friends of Tracy's brother who can not attend the wedding. Of course when Tracy sees Dexter she gets very upset. She is even more angry when he tells her that Mike and Liz are there for the scoop on his nuptials. Mostly she is upset because her father has run away to New York with a dancer and she does not want her family embarrassed. As she tries to fool the reporter she learns that she may not be the wonderful person she thinks she is. Now she is falling in love with Mike and is not sure what to do about her fiance George.

This movie was incredibly funny and touching. The acting was wonderful by all the stars but I loved Stewart's performance the best. The scenes where he is drunk are hilarious. Most people think of Jimmy as a serious actor but he obviously had a funny side also. I think he deserved the Oscar for this role and that his win was just not a make up for him not winning the year before for Mr Smith Goes to Washington. Hepburn was also wonderful as the snobby Tracy who learns the truth about herself. There were two remakes of this movie. There was a made for TV version in 1959 starring Gig Young (Dexter) and Christopher Plummer (Mike). Also, there was High Society in 1956 starring Bing Crosby (Dexter), Frank Sinatra (Mike) and Grace Kelly (Tracy). However, if you want a touching love story that is also very funny watch the original.

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Dinner at Eight (1933)

An excellent comedy with an all star cast. Milicent and Oliver Jordon (Billie Burke and Lionel Barrymore) are big players in their local social scene. They decide to have a dinner party with other local power players. Before the party a friend of Oliver's,Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler), returns from Europe. Carlotta is a former film star whose fortune is running out. She comes to Oliver asking if it is ok for her to sell off some of her stock in his company. What Carlotta does not know is that Oliver's company is in the midst of a hostile takeover and he is also broke. Oliver decides to invite Dan Packard (Wallace Beery), a business man, and his wife Kitty (Jean Harlow) to dinner to help him with his issues. What he does not know is that Dan is the one trying to take over his company. Since Milicent knows nothing about their financial problems she is not thrilled about inviting the couple from Oklahoma but agrees. The Jordan's daughter, Paula (Madge Evans), is also hiding a secret. She is sleeping with a washed up actor Larry Renault (John Barrymore) who is several years older than she is. Of course Milicent invites Larry to the dinner party and he is decidedly nervous about meeting Paula's society parents. An interesting group of characters end up arriving for the party and they all seem to have something to hide. Will the dinner be a success or a major disaster?

This movie was very funny. The cast is one of the best ensembles I have ever seen on film. Jean Harlow steals the show as the mouthy Kitty Packard. Billie Burke is also wonderful as the harried Milicent Jordan. There was a TV movie version of this film made in 1989 starring Lauren Bacall as Carlotta Vance. However, the original is the best and a wonderful film for a lazy day in.


In a Lonely Place (1950)

Not a traditional Bogart movie but this is good anyway. Bogart stars as Dixon Steele, a struggling screen writer. He is at the local bar one night where he meets his agent Mel. Mel has a book that he wants Dix to read and write a screen adaptation of. Mel has loaned the book to Mildred Atkinson, the waitress at the bar. Dix decides to invite Mildred to his apartment so she can tell him the story. Once she leaves his place to catch a cab no one sees her alive again. The next day the police take him to the station to question him about Mildred's murder. One of his neighbors, Laurel Gray, informs the police that she saw Mildred leave and Dix return to his apartment. It seems that she has a slight crush on him and watches him occasionally. However, because of Dix's cold reaction to Mildred's death the police do not believe that Dix is as innocent as he seems. Soon Dix and Laurel begin a romance but can Laurel trust Dix?

This movie was very good. Bogart was wonderful as the hard Dix. Gloria Grahame was terrific as his star crossed lover Laurel. The mystery was pretty easy to figure out but I was still on the edge of my seat to see what happened to the couple. This is a good movie to watch late at night when you're home alone.


Sunset Boulevard (1950)

One of the best movies ever made about Hollywood. Joe Gillis (William Holden) is a struggling screenwriter. He is completely broke and his car is about to be repossessed. He is trying to avoid the repo men and ends up parking in what he assumes is the garage of a deserted house. However, he soon realizes that the house is not deserted but is occupied by a former silent film star, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Soon he and Norma start talking about their circumstances and they decide to work together. Joe will write the screenplay that will bring Norma back to her adoring fans who send her hundreds of fan letters. Eventually their relationship turns romantic and that is when everything begins to go wrong. He meets Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson), the fiance of one of his good friends. The two begin working on another screenplay and they eventually fall in love. However, Norma is mentally unbalanced and she will not let Joe go without a fight.

