Classic 50s Movie: “Some Like It Hot”

May 22nd, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Will King.

Movie Title: Some Like It Hot

Year: 1959

Writers: Screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, suggested by a story by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan

Lead Actors: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, Joe E. Brown.

Director: Billy Wilder

IMDb Plot Summary: When two musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the state in an all-female band disguised as women, but further complications set in.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 50s Movie: Coming at the end of the decade, Some Like It Hot gives a taste of the cultural attitude changes that were beginning to take place and that would upend American society in the coming decade. It’s hard to imagine such a comedic story with leading men in drag being released ten years earlier just after the end of World War II. A long list of films would follow including everything from Tootsie, Mrs. Doubtfire and Victor/Victoria to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, but Some Like It Hot really opened the gates for this style of story.

It was the decade of Marilyn Monroe which saw her starring or featured in ten films. Some Like It Hot is probably her most memorable along with The Seven Year Itch.

My Favorite Moment in the Movie: After spending so much time playing the part, Jerry succumbs to believing in his ruse. After a night out for dinner and dancing with millionaire Osgood Fielding III he returns to his hotel room in blissful reverie and Joe has to try to bring him back to earth.

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie:

This movie is a wonderful study in the use of double entendre and subtext. There is a constant tension between Joe and Jerry as they try to live the lie of being female band members while fighting their male attraction and rivalry for the affections of Sugar.

Daphne: [after meeting the all-girl band they’ll be traveling with] How about that talent, huh? It’s like falling into a tub of butter.
Josephine: Watch it, Daphne!
Daphne: When I was a kid, Joe, I used to have a dream. I was locked up overnight in a pastry shop, and there was goodies all around. There was jelly rolls, and mocha eclairs, and sponge cake and Boston cream pie…
Josephine: Look, Stoop…
Daphne: And cherry tart…
Josephine: Stoop, listen to me! No butter, no pastry. We’re on a diet!

When the band arrives at the hotel, millionaire Osgood Fielding III takes a fancy to Daphne and makes his first overture.

Osgood: You know, I’ve always been fascinated by show business.
Daphne: Is that so?
Osgood: Yes. As a matter of fact it’s cost my family quite a bit of money.
Daphne: Oh, you invest in shows?
Osgood: Showgirls. I’ve been married seven or eight times.
Daphne: You’re not sure?
Osgood: Mama is keeping score. Frankly, she’s getting rather annoyed with me.
Daphne: Wouldn’t wonder.
Osgood: So, this year when the George White’s Scandals opened she packed me off to Florida. Right now she thinks I’m out there on my yacht, deep sea fishing.
Daphne: Well, pull in your reel, Mr. Fielding, you’re barking up the wrong fish!
Osgood: If I promise not to be a naughty boy, how about dinner tonight?
Daphne: I’m sorry, I’ll be on the bandstand.
Osgood: Of course. Which of these instruments do you play?
Daphne: Bull fiddle.
Osgood: Fascinating. Do you use a bow or do you just pluck it?
Daphne: Most of the time I slap it.
Osgood: You must be quite a girl.
Daphne: Wanna bet?

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie: While actors in drag have been around throughout theatrical history, it was unusual (up to this point in Hollywood) to have the two starring roles perform most of their on-screen time in drag. It was even more unusual in the case of one Hollywood’s most alluring leading men, Tony Curtis.

The settings underscore the dramatic moods of the situations. The early scenes in chicago are set in snowy, wintry weather. The gangster shooting takes place in a dark parking garage. One gets a sense of foreboding, danger and threat. Once the story moves to Florida the outdoor weather is sunny, the interiors are brightly lit, giving a sense of hope, relief, a new lease on life. However, when the mob kills Spats Columbo at the hotel, it again takes place in the dark.

When Joe/Josephine decides to make a play for Sugar, he puts on the airs of one of the millionaires whie carrying on the conversation using a fake Cary Grant accent.

Jerry later chides Joe for the way he played the millionaire with the line, “And where did you get that phony accent? Nobody ‘talks loike thet’!”

Although the primary setting is in Florida, the actual shooting location used the posh Hotel del Coronado located on Coronado Island near San Diego, California, for both exterior and interior shots. Opened in 1887, the all-wood Victorian Hotel Del has figured in several other films. Just as in Some Like It Hot, it played a prominent visual role in The Stunt Man (1980) which starred Peter O’Toole and Steve Railsback. You can see how the hotel developed in the intervening years between the two films. When the bus arrives in Some Like It Hot, the open beach is clearly visible beyond the driveway and palm trees, and the millionaires are all lined up on the open veranda next to the front entrance. By the time The Stunt Man was filmed, the open beach had been developed into additional hotel structures and the veranda enclosed and made part of the hotel’s lobby.

In 1961 Mirisch Productions filmed a television pilot for a proposed series based on the movie for United Artists Television, which was to star Vic Damone and Tina Louise. Though that series never aired, Tina would later perform a Marilyn Monroe impression of “I Want to Be Loved By You” in an episode of Gilligan’s Island (“The Second Ginger Grant” — S3 E24).

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon would again be paired in the 1965 Blake Edwards film The Great Race. While in Some Like It Hot Curtis plays the quick-thinking schemer Joe and Lemmon the conscientious Jerry, in The Great Race they would reverse roles with Lemmon playing the scheming Professor Fate opposite Curtis as the squeaky-clean hero The Great Leslie.

Thanks, Will! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies. And thanks to the GITS community, we’ve got 31 movies in the works! Those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts. If you haven’t sent yours to me, please do so as soon as you can!!!

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Bridge on the River Kwai – Tom Peterson
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe – J Nilsson-Acosta
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Beach – Liz Warner
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Maegan Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

Thanks to everyone!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “The Night of the Hunter”

May 21st, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from W. H. Morris.

Movie Title: The Night of the Hunter

Year: 1955

Writer: James Agee adapted a novel by Davis Grubbs

Starring: Robert Mitchum Shelly Winters Lillian Gish

Director: Charles Laughton

Plot Summary: Imprisoned with thief Ben Harper (Peter Graves), phony preacher Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) learns that Ben has hidden a $10,000 somewhere near his home. Upon his release, the murderously misogynistic Powell insinuates himself into Ben’s home, eventually marrying and murdering his widow Willa (Shelley Winters). Eventually all that stands between Powell and the money are Ben’s son, John (Billy Chapin) and daughter (Sally Jane Bruce), who after an exhausting river journey take refuge on a farm maintained for abandoned children and presided over by the indomitable, scripture-quoting Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish).

