Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ten Movies the Siren Should Love…But Does Not

So, Tony Dayoub of the terrific blog Cinema Viewfinder has been tweeting his tour of Elizabeth Taylor's filmography, and having a good time doing it. Last night he watched Father of the Bride, Vincente Minnelli's beloved 1950 comedy, starring Taylor at her most gorgeous and featuring one of the most imitated bridal gowns of all time. And the Siren tweeted back that she should find this movie charming; after all, it stars Joan Bennett, who was ten different kinds of fabulous, and Spencer Tracy, who had a fine, laid-back and natural way to his comedic acting. And it's Minnelli, and the Siren adores Minnelli to the point where she can mount a ringing defense of Brigadoon's being shot on the back lot. And yet the Siren is firmly uncharmed, although she was unable to explain why in 140 characters or less.

This led to her thinking of other movies that have classic status and a number of elements that should hit all her sweet spots, and yet she's never tempted to sit down and get reacquainted with them when they pop up on Turner Classic Movies, or when someone posts or tweets about them. So, for the sheer undiluted hell of it, she came up with ten.

Now lists like this are risky, in that people do not generally care to have their beloved favorites maligned. The Siren apologizes in advance, and assures her patient readers that she sees virtues in all of these movies, even if it's just the presence of a great actor. You will also notice that the list is almost entirely comprised of some of the Siren's most beloved directors. And nothing here alters that devotion, but you'll have to accept that as a given. The Siren isn't going to clutter things up by waving around her Billy Wilder-loving credentials, for example.

Still, something about each of these films irks the Siren to the point of nonenjoyment. Usually that's related to deficiencies of humor, theme or performance, although there's a couple of films that, in the words of X. Trapnel's grandmother, "don't have looks eyes like."

So if the Siren's list includes a deep personal favorite, go ahead and take your revenge in comments: "Oh yeah? Well I'VE never liked [insert name of movie the Siren has praised to the skies]." Just remember the one rule at the Siren's place: No dissing Citizen Kane. That is not and never has been a joke. Otherwise, have at it.

P.S. Over at Some Came Running, Glenn Kenny has posted a response, in which he links to his defense of the second Man Who Knew Too Much and offers his approving thoughts on Kiss Me, Stupid. Check it out! The Siren loves the post title alone.




1. Father of the Bride (Vincente Minnelli, 1950)
The Siren hastens to say that the late Elizabeth Taylor is the one thing she really does like about the movie. Taylor makes the most of an underwritten role, and you really believe she loves her Pop. However. For one thing, it bothers the Siren that Taylor is so young, although she realizes full well that this is the age at which many people got married in the 1950s, and Taylor herself was married when it was released. Still, it's off-putting. As is Tracy's open jealousy of his son-in-law, and if you ask the Siren, his character talks down to Joan Bennett way too much, and she's clearly a lot smarter than he is. More than anything, the comedy falls short of the mark, both too sour and not sharp enough. The Siren's final curmudgeonly observation is that Taylor's celebrated wedding dress is way too mid-Victorian for her taste.




2. You Can't Take It With You (Frank Capra, 1938) Back in his IFC blogging days Vadim Rizov took this one apart. Heart of the matter:

Grandpa Martin Vanderhof (played by Lionel Barrymore) [is] a lovable old coot who lets whoever wants to follow their flighty impulses and desires (fireworks! mechanical dolls! ballet!) take up space and pursue them, no matter how impractical or unsafe.

Like all free spirits, Grandpa Vanderhof doesn't believe in paying the income tax. In [one] infuriating scene… he plays rhetorical cat-and-mouse with a frustrated representative of the IRS, demanding to know what good his 22 years' owed back-taxes would do. The representative says they need warships, but crafty grandpa -- three years before World War II -- says we haven't used those since the Spanish-American War. Nor does Grandpa use the roads ever, and he certainly doesn't believe in Congress because, you know, Congress, haw haw.

The Siren agrees with Vadim in every particular. We're both Capra fans, but You Can't Take It With You is for the birds.



3. Woman of the Year (George Stevens, 1942) To the Siren, this will always be one-half of a great movie. My word, Katharine Hepburn is gorgeous in it. The Siren would say it's tied with The Philadelphia Story for the title of Hepburn at Her Most Ravishing. And if the Siren is lucky enough to catch the first half, she'll watch it for the way the actress lounges down a hallway and swings her legs off that desk. The chemistry with Tracy would give Antoine Lavoisier a heart attack. But the ending--oh my stars and garters, that ending, in which Hepburn is humiliated because sure, she can wear the hell out of a chic suit and write circles around any man in sight, but what that does matter if she burns his breakfast--that ending is so hideous, so cringe-inducing that the Siren can't watch it. She can't even watch much past the midpoint because she knows the finale is coming. TCM says the ending was changed after an audience preview. And before you go after the Siren for imposing 2011 viewpoints on a 1942 movie, let it be said that when the rewrite was presented to Hepburn, she "termed it 'the worst bunch of shit I ever read.'" God, don't you love her even more for that?




4. Kiss Me, Stupid (Billy Wilder, 1964) The Siren likes Kim Novak very much in this movie; Pauline Kael was 100% right that "her lostness holds the film together," to the extent that it hangs together at all. People tell the Siren to just try to get past Ray Walston, but how, exactly? He's all over the movie. As is Dean Martin, a hit-or-miss talent for the Siren; here his character is just too creepy for words.



5. The Trial (Orson Welles, 1962) This is one movie the Siren would watch again in its entirety because it's so damn beautiful, and that is no small virtue in her eyes. But the truth is that she finds the dialogue, and the performances of Anthony Perkins and Jeanne Moreau, mannered and dull.



6. Sergeant York (Howard Hawks, 1941) The Siren doesn't believe that the indisputably great Hawks had much of a feel for Tennessee or its inhabitants. Nor does she care for the preachiness of this movie, or find Alvin York's conversion to Army superhero to be particularly convincing on screen, even if it did happen in real life. For what it's worth, co-screenwriter Howard Koch later expressed something of the same doubts: "If you render under all the Caesars, past and present, what they demand of us, there is little left for God. They get what they want--power, glory, money or whatever--and He comes out on the short end." The Siren does like the "Give Me That Old Time Religion" conversion scene a lot, though.




7. Guys and Dolls (Joseph Mankiewicz, 1955) Truly, the Siren does not get any of the love for this one. You want to revive an unjustly neglected Mankiewicz, the Siren suggests The Late George Apley or Five Fingers, both terrific. Guys and Dolls' abstract sets might--might, although the Siren has her strong doubts--have worked had the casting had been better. But look, people say it all the time because it's true: Frank Sinatra should have played Sky Masterson, not Nathan Detroit. Vivian Blaine, by all accounts a marvel as Miss Adelaide on stage, never quite catches fire here, and her fights with Sinatra are mechanical. Brando mangles his every love song, none worse than "A Woman in Love." The one saving grace for the Siren, aside from her beloved Jean Simmons dancing in Havana, is the marvelous Stubby Kaye.




8. Where the Boys Are (Henry Levin, 1960) The Siren can happily deal with retro attitudes toward sex and marriage in Jean Negulesco's "three girls" movies, like Three Coins in the Fountain or The Best of Everything. But there's one problem with this movie right there: you get four girls, and that's one too many. Darryl Zanuck would have made them take one out. Robert Avrech argues that Dolores Hart is quite good here, and she is. But the way poor Yvette Mimieux is treated makes the Siren's skin crawl, and there just isn't enough laughter or romance to make up for it in any way.



9. The Pink Panther (Blake Edwards, 1963) Great look to the film, and a great-looking Capucine, who is high on the Siren's list of Actresses She'll Forgive Anything Because They Are So Ridiculously Beautiful. But just not funny to the Siren; too slapstick, and a lingering cruelty under the humor that rubs the Siren the wrong way. Man, the Siren loves that song in the ski lodge, though.



10. The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956) This married couple just basically hate one another, don't they? The Siren vastly prefers the original.

218 comments:

1 – 200 of 218   Newer›   Newest»
Pinko Punko said...

The only one I feel I can say anything about is "The Man I Knew Too Much" and the off-puttingness of the leads' relationship I think is a plus- the reason being it puts the viewer on edge because there are all sorts of little chafings against the box we would want to be putting the characters in. For example, I can imagine many directors (along with viewers expectations of directors) for the scene where Stewart drugs Day to tell her the horrible news to oddly be played for laughs, when of course it isn't, and it is unbearably horrible. The Albert Hall scene with the symphony is just exquisite. I will give this one a pass, but I haven't yet seen the original, so this means my opinion is from an angle that can only exist if the latter film is viewed first, and with no expectations.

john_burke100 said...

I share your aversion to Guys and Dolls, with the exception of Stubby Kaye. I know it's a studio musical, not an Albert Maysles slice of reality; still, every number looks like Take Eighty-One (at least), lifeless and forced: Damon Runyon meets The Mummy.

Caftan Woman said...

I'm with you on "Woman of the Year". I want to like it, but my-oh-my, how I do not.

My hubby is in your corner 100% on "You Can't Take It With You". He can't stand "those flakes". On the other hand, I can overlook all for what is one of Edward Arnold's greatest performances.

We're both big fans of the show "Guys and Dolls" and wish the movie captured the magic.

Larry said...

As I recall, "Kiss Me Stupid" was supposed to star Peter Sellers, who suffered a heart attack or some dire illness. Hence Ray Walston as the replacement. Billy Wilder learned his lesson and waited for Walter Matthau to get better when HE had a heart attack while filming "The Fortune Cookie."

Daniel Kasman said...

Spot on about the Hitchcock; though for me that made an otherwise boring movie interesting -- the first act is a pretty precise look at the discomfort and dynamic of Day and Stewart's marriage. The film's mistake is the rest of the movie, which has little do to with much of anything.

Gloria said...

I could never get to like the first Pink Panther movie (or Peter Sellers), but I enjoyed the sequels in my early teens... My own theory is that the first movie lacks something vital to the series (well, at least for me): Herbert Lom.

I have a soft spot for Guys and Dolls (blame Miss Simmons for that), but I have to admit that you're basically right about it, and, yes, A film like Five Fingers is by far a more vindicable Mankiewicz (and it's got Mason and La Darrieux, to boot).

Marlon Brando, by the way, is supposed to be speaking a few Spanish words in La Habana, but darn if I was able to understand what he was supposed to be saying.

ratzkywatzky said...

How do you feel about the other Pink Panther movies? My problem with the original is that there's not *enough* slapstick.

Mat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mat said...

I don't like any of those either, except The Trial, whose deficiencies in performance and dialogue fade into insignificance next to the film’s striking visuals.

The Siren said...

Pinko (ha, I kind of love typing that)--Glenn Kenny mounted a lovely tribute to the second version, but I still can't get on board. It's funny, though; when I first started reading about HItchcock, I was always encountering critics who thought the first one was better. Somewhere along the line, that reversed, but nobody consulted me.

John_Burke, "lifeless and forced" would be my three-word take too. I *love* that score but the one I listen to is from the 1990s revival. The movie wrecks Miss Adelaide's nightclub numbers, too. "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat" isn't shot very well either but I'm still crazy about it because Kaye just sells the stuffing out of it.

The Siren said...

Mat, of all the ones on the list, the one I most regret not wholly digging is The Trial, for the reason you cite, and also because I just love Welles. But I can't honestly claim to enjoy it on the other levels that make a great film for me.

Larry, as I recall Wilder didn't much like Sellers as a person (he had company). But Sellers would have made a whole different movie. The Fortune Cookie without Matthau would be miles of unpleasant too, I submit.

Caftan Woman, Arnold is indeed great, but I can't get past the flakes.

The Siren said...

Daniel (nice to see you here, btw), the late-movie Albert Hall sequence is technically brilliant but by then I am so worn out by these people that I'm admiring it strictly on that level and no other.

Ratzywatzky, I don't like the sequels, either. I don't even like the animation. I adore the Mancini, though, I will say that.

The Siren said...

Gloria, Spanish? really? I never picked it up, but it seems you didn't either, LOL!

Andreas said...

I'm with you on most of these. Some of them, like Father of the Bride, Where the Boys Are, and The Pink Panther just strike me as SO superficial and pretty bland, too. (The song, "Meglio Stasera," is absolutely the most memorable part of Panther, and pops into my head at random moments.)