This movie was incredible. Gloria Swanson is brilliant as the insane movie star. Erich Von Stroheim was terrific as Norma's attentive butler, Max. The cinematography was wonderful and the music was perfect for the movie. Among the people with cameos are Cecil B. DeMille, Buster Keaton and Hedda Hopper. There is a remake of this movie scheduled for release in 2008 starring Glenn Close as Norma Desmond. The remake is a movie version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. However, do not miss the original it is one of the best movies ever made.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Wedding Night (1935)

A very touching romance. Tony Barrett (Gary Cooper) is a novelist who is having a hard time with his muse. His last novel has failed and he is having a hard time writing the new one. He is broke so he decides to take his wife back to his family home in Connecticut. While they are there the neighbor Jan Novak and his daughter Manya (Anna Sten) come to make an offer on the adjoining land. They are Polish immigrants and Jan wants to secure the land to cement the marriage of Manya to Fredrik Sobieski (Ralph Bellamy). Tony is so inspired by the Novaks he decides to use them as his muse for his next book. However, his wife is not happy there and decides to leave for New York. Pretty soon his man servant Taka also leaves and he is alone. Mayna comes over to help him with the house and meals and he begins to read his novel to her. As the days pass they begin to fall in love but Manya is to marry Fredrik and Tony's wife returns. What will happen to Tony, Manya and the love they share for each other?

This was a very touching movie. Gary Cooper and Anna Sten are marvelous as the star-crossed lovers. Sig Ruman is also wonderful as Manya's overbearing father. The story is loosely based on F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. If you are a sucker for a good romance (like me) you need to see this little known gem.


The Facts of Life (1960)

This was a delightful movie. Bob Hope is Larry Gilbert. Larry and his wife, Mary, are friends with another couple, Jack and Kitty Weaver (Lucille Ball). The Gilbers and the Weavers, along with another couple the Masons, plan a trip to Acapulco. Well circumstances arise that prevent Jack and Mary from making the trip. Then, the Masons become ill so Kitty and Jack are thrown together. While on a marlin fishing trip they begin to fall in love. Once their time in Mexico is over they decide to not see each other anymore. Unfortunately they keep crossing paths because of the friendship between the couples. Eventually they are at a dance at their club and have a few to many drinks. They decide to go to a motel so they drive up and down the strip of seedy places before they settle on one. Larry leaves for coffee and is gone for two hours because he can not remember which hotel they are in. Kitty leaves and eventually they meet up again. They decide to spend some time in Monterrey when their families are on separate trips at Christmas. Will Larry and Kitty leave their families or will they decide they should not have an affair at their age?

This was a funny movie but it was also poignant at the same time. Ball and Hope are funny but they are also able to play up the serious subject of the movie. The scene where Kitty and Larry are caught at the drive in by their cleaner is hilarious. It is an interesting movie on an interesting subject.


Singin' in the Rain (1952)

- December Musical Selection

The all time classic movie musical. Gene Kelly stars as Don Lockwood. Together with Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) he is the biggest movie star of the silent era. Lockwood and Lamont are so popular that the media writes erroneous reports that they are to be engaged. Their lives are going along wonderfully until the invention of the talking picture. When their movie studio, Monument, decides to go into the talkie business Lockwood and Lamont do not come across well on the screen. Lina does not have the voice for talking pictures and can not talk into her microphone to save her life. In the meantime Don meets and falls in love with Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) - an aspiring actress. Kathy has a beautiful voice and Don's best friend, Cosmo (Donald O'Connor) comes up with the idea to dub Kathy's voice for Lina's. Of course Lina is not happy with the new arrangement and even more upset with the romance between Don and Kathy. She attempts to keep Kathy behind the scenes as her voice to kill Kathy's career but will she be successful?

I loved every minute of this movie. It was a fun satirical look at the movie business. Kelly, Reynolds and O'Connor are all wonderful but the star is Jean Hagen. She steals the show as the ditsy Lina who begins to believe her own good press. The musical numbers are fun to watch and the dancing is wonderful. If you love old time musicals you have to see this film - you will not be disappointed.

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Grand Central Murder (1942)

A run of the mill whodunit from the 1940s but it is entertaining none the less. Mida King (Patricia Dane) is the biggest star on Broadway. She also is the biggest gold digger Manhattan has seen. One of her former lovers, Turk, escapes while he is being moved for a new trial. He calls her in between acts of her new hit show and she decides to run away to her new lover's private car at Grand Central Station. Soon she is discovered there but she has been murdered. The police round up all of the men she has scorned (which is a large number), her step-father, maid, understudy and a detective couple to figure out who killed her. As the story unfolds we realize that Mida King (who named herself after King Midas) may have gotten what she deserved. However, can the cops figure out who the murderer is when everyone has a motive?

This is a typical movie of its time but it was still interesting. Patrica Dane is wonderful as the cold Mida King. Van Heflin and Virginia Grey are also amazing as the Custer's, the detective couple. All in all this is not a bad movie to catch the next time it comes on TCM.


