Tuesday, 25 January 2011

My Favourite Wife

Marilyn Monroe took the role in 'Something’s Gotta Give' to extreme heights before bidding a farewell to everyone from this world. Doris Day similarly in 'Move over Darling' was charming and did justice to her role. While one of the movies had to be abandoned the other was seen as a good remake of this 1940 movie.
My Favourite Wife is the one in discussion which gave the source to the aforementioned movies while the same being inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Enoch Arden”. This movie had a pre-cursor, plot-wise in the silent era most notably D W Griffith’s epic 'Enoch Arden' in two parts made in 1911.Ellen Arden (Irene Dunne) is supposedly killed in a ship wreck seven years ago. Her husband Nick Arden (Cary Grant) after having hoped all these years to see his wife come back decides to have her issued dead in the court. This was a move so that he could marry Bianca (Gail Patrick) legally. Nick has two kids from Ellen. Nick and Bianca get married and are on their way to honeymoon.Twist in the tale as Ellen appears after having rescued by a ship from a distant island. She comes home and gets to know about Nick’s wedding and feels sad about him moving on with life. She decides to surprise him and goes to the hotel where the new wed couples have booked their honeymoon suite. The expression on the face of Nick upon seeing Ellen is a treat for audiences. He feels guilty upon the fact that he cannot embrace his long lost wife with the same compassion. At the same time, he cannot think about his newly wed status with Bianca.
Hesitation to come out with the truth to Bianca, he escapes from confrontation and the scenes have been shot well portraying Nick’s denial to face the truth.Nick is jealous about the fact that Ellen had spent the last seven years with a guy on that island. He was curious to know who that guy was. Ellen tries to camouflage this fact by introducing a dumb guy so that Nick doesn't have an issue to get back at her. Incidentally Nick, driven by jealousy decides to find who that guy was. It turns out to be quite a handsome guy. Unable to bear this, he expresses his irritation to Ellen. In the meantime, Bianca is confused as to why she isn’t been able to live with Nick and keeps wondering what’s going on Nick’s mind. He tends to avoid her whenever she tries to get close to him or when she is a mood to make love.
Out of two wives, Nick has to make a choice. He chooses his favourite wife and that being Ellen. One can sympathise with Bianca as I feel she has been wronged here. But, since this being a movie on the lines of screwball comedy, one can imagine having characters like Bianca. Irene Dunne and Cary Grant match up to their previous success on a husband wife theme, The Awful Truth. Irene Dunne in particular looks fresh and one cannot believe she was older to Cary Grant in real life. The scenes involving the hotel manager and the judge are mind blowing-ly funny. Randolph Scott plays the role of Steve Burkett, as the guy who accompanied Ellen on the deserted island.Directed by Garson Kanin, this movie was initially slated to be directed by Leo MaCarey. A freak accident prevented him to direct and hired Garson Kanin to do the honours. The movie was a success and managed to receive three Oscar nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Music – Original Score and Best Writing – Original Story (looks like by altering story and some of its elements from another play are considered original)

In Name Only

Fishing on a sunny afternoon can be quite a pleasant thing. It is quite relaxing. The string from fishing rod gets stuck to one of the branches of a tree and it isn’t pleasant anymore. A good looking stranger comes to the rescue and there it began the story of 'In Name Only'.
Julia Eden (Carole Lombard), a widow is fishing with her daughter Ellen (Peggy Ann Garner) when the string gets stuck. Out comes Alec Walker (Cary Grant) to offer his help. He is the son of the fishing estate owner. He strikes conversation with Julia and they both seem to have a nice time chatting up. It isn’t surprising that they fall in love with each other. Quite easy to fall in love, isnt it?Alec Walker is the son of a wealthy man who has a great reputation in the social circles. Alec is unhappily married to Maida Walker (Kay Francis) and that being one of the reasons to fall in love with Julia. Julia and Alec keep meeting often and it is clear the liking they have for each other. Julia is unaware of Alec’s marital status and it takes a car accident and a Julia's sketch book in the car for Maida to know about the other lady's presence in Alec’s life.Who is Maida? She is a good looking lady, very calm, gentle and loving wife and a daughter- in- law. That was the impression she had on Alec’s parents while having no such affection towards Alec. Marrying to a wealthy man’s son and being among the top in social circles can be quite an incentive and she wasn't the one to let go of this at any cost. She wasn't in love to be married to Alec, and wasn't prepared to give up even when Alec wasn't interested in her.
She makes quite a scene of Alec’s attraction for Julia and refuses to give divorce when Alec asks for one. Instead she decides to be with Alec’s parents in order to have their support against her husband, their son. Julia is in love with Alec and is looking forward to be with Alec. Once she gets the message from Maida and coupled with Alec’s hesitance to break the social norm and accept her in total, she decides to give up on the relationship, thinking it has no future. Alec is in the middle of a deep emotional crisis and he decides to become a recluse and stays in a hotel. He gets drunk on a winter night and manages to get ill (pneumonia) as he doesn't pay any attention to the cold winters of Christmas. He is admitted to the hospital. Julia in order to restore Alec’s zeal decides to comfort him, falsely assuring him about them getting together. Maida steps into the room and Julia while trying to block her gets into a confrontation with her. Maida confesses openly about her intentions and states the reason for getting married. She even claims to have sacrificed her love to marry Alec and for the social status attached to it. This was over heard by Alec’s parents and recognises what kind of illusion they have been all this long.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this movie is the strong portrayal of all the main three characters. Kay Francis impresses with her impish tricks, while Carole Lombard exhibits the other extreme of a lady pristinely in love. Cary Grant plays the lovable, irritated guy who manages to pull off the role of Alec Walker with subtle sophistication.
Directed by John Cromwell, the story of this 1939 RKO release is inspired by Bessie Breuer, an American writer’s debut novel ‘In Memory on Love’ (1935)

