4 Living Legends Part 5

Here is another entry in our ongoing series of Classic Hollywood Stars who are still with us. This is an effort to acknowledge living legends who are well-deserving of our appreciation.

Marsha Hunt (1917-)

Marsha Hunt is one of Classic Hollywood’s amazing centenarians. Before having her career sabotaged by the Hollywood Blacklist in the age of McCarthyism she showed surprising utility in a range of pictures including Pride and Prejudice (1940), Kid Glove Killer (1942), Cry Havoc (1943),  and most memorably in Raw Deal (1948).

Eva Marie Saint (1924-)

Aside from starring in such perennial classics as On The Waterfront (1954) and North by Northwest (1959), she was also married to her husband Jeffrey Hayden for over 60 years, until his passing in 2016.

Angela Lansbury (1925-)

With her starring lead as amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, it’s sometimes easy to forget how early Angela Lansbury started her career in Hollywood. Some of her wide-ranging performances included Gaslight (1944), Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1970), and, of course, Beauty and The Beast (1991).

Sidney Poitier (1927-)

There is so much to be said about Sidney Poitier’s impact on American cinema and representation of African-American masculinity. His catalog is still staggering to this day going beyond high profile successes from ’67 like In The Heat of The Night, To Sir With Love, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. No Way Out (1950), Defiant Ones (1958), Paris Blues (1961), Lillies of The Field, and A Patch of Blue (1965) are all worth searching out, among many others.

10 Films to Watch if You Like Classic Bond

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North by Northwest (1959): It’s no surprise that Alfred Hitchcock was offered the chance to direct Dr. No because he had singlehandedly propelled the spy thriller into the public eye through such classic as The 39 Steps, Foreign Correspondent, and Notorious. It’s also no surprise that he turned down the chance because had essentially made the greatest spy thriller ever. There was no reason to attempt to make another. Cary Grant. Eva Marie Sainte. Bernard Hermann. Ernest Lehman. Mt. Rushmore. Cropdusters. Just a few of the things that make this film awesome. It’s a must for all Bond fans.

That Man from Rio (1964): So there’s no doubt that Philippe de Broca’s film was made in a world conscious of the James Bond phenomenon but it’s also a charming blend of Tintin-esque action serials and wild humor that’s anchored by the charming pair of Jean-Pierre Belmondo and Francoise Dorleac. Its mixture of lavish location shooting, fun-filled action, and consistent humor makes it a must for all Bond lovers.

Charade (1963): By now we’ve all heard that this picture from Stanley Donen was the best Hitchcock film that he never made. Sure, that’s probably true if you want to put any stock in such an assertion but beyond that, we have Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn starring opposite each other in a spy comedy romance. It sounds like an absolutely delightful proposition and it is. It’s funny as a rom-com but still exhibits enough intrigue to pass as a compelling thriller.

The Ipcress File (1965): Sir Michael Caine as British spy Harry Palmer should be enough to pull audiences into this franchise. But if not that then consider this. Although it was made by some of the minds behind Bond, this franchise was supposed to be its antithesis in its representation of the spy life. It’s the anti-Bond if you will. Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain would follow in the subsequent years.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965): However, if you want something completely different from Bond with a sense of stark realism matched with a cynical edge you probably couldn’t get closer to the mark than watching this thriller based off the work of John Le Carre. Richard Burton is as disillusioned as any spy in the history of the movies and you get the strange sense that he has the right to be. If you looking for another tonal shift in the realm of spy thrillers look to The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. It’s demanding but certainly worthwhile.

Casino Royale (1967): We’re about to enter the territory of less demanding fare and the epitome of that is this initial Casino Royale (please don’t dare confuse this installment with Daniel Craig’s. Please don’t). All you need to know is that Peter Sellers plays Evelyn Tremble (ie James Bond), Ursula Andress is Vesper Lynd (ie James Bond), Orson Welles is Le Chiffre, Woody Allen is Jimmy Bond…must I go on or do you get the idea? If you had any preconception that this was a Bond movie you were mistaken.

