Archive for the ‘1940s films’ Tag

It Always Rains on Sunday (1947)   2 comments

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Rose Sandigate (Googie Withers) lives a drab, joyless life. Married to dull, but decent George (Edward Chapman), Rose keeps house for her husband, his two nearly grown daughters from a previous marriage, and their small son. She’s worn out from rationing, slum-living, and her uneventful life in the East End of London.

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“There’s another dead bishop on the landing!”

One Sunday, while preparing Sunday dinner, Rose finds escaped-convict Tommy Swann (John McCallum) hiding in her family’s air-raid shelter. Tommy was serving a prison sentence for a violent robbery committed years before on the day he was to have married Rose. He begs Rose to hide him until nightfall when he’ll make his escape. She tries to resist, but still loves him so she promises to keep him safely locked away in her bedroom for the day. As her husband and children go about their Sunday routines, Rose becomes more tense. She knows she should turn him in, but she loved him once. As the day progresses, Tommy tries to seduce Rose and his attention brings back thoughts she hadn’t entertained in years. Rose is torn. Should she give Tommy over to the police or chuck it all and go on the run with him?

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“Surprise!”

To complicate matters further, Rose’s stepdaughters, Vi (Susan Shaw) and Doris (Patricia Plunkett) are old enough to feel claustrophobic in her home and Vi, the elder of the two, can barely contain her resentment. As it gets closer to nightfall, Rose can’t take the pressure and starts picking fights with everyone in the family. The bickering reaches a fever pitch on a usually calm Sunday afternoon.

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“A noise? Nah. Must be your imagination.”

All the time Rose agonizes about having a convict under her bed, the law, led by Detective Sergeant Fothergill (Jack Warner) combs the streets for Tommy. Fothergill knows Tommy’s old criminal associates might have a line on where he’s holed up so he presses them for information. This adds to the overall feeling of pressure in the film. During Fothergill’s investigation we get to see the melting pot neighborhood where all this drama takes place. As the camera pans through the busy market, we hear a smattering of Yiddish among the English-speakers. It’s a working-class mix of different cultures with a lot of personality.

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Must be a special on eel pie.

It Always Rains on Sunday, listed as a crime drama or film noir, also resembles some French films of the 1930s. Films like Pépé le Moko, directed by Julien Duvivier and Le Règle du Jeu (Rules of the Game), directed by Jean Renoir, show people on the fringes of society living in despair. These films in the subset of poetic realism often have a cynical point of view and at least one character resigned to his own sad fate. The characters hope for love or fortune or something grand, but are often beaten down by a series of misfortunes or a set of rules they didn’t make. Though not technically of that French genre, this film shares composer Georges Auric with many of the films of poetic realism. The style of It Always Rains on Sunday influenced many of the British kitchen-sink dramas of the 1950s and 60s like Look Back in Anger (1956) and A Taste of Honey (1961). These films departed from the usual upper-crust British films by showing working class people stuck in dead-end jobs and living in squalor and dealt more frankly with sex, race, and poverty than films had up to that point.

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Poor is Hell.

Michael Balcon produced It Always Rains on Sunday and many other films for Ealing Studios. He also produced for Gainsborough Pictures, Gaumont British, and MGM British Studios and had a huge influence on British cinema. Director, Robert Hamer helmed this and Kind Hearts and Coronets for the studio. Ealing specialized in comedies and some of the locations look like those in the comedies The Ladykillers and The Lavender Hill Mob. Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe filmed It Always Rains on Sunday along with The Great Gatsby (1974), Rollerball (1975), and about eighty other films while collecting a basket full of Academy Award and BAFTA nominations and wins.

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Such a pretty shot.

Fleshing out the story are some terrific British character actors. Hermione Baddeley, Alfie Bass, Sydney Tafler, and Nigel Stock all play the kind of small parts that make any film more realistic.

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“It was a wombat, I tell ya!”

