April 22: Chéri
When I look back upon my life, I realize that I’ve done an awful lot of things that most people never consider doing. I think that helps exaggerate the eccentric personality I’ve worked so hard to cultivate. For instance, how many of you have gone to London for the sole purpose of buying shoes? (Did you get the sole joke?) How many of you have spent the day in a deserted town looking for Johnny Depp? How many have visited the hotel where Oscar Wilde died? I’ve done all these things to amuse myself and to develop interesting conversation starters for the dinner parties I’ll eventually throw with all of my Hollywood friends. Anyway, this introduction has very little to do with anything aside from giving me an excuse to brag. Many months ago, I read the novel Chéri by Colette, in the original French, of course. Good God, I’m too much! Marry me, rich people! I finished it the week before I left on an excursion to Paris, and of course, I had to go and visit the tomb of the famed Colette. It was impressive, but hardly imposing. I felt quite cultured wearing my mournful face and nodding knowingly at the inscription.
Now to the film! I had not realized there was a cinematic adaptation of the novel, and I was curious as to how it would be done. The source material does not lead to anything but melodrama, but there is a market for that, so I gave it a go. In the end, it was not bad at all, quite good and interesting adaptation of the novel. It felt organic and whole, nothing missing, nothing excessive. The casting was done quite well, aside from one issue I had. At first, I was unsure of Michele Pfieffer in the role of Léa, famed Parisian courtesan and lover of Chéri, but she proved delightful…yet another contender for my beloved creation: Margo Helena de Rossi. The only negative thing about the entire picture was the actor who played Chéri. He did not fit the role at all. He was handsome at times, but still had a way of looking revolting. He was cold and far too British to play the young, aloof, romantic Chéri. I was constantly distracted from the plot by how much he stood out. He is not a bad actor, but I don’t feel he was right. A decent film, nothing spectacular. I’d watch it just to see the beautiful Belle Époque architecture and fashions again–what a lovely time that would have been to be alive. Also, by watching this film I learned that Colette wrote a sequel to Chéri entitled La Fin de Chéri, which I downloaded immediately and plan to read quite soon. [My Rating: 5/10]
April 23: Another Man’s Poison
A very tragic thing about Bette Davis, in my mind, is that her films are very hit or miss, and in my experiences, there are an awful lot of misses. This was another of them, which is really too bad because the plot summary sounded fantastic–poison! I didn’t like the story or the cast, aside from Bette, so I’ll just give you a brief idea of what it was about. Bette plays Janet, a mystery writer who is estranged from her husband. When her husband comes back to town after committing a rather heinous crime with his acquaintance George, she kills him, with horse medicine. George shows up, too, and they dumb her husband in the lake together. Quelle melodrama. George assumes the place of her husband and nobody is the wiser. It goes on and on and then George accidentally kills himself by drinking more of the same poison, exactly as Janet wanted. The only good part about the picture is the ending, when Janet realizes that she too has taken a sip of the poison. Her maniacal laughter is delicious. Don’t bother going out of your way to see this, just look up the final scene for some good hysterical Bette Davis. [My Rating: 2/10]
April 24: The Petrified Forest
After yesterday’s Bette Davis disaster, I wasn’t as enthused to see this as I usually would have been, but blissfully, she redeemed herself. This is a very good movie! Bette plays Gabrielle, Belgian by birth, but has lived in America with her father since she can remember. She dreams of someday going back and finding her mother and having the happy life she could only have in Europe. I understand this. I oftentimes think that I would be much happier if I were living in my beloved Paris, or by the sea in Cornwall, or even in the Czech Republic, learning about my cultural heritage and eating poppyseed koláček all day long. But that has nothing at all to do with the film. Gabrielle lives with her father and grandfather in a fueling station/restaurant on the very edge of the dessert that they operate. It’s a dismal life for her, she has nothing to amuse herself with aside from a book of poetry her mother sent her for her birthday, and no romantic prospects, except for an employee of her fathers that she isn’t at all fond of. One day, an educated and interesting man named Alan, played by Leslie Howard, arrives and Gabrielle is immediately taken. Before we go on, I have to get something off my chest. For years, I have loathed the work of Leslie Howard, I would avoid it so that I would not have to see it, I would angrily engage in online discussions about how much I disliked him. Why? He nearly ruined Gone With the Wind! He was not Ashley. He wasn’t even a little bit like Ashley. Ashley had a…a je ne sais quoi. Ashley exuded sensitive masculinity, charm, and an attractive introverted nature. Leslie was none of this. He was insipid as Ashley, but, as Alan, he was quite good. So maybe, he wasn’t a horrible actor after all. Alan isn’t quite as taken with Gabrielle as she is with him, so he continues on his way. As he’s gone, he runs into the terrible thieves that have been on the radio. There is a manhunt out for them and they are on the run. Alan realizes he loves Gabrielle, in a way, and goes off to warn her. Sadly, he doesn’t get there in time to help. The criminals are only a minute behind. They hold the place up, and it’s rather fun for some reason. They all talk and chitchat and hold pleasant theological arguments. I don’t think it would be like that if a person were really in a hostage situation, but in this case, it seemed natural. The police are closing in and Alan has a bizarre thought. He couldn’t provide Gabrielle with a happy life, but he could pay for her dreams to come true with his life insurance policy. He switches beneficiaries and asks Duke, the leader of the criminal gang, to kill him. As the police arrive, Duke follows through and Alan dies in Gabrielle’s arms. She will be able to peruse her dreams now, but the ending was quite dismal. In the end, I enjoyed this picture a lot, much more than I ever expected to. [My Rating: 8/10]
April 25: Picture Mommy Dead
I’ve looked forward to seeing this picture for quite some time, years!, it’s Grande Dame Guignol after all, but it was a tragic disappointment. It just wasn’t a good story, it wasn’t a great cast–it just wasn’t that good. Zsa Zsa Gabor was amusing in her way, she was the Grande Dame, but she was sadly lacking any kind of intrigue. Perhaps if it had been higher up on the hagsploitation scale it would have been better for me, but what can you do about it now? It was about a young girl named Susan who was recently released from a convent/mental hospital. I thought we were off to a great start, if you someday read my novel, Terrible Miss Margo, you’ll understand my delight. Sadly, it went downhill from there. Susan goes back to her home with her father, Edward, and stepmother, Francine, and discovers that she has been given control of all the furniture and items in the house per her mother’s will. Pa is poor so he convinces his daughter to allow him to sell everything. So there’s a sale and Susan looses her shit because she becomes convinced that her mother was murdered for some reason. Then Francine gets on Susan’s case about a necklace that her mother, Jessica, used to own. Francine wants money, lots and lots of money, so the necklace is quite necessary. It goes on and on and the ending tries to shock us, but even Helen Keller could have seen it coming. Lame. [My Rating: 1/10]
April 26: Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
This picture was in the vein of George Washington Slept Here, and it was quite good, but not as good as that wonderful picture. It’s about a family who are fed up with their cluttered city life and are ready to make a break for the country. They believe that they can easily afford this move, so they buy a run down house that needs a bit of work. Unfortunately, all of their contractors advise them to tear it down, and so they do. Even I would have torn it down in that situation, it was really terrible. They decide to start from scratch and there are quite a few very funny scenes as Jim (Cary Grant) and Muriel (Myrna Loy) design their dream home. They insist that they need so many bathrooms so many other things and on and on and on. They reminded me of me! Construction on the house begins and as the walls go up, so do the charges. There are hidden fees and unexpected price tags everywhere–Jim is about to lose his mind! They think they will have to sell the house, but in the end, they realize that they built the home from their hearts and that the price really doesn’t mean anything after all. I absolutely adore this quote: “It’s like a painting. You buy it with your heart, not your head. You don’t ask, ‘How much was the paint? The canvas?’ You look at it. And you say, ‘It’s beautiful. I want it.’ And if it costs a few more pennies, you pay it and gladly. Because you love it. And you can’t measure the things you love in dollars and cents. Well, anyway, that’s the way I feel about it.” Sounds like something I’ve said. A charming picture with an excellent (fabulous, really) cast. [My Rating: 7/10]
April 27: Stage Door
This was a strange film. I didn’t care for it at all until about halfway through. Once the story picked up, it was great, but the development took so long that I barely made it. It’s about a boarding house where a group of wannabe actresses are living–training and looking for work. Katharine Hepburn plays Terry, a socialite who wants to see if she can be a successful actress without using her familial connections. The first forty-five minutes go on and on and on and on and on and nothing at all really happens. Then, finally, we have developments. Kaye, one of the most desperate of the girls to succeed decides to starve herself to success. She collapses and it’s terrible. Then in a horrid twist of fate, Terry’s father secretly pays for her to get the lead role in a play. Terry is terrible in the role and doesn’t seem to care all that much. But, Kaye has been trying for the role forever and when she learns she lost to Terry, she loses it. The demonic look in her eyes as she glides up the staircase is wonderful–then she jumps. Dead. This tragedy wakes Terry up and she gives a fabulous performance, perfectly nuanced, sublime. She becomes the toast of the town, and that’s basically the end. Very strange. [My Rating: 5/10]
April 28: In The Good Old Summertime
I thought that this was the musical version of a version I had already watched, but it turns out it was the film I had already seen. No matter, though, I haven’t reviewed it, yet, and it isn’t that bad. Judy Garland stars as Veronica Fisher, a musically inclined young woman looking for work and romance. Her costar is Van Johnson as Andrew Larking, a musically inclined young man who is also looking for romance. They bump into each other one day at the post office and he ruins her hat. She is pissed, but she is desperate for a job, so she goes to the instrument shop he works at and lands a job. They just hate each other, their egos keep bumping into one another. The ironic thing (I’m not sure if it’s ironic or not, I’ve told you before, I don’t understand the finer points of irony) is that they are very nearly engaged. You see, they have both been anonymously corresponding to a stranger and have fallen in love, and the stranger is each other! Hysterical setup for hijinks! Andrew finds out that his lover is actually Miss Fisher and is crushed, he hates her after all. In time, he does realize that he loves her and tells her everything. It’s sweet, but I was so pissed that he kept her in the dark for so long. As a person who understands the pain and delights of long distance relationships, I was so sorry for her. Happy ending though. The secondary characters were all quite good–Buster Keaton was one! Lots of music and a solid story. I like it, I don’t love it. [My Rating: 6/10]
MOVIE of the WEEK: The Petrified Forest was a really great picture, a classic. An engaging, intriguing, and good movie. Not a wasted or unnecessary word of dialogue. See it.