Morning Glory (1933)

★★

 

Morning Glory is a 1933 drama movie that stars Katherine Hepburn, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Adolphie Menjou. This movie was directed by Lowell Sherman, and is a pre-code movie, meaning nobody was around to sensor what was going into the movie.

Aspiring actress Eva Lovelace (Hepburn) is a young, energetic girl, who thinks she is going to be they greatest actress ever. She even tells directors and writers that she won’t take any parts she doesn’t believe in on a personal level. She meets Joseph Sheridan (Fairbanks), a successful play write, and a director named Louis Easton (Menjou). Although they feel sorry for her, everyone doubts her ability as an actress. Some time later she attends a party where she has obviously had too much to drink, and she begins to act out various scenes from different Shakespeare plays. Although the director Easton is still unsure of her talents, the writer is convinced she will be the biggest star of her time, and he begins to help her whenever he can.

To speak quite plainly, this movie was not very interesting to watch. The pre-code movies oozed with sexuality, and as a viewer it was painfully obvious that the attraction of the movie was going to be legs and sleeping with the boss. The interesting part of Morning Glory was how the young actress who said she was going to be the greatest actress ever, really was a young actress who ended up being just that. Even as you watch the 26 year old Hepburn in only her third movie, you can she how talented she is, and are filled with the understanding of how she rose so high in the acting world. She won her first Academy Award for this movie, which is the reason that I found it in the first place, and there is no doubt in my mind that she earned this award. It’s a pity she had to wait 34 years to get another Oscar.

If you are interested in finding this movie, you might have a little bit of trouble, unless you are a Katherine Hepburn fan in the first place. There is a Hepburn Collection with five other movies that sells for 28 dollars on Amazon. There is also a Turner Classic Movie collection that came out recently that includes Stage Door (1937), Little Women (1933), and A Philadelphia Story (1940). All three of these movies were nominated for Best Picture. This collection is available at TMC.com, or on Amazon.

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Fred Zinnemann: A Birthday Tribute

The word amazing just doesn’t do Fred Zinnemann justice. The “Unbelievable, stupendous, one of a kind Fred Zinnemann” is closer. Even that doesn’t do justice to this great director. Here we are on the celebration of his 105th birthday. Zinnemann truly loved movies and spent his life bringing them to me. Oh wait, I meant to say us. He spent his life bringing them to US.

Fred Zinnemann was born in Austria in 1907. His family expected him to be a doctor. Thank goodness he had different plans. He went to school in Paris where he studied directing, acting, editing, and learned everything he could about working with cameras. Then after 18 months, he moved to Berlin where he worked on a couple of movies. Among them were I Kiss Your Little Hand, with Marlene Dietrich, as well as People On Sunday, which was a success then, and can still be seen today. (The Criterion Collection Blu-Ray looks and sounds phenomenal. I recommend you order it.)

Then, Zinnemann went to America. He arrived in New York in October 1929. After spending some time in New York he headed to Hollywood. Once he arrived he attempted to join the cameraman’s local union. He was turned down (thank goodness), so he became an actor. He can be seen, if your looking hard and know what his back looks like, in All Quiet On The Western Front. After six weeks on the set he was fired. (Once again, thank goodness.) After this, Zinnemann decided to learn everything he could about film making, and spent many years honing his craft. He helped out in many capacities on many movies. Then in 1935, he directed his first film, a documentary for the Mexican government.

Zinnemann got married to Renee Bartlett in 1935. They had one son together, and stayed together until his death in March of 1997. Renee died nine months later. A true hollywood romance.

As far as Zinnemann’s movies are concerned, I have more wonderful things to say, so I will get started and try to get through them the best that I can. I have listed them in the order I suggest to watch them. Here we go with the Fred Zinnemann collection. Happy watching.

HIGH NOON1953

This is the number one movie in the Fred Zinnemann collection. It is regarded as one of the best pictures of all time, and should be required watching for everyone in America, not just movie fans. The story is of Marshall Will Kane, played be Gary Cooper. It’s the morning of his wedding to Amy (played by Grace Kelly),and Kane has just turned in his badge to become a quaker, and spend the rest of his life working in a store. Just then he gets word that Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) has been released from prison and will be arriving on the noon train. Forced to make a decision, Kane stays to face Miller, against the wishes of everyone in town, including his new wife.

