Sunday, April 12, 2009

Move Over, Darling

This is really your typical sixties sex comedy--all talk, but neither show nor action. It is, however, very entertaining. The plot concerns Nicholas Arden's (James Garner) marriage to Bianca Steele (Polly Bergen) and his subsequent discovery that his first wife, Ellen Wagstaff Arden (Doris Day), has been plane wrecked on an island for five years but is actually alive and well. Ellen Arden returns to civilization the same day Nicholas marries Bianca. When she finds out the news, she is determined to keep the newlyweds from properly enjoying their honeymoon. Nicholas, when he finds out about Ellen, decides to pretend he has a sprained back to get out of expected wedding night activities. For maybe the first half of the movie, Nicholas tries to tell Bianca that "his wife is alive". But, things get much more complicated when he discovers that Ellen was not alone on her desert island.

Certainly, this movie is not perfect, but it has it's moments. Whoever wrote the script knew what they were doing. For example:

After Nicholas Arden registers a hotel room for a woman for the second time:

Hotel Manager: I'd like to know what he thinks he's doing.

Desk Clerk: I'd like to know how he does it.

The dialogue between presumed other woman Ellen and the hotel clerk is absolutely priceless, as well as the scene where Bianca is the victim of a vigorous Swedish massage. Doris Day exhibits perfect timing when she says, "What are we going to do about...Binaca?" James Garner is divine as always, especially when he first catches glimpse of Ellen as an elevator door closes. It's shown in this clip at 4:35:

Here is a clip of the Swedish massage scene.

Again, there are faults. The judge, shown twice, is a fairly poor comedian, and there are one or two scenes of Ellen with her children that verge on excessive sentimentality. They are so different than the rest of the movie that they felt like they were inserted to take up time. Always a bad thing. And Doris Day's hair could have used a lot less peroxide. In the end, the question "What happened on that island?" is perhaps answered, but it feels as if there is room for reasonable doubt. Steven would have to have been even more annoying for that to be plausible in a movie. Real life, sure, but in real life most people would have the bad luck to be shipwrecked with an ugly man. Also, the movie might have been more interesting if Nicholas had told all in the massage scene above and the scene had been placed at the end with a bit of script reworking. The real tell all is slightly anticlimactic, even though it is very funny. Also, the title song makes no sense whatsoever coming from Ellen Wagstaff Arden. Maybe from Bianca, but not Ellen.

Because this is a remake of the remake of My Favorite Wife, Something's Got to Give, comparisons to Marilyn Monroe are bound to be abundant. Let me add my own. Both she and Doris sing similarly, with vibrato during sustained notes but not so much anywhere else. I honestly feel that Doris's type is better in this role because she offers such a contrast to Polly Bergen's Bianca. Few people are ever so different; there is room for jealousy because Bergen is arguably prettier than Doris Day, or at least competition, but she acts like a prima donna. The arrangement could pose a question: would you rather have the prettier wife or a the nicer one? Marilyn Monroe vs. Polly Bergen would be little to watch on screen. Bianca would probably have been divorced by text message if they'd had such a thing. Now, Marilyn Monroe vs. Doris Day would have been very interesting indeed, with maybe Marilyn as Bianca. The conflict might actually have been Nicholas choosing who he wanted to be with, rather than deciding how he is going to break the news to Bianca. There is a movie from the 30s or 40s with Jean Arthur and Fred MacMurray called Too Many Husbands which deals with something similar to that (picking which husband), but it is one of those films you prefer to forget.

Rating: 7 3/4 out of 10

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Place in the Sun


Truly a great movie, not only technically but artistically. It concerns the low-class boy George Eastman who falls in love with upper-class beauty Angela Vickers. However, George has gotten pre-Angela working-class girlfriend Alice Tripp pregnant. Since the Eastmans are a high-class family in the region George is now working, Alice threatens to tell all if he doesn't marry her. Gradually, the idea of murdering Alice grows in George's mind, and he takes her out on a boat to drown her (she cannot swim). He decides, however, that he cannot go through with it, but, Alice stands up and walks toward George, and the boat tips over and she drowns.

George basically acts the way a murderer would act...he doesn't report the crime, he lies about where he was, etc. Alice's body is found, foul play is suspected, George is arrested and tried, and George is found guilty. As he is about to be sent to the electric chair, the film reaches an emotional resolution. A priest tells George that there is one way for him to really judge whether he is guilty or not. During the one moment when he could have saved Alice, did he think of Alice or Angela? It is understood that Angela was the one on his mind. So, he approaches his death resigned to fate and aware that he is a murderer, if not technically, but essentially.

The only thing that keeps this movie from being truly enjoyable is Montgomery Clift. I like Monty Clift a lot, but all the bad things that happen to his character make this a depressing fare. George Eastman is also a total idiot. Honestly, I like melodramatic, tragic movies but this is just too downbeat. It might could get away with being sad if it was fast-paced and exciting, but instead you are introduced to characters you like and watch them end up dead and unhappy. It's a good film, but not very watchable.

