March 2019 Quickie Film Reviews

This month I actually made it to the theater for a new release. Of the thirty two films I watched in March, seven of those were re-watches, six were modern movies, three starred Marion Davies, two with Frederic March, two silents one documentary and one foreign film.

I really loved revisiting some great classics likes Design for Living, The Bitter Tea of General Yen and Valley of the Kings. My three favorite discoveries this month were the comedies The Reluctant Debutante with Sandra Dee and Rex Harrison and Bedtime Story with Loretta Young and Frederic March. I also fell hard for the western Kit Carson.

The men of Kit Carson Image Source: IMDb

Green Book (2018) – My sister and I were intrigued by the previews of this film long before it won the Oscar for best picture. I really love how films like this take me outside of my own experiences into those of others. Getting a chance to vicariously live in another culture (whether Italian or African-American) helps nurture compassion and understanding in me. The friendship between these two different men just goes to show that it is hard to hate someone you know personally. Maybe we all need to step outside of our comfort zones and spend time with people who are different than us.

Music for Millions (1944) – Though the run time was a bit too long and I can only stomach so much of Jimmy Durante, I really liked this film. Margaret O’Brien is at her cutest and Marsha Hunt impressed me. I even enjoyed June Allyson, which is saying something.

The Human Comedy (1943) – Wow. What a touching little film this is. Mickey Rooney gives one of the  best performances I’ve ever seen from him. I almost didn’t watch it because I thought the recent remake Ithaca was soulless. Now, I’m glad I did.

The Age of Innocence (1993) – I’m ambivalent about this one. The settings and costuming were gorgeous and transported me to The Gilded Age. But I never really engaged with the characters or cared about their story.

The Cowboy and the Lady (1938) – This was my second time watching this one. Gary Cooper and Merle Oberon are sweet as the mismatched couple. But it is Patsy Kelly as the maid and Harry Davenport as Oberon’s uncle who stole the show. Overall, it’s a fun little comedy, but not too memorable aside from a sequence with Cooper, Walter Brennan and a bunch of cowboys playing pretend house.

Tea With the Dames (2018) – I really wanted to love this. This documentary is one long conversation among Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright. I enjoyed hearing their memories of their careers, co-workers and husbands. However, I felt I missed so much, because I didn’t have any context for those people and circumstances they were discussing. It really made me wish there had been some voice-over narration or captions explaining some of their points of discussion.

The Reluctant Debutante (1958) – I’ve yet to watch a Sandra Dee comedy I didn’t like. I was shocked to learn how young she was when she made this film. She exhibits so much poise as the American daughter of British nobleman. Also, it was interesting seeing real life couple Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall play husband and wife on screen. I think this may be one of my favorite roles of Harrison’s.

Dulcy (1940) – This fun little comedy about a ditzy woman who manages to screw everything up for her brother and fiancee and then somehow fix it all again had me giggling several times. Although Ann Southern is charming as Dulcy, at times she rather got on my nerves. It was all the other actors who made this film for me, Ian Hunter, Dan Dailey, Roland Young and Billie Burke.

Not So Dumb (1930) – I didn’t realize when I started watching this Marion Davies vehicle that it was another Dulcy film. Unfortunately, as much as I’ve enjoyed other Davies films, I found this one painful. I got about thirty minutes in and finally gave up.

Viva Las Vegas (1964) – Finally, watched my first Elvis Presley film. I can see why people like them. Though he isn’t a great actor, he has wonderful charisma and of course, that voice of his is hypnotizing. Pairing him with Ann-Margaret creates dynamite onscreen. However, the plot was flimsy at best.

Design for Living (1933) – As a fan of Lubitsch and Miriam Hopkins, I was glad to get a chance to watch this one again. It is just as delightful the second time around. Hopkins absolutely sparkles and Frederic March and Gary Cooper make for an unusual but entertaining pair of friends. I adore the scene when she compares them to hats!

The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1931) – I’ve seen this once or twice before, but it hasn’t lost it’s mesmerizing effect on me. The clash of East and West in values and culture is fascinating. Barbara Stanwyck is always a favorite, but Nils Aster is so charismatic as the Chinese general.

Fashions of 1934 (1934) – I’ve been waiting a long time to see this film and add to my William Powell repertoire. This is most definitely Powell’s film, and he’s his usual suave self. But otherwise it’s not extremely memorable. Bette Davis is extremely under utilized as Powell’s love interest here.

The Floradora Girl (1930) – I watched this for Marion Davies, but I think I’ve decided I prefer Davies in silent films. Aside from Davies, this is an utterly silly, run of the mill story. And honestly, I hated the Gay Nineties setting. It’s just not my cup of tea.

One Special Night (1999) – This made for TV movie, is the last of James Garner and Julie Andrews collaborations. Though the production values are lacking somewhat, this is a sweet story about two older people potentially finding love.

Les Miserables (1935) – Les Mis is one of my favorite musicals. However, I’ve never seen a film version that really impressed me. This adaptation sans music is by far the best I’ve seen onscreen. That’s mostly thanks to Frederic March and Charles Laughton playing Valjean and Javert in excellent performances. But I also appreciated how the lack of music put more focus on the characters and the story itself. As much as I love the songs, I now feel that they’ve contributed to the characters becoming caricatures. Read my full review for The Silver Petticoat Review here.

