Shirley MacLaine

The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964)

The Yellow Rolls Royce 1964

The Yellow Rolls-Royce follows the journey of a single yellow Rolls-Royce as it changes ownership three times and the role it plays in all their lives. The Rolls-Royce is originally purchased by Charles (Rex Harrison), the Marquess of Frinton as an anniversary gift for his wife Eloise (Jeanne Moreau). It’s their tenth anniversary, so he wants to get her something truly special. Unbeknownst to him, Eloise has been having an affair with another man. Charles is enthusiastic about horse racing and dreams of winning a big title, but when the day of the big race comes and his horse comes in first, Charles’ day is tainted by catching Eloise together with her lover in the brand new Rolls-Royce. He isn’t about to divorce her; it wouldn’t look good. However, he does sell her new car.

Next, the Rolls-Royce is bought by gangster Paolo Maltese (George C. Scott) as a gift for his girlfriend Mae (Shirley MacLaine), who are on vacation in Italy. Not long after they buy the car, Paolo has to leave to tend to some “business,” so he has his associate Joey (Art Carney) to take her out and keep an eye on her. Mae is bored of Italy, but her trip gets a little more interesting when she meets photographer Stefano (Alain Delon) and falls in love with him. Joey allows their affair to carry on, but when the news of Paolo’s “business trip” (a brutal murder) makes headlines, he feels the need to remind her of who she’d be dealing with if she left. Although she loves Stefano dearly, she reluctantly decides to leave with Paolo.

The third owner of the Rolls-Royce is Gerda Millett (Ingrid Bergman), a wealthy American woman taking a trip in Europe, who decides to buy the car on a whim. She meets Davich (Omar Sharif), who is looking to get back into Yugoslavia, to avoid a Nazi attack. She reluctantly agrees and isn’t happy about being involved, until she realizes just how serious the situation is. After getting a taste of what the Nazis are capable of, Gerda becomes active in smuggling people to safety. She works very closely with Davich and the two begin to fall in love, but they realize they can do more good for the cause by working apart than they can together.

The Yellow Rolls-Royce has a similar concept to The Earrings of Madame De…, a story about how an object finds its way to different owners. While I really liked The Earrings of Madame De…The Yellow Rolls-Royce didn’t do anything for me. The only story I found interesting was the one with Ingrid Bergman and Omar Sharif, but since that was the last chapter, that wasn’t enough to redeem the movie for me. The first two stories didn’t hold my interest at all. The movie is full of great stars, but none of them are at their best. It’s one of those movies that made it hard for me to muster up any reaction stronger than, “meh.”

TCMFF 2015, Day 4: It’s the Last Day Already?

A large part of Sunday schedules at the TCMFF are always reserved for a handful of movies that were popular enough to deserve a second run and these movies are typically announced on Saturday. Although I had an interest in all of the movies that ended up filling the “to be announced” slots, I only made it to two: Don’t Bet on Women and The Smiling Lieutenant.

Don't Bet On Women 1931

Don’t Bet on Women is known for being the only film in which Jeanette MacDonald doesn’t sing. Edmund Lowe stars as Roger Fallon, a wealthy man who truly despises all women and wants nothing to do with them. But things get complicated when he makes a bet with his attorney Herbert Drake (played by Roland Young) that he can’t kiss the next woman who walks into the room within 48 hours and it turns out to be Drake’s wife, Jeanne (Jeanette MacDonald). When Jeanne realizes that she’s the subject of the bet, she decides to play along with it to prove to herself whether or not she’s a good girl.

Although the stars of the film are technically the male characters, it’s the women who end up stealing the show. It’s really too bad Jeanette MacDonald didn’t do more films like Don’t Bet on Women, because she’s really quite delightful in it. I don’t particularly have strong feelings toward Jeanette MacDonald one way or the other, but I really liked her in this. Una Merkel has a supporting role, but she was the one who got the most buzz from other festival attendees. I’d heard from other people who had been at its initial screening on Friday that Una Merkel was amazing in it, and I was not disappointed. I know Fox pre-codes are hard to come by, but I really hope this gets a DVD release someday because it’s a real gem of a movie.

The Smiling Lieutenant

The Smiling Lieutenant has long been one of my favorite pre-codes and since this isn’t the type of Lubitsch film I thought I would be likely to be shown in a theater at home, I couldn’t resist the chance to see it at the festival. I’m so glad I went; they showed a beautiful 35mm print and it was so fun to see the “Jazz Up Your Lingerie” scene on the big screen.

