Archive for Thelma Ritter

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

Move Over, Darling

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ellen Wagstaff Arden (Doris Day), a mother of two young girls named Jenny and Didi, was believed to be lost at sea following an airplane accident. Her husband, Nick Arden (James Garner), was one of the survivors.

After five years of searching for her, he decides to move on with his life by having her declared legally dead so he can marry Bianca (Polly Bergen), all on the same day. However, Ellen is alive; she is rescued and returns home that particular day. At first crestfallen, she is relieved to discover from her mother-in-law Grace (Thelma Ritter) that her (ex-) husband’s honeymoon has not started yet.

When Nick is confronted by Ellen, he eventually clears things up with Bianca, but he then learns that the entire time Ellen was stranded on the island she was there with another man, the handsome, athletic Stephen Burkett (Chuck Connors) – and that they called each other “Adam” and “Eve.”

Nick’s mother has him arrested for bigamy and all parties appear before the same judge that married Nick and Bianca earlier that day. Bianca and Ellen request divorces before the judge sends them all away. Bianca leaves Nick, while Ellen storms out, still married to Nick, declared alive again. Ellen returns to Nick’s house unsure if her children will recognize her. Her children welcome her home, and so does Nick.

REVIEW:

Sorry for not doing any reviews the past couple of weeks. Work had me…um…working. I’m a little rusty at this after so much time off, so let me go to one of my old standbys to deliver a great performance, at least I hope she does, Doris Day. Move Over, Darling seems like an innocent, early romantic comedy. Let’s see if it is worth the time.

What is this about?

Five years after his wife, Ellen (Doris Day), disappears at sea in a plane crash, successful lawyer Nick Arden (James Garner) decides it’s time to move on: He has Ellen declared legally dead, remarries and sets off on his honeymoon. But there’s trouble in paradise when Ellen — who’s in fact very much alive — turns up to surprise the newlyweds.

What did I like?

Chemistry. A movie is instantly doomed if the leads have no chemistry. No one wants to see two people who are just going through the motions and clearly can’t stand each other. James Garner and Doris Day don’t have this problem as the two of them have a chemistry that arguably could rival that of some of the great Hollywood screen couples of this era. Watching the two of them play off each other both in comedic and dramatic ways is quite enjoyable.

Day by Day. A few months back, around the time of Doris Day’s birthday (she’s still alive, y’know), I read something that named her “America’s Sweetheart” for the era. Judging by all of the movies I’ve seen her in and what I know about her personally, it would be hard to argue that title away from her, especially since I can’t think of any other contenders at this time. At the time she made this film, she was in her 40s and I have to say this is the best (and perhaps most feminine) she has looked on film. We even get to see her in a bikini, a rare site for the normally demure and covered up Doris Day. Acting wise, she has never been better. Mixing her comedic stylings with Garner’s timing, as well as some hijinks that are a bit of a staple of her films and she shines.

Western showdown. I didn’t realize this until I had finished the film, but this film features two stars of western TV shows. I don’t believe they were on at the same time, but on the one hand we have James Garner who starred in Maverick and on the other hand there is Chuck Connors, who is known as the titular character from The Rifleman. Having these two together is a real treat, and yes, they do have some scenes together, for those that were curious.

What didn’t I like?

The Shrew. As much praise as I heap on Doris Day and her character, the opposite is true for Polly Bergen and her character. How Garner ended up with her, I’ll never understand. First of all, she’s a downgrade from Day, in my opinion. Second, she’s overly needy. While on their honeymoon, Garner steps out for a few minutes comes back and has to leave again, but she throws a tantrum and puts on a guilt trip every time he tries to leave. Lastly, she seems to have something going on with her psychiatrist “friend”. It is never said, but you can tell they have a thing. I guess the film needed someone the complete opposite of Day. Why else would there be such a despicable female in this film?

Knotts landing. Don Knotts makes an appearance as a shoe salesman that Day pays to perpetrate a ruse. After the scene is over, we don’t see him again. I have two things to say about this. First off, I believe this is before The Andy Griffith Show, so Knotts isn’t a big star, yet, but he had starred in a couple of films at this point, so why was he just a bit part? Second, the semi-flirting that was going on between he and Day was just awkward, as neither is known for doing so. Parts of it were funny, though, I will give credit where it is due.

Is that really hair? This is a small complaint, but it has to be brought up. Maybe I just don’t understand the physics of women’s hair when it gets wet, but Doris Day’s hair looked so unnatural when she was in the car wash and then again at the end when she jumped in the pool. I believe this is a wig because this is the only time I’ve seen her without her customary short hair, but it is possible that this is her real hair, just a tad bit longer than normal. At whatever rate, the wet look bothered me.

Mover Over, Darling is a cute romantic comedy starring one of our national treasures, Doris Day. Many of the tropes that we see in today’s rom-coms are prevalent here, but in a much more subdued (and better executed) way. Garner makes for a good leading man and keeps his cool in this unusual situation. I do wish we could have gotten another song or two from Day, though. Do I recommend this? Yes, it is a good film for when you have absolutely no idea what to watch. Check it out sometime!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars