Take 3: Pollyanna (1920) Review

When I discovered The Silent Movie Day Blogathon, hosted by In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood and Silent-ology, I knew I had to take part in the event! As I mentioned in my review of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, silent movies are not often covered on 18 Cinema Lane due to their availability. Speaking of the aforementioned film, that review was published back in January. So, my blog was due for another article about a silent picture. I was fortunate to find 1920’s Pollyanna on Youtube. While choosing this movie for the blogathon, I realized this would be the first adaptation of Pollyanna I would see in its entirety. While I have seen the adaptation starring Hayley Mills, I only watched pieces of it. Therefore, I can’t give an honest opinion on that film. I am familiar with the general premise of Pollyanna, despite never reading the source material or seeing an entire film version. I also haven’t sought out any of Mary Pickford’s movies before. Because of everything I’ve said in this introduction, I knew watching 1920’s Pollyanna would be an exciting experience!

Pollyanna (1920) poster created by United Artists

Things I liked about the film:

Mary Pickford’s performance: I thought the cast of Pollyanna was solid. But the one actor that shined the brightest was Mary Pickford! As I’ve mentioned before, actors and actresses in silent films must rely on body language, facial expressions, and emotions to convey what a character is thinking and feeling. While portraying Pollyanna, Mary was so expressive, using the aforementioned acting components to her advantage. She was even able to quickly adapt to each situation very effortlessly! What I also liked about Mary’s performance was how she displayed feelings of sadness and frustration. Realistically, carrying a happy persona is tiring. You can only be happy for so long and so often until the feeling itself starts to wear off. Because of Mary expressing these emotions, she helps prevent her character from being one-dimensional.

Mary’s wardrobe: An element of this project that, surprisingly, stood out to me was Mary’s wardrobe. Even though these outfits appear age appropriate for her character, a more creative reason is what caught my eye. The majority of Mary’s wardrobe consisted of light-colored outfits. These outfits allowed Mary to stand out and become the focus of a given scene. This creative decision was a simple one that worked in the project’s favor. It shows how much thought was put into the film’s presentation.

The messages and lessons: Before watching this adaptation of Pollyanna, I knew the titular character’s purpose was to, simply, make people happy. While there is truth to this statement, making people happy only scratches at the surface. Pollyanna, more often than not, tries to find the “silver lining” that will help her move forward in life. This mentality allows her to see the good in everyone she meets, even her stubborn Aunt Polly. In the 21st century, it can sometimes be difficult to put ourselves in a good mood. Even in the world of movie blogging, it can be easier to talk about bad movies or unfavorable movie news. But Pollyanna shows the audience that it is possible to find the “silver lining” in our lives, even finding the good in ourselves. These are lessons and messages that are not only relatable, but timeless as well.

The Silent Movie Day Blogathon banner created by In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood and Silent-ology

What I didn’t like about the film:

An unexplained scene: When Aunt Polly is first introduced, two small children dressed up as bunnies appeared on the table. They approach Aunt Polly with pitchforks in their hands, one of these “bunnies” even poking Aunt Polly with their pitchfork. After that scene, the “bunnies” never appeared again. They were never referenced by any of the characters either. It also doesn’t help that no title card provided context to the “bunnies”. This is a scene I wish was given more explanation.

Musical selections: To make up for the lack of dialogue, music is used to emphasis the tone of a given scene. While there were musical selections in Pollyanna that matched what was happening on screen, some of these musical selections felt out of place. In the second half of the film, Pollyanna deals with a difficult situation. This situation brought up feelings of sadness and low self-esteem. But the background music during this situation was a cheery, upbeat tune. Because of this musical choice, it kind of took me out of the film.

Pollyanna’s lack of uniqueness: Like I said in the introduction, I was familiar with the general premise of Pollyanna prior to watching this adaptation. Based on what I knew, I was expecting the titular character to magically make everyone feel happy, with the script making it seem like that was Pollyanna’s “magical power”. But as I watched the movie, Pollyanna reminded me of other characters; such as Anne Shirley, Heidi, and Annie. While I liked her promotion of the “glad game”, Pollyanna’s attempts at spreading joy to those around her didn’t feel much different from the attempts of the aforementioned characters. This discovery disappointed me because I expected Pollyanna and her story to be different from Annie, Heidi, and Anne of Green Gables.

Image of vintage movie camera created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Mary Pickford is someone I’d like to call one of the “grandmothers of cinema”. A face of Hollywood’s early years, she helped play a role in showing what was possible for, at the time, a new medium. This particular film also shows what is possible when it comes to adaptations. 1920’s Pollyanna is a fine film. With strong acting, effective creative choices, and good messages, it contains likable qualities. However, the movie kind of felt like a copy of similar stories. Pollyanna herself reminded me of other young characters with shining personalities, like Anne Shirley or Ceddie. Even the older characters’ transformations in attitude were reminiscent of those such as Daddy Warbucks, Marilla Cuthbert, and Heidi’s grandfather. With all this said, the movie didn’t add much to the adaptation table. I am aware of two other adaptations of Pollyanna, including Hayley Mills’ version I mentioned in the introduction. One day, I’d like to check these films out and see which one I like best!