After catching lunch with the amazing Nora (you may know her as The Nitrate Diva) and her equally awesome mom, we headed over to Club TCM to catch the interview Leonard Maltin would be doing with Shirley MacLaine. For some reason, I failed to realize just how big of a draw Shirley was going to be for this event. Even though I got there about an hour early, it was already standing room only. The only other time I’ve seen a Club TCM event that crowded was during opening night in 2014 when Kim Novak was there discussing a painting she’d made, which was on display during the festival.

Shirley MacLaine Club TCM 2015

Shirley MacLaine discussing her career with Leonard Maltin in Club TCM. Photo courtesy TCM/Tyler Golden

Shirley MacLaine was an extremely entertaining interviewee; very vibrant and full of energy. And unlike many other stars, she doesn’t hold back when it comes to talking about the people she’s worked with. For example, during the previous day’s Sophia Loren interview, a question about which of her co-stars she didn’t care for was met with the response, “Why would you ask me that?” But with Shirley MacLaine, she was saying things like, “Oh, let’s not even get started on Debra Winger!”  The audience was loving her candor and boy, did she have a huge range of people to talk about. She had stories about Marlene Dietrich’s marathon 3-hour costume fitting session for Around the World in 80 Days, stories about Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, stories about Hitchcock, and so many more. As fantastic as the interview was, I only ended up staying for about half of it because I was getting too hot and too uncomfortable, but what a fun half interview it was.

The Philadelphia Story Stewart Grant Hepburn

The only movie I saw in the Chinese Theater this year was The Philadelphia Story, which in my book, is the gold standard of romantic comedies. It’s one of those rare movies that seems to get better and better each time I see it. I may have seen the movie before, but each time I watch it, there always seems to be a line of dialogue or somebody’s facial expression or a reaction shot that I never seemed to fully appreciate before. This screening was introduced by actress Madeline Stowe, who was very clearly not just enthusiastic about the movie, but about TCM in general. At one point during her discussion with Illeana Douglas, she said something along the lines of, “Let’s not talk about me, can we talk about how great TCM is?” I don’t really know much about Madeline Stowe, but the fact that she gets excited about TCM’s promos and filler material gives her some major points in my book.

My final movie of the festival was 1919’s The Grim Game starring the one and only Harry Houdini. Houdini isn’t widely known as a movie star, but he did make a handful of movies during his career. The Grim Game was, for many years, considered a lost film. The only complete print belonged to a Houdini collector, who bought it from Houdini’s estate and, aside from a handful of very small screenings, kept it to himself until last year when he agreed to let TCM restore it. This screening was the world premiere of that restoration and it was an experience you simply aren’t likely to have anywhere else.

Dick Brookz, Dorothy Dietrich, and Joe Monti Photo courtesy TCM/Edward M. Pio Roda

Dick Brookz, Dorothy Dietrich, and Joe Monti Photo courtesy TCM/Edward M. Pio Roda

Houdini experts Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz were on hand to introduce the film and to demonstrate a magic trick using a vest that belonged to Houdini himself. The Grim Game itself wasn’t a particularly great film; the premise was mostly built around finding ways to get Houdini to do the stunts that made him famous, so it’s very historically interesting in that respect. Houdini really gives the likes of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd a run for their money in the stunt department with The Grim Game. Not only does it feature Houdini escaping from handcuffs, getting out of a strait jacket, and dangling off the side of a building, it even has a plane crash, which was not staged. (Remarkably, everyone survived the plane crash.)

With the final screenings of the festival coming to a close, I headed back to the Roosevelt to fit in as much time as possible with my friends and fellow movie bloggers before we all had to venture off on our separate ways once again.

My Picks for TCMFF 2015

TCMFF 2015It’s that time of year again! The annual TCM Classic Film Festival is just around the corner and attendees are poring over the recently released full schedule, carefully making their choices and wondering how long they can go between meals. I am no exception to this.

Honestly, I think I’m more excited about this year’s schedule than I was about last year’s. I had a tremendous time last year, but I had a tendency to see things I had already seen before and only ended up seeing a couple of new-to-me movies. This year is shaping up to be the total opposite. If I stick to my plans as they currently are, I’ll only be seeing a few movies I’ve seen before. So I’m very excited to check out some movies I’ve never seen before because I’ve been really bad about watching things I haven’t seen before lately. It really will be awesome to make lots of discoveries this year.

