Saturday, April 25, 2015

Melvin and Howard

Year 7, Day 115 - 4/25/15 - Movie #2,015

BEFORE:  It's funny how the linking works sometimes.  I had this one scheduled next to "Harold and Maude" for a long time, simply because the two films had names in the titles, and they seemed to be black comedies with similar tones.  Then it languished at the bottom of my watchlist for a while because there didn't seem to be a way to link to it.  Then when I tore my list apart and rebuilt it last time (or perhaps it was the time before that), I realized the connection, with Michael J. Pollard carrying over from "Little Fauss and Big Halsy", this film could provide the perfect link betwen the Robert Redford chain, and three films featuring Mary Steenburgen.  And hey, last night's film also had two names in the title, so there you go.

It might have made more sense to watch this right after that OTHER film about Howard Hughes, but I don't think I had access to this film then.

THE PLOT:  The story of hard-luck Melvin Dummar, who claimed to have received a will naming him an heir to the fortune of Howard Hughes.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Aviator" (Movie #846)

AFTER: Another unusual coincidence - both "Little Fauss and Big Halsy" and this film have a motorcycle accident as a plot point.  It's little things like that help me to feel like I'm on the right track somehow.

But if "L.F. & B.H." suggested that life is a never-ending parade of one greasy spoon after another, where the same waitress serves you the same food, day after day, no matter how far you seem to travel on your particular racing circuit, then this film seems to suggest that life is a never-ending parade of dead-end jobs, break-ups and make-ups, repossessed autos and futile attempts to get out of debt as you chase the American dream.  I'm not saying that's incorrect, it just seems to be a strange topic for a film.  

The Melvin in the title is Melvin Dummar, a service-station owner (former metal-worker, former milkman) who was named the beneficiary to Howard Hughes' fortune in a hand-written will that was allegedly found in the Mormon headquarters in Salt Lake City.  Supposedly Melvin had found Howard Hughes, a noted recluse, after a motorcycle crash (wait a minute, do recluses ride cycles?) and after Hughes turned down a trip to a hospital, Melvin drove him back to Las Vegas, where Hughes owned the famous Desert Inn.   

But it's really about what happens to Melvin later, as his first wife leaves him so she can be a stripper (I wasn't sure why she couldn't stay with him and also do that) but then returns pregnant and they remarry.  He later convinces her to appear on a talent-based game show called "Easy Street" and they argue over how to spend the money that she wins.  I'm just not sure I'm sold on what this all says about 1970's America, land of the free and home of the get-rich-quick schemes.  Whatever happened to working hard and putting aside a little money each week so you can go on vacation or something?  

Well, when in doubt, there's always Wikipedia, which tells me that this is based on the true story of the real Melvin Dummar, whose second wife, Bonnie, had worked for a magazine titled Millionaire, which the wealthiest Americans at the time subscribed to, and would have had access to Howard Hughes' memos and signature, so for that reason the "Mormon Will" was declared a forgery by the courts.  

Of course, one should always try to help people in need, or those who have been in an accident, and not just because they could secretly be billionaires.  And you can't always rely on your songwriting talent if the best thing you can create is "Santa's Souped-Up Sleigh" - hey, isn't that the same fake Christmas song that was heard in "About a Boy"?  No, I guess that was "Santa's SUPER Sleigh"...

Also starring Paul Le Mat (last seen in "American History X"), Jason Robards (last seen in "The Paper"), Mary Steenburgen (last seen in "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy"), Pamela Reed, Jack Kehoe (also last seen in "The Paper"), Charles Napier, Robert Ridgely, with cameos from John Glover (last seen in "Julia"), Dabney Coleman (last seen in "Downhill Racer" - three Dabney Coleman appearances this week, how did I miss that?) and Gloria Grahame (last seen in "The Big Heat").

