The Golden Coach (1952)

The Golden Coach “La Carosse dór”the-golden-coach-movie-poster-1952-1020459151
Directed by Jean Renoir
Written by Jean Renoir, Jack Kirkland et al, inspired by “Le Carrosse du Saint-Sacrement” by Prosper Merimee
1952/France/Italy
Repeat viewing/My DVD collection
#261 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

 

Aubergiste: How do you like the New World?

Don Antonio: It will be nice when it’s finished.

This film is Jean Renoir’s valentine to actors and the theater.

It is the Eighteenth Century somewhere in South America.  An Italian comedia dell’arte troupe has arrived after a long sea voyage to perform in a ramshackle theater in the capital.  Camilla (Anna Magnani), the actress who plays Columbine, has already won the heart of Don Antonio, an expert swordsman and fellow passenger.  She promptly proceeds to captivate a bullfighter and the world-weary young viceroy of the colony. Camille’s first love is her audience.

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The viceroy is so smitten with her that he decides to present her with his splendid golden coach, which arrived on the same ship as the troupe and in which Camilla slept during the voyage.  This meets with disapproval from the local aristocracy which looks down on anything so common as actors.  The last act includes a showdown between Camilla’s three suitors.

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This is enjoyable for the sheer spectacle of the thing and Magnani’s performance.  She seems to be having a fine time in the role alternating between her stiffer stage performances and her off-stage self.  Somehow, though, I find it lacks sufficient “oomph” in a way I can’t quite put my finger on.

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The Stranger in Between (1952)

The Stranger in Between (AKA “Hunted”)Hunted1952
Directed by Charles Chrichton
Written by Jack Whittingham from an idea by Michael McCarthy
1952/UK
Independent Artists/British-Filmmakers
First viewing/YouTube

I love the camera and it loves me. Well, not very much sometimes. But we’re good friends. — Dirk Bogarde

This is an excellent movie about a couple of lonely souls on the road.  That one is the other’s kidnapper is almost incidental.

Merchant seaman Chris Lloyd (Dirk Bogarde) has recently returned home from the sea. One of his first actions is to murder someone.  During the movie, we gradually find out why.  Six-year-old Robbie (John Whitely) stumbles upon him and the corpse shortly after the deed has been done.  In a panic, Chris scoops up the boy and flees.  Chris is quite rough with the boy at first but soon discovers that his charge has no desire whatsoever to return home.  After awhile, the child’s biggest concern is that Chris not abandon him.

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And it doesn’t take long before Chris realizes his mistake in seizing Robbie.  He has no money to feed him, or himself, and is constantly reminded that the boy is hungry and tired. He does come in handy as a lookout on a few occasions. The police are hot on Chris’s trail the entire time. Finally, the two set off on foot on an arduous cross-country journey to Scotland where Chris has a brother he hopes to stay with.  With Elizabeth Sellars as Chris’s wife and Kay Walsh as an innkeeper.

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I love Dirk Bogarde and he is at his haunted, sensitive best in this movie.  There is a sequence where he tells the boy a bedtime story that I thought was really moving. The child actor is pretty good as well.  I was caught up in the suspense the entire time. This is one of those stories where you almost hope the criminal goes free.  Recommended.

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Ikiru (1952)

Ikiru (To Live)ikiru poster
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Oguni
1952/Japan
Toho Company
Repeat viewing/My DVD collection
#258 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Kanji: I can’t afford to hate people. I don’t have that kind of time.

This is surely on my non-existent Top Ten Films list and maybe the most personally meaningful of them all.

Kanji Watanabe (Takeshi Shimura) has worked for the Department of Public Affairs for almost thirty years.  About all he has to show for it is a couple of certificates of appreciation and a perfect attendance record.  He has risen to the job of Section Chief. This seems to consist solely of stamping mountains of papers so they can be shuffled off to another section.

He causes quite a stir when he fails to report to work one day.  His stomach has been bothering him and he goes to see a doctor at the hospital.  Before he can be seen, one of his fellow patients kindly informs him of the symptoms of stomach cancer.  He has every one of them.  The doctors tell him he is suffering from a “mild ulcer” but he knows better.

