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Tag Archives: Doris Day

Flick Clique: July 24-30

A Bride for Henry (1937). Pleasant (and brief) screwball b-comedy stars Anne Nagel as a woman who, jilted at the altar by fiancee Henry Mollison, makes a rash decision to marry her handsome lawyer, played by Warren Hull. They intend to divorce immediately, but the secretly-smitten Hull has other plans. Another cheapie from my 50 Comedies DVD set, of course. This one was nice enough, although just as forgettable as the other poverty row quickies on the set. Mostly it’s notable for the sad fates that awaited Nagel and Mollison in the following years. Nagel went through a short-lived marriage to gay actor Ross Alexander, slipped into b-movies, then died a lonely alcoholic in the ’60s. Mollison became a British p.o.w. in World War II, then died similarly forgotten in the ’60s. At least Warren Hull had a long life, albeit one filled with divorces. This film is viewable online at Archive.org.
Calamity Jane (1953). Colorful Doris Day vehicle was a fun and frothy answer to Annie Get Your Gun with not quite as memorable songs (“Secret Love” notwithstanding), but with a fizz of its own thanks to the charismatic star. Doris Day often gets saddled with a white-bread, wifey image, but watching something like Calamity Jane I was struck by how fearless and gutsy an actress she was in her prime. Here she plays the title character, a rip-roarin’ Indian scout who tussles with Wild Bill Hickock (Howard Keel) in their tiny Dakota town. She is enlisted to bring sexy Chicago entertainer Adelaid Adams back to the town, but unknowingly winds up getting the woman’s stage-struck maid (played by the obscure but talented Allyn Ann McLerie) instead. The women become fast friends and, in a quasi-lesbian moment, even set up house together. They both pine for handsome Calvalry officer Philip Carey, a situation that is resolved after the newly feminized Jane finds that Wild Bill has deep feelings for her. Quite fun and tuneful musical whose assets overcome its iffy message (a lady has to be ladylike to snag a man, eh?). Doris Day is fantastic, keeping a tomboyish spark even after her character transforms. Annie had better source material, but as for comparing Day with Betty Hutton there is no contest.
Potiche (2010). Goofy French comedy revolves around legendary Catherine Deneuve as the title character, a potiche (trophy wife) comfortably married to the owner of an umbrella factory in the 1970s. Despite the protests of liberated daughter Judith Godrèche, she enjoys being a hausfrau and even tolerates the affairs of her husband, played by Fabrice Luchini. Her life turns around, however, when a labor dispute at the factory forces her to assume stewardship of the operation. To settle the fracas, she gets in contact with local politico Gérard Depardieu, a man with whom she shared a secret tryst several years earlier. It’s great to see Deneuve and Depardieu in action, but this film is directed in a self consciously campy style that takes some getting used to (picture something along the lines of That ’70s French Comedy). Somewhere along the middle third, though, it settles into that of a good domestic drama of changing mores. The ending is a puzzler, however. Deneuve is great, well matched with Karin Vigard as the husband’s secretary/mistress. Depardieu also does a good job, although I was surprised and distracted at how enormously fat the man is getting. François Ozon, who directed, also worked with Denueve in the similarly campy 8 Women. I’d say the earlier film worked better overall, but Potiche has a gawky charm of its own.
