Friday, November 29, 2013

All The King's Men (Best Picture 1949)

All The King's Men is an odd movie about an odd book. Compared to contemporary Best Picture winners such as Going My Way and The Best Years of Our Lives, this film seems to suggest that there is a definite veneer of evil behind all things "good." It's a cynical, depressing story told well; in that regard it's more similar to The Lost Weekend or Going My Way. From a historical point of view, it seems like the United States was looking at "the evil that men do" and trying to comment on it.
The film tells the story of Willie Stark, a lawyer who runs for treasurer of some podunk town named Kanoma County in an unnamed state (which appears to be Louisiana). He runs up against the political machine and loses that race badly. However, one of his talking points is the cheap bid on the local elementary school construction. When a fire escape collapses a few years later, Willie is remembered for championing against the slipshod work. At the same time, the governor is running for re-election. His jaded political staff decides to get Willie to run in the race as well, hoping to off-set the governor's opponent's votes. Unfortunately, Willie believes he is drafted to run because of his integrity. When he learns that he is being played, he gets drunk and then, in one of the best scenes of the movie, makes a speech where he actually begins to really run for the governorship. He embraces the challenge and the dirt and the "do evil to do good" mandate. He loses this run, but four years later is elected governor. 
Broderick Crawford as Willie Stark
The story is also about Jack Burden, a ne'er-do-well who is working as a reporter when the film opens but eventually becomes Stark's public relations man. He believes in Stark at the beginning, and is instrumental in opening his eyes to the fact that he (Stark) is being used by the then-governor. However, Jack comes to realize that Stark is embracing darkness in order to achieve power. And the film begins to present to us the question, DOES the end justify the means? 
John Ireland and Mercedes McCambridge
Because, slowly but surely, Stark becomes a womanizer and old-style political boss. He hires the very people who opposed him in his original race to be treasurer in Kanoma, "to keep an eye on them" but also to take advantage of how to win elections. He learns how to win, and more importantly, how to stay in power.

To build up his support across the state he had chosen a respected retired judge (an old family friend of Jack's) to be his Attorney General. However, this ends badly when the judge eventually learns of a scandal involving kick-backs to the Governor's staff. The judge goes public with the charges, and Willie has to fight it out on the floor of the state senate as well as in the field of public opinion. Things continue to go badly for the political machine of Willie Stark, even as the state begins to prosper and the average citizen's lot in life improves. Finally, when Governor Stark black-mails the judge to shut him up, things really go badly.
I read the novel in high school Social Studies class as a "biography" of Senator Huey Long of Loisiana, but the author, Robert Penn Warren, is on record as saying that the story of Willie Stark is NOT the story of Senator Long. Suggested by it, maybe, but not OF it. So when I saw the movie a few years later, I knew what I was getting into. The book is better, because it is able to talk about the inner demons driving Stark and Jack to be better, even when they are doing evil. The film, on the other hand, suffices with close-ups of John Ireland as Jack looking pensive or Broderick Crawford as Willie being bombastic. Broderick Crawford won the Best Actor for this role, and it is a doozy. He goes from "country hick" to slick governor in a believable style. He makes the film watchable; he is riveting. Mercedes McCambridge won Best Supporting Actress as the political staff-woman who originally works against Willie and then works for him. She eventually falls in love with him, even though he has no idea. She, too, is riveting in all of her scenes; she portrays a strong, feisty, almost unlikeable female character the likes of which we don't see very often in Hollywood films.

Something that I didn't really understand was the relationship between Jack and Anne Scranton; when she is introduced they seem to be engaged. Pretty quickly, however, Anne is shown to be the governor's mistress, and how that eats up Jack is never really explored. 

As a political thriller there isn't much to this film. As a political melodrama, it begins to sink under its own weight towards the end. But as a character drama, or as an allegory of "Good" versus "Evil", it is definitely worth watching. 
All The King's Men
*Academy Award Best Picture of 1949*
Produced & Directed
by Robert Rossen
Screenplay by Robert Rossen
Based on the novel by Robert Penn Warren

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
The Heiress
A Letter To Three Wives
Twelve O'Clock High
This is another year where I haven't seen the majority of the nominees. Battleground was absolutely unknown to me. I have seen The Heiress because it was on Japanese TV once. It won Olivia deHaviland Best Actress for her role as an unattractive yet wealthy woman being wooed by debonair Montgomery Clift. Twelve O'Clock High stars Gregory Peck as a bombardier commander; one of its actors, Dean Jagger, won Best Supporting Actor. And A Letter To Three Wives won Best Director and Best Screenplay for Joseph Mankiewicz, but I had never heard of it before researching this article. By the way, this is the second year in a row where the Best Picture and Best Director were not awarded to the same film. Anyway, we'll talk more about Mankiewicz next week.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

At this time of year, as it gets colder and darker as we head towards Winter I can understand the need of people to put out lights and decorations to hurry Christmas along. However, barreling forward into the end of the year and the beginning of the New Year makes it easy to forget one of the most important holidays we have in the United States: Thanksgiving.

