Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Movie Alphabet

I saw this thing a while back on "Blog Cabins: Movie reviews" about "Name a fave film for each letter of the Alphabet" and so I thought that could be fun and then I thought I would take it a step further and post my list but with pics for each of the films listed scanned from stills, lobby cards, books or magazines in my collection. So I'll list 4 or 5 at a time until it's done, probably with other blog posts mixed in between so no one gets too bored. Some choices were no-brainer's other's were tough, anyway here goes . . .

A - "Angels with Dirty Faces"(1938)

My all-time fave Cagney film! This one had me enthralled as a 3 or 4 year old kid, sitting in front of the TV completely and utterly oblivious to any and all things going on around me, totally mesmerized by Cagney's "Rocky Sullivan"! Almost 40 years later and it still has the same effect on me! This was one of the "no-brainers" I mentioned!
Rocky in the Death House on his way to the Chair! Will he turn "Yellow"? This is one of those instances where every aspect of a film; direction, writing, casting, acting, cinematography, music, etc, meshed perfectly.
Cagney with frequent co-stars Ann Sheridan and Pat O'Brien. Cagney and O'Brien made several very enjoyable films together but this easily stands at the top of the list for me.
B - "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935)

"Yes, I want friend . . . like me!"
Karloff in between takes. Arguably the greatest monster movie ever made and certainly one of the most unique! And what a performace by Karloff! Btw, they used to use the same kind of board for Jean Harlow over at MGM because sometimes her dresses were so tight she could not sit down between takes while wearing them!
A great shot of Elsa Lanchester as the "Bride"! I would nominate her and husband Charles Laughton as possibly the most bizarre Hollywood couple ever!
"Do you like gin?... it is my only weakness!"
One of my fave lines, spoken in inimitable fashion by the utterly outrageous Ernest Thesinger as "Dr Pretorious", here in a neat pic with director James Whale.

C - "Captain Blood" (1935)

A great publicity shot of Flynn and Olivia. Neither were Warner Bros. first choices to appear in this film but afterwards there was no looking back for either of them. I rate this as one of the greatest action-adventure-romance films ever made. Pure escapist entertainment and great fun!

Even at this very early point in her film career Olivia gave honest, 3-dimensional characterizations. She continued to excel at that in the years that followed without resorting to scenery-chewing histrionics and became, in my opinion, one of the finest actresses that ever worked in Hollywood. And she sure was beautiful *sigh*!

D - "Diary of a Lost Girl" (1929)
Louise Brooks in what appears to be a wardrobe test pic. This is my fave of her films and also one of my fave silent films as well. Totally bizarre and filled with reprehensible examples of humanity (or more precisely, a lack of!) and through it all Brooksie mezmerises with her black helmet haircut, flawless face, imperious neck and unsettling mix of innocence and candor.

Louise Brooks, the Kansas farmgirl who wanted to be a dancer and became one, who never wanted to be in films but did anyway, who went to Germany and became an actress, who then became a has-been, then a streetwalker, then a recluse, then a writer and then finally, a legend!

Apparently Louise never considered herself an "actress" until she worked with director G.W. Pabst. He treated her with respect and guided her through 2 remarkable performances, first in "Pandoras Box" in 1928 and then this film. It didnt hurt that Pabst fell for her and according to Louise she gave "the greatest sexual performance of my life" during the one time she spent the night with him!
The scenes of Louise at the "Home for Wayward Girls" are utterly bizarre and totally unforgettable, the "orgasm scene" will change your life as you know it! Two books I highly recommend as essential reading for anyone interested in old Hollywood are "Lulu in Hollywood" by Louise Brooks and the bio of Louise written by Barry Paris. Both are fascinating reading! 
Finally got some time to do the next thrill-packed installment of my list . . . not all sources scanned as well as I would have liked!

E - "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)

For the record I LOVE all the Star Wars flms! In spite of the flaws, and there are many, it is one hell of an achievement in film and it's all so ingrained in our culture now that it's hard to remember back to a time when there was no Star Wars! But Empire is my favorite. All the elements of the Star Wars universe came together perfectly on this one, a wonderful mix of drama, romance, adventure, action, humor and mind blowing special effects all masterfully directed by Irvin Kershner with a great screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett.
And then of course there was . . .

Although CGI Yoda totally kicks ass, nothing can compare to the charm and magic of what Frank Oz and company did in this film. Mark Hamill's convincing interraction with Yoda was also a big reason why we all bought it onscreen.

"The Force is with you young Skywalker . . . but you're not a Jedi yet."

A rather menacing figure! Luke's confrontation with Vader is a living intensity! I've seen it dozens of times and I still get right on the edge of my seat! I love it!

