Thomas Mitchell

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Lost Horizon Review


Extraordinary
The weirdest film by Frank Capra, this epic was adapted from James Hilton's bestselling novel about a plane full of passengers stranded in Tibet who are brought to the imaginary utopia Shangri-la. (Hilton's sensational fantasy was inspired by mountaineering trips to the Himalayas -- pretty much unknown then -- and it probably still influences how people in the West think about Tibet.)

Lost Horizon is a strange but haunting mixture of drama, long expository passages, and romance, with lavish, Xanadu-like sets set against stock footage of icy mountains -- but the performance of Ronald Colman carries the movie. Colman's character is a Brit who decides he doesn't mind hanging with the Buddhists and enjoying the quiet life, but some of his companions are unhappy in the worker's paradise and debate whether to try to escape. Sensuality is provided by the young Jane Wyatt, later the matron on TV's Father Knows Best (Wyatt's character is even shown in a distant frontal nude scene, a wink at the Hays Code).

Continue reading: Lost Horizon Review

It's A Wonderful Life Review


Excellent
Come now, what on earth am I going to say about one of the most beloved films ever made? Something about how it was originally coined on a Christmas Card? About how a clerical error resulted in it not being copyrighted and contributing to its ubiquity on television -- since it was royalty-free? Or should I just go ahead and tell the few people on earth who haven't seen it what it's all about.

Okay kids, if you don't have a TV, It's a Wonderful Life tells us about George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), who lives and loves his small town of Bedford Falls so much he'd die for it. And sure enough, when his tiny Building & Loan (aka bank) starts to fail -- thanks to the malicious influence of the local tycoon (Lionel Barrymore) -- George heads for his local bridge to end it all.

Continue reading: It's A Wonderful Life Review

Stagecoach Review


Very Good
Stagecoach is the archetypical Western -- a stagecoach full of crazies has to make it through Indian country in one piece. Though it was his 80th film (of nearly 200), Stagecoach made John Wayne into the superstar he eventually became. Mitchell won Best Supporting Actor for his role as the drunken Doc Boone, and the rest of the cast, notably Trevor as a hooker being run out of town, are memorable. The film has some amazing gaffes, including guns that kick but don't actually go "bang" and, again most notably, one rear-projected shot from the stagecoach where the Indian outside is riding the wrong way. Classic, yet hopelessly dated.

Continue reading: Stagecoach Review

High Noon (1952) Review


Good
Sure, it's a classic, but High Noon has never been a favorite Western of mine. Its pace is too slow -- though some scenes of Gary Cooper's marshal in desperate search of a posse before the black hats arrive in town can be tense. The scene where Cooper waits for the conveniently-timed train to arrive at the station is also quite stylish. Alas, Grace Kelly or no, High Noon just doesn't have the depth of character for my tastes. No flawed hero, no injustice to be avenged. Just a good guy, a bad guy, and a clean-cut ending that leaves you shrugging the whole thing off.

Lost Horizon Review


Very Good
A classic book and a classic film -- make sure you look for the full-length (132 minute) restored version, which features still photographs where there was no known print to match up to the audio. Bizarre methodology, yet strangely, it works.

Gone With The Wind Review


Essential
One of the classic films that defined American cinema, Gone With the Wind is a rare example of a collaboration involving hundreds of talents and egos that turned out great. Dozens of uncredited screenwriters (including F. Scott Fitzgerald, briefly) and hundreds of actors were marshaled by David O. Selznick for this effort. The resulting four-hour epic is, inflation-adjusted, still the highest-grossing movie of all time -- and it deserves to be. For millions of people, Gone With the Wind has helped to define the myth and reality of America's most tragic (and much-misunderstood) period of history, the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Margaret Mitchell's bestselling novel was the most successful period romance novel of all time, a combination of historical detail and soap that drew from family recollections of the war and its aftermath. The novel's popularity allowed the filmmakers to be confident of success, but still, Selznick spent more time and money, and took more risks, than could have been expected. The requisite attention was paid to costumes and sets, of course. More important, the film's visual effects -- especially the burning of Atlanta and the smoking ruins of the Georgia plantations after Sherman's pillage -- are the most effective and memorable that had been attempted at that time.

Continue reading: Gone With The Wind Review

The Outlaw Review


Good
Never mind the story about Billy the Kid, Doc Holliday, and Pat Garrett -- this western (the second and final film Howard Hughes directed) is about one thing: Jane Russell. Hughes' five-year battle with the censors to get The Outlaw released is well documented in The Aviator, thanks to Hughes's envelope-pushing when it came to Russell's impressive cleavage, on display in nearly every scene she's in. The film would be G-rated today, but at the time, that hint of skin was enough to send people scampering for a little water to put on their brow. Russell hadn't really come into her own as an actress, either -- here she sneers through the entire film -- but as a physical presence, wow, Russell certainly makes an impression. If you catch my drift.

It's A Wonderful Life Review


Excellent
Come now, what on earth am I going to say about one of the most beloved films ever made? Something about how it was originally coined on a Christmas Card? About how a clerical error resulted in it not being copyrighted and contributing to its ubiquity on television -- since it was royalty-free? Or should I just go ahead and tell the few people on earth who haven't seen it what it's all about.

Okay kids, if you don't have a TV, It's a Wonderful Life tells us about George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), who lives and loves his small town of Bedford Falls so much he'd die for it. And sure enough, when his tiny Building & Loan (aka bank) starts to fail -- thanks to the malicious influence of the local tycoon (Lionel Barrymore) -- George heads for his local bridge to end it all.

Continue reading: It's A Wonderful Life Review

Stagecoach Review


Very Good
Stagecoach is the archetypical Western -- a stagecoach full of crazies has to make it through Indian country in one piece. Though it was his 80th film (of nearly 200), Stagecoach made John Wayne into the superstar he eventually became. Mitchell won Best Supporting Actor for his role as the drunken Doc Boone, and the rest of the cast, notably Trevor as a hooker being run out of town, are memorable. The film has some amazing gaffes, including guns that kick but don't actually go "bang" and, again most notably, one rear-projected shot from the stagecoach where the Indian outside is riding the wrong way. Classic, yet hopelessly dated.
Thomas Mitchell

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It's a Wonderful Life Movie Review

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It's a Wonderful Life Movie Review

It's a Wonderful Life Movie Review

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