Take 3: Twentieth Century Review

Originally, I was going to write a double feature for The Sixth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon by reviewing Twentieth Century and Young at Heart. However, due to technical difficulties on my end, I was only able to find the time to publish one review. Because I’ve written about five of Frank Sinatra’s movies this year, I chose to take a break by selecting Twentieth Century. Back in January, I watched and reviewed In Name Only for The Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon. At the time, it was my first time seeing any film from Carole’s filmography. Despite this, I ended up liking the film! As I have mentioned before, I try to feature movies on my blog that were recommended by visitors and followers of 18 Cinema Lane. Twentieth Century was suggested by Patricia from Caftan Woman and Vincent from Carole & Co.

Twentieth Century poster created by Columbia Pictures.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In my review of In Name Only, I praised Carole’s portrayal of Julie Eden, as her on-screen personality was down-to-earth and her overall performance contained the right amount of emotion. Carole portrays Lily in Twentieth Century, a character who is very different from Julie in In Name Only. This is because Lily experiences frustration on several occasions. One example is when Lily is forced to stay late at rehearsal because Oscar wants her to scream. Lily’s emotions spill over, causing her to yell and burst into tears because of her pent-up frustration. These emotions were able to be felt through the screen because of how good Carole Lombard’s talents were in this film! Speaking of Oscar, I liked watching John Barrymore’s performance in Twentieth Century! It showed a transition from a theater director who seemed to have his heart in the right place to a man who let power and influence get to his head. After Lily’s first performance on stage, Oscar visits her in her dressing room. The way he speaks to her indicates he is putting all his attention on her. But when you look and listen closely, there are hints of his possessive mentality. A good example is when Oscar tells Lily she was a diamond who needed some polishing.

The set design: While watching Twentieth Century, there was some impressive set design I noticed! Toward the beginning of the film, Oscar’s office was shown. Dark wood walls surrounded the space, with a medium shot signifying the room’s high ceiling. Eye-catching details helped give the space a unique identity, such as the inclusion of a suit of armor and stained-glass windows. Details in other scenes stood out, stealing the show whenever they appeared on screen. Lily’s bed is just one example, a massive piece of furniture that was shaped like a boat. It’s white woodwork and bedding is paired beautifully with dark wood carvings on the bed. On the train, there are sketches of animals located near the ceiling of the sitting room area. The style of the sketches looked like they came from a storybook from Medieval times.

Carole’s wardrobe:  I really liked seeing Carole’s wardrobe in Twentieth Century! However, there were two outfits that were the most memorable! On the night of Lily’s first performance, she wears an off the shoulder sparkly white dress. Despite the film being presented in black-and-white, the sparkly nature of the dress shown through beautifully! The second outfit was a silk pair of pajamas, complete with fine detailing on the shirt. The pajamas complimented Carole very well, highlighting her true beauty!

Masks of comedy and tragedy images created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The mystery: In Twentieth Century, there was an on-going mystery revolving around the appearance of religious stickers on the train. The mystery itself felt randomly placed in the overall story, offering no strong significance within the plot. Had the religious stickers served as a reminder to not lose personal beliefs and values in the quest for fame and fortune, that would have added a meaningful moral to the movie. Sadly, it was a small piece just to keep the plot moving forward. When the guilty party is finally revealed, it seems like the script is providing them with excuses for their destruction of public and personal property. This can be heard through the characters’ dialogue; from the train security saying the guilty party has a “sickness” to describing the guilty party as “a little crazy, but harmless”.

An awful group of characters: I understand characters from any movie are not going to be everyone’s “cup of tea”. However, there is a fine line between personal preference and the characters themselves being awful. Twentieth Century is a perfect example of this, featuring a host of characters that are unlikeable to varying degrees. Oscar treats everyone around him horribly. He “fires” his friends on multiple occasions and he is abusive toward Lily, even after their relationship ends. Despite this, Oscar’s friends still try to help him fix his relationship with Lily, even going so far as to blame her for Oscar’s failures. Meanwhile, Lily turns into a diva after she becomes a movie star. It got to the point where I found myself not caring about the characters’ outcomes because their ugly personalities made me lost investment in them.

Lily and Oscar’s abusive relationship: I briefly mentioned in my previous point that Oscar is abusive toward Lily, even after their relationship ends. In the beginning, when Lily was starting out as an actress, Oscar gives the impression of having her best interests in mind. An example of this is when, after Lily expresses her frustrations over staying late at rehearsal, Oscar reminds her of her dream and how he’ll help her reach that dream. As Lily’s career grows, so does Oscar’s jealousy and obsession. He not only controls Lily’s life, but he also physically harms her, poking her with a pin just to get her to scream on stage. Oscar even goes so far as to threaten suicide if Lily does not stay with him. Even though Lily ends the relationship, Oscar is still obsessed with her. One of his worst actions in Twentieth Century is faking his own death just to trick Lily into signing his contract.

The Sixth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon banner created by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.

My overall impression:

Back in January, when I reviewed Marriage on the Rocks, I said the film made me feel uncomfortable because of the movie’s one-sided view on marriage and divorce. Watching Twentieth Century made me appalled for several reasons. The abusive nature of Lily and Oscar’s relationship is just one example, especially since it exists throughout the whole film. It also doesn’t help that Oscar doesn’t face any accountability for his actions and behavior.  Another issue is the characters themselves, as all of them are horrible to certain degrees. Despite being poorly treated by Oscar, Oscar’s friends still support him. They even encourage Oscar to get back together with Lily. According to IMDB and Wikipedia, Twentieth Century is labeled as a “romantic comedy”. I will admit there were a handful of moments I found funny. But the aforementioned relationship, random mystery, terrible characters, and the story being ninety one minutes of those same characters complaining about their personal issues overshadows all of the movie’s strengths.

Overall score: 4.4 out of 10

Have you seen any of Carole Lombard’s or John Barrymore’s films? If so, which one do you like the most? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Angel on My Shoulder Review

Last November, I participated in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Second Annual Claude Rains Blogathon. My contribution was a review of the 1963 movie, Twilight of Honor, which I thought was ok. I also recognize the film was released outside of the Breen Code era. This year, I will write about the 1946 film, Angel on My Shoulder. I chose to review this title for two reasons. The first is my curiosity in seeing how a film from the Breen Code era would address topics such as the afterlife and the devil. The second is how the story’s basic concept reminded me of the animated film,  All Dogs Go To Heaven. As I mentioned in my Twilight of Honor review, I have seen some of Claude Rains’ films. Since Angel on My Shoulder is the sixth movie of his I have watched, I knew what to expect from him as an actor!

Angel on My Shoulder poster created by Premier Productions and United Artists.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because Claude Rains is one of the reasons why I chose to review this movie, I’ll talk about his performance first. His role as Nick, the devil, was very different from his other roles I’ve seen. In Angel on My Shoulder, Claude carried himself with a kind of confidence that one would expect from a villainous character. Nick was an arrogant person. However, Claude made this component work by keeping his performance consistent. Another consistent performance came from Paul Muni! Throughout the movie, Eddie was on the edge of his seat, unsure of who to trust. This was an interesting quality for Paul to add to his character, as gangsters in movies sometimes deal with untrust-worthy people. Eddie also tells things as they are, another piece of his personality that Paul pulls off! Anne Baxter did a good job portraying Barbara Foster! In her performance, she utilized emotion, especially through her eyes, to make her character believable. When Eddie, as Judge Frederick Parker, interacts with Barbara for the first time, it is clear she is very uncomfortable with the way her fiancée is behaving. She pushes him away and attempts to walk away from the situation, showing her displeasure the entire time.

