April 2022 Quickie Reviews

April 2022 BREAKDOWN
  • 33 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
  • 27 new classic films
  • 2 re-watches
  • 2 TV series
  • 1 foreign film

Most Watched Actor: Errol Flynn – 8 films, Howard Keel -3 films

Biggest Disappointment: I Loved a Woman

Favorite Discovery: Judgment at Nuremburg, Kim

television Series:

Bridgerton Season 2 – I think I actually liked this season better than the first. I appreciated that the show focused on the sexual tension and emotional buildup in subtle ways instead of all the voyeuristic sex scenes of season one. Anthony’s character development was well done and I really loved the bond between the two Sharma sisters. I found myself annoyed at Eloise and her stubborn determination to do as she pleased without regard for others and also could have done with less of the Featherington clan. I also would have appreciated more of Benedict, but I guess that will resolve itself in future seasons.

I Love Lucy Season 1 -It’s been a pleasure revisiting my favorite tv show ever. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any episodes, but they never fail to make me laugh. I’d forgotten how many of my favorite episodes are in season 1. The plots are simple and short, but the characters are lovable and the performances of all four of the main actors make this one that is easy to watch again and again.

Foreign Films& Series

Sir (2018) – A slower-paced Indian drama which explores both classism and sexism, through the relationship of a live-in maid who works for an upper class gentleman. Their relationship progresses from employer/employee to something more and challenges their pre-conceived notions of themselves. It’s quietly romantic but also realistic and reminded me a bit of the dilemma faced by the heroine of My Brilliant Career. Tillotama Shome is exceptional as the maid and conveys so much of her inner conflict and thoughts without words.

Classics:

Easy Living (1949) – I have to force myself to watch any films with Victor Mature and generally will do so only when there is another actor I admire starring with him. I have no explanation why I find him off-putting, though I generally have favorable impressions of his performances when the film is over, just like I did with this one. Mature is good as a star football player whose identity is wrapped up in his job, but whose failing health and shallow wife have him struggling to make the decision he knows he needs to make.  His exploration of his character’s emotional conflict is impressive. Supporting performances by Lloyd Nolan, Lucille Ball and Lizabeth Scott make this a film that is worth watching again.

Callaway Went Thataway (1951) – I’ve put off watching this one for a while, but now I don’t know why. It’s a fun little  satire of the film and television industry with numerous cameos by famous Hollywood stars. Howard Keel does well in dual performances as a washed up star and his innocent young look-alike who stands in for him. He is joined by Dorothy Malone and Fred MacMurray and together they make this more than a shallow comedy.

Montana (1950) – While TCM is featuring Errol Flynn films this month, it’s the perfect time for me to explore this actor in more depth. Unfortunately, I didn’t think much of this Western. Flynn stars as a sheepherder who challenges the local cattle ranchers. He’s charming, but there’s little intensity to his performance which it needs, since the conflict is one that is actually life-theatening. And I hate to say it, but I did NOT like Alexis Smith at all in her role as one of the cattle ranchers and Flynn’s love interest. I’m not sure if the fault is in her performance or the way the part was written but I found her obnoxious.

I Loved a Woman (1933) – Considering this film runs around an hour and a half, it feels much longer. Edward Robinson stars as a beef packer magnate with a passion for art, who slowly compromises his ideals due to the women in his life. I actually watched this solely because Kay Francis is in it only to discover I dislike her character and her screen time was minimal. Genevieve Tobin was fascinating as Robinson’s shallow wife who grows bitter and vengeful over time. I think this was meant to be a character study similar to Citizen Kane, but it falls rather short.

Pagan Love Song (1950) – With Kauai standing in for Tahiti, this is  visually gorgeous, but there is not much else to the film. The plot is negligible, and Esther Williams & Howard Keel are given little to work with in their performances. There is an ongoing gag about a bath tub that isn’t really funny and there are too many songs for Keel that could have been trimmed without losing anything important.

Two Girls and a Sailor (1944) – I would have enjoyed this bloated film better with a few less musical numbers (which served little purpose other than to feature popular musicians of the day) and a lot more focus on the plot and performances by June Allyson and Van Johnson who are sweet and charming together.  I understand why films like this did feature popular entertainers as a service to the masses who appreciated them, but I really struggle to stay involved with musicals whose numbers do not advance the plot. The story was a good one with Allyson acting as mother/sister to Gloria DeHaven only to fall in love with Johnson who she believes is her younger sister’s secret admirer.  My favorite scene is when she goes to confront him only to accuse his grandfather and father of being the admirer. It’s a cute scene only made better by Henry Stephenson and Henry O’Neill’s kind reactions.