It is often said that the first Thanksgiving was between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans  and was held in 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Whether this is historically accurate or not, the public perception of Thanksgiving in the United States is based on the idea that you get together with friends and family and humbly thank God or each other (or both) for managing to get through the past year.

I think Thanksgiving is a great holiday because it is based around four truly important ingredients: family, faith, humility, and food.

I know that many people have a strong image of "going home for Christmas," but I am never surprised to read that more Americans travel at or for Thanksgiving than do for Christmas. I certainly do. For one thing, the weather can  usually be counted in late November compared to late December, so I would rather drive at that time. (Flying sucks during any holiday season.)

Faith comes into play because the Pilgrims escaped England in order to practice their faith in the way they wanted; the first Thanksgivings were held to literally give thanks to God for not killing them in the rough New World that they had chosen for themselves. This sense of freedom to practice their religion as they wanted eventually led us to the Freedom Of Religion (or Freedom From Religion) that we have today.  

And Faith leads naturally to humility. No one has ever sat around a Thanksgiving table and said, "I did what I did all by myself. I didn't need any help. I deserve all that I got and I want more." Even the most arrogant and self-centered people tend to gain a little bit of humility when they sit down and start to contemplate just how lucky they are. Unfortunately, that type of humility tends to whither and die sooner than a rose in winter.

And of course, Thanksgiving is all about food. Just make sure you do two things this year: thank whoever it is who worked so hard to cook all that food for you, AND share the bounty. Buy some pies and bring them to the fire or police stations for those people who are on duty that day. Drop off canned goods to food banks or shelters. Remember, "there but for the grace of God, go I...."

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Birthday, Jerry Ordway!

Comic-book artist and writer extraordinary Jerry Ordway's birthday is tomorrow, November 28. This man has some awesome talent. Why doesn't he have a regular series, at MARVEL or at DC or at one of the other minor publishing houses, even? He is too good to not be getting paid to show us his work on a regular basis!

I first came across Jerry's work in the pages of ALL STAR SQUADRON. He came on the book in the mid-Eighties after Rick Buckler had moved on; he stayed for several years,  co-creating with Roy Thomas INFINITY, INC. Jerry also inked George Perez' work on the CRISIS maxi-series. He then settled into a long run on the SUPERMAN books, including the famous "Death of Superman" storyline. Jerry also did beautiful work on THE POWER OF SHAZAM, writing, plotting, and/or illustrating every issue from 1994 thru 1999. This monthly series began with a fully-painted graphic novel of the same name. If you have never read it, you should. It is beautifully done re-telling of the origin of the original Captain Marvel.

Happy Birthday, Jerry Ordway!

For more Jerry Ordway goodness, visit his blog, "Ordster's Random Thoughts"

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Birthday, Eddie Steeples!

Yesterday November 25 was Eddie Steeples' 40th birthday. I hope you recognize who he is! I first came across Eddie Steeples when he was the spokesperson (?) for Office Max. He played an oddly made up "Rubberband Man" who actually made me *want* to buy my office supplies from Office Max. I still prefer them to Staples. Then for four seasons he played Darnell "Crab Man" Turner on one of my favorite TV series, My Name Is Earl (2005-2009).

I haven't seen him on anything regular since Earl left the air, but he has been in some movies and specials. Here's hoping Eddie gets something steady soon.

Happy Birthday, Eddie Steeples!

Monday, November 25, 2013

"Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?"

Today is Joe DiMaggio's birthday. The baseball superstar, who died in 1999, would have been 99 years old today.

For a generation of Americans, he was the center fielder for the New York Yankees (1936-1951). For another generation of Americans, he is most famous for being married to Marilyn Monroe in 1954 (the marriage lasted less than a year). And for yet another generation, he is known most famously as the spokesperson for Mr. Coffee coffee-makers.

