Saturday, April 4, 2015

Room Service

Year 7, Day 94 - 4/4/15 - Movie #1,994

BEFORE: OK, so I've been up and down the cast lists of all of the films left on my list, trying to find that one path through all of the films that maintains actor linking, while also keeps things separated into distinct themes, and I've concluded it doesn't exist.  At least not at this point in time.  Oh, I can arrange films into blocks of 5 or 10 that might riff on a theme, or a chain of 10 or 15 where all the films are linked by actors, but if I try to go hog wild and link everything together by actor, the themes will be all over the place, and vice versa.  In its own way, that's a metaphor for life, you might be at a point in your career or relationship or whatever where you can't really see a year in advance, but you're fairly confident what your life will be like for the next month or so - so I have to just take things as they come for now, plan maybe a month of linked films in advance, then see what develops.  After all, new linking possibilites are created every time I add a film to the list, but the flip side of that is that they're also destroyed every time I cross a film off.  But maybe - just maybe - I can keep reducing the list while linking a month of films here, or a few weeks worth there, and at some point all of the films left, however many, will all link to each other.  That sounds pretty darn near impossible.  

In the meantime, the Marx Brothers chain continues, and tonight they're in a hotel - this is a setting that keeps popping up this year, in films like "The Grand Budapest Hotel", "Four Rooms", "Love in the Afternoon" - even Cary Grant spent time in hotels, like in "My Favorite Wife" and "Kiss Them for Me".  I never realized how many films are set in hotels.  I'll be headed down to Atlantic City this weekend for some R&R, so I'll be relaxing in a hotel myself, and I'll probably skip a film on Monday.

THE PLOT: A penniless theatrical producer must outwit the hotel efficiency expert trying to evict him from his room, while securing a backer for his new play. 

AFTER: After just two films I sort of got into the rhythm of the Marx Brothers' films, and then on this third film, the rhythm just wasn't there.  This film was based on a screenplay that the brothers didn't write, and it shows.  They even forgot to put the Marx Brothers in places where they could play the piano and the harp!  

It's no wonder that Buster Keaton was called in to help write "Go West" and "At the Circus" - although he later claimed he didn't do much to help the comedy team out, but at least he helped them get back to what they were good at.  This film, therefore, clearly shows the need to return to form, which justified hiring Keaton.  

You can tell it was a stage play because 99% of the action takes place in one hotel room - and one setting helps assuage a live audience's discomfort - keep things confined to one room and you can keep the scene changes to a minimum.  Here there are so many people in and out of this producer's suite, that it's almost like a bedroom farce without the sex.  

Of course, you can also take this as a precursor to "The Producers" - although no one here is trying to make a bad play, they're just bad at putting on a good play, because they have no money.  They need a backer to get the show off the ground, and also cover the enormous bill for their hotel, which is housing most of most of the play's cast and crew.

When the backer eventually arrives with the check, he does so at the worst possible time, when the action in the room is at its wildest, and then things just sort of peter out from there.  Some films have endings, while others just sort of stop.  And considering that means I don't have to watch a fake turkey flying around a hotel room any more, that stopping was welcomed.

Also starring Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, Frank Albertson, Cliff Dunstan, Donald McBride, Philip Wood

RATING: 3 out of 10 doses of Ipecac

Friday, April 3, 2015

Go West

Year 7, Day 93 - 4/3/15 - Movie #1,993

BEFORE: The Marx Brothers carry over, they'll be here all of this week and next.  They should get me to big movie #2,000 if all goes well.  Hey, I covered Mae West both at the circus and in the Old West, and now I'm doing the same with the Marx Brothers.  This was released the same year as "My Little Chickadee", so comedy westerns were clearly in vogue.

THE PLOT:  The Marx Brothers come to the rescue in the Wild West when a young man, trying to settle an old family feud so he can marry the girl he loves, runs afoul of crooks.

