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Archive for the ‘1940s’ Category

Adam’s Rib ; 1949

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Director: George Cukor
Actors: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Tom Ewell, David Wayne, Jean Hagen
Country: U.S.A.

I was a bit reluctant to watch this film due to my hatred for Katharine Hepburn, but I thought, “Hey, it’s a Cukor film. What can go wrong?” And I was right because I absolutely loved it. I thought Hepburn was perfect for the part and Spencer Tracy was adorable. Although I’m usually sick of hearing about women’s rights and equality, I really enjoyed every single line of this film. The dialogue was witty, Hepburn and Tracy together were charming, and the whole film unfolded perfectly. It’s the little things like the nicknames Adam (Tracy) and Amanda (Hepburn) have for each other that are cute and funny. Judy Holliday as Doris is great, especially in the beginning; I loved how she used her gun as a pointer to read the directions on how to use it. David Wayne as Kip is the annoying neighbor that tries to seduce the oblivious Amanda. The only part I didn’t like about the film was Kip because he is the most obnoxious thing ever. I wish that I could just throttle him every single time he opens his mouth.

Hepburn’s performance in this film was nothing less than perfect. Every line was delivered flawlessly, her movements, face expressions, everything was just so RIGHT. Usually Hepburn’s “Bryn Mawr” accent drives me up the wall, but for this film, it added to her character. I really can’t believe that I’m complimenting her; this never happens!

My favourite scene has got to be when Amanda and Kip are together after the case is finished because of the way the dialogue plays out between the two characters. Despite being intelligent, Amanda is sure oblivious to Kip’s advances. I wonder if the film is subversively trying to say that when a woman is intelligent, she doesn’t know much about romance. But then again, Amanda knows romance especially when she is with Adam, but for some reason with Kip, she has no idea what Kip is up to and sees it as harmless fun. Kip’s reason for loving Amanda is laughable and I actually liked everything about him in this scene. The gun scene that follows is equally as great and it reminded me of one of my favourite scenes from Ernst Lubitsch’s Die Bergkatze. I gasped and then laughed my head off when I saw what happened in Die Bergkatze and my reaction was exactly the same with this scene as well. If it’s a bit hard to see in the screencaptures I provided, pretty much Tracy has a gun pointed towards his mouth and so does the girl from Die Bergkatze. I thought Hepburn and Wayne’s performance was at its best in this scene.

And the ending! All I can say to that is, “Oh my!” Although I suppose people can analyze it and say that while this film is superficially for equality and showing the double standard for women, it is also a film that perpetuates what is “normal”, such as heterosexual relationships. Ok, I’m going to shut up because I really like this film and I don’t want to think TOO much about it and end up losing sleep over it.

IMDb Link: Adam’s Rib
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Die Mörder sind unter uns (The Murderers Are Among Us) ; 1946

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Director: Wolfgang Staudte
Actors: Ernst Wilhelm Borchert, Hildegard Knef, Arno Paulsen, Robert Forsch
Country: Germany (Soviet occupied Germany)

This was the first post-WWII German film I’ve watched, well, that’s not phrased correctly. I guess what I mean is that it’s the first German film I’ve watched between the time WWII ended and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Before learning a bit about East German films and German history post-WWII, I always thought that East German films were crazy Communist/Socialist propaganda, but on the contrary, most films weren’t like that at all. With Die Mörder sind unter uns, it was a film about Germans reconciling with their past and learning to go forward with their lives while acknowledging the atrocities they committed.

First of all, I know that Staudte purposefully tried to use cinematographic techniques that were different than what the Nazis used and I think for the most part, he did succeed. Many of the shots reminded me of film noir (ref. Picture 2), German expressionist, and Kammerspielfilms, but the ending scene with the shots of the mass graves and super-impositions of crosses made me think of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph des Willens and Hans Steinhoff’s Hitlerjunge Quex; the shots were mesmerizing and somewhat overwhelming as well. Some scenes were shot with a tilt that caused a sense of anxiety and made me wonder why he chose to film scenes in such a manner. Was it because he wanted to show the unrest in Germany? This is just my speculation.

