“A GUY NAMED JOE” – ( Victor Fleming )
“CABIN IN THE SKY” – ( Vincente Minnelli )
I prefer this film better to its sister film ( “Stormy Weather” ) because the story is a stronger one. Here you’ve got Heaven and Hell fighting for the soul of a gambler who gets a chance for redemption after he’s shot and killed. Lucifer testing him with Temptation in the guise of the breathtaking Lena Horne is just not fair; it seems rea-sonable one might risk his soul for her. But the Righteous Ethel Waters is a formidable opponent. John Bubbles does a fantastic snazzy dance routine and Ethel Waters holds her own when she dances with him. Here’s the first big musical…all-Black musical since 1929’s “Hallelujah.” ( I’ll give “Stormy Weather” an honorable mention. Give you a chance to check out Lena Horne again. )
“CAPTIVE WILD WOMAN” – ( Edward Dmytryk )
Mad scientists play God again. SIGH! Will they EVER learn? Gee, I hope not. Charles Laughton made a woman out of an ape in “Island of Lost Souls” with disastrous results, so John Carradine perfects the processssssss, why? I dunno. All I know is Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting dif- ferent results. But if ape transfor-mations result in the beautiful and exotic Acquanetta…why not take a chance? You know, for science. I find it all great fun. I love Universal monster movies. But you know that already. 🙂
“THE CONSTANT NYMPH” – ( Edmund Goulding )
If a movie just wrecks you and makes you weep…that’s a good criteria for “a favorite” right? I like movies about creativity and the muse that inspires and supports the artist. Though you might marry a stunning ice princess like ( Alexis Smith ), you STILL need some one who speaks and shares your creative language. Concert pianist Charles Boyer really vibes with his young ward Joan Fontaine, but he must find the heart in his composi- tions. You might not like Korngold’s bombastic music ( I do ) but the movie does have heart, and it broke mine. Boyer discovers too late he had what he needed all along in Fontaine. And in this movie, Joan Fontaine finally won me over.
“CRY, ‘HAVOC’ ” – ( Richard Thorpe )
I like ensemble casts: “Stage Door” “The Women” “So Proudly We Hail” “Tender Comrade.” Women are serving in war as nurses and we’re right in the bunker with them in “CRY, ‘HAVOC’.” Some are wise-acres while others are glamour girls, and others still – naive innocents. War takes its toll on the women and Margaret Sullavan has to corral all these different personalities into a cohesive unit. It’s interesting to see 30’s blondes Joan Blondell and Ann Sothern in the same film. To the uninitiated, Blondell and Sothern might seem the same person. ( Pssst! Frances Gifford is in this too. ) Some girls took care of the homefront and let no one sit under their apple tree. But other gals were AT the front…and this is their story.
“FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN” – ( Roy William Neill )
Now what could be better than teaming two film giants? Bette Davis meets Joan Crawford. Katharine Hepburn meets Spencer Tracy. Frank Sinatra meets Bing Crosby. And now “FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN.” Even a classic fan who’s a purist at heart feels it might’ve been more accurate if Karloff had played the Frankenstein monster, but hey, why quibble. Having Lugosi is close enough ( he’s a monster in his own right as Count Dracula. ) Again, I love the Universal monster movies.
“THE HARD WAY” – ( Vincent Sherman )
I like Ida Lupino when she’s soft and kind ( “On Dangerous Ground” “De- votion” ) but I do love her when she’s hardboiled as she is in “The Hard Way.” This is one of those Warner Bros. rags-to-riches, climb-to-the-top musicals. Everything she does she does for her kid sister. ( See Cagney: “City for Conquest.” ) This allows Joan Leslie to remain sugar and spice while she reaps the benefits of Ida’s gnawing, gnashing, climbing and putting her own happiness on the back burner. All the familiar tropes are in this story. And it’s all Ida. (I wonder what it’d look like if she used her drive for good in a job of her own…)
“THE HUMAN COMEDY” – ( Clarence Brown )
One of the few times you can see Mickey Rooney at his least rambunctious screen persona. He does a very good job in this warm, all-American film about one family in a small town. We see how they deal with everyday life, while the war rages on. And, unfortunately, war does touch them. Lots of beautiful moments with a wonderful cast. The movie is poignant and sad. We’re all in this together. I love how Rooney states: “If my brother dies, I’ll spit at the world. I’ll hate it forever.”
“THE OX BOW INCIDENT” – ( William Wellman )
Simply & utterly devastating. A lynch mob catches three cowboys they believe killed a rancher friend and events take on a life of their own. The mob becomes judge and jury. The lynching is done for several reasons:
- make son ‘a man.’
Henry Fonda tries to stop the juggernaut of injustice and Dana Andrews gives an impassioned plea before he’s sentenced to death; he also leaves a heartbreaking letter to his widow. Though my heart belongs to “Casablanca” I would have given the Best Picture Academy Award to “The Ox-Bow Incident.” The importance of this message is still relevant today.
“SHADOW OF A DOUBT” – ( Alfred Hitchcock )
Evil comes to visit the typical all-American family. Joseph Cotten is wonder-ful as the serial killing Uncle Charlie. He can barely contain his sinister cynicism. But it’s Teresa Wright who carries the film and saves the day. She bears the weight of Knowledge and it puts her own life in danger. I just love her. She must protect her family against the evil within.
Before I forget, there’s a pivotal scene in the town’s bar where the scales are torn from Wright’s eyes and she sees her uncle for who he really is. But also in that scene is the unsung Janet Shaw as the bar’s waitress. She just nails it. (Be careful what you wish for.)
Hitchcock unpacks suspense like no other director. I love this film.