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You Can't Take It With You Review


Essential
Jimmy Stewart's legendary career was just beginning when he co-starred in this Frank Capra classic, a warm, heart-tugging Best Picture Oscar winner. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway show by Kaufman and Hart, Capra's entry captures a wacky extended family living together in post-Depression USA, devoting all their efforts to their favorite pastimes with a smiling middle finger to societal expectations and demands.

The joy nearly leaps off the screen and begs you to join. In a charming introduction, family patriarch Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore, on crutches due to arthritis) meets a mousy accountant named Poppins (the appropriately named Donald Meek), a dreamer who'd rather make toys than punch meaningless numbers all day. With a simple tease of what could be, Vanderhof convinces his newfound friend to toss it all away and live with his family. And poof, as Poppins says, "the die is cast."

Continue reading: You Can't Take It With You Review

Ziegfeld Follies Review


Good
Who knew they made clip shows into movies? Ziegfeld Follies is two hours of skits, songs, dances, and jokes from the dying days of vaudeville, brought to us by a who's-who of yesteryear performers. The film opens, believe it or not, with a deceased Florenz Ziegfeld, looking down from heaven, dreaming about his perfect variety show. What follows is that dream, put to film.

With a tagline like "The Greatest Production Since The Birth Of Motion Pictures," you get a little something like the unmanageable monstrosity that Follies ultimately becomes. Structured as a series of unrelated vignettes, directed by different people (not to mention that screenwriting credit list), it's ultimately just a jumble of parts that add up to less than a whole movie.

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Annie Get Your Gun Review


Good
Betty Hutton is irrepressible in Annie Get Your Gun, starting off as a scrappy, brash, in-your-face gunslinger and ending the film as cleaned-up, brash, in-your-face gunslinger in a dress. She belts her lungs out here -- "There's No Business (Like Show Business)" is a classic -- though "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" has been, um, done better in other venues. As for the story, it's got Annie Oakley shooting her way to traveling sideshow celebrity and into the heart of Frank Butler (a wooden Howard Keel). And into a dress, natch.

The Devil And Daniel Webster Review


Extraordinary
It's the 1840s, and times are tough for New Hampshire farmer Jabez Stone, just as they are for other New Englanders. He's a hard-working, God-fearing man, but he's prone to cursing ("consarn it" is his favorite), and he doesn't always find time to attend church on Sundays. He has a good wife (named Mary, of course) and a Bible-reading Ma, but when he can't make his mortgage payments, that just doesn't seem like enough. In Washington, a heroic Massachusetts senator named Daniel Webster is introducing legislation that will ease his plight. But in the meantime, what's a working man to do?

In this folklore New England, the devil is a real thing, like a fox that steals hens or a dog that barks at nights, and if you want to make a deal with him, it's not too hard to do. One rainy day Jabez curses in the barn, and a little man named Scratch (Walter Huston) appears out of nowhere with a bargain to make: Jabez will have seven years' worth of prosperity and everything that goes with it, and at the end of the seven years, Scratch will get his soul. Jabez signs the contract, and Scratch kicks at the floor of the barn, where a pile of gold rises up from a loose plank. The devil is in the details though, and anyone who's ever seen a movie knows there's going to be Hell to pay.

Continue reading: The Devil And Daniel Webster Review

You Can't Take It With You Review


Good
Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur come together in Frank Capra's third and final Best Director effort, You Can't Take It With You, a movie which is amusing, but unfortunately ends up as one of his least enduring efforts. Overlong and underplotted, the film concerns two young lovers who finally endeavor to introduce their families to one another. As usual, Capra attempts to pillory big business, but the effort here is half-baked and overshadowed by slapstick antics between the two families. A Best Picture winner in 1938, the movie isn't aging well and can be suitably replaced by pretty much any of Capra's other works.
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