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Mr. Lucky

Gasser

Mr. Lucky (1943)

    Cary Grant generally played the same sort of man in all his movies: a confident gentleman who let the women chase after him. Although it took a while for the studios to figure out the part Grant would continuously play –Paramount had him playing whatever role was handy at the start of his career– it is that persona that we all have come to know him as.

     In Mr. Lucky, Grant is cast in a seedier part but brings to it all the charm we would expect. He plays Joe Bascopolous, sort of. This gambler takes the name of the deceased Greek Bascopolous when he is issued a draft notice just ahead of a big gambling opportunity for he and his boat. Bascopolous’ draft card indicates he is unfit for service, so Joe and Zepp (Paul Stewart) flip for the freedom from war and the boat with it.

     Joe next runs into Laraine Day‘s Dorothy, who is trying to sell tickets to a charity ball to support war relief. He declines to buy the tickets but visits the charity’s headquarters where he offers to run a gambling set up at the ball, which could easily raise the $100,000 the all-woman non-profit group aims to achieve. Both Dorothy and Captain Steadman (Gladys Cooper) resist the offer, but looking to win over the group, Joe hangs around. He ends up using his brute to get a truckful of supplies released to the war relief group ahead of payment and through his gambling tricks secures a load of blankets for free. The man also takes up knitting and soon all the men around him are doing the same.

     Dorothy and the captain soon agree to the gambling at their ball, all of the proceeds from which Joe plans to abscond with. During his devilish deeds, however, he falls in love with Dorothy. This predictably leads him to back off the scam, but Zepp, who never went to war, has other intentions.

     I struggled with whether to give Mr. Lucky a higher rating because I found it both amusing and unique because of Grant’s atypical part. On the whole, it really is nothing too special, but for the Grant fan it is probably worth exploring. The most interesting attempt Grant makes to look like a good-for-nothing is curling his upper lip under to create a kind of tough-man sneer-smile. He does it naturally, but it makes him sort of funny looking, so one finds it hard to take him seriously.

     Day is amusing and beautiful and makes a good match for Grant. The latter teaches the woman a variety of rhyming slang from Australia that is used throughout the picture. For instance, “briny marlin” means “my darling”, “tit for tat”  is “hat”, “twist and twirl” is “girl”, and “trouble and strife” is “wife”. The slang becomes a sort of secret language for the two as Dorothy uses it to save Joe from capture by the police.

     Mr. Lucky is certainly marked by plenty of light moments, but it starts out on a very dark note and as the seedy gamblers come and go in the scene, the tone of the picture fluctuates.

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Final Tribute & Brush Roper

Gasser

     My latest foray into the 1955-56 television series Screen Directors Playhouse involved a rather pointless drama and decent, if not annoying, comedy. In The Final Tribute Larraine Day as small-town nurse Joyce Carter narrates the story of the new doctor in town. This Dr. Kent (Dan O’Herlihy) is young, cold and unsympathetic with his patients, yet they flock to his professional ways. In doing so they somewhat abandon the town mainstay, Dr. Walton (Thomas Mitchell) whom Joyce describes as being as taken for granted as the post office.

     Joyce gets a job as a nurse alongside Dr. Kent, and we find minor romantic tension between them. At one point getting flustered, Joyce attempts to speed away in her car but the vehicle lets her down and she is stuck accepting a ride home from Dr. Kent, along with dinner. Dr. Walton arranges with Dr. Kent to take the house calls he receives at night because the young man refuses to help people in an unnecessary panic.

     When an accident involving a dump truck and a school bus sends loads of injured kids to the doctor’s office, everyone pitches in –including Joyce who had recently quit in a huff– and Dr. Kent refuses to rest. The town later names him their person of the year, but, in revealing Dr. Walton has been making all those house calls for free, he passes the award to the old man. This again warms Joyce’s heart.

