The Golden Age of Hollywood

A companion thread to my "What's the Last DVD You Purchased?" thread. I thought it might be fun to discuss what we all are watching or have recently watched. Below will be my first post in this thread.


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Stephen, it's funny how our reactions to Service de Luxe were almost opposite. You felt that Vincent Price was "just about the best thing in the film," and I found him obnoxious, almost as obnoxious as the Joy Hodges character. But we both agree that "it is nowhere near a classic of its genre."

BTW, my understanding of Mischa Auer's character is that he really was a prince. Dispossessed Russian nobility and their entourage appear in several movies of the time, as there really were quite a few of them settling in Europe and America. My impression is that there were Russian expat communities in most major cities. You also see this in the movies Ninotchka and Roberta. In Roberta, Stephanie (Irene Dunne) works in a fashion design house but is a (dispossessed) Russian princess, and her cousin, a former prince, works as the doorman.

I'm glad you got to watch two movies! I hope it's at least three this week!

I wonder if our views were that opposing?  It was Price's character that was obnoxious, not Price himself.  I agree that his character was a bit of a bore, even a little obnoxious.  Yes, I think I misunderstood Mischa Auer's character.  He most likely was a Russian prince.  

You'll be pleased to learn I did watch three films this week - in chronological order, and 102 years apart!

Hope you are well. x

I'm happy that you're feeling well enough to watch movies!

My son arrived on Saturday for a month-long visit, and I'm really looking forward to continuing his film history education! A couple years ago I started making a concerted effort to expose him to classic films on his visits here. I think that he has liked pretty much every movie I've shown him so far. Today he wants to see The Third Man, as I was telling him about it yesterday. We saw Young Frankenstein in the Tampa Theatre yesterday, and somewhere in the movie (opening credits maybe?) was the zither music from The Third Man.

At some point, now that he's seen Young Frankenstein, I also need to show him the original Frankenstein, as he's never seen it.

Yesterday I was telling my son about a bunch of movies I have, and he decided on The Misfits. We got partway through it before we got too sleepy. We will finish it today.

I have three films to report from this week.  Using my external hard drive as the source, I have approximately 1,500 films on there so I decided to select a few.  Here's what came out:

1. THE CAPTIVE (1915) Cecil B. DeMille.  This was an adaptation of a play written by DeMille himself, alongside Jeanie MacPherson.  Indeed, DeMille did all but star in the film version, having written, directed and produced it.  It is set during the Balkan wars of 1912-1913 and stars Blanche Sweet as a farm girl whose brother is sent off to war but is killed.  Instead, the government send them Turkish prisoners of war to take on the heavy farm labouring work for the women left on their own.  Sweet's character, Sonya Martinovitch, is assigned a Turkish Prince, played by House Peters and, through a series of adventures that ensue, the inevitable happens and they fall in love.  But that, of course, is not the end of the story.  Oh, no.   This is a film only a DeMille could make.  It is a story of both love and war.  There is allegory, there is melodrama, and there is the added element of the leading lady falling in love with a man who is, in theory at least, her enemy.  Now, Blanche sweet was a huge star 102 years ago (where does the time go?).  And, perhaps for the first time in motion picture history, the studio secured an Easter release date expecting there to be larger audiences at this holiday time, and utilizing Miss Sweet's star power at the same time.  Not only that, but DeMille was very well-known at the time, so this was a big release.  It all worked.  Reviews were great, and the picture was a success.  Personally, I have nothing against Miss Sweet, I just don't get her appeal.  I mean, I do get it, it just doesn't work for me.  There was virtually no chemistry between herself and House Peters.  I would be very interested in the views of others on this film and Miss Sweet.

2. MIDNIGHT PHANTOM (1935) Bernard B. Ray.  This is a B-movie in every sense of the word.  It is poorly written, poorly paced, poorly acted, directed, and so on.  Apparently, a police chief is murdered and there are any number of people who could be the killer.  But, for the film's 63-minute duration, around 45 minutes is spent with potential suspect after suspect visiting the chief for various reasons in his office.  The murder takes place after that, and the final quarter is the 'mystery' element as the killer is unmasked.  So it's not really a murder mystery, it is more a line of those with a grudge against the chief who all get their moment in the sun.  That's 63 minutes I'll never get back.