Watch It Always Rains on Sunday for the slice-of-life drama, the dingy, authentic atmosphere, and for the marvelous performance by Googie Withers. In the time it takes to make a Sunday roast, Withers unravels internally without going all Mystic River Sean Penn on us. She shows us just enough. It’s a restrained and artful take on what could easily have been melodrama. Withers also has great chemistry with John McCallum, who she later married so you know the steam is real. If you’re in the mood for a little gem of a film that’s a little bit noir and a little bit day-in-the-life, check out It Always Rains on Sunday.

Notes: Googie Withers and John McCallum were married for 62 years!

Googie means Little Pigeon and was a nickname her nanny gave the actress as a child.

5 Desert Island Movies #NationalClassicMovieDay   12 comments

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Some questions are hard.

Every once in a while, someone will ask me what my favorite films are.  My favorite films?  Do you mean my favorite films with large, radioactive insects?  My favorite films about the mob?  My favorite westerns?  War movies?  Heist films?  Films where the main character paints with his girlfriend’s blood?  That’s the thing.  I like a lot of films and quite honestly, my favorites change from day to day.  Anyway, I saw Jay from thirtyhertzrumble.com posting his top 5 and I thought I’d give it a shot.  The author of the Classic Film and TV Café, a blog about classic film and TV (no kidding), came up with the idea for this blogathon, but I found out about it too late so I’m posting my favorites anyway and attempting to give him credit.  Here goes!

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THE WOMEN (1939)

I’m not sure why, but I love fashion shows in movies.  HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE has a fun one too.  Great stuff.  I’m not even a clothes person.  I am not the woman with 200 pairs of shoes or an outfit for every occasion…at all.  It doesn’t matter.  The wacky over-the-top couture fits the ‘I can get my nails done daily because the hardest work I do all week is hail a cab’ lifestyle.

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So practical.

The clever and often overlapping dialogue written by Clare Booth Luce, Anita Loos, Jane Murfin, David Ogden Stewart, and even F. Scott Fitzgerald makes fun of the wealthy consumers in this film while still allowing us to like them.  I’m not sure if it would pass the Bechdel test because these women talk about men a lot.  They also talk about themselves and their hopes for family and love.  Not all ambition hangs out in the boardroom, after all.  The women in THE WOMEN talk about things that still come up today.  I’m your wife and the mother of your children, but I still have to look like a model and greet you every day with a negligee on and a soufflé in the oven.  I also have to be a good sport about it and look the other way when you pinch the cigarette girl.  Welcome to 2016, 1939.  THE WOMEN is a smart film that holds up.

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A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (1935)

My teenager adores this film and the two of us sit on the couch and laugh like fools throughout the entire movie.  If it’s on in the morning, she will get up.  Let me repeat that.  SHE WILL GET UP.  Remember, she’s 18.  I love this film.  This is another movie with a ton of stuff going on.  The asides and in jokes become clearer after each viewing and the physical humor is some of the best in film.  The Marx brothers work so well together.  The choreography and timing in the scenes in the ship’s stateroom and the hotel in New York are as complex as any dance number Fred Astaire dreamed up and the sarcastic put downs still crack me up.  It’s worth seeing just for “Take Me out to the Ballgame” in the orchestra pit.  Major smiles.

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“Peanuts!”

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THE STRANGER (1946)

I’ve read that Welles didn’t care for this one, but he was wrong.  There, I said it. First of all, it looks fabulous.

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A gym has never looked so good.

Those shadows and chiaroscuro get me all hot and bothered.  Also, Nazis.  I love Nazis in films of the 1940s.  It’s all black and white.  There’s none of this police action/Vietnam/should we really be there crap.  They’re Nazis.  They’re bad.  End of story.  I also love films about the seedy underbellies of otherwise lovely places.  SHADOW OF A DOUBT, BLUE VELVET, even THE ASPHALT JUNGLE and ROPE have that ‘Come over for a cup of tea, Aunt Clara.  I’ll move the body out of the spare room.’ feel to them.  Edward G. Robinson has a lot of fun with this one.  Robinson takes his time ruminating over Welles and his possible ties to the death camps and insinuates himself into his life until it all goes pear-shaped for the murderer.  Just terrific.  Orson Welles makes a great bad guy too.  I think Loretta Young is a bit shrill in THE STRANGER, but she unravels nicely.

