Drama


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The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Monday, February 4th, 2013

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir [Blu-ray]

Tagline – THE SPIRIT… so willing! THE FLESH… so weak! THE ROMANCE… so wonderful!

Starring – Gene Tierney (Lucy Muir), Rex Harrison (Capt. Daniel Gregg), George Sanders (Miles Fairley), Edna Best (Martha Huggins), Natalie Wood (Anna Muir).

Released – June, 1947

Directed By – Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Produced By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Description – In England, during the early 1900’s, young widow Lucy Muir, her daughter Anna, and their maid Martha move into Gull Cottage located in the seaside village of Whitecliff. The move has caused a rift in the family with Lucy’s mother-and sister-in-law.

The unpopular move comes with another hitch… the cottage is said to be haunted by, the not so friendly former owner, Captain Daniel Gregg. But, who believes in ghosts? Well, Lucy sure does as she is visited by the ghostly apparition the very first night.

The experience turns out to not be as frightening as one might expect. Captain Gregg, while certainly a bit roguish, is harmless and after a bit of coaxing promises to make himself known only to Lucy as she feels her daughter is too young to encounter a ghost.

Having a male ghost haunt your bedroom takes a little getting used to for Lucy, but the pair soon become friends. Lucy has been supporting herself and her daughter with investment earnings and the funds are running low.

Captain Gregg has the idea to dictate his memoirs to Lucy for her to publish into a book titled Blood and Swash. The captain’s entertaining revelations should cause the book to be a huge success with the earnings more than enough to allow Lucy to keep the cottage.

However, during the course of writing the book, the pair seem to be falling in love. Realizing a love affair with a ghost has no future, Gregg tells Lucy that she should bestow her love on a real man.

During a visit to a book publisher in London, Lucy meets, and is attracted to, children’s book author Miles Fairley. In the publishing world, Miles is known as “Mr. Neddy” whose success is enough to get Lucy an interview with the publisher. The interview goes well and Blood and Swash will be published.

When Lucy returns to Whitecliff, Miles follows and begins, what will be, a whirlwind courtship. Initially, Captain Gregg finds himself feeling jealous, but soon realizes that he must step aside and allow Lucy the opportunity to live her own happy life.

Miles returns to London for personal business and Lucy decides to pay him a surprise visit. The surprise is on her as she discovers that Miles is already married and has two children. To make matters worse, she also learns that he has a habit of doing this to many other women.

Heartbroken, she returns to spend the rest of her life in the cottage. Years pass, Anna gets older and meets a man of her own, and Lucy seems destined to live out the rest of her life alone.

NOTABLE: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir received an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

Originally, actress Gene Tierney brought a playful attitude to the character of Lucy Muir. After a conference with Darryl F. Zanuck and Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, it was decided that her approach be changed to give more depth to the character. The change was a good one as the portrayal by Gene Tierney received a great deal of critical acclaim.

The last name of “Muir” was a reference to the Gaelic meaning of “the sea,” as sailors were often said to be in love with, or married to, the sea.

httpv://youtu.be/n-X00-BoG9o

It’s A Wonderful Life

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

It’s a Wonderful Life [Blu-ray]

Tagline – Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!… How Could It Be Anything Else!

Starring – James Stewart (George Bailey), Donna Reed (Mary Hatch Bailey), Henry Travers (Clarence Oddbody), Lionel Barrymore (Mr. Henry F. Potter), Thomas Mitchell (Uncle Billy Bailey).

Released – January, 1947

Directed By – Frank Capra

Produced By – Liberty Films (II)

Distributed By – RKO Radio Pictures

Description – Businessman George Bailey is on the edge, literally. Deeply frustrated and troubled, George’s family and friends are worried enough about him to pray, and pray hard, on this Christmas Eve, 1945.

Their prayers are heard loud and clear in heaven and novice angel (yet to get his wings) Clarence Oddbody is sent to earth to prevent George from taking his own life. Prior to the trip, Clarence is shown George’s life.