Our Man Flint (1967): James Coburn the tough guy from such classics as The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape landed his own headlining gig as a spy in his own right. See him in Charade (previously mentioned) and the continuing installment In Like Flint.

Murderers Row (1966): Dean Martin as super spy Matt Helm. Need I say more? Is it any surprise that he’s a dashing ladies man who also seems to like the high life and hitting the sauce. It grabs hold of the Bond phase like any good (or mediocre copycat) although it was based on a number of novels by Donald Hamilton. A number of sequels followed including The Silencers, The Ambushers and The Wrecking Crew.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997): Mike Myers as Austin Powers the most ludicrous, wacky, grooviest, and strangely perverse spy you’ve ever known. But his arch nemesis Dr. Evil is far worse. Pit them off against each other and you’re bound to have a stupid good time amid all the outrageous bits of parody. Oh yeah, check out The Spy Who Shagged Me and Austin Powers in Goldmember too. Groovy Baby!

Get Smart (2008): This is a public service announcement. No offense to Steve Carell or Anne Hathaway whatsoever, but please just go ahead and watch the TV show with the iconic duo of Don Adams and Barbara Feldon with Edward Platt. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry were comic geniuses and they knew a good fad when they saw one. Spies might come and go but “Shoe Phones” and “Cones of Silence” will never die. Would you believe? Because you should.

Bonus – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) et al: It might not feel exactly like Bond and Indiana Jones is a big enough star in his own right but there’s no doubt that the special mixture of thrills, humor, and iconic status also falls on the mantle of Dr. Jones. Of course, it doesn’t hurt either that his father is played by none other than Sean Connery the guy who was in Marnie, The Hunt for Red October, and, yes, a few other movies.

This is only a few options so please don’t think you have a license to kill me for leaving something off. But hope you enjoyed this assortment of 10 classic flicks for every Bond lover.

Review: North By Northwest (1959)

1024px-North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_(6)Wedged between two landmark Hitchcock films in Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960), North by Northwest is iconic in its own right, but it boasts sprawling adventure and a bit of a lighter tone. It’s rather like Teddy Roosevelt wedged in between Jefferson and Lincoln on Mt. Rushmore but that comes later.

Supposedly the film was once to be called In Lincoln’s Nose, but when the now famous slanted North by Northwest logo hits the screen you instantly know you’re in for something extraordinary. The title sequence is wonderfully exciting given a boost by yet another impeccable score from Bernard Hermann.

This film is once again beautifully shot in color (VistaVision), but it covers more ground than Vertigo and has far more elaborate set pieces. The action begins ordinarily enough at an office building where advertising man Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) makes his way out of the office. It’s a busy day at the office, but Roger has a dinner engagement and an evening at the theater to look forward to. His plans and his whole life are put on hold after he fatefully flags down a waiter. His actions don’t go unnoticed and two menacing men lead him off at gunpoint as he tries to head to a phone. He is utterly confused, but we know it has something to do with the name George Caplan. These men think that’s who he is, and not to be persuaded otherwise, they take him to their leader (James Mason), who is very interested to meet him. Over the course of a harrowing evening, Thornhill is left on the edge of the road in a completely drunken state to die. But instead he gets brought in on a drunk driving charge and of course, no one will believe his cockamamie story, even his skeptical mother (Jesse Royce Landis).

North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_(21)Next it’s onto the U.N. Building to find out who Lester Townsend is, but of course, his captors are on his trail and just like that Thornhill is framed for murder and a fugitive on the run from the thugs and the cops. He tries to get away train ticket out of town, but in order to evade the law he ducks onto a train and meets the pretty blonde Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Sainte), who extends a favor. Little does he know what her angle is. Right now all he cares about is a little tete a tete and perhaps an amorous evening.

Kendall wistfully sends her new lover off to meet Caplan. Instead, he is met by a bi-plane and once again running for his life. But the build-up of this now iconic scene is wonderful. Hitchcock utilizes his background in silents to allow the scene to progress without hardly any dialogue and it unfolds ominously. However, he proves that even on an isolated roadside stop danger can still be present. Thornhill has new opinions of Kendall now and continues following the trail of Caplan which leads him to his old nemesis (Mason) and wouldn’t you know, Eve is by his side.

North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_(31)Roger feels like he has everything figured out, but he gets a visit from the mysterious Professor (Leo G. Carroll), who helps straighten him out with all the business surrounding the elusive George Caplan. With this new insight, Roger goes to the Professor to Rapid City and the one and only Mount Rushmore. It’s the perfect spot for a Hitchcockian finale to satisfy the director’s flair for the thematic.

North By Northwest is fun because we get to be right alongside Grant when he gets caught up in the whole mess. Although we see the picture a little more clearly than him, all the details are not handed over to us. So in a sense Hitch lets us in on a few secrets without showing us his entire hand. The staging is also wonderful whether it is the U.N. Building (with that marvelous aerial shot), or desolate Bakersfield, and even the soundstage set up to look like the surrounding area of Mt. Rushmore. It’s such a contrast to Rear Window and it uses the scenery very effectively similar to Vertigo. Ernest Lehman’s script simply put is a lot of fun, because we have our villains, we have our romantic leads having a lot of great scenes together, and the pacing is surprisingly good. I am amazed how spry Cary Grant looks for his age (especially compared to aging Jimmy Stewart). Eva Marie Saint is great and in my estimation, she is the second best Hitchcock Blond following Grace Kelly, but you can easily disagree. James Mason plays yet another debonair villain and there are a handful of fun appearances by the likes of Martin Landau and Edward Platt.

One reason I’m constantly drawn to this film is that it feels rather like a road trip as we slowly cross the continental United States with Cary Grant. Furthermore, it’s simply good, unadulterated fun. There’s not a ton of analysis or commentary to mull over or to think deeply about (maybe some implications to the Cold War). But I’m content to sit back and watch with glee as a crop duster nearly clotheslines Cary Grant. Movies don’t get much better than this, seriously.

5/5 Stars

Review: On The Waterfront (1954)

8542a-on_the_waterfront_poster“They always said I was a bum, well I ain’t a bum Edie.” That is what washed up prizefighter Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) must try and prove to himself and others for the entirety of this crime-drama. On the Waterfront is ultimately his story of conscience and redemption that we watch unfold. It’s not pretty, but you’ll soon see for yourself.

Living on the waterfront is a tough existence. The mob decides who works and who won’t. Longshoremen are expected to be D & D (Deaf and Dumb) or else they have something coming. That’s how big shot Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) and his boys can run the entire area. They utilize fear and money to keep the working masses at bay. No matter what police or the crime commission might try to do, they have no hold on the waterfront. It’s a jungle out there and if you want to survive you look out for number one, don’t ask questions, and live another day.That is Terry Malloy’s philosophy and it suits him just fine. His brother Charley is Friendly’sright-handd man and he’s made a good life for himself thanks to his brains. Terry is more brawn than brain, and he does what his brother says. One night he blows the horn on a young man named Joey because he called out Johnny Friendly. That same evening Joey is knocked off, literally. Terry tries to justify it. He only thought they were going to “lean on him” a bit. With that incident begins Terry’s inner battle.

The moral compass of the film is supplied by two people. Edie Doyle (Eva Marie Saint) returns to her town from school with her beloved brother Joey now dead. She cannot understand why no one else will speak out about it or do anything to carry his cause. It is ultimately Father Barry (Karl Malden) who does just that realizing that his parish is the waterfront. He must fight against the injustice of the mob and hope others will join him. It’s a tall order. At the first meeting he holds in the church, a window gets busted, and thugs wait outside for people to beat up on. Terry was sent by Johnny to check it out and it is there that he meets Edie. He is immediately taken by her, and she warms to him. She sees him differently than the others without knowing what role he had in her brother’s death. The Father and Edie encourage Terry to testify at the crime commission after another man is killed in an “accident.”

Friendly can’t have a canary and its Charley’s job to straighten out his brother. That’s when they take their fateful car ride. Terry spill his guts (I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.) and Charley responds the only way he knows how. He saves his little brother who he has always looked out for and pays the price.

Now Terry has his reason to testify and soon enough he goes before the crime commission to call out John Friendly. He has broken the waterfront code and gone canary. All respect for him is gone and Friendly wants his hide, but Edie is overjoyed in him. Finally, Terry has left the shackles on the waterfront and freed his conscience. He confronts the big man himself and is beaten to a pulp. But as Father Barry says he may have lost the battle, but he won the war.

Before getting to Brando, I must acknowledge the other players for their stellar performances. Eva Marie Saint is just that, a saint, and she gives a heartfelt performance as Edie. It is her love and care that leads Terry to turn himself around because she sees a little piece of humanity left in him. Karl Malden has perhaps one of his finest roles as the Father who represents a man of the faith remarkably. He is no joke, and he does not cave to hypocrisy. His waterfront sermon is one of the most powerful moments:

“You want to know what’s wrong with our waterfront? It’s the love of a lousy buck. It’s making the love of the lousy buck – the cushy job – more important than the love of man! It’s forgettin’ that every fellow down here is your brother in Christ!”

However, Rod Steiger’s poignant scene with Brando in the car is similarly extraordinary, because he realizes where he has failed. He does not need the words. He just stays silent, and we see it on his face. He is the one who pays for the mistakes, though, and he is far from a bum. Then, of course, there is Marlon Brando himself. He is often hailed one of the greatest actors of all time, but he usually played corrupt undesirables or rebels. Terry Malloy is perhaps his best role, and he is the good guy for once. He must struggle to do what is right by him, and he must struggle to prove himself to others. Brando plays him with some much genuineness, heart, and vulnerability at times. He is far more than the brusque meat head we take him for initially.

Elia Kazan was a champion of hard- edged dramas especially in the 1950s and he never succeeded more so than with this film. The black and white cinematography with perpetual fog drifting in fits the dire mood nicely and Leonard Bernstein’s score further compliments the drama. This is a fine example of Classic Hollywood cinema which was praised back then and lauded now. Our fake blood may have gotten better, but otherwise, it’s hard to top this film.

5/5 Stars

North by Northwest (1959) – Alfred Hitchcock

ed5e6-northbynorthwest1As the last collaboration between Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock, they came together to make the ultimate thriller in North by Northwest. Grant plays a common business man named Roger Thorndike who is framed as a killer in a very public place. All of the sudden he has become a fugitive on the run for a crime he never even committed. Along the way he meets a government agent (Eve Marie Sainte) while dodging the authorities. Trying to clear his name, Grant finds himself fleeing the actual killers. His adventures include a run-in with a crop dusting plane and eventually find him hanging for dear life.  However, he comes out on top in the end and he slowly falls in love too (of course). From the beginning when you see the opening credits and hear the score, you gear up for adventure and that is exactly what you get. It follows the wonderful tradition of Hitchcock films and it does not fail to entertain. Besides great locations, a memorable score, and interesting camera work, the story is wonderful.

5/5 Stars

 

On the Waterfront (1954)

In his first great crime film Marlon Brando teamed with Elia Kazan and played a very different sort of character. It tells a moving story of a man who chooses to change in very difficult circumstances and to do what is ultimately right. This film has great characters and memorable dialogue that show the complexity of the human race. It proved that Brando could play a true hero and not only a villain.

*May Contain Spoilers
In this film starring a wonderful cast including Brando, Rod Steiger, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, and Eva Marie Sainte, a washed up prizefighter redeems himself. The waterfront is a tough area controlled by a gang led by Cobb. Brando’s Terry Malloy gives them information about a young man, because his brother (Steiger) is second in command. Only afterwards does he find out they knocked the man off and now Malloy must deal with his conscience. He slowly falls for the dead boy’s sister and must tell her the truth. With the help of Sainte and a Father played by Malden, Malloy testifies to put away Cobb for good. However his brother Steiger pays the ultimate price after one of the most poignant scenes in movie history. Kazan behind the camera does a good job at allowing his actors to flourish. This film is definitely a great one telling a classic story of redemption.

5/5 Stars