Hot in Argentina: Rita Hayworth in GILDA (Columbia 1946)


cracked rear viewer

If COVER GIRL made Rita Hayworth a star, then GILDA propelled her into the stratosphere. This 1946 film noir cast Rita at her smoking hot best as the femme fatale to end ’em all. Surrounded by a Grade A cast and sumptuous sets, GILDA gives us the dark side of CASABLANCA , moved to Buenos Aires and featuring star-crossed lovers who are at lot less noble than Rick and Ilsa ever were.

“Every man I knew went to bed with Gilda… and woke up with me”, Hayworth is famously quoted as saying. Who could blame them, as Rita is absolutely stunning in this film. From our first glimpse of her, popping into view with that iconic hair flip…

…to her sultry faux striptease singing “Put the Blame on Mame”, Rita burns up the screen with her smoldering sexuality. Lines like “If I’d been a ranch,  they’d’ve named me the Bar Nothing” leave no doubt…

View original post 565 more words

Strange Bedfellows: THE GLASS KEY (Paramount 1942)


cracked rear viewer

glass1

Anyone who watches television, reads a newspaper, or surfs the Internet today knows the axiom “Politics is a dirty business” is dead on point. The mudslinging and brickbats are being tossed at record rates, and it just keeps escalating. Here at Cracked Rear Viewer, we’re just plain tired of all the nonsense. Ah, for the old days, when politics was much more genteel and civil, right? Wrong! Politics has always been a dirty business, proving another old adage, “There’s nothing new under the sun”. Case in point: the 1942 film THE GLASS KEY.

glass2

The story’s based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett, and was filmed once before in 1935 with George Raft, Edward Arnold, and Claire Dodd. In this version, Paramount chose to star their red-hot team of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, fresh off their hit THIS GUN FOR HIRE. Brian Donlevy takes the Arnold role as Paul Madvig, a…

View original post 909 more words

The Fabulous Forties #27: Sundown (dir by Henry Hathaway)


40s

You may remember how, back in April, I started on a mission to review all 50 of the films included in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set.  I actually got off to a pretty good start and, by the end of the month, I was about halfway through.  Yay me!

However, then the month of May began.  And May turned out to be a very, very busy month.  As I sit here writing this, it’s been 27 days since I last posted a Fabulous Forties review.  That review was …. well, I can’t even remember what it was.  After I post this, I’ll click on this link to find out.

However, things have calmed down a bit and now I can go ahead and finish up the Fabulous Forties box set.  And that’s a good thing because, between me and you, I am more than ready to move on to the Nifty Fifties box set!

Anyway, without further ado, let’s consider the 27th film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties, 1941’s Sundown!

Poster_of_the_movie_Sundown

Sundown was released by United Artists in 1941.  It’s a propaganda film, telling the story of British soldiers in North Africa and their attempts to both maintain the peace among the natives and to keep the Axis powers from arming the local rebels.  Bruce Cabot is the experienced soldier who knows how things work in Africa.  George Sanders is the new commander who is a bit more by-the-book.  At first, you think that the film is going to be dominated by the rivalry between Sanders and Cabot but actually it’s not much of a rivalry.  For the most part, they get along just fine and I guess that’s to be expected considering that the film was made at a time when the emphasis was on everyone remaining unified against the Nazis.

Speaking of the Axis powers, they’re always in hovering in the shadows of the film but it’s rare that we actually see any enemy soldiers.  Perhaps this is because the film was made at a time when the United States was technically neutral.  Joseph Calleia plays a prisoner of war who has rejected fascism and instead just wants to sing opera and cook for Sanders and Cabot.  Calleia’s character is specifically identified as being an Italian.  If not for that (and the fact that the film was made in 1941), it would be just as easy to assume that Sanders and Cabot were fighting the French or maybe the Russians.

There’s an enemy agent in one of the tribes and it’s up to Sanders and Cabot to figure out who.  Helping them out is the local big game hunter, played by Harry Carey.  And, on top of that, there’s also a mysterious native woman played by Gene Tierney.  Gene Tierney is totally miscast but that adds to this film’s odd charm.