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Watanabe-san returns home where he lives with his son Mitsuo and Mitsuo’s wife.  But he is really all alone.  He is haunted by the idea that he may die before he has really lived.  So he sets about blowing a substantial portion of his savings on a drunken spree with a cooperative author.  This doesn’t help much.  The next day he is hunted down by a young subordinate who needs to have her resignation papers stamped.  He latches on to her, attracted by her sheer youth and health.  But she feels increasingly uncomfortable with his attentions.  She agrees to see him one last time.  During their last meeting, Watanabe-san sees a way to give his life some meaning.

The film then flashes forward to Watanabe-san’s funeral, attended by his fellow bureaucrats.  During the proceedings, which move from formality to a drunken wake, we learn, through flashbacks, how Watanabe spent his final days.

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This film is both a biting critique of post-war Japanese bureaucracy and a philosophical look at what it means to live.  What it is not is maudlin in any way.  In fact, there are heaping helpings of humor.  Shimura is beyond superb in his portrayal of the dying man. The whole thing is beautifully shot.

The film is almost 2 1/2 hours long.  In previous viewings I have wondered if it is too long.  I have concluded that it is just long enough.  I think the shifting points of view during the wake and flashbacks is a brilliant way of removing any sentimentality from the story.  If we had it in chronological order it would probably have become a real weeper.  I watched this less than a month ago and then again yesterday.  There are few films I would risk that with. Most highly recommended.

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Carrie (1952)

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Directed by William Wyler
Written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz from the novel Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
1952/USA
Paramount Pictures
First viewing/Amazon Instant

Carrie Meeber: When you’re poor, it gets all mixed up. You like the people who are good to you.

Catch this for a fine performance by Laurence Olivier as a mid-Westerner.

This is a slightly expurgated version of the Dreiser novel.  Carrie (Jennifer Jones) is a small-town girl who comes to Chicago for work and possible marriage.  At first she stays with her sister who has done the necessary and is now keeping house.  Carrie injures herself with a sewing machine at work and is fired.  She knows her sister and husband will not be sympathetic and will continue to expect their rent money.  While she is looking for work she meets one Charlie Drouet (Eddie Albert) a fast-talking traveling salesman.  He more or less tricks her into staying a few nights at his place while he is “away” and soon they are lovers.  His promises to marry her go nowhere.

photo-Un-Amour-desespere-Carrie-1952-11Charlie does like to show Carrie a good time though and takes her to a fancy restaurant. This is managed by George Hurstwood (Olivier).  George is smitten with Carrie at first glance and sends wine over to the table.  Charlie is a regular at the restaurant and George comes over to visit him ostensibly to offer Charlie theater tickets.  But Charlie will be out of town and suggests that George take Carrie to the theater.  He does and follows this up with a number of other outings.

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Carrie, who has been carrying a lot of shame from her illicit relations with Charlie, soon falls for George.  George is madly, in more ways than one, in love with Carrie.  She promises to leave Charlie for him.  But then Charlie returns home and informs Carrie that George is married.  He is on the verge of divorce from his wife, claims George.  But of course his awful wife Julie (Miriam Hopkins) refuses to set him free.  George takes drastic action and tells a number of additional lies to make Carrie his own.

So begins a downward spiral for George Hurstwood.  It looks like he will take Carrie with him until she finally finds work in the theater.

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I thought Olivier was really excellent in this one.  He has to run the gamut of emotions and all in an American accent and carried it off quite well I thought.  I can take or leave Jennifer Jones and she was better than usual here.  Albert is always good and Hopkins is at her best when she is evil.

I was an English major in college and for some reason had to study the novel more than once.  I never understood, and still don’t, why Carrie was to blame for anything that happened to George.  He ruins himself for “love” of her but she would have been appalled had she known ten percent of the lies he told and the things he did to get her.  And yet it is clear that somehow Carrie is at fault for being a “bad girl”.  Nonetheless, I recommend this movie.

Carrie was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White and Best Costume Design, Black-and-White.

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The Crimson Pirate (1952)

The Crimson Piratecrimson pirate poster
Directed by Robert Siodmak
Written by Roland Kibbee
1952/USA
Hecht-Lancaster Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant

 

Vallo: [narrating] Remember, in a pirate ship, in pirate waters, in a pirate world, ask no questions. Believe only what you see. No, believe half of what you see.

