Posts Tagged ‘claude rains’

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman Scintillate in Hitchcock’s Notorious

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

July, 1946Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious, released by RKO Radio Pictures, is a suspense filled espionage thriller set in South America.

The film stars Cary Grant as a charming and calculating U. S. Intelligence agent who recruits Ingrid Bergman, the daughter of a convicted spy, to help infiltrate a group of Nazi’s, formerly friends of her father, that have relocated to South America and are planning something potentially catastrophic.

Bergman’s assignment includes the seduction of, and marriage to, one of the Nazi groups leaders, played perfectly as a mother-fixated sympathetic villain by Claude Rains. The film explores trust, its exploitation, and the classic conflict between love and duty. For some, the giving of trust will be redemptive, while for others, there will big a big price to pay.

Director Hitchcock delivers possibly his finest picture yet and manages to tip toe around the restraints of the Motion Picture Production Code with the longest kissing scene in screen history. There is no doubt that Notorious is, in every sense, a consummate Hitchcock film that includes some of the director’s most impressive camera shots.

Audience’s are applauding Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious as a superbly directed and acted romantic melodrama showcasing two of the screens most loved stars, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.


Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Notorious (Hitchcock) [Blu-ray]

Tagline – The screen’s top romantic stars in a melodramatic masterpiece!

Starring – Cary Grant (T. R. Devlin), Ingrid Bergman (Alicia Huberman), Claude Rains (Alexander Sebastian), Louis Calhern (Paul Prescott).

Released – September, 1946

Directed By – Alfred Hitchcock

Produced By – RKO Radio Pictures, Vanguard Films

Distributed By – RKO Radio Pictures

Description – The conviction of her German father for treason against the United States has sent Alicia Huberman into a period of depression, alcohol, and men.

While hosting a large party, Alicia is approached by an uninvited guest. That guest is agent T. R. Devlin, and he asks Alicia to work for her government. Although Devlin disapproves of her self-destructive lifestyle he is confident in her feelings of patriotism toward America.

Government agent Devlin wants Alicia to infiltrate a group of her father’s Nazi friends who have relocated to Brazil after the war ended. At first Alicia refuses, but Devlin is able to convince her of the importance of her assistance and she agrees to accompany him to Rio de Janeiro where they will await further orders.

While waiting for the details of her assignment, Alicia and Devlin spend an enjoyable week that leads to romance. During this time she tells Devlin that she is a changed woman and, although he still has some doubts, he realizes that he is falling in love with Alicia.

Their bliss is short-lived as Devlin’s boss arrives with the details of her assignment. Putting his emotions aside, Devlin explains to Alicia that she is to seduce Alex Sebastian, one of her father’s friends and one of the Nazi groups leaders in an effort to find out what his war machine combine is manufacturing.

Devlin’s attitude of duty over love causes Alicia to believe that he was only pretending to love her as part of his job.

A meeting with Sebastian is planned and is made to look like an accidental meeting in a park. Alicia proves to be very good at her job as her flirtations with Sebastian encourage him to invite her to a dinner party at his home.

While there, Alicia witnesses an odd occurrence. Another guest, Emil Hupka, nervously gestures toward a wine bottle on a mantle and is immediately escorted from the room. After dinner, Sebastian and some of the other male guests discuss this incident and decide that Hupka must be “eliminated.”

That same evening, Sebastian’s interest in Alicia turns romantic. When Alicia reports the evening’s affairs, she tells Devlin ” you can add Sebastian’s name to my list of playmates.” Their relationship continues and Sebastian proposes marriage to Alicia. She tells Devlin of the proposal, in the hope that he will finally confess his true love for her. He does not.

Again choosing duty over love, Devlin tells Alicia to do what she wants. Hurt, Alicia accepts the proposal and she and Sebastian are married.

Returning from their honeymoon, Alicia now has access to Sebastian’s home, but finds nothing unusual except the keys to the property given to her have one key missing. That is the key to the large wine cellar. This key is kept by Alex.

Devlin instructs Alicia to throw a party and to get him the wine cellar key so that they can find out what is in the cellar while Alex and their guests are distracted by the party. Alicia carefully gets the key from Alex’s key chain and she and Devlin access the wine cellar.

Devlin accidentally breaks a wine bottle revealing, not wine, but a black sand inside the bottle. Devlin takes a sample, which later is discovered to be uranium. Alicia and Devlin leave the cellar just as Sebastian arrives for more champagne.

Suspicious, Sebastian later returns to the cellar and finds the broken bottle and spilled sand hidden under a wine rack. He now realizes that Devlin must be an agent and that Alicia is helping him.

This poses a set of problems for Alex. He must now silence Alicia and do so without his Nazi partners finding out about the security breach that he is responsible for.