The depiction of Hell: Like I said in the introduction, I was curious to see how a Breen Code film would approach the subject of Hell and the devil. The way Hell is depicted in Angel on My Shoulder evokes fear into audience members who support good winning over evil. The underworld is a dark environment that only uses fire as its source of light. Shadows were cast over the characters, with light only being shown over the characters’ eyes. In entertainment media that features the devil, he will sometimes appear as an other-worldly creature. In Angel on My Shoulder, Nick, the name the devil goes by, appears as a human. This shows the reality of how someone can turn to the dark side.

The dialogue: Since Angel on My Shoulder was released during the Breen Code era, any talk of Hell or the devil needed to meet Breen Code standards. Within the story, the word “hell” is never spoken. Nick is not called “the devil”, but Mephistopheles instead. The script does feature subtle references to who Nick is that respects the intelligence of the audience. One scene shows Eddie and Nick riding in a plane. When Eddie notices how Nick appears uncomfortable, he asks Nick if he is ok. Nick tells Eddie that he likes being near the ground more than in the sky.

The Third Annual Claude Rains Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A limited use of music: Music in film can help set a tone for a particular scene. One example is when suspenseful music is played during a scene that is more intense. Without music, the scene would be missing an emotional component. Angel on My Shoulder is an hour and forty-minute film. In that amount of time, about seven scenes feature music. To me, this seems disproportionate to the movie’s run-time. It also forbids certain moments in the film from having a more emotional impact.

A mostly static character: In a story like Angel on My Shoulder, it’s common for the audience to witness the protagonist grow as an individual over the course of the movie. While we do see Eddie change his ways, the transformation doesn’t happen until sometime between an hour and eleven to twenty-three minutes into the film. Beforehand, Eddie remains the same as he did before he died. He even refuses to act more like Judge Frederick Parker in an attempt to avoid suspicion from those around him. Breen Code era movies typically feature a core lesson or message for the audience to take away. Even though Angel on My Shoulder does have a good message, it takes quite some time to get there.

A meandering story: Angel on My Shoulder is about a recently deceased gangster who works with Nick, the devil, to satisfy a favor. As I mentioned in the introduction, this concept reminded me of All Dogs Go To Heaven. But where Angel on My Shoulder failed is not having a sense of urgency. Because of this decision, the majority of the movie is spent showing Eddie reliving his life as Judge Frederick Parker. Any course of action for Nick and Eddie’s plan doesn’t appear in the story until an hour and eleven minutes into the movie. For me, I was waiting for something interesting to happen instead of actually watching something interesting happen.

Angelic statue image created by Marcelo Gerpe at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Marcelo Gerpe.”

My overall impression:

 Angel on My Shoulder is a painfully average film. Because the movie placed more emphasis on showing Eddie reliving his life as someone else, it took almost the entire story just to get to the intended point. I liked seeing how this film addressed subjects such as the afterlife, Hell, and the devil in the time of the Breen Code era. But, personally, it should have been included in a stronger script. There were aspects of this movie I did like. The acting was enjoyable to watch and the script was intelligently written. But when I find myself checking the time on multiple occasions in order to see when this film would end, my unenjoyment of the overall project overshadows its strengths. If you’d like to watch a movie with a similar concept to Angel on My Shoulder, I would recommend All Dogs Go To Heaven. In my opinion, that movie did a better job executing almost the same idea.

Overall score: 5.5 out of 10

Have you seen Claude Rains’ films? If so, which one is your favorite? Comment below in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Funny Face Review (Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly Blogathon Part 2)

For the second part of my Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly double feature, I’ve chosen to review the 1957 film, Funny Face! Last September, when 18 Cinema Lane received 135 followers, I reviewed my first Fred Astaire movie. That was The Sky’s the Limit, which I thought was just ok. Speaking of firsts, reviewing Funny Face is a first for 18 Cinema Lane, as it is the first musical film starring Aubrey Hepburn I’ve seen! Even though I have seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Nun’s Story, those films would be classified as dramas. Since this was my first time seeing Audrey perform in a different genre, I was curious to see if she would be able to hold her own. When I read the synopsis for Funny Face, it sounded similar to another musical starring Audrey: My Fair Lady. Because I haven’t seen that movie, I can’t make a comparison between it and Funny Face.

Funny Face poster created by Paramount Pictures.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The one word I’d use to describe the cast in Funny Face is comfortable. I chose this word because every actor and actress appeared comfortable in their role! This presented the characters as if they were real-life people dealing with real-life situations. Watching Audrey’s performance in this movie reminded me of her performance in The Nun’s Story for this reason: her character grows over the course of the movie. In Funny Face, Jo opens her heart and mind to a new chapter in her life that she never thought she’d embark on. She steps out of her comfort to not only follow her dream of meeting her favorite philosopher, but she also creates new dreams for herself. Audrey’s ability to adapt to any scenario helped her make Jo’s journey seem believable! As I mentioned in the introduction, I saw The Sky’s the Limit last September. Personally, I liked Fred’s character in Funny Face more than his character in the 1943 film. This is because Dick Avery had a better personality. He came across as easy-going and approachable, someone who you would want to tour Paris with. This made Dick Avery worth rooting for! Kay Thompson stood out to me as Maggie Prescott! While her character was no-nonsense and straight-forward in what she wanted, she was never cold-hearted or mean for the sake of it. This is different from other characters of this specific type. What’s also different is how Maggie was allowed to be silly, as could be seen when she and Dick are attempting to find Jo at the home of Jo’s favorite philosopher. This gave Kay an opportunity to apply her acting abilities to various situations!

The use of color: I love how color was used in Funny Face! Whenever scenes had a primarily plain color palette, like white or beige, objects or pieces of clothing were added to bring a pop of color to the space. The opening scene is such a great example! Each door of Quality magazine’s office was painted a bright shade of various colors, providing visual appeal to a mostly white lobby and hallway. Maggie’s office adopted a beige hue for about 85% of that location. However, certain pieces of fabric and even an assistant’s green coat add bold colors to a place that would have remained dull without them. This decision to use color was very detail oriented and showed how the film’s creative team really paid attention to how their project would be presented!

The musical numbers: Funny Face’s musical numbers were not only entertaining to watch, they also incorporated creative ideas that made them memorable. The very first musical number, “Think Pink!”, showed a montage of the different ways the color pink could be worn. Through the use of colorful visuals, it helped illustrate the point Maggie was trying to stress to her assistants as well as the audience. “Bonjour, Paris!” showed Maggie, Dick, and Jo simultaneously in a split screen shot. I have never seen a musical use a split screen before, so this detail is the one I remember the most! Each performer in these musical numbers looked like they truly enjoyed what they were doing! “Basal Metabolism” showed Audrey Hepburn having fun performing her dance trio. She appeared in her element and joy radiated from her routine. This definitely added to the overall enjoyment of Funny Face’s musical numbers!

