Saturday, March 19, 2011

VIVA MARIA! is part musical, part western and it is wonderful...

I don't even know how to describe this movie. It's part musical, part western, part comedy, part adventure. And somehow mix all that together and it works. Set in Middle America in 1907, the fiery Maria 2 (played by Brigitte Bardot) meets up with a traveling circus after her terrorist father is killed. She ends up blowing up the bridge that the soldiers are on who have killed her father and is now on the run. The circus she hooks up with has veteran singer Maria 1 (played by Jeanne Moreau). As luck would have it, the circus has just recently lost a singer, Maria 1's sister and Maria 2 jumps at the chance. During her first appearance she accidentally invents the strip-tease and the circus becomes hugely successful. Things are going great until the pair meet up with a socialist revolutionary and finding themselves leading this revolution against the dictator, the capitalists and the church.
Like I said this mix of music, action, and comedy somehow all works. I think this may be Brigitte Bardot's best film performance. She is headstrong and doesn't back down from anyone. Moreau gives a good performance as well, more understanding and sympathetic. And plus they both look stunning. For the ladies they have George Hamilton to ogle over as a local hero who falls for Moreau. I liked this movie. Be warned it is subtitled but I didn't mind one bit at all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Santa Fe Trail (1940).

Santa Fe Trail(1940). Western directed by Michael Curtiz. Cast: Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. The film was the seventh of eight films that Flynn-de Havilland made together. The outdoor scenes were filmed at the Lasky Movie Ranch, on the Lasky Mesa area of the Simi Hills in the western San Fernando Valley.

The story begins when Cadet Carl Rader, is dishonorably discharged from West Point Academy for conspiracy. His friends Jeb Stuart and George Custer, graduate and are assigned to duty at the most dangerous post in the army. While traveling, Custer and Stuart meet Cyrus Halliday, the man responsible for building the railroad and his daughter, Kit Carson. After arriving at the fort, they find Brown's army, has been terrorizing the countryside with their raids.

During a raid on a wagon, Stuart and Custer capture Brown's injured son Jason and before dying, Jason tells them where his father's hideout is. In disguise, Stuart rides into the hide out and is recognized by Rader, who takes him at gunpoint to Brown. Stuart, finds himself trapped in a burning barn but is saved by Custer and his troops. Brown does not go down without a fight.

Olivia De Havilland, plays a Calamity Jane type character, who gave Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan as George A. Custer, a run for their money.

Errol Flynn(20 June 1909 – 14 October 1959), was best known for his romantic swashbuckler roles and his flamboyant lifestyle.

Flynn co-starred with Olivia de Havilland in eight films, Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Four's a Crowd (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with Their Boots On (1941.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

High stakes for Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum in Five Card Stud (1968)

Dean Martin  ...  Van Morgan
More of a mystery than a western but it does take place in the Old west times. When a card cheat is caught in a high stakes poker game, he is hanged by a lynch mob of the other card players. Dean Martin is the one player who tries to stop it but to no avail. Weeks past by when those same men are mysteriously killed one by one and Dean has to try and solve who's the killer before it's too late. Robert Mitchum comes in as a wandering preacher hoping to save the lost souls of this small town. Him and Dean have great chemistry together. Roddy McDowall is perfect as a weasel and card player who hates Dean for trying to date his sister. McDowall, even with that stiff British accent is quite good in a western. He plays a low down sniveling weasel pretty good. Inger Stevens is on hand as owner of a barber shop. Said barber shop also gives more than shaves and haircuts, if you know what I mean. I liked Five Card Stud, since it was more than just a western. Dean is super cool as usual as the gambler with a conscience. And also Yaphet Kotto in one of his first roles as a bartender and friend to Dean. Look out for a good performance by Katherine Justice as McDowall's love lorn sister.
Robert Mitchum  ...  The Rev. Jonathan Rudd
Robert Mitchum as The Reverend Jonathan Rudd

Inger Stevens  ...  Lily Langford
Dean Martin as gambler Van Morgan and Inger Stevens as Lily Langford

Yaphet Kotto
Yaphet Kotto as Little George and Dean Martin

Katherine Justice ... Nora Evers
Katherine Justice as Nora Evers and Dean Martin

Robert Mitchum  ...  The Rev. Jonathan Rudd
Robert Mitchum

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Claire Trevor (1910-2000)

Happy Birthday to the wonderful Claire Trevor, who made her mark in several entertaining westerns. Most notably Stagecoach (1939), Dark Command (1940), Texas (1941), Man Without A Star (1955) and The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953) to name a few. She also appeared in non-western films such as Murder My Sweet (1944), Key Largo (1948) and The Babe Ruth Story (1948). Happy Birthday Claire.

The Desperadoes (1943).

