Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Listy things - Jimmy Stewart

Favorite James Stewart films:

1. The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
2. The Naked Spur (1953)
3. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
4. Rear Window (1954)
5. Vertigo (1958)
6. The Man from Laramie (1955)
7. Bend of the River (1952)
8. The Far Country (1954)
9. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
10. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Like John Wayne, there's no time when I can't remember Jimmy Stewart. He's my dad's favorite actor. I love watching all of his films, but because I gravitate towards Westerns, those are what dominate my favorites list for him. My sister used to complain that there were "happy" Jimmy Stewart roles (early years) and "cranky" Jimmy Stewart roles (later years). She prefers the early stuff, I prefer the later stuff, but he was so good at both.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Listy things -- John Wayne

My favorite John Wayne films:

1. Big Jake (1971)
2. The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)
3. The Horse Soldiers (1959)
4. The Alamo (1960)
5. The Quiet Man (1952)
6. Donovan's Reef (1963)
7. The Comancheros (1961)
8. Rio Bravo (1959)
9. El Dorado (1966)
10. Rio Lobo (1970)

There's no point in my memory where John Wayne wasn't part of my movie-viewing experience. I've been watching his Westerns since before I could probably talk. Big Jake is not just my favorite John Wayne Western, but it's one of my top five movies of all time. John Wayne movies are like comfort food, and I return to them again and again.

There was a statue of John Wayne at the bank we used to go to when I was young, which was Great Western (I'm still mad it's gone, and sometimes slip and call my current bank Great Western). They also handed out posters of John Wayne once, and I still have mine. It's one I should frame at some point. I used to wear a silver bracelet like his, just because he did.

Rio Lobo, on the other hand, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with. This movie got watched an awful lot when I was young. I had a big crush on Jorge Rivera for awhile. I love this movie (particularly the beginning) with one BIG EXCEPTION -- I cannot stand Jennifer O'Neill in this movie. She almost single-handedly ruins the whole picture with her inability to act or deliver her lines. She drives me insane. If you remove her (and Sherry Lansing), everything else goes fine, swimmingly, delightfully! Jack Elam is hilarious, Chris Mitchum is earnest and cute. But then, here comes Jennifer O'Neill's character, and I just cringe. So, a love-hate relationship indeed.

(next up... Jimmy Stewart)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Listy things -- Ralph Meeker

Today is Ralph Meeker's birthday! Here's my favorites of his films:

1. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
2. The Dirty Dozen (1967)
3. The Naked Spur (1953)
4. Jeopardy (1953)
5. Paths of Glory (1957)
6. Four in a Jeep (1951)
7. Desert Sands (1955)
8. Birds of Prey (1973)
9. The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957)
10. Battle Shock (1956)

I know, I'm one of the few people who even knows who he is, but my love for him has not diminished in the slightest. There're very few actors I'll sit through movies like Food of the Gods for, but he's one of them. I love his easy, smiling charm. Paths of Glory is such a powerful, gut-wrenching movie, and I absolutely love his doomed Corporal Paris. Desert Sands is a rather ridiculous story, but he looks so good in it that I ignore the story. I really want to see Run of the Arrow, but haven't yet had an opportunity. I like all the clips I've seen from it, although I will be looking away and covering my ears for the gruesome ending, which I've had spoiled, but that's okay in this case.

But more than the films, I really wish I could see two of his Broadway stage performances: Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and Hal Carter in "Picnic," with Janice Rule. I think that he would have been fabulous in both.

(next up, John Wayne)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Blaze of Noon (1947)

Time out from lists for a quick review. I watched Blaze of Noon last night, courtesy of youtube. It's a William Holden film I've never seen hide nor hair of, so this was a treat. I watched it in two halves, as I went to see a school play last night (Diary of Anne Frank).

SPOILERS follow, so stop right here if you want to remain unspoiled!! You have been warned!

