Saturday, February 25, 2017

Who Was That Lady?

Year 9, Day 56 - 2/25/17 - Movie #2,556

BEFORE: The Frank Sinatra chain is over, but the overlapping Dean Martin chain continues.

Here's the TCM line-up for tomorrow, 2/26, which is also Oscar Night itself:
7:15 AM Test Pilot (1938)
9:30 AM That Girl from Paris (1936)
11:15 AM That Hamilton Woman (1941)
1:30 PM That Man from Rio (1964)
3:45 PM Them! (1954)
5:30 PM They Were Expendable (1945)
8:00 PM The Thin Man (1934)
9:45 PM The Third Man (1949)
11:45 PM Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
2:15 AM A Thousand Clowns (1965)
4:15 AM Thousands Cheer (1943)

Well, it looks like TCM really didn't want to compete with the Oscar ceremony broadcast, or maybe it's just that the letter "T" doesn't begin that many great movies, once you ignore the word "the".  Anyway, I've seen only two of these, "The Thin Man" and "The Third Man", bringing me up to 108 seen out of 281 films.

THE PLOT: In order to get back together with his wife, a chemistry professor enlists the aid of a TV writer friend to concoct a wild story that he is an undercover FBI agent.  The wife believes the story and later real FBI agents and enemy spies become involved in the scheme.

AFTER: This one sort of gets off to a bad start, because it begins with a wife catching her professor husband kissing a student - and his only excuse is that the student was trying to transfer into a chemistry course that was already full.  Oh, well, by all means, continue kissing that student, then.  After the wife tells him to move out and begins to make plans for a divorce, he starts to figure out a way around the problem, but that doesn't really solve the problem, which is that HE WAS KISSING ONE OF HIS STUDENTS.  This is a bit like complaining about all the leaks in the current administration, in the hopes that the leaks will be seen as the problem, rather than the disparaging information that the links contain, which should be of greater concern.  Please note that if someone manages to stop the leaks, then the bad behavior will continue, only no one will find out about it.

In an attempt to solve the problem, his buddy who writes for TV shows not only concocts this bogus FBI agent story, but gets him a gun and an ID card from the props department.  What the two friends don't count on is the fact that the wife not only believes the story, but is absolutely horrible at keeping a secret.  Did he, in fact, forget to say to her, "By the way, don't tell anyone about this..." because I'm pretty sure he said something like that, but she just couldn't do it.  Seriously, everywhere she goes, it's all, "My husband, who's an FBI agent..." and "Well, I really shouldn't tell you about my husband's FBI job..." - how can she be this clueless?

This leads, naturally (?) to her husband going out on a double-date with his writer friend, you know, to help him out, and convincing his wife that the two women they're meeting in a Chinese restaurant are really enemy agents, and the date is really a mission to trap them, so it puts the wife in a position where she's encouraging her husband to fool around, in the interest of national security.  That's pretty low, even for a Hollywood storyline.

So, he managed to cover up one indiscretion with the FBI story, but then the next day, he's using it as an excuse to go out and cheat again.  What happened to quitting while you're ahead?  I mean, there was a quick way to end the charade, just by saying, "Honey, I'm going to give up my career as an FBI agent, just for you, because it's so dangerous."  But then the story couldn't devolve from there, I suppose, to create the necessary worst-case "darkest before the dawn" scenario.  And once the real FBI gets involved and these guys are facing probable criminal charges, it's a wonder (and a bit of a stretch) that everything works out OK in the end.

Also starring Tony Curtis (last seen in "Play It to the Bone"), Janet Leigh (last seen in "Harper"), James Whitmore (last seen in "Fun with Dick and Jane"), John McIntire, Barbara Nichols (last seen in "Pal Joey"), Larry Keating, Larry Storch (last seen in "The Great Race"), Joi Lansing (also carrying over from "Marriage on the Rocks") with a cameo from Jack Benny.

