Category Archives: Historical Movies

The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1986) Movie Review

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: George C. Scott, Rebecca De Mornay, Ian McShane, Val Kilmer, Neil Dickson
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Release Date: 7 December 1986
Language: English
Length: 100 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: Online Streaming
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

Two women are brutally murdered in their home in the mid-1800s.  The doors were locked from the inside, the windows were nailed shut and the police are completely baffled as to how the murderer gained entry and why he left a fortune in gold behind.  Recently retired Detective Dupin (George C. Scott) refuses to get involved in the case until his daughter’s fiancé, Adolphe (Neil Dickson), is arrested for the crime.  Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story of the same title.

Review:

This made-for-TV movie stays relatively true to the short story written by Edgar Allan Poe in 1841.  The screenwriters fleshed out the characters a bit and added some drama to enhance the story, but the details of the crime and the George C Scott as Dupinconcept of an observant, introspective detective remain the same.  “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” may seem a bit dated and unbelievable in regards to what we expect out of mysteries today, but the tale would have been exotic and horrifying when it was first printed.  Widely regarded as the first true detective story ever printed, Poe created the iconic personality traits of famous detectives like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.  Dupin notices the smallest details in the crime scene, is completely obsessed with his cases, rubs most other people (particularly his fellow detectives) the wrong way and can be difficult to live with.  If you take the time to watch this movie or read the short story, it is pretty amazing to think how this one tale changed the way that we read and watch mysteries today!

Though this story is supposed to take place in Paris, France, I had a tough time believing that it took place anywhere other than England.  The only thing that gave the movie a French feel was the pencil-thin mustaches many of the men were sporting!  None of the leads appeared to make any attempt to have a French accent except for Ian McShane, leaving the bulk of the French Daughter and Her New Suitoratmosphere to come from the supporting characters, sets and costumes.  Though relatively well crafted, the movie was clearly on a lower budget than most theatrical releases and it shows.  Fortunately, the acting was solid and a cut above most made-for-TV movies.  George C. Scott plays Dupin as a crusty curmudgeon with a heart of gold.  You will find yourself rooting for him from your first meeting and believe that he can solve the mystery when no one else can.  Rebecca De Mornay was a bit disappointing in her role as Dupin’s daughter, Claire.  She is a bit stiff in her acting and a weird mixture of naive young lady and demanding shrew.  Ian McShane plays villain effortlessly and it was wonderful to see a skillful counterpoint to George C. Scott who easily dominated all the other actors.  This is one of Val Kilmer’s first roles and it shows.  He plays Phillipe Huron, Dupin’s young protégé, and gamely follows George C. Scott around, asking pertinent questions to move the plot along.

I love a good mystery so I watch a lot of movies and read a lot of books that fall into that category.  This made The Murders in the Rue Morgue easy to follow and relatively easy to solve – once Dupin pointed out a few critical pieces of evidence, of course!  The movie is solidly made and the leads perform well in their roles, but there is just something missing.  I could not find any spark or true feeling in the movie and cannot recommend it as anything above average.  If you enjoy mystery movies, you will surely find something to enjoy in this one, but there are many better movies out there to choose from.

Content:

This movie contains descriptions of several brutal murders including decapitation, strangulation and more.  Bodies are shown briefly and includes blood, open eyes and rooms that are trashed.  Most of the details are shared with the viewer verbally rather than visually.  There are some mentions of prostitution and scenes that show smoking and people drinking alcohol.  The movie was made-for-TV and so most scenes are fairly tame and appropriate for younger audiences.  Recommended for ages 8 and up.

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Filed under Historical Movies, Mystery Movies

The War Bride (2001) Movie Review

The War Bride (2001)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

The War Bride

Starring: Anna Friel, Brenda Fricker, Aden Young, Julie Cox, Loren Dean
Director: Lyndon Chubbuck
Release Date: 23 March 2001
Language: English
Length: 107 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: Online Streaming
My Rating: image_thumb83_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

Lily (Anna Friel) falls in love with Canadian soldier Charlie (Aden Young) while he is in London.  She has only known him a couple of days, but marries him in a whirlwind romance dressed in a tablecloth turned wedding dress.  Nine months later, Lily has Lindy (Gabrielle McLaren & Schyler McLaren), their daughter.  Another surprise follows shortly thereafter when Lily and her best friend, Sophie (Julie Cox), both married to Canadians, learn that they are going to be evacuated to Canada where they will be safe.  Lily is looking forward to living with Charlie’s mother, Betty (Brenda Fricker), and sister, Sylvia (Molly Parker), but they are less than thrilled to meet Charlie’s new bride.  Stuck in the middle of nowhere, Lily tries to win over the hearts of her new family and the locals, but it is an uphill battle all the way!

Review:

The War Bride was surprisingly good.  I thought that the film would take place in the UK, so I was a bit taken aback to learn that the bulk of the movie takes place in Canada.  I had absolutely no exposure to what life was like in Canada during Lily and Charlie First MeetWorld War II so everything was new to me.  Charlie’s family were hardworking, simple folk.  They are completely isolated from the rest of the world and war updates and reports completely stop when Lily moves there.  The characters do not listen to radio reports or get regular updates in letters from the front line so they have no idea how the war is progressing.  When Charlie abruptly returns home towards the end of the movie, the war still wasn’t over, Charlie wasn’t injured, and yet he was magically back.  This was frustrating at first, but then I realized that it could be a very effective tool to place viewers in the same situation that the characters would be in.  Information was not readily available or even reliable at the time and it was a completely different world then it is now where we are over saturated with information.

Lily (Anna Friel) and Charlie (Aden Young) are only together for a total of fourteen days before she moves to rural Canada to live with his widowed mother, Betty (Brenda Fricker), and his partially crippled sister, Sylvia (Molly Parker).  The farm is made up of a few ramshackle buildings and is in the middle of nowhere.  Lily is devastated and her visions of cowboys on the plains is Lily and Baby Lindycompletely ruined.  She is a city girl and doesn’t know how to survive on a farm.  Unwelcome and unwanted, Lily could have abandoned her new family and gone to live with her friend, Sophie (Julie Cox), or used Charlie’s military pay to move somewhere else, but she stuck it out.  She learned about gathering eggs from chickens, Betty taught her how to drive, and she tried to help around the house.  Unfortunately, a lot of Lily’s efforts just seem to make her situation worse.  When she makes some nice clothing and lingerie for the local ladies, they are scandalized and think her frivolous.  She makes a special meal of English foods and a few guests refuse to even try what she has made.  But Lily doesn’t let any of this get her down.  She still puts on bright red lipstick, wears her vibrant dresses and keeps trying to make friends.  I would have given up on Charlie’s family, but Lily didn’t.  She is like a ray of sunshine in the bleak little Canadian town and I wish I had a friend like her!

The War Bride features the spare beauty of rural Alberta, Canada.  Scenes are thoughtfully presented to highlight Lily’s character the way a red rose stands out amongst daisies.  A great deal of attention was paid to clothing and makeup to Lily Wondering Alonereally make this movie stand out.  Seamed stockings, garter belts, silk teddies, combinations, high-heeled shoes – there are so many fun outfits!  Lily doesn’t have an extensive wardrobe, but she always looked great, even when she is wearing muted shades or baggy coveralls.  She never feels fully dressed without her bright red lipstick and I absolutely loved this about her!  The music is also carefully chosen and selected to immerse you in the time period.  There is some wonderful music, as well as some great dance sequences.  There is some amazing dancing in London and some more intimate, romantic dancing in Canada.  Emotions, stories, and more are told through the songs that the filmmakers paired with their heartwarming film.

Anna Friel is the movie.  There are other characters in the movie, but she is the heart and soul of the film.  She makes a mellow, period movie into something special.  The film is pretty slow-paced and there really isn’t a lot that happens, Lily Kisses Charlie Goodbyebut you don’t notice because Anna Friel is lighting up the screen.  Lily’s character changes the life of everyone she comes into contact with.  She manages to ease Betty’s (Brenda Fricker) grief over the death of her husband.  She brings peace to Charlie (Aden Young) when he feels like a failure at the end of the war.  She teaches Sylvia (Molly Parker) that she can do more than she allows herself to do and that a relationship with Joe (Loren Dean) is possible.  Life is different and hard for Lily, but she adapts and she makes do.  I am sure that there were a lot of remarkable women during this time period so it was wonderful to see the fictional portrayal of one of them.

Content:

This movie features full-frontal female nudity in brief glimpses.  Women are also shown wearing intimate apparel.  There is some heavy petting that leads to sex, but no actual sex scenes are shown.  There is some British swearing, but nothing too explicit.  There are scenes of drinking and smoking.  PTSD, cheating spouses, and death are presented and discussed.  Recommended for ages 12 and up.

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Filed under Drama Movies, Historical Movies, Romance Movies

A Month By the Lake (1995) Movie Review

A Month By the Lake (1995)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Edward Fox, Uma Thurman, Carlo Cartier, Alessandro Gassman
Director: John Irvin
Release Date: 22 September 1995
Language: English
Length: 92 minutes
Movie Rating: PG
View Format: Online Streaming
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

Miss Bentley (Vanessa Redgrave) enjoys her yearly visits to Italy at an elegant seaside villa near Lake Como.  For sixteen years, she and her father enjoyed their annual holidays, but now that her father has passed away, she is alone.  Miss Bentley is the only British guest until the dashing Major Wilshaw (Edward Fox) arrives.  The Major suggests that they meet for cocktails, only to be accidentally stood up when Miss Bentley becomes engrossed in aiding the Bonizzonis (Carlo Cartier & Natalia Bizzi) new nanny, Miss Beaumont (Uma Thurman).  The romance between the two seems to have fizzled before it even began until the Major becomes enamored with Miss Beaumont and decides to stay on the lake a bit longer.  The more time that Miss Bentley spends with the Major, the more she finds herself falling in love with him, only to find that the Major has his sights set on the tall, blonde American nanny.

Review:

A Month By the Lake is a slow-paced, old-fashioned romance between a quartet of single people.  The setting is gorgeous.  Lake Como is beautiful and showed off Lake Como Italyat every opportunity.  I wish that I could have a monthly vacation in Italy every year!  The guests seem to do nothing but laze about on the lakeshore, putter around the local village, and decide who to dine with.  Entertainments consist of tennis, boating, and amateur magic shows.  I am sure that this would be absolute torture for most modern-day vacationers, but I would love to lounge about with a book and have someone else cook for me!  Granted, you could end up with someone completely ghastly at your dinner table, but that would be a small price to pay to enjoy this beautiful part of Italy.

Miss Bentley is played by the gracious Vanessa Redgrave.  She sounds wonderful and acts with dignity and a bit of whimsy.  I was never quite sure what she was going to do – ride a scooter with a handsome local boy, outswim the men, MSDMOBY EC004or beat the pants off of the Major in tennis.  I couldn’t see what a free-spirited woman like Miss Bentley would see in a rather stuck up Major (Edward Fox), other than his ears, of course, but there is a lid for every pot as they say.  The Major is a bit of a fool, actually, easily swayed by a pretty face, but he seems a solid sort of companion and a girl could certainly do worse.  At least he is kind and tries to get along with others, which is Miss Beaumontmore than I can say for most!  The Major makes a spectacle of himself chasing after Miss Beaumont (Uma Thurman), an American heiress who dropped out of finishing school to play at being a nanny.  Tall, blonde, beautiful and let’s not forget young, Miss Beaumont is enough to turn any man’s head.  She was not a kind person, but she was not unlikable, strangely enough.  In a twisted sort of way, Miss Beaumont actually brought Miss Bentley and the Major together so she is ultimately responsible for their happiness.  To add a spanner the works, there is a wealthy Italian man (Alessandro Gassman) who is romantically interested in the much older Miss Bentley.

The romance is chaste and so different from those we see today.  Set right before World War II, A Month By the Lake will appeal to those who appreciate MSDMOBY EC007films in historical settings.  Even if you have no interest in the developing romance, you can learn a great deal about life in 1937 for the moderately wealthy.  My only complaint with the film is that the love story is kind of strange and I didn’t really see the characters coming together.  There also is not a whole lot to the storyline, which made it difficult for the viewer to stay engrossed.  Still, if you are looking for something to watch while pottering around the house, this movie will fit the bill.  Beautifully filmed with talented actors, this slow-paced story will be sure to appeal.

Content:

This movie contains some scenes of drinking and smoking.  There is some mild language, but it in British or Italian so it is not really noticeable.  Recommended for ages 8 and up.

