Monday, January 31, 2011

Let the Countdown Begin! My 100 Favorite Films: From 100 to 91

The idea of listing one's 100 favorite movies seems daunting, unrealistic, and a wee pompous. First, I find it almost impossible to settle on a "top 100"--I'm always thinking of a fave I forgot to include. Furthermore, the definition of "favorite" seems to fluctuate based on my age and state of mind. And yet...I admit that I'm intrigued with lists, especially the countdown variety. I guess I'm just a list kind of guy.

During the Christmas holidays, I found a list of my favorite movies, which I'd compiled many years ago. To my surprise, about 70% of the films were still ones I enjoy watching every year or two. I thought it might be amusing to revise my list and do a monthly series of posts where I count down my faves from #100 to #1. Several of the films are ones I've reviewed at the Cafe, while others are pretty obscure.

My film tastes are pretty eclectic, so my favorites feature performers as diverse as Errol Flynn, Spencer Tracy, Deborah Kerr, Hayley Mills, and Bruce Lee (in fact, I list at least two films by each of those stars). There are Hammer films, foreign-language films, Disney, and Hitchcock. And there are robots, gargoyles, soldier ants, and even "humanimals." Let me stress that these are not what I consider the greatest films ever made (though some of them are). Rather, they are just one film buff's favorites.

Sadly, there were a handful of movies that just missed out on a place on the list. These honorable mentions include Trinity Is Still My Name, Young and Innocent, The Flim Flam Man, Body Heat, The Fury, Cornered, The Five Man Army, Repeat PerformanceStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and Random Harvest. And now, it's my proud pleasure to count down 100-91:

100. Ten Little Indians (1965)/John Carpenter’s The Thing - I know, I've already cheated by starting with a tie so I could squeeze in 101 favorite films. But the truth is that these two films both feature a setting and premise that have always appealed to me: an isolated snowy location and a murderer that could be anyone. I know plenty of movie lovers are aghast that I didn't pick the more renowned And Then There Were None. However, it's not set on a snow-covered mountain...and doesn't have a "murder minute."

99. Rocky - The variable quality of the sequels doesn't diminish the original, which presents a gritty, winning underdog story. Whenever it's on TV (which is a lot), I find myself compelled to watch it from whatever point I join the plot.

Natalie Wood recites Wordsworth.
98. Splendor in the Grass - OK, I admit it...I first saw this on the late show when I was around 18 and got the sniffles during the bittersweet closing scene. Natalie Wood is painfully vulnerable as an emotionally fragile young woman in love with Warren Beatty (who has problems of his own) during the late 1920s. A poignant script by the marvelous William Inge has Natalie quoting Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood (the source of the title).

97. My Cousin Rachel - Atmospheric adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's haunting novel stars Richard Burton as an intense young man who falls in love with his new aunt (Olivia de Havilland)--even though he suspects her of murdering his uncle. Set among the rocky beaches of Cornwall with its crashing waves (I strongly recommend watching it at the beach).

Diane Lane in Streets of Fire.
96. Streets of Fire - Walter Hill's “rock n’roll fable” is a stylized blend of action, romance, and terrific music set in “another place, another time.” The plot seems lifted from a 1950s biker film, but the sometimes corny dialogue recalls “B” Westerns of the same period. Ignored for years, it's finally been recognized as a cult film, which is a small victory for dedicated fans like me.

95. Inherit the Wind - I love a good courtroom drama (there will be others on my list) and this is one of the best. The case, based on the "Scopes Monkey Trial" of 1925, certainly holds one's interest. However, what lingers are the brilliant performances of Spencer Tracy and Fredric March--plus the film's fascinating portrait of public opinion and the men that try to shape it.

94. The Best Man - Gore Vidal's sharply-observed look inside American politics stars Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson as rivals fighting for their party's presidential nomination circa 1964. Both candidates harbor secrets that can destroy their political aspirations and their loved ones. This gripping drama features a stellar cast and a most satisfying and realistic conclusion.

Peggy Cummins as the carnival sharp-
shooter with more ambitious plans.
93. Gun Crazy (aka Deadly Is the Female) - Bart (John Dall) is a young man who has been obsessed with guns. After a troubled childhood, he appears to have gotten his life in order when he falls head over heels for Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins), a carnival sharpshooter who's nothing but trouble. This classic "B" film noir was the career highpoint for both its stars, who are simply marvelous and generate plenty of sparks. An obvious inspiration for the later Bonnie and Clyde...though I much prefer Gun Crazy.

92. Greyfriars Bobby - This forgotten British Disney film may be the finest examination of the special bond between humans and dogs. The plot is based on the amazing true story of a loyal Skye Terrier who slept on his master’s grave in an Edinburgh cemetery every night for 14 years. The low-wattage cast, featuring Donald Crisp and Laurence Naismith, gives sincere performances and the heartfelt story never turns maudlin.

Scary-looking and hard to kill...
because they're dead!
91. Jason and the Argonauts - The first 45 minutes establishes the backstory for this version of the Greek myth about the Golden Fleece. It's all quite well done, but once our heroes set foot on the island of Bronze, the movie becomes a magical experience courtesy of Ray Harryhausen's sensational special effects. Every fan has their favorite Harryhausen sequence, but my top two are both from Jason:  the capture of the winged Harpies and Jason's dual with the "dragon's teeth"--or as I call it--the breath-taking swordfight with the skeletons.

Next month, I'll count down 90-81, which will include the first of multiple list appearances by Alfred Hitchcock and Hammer Films, plus the place I'd like to take my wife for a second honeymoon.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Trivia Time - Part 69

Last week was another great guys got all but one question in TT68, and I have to admit, this one is a bit obscure:

3. Name the series that took place in the Australian outback and starred Richard Denning.

Answer: The Flying Doctor

Hope you all are ready for this one...we're loaded with questions this week! Some are easy, some are not so easy, and some are....well, just plain nasty!

But we'll let you be the judges....enjoy!

Who Are We? One of us is an Academy Award winning director who appeared as an actor in this director's third feature film. Who Are We?

Who Said This? "I love my country and I love my slippers." Who Said This?

Who Am I? Born in England, I began my career on the English stage. In film I had a long career as a character actor, frequently portraying doctors, professors, or military officers. I was privileged to work with Howard Hawks, Claude Rains, Gary Cooper, Ernst Lubitsch, Barbara Stanwyck, Carole Lombard, Michael Curtiz, Vincent Price, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and Joan Crawford, among many others. Who Am I?

