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.

Feature: Liebster Award

MacGuffin Movies has received its first form of recognition: A Liebster Award from R.C. at  The Shades of Black and White.

The requirements for receiving such an honor include sharing information about myself and selecting others to also be honored. This all happens in sets of 11. So to start, 11 things you might not know about me:

  1. I love cats and am borderline crazy cat lady.
  2. I’m getting married next year on Oct. 12 to that Ryan guy I sometimes mention in my posts.
  3. I tend to hold grudges over silly things, especially of celebrities. It took me a long time to get over creepy pictures The New Yorker ran of Katharine Hepburn upon her death and finally accept the woman as a great actress.
  4. I ideally would like to name my children after favorite actors. Marlene is at the top of my list.
  5. Eric Blore is my favorite character actor, followed by Edward Everett Horton.
  6. I love kissing scenes and am always disappointed in old movies when they end without sealing the romance with a smooch.
  7. I’ve gotten really into birding recently, and love that movie The Big Year.
  8. I’m an avid shopper of ModCloth.com where I can actually find fashions that remind me of those I see in classic movies.
  9. I watched Bridesmaids constantly this spring when it was playing on HBO. The same is starting to be true of What’s Your Number.
  10. As possibly indicated in the previous note, I have a slight guilty pleasure streak with crappy and predictable romantic comedies.
  11. I have what might be deemed a collection of hats. I can’t help but buy cloche-style and other bygone-style hats from places such as Goorin Bros. I only wear them in the winter.

The next task is to answer 11 questions posed by my nominator, R.C.

  1. Who is your least favorite actor? Clint Eastwood. Although I admit I have avoided his movies like the plague, I think his performances have always appeared to be rather the same, and annoying.
  2. Despite the fact that you don’t like the actor, do you have a film that you really like with him starring in it? I can’t name any performances, but I do love Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which he directed.
  3. A popular film that you’ll never be able to understand why it’s so popular? Any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and West Side Story.
  4. A film that you really, really want to see, but haven’t yet had the chance to? Up until recently the answer would have been Wings, but its release on Blu-Ray has meant DVD access for me. Now that distinction goes unexcitedly to the Audrey Hepburn movies that are out of print, such as Love Among Thieves and Bloodline, which are necessary to complete my viewing of all her movies!
  5. What film of your favorite actress is your least favorite? Audrey Hepburn’s The Unforgiven. Her prim French-English accent does not work for her half-white-half-American Indian character.
  6. A favorite actor or actress who didn’t make as many films as you wished that they had? Grace Kelly, no question.
  7. Do you have a film that, if not anything else, you love the dialogue? Probably Charade. It’s full of wit and romance. Any of the Thin Man movies are also dialogue gems.
  8. Favorite film composer? Bernard Hermann. He did a lot of Hitchcock flicks, and who doesn’t love those scores.
  9. Do you have a film that you love, but didn’t like the way it ended, and so you wish you could remake the ending to suit what you believe should have happened? I know Splendor in the Grass had to end with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty unable to get back together, but did it HAVE to be that way!?
  10. In your opinion, who do you think is the most underrated actor and/or actress? Joseph Gordon Levitt. I think people are starting to catch onto his talent now that he is doing more mainstream flicks. I’ve been watching his indie stuff for years, and he’s picky enough with his role selections that you know you’re in for a good movie if he’s in it.
  11. A film that no matter what, you’ll never watch it? Any of the follow ups to Paranormal Activity. The first one destroyed me for any horror movie involving demon-like creatures.

