September 2021 Quickie Reviews

September 2021 BREAKDOWN
  • 25 films/series total
  • 10 new classic films
  • 10 re-watches
  • 3 new TV series
  • 1 silent film short
  • 1 foreign film/series

Biggest Disappointment: Band Wagon & Three Sailors and  a Girl

Doris Day & Gordon MacRae

Favorite Discovery: On Moonlight Bay

Most Watched Actor/Actress: Gordon MacRae

TV Series:

The House of Elliott (1991) – There are very few series which focus on the 1920’s and fortunately this one is well-done despite the lesser quality of the camera work. I enjoyed seeing this tale of two orphaned sisters who create a London fashion empire, with a little help from their friend Jack who later serves as a love interest for one of them. The sister relationship is realistic. This also has a bit of an Upstairs Downstairs feel as it portrays both the sisters interactions with their wealthy clients as well as the ladies who work in the shop making their designs a reality. There were some great supporting characters with some interesting side stories.

WPC 56 (2013) – Though there is nothing extremely special about this series focusing on a lone woman’s inclusion on an all male police force during the 1950’s, I did find it interesting. The exploration of the challenges women faced as they tried to integrate into a male-dominant work-force seemed realistic and at time eye-opening. Character changes from season to season made it hard to get attached to any one, especially since the only two characters who appear in all three seasons were not very likeable. But I did appreciate a more unique setting in a more working-class England.

Jane Eyre (2006) – This is my favorite version of Jane Eyre, hands down. Ruth Wilson IS Jane, and I also love Toby Stephens interpretation of Rochester. My only major complaint is the actress playing Jane’s pupil Adele. She is too old for the part and a bit of a distraction.

North and South (2004) – I adore this mini-series and watch it at least once a year.  Despite similarities to Pride and Prejudice this adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskill’s story carves out it’s own identity and also manages to explore the challenges of the industrial age as seen through cotton mills. But of course, the real selling point is the contentious relationship between Margaret Hale and John Thornton. Not to mention, Richard Armitage as Thornton…swoon!

Foyle’s War (2002) -So far, I’ve made it through the first two seasons of this critically acclaimed show. I can see why a lot of people love it, although I can’t say it ranks among my favorites yet. The mysteries of each episode keep me guessing and I love seeing all the cameo appearances by actors/actresses who are now famous. I find the main characters of Foyle, his driver Sam and right hand man Milner all intriguing and am enjoying their character development so far.

Foreign Films/Series

Kartini: Princess of Java (2017) – Based on a true story, this Netflix Indonesian film depicts Kartini, an upper class woman who fought for the right of herself and other women to be educated in a culture which kept women subservient and basically locked up in their homes. Kartini was fortunate to have a loving and understanding father and brother who gave her the opportunity for more. And yet, she still manages to show grace and dignity, remaining respectful of her culture. The historical fight for women’s rights is not a new topic, but I really enjoyed this particular depiction of it as well as a glimpse into the Indonesian culture.

Silents:

The Rink (1916) – This comedy short from Charlie Chaplin is entertainingly funny. Somehow it segues easily from his time as a waiter in a restaurant right into skating scenes at the rink next door.

Classics:

Johnny Doesn’t Live Here Anymore  (1944) – An absolutely silly little comedy which I didn’t take seriously, although, I did enjoy Simone Simon in it. She stars as a young woman who takes over the apartment of a Marine only to find her new home constantly invaded by the man’s friends to whom he’s given keys. The ridiculous ending almost completely ruined this for me.

West of Broadway (1931) – You all know my love for John Gilbert and this is not one of his well-regarded films. But it had potential and he did the best he could with the material he had to work with. I really love the story about a wealthy man who has been jilted. He then marries a gold digger who actually cares about him and not his money. He’s rather nasty to her, but you can feel his pain and understand why he reacts the way he does. Lois Moran also deserves credit for her heart breaking performance as his unwanted wife. What really drags this picture down is the pacing and editing, but that is not the fault of its’ talent.

Test Pilot (1938) – Sometimes you just need a little Clark Gable and Myrna Loy in your life.  They are joined by Spencer Tracy who made a great sidekick in one of his last supporting roles. These three had great chemistry together. Loy gets to act a lot like her most famous character role, Nora Charles, but also gets to add a little dramatic acting in there as well as a wife who loves her husband but worries over his dangerous career. Gable is little boy delightful in his obtuse selfishness.

Out of the Blue (1947) – Such a quirky film, which is very screwball comedy in tone and definitely not what I expected after seeing a poster and reading the synopsis. I loved seeing all the main actors play against type, particularly George Brent as a hen-pecked husband. Ann Dvorak was a bit too over the top for my taste as a zany, drunken women who keeps getting mistaken for a corpse. But the shenanigans kept me entertained and I wouldn’t mind watching it again.

Knights of the Round Table (1953) – Isn’t it sad when a childhood favorite doesn’t quite live up to its’ memory after a re-watch? Such is the case with this Robert Taylor film. Taylor plays Lancelot to Ava Gardner’s Guinevere and Mel Ferrer’s King Arthur.  Of the three, Taylor gives the most interesting performance as the other two are very subdued, even dull on screen. The rest of the cast don’t add any spark to the story sadly. I found myself waiting for it all to end.

