Day 360: Miracle On 34TH Street (1947)

miracle-on-34th-street-titlesI just wanted to start by wishing all of you movie lovers out there a very safe and Merry Christmas. To get into the spirit of Christmas, I wanted to to watch a film that had to do with the very holiday itself so I chose to watch Miracle On 34 Street (the 1947 version). Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) is the special events coordinator for Macy’s who has discovered a problem thanks to an old man (Edmund Gwenn). Her Santa Claus for the Thanksgiving Day Parade is drunk and unable to continue. So, she hires the old man to be Santa and after he does a great job, he is then hired to be the Macy’s store Santa. The only problem is that the old man claims to be Kris Kringle himself, but there are people that do not believe him. The film also stars Natalie Wood (Rebel Without A Cause) as Susan Walker, John Payne (The Razor’s Edge) as Fred Gailey, Gene Lockhart (His Girl Friday) as Judge Henry X. Harper, Porter Hall (Mr. Smith Goes To Washington) as Granville Sawyer, William Frawley (I Love Lucy) as Charlie Halloran, Jerome Cowan (The Maltese Falcon) as Dist. Atty. Thomas Mara, Philip Tonge (Witness For The Prosecution) as Julian, and the film was directed by George Seaton (Airport).

vlcsnap-2012-11-21-14h47m36s14This is the very last Sunday at the Classics as far as this challenge is concerned, but I just may keep it going after the challenge is over. I have seen some great films for Sunday at the Classics, but this is by far one of my favorite ones. The film features some amazing performances from the likes of John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, and even little Natalie Wood who would go on to be even more famous for her role in Rebel Without A Cause. The story of the film is just as amazing because it was a well written tale and a different kind of take on Christmas. It was a tale of believing in something not because people tell you to, but because it feels right to you. The trial scenes were amazing and you have to love the judge who constantly looks to his campaign advisor for advice on how to judge the case. The cinematography was pretty good as well and I had the chance to see the colorized version, but I chose to go old school for my first go around. This was an all around great film that featured great writing, actors, costumes, the sets, and even the cinematography. You have to do yourself a favor and check this film out for yourself before you watch the remake (which I also haven’t seen). I am going to give the film an A+ for a final grade.

Day 353: The Hustler (1961)

hustler1961-3I can’t believe that out 52 Sundays in year that after today there is only one Sunday left in the whole entire year. So for this week’s Sunday At The Classics, I decided to check out the pool hall classic from Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid) in The Hustler. Fast Eddie Felson (Newman) is one of the best pool hall hustlers around that is looking for that match up that could make him the big money. One match with the best around in Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) sends Eddie into a downward spiral that leaves him broke with no manager. A chance meeting with a girl (Piper Laurie) at the bus station begins to show him that there is more to life then just winning and losing and Eddie then begins his comeback. The film also stars George C. Scott (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) as Bert Gordon, Myron McCormick (The Fight For Life) as Charlie, Murray Hamilton (Jaws) as Findley, Michael Constantine (My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2) as Big John, Stefan Gierasch (High Plains Drifter) as Preacher, Jake LaMotta (Raging Bull) as Bartender, Vincent Gardenia (Little Shop Of Horrors) as Bartender, and the film was directed by Robert Rossen (The Roaring Twenties).

paul-newman-the-hustler-1961There is definitely a reason why this is a must see film and a absolute classic. The sequence in the beginning of the film between Fast Eddie and Minnesota Fats was absolutely amazing and it kept you hooked because you wanted to see who would quit first. The relationship between Piper Laurie’s character Sarah and Fast Eddie was also a fascinating aspect of the film because they were theoretically not made for each other, but then again maybe they were. There’s the old adage that women love the bad boys and maybe she was experiencing that, but she was such a benefit for him more than he was for her. The acting in the film was phenomenal and you have to love the camera work in this film because the shots always looked so full and they painted the various settings just right. You felt like you were in an actual dingy smoke infested pool hall the whole time you were watching. In a way in this film, you were hopeful of Eddie, but he could definitely frustrate you which is why I loved the story of the film. They had all the right conflicts and sub plots to keep you hooked from beginning to end. One of the other things I loved about this film is the very end during the credit sequence when everyone except George C. Scott leaves the pool hall by the end of the credits. You’ll find out why for yourself, but I thought it was poetic justice. I need to check out The Color Of Money (which is the sequel), but give this one a watch while you are it. I am going to give the film an A for a final grade.

Day 346: To Catch A Thief (1955)

tocatchathief_1955_mp_hsb_1200_062320090414After today there are only 20 more days to watch 20 more films which also means that there are only two Sundays left in the whole year. So for today’s Sunday At The Classics, I chose to watch a film from the master of suspense in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief which stars Cary Grant (North By Northwest) and the beautiful Grace Kelly (Dial M For Murder). John Robie (Grant) is a long retired jewel thief who is just trying to enjoy his time in France until some jewel robberies start to happen. Immediately, John is to blame, but now he wants to prove his innocence by outsmarting the jewel thief so he tags along with a rich American woman named Frances Stevens (Kelly) and her mother until he can figure out who it really is to clear his name. The film also stars Jessie Royce Landis (North By Northwest) as Jessie Stevens, John Williams (Witness For The Prosecution) as H.H. Hughson, Charles Vanel (The Wages Of Fear) as Bertani, Brigitte Auber (The Man In The Iron Mask) as Danielle Foussard, Jean Martinelli (Rouge et Noir) as Foussard, René Blancard (Main Street) as Commissioner Lepic, and Georgette Anys (Four Bags Full) as Germaine.

