Some Like It Hot (1959): AFI 100 Days 100 Movies #22

★★★★★

 

#22 Some Like It Hot (1959)

Director-Billy Wilder

Running Time-121 Minutes

Rated-Not Rated

“Well, nobody’s perfect.”

Some Like It HotIs it the funniest movie of all time? That certainly seems to be the general consensus. After all, what makes a movie funny in the first place? Ridiculous “screwball” plot? Check. Everyone falling in love, even if it’s based on a lie? Check. Physical stunts? Check. Cross-dressing? Check.  Screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. (“Iz”) Diamond. Check. Well, maybe its no surprise this movie is so funny after all.

The story is about two musicians named Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon). They are the only witnesses to the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”, and are now being hunted by “Spats” Colombo (George Raft). In order to get out of town, they join an all girl’s band and head down to Florida.

What they didn’t expect was the lead singer of the band, Sugar “Kane” (Marilyn Monroe). Instantly Jerry (aka, Geraldine) is attracted to her, and it doesn’t take long for Joe (aka Josephine) to want her as well. Luckily there are plenty of girls to go around.

Some Like It HotWhen they reach Florida things really get crazy. Joe/Josephine pretends to be a millionaire (Junior) in order to empress Sugar. Then a real millionaire, Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) falls for Jerry/ Geraldine. And finally, the same hotel where they are performing with the band, is holding the “Friends Of Italian Opera” meetings (aka a mob boss meetings).

Anyone who says that the screwball comedy died out in the 1940’s obviously never saw Some Like It Hot. The entire movie is so out of control that all you can do is laugh, from beginning to end. Billy Wilder has taken the screwball genre and moved it into a new era of filmmaking.

“Look at that! Look how she moves. That’s just like Jell-O on springs. She must have some sort of built-in motor. I tell you, it’s a whole different sex!”

Some Like It HotBilly Wilder and “Iz” Diamond were so incredibly talented, and their movies together will always rank among the best that have ever been written. “Iz” had written a couple of screenplays early in his career, that had included Marilyn Monroe, such as Love Nest, Let’s Make It Legal and Monkey Business (another 1950’s screwball comedy). Then he teamed up with Billy Wilder on 12 different screenplays, including The Apartment (1960), Love In The Afternoon (1957), The Fortune Cookie (1966) and their most popular, Some Like It Hot.  One of the best writing duos in motion picture history, and they hit a home run with this one for sure.

We all know that Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are perfect together. Their chemistry is one of the most important aspects of this movie. Without their ability to play off of each other, this movie could have been a total disaster. These two brilliant Some Like It Hotcomedic actors truly seem like two guys who have been friends their entire lives, and that is exactly what Wilder needed.

When it comes to Marilyn Monroe, everybody already has an opinion of her. Usually there is nothing that I can say to change an already formed opinion of her, so I won’t try (at least not too much). Whether or not you enjoy her, the role of Sugar is one of the best examples of her talents. She acts the part of the ditsy girl, singing her songs and shaking her tail feathers along the way. So often you hear that Marilyn just exploited her sexuality, but in reality she (along with her sexuality) is exactly what this part needed. With any other actress this movie would be less believable, not to mention way less fun to watch.

“Zowie!”

Some Like It HotO.K. everyone, it’s time to admit that the real reason we love this movie so much is because of the incredible love story. You know what I mean, the love story between Geraldine and Osgood. Jack Lemmon and Joe Brown could have spent their entire careers as a comedy team.  And how did they ever film those dancing scenes without laughing? I have seen this movie 20 times in my life, and I can’t stop laughing every time.

Some Like It Hot is a groundbreaking movie that will forever be considered one of the funniest movies, as well as best-made movies in existence. It is a must see for everyone, because it somehow speaks to all different people in all different ways, but they all agree that it is hilarious.

The Thin Man (1934)

★★★★★

&

My Hall Of Fame

 

“The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.”

