Davis, de Havilland, Flynn, Cagney, Bogart ...

Davis, de Havilland, Flynn, Cagney, Bogart ...

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Best 7 Minute, 49 Second Movie You'll Ever See


I intended to work on the next post in my series, Overlooked at the Oscars, Part 2 -- but I didn't feel like it.  That's all.  No good reason.  Just didn't.  (Ah, what a great example of pithy writing ...)  Actually, I am in a dreamy mood, and this little post fits the bill tonight.

So I went to YouTube and found my favorite 7 minute, 49 second film, "Let's Face the Music and Dance."  I call it that because it is a musical mini-drama which stands on its own within a movie.  You don't even have to watch the movie, which is good, because Follow The Fleet (1936) is not my favorite Astaire/Rogers plot.  It actually bores me to tears.  But oh, the song by Irving Berlin, the fabulous dance at the very end ...  It's worth sitting through the rest of the show, although thanks to modern technology (and YouTube poster, iumuggle *thanks!*), I don't have to.  As a devoted Rogers/Astaire fan, I believe without doubt that this is the best work they ever did.  That's hard to say, because "Cheek to Cheek" is so perfect; however, this is not just a dance.  It's a film equivalent of a short story, with their partnership at its greatest.  Pay attention at the beginning, because you will see a very young, platinum-blonde Lucille Ball.  We also get to see one of Ginger's most gorgeous gowns, a bugle-beaded treasure of a costume.  It's lovely, looks ethereal, and was so heavy that one of the sleeves whacked Fred across the face and really hurt!  My friend and fellow blogger, Christian of Silver Screen Modiste (see the link to his marvelous blog in my sidebar blogroll), mentioned in one of his articles about Hollywood gowns that the dress weighed about 30 pounds.  At this point in her life, Ginger doesn't look like she weighs a whole lot more than that!

I hope you have 7 minutes and 49 seconds to see the best at their best, with, I must say, the most sophisticated, dramatic exit of all the great dance endings they ever did!






Overlooked at the Oscars, Part 2 coming soon....

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dueling Divas Blogathon ... In Manly Style!

*This article is my contribution to the Dueling Divas Blogathon sponsored by Lara at Backlots, one of my favorite movie blogs.  Follow the link on my sidebar just to the right of this article to find the other entries for this fun project!

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Dueling Divas are usually 2 actresses who hate each other in real life, or 2 female characters in a movie who spar verbally through the whole thing.  My take on dueling divas is a little different.  The title of diva can be used for men as well as women, but let's face it ... it just doesn't sound masculine.  Mine really duel -- with swords -- to the death.  I thought, OK, maybe I could call them some more manly version of the word.  I thought of Dueling Divos, but that reminded me too much of these guys ...

"Whip it ... whip it good!"
So I went looking for other words, and I found the perfect name -- Dueling Demigods!  Did I hear someone snicker out there?  Well, I thought it was good.  It's a little pagan, but then so are the feelings of women (and men) everywhere who watch movie stars in doublets and tights as they parry and thrust!  Whew, gosh, is it hot in here, or is it just me?



I don't feel like writing anything of depth and profound wisdom right now -- I just feel like having fun showing some of the really good sword fights in really good movies with the best of the Dueling Demigods.  So, with a mindset of complete objectivity and no particular preference, I immediately chose Errol Flynn and my mind went blank thereafter.  No, not really ... I did think of two others.  But first, The Great Flynn:

CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935)
(notice how I used red letters? ... blood ... red ... get it?)

Errol Flynn as Captain Blood and Basil Rathbone as Captain Levasseur ...
The obligatory close-up and blade-pushing contest ...
Poor Basil gets it in the end ...

A point of interest -- Basil Rathbone was in real life a very fine swordsman.  It's too bad he was always the one skewered in the movies!
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THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938)

(notice how I used green letters ... Sherwood forest, green trees ... get it?)

Errol as Robin Hood and Basil as the Sheriff of Nottingham ...
Another blade-pushing close-up ... the formula always worked!

Basil looks determined to win this one for a change!
Oh man!  Skewered again!

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THE SEA HAWK (1940)
(notice how I used blue letters? ... seahawk ... the ocean blue ... get it?)

Duel No. 1 -- just a warm-up

Errol Flynn as, who else, the Sea Hawk! With Gilbert Roland as his Spanish opponent ...

Flynn triumphs in the end ... was there any doubt?

Duel No. 2 -- In my opinion, one of the best sword fights ever put on film.

Henry Daniell as Duke something-or-other ....

Here it is again, kids ... it does look great!