3. THE LAST WORD (2017) Mark Pellington.  The great Shirley MacLaine is still going strong, after a career spanning 62 years and counting.  Her movie debut was in Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry in 1955, and here she is with her latest, alongside Amanda Seyfried, AnnJewel Lee Dixon, Anne Heche and Millicent Martin.  The Last Word is the story of a former advertising executive who cannot seem to handle the fact that she is getting to the point where she may die soon.  She is good at everything - if she wants to be a radio DJ on an edgy station, she goes ahead and does it. She is extremely vain, egotistical and difficult to get along with.  If she likes you, you don't know it.  Amanda Seyfried plays the twenty-something journalist on a local paper asked (by MacLaine - or rather told) to write her obituary while she is still living.  This turns into one of those voyage-of-discovery movies where all the main characters learn something about themselves and each other, in addition to having a grudging respect for each other, if not outright love.  Again, this is a film with no chemistry among its main stars, and you get the feeling it was produced under great tension among the actors, and one is left wondering why on Earth Miss MacLaine chose this project.  While the script comes from a good idea, it is not developed very well, in my opinion.  The film is utterly predictable, stale and lifeless.  In tone, it reminds me of Lost in Translation but without any of the good bits.  

So, there we are: three films, 102 years apart.  Never let it be said that my film viewing is not varied! x 

Season One of 'Mission: Impossible.'

The other day, I watched Room for One More, a sweet and tender movie from 1952.  The film stars the very dashing and distinguished Cary Grant and his then-wife, Betsy Drake. (Betsy was the third Mrs. Cary Grant, and they were married for a little over ten years...the longest of any of his five marriages.)

The movie is based on a book of the same name and is based on the real-life experiences of the author. It is a touching movie, which got me misty-eyed on three occasions. It is rather a different role for Cary Grant...he plays paternal here, and I think he does it beautifully.  He and Miss Drake were in the early years of their marriage in this movie, and the chemistry between them is terrific.

The story is about George and Anna Rose (George is called "Poppy" through almost the whole movie...even by his wife.) George and Anna have three elementary-aged children, but Anna's heart is extremely tender, and when the head of The Children's Society expresses a need for homes for older children, Anna promises to talk with her husband about the possibility of them taking one.

Before long, Jane comes to their home. Jane has known the pain of parental neglect and, therefore, is hurting and afraid to trust anyone. With a sullen attitude, she joins the Rose family...on a two-week trial. However, by the end of the two-week period, ALL in the family (including Poppy) have grown to love her and do not want to let her return to the Children's Home.

Shortly thereafter, Anna hears of a young orphaned boy in need of a place to go for summer vacation. George says they already have more children than they can afford, so he is adamant that they cannot take the boy. However, when he goes to the boy's school to inform them of that, he is appalled to discover the treatment the boy has been getting. He has braces on both legs, which means he sticks his legs into the aisle; the teacher, however, punishes him for that, making him sit under her desk. After discovering that, Poppy decides that his family WILL, in fact, open their home to little Jimmy John.

The remainder of the movie chronicles how foster care worked to make Jane and Jimmy John a functioning and loved part of a family. It really is very sweet movie. No major dramatic moments...just several comical moments and some very tender ones.

I agree with your assessment of this movie, Patti. It's very touching.

I have a lot of housecleaning to do today, which I find boring, so I usually put on a movie in the background to keep myself amused. I currently have one on that I haven't seen in a long time. It's a musical starring James Cagney, called Something to Sing About.

Song and dance films were James Cagney's first love.  I love to watch him dance.

Next up: Riding High, starring Bing Crosby. This is Capra's own remake of his earlier film Broadway Bill. I've never seen it, but they had it in my public library!


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