Archive for Celeste Holm

All About Eve

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on October 20, 2015 by Mystery Man

all about eve

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

At an awards dinner, Eve Harrington—the newest and brightest star on Broadway—is being presented the Sarah Siddons Award for her breakout performance as Cora in Footsteps on the Ceiling. Theatre critic Addison DeWitt observes the proceedings and, in a sardonic voiceover, recalls how Eve’s star rose as quickly as it did.

The film flashes back a year. Margo Channing is one of the biggest stars on Broadway, but despite her success she is bemoaning her age, having just turned forty and knowing what that will mean for her career. After a performance one night, Margo’s close friend Karen Richards, wife of the play’s author Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), meets besotted fan Eve Harrington in the cold alley outside the stage door. Recognizing her from having passed her many times in the alley (as Eve claims to have seen every performance of Margo’s current play, Aged in Wood), Karen takes her backstage to meet Margo. Eve tells the group gathered in Margo’s dressing room—Karen and Lloyd, Margo’s boyfriend Bill Sampson, a director who is eight years her junior, and Margo’s maid Birdie—that she followed Margo’s last theatrical tour to New York after seeing her in a play in San Francisco. She tells a moving story of growing up poor and losing her young husband in the recent war. Moved, Margo quickly befriends Eve, takes her into her home, and hires her as her assistant, leaving Birdie, who instinctively dislikes Eve, feeling put out.

Eve is gradually shown to be working to supplant Margo, scheming to become her understudy behind her back, driving wedges between her and Lloyd and Bill, and conspiring with an unsuspecting Karen to cause Margo to miss a performance. Eve, knowing in advance that she will be the one appearing that night, invites the city’s theatre critics to attend that evening’s performance, which is a triumph for her. Eve tries to seduce Bill, but he rejects her. Following a scathing newspaper column by Addison, Margo and Bill reconcile, dine with the Richardses, and decide to marry. That same night at the restaurant, Eve blackmails Karen into telling Lloyd to give her the part of Cora, by threatening to tell Margo of Karen’s role in Margo’s missed performance. Before Karen can talk with Lloyd, Margo announces to everyone’s surprise that she does not wish to play Cora and would prefer to continue in Aged in Wood. Eve secures the role and attempts to climb higher by using Addison, who is beginning to doubt her. Just before the premiere of her play at the Shubert in New Haven, Eve presents Addison with her next plan: to marry Lloyd, who, she claims, has come to her professing his love and his eagerness to leave his wife for her. Now, Eve exults, Lloyd will write brilliant plays showcasing her. Unseen but mentioned in dialogue, Karen has begun to suspect Eve as a threat to her own marriage to Lloyd, and so she and Addison meet for lunch and help each other put the pieces about Eve together. Addison is infuriated that Eve has attempted to use him and reveals that he knows that her back story is all lies. Her real name is Gertrude Slojinski, she was never married, and she had been paid to leave her hometown over an affair with her boss, a brewer in Wisconsin. Addison blackmails Eve, informing her that she will not be marrying Lloyd or anyone else; in exchange for Addison’s silence, she now “belongs” to him.

The film returns to the opening scene in which Eve, now a shining Broadway star headed for Hollywood, is presented with her award. In her speech, she thanks Margo and Bill and Lloyd and Karen with characteristic effusion, while all four stare back at her coldly. After the awards ceremony, Eve hands her award to Addison, skips a party in her honor, and returns home alone, where she encounters a young fan—a high-school girl—who has slipped into her apartment and fallen asleep. The young girl professes her adoration and begins at once to insinuate herself into Eve’s life, offering to pack Eve’s trunk for Hollywood and being accepted. “Phoebe”, as she calls herself, answers the door to find Addison returning with Eve’s award. In a revealing moment, the young girl flirts daringly with the older man. Addison hands over the award to Phoebe and leaves without entering. Phoebe then lies to Eve, telling her it was only a cab driver who dropped off the award. While Eve rests in the other room, Phoebe dons Eve’s elegant costume robe and poses in front of a multi-paned mirror, holding the award as if it were a crown. The mirrors transform Phoebe into multiple images of herself, and she bows regally, as if accepting the award to thunderous applause, while triumphant music plays.

REVIEW:

Every now and then, I get the chance to check out one of truly great films in cinema history. In this case, the film in question in All About Eve. Given the track record films of this nature tend to have with me, I wonder if this will actually be worth the watch, or a total bore.

What is this about?

Writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s sharp script anchors this story about New York City theater life, with Bette Davis playing an aging Broadway diva who employs a starstruck fan (Anne Baxter) as her assistant, only to learn the woman is a conniving upstart.