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Under the Biltmore Clock (1984) Movie Review

Under the Biltmore Clock

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Series: American Playhouse Season 4, Episode 14
Starring: Sean Young, Lenny von Dohlen, Barnard Hughes, Mark Hulsey, Megan Mullally
Director: Neal Miller
Release Date: 1984
Language: English
Length: 79 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

“Deciding she needs a husband, 21-year-old Myra Harper (Sean Young) sets her sights on the reserved yet rich Knowleton Whitney (Lenny von Dohlen). All goes according to plan, and the two fall in love under the Biltmore Hotel clock. But meeting his wacky parents turns out to be much harder for Myra than simply landing her man. This lighthearted romance is adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “Myra Meets His Family.”” — Netflix.com

Review:

I both loved and hated this movie.  To begin with, Under the Biltmore Clock was nothing like I expected it to be.  I thought I was going to be Myra's First Partywatching a romantic comedy set in the 1920s, but Under the Biltmore Clock is nothing like your traditional romantic comedy.  This movie is based on a short story by “Myra Meets His Family” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I should have taken this into consideration when I rented this movie as I know better than to expect happy endings from Fitzgerald.  Alas, I overlooked this piece of information and was anticipating a happily-ever-after despite all clues leading to the contrary.  Even though this movie does not have a happy ending, I did appreciate the wit and irony that Fitzgerald employed to make sure that both main characters – Myra (Sean Young) and Knowleton (Lenny von Dohlen) got what they deserved in the end.

This movie begins in 1915 with a fresh young beauty, Myra, showing up on the scene and stealing all the boys’ hearts away.  She goes through men quickly and the years pass almost before she knows it.  Myra is a good-time girl and it is hinted at, but never admitted, that she might no longer be waiting until marriage to have sex.  The film tries to make Myra Meets Knowleton's FamilyMyra likeable, but it is pretty clear that she is a gold digger and simply waiting for the best offer she can get while having a good time.  It doesn’t take her long for Myra to get her hooks into Knowleton Whitney, a shy young man from a wealthy family.  Myra dazzles Knowleton with her charm and, before Knowleton knows what happens, they are engaged.  Now the fun begins.  How does Knowleton go against mummy & daddy’s wishes and marry the woman he loves?  Knowleton is a complex character ably portrayed by Lenny von Dohlen.  He is madly in love with Myra when he is with her, but has doubts when they apart.  I was delighted to see that Knowleton had hidden depths and thought his scheme was actually quite clever, but, unfortunately, Knowleton didn’t quite have the guts to pull it off.

Observant viewers will be delighted to see a young Megan Mullally appear in this movie as Myra’s close friend, Lilah.  She has adopted a Myra and Knowletonposh, upper-class accent and has some scrumptious hats and outfits to show off on-screen.  The lead characters had some lovely period costumes, but the production had to cut some corners with the costumes on supporting characters.  During the dance scene, there are some rather sad, prom-dress rejects parading across the floor.  However, the sets are well done, particularly in the Whitney mansion.  I also loved the music.  It was delightful to hear period music incorporated into the movie.  I particularly enjoyed Mrya’s spirited performance at the family talent show, which showcased flapper style at its finest.

If you are looking for something a bit different, something sneakily clever and do not require a happy ending, you will enjoy Under the Biltmore Clock.  There are twists and turns throughout the movie that will definitely keep you guessing.  While this movie is solid and entertaining, there is some bit of heart that is missing, which caused me to rate it a bit lower than I probably should have.  I liked Knowleton far more than Myra, but I didn’t love either one of them and they never felt right together for me.  Do not be fooled into thinking this is a romantic comedy, but rather a comedy with a romantic subplot that doesn’t go as planned.

Content:

This movie contains scenes of drinking and smoking. There are some gay characters who are crossdressers.  There is a definite divide between the upper and lower class.  Due to the time period, there is a clear division between women’s and men’s roles.  Women are still working to get the vote and most women aspire to simply marry well.  Though some mature topics, such as premarital sex, are hinted at, there is nothing inappropriate in this movie for younger viewers.  Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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Filed under Historical Movies, Romantic Comedy Movies

The Three Musketeers (2004) Movie Review

The Three Musketeers (2004)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Wayne Allwine, Tony Anselmo, Bill Farmer, Russi Taylor, Tress MacNeille, Jim Cummings
Director: Donovan Cook
Release Date: 3 August 2004
Language: English
Length: 68 minutes
Movie Rating: G
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis:

Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy star in their first feature-length animated film together!  Mickey, Donald and Goofy are custodians dreaming of becoming great musketeers when their chance finally arrives!  Captain Pete assigns the three to guard the Queen herself!  But can these three inexperienced bodyguards keep the Queen safe from an evil villain who is trying to steal the throne for himself?  Join your favorite cartoon characters in this reimagined Alexandre Dumas classic.

Review:

This is such a fun little cartoon for children and adults to watch and enjoy!  I have seen so many different versions of Alexandre Dumas’s classic tale The Three Musketeers that I could not imagine what Disney would do to it to make it an appropriate vehicle for their three main cartoon characters.  I was surprised and delighted to witness the results.  The setting remains 17th century France, but they bent the rules a bit and included bathrooms, water pipes and more to allow for some very funny jokes (Pete looking forward to his bath for a month).  The animation is a combination of hand-drawn and CGI and I thought that it was very effective.  I still believe that Disney does hand-drawn animation better than anyone else and still hope that they will decided to do more of these high-quality, hand-drawn cartoons in the future.

The movie pays homage to older Disney presentations and has a narrator to get the story going and to explain things as they happen (mainly for younger viewers who are not familiar with this classic story).  Rob Paulsen performs the voice of The Troubador, a turtle who loves to sing.  He adds some wonderful touches as he not only narrates the story, but he also interacts with the characters in the movie to try and bring the movie the best possible outcome.  The other main departure is that this is not a retelling of The Three Musketeers, but a kind of sequel.  Young street urchins Mickey, Donald and Goofy are set upon by bullies in the streets of Paris, but saved by Aramis, Athos, Porthos and D’Artagnan.  The four musketeers sign a hat for Mickey and this is what makes the trio dream of becoming musketeers themselves.  I confess that I was relieved to see that the story uses the classic Three Musketeers take as a launchpad for the adventures here and did not try to redo it.  This left the door wide open for plenty of silly antics and funny moments.

