Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Dramas - Marya E. Gates ""

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Favorite Underrated Dramas - Marya E. Gates

Marya E. Gates has a B.A. in Comparative and French Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She recently moved from San Francisco to North Hollywood to work for the Warner Archive Collection and is finishing an M.F.A. in Screenwriting from Academy of Art University online. She contributed the foreword to Lew Ayres: Hollywood's Conscientious Objector available from the University Press of Mississippi. Her website is, she contributes to and can be found on Tumblr, Twitter, Mubi and iCheckMovies under the name oldfilmsflicker. Her first movie in theatres was Willow in 1988 and she's been obsessed ever since.

I know I was asked to write about only five films, but if you know me at all, you'll understand how whittling this down to just six films was a Herculean task in and of itself. I just couldn't possibly take one more of these films off. I'm not really a big fan of the term "underrated" nor do I really believe in genres (that's an argument for another time), but I think these six films fit the bill and they're ones I wish more people would see. 

The Wonderful Lie of Nina Petrovna, 1929 (dir. Hanns Schwarz) - The film stats Brigitte Helm (Metropolis) and Franz Lederer (Pandora’s Box) and I first saw it at the SF Silent Film Festival just last year and I loved it so much. It's similar to the story of Camille, but it's much more bitter and realistic, than bittersweet and romantic. I don't think it's on available on home video, which is probably why so few people have seen it, which is a real shame.

Portrait of Jennie, 1948 (dir. William Dieterle) - This last of four film pairings between Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones is also my favorite. The two had such great chemistry and this film is just so wonderfully surreal. There's definitely shades of German Expressionism and old school silent film techniques at work in this film. Also, Ethel Barrymore gives a scene-stealing performances as a wise old maid art dealer.

Don't Bother To Knock, 1952 (dir. Roy Ward Baker) - I've seen this listed as a thriller and that just adds fuel to my hatred of genre classification fire. It's a psychological drama if it's anything, featuring one of Marilyn Monroe's finest performances as a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown after the death of her boyfriend. She's so painfully good in this film (and 1956's Bus Stop) that it boggles my mind that people didn't take her seriously as an actress. Her drama skills were just as finely tuned as her comedic skills. The film's also got knockout performances from Richard Widmark, Anne Bancroft and Elisha Cook, Jr.

Love With The Proper Stranger, 1963 (dir. Robert Mulligan) - This is sort of a genre-defying film. It's listed as a romantic comedy drama and it really is all of those things and more. The only other film I can think of that manages to shift genres as successful as this does is Jonathan Demme's Something Wild (1986) Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen star as a salesclerk and a musician who shared a one-night stand and now must deal with the consequences, if you catch my drift. Parts of this film are not for the weak of heart. The film's depiction of a back-alley abortion is utterly devastating. This is another film in dire need of a home video release.

The Pope of Greenwich Village, 1984 (dir. Stuart Rosenberg) - This film tells the story of two cousins who work in a restaurant in Greenwich village. Mickey Rourke's character wants to own his own restaurant and move up in the world; Eric Roberts gets himself mixed up with the wrong sort of people. This is one of those films that is just so well acted you almost forget you are watching a film. Geraldine Page was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for a role that only appears on screen twice. That's how good the performances are.

Inventing the Abbotts, 1997 (dir. Pat O'Connor) - I have no idea why no one has seen this film. It was produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer and the cast includes Joaquin Phoenix, Billy Crudup, Jennifer Connelly, Liv Tyler Kathy Baker and Will Patton, all of whom give phenomenal, lived0in performances. It's a coming-of-age film, seen from the Phoenix character's point of view in the late-1950s, early-1960s Illinois. I've seen the film countless times and it never fails to capture my heart all over again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've seen Inventing the Abbotts! Granted, it was because I went through a Joaquin Phoenix obsession about 10 years ago, but I thought it was also a great film on its own merits. I want Kathy Baker to be my movie mom.