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Category — classic

The Trouble with Harry (1955)

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image 3 rating  (3/5) comedy – mystery

Reference: imdb6 | wikipedia12

Reviews: Rotten Tomatoes 89% | IMDb External Reviews

The Trouble with Harry (1955) is not your typical Hitchcock movie. It is, to some degree, a who-done it, but it is hardly suspenseful. IMDb calls it a comedy | mystery | thriller. I agree with the comedy part and, perhaps its a bit of a mystery. But it is hardly a thriller. Rather its a small, sleepy, madcap of a movie (if a movie that slow can be called a madcap) with a good ensemble cast.

trouble with harry - jerry mathers finds the corpse of Harry Edmund Gwenn finds the rather dead (‘Harry’) while hunting. He thinks he shot the man. Remarkably, multiple residents of a tiny hamlet trundle by the ‘scene of the crime’ , even though the scene is a remote hilltop in the woods. Confusion, cover-ups, mix-ups and new-found love ensues.

This was Shirley MacLaine’s film debut. At 21, she was at her buttoned-nosed cutest. She was terrific from the start, playing a recently widowed, single mother. [My all-time favourite Maclaine movie is probably The Apartment (1960), with Jack Lemmon].

What struck me most, though, was how contemporary actress Julianne Nicholson is a dead ringer for Shirley MacLaine in this film (see photos below). If this film were ever re-made, Nicholson would be the spot-on choice to play her role. Better yet, if a movie required a young and old version of Shirley MacLaine, these two would be a perfect match – not just for their remarkably comparable looks but for their similar personalities

trouble with harry - shirley maclaine  julianne nicholson from Tully movie poster 

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Libeled Lady (1936)

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3.5 rating  (3.5/5) – screwball comedy, romance

Reference: imdb icon | wikipedia icon | TCM
Reviews: IMDb External Reviews | Rotten Tomatoes (80%)

Libeled Lady (1936) jean harlow, william powell, myrna loy and spencer tracy in opening credits

While deftly putting off an inevitable marriage to his fiance (played by Jean Harlow), in Libeled Lady (1936) the editor of a New York paper (Spencer Tracy) hires a reluctant former employee (William Powell) to seduce the daughter of the owner of a rival publication (Myrna Loy) to ward off a libel suit.

Libeled Lady (1936) william powell and myrna loy flirt on board ship Libeled Lady is one of 14 films starring the wonderful Powell and Loy duo. Ironically it lost the 1936 Best Picture Oscar to another of their collaborations, The Great Ziegfeld (1936). TCM‘s Robert Osborne believes Libeled Lady was the better of the two. (Having not yet seen Ziegfeld, I’ll reserve judgment).

Libeled Lady (1936) jean harlow and william powell making up While Powell and Loy are one of the most famous onscreen couples in movie history, at the time this movie was being made Powell and Harlow (19 years his junior) were engaged to be married. Sadly, Harlow died of kidney failure just two years later at the age of 26.

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Evelyn Prentice (1934)

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3 rating  (3/5) drama, mystery, romance

William Powell and Myrna Loy are second only to Tracy and Hepburn in the pantheon of my favourite classic movie on-screen couples. They appeared together in 14 films over 13 years, the most famous of which were the widely popular (in their time) “Thin Man” series.

evelyn prentice (1934) william powell and myrna loy chatting In Evelyn Prentice a workaholic lawyer (played by Powell) is too busy for his young wife and child. As the relationship is strained, Loy spends an increasing amount of time with a womanizing poet intent on blackmailing her.

Evelyn Prentice (1934) came out in the same year as the first Thin Man movie. What made the Thin Man and its successors so delicious for me was the terrific chemistry between the two. That couple was clearly, absolutely and deeply in love with each other. Their witty banter and repartee combined with mutual respect and equality was uncharacteristic of the era.

Their relationship in Evelyn Prentice, a very different kind of movie, is only a hint of what it is in the Thin Man series.

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The Sea of Grass (1947)

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sea of grass poster 2.5rating (2.5/5) drama, western

Reference: imdb6 | wikipedia12
Reviews: IMDb External Reviews | Rotten Tomatoes

In The Sea of Grass, a cultured Katharine Hepburn leaves big town St. Louis to marry a New Mexican cattle baron Spencer Tracy. When Tracy’s character, who spends more time with his cattle and prairie than his lonely wife, is unable to accept the inevitable settlement of the west, Hepburn is drawn to Tracy’s nemesis, a lawyer (later a judge) played by Melvyn Douglas, who assists homesteaders pressing their land claims against Tracy’s violent control over government-owned land.

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn are my all-time favourite recurring on-screen couple (followed by Myrna Loy & William Powell, then Bogey & Bacall). Over 25 years they made nine films together. This, their fourth, was the seventh I’ve seen – and my least favourite.

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn Contemplate their Future in the Sea of Grass - 1947

Their performances were generally fine, though spotty in some places. Hepburn’s is better than  Tracy’s, who seemed to be phoning-it-in in too many places. I don’t think Tracy was convincing as a cattle baron. Any number of actors of that era would have been a better choice. Gary Cooper and Clark Gable come immediately to mind. Too much of the plot is not believable. Much does not make sense.

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Vertigo (1958)

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5-rating (5/5) drama, mystery, romance, thriller
In Vertigo (1958) a retired police officer played by Jimmy Stewart is forced to confront his dizzying fear of heights (vertigo) in order to solve a  mystery.

