Friday, May 14, 2010

All I Desire(1953)

All I Desire (1953). Drama. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck as an actress who returns to visit her husband and children after having run off with another man years before. It is based on the novel Stopover by Carol Ryrie Brink.

The story begins in 1910, aging actress Naomi Murdoch receives a letter from her daughter Lily. Ten years earlier, Naomi had created a scandal by leaving her teacher husband Henry and their children. Even though it means continuing to lie to the family that she is a famous Shakespearean actress. Naomi decides to return to Wyoming, and uses her entire savings for a makeover. At the same time that Naomi's train pulls up at the town station, Lily is wishing that her mother will arrive in time to see her star in the school play and Henry is being named the new superintendent of schools. Naomi shows up during dinner, shocking everyone, until Lily and the housekeeper welcome her. Henry and Joyce, are not sure about Naomi's visit. Naomi is surprised to find herself thrilled at how little the house has changed, but is heartbroken when Joyce lets her know that she does not consider Naomi family and wants her to leave. Soon after, Henry and Naomi argue over the reasons of her leaving, and she promises him that she will not embarrass him. Will the family ever forgive Naomi and welcome her with open arms?

All I Desire, is one of the movie selections from, Barbara Stanwyck new DVD collection. This film reminded me of the Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, with the similar storyline about small town America. The story also has a similarity with the movie Clash by Night, made one year earlier, where Stanywck stars in a similar part.

Richard Carlson (April 29, 1912 - November 25, 1977). His first film role was in, The Young in Heart(1938). in the beginning he appeared mostly in comedies and dramas, including The Little Foxes and Too Many Girls (1940).

In 1948, Carlson was cast in two film noirs: Behind Locked Doors and The Amazing Mr. X. His movie career made a turn around in 1950, when he co-starred with Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger in, King Solomon's Mines. Other films followed, including the World War II naval action film, Flat Top. He then moved on to science fiction and horror B films: The Maze (1953), It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Magnetic Monster. His success in the genre led him to the director's chair for the 1954 sci-fi film Riders to the Stars, in which he also starred.

In addition to writing and directing film and television projects, Carlson was also performed in the television series, I Led Three Lives from 1953 to 1956. He was featured in The Helen Morgan Story (1957). His last film was, Change of Habit (1969). In the 1958-1959 television season, Carlson portrayed Colonel Ranald Mackenzie in the syndicated western series Mackenzie's Raiders. His last acting role was in a 1973 episode of CBS's Cannon detective series starring William Conrad.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray(1945)

The Picture of Dorian Gray(1945). Horror/drama, film based on the 1891 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, his only novel. Director: Albert Lewin. Cast: George Sanders and Hurd Hatfield. The film was mainly shot in black-and-white, but featured two 3-strip Technicolor inserts of Dorian's portrait for effect (one of his portrait's original state, and the second after a major period of degeneracy).

I thought I had seen the film Dorian Gray, until I saw the picture begin to change.. The story begins with, Dorian Gray, half wishing to remain young for eternity, unknowingly sells his soul so that a portrait will age instead of him. The wish, made in the presence of an ancient Egyptian Cat statuette of the goddess Bast, comes true.

Over the next eighteen years, Dorian lives a life of sin, influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton. Who reminds you of the saying... "with friends like him...who needs enemies?" His sins include: ruining his romance with vaudeville singer Sibyl Vane. Later, he murders Basil Hallward, after he sees the horrible state of his portrait, and then blackmailing an old friend to dispose of Basil's body, frequenting opium dens and defiling Basil's young niece Gladys. He keeps his picture locked in a high room in his London house. As an evil reminder to which he has given his life. Will he ever turn his life around or continue down his evil path?

I thought Hurd Hatfield's performance, was very interesting, in that he wears the same expression throughout the film, to conceal his emotions.