And an eventful life it has been. At the tender age of 12, George saves his younger brother Harry from drowning in an icy pond. However, this act of heroism left George with a bad cold that resulted in the loss of hearing in his left ear.

While working a part-time job, after school in the local pharmacy, George notices that the druggist, Mr. Gower, who has recently lost his son, is mistakenly filling a child’s prescription with arsenic. He stops Mr. Gower from a mistake that would have resulted in tragedy and promises to never tell anyone about the incident.

That same evening, at younger brother Harry’s graduation party, George finds himself attracted to Mary Hatch, a girl who has had a secret crush on George since childhood. As the two talk about their idea’s for the future, George’s uncle brings him the news that his father has suffered a stroke which proves fatal.

While planning to leave for college, George learns that his father’s business, the Bailey Building and Loan Association, is in serious financial trouble and that the board of directors will shut it down unless George stays and takes over the management of the business.

In the background, majority shareholder Henry F. Potter is working hard to convince the board to stop making loans to the working poor. George is able to prevent this from happening and gives his college money to his brother Harry with the understanding that when Harry graduates he is to return and take over the business.

Again, George’s dreams for himself are crushed when Harry returns with a wife and an excellent job offer. Unable to deny his brother the opportunity, George continues running the business.

Finally, something positive happens in the life of George Bailey as he and Mary are wed. This new found happiness is short-lived as a run on the bank again puts the Building and Loan on the verge of collapse, World War II erupts, and a company bank deposit of $8,000 never gets to the bank, ending up in the hands of Henry F. Potter.

Always wanting George out of the picture, Potter, as majority shareholder, has an arrest warrant written against George for bank fraud claiming that George has stolen the money.

This has been the life of George Bailey. This collection of events has led him to consider suicide and his only hope is with angel Clarence Odbody whose strategy is to show George what life would have been like had he not been born.

NOTABLE: It’s A Wonderful Life received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Frank Capra), Best Actor in a Leading Role (James Stewart), Best Film Editing, and Best Sound,
Recording.

In 1990, It’s A Wonderful Life was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Drained from his service to his country during World War II, James Stewart was hesitant to accept the role of George Bailey. Fortunately for everyone, Lionel Barrymore convinced Stewart to take the role.

Films made prior to this one would use painted corn flakes to give the appearance of snowfall. However, director Capra felt that they were too loud and did not want to add the dialogue after scenes were filmed. To solve the problem of recording the sound live a new method of creating snow was invented. The fire-fighting chemical of foamite, combined with soap and water was pumped at high pressure through a wind machine producing a silent, falling snow. This new method garnered an award for the RKO effects department from the Motion Picture Academy.

Actress Jean Arthur was director Frank Capra’s first choice to play Mary Hatch, but she was committed to a play on Broadway which opened the door for Donna Reed’s first starring role. Popular actress Ginger Rogers also turned down the role.

Actor Cary Grant was to play the role of George Bailey, but when Frank Capra inherited the project from another studio he rewrote the part for James Stewart who would later state that this was his favorite film role.

This was the first, and only time, that Frank Capra would produce, direct, finance, and co-write one of his films.

It’s A Wonderful Life was voted the #1 Inspirational Film of All Time by the American Film Institute as well as the 20th Greatest Movie of All Time.

In the film, actress Beulah Bondi plays the role of Jimmy Stewart’s mother. It was one of five times that she would play the mother of Stewart in his films.

Personal Note: While high production costs and stiff competition at the box office, primarily from the opening of The Best Years of Our Lives, the popularity of this motion picture has done nothing but grow with the passing to time. It’s A Wonderful Life now stands as one of the most loved Christmas films of all-time.

httpv://youtu.be/LJfZaT8ncYk

 

The Razor’s Edge

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Razor’s Edge (’47)(bw) [Blu-ray]

Tagline – A Hunger No Love… Woman… or Wealth Could Satisfy!