Rocky Mountain (1950) – A group of Confederate soldiers head west to recruit more men and find more than they bargain for after an Indian attack leaves them with a female survivor whose Union soldier fiance is searching for her. This is my second attempt at an Errol Flynn western this month and while it is better than the first I still thought it rather mediocre. It’s not bad, it’s just not memorable. The cinematography is stark, and Flynn is much better here as the head of the Confederate group of men. I really like the grizzly look he sports. It’s interesting to note that he met his third and final wife in co-star Patricia Wymore on this film, but she left me feeling underwhelmed.

Love Me or Leave Me (1955) – This is a high quality production, with great performances by James Cagney and Doris Day, inspired by the life of Ruth Etting. I particularly enjoyed Day’s musical numbers more than I have in her other films, perhaps because the songs are less sweet and more emotional.  It’s a hard story to watch, despite some white-washing of Etting’s life, due to the emotional abuse she suffers at the hands of her manager husband. But it’s a must-see for Day and Cagney fans as they both give their best.

Belle of New York (1952) – Aside from the obvious and distracting green screen issues, I liked this lesser known Fred Astaire musical better than some of his more lauded films, partly due to the presence of his very graceful and smooth dancing partner Vera-Ellen. Like Astaire, she makes dancing look easy, like floating on air. Astaire is a weatlhy laze about who falls for and tries to impress Vera-Ellen’s mission worker. This picture has some fun dance numbers including the one on the trolley and in the park, as well one inspired by Currier & Ives vignettes. I’m not a fan of Keenan Wynn, but still thought he was wasted in a small supporting role.

Texas Carnival (1951) – This is the second of several films Howard Keel and Esther Williams made together and also the second one I’ve seen this month. I confess to liking this one better than Pagan Love Song, as the supporting characters and the actors who play them were better as was the plot. It’s a light weight film, without much depth, but still entertaining. This is thanks to Red Skelton who has the most screen time as Williams’ manager who gets them both into a jam when people think he is a wealthy Texas cattle rancher. Ann Miller and Keenen Wynne also add to the quality of the production and Miller has a lovely dance routine with a large floor keyboard, long before Tom Hanks in Big. Esther Williams fans will probably be disappointed as there are not any real water numbers for her, but I didn’t mind.

Master of Ballantrae (1953) – This movie is so cheesy beginning with the ridiculous plaid leggings Errol Flynn wears in his first scenes. Based on a Robert Louis Stevenson story, not only does it not remain faithful to the characterization, but the plot and dialogue are both rather silly. Flynn looks rather worse for wear as an oldest brother who feels betrayed, but he still gives a performance reminiscent of his earlier swashbuckling pictures. And then there are the sets, costumes and the occasional green screen scenes, all of which look like they were done on a budget. But despite all these issues, it’s a fun picture that clearly doesn’t take itself seriously and one which I would watch again.

The Case of the Curious Bride (1935) – Hmm, I guess it says something about this Perry Mason programmer, that I can’t remember much about the film a couple of days later.  All I can remember is that it stars Warren William and Margaret Lindsay.  I guess it was just a nice way to pass time.

Dive Bomber (1941) I was hesitant about this film due to its subject matter and length of run time being able to hold my interest. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself engrossed in the story of naval aviation surgeons who work to develop a high altitude suit to protect pilots. I think this is because of director Michael Curtiz who keeps the tension high whether in the lab or the sky as well as good performances by Fred MacMurray and Errol Flynn. I’m not usually so intrigued by aviation, but there are some gorgeous live aerial shots. The color tone of the picture is beautiful and the quality clear.

Silver River (1948) – This is my third Errol Flynn Western this month and I like it best. It’s ab it of a different role for him as a gambler who builds an empire out west, a role that would have suited Clark Gable to a T. However, Flynn does reasonably well, giving a more subdued performance, relying less on his charm than usual. He’s a scoundrel who redeems himself in the end. Ann Sheridan joins him as his love interest but I think she was mis-cast. And my old favorite Thomas Mitchell has a nice supporting role as Flynn’s attorney friend who acts as his conscience. This film received average reviews, but I liked it better than I expected to.