For me, the lynchpin of all 3 of the first films is Mark Hamill. It's interesting to watch episodes 4-6 in one sitting and see how he grew as an actor and how the Luke character evolved. He's a damn funny guy in interviews too and who can foget his classic voice acting for The Joker and Solomon Grundy on the Batman and Justice League cartoons!
F - The Fountainhead" (1949)
"It's the things that we love that enslave us and I'm not easy to bring into submission"

"That depends upon the strength of your adversary Miss Francon"

Ayn Rands' incredible novel came to the screen in a fairly watered down but still very interesting and entertaining way. Casting was spot on in my opinion. Coop, Patricia Neal, Raymond Massey, Kent Smith and Henry Hull were perfect. Only Robert Douglas, as a far too masculine and aggressive Ellsworth Toohey, strayed far from Rand's original concepts. Many smaller characters, sub plots and all the religious stuff never made it into the film but what DID make it was the essence of the Howard Rourke character and, although Coop was pretty heavily criticized at the time the film was released, I personally feel he gave a performance very much worthy of the character. That and the incredibly electric chemistry between him and Patricia Neal makes this well-worth multiple viewings.

"Mr. Roark, we’re alone here. Why don't you tell me what you think of me in any words you wish."

"But I dont think of you."

Director King Vidor, novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand and Gary Cooper on the set. Ayn Rand was, in the words of psychologist Nathaniel Branden, one of the most brilliant and misunderstood figures of the 20th century. Like her or hate her, she was a unique and utterly fascinating person. I've read the Fountainhead 3 times since 2002 and I am always captivated by the characters, plot and concepts contained in it. I've seen the film at least 10 times by now and always find myself compelled by Howard Rourke!

"If you want to be the kind of man that does things for people, then you must be the kind of man that gets things done, but you must LOVE the doing, NOT the people!"

The scenes of Rourke and Domnique at the Quarry are not at all subtle in their sexual symbolism! Apparently Eleanor Parker lobbied heavily to get the part of Dominique and she resembles the character in the book much more than Patricia Neal but it all worked out very well in the end.

G - "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1966)

"I've never seen so many men wasted so badly"

My favorite Clint Eastwood film and one of my all-time fave films period! A rip-roaring action extravaganza, the quintessential Spaghettie western and just plain out great fun! I've seen this so many times I know every scene by heart and can just hear Ennio Morricone's incredible music and know what scene in the film is playing. Director Sergio Leone really hit the bullseye with "A Fistfull of Dollars" and the film was so popular and Eastwood's "Man with No name" character was so compelling that 2 more sequels were made, each expanding on the previous in budget and scope of story. Yet in the end we still know as much (or as little) about "No Name" as we did in the first film!

"200,000 Dollars is a lot of money . . . we're gonna have to earn it"

I love the touches of wry humor and epic scope of this film. A HUGE production and Sergio's scrupulous attention to period detail makes for a strange mix of realistic settings and mythical characters. There are some amazing set pieces and battle scenes and the final shootout in the graveyard is so far into "legend" status now, my trying to describe it with words would be ludicrous!

"Even a tramp like me, no matter what, I know there's a brother out there who'd never refuse me a bowl of soup"

Eli Wallach as "The Ugly" aka "Il Bruto" aka "Tuco the Rat", gives the most memorable performance of his incredibly long career. Tuco is a VERY resilient fellow and finds himself in all manner of situations thanks in no small part to Eastwood's "The Good" aka "Il Bueno" aka "Blondie"! There's no doubt about it, Leone cast Wallach because of his unforgettable turn in John Sturgess' classic "The Magnificent Seven". I love the scene with Tuco at the mission and his emotional confrontation with his brother, who's a priest. Those little touches added a lot to this film I think.

Eastwood poised to ride off to Hollywood! I am very sad that I could not find ANY good shots of Lee Van Cleef for this posting as I think he also gave the performance of his career as "The Bad" aka "Il Cativo" aka "Angel Eyes". His first scenes in the film are totally awesome!! Van Cleef was in a zillion films, mostly westerns and thanks to the 2 he made with Sergio he had work in Italy and Spain for years afterwards! I think his last film was John Carpenter's "Escape from New York".

H - "Humoresque" (1946)
Ok, I am a HUGE John Garfield fan, so let's get that understood right away! I think he's the single most under-appreciated actor of his era and it's very hard for me to pick a fave film of his but this one is certainly in the top 3 or 4. A first-rate Warner Bros production from start to finish and Garfield and Joan Crawford are downright amazing!

Director Jean Negulesco is one of my fave post-war film makers. He made a whole slew of off-beat and interesting pictures at Warner's in the mid to late 40's including "Nobody Lives Forever" with Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald, "3 Strangers" with Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Geraldine Fitzgerald, "Deep Valley" with Ida Lupino and Dane Clark and "Johnny Belinda" with Oscar winner Jane Wyman, Lou Ayres and Charles Bickford, but this is my favorite of all his films. Probably the last time Joan Crawford really looked beautiful on screen, just before what i refer to as her "automoton" phase where she looked more like an android than a human being!

Original sheet music for the film. The score by Franz Waxman is almost like another character in the film! Isaac Stern did the amazing violin playing. If you havent seen this one yet, check it out, it's well-worth the time!

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