RATING: 4 out of 10 intercepted phone calls

Friday, February 24, 2017

Marriage on the Rocks

Year 9, Day 55 - 2/24/17 - Movie #2,555

BEFORE: Success! The Kickstarter campaign I was working on promoting, with a few days worth of tweets and e-mails bothering friends, acquaintances (and a few complete strangers) reached its goal, which means I get to stay employed at my second job for at least a couple more years.  Which is great, because I really didn't have a back-up plan, but then again, neither did the director and producer of this film.  So, really, we had to succeed, there just was no other option.  You never really know with these things whether you've done enough promotion, until the goal is reached, and then exceeded, and you realize that you may have done a bit too much.  But there was no way to know that, either.

Both Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin carry over from "Some Came Running" - I think these two may have made more movies together than Liz Taylor and Richard Burton did.  And Sinatra also shows up on TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" schedule for tomorrow, 2/25:
6:00 AM Splendor in the Grass (1961)
8:15 AM Stage Door (1937)
10:00 Stagecoach (1939)
12:00 PM A Star Is Born (1937)
2:00 PM The Story of G.I. Joe (1945)
4:00 PM Strangers on a Train (1951)
5:45 PM A Streetcar Named Desire (1961)
8:00 PM The Summer of '42 (1971)
10:00 PM The Sundowners (1960)
12:30 AM Swing Time (1936)
2:30 AM A Tale of Two Cities (1935)
5:00 AM The Tender Trap (1955)

Ha, I'm hitting for 6 out of 12 today, with "Splendor in the Grass", "Stage Door", "Strangers on a Train", "A Streetcar Named Desire", "The Tender Trap" (which I watched a few days ago) and "Swing Time" (which I'm going to watch next week).  That brings me up to 106 seen out of 279 films.  Still hovering above 33%.

THE PLOT: When ad agency president Dan Edwards goes to Mexico to celebrate his wedding anniversary, he winds up getting divorced by mistake - whereupon his wife Valerie marries his best friend Ernie by mistake.

AFTER: OK, so it's not a typical love triangle tonight, but it is a triangle.  Sinatra's character is married, but his best friend (Dean Martin) is always hanging around the house, and jokingly says things like "You should have married ME instead" to his wife.  It seems that Ernie (Dean) and the wife were once an item, and she made her choice 20 years ago, but she was only 18 at the time.  So, as we've seen with these triangles, she's always going to wonder about the spouse not taken.  In the meantime, her spouse Dan has turned into a boring old routine sort of husband, and Ernie's always ready to party, and in fact has three girls lined up to date on any particular night, just in case two of them cancel.

It's a nice change to see Sinatra playing the stable husband, after the succession of louses that he played over the last couple of nights.  Back in "The Tender Trap", he was the one who had a stack of phone messages from women who wanted to date him, and now in this film Dean Martin takes over the similar role.

The marriage seems like it's headed for disaster, as the wife is bored with the husband, the best friend's always joking about how he would be a better match for the wife, and the husband himself is just plain boring.  It seems like disaster's averted, however, when the couple agrees to take a second honeymoon in Mexico.

However, to swallow the rest of this storyline, you have to accept a few things: 1) that married people all want to be single, and single people all want to be married, or so they claim  2) that there's a place in Mexico that caters to people who want to get either divorced or married very quickly and 3) that it's possible in such a place to get accidentally divorced, or married to the wrong person, due largely to language problems.

If you can buy all that, then the storyline can proceed, with the wife pretending to be married to Ernie in order to make Dan jealous and interested in her again, but Dan also pretending that he doesn't know about this little plot, and going along with it to teach both Ernie AND his wife a lesson.  So yeah, the tables maybe get turned a few too many times here, but at least it all brings about the best possible world as a result, so in a way there's something sort of Shakespearean (All's well that ends well) about this bedroom farce.

Also starring Deborah Kerr (last seen in "Julius Caesar"), Nancy Sinatra, Joi Lansing (last seen in "Touch of Evil"), Cesar Romero (last seen in "The Thin Man"), John McGiver (last seen in "Made in Paris"), Hermione Baddeley (last seen in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown"), Tony Bill (last seen in "Must Love Dogs"), Michael Petit, with cameos from Kathleen Freeman (last seen in "The Ladies Man"), DeForest Kelley, Reta Shaw (also last seen in "Made in Paris") and Trini Lopez (last seen in "The Dirty Dozen").

RATING: 4 out of 10 go-go dancers

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Some Came Running

Year 9, Day 54 - 2/23/17 - Movie #2,554

BEFORE: There's now under 24 hours left in this Kickstarter campaign that I'm working on, for an independent animated feature about how biology and neuroscience affect people's ability to fall in love and decide to get married - and it's been a few solid days of tweeting and messaging people, trying to get them to retweet the links.  In a way, those of us on the social media team are like the showgirls in "Pal Joey" - we'll exchange a tweet for a tweet, we'll post funny photos or creative hashtags if we think it will get the campaign more attention.  If you want us to do the striptease number, hey, we'll consider it - as long as you retweet for us.

While I cue up another classic Sinatra film, here's what's coming up tomorrow in TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" line-up:
6:00 AM The Sheepman (1958)
7:30 AM Shenandoah (1965)
9:30 AM Show Boat (1951)
11:30 AM The Silver Chalice (1954)
2:00 PM Singin' in the Rain (1952)
3:45 PM The Slipper and the Rose (1976)
6:15 PM Small Town Girl (1953)
8:00 PM Some Like It Hot (1959)
10:15 PM Spartacus (1960)
1:45 AM Speedy (1928)
3:30 AM The Spirit of St. Louis (1957)

Another 11 films, and I've seen 4 of them - "Singin' in the Rain", "Some Like It Hot", "Spartacus" and "The Spirit of St. Louis", bringing me up to 100 seen out of 267.  Just another 7 days to go!

THE PLOT: The alcoholic and bitter veteran and former writer Dave Hirsch returns to his hometown in Indiana, followed by a vulgar and easy woman with whom he spent his last night in Chicago.  Dave is also attracted to the beautiful daughter of his former professor, who idolizes his work as a writer.

AFTER: Now I'm wondering how many times Frank Sinatra played a louse of a man, torn between two women - because this is the third time I've seen that in a week.  And I'm doubly sorry I didn't schedule "Can-Can", because I could have had Shirley MacLaine carry over from that film along with Sinatra.

And once again, Frank's at the focal point of a love triangle - last night he had to decide between the rich former showgirl and the poor current showgirl (some would say that's a nice problem to have...) and tonight it's a choice between the educated woman who seems afraid (or incapable) of loving him back, and the uneducated woman who loves him unconditionally.  OK, so that's more of a poser - should he marry for intellectual stimulation, or, umm, physical stimulation?  Maybe that's putting too fine a point on it.

The situation may be similar, but there are no songs for Frank to sing here, or opportunities to get up on stage.  Instead he plays poker with a guy named Bama, and keeps getting into various forms of trouble that get the whole town talking.  And everything he does gets under the skin of his older brother, even when his older brother is found having an affair with his secretary, somehow the older brother can't admit that he's at fault in that situation.  And when the brother's daughter finds out about her father's affair, she dumps her steady boyfriend and runs off to Terre Haute to get into trouble.  But Frank's character happens to be there and puts her on a bus back to Parkman.  And STILL he doesn't get credit for his good deed.

As I've seen before in other films with love triangles, whichever woman he chooses, he's always going to wonder what would have happened with the other.  But at least he realizes at some point that it's better to put your love energy toward the woman that loves you back, rather than the one who can't seem to display something close to interest.  That's about as close to a moral lesson as we're going to find here, I think.  Oh, and maybe don't drink a full fifth of whiskey every day.

Also starring Dean Martin (last seen in "Artists and Models"), Shirley Maclaine (last seen in "Bernie"), Martha Hyer (last seen in "The Chase"), Arthur Kennedy (last seen in "Elmer Gantry"), Nancy Gates (last seen in "The Magnificent Ambersons"), Leora Dana, Betty Lou Kelm, Larry Gates, Connie Gilchrist (last seen in "Song of the Thin Man").

