The African Queen (1951)

Cinematography Jack Cardiff
Directed by John Huston
In Africa during World War I, a gin-swilling riverboat captain is persuaded by a strait-laced missionary to use his boat to attack an enemy warship.
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entertaining but overrated
11 February 2005 | by tolbs1010 (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

The African Queen is an entertaining film done in grand old Hollywood style, and it is probably the most conventional movie John Huston ever made. It’s surprising though that people can call this movie one of the greatest of all time considering the hokey (and at times unbelievable) script and the awkward lack of chemistry between Bogart and Hepburn. Actually, that lack of chemistry creates some strangely funny moments which change the tone of this adventure story–sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. The two are never really believable as the characters they are playing, but they are still fun to watch as a couple of stars chewing up the scenery.

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Bogart’s Academy Award for this performance is obviously a Revlon choice in that it makes up for his being overlooked for at least 10 better performances that he gave prior to this one. Huston’s direction seems to lose focus in the last 10 minutes or so and the ending is very abrupt, but overall the film is briskly paced and painless. Also worth noting is the wonderful use of African locations as photographed by master cinematographer Jack Cardiff. If you want to see a better film with similar themes, check out Huston’s far superior Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.

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Don’t Take This One For Granted

10/10
Author: gftbiloxi (gftbiloxi@yahoo.com) from Biloxi, Mississippi
3 June 2005

THE African QUEEN is probably one of the most widely available films in the world, on sale in the electronics department of virtually every major retail chain, a commonplace at every rental counter, frequently seen on television. It is hard to imagine any one in the western world, especially in the United States, who has not seen the film at least once–and probably more than once. And so we take it for granted.

That is a mistake. Based on the famous C.S. Forester novel, which it follows quite closely, THE African QUEEN is the simple story of pragmatic river-rat Charlie Allnut (Bogart) and high-minded Methodist missionary spinster Rose Sayer (Hepburn) who are thrown together by chance when German troops sweep through Africa during World War I. Once safely aboard his beat-up riverboat “The African Queen,” Allnut desires nothing more than to dodge the Germans until war’s end; Rose, however, determines to strike a blow against the Germans by sailing the boat downriver to attack a German battleship.

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There are so many fine things about this movie that they are hard to innumerate. Filmed on location in the Congo, the cinematography is remarkably fine without being obtrusive; the script, which is at once subtle and very purposeful, has a remarkably natural tone; the two stars–who play the vast majority of the film alone together–give justly famous performances; and Huston’s direction is so fine that we never feel even the slightest hint of directorial manipulation. As an adventure, it has a sense of realism that most adventure stories lack; as a character study it is remarkably detailed and finely wrought; as a love story, it is quite touching without engaging in common sentimentality. And it can be enjoyed by many people of diverse backgrounds and ages without the faintest qualm.

If you haven’t seen THE African QUEEN in a while (or heaven forbid never seen it at all) don’t take it for granted thinking you’ll catch it sooner or later. Sit down with the film and watch it with fresh eyes. You’ll be amazed.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer.

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Bogie Deserved It

Author: Brian Washington (Sargebri@att.net) from Los Angeles, California
14 January 2004

To me this film will always be the validation of Humphrey Bogart’s long and distinguished career. His portrayal of the hard drinking Charlie was what made this film what it was. Also, he showed just how great an actor he was when he was able to match up against the woman who is generally considered to be the greatest actress in film history, Katherine Hepburn. Also, this film will always be recognized for having the perfect mix of action, romance and comedy and it will always be a classic.

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A successful mixture of comedy, character and adventure

10/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
28 August 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

“The African Queen” was Bogart’s fourth film to be directed by John Huston and his performance in it was very likely the best in his career as well as one which finally won him an Academy Award… He beat out Marlon Brando, who was heavily favored to win for “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

The screenplay by Huston and the celebrated movie critic-writer, James Agee, matched Bogart with Katherine Hepburn in what amounted to a two-star tour de force in a deeply touching romance linked to adventures and heroics…

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Bogart and Hepburn were delightful as they infused their personal conflict with a warmth, humor, and tenderness rarely seen in films… Mixing comedy and adventure, it was a two-character film, in which Hepburn gave a fine demonstration of her ability to develop within a role… The sensitive interaction between her and Bogart (in an unfamiliar guise) undoubtedly benefited from her many films with Tracy…

Bogart was given a rare opportunity to demonstrate his range as an actor, more than holding his own opposite the formidable Hepburn… He played many scenes with maximum effectiveness, down impossible rapids, where he becomes covered with leeches and suffers a severe fever attack, his drunk scene where he rebels against Hepburn and mocks her high-blown speeches, and the tender moments in which he realizes he’s fallen under her bewitching spell…

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“The African Queen” was not an easy film to make, most of it being done on location in the insect-infested, suffocatingly hot and humid African Congo… But the result was a brilliantly entertaining film, a successful mixture of comedy, character and adventure…

Love Isn’t Just For the Young

10/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
18 June 2005

The African Queen is a significant historical film in two respects. Along with King Solomon’s Mines it was the first American film to show the real Africa to the American public. Previously our ideas about Africa were gleaned from studio backlot jungles created for Tarzan films and the like. The African Queen changed all that, no cheap studio sets would do any more.

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But also, The African Queen dealt with romance among mature adults in their forties. A ne’er do well river pilot on a ramshackle boat and the spinster sister of a missionary, thrown together by the circumstance of war.

Humphrey Bogart, our intrepid river pilot, makes a scheduled stop to deliver mail to the mission run by Robert Morley and Katharine Hepburn. And he breaks the news to them that World War I has started. Almost as soon as he leaves them, German troops from East Africa come to call. Bogie comes back and he finds Kate with her dead brother. They bury him and skedaddle. And while skedaddling they conceive of a cockeyed plan to help in the war effort.

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To say what it is and what happens would spoil the story, but let me say this. The original opening of the film with Bogart coming in as church services are being conducted for a few hundred uncomprehending native Africans is Director John Huston’s comment on the usefulness of the lives Morley and Hepburn have led up to that point. What Hepburn and Bogart accomplish by the end of the film makes up for the waste that was Hepburn’s life.

But The African Queen is a great romance as well. Bogart became a great romantic star in Casablanca and he upholds the tradition here, winning an Academy Award for Best Actor. Katie Hepburn doesn’t seem to miss her usual partner Spencer Tracy not a bit, the part of Rose Sayer is a perfect fit. As was remarked, they’re going to have stories to tell their grandkids.

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When I watch The African Queen I’m reminded of what Bogart’s friend Frank Sinatra sang in one of his best ballads about how Love Isn’t Just For the Young. Kate and Bogie sure prove it here.

Out of Africa with Bogey and Kate

9/10
Author: gaityr from United Kingdom
6 February 2002

This is one of those films whose special effects and scenery must have been astounding at the time (1951), but which seem mediocre at best today. BUT, and that’s a big ‘but’, this does not detract from the greatness of the movie overall. The scenery truly is beautiful, for one thing–and the direction and cinematography is great.

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However, what truly makes this film a classic, and deservedly so, is the performances given by the lead actors. For their one film together, Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn pull out all the stops. Bogart is crude, dirty and a low-life river-rat with a heart of gold. He gives the Oscar-winning performance of his lifetime. Hepburn is prim and prissy, but always manages to win us over with her radiance and vulnerability, as well as that core of steel and strength she lends to all her on-screen characters. He’s charming, in his way; she’s achingly beautiful in hers. You can’t help but warm to Charlie and Rosie, and truly, genuinely root for them to get together.

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The ending is predictable; all ‘opposites-attract’ romance adventure stories are. You know without a doubt that the sunset will be there for Charlie and Rosie to ride off (or swim) into together. But you still hurt when Charlie hurts; and you still smile like a fool when he sees Rose, and when he tries to explain her forthrightness away by jungle fever. You believe the love, and that’s what the African Queen is all about.

Oh, and the gin and leech scenes, of course. Those are brilliant, as everyone else here has already mentioned! 😉

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The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cinematography Jack Cardiff

At Maria Vargas’ funeral, several people recall who she was and the impact she had on them. Harry Dawes was a not very successful writer/director when he and movie producer Kirk Edwards scouted her at a shabby nightclub where she worked as a flamenco dancer. He convinces her to take a chance on acting and her first film is a huge hit. PR man Oscar Muldoon remembers when Maria was in court supporting her father who was accused of murdering her mother. It was Maria’s testimony that got him off and she was a bigger star than ever.

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According to Turner Classic Movies, Mankiewicz based the film’s central character of Maria Vargas on American movie star and dancer Rita Hayworth, who had been married to Prince Aly Khan. According to the audio commentary on the 1931 film Tabu, she was based on Anne Chevalier, an actress in that film.

Although The Barefoot Contessa is considered one of Mankiewicz’s most glamorous “Hollywood” films, and one of the most glamorous of Golden Hollywood,  The Barefoot Contessa was shot at the Cinecittà Studios in Rome, Italy. Exterior scenes were shot at Tivoli (the olive grove), Sanremo, and Portofino. However, Bogart wasn’t on location at Sanremo. The studio was about to release the film’s poster with no image of Bogart, a contractual violation. Bogart had the matter rectified with the addition of a large line drawing of his face.

The film’s Italian production was part of the “Hollywood on the Tiber” phenomenon.

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The film was praised by many critics for its extravagance, which earned the director many new admirers. Saturday Review called Ava Gardner “one of the most breathtaking creatures on earth”.Some critics disapproved of the film; the book Feature Cinema in the 20th Century: Volume One: 1913–1950: a Comprehensive Guide called the film “dreadful”, remarking that Mankiewicz’s “intelligence and ambitious aims too often collide with an astonishing lack of subtlety and aesthetic judgment”. Bosley Crowther called it a “grotesque barren film” about the “glittering and graceless behavior of the Hollywood-international set.

However, Francois Truffaut wrote, “…what is beyond doubt is its total sincerity, novelty, daring, and fascination … I myself accept and value it for its freshness, intelligence, and beauty … A subtle and intelligent film, beautifully directed and acted.  It currently holds a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on eight reviews.

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Anthony Quinn, Ava Gardner and Edmond O’Brien on the set of The Barefoot Contessa  (Below)

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What exactly was Rossano Brazzi’s sexual problem? How does an uneducated peasant woman speak as if she were an English professor?

13 November 2010 | by mauricebarringer (United States) – See all my reviews

(I want to preface my review by stating that I have posted many reviews and am a positive and fair minded critic. This is by far the most negative one I have ever written.)

(I also thoroughly appreciated the excellent commentary by John Holder on page 1 of “hated it.” I have seen 2400 films in my 64 years and this is one of the top 10 worse big budget so-called A level films I have ever seen.)

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This is the second time Ava Gardner has appeared in a film where her husband or lover has somehow lost his penis or else lost its use. This was the problem in the Hemmingway classic novel “The Sun Also Rises” that was made into a film in 1958 when Jake Barnes (played by Tyrone Power) either had Mr. Johnson shot off in WWI or else had it so damaged that he could not use it.

I did not understand what happened to Ava Gardner’s husband (Rossano Brazzi) in “The Barefoot Contessa.” Was his penis shot off? Did he have PTSD(shell shock in those days)? Did it get damaged and cause him to become impotent? Was he gay? Was he a latent homosexual who found out that Ava could not satisfy him? Talk about a hard luck dame (1950s language).

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No writer has mentioned that Ava’s character was an uneducated peasant woman who did not even have an elementary school education yet she spoke as if she were a college English professor. Talk about stilted language, this takes the cake.

The scene where Warren Stevens (Kirk Edwards) and Marcus Goring (the rich playboy) had their verbal confrontation was so silly that I spit up the burrito I was eating. They stood at opposite ends of the lavish mansion and in an excessively theatrical manner started hurling insults at each other. I expected them to challenge each other to a duel.

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Edmund O’Brien, a fine actor, seemed to have overloaded on caffeine or worse. Rossano Brazzi seemed stupefied as to what motivated his ridiculous character. Humphrey Bogart spent the 1950s attempting to stretch his roles. This was a stretch that Wilt Chamberlain in his prime could not reach.

Ava Gardner was being portrayed as an innocent in the woods yet in 1950s style movie subtlety she was sleeping with her “cousin,” her chauffeur, the deck hand on her husband’s yacht and the gypsy to whom she threw her gambling casino winnings.