There is a wonderful message in this movie along with the humor.  If you watch the film carefully, you will notice that the only thing holding Mickey, Goofy and Donald back is their own fears or feelings of inadequacy.  Mickey is too short, Goofy is too dim and Donald is too scared to be a real musketeer.  At least, that is what Captain Pete tells them and, after a while, they believe it.  All three are given a chance to overcome their shortfalls and to prove to themselves and everyone else that they have what it takes to be a great musketeer.  I love that Disney constantly gives us films that encourage us to reach for our dreams and to try and achieve, even when everyone around us is saying that it is impossible.

The best part of the film, in my opinion, is the music.  The entire feature pays homage to a form of music that most people are no longer familiar with: the operetta.  This music is a cross between popular music and classical or operatic music.  I grew up watching Gilbert & Sullivan operettas with my family and so I was actually familiar with some of the music in the movie.  In fact, the “opera” that Queen Minnie is going to see is actually a performance of The Pirates of Penzance, arguably Gilbert & Sullivan’s most famous operetta.  Most of the remainder of the music is performed by the Troubador and the writers use the same tunes over and over again, but with clever wordplay, dynamics and varying speeds to keep the music sounding fresh and unique.  They really did a wonderful job with the music and you will find yourself tapping your toes and singing along before you know it!

If you enjoy Disney movies and are looking for a classically-styled Disney feature, this is a great one to check out.  It is only a little over an hour long and so it is a little guilty pleasure of mine.  Whenever I need a quick pick-me-up, I can pop this in the DVD player and know that I will soon have a smile on my face.  With plenty of laughs, some terrific animation and wonderful music, this movie is sure to appeal to viewers ages 1 – 100.

Content:

This movie contains some mild, cartoonish violence.  There are some scenes of fighting, attempted murder and evil laughter.  No one gets hurt and nothing really goes wrong, but they do use swords, anvils, etc.  Recommended for ages 2 and up.

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Filed under Animated Movies, Children & Family Movies, Historical Movies, Musicals

The Baroness and the Butler (1938) Movie Review

The Baroness and the Butler (1938)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: William Powell, Annabella, Helen Westley, Henry Stephenson, Joseph Schildkraut
Director: Walter Lang
Release Date: 18 February 1938
Language: English
Length: 80 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Synopsis:

Johann Porok (William Powell) is the proud butler for the Count (Henry Stephenson) and Countess Sandor (Helen Westley) in Hungary, where the Count was Prime Minister.  The family is shocked when Johann is elected to Parliament, as a member of the opposing party.  The Count does not mind that Johann ridicules him and questions his political leanings, but it infuriates his daughter, Katrina (Annabella).  Katrina is convinced that Johann is using his position in her father’s household to pry out government secrets and that he is humiliating a wonderful man.  Can Johann hold onto a job and the people he loves or will he be forced to chose between what them and what he believes to be true?

Review:

This is a charming little movie.  Of course, it is completely predictable and has a completely unbelievable Hollywood ending, but I still enjoyed watching it.  The setting is turn-of-the-century Hungary.  The aristocracy still hold most of the power in government, but the lower classes are determined to get some rights and enough food to eat.  Men were gentlemen, Baroness and the Butler Movie Stilldressed in suits and exceptionally polite, even when they disagreed.  Conversation was witty, full of sly, subtle barbs and cheeky little one liners.  The women were ladies, garbed in gorgeous, impractical confections and deferring to the men.  There was a strict social order that must be obeyed and a wide rift between those who had and those who had not.  Servants in a wealthy household knew the social ranking of the different titles and enforced a strict hierarchy among their own positions.  The butler ruled the household and was responsible for every detail of the house and grounds.  Meetings with the entire staff were essential to a smooth, controlled household and Johann Porok’s character is no exception.

William Powell portrayed his character as the perfect butler and really excelled in this William Powellposition.  I did not find him quite as believable in his role as a an intelligent, educated man elected to head of his political party.  Johann Porok could have been an interesting, layered character, but he really is not.  I really enjoyed the first part of the film where Porok is trying to balance his role as butler, keeping the Count well groomed and taken care of, more than the last part where Porok is trying to put his past as a servant behind him and become a man in his own right.  I do not believe that a man who has been brought up to be the perfect servant and performed that task for over a decade could so easily shed his background and be ready to enter society as an equal to those whom he used to serve.  However, I did love that William Powell imbued his character with an innate nobility and managed to convey the impression that no job is too lowly to perform to the best of one’s ability.  Annabella plays his romantic counterpart as the Baroness Katrina Marissey.  I did not particularly care for her character.  She was a rather shallow, Annabellaspoiled little rich girl.  She did manage some sparks with William Powell, but I found her to be unconvincing in some critical scenes, including the one where she falls in love with Porok.  Still, she was adequate, but a bit uninspiring.  Her real-life Hollywood story was much more romantic and interesting than she was in this movie.  But her performance did not bother me as much as the fact that she was married while this romance developed.  I mean, I never once believed that these two would get together (though the screenwriters managed to write in some Hollywood miracles into the script to make it so), but I still found it very distasteful that marriages vows were treated so lightly in the movie.  Her husband, Baron Georg Marissey, is played rather predictably and rather forgettably by Joseph Schildkraut.

The reason why I gave the movie a higher than average rating was because of the performance of two old pros who starred in this movie as the Count and Countess.  Henry Henry StephensonStephenson played Count Albert Sandor and he was just so charming in this role.  An old aristocrat, he is used to things being just so and has no hesitation about demanding rather unusual things.  What I loved is that he gave the Count a great deal of wit and humor in his portrayal.  There is a scene where Porok is assisting the Count while hunting and tries to convince the Count that there is a mysterious echo that comes and goes.  The Count later remarks that he is much more successful when he hunts with Porok than without.  There are several little charming scenes between the two of them that will bring a smileHelen Westley to your face as you watch.  However, the real star of this movies is Helen Westley, who plays Countess Sandor.  She was absolutely hilarious!  The Countess is a rather featherbrained woman who has no interest in politics other than what she needs to know to show support for her husband.  Because of this, she misunderstands quite a bit of what is going on around her and has some of the most hilarious reactions and non sequiturs in the entire film!  It is worth watching this movie just to see the few scenes she sparkles so magnificently in!

All in all, this is a old black-and-white movie that will be remembered and beloved by a rather small audience.  I stumbled across it on TCM one night and found myself rather charmed by it.  Again, the storyline is completely absurd, but there are some scenes that are rather enchanting.  I wish that the movie had a different ending, as it was so fantastical that it was completely unbelievable, but it is one of those happily-ever-after endings that we don’t see too many of these days.  I believe that this movie is worth catching if you find it on TV, but this movie is not yet out on DVD and I am not sure that it ever will be.