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any silent films? If so, which one would you like to recommend? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) Review

Whenever I think of Dorian Gray as a character, Stuart Townsend’s portrayal in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comes to mind. While I’ve never seen that film, I did watch a video review of it years ago. However, I know that, sometimes, no singular portrayal of a given character is the “end all, be all” when it comes to story-telling. This is one of the reasons why I chose to review the 1945 adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray. The other reason is Peter Lawford’s involvement in the project. Once again, I am participating in the Peter Lawford Blogathon, hosted by Kristen from Hoofers and Honeys of the Classic Movie Era/KN Winiarski Writes. Last year, I wrote about 1960’s Ocean’s Eleven. At the time, I was not familiar with Peter’s filmography. Now that I have seen at least one of his movies, I had a starting point for which film to choose next! Before Dorian’s portrait transforms on us, let’s get this review started!

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I haven’t seen many of Peter Lawford’s films. But based on 1960’s Ocean’s Eleven and 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, it seems like he can be found in movies with larger ensembles. When it comes to the 1945 title, I was disappointed by this, as I was hoping to see more of his performance. Nevertheless, Peter did do a good job with the material he was given! Portraying David Stone, a man interested in courting Gladys Hallward, he resembled the youth Dorian himself desperately sought after. Despite appearing in a handful of scenes, David’s concern of Gladys felt genuine. You can hear it in the inflection of Peter’s voice and the expressions on his face. In a way, these things made David seem like a “voice of reason”.

During the film’s opening credits, I was surprised to discover Angela Lansbury also starred in The Picture of Dorian Gray. But similar to Peter Lawford, she also appeared in a handful of scenes. Despite this, I enjoyed seeing her portrayal of Sibyl Vane! Within this film, she sang a song called “The Little Yellow Bird”. It was nice to hear a musical performance from Angela, as I feel her singing abilities are underrated. When it came to her acting performance, Angela carried her character with a youthfulness I haven’t noticed in her other roles I’ve seen. Her expressions were more subtle, but worked for her character. Another actor who had subtle expressions was Hurd Hatfield. I’m not familiar with his acting work. But based on his portrayal of the titular character, he carried himself with a sense of professionalism. Hurd did, however, have very expressive eyes. At one point during the story, Dorian makes a mistake. When he realizes what he did, his eyes grow wide with alarm. Meanwhile, Hurd still shows a composure that he partly gave to Dorian, which maintains consistency.

The lessons and morals: Since this film premiered in 1945, that means it had to follow the Breen Code guidelines. The Picture of Dorian Gray certainly obeys those guidelines, but it also serves up some good lessons and morals. Toward the beginning of the story, Lord Henry tells Dorian how lucky he is to be young and attractive. He also tells Dorian to not squander his youth. These pieces of conversation can be used as lessons to appreciate the things you have and to not take anything for granted. Certain events in Dorian’s life highlight these lessons well. Another idea that is addressed in this script is actions speaking louder than words. This can be seen throughout Dorian’s relationship with Sibyl. While I won’t spoil what happens, I will say something comes up that relates to the aforementioned idea.

The cinematography: A surprising element in The Picture of Dorian Gray was the cinematography. This is because of how creative and well filmed it was! My favorite use of cinematography was when Sibyl visits Dorian’s house. As Dorian is playing the piano, Sibyl enters his study. But before she walks through the doorway, you can only see Sibyl’s shadow. Even when she does appear in the doorway, Sibyl’s face isn’t shown until she reaches Dorian’s piano. That was a good way to building anticipation for Sibyl’s appearance. A filming technique that appeared in several moments of the film was framing a scene as if the camera was following a character or hiding from them. A great example is when Dorian was placing a letter in his fireplace. The camera is positioned inside the fireplace while he is burning the letter. It provides the illusion of the audience watching from the outside looking in.

The 2nd Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon banner created by Kristen from Hoofers and Honeys of the Classic Movie Era/KN Winiarski Writes

What I didn’t like about the film:

Limited use of Technicolor: In the movie’s opening credits, it was mentioned that Technicolor was used in the movie. This made me excited to see how Technicolor would be utilized in the story. While I wasn’t expecting as much Technicolor as in The Wizard of Oz, I was hoping it would be consistently featured throughout the film. Unfortunately, that is not the case for The Picture of Dorian Gray. The Technicolor was applied to Dorian’s painting. But it was only used three times during the whole movie. I think if Dorian’s painting had been consistently presented in Technicolor, it would have highlighted the importance of the painting within the story.

The painting is kind of an afterthought: For those who don’t know, a MacGuffin can be an object that progresses a story forward. In the case of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian’s painting is that story’s MacGuffin. However, its presence wasn’t as significant as I expected. In the script, the state of Dorian’s relationships is given more focus than the painting. In fact, the painting is sometimes not shown on-screen. This made the painting itself kind of seem like an afterthought.

