Archive for the ‘1940s films’ Tag

Undercurrent (1946)   6 comments

posterunder

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.

hitch

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.

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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!!!

In This Our Life (1942)   20 comments

poster life

Stanley Timberlake takes. She (yes, Stanley is a she) drives too fast and lets others pay her fines. She spends money she doesn’t have. She lies and when caught, bats her eyes coquettishly and does it again. She’s demanding, immature and for some reason, irresistible to men. Bette Davis gets to play the bad girl in this film about a family nearly torn apart by the selfishness of one person and the family’s unwillingness to stop her.

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“What do you mean I can’t have it?” 

 In the beginning we see Stanley flirt weirdly with her rich uncle William (Charles Coburn) in the hopes that he’ll give her money. He does. He always does.

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Creepy 

 Stanley is about to marry Craig Fleming (George Brent), a lawyer who, according to William, has odd ideas about his practice. You see, Craig values the law over money and often takes cases from indigent clients. Creepy Uncle William cares a bit too much about Stanley’s welfare, and very little about that of the rest of the Timberlake family. After all, Uncle William became rich by taking over the tobacco company owned by Stanley’s father, Asa (Frank Craven) and reducing him to an employee. The Timberlakes still have their home, but now they need help from Stanley’s sister, Roy (Olivia de Havilland) and her husband, Peter (Dennis Morgan) to pay the rent. Asa works hard at the office and at home. He has his hands full taking care of his overly dramatic, hypochondriac wife Lavinia (Billie Burke) and dealing with Stanley’s shenanigans.

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“My daughter’s not a witch! You didn’t say witch? Oh.” 

 Asa takes solace in the fact that his daughter Roy is sensible and kind and married to a promising young doctor. Roy works as an interior decorator and she and Peter live in the family home too. They’ve put off finding a home of their own to help with the family’s finances. Maybe they should have moved out sooner because Stanley wants Peter. They have an affair and decide to run away together.

oliviadennis 

“Have a nice business trip, dear.” “Um yeah.” 

 Stanley and Peter leave Richmond and head north to Baltimore to make a new start. In the film, the couple lives together while waiting for Peter’s divorce which seems pretty risqué for 1942. Spoiled, demanding people seldom make good spouses and Stanley is no exception. She spends her days prettying herself and shopping and her nights dragging Peter out to nightclubs or pouting if he won’t go. 

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“Tough day, Stanley. How ’bout a cocktail?” 

 Soon his work suffers and his drinking and her obliviousness take a toll on their marriage. Things go downhill from there.

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They seem disenchanted. 

 Back in Richmond, Roy and Craig deal differently with their jilted status. Roy puts her energy into her work, while Craig falls apart. He stops going to work and gives up until by chance he meets Roy who convinces him to stop feeling sorry for himself and move on.

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“Snap out of it.” 

 You can guess what happens next. The two fall in love and everything goes swimmingly until Stanley returns home.

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“It’s all smooth sailing now.” 

 With her marriage over and her former fiancé engaged to her sister, Stanley finds Richmond dull and confining so she tries to liven it up with a little attempted man-stealing and drunk driving.

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This jukebox goes to 11. 

 That doesn’t go over as well as you might think and once again Stanley’s thoughtless actions cause tragedy. Now her family sees just how horrible Stanley is. Will Roy and Craig stay together? Will pervy Uncle William keep his hands to himself? Will Stanley get her comeuppance? I’m not telling. You have to watch the movie.

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WHAT? 

 Bette Davis didn’t love IN THIS OUR LIFE. She thought she was too old for the part and hated her wardrobe. She wanted to play the de Havilland part. She also had some health issues which slowed down production. Her star status allowed Davis to bring in costume designer Orry-Kelly. She also discovered Ernest Anderson who played Parry Clay. Anderson had never acted before but won raves for his portrayal of a black law student wrongly accused of a crime. Anderson gave the part the intelligence and dignity it needed and he went on to act in over forty film and television roles. He had some choice lines in the film. At one point Roy asks Parry why he wants to be a lawyer. He explains what being a colored man, in 1940s vernacular, meant.

parry 

“He can keep a job or he can lose a job, but he can’t get any higher up so he’s got to figure out something he can do that no one can take away.” 

Along with Anderson, the supporting cast includes the always stellar Hattie McDaniel as Parry’s mother and Lee Patrick in a fun role as Stanley’s partner in crime in Baltimore. John Huston directed IN THIS OUR LIFE on the heels of his wildly successful debut THE MALTESE FALCON. He didn’t complete the film though. Three days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Huston was called into military service and Raoul Walsh finished the film. Walsh and Davis fought over just about everything and finally had to have a go-between so they could communicate. Critics found the film boring and the story, based on the novel by Ellen Glasgow, depressing. The Wartime Office of Censorship would not allow the foreign release of the film because of its depiction of racial inequality and the incest hinted at between Uncle William and Stanley.

I like this film. It has a THE LITTLE FOXES feel to it. Inconsiderate people try to take advantage of good ones thinking they won’t be stopped. The good people let it happen for a long time, but when they’re faced with something truly evil, they fight back.

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What a heel. 