Somehow this movie becomes quite suspenseful, even though you would have never expected it to. Photographed beautifully, and written unlike other westerns, High Noon does not make you feel the way Hollywood westerns tried to make audiences feel. Everything about this movie has become legend at this point. The music, as well as it’s opening credits song, are forever stuck in the heads of the movie’s true fans. The supporting
cast, including Lloyd Brides, Katy Jurado, Thomas Mitchell, Lon Chaney Jr., and Harry Morgan, are magnificent. This movie will forever be remembered and always watched. People will try to duplicate it, but never successfully. Some things just have to be done at the right place, with the right people, in order for them to work.

High Noon was nominated for Academy Awards for:

(*-winners)

Best Picture

*Best Actor-Gary Copper

Best Director-Fred Zinnemann

Writing:Screenplay-Carl Foreman

*Film Editing-Elmo Williams & Harry Gerstad

*Song-“Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'”

*Scoring(Drama)-Dimitri Tiomkin

 

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY1953

This is another must see Zinnemann movie. Set in Hawaii, in the months leading up to Pearl Harbor, the story centers around Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, and his troubles with the new company he has joined. Burt Lancaster plays First Sergeant Milton Warden, who is having an affair with his superior officer’s wife, Karen Holmes (played by Deborah Kerr). Prewitt befriends Private Angelo Maggio, wonderfully portrayed by Frank Sinatra, who then takes Prewitt to the gentleman’s club where he falls in love with Lorene (played by Donna Reed). All five of these actors were nominated for Academy Awards for their roles.

From Here To Eternity is a masterfully adapted movie from the James Jones novel. I find it unbelievable that they were able to get so much of the novel into a two hour movie. If you haven’t seen this one yet, put it on the list. It certainly is one of the greatest American films ever made.

 

From Here To Eternity was nominated for 13 Academy Awards for:

*Best Picture

*Best Director-Fred Zinnemann

Best Actor-Montgomery Clift

Best Actor-Burt Lancaster

Best Actress-Deborah Kerr

*Best Supporting Actor-Frank Sinatra

*Best Supporting Actress-Donna Reed

*Best Writing Screenplay-Daniel Taradash

*Best Cinematography (B/W)-Burnett Guffey

Best Costume Design (B/W)-Jean Louis

*Best Film Editing-William A. Lyon

Best Scoring-George Duning and Morris Stoloff

*Best Sound (Recording)-John P.Livadary

 

A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS1966

This is a popular period piece that Zinnemann made later in his career. The story is about Sir Thomas More, who refused to sign a letter of annulment for the King, in order for him to be able to marry Anne Boylen. This movie was the second Best Picture winner for Zinnemann, who filmed and released the movie very quickly. In his autobiography he wrote that this was the easiest movie he ever made. Everything went well during filming, even things that he had no control over, such as the weather. It is a very interest movie that I found to be educational as well as enjoyable.

A Man For All Seasons was nominated for eight Academy Awards for:

*Best Picture

*Best Director-Fred Zinnemann

*Best Actor-Paul Scofield

Best Supporting Actor-Robert Shaw

Best Supporting Actress-Wendy Hiller

*Writing (Another Medium)-Robert Bolt

*Cinematography (Color)-Ted Moore

*Costume Design (Color)-Elizabeth Haffenden and Joan Bridge

 

 

The Search1948

The Search was one of Zinnemann’s first movies, but truly an achievement that is not to be missed. The story is about a young boy just after WWII, that was separated from his mother, and now doesn’t remember who he is. He barely talks, until he escapes from his transit camp and is discovered by an American Army engineer, Steve (played by Montgomery Clift). Steve takes care of the boy and tries to do anything that he can to help him.

The Search is a crowning achievement in movie making. If you really love older movies, you should find and watch it. It is emotional, thought provoking, and beautifully filmed as well as directed.