High Society (1956) – I’m afraid this one will always suffer in comparison to my beloved The Philadelphia Story. I mean, how can you improve on Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart and a host of top notch supporting actors? However, this one grows on me each time I watch it. Of course, the main selling point for this version is the music. Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra crooning together on screen? I mean, c’mon! This was Grace Kelly’s last film before becoming a princess. Though she’s gorgeous, her performance feels overly dramatic in style and not as natural as her predecessor.  And while Crosby can sing, I’ve never been sold on him as a love interest. But it’s still fun.

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) There’s a lot going for this Cecil B DeMille picture; the fascinating behind the scenes documentation of circus life at the Ringling Bros. winter camp, James Stewart’s brilliant and poignant performance in full clown makeup and, Charlton Heston’s intense portrayal as the circus boss tasked with the management of thousands of people and animals on the road. Then there’s the stunning train wreck scene which had to be a logistical nightmare to film. I was pleasantly surprised by the similarities between the circus set up on the road to the construction scenes in DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. Even more of a shock was that I didn’t hate Cornel Wilde as the flirtatious Great Sebastian. Still, I struggled with the long run time and the indulgence of unnecessary scenes that don’t contribute to the story. The plot bounced around, lacking focus. And though it’s quite a spectacle, it’s one I won’t revisit for a while.

Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) – I was obsessed for a time with Russian history particularly the years surrounding the last Czar and his family, so this was kind of a must see for me. At over three hours and with a slow pace, it seemed to take forever for the history I’m familiar with to play out on screen, but somehow I remained engrossed. The actor playing Nicholas looks just like him, but the seventies hairstyle of the actress playing Alexandra was a distraction. I didn’t feel that the scenes portraying the Communist leaders contributed much and could have been cut, but the characterizations of these real historical figures felt true to life. And despite knowing the ending, the final execution scene is still shocking in its’ brutality.

Panama Hattie (1942) – There’s not much to this musical comedy set in guess where? But it was a nice palate cleanser after watching a heavier, serious film.  Ann Southern disappears for part of the film in favor of Red Skelton and friends, which is a shame as I prefer Southern.

Red River (1948) – I can’t say Montgomery Clift is my favorite actor, but there is something magnetic and compelling about him, especially in this famous Western. He presents such a strong contrast to John Wayne’s machismo as his adopted son who challenges Wayne’s stubborn arrogance. The depiction of the power play between the two opposites is fascinating to watch.  Wayne plays the heavy and does it well, portraying the pressure and strain of his task in a way that you can sympathize with him despite his heavy-handed measures.

Kim (1950) – I really liked this adventure film adapted from a Rudyard Kipling story which focuses on an orphaned English boy of surprising skills. Dean Stockwell, was both adorable and wily as the title character who eventually becomes a spy for the British army. And I know Errol Flynn is ridiculous as an Indian spy working for the British, but he does it with such verve and charm I don’t even care. In fact, it’s one of my more favored of his performances.

Cheaper By the Dozen (1950) – I honestly thought I had seen this family comedy before, but quickly learned I was wrong. It’s an entertaining look at a real life figure Frank Galbreath who used some unique timing methods on his twelve children. I was thrilled to recognize Patti Brady in the cast who I think is adorable in Never Say Goodbye. Clifton Webb is surprisingly effective as the rigid but loving patriarch with Myrna Loy supporting him well as his wife. My favorite scene is when he chaperones his oldest daughter at the school dance and ends up, “the belle of the ball.” I wouldn’t mind seeing this one again.

Colorado Territory (1949) – A re-make of High Sierra by the same director but with a western setting, it was just as interesting although perhaps less intense. This time Joel McCrea is the newly released criminal doing one last heist with men he doesn’t know. Honestly, High Sierra is the better film thanks to Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino. But McCrea and Virginia Mayo bring their own unique portrayals to the screen. And the new setting makes this picture just different enough to stand on its’ own without needing comparison.