A Slight Case of Murder (1938)

A funny satire of the days after the prohibition. Remy Marco (Edward G. Robinson) is a reformed gangster. He decides to go straight after prohibition ends and he takes his entire gang with him. He keeps making his beer but he does not realize that it tastes horrible. His fortune is dwindling and his business is in trouble. Pretty soon two bankers are chopping to foreclose on the business and take it over for themselves. This is when he decides to take his wife, daughter recently back from school in Europe and his entire gang to a rented house. However, before they arrive at the house four gangsters who want Remy dead are shot to death by another man in one of the upstairs rooms. When they arrive at the house they discover the men and Remy finally meets his son-in-law to be - a state trooper. When Remy holds a party that is when all heck breaks loose. Will he be able to get rid of the dead gangsters before the cop and his disapproving father find out?

This was a cute and light movie. Robinson was wonderful as the now legitimate gangster Remy. Ruth Donnelly was also wonderful as his wife Mary. The gang of misfits is always hilarious and I think they steal the movie. There was a loose remake of this movie made in 1952 called Stop, You're Killing Me. A fun movie for a lazy day in.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

The definitive Agatha Christie classic. Detective Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) is riding aboard the famous Orient Express. There is an interesting group of characters who are also travelling on the train. Among them is Samuel Ratchett (Richard Widmark) and his assistant (Anthony Perkins). Mr Ratchett is receiving threatening letters and asks Poirot to protect him while they are aboard the train. Poirot politely declines and retires to his bed. He hears a commotion outside his cabin in the middle of the night but it appears to be nothing all to important so he goes back to sleep. The next morning he is awoken rudely when the train has to come to a quick stop because there is a large snow bank blocking the tracks. It is then that Mr Ratchett is found stabbed in his stateroom that is latched from the inside. Poirot's friend who runs the train company wants Poirot to solve the mystery before the police arrive. Poirot then goes about interviewing the interesting passengers to determine who Ratchett really was and why he was murdered.

This movie was a delight to watch. The cast is wonderful and also includes Lauren Bacall, Michael York, Ingrid Bergman, Vanessa Redgrave, Jaqueline Bisset and Sean Connery among others. However, Finney as Poirot steals the movie. If you love mystery and suspense movies you have to see this one.


In This Our Life (1942)

An interesting story of a sister's betrayal. Roy Kingsmill (Olivia De Havilland) is a very happily married woman. What she does not know is that her husband Peter is not happy. In fact he is in love with her sister Stan (Bette Davis). Peter and Stan run away together and marry once the divorce from Roy is complete. This devastates the family - especially their Uncle William (who is inappropriately close with Stan) and Stan's fiance Craig. As life moves on Roy and Craig begin to spend more time together and begin a courtship. They decide that they want to be together and will be married one day. Then the phone call comes from a friend of Stan's that Peter has killed himself and Stan is devastated. Roy, being the good sister, goes to Stan and brings her back to the family home. When Stan realizes that Craig now loves Roy she decides to fight to get Craig back. In the process she is involved in an accident and wrongfully points the finger at a clerk in Craig's law firm. Now will the family be able to convince Stan to do the right thing or will her selfish ways win out again.

This was an interesting movie. Davis and de Havilland were wonderful as they always were. Also wonderful was Ernest Anderson as Parry, the clerk wrongfully accused by Stan. This is an interesting movie that makes you think about what you would do if your family betrayed you in the same way. It is coming out on DVD in the next Bette Davis collection in 2007. This is a good movie to watch when your family drives you nuts because you realize how bad it could be.


One Magic Christmas (1985)

This is one of my favorite movies from my childhood and it was nice to see it again after so many years. This is the story of the Grainger family who have fallen on rough times. The dad, Jack (Gary Basaraba) had been fired from his job and the family is being evicted from the company home they live in right at Christmas time. The mom, Ginny (Mary Steenburgen), is working as a cashier at the local grocery store. As Christmas approaches Jack and the kids, Cal and Abbie, try to keep the Christmas spirit up but Ginny is a regular Scrooge. Since she has lost her holiday spirit a Christmas angel named Gideon (Harry Dean Stanton) is sent to help her recover the holiday cheer. He and Abbie try to help Ginny but nothing is helping. Then tragedy strikes and Abbie and Gideon go to see Santa to help make things right. Can Ginny recover the meaning of Christmas she has lost?

I remember watching this movie over and over as a kid because it was always played on the Disney channel. My mom got so sick of me watching this I remember her telling me to please stop! Now as an adult I appreciate it even more because I realize how easy it can be for people going through hard times to lose their Christmas spirit. It is depressing and you may want to quit watching it but don't because the end is worth it. The acting is not great and little Abbie can grate on your nerves but it is still a nice lesson for kids to see. Be on the look out for a young Sarah Polley as the Grainger's neighbor Molly Monaghan. If you need a holiday boost watch this movie and you can not help but feel better.