There seems to be only one solution… Alicia must die without any suspicion on himself. It is decided that she will “die slowly” as a result of poisoning.

NOTABLE: Notorious received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Claude Rains), and Best Writing, Original Screenplay.

In 2006, Notorious was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Director Alfred Hitchcock has stated that the FBI had him under surveillance for three months due to the pictures dealings with uranium.

At the time of filming, the Motion Picture Production Code had a ban on a kiss lasting more than three seconds. To get around this rule, Hitchcock had Grant and Bergman engage in a two-and-half minute kiss that broke off every few seconds. The two stars would then whisper and embrace each other before beginning again.

Director Hitchcock and writer Ben Hecht consulted with Nobel Prize winner Dr. Robert Millikan on the making of an atomic bomb. While Dr. Millikan refused too detailed an answer, he did confirm that the principal component, uranium, would fit in a wine bottle.

After filming, Grant kept the “infamous” wine cellar key which he later gave to his close friend and co-star Ingrid Bergman for good luck. She would, decades later, present the same key to Alfred Hitchcock during a tribute to the great director. Hitchcock was both surprised and thrilled.


Mr. Skeffington

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Mr. Skeffington

Starring – Bette Davis (Fanny Trellis), Claude Rains (Job Skeffington), Walter Abel (George Trellis), George Coulouris (Doctor Byles), Richard Waring (Trippy Trellis).

Released – May, 1944

Directed By – Vincent Sherman

Produced By – Warner Brothers

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – Once wealthy brother and sister Fanny and Trippy Trellis are very close. Their parents, now deceased, had the wealth they had left their children squandered away by Trippy. His actions, now a family secret, are known only by their cousin George and the many creditors they owe.

Renowned for her beauty, Fanny has many suitor’s and could pick any suitor she wants, but so far has not chosen one. She learns of a terrible secret regarding her brother Trippy. With his financial pressures mounting, Trippy has embezzled money from his employer, Jewish stockbroker Job Skeffington.

To save her brother from this problem Fanny allows Job, who sincerely loves her, to court her and the pair eventually marry. Trippy is upset by the marriage. He realizes that his sister has done this to protect him, but is unhappy that she would marry a Jew.

Unable to remain in this situation, Trippy joins the Lafayette Escadrille and leaves to fight in France during World War I.

Although the self-loving Franny becomes pregnant with Job’s child, she is barely able to tolerate him. Upon learning of Trippy’s death in France, she becomes even more distant to her husband. She enjoys the role of a wealthy socialite and begins to entertain suitor’s in spite of her marriage.

To combat his own loneliness Job begins to find comfort with his secretaries. Learning of this, and ignoring her own infidelities, Franny divorces Job. Their daughter, also named Franny, chooses to be with her father and they go to Europe.

Receiving half of Job’s fortune, Fanny continues with a series of affairs, unencumbered by having to care for her child, and continues with her self-indulgent lifestyle.

But, fate will again change the fortune’s of those involved. Harsh lessons will be learned and a high price will be paid.

NOTABLE: Mr. Skeffington received two Oscar nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Bette Davis), and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Claude Rains).

In the 1989 book Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud, Bette Davis admitted that during filming of this picture she was going through a very difficult personal time in her life. Her torments affected her co-stars and many others who worked on the set. These problems resulted in a personal attack on Davis, as the eye drops she used daily were poisoned causing her great pain. When the police investigated, director Sherman, when asked who may have done this, replied, “If you ask everyone on the set who would have committed such a thing, everyone would raise their hand.”

This was Bette Davis’ final Oscar nomination while under contract with Warner Brothers.

The role of Fanny Skeffington was offered to Merle Oberon and Hedy Lamarr who both turned the role down. Bette Davis’ acceptance resulted in another splendid performance by the legendary actress.


Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Casablanca (70th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]

Tagline – They had a date with fate in Casablanca!

Starring – Humphrey Bogart (Rick Blaine), Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa Lund), Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo), Claude Rains (Captain Renault), Conrad Veidt (Major Strasser), Sydney Greenstreet (Signor Ferrari), Peter Lorre (Ugarte).

Released – January, 1943

Directed By – Michael Curtiz

Produced By – Warner Brothers

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – Cynical expatriate Rick Blaine owns and runs “Rick’s Cafe American” in Casablanca. Petty criminal Ugarte, as a result of the murder of two German couriers, has acquired wartime “letters of transit.”

He hopes to make his fortune selling these letters to the highest bidder who will be arriving later that evening. The letters allow for free travel through German controlled Europe, to neutral Portugal, and then on to America.

Before the deal can be made, Ugarte is arrested by corrupt local police commander Captain Renault and will end up dying in custody. Unknown to the police, the papers have been given to Rick for safe keeping prior to Ugarte’s arrest.