AFTER: I don't have a lot of time tonight, I have to head over to the theater that's screening CHEATIN' in New York, just in case I'm needed.  OK, really I have to head over to the bar across the street where the production team and the publicity team will be hanging out.  Same thing.

The best part of this film is probably at the beginning, when Groucho's character, S. Quentin Quale, is $10 short for a train ticket west - so he tries to con it out of a pair of brothers (Chico and Harpo) but they end up conning him with the aid of a $10 bill on a string.  And every time he thinks he's been paid a $10 bill, they take it back and also demand their nine dollars change.  It runs a little long, but as long as it's still funny, it warrants repetition.  

The middle is your standard plot about the railroad coming to town, and getting (and losing) the deed to the typical Western gulch that could be worth a lot of money in the near future.  And it culminates with an exciting chase via train that (literally and figuratively) runs right off the rails.   They end up running out of fuel for the train, and our heroes get the bright idea to break apart the wooden cars of the train to stoke the engine.  It was bugging me - where have I seen that same idea used in a film, recently?  I went up and down my blog entries and I couldn't find it - ah, that's because it was a film I re-watched when I was sick in February, "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution".  You wouldn't expect a Sherlock Holmes film to borrow ideas from the Marx Brothers, but that one did.

This was the last major release for this famous comedy team, and it sort of feels like their shtick was getting a little worn out - even though it's only the second one I've seen.  They announced their retirement after this film was released, but before the release of "The Big Store" in 1941, though they later made two more films, "A Night in Casablanca" and "Love Happy" in order to cover Chico's gambling debts.

Yes, I've been reading up on the Marx Brothers on Wikipedia, so some of my questions have been answered already.  I'll try to pepper little nuggets of trivia into my reviews over the next week.  

Also starring John Carroll, Diana Lewis, Walter Woolf King, Robert Barrat, June MacCloy.

RATING: 4 out of 10 beer mugs

Thursday, April 2, 2015

At the Circus

Year 7, Day 92 - 4/2/15 - Movie #1,992

BEFORE: I finished watching "The Jinx" last night, no spoilers here, but read up on Robert Durst if you get the chance - or watch "All Good Things" (Movie #1,399) for a fictionalized version of his tale. It's interesting that Durst saw that film, recognized the similarities to his own life, and then contacted the director to do interviews and tell his story, and that ultimately led to his arrest.  Lots of twists and turns in that one.  

I'm going to keep the April Foolery going by finally delving into the films of the Marx Brothers.  I told myself that after watching finishing the filmographies of Woody Allen, Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin, this is (hopefully) the last major career-based chain of films to conquer.  I'd love to get back to some more modern films, and plans are in the works to do so - I'm now taking a look at what's left on the list to determine the best order.  

But why start here, near the chronological end of their major releases?  Well, for one, Fritz Feld carries over from "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" - I've written about Fritz before, he had a long Hollywood career, appearing in everything from "Bringing Up Baby" and the 1943 "Phantom of the Opera" to Mel Brooks films like "Silent Movie" and "History of the World Part I" in the 1970's, with a lot of TV appearances in-between.  He was the go-to guy if you needed an actor to play a waiter or a maitre d', and probably had a large collection of impressive jackets from doing so.  Yesterday he played a hat designer, and in today's film he plays an orchestra conductor named Jardinet.

Plus, it is the backwards year, remember.  I flipped a large portion of my chains around at the start of the year, and I then worked my way backwards through most of Cary Grant's career, and maybe as I try to wind things down it makes sense to work backwards from whatever the midpoint of the project was.  I didn't even do actor linking when I started this project, and I probably won't be able to maintain it at the end either - there is some beauty in symmetry, after all. 

Also, my life's pretty much a circus these days, since we've got a film opening up tomorrow in a NYC theater, and then in another 20 or so theaters around the country in the next month.  The circus is your go-to metaphor for crazy times, just as Grand Central Station is for busy places, and the rodeo for places you've been to before, where it's not your first time at.  (Plus, Mae West just played a circus act in "I'm No Angel".)  I'm not sure the analogy is completely accurate, I mean, a lot happens at the circus but it's all planned out in advance, right? 

