Monday, October 25, 2010

Amanda's Cinema Survey (Oct 2010)

This is the annual survey questions from Noodle in a Haystack! Pop over to her site to read other bloggers answers.

1. What is your favorite movie starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, excluding all of The Thin Man films?
Alas, I haven't seen any of their films other than the Thin Man series, which I've seen all of.

2. Name a screen team that appeared in only one film together but are still noteworthy for how well they complimented each other.
I can't think of one, although I know there are plenty!

3. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' best film together?
I think Top Hat, although my personal favorite is Swing Time

4. Your favorite actor named "Robert"?
Robert Ryan

5. An actor/actress who, when you see one of their movies, you always wish that someone else was in his/her role?
Henry Fonda

6. An actor/actress that someone close to you really loves that you can't stand or vice versa?
My sister and I agree on most everything, no polar opposites on anybody.

7. An actor/actress that you both agree on completely?
Anthony Hopkins

8. Complete this sentence: Virginia O'Brien is to Ethel Merman as...
hm, every comparison I've come up with doesn't quite work...

9. What is your favorite film starring Ray Milland?
The Big Clock

10. You had to have seen this one coming: what is your favorite movie of the 1960s?
The Dirty Dozen

11. An actor/actress that you would take out of one film and put into a different movie that was released the same year?
Brandon de Wilde -- I'd get him out of Shane. I don't care where he goes, as long as it's out of that movie!

12. Who was your favorite of Robert Montgomery's leading ladies?
Well, as I've seen almost none of his films, I can't rightly answer this.

13. You think it would have been a disaster if what movie starred the actor/actress who was originally asked to star in it?
I hear Gary Cooper and John Wayne had been the intended stars of Ride the High Country. As much as I love John Wayne, I'm really really glad he didn't do this one. I don't think it would have worked nearly as well.

14. An actor/actress who you will watch in any or almost any movie?
George Raft

15. Your favorite Leslie Howard film and role?
Alas, other than Gone With the Wind, it does not appear I've seen any of his!

16. You have been asked to host a marathon of four Barbara Stanwyck films. Which ones do you choose?
Ball of Fire
Golden Boy
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

17. What is, in your mind, the nearest to perfect comedy you have ever seen? Why?
Well, I'm not a comedy person, but I'd choose It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World -- only comedy movie that has no serious moments that I like all of, and only one I laugh at most of.

18. You will brook no criticism of what film?
N/A - everyone's entitled to an opinion! Criticize away!

19. Who is your favorite Irish actress?
Maureen O'Hara

20. Your favorite 1940s movie starring Ginger Rogers?
Haven't seen any other than The Barkleys of Broadway

21. Do you enjoy silent movies?

22. What is your favorite Bette Davis film?

23. Your favorite onscreen Hollywood couple?
Joel McCrea and Frances Dee

24. This one is for the girls, but, of course, the guys are welcome to answer, too: who is your favorite Hollywood costume designer?
Edith Head

25. To even things out a bit, here's something the boys will enjoy: what is your favorite tough action film?
One of my favorite types of movies! I have to pick one?? Die Hard.

26. You are currently gaining a greater appreciation for which actor(s)/actress(es)?
Olivia de Havilland

27. Franchot Tone: yes or no?
Yes! Mutiny on the Bounty has been a favorite since I was a wee thing.

28. Which actors and/or actresses do you think are underrated?
Van Heflin, Glenn Ford, Dana Andrews

29. Which actors and/or actresses do you think are overrated?
Bette Davis, Joan Crawford

30. Favorite actor?
William Holden

31. Favorite actress?
Barbara Stanwyck

32. Of those listed, who is the coolest: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, or Patrick Stewart?
Steve McQueen

33. What is your favorite movie from each of these genres:

Comedy: None. Oh, okay. It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Swashbuckler: The Black Swan

Film noir: Kiss Me Deadly

Musical: South Pacific

Holiday: It's a Wonderful Life

Hitchcock: Rear Window

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saddle the Wind (1958)

This was a pretty good movie, and I quite enjoyed it. Mature ex-gunfighter-now-cattle rancher, Steve Sinclair (Robert Taylor), trying to keep his younger trigger-happy brother, Tony Sinclair (John Cassavetes), out of trouble. Tony claims he's learning gun play just to protect his older brother. I wish they'd done a little more with that, as it really does turn out to be one of his strongest motives, but it needs a little more to support it properly throughout. It gets overshadowed a bit by lust for power through violence. We've seen families split apart like this before, particularly in Westerns, so I was rather pleased with the more unusual ending, which twisted back to the "protecting my brother" angle.

The actors and the dialogue are the strongest part of this movie. I'm not a Robert Taylor fan, but he did really seem to settle into these kind of roles as he got older, in a very comfortable believable way. I liked his Steve Sinclair. Cassavetes works for me as the younger brother. One of the reasons I wanted to see this movie was to see him out of his expected element. I think he was just great in a Western. He brings his full energy and brooding and brings Tony Sinclair alive. Cassavetes always was good at letting you see what was going on inside the character, and that works well here to keep Tony human and someone we want to see redeemed. You see his fear, you see his determination to make it "his way," even when he doesn't realize his way is wrong. He always has the potential to see the light and turn his fate around, and that keeps you hoping he will.