Funny Face (1957)

- December Musical Selection

A delightful musical romance. Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) is the photographer for the most popular fashion magazine in the country, Quality. On one of his shoots he and the editor, Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson), walk into a small used bookstore in Greenwich Village. The young girl working in the store, Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn),is an intellectual who looks down on the fashion industry. However, she catches Dick's eye. When the magazine decides to run a contest where a regular woman is picked to be the next fashion model - the "Quality Woman" - Dick persuades Maggie that Jo is perfect. However, convincing Jo is more difficult until she realizes the shoot will be in Paris. She takes this as her chance to meet her hero Professor Emile Flostre - the founder of "empathicalism" which implores you to put yourself in someone else's shoes. Once she is in Paris Jo is torn between her new world and the old one. To make things even more complicated she and Dick start falling in love but can their different views ever come together?

I love this movie even though I found the relationship between Jo and Dick a bit creepy since Astaire was 30 years older than Hepburn. The musical numbers were light and fun like they should be in a musical. I was very impressed with Audrey Hepburn's performance and was surprised by her voice. All in all it was a nice movie to watch on a lazy day in.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dark Passage (1947)

An intriguing suspense story. Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart) is a man wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife. He escapes from San Quentin in an attempt to prove his innocence. He is picked up by a man who realizes who he is when the bulletin about his escape is broadcast on the news. He knocks the man out and is then picked up by Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall). She has followed his trial in the papers and does not believe he killed his wife. She offers him safe harbor in her apartment while she attempts to help him. While he is in her home he realizes that she is friends with Madge Rapf (Agnes Moorehead) - a woman who was entangled in his life before his wife's murder. Now he suspects that she is trying to weasel her way into Irene's life like she did his. He decides to undergo plastic surgery to change his face but will it be enough to save him? And will he be able to prove his innocence before it is to late?

This was a very good movie. Bogie and Bacall had wonderful chemistry like they always had. The interesting thing is that we do not see Vincent before the surgery takes place. The entire first part of the movie is shot from his point of view. It is a wonderful way to put yourself in his place. A very good movie that does not seem to be remembered as much as others.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Night Nurse (1931)

A nice suspense drama. Barbara Stanwyck stars as Lora Hart, a young nurse in training. Upon her graduation she takes a job caring for two young girls she worked with at the hospital. On her first night at the Ritchey home there is a commotion. The partner of the mother comes to get Lora to help Mrs Ritchey. It seems they both had been drinking and the mother has passed out. The drunk, Mack, then attacks Lora and she yells for help. The chauffeur, Nick (Clark Gable), comes to save her. He then turns his aggression to Lora. When she refuses to do what he asks without a doctor's approval he knocks her out. When she comes to she starts thinking about the entire situation. She realizes that the children are being starved so she goes to their doctor, Milton Ranger. However, the doctor does not seem concerned with the patients health. Now will Lora be able to save the girls before Dr Ranger and Nick carry out their evil plan?

This was nice suspense film. My only complaint is one I have about a lot of films from this genre during the 30's and 40's. They start off slow and then end somewhat abruptly. Other than that it was enjoyable. Clark Gable was very young and handsome. He was also frightening as the psychotic Nick. Barbara Stanwyck was also wonderful as young Lora. A good flick for a cold Saturday evening.


Red Headed Woman (1932)

This movie was very interesting - especially considering when it was made. Jean Harlow is Lil "Red" Andrews, a woman of loose morals. She works as a secretary for the Legendre Company. She decides to seduce her boss, Bill Legendre, to climb the social ladder. Eventually Bill's wife, Irene, gets fed up with his cheating and divorces him. Lil sees this as her big opportunity and convinces Bill to marry her. However, her plans of being the social butterfly are crushed. No one in decent society will have anything to do with her. The last straw for Lil comes when she is not invited to a ball honoring C.B. Gaerste, a friend of the Legendre family in from New York. She hatches a plan to make everyone in society love her and her work begins by seducing Mr Gaerste. Will her big plans work or will they blow up in her face?

This movie was made in the era of forbidden Hollywood. This was the era when movie standards were suggestions and not required. Harlow is mesmerizing as the conniving Lil. Una Merkel is also terrific as Lil's friend Sally. This movie was recently released on DVD with two other films from the era - Baby Face (1933) and Waterloo Bridge (1931). This one is worth checking out.


The Face Behind the Mask (1941)

An interesting twist on an old story. Peter Lorre stars as Janos, a recent immigrant to New York. He is living in a local hotel when there is an awful fire. His face is badly burned and he is permanently disfigured. He tries to find work but no one will hire him because he looks like a monster. One night he is on a pier and a man runs away from him when he sees his face and drops his wallet. That is when he is approached by Dinky, a petty criminal. He is the only person who does not run away from Janos. The two quickly become friends and Dinky leads Janos into the world of crime. The reason Janos commits crime is to be able to afford a surgical procedure to rebuild his face. In the meantime he has a mask made of his face to be able to move around society. Janos quickly rises to the top of the gang but when Jeff, the leader, returns from jail a power struggle ensues. In the meantime Janos meets Helen (Evelyn Keyes), a young blind woman. They fall in love and Janos decides that he wants out of the group. The only problem is that Jeff thinks Janos is working with the police and will not allow him to go so easily.

