Sunday, April 04, 2004

Movie madness has ensued in my apartment.

I got my tax refund check from Maryland last week, and I decided to blow it on some new spring clothes -- which I needed anyway, especially since moving further south -- and DVDs. And I have been having new movie night just about every night I don't watch network TV. (One disadvantage of not having cable....) So I've got movies to talk about! And they are all classic -- or at least old, if not classic.

I'm going to divide them up by price -- I went bargain shopping at Best Buy and got some really good deals. The following were only about $5.99-$6.99 apiece, including one set of four movies! The rest of them ran from $10.99 to $14.99. The best deal was a set of eight movies on four DVDs from AMC. Enough about my shopping -- let's get to the list!


This is the 1963 version with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. A cool caper, with lots of twists and turns. It's maybe a little long, but the characters are so interesting. I love all of Cary Grant's character's names, and Audrey Hepburn is fantastic as usual. I think this and How to Steal a Million, another one of my favorite Hepburn movies would make an excellent double feature.

This DVD came with another feature, which I haven't gotten around to watching yet. Charade with James Mason. From what I read of it on the IMDb, it doesn't actually have anything in common with the original Charade to begin with. But I like James Mason -- he was excellent in North by Northwest, which is the only movie I can remember seeing with him in it at the moment. And, after looking at his list of credits on IMDb, I haven't actually seen any of them other than Charade or North by Northwest.

My Man Godfrey

A scavenger hunt for a "lost man" sets up this whole movie and Carole Lombard's character winds up hiring the lost man as the family butler. It turns out to be less of a comedy and more of a social commentary on how riches do not make life complete. It's cute and has some good lines, but I didn't think it was fantastic. I thought the romance between Lombard and Powell was a little forced, and that the older sister had better chemistry! However, this movie made me appreciate William Powell a lot more, and I might have to get The Thin Man.

Pot 'O Gold

I wasn't sure about this movie -- it came in a Jimmy Stewart/Cary Grant double DVD/four movie set that I just couldn't pass up. Especially after I read in Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie & Video Guide that "Stewart called [it] his worst movie!" But it is adorable! A musical comedy in which Stewart plays a harmonic and even manages to have a musical number. The plot is a little far-fetched -- Stewart's character has a failing music store business and has to go work for his rich uncle. And on the way to his uncle's house, he runs into the family next door to the family who is feuding with his uncle. They have a band that rehearses on the roof and drives his uncle nuts. Everything gets resolved with a $1000 give-away on the uncle's radio program, the Haskel Happiness Hour.

The music is fun and it's fluffy enough to be entertaining. Stewart is adorable and definitely worth watching this film for.

Made For Each Other

I haven't gotten around to watching this one yet. (I'm trying to space out the cheap old movies, just as if I had AMC or TMC at home.) This one stars Jimmy Stewart and Carole Lombard as a newlywed couple who goes through life's ups and downs. At the end there is a scare about their newborn baby dying of pneumonia and a dramatic rush to get the medication ensues. The results -- I don't know! -- but hopefully it'll be entertaining!

The Amazing Adventure

This one I will probably never watch again -- I'm hoping the other Cary Grant movie on this DVD will make buying this one worthwhile. Grant plays Ernest Bliss -- a very cool name -- a very wealthy man who is depressed. And what will cure his depression? Becoming a man of the people, of course! This film is not from 1936 for nothing! He becomes a man of the people and manages to win a girl in the process.

Penny Serenade

Haven't watched this one yet, but it looks promising. Grant got nominated for an Oscar for his role (didn't win though), and it's got a fun tagline ("Remember the tune they were singing... the night we fell in love?"). Irene Dunne costars as Grant's wife. This one looks like another sad tale -- in the same vein as Made For Each Other -- only this time there's an earthquake and a sick child!

Fighting Caravans

This one is a part of the Gary Cooper DVD set. It's from 1931 and looks like it. Cooper plays a frontiersman who ends up with a fake wife as they travel across the country in a wagon train headed west. I've gotten about half way through, and haven't even really watched it. Gary Cooper looks really, really, really young, although guessing from his IMDb resume, he started out several years later in silent film. It might be better to read the Zane Grey novel this is based on instead of sitting through the film.

