This is a scene from the 1942 movie The Man who Came To Dinner which is an adaptation of the 1939 Kaufman and Hart play by the same name. In it, a prominent family have their lives turned upside down when famous writer and radio personality Sheridan Whiteside comes to dinner, slips on their steps and ends up being laid up at their house while he recovers. As he fills their home with actors, eccentrics, and animals and makes outrageous demands, their lives become laughably chaotic. Then, on Christmas Eve, various crises which Whitside has precipitated come to a head while he's attempting to record his annual Christmas show.
The 1944 movie Laura is a classic film noir, and a favourite of mine. It stars Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Vincent Price, and Clifton Webb, and is the tale of police detective Mark McPherson's (Andrews) investigation of the murder of socialite Laura Hunt. Confronted with a cast of suspicious characters -all who seem to have a reason to want Laura dead- McPherson must navigate through the seamy world of high society, attempting to discover Laura's killer as he finds himself growing ever more obsessed with the dead woman.
The movie clip below is from the 1941 film 49th Parallel, which tell the story of Nazis from a destroyed U-boat attempting to escape from Canada to the then neutral U.S.A. While on the run, they seek refuge in a Hutterite community, assuming that their shared German heritage will make them sympathetic to the Nazi cause. They are mistaken.
This is a scene from the 1956 musical comedy The Court Jester, which stars Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns, Angela Lansbury, and Basil Rathbone. The film has a medieval setting, and involves a Robin Hood-like band attempting to overthrow the evil king who has usurped the throne and replace him with the rightful king, an infant identified by a purple pimpernel-shaped birthmark on his posterior. Danny Kaye is a carnival worker/ minstrel who the band presses into service, masquerading as the new court jester. What they don't realize is that the actual jester whom they took out to replace with Kaye was also an assassin hired by Lord Ravenhurst (Rathbone). The plot is a bit convoluted to try to explain, and unfortunately the movie was a big flop when released. Time has been kind to The Court Jester though, and it is now much more widely appreciated. This particular scene is the most well-known from the film:
In light of the disgusting Harvey Weinstein story which broke this week, I'm posting a clip from the film Hail, Caesar! In it, the Coen brothers give a peek behind the Hollywood curtain, showing the corruption, greed, rapacious ambition, and general skeeziness inherent to the movie business. As revolting as Weinstein and his actions are, the spectacle of A-list stars scrambling to deny any knowledge of his behaviours and prove that they're pure as the driven snow is grimly amusing. It's absolutely ludicrous for people like Meryl Streep, who openly celebrate pedophile rapist Roman Polanski to now pretend to be shocked by Harvey Weinstein. Too little too late, you shameless hypocrites.
I felt in need of something light and humorous, so watched Buster Keaton's 1928 film, Steamboat Bill, Jr. last night. It's an amusing movie and contains what is probably his most famous stunt: the falling house during a tornado. In this scene, as Buster stands dazed in the street, the house front behind him collapses on top of him but he remains standing as the open attic window passes over him. Incredibly, this stunt involves no trickery- Keaton, having figured out where he had to stand and marking that spot with a nail, let a 4000 lb house front fall on him. It must have required nerves of steel to stand still while it came down, especially since the window had only 2 inches of clearance on every side of him. It was such a dangerous shot that some of the crew members walked off the set, refusing to participate and it led to rumours that Keaton was suicidal. This was given credence by some because Buster had just found out the day before that his production company was being dissolved. Keaton later said that the scene was a great thrill to do but admitted, "I was mad at the time, or I never would have done the thing." In any case, it's an incredible scene in a film which is filled with impressive ones; Keaton, having spent his childhood in Vaudeville doing prat falls, has a physical expertise which makes the stunts look easy, though they're obviously not. It's incredible what they were able to accomplish in these very early days of cinema, mostly because they were willing to do risky things which would never be allowed today.
I don't watch many westerns, but there are a few that I really enjoy and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of them. It is a John Ford picture from 1962 and stars James Stewart and John Wayne. Stewart plays Ranse Stoddard, an idealistic lawyer who attempts to set up his practice in a lawless western town, run by brutish criminal Liberty Valance. Wayne is Tom Doniphon, a resident of the town who has no love for Valance but believes in keeping to himself unless forced to do otherwise. The film poses some interesting questions about whether social order can be established through peaceful means or if it can only be enforced at gunpoint, and about the relative effectiveness of law and vigilantism. Also, Jimmy Stewart and the Duke in a western together- what more could you ask for?
When I was a teenager, I went through a period when I was addicted to murder mystery novels from the 1940's. Because these were readily available at used bookstores, I own quite a collection of them, including several by Charlotte Armstrong. One of these is The Unsuspected, written in 1945. It wasn't until sometime later that I realized there was a movie based on the novel, filmed in 1947 and starring Claude Rains, Audrey Totter, Joan Caulfield, Constance Bennett, and Michael (Ted) North. I didn't get around to seeing the film until last year; while it's not my favourite film noir, it is definitely worth watching. One reason for this is the cinematography: this is a gorgeously shot movie, reminding me at times of The Naked City. It must be admitted that all of the acting isn't the best, especially that of Michael North. This was, I think, his first- and last- starring role in a film, and soon after this he left acting and became an agent. Audrey Totter as Althea is, however, delightfully catty and Claude Rains is amazing as Victor Grandison, the unsuspected one.
After watching The Parent Trap on Sunday evening, I was thinking about Maureen O'Hara and her long and illustrious career. The scene below is from one of several John Ford films she starred in, How Green Was My Valley, a 1941 movie about a family living in a Welsh mining community in the late 1800's. It has numerous great actors in it, including Walter Pidgeon, Barry Fitzgerald, and a young Roddy McDowall. It's a really good film (a bit of a tearjerker), and the music is terrific in it.
The movie clip below is from the 1941 film Pimpernel Smith in which Leslie Howard plays Horatio Smith in what is essentially an updated version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. On the eve of WW II Smith, a British archaeologist, heads up an excavation in Nazi Germany. The Germans allow his expedition because he tells them that he's looking for evidence that the roots of German civilization were Aryan. In actuality, Smith is using his job as a cover to rescue people from concentration camps and smuggle them to England.