garceGrace Kelly was such a beautiful woman who was also an amazing actress and Cary Grant is no push over either in the acting department. Both Grant and Kelly put on excellent performances for the good ol’ Alfred Hitchcock in this film which is different than what I have usually seen from him, but you can also see the similarities. The film had some amazing cinematography which was probably my favorite part of the film. There were some amazing shots of the area of Cannes that they were in and some of the shots of the villas were amazing too. The car chase scene was pretty decent in the way it was shot, but nothing like I saw last week in Bullitt. The film had a pretty amazing story to go along with it, but when it came to those final moments when were going to find out who the real burglar was, I finally guessed it correctly. The whole film I had no idea who it was going to be, but I figured out where they would come from and you’ll know what I am talking about when you watch it.  If I am looking at the film stylistically scene by scene then one of my favorite departments for the film was the costumes. One of my favorite segments as far as that is concerned was the ball at the end with their Louie XV themed party. The 50’s was definitely an amazing time for clothing and even film. I think any fan of Hitchcock who hasn’t seen this one should definitely give it a shot. I am going to give the film an A for a final grade.

Day 339: It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

wonderful_lifeAfter today there are only 3 Sundays left in the whole entire year which means I am coming close to achieving my goal and it also means there are only three Sundays At The Classics left. The film I chose for today is one that I couldn’t resist watching considering that it’s Christmas Season and I am talking about It’s A Wonderful Life. George Bailey (James Stewart) is someone who has always put others before himself, but he is also a guy who has had big dreams of doing things like travelling the world. Unfortunately for George, he has never been able to do it because he has put others including is father’s struggling business the Building & Loans ahead of his wants. One day a large sum of money goes missing and George doesn’t know what to do, but when he thinks of something bad, God sends him a Guardian Angel who is still trying to earn his wings to try and save him. The film also stars Donna Reed (From Here To Eternity) as Mary, Lionel Barrymore (Key Largo) as Mr. Potter, Thomas Mitchell (Gone With The Wind) as Uncle Billy, Henry Travers (The Invisible Man) as Clarence, Gloria Hallward (Oklahoma) as Violet, Ward Bond (The Maltese Falcon) as Bert, Frank Faylen (Funny Girl) as Ernie, and the film was directed by Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes To Washington).

1449598927-lastsceneThey really were not kidding when they said that this was one of the best films of all time. James Stewart was one of the best actors of all time whether he starred in the Capra films or the Hitchcock films. He was absolutely masterful in the film as the guy who is so full of dreams and wonder that he puts all of it aside to do what is right by people in this town of Bedford Falls. One of my favorite scenes with him in the film is when he wishes that he was never born and the guardian angel Clarence grants it to him. What happens next is absolutely masterful as he goes through the town desperate to convince that it’s all a dream until he realizes that it’s reality. Donna Reed is also fantastic as Mary, his wife in the film and I can’t really complain about anyone because everyone was great. The cinematography was amazing, but there was one scene that I thought was cheesy. There’s this scene where the camera pans up to space. We see what looks like galaxies and it ends up being Joseph and I believe Jesus. They start talking to each other and that’s when they put Clarence on the job, but when they talk flashing bulbs behind the picture signify who is talking. Other than that, this is one of the best films and very inspirational because the moral is to stand up to the man no matter what because they don’t always want what’s best for everyone. Check out the film for yourself, I am going to give it an A+ for a final grade.

Day 332: Blackbeard, the Pirate (1952)

180da2aa534a02457cbccb7a15bfbd95This is it people, this is the countdown to the end of the year because there are only four Sundays left in total for the year and after today only 34 days left (side note: I realize that the blog is titled 365, but there is in fact 366 days this year). For today’s Sunday At The Classics film, I was in the mood for a pirate film so I chose to watch 1952’s Blackbeard, the Pirate. The always honest Robert Maynard (Tora! Tora! Tora!‘s Keith Andes) is on a mission to go undercover to capture Sir Edward Morgan (The 7TH Voyage Of Sinbad‘s Torin Thatcher) even though Morgan claims that he is reformed and no longer a pirate. So Maynard poses as a surgeon for the most infamous Pirate of them all in Edward Teach a.k.a Blackbeard (Oliver Twist‘s Robert Newton) in hopes he can prove that Morgan still dabbles in piracy. The film also stars Linda Darnell (The Mask Of Zorro) as Edwina Mansfield, William Bendix (Detective Story) as Ben Worley, Irene Ryan (The Beverly Hillbillies) as Alvina, a lady in waiting, Alan Mowbray (The King And I) as Noll, Richard Egan (The 300 Spartans) as Briggs, Skelton Knaggs (House Of Dracula) as Gilly, and the film was directed by Raoul Walsh (White Heat).

94045937As far as this film goes, its actually not too bad of a film because it’s fun to watch especially if you want to imitate pirates like we did when we were children. Blackbeard was one of the most infamous pirates and the film definitely portrays him as someone that no one should trust even his own crew. We never really find out if Maynard gets his guy because there is just so much going on in the film that you have to assume that he doesn’t. One part that made no sense to me is one minute he is being tied up and beaten with a whip and having salt thrown on the wounds to being right by Blackbeard’s side all over again. It bounced back and forth like that way too many times, but there is some cool action to keep you interested. There is a battle scene between Morgan and Blackbeard’s ships that I really enjoyed and then there are the sword fights which were cool as well. The acting of course was superb by everyone in the film as they had some real heavyweights of the time in the film. The cinematography was pretty good as I loved the shots of the ships while at sea. The film is actually available to watch on Youtube if you want to view it. I am going to give the film an B+ for a final grade.

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.