Who Said This? person #1: "Shall we drink to a blitzkrieg?"; person #2: "No, I prefer a slow encirclement." Who Said This?

1. Name the two future TV stars who appeared in a movie with Whit Bissell and Joey Heatherton.

2. Name the stars of the film in the previous question.

3. Name the actor who crossed swords with both Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone, and who danced with Alice Faye.

4. Name two Capra films featuring both Thomas Mitchell and Edward Everett Horton.

5. Name the thing(s) these films have in common: The Odessa File, Day of the Jackal, The Medusa Touch.

6. Believe it or not, Erich Wolfgang Korngold did not win the 1940 Oscar for Best Score for The Sea Hawk. Who did and for which film?

7. Name the thing(s) these films have in common: Airport, The Magnificent Seven, Never So Few, The Caine Mutiny, Spencer's Mountain.

8. Name a multiple Oscar winning film featuring Vincent Price, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Charles Coburn and Thomas Mitchell.

9. How many Westerns did Errol Flynn make?

10. In 1955, Flynn did two films that, when released in the United States, had the original titles changed. Give both the original titles and the U.S. titles.

11. Name at least 5 actors who were considered for the part of Dr. Peter Blood (in Captain Blood) before they finally got around to Errol Flynn.

12. Who was originally offered the part of Arabella in Captain Blood?

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Summer Place: Old Love Rekindled and New Love Set Aflame

Fans of Delmer Dave’s glossy New England soap opera are sharply divided between those who revere it as a classy, nostalgic sudser and those who regard it as camp. I hold the former view, for in spite of occasional plunges into overwrought drama, A Summer Place evokes a genuine warmth with its tale of old love rekindled and young love flaming for the first time.

The plot focuses on two families: the once rich, but now middle-class, Hunters and the once poor, but now wealthy, Jorgensens. The families cross paths when Ken Jorgensen (Richard Egan) takes his family on vacation to posh Pine Island, where Bart Hunter (Arthur Kennedy) has turned his family’s mansion into a hotel. The Maine island holds fond memories for Ken, who worked as a lifeguard there twenty year earlier and—unknown to almost everyone—had a passionate affair with a young socialite. The identity of Ken’s former lover becomes apparent when he exchanges longing glances with Bart’s wife Sylvia (Dorothy McGuire).

During a rainy afternoon in the attic, Ken confesses to Sylvia that his real purpose for returning to the island was to see her again. Trapped in a loveless marriage, he had never forgotten his one true love. His only reason for staying married to his wife Helen (Constance Ford) was that he feared losing custody of teenage daughter Molly (Sandra Dee). Sylvia returns Ken’s affections and admits that she remained with her lazy, alcoholic husband solely because of their teenage son Johnny (Troy Donahue). Cherishing a chance at happiness again, Ken and Sylvia begin a passionate affair.

Meanwhile, Molly and Johnny become interested in each other romantically. When their boat capsizes during a storm, they must spend a night alone on a nearby island. Molly’s sexually-repressed mother accuses her daughter of making love with Johnny. She even has a doctor conduct an examination to ensure that Molly is still a virgin. This act sends Molly into shock, prompting Johnny to threaten to murder Molly’s mother. As both families try to address these problems, secrets are revealed, relationships are fractured, and acceptance triumphs over all.

Thematically, A Summer Place explores forbidden love (Ken and Sylvia) and innocent love (Molly and Johnny) through a subtle form of voyeurism. Everybody seems to be secretly watching everyone else. Johnny first sees Molly with a telescope and she watches him simultaneously with binoculars. Later, Helen spies on Johnny and Molly kissing in the garden. The hotel’s handyman spies on Ken and Sylvia and reports back to Helen. When Molly returns to boarding school, a gossipy classmate fortuitously sees Johnny kissing Molly outside a church. Even when the teens are cuddling in a private spot on the beach, a group of rowdy boys happen by to whistle at them.

Constance Ford as Helen.
The frank discussions about sex undoubtedly shocked audiences of the late 1950s. Peyton Place, released a year earlier, broached the topic of teen sex, but without the bluntness of A Summer Place. Early in the film, Molly confesses to her father how she knowingly undressed in front of her window so the boy next door could watch her. Helen constantly chastises her daughter for her “cheap behavior” (e.g., letting Johnny kiss her). She also tries to dress Molly in childish clothes that hide the girl’s figure. Her worst moment, though, is when she has the physician examine Molly after telling her daughter: “I’m not asking for the truth because I know you’d lie.”

Dorothy McGuire as Sylvia.
Though not a "woman's picture" along the lines of Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life (also released in 1959), A Summer Place clearly revolves around strong female characters. Sylvia is obviously the one who runs the hotel--not her self-pitying husband Bart. Once Sylvia leaves the island, the hotel falls into disrepair. Helen may be a sexually-repressed, domineering woman, but perhaps her drive helped transform Ken from a lifeguard into a successful businessman. Molly, meanwhile, displays a more quiet strength--defying her mother when she writes to and secretly meets Johnny. Ultimately, her strength leads to the happy ending that eluded Sylvia and Ken for much of their adult lives.

No review of a Summer Place would be complete without mentioning composer Max Steiner's haunting, lyrical musical score. Steiner interweaves two melodies, one for the Ken and Sylvia and another for Molly and Johnny. The theme for the older lovers also opens the film as the main title. However, it’s the music for the young lovers that Percy Faith recorded in 1960 as The Theme from “A Summer Place.” The instrumental piece became a million-selling record and spent nine weeks at number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

A beautifully restrained Dorothy McGuire and a wonderfully over-the-top Constance Ford (as perhaps the decade’s bitchiest mother) give the best performances. However, A Summer Place is remembered as the film that launched the careers of Donahue and Dee (both had appeared in supporting roles in Imitation of Life). Director Daves and Donahue would reteam for three more films: Parrish (1961), Susan Slade (1961), and The Rome Adventure (1962). The best of the three was Parrish, an entertaining soap with several similarites to A Summer Place (e.g., it also features an older romance and a younger one).

Dee and Donahue would remain screen fixtures throughout the 1960s, although Dee became a bigger star (Donahue drifted into television, appearing in the series Hawaiian Eye and Surfside Six). Sandra Dee’s abrupt retirement from acting in the early 1970s contributed to her cult status among teen idols of the 1960s. On the other hand, Troy Donahue was relegated to minor roles in major films (The Godfather Part II) as well as direct-to-video features.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Honey West" Kicked Open the Door for Female Action Stars on American TV

Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman) of The Avengers created a sensation on British television in the early 1960s with her fighting skills and stylish sense of fashion. Thus, it was inevitable that a U.S. television network would follow suit and launch its own action series with a strong heroine.

