William Holden

Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949)

Miss Grant Takes Richmond Poster

Graduates from the Woodruff Secretarial School are virtually guaranteed to have their choice of good jobs.  Well, that may be true for most students, but not Ellen Grant (Lucille Ball).  Despite desperately wanting to have a career, Ellen just can’t get the hang of secretarial work.  On the last day of class, Dick Richmond (William Holden) stops by the school looking to hire a secretary for his new real estate company.  Much to everyone’s surprise, Ellen is the one who gets the job.

Ellen is thrilled to have a real job, but Dick has a motive for  choosing the most inept student.  Dick’s real estate company is merely a front for his gambling racket and he thinks by hiring the worst student, he’ll be getting a secretary who won’t get wise to what’s really going on.  Meanwhile, Ellen becomes aware of her town’s housing crisis.  Ellen feels compelled to help so she pressures Dick to build an affordable housing project.  Dick pretends like he’s going along with the project and every time he makes up an excuse to back out, Ellen finds a way to solve the problem.

Eventually, Dick decides Ellen has to go but he can’t fire her without it looking suspicious.  So he tries to make her quit by giving her ridiculous amounts of work and aggressively flirting with her, but she doesn’t back down.  Dick and Ellen are even starting to fall for each other.  Meanwhile, Dick’s former girlfriend Peggy Donato (Janis Carter) wants him back so he can run her gambling racket.  He turns Peggy down, but when Ellen unwittingly takes a large bet on a horse race from Peggy, he’s suddenly indebted to her.

Peggy is willing to forgive the debt if he will be with her, but Dick won’t stand for it.  He decides to go ahead with the housing project so he can get the money from potential residents, use the money to pay his debt, and leave Ellen holding the bag when the project runs out of money.  When he sees how upset Ellen is when the project fails, he tries to make it right by giving the money back, even if it means having to be with Peggy.  But when Ellen finally figures out what Dick’s real business is and comes up with a plan to get Dick back from Peggy.

Miss Grant Takes Richmond is good for a few laughs, but it wasn’t one of my favorites.  Lucille Ball and William Holden were both pretty good in it and I liked the basic idea of the plot, but it just wasn’t executed to its full potential. While I was watching the movie, I kept thinking there was something about Ball and Holden that made me feel like I was watching two people on the verge of doing something big.  It turns out, I was right — William Holden’s career really took off the following year after starring in Sunset Boulevard and Lucille Ball became a television legend two years later with I Love Lucy.  And, of course, Ball and Holden were reunited a few years later when he appeared on an episode of I Love Lucy.

Paramount in the 1950’s

Paramount in the 50’s just wouldn’t have been the same without Billy Wilder.  He made two of his most, in my opinion, under-appreciated movies at Paramount: 1953’s Stalag 17 and 1951’s Ace in the Hole.  But in 1950, he released a movie that defined not only his career, but the entire film industry — Sunset Boulevard.


What’s on TCM: September 2011

I hope everyone enjoyed Summer Under the Stars this year!  September is looking like it’s going to be a much quieter month, but there is still plenty to look forward to.  Most noteworthy, this month marks the TCM premiere of a couple long-awaited movies, The Constant Nymph and The Story of Temple Drake.  Kirk Douglas is September’s star of the month and there are some truly stellar nights of his movies to look forward to.  Laurel and Hardy fans will be happy to hear that the duo will be making a few appearances this month.  Thursday nights will be dedicated to celebrating fifty years of Merchant Ivory productions, and those nights tend to have too many modern movies for my liking.  But there are also TCM’s annual tributes to the Telluride Film Festival and the Library of Congress Film Archive, both of which have some pretty excellent stuff to look forward to.


The Wild Bunch (1969)

Pike Bishop (William Holden) is the leader of a gang of outlaws, but his gang isn’t the typical gang you might think of.  Almost all the guys in his gang are getting up there in years, but they have no delusions about their age.  They’re just looking to pull off one last big robbery that would give them enough money to retire on.  When the gang heads to San Rafael, Texas to rob a railroad office, they’re confronted by a band of bounty hunters led by Pike’s former partner Deke (Robert Ryan).  A shootout ensues that takes out a lot of Pike’s gang as well as several innocent bystanders.

The only surviving members of Pike’s gang are Pike, Dutch (Ernest Borgnine), Angel (Jaime Sanchez), and Lyle and Tector Gorch (Warren Oates and Ben Johnson, respectively).  As if their robbery didn’t go badly enough, they soon realize that they didn’t actually steal any money, they only stole a bunch of metal washers.  They start to head for Mexico, but hot on their trail is Deke and his gang of bounty hunters.  Once they get to Mexico, they begin to see the devastation of the Mexican revolution.  Angel is originally from Mexico, so he is particularly angry to see what has been done to his home village.  When they make it to Agua Verde, the gang meets Mapache, a general in the Mexican Federal Army.  Angel’s anger comes to a head when he sees Mapache, the person responsible for destroying his home, with one of his former girlfriends and he shoots the girl.  To stop Mapache from killing Angel, Pike works out a deal with him where his gang will steal a shipment of guns and ammunition from a train for them and they will be given $10,000 in gold.

$10,000 of gold sounds like a good thing to everybody except Angel.  He can’t bring himself to give them weapons so they can kill more of his people.  Angel gives up his share of the gold in exchange for taking a small part of the shipment and giving it to help people on his side.  When the big heist is set to go down, there’s one little surprise they hadn’t counted on — Deke and his bounty  hunters being on the same train as the guns.  But they pull it off and try to make it so that Mapache won’t notice the missing guns.  However, Mapache is not easily fooled and captures Angel and tortures him.  Pike and his gang are faithfully loyal to each other and try to save their friend, but instead, Mapache kills Angel in front of them.  Not willing to back down, the gang launches into one of the most epic gunfights in film history.

As many of you already know, I’m not the biggest fan of Westerns.  But to me, The Wild Bunch wasn’t so much a Western as it was a gangster movie/thriller that just happened to be set in the West instead of a city like New York or Chicago.  Some of the story elements felt like they could have come straight out of classic gangster or heist films if you just changed “guns and ammunition” to “valuable jewels.”  But even if I felt like I’ve seen some of the story elements before, Sam Peckinpah made them completely his own through his very distinct style.  It’s very taut, thrilling, and action packed.  And there’s no going wrong with that phenomenal cast!  This is one movie I think deserves all the acclaim it’s gotten.

TCM Day in Review: 2/9/10

When I started this blog, I had the intention of writing about movies one at a time.  But with 31 Days of Oscar going on, there are several days where I can see a bunch of fantastic movies in one day.  Yesterday was certainly one of those days: Alice Adams, Ninotchka, Stalag 17, and Network.  When I was trying to think of which of those movies I wanted to write about today, I figured that maybe I’d try something different and try writing several short reviews instead of one long review.