I couldn’t sleep the other night and so I decided to watch one of my all time favorites, The Thin Man (1934). Of course once I put it into the DVD player there was little hope of falling asleep at all! I have seen all six of the “Thin Man” movies several times, but the first one will always be my favorite. The reason that I decided to post about The Thin Man was to encourage ANYONE who hasn’t seen these movies to stop whatever they are doing and make this movie a priority.

The Thin ManNo, I mean right now, GO WATCH THIS MOVIE!

The Thin Man is a detective story about a retired police detective, Nick Charles (William Powell, I’m sorry, “The Great William Powell”), and his wealthy heiress wife, Nora (Myrna Loy, oh wait, “The Fabulous Myrna Loy”). Nick enjoys spending his time drinking, making jokes with his wife, drinking, speculating about crimes and oh yes, drinking.  Nora however is looking for some adventure and a taste of the life Nick had before they were married. Yes, she enjoys drinking as well.

Nora: How many drinks have you had?

Nick: This will make six Martinis.

Nora: [to the waiter] All right. Will you bring me five more Martinis, Leo? Line them right up here.

It’s not long before Nora gets her wish to have a  little excitement. An old friend of Nick’s has turned up missing, and his The Thin Mandaughter is turning to Nick to help find him. He reluctantly agrees and that is when the first murder takes place.

Although there are police detectives everywhere, they all seem to be completely incompetent and so “Nicky” has to solve this case alone. By alone I mean, with his extremely “helpful” wife and “fierce” guard dog, Asta.

In the climactic finale, Nick and Nora gather all the suspects together and dissect the plot, until they have isolated the real killer. Much like Scooby-Doo, only without the rubber mask over the villains face.

“Oh, Nicky, I love you because you know such lovely people.”

Recently I was talking with a couple of friends about movies and I mentioned The Thin Man. To my surprise, neither of them had ever heard of these movies. Not only that, but they didn’t know William Powell or Myrna Loy either! I don’t understand how a grown adult could have gone their entire life without seeing either of these two phenomenal actors at work. They are on the classic movie must see list.

The Thin ManWilliam Powell was born to play the role of Nick Charles. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is a talented actor and many of his other roles are good as well, but Nick and William will always be a perfect combination. He is funny in a way that defies description, but he also has an intelligence that seems to exceed everyone else. He is charming, sophisticated and comical beyond words.

Myrna….(Brief dramatic pause) Myrna, Myrna, Myrna. There is so much that can be said for the perfection that is Myrna Loy in these movies. The role calls for a girl who is funny, attractive, strong and logical. Oh, yes, she also has to be one of the most understanding wives ever. Luckily Myrna is the girl for the job. She somehow is able to be all these things at all times. It is a great role on it’s own, but she turned Nora into one of the funniest women to ever appear in the movies.

Nick: Oh, it’s all right, Joe. It’s all right. It’s my dog. And, uh, my wife.

Nora: Well you might have mentioned me first on the billing.

Well now that we have discussed these two wonderful actors separately, we have to mention how the only way the “Thin Man” movies worked SO well is these actors’ chemistry together. Obviously Powell and Loy starred in many movies The Thin Mantogether besides this series, so their chemistry was always undeniable, but when you watch The Thin Man you feel as if they are a married couple. And what a beautiful couple they are. I love Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello, but nobody can compare with Nick & Nora.

I heard that they are making a remake of The Thin Man, staring Johnny Depp, and I have to be honest and say that I am hugely disappointed. I dread the moment someone says to me, “Isn’t Johnny Depp so funny as Nick Charles? You know I heard that this is a remake of some old movie.” This movie being remade just makes me angry.I have a much better idea. Let’s just re-master the original and re-release it to theaters. Doesn’t that sound better?The Thin Man

Well in keeping with the spirit of “there’s never too much of a good thing”, I am going to stay up late tonight to watch After The Thin Man, and I will enjoy every second of these brilliantly funny movies. Long live Nick & Nora!

