Deborah Kerr

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The Sundowners Review

Deborah Kerr as Ida Carmody, an indomitable stick in the Australian outback, makes an impassioned plea for women living a nomadic existence in that spare country down under to the unhappy Jean Halstead (Dina Merrill), "This is good country for sheep and it's not bad for men. But it's hard on us women. The men come here because of the sheep and we come here because of the men and most of us finish up looking like the sheep -- wrinkled faces, knotty hair, not even much of our own minds." Jean replies, "I think you'll always have a mind of your own, Mrs. Carmody." She ain't kidding. Ida has to hold her own against her beer- and gambling-loving husband Paddy (Robert Mitchum), who as a sheep drover in 1920s Australia, keeps his family -- Ida and their teenage son Sean (Michael Anderson Jr.) -- moving with the sheep. Paddy is happy not being tied down, but Ida and Sean want a place to settle down and convince Paddy to take a job as a sheep-shearer in order to make a down payment on a farm. Paddy doesn't realize it though, and the struggle between Paddy, who wants to be free, and Ida, who wants a home, is the slender thread that ties Fred Zinnemann's The Sundowners together.

The Sundowners is a pleasant and happy film, marked by wonderful set pieces (a tremendous brush fire sequence, a sheep-shearing contest, a gambling scene, a tavern brawl) all set to a jaunty Dimitri Tiomkin score.

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Julius Caesar Review

"Caesar! Beware of Brutus. Take heed of Cassius. Come not near Casca. Have an eye to Cinna. Trust not Trebonius. Mark not well Metellus Cimber. Decius Brutus loves thee not. Thou hast wronged Caius Ligarius. There is but one mind in all these men and it is bent against Caesar. If thou beest not immortal, look about you. Security gives way to conspiracy."

Artemidorus's warnings to Julius Caesar, soon to be given dictatorial powers in Rome, falls upon Caesar's deaf -- and soon dead -- ears and the Roman conqueror trundles off to the Senate to be stabbed to death by his best friends. In Shakespeare's play, the rejection of the warning by Artemidorus is more fodder for Caesar's ballooning ego. In Joseph Mankeiwicz's 1953 film version of Shakespeare's classic, Artemidorus's warning is like a howl in the wilderness. For Mankiewicz, adapting and directing during the height of the period of the blacklist, the warning takes on a different context of a McCarthyesque conspiracy to bring down society, a mass madness so potent that even honorable men become embroiled in the hothouse hysteria.

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An Affair To Remember Review

The good thing about being an international playboy who looks and sounds like Cary Grant (well, one of the good things) is that there isn't much you have to do to pay for your fabulous jet-set lifestyle, except marry the occasional filthy-rich heiress (who's hardly bad-looking herself, so that doesn't hurt). So we shouldn't feel too bad for scandal-sheet regular Nickie Ferrante (Grant) when we're introduced to him at the start of the glossy, late-studio-period romance An Affair to Remember, at which point he's leaving behind his French lover, and presumably many years of others like her, in the interest of future security. Nickie's on an ocean liner steaming back to the U.S. to marry the heiress whose financial largesse will keep him in tuxedos and pink champagne for a good many years to come, when he runs into the woman he's fated to fall in love with, Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr), also no slouch in the looks department. But even after the fateful meet cute -- a nicely-framed bit with a cigarette case and some snappy quips -- and all the emotional and moral confusion it causes, there's little reason to feel bad for the guy.

Whether or not one should feel concern for Nickie's state of mind is important here, because director and co-writer Leo McCarey seems to have much more on his mind here than a simple romantic soufflé. The first half of the film takes place almost entirely on the ocean liner, and it's here that the film is at its best. Although both Nickie and Terry have significant others waiting for them on the pier in New York, they can't stop from engaging in some sharp romantic badinage, setting the tongues wagging among their entertainment-starved shipmates. The first sign that the film is moving into different territory, though, is when Nickie goes ashore in France to visit his grandmother and brings Terry along. It's a lengthy and overplayed sequence at a sleepy villa in which Terry, who had previously felt impervious to Nickie's attempts at pitching woo, gets a window into his soul via the grandmother and so falls for him. McCarey also introduces an overtly religious theme here (having Terry and Nickie pray briefly in the chapel) that will come back later in an even more heavy-handed fashion.

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The Arrangement Review

The poster proclaims: "If your wife insists you see it together, be careful." It's one of the most hyperbolic taglines in movie history. Despite its slam-bang opening sequence, Elia Kazan's neglected movie (based on his own novel) eventually devolves into histrionics and silliness. Its strange third act almost kills the deal entirely. See if you agree.

The film opens as obviously mega-wealthy advertising executive Eddie (Kirk Douglas) wakes up and, silently, prepares for work. He frequently checks in to listen to his latest creation -- an ad for Zephyr cigarettes -- as he motors along to work. But suddenly, he decides to take his hands off the steering wheel. Then he puts them back on... and slams the car under the wheels of a tractor trailer riding alongside him. What the heck!?