You Can't Take It With You, The Trial, and The Man Who Knew Too Much '56, meanwhile, I see as problematic second- or third-tier works by their respective directors.

Each has a lot to recommend it - Edward Arnold on harmonica, those massive, intimidating sets, and Jimmy Stewart hassling that poor taxidermist, for example - but they can be hard to really LOVE.

Kim said...

I so agree about Woman of the Year. In fact in general I can't enjoy the Hepburn/Tracy movies because I always feel like Tracy has to be shown getting the upper hand in the end of their movies. This to me shows a major change in romantic comedies after the war. I always felt female roles were better written in the comedies before the war.

Sondermann said...

"Kiss me, Stupid"? Oh yeah? Well, I've never liked "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir".

Peter Nellhaus said...

Chacun au son gout ou que sera, sera.

The Siren said...

Sonderman, that really did make me LOL.

Peter, do forgive me! I like the song, although the way she sings it like a dirge at the end...

Tony Dayoub said...

You know, Siren, I thought I was going to have some kind of problem with this list. But the truth is I don't. Even the movies I "like" on this list -- SERGEANT YORK, GUYS AND DOLLS, MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH -- are merely adequate. None of them really light my fire. Certainly not enough to even scrape together a paragraph for each the way you did.

Kudos for going through the trouble on these middle-of-the-road-ers.

The Siren said...

BTW, I got mixed up typing above and said the Albert Hall comes late in The Man Who Knew Too Much, and it does not. My bad.

The Siren said...

Kim, in general I agree with you about the Tracy/Hepburn collaborations, although there are a number less egregious than WOTY. Pat and Mike, for example; I like the ending of that one very much.

Tony and Andreas, yes, I guess these are all lower-tier classics, although they are still perennial classics and all of them have their defenders...none of whom seem to have really shown up yet, but perhaps they're all just counting to ten.

Arthur S. said...

I'd especially disagree with Number 10. I don't think the two of them hate each other at all but rather it's a movie that shows a stable marriage simmering with conflicts. And it's fairly rare to see it on screen. And it's Doris Day's best performance.

The famous scene where James Stewart tells his wife that their son is kidnapped was totally improvised on set. Although it's a remake, Bill Krohn has pointed out that the movie started without a complete script.

The Siren said...

Arthur, that was Glenn Kenny's argument, precisely. Here, this will make all the MWKTM lovers feel better. Click away.

Rachel said...

Every time I see Stewart drugging Day, I keep getting Vertigo flashbacks. "Drink this down, Judy, it's just like medicine." Still, I'd agree with Arthur that Doris Day is great in that movie.

My vote for Hitchcock I Should Love and Don't would be "To Catch a Thief." Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, the Riviera, Edith Head--and it all sort of becomes a sugar overdose.

As for the rest of the list, I must make the admission that sexy as Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons are, if I'm watching them together, it's going to be "Desiree." Enjoyable tosh and one of my childhood loves.

Sondermann said...

"BTW, I got mixed up typing above and said the Albert Hall comes late in The Man Who Knew Too Much, and it does not."

Well, that's one of the problems with TMHKTM, isn't it? The Albert Hall very much feels like the climax of the film but then you realize there is still the missing child...

But frankly, I don't like the 1935 that much, either. The couple there was a bit too "stiff-upper-lip". I liked the shoot-out in the end though, which to me seems to have been inspired by Lang's "Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler".

Bryce Wilson said...

Oh man I'm agreeing with you so hard about The Man Who Knew Too Much that I might throw the Earth from its axis.

My antipathy is increased by the fact that it ALWAYS overshadows the original which is in my top five Hitchcocks of all time.

The Siren said...

Rachel, bless your heart. I can't really defend Desiree as a piece of High Art but I've loved it since girlhood as well, and I agree that's the Simmons/Brando combo to watch.

Sondermann, it's been years since I saw the British MWKTM but I thought it was pretty swell, although it wouldn't make my Hitchcock top 10. And yes, the Albert Hall is great in the remake, although I was serious that I was already tired of the two of them by then.

The Siren said...

Bryce, I did just say the original wouldn't make my top 10 Hitchcocks, but that is more a reflection of how many great movies he made than the original's quality. It really was very good.

john_burke100 said...

@Sondermann: the siege at the end of the 1935 MWKTM is loosely based on an actual event, known as the Siege of Sidney Street.

@Gloria: do you like Sellers in Dr. Strangelove? Another of his roles I can recommend is Dr. Pratt in The Wrong Box. The movie is uneven but has great bits, including Wilfrid Lawson as Peacock, the world's oldest butler.

Elizabeth said...

I have the same feeling toward Woman of the Year--I start to twitch once they get married. Then again, I get twitchy during The Philadelphia Story whenever Tracy Lord and her dad interact. Both movies make me think that the world wasn't really ready for Katharine Hepburn yet.

Pronoun Trouble Jr. said...

Is there really such a thing as a "perfect" movie?

The Siren said...

Pronoun Trouble: Maybe, maybe not, but These Movies Are More Imperfect Than Others.

Elizabeth, overall I like The Philadelphia Story very much; I honestly think James Stewart SAVES that movie, he's wonderful. The way he treats Tracy makes up for so much. But I am so with you on the father. I wrote once before that his speech about why Tracy drove him to cheat on his wife makes me as stabby as just about any dialogue in any great movie, ever.

Vanwall said...

Father of the Bride

It’s all surfaces and shiny things, not least of which are Taylor and Bennett, but it’s not the ages of any of them that perturbs me, it’s the compendium of grinding clichés that runs me down, both spoken and left on the table as one passed. It’s like Lone Watie’s hard rock candy: “But it's not for eatin'. It's just for lookin' through.“

You Can't Take It With You

You can’t make me take this Capra corn anywhere but out to the tip.

Woman of the Year

This suffers, for me, from Hep-Burn, not my cuppa, sorry.

Kiss Me, Stupid

As I once mentioned to Tom Sutpen:
“I saw it recently, again, and it doesn't bear repeat watching as a form of entertainment - only for picking at the bones, and sucking the marrow, 'cause it was absolutely ordinary - a forgettable film from an era of similar forgettable films, and if Wilder or Martin or Novak hadn't been attached, it would be even less of trivia question. I must say, amongst the spate of snickering films from this era, and despite the fact that those have always been with us, it's discouraging to see Wilder's failure so nakedly onscreen, and so utterly like the others of that ilk. If I was seeing it on first run, at that point, I would be wondering what ever happened to that guy? He used to be a director.”

The Trial

Wholeheartedly agreed, Siren, and as interesting as its interpretation is, Kafka deserved a better cast.

Sergeant York

A stylized shooting arcade substitutes for war – print the legend. I can’t watch this film anymore, for a whole variety of reasons.

Guys and Dolls

Yup, Stubby Kaye, that’s it. I watch and listen to Fugue for Tinhorns, then I switch off.

Where the Boys Are

Where I aren’t.

The Pink Panther

The start of the gradual erosion of humankind…mebbe. Liked the cars and other things with curves and tops that opened in it, tho.

The Man Who Knew Too Much

Yeah, they do grate as a couple. Hitch had a song in his heart or something, hard to believe it was so insipid. Gas, maybe.

The Siren said...

Vanwall, you seem to dislike these even more than I did! I'm happy to find us in accord, save on Hepburn. But she will be always be a divisive talent, though I worship her.

Sondermann said...

@john_burke100:
"The siege at the end of the 1935 MWKTM is loosely based on an actual event, known as the Siege of Sidney Street."

Interesting info, thanks. That incident might have also been the inspiration for the quite similar scene in Lang's film then.

BTW I just noticed I made a mistake, the first TMWKTM is from 1934, not 1935.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Nothing to forgive as far as I'm concerned. On a somewhat related note, I found out that my father once had a photograph of Peter Lorre from his German theater days that I never got to see. It's now archived at Harvard.

For the record, I do like Dean Martin as Dino, and as far as The Trial is concerned, two magic words: Romy Schneider.

The Siren said...

Peter, I don't know if I have ever encountered a man who didn't have a kind word for Romy Schneider, come to think of it.

Vanwall said...

Siren -

You have a list here that grates on me, I cannot remain silent. Except about Hepburn, out of respect for your establishment here. I generally avoid modern horror, most musicals, and great herds of westerns, myself, so I have long lists of meh, and few lists of yum on those accounts.

HEATHER said...

Hi Siren, first I want to say that I love your blog. I agree with you whole-heartedly on every film on this list EXCEPT for Sgt. York. You state-"The Siren doesn't believe that the indisputably great Hawks had much of a feel for Tennessee or its inhabitants." I grew up thirty miles from the Tennessee border and let me tell you it was filled with people very much like those depicted in the film. Pall Mall, where York lived, is in the middle of nowhere! If you look at it on the map in relation to where I live, it looks like it wouldn't be that far and a nice day trip to his homeplace-but you would be wrong, to put it simply-you can't get there from here, it's way back in the hills. The actress playing his mother reminds me very much of elderly people I knew growing up. As a southerner/hillbilly, I feel all portrayals in this film are authentic. I love this movie and it's one I watch every time it's on. But then again, Citizen Kane is one of my favorites, so we can agree to disagree about York. ;-)

The Siren said...

Vanwall, you're allowed to dislike the great Kate; if memory serves she is no great favorite of Yojimboen's, either. She has a really distinctive style to her acting and I understand when people don't relate; but I am crazy about her in many things. I think she's more subtle in a lot of things than she gets credit for.

Heather, my perception of York is based on my relatives' proximity to Tennessee, a few miles across the border in Alabama. In fact, Tennessee is where they still often go to drink, and I apologize to Tennessee on that basis alone. However, clearly I must bow to your knowledge on the authenticity, and do. Still can't love it, though. A warm welcome to you, and I'm so glad we agree on Kane!

bitter69uk said...

Nice, thought-provoking piece! I too am totally agnostic about Katherine Hepburn. One film I'd include is Casablanca, which I find totally uninvolving / unengaging. And From Here to Eternity. And speaking of Elizabeth Taylor, I find George Stevens really dreary and conventional: watching Giant is like watching paint dry (except for James Dean's scenes). I need to give A Place in the Sun another chance, but don't have fond memories of it. Watched The Barefoot Contessa recently and wanted to love it, having read and loved the Lee Server biography of Ava Gardner -- and that was sheer torture. So talky, inert and self-important.

The Siren said...

Bitteruk, I am laughing, because I know you didn't intend it that way, but your whole list there is precisely "Oh YEAH? Well, I didn't like [insert name of movie the Siren loves}." I realize liking The Barefoot Contessa is a lonely thing, unless I'm visiting Paris at the moment. But I'm a George Stevens fan, and particularly love Giant, and Taylor in it. That brawl at the end! And James Dean hitting the gusher!

bitter69uk said...

And to open things up to foreign films: Nights of Cabiria is probably one of my all-time favourite Italian films -- but I loathed La Strada.

bitter69uk said...

I'm being harsh: Giant looks great and needless to say I love Dean and Liz (and even Rock) but I hate those sprawling, multi-generational epics that feel like they're unfolding in real time. Believe me, I tried hard to like Barefoot Contessa. By the way, I agree with everything on your list.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Rather surprised yu put Kiss Me Stupid on this list at all. it's scrcely canonical. The bad reviews, poor business and attacks by the "Legion of Decency," the censorship arm of the Catholic Church (feel free to insert your own joke here) nearly eneded Wilder's career. Joan Didion came to it's defense. I love the grey cheapness of it all. Like Ace in the Hole only bleaker.

Had Sellers not had his heart attack it's doubtful he and Wilder woud have made it through the shoot without killing each other. Kim is lovely in a poart clearing written with marilyn in mind -- but she'd been dead for two years. Love the gershwin songs and the soigne smarminess of Dino.

The Siren said...

Ah David, but that was then, this is now, and Kiss Me Stupid has all kinds of fans these days. I'm just not one of them.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Guys and Dolls was the first musical I ever saw.

No I'm not talking about the movie. I'm talking about the Broadway show which I saw with the original cast.

I was four.

When Stubby Kaye got up to sing "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat" (the greatest 11 0'Clock Number until "Rose's Turn" in Gypsy) it's safe to say my life began.

The movie receates the inner feel of Times Square in the 50's in a roamntically stylized way -- like the Vegas of Copppola's One From the Heart.

