Thriller

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 8: North By Northwest (1959)

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Hi all.Hope you are all well, and have a great weekend lined up. I have next week off work. I’m so happy because we are enjoying a heatwave here in the UK. Ice cream and sun cream are lined up!

For many people, North By Northwest is Hitch’s best film. It isn’t hard to see why it is so highly thought of; it contains all the essential elements of his films – suspense, thrills, mistaken identity, an innocent accused, comedy and a cool blonde. In short, this film is the perfect package.

I love this film so much. This is a film in which something is always happening. In this film the characters (and therefore us watching)are always on the move. From the opening titles, designed by Saul Bass and accompanied by one of Bernard Herrmann’s best scores; the characters are on the move and don’t really stop until the final scene.

Roger Thornhill  (Cary Grant)is a Madison Avenue advertising man, who likes to think he is complete control of his life. His ordered life is turned on it’s head when he is mistaken for a C.I.A agent, called George Kaplan.

Suave spy, Phillip Vandamm (a sinister James Mason) has been aware of Kaplan following him and his group for some time and wants him dead. Thornhill can’t persuade him that this is a genuine case of mistaken identity. So begins a non stop chase across the country. Thornhill tries to evade the authorities, after Vandamm frames him for murder. Thornhill also tries to get someone to believe him that Vandamm is trying to kill him.

Enter resourceful, mysterious and cool blonde, Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint)who helps Thornhill when he gets into difficulty aboard a train. But can Thornhill trust her or not?

A C.I.A official, known as the professor (Leo G. Carroll) finds out about Thornhill’s situation and tries to help him. The professor is also on the Vandamm case and he also has an agent working right under Vandamm’s nose.

I love how many things in this film defy logic, yet somehow you never realise that when you are watching. I’m thinking mainly of the scene where Thornhill is forcibly made drunk. If Vandamm wants him dead, why not just shoot him?

The same goes for the famous crop duster sequence, why not just get him out to that road and shoot him? Yet the illogic of it all somehow works when you watch. This is a testament to Hitch, that he can make you so invested in the story that certain things don’t strike you as odd until much later. I actually think the scene where Thornhill watches that glass of booze get poured out is quite chilling, he is going to be forced to drink such large amounts and can’t fight back against this.

Great performances throughout, an exciting Herrmann score, and featuring two of the most famous of all Hitchcock sequences – the crop duster chase and the finale up on Mount Rushmore. These two scenes have gone on to become two of the most famous in cinema history. The film also has two big twists concerning the identity of two characters and that keeps you trying to figure out who to trust, or who to take at face value.

The film is also very funny in places. Grant reels off many comic lines and does the funniest and one of the best drunk impressions I’ve ever seen. Jessie Royce Landis is a hoot as Thornhill’s mother. Mrs. Thornhill doesn’t believe her sons story and has quite a few laughs at his expense. Some supportive mother he has! 🙂

Mason is chilling and menacing throughout. He plays a character who won’t get his own hands dirty, but who has no qualms about ordering someone to be killed. You know he is a nasty piece of work.

Martin Landau provides solid support as Vandamm’s loyal henchman. He lurks in the background of many scenes and you can see him desperate to start hurting Thornhill and other characters. Landau plays this guy as a real sadist.

My favourite scenes are the following. Thornhill and Vandamm’s first meeting, I love where they circle around each other sizing each other up. The Mount Rushmore finale. The entire section aboard the train. Roger and Eve’s dinner talk. The auction. The drunk scene at the police station. Thornhill trying to rescue Eve. Eve and Roger’s goodbye at the train station. The crop duster attack. The scene in the Mount Rushmore restaurant.

I can happily watch pretty much all of Hitch’s films again and again, but this one in particular is one that I can enjoy over and over again. It is such a good film and so seamlessly put together. It looks amazing, from the photography, to the elegant clothes and Technicolor. Be sure to see this one on Blu-ray, to see it looking at its best.

Are you a fan of this film? Please share your comments below. Never seen it? What are you waiting for?

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Blogathons

Five Stars Blogathon

 

 

Five Stars Blogathon

Rick, over at the Classic Film and TV Café, is hosting this blogathon about five favourite classic era stars. I can’t wait to read all the other entries to see which actors people have chosen as their favourites.

I’ve picked five stars who each hold a special place in my heart. I’ve picked my favourite performance from each, and I have listed five films for them all that I highly recommend people see. I’m posting this a day early, as I won’t be able to post it tomorrow.