To test the concept, private eye Honey West (played by Anne Francis) was introduced in a 1965 episode of the Gene Barry detective series Burke's Law. The character had first appeared in the Honey West novels written by Gloria and Forest Fickling under the pseudonym "G.G. Fickling." There were eleven Honey West books, starting with 1957's This Girl for Hire.

Honey gets a massage from Sam
as she ponders a case.
Hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, ABC introduced the half-hour Honey West series on Friday nights in the fall of 1965. Francis headlined as Honey, who owned a private detective agency and shared a home with her Aunt Meg (Irene Hervey) and a pet ocelot named Bruce. John Ericson played her partner (and pseudo-boyfriend) Sam, whose overprotective nature is put to the test with Honey's confidence and independence.

Anne Francis was working mostly in television when she signed on to do Honey West. Still, she was big enough a star on the silver screen that she could snare an occasional lead role (The Satan Bug) or a juicy supporting part (Funny Girl). She had the charisma, spunk, and likability factor to make Honey West a success. It didn't hurt either that she looked great in her all-black sleuthing outfit.

Ericson's good looks and easy-going manner keep him steadily employed in television throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. He guest-starred in everything from Shirley Temple Theatre to The Fugitive to the Love Boat. He and Anne Francis had appeared together earlier, as brother and sister, in the 1955 Spencer Tracy classic Bad Day at Black Rock.

Unfortunately, the Honey West series lacked the clever plots and witty banter that made The Avengers a fan favorite. At times, Sam seems almost condescending in his treatment of Honey, which is odd considering that she's technically his boss and she's capable of pummeling the bad guys on her own. Meanwhile, Aunt Meg and Bruce rarely get involved in the plots, their roles relegated mostly to making amusing remarks and purring, respectively. Still, the series improved as the season progressed, with some of the best episodes being written by William Link and Richrad Levinson, the team later responsible for Columbo and Murder, She Wrote.

Bruce had a rare meaty part in
the episode "A Stitch in Crime."
It's unfair, of course, to compare Honey West  to The Avengers. Taken on its own terms, Honey West is a diverting half-hour detective show. The gadgets are fun (e.g., Honey and Sam frequently communicate with tiny transmitters) and the use of homonyms during scene transitions is borderline brilliant. And when the plots start to sag, there's always Ms. Francis to keep the action percolating.

Although Honey West was cancelled after just one season, its impact was almost immediate. In 1966, ABC began broadcasting the Diana Rigg episodes of The Avengers and NBC spun off The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. with Stefanie Powers. The female action star was here to stay and future series such as Get Christie Love, The Bionic Woman, and even Alias owe some of their success to Honey West.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Three Words on W.C. Fields’ Talent: It’s a Gift

it's a gift
W.C. Fields was a deadpan comedic genius. He became famous as a vaudeville performer in the Ziegfeld Follies and most of his films borrow from gags he performed on the stage. It’s a Gift (1934) relies heavily on a number of his revue staples, as well as from his 1926 silent film, It’s the Old Army Game. In Fields’ world everything was fair game when it came to comedy. He had an antipathy toward most things domestic and traditional—even the handicapped were not off limits, as witnessed by his treatment of the blind and deaf Mr. Muckle. These comedic traits made Fields a unique Hollywood performer—plus, he could act, write, and juggle (he was a master juggler). His gift for improvisation can only be compared to that of Steve Carell’s today. Yes, he had a bit of a drinking problem…so what, Mozart had this same issue and by all accounts he was a pretty good musician.
its a giftDirector Norman McLeod was responsible for keeping Fields on track in It’s a Gift…he’d become an expert at dealing with improvisational ex-vaudevillians through his work with the Marx Brothers as well as his earlier films with Fields. The plot revolves around Harold Bissonette (Fields), a New Jersey grocer who hates his store, customers (especially Mr. Muckle, played by the hilarious Charles Sellon), neighbors, and family (especially his wife Amelia, played by the outstanding Kathleen Howard). Harold’s dream is to own an orange grove and ranch in California, and so when he learns that he may be inheriting some money, hope begins to seep into his mind. Never mind that his family has totally different ideas about where their newfound money might be used.

There a number of memorable scenes in this film. The first one is the bathroom scene, where Harold is carefully shaving with a straight razor while his daughter Mildred (Jean Rouverol) goes about her business as though he isn’t itsthere. Several times she comes perilously close to hitting her father’s arm, thus helping him slit his own throat—metaphorically, that’s what a daughter can drive you to. After Mildred fully monopolizes the medicine cabinet mirror, Harold relies on a makeshift mirror on a light pull cord, which sways back and forth. Imagine trying to shave like that? Fields’ coming timing is superb…without the aid of much dialogue.

itsagThe second scene that stands out is the enormously funny grocery encounter between Harold and Mr. Muckle. Blind and deaf (he uses an ear trumpet) Mr. Muckle has a habit of breaking Harold’s glass door with his cane, which he wildly waves back and forth, and just about everything else that is encased in glass. It is side-splitting funny to watch him drop light bulbs on the floor while Harold tries to be as polite as possible. Later, once the tornado that is Mr. Muckle has left the store, we meet baby Ellwood (Baby LeRoy), his neighbor’s son.  Harold refers to him as blood poison, and for good reason: baby Ellwood is a holy terror who likes to throw things at Harold and play in molasses.

The third standout scene happens when Harold attempts to sleep on his porch. After listening to Amelia gripe about his plans to move to California for hours, Harold decides to sleep on the porch swing. Not only is the swing squeaky, but it is dilapidated as well. When he tries to lie down on it one of the chains break and he tries to sleep with vlcsnap-341349his head on the ground and his feet in the air. Noisy delivery men, neighbors, and an imposing insurance salesman (T. Roy Barnes) also disturb his slumber, but it is baby Ellwood that is the real bedbug. Grapes and icepicks are his weapons of noise (and near death for Harold). If you don’t laugh when Harold confronts Ellwood with the icepick then you don’t have a sense of humor.

And, finally, the road trip California has numerous laugh-out-loud gags as well. The picnic scene on the private estate is highly comical, especially the gags with the can opener and statues. And, Amelia’s reaction when they reach the sun-itsaparched land that’s supposed to be their orange grove is one of Kathleen Howard’s best scenes.