The story had me wonder just how much Staudte was coming to terms with his past and Germany’s past. What did he want the viewers to take in from this film? Was this film Staudte’s apologia as well as apologizing for Germany’s actions during WWII or was it something that the Allies, particularly Russians, wanted? Just how pure were Staudte’s intentions and message? In some ways it reminded me of Bernardo Bertolucci’s Il conformista and how Bertolucci looked at Italy’s fascist period, but Staudte’s film is also very different than Bertolucci’s. I know that the Russians knew the power of films and wanted the Germans to create films that were anti-fascist so that they can internalize it themselves rather than having outsiders consistently pushing their ideas. I also read that Staudte was embarrassed of his past and his connections to Nazi propaganda films.
The ambiguities of some of the characters’ pasts made me wonder just how much Staudte was accepting of the atrocities Germany commited. For example, Susanne (Knef) has survived living in a concentration camp, but the reasons why she was sent there are ambiguous. It is mentioned that she was taken to one due to her father, but why? My first thought when they mentioned concentration camps was that she must have been Jewish, but why only mention her father? Was he the only relative she had? Or was her father a communist, thus she was taken away as well? Her looks look like the ideal “Aryan” woman and she reminded me of Kristina Söderbaum, who was considered to be the prototype of an Aryan woman. Not only that, Söderbaum was in many propaganda films directed by her then husband Veit Harlan and both Staudte and Söderbaum starred in the infamous Jud Süß. Ok, now I’m just going off on a tangent, but really, why so vague about Susanne’s past?! And also with Herr Mondschein (Forsch) too! What’s his background? Susanne says that she is surprised to see that he has survived the war. Was it because he was in hiding? Why was he separated from his son? So many questions but no answers. This leads me to another complaint about lack of character development. Dr. Mertens (Borchert) is the driving force of this film with his past, his reconciliation with it, and how he comes to terms with it, but I wanted so much more from the other characters. Dr. Mertens rudely asks where Susanne was while Berlin was falling apart with people dying everywhere, and he says something like, “The country? The hills?” and Susanne doesn’t really say much and doesn’t mention that she was also suffering just as much or even more than the Berliners. Throughout the film, I assumed Susanne was Jewish thus I wondered iif they would address the relationship between a Jewish woman and an ex-Nazi officer, but no, they didn’t. Maybe Susanne was communist thus there really was no point in it? I don’t know.
I could really go indepth about my analysis of Dr. Mertens and how each action he commits reflects the “healing” process of Germany and about moral and social responsibility, but I think that’ll spoil the film too much (for you).

This is a film I would like to rewatch once I know more about German history. For those who do not know anything about German history and film, I’m not sure just how much I would recommend this film. Well, most people accept what happened during WWII and know something about it, so I guess it wouldn’t be so bad for anyone to watch this film. Maybe it’ll give a fresh look at it rather than overly analyzing it by trying to understand all the historical contexts that fit in with this film. Personally, I don’t know how I feel about this film. It was highly enjoyable but I tried to nit-pick it while watching it and kept wondering what each scene meant, what each camera angle implied, etcetera. But then again, I’m interested in the connection between what was going on when the films were created and the films themselves.
Ok, rather than all this random musing, my final verdict is, WATCH THIS FILM! I think it’s a great way to get oneself into German film from any period to see how films reflect German history. Also, this was the first post-WWII German film that was released, so it’s pretty awesome in that sense as well and the reason why this film was the first film to be released in Germany (both in West and East Germany) is interesting. I HIGHLY recommend Daniela Berghahn’s Hollywood Behind the Wall: The Cinema of East Germany, which I am currently reading right now. I sort of wish that I didn’t read a little bit of it because I wanted to watch East German films with a clear mind/clean slate so that my judgment and interpretations wouldn’t be influenced by outside ideas/historical context.

IMDb Link: Die Mörder sind unter uns
Where to buy: DEFA Film Library, Amazon.com

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek ; 1944

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Director: Preston Sturges
Actors: Eddie Bracken, Betty Hutton, Diana Lynn, William Demarest
Country: U.S.A.

