Rene Clair’s Prophetic Fantasy

Film scholars generally agree that the silent era offerings (Entr’acte, Le Voyage Imaginaire) and early sound films of Rene Clair (Under the Roofs of Paris, Le Million) are the French writer-director’s finest work and deserve their exalted position in the history of cinema. But one shouldn’t discount the movies Clair made during his brief tenure in Hollywood from 1941 to 1945 where his subtle wit, sophistication and visual style were second only to the work of Ernst Lubitsch. The Flame of New Orleans (1941) with Marlene Dietrich and I Married a Witch (1942) starring Fredric March and Veronica Lake are delightful romantic comedies while And Then There Were None (1945) is an inventive adaptation of Agatha Christie’s thriller, Ten Little Indians. Much more underrated and lesser known is Clair’s It Happened Tomorrow (1944), which returns to the fantasy realm of earlier work like The Ghost Goes West (1935) and I Married a WitchContinue reading

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For the Boys

Between 1941 and 1945 as World War II engulfed the world most major studios in Hollywood demonstrated their patriotism by producing numerous flag-waving musicals in support of the troops and to raise money for the war effort. Warner Bros. was represented by This is the Army (1943), Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) and Hollywood Canteen (1944); Paramount served up Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) and Here Come the Waves (1944); Universal had a major hit with Buck Privates (1941) starring Abbott & Costello and The Andrew Sisters; 20th-Century-Fox unveiled the mind-warping visual excess of Busby Berkeley’s The Gangs All Here (1943) and MGM brought their signature gloss and glamor to Thousands Cheer (1943) and Anchors Aweigh (1945). But probably one of the biggest extravaganzas of all in terms of star cameos and musical guests was Stage Door Canteen (1943), released by United Artists.   Continue reading

Vintage Peplum

The French film poster for My Son, the Hero (1962)

Remember the Italian sword and sandal films (known as peplum in their native land) that enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the U.S. from around 1958 to 1964? There was never any question about the appeal. What’s not to like about muscle-bound super heroes, beautiful, curvaceous slave girls, princesses and evil queens, despicable, hiss-worthy villains, amazing feats of strength, epic battle scenes, exotic dance sequences, bizarre tortures and stylized sadism, picturesque locations, atmospheric set design, and disaster film calamities (earthquakes, volcanoes, storms)?   Continue reading