All in all this is not a bad movie. Peter Lorre and Evelyn Keyes are wonderful as the star crossed lovers. The ending is a bit hokey but that is not unheard of in movies from this time period. It is not out on video but it is worth catching the next time it comes on TCM.


Holiday Affair (1949)

A wonderful story of a widow and her adorable son. Janet Leigh is Connie Ennis, a woman recently widowed in the war. To support her son Timmy she works as a comparison shopper. One day she buy a train from Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum) and tries to return it the next day. Steve informs her that he knows what she is doing and he needs to turn her in to his superiors. Then she tells him that she is a widow supporting her son he gives her a refund and is fired in the process. They meet up in Central Park a few days later and they go on a shopping spree together. When Steve comes to her apartment he meets Timmy and someone else - her beau Carl Davis. When an expensive gift for Timmy arrives on Christmas morning Connie goes to find Steve and return his money. He spends Christmas dinner with the family and tells Connie that she should marry him and not Carl. Now will Connie choose stability with Carl or love with Steve?

This movie was very good. Mitchum and Leigh were wonderful as Steve and Connie. Gordon Gebert stole the movie as little Timmy Ennis. This movie is not as well known as some of the other Christmas classics but it is a fun and interesting romance. There was a made for TV remake filmed in 1996 starring Cynthia Gibb and David James Elliott. This movie is a great one for all of us who love these old romances.


White Christmas (1954)

- December Musical Selection

One of my favorite movies for sentimental reasons. It starts on Christmas Eve 1944. Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) are performing a show for their fellow solders. When the group is attacked Phil saves Bob's life. Back at the hospital Phil convinces Bob to perform together once the war is over. A few years later they are the hottest duo in America. They travel all over the country and are extremely popular. They receive a letter from a platoon mate saying they need to see his sisters perform. They go to see the performance of Betty and Judy Haynes (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) and Phil wants them to join their show. They follow the girls to the Vermont where they are next scheduled to perform. When they arrive in Vermont it is unseasonably warm and the inn is deserted. They also learn that the inn is owned by their former commander, General Thomas Waverly. The group comes up with a great plan to put on their show and bring in all the men who also served under the General to save the inn. However, as they are rehearsing love rears its head and threatens to break up the group. Can the performance be saved?

This movie means a lot to me. My mom loved old movie musicals and White Christmas was my grandma's favorite Christmas song. The song and dance numbers are very well done and we are treated to Bing's velvety voice many times. Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen were both wonderful as the Haynes sisters and Danny Kaye is funny as always. It is a movie that needs to be watched every Christmas season.

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His Girl Friday (1940)

A cute all time classic. Rosalind Russell stars as Hildy Johnson, a former reporter. She is engaged to Bruce Baldwin and there is only one problem - her ex-husband Walter Burns (Cary Grant). Walter thinks that Hildy is coming back to reunite with him and is startled when she gives him the news that she is marrying someone else. That is when Walter hatches a plan to get Hildy back. It seems that a man named Earl Williams is scheduled to be hung for killing a police officer and Walter wants Hildy to interview him. He convinces her to interview Williams by saying he will buy an insurance policy from Bruce. The usual craziness ensues with Bruce being arrested, his mother being kidnapped by one of Walter's henchman and a daring jail break by Williams. Now will Walter be able to win Hildy over and steal her from Bruce or will she chose to be a real woman?

This movie was very entertaining. Some of the press room scenes can be hard to follow because there is some much going on but it is easy to get past. Russell, Grant and Bellamy are all on the top of their game. There are some snappy lines in this film as well. My favorite is at the beginning when Hildy is telling Walter about her engagement. She says "Oh I love you Walter, I just wish you weren't such a stinker". There are several versions of this movie. The original, The Front Page, was made in 1931. There was also a version of The Front Page made for TV in 1948 and another in 1974 that changed Hildy to a man - Jack Lemon. Finally there was Switching Channels in 1988 starring Kathleen Turner and Burt Reynolds. However, this is a wonderful version for all classic movie buffs.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Having a Wonderful Crime (1945)

A cute light detective story. Carole Landis and George Murphy are Helene and Jake Justus, newlyweds who love to solve crimes with their buddy Michael Malone. They are at a magic show when a trick goes wrong. The Great Movel disappears and does not reappear. When the couple and Malone check into a local hotel they meet Gilda, a woman with Movel's trunk. She is very protective of the trunk and does not want it out of her sight. Of course there are several men who are trying to take the trunk from her. Once Helene and Jake are alone with the trunk they find a dead body in it but it disappears when they leave the room to get help from Michael. Now they have to solve the mystery of who is murdered and why. All in all this is not a bad little movie. The acting is good but the story is a little weak. If you like movies like The Thin Man this might be worth watching when it comes on again.


