RSS
 

Archive for the ‘Glenn Ford’ Category

Blackboard Jungle

21 Apr

Blackboard Jungle directed by Richard Brooks. Drama. 101 minutes Black and White. 1955.
★★★
The Story: A teacher just starting out in his profession faces a rude and dangerous classroom of delinquents and eventually wins their favor.
~
The idea is ridiculous. Students are not in class to bestow favor, as noblesse oblige. And teachers are not there to win favor. Swimming pools are for swimming and schools are for schooling, and everyone who goes to either place knows that. You don’t hold beer parties in church.

This is to say that the film is forced. And the part that’s forced is the cast playing the delinquents. Most of them are a bit old for the parts. But that doesn’t matter so much as that none of the actors see their characters from the characters point of view. This allows them to drift into caricature, and what we see is a bouquet of gutter roses, ala West Side Story.

Exception must be made for Vic Morrow who Methods his character into a maniac. He is never a gutter rose. He is always a stinker. This doesn’t mean one buys his interpretation as real.

Sidney Poitier aged 28 plays the one borderline kid who is 17. This one believes, partly because decency is inherent in Poitier, and partly because, unlike any of the others, he had already played leading roles in several films and knew certain pitfalls, and partly because of his confidence, and partly because his shoulder bones show under his t-shirts because he is so skinny.

He is the only kid whose performance one buys. Oh, it’s nice to see Rafael Campos, still a teenager; he’s lovely in his big scene. But the film belongs to Glenn Ford who apparently can act anything thrown at him. His commitment, balance, focus, and drive in each of the varied scenes casts aside the inauthenticity he is surrounded with. Fortunately he is virtually in every scene. The great Louis Calhern plays the most tired and cynical of these vocational high school teachers; one always sits back in one’s chair in confidence Calhern will give satisfaction, and he does.

Richard Brooks was not a director/writer of finesse, and this is as good an example of his work as any. When the picture came out it caused riots and a scandal, but that was because of the first rock-and-roll sound track in a film, and “Rock Around The Clock” became a million seller in its day. The film made a fortune.

The work of Poitier, Ford, and Calhern is not dated, but the film is long past its shelf-life. I wonder if a film has ever been made about difficult teenagers, as themselves, not as caused by environment or prejudice, but as themselves, as individuals. I have not heard of it. Such kids are called juvenile delinquents, but neither part of that term is helpful; it finishes them off. I’d like to see a film about their seed and core. Their action in their age.

 

Midway

02 Jun

Midway – Directed by Jack Smight – WW II War Action. Vast armadas clash at sea in a turning point battle in 1942. 132 minutes Color 1976.

* * * *

All the male stars, and there are many, make grim faces, and so they all look alike. The only one to whom a grim face comes naturally is the great Toshiro Mifune, but when he opens that face to speak, what few lines he has are dubbed. Anxious, fearful, watchful – the others are all the same: Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson, Robert Wagner, Robert Webber, Edward Albert, and, of course, the star, Mister Grim Mouth himself, Charlton Heston. This tends to level the playing field, or rather it makes it possible for certain actors to rise above the monotony of the waters and shine: James Shigeta, for instance, in radiator paint grey hair, who makes a telling character of the wise Admiral who sank the US fleet at Pearl Harbor now attempting to seize Midway Island which has become a US airbase for the bombing of Tokyo. It is a beautiful performance, perfectly calibrated to suit the ravages of fate, as the huge Japanese Navy, spearheaded by four carriers, sets out for the invasion. And Hal Holbrook, who makes a merry wag of the decoder who tracked down the target of the Japanese mission, which no one knew until the day before. Chance, dumb luck, craft, skill, experience, ineptitude, and ruthlessness on all sides come into play in this story which is a pretty good civics lesson overview of the personalities, strategies, and odds at play. The Japanese had a huge advantage, for the US Pacific Fleet had been generously destroyed by them at Pearl Harbor. The director and writer have endeavored to show these forces honestly and fairly, and we are never in doubt as to the names of the specific pilots on the specific missions which failed or succeeded. Oddly this keeps things impersonal, since we never get to know any of these characters well. But it does keep us informed as to the doings of the battle, and the chances of choice or of weather, for instance, which played such a notable part in the outcome. For huge vessels in fleets wallow around upon the fabric of a vast sluggish ocean trying to destroy one another, and doing so. All this manipulated by Admiral Nimitz in Hawaii. And Admiral Yamamoto on his battleship 300 miles away. Lots of color footage of the battle lend their flare to the story, and while the human relations are clunky, the relation to the personalities at play on the circumstances and events is influential beyond measure. It’s a worthwhile movie, highly dramatic, and clear, and necessary to know.[ad#300×250]