Joseph Mankiewitz won back to back double Academy Awards in 1949 and 1950 for writing and directing “A Letter to Three Wives” and “All About Eve.” He was a fine writer for almost 20 years before becoming a director. This was his Waterloo.

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Bittersweet tale of success leading to tragedy

8/10
Author: BuddyBoy1961 from Los Angeles, California
4 March 2000

Scouting talent for an upcoming film to be shot in Italy, a trio from Hollywood (writer/director Bogart, producer Stevens and publicist O’Brien) travel to Spain to scope renowned local dancing sensation Maria Vargas (Gardner). Immediately, they are struck by her beauty and presence. In fact, Gardner has a profound effect on every man she meets…though the effect is as unique as each man she encounters. Stevens sees a talent to be exploited for all it’s worth and O’Brien sees only huge marquees and dollar signs. But Bogart, after a couple of brief but revealing conversations with Maria, sees so much more. Expecting a naive Spanish peasant eager to grab at the brass ring, he finds instead a woman as smart as she is beautiful, whose main motivation is to enjoy the challenge and escape that a Hollywood career might offer a woman who will nevertheless always value the simpler things in life. Even with her inate beauty and uncommon savvy, to Maria’s detriment she does not have eyes in the back of her head. Told in flashback the viewer experiences her success in Hollywood and her quest to find the true love of a man (Brazzi) that has always eluded her.

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In the hands of Joseph Mankiewicz, “The Barefoot Contessa” frequently bristles with crackling dialogue (would you have expected less?). Unique to this contribution from Mankiewicz is the portent that hangs over the film. As the details of Maria’s life are expounded, empathy for her fate increases accordingly. Impeccably well-cast, this is actually an ensemble film. Gardner is luminous as Maria, though she is not solely dependent on her looks to carry the film–she gives a real performance. Bogart is stalwart and sympathetic as Maria’s protector. And O’Brien, in an Academy Award-winning turn, is sly and oily as the single-minded publicist who changes allegiances as often as his sweat-soaked shirts. Lensed by the great Jack Cardiff and shot largely in Italy, the European ambiance, as well as the snappy dialogue, push the credibility of the premise a notch or two above so many other so-called exposés of Hollywood excess and pretense.

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Just couldn’t care about the story or characters.

6/10
Author: Boba_Fett1138 from Groningen, The Netherlands
20 February 2010

This movie sounded like a good idea. It’s about the rise and fall of a female movie star and focuses on the upper-class society and the world of Hollywood but in truth and honesty the movie is just too much of a drag, due to the fact that the story just never seems to take off and the characters are not very compelling ones.

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It probably foremost is the pace that makes this movie its story come across as slow and dull. It seemed like an interesting idea to tel the story of this actress from the viewpoint of several male characters she met throughout the entire movie. However this way of storytelling instead causes the story to feel like a messy one. I also just don’t see how this movie is a good one as an inside-Hollywood movie or social commentary perhaps. The movie to me just seemed pretty pointless and it wasn’t going anywhere. It all still could had worked out had the characters been better ones.

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You can’t really blame the actors for not letting the characters work out well enough for the movie. I mean when you have actors like Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner and Edmond O’Brien involved, you can hardly blame the acting can you?

The movie is just too much talking and not enough drama or romance involved. I didn’t very much liked watching this movie and didn’t feel involved with it enough but nevertheless I also couldn’t hate it. After all, it certainly ain’t no bad movie but it still is one that comes across as being uninteresting and pretty pointless overall.

6/10

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Payment on Demand (1951)

Directed by Curtis Bernhardt
Cinematography Leo Tover

The film’s original title was The Story of a Divorce. It was made in 1949 but was not released until two years later, following the success of All About Eve.

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The original script left no doubt about the couple’s future. The final scene depicted a reunited Joyce and David at the breakfast table, with the woman engaging in her familiar social-climbing talk. It was clear she was still an overly ambitious wife determined to dominate her husband and steer his career path. RKO executive Howard Hughes, unhappy with the ending and the title, called the director and the two leads into the studio only two days before the film was scheduled to open at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and had them shoot his revision to the script, which he had rechristened Payment on Demand. The scene was processed, spliced into the final reel, and shipped on a Hughes-owned TWA aircraft, arriving at the theatre after the film already had begun under its original title. The projectionist had just enough time to thread his machine with the new final reel. Bette Davis later said, “The new ending broke our hearts. The one we had shot was the true ending for our film. We also were brokenhearted over the title change.

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Critical reception

In his review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther said, “Miss Davis performs most capably, achieving a surface appearance of feminine churlishness that might almost be real. Likewise, the luscious surroundings in which RKO has arranged for her to perform have, at least, the beguiling intimations of unlimited wealth and taste. But, unfortunately, the script by Bruce Manning and Curtis Bernhardt includes everything but a simple and convincing demonstration of the reasons why a marriage hasn’t clicked . . . this domestic drama, which Mr. Bernhardt has staged, is entirely a vehicle for Miss Davis to pull with a firm theatrical grip across the screen.”

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Variety said the film “makes a point of avoiding the pitfalls of soap opera fiction in which emotional and physical crises are developed in rapid succession. Bette Davis is in top form. Her interpretation . . . has great believability . . . Barry Sullivan handles [his role] neatly and with a quiet dignity.”

TV Guide rates it three out of a possible four stars and adds, “Bypassing all the usual soapy stuff, this film offers an adult look at some of the reasons why people part company . . . An honest story with good acting and direction, [it] moves over familiar ground, but laughs are in very short supply here and would have helped considerably.

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How much she’s alienated him

7 April 2014 | by bkoganbing (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

In Payment On Demand Bette Davis gets the shock of her life when husband Barry Sullivan asks her for a divorce. They seem to be the perfect couple with two daughters both about to leave the nest. They are a social success in their small town, something that Bette has striven very hard for. Possibly too hard.

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If it is true that RKO held up Payment On Demand to see how All About Eve would fair, they needn’t have worried. Bette under the direction of Curtis Bernhardt whom she knew and worked with in her days at Warner Brothers gave her just the right direction for a spirited performance. Before All About Eve she had left Warner Brothers under a cloud with the stinker Beyond The Forest fresh in everyone’s mind.

It takes her the whole film to realize how much she’s alienated her attorney husband Sullivan. They’re a great social success, but he’s lost friends in the process. Particularly Kent Taylor, a young attorney who Sullivan started out in practice with. You have to see how Davis in her helpful way accomplishes that.

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In the supporting cast singled out should be stage great Jane Cowl as Bette’s mentor and friend who has gone down a path that she foresees for Davis. Also John Sutton who plays a shipboard lounge lizard that Davis pulls back from. A timely telegram from one of her daughters helps.

Though the order they were made was reversed, Payment On Demand proved to be an excellent followup film to All About Eve. Bette Davis was definitely back on top.

Divorce story somewhat ahead of its time

7/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
4 June 2011

When I was a kid, the next door neighbor was “divorced.” You would have thought she was the town hooker. People just did not get divorced in the ’50s.

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Taken with that framework, 1951’s “Payment on Demand” is quite interesting. The Ramseys, David and Joyce (Barry Sullivan and Bette Davis), have been married for about 21 years and have two daughters (Betty Lynn and Peggie Castle). One day, a grumpy David comes home and announces that he wants a divorce. Joyce is shocked, though she really shouldn’t be. She and her husband have widely divergent values. She’s an ambitious, social-climbing, greedy bitch, and he wanted to have a practice with his partner Robert (Kent Taylor) and live on a farm. The life she has driven him into has made him miserable.

In flashback, Joyce reviews their young love and early marriage, during which she manages to steer a lucrative client her husband’s way — and away from his partner Robert. When Robert finds out, an important friendship ends. When Joyce gives birth to their second child, David informs her that they’re moving to San Francisco so he can work with his client’s new business, and he’d like to buy a farm outside the city. Joyce may be weak from childbirth, but she manages to gather enough strength to make a scene. From there, she manages to get in with the society crowd, even though her husband tells her he doesn’t like “snooty people.” And on it goes.

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The couple separate; Joyce finds out David is seeing someone and uses it to get an enormous settlement with the threat that she’ll ruin the woman’s reputation. Then she goes on a cruise and learns something. Loneliness isn’t fun.

This is a somewhat old-fashioned look at divorce, focusing on loneliness and the misery of not having a man instead of a woman building a new life for herself and enjoying a sense of freedom. There’s a lot of warning about what happens to older women. While some of that has truth to it, the script doesn’t allow that there’s anything in life that will bring happiness except marriage or companionship.

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“Payment on Demand” offers Bette Davis a somewhat typical role as a controlling, difficult woman with shallow values, but one who learns a few lessons along the way. She’s excellent. Jane Cowl, who had passed away by the time this film was released, is Mrs. Hedges, an older woman with a young “protege” – she’s very good. Barry Sullivan is the long-suffering husband; he always worked well with these strong actresses, and he hands in a sympathetic performance here. John Sutton is a man Joyce meets on a cruise, and he’s appropriately elegant.

Good film probably not appreciated today because we’re so used to divorce, settlements, and infidelity. For the average person, this was big stuff in the ’50s, when my mother’s generation was just getting married and beginning their families.

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Dark Victory (1939)

Directed by Edmund Goulding
Cinematography Ernest Haller

Judith Traherne is at the height of young society when Dr. Frederick Steele diagnoses a brain tumor. After surgery she falls in love with Steele. The doctor tells her secretary that the tumor will come back and eventually kill her. Learning this, Judith becomes manic and depressive. Her horse trainer Michael, who loves her, tells her to get as much out of life as she can. She marries Steele who intends to find a cure for her illness. As he goes off to a conference in New York failing eyesight indicates to Judith that she is dying.

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During the filming of the emotionally-charged scene when Bette Davis‘s character needs to find her way upstairs to her room after the brain tumor has caused her blindness, the cast and crew and several visitors were watching as Davis grasped the banister and began to feel her way up the steps, one by one. Halfway to the top of the staircase Davis paused, stopped the scene, briskly walked back downstairs and addressed director Edmund Goulding. “Ed,” Davis said, “is Max Steiner going to be composing the music score to this picture?” Goulding, surprised by the question, replied that he didn’t know, and asked Davis why the matter was important enough to stop the filming of the scene. “Well, either I’m going to climb those stairs or Max Steiner is going to climb those stairs,” Davis responded, “but I’ll be God-DAMNED if Max Steiner and I are going to climb those stairs together!”

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Bette’s victory

3 November 2004 | by jotix100 (New York) – See all my reviews

“Dark Victory” is a classic film of the 30s. In some movies, like this one, all the elements came together to create a satisfying entertainment that has delighted audiences since its release in 1939. Edmund Golding was instrumental in getting one of the best performances out of Bette Davis. The movie is helped by the fine score of Max Steiner.

As Judith Treherne, Bette Davis shows us why she was a great actress. She does some of her best work in this picture. Her interpretation of the socialite is right on target. Ms. Davis goes from a happy go lucky rich girl into the woman who has to face an imminent death. This film is so enjoyable because of the nuances Ms. Davis brought to the role. Bette Davis’ range was enormous.

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George Brent, as the medical specialist who tries to help Judith, and falls in love with her in the process, is also quite good as Dr. Steele. Geraldine Fitzgerald is wonderful as Ann, Judith’s loyal friend. Humphrey Bogart appears briefly as the horse trainer. Henry Travers put in a small appearance as the doctor who brought Judith into the world, and sadly, is not able to help her much. Also in the cast, Ronald Reagan, who doesn’t have much to do.

This is the perfect film to watch the wonderful Bette Davis at her best.

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When Death Creates a Passion for Life

8/10
Author: nycritic
7 February 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Judith Traherne, under other circumstances, could be that unsympathetic rich bitch that parties hard, hasn’t a care in the world, and is a victim of her own whims much like today’s Paris Hilton. Of course, had this film been done today with the character molded after the blond twit, we would have not just hoped she met her maker but maybe spawned a hideous creature from inside that tumor growing inside her head and gone to Hell in a hand-basket. Instead, Judith is not without her good points — she’s flighty and impulsive but not a mean person. She has it all… until she begins to get those pesky fainting spells and persistent headaches.