Dorian’s confusing choices: There were times when Dorian made choices that left me confused. One of these choices took place during his relationship with Sibyl. Throughout that relationship, Dorian appears to truly love her. He even seriously considers marrying Sibyl. But, out of the blue, Dorian changes his mind. Even the build-up toward that moment was confusing, making it difficult to interpret what happened. I realize all of that connects with the lessons I mentioned earlier. However, Dorian’s sudden change in attitude and choices was, to me, confusing.

Paint palette image created by Freepik at freepik.com <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-artsy-tools_836777.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/hand”>Hand vector created by Freepik</a> Image found at freepik.com

My overall impression:

There are movies that have fallen short of my expectations. Not all of these films have been bad. However, I was left desiring more from them. The Picture of Dorian Gray has now become one of those movies. Before watching this adaptation, I was familiar with the premise of this story. But that premise led me to believe the film would be more profound and thought-provoking than it was. The script did provide good lessons and morals. But I’m not left contemplating any deeper meaning on any particular theme. I was also disappointed by Peter Lawford’s limited appearance in the movie. Peter’s involvement in the project is one of the reasons why I chose to review it in the first place. Even though I liked his portrayal of David, I was expecting to see him receive a larger spotlight than in Ocean’s Eleven. If the Peter Lawford Blogathon returns for a third year, I’ll try to find a film where Peter was a leading actor.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray? Would you like for me to read the book? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) Review

For the 2021 Swashbucklathon, I decided to review a movie that one of my readers recommended to me. It just so happens that one of my recent reccomendations, given to me by Patricia from Caftan Woman, was the 1939 version of The Man in the Iron Mask! Years ago, I had seen the 1998 adaptation of this specific title. However, I only have vague recollections of it, so I can’t give an honest opinion on that film. The aforementioned recommendation came after I had reviewed the 1948 version of The Three Musketeers. If you had read this article, you would know how much I enjoyed that film. But how does The Man in the Iron Mask compare to The Three Musketeers? Keep reading to find out!

The Man in the Iron Mask (1939) poster created by United Artists and Edward Small Productions.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I am not familiar with Louis Hayward as an actor. Despite this, I really enjoyed his dual performance as both King Louis XIV and Philippe of Gascony! Whenever Louis Hayward portrayed King Louis, he had a crazed look in his eyes, especially when King Louis was near something or someone he wanted. This can be seen when he meets Princess Maria Theresa for the first time. King Louis displayed a short temper as well. Meanwhile, Philippe had a gentler persona. He even got along with the people around him. When Philippe was apologizing to Maria about his inability to see her earlier in the day, the way he talked to her, as well as his body language, showed how he truly cared about her. Toward the beginning of the film, Philippe is sharing a meal with the Musketeers. He had a jovial disposition during this part of the scene, appearing to be enjoying the company. The Man in the Iron Mask is the first film of Joan Bennett’s I am reviewing. While I don’t have any other performance of Joan’s to compare to her portrayal of Princess Maria Theresa, I did like her performance in the 1939 film! What made it memorable was how well-rounded it was. Whenever Maria interacted with King Louis, she was headstrong, not afraid to stand up to him. But when she is with Philippe, she has a pleasant, more kind-hearted personality. Even though the Musketeers were on screen for a limited amount of time, I enjoyed seeing their camaraderie amongst them! It helps that the actors portraying the Musketeers had good on-screen chemistry!

The costume design: Back in April, I reviewed the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers. A strength that movie and The Man in the Iron Mask share is the costume design! Exquisite is the word I would use to describe the costumes shown. One beautiful example is a coat Fouquet wore to a wedding. The black coat was adorned with black sparkly cuffs and edges. It was also covered with gold embroidery. Maria had an impressive wardrobe! One of my favorite outfits is a silk gown she wore when Philippe apologized to her. The gown itself complimented Joan’s dark hair. What adds to the look are the sparkling accessories! Diamond star hairpins could be found in Joan’s hair and a jeweled necklace was around her neck. A little bit of sparkle definitely helped elevate this outfit!

The set design: Another area of this film where the word, exquisite, could apply is the set design! In King Louis’ palace, the walls were covered with detailed wallpaper. Intricate wood carvings covered the chair in his office, showing off the affluence in his life. Carvings could also be seen in other palace spaces, such as over a fireplace in a sitting room. Fine details came in all shapes and sizes, as well as in various materials. In Maria’s room, two angel shaped lamps were located above a desk. These lamps looked like they were made of metal. The little things within these sets showcased the elegance this cinematic world had to offer!

The 2021 Swashbucklathon banner created by Paul from Silver Screen Classics.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Unclear details: There were a few details within the overall story that weren’t made clear. At the beginning of the movie, the Musketeers were named enemies of the King. They were also taken in as prisoners. But I didn’t hear why they were declared enemies. In fact, I don’t remember this reason ever being spoken. Had details like this been clarified, certain parts of the story would be less confusing.