The rest of the supporting cast is great, with Royal Dano a standout. He plays a homesteader reclaiming a stretch of land that had belonged to his father. His arrival and determination to stay on his own land no matter what spurs the morality of the other characters to choose sides in the battle.

I particularly love the film's first five minutes. Through the opening credits, we see Charles McGraw riding along. He could be the hero, until the credits end and the music takes an abrupt ominous turn (nice score by Elmer Bernstein!) as he arrives in town, and we realize, nope, this guy ain't the hero. He's someone you don't mess with, and he's here up to no good. The first scene where he walks into the closed bar, demands breakfast and whiskey, played against Jay Adler and Stanley Adams (Cyrano Jones from Star Trek's "The Trouble with Tribbles") is simply marvelous. The give and take, the pointed words... this is probably my favorite scene in the movie. Jay Adler's line "You finished with my breakfast?" is priceless.

I really do dig the dialogue in this movie. It's a Rod Sterling script (another reason I wanted to see this movie), and I think he does really well with it. He leaves a lot unsaid, uses silence well, and that's something I always appreciate in a script.

"Sing for me, and I'll smile for you." -- Tony Sinclair

"I wanted one thing in my life, that was to see you rise up. You only got up as high as your gun belt. That's a low height for a man." -- Steve Sinclair

The Colorado scenery is also amazing. You know me, I need beautiful outdoor landscapes in my movies, and this one provides those and then some. Absolutely gorgeous country in this movie.

Does it get any prettier than a valley of blooming lupines in front of green mountains topped with snow and a brilliant blue sky?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Air Force (1943)

Still on an Arthur Kennedy kick, so watched Air Force. It's a film about the crew of a B-17, sent to Hawaii on the eve of Pearl Harbor, and then on to Wake Island and the Philippines. It's a good, serviceable film, but nothing particularly special or memorable, but definitely worth a watch. Some really nice aerial footage. I've always been fond of B-17s, and so spending time in one in a movie is never a bad thing. I like that we get to see the different stations on the plane, what the crew does while they're just cruising along trying to get somewhere, the necessity for the crew to function as a complete team in order for the plane to function.

There isn't much plot to this one. We're mostly just along for the ride with the crew as they stop at the famous battles, and then finally get to engage in one of their own. There's a few routine subplots -- the soldier (John Garfield) with a chip on his shoulder whose enlistment is up, who naturally stays in after war breaks out. He also flunked out of pilot school, but still gets to use those skills to save the plane. There's a pursuit plane pilot (James Brown) who complains mightily about those clunky big B-17s -- and then naturally ends up joining the crew and changing his tune. There's the old-timer (Harry Carey) whose son in Manila dies in combat (one of the truly sad and effective moments in this film). There's a cute dog named Tripoli the marines at Wake Island pass off to the B-17 crew, knowing they're going to get wiped out.

Not nearly enough Arthur Kennedy to suit me, but the other characters were interesting enough to keep me paying attention.

Friday, October 08, 2010

They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

I'd never seen this movie before. Watched it back in September and never had time to post about it. I think it's great that since I've seen it, several other posts on it have popped up! I love the timing!

And I really loved this movie. I rented this one primarily for Arthur Kennedy, but was not disappointed in anything else about it. In fact, everything about it surpassed my expectations. The supporting actors were all top notch. Errol Flynn made a great romantic screen Custer. Olivia de Havilland could not possibly be more beautiful. I have to admit, I haven't seen many of her films, mostly just the Errol Flynn/de Havilland combos and, of course, Gone With the Wind. She's wonderful in every one of them, but for some reason, her performance in this movie particularly struck me. Now I want to see more movies just to watch her.

This has to be one of the most romantic movies I've ever seen, in the best sense of the word. They really are a great screen pair.

And I loved Arthur Kennedy in this. Loved how he would be fighting panic every time Custer confronted him. His character wanted to be anywhere else in the world but right there, dealing with his long time nemesis. And, naturally, I loved his fate, me being so fond of that good old redemption theme.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

On location - Alabama Hills 4

Here's a few shots showing the front of the Lone Pine Film Museum. I didn't go inside this trip, but I've been in it several times before. A must for any fan of Westerns or the Alabama Hills! Great exhibits, showing posters, photos, costumes, etc. from many of the films made here. There's a short film that runs in their theater that gives some more background on films made here. I love this place! It's so much fun to visit.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

On location - Alabama Hills 3

This last one is of Mt. Whitney, just peaking out from beneath the clouds. The road cutting up the Sierra in the back there is the road up to Whitney Portal (where Humphrey Bogart would have his showdown at the end of High Sierra).

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Monday, October 04, 2010

On location - Alabama Hills

One of my absolute favorite places to visit is the Alabama Hills, in Lone Pine, California. I could spend days just exploring and clambering over the rocks. The rock formations, with the Sierra (or the White Mountains) in the background are so distinctive. There's no place like it. The landscape is instantly recognizable in any film made there, and hundreds of films, TV episodes, and commercials have been filmed here over the years.

I was there over the weekend and took some pictures I'll be sharing here over the next week.

Let's start with the two historical plaques. Click the images to make them larger.