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JAWS (1975)

While JAWS started the whole summer blockbuster thing, it wasn’t the first creature feature.  Universal had THE WOLF MAN and DRACULA and the 1950s showed us what radiation could do to desert ants and crickets.  In Japan, Godzilla and his cohorts/enemies (depending on which film you’re watching) destroyed and saved Tokyo countless times.  Sometimes, the scientists found a creature in the ice.  THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD and THE DEADLY MANTIS defrosted the terrible beings and hurled them at an unsuspecting public.  THEM! gave us the prototype for the modern creature movies and it’s wonderfully done.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Spielberg was a big THEM! fan.  I digress.  I love JAWS.  There’s something about it that makes me so happy.  The soulless leviathan threatens the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Amity Island and Quint, Hooper, and Brody band together to kill the beast and save the day.  Here’s another black and white film.  The shark eats kids and dogs.  He’s bad.  He’s the Nazi of the sea and our heroes are the allied troops tasked with taking him out.  What separates JAWS from many of the other nature vs. man films are the characters and the writing.  We get to know these guys and we’re worried about them.  We want Brody to get home to his wife and kids.  We want Quint to get his Napolean Brandy.  We also want Quint to run him into the shallows so Hooper doesn’t have to get into that damned shark cage.

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I got no spit either.

Writers, Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb, and the uncredited John Milius fleshed out these men so we’d give a damn about them.  They even wrote in the island as a character.  There’s so much going on in this film that I see new things each time I watch it.  That newness would come in handy on an island.

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SURPRISE!!!!!

For the last film, I had a hard time deciding between HIS GIRL FRIDAY and HARVEY.  They’re both funny and full of terrific performances, but HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940) edged HARVEY out by a whisker.  I love the frenetic, overlapping Hawksian dialogue and the amazing cast of character actors elevate this film above madcap comedy status.  I would argue that HIS GIRL FRIDAY and CASABLANCA use character actors better than any films ever did.  Roscoe Karns, Regis Toomey, John Qualen, Billy Gilbert, Porter Hall and Gene Lockhart make this film.

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“Hi, babe.”

Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant are the stars, but without the reporters and the pols vying for a byline or political brownie points, it wouldn’t be the same.  The comments delivered from the sides of mouths in this film keep the viewer on his toes too.  You can’t sneeze while watching this for fear of missing 14 punchlines.  It’s whip smart and prescient and I’m out of breath at the end of each viewing.   This film is coming with me if I have to smuggle it in my sock.

 

These are my 5 favorites…this week.  Come back next week, and I’ll probably have a different list.

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Dead of Night (1945)   2 comments

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Five stories connected by a linking narrative make up the anthology horror film, DEAD OF NIGHT.  Though it wasn’t the first portmanteau film ever made, it has influenced many filmmakers.  Martin Scorsese lists DEAD OF NIGHT as one of the scariest films ever made.  It was also one of the few horror films made in Britain during the era.  Horror movies were banned in Britain during the war.  Produced by Michael Balcon for Ealing Studios, DEAD OF NIGHT boasts an A-list cast of British actors, directors, and writers.

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Spurred on by the dreams of Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns), an architect who’s come to design an addition, a group of people in an English country house discuss their dreams and what they mean.  At first skeptical, the people, with the exception of Dr. van Straaten (Frederick Valk) begin to believe their dreams are telling them something.

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“Doctor, I dreamed I was on a train passing through a tunnel.”
“I’ll need to see you three times a week.”

Basil Dearden (VICTIM) directed the first story, Hearse Driver along with the tale that links all the others.  Dearden is one of my favorite British directors.  If you haven’t seen VICTIM, SAPPHIRE or ALL NIGHT LONG, run out and do so right now.  Anyway, in HEARSE DRIVER, Hugh Grainger (ANTHONY BAIRD), a race car driver, wrecks his car in a race and goes to the hospital.  As he recovers, he dreams he sees a hearse driver in a horse drawn carriage beckoning him.  After his release, he sees the same driver, now a bus conductor, say the same words from his dream, “Just room for one inside, sir.”  Grainger doesn’t take the bus.  Was that a good decision?  That would be telling.

