Posts Tagged ‘william wyler’

Dead End

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Dead End (DVD)


Starring – Sylvia Sidney (Drina), Joel McCrea (Dave), Humphrey Bogart (‘Baby Face’ Martin), Wendy Barrie (Kay), Claire Trevor (Francie), & The Dead End Kids

Released – August, 1937

Directed By – William Wyler

Produced By – The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – A lot can happen of the East Side of New York in 24 hours. Along side the luxury apartments built by the wealthy, to take advantage of the picturesque East River, are the filthy tenements that house the poor and destitute.

At the end of the block is a dock on the East River that is the territory of the Dead End Kids, a small gang of youths that are already on their way to a life of crime. Tommy Gordon is the leader of the gang and idolizes Baby Face Martin, a former resident, who has graduated to “full-fledged” mobster.

Tommy has a sister, Drina, who dreams of marrying a rich stranger who will take her and Tommy out of the slum before Tommy turns out no better than Baby Face, who just so happens to have returned to his old stomping ground to visit his mother and old girlfriend.

Dave Connell also lives in the neighborhood. He is a childhood friend of Drina and an unemployed architect who gets by taking odd jobs. Dave is in love with Kay Burton, but not even love is simple here. Kay is a rich man’s mistress who, although she loves Dave, knows that he could never provide her the lifestyle that she desires.

Their hard life is about to get a little harder. Tommy and the gang decide to rough up one of the rich kids who lives in the luxury apartments. The boys father intervenes and Tommy stabs him in the arm and must go into hiding from the police.

As for Baby Face, his mother rejects him due to his life as a gangster. While visiting his former girlfriend Francie, Baby Face is disgusted by her current life. Francie has become a prostitute and is sick with syphilis.

With his homecoming visit a dismal failure, Baby Face Martin decides to kidnap the rich kid for ransom in order to have made his trip somewhat rewarding. From this point on everyone’s life seems destined for disaster.

NOTABLE: Dead End received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Claire Trevor), Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography.

Claire Trevor’s Oscar nomination was a bit of a surprise considering her time on screen was limited to one scene lasting under five minutes.

Director William Wyler had hoped to shoot the film on location, but Producer Samuel Goldwyn insisted it be done in the studio. The result was such a convincing re-creation that Art Director Richard Day received an Oscar nomination.

Although it is clear in the story that the character of Francie is a prostitute suffering from syphilis the censors required that the actual terms of her employment and disease be veiled.

Dead End is based on an original Broadway play that ran for 687 performances.

The role of Baby Face Martin was given to Humphrey Bogart after first being refused by actor George Raft. Bogart was chosen after his performance, a year earlier, in the film The Petrified Forest.

Dead End provided the film debuts of Billy Halop, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Bobby Jordan, Bernard Punsly, Leo Gorcey, David Gorcey. The group would later evolve into The East Side Kids and then the Bowery Boys. In total, they would appear in seven films.


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.

William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives

Monday, February 6th, 2012

November, 1946 – Director William Wyler exposes the sometimes bitter realities of returning war veterans. The Best Years of Our Lives examines the readjustment period facing those returning servicemen from World War II.

Too often overlooked are the stresses and strains faced by those re-entering a civilian world that has moved on and, in many cases, may have been completely lost to those serving during wartime. These challenges have been brilliantly brought to the screen by Wyler.

The Best Years of Our Lives showcases three returning veteran’s, all with problems unique to their own lives. Fredric March was a former bank executive, Dana Andrews an ex-soda jerk, and Harold Russell a former high-school quarterback who enlisted right after Pearl Harbor. It is Russell who faces the greatest challenges of all having lost both hands during the war.

Their joy of returning home to resume their lives but, in reality, turns out to be an attempt to just pick up the shattered pieces and threads that remain.

Equally impressive in this post-war masterpiece are Myrna Loy as the wife who’s life seems to have moved away from returning husband Fredric March, along with Virginia Mayo who had married Dana Andrews with the two having known each other only 20 days before he shipped out, and Cathy O’Donnell as Harold Russell’s young fiancee who he fears can no longer offer him love, only pity.

William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives is an unforgettable film that should be seen by everyone as it presents a powerful package of laughter, tears, romance, and social commentary.

The Best Years of Our Lives

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

The Best Years of Our Lives [Blu-ray]

Tagline – Filled with all the love, warmth, and joy… the human heart can hold!

Starring – Myrna Loy (Milly Stephenson), Fredric March (Al Stephenson), Dana Andrews (Fred Derry), Teresa Wright (Peggy Stephenson), Virginia Mayo (Marie Derry), Harold Russell (Homer Parrish), Cathy O’Donnell (Wilma).

Released – November, 1946

Directed By – William Wyler

Produced By – The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – For many, the happiness that came with the end of World War II was all too quickly forgotten. Having been away for years, the period of social re-adjustment would not be easy no matter your previous station in society.

Fred Derry, Al Stephenson, and Homer Parrish meet while returning home to the fictionalized town of Boone City. Fred was a decorated Army Air Forces Captain who suffers from the nightmares of his experiences. Al was an infantry platoon sergeant, and Homer served in the Navy, losing both his hands when the carrier he served on was sunk. He now has prosthetic hooks.