A limited amount of action scenes: After watching the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers, I expected to see exceptional fight choreography in the 1939 film. While I did get to see some interesting fight sequences, there was less action in The Man in the Iron Mask than in The Three Musketeers. Looking back on the movie, I can think of only a handful of action scenes in this particular story. What this film emphasized was drama and romance. While having drama and romance can work in a film, this direction in The Man in the Iron Mask was much different than I had anticipated.

A somewhat misleading title: As I said in the introduction, I have seen the 1998 adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask. From what I remember, the audience knew early on there was a literal man in an iron mask. Even though this titular character was in the 1939 film, the mask itself didn’t come in until an hour into the movie. I understand that moment needed build-up. However, I think that part of the story should have taken place much sooner.

Princess tiara image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/ornamental-princess-crowns_1109199.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/gold”>Gold vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

So far, the best film I’ve seen this year is the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers. There was so much within that film I liked. When watching The Man in the Iron Mask, I wondered if this movie could compare to the 1948 film. While there were things about the project I did enjoy, I still like The Three Musketeers more. The 1939 picture was a likeable one. However, some flaws ended up holding this film back. One of them was how action was used sparingly. Other flaws, such as a somewhat misleading title and some unclear details, brought its score down. But I would recommend this film, especially if you’re looking for a title for Clean Movie Month. The Man in the Iron Mask makes me want to revisit the 1998 version in the future. For now, I need to focus on publishing my next blog follower dedication review!

Overall score: 7.4-7.5 out of 10

Have you seen any versions of The Man in the Iron Mask? If so, which one is your favorite? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Born Free Review + 340 and 345 Follower Thank You

Earlier this month, 18 Cinema Lane received 340 and 345 followers! Before I continue, I’d just like to say thank you to each and every person who has chosen to follow my blog. I appreciate you taking the time to read my articles and listen to what I have to say. Speaking of articles, let’s back to the review! For April’s Genre Grandeur, the theme is “travel films”. Because this topic is so broad, it took me a while to figure out which film I would write about. Then I remembered I had the 1966 movie, Born Free, on my DVR. While Joy and George Adamson, the story’s protagonists, do travel within the movie, it is not the central component of the story. I also have participated in Thoughts From The Music(al) Man’s Star/Genre Of The Month Blogathon, with my review of China Seas being my first contribution. April doesn’t have a theme, so I thought Born Free would be the perfect choice for the blogathon! Prior to writing this review, I had heard of, but not seen, the 1966 picture. This is because I was familiar with the movie’s theme when it was featured on the soundtrack for the film, Madagascar. Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for; the start of this review!

Because I recorded this movie on my DVR, I took a screenshot of the movie’s poster from my phone. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

How the animals were showcased: While I liked the acting in Born Free, it’s the animals that steal the show! Animals were showcased in a natural way, allowing them to be shown in situations that are more realistic. None of the animals were given voice-overs, giving the audience a chance to witness their authentic expressions. A great example is when Elsa, the lion Joy and George take care of, interacts with a male lion. Throughout the scene, Elsa and the male lion take turns roaring. They also can be seen fighting over food. The way these lions were presented made it look like they were having a conversation. The human characters’ conversations about these animals also gave them a humanistic quality. After Joy and George leave Elsa alone with the aforementioned lion, Joy compares the experience to waiting for a daughter to come home from a date. The cinematography and script gave the animals just as much importance as the human characters!

The scenery: The majority of Born Free takes place outdoors, as the African landscapes serve as the principal scenery for the story. Toward the beginning of the movie, Joy is painting in her front yard. A clear blue sky enveloped a large space of plains. This specific location appeared peaceful as long shots were used to capture it on film. Another impressive location was the beach that Elsa, Joy, and George visit. Once again, a blue sky is visible, soaring over the blue of the ocean and bright beige of the sand. The beach was very photogenic, with long and medium shots helping to showcase that location!

The music: I liked the use of music in Born Free! The pieces of instrumental tunes provided the tone for each scene it was included in. When a suspenseful and tense moment took place, the sound of beating drums could be heard. This sound elaborated on the seriousness of what was happening in that particular scene. One example is when, toward the end of the film, Elsa is fighting with another female lion. For more light-hearted, joyful moments, the movie’s theme played in the background. Some scenes that featured this piece of music revolved around Elsa and her sisters as lion cubs.

Mother lion and her baby cubs image created by wirestock at freepik.com. Animals photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

An inconsistent narrative: When a close friend named John suggests Elsa should be placed in a zoo, Joy is completely against the idea. This decision has even resulted in a heated argument between Joy and George. Joy’s decision for wanting Elsa to remain wild is understandable. However, earlier in the film, she doesn’t object to sending Elsa’s two sisters to a zoo. Joy also takes in a baby elephant that Elsa happened to be chasing one day. This specific narrative was inconsistent, which prevented me from getting fully invested in Joy’s side of the story.

