4 Shots From 4 Films: In Tribute To Joseph Cotten


The Third Man (1949, directed by Carol Reed)

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

As you can probably guess from my pen name and my profile pic, Joseph Cotten is one of my favorite actors.  Born 115 years ago on this day, Cotten may be best known for his association with Orson Welles but he worked with several great directors over the years.  Along with playing Jedediah Leland in Welles’s Citizen Kane, he starred in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt and Carol Reed’s The Third Man.  Even while his film career was flourishing, Cotten continued to appear on the Broadway stage and, during the early days of television, he frequently appeared on anthology series, the majority of which were broadcast live.  Cotten even had a memorable cameo in Michael Cimino’s infamous film, Heaven’s Gate.

In honor of Cotten’s birthday, here are four shots from four of his best films.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Citizen Kane (1941, directed by Orson Welles)

Journey Into Fear (1943, directed by Norman Foster and Orson Welles)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943, directed by Alfred Hitchcock)

Portrait of Jennie (1948, directed by William Dieterle)

 

6 Good Films That Were Not Nominated For Best Pictures: The 1950s


The Governor’s Ball, 1958

Continuing our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 1950s.

The Third Man (1950, dir by Carol Reed)

Now, it should be noted that The Third Man was not ignored by the Academy.  It won the Oscar for Best Cinematography and it was nominated for both editing and Carol Reed’s direction.  But, even with that in mind, it’s somewhat amazing to consider all of the nominations that it didn’t get.  The screenplay went unnominated.  So did the famous zither score.  No nominations for Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard, or even Orson Welles!  And finally, no Best Picture nomination.  1950 was a good year for the movies so competition was tight but still, it’s hard to believe that the Academy found room to nominate King Solomon’s Mines but not The Third Man.

Rear Window (1954, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

Alfred Hitchcock directed some of his best films in the 50s, though few of them really got the recognition that they deserved upon their initial release.  Vertigo is often described as being Hitchcock’s masterpiece but, to be honest, I actually prefer Rear Window.  This film finds the master of suspense at his most playful and, at the same time, at his most subversive.  Casting Jimmy Stewart as a voyeur was a brilliant decision.  This film features one of my favorite Grace Kelly performances.  Meanwhile, Raymond Burr is the perfect schlubby murderer.  Like The Third Man, Rear Window was not ignored by the academy.  Hitchcock was nominated and the film also picked up nods for its screenplay, cinematography, and sound design.  However, it was not nominated for best picture.

Rebel Without A Cause (1955, dir by Nicholas Ray)

Nicholas Ray’s classic film changed the way that teenagers were portrayed on film and it still remains influential today.  James Dean is still pretty much the standard to which most young, male actors are held.  Dean was not nominated for his performance here.  (He was, however, nominated for East of Eden that same year.)  Instead, nominations went to Sal Mineo, Natalie Wood, and the film’s screenplay.  Amazingly, in the same year that the forgettable Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing was nominated for best picture, this popular and influential film was not.

Kiss Me Deadly (1955, dir by Robert Aldrich)

It’s unfortunate but not surprising that Kiss Me Deadly was totally ignored by the Academy.  In the mid-to-late 50s, the Academy tended to embrace big productions.  There was no way they were going to nominate a satirical film noir that featured a psychotic hero and ended with the end of the world.  That’s a shame, of course, because Kiss Me Deadly has proven itself to be more memorable and influential than many of the films that were nominated in its place.

Touch of Evil (1958, dir by Orson Welles)

Speaking of underappreciated film noirs, Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil is one of the craftiest and most brilliant films ever made.  So, of course, no one appreciated it when it was originally released.  This cheerfully sordid film features Welles at his best.  Starting with a memorable (and oft-imitated) tracking shot, the film proceeds to take the audience into the darkest and most eccentric corners of a small border town.  Everyone in the cast, from the stars to the bit players, is memorably odd.  Even the much mocked casting of Charlton Heston as a Mexican pays off wonderfully in the end.