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“Just room for one inside, sir.”

Christmas Party stars the endlessly appealing Sally Ann Howes as Sally O’Hara.  Sally attends a party full of children, but meets a little boy who wasn’t invited, because he’d been dead a hundred years.  Alberto Cavalcanti directed the second segment.  It’s chilling and also sweet.

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“You’re dead?  How about a nice cup of tea?”

Googie Withers and Ralph Michael star in the next piece, Haunted Mirror, as Joan and Peter Cortland, a newly married couple.  Joan tells the group that shortly before their wedding, she bought her intended an ornate mirror at an antiques shop.  Soon after hanging the mirror, Peter sees things when he looks into it that aren’t actually there.  He seems to be getting a bit cranky, too.  Jane does a bit of research and finds that the original owner of the mirror was not a wonderful guy and he, well, sort of killed his wife.  Is Peter seeing things through the eyes of a killer?

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Do you hear or fear or do I smash the mirror?

In the comedy, Golfing Story, Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne play best friends who love golf.  At their favorite golf club, they meet a woman, played by Peggy Bryan.  Both men fall for Peggy and decide to play eighteen holes for her.  It’s not as nasty as it sounds.  The vignette is played as a very British comedy and Peggy has a say.  Basil’s character wins and Naunton decides to end it all.  Later, he returns as a ghost.  Radford and Wayne gained fame as cricket fans in THE LADY VANISHES and acted together in several films after that.  This segment acts as the comic relief.  It’s light and silly.

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“I say!”

The fifth part of the film, Ventriloquist’s Dummy,  is the one most people remember.  Michael Redgrave plays Maxwell Frere, a ventriloquist with an unruly dummy.  The twosome are successful and perform at the swankiest clubs, but something is amiss.  Hugo begins to miss cues and refuses to sing songs in the script.  Who’s Hugo?  Oh, he’s the dummy. Yup.  DEAD OF NIGHT is the original dummy-is-taking-over-and-no-one’s-sure-who’s-in-charge film and it’s a good one.  Michael Redgrave looks like he’s really ventriloquizing.  Redgrave is good anyway, but in this he’s mesmerizing.  He appears for a short time, but makes a big impact.

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“What have you done to Mortimer?”

DEAD OF NIGHT is an entertaining and well made film.  This is a film Criterion needs to add to its arsenal.

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Great party, kids!

haunty

 

 

I Walked With a Zombie (1943)   1 comment

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“Everything good dies here, even the stars.”
-Paul “Cheery” Holland (Tom Conway)

Betsy Connell (Frances Dee), a Canadian nurse, takes a position caring for the wife of a wealthy plantation owner in the West Indies.  The land owner, Paul Holland (Tom Conway), a dark, brooding soul, wants the best for his wife.  He feels guilty because he wouldn’t let her leave him for his stepbrother, Wesley Rand (James Ellison) and now she’s kind of out of it.  Jessica Holland (Christine Gordon) walks around the island in a trance wearing a diaphanous white gown.  It seems she came down with a fever which settled in her spinal column and turned her into a zombie.  Sounds logical.

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“Take a left at the hanging goat.”

Since Jessica has no mobility problems, I wonder if the spinal column she’s using is a spare she keeps around for emergencies.  Anyway, Betsy adapts quickly and soon she’s solving everyone’s problems and falling in love with the host.

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“This guy’s as suave as Dean Stockwell.”

Adapted by Curtis Siodmak and Ardel Wray from Inez Wallace’s story and Charlotte Brontë’s book, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE watches like JANE EYRE GOES TO THE TROPICS, but with sugar cane instead of fox hunts.  Dee plays the altruistic martyr, Jane Eyre.  Conway is the dashing, yet damaged Rochester, and Gordon plays the unbalanced Mrs. Rochester.  In this case, Jessica/Mrs. Rochester goes mad, not by excess, but by the influence of voodoo and guilt.

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You know, zombie spinal fever affects three out of five unfaithful wives.

