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A Face in the Crowd

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

A Face in the Crowd

Tagline – POWER! He loved it! He took it raw in big gulpfulls… he liked the taste, the way it mixed with the bourbon and the sin in his blood!

Starring – Andy Griffith (Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes), Patricia Neal (Marcia Jeffries), Anthony Franciosa (Joey DePalma), Walter Matthau (Mel Miller), Lee Remick (Betty Lou Fleckum).

Released – May, 1957

Directed By – Elia Kazan

Produced By – Newtown Productions

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – Ozark guitar picker Larry Rhodes is discovered in an Arkansas jail by Marcia Jeffries. He is invited to sing on a radio show where his down home humor and charm start him on a meteoric rise in entertainment popularity.

Given the nickname “Lonesome” Rhodes by Jeffries, he lands a Memphis television show. It is here that the dark side of Rhodes begins to show once he realizes that his popularity brings with it… power. He and Jeffries begin an affair which is followed by an accepted marriage proposal.

His continued success lands him his own show in New York City. More money, more power, more moral deterioration.

A woman shows up claiming to be Rhodes’ real wife, Rhodes betrays his discoverer and new wife Marcia Jeffries by running away with a 17 year drum majorette. Fame, influence, arrogance, and money have created a monster.

It becomes a sure bet that the moral course taken by Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes can only lead to pain and disaster.

NOTABLE: A Face in the Crowd provided the film debut of Andy Griffith and Lee Remick.

Director Elia Kazan and Screenwriter Budd Schulberg spent months researching the advertising world, even gaining access to ad agency meetings, in order to gain an understand as to the way Madison Avenue approaches and shapes the thinking of the American public.

Lee Remick’s baton twirling majorette required her to show up weeks before shooting in order to train with local high school majorettes.

A Face in the Crowd was the return to the big screen for actress Patricia Neal who had suffered a nervous breakdown after a much-publicized affair with actor Gary Cooper.

The Spirit of St. Louis

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

The Spirit of St. Louis

Tagline – The Story Behind the Story of Lindbergh’s Incredible Flight to Paris!

Starring – James Stewart (Charles Lindbergh), Murray Hamilton (Harlan A. “Bud” Gurney), Patricia Smith (Mirror Girl).

Released – April, 1957

Directed By – Billy Wilder

Produced By – Leland Hayward Productions, Warner Brothers, Billy Wilder Productions

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – Charles A. “Slim” Lindbergh flies mail across the country for a living. A dangerous living. During a winter run, the site of his landing in Chicago is closed due to the weather. Running out of fuel, he is forced to bail out.

Charles recovers as much of the mail as he can from the fallen plane and proceeds by train. On the train he meets a salesman who tells him of the recent deaths of two pilots who were trying to fly nonstop from New York to Paris.

Intrigued by the idea of the nonstop flight across the Atlantic, Lindbergh approaches a group of New York businessmen with the hope of obtaining the money needed to design and produce an airplane capable of the flight. While the businessmen are receptive of his idea, they want to hire their own pilot.

Not wanting this, Charles contacts another company who promises to build him the necessary aircraft in 90 days. The completed, bare-bones plane, dubbed The Spirit of St. Louis, is flown by Lindbergh from St. Louis to New York to prepare for the transatlantic flight.

This flight will not be easy as Lindbergh must deal with a stalled engine, ice on his wings, a malfunctioning compass that requires Lindbergh to navigate by the stars, and the shear exhaustion that will result in his falling asleep at the controls.

This ambitious and great achievement just may cost him his life.

NOTABLE: Originally, a box office flop The spirit of St. Louis has grown in popularity with the passing of time.

Producer Jack L. Warner was strongly opposed to the casting of James Stewart, which he believed caused the film to flop on its release in 1957. Warner felt a young and less well-known actor was needed to play Lindbergh.

The real Charles A. Lindbergh wanted Anthony Perkins for the role.

