The Stranger

The Stranger. International Pictures 1946.

Before watching the movie:

As much as personalized algorithmic suggestions tend to point me toward things I want to watch, they tend to get trained more narrowly than my tastes actually are, and they’re limited by what’s been made available based on what the userbase as a whole wants to see. So sometimes it’s a refreshing change of pace to just go to the library and see what jumps off the shelf.

Perhaps a learning AI trained on the entire back catalog of my blog and having the entire history of Hollywood movies to choose from might suggest a 40s Orson Welles thriller about searching out an escaped Nazi officer, but it doesn’t seem likely.

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Who Done It?

Who Done It? Universal Pictures 1943.

Before watching the movie:

What can one expect from an Abbott and Costello movie? Bumbling into trouble, one-liners, slapstick. I can’t point to anything about this movie that I think is going to be truly remarkable. It’s a vehicle picture coming out of the Hollywood machine of the Golden Age contract films model.

I have nothing to point to that I’m very interested in, beyond seeing Abbott and Costello get into trouble and be silly for a bit. They’re what sell the movie, which is the whole point.

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Neptune’s Daughter

Neptune’s Daughter. Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer 1949.

Before watching the movie:

I’m pretty sure this movie was recommended to me, and that’s why the title sounded familiar, but I don’t really remember what basis the recommendation was made on. It was probably close to the reason it caught my attention now. The stars include Red Skelton and Ricardo Montalban. The leading lady is Esther Williams, who I’m not really familiar with, though apparently MGM never missed an opportunity to put her in circumstances that involve swimsuits.

It looks like a basic romp with a swimming and  polo theme (and perhaps water polo?), and with musical numbers included in a runtime of not much past an hour and a half, not only a light story, but light on story. Just a bit of fun with some Hollywood legends.

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Gentleman’s Agreement

Gentleman’s Agreement. 20th Century Fox 1947.

Before watching the movie:

I’m unclear whether the anti-Semitism the main character wants to expose is within a particular institution, or more broadly, within society at large, like the seminal Black Like Me, or less seminal White Chicks.

While there are people, perhaps even people who would not be considered eugenicists or race-nationalists, who consider “Jewish” a morphological race, the physical characteristics are very subtle, to the point where I’m not sure how a Gentile reporter would pose as a Jewish man other than introducing himself to people who don’t know him with a “hi, I’m Jewish, by the way!” A long game approach would probably be to get a new job somewhere and drop big hints, but that would point back to “within a single institution”. I feel like I got out of my depth three paragraphs ago and I should just let the movie tell its own story.

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Laura

Laura. 20th Century Fox 1944.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not sure if I’ve been aware of this movie before it came up in recommendations or not. I seem to be vaguely aware of “Laura” as a title, but I may just be thinking of the song (which I know because Spike Jones exploded it), that turns out to be the theme from the movie with lyrics added.

Vincent Price appears to have a small role, judging by his billing, but he’s the biggest name I can see. The only other name I even recognize on the shortlist is Clifton Webb.

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Murder, He Says

Murder, He Says. Paramount Pictures 1945.
Murder, He Says. Paramount Pictures 1945.

Before watching the movie:

This was a suggestion from a Facebook friend. All I needed was Fred MacMurray or “murder comedy”, but this appears to be both. I actually wasn’t sure when I decided to do this if it was a comedy or a thriller, but I was fairly certain MacMurray never played against type (0r at least in anything dark) in anything but Double Indemnity. So I was fairly certain it’ll be a good time.

I’m a little surprised I don’t already have a tag for Fred MacMurray. I’ve invoked The Happiest Millionaire in a few other blog posts, and he actually appeared via archive footage in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, but in too minor a role to merit getting tagged as a star, and also I didn’t like what the movie did with the clips from Double Indemnity. Thanks to classic Disney films like Happiest Millionaire and The Absent-Minded Professor, as well as the impact Double Indemnity left on me as a young film student, I’ve always felt like MacMurray has had a minor presence here, but this is somehow the first time he’s starred in a review.

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Anchors Aweigh

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Anchors Aweigh. Metro Goldwyn-Meyer 1945.

Before watching the movie:

I only know this movie exists because it famously has a scene where one of the men, probably Gene Kelly, dances with Jerry the cartoon mouse, which must be a fantasy number.

Apparently, this is a musical about falling in love on shore leave. Sinatra and Kelly are friends and shipmates and at least one of them falls in love with a local girl in port. I would be pleasantly surprised if this didn’t make up the bulk of its plot on a love triangle, but I’m just looking forward to some songs about sailors having good clean fun ashore.

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