Showing posts with label 1947. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1947. Show all posts

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Out of the Past

1947’s Out of the Past is widely considered to be one of the greatest examples of 1940s film noir. Set around a convoluted plot, the film twists and turns through double, triple and quadruple crosses, landing surprise blows on its dumbstruck and occasionally confused audience. Based on the novel Build My Gallows High and originally released in the UK under the same title, the picture stars Robert Mitchum as freelance Private Detective Jeff Bailey. He’s hired by rich and shady businessman Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) to track down a dame, Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer) who Stirling alleges has disappeared with $40,000 of his money. Told partly in flashback and with a voiceover to match that of Sunset Boulevard’s, the film twists and turns like a twisty-turny thing, through several cities, two nations and a long, albeit undisclosed, period of time.

It took me a little while to get into Out of the Past but when I did, I enjoyed it greatly. Unfortunately my patience wore off towards the end thanks to the elaborate nature of the narrative. This isn’t a film I’d suggest watching after a long day at the office and a couple of martinis inside your stomach. Although a large part of the movie’s charm is its strong story, the frequent double crossing did begin to confuse me as we crossed the hour mark. This isn’t entirely a bad thing however as half the fun is in guessing who has the upper hand and who will strike next.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Monsieur Verdoux

Released seven years after Chaplin’s last film The Great Dictator, Monsieur Verdoux arrived after yet another turbulent period in the actor/writer/director’s life. Based on an idea by Orson Welles which Chaplin bought from his friend for $5,000 in 1941, the film is loosely based on the life of a famous French bigamist and murderer called Henri Landru. Here Charlie Chaplin plays Henri Verdoux, who after losing his steady job during the Great Depression, marries several wealthy old women before murdering them and stealing from their estates. Chaplin plays Verdoux as a dapper and cunning gentleman. Charming and flirtatious he is an expert salesman - his product, himself. Cleverly he woos unsuspecting women, keeping several on the go at once and when money becomes tight he strikes. Speaking accurately about his work to a neighbour he declares, “Yes I have a job. If I lose one, I can always get another”. It’s this kind of pitch black humour that runs through Chaplin’s darkest film and the same humour that drew mass criticism from journalists and the public alike.

Stepping back in time for just a moment to understand where Chaplin found himself in 1947 it’s not difficult to see why he was given such a hard time in the press. Following several highly public failed marriages, often with women several decades younger than himself, Chaplin found himself in 1943 at the centre of the biggest celebrity scandal since the Arbuckle trials over twenty years earlier. An inspiring actress who Chaplin had privately tutored called Joan Barry had publicly declared the star to be the father of her new born child and a paternity case was played out in the full glare of the media that same year. Although two blood tests proved Chaplin was not the father, the court still ordered him to pay child support and the media backlash was something that Chaplin never really recovered from. Added to this was Chaplin’s refusal to become an American citizen after over thirty years of working in America and suspicions of Communist sympathies in an ever more paranoid and right wing country. So when in 1947 Chaplin released a film that not only did away with his popular Tramp character but also appeared to glamorise murder and polygamy, the knives were out.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Charlie Chaplin - The United Artist Films and Beyond

Last year I watched and reviewed over forty films made by one of my cinematic heroes, Charlie Chaplin. It’s taken a while but after cataloguing all of his Essanay, Mutual and First National Films, I’ve come back to the tramp to look at the final portion of his career. Even as I write these words I realise how absurd ‘final portion’ sounds as the years I’m looking at cover over four decades and include his first dramatic film, his first talkie and his final British films following his exile from his adopted United States. This period also coincides with what is today, his most iconic era; the fifteen years between 1925’s The Gold Rush and 1940’s The Great Dictator. Despite having been one of the most famous men in the world for over a decade, 1925 marks the beginning of the era which still defines Chaplin’s motion picture career. It was between the years of 1925-40 that he created some of the most essential comedy moments in film history and all but one of his films from this period has been added to the US National Film Registry. For me and indeed many film fans these films are gems but as with many of the silent shorts that I reviewed last year, some of the films surrounding this golden period will be new to me.

Most of the films listed below were produced through United Artists, the company co-founded by Chaplin and fellow stars D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (pictured above). The company is still going strong today but lost its independence in 1967 and is now a subsidiary of MGM. I have, in the past year and a half, reviewed some of the films on this list already but I’ll be watching the rest in order and may decide to re-watch the ones I have seen anyway. As usual you can click on a film’s title to read my full review.