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Hollywood Movie Memories » james stewart

Posts Tagged ‘james stewart’

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,

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.



The Man Who Knew Too Much

Friday, March 30th, 2012

The Man Who Knew Too Much [Blu-ray]

Tagline – A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing!

Starring – James Stewart (Dr. Benjamin McKenna), Doris Day (Josephine Conway McKenna), Brenda De Banzie (Lucy Drayton), Bernard Miles (Edward Drayton), Ralph Truman (Inspector Buchanan).

Released – June, 1956

Directed By – Alfred Hitchcock

Produced By – Paramount Pictures, Filwite Productions

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – Dr. Benjamin McKenna, his wife Jo, and their son Hank are on vacation in Morocco. While traveling from Casablanca to Marrakesh, by bus, they meet Frenchman Louis Bernard.

Bernard seems quite friendly, but Jo is a little uncomfortable with his many questions about them and his reluctance to answer questions about himself. She feels that he is hiding something. Bernard invites the family to dinner, but cancels after seeing a mysterious man who may be following him.

Later that evening, at dinner, the McKenna’s meet the Drayton’s who are from England. As they are speaking, they notice Bernard enter the restaurant, sit at another table, and ignore them. This behavior adds to Jo’s suspicions about him.

The next day the McKenna’s and the Drayton’s are shopping in a Marrakesh marketplace when they see a man in Arab clothing being chased. The man is stabbed in the back and staggers toward Dr. McKenna. It is Bernard in a disguise and, just before dying, he whispers to Ben that a foreign statesman will soon be murdered in London and the authorities must be told about “Ambrose Chappell.”

While being questioned by the authorities about the incident, Ben learns that Bernard was a French Intelligence Agent. At the police station during the interrogation Ben receives a phone call. Who would even know he was there and what could they possibly want?

The family’s dream vacation is about to turn into a nightmare.

The caller tells Ben that the McKenna’s son Hank has been taken and will not be harmed if they do not tell the police of Bernard’s last words. The McKenna’s travel to London and report all that they know, except Bernard’s last words, to Scotland Yard.

Inspector Buchanan tells them that Bernard was a spy and on an assignment to uncover an assassination plot. He instructs them to contact him as soon as they hear from the kidnappers.

The McKenna’s sense of urgency causes them to try and take matters into their own hands. They start with the only clue they have… Ambrose Chappell.

NOTABLE: The Man Who Knew Too Much won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song (Que Sera, Sera).

This is a remake of Hitchcock’s 1934 film of the same name filmed in VistaVision and Technicolor. Generally considered superior to the original, Hitchcock himself preferred the 1934 version.

The Man Who Knew Too Much was unavailable for decades as director Alfred Hitchcock left the rights to the film, as part of his legacy, to his daughter. This picture along with Rear Window, Rope, The Trouble With Harry, and Vertigo were also part of the legacy and known as the “Five Lost Hitchcock’s.” They were re-released around 1984.

Initially, Doris Day had no interest in recording the song “Que, Sera, Sera” feeling that it was no more than “a forgettable children’s song.” Not only did the song win an Academy Award, but it also became her signature song and the biggest hit of her singing career.

Doris Day was a life-long advocate against animal abuse. It was during the filming of this picture, where she observed gross mistreatment of goats, camels, and other animals, that fueled her desire to help animals.

While in London to film her location scenes, Doris Day (who was extremely popular in England) was asked to leave her hotel because of the number of fans who gathered there in the hope of catching a glimpse of the star.


Wife Versus Secretary

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Wife Versus Secretary

Starring – Clark Gable (Van Stanhope), Jean Harlow (Helen ‘Whitey’ Wilson), Myrna Loy (Linda Stanhope), May Robson (Mimi Stanhope), James Stewart (Dave).

Released – February, 1936

Directed By – Clarence Brown

Produced By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Distributed By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

NOTABLE: Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and Myrna Loy had a series of enjoyable performances together as Wife Versus Secretary was the fifth of sex pairing of Gable and Harlow, the fourth of seven with Gable and Loy, and second between Harlow and Loy.

James Stewart relates an interesting tidbit regarding a kissing scene with Jean Harlow. “Clarence Brown, the director, wasn’t too pleased by the way I did the smooching. He made us repeat the scene about half a dozen times…I botched it up on purpose. That Jean Harlow sure was a good kisser. I realized that until then I had never been really kissed”.

The Man From Laramie

Monday, August 1st, 2011

The Man from Laramie

Tagline – THE MAN You’ll Never Forget!

Starring – James Stewart (Will Lockhart), Arthur Kennedy (Vic Hansbro), Donald Crisp (Alec Waggoman), Cathy O’Donnell (Barbara Waggoman).

Released – August, 1955

Directed By – Anthony Mann

Produced By – Columbia Pictures Corporation, William Goetz Productions

Distributed By – Columbia Pictures Corporation

Description – Will Lockhart is a man on a dual mission. He is delivering supplies from Laramie to the isolated western town of Coronado while, at the same time, searching for information that will lead him to whoever is responsible for selling repeating rifles to the Apaches.

It was one of these rifles that killed his Army cavalry trooper brother during an Apache attack at Dutch Creek.

