Category Archives: 1952

Stewart Granger and Eleanor Parker star in SCARAMOUCHE, directed by George Sidney for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Scaramouche (1952, George Sidney)

Scaramouche is a deliberately constructed film. I’m curious if screenwriters Ronald Millar and George Froeschel followed the source novel’s plot structure, because it’s a very peculiar series of events. It doesn’t open with the leading man, instead starting out with villain Mel Ferrer. Janet Leigh, as his love interest, gets introduced long before Eleanor Parker–who’s second-billed and leading man Stewart Granger’s love interest.

Except, of course, Ferrer and Granger are Frenchmen so the idea of them having one love interest is… against their character. But there’s also the matter of Richard Anderson, who sort of sets off the big plot–Granger’s want for vengeance–and on and on.

Director Sidney does a beautiful job focusing the viewers attention where it needs to be in each scene, but also where it’s going to need to be in the next scene. A couple huge details–maybe even three–only come up in dialogue. Scaramouche isn’t a film for the disinterested viewer.

But it’d be hard not to be enraptured with the picture. Charles Rosher’s lush color cinematography–which equally showcases the fantastic location action sequences but also the eyeshadow they’ve got on Parker–makes for a transfixing experience.

All the acting is good. Granger’s an able leading man, Ferrer’s fantastic as the villain, Parker’s outstanding in the most complicated role. In the second most complicated (the men aren’t complicated though so it’s not much), Leigh occasionally wavers but is still quite strong.

Wonderful Victor Young too.

Scaramouche is delightfully thrilling.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by George Sidney; screenplay by Ronald Millar and George Froeschel, based on the novel by Rafael Sabatini; director of photography, Charles Rosher; edited by James E. Newcom; music by Victor Young; produced by Carey Wilson; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Stewart Granger (Andre Moreau), Eleanor Parker (Lenore), Janet Leigh (Aline de Gavrillac), Mel Ferrer (Noel, Marquis de Maynes), Henry Wilcoxon (Chevalier de Chabrillaine), Nina Foch (Marie Antoinette), Richard Anderson (Philippe de Valmorin), Robert Coote (Gaston Binet) and Lewis Stone (Georges de Valmorin).


Recommended posts:

About these ads
frankenstein-1952

Frankenstein (1952, Don Medford)

For a twenty minute and change live performance, Frankenstein could be a lot worse. Director Medford occasionally will find a good shot. Mary Alice Moore (as Elizabeth) is real good at the beginning and competent, if not quite good, at the end. Medford showcases her during her best parts.

As the mad doctor John Newland isn’t particularly good. He’s got a couple okay moments, but his hysterics get tiresome fast.

Screenwriter Henry Myers both updates the novel to modernity and cuts it way down. The last act is the characters trapped in the castle with the angry monster. It’s a neat idea, but can’t be executed with this budget.

And, as the Monster, Lon Chaney Jr. He tries really hard and he’s not good.

Amusingly, the whole reason the Monster goes bad–besides Newland being a terrible scientist–is a mean little kid.

Frankenstein’s odd and nearly worth seeing.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Don Medford; teleplay by Henry Myers, based on the novel by Mary Shelley; “Tales of Tomorrow” developed by George F. Foley Jr. and Mort Abrahams; produced by Foley; aired by the American Broadcasting Company.

Starring John Newland (Victor Frankenstein), Mary Alice Moore (Elizabeth), Michael Mann (William), Raymond Bramley (Elizabeth’s Father), Peggy Allenby (Elise the maid), Farrell Pelly (Matthew the butler) and Lon Chaney Jr. (The Monster).


Related posts:

deadline-usa

Deadline – U.S.A. (1952, Richard Brooks)

Deadline – U.S.A. is about half a great movie. Director Brooks fills the film with a superb supporting cast of character actors–Paul Stewart, Audrey Christie and Jim Backus are the standouts–and lets them share the runtime with lead Humphrey Bogart. It’s a newspaper drama… is the paper going to close down? Brooks’s script complicates it with squabbles between the heirs, a gangster (Martin Gabel in the film’s only bad performance) and Bogart’s ex-wife (Kim Hunter) about to remarry.

