Posts Tagged ‘mgm’

Captains Courageous

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Released - May, 1937  Captains Courageous1 Captains Courageous

Directed By - Victor Fleming

Starring – Spencer Tracy (Manuel Fidello), Freddie Bartholomew (Harvey Cheyne), Lionel Barrymore (Disko Troop), Melvyn Douglas (Frank Burton Cheyne).

Description – Again – as in the stirring Mutiny On the Bounty –  you live the roaring drama of men against the sea. You share the struggles, the heartaches, and the laughter of courageous souls who leave the women they love to dare the wrath of the angry waves…

Harvey Cheyne is the spoiled son of his business tycoon and absentee father Frank Burton Cheyne. Shipped off to a private school, where he is shunned by his classmates, young Harvey is suspended due to his bad behavior.

Realizing that his son needs closer attention, his father decides to take Harvey along on a trans-Atlantic business trip. During the voyage Harvey displays arrogance to all around him, and during a prank gone wrong falls overboard off the coast of Newfoundland.

He is rescued by Portuguese-American fisherman Manuel Fidello and taken aboard the fishing schooner. Harvey tries to convince the captain of the schooner, Disko Troop, that he is wealthy and should immediately be taken to shore.

Captain Troop, not believing his story, refuses and puts Harvey to work at a low paying job for the three month duration of the voyage. Also on the schooner is the captain’s son Dan who gradually develops a friendship with Harvey as the young man begins to learn the ways of working on a ship.

With the guidance of Manuel, and the influence of the other tough crew-mates, young Harvey begins to learn a hard lesson. His former habits of demanding special treatment, lying, cheating, and whining to get what he wants are of no value at sea where every man, young or old, must pull their own weight.

Slowly, Manuel begins to become the father figure that Harvey had always wanted and needed. But, the hardest life-lesson is yet to be learned as tragedy looms in the near future for young Harvey.

NOTABLE: Captains Courageous received an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Spencer Tracy), and was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Writing, Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.

This motion picture would become the first MGM film to be shown on television, in 1955.

Spencer Tracy hesitated before finally accepting the role of Manuel Fidello because the role required him to sing in several scenes and to have his hair curled. Tracy’s new hairdo prompted a great deal of kidding from his actor friends with Joan Crawford referring to him a Harpo.

Captains Courageous was one of Lionel Barrymore’s last films. Degenerative arthritis was beginning to cripple him. The next year in You Can’t Take it with You, Barrymore hobbled around with crutches and shortly after that film was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

When Spencer Tracy was presented his Oscar for this film he was shocked to find that the statue was inscribed to Dick Tracy. The very embarrassed Academy replaced the statuette.

 

Lust for Life Reveals the Torment Within Vincent van Gogh

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Lust for Life Kirk Douglas as Vincent van Gogh Lust for Life Reveals the Torment Within Vincent van GoghSeptember, 1956MGM has released the biographical drama Lust for Life about famed Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. The film stars Kirk Douglas who brilliantly portrays the tormented life of van Gogh from his time in the coal-mining region of Belgium until his tragic end in Auvers-sur-Oise, France.

The psysical characteristics embodied by Douglas bring the artist back to life. So much so, that during location filming, many of the older residents of the village where van Gogh lived thought that he had actually returned.

Douglas was so immersed in this role that his wife has stated, “When he was doing Lust for Life, he came home in that red beard of Van Gogh’s, wearing those big boots, stomping around the house—it was frightening.”

Directed by Vincente Minnelli, who insisted on the actual European locations, and supported magnificently by Anthony Quinn as Paul Gauguin, who was both friend and rival to van Gogh, and James Donald as Theo van Gogh, Vincent’s always supportive brother.

Lust for Life captures both the passionate intensity of the artist and the tortured genius who felt that he would never be able to portray what he sees on canvas.

Lust for Life

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Released – September, 1956  Lust for Life Lust for Life

Directed By – Vincente Minnelli

Starring – Kirk Douglas (Vincent van Gogh), Anthony Quinn (Paul Gauguin), James Donald (Theo van Gogh), Pamela Brown (Christine), Everett Sloane (Dr. Gachet).

Description – THE MOST REVEALING LIFE-INSPIRED STORY EVER FILMED!

Based on Irving Stone’s 1934 novel, this is the life story of Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. Many believe that one must experience failure in order to one day realize true success and the life of Vincent van Gogh is a strong testament to that belief.

His obsession with painting and his long suffering problems with mental illness made for a painful and unhappy life.