Things get off on the wrong foot in Coronado as Lockhart tangles with Dave Waggoman, the son of Alec Waggoman, the towns most influential rancher. After delivering the supplies, and his trouble with Dave Waggoman, Lockhart decides to stick around town as he believes he may find information regarding the illegal sale of the rifles.

Cattle baron Alec Waggoman, in addition to his son Dave, has a daughter Barbara who has befriended Lockhart. Alec Waggoman is gradually losing his eyesight and is tormented by dreams of a man who is coming to kill his son Dave. Also troubling Alec is the fact that Dave is not suited to run the ranch when Alec can no longer do so.

Barbara Waggoman offers Lockhart free salt to haul away for freight, but Dave uses this as an excuse to accuse Lockhart of stealing. He kills twelve of Lockhart’s mules and burns his wagons. When Lockhart returns to town and finds out what has happened he confronts both Dave and ranch foreman Vic Hansbro, who considers himself a second son to Alec and is engaged to marry Barbara.

When Alec Waggoman hears of this incident he offers Lockhart restitution for his lost property further enraging his son Dave and Vic, as Alec holds Vic responsible for the damage caused by Dave and threatens to take the damages from Vic’s pay.

Vic goes looking for Dave and finds him on his way to sell additional rifles to the Apaches. They argue and Vic kills Dave and tells Alec that is was Lockhart that did the killing.

His story begins to fall apart and Vic attempts to also kill Alec. Vic is after everything for himself, the ranch, the lucrative deal of selling guns to the Apache, and Barbara, who has begun to have feelings for Lockhart.

Only one thing remains for Vic… to kill Will Lockhart.

NOTABLE: The Man From Laramie is the fifth and final Western collaboration between James Stewart and Anthony Mann. All are considered classic Western films and also include Winchester ’73 (1950), Bend of the River (1952), The Naked Spur (1953), and The Far Country (1954).

There are two common characteristics to the Stewart/Mann westerns. They are that James Stewart plays a man, in some way, haunted by the past, and the groundbreaking use of landscape to portray a character’s feelings.

The Man From Laramie has been described as a western version of King Lear.

Personal Note: A taut tale of revenge that offers possibly James Stewart’s finest western performance, and must be listed as one of Anthony Mann’s finest directorial efforts.

Rear Window

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Rear Window [Blu-ray]

Tagline – It only takes one witness to spoil the perfect crime.

Starring – James Stewart (L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries), Grace Kelly (Lisa Carol Fremont), Wendell Corey (Det. Lt. Thomas J. Doyle), Thelma Ritter (Stella), Raymond Burr (Lars Thorwald).

Released – August, 1954

Directed By – Alfred Hitchcock

Produced By – Paramount Pictures

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – Through his rear window, and the eye of his powerful camera, he watched a great city tell on itself, expose its cheating ways… and Murder!

Professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries, in an attempt to get a dangerous shot during an auto race, has an accident that results in a broken leg. His recovery has him confined to a wheelchair in his Greenwich Village apartment.

To help pass the time he has started looking out his rear apartment window which overlooks a small courtyard and has a view of several other apartments. The heat of the summer has many of his neighbors leaving their windows open in an effort to cool off.

The open windows also provide Jeffries with a close look at the neighbors who include a dancer, a songwriter, several married couples, a lonely woman, and salesman Lars Thorwald who lives with his bedridden wife.

During his observations, Jeffries has noted Thorwald making repeated late-night trips from his apartment carrying a large case. He has also noticed that Thorwald’s wife seems to be missing and he has seen Thorwald cleaning a large knife and a handsaw.

Jeffries believes that Thornwald may have murdered his wife. He discusses his suspicion with his girlfriend Lisa, his home-care nurse Stella, and his friend Detective Lt. Tom Doyle. After briefly looking into the possibility, Doyle discovers nothing particularly suspicious.

Another neighbor’s dog is soon found dead of a broken neck. The discovery was made by a woman who reacted by screaming. Her screams brought all the neighbors to their windows to see what was the cause… all but one… Thorwald.

Jeffries, still believing Thorwald to be a murderer, now believes that Thorwald is also responsible for the dogs death in order to keep the dog from digging in the courtyard and possibly uncovering something that Thorwald has buried there.

Jeffries has his girlfriend Lisa slip a note accusing Thorwald of the crime under Thorwald’s apartment door and watches from his window to see his reaction. He then phones Thorwald to arrange a meeting at a bar in order to get him out of his apartment.

Lisa now slips into the apartment to search around, but is caught by the returning Thorwald. Jeffries sees this and calls the police who arrive in time to save Lisa, but bring her to the police station to question her as to why she was in the apartment.

Before being brought to the station, Lisa has signaled something to the watching Jeffries – this signal has not escaped the notice of Thorwald.

Jeffries is now alone in his apartment in his wheelchair… and Thorwald is coming over.

NOTABLE: Rear Window received Oscar nominations for Best Director (Alfred Hitchcock), Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Color, and Best Sound, Recording.

In 1997, Rear Window was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Rear Window is ranked #42 on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies List, and #3 on their list of Greatest Films in the Mystery genre.

Although the film shows various scenes taking place in numerous apartments, director Hitchcock worked only from Jeffries apartment. The actors in the other locations wore flesh-colored earpieces from which they could take direction from Hitchcock.