The Sadist (1963)

I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. It was not the best film ever made but all in all it was not bad. It starts off with three teachers who are on their way to a Dodger game. They have car trouble and stop in front of a service station in a deserted desert town. As one of the teachers, Ed, starts working on the car the other two, Carl and Doris, try to find the people who own the station. It seems that the station is deserted and they are alone. However, Charlie and his girlfriend Judy appear from behind some of the cars and they have a gun. Charlie tells them that they need to fix the car so they can escape. It seems that they have been on a killing spree from Arizona and the teachers are next. He begins to play a game of cat and mouse with them just to torture them before he kills them. However, they have a plan to escape - but will it work?

This movie was pretty scary. It is loosely based on the famous Starkweather/Fugate killings of the 1950s. Arch Hall, Jr (who I had never heard of) was excellent as the sadist Charlie. Marilyn Manning is also brilliant as Judy, who has no real lines but whispers horrible deeds in Charlie's ear and giggles. Two of the creepiest performances I have seen. If you like suspense movies this is a must see.


Mysterious Island (1961)

This movie was so bad it was good. It starts out with several men who are in a confederate POW camp during the Civil War. They make their big escape in a hot air balloon. They drift for days before they finally crash on an island. As they are trying to settle in and figure their way off the island they are attacked by a large crab. They soon realize that this island is not typical. A while later another boat crashes on the island carrying a woman and her niece. They all move into a large cave and more giant creatures attack - a turkey and a bee. Finally, they meet up with Captain Nemo (from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) who crashed there several years before. He tells them the secrets of the island and they learn that they must escape before they all die.

The special effects in this movie are so cheesy they are actually entertaining. The acting is very over the top but in this film it fits. There are several movie versions of this Jules Verne story. The most recent version was a made for TV movie from 2005 starring Kyle MacLachlan, Gabrielle Anwar and Patrick Stewart. If you're in the mood for a so bad it's good movie go ahead and watch this.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Canterville Ghost (1944)

This is an incredibly cute movie. It starts in the 1600s with Sir Simon de Canterville (played brilliantly by Charles Laughton) running away from a duel. His father is so embarrassed by his son's cowardice that he orders a wall built up where Simon is hiding. The father curses Sir Simon to walk the halls of the castle until a kinsman does a brave deed. Fast forward to 1943. Sir Simon is still walking the halls because all of his kinsmen rus away from danger. His ancient ancestor, young Lady Jessica de Canterville (Margaret O'Brien), is afraid of the ghost. It seems that he has quite the reputation for being evil. When a group of Army Rangers from America are housed in the castle she faces her fears and goes to greet them. One of the soldiers is Cuffy Williams (played by Robert Young of Marcus Welby and Father Knows Best fame). Cuffy meets Sir Simon one day and learns that the ghost is a kind one, not the evil presence everyone believes. It also appears that Cuffy is a long lost de Canterville ancestor. Now can he perform a brave deed and free Simon from his earthly prison?

This movie was very fun. The acting of Young, O'Brien and Laughton is wonderful. The movie is based upon an Oscar Wilde story which surprised me. I recommend this one highly. There have been several movies version made of this story, the most recent American version of which was made in 1996 starring Patrick Stewart and Neve Campbell. However, please do yourself a favor and see this version - you will not be disappointed.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Cockeyed Miracle (1946)

A funny and touching family story. Frank Morgan is Sam Griggs, a ship builder who is not in the best of health. He is also broke but his family has no idea that they have no money. He has a doting wife Amy, a daughter Jennifer and a son Jim. Jim has a job offer in England and is ready to sail in three days. However, he needs $300 for his ticket and a new suit. Jennifer is in love with Howard, a boarder in their home, and they decide to get married and move to California for Howard's new job. However, their dreams all seem to fall apart when Sam dies. Sam and his father, Ben, set out to make everything ok for the family before Ben takes Sam to heaven.

This was a very nice movie. It has a very nice message - that family and love are way more important than money. The performances were wonderful, especially Keenan Wynn as Ben Griggs. It is also interesting to see the younger actor playing the father of the older one. All in all a very enjoyable flick.


Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

A delightful holiday comedy. It starts out with Jefferson Jones and his buddy stranded on a rubber boat after their ship was bombed by the Germans. As he recovers in the hospital his nurse, Mary Lee, begins to fall in love with him. What she does not know is that he is only trying to get on her good side so he can get better meals. When Ann learns that Jefferson has never had a real home she writes to Alexander Yardley, the editor of one of the country's most popular magazines and the grandfather of one of her patients, and asks for his help. Yardley decides that Jones needs to spend Christmas with Elizabeth Lane, his most popular columnist, a domestic goddess. Yardley thinks her cooking and Christmas on her farm with her husband and child will be just what Jones needs. The only problem is that Elizabeth is single, can not cook and lives in an apartment in New York. However, she needs to pretend or she and her editor will both be fired. When Jefferson arrives at her boyfriend's farm she has another problem, she starts to fall in love with him. Now she is torn between her job and her heart.

