Saturday, February 12, 2011

Let's Make Love

1960 was just two years before Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962) died.  It was the year she made Let's Make Love.  This was not one of her best works, especially after just making hits like Bus Stop (1956) and Some Like it Hot (1959).

The movie starred Yves Montand (1921 - 1991) as a billionaire who is mistaken for an actor in a review that includes Monroe as the singer.  The supporting roles are played by Tony Randall (1920 - 2004) and Wilfred Hyde-White (1903 - 1991).

The credits are amazing.  Directed by George Cukor and with a screen play written in part by Arthur Miller (Monroe's husband), there were cameos by Milton Berle, Bing Crosby and Gene Kelly.  I am not sure why I didn't like this movie more than I did.

It was noted in some reviews on IMDb that it was not particularly favored by Monroe or Montand.  A small part as the male singer was played by Frankie Vaughan (1928 - 1999) who only appeared in seven movies.  He was so put off by the experience that he gave up acting.

Vaughan wasn't very good, in my opinion.  He was trying too hard to be Frank Sinatra, but his singing was less than impressive.  He apparently went on to be a headliner in London and Vegas, and he was knighted by the queen a few years later.

I didn't even see any chemistry between Monroe and Montand.  In the movie, Montand was supposed to be smitten with Monroe, and eventually Monroe came around.  What is interesting is that the two, though both were married at the time, did have an affair during the filming.  Maybe they were trying too hard to hide their feelings.

Of course, the best part is looking at the Bit Parts.  Former Stooge Joe Besser (1907 - 1988) plays a comedy writer.  We even see Leonard Breman (1915 - 1986) in a small part as a waiter.  Make sure you check out my earlier posts on Breman.

Let's Make Love is not really a bad movie.  It is a romantic comedy that is a little dated due to the style of 1960.  I think 1960 was a transition between the war years including the boom just after the war, and the free love era that was yet to come.  Movies made in that middle period are a mix of styles, so they didn't easily fit.

Marilyn Monroe is really the standout in this film, turning in a very good, believable performance.  For the fact that this was her second to last film, a year before The Misfits with Clark Gable, it is worthy of viewing.  By this time in her life she must have been troubled, but she still could act and sing.

Friday, February 11, 2011

No Bits Today! But Some Good Links.

I just noticed that my Laurel and Hardy post from a few weeks ago has been selected for reposting on the Movies Unlimited blog, MovieFanFare.  This is my third re-post to their site.  I'm glad they like my writing style.

I have found MovieFanFare to be a great read, filled with other enjoyable stuff like polls and little games.  They currently have a still picture from City Slickers (1991), and you are supposed to add a caption, plus you get to vote for your favorite actor who was nominated but never won a Best Actor Oscar.

Another Blog that is very informative and well written comes from my friend and frequent commenter, The Lady Eve.  She is a movie lover and it is obvious in her Blog.  The topics she chooses are varied and always interesting, and her interviews let you get into the mind of her subjects.

It is wonderful to have these resources to add to your knowledge of how and why movies are made.  The insight provided can only increase your enjoyment of what you see on the screen, large or small.

Make sure you check out the Classic Movie Blog Association as well.  Eve and I are both members, and the variety of subjects found there is amazing.  Scroll down the right side of the CMBA page to link to all of the most recent posts from the members.

Watch for the CMBA Blogathon coming in the spring when most members will post about a movie made in 1939.  Sounds like fun!  That was one of the very best years for classic movies.  Now, how about a classic Bit Actor in a 1939 movie?!?!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

George Chandler

I think I should mention George Chandler (1898 - 1985) here, in my blog of Bit Actors.  I have a problem calling him a Bit Actor, though.  He has 444 titles listed on IMDb, so he must have been a star.  No matter.

Everyone who is a baby boomer remembers him as Uncle Petrie in the television series, "Lassie" from the 1950s.  He was much more than that.

