Monday, April 11, 2016

CMBA Blogathon: "The Prize" and Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella"

Paul Newman as a cynical novelist.
The Prize (1963). Ernest Lehman adapted this mixture of North By Northwest and Grand Hotel from Irving Wallace's 1963 novel. If Lehman's name sounds familiar, it's because he also penned North By Northwest. Lehman keeps the basic structure of Wallace's multi-character story about a gathering of Nobel Prize winners in Stockholm. However, he gives the film a definite Hitchcock treatment.

Newman and Elke Sommer.
Paul Newman stars as Andrew Craig, a hard-drinking, cynical, but charming author who has won the Nobel Prize for his little-known, critically-acclaimed novels. He considers turning down the honor, but decides that $50,000 "ain't hay." While he is checking into the hotel, he meets an atomic scientist (Edward G. Robinson) who politely chastises him for his unpatriotic attitude. The following day, Andrew meets the scientist again, but the elderly gentleman doesn't recognize him--and makes disparaging remarks about the free world to the press. It's almost as if he's a completely different person. And, of course, he is!

Edward G. Robinson and Diane Baker.
The Prize will never be mistaken for a Hitchcock classic, but it's still satisfying escapist fare headed by a game cast. The subplots involving the other Nobel Prize winners--a scientist who thinks a rival stole his discovery, a wife who wants to make her cheating husband jealous, etc.--provide some humor and, in one case, are tied into the kidnapping. Elke Sommer adds glamour and sass as Newman's eventual ally. Diane Baker keeps the viewer guessing whether she's actually good or bad. And Hitch favorite Leo G. Carroll adds the perfect touch as the fretful head of the awards ceremony.

Journeyman director Mark Robson knows how to keep the plot rolling along. He lacks the Hitchcock touch, but let's reflect for a moment. The Prize is a superior film to Torn Curtain, a European-set thriller about a physicist involved with spies, which was made the following year and starred Paul Newman. That misfire was directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Stuart Damon and Lesley Ann Warren.
Cinderella (1965). Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II originally adapted the famous fairy tale as a television musical in 1957. That version was broadcast live on the East Coast and earned Julie Andrews an Emmy nomination. However, we baby boomers harbor fond memories of the 1965 version starring Lesley Ann Warren as Cinderella and Stuart Damon as the Prince.

Shot on studio sets, it's essentially a filmed play, though that never detracts from its charms. Running just 77 minutes, Cinderella features a lovely score comprised of catchy tunes like "In My Own Little Corner," "Impossible," "Ten Minutes Ago," and the incandescent "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?"

Eighteen-year-old Lesley Ann Warren got the lead role after she was turned down as the oldest Von Trapp daughter in The Sound of Music (1965). Her clear, melodious voice and youthful innocence led to a contract with Disney and plum parts in The Happiest Millionaire (1967) and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968). She had a long career on television and film, eventually receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Victor, Victoria (1982).

Her co-star, Stuart Damon, had appeared on Broadway in Irma La Douce in 1960. Despite a fine singing voice, he spent most of his career in non-musical roles. He starred in the 1968-69 British television series The Champions as a government agent with extrasensory powers. In 1977, he was cast as Dr. Alan Quartermaine on the daytime drama General Hospital. He played the role for 30 years, earning nine Emmy nominations and two wins along the way.

Ginger Rogers and Walter Pigeon.
The supporting cast in Cinderella consists of screen veterans Walter Pigeon (the King), Ginger Rogers (the Queen), Celeste Holm (the fairy godmother), and Jo Van Fleet (the stepmother). Alas, Ginger doesn't get a big dance scene!

There have been several other versions of this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. The most notable ones are a 1997 television version with Brandy and Whitney Houston and a big budget 2013 Broadway adaptation. Both of these musicals added songs that expanded the show's running time. For me, though, I'll just stick with the original...well, the original remake with Lesley Ann and Stuart.


This post is part of the Words, Words, Words! Blogathon hosted by the Classic Movie Blog Association. Be sure to check out all the outstanding posts by clicking here.

11 comments:

  1. I think it is possible that I may have mistaken "The Prize" for a Hitchcock picture in my youth. It was Leo G. Carroll that caused my confusion. It is a perfect movie-movie, if you catch my drift. Check your mind at the door and try not to eat too much popcorn.

    Ah, "Cinderella" (the first remake), is a joy forever. That's the way I usually describe Stuart Damon, so everything fits fine.

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  2. The casts of both of these films really brings back fond memories. Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson are top notch, of course, but anything with Diane Baker AND Elke Sommer really makes me feel like a kid again.
    And - you are so right about the Lesley Ann Warren version being the only version for us boomers. And I can never get over the fact that the gum chewing little gold digger of Victor/Victoria was our little Cinderella!

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  3. The Prize sounds like a terrific flick, especially if it has Leo G. Carroll and Edward G. Robinson. Must track this down!

    I'd never heard of this Cinderella adaptation, but I have to find this one, too. What a great cast!

    Thanks for both recommendations. :)

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  4. I actually found The Prize uneven. It's entertaining enough to watch on lazy Sunday afternoon. However, you're correct about its superiority to Torn Curtain which for me was a real bore. One of Hitchcock's rare misfires.

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  5. Wow, the Prize sounds good. I've heard the title plenty of times and I just assumed it was another Paul Newman boxing film. For some reason, I thought that Cinderella was filmed in black-and-white too...you cleared up two misunderstandings today.

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  6. I'm not a huge fan of The Prize, as I think it's a bit of a snooze. But Cinderella, that's another story. As a boomer, I saw it broadcast in 1965 and just recently, last summer, found the dvd at a Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica and snatched it right up. I love the cast in that version, especially Pat Carroll as one of the 'wicked' step-sisters. She's worth the price of admission.

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  7. What a fascinating pairing! I liked "The Prize" pretty well, especially after Paul Newman's character evolved past the boozing. The supporting cast is quite enjoyable.

    But I really do like "Cinderella" and thought that Stuart Damon and Lesley Ann Warren brought a wonderful sweetness and believability to their roles, looking like a prince and his princess-to-be. The songs are instantly hummable. This is a great choice to show children. Now back to my own little corner!

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  8. Well, I'll have to see "The Prize" ... somehow I've missed it all these years! As for Cinderella, I remember it well, and have always believed that the stepmother and stepsisters could never be topped! Good one, Rick!

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  9. The Prize isn't one you hear about all that often, but, at least for me, it's one of the better non-Hitchcock Hitchcock films just like Charade.

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  10. I LOVE The Prize! So sleek and fun with that heavy Hitchcock vibe. Newman's relaxed and having a good time, Elke is stunning and sexy. Micheline Presle exudes that effortless sophisticated continental charm and like Newman gives a wry knowing performance. Actually everyone is wonderful, the sets and costumes are beautiful and the mystery is involved but not so complex the audience can't follow along. It is miles better than the dour Torn Curtain.

    I also love this version of Cinderella. It was the one that was always shown when I was a kid so I'm sure that has something to do with it. But for its obviously limited budget it really delivers a good time plus for anyone familiar with the performers in the cast it provides an extra boost to the show.

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  11. I missed out on both of these Rick. The casts are super and ones I like a lot. I guess there's not much chance that I'll get to see Cinderella, but I'll look out for The Prize.

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