Thursday, 30 December 2010

Big Brown Eyes

Eve Fallon (Joan Bennett) upset for having not recieved the correct judgement which had political interference quits being a reporter and goes back to her other profession of a manicurist. Her boyfriend, Danny Barr (Cary Grant), a detective is equally upset with this injustice, quits police. Now, they are secretly on their way to find the evidence. This movie had comedy, witty one lines, romance and mystery.
Eve comes across as a big mouth and has some of the best lines in the movie. Among frequent banters, Eve and Dan are very much in love. Dan is investigating a series of jewel robberies and one of them turned serious with a baby being killed of a stray bullet. The killer was identified, but the system had loop holes and he wasn't punished against the charges. Dan in his own way privately starts a trail on Cortig, as he is convinced about his involvement.He gets the support from Eve as she is always inquisitive and in constant look for any news. While manicuring she figures the role of a prominent personality’s involvement in the jewel robberies. The missing piece in Dan’s trail is coincides with discovery made by Eve. Richard Morey, a local politician played by Walter Pidgeon is the main man behind the crime and he is nabbed by the team work of Eve and Dan. Comical performances by Marjorie Gateson in the role of Mrs Chesley Cole and Douglas Fowley as Benny provide some exercise to the laughter muscles.
Released in 1936, Big Brown Eyes directed by Raoul Walsh was known to be an experimental movie considering, this genre of movies were limited to Warner Bros in the mid 1930’s. Paramount did manage to get the bearing with the story and the screenplay and it was well accepted at the box office.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Madame Butterfly

Love has no boundaries and it has no language. Madame Butterfly is one such story of different cultures and how one can get caught in the web of hope. The story is about lust on one side and love from the other. Lieutenant Pinkerton (Cary Grant) arrives on the shore of Japan for a holiday. Lt Barton, his buddy accompanies him to a local establishment where they are in look out for food, drinks and girls. Pinkerton gets attracted to the local muse Cho-Cho San (Sylvia Sidney).
Pinkerton is given advice from Barton that he can marry Cho and can enjoy her company with the family approval. Although not serious, he was concerned what would happen to Cho once he leaves Japan. Abandonment is considered equivalent to a divorce in Japan, and Barton stressed this point to Pinkerton saying Cho will be free to marry any local guy once he abandons her and gets back to America. Pinkerton marries Cho and spends few days at her place. Cho’s mom and grand father treat Pinkerton well. Cho is in love with him and it was hard for her to accept the fact that he will be away in a few days time.With no promise, Cho waits for the return of Pinkerton. Three years pass by, she eagerly waits to meet her husband and give him a surprise, their son. She makes frequent visits to the harbour in hope to see Pinkerton coming to meet her.
Pinkerton does arrive to Japan, along with his American bride. He meets Cho and tells the true story and apologises to her. And so, the hope through which Cho lived for the past three years were dashed by this admission by Pinkerton.

This is the story of Madame Butterfly. The 1932 movie produced by Paramount and directed by Marion Gering, was a non singing version of the opera by the same name by Giacomo Puccini. The opera is based on the short story written by John Luther Long in 1898 and dramatised by David Belasco.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Gunga Din

Inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s poem, the movie is set in mid 1800’s when British regiment had made a settlement in India. With resistance coming from all quarters; there were quite a few rebellious groups formed in order to eliminate the British rule. This movie had one such group who revered Goddess Kali (an important deity in Hindu mythology, Goddess of Blood) dedicated their lives to destroy the British army.
The movie is about a Hindu water carrier called ‘Gunga Din’. Since childhood he always wanted to be in the army. He was not allowed and this fact never bothered as he learnt the tricks of army by observing the soldiers carefully. He gets friendly with Sgt Cutter and also tells him about the gold which can be taken back from a Kali temple. Parallely, there is an uprising of a religious group under the leadership of Swami, played by Eduardo Ciannelli.
The group had previously attacked many such regiments at different villages and now they had made arrangements to eliminate the British army in that area.

I am not comfortable to use the technical word for such groups. Although, in English and in the movie they are referred to as ‘Thuggees’, I am not going to use the word. Its a perception and since it was during the British rule, often such groups were branded as enemies and not seen as patriots.