RATING: 3 out of 10 milk trucks

Friday, April 24, 2015

Little Fauss and Big Halsy

Year 7, Day 114 - 4/24/15 - Movie #2,014

BEFORE: And so I come to the end of the Robert Redford chain.  I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but in a strange way, I sort of owe my whole career to Robert Redford.  Back in 1991 I was working for a little production company in downtown Manhattan that made music videos and artsy logos for cable channels - I'd had a college internship there and rolled it over into a part-time job, having proven I was somewhat useful.  But over the course of 2 years or so they'd gotten a little behind in paying me, and I wasn't sure if they'd ever do a big job and catch up.  So I had this intern working there, Laura, and she had found a part-time job stuffing envelopes for a rep company, but had just landed a job working for Redford as some kind of personal assistant.  So I looked into taking her place at the rep company, and ended up working there for 22 years.  And two years later, someone I worked with at THAT job recommended me to take her place at a real animation company, where I've also worked part-time for 22 years now.  So if Redford hadn't hired Laura, I never would have gotten either of my major jobs - he has no idea how much he's inadvertently helped me out.  

Years later, I'm now back to part-time work, so I'm keeping my ears open for another break like that.  But maybe you only get one like that in a lifetime.

THE PLOT: A story of two motorcycle racers, the inept, unsuspecting Little Fauss and the opportunistic, womanizing Halsy Knox.

AFTER: Putting this right after "Downhill Racer" worked out really well, because essentially they're like the same movie as such: 1) Robert Redford plays a cocky, arrogant athlete in a sport where the main goal is just to go as fast as you can, and not wipe out.  2) He's got a love/hate relationship with a teammate/competitor, who at one point crashes and is taken out of competition, and who he may or may not be manipulating to his own ends.  3) He's got a casual love/love relationship with a woman who might be even more shallow and screwed-up than he is, and who may or may not be manipulating him to her own ends.   

(Like "Downhill Racer", there aren't very many technical details here about the featured racing sport.  There's one type of race that has two men on a motorcycle, with the passenger shifting his weight to balance the bike or something, at times being only inches from the ground.  I would have loved to learn more about this sport, it seems quite dangerous and intriguing.)

Clearly Redford may have been in a groove, or riffing on the same theme, because "Downhill Racer" and this film were released just one year apart, in 1969 and 1970.  I realize that skiing and motorcycle racing seem like very different sports, but the two movies seem to share the same DNA - it's just that Olympic-level skiing is very formal and precise, and these California (?) amateur-level motorbike races are anything but.  Also, Redford plays more of an obvious con-man type here, so it's a little like "Downhill Racer" cross-pollinated with "The Sting". 

In fact, they're so informal that they really don't check the racer's identities very well, so for a while the banned Halsy Knox is able to race under Little Fauss' name, just by riding his bike and wearing his number.  This must have been before California put pictures on driver's licenses or something.  This situation leads to an uneasy alliance between the two - Fauss needs Halsy to drive him around and create a reputation for him by racing under his name, and Halsy needs Fauss as a bike mechanic.

The alliance is soon broken, and naturally it's due to a love triangle.  Yes, there are motorcycle race groupies, as there probably are for any sport or band or actor, and one naturally chooses Halsy, but Fauss pines over her.  After they part ways, he hooks up with one of Halsy's old conquests, and whether this is out of spite, or an attempt to be more like him, or just to get his groove on, I'm not sure that I can really say.  

The film ends quite ambiguously, as several Redford films have also done this week.  It's implied that at some point the ability of the student surpasses that of the master, but they pulled the classic 1970's "Freeze frame" ending, so we don't officially get to see it happen.  Or did they just forget to film it?   
Also starring Michael J. Pollard (last seen in "Another You"), Lauren Hutton (last seen in "54"), Noah Beery Jr. (last seen in "Only Angels Have Wings"), Lucille Benson.