Maddy’s Five Favourite Classic Stars

1- Claude Rains

Born in London, in 1889, Claude went on to became one of the most talented of all the classic era screen actors. He starred in over 70 films. 

I love Claude for how he could steal any scene, often with just a look or by the way he delivered a line. He always came across as witty and classy. He made everything he did on screen look effortless.

Claude had one of the greatest voices in film history. He used this to great effect in all of his films. In The Invisible Man(1933)he particularly relies on his voice alone to convey the menace and feelings that his unseen face cannot convey. For me this is one of the greatest vocal performances in film history.

Claude died in 1967.

photo0045My Favourite Claude Rains Film Performance? Justin in The Passionate Friends (1949). Claude is excellent here as the husband who discovers his wife(Ann Todd) is having an affair with her ex(Trevor Howard). He still loves her, but can he find it in his heart to forgive her? Claude makes you really feel for Justin and gives you the impression that although not passionate, he is never the less a good man who loves his wife.

Five Must See Claude Rains films: Deception, The Passionate Friends, The Invisible Man,Casablanca, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

2-  Vivien Leigh

Born in India, in 1913, Vivien Leigh would go on to become one of Britain’s greatest stage actresses. Vivien was married to Laurence Olivier from 1940 to 1961 and the couple starred alongside each other in several plays and films.

Despite her great talent Vivien only ever ended up starring in 20 films. I think that is a great shame,she is someone I would dearly love to have seen more often on screen. Vivien won two Oscars for Best Actress (Gone With The Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire.)

Vivien easily rivals Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor for the title of most beautiful actress of all time in my opinion.

I love Vivien for the strength, vulnerability and enchanting quality she gave to so many of her characters. Vivien is another actor who steals every scene she is in. I also admire Vivien because she continued working on stage and screen whilst struggling with her Bipolar Disorder, that cannot have been easy for her; especially in a time when mental illness had such a stigma attached to it.

Vivien died in 1967.

Photo0083My Favourite Vivien Leigh Film Performance? As the iron willed Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind (1939). Doing what she has to do to survive, even if those things make her unpopular. Scarlett is resourceful, beguiling, vulnerable and admirable. This was Vivien’s breakthrough film performance and it is the one that made her a worldwide star. Vivien makes you admire Scarlett, even when we may not agree with some of her actions.

Five Must See Vivien Leigh Films: A Streetcar Named Desire, That Hamilton Woman, Waterloo Bridge, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, Gone With The Wind.

3- George Sanders

Born in Russia, in 1906, George Sanders would become the go to actor for playing cads and villains. Suave, effortlessly charming and possessing one of the most distinctive voices in film history. George could often be seen playing heartbreakers and oily villains. Between 1939 and 1941, he played the heroic Simon Templar in The Saint film series; these films proved he could play a good guy and he played a similar character in The Falcon series.

I love him because he made everything he did appear effortless. He had a special way of delivering his lines, making them witty and full of dry humour.

A couple of years ago I was delighted to discover that in 1958, Sanders recorded and released a song album called The George Sanders Touch: Songs For The Lovely Lady. Having heard a few of his songs I can report that his singing voice is lovely, and I’m surprised he didn’t release more songs. I was very pleasantly surprised when I first heard his singing.

George died in 1972.

Photo0084My Favourite George Sanders Film Performance? As Addison DeWitt in All About Eve (1950). As the theatre critic with the acid tongue, he steals every scene he is in(even from Bette Davis!). Sanders looks like he is having great fun throughout, he makes DeWitt a charming friend and a dangerous enemy.

Five Must See George Sanders Films: All About Eve, The Black Swan, The Saint In London, Foreign Correspondent, The Strange Affair Of Uncle Harry.

4- Setsuko Hara

Setsuko was born in 1920, in Japan. She began working in films when she was a teenager. During the 1940’s and 50’s, Setsuko was one of the most popular stars of Japanese cinema.

Working frequently with director Yasujiro Ozu, Setsuko became synonymous with her frequent screen character Noriko. Her screen persona was often that of the dutiful and gentle daughter, putting her own desires aside for the sake of her family.

I love Setsuko because she is such an expressive actress, she really conveys the emotions of her characters in such a realistic and genuine way. Setsuko really makes you feel what her characters go through (be that happy or sad times.) She also had one of the most beautiful smiles ever to be captured on screen.