RATING: 5 out of 10 Greyhound buses

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Pal Joey

Year 9, Day 53 - 2/22/17 - Movie #2,553

BEFORE: I'm going to allow the first indirect linking of February, and of 2017 for that matter, tonight so I can get back to the Frank Sinatra movies.  Nothing links out of "The Swan", and my new rule, instituted last year, is that when I hit a linking dead-end, it's OK to go back to the last film and link from there.  In other words, Grace Kelly links back to Frank Sinatra via "High Society".

Too late, I realize my mistake - I could have followed the Louis Jourdan link out of "The Swan" by watching "Can-Can", and that would have gotten me back to Frank Sinatra by direct linking.  And TCM ran "Can-Can" a few months back, when Sinatra was their "Artist of the Month", and I neglected to record it.  Mea culpa, but I really didn't want to watch that one, anyway.

And speaking of TCM, here's their "31 Days of Oscar" line-up for tomorrow, 2/23:
6:45 AM San Antonio (1945)
8:45 AM San Francisco (1936)
10:45 AM The Sandpiper (1965)
12:45 PM Scrooge (1970)
2:45 PM The Sea Hawk (1940)
5:00 PM The Sea Wolf (1941)
6:30 PM Second Chorus (1940)
8:00 PM Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
10:00 PM The Seven Per -Cent Solution (1976)
12:00 AM Shaft (1971)
2:00 AM Shall We Dance (1937)
4:15 AM She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

I've got the Fred Astaire chain coming up next week, so I'm recording "Second Chorus", and I've already got "Shall We Dance" in the line-up.  If I count those two, I can hit for 5 today, including "Scrooge" (my favorite adaptation of "A Christmas Carol"), "The Sea Hawk", and "The Seven Per-Cent Solution" (one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes films).  I'm passing on "The Sandpiper" because I already covered Liz Taylor and Richard Burton this month, and on "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers".  But this brings me up to 96 seen out of 256 films.

THE PLOT: Joey Evans is a charming, handsome, talented, first-class heel who meets the former chorus girl, and now rich widow Vera Simpson, the two souls seem made for each other.  But Linda English, the "mouse on the chorus line" is the typical good girl from a good home - just the right ingredient to louse up Joey's cushy set up.

AFTER: You know a Sinatra film is probably going to work in a few musical numbers, but I just can't buy it when they're shoehorned in, like they were in "High Society".  Unlike Bing's number with Louis Armstrong's band in that film, the Sinatra songs just sort of happened, like he was having a singing conversation with Crosby - but where's that backing music coming from?  At least in "The Tender Trap" he was a talent agent, and he could sing a song at the piano while instructing Debbie Reynolds' character how to sing it.  Here he's a singing and dancing club MC, and that makes for more natural ways to work songs into the film.

And some of the best songs from the Rodgers & Hart team are here: "The Lady Is a Tramp", "I Could Write a Book", "Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered", and "My Funny Valentine".  Geez, if I'd known that last song was in here (sung by Kim Novak, not Frank), I would have tried harder to maybe get this film to land on February 14.  But how was I to know?  I'd never even seen a stage version of the play "Pal Joey" before.

From what I understand, they had to change the plot of the play a little to allow for Sinatra to star in it - in the play, Joey was younger and more of a "boy toy", but Sinatra was 41 when this was filmed.  It apparently took a few decades to adapt the play into a film, on stage the lyrics could be a little saucier, but Hollywood was probably trying to be more wholesome in the late 1950's, at least to a point.  A film about a bunch of showgirls, one of whom gets corralled into performing a strip-tease act, just wasn't going to fly as a film - so here they only show her rehearsing the strip number, not actually doing it in front of a paying crowd.

I wonder how many stage plays there were like this, like there was "Gypsy", of course - it seems like maybe men in the 1950's needed some encouragement to go out to a Broadway show with their wives, and maybe throwing some strippers into the plot made the difference?  Or maybe putting a bunch of strippers on stage was too obvious, so they just built the plays around them?  Just a thought.

But after the complicated love politics of "The Tender Trap" and "High Society", it's nice to see just a basic love triangle at work.  Joey can't make any headway with Linda, the showgirl, even though they're staying at the same boarding house and share a bathroom.  He has more luck with former showgirl Vera, who's got a mansion up on Nob Hill and after a few nights together, is willing to build him his own nightclub, the (horribly) named "Chez Joey".  But even though that relationship seems to bring him everything he needs, is it what he wants?  Or is he always going to wonder about the showgirl that got away, the one he almost connected with?