RATING: 4 out of 10 greasy spoons

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Downhill Racer

Year 7, Day 113 - 4/23/15 - Movie #2,013

BEFORE: Almost done with the Redford chain, I'm ending with the sort of "sporting" movies - we had sailing in "All Is Lost", umm, let's say hunting and trapping in "Jeremiah Johnson", and now tonight it's skiing.  Skiing isn't really a sport to me, it's just controlled falling down a mountain, right?  I mean, gravity is doing all the work.  Same with bobsledding, luge, skydiving and diving into a pool - ever hear people say, "It's all downhill from here..."?  That means it's easy.  I'm more impressed by cross-country skiing, and that biathlon event is quite thrilling (skiing and guns, what could go wrong?).   You know what would be really impressive?  UP-hill skiing.  Why isn't that part of the Olympics?  Set that up, and I think you'd have something.

THE PLOT:  Quietly cocky downhill racer joins U.S. ski team and clashes with the team's coach.

AFTER: I've had to watch a lot of sports in the last 18 years for work reasons, and I've fast-forwarded through a lot of sports I don't care about, like golf and NASCAR racing - skiing is one of those sports.  I used to record all of the televised skiing events, and also the winter X-Games, because I had to research who made the commercials, and if there was a new Mountain Dew or Red Bull commercial, it would probably air during something like that.  The Olympics?  Forget about it, that would generate a ton of new commercials I had to tape and bring in to the office.  

So I have to re-state that I don't really get skiing.  And a movie about skiing doesn't really make we want to learn more about it, not the way that a movie like boxing gets me interested, or a baseball documentary about the finer points of throwing a knuckleball.  This film doesn't even really contain much technical information, except occasional reports about the type of snow on the mountain, or how icy the course is.  Even the different types of skis available - when questioned by a ski manufacturer, Redford's great insight about the man's product is that they're "all right".  In other words, they're like every other pair of skis ever.  

So I have to conclude that there's not much strategy involved in skiing - you just go as fast as you can, and try not to wipe out.  That's it.  See, there is a lot of wiping out in this film, so I assume that makes a run a DQ.  Just get down the mountain a few seconds faster than the next guy, that's all there is too it.  

Wait, I guess there is one bit of strategy mentioned.  When Redford's character joins the team and is seeded 179th in the starting order, he protests.  Apparently the snow at that point will be worn out by all the other skiers, so he chooses not to ski.  A lot of the other skiers wipe out, so he advances in the rankings by not skiing.  This sounds a lot like the Marx Brothers getting paid 10 dollars an hour if they play music, and 12 dollars an hour to not play.  

You also have to remember that when this film was made, there were strict rules about Olympic athletes having amateur status, which meant that they couldn't have been paid for sports, anytime ever.  I think the rules have been relaxed a bit since they made those basketball "Dream Teams" with all those NBA stars.  And yet people still wanted to compete in the Olympics, to gain fame and fortune.   Well, fame anyway.  

Redford's character gets involved with a European girl, who works for a ski equipment manufacturer, and at some point things fell apart, but I wasn't sure if it's because she was only seducing him to get him close to the ski maker, or if in the end she was just as shallow and self-centered as he was.  Maybe it was a little bit of both, but I don't think it was made clear. 

Plus, why is an athlete being chiding here for being cocky?  Cocky is just a lot of self-confidence, right?  Why would you want athletes entering a race who don't believe in themselves?  For that matter, why would atheletes who don't think that they can win even want to race at all?  And why is it called a "ski team" if it's not a team sport?  Everything in skiing seems to be based on individual performance.   

Also starring Gene Hackman (last seen in "Postcards From the Edge"), Dabney Coleman (last seen in "This Property Is Condemned"), Jim McMullan, Karl Michael Vogler (last seen in "Patton"), Kenneth Kirk, Camilla Sparv, Walter Stroud.

