The One That Got Away (1957)

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Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Written by Howard Clews from a book by Kendal Burt and James Leasor
1957/UK
The Rank Organization/Julian Wintle Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental

Franz von Werra: Hello, RAF intelligence? Hello, RAF. I’m looking for the microphone hidden near the window of my room. This is Oberluetnant Von Werra calling the RAF, are you recieving me? Werra calling and testing.

This is an different POW escape/action film in that it is a Nazi that does the escaping.

It is 1940.  Lt. Franz von Werra (Hardy Krüger)  is shot down over Britain.  During his interrogation, we learn that he is cocky to the extreme and a proficient liar.  These qualities serve him well as a POW.  He bets his interrogator that he will escape from camp within 6 months.  We follow a couple of audacious aborted escape attempts.

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Finally, the British transfer him to a camp in Canada.  But nothing can stop von Werra and the last act is devoted to his flight over a snowy landscape.

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This is based on the true story of the only POW to successfully escape a British camp and return to Germany.  It is a fairly standard POW escape film despite its twist.  I thought it was refreshing that the filmmakers owned up to all the mistakes the British made in the case.  I had not seen Krüger in anything before and thought he was very good.  All in all I liked this movie.

Trailer

Wild Is the Wind (1957)

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Directed by George Cukor
Written by Arnold Schulman from a novel by Vittorio Nino Novarese
1957/USA
Wallis-Hazen
First viewing/Amazon Prime

I don’t weep or anything, but there’s always some part of me left bloody on the scene I’ve just directed. — George Cukor

Anthony Quinn fails at taming a force of nature – Anna Magnani.

Gino (Quinn) is a prosperous Reno sheep rancher.  He brought a little Basque boy over from Spain in hopes that he would be a natural shepherd and he was right.  He raised the boy as his son and Bene (Anthony Franciosa) is now his foreman.  He has a daughter, Angela, who studies in Boston.  His dearest wish is that Bene and Angie will marry.

Gino’s wife, Rosana, died when Angie was a baby.  Now that his business is booming, he has decided he needs a wife.  He goes to Italy and brings back Rosana’s sister Gioia (Magnani).  She resembles the placid, submissive Rosana in looks but not in temperament.  Gioia speaks no English and the uproar of her welcome by Gino’s extended family is overwhelming.

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Gino’s idea had been to give Gioia all the things he could not afford to give to Rosana. The problem is these are not the things Gioia really wants.  The biggest problem, however, is that Gino constantly compares Gioia to her sister and the active, passionate Gioia fails to measure up.  He even calls Gioia Rosana constantly.  Gioia is finally driven to the breaking point and into the arms of Bene.  With Joseph Calleia as Gino’s elder brother.

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The plot of the film has a lot in common with They Knew What They Wanted/The Most Happy Fella and I was kind of surprised to find the source material is different.  The acting in this is fabulous as we should expect from the two leads.  Anthony Franciosa was nominated for Best Actor for his performance in A Hatful of Rain in 1957 but he is at least as good here.  There are some magnificent scenes featuring horses and sheep.  I had a tear in my eye at the end.  Recommended.

Wild is the Wind received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor (Quinn); Best Actress (Magnani) and Best Music, Original Song (“Wild Is the Wind”).

Magnani sings

The Tall T (1957)

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Directed by Budd Boetticher
Written by Burt Kennedy based on a story by Elmore Leonard
1957/USA
Columbia Pictures Corporation/Brown-ScottProductions/Producers-Actors Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental

Usher: Sometimes you don’t have a choice.

Pat Brennan: Don’t you?

These Boetticher Westerns are all new to me and I’m really liking them.

Pat Brennan (Randolph Scott) worked for years as the best ranch foreman in town.  Now he has bought a place of his own.  He rides into town to buy a seed bull from his former boss.  The boss says he can have the animal for free if he can ride it – he will forfeit his horse if he can’t.  Pat is thrown and loses his horse.  He starts walking the 20 miles back home and is picked up by his friend who is driving a stagecoach specially chartered by newlyweds for their honeymoon.  The groom Willard Mims, an obnoxious social climber, objects but his heiress wife Doretta (Maureen O’Sullivan) makes him relent.