Why I think this is a Classic 50’s movie: When Night Of The Hunter was first released it was not a successful film. Commercially, it was a virtual textbook primer of what not to do during the wide screen Technicolor drenched Fifties when children’s tales were Disney stories.

Innocent children menaced by evil are not new to the canon of storytelling. But children menaced by a clearly psychotic predator whose repressed sexuality drives him to stab his female victims with a switchblade knife are not the stuff of a box office bonanza.

The opening shot sets the story. In the cosmos above grandmotherly Rachel Cooper is a stern Mother Goose telling her gathered flock of innocent children a cautionary tale, Beware Of Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing, which will become a nightmare.

The next shot reveals Robert Mitchum’s Rev. Harry Palmer putting along jauntily in a stolen car, conversing with God, his God, about his next victim. He reminds his creator that He has always been good about helping him find a lonely widow with ‘money in the sugar bowl.’

Jailed for stealing the car Palmer learns from his condemned cell mate, Ben Harper, that there is $10,000 hidden with his family. Upon his release Palmer sets off to find Harper’s widow, Willa, and get the money.

Upon his arrival in the small town where Harper’s family lives Harper’s son John, portrayed with steely resolve by Billy Chapin, immediately senses Harry’s evil nature. Palmer charms the towns people but when Palmer marries then murders Willa, played with heart-breaking vulnerability by Shelly Winters, John flees with his younger sister, Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce), and her doll containing the $10,000.

Palmer doggedly pursues John and Pearl on their journey down river. When Rachel rescues the children he arrives at her farm claiming he is their rightful parent. Rachel, too, sees Palmer’s evil and in one of the film’s many classic scenes stands him off with a shotgun.

My Favorite Moment In The Film: After Palmer laments to the town’s people that Willa has run off we see Willa’s true fate. This shot with Willa dead and tied in a submerged car, her hair eerily floating in the water is the all-time seat-squirming creepiest, scariest scene I have ever seen in a movie theatre.

Favorite Dialogue In The Film: Oft quoted due to the standard it has become Harry Palmers demonstration of the battle between Good and Evil is still a personal favorite.

After theatrically describing his despair that Willa has run off the ice cream parlor owners attempt to offer some consolation speculating on the possibility that Willa may return. Palmer’s reply is “She’ll not be back. I reckon’ I’m safe in promisin’ you that.”

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching The Film: Laughton’s use of disparate and seemingly incompatible filming elements to bring a complexity to what is essentially a simple story of the battle between Good and Evil.

Working with cinematographer Stanley Cortez Laughton employed the shadowy elements of German Expressionism with the by then archaic techniques of film pioneer D.W. Griffith to create the awkward and disturbing world of Night of the Hunter. Look for the ‘ iris down’ revealing John and Susan hiding when Palmer approaches Rachel Cooper’s farmhouse.

The director employs callback with significant impact. Late in the film Palmer has been captured and convicted of Willa’s murder. A torch bearing lynch mob marches on the jail demanding his death now. The mob is led by the same townspeople who much earlier were ‘ Amening’ one of Harry’s sermons.

Laughton’s deft use of the showing and not telling principle. Birdie Steptoe, a steady drinkerand town outcast, living aboard a houseboat peers into the water where he clearly sees Willa’s dead body. He then describes his discovery to a small, framed photo of his dead wife. Laughton’s point, only outsiders can see the truth, is devastatingly made.

Late in the film Palmer has befriended Ruby, a young woman who is another member of Rachel’s rescued family. When Palmer approaches her outside the town drugstore he puts his hand on her shoulder and we clearly hear the click of his switchblade.

For risking beyond cultural standards, combining disparate filmmaking elements, composing several shots which have since become standards and for casting Robert Mitchum as a funny and likeable homicidal psychopath Charles Laughton’s Night Of The Hunter has earned its entry into the Classic 50’s Movies Hall of Fame.

Thanks, W.H.! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies. And thanks to the GITS community, we’ve got 31 movies in the works! Those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts. If you haven’t sent yours to me, please do so as soon as you can!!!

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Bridge on the River Kwai – Tom Peterson
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe – J Nilsson-Acosta
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Maegan Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

Thanks to everyone!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “The Bridge on the River Kwai”

May 20th, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Tom Peterson.

Movie Title: The Bridge on the River Kwai

Year: 1957

Writers: Screenplay by Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson, Story by Pierre Boulle (Novel “Le Pont De La Riviere Kwai”)

Poster bridge_on_the_river_kwai

Lead Actors: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, and Geoffrey Horne

Director: David Lean

IMDb Plot Summary: During World War II, British prisoners of war are forced to build a railway bridge for their Japanese captors. Ordered to surrender by his superiors, their commander, Colonel Nicholson, endures torture rather than allow the mistreatment of his men at the hands of Japanese Colonel Saito, whose very life is dependent upon the bridge being completed on time. Believing Nicholson’s actions are honorable, his troops admire and respect him. He convinces the men that the bridge is a monument to British character, but it becomes apparent that the bridge is actually a monument to himself when his delusional insistence on its rapid but expert construction becomes subtle collaboration. Unknown to him, British commandos, led by duty obsessed Major Warden, are on their way to blow up the bridge. He is accompanied by the officer-impersonating American, Shears, who recently escaped from the very camp he is expected to return to, and Joyce, a Canadian untested by battle.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 50s Movie: This film is about battles. Conflict is ever present as Nicholson battles Saito, Saito battles his destiny, Shears battles his duty, Warden battles his injury, and Nicholson battles his pride. All among multiple other conflicts, including the largest, World War II.

But it was also a battle of political wills within Hollywood. Both screenwriters, Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson, were blacklisted when they wrote screenplay, and their names do not appear in the film credits on screen or on the script.

Bridge on the River Kwai

Recognizing the error of the (bad) blacklist, the Academy added their names, posthumously, to the Academy Award for Writing. In subsequent releases of the film, their names appear in the credits.