Blaze of Noon is about four brothers, (William Holden, Sterling Hayden, Sonny Tufts, and Johnny Sands), who make a living doing stunt flying for a circus. This film is set in the 1920s, so we've got some lovely bi-planes zipping around. The first half of the film is rather light. We see the brothers at work, they leave the circus for the serious job of carry air mail between cities for a start-up company. William Holden falls madly in love with Anne Baxter, proposing just hours after meeting her. She eventually accepts. The first half is all kind of adventurous and fun and sweetly romantic with a touch of comedy...

Then there was the second half, in which we leave light and happy behind and swerve straight into melodrama. I find it very ironic that I viewed this film in the two segments, because it is almost like two movies! This wasn't a bad movie, but it doesn't hang together very well, and it has a lot of missed opportunities. It also doesn't hit the emotional points like it should, as there's a lot to be emotional about in this movie, but it glosses past those things.

I love Anne Baxter, so it was quite fun to see her with William Holden, who is as incredibly handsome and charming as ever. She finds marrying one brother is very nearly like marrying all four, as they all share a home and Holden can't yet afford his own place, and that starts ratcheting up the tension. The four brothers were quite good together, very likeable, though Sterling Hayden seemed to spend most of the film in a cranky mood. Of course, his character is jealous of Holden's for winning Anne Baxter's love when he wanted it himself, so maybe his crankiness is justified. The other supporting actors in the film are all fine, particularly William Bendix as another flyer who spices up his mail route by buzzing farmhouses and trains against strict orders. Flying in a straight line is too boring for him. The owner of the mail service is played by Howard Da Silva, and I really liked him. Made a great boss really trying to make a go of this new airmail service thing. The cast was definitely the best thing about the film.

Things I didn't like... well, besides wanting to re-write parts of the script to flow more consistently, I didn't like the ending. I know one of their points was that flying in those early days is dangerous, but really? REALLY???? They'd proved how dangerous it was long before the ending. Which seems kind of tacked on and I'm not sure how it helps the movie. Besides it made me very grumpy and unhappy. LOL!

I used to think only Dana Andrews needed to stay away from planes, but I was wrong. William Holden also needs to stop flying planes. His track record is getting nearly as bad. Hmph.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Listy things -- Kirk Douglas

My favorite Kirk Douglas films:

1. 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
2. Lonely Are the Brave (1962)
3. The Vikings (1958)
4. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
5. Tough Guys (1986)
6. Seven Days in May (1964)
7. Paths of Glory (1957)
8. Out of the Past (1947)
9. Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)
10. Heroes of Telemark (1965)

Kirk Douglas is one of those actors I tend to take for granted and forget how much I really love him. He stars in my favorite movie of all-time, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and The Vikings is, if not in my top 10, then my top 15 movies. If you had asked me who my favorite actor was when I was a kid, I would have told you it was Kirk Douglas.

I have to rank Lonely Are the Brave at the top because I absolutely love him in that movie (might actually be my favorite Kirk Douglas performance), but as I've said before, I have a hard time actually watching the film. I have two tough-to-watch films on this list. Lonely and Paths of Glory. Those go along with The Ox-Bow Incident, on my list of very painful movies to watch, but all three are also so good.

And why is Tough Guys not out on DVD??? I love this movie. I went and saw it a bunch of times in the theater when it came out, and I'm not sure I've seen it since! I think I saw it on video once, but that's it. This was such a good, underrated movie. Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas and Eli Wallach were so great in this movie. Man, I'd dearly love to see it again.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kirk Douglas at a book signing, oh man, twenty years ago now (where is the time going??). When I told him 20,000 was my favorite movie, he sang part of "A Whale of a Tale" for me. It's one of my fondest memories.

