Claudine West

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The Good Earth Review


Very Good
Imagine the uproar if The Good Earth had been made recently. Hell, people cried foul of Memoirs of a Geisha because it used Chinese actors to play Japanese roles. The Good Earth's stars were born in California and Germany.

Shockingly, surprisingly, stars Paul Muni and Luise Rainer pull it off. He's Wang Lung, a simple Chinese farmer. She's O-Lan, his even more simple wife. This adaptation of the Pearl Buck novel has the pair surviving through an epic struggle against poverty and nature, building their farm up from nothing (with O-Lan helping to bring in the harvest the night before she gives birth), then losing everything, slumming on the streets of the city, finding a cache of jewels during a riot, building it all up again, and facing a family crisis when Wang Lung decides to buy a second, younger wife. Hey, it's old world China. In the end, our heroes have to do battle against a plague of locusts. Locusts!

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Random Harvest Review


Very Good
Like many Hollywood romances, Random Harvest is not great but not bad either, and more emotionally involving than the contrived premise would seem to justify. Ronald Colman plays a British soldier who suffers amnesia in WWI and is befriended by a showgirl (Greer Garson), who falls in love with him. They marry and start a family. Then, in a strange plot twist, he regains his memory of his identity but loses his recent memory, and starts another life as a wealthy tycoon and politician. Then, in an even more unpredictable plot twist, he meets Garson again and eerily revisits his past, while still remembering nothing.

The film is an adaptation of a novel by James Hilton (who wrote Lost Horizon, which Frank Capra made into one of Hollywood's greatest epics, also featuring Colman). The contrived plot of Hilton's novel is not helped by the film's condensed treatment. Neither of Colman's lives is fully fleshed out, and it's possible to imagine the plot going off in other, more plausible directions than the one it takes. And the premise is essentially a male fantasy, with Colman's protagonist getting two shots at success, happiness, and marriage (however, he is happy in only one of his lives, until both are reconciled at the end).

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Goodbye, Mr. Chips Review


Good
Mr. Chipping (Robert Donat) is on his way out as professor and headmaster at a proper British boys' school, and the aging man looks back on his life. Goodbye, Mr. Chips provides a comprehensive look at one teacher's life and love -- from the disciplining of his students to the chance meeting of the love of his life on a mountaintop. (Played by Greer Garson with about 20 minutes of screen time, I have no idea how her awkward debut here earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.)

Everybody loves Chipping to death, which is what makes this and its contemporaries (like Mr. Holland's Opus) such harmless works of cinema. Chipping's challenges are so meaningless that he all but waltzes through life. There's less conflict than in your typical animated Disney movie, and that makes watching Chips an often tedious experience. Even when asked to retire by a younger headmaster, he merely brushes it off like dust from his lapels. Sure, there's some teary eyes when he eulogizes a student that dies during WWII, but Chipping himself lives to a ripe old age with little more than a cold to keep him down.

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Goodbye, Mr. Chips Movie Review

Goodbye, Mr. Chips Movie Review

Mr. Chipping (Robert Donat) is on his way out as professor and headmaster at a...

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