Surprise, surprise, another post on a Preston Sturges film! I admit that I didn’t find it to be that great the first time I watched it, but the second time around, I caught a lot of the subtleties, which I appreciated, such as the sign about the lemonade and what Mr. Kockenlocker (William Demarest) says about a half a dozen of kids while complaining about daughters and children in general. I absolutely loved Emmy (Diana Lynn) because she was the voice of reason throughout the film despite being only 14 years old. I thought that Demarest’s acting was great and the way he portrayed Mr. Kockenlocker made the character likable that I even started admiring Demarest. I can honestly say that Demarest steals the show in every scene he is in and that I’ve enjoyed it whenever Mr. Kockenlocker was in the scene. Also, isn’t “Kockenlocker” a great name? *winkwink*

The way Trudy is introduced was brilliant and Betty Hutton’s exaggerated mouth movements (ref. picture 2) had me in tears because it was hilarious. I didn’t find Trudy (Hutton) to be a likable character and found her to be a bit exasperating at times. I guess it’s very similar with The Palm Beach Story in that Trudy cares a lot about Norval (Bracken) thus she does what she does, but at times, I wanted to slap her in the face for being selfish.

What I noticed about Sturges’s films is that I focus on every scene. I don’t lose track of what is happening and I pay attention as if every scene/aspect is important. A lot of films have a sub-plot with the romance but with Sturges’s film, it is all mixed up and there really isn’t a sub-plot but a main story that is told through various events. For example, with His Girl Friday, I didn’t really care much about the sub-plot but with Sturges’s film, the audience focuses only on what is happening in front of them. There are no distractions and I think I like it!

I wasn’t too impressed by this film but was more shocked watching it. I couldn’t help but wonder how in the world this film even got past the Hays Code. Watch it for yourself and wonder if this film should be considered scandalous for its times! It sure made me confused and I couldn’t help but wonder what Sturges was thinking while making this film. The ending is so outrageous that I wonder if it was a tactic to distract the censors. I know that Sturges used some tactics to beat around the bush so that this film could be released, but I really don’t understand how the script passed.

If I used the 10/10 system, I would give this about a 7.5. I recommend it for Demarest’s performance and for the crazy story!

Now this entry covers 5 out of 13 Sturges films doesn’t it? Sadly there won’t be any more Sturges post from me for awhile since this was the last Sturges film that I owned and watched. I have to get going on watching other films! Oh foreign films, how have you escaped my clutches so far? Oh wait, I watch Italian films for my Italian cinema class. I wish I could post about the films I watched for my Italian cinema class but I don’t own any of the films and I would really like to rewatch them. Also, another problem I have is that I have read analyses of the films for class and I don’t want them to affect my interpretation or thoughts on the film but on the other hand, they do help because it does get my thinking juices flowing. Funny, because it was a film I watched for that class that made me start this blog.

IMDb Link: The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
Where to buy: Amazon.com

The Palm Beach Story ; 1942

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Director: Preston Sturges
Actors: Joel McCrea, Claudette Colbert, Mary Astor, Rudy Vallee, William Demarest
Country: U.S.A.

OH MY GOD! I am in such a hyper mood right now (or maybe just giddy?) but I absolutely LOVED this film. Please excuse the craziness of this post and its moments when my Valley Girl tendencies pop out because this film has made me so happy. It was charming in so many ways and everything worked perfectly. The chemistry between McCrea and Colbert was perfect, Astor was looking as beautiful as ever, and well… this film was wonderful. It put me in a happy mood and… and… I don’t know! I want everyone to watch it with me and I want to rewatch it now! I’m not sure how much men would like this film (how should I know? I’m not a man!) but maybe everyone will like it as much as I do. Or at least I hope so! The only aggravating scene was the drunk scene with the Ale and Quail Club, but drunk people can be aggravating anyway in real life thus I guess it fits perfectly. From the get-go I was already excited when the credits started and until the very end, I was into every second of it. Even Colbert as Gerry, the selfish yet self-less wife, is lovable although her motives are sort of odd to say the very least, but there is no way that anyone can say that they don’t like Gerry.