Brooks takes about twenty-five minutes (of the film’s ninety minute runtime) to get to the gangster story. He’s established the paper’s imminent closing, the cast, then he brings in the “big story.” Bogart and Ed Begley have wonderful scenes where they try to reason out the story. Even when Brooks’s plotting goes wrong, his scenes are extraordinarily strong. But he can never make the gangster story as important as the newspaper’s staff or whether Hunter’s going to fall for Bogart’s wooing.

In a lot of ways, Deadline is a big, glorious mess of a picture. Brooks doesn’t followthrough with his initial narrative impulse–Hunter disappears for a while, to let Bogart pursue Gabel–and he plays way too loose with the time. Brooks seems to consciously avoid addressing the time.

Bogart’s fantastic–he and Ethel Barrymore (as the paper’s owner) are excellent together, as are he and Hunter. Awesome photography from Milton R. Krasner makes up for William B. Murphy’s weak editing.

Deadline‘s good, but it should be amazing.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Richard Brooks; director of photography, Milton R. Krasner; edited by William B. Murphy; music by Cyril J. Mockridge; produced by Sol C. Siegel; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Humphrey Bogart (Ed Hutcheson), Ethel Barrymore (Margaret Garrison), Kim Hunter (Nora Hutcheson), Ed Begley (Frank Allen), Warren Stevens (George Burrows), Paul Stewart (Harry Thompson), Martin Gabel (Tomas Rienzi), Joe De Santis (Herman Schmidt), Joyce Mackenzie (Katherine Garrison Geary), Audrey Christie (Mrs. Willebrandt), Fay Baker (Alice Garrison Courtney) and Jim Backus (Jim Cleary).


Related posts:

Susie the Little Blue Coupe (1952, Clyde Geronimi)

Bill Peet, who came up with the story for Susie the Little Blue Coupe and co-wrote the final script, must have thought American kids didn’t have enough depressing classic Russian literature in their lives. It’s a seriously disturbed, if fantastic, cartoon.

Susie tells the story of a happy little car named, you guessed it, Susie. Some guy buys her and she lives a happy life, or so she thinks… because it turns out the guy doesn’t do maintenance until its too late and then abandons her.

She suffers in a used car lot, then ends up in the possession of a small-time drunk. She suffers even worse in his care before the climax–a junkyard.

Director Geronimi showcases the suffering, one upping it every time.

The animation’s great, the pacing’s great, it’s just a disquieting cartoon. Geronimi and Peet introduce a lovable character only to make her suffer.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Clyde Geronimi; screenplay by Bill Peet and Don DaGradi, based on a story by Peet; animated by Bob Carlson, Ollie Johnston, Hal King and Cliff Nordberg; music by Paul J. Smith; produced by Walt Disney; released by RKO Radio Pictures.

Starring Stan Freberg (Junkyard owner); narrated by Sterling Holloway.


Related posts:

Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952, Jack Hannah)

Pluto’s Christmas Tree gets off to a somewhat rocky start; it turns out, the animators spend more time on one nut than they do on Mickey Mouse. Besides looking perpetually hung over, Mickey’s also very loosely drawn.

However, Tree soon picks up because Hannah’s direction is inspired and the animators excel on everything (except Mickey). Chip and Dale are hiding in Mickey and Pluto’s Christmas tree, annoying Pluto, but also giving the viewer a look at a Christmas tree from inside out.

Hannah creates, in six minutes or so, a truly lovely little Christmas cartoon. Besides the lovely tree interiors, there are a bunch of great gags for the chipmunks and Pluto.

Even the sappy ending works out well, maybe because Hannah ends Tree with a gag (and starts the sappy ending with one).