What did I like?

Acting. In the early 80s, there was a song called “Bette Davis Eyes”. At the time, I knew nothing about Bette Davis, other than apparently she had very noticeable eyes. This may come as a surprise, but this is the first film I have seen with Davis in it. I have heard all the stories about how she is considered among the all-time greats, this character being a reflection of that, not to mention the fact that she was considered for the lead in Sunset Boulevard. If this is any indication of the kind of performances she gave on a regular basis, then wow…just wow! She commands the screen with her, shall we say unique, look and keeps the control with her grandiose acting chops. Man, why don’t we have actresses like this anymore (excluding the few that actually are good, of course)?

Not a villain? Hugh Marlowe is a guy who, at least in everything I’ve seen him in, has made a career as that guy who seems like he’s there to protect and defend his girl, but in actuality, he’s only out for himself. The best example of this would be his character in The Day the Earth Stool Still. Keeping that in mind, it is a nice change of pace to see him as a “good guy” for one.

Replacement. I’ve seen countless stories where the young, unsuspecting, struggling actress meets her idol and slowly supplants her, without anyone even realizing it. I imagine those are all based on this film, and with good reason. Anne Baxter does a great job portraying the metamorphosis her character goes through from the shy violet, so to speak, to the monstrous venus flytrap. As far as the plot is concerned, this isn’t one that will keep you on the edge of you seat wondering, but your interest is piqued.

What didn’t I like?

Motivation. What is it that motivates a person to take down someone successful, let alone ruin their personal life? I can understand wanting to be like your idol, but what was Eve’s motivation here? I don’t think it was ever mentioned. Was there some wrong that was done to her in the past? Is she just an evil person?

Is this your first time? Not yet a star, Marilyn Monroe shows up in a couple of scenes. She brings a ray of light to this surprisingly dark film and shows that she is on her way to be a star. So what is the problem, you ask? Her character could have just as easily been a cutting room floor casualty or a much bigger part. Is this the right amount of young Marilyn? Perhaps, especially as this is one of her first films, but I don’t think anyone would be offended if there was more of her.

Report. George Sanders has a voice for theater and narration…and animation (he is Shere Kahn in The Jungle Book for those that don’t know). This reporter character he plays is a mystery to me, though. What side is he on, if any? What are his intentions? Could it be that he’s the mastermind behind it all? Perhaps he’s just a lowly reporter who loves theater? Whatever the case may be, I felt he was put in there as an avatar for the audience, initially, and then the decision was made to put him into the main story.

All About Eve really is all about Eve. Every character has some sort of contact/interaction with her and it seems as if the world revolves around her, at least for time span this film covers. Is that good or bad? At this point in time, I can’t tell you, as I am still digesting what I just watched. Do I recommend this picture? Yes, very highly. There is a reason this is one the list of greatest films of all time. It is a bit slower than I would care for it to be, but not to the point of boredom. Give a shot when you can!

4 out of  5 stars

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Revisited: High Society

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , on August 2, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The highly successful jazz musician C.K. Dexter Haven was divorced from wealthy Newport, Rhode Island socialite Tracy Samantha Lord, but remains in love with her. She, however, is about to get married to a bland gentleman of good standing, George Kittredge.

Spy magazine, in possession of embarrassing information about Tracy’s father, sends reporter Mike Connor and photographer Liz Imbrie to cover the nuptials. Tracy begins an elaborate charade as a private means of revenge, pretending that her Uncle Willy is her father Seth Lord and vice versa.

Connor falls in love with Tracy. She must choose between three very different men in a course of self-discovery.

REVIEW:

With the great Louis Armstrong’s birthday on the 4th, I always try to watch something he appeared in. Satchmo appeared in quite a few films, but I am finding out that he mostly played himself, or some caricature of his persona, with a few exceptions. High Society isn’t a deviation from that formula, but does offer us a little something different from Armstrong. Oh, and there is an actual film going on, as well.

What is this about?

In this Cole Porter reworking of The Philadelphia Story, a jazz musician tries to win back his socialite ex-wife — who’s engaged to a respectable but bland gentleman — while two gossip-rag reporters gum up the works.

What did I like?

Papa Bing. I once heard someone refer to Bing Crosby as “America’s uncle.” Well, with that warm, deep voice of his and charming demeanor, is it any wonder he was tapped with this moniker? Even when he is playing a character that isn’t exactly supposed to have the audience’s sympathetic ear, and yet isn’t a villain, either, Crosby manages to make sure that we are still enchanted with him, much like we are when Uncle Bing is telling us the tale of the Headless Horsemen in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

Grace’s mirror. As it turns out, this would be Grace Kelly’s last film before she became Princess of Monaco (by marriage). I found it a bit funny that her character is also about to marry into a similar situation. Kelly was a fine actress, with chops that rivaled many of her more established and successful contemporaries, and yet she threw away a promising career for love. In the film, Kelly throws away Crosby’s character for the love a more established and “safe” man, but is it the right move?

