Day 3: The Great Villain Blogathon

•April 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Originally posted on Silver Screenings:

Mwahaha! [Insert sinister hand rubbing]

The chronicles of the dastardly and the contemptible continue on Day 3 of the Great Villain Blogathon. We have some terrific Villains featured today!

Brought to you by Karen of Shadows & Satin, Kristina of Speakeasy, and yours truly of Silver Screenings, the Great Villain Blogathon runs until April 26. You can follow our exploits all week on Twitter at #TheGreatVillainBlogathon.

Let’s get to today’s fun!

Al-Pacino1

The Joy and Agony of Movies: The Godfather, Part 2 and Chinatown

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The Thrilling Days of Yesteryear: Henry Brandon in Babes in Toyland (1934) and Our Gang Follies of 1938 (1937)

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Carole & Co.: C. Aubrey Smith in No More Orchids

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1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die: David Carradine in Kill Bill

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The Cinematic Packrat: The Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

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Caftan Woman: Gale Sondergaard in The Spider Woman

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HardBoiled Girl: Richard…

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The Great Villain Blogathon: Day 2 Wrap-Up

•April 21, 2014 • 1 Comment

Originally posted on SPEAKEASY:

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Day 2 of the Great Villain Blogathon has blown through town with some huge names making appearances and leaving behind a trail of devastation; you better count your fingers, your children and your silverware.

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The Great Villain Blogathon: Day One Wrap-Up

•April 20, 2014 • 4 Comments

Gale Sondergaard in The LetterThe opening of The Great Villain Blogathon – brought to you by Ruth of Silver Screenings, Kristina of Speakeasy, and yours truly – has been a most awesome day filled with despicable delinquents, creepy criminals, and icky evildoers. In other words, a veritable banquet of villainy!

Today’s lineup of larcenous lawbreakers consisted of the following – don’t miss a single one!

Mocata in The Devil Rides Out at I Love Terrible Movies

Peter Sellers and Christopher Lee as Dr. Fu Manchu by Virtual Samurai

Laird Cregar in Hangover Square at Virtual Virago

Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon movies at The Secret Sanctum of Captain Video

Waldo Lydecker in Laura at Moon in Gemini

Peter Lorre in The Man Who Knew Too Much at Critica Retro

Lon Chaney in The Penalty at Movies, Silently

Otto Kruger in Saboteur at The Man on the Flying Trapeze

Dan Duryea in Scarlet Street at Shadows and Satin

Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs at Part Time Monster

Porter Hall in The Thin Man at Stardust

Don’t be scared – do yourself a huge solid and check out these great posts! And don’t miss the rest of the entries in this week-long event!

You only owe it to yourself.

The Great Villain Blogathon: Johnny Prince in Scarlet Street (1945)

•April 20, 2014 • 25 Comments
Johnny Prince wouldn't win any Best Boyfriend awards.

Johnny Prince wouldn’t win any Best Boyfriend awards.

Johnny Prince in Scarlet Street (1945) is not a nice guy. At best, he’s a self-centered clod who’s not exactly in the running for “Boyfriend of the Year.”

At worst, he’s a dyed-in-the-wool villain.

Scarlet Street tells the story of a noirish triangle involving mild-mannered budding artist and cuckolded husband Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson), the attractive but morally bereft dame, Kitty March (Joan Bennett), who catches his eye, and Johnny Prince, the object of Kitty’s devotion (and the reason why we are able to possess a clear understanding of the phrase “There’s no accounting for taste”). When Kitty mistakenly believes that Chris is a famous and wealthy artist, Johnny doesn’t waste a minute in trying to capitalize on what he sees as a first-class ticket to Easy Street – even if it involves pimping out his girlfriend: “This bird is goofy about ya,” he tells Kitty. “Date him up! You don’t have to tap the old chump for much – not at first.”

When we first see Johnny, he's knocking Kitty around. And it won't be the last time.

When we first see Johnny, he’s knocking Kitty around. And it won’t be the last time.

Encouraging his girlfriend to use her feminine wiles for his financial benefit is just one manifestation of Johnny Prince’s special brand of villainy. But wait! There’s more!