Illustration of Paris, France created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/travel”>Travel vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

No major conflict: While watching Funny Face, I noticed something was missing from this movie. That would be a major conflict, which I think would have made the story a little more interesting. Smaller conflicts, like finding a new face for Quality magazine, kept the film moving forward. But, because a major conflict was absent, it made situations feel like they worked out too easily in the characters’ favor. One idea could have shown Dick struggling to decide if he should continue to be a fashion photographer or become a stage performer. If this would have been a conflict in the story, it would have presented a mystery as to which career path Dick will choose.

A prolonged transformation: Like I said in the introduction, I haven’t seen My Fair Lady. Therefore, I can’t compare the two movies. What I will say about Funny Face is how Jo’s transformation doesn’t happen until the film’s halfway point. In the first half of the story, Jo’s perspective starts to change, allowing her to expand her intellectual horizons. But the physical transformation, from bookworm to fashion model, happens a lot later than most movies of this nature. When a character makes a dramatic change to their appearance, that moment may be the audience’s most anticipated moment. If they are forced to wait too long, they may start to lose interest.

An attraction that happened too quickly: In my review of The Crow: City of Angels, I pointed out how, to me, Ashe and Sarah’s attraction for one another was a flaw of that movie because it came about so quickly. The attraction between Jo and Dick in Funny Face makes the same error, as it also happens too quickly. Minutes after meeting for the first time, Jo and Dick share a kiss. Shortly after this encounter, Jo sings “How Long Has This Been Going On?”, a song about falling in love. If this song had been sung later in the film, after she had spent more time with Dick, the song itself would have been more impactful. Even though it is somewhat predictable for Jo and Dick to form a relationship, it should have taken its time to come to fruition.

With Glamour & Panache: A Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly Musicals Blogathon banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine.

My overall impression:

Funny Face is a film I had heard of for years, but had never seen. Whenever I heard about classic films or even movies starring Aubrey Hepburn, this film has, more often than not, been brought up. Now that I have seen Funny Face, I have developed an understanding for why this is the case. This is not just a good musical or a good Audrey Hepburn title. It is a good movie in general! Creative ideas within this project help it stand out. Some examples include using a split screen and incorporating objects with color into scenes with plain color palettes. Musical numbers were well-choreographed, featuring performers that appeared to enjoy the material they were given. Every actor and actress seemed comfortable in their roles, giving their characters a life of their own. While Funny Face does have its strengths, it has its weaknesses as well. Just one example is how Jo’s transformation happens much later in the film. Despite having seen only two of Fred Astaire’s movies, I’d pick Funny Face over The Sky’s the Limit. I would even choose Funny Face over Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Overall score: 7.8 out of 10

Have you seen Funny Face? Which Fred Astaire musical is your favorite? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Take Me Out to the Ball Game (Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly Blogathon Part 1)

Because Heidi’s new blogathon celebrates two classic film stars, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, I decided to write a double feature in their honor. I’m starting with one of Gene Kelly’s movies first, as my movie selection had a shorter run-time. On 18 Cinema Lane’s Pinterest account, there is a recommendation board where people who visit the blog can make a suggestion for future reviews. That board hosts some Gene Kelly titles, so I had plenty of options to choose from. In the end, I picked the 1949 film, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, which was recommended by Kristen from KN Winiarski Writes! The idea of a musical surrounding an athletic sport was a fascinating concept. It also gave me an excuse to finally watch one of Esther Williams’ films, as I had not seen one up until this point. 2020 has become the year of Frank Sinatra films on this blog, as Take Me Out to the Ball Game is now the fifth film from Frank’s filmography I’ve reviewed. An interesting coincidence I just noticed is how most of these movies have had a musical element included.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, I reviewed Anchors Aweigh back in September. In that review, I said that Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly were one of the best on-screen duos I’ve ever seen because of how different their characters were from each other. Because of Frank and Gene’s experience working together, it allowed them to be familiar with the other performer and know what to expect from them in Take Me Out to the Ball Game! Like Anchors Aweigh, their characters in the 1949 film, Dennis and Eddie, were opposites of one another. This time, however, it was for different reasons. While Eddie was interested in the night life of his world, Dennis has a quieter soul that seems to notice the finer details within his surroundings. While I wrote a list article about the travels of Esther Williams, this was my first time watching one of her films. Even though Esther spent more time on land than in the water, she appeared at ease in her role as K.C. Higgins! When people tried to stand in her way, K.C. always stood her ground. At the same time, she tried to instill fairness into the situation. One great example is when she insists on a curfew penalty for every member of the Chicago Wolves. On the surface, it seems like K.C. is being unfair toward the team. In reality, she is looking out for their best interests by making sure they get a good night’s sleep so the team can perform better on in their baseball games.

The set design: Because a significant amount of time in Take Me Out to the Ball Game takes place in Florida, the sets surrounding the characters are going to reflect the Sunshine State. This is done through a variety of design choices. What made me like these sets so much was how appealing they were! When Dennis and Eddie arrive in Florida for Spring Training, the audience is introduced to the stadium, located right on the beach. With fair weather in the scene and the sandy shore taking center stage, the beach looked inviting! At night, when K.C. is interacting with both Dennis and Eddie near the pool area, lights illuminated this location to show off its exterior design. The white balcony of K.C.’s hotel room complimented the dark sky shown in the background. Light colored outdoor furniture consistently carried the color scheme this set was striving for! In an outdoor sitting area occupied by K.C. and Eddie, tan wicker chairs were paired well with green plants placed in various spots. This design choice showcased a good color combination!

The majority of the musical numbers: For the most part, I liked seeing the musical numbers in Take Me Out to the Ball Game! They were well choreographed and each performer looked like they truly enjoyed what they were doing. Like I said earlier, Frank and Gene’s experience working together helped them become familiar with the acting/performance style of the other actor. This certainly worked in their favor when it came to the musical numbers! In the opening number, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, both actors wonderfully pull off a tap-dance duet! Even though tap was out of Frank’s creative comfort zone, he was able to hold his own throughout the routine. Like I also said in this review, Esther spends more time on land than water. However, she was given one scene where she swam and sang the song from the movie’s opening number. Because of Esther’s experience with musicals, she was able play her own unique role in the film’s musical department that allowed her to stand out. Esther also appeared comfortable with the performance material given.

With Glamour & Panache: A Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly Musicals Blogathon banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Two songs that didn’t age well: In Take Me Out to the Ball Game, there are two songs that have aged poorly. The first song, “Yes, Indeedy”, is performed by Frank and Gene when their characters are telling the Chicago Wolves about the females they met during their traveling talent tour. The lyrics reveal how one woman committed suicide and another female was 11 years old. Because the song itself is faster paced and upbeat, it almost sounds like Dennis and Eddie make light of the woman’s passing. Even though they say they didn’t interact with the 11-year-old for long, it makes me wonder why this child would have anything to do with Dennis and Eddie in the first place? The second song, “It’s Fate Baby, It’s Fate”, is performed by Frank Sinatra and Betty Garrett. The purpose of this song is for Betty’s character, Shirley, to share her feelings for Dennis. How she does it is very forceful, with the musical number showing Shirley blocking Dennis’ path, chasing him through the stadium, and picking him up against his will. Because of her aggression in the situation and her lack of accepting rejection, it feels like a unhealthy relationship in the works.