Starring – Tyrone Power (Larry Darrell), Gene Tierney (Isabel Bradley), John Payne (Gray Maturin), Anne Baxter (Sophie MacDonald), Clifton Webb (Elliott Templeton), Herbert Marshall (W. Somerset Maugham).

Released – December, 1946

Directed By – Edmund Goulding

Produced By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Description – It is 1919, just after World War I, and wealthy, snobbish Elliott Templeton and his sister Louisa are  hosting a party at a Chicago country club. It is a reunion, of sorts, for Elliott who has returned to the United States for the first time since the war to visit his sister Edith Bradley and his niece Isabel.

Also to attend is Larry Darrell, who is engaged to Isabel, much to the dismay of Elliott and his family. Larry is viewed as an undesirable suitor for Isabel due to his lack of money, prospects, and ambition. Louisa had hoped that her daughter would marry Gary Maturin, the son of a wealthy stockbroker.

Larry arrives late and is questioned by Isabel as to why he turned down a position offered by the Maturin’s. His reply only adds to the social tension by stating that his intention in life is “to loaf,” and that there are more important things in life than making money.

He explains that his outlook on life changed when a close friend sacrificed his life during the war so that Larry might live and, given this second chance, he intends to search for the true meaning of life. Isabel offers to postpone their marriage for a year in order for Larry to get his life together.

Larry begins his journey of self-discovery by sailing to Paris. After a few months, Isabel decides to visit him. Shocked by his modest living conditions and comfortable acceptance of his life, Isabel, who desires a life of status and wealth, breaks off their engagement.

Shortly after returning to Chicago, Isabel marries Gray Maturin. Meanwhile, in Paris, Larry is working in a coal mine where he meets Kostis, a former priest who has lost his faith. Kostis tells Larry about a man in India who he has heard is almost saint-like.

For Larry this information dictates his next step. He will travel to India and seek out the counseling of this man. At a monastery in the Himalayas, Larry studies under the instruction of the holy man, who tells him that “the road to salvation is as difficult to pass over as the sharp edge of a razor.” After completing his studies, the holy-man offers one final instruction. Larry is to climb to the mountaintop and reflect in solitude.

After a visit from the holy man, where Larry assures him that he has finally become one with God, the holy man tells him that he is ready to return to his world and that his new vision will never leave him.

Back in Paris, Isabel and Gray are sharing an apartment with Elliott after suffering financial ruin in the stock market crash of 1929. Gray has suffered a nervous breakdown as a result. Sophie MacDonald is also in Paris. She has lost both her husband and baby as a result of an automobile accident and is now a drunkard.

By chance, W. Somerset Maugham meets Elliott and invites him, Isabel, and Gray to lunch to meet an old friend. That old friend is Larry who is able to help using an Indian form of hypnotic suggestion, to cure the severe headaches suffered by Gray due to his depression.

Later that evening the group meet a drunk Sophie in a nightclub. Larry offers to try and help her deal with her problems as a result of losing her family. This association leads to a marriage proposal.

Sophie’s return to sobriety is short-lived as Isabel tempts her to drink again. Shortly after, Sophie disappears and is later found to have been murdered.

The rebuilding of lives takes a great toll on many as Isabel’s desire to get Larry back may have gone too far.

NOTABLE: The Razor’s Edge won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Baxter), and received nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Clifton Webb), and Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White.

This motion picture is the film version of the 1944 novel by W. Somerset Maugham. In the film, Maugham, drifts in and out of the lives of the main characters.

Betty Grable and Judy Garland were both considered for the role of Sophie MacDonald, and Maureen O’Hara was the original choice to play Isabel.

The Razor’s Edge had the longest shooting schedule for any 20th Century Fox film to date and required 89 sets to be built.

In the film, Larry Darrell served as a pilot during the war. In real life, actor Tyrone Power also served as a Marine airmen rising from the rank of private to First Lieutenant.

