PICKS OF THE WEEK
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (B)
U.S.; Oliver Stone, 2010, 20th Century Fox
Oliver Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps returns us to one of Stone's great subjects of the 1980s: the glamour and corruption of the American financial markets. A sequel to Stone's 1987 Wall Street, this show plunges us back into the seductions and pitfalls of the casino mentality on the trading floors and the stock market, of inside guys making huge, quick profits and the dangerous games and ruinous consequences of playing with other people's money, other people's lives -- and not giving a damn about it.
And it returns us also to maybe the greatest fictional character Stone ever invented: Gordon Gekko, the brilliant, slick-as-a-whip, high-energy, amoral corporate raider with the combed-back hair, the custom made shirts and the fashion-smartie suspenders, the omnipresent half-smirk and whiplash flow of callous cracks and cynical Wall Street "wisdom" -- the man whose proud motto was "Greed is good."
As played by Michael Douglas, who won a well-deserved Oscar for the performance, Gekko was intended by Stone (and original co-writer Stanley Weiser) as the ultimate bad example: an amoral, selfish bastard who betrayed and exploited people, a graveyard dancer who bought up companies, squeezed them for all he could and then, heedless of collateral suffering, gutted and maybe destroyed them -- while soaking up all the millions he could and living a high life beyond even the TV-and-movie-stoked imaginations of most of us. Why did he wreck companies, destroy jobs and lives, and swill like a sleek hog in the profits? "Because they're wreckable," Gekko casually explained.
What a guy! He was the ultimate hedonist with the ultimate toys, and a dark, mean, but buoyant heart. And Stone and Weiser tried to make sure we'd realize what a bad guy he and what an awful example he set, by clearly showing in Wall Street (to what would seem even the slowest and densest of movie audiences), how evilly and unrepentantly Gekko damaged and hurt people, by finally exposing him, by wrecking his life and sending him to jail -- using, as the agent of his destruction, the movie's handsome juvenile lead and half-sympathetic, somewhat moral, up-from-the-working-class protagonist, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen). Bud wore a wire on Gekko to expose the bastard, and goaded him into a screaming, revealing, rip-it-open tantrum.
But, in the ultimate irony and the ultimate bad real-life joke, Gekko -- whom part of the audience at least knew was a heavy getting his well-earned come-uppance (maybe because they'd seen a lot of movies) -- became instead an ultimate role model for a generation of swine.
Sheeesh! Incredibly, dark-hearted Gekko became the fantasy best pal/mentor and patron saint, for scads of ambitious, wolfish, proudly unscrupulous young Wall Street traders and raiders -- who worshipped Gordon, had a hard-on for Gordon, wanted to be Gordon, and took "Greed is good" as their own private proud Gekko-credo.
Then these "Little Gekkos" and other money-mad speculators -- taking advantage of the horrendous and stupid deregulatory financial market policies of the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations -- proceeded to wreck what was wreckable, exploit what was exploitable, rob what was robbable, screw what was screwable, maybe even Ponzi what was Ponzable and Enron what was Enronnable, and to live high lives (some of these creeps only in their 20s and 30s) beyond the dreams of even Gordon Gekko himself -- until these rotten little high-rolling, high-five-ing parasites and their slimy congressional cohorts finally helped hurl us all into the great crash of 2008, and to what might have been the next Great Depression. (And still could be, if the FOX-GOP ever gets back in power, dives into the loot and starts another greed-crazed deregulated feeding frenzy).
Most of the Little Gekkos probably thought the great lesson of Wall Street was not "Greed is bad," but "Greed is good. Do it all pal, but watch out for those wires and don't get caught."
I guess one or two Little Gekkos may even be reading this (though I doubt many of them waste much time on movie reviews written by lefties). And, if they are, all I can say is: Take an express-train ticket to hell, buddy, because that's where you belong.
That was then. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is now.
Full disclosure. I really like most of Oliver Stone's movies. I love them even at their most outrageous and screamingly preachy and punch-in-the-gut unfair. I tend to dig them even when they're "bad" -- by pompous-critical-snob standards. Even though, like Stone, I had a Jewish father, and was not happy with Stone's recent remarks in the British media about Jewish politics -- I'm willing to forgive him a lot, even forgive him my disappointment that this Wall Street is not as savage, punchy and brainily aggressive as I'd like it to be -- that it really does seem to have been mostly written not by Stone, by its two credited screenwriters, Allan Loeb (of 21 and The Switch) and ex-critic Stephen Schiff (True Crime), rather than Stone.
I don't know why anybody would want to make an Oliver Stone movie about Wall Street and high finance that wasn't written, primarily or substantially, by Stone, an Oscar-winning screen writer whose father was a Wall Street insider -- though Writers Guild credits rules mean, I guess, that he could have written up to 50%, and still not gotten script credit. But I'll trust Google for the moment. (Loeb, by the way, worked as a stockbroker. On the other hand, he also wrote The Switch and 21.)
Anyway, business is business, art is art, and this script is certainly out of the ordinary: smart, gutsy, savvy on its subject, and far better than most of what we get from the big studios. It's not more trash for the young and horny, the Little Gekkos and their Gekkettes, and all the wanna-be Gekkos and Gekkettes. Stone's hand is there in the script, somewhere, if only as an inspiration. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps just doesn't have the rip-it-open smack and the take-no-prisoners wallop of the 1987 movie.
What it does have is perspective, mellowness, maybe a little more obvious humanity. Sometimes, that gives us a surprise or two.
When we first see the new Gekko, he's being released from prison in 2001, with all his paltry carry-in loot being stuffed in a bag and nary a friend, relative, reporter or tele-journalist, there to push a mike in his face and ask if he's learned any lessons. (I didn't buy that media freeze-out. And, in any case, I think the writers threw away a possible sharp, satiric scene to get their little Gekko-chastening "God, so alone, so alone!" moment.)
Flashing Gecko forward to the mid-2000s, before the crash, he's on the lecture circuit, peddling a book called Is Greed Good?, exposing what he used to celebrate. Did Gekko actually write it all, we wonder, or, as with most public figures and politicos who become so-called authors, from Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to Hillary Clinton, did he hire an interviewer/ghost-writer?
It's a new world, a new time, a new Gekko, new greed. The fresh villains of our day are the investment bankers, the Wall Street-is-a-casino crowd, all those guys who were handed, by George W. Bush and others, a license to steal. (And did.) In Gekko's audience is the character we've met in the meantime, this movie's equivalent for Sheen's up-and-comer Gekko acolyte Bud Fox: Shia LaBeouf as Jake Moore, a young financial stud with alternative energy principles. Jake, working on Wall Street, witnessed and lamented the crushing (which we see too) of his own father-figure/mentor Louis Zabel (Frank Langella). And, coincidentally he's dating Gekko's daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan, at her cutest and wariest), who hates her dad, won't talk to him, and is running a left-wing blog political website where she celebrates the kind of right stuff and moral attitudes the old Gekko thought were for losers.
So the hook is baited, by Loeb, Schiff, Stone or whomever. Jake hooks up with Gekko, because he wants an insider's savvy and advice, so he can go after Zabel's wrecker/assassin Bretton James (Josh Brolin, looking like a dark cloud in an Armani suit). Gekko wants Jake so he can get back to Winnie, build a bridge to his old family, be a mensch maybe. James wants Jake on his team, because like Gekko before him, he has a strange weakness for young men on the rise, a weakness maybe for seeing himself reborn in obvious movie juvenile leads.
Money Never Sleeps deepens Gekko, seemingly, and shows his more human side, which Douglas only let out in little dribbles and sips, if at all, in the first movie. (Hey, the guy liked Bud.) And it works here because of the acting and the top-chop cast. Michael Douglas is a great movie actor, and a born star. He holds the screen here and usually, in ways that most of the younger leading men, cutie-pies though most of them may be, can't. He holds it better here than even the often on-target LaBeouf, who's a kind of ace of his generation for casual, watchful underplaying and sincere realism in mostly over-the-top shows.
As for the other actors, Carey Mulligan palms her usual low-key ace, even though she has the least well-written, most sentimentalized character in the movie. Frank Langella cracks your heart on that subway platform. Eli Wallach is here as Julie Steinhardt, backing up James like another consigliere. Warren Buffett, maybe tired of his day job, shows up as local color.
And, just as Wall Street, which was shot by Robert Richardson, looked great and classically Manhattan, cold light shimmering over the skyscrapers and the deals. So does Wall Street 2, in a new world without a Trade Center, shot by Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu's ace Rodrigo Prieto.
Stone has mellowed. Gekko has mellowed. We've all mellowed. And though mellowing can be good -- though there are things about Money Never Sleeps (mostly the personal drama sections) that are better than its predecessor -- I was sorry this wasn't the gloves-off Wall Street we, or a lot of us, wanted to see.
The Night of the Hunter (A)
U.S.; Charles Laughton, 1955, Criterion Collection
Some movies take a while to reach their audiences. Take, for example, Charles Laughton's great Faulknerian film noir The Night of the Hunter.
Based on Davis Grubb's Southern Gothic novel, beautifully scripted by James Agee, spellbindingly directed by Charles Laughton, evocatively shot by cinematographer Stanley Cortez, and memorably acted by Robert Mitchum (in his best performance), and by Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, James Gleason, Evelyn Darden, Don Beddoe, Peter Graves, and the two little-known child actors Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce, it's a spellbinding tale of murder, terror and wild lyrical flight.
In this truly mesmerizing tale, we see two horrifically orphaned West Virginia kids John and Pearl Harper, desperately fleeing the honey-tongued but murderous Preacher Harry Powell (Mitchum), a black-clad, brim-hatted charlatan who has "LOVE" and "HATE" tattooed on his knuckles to help along his sermons, and who killed their mother Willa (Shelley Winters), for the money their now-executed dad (Graves) stole -- loot now hidden inside Pearl's doll.
Harry is the Hunter. The children are his prey. After their poor sad, seducible mom Willa is killed by Preacher Harry, and after Harry unsuccessfully tries to bully or cajole the fortune's hiding place from them, the children escape down the river in an open boat. And for them the world of the rural South in the Depression becomes a magical twilight land of Halloween horrors, a nocturnal cataract of rushing water, moonlit skies, ghostly trees, croaking frogs, watchful owls, pensive rabbits and evil spiders spinning their webs. As they flee, Preacher Harry follows them on horseback, far-off but omnipresent, a specter etched in silhouette against the evening sky, singing, in Mitchum's rich, lazy baritone "Leaning, leaning... Safe and secure from all alarms. Leaning, leaning... Leaning on the everlasting arms."
Are any classic noir images or sounds more scarily poetic than that flight, that drifting boat, those hands tattooed with "LOVE" and "HATE," that black-clad maniac preacher, that spider, that river, that song? "Leaning, leaning..."
Today, you couldn't navigate your way through a decent movie buff confab trying to argue that The Night of the Hunter wasn't an all-time film classic. But back in 1955, audiences rejected it, or more likely, ignored it and didn't even know what they were missing. Laughton never directed another movie. It was the last script of Agee's career. Mortality seemed to hang over the movie, like Preacher Harry's shadow. The Night of the Hunter is one of those movies that had to be rescued by television, by revival houses, by movie critics writing about how much they loved it. And it was revived and recalled to life largely because it's scary and smart as hell, a real movie buff's movie.
Laughton modeled the film's whole visual style on the silent movies of D.W. Griffith, on their lyrical pastoralism, their dramatic power and simplicity, and their stark, rich, sensuous imagery -- and that's part of the reason the heroine of the film, the children's savior Miz Cooper, is played by Griffith's Way Down East angel Lillian Gish, then close to 60, but eternally enduring, with a hymn on her lips and a rifle in her lap.
Perhaps part of that unresponsive 1955 audience subconsciously objected to the archaic (but bewitchingly beautiful) style or the idea of frail-looking Lillian outwitting a stud like Mitchum in a fight or a song -- or maybe they were uneasy at Preacher Harry's evangelical-style preachments and his frequent jocular one-sided conversations with God, his buddy, whom he obligingly informs of all his wicked chicanery and of the credulous widder women he intends to dispatch to the pearly gates, as soon as the deity refers them along.
Or maybe they were puzzled by Hunter's unusual mix of artifice and realism, of West Virginia location scenes shot by the young Terry (Time Out of War) Sanders, Grapes of Wrath-era period detail, and those proto-Griffith lyrical compositions shot on the California back lot.
Mitchum is incredible in the movie. Incredible! His performance is a nerve-jangling masterpiece spiked full of menace, macabre off-kilter sexiness and bizarre comedy. When he howls like a wounded beast or banshee chasing the young 'uns, or rustically sermonizes, or duets with Miz Cooper on "Everlasting Arms," you know you're watching an actor who has no fear, few limits and no false vanity, as well as one of the damnedest senses of humor of the whole post-Bogart '40s-'50s generation of movie hero-antihero-sometime-villains.
"Leaning (on Jesus), leaning (on Jesus)... Safe and secure from all alarms..." The backstage heroes of the movie, of course, are Laughton and Agee. Superb director, superb writer. What a shame so few initially saw their great movie, their wondrous poem of terror, family, false gods, redemption and the river. But The Night of the Hunter eventually uncovered all its treasure, and this excellent two-disc Criterion edition is the trove that proves it. (Extras: Commentary with Terry Sanders, Robert Gitt, Preston Neal Jones and my old pal F.X. Feeney; documentary with Feeney, Jones, Sanders and producer Paul Gregory; documentary Charles Laughton directs "The Night of the Hunter" with outtakes and production footage; video interview with Laughton biographer and actor Simon Callow; archival documentary with Mitchum; interview with Cortez; Ed Sullivan Show clip with the movie's stars; gallery of sketches by Davis Grubb; trailer; booklet with fine essays by Terrence Rafferty and Michael Sragow.)
William Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" (B)
U.S.-Australian: Baz Luhrmann, 1996, 20th Century Fox
Back in 1996, I carped at this Baz Luhrmann version of the greatest romantic play ever written -- with Leonardo Di Caprio a heart-felt Romeo, Claire Danes a glowing Juliet, Harold Perrineau a touching Mercutio, and John Leguizamo a snazzy, brutal Tybalt -- dismissed it as a smart-ass pseudo-Shakespearean film that drowned the matchless poetry in teen-age movie gangster chic clichés. But, after Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! knocked me out at Cannes a few years later, Kenneth Branagh's high praise for Luhrmann's Romeo convinced me to take another look.
I now think I knocked Romeo not wisely, but too well. Luhrmann's madness had method: His resetting of the play in Verona Beach, among police helicopters, nightly TV eye-witness news, gunfights and youth gangs (continuing the West Side Story -- Franco Zeffirelli "These hot days is the mad blood stirring" tradition) does make the great poetry more legible and "decoded" to a modern audience. And therefore it gets Shakespeare's poetry to new people, making the story exciting and moving and poignant all over again. Right on. Great cast too: Brian Dennehy and Christina Pickles as the Montagues, Paul Sorvino and Diane Venora as the Capulets, Pete Postlethwaite as Friar Laurence, Miriam Margolyes as The Nurse, and a smirking young Paul Rudd as Paris. (Extras: commentary by Luhrmann, co-writer Craig Pearce and others; interviews; featurette; uncut footage from the vault.
Strictly Ballroom (B)
Australia: Baz Luhrmann, 1992, Miramax/Buena Vista
Before the razzle-dazzle and virtuosity of Moulin Rouge, Before the Shakespearean hip modernism of William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, Baz Luhrmann sparkled on a smaller stage in the sleeper hit Strictly Ballroom, a nifty, much lower-budgeted, but still flashy and imaginative look at a smalltime Australian dance contest and the couple (Paul Mercutio and Tara Morice) who break the rules, fashion some new steps and set the show on its ear. (Their signature tune: Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time.") They're no Fred and Ginger. But then, nobody is. (Extras: commentary; documentary with Luhrmann; featurette; deleted scene; design gallery.)
OTHER NEW AND RECENT RELEASES
U.S.; Phillip Noyce, 2010, Sony
Salt has its moments. But it's mostly another pillar of fancy big-movie trash, preposterously plotted and scripted. The show, which stars Angelina Jolie as a seemingly rogue CIA agent on the run, pretty much lost me from the start, even if it's done with some flash and dash and style. Through good spots or bad, it's enlivened by long stretches of slick-as-an-Aston Martin action movie expertise from a killer filmmaking crew, and graced with a really fine cast (including top pros like Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor and the great Polish actor Daniel Olbrychski), capped by star Jolie's deadly charms, lithe torso and witchy-eyed glare.
Now, lithe torsos and snazzy action scenes can cover a multitude of filmmaking sins -- especially if the action, if not the torsos, are coordinated, as they are here, by a legendary second unit director and stunt expert like Simon Crane. Still, when we got to the end, and I saw that Phillip Noyce had directed this show, and that Brian Helgeland was one of the co-writers, I could barely believe my eyes. Could Noyce (Dead Calm, and The Quiet American) and Helgeland (the scripter of L. A. Confidential and Mystic River) really have gotten though this script without fits of wild laughter?
What about the scenes where Salt offs multiple opponents in a Brooklyn water treatment center, or keeps leaping from one truck or car roof to another, on a packed expressway, while agents Winter (Schreiber) and Peabody (Ejiofor) watch, with nary a shake of the head or a mutter of "Sheee-it!"
The idea here was apparently to do a female James Bond thriller. (They might have been better off trying for a female Bourne Identity.) But the movie lacks the better Bond movies' essential quality, that tongue-in-cheek approach -- even though that kind of Richard Maibaum urbanity and lightness might have really worked here in a show where almost every scene is more outlandish than the one before it.
Schreiber, to give him credit, does sport some bemused expressions. And Jolie does her best, playing Evelyn Salt, sexy rogue CIA agent, who's fingered as a sleeper spy by a melancholy Russian defector named Orlov (Olbrychski), and who promptly escapes CIA headquarters, and goes on a one-woman rampage, followed closely by ex-buddy Winter and the sternly suspicious Peabody (who remains suspicious of Salt even though Orlov escapes too, killing two agents). Her agenda seems to involve protecting her husband, taking part somehow in two potential presidential wipe-outs (one Russian, one American), the snookering of two huge secret service agencies, protracted car chases on a N. Y. expressway, gunfights against dozens of cops and agents, the reactivation of hidden cadres of "sleeper" Russian secret agents all over the U.S. (despite the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed decades ago) and the possible triggering of World War III.
Talk about multi-tasking. After a while, it all begins to seem like one of those vast, interconnected fiendish plots Glenn Beck keeps breathlessly describing with his handy-dandy blackboard on Fox News, while rolling his eyes, giggling flirtatiously, babbling mournfully about the Founding Fathers, and breaking into one of his absurd dry-eyed crying jags. If Joe McCarthy, Beck's spiritual grandpa, once seemed to be finding Communists under every bed in the black list era, Beck's boyish mugging suggests that he's worried that the Commies are actually trying to get into his bed and under the bed sheets with him, while starting a weenie-roast with the Constitution.
I can't say that a lot of this isn't entertaining. And Jolie has a simmering presence that works well in action thrillers. But the problem here isn't so much with the gunfights and chases, as with the dramatic "breather" scenes between. If Salt had five or six more dramatic scenes as good as the interrogation scene with Daniel Olbrychski -- and, here, they have the cast that could have done them -- they might have saved millions on action and special effects, and Jolie or whomever wouldn't have had to keep leaping from truck to truck, to keep our attention. Also, I bet the audience would have liked it more. (Extras: filmmaker commentary; featurettes.)
Easy A (C+)
U.S.: Will Gluck, 2010, Sony
Emma Stone, the star of Easy A has the kind of sharp camera sense, acting smarts, knowing eye action, and willowy bod that make her a camera magnet, plus a brainy delivery that belies much of her material. I'm afraid, for me, it belied Easy A too -- which is a high school variation on Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter that seems to be obsessed with being both Clueless (a high school variation on Jane Austen's Emma) and Juno (a high school Catcher in the Rye-ish show with a pregnant Holden Caulfield).
The plot is obvious, but a little goofy. Stone plays Olive, a virginal but tart-mouthed teen at East Ojai High, who accidentally gets overheard in the john by the school Bible-thumping bitch Marianne (Amanda Byrnes), while Olive tells her best friend a juicy lie about her sex life. For reasons never very clear or very plausible to me, Olive decides then to keep up the pretense of being a slut (though she has the rep and the notoriety anyway), and soon she's peddling lucrative fibs about putting out, lies paid for by a lot of virginal local boys, including one gay guy and a lot of dweebs, the ones who also want a rep for what they're not doing.
This bizarre pretense reaches its first climax, sort of, at a party where Emma and a client pretend to be doing it, moaning, carrying on and jumping on the springs in a bedroom, with a lot of the rest of the party-goers, ears pressed to the door, kibitzing on the other side. Sure.
Soon, Olive has plastered a big red "A" on her top and the sham is reaching epic proportions. Pulled into the fray are Olive's favorite teacher and his hot-pants guidance counselor wife (Thomas Haden Church and Lisa Kudrow, both tantalizing but wasted), the smirking principal (Malcolm McDowell, t. but w. too), the school team Woodchuck mascot (t. but w.c.) and everybody else within a cell phone of the rumors.
Puzzlingly unconcerned are Olive's unsquare parents, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson (t. but w. most of all), though it's explained that Olive's mom led a wild life.
Actually, very little of Easy A made any sense to me at all. (It has great titles though.) Most of the cast, tantalizing or not, seemed wasted, or at least too cutesy. (We except the wonderful Ms. Stone.) The dialogue was all smarty-pants rib-nudging stuff. The sexy plot twists seemed to me inexplicable. At that high school party, for example, I would have guessed that the people on the other side of the door would have busted it open and piled on the bed, and not just because I've been brainwashed by Judd Apatow.
Furthermore, why is everybody keeping did-she-or-didn't-she secrets like this -- especially high school guys, who, no matter how much money they've shelled out, usually can't keep secrets about sex at all? Why does Olive make her best friend her enemy and vice versa? Is East Ojai High really this sexually retarded? Why didn't Church and Kudrow and Tucci and Clarkson just forget all this, find another script and break out a bottle of pinot noir with Paul Giamatti and Emma? Cheers!
Bert V. Royal's script reminded me uncomfortably of all those '60s Doris Day-Rock Hudson, Norman Krasna/Stanley Shapiro sort of gelded sex comedy scripts, those phony-promiscuous shows where people were supposed to be screwing but weren't, or the gal was supposed to be doing it but wasn't, or the guy was supposed to be gay but wasn't, and nothing was really going on, but the supporting actors, or at least Tony Randall and Paul Lynde, were constantly leering over everything.
I accept the fact that I just don't understand the younger generation, or at least this version of it. (Or the older generation too, apparently. Or sex. Or woodchucks.) And though I never laughed once at Easy A, a lot of people around me were chuckling, tittering, having a ball. Aw, they were easy. (Extras: commentary by Gluck and Stone; featurettes; gag reel; audition tape.)
The Disappearance of Alice Creed (C)
U.K.; J Blakeson, 2009, Anchor Bay
Minimalist suspense. Two kidnappers (Eddie Marsan and Martin Compson), wearing masks, abduct heiress Alice (Gemma Arterton) and tie her onto a bed in a windowless room, demanding ransom from her dad. All is not what it seems, and director J Blakeson's dialogue is Pinteresque. This is sort of like Ransom or No Orchids for Miss Blandish redone as No Exit, with faint whiffs of Saw. Marsan, as always, is very good. You could do worse. Then again, you could do much better. (Extras: commentary with Blakeson; deleted and extended scenes; storyboard featurette; outtakes.)
Escape From Zahrain (D+)
U.S.: Ronald Neame, 1962, Olive
This is what used to pass for an intelligent Middle Eastern-set thriller. Yul Brynner is the escaped nationalist Arab leader, on the run in a prison van across the desert. Sal Mineo is a young revolutionary idealist/commando. Jack Warden is a cynical opportunistic American along for the ride. Madlyn Rhue is one of those beautiful nurses who always show up, no matter where you are. Anthony Caruso is a psychopath who may possibly find redemption. James Mason, trapped in a cameo, may have been hoodwinked into thinking this was a Desert Fox reunion. At one point, the van rolls over.
Ten years later, Escape director Ronald Neame went on to make The Poseidon Adventure, a mega-hit thriller about a passenger ship that turns upside down in the ocean. I'm sure his experience here, up-side-down or not, served him well.
U.S.: Henry Hathaway, 1941, TCM/Westchester Films Inc.
From sometime action and true noir master Hathaway: a sort of minor league Four Feathers-ish adventure set somewhere in East Africa, in which Nazis lurk, natives revolt, Bruce Cabot tries to become another John Wayne, George Sanders and Reginald Gardiner go all noble and British on us, Harry Carey Sr. is a great white hunter, Joseph Calleia gets conned, Dorothy Dandridge vanishes almost before you know she's there, and Gene Tierney plays Zia, the exotic and perhaps duplicitous trader-princess. Mis-written by Barre Lyndon, this is very rare and sort of fun, in a sort of crazy way.
Bachelor Mother (B)
U.S.: Garson Kanin, 1938, Warner Archive
Master screenwriter Garson (Born Yesterday) Kanin, during his brief Hollywood directorial prime (seven films, some classic, from 1939 to 1941) here helms the usual Norman Krasna double entendre script: a romantic comedy with lots of innuendos. Target of most of those innuendos: Ginger Rogers as a sexy but sweet department store shop girl, discharged after Christmas season service, who gets accidentally saddled with an abandoned baby, and discovers she can keep a job if she weathers lewd speculation and keeps playing Mama.
David Niven is the usual handsome wealthy store-owner's-son beau, Charles Coburn is Niven's crusty but benevolent dad, and Frank Albertson, later the lech who hits on Janet Leigh in Psycho, here plays (very well) another lech, hitting on Ginger. This movie, well-made but unsurprising, later remade as the Debbie Reynolds-Eddie Fisher comedy Bundle of Joy, is regarded by some as a Golden Age classic, but it's a bit overrated. It has some charm and humor though, and Ginger even jitterbugs! Available on demand at warnerarchive.com or wbshop.com.