Scenes That I Love: The Phone Call From Sam Wainwright From It’s A Wonderful Life


Tonight, NBC will be airing It’s A Wonderful Life.

Watching It’s A Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve is a tradition for many people.  It definitely is for me and my family.  I’ve watched It’s A Wonderful Life so many times that I’ve practically got the entire movie memorized.  It’s not only my favorite Christmas movie but also one of my favorite movies of all time.

Everyone knows, of course, that It’s A Wonderful Life is a film about a man named George (played by Jimmy Stewart) who gets a chance to see what the world would be like without him.  What I think is often overlooked is that it’s also a powerful and poignant love story and that the scenes between George and Mary (Donna Reed) are some of the most intensely romantic ever filmed.

In the scene below, George and Mary get a phone call from Mary’s ex, Sam Wainwright.  Sam has a business opportunity but George has more on his mind than staying in Bedford Falls and making money.  This scene, which begins with Mary upset and George feeling lost, ends with one of the most powerful kisses of the 1940s.

This is a scene that I love from a movie that I love and I look forward to watching it tonight!

Time Well Spent: THREE HOURS TO KILL (Columbia 1954)


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I don’t think you’ll find THREE HOURS TO KILL among anyone’s Top Ten Films list, or Top Ten Westerns, or even Top Ten Dana Andrews Movies. What you will find, if you give this movie a chance, is a solid, adult themed Technicolor Western with just a hint of film noir, made by Hollywood pros in front and behind the cameras. And you can’t ask for much more than that.

Jim Guthrie returns after a three year absence to the town that once tried to hang him. Jim relates the tale via flashback to old friend and current sheriff Ben East: a big night in town had everybody drinking and partying it up. Sexy hotel owner Chris Palmer comes on to Jim, but he only has eyes for pretty Laurie Mastin, bringing out the jealous side of banker Niles Hendricks. Laurie’s brother Carter disapproves of Jim, and a fight…

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No Surprises Here: GUN FURY (Columbia 1953)


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I watched GUN FURY expecting a surprise. What I got instead was a routine Western, not bad for its type, bolstered by a better-than-average cast, solid direction from veteran Raoul Walsh , and some lavish Technicolor location footage from Sedona, AZ. But I kept waiting and waiting for that “surprise” that never came. What am I talking about? Read on and find out, buckeroos!

Ben Warren, a peaceful Civil War vet, meets his intended bride Jennifer Ballard at the stagecoach station. The two lovebirds intend to travel to the next stop and get hitched. Also onboard the stage is mean desperado Frank Slayton, an “unreconstructed Southerner” feared across the territory, and his partner-in-crime Jess Burgess. Frank’s gang, disguised as Cavalry soldiers, lie in wait and rob the stage of it’s shipment of gold, stealing the loot killing everyone except Jennifer, who Frank has designs on and kidnaps.

But wait! Ben’s…

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Dear Old Alma Mater: John Wayne in TROUBLE ALONG THE WAY (Warner Brothers 1953)


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Tomorrow’s the big night, as my New England Patriots go up against the tough defense of the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. Tom Brady and company will be going for Ring #6, and everyone here in Southern New England is super excited, looking forward to another victory celebration! I’ll be attending a huge party with plenty of food, big screen TV’s, raffles, squares, and like-minded fans, but before the festivities begin, let’s take a look at TROUBLE ALONG THE WAY, a football-themed film starring none other than Big John Wayne !

St. Anthony’s College is a struggling Catholic university run by sweet old Father Burke, who’s getting to be as decrepit as the school itself. The powers-that-be want to close his beloved St. Anthony’s, seeing how the school’s $170,000 in debt, but old Father Burke comes up with an idea. Citing Deuteronomy 32:15 (“The beloved grew fat and kicked”)…

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A Movie A Day #128: Ransom! (1956, directed by Alex Segal)


What would you do if your child was kidnapped?

That’s the question asked in this unjustly obscure film from 1956.  Dave Stannard (Glenn Ford) is a wealthy businessman, with a beautiful wife (Donna Reed), a big suburban home, and a butler named Chapman (the great Puerto Rican actor Juano Hernandez).  One day, his son Andy (Bobby Clark) does not come home from school.  The school says that a nurse showed up to pick Andy up for a doctor’s appointment but neither Dave nor his wife know about any appointment and their family doctor says that he would never send a nurse to pick up a patient.

Andy has been kidnapped.  When the kidnappers call, they tell Dave that they want half a million dollars in ransom.  Dave gets the money together but is then told, by reporter Charlie Telfer (Leslie Nielsen), that, once the kidnappers have the money, they will have no incentive to return Andy.  Since Andy is the only person who could identity them to the police, they may very well kill Andy after getting the money.  By paying the ransom, Dave will also be encouraging other kidnappers.