The character of Shirley: While Betty Garrett did a good job with the acting material she was given, I was not a fan of her character. Personally, I found Shirley to be a selfish individual who didn’t seem to care about the feelings of others. As I just mentioned, Shirley is very forceful when it comes to expressing her feelings for Dennis. If her musical number, “It’s Fate Baby, It’s Fate”, wasn’t bad enough, she wants to treat Dennis like she’s his mother. The way she talks to him in a scene where she blocks Dennis’ path with her horse and buggy shows Shirley talking to Dennis like she has more authority than him. More often than not, Dennis expresses how he doesn’t like Shirley in a romantic sense. He goes out of his way to avoid her and shows displeasure when she’s nearby. However, everyone surrounding him overlooks Shirley’s actions and encourages Dennis to spend more time with her.

An unclear time period: According to Wikipedia, Take Me Out to the Ball Game takes place in 1908. Certain aspects of the movie reflect this, with the various modes of transportation being one example. But there were some outfit choices that appeared to belong in a different decade. Whenever the Chicago Wolves are spending time in the hotel, all the team members wear team sweaters featuring their team logo. This style of sweater looked like it came from somewhere between the ‘30s and ‘50s. Like previously said, Esther has a swimming scene in this film. Her swimsuit resembles the style she wore in her “aqua musicals” of the ‘40s and ‘50s. These costume choices prevented me from getting fully immersed in the movie’s world.

Baseball game image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/baseball-game-illustration_2871359.htm’>Designed by Macrovector</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/man”>Man vector created by Macrovector – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:  

Even though Take Me Out to the Ball Game is the second Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly collaboration I’ve seen, I’d still prefer Anchors Aweigh over the aforementioned film. While Take Me Out to the Ball Game is a fine movie, I feel the 1945 film was a stronger picture overall. However, I’m not going to dismiss the movie completely. One of the strengths of the 1949 project is the acting performances! Musical experience from Frank, Esther, and Gene definitely worked in this movie’s favor, with each actor appearing comfortable in their roles! I also enjoyed most of the musical numbers! They were certainly entertaining and fun to watch! Even though I didn’t mention it in my review, I feel the film’s conflict was underutilized. Within the last thirty minutes, Eddie tries to juggle baseball and performing in a café. Eventually, he learns that he can’t have everything he wants. Story wise, I think the film’s main conflict should have been Eddie’s struggle to fit his love of performing and baseball into his life. I actually found this part of the story more interesting than the Chicago Wolves dealing with a new team owner.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Take Me Out to the Ball Game? Which Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly collaboration is your favorite? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: House of Wax (1953) Review

For KN Winiarski’s 1st Annual Spooky Classic Movie Blogathon, I chose to write about a film that was recommended to me by one of my fellow bloggers. As the title states, I will be reviewing the 1953 film, House of Wax, which was suggested by Patricia from Caftan Woman. This is a movie I’ve heard of, but had never seen. Since the film was released between 1920 and 1960 (one of the blogathon’s requirements), it gave me a good excuse to check it out! Even though I have seen and reviewed three of Vincent Price’s movies, only one of them was released during the Breen Code era. Because House of Wax premiered in the early ‘50s, it allowed me to view more of his films from that time period. Based on the synopsis, House of Wax is considered a “revenge film”. It made me curious to see how this type of story would work within the Breen Code era. I was also interested in comparing House of Wax to a project like The Crow, which I reviewed back in May.

House of Wax poster created by Warner Bros.

The acting: House of Wax is the fourth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen. While I enjoyed his acting performances in The Whales of August, House of the Long Shadows, and Shock, I really liked his performance in the 1953 film! When his character, Henry, is talking about his wax figures, the passion he has for his craft can be seen on his face and in his eyes. Vincent makes the audience feel bad for Henry when these figures and the museum burn to the ground. As time moves forward, Henry evolves into a man of sophistication. Through the power of his acting talents, Vincent makes this transition feel believable. Prior to watching House of Wax, I was not familiar with Phyllis Kirk as an actress. However, I really liked her portrayal of Sue Allen! The emotional intensity Phyllis brought to her role is what made her performance stand out! When she is chased through the city by a murderous criminal, the audience can see and feel the fear Sue is experiencing. This helped raise the intensity of that scene. After she reaches the safety of a neighbor’s house, she immediately bursts into tears. Sue’s emotions show just how emotionally exhausted she is from constantly looking over her shoulder.

The wax figures: Because this film is called House of Wax, a showcase of various wax figures is to be expected. What was unexpected for me was the overall quality of these wax figures! All of them were so well-crafted, they looked like real-life individuals. In fact, there were times when I was waiting for at least one of them to start moving on their own. Throughout the film, facts about the people these figures were representing and the artistic process were shared within the dialogue. One example is when Henry is explaining how he created his Marie Antoinette figure. He tells a potential investor that Marie’s eyes are glass and were inserted through a hallow part of the head before it was attached to the neck. I found this part of the story fascinating! I also wish there was a documentary about this particular art form.

The historical accuracy: House of Wax takes place during the early 1900s, with the time period influencing every aspect of the film. What works in this movie’s favor is how the visuals looked and felt like the time period the film’s creative team was striving for! As Henry’s wax museum is burning, a fire truck appears to put the fire out. A noteworthy point is the model of the truck resembled one from the early 1900s. Another way the time period was reflected was through the set design! The exterior of the House of Wax museum looked like a movie palace from decades past, commanding the attention of passers-by. The beige and red marble alcove leading to the museum reminded me of an outdoor market, with the museum itself selling a form of entertainment to potential customers. These design choices made the overall film feel immersive!

Scared audience image created by Katemangostar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/terrified-friends-watching-horror-movie-in-cinema_1027311.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The 3D effects: One of House of Wax’s claims to fame is featuring one of the earliest forms of 3D in cinematic history. Any poster of the film and the movie’s opening credits boast this detail enthusiastically. However, the 3D in this movie stayed in 1953. In the scene where Henry opens his House of Wax museum, a spokesperson uses paddle-balls to get patrons’ attention. During his routine, the spokesperson breaks the fourth wall and tells a man in the audience that he is trying to hit his popcorn bag with one of the paddle-balls. When the paddle-ball moved toward the audience, the moment itself looked like it was filmed in 2D. The 3D in House of Wax comes across as an outdated gimmick that felt awkward and out of place.

A protagonist I can’t root for: More often than not, “revenge films” feature a protagonist who represents the opposite of the horrors committed against them. Eric Draven from The Crow is a perfect example. While he kills the villains who have wronged him and his fiancé, Shelly, Eric is fighting fire with fire when his city’s justice system is ineffective. He also chooses to keep his moral compass intact by helping those who are innocent. I won’t spoil House of Wax for those who haven’t seen it yet. But all I’ll say is that as time goes on, Henry throws away his moral compass and takes his mission too far. Because of this, I couldn’t bring myself to root for this character.