Much like last year, I’m going into the festival this year fully expecting my plans to change at any time. If you’ve never been to TCMFF before, one of the best pieces of advice I have to give is to stay open to changing your plans. Things come up and you might not always end up sticking to your original schedule exactly, but that’s okay because you could end up doing some other awesome thing instead.

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Sweet Charity (1969)

Sweet Charity

When Charity (Shirley MacLaine) isn’t dancing at the Fandango Ballroom, she’s desperately on the search for love.  When we first meet Charity, she’s positively elated over the fact that she thinks she’s finally found the love of her life.  But when they meet up on a bridge in Central Park, he pushes her off the bridge and robs her.  It’s an experience that would make a lot of people want to completely give up, but not Charity.  She still has faith that her one true love is out there and isn’t about to let anything get in her way of finding it.

One night, she runs into movie star Vittorio Vitale (Ricardo Montalban).  He had been planning to go out with his girlfriend Ursula, but when they get into a fight, he winds up going to a club with Charity instead.  He takes Charity back to his place for dinner and Charity can’t believe her luck, but then Ursula drops by and Charity spends the rest of the night hiding in Vittorio’s closet.

Charity’s night with Vittorio only makes Charity more determined to better her life.  When she decides she wants to leave the Fandango Ballroom, she goes to  an employment agency.  But while she’s there, she ends up getting stuck in an elevator with Oscar Lindquist (John McMartin).  After she helps him cope with his claustrophobia, she and Oscar begin seeing each other.  Once again, Charity thinks she has found what she’s been looking for, but there’s just one problem — Oscar doesn’t know about her job at the Fandango Ballroom.  He’s under the impression that she works in a bank.

Soon enough, he finds out the truth and he tries to be okay with it.  They plan to get married, but after he goes to her farewell party at the Fandango, he realizes he can’t marry her.  Left alone at the marriage license bureau, Charity starts walking home completely heartbroken.  But as she walks through Central Park, she realizes that she shouldn’t give up hope just yet.

On the surface, Sweet Charity has much to offer.  Shirley MacLaine was perfectly cast as Charity and with Bob Fosse directing, you know it’s got to be loaded with style and panache.  However, this was the first time Bob Fosse had directed a film and it showed.  Sweet Charity would have greatly benefited from being about twenty minutes shorter.  No matter how marvelous MacLaine was or how stylish the dance numbers and costumes were, those things simply weren’t enough to hold my attention through the full two-and-a-half-hour runtime.

The Trouble with Harry (1955)

Usually, when a dead body turns up in the woods, people aren’t lining up to admit being responsible for that person’s demise.   But when Harry Worp is found dead in the woods, three people believe they are each responsible for killing him.  First there’s Harry’s wife, Jennifer Rogers (Shirley MacLaine).  She thinks she killed him by hitting him over the head with a bottle.  Then there’s Captain Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn), who believes he accidentally shot Harry while hunting rabbits.  And last, but certainly not least, there’s Ivy Gravely (Mildred Natwick), who hit Harry on the head with the heel of her hiking boot when he tried to assault her.  But either way, none of them are exactly sad to see Harry go.

When local artist Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe) comes along to sketch the scenery, he stumbles upon Harry’s body and also finds Albert nearby.  Albert explains what happened and Sam agrees to help him bury Harry.  Before Sam knows it, he’s helped bury and exhume Harry multiple times and is wrapped up in trying to figure out exactly how Harry died.

The Trouble with Harry manages to be both an unusual Alfred Hitchcock film and still distinctly his style.  If you go into The Trouble with Harry assuming that, because it’s Hitchcock, it will be a thriller like Vertigo or North by Northwest, you will be sorely disappointed.  Instead, it’s actually a dark comedy.  I wouldn’t call it one of Hitchcock’s best films, but I am fond of it since I have a somewhat dark sense of humor so I thought it was hilarious.  The humor is very much Hitchcock’s style; much more so than Mr. and Mrs. Smith was.  The cinematography is stunning; there are so many shots worthy of being on a postcard.  And I love the stark contrast between the picturesque scenery and the morbid comedy. The Trouble with Harry is also noteworthy for being the film debuts of Shirley MacLaine and Jerry Mathers.  It was also the first Hitchcock film to be scored by composer Bernard Hermann.