The Room (2003). A notoriously bad film that might put an end to my curious exploration of “so bad it’s good” cinema. This one was not so much awful as boring and weird. Cut-rate auteur Tommy Wiseau produced, directed and starred in this opus about “stylish” San Francisco businessman Johnny (Wiseau), who only wants to please his “hot” fiancee Lisa (Juliette Danielle). He brings her roses, buys her expensive gifts, and makes sweet love to her. Despite the cautions of her sensible mother, manipulative Lisa only wants to take off with her secret lover (and Johnny’s friend) Mark (Greg Sestero). Cheap and rather plodding movie that plays like porn minus the eroticism. I think what made this a cult hit is Wiseau’s weird onscreen presence. The other cast members are rather generic (although Stockard Channing-like Danielle is bizarrely miscast as a sexy lady), but it’s heavy-lidded, stringy-haired, bizarrely accented Wiseau himself that puts this into the stinkeroo Hall of Fame category. Of course, he seems the opposite of the sterling moral compass type he’s supposedly playing, which makes his own stilted dialogue doubly funny (the only role I could picture him excelling at would be a Eurotrash zombie — maybe). Generally, the film is more boring than awful, with repetitive dialogue (take a shot whenever Danielle says “I don’t want to talk about it.”) and some of the un-sexiest sex scenes ever committed to videotape. Add to that the 1992-ish vibe of the sets and the 1972-ish vibe of the script and you have one seriously strange movie. As far as cheap ‘n lousy auteurist epics go, Birdemic was a lot more inept, and side-splitting.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). This was actually the first Trek film I saw in the cinema when first released; we got to catch up with it again on Netflix streaming this past week. The Undiscovered Country is one of the better remembered films with the original cast. Mostly it plays like a big-budget, extended episode of the Next Generation TV show. This time around, the Klingons are nearly extinct after an explosion on their moon depletes their ozone layer. After mysterious intruders break into their ship and open fire, they are left confronting the Enterprise and Captain Kirk’s long-simmering hatred of the Klingon race. Will they negotiate for their survival? I found this an enjoyable entry, one that makes more sense now that I’ve seen Treks I-V. If the plotting seemed somewhat lackluster, it was redeemed by the great chemistry of a bunch of old pros getting together one last time. The ending was a fittingly elegant send-off and a good entree to Patrick Stewart and the Next Generation era of Trek films.
Tales from the Script (2009). A straightforward yet insightful documentary that looks at the painful world of modern Hollywood screenwriting. Director Peter Hanson simply points his camera at various participants, who tell war stories of scripts that were mishandled by producers, actors and other behind the scenes types. It’s interesting to hear people like Paul Shrader and John Carpenter being so candid about what they do in a field where a writer’s vision constantly gets picked over and compromised. Apparently a lot of screenwriters love what they do; this film, however, has the strange effect of making me want to run from anything vaguely Hollywood. It says a lot about this doc that most of the participants are people I’ve never heard of who consider themselves lucky to have one script produced. That’s the biz, I guess. The interviews are pretty plainly presented, but the clips from movies ranging from Adaptation to In A Lonely Place really help illuminate what it’s like to toil away in this under appreciated field.

