2013 CAPA Summer Movie Series (Columbus, OH)

It’s my favorite time of year in central Ohio, or nearly. CAPA, our local arts organizing group, has announced its lineup for the 2013 Summer Movie Series held in Downtown Columbus’ historic Ohio Theatre. For those of you unfamiliar with this seasonal gem, the June 28 through Aug. 25 series features a plethora of classic movies shown in the theater that was originally built as a movie house and is now used for concerts, ballets, etc.

Among this year’s offerings are two Hitchcock movies, which you know delights me. The wonderfully amusing The Trouble with Harry, To Catch a Thief and the Jimmy Stewart rendition of The Man Who Knew Too Much will certainly be on my schedule.

Other prize showings include An American in Paris, Grand Hotel, Citizen Kane, Bonnie and Clyde, The Thin Man, 1974’s The Great Gatsby, and Touch of Evil.

I have been notoriously bad about achieving all the CAPA Summer Movie Attendance goals I have set in years past, and I won’t pretend this year will be any better. I do hope to at least catch the Hitchcock flicks, but I’ll admit The Man Who Knew Too Much won’t be at the top of my list.

Penny Serenade

Gasser

Penny Serenade (1941)

If you have seen the fabulously funny My Favorite Wife, then like me you might be duped into thinking Irene Dunne and Cary Grant‘s presence in Penny Serenade also promises a plethora of laughs. You’d be wrong though. Penny Serenade is a compelling story and is well acted, especially on Dunne’s part, but if you sit down expecting a comedy, you will be greeted with a deluge of depression.

The story is told in flashback as a sad Dunne as Julie plays records that take her back to when the songs were first heard. The primary tune is one that caught the ear of Grant’s Roger as Julie simultaneously caught his eye. The man enters the record store where the young woman works and finds a way to get her alone in a sound booth for the rest of the day. There the romance begins.

We move through their relationship that progresses into a hasty New Year’s marriage ahead of newspaperman Roger’s transfer to China for a several-year stint. Julie eventually joins him and finds he has purchased a nice home for them … on credit. She is already pregnant but that will not last when an earthquake shakes their home apart, leaving the woman infertile.

Roger’s next move is to buy a small-town newspaper, and he moves the wife into the home above the printing presses. Family friends press the couple about adopting a child and eventually both spouses relent. They take in baby Trina, but the paper goes under during the adoption trial period and, without income, the orphanage must repossess the child. In his most dramatic show of the flick, Roger emotionally persuades a judge to allow them to keep the girl.

Trina grows up to age 6 (Eva Lee Kuney) when she participates but does not appear in the Xmas pageant. She plays an echo and moves bits of scenery about. She is promised the role of an angel for the following year but will fail to fulfill that destiny.

Penny Serenade in many ways is hard to watch. Grant’s Roger is obnoxiously foolhardy (at least for a frugal viewer such as myself), and we sympathize with Julie who will express her concerns but not put her foot down. The story follows the growing together and apart and together and apart of this couple. Dunne does a great job of wearing her emotions on the surface and has always been an equally talented dramatic actress as she is a comedic one. Grant, on the other hand, really is at his best in comedies. He does, however, finally prove to us that he actually cares about the kid in his plea to the judge, which is truly a scene worth witnessing for the Cary Grant fans out there.

I cannot deny that Penny Serenade is a good movie, but it does turn me off in some ways. It is hard to convince oneself to watch such a gloomy movie, no matter how well acted –and I’m not trying to suggest this is “Romeo and Juliet” depressing– but the couple’s moments of happiness are quickly chased with distress. I additionally am such a fan of My Favorite Wife that I cannot help but compare the two and put Penny Serenade in last place.

Feature: Movie Posters from France

I have done posts in the past comparing U.S. movie posters for American films to those advertisements that were produced internationally for the same flicks. Italy has proven to be a good source of interesting posters (see this post for examples), but France is no slacker when it comes to out doing the Americans on the artsy side. The following are some comparisons between the American posters and French. Which versions do you prefer? If you have your own favorite French posters, please share.

FRANCE VS. AMERICA

The American poster is not bad for Touch of Evil, but the French one is even more dramatic. While the U.S. made the poster suggestive via the embrace between Janet Leigh and Charlton Heston, the French more subtly suggested the bedroom action by framing the characters with a bed post. The foreign version might actually convey to audiences that Heston is responsible for the horrible bed-based action Leigh will suffer in two different settings, whereas the American version is a bit more romantic.

