Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive Grab Bag - SKY FULL OF MOON and FEARLESS FAGAN ""

Monday, June 9, 2014

Warner Archive Grab Bag - SKY FULL OF MOON and FEARLESS FAGAN

SKY FULL OF MOON (1952; Norman Foster)
There are few films that take place in LasVegas that I would classify as charming. I had a certain idea of what this film would be going in and it completely surprised me. I was expecting a "yokel gets fleeced" kinda thing for some reason. Since I most remember Jan Sterling from Billy Wilder's ACE IN THE HOLE, this film felt like some kind of alternate dimension. I kept expecting her to turn evil. She is remarkably adorable here.
Carleton Carpenter is one of those actors that brings a certain special simplicity to his portrayals. I'm not sure what he was like in real life, but as an actor he had the unique ability to play undereducated naive types quite well. It has to do with the way he looks and the cadence of his speech. There's a certain authenticity to his child-like view of the world that really pops off the screen in this movie. SKY FULL OF MOON was written and directed by Norman Foster. That's not a name I immediately recognized, but upon closer examination I discovered he did JOURNEY INTO FEAR as well as a bunch of MR. MOTO and CHARLIE CHAN films (including one of the best-CHARLIE CHAN AT TREASURE ISLAND). He also did the once cult favorite (according to Danny Peary) DAVY CROCKETT: KING OF THE WILD FRONTIER (1955). This is a shirt breezy movie (just around 72 mins) that has a less structured feel than a lot of movies I've seen. It legitimately had me kind of guessing as to which way it was going to go. Not to say it's filled with twists and turns, but in the Quentin Tarantino sense of storytelling it "unfolds" in a disarmingly pleasant way. It's just a good old fashioned love story about two gentle souls who find each other. Oh, did I mention Keenan Wynn? He's got a smaller part, but as character actors go, he's tops so it's great to have him in the mix.

FEARLESS FAGAN (1952; Stanley Donen)
This movie has several things going for it. First off, it has a gorgeous young Janet Leigh in one of the primary roles. I think that not enough people have dug deep enough into Leigh's pre-PSYCHO films to see what an excellent and unequivocally adorable actress she was. Her character is a bit of a pill in this movie, but nonetheless she always has a charm about her that I enjoy. Another thing in the "plus" column for this flick is that it also has a pet lion as another main character. I'm not sure what it is about movies with animals like this as pets that always charms me. If I think about the reality of it, perhaps it's not the best life for the creatures themselves (although who knows, maybe they led a charmed existence) - I am still nonetheless compelled by a story like this. After a chance encounter with the spot where Private Floyd Hilston has stashed his giant pet cat, entertainer/chanteuse Abby Ames (Janet Leigh) takes it upon herself to report the predator on the loose to the army. Not the best start to a relationship, but she comes around. I am fascinated that this film was directed by the great Stanley Donen (SINGIN IN THE RAIN, TWO FOR THE ROAD, CHARADE). Not only did he direct, but the film was released in the same year as SINGIN IN THE RAIN! Two films that couldn't be much more different - one a big old lavish spectacle of an MGM musical fantasy and the other an intimate character story based on a true story. Oh and there's some Keenan Wynn crossover here as he plays a cantankerous army sergeant in this movie.

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