 Look for the director’s father, Walter Huston as a bartender and John Hamilton (Superman’s Perry White) as a police inspector. Oh, here’s something else pretty cool about this film. According to imdb, if you look hard enough during a scene between Bette Davis and Dennis Morgan in a roadhouse, you can see Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Ward Bond, Elisha Cook, Jr., and Barton MacLane as patrons. Sadly, the version I watched was MALTESE FALCONless. *sad trombone*

cast-Maltese-Falcon
Psst…wrong film.

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 I wrote this piece for the Great Villain Blogathon hosted by Kristina https://hqofk.wordpress.com/, 

Karen https://shadowsandsatin.wordpress.com/, and 

Ruth http://silverscreenings.org/
Thank you for hosting such a fun event!

Shock (1946) 31 Days of Horror   Leave a comment

ShockMoviePoster

While waiting for her husband to return from the war, Janet (Anabel Shaw) looks out her hotel window and sees a man bludgeon his wife to death. Her husband Paul (Frank Latimore) arrives at the hotel to find his wife in a catatonic state. The hotel doctor (They used to have those.) recommends a specialist. Enter a youthful Vincent Price who decides Janet needs urgent care.

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This ought to do it.

He transfers her to his private psychiatric hospital in the country where Janet can get the help she needs. Soon Janet feels great so she goes home with her husband and they have babies and a house in the suburbs. The End. Not so fast, bub. It seems Dr. Cross (Price) and his favorite nurse, Elaine (Lynn Bari) have more than a passing interest in Janet’s case and each other (wink wink). They want her to remain catatonic, go mad, or die to keep her from telling anyone what she saw. Janet lies drugged and unable to defend herself as her husband and the police race to get to the real story before things head even farther south.

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Claus von Bulow’s role model.

Director Alfred Werker (He Walked By Night, Walk East on Beacon!) must have run a tight ship. In a compact 70 minutes, he tells a compelling and often harrowing tale of murder, lust, and conscience. Eugene Ling and Martin Berkeley wrote a taut screenplay based on Albert deMond’s story. Between their script and Werker’s direction, there’s not a wasted moment. Music by David Botolph (House of Wax, Kiss of Death) sets the tone for this noirish thriller. Though not technically a horror, the idea of being at the mercy of a doctor sworn to help, yet determined to harm seems pretty scary to me.

shock

I wrote this for the cinemashame.wordpress.com 31 Days of Horror Challenge. Check out @cinemashame and @30hertzrumble on twitter and thirtyhertzrumble.com for more horror stories. I’m @echidnabot on twitter.

shame

Rope (1948)   Leave a comment



Alfred Hitchcock exchanges his usual cinematic style for a more playlike one as he puts his own spin on the Leopold and Loeb thrill killings in Rope. John Dall and Farley Granger star as Brandon and Phillip, sons of privilege, who decide that killing a classmate they deem inferior and getting away with it is proof of their intellectual superiority.


“We’re better than you.”

The film opens with the camera moving from a placid street scene and into the students’ palatial flat, closing in on Brandon and Phillip strangling their victim with the eponymous weapon. The two have a drink and discuss their evening plans. As Robert Mitchum says in Out of the Past, the pair are “a little cold around the heart”.


“Oh, you wanted a Windsor knot?”

They don’t stop with their ghastly crime. To further reinforce the belief in their Nietzschean Übermensch status, they hold a cocktail party on the day of the murder and invite the victim’s parents. They even serve dinner on a chest containing the body. Sweet.


The corpse makes it tasty.

Based on the real life Leopold and Loeb murder case of 1924 in which two wealthy University of Chicago students kidnapped and murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks just to prove they could, Rope begins during the murder and follows Brandon and Phillip as they prepare for the party, bicker, and attempt to hide their crime. Filmed on a single set using long uninterrupted shots of up to ten minutes at a time, Rope breaks a few established rules of cinema to great effect. As the evening progresses, the killers’ facades of control erode and the apartment seems to shrink. That sense of claustrophobia grows as Brandon and Phillip feel cornered by their former teacher and idol Rupert Cadell (Jimmy Stewart). At first Rupert appears to be cut from the same cloth as the killers, but as Rupert observes the pair, the audience sees his suspicion and anxiety. It’s fun to watch Rupert inveigle his way into the guests thoughts and the hosts insecurities.


“The something of something.”

Since we know what happened to Leopold and Loeb, we can guess as to the fate of Brandon and Phillip, but it’s still a good time and the dialogue, written by Hume Cronyn and an uncredited Ben Hecht, is witty and dark.


“To murder!”

I love Rope and despite or perhaps because of the film’s divergence from the director’s usual path, it’s my favorite Hitchcock.


Hitchcock always won at Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Out of the Past (1947)   2 comments

out of the past

greer

If ever a movie made me want to smoke and drink scotch on the rocks, it was Out of the Past. Everything about this movie works from the laconic performance of Robert Mitchum as a private detective to Kirk Douglas’ mobster who hires him to find the luminous Jane Greer. Rhonda Fleming does herself proud as a woman who’s ‘a little cold around the heart’. The dialogue crackles, the action excites, and the plot takes more than a few twists before arriving at its inevitable conclusion. If you’re in the mood for noir, you can’t do better than this.

Mitchum Greer 3-9-13

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