Loesser write two new numbers for the movie. "Adelaide" was done as a sop to Sinatra -- who wanted to play Sky Masterson. "A Woman in Love" is central to the Havana sequence -- brought to vivid life via Micahel Kidd's Choreography and the utter magnificence of Jean Simmons.

Mankiewicz was Brando's best director. he brought him Shakespeare and Farnk Loesser. Gadge couldn't have handled either.

DavidEhrenstein said...

You're right about the Capracornization of Kauffmann & hart's You Can't Take It With You but wrong about The Man Who Knew Too Much. Of course ti's a bad marriage -- that's what make it so terrifying. Doris has more to fear from Jimmy than she does Reggie Nalder.

I love the climactic Bennie Herrmann msuci cue as the Paramount mountain looms over the end credit.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Finally, now's as good a time as any to declare my antipathy to Katherine Hepburn.

She's teriffic In Little Woman, Sylvia Sacarlett, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story and Adam's Rib but sets my teeth on edge in Summertime and all of her late period films -- particularly the virtually unwatchable The Lion in Winter.

Woman of the Year
is awful for more than the reasons you mention.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Didn't know Kiss Me Stupid had that many fans. I've always thought of it as "esoterica" of the MacMahonist sort. An "acquired taste" right along with Hercules Conquers Atlantis, I Love Melvin, India Song and New Rose Hotel

Jennythenipper said...

I am in complete agreement on Sargent York. Also, I hate the way it thinks it's a good thing to completely dehumanize your opponent in war. Would have much rather had his conversion go the other way: from war hero to pacifist.

I must strongly disagree on the Pink Panther, though. I just recently rewatched this one and was thoroughly entertained. I love Peter Sellers and I think this might be his finest slapstick. Add to that David Niven, bear rugs by the fire and mod sixties ski lodge fun and I ask, what's NOT to love.

Dave said...

I'm torn on your list. I agree with a lot of your reasoning, but (for example) watch FOTB and WOTY to watch Tracy and not really pay attention to the plot. I love Hepburn (and met her once [name dropper ...]), but find the Tracy/Hepburn oeuvre mostly unwatchable except for the two of them. ("Keeper of the Flame" and "Without Love?" Really?)

YCTIWY is generally weak, but then I find all post-1934 Capra weak and baffling.

I think "Guys and Dolls" is mostly wonderful (no movie with Veda Ann Borg can be anything but wonderful), and attribute any weaknesses to Goldwyn, who disliked both "Bushel and a Peck" and "I've Never Been in Love Before." Loesser (who, tangentially, -hated- Sinatra) told him he'd write one good number ("A Woman in Love," which I think Brando handles masterfully) and one bad one ("Pet Me, Poppa," which no one could salvage). And I'll fight anyone who thinks that 1955's Sinatra should have played Sky. A couple of years later, yes; but in '55, he wasn't "Frank Sinatra" yet, and would not have been good.

Even though it's not strictly on the list, I just don't get "Giant," especially the second half, with the gawdawful old-age makeup, Dean's bizarre parody of ... something, Hudson's inability to summon up much gravitas, and Liz's twittering until I want to slap her.

My own movie I just don't get is "The Big Lebowski," which I find to be easily the Coen's worst movie, and which everyone else seems to love.

gmoke said...

Stubby Kaye!!! Stubby Kaye!!! I saw him in "L'il Abner" on Broadway. He lit up the stage. He lit up the screen. He popped right out of my TV. What a great performer.

And, on an entirely different note, the luscious Fran Jeffries.

Sigh, Romy Schneider.

Even among the 10 you don't like there is much to celebrate.

The Siren said...

Aha, I knew the list-love couldn't last. I really like Lion in Winter, I must say. And I adore Giant, although it really divides people. I know that Nathaniel R loves it too and as I recall Tom Shone likes it too...don't know what other company I have, maybe someone wants to speak up. I will NOT defend the makeup, however; and it's awful on the Latino characters no matter what age they are.

Jenny, I do like the swingin' looks of Pink Panther very much. And I could stare at Capucine all day. Niven's always a pleasure, but...

How I envy David seeing the original Guys and Dolls on Broadway. WOW.

Dave, Big Lebowski isn't in my general period but I totally could have included it. I'm a fan of the Coens, and it certainly has its highly funny moments, but it's the shaggiest shaggy-dog story ever.

DavidEhrenstein said...

My antipathy to the Coens knows no bounds!

The Siren said...

Gmoke, I am no great fan of Cat Ballou but I'll watch it for Stubby. He didn't make enough movies.

AndrewBW said...

I've never been big on "Vertigo." I just don't find James Stewart convincing. But then there are lots of things I don't find him convincing in. If I never see "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" or "Harvey" again it'll be too soon. (Strangely enough I don't mind "It's a Wonderful Life." Stewart is perfectly cast for that role, and while the first half of the movie is far too syrupy, the bleak second half makes up for it at least somewhat.)

The charm of the Hepburn/Tracy movies has always been lost on me. And I've long since lost any affection for either "The Philadelphia Story" or "Holiday," with their smug platitudes. Otherwise I generally like Hepburn, especially early in her career. On the other hand I've never warmed to Bette Davis, another quirky actress, even when I like her.

I love "Casablanca" but my affection for it may be as much a function of having seen it for the first time when I was very young. I can understand why some people might not. Looking at it objectively, it may be the most overrated movie of all time.

The Siren said...

Oh, I think Stewart is perfect for Vertigo; the character would be well-nigh unbearable in the hands of many another actor. I admire the hell out of the movie, but I don't think it's always acknowledged just how hard it is on the nerves. I think it's one of the most scathing portrayals of what men and women do to each other that I have ever seen.

I like--don't love, but like--Keeper of the Flame and Without Love, I must say, and indeed there's something good for me in all the Hepburn/Tracy movies, with the exception of Sea of Grass, which just bored me rigid. Not that anyone's brought it up, and Tracy's not in it, but I think Undercurrent is underrated.

As for Casablanca, it's one of those movies I have to swear off for a while, and I am currently on the wagon. If I take a few years off, I come back and say "oh man, this really is terrific." I find that also works with It's a Wonderful Life and a number of others.

Sondermann said...

I hope one does not mind this little digression, but some time ago I said some not so kind things about Charles Boyer in the comment section of this blog.

I just finished watching "Mayerling" and I think he's utterly fantastic in an incredible movie.
I still don't particularly like the strangely sedated Hollywood version of Boyer though ;-).

The Siren said...

Oh man, you can praise Mayerling, and Boyer in it, any time you want! An absolutely magnificent piece of romantic moviemaking. I was crazy about it.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

I always heard that Mankiewicz et cie wanted Gene Kelly as Sky Masterson, only they couldn't work out a deal with MGM for borrowing him. Kelly's IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER performance is probably a good sign of what his "Guys and Dolls" performance might've been.

I'm pretty much with Kael on the GUYS AND DOLLS movie. "... Mankiewiecs seems to ahve fallen in love with Damon Runyan's cute, stilted locutions; the camera stands still while the actors mince through lines like 'This is no way for a gentleman to act and could lead to irritation on the part of Harry the Horse'." I do have affection for the score, though. And you should read the bit in Mel Torme's MY SINGING TEACHERS book where he talks about Stubby Kaye being the best thing about the original stage production.

I wonder if the footage has resurfaced of the original ending of WOMAN OF THE YEAR, the stuff that (according to producer Mankiewicz) didn't test well. I'm certainly with you on this one, Siren. And not just regarding the kitchen scene. One that sticks in my craw is where Hepburn looks in on Fay Bainters wedding ceremony and, seemingly, Understands The Words For The First Time. Weepy, bogus, and offensive.

Wonder if this is the place to talk about my lack of affection for the two canonical Hawks comedies, MONKEY BUSINESS and I WAS A MALE WAR BRIDE. The cast of the first one *almost* persuades me, from time to time, but the latter I find unwatchable. And that's despite my love for both Grant and Sheridan.

sean said...

I'm with you on most of these, but I just saw Kiss Me, Stupid for the first time and really liked it. For me, it was Novak's weary Marilyn Monroe impression and, especially Felicia Farr, previously unknown to me, that saved the film. Yes, Walston is nearly unbearable at times (like with many comedies from this era, I keep thinking Jack Lemmon should have played the part), and Dean Martin is extremely creepy in his vicious self-parody, but Novak and Farr have enough soul to make the ending weirdly and wonderfully sweet.

The Siren said...

Sean, Farr didn't get it for me either, I confess. Novak really was the alpha and omega of Kiss Me Stupid; "weirdly sweet" is the perfect description. I'll add by way of mollification though that my husband loves Kiss Me Stupid and says I'm too proper and American to get it. Ha!

Mrs HWV, that would be amazing, seeing the original WOTY end, wouldn't it? Monkey Business is intermittently funny to me. I generally like Charles Coburn but not there. On the other hand, I think I Was a Male War Bride is hilarious. I am starting to realize that I should have been showing Ann Sheridan a LOT more love over the years. Know what movie I think she's the best part of? The Man Who Came to Dinner. And since Bette Davis is in that one, that's saying a lot.

silentsgirl said...

What an interesting list! While there are films there that I happen to love, I'll fight to the death for your right to like and/or dislike whatever you darned well want to. Heavens knows that there are lots of films I "should" love but that I don't. I'm just happy that I happen to have great affection for Citizen Kane, because I like it here. :-)

Tony Dayoub said...

Geez, who doesn't like GIANT? It's so big, so self-important, so bloated, so... American!? Watching it the other night, I was taken by the very thing that some people dislike about it, the TV-grade makeup, the whole television miniseries-ness of it all (says this guy who can't wait to see Haynes' MILDRED PIERCE tonight). I was just struck by how you'd be hard pressed to find something so sprawling come out of Hollywood today unless it's been CGI-ed up the wazoo.

As a Latino, I found it even more trenchant than in past viewings given the recent rise of anti-immigrant sentiment. I was even more acutely aware of ironies like Luz being a Benedict family name despite their initial disdain for their Mexican workers. Or the casting of a non-Latino in a featured Latino part (Sal Mineo as Angel).

If I found anything that irritates me, it's Dean's mannered performance. I'm sure some of the flamboyance would have been edited out by Stevens had Dean not just been beatified by his untimely death. But it's a minor quibble, especially given his brilliance in moments like the gusher scene or the scene in which Luz (Mercedes McCambridge) dies.

The Siren said...

Silentsgirl, I'm glad you like it here. That's an old rule that I instituted after reading one too many person on the Interwebz calling Kane "boring." Something in the Siren snapped, and she said, oh no not here you don't. And nobody ever even tries, though I don't know how many are biting their tongues!

Tony, I agree. I don't even find it bloated though, it just takes its time, like a novel. In some ways the pace and development of Yi-Yi reminded me of Giant. And yes, the anti-immigrant thing makes it more relevant than ever. You know what else I love? Dennis Hopper. His anger when his wife is humiliated is beautiful.

panavia999 said...

Dear Siren
I completely agree with your list.
1. Father of the Bride: it's not the actors, it's the story. It's cute, I watched it once. Taylor was great in it. I don't see the fuss. It's attained this legendary status due to the particular cast and the rosy retrospective of the 50's that too many people suffer from. I don't mind the mid -victorian design of the dress, it's just way too much for a prosperous middle class bride.
2. You Can't Take it With You. The income tax angle doesn't bother me at all. The story is too raucous. Too many people doing too much. It's too Capra-esque, and now it's too dated. GREAT cast though - wouldn't it be nice to see that ensemble in something else!
3. "Woman of the Year" The ending made me cringe and ruined the film, even when I saw it as a child. While the ending has its point - it's a "bludgeons the viewer with a cinder block message" kind of tacked on Hollywood ending. (Something Hollywood still loves to do!) To make it worse, they could have done it OK in a gentle humorous way, but they made it humiliating and rather slapstick. Instead of jerking her chain, they pulled her roughly to the ground. Sure, Tess needed to climb down off her high horse and a wife should be able to cook her husband a nice meal. And Sam needed to expand his world view. The funny thing is that my mother instilled plenty of feminist ideas in me, but she saw nothing wrong with the ending. I prefer "Adams Rib".
4. "Kiss Me Stupid" I just couldn't get through it. It seemed like Dean Martin's ego got in the way of the story.
5. "The Trial" Interesting effort!
6. "Sgt York" There is one serious flaw in this movie - Gary Cooper. In fact, that's my opinion of 95% of Gary Cooper movies - that the movie would have been OK if Cooper hadn't been in it with his wooden self conciousness. A good actor could have pulled it off despite the hokiness. (Same for "Pride of the Yankees". )
7. "Guys and Dolls" Totally agree - Sinatra should have played Masterson. Brando should not have been in it. I've never really liked this musical and I think it's because I've only seen the movie. I should see it at the community theatre next time they do it and learn to appreciate it.
8. "Where the Boys Are" You are probably right, but the "3 Girls Looking for a Husband" genre is just not for my cuppa tea. I can only deal with one girl at a time looking for a husband - "The Moon is Blue" is pretty cute. (Though she wasn't really specifically husband hunting in the story, she didn't have any other serious ambition either.)
9. "Pink Panther" The first two panther movies are cute. I just don't see how it turned into such a popular franchise.
10. "Man Who Knew Too Much" I also prefer the first one. The first few minutes is so cringe inducing where James Stewart gives his wife a tranquilizer The second half is good. Anyway, Doris Day shoehorned into the Hitchcock "cool blonde in a grey suit" uniform doesn't work. Day is not a cool blond type, she is a spirited blond type. Also, the closing lines are good.