Scares that aren’t consistent: There are several moments in House of Wax that are truly unsettling to watch. Seeing Henry’s wax figures burning is just one of them. However, I expected the film to be much scarier than it was. The most terrifying moments happened toward the beginning and end of the movie. Everything in-between felt like a juggling act of darker and lighter moments. Right after Henry’s wax museum burns down, a happy dance party is shown. This feels like a major tonal shift from the ominous tone that was set up in the film’s opening scene.

1st Annual Spooky Classic Movie Blogathon banner created by Kristen from KN Winiarski Writes.

My overall impression:

As a movie, House of Wax is good! It is a horror title that relies more on tone and atmosphere. But as a “revenge story”, I feel a film like The Crow does a better job at expressing that type of narrative. One major difference is how the character of Henry is not worth rooting for, as he abandons his moral compass within the course of the film. I found this to be a surprising choice for a Breen Code era film. While it doesn’t overpower the movie, the 3D aspect of the project did not work. It was obvious that 2D filmed moments were waiting for the 3D effect to kick in. Sadly, the 3D failed to show up. I would say House of Wax is an interesting choice for Halloween viewing, as it utilizes wax figures to provide elements of horror. It eliminates the use of blood/gore and has the ability to put the audience on edge.  

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

Have you seen House of Wax? Which film of Vincent Price’s is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Interrupted Melody Review

Prior to signing up for Maddy Loves Her Classic Films’ Eleanor Parker Blogathon, I had seen two of Eleanor’s films; The Sound of Music and Return to Peyton Place. However, both titles are ensemble films, leaving Eleanor to act in someone else’s shadow. My entry for the blogathon is a review of Interrupted Melody, a film that allows Eleanor’s acting talents to be the center of attention! The 1955 film is one I had never heard of until this year. Before 2020, I didn’t know who Marjorie Lawrence, the Australian opera singer, was. When I learned Marjorie was diagnosed with polio and overcame her illness, I was interested in seeing this part of Marjorie’s life depicted on film. This is because I, personally, haven’t seen many cinematic stories from the perspective of polio patients. I also don’t talk about Australians in cinema, as I don’t often receive an opportunity to do so. This is another reason why I chose to review Interrupted Melody.

Interrupted Melody poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: This is the first movie I’ve seen where Eleanor Parker was the star of the show. I was not disappointed, as Eleanor gave a very strong performance! While Eileen Farrell served as the vocals for the role of Marjorie Lawrence, Eleanor provided the power, passion, and showmanship one can expect from an opera performance. Outside of the opera world, Marjorie experienced several heartbreaks and joys in her life. Through all of this, Eleanor brought forth a portrayal that was emotional, allowing her character to appear and feel realistic. A good example of this is when Marjorie is crawling toward the record player in an attempt to turn it off. One of the key players in Marjorie’s life is her husband, Dr. Thomas King. Portrayed by Glenn Ford, Thomas was her biggest supporter. With a variety of emotions, Glenn also gave a realistic performance! He was able to show the audience how much Thomas cared about Marjorie. Even the supporting actors in Interrupted Melody were strong, which provided strength to the overall cast! Cyril, portrayed by Roger Moore, is Marjorie’s brother and manager. The conversations between him and Marjorie were well performed by both actors, coming across as two siblings having different perspectives on a central topic. This allowed both on-screen personalities to shine as well as showcasing their distinct personas!

The set design: Because Marjorie is an opera star, several opera performances are shown in the film. The movie’s creative team didn’t skimp on the set design within these scenes, as they all felt so immersive. When Marjorie is performing in Madame Butterfly, the stage’s setting is a room from Japan. The window in the background features a large tree, appearing more like a realistic landscape than a painted image. Fine details helped make these spaces appealing to look at. In Marjorie’s first opera, the characters were placed on a Parisian street, with a set of string lights shown over their heads. A detail like this added a three-dimension aspect to the set. Even scenes that didn’t involve the opera looked really good! In one scene, Marjorie and Thomas are on a beach in Florida. While this movie was filmed in Culver City, California, according to IMDB, this was still a photogenic location!

The costumes: In Interrupted Melody, Eleanor Parker wore costumes that were absolutely gorgeous! It also helps that these costumes complimented her so well! In the aforementioned opera, Madame Butterfly, Eleanor’s kimono was light-pink with beautiful embroidery on the collar and sleeves. The embroidery featured flowers, which represented the tree that was featured in the scene’s background. While Marjorie is performing as Carmen in the opera of the same name, her outfit featured a color combination of blue and orange. This was paired nicely with Marjorie’s brown hair. Eleanor even wore some impressive costumes that were not worn during opera performances. Within the film’s second half, she wore a sparkly white gown that was one of my favorites! Eleanor looked beautiful in that dress and I wished she had worn it for a longer period of time.

The Eleanor Parker Blogathon banner created by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Missing context: There were areas of the story where I wish context was provided. For starters, how did Marjorie become a singer in the first place? Was this a dream she had since she was a child or a passion she discovered shortly before the events of the film? These questions certainly could have been answered within the script. For a portion of the movie, Cyril disappears from the story. While he eventually appears toward the end of the movie, it isn’t really explained where he went or why he was suddenly absent from the plot. This is something that could’ve been brought up in passing.

More emphasis on the opera world: Since opera played such a huge role in Marjorie’s life, it is going to have a place in the overall story. However, the film put so much emphasis on the glitz and glamour of the opera world, that it caused Marjorie’s polio diagnosis to, kind of, sit on the backburner. This part of Marjorie’s life didn’t come until an hour into the movie. From that point on, it felt like I was watching a highlight reel of Marjorie’s attempts to overcome her illness. I found this disappointing, as I was expecting that part of Marjorie’s story to have a larger presence in the film.

No Australian accents: Before watching Interrupted Melody, I was curious to see if Eleanor could carry an Australian accent. This was, sadly, not the case. In fact, an Australian accent was not consistently used by any of the actors who portrayed members of Marjorie’s family. Toward the beginning of the film, Roger Moore could be heard with an Australian accent. But as the movie goes on, his voice morphs into a British accent. This specific accent was also adopted by the other actors portraying Australians, including Eleanor. While I got used to the lack of Australian accents over time, it is still a flaw I noticed.

String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Like I said in my Follow Your Heart review, Interrupted Melody is not the “end all, be all” of Marjorie Lawrence’s story, as one should learn more about her in their own time. However, I do think this movie serves as a good introduction to this particular individual as well as to opera! Through music, set design, and costumes, Interrupted Melody effectively shows the heart and soul that go into this specific form of entertainment. Within Eleanor Parker’s performance, the audience can see just how resilient Marjorie Lawrence was. Speaking of Eleanor Parker, this movie made me appreciate her more! Strong acting talents and a beautiful presence help create a captivating portrayal that was thoroughly enjoyable to watch. An overarching flaw of Interrupted Melody is how the film becomes so caught up in the glitz and glamour of the opera world, it, at times, forgets its original purpose. In the end, though, the movie was a fine picture that I would recommend.

