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Archive for the ‘Joan Bennett’ Category

Big Brown Eyes

20 Apr

Big Brown Eyes — directed by Raoul Walsh. Comedy. A NYC cop and a manicurist turned reporter foil a Chopin-playing jewel fence. 77 minutes Black and White 1936.

★★★★

You like fast-talking dames? Check out Joan Bennett as the gum snapping, dialogue snapping manicurist that Cary Grant can’t stop chasing. She can’t stop mistrusting him, and it’s no wonder: Cary Grant as a New York City flatfoot? – never! He is both very good in the part and also quite unbelievable. Why? I don’t know. It’s not his accent, which is maybe lower class Bristol and maybe not, and at least is he is never in uniform. In fact, he is a plainclothesman, in really beautiful suits in which his figure looks great. No, it’s hard to pinpoint it, except there is that about Cary Grant which suggests a man who even when taking a bath wears a tuxedo. The dialogue is rich with comebacks, wise-cracks, and quick-draw ripostes – very much in the style of the 30s, and is really a style that has gone out of style, but in its heyday, here is a great example of its fun. They spray the picture faster than a tommy gun. If you like smart talk, alà His Gal Friday, take a gander at this gander and his goose. Bennett is terrific as a classic Walsh heroine, testy and full of personal ability and wit. Walter Pidgeon plays the smarmy sophisticated fence, and he is just wonderful. Unequalled in savoire faire, Pidgeon was released here and in Dark Command to play villains, not what we remember him for, but here he is just grand. Lloyd Nolan is a gun-crazy henchman devoted to cut flowers, and Walsh’s scene with him in a luxe bathroom arranging American Beauty Roses as he gets murdered is heaven-sent. But I say too much. If I don’t watch my lip, Nolan will come alive and gun me down too. But I aint no squelch, I ain’t I tell ya, I’d never rat on nobody. Don’t shoot, I didn’t mean it. Bang. Argh. Crash. I’m under da daisies. And if you watch Lloyd Nolan closely, so is he.

 

 

Father’s Little Dividend

11 Apr

Father’s Little Dividend – Directed by Vincent Minnelli. Family Comedy. A young married couple gets pregnant and the to-be grandfather struggles with the responsibility. 81 minutes Black and White 1951

* * * * *

We grew up with this beautiful girl, now dead in old age. One saw her entire life on screen. When she appeared in children’s films, I was a child. And here is an example of the girl when she was still the girl next door whom one might fall in love with, a teenager, here playing a young married woman in a light comedy. Light comedy was a genre Elizabeth Taylor did not appear in after she, still a teenager, became a mother, but her touch is deft and masterful, and the result endearing and touching. She was a skilled actress from the start. The picture is a sequel to Father Of The Bride and might better have been called The Grandfather Of The Bride. Once again filmed by the talented John Alton who would concurrently do the ballet sequences for Minnelli in American In Paris. Joan Bennett not only has Taylor’s coloring (and in fact once played Taylor’s part in Little Women), but she is swift and easy and right on the money with Spencer Tracy whose picture this is and who commands it without seeming to. It’s hard to analyze Tracy’s talent. It seems to find its foundation in a certain immigrant toughness, here at ease with the lowly tasks of realistic middle-class comedy. Tracy always plays a character without neuroses. Hepburn called him an Irish potato, and it’s as good a likeness as any for the humor of a person who always plays the difficult, painful, sometimes undignified yet necessary position of someone useful. His comedy seems to arise out of a natural grudge, and the comic situation to develop around that grudge,  irony being the last resort of the situation his character itself has created. None of what I am saying here does justice to his gift. Like some great screen humorists, the comedy arises not from what he does, so much as from his doing what he is, and he is not so much funny in himself as he is someone around whom humor naturally arises. There ought to be a word to describe this skill. Comedian doesn’t do it. Humoran is awkward. But that’s what it is, and why this film and its prequel were such enormous hits and are still worth our time.

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