EDITORIAL NOTE: You can see the actual moment in the 1958 Academy Awards where Doris Day and Clark Gable give the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar to Kim Novak on behalf of Pierre Boulle. He not only didn’t write the script, he couldn’t have written. Boulle barely spoke English. All of Hollywood knew this Award was a lie, yet because of the Blacklist, they put on smiling faces, and allowed this injustice to occur in full view of the public.

In 1997, The Bridge on the River Kwai was selected for preservation in the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry.

Historically, this film is significant because it dramatizes the brutality, though to a lesser extent, of the use of POWs by the Japanese to construct the Burma-Siam railway. It is estimated that over 13,000 Allied POWs and up to 100,000 civilians died building the railway as forced labor. Pierre Boulle, the author of the novel, was a POW in Siam (Thailand) and was used as forced labor on the railway. Incidentally, even though he did not speak English, he was the original winner of the Academy Award for Writing.

Culturally, while the film was recognized as the 1957 Best Picture by the Academy, the BAFTAs, the Golden Globes, and several other prestigious organizations, the film was widely viewed (including by Alec Guinness) as being anti-British, and the Japanese issued a formal objection for the portrayal of their engineers as being incompetent. Among the POWs who were forced to work on the railway, the picture was widely panned for the less than authentic portrayal of their Japanese captors.

Aesthetically, the picture was filmed in modern day Sri Lanka, and the river side jungle scenery is spectacular. The high humidity is almost palpable throughout the film. There is a surprisingly little use of music, despite the near worldwide familiarity of the first strain of the “Colonel Bogey” march, instead allowing the natural background sound of the jungle to heighten drama.

It all adds up to an absolutely classic portrayal of human conflict within the drama of a classic war movie.

My Favorite Moment In The Movie: In the midst of war there are always comedic moments, and this scene is typical of jungle warfare. Although I’m not sure, I would bet my last dollar that this scene was written by Michael Wilson, who served as a U.S. Marine in the Pacific Theater during WWII –

The commando demolition team crosses a pond, waist deep in muddy water, their local partisan guide, Yai, points into the muck –

YAI: Leach! Leach!
WARDEN: Leaches.
SHEARS: (exasperated) Leaches.

The demolition team rests at a temporary camp to clean up after crossing the pond.

Warden roles up his pant leg, two large leaches are attached, he burns them off with a cigarette while Joyce fiddles with the radio, trying to get it to work. Shears takes off his uniform jacket, the woman porter who flirted with him on the trail tells him in Thai that she will get the leaches off his back..

WARDEN: She’s telling you to hold still, she wants to take the leaches off your back.
SHEARS: What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?
WARDEN: I’ll teach you in Siamese to say that, if you like.
SHEARS: No, no, that would spoil it. Too much talk always spoils it.
WARDEN: What’s wrong with that thing, Joyce?
JOYCE: I don’t know sir, it’s taken an awful beating. I can’t seem to get a strong signal.
SHEARS: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. It’s wet, mildewed, corroded, rotten! Just like everything else in this rotten jungle. You might as well dump it!

Shears angrily kicks the radio, it crashes to the ground.

Suddenly the radio works and Tokyo Rose’s voice comes from the speaker signing off. The three surprised men, gratefully pull the radio back upright just in time for an unexpected cloud burst to drench everyone and everything, including the radio as Joyce broadcasts the mission status.

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie: Shears was an ordinary sailor who stole the identity of an officer who was killed in order to receive better treatment as a prisoner. In exchange for not being prosecuted, he is “volen-told” that he will join the demolition team as an area expert. He has never had any commando training, so the talk of parachute jumping is foreign to him.

WARDEN: [to Col. Green] Sir, it’s most annoying. They say, in view of the time element, they don’t think a few practice jumps would be worthwhile.
SHEARS: No?
WARDEN: No, they say if you make one jump, you’ve only got 50% chance of injury, two jumps, 80%, and three jumps, you’re bound to catch a packet. The consensus of opinion is that the most sensible thing to do is to go ahead and jump, and hope for the best.
SHEARS: With or without a parachute?

Warden and Col. Green raucously laugh at Shears’ joke. Shears realizes his mistake and joins in the laughter.

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie: Look for why it won seven Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Guinness), Best Director, Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Music (Scoring), and was nominated for an eighth, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Hayakawa).

1. Look for the layer upon layer of conflict. A lot of it is passive-aggressive, which adds a unique form of tension. But there is also physical conflict in the form of the battle against time to build the bridge, and the battle the demolition team faces against the jungle and the elements.

2. Notice how the characters are humanized. Shears is a ladies’ man, Warden a dedicated commando, Nicholson a man driven mad(der?) in the Oven. Saito a scared man. With Saito, particularly watch for the scene where he is sobbing as he contemplates having to commit ritual suicide because the bridge will not be done on time. That scene changes how we look at him – he is no longer a hardened enemy, he is a man with a terrifying problem.

3. The military accuracy is impressive. When the British battalion marches into Saito’s camp, they are actually marching. Even though uniforms are tattered, they are still accurate and correctly worn. Commands are given properly, too. The influence of years of war and conscripted service allowed for a level of accuracy generally not seen in the last twenty years, but that is quickly reemerging.

4. After spending nearly a month in “the Oven,” Nicholson emerges from the metal box and walks to Saito’s hut. Alec Guinness later said that he subconsciously based his walk on that of his son who was recovering from polio. Supposedly, Guinness called his walk from the Oven to the hut while being saluted by his men the “finest work I’d ever done.” Watching it, you can feel his pain and the confusion from dehydration as he struggles to maintain his honor, and his balance, before his men and his captors.

5. Notice how Nicholson’s logical and rational thinking gradually changes to logical but delusional thinking, and how not everyone sees it happening at the same time.

6. In 1915, Sessue Hayakawa (Saito), became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and a romantic idol for millions of American women, regardless of their race, after his performance in Cecil B. DeMille’s silent film The Cheat. But by the time this film was made and he was nominated for an Oscar, he was making his third comeback in Hollywood after enduring the advent of sound, he had a very thick accent, and anti-Asian racism following both World Wars.

7. While not a bloody war movie, when blood is depicted, it looks like red paint – except for when Warden burns the leeches off his leg. Those were real leaches, both were really attached, and at least one was enjoying a meal courtesy of actor Jack Hawkins.