 

The Grapes Of Wrath (1940): AFI 100 Days 100 Movies #23

★★★★

 

#23 The Grapes Of Wrath (1940)

Director-John Ford

Running Time-129 Minutes

Rated-Not Rated

“Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.”

The Grapes of WrathJohn Ford made many movies; In fact he made more than 140 in his long, outstanding career. Some people (including myself) consider him one of the greatest directors who ever lived, yet today if someone mentions John Ford most people automatically think about his westerns. I suppose this is understandable considering how many of his movies are westerns, and how popular his collaborations with John Wayne have remained. But what about his brilliant, non-western movies? John Ford is the only director to win four Academy Awards for Best Director, and NONE of them were for his westerns. The second of his four awards came from his 1940 masterpiece The Grapes Of Wrath.

The Grapes of WrathOf course most of us are aware that the movie was based on the book of the same name written by John Steinbeck, and released in 1939. The movie centers on the Joad family, and especially on the son, Tom (Henry Fonda). He lives in Oklahoma during the depression and has been released from prison. He is heading back home, but when he gets there he discovers that his entire family has been evicted from their land. He finds out where they are staying and he joins them as they head out to California to look for work. Tom’s parents (Jane Darwell & Russell Simpson) have almost no possessions left, as they have sold everything in order to make the trip out west. The journey is beyond hard and not near as rewarding as they expected, but they continue on for hope of better days.

The Grapes Of Wrath paints a distinctly tragic portrait of what life was like for those who were hit hardest by the The Grapes of Wrathdepression. Although there is no factual basis behind Tom Joad and his family, the movie could play as a documentary of people who lived through these tough years in America.

The beauty of The Grapes Of Wrath lies in the directing by John Ford and the acting by Henry Fonda. Ford does a great job making this movie look depressing. Just watching makes the viewers feel the depression that these characters are living. It’s not a movie full of laughs and good times, but rather Ford has used this movie as a tool deigned to teach future generations. You could have a ten-year-old read about the depression, or they could watch The Grapes Of Wrath, and I think they will understand more from the movie than a textbook.The Grapes of Wrath

Henry Fonda is one of the greatest American actors that has ever lived. Typically, whenever you see Fonda in a movie you can expect a great performance. Of all of his roles, the three that always stand out the most are 12 Angry Men (1957), The Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) and The Grapes Of Wrath. His performance in this movie goes beyond great, and into another realm of acting. He was nominated for Best Actor, but lost to his close friend Jimmy Stewart (The Philadelphia Story). Fonda himself would have to wait 41 years to receive an Oscar of his own.

Silk Stockings (1957)

★★★

Although typically I am not a fan of remakes, there are certain types of movies that I feel can be remade well. One such way is to turn it into a musical. Musicals are different from other types of movies, and therefore they don’t have to adhere to the same rules. You can take a great movie like The Philadelphia Story (1940) and make it a musical like High Society (1956) without ruffling anyone’s feathers. Under any other circumstances, if you were to take a successful movie with Silk Stockingstremendous stars and try to remake it, not as a musical, you would most likely fail miserably. As it stands, one of the only reasons that High Society worked was because you replaced Katharine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant and Ruth Hussey, with Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Celeste Holm.

It was on this basis that I sat down to watch Silk Stockings. Silk Stockings is a remake of the 1939 Academy Award nominated movie, Ninotchka. For this remake, instead of taking Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas, we are given Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, which of course means some singing and a lot of dancing.Silk Stockings

It is the story of an American movie producer (Fred Astaire) that is trying to keep his Russian composer (Wim Sonneveld) in Paris, to write music for his next movie. Russia then sends three men (Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin and Joseph Buloff) to persuade him to come home. They are in awe of Paris and the never ending good times that Astaire has lined up for them. As a result of their failure, Russia then sends in Nina “Ninotchka” Yoschenko (Cyd Charisse), a hard-nosed workaholic that everyone knows will be merciless against the charms of Paris. Of course when she arrives and meets Astaire, all bets are off.