If I wrote on this theme, the first film that comes to mind is "It's a Wonderful Life". It's supposed to be so uplifting for the holidays, but to me the dramatic parts are very good and very sad. The happy bits that are supposed to give me a warm fuzzy feeling is just Capra ladling on syrup.

Yojimboen said...

The older I get the more tolerant I find myself becoming, which comes as a pleasant surprise to a life-long curmudgeon; I suspect – and hope – it’s something of a universal trait that comes with time served on mother earth; at least I tell my younger friends they have that to forward to.

Like you, dear lady, I used to get furious at the climactic Seth Lord speech to daughter Tracy, but nowadays I just chalk it up to the contemporary zeitgeist ruling Phillip Barry’s pen. That aside, I find the film to be quite adorable, fully the gem of its reputation.

Your memory serves you ill, I don’t dislike Kate H. Granted she did work in some utterly atrocious films, Suddenly Last Summer (sorry David) chief among them; but inasmuch as her lives with Tracy - on and off screen - were equally on display, I feel justified in disapproving of Kate, and Tracy, even moreso. The tragic time-worn story of their love that could not be (!), poor noble Spencer Tracy was Catholic, you see, and couldn’t or wouldn’t divorce his wife. No? But he and KH could betray her publicly for forty odd years by flaunting their infidelity. That albatross around their necks makes it very difficult for me to admire their respective works and their joint projects even more.

X. Trapnel said...

Oooh, I can't wait to get at this one.

1. The Siren nailed exactly on The Trial. Kafka was not a visual writer and all the cinematographic beauty is misspent, never merges with what remains of the narrative. All that lusting after literary prestige. Dr. Zh, Death in Venice, The Dead are all dire films but given the limitations of their makers who would expect any better. Welles (like David Lean) should have stayed home.
2. MWKTM, yes, the marriage deserves a film of its own; it, that horrid child (no Nova Pilbeam he), and the smug 50s Americanness are still for me outweighed by D. Gelin, stabbed and staggering; Ambrose Chapel with the little man attacking JS with a swordfish, and... well, you know. Herrmann's rearrangement of Arthur Benjamin's music really ramps up the suspense.
3. I read recently that Katherine Hepburn was given to obssessively badmouthing Margaret Sullavan, so she's permanently consigned to my bad books. To borrow a useful term from the brothers Epstein, The Filadelfia Story is slick shit, but Woman of the Year is a horror, maudlin and sick with male self-pity; a warning that worse is to come with Adam's Rib.

I utterly adore and worship Margaret Sullavan and fear an eruption and torrential lava flow from Mt. Yojimboen like that occasioned by Joan Fontaine. Margaret S. did The Constant Nymph on stage and her screen test for Rebecca is astonishing.

X. Trapnel said...

4. Mischa Auer makes YCTIWY worthwhile. Edward Arnold too.

5. Sure, Sinatra should have played Sky Masterson, but Brando is fine when he's not singing and I can't help feeling that more comedy (and I don't mean Bedtime Story) might have made a human being of him. But the Havana scene (not Jean S. singing If I Were a Bell) is torture. This being Mank, I'm sure I've Never Been in Love Before was cut to make space for that stupid fight scene. 5 Fingers, however skillful, is pure contraption, utterly heartless. Who but Mank would want to make chere Danielle a villainess?

Yojimboen said...

1) Father of the Bride: As a six-year-old, I remember peeing myself with laughter at the nightmare scene where Tracy (I liked him then) crawls down the rubber aisle.

(Today all the film does is remind me of the existence of people like Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer, supremely, tooth-achingly mediocre filmmakers who specialize in remakes.)

2) You Can't Take It With You: Just a hopeless mess. If you read the cast list on IMDb (with every actor in H’Wood, including Ann Doran and Charles Lane) the question becomes who wasn’t in this movie? And yet Capra still screwed the pooch. I saw a Broadway revival about 25 years ago, it worked on stage. I chalk it up to too much Kaufman and Hart and not enough Robert Riskin.

Which reminds me of one of my first contributions to this kaffee-klatsch: The story of how one day Robert Riskin – tired of Frank Capra’s Name Above The Title vanity, walked into Capra’s office and slammed down 120 pages of blank paper and said, “There you go Frank, give that the fucking Capra Touch!

3) Woman of the Year: I dunno what Stevens was thinking with that ending; maybe he had a few leftover pratfalls from his Stan and Ollie slapstick days and hated to waste them. It’s hideous. It retrofucks everything that goes before. An insulting film to women. If Kate H had half the moxie she claimed, she’d have refused to shoot it.

4) Kiss Me, Stupid (Don’t forget the comma!) I suspect Sellers would have made it better – but not much. Walston was unfamiliar to this viewer (his TV series didn’t make the UK), I knew him only from Damn Yankees - where he wasn’t half-bad, and of course the dread South Pacific so I didn’t mind him as much as some. Kim Novak was splendidly pneumatic, Martin less so, but certainly watchable. I vaguely remember Wilder saying he and Izzy Diamond just wanted to make the dirtiest movie ever to come out of H’Wood. By and large they succeeded, I think. But, hey, it was roundly condemned by the Catholic League, so what’s not to like?

The Siren said...

Panavia, I actually really love Pride of the Yankees, but in my experience it's a baseball movie for those who either don't love baseball or like me, are lukewarm about it. I do think Cooper is marvelous in it, although I guess there's some debate as to whether he's anything like Gehrig.

XT, you know, I like Zhivago, The Damned AND Death in Venice but The Trial just doesn't get it for me. I think it's the dialogue and Perkins, more than anything.

Y., my sincerest apologies on Kate--I think it was Davis you were confessing to lack of love for, come to think of it. Or maybe I had you confused with David E., which may be the first and only time that ever happens for either one of you! I do love that Riskin story. I am inclined to love anything condemned by the League of Decency too but...

X. Trapnel said...

Siren,

Zhivago is not a bad film on its own terms, but Pasternak (mainly as a poet) is a lifelong obsession of mine and the film is so uncomprehending:

DL: "So Robbie, what about this Dr. Chicago thing? Gangsters, I expect...

RB: "No David, it actually takes place in Russia."

DL: "Quite. I imagine they have an awful lot of snow there. Perhaps we could use some of the leftover sand from Lawrence, and, you know..."

RB: "Paint it white?"

DL: "Yes, paint it white; that's the ticket!"

Happy Miser said...

Siren- Count me as one of the tongue biters on Kane. I'm just a mild mannered movie lover with no film schooling except watching them and that movie just doesn't speak to me. I just can't appreciate it on any level and I am completely willing to accept that the fault lies not in my star but in myself.
As to the person who dissed Mrs. Muir: yeah we need to step outside and discuss it. Whaddaya think?
PS: I like it here, too!
The Lion in Winter is period Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf with snappier dialogue.

VP81955 said...

Bringing my obligatory Carole Lombard reference to the party: According to Lombard biographer Larry Swindell, Carole came across the "Woman Of The Year" property and wanted to make it as a vehicle with her and Clark Gable, only to discover that Kate Hepburn had acquired the rights.

A Gable-Lombard "Woman Of The Year" might have succeeded. Carole had worked well with George Stevens in "Vigil In The Night" -- an okay movie, albeit a depressing one -- and the first half of "No Man Of Her Own" makes evident that Clark and Carole complemented each other in comedy quite well. And not being familiar with the original ending, it's entirely possible Gable and Lombard could have pulled it off, with no negative feedback in previews and no rewrite needed...the only high horse Carole was ever accused of riding was her beloved Palomino, Pico.

Would Louis B. Mayer, who enjoyed Lombard's presence around the MGM studio but was reluctant to have her work with Gable, have relented for this property? Maybe, especially since the William Powell-Myrna Loy pairing was on the verge of ending (save for the final two "Thin Man" films) in the fall of 1941, and it's possible Clark and Carole could have been their successors in sophisticated comedy. Of course, this is in an alternate universe where Lombard lives past Jan. 16, 1942 and Gable stays stateside (at least for a little while).

BTW, this week marks the 72nd anniversary of the Gable-Lombard marriage. Oh, and don't go to Oatman, Ariz. to commemorate the honeymoon; they never went to the hotel there. It's a myth, folks.

Jeff Gee said...

Did anybody else, coming to “You Can’t Take It with You” in late adolescence following way too many Bowery Boys movies, assume for the first hour or so that we were going to find out Edward Arnold was a Nazi spy (unbeknownst to Jimmy Stewart) and the Vanderhof clan was actually a Communist cell (unbeknownst to Jean Arthur), and that Young Love would finally triumph when the assorted enemy agents ratted each other out to the feds? And if so, were you as bitterly disappointed as I was when it didn’t happen?

Hey, spellcheck didn’t give me a hard time about ‘unbeknownst!’

The Siren said...

XT, I know few people who are either Russian, or adore Pasternak, or both, who have a whole lotta use for Doctor Z., but I can't help it, I just love that great big mess of a movie.

Happy Miser, thank you for biting your tongue, as I like you too. And I never thought about Lion in Winter that way, but it's kind of apt, at that. I find it extremely funny. Could quote it all day. "I'm vilifying you for god's sake--pay attention!"

VP, that really would have been something to see. 72 years now since their marriage, my goodness. She really was an incalculably huge loss.

Jeff, no, it won't surprise you to learn that this NEVER occurred to me but I like it better than what we've actually got!

Brian Doan said...

Siren, I'm totally with you on many of these-- WOMAN OF THE YEAR (as David Thomson says in his "Biographical Dictionary," Cary Grant was a much better foil for Hepburn), GUYS AND DOLLS (oh, what a waste of a gorgeous score and funny book), and the really bad YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU. I think James Stewart is wonderful in the film, but it suffers from what so many of Capra's didactic pieces do-- the never-acknowledged way in which those "free spirits" are pretty unbending, smug and authoritarian in the way they insist on their free-spiritedness; one of the reasons I love MEET JOHN DOE is that Capra and Riskin finally address this (and it's so gorgeously captured by Joseph Walker's inky black and white cinematography).

I do love FATHER OF THE BRIDE, though.

X. Trapnel said...

nu, ladno

Yojimboen said...

Two things:

@XT. Placed next to mine, your love of Margaret Sullavan is a paltrey, puny, pitiably small beer kind of thing.

@Jeff Gee – Thank you thank you thank you! I finally understand why I don’t like YCTIWY! I kept waiting for Slip and Satch!
(Though at that time they were aka Muggs and Glimpy.)

Meredith said...

I must admit to loving You Can't Take it With You. The premise is pretty ridiculous but when you put the left side of Jean Arthur's face (which was all angel, no horse, and I'm looking at YOU Harry Cohn) Jimmy Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, a potentially underage Ann Miller, and Spring Byington in one theatrically stilted set boy do I go to town. Jimmy can wax poetic to me in excruciating long take about the benefits of solar power any time he wants.

X. Trapnel said...

Small beer? Nay, my love for Miss Sullavan is as a cask of amontillado, VSOP to the nth degree; translunar wine from the year of the comet, or the first vintage of Bacchus himself. Yours by comparison, my dear chap, is congealed Yoo Hoo, sheep dip, or Rasputin's rare bathwater.

Asher said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
X. Trapnel said...

Kafka should be filmed via animation. Evelyn Waugh also.