I implore you to watch this and I promise that you won’t be disappointed!

Sturges is getting a lot of attention on this blog, isn’t he? Maybe this blog will have an entry on every one of Sturges’ films; how exciting that would be! And maybe an entry on Sturges as well… ooh~ I’m getting all excited just thinking about it!

IMDb Link: The Palm Beach Story
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Sullivan’s Travels ; 1941

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Director: Preston Sturges
Actors: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest
Country: U.S.A.

As much as I liked The Lady Eve, I didn’t have any expectations for my second Sturges’ film. So what do I think about Sullivan’s Travels? Nothing much. I feel very neutral about this film and don’t see what’s so special about it and I didn’t find it to be that funny as well. It was also my first Veronica Lake film and as gorgeous as she is, her voice grated on my nerves in the beginning.

When I see this film as a comedy, I don’t like it that much since I didn’t find it to be particularly funny at times, but then again, I wouldn’t really label it as a drama. Oh whatever! Phooey with labels! This film just stands on its own for me. I’m digressing, so what I really wanted to say was that I liked many aspects of this film, but in the end, I felt indifferent. I can say I enjoyed it at times and I definitely do not think it’s a waste of time to watch it, thus I think people who haven’t watched it should give it a go if they are curious. What I liked the most was its metafilmic aspects and how the director becomes somewhat like a method actor and becomes a hobo (and fails miserably). Through the story, I thought Sturges made some great commentary on the film industry. Starting with the beginning, Sullivan (McCrea) says he wants to make a serious film, but the producers say “with a little sex in it” and Sullivan says that it won’t be the focus. Ironically, despite Veronica Lake’s sort of small role, her sex appeal had much to do with the advertising of the film. Sturges knew that “sex” was needed for films to be successful because there is another line when Sullivan says, “There’s always a girl in the picture. What’s the matter, don’t you go to the movies?” Also, Sullivan says that film should be used as a “sociological artistic medium with a little bit of sex in it”, which reflects this film. The sex bit could also be a nod towards Lubitsch films and that Sullivan’s producers want him to continue making trivial films. I also wondered if the line about that musical Sullivan made, Ants in Your Plants in 1939 and how one of his producers says that he should make another one with a different date is a reference to The Gold Diggers of [insert year] musicals. There is commentary on the poor, which I don’t want to delve into, but what I found to be particularly interesting was the take of comedies during the time period the film was set. The film was set in contemporary times, so there is World War II going on and Sullivan says, “I want this picture to be a commentary on modern conditions. Stark realism. The problems that confront the average man!” I was amused that he said this because in Germany, they already made films like this during the Weimar Republic. Not only does Sullivan’s Travels mention the escapist quality of comedies, but Sturges addresses that despite the trivial veneer of comedies, they also give us something when we have nothing: laughter.

Since I usually like to point out some weird, superficial thing that amused me, of course I have to comment on the outfit Veronica Lake wears towards the end. It cracked me up, especially when she trips over it. Those underpants are the most ridiculous things I’ve seen, and I’ve never seen ones like those outside of picture books. I also thought that it was great how Lubitsch was mentioned (I do love that man!) and in the end, Sullivan decides to make a comedy, which is what Lubitsch was known for.

And before I end this post, I have to give a little bit of loving to the pastor at the church. What he said was the most touching thing ever in that it is true what he says about not judging people and that we are all equal.

Hail The Conquering Hero ; 1944

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Posted by Maddy

Director: Preston Sturges
Actors: Eddie Bracken, Ella Raines, Raymond Walburn, William Demarest
Country: U.S.A.

