Mary Astor

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The Prisoner Of Zenda Review


Good
This "classic" swashbuckling flick is really showing its age, though the story -- a kidnapped king needs a lookalike replacement -- is certainly timeless. Ronald Colman, as the titular prisoner, is no Errol Flynn, but he gives it the old college try. The romance, featuring Madeleine Carroll, is a real bust.

The Palm Beach Story Review


Extraordinary
Is marriage really so important? One could take that as being the surprisingly modern theme of Preston Sturges' manic, brilliant 1942 farce The Palm Beach Story, or one could simply take it as screwball comedy of the highest order. Fortunately both interpretations are completely valid.

One of the few truly great writer/directors of American film, Sturges had more ideas than he knew what to do with; witness the film's credits sequence showing the main characters (Joel McCrea and a wonderful Claudette Colbert) getting married. There's a race to the altar, mistaken identity, a woman in a bridal gown locked in a closet, and general fast-paced madcappery, all done with music only -- it's an abbreviated précis of what could have made an entirely separate film. Then it's largely forgotten: The whole story is only alluded to near the end of the film, with one character referencing it only to say, "Well, that's a whole other plot."

Continue reading: The Palm Beach Story Review

The Maltese Falcon Review


Excellent
The proof that some films are simply immune to satire or the wear and tear of time is fully contained in the sharp little diamond of cinema that is John Huston's 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon. (Dashiell Hammett's novel was actually filmed twice before, under the same title in 1931 and as Satan Met a Lady in 1936 with Bette Davis.) All the recognizable private detective flick elements are here, from the wisecracking P.I. himself to the femme fatale, scurrilous mugs who are too quick with their guns and too slow with their brains, and the McGuffin itself, a 400-year old statue of inestimable value. But even though these stock devices have become so well-worn over the intervening years with mockery or tribute, this remains a highly entertaining thing of beauty, done with skill and economy, not to mention smarts: none of which are things much in evidence today.

Smarts is ultimately what separates Bogart's Sam Spade as clearly from the rest of the characters in Maltese Falcon just as it separates the film itself from most of its inferior imitators. Spade is the eagle-eyed watcher, a calloused and borderline morally indifferent student of humanity who seems to get his kicks tossing verbal banana peels out for the more dim-witted to trip themselves up on. He has plenty of opportunity for such sparrings, dropped as he is into a mess of scam-artists and treasure hunters violently turning San Francisco upside down as they hunt for a long-lost jewel-studded falcon supposedly once given by the crusading Knights Hospitaller to the Holy Roman Emperor in exchange for the island of Malta. The world around Spade -- a sort of aloof knight errant in fedora and sharp suit -- is one of manipulation and lies, stupidity, and the occasional cleverness dulled by unlimited greed.

Continue reading: The Maltese Falcon Review

The Prisoner Of Zenda Review


Good
This "classic" swashbuckling flick is really showing its age, though the story -- a kidnapped king needs a lookalike replacement -- is certainly timeless. Ronald Colman, as the titular prisoner, is no Errol Flynn, but he gives it the old college try. The romance, featuring Madeleine Carroll, is a real bust.

The Palm Beach Story Review


Very Good
Preston Sturges makes screwball extreme in this crazy comedy about an architect (Joel McCrea) and his wife (Claudette Colbert). When McCrea can't sell any designs, Colbert leaves him for a millionaire, with the idea that she'll get him to fund Joel's work. Absurd (and never mind what it says about marriage), but lots of fun, particularly on Colbert's train ride to Palm Beach.

Meet Me In St. Louis Review


Excellent
Released in 1944, Meet Me in St. Louis was director Vincente Minnelli's first big hit, and it showcases two of Minnelli's prime obsessions: The glittering Technicolor musical and the romantic melodrama. Set in turn-of-the-century St. Louis, it tracks a year in the life of the Smith family, which is enthusiastically anticipating the 1903 World's Fair. It's not Minnelli's best musical; The Bandwagon is more antic fun and has better songs, and the ballet of An American in Paris remains his best-choreographed, most engaging film. But the home-and-hearth feel of St. Louis has its own warm enchantments, and it's one of Judy Garland's best performance this side of A Star is Born.

It's best not to concentrate too hard on the plot itself, which mainly circles around Alonzo Smith (Leon Ames), the family patriarch, threatening to move the family from St. Louis to New York City. This causes much handwringing amongst the family members: Esther (Garland), Rose (Lucille Bremer), and Tootie, played by child star Margaret O'Brien, who pulled down an Oscar for her precocious performance. If the dialogue seems stilted and square today - Esther wonders where, oh where could Mr. Truitt's chapeau have gone off to, and those newfangled telephones are such a bother - the Technicolor style works wonderfully, particularly in the period dresses that puff and flounce through the Smith household.

Continue reading: Meet Me In St. Louis Review

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Mary Astor Movies

The Maltese Falcon Movie Review

The Maltese Falcon Movie Review

The proof that some films are simply immune to satire or the wear and tear...

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Meet Me in St. Louis Movie Review

Meet Me in St. Louis Movie Review

Released in 1944, Meet Me in St. Louis was director Vincente Minnelli's first big hit,...

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