I have to be honest and admit that as far as remakes go Silk Silk StockingsStockings works. What did surprise me is why it works. We all know that Fred Astaire is great because every time we see him it is obvious. However, in Silk Stockings he appears to not enjoy it as much as we have come to expect. He is still as graceful as ever, but it is obvious that he doesn’t feel the same about dancing as he used to. Upon the release of Silk Stockings Fred Astaire announced that he was done with his screen dancing and he was going to only appear as an actor from then on. Sadly, except for The Notorious Landlady (1962) and Finian’s Rainbow (1968), this was true.

It seems that with Fred Astaire’s performance being less than great this movie would be harder too enjoy, but even with Astaire lacking,Silk Stockings Cyd Charisse did more than expected. She was funny attractive and extremely sexy. With a title like Silk Stockings, what more could you expect than a movie that showcases her incredibly sexy legs. Previously I have always thought of Charisse as a supporting dancer for Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, but in Silk Stockings she was able to be the star and show off all of her talents. She is a scene-stealer every moment she is on the screen, and has solo dance numbers like I have never seen before.

Many times musicals seem to be the same actors doing the same things at a different location, but having Cyd Charisse be the “lead” of the movie was way more refreshing the I thought it would be. She did a fabulous job, and she was rewarded with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.

 

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982): AFI 100 Days 100 Movies #24

★★★

 

#24 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Director-Steven Spielberg

Running Time-121 Minutes

Rated-PG

“E.T. Phone home.”

It’s the story of an extra-terrestrial that is left on Earth and makes a connection with a young boy. There it is, my one line synopsis for this movie. I may as well come right out and admit that this is NOT one of my favorite movies. These are supposed to be the “100 Greatest American Movies” of all time. Are there really only 23 movies ever made in America that are better than E.T.?

E.T.In the criteria for this list they consider the “impact in society” the movie had. All right, I can understand that E.T. had an impact on society. Basically, that just means that everyone loved it right? It also was another step in Steven Spielberg’s rise to fame, and that may be the single biggest contribution E.T. made on the world.

I was a child when E.T. came out, and I remember watching it all the time. Then I turned about 10 years old and I never watched it again…until now. I was thoroughly surprised to see E.T. in such a prominent position on the AFI list. Do people still love E.T. today? I had no idea. I didn’t own the movie so I went to the library. Then I was given a real surprise when I discovered that they had two copies and neither was available. Apparently people do still love this movie. I had to go back the next day when one was returned. I am extremely thankful I planned ahead!

Then I started thinking: “Out of the 100 movies on the AFI list, is this the one I should have the hardest time finding?” Obviously I could have purchased it, but the cheapest I could find it anywhere was $20, and that was just the DVD copy (Blu-ray will be released later this fall). If this movie is so beloved, shouldn’t it be easier to find?

E.T.After watching E.T. again, after so long, I am still a little amazed at its status. I enjoyed watching the movie and found myself laughing many times, but I don’t think I could say it was one of the best movies ever.

The one aspect of E.T. that I did enjoy was the music. Everyone knows how wonderful John Williams is, and what  an amazing score he wrote for E.T., but I was surprised that both my wife and I could sing the theme song without trying hard. It is an immensely popular song and just another example of how brilliant John William’s career has been.

Contrary to my opinions, E.T. was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and is still one of the highest grossing movies of all time. I suppose this will just have to be one of the movies that is a mystery to me, or perhaps I just need to watch it again a couple more times. Is there something there that I don’t understand? Does everyone love this movie except me?

To Kill A Mockingbird (1962): AFI 100 Days 100 Movies #25

★★★★★

 

#25 To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

Director-Robert Mulligan

Running Time-128 Minutes

Rated-Not Rated

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

To Kill A MockingbirdTo Kill A Mockingbird is set in the south during the 1930’s. The story centers on the Finch household, where the widower father Atticus (Gregory Peck) lives with his two children, Jem (Phillip Alford) and Jean Louise, aka “Scout” (Mary Badham).