From a movie’s point of view, I can only talk about performances on screen. The movie talks about three army sergeants and the rapport they shared working together. Sgt Archibald Cutter (Cary Grant), Sgt Mac Chesney (Victor Mc Laglen) and Sgt Ballantine (Douglas Fairbank Jr) are fun loving army personnel who love going on adventures together. All was fine until one of them decides to leave the service in order to get married. In what is called as a final mission, the two trick the soon to be groom to be a part of the troop.
In search of gold, Sgt Cutter and Gunga Din get trapped in a huge gathering of the religious group. As a part of the plan, Sgt Cutter surrenders to the group while instructing Gunga Din to inform his army troop about the place and situation. Call it mis-communication; the two friends along with Gunga Din turn up at the temple. All are caught and Gunga Din is branded as a traitor for helping the British. While in temple, the three musketeers get to know the master plan of the rebellion to eliminate the entire British army. The last part of the movie talks about the gallantry of Gunga Din who risks his life in order to warn the British troops and manages to convey the message of the traps set by the rebellion. On the other hand, it talks about the patriotism of Swami and his men, who are fighting for their freedom, for their country. Although, the methods employed are violent, it wasn’t for fun. They had a purpose and they went about in their own way.

George Stevens in a periodic movie to some extent displays his taste for humour showcases army staff enjoying a good laugh as they went about waging wars. Joan Fontaine plays the sole female in few scenes and fails to capture the audience in a bland role. Sam Jaffe in the title role impresses with his tailor made acting of a Hindu water carrier.
"Tho' I've belted you and flayed you, by the livin' Gawd that made you, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!" – Rudyard Kipling, last line of his highly acclaimed poem of the same name.
Released in 1939, RKO productions made this movie which was the costliest at that time. Considering the war scenes and sets resembling rural India the movie was aptly nominated for and Oscar in the Best Cinematography Black and White category.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Kiss Them for Me

In my opinion there was a void among war heroes as they battled day and night in places away from home. In a certain way, it was the call of duty more than willingness to battle it out. While some of them took pride fighting it out, there were many who wanted the war to finish and return home. If the craving indeed gets worse, few men did take a chance to get back home while on duty. Kiss them for me, is a comical version of how three navy men, tired of war want to when the war was on.
Cmdr Andy Crewson played by Cary Grant convinces his two colleagues to go away from navy base for a rest. Home sickness coupled with being away from loved ones made them rusty to have such a run away plot. They all land up in San Francisco and with the help of Lieutenant Wallace; they manage to get a luxury posh suite in a famous hotel.
Andy manages to gather the party crowd and all looks like a great party time. Girls, alcohol, no war, life outside of being a navy pilot were better.

Wallace in order to maintain relations with top businessman arranges for a meeting with Andy and the shipyard owner Eddie Turnbill. Turnbill wants to promote his war ships and to increase and motivate his fellow workers, requested Andy and his two decorated pilots to give a small talk at his factory. Andy refused and even embarrassed Eddie, but considering Eddie had good relations with the Admiral, he reversed his stand upon insistence of his friends who convince him. Helping Eddie would allow their leaves extended without having to spend the 'vacation' in a navy hospital for check ups.
While Turnbill is happy making plans for the talk, Andy sets his eyes on Eddie’s fiancĂ©e Gwinneth Livingston, played by the stunning Suzy Parker. Gwinneth as evident from the first scene is an epitome of an unhappy woman who is in need of a stable life. Yet, in search of love, she isn’t quite in good terms with her relationship with Eddie. It was as though, love could blow away the relationship with Eddie. She ensures this point of hers is well expressed to Andy.
Instead of turning up and talk to labours, Andy decides to spend the night with Gwinneth and takes her out to a music bar and a restaurant. He was here to enjoy his vacation, not talk about war. Andy meets his old friends from war, one handicapped and gets to know he has few days left. He is in a strange mood wondering he did the right thing running away from war while a lot of his country men are fighting it out.
His two friends talk to labours on his behalf and this didn't go well with Eddie, fumingly tries to create a scene. Andy confronts Eddie and gives a blow instead of talking. Gwinneth breaks up with Eddie and joins Andy. Love is it.
Party time is over guys as Eddie turns up the heat and ensures the holiday is cancelled. In the meantime, Lt Mc Cann gets the ticket to join Congress and he takes his two friends on board for this mission. The two friends get the call of war from inside; decide to join the navy instead. Mc Cann was not to be left behind; he gives up the ticket and joins his two friends.
Suzy Parker in her role as Gwinneth makes her movie debut in an acting performance in a grand style. Previous was a cameo in the movie 'Funny Face'. Her beauty is the main strength in this movie, as her voice was given by another stunning actress of that era, Deborah Kerr. A special mention of Jayne Mansfield, who in the role of dumb blonde, makes a good impression and in major way imitates Monroe with her looks and talks. She is often mentioned as the poor man’s ‘Marilyn Monroe’ in reel and real life. Jayne’s character Alice Kratzner defines the title of the movie very aptly. In memory of her war husband in the movie, he tells her “Look me in all the war heroes and Kiss them for me”.
Famous for the song of the same name as the movie title by The McGuire Sisters, this 1957 Stanley Donen directed movie is a good watch about the back stage lives of war pilots.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Im No Angel