Overall score: 7.4 out of 10

Have you seen Interrupted Melody? Is there a film about a musician you like to watch? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Anchors Aweigh Review

This is it, my 200th movie review! It’s hard to believe I’ve reached this accomplishment in only two years! The recent occurrence and my participation in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Joe Pasternak Blogathon caused me to choose Anchors Aweigh as the next movie to review! This film was recommended to me by The Classic Movie Muse from the blog, The Classic Movie Muse. Anchors Aweigh is also the fourth Frank Sinatra picture I’ve written about in 2020. When reading about Joe Pasternak in the announcement post for the blogathon, I learned that Joe put a lot of thought into the films he produced. Prior to joining the event, the only movie of his I’ve seen is The Unfinished Dance. Back in April, when I reviewed the project, I said it was a good, solid picture! I also mentioned how the movie did a good job at exploring thought-provoking ideas, such as the disappearance of truth. I’m looking forward to talking about Anchors Aweigh, as it is very different from The Unfinished Dance!

Anchors Aweigh poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, M-G-M Cartoons, and Loew’s Inc. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anchors_aweigh.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Anchors Aweigh is the fourth movie of Frank Sinatra’s I’ve seen, as I said in the introduction. His performance as Clarence “Brooklyn” Doolittle was different from his roles in Marriage on the Rocks, High Society, and Ocean’s Eleven. This is because his on-screen personality was sweet-natured. It was a good contrast to Gene Kelly’s character, Joseph “Joe” Brady. In Anchors Aweigh, Gene displayed a confident and headstrong personality. This set of opposites is what helped Gene and Frank become one of the best on-screen duos I’ve ever seen in film! Despite watching only one of Joe Pasternak’s films, I have noticed how the female characters are intelligent women who always hold their head up high. Kathryn Grayson’s character, Susan Abbott, is a great example! Even though she is a single parent, she never gives up on her dreams of being a singer. Because of a believable performance, Kathryn made Susan someone worth rooting for! While Pamela Britton appears in Anchors Aweigh for a limited time, I really liked her character! She not only had a good on-screen personality, but she also had good-screen chemistry with Frank Sinatra. Watching Pamela in Anchors Aweigh was a joy to watch, as her presence brought a bright light to any of her scenes!

The comedy: I found Anchors Aweigh to be a genuinely funny movie. That’s because the humor in this film was well-written and delivered! When Susan and Clarence are on their way to dinner, Clarence suggests that Joe join them. When Joe asks Clarence why he should go, Clarence tells him he won’t know what was said in Joe’s phone conversation. Not only was this conversation clever, but it was also executed well by Frank and Gene. Another funny scene involving Gene and Frank is when Joe is chasing Clarence around the service lodge. This moment was caused by Joe sleeping in, making him miss his meeting with Lola.

The musical numbers: In Anchors Aweigh, the musical numbers were definitely a highlight! There were so many good scenes, it is difficult to choose a favorite. Gene’s dancing talents were utilized to their fullest extent, from his duet with Jerry (the animated mouse) to his Latin inspired solo. These dance numbers were very colorful. The costumes and set design were bright and cheery, allowing the overall mood to be light-hearted and joyful. Frank’s singing abilities were also well incorporated into the story. His solos were slower, ballad pieces. This choice complimented the more romantic moments of the narrative. Having Frank and Gene perform together was a great decision! They were able to keep up with each other’s fortes as well as work well with one another. “I Begged Her” and “If You Knew Susie” showcases this creative partnership wonderfully!

The joining of animation and live-action: In one scene, Joe finds himself in a magical make-believe land where he interacts with animated animals. This is because he is telling a story to the children of Hollywood Day School how he earned his Silver Star. This part of the movie looked really good, especially for a film released in the mid-‘40s! It felt like Gene was actually in that world, as the technology of the time appeared top-notch. I also liked the quality of the animation! It contained bright colors and clear lines, reminding me of the older films from Disney.  Seeing Gene and Jerry dance together was impressive, as it seemed like they were in the same room. Before the actual dance routine, Gene led Jerry onto the ballroom floor by holding his hand. Because of how good the technology looked, this interaction between these two characters was convincing!

The Joe Pasternak Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/08/21/announcing-the-joe-pasternak-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A drawn-out conflict: The main conflict of Anchors Aweigh shows Joe and Clarence trying to set up an audition for Susan. While conflicts take time to be resolved, I wasn’t expecting the conflict in this film to last the entire story. Quality script-writing made the conflict itself interesting. But I honestly feel it could have been resolved sooner.

Less Tom, More Jerry: Tom and Jerry, the famous animated cat and mouse, are listed in the opening credits of Anchors Aweigh. I was not expecting this special guest appearance, so seeing these characters in the film was a pleasant surprise. Even though I liked Jerry’s duet with Gene, Tom showed up for only a few seconds. I found their cast listing misleading, as an equal amount of screen time is expected when Tom and Jerry are included in a program.

I had this patch lying around my house and thought it would be perfect to include in this review! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

For someone who had never seen any of Frank Sinatra’s films, I have really made up for lost time in 2020. By selecting Anchors Aweigh for the Joe Pasternak Blogathon, I gave myself an opportunity to watch one of Frank’s earlier works. It also gave me an excuse to see more of Joe’s films. I can honestly say Anchors Aweigh is, so far, the best movie I’ve watched this year! There is so much to like about this project and it was pleasantly joyful! I spent most of my time smiling and laughing, as the humor was one of the strengths of this story. The entire movie was well thought out, showcasing an engaging film that was also entertaining. Thank you, Classic Movie Muse, for suggesting this film to me. If not for your recommendation, I might have never seen this delightful movie!

Overall score: 8.9 out of 10

Have you seen any of Joe Pasternak’s films? If so, which one is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Ocean’s Eleven (1960) Review

Peter Lawford is an actor I was not familiar with prior to my participation in the 1st Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon. But, like I’ve said in past blogathons, I didn’t let this stop me to joining Kristen’s event! As I was looking through Peter’s filmography on IMDB, I discovered he had starred in the original Ocean’s Eleven. This is the movie I chose to review for the blogathon because of how rarely heist films are talked about on 18 Cinema Lane. Two years ago, I wrote a review for Logan Lucky when I participated in my very first blogathon. Anyone who has read that article would know how I did not like that film. Another point I’d like to make is how Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Cesar Romero (who all appear in Ocean’s Eleven) starred in another movie I reviewed for a blogathon; Marriage on the Rocks. Like Logan Lucky, I was not a fan of the 1965 movie. With my review of Ocean’s Eleven, however, I’m hoping my luck will start to turn around!

Ocean’s Eleven (1960) poster created by Warner Bros. Image found at http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/18360/Ocean-s-Eleven/#tcmarcp-196918.

Things I liked about the films:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, I have seen and reviewed Marriage on the Rocks. Three of the film’s stars, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Cesar Romero, reunite in Ocean’s Eleven! The 1960 picture allowed Dean and Cesar to work with acting material that was different from Marriage on the Rocks, with their performances appearing more dramatic. Meanwhile, Frank’s portrayal of Danny Ocean contained the same ease he displayed in the aforementioned 1965 movie. Ocean’s Eleven also introduced me to talent that I had never seen before, such as Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. What I liked about Peter’s performance was how he was able to adapt to any situation placed in his character’s path. Even though this was the first time I’ve ever seen Sammy act, I was impressed with the smooth confidence he consistently carried throughout the story! One thing that stood out to me was the on-screen chemistry among the cast! Every actor appeared to work well with each other and compliment their co-stars.