Among music lovers, Joe DiMaggio is known as all those things AND as a lyric in the 1968 Simon & Garfunkel hit, "Mrs. Robinson." 
The song first appeared in the Mike Nichols directed film The Graduate (1968). Nichols wanted new S&G songs in the film, but used already-written songs as "place-holders" until Paul Simon could supply new ones. However, Simon ended up being too busy touring to write new songs for the film. Desperate, Nichols asked if Simon had anything available. Simon told him that all he had was a bit of something called "Mrs. Roosevelt" about the 1940s, Joe DiMaggio, and the past. Nichols grabbed it, changing the subject from "Roosevelt" to "Robinson."
The lyrics that Paul Simon eventually wrote about Joe DiMaggio for the Number One song are as follows:

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
Going to the candidates' debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose
Every way you look at it you lose.
Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
What's that you say Mrs. Robinson
Joltin' Joe has left and gone away.

So why does Joe DiMaggio appear in a song nominally about an older woman having an affair with the neighborhood boy? After Nichols grabbed the song for the film, Simon decided to leave Joe DiMaggio in. He used the celebrity as a representative of the strong, silent, classy type of "hero" that was in short supply in 1968. Specifically, although DiMaggio had been married to Marilyn Monroe, he never spoke of her or tried to make any money off of their relationship. Simon considered that classy.
To read Paul Simon's own comments about Joe DiMaggio, read his Op-Ed from the New York Times from 1999.

And here is the classic song, by Simon & Garfunkel, circa 1968.

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963 In Film

President John F. Kennedy died fifty years ago today. To help mark this anniversary, I thought it would be appropriate for Film Friday to look at several of the films made about that terrible day.

First, of course, is the "home-movie" made by Abraham Zapruder on and at and during that terrible event in Dealey Plaza. Mr. Zapruder sold the rights to the film to Time-Life in 1963, who kept it under wraps for several years, doling it out in snippets for magazine specials and articles of their own. Rights were then transferred back to the Zapruder family in the late 70s or early 80s. The family eventually sold the film as a historical artifact to The Book Depository Museum in Dallas.
This film is not for the squeamish; make no mistake, it is a film of an actual murder. For me the worst part of the film is the short sequence between the time that the President and his wife realize something is wrong (he's been shot through the throat?) and the fatal shot to the head. If the driver had only sped up during that short window of opportunity, the President would have lived....

 A few years ago I came across a film called Image of An Assassination, which was the digitized and clarified version of the actual film. I found it at the Columbus Library, so if you are interested in this you might check your library, too. It is the High Definition version of the grainy hand-held camera film.

I almost didn't imbed the following youtube version of the film here. It is a terrible, terrible scene to watch. However, it is history. And I wondered how many people reading this have actually had the chance to see the actual film, and not just a snippet or two from other news documentaries or films. The deciding factor to post it here was that the stop-image shown below as the link was not one of the more graphic scenes. So I leave it to you to choose to watch it or to skip on.

The most famous actual film about the assassination is Oliver Stone's JFK (1991). Leonard Maltin says it best when he writes about it, "Full of startling scenes and bravura acting, as dramatic movie-making it's superb. Not to be mistaken for a documentary, however, despite it's sanctimonious attitude towards the truth." 

I saw the film twenty years ago when it first came out, and in preparation to write this review I watched it again.

First of all, what the heck is the DVD (poster) image suppsoed to represent? I get the red and white stripes of the flag, but what is that underneath Kevin Costner's face. It looks like a body or a hand or something....I have never understood this image for the twenty years I've seen it. 

The film starts with a short mix of actual documentary footage: President Eisenhower's final speech as President in 1960, footage of Viet Nam, and President Kennedy's speech at American University in Washington DC. Then when we see Kevin Costner as New Orleans District Attorney James Garrison, the assumption we have to make is that what we're seeing now is the truth, too. Because Lee Harvey Oswald had lived in New Orleans, Garrison and his staff investigates his activity there. That leads them to believe that there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, and that it had started in New Orleans.