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The party arrives at a cattle station where they are met by suave outlaw Usher (Richard Boone) and his hired guns.  The thugs are both mean trigger-happy lunkheads.  While Doretta is inside fixing a meal for the gang, Willard panics and tells Usher that Doretta’s father will pay a large ransom for her.  He sends Willard off with one of the men to deliver a ransom demand and holds Pat and Doretta hostage.

When Doretta discovers that her new husband betrayed her, it is up to Pat to get her to calm down and cooperate in their survival from what looks to be certain death.  With Henry Silva as the meaner of the two thugs.

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Once again, Boetticher delivers a really quality film.  He is great with actors, action, and scenery.  Randolph Scott was born to play these roles.  I didn’t care much for him when he was a rather awkward romantic lead in the 30’s.  It was very nice to see O’Sullivan again after several years and she does well as an allegedly Plain Jane old maid.  Boone is also fantastic.  Recommended.

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The Vampire (1957)

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Directed by Paul Landres
Written by Pat Fielder
1957/USA
Gramercy Pictures
First viewing/Amazon Instant

 

Dr. Paul Beecher: Oh, Will, you told me yourself these pills were from vampire bats.

Dr. Will Beaumont: Exactly, Paul, but that doesn’t make you another Dracula.

This Vampire looks more like the Wolf Man than Dracula but the flick is pretty good as these things go.

As the movie opens, Dr. Matthew Campbell is found collapsed in his lab by a delivery boy. The boy fetches Dr. Paul Beecher (John Beal).  In the moments before the man dies, he tells Beecher he has found the secret to regression.  It is contained in a bottle of pills he gives Beecher.  Beecher pockets the pills.  The widower’s daughter then takes pills from the wrong bottle for her father’s headache.  Mayhem ensues as people start dying mysteriously of “capillary disintegration.”  With Colleen Gray as the doctor’s nurse and Kenneth Tobey as the sheriff.

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I thought this was a solid little picture, if one with few surprises or thrills.  The pills turn out to be addictive so there’s a junkie withdrawal sub-plot thrown in.

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Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)

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Directed by Frank Tashlin
Written by Frank Tashlin from a play by George Axelrod
1957/USA
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

Tony Randall: Ladies and gentlemen, this break in our motion picture is made out of respect for the TV fans in our audience, who are accustomed to constant interruptions in their programs for messages from sponsors. We want all you TV fans to feel at home, and not forget the thrill you get, watching television on your big, 21-inch screens.

This broad Technicolor satire of mass media and pop culture works better for me than some other cartoony entries of the late 50’s.

Tony Randall plays both himself, in asides to the audience, and Rockwell Hunter, an ad writer for Stay-Put lipstick.  He works hard to raise his teenage niece April and to earn enough to marry his fiancee Jenny (Betsy Drake).  The agency is in danger of losing the lipstick account and Rock fears for his job.

April is President of the Rita Marlowe fan club.  When Rita (Jayne Mansfield) arrives in town to announce to a mob of reporters that she seeks “seclusion”, April overhears her give her address to a driver.  Rock gets a brainstorm.  He will convince Rita to endorse Stay-Put.

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Rita has problems of her own.  Her body-builder boyfriend (Micky Haggerty, Jayne’s real-life husband) has been seen with another blonde.  When he calls, she tells him she is drinking champagne with a new man.  But there is no man in the room and when Rock shows up she grabs him as her pretend paramour.  The two continue the charade for several days and Rock gets the endorsement and climbs the corporate ladder.  Naturally, all this does not go over well with Jenny.  With Joan Blondelle as Rita’s companion and a surprise cameo by Groucho Marx.

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For me, the best parts of this were the TV spoofs, of which there are many.  It’s all light and fun and goes down very easily.  Mansfield was a good comedienne along with her other assets and I always like Tony Randall.