8. As noted above, the jungle scenery is beautiful. Sri Lanka is known for massive colonies of Indian Flying Fox bats, a species of megabat that can have wingspans of up to six feet across, and this film makes use of the colonies of thousands of bats that were spooked by explosions and gunfire. When happen or there is movement in the jungle, look for the hundreds of shadows that flicker across every part of the scene.

Also look for the very large flying fox that has a macaw’s voice dubbed over its otherwise silent flight.

Thanks, Tom! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies. And thanks to the GITS community, we’ve got 31 movies in the works! Those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts. If you haven’t sent yours to me, please do so as soon as you can:

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Bridge on the River Kwai – Tom Peterson
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe – J Nilsson-Acosta
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Maegan Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

Thanks to everyone!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “Sunset Blvd.”

May 19th, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Lisa Byrd.

Movie Title: Sunset Blvd.

Year: 1950

Writers: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, D.M. Marshman Jr.

Director: Billy Wilder

Actors: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson

IMDb Plot Summary: The story, set in ’50s Hollywood, focuses on Norma Desmond, a silent-screen goddess whose pathetic belief in her own indestructibility has turned her into a demented recluse. The crumbling Sunset Boulevard mansion where she lives with only her butler, Max who was once her director and husband has become her self-contained world. Norma dreams of a comeback to pictures and she begins a relationship with Joe Gillis, a small-time writer who becomes her lover, that will soon end with murder and total madness.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 50s Movie: When I think of the movies of the 50’s, I think big- huge soundstage sets, larger than life characters, scene stealers, melodramatic lines, orchestrated background music and lots of repression. Norma Desmond is all of those things in one. Her repression and exile result in the destruction of a common man. I can’t understand the life of a Hollywood star, but I can relate to Joe, a struggling writer trying to feel he is contributing to the world.

For all of Max’s stiff yet unwavering adoration of Norma, Norma’s sneering close-ups, and Joe’s pathetic attempt at a double life, this story is about how easy it is to allow our lives to become stagnant. It’s also about the struggle to break free and the contentment to stay the same. This movie is a great reflection of the 50’s- everything was for show. Moms wore pearls to cook and clean in, dads perpetually wore the dark suit, teens didn’t break the rules, milkmen brought us our milk with a smile, and gas station attendants pumped our gas and installed carburetors without the oil and grime. Norma Desmond not only believed in her own fantasy world but drew us in along with Max and Joe.

When I was growing up in the 70’s, the 50’s was the golden era. We wore bobby socks and poodle skirts as costumes hoping to capture the nostalgia our parents waxed over. There was no talk of the underside of the 50’s- the dirty seedy side that ever era has. It was just like the movie. The setting is one of the sunniest locations of all, Hollywood, but also the Gothic darkness of Desmond’s mansion. Betty is bobby socks and drive-ins; Norma is scarlet fever and the cold war.

For all of that, it is also a story of love and what we do in the name of love. Every time I watch Sunset Blvd., I fall for Norma all over again. I wish I could love someone like Max can. And, I hope that the body really isn’t Joe.

My Favorite Moment In The Movie: If I have to pick…

1. I am a star scene. That is the scene where I feel I can finally go with Norma off to crazy town.

2. There are no other guests scene. How humiliating to be the only guest at your party.

3. No one ever leaves a star scene. Norma is at her most pathetic yet her most brilliant.

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie:

Joe: You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.
Norma: I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.

(We all like to think we are that awesome. Truth is only a few of us are.)

Joe: Audiences don’t know somebody sits down and writes a picture; they think the actors make it up as they go along.

(As a teacher, I think that’s what everyone else thinks. Joe is really talking to me.)

Max: She was the greatest of them all. You wouldn’t know, you’re too young. In one week she received 17,000 fan letters. Men bribed her hairdresser to get a lock of her hair. There was a maharajah who came all the way from India to beg for one of her silk stockings. Later he strangled himself with it.
(Isn’t that how we all feel when we leave something? It will crumble without us?)

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie:

Make sure to look for Joe’s under his breath quips following Norma’s big lines. Even while he is going along with the fun, he understands reality.

Also watch for all the stars, films, and places that are real. Wilder went to a lot of trouble to anchor this story in the real world.

Thanks, Lisa! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies. And thanks to the GITS community, we’ve got 31 movies in the works! Those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts. If you haven’t sent yours to me, please do so as soon as you can:

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Bridge on the River Kwai – Tom Peterson
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe – J Nilsson-Acosta
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Maegan Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

Thanks to everyone!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “Singin’ in the Rain”

May 18th, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Megaen Kelly.

Movie Title: Singin’ in the Rain

Year: 1952

Writers: Story and Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green

Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Jean Hagen

Director: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly

Plot Summary: Ambitious Don Lockwood has moved up the food chain in silent-era Hollywood, first as a vaudeville performer, then a stuntman until he finally becomes a bona fide movie star. He brings his best pal Cosmo Brown along with him on his rise to fame. Lockwood’s life takes an unexpected turn when he meets ingénue Kathy Selden, a chorus girl with dreams of hitting the big time. However, her dreams are temporarily put on hold by beautiful but scheming film star Lina Lamont who manages to get Kathy fired from an important job.

Added to these relationships’ ups and downs is a twist in the movie industry: the introduction of sound. How the players will embrace this new technology and each other is the stuff of Singing’ in the Rain.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 50’s Movie: A light, entertaining counterpoint to a decade that brought viewers intense dramas, xenophobic sci fi flicks and widescreen epics, Singin’ in the Rain is not only a classic 1950s film – it is a timeless classic. But it could very well have turned out differently in less talented hands.

The writing team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green – who had a lot of success over a career spanning decades on both stage and screen – were tasked by producer Arthur Freed to write a script around several disparate, pre-existing songs. What this gifted duo came up with is a script full of snappy dialog, interesting characters, and musical set pieces that seem organic to the plot. The plot, revolving around a film within a film, works well, especially since it is based on realistic occurrences of the (at the time) recent past, when the film industry was struggling with transitioning from silent to sound.