Forsaking All Others

Over the weekend, the spouse and I caught Married Life starring Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan and the wonderful Patricia Clarkson. While we both enjoyed this neo-Hitchcock period drama very much, I loved the opening credits sequence. This was created by the Venice, California based Prologue studio. Loverly:

Weekly Mishmash: April 18-24

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Caprice (1967). I can definitely see why Doris Day and Richard Harris’ mod ’60s spy spoof was a flop in ’67; it’s unfocused — swerving violently from comedy hijinks to romantic drama — frustrating to follow, badly edited, and suffering from serious lack of chemistry between the leads. As broadly directed by Frank Tashlin, the comedy pushes beyond pointlessness. Doris is game, but she’s miscast as an international spy investigating a cosmetics empire. In a way, this film played like a less bloated, lower wattage Casino Royale. There are a couple of elements that make this worth a peek for those into high ’60s visuals. Day is outfitted in a dated yet stunning wardrobe of Op Art minis and checkerboard sunglasses thanks to designer Ray Aghayan, and Leon Shamroy’s widescreen photography has a breathtaking lushness, even when the set designs are not (I’d describe the interiors as Rococo Puke). The climactic scene, filmed in L.A.’s classic Bradbury Building, gave us a little thrill — as it did when the historic site showed up in a recent FlashForward episode. That elevator, those tiles — we were there!
album_crenshawMarshall Crenshaw – The Best Of Marshall Crenshaw: This Is Easy. Could “Someday Someway” be the coolest pop hit from the ’80s? My first eMusic download of the month was a byproduct of the site’s recent acquisition of the huge Rhino/Warner Bros. catalog. The official download edition of this 2000 CD, unfortunately, is missing a few songs — a fact that Rhino conveniently neglects to mention on the site (gee, and they wonder why illegal downloading is so popular?). That quibble aside, this was an excellent power pop compilation which drives much of its affable energy from a good dosage of Crenshaw’s first two albums (1982’s Marshall Crenshaw and 1983’s Field Day). With ’85’s Downtown, Crenshaw went for a more rootsy sound and kicked off a less accessible but equally worthwhile period. What strikes me about his later stuff is that it sounds nearly identical to mainstream Country music as it became more pop-oriented in the ’00s. “Someplace Where Love Can’t Find Me” would be perfectly at home between Carrie Underwood and Kenny Chesney on any current C&W radio station.
Divorce, Italian Style (1961). Shrill but entertaining Italian sex comedy with mustachioed Marcello Mastroianni as a beleaguered man given to fantasizing about ways to off his pinhead wife so he can take up with his flirty cousin. Briskly paced, creatively made, and Mastroianni is an excellent heel, but did I mention it’s shrill? Everybody talks loudly, the soundtrack is annoying, and after a while it gets to be too much. The first half contains some great comedy, however.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). This one took me by surprise — mostly because it came from Wes Anderson, whose films I absolutely loathe (okay, I’ve only seen The Royal Tennenbaums — but that was such a turd of a movie that I’m too scared to see any of his other efforts). This is an adaptation of a Roald Dahl story about a cunning fox (voiced by a somewhat too recognizable George Clooney) who has to give up his foxy ways to raise a family. When the brood moves back to his old stomping grounds, he can’t resist going back to performing elaborate heists on the three food factories nearby. This was such a sweet, adorable movie with a stunning visual design heavy on the gold tones. I loved the variety used in the character designs, from the elongated foxes to the corpulent factory owner. The animation, which I originally thought looked too jerky in the previews, flows beautifully throughout. I even loved the film’s snarky but not too contemporary sense of humor. Actually, everything about this movie was pitch-perfect; I even enjoyed it more than 2009’s other animated critical darling Up. Wes Anderson outdoing Pixar, who’da thunk it.
It’s a Wonderful World (1939). A movie that I’ve always been curious about; I finally got to catch it on TCM one recent morning. A big budget MGM production starring Claudette Colbert and James Stewart, it’s surprising that this “on the lam” comedy rarely registers with fans of either star. Having seen it, however, I can see why. This is your basic It Happened One Night rehash, only the sparks Colbert had with Clark Gable settles into a mere flicker with Stewart. Both actors give it a valiant try, and they certainly are charming here individually with a script that plays up their respective strengths (befuddlement for Jimmy, determination for Claudette). The plot, about police investigator Stewart trying to nab a criminal while being unlawfully pursued with daffy poetess Colbert in tow, is too lightweight — and the characters spend too much time pointlessly arguing — for me to care.
book_griffinOfficial Book Club Selection: A Memoir by Kathy Griffin. An anniversary gift, Christopher enjoyed this one so much he lent it to me with his endorsement — sure enough, it is a dishy and surprisingly candid treat. We’re huge Kathy fans going back before her My Life on the D-List success, and seeing her live (sitting in front of her then-hubby Matt!) was such a blast. This book is pretty much what I expected, with Kathy breezing through her boisterous childhood, her early, lean years in Hollywood, her short-lived marriage, the struggle of being imperfect in a business that only accepts perfect bodies and faces, and finally success on her own fabulous terms. What I like best about her is that she’s a straight talker and totally self-deprecating in an endearing way. This book reads exactly as if Kathy were right there dishing with you, and in that respect she (and/or her ghost-writer?) deserves the celeb memoir A-list award.
Three Husbands (1951). This was a nice gem hidden in our “50 cheap old comedies” DVD set — a sex-inversed Letter to Three Wives tribute with a bit of All About Eve sophistication thrown in. Though it doesn’t approach the artistry of either, it’s still an intriguing look at the mores of 1950s marriage with a decent cast including the marvelous Eve Arden, Howard da Silva, Emlyn Williams and Ruth Warrick. Like Letter, this is told mostly in flashback with Williams posthumously informing his three best friends that he cheated with all of their wives. Interesting film, mostly for the way it treats male/female roles in the context of the early ’50s, but entertaining as well.