King Louis. What other entertainer do you know can juggle being the narrator, musical entertainment, and playing themselves? Sure, there are a few, but none can pull it off with the pizzaz that Satchmo manages to pull off, without question, the consummate professional. I believe that this role was meant to be more of a “minstrel” type, but was changed to fit Louis better. At any rate, Louis owns this role, and provides us with mayhaps the best song of the film, the titular “High Society calypso.

What didn’t I like?

Team Sinatra vs. Team Crosby. Two of the greatest singers during this era were Bing Crosby and young up and comer by the name of Frank Sinatra. Rumors are that there was some tension behind the scenes with the two crooners. As much as they tried to hide it, on-screen it showed. Such a shame that these two great entertainers couldn’t have a better working relationship. I’m sure it would have resulted in a much better final product. What we got was ok, but the tension that can be cut with a knife between the two has no reason being there.

Constant comparisons. Everything I’ve read about this film has made sure to bring up the fact that this is a retelling/remake of The Philadelphia Story. Apparently, many think this isn’t as good, which is a shame. I cannot comment on which is better, but the comparisons do not need to happen. Saying that it is a remake is all that needs to be said, but dissecting every scene in comparison to the other flick is a bit anal retentive. I am no fan of remakes, but even I don’t do that!!!

Music. Cole Porter…a name that is well-known among musical aficionados. Seeing his name on these songs automatically raises one’s expectation to meteoric levels. The problem is that these songs don’t come close to those expectations. Porter did a fine job with “True Love” and of course Armstrong’s “High Society” is a memorable jaunt, but the only other song that is worth mentioning is a duet between Crosby, Armstrong & his band entitled, “Now You Has Jazz”. As I say with all musicals, not every song is going to be a memorable showstopper, but they should at least be worth listening to and probably even stick in your head long after the film has ended.

As I said, I went into this for the sole purpose of seeing Louis Armstrong, and possibly hearing him blow a couple of tunes. When the credits to High Society finished rolling, though, I was more than happy that there was more than just ol’ Pops doing his thing. There is an actual story going on that is worth watching, as well as some other worthwhile factors that are enjoyable. Do I recommend this flick? Yes, but I do so with trepidation, knowing good and well that not everyone is going to like this type of film. If this sounds like something up your alley, check it out, if not, maybe still give it a shot and watch the first 10-15 minutes before you make a decision.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

A Letter to Three Wives

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on October 23, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Just as they are about to take a group of underprivileged children on a riverboat ride and picnic, Deborah Bishop (Jeanne Crain), Rita Phipps (Ann Sothern), and Lora Mae Hollingsway (Linda Darnell) receive a message from Addie Ross informing them that she has run off with one of their husbands. She, however, leaves them in suspense as to which one. All three marriages are shown in flashback to be strained.

Deborah grew up on a farm. Her first experience with the outside world came when she joined the Navy WAVES during World War II, where she met her future husband Brad (Jeffrey Lynn). When they return to civilian life, Deborah is ill at ease in Brad’s upper class social circle. Adding to her insecurity, she learns that everyone expected Brad to marry Addie, whom all three husbands consider practically a goddess.

However, she is comforted by Brad’s friend Rita, a career woman who writes stories for sappy radio soap operas. Her husband George (Kirk Douglas), a schoolteacher, feels somewhat emasculated since she earns much more money. He is also disappointed that his wife constantly gives in to the demands of her boss, Mrs. Manleigh (Florence Bates). Rita’s flashback is to a dinner party she gave for her boss. She forgot that her husband’s birthday was that night, and only remembered when a birthday present, a rare Brahms recording, arrived from Addie Ross.

Lora Mae grew up poor, not just on the “wrong side of the tracks,” but literally next to the railroad tracks. (Passing trains shake the family home periodically.) She sets her sights on her older, divorced employer, Porter (Paul Douglas), the wealthy owner of a statewide chain of department stores. Her mother, Ruby Finney (Connie Gilchrist), is unsure what to think of her daughter’s ambition, but Ruby’s friend (and the Bishops’ servant) Sadie (an uncredited Thelma Ritter) approves. Matters come to a head when she sees a picture of Addie Ross on the piano in his home. She tells him she wants her picture on a piano: her own piano in her own home. He tells her he isn’t interested in marriage, and she breaks off their romance. However, he loves her too much, and finally gives in and proposes, skipping a New Year’s party at Addie’s house to do so.

