Archive for the ‘Robert Mitchum’ Tag

His Kind of Woman (1951)   2 comments

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Until you watch His Kind of Woman, you might not realize Vincent Price is the star. You might believe the credits and think you’re watching a Robert Mitchum/Jane Russell vehicle full of mobsters who crack wise and a beauty who sings a little.

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“Is that a gun in your pocket?”

After all, up to this point, Vincent Price spent a lot of time in costume dramas or as the guy who didn’t get the girl. Gene Tierney threw him over for Dana Andrews in Laura even after she was dead and she dumped him again the next year for Cornel Wilde in Leave Her to Heaven. I’m not sure Hollywood knew what to do with the erudite actor. Handsome, articulate, and athletic, Vincent looked the part of the leading man, but had more to give. You might say he was too smart for his own good.

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“Snatch this revolver from my hand, Grasshopper.”

Male ingenue parts don’t show off your sense of humor much so studios plugged him into the role of the witty, yet evil count. A few films, like Shock (1946) allowed him to show more range, but it wasn’t until Roger Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe phase in the 1960s that Vincent was really allowed to shine. The exception to that is His Kind of Woman. Vincent Price sinks his teeth into the Mark Cardigan role.

vin mitch
“This is going to be fun.”

Don’t get me wrong. Mitchum and Russell steam up your glasses in this film, but what brings me back to John Farrow’s 1951 crime thriller again and again is the wonderfully over-the-top performance by Vincent Price as Mark Cardigan, the biggest movie star who ever swashed a buckle.

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“Did you close the garage?”

Cardigan travels from Hollywood to gorgeous, mid-century Morro’s Lodge in Baja California, Mexico to hunt and fish and woo his mistress, Lenore Brent (Jane Russell). His sporting ways do little to impress Lenore; she starts warming up to Dan Milner (Robert Mitchum). He’s in sunny Mexico for a mysterious, dangerous reason, which becomes clearer and uglier as the story progresses and we get to know the dastardly Nick Ferraro (Raymond Burr). Nick’s a mobster, deported by the U.S. government, who wants to get back into the states. How does a famous and recognizable hoodlum get past customs, and where does the Nazi doctor fit in? Nick plans to use Dan—and I don’t mean he wants to borrow Dan’s passport. Dan, a teetotaler, still manages to intoxicate Lenore and the two begin a sexy little romance. I’ll admit; it’s fun to watch. Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell have terrific chemistry. That said, I still can’t watch this film without wishing it had more Vincent.

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“My Godzilla was the the best! Say it!”

As Mark Cardigan, Vincent, full of boyish charm, tries to get his friend excited about hunting with him, but encounters only sarcasm. He has all this fancy hunting and fishing gear, but no one wants to play. He’s sure Dan will be a sport, but he has mind on other things.

Mark Cardigan: “What about tomorrow morning?
Dan Milner: “All right, what about it?”
Mark Cardigan: “The hunting. I’ve got all the equipment you need. How about me rootin’ you out about five.”
Dan Milner: “Five?”
Lenore Brent: “He shoots them as they crawl out of bed.”

vinmi
“Wanna kill some stuff?”

Despite their best efforts, neither Lenore nor Dan can dampen Mark’s enthusiasm and off he goes to his favorite blind quoting Shakespeare. It’s that bigger-than-life, booming attitude that makes me smile every time I watch His Kind of Woman. A combination of Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks, and Ronald Coleman, Mark Cardigan has all the conceit of a matinee idol with some intelligence and a little humility to balance it out. Mark mentions the danger ahead of them and Dan promises that if his friend dies in battle, he’ll be sure to give him a big sendoff.

Dan: “Well, if you do get killed, I’ll make sure you get a first-rate funeral in Hollywood at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.”
Mark: “I’ve already had it. My last picture died there.”

The interplay between Mark and the other characters continues throughout the film. Actually, he doesn’t need anyone to play off. He spends a good portion of the film soliloquizing. What separates this film from others depicting actors forced to face reality is how Mark handles it. He accepts the challenge and the risk gleefully as if he thinks he’s still on stage 6. On his way to fight the gangsters, Mark arms himself and then stops to don a black cape. Fabulous! History abounds with films about self-absorbed actors blurring the line between fantasy and reality, but this is more fun than profound. Part of the reason may be that when Mark looks deeply into his soul, he likes what he sees there. His long-winded speeches about battles and heroes aren’t just for show. Deep down he wants to believe every word and surprises even himself when the bullets start flying. It’s thrilling and joyous and fun.

rock
“It’s 14 against 2.”
“We’ll take ’em.”
“How do you know?
“Bad guys can’t shoot.”
“Oh right.”

His Kind of Woman has a romance with great chemistry, a twisted bad guy with a taste for torture, a Nazi, and a brilliant, but bored actor dying to prove himself to himself.

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Nazi

I can’t picture another actor who could do the part justice as well as Vincent Price. He has the energy, athleticism, timing, and eloquence to pull it off. Who else could wax poetic while trussing a duck?

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OK. Maybe this guy.

Without delving too deeply into plot summation, I’ll say His Kind of Woman packs a lot into two hours. There’s a love story, a mobster attempting to foil immigration, a Casablanca-like sub-plot with Jim Backus sitting in for Claude Rains, and a Nazi. As Joe Bob Briggs says, “…too much plot getting in the way of the story.” Fortunately, the writers, Frank Fenton and Jack Leonard, along with the talented cast can handle it. This film’s success lies in the philosophy expressed by Jim Backus’ stockbroker when discussing movies in general. “People don’t go to movies to see how miserable the world is. They go there to eat popcorn and be happy.” Preston Sturges couldn’t have said it better.

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That jacket.

This article appeared originally, in a different form, in the Brattle Film Notes.

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!!!

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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