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An actress who was at the top of her game at the time of the release of this movie, Bette Davis displays a marvelous gamut of emotions which layer her facial features and body language. This of course is crucial to understanding her character’s psyche and if at times it seems a little overacted it’s only because of the style of the times. Otherwise, her Judith rises above the male actors around her and comes to accept her destiny with beautiful dignity. Geraldine Fitzgerald, playing her friend and secretary Ann, is equally understated but moving as the one who stays by Judith’s side. Both women reflect an interesting sisterhood about them; the transference of strength from one to the other is deeply affecting and one of quiet tears. Bette’s final death scene is one of transcendent luminosity.

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Nominated for three Oscars including Best Picture, Actress and Music Score, DARK VICTORY found itself pinned under the massive competition that came out in 1939 and received not one, but stands today as one of Davis’ quintessential pictures.

 

still gets me after all these years

8/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
23 March 2002

I was probably 12 years old when I first saw this film on TV. It was shown in two parts and I didn’t get to see the second part, so my mother had to tell me what happened. Forty years later, I still cry every time I see “Dark Victory.” It remains one of my favorite films for sheer use of Kleenex and my favorite Bette Davis movie, “All About Eve” being right up there with it. I even saw it on the big screen in a revival house when I was in college. Yes, some of the dialogue sounds corny now, like the good doctor saying, “Women never meant anything to me before”. But the interesting thing is, when I did see it with an audience, though they laughed as some inappropriate spots, by the end you could hear the sobs on the next block.

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There have been comments that Humphrey Bogart seems miscast in a somewhat minor role. I frankly thought he was just fine. He certainly was short enough to be a jockey and he pulled off the brogue. I’m sure it’s confusing for some to see him in such a small role in 1939 when only a few years later, he was a total superstar. But he was under contract to Warners and kicked around for years before “High Sierra” and “Casablanca”. He obviously wasn’t working when “Dark Victory” was cast, so why let him sit around taking a salary and do nothing?

And of course we have Ronald Reagan as a playboy. I actually find him delightful in this film. It called for charm and he had it.

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In today’s fast-paced world, there’s nothing stronger than a message about time and our use of it. “Oh, give me time for tenderness…just give me time.” Like Bette’s character, I want to hear that song again too, in many more viewings of “Dark Victory.”

The ultimate tear-jerker!

Author: David Atfield (bits@alphalink.com.au) from Canberra, Australia
3 May 2001

Not only is this sublime classic the greatest tear-jerker of all time (well, let’s call it a tie with “Lassie Come Home”), it also contains one of the greatest performances ever given by Bette Davis. In the hands of a lesser actress this movie could have been a soppy pot-boiler. In the hands of Ms Davis it is close to being a masterpiece. If most of the supporting players can’t match her it’s no wonder – Bette is truly inspired here! The normally fine Geraldine Fitzgerald seems rather self-conscious in a difficult role (and an early one for her), and George Brent can’t handle the really emotional stuff. But Bogart is stunning in that sexually charged scene with Bette in the stables. Ronnie doesn’t have much to do, but Virginia Brissac is memorable as Martha and Henry Travers terrific as the old doctor.

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Above all this is the excellent direction of Edmund Goulding, the fine cinematography of Ernest Haller and the great music of Max Steiner. Sure, dying in real life is never this beautiful, but don’t we all wish we could go out with the style that Bette Davis does? Be warned: the last 15 minutes of this film are almost torturously moving – but then ALL of “Lassie Come Home” is. And don’t we just love a good cry!

Production

Tallulah Bankhead originated the role of Judith Traherne in the Broadway production, which ran for 51 performances at the Plymouth Theatre,  before being cut short when Bankhead fell ill with a bacterial infection. Davis openly admitted in later years that she had emulated Bankhead in the role. In 1935, David O. Selznick wanted to cast Greta Garbo and Fredric March in the leads, but Garbo chose to play the lead in Anna Karenina instead. In 1936, he offered the role to Merle Oberon, but contractual problems prevented her from doing the film.When Bette Davis discovered the play in 1938, she shopped it to every producer on the Warners lot, and Hal Wallis bought the rights from Selznick for her, for $50,000, when director Edmound Goulding and producer David Lewis showed interest in the project.

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Davis had recently ended affairs with William Wyler and Howard Hughes and her husband Ham Nelson had filed for divorce, and after the first few days of filming she begged to be released from her contract, claiming she was too sick to continue. Producer Hal Wallis responded, “I’ve seen the rushes – stay sick!” She found comfort with Brent, who had just divorced Ruth Chatterton, and the two embarked on an affair that continued throughout filming and for a year – and three films – after. Goulding shot the film in sequence, and the arc of Judith’s relationship with Dr. Steele mirrored Davis’ relationship with Brent. Davis was later to say that she wanted to marry Brent, but thought that it wouldn’t work out. Still, “Of the men I didn’t marry, the dearest was George Brent.”

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The tune, “Oh, Give Me Time for Tenderness” sung by Judith was written by Edmund Goulding and Elsie Janis. The voice of Vera Van was dubbed for Davis.

Another scene for the film’s ending was shot, but ultimately was deemed anticlimactic: after Judith’s death, her horse was seen winning a race, and her stablehand Michael (Bogart) was shown crying. The scene met with negative response with sneak preview audiences and was cut.

The film premiered at Radio City Music Hall.

98% of me

9/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
3 October 2005

While I was watching my VHS copy of Dark Victory this afternoon, there was a quote from Bette Davis that her role of Judith Traherne was her most personal and that it was 98% of me.

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It certainly is one of her most moving performances on celluloid. The movie is her show as so many of her Warner Brothers films were becoming at this point in her career. The rest of the cast almost stands back in awe of her.

We would call Judith Traherne a trust fund baby these days. Poppa made a fortune and drank himself to death, Mom is over in Europe as an expatriate. And she’s got a big house on Long Island where she raises steeple chasers and gives a lot of parties.

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But she’s not an airhead. Bette Davis never was in any of her films. She’s been having headaches and now blurred vision has been thrown in as a complication. When she crashes one of her horses into a side rail we the audience know right away that there are some serious health issues.

Dr. George Brent is called in on the case, he’s a brain specialist. He operates and it’s a success, but only in terms of relieving the symptoms. She’s got a death sentence hanging over her.

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The rest of the film is how she deals with it. Only an actress of incredible skill could have brought off the many mood changes that Judith Traherne has. If it wasn’t for the fact that 1939 was the Gone With the Wind year, Davis might have gotten a third Oscar. She was nominated and lost to Vivien Leigh.

Humphrey Bogart was in this as her stable groom with an Irish accent that he was clearly uncomfortable with. My guess was that the brogue was there to emphasize the class distinction between Davis and Bogart. I’m not sure it was all that necessary for him, but at least it wasn’t as laughable as the Mexican accent in Virginia City.

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Geraldine Fitzgerald and Ronald Reagan are on hand as her two close friends. I understand that in the novel this is based on, Reagan’s character is gay. This was the days of the Code, so gay was out. Probably in the long run helped Reagan’s later career, given his politics playing a gay character wouldn’t have gotten him entrée into his crowd. Still both he and Fitzgerald do very well as a couple of her friends who have a lot more character than most of them.

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George Brent was Davis’s perennial leading man. She was involved with him romantically at some point during her Warner Brothers period, I’m not sure if it was during the making of Dark Victory. He was a competent player who Davis could be sure would never upstage her.

I did however hear a clip from a radio performance of Dark Victory and George Brent’s part was played by Spencer Tracy. Though Brent played in fact in the underplaying style that Tracy was known for, I’m sure if Tracy had ever done the film he’d have brought touches to the character that Brent could never have done. What a classic that would have been.

Dark Victory is a moving story that never descends into soap opera. This is Bette Davis at her finest.

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“Someday you’ll learn that courage is in the blood.”

8/10
Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
19 October 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I can just picture theater patrons leaving this movie during it’s original release, not a dry eye in the house; an endearing testimony to the strength of Bette Davis’ portrayal of the young snooty socialite turned human over the course of the story. As Miss Judith Traherne, Davis exhibits a wide range of emotion in her role, helping establish her reputation as one of film’s finest actresses.

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Along the way, Davis is supported by an unusually strong contingent of Warner contract players, most notably George Brent as the doctor turned husband, Frederick Steele. Established in a highly successful surgical career, Steele is continuously frustrated in his attempt to semi-retire to a life of research at his Vermont farm. Miss Judith is just his latest diversion, one that his professional reputation and personal responsibility will not allow to go without helping. During his association with Judith, he manages to fall in love, while creating the same intense and wonderful feelings in her. Where his nobility fails is in his attempt to keep Judith’s true condition secret from her, in collaboration with Judith’s best friend, Miss Ann (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Fitzgerald’s performance in it’s own way is almost as touching as Davis’ own, as the loyal friend and confidante who must watch her best friend slowly fade toward an unhappy ending.

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Ronald Reagan appears a number of times throughout the film as a member of Davis’ social circle, and whether by design or not, he never appears sober. Henry Travers, the diligent wing earning angel from “It’s a Wonderful Life” appears as Miss Judith’s family physician in a subdued role. And to be completely honest, my original interest in this film was in completing my collection of Humphrey Bogart movies; here he has minimal screen time as a horse trainer with an eye for Miss Judith who realizes that his station would never allow for such a match up. It’s interesting to see Bogey near the end of the film in the obligatory trench coat for which he’s well known.

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The film’s ending is powerful and given added poignancy as Miss Judith plants a flower bulb after sending her husband off to an important medical gathering. With Judith’s vision dimming, Miss Ann cannot contain her tears and is sent off by Miss Judith as well to remember happier times. As Judith stumbles up the stairs to her bedroom, the maid symbolically draws the curtain against the sunlight, while Judith says a final prayer, and it’s over. Commence tears.

To date, my viewing of Bette Davis films have been limited to her collaborations with Humphrey Bogart, but that’s a total of six films, more than any other pairing with my favorite actor. Edward G. Robinson appeared with Bogey in five films, and one of them, “Kid Galahad” also featured Bette Davis, once again in a role showing many facets of her ability. Intrigued as I am with her performance in “Dark Victory”, I’ll be looking forward to more of her films.

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Dial M for Murder (1954)

In London, wealthy Margot Mary Wendice had a brief love affair with the American writer Mark Halliday while her husband and professional tennis player Tony Wendice was on a tennis tour. Tony quits playing to dedicate to his wife and finds a regular job. She decides to give him a second chance for their marriage. When Mark arrives from America to visit the couple, Margot tells him that she had destroyed all his letters but one that was stolen. Subsequently she was blackmailed, but she had never retrieved the stolen letter. Tony arrives home, claims that he needs to work and asks Margot to go with Mark to the theater. Meanwhile Tony calls Captain Lesgate (aka Charles Alexander Swann who studied with him at college) and blackmails him to murder his wife, so that he can inherit her fortune. But there is no perfect crime, and things do not work as planned.

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The perfect film for the perfect murder…

After earning an Academy award nomination for her performance in John Ford’s 1953 tale of romance and adventure, “Mogambo”, the beautiful actress Grace Kelly proved that she was way more than just a pretty face and that there was real talent behind her image. However, what truly took her career to new levels were three now classic films she made directed by the legendary Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Under his direction, Kelly made an integral part of the Master’s films, becoming the perfect embodiment of Hitchcock’s idea of a female protagonist. While Kelly debuted two years earlier in the classic Western “High Noon”, one could say that it was Hitchcock who really introduced the beauty and talent of Grace Kelly to the world. “Dial M for Murder” was the first of Hitchcock’s films with Kelly, and a movie where once again the Master returns to a familiar theme: the perfect murder.

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The movie is the story of Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), a former tennis player married to the beautiful and wealthy Margot (Grace Kelly) and living in an nice apartment in London. Life is good for Tony, until he discovers that his wife is cheating on him with an old flame of her, famous crime novel writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). After that discovery, Tony spends a whole years plotting the perfect way to murder his wife in order to inherit her money, carefully planning every detail of the crime. When Mark visits London again, Tony finds the perfect chance to set his plan in motion, and as planned, he recruits Charles Swann (Anthony Dawson) to kill his wife. However, bad luck and a sudden change of events will test Tony’s plan’s infallibility as, just as Mark points out, human action can originate flaws even in the most perfectly devised plan.