Also starring Rita Hayworth (last seen in "Only Angels Have Wings"), Kim Novak (last seen in "Vertigo"), Bobby Sherwood, Hank Henry, Barbara Nicholes, Elizabeth Patterson.

RATING: 6 out of 10 charity auction items

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Swan

Year 9, Day 52 - 2/21/17 - Movie #2,552

BEFORE: Grace Kelly carries over from "High Society" - she can also be seen in "Rear Window", airing on TCM tonight at 12:45 am.  Here's a look at tomorrow's "31 Days of Oscar" line-up on TCM:
6:45 AM Rhapsody in Blue (1945)
9:15 AM Rich, Young and Pretty (1951)
11:00 AM The Richest Girl in the World (1934)
12:30 AM The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960)
2:15 AM Road to Morocco (1942)
3:45 AM Roberta (1935)
5:45 PM Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964)
8:00 PM Roman Holiday (1953)
10:15 PM A Room With a View (1986)
12:15 AM The Ruling Class (1972)
3:00 AM Running on Empty (1988)
5:00 AM Sadie Thompson (1928)

It feels like we're sort of on the same page again, TCM and me.  I'm about to watch a film about European royalty, and they're airing a bunch of films about rich people, a Moroccan princess, Audrey Hepburn as a runaway Princess, chic Paris fashion, a nobleman inheriting a fortune, and a love triangle among nobles.  If you count "Roberta" (a film coming up in my Fred Astaire chain next week) then I get to claim another 4 of these 12 - including "Robin and the 7 Hoods", "Roman Holiday" and "A Room With a View", bringing me up to 91 seen out of 244.

THE PLOT: Princess Alexandra must make a good impression on a distant cousin when he pays a surprise visit to their palace.  Prince Albert has searched all over Europe for a bride and he's bored by the courtship routine.  Princess Beatrice tells Alexandra to invite her brothers' tutor to the ball that night and dance with him to catch the attention of Prince Albert.
AFTER: OK, we're back to the traditional love triangle, with a bit of a twist, since it's a manufactured one, and it's set among royalty.  The goal is for Alexandra to catch the eye of her cousin (umm, ewww...) by dancing with the palace tutor, who's a commoner.  After all, it worked for her mother, who flirted with the stable boy in order to land her husband.  WTF is up with kings and other male members of royalty, why do they all have to be tricked into proposing to women?  Plus, what happened to arranged marriages, weren't all the pairings among royals worked out to coincide with international treaties and such, in order to make both countries stronger?

I'm sorry, but I have to call NITPICK POINT on this plotline - how come they can arrange for Prince Albert's visit, set up the opportunity for him to meet Princess Alexandra, but nobody told the Prince himself (or his mother, the Queen) the reason for the visit?  Was there some other reason, not mentioned, for him to come to the estate?  All this confusion and awkwardness could have been easily avoided if someone had just told the Prince the reason for his visit, no?

This is where I think there's something going on that the storyline didn't (or couldn't mention).  Something quite obvious to a modern onlooker, but wouldn't have been discussed in 1910 (when the film is set) or even 1956 (when the film was made).  The prince shows up late for things, he just wants to play sports with young boys, and he's very catty with his insults.  Alexandra, honey, I think he's playing for the other team, and you're wasting your efforts.

And he's played by Alec Guinness.  Look, I figured out a long time ago that this actor I admired for being in "Star Wars" was (probably) gay.  He's British (I know, by itself that's not proof, but look up "buggering" when you have the time - it's ingrained into the British school system...) and although he was married and had a son, a BBC news article after his death claimed, right or wrong, that he was bisexual.  I'm cool with it, obviously he's from a different era that was still recovering from Victorian morality, and it's hard to tell those that were and didn't talk about it from those that weren't.