This is a wonderful movie. Barbara Stanwyck is wonderful as Elizabeth Lane. While she normally took serious roles she shines in the comedic moments of this film. Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet are also wonderful as Jefferson Jones and Alexander Yardley. This is a movie I can see myself watching every year at Christmas just like It's a Wonderful Life and Christmas Vacation. There was a made for TV remake done in 1992 starring Dyan Cannon, Kris Kristofferson and Tony Curtis that was directed by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

One of the finest films ever made. Jimmy Stewart stars as Jefferson Smith, a young man picked to replace the deceased Senator from his state. When he arrives in Washington he takes a tour of the city and is drawn to the Lincoln memorial. He uses these landmarks as his inspiration for his new job. He also quickly learns that he must be careful. He is talking with several reporters who twist his pictures and words to make him look like a fool. He meets his cynical secretary, Saunders, who feels burned out by the political system. Jefferson is overwhelmed by his new duties but it determined to do a good job. He soon decides to write a bill for a national boys camp in his home state even though he is told to keep quiet and agree with everything the senior Senator, Joseph Paine, does. The problem is that the boys camp is to be placed on the property that has been picked for a damn by the political fat cats. The powers to be decide to disgrace Jefferson and make up tremendous lies about him. However, he will not go down without a fight. He filibusters, with Saunders' help, to get the truth out and save his reputation.

Without a doubt this is one of Jimmy Stewart's best performances. I can not think of another actor, even today, who could portray the naive Jefferson Smith without making him seem stupid. Jean Arthur is wonderful as the fed up Saunders and Claude Rains shines as the dirty Senator Paine. It lost Best Picture to Gone With the Wind but I think it may have been cheated (and GWTW is one of my favorite movies). A top notch film that is a national treasure. There was a TV series based upon this film that ran from 1962-3 and it was also remade as Billy Jack goes to Washington in 1977.

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Topper Returns (1941)

The final film of the Topper trilogy. In this one there is no Cary Grant or Constance Bennett. However, Roland Young and Billie Burke return as Cosmo and Clara Topper. At the start of the movie we see Ann Carrington and Gail Richards, two young women who are involved in a car crash. They are picked up by Cosmo and his driver, Eddie, and dropped off at the Carrington estate. There we learn that it is the night before Ann's 21st birthday and she is there to finally meet her father, Henry, who is very ill. She has been living in the Orient her entire life and has never met her father. She is due to inherit everything the next day according to her mother's will. Ann and her friend Gail switch rooms for the night and Gail ends up murdered. Her ghost finds Cosmo and asks him to help her discover why she was murdered. As they try to unravel the mystery the usual hijinks follow Cosmo and we have to wonder if this poor guy will ever be left alone.

This movie was darker than the previous two films but still has plenty of laughs. Eddie "Rochester" Adams steals the movie as Eddie the driver. Again Roland Young and Billie Burke are wonderful as the Toppers. Joan Blondell is also terrific as the murder victim Gail. A great ending to a wonderful trilogy.


Topper Takes a Trip (1938)

The second of the Topper trilogy - sans Cary Grant except for a flashback sequence at the beginning. The movie begins in a courtroom where Clara Topper is divorcing her husband Cosmo. He is trying to explain everything that has happened and the insane fact that the dead Kerby's were visiting him. The judge decides not to rule so Clara's friend, Nancy Parkhurst, takes Clara to Paris since she gets all her divorces there. Marion returns and insists that she and Cosmo follow Clara so they can be reunited. When they arrive at the hotel in Paris they are informed that Clara has gone on a cruise to Italy with Nancy and a young man named Baron de Rossi. When the hotel managers find out who he is they try to kick Cosmo out of the hotel but with Marion's help he wins big at the casino (their assets were frozen because of the divorce hearing) and he stays. The usual trouble happens and one wonders if Marion can do another final good deed or if it will all fall apart.

A fairly good movie although it is not nearly as good as the original. Roland Young as Cosmo Topper once again steals the show but his chemistry with Constance Bennett it also a plus. Another cute comedy that is fun to watch on a cold December Saturday morning.


Topper (1937)

An absolutely delightful movie. Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are George and Marion Kerby. They are a fun loving couple who have trouble follow them everywhere. George is the on the board of a bank that is run by Cosmo Topper. Cosmo's wife, Clara, runs his every move - from what he wears, eats and when he leaves for work. When George and Marion are killed in a car accident they decide that they need to do one good deed to get into heaven. They come across Cosmo and decide that he should be their good deed. They try to help him earn his independence but even in death trouble follows the Kerbys. Cosmo ends up being arrested for starting a riot and the papers are all running the news of his arrest and the fact that he had a female companion who was not his wife. His life is turned upside down but he kind of enjoys it. However, he needs to fix everything before his wife leaves him.