Edith Barrett, who plays Paul and Wesley’s mother, Mrs. Rand in I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, is the faithful servant, Mrs. Fairfax.  In a cool movie twist, Barrett plays Mrs. Fairfax for real in Robert Stevenson’s JANE EYRE (also 1943) with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine.  I love this kind of stuff.

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“Heathcliff!”
“No, no, you fool!  Wrong movie!”

Director, Jacques Tourneur and producer Val Lewton do atmosphere like few others and the film abounds with moody staircases, rocky beaches, and billowy curtains.  Frenzied bongo-heavy religious ceremonies and scary walks through the cane fields add a nifty exotic tone and the acting is wonderful.  The leads work well together and Dee and Conway have a lovely romantic rapport.  The ensemble is good too.  Sir Lancelot has a nice part as a local calypso singer.  Veteran character actor James Bell plays Jessica’s doctor and Theresa Harris is Alma, the Holland family’s maid.  Harris has a nice part in this film.  She plays a servant, but not a cartoony or brainless one.  Alma speaks with an authentic, but not exaggerated accent and is a sensible person.  For a black actress in the 1940s, that’s a coup.  It may be unusual for movies of the 1940s, but it’s not for Lewton’s films.  Watch THE LEOPARD MAN or CAT PEOPLE and you’ll see non-white actors and women playing intelligent, multi-layered parts.  It’s refreshing.

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Alma

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE is classified as a horror film, but it’s more of a drama/thriller with zombies added for spice.  I like it.  A talented team of people both in front of and behind the camera make it a fun watch and the setting looks lovely in black and white.  It flies by, too.  The film packs a lot into its spare sixty-nine minutes.  Also, Tom Conway.  I love Tom Conway.  He’s so dashing, it hurts.

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This is the damnedest game of jacks.

 

 

 

 

The Seventh Victim (1943)   Leave a comment

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Kim Hunter, in her film debut, stars as Mary Gibson, a teenage schoolgirl who leaves her sheltered world to travel to New York City’s Greenwich Village to look for her missing older sister.  After reporting her sister, Jacqueline to the Missing Person’s Bureau, Mary searches herself.

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“It’s our logo.  We put it on our new bath soap, Beelzebubbles.”

Her worries increase when Mary finds that Jacqueline gave away her successful business to a former employee, Natalie Cortez (Evelyn Brent) and that she has a noose set up in her apartment.  Spooky.

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I don’t know art, but I know what I like.

Into this mystery arrive a helpful poet, Jason (Erford Gage), a solicitous attorney, Gregory Ward (Hugh Beaumont), and Dr. Louis Judd, played by the often slimy/always good, Tom Conway.  Since it is a mystery, I won’t divulge too many crucial details.

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Director Mark Robson (CHAMPION) keeps us guessing throughout the story.  Where is Jacqueline Gibson?  Why don’t Jacqueline’s pals in the cult want Mary to find her?  Why does Tom Conway sound evil even when he’s saying good things?

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Good or evil, I still look dashing.

Kim Hunter and her cast mates, including Isabel Jewell and Jean Brooks, are convincing and the taut seventy-one-minute story by Charles O’Neal and DeWitt Bodeen pulls you in.  Produced by Val Lewton at RKO a year after the Jacques Tourneur classic, CAT PEOPLE, THE SEVENTH VICTIM has that same gorgeous look.  Full of shadows and dark alleys, the cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca is as much a part of the film as the script.

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See?  It’s a gorgeous film.

Musuraca also served as director of photography on CAT PEOPLE, THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE, and OUT OF THE PAST.  Roy Webb, who composed the soundtracks for THE LEOPARD MAN and I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE did the music for this film and it creates a wonderful atmosphere of doom punctuated with splashes of suspense.

THE SEVENTH VICTIM, along with eight other Lewton-produced films and SHADOWS IN THE DARK, a documentary on the gifted producer, are together in a fabulous box set.  It’s worth a look.  Good stuff.