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Like most Hitchcock’s films, “Dial M for Murder” was an adaptation of another art-form, this time a popular play by Frederick Knott. As Knott was also the writer of the screenplay, the movie remains extremely faithful to the play, although of course, not without its differences. Knott’s script is wonderfully constructed, as like in the play, the dialog is witty and simply captivating, with many twists and turns that spiced up the complex plot and keep it from being boring or tiresome. An interesting feature of the movie is that oddly, there are no black and white morality in the characters, and it’s easy not only to sympathize with Margot (despite she being cheating on her husband) but also to sympathize with Tony (despite he wanting to kill his wife), as the characters are wonderfully developed with very detailed personalities.

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It seems that Hitchcock’s knows that the dialog is the highlight of the play, as he deliberately focuses on his actors and uses an elegant camera-work to frame the whole movie inside the apartment. The movie literally is shot entirely in one single room (only two other sets are used, and only briefly), but Hitchcock’s classy way of using the camera allow a highly dynamic flow that never lets the movie be tiresome. This is also very helpful as Hitchcock just lets his characters keep speaking, carefully describing actions and events (when other directors would use flashbacks) in a similar way to a what the real play would be. While this approach could easily get boring, Hitchcock’s use of colors and overall visual imagery simply creates the perfect medium to allow Knott’s dialog to shine.

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Without disrespecting John Ford or Fred Zinnemann, I think that it was Hitchcock who finally could allow Kelly’s talent to shine beyond her physical beauty. Grace Kelly makes her character shine with her subtle and restrained performance, specially showing her skill in the second half of the film. While often Kelly receives top honors in this movie, it is actually Ray Milland who makes the whole movie work with his suave and charming “villian”. Milland’s performance is simply terrific, making his character nice enough to win the sympathies of the audience, yet still frighteningly intelligent as the mastermind of the plot. John Williams appears as the Inspector in charge to solve the complex puzzle, and delivers a classic performance as the Enlgish gentleman decided to find the final answer. Only Robert Cummings seems miscast as Mark Halliday, although a lot of his weak performance could be blamed to Milland, Kelly and Williams overshadowing him with their excellent work.

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In many ways, “Dial M for Murder” shares many things with “Rope”, as not only the two films are based on successful plays, they are also about committing the perfect murder and oddly, they are both “experiments”: while “Rope” was conceived as a “movie in one take”, “Dial M for Murder” was done as 3-D movie. Sadly, the interest in 3-D was dying when the film was released, so few theaters carried the movie complete with the gimmick; a real shame, as Hitchcock’s use of the technology, unlike most 3-D films of its time, was conceived as a way to enhance the claustrophobia of the Wendices’ apartment instead of using it to merely shock the audience with “stuff coming out of the screen” (as seen in for example, “House of Wax”). While not too fond of the gimmick, Hitchcock truly gave it a good and intelligent (albeit subtle) use to it.

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“Dial M for Murder” is probably less celebrated than the Master’s most famous movies, the fact that it came out the same years as “Rear Window” (again with Grace Kelly) may have had something to do with it too. While a subtler and more restrained tale of suspense, this is still the Master at his best, as the movie proves that when he was at the top of his game, no other director was comparable to him. 9/10

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One of Hitchcock’s best thrillers.

9/10
Author: Charles Saint-Pierre from Montreal, Canada
15 September 1999

1954 was a big year for Grace Kelly. She played in Hitchcock’s classic “Rear window” and she won an Oscar for best actress in “The country girl” and most people tend to forget that she starred in yet another classic, “Dial M for murder”. Starring Grace Kelly, Ray Milland, and Robert Cummings, it is simply one of Hitchcock’s finest movies of all-time. In fact, I would consider it to be my second favorite Hitchcock movie ever, my first being “Psycho” (although I haven’t seen “Rear window” yet).

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Margot (Grace Kelly) is married to Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), an ex-tennis player. However, she has been seeing another man named Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Mark writes crime stories. The two of them think that Tony doesn’t know about their relationship but they’re wrong; Tony has known about this relationship for one year and seems to have had enough of it. So when Mark, who lives in New-York, comes to London to see Margot, Tony wants to go out with Mark and his wife. But the night of the event, Tony is unable to go. So he tells Margot to take Mark out and to have a good time. The only problem is that Tony doesn’t really have something that’s keeping him from going out with Margot and Mark. He has another plan, the plan being to blackmail one of his old college friends that has become a small time crook into murdering his wife.

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What follows this is pure entertainment at its best. As usual, Hitchcock masterfully directs this movie and has the right actors to do the job. Ray Milland and Grace Kelly deliver very good performances and surprisingly enough, Robert Cummings does a rather good job in his role of Mark Halliday, the American crime novel writer who accidentally stumbles on the answer. But it is John Williams who steals the show with his great performance as Inspector Hubbard, the detective who holds the key to the whole mistery. He is simply excellent and pretty funny when he is supposed to be. Another of his great performances is in “Witness for the prosecution” where he played Brogan Moore, Charles Laughton’s very good friend and seconding lawyer in the case. As for “Dial M for murder”, well it’s one of those movies that anyone should see at pretty much any cost.

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Superior Hitchcock with an exquisite Grace Kelly

9/10
Author: Dennis Littrell from United States
21 July 2002

This is a fine example of the kind of mystery that little old ladies from Pasadena (or Russell Square) adore. Perhaps Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) starring Cary Grant might be comparable in its gentile and bloodless ability to glue us to the screen. This is certainly one of Hitchcock’s best, but most of the credit must go to a devilishly clever play written by Frederick Knott from which the movie was adapted. (He also wrote Wait Until Dark (1967) starring Audrey Hepburn.) Hitchcock does a good job in not tinkering unnecessarily with the material. He also has the exquisitely beautiful Grace Kelly to play the part of Margot Wendice. Ray Milland plays, with a kind of high-toned Brit panache, her diabolical husband, Tony Wendice, a one-time tennis star who married mostly for security. John Williams is the prim and proper Chief Inspector Hubbard. He lends to the part a bit of Sherlock Holmesian flair.

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One especially liked his taking a moment to comb his mustache after the case is solved. Robert Cummings, unfortunately plays Margot’s American boyfriend as inventively as a sawhorse. For those of you who might have blinked, Hitchcock makes his traditional appearance in the photo on the wall from Tony Wendice’s undergraduate days. The fulcrum of the plot is the latchkey. It is the clue that (literally) unlocks the mystery. There is a modernized redoing of this movie called A Perfect Murder (1998) starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in which a similar business with latchkeys is employed. I am not very good with clues so it was only after seeing that movie and Dial M for Murder for the second time that I finally understood what happened.

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Follow the latchkey! Of course I was too distracted by Grace Kelly to fully appreciate such intricacies. I found myself struck with the ironic notion that anyone, even a cuckolded husband, might want to kill Grace Kelly or that a jury might find her guilty of anything! She remains in my psyche America’s fairytale princess who quit Hollywood at the height of her popularity after only five years and eleven movies to become a real princess by marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco. Something was lost there, and something was gained. She was in essence the original Jackie Kennedy Onassis. I think, however, that the old saw about the man who marries for money, earning it, might apply to American princesses as well. At any rate, Grace Kelly’s cool and sublime bearing was on fine display here.

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Hitchcock cloths her in discreet nightgowns and snug (but certainly not clinging) dresses that show off her delicate figure and her exquisite arms and hint oh so coyly at her subtle sexuality. She was 25-years-old, stunningly beautiful, and in full confidence of her ability as an actress. She had just finished starring opposite James Stewart in another splendid Hitchcock one-room mystery, Rear Window (1954), and was about to make The Country Girl (1954) with Bing Crosby for which she would win an Oscar for Best Actress. So see this for Grace Kelly who makes Gwyneth Paltrow (whom I adore) look downright gawky, and for Ray Milland whose urbane scheming seems a layer or two of hell removed from Michael Douglas’s evil manipulations. By the way, the “original theatrical trailer” preceding these Warner Brothers Classic videos is what we used to call the “Coming Attractions”–that is, clips directly from the movie and a promo. You might want to fast forward to the movie itself.

A Safe Place (1971)

Directed by Henry Jaglom

Cinematography by

Richard C. Kratina

A young woman named Noah lives alone in New York. She is a disturbed flower child, who retreats into her past, yearning for lost innocence. She recalls her childhood, searching for a “safe place.” As a child she met a magician in Central Park who presented her with magical objects: a levitating silver ball, a star ring, and a Noah’s ark. She is romantically involved with two totally different men. Fred is practical but dull. Mitch is dynamic and sexy, her ideal fantasy partner. Neither man is able to totally fulfill her needs.

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Surprising

28 May 2004 | by laffinsal (California) – See all my reviews

This experimental piece of work, from Henry Jaglom, is actually something of a gem, if not for it’s unique direction, for the typically stunning performance from Tuesday Weld. Weld is wonderful in her characterization of a simple, juvenile young woman, caught in the limbo between innocence and adulthood. This film is from the period which I consider Weld’s peak. She is beautiful, charming and completely earnest in her delivery.

Others in the cast are interesting at best. Orson Welles is good as the father figure in Weld’s life. Philip Proctor is not much acting wise, but at least he has a pleasant voice. That seems to have helped his career in the years following this film. Jack Nicholson is his typical cocky, slimy character in this one. I didn’t feel his acting was anything new here, but his presence makes for an interesting triangle relationship.

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The editing is choppy, utilizing audio and image clips flashing by, altered, and repeated again. It would seem to get old after a while, and it does to some degree, but it’s effective nonetheless. There are some good vignettes here and there throughout the film, namely a scene where Weld describes to Proctor the importance of telephone exchanges. Not every actress could pull this off well, but Weld does so with empathy and charm…brilliant! The Ouija board scene also stands out, as do the ones of Weld and Welles in Central Park Zoo.

A fascinating and surprisingly engaging film. If for no other reason, it’s worth watching for Weld’s performance.

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Jack Nicholson appeared in this film mainly as a favor to the director, Henry Jaglom. Nicholson did the film for no pay, his only demand was that he be given a new color television set.

This film was originally a play written by Henry Jaglom in the 1960s and had a few performances starring the film’s lead actress Tuesday Weld. Offered a debut in cinema by BBS Productions (governed by Bob Rafelson, Burt Schneider and Steve Blauner), a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, Jaglom decided to give his play the cinematic treatment. Currently, it is being re-realized as a play. After meeting Tana Frederick, Jaglom dusted off the original manuscript for “A Safe Place” with the intention of having Frederick play the part of Susan/Noah.

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A beautiful relic of its time

Author: lcrews from USA
27 September 2003

Only in the post-“Easy Rider” early 1970s could a film like this be made by a major Hollywood studio. Totally devoid of anything resembling a plot, “A Safe Place” will probably seem incomprehensible to most. But if you already have an appreciation for the 1950s-1960s works of Fellini, Antonioni or Godard, come on in. You’ll feel right at home in this “Safe Place.”

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Henry Jaglom was the unsung hero amongst the circle of friends that brought us “Head,” “Easy Rider,” “Five Easy Pieces,” and several other lesser-known classics of the era. Jaglom is more responsible for the success of “Easy Rider” than Dennis Hopper, as he took Hopper’s three-hour cut–a mishmash of flashbacks, flash-forwards and art- damaged nonsense–and shaped it into the legendary film it is today. His close relationship with Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and others gave him a chance to write and direct his own movie for Columbia Pictures.

Jaglom in turn delivered this dream narrative starring Tuesday Weld as a young woman who copes by retreating into isolationism and fantasy. Orson Welles pops up here and there as a magician who represents a physical emodiment of her retreat from the world. Or does he only exist in her head?

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It’s best not to ask questions like that. Free your mind, sit back, and take in the feeling and mood. Where Hopper failed with his cut of “Easy Rider” and “The Last Movie”, Jaglom effortlessly succeeds with such lofty and artsy ambitions. “A Safe Place” coasts by like a gentle dream in an afternoon nap–full of beautiful, detached imagery, illogical but comforting.

“A Safe Place” is a beautiful relic of a brief time in American cinema. Even Jaglom– always on the fringe of mainstream cinema–would never make anything like this again, as he later developed the documentary/verite style which has become his trademark.