This starts as a fun pirate adventure/spoof and ends with a fantasy worthy of Terry Gilliam. Mainly it’s a good chance to see Burt Lancaster show off his acrobatic skills.

Captain Vallo aka The Crimson Pirate (Lancaster) is the scourge of the Spanish Main.  He captures a British warship carrying Baron Gruda who is on a mission to stamp out an independence movement on a Caribbean island led by El Libre.  Vello comes up with the idea of selling the ship’s store of arms to El Libre then doubling his money by collecting a ransom for turning over El Libre to Gruda.

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When he reaches the island, Vello is soon captured  by the rebels.  He has many adventures escaping them and is helped by El Libre’s beautiful daughter Consuelo.  His love for Consuelo causes him to give up his plan to sell El Libre to the British.  This does not set well with his own crew who believe it violates the pirate’s code.  Vello has more adventures as he escapes from the British and from a mutiny by his crew.  At the end, he is aided by a scientist who says he has learned the secrets of explosives, an air ship and an underwater ship.

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It certainly looks like Lancaster had fun making this movie and to a certain extent it is infectious.  My husband, who apparently is looking for a little more realism in his pirate movies, thought the ending was stupid.  I didn’t mind.  Good for an afternoon popcorn movie.

Trailer

Monkey Business (1952)

Monkey BusinessPoster - Monkey Business (1952)_02
Directed by Howard Hawks
Written by Ben Hecht, Charles Lederer, and I.A.L. Diamond; story by Harry Segall
1952/USA
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
First viewing/Netflix rental

Lois Laurel: [at her secretrial desk, responding to Barnaby’s remark that she is at work early] Mr. Oxley’s been complaining about my punctuation, so I’m careful to get here before nine.

I don’t think I’ve ever really liked a comedy with a chimpanzee in it.

Dr, Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant) is the epitome of the absent-minded scientist.  His wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) understands him completely.  Today they can’t even get out of the house to go to a dance.  Barnaby is preoccupied with his experiments on an anti-aging drug.

Barnaby’s boss Mr. Oxley (Charles Coburn) is getting on in years and is eager for results. Barnaby has been experimenting on chimpanzees.  The audience is allowed to know that a mixture created by one of the chimps and dumped in the water supply as changed an old chimp into a frisky six-month old.  Barnaby doesn’t know this and decides to test the formula on himself.  It works immediately, turning him into a 20-year-old with perfect vision. He gets a youthful haircut, wardrobe and convertible and goes on a spree with Mr. Oxley’s secretary Lois (Marilyn Monroe).

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In a few hours, the formula wears off.  Barnaby intends to continue his experiments but before he can drink down an additional done, Edwina downs it herself.  It works a treat on her as well.  Increased doses later turn both of them into young kids.  Hijinks aplenty ensue. With Hugh Marlow as a family friend with a crush on Edwina.

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This is just the sort of silly, frenetic fifties comedy with lots of double entendres that just isn’t for me.  Your mileage may vary.

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The Atomic City (1952)

The Atomic Cityatomic-city
Directed by Jerry Hopper
Written by Sydney Boehm
1952/USA
Paramount Pictures
First viewing/Amazon Prime

The Cold War isn’t thawing; it is burning with a deadly heat. Communism isn’t sleeping; it is, as always, plotting, scheming, working, fighting. — Richard M. Nixon

This starts out with an intriguing premise then turns into a more routine kidnapping/chase/police procedural action movie.

The Addison family lives in the “Atomic City”, Los Alamos, New Mexico.  This is a self-contained strictly guarded community that houses the workers on top-secret nuclear projects at the facility there.  The children know better to breath a word about what daddy does. Dr. Frank Addison (Gene Barry) is the preeminent nuclear physicist at the facility.  His wife Martha worries that their son Tommy is being warped by the experience.  For example, he talks in terms of what he wants to be IF he grows up.

One day, all the children in Miss Haskell’s class go on a field trip to a fiesta in Santa Fe. Tommy has been pumped up about possibly winning a bike in the raffle there. He does win, but when his name is called no one answers.  He has simply disappeared.  Miss Haskell starts frantically looking for him.

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Segue to the Addison home where Frank has come home early, upset that one of his associates has received radiation burns.  He and Martha start getting ready to go to a community dance.  Then a telegram arrives telling them that they will receive further information about their son’s whereabouts at the dance.  Martha begs her husband not to call the police.