The Search was nominated for four Academy Awards:

Best Director-Fred Zinnemann

Best Actor-Montgomery Clift

*Writing (Original Story)-Richard Schweizer

Writing (Screenplay)-Richard Schweizer and David Wechsler

 

 

 

 

THE NUN’S STORY1959

This is the story of Sister Luke (Audrey Hepburn), who while in a convent, struggles with her ability to put everything in her life away. She has to learn to truly focus on her faith, while sacrificing everything else in the world. This movie is an amazing story, that would never have been as good of a movie if it wasn’t directed by Zinnemann, and wasn’t Hepburn in the starring role. It is completely different from all of her other roles, and certainly is one of my favorites.

It was nominated for eight Academy Awards:

Best Picture

Best Director-Fred Zinnemann

Best Actress-Audrey Hepburn

Writing (Based on another medium)-Robert Anderson

Cinematography (Color)-Franz Planer

Sound

Film Editing-Walter Thompson

Scoring-Franz Waxman

 

ACT OF VIOLENCE1948

This movie is Zinnemann’s film noir, that delivers perfectly. It is the story of a WWII veteran (Van Heflin), who is mysteriously being followed by another man (Robert Ryan) who walks with a limp, and has an evil gleam in his eye. Heflin is trying to stay one step ahead, and at the same time keep his young wife (Janet Leigh) and his child from harm. Also staring Mary Astor, this film moves quickly and doesn’t disappoint. If you enjoy a good mystery I would recommend this to you.

THE SUNDOWNERS1960

The Sundowners is a movie about a Husband (Robert Mitchum), his wife (Deborah Kerr), and their son. They roam through the Australian outback herding sheep for other people. Deborah is ready to settle down and have a home for their son, but Mitchum enjoys not being tied down to one place. The Sundowners also stars Peter Ustinov and Glynis Johns in supporting roles. It is a very realistic story that doesn’t try to have the Hollywood feel. It comes across as a very authentic period piece.

This movie seems to be a forgotten movie these days, and I don’t understand why. It has a great story, wonderful acting, and once again is filmed beautifully. It wasn’t a success at the box office either, but it will always be one of my favorite Zinnemann movies.

The Sundowners was nominated for five Academy Awards:

Best Picture

Best Director-Fred Zinnemann

Best Actress-Deborah Kerr

Best Supporting Actress-Glynis Johns

Writing (Based on another medium)-Isobel Lennart

 

 

THE SEVETH CROSS1944

The Seventh Cross is a WWII suspense movie about seven prisoners who escape from a concentration camp, and all go in different directions. The story is about the manhunt that ensues from the point of view of George Heisler, played by Spencer Tracy. This was Zinnemann’s first non-documentary film, and he does a great job. The movie also features great supporting performances from Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, in her first movie. Spencer Tracy is perfect as usual. The movie moves along at a good pace and doesn’t drag. It would be an excellent movie to watch, especially if you could rent it or find it at the library.

The Seventh Cross  was nominated for one Academy Award for:

Best Supporting Actor-Hume Cronyn

 

JULIA1977

 

Julia is the 1977 movie based on the book by Lillian Hellman. It centers around two childhood friends (Jane Fonda & Vanessa Redgrave) who have gone different ways as adults, but they still have a deep affection for each other. It is at this point that they have to learn what they would really do for on another, and how far they are willing to go. This movie starts off moving slowly, but becomes intense quickly. I found myself completely engrossed in the story. The acting is also amazing. Somehow Zinnemann gets the very best out of all his actors. Even Jason Robards, in a very small role,  was brilliant enough to win the best supporting actor Academy Award. Julia was nominated for eleven Academy Awards:

Best Picture

Best Director-Fred Zinnemann

Best Actress-Jane Fonda

*Best Supporting Actor-Jason Robards

Best Supporting Actor-Maximilian Schell

*Best Supporting Actress-Vanessa Redgrave

*Writing (Based on another medium)-Alvin Sargent

Cinematography-Douglas Slocombe

Costume Design-Anthea Sylbert

Film Editing-Walter Murch & Marcel Durham

Scoring (Original Music)-George Delerue

 

In addition to my favorite Zinnemann movies, it is also worth watching some of his other movies as well. They still have things to offer viewers, but seem to miss somewhere along the way.