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One of the worst motion pictures ever made

1/10
Author: (jauritt@comcast.net) from Warrington, PA
23 December 2015

The title of my review is no exaggeration. The only saving grace to watching this movie is that it’s only about an hour and a half in length, even though it seems at least twice that long to view. The screenplay (assuming there really was a screenplay to begin with, because the dialogue feels totally improvised…not because it sounds “real”, but because it’s strained and ludicrous) is annoying to the nth degree, unless you like hearing profound voice-over comments such as “I love you from New York to Rome..from Rome to Madrid, etc. etc. etc. over and over and over again. If I was on a deserted island with a DVD player and this was the only DVD I had with me, I’d break it in a hundred pieces with a coconut because, otherwise, I’d end up searching for a shark to eat me as soon as possible. If I had a choice between being water-boarded and being forced to watch this movie repeatedly, I’d have a VERY tough decision to make. But, other than that, the movie was great.

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Think “Annie Hall” crossed with “Magical Mystery Tour”

10/10
Author: rooz from MN
1 June 1999

Wonderfully bizarre and experimental piece of work for which Jaglom should be very proud. Welles and Nicholson are great in this head game. Let yourself go when you watch this–experience it–this is not a “movie”–this is a trip!! You will get as much out of this as you allow yourself to take.

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Network (1976)

Directed by Sidney Lumet
Cinematography Owen Roizman

Network is a 1976 American satirical black comedy-drama film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, about a fictional television network, UBS, and its struggle with poor ratings. The film stars Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, and Robert Duvall and features Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty, and Beatrice Straight.

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Howard Beale, the longtime anchor of the Union Broadcasting System’s UBS Evening News, learns from friend and news division president Max Schumacher that he has just two more weeks on the air because of declining ratings. The two get drunk and lament the state of their industry. The following night, Beale announces on live television that he will commit suicide on next Tuesday’s broadcast. UBS fires him after this incident, but Schumacher intervenes so that Beale can have a dignified farewell. Beale promises he will apologize for his outburst, but once on the air, he launches back into a rant claiming that life is “bullshit.” Beale’s outburst causes the newscast’s ratings to spike, and much to Schumacher’s dismay, the upper echelons of UBS decide to exploit Beale’s antics rather than pull him off the air. In one impassioned diatribe, Beale galvanizes the nation, persuading his viewers to shout out of their windows “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

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Diana Christensen heads the network’s programming department; seeking just one hit show, she cuts a deal with a band of radical terrorists for a new docudrama series called The Mao Tse-Tung Hour for the upcoming fall season. When Beale’s ratings seem to have topped out, Christensen approaches Schumacher and offers to help him “develop” the news show. He says no to the professional offer, but not to the personal one, and the two begin an affair. When Schumacher decides to end Beale as the “angry man” format, Christensen convinces her boss, Frank Hackett, to slot the evening news show under the entertainment division so she can develop it. Hackett agrees, bullying the UBS executives to consent and fire Schumacher.

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Soon afterward, Beale is hosting a new program called The Howard Beale Show, top-billed as “the mad prophet of the airwaves”. Ultimately, the show becomes the most highly rated program on television, and Beale finds new celebrity preaching his angry message in front of a live studio audience that, on cue, chants Beale’s signature catchphrase en masse: “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.” At first, Max and Diana’s romance withers as the show flourishes, but in the flush of high ratings, the two ultimately find their way back together, and Schumacher leaves his wife of over 25 years for Christensen. But Christensen’s fanatical devotion to her job and emotional emptiness ultimately drive Max back to try returning to his wife, even though he doesn’t think she’ll agree, and he warns his former lover that she will self-destruct at the pace she is running with her career.

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“You are television incarnate, Diana,” he tells her, “indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality.”

When Beale discovers that Communications Corporation of America (CCA), the conglomerate that owns UBS, will be bought out by an even larger Saudi Arabian conglomerate, he launches an on-screen tirade against the deal, encouraging viewers to send telegrams to the White House telling them, “I want the CCA deal stopped now!” This throws the top network brass into a state of panic because the company’s debt load has made merger essential for survival. Hackett takes Beale to meet with CCA chairman Arthur Jensen, who explicates his own “corporate cosmology” to Beale, describing the interrelatedness of the participants in the international economy and the illusory nature of nationality distinctions.

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Jensen persuades Beale to abandon the populist messages and preach his new “evangel”. However, television audiences find his new sermons on the dehumanization of society depressing, and ratings begin to slide, yet Jensen will not allow UBS executives to fire Beale. Seeing its two-for-the-price-of-one value—solving the Beale problem plus sparking a boost in season-opener ratings—Christensen, Hackett, and the other executives decide to hire the Ecumenical Liberation Army to assassinate Beale on the air. The assassination succeeds, putting an end to The Howard Beale Show and kicking off a second season of The Mao Tse-Tung Hour.

It’s so prophetic it’s scary

25 June 2006 | by malikroberts16 (United States) – See all my reviews

Now, here is a film that everyone needs to see, especially today.

Children should be raised on the truth instead of fiction.

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Television seduces, entertains, divides, desensitizes, and corrupts not just kids but adults as well. It’s gotten so bad over the years it’s like some kind of a disease now. Most people believe everything they see, read, and hear. Fortunately for me, I’m not most people. There are things that I question and there are things that I know are very wrong. Lying to the American people in every possible way is very, very wrong.

I’ve never seen anyone open up their window and stick out their head and yell that they’re as mad as hell and they’re not gonna take this anymore. I’ve never seen anyone say that they were a human being and that their life had value. We’re so screwed up in the head we don’t even deserve to be called human beings. We’re like pre-programmed, numbered, clones enslaved from the cradle to the grave; clones that are programmed and structured to obey authority of all kinds.

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“Network” deserved the Best Picture Oscar for ’76, but it lost to “Rocky”. How the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences allowed that to happen is beyond me.

That’s all I have to say about that.

We Have Seen the Future, And It Sucks

10/10
Author: Putzberger from Chicago IL
28 December 2005

This movie came out when I was nine years old, and I saw it on network TV the following year, lured by the brouhaha that surrounded the use of the “barnyard epithet” during prime time. I loved this movie before I understood it, and I worship it now. Like “Elmer Gantry” or “1984,” it’s a work of didactic art that only fails on an imaginative level — Sinclair Lewis couldn’t grasp how debased evangelism would become, Orwell couldn’t foresee the excesses of Mao or Pol Pot, and Chayevsky couldn’t envision the absolute decline of television from a vast wasteland to a malevolent sewer. Fox News, reality TV, even the OJ chase, “Network” anticipates every vile bit of it.

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Now, it’s ridiculously overwritten — NO ONE is as articulate as the characters in this film, and most certainly, no one who works in television is as literate as Diana Christensen (the Faye Dunaway character). I doubt that poet laureates or even Eminem could spew as witty an aside as “muttering mutilated Marxism.” But damn if that isn’t part of its charm. Plus, outside of Max Schumacher (William Holden), the characters are pretty much archetypes instead of real people (the Robert Duvall character might as well wear a black cape and top hat), but their two-dimensionality works as a good metaphor for Max’s seduction into the “shrieking nothingness” or television. Plus the actors are so superb they make screeching caricatures into almost-sympathetic characters: Duvall is a credible and charismatic villain, Finch is a fine mad prophet and Faye Dunaway manages to make a shrill, manipulative, soulless neurotic so damn cute and sexy you’ll want to leave your wife for her, too, just as long as she promises to keep sitting cross-legged on your desk and hitching up her skirt. (Therein lies the real eroticism, forget the intentionally mechanical, unerotic coupling later in the flick). Anyway, this is complex, high art masquerading as popular entertainment, go rent it now.

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The Age of Network

10/10
Author: nycritic
22 February 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Thirty years after its release to public praise and multiple Oscar wins, Network is one of those films that instead of dating badly or becoming a product of its time has actually grown and become even more relevant today, and if it were re-released in 2006 for its actual thirtieth anniversary not on film but on national television right at the beginning of the fall season (complete with the most lurid reality TV shows and inane TV pleasers), it would only become more justified in its story.

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The story of the failing network that didn’t have a show on the Nielsen Top 20 and resorted to extreme measures to ensure that this changed seems so today: we see how channels that once had failing ratings churned out shock television right smack in the daytime while still applying Standard and Practices to other “prime-time” shows that could be taken the “wrong” way. Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, Rikki Lake, Oprah, Mark Burnett, MTV — they’re all here under different guises, all competing to have their voices heard on television, all eventually becoming as ratings-hungry and establishment-friendly as the CEOs running the show.

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Today we don’t quite have Howard Beales ranting and raving about the ills of society on national TV (although they do “tell” us how we should feel, when we should laugh if we’re too stupid to get the joke, who to vote for, the “truth” about the tobacco industry). Today media is all the rage and televises even a fart if it deems it interesting and guarantees more viewers. Today shows like “20/20” or “60 Minutes” bring us ‘exclusives’ even if it’s at the cost of journalistic integrity. And now, with ‘reality TV’ still the dominating novel trend even in little-seen cable channels, creating stereotypes in leaps and bounds while claiming authenticity of the events depicted, there hasn’t yet been a need to create a lunatic who could sermonize everything and make us Mad as Hell.

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On this aspect alone NETWORK has dated: the 70s were all about counterculture, anti-establishment, revolution, leftists, Patty Hearsts, Lennon and Yoko, “Nova”, the Mansons, the hippies, the Earth-lovers, the militants. Nowadays, buff bodies parade themselves in shows containing outlandish competitions where eating the most grotesque concoctions are the norm, or enduring a barrage of extreme insults has become entertainment (i. e. “American Idol”) and the very concept of dignity flies out the window. Of course, after signing an extensive release form in which they free the network of all responsibilities if something goes wrong because we all know networks can’t be held liable for any faux pas. In short, nowadays people from all over try to become the next It person and outlast their 15 minutes of fame. Nowadays, everyone has their own reality TV show depicting their 24 hour day activities. I wonder if Diana Christensen isn’t alive and well and exerting absolute control over the networks in general, bringing anything and everything that can garner a little bit of shock value (Boy Meets Boy, or any reality TV self-made “villain/villainess”) and eventual ratings, taking over actual scripted shows with real actors.

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NETWORK is a powerful movie of which I can’t praise enough about even if its screenplay, by Paddy Chayefsky is a little too verbose. No one talks the way he makes his characters talk, using impassioned speeches with big, even archaic, words, and more than once the script makes the characters go completely over the top but even then it makes its point. Of the actors, William Holden’s quiet portrayal of a former television exec, Max Schumacher, who has a conscience, but still feels some attraction to danger and risks his own family to experience is who is at the heart of this crazy story who was ahead of its time. Peter Finch’s Howard Beale never comes through enough as a real human being: just someone who was pushed too hard and decided to shut down for the remainder of his life. But Holden holds the moral glue of the story, and interestingly enough, is wise to know that his affair, perfectly scripted as he even states, will end on a high note — he’ll return to his sanity and his wife, and Diana Christensen will bask in her own executive madness, since this is all she knows and holds dear.

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In her last words — “Let’s kill the son of a bitch.” — she informs us this is all she is about without so much as batting an eye. Who comes, who goes, is irrelevant to her, as long as the network can be number one. And that is the inhuman reality of television — a media directed to entertain humans.

Guess What?..Everything is a Commodity!!

10/10
Author: dataconflossmoor from United States
28 April 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Groundbreaking is the term for this movie…It is considered one of the hundred best movies ever made and for very good reason…Director Sidney Lummet has a reputation for the director of the non-conventional!!…A cogency for making the absolute truth a guileless villain, a rude awakening for television viewers, and a stubborn scripture for facts is what purports a film like Network as a masterpiece for the prolific and intellectual!! You could not ask for better acting!! The acting in this movie is second to none!! Robert Duvall, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Ned Beatty and a whole list of others…

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Perhaps the best acting in any film made whatsoever!! It starts with Howard Beale (Peter Finch) a victim of his own human pitfalls…Ossified and dejected from his declining years going from bad to worse, he becomes isolated, desultory ,morbid and morose and feels his life has no meaning, he threatens suicide on live television and is discarded as being a wacko!!…At first!!..but guess what!! he’s a hit!!…So the ratings crazed cutthroats make him an instant success by labeling him “The Angry Prophet Denouncing the Hypocracies of Our Time”…As long as we’ve gone this far, let’s break all of the rules…Bring on the terrorists, the soothsayers, the insurectionaries, the financial gurus, the faith healers, and the para military radicals, to reduce the severity of hard bitten news to a side show of carnival freaks!!!