One of the replicas of “The Spirit of St. Louis” is displayed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Another is at the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

12 Angry Men

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

12 Angry Men (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Tagline – Life is in their hands… Death is on their minds!

Starring – Henry Fonda (Juror 8), Lee J. Cobb (Juror 3), E. G. Marshall (Juror 4), Martin Balsam (Juror 1), Jack Warden (Juror 7), John Fielder (Juror 2), Jack Klugman (Juror 5),Edward Binns (Juror 6), Joseph Sweeney (Juror 9), Ed Begley (Juror 10),George Voskovek (Juror 11), Robert Webber (Juror 12).

Released – April, 1957

Directed By – Sidney Lumet

Produced By – Orion-Nova Productions

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – In a New York City courthouse, an eighteen-year-old boy has just been tried for the stabbing murder of his father. Closing arguments have been presented, and the judge has instructed the jury to decide, beyond any reasonable doubt, the boy’s guilt or innocence.

Should the verdict be guilty, a mandatory death sentence is required.

This is an impatient jury. One which seems to have already made up its mind that the defendant is guilty as charged. That is, except for one. Juror 8. It is his belief that most of the evidence is circumstantial, that the two key witnesses are unreliable, and he refuses to vote “guilty” without first discussing the charges and evidence in detail.

This discussion will not be orderly and calm, but rather argumentative and bigoted against “slum children.”

This is no open-and-shut case, and the actions of the jury will reveal more than just the accused’s guilt or innocence. Each juror’s prejudices and pre-conceived notions, about the accused and each other, will come to the surface. Each must be realized and dealt with before justice can be served.

After all, a young man’s life is at stake.

NOTABLE: In 2007, 12 Angry Men was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

12 Angry Men was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Director (Sidney Lumet), Best Picture, and Best Writing of Adapted Screenplay.

Included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.

12 Angry Men provided the directorial debut of Sidney Lumet.

The ethnic background of the teen-aged suspect was deliberately left unstated. For the purposes of the film, the important facts were that he was NOT Caucasian and that prejudice (or lack of it) would be a major part of the deliberations process.

Baby Doll

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Baby Doll

Tagline – 19 years old and married… but not really!

Starring – Karl Malden (Archie Lee Meighan), Carroll Baker (Baby Doll Meighan), Eli Wallach (Silva Vacarro), Mildred Dunnock (Aunt Rose Comfort).

Released – December, 1956

Directed By – Elia Kazan

Produced By – Newtown Productions

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – Tiger Tail, Mississippi is the home of one very strange “odd couple.” Middle-aged and bigoted Archie Lee Meighan has been married to 19-year old virgin “Baby Doll” Meighan for nearly two years. They live in a dilapidated old mansion along with her Aunt Rose Comfort.

This is a marriage that has nothing to do with love, but rather with each party getting what they want. And in a few days Archie will be getting what he wants. An unusual agreement between Archie and Baby Doll’s father was made as the man lay dying.

Archie was granted permission to marry Baby Doll, and agreed to financially take care of her, if after marrying he would wait until the young girl turned 20-years old before consummating the marriage. In a few days Baby Doll will finally turn 20.

How does she feel about this arrangement? Well, Baby Doll is not happy about the thought of having relations with her much older husband, but this has never stopped her from sexually taunting Archie and, for that matter, any other man with her baby doll sensuality.

Her “baby doll” behavior goes a lot farther than a nickname. She still sleeps in the house’s nursery in a crib, wear’s child size shorty-nightgowns, and sucks her thumb. All of which is very appealing to Archie who enjoys spying on her through a hole in the wall.

Archie also owns a failing cotton gin. The business equipment is out-of-date and Archie has lost most of his customers to business rival Silva Vacarro’s modern cotton gin. At the brink of losing everything, and in an act of desperation, Archie decides to burn down Vacarro’s gin.