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Casino Royale (1967) Review

Though great he may be, there is a limit to the amount of uninterrupted Burt Bacharach music one can endure. And sadly, that limit -- of music punctuated by kazoos, harpischords, and accordions -- is far less than 137 minutes.

There's also a limit on the length of a spy spoof one can sit through (the second Austin Powers and Richard Grieco's If Looks Could Kill being the few notable, yet guilty, exceptions). That limit tends to run about 58 minutes.

Continue reading: Casino Royale (1967) Review

The King And I Review

The popular pick for the best Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is probably The Sound of Music, but I'm throwing in for The King and I. Yul Brynner is not the kind of character you usually think of when you look at R&H musicals. Usually the hero is some country bumpkin with an all-American face and a plaid shirt. Brenner doesn't wear plaid here. He doesn't wear a shirt at all, in fact. The story is a timeless classic: An English teacher (Deborah Kerr, equally stellar) takes a job in Siam, teaching to the King's (Brynner) many many children. Naturally, she teaches the King a thing or two, as well, who immediately takes a liking to her use of the phrase "et cetera, et cetera, et cetera," which becomes the film's best running joke.

In addition to witty, rat-a-tat dialogue and a fun plot that also touches on social issues of the day, the film is a visual spectacle, too. The songs are of course classic, and the sequence wherein a Siamese version of Uncle Tom's Cabin is presented as a play is an amazing work of art. Though it runs well into two hours long, the film is never tiresome, even when Kerr threatens to leave Siam for the umpteenth time. It's funny and touching, an altogether classic movie of the first rank.

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Separate Tables Review

Extremely overrated, Separate Tables stands as a so-called "classic" of the 1950s (look at that cast!) but its story is so dull that it's hard to get interested in all the pendantic romances of a group of people at a sleepy off-season resort hotel. Lancaster steals the show, but that's not saying much. The over-emotional score is way too much, as well.

The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp Review

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is not about a Colonel named Blimp. Instead it is a long, epic film about a British soldier named Clive Candy. Directed in 1943 -- by the amazing duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger -- the film is not quite as triumphant as their many collaborations, but if you stick with it for its 163 minute running time it is ultimately rewarding.

The film is told in flashback and covers the time period from 1902, well before World War I, to 1943, near the end of World War II. In that time the world went through major changes most specifically in the way wars were fought. Clive Candy (played by the hoarse-voiced actor Roger Livesey) is a relic of the past. He is a soldier who defines war by a 19th century paradigm in which war was considered a gentleman's game - an old-fashioned way of thinking about modern combat.

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Black Narcissus Review

Widely hailed as one of the most beautiful films ever shot, Black Narcissus is a strange tale of Anglican nuns who establish a convent in an extremely remote region of the Himalayas. Obviously not a great idea, but weird locals, altitude sickness, and sketchy personal pasts all conspire against the gals. To be sure, the cinematography of Narcissus -- notably an ending that must have stuck in Hitchcock's mind for decades -- is to die for, utterly pioneering for its time and deserving of its two Academy Awards (art direction and cinematography), but its story has never totally grabbed me. Sure, women of the cloth might have demons in their pasts. Doesn't everyone? The ending is chilling, but the subplots fall flat, including two about a local wild-woman and a studious boy who wants to learn everything there is to know. Should've stuck to those crazy nuns.

The Night Of The Iguana Review

Not about an iguana nor taking place at night, this adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play is heavy on melodrama and earnest performances, but weak on dialogue and lasting meaning. Richard Burton is justly celebrated for his role as a defrocked priest (from, ahem, "St. Jame's Church") now making a living as a Mexican tour guide, but the three banshees he has to deal with (and which form the basis of the rudimentary plot) are nothing you might consider message-bearing. In fact, if the good priest had simply run the other way instead of meddling with any of these three ladies, he'd have been better off. And the movie would have been a heck of a lot shorter.

The Innocents Review

Based on Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, this creepy but ultimately perplexing thriller was one of the first films designed to scare you without showing, say, severed limbs and nonstop gore. The Innocents features a wide-eyed Deborah Kerr as a governess sent to a stately manor where she will care for two children. When they start communicating with ghosts, demons, dead people, the devil -- what they are, we'll never find it -- the poor governess comes unhinged. Not altogether frightening, but it has a few creep-out moments that mostly redeem its totally ambiguous ending.

Casino Royale Review

Though great he may be, there is a limit to the amount of uninterrupted Burt Bacharach music one can endure. And sadly, that limit -- of music punctuated by kazoos, harpischords, and accordions -- is far less than 137 minutes.

There's also a limit on the length of a spy spoof one can sit through (the second Austin Powers and Richard Grieco's If Looks Could Kill being the few notable, yet guilty, exceptions). That limit tends to run about 58 minutes.

Continue reading: Casino Royale Review

Deborah Kerr

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