A Farewell to Arms

Yes, there have been multiple versions of this film, including one starring (you guessed it!), Gary Cooper. I've read the book and haven't gotten around to watching the film yet. Based on Ernest Hemingway's novel of ill-fated love during World War I, the movie has Cooper as Lt. Henry and Helen Hayes as the nurse. Let's hope it's a good version. Although, the fact that it was made in 1932 has me slightly worried -- especially after Fighting Caravans. Let's hope that a year makes a big difference in Hollywood.

Meet John Doe

Cooper is "John Doe," a man who is manipulated into being the voice of a newspaper columnist (played by Barbara Stanwyck). The movie lays the idealism of the common man using his voice and taking a stand a little thick, and the John Doe clubs that pop up all over the country seem a little far-fetched to me. Overall, it was entertaining. The best part is when Cooper, who plays an ex-ballplayer, pitches a baseball game with an imaginary ball. A Capra film -- and I haven't seen many of them except for It's a Wonderful Life so I can't say if this a good one or not.

Stolen Jools

I think this one is cheating in its inclusion in the Gary Cooper Hollywood Classics DVD set. Yes, Gary Cooper does show up in this movie, but so does a plethora of other stars. It's a short film about the investigation of the theft of Norma Shearer's jewelry at a big party. I couldn't match all of the stars who show up in the twenty minute short, so I might have to watch it again. Best of all, it was made for charity! Aw, Hollywood stars cared, even back in 1931!


I'd never heard of Edmond O'Brien before picking up this package. It was Gary Cooper who sold me on buying it, but after watching the movies, it's O'Brien who I will watch again. D.O.A. is a film noir-ish movie, all about a man who has been poisoned and is slowly dying. Someone slipped him a "luminous toxin" while he was at a bar and he only has a week to live. O'Brien needs to find out who killed him and it leads to a chase all over California.

The end is the best part, when he actually dies and the detective announces that this case needs to be filed as dead on arrival. Hee! Don't forget to get your stomach washed right away after having a luminous toxin.

The Admiral was a Lady

I love cheesy romantic comedies, and this one is no exception. It's fluffy, but very satisfying. Set in post-World War II L.A., the film as about four ex-GIs who will do anything to not work. It's not so much that they don't work -- they just draw unemployment checks from the government and manage to live through a bartering system. O'Brien is the leader of this group, and when they encounter an ex-WAVE, complications ensue. This is one movie that I can see myself watching again. The girl (Wanda Hendrix) isn't anything to write home about, but the four GIs make the movie worthwhile.

The Bigamist

Another O'Brien vehicle. If you can't guess by the title, it's about a man with two wives! The tagline says it all "Wanted by two women!" More when I've actually seen it.

The Hitch-Hiker

From what I've read, this was a shocking movie when it first came out. But, as films have gotten more and more graphic and suspense/horror films have become more common, it doesn't have the same impact as it originally did. Although, I might say, the "mysterious, psychotic hitch-hiker who never closes his left eye -- even when he sleeps" sounds pretty scary! I wouldn't pick him on the side of the road!


And so finishes my cheapie DVD sets. Now I'm getting into real "classic films" that I have actually seen!


Roman Holiday

Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn...sigh... And best of all, Eddie Albert! The European princess falls for the American reporter, all while spending a crazy day in Rome. The scenery is wonderful -- sign me up for the Italian vacation -- and the chemistry between Peck and Hepburn is great. The ending is bittersweet, but very fitting.

Grand Hotel

If I had to get this one again, I probably wouldn't. But I own it and there is no returns without packaging at Best Buy!

It's a piece of its time -- Academy Award winner for Best Picture in 1932. There is no central plot really, just the happenings at the Grand Hotel in Berlin, Germany. The stars are worth watching it for -- Greta Garbo utters the immortal line "I vant to be alone" and Joan Crawford is excellent as a stenographer. I had never seen any movie with John Barrymore before, and his character was especially intriguing. (Although, as an aside, I don't understand why he is called the Great Profile.) He's a Baron strapped for cash who has gotten into thievery. And when he goes to steal Garbo's pearl necklace, he ends up falling in love. Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Berry, and Lewis Stone show up in minor roles. The movie has it all -- a house doctor with grenade scars on half his face, a bludgeoning death by telephone, a dying clerk, ill-fated romance, and the promise of being a kept woman!

