August 31, 2010

I have a guest post on Classic Forever today! It's part of The Millie's spectacular Hitchcock Birthday Bash celebration. My contribution is a post about the earth-shatteringly-good episode of Hitchcock Presents, "Breakdown" starring Joseph Cotten. You can check it out here.

The Big Country (1958)

by Amanda Cooper
of A Noodle in a Haystack

guest blogger

William Wyler is probably best remembered for Roman Holiday, the movie that catapulted Audrey Hepburn to fame and was nominated for nine Academy Awards (it won four). It's a classic, to be sure, but it wasn't the beginning and end of Wyler's career. He was very versatile director, and he directed such classics as The Best Years of Our Lives, Friendly Persuasion, and How to Steal a Million (again with Hepburn). He also directed Gregory Peck in what is quite possibly my favorite western of all time, The Big Country (1958).

The movie begins when Jim McKay (Peck), a sea captain from the east, arrives in a little western town. Right from the beginning it's made clear that he's different from the people there. He's considered an "eastern dude" by the townspeople, and after awhile, even Jim's fiancée, Pat (Carroll Baker), begins to think of him as less than a man. You see, Jim, unlike the western men, doesn't feel any need to prove his manhood simply for the reason of proving it.

While all this is going on, a feud between Pat's father, Major Terrill (Charles Bickford) and Rufus Hannassey (Burl Ives), which has been escalating for years, is finally coming to a head. It's about land, water, and, when all is said and done, pure hate. In this feud there isn't a right side or a wrong side because the good guys are the ones caught in the middle. After it's all over, Jim is the only major (male) player who the audience can still respect.

Every member cast is perfect - and I don't say that about many films. Peck is the levelheaded man who doesn't seek out a fight but finds himself in the middle of one, just the same; Jean Simmons is the owner of the land that everyone's fighting over; Charlton Heston is Major Terrill's foreman; and Chuck Connors is the oldest Hannassey son and first-rate filth - not that he's the only one, of course. From the biggest name on the billing to the smallest, all of the performers rise to the occasion and make their characters memorable. Remember that old show-biz phrase? "There are no small parts, only small actors." There aren't any small actors in this movie.

This is one of those movies that have to be seen to be appreciated. The acting is spot-on, the cinematography is gorgeous, and I can't find any fault with William Wyler's direction. As an example, let me point out the score: it's never used in the wrong places, so it doesn't intrude on the story. There are two scenes in particular where it is hardly used at all, except for a few seconds. The first scene is when Jim rides the horse, and there is an absence of music that really enhances the scene because it makes you feel like you're sitting right there on the corral rail and watching. The second scene is when Jim and Steve (Heston) finally duke it out, and everything is silent: all you can hear is their fists, falls, and breathing.

That's just how William Wyler was. He used every element so that it enhanced a film and helped the story, instead of intruding and becoming the main focus when it shouldn't be. The Big Country is a masterpiece, and I can't understand why it's so rarely mentioned.

Ann Sheridan

August 30, 2010

by Monty Hawes
of All Good Things

guest blogger

I was trying to think of a good blog about Ann to write when I finally settled on the first film I saw with Ann. This will be kind of a two for one because I really can't remember the details of the first Ann film I saw, but I definitely remember the second. Anyway it was around the late 80's I believe and I was 16 or 17 and WTBS (the station started by Ted Turner, which would eventually lead the way for TCM) was showing Kings Row, co-starring Ronald Reagan. Well the plot line of this film intrigued me, so I wanted to watch it. But I was being constantly bothered while it was on. If it wasn't my mom, it was one of my three younger sisters. And plus it was being aired with commercials. But the real kicker was the way the film was presented. I don't know how many people remember the idea of Ted Turner wanted to make classic movies more presentable to newer fans. And he okayed the horrible decision of colorizing older films. It may have been a good idea in theory, but it was disaster when it was actually done. The color was garish on every classic film that his company touched. And since he owned the MGM library, that's a lot. Kings Row was one of the films he put his hand on and it made for a horrible viewing experience. Like I said I can't remember much about the film other than it was the first film I saw Ann Sheridan perform in. So it's noteworthy in that regard, but I need to watch it again. This time in it's original presentation.