They go to the dance and get slipped a letter saying that Tommy will be killed if the police are called but that they will get him back unharmed if Frank will turn over all is H bomb secrets.  Martha is by now hysterical.  Instead of calling the cops, Frank goes into the facility on a Sunday.  He is caught by the FBI as he is about to leave his office with a folder of papers.  These were dummy equations designed to buy time.  After checking, the FBI decides to use the papers as a decoy to trap the spies.  They make it very clear that their number one priority is catching spies and Tommy’s safety will have to take second place.

The rest of the film shows how the FBI goes about its work.

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I thought this was quite OK though nothing earth shaking.  Gene Barry had a hard time convincing me that he was a nuclear physicist but the rest of the players were fine.  This is another interesting glimpse into Cold War paranoia and I thought the beginning about life at Los Alamos was fascinating.  All the spies in this one are 100% American.

The Atomic City was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay.

Trailer

My Cousin Rachel (1952)

My Cousin Rachelmy-cousin-rachel-436165l
Directed by Henry Koster
Written by Nunnally Johnson from the novel by Daphne Du Maurier
1952/USA
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
First viewing/Amazon Instant

 

“The point is, life has to be endured, and lived. But how to live it is the problem.” ― Daphne Du Maurier, My Cousin Rachel

There was nothing wrong with this as a movie per se but I just couldn’t get behind the story.

Philip Ashley (Richard Burton) was brought up by his adored uncle Ambrose.  When Philip is grown, Ambrose travels to Italy for his health, leaving his nephew behind to watch over the estate.  While in Florence, Ambrose falls in love with and marries the Countess Rachel Sangaletti, a widow.  Then Philip starts getting letters.  His uncle’s handwriting has deteriorated and it is evident that he has grown afraid of his wife.  The last letter begs Philip to come to him.  The family lawyer reminds Philip that Ambrose’s father died of a brain tumor and that such things could be hereditary and thus account for his uncle’s state of mind.

Philip arrives in Florence to find his uncle already dead.  He meets with his uncle’s Italian solicitor Guido Rinaldi who tells him that he died after a long illness.  Uncle Ambrose left Philip his entire estate.  The widow has already left Florence.  Rinaldi tells Philip that his uncle was raving mad during the last part of the illness and very paranoid.  Philip isn’t having any of this and vows revenge on the widow.

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After Philip returns home, Rachel arrives to return the uncles possessions to him.  He is amazed to see that the widow is a relatively young, sweet woman.  It doesn’t take long until Philip is head over heels in love with her.  He is so in love in fact that he gives Rachel a handsome allowance and a treasured family necklace, which the lawyer takes back because Philip has not yet come of age.  Rachel is observed to have transferred most of the money out of the country.  This may have been to satisfy some large debts.  On his birthday, Philip  announces that he is deeding the entire estate over to Rachel.  She happily accepts but when Philip also announces their engagement she balks.

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This is a handsome movie with good acting.  I had a real problem with the plot because most of Philip’s actions seemed totally inexplicable to me.  Also, the ending, which I will not reveal, was unsatisfactory not because things were left open but because it seemed abundantly clear what had been going on. I also did not understand why Philip was to blame for what happened. If someone has seen this, I would  appreciate any insight that could be given.

My Cousin Rachel was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Supporting Actor (Burton); Best Cinematography, Black-and-White; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White; and Best Costume Design, Black-and-White.

Trailer

Breaking the Sound Barrier (1952)

Breaking the Sound BarrierSound-Barrier_poster
Directed by David Lean
Written by Terrence Rattigan
1952/UK
London Film Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

If you can walk away from a landing, it’s a good landing. If you use the airplane the next day, it’s an outstanding landing.– Chuck Yeager

Not what one might expect from the creative talent involved but still a solid picture about the development of supersonic flight.

The movie begins in the midst of World War II.  Tony Garthwaite (Nigel Patrick) is a pilot in the RAF.  Susan Ridgefield (Ann Todd) serves in one of the women’s services.  Her father John Ridgefield (Ralph Richardson) owns one of Britain’s premier aviation companies.  Tony and Susan marry. When she takes him home the two men in her life get along like gangbusters and John offers Tony a job as a test pilot after the war.  He gladly accepts.

