The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936)- Stephen Roberts

 ★★★★

 

In the years following the success of Warner Brother’s “The Thin Man” (1934), a whole slew of imitations and copycat films were produced (as well as the five sequels, of course).The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936) Some of these films were good… and some not so good. None, however, seemed to duplicate that perfect blend of light-hearted ease, and suspenseful drama as well as “The Ex-Mrs. Bradford” (1936).

The story revolves around Dr. Lawrence Bradford (William Powell) and his mystery novelist ex-wife, Paula (Jean Arthur). It seems they got a divorce because Paula’s cravings for adventure and danger during her preparations for her novels became too much for the Dr.’s quiet way of life. Their marriage certainly didn’t crumble from a lack of attraction, or love, as is obvious whenever they are in a room together. Paula has returned from traveling the world (and pushed her way back into his house) because of a growing desire to rekindle things with her dear husband.

Coinciding with her return is the mysterious death of a jockey, right in the middle of a lucrative horse race. Paula is sure foul play was involved, and will stop at nothing to get her ex-husband to help investigate. Reluctant as he may be, Paula’s charms are more than he can handle, which works out conveniently since Dr. Bradford shows up as suspect number one. He also may very well be the only man capable of solving this particular mystery.

See what I mean? This could have been another “Thin Man” movie, except for the whole divorce angle.William Powell is as delightful as ever in a role that is perfectly suited for his comedic abilities, leaving the audience desiring nothing. So, sure, Myrna Loy isn’t in the film- which is a great travesty, but Jean Arthur’s no slouch herself. The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936)In fact the one major difference between “The Ex-Mrs. Bradford” and the “Thin Man” films is that in this movie the wife character is just as tough as her husband- thus the need for Arthur. Nobody can say that Jean Arthur isn’t capable of being tough. (It also doesn’t hurt that she’s as beautiful as ever in this film.)

If there is any time that you want me to start spouting off about what an amazing actor William Powell is- all you have to do is ask. He seems to always have his character’s thoughts running through his head, and even when the dialogue or staging becomes over the top, Powell knows how to play the part in order to ensure laughs. His career has many notable moments, but the reason I am singling him out today is because of my admiration for his ability to turn out magnificent performances one on top of the other. “The Ex-Mrs. Bradford” was not the only movie in which he appeared in 1936. Just a few months later he could also be seen in one of his best roles, alongside Carole Lombard in “My Man Godfrey” (1936). But Powell wasn’t done there either. Before the year was out he also starred in the comic hit, “The Libeled Lady” (1936), and the second installment in the “Thin Man” series, “After the Thin Man” (1936).The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936) If that wasn’t enough, he also headlined an amazing cast in that year’s Best Picture winning “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936), bringing his grand total to five films in one year, all of which were successful, including three of them being among the highest eleven grossing films of 1936. How he was able to put in so much energy, day after day, to ensure the highest possible quality, I’ll never know.

“The Ex-Mrs. Bradford” was directed by Stephen Roberts, who to me was not a “known” filmmaker. After a little research I learned that he directed his first film in 1923, at the age of 27, and proceeded to direct more than 100 movies between that time and the release of this film in May of 1936, before his untimely death of a heart attack just two months later. His filmography is impressive to behold, even if many of the films are unheard of or obscure, and one can’t help but think about what could have been.

Is “The Ex-Mrs. Bradford” a masterpiece of filmmaking? No, but it is entertaining and showcases two of Hollywood’s most entertaining actors in all their glory and splendor.

Cleopatra (1963)- Joseph L. Mankiewicz

 ★★★★★

 

“Cleopatra” (1963) is a very good movie- in fact it’s basically two very good movies. When director Joseph L. Mankiewicz tried to convince the big-wigs at Twentieth Century Fox to split this into two separate films, he was probably on the right track. Epic doesn’t even begin to describe the overall production; in fact there isn’t a word that accurately Cleopatra (1963)describes the production of this film. That is why today, when a movie has a grandiose feel- or even when the making of a movie gets out of control, we instantly begin to compare it to “Cleopatra”.

