For the film Letty Lynton
My Reputation, released January 25, 1946.
Stanwyck is a widow (Jessica Drummond) who collides on the snow with soldier on leave Maj. Scott Landis (played by George Brent) and a whirlwind romance starts up, before getting squashed by the heavy obligations of Stanwyck's family and social position.
The film pits Stanwyck up against the complicated responsibilities of her social position and some ugly gossip that circulates through her town, combined with a dominating mother with an exacting sense of how a widow should act, dress and especially behave. Eventually Stanwyck will fight for her freedom to live her own life, but meanwhile she has to juggle her children, her crush on George Brent, and the grief for her dead husband.
Films like this were called "Women's Pictures" or "Weepies" in an era in which a whole genre existed to explore the tribulations of American womanhood, though My Reputation goes a bit further in trying to establish that a young female can (or should) lay claim to making their own moral decisions even if it meant contravening social conventions. Since those social conventions were already rapidly losing force in the American upheaval from to World War II, this movie is not particularly revolutionary. But Stanwyck presents a fine performance which shifts the film from mere soap opera into well done (though soapy) melodrama.
While making Arsenic and Old Lace, 1941
1957, while making Raintree County
This Dracula franchise effort from Hammer Films has Christopher Lee back under the cloak and wreaking mayhem at familiar Pinewood Studios, with Veronica Carlson the main target and Freddie Francis directing.
The main thrust of Hammer's exploitation in this film seems to be that we get to look at Veronica Carlson's shoulder blades and Chris Lee's fangs and bloodshot eyes. The story itself has the irony of atheist Paul (Veronica Carlson's boyfriend in the tale) and the Monsignor (who brings on Dracula's vow of revenge because he has blocked the entrance to his castle with an enormous crucifix) brought together to battle a supernatural foe (the budget of this film doesn't allow for Dracula to have more than one entrance to his castle, hence pushing a giant crucifix into the door locks the poor vampire out completely.)
Barbara Ewing is onscreen from out of Hammer's army of beer-hall waitresses ("Zena") who are the usual cannon-fodder for their screen monsters. Zena takes up with Dracula, but then falls victim after his eyes fall upon Veronica Carlson, with Zena asking several times the rather reasonable question "What do you need her for? You got me!" a logical query that finally gets her killed at the teeth of her new boyfriend.
As with most Hammer films after their initial bloom of invention during the 1950s, this 1969 movie is plagued by a messy story which is a hash of previously used plot lines and predictable climaxes (besides borrowing from the earlier Hammer Dracula films, there are onscreen references to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, among other images).
Rupert Davies (as "The Monsignor") is perfectly fine and Barry Andrews (as Paul, the atheist university student) is a little stiff, but it is interesting having the two to get over their differences and to fight Dracula, whose plan to terrorize the world (and to achieve rather vague revenge on the Monsignor) consists of riding about in his black hearse-like carriage, and hiding in his coffin in the basement of the beer-hall where Zena and Paul live.
The skimpy dialogue and poor story is buttressed by Freddie Francis' direction of what story there is, and the usual top-notch Hammer art direction and good cinematography from Arthur Grant is on the screen. The music from James Bernard is also well done. A lot of care is put into a few scenes, particularly the lighting on Veronica Carlson who seems to be the main special effect in this film besides Christopher Lee's work as the mostly silent and fearsome Count.
Lee is a scary Dracula, half-animalistic monster and the other half a weirdly misogynistic womanizer who is either staring at the ladies with clear brown (and sometimes bloodshot) eyes, and the rest of the time he is slapping them around. The psychology of this Hammer film is a reflection of the era in which it was made (1969 England) and the standard vampire paradoxes about blood, addiction, sex and religion, get wrapped around each other. As with a standard monster film, the main message seems to be everything can get you killed except for love.
Dracula will of course be conquered and the young lovers will triumph, but Christopher Lee will bounce back in cape for several more Hammer Dracula films (and a few non-Hammer) and will work through the same set of tropes all over again. Whatever Dracula is trying to achieve, it all seems rather short-lived.