Honestly, the first third of this film was extremely boring, because it was just "rich people doing stuff", at least when the Prince came on to the scene, things got more exciting.  The efforts to get the Prince interested in Alexandra all fall flat, and I think you can see an incredible sexual subtext in Albert asking her about her "rose garden".  "Do you tend it yourself?" he asks (or words to that effect...) Come on, we all know what he's really asking her...  And he says that she needs to watch out for thorns?  Oooh, so telling - he thinks that the female "flower" has thorns, and he doesn't want to touch it - his advice to her is to make sure she wears very thick gloves when she touches her "flower".

Then there's this attempt to make Albert jealous by making him think she's interested in her brothers' tutor.  This sort of reminds me of the trick employed by Mr. Dexter-Haven in "High Society", to destroy Tracy Lord's wedding by making her fiancĂ© think that she fooled around with the magazine reporter.  Here Alexandra's mother thinks that Albert will be more interested in her if he sees her dancing with the tutor - it doesn't really work, plus it backfires when Alexandra starts to fall in love with the tutor for real, and the tutor reveals that he's been attracted to her for a long time, too!

When the Queen arrives, Albert tries to explain everything by using more metaphors - Alexandra was made of ice, and he himself was a "fish" - would that be a cold (gay) fish?  And this of course leads to more metaphors about bait and hooks and so forth - but it seems that the fish just wouldn't take the bait.  (Probably because it was the wrong gender for him...)

If this film had been made more recently, the ending would, no doubt, have been different.  Since I understand that every film is a product of its time, I understand why the story had to end the way it did, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

"The Swan" and "High Society" were the last two films that Grace Kelly made before becoming a princess in real life - Princess Grace of Monaco.  And she then had a son, who was a prince named Albert.  Bearing an heir to Prince Rainier meant that his kingdom would not revert to becoming part of France, which seems like the situation encountered by the royals seen in this film.  Very curious.

Also starring Alec Guinness (last seen in "Doctor Zhivago") Louis Jourdan (last seen in "Made in Paris"), Jessie Royce Landis (last seen in "North by Northwest"), Brian Aherne (last seen in "I Confess"), Agnes Moorehead (last seen in "The Magnificent Ambersons"), Leo G. Carroll (last seen in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"), Estelle Winwood (last seen in "The Misfits"), Van Dyke Parks, Christopher Cook, Robert Coote, Doris Lloyd.

RATING: 4 out of 10 butlers and maids

Monday, February 20, 2017

High Society

Year 9, Day 51 - 2/20/17 - Movie #2,551

BEFORE: Well, TCM is running "The Philadelphia Story" today, and we're sort of on the same page, because my film tonight is a remake of that film.  Frank Sinatra carries over from "The Tender Trap", and I've got three more Sinatra films coming up this week.

And here's what they're running tomorrow, 2/21:
6:45 AM Pride of the Marines (1945)
8:45 AM Primrose Path (1940)
10:30 AM Princess O'Rourke (1943)
12:30 PM The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
2:15 PM The Private Life of Henry VIII (1937)
4:00 PM The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
6:00 PM The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933)
8:00 PM The Quiet Man (1952)
10:15 PM The Razor's Edge (1946)
12:45 AM Rear Window (1954)
2:45 AM Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
4:45 AM The Red Danube (1955)

I've only seen 2 out of tomorrow's 12 - "Rear Window" (another Grace Kelly film) and "Rebel Without a Cause", so I'm dropping to 87 seen out of 232.

THE PLOT: C.K. Dexter-Haven, a successful jazz musician, lives in a mansion near his ex-wife Tracy Lord's family estate.  She's on the verge of marrying a blander and safer man, but Dex wants to win Tracy's heart again.  Mike Connor, a tabloid reporter, also falls for Tracy while covering the nuptials, and Tracy must choose between the three men.

AFTER: Well, if "The Tender Trap" represented a love quadrangle, this one takes things a step further, with sort of a love pentangle (pentagon?) as there are 5 people involved.  There's the bride and her fiancĂ©, plus her ex-husband, that's a triangle, but then there's the reporter that also falls for her, and his long-suffering not-girlfriend.  How many times did Celeste Holm play the girl who unsuccessfully chased after Frank Sinatra's character?  I must check on that.

Now I wish they had clarified the geography of the Newport mansions - I got confused because it seemed like Dexter-Haven was living in the same house as his ex-wife, not one just down the road, then his ex said something about "Don't let Dexter get near this house", but it seemed like he was already there.  Anyway, when he did show up, he had no trouble getting in, so what was the point of trying to keep him out?  OK, so Tracy takes Mike Connor out for a driving tour of the mansions, but it's not much help, because only one of those is owned by a main character.

But it turns out that this takes place during the time of the annual Newport Jazz Fest, and Louis Armstrong and his band just happen to be in town, so we get to see Bing Crosby perform with them.  But it's too bad that this involves Bing mansplaining what jazz is, and the names of the instruments involved.  But didn't most people already know what jazz was by 1956, hadn't it been around for like 30 years?  Why treat the audience like idiots who don't know what the various instruments are called?

That's just one of the ways I found this film to be quite tedious - of course, part of that comes from knowing what took place in "The Philadelphia Story", and wondering why a remake was necessary to begin with.  They pulled that same confusion over which man is Mr. Lord and which is Uncle Willie, but there doesn't seem to be as much point to continue with that charade this time - what was the point of it, anyway?

I also didn't understand when Tracy and her sister met with the two magazine reporters, and the young sister spoke in French and danced ballet, then Tracy came in and just acted super-fake and overly expressive.  Why?  What was she trying to prove?  It seemed in the scene before this like she was going to pull some kind of trick on them, but I just didn't get the gag.

This film is on that list of "1,001 Movies to See Before You Die", and since I was just three movies away from having seen 400 of those - it's not easy because they keep changing the list every two years, and I end up making negative progress - any movie I can cross off that list at this point is helpful, but I can't really understand why this film needs to be on that list - especially if "The Philadelphia Story" is also on it.  It's basically the same movie, just with different actors, right?  OK, so they added songs, big whoop.

Also starring Bing Crosby (last seen in "Robin and the 7 Hoods"), Grace Kelly (last seen in "To Catch a Thief"), Celeste Holm (also carrying over from "The Tender Trap"), John Lund, Louis Calhern (last seen in "Julius Caesar"), Sidney Blackmer, Louis Armstrong, Margalo Gillmore, Lydia Reed.

RATING: 3 out of 10 glasses of champagne

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Tender Trap

Year 9, Day 50 - 2/19/17 - Movie #2,550

BEFORE: It's the end of the Debbie Reynolds chain, at least for now, and it coincides neatly with the start of a (mostly) Frank Sinatra chain.  And somehow I'm 50 movies into the year already - geez, it feels like New Year's was last week, though I know it wasn't, and already the year is 1/6 over.  Time flies when you watch a movie a day, I guess.

Here's what's on tap for TCM's "31 Days of Oscar" line-up for tomorrow, 2/20:
7:45 AM Penny Serenade (1941)
10:00 AM The Perils of Pauline (1947)
12:00 PM Period of Adjustment (1962)
2:00 PM The Philadelphia Story (1940)
4:00 PM The Pink Panther (1964)
6:00 PM The Pirate (1948)
8:00 PM A Place in the Sun (1951)
10:15 PM Pocketful of Miracles (1961)
12:45 AM Poltergeist (1982)
2:45 AM Possessed (1947)
4:45 AM Pride and Prejudice (1940)

Chalk up another four films for me: "Penny Serenade", "The Philadelphia Story", "The Pink Panther" and "Poltergeist".  I watched "Poltergeist" in the theater when I was 14 and it scared the bejeezus out of me.  Never again.  But another 4 out of 11 brings me up to 85 seen out of 220.  I think I know now what my final tally will be, but I'm not sure about the percentage - I'm hovering now at about 38%.

THE PLOT: Charlie Reader, a successful theater agent, is also successful with young ladies.  One day he is visited by his old friend Joe, who is married with three children.  Joe falls in love with Charlie's girl Sylvia while Charlie spends his time with young actress Julie.