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Quartet (1948)   Leave a comment

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The anthology film began as early as the 1920s in Germany and achieved a modicum of fame during the 1940s and 1950s. TALES OF MANHATTAN (1942) dramatizes the adventures of several people who come in contact with a certain tuxedo jacket. DEAD OF NIGHT (1945), a British horror anthology, involves intersecting stories of people who meet at an English country house. Many consider DEAD OF NIGHT the inspiration for the Amicus Studios portmanteau horror films of the 1960s and 1970s. FULL HOUSE features five stories written by O. Henry and introduced by John Steinbeck. Beginning with DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS in 1965, Amicus Productions made several anthology horror films including TORTURE GARDEN, ASYLUM, and VAULT OF HORROR. Neil Simon made the anthology comedies PLAZA SUITE (1971) and CALIFORNIA SUITE (1978). In 1995, Quentin Tarantino and three other directors made FOUR ROOMS which center on a hotel on New Year’s Eve. V/H/S (2012), its sequels, and THE ABCs OF DEATH (2012) use the anthology format for their horror-filled tales as well. Even this film, QUARTET, was followed in 1950 by TRIO, a set of three Maugham tales also introduced by the author.

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Top: Maugham from QUARTET.
Bottom: Steinbeck from FULL HOUSE.

Introduced by W. Somerset Maugham, QUARTET tells four of the author’s stories. All four are set primarily in Britain, but cover a variety of subjects. The first, THE FACTS OF LIFE stars Naunton Wayne, Basil Radford, and Mai Zetterling in the story of a college student who travels to Monte Carlo for a tennis tournament and forgets all the advice his stuffy father gives him. Against Dad’s wishes, he gambles, lends money, and gets involved with a woman. We’re curious how these missteps will affect the young man. Will he fall prey to his vices or emerge from his adventures unscathed?

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“I’ll stay away from women tomorrow, ok Dad?”

THE ALIEN CORN stars Dirk Bogarde as a young man from a wealthy family who dreams of becoming a concert pianist. He has just graduated from Oxford, so naturally his family has plans for him. Bogarde surprises them and the girl who loves him (Honor Blackman) when he mentions his musical desires, but they work out a bargain. Bogarde will study the piano in a French garret for two years. At the end of that time, he will play before a professional pianist. If that pianist thinks he shows promise, Bogarde will continue with his dream. If not, he will begin a career in law or politics as his family wishes. Bogarde does a wonderful job of expressing his passion for music. We watch him practice and dream and we root for him. As with the rest of the stories in this group, THE ALIEN CORN has a solid cast and an unexpected ending.

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“Carry on, Pussy.”

In the third segment, THE KITE, George Cole plays Herbert Sunbury, a man with an unusual hobby. He loves kites. He and his parents, Hermione Baddeley and Mervyn Johns spend every Saturday afternoon at the park flying kites and many hours the rest of the week designing a special kite of their own. When he meets a girl who thinks his kite-flying is immature and silly, George must decide where his priorities lie. This story surprised me. I thought it might be the comic relief segment of the film, but it was a lot deeper than I originally thought. The cast of veteran character actors including Bernard Lee elevated what could have been an average story to something more.

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Go fly a kite.

Lastly, THE COLONEL’S LADY, directed by Ken Annakin tells the story of a dutiful wife (Nora Swinburne) who writes a book. The romantic and sensual tale of a doomed love affair is a surprise hit and booksellers can’t keep it on the shelves. Her stuffy, self-important husband (Cecil Parker) can’t be bothered to read it. He’s too busy drinking at his club and nuzzling his mistress to pay attention to his wife until people begin to theorize that the love story may be her own. Now the colonel takes notice. This last story shows the most restraint and Nora Swinburne does a lovely job as the ignored wife. As with all four stories, the ending might surprise you.

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“My wife has thoughts of her own?”

QUARTET boasts a wonderful cast of British character actors and short stories that hold your interest.  Maugham has a way with angst as do the players.  I’m a big fan of anthology films and this is a good one.