 

 

 

Affair In Trinidad

17 Mar

Affair In Trinidad – Directed by Vincent Sherman – Spy Melodrama. The brother of the husband of a beautiful cabaret dancer comes to Trinidad to find him murdered. 98 minutes Black and White 1952,

* * * *

These people have no real background, so they are susceptible to fall in with crooks and nightclub owners, people with no cast, living in tropical no-man’s-lands and no woman’s- lands either. This show would be a B picture, were it not for the fact that it marked Rita Hayworth’s return to the screen after her sad marriage to Ali Kahn. She had to learn a living and back to Harry Cohn she went, to fulfill her contract. She was, of course, the biggest female movie star of her time in the line of gorgeous sexy ladies, and no one before or since ever produced the outrageous sexual excitement she generated on a movie screen when she danced. Here and forever she is definitely the fallen woman, the woman of dubious past and livid reputation which she had played in Gilda. As a movie Gilda is more fun, because the neurotic tension between her and Glenn Ford is more exquisite, and perhaps because, by this time, she was the mother of two daughters. The Loves of Carmen was the last movie she made before that fateful European vacation that led her to Ali Kahn. Ford was under contract to Columbia for 19 years, and he made 5 films with Rita Hayworth, Gilda not being the first. Here at least the director knows how to reintroduce his superstar in a fitting manner: she is hiding behind a nightclub pole, turns, is seen to be raising a shoulder provocatively, and goes into one of her wild dances. The plot and the setting of everything which follows are preposterous and awkward, involving international secrets mortally dangerous to the America we all loved so well at the time. A gaggle of spy-stooges barges around in the background, set off by Valarie Bettis, who choreographed Hayworth’s dances, but who as an actress is not an actress. The script is tripe. No. It isn’t even that digestible. But it is Hayworth who makes it all happen, in Jean Louis gowns and the lighting and the quiet dignity of herself and her acting talent, which is considerable if you consider her brilliance in being responsive. The camera feeds on it and the audience feeds on the camera. You cannot help but care about her. And no one ever in movies had her power of an absolute almost Zen stillness. Watch her wait for someone to open the door of convertible, and you’ll see what I mean. And feast, oh feast, on her great beauty. Feast on her jawline. Affair in Trinidad is a put-up-job; it is obvious it was not shot in Trinidad and there is no affair. Don’t miss it.

[ad#300×250]

 

Texas

01 Mar

Texas – directed by George Marshall – Western. A pair of ex Confederate soldiers drifts west where one goes wild and one goes good. 93 minutes black and white 1941.

* * * * *

What a trip to see William Holden young.  He was never young. He was always the drained, middle aged, bourgeois-hearted one, without zest, without joie de vivre, without spontaneity and bounce, often cast in parts he was too old and inwardly defeated to deliver (Picnic, Sabrina), although, to tell the truth, these very qualities led to parts in which he was very successful, such as Sunset Boulevard. Yet here he is, before the war, in his early twenties, almost unrecognizable, full of the ready improvisation of the actor and the fluid responsiveness, full of inherent hope. Hope?  Can you believe William Holden ever knew such a thing?  But here it is. Lovely. Here he is with a young Glenn Ford, a couple of years older, and with his puppydom in full display and also his earnestness, as the lesser of the two points of interest —  the real point of interest in this picture being the style of the director George Marshall, which you can also see in full display with When The Dalton’s Rode, and that style is both romantic and humorous and comedic and cowboy. So all the story moves are worked out in terms that are commented on with humorous asides. For instance, the spectacle of a terrible stampede through town is given a momentary aside by a cow walking into a room with a man taking a bath. Marshall directed Destry Rides Again his most famous of these cowboy/comedy larks. He has strong supporting people headed by the jalopy-voiced Edgar Buchanan and the massed authority of George Bancroft. Claire Trevor is present as the love interest in an underwritten role and an over-written hair-do. When such movies came out, parents could not afford baby sitters, so they brought their kids along. We kids stayed awake or not, but if we watched the picture, we saw a show that offered entertainment without sordidness — nothing wrong with sordidness but we kids wouldn’t have known what we’e looking at. Likewise, families today can sit down together and watch this tip-top, beautifully produced and written western. It’s in black and white which spares us the color of blood, but affords us the greater color of George Marshall’s fun.