I remembered it immediately, once the tree interiors started; the visuals are incredibly striking, incredibly memorable.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Jack Hannah; written by Bill Berg and Milt Schaffer; animated by Volus Jones, Bill Justice, George Kreisl and Fred Moore; music by Joseph Dubin; produced by Walt Disney; released by RKO Radio Pictures.

Starring Ruth Clifford (Minnie Mouse), Pinto Colvig (Pluto / Goofy), Dessie Flynn (Dale), James MacDonald (Mickey Mouse / Chip) and Clarence Nash (Donald Duck).


Related posts:

A scene from TWO CHIPS AND A MISS, directed by Jack Hannah for RKO Radio Pictures.

Two Chips and a Miss (1952, Jack Hannah)

Two Chips and a Miss is a weak seven minutes. While some of the fault is Hannah’s direction, it’s mostly just his animators. They’re incredibly lazy when it comes to their figures. Hannah’s even lazier when it comes to filling out the cartoon.

Chip and Dale are both romancing a night club singer (a female chipmunk) and the night club is empty besides the three of them. Oh, wait, I forgot–there’s also an implied black waiter. It’s an odd, terrible touch.

The night club’s not supposed to be empty, however, and there’s background applause in the clearly empty club. Chips is just lazy.

I suppose the ending’s a little funny, with the female chipmunk’s closing gag–and wink–suggesting she just wanted to get the boys to make out.

Unfortunately, Hannah doesn’t embrace the humor in that ending, which is no surprise. Hannah rarely does anything right in Chips.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Jack Hannah; written by Nick George and Bill Berg; animated by Volus Jones, Bill Justice and George Kreisl; music by Joseph Dubin; produced by Walt Disney; released by RKO Radio Pictures.

Starring Dessie Flynn (Dale) and James MacDonald (Chip).


Related posts:

Diplomatic Courier (1952, Henry Hathaway)

Diplomatic Courier starts a lot stronger than it finishes. For the first half or so, it’s a post-war variation of a thirties Hitchcock–a lot of unexplained, strange incidents and a protagonist trying to unravel them. Then it changes gear, becoming a Hollywood attempt at The Third Man. It’s successful during the first part and it fails miserably during the second.

Part of the problem is the inexplicably fourth-billed Hildegard Knef (she easily should be second billed). I’m not sure how her performance would have been in her native German, but in English, she’s not good. Her performance, along with the endlessness of the last thirty minutes, capsizes Courier.

Tyrone Power does fine as the protagonist, though the film’s a lot more interesting when he’s out of his depth. A CID officer, played by Stephen McNally, sends him out on an espionage job he’s not qualified to undertake. When Power is out of his depth, it works (there’s a lot of that confusion during the first half); eventually he becomes the standard heroic leading man and the film’s a lot less compelling.

The supporting cast, especially Karl Malden, is decent. Patricia Neal is all right, but the material fails her. McNally makes very little impression. Plus, bit parts for Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin.

Courier breaks the rule of Chekhov’s gun. The film probably would have been a lot more exciting if it had fired.

It’d be an inoffensive time waster if it weren’t for the weak finale.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Henry Hathaway; screenplay by Casey Robinson and Liam O’Brien, based on a novel by Peter Cheyney; director of photography, Lucien Ballard; edited by James B. Clark; music by Sol Kaplan; produced by Robinson; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Tyrone Power (Mike Kells), Patricia Neal (Joan Ross), Stephen McNally (Col. Mark Cagle), Hildegard Knef (Janine Betki), Karl Malden (Sgt. Ernie Guelvada), James Millican (Sam F. Carew), Stefan Schnabel (Rasumny Platov), Herbert Berghof (Arnov) and Arthur Blake (Max Ralli).


Related posts:

Feed the Kitty (1952, Chuck Jones)

A tough bulldog adopts an adorable kitten in Feed the Kitty; a story Jones liked so much he remade it. This one, the original, manages to be charming without saccharine, maybe because of the really strange objectification of the dog’s lady owner.

