Thursday, July 11, 2024

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1952: Sporty Spring

Don’t really have an intro for this batch, here’s six films from the Spring of 1952:

The Atomic City
release: May 1
nominations: Best Story and Screenplay
dir: Jerry Hopper
pr: Joseph Sistrom
scr: Sydney Boehm
cin: Charles Lang

The son of a nuclear physicist is kidnapped - the ransom is atomic secrets! It's a little funny to have a movie filmed in Los Alamos, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, only to have the entire plot hinge around security and secrecy and the importance thereof...funny, fascinating, informative. The tension, of course, is how to handle the kidnappers' threats as a parent vs. as a patriot. That's interesting stuff! It's pretty good!

The Pride of St. Louis
release: May 2
nominations: Best Motion Picture Story
dir: Harmon Jones
pr: Jules Schermer
scr: Herman J. Mankiewicz, story by Guy Trosper
cin: Leo Tover

The life and career of baseball great Dizzy Dean. Dan Dailey is such a wonderful actor. I wish the material was better because, as a whole, it doesn't feel like there's a lot here. One gets, from this, why Dizzy was so beloved - he's talented, he's funny, he's got personal quirks! But it feels like if you haven't already bought into the legend, there's nothing for you here.

Steel Town
release: May 9
dir: George Sherman
pr: Leonard Goldstein
scr: Gerald Drayson Adams / Lou Breslow, story by Leonard Freeman
cin: Charles P. Boyle

A woman is torn between two steel workers: a workingman she's known forever and a new hire that happens to be the boss's nephew. You can't call it an "A" pic, but it's enjoyable. Good performers, all: Ann Sheridan, John Lund, Howard Duff, though the best, for me, are William Harrigan and Eileen Crowe as the parents, he a lifer in the mills, she waiting in vain for his retirement. Filmed on location at the Kaiser Steel Mill in Fontana, CA, in color: the sound and cinematography in those sequences make one sit up in rapt attention. Amazing how much they can convey in the relationships between working men just by letting us see them at work.

Red Planet Mars
release: May 15
dir: Harry Horner
pr: Donald Hyde / Anthony Veiller
scr: John L. Balderston and Anthony Veiller, from a play by John L. Balderston and John Hoare
cin: Joseph F. Biroc

The world erupts into chaos following messages from Mars. Come for the promise of sci-fi shenanigans, leave with a teary-eyed, trembling-voiced Cold War drama about how God is real and the Communists will never win because they are atheists. Reminiscent of The Next Voice You Hear..., but with science and test patterns. A little apocalyptic in its understanding of people, confounding in its depiction of a lady scientist who wants to stop doing science because, after all, the family needs us. Doesn't pull punches with its climax, give it that.

Clash by Night
release: May 28
dir: Fritz Lang
pr: Norman Krasna / Harriet Parsons / Jerry Wald
scr: Alfred Hayes, from the play by Clifford Odets
cin: Nicholas Musuraca

A restless woman marries a kind fisherman against her own warnings, then begins an affair with his coarse best friend. It's Barbara Stanwyck, so you know it's good - she's raw, she's real, she's no good and she knows it. Paul Douglas is the nice guy, and he really is: a big guy who could have been a brute but chooses not to be, chooses to be a decent man...even if he isn't very bright. J. carrol Naish is his leech of an uncle, Robert Ryan is the vulgar man who sees nothing but evil in the world and has decided to contribute. I love it. It's a drama about people who are itching for more, itching for something else, and don't know how to scratch it, so they claw others instead.

Pat and Mike
release: June 13
nominations: Best Story and Screenplay
dir: George Cukor
pr: Lawrence Weingarten
scr: Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin
cin: William H. Daniels

A female athlete pursues a wide-ranging career with the help of a shady promoter. I loved this, partly because the story hinges on Katharine Hepburn's prowess as a sportswoman never being compromised or condescended or defeminized, partly because Spencer Tracy's promoter is no educated polite throat-clearer or moral guardian, but a sleazy, streetwise, slippery customer. Still a man's man, but he respects her because of her ability; she's a master athlete, but she doesn't have to play that down to find a man that wants her. 

Tomorrow, two more Best Picture nominees fall into place...

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