The 400 Blows (1959, dir by Francois Truffaut)

Francois Truffaut’s autobiographical directorial debut was released in the United States in 1959 and it was Oscar-eligible.  Unfortunately, it only picked up a screenplay nomination.  Of course, in the late 50s, the last thing that the Academy was going to embrace was a French art film from a leftist director.  However, The 400 Blows didn’t need a best picture nomination to inspire a generation of new filmmakers.

Up next, in an hour or so, we continue on to the 60s!

 

This Eagle Doesn’t Fly: FLAP (Warner Brothers 1970)


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FLAP is an attempt by director Sir Carol Reed to jump on the late 60’s/early70’s “relevance” bandwagon by depicting the modern-day mistreatment of the American Indian. It’s a seriocomic character study that struggles to find it’s identity, and as a result fails at both comedy and drama.

FLAP is Flapping Eagle, an ex-soldier living back on the reservation who’s “pissed off at everybody”. He’s a hard drinking man, as is just about all the Indians here, feeding into the stereotypical “drunken Indian” image. Flap’s had enough of the noise coming from construction workers building a highway project right next to the rez, and causes a fracas between the hardhats and the Indians, damaging a bulldozer in the process. Native Wounded Bear (who has a correspondence school law degree) points out the highway is gong through sacred burial ground, which turns out not to be the case. Everyone’s up in arms, especially local…

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The Fabulous Forties #26: The Way Ahead (dir by Carol Reed)


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The 26th film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set was the 1944 British film, The Way Ahead (or, as it was retitled when it was released in America, The Immortal Battalion).

Directed by Carol Reed (who was five years away from directing the great The Third Man), The Way Ahead is a British propaganda film that was made to boost the morale of both a weary British public and the army during the final days of World War II.  Usually, when we call something propaganda, it’s meant as a term of disparagement but The Way Ahead is propaganda in the best possible way.

The film follows a group of British soldiers, from the moment that they are conscripted through their training to their first battle.  (In many ways, it’s like a more refined — which is another way of saying “more British” — version of Gung Ho!)  As usually happens in films like this, the newly conscripted soldiers come from all sections of society.  Some of them are poor.  Some of them are rich.  Some of them are married.  Some of them are single.  In fact, when the film first begins, the only thing that they all have in common is that they don’t want to be in the army.

As they begin their training, they resent their tough sergeant, Fletcher (William Hartnell), and are upset that Lt. Jim Perry (David Niven, giving a very likable performance) always seems to take Fletcher’s side in any dispute.  However, as time passes by, the soldiers start to realize that Fletcher is looking out for them and molding them into a cohesive unit.  Under his training, they go from being a group of disorganized and somewhat resentful individuals to being a tough and well-organized battalion.

Though they’re originally skeptical that they’ll ever see combat, the battalion is eventually sent to North Africa.  However, their ship is torpedoed and, in a scene that remains genuinely impressive even when viewed today, the men are forced to abandon ship while explosions and flames light up the night sky.  By the time that they do finally reach North Africa, they are more than ready to fight…

The Way Ahead plays out in a semi-documentary fashion (it even features a narrator who, at the end of the film, exhorts the audience to stay firm in their commitment) and it’s a fairly predictable film.  If you’ve ever seen a war film, you’ll probably be able to predict everything that happens in The Way Ahead.  That said, The Way Ahead is a remarkable well-made and well-acted film.  The cast is well-selected (and features a lot of familiar British characters actors, some making their film debut) and David Niven is the perfect choice for the mild-mannered but firm Lt. Perry.  Even though I’m not a huge fan of war films in general, I was still impressed with The Way Ahead.

And you can watch it below!

Scenes That I Love: The Cuckoo Clock Speech From The Third Man


ThirdManUSPoster

Some movies are merely good.  Some movies are undeniably great.  And then, a handful movies are so amazingly brilliant that, every time you watch, you’re reminded why you fell in love with cinema in the first place.

The Third Man is one of those brilliant films.