There are a lot of odd things in this film, but it is definitely presented with panache and style. And there are questions raised and comments made that sound convincing. For example, there is a throw-away line about somebody named "Oswald" buying trucks for a shady CIA operative in New Orleans; Oswald was definitely living in the Soviet Union at that time. Is this true? If so, what does it mean? Likewise, the question of why Oswald did not shoot the President as his motorcade was coming towards the Book Depository, rather than driving away from it. There might be a perfectly simple explanation, but it is a good question. However, Garrison's hypothesis seems to be that there were three snipers ready to kill the president in a crossfire. Yet he admits that most of the shots these snipers allegedly fired MISSED their target! So where did they go? The film is a technical marvel, but sloppy police work.
Even though Costner portrays Garrison as a beacon of moral fiber, eventually he starts to appear to be a tad paranoid. Every rhetorical question is answered with , "Because there's a cover up!" The staging of the "Magic Bullet" scene in the courtroom is well done, but all through it I kept thinking, "what if the position of the two victims (the President and Governor John Connelly) was off; wouldn't that explain the trajectory? If there was some way to sit the two men at the same line of fire as the bullet, wouldn't that explain it? Also, if there WAS more than one "magic" bullet...where did it/they go? Neither of the wives were injured and no bystanders in Dealey Plaza were wounded, either.

After I saw JFK the first time I managed to buy a copy of the book by Jim Garrison, On The Trail of the Assassins. It was interesting reading, but did not convince me that the CIA or anybody in the US government had conspired to kill the president. Soon after that I also read the 1993 book Case Closed by Gerald Posner. It basically debunks a lot of the myths, half-truths, and rumors around the assassination. It specifically makes the case that Oswald could have done all that he was alleged to have done. What I remember most about the book was that Posner interviewed the people close to Oswald at the time. One swore that Oswald brought what he claimed were curtain rods to work that Friday morning. And Oswald's wife swore she took the notorious photo of Oswald in the backyard posing with his guns. So there seems to be a clear trail to this particular assassin. I also have read parts of Vincent Bugliosi's book Reclaiming History, which criticizes the film from top to bottom. (I have his book to thank for my earlier comment regarding the quality of the marksmanship of the professional assassins that Garrison believes did the work that day.) Most importantly, although Oliver Stone (and Jim Garrison, I guess) tried to paint a picture of a conspiracy, that picture ignores the dozens of actual witnesses who *saw* the rifle jutting out of the sixth floor window of the Book Depository and *heard* the three shots come from that rifle. 
For another point of view, I recommend the 1973 film Executive Action. In this film, Will Geer ("Grandpa" from The Waltons) plans the assassination of the president. It's a chilling account of how a conspiracy would work if it had happened. Like movies such as Raise The Titanic, however, it's patently (?) fiction.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Happy Birthday, Steve Lightle!

Steve Lightle, comic-book artist extraordinaire, was born on this date in 1959. That makes him the same age as my sister, 54 years young.

I first came across his work when I was in college, when he was doing outstanding work on LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES. He ended up creating one of my all-time favorite members, Tellus. Later he did great work on another of  of my favorite teams, THE DOOM PATROL.  And although I was never a huge Flash fan, his covers for THE FLASH made me browse them and pick up a few copies I otherwise would not have. He has also done some MARVEL work, but most of it was while I was in Japan, so I haven't actually seen any of it in person (outside of on the internet.)

Last year I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, stumbling onto his homepage in time to purchase a Steve Lightle original. It's one of the prizes in my Aquaman collection. So let's all wish the man a happy birthday, and many more years of fantastic art to come!

Happy Birthday, Steve Lightle!

Tellus is on the far left, the methane breathing non-humanoid


For more great Steve Lightle goodness, check out Lunatick Press!

Hamlet on Gilligan's Island

On Friday I reviewed the Best Picture 1948 film, Hamlet. (You can read the review here if you are so inclined.) What I failed to mention in that article, however, was that my first exposure to the play and my favorite version came from the third season of Gilligan's Island. "The Producer" was written by Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso and directed by the great Ida Lupino. This episode guest-stars the comedian Phil Silvers as Harold Hecuba, famous Hollywood producer. He lands on the island during a world-wide talent search, and the egomaniac makes himself comfortable until he is ready to leave. The castaways try to convince him to leave quickly by tempting him with a sure-fire hit. So they put on a musical version of Hamlet. The idea is that if he likes it, he'll want to take them all back to civilization to get it started as quickly as possible. He does like it, but decides to steal the idea for himself, leaving the castaways stranded. The castaways met a lot of mean people on that island of theirs.
Phil Silvers was perfectly cast as the conniving, self-centered, no-talent producer, director, star Harold Hecuba. He sees the castaways' rehearsal of the show but then insists on showing them how it is done. He presents his own version, "Produced by Harold Hecuba, Directed by Harold Hecuba, Starring....Harold Hecuba!" I couldn't help but think this was a gentle nudge against Laurence Olivier, who did indeed produce, direct, and star in Hamlet in 1947.
The musical version of Hamlet that the castaways present uses The Toreador Song from the opera Carmen (by Bizet) and Belle nuit o nuite d'amour from the opera The Tales of Hoffman (by Offenbach).

Hamlet: Gilligan (Bob Denver)
Ophelia: Ginger (Tina Louise)
Claudius: Mr. Howell (Jim Backus)
Gertrude: Mrs. Howell (Natalie Schafer)
Polonius: The Skipper (Alan Hale)
Laertes: Mary Ann (Dawn Wells)
The Professor (Russell Johnson) is shown to be the Tech Crew (music, light, and curtain duties).

I dare you to watch these songs and not find this entertaining.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mickey Mouse!

Mickey Mouse made his public debut on November 18, 1928. That means he's a whopping 85 years old! He's in great shape; he doesn't look a day over 39. (That's a Jack Benny joke for you youngsters out there!) His debut feature, Steamboat Willie, premiered on this date in 1928, and that is why it is considered his birthday. It was also the first animated feature with synchronized sound, making it famous on two fronts. Mickey and Minnie whistle and then play the tune "Turkey In The Straw" on a variety of animals (I especially like the piglets). It's quite a musical show.

Mickey Mouse is one of the world's most recognizable fictional characters. He is also one of my favorite Disney characters (my all-time favorite is Mickey's dog, Pluto). 
To help celebrate Mickey's birthday, let's watch how it all got started: here's Steamboat Willie starring Mickey, Minnie, and Pete!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hamlet (Best Picture 1948)

The Best Picture of the year 1947 as chosen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was Hamlet, from a story originally written circa 1590. This makes this film the oldest screenplay to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Full disclosure: I love William Shakespeare and have since high school, when I read Romeo & Juliet and saw the (1968) movie. In college my advisor was a Shakespearean scholar. I own a copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and have read or seen most (?) of them. One of Shakespeare's friends was named Richard Burbage, the lead actor of his troupe. It is usually assumed that he was the first actor to portray not only Hamlet but also King Lear and Othello, among other characters. So I sometimes wish I knew for sure that we were related. I like to think that we are.
That being said, Hamlet is my least favorite Tragedy and this particular version was especially annoying.

Hamlet is a story about a man who initially cannot make up his mind as to what he should do. When he does decide on a course of action, he has to pretend to be crazy in order to hide his true ambitions. So as an actor it is a plum role. You are a man in mourning in Act One, you have to argue with yourself to decide what and who you believe in Act Two, you have to act crazy (or, perhaps, act on your insanity) in Act Three, you have to connive against your enemy in Act Four, and then you have to face the consequences of your actions in Act Five.  So there is a lot of emoting to be done, and as an actor you are in the vast majority of the scenes. However, if you are not a likeable presence with a strong attraction to the audience your self-loathing and indecision becomes not tragic but annoying. You're not musing, you're whining. You're not plotting, you're confused. See where I'm going with this?
For those of you who may not be familiar with the story: Hamlet's father The King has died, and Hamlet's uncle Claudius has taken the throne. (Why it didn't go to Hamlet, I have no idea.) Not only that, but Claudius has married his sister-in-law, Hamlet's mother. So Hamlet is not happy about what has happened. Suddenly, a ghost, who appears to be the dead king, tells Hamlet that Claudius actually murdered him in order to usurp the throne. Hamlet believes the ghost but can't decide what to do about it. He turns away from all of his friends and his erstwhile girl-friend, Ophelia, because he believes them loyal to Claudius. Keeping his own console, he eventually decides to let Claudius know that he knows. Hamlet kills Polonius, the Royal Chamberlain, thinking it is Claudius. Polonius' daughter Ophelia basically has a nervous breakdown and then drowns herself. His son Laertes returns and swears revenge on Hamlet; they duel, but Claudius conspires to kill both of them. In the end, everyone dies. I'm not really spoiling anything; by definition in Comedies everyone falls in love; in Tragedies, everyone dies.

The actual play has been clocked at running 4 hours, but the film is only two, so there were quite a lot of things cut. The only thing I noticed, however, was the editing out of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two friends of Hamlet's whom Claudius uses in his plot to kill Hamlet.
So what didn't I like? Right off the bat Olivier chooses lines from the play to begin, which is fine, but he also  "breaks voice" and says, "This is a tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind." First of all, adding to Shakespeare? Uh, not required, thanks. And trying to summarize a classic story in one line, right before you *tell* the story? What was he thinking? Right off I thought, "Uh-oh."

