Sonya Levien

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Four Men And A Prayer Review


OK
In Four Men and a Prayer, director John Ford doesn't have one. Saddled by Darryl Zanuck with a claptrap mystery adventure plot involving the dishonorable discharge and subsequent murder of a proud British career officer during the jewel-in-the-crown years of British colonialism and the efforts of his four sons to find the killer and exonerate their father, Ford assumes the role of Houdini. With a handsome physical production, Ford mounts an impressive sleight-of-hand, diverting prying eyes by throwing everything at the audience he can think of, anything to stay away from the actual story, which Ford doesn't want to get close enough to smell.

The nominal plot has stout-hearted Colonel Loring Leigh (C. Aubrey Smith -- who else?) kicked out of the Lancers for signing an order allowing a shipment guns to find their way into the hands of a band of Indian rebels, who end up massacring 90 men at one of those Indian passes so famous in '30s movie adventure yarns. Colonel Leigh is drummed out of the army but knows he's been set up and his signature forged. Returning to England he summons his four sons -- dim bulb Oxford student Rodney (William Henry), pompous barrister Wyatt (George Sanders), shallow ladies man/aviator Chris (David Niven), and stuffy British attache Geoffrey (Richard Greene) -- in order to show them the evidence proving he was framed by an international gun cartel. He doesn't get that far. While the boys are sipping bitters in the ante room, Colonel Leigh is shot dead in his study and the evidence removed. The press claims Leigh committed suicide from his disgrace, but the boys know better and set about to find his killer and clear his name.

Continue reading: Four Men And A Prayer Review

Drums Along The Mohawk Review


Excellent
For a beaten-down film critic as myself, the best thing about attending The New York Film Festival is not to get a jump on feature film releases that will quickly show up in local theaters a few days after their festival premieres, but to savor those obscure, febrile marvels of classic cinema that for whatever reasons (neglect, deterioration, ignorance) have been shuttled aside or locked away in film vaults to make way for the latest De Palma monstrosity, a fawning Las Vegas comic tribute documentary, or the most recent Sylvia Miles comeback film.

The New York Film Festival offered a double bill of savory morsels in this succulent vein, presided over master chef Martin Scorsese and his restoration outfit, The Film Foundation. On the bill-of-fare at The New York Film Festival were two 20th Century Fox three-strip Technicolor sweetmeats -- John Ford's Drums Along the Mohawk and John Stahl's Leave Her To Heaven.

Continue reading: Drums Along The Mohawk Review

Oklahoma! Review


Very Good
"There's a bright golden haze on the meadow," sings Curly (Gordon MacRae) as Oklahoma! kicks off. He's right. There's also a brilliant blue sky filled with cotton-candy clouds and rolling farmland and pretty girls in petticoats. Even the horses are gorgeous. This visual feast, the first feature shot in Todd-AO widescreen (and filmed simultaneously in CinemaScope) was one of many mid-'50s features seemingly designed to lure armies of Americans away from their new black-and-white TVs and back into movie theaters for a dazzling experience.

And dazzling it is. One of the most fun and hummable of Rodgers and Hammerstein's many musicals, Oklahoma! took 12 years to make it from its innovative Broadway debut (it was the first musical in which every song related directly to the plot) to the big screen. The story of the romance between cowboy Curly and virginal Laurey (Shirley Jones in full soprano mode), it has plenty of peripheral characters, each of whom gets a song and dance along the way, from slutty Ado Annie (Gloria Grahame) ("I Caint Say No') and her boyfriend Will Parker (Gene Nelson) ("Everything's Up to Date in Kansas City") to the kind-hearted Aunt Eller (Charlotte Greenwood), on whose farm Laurey lives.

Continue reading: Oklahoma! Review

In Old Chicago Review


OK
You know the O'Learys? Who had the famous cow that started the Chicago fire?

Well, this is not their story.

Continue reading: In Old Chicago Review

Oklahoma! Review


Very Good
"There's a bright golden haze on the meadow," sings Curly (Gordon MacRae) as Oklahoma! kicks off. He's right. There's also a brilliant blue sky filled with cotton-candy clouds and rolling farmland and pretty girls in petticoats. Even the horses are gorgeous. This visual feast, the first feature shot in Todd-AO widescreen (and filmed simultaneously in CinemaScope) was one of many mid-'50s features seemingly designed to lure armies of Americans away from their new black-and-white TVs and back into movie theaters for a dazzling experience.

And dazzling it is. One of the most fun and hummable of Rodgers and Hammerstein's many musicals, Oklahoma! took 12 years to make it from its innovative Broadway debut (it was the first musical in which every song related directly to the plot) to the big screen. The story of the romance between cowboy Curly and virginal Laurey (Shirley Jones in full soprano mode), it has plenty of peripheral characters, each of whom gets a song and dance along the way, from slutty Ado Annie (Gloria Grahame) ("I Caint Say No') and her boyfriend Will Parker (Gene Nelson) ("Everything's Up to Date in Kansas City") to the kind-hearted Aunt Eller (Charlotte Greenwood), on whose farm Laurey lives.

Continue reading: Oklahoma! Review

In Old Chicago Review


OK
You know the O'Learys? Who had the famous cow that started the Chicago fire?

Well, this is not their story.

Continue reading: In Old Chicago Review

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