[ad#300×250]

 

Desperadoes

01 Mar

Desperadoes – directed by Charles Vidor – Western. A former gunman tries to go straight. 86 minutes color 1943.

* * * * *

Desperadoes is a curious name for this un-desperate story. We have the always-dubious presence of the inestimable Edgar Buchanan with his sly eyes and crumbly voice. Which centralizes the picture as a musical comedy, especially in view of the gaudy women’s costumes, worn elegantly by Claire Trevor and Evelyn Keyes. However, young Glenn Ford plays a hell-bent gunman. His sidekick is called Nitro because he is always blowing up places unexpectedly, and this comic personage takes the edge off how seriously we should take Glenn Ford’s plight. Randolph Scott gives us another of his easy gentlemanly sheriffs, but his role is submerged by the attention afforded Ford. Scott is never out of humor, and even stranded in the desert, he meets with his rescuer with blithe nonchalance. Charles Vidor directed this pleasant mishmash, and the Technicolor is beautiful; Technicolor was notorious difficult to use; this was the first Technicolor film Columbia released. There is a splendid wild horse stampede and some sensational chases through what is supposed to be Utah and may indeed be so. There is a funny dustup in a saloon — twice — and a comic bartender. Let’s see. What else? If Cyd Charisse had played the Claire Trevor part, and if Jane Powell had played the Evelyn Keyes parts and if Ford and Scott could sing, and if Edgar Buchanan could dance — nothing else would be needed to bring this do-dad into the classic western musical category, if such a category actually exists.

[ad#300×250]

 

3:10 To Yuma

01 Mar

3:10 to Yuma  — directed by Delmer Daves – Western. A reluctant farmer chaperones a desperado to jail. 92 minutes black and white 1957.

* * * * *

“Safe! Who knows what’s safe? I knew a man dropped dead from lookin’ at his wife. My own grandmother fought the Indians for sixty years…then choked to death on lemon pie. Do I have two volunteers?” So we have a style of telling dialogue that leads me to suppose that a lot of it was lifted wholesale from the novel by Elmore Leonard from which it comes. For the Leonard brilliance influences everything, and certainly directs the actors’ talent, particularly in the case of Glenn Ford, who gives one of the finest performances of his career as a character lead, a list that includes Teahouse of the August Moon and Gilda. He is fascinating to watch in his civility, calm, and assurance as the gang leader, caught because he lingers to chat with a pretty bartender, played by Felicia Farr. The delightful thing about this interlude is that he is not just using her for a quick lay, but instead really likes women, and really likes this particular one. Ford’s choice in this brings his character to a level of interest which sustains the entire film. He is perfectly cast, unlike Russell Crowe in the remake of recent non-memory, for Ford brings his puppy past to the part, whereas Crowe brings a violent mayhem-maker. Van Heflin plays the rancher in need of the $200 to save his place, and it’s interesting to hear how in some cases a certain actor’s natural speaking voice, because of its very timbre, lends authenticity everything he says. The piece is very well cast, directed, filmed (Charles Lawton) and edited (Al Clark). The plump Robert Emhardt beautifully plays the worthy who is backing Ford’s arrest, and Henry Jones plays the key role of the town drunk who stands by to the very end. Leora Dana plays Heflin’s wife, in a thanklessly written role, but her acting, such as it is, is betrayed by her makeup, for she wears full lipstick. Felicia Farr plays the bartender who, in a brief interlude, sleeps with Ford, and then no more is seen of her, even though she has star billing in the briefer of the two female roles. Ford goes on to seduce Heflin, and almost succeeds. The tension is palpable. It’s a tiptop story, along the lines of High Noon, the Last Detail, They Came To Cordura, but better than any of them. The acting style is the old one of Pick Up Your Cues. It works like all get out.

[ad#300×250]

 
 
Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button