In the hospital scene where Anne Baxter, as Sophie MacDonald, is heartbroken over the loss of her husband and child, Baxter fueled the emotion for the scene from her own experience of losing her three-year-old brother.

The Best Years of Our Lives

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

The Best Years of Our Lives [Blu-ray]

Tagline – Filled with all the love, warmth, and joy… the human heart can hold!

Starring – Myrna Loy (Milly Stephenson), Fredric March (Al Stephenson), Dana Andrews (Fred Derry), Teresa Wright (Peggy Stephenson), Virginia Mayo (Marie Derry), Harold Russell (Homer Parrish), Cathy O’Donnell (Wilma).

Released – November, 1946

Directed By – William Wyler

Produced By – The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – For many, the happiness that came with the end of World War II was all too quickly forgotten. Having been away for years, the period of social re-adjustment would not be easy no matter your previous station in society.

Fred Derry, Al Stephenson, and Homer Parrish meet while returning home to the fictionalized town of Boone City. Fred was a decorated Army Air Forces Captain who suffers from the nightmares of his experiences. Al was an infantry platoon sergeant, and Homer served in the Navy, losing both his hands when the carrier he served on was sunk. He now has prosthetic hooks.

Fred had worked at a drugstore soda fountain, a job he does not want to return to, and was married to Marie for only one month before having to report for duty. While Fred was away, Marie worked as a night club waitress associating with an undesirable crowd and, although happy Fred is home, has no desire to remain married to a soda jerk.

Al, a mature man, had been a successful bank loan officer with a loving wife, son, and daughter. To Al, his children seemed to have grown up too quickly while he was gone with his daughter Peggy having turned into a beautiful young woman, and son Rob a college freshman with an anti-war sentiment. The difficulties of war have caused Al to drink too much and he shows serious signs of alcoholism.

Before the Navy, Homer was a football quarterback engaged to Wilma the beautiful girl next door.  Homer faces the greatest challenges; as the loss of both his hands have made life difficult for his, now elderly parent, as they must help him with most daily tasks. And Homer’s uncomfortable feelings toward his problem has caused him to push away Wilma, the love of his life. He believes he has no right to expect her to accept him as he is now.

As the three meet over a few drinks at Butch’s, a local bar, where they discuss how foreign the world they left behind has become.

Fred tries to find a better job, but the sheer number of returning servicemen and the few available jobs make for a dead end. He is forced to return to his job at the soda fountain. This causes a great deal of strain on his marriage to Marie who now wants the finer things in life and is carrying on an affair with another returning veteran.

One evening, while returning a drunken Al to his home, Fred meets Al’s daughter Peggy and a bit of light shines into his life. With Marie unhappy and threatening to leave him, and Peggy unavailable to the married Fred, he decides to leave town.

Al has had the good fortune to be able to return to his job at the bank, but his sympathy to returning veteran’s leads him to approve loans that are not within the banks guidelines. Al has found it increasingly difficult to ignore the needs of ex-servicemen and deal with the new commercial realities of his job. In addition, his daughter Peggy has declared her love for Fred. This causes Al to tell Fred to stay away from Peggy as he disapproves because of Fred’s marriage and he also doubt Fred’s sincerity.

Homer, although assured by Wilma that she still loves him in spite of his injuries, is filled with doubt. He fears that Wilma’s claim of love is out of a sense of pity, and that she can not imagine just how hard life with him will really be.

There is a difficult road ahead for all three as they search for ways to move forward with their lives.

NOTABLE: The Best Years of Our Lives won Academy Award’s for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Fredric March), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Harold Russell), Best Director (William Wyler), Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, and was also nominated for Best Sound, Recording.

In 1989, this motion picture was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. The Best Years of Our Lives was one of the very first films chosen for this honor.

Producer Samuel Goldwyn wanted to produce a film about returning war veterans, and the problems they face, after reading an article in Time Magazine.

