Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

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Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938)

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938). 80 minutes. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Starring Claudette Colbert (as Nicole de Loiselle), Gary Cooper (as Michael Brandon), Edward Everett Horton (as the Marquis de Loiselle), David Niven (as Albert De Regnier), Elizabeth Patterson (as Aunt Hedwige), Herman Bing (as Monsieur Pepinard), Warren Hymer (as Kid Mulligan), and Lawrence Grant (as Professor Urganzeff). Screenplay by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder.

When director Ernst Lubitsch was at his best, which was often, his witty romantic comedies had no equals. The great Lubitsch movies—such as Trouble in Paradise (1932), Ninotchka (1939), and To Be or Not to Be (1942)—drip with sparkling repartee, sophistication, and delicious naughtiness (often of a sexual nature) that exemplify Hollywood at its most adult. But the master of subtle innuendo also made some missteps, and Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife is widely considered to be one of his failures. After watching its trailer, I was prepared for it to be awful, and … Read the rest

It (1927)

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It (1927). 72 minutes. Directed by Clarence G. Badger. Starring Clara Bow (as Betty Lou Spence), Antonio Moreno (as Cyrus Waltham, Jr.), William Austin (as Monty), Jacqueline Gadsden (as Adela Van Norman), Priscilla Bonner (as Molly), Gary Cooper (as reporter), and Elinor Glyn (as herself).

According to Elinor Glyn, whose serialized novella “It” was the inspiration for the movie of the same name, “It” is:

“…that quality possessed by some which draws all others with its magnetic force. With ‘It’ you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man. ‘It’ can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction.”

This sounds very similar to the definition of the so-called “X-factor,” the mysterious source of talent that entertainment industry casting directors, talent managers, and moguls claim emanates from great film and theater stars. It seems a bit strange to suggest that what governs our sexual and romantic interests also … Read the rest

Ball of Fire (1941)

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Ball of Fire (1941)

Ball of Fire (1941). 111 minutes. Directed by Howard Hawks. Starring Barbara Stanwyck (as Katherine “Pussyfoot” O’Shea), Gary Cooper (as Professor Bertram Potts), S. Z. Sakall (as Professor Magenbruch), Richard Haydn (as Professor Oddley), and Dana Andrews (as Joe Lilac). Screenplay by Billy Wilder.

If you have ever seen Billy Wilder’s 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot, you will immediately notice the similarities between it and Ball of Fire, whose screenplay Wilder also wrote. Both involve characters going on the lam in conjunction with mob activity, a sexy nightclub singer with a ridiculous name (Sugar Cane in Some Like It Hot, Pussyfoot O’Shea in Ball of Fire), and men who have to transform themselves temporarily into their opposites in order to secure a woman’s affections.  In Some Like It Hot, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon don female attire, with dirt-poor Curtis additionally and intermittently posing as a playboy millionaire in order to woo singer Marilyn … Read the rest

Alice in Wonderland (1933)

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Alice in Wonderland (1933). 77 minutes. Directed by Norman Z. McLeod. Starring Charlotte Henry (as Alice), W. C. Fields (as Humpty Dumpty), Cary Grant (as the Mock Turtle), Gary Cooper (as the White Knight), Edna May Oliver (as the Red Queen), Edward Everett Horton (as the Hatter), and Charles Ruggles (as the March Hare). Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and William Cameron Menzies.

The 1933 Alice in Wonderland is an important early sound attempt at transforming a fantasy children’s novel into a live-action full-length feature film.  It conflates Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass to bring us a sprawling tale of a girl’s fantastic journey through the strange landscape of her dreams.  The screenplay was adapted by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and the visually inventive William Cameron Menzies, and the cast features some of the brightest stars of Golden Age cinema. The film was, however, considered a flop at the time of its release and has never … Read the rest