Bedtime Story (1941) – I didn’t expect much from this little comedy starring Loretta Young and Frederic March, but it turned out to be a great surprise.  It was entertaining and funny thanks to Young and March as a divorced theater couple who can’t seem to really cut ties. There were some really great moments in this one and I will definitely watch it again sometime.

Morituri (1965) -What a tense, dramatic film, although it was slightly too long for my taste. Marlon Brando and Yul Brynner were mesmerizing in this WWII spy/espionage plot. But the picture was almost stolen from them by Janet Margolin (who also blew my socks off in David and Lisa) in a small but important role.

Miss Potter (2006) – I never get tired of this film about the life of Beatrix Potter. It’s bittersweet, charming and inspiring. I also love the pairing of Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor together. The scenes of Edwardian London and the English countryside are simply gorgeous

Craig’s Wife (1936) -Though the story is a bit of a tragedy about a selfish controlling woman and not in my usual fare, Rosalind Russell owns the part. I know it was re-made as Harriet Craig with Joan Crawford, but I can’t imagine liking Crawford’s characterization better than Russell’s.

It Happened to Jane (1959) – I watched this one again to prepare for the Doris Day Blogathon. Spoilers: I love this Doris Day comedy and think she should have made more films with Jack Lemmon. Read my full review here.

Down With Love (2003) – It’s been a while since I’ve seen this spoof of the Doris Day-Rock Hudson rom-coms. It’s ridiculously silly, but still fun to watch Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor take on all the familiar tropes. Their duet at the end is my favorite part. David Hyde Pierce absolutely nails the Tony Randall part in my opinion. And speaking of Randall, he makes a small appearance in this which is the perfect homage to the past.

The Bride’s Play (1922) – This drama definitely shows it’s age in the stagey mannerisms of the actors. However, I still liked it. I’m used to Marion Davies in comic roles, but she is sweet here in a more serious part and a dark wig. I definitely prefer her silent films over her talkies.

Quartet (2012) – My second viewing of this British film was just as delightful as the first. It has an outstanding cast with Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon, Billy Connelly and Pauline Collins. And I love the uniqueness of the story about retired musicians all living together in a retirement community who work together to produce a musical benefit to raise funds for the home. The smaller roles are all played by real life musicians.

It All Came True (1940) – What an interesting mashup of a gangster film with music and comedy, but it works. Bogart is of course the gangster and his character is rather funny, though unintentionally. I wouldn’t have paired Ann Sheridan with Jeffrey Lynn but again, it works.  It’s quirky, but I enjoyed it, although I fast forwarded through a few of the musical bits.

Kit Carson (1940) – Westerns aren’t my first choice, but I was surprised to find I really liked this one. Leading man Jon Hall may not be the best actor, but boy, is he pretty. I could watch him all day. I really liked his sidekicks played by Harold Huber and Ward Bond. They could have done a spin-off about the trio’s adventures and I would have watched it. I think this is one of Bond’s better roles. I watched this one because I’m a fan of Dana Andrews. It’s odd to see him in a mustache, but he’s rather sweet as the Army captain who gives way to the famous western scout Carson. I definitely won’t mind watching this one again.

Meet the Stewarts (1942) – I’m reviewing this under rated romantic comedy for the William Holden blogathon this month. It was really entertaining and adore Frances Dee in this, the only starring role I’ve seen her in.

The Duelist (2016) – This Russian film is a tale of honor and revenge. A mysterious man makes a living filling in for aristocrats in duels of honor in 19th century Russia. It is visually stunning although it feels more like a historically dystopian Russia than the real thing. It is also incredibly violent with a few totally unnecessary scenes with nudity. Still, I was totally enthralled and couldn’t quit watching.

The Lady Says No (1951) – I had higher hopes for this battle of the sexes comedy because I love David Niven. He is good in this and I even think Joan Caulfield gives a credible performance. However, the quality of the film is poor and overall I thought it just didn’t really work.

The Extra Girl (1923) – I’ve only recently been introduced to the great silent film comedienne Mabel Normand. I’ve seen one of her shorts, but jumped on this chance to see one of her longer, better known films. It’s rather cute and has a few funny scenes, one involving an escaped lion. I thought her boyfriend looked familiar. It turns out it is Ralph Graves who I saw in Stanwyck’s Ladies of Leisure and the David Niven/Loretta Young comedy Eternally Yours.

Valley of the Kings (1954) – It’s been a while since I’ve seen this grand adventure film. I honestly think it’s one of my favorite of Robert Taylor’s roles and Eleanor Parker is stunning in color. I forgot how much I enjoy this one and won’t wait so long to watch it again.

The Stranger (1946) -What a great little film noir. There’s something about Orson Welles that I find mesmerizing. Loretta Young and Edward G Robinson give great performances. I liked the concept of how evil can be hiding in nice, innocuous places.

What films did you see this month?

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