 

THE DAY OF THE JACKAL1973: The story of an assassin hired to kill Charles de Gaulle. Very good suspense movie. Just the kind of movie the try to make today, only made better back then.

FIVE DAYS ONE SUMMER1982: Zinnemann’s last movie, follows a couple as they head to the Swiss Alps for some mountain climbing together. Once there, a mystery is unveiled.  A well made drama that gets quite suspenseful toward the end. I could not find a dvd, but for three dollars I could stream it through Amazon.

BEHOLD A PALE HORSE1964: The story of a Spanish Guerilla that comes back from living in exile in France, because his mother is dying in Spain. This movie has a good story, and is well acted with Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, and Omar Sharif.

THE MEN1950: Marlon Brando come back from WWII, but is now a paraplegic. He has trouble rejoining his former way of life. The movie is best watched for it’s acting. It was Marlon Brando’s first movie, and Teresa Wright does a great job as his fiancee.

MEMBER OF THE WEDDING1952:Based on the play by the same name, is a well acted movie about a girl of around 12. Her life seems lost and she doesn’t know where to turn. This movie is well acted, but I didn’t feel it came across as a great story. Perhaps it was a little lost in it’s journey from stage to screen.

OKLAHOMA!1955:Larger than life. Bright in colors. 70mm film is here. Yet somehow this musical was not as good as the other ones coming out around the same time. Look for it as a rental if you like musicals. I would make sure you like it before you buy it.

Also in the Fred Zinnemann collection are Hatful Of Rain (1957) and Teresa (1951). These are movies of Zinnemann’s that I have been unable to find anywhere. Also, his documentary from 1936, The Wave,  is unavailable. Finally, in 1951, he released a short subject fund-raising documentary for the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, titled Benjy. It won the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject, yet somehow I find it impossible to locate this movie either. If anyone knows how to find any of these movies, I would be extremely interested.

In conclusion, just in case you haven’t been able to tell, I think Fred Zinnemann was one of the greatest directors that we have ever had. His films were from so many different genres, and spanned so many decades. In total, his film were nominated for 65 Academy Awards, winning 24 of them. In his movies, 19 actors and actress were nominated for their performances. I find these numbers to be amazing. I am so glad I have been able to enjoy Fred Zinnemann’s movies, and I hope you are able to also. Happy Birthday Fred!

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

★★★★★

&

My Hall Of Fame

 

When I was in college, I watched Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925) in a film history class. Now, 15 years later, I am finally getting around to seeing it again. I purchased the blu-ray disc released by Kino International, with original score by Edmund Meisel, and original inter-titles. The restoration looks great.

The movie takes place in Russia in 1905. It was written as a propaganda film, with pro-revolution views. The Russian battleship Potemkin rebells against the Tsarist regime that is controlling everyone. The movie is edited into five acts. The first act, Men and Maggots, shows the crew of the Potemkin being forced to eat meat covered with maggots. Act two, Drama on the Deck, shows the crew in trouble, being brought before a firing squad, and the rebellion that ensues. The third act, A Dead Man Calls For Justice, shows our fallen hero’s body as the people of Odessa mourn over him. The fourth, and most famous act, The Odessa Staircase, shows the Tsarist soldiers come  and open fire on the the people of Odessa. The final act, The Rendez-Vous with a Squadron, shows the Potemkin being chased by other battleships.

This movie is considered one of the best movies ever made, and after being able to see it again after so long, I have to agree. The visual images that Eisenstein has put together, are unlike anything else that directors were doing at that time. Every shot of the movie was carefully planned out, and it shows in the final project. The Odessa Staircase is one of the most intense film sequences ever made, which is why so many directors pay tribute to it in their own films. This sequence is just as intense, and stirs emotions better than most movies today. Thanks to brilliant close-ups, masterful editing, and unbelievable camera work, Battleship Potemkin will always be considered one of the first movies to be truly great. The original music track also adds to the overall emotions of the movie.

While I was watching, one thing came to my attention that I didn’t remember from the first time I had seen it. I would have to say that Battleship Potemkin is one of the most violent movies I have ever seen. I was blown away be how graphic this film was. I certainly am not complaining, because I don’t mind violence in a movie, as long as it is important to the story and not just there to be shocking or disgusting. Obviously, this is not a movie I will be watching with my children any time soon.