Now the first Ann film that I truly remember watching would be the comedy I Was A Male War Bride with my favorite actor, Cary Grant. It aired on AMC, when that station showed movies with no commercials. I remember enjoying myself immensely while watching this film and fell immediately in love with Ann. At the time my favorite leading ladies were the big veterans like Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine, Olivia de Havilland, Marilyn Monroe, etc. So when Ann came along, she was a breath of fresh air to me. Her performance as Lt. Catherine Gates was a delight, and she more than held her own with the indomitable Cary. After viewing Male War Bride, I assumed Ann was a regular comedic performer, but didn't find out until later, that other than a few select comedies such as The Man Who Came to Dinner and The Dough Girls, Ann was regularly featured in melodramas and early gangster yarns. She always handled every performance with expertise, but to this day, I wished she had made more comedies. She was just so fluid and funny and sexy in Male War Bride, that in several scenes, she manages to outshine Mr. Grant. Which was no easy task.

So while Kings Row is widely regarded as Ann's best performance, which I need to see again before I can make that claim, I always think of I Was A Male War Bride as the role which I first saw her in and loved from the very minute she appears on film.

Uncomfortably Near

August 12, 2010

I think these words from the moody torch song "Angel Eyes" fit the film Accident to a T. This one scene in particular. I wrote about it on my Dirk Bogarde blog last year, and I think it bears repeating... this scene is so seminal to the film and exemplifies the feeling of discomfort that permeates the entire movie.

Dirk Bogarde's character, middle-aged and married, has a small uncomfortable crush on one of his students, played by Jacqueline Sassard. When he's asked to join her & another student on a little boat trip he reluctantly agrees. The ensuing trip is a combination of lovely cinematography, soft jazz and palpable awkwardness.

Pay special attention to the part when Dirk realizes the proximity of his hand to her thigh and clumsily repositions, tucking his hands under his armpits. The juxtaposition of his discomfort with the beauty and ease of everything going on around him is like gawky poetry.
I put together this little video with scenes from Accident set to Nancy Wilson's Angel Eyes. Hope you enjoy it :)

Top 10 favorite photos!

August 11, 2010

There's been this thing going around on tumblr where you pick your top ten favorite photos of one particular star. I already posted these on my Dirk Bogarde tumblr, but they're so wonderful I thought I'd share them here too! So, without further ado, my picks for the top ten Dirk Bogarde photos:

He gazed a gazely stare

I think that like 80% of what I write on my blogs is pretty lightweight fluff, but one post that I'm pretty proud of is the review that I wrote on The Mind Benders last October. In it I said that Dirk Bogarde's performance was the best of any actor in any movie I'd ever seen. Astonishingly, I think that over the course of the last year the only performances I've observed that could have possibly surpassed this one have all been played by ... Dirk Bogarde.* I obviously think he's a feast for the eyes, but that would just make him my number one movie crush. He's my favorite
actor because he is just so good at his job that it's almost incomprehensible. And even if some of his other roles have come close, I still think that this is the best example of his range, depth and skill as an actor. Please check it out if you haven't already :)

And now, here I go again... scenes from The Mind Benders set to David Bowie's The Man Who Sold the World. It might look like this week is turning into "David Bowie and Dirk Bogarde Week", but I promise, musical variety is on the horizon ;-D

*Okay, one exception. Oskar Werner. He's pretty darn good.

making love with his ego

August 10, 2010

In 1960 Dirk Bogarde played the famed composer and pianist Franz Liszt in the sweeping biopic Song Without End. The film portrays Liszt as a 19th century rock star -- at one point a woman quickly snatches up his gloves from the stage in a move that reminds one of Frank Sinatra's bobby-soxers and the Rolling Stones' groupies. And nobody could have played this massive talent with the massive ego better than Dirk Bogarde. He brings an enormous confidence and a brilliant air of arrogance to the role that few other actors could have pulled off.

I know I'm a bit goofy, but I couldn't help but think of Ziggy Stardust while watching the film... so here is my little tribute to Dirk as Liszt as Ziggy...

hey! *jumps up and down waving* look over here! I've got a picture of a puppy!

August 09, 2010

Ok, now that I've (hopefully) got your attention, I'd like to announce that this week is officially Dirk Bogarde Week! (wheee!!!)

August 10th marks one year since Dirk Bogarde was featured on TCM's Summer Under the Stars. In Kate World this means one year since I discovered my new favorite actor. And in Silents and Talkies World it means one year since I started annoying the heck out of all of you with my incessant posts about my new-found favorite. So OF COURSE this calls for a celebration!

I'm really really hoping you'll stick around and pop back in throughout the week to check out all of the Dirk Bogarde Goodness that I have in store. Tribute videos, artwork, movie reviews, drop dead gorgeous pictures, new scans and me doing my darnedest to convince everyone how awesome he is!

