Raoul Walsh and James Cagney’s 4 Films Together

Raoul Walsh and James Cagney

Raoul Walsh and James Cagney

This is my contribution to the Symbiotic Collaborations blogathon, being hosted by CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch. Please take a look at the other postings, which all focus on collaborations between a director and star.

Both Raoul Walsh and James Cagney are known for their quality of toughness, so it’s no surprise that two of the four movies they made together are famous gangster films. But both director and actor were also interested in focusing on character and, beyond the action sequences,  their films also contain equally powerful scenes bringing out the vulnerability of the heroes/villains played by Cagney. I can’t look at every aspect of all four films here, so am concentrating on this theme. I’ve also put a separate bit about some of the films’ endings at the end, including pictures.

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There’s Always Tomorrow (Douglas Sirk, 1956)

This is my contribution to the Remembering Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon, being organised by Crystal at The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Please do visit and look at the other pieces about one of the all-time greatest film stars.

there's always tomorrow 7It’s a black and white film full of shadows, with Barbara Stanwyck as the woman tempting Fred MacMurray to abandon his virtuous life. Another leading noir actress, Joan Bennett, also stars. But Douglas Sirk’s domestic melodrama There’s Always Tomorrow is worlds away from  Double Indemnity, and Stanwyck’s character here is no femme fatale – or not consciously so. However, her effect on the life of MacMurray’s character could prove to be nearly as devastating as it was in the earlier film.

I have some problems with attitudes woven into this film, which will become clear during my review, but I still find it compelling, as with all the “emotion pictures” by Sirk that I’ve seen so far. And Stanwyck is just as riveting to watch as always, giving depth to a character whose motivation isn’t always clear. This is the second time she had played an outsider returning home in a Sirk film, after the earlier All I Desire, also in black and white.

It’s also one of four films she and MacMurray made together, all very different. After enjoying Double Indemnity, the great Christmas romantic comedy Remember the Night and this one, I’ve only got The Moonlighter still to go. There’s Always Tomorrow was their last time together, though, and that gives an extra poignancy to the film, since they are cast as a couple reunited after years apart.

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Meet Danny Wilson (Joseph Pevney, 1951)

This is my second contribution to the Sinatra Centennial Blogathon, which I’m hosting together with Emily from The Vintage Cameo. Emily is hosting the last two days of this event, so please head over to her site to see the latest postings.  My first contribution was Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.

Meet Danny Wilson 1It’s not one of Frank Sinatra’s better-known films, and was released as his career was heading for the rocks in the early 1950s. Yet Meet Danny Wilson, an uneven melodrama laced with music and comedy,  contains some of his finest singing, and also gives hints of the acting triumphs which were to come. Made in black-and-white, this film was produced on a low budget and is admittedly no masterpiece, but all the same I really enjoyed it and found it a great way to celebrate his centennial.

In particular, he gives an absolutely spellbinding performance of She’s Funny That Way. The film is also interesting to watch because there are quite a few echoes of Sinatra’s real life, something which was commented on at the time. The film is available on DVD in the UK/region 2, from Eureka, but looks as  if it is harder to get hold of for those of you in the US. The UK DVD, which I own, has pretty good picture quality, but no extras except for the original trailer.

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Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby

Frank and Bing

Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank

This piece is my first contribution to the Sinatra Centennial blogathon, which I’m proudly co-hosting with Emily at The Vintage Cameo. I’m also hoping to put a second piece up before the event ends on Sunday!

They might have only co-starred in two movies, but Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby loom large in each other’s legend. Sinatra took inspiration to start out on his singing career from Crosby’s success, while Bing jokingly spoofed Frank on film. Although best-known as singers, both were also Oscar-winning actors. They appeared together on radio and TV over the years, most famously in the TV special Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank, which has recently been resurrected – and is perfect festive viewing for Sinatra’s Centennial.