Monday, 24 January 2011

Only Angels Have Wings

Baranca a small stop in South America where Dutchman owns an air mail service is the place where Bonnie (Jean Arthur), makes a stop. She encounters a group of mail pilots in a social shack. The head of these mail comrades being Geoff Carter (Cary Grant) who comes across as a tough guy who has ample amount of confidence, yet retains the charm and sophistication. It isn’t surprising Bonnie falling for him. The work of these mail pilots is quite a tricky one, as the natural mountain slides coupled with tropical weather is always a recipe for an aviation disaster, main being the plan crash. Geoff ventures to flying only under difficult circumstances. Bonnie, amazed by Geoff is constantly shut off whenever she tried getting to know Geoff better. It is evident, Geoff is cynical towards woman, and vows not to take any favours from them. Each choice has a history behind it. His daring lifestyle didn't go well with his ex and as a result she left him. It had a very deep effect on his way of thinking. He became more tough, a touch more than what he was.
In the sub-plot, a couple come down to Baranca. They both have a connection to Geoff and the group of mail pilots. Bat Macpherson (Richard Barthelmess) is seen as a villain in the eyes of all the pilots. He once jumped out of the plane leaving behind the mechanic moments before the plane crash. This didn't go well with the team and more so with Kid, who lost his brother in that crash. The agency was in look out for more pilots and Bat was looking for a new challenge.
Bat’s wife Judy (Rita Hayworth) was Geoff’s ex. Her presence made Geoff a bit tougher on him and made it difficult to forget the past. One of the best scenes is when Judy gets drunk and has a word with Geoff, in some ways clarity was given as to why things happened and the way it unfolded in the past.Not a man to live in his emotions, Geoff is in serious need of work force in order to get the contract from the Government. He offers the job to Bat, as he realises there is none better than him to weather the storm. In a mission to deliver the cylinders, Bat is accompanied by Kid. Not in good terms, while flying they encounter the storm as they try to deliver the goods. Flying across Andes Mountains during a storm isn’t an easy task, and while Bat is trying his best to reach the destination, a bird hits the plane and it catches fire. Bat battles it out and lands the plane amidst the fire on it. Kid is badly injured and he dies not before he tells Geoff about Bat’s bravery.Bonnie unable to get the attention from Geoff decides to leave Baranca. - "I am hard to get Geoff, All you have to do is ask me". Geoff offers her a coin. Heads – she stays and Tails – she leaves. Before starts to toss the coin the clouds clear and Geoff runs down to the flight for his next mission. Bonnie waits as she decides not to leave in a hurried manner and hopes to toss the coin with heads being on both sides.
I was amazed by Jean Arthur’s character and her beauty in general. This was my first movie of hers and I was fascinated by her charm and no wonder she is one among my favourites actresses. Beauty, brains and a wonderful actor, that's Jean Arthur to sum it up.On the other hand, it was another scintillating performance by Cary Grant who puts his coat of sophistication to perfection. Rita Hayworth was provided with the acting platform to play main stream roles and achieve fame for many years to come.
Directed by Howard Hawks, this 1939 classic was nominated for two Oscars under the categories of Best Cinematography (B/W) and Best Special effects (Audio and Visual)

Holiday

We live in a world where numbers form a majority. How much ever an individual tries to be different, he or she often encounters majority, be it in the form of opinions, values or the way things need to be handled and the best of all is, the way to lead one’s life. Wish it was as simple as to follow a book of code written by one individual. The point is not to berate or deride the opinions made by the person who shared his views on leading life; the mistake is to believe that is the only way to lead a life.
Holiday epitomises such kind of mood through various protagonists who dare to question the status quo. Johnny Case (Cary Grant) a charming young business man who goes by his inner voice. One can see in the way he goes about his life and the view he holds for his life.
He is in love with Julia Seton (Doris Nolan) and proposes her to marry him. She agrees. How often we marry the person we love and also say we share each other’s vision for life? Are we complacent that we can cajole the other partner to make them to come terms with our expectations?
Well to make love, it isn’t. To marry, it becomes the talking point. The free spirit that often embodies the lovers is majorly narrowed when the talk of marriage do the rounds. What is it that marriage continues to hold a different view? Marriage involves society to a larger extent and this has continued through ages and will continue. One can fall in love and that's acceptable but can we marry the same in all situations ? Often society comes to picture and in the larger interest I believe it's a form of excuse unless it is a belief of the individual.


Johnny is surprised to know the wealthy status of Julia. He meets Linda (Katherine Hepburn), Julia’s free spirited sister and Ned (Lew Ayres) who both feel bottled up under their father’s authoritarian behaviour. The movie has a kid’s playroom which is analogous and quite a contrast to the outer world which calls for increased sophistication and hypocrisy. Linda is in love with Johnny as she finds him to be the right guy who would respect and also complement her free spiritedness. Although Johnny is in love with Julia, he can’t deny the fact that he is intellectually connected to Linda.Irrespective of her being rich, he is keen holding on to his dreams. Julia on the other hand is convinced about Johnny accepting her dad’s proposal of working and earning money. Johnny while asking the hand of Julia speaks his heart to her dad, which surprises Julia. The idea of Johnny working for few years and then taking a holiday to discover his life doesn't fit the bill of pragmatism as per Julia and her dad. Although he couldn't convince Julia; Johnny with his straight mind convinced Linda without having to actually convince her.
The movie isn’t a serious one, it has well written dialogues and is more of a romantic comical drama. The child playroom is often seen as a metaphor to allow the kid in us to be in healthy state even while we are growing each day.






Directed by George Cukor, this movie brings out the best of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant and the chemistry they share on screen is something that's been talked by many over the years. The storyline isn’t out of the box, but a simple reflection on the society we live in. The playroom scenes of tricycles, puppets and other horse saddling reminds us, each individual has a child which is fearless inside us and loves to enjoy irrespective of what other think in its own fashion. This certainly is one among my favourite Cary Grant movies. Released in 1938, Holiday is a remake of the 1930 movie of the same title. With the affluent sets being used, Holiday managed to get a Oscar nomination under the category of Best Art direction.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Bringing Up Baby

When there is confusion, it can be quite irritating. Well, move to the other end of this spectrum of convolution, one can have some fun as well. As audience, I would say it is more enjoyable watching both ends than having to face one.
Bringing up Baby is one such movie which I believe was ahead of its era. There was a time, when movies were made on a serious note and comedy had a taste of logic in it. Confusion was more attributed to thrillers and dramas than for comedy in general. It was quite a bomb when this movie was released so much so that director Howards Hawks had to be removed from the existing contract with RKO Productions.
Katherine Hepburn enters the world of comedy with her spectacular performance in the role of Susan Vance. An eccentric, at times lunatic, she teams up with the sophisticated palaeontologist Dr. David Huxley (Cary Grant) in a series of mis-adventures that would see them move from one place to another, exchanging lines, witty jokes and more importantly demonstrate as to why they are still considered among the legends in the history of Hollywood.

David in need of $ 1 million to complete the project of the brontosaurus skeleton is trying hard to please the endower Mrs Carleton Random. In one such strange moment, he accidentally encounters Susan at a golf course.
A young terrier steals the fossil bone and buries it under earth; taming the baby (a leopard) which was a gift from Susan’s brother, the moment when David says‘he went gay’ when questioned of his female attire and many such goofy incidents pack up this movie.David is misunderstood by Susan to be a zoologist and begs him to help her transport the baby to her aunt. He postpones his marriage in order to help Susan, well; he is literally forced into it. Susan believes she is in love with David and tries her best to not let go of David. Upon reaching the aunt’s place, one has many more funny situations with George (Asta, the terrier), leopard escaping etc. In search of the baby, George and the missing bone, David and Susan both end up in prison due to confusion. In the end, when everything is cleared up, David will remain unmarried and his donation to complete the project has also been rejected.
Susan meets David to return the bone and gets to know the situation David is in. She decides to donate $1 million dollars through her Aunt Elizabeth and also makes him confess that he likes her standing on the skeleton of the brontosaurus.Considered to be one of the classic movies and one of the best from Howard Hawks, this screw ball comedy got its due at a later stage after the initial rejection by public and critics.
Cary Grant plays the role to perfection. Quite zany, he is apt for the role of a researcher, who is engaged, and trying to cajole the endowers so that he could complete the project. His character David Huxley’s looks was modelled on the real life silent comedian Harry Lloyd. The title role of Baby was played by Nissa (II), a leopard.Some of the movie scenes, such as the torn dress scene in the restaurant have been re-made in other movies like the 1964 Man’s Favourite Sport and has also been adapted loosely twice in 1972 Peter Bogandovich’s What’s Up Doc?, and the 1986 Madonna starrer Who’s that Girl?

Released in 1938, this movie was adapted to screen by writers Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde from a story written by Wilde which was published in Collier’s weekly magazine in 1937.

The Amazing Adventure

It can be boring when there are no challenges to earn one’s bread. This is the story of Ernest Bliss (Cary Grant) who plays a rich man unable to find happiness with all the wealth he has at his disposal. Depression as a result of boredom being the reason, he consults Sir James Alroyd (Peter Gawthorne) who happens to be more than just a doctor, a philanthropist of sorts. He is aware of Ernest’s depression and suggests getting out of his comfort zone to earn a living for a year on his own. He also challenges not to use the ancestral money and also condemns about him not being able to live a year by his own. Ernest by this time gets a dose of realism and accepts the challenge and also places a bet of £50,000 for the same.
On the high road to win the challenge, Bliss soon discovers it isn’t easy as he thought it would be. He starts off being a stove salesman and realises the difficulty involved being a part of working class. He understands the big hearted working masses who give affection and also learns a bit about humanity by staying with them. He frequently changes jobs and finally settles in as a chauffer.
In this amazing quest, he encounters Frances Clayton (Mary Blain), his love interest. He leads a life in which he camouflages his true identity to her. During this adventurous journey, Ernest uses his wealth in order to help the people in need. Although the challenge involved him not using his personal wealth, I guess to help people in need but you is acceptable. In the end, he does manage to win the challenge and along the way wins quite a lot of things that would make him get rid of boredom. A life turning moment indeed.

This movie is based on a theme which common working class would identity with. Although, it is shot with poor technical standards; one can appreciate the acting of Cary Grant. It remains one of the last low budget movies he would be ever part of and also the only movie he appeared for a home studio in London.
Owing to a lot of problems, the movie I saw is about 61 minutes although the DVD suggests the official time to be 80 minutes. One of the observations was the poor quality and while I was curious to know as to why; I read an article which stated UK studios took a lot more time and they were a step behind in accquiring the technical acumen when compared with Hollywood at the time when this movie was shoot.Directed by Alfred Zeisler, The Amazing Adventure was inspired by the novel written by E. Philipps Oppenheim and was released in US under the name Romance and Riches.A serial from 1920, The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss is a silent precursor to this 1936 movie. Henry Edwards acts as Ernest Bliss while Henry Vibrant and Chrissie White play the roles of the physician and the Ernest’s love interest respectively.In my childhood I happened to watch a Dev Anand starrer movie Asli-Naqli directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. This Bollywood entertainer resembles the plot which was successfully adapted to suit the Indian culture and audiences in 1962.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Suzy

This is a story where one has love, marriage, accusations of murder, falling in love with another man, World war and reuniting with ex-lover. In fact on second glance it is indeed a movie that contains lot of themes tied by a heavy screenplay and we have George Fitzmaurice’s drama ‘Suzy’.
Title protagonist Jean Harlow is an entertainer who dreams big of marrying a rich guy. Luck has it; she falls in love with an inventor Terry (Franchot Tone) in London. This was the time when the World War I was in progress. Early days of marriage, Suzy’s husband discovers her employer to be a German spy and is killed by Madame Eyrelle (Benita Hume) after he becomes aware of her true identity (spy). The blame is put on Suzy and to avoid imprisonment, she flees to Paris.

Part two of the story takes place when she encounters Andre (Cary Grant), French aviator and a famous playboy. Suzy falls in love with Andre and they both decide to get married. Love is a strange thing and the reciprocations didn't seem to be present, although they both seem to like each other a lot. Expectations I suppose. Andre was the son of a rich French celebrated hero. Palatial place to live, often Suzy is found alone in Andre’s absence. Andre’s father ensures Suzy is well taken care and very soon they become quite good pals. She writes letters under the pretext of Andre to keep the old man going. Part Three of the movie – Surprise, Surprise. Terry is alive (he was severely wounded not killed) and more so he is a buddy of Andre. Terry is livid to hear about Suzy and he blames her nature of being a gold digger. He questions her decision to leave him and flee. She takes it as a sponge would soak water without disclosing the accusations she had to bear for his supposedly murder.
Part Four shows - Once a playboy, you remain one throughout. Andre’s fascination and slip for women is exploited by Madame Eyrelle, now in need to know more on the war plans through Andre. Surprisingly Terry and Madame do not recognise each other when they bump into each other. Damage had been done before Madame Eyrelle’s true identity is revealed to Andre. He is killed and Terry dons the plane of Andre’s and fights it out ensuring enemies have none of it.

Part five – A celebrity burial is provided to Andre as Suzy strongly believed, any disclosure of the truth would hurt the sentiments of Andre’s father. Andre is seen as a war hero who sacrificed his life for his country, where in fact his behaviour was close to being detrimental to his country. Suzy and Terry re unite and there ends this drama.The movie has a song “Did I remember” which was nominated for Best Original song Oscar which otherwise is tailor made for Jean Harlow.
Released in 1936, the war flying scenes from this movie were actually the out takes from the 1930 super hit Howard Hughes movie ‘Hells Angels’. The screenplay written by four writers is infact inspired by Herbert Gorman 's write up on the newspaper.

The Blonde Venus

What is love? Is it in the form of a role adorned by a particular person for another? Well, one cannot define exactly, as it is based on situations limited by one’s thinking and feeling.
Blonde Venus is one such story where love at first sight, so to speak, hooks Helen (Marlene Dietrich), a German entertainer with an American chemist Ned Faraday (Herbert Marshall). They meet on a picnic accidentally and soon they get married.

Helen is a family woman and they both have a kid; it is like any other story next door until Ned becomes unhealthy due to radium exposure at his lab. Treatment costs money and while he was being treated in Germany; to support him and the kid, Helen gets back to her profession of entertaining and soon becomes popular as The "Venus Blonde".
As the film points, she gets into an affair of sorts with the millionaire Nick Townsend (Cary Grant) in order to earn more money for the treatment. As it is left to one’s interpretation, I do believe it was a bit hard on Helen to make this choice. What’s important here is, Helen makes the choice with the best of her knowledge. She did care for her husband. And this very fact did not go well with Ned when he accidentally discovers about Helen’s affair with Nick when he returns home 15 days in advance.
Unable to accept the reality, he expresses his angst at Helen. Helen flees with her kid away from Ned as he tried to separate them. She runs from one town to another before being caught by Missing Person’s Bureau.
Away from her kid and her husband, she returns to her old profession in order to live the remaining days when she could have chosen to go back with Nick. It shows she wasn't entirely interested in Nick. Infidelity can occur if one is not interested in a partner, but in this case, it was for her husband’s sake Helen made the choice of staying with Nick. But she was not interested in getting back with Nick.

In her new avatar, away from family, she encounters Nick once again while on tour in Paris. There comes a time for every human to move on. It was one such occasion for Helen to move on and start a new chapter. The new chapter which she hoped to start with Nick was entwined with the previous chapters and it wasn't easy to remove the links of the past. Upon return to America, unable to hide the fact of missing her family, she goes to Ned. Time is a great healer if one is able to understand what one truly needs. Ned also recognises the efforts made by Helen and in the end they both get together.
What can one say about Nick? It wasn't an emotional attachment of sorts with Helen. So he should be ok. From the beginning till the end, this movie is all about Marlene Dietrich who supersedes her two male colleagues for the entire duration of the movie.

Released in 1932, the movie was directed by Josef von Sternberg, mentor of Marlene Dietrich, who also made a significant contribution to the style quotient of Cary Grant through this movie. He suggested Cary to have the hair style (which he retained for rest of his life) which would become a trademark and helped Cary Grant to be recognised as one of the stylish actors in the history of Hollywood.