  • When we first meet Johnny, he’s on a deserted street corner, smacking Kitty around, and even delivering a few kicks for good measure. Later, he blithely offers a rationale for his ire: “I had a chance to clean up in a crap game. All I needed was fifty bucks. And what did you show up with? Fifteen, for cat’s sake.”
  • Johnny has no qualms about reading Kitty’s personal mail – in fact, he unashamedly comments on a letter he finds from Chris to Kitty: “Sounds like a schoolboy tryin’ to make a date.”
  • Maybe we’re not positive what kind of hold Johnny has on Kitty, but he sure is. When Kitty balks at Johnny’s plan, he uses some very effective psychology, jumping up from the sofa in disgust, donning his hat and jacket, and heading for the door, on his way to a place “where [he] won’t be wasting his time.” As he intended, Kitty immediately chases after him and acquiesces to his proposition, even as she grudgingly observes that she doesn’t know why she’s so crazy about him. “Oh, yes, you do,” Johnny replies.

    Follow the fallen undies to Johnny as he goes shopping in Kitty's purse.

    Follow the fallen undies to Johnny as he goes shopping in Kitty’s purse.

  • After a night of debauchery with Kitty (illustrated most pointedly by the clothes strewn about the apartment), Johnny awakens from his drunken slumber, sits on the floor, and empties the contents of Kitty’s purse, pocketing all the money he finds. He even unearths a secret hiding place she has in her compact, and also takes the cash concealed there: “Say, is this all you’ve got?” he asks. And when Kitty protests, Johnny rejoins, “You know where to get more, don’t you, Lazylegs?”
  • Speaking of psychology, Johnny uses it again when he wants Kitty to up the ante; it’s not enough that Chris is paying for a swanky apartment for Kitty to live in – now Johnny wants her to wrangle a cool thousand dollars from Chris: “Listen, baby, you’ve got him right where you want him. He’s on the hook and can’t get off,” Johnny says, assuring Kitty that “it’s only blackmail when you’re dumb enough to get caught.

    In this scene, Johnny stops short of smacking Kitty: "If I wasn't a gentleman..."

    In this scene, Johnny stops short of smacking Kitty: “If I wasn’t a gentleman…”

  • In addition to his actions in his opening scene, Johnny demonstrates repeatedly that he doesn’t shrink from heaping physical and verbal abuse on Kitty. In a lounge near Kitty’s home, the couple is having a discussion about Chris’s artwork when Kitty calls Johnny “crazy.” He raises his hand to strike her, stopping himself with the incongruous reflection: “If I weren’t a gentleman…” He doesn’t show such restraint later, though, when he not only manipulates Kitty into taking credit for Chris’s artwork, but encourages her to get – shall we say, friendly? – with the famed art dealer who has taken an interest in the paintings. When Kitty hesitates, telling Johnny that she’d walk out on him if she “had any sense,” Johnny delivers two quick slaps to her face and informs her, “You haven’t got any sense.”  And during what turns out to be their final encounter, Johnny berates Kitty after they learn that Chris has seen them: “What use are my brains if I’m tied up with a dumb cluck like you?” He smacks her. “That’s the only thing you even understand. I’m through with you.”

Like many a screen villain, Johnny Prince gets his comeuppance at the conclusion of Scarlet Street – and he gets it in a big way.

Just in case you haven’t seen the film, I’ll refrain from revealing the circumstances, but suffice it to say that it’s a humdinger. In fact, you almost feel sorry for him.

Almost.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

This post is part of The Great Villain Blogathon, hosted by Ruth at Silver Screenings, Kristina at Speakeasy, and yours truly. Click on Barbara Stanwyck in the picture above to check out the many great posts of villainy being presented as part of this event! Or else!

Great Villain Blogathon Reminder!

•April 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Originally posted on SPEAKEASY:

Attention bloggers and movie fans: this is your reminder that the revelry in villainy known as the Great Villain Blogathon (links to original announcement) will begin in little more than a week (April 20th through the 26th).

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Good Googly Moogly! TCM Has Gone Noir and Pre-Code Crazy!

•April 3, 2014 • 10 Comments
You'll be looking as wistful as Ida Lupino if you miss these films!