Chandler started performing in vaudeville, and then in 1928 moved to silent films.  It is rather odd that there isn't much written about him on IMDb or Wikipedia.  TCM has a short biography.  He appears in The Virginian (1929) starring Gary Cooper, but most of his films before that were shorts. 

In 1933 he plays W. C. Fields' son in The Fatal Glass of Beer.  Fields was only five years older than Chandler.  There are six films with Chandler and Dick Powell, starting with Blessed Event (1932) and Footlight Parade the next year. 

Chandler made an interesting movie in 1936 called The Country Doctor.  He wasn't the doctor, he played a character called Greasy.  It was a story about a small town doctor who delivers quintuplets, and they filmed the Dionne Quintuplets (b. 1934) for the part.  As a child, my family had 16mm home movies that my grandfather filmed, and somehow we came across some old Pathe newsreels in our collection.  A news item about the Quints was in one of them.  I wish I still had those films!

The list of stars Chandler worked with must be incredible.  Ten films with Spencer Tracy, five with Jimmy Stewart, six with Henry Fonda, six with Una Merkel and also with Claire Trevor, and he made 23 films with his friend, director William Wellman (1896 - 1975).  The list is much longer, but I can't search through all of his work!

1939 was a good year to look at.
   Blondie Meets the Boss
   Calling Dr. Kildare
   Young Mr. Lincoln
   Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation
   Beau Geste
   Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

He worked with Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto, but most of his parts were very small.  He was the photographer or the sleazy reporter.  He was the next door neighbor, the elevator operator or the bartender.  His soft voice played well as a friendly character, but he had a look that could be turned on to make you think he was up to something. 

By the 1950s he was also working in TV teleplays and series'.  In 1954 he was in The High and the Mighty with John Wayne, one of five films with The Duke.

In addition to "Lassie," Chandler was a regular on "Waterfront" and "The Adventures of Kit Carson."  In the 1960s he had his own series called "Ichabod and Me" that only lasted one season.  In the 1970s we see him in "Alias Smith and Jones" once again in bit parts.  In 1978 he appears as a DMV clerk in Every Which Way but Loose starring Clint Eastwood.

George Chandler's final film he plays an elderly man in The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979).  Fitting as he was 81 years old.  Us baby boomers will miss you, Unlce Petrie!  You are a star in every Bit Part you had.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Final Analysis

Final Analysis (1992) is a murder mystery starring Richard Gere, Kim Bassinger and Uma Thurman.  It is made in the style of Alfred Hitchcock, and it is a good movie, but it doesn't quite make the mark. 

Gere is a psychiatrist treating Thurman, and she asks him to talk with her sister, played by Bassinger.  To make a long story short, and hopefully not give away the plot, Bassinger's husband, a gangster, is murdered.  Bassinger is charged with the crime and Gere gets pulled into the action.

My blog is not about plots, stories or stars, so let's get to the important stuff.  Bassinger's husband is played by Eric Roberts (b. 1956) and he is superb.  I wouldn't mess with this gangster!  Roberts has close to 200 titles on IMDb, starting on TV in the 1970s.  He has worked with stars as different as Shelley Winters, Sylvester Stallone and Cheech Marin.  He has eight projects in the works for release this year, and he plays Vance Abrams on television's "The Young and the Restless."

The detective who has to sort out the story is played by Keith David (b. 1956) and he is also perfectly cast.  Stern and serious, he gets the job done...eventually, and with help from Gere.  David has 190 titles listed, so he is no stranger to acting.  His first movie credit came in John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), starring Kurt Russell.  He also appeared in Platoon in 1986, The Quick and the Dead (1995), Volcano (1997), There's Something About Mary (1998), and was a pastor on "ER" for two years.  David has nine productions in the works for this year.

The rest of the cast is almost invisible.  The only other characters that are important are played by Paul Guilfoyle (b. 1949) and Robert Harper (b. 1951).  Guilfoyle, the defense attorney, has 97 titles and Harper as a witness for the defense, has 60.  Both, once again, pull off their part very well, but without becoming etched in your memory.  Nonetheless, they are important bit parts to the story.