Now for my 11 picks to receive the award:

  1. Tales of the Easily Distracted
  2. Classicfilmboy’s Movie Paradise
  3. The Lady Eve’s Reel Life
  4. Via Margutta 51
  5. The Great Katharine Hepburn
  6. Backlots
  7. My Love of Old Hollywood
  8. Carole & Co.
  9. Classic Film and TV Cafe
  10. Silver Screenings
  11. vinnieh

And the questions they must answer:

  1. Who is your favorite character actor and your favorite movie of his/hers?
  2. If there is one locale from a movie you could visit or live in permanently, where would it be?
  3. What is your least favorite movie genre and what is your favorite movie that falls into that category?
  4. Is there any movie star whose offscreen life you would want to lead?
  5. Which actor/actress’ life outside of movies do you find the most tragic?
  6. What is your favorite biopic/docudrama?
  7. What fashion seen in classic movies do you wish would resurface?
  8. Have you ever met a celebrity, and if not, who would be a priority person to bump into?
  9. What movie do you love but would like to recast.
  10. Are there any actors whose films you avoid? If so, why?
  11. If you could live your life inside a movie, what genre would it be?

Thanks, R.C. and best of luck to my honorees!

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?

Mogambo

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Mogambo (1953)

     Twenty-one years after Clark Gable made the exotically set romantic triangle drama Red Dust, he made it again. Gable’s rubber plantation owner in Indochina moves to Africa to a job in exotic animal sales for Mogambo. Replace Jean Harlow‘s slutty prostitute with Ava Gardner‘s wealth-chasing show girl, and Mary Astor‘s devoted surveyor’s wife with Grace Kelly‘s devoted anthropologist’s wife, and tada! You’ve got Mogambo.

     The remake of the fantastic 1932 drama is not to be disparaged, however. Gable engages in two entirely separate movies that strongly stand the test of time on their own merits. The women, too, bring their own flavor to each character as Kelly’s unfaithful wife is more sympathetic than Astor’s, and Gardner is more emotional in her feelings for the protagonist where Harlow was more vengeful.

     In Mogambo, Gable is Victor Marswell who runs a big game trapping company in Kenya and sells the animals to zoos. Gardner’s Eloise Kelly shows up on the plant because she was expecting to meet a maharaja, who has in fact stood her up. She hangs on until the next scheduled boat several days later and in the process finds time to get under the skin of and please Vic.

     Kelly sets to leave just as Donald (Donald Sinden) and Linda Nordley (Kelly) arrive to study the behaviors of gorillas. Kelly’s boat gets stuck in the mud down river, however, and she returns to the ranch. Linda is an entirely different sort of woman from Kelly –a refined sort– and she fascinates Vic. When Donald has a bad reaction to a vaccine, the illness affords time for the two to get better acquainted. It also give Linda time to wander the ranch and get cornered by a black leopard, only to be saved by Vic. The two share a moment when it looks as though the man will kiss the married woman, but she flees into her room at the last instance. Kelly, nevertheless witnesses this passage and comes to her own conclusions about the state of her own relationship with Vic.

     Everyone on the ranch opts to safari with the Nordleys as they enter dangerous territory to view the gorillas. Kelly makes a pill of herself with snide comments and innuendos, the true meaning of which only Donald seems to be oblivious. Vic and Linda’s relationship advances with a kiss and possibly more, and the man prepares to tell Donald he intends to steal his wife away.

     Mogambo is full of danger, probably more so than Red Dust. Wild animals –and hostile natives– both pose a threat to the trio of unexperienced travellers and provide amazing footage for the film viewer. It must have been thrilling to work on this movie and be friendly with giraffes, baby elephants, and baby rinos.

     It has been a while since I have watched Red Dust, but for me Mogambo did more to create sympathy for the wife character than the previous version. In the former I found myself rooting for Jean Harlow, whereas here I sided with Grace Kelly, which might be a reflection on my personal feelings for the actresses (I like Gardner less, and to that point must note she had an abortion during filming without telling then-husband Sinatra because she did not want it to get in the way of her career). I felt Mogambo spent more time developing the relationship between Vic and Linda than the earlier version and that Ava Gardner’s character resigned herself to their affair, something Harlow’s characters never seemed to do. Both women give fantastic performances and both were nominated for Oscars. Gable is his usual strong, brooding self, but he glues the plot together.

