One of America’s all-time favourite films, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” tells the story of a young politician who becomes a senator in the corrupt US Senate. The film, directed by Frank Capra, is quite often seen on television on Christmastime, even if it is a critical view against the American politics and its politicians. The naive future senator is played by James Stewart (in one of his greatest screen performances), and the cast also includes the lovely Jean Arthur, in the role of a journalist who helps Jefferson Smith to win the battle against the political “dinosaurs”, and Claude Rains, in an equally memorable role of the old senator Joseph Paine. There is a remarkable and outstanding sequence in which Smith, holding in his hands the Constitution of the United States, pleads for his innocence in a fake case of corruption for which he is considered guilty in order to lose his place in the Senate. James Stewart is trully unforgettable, and so is Frank Capra’s direction. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” was one of the top films of 1939, which was recently considered Hollywood’s greatest year. It got an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Story, and other 8 nominations, for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (twice), Best Director, Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Recording, Best Film Editing, and Best Music, Scoring. Even if it couldn’t compete at the Academy Awards with his colossal rival, “Gone With The Wind”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is one of the best films in the history of Hollywood, and is still watched on television and remembered with great joy by the American people and also by the moviegoers around the world.
One of the greatest screen versions of novels ever filmed, “Wuthering Heights” is a great classic, just like another film of Laurence Olivier, “Rebecca”. Directed by William Wyler, “Wuthering Heights” brings to our attention the tragic love story of Cathy (played by the exotic, part-Indian Merle Oberon, the wife of the British film producer and director, Alexander Korda) and Heathcliff (played by Olivier). Initially, the role of Cathy was sought by Vivien Leigh, but she was quite harshly pushed aside by Wyler, who told her she could never get a better part than Isabella (a supporting, minor role, that was later given to Geraldine Fitzgerald), because she is still unknown in the United States. Vivien’s reply was above expectations, as she earned the most coveted female role in the history of motion pictures: Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind”. In “Wuthering Heights” you will also get to see other two great British actors, David Niven (as Cathy’s husband) and Flora Robson. Despite the fact that the impressive novel by Emily Brontë was turned into a film at about one hour and a half (it’s just as if someone would cut “Gone With the Wind” at two hours in length), this production won an Oscar for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, and it got other seven nominations, for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Laurence Olivier was very disappointed when he lost his Oscar to another great British actor, Robert Donat, and he was also furious at Vivien’s success after she got her Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role), Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Music, Original Score (by Alfred Newman).
All in all, “Wuthering Heights” is a very good film, even if one has to admit that there is no chemistry between Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon (they appeared together also in “The Divorce of Lady X”), just like in the case of Joan Fontaine in “Rebecca”. Both actresses argued that they had a very tough relationship with Olivier, and they weren’t in good relations with him. Obviously, the only one who could stand his “genius” was his lover and wife, Vivien Leigh. Despite the uncharismatic couple of Olivier and Oberon (Olivier was slated as being one of the ugliest faces on the American screen, and perhaps this is the reason why his early career in Hollywood ended after other two great films, “Pride and Prejudice” and “That Hamilton Woman”), I recommend you to watch “Wuthering Heights” because it is a wonderful film, very well directed, with a great cast and an admirable crew that turned the famous novel into a memorable motion picture.
The screen version of the homonymous novel by Louis Bromfield, “The Rains Came” is one of the greatest films made in 1939. Starring Myrna Loy, George Brent and Tyrone Power, this production of the 20th Century Fox Studios was a big hit, earning an Oscar for Best Effects, and also five nominations, for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Music. It was directed by the masterful Clarence Brown, who was loaned by MGM, like Myrna Loy, to the 20th Century Fox for this film. “The Rains Came” is beautifully photographed, with lots of impressive scenes – especially the earthquake and the floods. It was a great accomplishment for 1939, which is considered “Hollywood’s greatest year”, as many top films and masterpieces appeared then, such as “Gone With The Wind”, “The Wizard of Oz”, “The Women”, “Ninotchka”, and “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”. In “The Rains Came”, aside from the wonderful music by Alfred Newman and the special effects that were as effective as the ones that I saw in “The Good Earth”, the real attraction were the actors’ performances (and the good looks of Tyrone Power as the Indian Major), the costumes and the exotic settings. The film’s budget was also a huge one for those times, approx. $2.600.000, but it had enough earnings, as it was amply publicized in the international press. I, personally, liked very much the acting of George Brent, who reminds us of Clark Gable, and Tyrone Power and Maria Ouspenskaya were also impressive, but I have to admit that Myrna Loy was terribly miscast. There were times when not even she realised what to do with the scene. We are all accustomed to see her as William Powell’s wife in “The Thin Man” series – witty, funny, very distinguished and ladylike. In the role of Lady Edwina Esketh, the ideal choice would have been Jean Harlow, but unfortunatly she died in 1937. Another good choice would have been Greta Garbo (who appeared in a quite similar film opposite George Brent, and that was “The Painted Veil”), Marlene Dietrich or Joan Crawford, so that is why I really can’t understand what made them cast Myrna Loy. She was good, because she was a very fine actress, but her acting was superior in other films. All in all, “The Rains Came” is a top film, without being a masterpiece. You will like the atmosphere and also the direction of Clarence Brown – especially in the romantic scenes between George Brent and the young Brenda Joyce, who was a pleasant surprise among the supporting actors, and who later played Jane in the “Tarzan” films from the 1940s. I might as well add that there was also a remake, “The Rains of Ranchipur”, from 1955, directed by Jean Negulesco in glorious Technicolor, with a perfect choice for the leading role, Lana Turner, but with a disastrous performance of Richard Burton as the Indian Major.