This was one of Hitchcock’s personal favorites of the movies he made and I can see why. However, I can also easily see why it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  Dark comedy is one of those things that you either like or you don’t and I’ll admit the movie gets off to a little bit of a slow start.  The Trouble with Harry wasn’t a big box office success when it was first released, but I have a feeling it might have found more of an audience if it had been made in the 70’s or 80’s instead.

This year’s For the Love of Film blogathon is raising money to make the three recently rediscovered reels of 1923’s The White Shadow available to stream on the National Film Preservation Foundation’s website for three months. Hitchcock served as an assistant director for The White Shadow, one of his first major jobs. If you would like to donate, simply click the button!  For more from the For the Love of Film Blogathon, you can find other contributions at Ferdy on Films, The Self-Styled Siren, and This Island Rod.

What’s on TCM: April 2012

Happy April, everybody!  TCM has a pretty fun schedule this month, but it’s organized a little differently than usual.  Usually things like the Star of the Month nights get one night each week.  But this month, those nights are all in one week from Monday to Friday.  Doris Day is the April Star of the Month so her movies will be on every night from April 2-6.  TCM will also be doing a spring break week this month from April 16-20, so every night will be fun, beachy movies like Gidget and Frankie and Annette Beach Party movies.  Now, onto the schedule:

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The Children’s Hour (1961)

Karen Wright (Audrey Hepburn) and Martha Dobie (Shirley MacLaine) have been friends since they were teenagers.  They both decided to become teachers, and after they graduated from college, the two of them opened a private boarding school for girls.  After years of hard work, their school finally starts to turn a profit and Karen finally agrees to marry her fiance Dr. Joe Cardin (James Garner).  However, Karen’s decision is bittersweet to Martha.  She wants Karen to be happy, but is afraid of losing her best friend and that she will leave the school once she gets married.  Martha’s jealousy leads to her getting in an argument with her aunt and fellow teacher Lily Mortar (Miriam Hopkins), who tells Martha that her devotion to her friend is unnatural.

But every school has its problem children.  In this case, it’s Mary Tilford (Karen Balkin).  Mary is constantly getting into trouble and when Karen punishes her by not letting her go to some boat races that weekend, Mary gets back at her by telling her wealthy grandmother Amelia Tilford (Fay Bainter) that Karen and Martha are lovers.  She invented this story based on what her friends overheard of Martha and Lily’s argument and threw in some bits from a scandalous book she and her friends have been secretly reading.  Amelia is absolutely horrified, pulls Mary from the school, and calls all the other parents and gets them to do the same.

Karen and Martha don’t understand why all the students are leaving, and when they’re clued in, Karen, Martha, and Joe try to confront Amelia and Mary.  Joe questions Mary and even though he clearly catches her lying, Mary drags her friend Rosalie into the lie and Amelia sides with them.  Karen and Martha sue her for slander, but the case ends up being dragged into the media, they lose their case, and they become outcasts in town.  Joe proudly stands by Karen and Martha through the whole ordeal, but eventually, all the rumors make him question the truth.  Even Martha begins to wonder if the rumors were true.  Eventually, the truth does come out, but no amount of money from Mrs. Tilford can fix the damage that has been done.

I absolutely adored The Children’s Hour.  Exceptionally well written and beautifully acted all around, Shirley MacLaine particularly hit it right out of the park.  Her performance was truly compelling, heartfelt, and tragic.  This was a movie way ahead of its time and is still hugely relevant today.  Movies that deal with the ramifications of gossip were definitely nothing new in 1961, but I was impressed to see a movie deal with homophobia so frankly while the production codes were still in force.  Actually, this isn’t the first film adaptation of The Children’s Hour.  In 1936, it had been made into the movie These Three starring Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon, and Joel McCrea.  But since the production codes were enforced much more strictly in 1936, they had to change the story to be about a love triangle between Martha, Karen, and Joe.  They couldn’t even use the original name because it was so tied to the original Lillian Hellman play.  I’ve never seen These Three, although now I’d like to, but The Children’s Hour is a very worthwhile movie.

My Top 100, 30-21

Wow, I can’t believe we’re already up to number 30! This week is another week where if you don’t know anything at all about my style and only saw these ten movies, you’d get a pretty good idea of what my taste is.  So, let’s get on with the list!

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