And, for modern viewers, it definitely is an odd charm.  I watched Sundown twice and I’m still not sure exactly what happened in the film.  Sundown is one of those films that doesn’t so much have a plot as it just has a lot of scenes that kind of tell a story, assuming that you have the patience and concentration to figure out how they all link together.  Between Cabot’s roguish smile, Sanders’s stiff upper lip performance, Calleia’s enjoyable overacting, and Gene Tierney’s otherworldly beauty, Sundown is unexpectedly dream-like.  The film even features a sudden sermon in which a clergyman (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) exhorts everyone to fight.  The clergyman is never seen again.

Sundown was a strange movie, one that I often found myself struggling to follow.  It was also apparently a box office bomb, though it did receive 3 Oscar nominations.  One of those nominations was for Charles Lang’s cinematography and it was definitely deserved.  Even the version I saw (which suffered from a typically poor Mill Creek transfer) was still impressive to look at.

The Fabulous Forties #9: Jungle Book (dir by Zoltan Korda)


Jungle_Book_FilmPoster

The 9th film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties DVD box set was 1942’s Jungle Book.  Based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling (which was later made into an animated Disney film and of which a remake is scheduled to be released next week), Jungle Book was directed by Zoltan Korda and produced by Zoltan’s brother, Alexander.  Today, the Hungarian-born Korda Brothers are best remembered as being pioneers of the British film industry.  However, during World War II, they relocated their film making to the United States.  Jungle Book was one of the most critically and commercially successful of their American films.

Jungle Book opens in colonial India.  An elderly Indian storyteller is visited by a British woman (Faith Brook) who wants to hear a story from his youth.  The rest of the film plays out in flashback, a structure that allows Jungle Book to walk a thin line between reality and fantasy.  Is the storyteller telling the exact truth or is he exaggerating his tale?  That’s left up to the viewer to decide.  Personally, I chose to believe that he’s telling the exact truth.  It’s more magical that way.

The storyteller starts by telling the woman about the Indian jungle and the animals that live within it.  Some of the animals are kind and some of them are cruel but they all serve a purpose.  The most feared of the animals is a tiger named Shere Kahn.  When a baby disappears from a nearby village, the villagers assume that he, like his father, was killed by Shere Kahn.  What they do not know is that the baby actually wandered into the jungle and was raised by wolves.

The baby grows up to be Mowgli (Sabu), a feral young man who can talk to the animals.  When Mowgli is captured by the villagers, he is unknowing adopted by his real mother, Mesusa (Rosemary DeCamp).  At first, the wild Mowgli struggles to adapt to human ways and one of the villagers, Buldeo (Joseph Calleia), insists that Mowgli has “the evil eye.”

As Mowgli becomes a little more civilized (though he’s never exactly tamed), he starts to fall in love with a Mahala (Patricia O’Rourke).  Unfortunately, Mahala is the daughter of Buldeo and Buldeo is none to happy when Mowgli and Mahala start to spend all of their time exploring the jungle together.  However, that’s before Mowgli and Mahala come across a lost palace that is full of treasure.  When the greedy Buldeo finds out about the treasure, he demands that Mowgli tell him where the palace is.  Driven mad by Mowgli’s refusal to tell him, Buldeo goes to more and more extreme measures to find the treasure…

Jungle Book is a big epic film, one that proudly announces that it was shot in Technicolor.  The sets are big, the live animal footage (as opposed to the stock footage usually used in films like this) is impressive, and it’s just a fun movie to watch.  (Even though I was watching a typically cheap Mill Creek transfer, I was still impressed with the films visuals.)  Indian actor Sabu makes for a charismatic Sabu but the film’s best performance comes from Joseph Calleia, who brings unexpected depth to his villainous character.

(Movie lovers, like you and me, probably best know Joseph Calleia as Orson Welles’s tragic partner in Touch of Evil.)