When I am looking for old movies, I am always amazed how hard it is to find some movies that I didn’t think I would have any trouble getting a hold of. I have read that when the Nazi’s saw this movie they decided not to destroy it, even though they didn’t want their own soldiers watching it themselves. I feel we are lucky that we still have this movie and are able to watch it considering how many movies were lost during WWII.

I would like to thank Kino International for restoring this amazing movie, and making it available for everyone to see so easily. If you want to purchase it, it is available on Kino’s website, as well as on Amazon. It also can be see on Netflix streaming, although the blu-ray version is much better looking than the streamed version. Anyway you look at it, Battleship Potemkin is a must see for every fan of classic movies.

Kino also has a blu-ray edition of Sergei Eisenstein’s first movie, Strike! I will be watching that one soon, and will let you know what I think.

The Heiress (1949)

★★★★

 

In the 1949 William Wyler movie The Heiress, Olivia de Havilland plays an heiress named Catherine, who spends all of her time sitting alone.  Society, as well as her family, has deemed her boring, and unintelligent. The only thing she has going for her is her ability to cross stitch.  One night at a party she meets Morris Townsend, played by Montgomery Clift. He is immediately swept away into a world where Catherine is the greatest creature alive.  It doesn’t take us long to figure out everyone’s motives, but that is what great actors, as well as great directors, do for their viewers.  They take a simple story and complicate it with their emotions, thus leaving us engrossed by a movie that has a basic plot and doesn’t need  to fill it with unexpected plot twists. The Heiress was based on the play by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, who also wrote the screenplay.  The play was based on the book Washington Square by Henry James.

The Heiress was nominated for best picture, but lost to All The Kings Men. William Wyler directed the film, earning him one of his twelve Best Director Academy Award nominations. In total, the movie was nominated for eight academy awards. It won four of them, including a Best Actress oscar for Olivia de Havilland.  She had just won a oscar three years earlier for To Each His Own. I will be looking for that movie next week. For me, Olivia de Havilland is the epitome of grace and elegance on the screen. As with all great actresses, when I am watching her, it is impossible to look at anything or anybody else.   Although she only won two academy awards, she could have won many others.

I found myself truly enjoying this movie, and would recommend to anyone who likes a good period piece, especially one that doesn’t run into epic lengths, to find it soon. It is available pretty much anywhere you can buy movies at a reasonable price.  The Heiress fits nicely into an evening, running 116 minutes.  My wife and I started it quite late, but were able to stay awake with no trouble at all.

As a final thought, I couldn’t help but think about Montgomery Clift and his early death. At the time The Heiress was released Olivia de Havilland was 33 years old. Montgomery Clift turned 30 the week after the film was released.  I think Clift is truly one of the greatest actors we ever had, and I wish we could have had more of his movies.  I’m thrilled de Havilland was able to keep working so long, and is still with us, ready to celebrate her 96th birthday this July.  If only she was still making movies.

Boom Town (1940)

★★

 

I had never heard of the 1940 movie Boom Town.  I didn’t know who was in the movie either, until I was walking through the DVD’s at the library and I saw the case.  I picked it up and saw that the movie stars Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Claudette Colbert, and Hedy Lamarr.  I checked the movie out, just based on the actors and actress.  I have only seen Claudette Colbert and Hedy Lamarr in a couple of other movies.  I love both Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, and would watch pretty much anything they have ever made.

The story is about two oil men who end up working together, having finnacial sucsess together, loving the same girl, and eventually hating each other for it, despite the fact that they don’t hate each other at all. Throughout the movie they deal with the troubles of friendship and all the complications that come from a great movie love triangle.  The movie also deals with the troubles that arise from gaining money when you were really just looking for life’s adventure, and how little the money matters when love and friendship can be effected.  The movie also has a highly entertaining scene with an oil well on fire.

Boom Town was nominated for academy awards for special effects and cinematography, but seeing the actors work together is the most enjoyable part. This was the third, and final movie Tracy and Gable made together.  I have San Francisco (1936) but have not watched it yet. However, Test Pilot (1938) has never been made available on DVD.  Both of these movies were nominated for best picture.