The run-time: According to IMDB, Born Free is an hour and thirty-five minutes. But because the story is a simpler one, I don’t think this movie needed that run-time. While watching the film, I noticed how some scenes contained montages. For example, when Joy, George, and Elsa go to the beach, a montage lasting several minutes featured these characters playing on the beach and in the ocean. I feel these montages were placed in the film to satisfy its run-time. Had these montages been shortened, the movie could have had a run-time of an hour or less.

Unnecessary voice-overs: Throughout the film, Joy provides voice-overs to explain what is happening in the story. These voice-overs were beneficial in understanding Elsa’s journey. But there were some scenes where Joy’s voice-overs were not necessary. At the beginning of a scene where Joy, George, and Elsa are at a camp, Joy explains how, one night, she heard the roar of a lion who was eating the livestock of a nearby African village. If the voice-over had not been included in this scene, the on-screen event could have spoken for itself. Having the voice-over only reminded the audience of what they already knew.

Colorful travel suitcase image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/beautiful-illustration-of-travel_2686674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When you think of “travel films”, a movie where the protagonist takes an extravagant and adventurous trip will likely come to mind. However, traveling can mean different things for various people. In the case of Born Free, Joy and George Adamson travel from England to Africa. Throughout the film, they also travel to town and several African villages. As I mentioned in the introduction, Born Free does not focus on the travels of Joy and George. Instead, it prioritizes the relationship these characters share with Elsa. While I liked the natural portrayals of the animals, these depictions are more suited for an older audience. This is also a simpler story, calling for a shorter run-time than the one it received. Not only were some of Joy’s voice-overs unnecessary, but her stance on keeping Elsa out of a zoo was inconsistent. Despite these flaws, I thought Born Free was a fine film! If you are interested in the subject of animals, I feel this is the movie for you!

Overall score: 7.1-7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any “travel films” lately? Do you have any films to recommend for the next blog follower dedication review? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The World of Suzie Wong Review

Sunset Blvd. is a “classic” that a majority of film fans have seen at least once in their lives. It is so iconic that the Brannan sisters, from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, have decided to dedicate a blogathon to it! Because I’ve already seen Sunset Blvd., I choose a film that was new to me. As it is a brand-new year, I wanted the first movie of 2021 to be a fresh step forward. After looking through William Holden’s filmography, I selected the 1960 picture, The World of Suzie Wong! Whenever I think of William, I always think of Joe Gillis from Sunset Blvd. But, as a movie fan, I know that William, acting wise, is more than this iconic role. Therefore, I am grateful to be given this opportunity to explore more of his film work!

The World of Suzie Wong poster created by World Enterprises, Inc.
Worldfilm, Ltd, Paramount British Pictures, Ltd, and Paramount Pictures.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Since I’ve only seen Sunset Blvd. and Stalag 17, there’s only so much I can say about William Holden’s acting abilities. What I will say is how William’s performance in The World of Suzie Wong was consistent! From what I remember, William’s characters in Stalag 17 and Sunset Blvd. were serious and had their guard up due to being suspicious of those around them. In The World of Suzie Wong, his character was similar to those from the two previously mentioned movies. However, a major difference was how those characteristics were softened a bit. This was because William’s character, Robert, had a love interest, which is different from his characters in Stalag 17 and Sunset Blvd. I am not familiar with Nancy Kwan as an actress. Despite this, I really liked seeing her performance in this film! It reminded me of the portrayals from actresses in the “Golden Age” of film, where leading ladies not only worked well with other cast members, but were able to, talent wise, stand on their own. While starring as Suzie, Nancy was able to pull off a performance that was captivating, emotional, and memorable! Another performance I enjoyed seeing was Jacqueline Chan’s! As Gwennie Lee, she was able to use her on-screen personality to her advantage. The other female characters in The World of Suzie Wong carried themselves with a sense of sophistication, making themselves seem more mature than they really were. With Gwennie, her personality was joyful, carrying a youthful heart wherever she went. This creative decision helped Jacqueline stand out among the cast!

An educated and aware protagonist: In a story where a protagonist travels to a different country or new place, it can be easy for the screenwriter(s) to create a character that romanticizes a location to the point of being arrogant or clueless about that specific place. With Robert from The World of Suzie Wong, that was certainly not the case! While in Hong Kong, Robert tries to educate himself about his surroundings. When trying to find a hotel, he speaks Chinese to a police officer. Even though he didn’t memorize the question, it shows Robert was willing to go out of his way to learn the language of his temporary home. Robert also seems aware of the people and the customs of Hong Kong. When talking to a business associate, Ben, Robert senses that Ben is attempting to pursue a romantic relationship with Suzie for the wrong reasons. He stands up to Ben and reminds him how Suzie is a person with feelings. Everything I just mentioned effectively drives home a point Suzie made about “a boy cloud with a good heart”.

The use of color: A film’s color palette can help make a scene visually appealing as well as present creative ways to showcase various hues. With that said, I found the use of color in The World of Suzie Wong to be very interesting! At the bar next to Robert’s hotel, all of the female characters wore bright colors. This nicely contrasted the location of the bar itself, a place that didn’t feature a lot of color within the interior design. Color was also used in other ways throughout the movie. One example was the O’Neill family’s home, where a set of red seat cushions provide the only splash of color in their primarily white dining room. Another example is present when Robert tries to find Suzie in the city. Though this scene is brief, the colorful neon lights within this space nicely stand out against the city’s darkness.