Yesterday, the legendary Shirley Temple passed away at the age of 85. She was the most famous child in Hollywood – and she will be forever alive in our hearts. As a tribute in her memory, I recommend today one of Shirley’s most beloved films, “The Little Princess”. I was so impressed by this film… Shirley’s magnificent performance made me cry. It was almost incredible to see her make so well the transition between the daughter of a respectable gentleman, who would spoil her and treat her a little princess, to merely a poor servant, who is treated badly by the teachers at the seminary for girls, and who has to make an effort to remain there and to pay her own studies, as her father was believed to have been killed during the Boer War and, obviously, couldn’t send any more funds. But there is a happy ending, as in most of Shirley Temple’s films. In addition to her adorable and emotional presence, I would add the good and effective performances of a very nice couple, Richard Greene and Anita Louise. I highly recommend you to watch this production of the 20th Century Fox Studios (where Shirley was the top star of the 1930s), as well as any of the Shirley Temple films, such as “Bright Eyes”, “Captain January”, “The Blue Bird”, and “Heidi”, just to name a few of the many motion pictures in which this prolific child appeared in her most glorious years. Shirley Temple will always have a special place among the classic Hollywood celebrities, and she will be eternally remembered as the definitve child star of the cinema world. May she rest in peace.
The second film I recommend this year is another masterpiece from 1939, “The Wizard of Oz”. So much has been written about this film, that it would be difficult to mention all the details. I will say that, along with “Gone With the Wind” and “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (that I will recommend next week), it was one of the first color motion pictures in the sound era of Hollywood. This colossal production is the screen version of the children’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1900), written by L. Frank Baum, and it was a huge success – Queen Elizabeth II, as a child, attended a Christmas party together with other children personalities who watched, in 1939, “The Wizard of Oz”. One could never possibly forget the adorable Judy Garland in the role of Dorothy, nor her cute little dog, Toto; nor the other famous stars of the picture, The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. Dorothy and Toto meet the three of them on their travel in another time and in another place, after a tornado hits the house of her aunt and uncle living in Kansas and sweeps the protagonist and her dog away (in fact, only in the end do we find out that the colourful, magical world was only Dorothy’s dream). The film was directed by Victor Fleming (who would make the same year also GWTW), and it won two Oscars, for Best Music, Original Song (the iconic and unforgettable “Over the Rainbow”) and Best Music, Original Score, in addition to other four nominations, for Best Cinematography, Color, Best Picture, Best Art Direction and Best Effects, Special Effects. This splendid fairy tale, which continues to impress audiences of all ages, is well-known for such lines like “There is no place like home”. This year, the film is being released in a unique 75th anniversary edition, and I am sure it will be pure joy for every fan and movie collector to purchase it! “The Wizard of Oz” deserves our attention because it is part of the glorious years of Hollywood, a legendary place where all the dreams come true…
Gone With the Wind is my all-time favourite film. It is, as well, a favourite to many people around the world and its enduring popularity has never diminished. This year we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of this masterpiece and I expect to see, like everybody else, a trully special collector’s edition. I have always been very curious to see the deleted scenes. I am sure that each fan of GWTW would like to see the outtakes and at least a fragment of the cut footage. We only know that GWTW’s longest version was around 5 hours, when it was shown in a sneak preview in September 1939. Then it was cut again for the premiere (in December 1939), and the actual version is no more, no less than 212 minutes (which means 3 hours and 32 minutes). I don’t understand why different websites and film critics mention the 4-hour length, because this is not true. The film hardly reaches 230 minutes with intermission and exit music, so maybe that legendary and so-much-talked-about length was available in the previous re-releases.