You’ll be looking as wistful as Ida Lupino if you miss these films!

You want film noir? You want pre-Code? Then TCM in April is the place to be. The network is so chock-full of goodies from these eras, in fact, that I decided to forego my single picks of the month, and give you big ol’ overview of the surfeit of noir and pre-Code films that you’ll want to put on your viewing calendar. Catch ‘em if you can!

April 5th

High Sierra (film noir)

This feature stars Humphrey Bogart as ex-convict Roy Earle, recently released from prison and ready for one last big score.  But he doesn’t just have eyes for the greenbacks he’s trying to pocket – he also falls for a young crippled girl, played by Joan Leslie, and in turn, attracts the ardor of a wayward dime-a-dance girl, beautifully portrayed by Ida Lupino. (This film holds a very special place in my heart – at my one and only appearance at a film noir festival – several years ago in Peoria – High Sierra was the movie I introduced. So I kinda love it.)

"The Prince and Princess of Reckless Romance"? Holy mackerel, what a distinction!!April 6th

Red Dust (pre-Code)

The second of six films featuring Clark Gable and Jean Harlow, this one is as steamy as the Indochinese rubber plantation that serves as the setting of the picture. Gable is Dennis Carson, owner of the plantation, who finds himself squarely in the middle of a love triangle featuring the wife of one of his workers, and a saucy, sassy prostitute. Guess which one Harlow plays? (For more on this film – which is one of my favorite pre-Codes – click here.)

April 7th

The Naked City (film noir)

I confess that The Naked City is not necessarily one of my favorite noirs, but I’ll be the first to recommend it (well, maybe not the first, but you know what I mean). It’s done in the style of a police procedural, which isn’t my favorite tango (to borrow a term offered by Jean Harlow’s character in Red Dust). Still, it features a spate of good performances from the likes of Barry Fitzgerald, Howard Duff, Ted deCorsia, and Dorothy Hart – AND it’s directed by the great Jules Dassin. So there.

This ain't no Perry Mason.

This ain’t no Perry Mason.

April 11th

The Blue Gardenia (film noir)

This film serves up a great song by Nat King Cole, a drunken, self-pitying, and possibly murderous Anne Baxter, an especially creepy Raymond Burr, and Richard Conte (who merely needs to appear in a film’s credits in order for me to climb aboard). Oh – and did I mention that it’s helmed by Fritz Lang?  Pour yourself a big blue drink with an umbrella and tune in.

She may look coy, but trust  me. She ain't.

She may look coy, but trust me. She ain’t.

Blondie Johnson (pre-Code)

This is yet another can’t miss – it stars two of my favorite pre-Code performers – Joan Blondell and Chester Morris – with Blondell in the title role of a dame who escapes a life of poverty and pain by becoming a feared gangland boss. I love, love, love this movie – there’s nothing like watching a bad-ass babe who’s large and in charge.

April 13th

Bombshell (pre-Code)

Jean Harlow again – this time she’s in a comedy that seems to offer a peek inside the actress’s real life. In fact, though, the script bore more than a passing resemblance to the world of actress Clara Bow, complete with freeloading relatives and a duplicitous assistant that called to mind Bow’s personal secretary Daisy DeVoe. More on this fun, freewheeling film can be found here.

Mildred Pierce (film noir)

I love this movie so much, I could marry it. (Or at least have a lengthy back street affair with it.) My girl Joan Crawford stars in the titular role of a divorced housewife who will do anything – and I do mean anything – to ensure the happiness of her bratty, self-absorbed daughter (played by Ann Blyth – who I stood about four feet behind at last year’s TCM film fest! Sorry. I digress). Others in the film’s great cast include Eve Arden, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Bruce Bennett, and Butterfly McQueen. And, in case you’re interested, here are some of the reasons why I love this movie so much.

The Maltese Falcon: Just one great scene after another.

The Maltese Falcon: Just one great scene after another.

April 14th

The Maltese Falcon (film noir)

An early entry in the noir canon, this film introduces us to private dick Sam Spade who’s hired to find a jewel-encrusted black bird and encounters a motley crew of quirky characters who are all in search of the bird. Humphrey Bogart plays Spade with the utmost of cool, and others along for the ride are Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and one of my all-time favorites, Elisha Cook, Jr.

She's got Joan Crawford eyes.

She’s got Joan Crawford eyes.

April 16th

Paid (pre-Code)

Joan Crawford stars here as a wrongfully convicted shopgirl who vows revenge on her former employer. Besides Joanie, the next best thing in this movie is Marie Prevost, who is always worth a look-see. Incidentally, the starring role was initially given to Norma Shearer, but when she learned she was pregnant, hubby Irving Thalberg insisted that she give up the part. Of her performance, Crawford was later quoted as saying that Paid offered up her first “really heavy dramatic role” and “I did a good job with it, a damned good job.” I concur.

Helen Hayes gives a tutorial in sacrificial motherhood in "Madelon Claudet."

Helen Hayes gives a tutorial in sacrificial motherhood in Madelon Claudet.

The Sin of Madelon Claudet (pre-Code)

In the tradition of Madame X, Stella Dallas, and Mildred Pierce, The Sin of Madelon Claudet gives us another screen mother who will sacrifice everything she is and everything she has for her beloved child. This time, it’s Helen Hayes who delivers the goods in a feature that, in the words of Birdie Coonan, has everything but the bloodhounds snapping at our heroine’s rear end.

April 17th

Dinner at Eight (pre-Code)

Yet another of my favorite pre-Codes, this one is a star-studded affair that examines the lives and loves of the hosts and guests of a high-falutin’ dinner party. The stellar cast includes Jean Harlow, John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Billie Burke, Marie Dressler, and Lee Tracy. It’s a wild and witty ride that grabs you from the opening reel and never lets up for a second.

This scene is nowhere in Grand Hotel, but I couldn't pass it up.

This scene is nowhere in Grand Hotel, but I couldn’t pass it up.

Grand Hotel (pre-Code)

The big brother to Dinner at Eight is Grand Hotel, another feature that’s chock-full of stars from the MGM roster. This one also features the Barrymore brothers and Wallace Beery, along with Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Lewis Stone, and Jean Hersholt, in a plot that serves up everything from depression to murder. Want more? Click here.

Don't pass up your chance to catch these two in action.

Don’t pass up your chance to catch these two in action.

April 18th

The Postman Always Rings Twice (film noir)

Another favorite. Lana Turner in a nearly all-white wardrobe. John Garfield as the most appealing and attractive tramp you’ll ever want to encounter. Hume Cronyn and Leon Ames as a pair of scarily unscrupulous attorneys. And Audrey Totter, who knows what to do in a brief appearance that features a thin skirt on a hot leather seat. Incidentally, here’s why Turner’s character is one of my favorite in all of film noir.

April 19th

Laura (film noir)

One of noir’s best-known entries, Laura stars Gene Tierney in the title role of a woman whose murder attracts more than a passing interest from the detective investigating the case. Laura features a totally awesome set of noir characters, including the venomous columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), professional loafer Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), Laura’s man-hungry auntie (Judith Anderson), and obsessive detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews).

It's not Laura, but it's good.

It’s not Laura, but it’s good.

Where the Sidewalk Ends (film noir)

This film reteams Laura stars Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney – here, Andrews plays another cop, but this time, he’s Mark Dixon, a hot-headed, over-aggressive detective, and Tierney is the estranged wife of a man Dixon accidentally kills. The cast also includes Gary Merrill as a mob boss who pushes Dixon’s buttons like nobody’s business.

April 21st

Baby Face (pre-Code)

An essential pre-Code, Baby Face stars Barbara Stanwyck as a woman who uses her feminine wiles (and that’s putting it mildly) to climb her way from an impoverished life to one where she keeps her jewels in a suitcase. And as she makes her ascent, she uses a series of hapless men as her stepstools – including, briefly, a very young John Wayne.

April 27th

Gun Crazy (film noir)

Do I even have to say that Gun Crazy is yet another favorite? Peggy Cummins and John Dahl star as two nutty kids whose fondness for each other is superseded only by their affinity for firearms. Seriously, if you have not seen this movie yet, what are you waiting for?

Just about any movie with Kay Francis is a movie worth seeing.

Just about any movie with Kay Francis is a movie worth seeing.

April 28th

Guilty Hands (pre-Code)

This slightly offbeat pre-Code has two main things going for it – Kay Francis (who could be on screen doing her nails and I’d watch) and the unexpected ending. It’s all about a former district attorney who is certain that he has the skills and the know-how to commit the perfect murder – and gets the chance to test his theory when his daughter turns up with a notorious no-goodnik on her arm. The film also stars Lionel Barrymore, by the way – always a good sign, in my book. Read more about Guilty Hands here.

Angel Face (film noir)

Speaking of endings, you simply have to see the denouement of this feature, which centers on a deceptively dangerous femme with a face like an angel, played by Jean Simmons. The film also stars Robert Mitchum, playing a character who, like those he portrayed in Out of the Past and Where Danger Lives, encounters more than he bargained for when he falls under the spell of a dark-haired dame.

So wrap up the month with even more Kay Francis! You deserve it!

So wrap up the month with even more Kay Francis! You deserve it!

April 30th

Mandalay (pre-Code)

And we close out the month with yet another outstanding pre-Code that’s at the top of my list of faves – with a cast that includes Kay Francis, Lyle Talbot, and Ricardo Cortez, how could it possibly miss? Mandalay tells the story of a woman who, after being abandoned by her lover (and “abandoned” is being kind) in Rangoon, Burma, transforms herself into the island’s most notorious and sought-after prostitute, with the ironic name of “Spot White.” Here’s more stuff about this totally awesome must-see.

And that’s it! (Whew.) See what I mean about this month? Time to start making plans –  so grab your blank tapes, dust off the DVR, or start emitting some telltale coughs at the job, ‘cause you’ve got some great noir and pre-Code viewing ahead!! You only owe it yourself.

List o’ the Week: My Top 25 Films

•March 23, 2014 • 18 Comments
Possessed (1931) is new to the list.

Possessed (1931) is new to the list.

Nearly 15 years ago, in spring 2000, the editor of the Classic Images newspaper, Bob King, invited readers to share their top 25 classic movies. I recently came across the list that I sent in, and was interested to see how my favorites have changed over the years. So for my list of the week, I decided to create another top 25 list, 2014 style.

Every film on the list had to meet my personal criteria: (1) it had to be one of those movies that I’ve watched over and over again, and (2) when I thought of it, I had to say, “OH! I LOVE that movie!”

A total of 15 films from my first list made it onto this year’s version. But a whopping 10 did not: Strangers on a Train, Laura, My Man Godfrey, Sunset Boulevard, Midnight, Born Yesterday, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Wizard of Oz, Gilda, and Come Back, Little Sheba. (Come Back, Little Sheba?? I mean, it’s a great movie, but come on. What was I thinking?)

Another newbie, Bombshell is hilarious.

Another newbie, Bombshell is hilarious.

Here’s this year’s funky-fresh edition of my 25 favorite movies – the films that are new to this list are marked with an asterisk.

All About Eve

The Big Heat *

Bombshell *

Criss Cross *

Dinner At Eight

The Divorcee *

Double Indemnity

Gaslight *

Gone With the Wind

The Heiress

His Girl Friday

Imitation of Life (1959 version)

The Killing made both the 2000 and the 2014 list. (Naturally.)

The Killing made both the 2000 and the 2014 list. (Naturally.)

It’s a Wonderful Life

The Killing

The Little Foxes

Mildred Pierce

Platinum Blonde *

Possessed (1931 version) *

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Private Lives

Red Dust *

This hilarious Barrymore-Lombard film just HAD to be on the list!

Twentieth Century. This hilarious Barrymore-Lombard film just HAD to be on the list!

Twentieth Century *

The Women

You Can’t Take It With You *

Young and Willing (1943) (You may never have heard of this one – I don’t know anybody else who’s ever seen it, but it’s a hoot! I watch it ALL the time.)

What are your top 25 films? List them here, or share them on your blog! It might be hard to come up with a final list, but it’s a lot of fun!!

 
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