Traditional Chinese dragon image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/design”>Design vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The concept of “keeping face”: Throughout the film, Suzie and her friends talk about “keeping face”. One night, Gwennie asks Robert if he will enter the bar with her. She tells Robert that if she were to enter the bar by herself, she wouldn’t be able to “keep face”. Later in the film, after Suzie is physically injured by a drunken sailor, she tells Robert to say that he hurt her so she can “keep face”. Because there were no explanations for what “keeping face” was or why it was important, this concept ended up confusing me.

The run-time: The World of Suzie Wong is a little over two hours long. Personally, I don’t think this specific story needed its run-time. In fact, the film could have easily been set at an hour and thirty minutes. This might be achieved by shortening some of the movie’s longer scenes. One of them is when Suzie journeys to an undisclosed location for reasons unknown to Robert. In an attempt to find answers, Robert follows Suzie all the way to this undisclosed location in a scene that lasts about two minutes. When there are multiple scenes that are longer than necessary, they add up to a run-time that doesn’t feel justified.

An inconsistent relationship: While William Holden and Nancy Kwan had good on-screen chemistry, the on-screen relationship of their characters was inconsistent. Throughout the film, Robert and Suzie’s relationship was “on again/off again”. It also doesn’t help that Robert and Suzie don’t officially become a couple until about forty minutes into the movie. I understand that relationships take time to develop and that they contain good and bad moments. However, when a story includes a couple trying to pursue a romantic relationship, the relationship itself needs to be consistent enough for the audience to stay invested in.

The Sunset Blvd. Blogathon banner created by the Brannan sisters from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.

My overall impression:

The World of Suzie Wong is a film that gets hurt by its run-time. This two-hour story could have been an hour and thirty minutes, with longer scenes cut shorter to move the story along faster. This also would help Robert and Suzie’s relationship officially start a lot sooner. Without spoiling the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, I will say The World of Suzie Wong is much sadder than I expected. I am aware of everyone experiencing different situations in their lives. However, the sadness in this movie made the story feel like there was a gray cloud hanging over the characters’ heads. There are aspects of this film that I appreciate. One of them is the protagonists sharing an interracial relationship in a time when that idea wasn’t commonly shown in cinema. I also appreciate some of the film’s artistic merit, such as the acting performances and the use of color within various scenes. In the end, though, I found The World of Suzie Wong to be a just ok start to 2021.

Overall score: 6.4 out of 10

Have you seen The World of Suzie Wong? Has a movie ever enticed you to travel to its featured location? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Royal Wedding Review (Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire Double Feature Part 2)

As I said in my review of Teenage Rebel, I haven’t seen many films from Fred Astaire’s filmography. In fact, the only two movies of Fred’s I’ve seen so far are The Sky’s the Limit and Funny Face. When I joined Crystal and Michaela’s blogathon, I knew which Fred Astaire picture I wanted to write about. Last month, I was recommended the 1951 film, Royal Wedding, by Heidi from Along the Brandywine. She suggested this film because of its use of split screens. Since I don’t have many Fred Astaire titles on my movie recommendation board on Pinterest, this was my first choice for this double feature! It is interesting that Royal Wedding is the last movie I’m reviewing in 2020. Musicals from the Breen Code era are usually seen as happy, up-beat productions. This is a contrast to the type of year 2020 ended up becoming.

Royal Wedding poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: A similarity I’ve noticed among Fred Astaire’s roles in The Sky’s the Limit, Funny Face, and Royal Wedding is how confident he comes across in each film! Speaking specifically about Royal Wedding, his character, Tom Bowen, had the showmanship you’d expect from a stage performer. Even though he was performing a duet in the movie’s opening number, “Ev’ry Night At Seven”, he had a stage presence that demanded the audience’s attention. This is because he had complete control over his part of the performance as well as experience leading other musicals. Fred also appeared comfortable as one of the leads in this film. Jane Powell’s on-screen personality in Royal Wedding was very sweet! Her character, Ellen Bowen, was also flirty without overdoing it. What worked in Jane’s favor was how she was able to keep up with Fred in their musical duets as well as hold her own in her solos. It definitely showed how strong of a performer she is! Because I’m not familiar with Sarah Churchill as an actress, I wasn’t sure how a Fred Astaire and Sarah Churchill on-screen pairing would work when I first saw them together. But as the film went on, I realized they had better on-screen chemistry than I expected! As an individual performer, Sarah gave her character, Anne, a sophisticated independence that never made her seem snobby or self-centered. In one scene, as she’s recalling to Tom how she came to be a dancer, Anne is so sure of herself when she talks about it. In scenes like this, you can tell that Anne has a healthy amount of self-confidence, partly because of Sarah’s captivating performance!