Setsuko retired from films in 1963(the same year that Yasujiro Ozu died) and she died in 2015.

Photo0085My Favourite Setsuko Hara Film Performance? As the dutiful Noriko in Late Spring(1949). Setsuko plays a daughter who is happiest at home with her father. Leaving home to get married breaks her heart. A moving portrayal of a daughter’s love for her father. Setsuko makes my heart break for her character and makes me wish her all the best for her future.

Five Must See Setsuko Hara Films: Early Summer, The Ball at the Anjo House, Late Spring, Tokyo Story, Late Autumn.

5- Cary Grant

Cary was born in Bristol, England in 1904.Cary joined a circus act in which he learnt to become a skilled acrobat and physical comic. Those skills would come in handy when they featured in several of his films. He headed to Hollywood and worked his way up from bit player to one of the most beloved stars of the classic era.

Cary was suave, charming, stylish and a highly skilled physical comic. Men wanted to be him, and women wanted to be with him.

I love him because I greatly admire how he worked his way up to become a star. Cary overcame a very sad, working class childhood and went on to become a wealthy success.

I love how he made so many of his roles fun. Cary can often be found amusingly breaking the fourth wall and looking directly at us on screen; this makes the comic situation he’s reacting too even funnier for me. 

Although best known for his romantic and comic roles, Cary was a very good dramatic actor too. I prefer him in his more serious roles, such as Notorious. I wish he had been given more dramatic roles in his career.

Cary died in 1986.

Photo0068My Favourite Cary Grant Film Performance? Peter Joshua in Charade (1963). Cary plays a spy, who may or may not be a man that Reggie(Audrey Hepburn)can trust. This role for me is the perfect combination of all his screen skills. Here Cary gets to be a man of action and be romantic, funny and serious.

Five Must See Cary Grant Films:  Only Angels Have Wings, North By Northwest, Charade, Notorious,The Awful Truth.

Well, it was tough narrowing down my favourite actors list to just five, but I managed to do it in the end. The five I chose are actors whose work I return to again and again, and who always seem natural to me in their on screen performances.

Here are ten runners up. More of my classic era favourites(five men and five women)with some must see films from them.

William Holden: Stalag 17, Breezy, Network, Paris When It Sizzles, Golden Boy.

Takashi Shimura: Stray Dog, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Scandal, Godzilla.

Michael Redgrave: The Browning Version, Time Without Pity, Dead Of Night, The Years Between, The Lady Vanishes.

John Mills: Ice Cold In Alex, The Long Memory, Tiger Bay, It’s Great To Be Young, Ryan’s Daughter.

Stanley Baker: Hell Is A City, Zulu, A Prize Of Arms, Hell Drivers, Campbell’s Kingdom.

Margret Lockwood: The Wicked Lady, Love Story, Jassy, The Lady Vanishes, Madness of the Heart.

Dorothy Dandridge: Moment Of Danger, Carmen Jones, Tamango, Bright Road,  Island In The Sun.

Deborah Kerr: The Innocents, The Chalk Garden, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, From Here To Eternity, The Sundowners.

Clara Bow: Call Her Savage, It, Wings, Hoop-La, Get Your Man.

Ingrid Bergman: Notorious, Stromboli, The Bells of St. Mary’s, A Woman Called Golda, Anastasia.

Thank you for reading. Be sure to check out all the other posts over on Rick’s site.

Please share your thoughts on any of the actors I’ve written about. Share your five favourites in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romance

Charade (1963)

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Charade is one of the most enjoyable films of the 1960’s. This film has everything. There’s two of the classic eras greatest stars at their best, thrills, romance, twists, deception, interesting and likeable characters, a cracking score and plenty of comedy.

Charade is directed by Stanley Donen, the man who brought us what is possibly the greatest musical, Singin’ In The Rain.)If you only know Donen from that film, then I think you will be in for quite a surprise with this one.

A perfect blend of romance, thrills, suspense and comedy, Charade has some dark moments too(two of the murders are pretty disturbing, despite not being overly graphic)and a suspenseful rooftop fight sequence. It also keeps you guessing until the last few minutes as to the identity/allegiance of two key characters.

Reggie Lambert(Audrey Hepburn)is in the process of divorcing her husband Charles. Reggie is dismayed to learn he has been killed and all their money is gone. Five men soon enter her life who all want something that Charles had in his possession when he died. They all claim it is worth a lot of money and it is vital that it is found. Reggie also learns quite a few things about her husband that she had previously not known.

