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Scarface

Scarface (1932 film)

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Directed by Howard HawksRichard Rosson
Produced by Howard Hughes
Written by
Scarface by Armitage Trail
Screenplay by Ben Hecht
Starring Paul Muni
George Raft
Ann Dvorak
Karen Morley
Boris Karloff
Cinematography Lee Garmes &  L.W. O’Connell
Editing by Edward Curtiss
Distributed by United Artists
Release date April 9, 1932
Running time 93 minutes
Country United States
Language English & Italian

Firstly this is the original Scarface – AKA Scarface Shame of a Nation, not the 1983 version featuring Al Pacino. This is the 1932 version featuring Paul Muni and George Raft and directed by Howard Hawks. It is probably one of the most celebrated gangster films of the 1930s, with Paul Muni giving a great, charismatic performance as the ambitious villain Tony Camonte. His performance is perhaps the equal of James Cagney’s in Public Enemy or Edward G Robinson in Little Caesar, although he seems to be rather forgotten today. One criticism of the picture I have is that I do think that Boris Karloff was horribly miscast as the rival gangster Gaffney. It is very hard to believe that someone with a proper English gentleman’s voice (and what a voice) would be a hard-nosed gangster from Chicago.

This was a very controversial film in its time, with the censors demanding lots of cuts and even am alternative ending because it was felt that this movie glorified the life of gangsters. Fortunately the film was being financed by the richest man on Earth at that time, Howard Hughes, and he was able to make these changes to the picture, although when the censors still would not pass the movie he just released the original version in states that had very relaxed censorship regulations.

There were also several accidents on set with Gaylord Lloyd, brother of silent screen comedian Harold Lloyd, losing an eye after being shot by live ammunition!!!

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The Valley Of Gwangi

Directed by Jim O’Connolly
Produced by Charles H. Schneer & Ray Harryhausen
Starring James Franciscus
Gila Golan
Richard Carlson
Laurence Naismith
Freda Jackson
Gustavo Rojo
Music by Jerome Moross
Cinematography Erwin Hillier
Editing by Henry Richardson & Selwyn Petterson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date September 3, 1969
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

You would think that any movie that combines cowboys with dinosaurs would be the best film ever made, but that is not the case with Valley Of Gwangi. This is not to say that it is a bad movie, it just doesn’t live up to the potential of the premise of the film. It takes 45 minutes until Gwangi, an Allosaurus (not a T-rex), appears.

Despite all this the film is still pretty good. It is impossible to dislike anything that features the stop-motion magic of Ray Harryhausen, although he is not at the top of his game here. Some of the animation is a bit jerky and not as smooth as it should be, for example with the flight of the Pteradactyl or in the scenes where Gwangi battles the elephant. Despite this the film is still enjoyable.


Freaks

Directed by Tod Browning
Produced by Tod Browning
Written by Tod Robbins
Starring Wallace Ford
Leila Hyams
Olga Baclanova
Henry Victor
Harry Earles
Cinematography Merritt B. Gerstad
Editing by Basil Wrangell
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date February 20, 1932
Running time Original cut 90 min.
Released cut 64 min.
Country United States
Language English

“We accept her! We accept her! One of us! One of us! Gooble gobble, gooble gobble!”

Freaks is an interesting film that perhaps doesn’t deserve its notoriety. It’s not particularly scary or very well acted. The movie was banned in Britain (and Australia too I guess) for thirty years but it’s not that bad. There is a twist in the film in that the true monsters of the picture are not the Freaks themselves, but the supposedly normally looking aerialist and strongman who try to exploit one of the Freaks for their own profit. Perhaps the film works better as a satirical piece than as a horror film. It’s worth a look but I don’t think it deserves to be held as the 15th sacriest film of all-time. It is a film of its time though.


Ride ‘Em Cowboy

Directed by Arthur Lubin
Produced by Alex Gottlieb
Written by True Boardman & John Grant
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Dick Foran
Anne Gwynne
Ella Fitzgerald
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography John W. Boyle
Editing by Philip Cahn
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date February 20, 1942
Running time 86 minutes
Language English

Ride ‘Em Cowboy is a 1942 Abbott & Costello comedy that is funny in places but it does feel some boring musical pieces. One bright spot is the number featuring Ella Fitzgerald. I wish that she had of been given a bigger role than just being relegated to the background and singing one number, as well as the duet with the Merry Macs.

Abbott & Costello are quite funny in this, although there are a number of jokes involving native American Indians that today would be considered politically incorrect. Lou Costello is not as annoying as he was in Hold That Ghost, which came out a year earlier, and is funnier. The abuse that Bud gives Lou has also been toned down a lot since that earlier movie.


Never Give A Sucker An Even Break

Directed by Edward F. Cline
Starring W.C. Fields
Gloria Jean
Margaret Dumont
Franklin Pangborn
Leon Errol
Music by Charles Previn & Frank Skinner
Cinematography Charles Van Enger
Editing by Arthur Hilton
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date 10 October 1941
Running time 71 min.
Country U.S.
Language English

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break is a quite surreal film in that W.C. Fields is playing himself trying to pitch a film. It has quite a few funny scenes but is a little uneven. The bits where he’s discussing his script with Franklin Pangborn are amusing but the movie that Fields had envision is quite weird (I guess that’s the point!).

I could compare this film to a Marx Bros. film as it mixes music with the comedy. In Never Give A Sucker An Even Break Fifteen year old Gloria Jean sings some light operatic songs, but unlike those types of songs in the Marx’s films, these musical interludes are not completely boring, which I guess is testament to the fact that Ms. Jean had some semblance of a personality, which can rarely be said for the singers in the Marx films. The songs here are just as mind-numblingly boring as those in Marx Bros. films, but in one scene in particular Ms. Jean actually pokes fun at this fact by showing how bored she is with the song. There is so much other funny stuff going on in the background that you don’t have to hit the fast forward button. Considering she was so young and seemed to be a talented actress and singer, I wonder why she did not appear in many more films.

Another comparison to the Marx Bros. is that Fields tries to woo Margaret Dumont in order to become wealthy. This is part of his script for his fictional film. Unlike Groucho though, Fields comes to his senses when he sees just what he’s gotten himself into. Another contrast here is that Ms. Dumont really isn’t playing the straight man to Fields here and that she is in on the joke. Perhaps Fields included this element to satirize the Marx Bros. films? He does mention Groucho by name in an early scene.

This is a funny yet weird film. The parts that are not Fields’ fantasy seem to work the best.
Never Give A Sucker An Even Break is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection Volume 2 with The Man On The Flying Trapeze, You’re Telling Me, The Old Fashioned Way and Poppy. This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $43.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…


The Dentist

Directed by Leslie Pearce
Produced by Mack Sennett
Written by W.C. Fields
Starring W.C. Fields
Babe Kane
Arnold Gray
Elise Cavanna
Dorothy Granger
Cinematography John W. Boyle
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date September 9, 1932
Running time 22 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Dentist is an early talky by W. C. Fields. It’s a series of funny sketches joined together so that the film reaches the 20 minute mark. There is only a slight plot about Fields being a dentist who firstly plays golf, then returns to see a couple of patients in his surgery. There is also another plot with his daughter wanting to marry the iceman but Fields being against it. There are a couple of good chuckles to be had, especially when an errant golf ball from Fields hits another golfer on the head. (This is always funny!)


Pollyanna

Directed by David Swift
Produced by Walt Disney (uncredited)
Associate Producer: George Golitzen
Written by Novel: Eleanor Porter
Screenplay: David Swift
Starring Hayley Mills
Jane Wyman
Karl Malden
Richard Egan
Adolphe Menjou
Agnes Moorehead
Music by Paul Smith
Cinematography Russell Harlan
Editing by Frank Gross
Distributed by Buena Vista
Distribution Release date May 19, 1960
Running time 134 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Pollyanna was released into cinemas 50 years ago last Monday. You would think that Disney would be making a big song and dance about this popular and well remembered film reaching the half century mark but it seems that the Walt Disney Company does not really value its past live action films. Heck, Disney doesn’t really value its animated classics either, and simply views them as a cash cow to be released on video or DVD every seven years. In fact it is pretty obvious that all Disney cares about these days is making horrendous live action teen comedies that can sell heaps of merchandise. I doubt that a film like Pollyanna would be made today as it would be difficult to fit in any fart jokes or sell merchandise with the sweet story.

One thing that I think needs to be said is that despite Disney’s reputation today as being just kids stuff, he could still get the biggest stars to appear in his films. Fine actors such as Jane Wyman and Karl Malden appear as do Agnes Moorehead and Ed Platt, who went on to play the Chief of Control in Get Smart but played supporting roles in a number of major films (including a brief part as Cary Grant‘s lawyer in Hitchcock’s North By Northwest). However the real star of the film is Hayley Mills, who played the little girl whose positive attitude brought a whole town together. She is really good in this film and went on to become a huge child star in the 1960s, mainly in other Disney films.

This is a very entertaining film, in the Disney tradition, it’s just a shame that Disney today doesn’t really care at all about it.