I really enjoy watching W.C. Fields. My favorite type of comedy is a sophisticated one, but I also enjoy deadpan and gag comedy as well. I don’t think there was a better deadpan comic during the early years of Hollywood than Fields. I once read that Louise Brooks (who worked with Fields at the Follies and in some early films) thought he was much funnier on the stage than the screen because his brilliance couldn’t be chopped up by a film editor on the open stage. It must have been a sight to behold, because his movies are pretty darn funny—imagine seeing him live without the constraints of censors. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vengeance Will Be Hers in “Lady Snowblood”

In a Tokyo prison in 1874, a child is born to an inmate, Sayo (Miyoko Akaza). She tells her newborn that she is a child of vengeance. Twenty years later, the child, now a skilled female assassin (Meiko Kaji), is searching for a smal
l group of swindlers. Before she was born, near the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, Japan was in turmoil from the political and social revolution. Three men and a woman mistakenly believe that a man dressed in white is a government official (an accepted manner in which to identify such a person), and they brutally kill him and his son, subsequently raping his wife, Sayo. One of the killers takes Sayo as his mistress, and, when presented with an opportunity, the woman murders her captor.

Arrested and imprisoned for
the crime, Sayo is unable to enact her revenge upon the remaining villains, and she hopes for a strong son who will avenge her. She dies after giving birth to her daughter, Yuki. One of Sayo’s fellow prisoners raises the girl with the help of Priest Dokai, who mercilessly trains Yuki from an early age. Finding work as a killer for hire, Yuki lives her life for the inevitable retribution that she will administer to the people responsible for her mother’s agony. Vengeance, however, is neither simple nor easily attained. Yuki’s path will be long, arduous, and stained with blood.
Toshiya Fujita’s 1973 Lady Snowblood (Shurayukihime) is an engaging and elegantly stylized movie. Fujita’s approach helps lessen the impact of the cinematic violence, and likewise does not amplify the bloodshed by presenting duels in the style of a ballet. Yuki’s deathblows are swift and direct. She does not draw her sword to inflict pain, but instead goes for the kill. Such a businesslike technique may seem ruthless, but it’s both the woman’s profession and her lifestyle, and the sword fights seem less savage when they are over so quickly. The movie focuses on the aftermath and consequences.

Lady Snowblood presents its audience with a unique killer. In Yuki’s introduction (as an adult), she has all the appearances of a typical Japanese woman: she’s adorned
in a kimono, walking in the snow and carrying a parasol. When she hears someone approaching, she ducks away behind a corner. The seemingly meek woman, however, is not hiding; she is waiting. She stands in the path of a horse and carriage, surrounded by several men. When the men attack, the assassin shows herself. Hardly restricted by her kimono and sandals, Yuki uses her parasol as both a distraction and defense, and reveals what is likely a wakizashi (a smaller-bladed sword, longer than a dagger), the length of the parasol’s handle acting as a scabbard, or sheath. In little time, the men are dead, and Yuki continues on her away, the only sign of violence an open cut in her parasol.Throughout the film are cues that acknowledge bloodshed as an incendiary for Yuki’s peace of mind. In the opening scene, Yuki appears from the pure white snow, tarnishes it with blood, and retreats back into the snow. Here is a “child of the netherworld” (as Dokai calls her -- “netherworld” is one of the translations of “Shura” in her titular name), hoping to achieve the innocence she has been denied. The paradox is that, in order to cleanse herself, she must allocate impurities. The song that plays during the credits references Yuki renouncing her “womanhood.” She has, however, sacrificed not only her womanhood, but also her individual self. Her life exists to avenge someone else’s death. Only when her violent retaliation is complete can Yuki truly be herself.
In 1974, a sequel followed, Fujita’s Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance (Shurayukihime: Urami Koiuta). A little more than a decade proceeding the events of Lady Snowblood, Yuki has become a fugitive. Wounded and tired from running, the assassin ultimately surrenders to the authorities who have been tracking her. Yuki is sentenced to death by hanging, but on the way to her execution, she is freed by the “Secret Police.” These men enlist Yuki’s help to infiltrate the life of Tokunaga Ransui (Juzo Itami), who apparently has an important and desired document. When Yuki learns of the document’s contents, she chooses a side and sets her sights (and sword) on cruel and unjust men.
At a precursory glance, the second Lady Snowblood seems to demote Yuki to a secondary character status in her own film. She is a small woman in a country of upheaval. War surrounds both films. Around the time of Yuki’s revenge in Lady Snowblood, the First Sino-Japanese War would have begun. At the start of the second film, the Russo-Japanese War has ended (in one scene, young children in a village are happily chanting a song proclaiming Japan’s victory). A character’s torture in Love Song of Vengeance closely resembles the malicious practices of Unit 731, which conducted biological and chemical warfare on prisoners during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II.
Despite all that is taking place, it seems that Yuki’s presence is so powerful that whichever side she chooses will be the victor. She is saved from her execution to assist the Secret Police, only to be asked to help the opposing so-called anarchists. In this regard, Yuki becomes a weapon in a nameless war. This evokes a dilemma similar to the first film, but one that is much more relevant: peace cannot be procured through peaceful means, but with a declaration of war. Yuki wages war to bring peace, almost as if she were wielding a sword in one hand and holding a treaty in the other.The Lady Snowblood movies were based on the manga written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Kazuo Kamimura. Koike also wrote the Lone Wolf and Cub (Kozure Okami) series, which followed a man avenging his wife’s murder by becoming an assassin, accompanied by his young son (initially only one-year-old and pushed in a baby cart outfitted with munitions). The manga was adapted into a stunning and fascinating six-movie film series in the 1970s. The Japanese title of Lady Snowblood, Shurayukihime, is a play on the Japanese version of Snow White, which is Shirayukihime, translated as “Princess Snow White.” Yuki’s name can be translated as “snow” and is a popular female name in Japan. The film’s theme song, played during the opening credits and which closes the movie, was sung by actress Kaji.