So what went wrong, and why is this film regarded by many to be a waste of time? Is this really such a bad film, or is it just a long one? When you look- and I mean really look at this film, what is it that is so bad? When examining (or re-examining) “Cleopatra”, the first aspect that must be dissected is the story itself. Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) his been victorious in his campaign over Pompey. Caesar pursues Pompey upon his retreat to Alexandria, where Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII (Richard O’Sullivan) and his sister, Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor), are vying for the throne. Caesar, displeased that Ptolemy has had Pompey killed, ends up siding with Cleopatra and disposing of Ptolemy.

Cleopatra (1963)

With the throne hers, Cleopatra sets her sights higher by producing a son and heir for Caesar, one who could rule absolutely, above all others. Of course, as virtually everyone knows, the Roman Senate, and even Brutus himself, cannot allow this to happen, and on the Ides of March, 44 B.C. Julius Caesar is murdered.Cleopatra (1963)

Caesar’s loyal friend, Marc Antony (Richard Burton), along with Caesar’s nephew, Octavian (Roddy McDowall), begin a campaign to destroy all those involved in Caesar’s death. After they are victorious in their righteous endeavor, the land is divided, but there is also bad blood between them, yet to be sorted out. Antony needs help and knows that Cleopatra could be his answer. Unlike the relationship between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra that seems to be mostly based on status and mutual gain, Antony and Cleopatra have an attraction and chemistry that blindly leads Antony against all reason and good judgment. His decisions become based on his desires, thus causing the downfall of himself, and his chance to be victorious again.

Cleopatra (1963)

Well you can’t fault anyone on the story aspect of this film because it is about as intriguing as they come. It also happens to be one of the most accurate life to screen adaptations in memory, and we known how hard that is to do when Hollywood gets involved. “Cleopatra” isn’t filled with a bunch of fake scenes involving epic battles that didn’t really happen or subplots that never existed.Cleopatra (1962) This is what happened. These are the real events. With the exception of a few minor, mostly insignificant deviations, we are given the real story of the life and times of the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra.

So if there is nothing wrong with the story, what about the acting? Among the nine Academy Awards for which “Cleopatra” was nominated, only one was for acting, and that was a Best Actor nomination for Rex Harrison. Perhaps it was the heated, public affair of Burton and Taylor that caused their omission from the nominees that year, but I for one can’t believe that it was because their performances weren’t considered great. Burton’s ferocity as Antony shows off some of his best work in a role that is unlike many others in his career. His passion exudes from within, filling the screen with both emotion and heartache.Cleopatra (1963) Elizabeth Taylor plays the role of Cleopatra with a confidence and inspiration that few actresses have ever possessed. She is magnificent to behold, with the beauty and elegance of a queen, effortlessly combined with the sting of a femme fatale from a 1950’s film noir. The lack of nominations for both of these screen icons, is an unforgivable oversight, but as bad as their omission is here, they are not the only ones. Roddy McDowall gives a stellar performance as Octavian, and was also deserving of recognition, but due to an “oversight”, he too was denied a nomination. It seems (for some ridiculous reason) that McDowall was submitted as a contender in the Best Actor category, instead of the more obvious, and better suited Best Supporting Actor category.

Cleopatra (1963)

“Cleopatra” did however secure other nominations and victories at the Academy Awards. It won four awards for Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. I don’t think any of these categories need defending, as each and every one (especially the costumes with 65 different ones for Cleopatra alone)Cleopatra (1963) are as near to perfection as it gets.

So I ask again, why is this not a great film? I  have come to the conclusion (despite my previous claims) that it is a great film. Sure you can point out that the production was plagued with problems, both physical and financial. Yes, it lost money and nearly destroyed one of the most prolific movie studios in the world, but I for one refuse to judge (or at least try not to judge) a film by anything more than what I see on the screen, and I can find very little to complain about while watching “Cleopatra”.

So then we have finally arrived at the topic that people most like to discuss: the film’s running time. Yes, 248 minutes makes for a long movie. I see no need to argue that there aren’t scenes that could be deleted, or areas that could be trimmed. As I said at the beginning of my ramblings, this would have made two excellent movies. Cleopatra (1963)What it comes down to is that if you tried to take out enough of the story to cut the film down to 170 or even 190 minutes, it would appear (and rightfully so) thrown together and incoherent. The story needs these scenes and dialogue, it needs the slow-paced story to increase the drama and intensity. What is doesn’t need are long, drawn out battles sequences every thirty minutes, because those (quite honestly) aren’t important to this particular story on any level, which is why they were left out, thus opening countless arguments that “Cleopatra” is boring. This is not just an epic, it’s a romantic epic that is reliant on the dialogue carefully written and performed, and the passion that is expressed between the films stars. Nothing else is needed.

Cleopatra (1963)

If someone doesn’t want to sit through 248 minutes of romance, betrayal and drama, then obviously this is not the film for them, but to write off “Cleopatra” simply because, “It’s too long,” is unfair and a mistake. Sometimes being patient does pay off in the end. Besides, if you don’t like sports movies, you don’t watch them, right? If you find gangster movies to be too violent, you avoid them. So if you know that long movies aren’t your thing- just know to keep your distance on this one.
http://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?t=lasthemov-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B001AQO3SS&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=E3E3E3&bg1=E3E3E3&f=ifrhttp://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?t=lasthemov-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B00BQ7GU1Y&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=E3E3E3&bg1=E3E3E3&f=ifr

Remembering Elmore Leonard (1925-2013)

Famed author Elmore Leonard died this morning from complication of a stroke he suffered on July 29th. He was 87.

I was twenty-years-old the first time I picked up an Elmore Leonard novel on the recommendation of a friend, but was never sorry that I did. His writing seemed simple, but the stories were so complicated and intriguing that it was almost as if the simplicity was just a disguise, lowering the readers guard, to only surprise and delight in the final chapters. He never tried to overcomplicate things, but his characters were so deeply written that it’s impossible to read any of his stories without becoming engrossed.Get Shorty (1995) Since that time, I have read several more of his novels, short stories and other literary endeavors, but because this is a site dedicated to my love of movies, I will limit today’s thoughts to the memory of his contributions to the cinematic world.

More than twenty of his stories have been adapted for the screen (both theatrical and television), and even though I haven’t seen them all, each one that I have sought out perfectly exemplified his talent and ability to be a great story-teller. Anyone can put words on a page and try to entertain their readers, but Leonard invited us into his characters’ world, where we can share an experience with them, even if just for a brief time. The stories that he has left behind will live on forever, as will my memory of him and his undeniable brilliance. Thank you, Elmore, for making movies better.

My Elmore Leonard “must see” list includes seven films- some westerns, some crime films- all amazing. What is your favorite Leonard adaptations?

  • “Get Shorty” (1995): Jackie Brown (1997)Starring John Travolta, Rene Russo, Gene Hackman, Danny Devito, Dennis Farina, Delroy Lindo, James Gandolfini and David Paymer. Based on the 1990 novel of the same name.
  • “The Tall T” (1957): Randolph Scott teamed with director Budd Boetticher for this western classic based on Leonard’s 1955 short story, “The Captives”.
  • “Joe Kidd” (1972): Starring Clint Eastwood and directed by John Sturges, this western film wasn’t based on anything, but was instead an original screenplay written by Leonard.
  • “Out of Sight” (1998): An all-star cast headlined by George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Steve Zahn and Albert Brooks- based on Leonard’s 1996 novel of the same name.
  • “Hombre” (1967): 3:10 to Yuma (1957)Based on his 1961 novel, “Hombre” is still considered to be one of the finest western stories ever told, and is often cited as Leonard’s most acclaimed literary work. The film stars Paul Newman and Fredric March.
  • “Jackie Brown” (1997): Quentin Tarantino adapted Leonard’s 1992 novel “Rum Punch” into this masterfully woven crime story. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson, Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton and Robert De Niro
  • “3:10 to Yuma” (1957 & 2007): Last, but certainly not least on my list are the two different films version of Elmore Leonard’s 1953 short story (“Three-Ten to Yuma”). Although I enjoy both film versions of this story, the 1957 film starring Glen Ford and Van Heflin, and directed by Delmer Daves, is an absolute masterpiece.