At the beginning of the movie the children are very young and naive about the world. They spend their summer days playing in the neighborhood with few “real” worries about them.

Atticus is a lawyer and is appointed to defend a black man (Brock Peters as Tom Robinson) that has been accused of raping a white woman. Although many of the townspeople don’t think Atticus should defend Tom properly, Atticus believes that all men are created equal and deserve a fair defense and trial. It doesn’t take long for Atticus (and everyone else) to see that Tom is innocent, but that doesn’t stop the racism that has run rampant in this town.

“In the name of God, do your duty.”

To Kill A MockingbirdSimultaneously with the trial, Scout, Jem and a neighboring friend, Dill (John Megna), are trying to find out information about a local boy they call Boo (Robert Duvall), who apparently has been locked in the basement for years. The children have all heard horror stories about him and the things that he has done, and they desperately want to understand.

As both of the stories progress, the children all get an education about the world they live in, as well as the intolerance that surrounds them.

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.”

To Kill A MockingbirdThere are so many aspects of this movie that could be talked about for endless hours. In fact I am certain that people still do, on a regular basis. What struck me most about To Kill A Mockingbird, as I watched it this time, was Gregory Peck and Atticus Finch. From all accounts it seems that Gregory Peck and Atticus Finch were remarkably similar. Same ideals, same outlook, same unbelievable patients, and the exact same lack of tolerance for racism.

Although Peck was raised in Southern California, he felt as though America’s outlook at that time was consistent everywhere. In the later editions of the novel you can find Peck’s thoughts on the opening page:

To Kill A MockingbirdThe Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama reminds me of the California town I grew up in. The characters of the novel are like people I knew as a boy. I think perhaps the great appeal of the novel is that it reminds readers everywhere of a person or a town they have known. It is to me a universal story – moving, passionate and told with great humor and tenderness. -Gregory Peck

Even though Peck had a brilliant career, this would be the role for which he would always be most remembered. To Kill A Mockingbird was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning three of them, including Peck’s Best Actor award. It is listed on the To Kill A MockingbirdAFI’s “Best American Movie” list at #25, and their Most “Inspiring Movies” at #2 (Behind It’s A Wonderful Life). It is also listed at #1 as the “Best Courtroom Drama”. Of all the accolades that To Kill A Mockingbird has received, the one that stands out the most is the AFI list of their “Greatest Heroes”. Atticus Finch was voted the #1 hero in American movie history. That is a pretty impressive list of cinematic heroes that includes some of the biggest names ever: Moses, Batman, Serpico, Patton, Superman, Lou Gehrig, Spartacus, Mr. Tibbs, Dirty Harry, Oskar Schindler, Mr. Smith, Ripley, Rocky, Will Kane, James Bond and Indiana Jones. It is unbelievable that with all of those heroes from which to choose, the AFI picked Atticus Finch as #1, and I couldn’t agree more. He is the To Kill A Mockingbirdman that everyone should strive to be, no matter how many times we fail. Atticus is a man who is good, kind, patient and loving. He stands up for the weak and doesn’t have to fight to prove he is right. Gregory Peck and Atticus Finch will forever be connected as well as looked up to, as heroes for us all.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939): AFI 100 Days 100 Movies #26

★★★★★

 

#26 Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)

Director-Frank Capra

Running Time-130 Minutes

Rated-Not Rated

“Either I’m dead right, or I’m crazy!”

Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonI think I have finally figured out what is wrong with today’s American cinema. We have no Frank Capra. Movies today bring all kind of subject matter to the screen, and they certainly can educate viewers on any number of things, but what we really need is a director that can inspire the audience the way Frank Capra did with so many of his movies, including Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

The plot is about an unnamed state that is forced to pick a replacement Senator, but the Governor doesn’t know whom to choose. Due to corruption with his political boss, Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold), the Governor is forced to find a replacement that won’t ask any questions about a proposed bill that is part of a dam-building graft scheme. He chooses a naive man named Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart). Taylor, along Mr. Smith Goes To Washingtonwith the other Senator, Joseph Paine (Claude Rains), thinks they can control Smith and keep him from finding out about the scheme.