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William Holden plays the old school business man with “primal doubts” about his life in general…”male menopause” with “defineable features” He is happily married yet after being bombarded from all sides in the autumn of his years, he is frightened that the new generation is impervious to basic tenets of human morality such as ethics and compassion…The woman with whom he gets involved, is callous not because she is vindictive, but because she is emotionless!! This woman (Faye Dunaway) is the “Television Incarnate” Ice Queen who reduces time and space to “split seconds and instant replays” the daily business of life is a “corrupt comedy” and the only redeeming quality to modern marvels and a “radiant eruption of Democracy” is that it gets a 32 share!!…This acting performance is perhaps the best acting performance I have ever seen…The type of person Dianna Christensen was supposed to be was played out perfectly…

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The delivery of the elaborated monologues and diatribes were absolutely remarkable….She was ideologically explosive yet person-ably obtuse. You knew why she wasn’t the drinking type…she was too emotionally detached…In the thick of women’s liberation, whereby a woman wanted to be just like a man, this movie portrayed how being just like a man had it’s drawbacks!! “Arousing quickly, consummating prematurely” and suffering from the cumbersome fate of being crippled by ineptitude at everything else but your work, made Dianna Christensen perennially wistful of testosterone laden aggression!! Aggregately, she invoked societal demise through channels of deductive reasoning!! Director, Sidney Lummet, was insistent that Dianna Christensen be utterly devoid of vulnerability!! Mr Hackett (Robert Duvall) played the hatchet man for the CCA…A rough around the edges errand boy for Mr Jensen (Ned Beatty) who viewed this network as his big chance and that whatever worked worked ..

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Scruples were never an issue, and ratings were pending exchange!! Howard Beale (Peter Finch) the “Angry prophet denouncing the hypocrisies of our time” surprised even himself with his charismatic clout with the naive television audience!!! He was the UBS star-lighted “Mad Prophet of the airways”…He could arouse anger and counter-culture overzealousness just by appearing crazy!!! One speech Mr Jensen (Ned Beatty) was a bit role but incredibly powerful in his delivery of the basic concept that ideology is for sale and that television is the ultimate vehicle for manipulation!! Paddy Chayefsky is pioneer with this film as an acrimonious depiction for making world phenomena such as the fall of Communism and landing man on the moon to be minimized to a market share!!!..The terms entertainment and egalitarianism now became pejorative!!!! The movie audience is hit with the terrifying reality that a societal caprice will induce the avaricious to capitulate to human catastrophe…

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Give Paddy Chayefsky and Sidney Lummet credit for unveiling the revelation that ratings and the dollar take precedence over humanity!!! Howard Beale, the decrepit alcoholic, euphemistically transformed to the prescient paragon of intuitiveness, was alright so long as his innocuous chastisements did not disrupt worldwide pecuniary acquisitions!! Once they did, he was quelled, and thus deemed a total ratings chart disaster!! Ultimately, Howard Beale, the once disheveled dipsomania-cal curmudgeon, turned Messianic Savonarola, becomes the typification of the corporate guinea pig!!!!

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This movie is avant-garde in it’s ability to convey the message of greed first democracy second, or third, depending on the sponsors of the Howard Beale Show… An incident was determined traumatic or not traumatic by it’s lucrative marketability potential!! Terrorism is not terrorism if it means ratings!!! The character assassination of all the people in this movie was at the grass roots level!! Their avoidable flaws were entrenched as irreconcilable!! Any people with any conscience whatsoever (William Holden & his wife) were decimated by reveille with selfishness, now it is imperative that they pick up the pieces!! How many imitations of this movie have there been…thousands!! Network however was the first movie of it’s kind to effectively portray the concept of “dying Democracy and dehumanization” probably the best movie of it’s kind as well…

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This is an illustration of how heinous tragedy has to be stomached by the television audience, their response to clinical trauma transcends the impact suffered by the actual victims involved!! It is a proverbial case of ratings eclipsing reality!! The film “Network” resonates itself to a point whereby the American people are reduced to meager by-products of the Fortune 500!! I wish there could be a movie of this caliber made again!! I am angry that there has not been a sensationalistic masterpiece to come around for some time, and I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!!!

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The Great Gatsby (1974)

Directed by Jack Clayton
Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola
Cinematography Douglas Slocombe

Nick Carraway, a young Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and lavish lifestyle of his neighbor, the nouveau riche Jay Gatsby. He is drawn into Gatsby’s circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy.

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Excellent(If No-Frills) DVD

13 December 2003 | by westegg (New York) – See all my reviews

So much for hoping for a special edition DVD of this undervalued movie. Not even a trailer! But at least the movie has never looked better, and the original music soundtrack has been fully restored, so I’m not about to complain any further. Ever since its release this film has been battered with wildly vicious criticisms. Maybe that can be better reserved for the genuinely numbing and off key 2001 TV version, which makes this version look better than ever. This version, to me, improves with every viewing–it’s peculiar rhythms and deliberately sedate pace does work very well, creating a mood not easily comparable to other movies. Then too, look at director Jack Clayton’s movie, THE INNOCENTS (1960), which shares a bit of this studied approach.

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I’m glad this Gatsby version wasn’t reduced to a quick and vulgarized romp; instead Clayton took a more intellectual tone, very nicely counterpointed with a superb array of period music. The crowning touch, Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do,” is a match made in heaven, both the song and the novel having appeared within a year of each other in 1925. As for the DVD, it now highlights to maximum effect the evocative, first rate cinematography and art direction (what were those other commentators thinking–were they watching a duped VHS?), etc. Too bad a 30th anniversary edition couldn’t have happened in 2004, but I’m more than pleased this has been given its chance on DVD. I agree that the novel’s literary aspects defies easy transformation into a movie, but we are more than fortunate that this 1974 film version is as haunting and quietly moving an experience that it is.

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Too Faithful Adaptation Dampens the Many Qualities of an Elaborate Production

6/10
Author: Ed Uyeshima from San Francisco, CA, USA
11 August 2006

It seems something of a shame how maligned the extravagant 1974 movie version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary masterwork was when it was originally released. So much media hype surrounded the production, including a Scarlett O’Hara-level search for the right actress to play Daisy Buchanan, that it was bound to disappoint, and it did critically and financially. It’s simply not that bad. Interestingly, looking at the film over thirty years later, I am taken by how faithful the movie is to the original book both in text and period atmosphere. The central problem, however, is that Jack Clayton’s overly deliberate direction and Francis Ford Coppola’s literate screenplay are really too faithful to the book to the point where the spirit of Fitzgerald’s story becomes flattened and plot developments are paced too slowly. The result is an evocative but overlong 144-minute epic movie based on a novel that is really quite intimate in scope.

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The focus of the plot is still the interrupted love story between Jay Gatsby and his object of desire, Daisy. Narrating the events is Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s modest Long Island neighbor who becomes his most trusted confidante. Nick is responsible for reuniting the lovers who both have come to different points in their lives five years after their aborted romance. Now a solitary figure in his luxurious mansion, Gatsby is a newly wealthy man who accumulated his fortunes through dubious means. Daisy, on the other hand, has always led a life of privilege and could not let love stand in the way of her comfortable existence. She married Tom Buchanan for that sole purpose. With Gatsby’s ambition spurred by his love for Daisy, he rekindles his romance with Daisy, as Tom carries on carelessly with Myrtle Wilson, an auto mechanic’s grasping wife.

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Nick himself gets caught up in the jet set trappings and has a relationship with Jordan Baker, a young golf pro. The characters head for a collision, figuratively and literally, that exposes the hypocrisy of the rich, the falsity of a love undeserving and the transience of individuals on this earth.

Casting is crucial, and surprisingly, most of the actors fulfill the characters well. Robert Redford, at the height of his box office appeal, plays Gatsby with the right enigmatic quality. As Daisy, Mia Farrow captures the romanticism and shallowness of a character that ultimately does not deserve the love she receives.

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Even if she appears overly breathy and pretentious, her frequently trying performance still fits Fitzgerald’s image of the character. Bruce Dern makes an appropriately despicable Tom Buchanan, while Karen Black has scant screen time as the trashy Myrtle. A very young Sam Waterson makes the ideal Nick with his genuine manner and touching naiveté, and Lois Chiles is all throaty posturing as Jordan. As expected, all the exterior touches are luxuriant and feel period-authentic – Theoni V. Aldredge’s costumes, John Box’s production design, Douglas Slocombe’s elegant cinematography, and the pervasive use of 1920’s hits, in particular, Irving Berlin’s wistful “What’ll I Do?” as the recurring love theme. The film is worth a look if you have not seen it and a second one if you haven’t seen it in a while. It’s actually better if you’ve already read the book. The 2003 DVD has a nice print transfer but sadly no extras.

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Don’t judge a book by its movie.

5/10
Author: FilmWiz from Setauket, NY, USA
4 February 2006

This version tries to stay very true to the roots of the story. It’s greatest detriment is its lavish budget, made evident from scenery and costuming. Coppola does an admirable job with his script, but it is impossible to fail to realize that he borrowed heavily from the source material, often citing it verbatim. In this sense, the plot is very faithful to the novel. The film fails to recapture the feel, mood, and spirit of the novel and of the twenties. Fitzgerald made Gatsby a very personal character. For him, there was always something unattainable; and for Gatsby, it was Daisy, the lost love of his life, forever symbolized by a flashing green light at her dock.

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When it doesn’t try, the film captures the mood of the twenties. This is especially true during Gatsby’s first party, showing people being themselves. The majority the cast, particularly Mia Farrow, and with the exception of Bruce Dern (Tom Buchanan) play their parts as if they were silent actors. Even the flickering quality of silent film seems to haunt this film stock. It goes without saying the acting was overdone for the most part. This is true of the essence of the characters and of the times, although in the film, it is overkill. The set decoration was visually pleasing and it effectively captured the mood of each scene and the twenties.

This film, more than anything else, is a scary attempt of a tribute. In the novel, the green light, and the T.J. Eckleburg sign had significant meanings. Stranded in the film, they remain merely stripped objects. The set seems to attempt to “fix” Fitzgerald’s descriptions. Where in the book, Daisy and Tom Buchanan’s home is very inviting, the film drowns in whites and yellows in the film.

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Actors aren’t exploited to its potential. Clayton fails to give us a relatable Gatsby, a crucial element to the novel. Redford could have played Gatsby very well. It’s not his fault that he doesn’t. When we are introduced to Gatsby, it’s through a low-angle shot of a figure seen against the night sky, framed by marble. This isn’t the quiet, unsure, romantic Gatsby on his doomed quest. This is the arrogant, loud and obnoxious Charles Kane, who knows he’s rich and isn’t shy about it. The scene where Gatsby symbolically reaches out to snatch the green light stays true to the book, but looks stupid on film.

Three essential scenes make the film seem even less credible. These are times where it is essential to portray Gatsby as the one we know and love from the novel. The first is the original meeting between Gatsby and Nick.

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Redford’s inarticulate and formality with Nick is laughable. It’s the first time we hear him talk, and he’s so mannered that the acting upstages the content of the scene. Nick is supposed to be so relaxed he doesn’t realize that he’s talking to a millionaire. Changing the location of this scene from in the party to the office is the cause for this dramatic awkwardness. This has to have been Clayton’s doing. This changes Gatsby’s character, and he Gatsby isn’t as sure of himself as the book had made us believe. Doesn’t that have to be Clayton’s fault? Using The Sting, Butch Cassidy and The Candidate as examples, we know Redford has enough versatility to play this scene several other, better ways. In the Gatsby and Daisy reunion (crucial moments to the picture) we see Gatsby’s smiling and Daisy’s stunned reaction held for so long, we wonder why Nick just doesn’t go out and smoke one cigarette, come back, and go outside again to smoke another one.

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He’d go through a whole pack. Any tension we might have had has been fed to ridiculousness. The other plot cliché that further adds to this product of celluloid silliness is Gatsby’s final scene. The way this is presented may work on stage and it certainly would work in a silent film, but here it is so hackneyed, so irreversibly awkward that any suspense is gone, and it looks silly.