The Best Years of Our Lives became the highest grossing film in both the United States and Great Britain since Gone With the Wind, selling over 20 million tickets.

Harold Russell, who played disabled Navy veteran Homer Parrish, was, in fact, a real Navy veteran. He was discovered by director William Wyler in a training film about the rehabilitation of wounded servicemen.

Director Wyler was furious when he learned that Producer Samuel Goldwyn wanted to send Harold Russell for acting lessons. Wyler prefered Russell’s acting remain untrained and natural.

Wyler was so involved with portraying the film with as much realism as possible that he hired only World War II veterans for the production crew.

When first meeting his fellow cast members, Harold Russell, in an attempt to avoid any awkwardness as a result of his disability, reached out with his hooks and shook each of their hands. He felt that he should make the first move.

Harold Russell, who won the Best Supporting Oscar, became the only actor to receive two Oscars for the same role. He also received an Honorary Award to acknowledge significant achievement that did not fit in any of the existing categories.

In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked The Best Years of Our Lives at the 37th Greatest Movie of All Time.

Personal Note: This is a classic motion picture that captured the mood of post-war United States. Extremely powerful then, and still powerful today.

Great performances from top to bottom. In my opinion, the finest motion picture to address the problems of returning World War II veterans.

 

Brief Encounter

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Brief Encounter (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Tagline – A story of the most precious moments in a woman’s life.

Starring – Celia Johnson (Laura Jesson), Trevor Howard (Dr. Alec Harvey), Stanley Holloway (Albert Godby), Joyce Carey (Myrtle Bagot), Cyril Raymond (Fred Jesson).

Released – August, 1946

Directed By – David Lean

Produced By – Cineguild

Distributed By – Eagle-Lion Distributors Limited

Description – In Britain, suburban housewife Laura Jesson is in an emotional rut. Although her marriage to husband Fred is not a bad marriage, day-to-day life has become uncomfortably dull and Laura’s state of unhappiness has gone unnoticed by Fred.

Weekly, Laura, as with the majority of the other women in the area, would go into town to shop and pass a couple of hours by catching a matinee at the cinema.

This weeks trip into town will be a little different.

While waiting at the train stop to return home from her latest visit to town, Laura gets a piece of grit in one of her eyes. Another gentleman waiting for the train offers to help her get it out. He is Dr. Alec Harvey who works, once a week, as a consultant to the local children’s hospital.

Dr. Harvey is also married and, like Laura, is in his thirties with two children. Their conversation is comfortable and both express their appreciation of having met the other. So much so, that they arrange to meet again the following week.

It isn’t long before their casual meetings begin to take on new meaning. They both begin to realize that they are falling in love. Their meetings, on Thursday’s at a small cafe, continue as they grow closer. They begin to fear running into someone that one, or the other would know, believing that their feelings would be easily recognized.

One day they decide to take the next step in their relationship and go to the privacy of a room belonging to a friend of Dr. Harvey’s. However, any chance for intimacy is interrupted when the friend returns unexpectedly.

This experience emphasizes the fact that they will never be able to have a future together. With neither Laura, or Dr. Harvey wanting to hurt their families, they agree to part. It is now Dr. Harvey’s plan to take a job offer he has received from South Africa, where he has a brother.

Their final goodbye will be at the same railway station where they first met. Will heartbreak follow and violent emotions rule their goodbye?

NOTABLE: Brief Encounter received Oscar nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Celia Johnson), Best Director (David Lean), and Best Writing, Screenplay.

Shooting of the film took place in early 1945 before the war had ended. As a result, locations had to be far from large cities in order to avoid the blackout requirements.

When first released in Great Britain, this film was banned in Ireland on the grounds that it depicted an adulterer in a sympathetic light.

Brief Encounter was the first Best Director nomination for David Lean.

httpv://youtu.be/Il8B6E9FzSE