Source: My Father’s Daughter: A Memoir by Tina Sinatra

Feature: 6 Degrees of Separation

Olivia de Havilland

Judy Garland

Certain members of the Classic Movie Blog Association are engaging in a game of classic actor Six Degrees of Separation by which we try to connect two seemingly unconnected stars through the other actors they have worked with (think of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon). The group has moved through several rounds and has landed on Judy Garland and Olivia de Haviland.

The Ambassador's Daughter (1956)

Dawn at Noir and Chick Flicks progressed the connection to Adolphe Menjou and chosen me to keep it going. Although I’m quite familiar with Judy Garland, I am less versed on both Menjou and de Haviland. Menjou engaged in a long list of films that go back into the silent era, but I have mostly seen him in supporting roles, and his work therefore registers less easily. De Haviland has never been an overt favorite of mine, so I have not pursued many of her films. Thanks to the handy dandy Internet, however, I discovered that Menjou and de Haviland appeared in a movie together: The Ambassador’s Daughter from 1956.

Being that I have completed the connection between Garland and de Haviland (It went Garland and Deana Durbin in Every Sunday to Durbin and Menjou in One Hundred Men and a Girl to The Ambassador’s Daughter.), it is now my duty to choose the next pair of stars other bloggers will now have to connect. To make it challenging I’ll select Grace Kelly who only made 14 films and challenge Becky at Classic Becky’s Brain Food to connect the princess to Charlie Chaplin. Good Luck!

Feature: Guess that Poster

cropped-rear-window1.jpg

MacGuffin Movies has been alive for more than six months now, so I thought it was time to change up the site’s header above. I am sure you regular readers recognized the original movie poster cross-section as Gone with the Wind, but I’ve transitioned to a slightly more challenging poster excerpt. Can you guess what it is?

I have reviewed this movie, although that post does not feature this particular version of the movie poster. The image that is the basis for the header is actually a foreign advertisement for the flick, but I think the two individuals depicted should be hint enough to deduce the movie.

If you care to wager a guess, please do so by clicking “comments” below or by filling in the box.

THE ANSWER: Well, I guess I made the inquiry too easy as all three who wagered a guess got it correct. The poster featured in the new banner above is a section of a Rear Window poster. That’s Jimmy Stewart, holding binoculars you cannot see, and Grace Kelly in the background.

Rear Window

Rear Window

CAPA Summer Movie Series (Columbus, Ohio)

For those of you who live in central Ohio as I do, you will be glad to hear CAPA has posted its lineup for this year’s Summer Movie Series. I have seen a lot of these but am always willing to rewatch something if it’s on the big screen.

I’ll definitely be seeing Hitchcock’s Frenzy as I’ve been meaning to give that another chance. Other must sees if you haven’t already include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Grapes of Wrath, High Noon, Bringing Up Baby, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Big Sleep.

Sadly, no Audrey Hepburn movie this year as there usually is. For those who have not experienced a favorite or classic movie on the big screen in a theater full of people who love the movie as much as you, it really is a memorable experience. I recommend it.

What to Watch: Friday

The royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton holds no great appeal for me unlike many in America, however, the grand event, set for Friday, brings with it a cinematic celebration of sorts on Turner Classic Movies. That evening, the channel will air a number of royal-themed films, all of which happen to be good flicks.

Royal Wedding (1951)

First up at 8 p.m. ET is Royal Wedding starring Fred Astaire, Jane Powell and Peter Lawford. I have never been in love with Astaire but usually watch his films anyway. This one, however, is among my favorites. Astaire and Powell are a brother and sister musical duo on tour in London for Elizabeth II’s wedding. Powell meets Lawford and the two have an adorable romance. Meanwhile, Astaire tries to court a dancer. The musical contains the famous “Dancing on the Ceiling” number whereby a trick of simultaneously rotating camera and set make it seem as though Astaire is actually walking on the walls and ceiling (the same effect was used in certain scenes of 2010’s Inception). This is also the first solo directing credit for Stanley Donen.