KEVYN KNOX said...

Although I do quite enjoy Kiss Me Stupid, Guys & Dolls (for what it is) and Hitch's self-remake, but I can see why they are irksome to the Siren. The one I really have the problem with is The Trial. I think it one of the best (and most creative) adaptations of a classic work of literature. I do see why someone would think it pretentious (because it is) but then all of Welles is pretentious in one way or another - and that is exactly why I consider him the greatest director of all-time. I suppose this love of that old-time Wellesian pretension is why I have a problem with your dissing of The Trial.

Okay, I do not really have a problem (since the Siren is one of my favourite classic bloggers) and am pretty much just commenting to comment (wanting to be part of the conversation so to speak), but I do really love The Trial.

Keep up the great work oh Siren.

john_burke100 said...

Though I'm not a Katharine Hepburn fan, I do want to put in a word for Stage Door. I find her much easier to take among multiple strong women characters.

IMdB confirms my recollection that Ring Lardner, Jr. co-scripted Woman of the Year. I've generally thought of him as the best writer among the Hollywood Ten, but that ending really is a disgrace.

Kent said...

Siren, how about another rule: no trashing Philip Barry. By that, I do not mean the father's speech in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. Stanley Cavell has some interesting stuff to say about that in PURSUITS OF HAPPINESS.

I'll go with Glenn on THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. I actually love the whole movie, and that includes every refrain of "Que Sera Sera." And I don't think they hate each other at all. Interesting...

But the rest of the list? I'm with you. They seem to fall into different categories. KISS ME STUPID and THE TRIAL are good in theory but extremely laborious movies (some other movies that fall in that category: ELENA ET LES HOMMES and LE DEJEUNER SUR L'HERBE, perhaps SHANGHAI GESTURE).

WOMAN OF THE YEAR is fascinating. I think the real problems begin when she adopts the war orphan, because that's when the film goes full-tilt into a real condemnation of her ambitions. Then there's the wedding of father and aunt, a mind-boggling ceremony (it's not just that she understands the words, Mrs. Vale - the minister delivers a sermon that might have given Cotton Mather pause). The strange thing about the ending is the weird slow burn effect of the extremely unfunny comedy, with a very early 30s cross-cutting rhythm.

nigel.holmes said...

It's not just the films with Tracy where Katherine Hepburn plays the role of "woman who thinks she's better than us and needs to be taken down a peg or two", "The Philadelphia Story" is doing the same thing. I seem to remember reading in her own account of that time that this was the view that less sympathetic journalists had of her; so the studios maybe saw her as a suitable victim for this type of role. As you say "Pat and Mike" is something of an exception in the comedies with Tracy.

Yojimboen said...

@ Asher – “Finally, of course Kane isn't boring, but it's not above criticism…”

On this site it is. It’s a house rule, and out of politeness to our gracious hostess, we respect it. Thanks.

@X. You win, as usual.
But don’t knock congealed YooHoo.
Got me through many a hot night.
If you take my meaning.

The Siren said...

Asher - HI, I recognize you from Glenn's place, and welcome. I think there may be a misunderstanding, though. I may have inadvertently given the impression that I was joking when I said, in the post above, that I wasn't joking about the Citizen Kane rule. I am, however, not joking about the not joking. It really is the one and only ironclad rule at the Siren's, made strictly to save my nerves. I've never had to institute any others, on account of this joint being a high-tone establishment and all. *eyes the house*

I regret having to delete your entire comment, as it wasn't all Kane diss; if you want to repost the first half, by all means do so.

The Siren said...

Kevyn, thanks so much. The Trial is the one on here that gives me a pang; I wanted to love it, I did. The beauty may be inappropriate to Kafka (I'm not enough of a Kafka head to judge, and haven't read The Trial) but it's really prominent, and rather miraculous considering the circumstances under which it was made.

John_Burke, Stage Door is one of my favorite movies of the 30s, period. I think Ginger steals it, but Hepburn is wonderful. The whole cast is marvelous, not a dud performance in it.

The Siren said...

Kent, I like Barry too. I go back and forth on how much Philadelphia Story is really blaming Tracy, as opposed to showing male characters who do, but I never waver in thinking James Stewart is the key to the whole thing. And of course it's extremely funny, in a way that Woman of the Year isn't past about midpoint. Yeah, the war orphan definitely marks a downhill point. And the pacing in that last scene is indeed deadly. I know Stevens can do better than that, I am very very fond of The More the Merrier. Just out of curiosity, how do you like the original MWKTM?

Nigel, it's true of TPS, but I really do believe that Stewart, who doesn't want to take her down a peg, alters the whole tenor of that movie.

I hope everyone here hasn't forgotten how much we all love Desk Set, right? I used to be able to a do a pretty good Kate reciting the opening lines of Hiawatha...

Kent said...

Siren, I like the original MWKTM, but I like the remake a lot more. But then, there's no such thing as a bad Hitchcock movie. THE PARADINE CASE comes close, but that's a Selznick/miscasting issue.

The Siren said...

Kent, I like The Paradine Case much more than Torn Curtain or Frenzy, Frenzy occupying the absolute bottom rung of my mental HItchcock ladder. I do not remember having any great love for Topaz or Family Plot but it's been so long I wouldn't be able to articulate why. I get something out of all of him, though, I agree with you there. Apropos of not much, I've always liked Lifeboat a great deal more than just about anyone else. Always did. Although Bankhead won the NYFCC Best Actress that year so somebody must have agreed with me. Hope it wasn't Bosley Crowther.

Marilyn said...

While I agree with one of your commenters who said these aren't all canonical, they certainly are known. I used to love Where the Boys Are, but as I've grown older and wiser, the truly distasteful aspects of the film come roaring out at me. It is a very sad film. I like Sgt. York for Coop's performance, but I wouldn't go to the mat for it. But I really do love Father of the Bride, even if Joan Bennett comes off a little too ditsy. The small observations and the breathtaking Liz kill me every time. Of the canonical classics I hate, I might put Pride of the Yankees near the top of the list; it's a real insult to Lou Gehrig's memory.

And you reminded me of a similar exercise I did on Facebook (and which you commented on) that I thought I'd repost here:

1. SOME LIKE IT HOT - Some like it not. Like most of Billy Wilder's stuff, I think it's overrated and actually pretty stupid.

2. INTOLERANCE - Boring and self-serving from the Whine King, D. W. Griffith.

3. BORN YESTERDAY - Unpleasant characters, unfunny, loud.

4. WHITE CHRISTMAS - Like eating baby cereal. Bland, beige, and textureless.

5. SCHINDLER'S LIST - Dishonest and unsubtle in the extreme.

6. THE PREMINGER ABOMINATION - Those who read my blog know which film I'm talking about, and why.

7. JAPON - I have no idea why this Carlos Reygadas film was such a sensation.

8. SILENT LIGHT - I have no idea why this Carlos Reygadas film was such a sensation.

9. CACHE - I am a Haneke fan, but this film just never got off the ground for me.

10. TIME AND THE CITY - Well, I've never been to Liverpool, but I've been to Oklahoma. Didn't register with me at all.

11. GILDA - Lousy film that lives on its "Put the Blame on Mame" number.

12. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE - You're tearing me apart! I wish!

13. SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER - Silly, histrionic, overindulgent.

14. IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE - Will they or won't they? Who cares.

15. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS - Sexist, stereotypically French, bad music except for the title suite, and Kelly's a horrible painter. Poor Leslie Caron deserved better.

Gareth said...

I saw Father of the Bride for the first time recently and I've been wondering ever since whether it was intended as a comedy or a nightmarish commentary on American consumer culture... Some of the set pieces work rather well, but the film is far too extended for its own good, at least if it's supposed to be a nifty comedy.

The Siren said...

Marilyn, I wouldn't call most of them canonical either, but they are established classics in the sense of being well known films with followings of some sort. Of the ten, Where the Boys Are is easily the least loved by critics, and I believe that was true even at the time of its release. But I really did pick these on the basis of there being a number of elements, whether director or theme or performers, that in theory should really appeal to me, and yet they do not. WTBA is a type of late 50s/early 60s melo that I like and defend a lot, but as you said, distasteful. If Dolores Hart comes across best, it's in part because she's the only girl allowed to keep any dignity.

Of your list, I have to say that I love them all, save the Preminger (It's The Man With the Golden Arm, guys, if you don't know--forgive me for naming Beetlejuice, Marilyn) although it's tolerable for me, sort of a mid-tier entry from a director who is no great favorite of mine in general; In the Mood for Love, which I didn't think a bad film, but was uninvolving; and the Reygadas and Davies films, which I haven't seen.

Gareth, Glenn Kenny argues that the sourness in FOTB is indeed deliberate and that it's more satirical than I give it credit for being; in this week's Nomad I believe he's going to take that on as part of the Elizabeth Taylor retrospective.

James Keepnews said...

Wow, no/not enough love for The Trial? I confess I've never found anything about it dull and inasmuch as we're discussing a good bit of dialogue and (arguably) the sensibility of Kafka translated into English, I suppose one could say it skews "mannered,", though that's not a modifier I'd apply to Franz, or Orson's dialogue here. That said, when you're talking about a work that details the inscrutable evisceration of the individual by the forces of social conformity, stands to reason you're discussing a scenario that's under some heavy manners.

It is not, let's say, an unproblematic work, and I always have a hard time with post-dubbing regardless, making much of Welles (and, for that matter, entire decades of European cinematic production) a sometimes difficult cinematic experience for me. But. Good Lord, yes, it is gorgeous, but it's hardly some kind of superficial beauty. In fact, all the lovely (often rear-lit) chiaroscuro, slashing, German Expressionist angles with which Edmond Richard works that airplane-hangar depth-of-field are, for me, an enormously compelling correlative to Orson's M.O. articulated in the sometimes-absent slideshow overture, that the film has "the logic of a dream". I.e. nightmare. And I think Mr. Perkins was more than kinda born to play Josef K. From his nervy hauteur declaiming in the courtroom, to his giggling with Akim Tamiroff like naughty schoolboys, and everywhere else besides, I think he's superb throughout and the febrile, sensitive core of the film, interiority inexorably, impersonally crushed by superegotistical forces well beyond his control, a crushing for which he is made to believe he is wholly responsible. For myself, it remains the single most (truly, truly sorry here, but, you know, it's apropos) Kafka-esque film ever made.

The Siren said...

James, I'm truly sorry--I wanted to love it. I do agree with you that the beauty isn't superficial at all. Love "airplane-hangar depth of field;" ain't that the truth. It's mesmerizing on that level.

Marilyn said...

Yes, Farran, I see where you're coming from with your choices. The 60s films I used to love are really getting on my nerves. The women in them are like cartoon cutouts. I'll take the 50s women's films any day, no matter that their leads have little aspiration to anything beyond marriage and motherhood.

That Fuzzy Bastard said...

My love for The Trial is heavily influenced by the original circumstances of seeing it. I saw it at BAM, in a packed theater, and that really powerfully brought out the comedy of the movie. Without some connection to the movie's humor, it can come off as merely mannered and weird. But with an audience that's on its wavelength, it's an honest-to-gosh laugh riot---the crowd I saw it with started laughing at "There's no such word as ovular" (or perhaps those Marx-Brothers-style shots of K's coworkers) and didn't stop until near the end. I think it gets Kafka's humor and his weird sexuality better than anyone. And I love how Welles and Perkins really get K better than many American adaptations---he's not an innocent victim, he's an self-righteous, horny prig whose punishment emanates from some inner crime.

Gareth said...

Well, I'll have to get me to Nomad in that case! There's definitely a sourness to the film, a kind of put-upon attitude that seems born of (upper) middle-class aspiration (there's also, of course, the father's fear of loss of control over his offspring).

DavidEhrenstein said...

I've always loved The Trial, but it's not the sort of film most p[eople "warm-up to." it's resolutely chilly and removed -- almost as if the action were unfolding in an alternate universe.

Romy Schneider is especially wonderful in it. But then when isn't she?

The Siren said...

"Resolutely chilly and reserved" is *extremely* well-put. I really would see The Trial again, but only at a cinema in a really good print. If I react the same way to it, at least I'll still be getting my b&w cinematography geek on in a major way.

Erich Kuersten said...