According to a biography of the young Sinatra I read a few years ago, Frank: The Making of a Legend by James Kaplan, the young Frank had a picture of Bing on his wall and wore the style of cap favoured by his idol. Once Sinatra started to make a name for himself as a singer and followed Crosby into films, comparisons were soon being made between the two.

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The Bridges at Toko-Ri (Mark Robson, 1954)

This is my contribution to The Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon, hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema blog. Please visit and take a look at the other postings.

Title: BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI, THE • Pers: HOLDEN, WILLIAM / KELLY, GRACE • Year: 1955 • Dir: ROBSON, MARK • Ref: BRI019AT • Credit: [ PARAMOUNT / THE KOBAL COLLECTION ]

William Holden and Grace Kelly

After watching this powerful and haunting Korean war film, I belatedly realised it wasn’t really a good choice for a Grace Kelly blogathon. Kelly’s screen time is all too limited and her part doesn’t give her much scope as an actress. However, her character, Nancy, is important, giving a glimpse of the life that the reluctant  hero, her husband Harry Brubaker (William Holden) has been wrenched away from.

Based on a book by James Michener, whose work also inspired South Pacific, this film has hints of the musical’s mood of disillusion over war. Despite being released only a short time after the end of the Korean War, and made with the co-operation of the US Navy, it isn’t the gung-ho propaganda piece I was half-expecting. The movie pays tribute to the courage of the individuals caught up in the conflict, but suggests that many of them didn’t really know why they were there. Although there are many exciting and stirring scenes, which won the film an Oscar for best special effects, they are often undercut by the sadness and weariness of the central character. This element gives this glossy action picture a surprisingly downbeat feeling at times.

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Three Coins in the Fountain (Jean Negulesco, 1954)

This is my contribution to the CinemaScope blogathon, running from March 13 to 16, which is being organised by Classic Becky’s Brain Food and Wide Screen World – please visit and take a look at the other postings!

Three Coins in the Fountain 1I’m a fan of Frank Sinatra, so in his centenary year I couldn’t resist choosing Three Coins in the Fountain to write up for the blogathon. While Sinatra doesn’t appear – and isn’t even credited! – his singing of the great title song is probably the first thing that comes to mind for most people when thinking of this film. My mum tells me that everyone came out of the cinema singing it when the film was released in 1954.  The lyrics of the Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn number don’t have a great deal to do with the plot, but it really doesn’t matter. This is a movie where you definitely wouldn’t want to miss the first few minutes, with the song swelling out over stunning footage of the Trevi  Fountain, followed by sweeping shots of Rome.

Of course, another reason for visiting this film this year is in tribute to French star Louis Jourdan, who died a few weeks ago aged 93. Sadly he doesn’t get a chance to sing here, as he did in Gigi a few years later, but he does play the piccolo – and gives an amusing performance as a conceited prince. There’s no explanation as to why an Italian prince has a French accent!

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Dallas (Stuart Heisler, 1950)

dallas 1I’ve been watching a few 1950s Westerns lately, and enjoyed this gorgeously-filmed Technicolor offering from the start of the decade, starring Gary Cooper. It’s one of his lesser films, and rather uneven, with some unbelievable plot twists, but still a good role for him. Cooper plays a haunted man – a former Confederate officer, Blayde “Reb” Hollister, who has lost everything in the war. For Reb, the conflict is still going on, as he turns  outlaw and has a price on his head. Ruth Roman stars opposite Cooper, with Leif Erickson, Raymond Massey and Steve Cochran also featuring in a fine cast.

Cooper was pushing 50 when he made this, and his leading-man looks are noticeably fading. But his weary, melancholy features make his role as a lonely outsider all the more poignant. His character is someone who has been left behind, and is trying to make his way in a world which has moved on without him. This reminded me of Bogart’s character in a film director Stuart Heisler made the previous year, Tokyo Joe, who is also emotionally stranded after a war, though in his case it is the Second World War.  (Both films also have a strong focus on love triangles, as does Blue Skies, the only other Heisler film I’ve seen, which, as a Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire musical,  is otherwise worlds away from this one, )

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