Fun Fact:

Albright's painting of Dorian Gray, used in the film was painted on commission during the making of the film in 1943-1944 by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, an American artist who was well-known as a painter of the macabre. Created specifically for use in the film, it is now part of the art collection of The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only published novel by Oscar Wilde, appearing as the lead story in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine on 20 June 1890, printed as the July 1890 issue of this magazine. Wilde later revised this edition, making several alterations, and adding new chapters; the amended version was published by Ward, Lock, and Company in April 1891. The story is often mistitled The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

George Sanders (3 July 1906 – 25 April 1972). His smooth, English accent and British manner put him in demand for American films. He played many supporting roles in the films such as, Rebecca and Rage in Heaven. He was also the lead in the films: The Falcon and The Saint film series. In 1942 Sanders handed off the Falcon role to his brother Tom, in The Falcon's Brother. The only other film in which the two brothers performed together was, Death of a Scoundrel (1956).

Sanders played Lord Henry Wotton, in the film, The Picture of Dorian Gray(1945). In 1947 he co-starred with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison in, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. That same year he gave one of his bet known performances, The Private Affairs of Bel Ami. He and also performed biblical epic, Samson and Delilah (1949).

In 1950 Sanders drew his most popular role in the film, All About Eve, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He then starred in the film, Ivanhoe(1952). His career spanned over 40 years.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Out of Africa (1985).

Out of Africa (1985). The story based on the autobiographical book Out of Africa written by Isak Dinesen (the pseudonym of the author Karen Blixen), which was published in 1937, Dinesen's book Shadows on the Grass. This film received 28 film awards, including seven Academy Awards. The book is from the 1914 to 1931, the story is about the European settlers and the native people of Kenya. The setting spans from Mombasa up to Nairobi and from Mount Kenya to Kilimanjaro.

Directed by Sydney Pollack. Cast: Meryl Streep as the Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke; Robert Redford as Denys Finch Hatton; and Klaus Maria Brandauer(as Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke).

The film opens as an older Karen Blixen is remembering back to a hunting expedition in Denmark, when she lived in Africa. Denys Finch Hatton, a big-game hunter whom she met when she first arrived in Africa. She was looking forward to helping her new husband Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke, start a dairy farm. Things do not go as she planned, Baron used her money to buy a coffee plantation. She struggles to maintain a coffee farm on her own, through all her struggles and many disasters, she wants to improve relations with the natives. Karen does fall in love with the the Baron over time and is heartbroken when she learns of his extramarital affairs. Karen contracts syphilis from her husband, which at the time was a very dangerous disease. She returned to Denmark for a cure using experimental medicine Salvarsan. This was before the discovery of penicillin. After she recovers she returns to Africa, a relationship between her and Denys begins to develop. She soon realizes that Denys can not settle down. She decides to open a school to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, and also some European customs to the natives.

What a very emotional movie. With the breathtaking cinematography and the beautiful musical score, makes the movie worth viewing, especially, when Denys Finch Hatton, gives Karen Blixen her first airplane ride.


Audrey Hepburn was originally offered the role of Karen.

The film was shot on location in Africa, but local laws prohibited the use of wild animals in film. Trained lions were imported from California.

The story was originally planned as a project for Greta Garbo. At various times, Orson Welles, David Lean and Nicolas Roeg had tried to make a film about Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen).

Meryl Streep developed her accent by listening to actual recordings of Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) reading her works.

The pilot in the scene where the flamingos take flight was Sir Henry Dalrymple-White, a British Baronet and former WW2 pilot who moved in Kenya in the 1940s. He flew until he was 80.

During filming In one scene, Karen Blixen, travels across dangerous terrain to bring supply wagons to her husband's regiment. During the night, a lion attacks one of the oxen and Karen tries to fight it off with a whip. Streep was assured that the lion would be tethered by one of its back legs so he couldn't get too close. When the scene was shot, the lion had no restraint. The lion got closer than Streep anticipated; the fear on her face is real.

Isak Dinesen and Karen Blixen, lived in East Africa for twenty years making a living on their coffee plantation. Out of Africa, is a memoir of her life on the plantation and the people. The way Blixen writes you become swept up in the words and imagery. It is obvilious that Blixen loved Africa.