AFTER: And what great insights about romance do we get from this film from 1955?  Oh, just that any eligible bachelor in New York City, provided he's a good dresser, has a high-profile, well-paying job and knows his way around the city's clubs and restaurants will simply have women calling him ALL DAY long to spend time with him.  He never even has to walk his own dog, clean his apartment or buy his own cheese or whitefish - various dames will do all that for him.  See, if you find a girl whose father owns a deli, and take her out to dinner once in a while, you'll have all the whitefish you want, if you know what I mean.

Sinatra's Charlie has so many dames interested that he doesn't even has time to date them all - there are women calling who he "hasn't even gotten to yet".  Only in the movies, right?  I'm not encouraged by what this says about 1950's urban women, namely that they're all desperate, or slutty, or enterprising, too sophisticated to get married, or some combination of those things.  It's funny that they all have their reasons for dating this guy non-exclusively, and just too much of a coincidence, if you ask me.  Because for them ALL to have the same plan, which is to not HAVE a plan, then that suggests they're all working together, or they all read the same book on relationships or something, or they formed an organized movement to game the system and collectively get men to buy them dinner every night, and we all know that wasn't the case.  You see, if each one focused on just one man, then the game would be up too soon, but if they all SHARE the eligible bachelors in NYC, they can keep this gravy train running indefinitely.

It's a little easier to break this down and assume that all of the single people want to get married, and all of the married people miss being single, but that doesn't really tell the whole story, but some women like Sylvia have relegated themselves to the fact that marriage probably isn't in the cards for them, so they should just juggle a certain number of men with casual relationships, and that will serve as a fair substitute, as long as they can provide a service in return, whether that's walking dogs or cleaning apartments or bringing cheeses.  You don't expect a single man in 1955 to do his own grocery shopping, right?  That would be ridiculous, because it was considered "women's work" at the time.  (Their words, not mine...)

But Charlie's new client, Julie, throws his world into chaos when she won't play the game and have dinner with him.  She also won't sign a long-term contract for a Broadway show, because her personal schedule demands that she be married by March 12, even though she hasn't met the right man yet.  Charlie thinks she's a lunatic, but since she's also the one girl who won't go out with him, a story contrivance demands that he only wants what he can't have.  But unlike his other girlfriends, she wants to know how many other girls are in the rotation, and then demands to be the only one.

This is all background material for setting up a standard love quadrangle - and as you may remember from geometry class, a quadrilateral can be divided into two triangles.  Here we have the love triangle where both Charlie and Joe are interested in Sylvia, and both Sylvia and Julie are interested in Charlie.  Joe is married, which complicates things, and Julie is demanding, which does the same.   And thus do writers paint themselves into a corner, the love quadrangle is established with no way of getting out of it, other than to wait for the paint to dry.  (Sure, you can metaphorically cut a hole in the wall, but the waiting is safer, it just takes longer.).

It seems that all four Debbie Reynolds films this week tried to wrap things up with either a party, or a brawl, or a combination of both.  "How Sweet It Is!" ended with a big confusing scene in a Paris brothel, "The Mating Game" had a big fight on the farm between the taxman, the family and the three rapey farmhands, and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" had a big party in Denver that introduced European royals to the locals, which quickly turned into a dance-off and food fight.  Tonight there's an engagement party for Charlie and Sylvia, which apparently was a big blow-out filled with theater people and musicians, only we never see it, just the aftermath of the wrecked apartment, and people with hangovers.  Seems like a missed opportunity.

But it turns out you can't be engaged to two women at once, as Charlie eventually finds out, when the women find out about each other then that forces a resolution of some kind, even if it's not to anyone's liking.  And as with Molly Brown, Charlie spends some time in Europe, because sometimes the best way to fix a problem is to run away from it for a year or so.  Come to think of it, that's a horrible moral lesson.  Anyway, I don't buy it, because after a louse like Charlie two-times a woman, I doubt that disappearing for a year is going to change her opinion of him.

Also starring Frank Sinatra (last heard singing in "What Women Want"), David Wayne (last seen in "How to Marry a Millionaire"), Celeste Holm, Carolyn Jones (last seen in "The Man Who Knew Too Much"), Lola Albright, Jarma Lewis, Tom Helmore, Howard St. John, Joey Faye.

RATING: 4 out of 10 pearl onions