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Friday, December 4, 2015

Underrated '45 - Laura G

If you weren't already aware, Laura runs the wonderful blog Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, which is a must for any classic film fans:
She can be found on Twitter here:
See her Underrated '55 list here:
TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT (Victor Saville, 1945) - I grew up watching classic movies in L.A. revival theaters, and I feel a warm glow when I remember going to see Rita Hayworth's films. This one, which I saw in 35mm three times at the Vagabond on Wilshire, is a special favorite; it's one of those movies which deepened my love for "old" films and helped turn me in to the film fan I am now, decades later. It's the compelling story of a London theater which was determined not to close during the Blitz; it has a sharp, mature script, excellent performances, and memorable Cahn-Styne tunes including the Oscar-nominated "Anywhere." Rita Hayworth is utterly appealing as the American performer in the group, with great support from Janet Blair (even if her British accent comes and goes), the underrated Lee Bowman, and dancer Marc Platt. This film deserves to be much better known.

Available on DVD in The Films of Rita Hayworth Collection from Sony.

YOLANDA AND THE THIEF (Vincente Minnelli, 1945) - This is another title I first met in 35mm at the Vagabond, decades before it was available for home viewing. Movie-going in the '70s and early '80s was a much more ephemeral experience; the memory of a film might have to hold you for a long time, and this movie's dazzling colors formed an amazing Technicolor kaleidoscope in my mind's eye. Over the years this film has had a relatively negative reputation among the credits of both Fred Astaire and director Minnelli, with critics not liking the fantasy storyline or beautiful redheaded leading lady Lucille Bremer. Personally, I've always been fond of this film, based on a story by Ludwig Bemelmans, in which con artist Astaire convinces a sheltered, very rich young woman (Bremer) he's her guardian angel. But then he falls in love with her... This movie would be worth seeing if only for the sets and costumes! "Coffee Time," choreographed by Eugene Loring and danced by Astaire and Bremer on a swirling black and white floor, is one of my all-time favorite dance numbers. Even if viewers aren't as willing as I am to suspend disbelief, YOLANDA has so many worthwhile aspects that it deserves a far better reputation.

Available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

LADY ON A TRAIN (Charles David, 1945) - This is one of the most overlooked Christmas movies ever, and one of my all-time favorite Deanna Durbin films. It seamlessly blends multiple genres: screwball comedy, murder mystery, and musical -- plus Christmas! Nikki (Durbin) is traveling to visit her aunt for Christmas when she spots a murder out the train window. Getting someone to believe what she saw is quite a challenge! While the holiday isn't front and center, it's always cozily in the background, and Deanna's three songs include "Silent Night," sung over the phone to her faraway father. The movie has an absolutely wonderful cast including Dan Duryea, Ralph Bellamy, Patricia Morison, Edward Everett Horton, Allen Jenkins, George Coulouris, and David Bruce. The story was by Leslie Charteris, creator of THE SAINT, and the background score was by Miklos Rozsa. Don't miss this fun movie, which I sometimes think is only known to Deanna Durbin fans.

Available on DVD in the Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack from Universal.

DILLINGER (Max Nosseck, 1945) - DILLINGER is a stylish, zippy gangster film which is an engrossing, fast-paced 70 minutes. Movies focused on gangsters or outlaws aren't my favorite genre, but this one really worked for me. Lawrence Tierney, legendary for being a tough guy off the screen as well as on, is perfect casting in the title role. He has crackling chemistry with Anne Jeffreys, who gives a fresh, alluring performance as a movie ticket taker who is attracted to him when he robs her and becomes his moll. It's fascinating watching Jeffreys' character, a cool customer who is always closely observing Dillinger. There's a fine supporting cast including Elisha Cook Jr., Edmund Lowe, and Eduardo Ciannelli.

Available on DVD in the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 2.

I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1945) - This is the least underrated of my five films, but I think it's underrated compared to other films directed by Powell and Pressburger...and in any event, I want to take this opportunity to strongly recommend it, as it's a real favorite of mine. It's the perfect film to watch at this time of year, wrapped in a cozy blanket while sipping tea or hot cocoa. Wendy Hiller plays Joan, a headstrong young Englishwoman looking for security; she's on her way to marry a wealthy man she doesn't love, but poor weather prevents her from getting to the remote Scottish island where the wedding is due to take place. While stranded in a village waiting for the weather to clear, Joan finds herself falling for a poor but dashing Naval lieutenant, Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey). The development of their relationship is portrayed quite subtly; this is one of those movies where it's important to keep your eyes on the screen at all times, for what is seen is just as important as what is said. The weather and stark, stormy setting combine with Gaelic, ancient castles and legends, music, animals, and village celebrations to give the film a certain otherworldly, mystic quality, building to a heartwarming conclusion. This one lingers in the mind and grows only more special on further acquaintance.

Available on DVD from the Criterion Collection.


Jerry E said...

What a splendid choice of films, Laura! Whilst it is kinda rare now, "LADY ON A TRAIN" is a cracker (and I too am a huge fan of mysteries/dramas set aboard trains).
"I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING" is pure delight. One of its many strengths for me is that neither Wendy Hiller or Roger Livesey were "beautiful" people - quite ordinary really and that really is an attractive feature for me. And.... no Fred Astaire film is ever a disappointment for this viewer/fan.
The one I have never seen is "TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT" and it sounds like one I need to track down definitely.
Great choices - as I would have expected from you.

Laura said...

Thank you, Jerry! So glad that you also know some of these films. I plan to watch LADY ON A TRAIN again this month!

Really hope you enjoy TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT -- please let me know what you think.

Brian, great shot from the "Coffee Time" dance at the top of the post, thanks! And thanks again for the invitation to participate.

Best wishes,

john k said...

Hi Laura,

Lovely list-Colin seems to think I've seen every film ever made-I certainly have not!
Interestingly I have not seen any of your selections and would certainly like to
especially DILLINGER which is right up my street.
By an odd coincidence I just mentioned Victor Saville over at Colin's-it's a shame this
now forgotten director called it a day after the financial and critical flop THE SILVER
CHALICE-he had a diverse and interesting career.
Thanks again,Laura for highlighting these choice films.

Laura said...

Thanks so much for your note, John! I think you'd enjoy DILLINGER a lot -- and you might like LADY IN THE DARK, with its murder mystery theme and Dan Duryea as well. If you get a chance to try one please let me know! Love spreading the word on these movies.

I'll check out the conversation at Colin's Riding the High Country, thanks!

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

Interesting picks, Laura. And it looks like I've got the jump on John for a change - I've seen three of these: Dillinger (which I'd need to watch again as I was a little underwhelmed on my first viewing), I Know Where I'm Going and Lady on a Train.


Laura said...

Hi Colin!

Thanks so much for checking out my list. I'd be very interested to know if your impression of DILLINGER remains the same on second viewing. It really captured my interest.

Glad to know you've seen 3/5 of my list -- hope you might check out the other two some time!

Best wishes,