Content:

This movie contains a few scenes of drinking and smoking.  There are a lot of political discussions and references to class inequality.  Recommended for ages 8 and up.

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Filed under Classic Movies, Comedy Movies, Historical Movies, Romance Movies, Romantic Comedy Movies

Black Death (2010) Movie Review

Black Death (2010)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice van Houten, David Warner, John Lynch
Director: Christopher Smith
Release Date: 11 June 2010
Language: English
Length: 97 minutes
Movie Rating: R
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis:

Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) is a novice at the monastery who is torn between his dedication to God or his love for Averill (Kimberley Nixon).  He believes he has received an answer to his prayers when the bishop’s envoy, Ulrich (Sean Bean) arrives at the monastery looking for a guide to the marshes near Osmund’s home village.  Osmund volunteers to lead them, but finds himself questing the wisdom of his decision when he discovers the truth about the envoy’s mission.  There is a village in the middle of the swamp who has not suffered from the plague that has swept across England, killing people in every town, village and hamlet.  Rumors have reached the bishop’s ears that there is a powerful necromancer who lives in the village.  Ulrich’s charge is to capture the necromancer and bring him or her back to the bishop to be tried and executed.

Review:

This is a dark, gore-filled movie about the power of faith or belief.  The setting is medieval England when the plague or black death was sweeping across the land.  The victims are so large in number that there are not enough people left to bury them or to keep the streets free of their bodies.  You can almost smell the stench in the air as the camera pans through the muddy, filthy streets of the small village where Oswald’s monastery is located.  The buildings are squatty, poorly constructed and seem to be scant protection from the weather.  Cloth quality is poor and comes in muted earth-tones.  Everyone is dirty, stinky, hungry and terrified.  Rats roam the streets, buildings and bodies at will, unknowingly spreading the disease to more victims.  Everyone believes that this sickness is a punishment from God, but how do they atone for this great sin?  How could God allow them to suffer so?  It is easy to see how any illness could wipe out 1,000s of people when you watch a movie like this one.  They made no effort to pretty-up the time period or to feed into the dreams and imaginations of those who believe it would have been wonderful to live back in the past during this time of gallant knights, beautiful princesses and chivalry.  This is life from an average citizen’s point of view.  Ulrich (Sean Bean), as the bishop’s envoy wears clothing that features better quality cloth, a Ulrich and His Menbit of color and finely made weapons.  The rest of his party are dressed in a motley assortment of clothing, much mended, and are armed with whatever weapons they can afford.  Only Ulrich possesses horses, one to ride and one to carry his weapons and supplies.  These people live so far below the poverty line that you should note how fortunate we are to live in the day and age that we do.  I loved the time and effort spent on the setting, even though there is a great deal that is not historically accurate.  It made a wonderful, gothic kind of horror film and, even though there are no monsters or surprises in this movie, the natural setting of the Middle Ages makes this a scary movie no matter who is watching!

This is not my normal type of movie as I do not typically enjoy watching horror movies with a lot of torture or with religious overtones, but I love Sean Bean and could not resist watching Sean Bean in Black Deaththis one when I had the opportunity.  Sean Bean is a fine actor and he makes the most of his fairly limited character.  He is strangely washed out in this film and his skin almost has a greyish tone to it.  Yet the light of fervent belief burns in his eyes and he is very impassioned in his speeches.  It would have been easy for Sean Bean to play Ulrich as a devoted religious fanatic who sees nothing else, but he pushes the character a bit.  Ulrich does not shirk from his responsibilities to kill witches, force unbelievers back to the church and to keep the church in power, but he is not a cruel man.  Ulrich does not inflict pain for pain’s sake and does not enjoy torturing people.  He kills quickly and cleanly and then moves on.  He does not have a sense of mercy, but he is not a torturer who delights in the screams of his victims.  This makes Ulrich a much more likeable, approachable character, but he is not someone you would feel comfortable being around!  It was delightful to see Eddie Redmayne again in the role of Osmund.  Hopefully he will not get type casted as a medieval actor, but he does excel in these roles. Eddie Redmayne & Sean Bean on Horseback He has a look and a feel for the era that is very organic and completely believable.  He isn’t too hard on the eyes, either!  I just saw him in The Pillars of the Earth and was happy to see that he is in other films, too.  Eddie Redmayne was the heart and soul of this film as the monk, Osmund.  He is a real, flesh-and-blood character as he still loves a woman, even though he is training to be a monk.  Osmund has a soft heart, hates to see people suffering, and is struggling to commit completely to the church or to the woman he loves.  This struggle makes his character a bit more complex, and naive, then the rest of the men he accompanies.  Everyone seems to like him and to try and help him make the right decisions, but, in the end, Osmund must decide for himself.  Unfortunately, the director tacked on a segment at the end that destroyed the character and feel of the film, which revolves around Osmund’s character.  I think that the director should have cut off the last 5 minutes or so and ended when Osmund returned to the monastery, but that is just my opinion.  The rest of the characters are more peripheral, but Langivathere are a few stand outs that I would like to mention.  Langiva (Carice van Houten) is the necromancer in the village in the swamp.  She is a beautiful, witchy sort of woman who effortlessly holds her people in thrall.  You do not really discover who – and what – Langiva is until the end of the movie, but it is fun to discover the truth behind her character while you watch.  My favorite character, however, was Wolfstan (John Lynch).  He is a balance between good and evil, practicality and impulse.  He befriends Osmund, helps his fellow guards who are suffering, and is the heart of Ulrich’s team.

This movie contains a lot of information about religion, but I would not say that it is for or against religion.  There is no doubt that the church wielded a great deal of power during the Middle Ages.  They also controlled a great deal of wealth and instructed people as to what they should believe.  Considering that this time frame is also called the Dark Ages, it is really Monksno surprise that the church kept power for so long as they were the only ones who had access to information and learning.  All of the characters in this movie believe that they hold the truth.  Each character has a force of faith or belief inside them in this film.  Some have such a strong hold that they will do anything rather than recant.  Others are willing to side with whichever group appears stronger to ensure their survival.  This movie will have you questioning how strongly would you hold onto your beliefs in the face of torture, certain death or mindless suffering.  Some characters will surprise you with the depth of their beliefs, others will disappoint you with their superficiality, but it is always interesting to see what is going to happen.