Out of all of the reoccurring cast members of the Preston Sturges gang its William Demarest who does it for me. The wise cracking, dopey, tough guy sidekick is personified by Demarest. Whether it is the life long body guard who knows it’s the same dame in The Lady Eve or the musician who will happily recount the events of the night W.T.F. Morton cured his tooth ache in The Great Moment Demarest is always the one who shines the brightest for me. In Hail The Conquering Hero Demarest is at his best in this comedy about a returning ‘war hero.’
Poor Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith. With a father a great war hero he had spend his entire life preparing to follow in his father’s footsteps and join to his Marines now that World War II has begun. Much to his horror he is kicked out of the Marines due to chronic hay fever. Unable to tell his mother, who he knows will be heart broken at the news, he proceeds to tell her that he’s across the sea. An act of generosity on his part, paying for a squadron of Marines lead by Demarest, ends up turning out worst for him. The Marines convince him to call home claiming he’s on sick leave and they end up convincing his mother that he is a war hero. What he and the marines hope to be a slip into to town to see his mother and to slip out quickly turns out to be the entire town welcoming this “hero” back home. Woodrow ends up getting caught up in the festivities of his own heroic deeds constantly trying to get himself out of a mess that has quickly gotten out of his control.
After the celebration Woodrow is quickly selected as a candidate for mayor. One of the highlights of the film, at least for me, was Woodrow’s first ‘political’ speech where he does everything he can, without saying that he lied to everyone, to discourage the populous from voting for him. All it does is encourage them to want him for major even more. Demarest and the rest of his Marines offer ‘support’ to Woodrow throughout the film despite the entire situation being their fault. Their support includes lying on his behalf and making sure that he has made his mother happy. Like all classic Hollywood films Woodrow’s love interest is his ex-fiance. While ‘abroad’ he tells her that he has found someone else and wants her not to wait for him. She then becomes engaged to the mayor’s son, but throughout the film she realizes her feelings for him.

A film that could easily become stereotypical Sturges once again pushes the boundaries. Woodrow is not at fault for what happened to him – he tried to enlist in the army only to be rejected. The worst thing he did was attempt to save his mother from humiliation and it is far from his doing how quickly that spun out of control. The moral issues of the film are not in Woodrow’s deceit, but the profiteering and corruption of the current major. More interested in keeping his position than the well being of the town and his country during war time he is the ‘villain’ in a time of self sacrifice and humility. The leader of this all American town is self serving no matter what has happened is a bit of the not-so-subtle commentary of Sturges.
Sturges films are known for being upbeat with a mix of slapstick and banter. Certainly a different take on the war film Hail The Conquering Hero is far from his greatest work but reveals why he stuck with his cast of characters throughout his brief career.

IMDB Link: Hail The Conquering Hero
Where To Buy: Amazon

Ball of Fire ; 1941

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Director: Howard Hawks
Actors: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck
Country: U.S.A.

I expected this film to be really good and had high expectations since I adore films written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder and films directed by Howard Hawks, but I was a tad bored with this film. Something about it felt really dry and even in scenes that I would have usually been amused by, such as the scene when the professors are trying to figure out the conga, I wasn’t. I was almost amused, but in the end, I felt indifferent about it just like I felt with the rest of the film. The gangster sub-plot was not interesting to me at all, and on top of that, the main story between Sugarpuss (Stanwyck) and Professor Bertram Potts/”Pottsie” (Cooper) was… well… boring! I watch old comedies even if I know how it’s going to end because they’re fun and the dialogue is good, but I didn’t think there was anything redeemable about Ball of Fire. I admit that I was extremely tired when I watched it (and still am), and when I was looking forward to a good laugh and didn’t get any, I was disappointed. I thought Stanwyck was a great actress like always (I’m sure that you’ve picked up by now that I adore her), but there was something just lacking. I felt that the film had potential when I read the intertitle that introduces the film, but in the film, there wasn’t that extra “oomph” that made it funny or anything special. The dialogue was good at times, but I felt as if Cooper just didn’t match up to Stanwyck’s caliber, which is probably why I felt that something was missing.

Now that I look at the screencap I took of it, it does look like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which is mentioned, except that Prince Charming is actually one of the dwarfs. Or maybe not since Pottsie is the youngest one among the group of professors and there are eight of them, thus I guess Pottsie isn’t a dwarf. I wonder if this film is like a remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs because I did watch another film called Midnight, which was a remake of Cinderella.

Perhaps I just need to rewatch it when I’m not tired, but when I finished the film, my response was, “Oh… okay.” and just drank a cup of tea without much thought about it.