The Man with a Cloak (1951)- Fletcher Markle

★★★★

 

“The Man with a Cloak”. Doesn’t it sound mysterious, intriguing and exciting? With a title as great as that, one can’t help but have some seriously high expectations for what follows. The Man with a Cloak (1951)The good news is that on most levels this 1951 drama exceeds, or at least meets those expectations.

The film takes place in New York City, 1845. A young French girl named Madeline (Leslie Caron) has traveled to New York in order to track down her finance’s wealthy Grandfather, Charles Thevenet (Louis Calhern). She finds him grumpy, angry, drunk and almost incommunicable, in part due to his failing health, and in part because of the woman who “cares” for him, Lorna Bounty (Barbara Stanwyck). She, along with her two cohorts (Joe De Santis & Margaret Wycherly) posing as a maid and butler, are just waiting for the old man to die in order to live comfortably off of his money; so much so in fact, that they may be trying to speed up his dying process.

Madeline is the unexpected thorn in their side, as they correctly suspect that the blood ties to his only living relative might persuade him to send money back to France.The Man with a Cloak (1951) Lorna does everything in her power to keep Madeline from spending time with Charles- locking him away because of his “failing health”, leaving Madeline sitting alone, worrying about his safety.

Enter, “The Man with a Cloak”. (I know, you almost forgot about him, didn’t you?) This good-natured, nameless chap (Joseph Cotten) claims to be a writer, but his true profession is drinking. In fact, if ever there was a movie that did everything they could to convince the audience that a man has a drinking problem, this would be the one. He meets Madeline early on in the film, and like all great mysterious film characters, waits around patiently observing until he can be of some use. He introduces himself simply as Dupin, and finds himself playing detective- enthusiastically getting involved in Madeline’s problems, and getting involved with Lorna as well.

There are many aspects of this film that are great, but it’s the acting that stands out.The Man with a Cloak (1951) The unusual part is that it’s not just because of Stanwyck and Cotten, as you might expect. They are both good (as always), but it’s the supporting players that enhance the overall film: People like Margaret Wycherly, the underrated character actor from movies like “White Heat” (1948), “Sergeant York” (1941) and “Random Harvest” (1942); Joe De Santis, who would go on to a long and flourishing career in television, as well as some key roles in films like “The Professionals” (1966), “Buchannan Rides Alone” (1958) and “I Want to Live!” (1958); Louis Calhern, whose career spanned over thirty years of filmmaking, in which he covered almost every type of movie imaginable. Films like “Duck Soup” (1933), “Notorious” (1946), “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950), “Blackboard Jungle” (1950) “High Society” (1956), and even played Julius Caesar alongside Marlon Brando. Even Jim Backus, who brilliantly portrayed James Dean’s father in “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955), shows up as the humorous bartender always trying to get Dupin to pay his tab. Sure you can expect that special something from Cotten and Stanwyck in this film, but these smaller roles are the ones that make “The Man with a Cloak” an ensemble picture. The Man with a Cloak (1951)Leslie Caron, on the other hand, is desperately outmatched here. It’s not really her fault (well, maybe it is), there is just too much experience and charisma oozing from everyone else on the set, and she is unable to keep up, leaving her hiding in the shadows of more prestigious actors.

I find myself surprised that more people weren’t, and aren’t, enthralled by this film. It feels similar in a way to George Cukor’s “Gaslight” (also starring Cotten in a vaguely similar role), only without the same level of suspense. The black and white cinematography by George J. Folsey looks stunning, the music by David Raksin is appropriately mysterious, and the direction from Fletcher Markle doesn’t interfere with the cast that was obviously the focal point anyway. So I asked myself, “What went wrong?”

