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
“And Then There Were None” (1945) is an almost perfect blend of solid direction, crisp black and white photography, and somewhat cheeky ensemble acting -- by mostly veteran character actors. It’s also a great example of how well Dame Agatha Christie’s novels translate to the screen.
We should note at the start, however, that this film adaptation is from the successful stage play, also written by Christie, and not an adaption of her novel, Ten Little Indians. The most glaring difference between the novel and the play/screenplay is what happens in the last few minutes. However, since this is a mystery, I won’t go into that.
It’s one of those movies where the atmosphere created is so much a part of the storytelling. We have the remote mansion on the isolated island, the constant bashing of the waves on the rocks, and curtains of sea spray flying before our eyes, and the sound of the wind behind the dialogue.
Except for Walter Huston, much of Hollywood’s English Colony was emptied to make this film. Part of its charm is the ensemble acting with no big stars to take leads.
The story, well known, is of ten visitors to this remote mansion at the request of its absent owner. Two are hired servants, played by delightfully adenoidal Richard Haydn, with Queenie Leonard as his wife.
The guests include Huston’s country doctor, a retired judge played by Barry Fitzgerald, a dissolute self-described “professional houseguest” played by the wonderful Mischa Auer (who, as in “My Man Godfrey” -- where he plays another professional houseguest, bangs a few strains of “Dark Eyes” or Ochi Chornya on the piano).
Judith Anderson is the sublimely puritanical Emily Brent, who wears her almost sinister self-superiority like a protective cloak. Roland Young is a bumbling detective, and C. Aubrey Smith as the forlorn but dignified retired general. June Duprez and Louis Hayward round out the cast as the hired secretary and the bold adventurer. They are younger, and prettier than everybody else.
On their first night together, they all dress for dinner (of course), where upon retiring to the parlor for bridge and cocktails, a spoken record on the gramophone accuses of them of various crimes. One has killed his wife’s lover. One has killed pedestrians by reckless driving, events from their past nobody knows but themselves. They are barraged with examples of the old nursery rhyme “Ten Little Indians”, which begins:
Ten little Indian boys going out to dine, One choked his little self and then there were nine.
During the evening, one of their party appears to choke, and dies. The camera pans back from the shocked guests in the parlor, back through the open double doors to the dining room where a china centerpiece of ten little Indians had earlier caught their attention. One of the Indian figurines has toppled over and broken.
Now there are nine.
And so this continues through the rest of the poem, one by one as a guest suffers a fatality based on a verse. Each time someone dies, another Indian figurine goes missing.
The action is a mixture of eerie and comic, but neither tension nor comedy are overt or over the top. It’s a smooth balance. A charming moment at the beginning when Mr. Huston and Mr. Fitzgerald, two aging professional men, share an adjoining bathroom and Huston helps Fitzgerald with his detachable starched collar and tie.
At one point later on, Huston describes his doctor’s work as mostly handholding to nervous patients and Fitzgerald teases him, “Don’t you believe in medicine, Doctor?” To which Huston replies, “Do you believe in justice, Judge?”
This becomes the paramount question. What is justice? Can we ever escape it? Who has the right to mete it out?
It becomes apparent that one of them is a murderer and all who die are being punished for crimes they’ve done but for which the law has not caught up with them. The doctor, for instance, lost a patient on the operating table. The doctor had been drunk when he attempted to perform the operation. Butler Richard Haydn and his wife were accused of bumping off a former elderly employer. All are here for their comeuppance.
They grow suspicious of one another, and afraid to be alone with only one other person in a room. A scene as funny as it is tense occurs when Huston and Fitzgerald, companionably enjoying a game of pool, suddenly find themselves alone in the room and panic, wielding their pool cues like defensive weapons.
The mystery -- not only who is the murderer, but who is next to die?
Director René Clair sets up some inventive shots, such as when one guest spies on another through a keyhole. The camera pans back, and we see that guest in turn being spied on through another keyhole.
I’d like to know where the location shooting was done, it’s spectacular.
Richard Haydn is comically pitiful as the beleaguered butler, who after his wife has been murdered, must still keep up with his duties, apologizing for serving cold meat for supper. When he is suspected of being the murderer, he drinks a little too much in resentment and sloppily serves or fails to serve from a silver platter. When he is told to open a door he has locked to accept a key, he replies testily, “Shove it!…under the door, Sir.”
I watched this movie recently after not having seen it since I was a child, and was amazed to discover how much I remembered, how vivid the images were to have stayed with me so many years. It’s a simple story, simply staged, but I think this is probably the best of all versions. Even the character parts that are smaller are neatly delineated so each actor has his moment to create in indelible image. We don’t know much about these people, and yet we know them very well.
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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