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Tag Archives: Betty Hutton

Weekly Mishmash: November 7-13

Antichrist (2009). Lars Von Trier’s attempt at a horror movie winds up being what I’d imagine is a typical Von Trier outing — impenetrable, at times creepy and effective, but mostly pointless and just plain gross. The plot concerns a couple (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who also have the only speaking parts) who cope with the devastating loss of their infant son by escaping to a mountain cabin. Dafoe is a psychologist who uses therapeutic activities to help cure Gainsbourg of her depression. However, he gradually finds that the woman, much like the seemingly tame forestry around them, has a hidden pathological side. The film is beautifully photographed with remarkably fearless performances from Dafoe and Gainsbourg, but Von Trier’s imagery is not very subtle. The film’s graphic sex and violence is also used to random, puzzling effect. The image of homely Gainsbourg pleasuring herself on the forest floor is something I can’t easily escape. Thanks a lot, Lars.
The Edge Of Heaven (2008). Fascinating cross-cultural foreign drama, reminding me of a less ambitious and heavy-handed Babel. A Turkish prostitute living in Germany takes refuge in the home of one of her clients. Before dying in an accident, she confides to the man’s college professor son (Baki Davrak) that she wants to see her daughter again. The younger man journeys to Turkey to find the daughter, not knowing that the woman is living in Germany as an activist in a lesbian relationship with one of his students. The story goes off in different directions with the kind of (contrived, I know) coincidences that have become a staple of films of this ilk. The acting is uniformly good, however, and the film did take off in ways this viewer didn’t expect. Mostly I enjoyed how it offered a peek at the intersection of two different cultures. Writer-director Fatih Akin seems to know the subject well and explores it here in an absorbing way.
Midnight Mary (1933). Part of the Forbidden Hollywood Volume 3 DVD set that my spouse gifted as a birthday present. I’m so jazzed to have this one, since it focuses on the work of one of the better Pre-Code directors, William Wellman. Most of the films in this set are underrated gems (the only one I don’t remember enjoying much was Barbara Stanwyck in The Purchase Price, but even that is worth a revisit), with the crackling “girl gone wrong” drama Midnight Mary being a good example. In a role that seemed tailor made for Joan Crawford, Loretta Young is exceptionally fresh and natural as Mary Martin, a woman who is awaiting her fate in a murder trial as the film opens. In brilliant, kinetic style, the film flashes back to her hardscrabble girlhood through being romanced by a snakelike gangster (Richardo Cortez, typecast but great) and finding refuge in the employ of an industrialist’s son (Franchot Tone). This is brisk and enjoyable as most Pre-Coders are. What makes it unusual, besides the direction, is that it was made by MGM with a production that strikes an odd balance between gritty and luxe. I also enjoyed the lively comedic support of Una Merkel and Andy Devine. This is one brisk corker of a movie. One other noticeable thing was the uncredited extra playing a nightclub hat check man. Who he is remains a mystery, but the wavy-haired gent would certainly fit into an “unknown hotties of 1930s flicks” photo montage.

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Miss London Ltd. (1943). One of the nice suprises of our TiVo Premiere is that we can download videos from Archive Classic Movies, a not-so-frequently updated site that offers clean digital copies of public domain movies and serials. Most of their offerings tend towards the weird/campy, and this wartime British musical is no exception. The plot concerns an American blonde (Evelyn Dall, who looks bizarrely like a glamour puss version of character actress Gladys George) who comes to London to claim ownership of a crumbling escort service run by hyperactive Arthur Askey and goofy Max Bacon. Deciding to kick the business into gear, Dall and the two men go on a hiring binge in an effort to find the loveliest birds in town, all the while singing a number of forgettable tunes. This film mostly has interest to demonstrate how the British approached the musical form. The rapid pacing and overly strident songs are really something to behold, and the UK beauty ideal tended toward the curvy back then — including the downright chubby singer Anne Shelton. Arthur Askey’s mannerisms are a trip (apparently this guy was huge in Britain, land of blood pudding and questionable dental hygiene). A perfectly lousy film, all told, but I’m glad I watched it at least once.

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Somebody Loves Me (1952). Needing some entertainment while Christopher retired to bed early fighting a stomach bug (which he caught from me), I happened upon this Betty Hutton musical on Netflix streaming. This was Hutton’s last starring vehicle, it turns out. Mostly it piqued my interest since Ralph Meeker also appears and I wanted to check him out in an odd non-drama role (he’s pretty decent, even with a horribly mismatched dubbed singing voice). Hutton and Meeker play 1920s vaudeville star Blossom Seely and her husband, Benny Fields in this typical biopic/jaunty period piece. The splashy, brassy production is befitting of Hutton’s screen persona. There’s even an uncomfortable “nostalgia for the Old South” number with all the players strutting around in brown face. Jack Benny pops up as himself in a cameo, making no attempt to appear as a younger version of himself. Also of note is Billie Bird as Hutton’s secretary/gal pal; having mostly known the actress as an older lady in a variety of ’80s movies and sitcoms (the Patty Duke/Richard Crenna show It Takes Two comes to mind), it’s interesting to see her much younger but basically in the same wise cracking mold.