Isobel Lennart

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East Side, West Side Review


Weak
In the early 1930s, director Mervyn Leroy was one of the men responsible for the gritty, careening Warner Brothers house style, but by 1949, Leroy was one of main hack directors for MGM and a prime example of the staid MGM routine is on display in Leroy's prosaic staging of the cad-for-all-seasons East Side, West Side.

Barbara Stanwyck is mistreated high society wife Jessie Bourne, married to Brandon (James Mason), a well-heeled corporate lawyer who is also a regular heel, cheating on Jessie every chance he gets. As Brandon explains his philosophy to a hopeful conquest, "Just because a man has one perfect rose in his garden at home, it doesn't mean that he can't appreciate the flowers of the field." Even so, Brandon tries to "think with his head" but then Ava Gardner breezes in and all bets are off.

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The Sundowners Review


Good
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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Please Don't Eat The Daisies Review


Very Good
When you think of classic romantic comedy pairings, Doris Day and David Niven don't immediately spring to mind. But Niven shows an extremely soft and lighthearted side in this madcap romp, one of Day's best films from her little-seen later years in the business.

The story is really a bunch of vignettes -- as the source book was -- about a woman with four rambunctious boys and a theater critic husband, all of whom move from the city to the country in an attempt to better their lives. Hysteria ensues as Niven's critic tussles with old friends who are all playwrights, and a leading lady (Janis Paige) who alternately slaps him in the face and tries to woo a positive review out of him.

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Love Me Or Leave Me Review


Good
This overblown biopic of singer Ruth Etting (Doris Day) follows the Star Is Born template pretty faithfully, only with the spin of James Cagney as a gangster underwriter, not to mention historical underpinnings.

Cagney's work here is fairly rote, and Day's portrayal of Etting isn't exactly spot-on, but both are good enough for the job they've been tasked with. The problem comes from the abrasive repetition in the story, which has Cagney's Martin Snyder continuously beating and shooting people that stand in Etting's way, then nurturing her all lovey-dovey like. Two hours of this is just too much, even if it does feature a handful of Etting hits (including the title number).

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Isobel Lennart

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