Day 311: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

sunsetboulevardfilmposterThere are only seven Sundays left this year after today if you can believe that and t has been quite some time since we last did Sunday At The Classics. So, I figured we better get to those classics and I chose one in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard (the famous street in Hollywood). Joe Gillis (Damien: The Omen II‘s William Holden) is a struggling writer in Hollywood who is desperately in search of the solution to all of his problems when he stumbles upon a white elephant (what looks to be a big abandoned house) on Sunset Boulevard. What he discovers inside the house is a forgotten relic in former Silent film star Norma Desmond (Queen Kelly‘s Gloria Swanson). After agreeing to finish a script she had written, he soon discovers that he is stuck and that there is no way out as Norma still thinks that she is a wanted star, but she’s really just out of her mind. The film also stars Erich von Stroheim (Blind Husbands) as Max Von Mayerling, Nancy Olson (The Absent Minded Professor) as Betty Schaefer, Jack Webb (Pete Kelly’s Blues) as Artie Green, Cecil B. DeMille (The Ten Commandments) as himself, Buster Keaton (The General) as Himself, and the film was directed by Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot).

SUNSET BOULEVARDWilliam Holden does an amazing job in the film handling double duty as he stars and narrates the whole film. I loved how the film starts at the end and he goes back in time to tell you his tragic tale of how he got there. The film is a real tragic tale of how desperate people in Hollywood can get when the chips are down. All he wanted was a place to store his car until he could figure out how to pay the bank. He agrees to finish the script for this actress and he gets stuck in it as she obsesses over him. She is just so out of touch with reality that it’s a crime itself, but with a woman with so much money to lose, what are the people closest to her supposed to do? Gloria Swanson is also an amazing actress who does a terrific job in the film and even delivered the most famous line ever, “Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.” It was cool to see actual old silent film stars like Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper, Anna Q. Nilsson, and H. B. Warner because it was like old Hollywood vs new Hollywood. The story is very solid for this film and a strong point in my opinion. The acting is also amazing and is what made this a great film to begin with. There is always going to be the argument of B&W vs Color film, but B&W makes the film look timeless and it enriches the shadows and the light of the picture. Make your own choice, but I love B&W. The film is available on Netflix right now as we speak and I am going to give the film an A- for a final grade.

Day 271: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

img_6393I have already used Netflix, HBOGO, Redbox, Showtime Anytime, Encore Play, MAXGO, and so many other services to watch my films for this challenge except for an app. It is most certainly not Sunday, but I couldn’t resist trying my TCM App on my phone to watch a film for this week. The film I chose for today is the crime/drama, Film Noir classic The Postman Always Rings Twice. For Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway) it seems like he has it all from a burger/restaurant/gas station and the perfect beautiful wife named Cora (Lana Turner). It’s perfect until a drifter by the name of Frank Chambers (John Garfield) shows up on his restaurant doorstep looking for a job. Frank is a very hard worker and that pleases Nick, but then Frank and Cora will begin a tumultuous relationship with each other. It gets so serious between the two that they will soon begin to plot his murder so that they can start over in love with each other. The question is though, can they see it through and will they get away with it. The film also stars Hume Cronyn (The Pelican Brief) as Arthur Keats, Leon Ames (Tora! Tora! Tora!) as Kyle Sackett, Audrey Totter (Lady in the Lake) as Madge Gorland, and the film was directed by Tay Garnett (Bataan).

img_6394Throughout the film, Frank is the one narrating the story so you automatically know he had to survive this ordeal, but how? That you will have to find out for yourself, but as far as Film Noirs are concerned, this was a very good one. It runs a little too long for my liking and at one point I thought they could have ended the film, but it’s justified after you see it if you know what I mean. The acting in the film was the strong part of the film as each of the main three delivered spectacular performances that had me intrigued to continue. The only thing is that the writing needed a bit of a touch up as Lana Turner’s character flip flops on you many times during the critical hours, but its not too big of a deal (you end up understanding why). I am also not complaining about Lana Turner because as I said, the acting was amazing. This film was considered her best work of her whole career. In fact, the film’s success opened up the doors for the genre as MGM head Louis B Mayer hated the genre. The film also set a fashion trend in post-World War II America as Lana’s swim gear became a hit among women. The film is legendary even all the way to today (check out Kill Bill 2 and what David Carradine’s character says). If you get a chance to see this movie, I definitely would. I am going to give the film an A- for a final grade.

Day 269: White Heat (1949)

white-heatThere are only 13 Sundays left in the whole entire year which can only mean one thing and that it’s Sunday At The Classics. James Cagney (The Public Enemies) is one of those actors from the classic period of Hollywood that I have always wanted to watch a film from so I chose to watch the classic crime/heist drama White Heat for today. Cody Jarrett (Cagney) is one of the most notorious criminals in California that just pulled off a train heist. The only problem is that there is way too much heat on the gang from the G-men. So he decides to take the rap from another crime to see if it’ll the heat will blow over, but the G-men are not fooled at all. They send in an undercover agent by the name of Vic Pardo (Edmond O’Brien) to get close to him to figure out exactly what it is he is up to so that they can bust him for good. The film also stars Virginia Mayo (The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty) as Verna Jarrett, Margaret Wycherly (Sergeant York) as Ma Jarrett, Steve Cochran (The Deadly Companions) as Big Ed, John Archer (Blue Hawaii) as Phillip Evans, Wally Cassell (Sands Of Iwo Jima) as Cotton, and the film was directed by Raoul Walsh (The Thief Of Bagdad).