The introduction of Tony into the family is a comfort to John, who despairs of his son Chris (Denholm Elliot) who is trying to get into the RAF.  Chris hates flying and eventually crashes on his first solo flight, made to please his father.  Susan can’t forgive her father for this and also believes he has never forgiven her for not being a boy.

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Most of the film deals with Ridgeway’s development of a supersonic jet and the very scary test flights that are required to prove the technology.  John Ridgeway is obsessed with his project and takes a very detached attitude to the risks run by his pilots. Susan can hardly stand to sit by during these flights but Tony’s life is flying and it is something he has got to do.

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I was kind of disappointed with this.  The whole thing is workmanlike but I thought it dragged quite a bit for something that is about half nail-biting flight sequences.  Richardson is as usual outstanding but could have used a script with more for him to sink his teeth into.  Aviation enthusiasts might enjoy this more than I did.

According to Wikipedia: Contrary to what is depicted in the film, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier was the rocket-powered Bell X-1 flown by Chuck Yeager of the United States Air Force in 1947. Yeager, who was present at the U.S. premiere, later said The Sound Barrier was entertaining, but not that realistic – and any pilot who attempted to break the sound barrier in the manner portrayed in the film would have been killed. Nevertheless, because the 1947 Bell X-1 flight had not been widely publicized, many who had seen The Sound Barrier thought it was a true story in which the first supersonic flight is made by British pilots.

Breaking the Sound Barrier won an Oscar for Best Sound, Recording.  It was nominated for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay.

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Bonus track – this gives me the chills

 

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

The Greatest Show on Earthgreatest_show_on_earth
Directed by Cecil B. De Mille
Written by Written by Fredric M. Frank, Barré Lyndon, and Theodore St. John; story by Frank, St. John, and Frank Cavett
1952/USA
Paramount Pictures
First viewing/Netflix rental

Midway barker: That’s all, ladies and gentlemen, that’s all. Come again to the greatest show on earth. Bring the children. Bring the old folks. You can shake the sawdust off your feet, but you can’t shake it outta your heart. Come again, folks. The Greatest Show on Earth. Come again.

I will cut this movie some slack for the circus acts and Jimmy Stewart.  Otherwise, I thought it was pretty dreadful.

Cecil B. Demille breaks in throughout in a voice-over narration with words of wisdom about the place of the circus in the hearts of young and old alike and the hard work of the performers.

Brad Bredon (Charleton Heston) manages the circus in question.  He is all-business.  Holly (Betty Hutton), the trapeze artist that loves him, says he has sawdust in his veins.  Lately, the circus hasn’t been doing so well, and the owners have been talking about doing a shorter season.  Brad saves the day by hiring French trapeze idol Sebastian (Cornel Wilde).  The owners agree that the company can keep touring as long as it is making money.

The problem with Brad’s scheme is that Sebastian will work only in the center ring thus edging Holly out of the coveted spot.  She vows that the audience will be looking only at her in the side ring during Sebastian’s act and proceeds to compete with him doing increasingly dangerous stunts.  Sebastian doesn’t seem to mind the competition much since he wants Holly as the latest of his many conquests.  Holly does not heed the warnings of Angel (Gloria Grahame), who previously had a fling with Sebastian herself.  To make the love triangle a pentangle, Angel is in love with Brad too and is loved by her insanely jealous elephant trainer boss, Klaus.

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Beloved by all is Bubbles the clown (Jimmy Stewart).  He has a habit of staying in make-up at all times and it becomes increasingly clear that he is carrying a guilty secret.  To add to the drama, an organized crime boss (Lawrence Tierney) and his henchmen are running illegal gambling operations and con games in the side show.  They are out for revenge when Brad shuts them down.  With a host of real circus performers, including Emmett Kelly.

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Betty Hutton should never have been allowed to do anything but comedy.  She overacts horribly and makes this blockbuster even worse than it had to be.  Then we get Cornell
Wilde with a cringe-worthy French accent.  The story and dialogue are just a mess of cliches.  And this won the Oscar in competition with High Noon and The Quiet Man?

The Greatest Show on Earth won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Writing, Motion Picture Story.  It was nominated in the categories of Best Director, Best Costume Design, Color, and Best Film Editing.

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