Roman Holiday (1953)

 
Next on the schedule is Roman Holiday airing at 10 p.m. Given that Audrey Hepburn is my favorite actress, I naturally love this flick directed by William Wyler. It was her first major role and she won her only Best Actress Oscar. Hepburn plays Princess Ann who runs away while visiting Rome and is rescued by American reporter Joe Bradley, played by Gregory Peck, after sleeping pills have her adopting a street-side bench as a bed. The young princess explores the city anonymously, although Bradley has figured out who she is. No one could have played the free-spirited Ann like Audrey.

The Glass Slipper (1955)

A new take on a classic princess story, Cinderella, is the subject of the 12:15 a.m. airing of The Glass Slipper. Leslie Caron plays the pauper who is lucky enough to attend the prince’s ball. This flick is not as great as the previous two, but it is a nice live-action musical with one of the greatest musical stars of France: Caron. It also offers a realistic take on the fairy godmother character, who is a crazy old lady that fell from a prominent position in society after “reading too many books”.

The Swan (1956)

Finally, if you can make it to 2 a.m. you will be entreated to a romantic Grace Kelly flick that predicts her eventual royalty. The Swan casts Kelly as a princess whose family has fallen out of the good graces of a greater sect of the family that includes the queen. To save the family, Kelly’s Alexandra must win over a distant cousin (Alec Guinness) and marry him. The trouble is, she is in love with her tutor (Louis Jourdan). It is one of the less memorable of Kelly’s roles but a great one anyway.

 

Hitchcock Blogathon #8: Rear Window

Ring a Ding Ding

Rear Window (1954)

     Hitchcock loved to focus on voyeurism in his films and never was it more apparent than in Rear Window. The camera never leaves the apartment of L.B. Jefferies, played by Jimmy Stewart, who watches the goings on of the courtyard and apartments within view of his living room, where he is confined because of a broken leg. The director cutely developes the characters of people we never see close up: the newlyweds, the struggling songwriter, the dancer “Miss Torso”, the woman with a dog, “Miss Lonelyhearts” and most importantly the salesman and his invalid wife.

     When Jeffries hears screams one night, he begins to suspect the salesman has killed his wife. Jeffries’ girlfriend, Lisa, who is a model played naturally by Grace Kelly, joins in on the people-watching as the two try to determine what happened to the wife. The most thrilling moments are when Lisa sneaks into the suspect’s apartment to dig up clues while Jeffries (and the audience) is left impotent across the yard watching as danger approaches the young beauty.

     Thelma Ritter comes in as an insurance company nurse required to check up on the laid up Jeffries. She was transformed from the original story in Dime Detective Magazine from a black servant into the wise cracking character as a device to unite the audience. Writer John Michael Hayes said comedy could bring audience members together. Once they “had laughed together they could gasp together, they could clutch the seats together, and they could scream together,” he said. The girlfriend did not exist at all in the short story and so fully changed the extent to which the story could go.

     This rare first-person perspective is less about fancy camera angles and more about the fantastic set, dialogue and story, which in itself is thrilling enough. The set was an accomplishment. Thirty-one apartments, 12 of which were fully furnished, made up the courtyard. The actors in the faraway shots were equipped with mini microphones through which they received instructions from Hitchcock about their movements. The camera often moved in one take across the various apartment windows, requiring all actors be on their toes for their cues.

The MacGuffin: What’s buried in the garden.

Where’s Hitch? About 25 minutes in he winds a clock in the songwriters apartment.

Source: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan

I will be posting reviews of Hitchcock movies every hour ending at 8 p.m. today, but other members of the Classic Movie Blog Association, which is hosting the blogathon, have plenty to offer also. Links to their articles is up at the CMBA site. Check them out!