RATING: 4 out of 10 stopwatches

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jeremiah Johnson

Year 7, Day 112 - 4/22/15 - Movie #2,012

BEFORE: Another film that's more or less one of the "Unlinkables".  Not many stars in this film, other than Redford - a few character actors, sure, which is always good, but nothing I can really work with.  I've already got the outgoing connection planned, though, and it's a pretty sly one.  

Today is Earth Day, and I've decided to state that I planned this all along, a nice 2-day tie-in where Redford's character goes out for a long sailing voyage - to get more in touch with nature, of course - and in tonight's film he plays a mountain man, so essentially, that's the same thing, right?  A man alone, out in the wilderness, getting in touch with nature.  Umm, except for all the hunting and the trapping, that's probably not what Earth Day is all about.  Never mind.

THE PLOT: A mountain man who wishes to live the life of a hermit becomes the unwilling object of a long vendetta by Indians, and proves to be a match for their warriors in one-on-one combat on the early frontier.

AFTER: Yeah, I don't think killing a bunch of Native Americans is really a good representation about what Earth Day is all about.  My bad - please consider "All Is Lost" to be more in line with that theme.

This isn't really a "lost" Redford film, according to TCM it was one of the top films of 1972, but you just never hear about it the way you hear people talk about "The Sting" or "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", so it seems to be some sort of sleeper hit.  Redford has made nearly as many films as Cary Grant did, so it looks like I can't possibly get to all of them this week - at the moment I have no plans to watch "The Great Waldo Pepper", for example, or "Havana", but I think I'll manage to have covered the vast majority of his filmography when this week's run is over.

I'm going to regard this film as sort of an earlier version of "Dances With Wolves" - the two films have a lot in common, both feature ex-soldiers who travel out West and find themselves linked with Indian tribes.  The final outcomes in the storylines are different, but to me the stories seem to run parallel, at least for a while.

However, I found a lot of the Indian references to be confusing - especially concerning the different tribes mentioned here, the Crow and the Blackfoot tribes.  They also used the term "flathead", and I was never sure which tribe that referred to, if that was a derogatory term for Indians in general or one of those two tribes, or whether there was a third tribe with that name. 

Jeremiah Johnson (his name was changed from the source material's "Liver-Eatin' Johnson") was clearly an enemy of one tribe, but ended up married to a squaw from another tribe.  There were plenty of opportunities to mention which tribe she was from, but I'm not sure that it ever happened.  I had to go to Wikipedia's plot summary to find out that the first tribe he encountered was the Crow, then he adopts a son who had family members killed by the Blackfoot tribe.  Then later it's the Christianized Flathead Indians who take him in and give him his wife.  Ah, so we are dealing with three different tribes here.  I maintain the film could have done more to make the distinction.

But there is plenty of action, and a lot of beautiful landscape scenes - filmed in Utah, where Redford obviously has had connections for many years, both owning property and advising the Sundance Festival there.  

Also starring Will Geer (last seen in "In Cold Blood"), Delle Bolton, Josh Albee, Stefan Gierasch, with cameos from Charles Tyner, Paul Benedict (last seen in "Cold Turkey"), Matt Clark (last seen in "Some Kind of Hero").

RATING: 5 out of 10 Hawkens rifles

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

All Is Lost

Year 7, Day 111 - 4/21/15 - Movie #2,011

BEFORE:  If you've grown accustomed to the way I tend to organize my movie-watching, you'll realize that there's no other place to watch this film, other than between two other Redford films, simply because there's no credited actors in this film except for Bob himself.  You might also surmise that I'm working up to linking to "Avengers: Age of Ultron" by taking advantage of the fact that Redford was in the 2nd Captain America film, providing an easy link to Chris Evans.  Great guess, but after the Redford chain ends, I'll still have a week before the Avengers film opens, so I've had to find another way.  Don't worry, I'll get there.