(Tomorrow... Ralph Meeker)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Listy things - Richard Widmark

My favorite Richard Widmark films:

1. The Alamo (1960)
2. Alvarez Kelly (1966)
3. Run for the Sun (1956)
4. Yellow Sky (1948)
5. The Law and Jake Wade (1958)
6. The Last Wagon (1956)
7. Warlock (1959)
8. Pickup on South Street (1953)
9. The Sell-Out (1976)
10. The Frogmen (1951)

I find it interesting doing these lists to see that I tend to have a strong sentimental attachment to the first film I saw someone in. In Richard Widmark's case, it was The Alamo, and I admit, I'm still a sucker for him in that film. Widmark is another actor who never turns in a bad performance. I've seen some rather odd movies he's been in (I'm thinking of A Talent for Loving here), but he is always great, playing smirking, violent bad guys as easily as upstanding good guys. My favorites are the rather greyer characters in the middle, naturally.

(next up... Kirk Douglas)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Listy Things -- Oliver Reed

Favorite Oliver Reed movies...

1. Crossed Swords (1977)
2. The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge (1974)
3. Gladiator (2000)
4. The Sell-Out (1976)
5. The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday (1976)
6. Revolver (1973)
7. The Three Musketeers (1973)
8. Lion of the Desert (1981)
9. Royal Flash (1975)
10. Z.P.G. (1972)

(next: Richard Widmark)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Listy things -- Lee Marvin

My favorite Lee Marvin movies:

1. The Dirty Dozen (1967)
2. The Professionals (1966)
3. Paint Your Wagon (1969)
4. Cat Ballou (1965)
5. Donovan's Reef (1963)
6. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
7. The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday (1976)
8. Attack (1956)
9. The Comancheros (1961)
10. Seven Men from Now (1956)

Lee Marvin never turns in a bad performance. I've liked him in everything I've ever seen him in, and that includes some very fine television roles as well as his film roles. His guest star appearances on Bonanza and Combat! are particular favorites of mine. This was a hard list to narrow down. I love his voice (and yes, I even like his singing!), his swaggering stroll, the way he could play the meanest guy ever and turn around and play comedy (or both in the same movie: Cat Ballou).

The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday should probably be considered a guilty pleasure. I didn't expect to like the movie when I first saw it, but I couldn't resist the lure of seeing Lee Marvin and Oliver Reed in the same film. Two of my favorite hard-drinking, hard-hitting men together? In a comedy Western? Where Oliver Reed is playing, of all things, a Native American?? I started out watching the movie sort of open mouthed, a bit shocked, and then the movie got a little farther along, and I started laughing... and laughing. By the end, I found I'd thoroughly and unexpectedly enjoyed it, irreverent as it is. And it is very irreverent. Ahem. I've known how funny Lee Marvin can be, but I didn't know Reed could be just as funny. The combination is rather brilliant. (The IMDb trivia notes on the film say the two got into a drinking contest. Of course. If they hadn't, I'd have been shocked. Apparently lasted ten hours, and Reed won, which also does not surprise me in the least.)

(Tomorrow, since I've just been talking about him... Oliver Reed)

Monday, November 07, 2011

Listy Things -- Aldo Ray

My favorite Aldo Ray films:

1. We're No Angels (1955)
2. Battle Cry (1955)
3. What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966)
4. Nightfall (1957)
5. Men in War (1957)
6. God's Little Acre (1958)
7. Kill a Dragon (1967)
8. Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)
9. Pat and Mike (1952)
10. The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Mmmm, Aldo Ray. Love his brawniness, love that raspy voice, love how vulnerable he can still be despite that physical strength. If this was a "favorite roles" list, there would be a couple television episodes on here, but I chose film, so...

God's Little Acre is a rather bizarre film, but yowza, Aldo Ray is so hot, I don't care about the rest. Same with Miss Sadie Thompson. I can't say I like the film (Rain with Joan Crawford is a much better version), but it's got a good cast, and I just ignore the stuff I don't like. Besides, with scenes like the opening scene -- Aldo Ray and a very young Charles Bronson (Charles Buchinksy in those days) rising out of the tropical surf, dripping wet and in nothing but swim trunks -- I admit, any substance to that film is completely lost on me after that beginning of sheer eye candy appeal. Um, yeah... where was I? And the last film on my list is indeed an animated film, with just his voice, but I really love his character of Sullivan in that film, so I'm counting it for now.