Take that, you ... you ... lousy duellist, you!
A point of interest -- Henry Daniell, a fine actor and great villain, was so bad at trying to mimic swordplay that he was only in posed pictures/close-ups.  All of the other scenes during the sword fight were doubled by someone who was actually coordinated.  Flynn was quite good at his swordplay technique, yet he -- yes, even HE -- had to be doubled in a fabulous long shot of the duellists moving incredibly quickly across a large room, using the beautiful legwork that only a trained professional could do.  I was so frustrated that I could not find any other really good pictures of this fabulous duel!

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THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940)
(notice how I used black letters ... Zorro wore black ... get it?)

There were many wonderful duels in movies.  However, besides The Great Flynn, I think another memorable one (not to mention beautiful) is Tyrone Power as Zorro.  Once again, expert Basil Rathbone must pretend that he couldn't take Power within 15 seconds of an actual duel ...



Tyrone as Zorro, and Basil as ... what was his name anyway?
I won't even bother to say it again ...
Man, I've had it!  I'm signing up for the Sherlock Holmes deal!

And we can't forget one of the most memorable sword scenes of all:



Well, I hope you enjoyed my Dueling Demigods ... now I'm going to watch these movies again over the weekend!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Overlooked at the Oscars -- Part One

"Made it, Ma!  Top of the world!"  But NOT at the Oscars...
Most classic movie lovers have seen it ... all lovers of classic gangster movies have seen it.  Did the Oscar voters of 1949 have their eyes and ears closed?  I'm highlighting one scene in James Cagney's White Heat, an incredibly powerful scene, that even as a stand-alone should have put him in the running for best actor of 1949, and I'm not even talking about the incredible now-iconic ending.  White Heat is considered by many, including me, as Cagney's greatest dramatic performance, and as the movie that tops all of the great classic-era gangster movies.  The golden age of Hollywood was known for its snubbing of these films at Oscar time, and this was the worst brush-off of all.

White Heat is a near-perfect crime drama.  It's only flaw lies in a few distracting and unnecessary scenes of modern FBI surveillance techniques.  However, the riveting story, the top-notch direction of Raoul Walsh, the performances of every member of the cast, and particularly Cagney, pushed those scenes way into the backdrop.  As Cody Jarrett, the sociopathic head of a criminal gang, and a son who clings to his aging outlaw Ma with disturbing overtones of mental incest, Cagney brings all of his many talents to work.

The scene which showcases the best of Cagney takes place in a prison dining hall.  Cody has been fearful for his Ma's life, and asks a recently incarcerated acquaintance about her.  The result is nothing less than startling.  It is known now that Cagney asked Walsh to just begin shooting the scene, not revealing what he intended to do with it.  He only asked that two strong guys be placed on either side of him at the table.  You cannot mistake the genuine shock on the faces of not only the extras, but also co-star Edmund O'Brien. They didn't have to act with this one.  Cagney's chilling reaction is delivered in a way that attendants at an insane asylum might easily recognize as the behavior of insanity.





Cagney was not even nominated for best actor, nor was Walsh for best director, nor the movie itself.  White Heat was totally excluded from the Oscars, except for one failed nomination for the story.  Broderick Crawford won best actor that year for All the King's Men, and although it was a very good movie, I do not believe it deserved  the top award of Best Movie.  While Crawford's performance was quite good, Cagney's was superb.  It is inexplicable to me that Cagney was completely passed over.  (If you are a fan of the classic gangster movies, see my series "Mobsters, Pals and Skirts" -- posted on this blog in April, 2011.)

My next installment in "Overlooked at the Oscars" will deal with another hard-to-believe loss in 1996.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Blowing My Own Horn...Just A Little

Vincent Price as The Abominable Dr. Phibes,
with his minion, Vulnavia  (gotta love that name!)
Hey, how come this guy gets a great-looking girlfriend
and I haven't had a date in .... Oh ... never mind ...

I'd like to thank all the gals at True Classics for awarding 2nd place to my Vincent Price limerick in their contest.  Congratulations to first place winner Jill, and third place winner Natalie.  Writing the limericks was a lot of fun, and now I will have a wonderful collection of Buster Keaton short films to enjoy!  Here is my winning limerick:


The crazed Dr. Phibes, played by Price,
Loved to kill with creative device.
He was mad as a hatter,
But what does that matter?
His methods were all so precise!



Specially crafted spiral of blood

Now this is precision, with style!

Neatly arranged bottles of blood

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I submitted other limericks, but in true limerick style several of them are of adult content.  They are available to read by request, and they cost $5 a peek ...