The Desperadoes (1943). Cast: Randolph Scott and Glenn Ford. It was the first Columbia Pictures production to be released in Technicolor.

When the bank is robbed in the small town of Red Valley, Utah, banker Stanley Clanton offers to repay fifty percent of his depositors' losses. Unknown to the town, Clanton has masterminded the bank robbery with Uncle Willie McLeod, the town postmaster and stable owner. Uncle Willie, is furious with Clanton for hiring Jack Lester, who killed three men during the robbery.

While looking for the bank robbers, sheriff Steve Upton, stops to water his horse. A man approaches from behind him and demands his horse at gunpoint. The man is Cheyenne Rogers, the gunslinger hired by Uncle Willie to rob the bank. Cheyenne, rides into town and at the stable meets Uncle Willie's daughter, Allison McLeod. Allison, is charmed by cowboy, who now calls himself, Bill Smith.

Cheyenne, heads for the saloon , where he meets "The Countess," his childhood friend. The Countess, does not believe that he will ever be able to "go straight".

Soon they hear explosion, then Nitro Rankin, Cheyenne's partner walks in with a injured his leg from the blast and Cheyenne refuses to leave town until his partners leg has healed. Later that night, when Cheyenne returns to the stables to see Allison, Steve is waiting to arrest him. When Steve recognizes the horse thief as his old friend Cheyenne, he invites him for a drink. As they walk toward the saloon, Uncle Willie recognizes Cheyenne as the man he hired to rob the bank advises him to leave town.

When the bank is robbed again, Cheyenne becomes, the prime suspect and his friend seems to be the only one who believes in his innocence.

One of my favorite scenes is, during the cow stampede started by a blast of nitro, used as a distraction while Cheyenne, rushes to help the wrongly imprisoned sheriff. Wonderful performances from a cast including: Edgar Buchanan, Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Raymond Walburn and Irving Bacon as a bartender whose saloon keeps getting destroyed during fights.

Randolph Scott(January 23, 1898 – March 2, 1987) career spanned from 1928 to 1962. Scott performed in many types of genres, including: dramas, crime dramas, comedies, musicals, adventure tales, war films, horror and fantasy films. He is best known for his image as the Western hero. Out of his more than 100 film performances more than 60 were in Westerns.

Texas (1941).

Texas (1941). Cast: Glenn Ford and William Holden. Directed by George Marshall.

The story begins when, Dan Thomas and Tod Ramsey, two cow pokes who served in the Confederacy together, meet railroad promoter Windy Miller, when he pays their trespassing fine. To pay off their debt, Tod agrees to fight professional boxer Dutch Henry, who breaks his leg while jumping into the ring.

Soon after, while riding on the trail to Texas, they witness a gang of outlaws holding up a stage. The two cow pokes ambush the robbers and take the money, which Tod wants to return but Dan wants to keep. While Dan rides off to find dinner, the sheriff rides up with his posse and finds Tod with the stolen money. Just as the posse is about to lynch Tod, Dan rides in, saying that they are being attacked by Indians. Dan and Tod are able to escape, then decide to go their separate ways . The two friends do not see each other again for a long time. When they do meet up again, they find themselves on different sides of the law, where they may find themselves in a stand off.

I thought the film Texas, was a wonderful western, with two young superstars, William Holden and Glenn Ford. Two young cowpokes competing for the same girl, played by Claire Trevor. Also enjoyed seeing veterans George Bancroft and Edgar Buchanan. The film, blends humor and drama which makes for a good western.

Claire Trevor (March 8, 1910 – April 8, 2000) was nicknamed the "Queen of Film Noir", because of her many performances as a "bad girl”. She performed in over 60 films.

Her first credited film role was in the film, Life in the Raw(1933), with her feature film debut coming that same year in Jimmy and Sally (1933).

In 1937, she starred with Humphrey Bogart in the film, Dead End, which would lead to her being nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

Some of her most memorable performances were opposite John Wayne, including the film, Stagecoach(1939), which was Wayne's breakthrough role. She also starred opposite Wayne in the film, Allegheny Uprising that same year, and again in the film, Dark Command (1940). Over a decade later, she would again costar with Wayne, gaining her final Oscar nomination for the film, The High and the Mighty.

Two of Trevor's memorable roles were starring opposite Dick Powell in the film, Murder, My Sweet and Born to Kill. She performed in the film, Key Largo, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Trevor moved into supporting roles in the 1950s, with her performances becoming increasingly rare after the mid-1960s. She played Sally Field's mother in the film, Kiss Me Goodbye (1982). She made a special appearance at the 70th annual Academy Awards in 1998.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Mark of Zorro (1920).