Usually I like the whole "save the best for last" way of doing things, but I am SO excited about my big tribute video that I couldn't really wait until the end of the week to post it! It's a montage of clips from 15 Dirk Bogarde movies set to I'll Be Seeing You by Francoise Hardy and Iggy Pop. Enjoy!!! :)

Are you KIDDING me??

August 07, 2010

I had no intention of writing a blog post at 6:00 in the morning when I was getting ready to call it a night and go to sleep. But then, somehow, I clicked on this story from Entertainment Weekly and got sucked into a vortex of bad taste and worse opinions.

The article is called "20 'Classic' Movies You Call Overrated" and while I agree with three or four of the ones they chose, the comments about each film seriously made me lose any bit of faith I had left in the future of the human race. Or at least the future of good taste.

Let's look at a few examples, shall we?

On To Kill a Mockingbird:

"What is all of the hype about? This was the biggest snoozefest that I have ever watched. And Atticus Finch is the number 1 top-rated hero of all time?! Sorry, but that goes to Indiana Jones or, if you want your heroes wise, Obi-Wan Kenobi."

First of all, anyone who was expecting an Indiana-Jones-style adventure flick when they put To Kill a Mockingbird in their DVD player was dumb to begin with. But it only proves that they have the attention span of a gnat if they can't find anything worthwhile in the plot. And I'm just totally at a loss for words on the hero thing. I mean... really???? REALLY???

On His Girl Friday:

"Ooh, His Girl Friday is a terrific example because I didn’t care for that brand of humor. While you’re at it, all of the Hepburn-Tracy rom-coms of the ’40s are dull."

Yeah, um, His Girl Friday stars neither Katherine Hepburn nor Spencer Tracy, you moron. And I'm sorry that the 40's "rom-com" doesn't have the same wit and sparkle that Transformers II does. *facepalm*

On An Affair to Remember:

"I think if you see Sleepless in Seattle beforehand, it ruins it. You expected so much, for it to be this AMAZING love story, but it drags on."

Speaking as one who did in fact see Sleepless in Seattle before An Affair to Remember, I can vouch for the fact that it IS an amazing love story, and it does NOT drag on. Nothing spoiled it for me, and I still find it one of the most powerful romance films ever made. How jaded are people today that they can't see this?

On Citizen Kane:

"I totally agree about Citizen Kane. Maybe it was too hyped before I saw it, but I found it a bit dull. Not to mention I have known what Rosebud was since I was 6 years old."

To begin with, Citizen Kane is not dull. Let's just toss that out of the way right off the bat, since it is not even debatable. Now, I think it goes without saying that everyone on the planet who has any knowledge of film knows what Rosebud is. We also ALL know that Janet Leigh gets killed in the shower in Psycho, that Rhett Butler says "Frankly my dear I don't give a damn," that Ingrid Bergman gets on the plane with Paul Henreid and that Bambi's mother gets killed. WE ALL KNOW. But guess what, people still watch these films and they still enjoy them. Citizen Kane is not considered the best film ever because of the great surprise at the end that Rosebud was the sleigh. That's not why people watch it, and it's not why people love it! The whole darn film is good on it's own, you stupid stupid person.

I could go on -- there are, after all, 20 films being torn apart in this article -- but I'll just let you go look for yourself. You too can cry yourself to sleep, weeping tears for future generations who will expect every film to come with 3-D glasses, HD color and explosions every minute, on the minute. Oh the humanity!

ps. As for the people who ripped The Way We Were... are you not aware of the fact that the film could be missing it's audio, shown backwards and upside down and it would still be a great movie, just for the sheer presence of that studly hunk of a man named Robert Redford??

Julie Christie

August 02, 2010

If you have TCM, don't miss all the fantastic Julie Christie films airing today as part of the annual Summer Under the Stars festival. Of course they're airing the fabulous epic Dr. Zhivago (not the least bit overrated.. if you haven't seen it yet, do it! Even if you don't like tragic films -- I'm looking at you, Millie) but they're also showing Darling, one of my personal favorites (and not just because my no. 1 favorite Dirk Bogarde is her co-star) and the offbeat drama Petulia.

Personally, I'm super excited because they're showing so many of her films that I don't yet have on DVD! The Fast Lady, In Search of Gregory, Far From the Madding Crowd, Petulia and Demon Seed are all programmed into my DVD recorder. If you like Julie Christie -- and who doesn't?! -- make sure you don't miss this lineup! I personally think she's the greatest actress of her generation, and can't wait to see the movies they're showing that I haven't seen yet, and re-watching the ones that I have! :)

Art is acrylic, pencil & mixed media