When the women return from the picnic, Rita is overjoyed to find her husband at home. They work out their issues; she promises to not let herself be pushed around by Mrs. Manleigh.

Deborah’s houseman gives her a message stating that Brad will not be coming home that night. A heartbroken Deborah goes alone to the dance with the other two couples.

When Porter complains about his wife dancing with another man, she tells him he has no idea how much Lora Mae really loves him, but Porter is certain his wife only sees him as a “cash register.” Unable to take it anymore, Deborah gets up to leave, announcing that Brad has run off with Addie. Porter stops her, confessing it was he who started to run away with Addie, but then explains, “A man can change his mind, can’t he?” Porter then tells his wife that, with his admission in front of witnesses, she can divorce him and get what she wants. To his shock, Lora Mae claims she did not hear a word he said. He asks her to dance.

The voice of Addie Ross bids all a good night. In the film, she is shown only once and from behind.

REVIEW:

I never watched that show Desperate Housewives, but I can see some influences in A Letter to Three Wives. As a huge fan of classic cinema, I am always looking for something great. This is one of those films that has a reputations, so I figured it’d be best to see what all the hoopla was about.

What is this about?

In this 1949 black-and-white classic, which won Joseph L. Mankiewicz an Academy Award for Best Director, three married women (Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell and Ann Sothern) vacationing on the Hudson suddenly find themselves on the receiving end of a disturbing missive: One of their husbands has broken his nuptial vows and cheated. But whose? The answer is revealed as each woman excavates the ruins of her marriage.

What did I like?

Letter. This Addie Ross person had to have some balls to write a letter to the three wives of these husbands, letting them know that she had an affair with one of them. For those of you that don’t know, a letter is an e-mail that was handwritten on paper before the days of computers, e-mail, and texting. Anyway, as you can tell by the title of the film, the letter is pretty important.

Cast. I would be hard-pressed to not praise this cast, which includes the likes of Kirk Douglas, Jeanne Crain, Celeste Holm, amongst others. Each etches their own indelible mark of history with this film, which could be another humdrum drama, but they give it that little bit of life it needs to keep audiences interested.

Addie. As important a role as she plays in the film, I appreciate how the focus is quickly taken from her after the opening narration, almost as if she is a red herring for the rest of the picture. An effective technique to be sure, and one that should be employed in some of today’s pictures.

What didn’t I like?

Flashbacks. A nice technique this film employs is the use of flashbacks. While I appreciate how these gave us some background and development of each of the characters, as well as providing something towards the mystery. My problem with the flashbacks though are how they seems to drag on. I would have preferred this to have been more concise, for the sake of the audience, though.

Subtraction. The novel this is based on is actually titled A Letter to Five Wives. For some unknown reason, they cut out the other 2 wives. Well, the fourth wife was actually supposed to be in this, but her scenes were cut to shorten the film. I don’t understand why they couldn’t have just left all 5 wives in and shorten the flashback scenes.

A Letter to Three Wives sounds like it could one of those supremely boring and depressing films. As it turns out, it isn’t that depressing, given that that alternate ending. This is one of those slow moving classic films that you need to pay attention to from beginning to end, soaking up everything from ambience to the great performances. That being said, I only recommend this to those of you with an attention span, otherwise, this will be a waste of your time.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars

High Society

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , on January 24, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The successful jazz musician C.K. Dexter Haven (Bing Crosby) had married and divorced rich Tracy Samantha Lord (Grace Kelly), but remains in love with her. She, however, is about to get married to a bland gentleman of good standing, George Kittredge (John Lund). The intense and edgy reporter by the name of Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra) covers the nuptials for Spy Magazine, and falls for her as well. She must choose between the three very different men in a course of self-discovery.

REVIEW:

As a fan of Louis Armstrong, musicals, and old movies, I had high expectations for this film. Sadly, I was a bit let down, but I think that was more because I expected more out of this film that what I should have,

High Society is a remake of The Philadelphia Story. I haven’t seen that film, but from what I saw in the trailer it looks as if this remake did it justice without being a total copy.

Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra give top notch performances in this film. Having not had the luxury of seeing these fine performers when they were living, it is a real treat to see some of their fine works on film.

As with most films he’s in, Louis Armstrong is relegated to being the equivalent of a minstrel or cameo musician. Still having said that, you can’t help but sit and listen in awe as he performs.

There are plenty of reasons to see this film, mainly the cast. At the same time, there are reasons to not see it, especially if you’re not a fan of the classics. Still, I think anyone can watch and enjoy this fine film.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars