John Garfield

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Between Two Worlds Review


OK
This innovative drama earns points for originality, but bungles the execution: A group of British travelers have all been killed during World War II... and they all find themselves on a cruise ship headed... where? The catch: Some know they're dead, and some don't. The film's conflict comes from arguments between these two groups. What could have been a proto-version of The Sixth Sense instead becomes a rather dull bit of preachiness where little ends up happening. The film is based on the play Outward Bound (which will forever taint the name of the organization by the same name for me), which was a flop on Broadway.

Force Of Evil Review


Very Good
Ah, when a gangster's attorney falls in love... A long-forgotten film noir, with Garfield as a corrupt mob lawyer intent on running the small-time numbers-runners of the city out of business so his client can pick up the pieces. Not a good guy in the bunch, and his role was so damaging it almost ended Garfield's career. A thinly-veiled outright damnation of capitalism and its merger-heavy practices. Heavy-handed but quite intriguing and poetic.

Humoresque Review


Very Good
Joan Crawford in a wacky comedy? With a name like Humoresque you might be expecting something lighthearted and fun. But no: The title refers to a Dvorak symphony, and Humoresque is anything but funny.

John Garfield was a wildly popular actor in his day, and this is regarded as one of his best performances, if not the very top. The story is one of obsession: Garfield's Paul Boray is an ambitious violin player who's quickly rising to the top of his profession. Crawford is Helen Wright, who's smitten with him and funds his life's work. But Boray doesn't have room in his life for two loves, so Wright gets the perpetual cold shoulder. Her last moments of screen time are as haunting as they are inevitable.

Continue reading: Humoresque Review

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) Review


Excellent
Lana Turner - or, more precisely, her legs - are the star of the first film adaptation of James M. Cain's classic novel, released in 1946. Frank Chambers, a restless drifter, arrives in a roadside restaurant run by Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway). A tube of lipstick drops from the counter and rolls slowly to the feet of Nick's wife Cora (Turner). So begins one of the most lascivious upward pans of '30s and '40s film, climbing up Turner's legs and torso to her lit-from-the-inside golden-tressed face. There's more eroticism in that moment than in most of Bob Rafelson's ill-advised 1981 remake, which pretended to be a sexier, lustier adaptation.

The plot of Postman is, indeed, sexier than usual - the perceived naughtiness of Cain's original, excellent novel got it a "Banned in Boston" stamp. But toned down for the screen, Postman is mainly an excellent noir that's fueled by one of John Garfield's best performances. As Frank and Cora fall deeper into their romance, they begin to plan doing away with Nick. The first attempt sadly and (thanks to a clumsy shot of an electrocuted cat) hilariously fails to take, but the second works out ghoulishly. From there, the story becomes a noir classic of shifting loyalties, betrayal, and paranoia. Few actors of the time were as good as portraying the decent man in a conundrum, but there's something about the combination of Garfield's mannish broad shoulders and childish eyes that make him perfect for noirs. Body and Soul is his finest hour, but Postman is worth Garfield as well.

Continue reading: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) Review

Gentleman's Agreement Review


Very Good
Gregory Peck masquerades as a Jew to write a big story on Anti-Semitism in this wartime tale of prejudice, bigotry, and hipocracy. Not exactly light-hearted fare, and the now 50+ year-old film has aged to the point of near-irrelevance. Peck and McGuire are incredible as the leads, but (and this is a good thing), Jew-bashing has faded as a commonly-experienced social ill. While it still crops up, the "restricted clubs" and playground abuse of Gentleman's Agreement are things of the past. Very controversial in its day, not to mention director Elia Kazan, who has generated plenty of controversy in recent years as well.
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There's already an Oscars buzz surrounding this movie.

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