The message of the novel, in my opinion, is that although Gatsby is a crook and has dealt with the likes of Meyer Wolfsheim, gamblers and bootleggers, he is still a romantic, naive, and heroic boy of the Midwest. His idealism is doomed in the confrontation with the Buchanan recklessness. This isn’t clear in the movie.

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We are told more than shown. The soundtrack contains Nick’s narration, often verbatim from the novel. We don’t feel much of what we’re supposed to feel because of the overproduction and clichés. Even the actors seem somewhat shied away from their characters because of this. We can’t figure out why Gatsby’s so “Great”, or why Gatsby thinks that Daisy is so special. Mia Farrow’s portrayal of Daisy falls flat of the novel’s description. The musical quality of her voice has been replaced with shrills, and her sophistication has been stripped of her complexity. This is extremely evident by her Clara Bow acting style in this picture, especially in the scene where Redford is throwing his shirts on the floor and she starts crying.

How could a screenplay that borrowed so much of Fitzgerald’s novel be portrayed so inaccurately? When one reads a novel, it is up to the author to create his symbolisms from scratch. When a book is transformed into a film, the filmmakers must be sure to covey the symbols more than by merely showing them.

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They must still be carefully developed, whether by dialogue or more action. In the novel it works well. When translated to film symbolism is lost in translation.

As a film on its own, the technical qualities are excellent, and can be more than worth your while catching at least an hour’s worth just for the scenery, costuming, and for the few great scenes that successfully convey the twenties.

Much better than you think…!

9/10
Author: canuckteach from Canada
1 June 2008

After weighing in on the Boards about this terrific film, it’s about time I posted a review, since I do have it on my Top-20 list! I love period-pieces, especially those set in the era of, say, 1918-1938. Hence, ‘Eight Men Out’, ‘Great Gatsby’, and ‘Sting’ are in my Top-20, and, of course, Redford appears in two of those. Redford had the required screen presence, and acting talent to play Gatsby.

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Those who criticize the film or Redford’s interpretation are, to me, just over-analyzing or too caught up in comparisons with the fabulous novel by F. Scott. In addition to superb acting from Redford and a great ensemble cast, the costumes, music and fabulous sets/photography give this flick plenty to recommend.

I have read the book a few times — I view it as a great American tragedy. But tragedies about larger-than-life characters are not so easy to reproduce on-screen. Anyway, maybe half the viewers haven’t read the book; so, for a screenplay writer, it’s a dilemma. Maybe *this* particular tragic role – a man who builds fabulous wealth in just a few years, a man who suddenly can compete with the N.Y. aristocracy in attracting the rich and famous to his parties, a man who does it all to reclaim the rich ‘jewel’ he lost in his youth, a man who gambles it all on one shake of the dice – is, like King Lear, almost too surreal to be performed. Think of it that way, and watch Redford again.

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He is brilliant. And if you want to see the role messed up, watch A&E’s 2004 version. Thirty years to try to improve? And they produce an interpretation of Gatsby I call the ‘grinning idiot’.

I’ve never heard Redford comment on the mixed opinions about his Gatsby portrayal, but I’ll guess he knows he got it right, and there wasn’t anyone else with the required taste and style to outfit this role. (And as Michael Caine so deftly expressed it in ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’, “Taste and style are commodities that people desire..”). You’d be hard-pressed to name a current American actor with the same charisma (so, you go to the U.K. and get Jude Law or Ralph Fiennes, right?).

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I’ll touch on the comment of one frustrated IMDb reviewer who wondered why they changed how Nick meets Gatsby. In the movie, Gatsby’s compact but sinister bodyguard (who has just decked a guy the size of a Buick) quietly leads Nick upstairs to Gatsby’s private study. As soon as Redford appears, we know – and Nick knows – that it’s Gatsby. In the book, Nick is having a conversation at a table with an amiable fellow who turns out to be Gatsby! Can you imagine filming a scene with a character chatting with Redford and – surprise – it turns out to be Gatsby? (A&E tried it that way in 2004 – note my ‘grinning idiot’ comment above). Furthermore, this reference to Gatsby’s protective layer helps us to identify his tragic blunder later on: he fires his household help for the sake of privacy once his romance with Daisy blooms. That decision is costly.

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The book was described somewhere as a ‘story in perfect balance’. In practice, that includes characters that are neither too villainous nor too heroic — neither too loose (morally) nor too prudish. Our eyes and ears for the story, Nick, probably does not whole-heartedly approve of Tom’s fling with Myrtle, but he’s not about to blow the whistle on him either. He observes, and goes along for the fun with a crowd that clearly is more prosperous than he is. Later, he has good reason to assist in brokering the romance between Daisy and Gatsby (Nick has a growing friendship with Gatsby – and he is no big fan of Tom). At the same time, he finds Gatsby’s affectations a bit annoying – and he only pays him one compliment (at the end – remember? “they’re a rotten crowd – you’re worth more than the whole lot of them put together”).

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Anyway, once again, portraying all this on screen is no easy matter. So, relax and enjoy the show, a sparkling period-piece that relates to us a tragic tale about the folly of wealth. Meantime, I will try to track down the 1949 version with Alan Ladd, to see how *they* did!

9/10 – canuckteach (–:

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Deadline – U.S.A. (1952)

Directed by Richard Brooks
Cinematography Milton R. Krasner

Ed Hutcheson, tough editor of the New York ‘Day’, finds that the late owner’s heirs are selling the crusading paper to a strictly commercial rival. At first he sees impending unemployment as an opportunity to win back his estranged wife Nora. But when a reporter, pursuing a lead on racketeer Rienzi, is badly beaten, Hutcheson is stung into a full fledged crusade against the gangster, hoping Rienzi can be tied to a woman’s murder.

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James Dean appears in a tiny non-speaking role in the film as a press boy.

During the first day of shooting, star Humphrey Bogart admitted to friend and writer/director Richard Brooks that he had been drinking until late in the morning, and had not learned his lines. Earlier in the day, while he had being difficult on the set and resistant to saying his lines (ones he never knew) veteran Ethel Barrymore pushed him to just get on with it, by explaining that ‘The Swiss have no navy’. In other words, like actors, they are powerless.

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The story is based on the closing of the New York “Sun,” founded by Benjamin Day, in 1950. The Sun was sold to the Scripps Howard chain and absorbed into the “World-Telegram.”

A homage to those great Warner dramas of the 1930’s

31 December 2009 | by calvinnme (United States) – See all my reviews

I don’t know if it was intended to copy the fast-paced press room and gangster films that Warner Brothers did in the 1930’s, but you certainly get a chance to see what Bogart could have done had he been a star at Warner Brothers during the 30’s rather than largely a supporting player.

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Of course, everything here is taking place in present day – 1952 – but not only does the film reach backwards for its brisk pace, it reaches forward into the 21st century with some of its subject matter. In particular, there is the subject of how big companies buy smaller more effective companies to eliminate the competition, and the subject of inherited wealth and how the companies that formed that wealth are often not appreciated by the spoiled children-heirs.

Here Bogart plays the editor in chief of crusading hard-hitting daily newspaper “The Day”, which is about to be sold off by the bored children of the deceased founder. The founder’s widow (Ethel Barrymore) unfortunately is outvoted by her ungrateful children, and with the encouragement of Bogart’s character tries to come up with enough money to buy her children’s shares back from her daughters. In parallel with this is the story of The Day trying to break one last big story before they are bought out – a story that will break the power of a local crime boss who is not taking his possible downfall lying down.

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This one is seldom seen and very well done, and I highly recommend that you see it if it ever comes your way.

surprisingly timely

7/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
6 August 2005

A very good movie about The Day, a newspaper publishing its last editions, and its aggressive attack on a known mobster. Humphrey Bogart does an excellent job as the editor, and Ethel Barrymore gives a wonderful, regal performance as the widow of the publisher, whose daughters are now demanding that the paper be sold to a competitor.

The film brings up, a mere 53 years ago, issues that are relevant today – the tabloids versus real, factual news, and the meaning of a free press. These debates continue today, but unfortunately, it seems that the tabloid type of journalism is winning. As for a free press – our press might be freer than many, but it isn’t entirely free. As anyone who lost money in the great savings and loan scandal can tell you, important stories disappear from the front pages all the time.

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Bogart’s strong performance is the engine that keeps this film going, and there’s a nice performance by Kim Hunter as his ex-wife. Deadline USA reminds us of the good old days, when you could believe what you read in the New York Times.

Racing to beat life’s deadline

8/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
9 June 2006

Deadline – U.S.A. has Humphrey Bogart as the editor of a big city newspaper that is in the process of being sold to a Rupert Murdoch like chain that publishes scandal sheets. His paper is in the process at the same time of doing an expose of notorious racketeer Martin Gabel.

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And if that ain’t enough for Bogey his wife Kim Hunter is splitting from him. It’s the usual story, she can’t stand having him married to her and the paper as well.

Growing up in New York in the Fifties we had several newspapers, each vying for a smaller readership. I remember we had the Times, News, Post, Herald Tribune, World-Telegram&Sun, Journal-American, and the Daily Mirror. Some of those you can see are the products of consolidation, there were more in the past. After a printer’s strike in the sixties most of them went out of business.

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The papers were competing for a shrinking share of readership. In the previous generation, radio competed with the print media and I grew up with that new phenomenon of television. Today we are seeing the effects of the Internet as the individual’s primary source for news.

The gangster part of the plot gets started with the discovery of the body of a Virginia Hill like moll, the former mistress of Martin Gabel. While some of the scandal sheets cover the sensational aspects of the murder of a glamor girl, Bogey’s paper does some serious investigative reporting and uncovers a lot of evidence. Their work also has consequences including the maiming of young reporter Warren Stevens.

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In the meantime the heirs of the newspaper’s original founder are looking to sell the paper. Opposing it is their mother, Ethel Barrymore and she has a fine part and is obviously the model for the widow publisher played by Nancy Marchand in Lou Grant. She has one classic scene with Humphrey Bogart where they commiserate over their mutual problems.

Deadline – U.S.A. is a realistic look at the life of a big city paper in days gone by. It’s a gritty piece of nostalgia, as timely in its day as The Front Page was in the Twenties. Cast members like Paul Stewart, Jim Backus, and Ed Begley look and feel right at home at their jobs.

The film is recommended particularly for younger viewers who are glued to their computers and television to see how a newspaper functioned back in the day.

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One of Bogart’s two most underrated films.

Author: bat-12 from New York, N.Y.
5 April 1999

This film was released (as I remember) the same year as The African Queen. I have always liked it more than the latter film. Richard Brooks’s prior experience working on a newspaper gives it a genuine idea of what that kind of work is like. The performances of Bogart and Barrymore are very good. I think it’s one of her very best. This movie deserves to be seen and appreciated more.

“…and the lawyers are up in the dome right now waiting to explain the nature of their crime with facts, figures and falsehoods. One more ‘F’ and they won’t be drafted.”

7/10
Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
4 June 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

“Deadline U.S.A” is the story of a newspaper facing extinction, though it delves into a neat little crime story that graces page one prominently during it’s final days.

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What’s interesting is that the gangster drama doesn’t involve Humphrey Bogart as a mobster or a law man; he’s the editor of ‘The Day’, a paper put on the selling block by an owner family at the advice of their financial attorney. The family’s matriarch, portrayed by Ethel Barrymore eventually sees the light of ‘Day’ so to speak, as you know she will. Her conversation with Bogey near the end of the film is a classic tribute to freedom of the press and the role of newspapers as society’s watchdog.

There’s another side story going on as well, though it’s not entirely necessary. Ed Hutcheson (Bogart) attempts to reconcile with ex-wife Nora (Kim Hunter), and though it appears he’s hit a roadblock, winds up winning her back in the end. It’s never made clear however what the turning point in the relationship was, since Nora was planning to remarry and abruptly changed her mind.

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Classic film fans will enjoy seeing Ed Begley and Jim Backus in roles as newspapermen employed by ‘The Day’. The mobster being investigated by the paper is portrayed by Martin Gabel. It was with a bit of discomfort watching Bogey’s character get into the back seat of Gabel’s car to ‘go for a ride’. That scene could have gone either way, especially since editor Hutcheson felt compelled to crack wise with a goon who had murder included in his resume. As for the rough stuff, that was generally handled by Tomas Rienzi’s main henchman Whitey, Joe Sawyer in an uncredited role, but a Warner Brothers mainstay nonetheless.