I enjoyed watching Boom Town, as did my wife, but we both agreed that it was something we didn’t need to own.  I’m glad my library has such a great selection of movies at my disposal, and as long as I get them back on time it doesn’t even cost me anything!

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

★★★★

 

We sat down as a family together and decided to watch Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.  This is a movie that in the last year I have seen three or four other times with my wife, but for the children this was their first.  As a family that did a complete remodel of our home a few years ago we find this movie to be extremely funny and much more realistic than one would think. Or maybe it’s just more realistic than anyone would want to think.  It doesn’t hurt any that Cary Grant is my wife’s favorite actor, Myrna Loy is her favorite actress, and we both enjoy Melvyn Douglas.

The story is quite basic.  Family doesn’t have enough room in their home, so they move out to the country, buy an old house that looks great in their imagination, and then everything that could go wrong, does go wrong.  If you haven’t see it, just think Money Pit only 38 years older.  Everything about this movie is funny, and my children thought so as well.

Until I started looking for older movies I don’t think I had ever see Cary Grant do many comedies.  Most of the movies for which he is famous seem to be dramas.  Now I have seen more comedies from him than anything else.  Myrna Loy was another actress that in today’s world nobody is talking about what great fun her movies are to watch.  I have seen around 15 of her movies in the last year and plan on trying to find more as I continue.

And now just a quick word about Melvyn Douglas.  I have run across a handful of his movies this year and I can’t believe I had never seen any of them before.  He is the perfect addition to a movie, and I for one am putting him onto my supporting actor all-star team.  He makes every movie I have seen him in better.  His dialogue delivery is always done with a confidence that is unparalleled.  I hope to find more of his movies as well.

If you haven’t seen this movie, I think it certainly is time that you do.  If you have seen this movie then I suppose it is time to watch it again.  In fact if you don’t own it, it’s time to add it to your collection.  I promise my movie collection is happier now that Mr. Blandings has joined the family.

Why Don’t People Watch Old Movies Anymore?

It strikes me as peculiar that whenever I start a conversation about movies that came out before 1970, not many people ever have anything to say.  Obviously the older someone is, the more movies they remember, but shouldn’t we as movie fans continue showing classic movies to the next generation of movie lovers?  Where have we gone wrong?

Right now I have four children.  The oldest, at ten years old will watch any movie that I and his mother allow him to see.  If I told him a movie was awful and then put it on, he would still ask to watch.  Other children his age have seen movies that I would never let him watch.  I probably won’t let him watch most current movies until well after the rating system suggests he be allowed.  I’m sure at some point he, and his siblings, will resent this decision, but I have tried to compensate by showing them older movies that I think they will enjoy, as well as movies with more purpose and less sex, violence, and behavior than would just get him into trouble if he inserted it into his life.  So far they have responded well.  My younger kids have not embraced the older movies quite the same way, although my eight year old still thinks High Noon is the greatest movie that could ever be made, and would rather watch Will Kane stand up for himself than watch any other movie you could suggest to him.  As my children continue to get older I am eager to see how they feel about movies.  Will they love older movies and try to pass them on as I do, or will they start to lean toward mainstream movies for their entertainment?

I remember when I was a teenager and I hadn’t seen most older movies.  Some college classes and some well spent time at the library made me want to see more movies than others my age were interested in.  Thanks to all of the restoration that is done today, I am thrilled with the amount of movies you can find that most others my age have never heard about at all.  Today, when I talk to younger people about older movies they roll their eyes at me.  I get the same response when I put the subject of a foreign language film up for discussion.  Why are people afraid of putting effort into what they watch?  Is a movie without explosions harder to sit through?  I even bet that a teenager today could only name a few actors or actress from before 1970.  They are just missing out on wonderful performances from people who dedicated their lives to entertaining us.

I don’t know why this has happened to the movie loving world, but it really does make me sad.  The history of movies is a history that should be explored and I am going to do everything in my power to get younger people to watch older movies.  Not just because I think it will be important for them, but for my own selfish reasons also.  If there is more demand for older movies, just imagine how much easier it would be to get older movies.  I still have a plethora of movies to watch and plan on continuing my journey as soon as possible.