THE PLOT: The Marx Brothers try to help the owner of a circus recover some stolen funds before he finds himself out of a job.

AFTER: I have a lot of unanswered questions about the Marx Brothers, so maybe this chain will help me find some answers.  Like, what were they all about?  Why did I avoid their films for so long?  Why didn't Groucho just grow a real mustache, and what the heck is a "Zeppo", anyway?  Well, I won't find out today, because when this film was made, Zeppo and Gummo were nowhere to be found, having left the act years before.  The brothers were down to just the main three - Groucho, Harpo and Chico.  

I have to start thinking of the Marx Brothers films as a product of their time, in order to understand them better.  Let's see, the Depression was affecting Americans, so they probably didn't have much discretionary income, and with the cost of a movie ticket to a picture, they expected a few laughs, some musical numbers, and in this case, a mystery about who robbed the circus.  Sure, it's the thinnest of plots, but it was a vehicle that allowed the brothers to do each do their bits.  Chico got to enforce the rules, Harpo got to serenade the animals and play the harp, and Groucho got to make wisecracks and harass a woman of high society.  

After someone's robbed the circus, Groucho's lawyer character, J. Cheever Loophole, tries to solve the crime - but interviewing the midget doesn't work, and when Antonio and Punchy (Chico and Harpo) search the train car of the strongman, things comically get out of control.  Loophole tries to replace the $10,000 (I think) by traveling to Newport and tricking the society woman to hire the circus for her party, instead of the orchestra and conductor she planned.  The final circus performance has a lot of trapeze work, people being shot out of cannons, and a loose gorilla chasing people up ropes and such.  Amazingly, they remember to solve the theft, no easy feat with all the madcap stuff going on.  

Notably, this is the one where Groucho sings about "Lydia, the Tattooed Lady", and the one where Harpo makes a noise (he sneezes).  I can make nitpick points about how the music seems out of sync at times, or the obvious stuntwork in the circus scenes, but it hardly matters.  This is what people found entertaining in the 1930's - and if I have to explain 80's music to co-workers, I have to try and understand this stuff. 

Also starring Groucho, Harpo + Chico Marx, Kenny Baker, Florence Rice, Eve Arden (last seen in "Mildred Pierce"), Margaret Dumont (last seen in "What a Way to Go!"), Nat Pendleton (last seen in "I'm No Angel"), James Burke, Jerry Maren (still alive, at 95!).

RATING: 5 out of 10 cigars

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)

Year 7, Day 91 - 4/1/15 - Movie #1,991

BEFORE: I'm not usually one for binge-watching, unless, of course, you count this entire project as one long 7-year movie binge.  No, I mean binge-watching a TV series all at once, which apparently is all the rage these days - why wait for an entire TV season's storyline to unfold gradually when you can watch it all over the course of a 24-hour day.  Who needs to eat and sleep, anyway, when there's so darn much to WATCH?  Anyway, I've made an exception for the HBO Documentary series "The Jinx", which details the comings and goings, the trials and tribulations of alleged murderer Robert Durst.  I watched 4 episodes yesterday, and will probably finish with the other two tonight - gripping stuff, like a real-life "True Detective", and it's amazing what someone with a criminal mind can get away with, if he's smart and knows how to manipulate the system.  

But today is also April Fool's Day, and my apologies if you were expecting the Danny Kaye film "The Court Jester".  I admit that would have made perfect sense, but I feel that I've probably seen that whole film before, as a kid.  I wouldn't mind watching it again sometime as an adult, but now is not the time - I only added "The Inspector General" at the last minute because it provided the necessary acting link to this film.  TCM ran this one a while back, as sort of a cross-promotion with the Ben Stiller remake, so I'm counting on Danny Kaye to act foolish in this film and not disappoint me.

THE PLOT: A clumsy daydreamer gets caught up in a sinister conspiracy.  

AFTER: I need not have worried, there's plenty of tomfoolery here - or is that Danny-foolery?  Danny Kaye plays a meek man who gets pushed around at work, his boss steals his ideas and demands that he come in on time - you know, acting all bossy and stuff - and for good measure, he's also a momma's boy, running a ton of errands for her every day while he's in the city.  I'm not sure why she can't run her own errands, but hey, you can't spell "SMOTHER" without "MOTHER".  And his fiancée is a carbon copy of his mother (and her own) so unless something changes, this guy's going to be a pushover for the rest of his life.  His best friend "Tubby" even likes to pull pranks on him, and may even be putting the moves on his girl.

All this explains why he has so many daydreams, I guess.  He imagines himself as an RAF fighter pilot, or a talented surgeon, or a French hat designer, or a cowboy - though by the time they get to the Western gunfight, I think the use of dream sequences as a format was wearing rather thin.  Mitty works for a publishing company that makes salacious "pulp" magazines, so that helps to explain where the daydreams come from - but why is he just a proofreader, and not a writer, if he's got such a vivid imagination?  I guess he's just too meek to get his ideas down on paper and submit them to the editors?  

I guess I can understand this character - being in a position right now where I'm looking for some extra part-time work myself.  God, I'd love to work for Marvel Comics in some sort of administrative capacity, like if they need someone to straighten out their character's continuity or keep track of their histories or secret identities, but the thought of doing creative work like writing comics gives me the willies.  I'm happy just to work in the administrative aspect of filmmaking, doing payroll and print traffic and travel plans for a director.  That's my life, and I'm comfortable with it.  

But back to Walter Mitty - he gets caught up in a very real conspiracy, one that I'm not sure I understood fully.  It had something to do with a museum and art that was stolen by the Nazis, but it was all so nebulous, and there was nothing really tangible to find or seek after, it was all just some information in a little black book.  I'm sort of reminded of "The Maltese Falcon", where the characters just all sat around in a little room and waited for the statue to be delivered - because that looks SO exciting on film. 

What I don't understand is, this guy's been dreaming of adventure his whole life, anything that will lift him out of the drudgery of his meek existence.  When it finally arrives, in the form of a beautiful, mysterious woman and some confusing plot related to - I don't know, was it art? jewels?  Help me out here - why wasn't he all over that like white on rice?  And why did he continue to have his daydreams, even after his life became all exciting and mysterious - dammit, man, this is what you've been waiting for!  

This is perhaps why people consider this to be a poor adaptation of James Thurber's original story - it makes sense to have Mitty daydream when his life is so dull, but by making his life exciting and getting him involved in a murder (spy? heist?) plot, it removed the need for him to fantasize.

NITPICK POINT - Mitty's daydream of being a fighter pilot contains a too-long sequence where said pilot does an impression of his old music teacher.  Really?  Is this the most exciting thing they could imagine a fighter pilot doing?   Not going on an exciting bombing raid, but going to a pub and doing impressions?  I realize this was a way to work in Danny Kaye's trademark goofy faces and silly sound effects, with a song about the different instruments in the orchestra, but leading in to this from the World War 2 pilot sequence made no sense.  There should have been a separate daydream where he imagined himself as a famous composer or conductor, and this might have worked better.  

I've also got a copy of the remake of this film, starring Ben Stiller, and I've heard that's got a vastly different plot from this one (and also different from the Thurber story as well) - my original plan was to watch the two versions back-to-back, but the plan has changed.  I'll still get there, but most likely at the end of the month, in the week before "Avengers: Age of Ultron".  I've got other things to get to before that. 

Also starring Virginia Mayo (last seen in "White Heat"), Boris Karloff (last seen in "The Raven"), Fay Bainter, Ann Rutherford (last seen in "Gone With the Wind"), Konstantin Shayne, Florence Bates, Gordon Jones, Reginald Denny (last seen in "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House"), Henry Corden (last seen in "I Confess"), with a cameo from Fritz Feld (last seen in "Bringing Up Baby").

RATING:  4 out of 10 corset models

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Inspector General

Year 7, Day 90 - 3/31/15 - Movie #1,990

BEFORE: OK, so apparently whatever connection I once saw between "Stella Dallas" and my next film, I no longer remember.  I must have had a reason for using that film as my lead-in to the next topic, but that was months ago, and I can no longer remember it.  It certainly wasn't direct linking, because it doesn't share any stars with my planned film for tonight - but scanning the filmographies of a few stars shows that I can create a link by adding tonight's film to the line-up, and sort of skooching all my April films down the line-up by one.  Yes, this changes what film I'll watch on April Fool's Day, but I think things will still be OK.  Alan Hale carries over again from "Stella Dallas", and order is restored.

No, it's not in my collection and TCM hasn't run it lately, but it was available on YouTube, so I watched it on my iPad.  It seems kind of strange for me to watch an old film on a new device, but that's the world we're living in.

THE PLOT:  An illiterate stooge in a traveling medicine show wanders into a strange town and is picked up on a vagrancy charge. The town's corrupt officials mistake him for the inspector general whom they think is traveling in disguise.

AFTER: I never really "got" Danny Kaye, in sort of the same way I never really "got" W.C. Fields or the Marx Brothers, either.  But most of my experiences with these comedic people came from watching their films on the Boston UHF stations on Sunday mornings after church, and maybe I didn't really have good concentration skills as a kid, or maybe my mother would call us in for lunch, and this was well before she gave up and let us all watch our meals in front of the TV.  As a result I may have seen half of one Danny Kaye film or part of another Abbott & Costello film, and they all kind of run together in my memory.  

Then I went to college, and the focus in film appreciation class was on films like "Duck Amuck" instead of "Duck Soup", or Buster Keaton's "The General" instead of something like "The Inspector General".  Hey, I don't make the syllabus for film school, so I followed their guidelines and watched the films they wanted me to.  There's just no list of films anywhere that can be completely comprehensive, because everything's based on some person's or committee's opinion about THIS one being better than THAT one.  

The general consensus seems to be that something like this is just a bit of silly fluff, and I'm not saying that's wrong, but it must have been entertaining to someone at some point, no?  It's a bit of a tough sell to pitch this film as an adaptation of a Russian satrical play by Nikolai Gogol, or a bracing investigation of political corruption in Napoleonic Europe, when it comes off as more of just a vehicle for Kaye to make funny expressions, do some gymnastics and sing some silly rhyming songs.  

I found a lot of the gags just went on too long, like having to do stunt after stunt in the training room, while the guy with the eyepatch keeps getting incrementally closer and closer to getting a good look at Georgi, or the dinner scene where a starving Georgi keeps getting denied food, again and again, because he gets distracted by someone next to him and his plate gets taken away.  Enough already, let the guy eat.  And the payoff for the gag - watching him finally eat in sped-up fashion - just wasn't worth waiting for. 

Would anyone really believe that a head on a platter that can move, talk and drink was really a decapitated head without a body?  Seems like that's the most transparent con, if you can't imagine someone's body hidden under the table, then you probably deserve to get fooled.  And what's the sense of trying to bribe the guy who you think has come to your town to stop corruption?  Even from a comic standpoint, that doesn't make much sense. 

Still, I can kind of see where this fits into the history of films poking fun at politics and dictators and such, somewhere in between Chaplin's "The Dictator", and a more modern film like, say, "Dave" or that one with Sacha Baron Cohen.  They all sort of rely on mistaken identity to make a larger point about the type of people who work in government, and the type that don't.

Also starring Danny Kaye, Walter Slezak (last seen in "Lifeboat"), Gene Lockhart (last seen in "His Girl Friday"), Elsa Lanchester (last seen in "Witness for the Prosecution"), Barbara Bates (last seen in "All About Eve"), Rhys Williams.