The differentiation among the casinos: In a movie showcasing five casinos, it’s important to differentiate these locations for the audience. This choice avoids confusion and prevents the casinos from blending in with each other. The various New Year’s Eve parties feature creative ways these facilities were able to set themselves apart! At the party in the Flamingo casino, pink balloons served as party decorations. Down the street at the Sands casino, blue balloons could be seen. The costumes of the on-stage performers also highlighted the differences between each location. Dancers wearing burnt orange and white checkered costumes were found at the Desert Inn. Meanwhile, black costumes were worn by dancers at the Sands.

The dialogue: For the most part, the dialogue in Ocean’s Eleven was smartly written and sounded clever! One example takes place during a conversation between Danny’s ex-wife and Sam Harmon. When she is talking about her relationship with her ex-husband, Sam responds by saying how Cloud 9 must have been boring. Another example of smart writing happens when Josh Howard to talking with one of the members of Danny’s group. In their conversation, they talk about bravery. Josh shares that being brave doesn’t make someone invincible. These two examples I shared show how there was effort placed in the script.

The 1st Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon banner created by Kristen from KN Winiarski Writes. Image found at https://knwiniarski.com/peter-lawford-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A dialogue heavy first half: Every heist movie sets aside time to lay out the plans for the heist. While the first half of Ocean’s Eleven does feature these plans, it also included explanations of why the members of Danny’s group wanted to pull off the heist. The first half of the story featured explanations of the characters’ personal issues as well. This caused the movie’s entire first half to be dialogue heavy. If some of these explanations had been shortened or cut, it would have presented the heist sooner.

A “bait and switch” third act: With a movie titled Ocean’s Eleven, the audience expects a good portion of the story to focus on the heist itself. While the planning and execution of the heist was shown, the story transitions its focus to Duke Santos and his investigation after the heist takes place. This creative choice made the third act seem like a “bait and switch”. It also caused this part of the story to drag a little bit, preventing the film from ending earlier than it did.

Too many characters: Despite the film containing an all-star cast, I felt there were too many characters in this story. There were times when I had difficulty keeping track of who was who. The large number of cast members also caused some actors to receive less screen time than others, with Red Skelton being one of them. When I saw his name on a casino marquee, I was given the impression he would perform a comedy sketch on the casino’s stage. However, Red was briefly featured in one scene where he was seen arguing with a casino employee. I wondered why this film’s creative team would recruit such a well-known star for such a small part, especially when Red Skelton’s claim to fame, comedy, wasn’t utilized?

Money image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/bills-and-coins-in-isometric-design_1065328.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business”>Business vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Ocean’s Eleven is the first film of Peter Lawford’s I have ever seen. But I have not seen the “Ocean” movies from the 21st century, so I cannot make a comparison. Despite all this, I found the 1960 movie to be a fine first impression! Unlike Logan Lucky, Ocean’s Eleven showcased a heist that was interesting, exciting, and even suspenseful. Clever dialogue and creative set design at each casino were worth seeing and listening. Even the acting was solid, not just from Peter, but from the cast as a whole! However, there are factors that held Ocean’s Eleven back from being a stronger film. While I liked the dialogue, I found the movie’s first half very dialogue heavy. There were also too many characters and the third act felt like a “bait and switch”. But I still thought it was better than Logan Lucky and Marriage on the Rocks. If Kristen brings this blogathon back next year, it’ll be interesting to see what I choose!

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any of the “Ocean” movies? Which film of Peter Lawford’s would you want to check out? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Marnie Review (A Month Without the Code — #1)

For the 4th Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon, I wanted to review a movie that was released after 1954 or before 1934. This is because I’m also participating in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s A Month Without the Code Blogathon. While searching through Alfred’s filmography, I came across the 1964 film Marnie. The idea of the female protagonist being the center of the film’s mystery was something I hadn’t seen in the other Alfred Hitchcock projects I saw. As of August 2020, I have seen five of his movies, including Marnie. Two years ago, I said The Birds was the worst film I saw in 2018. However, Strangers on a Train appeared in my Honorable Mentions for my 2018 best movies list. Will Marnie appear on my best or worst of 2020 list? That mystery will get solved by reading this review!

Marnie poster created by Universal Pictures and Geoffrey Stanley Productions. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Marnie1.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Tippi Hendren worked with Alfred Hitchcock when she starred in The Birds. In Marnie, she knew what to expect with the direction of her performance because of this pre-existing partnership. Tippi was given more acting material to work with in this film compared to the previous one from 1963. Her portrayal of the titular character was well-rounded, allowing her to express a variety of emotions. Marnie and Mark’s honeymoon serves as a good example of this. During a nice evening dinner, Tippi displays feelings of content. But when her character is having a heated argument, she provides a fierceness and strength to Marnie that projects off the screen. Before watching this movie, I had seen some of Sean Connery’s films. Even when the film surrounding him doesn’t hold up, he still gives his performance everything he has, talent wise. When I watched Marnie, Sean’s portrayal of Mark reminded me of Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind. What I mean by this is Sean had a commanding presence that captured the attention of the audience. He also carried himself with confidence throughout the film. Despite appearing in the movie for about two scenes, I thought Louise Latham’s performance was strong! Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll say her portrayal of Marnie’s mother, Bernice, was powerful in the movie’s climax. It was captivating to watch and had a good amount of emotionality.

The cinematography: One of the staples of an Alfred Hitchcock film is the interesting uses of cinematography that can be seen. Marnie features camera work that was creative and appealing to the eye. My favorite example is when Marnie is stealing the money from the office. While she’s doing this, a custodian is mopping the floor in the same vicinity. The shot shows the custodian on the left side of the screen and Marnie on the right side. As this part of the story played out, it built suspense and left me on the edge on my seat. Another good use of cinematography happened at the beginning of the film. When Marnie is first introduced, her face is not shown on screen. This creates a sense of mystery that surrounds her presence. It’s not until she changes her hair color from black to blonde that we finally see Marnie’s face.

The use of the color red: Throughout the movie, the color red appears in various forms. When a red object crosses paths with Marnie, she reacts with panic and fear. One example is when Marnie and Mark go to a horse race. As soon as she notices the red dots on a jockey’s shirt, she immediately wants to leave. This aspect served as a consistent component of this character. It also allows the audience to engage in the mystery surrounding this visual choice.

The 4th Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon banner created by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. Image found at https://maddylovesherclassicfilms.wordpress.com/2020/06/18/announcing-the-4th-alfred-hitchcock-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The scene transitions: When a cinematic story moves from one scene to another, that transition can make or break the movie’s overall flow. In Marnie, some scenes ended abruptly, causing the transitions to feel clunky. A good example is when Marnie is leaving the office after she steals some money. As soon as she walks down the stairs, an employee shows up and greets a custodian. All of a sudden, the next scene begins. Had these transitions been smoother, the film wouldn’t feel like it was in stop-and-go traffic.

Light on thrills: Before watching this movie, I knew it was classified as a thriller. Because Marnie was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, I was expecting a mysterious and suspenseful tale that fits the brand he created. While it did have moments of suspense, the film as a whole was not thrilling. The majority of the story focused on the drama within the narrative. In fact, Marnie felt like it belonged in the drama genre. If Alfred wanted to try something new and go out of his comfort zone, that’s understandable. Unfortunately, this movie seemed out of character for him.