(next up... Lee Marvin)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Listy things -- George Raft

Favorite George Raft films:

1. Spawn of the North (1938)
2. Souls at Sea (1937)
3. Each Dawn I Die (1939)
4. Invisible Stripes (1939)
5. Rumba (1935)
6. Scarface (1932)
7. Some Like It Hot (1959)
8. They Drive by Night (1940)
9. Loan Shark (1952)
10. Background to Danger (1943)

I find it very amusing that my favorite two George Raft films also star two actors I'm not particularly fond of, Henry Fonda and Gary Cooper. Yet I'll watch each any day of the week just to catch those two particular films, which showcase George at his least smooth and well-dressed. Not that I mind him smooth and well-dressed, because damn, the man can wear a tailored suit like nobody's business. But I tend to love rough-and-tumble first, and Spawn of the North and Souls at Sea deliver that. I love the first half of They Drive by Night for the same reason, rough and tumble and scruffy, fisticuffs and wise-cracking.

(up tomorrow... Aldo Ray)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Listy things -- Joel McCrea

Today is Joel McCrea's birthday! I'm delighted to be attending the open house at his ranch in Thousand Oaks and will report in on that later. But for now, here's my favorite films starring Joel McCrea:

1. Ride the High Country (1962)
2. Dead End (1937)
3. The More the Merrier (1943)
4. The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
5. Bird of Paradise (1932)
6. Sullivan's Travels (1941)
7. The Silver Horde (1930)
8. Foreign Correspondent (1940)
9. Union Pacific (1939)
10. Buffalo Bill (1944)

There are so many enjoyable Joel McCrea movies that this list was kind of hard! And I still have so many films of his left to see! Of course, Ride the High Country is still my absolute favorite by a long shot. I have a lobby card from that film on my wall. Makes me happy every time I walk back it.

(up next... George Raft)

Friday, November 04, 2011

Listy things -- Dana Andrews

My favorite Dana Andrews' films:

1. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
2. Swamp Water (1941)
3. Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)
4. Fallen Angel (1945)
5. Laura (1944)
6. Ball of Fire (1941)
7. State Fair (1945)
8. Night Song (1947)
9. The Frogmen (1951)
10. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

It's very hard to put Ox-Bow Incident on that list, because that movie is very painful to watch, but at the same time, he's so wonderful in it that it is one of my favorites. Actually, typing up this list really put me in the mood to watch most of these. I kind of wore them out a few years back, but now I'm fresh and ready to watch!

(next up... Joel McCrea, just in time for his birthday)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Listy things! -- William Holden

I have at least three movie reviews I'm behind on, but I've been fighting a cold and can't focus on anything right now... so we're going to do some lists for November, starting with my personal top ten favorite movies from several of my favorite actors.

I absolutely love how many people can adore the same actor and yet love completely different movies starring them. As they say, how boring it would be if we liked the same things, right? And when there's a jillion movies to choose from, and only ten can go on a list... So, here's my personal favorites (ie: the most watched go-to movies when I'm in a William Holden mood). There's still a few of his films I haven't yet seen, that I have a feeling will be on this list, once I do see them, like Streets of Laredo. That's the thing... favorite lists are so flexible and ever-changing. But as of this moment:

William Holden

1. The Wild Bunch (1969)
2. The Horse Soldiers (1959)
3. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
4. Escape from Fort Bravo (1953)
5. Alvarez Kelly (1966)
6. Stalag 17 (1953)
7. Picnic (1955)
8. The 7th Dawn (1964)
9. Golden Boy (1939)
10. Texas (1941)

(Up tomorrow... Dana Andrews)