white-heat-2This film is truly one of the most iconic films of it’s time and is probably the basis for most of the heist films we would get. It’s that classic story of a guy who robs banks for a living who plans what he thinks will be the perfect heist, but it doesn’t go as planned. The writing for the film was perfect because it had the right amount of drama, but the acting helped out as well. Jame Cagney was absolutely brilliant in the film as the maniacal tough guy with a sensitive spot for his mama. He does an amazing job of showing the mental breakdown of this character from being strong and tough in the beginning of the film to absolutely going bat sh** crazy at the end of the film. Kudos also go to Edmond O’Brien for playing the guy who toes the line with everything, but is convincing enough to earn the trust needed. I had a lot of fun watching the film and all of it’s brilliance. The film is a little long, but it’s not long as in God why is this so long. If you are a fan of classic Hollywood and Film Noir, or Crime Drama Heist films, then you should check this one out for sure. This is what acting was all about and why classic Hollywood ruled. I am going to give the film an A for a final grade.

Day 255: Touch Of Evil (1958)

touch-of-evilIt has been 22 days since the last time we did a Sunday at the classics film and there is only 15 Sundays left in the whole month (Not including today). There is one man whose name is synonymous with classic Hollywood cinema and that is director Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) and he returns to star and direct the film noir classic Touch Of Evil. A wealthy man is killed in an explosion in a border town between Mexico and the US. It sets off an investigation that brings in one Mexican Narcotics investigator named Vargas (Charlton Heston) and a veteran cop named Quinlan (Welles) whose willing to do whatever it takes to take down anyone. The two will soon embark on a battle between each other as Vargas is trying to nail Quinlan for being a dirty cop while Quinlan is trying to ruin Vargas reputation. The film also stars Janet Leigh (Psycho) as Susan Vargas, Joseph Calleia (The Treasure Of Pancho Villa) as Police SGT. Menzies, Akim Tamiroff (For Whom The Bell Tolls) as Uncle Joe, Marlene Dietrich (Judgement At Nuremberg) as Tana, Zsa Zsa Gabor (Moulin Rouge) as Strip Club Owner, Ray Collins (Perry Mason) as DA Adair, Valentin de Vargas (To Live In And Die In LA) as Pancho, and Joi Lansing (The Brave One) as Zita. 

touchThis was definitely an amazing movie to watch and I had a lot of fun checking this one out. I had one minor issue with the film, but it’s one of those I get why they did it kind of thing. My only issue with the film is that I had a hard time believing Charlton Heston as a Mexican because not even black and white makes me believe it. He looks like an American with a mustache and a tan. I get why they did it because Hollywood at the time would have never placed a real Mexican as the star of the film. You have to remember that at this time, white men were still playing Native Americans in films. What I did love about this film is the last half and hour of it. The last half hour was one of the most intense half hours of the whole movie with all the scandalous behavior. I didn’t know how I felt about Orson Welles before the film, but he was absolutely amazing in this film as the crooked Quinlan. There are always going to be flaws in every film, but this is definitely one of my favorites so far this month. The writing is great, the cinematography was great, and the acting was great too. A young and beautiful pre-Psycho Janet Leigh is in the film and she looks great. The film takes a bit to unfold, but when it does it’s absolutely amazing. If you want to know about the history of cinema then you need to check out these films because they laid the ground work for today. That is why I am going to give the film an A- for a final grade.

Day 234: Dial M For Murder (1954)

dial M for murderWith only 132 days left in the year and only 18 Sundays left in the calendar year, we are going to try something new here. I am calling it Sunday At The Classics where we review classic cinema and we are starting this week with Alfred Hitchcock’s (Psycho) Dial M For Murder which was released in 1954. Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend) plays Tony Wendice, a former tennis pro who discovers that his wife is having an affair with a writer from New York City. What does he do, well he tries to plan the perfect murder by blackmailing an old college friend, but when that backfires he has to come up with one heck of a plan b just to get the job done. The film also stars Grace Kelly (To Catch A Thief) as Margot Wendice, Robert Cummings (Walt Disney’s Wonderful World Of Color) as Mark Halliday, John Williams (Witness For The Prosecution) as Chief Inspector Hubbard, Anthony Dawson (Death Rides A Horse) as Charles Swan, Robin Hughes (The Flame And The Arrow) as Police Sergeant O’Brien, Leo Britt (The Charge Of The Light) as the storyteller, Patrick Allen (The Black Adder) as Detective Pearson, and George Leigh (Champagne For Caesar) as Detective Williams.

dial mThere is one scene that I had always heard about that was revered by many in this film which is why I decided to watch this. It’s the during the beginning of the film when Tony invites Charles Swan to come over to talk about the “car” for sale. He begins to piece Swan’s true identity to Swan as they are talking and then he reveals to him his secret plan. It is then that he let’s us in on how he wants Swan to commit the perfect crime in detail. The conversation goes on for about 15 to 20 minutes and is just masterful as it seems to be one continuous shot. Alfred was a master with his cinematography and how he wanted to see his film unfold. It’s exactly like François Truffaut once said about Hitchcock calling him a true auteur of cinema.  Just like any great Film Noir or crime mystery film, there is always the reveal about how they came to discover the master plan. That is another great sequence that you have to check out from the master of suspense. One of the things I enjoyed about this film was seeing the beautiful Grace Kelly who really was the face of perfection in classic Hollywood. There was just no other like her in those times and she was awesome to watch in this film even though she really wasn’t the star of the film. Ray Milland of course was the star and he absolutely shined as the an who thought he could think on his feet and that he had everyone hook, line, and sinker. If you want to be a fan of cinema then I definitely suggest that you stick this on your list of films to watch. I am going to give the film an A- for a final grade.