All in all, GWTW is pure history. It had the biggest budget of its time (almost $4,000,000), the greatest number of Oscar winnings (10) and the highest grossing among the movies of all time ($4401358554.94 in 2012, as it is mentioned on the imdb website). It has millions of fans all over the world, and so does Margaret Mitchell’s equally legendary novel, published in 1936 and winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1937. In addition to this, GWTW has a spectacular cast, which includes three of my personal favourites: Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, and Olivia de Havilland. But one cannot and should not forget to mention the producer David O. Selznick, who worked very hard to make this film come to life, with its characters, story, music, and all! As a matter of fact, I will always consider that GWTW was and will always be the greatest movie of all time because it reunited an extraordinary cast and crew that did their best to create a masterpiece equally classical and modern, that would impress the audiences, generation after generation, year after year. And even if Miss Olivia de Havilland is the only survivor of this monumental production from 1939, the film still remains as fresh and new as it used to be in the past, or now even more than ever, because it is digitally restored periodically, and the quality of the picture and sound is permanently improved, so that people who go to the cinema to watch it on the big screen will enjoy it immensely. 2014 is the year of GWTW and I can’t think of a better choice to start the New Year than this top film of a top year in cinema history.
Based on the homonymous Pulitzer winning play by Robert E. Sherwood, “Idiot’s Delight” is a magical movie. Norma Shearer is magical. Clark Gable is magical. The direction of Clarence Brown is stupendous. I was spellbound by the terrific acting of Norma Shearer, who plays the role of a very talented and versatile Russian actress, but who also enjoys telling many lies about her background. Clark Gable is her former partner in the vaudeville shows they used to perform in Omaha and, after several years, they get reunited in Poland. Owing to the fact that it was made in 1938 and released in 1939, when the entire world was preparing for the Second World War, this film had two alternate endings. A domestic ending, more optimistic, that was made for the American market, and another ending, adapted to the realities of war, for the international release. I saw both of them and I liked the international version, which is profoundly emotional. In “Idiot’s Delight” you also have the chance to see for the first and only time a musical number of Clark Gable, performing Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, which remains even today one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history. And the role of Irene Fellara, played by Norma Shearer (who wears a blonde wig almost the entire film), was first offered to Greta Garbo (who turned it down), but there were other legendary actresses who eagerly wanted the part, including Joan Crawford. “Idiot’s Delight” was a success and it ended the wonderful partnership of Clark and Norma, after making other two great movies together, “A Free Soul” and “Strange Interlude”. I highly recommend “Idiot’s Delight” because you will certainly love the acting, the story, and the direction. A movie that could never be remade, and a real gem of MGM.
Am ales pentru ultima săptămână din acest an cel mai reprezentativ film din istoria cinematografiei, favoritul meu și a milioane de oameni din întreaga lume: capodopera tuturor timpurilor, Pe aripile vântului (Gone With the Wind). Un film care a intrat în istorie sau, mai bine-zis, a scris istoria încă de la premiera din 15 decembrie 1939, o noapte magică atât pentru Atlanta, cât și pentru întreaga suflare din industria cinematografică. Nu pot spune multe lucruri noi despre acest film, pentru că s-au scris atât de multe articole și cărți de-a lungul anilor, încât nici cea mai somptuoasă vilă din lume nu le-ar putea cuprinde pe toate. Cel mai mare colecționar al filmului este celebrul Herb Bridges, care a publicat numeroase cărți despre acest veritabil fenomen cinematografic. Pe aripile vântului a fost primul film din istorie cu cel mai mare număr de premii Oscar câștigate (10, plus unul onorific) și până nu demult era filmul cu cele mai mari încasări. Toate topurile filmelor preferate îl au pe Gone With the Wind printre primele trei locuri (de regulă e primul), iar romanul omonim al lui Margaret Mitchell este considerat cea mai bine vândută carte din lume, după Biblie.
Fascinația Aripilor de Vânt este la fel de puternică și astăzi. Deși GWTW a fost tăiat în repetate rânduri, multe secvențe importante rămânând imortalizate doar pe hârtie fotografică, există un public numeros (de toate vârstele) care se mulțumește cu cele doar 3 ore și jumătate de film (dat fiind faptul că originalul era, după unele surse, între 4 ore și jumătate și 8 ore). Singurii care au vizionat filmul complet sunt cei care acum au vârsta venerabilei Olivia de Havilland (care a împlinit în acest an 95 de ani!), ori nu mai sunt în viață.
Recomandarea mea este valabilă, desigur, pentru cei vii. Așadar, stimați spectatori și telespectatori, lăsați-vă cuprinși de magia celei de-a șaptea arte și purtați pe aripile vântului, în cea mai frumoasă dintre lumi…