This is more of a historical drama than a horror film.  There are scenes of torture and death that are gruesome and vivid, but no real paranormal elements.  Many women are believed to be witches, possessors of power over life and death.  Women who healed with herbs instead of prayer, whose animals lived when others’ died, who were more beautiful than the norm, Witch Stakes to Burnwere always suspected of being witches.  If I lived back in this time, I would pray to be average looking, average in intelligence and obedient to be able to survive.  It was a terrible time to be a woman, especially one who was strong-willed or talented.  The thoughts and ideals portrayed in the movie were almost more disturbing than the few, brief scenes of torture shown.  I say almost, but not quite, as I had to turn away a few times.  Still, this movie was not at all what I was expecting from a horror film standpoint.  The most terrifying aspect of the film is the fear of the plague itself.  People check on anyone who coughs, vomits, or has nodes on the skin.  Everyone knows the signs and try hard to hide any symptoms to stay alive a few more days.  It is a terrible, painful way to die and there was nothing anyone could do to help you if you contracted the deadly disease.

In this end, this movie was more interesting than I anticipated and much better made than most horror films.  This is a good movie to watch around Halloween or on a dark, scary night when you are looking for a B-grade horror movie to watch late at night with some friends.  It isn’t really a good movie, but it isn’t really a bad movie and I did love the two main characters here so I am going to say that it was a solid film.  Give it a chance, you might like it!

Content:

This movie contains some graphic scenes of torture including being pulled apart by horses, being crucified and disemboweled, having toes cut off, hot brands applied to your skin and many shots of what the equipment looked like.  There are scenes of death including men stabbed with swords or daggers, chopped with axes, shot with arrows and more.  There are scenes of drinking, verbal taunting, and mild language.  Recommended for ages 18 and up.

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The Man with a Cloak (1951) Movie Review

The Man With A Cloak (1951)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Joseph Cotten, Barbara Stanwyck, Louis Calhern, Leslie Caron, Joe De Santis
Director: Fletcher Markle
Release Date: 27 December 1951
Language: English
Length: 84 minutes
Movie Rating: PG
View Format: TV
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Synopsis:

In 1848, a young Frenchwoman, Madeline Minot (Leslie Caron), arrives in  New York City to see Thevener (Louis Calhern), the grandfather of her fiancé. Theverner and his grandson have been estranged due to political differences, but Madeline is desperate for money and support. She hopes to reconcile the two men, but she finds the old man in very bad spirits, living in a large house with a housekeeper (Barbara Stanwyck) and a butler (Joe De Santis) who are just waiting for him to die (and perhaps helping him along a bit) so they can inherit his fortune. Madeline threatens their carefully laid plans, but she has an ally in her dealings with these strange people in a mysterious man in a cloak (Joseph Cotton).

Review:

This movie was interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying.  I got sucked in to the film right after the introduction.  They let you know that this movie is loosely based on a famous person’s life, but they don’t tell you who the famous person is – and they don’t use the person’s name in the movie!  You have to wait until the very end to find out who they are telling the story about and then you have to pay pretty close attention – and read the note on the screen – or it will always be a mystery…  Okay, I am going to spoil it for you and tell you that it is Edgar Allan Poe.  That poor man was fraught with misfortune and really didn’t have a happy life (as seen in most of his work), so this story could very well have fit in to his life, but, of course, it is pure fiction.  This made the movie more interesting and appealing to me, however, so it was a good move on the movie makers’ part.

Anyway, this is very much a character-driven drama and there are only a few main characters that you really need to pay attention to.  Joseph Cotten plays Dupin (aka Edgar Allan Poe), a mysterious cloaked figure who is usually drunk and appears to have no visible means of support.  He lives off of credit and is quick to spin a yarn or charm shopkeepers and landladies to keep himself in wine and with a roof over his head.  He is charmingly played by Cotten and is quite likeable, even though he is always begging wine off of people throughout the movie.  He remains a man of mystery throughout the film and I never really understood his motives or why he befriended a stranger so quickly, but he rapidly becomes embroiled in the lives of a nearby French household.  But never let it be said that Dupin isn’t a gentleman!  Indeed, he is the only one to come to the aid of young Madeleine (Leslie Caron) when she comes into a bar at night, fresh off the boat from France.  Leslie Caron was perfectly cast as the young ingénue and she was just adorable.  She radiated innocence and virtue and managed to win people over to her effortlessly.  Charles Theverner (Louis Calhern) plays the rich old man who is Madeleine’s fiancé’s grandfather.  Theverner used to fight alongside Napoleon and doesn’t agree with his grandson’s involvement in the revolution and doesn’t intend to leave him any money in his will.  He is aware that his staff only stay with him to get his money, but he doesn’t realize how horrible and restricted his life has become until Madeleine comes to beg for his aid.  Unfortunately, Theverner is very much aware that it is too late to stop the events that were set in motion long ago and he isn’t sure that he wants to.  Flaherty (Jim Backus) was arguably my favorite character.  He plays the Irish bartender at Dupin’s favorite hangout and has some great conversations with the drunk poet.

The villains are headlined by Barbara Stanwyck, who stole the show as Lorna Bounty, a formerly famous actress who now appears to work as a housekeeper.  She is beautiful, cold and evil, but not in a malicious or hateful way.  She has given up many of the best years of her life to get her hands on an old man’s fortune and is determined to use anyone in her path to get what she feels is her due.  Barbara Stanwyck has a delicious chemistry with all of the male leads and you can tell that she is ruthless, but in a very feminine way.  At the end of the day, she is not the one who is willing to stick her neck out and take any direct action, but she has no trouble seducing any man to take action for her.  Martin (Joe De Santis) is the butler of Theverner’s household and it is immediately apparent that something is not quite right in there as Martin is way too rough around the edges to be a proper butler.  He is a rough, brutal man who is willing to do anything to get the payoff that Lorna has so long been promising him.  Mrs. Flynn (Margaret Wycherly) rounds out the villainous trio as the actual housekeeper (i.e. the one who does all of the work) and she doesn’t really do much, but she has some great lines and adds some character to the film.