Whoa! I LOVE this list, so nice to hear these 'classics' called out for what they really are. A kind of patronizing patriarchal blandness runs rampant through most of them, which hasn't aged at all well. Doris Day and JS in the Man are totally painful, like some vile burlesque of the 'apple pie' American family... the scene where Day and Stewart chronicle the list of diseases that paid for the vacation and all their luxuries is especially horrific, a fine example of why the medical community should be gutted and replaced with a socialist model like Cuba's or Argentina's!

And YOU CANT TAKE IT WITH YOU is just like if, say, Cameron Crowe was hired to make a 'typical Capra movie'

Spencer Tracy is a great actor but I always feel he has a stupefyingly smug, sanctimoniously patronizing chip on his shoulder against feminism which makes him such a weird lover for Kate Hepburn. His displeasure at Kate's making light of 'the law' in ADAM'S RIB for example, still wrankles, though overall the film is a delight.

Yojimboen said...

Crowther on Lifeboat.

Mein Gott! Old Bos could cripple the English language without half trying.

Tom Block said...

>SOME LIKE IT HOT, BORN YESTERDAY, SCHINDLER'S LIST, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE

If I ever get to meet you, Marilyn, the drinks are on me.

hhuckaby said...

Thank you for saying that about FATHER OF THE BRIDE and WOMAN OF THE YEAR. I've never been able to sit still through either one, and both make me want to watch Spencer Tracy in Desk Set or Inherit the Wind in a hurry to cleanse my palate.

I'm a huge Gary Cooper fan, but Walter Brennan's eyebrows almost defeat me in SERGEANT YORK.

The movie that came to my mind first when I saw your post was ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. I do not understand the love for this movie at all. It bores me silly. I love westerns, but Leone's "masterpiece" ... shudder!

Jeff Gee said...

On the basis of the various comments here, pro and con, I stuck "Kiss Me, Stupid" on my Netflix queue. At which point Netflix recommended FIVE count 'em FIVE movies starring Mitzi Gaynor.

Trish said...

Excellent choices, Siren! I’m in complete agreement with you on these films.

I don’t remember ever seeing The Trial, so I’ll replace it with Gentleman’s Agreement. Although I’m a fan of most of Mr. Kazan’s work, I dislike this one intensely. It is so…mechanical. Every point is made with a sledgehammer, and there are times when it feels like the audience is being taken by hand and asked “what can we learn from this, children?” And Anne Revere is the teacher. I know Garfield asked to be in this film, but I like him better as a soulful thug/underdog on-the-run rather than as a political tool. Badass Gregory Peck is sorely missed in the wake of the stuffed shirt he plays here. Truth is, I’m very sad to say I don’t like any of the actors’ work in this film, except for Celeste Holm. She is untouchable.

The Siren said...

Hhuckaby, I don't believe I have seen your name in comments before, but I am ready to swear allegiance to you, all the same.

However, I couldn't possibly have put that movie on a list like this, since that would mean there was an element that had attracted me to it in the first place. "Oh fabulous Henry Fonda!...um, shooting a kid!" Ah, no.

Jeff Gee, you say that like it's a bad thing. Was one of them "Les Girls"? The Siren digs that one big time.

The Siren said...

Yojimboen, you really know how to hurt a woman, don't you? All the same, I am happy to note the windup, where he gets everything wrong, and rights the world on its axis.

Erich K., I haven't seen you in a while and it's nice to have you back. I completely agree about the Tracy speech about "the law" in Adam's Rib. His tactics aren't any nobler than hers.

The Siren said...

Trish, Gentleman's Agreement is one of those Best Picture winners that time hasn't been very good to, at all. I never did like it much, either, However, the scene between Peck and the hotel clerk (actor's name escapes me, damn) is still well played. I think Garfield does about as well with his role as any actor alive could have; and yes, Holm is wonderful, she walks off with the picture.

The Siren said...

Tom Block, the Siren is happy to assist in the matching of kindred spirits, and there is no fee. Until after the 30-day trial period, that is.

Trish said...

I love Les Girls too! I've had a colour magazine advert framed on my wall for more years that I will admit. All the gals are wonderful, but Mitzi is special...

James Keepnews said...

Since we're adding our "WTF? Really, Canon?" flicks, put me down for Eustache's absurdly overwrought, overrated THE MOTHER AND THE WHORE. Three hours with the single most self-absorbed, self-justifying characters in the history of French cinema? I know, sounds like it'd be great, and yet...And, I'm sorry, in any language, isn't this precisely the sort of ridiculous, unprofound (and not a little misogynist, where not idiotic) title that requires nothing less than the most cutting derision? Paraphrasing Woody, and assuming it were half mother/half whore, you can be sure you won't get the half that eats -- "sucks," maybe, but not "eats"...

Jeff Gee said...

Siren, I'm just trying to figure out how they got from "Kiss Me, Stupid" to the Mitzi-Palooza. For the record the five were "The Birds and the Bees," "We're Not Married," "Les Girls," "The Joker Is Wild," and a 1958 episode of "The Frank Sinatra Show." I guess it makes more sense than, say, "Meshes of the Afternoon" or "Attack of the Crab Monsters," but I still find it puzzling.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Don't forget The "I Don't Care" Girl !

The Siren said...

Oh lord Jeff, we can't even figure out the canon here; asking for common sense from Netflix's bots is the way to madness! Although I fully admit Mitzi is a weird, weird stretch. Then again, Netflix keeps telling me I need more Preminger and Leone in my life every time I log on. And I keep clicking "no thanks."

FTR I also like The Joker Is Wild; she's fine in it, and it's one of Sinatra's best dramatic performances.

Trish, I do like all of them, maybe Kay best though.

And of course, I Don't Care has to be seen to be believed, as David E.'s link attests.

James, I haven't seen the Eustache but you aren't exactly whetting my appetite here...

Yojimboen said...

5) The Trial
The late London Evening Standard film critic Alexander Walker once wrote that he could watch Truffaut’s La Peau Douce until it melted in the projector. He loved Françoise Dorléac that much.

I feel the same way about Romy Schneider movies; it doesn’t really matter who else is in the film or who directed it. I’ll watch it until somebody drags me away. The sentiment goes double for Jeanne Moreau movies, and they’re both in this film. I’m helpless.

6) Sergeant York
For me, its self-righteousness and borderline puerile piety renders this movie – surely the least Hawksian film of his entire career – stone-cold dead on arrival.

7) Guys and Dolls
I’m with M VW on “Fugue for Tinhorns”, a little masterpiece of a song; and Stubby Kaye carved out Nicely-Nicely so perfectly he got away with playing him the rest of his career (Li’l Abner et al).

I really do love the show, but that may be in part the European’s fascination with Damon Runyon. Frank Loesser’s music and lyrics are nothing short of superb, and Abe Burrows’s book deserved the Pulitzer it was awarded – then un-awarded when HUAC decided Burrows wasn’t American enough and told the Pulitzer committee so.

But it’s Brando’s picture. Sinatra’s resentment at not getting to play Sky is writ large on his face throughout the piece, but Marlon clearly couldn’t care less. I sort of like Vivian Blaine, there wasn’t enough of her on any screen ever. Her familiarity with the role worked for her and not against, as many maintain; and Simmons smuggles a quite astonishing (for her) amount of sex into the proceedings.

But again, it’s Brando’s picture. The whole shebang was sold to the public with the tagline “Brando sings!” Quite in keeping with – and not that distant from – “Garbo Laughs!” And his voice, to be fair, wasn’t that unpleasing. Reportedly Mank had his work cut out cajoling Sinatra to do more than his usual arrogant “one take only”; but to me his greater accomplishment was the modesty he managed to inject into Brando’s performance. All in all, though, I agree, for some reason, the film just doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts. (Now, just don’t get me started on Seven Brides or Brigadoon.)

hhuckaby said...

Siren, I usually comment as Eurappeal but I can't remember my password to comment.

My husband and I recently tried to watch a beautiful print of Once Upon A Time... and wound up disliking it even more, if that's possible. We lasted through maybe 3 minutes of the interminable staring before we switched to a Thin Man DVD.

The Siren said...

HH, the idea of switching from Leone to WS Van Dyke melts my heart. You and your husband are great folks in my book.

Y., I would never stand between a man and Romy. You're kinder to Guys and Dolls than I am, but I agree with a lot, including Sinatra's pique being glaringly apparent. I don't blame him. He could have hit those songs out of the park, and I really do think Brando's singing is terrible. I listen and think, okay, they dubbed poor Ava and Audrey, and Brando they left alone? Hollywood sexism, sez I!

Seven Brides is...troublesome. Enough in there for me to like, though. At least it's purty.

X. Trapnel said...

Roy Roberts is the actor who clangs the bell in G's A (the villain, as I recll in Force of Evil) a sort of genteel Ray Teal (from Best Years: "just read the facts, my friend.)

Jawohl to Romy S. I even sat thorugh Monpti in German, no subtitles, and Horst Buchholz.

A movie I want desperately to like is Three Comrades; The novel is so good (Remarque's description of the heroine is eerily close to Margaret S.--even including the voice--as to make one suspect he wrote it for her and Borzage on seeing Little Man, What Now? by his now so ascendent colleague Hans Fallada), Fitzgerald the ideal screenwriter (the novel has an FSF-like aura of romantic realism), Borzage the perfect director, but...the result is terribly sentimental, though beautiful to look at. S.A. Brugh is a stiff. Tone and Young are a pair of American eunuchs, the pacing is wrong, should have been more leisurely, the last shot atrocious. But Margaret Sullavan's silver-gowned radiance makes me keep coming back

Dave said...

Marilyn: I want to bear your children!

DavidEhrenstein said...

An asutue explication of Mitzi's appeal can be found in Neil Jordan's delightful Breakfast On Pluto. I interviewed it's star, the sensational Cillian Murphy who manages to appear both androgynous and utterly stone-cold-tough-guy at thte same time. His philosophy: "We all have to find our inner Mitzi."

Trish said...

Mitzi's Body of Work

About 4:00 minutes in, notice what an awesome Barbie doll bod Mitzi has. Look at how muscular she is and how she fills out that dress. What a waist, what hips! This gal is fit in a way that Marilyn can only dream...

Tom Block said...

I'm not ashamed to say that I love Ray Teal.

Vanwall said...

The Roy Roberts and Ray Teals of the H'Wood firmament are often what make films or break them - the weren't leads and knew it: they were the constistently superior parts of whatever they were in, regardless of the headliners. Teal is fave of mine, especially, and was almost always getting socked, shot or whacked somehow, because he did "ornery" so damn well.

Tom Block said...

Dunno why that link didn't work. Here:

http://tomblock.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/221/

Yojimboen said...

Lest we all forget, contained within our beloved TCM pre-main attraction montage there is quick shot of a bar (from The Wild One I believe). The Sheriff is Robert Keith and the bartender… Ray Teal.

Casey said...

Siren,
I've gotta line up with the people who love The Trial. Actually, I've never understood why people don't like it. And I do think it's funny, though I don't know if it's the kind of humor that makes me laugh out loud. Definitely give it another shot.
I love Wilder, and I think Kiss Me, Stupid is absolutely vile. It's strange because Wilder was always a cynic, but that film seems to be pretty misanthropic. It's possible Sellers would have made the character more interesting and more sympathetic.
I didn't notice anybody mention The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. As great as Ford is, Valance just strikes me as tired and obvious. Though I should add that I recently had a complete change of heart about The Last Hurrah, so maybe I should give Valance another chance.

Yojimboen said...

P.S. Amazing how it all knits together: Robert Keith plays Lt. Brannigan in Guys and Dolls and Ray Teal worked with S. Tracy in Inherit the Wind and Judgement at Nuremberg.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

And I'll fight anyone who thinks that 1955's Sinatra should have played Sky.

And I'll probably have Dave's back. I'm in the minority over this "Sinatra should have played Sky" debate because despite the Siren's insistence that Frankie "could have hit those songs out of the park" I don't know why he'd want to. As Nathan Detroit, he gets better songs: "Adelaide" (written for the film, I know), "Sue Me," the title warbler, etc. We're so often not the best judge of our own work and it's because Sinatra was forced to play out-of-character than I enjoy the movie version of G&D so much (though not enough to start a donnybrook as to whether or not it should be on the Siren's list--I'm not that passionate about it).

As for Stubby Kaye -- if it weren't for him and Nat King Cole as the shouters in Cat Ballou, it wouldn't even be worth a first glance.

Java Bean Rush said...