And then it hit me. “The Man with a Cloak” is a superbly crafted 1940’s drama, released in the 1950’s. It feels like a 40’s movie, it looks like a 40’s movie, and when it’s over you’ll feel like you watched a 40’s movie. The Man with a Cloak (1951)Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t need to be a bad thing. It’s just that “The Man with a Cloak” was released within the same few months as films like “Strangers on a Train” (1951), “A Place in the Sun” (1951) and “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951). Those are 50’s films, thus clearly differentiating themselves in design and style from films such as this one.

So don’t label “The Man with a Cloak”, expecting something overly suspenseful, as audiences inevitably did in 1951. Enjoy the film as an example of complex characters portrayed by some highly talented actors, culminating into a film that has a little bit of everything to offer. Besides, who doesn’t love a good mystery every now and then?
http://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?t=lasthemov-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B004DKDOEC&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=E3E3E3&bg1=E3E3E3&f=ifr

New Criterion Collection Titles Announced for November 2013

The middle of the month is here, which means that once again it is time to argue… I mean discuss what we think about the new additions to the historic Criterion Collection that we will be seeing this coming November. As if these films aren’t great enough on their own, The Criterion Collection will also be adding a new feature for their discs: the “dual format” feature, that will include both DVD and blu-ray copies of the film. But we can talk about that another time; on to the selections.

Being released on Tuesday, November 12th, 2013:

  • “City Lights” (1931): City Lights (1931)It doesn’t get much better than this Charlie Chaplin classic that is FINALLY making its way to blu-ray. This is arguably Chaplin’s greatest film, as he brilliantly mixes his usual array of comic enthusiasm with quite possibly the greatest romance in screen history. And how about that boxing scene, right? “City Lights” has been given a 4K digital film transfer for this release which I am sure is going to look as glorious as possible, and the array of bonus features seems worth while as well. Unfortunately, we do have to wait until November to see this film in its new found glory!
  • “Frances Ha” (2013): Frances Ha (2013)Being released the same day is another comedy film, this time from one of The Criterion Collection’s favorite active directors, Noah Baumbach. Greta Gerwig stars as a twenty-something year old, living in New York, while trying to find her place amongst those around her. With a style that only Baumbach possesses, and a skill that should be applauded, “Frances Ha” is a delightful and sweet film that is getting some much deserved validation with this release.

Being released on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013:

  • “Tokyo Story” (1953): Tokyo Story (1953)I’m not trying to sound too preachy or anything, but if you haven’t seen- no wait, experienced this exceptional film- wait no longer. This poignant story was inspired in part by Leo McCarey’s 1937 masterpiece, “Make Way for Tomorrow”, and centers on an elderly couple experiencing difficulties adjusting to life in a new era. Masterful director Yasujiro Ozu has many great films to his credit, but there is little denying that “Tokyo Story” is his best, and is also one of the most moving and powerful films of all time. If you don’t believe me, just try to find a bad review for this film. “Tokyo Story” is already part of The Criterion Collection, but is at long last making its blu-ray debut, as well as receiving some new bonus materials. 

Being released on Tuesday, November 26th, 2013:

  • “Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman” (1962-1973): ZatoichiI’m not going to sit here and pretend to know everything movie related, so I’ll be honest and admit that I have no memory of these films what-so-ever. From what I can gather, these films are based on a character by Ken Shimozawa that is both a blind masseur and a master swordsman. In total, 26 films were made with this character, as well as a brief television show. This set includes the first 25 films in the series. (That is a lot of blind-swordplay!)

Cinemark Classic Series for August- October 2013

As the seasons continue to change, the Cinemark Classic Series changes as well. For the Fall 2013 films, Cinemark has mixed things up quite a bit, ranging throughout the genres with action movies, dramas and comedies, not to mention Best Picture nominees, and cult classics- with release years range anywhere from 1958 to 1999. Vertigo (1958)This time around there is a little something for everyone, guaranteed.