There was a pseudo-remake of Lady Snowblood in 2001 with The Princess Blade (the original Japanese title was the same as the 1973 film), a near-future setting that shares a passing resemblance to the original. The first volume of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill (2003) is more of a remake, as the director lifts narrative and visual components (and even uses the theme song, which appeared on the movie’s soundtrack). Most fans consider it an homage.
What makes Yuki such a sensational character in the films is that she is multidimensional. Kaji provides a performance that’s both self-assertive and refined. Her stoic demeanor and conventional attire represent a traditional Japan, which contrasts with the Westernization of the Meiji period (taking place during the course of both films). Her sword is her only weapon, and more than once she faces opponents armed with guns. Yuki adapts well to her environment, whether hiding in the slums or walking through a Western-style costume party. Interestingly, though she is a woman without the benefit of modern weaponry, Yuki is never underestimated by any of the men. (When she’s apprehended in Love Song of Vengeance, she’s hopelessly outnumbered but is only approached when it’s clear that she is surrendering.) They treat her like an equal, as if a duel or encounter with this delicate woman could be their last. And, more often than not, it is.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Trivia Time - Part 68

Well, it was a good week last week for Trivia Time. Most of the questions were answered, at least partially, and I was glad to see a new player in our midst, angelnumber25. So all of you other lurkers out there, take a's not that scary, LOL!

Here are the answers to the remaining questions from TT67:

5. Name the three films for which Duke Ellington wrote the scores. Name the stars of each film.

Dawn provided two of the three requested:

The Asphalt Jungle, with Sterling Hayden, Jean Hagen and James Whitmore.

The Anatomy of a Murder, with James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick and Eve Arden.

Other possible answers are:

Paris Blues, with Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Sidney Poitier, Louis Armstrong, Diahann Carroll

Assault on a Queen (on TCM tomorrow), with Frank Sinatra, Virna Lisi, Anthony Franciosa

8. Which show featured elevator races inside Rockefeller Center during the 1970s-'80s?

Answer: Late Night with David Letterman

And without further ado, here's TT68!

Who Said This? "Stop acting like Don Ameche and get me a taxi." Who Said This?

Who Are We And Which Films Are These? Between 1939 and 1941, we made four films together at 20th Century Fox: one for Henry King, one for Fritz Lang and two for John Ford. Who Are We And Which Films Are These?

Who Am I? For most of my career I played girlfriends, wives, or mothers. In fact I played John Ridgely's wife twice and was the mother in the TV series, National Velvet. Who Am I?

1. Name the two films mentioned by Who Am I? in which she played John Ridgely's wife.

2. Name the actor who appeared in both Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Humoresque.

3. Name the series that took place in the Australian outback and starred Richard Denning.

4. Name the well-known TV series that started in the 1950s on CBS and then went to ABC in the early '60s.

5. Name the actor who played Lt. Rip Masters on the ABC series The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.

6. Name the studio's first choices for the parts of Will Scarlet and Friar Tuck in the Errol Flynn movie, The Adventures of Robin Hood?

7. Besides Captain Blood, name the other films Errol Flynn made in 1935.

8. What one thing do the films The Sea Hawk, Thunder Bay, and The Bad and the Beautiful have in common?

9. What do these films have in common: One Way Passage, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Bataan, Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and One Minute to Zero?

10. Name the character actress who played a computer expert in one film and Cary Grant's fiancee in another film both released the same year. Name the films.

Faye Dunaway: One of the Hottest Actresses of the 1970s

Born January 14, 1941, Faye Dunaway attended the University of Florida, Florida State University and Boston University, but graduated from the University of Florida in theater. In 1962, Dunaway joined the American National Theater and Academy.

Dunaway performed on Broadway in A Man for All Seasons (1962). Her first screen role was in the film The Happening (1967). In 1967, she was in the film Hurry Sundown. Also, that same year, she played a leading role in the film Bonnie and Clyde opposite Warren Beatty, which earned her an Oscar nomination.

The story takes place during the depression in the early 1930s. Bonnie Parker meets Clyde Barrow while he tries to steal her mother's car from the front yard. Interested in his personality and bored with her job as a waitress, she decides to run off with him. Together they commit a few small time holdups that provide them with excitement, but that is about all. Eventually, they recruit C. W. Moss, a slow witted garage mechanic, to drive the getaway car. Soon, they are joined by Clyde's brother Buck, just released from prison and his whining wife, Blanche. They decide to become notorious bank robbers, which turns into an amazing and exciting story....

The film was directed by Arthur Penn. The screenplay was written by David Newman and Robert Benton, with Robert Towne and Beatty providing uncredited contributions to the script. Bonnie and Clyde is considered a landmark film that broke many taboos. Its success may have motivated other filmmakers to use sex and violence in their films. It received Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons) and Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey).

Other actresses considered for the role of Bonnie Parker include: Tuesday Weld, Ann-Margret, Carol Lynley, and Sue Lyon.

When Faye Dunaway looked at Theodora van Runkle's printed scarves, pencil skirts, knitted sweaters, the one-time model completely changed her style. "… until I met Theodora, clothes...had just been part of the job," Dunaway once said. "She taught me how much fun it can be." Soon, many of us girls wanted to look "retro chic". Even the beret, once only worn by Frenchmen and struggling poets, became a hot fashion item. Due partly to Bonnie and Clyde, the '30s look became popular in the 1970s.

In 1968, Dunaway starred with Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair; she had a small role in the 1999 remake with the same title. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards and won the Award for Best Song with "Windmills of Your Mind". Of all of the films Steve McQueen made in his career, this one is reported to have been his favorite.

The story begins when Thomas Crown, a millionaire businessman and sportsman, pulls off a perfect crime by robbing a Boston bank and dumping the money into a cemetery's trash can. Crown retrieves the money later and deposits it at a bank in Geneva. Vicki Anderson, an independent insurance investigator, is contracted to investigate the heist. She will receive a percentage of the stolen money if she recovers it. Their relationship turns into one of the hottest affairs I have seen in a movie. But, things become complicated because of Vicki's job.

The film is beautifully photographed and it also has a wonderful musical score. Director Norman Jewison makes use of the split screen in several places in the film, which captures the era perfectly.

In the 1970s, Faye Dunaway made Three Days of the Condor, Little Big Man, Chinatown, The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, Eyes of Laura Mars, and Network, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress as the scheming TV executive Diana Christensen. She worked with such leading men as Dustin Hoffman, Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Nicholson, and Robert Duvall.

In the 1980s, Dunaway blamed the film Mommie Dearest (1981) for ruining her career as a leading lady. Joan Crawford once said: ""Of all the actresses ... to me, only Faye Dunaway has the talent and the class and the courage it takes to make a real star."