A friend’s wife, played by Kim Novak, is suffering from a form of dissociative fugue (sudden personality changes combined with travel to non-customary places and the inability to recall what happened). As she wanders off, she behaves as though she’s embodied an ancestor that committed suicide a century earlier. The husband hires Stewart to follow her around to both protect her and to be sure of her illness before committing her to a sanatorium.

As Stewart becomes increasingly infatuated with Novak, a love triangle forms. His not-so-secretly-in-love-with-him buddy, played by Barbara Bel Geddes, becomes increasingly concerned over Stewart’s new obsession.

Stewart was 50 when this movie was made. Novak and Geddes were 25 and 36 respectively. As a 43 year old male, I like to fantasize that women in their mid-twenties to mid 30′s will be attracted to me when I’m 50. But, alas, this only happens in the movies. :)

Vertigo (1958) - Jimmy Stewart beseeches Kim Novak to take things one step furtherA Post Card from 1958 San Francisco

Vertigo (1958) - Barbara Bel Geddes sits by her window with 1958 San Francisco as a back drop Vertigo is shot in and around 1958 San Francisco. The city and surrounding countryside play integral roles in the plot. A first kiss at Cypress Point is punctuated with a wave crashing to the shore. A flock of birds takes off from the lagoon as the characters stroll past the Palace of Fine Arts. Coit Tower stands prominently outside the windows of both Stewart’s and Geddes’ apartments. The  streets of San Francisco are constantly highlighted as Stewart follows Novak around.

Vertigo (1958) - Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak kiss at Cypress Park    Vertigo (1958) - Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak stroll past San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts

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The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)

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1.5rating2 (1.5/5) drama, war
My TiVo has learned that I’m a classic movie fan. It recently recorded The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954) as a suggestion for me off the Turner Classic Movie channel. I decided to watch it on the strength of William Holden’s excellent prior performances in Stalag 17 (1953), for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Sabrina (1954) and Wild Bunch (1969) – but despite his part in Sunset Boulevard, a well regarded classic movie that I did not like.

In The Bridges at Toko-Ri, William Holden plays a lawyer-turned-naval-fighter-pilot in the Korean war, reluctant to fly an important mission.

He is married to the incomparable Grace Kelly (best in Too Catch a Thief (1955),  Rear Window (1954) and Dial M for Murder (1954)). Kelly is certainly one of the most beautiful actresses that ‘graced’ the silver screen. She was in her prime in 1954. Her best movies (this not being one of them) were all made in 1954 and 1955.

Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954) Jets TAking off from USS Oriskany

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Teacher’s Pet (1958)

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3.5-rating  (3.5/5) romance – comedy

Neither Clark Gable nor Doris Day are in the pantheon of my all-time favourite classic movie actors. But in Teacher’s Pet  they are at the top of their game.

teacher's-pet Gable plays a gritty, ‘unpressed gentleman of the press’, who learned his craft the hard way – from the ground up. Day is a journalism professor. Gable has little use for the likes of Day’s profession, describing it as “amateurs teaching amateurs how to be amateurs.” Day believes that journalism should be elevated above that of a mere trade – that in the era of TV and radio competition, the press needs to tell more than just ‘what’ happened. They can and should dig deeper, get the story behind the story, and tell the public ‘why’ it happened.

Can these two butting heads learn a thing or two from the other?

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The African Queen (1951)

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African Queen

3.5-rating  (3.5/5) romance – comedy – adventure

Director John Huston’s, The African Queen (1951) is one of Humphrey Bogart’s and Katharine Hepburn’s most famous movies. Bogie won his only Oscar for his portrayal of an alcoholic captain of a river boat, the African Queen. Hepburn was nominated as Best Actress for her performance as a straight-laced missionary (loosing out to Vivien Leigh in Streetcar Named Desire, A (1951)).

African Queen Poster After the German’s attack  Hepburn’s African mission, Bogart offers to hide her away and wait out the war. The feisty Hepburn wants to take on the German’s instead.

I’ve always admired the strength and pluck of Hepburn’s characters – playing strong-willed, independent women, long before it was common in Hollywood. She doesn’t disappoint in the African Queen. Bogie, as a somewhat subservient drunkard, is a little out of character in this role – but not by much.

My favourite line from the movie: “I pronounce you man and wife. Proceed with the execution”

Will she make him a better man? Can he open her up? Will they make it out of Africa alive? Check out this family-friendly movie to see for yourself.

Reference: IMDB External Reviews | AFI’s 17th Best Movie of all Time

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1941

2-rating (2/5) ‘horror’

This particular version of  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) is the first Jekyll and Hyde movie I’ve seen (there are several). I chose this one because it stars two of my favourite classic movie actors: Spencer Tracy and  Ingrid Bergman

Note: I’m a classic movie fan. This is the first of what I hope will be many classic movie reviews on The Daleisphere.

Tracy plays Dr. Jekyll, a medical researcher forced to test a potion on himself when the hospital he works for refuses to allow him to test it on his patients. Jekyll’s potion is designed to separate the soul’s evil from the good.

I dislike horror movies intensely. While billed as a horror movie, it pale’s by today’s horror movie standards and comes across as more cruel than scary. Spencer Tracy’s performance as Mr. Hyde was difficult to watch. In the dozen or two Tracy film’s I’ve seen, he’s always played the good guy.

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