As always, you can get more information through the Cinemark website, including ticket prices and showtimes. As usual, each film will be shown once on Sundays at 2:00 P.M., and then twice on the following Wednesday at both 2:00 P.M. and 7:00 P.M. Ticket prices may vary (usually around $10 per movie), but tickets for all six films can be purchased at a reduced, bundled price. (Usually around $30.) Here is the rundown of films being shown:

On Sunday, August 25th, and Wednesday, August 28th:

  • “Pulp Fiction” (1994): Pulp Fiction (1994)Quentin Tarantino surprised the world with this Best Picture nominated film starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis. Tarantino won his first Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his wickedly entertaining combination of humor and violence that not only grabbed attention upon its initial release, but also has become one of the most enduring films of the 1990’s. It also happens to be one of those films that forever changed the way we looked at movies. It is a must see for all cinematic lovers, and there is no better way to see this film than on the big screen. 

On Sunday, September 1st, and Wednesday, September 4th:

  • “The French Connection” (1971):The French Connection (1971) Another dark, gritty film is the crime drama from director William Friedkin. With perfect cinematography, a great screenplay and the best performance of Gene Hackman’s career, “The French Connection” was another game-changer as it swept the movie watching world off their feet, pushing the boundaries of what had been seen in the past. It also happens to be the first “R” rated film to ever receive the Academy Award for Best Picture. 

On Sunday, September 8th, and Wednesday, September 11th:

  • “Some Like It Hot” (1959): Some Like it Hot (1959)Billy Wilder is a comic genius, and this is his masterpiece of humor and delight. Jack Lemmon is incredibly funny, Tony Curtis is at the top of his game, and Marilyn Monroe is as entertaining as ever in this story about two Chicago musicians who are on the run from a mob boss. How will they get out of town unnoticed? Dress up as women and join an all girls band of course! The laughs never stop in what is widely voted one of the funniest films ever made, and a perfect way to spend any day.

On Sunday September 15th, and Wednesday September 18th:

  • “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962): To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)Gregory Peck gives a tour-de-force performance in this incredibly brilliant film based on Harper Lee’s best-selling novel. If you are looking for an example of perfect filmmaking, you need look no further, as each and every aspect of this picture is done to the highest standard. “To Kill a Mockingbird” has proven to the world that with a great story, a brilliantly adapted screenplay, and of course, one of the greatest actors of all time, there is nothing that can’t be accomplished. 

On Sunday, September 22nd, and Wednesday, September 25th:

  • “Fight Club” (1999): Fight Club (1999)You can argue with me day and night if you’d like to, but I said it back on October 15th, 1999, and I still say it today, “Fight Club” is one of the greatest motion pictures ever filmed. Filmmaker extraordinaire David Fincher created one of the most interesting, captivating and completely unorthodox films, that despite the neigh-sayers has hung around long enough to become an incredibly popular cult classic. Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter are all magnificent, but it is David Fincher’s direction and Jim Uhls’s screenplay that steal the show. 

On Sunday, September 29th, and Wednesday, October 2nd:

  • “Vertigo” (1958): Vertigo (1958)The piece de resistance of this group comes in the form of Alfred Hitchcock’s immortal classic, “Vertigo”. It received many negative reviews upon its initial release, yet somehow in the last 50-some odd years it has moved up the ranks of great films, most recently being voted Sight & Sound magazine’s, “greatest film of all time” in 2012. The always perfect James Stewart stars with Kim Novak in a psychological thriller that is as patient and intriguing as any of Hitchcock’s film, and promises to leave the audience thinking and contemplating long after the lights have come up. Originally filmed in 70mm, “Vertigo” is a film that is begging and pleading to be seen on the largest screen possible, making this an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

You Were Never Lovelier (1942)- William A. Seiter

 ★★★★★

 

American dancer Bob Davis (Fred Astaire) would like to retire from his line of work and spend all his time at the racetrack. Unfortunately for Bob, he isn’t as good with the horses as he would like.You Were Never Lovelier (1942) Broke and busted in Buenos Aires, Bob heads over to Hotel Acuna to get some work. The harsh hotel owner, Eduardo Acuna (Adolphe Menjou), won’t even see Bob, partially because he doesn’t want to and partially because he is preparing for his daughter’s upcoming wedding. Bob, coincidentally, meets his old friend, bandleader Xavier Cugat (who uses his real name to play his character), and together they devise a plan to get Acuna to notice Bob. At the wedding, Bob will sing a romantic song as the newlyweds come together for their first dance.