Now arriving in Casablanca is fugitive Czech Resistance leader Victor Laszlo and his wife Ilsa Lund who are there for the letters. There is one additional complication… Ilsa is Rick’s ex-lover; someone who ran out on him in Paris, but he has never been able to forget.

Laszlo meets with, Rick’s friendly business rival and major underworld figure, Signor Ferrari who discloses to Laszlo that Rick may be in possesion of the transit papers. Laszlo meets in private with Rick who refuses to turn over the papers suggesting that Laszlo ask his wife for the reason why.

Ilso confronts Rick who still refuses to give up the papers. She threatens him with a gun, but is unable to shoot, confessing that she is still in love with him.

With the police slowly closing in on Laszlo and the reconciliation of the two former lovers, character, loyalty, and moral issues begin to get a little sticky.

NOTABLE: Casablanca was nominated for eight Academy Awards winning three. Best Picture, Best Director (Michael Curtiz), and Best Writing, Screenplay. Other nominations included Best Actor in a Leading Role (Humphrey Bogart), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Claude Rains), Best Cinematography, Black and White, Best Film Editing, and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

In 1989, this film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

This was Humphrey Bogart’s first attempt at a romantic lead role, and it turned out historic earning him an Academy Award nomination.

The song “As Time Goes By” by Herman Hupfeld has become instantly associated with this motion picture.

Rick’s Cafe was modeled after Hotel El Minzah in Tangiers.

Actor Conrad Veidt was well known in the German theatrical community as someone who hated the Nazi’s. So much so that he had to hurriedly leave the country after learning that the SS had a death squad looking for him as a result of his anti-Nazi activities.

Humphrey Bogart was always quoted as using the line “Play it again Sam,” however, he never said it that way. What he said was: “You played it for her, you can play it for me. Play it!”

The famous film line “Here’s looking at you kid” was voted AFI’s #5 most famous movie quote.

In 2007, the American Film Institute voted Casablanca #3 on the Greatest Movie’s of All Time list.

In reality, the “letters of transit,” central to the storyline, never really existed during the war. They were a plot devise thought up by the screenwriters.

Upon winning the nomination for Best Picture, Jack L. Warner was the first on the stage to accept the award. This infuriated producer Hal B. Wallis who never forgave him.

Production costs for the film were close to $950,000, about $100,000 over budget.

In 2006, the Writers Guild of America deemed Casablanca’s screenplay to be the best ever.

Personal Note: Ask me on any given moment and I will say that Casablanca is the best film I have ever seen. There is not a credible 10 Best Films of All Time list in existence that does not contain Casablanca.

While it is hard for me to imagine any film fan that has not seen Casablanca, if for any reason you have not…. see it!

The Invisible Man

Monday, May 24th, 2010

The Invisible Man [Blu-ray]

Tagline – H.G. Well’s Fantastic Sensation!

Starring – Claude Rains (The Invisible Man), Gloria Stuart (Flora Cranley), William Harrigan (Dr. Arthur Kemp), Henry Travers (Dr. Cranley).

Released – November, 1933

Directed By – James Whale

Produced By – Universal Pictures

Distributed By – Universal Pictures

Description – A mysterious stranger, with his eyes shielded by dark glasses and his face covered by bandages, checks into an inn located in an English village. He demands that the staff leave him completely alone while never leaving his room.

His strange behavior causes the innkeeper to call the police and order him to leave. After assaulting the innkeeper he laughs maniacally as he removes the bandages showing himself to be invisible.

This is Dr. Jack Griffin, a scientist who, while working on a strange new drug called “Monocane,” has accidentally discovered the ability to make himself invisible. Dr. Griffin reveals his secret to his one-time partner Dr. Arthur Kemp and to his fiancee Flora Cranley.

Dr. Griffin forces Dr. Kemp to return with him to the inn in order to retrieve his notes on the invisibility process and while there kills a policeman. This is just the beginning of a series of killings and robberies that follow and threaten the lives of both Dr. Kemp, who Griffin has threatened to kill, and Flora Cranley.

While Monocane has given Dr. Griffin the power of invisibility, he has overlooked one thing. The use of the drug renders its user insane. Now you see him, and now you don’t. It’s catch me if you can when pursuing an invisible man.

NOTABLE: In 2008, The Invisible Man was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

The Invisible Man is considered one of the great Universal horror films of the 1930’s, and was the first American screen appearance for Claude Rains.

The films groundbreaking visual effects were created by John P. Fulton, John J. Mescall, and Frank D. Williams. Their work is often credited with the films success.

Personal Note: This is classic horror/sci-fi at it’s best. Although starting off with the use of invisibility in a comic fashion it turns deadly from then on.