RATING: 4 out of 10 bribes

Monday, March 30, 2015

Stella Dallas

Year 7, Day 89 - 3/30/15 - Movie #1,989

BEFORE: I know I said I'd wait until my chain of linked actors runs out in mid-April, but I just couldn't.  I had things planned through a film with three major male actors, and I marked that film as sort of a nexus point - my chain could go in three possible directions from there.  But which path to take?  I decided (for now) to stick with my first plan, because it links an actor from "Avengers: Age of Ultron" right around the time of that film's opening weekend.  I just can't ask for a more visible sign from the movie gods than that.  So I've now managed to plan through May 10, about a week after the new Avengers film comes out.

Right now, I'm linking to April 1.  Originally I had scheduled this film next to "Mildred Pierce", which was part of my Joan Crawford chain last October.  But there wasn't room for this one there if
I wanted to finish up the year properly, so I'm slotting it in here, so Alan Hale can carry over from "Destination Tokyo".  If you see Alan Hale and think he looks a little familiar, you're probably used to seeing his son, Alan Hale Jr., who played the Skipper on "Gilligan's Island".  

THE PLOT:  A low-class woman is willing to do whatever it takes to give her daughter a socially promising future.  As a result, I don't know whether to regard Stella Dallas as a heroic figure or a tragic one.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Mildred Pierce" (Movie #1,877)   

AFTER: I'm having a little trouble with this one tonight, mainly because I'm not so familiar with the cultural mores of 1937 as I could be.  

First, we've got Stella's upwardly mobile marriage instincts.  By today's standards she might be called a gold-digger, but it's possible in 1937 that this is just the way that things are done.  I'm not anti-feminist, not at all - we should have equal pay, equal work, equal everything.  And I have a right to be a househusband if I want - I might be terrible at it, but I have my rights.  But in 1937 a woman couldn't go out and get a job as an executive, so perhaps the next best thing was to marry an executive.  With the way that Barbara plays the character, seemingly with very little emotion, I can't get a read on her - does she love Stephen Dallas, or does she just see him as a means to an end? 

Next, we've got Stella as a mother - the day she gets home from the hospital, supposedly those maternal instincts kick in.  But Stella immediately accepts an invitation to go out dancing, simply because it took so long to get accepted at that club.  The Wikipedia plot description reads, "Even when she is out dancing and partying, she cannot help but think about her child."  Umm, if she were really thinking about her child, why isn't she home helping to take care of it?  So again, there's evidence that she's a great mother (sewing dresses) but also evidence of the opposite.

Next, there's Stella as a wife - it's a little too easy to say that the relationship suffers because she and her husband are from different classes.  He gets the chance to move to New York (from, umm, Boston or something) and she decides to stay put, claiming that she just started to make inroads into high society where she's at.  Honey, there isn't any place more high society than New York, so what the heck are you waiting for?  This seemed like a flimsy excuse to stay with her recently-acquired new dance partner (later boyfriend?) or else it was an attempt to play the martyr role.  No, no, you go on to your fancy New York, I'll be fine right here...

The plotline also states that where Stella is concerned, "nothing is too good for Laurel", her daughter.  Well, except for buying clothes off the rack, I guess.  Can she really make better dresses by hand than the ones they sell in stores?  I assume Stella's getting some money from her husband for Laurel's care, but what exactly is she spending it on?  Most likely herself.

So you see, it's not really so cut-and-dry as to whether Stella Dallas is a good mother or not - and you have to admit that any judgment is likely to change if you judge her by today's standards, rather than those of 1937.  Divorce is much more common these days, even among couples with kids, while at the time it was considered shameful.  But even if divorce was frowned upon, going on a trip with your vulgar boyfriend, basically flaunting your new relationship for a trainload of passengers to see, was probably much worse in that social circle. 

