This Sporting Life
Directed by Lindsay Anderson
Written by David Storey
Independent Artists;Julian Wyntle/Leslie Parklyn Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
Frank Machin: We don’t have stars in this game, Mrs Weaver, that’s soccer.
Mrs. Anne Weaver: What *do* you have?
Frank Machin: People like me.
It’s hard to find love when you are filled with rage.
Frank Machlin (Richard Harris) works as a miner and lodges with young widow Margaret Hammond and her two small children. He does everything in his power to ingratiate himself but Margaret is still mourning the death of her husband and keeps him at arms length. Machlin plays rugby on the side and finally brings himself to the attention of a professional team. He proves to be very talented at a brutal game and soon has some money and status as a result.
But money and fame mean nothing if he cannot attain the unattainable Margaret. Finally, he wears her down to allowing intimacy but she cannot bring herself to love him. In the meantime, Frank is spinning out of control.
Richard Harris’s work in this film is some of the best I have ever seen by an actor. The mixture of tenderness, confusion, anxiety, and anger he portrays is perfection. Roberts is every bit his equal. It’s not a particularly easy movie to watch but is gripping throughout. Highly recommended.
Richard Harris was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and Rachel Roberts was nominated for Best Actress.
Suzanne’s Career (La carriere de Suzanne)
Directed by Eric Rohmer
Written by Eric Rohmer
Les Films du Losange
We have to show what lies beyond behavior, while knowing we can’t show anything but behavior. — Eric Rohmer
A fan girl rekindles her love affair with Rohmer from near the beginning.
Bertrand is a reserved and serious young first year pharmacy student. His friend Guillaume is a self-styled ladies’ man and player. For some reason, Guillaume finds it necessary to draw Bertrand into a chaste threesome with the somewhat naive Suzanne. Guillaume is not a nice person and he enlists Bertrand in convincing Suzanne to finance some high times over a few weeks. But Suzanne gets the last laugh.
Over the next few “years” of viewing my readers will become accustomed to my gushing over the films of Eric Rommer. This is not among the strongest of these but still enjoyable. I love the way the director captures the fumbling cluelessness of cock-sure young lovers.
Clips from the six moral tales
Bye Bye Birdie
Directed by George Sidney
Written by Irving Brecher from a book by Michael Stewart
Columbia Pictures Corporation/Kohlmar-Sidney Productions
Repeat viewing/Amazon Instant
Harry McAfee: The next time I have a daughter, I hope it’s a boy!
This blast from the past is enjoyable, if for no other reason, watching Ann-Margret take off!
Albert F Peterson (Dick Van Dyke) is a failing song writer who would really rather be engaging in bio-chemistry experiments. His overbearing mother (Maureen Stapleton) has been standing between him and marriage to the long suffering Rosie (Janet Leigh). Rosie gets a brainstorm. Rock star Conrad Birdie has been drafted. She pitches an idea to have a representative teenager give him a farewell kiss while he is singing a song written by Albert for the occasion on the Ed Sullivan Show. Amazingly Sullivan buys it.
The lucky girl selected is small-town teenager Kim MacAffee (Ann-Margret). The media circus complicates her relationship with new steady Hugo (Bobby Rydell) and with her father (Paul Lynde) and mother.
This is yet another show I was in in my teens. Actually, the stage play is better and less crazy than the movie version. We did not, however, have the incandescent Ann-Margret! Nostalgia made it an enjoyable watch for me.
Bye Bye Birdie was nominated`for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment and Best Sound.
Directed by Stanley Donen
Written by Peter Stone and Marc Behm
Stanley Donen Films
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
Adam Canfield: Heroin, peppermint-flavored heroin.
This is a treat every single time I watch it.
Regina “Reggie” Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) is minding her own business while enjoying a skiing vacation when she learns her secretive husband has been killed and thrown off a train. She doesn’t mind too much – the couple were estranged. All he has left her is the spartan contents of an overnight case.
The movie is set in Paris. Immediately a number of men become very, very interested in the young widow. The first of these is the dashing Peter Joshua (Cary Grant) who befriends her. And what girl could resist such a man? Soon after Hamilton Bartholomew (Walter Matthau), an official at the American Embassy, informs her that her husband was in the possession of money stolen by a group of Army buddies during the war and that the US government wants it back. So, too, do the buddies her husband denied their shares.
Soon Regina finds herself in great danger and does not know who to trust.
The pleasure of watching Audrey Hepburn modeling Givenchy in Paris while making romance with Cary Grant is enough to make an entertaining picture. Here, though, we’ve got wit and suspense galore. Quality motion picture making and highly recommended.
Charade was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song (“Charade”}
Sunday in New York
Directed by Peter Tewksbury
Written by Norman Krasna from his play
First viewing/Amazon Instant
Eileen Tyler: You said you hadn’t slept with any of them!
Adam Tyler: That’s the loophole! Sleeping!
Jane Fonda grapples with her virginity in this early sixties romcom.
Twenty-two year Eileen Tyler (Fonda) breaks up with rich athletic Russ Wilson (Robert Culp) over his desire to have pre-marital sex. She travels to NYC from her home in Albany to get advice from her older brother Adam on this issue. His feeling is it is not OK and particularly not OK for Eileen. Adam, on the other hand, is involved in a hot and heavy affair of his own which keeps getting interrupted by his pilot duties.
While in New York Eileen meets cute with studly Mike Mitchell (Rod Taylor). They have the usual rocky start. She decides to seduce him to get her virginity off the table. Mike refuses when he learns she is a “beginner”. Then Russ shows up unexpectedly to propose only to find both Eileen and Mike in bath robes. He assumes Mike is Eileen’s brother. The usual hijinx ensue. Anyone who does not guess the ending has just not been paying attention.