Their script was well served by another long-standing, talented team – that of directors/choreographers Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly. They created memorable dance numbers such as ‘Good Morning’ with Kelly, O’Connor and Reynolds; O’Connor’s show-stopping ‘Make ‘em Laugh’; and the iconic ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ piece that allowed Kelly to shine as a performer.

The creative teams were further supported by actors to great comedic effect, especially Jean Hagen. She was in fact nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her turn as conniving Lina Lamont, a sometimes dumb blonde with major ambitions.

The film wasn’t initially a huge hit when it was released, but it has gone on to capture places in many ‘top movies of all time’ lists. And certainly the title song has been covered by many people, yet the song ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ wasn’t written for the film; it was originally performed in a movie over a decade earlier. And thanks to YouTube we can see an early version of the song performed by none other than legendary Judy Garland. Her version is amazing and quite a bit different from Gene Kelly’s and well worth a look.

My Favorite Moment In The Film: Because this is a musical, I have both an acting favorite moment and a musical highlight. For the acting, after all the trials and tribulations of changing an originally silent film to sound, the cast and crew are assembled in a theatre with a live audience to witness their first sound picture success. Initially giddy with excitement and anticipation, this quickly gives way to confusion and then humiliation as the technical difficulties result in unintended laughter from the audience as well as heckling.

While there are many amazing song and dance pieces in the film, I really love the ‘Moses Supposes’ piece. It showcases the mad dancing skills of O’Connor and Kelly. Forced to take elocution lessons in preparation for sound pictures, Lockwood in cahoots with Cosmo takes revenge out on his hapless diction coach.

My Favorite Dialogue In The Film: Jean Hagen’s performance as Lina Lamont provided much of the laughs in the film. However, it’s difficult to do her justice by simply ‘quoting’ what she said. It was as much how she said her lines as what she said. I will always be indebted to her ‘I can’t stand ‘em’. But she also spouted gems such as: “What do they think I am? Dumb or something? Why, I make more money than – than – than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!”

Donald O’Connor also got his fair share of comedy one-liners as well.

Don Lockwood: What’s the matter with that girl? Can’t she take a gentle hint?
Cosmo Brown: Well haven’t ya heard? She’s irresistible. She told me so herself.

and

Cosmo Brown: Talking pictures, that means I’m out of a job. At last I can start suffering and write that symphony.
R.F. Simpson: You’re not out of job, we’re putting you in as head of our new music department.
Cosmo Brown: Oh, thanks, R.F.! At last I can stop suffering and write that symphony.

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching The Film: This film is full of wonderful moments – comedic, musical, and romantic. Another funny moment is when the cast and crew are trying to film their first talking pictures – classic!

A dance number that is different from all the rest is the sequence with Gene Kelly and another dancing icon, Cyd Charisse.

Watching Don Lockwood woo and win Kathy Selden is also rewarding for romance lovers.

For someone who is not a huge fan of musicals, Singin’ in the Rain is my favorite.

Thanks, Megaen!

To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies. And thanks to the GITS community, we’ve got 31 movies in the works! Those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts. If you haven’t sent yours to me, please do so as soon as you can:

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Bridge on the River Kwai – Tom Peterson
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe – J Nilsson-Acosta
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Maegan Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

Thanks to everyone!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “Pickup on South Street”

May 17th, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Vincent Martini.

Movie Title: Pickup on South Street

Year: 1953

Writer: Samuel Fuller based off a story by Dwight Taylor

Starring: Richard Widmark, Jean Peters and Thelma Ritter (Oscar nominated performance)

Director: Samuel Fuller

IMDb Plot Summary: “A pickpocket unwittingly lifts a message destined for enemy agents and becomes a target for a Communist spy ring.”

Why I Think This Is A Classic 50’s Movie: The first of legendary filmmaker Samuel Fuller’s noir films and a personal favorite because it is a movie that made me fall in love with the genre. When I first viewed Pickup On South Street I was instantly in awe of the realness of the characters; Commanding officer with a chip on his shoulder, wise-ass outcast thief who doesn’t give a damn about the rest of the world, a confused damsel in over her head, a Chow Fun eating fink with a knack of picking up his payoff with chopsticks, a lovable stool pigeon trying to make ends meet the only way she knows how. Sure, these characters seem cliche when you think about how many times you’ve seen them and their rinse-and-repeat ways but for whatever reason Pickup on South Street makes them seem living and breathing while watching their story take place, a world I always thought and still think exists when watching the film. The performances are great across the board and Samuel Fuller used many inspirations from his own days as a crime reporter and shadowed NYPD Detective Dan Champion who he based Captain Tiger off of. Pickup on South Street is not only a classic Noir film it is also one of the decades greatest.

My Favorite Moment In The Film: The opening pickpocket scene on the train is a thing of beauty as Fuller learned from actual New York City pickpockets how they would go about boosting a wallet from a purse. Lovely insert shots the entire grift while the main characters almost flirt with each other with their eyes.There is no dialogue in the scene but that is something Fuller always did better than others in the noir genre by saying more with images than words. An excellent tone to set in the film and one that doesn’t let up until the very end.

My Favorite Dialogue In The Film:

It would be difficult to talk dialogue in Pickup on South Street without mentioning its most iconic line which put FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover into such a rage he shared a meal with Fuller expressing his distaste for his work and especially of Pickup on South Street. Widmark’s character Skip McCoy has been brought in for questioning and is shed some light on what he potentially has in his possession. The exchange certainly ruffled some feathers in 1953 and holds true to this day.

Skip McCoy: You boys are talking to the wrong corner. I’m just a guy keeping my hands in my own pockets.
FBI Agent Zara: If you refuse to cooperate you’ll be as guilty as the traitors who gave Stalin the A-bomb.
Skip McCoy: Are you waving the flag at ME?

All of Moe’s dialogue is brilliant in Pickup on South Street, a perfectly written and somehow better performed character by Thelma Ritter, her closing monologue is what earned her the Oscar nomination and rightfully so.

Moe Williams: When I come in here tonight, you seen an old clock runnin’ down. I’m tired. I’m through. Happens to everybody sometime. It’ll happen to you too, someday. With me it’s a little bit of everything. Backaches and headaches. I can’t sleep nights. It’s so hard to get up in the morning, and get dressed and walk the streets. Climb the stairs. I go right on doin’ it! Well, what am I gonna do, knock it? I have to go on makin’ a livin’… so I can die. But even a fancy funeral ain’t worth waitin’ fer if I gotta do bus’ness with crumbs like you.

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching The Film: Like the poster tagline states “NO PUNCHES PULLED! NOTHING HELD BACK!” In Pickup On South Street Samuel Fuller makes a film reflecting on the idiocy of 1950s Cold War America when every newspaper had Klaus Fuchs, the secret agent who operated from England selling microfilm secrets to the Russians on their headlines. Certainly there were people who believed fervently in the likes of Lenin and Marx but there were also low lifes like Joey who would wave any flag if it meant making a buck. What Fuller tries to achieve in the film is to show Cold-War paranoid America through the eyes of the defenseless, people who had no real political affiliation and were just trying to make what they needed to get through the day, week or month and whatever means necessary.

A new 4k Restoration of Pick Up On South Street screens in New York City at Film Forum from May 29th to June 4th, 2015. More information is available on their website.

Thanks, Vincent! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies.

Here is an updated list of 30 fine folks who have already volunteered [those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts]:

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe – J Nilsson-Acosta
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Maegan Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

I’m looking for 31 guest posts, one for each day of May. Why not pitch in to help add to this online resource to inspire writers to learn about and – most importantly – watch great movies.

If you have a classic 50s movies on which you’d like to do a writeup, please either post in comments or email me.

Thanks in advance!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

May 16th, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Brooke Buffington.

Movie Title: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Year: 1958

Writers: Richard Brooks & James Poe (screenplay), based on a play of the same name by Tennessee Williams

Lead Actors: Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor

Director: Richard Brooks

IMDb Plot Summary: Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie. His reunion with his father, Big Daddy, who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 50s Movie: Conflict, conflict, conflict and excellent dialogue. The story relies on conflict and consistent characterization. No one in the film is on the same page, every character is trying to cover up or hide something, and they just don’t get along. It’s freeing to watch a family battle it out behind closed doors.

The theme can be summed up in one of the lines said by Maggie, “the truth is as dirty as the lies”. What makes this movie a classic is watching a family steeped in lies face the truth.

My Favorite Moments In The Movie:

The moment when Brick “relishes” behind the closed door of the bathroom, by smelling the negligee of his wife that he is so determined to push away.

The arrival of Big Daddy on the tarmac is such a fantastic mesh of characters, apprehension and noise.

The scene where Goober confirms that his brother wouldn’t mar his name to their father. Siblings who haven’t said two words to one another entire length of the film, share a quiet moment of respect.

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie: Oh so many…

MAGGIE: You can be young without money, but you can’t be old without it.

—-

LITTLE GIRL: Why is uncle Brick on the floor?
BRICK: I tried to kill your aunt Maggie, and I failed, and I fell.

—-

LITTLE GIRL: What were you jumping high hurdles for?
BRICK: Cause I used to jump them, and people like doing what they used to do after they’re no longer able to do it.

—-

MAGGIE: I’m not living with you! We occupy the same cage, that’s all.

—-

BIG DADDY: Son why don’t you kill yourself?
BRICK: Because I like to drink.

—-

BRICK: How does one drowning man help another drowning man?

—-

BRICK: I’m ashamed Big Daddy, that’s why I’m a drunk. When I’m drunk I can stand myself.

—-

BIG DADDY: Truth is dreams that don’t come true and nobody prints your name in the paper until you die.

—-

BRICK: Careful Maggie, your claws are showing

—-

MAGGIE: Everyone keeps hollering about the truth. The truth is as dirty as the lies.

—-

BRICK: Why’d you let Mama buy all this stuff?
BIG DADDY: The human animal is a beast that must die. If he’s got money, he buys and buys and buys everything he can, in the crazy hope one of those things will be life-everlasting, which it can never be.

—-

BIG DADDY: I’ve got the guts to die. What I want to know is if you have the guts to live?
BRICK: I don’t know.

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie:

From a screenwriting perspective it’s important to note the use of May and Goober’s kids. They are pot stirrers. They add tension, comedy and conflict to the film. They march in and out of scenes (loud and obnoxiously) at the most inconvenient times.

The acting. This is an adaptation of a stage play so there are very few locations and scenes are dialogue heavy. The power of the film rests in the storytelling and the acting – both of which are excellent.

The conflict between Maggie and May. It’s a small sub-plot of the film, but it’s ferocious.

Thanks, Brooke! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies.

Here is an updated list of 29 fine folks who have already volunteered [those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts]:

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Maegan Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

I’m looking for 31 guest posts, one for each day of May. Why not pitch in to help add to this online resource to inspire writers to learn about and – most importantly – watch great movies.

If you have a classic 50s movies on which you’d like to do a writeup, please either post in comments or email me.

Thanks in advance!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “High Noon”

May 15th, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Jeff Messerman.

Title: High Noon

Year: 1952

Writers: Carl Foreman (allegedly based on a magazine story called “The Tin Star” but that’s not entirely accurate…more on that later)

Lead Actors: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges, Thomas Mitchell, Lon Chaney Jr., and Henry (Harry) Morgan

Director: Fred Zinnemann

IMDb Plot Summary: Told almost in ‘real time,’ a town marshal is forced to take on a band of revenge-fueled killers on his own.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 50s Movie: This is, arguably, THE Western to end all Westerns. I know, I know…The Searchers! Stagecoach! Unforgiven! True Grit! The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance! Believe me, I’m with you. I adore them all too. But there’s something special about High Noon that trumps them all for me. Perhaps because this thing is nothing less than downright Shakespearean. You have a hero on shaky moral ground, not too proud to admit his failings and fears. Then there’s the town itself, seemingly comprised of ‘decent folk,’ and yet none of them are courageous or morally poised enough to stand with the man who saved the town from itself in the first place. For our purposes as screenwriters, the best thing this film does is establish an enormous sense of history, both in character and setting, without resorting to cheap tomfoolery like flashbacks or long-winded backstory. A glance, a single word, a quick interaction and you feel the history between these folks and their town. Isn’t that, ultimately, what we all hope for in our work…to make the audience ‘feel the history?’

I also love how Tex Ritter’s dirge-ish theme song plays almost constantly throughout. Never overbearing, it plays almost in the shadows, sliding in and out like an audio apparition, echo-like, a constant reminder that the fates of Kane and Miller are on an inevitable collision course.

My Favorite Moment in The Movie: This might sound silly but for me it’s a continual static shot…train tracks. It’s referenced quite a bit. Just a static shot of train tracks. And knowing something’s coming…the threat of these simple tracks is absolutely palpable. Always a good reminder for me in my projects. Instead of laboring the point, why not reference a simple image?

My Favorite Dialogue in the Movie: I give this one to the great Lon Chaney, Jr., as the prior marshal of the town who understands Kane’s predicament all too well. Honestly, doesn’t this speech sound like it could be torn right from the headlines of today?

Martin: You risk your skin catching killers and the juries turn them loose so they can come back and shoot at you again. If you’re honest you’re poor your whole life and in the end you wind up dying all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothing. For a tin star.

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie: One must not lose sight of what a little coup this film was back in 1952. By then most films were in color and yet the stark black and white photography serves this story (where things are anything but “black and white,” metaphorically speaking!) so well. Also the casting of Gary Cooper, considered by then an ‘over the hill’ actor, was an inspired bucking of the trend – hell, even the script called for Will Kane to be in his early 30’s…and yet Cooper was well over 50. Screenwriter Foreman, who was a victim of the Red Scare Blacklists of the time, was keenly aware that his film was slowly morphing into a very apt parable. Like so many in Hollywood at that time, the ‘good people’ of the world turn their backs on Will Kane and he must go it alone.

By the way, on the DVD extras, director Zinnemann recalls that it was a “first draft script by Foreman with a little help from (producer) Stanley Kramer.” FIRST DRAFT! Let that sink in for a while…

Now THAT’S a montage!

Fact: John Wayne apparently HATED High Noon (probably because “it was about and written by a bunch of commie pinko subversives!”…I hope you said that in your best Wayne voice!). Now watch this!

The movie’s original trailer:

Thanks, Jeff! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies.

Here is an updated list of 29 fine folks who have already volunteered [those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts]:

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner, Vincent Martini
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Maegan Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

I’m looking for 31 guest posts, one for each day of May. Why not pitch in to help add to this online resource to inspire writers to learn about and – most importantly – watch great movies.

If you have a classic 50s movies on which you’d like to do a writeup, please either post in comments or email me.

Thanks in advance!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “A Place in the Sun”

May 14th, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Zach Jansen.

Movie Title: A Place in the Sun

Year: 1951

Writers: Based on the novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser and the Patrick Kearney play adapted from the novel; Screenplay by Michael Wilson and Harry Brown (winners of Academy Award for Best Screenplay – what’s now Adapted Screenplay)

Lead Actors: Montgomery Clift, Shelley Winters, Elizabeth Taylor, Raymond Burr, Anne Revere, Herbert Heyes

Director: George Stevens (winner of Academy Award for Best Direction)

IMDb Plot Summary: A poor boy gets a job working for his rich uncle and ends up falling in love with two women.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 50s Movie: To be honest, this is a classic movie for the ages. Almost 65 years after its release, it still plays so powerfully, so emotionally. What really keeps coming back to the film are the performances: the honesty and rawness of Montgomery Clift, the innocent maturity of Elizabeth Taylor, the always-down-on-her-luckness of Shelley Winters, and even the judicial passion of Raymond Burr (a prelude to his Perry Mason days). The three leads were big stars before the film’s release, but as great actors do, they make you forget their other films and you truly believe that Clift is George Eastman, Taylor is Angela Vickers, and Winters is Alice Tripp.

Of course, great performances are nothing without a well-written, well-told story. And Wilson and Brown’s script is air-tight and pulsing with tension (and foreshadowing) in every scene. Each scene hits upon the theme of class and society and the longing to achieve the American Dream. These themes are epitomized—as they should be—through George and his journey. He’s forever the outsider, always lost (figuratively and literally) in his scenes. Even when he seems right where he belongs (working on the factory floor, with Alice), he’s searching for the steps to take to better his position, whether at the plant or in life.

But the film would be nothing without George Stevens’ deft hand. No shot is too long or too short. No shot lacks importance or meaning. Books could (and should) be written about what Stevens accomplished as a director with A Place in the Sun, so assured was his direction. After all, there’s a reason Mike Nichols once said you can learn everything about moviemaking from A Place in the Sun:

My Favorite Moment in The Movie: With every scene so intrinsically connected to each other, it’s difficult to nail just one (or even two or three) moment that stands out—how can you point to, for instance, the George and Alice’s boat scene without referencing the news broadcast about drowning and Angela’s story about the previous drowning on Loon Lake.

But it starts with that opening shot: Franz Waxman’s score full of epic promise yet hinting at intimacy, George’s backing up to us as he hitchhikes (which is wonderfully bookended with his final walk at the end of the film when he bravely faces what’s to come), the subtle introduction of Angela (listen for her car horn)… Really, it’s a fantastic beginning to any film.

The courtroom scene when George trips over the boat’s rope (thus providing the reason he couldn’t save Alice) is a great moment that’s just passed over in the film as incidental. But as viewers, it turns the entire third act on its head and returns our sympathies to George, makes him that much more forgivable as a young man whose lack of education and abundance of ambition just got the better of him.

Another moment that stands out for me is the juxtaposition of George and Angela revealing their love one another with a passionate kiss followed by George and Alice, walking abreast without even holding hands or any initiation of physical contact, heading to the doctor looking to get an abortion. The high and low of George’s complex life expressed visually in under a minute.

My Favorite Dialogue in the Movie:

I love this exchange. So loaded with relevance:

ANGELA: Did you promise to be a good boy? Not to waste your time on girls?
GEORGE: I don’t waste my time.

And this line, which essentially sums up the feeling of being away from someone you truly, deeply love:

ANGELA: Goodbye, George. Seems like we always spend the best part of our time just saying goodbye.

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie: The most wonderful aspect of A Place in the Sun is how every scene sets up the next scene (and sometimes even a few scenes down the road). Nothing in the film happens without consequence; this is, of course, more noticeable upon subsequent viewings, but there are so many movies in which a scene or two (or more…) doesn’t affect the plot or story in any substantial way. Brown and Wilson’s script does explore subplots, to be sure, but those subplots always support the main through line of the film; they always hit upon the fact that George is always looking for acceptance and success. It is a master class in writing and filmmaking all of its own.

And while it might be obvious, I love the symbolism of the three main characters’ names: George EASTman, who’s looking for a new beginning (after all, every day begins with the sun rising in the east) and his own place in the sun; Alice TRIPp, who’s the obstacle in George’s path to higher society and a better life; and ANGELa Vickers, who swoops in as George’s potential salvation. Angela’s symbolic name also plays into George’s past and his apprehension about religion (at least his religious upbringing), and how she initial appears as George’s hope but then becomes the reason for his life taking a terrible turn.

Honestly, I could on and on about the talent and skill showcased in A Place in the Sun. I hadn’t seen the film in a few years, but revisiting it has me re-examining how I approach writing and filmmaking. Seeing it with an experienced screenwriter’s eyes brought new layers to every aspect of the film. It truly is a master class in filmmaking (and now it’s on to test: applying those lessons to my own work).

Thanks, Zach! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

Twitter: @WriterZach.

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies.

Here is an updated list of 29 fine folks who have already volunteered [those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts]:

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner, Vincent Martini
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Maegan Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

I’m looking for 31 guest posts, one for each day of May. Why not pitch in to help add to this online resource to inspire writers to learn about and – most importantly – watch great movies.

If you have a classic 50s movies on which you’d like to do a writeup, please either post in comments or email me.

Thanks in advance!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “Stalag 17″

May 13th, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Jim Schramm.

Movie Title: Stalag 17

Year: 1953

Writers: Billy Wilder and Edwin Blum based on a play by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski

Lead Actors: William Holden (Oscar winner), Otto Preminger, Don Taylor, Peter Graves

Director: Billy Wilder (Nominated for an Oscar)

IMDb Plot Summary: When two escaping American World War II prisoners are killed, the German POW camp barracks black marketer, J.J. Sefton, is suspected of being an informer.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 50s Movie: I like David Lynch’s definition of a classic movie: “When a film creates a world and characters that you are compelled to visit again and again, it is a classic”. Stalag 17 is a world that I am compelled to visit again and again. It is filled with unforgettable characters, humor, sadness, intrigue and you’ll be cheering at the climax. William Holden as Sgt. J.J. Sefton is a true anti-hero, it’s impossible to like this guy and yet you can’t take your eyes off of him. He’s self-centered, greedy, barters with the enemy and takes advantage of his fellow POWs and in the end; you are compelled to stand and root for him. His performance earned him the Oscar against a who’s who of actors; Brando, Burton, Lancaster and Clift. Ironically, according to Wikipedia, Holden initially refused to play Sefton because he thought the character was too cynical and selfish but was forced to do it by Paramount. Wilder does a masterful job of creating a world where you feel you are in a POW camp; claustrophobic barracks, muddy grounds, cruel Nazis. There is an early scene where two POWs are killed trying to escape and their bodies are put on display as a warning, you think this is going to be a depressing film. But in true Wilder black comedy style, sprinkled throughout the film, are laugh out loud moments of levity that are a welcomed relief from the dreary conditions the POWs find themselves in.

My Favorite Moment In The Movie: SPOILER ALERT – Everything in the movie is leading to the final payoff which is my, and probably everyone else’s, favorite moment. Manfredi and Johnson are killed, the tunnel is discovered, the radio is discovered, Lt Dunbar is going to be taken away and executed. The Nazis seem to be one step ahead of the POWs at every turn. There is a weasel in the henhouse and everyone is convinced it’s Sefton. And staying true to his character, Sefton goes into self preservation mode and discovers the true spy. The moment comes when he confronts Price, convinces the other POWs of Price’s guilt and puts together the plan to escape and exact revenge on Price at the same time. I actually cheer for him when he tells the other POWs “If I ever run into any of you bums on a street corner, just let’s pretend we’ve never met before.” as he goes into the escape hatch.

My Favorite Dialogue In The Movie: J.J. Sefton is a classic character who always stays true to his nature; everybody for himself. He finally learns who the real spy is; he just needs to figure out how to take advantage of that information. Even Cookie, his barracks gopher, is turning against him.

Sefton: Any cigars left Cookie? [off Cookie’s look] Come on Cookie, get me a cigar. What’s a matter? You’re on their team now? You think I’m the guy?
Cookie: I don’t know what to think anymore.
Sefton: I understand how you feel. Sorta rough, one American squealing on other Americans. Then again Cookie, maybe that stoolie’s not an American at all, maybe he’s a German the Krauts planted in this barracks. They do that sometimes … just put an agent in with us, a trained specialist. Lots of loose information floating around a prison camp, not just whether somebody is trying to escape but what outfit we were with, where we were stationed, how our radar operates. Could be couldn’t it?
Cookie: In this barracks?
Sefton: Why not? Just one of the boys; sharing our bunks, eating our chow. Right in amongst the ones that beat me up except he beat hardest.
Cookie: Who is it?
Sefton: That’s not the point Cookie, the point is what do you do with him? Do you tip your mitt and the Jerrys pull him out of here and plant him in someplace else like Stalag 16 or 15? Or do you kill him off and the Krauts turn around and kill off the whole barracks, everyone of us. So what do you do?

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie:

1. The scene stealing duo of Animal (Robert Strauss) and “Sugar Lips” Shapiro (Harvey Lembeck). They provide timely comic relief throughout the movie. Strauss was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

2. The way the POWs constantly dig at the Nazis in very funny dialogue and scenes. Years later Hogan Heroes took this movie as their blueprint, the show’s pilot was about a Nazi spy posing as a POW.

3. From Wikipedia: The film was shot in chronological order (not the usual practice as that method is more expensive and time-consuming). In a featurette made later, members of the cast said that they themselves did not know the identity of the informant until the last three days of shooting.

Thanks, Jim! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies.

Here is an updated list of 27 fine folks who have already volunteered [those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts]:

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – Vincent Martini, David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Megaen Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

I’m looking for 31 guest posts, one for each day of May. Why not pitch in to help add to this online resource to inspire writers to learn about and – most importantly – watch great movies.

If you have a classic 50s movies on which you’d like to do a writeup, please either post in comments or email me.

Thanks in advance!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.