The Joker is Wild (1957) – Frank Sinatra gives a good performance as the real-life Joe E. Lewis a singer who staged a successful comeback as a comedian after a brutal attack by a gangster. Jeanne Crain and Mitzi Gaynor play his love interests in the film and Crain is stunning as usual. Eddie Albert gives the best performance as Lewis best friend and piano player. At times, it felt like I was watching a film about Sinatra himself as themes of performing, drinking, womanizing and Vegas were explored. It was a good movie, but not one I really connected with.

The Green Promise (1949) – This is a family drama, but it really feels like a showcase for the young Natalie Wood as well as a marketing film for the 4-H clubs. There is nothing wrong with either of those things, but it was unexpected. I did like learning more about the purpose and influence of a 4-H club in a rural community and Wood did a good job in her role even if she did overact occasionally. Walter Brennan plays the patriarch whose stubborness and bad decisions provide the conflict and hardship for the family.  Though this is not the best family drama I’ve seen, it is worth watching.

On Moonlight Bay (1951) – I’m trying to branch out from simply watching Doris Day’s rom-coms, so decided to give one of her earlier musicals a try. I can see why people love films like this. It is such a likeable picture, with a strong nostalgic factor, fun characters and memorable songs. Plus, how am I just now discovering Gordon MacRae?!

By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953) – Since I liked On Moonlight Bay so well, of course I had to watch this “sequel” to see what happens next with the Winfield family. I was pleased to see Mary Wickes as the family maid get more screen time as well as more hijinx from little brother Wesley.  The will they/won’t they between Bill and Marjorie on the topic of marriage went on a bit too long but otherwise this was a good follow-up.

Journey for Margaret (1942) – I remember being very impressed with this film when I saw it years ago. And my memory served me correctly. I love the unique story about a journalist who becomes attached to two war orphans, which I’ve not seen anywhere else in film. It is very moving seeing the connection develop between Robert Young’s journalist and the two orphans played by very young and cute actors Margaret O’Brien and William Severn. Even if it might be considered a low-key propaganda film. I do wish Laraine Day had played a bigger role, but otherwise, this is the kind of film that will make you think and cry at the same time.

Three Sailors and a Girl (1953) – Still on my Gordon MacRae discovery tour, I decided to watch this musical which also stars Jane Powell, who I’ve always liked. However, there’s not much to this as far as plot or character development go. It’s basically a string of musical numbers some of which I didn’t like and a few that were good. I was glad when this one was over, although I do have to give props to Jack E. Leonard as Porky who provided great comic relief.

Jessica (1962) – Even with names like Angie Dickinson, Maurice Chevalier and Agnes Moorehead headlining this film about a sexy American midwife who unknowingly stirs up a small Italian village, the real star of this picture is the Sicilian coast line. It is beautiful! This is listed as a comedy, and while I didn’t laugh much, I did find some amusement in the village ladies going on a sex strike to prevent pregnancies as a way to drive Dickinson’s midwife out of town.  Sadly, Dickinson’s love interest felt more like an afterthought to the picture. But I did feel very immersed in Italian village life watching this movie.

The Band Wagon (1953) – I’ve been working my way through the rest of Fred Astaire’s musicals lately. Despite the seeming popularity of this title, I’m sorry to say, I didn’t enjoy it very much. The musical numbers didn’t seem to have a cohesive theme nor did they do much to support the plot. And other than Astaire’s and Cyd Charisse’s dance sequence in the park (which was gorgeous), I didn’t particularly enjoy any of the numbers. I also found a couple of the supporting characters obnoxious.

Tall Man Riding (1955) – Having recently been impressed with Randolph Scott in Western Union, I decided to check him out in this Western where he plays a man returning for revenge against his ex-girlfriend’s father. This was an okay film with a fairly familiar story. Scott looked too old to play opposite Dorothy Malone as his former love interest and they didn’t seem to have much chemistry. I found myself wanting him to get with saloon girl Reva who was played by  Peggy Castle and who I found to be the most interesting character in the film. The bad guys were cliche. But there were some really good scenes to make up for some of the mediocre bits.

Post 1980’s:

The Saint (1997) – Val Kilmer as Simon Templar has been one of the longest crushes of my life. I saw this in the theater three times when it was released and numerous times since. I’m always up for a good movie about a charming thief and Kilmer is definitely that. I think this movie is also improved by Elisabeth Shue as his love interest and Rade Šerbedžija as his foe.

New in Town (2009) – I think this is my second viewing of this romantic comedy just this year and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve see it overall. Needless to say, I really like it. Mostly, because the setting and culture remind me very much of where my mom grew up. I also love how true to life the characters feel.

An Ideal Husband (1999) – I’ve never met an Oscar Wilde adapted film that I didn’t like, although this just may be my favorite. The witty and wise lines he’s famous for are perfectly proclaimed by Rupert Everett’s character who is the best friend of the title character. The cast, including Jeremy Northam, Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, Julianne Moore and others is just about perfect, as is just about every other aspect of this production. This is always the perfect antidote to raise my spirits when I’m feeling a bit glum.

The Man From Snowy River (1982) -I never, never get tired of this film which has been a favorite of my family’s since we first saw it in theaters. The story, the acting, and especially the score all combine to create a memorable, if underrated Australian western.

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