Anyway, Elizabeth Taylor looks great in this movie. Probably the best she's ever looked. However, I feel sorry for anyone whose beauty peaks at seventeen.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, April 3, 2009


Resemblances are everywhere, especially between old movie stars, in my opinion. Because most people disagree with me, I probably don't have a good eye, but I still hope to find someone who believes Jimmy Stewart looks like Ingrid Bergman. Here are some more realistic lookalikes.

Montgomery Clift and Henry Fonda

Vivien Leigh and Ava Gardner (slightly)

Elizabeth Taylor and Vivien Leigh

Jean Simmons and Vivien Leigh

Grace Kelly and Gene Tierney

Deborah Kerr and Rita Hayworth

June Allyson and Gene Kelly (poor June)

Tyrone Power and Jim Backus

Others, not pictured, maybe coming someday: Gene Tierney and Lauren Bacall, Tony Curtis and Joan Bennett, Vivien Leigh and Hedy Lamarr, Hedy Lamarr and Joan Bennett, Jayne Mansfield and Diana Dors, etc.
Who do you think looked alike?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Rebel Without a Cause

Starring James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, and Jim Backus

Recently I watched this movie with my mother for the third or fourth time--her first time. This is one of my favorite movies. Mother, however, did not like it. Anyway, I will come to that later.

The premise of this movie is the character Jim Stark's (James Dean) struggle to find friendship, understanding, and himself. His home life is described as a "zoo" and his father is made into "mush" by Jim's mother and grandmother. This makes Jim determined that he will not be a coward like his father...thus, he is very easy to provoke. All someone has to do to make him fight is call him "chicken", so he frequently gets in trouble and his mother has them move whenever he does so. The movie begins with Jim having moved into a new town and having just gotten drunk and hauled into a police station. At the police station, he sees Judy, a young girl deprived of her father's love, and Plato, a virtually abandoned child of divorced parents. At school the next day (technically, the same day), these three become friends and through their friendship, solve some of their problems, but not without experiencing pain and getting into very deep trouble.

The great thing about Rebel is the way it has so many moments where great acting and great lines come together. At the beginning, in the police station, Jim tells the policeman there to "get lost". This part illustrates how Jim appears to the grown-ups who just don't understand why he can't keep out of trouble. It's one of the only times, too, because after we get to know Jim, we see how he is trying to do the right thing as well as he can. The unsympathetic adults, however, don't see or understand this part of him, and can't figure out why he "shuts the door" in their faces. For less than a minute, before we know what is going on in his head, we see Jim as the belligerent rebel his outward appearance suggests. Of course, this is somewhat ruined because James Dean has our sympathy from the beginning; who could possibly not sympathize with someone so cute?

Like I said earlier, my mother probably did not sympathize with Mr. Dean, cute or not. For two days after watching Rebel, she was pointing out faults in it. First of all, the gang members looked far too old. And if that wasn't bad enough, the entire thing was beyond melodramatic. It was unrealistic for all that stuff to happen in one day. Jim Stark hardly ever ate, for Pete's sake. And everyone was messed up. Even when I pointed out snootily that having a tragedy take place in one day is an ancient Greek tradition, she failed to be impressed with the whole thing, saying it was not bad but she would not watch it again. This all comes from someone whose favorite movie is The Sound of Music, so it was obviously not something she would have enjoyed, but I thought she should see it anyway. I guess it's just part of my morbid personality.

A great part of this film is Natalie Wood. She's my favorite actress, so I'm biased, but this movie is one of the reasons she's said favorite. The fact that we see a Hollywood teenager onscreen as a teenager and not done up like an ice cream cone is a fabulous inspirition to teenage vintage fans like myself. Her hair is perfectly done but not elaborate, her make-up doesn't even look like it's there (excluding the opening scene), and her clothes are simple and young. Sometimes you can forget yourself and dress too old for your age if you use vintage actresses as style icons--the fact that Judy doesn't even have painted nails is a great reminder that teenagers existed back then too, even if Hollywood tended to age them or stick them in child parts. Check out Stage Door to see the results of the makeup men on thirteen or fourteen year-old Ann Miller.

There is so little to dislike about Rebel--I have managed to put aside my distress over Jim Stark's dietary habits and enjoy it anyway. Shocking, I know. The only bad part is that it makes it "cool" to be lonely and misunderstood. If you actually are lonely and misunderstood, it would probably cheer up, but otherwise it encourages rebellion a little. That's only a minor point. Another point is that in the Chickie Run scene, there is almost no way both people could have jumped from their cars. The person on the right would have been run over by the other's car. My mother also pointed this out. And whoever plays Jim's mother is a poor actress.

But things like the soundtrack, the lead players, and the themes more than make up for such minor faults. I give it 9/10.

And by the way, did anyone think Corey Allen (Buzz) looked like Marlon Brando? And was talking like him for some reason?