Weekly Mishmash: October 11-17

Day for Night (1973). I saw this François Truffaut film a long, long time ago, but didn’t remember much about it except for the precarious balcony set used in one of the filming-within-a-film scenes. A re-viewing reveals that while there’s a lot about this film that is dated and clumsy, it’s actually compelling and truly a love letter to how film captivates us. Truffaut does double duty as he directs and plays a director making a fictional film. The fact that the film they’re working on is a mediocre romantic drama is beside the point as the viewer follows the various overlapping stories of those both in front and behind the camera. It reminded me of what Robert Altman was doing at the same time. Truffaut has a gift for conveying depth-filled characters in not much screen time. I enjoyed it.
book_dorisherownstoryDoris Day: Her Own Story by A.E. Hotchner. I was somewhat leery about this autobiography. It seemed too bland and Pollyannaish, but now that I’ve finished it I can understand why it was a best seller upon its publication in 1975. Doris Day writes about her life, films, marriages and affairs with a candidness that helped dispel her virgin-next-door image, but it’s her engaging optimism and good cheer in facing life’s problems that comes to the fore throughout these pages. She does dwell too much on her religious beliefs and the bankruptcy court case following the death of third husband Marty Melcher (who comes across as a complete user and a slimebag). I like her earthy attitude towards working and movie stardom, and her love of animals is something to admire. Even the housewifey tips on beauty and fashion she includes in the book’s coda are fun.
Every Little Step (2008), Herb & Dorothy (2008) and Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times (2009). A good week for documentaries! Every Little Step chronicles the audition process for the recent revival of A Chorus Line, drawing parallels between the actors and the characters they’re vying for. Along the way, we hear about the original Chorus Line and Michael Bennett’s efforts to get it onstage. I wish the film had focused more on the original and not the remake, but overall it was very good. Mostly what stood out here is that young performers of today are more polished and hard-bodied, but no less enthusiastic, than their counterparts in the mid-’70s. Don’t know if that’s a bad thing or not. Herb & Dorothy was an installment of PBS’s Independent Lens about a couple who, despite limited means, became a powerhouse in the art collecting world. They hobnob with minimalist and conceptual artists, piling up pieces of art in their shoebox-sized apartment in scenes that are both touching and a little scary. Luckily their collection found a good home in Washington D.C.’s National Gallery. From a personal standpoint, watching Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times proved fascinating because we were just in Los Angeles and had a good look at many places seen there. This doc basically follows the explosive growth of L.A. in the 20th century through the family that arguably was most responsible for those changes. The angles covering the Los Angeles Times and its varying editorial viewpoints over the decades were so neat and slickly told. The film also uses a lot of great vintage footage of downtown L.A. and landmarks such as Angels Point and City Hall. Perfect.
Girls of the Road (1940). Grimy b-movie from Columbia studios is surprisingly brisk and fun. The luminous Ann Dvorak headlines as a governor’s daughter who decides to investigate her state’s problem with female hoboes by becoming one herself. Dvorak befriends a hardened traveler (Helen Mack, wonderful), gets involved in a police roundup, and discovers a secret all-female hideout in the woods. Nothing earth shattering here, but I enjoyed the interplay between the mostly female cast. There’s a lot of quasi-lesbian subtext here, especially with the tough, uninhibited performance of Lola Lane as the self appointed leader of a gang of women. I had previously known Lane in nothing roles alongside her sisters Rosemary and Priscilla; here she’s a revelation and totally fascinating to watch.
Home from the Hill (1960). Overlong manly melodrama oddly directed by Vincente Minnelli. This is a long-winded tale of a dysfunctional Texas family consisting of parents Robert Mitchum and Eleanor Parker and their tormented wimp of a son, George Hamilton. A hunky George Peppard is also on hand as Mitchum’s illegitimate son. The film had a few interesting scenes, and I love the woodsy look of Mitchum’s hunting lair (it reminded me of the basement in my grandparents’ house). Mostly, however, the film was beyond dull. I actually got more entertainment out of reading about this film’s production in Stephen Harvey’s Directed by Vincente Minnelli book (Harvey seems to have liked it better than me).