You Were Never Lovelier (1942)During the wedding Bob goes unnoticed by Acuna, and is further discouraged when he is ignored by Acuna’s next eldest daughter, the beautiful Maria (Rita Hayworth). Bob tries to talk to Acuna about a job, unaware that Maria is his daughter, and mentions that she has the personality of an ice box, thus cementing a bitter feel to his and Acuna’s relationship.

Acuna has four daughters and has told them that, as per family tradition, they must be married in age order, making Maria next in line. Her two younger sisters have already found their men and are impatiently waiting for Maria to meet Mr. Right. In an unusual twist for this type of movie, Acuna is not an overly protective or unemotional character. You Were Never Lovelier (1942)He too wants to see Maria fall head over heels, so much so that he creates an imaginary admirer for his daughter.

After many poems and flowers (all sent by her father), Maria falls in love with her imaginary man, who she mistakenly thinks is Bob. In order to try to help matters, Acuna hires Bob to pose as Maria’s suitor, in exchange for a dancing contract at the hotel. Naturally, once Bob spends some time with Maria’s charming smile, sparkling eyes and irresistible dance moves, he can’t help but fall in love with her, even if under false pretenses.

Alright, so  the plot could be interchanged for most other Astaire films, especially when you consider that when Maria and Bob meet there are no sparks, only to later lead to a romance. This seems to be the basic idea of every Astaire dancing film, doesn’t it? Then there are the dancing numbers.You Were Never Lovelier (1942) As always Fred has an energetic solo number, followed by a romantic duet in the garden, and then another fast-paced modern dance number with his leading lady. All that’s left is a final romantic number right at the film’s climax, and don’t worry, you won’t be disappointed, as Astaire delivers again.

What makes “You Were Never Lovelier” such a great film is the perfection of each and every one of these dance numbers. Fred’s solo, Latin inspired number is one of his personal best. Cramped into a small office while auditioning for Acuna, Astaire manages to make theYou Were Never Lovelier (1942) room seem bigger by jumping on a table, Acuna’s desk, pushing back a chair, and even using things sitting around the room as props. This number seems uncharacteristic of Astaire throughout his career, as there is a special flare to it that really shows his excitement and passion over making this film. This much enthusiasm only appears a few times in his carrer, although he comes quite close regularly.

Likewise with Astaire and Hayworth’s “Zoot Suit” number, these two irresistible stars seem to be having more fun than usual, only making the audience yearn for more from them both. The young Hayworth (who was only 24 years old when the film was released) is able to keep up with the never-tiring Astaire, who despite being 19 years older than Hayworth, still makes everyone watching feel old and decrepit. You Were Never Lovelier (1942)(How does he move around a room like that?)

Another aspect of this film that I find quite interesting is the wonderful Adolphe Menjou. Capable of so many different types of roles, he adds a sense of legitimacy to “You Were Never Lovelier”. He spends so much of the film barking orders to those around him, but because Menjou is such a talented actor, he mixes things up by making his yelling seem amusing, nicely fitting into the comedy feel of the film. It also doesn’t hurt that the character is written as such a soft-hearted romantic. Even when he treats everyone around him with contempt, he instantly redeems himself with some act of kindness, fully devoted to his daughter’s happiness.

The two pairings of Fred Astaire and Rita You Were Never Lovelier (1942)Hayworth (the other being “You’ll Never Get Rich”) might not be widely remembered as Astaire’s best movies, but I am unsure as to why. Their chemistry is undeniable, their dancing impeccable and the music is unforgettable. Any opportunity to see Rita and Fred is one that shouldn’t be missed, and I dearly wish they had been able to work together in more than just these two pictures as they quite honestly… were never lovelier.
http://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?t=lasthemov-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B0001LJCRA&ref=tf_til&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=E3E3E3&bg1=E3E3E3&f=ifr