George Kennedy, Ned Glass and James Coburn play Scobie, Tex and Gideion, three former friends of Charles, who are all convinced Reggie has what they are after. Walter Matthau is Bartholomew, an American agent who is also after the mysterious item claiming it is vital that the US government gets it before the other three men(who only want it for the money it will bring.)

Cary Grant is Peter Joshua, a mysterious man of many aliases who appears to be Reggie’s only friend and hope in all of this, but is he who he claims to be? Just who is telling the truth, and can Reggie trust any of them?Peter and Reggie find themselves falling in love which further complicates matters.

I wish Grant and Hepburn had made more films together after this, they make such a terrific screen team. Their romantic scenes are tender, funny and believable, they make you feel for their characters and look like they are having a great deal of fun. They also make their characters quite emotionally vulnerable at times, especially during scenes where their mutual attraction is developing.

This is one of my favourite films and is one I return to quite often. It cheers me up if I’m feeling down. The twists and turns are still effective even though I know what’s coming. There is some great location work too. Does anyone know the location of the ski resort?

My favourite scenes are the following. Peter taking a shower fully dressed, the scene on the boat between Peter and Reggie after she gets suspicious of him, the opening at the ski resort, the orange game at the club, Reggie and Bartholomew discussing her skill as a potential spy, Reggie trying to follow Peter and not get noticed and pretty much every scene featuring Cary and Audrey together.

Grant is at his most suave and funny here, and despite the age gap between him and Audrey you don’t really notice it as you do with Audrey and Gary Cooper(in Love In The Afternoon). Audrey gets a mix of comic and serious moments in this and excels at each, she really makes you feel for her character.

The rest of the cast are all superb, George Kennedy is extremely menacing, Glass is seemingly unthreatening, when his character is anything but, and Coburn is like a deadly snake waiting to strike. We get to see Matthau in a rare serious role and he has a brilliant serious expression during comic scenes.

Henry Mancini’s music is the perfect accompaniment to the action and romance on screen.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I think the park(with the market and Punch and Judy show)looks like the one featured in How To Steal A Million, has anyone noticed the similarity? Does anyone know the real location used?

Any other fans? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it.

Romance

The 60th Anniversary Of An Affair To Remember (1957)

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Order your glass of chilled pink champagne, slip into your most elegant evening wear, and meet atop the Empire State Building. Why?  To help me celebrate the 60th anniversary of this classic romantic film.

Whether you saw this film first, or you came to love it after you sought it out because it featured in Sleepless In Seattle(that’s how I first became aware of it); please share your thoughts on this one below.

Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr are at their best here as the couple who meet aboard a passenger ship. Famous playboy Nickie(Cary Grant)finds himself falling in love for the first time, with the elegant singer Terry(Deborah Kerr). As their friendship grows deeper, they discover they are developing romantic feelings for one another. Unfortunately, both are engaged to someone else, in both cases that someone else is waiting for them to dock in New York.

The pair make a promise to each other, if in six months time they still love each other they will meet on top of the Empire State Building. Both go to keep the date, but tragedy strikes, and Nicky is left believing that Terry had decided not to come to him. He learns (in one of the saddest and beautiful finales in film history)the bitter truth at a much later stage, but only after he has grown bitter towards Terry.

This is directed by Leo McCarey, and is a remake of his own 1939 film, Love Affair, which starred Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne. I’m not really a fan of remakes, and I love the original of this story, but this remake is actually my favourite of the two versions. I think it is because of Grant and Kerr, they make me feel for them so much and are both so good at playing hesitant and tender scenes.

My favourite scenes are where they go into the ships restaurant, pretend not to be together and get seated back to back, much to the amusement of the other guests. Nicky introducing Terry to his beloved grandmother(Cathleen Nesbitt), and the scene where Nicky finds Terry crying on the ship, the pair then share a hidden kiss on a staircase. The finale gets me every time I see it.

Charles Le Meir’s gorgeous costumes are a joy to see, Deborah gets some beautiful and elegant evening gowns; I particularly love the orange/white one she wears, I don’t think she has ever looked lovelier on screen than she does here. Grant is at his most effortlessly charming, stylish and well dressed. Beautiful people, beautifully dressed living a beautiful life, what’s not to love?

Happy 60th anniversary to one of the best romance films ever made.