Most of the film meanders between the characters and shows them trying to beat out the other team and win the fortune.  As I said before, Barbara Stanwyck, plays a pivotal role in the movie as she tries to set herself up to win the money regardless of which side wins.  She has terrific scenes with both Dupin and Martin and it was very interesting to see her in the role of a villain instead of a heroine or the love interest as I am accustomed to seeing her.  In the end, it was worth it to watch this movie simply to see the final few moments and what happens to everyone.  There are some wonderful surprises that I won’t ruin for you here, but it was great to see what happens to the villains in the end.

Like so many older movies, this one is not available on DVD, but I am sure that you could catch it on TV, as I did.  This is an interesting black-and-white movie, but it is not one that I would go out of my way to hunt down.  Worth watching if you are a Barbara Stanwyck fan, though.

Content:

This movie contains some scenes of mild sensuality, drinking, smoking and drunkenness.  There are multiple murders in this movie, all by poisoning, but there is nothing detailed or gross in the movie.  Political ideals, not paying one’s bills, mild violence, references to women of loose morals and verbal threats are also found in the film.  Recommended for ages 12 and up.

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Those Calloways (1965) Movie Review

Those Calloways (1965)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Those Calloways

Starring: Brian Keith, Vera Miles, Brandon De Wilde, Walter Brennan, Ed Wynn
Director: Norman Tokar
Release Date: 28 January 1965
Language: English
Length: 131 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis:

“Nature-loving New Englander Cam Calloway (Brian Keith) has always envisioned creating a home for migrating geese by a pristine lake near where he lives. But developers have their eye on this special parcel of land and won’t let anyone stand in the way of what they deem to be progress. So, when Cam and his son (Brandon De Wilde) set up a cabin on the property, things get ugly. Linda Evans, Vera Miles and Tom Skerritt co-star.” — Netflix.com

Review:

I can vaguely remember watching this movie when I was a kid.  All I really remembered from it was a boy in a red sweater and some geese flying in the sky so it was almost like seeing it for the first time.  This is billed as a “feel-good” family movie, but I am not sure that it fit into that niche for me.  There is a lot going on this film.  The primary plotline revolves around Cam Calloway’s (Brian Keith) dream of buying up the marshy lakefront property and turning it into a safe haven for the wild geese that fly through every year.  To achieve his dream – and pay the mortgage on his home – Cam and his son, Bucky Calloway (Brandon De Wilde) set out to trap animals and sell their furs.  They anticipate making a ton of money off of some prime furs, but the fur market isn’t what it used to be and they only get $450 for all of their work.  That is enough to put a down payment on the lakeshore property, but not to pay off their mortgage.  Enter major plotline #2 – a development company thinks that the Calloway’s small New England town would be perfect to develop into a kind of hunter’s paradise resort.  Their primary target would be the migratory geese.  And how do you get the geese to show up every year?  Support Cam Calloway’s hair-brained scheme of a geese reserve and then just wait for them to come flying by.  Half of the town wants the money to get rich quick and the other, older, half wants things to stay the way they are.  To keep things interesting, they throw in some romantic subplots. Cam Calloway is trying to hold on to his wife, Liddy (Vera Miles), whom many people believe married beneath herself.  She is able to hold the family together by sheer force of will, but struggles with Cam’s drinking, their perilous monetary circumstances, and Cam’s insistence on placing the geese before everything else.  Then there is Bucky, who teaches himself to box so he can fight the town toughs and woo the lovely Bridie Mellott (Linda Evans), the most beautiful girl in town.  All of these plots weave in and out, are picked up and dropped, picked up again, etc.  This makes the movie pretty lengthy and a bit meandering.  Perhaps this is a good thing as there is a bit of something for everyone, but it also means that there isn’t anything really great in the film either.

The acting is solid, if unimaginative.  It is very clear what is going on and why so the actors and actresses are able to convey what they need to, but they are not very subtle or nuanced in their performances.  I also felt like the characters were a bit inconsistent and that they tried too hard to throw everything into one person.  I understand that most people are a study in contradiction and are much more complex than they appear on the surface, but these people don’t necessarily show well on screen.  For example, Cam is a hunter, a woodsman who was raised by Native Americans in the area.  He makes his living as a trapper and has no problem killing animals in the woods, but he hates it when hunters shoot at the geese when they migrate through his town.  I think that the creators of this film had good intentions on showing that there are many individuals – even back in the day – who were interested in conservation efforts, even if they were not quite sure how to go about it.  The area that Cam was trying to save was justifiably gorgeous and there were some lovely nature shots.  There were also some mildly humorous moments with the family bear and when Bucky was trying to learn to fight, but the lightness and the ease was missing from this movie for me.  The message was quite heavy and everyone seemed so serious.  I felt like they did not utilize the classic old men like Walter Brennan and Ed Wynn nearly enough.  They had their moments, such as when Alf Simes (Walter Brennan) keeps one of the new businessmen from sitting on his seat by having a wildcat babysit it or when Ed Parker (Ed Wynn) is dragged into the rhyming game at a house-raising party, but the moments they were in the film were not long enough or fun enough to lighten the mood of the film.  I missed the humor and the sheer joy that I usually associate with old Disney films, which may be why this one seems all but forgotten.

This is a good movie and is a solid performer, but is nothing special.  The movie is showing its age and is definitely filmed in old-school Disney style.  I think that this kind of cinematography adds to the charm of the film, but I know that kids have a hard time getting into what they feel is an old (i.e. boring) movie.  It is a little bit over 2 hours long and it feels like it is a long film.  I enjoyed the parts of the movie where they were out on their cabin and land doing the chores, out the wilderness trapping and trying to live their dreams, but I wish that they had consolidated the movie down a bit more so that it had a clearer focus and a more rapid pace.  I know that one of the things that slowed the film down was the beautiful scenery that they took the time to showcase.  I am glad that they didn’t stint on that as I really enjoyed seeing the countryside go through the seasons, but it did make it longer and slower.  I would recommend watching this on a day where you have plenty of time and are in the mood to just sit down and relax and watch someone else’s troubles go by.  Naturally, everything works out for the best in the end, even though it seems rushed and completely unbelievable, but at least someone has a happy ending out there, right?

Content:

This movie contains scenes of hunting, skinning, trapping, shooting and wild animals attacking people.  There are also scenes of mild violence, fighting/boxing, drinking and drunkenness.  Nothing is to explicit or graphic, naturally, as it is a Disney film, but there are some moments that might require explanation to younger viewers.  Recommended for ages 5 and up.