     For me Andrew Stone‘s The Final Tribute felt rather pointless. If it is meant to be a romantic plot, it fails to give the necessary exigence to Joyce’s occasional hatred for the man and gives us little to believe she should be attracted to him. If it is meant to show us that a cold-hearted man like Dr. Kent can do a kind thing like giving his award away, it fails because he seems to be rejecting the town’s affection as he begins his speech about why his colleague better deserves the tribute. The plot contains neither a clear villain or hero. The bus accident would have made a better climax than the doctor’s rejection of the award.

     A western comedy, Director Stuart Heisler‘s The Brush Roper offered some relative humor and one amazing feat of chance. Western standby Walter Brennan plays Grandpa Atkins, a former cow roper who is relegated to the position of family farmer in his old age. When a couple of young cowboys (Chuck Connors and Edgar Buchanan) come along and say a prize bull has escaped, Atkins’ grandson Cowhide (Lee Aaker) volunteers the old man to beat the young ones to the reward money.

     Riding his old cow-roping horse Liver Pill, grandpa initially finds and ropes the bull but loses him when his saddle flies of the horse and he and it slide on the ground until the rope breaks. Next, using a stronger rope, Grandpa and Liver Pill follow the roped bull off a cliff. Although the secured bull lands on the ground, Grandpa and the horse are stuck in the branches of a tree. Grandma and the young cowboys arrive to cut the man down and hear his gloating.

     Brennan was the slightly annoying yet funny aspect of The Brush Roper. His predicaments and complaining are worthy of enjoyment as are the trick his horse seems to play on him. Cowhide tells the story in addressing the camera, which felt a bit unnecessary and showed off the boy’s acting weaknesses. Overall it was a well-constructed short story and had its humorous moments but is nothing to write home about.

Hitchcock Blogathon #10: Foreign Correspondent

Ring a Ding Ding

Foreign Correspondent (1940)

      All Hitchcock movies have an element of humor to them, even the straight horror ones such as Psycho, but none of his mysteries is funnier than Foreign Correspondent. I developed a certain fondeness for Joel McCrea after seeing this one. I would not say the man is a great actor but he is funny, if not dry. Paired with George Sanders, the movie is full of laughs.

     My favorite aspect is Sanders’ character’s name. It’s ffolliott, spelled with two Fs both lowercase because one his relatives was beheaded by Henry VIII and his wife lowercased the letters in the man’s memory. Only Hitchcock would design a joke like that.

     Set just before England goes to war with Germany, McCrea’s Johnny is assigned as a foreign correspondent in England and the start of the film pokes fun at the many English-American differences in manner and dress. Johnny’s first assignment involves him interviewing Dutch diplomat Van Meer, whom he happens to run into on his way the event where the foreigner is the guest of honor. He shares a cab with the man but after they arrive at the event it is announced Van Meer was detained and unable to join the guests. Johnny also meets love interest Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) at the event. Johnny goes to Amsterdam looking for Van Meer, and finds him although the diplomat does not remember the reporter. On the spot Van Meer is shot and Johnny chases after the murderer. He happens to jump into a car occupied by Carol and ffolliott who humor him with the chase that concludes at a windmill.

     The windmill set is quite impressive, full of winding staircases, windows and rotating cogs. Therein Johnny must sneak about past some Germans and into an upstairs room where he finds Van Meer, alive. It turns out the assassinated one was “a substitute” to make it look as though the diplomat is dead when in fact he is being held captive until he reveals the memorized content of a secret clause of a peace treaty. Upon returning to London, Johnny discovers that one of the men at the windmill, a German in a turtleneck, is pals with Carol’s father, the head of a peace organization, he tells the father of the woman he plans to marry about his suspicions. I’ll stop there to save the surprises.

     Foreign Correspondent tends to go unnoticed among Hitchcock’s work but I really consider it among my favorites. It is full of laughs and a story that unravels in typical Hitchcock fashion.

The MacGuffin: Treaty Clause 27.

Where’s Hitch? 12 minutes into the film when McCrea leaves his hotel, Hitchcock is outside in a hat and coat and reading a newspaper.

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!

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