The next morning, Dave goes on television and announces that he will not be paying the ransom.  Instead, he announces that if the kidnappers do not immediately return his son, the money will be given as a reward to anyone who helps to track them down.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Ransom! was later remade by Ron Howard, with Mel Gibson as the father and Gary Sinise as the kidnapper.  (Ransom! itself was a remake of a live television drama that aired in 1954.)  As opposed to the Howard film, the original Ransom! is a low-key character piece, one that takes place almost entirely in the Stannard home and in which the kidnappers remain largely unseen.  Almost the entire movie focuses on Dave, his decision, and his struggle to come to terms with that decision.  Was Dave right or was he wrong?  Ransom! is stagey but thought-provoking with excellent performances from the entire cast.  Even Leslie Nielsen, making his film debut, does well in the type of dramatic role that defined his career until he reinvented himself as a masterful comedic actor.

They don’t make them like this anyone and that is too bad.

 

Scenes I Love: George Meets Mary Again in It’s A Wonderful Life


It may seem strange, on Valentine’s Day, to share a scene that I love from a Christmas movie.  Well, we’re all about being strange here at the Shattered Lens!

Add to that, George and Mary share one of the greatest romances ever put on the big screen.  It may be a Christmas movie but it’s also a love story.

So, for your viewing pleasure, here’s how it all started…

Did you miss It’s A Wonderful Life? Don’t worry, we got you covered!


Last night, NBC broadcast the classic 1946 film It’s A Wonderful Life and…

What?

You missed it?

Well, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered!

Presented for your listening enjoyment, here is the 1947 radio version of It’s A Wonderful Life!  This was an episode of the Lux Radio Theater and it featured Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed recreating their film roles!

Holiday Scenes That I Love: The Ending of It’s A Wonderful Life


At this very moment, NBC is broadcasting the classic 1946 film, It’s A Wonderful Life!  They show it every Christmas Eve and every year, I watch.

Why?

Because I love this movie so much that I could watch it a million times and then a million times more!  There is no movie that makes me happier than It’s A Wonderful Life.  There is no movie that brings tears to my mismatched eyes as quickly as It’s A Wonderful Life.  I love this film so much that I even watch it outside of December.  If I’m depressed, this is the movie that I’m going to watch.

And who can blame me?  The scene below is one that I love but, to be honest, there’s not a single scene in It’s A Wonderful Life that I don’t love.  I even love those scenes with old Sam Wainwright going, “Hee haw!”  Sam may have been a jackass but he was a good guy underneath it all.

(Plus, he made a fortune in plastics!  Money can excuse all sorts of obnoxious behavior!)

As for the scene below, it’s the final ten minutes of It’s A Wonderful Life.  To me, nothing exemplifies the joy of the holidays better than Jimmy Stewart running down the snow-filled streets of Bedford Falls and shouting “Merry Christmas” to everyone, even mean old Mr. Potter.  (“And a happy new year to you — IN JAIL!”)  This is a great scene and wonderfully acted by James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Ward Bond, and everyone else in the film!

And here it is!

(For an alternative take on whether or not Bedford Falls would have been better off if George Bailey had never been born, check out this interview with Mr. Potter himself!)

 

It’s A Wonderful Pottersville!


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The following is a re-broadcast of the 1955 interview with David Brinkley and Mayor Potter of the eponymous Pottersville.

David Brinkley:  Ladies and Gentlemen this is a portrait of a town that came back.  The best example of which is the bustling Boffo town of Pottersville.   I am interviewing the man who brought this town back after a factory closing and 1920s financial collapse:  Mr… I mean Mayor Potter.

Mayor Potter:  Thank you, David.

David Brinkley:  Mr. Mayor, your town is synonymous with nightlife and culture.  Now, it is hosting it’s fourth International Film Festival.  It seems to stand out among so many New York factory towns.  What happened?

Mayor Potter:  HRHHPFM! It was a near run thing.

David: How so?

Mayor Potter: We had this flirtation with communism in the 19 teens and 20s.

David: *Gasps*

Mayor Potter:  It’s true.  We had this bolshevik style building and loan.

David: A building and what?

Mayor Potter:  It was a bank … of sorts.  This guy “Pa” Bailey *Uses air quotes with an eye-roll*  would talk rubes into giving him money to build people homes who lacked the money to pay their mortgages.

David: Come again?

Mayor Potter: Get this, when you wanted to make a withdrawal you’d either have to wait 60 days or some jackass would use his personal savings to “loan” you money.

David: *Eyes Widen*

Mayor Potter:  This commie bank was always screwing with people’s money.  The owner hired his brother Billy – he was this unreformed drunkard and he had a menagerie of unvaccinated feral animals in his office. And, when this Building and Loan would really squander their funds and bills would come due, Billy would knock on people’s doors holding a wicker basket begging for donations all over town.

David: Wicker? What kinds of animals? What?!

Mayor Potter:  UGGHH, Bailey had everything in there… crows, squirrels, probably had a damn bobcat for all we knew.  Bailey’s in a mental ward now.  But, he wasn’t even the worst…

David: Come on..

Mayor Potter:  Try getting a prescription filled back in those days. We had a homicidal druggist poisoning people … Bowser or something or other.   He got locked up and’s dead now …. good riddance.

