Drama


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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.

Anastasia

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.

Giant

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Giant (BD) [Blu-ray]

Tagline – From the novel by Edna Ferber… The legendary epic that’s as big as Texas!

Starring – Elizabeth Taylor (Leslie Benedict), Rock Hudson (Jordan ‘Bick’ Benedict, Jr.), James Dean (Jett Rink), Carroll Baker (Luz Benedict II), Jane Withers (Vashti Snythe), Chill Wills (Uncle Bawley), Mercedes McCambridge (Luz Benedict), Dennis Hopper (Jordan Benedict III), Sal Mineo (Angel Obregon II), Rod Taylor (Sir David Karfrey).

Released – November, 1956

Directed By – George Stevens

Produced By – Giant Productions, Warner Brothers

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – Jordan ‘Bick’ Benedict is the head of one of the richest families in Texas. While on a trip to Maryland, to buy a stud horse, he meets and courts socialite Leslie Lynnton. Leslie, attracted to Bick’s good looks and wealth, breaks off her current engagement to diplomat Sir David Karfrey and marries Bick.

They return to the Benedict family ranch in Texas where Bick’s sister Luz immediately takes a disliking to Leslie. Her animosity grows with the passing of time until one day when she spitefully digs her spur into Leslie’s favorite horse in order to hurt the animal. This move proves fatal to Luz as she is thrown from the horse dying from her injuries.

Ranch hand Jett Rink had worked for Luz for some time and finds that he is a beneficiary in her will. Jett is left a plot of land within the Benedict ranch. Prior to this inheritance, Jett had always hoped to find his fortune away from the ranch and, since the arrival of Leslie, has become infatuated with her.

Bick tries to buy back the plot of land, but Jett refuses and fences his property off from the rest of the ranch.

As the years pass, Leslie has given birth to twins Jordan and Judy and the youngest daughter Luz II. After a visit by Leslie to his property, Jett finds a trace of oil in a footprint left by Leslie. He drills on the spot and finds his first gusher of oil.

This discovery changes the lives of everyone. Jett’s wealth goes to his head as he tries to become bigger than the Benedict family, and clearly shows his insulting feelings to the entire family, including Leslie who would never return his affections.

Tensions in the Benedict family also come to the point of conflict with Bick, Leslie, and their children, now grown, all having their own idea’s as to what is best for the ranch and each of their lives. The Benedict-Rink rivalry has increased with the knowledge that Bick and Leslie’s daughter Luz II has been dating the much older Jett.

The boiling point will soon be reached between the two families, racism will also show it’s ugly head, and the breaking out of World War II will loom in the background.

NOTABLE: Giant would win the Academy Award for Best Director (George Stevens) and received nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Rock Hudson), Best Actor in a Leading Role (James Dean), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Mercedes McCambridge), Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color, Best Costume Design, Color, Best Writing, Best Screenplay-Adapted, and Best Music, Scoring of a Comedy or Dramatic Picture.

In 2005, Giant was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Originally, director George Stevens wanted Alan Ladd to play the role of Jett Rink with consideration also given to Montgomery Clift. However, Ladd’s wife objected and the role went to Oscar nominee James Dean.

Tragically, James Dean was killed in an automobile accident before the film was completed and released. Nick Adams was used to voice over some of Dean’s lines.

Before Elizabeth Taylor accepted to role of Leslie Benedict, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn were also seriously considered.

Giant was the highest grossing film in Warner Brother’s history, until the 1978 release of Superman.

Before casting Rock Hudson in the role of Bick Benedict, a number of Hollywood name actors were considered that included John Wayne, William Holden, Forrest Tucker, Robert Mitchum, Clark Gable, and Sterling Hayden.

With director George Steven’s habit of filming a scene from every possible angle this motion picture spent an entire year being edited.

Friendly Persuasion

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

Friendly Persuasion (1956

Tagline – It Will Pleasure You in a Hundred Ways!

Starring – Gary Cooper (Jess Birdwell), Dorothy McGuire (Eliza Birdwell), Anthony Perkins (Josh Birdwell), Richard Eyer (Little Jess Birdwell), Robert Middleton (Sam Jordan).

Released – November, 1956

Directed By – William Wyler

Produced By – Allied Artists Pictures, B-M Productions

Distributed By – Allied Artists Pictures

Description – Jess is a big man and he walks the Indiana earth in a big way… a man of few words and many strengths… a man born with the gift of laughter and the knack for love, a power for good, a man who doesn’t hold with killing. But now Jess faces a big decision – to keep faith with what he lives by – or to fight for what he loves… Only so great a theme could make so great a motion picture!

Jess Birdwell is the patriarch of an Indiana Quaker family during the time of the Civil War. The surrounding Quaker families are strictly opposed to violence and war, but Jess finds himself conflicted between his religious beliefs and his growing sentiment toward supporting the war.

Jess’s conflicts not only upset the Quaker community, but also his wife Eliza who steadfastly refuses to consider participating, or supporting violence of any kind. Daughter Mattie wishes to always remain a Quaker, but she too has some conflict, with her religion, as she finds herself falling in love, against her mother’s wishes, with young calvary officer Gard Jordan.

Youngest child “Little” Jess is not yet old enough to feel the torment of conflicting emotions. However, oldest son Josh may be the most affected of all. As the war comes closer to their home, he struggles with his religious beliefs and the realization that in order to protect his family he must join the military.

A Union Army officer warns the family that the Confederate Army will be on their land soon and doesn’t understand how they could stand by and do nothing as their property is looted and burned to the ground. He accuses the men of a lack of courage and the fact that they are hiding behind their religion when they should be defending their family’s and property.

A cloud of smoke seen on the horizon can only mean that the nearby city is in flames and the Confederate troops are near. Their convictions will be severely challenged and each will have to come to terms regarding their right to defend themselves without compromising their beliefs.

NOTABLE: Friendly Persuasion received nominations for six Academy Awards that include Best Picture, Best Director (William Wyler), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Anthony Perkins), Best Writing, Best Screenplay – Adapted, Best Music, Original Song, and Best Sound, Recording.

Screenwriter Michael Wilson originally received no credit for his work due to the fact that he was on the Hollywood blacklist. His credit was restored in 1996.

Friendly Persuasion was the favorite film of President Ronald Reagan.

Director William Wyler had wanted Katherine Hepburn for the role of Eliza Birdwell. Gary Cooper had wanted Ingrid Bergman for the role. Both turned the part down with Dorothy McGuire taking the role and doing an excellent job.

The lead role of Jess Birdwell also was refused by Bing Crosby who suggested his friend Gary Cooper for the part.