quick reviews: spies, lies & sewing supplies

Quick Review is back, with some changes.

This feature is going to look a little different. I found I was just waiting for that one special movie to interest and inspire me enough to write a full post, instead of sticking to my original intention of just quickly telling you what I watched, and what I thought of it. Waiting for the muuuuse like this is just another way of procrastinating, perfectionisting and putting off the writing, which is supposed to be fun movie-love, not a scary chore. So I’m going to start sticking to a regular schedule, take off my objective, fastidious researcher hat and put on a beanie with a working propeller and just be the movie-crazy fangirl who is very hard to disappoint, so long as I see actors I like and a half-decent non-boring story, who even enjoys a bad movie, and “quickly” go over what all I watched during that week, totally stream-of-consciousness (such as mine is, don’t say I didn’t warn you). Here goes.

Thanks to the kindness of Speakeasy friend Laura, I recently got a neat bunch of stuff from which I drew all my recent viewing:

UNFINISHED BUSINESS  –  Irene Dunne, on the way from small town to big, falls hard for playboy Preston Foster, who dumps her the moment they hit NY. While trying to make it big as a singer while working the switchboard in a nightclub (and answering calls with a ridiculous jingle), she once again runs into Foster and his brother Robert Montgomery at Foster’s Birthday party and is devastated when he hardly even notices her. Montgomery takes her out to comfort her, they end up getting married more for convenience than love, and end up on the rocks after the somewhat predictable difficulties, which include her pining after Foster and getting caught kissing him. Dunne had kind of a tough job here, playing both a naif gullible small town girl and a somewhat worldly-wise and knowing soul. For me, it’s asking a lot to believe that she’d carry such an intense, undying flame for Foster, since he was so, so slimy from the get-go here, and Montgomery is hardly a “compromise,” but that’s a small quibble. Well done drama with screwball elements, the combo of Dunne, Montgomery and Foster is great, like comfort food, their charm and presence natural, their acting nicely understated. Eugene Pallette plays Montgomery’s butler, with an eternally squeaky pair of shoes.

ONCE MORE, MY DARLING – Robert Montgomery, in a movie he directed, plays a former lawyer from a long line of same, who’s given it up to be an actor. When he’s called back by the military reserves to investigate the whereabouts of some stolen jewelry, it’s because of his acting chops and considerable charm, despite the age difference between the debutante (Ann Blyth) he’s supposed to romance in order to lure out her jewel-thieving and -gifting beau.  Blyth goes beyond crushing on Montgomery to completely crushing him with her intense, unrelenting affection, maneuvering him into marriage (you never saw anyone drive so slowly to Vegas) and eventually, true love, all the while totally living up to her nickname “killer”. Or maybe that’s just because she slays everyone around her by dousing herself with the Passionelle parfum she got a Methusalem lifetime supply of as part of her endorsement deal. Screwball comedy all the way, nice turn by Jane Cowl as Montgomery’s mother who excels at eyeroll, and tries mightily to remain calm when Blyth, in her PJ’s, crashes a hoity-toity get together. I found the slapstick a bit forced, but overall it was a really fun movie, and it was great to see Charles McGraw as Blyth’s intimidating, protective chauffeur, as well as a delightfully uber-snarky John Ridgely, who drops some choice “your mother” jokes on Montgomery.

DIPLOMATIC COURIER  – loved. Ty Power plays the title role, on a mission, on a train, on the lam from American widow and possible baddie Patricia Neal, on his back after various beatings, and on the trail of secret info and trying to figure out who’s side Hildegarde Neff is really on. Henry Hathaway directed great noirs and westerns and gives this tale of Cold War spycraft a nice fast pace, good suspense and high energy. Steven McNally is the flinty Colonel who doesn’t mind sending Power half-informed into danger while Sergeant Karl Malden feels for the sucker, shadows him and helps him get out of tight spots. I loved spotting Lee Marvin and I’m not, even a little bit, ashamed at the unbridled explosive glee with which I screamed “Charles Bronson”!!! when I first saw him walk past on the train. Makes you want to watch movies with me, I know. Nice location shooting in Trieste, among other places, so I can see why some viewers have compared it to the Third Man, but, really, it isn’t like that.