I loved this film. It was a funny look at life in a time gone by. There were three films in the Topper series but this was the best one by far. Cary Grant was not utilized as much as he could have been but he was still wonderful. Constance Bennett was beautiful as Marion but Roland Young and Billie Burke steal the show as Mr and Mrs Topper. This is one of the best comedies ever made. There was a TV version of the film that ran from 1953-1955 and a made for TV remake made in 1979 starring Kate Jackson as Marion, Andrew Stevens as George, Jack Warden as Cosmo and Rue McClanahan as Clara.


The Bishop Murder Case (1930)

This is the third of the Philip Vance movies. A man named Robin is discovered with an arrow through his heart on the property of Professor Dillard. Along with the body is a note written in a nursery rhyme fashion. It is signed by the Bishop. As the story unfolds more people are murdered and more notes from the Bishop are turned up. Philip Vance is brought in to help the police solve the mystery before more murders are committed. This is a nice and short mystery. There were 15 movies made in the series between 1929 and 1947. Basil Rathbone is wonderful as the detective Vance and Leila Hyams is also terrific as Belle, the professor's niece. Charles Quartermaine is brilliant as Pardee, a very creepy man who is obsessed with chess. All in all not a bad movie to catch when it comes on TCM.


Charade (1963)

A fine classic movie. Audrey Hepburn stars as Reggie Lampert. While she is vacationing with her best friend her husband, Charles, is murdered and thrown off a train. She arrives back in Paris, ready to divorce him, when she learns what happened to him and much more. She is called into the American embassy where she is told by Mr Bartholomew that her husband sold all their belongings for $250,000 and that he was killed for it. It seems that her husband was a former soldier who, along with 3 other men, stole the money from the government. It seems that Charles made off with the money and now the other men are looking for their share. They will stop at nothing and Reggie is in danger since the men assume she has the money. She asks Peter Joshua (played by Cary Grant), a man she met on holiday and keeps running into, to help protect her. She also hits on him shamelessly even though he is old enough to be her father. They must find the money before Reggie, or anyone else, ends up dead.

This was a wonderful movie. Hepburn and Grant had great chemistry.
Cary Grant did not want to play a man who was chasing a woman half his age so the writers made Hepburn the aggressor and he signed on. The supporting cast, including Walter Matthau, James Colburn and George Kennedy, was also wonderful. A definite must see for all movie lovers. This film was remade three times. In 1978 as Somebody Killed Her Husband starring Farrah Fawcett and Jeff Bridges, The Truth About Charlie in 2002 starring Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton and in 2004 as Duplicity.

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Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)

This is a little know movie but it is absolute genius. It is a parody of film noir detective films but it actually edits in cuts of famous movies from the 40s and 50s. Steve Martin stars as Rigby Reardon, a private detective. He is in his office one day when the beautiful Juliet Forrest (played by Rachel Ward) walks in. She wants to hire Rigby to find out what happened to her father, a famous scientist who has recently been killed in a car accident. The film is a wonderful spoof of detective and mystery films of the film noir era. It spoofs several of the best known films - Suspicion, Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Sorry Wrong Number and White Heat. The story is silly but the brilliance of editing is what makes the film. I can not believe that the editor, Bud Molin, was not even nominated for an Oscar. Do not watch this movie expecting a brilliant film but it is very funny and interesting to see.


Murder, My Sweet (1944)

This film is considered the best of the Philip Marlowe movies. Dick Powell is the private eye who is hired by an ex-con named Moose Malloy to find his missing girlfriend. He has no luck locating the girl, named Velma, and takes on another case. He is to go with a Mr Marriott to a blackmail dropoff. Marlowe is knocked out and when he comes to he realizes that Mr Marriott has been murdered. Obviously he becomes the prime suspect in the murder and decides to take on another case of people who want to find Moose. It seems that Helen Grayle's expensive jade necklace has disappeared and they want Marlowe to find it. It seems that someone wants to keep Marlowe from unraveling the mystery and they keep knocking him out. Eventually Marlowe decides that Moose is the center of the mystery and must determine his connection before he ends up dead himself.

This movie is a film noir gem. Dick Powell is wonderful as the hard boiled detective Marlowe. He had to fight for this role since most studios only saw him as the leading man in musicals. Anne Shirley is also wonderful as the step-daughter of one of his clients, Ann Grayle. The film is gritty and dark and a wonderful detective story. There were two other versions of this Raymond Chandler novel - The Falcon Takes Over from 1942 and Farewell, My Lovely starring Robert Mitchum in 1975.