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Trailers from Hell

Enemy from Space (1957)

Enemy from Space enemy from space poster(AKA Quatermass 2)
Directed by Val Guest
Written by Nigel Kneale and Val Guest
1957/UK
Hammer Films
First viewing/YouTube

 

Perhaps, as some wit remarked, the best proof that there is Intelligent Life in Outer Space is the fact it hasn’t come here. Well, it can’t hide forever – one day we will overhear it. Arthur C. Clarke

These Hammer sci-fi films are so refreshingly different than the giant creature movies that were dominating American sci-fi screens at the time.

Professor Quatermass (Brian Donlevy) is now working on a lunar colonization program, involving an elaborate facility that looks quite a bit like a nuclear power plant.  As the film begins, a rock falls from the sky and burns a colleague, though it is cold to the touch.   Investigation takes him to a nearby village and a top secret installation that looks identical to his own facility.  The installation is protected by armed guards.  At first, he can get no one to tell him what its purpose is.

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Finally Quatermass contacts his old friend Inspector Lomax (John Longden) who is also reluctant to speak about it but refers the professor to a Member of Parliament who is investigating.  The MP has finally wangled a pass to visit the plant, which he has been told is developing synthetic food.  When the pair arrive, Quatermass deduces that it may be producing food – but not for humans …

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I liked this though I found it somewhat slower moving than the original.  Donlevy still makes a perfectly irascible Quatermass, barking orders to everyone whether they work for him or not.

Trailer

Sayonara (1957)

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Directed by Joshua Logan
Written by Paul Osborn based on a novel by James A. Michener
1957/USA
Pennebaker Productions/William Goetz Productions
Repeat viewing/YouTube

Hana-ogi: I’m so frightened and confused. I cannot think. I cannot even understand your thinking.

I last saw this film on a black-and-white TV.  It was even better than I remembered.

Major Lloyd Gruver (Marlon Brando) is a famous flying ace and the son of a four-star general.  He is ordered to leave his combat mission in Korea for light duties in Kobe, Japan.  The transfer was organized by a friend of his father, a three-star general, in hopes that propinquity will finally motivate Gruver to marry his daughter and Gruver’s childhood sweetheart, Eileen.  Gruver is glad to see Eileen but even Eileen realizes there is little passion about the relationship.

Joe Kelly (Red Buttons), a man in Gruver’s unit, is determined to marry Katsumi (Miyoshi Umeki) a mild, sweet Japanese girl who speaks almost no English.  Such marriages are vigorously discouraged by the military and Japanese wives are not allowed to accompany their husbands to the U.S.  Gruver counsels Kelly against it but he is adamant and Gruver agrees to be best man at the wedding. Eileen’s father and mother are aghast.

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Eileen cautions Gruver not to marry her unless he is completely sure and gives him time to think about it.  With this time on his hands, he accompanies his friend Captain Bailey (James Garner) to the theater where he becomes infatuated with the leading actress Hana-Ogi.  Her father and brother were killed by American bombs and the theater prohibits dating so she ignores him.  But the strong physical attraction eventually results in a passionate affair.

Both the interracial relationships in the story will be severley tested.  Gruver’s test will prove to be a coming of age for the pilot.  With Martha Scott as Eileen’s mother and Kent Smith as her father.

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I remembered the story pretty well but was too young to focus on Brando’s performance I suppose.  I thought he was outstanding.  He is required to adopt a good ol’ boy Southern accent yet be thoughtful throughout and was totally believable to me.  The story is both touching and infuriating.  The supporting performances are very strong.  There is perhaps some unnecessary exoticism but I wasn’t offended.  Recommended.

For some reason, the female roles are played by Japanese women but the only major Japanese male role is played by Ricardo Montalban.  There is a mild suggestion of his amorous interest in Eileen. I suppose the studio was ready for white men with Asian women but not the reverse at the time.

Sayonara won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Buttons), Best Supporting Actress (Umeki), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Best Sound, Recording.  It was nominated in the categories of: Best Picture; Best Actor (Brando); Best Director; Best Writing, Screenplay based on Material from Another Medium; Best Cinematography; and Best Film Editing.

Trailer

An Affair to Remember (1957)

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Directed by Leo McCarey
Written by Delmer Daves, Leo McCarey Mildred Cram, and Donald Ogden Stewart
1957/USA
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corportation/Jerry Wald Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
#331 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Terry McKay: What makes life so difficult?