You can see the similarities between where the French and the Americans were going with the poster for Operation Petticoat. Both are provocative with the woman’s legs, but I must say the French had a bit more fun with the depiction of the men’s reaction. I’m laughing more at the French one than the American.

Another sexy movie with two different posters approaches is The Lady from Shanghai. All versions of the American poster featured that same pose by Rita Hayworth, but the French version certainly has a more interesting and artistic quality. This might be a matter of taste. What do you say?

Now for some comedy/war fun. Although the American version assures us there will be laughs to be had, the French poster draws a very serious picture. It is not bereft, however, of two men dancing together, so a close enough look sheds some light into the elements of Stalag 17. However misleading, I do appreciate the artistry of the French approach.

This difference might be my favorite. The Lost Weekend approaches both emphasize the seriousness of the film, but where the American take crowds in unnecessary elements, the French took a simplistic view. For those who have yet to see the picture, the bat surely will present some confusion, and it references only a minor, yet memorable, scene in the movie tracing an alcoholic’s helplessness under the influence of drink.

What it your analysis?

Operation Petticoat

Ring a Ding Ding

Operation Petticoat (1977)

I shied away from Operation Petticoat for about eight years now because why on earth would I want to watch a Cary Grant movie that costars another man. If he’s not being romantic, I have little motivation to watch Grant. Thankfully, I did finally convince myself to sit down with the war comedy that costars Tony Curtis and is directed by the fabulous Blake Edwards, a favorite of mine.

Although the majority of the plot focuses on a clash between experienced submarine Lt. Cmdr. Matt Sherman (Grant) and the new recruit whose military experience has been in the realm of “entertainment”, the story does eventually introduce a host of women, one of which will bring out Grant’s romantic qualities, however reluctantly.

The vessel, the “Sea Tiger”, is ready to head to battle from its station in the Philipines when the base is bombed by enemy aircraft. The submarine then must undergo serious repairs even though it is nearly beyond remedy. Showing up in time to help is Nick Holden (Curtis), who arrives in a glorious white uniform, attracting the attention of all around. He does not know how to behave as part of an actual naval command, but the skills he does have prove immensely helpful.

With little backing from the higher ups, the crew of the Sea Tiger struggle to get the materials they need to make repairs. Holden leads a number of theft operations that involve absconding with materials as absurd as a portion of a metal wall. At last the men are ready to head to sea, and Holden has all the amenities a man could want in his officer’s cabin, including his custom-made uniforms.

A leak in the archaic submarine forces a stop at an island for repairs. Holden scouts the land and returns with half a dozen women officers who had been stranded there. Sherman is reluctant to let them on board, but eventually concedes. He immediately interacts with the clumsy, busty Dolores (Joan O’Brien) in helping to dislodge her shoe from the sub’s deck. Their accidental encounters will continue.

Holden starts in on the women romantically, raising Sherman’s ire and eventually getting himself confined to his quarters. Holden’s motivation for joining the Navy was merely to secure a uniform and with that to lure a wealthy wife. He has such a fiancée on land, but the woman he has targeted on board is ignorant of this.

During another repair stop, the crew endeavors to repaint the Sea Tiger. Before putting on the grey topcoat, the men use the only base paint available –red and white. The result is a pink ship that is unable to be topcoated before enemy planes force an exit from the island. Tokyo Rose speaks over the air about the silly, American pink sub, but other U.S. forces think this might be a trick. When the pink submarine comes into view, they attack it. With the help of the women, and their undergarments, the crew is able to save themselves.

Operation Petticoat is not nearly as zany as most Blake Edwards flicks. But considering it is a war picture, perhaps it is the wildest one you will see featuring men at war. The story plays with clashes in personalities with the obstinate Holden constantly proving ingenious ways to veer from standard protocol. Naturally there is also the sexual tension that comes from keeping both genders in such close quarters.

Grant plays the straight-laced Lieutenant Commander part well and Curtis is smashing as the rebel. The women’s performances are nothing special and really are there only to drive the plot, as this movie belongs to the male stars. Operation Petticoat is a lot of fun, probably the most you will see in a submarine.

 

 

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House

Wowza!

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

Despite being such a great romantic lead, Cary Grant spent a portion of his career playing very convincing family men. Grant is probably the husband and father we all might prefer to have, as he often played these parts subtly fighting for his position as man of the house while still convincing the women around them that he revered them. In Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Grant takes charge of his family’s living circumstances only to be tripped up at every step along the way.

As Jim Blandings, Grant and his family live in a good-size apartment in New York City where he works in the advertising business. Despite living his whole life in the cramped metropolis, the man is starting to get fed up with sharing a tight bathroom with is wife Muriel, played by Myrna Loy, and the lack of closet space in part because of his two daughters. Seeing an ad promoting a country life in Connecticut, Jim makes up his mind to buy a home there instead of let his wife remodel the apartment for $7,000 on his $15,000 annual salary.

The city slickers get duped into buying a run-down “fixer upper” type home for $10,000 that has so many problems it ultimately must be demolished. The couple draw up plans for a new home with an excessive number of closets and bathrooms at a price tag of $11,000. Mishaps galore ensue that continually add to the cost of construction. The bills are driving Jim mad and the couple almost pulls out of the plan but a sketch of the proposed home is too perfect to walk away.

In the midst of this work is family friend and attorney Bill Cole, played by Melvyn Douglas. The man continually advises the family against their initial efforts but supports them regardless. In one scene when the skeleton of the home is in place, Jim and Muriel hear a pounding sound just after the workers have left the site. They ascend to the second floor where they find Bill had become locked in a closet and was there pounding a bucket against the floor. Mr. Blandings insists this special closet made just for him works perfectly. He goes in, closes the door, and comes out. Wanting to illustrate to Muriel the simplicity of an exit, he invites her in, and all three become trapped inside. Jim breaks the window in the small room to secure their freedom just as the door creaks open on its own.

As the hardships of homeownership surmount the family, Jim is struggling at work because of a new account for Wham brand ham. He spends a torturous night at the office trying to find a new slogan. Meanwhile, Bill has been forced to stay the night in the new home because bridge flooding has trapped him in Connecticut. The storm has also trapped the Blandings kids at a neighbor’s house. Muriel assures us from the get go we do not have to worry about an affair, but a jealous Jim is not so convinced in the morning. The house might cost Jim his job, send the family into bankruptcy and destroy a marriage, but the Blandings will endure.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House reminds me of The Money Pit that also dealt with a couple’s endeavors to repair an old house. The latter is the sort of movie that can be too frustrating for some people to watch. This classic, however, is more tolerable because it brings more heart and spots of happiness to the screen and drives its characters to a lower degree of madness.

The best part of the movie is the witty dialogue and wonderful acting by Grant, who brings back shades of the screwball era in which he prospered. Loy stands in as the ever-devoted wife, who is not beyond making a financial mistake here or there. Douglas is charming and has his fair share of comedic lines as he watches the mistakes of his friends bite them in the ass.

Mr. Blandings is certainly among my favorite Grant movies. It helps that Loy is there to back him up, but the man really stands out as the star of this comedy.

  • Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is set for 8 p.m. ET Sept. 4 on TCM.

Feature: Hitchcock Movie Posters from Italy

I put up a post a while ago comparing U.S. movie posters for American movies to the versions that were released for the same pictures in Italy. As I continue to roam the web, and particularly the newly discovered MoviePostersDB.com, I continue to find that foreign, particularly Italian, posters are far more artistic/intriguing/seductive than the American ones. This time I have focused specifically on Hitchcock movies, films that in and of themselves embody artistry, intrigue and seduction. These movies, because they were so well publicized, have multiple posters per country to their name, but here I have grabbed what appear to be the most common versions.

ITALY VS. AMERICA

I think there is no arguing that the American version of what would advertise Hitchcock’s first American film looks pretty bland compared the foreign one. I also concede, however, that the former looks a bit like a romance novel cover. And who is the gorgeous woman in the backdrop? Certainly not Judith Anderson’s Mrs. Danvers. It could be the artist’s manifestation of the deceased Rebecca, but she is never shown in the picture, which is sort of the point. Nevertheless, I would rather see the Rebecca advertised by the image on the left than the one on the right.

 Notorious is possibly my favorite Hitchcock movie and one that is certainly darker than the American poster would suggest. Although the key depicted is of significance, the romance between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman is not as light-hearted as the advertisement would suggest. The Italian poster is a bit vague in its meaning and with the title perhaps suggests merely a story of an illicit affair, but it is by far the edgier version and one that better suits the tone of the actual movie.

