Showing posts with label 1950. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1950. Show all posts

Saturday, 1 February 2014

All About Eve



All About Eve is a 1950 drama that for nearly fifty years stood as the lone record holder for most Academy Award nominations. At the 23rd Academy Awards it was nominated for a total of fourteen awards, a feat unmatched until Titanic equalled it in 1997. The film wouldn’t be a successful as James Cameron’s sprawling, water based epic however and won just six of it’s nominations including the important Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Sixty four years on and today I watched the film for the first time to see what all the fuss is about. My immediate impression upon completing the film was that of surprise for its multiple nominations and victories but stepping back a little, the film features a lot to like, not least some fantastic writing and superb acting performances.

The film strangely shares many themes with another 1950 release, Sunset Boulevard, and indeed the two would battle it out in eight of the categories at the Oscar’s ceremony I just spoke of. Another film that All About Eve congers memories of is stranger still and that is Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls. All three movies feature stories about revered and ageing stars who are or at least feel threatened by perkier, younger women. Here, the marvellous Bette Davis plays Broadway star Margot Channing, a talented actress with an outwardly sense of entitlement but who is inwardly frail and uneasy, worried for her place in the theatre world. Her fears come to the forefront of her mind when she is confronted with the attributes and ambitions of Eve Harrington (Ann Baxter). Harrington begins the film as a timid and star struck young girl but what lurks beneath her downtrodden and excited appearance is a viciously ambitious starlet.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Winchester '73



Winchester ’73 was the first in a string of successful Westerns to be directed by Anthony Mann and starring James Stewart. Stewart, who was worried about his career following a number of post war flops, decided he needed to branch out as an actor and jumped at the role of Lin McAdam in this story of one man’s search for his gun. Audiences were initially surprised at the casting but Stewart went on to have a successful career in Westerns alongside the dramas and thrillers for which he is better known. McAdam (Stewart) enters Dodge City with his friend High Spade (Millard Mitchell) on the eve of a Centenary Rifle Shoot Competition. His main rival for a once in a lifetime prize of a priceless Winchester ’73 rifle is the outlaw ‘Dutch Henry’ Brown (Stephen McNally) and it soon becomes obvious that the two have history. McAdam wins the rifle but it’s stolen by Dutch and passes through several hands before the two can square off again to decide once and for all who should own the precious gun.

With a plot that goes back and forth from interesting to really boring and some incredibly clich├ęd and reductive dialogue, Winchester ’73 runs the risk of being just another Western. The poor generalising of Native Americans and stereotypical female character only chalks up marks in its negative column but there is something about the movie which gives it a spark. I personally think that spark is the gun. I have no interest in firearms and have never held a real one, let alone shot one but the film turns the gun into something else. It isn’t a gun, it’s a symbol. It’s a symbol of masculinity, success and triumph and every male character in the movie wants it.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Sunset Boulevard



Sunset Boulevard is a multi award winning 1950 melodrama which turns the camera on Hollywood and tells the story of a faded silent movie star’s relationship with an ambitious but unsuccessful young writer. Nominated for eleven Oscars it is often regarded as one of the greatest films ever made and appears on numerous Top 10 lists. In 1989 it was selected as one of the first films to be preserved in the National Film Registry and today, over sixty years after its release it continues to stand up thanks to its excellent writing, direction, performances and Noir sensibility.

Joe Gills (William Holden) is a struggling writer in search of a job. He has little success and with debt collectors on his tail he drives into the seemingly abandoned driveway of an old Sunset Boulevard mansion. He soon discovers that the decrepit house is in fact occupied by a former movie star called Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and her mysterious butler Max (Erich von Stroheim). After initially being mistaken for an undertaker, Joe announces himself as a screenwriter and the former star puts him to work rewriting her screenplay with the hope that it will rekindle her career. Desmond, it soon turns out, is living in a delusion and cannot grasp that her time has been and gone while Joe uses his time in the house to further his career.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Harvey



Harvey is the film that is often regarded as the one which gave James Stewart his finest performance. I’m fairly new to discovering his talents but it is certainly the finest I’ve seen so far. Harvey is an incredibly sweet and funny film which I’m certain wouldn’t work today. The central character’s innocence and kindness simply wouldn’t sit right in twenty-first century cinema. As sweet as the film is though it is also notable for having a less than favourable view of mental illness and in keeping with Hollywood movies of the time, it depicts the fear and misunderstanding which surrounded illness of the brain although it slightly rectifies its position towards the end.

Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) is an overly polite and gentle man who lives with his older sister (Josephine Hull) and niece (Victoria Horne) in their mother’s old house. Despite his amiable personality, charm and kindness, his family are deeply embarrassed by Elwood and try to get him out of the house whenever they have company. The reason for their embarrassment is Elwood’s friend Harvey. Harvey himself is as friendly and polite as Elwood but he happens to be a six foot, three and a half inch invisible white rabbit whom only Elwood can see. After embarrassing Veta (Hull) for the final time, she decides it’s time to institutionalise Elwood.