Nov 4, 2010

11 mini reviews including "Hold back the dawn" and "Topper"

When I started this blog, I wrote my posts  in Spanish. I translated and updated these reviews so you can read them :)

1. Der blaue Engel (1930; Josef von Sternberg)

Who's in it: Marlene Dietrich, Emile Jannings.
What is it about: A school teacher has the very bad idea of falling in love with Marlene Dietrich playing a cabaret dancer....
The good: the powerful and dramatic story, the character development, Janning and Dietrich's moving performances, the suffocating atmosphere achieved by director Josef von Sternberg.
The bad: Nothing, poor guy.
Should I see it? Yes, but it's really depressing.

2. Kiss and Make-Up (1935; Harlan Thompson)

Who's in it: Cary Grant, Helen Mack, Genevieve Tobin
What is it about: A plastic surgeon (Grant) thinks he's in love with one of his operated clients and not with his secretary....
The good: the initial idea of a plastic surgeon having to choose between fabricated beauty and natural beauty; the rather funny scene in which you see how many treatments one of the clients has to follow in order to look beautiful; Cary Grant sings...
The bad: the story is awfully developed, it just paces around and halfway trough the movie you still don't know what's the main story ; the 70% of the characters are not very interesting (I couldn't care less what happen with them at the end) and their actions are really unbelievable.
Should I see it? No.

3. Topper (1937; Norman Z. McLeod)

Who's in it: Cary Grant , Constance Bennett, Roland Young
What is it about: A wealthy young couple that LOVE parties have a fatal accident and reappear as ghosts... and to move on they need to help a guy that has marriage troubles...
The good: the story is original and very entertaining, the actors are great in their roles, but the best are the special effects...really, they are flawless and surprising: the ghosts appear and disappear, pencils and wheels float on the air, invisible lips smoke a cigarette, etc, etc...
The bad:  some parts are unbelievable and I'm not talking about the ghosts: how someone married to Cary Grant wants to chase an older man???
Should I see it? Yes.

4. Midnight (1939; Mitchell Leisen)

Who's in it: Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Mary Astor.
What is it about:  A taxi driver falls in love with a broke party crasher girl that wants to marry a millionaire....
The good: The script written by Billy Wilder and Charles Bracket, full of hilarious and memorable moments and dialogs; the performance of the main actors, especially Miss Colbert and Mr. Barrymore (he has a really funny scene over the phone).
The bad: Nothing.
Should I see it?:  Yes.

5. Escape (1940; Mervy LeRoy)

Who's in it: Robert Taylor, Norma Shearer, Alla Nazimova
What is it about: During World War II, a (handsome) young man wants to rescue her mother from a concentration camp in Germany...
The good: the plot is interesting, there's tension present and it's generally well handled (will he save his poor mom?), and the relationship between the young American and his countrywoman with some influences on the Germans ends being credible.
The bad: the relationship starts being unbelievable; the German character was too stereotyped; some of the main characters reactions and dialogs are kind of repetitive.
Should I see it? Only if you want to see a very good and tense rescue scene and don't mind the unconvincing main relationship.

6. Hold back the dawn (1941; Mitchell Leisen)

Who's in it: Olivia de Havilland, Charles Boyer, Paulette Godard
What is it about: An European Casanova needs to cross from Mexico to USA...even if he must marry an innocent school teacher.
The good: Everything, starting with the script written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, full of unique moments and a racconto storytelling that makes you wait expectantly for the end; the story is appealing (and melodramatic), the characters evolve and the secondary stories are all interesting, the main actors are excellent in their roles and the film leaves no loose ends. Oh, Mikhail Rasumny's scenes (the car mechanic) are hilarious!
The bad: Maybe that Boyer didn't have vision enough to accept a scene proposed by Wilder in which he talked to a cockroach about his problems..
Should I see it? YES.

7. I married a witch (1942, René Clair)

What is it about: A witch and her witch daddy want to take revenge on a descendant of a guy who locked them like 200 years ago.
Who's in it: Fredric March, Veronica Lake.
The good: the story is entertaining, Veronica Lake is fine in her role, there are some hilarious scenes (like the one of a woman trying to make a speech in a wedding being interrupted again and again), there are some interesting visual solutions supporting this fantasy film.
The bad: the emotional development of the characters is not very well defined, so you don't fully understand their actions or attitudes at some points; the end is a little bit abrupt.
Should I see it? If you don't mind some script problems, go ahead.