David: Weren’t there two Bailey sons?

Mayor Potter: The younger Brother was a war hero and now works for DuPont and designed some weed killer Agent Purple or something.

David: Not to turn this into a geneology of the Baileys.

Mayor Potter: No big deal. George went off to college and married a local girl…Mary. He designs pipelines in Venezuela. Could you imagine if George had tried to keep his Dad’s commie bank going? He would’ve wished he’d never been born!

David: Back to the town, what changed?

Mayor Potter: Well, Pa Bailey died and then the Crash.

David: How did your recover from the crash?

Mayor Potter: Recover?!  The Crash helped us! I bought up the failing businesses and turned this town around.  We needed new revenue from new sources.

David: About that, after the war, Pottersville was criticized for what some called a seamy downtown.

Mayor Potter:  *Shrugs* You’re a veteran.  After the war, people wanted to blow off some steam and that means dancing, music, and booze.  Our downtown is different now.  Even then, it was still better than the boring Bedford Falls anytown USA….Bleh! We’re the only Right To Work county in New York!  What did that bring? Headquarters and more business than Buffalo or Detroit combined!  We have 12 museums, 200 restaurants, a financial center, a subway, and a Theater district second only to New York City!  Besides, nightlife and culture is what brings people to cities.  “Honey, let’s splurge and visit Des Moines… Said no one ever!”

David: You have a point.  This is truly a magnificent achievement.

Mayor Potter:  Thank you.

David: That’s all.  Good luck and good night.

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Pottersville: Current Day

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Horror Film Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray (dir by Albert Lewin)


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Hello and welcome to the start of TSL’s annual October horrorthon!  All through the month of October, our focus will be on horror.  We will be sharing reviews and thoughts on some of the best (and worst) horror films ever made!  I have to admit that this is my favorite time of the year.  I love horror … like all good people!

I want to start things off by taking a look at a film from 1945.  The Picture of Dorian Gray is based on the famous novel by Oscar Wilde (a novel that some people think was inspired by the Jack the Ripper murders).  Dorian Gray (played by Hurd Hatfield) is a young and handsome aristocrat who lives in 19th century London.  When we first meet him, Dorian is intelligent, kind and virtuous.  He’s also more than a little boring.  He is the bland face of the establishment, a man destined to be celebrated for his position in society and largely forgotten after his death.

Dorian is posing for a painting that’s being done by his friend, an artist named Basil Hallward (Lowell Gilmore).  One day, Lord Henry Wotton (George Sanders) stops by the studio while Basil is painting Dorian.  Lord Henry is everything that Dorian Gray is not.  He’s a worldly and cynical man and he is very proud to live a life devoted to complete and total hedonistic pleasure.  He immediately sets out to corrupt Dorian and it turns out to be a lot easier than he was expecting.  Henry convinces Dorian that he can have everything that he wants as long as he’s young and handsome.  Dorian announces that he wishes the painting could age instead of him…

Now, here’s where the film takes a huge departure from Wilde’s novel.  In the novel, the painting ages while Dorian stay young.  No specific reason is given.  Instead, it’s just something that happens.  In the film, it turns out that Basil owns an ancient Egyptian statue and that the statue has mystical powers.  Dorian makes his wish in front of the statue and that’s why the painting starts to age.  Personally, I think the bit with the Egyptian statue is unnecessary and a little bit silly.  To me, the story is a lot more effective if the painting starts to age without an explanation.  The filmmakers obviously disagreed.

But no matter!  In the end, the Egyptian statue isn’t that important.  What is important that, freed from getting old or physically suffering for his actions, Dorian transforms into a different person.  Soon, he’s even more hedonistic than Lord Henry.  When he breaks the heart of a tragic singer named Sybil Vane (Angela Lansbury, in a poignant and Oscar-nominated performance), Dorian sees that the painting is now cruelly smirking while his own face remains innocent and untouched.  When Dorian eventually commits a murder to keep his secret from getting out, the blood appears on the painting’s hands while his own remain clean.

And the years pass.  Dorian finds himself both being hunted by Sybil’s brother (Richard Fraser) and falling in love with the niece (Donna Reed) of a man that he earlier murdered.  Dorian never ages but his portrait becomes more and more twisted.  What’s particularly interesting is that we see little of Dorian’s evil actions.  Instead, we watch and listen as other characters whisper about the horrific things that he’s done.  Physically, Dorian remains an innocent and young aristocrat.  But all we have to do is look at the picture and we can see what a monster Dorian has become…

The Picture of Dorian Gray is an absolutely gorgeous film, one that is full of elaborate sets that are often cast in shadow.  (It’s interesting to note that the more corrupt Dorian becomes, the darker and more shadowy his estate becomes.)  The film is in black-and-white, with the exception of three scenes in which the portrait is revealed in all of its Technicolor glory.  If that sounds like a gimmick … well, it is.  But it’s an amazingly effective gimmick.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a classic exercise in psychological horror.  See it the next chance you get!

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