Directed by Carol Reed and scripted by novelist Graham Greene, The Third Man takes place in the years immediately following the end of World War II.  Pulp novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) comes to Vienna to search for his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles).  Upon arriving, Holly is shocked to learn that Harry makes his living selling diluted penicillin on the black market.

In the classic scene below, Harry and Holly have a clandestine meeting in a Ferris wheel and Harry justifies both his actions and the lives that have been lost as a result of them.

While Orson Welles’ performance is (rightfully) celebrated, I’ve always felt that Joseph Cotten’s work was even more important to the film’s success.  While Welles made Harry Lime into a charismatic and compelling villain, it was  Cotten who provided the film with a heart.

Lisa Marie Reviews The Oscar-Nominated Films: Mutiny on the Bounty (dir. by Lewis Milestone)


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Previously, I reviewed the 1935 Best Picture winner Mutiny on the Bounty, a film that still stands as one of the best adventure films ever made.  However, this was not the only film made about the Bounty to be honored with several Oscar nominations.  In 1962, another version of Mutiny on The Bounty was released and, like its predecessor, received a nomination for Best Picture of the year.  However, while the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty remains one of the most entertaining films ever made, the 1962 Mutiny on the Bounty is a mess.

As in the 1935 version of the story, we once again follow the HMS Bounty as it sails from England to Tahiti.  Again, the ship’s captain is the tyrannical Capt. Bligh (Trevor Howard) and again, the eventual mutiny is led by Fletcher Christian (Marlon Brando).  While the 1935 version presented Christian as the unquestioned leader of the mutiny, this version features an indecisive Christian who is goaded into leading the mutiny by a seaman named John Mills (Richard Harris).  Whereas the 1935 Fletcher Christian never regretted his decision, the 1962 version seems to regret the mutiny from the moment it occurs and literally spends the rest of the film trying to get the mutineers to agree to return to England with him.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two versions of Mutiny on the Bounty is that the 1935 version was a 2-hour film that felt shorter while the 1962 remake lasts 3 hours and 15 minutes (including intermission) and feels even longer.  The 1962 version was made at a time when Hollywood was attempting to counteract the influences of European art films and American television by making films that were a thousand times bigger then they needed to be.  Whereas the 1935 Mutiny on The Bounty was all about telling the story as efficiently as possible, the 1962 Mutiny on the Bounty was about telling audiences, at every possible moment, that they couldn’t see anything like this on television or in some French art film.  Audiences in 1962 may very well have been amazed by the endless shots of Tahitians dancing and the Bounty rocking on the ocean but, for modern audiences, the entire film just feels incredibly slow and padded.

Another major difference between the two versions of Mutiny on the Bounty is that Marlon Brando, to be charitable, was no Clark Gable.  Much as Clark Gable could never have been a credible Stanley Kowalski or Vito Corleone, Brando could never have been a convincing Fletcher Christian.  Whereas Gable played Christian as the epitome of masculinity, Brando’s internalized, method approach serves to turn the character into something of a wimp.  It doesn’t help that Brando’s twangy attempt at an English accent sounds like every bad Monty Python impersonation that’s ever been heard in a college dorm room.

The 1962 Mutiny on the Bounty was a notoriously troubled production.  Marlon Brando was reportedly bored with the role of Fletcher Christian (which might explain why he gave such an eccentric performance) and he reportedly used his star status to demand and make constant changes in the script.  The film’s original director, Carol Reed, reportedly quit over frustration with Brando and was replaced by Lewis Milestone.  Milestone, a veteran director who had started his career during the silent era, proved just as ineffectual when it came to controlling Brando.  By the end of the film, Richard Harris was literally refusing to film any scenes opposite Brando.  The end result was that the film went wildly over schedule and over budget.

Despite being reviled by even contemporary critics, Mutiny on the Bounty received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.  The nomination was a triumph for the studio system as MGM reportedly directed all of its employees to vote for the film. That may have been enough to win Mutiny a nomination for best picture but the actual Oscar went to Lawrence of Arabia.