14 Hours

Ring a Ding Ding

14 Hours (1951)

     At last I have triumphed over one of my movie checklists. 14 Hours concludes my viewing of all Grace Kelly Movies but unfortunately had very little of the princess. Being her first film, I knew she did not have a lead role, but she still leaves a memorable impact in this striking picture. From her appearance, one would not think this was Kelly’s first appearance on the big screen (she had done some TV dramas prior). She’s done up in her typical fashion: fur coat, black veil headpiece, glistening blonde hair, which belied her 21 years of age. Oddly, she would next make High Noon in which she looks the least like the Grace Kelly moviegoers came to know.

     Kelly was offered a stock contract with Fox after completing the flick but declined it to return to the theater, where she had worked on Broadway and in her home state of Pennsylvania. She was trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and also did some modeling work in the early days to supplement her income. Her real break-out role was the aforementioned High Noon, in which she was cast as a Quaker bride because of her inexperience and natural reserved personality. With only 11 motion pictures to her credit, Kelly was choosy about which films she would take on, and frankly, Green Fire might be the only stinker among the bunch. It was actually in her least glamorous role, the wife of an alcoholic in The Country Girl, that landed her a Best Actress Oscar. She was also nominated for a supporting role in her third film, Mogambo.

     I will contend that High Society was a splendid end to Kelly’s Hollywood career, although I know Philadelphia Story purist will disagree. She married Prince Ranier and became princess of Monaco in 1956, just five years after making 14 Hours. Director Alfred Hitchcock, with whom she made three features, tried to lure her back to the movies after starting her new life, but scenes such as a marital rape in Marnie did not sit well with the people of Monaco. Unfortunately, Hitchcock failed to adequately replace the golden-haired star with Tippi Hendren, Eva Marie Saint and Kim Novak. So Kelly remained in Monaco, making a visit to her Hollywood haunts with her children in the ’60s. Princess Grace died prematurely in 1982 after suffering a slight stroke at the wheel of her car while traveling with her daughter down a road allegedly featured in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. The daughter was fine, but Kelly died from her injuries.

     14 Hours itself is a pretty great film. It is entirely centered around a man (Richard Basehart) perched on the ledge of a hotel 15 or so stories up. The film commences with him on the ledge and follows until he is finally inside after what I assume to be 14 hours. One traffic cop (Paul Douglas) manages to gain the prepared jumper’s confidence and talks to him throughout the whole ordeal trying to determine what has upset him. Kelly shows up as a high society woman visiting her lawyer’s office in order to finalize a divorce. The office provides her a view of the building. The streets are also blocked and crowded with what looks to be half the population of New York. Besides the action in the hotel, a couple small plots unfold among the spectators. Kelly’s character finds compassion after watching the man for a couple hours and decides not to follow through on the divorce, to her husband’s delight. Two young people standing next to each other in the crowd fall in love, lose each other and are reunited. Agnes Moorehead comes in as the man’s mother and gives a great performance as a patronizing matron. Barbara Bel Geddes also shows up as an ex-girlfriend, who might be the source of his anguish.

     The movie uses only diegetic sound until the story’s resolution, but it is not a quiet film. Always in the background is the sound from the street below as the thousands of spectators mutter concern and hedge their bets. This serves to really focus attention on the very human aspects of the film. The picture seems less like a movie and more like an actual crisis unfolding. Without music to tell the viewer when to be on-edge, the audience is left constantly nervous. 14 Hours might have inspired in part the contemporary Phone Booth, which takes place entirely in and around a phone booth, but also has some sinister stuff going on that this film lacks.

     Douglas really gives a splendid performance as the middle-aged, lower-ranked cop who seems to be the only one who truly cares about the man’s troubles. 14 Hours did not do well at the box office despite critical acclaim, so it is understandable why such a good picture has faded into cinematic history. This is not one that I have ever seen scheduled on TCM, so I had to Netflix it. Good thing it is available on DVD.

Sources: Grace Kelly: A Life in Pictures by Jenny Curtis; Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan

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