The Mark of Zorro (1920). Silent film. Cast: Douglas Fairbanks and Noah Beery. This swashbuckler adventure was the first movie version of The Mark of Zorro. Based on the 1919 story "The Curse of Capistrano" by Johnston McCulley, which introduced the masked hero, Zorro, the screenplay was adapted by Fairbanks as "Elton Thomas" and Eugene Miller.

The film has been remade twice, once in 1940, starring Tyrone Power and again in 1974, starring Frank Langella.

The Mark of Zorro, is story of Don Diego Vega, the very awkward son of a wealthy ranchero Don Alejandro, in the old Spanish California. Seeing the mistreatment of the poor people by the colonial government, Don Diego, takes on the identity of the masked Zorro, who appears out of nowhere to protect them. Armed only with his sword and his sense of humor, Zorro scars the faces of the bad guys with his mark, "Z."

When not in the disguise of Zorro, Don Diego tries to court Lolita Pulido, but.. she cannot stand him. Lolita, is also courted by Captain Ramon and by the dashing Zorro, who she is in love with.

When Lolita's family is jailed, Don Diego without his mask, whips out his sword. Will he be able to force Governor Alvarado, to give in and win the hand of Lolita?

Fun Facts:

Film debut of Noah Beery Jr..

The Zorro costume of black clothes, black mask, and round black hat that audiences know today was introduced in this film. Also, Fairbanks had a huge influence on actor, Burt Lancaster.

The Mark of Zorro, inspired comic book artist Bob Kane when he and Bill Finger created the Batman character in 1939. This inspiration has been worked into the comics themselves, establishing that The Mark of Zorro (either this version or the 1940 remake starring Tyrone Power) was the film which the young Bruce Wayne watched with his parents at the cinema the night he witnessed their murders. Zorro, was Bruce's childhood hero.

I thought this was a very entertaining silent film, which provides Douglas Fairbanks a nice showcase. While other versions of the Zorro legends maybe more familiar, this one is one of my favorites... along with the 1940 version with Tyrone Power.

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (May 23, 1883 – December 12, 1939) was an actor, screenwriter, director and producer. He was best known for his swashbuckling roles in silent films such as: The Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood, and The Mark of Zorro.

Fairbanks, signed a contract with Triangle Pictures in 1915 and began working under the supervision of D.W. Griffith. His first film was, The Lamb. He soon the caught the attention of Anita Loos and John Emerson, who directed many of his early romantic comedies. In 1916, Fairbanks established his own company, the Douglas Fairbanks Film Corporation and worked for Paramount. By 1918, Fairbanks was Hollywood's most popular actor.

Fairbanks met actress Mary Pickford, at a party in 1916 and they fell in love. In 1917, the couple joined Fairbanks' friend Charlie Chaplin selling war bonds by train across the U.S.

To avoid being controlled by the studios, Fairbanks, Pickford, Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith formed United Artists in 1919, which created their own distributorships and gave them complete artistic control over their films.

Fairbanks and Pickford married on March 28, 1920, divorced 1936. They were greeted by large crowds in London and Paris during their European honeymoon, becoming Hollywood's first celebrity couple.

By 1920, Fairbanks had completed twenty-nine films, which showcased his athletic ability. By 1920, he had the inspiration of a new type of adventure-costume film, The Mark of Zorro. For the remainder of his career in silent films, he continued to perform in the costume films: The Three Musketeers (1921), Robin Hood (1922), The Thief of Bagdad (1924), The Black Pirate (1926, the first full-length Technicolor film), and The Gaucho (1927).

Fairbanks and Pickford placed their hand and foot prints in wet cement at the newly opened Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on April 30, 1927. Fairbanks was elected first President of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences that same year, and he presented the first Academy Awards at the Roosevelt Hotel.

His last silent film was, The Iron Mask (1929). His athletic abilities and general health began to decline. He and Pickford chose to make their first talkie as a joint venture, playing Petruchio and Kate in Shakespeare's, The Taming of the Shrew (1929). The last film he acted in was the, The Private Life of Don Juan (1934).

Marguerite De La Motte (June 22, 1902 – March 10, 1950), began her entertainment career studying ballet under Anna Pavlova. In 1919 she became the dance star of Sid Grauman's theater. In 1918, at the age of 16, she made her screen debut in the Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. film, Arizona. That same year she lost both of her parents in an automobile accident and film producer J.L. Frothingham assumed guardianship of her and her younger sister.

De La Motte spent the 1920s performing in films, often cast by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. to play opposite him in the adventure films, The Mark of Zorro(1920) and The Three Musketeers. She developed a close friendship with Fairbanks and his wife, actress Mary Pickford.

De La Motte's career as an actress slowed dramatically at the end of the silent film era of the 1920s. She did continue acting in bit parts through the sound era and made her final performance in the film, Overland Mail(1942).