Shining in stellar performances. Directed by John Huston.
Bette Davis, Charlton Heston, Clark Gable, David Niven, George Brent, George Sanders, Gone With the Wind, Grace Kelly, Hedy Lamarr, Jean Harlow, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Linda Darnell, Lizabeth Scott, Marilyn Monroe, Monique classique, Olivia de Havilland, Rita Hayworth, Robert Taylor, Vivien Leigh
One of the best performances of Barbara Stanwyck and certainly one of the greatest pre-code productions, with a still important significance, “Baby Face” tells the story of a beautiful, but poor girl who changes radically her destiny, as she moves from a modest bar to the luxurious metropolitan world. In her attempt to get a better job step by step, she seduces each of her bosses, reaching the top – an old bank manager, who gets killed by one of one of Lily’s former lovers, the latter killing himself in the same room right after the murder. Lily is the kind of beautiful, but cold-blooded woman (some sort of “femme fatale” in film noir). She has no regrets about the killing of two people who were attracted to her and who even loved her very much. The pursuit for wealth is the only thing that matters to her, and she can take all the risks, if necessary. But in the end she discovers that the true love for a man is the one that really counts and she is no longer interested in expensive clothes and jewels. Barbara Stanwyck is exceptional throughout the entire film. Her co-star, George Brent, was good, too, in the role of the last lover. I highly recommend you to watch this extraordinary film, even more because of its modern message: pretty, young girls who make a compromise in order to become rich and powerful, even if, in the end, they are the ones who lose everything – decency, respect, love, and sometimes even their own life.
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.
“42nd Street” is one of the most successful musicals ever produced in Hollywood. It was made at the Warner Bros. Studios and its cast includes some impressive names: Bebe Daniels (looking outstandingly beautiful and charming), Ruby Keeler (famous singer and dancer), Ginger Rogers (in a sophisticated and elegant role, with monocle and all!), Warner Baxter (as the ambitious Broadway producer who wants to fulfill his dream of making a remarkable musical), George Brent (very young, dashing, and without a moustache), and Dick Powell (one of the most appreciated actors in Hollywood). The musical numbers are really great, with lots of visual effects. “42nd Street”, just like “Gold Diggers of 1933”, is one of the most beloved musicals filmed in the early sound era in Hollywood. I find both of them very enjoyable and you will certainly spend a wonderful evening watching them. But, returning to “42nd Street”, you will certainly observe that it’s very realistic when it comes to starlets. Young, beautiful girls, with nice faces and nice legs, who must work very hard, who must strive to earn a living in entertainment — some of them preferring the easiest way, that is to sleep with an old producer in order to get the better part and to become “the star of the show”. So, “42nd Street” is not an idealistic musical (like the Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire classics). It reveals facts of life in showbiz and I find it all the more fascinating. I highly recommend you to watch this film because you will find it very interesting and very representative for those difficult years of economic crisis that affected the late 20s and the early 30s. “42nd Street” also earned two Oscar nominations, for Best Picture and Best Sound, Recording, and it’s one of the most treasured musicals in Hollywood, just like “Yankee Doodle Danding”.
Cu siguranță unul dintre cele mai bune filme noir ale anilor ’40, „Scara în spirală”/The Spiral Staircase (1945) este ecranizarea adaptată după romanul Some Must Watch, al lui Ethel Lina White, și se bucură de o distribuție excelentă, din care fac parte Dorothy McGuire, George Brent, Rhonda Fleming și venerabila Ethel Barrymore (nominalizată la Oscar pentru cea mai bună actriță în rol secundar). „Scara în spirală” fascinează prin tot: scenariu bun, actori bine aleși pentru rolurile lor extrem de complexe, muzică și decoruri perfect încadrabile în atmosfera terifiantă. Regizorul Robert Siodmak și-a demonstrat încă o dată profesionalismul prin acest film, ce reușește să impresioneze din prima și până în ultima clipă, rivalizând cu Hitchcock în multe dintre scene. Simbolurile, puse excelent în evidență prin planuri generale și detaliu, precum enigmatica scară în spirală, fântâna, oglinda și ochii demonici ai criminalului, la care se adaugă sunetele naturii dezlănțuite, conferă un plus de originalitate acestei pelicule prea puțin cunoscute, din punctul meu de vedere. Urmăriți „Scara în spirală”, pentru că nu veți avea niciun moment de relaxare. În cele doar 80 de minute, acțiunea este extrem de comprimată și de tensionată, singurele scene oarecum ieșite din atmosfera generală a filmului fiind cele din visul lui Helen, o fată inocentă, care a rămas mută după ce și-a văzut părinții arși de vii. Cum va reuși protagonista să se apere de mâinile criminale ale unui maniac ce lichida femeile imperfecte și, mai ales, cine este misteriosul asasin (aici veți avea o surpriză!), sunt întrebări ale căror răspunsuri le veți afla doar dacă urmăriți acest film.