Mr. Smith arrives in Washington and is in complete awe of the city and everything that it represents. He spends the better part of his first day going to all of the memorials around Washington and paying his respects. Meanwhile his new secretary, Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur), and her newspaperman friend, Diz Moore (Thomas Mitchell), are waiting for him to arrive at his office. When he eventually makes it there they are dumbfounded by what is either a profound love for his country or just complete stupidity.

“There’s no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties. And, uh, if that’s what the grownups have done with this world that was given to them, then we’d better get those boys’ camps started fast and see what the kids can do. And it’s not too late, because this country is bigger than the Taylors, or you, or me, or anything else. Great principles don’t get lost once they come to light. They’re right here; you just have to see them again!”

Mr. Smith Goes to WashingtonAfter a meeting with the press Mr. Smith quickly gets a lesson in how reporters feel about politics, and sets out to do something good in his time in the senate. He proposes a bill that would create a boys camp for the youths of his state, but it happens to be on the same location that Taylor and Paine are planning to build their dam.

When Smith discovers the corrupt bill he decides to turn Taylor in to the senate, but before he is given a chance, Paine speaks out against Smith, and a smear campaign, including falsified witnesses, makes Smith look like it is he that is corrupt.

Smith goes before the senate, at the urging of Clarissa, and at the first opportunity asks permission to speak. The President Of The Senate (Harry Carey) grants him permission, and Smith creates a filibuster until people will again listen to him.

“You think I’m licked. You all think I’m licked. Well, I’m not licked. And I’m going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause. Even if the room gets filled with lies like these, and the Taylors and all their armies come marching into this place.”

Mr. Smith Goes To WashingtonMr. Smith Goes To Washington marked a turning point in Frank Capra’s career. He had been very popular over the last six years, directing movies like Lady For A Day (1933), It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936), Lost Horizon (1937) and You Can’t Take It With You (1938). All of these movies were lighthearted, happy-go-luck movies that showed optimism and encouragement for Americans. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington was the first movie of Capra’s that showed a darker side to the world. No longer did the audience know that evil would be punished, and all the wrongdoers of the world caught. There was corruption even among honorable people, and the “little guy” was in danger at every turn. Even if it was against people that he should be Mr. Smith Goes To Washingtonable to trust.

The movie had it’s premier in Washington and was instantly greeted with attacks from every angle. The Washington press and the U.S. Congress called the movie “un-American and pro-Communist” for its portrayal of there being corruption in the United States government. As I have read further I have found some quotes that were said after the premier of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington: “silly and stupid”, “a grotesque distortion”, “as grotesque as anything ever seen” and my personal favorite, “makes the Senate look like a bunch of crooks”. Honestly after reading about the reception that this movie received, I am surprised it was still released. Many thanks that it was still released because it has become one of the greatest movies ever made about American politics.

Jimmy Stewart gives the best performance of his career as Jefferson Smith. All of his previous roles were just an actor Mr. Smith Goes to Washingtonhaving a good time while he entertained audiences. After playing Mr. Smith he became a permanent fixture that will forever be associated with great movies. He was nominated for Best Actor in 1939, but unfortunately he lost to Robert Donat in Goodbye Mr. Chips. The next year Jimmy did win Best Actor for The Philadelphia Story, but many believe it was more of a make-up for playing Mr. Smith.

In total, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning only one for: Writing: Best Story. That is a true testament to the greatness of 1939; the 26th greatest American movie only wins one Academy Award, and there are two other movies on the AFI list that are ranked higher. In addition to the AFI Mr. Smith Goes to Washingtonlisting Mr. Smith Goes To Washington as the 26th “Greatest American Movie”, they also voted Jefferson Smith as the 11th “Greatest Hero” and Jimmy Stewart as the 3rd “Greatest Actor”.

I never knew it until today, but we sure could use another Frank Capra movie.