After failing as both a preacher in a coal-mining town and a social activist, van Gogh would sink into a state of depression. Coming to his aid is his devoted brother Theo who provides for Vincent’s return to Holland and the home of his father.

A new interest in drawing restores some much needed enthusiasm to his life. Around the same time his recently widowed cousin Kay comes to live with the family for the summer. Vincent enjoys her company and soon finds himself falling in love with her.

Adding to Vincent’s personal turmoil is his new belief in God. Vincent believes that the best way to serve God is through love and art and not through any type of ritual reverence. This is in stark contract to the belief’s of his father, who is a Pastor, and the tension between the two dramatically increases.

No longer able to hide his feelings toward Kay, Vincent confesses his love for her only to be rejected. While in a local bar, Vincent meets a local prostitute named Christine who is also in need of comfort and relief from her everyday life. Initially, the two get along very well and they, along with her infant son, share an apartment.

Christine provides Vincent with color paints to experiment with, and the added ability to convey his feelings on canvas with color, along with his growing feelings for Christine, provide Vincent with a new world of artistic creativity.

This period of euphoria proves to be short-lived as Vincent’s temper and lack of money cause Christine to leave him. Add to this the fact that his father dies and Vincent’s emotional roller-coaster again spirals downward.

During these many agonizing years, only his brother Theo has constantly remained at his side providing both moral and financial support.

His meeting with friend and rival Paul Gauguin, along with the artistic community, provide van Gogh with a level of respect for his art. However, van Gogh never gets along with the other artists and Gauguin, always a critic, puts a strain on even their relationship.

It has been a long, unsatisfying life for van Gogh, but his darkest days are still ahead.

He begins to suffer hallucinations and seizures that he can not control and decides to voluntarily commit himself to a mental institution. After a while, he signs himself out and, with his brother Theo’s help, returns to the countryside to paint.

Van Gogh’s fear that he is still unable to put his vision on canvas once again begin to haunt him and ultimately lead to tragedy.

NOTABLE: Lust for Life won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Anthony Quinn), and received nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Kirk Douglas), Best Writing, Best Screenplay-Adapted, and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color.

Many of the films locations were the actual spots visited by van Gogh in his life. On one location, Director Vincente Minelli had a portion of a field spray-painted yellow to more accurately replicate its appearance on a van Gogh painting.

 

Somebody Up There Likes Me

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

Released – July, 1956  Somebody Up There Likes Me Somebody Up There Likes Me

Directed By – Robert Wise

Starring – Paul Newman (Thomas Rocco Barbella/Rocky Graziano), Pier Angeli (Norma Graziano), Everett Sloane (Irving Cohen), Eileen Heckart (Ma Barbella), Sal Mineo (Romolo), Harold J. Stone (Nick Barbella).

Description – A Girl Can Lift A Fellow To The Skies!

The life of Rocky Graziano started out tough. His difficult childhood included being beaten by his father (a former boxer), membership in a street gang, and a long list of criminal activities that led to his inevitable arrest and imprisonment.

Undisciplined and possessing a strong resentment of authority figures, even his time spent in prison was a series of one problem after another. After finally being released, Rocky decides to start a new life.

However, before being able to settle into something, Rocky is drafted by the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey. His propensity for trouble follows him to training and, after punching a Captain, he goes AWOL.

Desperate to make some money, Rocky turns to fighting and changes his name to Rocky Graziano. His natural talent, and punching power, lead him to win all of his early bouts, but even with a new name, the military catches up to him.

After one of his fights, he is called to his manager’s office to speak with a couple of military personnel. Expecting to be taken back to the Army and again put in prison he again decides to run. Realizing that he can’t run forever he turns himself into the military.

After serving a year in a United States Disciplinary Barracks he is dishonorably discharged and looks to resume his boxing career. Rocky’s skills move him up the middleweight ranks and he is introduced to his sister’s friend Norma. Love has hit Rocky right between the eyes and the two soon marry.

Rocky’s rise continues and he becomes middleweight champion. A title defense against former champ Tony Zale is next. This will be the first of three legendary fights with Zale and will result in Rocky being knocked out in the sixth round.

1946 proved to be a tough year for Graziano as he not only lost his title, but was a victim of a blackmail attempt by someone he know while in prison. He was told to throw a fight, but just couldn’t do it. Rocky faked an injury and did not fight the intended opponent.

His failure to notify the Boxing Commission of the blackmail attempt result in his suspension from the fight game. Eventually, his suspension is lifted and the stage is set for Rocky to meet Tony Zale in the second of their memorable fights.

The stage is set for the up-and-down life of Rocky Graziano to get back to the top.

NOTABLE: Someboby Up There Likes Me won Oscar’s for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, and Best Art Direction, Set Decoration, Black-and-White. The film also received a nomination for Best Film Editing.

The role of Rocky Graziano was originally intended for James Dean. However, Dean was killed in an automobile accident before shooting. Paul Newman was asked to take the part. This was a break for Newman as some considered him to be too old for the part, and his first film The Silver Chalice proved to be a flop.

Actor Rod Taylor auditioned for the role and, although he did not get the part, the audition impressed MGM enough for them to sign him to a long-term contract.

This motion picture provided the screen debut’s for Dean Jones, Robert Loggia, and Frank Campanella. It was also one of the first films in which Steve McQueen appeared.

 

Forbidden Planet

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Released – March, 1956  Forbidden Planet Forbidden Planet

Directed By – Fred M. Wilcox

Starring – Walter Pidgeon (Dr. Edward Morbius), Anne Francis (Altaira ‘Alta’ Morbius), Leslie Neilsen (Commander J. J. Adams), Warren Stevens (Lt. ‘Doc’ Ostrow), Jack Kelly (Lt. Jerry Farman), Robby the Robot (Himself)

Description – IT’S OUT OF THIS WORLD!

United Planets Cruiser C57-D, led by Commander J. J. Adams, is on a mission to the planet Altair IV to investigate the fate of a colony establishing expedition sent 20 years ago. As the ship draws closer to Altair IV they receive a radio message from Dr. Edward Morbius advising them to stay away.

He claims that he will not be able to guarantee their safety and that his has no need for assistance. Commander Adams, in keeping with his mission, ignores the warning and prepares to land. They are met by Robby the Robot who brings the Commander, Lt. Farman, and ‘Doc’ Ostrow to the home of Dr. Morbius.

Dr. Morbius tells Commander Adams that a “planetary force” has destroyed their spacecraft and killed the other members of the expedition. The only survivors were Morbius, his wife, who later died of natural causes, and their daughter Altaira. It is Morbius’ fear that the same fate will happen to Commander Adams and his crew.

The next evening, a piece of valuable equipment is sabotaged aboard Commander Adam’s craft despite the posting of sentries. The following morning the Commander and ‘Doc’ Ostrow visit Dr. Morbius in an effort to find out who is responsible.

Morbius informs them of his work studying an ancient civilization known as the Krell. They had populated the planet many years earlier and were discovered to have all died mysteriously in one single night. His work has led to his learning to use the greatest Krell’s scientific development, a “plastic educator” capable of enhancing intellectual ability many times over. Morbius has used the machine on himself and has been able to permanently develop his own intellect to an unheard of capacity.

To prevent another intrusion, Commander Adams sets up a defensive force field around his ship. However, this proves useless as the intruder again invisibly penatrates the defense and kills a crew member. The only clue is a large footprint that is examined by ‘Doc’ Ostow who has never seen anything like it before. He can only state that, “Anywhere in the galaxy, this is a nightmare.”

The intruder again returns and is picked up by the ships radar and described as being, “as big as a house.” Although invisible, when in the force field fence energy beams appears as a fiery, lion-like creature. Their weapons are useless and more crew members are killed before the creature disappears.

A return to Dr. Morbius home reveals that the Krell machine is capable of creating any object that can be imagined and that there is a direct link between the creature and Dr. Morbius. It may be too little, too late as the invisible creature is now approaching the house and slowly melting its way through the nearly indestructible thick metal doors of the Krell laboratory.

NOTABLE: Forbidden Planet received an Oscar nomination for Best Effects, Special Effects.

Forbidden Planet is the first science fiction film to take place entirely on another planet and the first to use an all-electronic musical score.

The motion picture was filmed on the same sound stage as the Wizard of Oz, and Altaira’s garden was originally the Munchkin village.

Robby the Robot is now part of a collection owned by director William Malone.

The film’s poster is ranked #5 on Premiere’s list of “The 25 Best Movie Posters Ever.”

Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, has stated that this film was his inspiration for the series.

This was the first science fiction film produced at MGM since “The Mysterious Island” in 1929.

Personal Note: One of, if not, the best of the many very enjoyable 1950’s science fiction films. Film historian Ben Mankiewicz has claimed that it was the success of Forbidden Planet that paved the way for future big-budget science fiction films.