"...the Siren adores Minnelli to the point where she can mount a ringing defense of Brigadoon's being shot on the back lot." - The Siren

Oh! I'd like to hear that.

- Java

Mr. K said...

Oooh, I really want to see that defense of THE DAMNED. I love the movie myself, but I feel like people keep on trying to group it in with THE NIGHT PORTER and its ilk.

Trish said...

Tom, I watched Gun Crazy on the weekend and am sure I saw Ray Teal ever so briefly as a parks employee. Correct?

Yojimboen said...

8) Where the Boys Are
I have to come down on the side of defenders of this one. It’s not great, but it didn’t pretend to be. It’s harmless enough to be likable.

The girls were all interesting in their own way (Connie Francis probably made more in royalties from the song than from her salary).

It was the debut of Paula Prentiss’s lovable goof and the first of her five pairings with Jim Hutton; granted, Yvette Mimieux did much better work later (no, I don’t mean Light in the Piazza) and I suppose I fell a little in love with Dolores Hart. She was a sort of harbinger of a string of intelligent-seeming, promising beauties around that time, Natalie Wood, Tuesday Weld, Ina Balin, Gia Scala, Jean Seberg, Julie Harris, which climaxed with the most promising of all, the tragic Diane Varsi.

For good or ill, Where the Boys Are did begat a string of Frankie and Annette vehicles which at least provided the occasional paycheck for Buster Keaton, which can’t be that bad.

9) Pink Panther
Hey, it put “Does your dog bite?” into the language.

10) TMWKTM
Doris Day was miscast. She and Stewart were chalk and cheese. I think this was the first time hubby/manager Marty Melcher got away with his demand that Doris Day got to sing one song in every non-musical movie. No question but her royalties from “Que Sera Sera” were 1000 times bigger than her salary (ultimately academic when Melcher gambled away her entire fortune – nice guy). Daniel Gelin gave the best performance in the film, all 22 seconds of it.

Trish said...

I haven't addressed the list directly, so here goes. Siren, it's interesting that much of your list touches on expectations for women at the time...

1. Father of the Bride: I just think the message is disturbing. Pack your post-pubescent daughter off to the nearest guy from a good family and have a baby in nine months. It's post-war propaganda. I'm glad my mum, married two years after this film came out, wore a smart blue suit instead of Liz's much-copied table cloth.

2. You Can't Take it With You: I saw this one about 15 years ago, and hope never see it again. Worst best picture oscar ever?

3. Woman of the Year: I can't remember a thing about it, except for that ending! I think Tracy and Hepburn are divine -- as long as they're partnered with other actors. Together they make me cringe.

4. Kiss Me Stupid: I've tried to finish this one at least 5 times, but Ray Walston always stops me.

6. Sergeant York: Howard Koch has a point, but weren't movies like this one designed to help prepare the public for the coming war?

7. Guys and Dolls: Cheap-looking. Vivian Blaine's performance is grating, and she looks far older than Sinatra. Go, Stubby!

8. Where the Boys Are: I was sure there was going to be a scene where a boy asked Dolores Hart to let down her hair. It didn't happen, which was interesting. What bothered me was Connie Francis looking like a frump and being the last to get a boyfriend; Paula Prentiss constantly apologizing for her height; delicate beauty Yvette Mimieux treated like a sexual rag doll. I'm not sure exactly what message the film is trying to communicate...

8. Pink Panther: What a misfire. However, you can't beat Claudia Cardinale as a princess.

9. The Man Who Knew Too Much: A testament to bad screen chemistry. I guess it's true that Hitch never looked into the camera lens. If so, he might have noticed.

Tom Block said...

Yeah, that was definitely him, Trish.

DavidE said...

I was hoping for more here, Siren, in that all but the Hitchcock movie (which I adore for all the reasons you dislike it) are hugely overrated. (I would add that You Can't Take It With You and especially Guys and Dolls do work well onstage.) I really thought you'd be going after, oh, I don't know, The Searchers or Breathless or Mean Streets or The Godfather... Maybe on Friday (check the calendar) you'll really take on a sacred cow.

The Siren said...

But DavidE, the problem there is that The Searchers, Breathless, Mean Streets and The Godfather really ARE great movies. So it's hard to take them down a peg. I'd just look silly. Probably the biggest cow I ever went after was Once Upon a Time in the West. In truth I don't get great joy from dissecting a movie I consider overrated; I'd really rather write about things I love, or at least like.

Y., I share your sorrow that Diane Varsi didn't have a big career. She's wonderful in Peyton Place, so sincere and transparent she shows up almost everyone except Hope Lange.

Java Bean, my defense of Brigadoon's back lot was made in passing, in my tribute to Cyd Charisse; I don't think I convinced a soul, least of all authentic Scotsman Yojimboen, but here you go.

Robert Avrech said...

Siren:

Thanks so much for the generously mentioning my admiration for Dolores Hart.

She was a splendid actress, unfortunately just at the point when Hollywood movies were self-destructing.

Where the Boys Are is a bad movie. The script is drivel, the photography is worthy of Gilligan's Island, and the, ahem, direction is criminal.

But Dolores Hart —for over 40 years, Sister/Prioress Dolores Hart of the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut—is radiant.

As you say, she manages to hold on to her dignity. But if you look at her body of work, including the truly wretched Come Fly With Me, '63, her last film, where she is cast as a callous gold digger, she imparts surprising depth to this two-dimensional creature.

Sister Hart could have been one of the Hollywood greats—but she chose greatness instead.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Hmmm. There's another David E in the house.

DavidEhrenstein said...

In Mr.Cukor's file at the Academy Library there's a considerable cache of correspondances between him and Sister Hart. He found her fascinating.

Robert Avrech said...

Mr. Ehrenstein:

I was a teenage yeshiva student in Brooklyn when I first clamped eyes on Dolores Hart in Come Fly With Me. Even though I was a dopey movie-mad kid, I intuited that Hart was performing on another level than the rest of the cast.

George Cukor was a great director, not with the camera, but when it came to casting and guiding leading ladies. He understood authentic screen presence.

One day, I'd like to study the Hart-Cukor correspondence. Thanks so much for the valuable information.

The Siren said...

Robert, I love Yvette Mimieux (cf. what I said about Capucine) but it's true, Hart is the only reason to watch. And yes, Henry Levin was no auteur. I think Trish sums up the movie quite well; it's supposed to be light entertainment, and yet it depresses me no end.

Hart/Cukor correspondence would indeed be something to read.

KEVYN KNOX said...

And ya wanna know what I think about Citizen Kane? ...

...just kidding. It is actually one of my all-time favourites.

Good rule to have. I'm thinking of implementing the same rule over at my place, only replacing Mr. Kane with Miss Victoria Page.

Robert Avrech said...

Siren:

I went weak in the knees for Yvette Mimieux in the 1964 episode of Dr. Kildare entitled "Tyger Tyger".

As far as I'm conerned, YM's best role and deepest performance.

Capucine was a pretty darn good comedienne, unusual for one so icily beautiful. Same for Pamela Tiffin who was sort of an early Deborah Messing.

Hollywood used to have a hard time knowing just how to cast extremely beautiful, extremely funny women.

Times have, thankfully, changed.

The Siren said...

Ooh, Tiffin was soooo pretty and she cracks me up in One, Two, Three. I really like Capucine in Walk on the Wild Side, which belongs on a list of Ten Movies the Siren Loves...And Probably Shouldn't.

Kevyn, I figure everybody should be able to declare one film off-limits. More than that and the place would get dull, but one single movie, out of all film history, that's not unreasonable. You aren't saying it's perfect, you're just saying, hey, I don't wanna hear it.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I beg to differ Mr. Avrech. See Bwahani Junction, Les Girls, My Fiar lady, Justine, Travel with My Aunt.

Trish said...

Pamela Tiffin arrived too late to have a great career in Hollywood films. She was terrific in One, Two, Three and even The Pleasure Seekers (certainly better than Ann-Margret and Carol Lynley).

And oh, she had awesome brunette hair until she went to Europe...

The Siren said...

Oh I think Cukor was great with the camera too. I'd submit the entering-the-studio sequence I rhapsodized over in What Price Hollywood?. And that was only his third film. But I also know that Robert, like me, doesn't consider guiding a great performance to be a minor talent for a director.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I utterly adore Pamela Tiffin -- especially in One Two Three. She knew precisely what Bily Wilder wanted -- and she delivered. She had a reasonably good career for an ingenue of that era, and then (as they say) "married well."

Noel Vera said...

Citizen Kane--I love it, but it's just not the greatest film ever made. Welles' career didn't end there--he made greater films, is all.

Otherwise--don't see much wrong with that list. Well, I did find The Trial erotic and funny.

gmoke said...

Father of the Bride is a classic situation which is why it's been remade successfully (monetarily) and why it even morphed into a TV show for a couple of years (with Leon Ames). Never thought it was a classic by any means.

Yojimboen, you share my weakness for Romy Schneider and Jean Moreau but there's Melina Mercouri too. And Irene Pappas (did you know she can sing too? I recorded her a capella version of a Greek folk song from "A Talking Picture" by Manoel de Oliveira, the centenarian film maker, which includes some interesting table conversation between Irene, Catherine Deneuve, Stefania Sandrelli, and John Malkovich, whom I once met at my chiropractor's office).

Just thought I'd mention it because I always enjoyed my brief exchanges with him: Ricky Leacock died last week. When I knew him in the 1990s, he was diving into digital video and I got to see some of his early experiments, particularly one piece he did on a production of the Duchess of Malfi, if I remember correctly. He meant more to me than Elizabeth Taylor.

Yojimboen said...

@ gsmoke – Misses Papas and Mercouri both loom large in my pantheon of adoration.

Re Ricky Leacock, did you ever meet his daughter Elspeth? I knew Ricky and her slightly a few… decades ago. At the time – in Max’s Kansas City circles – Elspeth Leacock was universally regarded as the most beautiful girl in New York. America, even. People in the street used to stop and gape when she walked by, she was that pretty.

Yojimboen said...

Pardon me, gmoke – I pushed ‘publish’ before I meant to. That is sad news about Ricky Leacock. He and Don Pennebaker, in their milieu, were every bit as important filmmakers as Hawks, Hitchcock or Ford.

The Siren said...

*narrows eyes* Noel, are you testing me?

Kent said...

Siren, I watched TOPAZ not too long ago and thought it was pretty impressive. I love the opening defection in Denmark, Roscoe Lee Browne talking his way into the hotel in Harlem, and much of the Cuban section. FAMILY PLOT is not a great movie, but the overhead shot of different paths out of the graveyard makes it all worth it. FRENZY is an extremely uncomfortable experience but a pretty impressive movie, I think. TORN CURTAIN has that incredible murder in the kitchen. And somehow, in each case, the entire film becomes a rich experience for me.

Anyone who grew up within broadcast distance of WPIX in the 60s and 70s should know LIFEBOAT by heart. I like it too. Among the films once considered disappointments, the one that I find really impressive now is SABOTEUR.

Trish said...

Sad news. Farley Granger is gone.

They Live By NIght

X. Trapnel said...

Saboteur is quite terrific; if only it had been Joel McCrae (the perfect American Richard Hannay) instead of B*b C*mm*ngs.

X. Trapnel said...

This is saddening; E. Taylor belonged to the history of publicity not film, but Farley Granger whatever his limitations as an actor was in at least two great films (three, if you think Senso is great) and a lot of very good ones. I leafed through his memoir to see what he had to say about Cathy O'Donnell and Hitch. He seems to have been a nice chap, attending noir festivals and gracious with fandom.

I believe I related my FG/drunken brawl story here.

Yojimboen said...

My mother adored Farley Granger, to the point where my sister and I as kids would tease her mercilessly whenever his name came up. It was the only thing I remember that would make her blush every time.

Yojimboen said...

Apropos nothing, I’ve often wondered how much William H. Ziegler – the credited film editor on Rope - got paid for making exactly eight splices.

Trish said...

X., you are brilliant. I love Saboteur for the line that goes something like "hitch-hiking is the surest test of the american heart", but I want the bad guys to win. I wouldn't feel that way if Joel McCrea were there instead of the facile B*b C*mm*ngs.

Té la mà Maria - Reus said...

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lameone said...

My God! Someone else who knows and loves Capucine.

X. Trapnel said...

Trish, coming from you I am utterly abashed and will probably be putting on airs for the rest of the day.