Ah the sexual dilemmas of a more innocent time … It’s the old story with a new twist. Pretty dumb but the leads are so charming we don’t care much.
Directed by William Asher
Written by Lou Rusoff
Alta Vista Productions
Repeat viewing/Amazon Prime
Cappy: Can I ask you something, Professor? Are you studying these kids sex lives, or you getting involved in it?
The first of seven “beach party” movies distributed by American Pictures International is most interesting as a memento of a time, place, and attitude.
Perpetual teenage sweethearts Frankie (Frankie Avalon) and Dolores (Annette Funicello) hit the beach during school vacation with a crowd of other like-minded teenages. It’s all surfing, all the time until nightfall when it’s all party all the time. Anthropologist Professor Sutwell (Robert Cummings) and his comely assistant Marianne (Dorothy Malone) are there to observe rituals of this teenaged “tribe”. The sex ritiuals are the most interesting, obviously. With Harvey Lembeck as Eric Von Zipper leader of the Rat Pack motorcycle gang, Morey Amsterdam as the beatnik operator of the local coffee house, and Vincent Price in a surprise cameo.
Romcoms in the early sixties are all obsessed with sex – not doing it, necessarily, but talking and making jokes about it. This movie is representative. It’s not very good but should be fun for anybody who remembers the time.
The Incredible Journey
Directed by Fletcher Markle
Written by James Algar from a book by Sandra Burnford
Cangary/Walt Disney Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant
Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms. George Eliot
Just what the title promises plus all the cuteness anyone could handle.
A professor is offered a short-term teaching assignment at Oxford and leaves his family’s pets – Bodger, an ancient Bull Terrier; Luath, a Golden Retriever; and Tao, a Siamese cat – with a family friend. Everything goes nicely until the friend goes on a hunting trip and leaves the pets with house sitters. Something about being with strangers awakens a strong instinct in Luath to return home to the professor’s house. The other two follow along. The journey will take them 200 miles over Canada’s wilderness. They have numerous adventures on the way along with encounters with kindly humans.
These are some super talented animal actors and there is plenty to enjoy if you like this sort of thing. I do.
Directed by Roger Corman et al
Written by Leo Gordon and Jack Hill
Roger Corman Productions
First viewing/Amazon Prime
Helene: The crypt! It must be destroyed, and with it the dead.
Roger Corman let all his proteges take a hand in this one. The result did not wow me.
Jack Nicholson plays Napoleonic officer Lt. Andre Duvalier. Somehow Andre has become detached from his regiment and meets up with the mysterious, beautiful Helene (Sandra Knight). She disappears and he searches for her only to be told by everyone there is no such person. Eventually she reappears and he follows her to the castle of Baron Victor Frederick Von Lippe (Boris Karloff) who also denies knowing anything about her.
Naturally, most everyone is lying. It turns out Helene may have something to do with the Baron’s young wife Ilsa, now long deceased …
Roger Corman was a great judge of talent. Although the bulk of the film was shot in only four days, the second-unit work was filmed over a nine month period by Francis Ford Coppola, Dennis Jakob, Monte Hellman, Jack Nicholson, and Jack Hill. Too many cooks?
The story is all over the place and is the main problem. This may be the only wooden performance I have ever seen from Nicholson as well.
All the Way Home
Directed by Alex Segal
Written by Philip H. Reisman Jr. based on a play by Tad Mosel and a novel by James Agee
First viewing/Amazon Instant
Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break. ~William Shakespeare
A heartfelt film about love and loss in a close-knit family.
Jay (Robert Preston) and Mary (Jean Simmons) Follet are very happily married despite some disagreements. She is devout while he is agnostic. She doesn’t exactly approve of his drinking. Nevertheless she finds his warmth irresistible. The couple’s young son, Rupert, obviously adores him. Mary is expecting a baby.
Jay is called away to attend to his sick father. He is late returning home and Mary is eventually informed he has had a serious car accident … With Aline Mac Mahon as Aunt Hannah and Pat Hingle as Jay’s drunken undertaker brother.
This is a tender look at family life early in the last century. It can be broken up into two halves – pre- and post-accident. The second half struck me as realistic and was quite moving, largely due to Simmons’ excellent performance. Recommended if the story appeals.
Bay of Angels (La baie des anges)
Directed by Jacques Demy
Written by Jacques Demy
First viewing/Netflix rental
There are many harsh lessons to be learned from the gambling experience, but the harshest one of all is the difference between having Fun and being Smart. Hunter S. Thompson
Jacques Demy makes a fun film about the intersection between addiction and love.
Jean (Claude Mann) is a staid young bank employee. When his colleague Caron buys a flashy new car, he discovers that it is funded by gambling winnings. Caron has been forced to sell the car the next day and insists that Jean accompany him to the casino to try to recoup his losses. Jean is reluctant but complies. He turns 5,000 francs into 400,000 and is hooked.
He now has enough to spend his summer holiday on the Riveria. He meets up with beautiful compulsive gambler Jackie and they begin to win big.
Winnings in Cannes fuel a high-life sojourn at Monte Carlo. Their fortunes at gambling and love careen wildly. It is clear that Jackie’s real passion is for the roulette table. Can love last?
I enjoyed watching this though I never bought into the relationship. It was really nice to see real life on the sun-kissed Riviera during the period and Moreau is charming as a platinum blonde playing against type while dressed to the nines in Pierre Cardin fashions. The Michel Legrand score is a plus as always.