Thursday, April 12, 2018
Movie for the Evening: Stagecoach 1939
“Stagecoach” is a big movie that exploits the basic elements of a Western, refined to art, as a backdrop to the larger story the celebrated director, John Ford, had to tell. This snapshot of the American political scene in that year is delivered in two lines by the bank executive embezzler Ellsworth Henry Gatewood (the bank is Wells Fargo), played by Burton Churchill.
Gatewood hypocrisies are delivered in blowhard pronouncements through the stagecoach’s perilous trip to Lordsburg, New Mexico, during a Geronimo lead Indian uprising. His disdain for the tragic harlot, Dallas, played by Claire Travor, and his hatred for once incarcerated Ringo, played by John Wayne, is the setup for the social dynamics of the trip and highlights the false character portrait of a “pillar of the community”.
To make off with the bank’s $50k, a princely sum in the 1860’s, to escape a domineering wife and the small town of Tonto in the Arizona territory, he cuts the telegraph wires and boards the stagecoach with his satchel of loot. His plan requires a fast trip to Lordsburg which is thwarted by the events that follow. By the time he gets to lordsburg word of his theft has caught up with him.
The two lines, apocryphal today, were that the federal government is ruining the country by running up the national debt (he complains it is an inexcusable 100 million dollars annually-today, almost 80 years later it is over 1 trillion annually) and that the government should have a businessman as a president.
The director of “The Grapes of Wrath” makes his predictions of 21st century America in a movie genre considered by many to be simply pure entertainment.
Saturday, March 31, 2018
Movie for the Evening: Feature
The movie “Crossfire” is a film noir featuring Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Ryan (the three Roberts) explores the dynamics at work in the period in America just after World War II. At the heart of this “who done it” is an examination of what can cause racial hatred and how it can become homicide.
Robert Ryan is a high strung returning soldier looking for a target for his confusion after all the scores had been settled with the “official” enemies of his life. The psychological aspect of this confusion is at the heart of the film.
During a night out, and about to be decommissioned, Montgomery (Ryan’s character) attempts to bend the ear of Samuels (played by Sam Levene) but is brushed aside as Samuels befriends Michell (played by George Cooper) instead. This stimulates Montgomery’s anti-Semitic hatred that explodes at Samuels’ apartment where Montgomery barges in uninvited.
One murder follows another and the beast of hatred will only be satiated by Montgomery being gunned downed like a dog.
There is an appearance by Gloria Grahame as Ginny, a street wise dancer for hire at a local club. A favorite in any film.
This is an unusual film that deals with an uncomfortable subject, the intelligent direction by Edward Dmytryk makes it all work.
Friday, March 23, 2018
Movie for the Evening: Feature
“Hector and the Search for Happiness”
The eternal search for happiness, the theme of this film, takes the main character Hector, played by Simon Pegg, to locations around the world. His (mis)adventures illustrates how very difficult it is to pin down happiness. Is it the age we live in, with things handed to us by wires or wirelessly? Is it the condition of life that takes in the same measure it gives? Are we spoiled or are we after an illusion?
Hector is played with enthusiasm by Pegg but the use of exotic locations and unlikely turn of events underlines the essential emptiness of the premise.
A paid prostitute in Hong Kong is lovable and seems real at heart yet turns out to be playing a role under the control of her pimp. A drug dealer is manic/depressive and jumps on Hector at one moment and encourages his quest for true happiness at the next.
All of this leads to a confrontation with Hector’s love from the past who gives him the courage to embrace what he has, enthusiastically. The “Alchemist” comes to the same conclusion; what you are searching for is in your backyard.
The well trodden ground leaves the viewer with no new insights. Was the trip worth it? Yes and no. There is a lot to like about this playful film and the locations gives the viewer a sense of the big world beyond our own fences. But by now there should be a better conclusion as to what is happiness for us living in the Western World from a film with a philosophical theme or has the age of Enlightenment passed us by, gone forever?