IMDb Link: Ball of Fire
Where to buy: Amazon.com

The Lady Eve ; 1941

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Director: Preston Sturges
Actors: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, William Demarest
Country: U.S.A.

The Lady Eve is the first film I watched that Sturges directed, and can I say that I adore this film? Really. While watching it the first time around, I was a bit bored in the beginning, but it was the little things that kept me going and the second half of the film was great beyond words. In retrospect, I think the pace of the film in the first half and then the second half reflects what is going on. I HIGHLY recommend this film to anyone! Barbara Stanwyck is as lovable as she could be in this film and is intelligent and beautiful, and Henry Fonda plays the role of naïve Charles “Hopsie” Pike perfectly.

I’m not going to give away much of the story and I’m not going to analyze this film because it’s so enjoyable that I want people to watch it for at least that one reason. Sure, I can analyze it, but I simply don’t want to! Even after doing a plot segmentation of this film for a class, I still like it; actually, the plot segmentation made me appreciate this film even more, particularly the script. I am definitely in the boat with The Lady Eve fans.

It’s the little things that make the film great and I’m going to just point out some of my favourite parts of this film.
Starting with the credits, can you deny the cuteness of that? I’ve never seen an animation for credits in old films and I did read that it was because the real snake in the film was uncooperative thus Sturges settled for the cartoon. I thought it was a cute and whimsical touch to the film, especially at the end of the credits when the snake weaves through the O in Preston Sturges’ name and then gets stuck. I wondered why the snake had a maraca on its tail, but maybe it is to reflect Charles studying at the Amazon? I have no idea.

When Jean (Barbara Stanwyck) is using her mirror to spy on Charles, the way she talks, the way the whole scene is filmed, and how her monologue fits in with the scene is, for the lack of better words, perfect. The whole scene was incredibly amusing to watch and it was one of the moments in the beginning of the film that made me keep watching it. I can say that without a doubt, it is one of my favourite scenes in this film. It is scenes like these that make me love old films because the lines she says are great. If you get to watch this film, look forward to the section of the scene when she makes up a dialogue, which made me giggle because it worked with what the viewer was seeing.
How can I ever forget that look on Henry Fonda’s face? Oh Barbara, if you were doing that to me, I would be all hot and bothered too! I have to say that I was on the verge of fanning myself because it sure was getting steamy between the two character. While watching this scene, I was completely falling for Jean/Barbara. The chemistry between the two characters and actors was perfect; it was overwhelming to just watch them together! The way Jean was toying with Charles and wrapping him under her finger, just like she was twirling/playing with his hair, was unbelievable, and when she is done with him, his response to the moment they had had me burst out laughing. I am surprised how these scenes were able to pass the Hays Code. The ending also shocked me, but then I understood why they were able to do what they did in the end. I’m sorry for the ambiguous sentences, but you must watch it! The lines about marriage made me chuckle and explained their final action.
Oh and HOW COULD I LEAVE OUT BARBARA STANWYCK’S DRESS IN THE PARTY SCENE!!! Edith Head did a wonderful job with Barbara’s wardrobe because I was drooling over one outfit after another.
And as a fan of classical music, I have to note the wonderful use of Suppé’s Poet and Peasant Overture when Jean is telling her adventures to Charles in the train scene. You just HAVE to watch the film to see how great the train scene is when they are off to their honeymoon because the editing, sound, and the visuals work well together to fit the mood and feel of what is going on between Charles and Jean.

I will leave you with this (as if I didn’t say so already), The Lady Eve is a film that is worth a watch whether you will like it or not. There are so many parts that are cute and the script is so well-written that even if you end up disliking the film, I’m sure that you will at least say, “Well, I did like that one incident when…” or something along those lines. Any film with the line “And I hope he’s got a big, fat wife so I don’t have to dance in the moonlight with him” is good in my books!

IMDb Link: The Lady Eve
Where to buy: Amazon.com

His Girl Friday ; 1940

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Director: Howard Hawks
Actors: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy
Country: U.S.A.