In 1987, Dunaway was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama for her performance in Barfly. In a later movie, Don Juan DeMarco (1995), she co-starred with Johnny Depp and Marlon Brando.

Dunaway starred in the 1986 made-for-television movie Beverly Hills Madam opposite Melody Anderson, Donna Dixon, Terry Farrell and Robin Givens. In 1993, she briefly starred in a sitcom with Robert Urich, It Had to Be You. Dunaway won an Emmy for a 1994 role as a murderer in "It's All in the Game," an episode of the TV series Columbo.

In 1996, she toured nationally with the stage play Master Class. The story about opera singer Maria Callas. Dunaway bought the rights to the Terrence McNally play for possible film project.

In 2009, she appeared in the  "made-for-tv movie" Midnight Bayou, also known as Nora Roberts' Midnight Bayou The film is based on the Nora Roberts novel of the same name and is part of the Nora Roberts 2009 movie collection, which also includes: Northern Lights, High Noon, and Tribute.

The film begins when a young college student (Jerry O'Connell), is out having good times with some friends in New Orleans, comes across an old deserted mansion and sees the ghost of a woman there. He feels a connection to her and the house. Years later, now an attorney, O'Connell moves to the area to start a new law practice. Local legends claim that the house is haunted and shortly after he moves in, he begins hearing voices and seeing things. He is also attracted to a young woman by the name, Lena Simone. Lena was raised on the bayou by her grandmother Odette, who is also connected some how to the manor. The three new friends uncover a shocking secret that has been hidden there for more than 100 years.

I'm a huge fan of Nora Roberts, a bestselling American author of more than 209 romance novels. She writes as J.D. Robb for the In Death series and has also written under the pseudonym Jill March. Additionally, some of her works were published in the UK as Sarah Hardesty. So, I was not surprised when I saw her book made into a "made for TV movie", which was aired on the Lifetime television network.

In 2006, Dunaway played a character named Lois O'Neill in the sixth season of the crime drama CSI. She served as a judge on the 2005 reality show, The Starlet, looking to find the next young actress. In the spring of 2007, she was the direct-to-DVD movie release of Rain, based on the novel by V. C. Andrews. In 2009, Dunaway starred in The Bait by director and producer Dariusz Zawiślak..

Dunaway has been married twice, from 1974 to 1979 to Peter Wolf, the lead singer of the rock group J. Geils Band, and from 1984 to 1987 to Terry O'Neill, a British photographer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Slapstick Antics of the Sons of the Desert

To some the comedic antics of Laurel and Hardy is an acquired taste.  Slapstick comedy is not highbrow and reveals nothing about the true meaning of the human condition—but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. Take me, for example. Some of my all-time favorite films are The English Patient, Smiles of a Summer Night, The Lovers (Louis Malle’s), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and The Lives of Others, just to name a few—all pretty much categorized by today’s standards as highbrow. Yet, I still enjoy watching a really good slapstick or “crude” comedy. For example, if someone asked me what the 2 best films of 2009 were (can’t do 2010 because I’m poor and can’t afford to pay $10 to see a film in a theater) I’d say The Secret in Their Eyes and The Hangover. Now, if you’ve seen these two films you know that they are in totally different class categories. Still, I cried at both: one from raw emotion (guess which one) and the other from laughing so hard. So, what am I trying to say with this exceedingly long introductory paragraph? Basically this: just because a film doesn’t delve into the human psyche or reveal some inner truth about humankind, that doesn’t mean that it lacks value. That said, let us move on to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy’s clever 1933 film, Sons of the Desert.

This was a remake of the duo’s 1930 film Be Big and was their fourth feature length film.  In it, they are members of an all-male club called the Sons of the Desert (also the later name of the duo’s fan club) who are told by their Exalted Leader (really, that’s what he’s called) that everyone in the club must swear by oath to attend the annual convention in Chicago. Ah, but Stan and stamOllie have wives who aren’t the type to allow their husbands to go off on a trip like this. Of course, Ollie thinks he’s “the king of his own castle” and Stan thinks he has to do everything his wife tells him to do. However, Ollie’s wife, Sugar, no, I mean Lottie (the always funny Mae Busch), is the true ruler of the Hardy household and she wants her husband to go to the mountains with her. Her accuracy with vases, especially towards Ollie’s head, is sharp—just like her words. When Stan's duck-hunting wife Betty (Dorothy Christy) gives Stan permission to go to the convention the boys  have to come up with a plan to get Ollie there too.

The duo hatch a plan that is fool-proof—or so these two fools believe-- with the help of an idiotic veterinarian (Lucien Littlefield) posing as a medical doctor, Ollie is diagnosed as having “canus delirous” (AKA, a nervous breakdown) and prescribed a cruise to Hawaii as a cure. Mrs. Hardy can’t go on the trip with Ollie because she suffers from sea sickness, and so that means that Stan will have to go instead.

sons_of_the_desert011In Chicago we see the boys having a frolicking good time—along with Charley Chase, who has many laughs at their expense with the aid of a paddle and a water-squirting flower. There are scantily clad hula dancers, so in a way Ollie has seen Hawaii in some form. It turns out that Charley is Ollie’s long-lost brother-in-law and they engage in a hilariously risqué long-distance conversation with “Sugar". I especially enjoyed when Charley calls her a great organ pumper.

front_pictureThinking their ruse has worked, the boys head back to Los Angeles unaware that the cruise ship they were supposed to be on has sunk. This sets up two very entertaining scenes. The first is with a taxi driver that is pure slapstick—Stan was always the best physical comedian of the two in my opinion, and this scene showcases this, as well as his wonderful deadpan delivery. The second scene is when the boys return home and learn of the cruise ship disaster and hide from their wives in Stan’s attic. laurel and hady sons of the desert 1Their plan is to hide out until the rescued cruise passengers are brought to shore and then pretend they are amongst the survivors. The problem is the wives go to the cinema to get their minds off the plight of their husbands and see a newsreel of the Sons of the Desert convention in Chicago.

At one point the boys come crashing through the ceiling and find themselves hiding on the roof during a thunderstorm. They end up being apprehended by a policeman who wants to know their addresses…wait for it…to this Ollie remarks to Stan: “Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” Presented to their wives, they unknowingly continue to weave some fantastic lie about how they ship-hiked after the typhoon. Basically, it is pure Laurel and Hardy.

laurel%20hardySo what makes Laurel and Hardy work? I think it is the opposites attract thing. Stan is thin, tall, honest, and calm and Ollie is short, fat, dishonest, and anything but calm. Of course, Ollie think he’s so much smarter than Stan—the exasperated looks he gives the camera at certain points throughout their films are a trademark.  And, Stan is pretty oblivious most of the time, so Ollie might have something there. Yet, it is Stan who usually gets the last laugh, as he often proves it is better to be lucky than smart. They just work well together. It isn’t life-affirming cinema, but it is entertaining. And, even if it is closing in on being 80-years-old, it is still funny.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bond Is Forever: “The World is Not Enough”

MI6 agent James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is reacquiring a considerable amount of money for British oil mogul, Sir Robert King. Upon returning to MI6 headquarters, Bond realizes too late that the retrieved pounds are tainted, and King is killed in an explosion. The spy pursues the assassin, who evidently prefers death to incarceration, alluding to a higher power giving the kill order. Once MI6 identifies Renard (Robert Carlyle) as the man behind the assassination, Bond connects the recovered money with the kidnapping of King’s daughter, Elektra (Sophie Marceau). Elektra had escaped her captors, after M (Judi Dench) had convinced King to not pay a ransom demand. Believing that the tycoon’s daughter may be Renard’s next target, 007 stays close to Elektra while tracking Renard. A theft of plutonium leads Bond to receive assistance from a nuclear physicist, Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), as they try to neutralize whatever combative maneuver Renard may have planned.

The World is Not Enough (1999) marked the third Bond film for Brosnan, Dench, and Samantha Bond as Moneypenny, while Desmond Llewelyn made his 17th appearance as Q. One of the film’s strongest points is the laudable performances from the cast. Brosnan and Dench are typically strong and also quite good in their scenes together. Carlyle is a remarkable villain, a man inching towards his inevitable doom (a botched assassination has left a bullet in his brain, which is slowly killing him). He’s both callous and compassionate, a vicious terrorist who is able to evoke an audience’s empathy. Marceau is superb as Elektra, a woman who may seem frail but proves to be a much more sound character. Even Robbie Coltrane is stellar as Bond’s dubious ally, Zukovsky (reprising his role from 1995’s GoldenEye).

In contrast, Richards is somewhat bland as Dr. Jones. Her mannerisms occasionally seem wooden, almost as if she is posing in lieu of acting. In all fairness to the actress, Christmas Jones is underwritten, and Richards has little to do. Some have questioned the credibility of Jones as a nuclear physicist, which is un
derstandable considering her tedious delivery. Others, however, have criticized her attire (she’s donning a tank top and shorts when she’s first shown), an objection which is speculative in and of itself by insinuating that a physicist must dress a certain way.
Though it is exciting and entertaining, The World is Not Enough does play it safe by staying true to certain Bond conventions. The spy introduces himself (more than once) with last name first, he’s armed to the teeth with gadgets, and his martinis are shaken, not stirred. Likewise, action scenes take place on a snowy mountain, in speeding boats, and inside a submarine, all of which are familiar 007 terrain. Carlyle’s Renard, with his shaved head and drooping eyelid (or ptosis, resulting from the failed assassination), almost resembles Bond’s previous three-movie nemesis, Blofeld. This does not make the movie less enthralling, but rather turns the whole affair into a relaxing guide through well known territory. It’s difficult to criticize a movie for wanting its audience to be comfortable.

This is not to say that the movie does not sometimes pull away from the series’ more traditional qualities. The narrative
is a subtle appraisal of Bond’s treatment of women. Early in the film, he seduces MI6’s female doctor so that she will sign off on a clean bill of health and allow 007 to return to his duties. This act, in part, comes into question later when Bond begins an intimate relationship with Elektra and afterwards doubts her validity as a kidnapped victim. Whereas the spy manipulates with seduction, he is also visibly angered when believing that he was exploited in a similar fashion. Another change in convention is M’s personal investment in the mission. She is not only a good friend to Sir Robert King, but was also involved in handling the terrorists’ demands when his daughter was kidnapped, which has ties to the main story.
In the film, Q appears to be turning the gadgetry reins over to R (John Cleese), a name suggested by a sardonic Bond (although it does appear in the closing credits as such). Monty Python alum Cleese is quite amusing as the bumbling apprentice (his first words to 007: “And you might be...?”), an obvious antithesis to Q. Though it would appear that Q, having been portrayed by Llewelyn in nearly every Bond film, is retiring, the actor stated in an interview that he would not be leaving the role. Tragically, Llewelyn died in a car collision a mere month after the film’s premiere. Cleese is officially called Q in the subsequent Bond film, Die Another Day (2002).

Michael Apted, in his sole Bond effort, expertly handles the film's direction.
Screenwriting partners Neal Purvis and Robert Wade made their Bond debut with The World is Not Enough (co-written with Bruce Feirstein, who co-wrote GoldenEye and was the credited writer for 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies). Purvis and Wade would handle script writing for the remaining Bond films, reportedly to include the 23rd film of the series, tentatively scheduled for release in 2012. The film’s title is, as the spy says, the Bond family motto, initially referenced in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). The movie’s title song is one of the best. It was written by composer David Arnold and lyricist Don Black and was performed by the rock band, Garbage.
Critical reception to The World is Not Enough was decidedly mixed, although the film performed admirably at the box office. I rank the movie as the best Bond outing starring Brosnan: likable villains, enjoyable action scenes (particularly the flooding submarine sequence near the end), and the always regaling Brosnan. What are your thoughts? Are there other The World is Not Enough fans?

Bond Is Forever will return next month with For Your Eyes Only (1981).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Trivia Time - Part 67

Last week in TT66 there was only one question that wasn't answered.....good job, everyone!

5. Name the "stars" of the film, Carry It On.

Answer: Joan Baez and her husband, David Harris.

And here is TT67! You'll notice that we have a new category: Who Said This?

Who Said This? "You don't need a housekeeper, you need a UNIVAC machine." Name the film and the actor/actress. Who Said This?

Who Said This? "I think I'm gonna give every nurse on this floor an electric cattle prod, and just instruct them to just zap him in his badoobies." Name the movie and the actor/actress. Who Said This?

Who Said This? "Look wiseguy, I didn't feel like I was 21 when I was 21." Name the film and the actor/actress. Who Said This?

1. For the first seasons of both Star Trek and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which night(s) of the week were they scheduled on NBC?

