On "No Down Payment": Anne said...This is what makes me wonder if Jeffrey Hunter and Patricia Owens'scharacters had even consumated thier marriageThe kid's got a broken radio, Jeff pulls out a screw driver and sets to work.Tony Randall gets smarmy with Jeff's wife and he's a frozen bystander...if Tony was mashing a radio, I think Jeff's character would have sprun into action. March 9, 2013
On "Trooper Hook": Vienna said...Wonderful review ! I haven't seen TROOPER HOOK for a long time but hope it becomes available on DVD. You describe Joel and Barbara's characters so well. An unusual role for Barbara. I guess she chose to do it for that reason. March 11, 2013
Anne said...Thank you for writing about this little gemOne can see this film on the encore west channel now and then and it's astonishingly good. With a budget not enough for a modern office pastry cart, it shows what can be done with excellent writing and acting....and directing. I love how we see the tiny stage from afar, then we see it though Nanches legs, we are right behind him, and we now know he's on their trail...it makes him almost a gonzilla of a threatChildren: let Mr. McCrea and Ms Stanwyck show you how it's done.They are hotter across a dusty feed store than many buck necked couples in love scenes today.March 7, 2013
On "Any Number Can Play": Vienna said...I love this film. Great cast, though I hate seeing Audrey Totter so totally wasted. All Audrey seemed to do was stand around with a glass in one hand and cigarette in the other.I thought Alexis Smith did well ,playing a woman whom I 'm sure was meant to be older than Alexis who was probably about 30 at the time.Great to see Mary Astor though,again, what a small role. And Marjorie Rambeau is always a joy.It could have been a play, with the only sets the gambling club and Gable's house.An unusual role for Gable and he was convincing.March 1, 2013
On Anita Sharp-Bolster: Vienna said...I've just see Anita in THE LONDON BLACKOUT MURDERS and she is so good as another battle-axe character , but with a touch of comedy . Nice tribute. Thanks.http//:dancing lady39.wordpress.com February 2, 2013
On Victor Jory - On Stage and Screen: Vienna said...Thanks for great tribute to Victor Jory whom I like, especially in a couple of films where he isn't the villain! In FIGHTING MAN OF THE PLAINS, Victor does his best to help Randolph Scott and becomes a good friend to Scott's character. Such a contrast to Victor's usual roles. I also liked him in a little B, THE UNKNOWN GUEST where he is the leading manI had no idea Victor and Alexis Smith did two plays together - thanks for the information. Oh to have seen them!January 24, 2013
On And Then There Were None: Ryan said...I bought this years ago on DVD, and it's still my favorite movie version of this story. The cast was perfect, and to tell you the truth, though I love the book, I almost prefer this ending. I think it's the hopeless romantic in me.February 19, 2013
“The Man with a Cloak” (1951) is a deft melding of equal parts historical drama and film noir. Set in New York City in 1848, we follow the cloak (literally) and dagger schemes of a wealthy, aged, and dying rapscallion played with superb aplomb by Louis Calhern, and the sycophantic but secretly devious household staff.
Joe De Santis plays his thuggish-looking butler with the threat of violence beneath a thin veneer of servitude. Margaret Wycherly is the comically frumpy, ineffectual but surprisingly knowing cook and housekeeper. Barbara Stanwyck, yes, Barbara Stanwyck, is Louis Calhern’s hostess and most prized possession. She is a former actress whom Mr. Calhern has collected, now reduced to playing the role of devoted dogsbody to a man she despises. All three are tired of playing the waiting game for their exasperating master to die, and are plotting to hurry him along to his final reward.
Enter Leslie Caron, in her second film after “American in Paris”, with her wide waif’s eyes and determination to appeal to Louis Calhern for his financial support. She has just arrived from Paris, where her lover, who is Calhern’s grandson, leads a revolt against the current Orleans monarchy to establish the Second Republic. Grandpa Calhern, however is on the opposite political side, having fought for the Emperor, escaping to the United States when Napoleon was ousted. He has been estranged from his grandson, but his heart is softening as he realizes he has little time to live.
And Calhern, still the rogue, is captivated with Mademoiselle Caron, which drives Miss Stanwyck up a tree.
On the outskirts of this mélange, but soon to be an integral part, is Joseph Cotten, the man with the cloak. Though he gives his name to the affable bartender played by Jim Backus, we nevertheless come to understand early in the film that he is a man of mystery, and that this is likely not his real name.
In this film, Mr. Cotten plays a real historical figure. We get a few clues throughout the movie about his identity, but his name, finally revealed at the very end of the movie when his signature is scrawled on an I.O.U., may still come as a poignant surprise.
