Henry Travers

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Madame Curie Review


Excellent
Hey, I never thought the hunt for radium would make for an engrossing way to spend two hours, but Madame Curie reveals itself to be one of the most engaging biopics of its era. Reuniting the stars of Mrs. Miniver (as heralded on the poster), Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon make for perfect Marie and Pierre Curie, respectively. The film covers virtually their entire adult lives, from Marie's early interest in math and science to her "business only" marriage to Pierre, to their joint work searching for a mysterious radioactive substance in pitchblende ore, melting tons of material over many years and eventually coming up with a couple of grams of the stuff. While Pierre dies early (not from radiation poisoning, he was hit by a carriage), Marie would go on to win two Nobel Prizes. Her death (from radiation exposure) is off camera. Both Garson and Pidgeon are outstanding, and the film's treatment of science is both incredibly realistic and, shockingly, a lot of fun.

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

Mrs. Miniver Review


Excellent
For some reason, I've resisted seeing the acclaimed Mrs. Miniver all my life (probably due to the dull title) -- but finally I caught a showing on Turner Classic Movies and I was duly impressed. Now out on DVD, there's no excuse for anyone to miss seeing Miniver for themselves.

The titular missus is just a moderatly wealthy English lady in 1939 who's trying to keep her family together on the eve of World War II. Her son enlists in the RAF, her husband serves in the river patrol. The Germans drop bombs and, eventually, a Nazi soldier lands in the Miniver backyard. In happier times the son woos and marries the local beauty. A flower show is held. Oddly, all of this is compelling and makes perfect sense -- and it all looks gorgeous thanks to some lush black & white photography, excellent set designs, and impressive war effects.

Continue reading: Mrs. Miniver Review

Dark Victory Review


Weak
You know you're in trouble when such a classically tooled and sculpted weepie as 1939's Dark Victory - one that should require boxes of Kleenex and a couple hours of recuperation - doesn't even begin to wring out a tear until near the final act. What happens when a three-hankie picture just isn't that sad? You get Dark Victory.

The story is the sort of thing that could fuel a whole season or two of one of your better primetime soap operas: Idly wealthy Judith Traherne (Davis) is 23, single, and bereft of any cares besides what trainer to hire for her thoroughbred horses and exactly how many martinis to drink. Having complained of sight problems and headaches, Judith gets browbeaten into seeing Dr. Frederick Steele (George Brent), a renowned brain surgeon about two hours away from chucking his whole practice to go do medical research on his isolated Vermont farm. Steele takes about five minutes to figure out that Judith has a rare and extremely serious condition that needs to be operated on right away. After the operation, Steele tells Judith's friend Ann King (Geraldine Fitzgerald) that Judith will feel fine for a while, but in about ten months, her vision will start to go again and then she'll die, quite suddenly and painlessly. The two then do what any sensible people would: agree to keep the truth from Judith while arranging for her to marry Steele, whom she's fallen in love with.

Continue reading: Dark Victory Review

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

Shadow of a Doubt Review


Extraordinary
A minor classic in the Hitchcock library, Shadow of a Doubt is nonetheless a smashing film, a slow burn that involves the visit to town of Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten), who may or may not be the Merry Widow Murderer, a dashing villain who murders old women for their fortunes.

On the run, Charlie decides to hide out in sleepy Santa Rosa, a town that's not much different today than it was in Hitch's 1940s. His visit goes smoothly until a nosy cop and Charlie's inquisitive niece who is named after him (Theresa Wright) get all uppity and go snooping through Charlie's things. Before long, the jig is up.

Continue reading: Shadow of a Doubt Review

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