Rear Window

I love, love, love this movie. Grace Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, and Thelma Ritter on the side of the law and Raymond Burr as the bad Scandinavian murder. I've seen this one several times, and each time it becomes a little more interesting. Imagine being cooped up in an apartment (which, by the looks of it, is not ADA compliant) where you can't do anything but look out the backyard. Does Stewart's character even own a radio or TV? He ends up watching the theater of life -- which the film is almost set up to be like from the opening and closing scenes framing the film with the curtains of the windows opening and closing -- right outside his backyard. Kelly is great as the girl who leaves her skepticism behind in order to get the man she loves. And Thelma Ritter has some of the best lines in the film -- she is fantastic as the sharp-tongued nurse. I've never had a cast, but Stewart makes me sympathize with him when he scratches those itches with his little bamboo back scratcher.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Ah, we've reached the musical portion of my DVD buying spree. I love musicals. And I especially enjoy this movie. The story -- not fantastic. The songs -- mostly good. The acting -- okay. The dance scenes -- worth the price! The barn-raising scene is the best dance scene I've seen (excluding anything with Gene Kelly) and watching the boys use the manners Millie teaches them is great. I love Russ Tamblyn as the youngest brother (Gideon, I think) and all of his athletic aerobic moves. The plot: Adam, the oldest of seven brothers, gets married and brings his wife home to his isolated cabin -- complete with six uncivilized brothers. Millie gets to work fast and makes the other brothers become more civil and marry-able. Adam riles them up again, after being thwarted by the pansy townsmen, and the brothers kidnap the girls they like back to their cabin. An avalanche falls and the girls are stuck until the spring thaw. Ah, love!

An American in Paris

I hadn't ever seen this movie before I bought it. Perhaps I should have rented it from Blockbuster before buying it.

Regardless, I love Gene Kelly. The man is a god when it comes to dancing. However, I prefer him with a partner. (More on that later.) And in An American in Paris, he does a lot of solos. I also really like Leslie Caron in Gigi, but she seems sooo different in this film. (And yes, I do realize that there is a seven year gap in between those two films.) Oscar Levant is a wonderful pianist, but I don't know that he makes a really good best friend for Kelly.

Maybe after repeat viewings, this film will grow on me. I really enjoyed the "I've Got Rhythm" number with the really cute French kids. The big ballet dance finale is okay, but....maybe I'll have to watch it again....

Singin' in the Rain

I'm saving the best for last. I LOVE this movie. Gene Kelly - fantastic. Debbie Reynolds - adorable. Donald O'Connor - my singing and dancing boyfriend! The songs are so fantastic -- "Fit As a Fiddle" with it's wonderful coordinated dances (take that Oscar Levant!), "All I Do is Dream of You" ("Why, if it isn't Ethel Barrymore!"), "Make 'Em Laugh," "Beautiful Girl," "Moses Supposes," "Good Morning"....fantastic songs! Excellent dancing. My only minor quibble is the Broadway Melody dance sequence that doesn't really fit in so well. But I love the interaction between Kelly and O'Connor.

However, I am a little disappointed by the DVD. Initially it seems to have a whole bunch of really interesting commentary -- Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Stanely Donen, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Baz Luhrmann (?), and Rudy Behlmer. But it isn't like they watch the movie and talk about what is happening on the screen as it happens. No, their commentary is recorded ahead of time and spliced in when it seems relevant. The worst is Baz Luhrmann, who seems to be included just because he's done some good modern musicals (Moulin Rouge and Strictly Ballroom). But a close runner-up is film historian Rudy Behlmer. He tells this long elaborate story about how Cosmo was originally supposed to be played by Oscar Levant. And then he never manages to explain why Donald O'Connor got the role. From what I understand, Levant had some kind of alcohol/mental problems after An American in Paris and never really worked after that. But I had to do the research myself to find that out -- despite being a librarian, I would have liked to know that during the commentary!

Okay, those are all of the DVDs that I have bought over the last week. I'm not planning on getting any more any time soon....well....unless I manage to find some really cheap ones that are good.

And I've been writing way too long -- this is one gi-normous post! G'night.

No comments: