OK back in challenge mode, at least a bit this month.
1. Romance on the High Seas
(Michael Curtiz, 1948)
Sparkling Technicolor Warner Brothers musical romantic comedy with Doris Day, in her first film role, and Jack Carson, Don DeFore and Oscar Levant as the three men competing for her - or (mistakenly) jealous of her. It's one of those mistaken-identity comedies, though in this case the mistakes are the deliberate creation of Day - a poor aspiring singer, Janis Paige - DeFore's jealous wife who wants to trap him in an indiscretion - and S.Z. Sakall, the bumbling uncle who's DeFore's boss but can't do anything without him. The three devise a plan for Day to go in Paige's place, taking her name, on a cruise to South America, so that Paige can stay secretly in NYC and spy on workaholic hubby DeFore; but DeFore thinks that Paige might be up to some extramarital carousing herself, and so sends hard-luck private dick Carson to spy on the cruise - only, of course, he's spying on Day, and of course they fall in love. And Levant is along as Day's every-faithful but ignored musical accompanist and would-be lover. This is lots of fun and a reminder to me that I ought to give up thinking of MGM as the go-to place for musicals; the WB stuff while not typically as grand or large-budgeted, and not having *quite* the talent level, tend to be shorter, funnier and just a different - but not necessarily lesser - kettle of fish. With Eric Blore in a tiny role, wasted alas, and Trinidadian singer Sir Lancelot. Really lovely, somewhat pastel-hued photography and design that to my eyes seems more characteristic of a slightly later era; the D.P., Elwood Bredell, made only a few color films after a career mastering the b/w stylings of noir, crime and some of the Universal horror pictures. Busby Berkeley directed the musical sequences, which are all pretty short and low-key; the most memorable song is surely "It's Magic" which Doris sings parts of twice earlier in the film and then in full at the end.
should this be official?
- I think if we had a somewhat larger, more comprehensive musical list, it would be, and would deserve to be, yeah.
2. The Strange One
(Jack Garfein, 1957)
TCM. Eddie Muller got into a bit of the backstory to this late-classic sorta-noir, with Ben Gazzara and a cast composed mostly of Actors Studio vets but film newcomers like himself, including Pat Hingle, George Peppard, and Peter Mark Richman. It's a story with continuing relevance today - and probably every day throughout history - of a charismatic sociopath (Gazzara) who runs roughshod over all of his fellow cadets at a prestigious southern military academy (modeled on the Citadel in SC, but filmed in Florida). The screenplay by Calder Willingham was based on his own novel and play titled "End as a Man", which had starred James Dean in the Gazzara role off-Broadway, and it's a pretty harsh indictment of machismo and also of the whole military ethos, with Gazzara's aggressive behavior only really punished when enough of his classmates have had enough at the very end. It's staginess is evident throughout, which is certainly a bit of a minus - the first sequence, which sets the scene for the whole narrative, in which Gazzara cajoles and threatens several of his buddies into taking revenge on a fellow cadet who pissed him off, goes on for 15 minutes or so, mostly in one room, and while it's fairly involving, overall the film feels just a mite static, and overlong to me, and the ending - which is more in keeping with the production code than Willingham's original, more cynical and dark vision, feels a little forced. Still a really solid film overall, with Gazzara's magnetism and the writing of his character being the highlights - one thing that's interesting is that we learn nothing of his background (while we do learn a bit about some of his classmates), and so we don't know if he's gotten away with his behavior so far because he's got connections, or for some other reason. I think this actually makes it more potent as an indictment of how we so often allow the worst among us to dictate the way we behave and live, but I can see some viewers wanting a bit more insight into why this guy is such an awful person.
should this be official?
- eh, maybe. Solid film but does it stand out either as social statement or film noir? I'm not sure.