There's a lot of fog in Denmark.

The set was impressive. However, how many times did we have to see stairwells, walls, windows, and halls in the castle? The huge room where Act Five is set was stupendous, but the rest seemed like just so many stages with tapestries on the walls.
The first forty-five minutes were interminably dull. I think we could have lost the first scenes where we establish that there is a ghost and moved the story along a lot faster. Because one of the themes of the story is whether Hamlet is crazy or not, establishing that there really is a ghost under-cuts that notion. This is fine; it lets the audience "in" to the fact that the murder really did take place, but in the grand scheme of things it just
wastes time. It would have been just as good if Horatio had come to Hamlet and told him that he had scene the ghost of the dead king....which is what happens, anyway!

Olivier as Hamlet seems old. He was born in 1907, which means he would have been about 40 here and, unfortunately, he looks it. Jean Simmons, who played Ophelia, was actually twenty years younger than he. Hamlet is supposed to be a young man, so right from the start I had trouble believing him in the role. His dyed-blonde locks didn't help, and their scenes together don't gel whatsoever. She played sufficiently crazy as the pawn between her father and the King and Hamlet, though.
Speaking of the women in the film, Eileen Herlie plays Hamlet's mother The Queen. She goes from stoic ("I did what I had to do") to frantic (thinking Hamlet is going to kill her) to resigned (drinking poison meant for Hamlet). She is, literally, all over the place, and not very believable in any but the first characterization. Likewise, Claudius (portrayed by Basil Sydney) does not get to be the mustache-twirling back-stabbing villain that I expect him to be, yet he isn't possessed by any remorse, either. He is subdued and then frantic. It is almost as if he did his plotting out of love, in order to marry The Queen. This seems possible but a bit odd, as he plots to kill his nephew in order to strengthen his grip on the throne.
I have no doubt that in 1947 this film was a stellar example of film making. It somehow convinced the entire Academy that it deserved not only Best Picture but also Best Costume Design, Best Art (Set) Direction, and that Laurence Olivier deserved Best Actor, It was also nominated for Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Jean Simmons), and Best Score, but did not win these. However, it's a lumbering work of unappealing characters doing nothing and going crazy while not doing it. Stick to Romeo & Juliet (1968), Macbeth (1971), Macbeth in Japanese, Throne of Blood (1957), or King Lear in Japanese, Ran (1985). Or even To Be Or Not To Be (1939), the comedy about Jewish actors putting on a production of Hamlet while trying to escape from Nazis. I enjoyed all of these much more than I enjoyed Hamlet.

*Academy Award Best Picture of 1948*
Produced and Directed
by Laurence Olivier
Based on the play by William Shakespeare

In lieu of a trailer, here is all you need to know about Hamlet.
You're welcome.

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
Johnny Belinda
The Red Shoes
The Snake Pit
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
I have seen Johnny Belinda, which is a melodrama about a deaf-mute woman who is raped and believed to be an idiot by the towns-people but who is actually smarter than most of them. Jane Wyman, who had co-starred with Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend, won Best Actress for her role It's a great role, but not a great film. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is the John Huston film that won Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Walter Huston, John's father). Humphrey Bogart is at his best at being bad as a drifter in Mexico who happens to hit it rich. If you have never seen this movie, you should see it. Unfortunately, the movie did not win; in my opinion, it should have. This is one of the few times that Best Picture and Best Director were not for the same film. This was a great year for John Huston, though, who also directed Claire Trevor in Key Largo to her Best Supporting Actress award. As for the other two, I had never even heard of them before doing research for this article. The Red Shoes is a British film about ballet. The Snake Pit is a film with Olivia de Havilland as a woman stuck in an insane asylum with no idea why she is there. Evidently it helped push for reformations of institutions after it was made. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Odd Couple Day 2013

"On November 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from his wife...."

The Odd Couple (1970-1975) was one of my favorite TV shows as a youngster. I loved the dichotomy between fussy Felix and messy Oscar. And I liked how even though they were SO different, they seemed to be real friends. It didn't hurt that the series starred two of the most talented actors of their generation, Tony Randall and Jack Klugman (both won Emmys for their roles). As an adult, I find this show to be one of the most sophisticated and high-brow out there. I watch my collection on DVD often and always laugh.

To help celebrate The Odd Couple Day here at Friends of Justice, here's one of the most famous scenes from the series.