Harry Morgan

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The Teahouse of the August Moon Review


OK
When Marlon Brando is first encountered in The Teahouse of the August Moon, Daniel Mann's 1956 film version on John Patrick's Pulitzer Prize winning comedy of 1953, you want to fight back. Here is Brando in comic Asian stereotype mode, playing Okinawan interpreter Sakini -- Brando hunched over obsequiously, his eyes jury-rigged Oriental style and speaking in an Okinawan accent, and you think, "Brando, you should be ashamed of yourself." But then movie memory kicks in and you recall nasty and virulent racial debauches like Mickey Rooney's Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's and Brando's downplaying doesn't look so bad after all. Although watching a tall American white guy play a short translator from Okinawa is still discomforting, at least you don't feel compelled to rise up and heave your boots through the TV.

Sakini is the audience's guide and master of ceremonies (he beckons the audience into the film by way of a direct address to the camera) in this sharp and funny comedy about American imperialism after the end of World War II. Sakini is the interpreter for the pompous American commander Colonel Purdy (played by Paul Ford, recreating his Broadway performance, a role he would later hone to perfection as the iconic Colonel Hall in Sgt. Bilko), a windbag idiot who makes declarations like, "I'm going to teach these natives the meaning of democracy if I have to shoot every one of them" (Donald Rumsfeld couldn't have said it better). Purdy orders the bumbling Captain Fisby (Glenn Ford, in a fine comic turn, channeling Charlie Ruggles) to lord it over a small Okinawan village and give the villagers a taste of benevolent American democratic dictatorship by making the villagers build a school and organize a "Ladies League For Democratic Action." Sakini goes along with him.

Continue reading: The Teahouse of the August Moon Review

The Glenn Miller Story Review


OK
Jimmy Stewart gives a promising performance in a film that starts off great and quickly descends into unfortunate boredom. The big problem? Glenn Miller just wasn't that interesting a character. Aside from the fact that he basically ordered his girlfriend (then engaged to another man) to take a train across the country and marry Miller instead, there's not much new to this up-from-poverty-to-famous-composer/musician story. The entire last half concerns Miller's work as a bandleader in the military (which is, I suppose, important since he died during World War II), but the very worst scene comes earlier in the film, when Miller and best gal Helen (June Allyson) visit a jazz club: The entire scene is filmed through a spinning color wheel. It may be the worst directorial decision in the history of movies.

Inherit the Wind Review


Excellent
Stanley Kramer produced and directed one of the masterworks of the legal drama by bringing to the screen this story of one of the landmark lawsuits of history -- the 1925 Scopes "monkey trial." The names have all been changed (unfortunately so), but that takes only a little away from the proceedings. (Odd note -- the descriptions on the cover of the new DVD release refer to the actors playing the characters by their historical names, not the character names from the movie. We'll follow suit in this review.)

And so, for the historically uninterested, we find ourselves in a small town in 1925 Tennessee, where a highschool teacher named John Scopes (Dick York) has done the unthinkable: He has brought Darwin's theory of evolution into the classroom, casting doubt upon the literal interpretation of the Bible in the process. The state arrests him, and his trial became one of the first "celebrity" lawsuits ever. The prosecution was led by Fundamentalist and three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan (Fredric March). The defense (hired by the ACLU -- in the movie, by a Boston newspaper) was led by Clarence Darrow (Spencer Tracy), a wild agnostic and verteran lawyer, nearly 70 years old.

Continue reading: Inherit the Wind Review

Support Your Local Sheriff! Review


Good
"It's bad enough to have to kill a man, without having to listen to a lot of stupid talk from him first." James Garner adapts his Maverick persona to this western-comedy, a clever and deftly-dialogued story about a blase gunfighter who takes the job of sheriff in a rough-and-tumble town simply for the money. Good thing he's an excellent shot and even better with a pistol. It's a clever spoof with some dry moments, but overall it's one of the old west's better comedies.

Support Your Local Gunfighter Review


OK
In my world view, westerns should never be rated G, but Support Your Local Gunfighter is as good as any kid-friendly shoot-'em-up could possibly be. This sequel to Support Your Local Sheriff! sets up the congenial James Garner as a man mistaken for a vicious gunslinger (who oddly enough was an expert gunslinger in the original film) -- well, need I say that wacky hijinks ensue? It's reasonably funny as farce, forgettable as everything else.
Harry Morgan

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