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Lost Horizon Review


Extraordinary
The weirdest film by Frank Capra, this epic was adapted from James Hilton's bestselling novel about a plane full of passengers stranded in Tibet who are brought to the imaginary utopia Shangri-la. (Hilton's sensational fantasy was inspired by mountaineering trips to the Himalayas -- pretty much unknown then -- and it probably still influences how people in the West think about Tibet.)

Lost Horizon is a strange but haunting mixture of drama, long expository passages, and romance, with lavish, Xanadu-like sets set against stock footage of icy mountains -- but the performance of Ronald Colman carries the movie. Colman's character is a Brit who decides he doesn't mind hanging with the Buddhists and enjoying the quiet life, but some of his companions are unhappy in the worker's paradise and debate whether to try to escape. Sensuality is provided by the young Jane Wyatt, later the matron on TV's Father Knows Best (Wyatt's character is even shown in a distant frontal nude scene, a wink at the Hays Code).

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It's a Wonderful Life Review


Excellent
Come now, what on earth am I going to say about one of the most beloved films ever made? Something about how it was originally coined on a Christmas Card? About how a clerical error resulted in it not being copyrighted and contributing to its ubiquity on television -- since it was royalty-free? Or should I just go ahead and tell the few people on earth who haven't seen it what it's all about.

Okay kids, if you don't have a TV, It's a Wonderful Life tells us about George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), who lives and loves his small town of Bedford Falls so much he'd die for it. And sure enough, when his tiny Building & Loan (aka bank) starts to fail -- thanks to the malicious influence of the local tycoon (Lionel Barrymore) -- George heads for his local bridge to end it all.

Continue reading: It's a Wonderful Life Review

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town Review


Weak
Frank Capra's story of a simple man who inherits vast wealth has become a commonly-copied tale, but the tedium of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town outweighs its message of freedom and charity. Gary Cooper is dry as dust (despite being "eccentric" -- he plays the tuba!), and Jean Arthur makes no impression as the reporter who hustles him to get the inside scoop. I realize it's heresy, but the story just needs some life. Frankly, I can't imagine the upcoming Adam Sandler version could do any worse.

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

You Can't Take It with You Review


OK
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.

Lost Horizon Review


Good
A classic book and a classic film -- make sure you look for the full-length (132 minute) restored version, which features still photographs where there was no known print to match up to the audio. Bizarre methodology, yet strangely, it works.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town Review


Weak
Frank Capra's story of a simple man who inherits vast wealth has become a commonly-copied tale, but the tedium of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town outweighs its message of freedom and charity. Gary Cooper is dry as dust (despite being "eccentric" -- he plays the tuba!), and Jean Arthur makes no impression as the reporter who hustles him to get the inside scoop. I realize it's heresy, but the story just needs some life. Frankly, I can't imagine the upcoming Adam Sandler version could do any worse.

It's a Wonderful Life Review


Excellent
Come now, what on earth am I going to say about one of the most beloved films ever made? Something about how it was originally coined on a Christmas Card? About how a clerical error resulted in it not being copyrighted and contributing to its ubiquity on television -- since it was royalty-free? Or should I just go ahead and tell the few people on earth who haven't seen it what it's all about.

Okay kids, if you don't have a TV, It's a Wonderful Life tells us about George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), who lives and loves his small town of Bedford Falls so much he'd die for it. And sure enough, when his tiny Building & Loan (aka bank) starts to fail -- thanks to the malicious influence of the local tycoon (Lionel Barrymore) -- George heads for his local bridge to end it all.

Continue reading: It's a Wonderful Life Review

Frank Capra

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