This 1943 Val Lewton produced effort from RKO stars James Ellison, Frances Dee, and Tom Conway. The excellent visuals are from director Jacques Tourneur.
In contrast to the Universal horror films of the era (which had built an audience that RKO was trying to appeal to with these mid-budget horror-exploitation projects), the Val Lewton motion pictures resisted most (though not all) opportunities for gore and flash, and instead present a mood-soaked melodrama with a melancholy bent.
I Walked with a Zombie has a laughable title (and Frances Dee's first scene has her laughing just at the mention of the word, an example of Lewton's script steering into the skid), but it has an obvious reason for being: there was a famous article on the subject of voodoo that appeared in American Weekly Magazine and a desperate RKO was just trying to climb onboard. In the gap between exploitation and horror-movie expectations, Lewton grafted in Jane Eyre by way of the 1932 film White Zombie then had Curt Siodmak and Ardel Wray craft the script. But the final script edit was Lewton's (which contain numerous detailed notes on art direction and visual ques, showing how much Lewton was searching for a total effect upon the audience). This combined with Jacques Tourneur's visual sense make I Walked with a Zombie the rare cinematic item that it is.
More on I Walked with a Zombie
The 1959 film based on the Tennessee Williams play. More on Suddenly Last Summer
More Elizabeth Taylor
The Last Valley 1971 - Michael Caine and Omar Sharif find refuge in a valley untouched by the ravages of the 30s Year War devastating Europe.
Penguin Pool Murder, 1932 - James Gleason and Edna May Oliver star in a wise-cracking murder mystery set in the New York City Aquarium.
The Killing -1956 - Sterling Hayden leads a group of small-time crooks to execute a daring, precision racetrack robbery, until a few minor detaisl crop up. a fast-action story of a (almost) racetrack robbery. Marie Windsor and Coleen Gray also star.
3 Days of the Conder, 1975 - Robert Redford as CIA analyst Joe Turner, trapped between warring factions within the CIA itself. Confused by why everyone is shooting at him, he goes on the run with kidnapped Faye Dunnaway in tow.
Easy Living, 1937 - Jean Arthur is the poor Mary Smith who is suddenly the object of every salesman in town trying to gain access to the wealthy, all because of her impromptu friendship with millionaire investor J. B. Ball (Edward Arnold) who she meets by accident when he tosses his wife's fur coat off the top of an apartment building. Classic screwball comedy with script from Preston Sturges.
The Alligator People, 1959 - Tragic case of a man slowly becoming an alligator, and his determined wife (Beverly Garland) who wants to find him (he's in hiding) and get answers. With Lon Chaney Jr as a maniacal alligator hunter in the bayou. Appeared the same year as the famous Elizabeth Taylor film Suddenly Last Summer, and shares many remarkable similarities.
Heaven Knows, Mr Allison - 1957 - Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum. He's a marine and she's a nun on a Japanese occupied island during World War II.
The Quiet Man, 1952 - John Ford's comic masterpiece (which he was afraid he had botched while filming it in Ireland) with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara as newlyweds who must battle their village and themselves to achieve any peace.
Bachelor Mother 1939 - He's (Niven) the son of the owner (Coburn) of a department store who thinks he's doing a good deed by reuniting an employee (Ginger Rogers) with her child given up to an orphanage. Only the kid isn't hers, and nothing she does can convince anyone.
The Lady Eve - 1941 - Preston Sturges directed this most stately of his farcical comedies as a direct challenge to tailor a film around the wit of Barbara Stanwyck. He provides so much ammo she needs to play two characters in the tale, with a befuddled Henry Fonda in tow.
Night of the Hunter 1955 - British arch-actor Charles Laughton directed only one film, and it features Robert Mitchum as a demented and homicidal preacher (with "love" and "hate" tattooed upon his hands) who is trying to chase down a pair of orphaned children who know the location of hidden bank loot. The only thing standing in his way is a determined Lillian Gish and her shotgun.