Lastly, Harris Yulin (b. 1937) plays the prosecuting attorney.  There is a name you probably don't know, but you will remember him when you see his face or hear his voice.  A veteran of 113 titles, including everything from playing Wyatt Earp in Doc (1971) to a guest spot on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."  He has also played Barabbas, George 'Machine Gun' Kelly, J. Edgar Hoover and Leonardo da Vinci. 

I would say, if you have never seen a Hitchcock film, Final Analysis would be a very good film.  If you are familiar with Hitch, it is still a good movie to watch some evening.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Casino Royale (The second one)

I saw Casino Royale (1967) when it first came out, once again at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA.  I don't think I have seen it in full since that time, when I was just 17 years old.  I recently purchased it because the DVD also includes "Casino Royale" from the TV series "Climax!" and I have never seen that one.  (I still haven't, but I will get around to it!)

Ian Fleming wrote the novel in 1953, introducing James Bond to the world.  The rights to the novel were bought by CBS for $1,000 and the "Climax!" offering was presented the next year starring Barry Nelson (1917 - 2007) as the very first James Bond.

In 1955 Fleming sold the film rights for $6,000 to producers Michael Garrison and Gregory Ratoff, and they had a few failed attempts to sell the idea.  The rights eventually came to Columbia Pictures and it was decided that a satire would be the best way to produce a money maker.

The 1967 release of Casino Royale is somewhat less than true to the novel.  Actually, it is a lot less than true.  This movie is, in my opinion, one of the best satires made in the 1960s, and belongs on the shelf with movies like Barbarella (1968).  They are a statement of the times and the changing mores of the sixties, and I would suggest that they may have inspired Mel Brooks to make Blazing Saddles in 1974.  Casino Royale is not a bad film, as some have said in other reviews, it is simply not a typical James Bond film.  That's why they call it satire.

The cast is nothing short of amazing.  As I try not to focus on the main stars in my blog, they will speak for themselves.  Orson Welles is ominous as Le Chiffre, Peter Sellers has a few wonderful (probably ad libbed) moments, Woody Allen is Woody Allen, and David Niven is as suave as I have ever seen him.  Need I mention Ursula Andress and Deborah Kerr?

The film is also filled with incredibly beautiful women, dressed (or rather almost dressed) in sixties style.  As my wife pointed out, the use of these girls is just a bit on the sexist side, but consider the era.  It was obviosly made as a movie for men.  We see Joanna Pettet (b. 1942) as Bond's daughter, Barbara Bouchet (b. 1943) as Miss Moneypenny, and a young Jacqueline Bisset (b. 1944) in her fourth film role.  All in their twenties, and they all went on to successful acting careers.

The cameo appearances speak for themselves, but I think I may have to watch it again, as I missed Charles Boyer and Richard Burton!  It is impossible to miss George Raft who shoots himself with a trick gun, and Peter O'Toole who is "the finest man who ever breathed."

Here are some cast members that you may not know.  David Prowse (b. 1935) has a walk-on as the Frankenstein monster.  This was his first film.  Prowse went on to fame playing the screen part of Darth Vader, the man with James Earl Jones' voice in Star Wars.

This was also Anjelica Huston's (b. 1951) first film, but we only see her hands.  Of course, she is John Huston's daughter and the elder Huston appears in the movie as M, and directed some scenes.  Finally, Charlie Chaplin's daughter, Geraldine Chaplin (b. 1944) is unrecognizable as one of the Keystone Kops in a very quick clip.

If you thought Casino Royale was a bad movie, please see it again.  Keep in mind that it is a treasure of the sixties, not a James Bond film.  And don't try to follow the story...that is almost impossible.  A closer story to the original novel was made with Daniel Craig, in his first Bond appearance, in 2006.  I believe the story has also increased in value since 1955.  In 1999 MGM paid $10,000,000 for the rights.