Nickie Ferrante: People?

This movie could have been improved with less singing and orphans.

Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) is a celebrity playboy. The newspapers are full of his recent engagement to an heiress and he is sailing home to meet her.  Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) is a former singer who is being kept in a New York penthouse apartment and designer clothes by an indulgent boyfriend.  She is sailing home following a European vacation.  The two strike up a flirtatious friendship on board.  Terry in particular is careful to keep the relationship within strictly defined limits.

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When Nickie introduces Terry to his grandmother during a port stop, Terry has a spiritual awakening.  After this, the two are madly in love though they stay even farther apart on board so as not to stir up gossip.  They agree to spend the next six months tying up loose ends and seeing if they can adjust to a less prosperous life style.  If all goes well, they will meet at the Empire State Building at the end of that time.  All my readers must know what happens next, but far be it from me to reveal it.

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This is a remake of McCarey’s 1939 Love Affair, starring Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne, which I much prefer.  The earlier film, while still full of singing orphans, has a lighter touch. Much of this is due to the delightful performance of Irene Dunne.  Kerr is excellent of course but there is just a much less improvisational feel overall.  This film is staid enough that all the incongruities stand out, starting with the inspirational visit with grandma and continuing throughout the third act.  Sorry to be a party pooper.

An Affair to Remember was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of: Best Cinematography; Best Costume Design; Best Music, Original Song; and Best Music, Scoring.

Trailer

The Snow Queen (1957)

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Directed by Lev Atamanov
Written by Lev Atamanov et al from the story by Hans Christian Andersen
1957/USSR
All-Union Animated Cartoon Studios/Soyuzmultifilm
First viewing/YouTube

“I can give her no greater power than she has already, said the woman; don’t you see how strong that is? How men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is. She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has, which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart. If she cannot herself obtain access to the Snow Queen, and remove the glass fragments from little Kay, we can do nothing to help her.” ― Hans Christian Andersen, The Snow Queen

This is a beautifully animated retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.

Gerda and Kai are such close friends they call themselves “sworn brothers”.  One wintry night Gerda’s grandmother tells them the story of the Snow Queen.  The next day the two friends play Snow Queen games and Kai draws her attention by boasting how he could defeat her.  The Snow Queen descends and hardens Kai’s heart with ice crystals.  She then kidnaps the boy to her icy kingdom.  Little Gerda spends the rest of the story undergoing many adventures to save him and bring him home.

This is a touching testament to true friendship.  It is currently on YouTube in both subbed and dubbed versions.

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Funny Face (1957)

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Directed by Stanley Donen
Written by Leonard Gershe
1957/USA
Paramount Pictures
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Jo Stockton: Take the picture, take the picture!

A musical with Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Paris, Givenchy, and George Gershwin tunes can’t be all bad.

Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) is the flamboyant editor of a Vogue-type magazine called Quality.  She is always looking for a gimmick.  Her latest one is to choose a model to be the “Quality Woman”.  The model will be featured in a special issue and introduce the season’s fashions of a famous Paris designer (based on Givenchy who did the high fashion gowns).

Photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) – clearly based on Richard Avedon, who was the special visual consultant – is doing the photoshoot.  He takes an airhead fashion model to a bookstore because the Quality Woman is supposed to be intellectual.  There he spots truly intellectual shop clerk Jo Stockton (Hepburn).  Obviously, this woman is photogenic to the max!  She will sell out her lofty principals to get a free trip to Paris to visit the philosopher she idolizes.

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Jo quickly falls head over heels for her photographer.  She is equally passionately devoted to the philosopher, but in a strictly platonic way.  In Paris, her search for her idol interferes comically with her modeling duties.

Why does it seem that Hepburn’s love interest is always about 30 years older than she is?

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I like the clothes and the music in this. My favorite parts are Hepburn singing “How Long Has This Been Going On” and the fashion shoot in Paris.  The very broad cartoony late 50’s style of the thing, especially when Thompson is on the screen, doesn’t work for me, however.  There are large stretches of time where I just don’t care.

Funny Face was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen; Best Cinematography; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration; and Best Costume Design.