8. Never say goodbye (1946, James V. Kern)

What is it about: A comedy about a separated couple whose little daughter want them back together...
Who's in it: Errol Flynn, Eleanor Parker, Lucile Watson., Hattie McDaniel, (the always funny) S.Z. Sakall.
The good: Flynn is convincing in his role of the affectionate and relaxed daddy; the Watson kid is entertaining as Shirley Temple (only that she doesn't sing or dance...nor has jumping curls); Mr. Sakall scenes are really funny, especially those with Flynn in which he has to run from table to table trying to maintain two different conversations like Robin Williams in "Mrs. Doubtfire".
The bad: Eleanor Parker's character (the mom that wants to go back with her ex husband only that she's not sure) is not very powerful; the story isn't very well developed because the reconciliation is dragged out and gets more and more unbelievable.
Should I see it? Only if you want to see some nice scenes with Flynn, S.Z. Sakall and the little girl.

9. Letter from a unknown woman (1948, Max Ophüls)

What is it about: the ultra melodramatic story of a woman that loves a guy and he doesn't notice until she explains her crush in detail...
Who's in it: Joan Fontaine, Luis Jourdan
The good: the script (based on a story by one of my fave writers, Stefan Zweig) contains unforgettable moments (like the one on the fake train from the amusement park); Joan's performance playing an adolescent and then an adult, the photography.
The bad: That the guy didn't notice before  :)
Should I see it? Yes, keeping Kleenex handy.

10. The Sundowners (1960, Fred Zinneman)

What is it about: Dad, mom and son travel in a wagon around Australia...only that mom and son don't want to travel in a wagon around Australia anymore.
Who's in it: Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum, Peter Ustinov.
The good: The powerful performances by the main actors, Fred Zinneman's sharp direction, the attractive story, the character development, the locations.
The bad: It ends.
Should I see it?: Yes, totally.

11. Les demoiselles de Rochefort (1967, Jacques Demy)
What is it about: Two French singer sisters want to be famous and marry ideal guys.
Who's in it: Catherine Deneuve, Françoise Dorléac (she died a year after the movie was released), George Chakiris, Gene Kelly.
The good: everything, especially the joy that the film transmits via their lovely songs and melodies, the colors, the choreographies, the dialogs and the actors performances. The songs contain information that help the story to move, something that all musicals should do.
The bad: like most musicals, the story is a bit trivial but I didn't mind. I wish Gene Kelly was younger.
Should I see it? Yes, please. Oh, if you haven't seen it, you should also check "Les parapluis de Cherbourg" (reviewed here) a drama also directed by Demy and starring Miss Deneuve.


  1. Wow, what a coincidence. I saw The Blue Angel just yesterday! I really liked it.

  2. There are many here that I haven't seen yet. Interesting and rich with details. Thank you.

  3. Since you enjoyed "Topper," try the sequel, "Topper Takes A Trip." No Cary Grant, but Constance Bennett is funny and sexy, you have more special effects magic from Roy Seawright, and the wire terrier from the "Thin Man" films and "The Awful Truth" portrays "ghost dog" Mr. Atlas. A great deal of fun.

  4. Desiree: It's a great film, but too depressing for me. That poor teacher...

    Lakeviewer: You're welcome, I hope you get to see some of them, thanks for stopping by ^^

    VP81955: OMG, just noticed that you're the owner of carole_and_co. That explains how much you knew about Carole, I love your site!!! I'm definitively give Topper II :P a try ^^

  5. Yes, true.... but I liked it nonetheless.

    I'm going to watch Topper Takes a Trip tomorrow! haha. i just watched Topper today.

  6. I remember starting Kiss and Make-Up once, only it was so horrid (and boring) that I simply skipped to the part where Cary sings, then watched the very end. Cary hadn't evolved into his full Cary Grant persona yet either.

    I'm hoping to see Hold Back the Dawn sounds delightful! And The Sundowners is such a wonderful film.

  7. Emm: Hope you can watch Hold Back the Dawn, I love it!

  8. I've always enjoyed NEVER SAY GOODBYE. Yes, "Cuddles" Sakall steals a lot of scenes, but the film proves that Errol was a fine comedian. The Santa Clause scene is pretty funny.

  9. Yes, true.... but I liked it nonetheless.

    I'm going to watch Topper Takes a Trip tomorrow! haha. i just watched Topper today.

  10. There are many here that I haven't seen yet. Interesting and rich with details. Thank you.

  11. Emm: Hope you can watch Hold Back the Dawn, I love it!



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