The musical numbers: When I watch musicals from the Breen Code era, I can’t help but notice the creativity that comes from some of the musical numbers! One example is Fred’s solo, “Sunday Jumps”. On paper, the idea of Fred dancing with a hatrack and exercise equipment might sound silly to some audience members. But because of the choreography and Fred’s dancing talents, that idea becomes a thoroughly entertaining one! Another solo of Fred’s, “You’re All the World to Me”, also showcases creativity well. In this musical number, Tom Bowen can be seen literally dancing on the walls and ceiling, as to visually represent what his heart is feeling for Anne. The number itself is also ahead of its time, as this particular idea wasn’t common in films from this era. I loved how a bright color palette was used in “I Left My Hat in Haiti”! It provided the musical number with an energy and personality that nicely contrasted the toned-down atmosphere of London. The musical number also did a good job at utilizing its ensemble.

The dialogue: Because of the Breen Code, screenwriters had to think and write cleverly when it came to expressing ideas that wouldn’t be allowed on film. That mentality can certainly be found in Royal Wedding’s script! After their performance, “Ev’ry Night At Seven”, Ellen complains about the theater’s lack of air conditioning due to the theater manager wanting to save money. Frustrated by that decision, Tom tells his sister how the theater manager will need a fan for one specific place. Subtle references like this one respect the audience’s intelligence and gave the screenwriters a chance to think outside the box when it comes to language. There were also memorable quotes within the script. During Anne and Tom’s conversation, Anne told him that dancing made her happy. She also said that she wanted to dance when she was happy.

The Third Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon banner created by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

What I didn’t like about the film:

No major conflicts: In Anchors Aweigh, Clarence “Brooklyn” Doolittle and Joseph “Joe” Brady help their new friend, Susan, get an audition with a well-known composer at a movie studio. This served as the main conflict for the film. With Royal Wedding, there was no main conflict to be found. Instead, the story focuses on the two relationships between Ellen and John and Tom and Anne. Even when sub-conflicts were introduced in the movie, they are resolved rather quickly. Having one overarching conflict would have added some intrigue to this story.

Too many boyfriends: At the beginning of the movie, Ellen is shown having multiple boyfriends. This was to highlight the point of Ellen having difficulty ending these relationships. When Ellen’s boyfriends are interacting with one another, I had trouble keeping track of who was who. I understand this creative decision was made on purpose, to emphasize the aforementioned point. But this gave the audience unnecessary confusion.

The titular royal wedding as an afterthought: When a film is titled Royal Wedding, most audience members would expect the wedding itself to play a significant role within the plot. Because the story focuses on the relationships of Tom and Anne and Ellen and John, the royal wedding is treated as an afterthought. Sure, the characters casually bring it up from time to time. But there is little to no excitement in London just days before such a historic event. When a pre-wedding parade is passing by Tom and Ellen’s hotel suite, the scene places more emphasis on John and Ellen’s conversation, preventing the parade from being shown on-screen. The day of the wedding appears in the last twenty minutes of the film, but even that part of the story is overshadowed by the previously mentioned relationships.

Princess tiara image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/ornamental-princess-crowns_1109199.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/gold”>Gold vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Royal Wedding is the type of movie where the acting performances and musical numbers make up for the weaker story. While the plot isn’t bad, it could have benefited from having a major conflict. If the creative team behind this movie wanted their story to be more interesting, it would have contained a mistaken identity. Ellen Bowen would switch places with the princess and fall in love with the prince, while the princess is mistaken for Ellen and eventually forms a romantic relationship with Tom. With this conflict, the wedding itself would have a greater presence in the whole story. It would also create a series of hilarious hijinks. Personally, I’d recommend Anchors Aweigh over Royal Wedding. The former has a stronger story and, in my opinion, is a more enjoyable film overall.

Overall score: 6.2 out of 10

What are your thoughts on Royal Wedding? Which movie is your favorite out of the ones I’ve reviewed this year? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Teenage Rebel Review (Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire Double Feature Part 1)

I haven’t seen many films from Ginger Rogers’ and Fred Astaire’s filmography. Despite this, I joined the third Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon, in the hopes of expanding my cinematic horizons! Because I figured other participants would cover Ginger’s musicals, I chose one of her movies that wasn’t a part of the musical genre. As the title says, I’ll be reviewing Teenage Rebel! The aftermath of a divorce/custody battle is rarely explored in film. This is what made me take notice of this particular title. What I also thought was interesting was how this story discussed the subject of divorce during a time when the concept was not as talked about as it is today. While I have reviewed the 1939 movie, In Name Only, that film revolved around the divorce itself and what led up to it. Now, let us begin part one of my Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire Double Feature!

