A delightful comedy in the unique style of Ernst Lubitsch, “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife” stars the legendary Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, and David Niven. The film’s daring plot reminded me of Lubitsch’s pre-code productions – most of them romantic comedies, such as “Trouble in Paradise” and “Design for Living”. This time, the hero, Michael Brandon (Cooper), is a definitive Don Juan, married already seven times! His eighth wife, Nicolle de Loiselle (Colbert), the daughter of a Marquis (played by the talented Edward Everett Horton) wants to teach him a lesson, and thus she apparently becomes involved with a former lover, Albert de Regnier (Niven). The romantic scenes are exciting, and the costumes are superb. In fact, most of Lubitsch’s films look so well on the screen because the actresses are exquisitely dressed, and the backgrounds are elegant, as well. The stories directed by Lubitsch involve, most of the times, aristocrats and common people who pretend to have a superior status than in reality, and also businessmen and businesswomen (see Kay Francis in “Trouble in Paradise”). “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife” tells the complicated love story of a tycoon and an aristocrat, and this makes the film even more sophisticated. In contrast with Frank Capra, Ernst Lubitsch usually preferred not to depict the clash of the social classes (the rich and the poor), but the combination between them. In Lubitsch’s films, nobody seems to be really poor, and everybody simply has a wonderful time. There is a sense of entertainment, as if you would know that the actors are just playing games and having fun, loving and hating each other to make the public laugh and maybe forget about their difficulties. You will certainly enjoy this film, like the rest of Lubitsch’s unique productions. An excellent, tasteful comedy in the good old Hollywood style.
This review appeared at http://conradveidtforever.wordpress.com/ and was written by me
“Tempête sur l’Asie” and “Le joueur d’échecs” are the only films in which you could listen to Connie speak in French. These two motion pictures were filmed in France in 1937-1938, where Connie stayed for several months, after leaving the British studios owing to the bad scripts. He initially wanted to make two films about Sigmund Freud and Alfred Nobel, but he couldn’t raise the necessary FUNDS, so he accepted the invitation of director Richard Oswald to appear in the first French film (that, despite the fact that it’s officially lost, it was shown a few years ago at a film festival in the honor of Oswald). Then came “Le joueur d’échecs”, an unusual film, that provided Conrad the chance to reveal once again his great talent, as Baron von Kempelen, an eccentric inventor. The role fit him to perfection, and “Le joueur d’échecs” was successful, as it received an award from the jury at the Film Festival in Venice in 1938. The sets and costumes are wonderful, and the creations of the Baron (including the Chess Player) are bizarre, but really fascinating. Connie put his heart on the role, like always, but the tension between him and the French actress Françoise Rosay (who wrote in an autobiography many bad things about him, all shameless lies) is obvious, and it affects, somehow, the picture itself. Connie is again superior to the others and the quality of the film is lifted only because of this extraordinary German actor, who could speak English, French and Russian as easily as his native language.
Another screwball comedy directed by the talented Frank Capra, “You Can’t Take It with You” tells the love story of a handsome young man, a descendant of a rich and snobbish family, and a pretty girl from an eccentric, if not crazy family (which reminded me of the Adams family). In the leading roles are James Stewart, Jean Arthur – who appeared together in another very successful Capra production, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” -, and the great Lionel Barrymore. The repeated casting of the same actors in his films is the proof that Frank Capra disliked very much the idea of screen tests for different actors, and with the exception of Clark Gable in “It Happened One Night”, with whom Capra didn’t get along well, the rest of his leading stars were his favourites and close friends, and two of them were Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur, as they starred in many other wonderful films of his. What you will certainly like about “You Can’t Take It with You” is the tasteful humour and the complex plot, which involves clashes between families from different social environments, especially when it comes to class and lifestyle. But love is stronger than anything, and this romantic screwball comedy is the epitome of the story with a “happy ending”, typical to the films that were made in the 1930s. This superb production of the old Hollywood earned two Oscars, for Best Picture and Best Director, and it was nominated for other 5 Oscars, for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Recording, and Best Film Editing. Other Oscar rivals of the glorious year of 1938 were “Jezebel” (with Bette Davis), “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (with Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn), “Pygmalion” (with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller), and “Boys Town” (with Spencer Tracy). In fact, 1938 somehow announced the great amount of good material in the motion picture industry, as the following year became the most significant moment in the history of Hollywood.