You can watch the original Jungle Book below!

(Jungle Book is in the public domain so, if the video above gets taken down — as often seems to happen with embedded YouTube videos — I would suggest just going to YouTube and doing a search for Jungle Book 1942.  You’ll find hundreds of other uploads.  I picked the one above because it did not appear to have any commercials.)

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: For Whom The Bell Tolls (dir by Sam Wood)


For_whom_movieposter

After I watched The Pride of the Yankees, it was time to watch For Whom The Bell Tolls on TCM.  Based on the classic novel by Ernest Hemingway, the film version of For Whom The Bell Tolls was released in 1943 and, when I first started watching it, I was a little bit worried.

For, you see, For Whom The Bell Tolls is an extremely long film.  It’s a film that takes its time.  It’s also a very talky film and I have to admit that one reason I was worried was because the movie started at 11:30 and it was scheduled to last until 2:15 a.m.  Oh my God, I wondered, as the film started to slowly play out before me, am I going to end up dozing off before this is finished?

Well, I need not have worried.  Yes, For Whom The Bell Tolls does take a while to get started but it all pays off in the end.  By the time the film concludes, you realize why it had to take its time and why we had to spend so much time listening to these characters talk about what they did in the past, why they’re doing what they’re doing in the present, and what they’re hoping for in the future.

Not that all of the characters have a future.  At the start of the film, Robert Jordan (Gary Cooper) gets his palm read by Pilar (Katina Paxinou).  Pilar refuses to tell him what she saw in his future but it’s not difficult to guess.  Robert is on a suicide mission and everyone knows it.  Even when he falls in love with the beautiful Maria (Ingrid Bergman), he does so with the knowledge that he’ll be dead in just a few days.

Robert is an idealistic American who, as the film opens, is in Spain.  It’s the 1930s and Spain is embroiled in a civil war between fascists and guerrillas … well, if you’ve read Hemingway’s novel, you know that the guerrillas are communists.  But this is a Hollywood film so, for the most part, we don’t hear much about ideology.  But, then again, audiences in 1943 undoubtedly remembered the Spanish Civil War and understood that the guerrillas were fighting the forces of Gen. Francisco Franco.  And, for audiences today, all that matters it that the guerrillas are trying to overthrow a government.  Seriously, who doesn’t want to see the government overthrown?

(Full disclosure:  My grandmother on my mother’s side came to this country from Spain and frequently insisted that Franco had not been that bad.  At the time, not knowing one way or the other, I usually just smiled and nodded.)

Robert is fighting on the side of the guerrillas.  In four days, a major offensive is going to be launched against the fascists and, in order to keep fascist forces from pursuing the guerrillas, Robert has been assigned to blow up a mountain bridge.  Robert knows that he won’t survive this mission and, as he waits to die, he camps out with a small guerrilla band that is led by Pablo (Akim Tamiroff).  At first, Pablo refuses to take part in a mission that he considers to be futile but he is overruled by his strong-willed wife, Pilar (Katina Paxinou).

Among Pablo’s group is the beautiful Maria (Ingrid Bergman), a young woman whose family was killed by the fascist forces.  Robert and Maria fall in love, even as Robert prepares for his eventual death.

And then, finally, after two hours of screen time, Robert and the guerrillas head for that bridge and suddenly, we understand why the film took its time to reach this point.  By the time Robert reaches the bridge, we’ve come to know and care about both him and the other guerrillas.  And, as a result, we care about whether or not they survive.  When the fascists launch their own counter attack, every death counts.  We feel the loss of every casualty and we understand what they’re dying for.  After two hours of talk, For Whom The Bell Tolls ends with a genuinely exciting and even moving action sequence.  It all leads up to a final shot that will blow you away in more ways than one.

From Whom The Bell Tolls is a film that will reward those with the patience to stick with it and I’m glad that I turned out to be one of those people.  It was nominated for Best Picture of 1943 but lost to another film about an anti-fascist who fought in Spain, Casablanca.