Finally, we come to Stella's sacrifice, or is it "sacrifice".  She has to determine if Laurel is better off living with her father - certainly he probably represents a more stable relationship environment.  But since Stella needs to enact an elaborate deception to bring this about, it's a case where she has to lie to her own daughter, having decided that the ends justify the means.  But do they?  Is it worth sacrificing a girl's relationship with her mother, just so she can mature in a better environment?  I don't think there are any easy answers here.  Unless Stella isn't lying after all, and really just doesn't want to raise her own daughter, in which case she's a horrible person.

Also starring Barbara Stanwyck (last seen in "Double Indemnity"), John Boles (last seen in "Frankenstein"), Anne Shirley, Barbara O'Neil (last seen in "Gone With the Wind"), Tim Holt (last seen in "The Magnificent Ambersons"), Nella Walker, Ann Shoemaker, Bruce Satterlee

RATING: 4 out of 10 party invitations  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Destination Tokyo

Year 7, Day 88 - 3/29/15 - Movie #1,988

BEFORE: This is it, I've reached the end of the Cary Grant chain, after three weeks the (M)Archie Madness Tournament is over, and no matter how I place the Final Four into brackets, I think there's a clear winner, unless today's film is, like, the best war picture ever.  I regret that I didn't get to every major Cary Grant film - the most notable omissions are probably "Topper", "Gunga Din" and "Operation Petticoat", and that last one would have probably fit in nicely after "Kiss Them For Me", but I don't have a copy, and I'm not willing to switch to getting movies online just for that one.  That's a constant problem for me, of course, that nearly every film I watch has an annoying tendency to suggest another one.  Or two.  Or three.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Midway" (Movie #1,861)

THE PLOT:  In order to provide information for the first air raid over Tokyo, a U.S. submarine sneaks into Tokyo Bay and places a spy team ashore. 

AFTER:  This is one of those serviceable military films, filled with the familiar stereotypes like the green recruit, the grizzled veteran and the ladies man, who are all ethnically diverse (for white people, anyway) and have to put aside their differences to come together and survive during wartime.  And they all serve on a submarine that's depicted by a scale model that always looks like it's 10 feet below the surface and 10 feet above the ocean floor, even when the plot states it's supposed to be 100 fathoms deep, and well clear of the bottom.  

Perhaps it suffers from its release date of 1943 - maybe it was rushed into production to get U.S. audiences excited about World War II, or to take advantage of current events.  As a result, I guess there was not enough time to learn how a submarine actually works - or perhaps the film couldn't be too realistic, or it would be the equivalent of giving away confidential technical information, much like how  a film today can't really describe how to build a homemade bomb.  

I'm guessing there are certain people who would watch this and be able to point out a whole host of technical mistakes, like the fact there's no such thing as a "fathomometer", or that a submarine probably has a sonar read-out that doesn't just look like an oscilloscope, or a way of displaying its pitch that's more complicated than a level you can buy at a hardware store.  

But hey, why let facts get in the way of a good war picture?  Or military procedure, for that matter.  The ship's commander opens the "confidential" mission specs, and within minutes the whole crew is buying kimonos and planning for a night on the town in Tokyo.  There's not a man aboard who seems able to comprehend what "need to know" information means. 

NITPICK POINT: A submarine with so many men aboard has only a pharmacist, and not a real doctor?  That seems unwise, and unlikely.  Ehh, I'm sure that no medical emergency will happen at perhaps the worst possible time. 

That's going to wrap things up for Mr. Cary Grant - and the winner of the big tournament? "Charade", getting a 7 on my scale, and no other Cary Grant film in the chain came close.  OK, you can go watch some basketball now.

Also starring John Garfield (last seen in "The Postman Always Rings Twice"), Alan Hale (last seen in "It Happened One Night"), John Ridgely (last seen in "Arsenic and Old Lace"), Dane Clark, Warner Anderson, William Prince, Robert Hutton, Tom Tully, Peter Whitney, Warren Douglas, John Forsythe (last seen in "Topaz").

RATING: 4 out of 10 depth charges