THE PLOT: After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a resourceful sailor finds himself, despite all efforts to the contrary, staring his mortality in the face.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Life of Pi" (Movie #1,325)

AFTER: I wonder how many reviewers referred to this film as "Butch Capsized and the Sunburned Kid."  Or am I the first?  Anyway, after all the Cary Grant and Marx Brothers movies, it's a nice change to watch a film made in this millennium, the last one for me was "Someone Like You" back on March 1.  Sure, the whole point of this project is to catch up on the classics, but it's also nice to work a more modern film in here and there.

This is a film that practically demands your focus, just because there's barely any dialogue.  With a typical film you can sit in your living room, check your e-mail, read the paper, make some food, because the dialogue will still keep some of your attention while you multi-task.  But if you do that here, you might miss something visual going on here that explains what this troubled sailor is doing to try and improve his situation.  

And if you're lucky, like I was, there will be a thunderstorm in your area that manages to coincide with the one on the screen, providing a greater sense of wrap-around sound that you could possibly get by any set of multiple speakers.  Several times I had to pause the DVD just to determine if that last crack of thunder was in the film, or in the actual real reality.  See if you can make that happen, I recommend it. 

Some may get turned off by the lack of dialogue - "Wait, you mean I have to pay attention and figure out what's happening?  What a drag, man.  I didn't know watching this film would be, like, work."  Well, perhaps it should always be.  Perhaps you should be like me, and always be ready with a notepad to jot down your questions, or things you might want to research when the film is over.  To the film's credit, they don't make "Our man" (as defined by the credits) talk to himself excessively about what's happening, which would be helpful but unrealistic.  Other than a distress call and some choice expletives, this is true acting without speaking.  

That said, or perhaps unsaid, I wish I knew more about sailing, in the same way that watching a boxing film makes me wish I knew more about the "sweet science".   I've seen other films which have tackled the issue, like "Lifeboat" and "Life of Pi", so most of what I know about boating and survival at sea comes from movies.  That's everything from "don't drink seawater" to "try and limit exposure to the sun" to "hey, watch out for sharks".  (Also, try to make sure there's not a tiger hiding somewhere on your lifeboat...)  I don't sail, I don't even swim, and I try to make sure that if I go on a boat, it's in a place like the Caribbean (where there are no icebergs, duh) and there are ample lifeboats, plus an endless taco bar every day at 2 pm on the Lido deck.  

(See, this is an essential part of survival training that most people don't talk about.  As soon as you set foot on a cruise ship, your goal should be to eat as much food as possible, as many times per day as the cruise line will allow, if not more.  There's breakfast delivered to your cabin, 2nd breakfast available on the promenade, then you've got brunch, and lunch, and the aforementioned taco bar, then you've got to get a snack in the lounge because it's a full three hours until dinner, then there's dinner itself, and then late-night Chinese food and dessert if you've still got room.  It's kind of like being a maritime Hobbit.  Why is this important?  What if the ship does sink, and you end up in a lifeboat, or worse, on some island with just coconuts and pineapples?  In that case, you'll be glad you ate well beforehand.  What if you fall off the side of the boat?  Well, just to be safe you'd better eat a lot before that happens, because if you can increase your size, you'll be less dense, and therefore more buoyant.  It's just good science.)  

So that's why I can't understand why someone would go to sea in a ship without a buffet - man is just not meant to live on cans of beans and MREs.  Trust me, I've been eating veggie burgers for 2 months now, and they just don't compare to the real thing.  (Thank God that calories don't count when you're on vacation, like even a road trip to Atlantic City.)  Plus, "our man" seems to be exerting a lot of energy, whether he's patching the hull or raising the sails or hoisting the jib (is that a thing?) so why doesn't he need to eat more?  

But I acknowledge that there is a certain class of people who (apparently) sail for sport - these are the same sort of people who ride bikes up mountains instead of down them (go figure), or will hike up a trail when there's a perfectly good tram or ski-lift available.  You know, adrenaline junkies.  But this leads me to wonder if this is just a film about sailing, or if it's intended as a metaphor for something.  I think sometimes I might have become a stress junkie, seeking out high-pressure projects at work with tight deadlines, just to get that rush of satisfaction when the quarterly payroll report or the SAG contract gets filed just before time runs out.  

I've been the de facto captain of an animation studio for the last week, with my boss out on tour making appearances at screenings across the country, and my days have consisted of putting out one (figurative) fire after another, so I can empathize with our man.  As soon as you get the boat bailed out and patch the leak, a storm system rolls in and you're back under the gun.  Survive the storm and now you've got to get the boat righted and the radio repaired, or situations to that effect.  Combine all that with a head cold and you've got me, a guy who can't get more than three hours of sleep at a time, and who's ready to crash at 6 am, when most normal people are getting ready to start their day.  

Without naming specific films, I've noticed a trend among the 25 or so Redford films that have already been a part of this project, and that's a fairly high mortality rate for Redford's characters.  Will this be another film where the Sundance Kid doesn't survive until the end credits?  I can now name at least 8 films where he doesn't.  I can also name 3 films where his characters go to the Plaza Hotel - "The Great Gatsby", "Barefoot in the Park" and "The Way We Were".  

Also starring (n/a)

RATING: 6 out of 10 shipping lanes

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Great Gatsby (1974)

Year 7, Day 110 - 4/20/15 - Movie #2,010

BEFORE: Let's keep the literary theme going - I'm following a film based on a Tennessee Williams play with one based on that book by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I watched the 2013 DiCaprio version last August, and it would have been great to watch them back to back, especially since Leo linked to Bruce Dern via "Django Unchained", and I then watched "Coming Home" - so this could have fit right in.  I was sure that TCM would run this while the 2013 version was in theaters, but I guess they don't work that way.  They held back until Redford was the Artist of the Month, which was in January 2015.

I just couldn't wait any longer for this version, and the DiCaprio chain came up, so I forged ahead.  Finally I can follow up tonight, I'll start by re-reading my review of the 2013 version.

THE PLOT:  A Midwesterner becomes fascinated with his nouveau riche neighbor, who obsesses over his lost love.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Great Gatsby" (2013) (Movie #1,813)

AFTER: It's also all about the real estate lately, with the NYC apartment seen in "Barefoot in the Park", the vagaries of a boarding house in "This Property Is Condemned", and tonight I'm back at the fabulous Long Island mansions in the fictional West Egg.  Another connection with last night's film, both films had a writer complain about the adaptation - Francis Ford Coppola wrote the second version of this screenplay (taking over from Truman Capote), and Coppola then claimed that the director, Jack Clayton, paid no attention to his script.  

After watching the DiCaprio version, I pegged Jay Gatsby as an idol with feet of clay, someone who became successful, but perhaps by nefarious methods, in order to win a woman's love. The way Leo played him, he seemed devoted to Daisy, almost to a fault, but also full of self-loathing for not being worthy, in addition to being misguided and mistakenly optimistic.  Daisy came off as shallow, selfish, cowardly and deceptive.  

What's strange is that I didn't get much of those qualities from Redford and Farrow here.  Sure, Gatsby's still optimistic, pining for a woman who's married to someone else, but questions about his past and how he made his fortune are mostly shrugged off this time, and it's hard for me to think of Redford as an evil character, even though I know he's played bank robbers and escaped convicts, and such.  He's usually so darn likable, and it was much easier to imagine that DiCaprio's Gatsby had a dark side.  Farrow's Daisy, meanwhile, seems on the meek side, and she's rich so shallowness comes along with that, but I didn't get selfish or deceptive from her.  It just seemed like she loved both Gatsby and her husband, and was unable to make that leap to divorce her husband.  Cursed love triangles...

There's no doubt about Tom Buchanan, though - Daisy's romance with Gatsby seems downright noble compared to Tom's long-term affair with Myrtle Wilson.  He's got the beautiful wife, but that's not enough, he's making plans to run away with his mistress, or at least that's what he's telling her, while he keeps promising to sell his car to her husband, but never really gets around to doing it.  For bonus points he's a woman-beater AND a racist, so I sort of picked up on the fact that we're not supposed to like him much.  