The run-time: Alfred Hitchcock once said “the length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder”. However, it seems like Alfred forgot his quote when he directed this movie. Marnie is two hours and ten minutes. Because of this creative decision, some scenes were drawn out longer than necessary in order to satisfy the run-time. One example is a conversation between Mark and Lil after Marnie goes horse-riding. Personally, I thought this scene went on for too long. Had scenes like that one been trimmed down, it might have put the film’s run-time under two hours.

A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/27/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode2020/.

My overall impression:

Alfred Hitchcock is a director who has created a distinct brand for himself. Known as the “Master of Suspense”, Alfred’s work consists of mystery and thrills. This decision is the reason why Marnie sticks out like a sore thumb. I want to make it clear that this is not Alfred’s worst film. The mystery itself was intriguing and the creative choices involving visuals were interesting. But the drama in this story overshadows the thrills, making the overall project feel like it should have been classified as a drama. As I said in my review, this felt out of character for Alfred. It would be like if an author like Debbie Macomber, an author known for writing heart-warming stories, published a gruesome murder mystery novel out of the blue. This would feel out of the character for the brand she created. Because this is my first review for A Month Without the Code, it’s time for me to point out how Marnie could be “breened”! I believe this story could be made into a Breen Code era film. However, these are the things that need to be changed in order for this to happen:

  • Throughout the film, there is language used that does not belong in a Breen Code era film. This ranges from swearing to using God’s name in vain. These words would either be removed or switched to more appropriate choices.
  • There is one scene that heavily implies Mark and Marnie had sex. Even though this happens after they get married, the scene itself would need to be rewritten or omitted.
  • One scene shows Marnie attempting suicide. Because this is a sensitive subject, this scene would to be removed or rewritten.
  • The robe Lil wears has a low-cut neckline. Changes to the style of the robe would need to take place before filming begins.
  • A large amount of blood is featured in one scene. The use of blood would need to be reduced.
  • A horse gets injured and killed in two inter-connected scenes. This would have to get omitted or the scene would have to be rewritten.

Overall score: 6.4 out of 10

What are your thoughts on Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography? Do you have a favorite movie from the “Master of Suspense”? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Shock (1946) Review (Clean Movie Month #5)

It’s now the end of Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Clean Movie Month. For my second year participating, I’d say I did a pretty good job staying consistent with my content! Throughout July, I have reviewed five films; two from the ‘30s and three from the ‘40s. The film I will talk about in this review, Shock, is a part of those aforementioned five, boasting a release date from early 1946. This film was included in The Blog Complainer’s Random Movie Roulette series, which ended up being the best movie out of that collection. Because of Cameron’s review, I chose to include Shock in my Clean Movie Month line-up! While I usually watch movies from my DVR, cable, or through physical media, the only way I could watch this film is from Youtube, where it was posted on the Cult Cinema Classics channel. I’m glad I was able to watch it so I could bring you this review of Shock!

Shock poster created by 20th Century Fox. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shock_movie_poster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: So far, I have seen The Whales of August and House of the Long Shadows. Despite seeing a small amount of films from Vincent Price’s filmography, I noticed something different about his performance in Shock. In this film, the character of Dr. Richard Cross was terrifying because of his influence and choices. Vincent also expressed emotions in subtle ways. Good examples came from when Richard expressed fear anytime someone brought up his wife’s murder. This cast was so strong, even secondary characters were memorable! Even though his character, Mr. Edwards, was in the movie for a short amount of time, John Davidson did a good job with the acting material he was given! His performance was emotionally driven, as he didn’t rely on dialogue. It added intensity to one of the film’s suspenseful scenes. The one actor who stole the show was Anabel Shaw, who portrayed Janet Stewart. Her emotionality was on point in this film! One beautiful example is when Janet witnesses the murder.

The music: The music in Shock did a good job setting the tone throughout the story! Whenever a suspenseful scene played out, ominous or dramatic music was heard. In a scene featuring Richard and Elaine, a sweeping tune that would usually be heard in romance films served as background music. Musicality also boosted these scenes, with the strong percussion of that scene’s tune landing right on an intense moment. This helped the musical element of the project maintain a sense of consistency.

Moments of suspense: In Shock, suspense was included in a few scenes. Within these parts of the story, the suspense’s execution was well done! One example is when Mr. Edwards has a fight with Elaine. The build-up toward the moment itself was steady, like someone walking to their destination. The surroundings of the characters were dark and mysterious, which worked in the favor of that scene. Mr. Edwards’ lack of speech makes the audience question his motives. All of these elements effectively came together to create one of the best scenes in this film!

Clean Movie Month banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/cleanmoviemonth2020-is-here/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Limited amount of suspense: As I previously mentioned, I liked the suspenseful scenes in this film. However, these scenes were very limited. When I read Cameron’s review of Shock, I believed the film would be similar to a story like Rear Window. In the Alfred Hitchcock picture, there was a consistent use of suspense, as the audience receives the mystery in pieces. Because the whodunit, howtheydunit, and whytheydunit of the mystery was revealed early on in Shock, it caused the story to not be as suspenseful as I thought it would be.

Under-utilized characters: A few under-utilized characters could be found in Shock. One of them was Mr. Edwards, who was featured in about three inter-connected scenes. Before these particular scenes appeared in the movie, Richard talks about Mr. Edwards’ mental regression, saying how the patient may need to be moved to a new facility. Because of these story-telling details, I was hoping Mr. Edwards would play a larger role in this story. Sadly, it just felt like he was in the film for the sake of being there.

A slower pace: Because Shock is classified as a film noir, the pace is going to be on the slower side. But most films in this specific genre have an under-lying suspense that consistently weaves through the overall narrative. Since the suspense in this film was limited, it caused the pace to be slower than it should have been, as the majority of the movie revolved around Janet’s prognosis. I’ve mentioned before that mysteries, more often than not, have faster paces. As I already said in this review, the mystery was revealed early in the story. This also prevented the pace from picking up speed.

Love of mental health image created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

All of the movies I chose for Clean Movie Month were enjoyable in their own respective ways. If I were to rank them, however, Shock and Goodbye, Mr. Chips would be tied toward the bottom of the list. Shock was a fine film, with memorable aspects that made me like the picture for what it was. Anabel Shaw’s performance was one of the best parts of this project, outshining bigger stars like Vincent Price. But some things in this movie held it back from being stronger. One of the movie’s biggest flaws was the limited amount of suspense. Because of this creative choice, the majority of the story felt like a drama than a film noir. Shock is a Breen Code friendly film. But I was surprised by the references of excessive alcohol use that were included in the script.  When Janet’s husband is asking about Richard’s medical credentials, one of the hotel’s employees says that Richard can cure a hangover. When an investigator working on Richard’s wife’s case is talking to Richard about a potential suspect, he tells Richard that the suspect is a “drunkard”. An excessive amount of alcohol use is never glorified or promoted in a typical Breen Code film. This is why I was shocked (yes, that word choice was intentional) to find these statements in a movie from 1946.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

What are your thoughts on this year’s Clean Movie Month? Are you excited for A Month Without the Code? Tell me in the comment section?

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen