Category Archives: 1950s

I Confess

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock Written by George Tabori
William Archibald
Paul Anthelme (Play)
Starring Montgomery Clift
Anne Baxter
Karl Malden
Brian Aherne
O. E. Hasse
Roger Dann
Dolly Haas
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Robert Burks
Editing by Rudi Fehr
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date March 22, 1953
Running time 95 minutes
Country United States
Language English

This is a Hitchcock movie where he once again revisits one of his favourite themes of someone being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. It is a theme that he would also look at again in The Wrong Man a few years later. The difference here is that the accused knows who the murderer is but cannot tell the police. The reason for this is that the accused is a priest and the murderer told him about what happened during confession. The murderer ends up framing Father Logan in order to save his own neck, while Father Logan cannot say anything in his own defence. It’s an interesting concept and the film is quite entertaining.

There is also a documentary about the film on the DVD and as usual it features Peter Bogdanovich. I know he’s a well-known director and some of his movies are pretty good, but does he do anything these days other than appearing in documentaries about Hitchcock? He seems to be in every one that I have seen. It’s also the same with when you are watching a documentary on an old horror or sci-fi movie and you hear from Bob Burns, isn’t there anyone else?

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Living It Up

Directed by Norman Taurog
Produced by Paul Jones
Written by Ben Hecht & Jack Rose
Starring Dean Martin
Jerry Lewis
Janet Leigh
Edward Arnold
Music by Walter Scharf
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date July 23, 1954
Running time 100 min.
Country  United States
Language English

This is another Martin & Lewis comedy from the mid-50s and while it has a few good gags I don’t think it was the teams best effort. Part of the problem was Jerry, who acts like he is about seven years old throughout the film. There is no empathy for him at all and he just does stupid stuff for the sake of doing stupid stuff.

This was made not long before the relationship between Dean & Jerry started hitting the rocks. I wonder if this film could be a reason, as Lewis did want to start taking more control of what he did while Dean only seemed to care about getting a paycheck.


Pardners

Directed by Norman Taurog
Produced by Paul Jones
Written by Mervin Houser & Jerry Davis
Starring Dean Martin
Jerry Lewis
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date July 25, 1956
Running time 91 minutes
Language English
This is the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis film where they play cowboys. I think this is one of the better Martin & Lewis comedies, perhaps because Jerry isn’t as annoying in this as he is in many of his other films (he is still annoying though!). This was of course a staple of Sunday afternoon TV back when I was a kid in the 80s thanks to Bill Collins, but I haven’t seen it for a long time.

Even though some of the songs are kinda annoying it is still a good way to waste 90 minutes.

This is the film where Dean and Jerry break the 4th wall at the end to reassure their fans that they were going to make films together for many more years. Things didn’t pan out that way of course as they would only make one more film together, Hollywood or Bust. By this time they were fighting and I guess that the public must have known about it, which is why they tried to reassure them. I do know that during Hollywood or Bust they weren’t on speaking terms.


The Girl Can’t Help It

Directed by Frank Tashlin
Produced by Frank Tashlin
Written by Frank Tashlin & Herbert Baker
Starring Tom Ewell
Jayne Mansfield
Edmond O’Brien
Music by Bobby Troup
Cinematography Leon Shamroy
Editing by James B. Clark
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date December 1, 1956
Running time 99 min
Country United States
Language English

The Girl Can’t Help It is an interesting film for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was one of the first rock ‘n’ roll movies and featured performances by Little Richard, Gene Vincent and others. In fact this film was the inspiration for a couple of Liverpool lads to get decide to become rock stars too. Apparently some guy named John Lennon was obsessed with the film and seeing all of his heroes on the big screen, while another guy, Paul McCartney impressed Lennon with his impression of Eddie Cochran’s performance of Twenty Flight Rock  from this movie. They started their own band which later became known as the Beatles or something. You may have heard of them.

The film was directed by Frank Tashlin, who as I have previously said started off directing cartoons for Warner Bros. He brings a few cartoony gag including one that I found quite funny and was a little rude. I am talking about the scene where Jayne Mansfield walks past the milkman and the lids of the milk bottles pop off and the milk starts coming out.

The film’s star is Jayne Mansfield who really was nothing more than a Marilyn Monroe wannabe. This may seem a bit harsh but it looks as though she was told in this film to act as much like Marilyn as possible, as that is all she does. Mansfield was not really known for her acting ability but for something else, as Sophia Loren can see in the picture here. Let’s just say that her bosoms were bigger than her talent. Later in her career Mansfield became more well-known for her wardrobe malfunctions than any of the movies that she made. She later appeared in a film called Promises! Promises! where she became the first mainstream film star since the early 30s to appear on film in the nude, thanks to the demise of the Hays Code. Jayne’s daughter is Mariska Hargitay, who plays Olivia Benson on Law & Order SVU. You can certainly see the resemblance between the two, especially in the facial features.

As for the film, it is funny and entertaining and the music is great but it is a bit dated.


Gay Purr-ee

Directed by Abe Levitow
Produced by Henry G. Saperstein & Lee Orgel
Written by Joan Janis & Chuck Jones
Starring Judy Garland
Robert Goulet
Mel Blanc
Music by Harold Arlen & E.Y. “Yip” Harburg
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date October 24, 1962 (USA)
Running time 85 mins.
Language English

This is a film that I have wanted to see for a very long time. It was made by the famed UPA cartoons studio, which modernised animation in the 1950s and usurped Disney’s position as the industries leading light. They also took home several Oscars in that decade and created Mr Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing (with Dr Seuss), but by this films release in 1962 their light had well and truly faded. The studios guiding light, John Hubley had left in the 50s and by 1959 UPA had lost their theatrical distribution contract with Columbia.

This film was also also responsible for Chuck Jones being fired by Warner Bros. Jones had moonlighted for UPA in writing this film, which Warner’s did not appreciate as they had an exclusivity contract with him. Even though Jones is only credited as writing this film some of the character designs, particularly that of Mewsette, look as though they are his style. Many of his team of animators from Warner Bros. were also involved in this project.

There is a bit of other star power in this film. Three decades before it became trendy for major Hollywood stars to do the voices in animated films Judy Garland did the voice of Mewsette. Robert Goulet and Red Buttons play the other leading characters Juane Tom and Robespierre while Paul Frees who was no stranger to voicing animated characters, played the part of Meowrice. The songs in the film which are quite catchy were written by the team of Arlen and Harburg who a couple of decades earlier wrote the songs for another Judy Garland vehicle, The Wizard Of Oz.

The film is quite entertaining but not quite as good as the fare that Disney was making at that time. There is a bit of the UPA pretensions that they were making art rather than making a cartoon, but these are actually enjoyable. The backgrounds are really nice to look at and the little lecture on the different artists from the turn of last century was kind of cool too.


Reach For The Sky

Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Produced by Daniel M. Angel
Written by Paul Brickhill, Lewis Gilbert & Vernon Harris
Starring Kenneth More
Muriel Pavlow
Lyndon Brook
Lee Patterson
Alexander Knox
Music by John Addison
Cinematography Jack Asher
Distributed by Rank
Release date United Kingdom 10 July 1956 (London)
United States 30 April 1957 (NYC)
Running time 136 Minutes

Reach For The Sky is the inspirational true story of Flight Commander Douglas Bader, who despite losing both his legs in a flying accident was able to become a hero of the Battle Of Britain, and then spent four years as a German prisoner of war.

Once upon a time this film, which was the most popular British film of 1956, would have always been shown on Australian TV. I remember seeing it many times on a Sunday afternoon, but it would be over 25 years since I can remember it last being on TV. (Perhaps ABC2 shows it nowadays late at night?!) Fortunately it has been recently released onto DVD by Magna Pacific, through their connection with Britain’s Granada International. It forms a part of their Silver Screen Collection, and is one part of a 3 DVD set, with The Heroes Of Telemark (starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris) and Malta Story.

I found rewatching Reach For The Sky to be a good experience. It is a very British film and I found Kenneth More’s portrayal of Bader to be a little clichéd, with all of the stiff upper lipped fighting spirit and courage that he showed. The crash that crippled Bader is well staged as are the WWII battle scenes, even if they do use some original and stock footage. Overall the film is a  very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.


The Thing From Another World

Directed by Howard Hawks (uncredited)
Christian Nyby
Written by Novella:
John W. Campbell, Jr.
Screenplay:
Charles Lederer
Uncredited:
Howard Hawks
Ben Hecht
Starring Margaret Sheridan
Kenneth Tobey
Douglas Spencer
Robert O. Cornthwaite
James R. Young
Dewey Martin
Robert Nichols
William Self
Eduard Franz
Sally Creighton
James Arness
John Dierkes
George Fenneman
Paul Frees
Everett Glass
David McMahon
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Russell Harlan, ASC
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date April 29, 1951
Running time 87 min.
Edited version:
81 min.

Watch the skies

The Thing From Another World is often hailed as the first great sci-fi/horror film but I’m not so sure. I guess that it is the film that kicked off the 1950s sci-fi cycle of films and admit that the sci-fi elements of the film have the potential to be great, but I was very disappointed at the horror element of the film.

For those who don’t know the story, a UFO crashes to Earth near the North Pole and is found by scientists and airforce officials. Whilst the spaceship is destroyed thanks to the ineptitude of the airforce personnel, they do find an alien encased in the ice. They take the alien back to their base still in the ice, but his icy tomb is melted and he is alive. Soon it is discovered that he is plant-based and bullets don’t harm him, and that he needs blood to survive and to reproduce.

The reason why I find the horror elements of the film to be disappointing is that despite the potential for tension, no one in the film seems to be scared of the alien. Sure they say that they are frightened, yet the audience cannot see that. Despite knowing that they cannot kill the monster with bullets and that it eats humans, the airforce people decide to confront it armed only with guns, while in another scene with the alien on the loose one of the airforce people jokes with his girlfriend, who also just happened to be posted to the area. Why should I be afraid of their fate if they aren’t?

I suppose that I feel frustrated that the film has so much potential but didn’t capitalise on it in its entirety. Despite this lack of tension the film is still entertaining if talky and I enjoyed watching it a lot.