With the clock running out on the newspaper, and a judge siding with the sellers, Hutcheson gets to the finish line with his page one story with damning evidence of Rienzi’s complicity in the death of his hush hush girlfriend and her brother. But the film ends so abruptly, there’s no time to reflect on the bittersweet finale, not even a shot of Bogey and his ex getting back together for a feel good moment.

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If you enjoyed this film, you might want to check out another lesser known Bogart movie titled “Two Against The World”, it also goes by “One Fatal Hour”. There he finds himself in another media forum running a radio station. Like “Deadline U.S.A.” though, it may be difficult to find since neither has been commercially released. You’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for a cable presentation, or source it from private collectors.

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Everyone is Pressed

9/10
Author: pensman from United States
7 April 2004

`Stupidity isn’t hereditary, you acquire it by yourself.’ A great line from one of those films you need to have made every so often-one that glorifies the value of a free press. Bogart is the hard-hitting editor of a newspaper on the brink of extinction. He has to decide whether to fight for the press or his wife. Oh yes, his ex-wife tired of being a `bulldog’ widow and is ready to remarry. Will the daughter of the original-now deceased-owner/publisher move on to a less printful husband? Will the publisher’s widow be able to halt the sale of her husband’s paper? Will the editor be able to bring down a local racketeer/thug/murderer?

No doubt this film will fade into obscurity to be viewed only by a few journalism/media majors doing a research paper on the portrayal of the press in film-assuming they go beyond All the President’s Men. Too bad.

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Born to Be Bad (1950)

Christabel fools everyone with her sweet exterior including her cousin Donna and Donna’s wealthy fiancée Curtis. The only one who sees through her facade is Nick, a rugged writer who loves her anyway. Christabel also loves Nick, but she loves Curtis’ money more. After convincing Curtis that Donna is only interested in him for his money, she tricks Curtis into marrying her. Of course, she still dallies with Nick on the side.

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Citizen Hughes

20 July 2006 | by aimless-46 (Kentucky) – See all my reviews

Director Nicholas Ray managed to take his revenge on RKO’s Howard Hughes with this real life “Citizen Kane”. Hughes was obsessively pursuing Joan Fontaine whose post WWII career was going nowhere. Like Hearst’s intervention in Marion Davies’ career, Hughes got Fontaine the lead in Ray’s “Born To Be Bad” and then meddled in the production to insure that the film became a promotional vehicle for her.

Whatever Ray may have thought of this it was not a complete disaster. Although the 32 year- old Fontaine is not credible in the role of a young business school student, if you suspend disbelief about the age factor, her performance is the equal of Anne Baxter’s in “All About Eve”. The same thing could be said of Davies; while her career was mismanaged by Hearst’s inappropriate casting, her talent was still able to shine through.

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Although not given final cut, Ray somehow was able to turn “Born To Be Bad” into a self- parodying melodrama that reflected much of the Hughes-Fontaine relationship. Even making Fontaine’s mark (wealthy Curtis Carey-played by Zachary Scott) into a Hughes look- alike, complete with pencil mustache and a passion for flying.

Unlike Orsen Welles, Ray made a lot of women’s pictures, a quality “Citizen Kane” does not share with “Born To Be Bad”. Fontaine plays master manipulator Christabel Caine (not Kane), not quite a sociopath but a woman with little sign of a conscience. Unlike most of these women’s pictures, it is the men who she has trouble fooling with her innocent act. Cunning gay artist Gobby (Mel Ferrer)) finds her a kindred spirit and novelist Nick (Robert Ryan) is turned on by her greed and lack of moral/ethical boundaries.

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Ray has Fontaine play the character in a nice self-parodying style that actually makes her somewhat sympathetic to the viewer, at least for those who can take a guilty pleasure watching her turn on the charm. Unlike her sister, the eternally earthy Olivia deHavilland, age made Fontaine brittle and well suited to villainess roles. With cute little smiles and feigned reaction shots Fontaine keeps the film vicious for its entire length.

Like Ray’s “Johnny Guitar”, this is a film about two women, one good and one bad (there is no subtlety), who vie for the same man. It is a battle of Joans, as Donna is played by gorgeous Joan Leslie (“Sgt. York”). Donna is a publishing house editor, postwar America was still adjusting to the vocational progress women had made during the war. But the evil Christabel explicitly rejects career opportunities (one can’t imagine her contributing to the war effort) in favor of setting herself up for life by landing a rich husband she can set up for a lucrative divorce settlement.

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Leslie and Ferrer are especially good in the film. Leslie gives the only restrained performance, which is more powerful because it contrasts so sharply with the overplayed performances Ray gets from the rest of his cast.

Then again, what do I know? I’m only a child.

Another RKO Gem

Author: edward-miller-1 from miami fl
16 July 2003

After years of watching films and studying their art for my own pleasure, I’ve decided that some of the most interesting and least appreciated movies are those released under the RKO logo. Born to be Bad is a prime example. Made in 1948-49 (not released until ’50) under the aegis of Howard Hughes while he was alternately pursuing and manipulating Joan Fontaine, this movie has a unique, non -studio look. Very little location work was done, but doesn’t it feel like San Francisco (more than Vertigo!). Literate script, intelligent casting, stylish sets and costumes (New York designer Hattie Carnegie for Fontaine, RKO in-house man Michael Woulfe for Joan Leslie) add up to an engrossing, adult 90 minutes.

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Speaking of adult; there’s been some comments here about the Mel Ferrer character: “Is he or isn’t he gay?” IS THERE ANY DOUBT? And check out one scene, unbelievably adult for 1950 Hollywood: When Fontaine returns home after a torrid sexual encounter with Robert Ryan, she quickly takes a hot bath before husband Zachary Scott returns home. Scent of another man? Pretty hot stuff in retrospect. Check this movie out when you get the opportunity!

How fine acting and direction uplifts a film

8/10
Author: Charles Reichenthal (churei@aol.com) from Brooklyn, New York
3 May 2002

Nicholas Ray’s career remains unique in its peaks and valleys, but his work has never been dull. Even A WOMAN’S SECRET stirs memories, notably from the performance of his then-wife Gloria Grahame. BORN TO BE BAD is an “almost” — its depiction of the New York theatrical lifestyle on on-target, down to the living quarters. And its characters ring true. Still, the plot, if taken apart, is a muddle in the middle. Nonetheless, Ray has provided strong mise en scene, and offered an underrated star like JOAN LESLIE an opportunity to show how truthful and relaxed a performer she was. Her performance is almost equalled by that of MEL FERRER as the “probably-gay” character.

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In her role, JOAN FONTAINE, an excellent actress, is able to convey the seven-faced facets of a woman who misuses friendships, romance, and opportunity… all for her benefit. ROBERT RYAN, as ever, offers a solid performance though his character is far less defined. and ZACHARY SCOTT does well too. Ray’s use of camera angles, lighting, etal. may seem commonplace, but there is careful use of everything involved. But what is remembered, when all is said and done, is the work of JOAN LESLIE as the put-upon fiance. It is performances like hers that are ignored… but that are enormously difficult to bring across accurately. Hers is the pilot light that keeps BORN TO BE BAD intriguing.

More than meets the eye!

Author: fjarlett (fjarlett@fast.net) from Philadelphia, PA
26 April 2002

Most people remember Nicholas Ray for his most famous films, Rebel Without A Cause and Johnny Guitar being the ones most talked about . Born To Be Bad is ensconced in the category reserved for ignored treasures and guilty pleasures, since Director Ray’s characteristic “signature” as a director was just as canny in this film as in any of his lesser discussed works, On Dangerous Ground (which also featured Robert Ryan) being another example.

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This reviewer sees the same sophistication in Born To Be Bad as in another 50s Ray piece, In A Lonely Place; Born To Be Bad is just as cynical in its own way, guised as a superficially lighter “high society” melodrama. Although there are no dark staircases, ominous shadows or oblique camera angles here, Born To Be Bad has subterfuge and alienation at its core in Joan Fontaine’s central character, Christabel Caine. The misery depicted here is the type that afflicts the rich and the venal, where wealth, not poverty, is the variable behind their alienation, and their betrayals are carried out in swank apartments and elite mansions instead of typical “noir” territory. The stylistic dimensions of the film aside, Born To Be Bad also features Robert Ryan and Joan Fontaine together romantically. For Ryan devotees searching for the few romantic roles that came his way, they should certainly see the film: the chemistry between Ryan and Fontaine simmers in furtive trysts that were somewhat risque for cinema of that era (a comparable romance between Ryan and a female lead can also be found in the 1952 “noir” masterpiece, Clash By Night). Still available on laserdisc, Born To Be Bad features a crystal clear video transfer worthy of any film buff.

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Joan Fontaine is the classic lovely manipulator

Author: Old_Abe from Astoria, NY
17 February 2000

If you’ve enjoyed Joan Fontaine’s endearing performances in REBECCA or SUSPICION, check out this movie for an entirely different turn of character.

Joan plays Christabel, a woman with nice curves who’s got all the angles, too. She’s a classic manipulator, and the fun of the movie is watching her try to keep up her false appearances as she runs recklessly through the lives around her — society friends, sick relatives, a thin-mustached rich playboy, and the rugged novelist guy who sees through her and loves her still.

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The performance is one of shifting eyes, deceptive wheels turning inside the lovely Christabel’s head, trying to recall which lie she told to whom. Fontaine retains a sense of mystery about her, because you keep wondering to what end is all this manipulation, anyway — does Christabel even know? A consummate liar, she also remains a bit sympathetic through it all: you get the sense of someone who has played so many contradictory roles that she’s kind of a lost soul.

As for the story itself, it’s pretty good; and the supporting characters are merely okay. But really, they’re just pins set up for Christabel to upset. Sit back and watch her go.

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So, if you’re like me and wanted to reach out and protect Joan in her Hitchcock movies, try BORN TO BE BAD. She’s just as lovely (those doe-eyes will make you want to believe her) — only hold onto your heart, and your wallet.

Sweet young thing wreaks havoc

7/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
3 February 2006

Joan Fontaine plays a real conniver hiding beneath a soft exterior in “Born to Be Bad,” also starring Robert Ryan, Zachary Scott, Mel Ferrer, and Joan Leslie. Fontaine is Christabel, a young woman from the poor side of the family who comes to town to work for her Uncle John once his assistant (Leslie) has married a wealthy, eligible bachelor Curtis (Scott). Fontaine sets her sights on the big money right away but finds herself in the heavy clinches with an author (Ryan) who’s in love with her. She’s reminiscent in her way of a non-show biz Eve Harrington.

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Using her soft voice and all that gossamer femininity, Christabel manages, with an innuendo here, an innuendo there, a suggestion here, a hint there – to totally break up the engaged couple and drive Joan Leslie right out of town. Since Christabel has dropped out of business school, her uncle says she can’t work for him and needs to return home. In a panic, she throws herself at Curtis at a ball and wins him. The question then is, what did she win? What did he lose? This potboiler was directed by Nicholas Ray, and I have to believe the man had a sense of humor. Otherwise, how do you account for those love scenes? Every time a man went to kiss Fontaine, he swept her around and dipped her, nearly breaking her neck as the music crescendos. Then there were the shots of Joan, her face in a state of rapture, as she realized she was getting what she wanted. Very campy.

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Joan Fontaine is excellent in the role, very sweet in the beginning but becoming austere after she marries Curtis. It’s a subtle change but definitely demonstrates her acting ability. She looks lovely in a variety of gowns and dresses. Robert Ryan is extremely handsome in this, as well as charming, funny, and a real catch. His character sees right through Christabel but wants her anyway. The acting is uniformly good. Mel Ferrer plays an artist who also has Christabel’s number and paints her portrait.

“Born to Be Bad” is fun to watch though it’s certainly not Ray’s best work. I do think one has to allow for the fact that he saw this as a real potboiler and directed it the way he did on purpose. If you can’t beat ’em – and with this script, how could he – join ’em.

By the way, there’s a mistake in the letter that Christabel leaves for Curtis.

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