Louis Calhern

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Julius Caesar Review


Extraordinary
"Caesar! Beware of Brutus. Take heed of Cassius. Come not near Casca. Have an eye to Cinna. Trust not Trebonius. Mark not well Metellus Cimber. Decius Brutus loves thee not. Thou hast wronged Caius Ligarius. There is but one mind in all these men and it is bent against Caesar. If thou beest not immortal, look about you. Security gives way to conspiracy."

Artemidorus's warnings to Julius Caesar, soon to be given dictatorial powers in Rome, falls upon Caesar's deaf -- and soon dead -- ears and the Roman conqueror trundles off to the Senate to be stabbed to death by his best friends. In Shakespeare's play, the rejection of the warning by Artemidorus is more fodder for Caesar's ballooning ego. In Joseph Mankeiwicz's 1953 film version of Shakespeare's classic, Artemidorus's warning is like a howl in the wilderness. For Mankiewicz, adapting and directing during the height of the period of the blacklist, the warning takes on a different context of a McCarthyesque conspiracy to bring down society, a mass madness so potent that even honorable men become embroiled in the hothouse hysteria.

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Notorious (1946) Review


Essential
It just doesn't get any more stylish than this. A high point in Hollywood's golden era, Notorious is a convergence of talent. Hitchcock is most "notorious" for psycho-thrillers (i.e. Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, Psycho) but the trademark mind-messing is restrained here, though not completely absent (there is an evil Nazi mother-in-law). Like Hitchcock's later espionage masterpiece North By Northwest, Notorious is sophisticated and entertaining. Uncoincidentally, Cary Grant is front and center in both films.

In Notorious, Grant plays a federal agent, looking for Nazis, who goes to Rio to protect Ingrid Bergman, who is married to a Nazi spy (Claude Rains) and is betraying him. Of course, Grant actually plays the suave, blasé, seemingly ordinary, seemingly heartless character he plays in all other films. Bergman is brilliant as the complex heroine.

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Annie Get Your Gun Review


OK
Betty Hutton is irrepressible in Annie Get Your Gun, starting off as a scrappy, brash, in-your-face gunslinger and ending the film as cleaned-up, brash, in-your-face gunslinger in a dress. She belts her lungs out here -- "There's No Business (Like Show Business)" is a classic -- though "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better" has been, um, done better in other venues. As for the story, it's got Annie Oakley shooting her way to traveling sideshow celebrity and into the heart of Frank Butler (a wooden Howard Keel). And into a dress, natch.

Notorious Review


Essential
It just doesn't get any more stylish than this. A high point in Hollywood's golden era, Notorious is a convergence of talent. Hitchcock is most "notorious" for psycho-thrillers (i.e. Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, Psycho) but the trademark mind-messing is restrained here, though not completely absent (there is an evil Nazi mother-in-law). Like Hitchcock's later espionage masterpiece North By Northwest, Notorious is sophisticated and entertaining. Uncoincidentally, Cary Grant is front and center in both films.

In Notorious, Grant plays a federal agent, looking for Nazis, who goes to Rio to protect Ingrid Bergman, who is married to a Nazi spy (Claude Rains) and is betraying him. Of course, Grant actually plays the suave, blasé, seemingly ordinary, seemingly heartless character he plays in all other films. Bergman is brilliant as the complex heroine.

Continue reading: Notorious Review

Blackboard Jungle Review


OK
Idealism in the public school system got its start here in 1955's Blackboard Jungle, based on the book that convinced America that our kids were not all angels and schools were not built from picket fence perfection. Today, Blackboard Jungle is surprisingly dated and ineffective, as its picture of high school violence and perversity seems quaint in comparison to Columbine-style massacres and Mary Kay Letourneau. Even the firey Sidney Poitier an Vic Morrow, playing the school's punks, seem set to a lower level than we've seen from them in later, mor compelling works.

Duck Soup Review


Excellent
Widely considered the best Marx brothers film ever (and landing at #5 on the AFI's list of top comedies), Duck Soup presents Groucho at his best, playing a dictator (of a country called Freedonia, natch) who starts a war over a girl who lives in a neighboring country (and who has saved Freedonia from bankruptcy). The other brothers Marx play the dictator's henchmen and spies. It's a farce about politics and war that, in my opinion, has lost some of its topicality. While the puns here are exquisitie and Groucho sparring with himself in a mirror (actually a stand-in) is a priceless moment of the cinema, the send-up of Mussolini-types doesn't quite pan out. Take the comedy, leave the story.

The Asphalt Jungle Review


Extraordinary
Sterling Hayden gets the shaft again in The Asphalt Jungle. This guy goes on caper after caper but he just never ends up with the loot. It always slips right through his hands. Every time.

Jungle is one of Hayden's finest hours, earnest and searing as he finds himself wrapped up in the perfect crime -- a jewel heist which is (unfortunately) a rather simple safecracking affair. This time out, Hayden's desperate gambling addict looks about ready to do anything in order to get back to the pastoral farm where he grew up -- and we believe it.

Continue reading: The Asphalt Jungle Review

Louis Calhern

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