Furious, and feeling certain that Archie is the arsonist, Silva plots a devastating plan of revenge. He will seduce Baby Doll and terrorize her into signing a statement admitting that Archie is responsible for the fire.

Things in Tiger Tail, Mississippi are growing more ugly by the minute, and someone will be driven to thoughts of murder.

NOTABLE: Baby Doll received Oscar nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Carroll Baker), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Mildred Dunnock), Best Writing, Best Screenplay – Adapted, and Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

The National Legion of Decency, a Roman Catholic Church organization, strongly objected to what it referred to as “carnal suggestiveness,” in the film and was successful in preventing it from being shown in many area’s. Two days before the film’s opening, Francis Cardinal Spellman, speaking at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, condemned the film and that all Catholic’s should not patronize this motion picture “under pain of sin.”

The motion picture was adapted from the Tennessee Williams play, 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, and Williams had hoped to have Marilyn Monroe play the role of Baby Doll. However, director Elia Kazan preferred newcomer Carroll Baker for the part.

Baby Doll provided the feature film debut’s for actors Eli Wallach and Rip Torn.

The nightgown’s worn by Carroll Baker in this film were the inspiration for the, now very familiar, style of nightgown known as Baby Doll.


Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Anastasia (1956)

Tagline – The most amazing conspiracy the world has ever known, and love as it never happened to a man and woman before!

Starring – Ingrid Bergman (Anna Koreff), Yul Brynner (General Sergei Pavlovich Bounine), Helen Hayes (Empress Maria Feodorovna), Akim Tamiroff (Boris Adreivich Chernov).

Released – December, 1956

Directed By – Anatole Litvak

Produced By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By –  Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Description – Paris 1928 – Alone and deeply depressed, Anna Koreff is roaming the streets of the city when she is approached by former Russian Imperial Army General, now nightclub owner, Sergei Bounine.

General Bounine asks if Anna is Grand Duchess Anastasia, who along with her sisters and brother were presumably killed during the revolution. She says she is Anna Koreff, recently released from an asylum. She then continues her trek through the city streets until reaching the banks of the Seine. It is her intention to commit suicide.

She is saved by Bounine who brings her to a meeting with some friends of his. It is the plan of General Bounine and his comrades to pose a young woman as, the still alive, Anastasia and swindle their way into gaining her ten million pound inheritance. Anna Koreff seems like the perfect young woman for this fraud.

Bounine convinces his partners in crime that, with his coaching, he can transform this lost woman into a perfectly passable version of the real Grand Duchess Anastasia. She already has many of the physical traits necessary including scars on her hands and forehead that Anastasia suffered during the killing of her family.

Without knowing the real motive for General Bounine’s kindness, Anna agrees to allow herself to be tutored by him believing his promise that he will help her find herself. Bounine tutors her on the history of the Romanov family and how to properly comport herself in the company of royalty.

Anna learns with an unnatural easiness. As some time passes her display of stylish confidence grows. The similarities between pupil and model are almost to real to believe. When introduced to the Czarina’s former lady-in-waiting, Anna, without having previously been informed, addresses her with a nickname, known only by the real Grand Duchess reducing the woman to tears.

Later, at a reception for Russian exiles, she is introduced to the Czar’s chamberlain, who immediately believes her to be a fake. That is, until she rebukes him for smoking. Something done by the real Anastasia.

Growing increasingly attracted to the young woman he once saved from committing suicide, General Bounine is beginning to believe that she may, in fact, be the real Grand Duchess Anastasia.

NOTABLE: Anastasia received an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Ingrid Bergman), and was also nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical or Comedy Picture.

This motion picture marked the return to the screen for great actress Helen Hayes. Hayes had suspended her career for several years due to the death of her daughter Mary, and her husband’s failing health.

Anastasia was also a comeback, of sorts, for Ingrid Bergman who, in 1949, had been blacklisted for having an affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini and having a child out of wedlock.