Fred had worked at a drugstore soda fountain, a job he does not want to return to, and was married to Marie for only one month before having to report for duty. While Fred was away, Marie worked as a night club waitress associating with an undesirable crowd and, although happy Fred is home, has no desire to remain married to a soda jerk.

Al, a mature man, had been a successful bank loan officer with a loving wife, son, and daughter. To Al, his children seemed to have grown up too quickly while he was gone with his daughter Peggy having turned into a beautiful young woman, and son Rob a college freshman with an anti-war sentiment. The difficulties of war have caused Al to drink too much and he shows serious signs of alcoholism.

Before the Navy, Homer was a football quarterback engaged to Wilma the beautiful girl next door.  Homer faces the greatest challenges; as the loss of both his hands have made life difficult for his, now elderly parent, as they must help him with most daily tasks. And Homer’s uncomfortable feelings toward his problem has caused him to push away Wilma, the love of his life. He believes he has no right to expect her to accept him as he is now.

As the three meet over a few drinks at Butch’s, a local bar, where they discuss how foreign the world they left behind has become.

Fred tries to find a better job, but the sheer number of returning servicemen and the few available jobs make for a dead end. He is forced to return to his job at the soda fountain. This causes a great deal of strain on his marriage to Marie who now wants the finer things in life and is carrying on an affair with another returning veteran.

One evening, while returning a drunken Al to his home, Fred meets Al’s daughter Peggy and a bit of light shines into his life. With Marie unhappy and threatening to leave him, and Peggy unavailable to the married Fred, he decides to leave town.

Al has had the good fortune to be able to return to his job at the bank, but his sympathy to returning veteran’s leads him to approve loans that are not within the banks guidelines. Al has found it increasingly difficult to ignore the needs of ex-servicemen and deal with the new commercial realities of his job. In addition, his daughter Peggy has declared her love for Fred. This causes Al to tell Fred to stay away from Peggy as he disapproves because of Fred’s marriage and he also doubt Fred’s sincerity.

Homer, although assured by Wilma that she still loves him in spite of his injuries, is filled with doubt. He fears that Wilma’s claim of love is out of a sense of pity, and that she can not imagine just how hard life with him will really be.

There is a difficult road ahead for all three as they search for ways to move forward with their lives.

NOTABLE: The Best Years of Our Lives won Academy Award’s for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Fredric March), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Harold Russell), Best Director (William Wyler), Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, and was also nominated for Best Sound, Recording.

In 1989, this motion picture was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. The Best Years of Our Lives was one of the very first films chosen for this honor.

Producer Samuel Goldwyn wanted to produce a film about returning war veterans, and the problems they face, after reading an article in Time Magazine.

The Best Years of Our Lives became the highest grossing film in both the United States and Great Britain since Gone With the Wind, selling over 20 million tickets.

Harold Russell, who played disabled Navy veteran Homer Parrish, was, in fact, a real Navy veteran. He was discovered by director William Wyler in a training film about the rehabilitation of wounded servicemen.

Director Wyler was furious when he learned that Producer Samuel Goldwyn wanted to send Harold Russell for acting lessons. Wyler prefered Russell’s acting remain untrained and natural.

Wyler was so involved with portraying the film with as much realism as possible that he hired only World War II veterans for the production crew.

When first meeting his fellow cast members, Harold Russell, in an attempt to avoid any awkwardness as a result of his disability, reached out with his hooks and shook each of their hands. He felt that he should make the first move.

Harold Russell, who won the Best Supporting Oscar, became the only actor to receive two Oscars for the same role. He also received an Honorary Award to acknowledge significant achievement that did not fit in any of the existing categories.

In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked The Best Years of Our Lives at the 37th Greatest Movie of All Time.

Personal Note: This is a classic motion picture that captured the mood of post-war United States. Extremely powerful then, and still powerful today.

Great performances from top to bottom. In my opinion, the finest motion picture to address the problems of returning World War II veterans.


A Brief Film History Timeline – The 1940’s

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Part 3 – The 1940’s 

This is the third of a four-part film history timeline highlighting some selective moments from the 1920’s through the 1950’s.

The 1940’s were a decade that brought with it the paranoid fear of communism, the beginning of the end of the “studio system,” a new film genre, and the threat of television to the motion picture industry.

1940From Great Novel to Great Motion Picture – John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” has been brought to the screen with brilliance by John Ford.

Set during the Great Depression this powerful story focuses on the life and hardships faced by migrant workers in, what can only be described as a life without a future. This film would stir up a great deal of controversy with its appeal for justice and freedom from oppression.

1941A New Film Genre Thanks To A Little Black Bird – The wonderfully dark and mysterious genre of Film Noir is created with the production of “The Maltese Falcon” directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart.

This first major work of Film Noir would permanently imprint the profile of the “hard-boiled detective,” and the genre that would captivate generations of film fans for all time.

1942Popular Actress Carole Lombard Killed – American actress Carole Lombard, most noted for her roles in classic 1930’s comedies, was killed in a plane crash at the age of 33.

She will be remembered as one of the greatest stars of all time and the highest-paid actress during the late 1930’s and was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in the classic comedy “My Man Godfrey.”

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