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A Damsel in Distress (1937) Movie Review

A Damsel in Distress (1937)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Fred Astaire, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Joan Fontaine, Reginald Gardiner
Director: George Stevens
Release Date: 19 November 1937
Language: English
Length: 98 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Synopsis:

Lady Alyce Marshmorton (Joan Fontaine) must wed soon, but she is not in love with any of her suitors.  Determined to marry for love, Lady Alyce tries to sneak off to London to meet the American she met some time ago on a ski trip.  Unfortunately, her latest attempt to meet the man leads her to encounter Jerry Halliday (Fred Astaire), a famous performer who has broken hearts the world over.  Keggs (Reginald Gardiner), the family butler, mistakenly identifies Jerry as Alyce’s boyfriend and hijinks ensue as some try to keep Jerry and Alyce apart, while others try and help them find time together.  But in the end, the fact remains that Jerry is not the American that Alyce fell in love with – or is he…?

Review:

This was a fun musical to watch, but the strength of the film lies in its pieces rather than in the sum total of its parts.  The music was composed by George Gershwin, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and the film was called a musical, but there was not very much singing in it.  There were some lovely instrumental pieces and a few clever lines of song, but most of the singing was done by choirs or arranged groups of people in the castle.  This was an unexpected disappointment as I am accustomed to musicals featuring song and dance routines throughout the film with the songs adding to the story.  Instead, this film relies on some performers at the castle to perform music for guests with Fred Astaire joining in at some points to great comedic effect.  While these songs were clever and fun, they just did not fit into the storyline and did nothing to further the plot.  I was delighted with the dance routines, however, and thoroughly enjoyed the performances by Fred Astaire, George Burns and Gracie Allen.  These three had some terrific routines that elevated the movie into something memorable and worth watching.  In particular, I had a wonderful time watching these three dance their way through a local circus.  It was cleverly staged and used some terrific sets such as spinning tunnels, slides, rotating circles, electronic sidewalks and fun-house mirrors.  Fred Astaire made the other two look like they were merely average dancers, but George Burns and Gracie Allen held their own and brought a lot of personality and style to the routines.  I feel that this movie was worth watching for the fun-loving dance routines alone, but there were so few of them!  I was left wanting a great deal more song and dance in the movie as a whole, but there were some brilliant moments that made me glad that I took the time to watch the film.

The plot is nothing special in this movie, but the actors and actresses did the best with what they had.  I never really bought the romance between Jerry Halliday (Fred Astaire) and Lady Alyce Marshmorton (Joan Fontaine).  I feel that the movie would have been much stronger if there was a love triangle between these two leads and the completely absent Mr. X that Lady Alyce supposedly fell in love with.  Having Lady Alyce change her mind and heart so often throughout the film made it difficult, if not impossible, to take her seriously when she proclaimed her love for someone else.  This main plot was a real disappointment, but the subplot of the servants in the castle was very entertaining and worth seeing.  All of the servants put money into a pot and then drew names out of a hat with the suitors’ names on them. Whomever drew the name of the winning suitor wins the pot.  Keggs (Reginald Gardiner), the straitlaced butler, maneuvers so that he draws the name of the current frontrunner, Reggie (Ray Noble), a rather dimwitted, but loveable young man.  He is outwitted at almost every turn by a young servant, Albert (Harry Watson), who knows that Lady Alyce writes to an American and insists on being given the name Mr. X as he is betting on Lady Alyce throwing Reggie over for her American.  Seeing an older, more established man battling a clever young boy was an unexpected delight and I enjoyed this plotline much more than any of the others.

I feel that the superb acting elevated this rather humdrum musical into something that was fun and flirty.  Gracie (Gracie Allen) was my favorite character by far!  She plays George’s (George Burns) featherbrained secretary and she was so funny!  When George threatens to replace her at the beginning of the film and hire another girl, her response is “are you sure we have enough work for two girls?”  I don’t think that she had a thought in her head, but I knew that I would smile when I saw her on screen.  She was a lovely dancer and interfaced effortlessly with everyone on screen.  Gracie Allen stole the show, in my opinion, and I will need to make an effort to look up some of the other movies that she is in.  Fred Astaire plays his typical role as a jaded playboy who is looking for a woman who truly loves him with his usual panache, but lacking some of the biting wit and weakness in character that would have made him memorable and interesting.  Still, Fred Astaire is incomparable when it comes to dancing and it was wonderful to see him dancing side by side with George Burns and Gracie Allen so his talent could be fully appreciated.  Too often his skills are hidden by floating skirts and beautiful partners, but this time you can see him side-by-side-by-side so that it is immediately apparent how fabulous he was.  Reginald Gardiner was quite entertaining as Keggs, who appears to be a prim-and-proper butler on the surface, but has a weakness for operatic arias and will do anything that it takes to win the money in the pot, no matter how low the blow.  Montagu Love, who played Lady Alyce’s father Lord John Marshmorton, was a refreshing change from a typical, domineering father.  He loves his garden more than society and there are a few entertaining scenes where he mistaken for a lowly gardener while tending his beloved roses.  I loved that he wanted his daughter to make a true love match, however, and really liked him.  I found Joan Fontaine to be largely forgettable as Lady Alyce Marshmorton.  She has a few romantic scenes with Fred Astaire, but nothing of particular note.  Indeed, the best part of her roles is the continual references to the Lawrence Leap, which is a perilous jump off of a balcony to preserve a lady’s honor.  Other than that, she is a beautiful prop to move the story along and never finds a way to hold her own with the brash, outspoken American crew.

I stumbled across this movie on TCM late one night and had a fun time watching it, but I understand why it is not available on DVD.  I would not imagine that it is anyone’s favorite musical and all of the leads have been in other, more memorable films that made a great deal more money.  Still, this is a fun black-and-white musical from the 1930s, when films like this were very popular so they churned them out by the truckload.  I felt like this musical was so close to becoming something truly memorable, but it just did not quite execute on its promise.  A stronger storyline and perhaps a different ending would do a great deal to elevate this film.  Still, there are some moments that truly sparkle and made me happy that I took the time to watch it.  If you enjoy older musicals, especially those featuring Fred Astaire, you will want to keep an eye out for this one on TV.

Content:

This movie contains some scenes of drinking and smoking.  There are a few passionate embraces and chaste kisses.  Recommended for ages 6 and up.

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Filed under Classic Movies, Historical Movies, Musicals, Romantic Comedy Movies