While being sick in bed during spring break, I decided to be productive and watch this film for my screwball comedy class. I was trying to decide which film to watch (this or The Lady Eve) and I decided that I would watch His Girl Friday because I know that Barbara Stanwyck would never let me down with her performance, thus I wanted to give Rosalind Russell a chance. I’ve seen her before in The Women and found her quite charming, but I wanted to see her in other films as well. She was great in The Women but she COMPLETELY stole the show with this film. So here I am, sniffling away and listening to Velvet Eden, posting on this site.

Rather than posting a bit of the synopsis, although I might reference some scenes and such, I just want to say: ANYONE WHO ADORES COMEDIES, PARTICULARLY SCREWBALLS SHOULD WATCH THIS. I really loved it although I’m not sure if there was much chemistry between Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Like most screwballs I’ve watched, this one also sets place in a newspaper publisher (The Morning Post), which already sets up the stage for people talking over each other and quick dialogue. Russell is Hildegaard (Hildy), the ex-wife of Walter Burns (Grant), the editor of The Morning Post, and of course, it’s obvious that Walter is going to try to get Hildy back. And like most screwballs, Hildy already has another man! While the story is quite predictable, it’s the acting on Russell’s end and sometimes Grant’s that makes this film great. I knew what was going to happen, but the quick dialogue is what kept me watching. I could have cared less about the whole newspaper story, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Russell. Grant had some great moments when he would make these weird groaning/moaning noises that were perfect for the scene. Ralph Bellamy plays Bruce, and of course, he is the guy Hildy is going to marry, but if you’ve watched some screwballs, you probably know what happens to Bruce in the end. There was a great line when Walter tells one of his assistants to find Bruce and when he describes Bruce, he says, “He looks like that fellow in the movies – Ralph Bellamy.” I should be on the look out for more movie references in screwballs since I noticed one in Bringing Up Baby as well. It was nice to see Ralph Bellamy again since I saw him in The Awful Truth as well and he pretty much played the same character, which made me chuckle a bit.

And how could I not mention Howard Hawks in this post, right? For those who don’t know, Hawks is a well-known director by film buffs and has directed numerous famous films. Maybe you know him as the director of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (you know, the film with Marilyn Monroe singing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”!) but let me tell you, he has never disappointed me with any of his films. I loved how he used some subtleties like in a scene when Hildy, Bruce, and Walter are at a restaurant and with the things they ordered and their actions, it was as if it was foreshadowing the ending of this film. First it starts with Walter deciding what he’ll get and Hildy simply saying that she’ll get the same, and Bruce kind of goes with it as well. Then both Hildy and Walter take out cigarettes and when Hildy lights a match, Walter simply drags Hildy’s match over to his cigarette and Hildy gives him a look of annoyance and then lights her own cigarette. I noticed that Bruce didn’t smoke in the scene and then Walter orders coffee with rum and Hildy gets the same thing, but Bruce says that he doesn’t want it. After watching the film, I realized that the scene (the one I just mentioned) was the film in a nutshell. At the beginning, it all appears to be that the three characters are on an equal plane, yet it is Walter who orders first in a forceful voice and when Hildy orders the same in a simple manner, it was as if ordering the roast beef sandwich was something they usually did and was nothing new to her. Then when they both start smoking and Walter doing the thing he does with the match, it’s like bringing Walter and Hildy together and finally with the coffee, it is solidifying the bond between Walter and Hildy while Bruce is in the outskirts. Well, that’s just my interpretations of things, but I thought that Hawks directed that scene and the rest of the film incredibly well.
I probably gave away most of the story by just rambling about it, but really, I highly suggest that you watch this film if you’re up for a good laugh. The DVD I had was by some company called D3K or something and the transfer was HORRIBLE so I hope that the link I posted below will lead you to a better quality DVD. I’m also sorry for namedropping a bunch of films, but hopefully you will watch those in the future as well (since they are all worth a watch) or maybe I’ll post about them in the future.

EDIT (5/17/09): I posted about The Awful Truth, if you are interested in reading about it.

IMDb link: His Girl Friday
Where to buy: Amazon.com