Thursday, November 18, 2010

What Am I Watching?: Well, I’ll Tell You

Classic movies are obviously one of my favorite things (hence this venue for my passion), and although I write about various films and classic stars, there are so many other personal viewings whose good or bad aspects, as the case may be, don’t get recorded on this blog. There just isn’t enough time to write about them all as in depth as I might like. Having said that, I’d like to pass along a few films, recently viewed, but not shared.

The Great Man's Lady (1942)
Starring Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea, with second lead going to Brian Donlevy, The Great Man’s Lady has a cast who can always deliver the cinematic goods. McCrea is the Great Man, Stanwyck, his lady. Babs ages from 16 to over 100 (pictured above), and lives a lot of life in between. Director William Wellman leaves his signature masculine touch, with plenty of rough and tumble historics mixed with emotional histrionics.

Stanwyck was made for this kind of role. She is part Stella Dallas, part Victoria Barkley. Some may wonder why she sacrifices so much for her “great man”, but that’s the nature of old Hollywood. Catch it if you can.

Le Corbeau (The Raven; 1943)
Director Henri-Georges Clouzot was known as “the French Hitchcock” and with good reason. Most famous for 1955’s Les Diaboliques, Clouzot shot Le Corbeau during the war and its somber mood and very adult themes reflect the conditions of his nation at the time. More a mystery than a suspense, the latter characteristic is always present.

Le Corbeau or The Raven is the signature used by a poison pen letter writer in a small French burg, whose main aggression is directed at a local doctor (Pierre Fresnay). The letters accuse, among many other things, the doctor of being an abortionist. Pretty frank topic during World War II, or anytime before the new millennium for that fact. The entire film is frank and extremely well made. Even if you aren’t into sub-titles, if you like film noir at all, I suggest you give this foreign flick a try, as it is very noirish in feel.

Four Frightened People (1934)
I don’t usually write about films that I didn’t really enjoy, but with this particular post, one takes the good with the bad. It’s not that Four Frightened People is particularly bad, it’s just not all that good. Directed by the gargantuan filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, it did not even make back its cost and DeMille counted it one of his box office turkeys.

The story tells of four completely different types from the western world, who evacuate a ship off the Malayan coast, which has been striken with bubonic plague. They make their way to land only to be lost in the deepest jungle, to be hunted by nasty natives and even nastier attitudes among themselves. Think Survivor 1934.

Starring Claudette Colbert and Herbert Marshall, with support by William Gargan and Mary Boland, and made at Paramount, the film looks more like one of the studios attempts at a low grade B flick than a Cecil B. DeMille mega-production. But the thing that really got this blogger, was Claudette Colbert, who never disappoints. As a mousy, high strung old maid teacher (can you imagine!), she is anything but classic Colbert. Then she blossoms into a jungle maiden, wearing a sarong of giant banana leaves or leopard print, in full make-up and coiffure. We are talking Fredrick's of Hollywood in the middle of a jungle folks. But the classic Colbert would appear directly after this film was released, because it was then that she played her career changing Oscar winning role in It Happened One Night. One bright spot is Mary Boland. Looking like Paula Deen’s grandmother, Boland is a comic relief of sorts, a toned down version of her Countess DeLave from The Women (1939). I wouldn’t say “Don’t watch this”, as it is watchable but don’t expect a lot either.

There you have it. Rupert’s recent roster of raves and rants. Which leads me to ask, have YOU seen anything delightful or deplorable of late?


  1. I'm with you....classic movies are one of my favorite things too. I'm always on the lookout for a friend who wants to discuss them with me. (Alas, most of my friends don't even want to give them a chance...let alone discuss them.)

    Anyhow, that is why I like your site.

    I've heard of the Colbert/Marshall film, but I haven't seen it. The McCrea/Stanwyck film I've never even heard of, but I am definitely going to be on the lookout for it. While Joel McCrea isn't one of my favorites, I DO like him alot. And Stanwyck, well she's tied with Susan Hayward and Eleanor Parker as my favorite actress...just a smidge behind Bette Davis. I think she was a very fine dramatic actress. I definitely want to see this movie. Thanks so much for the recommendation.

  2. And thank you for sharing your passion with us, Rupert.

  3. Interesting recommendations. Not seen the Stanners but I like the sound of it. Thanks for the tip-off! But I have to disagree about Four Frightened People. I love it. Don't take it too seriously - it was meant to be a satire.

  4. Le Corbeau sounds very intriguing. It's one I've never seen. Thanks for passing that on.

  5. As a big fan of William Wellman I enjoyed 'The Great Man's Lady', which seems to hark back to the flavour of some of his earlier films like 'So Big', another one with Barbara Stanwyck as an indomitable heroine prepared to sacrifice herself for the men in her life. I think she's great in 'The Great Man's Lady', but the layers of make-up maybe get a bit much right at the end where she is 100-plus!



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