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) – An absolutely stunning and compelling court room drama which should be required viewing. Despite the fact that it is three hours long, I was captivated from the start, thanks to great performances by Spencer Tracy, Maxmillian Schell, Burt Lancaster and more. Stanley Kramer’s direction is excellent. This even features what looks like real footage taken from concentration camps, which is chilling. I also like how the film explores the concepts of culpability and the use of emotion versus logic in the defense and prosecution of the case. In particular, the questions raised about responsibility are very sobering and personal and made me examine myself and what I might do when faced with a similar situation. I really don’t have words to do this justice.

Invitation (1952) – This emotional drama about a woman who finds out her father paid her husband to marry because she only has a year to live, could have been very interesting. Instead it was rather dull and felt longer than it’s 85 minute run time. It has a decent cast including Van Johnson, Dorothy McGuire, Louis Calhern and Ruth Roman, so I think it must be the direction which is at fault.

Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) – After several serious films in a row, I needed something light and funny and this fit the bill. It’s only my second time watching this fourth film of the series. William Powell and Myrna Loy can do no wrong in my book and they retain their charm here. It was nice seeing their characters Nick and Nora as parents although those roles and their child quickly disappear when there are mysteries waiting to be solved. I was surprised by the reveal of the bad guy, since I had forgotten much of the movie having seen it years ago.

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) – Yet another drama about Queen Elizabeth, this one focuses on a romance between her and the much younger Earl of Essex. The romance itself is so up and down, swinging from love to hate so quickly, it feels juvenile. Which is a real shame, because Bette Davis could have really sunk her teeth into Elizabeth as a ruler instead of a lover. In an unpopular opinion, I thought Bette was a bit over the top in her performance. However, her final, wordless scene is worth the price of admission.  Errol Flynn is as handsome as I’ve ever seen him playing the ambitious Essex. The costumes are amazing, though I doubt the Elizabethan era had that much shiny metallic fabric. For a film featuring such a larger than life character, the settings are more intimate as they are filmed on smaller background sets. There’s not much of a grand or expansive look to the picture. The supporting cast is outstanding, but none of them have much to do and there is no character development for any of them.

The Man With the Golden Arm (1955) – This is one of those films that is so well made and acted that it needs to be watched, but not one I would want to watch again any time soon. Frank Sinatra stars as a recovering drug addict who falls back into former habits thanks to pressure from the people in his life. His performance is so sincere that it felt a a bit like a documentary, particularly his first hit after being sober and also the scenes where he decides to quit cold turkey. They felt so real! Eleanor Parker gives him a run for his money as his needy and manipulative wife.

Gentleman Jim (1942) -Another day, another Errol Flynn picture. This time he stars as real life boxing figure Jim Corbett. Flynn as usual is charming in his role and is helped by a great supporting cast including Alan Hale as his brash Irish father. I loved the scenes with Corbett’s loud, loving family. Jack Carson has a thankless role playing his best friend. But the standout for me was Alexis Smith as his love interest. I’ve never seen her so electrified on screen before and thought her combative nature with Corbett was a lot of fun.

The Barefoot Contessa (1954) – What a long slow rather dull picture this was. Which is a shame because it stars Ava Gardner in a role that must have hit very close to home. She plays a poor woman who is elevated to stardom. Humphrey Bogart also stars as her close friend and director and is joined by Edmund O’Brien and Rossano Brazzi. The story is told from various perspectives of the men in her life. It had the potential to say something about the male gaze and masculine possessiveness, but didn’t. I liked the friendship between Gardner and Bogart’s characters, it felt sincere and was a nice change. Also, I think Gardner got the best invisible introduction I’ve ever seen on screen thanks to the director’s choice to show the reactions of all the people watching her dance without ever showing her. But overall, I thought this was a boring, self-important film.

Post 1980

The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) – Well, I thought I would like this one more, Though that’s not to say I disliked it. It’s an interesting look at political upheaval leading to civil war in Indonesia. Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver are at their most beautiful as a reporter and diplomat covering the events. But honestly, the subject matter was hard to appreciate and the characters were hard to like.

Hallmark – Mix Up in the Mediterranean, Just One Kiss, Always Amore. Romance in the Air, Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate, All for Love

 

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2 Replies to “April 2022 Quickie Reviews”

  1. Haven’t seen Always Amore or Curious Caterer, but am thinking the latter will be fun! Also, “All for Love” is a fun one. One of the ones I see get little praise.

    1. All For Love is a favorite of mine. I love all the actors in Always Amore and Curious Caterer, but didn’t think those films were their best work.

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