1957 Re-cap and 10 Favorites List

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I have now watched 92 films that were released in 1957.  They can be found here.

1957 was a year full of riches.  The films proved to be impossible for me to rank so the numbers should be ignored.

Worthy favorites that did not make my list are:  Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison; The Lower Depths; The Pajama Game; Curse of the Demon; Le Notti Bianche; 3:10 to Yuma; Tokyo Twilight; and The Incredible Shrinking Man.

10.  Kanal – directed by Andrezej Wadja

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9.  Throne of Blood – directed by Akira Kurosawa

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8.  12 Angry Men – directed by Sidney Lumet

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7.  The Bridge on the River Kwai – directed by David Lean

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6.  A Face in the Crowd – directed by Elia Kazan

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5.  Wild Strawberries – directed by Ingmar Bergman

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4.  Paths of Glory – directed by Stanley Kubrick

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3. Sweet Smell of Success – directed by Alexander MacKendrick

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2.  Nights of Cabiria – directed by Federico Fellini

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  1. The Seventh Seal – directed by Ingmar Bergman

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Old Yeller (1957)

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Directed by Robert Stevenson
Written by Fred Gipson and William Tunberg from Gipson’s book
1957/USA
Walt Disney Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

 

Katie Coates: If that don’t beat all. I never saw such a dog.

Travis Coates: And you won’t never see another one like him.

This childhood favorite held up very well.

The Coates family lives on a farm on the Texas frontier.  As the story begins, Pa Coates (Fess Parker) goes off to sell some cattle and earn the first cash money the family will have seen since the Civil War.   Wife Katie (Dorothy McGuire) and two sons Travis (Tommy Kirk), around 12, and Arliss, maybe five, will be left alone for at least three months.  Travis is to be the man of the family.  He asks for a horse as a reward but his father tells him what he needs is a good dog.

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Soon enough, a big yellow dog shows up.  He gets on Travis’s bad side initially but Arliss adores and he is soon adopted.  The dog proves to be the best friend the family ever had, helping them out of one scrape after another.  With Chuck Conners as the stray’s owner.

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I read the book as a child, before I ever saw the movie, and the ending made me cry and cry.  The movie is both moving and exciting and the performances are all first-rate.  The stand-out, of course, is the multi-talented canine.  It’s a coming of age story as well as a dog movie.  Recommended.

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Love in the Afternoon (1957)

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Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Bill Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond
1957/USA
Billy Wilder Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant

Frank Flannagan: I think people should always behave as though they were between planes.

When the “May” in a May-December romance is Audrey Hepburn and Billy Wilder is at the helm, a movie is bound to have its charms.

The city is Paris, where Private Detective Claude Chavasse (Maurice Chevalier) does a booming business ferreting out infidelity.  He tries to keep his sordid cases away from his daughter, Ariane (Hepburn), but she is fascinated.  Chavasse’s latest case involves a dalliance between Frank Flannigan (Gary Cooper), a notorious womanizing millionaire, and a married woman.  Ariane sees Flannigan’s picture and is smitten.  Then she overhears the woman’s husband plotting to kill him and decides to come to his rescue.

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Ariane interrupts the tryst and poses as the woman in question while the real thing escapes.  Flannigan begins to romance the cello student.  She defends herself by regaling him with tales of her other lovers, all borrowed from her father’s files.

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Hepburn is as beautiful and charming as ever in this.  The script is witty and the whole thing goes down easily.  Coop just looks very tired to me unfortunately.  It probably would have worked better with Cary Grant or William Holden.

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The D.I.

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Directed by Jack Webb
Written by James Lee Barrett
1957/USA
Mark VII Ltd
First viewing/YouTube rental

TSgt Moore: [shouting] If your brains were made of dynamite you couldn’t blow your nose!

Who knew boot camp could be so much fun?  For the witnesses that is …

Gunnery Sgt. Jim Moore (Jack Webb) is a tough-as-nails Marine Drill Instructor whose job is to change boys to men.  He does this with rigid discipline and intimidation.  Privately, he smiles at the hapless recruits.  All except one of them, Private Owens.  Owens has potential but constantly screws up and malingers, hoping to get discharged.  Moore refuses to give up or let up on him.  Moore’s superior is sick of hearing about the private’s latest misconduct and threatens to discharge him if he is not whipped into shape in three days.

In the meantime, Moore, whose life has been the Marines, starts a relationship with a lady who doesn’t put up with much guff herself.

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This movie is really more or less a series of episodes and a chance to bask in Webb’s fantastic performance and the rapid-fire one-liners. I don’t think of myself as enjoying watching people browbeat each other but I was smiling the entire time.  Totally enjoyable and recommended.

Montage of fun, fun clips

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.

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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
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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”).

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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)

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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.

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