Both Hitch and Truffaut were wrong when they agreed that had it been (love that) Bob hanging from the torch it would have been more suspenseful, since of course the hero couldn't die. On the other hand, Norman Lloyd's terror and agony is almost unbearable to watch, even if he did torch the ship that brought Danielle Darrieux to our country. And the theater shooting!


I only found out the other day that th blind, Delius-playing chap who notes B*b's handcuffs was old-timey matinee idol Vaughan Glaser. I have a picture of him decorously smooching with some belle of the 9's.

Yojimboen said...

I predict with confidence that the day will come on this site when a certain person will be referred to as *** ********.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Latest FaBlog: Fait Diver -- Farley Granger Has Left The Building

The Siren said...

I've been flipping through Spoto's book on Hitchcock and just came across a passage talking about how BOB CUMMINGS and wife were frequent dinner guests of the Hitchcocks!

X. Trapnel said...

Jimmy Stewart said Spoto's book was all lies.

The Siren said...

Did he really? Where? It's pretty meticulously sourced. Anyway, dinner parties would be an odd thing to lie about, yes?

X. Trapnel said...

Well, I for one would be less ashamed of tormenting Tippi Hedren than of extending hospitality to *** ****ings. (We're getting there, Y.)

Yojimboen said...

From my own experiences, I know that some of the AH book is reasonably accurate (I too would be interested to know where JS was coming from when he said that), but it doesn't detract from the fact that Spotto is just a dreadful writer.
(And an even worse public speaker.)

The Siren said...

Oh, I don't read Spoto for the sparkling prose, although I don't find him all that bad on that score. But I've personally never turned up a big inaccuracy in the Hitchcock bio, which I think he put more into than just about anything else he's done. He's always referring to letters and press releases and interviews, and I appreciated that. So many Hollywood books are, shall we say, sparsely sourced.

X. Trapnel said...

Sorry, but I can't remember the source. I think Spoto's other Hitchcock book was pretty good. In general, I haven't much faith in professional biographers (not just in film) who hop from subject to subject (e.g., the egregious Jeffrey Meyers) piling up a heap of yawn-enforcing facts, rumors as facts, psychobabble, and (too often) palpable dislike for their subjects.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Tippi Hedren is NOT a Spotto fan.

'Nuff said.

X. Trapnel said...

David, have you got some particulars?

Kent said...

Siren, I'm sure that Stewart was referring to the Tippi Hedren story - I'd bet that he never rad the book.

Last year, I saw my pal Bruce Goldstein interview Norman Lloyd at the TCM festival. He was 95 at the time, looks about 65 (the man plays tennis every day and drives himself around LA), and speaks like a man of 40 - every detail, exactly remembered, and it wasn't one of those siuations where someone is basically repeating the same legends over and over. He recounted the shooting of the SABOTEUR climax at length.

I also saw Farley Granger on stage at the Loews Jersey a few years ago after a screening of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, with his partner (who passed away a few months ago) and Foster Hirsch. Foster kept insisting on homosexuality as the central, not-so-secret theme of the movie. Granger's priceless comment: "Whatever you say, Foster."

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I met Spoto in 1983 when he was plugging the Hitchcock bio at Marshall University in Huntington, WV and I remember asking him if he ever thought Rope, Rear Window, The Trouble With Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and Vertigo would ever be resurrected from the legal limbo they were in at the time.

He told me that he just didn't see a solution ever working itself out. The lesson I took from this is that it's good to be wrong sometimes.

X. Trapnel said...

I think the motiviating theme in SOAT is social climbing. That's why William Holden would have been so good as a smoothie faking his way to the top, but thwarted by a malign smiling force he's unable to fool. Granger is too sincere, jittery, and no match for Walker. But bravo to FG for that comment.

The Siren said...

David E, all I remember reading was Hedren backtracking somewhat on whether or not Hitchcock made a full-fledged pass at her during Marnie; I don't recall her bagging on Spoto, who portrays her as quite dignified and noble in his 2nd book. Where did you see that?

I did find Spoto's constant barrage of psychosexual analysis of Hitchcock the man to get old, and I don't know how you'd manage to source that beyond talking to people who knew him. So I never quote it and skip it when I go back to the book. What I use Dark Side of Genius for are the accounts of filmmaking, and on that it seems careful enough, citing records and coworkers etc. We'll probably never know what the hell happened during Marnie but the movie itself offers a pretty powerful argument that there was messed-up stuff going on.

Kent, that Granger story is hilarious!

Trish said...

SOAT is one of those films when one actor appears intimidated by his co-star. No offence to FG, but Robert Walker is the cat to his mouse. I can't help it, but when I watch it I see it as Robert Walker not thinking of his character. He's thinking of making Farley uneasy.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I spoke to Tippi at an event a number of years back and she made it known to me that she was not at all pleased with the Spotto book.

As for Norman Lloyd I see him here at events in L.A. all the time. Heading towards the century mark and he's as lively as a teenager. Plus he remembers EVERYTHING. Conisdering his work not only with Hitch but Welles and Chaplin that's a lot to remember. He's still acting. Recently he was Curtis Hason's In Her Shoes, which he stole clear away from its star Cameron Diaz.

Skimpole said...

Interesting category: there are classic movies that I don't feel much enthusiasm for ("8 1/2"), there are movies whose transcendent claims to classic cinema I can't accept ("The Searchers"). There are classic movies that I think are underrated ("The Graduate") and simply don't like ("A Place in the sun," or "Giant"). But movies that I should like but don't...quite. Well there's "The Third Man" which I should like giving the acting, the dialogue, the music, the plot twists, the general attitude. It maybe that I didn't actually see the movie until more than a decade after I knew the basic plot. I wonder why I don't like "Ninotchka" more than I do. I wonder why "Mean Streets" and "New York, New York" doesn't move me as many of Scorsese's other 1973-1985 movies.

Trish said...

X., are you making fun of me? ;-)

X. Trapnel said...

Trish,

Oh my, no! Clearly my e-badinage needs some refinement.

dr.morbius said...

Good heavens, but I'm late to this party. I can't really disagree with any of your selections, though in my heart of hearts, I can't say that I like Woman of the Year less than I like Adam's Rib. I'm not a fan of any of the Tracy and Hepburn movies. Hepburn and Tracy seemed like such disparate talents and they don't really compliment each other. I'll even go so far as to say that Tracy's middlebrow persona acted as a tether on Hepburn. She could fly, but Tracy wouldn't let her. Or the filmmakers wouldn't. Either way.

For what it's worth, I hated The Big Lebowski. I know it's not on your list, but since it has come up in the comments, I can't pass up an opportunity to slag on it. I remember walking out of it thinking it was insufferably smug; like it KNEW it was a great film without bothering to earn it. It's gotten so that I want to punch people who tell me that it's their favorite Coen movie. Fortunately, my restraint is legendary.

ajm said...

RE: Guys and Dolls... A very young Stephen Sondheim (!) originally reviewed it for FILMS IN REVIEW, and he didn't much care for it, either. But he did like Brando's singing.

After Guys and Dolls was successfully revived on B'way in the 1990s, I'm surprised there wasn't an attempt at a movie (or even a made-for-TV) remake.

Karen said...

Geez, I'm later to this party than I thought! Only two days later and there're already nearly 200 comments?

Well, I just want to weigh in and say I'm pretty much with you on all of these, but not always to the point of not watching them at all. And the one I have the greatest fondness for is Guys and Dolls. Given your [very valid!] criticisms, I'm not sure WHY I can't agree with you, but I just enjoy the hell out of that movie every time it's on.

And probably where I'm MOST with you are the execrable Kiss Me, Stupid (the first--and only, actually--time I saw it, I was dumbfounded that it was a Billy Wilder film--it feels more Frank Tashlin) and the cringe-worthy ending of Woman of the Year. Actually, that ending is more than cringe-worthy; it's a betrayal. A betrayal of the first half of the film and a betrayal of every woman in the audience. I can't watch it.

You Can't Take It With You has always felt to me like it's trying way too hard to be all fey and eccentric, so Barrymore's speech about the IRS is just nasty icing on an already unpleasant cake. The Pink Panther never turns out to be as funny as I think it's going to be.

I pretty much agree with everything else, although I don't think I dislike the Man Who Knew Too Much quite as much as you do. I love the color and the atmosphere. Jimmy Stewart does anguish as well as anyone in the business, which is fun to watch. And I agree that the fissures in that marriage are kind of fascinating.

I've only gotten through the first 30 or so comments, and I've got no beef with anything but I am a little taken aback by the Casablanca sentiments. I hadn't watched it for years because it seemed like the sort of film I knew too well to need to watch over and over, but I saw it again a year or so and found the craft and quality of the story-telling and the performances to be quite breath-taking.

And I would NEVER diss Citizen Kane. That's just CRAZY TALK.

AndrewBW said...

I think "Casablanca" is a great film and I always enjoy seeing it. My favorite scene is the one where Ilsa tells Rick in the market that she's married to Victor, and was when she knew Rick in Paris. Bogie plays the scene great; the look on his face is priceless, like he's just been kicked in the stomach. All the time, the other man was him.

At the same time, the movie isn't without its flaws, and relative to the high regard it's generally held in I don't think it's unfair to call it over-rated. The biggest problem is undoubtedly Paul Henreid, who I think is completely unbelievable as either a great war hero or the love of Ingrid Bergman's life. I mean come on, it's INGRID BERGMAN! Honestly, if I were in Bogie's shoes I would take the honey and run!

Yojimboen said...

You were missed Ms Green.

gmoke said...

Never even knew about Ricky Leacock's daughter, Elspeth, Yojimboen, but, given our similar tastes in female pulchritude, I'll take your word for her beauty.

On another note, I always enjoyed the macabre "Frenzy". That tracking shot back down the staircase and into the market street as the killer strangles his victim is - dare I say it - breathtaking. The desperate search in the back of the potato truck is also memorable. The brief vision of the killer's mother which helps explain how he became so twisted (ah, if only Marion Lorne was still alive for that scene). The only likable people in the movie get killed. What a bitter commentary on Hitchcock's return to England.

Farley Grainger - The Purple Heart, a great example of a (racist) propaganda film. Always wanted to do a double feature of such US WWII films with their Japanese counterparts, the same themes and images put up in both.

X. Trapnel said...

But isn't that the whole point; that Laszlo was not the love of Ilse's life? Oh, and Miss Ingrid's delivery of the line (approx.), "You didn't know how much I loved you, how much I still love you." (I pretty much desisted from commenting on the late ET, but just compare this line to the allegedly sexy "Tell Mama everything" and you'll see the beginning of the end of film romance). Poor Henried can come close to being a continental Jeffrey Lynn on occassion; I like him all the same. Has anybody here seen The Conspiritors?

X. Trapnel said...

Karen, I'm with you on Guys and Dolls; The acting is good all around. Sinatra doesn't get the best songs but he's a good Nathan D. Jean Simmons is beguiling as always, and Manque-wicz couldn't kill that great score.

Skimpole said...

Dr. Morbius: while I can appreciate "The Big Lebowski" more than "Fargo," "No country for old Men," and "A Serious Man," in my view it's what "Cutter's Way" would have been like if the murderer in that film had remade it.

Trish said...

So what if you're late, Karen? Your comments are always worth the wait. Thank you muchly!

gmoke said...

"Cutter's Way" is very atmospheric and captures the weird vibe of Santa Barbara very well but the book, Cutter and Bone, on which it was based has more punch.

Alternate said...

I agree that much of 'Kiss Me, Stupid' is made a not-particularly-pleasant watch by the offputting presence and performance of Ray Walston. But what always struck me as so good about the movie was the way that it is in fact wrested away from him by Felicia Farr towards the end.

The crux of the film is the fact that Farr DOES in fact sleep with Dino, that this is endorsed by the movie as an act of wholly justifiable personal choice, and that it may even help strengthen a marriage that seemed previously to be built only around the husband's sexual needs. In 'The Secret Life of Romantic Comedy' Celestino Deleyto says of the movie something like "It was too radical for its age, and in some ways still too radical for our own" - and I'm inclined to agree.

While the bad taste caused by the timid masculinism of the first first half might still linger, by the time Farr swooningly, overpoweringly, leans in to that final close-up and utters the film's title, this has wholeheartedly become the woman's movie. In that sense, it's the precise opposite of something like 'Woman of the Year'.

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