What I didn't like about the 2013 version was the inclusion of modern music (the 1974 version is much more faithful, using appropriate period songs) and the framing device of putting Nick Carraway in rehab, where he starts to write his story into a novel - it's a worn-out convention, and it was completely unnecessary.  The 1974 version is a perfect example of how you can just tell a story with no framing device, where the scenes are all in proper chronological order, and that's perfectly OK.  Less dramatic perhaps, but we all know that Nick's the narrator, we don't need that point driven home, and we certainly don't need to see someone WRITING long-hand to know we're about to see their story.

But that said, the 2013 version used special effects to make Gatsby's mansion and his parties more grand, with elaborate musical numbers that put the 1974 scenes of people dancing the Charleston to shame.  The effects also recreated the NYC skyline of the time, and made that ashy area around the gas station that much more bleak - so in the end, one version had more flash, the other version had more substance - so my rating ends up being the same, but it's a shame neither version had both things.

Also starring Mia Farrow (last seen in "Miami Rhapsody"), Sam Waterston (last seen in "September"), Bruce Dern (last seen in "Coming Home"), Karen Black (last seen in Family Plot"), Scott Wilson, Lois Chiles (last seen in "Moonraker"), Howard Da Silva, Roberts Blossom (last seen in "Doc Hollywood"), with a cameo from Edward Herrmann (last seen in "The Purple Rose of Cairo").

RATING: 5 out of 10 puppies in a box

Sunday, April 19, 2015

This Property Is Condemned

Year 7, Day 109 - 4/19/15 - Movie #2,009

BEFORE: It's already been quite a week for playwrights, starting with 4 plays by Big Willie Shakespeare, and then last night's Neil Simon look at marriage.  The trend continues, as today's film is based on a play by Tennessee Williams, though he reportedly found this film so different from his play that he asked that his name be removed from the credits.  Robert Redford carries over from "Barefoot in the Park" for film #3 of a 7-film chain.  

THE PLOT: A railroad official, Owen Legate, comes to Dodson, Mississippi to shut down much of the town's railway. Owen unexpectedly finds love with Dodson's flirt and main attraction, Alva Starr. Alva and Owen then try to escape Alva's mother's clutches and the town's revenge.

AFTER: This film is set during the Great Depression, which I know is an economic term and doesn't relate directly to feeling low, but it's a fairly depressing film nonetheless.  Star Natalie Wood supposedly tried to commit suicide during its filming, and I can't really say as I blame her.  Between Redford's character closing down the town's railroad business and putting people out of work, and her character being pimped out by her mother to the richest men staying at the boarding-house, there's not much to speak of in terms of positive roles here.  

I think Wood's character was supposed to be in her late teens, but the actress was 25, and looked at least 30 to me.  Not that she wasn't beautiful, but at some point she needed to play more adult roles, even if she looked young to most people.  She was 27 when she filmed "Inside Daisy Clover" the year before this, where she played a 15-year-old.  Really?  And the actress who played her mother here was only 8 years older than her. 

In addition to being depressing, this film has an unnecessary framing device that manages to spoil its own ending before the flashback even starts.  Plus it has only one song that gets repeated through the whole picture, "Wish Me a Rainbow", which is not a great song, however it's miles above last night's opening song, "Barefoot in the Park".  I forgot to mention yesterday how horrible that song was. 

Also starring Natalie Wood (last seen in "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice"), Charles Bronson (last seen in "Pat and Mike"), Kate Reid, Robert Blake (last seen in "In Cold Blood"), Mary Badham (last seen in "To Kill a Mockingbird"), Gerard Johnson, with a cameo from Dabney Coleman.

RATING: 3 out of 10 pink slips