Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Deanna Durbin juggles murder and romance in... Lady on a Train (1945)

Ever since I became a classic film fan, I've been hearing about Deanna Durbin. Since Wizard of Oz was a giant favorite of mine, and since Durbin was the unofficial rival of Judy Garland, I was steadfast in believing that Durbin wasn't for me. It honestly made no sense, I know. I never had any interest in Ms. Durbin until this year's 1947 Blogathon, where I read a piece about Something in the Wind, an appealing picture starring Durbin, John Dall, and Donald O'Connor. I don't know what happened, but suddenly I couldn't wait to get my hands on anything Deanna Durbin. I bought a collection of her films (found here) and I fell in love. This gal was sweet and cute, but also smart and scrappy -- and yes, she could sing. Lady on a Train is one of her best, and in the spirit of Halloween, I thought it was a good time to bring you some murder and mayhem (of the fictional kind, of course). By the way, there will be major spoilers throughout this post, so if you don't want to know the twist ending, you might want to watch the movie and come back here later.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Double Trouble: That Night in Rio (1941) and On the Riviera (1951)

Here's my second entry to this blogathon, dedicated to looking at Hollywood's favorite pastime: remakes. You can see the other entries here.

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As I said yesterday -- okay, insisted -- I try not to hold grudges against remakes. Despite coming from the same source material, remakes can be vastly different from the original, such as the two films I talked about yesterday, the comedy masterpiece Libeled Lady and the fun musical Easy to Wed. Today's case is a little different because both movies are like Easy to Wed: colorful, lightweight, and very easy on the senses. That Night in Rio was 20th Century Fox's chance to team up three of its biggest stars: Alice Faye, Don Ameche, and Carmen Miranda. Ten years later for On the Riviera, Fox again saw the opportunity to cash in on big names: multitalented Danny Kaye and Fox royalty Gene Tierney. Interestingly enough, these movies are both remakes of Folies Bergère de Paris, a 1935 flick with Maurice Chevalier, Ann Sothern, and Merle Oberon. I've been dying to see the original film,
but I just can't find it anywhere so I'll have to console myself with these other incarnations. (Although, how good does the 1935 one sound? It even has Eric Blore!) I've been singing the praises of On the Riviera for awhile now. When I found out there was a film with Danny Kaye and Gene Tierney, I kind of lost my mind. Before you could say "Amazon addiction," I had the DVD in my mittens. I loved it right away, so discovering that there was an earlier version with Don Ameche, aka one of the loves of my life, I was ready to pass out. I'm happy to say I adore both movies, but if we're being honest here, On the Riviera is #1 in my heart. (Don't leave me, Don!) Why? Well, let us dive into these delectable Technicolor dreams, where Danny Kaye has a French accent, Carmen Miranda's shoes and hats add two feet to her height, and Don Ameche once again justifies my crush on him...

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Twice the laughs: Libeled Lady (1936) and Easy to Wed (1946)

This is one of two entries I'll be writing up for the fun They Remade What?! Blogathon, which looks at that popular Hollywood activity of remaking its own films. You can check out my other post tomorrow and here's the complete roster.

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Let me get this out of the way: Libeled Lady is without a doubt one of the most quintessential films ever made. It has a stellar cast, a script so clever you can't believe it, fast-paced direction, and plenty of other adjectives. It's simply a wonderful comedy, a movie that we will sadly never see the likes of again. So, why did MGM deign to try and repeat Libeled Lady's magic? Well, money, of course. But also because Hollywood doesn't really seem to care whether or not they're taking a favorite of yours and messing with it any which way they can. And that's why people appear to hate remakes as much as they do -- it feels like a personal affront. "What?! You're screwing up such-and-such?! How dare you!" I've been guilty of that a few times, but sometimes a remake will excite me. It's a chance to see a story you already like done differently, and if it's with a cast of
people you enjoy, all the better. A remake doesn't damage the original; it's just a variance. With or without Easy to Wed, we would still have Libeled Lady, so I can't complain. Plus, Easy to Wed stars Esther Williams, so I really won't complain. I just don't feel a need to put down one film in order to boost the other. Although they obviously share the same story, characters, and even sometimes dialogue, I look at Easy to Wed and Libeled Lady as two separate films because that's what they are. Two individually enjoyable films. And that's my plan for this post -- to show you the greatness of both of them. Will there be comparisons made? Sure, but they will not be in service of something malicious. You will never hear me say "Keenan Wynn's portrayal can't hold a candle to Spencer Tracy's!" Remember: two separate films, two separate performers. They all bring something different, thus creating something different. Anyway, enough of my preaching. Time for the good stuff.