Teenage Rebel poster created by 20th Century Fox.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Ginger Rogers is an actress from what would be considered the “Golden Era” of Hollywood. This particular period in time is often depicted with a sense of glamour. Because of this, Ginger carried herself in Teenage Rebel with that same sense of glamour I just brought up. Not only that, her emotionality really shined through in her role as Nancy Fallon! Some of her best scenes featured her interacting with Dorothy/Dodie. Both actresses go toe-to-toe with each other, acting-wise, and make their characters feel believable and genuine. Out of context, Dorothy/Dodie could be written off as a spoiled brat. But Betty Lou Keim’s performance, plus the aftermath of the divorce, makes the audience feel bad for Dorothy/Dodie. While Betty’s portrayal is consistent, she is given enough flexibility to add emotion. This highlights the idea that Dorothy/Dodie is simply human, with thoughts and feelings that need to be expressed. Warren Berlinger portrays Dick, one of the Fallon’s next-door neighbors. What I liked about his performance is how animated it is. This animation livened Warren’s portrayal without coming across as over-the-top. Instead, it gave him a wide range of emotions to work with. His conversation with his family about his long distance girlfriend is a perfect example of this.

The use of symbolism: One night, as a literal storm is brewing in the neighborhood, Nancy finds Dorothy/Dodie sitting outside by herself. The wind outside is strong and doesn’t have any plans to calm down. During their conversation, the sound of cracking lightening can be heard in the background. When Dorothy/Dodie and Nancy return to the house, rain starts to fall. These elements represented the personal turmoil taking place between mother and daughter.

The messages and themes: In films where younger characters are the center of the story, there is always a place for meaningful messages and themes. This is certainly the case for Teenage Rebel. One of the notable themes of this movie is having compassion for others. No matter how closed-off Dorothy/Dodie was, Nancy never gave up on her daughter. Even though Nancy does express feelings of frustration and stress, she always tried her best to make Dorothy/Dodie feel welcome and loved. Even Dick and his sister, Jane, show compassion for Dorothy/Dodie. They invite her to teenage functions like dances and a local car race. Because of the time they spend with her, Dorothy/Dodie allows herself to open her heart to others. The reason why Dorothy/Dodie distances herself from people is because she has lost her trust in them due to the divorce. As the story progresses, Dorothy/Dodie changes her life around. In one scene, Nancy gives her daughter a lecture about how she needs to stop living in isolation.  That speech and the overall message of opening your heart comes across in this story as genuine.

The Third Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon banner created by Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A very misleading title: This film is called Teenage Rebel. Paired with the quotes on the movie’s quote, the film is advertised as a cautionary tale about teenagers going “over the edge”. However, none of the teens in this story rebel or misbehave. Even when there is a car race, the event itself appears to be well organized and legal. While Dorothy/Dodie has a bad attitude and runs away from home, she does these things to 1.) put on a brave face to protect her true feelings and 2.) find some alone time to get away from the tension between her and her mother. The title and marketing built this movie up to be something it wasn’t.

The character of Larry: Larry Fallon, portrayed by Rusty Swope, is Nancy and Jay’s son. He had some funny lines in this movie, such as when he said “a man” after Dorothy/Dodie asks him what he wants to be when he grows up. However, after a while, Larry kind of overstays his welcome. I don’t fault Rusty for this, as there was only so much he could do for an actor of his age. This specific flaw is the result of the screenwriting. Larry doesn’t have much to do in the overall story. In fact, he has little to no significance within the main plot. Prior to watching Teenage Rebel, I was expecting to see an interesting dynamic between half-siblings who didn’t grow up together. But, in reality, Dorothy/Dodie and Larry only interacted once. Either Rusty needed more material to work with or the character should have been written out of the movie completely.

An abrupt transformation: When Dorothy/Dodie is introduced in the film, she carries herself with a chip on her shoulder. It gets to the point where she and her mother have an emotionally fueled, tension filled conversation. As I mentioned earlier, Dorothy/Dodie’s attitude was caused by an ugly divorce with an even uglier custody battle. After the aforementioned conversation between Dorothy/Dodie and Nancy, Dorothy/Dodie runs away, where Dick finds her and takes her to a local soda shop. When she returns home, she acts nice toward her mother, like their previous conversation never happened. Similar to what I said about Larry, this flaw was the result of the screenwriting. This change in character should have been a consistent progression throughout the film as a whole.

Breaking heart image created by Kjpargeter at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/broken-heart-valentine-background_1041991.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Kjpargeter – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Teenage Rebel is an ok film. However, its dishonest title and poster doesn’t help its case. In a time when teen centered films were on the rise, the studio wanted to capitalize on that. While a significant part of this story focused on a teenage perspective, it was marketed as something different than what it honestly was. Instead of selling the movie as a meaningful drama exploring the aftermath of divorce, they decided to make the film sound like it was about misbehaving youngsters, despite never being found in the story. Even though it seems like the creative team had their hearts in the right place, I was not a fan of how the story was more “slice of life” than I had wanted. I don’t find these types of stories intriguing, but I appreciate Teenage Rebel’s incorporation of its messages and themes. If you want to watch a teen movie with similar ideas, I’d recommend The Boy Who Could Fly. Not only does it emphasize showing compassion to others, but it’s a much stronger film.

Overall score: 6.3 out of 10

Have you seen Ginger Rogers’ movies? Which film about divorce would you recommend? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

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, even though acting more like Frederick would have helped 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 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!

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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