Monday, November 6, 2017

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1947, Part Three: Love! Romance! (and Gentleman's Agreement)

This group is all about love stories. There's a pair of married detectives, a woman in love with a ghost, a teenager obsessed with an adult, and multiple (multiple!) incest-y relationships! Wow! Even the socially-conscious Best Picture winner Gentleman's Agreement illustrates its war against anti-Semitism with an increasingly wary romance between two liberal Gentiles, one of whom is pretending to be Jewish.

So strap in, baby! There's some passion to be felt here.

Mourning Becomes Electra
dir/scr: Dudley Nichols, based on the play by Eugene O'Neill
Oscar Nominee: Best Actor (Michael Redgrave), Best Actress (Rosalind Russell)

An American riff on Greek Tragedy about a New England family at the end of the Civil War. You'd think incest and murder would be more interesting. That Russell was even nominated, much less the frontrunner for much of the season, says more about her campaign than her performance. A real bore.

Spirits, farmers, murder, and more - after the jump!

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (#10 at the box office)
dir: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
scr: Philip Dunne, based on the novel by R.A. Dick
Oscar Nominee: Best Cinematography (Black and White)

Widow moves into haunted house, befriends handsome sea captain ghost. Gene Tierney is quietly funny, with an undercurrent of loneliness, while Rex Harrison is surprisingly tender - their chemistry together is unforced. Directed with wit and sensitivity by Mankiewicz. Reduced me to tears.

Song of the Thin Man
dir: Edward Buzzell
scr: Steve Fisher and Nat Perrin, additional dialogue by James O'Hanlon and Harry Crane, story by Stanley Roberts, based on characters created by Dashiell Hammett

Nick and Nora Charles solve the murder of a bandleader. The sixth and final film of the series, you don't need me to tell you about the chemistry between William Powell and Myrna Loy - she's the standout, by the way. Great fun, great music, brutal ending.

dir: Curtis Bernhardt
scr: Silvia Richards and Ranald MacDougall, story by Rita Weiman
Oscar Nominee: Best Actress (Joan Crawford)

Joan Crawford as a woman slowly realizing she's schizophrenic - but is it too late? Crawford's fantastic: if it's not exactly a subtle performance, it's a convincing, consistent, true one - not a false note. Franz Waxman gives great score. Visually impressive, especially in dizzying opening.

The Egg and I (#2 at the box office)
dir: Chester Erskine
scr: Erskine and Fred F. Finklehoffe, based on the book by Betty MacDonald
Oscar Nominee: Best Supporting Actress (Marjorie Main)

Newlyweds buy a rundown farm - the adjustment is difficult, especially for the wife. Claudette Colbert's line-readings are killer, her facial expressions even more so. Marjorie Main is the stand-out, imbuing yokel neighbor with hilarious physicality and real-world warmth.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue
dir: Roy Del Ruth
scr: Everett Freeman, additional dialogue by Vick Knight, original story by Herbert Clyde Lewis and Frederick Stephani
Oscar Nominee: Best Motion Picture Story

Winter squatters in a mansion form a family unit, warm billionaire's heart. Holiday feel-good hokum, but effective, perhaps because it revolves around post-war housing shortages and the difficulty veterans faced trying to build a new life. Good songs, too!

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (#2 at the box office)
dir: Irving Reis
scr: Sidney Sheldon
Oscar Winner: Best Original Screenplay

Local law conspires to blackmail a man into dating a high school girl who's obsessed with him. Sounds more scandalous than it is, to its credit, and is surprisingly winning and hilarious. Phenomenal cast: Myrna Loy, Cary Grant, Shirley Temple, Rudy Vallee, Ray Collins, et. al.

dir: Richard Thorpe
scr: George Bruce, Lester Cole
Oscar Nominee: Best Musical Score

Matador has twins: son loves music, not bullfighting; daughter loves bullfighting, not traditional female roles. Fantastic dance sequences with the fine-ass duo of Ricardo Montalban and Cyd Charisse. Stunning costumes and sets; terrifying bullfight scenes. A tinge of (acknowledged!) twincest.

Lady in the Lake
dir: Robert Montgomery
scr: Steve Fisher, based on the novel by Raymond Chandler

Phillip Marlowe gets caught up in a web of missing ladies and murderous dames. Told entirely through Marlowe's POV - we are Marlowe, we are the detective. This means long takes, occasionally inventive framing, and a sustained dismal performance from its leading lady. Neat score!

Gentleman's Agreement (#8 at the box office)
dir: Elia Kazan
scr: Moss Hart, based on the novel by Laura Z. Hobson
Oscar Winner: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Celeste Holm)
Oscar Nominee: Best Actor (Gregory Peck), Best Actress (Dorothy McGuire), Best Supporting Actress (Anne Revere), Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing

Gentile journalist passes as a Jew to write an exposé on anti-Semitism. Comes alive in scenes with Celeste Holm and John Garfield. Blunt, sometimes clumsy in its over-earnestness, and with a poisonous romantic subplot. Some good speeches, though.

The Best of the Ten: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

The Worst of the Ten: Lady in the Lake, Mourning Becomes Electra

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