She kicks up her skirt at one point, revealing her legs, and it seems highly inappropriate.

The cartoon mostly concerns the dog not being allowed new toys–or, he assumes, a new kitten–and having to hide the kitten from the owner.

All the various gags to hide the kitten are good. There’s even the sequence where the dog thinks the kitten’s been baked. Jones handles the despondence quite well.

The only weak moment is during a chase sequence when the perspective gets messed up. Otherwise, everything–story, direction, animation–is wonderful.

Kitty‘s a fine fifties visual time capsule, but it’s also an excellent bit of cartooning.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Chuck Jones; written by Michael Maltese; animated by Ken Harris, Phil Monroe, Lloyd Vaughan and Ben Washam; edited by Treg Brown; music by Carl W. Stalling; produced by Edward Selzer; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Marc Anthony / Pussyfoot) and Bea Benaderet (Marc Anthony’s Mistress).


Related posts:

magic

Magical Maestro (1952, Tex Avery)

I had read Magical Maestro was controversial and it took me quite a while, watching it, to release why it had that reputation.

There’s a montage of an irate magician turning an opera singing bulldog into various singing stereotypes. There’s a cowboy, there’s a redneck, there’s a baby… then an angry audience member squirts ink on the bulldog’s face and it’s blackface.

And at that point, I realized the earlier Chinese transformation would offend too (but that transformation is the only one where the bulldog is singing the opera as opposed to a stereotype appropriate one).

It’s a lovely little cartoon. There aren’t a lot of shots, not a lot of action, but it’s a hilarious cartoon set to good music.

The redneck caricature is probably the most shocking one. Maybe because it’s the only accurate one of them.

Regardless of any “controversy,” Tex Avery does absolutely brilliant work here.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Tex Avery; written by Rich Hogan; animated by Walt Clinton, Michael Lah and Grant Simmons; music by Scott Bradley; produced by Fred Quimby; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Daws Butler (Mysto the Magician) and Carlos Ramírez (The Great Poochini).


Related posts:

Ghost Ship (1952, Vernon Sewell)

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a horror film not interested in being scary before Ghost Ship. It seems like a strange concept, but certainly one with a lot of possibilities. Unfortunately, I’m not sure Sewell knew he was making a scary movie without a single scare. I don’t really know what he was doing. A lot of it seems comedic and playful… but those features too almost seem unintentional.

The film is a very linear account of a newly married couple–Dermot Walsh and Hazel Court, who have zero chemistry together–buying a rundown yacht, fixing it up and discovering the rumors about it being haunted are true. Sewell reveals a lot of the establishing situation in flashback and even tells the secret to the mystery in the same way.

Court is fine, but Walsh’s performance is awful. Not sure I’ve ever used wooden to describe a performance (maybe I do it all the time, I don’t remember), but Walsh is very solid teak. His only acceptable times are when it’s a montage or without dialogue.

Technically, Ghost Ship is often good–Eric Spear’s music is excellent and helps the film through its more awkward mood transitions. And Sewell is a fine enough director, perhaps a tad too emotionally distant. His script does feature a thoughtfully imagined “science” to paranormal phenomena.

The film only gets good when Hugh Burden shows up, mostly because his performance is so strong. Unfortunately, he shows up in the last twenty minutes or so.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Vernon Sewell; written by Sewell and Philip Thornton; director of photography, Stanley Grant; edited by Francis Bieber; music by Eric Spear; produced by Nat Cohen, Stuart Levy and Sewell; released by Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors.

Starring Hazel Court (Margaret Thornton), Dermot Walsh (Guy Thornton), Hugh Burden (Dr. Fawcett), John Robinson (Professor Mansel Martineau), Joss Ambler (Yacht Port Manager), Joan Carol (Mrs. Martineau), Hugh Latimer (Peter), Laidman Browne (Coroner) and Mignon O’Doherty (Mrs. Manley).