The movie’s film noir aspects include a score by David Raksin that at some points sounds almost like it would belong with a 1950 police drama. However, Raksin also wrote the 19th century-flavored tune “Another Yesterday” which Barbara Stanwyck sings. It’s her own voice, low and with limited range, but very smoothly and pleasantly done. Mr. Raksin also wrote the tune “Laura” for the other famous detective drama, so he’s no stranger to mood pieces. We discussed his work in this previous post on "The Next Voice You Hear" (1950).
The bulk of the 19th century is carried on the shoulders of costumer Walter Plunkett. The costumes and sets seem both spot-on for the period.
The mood of Dickensian grimness and 20th century noir is woven together as well in the damp nights on cobblestone streets lit by gaslight, the layers of deception, the bungled plot that results in not one dead body but two, and a very crisp and literate script that concludes with a surprisingly wordless and violent fight scene.
Perhaps the signature of film noir is represented in this costume drama in the character played by Joseph Cotten, who is the original anti-hero, the man down on his luck, a slave to drink, who roams with bitter failure on his back, his own worst enemy, and yet who with cunning and cynical savvy, becomes Leslie Caron’s knight in shining armor.
Leslie Caron, however is not the typical damsel in distress. Here she plays a courageous young woman who is Cotten’s intellectual equal and together they solve a few riddles before the game is done. Mademoiselle Caron, in this and in many of her films, seems to exude a unique serenity, a confidence and sureness despite her youth that results in her characters looking completely natural. There is no staginess, despite the precision of her speech and her movement.
Mr. Cotten’s relationship with her is not romantic, nor is it particularly fatherly, but there is a comfortable confidentiality to their scenes together.
Another fine aspect of this film is that it manages to be an ensemble piece. Jim Backus, as the philosopher bartender, who remarks, “Some men leave good will. Other just a will,” is as important to the plot as the brutish butler, and as important as Miss Stanwyck, who with her customary professionalism, seems content to be a team player. She also has the guts to play a woman of a certain age with fading charms, who desperately uses everything left in her arsenal.
To be sure, however, she takes center stage easily when sparks fly in her scenes with Joseph Cotten, when the tension builds and the stakes are higher. They size each other up like they are about to have a knife fight instead of kiss. Stanwyck is as still and cold as a statue, playing the grand lady and every inch a woman of another era. One can see early shades of her Victoria Barkley character from “The Big Valley” television series here, only evil. And no horse. But, boy howdy (as Heath would say), she can descend a staircase with the best of them.
Cotten remarks of Louis Calhern, “He was a roué in the grand manner. A connoisseur of wine, women, and wit. Now he’s an ancient ruin with one arm paralyzed and one foot in the grave.” Cotten, who sees through just about everybody, makes cutting, sarcastic remarks, but is a foremost gentleman who after each dig mumbles a perfunctory, “Forgive me” in between sips of wine.
One of my favorites is when he brushes by the hateful butler and murmurs, “Try to get the murder out of your face.”
While Joseph Cotten and Leslie Caron are attempting to protect the old man’s life against his murderous household servants, the old man pulls a fast one on everybody, writes a new will, and then attempts to end his life with poison.
In the grand manner of a horror tale, the poison is consumed accidentally by another, while Calhern, silenced by another stroke, must watch helplessly.
In the end, the reluctant hero solves the riddles, and the Parisian waif may return home triumphant, and the household staff…they receive a most ironic and fitting legacy from their master.
Meet Me in Nuthatch - A publicity stunt to attract tourists to a small dying town results in the entire community turning the clock back to 1904. It is local Christmas tree farmer Everett Campbell’s idea, after watching the film “Meet Me in St. Louis,” his young daughter’s new favorite movie. What begins as half practical joke and half desperate ploy initiates the rebirth of Nuthatch, Massachusetts. Tourists do come, along with the media. To Everett’s dismay, his campaign to save their community results in also attracting representatives of a chain of theme parks who want to buy Nuthatch 1904. Everett now stands to lose his town in a way he never imagined, and the community is divided on which alternate future to choose. A local drug dealer, the longtime enemy of Everett, may hold their future in his hands unless Everett can pull off his most spectacular, and dangerous, practical joke.
“…a comforting, pleasant read that stays with you even after the last page is turned. After finishing the book, I found myself still musing about the relationships and how they'd changed and progressed. This book was a nice, hot chocolate sort of read.” Grace Krispy, "MotherLode" blog book review.
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