2. Name all the movies Errol Flynn made for Warner Brothers in 1942 and the directors. Bonus points for correct order.

3. How many films did Errol Flynn make for Warner Brothers in 1936? Name it/them.

4. Name the two films in which Cary Grant appeared with John Ridgely at Warner Brothers.

5. Name the three films for which Duke Ellington wrote the scores. Name the stars of each film.

6. Name the '50s teen idol who co-wrote the theme for the Tonight Show ("Johnnie's Theme").

7. Name the CBS series starring Ronny Cox.

8. Which show featured elevator races inside Rockefeller Center during the 1970s-'80s?

9. Name the movie in which Jimmy Stewart played his last romantic leading role.

10. Name the famous actor who actively sought the part in the movie in #9 but lost to Stewart.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chaplin’s Answer to Modern Times

Talking pictures had been around for about a decade when Charlie Chaplin released Modern Times (1936).  A silent film star with a instantly recognizable screen alter ego—the Little Tramp—Chaplin debated whether he should let the Little Tramp speak in this film.  In the end, he chose to make Modern Times his last silent feature film—and the last appearance of the Tramp as well.  However, it should be noted that the there is sound in this film, with machine sounds and voices out of televisions. We also hear the Tramp’s voice when he sings a song in Italian gibberish—perhaps a tongue-in-cheek slap in the face of talking pictures by Chaplin? In the end, the film that took Chaplin four years to make—I suppose when you write, star, direct, score, and produce it takes some time—turned out to be one of his best.

This is a protest film against the effects modern_large_1of automation on mankind. The Tramp represents the millions of people who were unemployed during the Great Depression, who saw machines doing jobs that would have put food in their bellies and roofs over their heads. He was quoted in  a newspaper article as saying that “unemployment is the vital question… Machinery should benefit mankind. It should not spell tragedy and throw it out of work.” The dehumanizing effects of industrialization and unemployment are at the forefront of this film. It is up to the Tramp to struggle against these unruly behemoths, while not so carefully waddling through the institutions that support them.

modern-times-1936Now, when you start a film by showing a flock of sheep dissolving into workers you begin it with a statement. We first view the Tramp working on a factory assembly line where he has to tighten nuts/bolts with both hands while his boss watches from the comfort of his office via a video camera. Since everything is based on precise timing, the worker doesn’t have a second to itch--and when the Tramp does this he creates hilarious chaos on the production line, trying to catch up to the bolts he missed. One of Chaplin’s more memorable sequences, this was parodied on I Love Lucy when Lucy works in the candy factory. At lunch time the Tramp is chosen as the guinea pig for the company’s new feeding device, which is designed to cut lunch periods. trampThe machine malfunctions and the Tramp is treated to bolts instead of food, shortcake in the face, and soup everywhere but in his mouth. After lunch the boss speeds up production and the Tramp can’t keep up, so he lies down on the machine and is literally fed through the gears of the machine. This is a visual image worth watching. In the end, it is deemed he has had a mental breakdown and he’s whisked off to the funny farm.

After being released from the psychiatric ward the Tramp makes the mistake of picking up a red flag on the street and waving it.  Unfortunately for him there is a communist rally happening at the chap2same time and he is mistaken as one and hauled off to jail. While in jail he makes yet another mistake when he unknowingly uses a salt shaker filled with cocaine to salt his food. Fortunately for him the cocaine gives him such an adrenaline rush that he helps thwart a prison escape by knocking out his fellow convicts. This eventually leads to his release from jail.

The Tramp’s next job is in a shipyard. It’s a short-lived one after he accidentally sinks a ship. Faced with starvation the Tramp remembers that prison wasn’t so bad, with a warm bed and food to eat, so he tries to get arrested again. This is where he meets Paulette Goddard’s (Chaplin’s then wife) orphan character, whom he runs into as she’s fleeing from a bakery heist—she was hungry. She’s arrested and so is he after he knowingly steals some cigars. On their way to jail their paddy wagon swerves and both captives are thrown out.  And, so the Tramp and the photo-Les-Temps-modernes-Modern-Times-1936-7orphan go on the lam together. Inspired by a dream sequence where he and the orphan can live together in suburban bliss with enough food to eat, the Tramp sets out to make this happen.

He takes a job as night watchman at a department store. Here the Tramp and the orphan eat to their hearts content.  Wearing roller skates the Tramp happens upon burglars who just want to eat.  The next morning the Tramp is found asleep and is taken to jail for all the “missing” items. When he gets out of jail he finds the orphan waiting for him. They move into a shack by the lake.  When his old steel mill reopens the Tramp gets a job as a mechanic’s assistant. modern-times-chaplin-conklinOne of the best sequences in the film happens here. While helping the mechanic (Chester Conklin) get the machines moving again, the Tramp sees his boss get caught in the machine and he has to help free his boss from the moving gears and wheels of the machine. At one point the only thing you can see of the mechanic is his head—he has literally been swallowed by the machine.

When the workers go on strike, the Tramp is out of a job yet again. When he accidentally hits a policeman in the head with a brick he’s taken back to jail. While he’s in jail chaplinwaiterthe orphan gets a job as a dancer in a cabaret. She gets him a job as a waiter. Falling dishes, roast duck footballs, and forgotten song lyrics somehow aren’t enough to get him fired—and so he seems to have made it as a singing waiter. Too bad the juvenile authorities come to pick up the orphan and they have to flee secure jobs.
The final sequence finds the orphan girl downtrodden about their circumstances.  She wants to know what the point is in even trying.  It is up to the Tramp to keep her going—and that’s what he does.

Chaplin,%20Charlie%20(Modern%20Times)_02%20JTUnlike other films where the Tramp is seen waddling out into the cold world alone, this one finds him waddling side-by-side with the girl he loves looking for the idealized American dream of prosperity.  It is a fitting end to the Little Tramp’s appearance on the Silver Screen.

This is most probably my favorite Little Tramp movie. All of the choreographed sequences are a treat to watch, especially the machine scenes.  I also enjoyed the message that Chaplin was trying to send with this film.  There is something overtly dehumanizing about the factory system. In addition, he does a good job of expressing what people really went through during the Depression.  People really did commit petty crimes just to stave off starvation or to end up in jail where they knew they would be given something to eat and a warm place to sleep. While he made only two appearances during the Great Depression (this and City Lights), I often think of the Little Tramp as its mascot.  As I said earlier, I think this was a fitting end for the Tramp.  Beaten down and dehumanized by industrialization, the Tramp looks to the future with hope, as no doubt millions of others did during this same time period. Truly a film of its time.