There is a popular saying, "There is no business like show business". Mae West illustrates and depicts the role of a free spirited 'Tira' in this 1933 movie ‘I'm no Angel’. Back then, she was already an established personality on screen; one who commanded immense respect among her peers in the industry.
Known for her witty one liner and double entendres, Mae West stars in this movie in which she provides the story, screenplay and dialogue.

In order to get out of a messy situation, Tira in search of money agrees an offer to put her head into a lion's mouth. The offer was in New York and was a sell out attraction. She attracted a lot of rich men.

A harbinger previously predicted her man of future to be a rich guy with black hair. In search of this, she did socialise with a lot of men, while specifically going into the details as specified by the fortune teller. Receiving presents through social gathering from rich men was a common norm.

Jack Clayton played by Cary Grant tries to untie the infatuation of his friend with Tira. His friend was in a relationship and to stop further embarrassment, Jack takes up the role to convince Tira to stop entertaining his friend. Along the way, Jack gets fascinated by Tira's charm and in turn Tira feels she has found her man.

Tira, her show business career made acquaintance with a lot of men, one such hopeless guy is Slick Wiley. He used to live on Tira's money and never liked the fact of Tira getting close with rich men. When Jack and Tira decide to get married, Slick plays an evil trick on Jack claiming Tira was already married to him. The marriage is cancelled.
To get someone you love, one needs to fight certain circumstances. Tira acts as her own attorney in court over a breach of promise suit. She questions the men from her past in order to prove her innocence. Mis understanding is cleared and finally all hurdles are cleared.
Directed by Wesley Ruggles this movie united Cary Grant and Mae West for the second and the last time together.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Bishop's Wife

If there is one particular theme I like in movies, it is the theme of Christmas. Movies with such a theme instill a sense of belief and gives a lot of people some hope. A hope to lead life. If it wasn't through life, it was through movies, people found hope and even today, movies is widely considered to be a medium where people find hope.

After a long gap, Loretta Young (The Bishop's Wife) is sharing the screen space with Cary Grant (Dudley). To be precise, their last movie together was Born to be bad released in 1934. David Niven plays the role of a bishop whose role is mainly limited to ambiguity between the funds for the new cathedral, family and his principles.

Why is this movie special? Is it because, it has Cary Grant playing one of the most refreshing roles of his life?

Cary Grant in his role as Dudley plays the character of an angel. An angel who sometimes resembles our inner voice. In this chaotic world, one hardly listens to our inner voice; since its an opinion or a thought restricted to ourselves. But when a feel good thought comes as a suggestion from others, we normally pick it up and on a higher percentage scale apply them. In short, people who are optimistic about lives listen to such suggestions and go about leading their lives catalysed by such thoughts or ideas.
Even if it is for a short time, it is the jump start one needs to refresh and get out of cross roads. Professor, The bishop's wife, Mrs Hamilton and few others are the ones who had lost hopes in their respective lives and the same were restored by an angel. Dudley says, "Angel can be anyone on the street. Someone you dont know but can bring in a lot of change in the way we would like to lead our lives."

The other side of the coin, cynicism exists as displayed by the Bishop, who refuses to believe in miracles, though being the mortal messenger of the almighty. He was so adamant in building the cathedral, he even went to the extent of compromising his principles to raise the funds.

His true prayers (raising funds) were finally answered; though not in a way he wanted. But who would question the method of an angel? He certainly did, but did'nt succeed to over power the methods. Dudley, the angel spends most of his time with Julia, the Bishop's wife and their kid Debby, yet manages to answer the prayers of the Bishop. Strange method indeed. The problem of funds were never looked in, and this movie epitomises the true human nature emphasising the importance to win over someone's heart in order to get what we truely want. Dudley won the heart of Mrs Hamilton, who finally relented to the angel's advice and decided to shed her ego. Donating her money, she helps the Bishop to build his dream, the cathedral, a place which would provide shelter to the needy.

Dudley had to leave once the prayers were answered but it was tough as he was attached to bishop's wife, cursed himself for being an angel; as he realised being an immortal it was impossible to beat a mortal to win over a mortal's heart.

Directed by Henry Koster, this 1947 movie was nominated in five different categories including Best Picture and it did manage to win one for the Best Sound Recording.