I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE – also loved.  As fate would have it, the very next day after I watched this inside look at a woman’s ambitions, obstacles and romances in the “rag trade”, Self Styled Siren wrote a great post about it, highlighting most of what I liked about it, mainly its sharp and clever writing. Susan Hayward can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned, here with great costars in well written roles, like George Sanders and Sam Jaffe, Marvin Kaplan and Barbara Whiting. But I have to single out Dan Dailey as especially impressive to me here. I don’t know why he bowled me over so much in this movie; it’s not like I don’t like him already, but there was something extra romantic and intense about his presence here as the whirlwind, pushy, charming salesman turned aggressive partner in business and bitter spurned lover. He played that whole range of emotions so well, made a great match for Hayward, and sent me on a tangent wondering how amazing he would have been as a noir lead (I suppose The Get-Away was the closest he got)… but, I mean, SherboyCo? Really? #brandingFail

 


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6 thoughts on “quick reviews: spies, lies & sewing supplies

  1. Hi Kristina. Glad to see you enjoyed Diplomatic Courier, which I did a piece on myself a while back; it’s a neat little thriller that moves at a good lick and looks very attractive. I really enjoy these Cold War movies that are based in post-war Europe.

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    • http://livius1.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/diplomatic-courier/

      …is the link to your very nice post on Diplomatic Courier! agreed that Hathaway & Ballard give us some nice, noirish shots, those European cobblestone roads are perfect settings for them. Malden & Power made a good team, too, I thought.
      a couple name notes: they named Hildegarde phonetically: Neff ( in your post you have the correct spelling of Hildegarde Knef (sheesh if Selznick had his way she’d be Gilda Christian?), not to mention Steve/Stephen/Horace McNally –my bad, he’s credited as Stephen here
      Thanks & best!

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  2. Kristina,

    Love the snappy format here and your actual reviews too! (And I’m glad I could send you some good viewing!!) Wasn’t John Ridgely a stitch in ONCE MORE, MY DARLING? Love when I see him in a movie. There was a lot of great stuff in that movie even tho Blyth was a little too manic. Loved Montgomery asking about his performance and someone says “You were…tall.”

    Also loved your comment on Dunne, Montgomery & Foster being like comfort food. So true! It just feels good to be in their company. :)

    The film in this batch I haven’t seen yet is I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE. After your writeup and the Siren’s, sure looking forward to it!

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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  3. thanks Laura! for the movies as well as stopping in– next roundup has another one of yours already in it! yes I really got a kick out of Montgomery’s AHCTing in his role, “you were tall” haha. Started out thinking it would be too cutesy but I really ended up enjoying it. i just searched for your review of it here: http://laurasmiscmusings.blogspot.ca/2008/07/tonights-movie-once-more-my-darling.html

    and I want to mention how Taylor Holmes who played Blyth’s “painter” father, was a silent star and father of heartthrob Philips Holmes
    cheers!

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  4. Kristina, your reviews and turns of phraise are always a delight (“spies, lies & sewing supplies” cracked me up), but in today’s reviews, I particularly got a kick out of your phrase “…put on a beanie with a working propeller and just be the movie-crazy fangirl who is very hard to disappoint, so long as I see actors I like and a half-decent non-boring story.” And really, isn’t that what it’s really all about with us movie fans? I’ve seen scenes from DIPLOMATIC COURIER; never got to see the whole thing from start to finish, but I was intrigued enough that I’ll keep my eyes peeled for future showings

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    • hi there! yes sometimes trying to be a “critic” & so serious about writing, finding something new to say, (and there’s a place for that to be sure) that you can totally lose sight of just being a FAN, and nuts about old movies, so this is the crazy freestyle portion of this blog from now on!
      so glad you enjoy!!

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