 

Undercurrent (1946)   6 comments

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Spinster Ann Hamilton (Katharine Hepburn) lives with her scientist father, Dink (Edmund Gwenn) in the country.  She busies herself helping with her father’s experiments and keeping house for him.  She’s a practical woman who harbors no fantasies about romance and marriage and is content to live her quiet, country life.  Then she meets Alan Garroway (Robert Taylor).  The millionaire industrialist visits the Hamiltons to buy Dink’s explosive formula and start production.  Charming, handsome, and confident, Alan sweeps Ann off her feet and after a whirlwind romance, the two marry.  The End.  Cut!  Print!  Teehee, just kidding.

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Wrong film, bub.

Alan takes Ann out of her comfortable domestic life and thrusts her into his jet-setting, sophisticated one.  The newlyweds arrive at their Washington, D.C. digs where Alan has arranged a party to welcome Ann.  It’s a black tie affair and Ann has only her traveling dress to wear.  She’s frumpy and nervous and clearly out of place in a room full of professional party-goers.  Determined to avoid another embarrassing scene and to make Alan proud of her, Ann buys a new wardrobe and tries to be the good Washington hostess.  Under Alan’s tasteful supervision, Ann learns how to charm the witty urbanites in Alan’s circle.  The couple appear to be well on the way to a long, happy marriage when Ann hears, for the first time, that Alan has a brother.  Ann asks about the mystery brother only to find that he ran off with no forwarding address and a large part of the company’s funds.  When Ann tries to question him further, Alan lashes out at her.  Realizing her husband is in pain, Ann relents and decides to try her best to comfort Alan and make him forget his heartbreak.

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Next, the couple go to the Garroway family home in tony, equestrian Middleburg, Virginia.  As Ann begins to acclimate herself to her new surroundings, she senses unease.  People talk around the issue which centers around Alan’s wayward brother, Michael.  No one will answer Ann’s questions and Alan’s hair trigger temper makes Ann increasingly concerned about the stability of her husband.  She catches him in a series of lies, but Alan explains it away.  This assuages Ann’s fears and on a trip to San Francisco Alan is called away.  Ann takes the opportunity to explore his brother Michael’s old ranch north of the city to learn more about him.  As she tours the house and grounds, which look as if they were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, she gets a picture of Michael which differs significantly from the one Alan described to her.  Alan reacts violently to Ann’s visit to the ranch.  After a guitar-tossing outburst, Alan finally calms down and brings her, coldly back to Washington.

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Yeah, not this film either.

Alan and Ann overhear a conversation which convinces Ann that to Alan she’s less of a wife and more of a project.  She realizes her transformation from frumpy to fabulous was no accident.  “You knew I wouldn’t look smart.  You could have waited for me to meet your friends.  The truth is if no one saw the before, you wouldn’t get credit for the after.”  In that one statement, Ann says what she’s been fearing almost from the beginning.  Now Ann doubts her husband and her marriage.  As long as she keeps that doubt to herself, she’ll have time to figure things out, but like the big innocent goof that she is, Ann tells Alan everything.  Immediately things go from curious to downright scary as Ann discovers the true nature of her husband.

wedding

Ann, run!

Directed by Vincent Minnelli with great, moody cinematography by Karl Freund, UNDERCURRENT boasts an impressive cast of lead and character actors including Marjorie Main, Jayne Meadows, and Robert Mitchum in a small, but pivotal role.  Based on a magazine story “You Were There” by Thelma Strabel, UNDERCURRENT did well at the box office.  It was Robert Taylor’s first screen role after returning from WWII and filmgoers came out in droves to see him and the rest of the stellar cast.  I’ve always liked this film.  Katharine Hepburn plays an unusually pliable woman in UNDERCURRENT and watching her transform from strong, but naïve to intimidated to self-assured to terrified keeps you guessing.  Robert Taylor does sociopathic well, and Robert Mitchum…  Well, Robert Mitchum can do anything he wants on screen (and probably off) and it works a treat.  I recommend UNDERCURRENT for trying something a little different with its stars.  It’s a fun noir/drama/love story/thriller.  It can also be used to propel a small, sea-going vessel.  Well, maybe not.

khep

I wrote this for #TheGreatKHBlogathon for Margaret Perry of margaretperry.org

Thank you for hosting!!!

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