My impression after watching “Pygmalion” was that it was better than the musical adaptation “My Fair Lady”. Why? Because the playwright George Bernard Shaw was also the screenwriter of this version and he knew exactly how to adapt the dialogue of his original play for the film version. I also liked the acting of Leslie Howard as Professor Higgins, which was superior to Rex Harrison’s performance in the musical. As for Wendy Hiller, I honestly think that she could not compete with Audrey Hepburn, even if she was much more natural in several scenes than Audrey. The direction of Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard (who was, of course, also in the leading role) was perfect and truthful to the story. In “My Fair Lady”, George Cukor, a women’s director, had a very different vision towards the development of the plot and the actors’ interpretation, maybe because he wanted to make it truthful not to Shaw’s old play, from 1916, but to the Broadway musical version from the 1950s, which was written by Alan Jay Lerner. Of course, you will say that a black and white romantic comedy can’t be compared to a musical masterpiece in color, with splendid costumes and sets. But there are certain qualities that make “Pygmalion” a better film than “My Fair Lady”, maybe because it is not so noisy and it is more natural than the musical. It is also shorter in length, as “My Fair Lady” is twice longer and more tiring than the British film. “Pygmalion” received an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay, and three nominations, for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress in leading roles. I consider it one of the best films of the 1930s and it was a huge success at the box-office, in 1938. I highly recommend you to watch it and to enjoy Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller, who were trully excellent in their roles and certainly deserved an Oscar for their performances.
One of the most beloved adventure films in Hollywood history, “The Adventures of Robin Hood” was a blockbuster of the glorious year 1938. It reunited the wonderful couple Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland (who appeared together in eight feature films), along with a superb supporting cast, such as Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains. This extremely successful production of the Warner Bros. Studios was directed by the talented director Michael Curtiz. The film presents the story of the legendary Robin Hood (played to perfection by Errol Flynn), who steals from the rich to give to the poor. You will find it entertaining, superbly shot in Technicolor, with some wonderful costumes and sets, and also a fine dialogue. The candid and angelic beauty of Olivia de Havilland as Marian will make your heart melt, but also her romantic scenes with Errol Flynn, whom she loved deeply in real life, too. “The Adventures of Robin Hood” was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, and it won three awards, for Best Direction, Best Film Editing, and Best Music. It was recently restored and some of the deleted scenes were put back on a special DVD edition, together with outtakes and bloopers. I highly recommend you to see this film, as it inspired several remakes over the time and it’s still very popular among the audiences, because it is fresh, modern, joyful, colourful and it contains lots of humorous and action scenes. “The Adventures of Robin Hood” is a film for all the generations and you will certainly spend a wonderful time watching it.
One of my personal favourite screwball comedies, “Bringing Up Baby” revigorated the career of Katharine Hepburn, who was initially considered a poison to the box office. Co-starring Cary Grant, this film is pure entertainment and delight from the beginning to the end. The ingenious idea to have a leopard as the star of the film somehow shocked the audiences in those times, but it proved to be a successful touch from the screen writers. This is one of the four films with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, along with “Sylvia Scarlett”, “Holiday”, and “The Philadelphia Story”. “Bringing Up Baby” didn’t earn a significant award, but it was a commercial hit. The director Howard Hawks is one of the most representative names from the old Hollywood, and he is known for directing productions of all kinds of genres; a list of his impressive motion pictures includes “Only Angels Have Wings”, “His Girl Friday”, “Sergeant York”, “The Big Sleep”, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, and “Rio Bravo”. It’s funny to see Cary Grant play the role of a scientist and wear glasses, but he is as charming as ever. Katharine Hepburn is deliciously hilarious as the spoiled daughter of a wealthy family, who owns a leopard as a pet. Troubles happen every minute, but in my opinion Baby, the leopard, is far less dangerous than Susan (K. Hepburn). All in all, you will love this film, because it is a very nice production, ideal for a cozy afternoon at home.
Printre ultimele musicaluri ale celebrei perechi de dansatori Ginger Rogers și Fred Astaire, „Amanda”/Carefree (1938) este un film care vă va încânta de la început. Deși este ușor atipic stilului filmelor de tip musical – Fred interpretează rolul unui doctor psihanalist care încearcă să îmbunătățească relația Amandei (Ginger) cu logodnicul ei, recurgând la tot felul de tactici, precum anestezia și hipnoza – totuși acestă producție RKO tratează lejer și cu mult umor momentele tensionate din film. Vă vor încânta cu siguranță dansul visului (secvență care trebuia să fie color, dar din cauza costurilor prea mari, a fost abandonată ideea – deși cântecul interpretat aici de Fred Astaire face trimitere clară la imagini color, ca, de exemplu, ochii albaștri ai lui Ginger) și dansul hipnozei. Mai trebuie menționat că dansul din vis a fost realizat în slow motion, existând un moment în care Ginger și Fred se sărută – un mare „eveniment”, așteptat îndelung de fani. De fapt, cei doi parteneri abia dacă s-au atins, însă din cauza mișcărilor în slow motion s-a creat această iluzie optică. Ginger Rogers amintește în cartea sa că Fred a fost foarte supărat după ce a vizionat filmul, deoarece soția îi interzicea să se sărute cu partenerele sale. Totuși, Fred și Ginger se sărută îndelung în ultimele lor două filme, „Povestea lui Vernon și Irene Castle” și „Familia Barkley de pe Broadway”, care sunt, de altfel, și singurele filme unde sunt soț-soție. Revenind la „Amanda”, pot spune că este unul dintre cele mai bune filme ale acestui minunat cuplu. A fost nominalizat la trei premii Oscar, pentru cea mai bună regie artistică, cea mai bună coloană sonoră și cea mai bună melodie (Irving Berlin, pentru cântecul Change Partner and Dance With Me). Numerele de dans, frumusețea angelică a protagonistei, costumele, decorurile, evenimentele ilustrate (a se vedea partidele de golf și peripețiile anesteziatei Amanda în orașul aglomerat, unde face, la propriu, ravagii, astfel că Ginger ne oferă unele dintre cele mai comice momente din întreaga sa carieră, demonstrându-și încă o dată talentul) vă vor captiva cu siguranță privirile și vă veți binedispune instantaneu. În plus, veți avea și satisfacția de a-i vedea pe Fred și Ginger mergând la altar, sfârșitul fiind unul cu totul inedit. Vizionare plăcută!
Luna aceasta am adus un tribut perechii inconfundabile de dansatori, Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire. Comentariul meu despre filmul „Amanda” va fi publicat la categoria recomandărilor săptămânale, pe 14 noiembrie a.c. De asemenea, am în vedere o serie nouă de articole despre cuplurile de actori, din care vor face parte, evident, și Ginger și Fred.
Una dintre puținele comedii ale lui Alfred Hitchcock, „Femeia dispărută”/The Lady Vanishes (1938) este un film interesant și captivant, ce reușește să îmbine armonios umorul cu suspansul în stilul caracteristic anilor ’30. Scenariul inteligent, adaptat după romanul The Wheel Spins, de Ethel Lina White, și actorii englezi de valoare – Margaret Lockwood, Sir Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty și Cecil Parker – contribuie la calitatea superioară a producției hitchcockiene. Filmele cu crime sau cu incidente dubioase petrecute în tren au stârnit fascinație în rândul cineaștilor, odată cu „Rome Express” (1932), cu Conrad Veidt, și „Expresul de Shanghai” (1932), cu Marlene Dietrich. Hitchcock a mai realizat un film aproape integral în tren – „Străini în tren”, încercând, probabil, să reediteze succesul filmului „Femeia dispărută”, pe care vă recomand să îl urmăriți, întrucât vă va surprinde și vă va binedispune cu siguranță. Este o peliculă ce împrumută din șarmul, naivitatea și optimisul irepetabililor ani ’30, fiind apreciată de generații întregi de cinefili.