Although I have always enjoyed the Dial M for Murder American poster, the Italian version is a bit more striking, and bloody. Because the Italian title translates as “Perfect Crime”, choosing to focus on the weapon rather than the phone that justifies the American title makes sense. It also notes other intricacies of the film, such as the scissors and the time. I can see the favorite of these two being a toss up for some people. Your thoughts?

I am not in love with either of these posters, but the foreign version is much more eye-catching. It highlights the one setting in which the entire film takes place while highlighting its star, who is perhaps not as mean as the poster suggests. The U.S. ad is just bland. We get it: it’s called Rope and there’s a rope.

In this instance, the Italian poster borrows from the American one but manages to give us a much different feel for the movie. The use of unnatural color and the red tone suggestive of blood makes The Birds a more frightening looking picture. The birds themselves also look more threatening in the overseas ad, which allows it to trump the domestic version.

I’m not sure I can entirely pass judgement and declare the Italian Vertigo poster better than the U.S. version. Although the foreign advertisement has many seductive and creepy elements, the simplicity of the American poster and its emphasis on the vertigo effect invented by Hitchcock in making that movie is difficult to rival. Again, the Italian movie title is not the same as the American, so “The Woman Who Lived Twice” likely inspired a different poster.

What do you think?

Indiscreet

Ring a Ding Ding

Indiscreet (1958)

     I recently commented to a friend after seeing This Means War in the theater that it is interesting/good to see movies that portray single men and women who are beyond their 20s finding love and marriage, in some cases for the first time. In fact, with stars like Reece Witherspoon (36) and Jennifer Aniston (43) who perhaps have gotten better looking with age, many romantic movies today appeal to a demographic beyond its college years. But watching one of my favorite movies this week, Indiscreet, I realized that motion pictures have never shied away from mature romance.

      As in contemporary conveyances of adult romance, the lead characters have typically eschewed love and marriage in favor of a career or have “been there, done that” and are now divorced. Thus is the case with Ingrid Bergman (43) and Cary Grant (54) in Indiscreet, sort of. Berman is famous British stage actress Anna while Grant is a financial expert Philip whom NATO seeks for employment.

     The two meet through mutual friends –Alfred (Cecil Parker) and Margaret Munson (Phyllis Calvert), the latter being Anna’s sister– and Anna is struck with love at first sight and reacts as a grown-up school girl. Philip is interested as well, but when Anna later asks him to the ballet, he reveals he is married and separated “and cannot possibly get a divorce”. The two nevertheless maintain an affair aided by the man’s acceptance of the NATO job in France. He commutes every week to London and has taken a flat below Anna’s so he may sneak up to her place without alerting the building staff and damaging the actress’ reputation.

     When Philip is assigned to work in New York for five months, Anna impulsively asks the man to marry her, but immediately rescinds the plea. She soon finds out that Philip’s marital status is not as she expected and plans a ruse to teach him a lesson.

     Extramarital affairs were not terribly kosher in 1950s cinema and the Hayes Office never cared for any display of premarital relations, but Director Stanley Donen is, well, discreet in how he conveys the relationship. The couple are never depicted doing anything more than kissing, made more suggestive with the camera tracking backward from Anna’s front door. The characters, however, always seem to wake up in their own beds. Although, in another subliminal move, Donen split-screens the protagonists speaking on the phone to one another while laying in bed. The shot is done in such a way as to make it look like they are laying side by side.

     The story was adapted from the play “Kind Sir” that had proven a Broadway flop. The central premise was one that had potential, however, and so the rights were acquired cheaply and delivered to Donen. The director had been working with Grant on Kiss Them For Me, and was looking for another film on which to collaborate. Grant was amenable to the adaptation but insisted Bergman be his leading lady. She did not need much convincing. Donen had some concerns because this comedy was not something Bergman had engaged in much during her career, yet she pulls it off swimmingly. Grant has remarked it is one of his favorite pictures he made.

     Indiscreet is a fun and touching movie. Although we have fun watching the romance blossom between the two characters, we also feel for Anna as she becomes frustrated with her other-woman status. Both Grant and Bergman bring something special to the roles and the seasoned actors are so comfortable together. The two had also played romantic parts in Notorious 12 years earlier, but their maturity was evident in the later flick.

Source: Cary Grant: A Celebration by Richard Schickel

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