Random Harvest of Thoughts: CITY NOIR by John Adams

The Summer of Darkness has come and gone but the thirst for noir still remains.

My Dad recently told me about a piece of music written by modern American composer John Adams.  I have liked some of Adams’ other works so I thought I would give this one a try, especially after my Dad told me that the piece was meant to be part of a soundtrack to an imaginary film noir.  I listened to it and definitely felt the influence of noir on his work, and decided to share it with all of you.  I think that you’ll enjoy this piece, even if you aren’t usually a fan of modern classical music.  Here is an article about Adams’ more recent saxophone concerto (2104) which was inspired by City Noir (2009).

Without further ado…City Noir.


The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon: INTERMEZZO; A LOVE STORY (1939)

This post is part of The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon hosted by Virginie over at The Wonderful World of Cinema.  Be sure to check out the other entries here!

The following post will deal with the English version of INTERMEZZO.

Holger Brandt (Leslie Howard) is a famous violinist, renowned throughout the world for his concerts with his accompanist Thomas Stenborg (John Halliday).  At a recital in New York, Holger announces that Thomas is planning on retiring to teach music and that the two men will be returning home to Stockholm.  Having spent so many years abroad performing the men are happy to be finally reunited with their families.  Thomas is met at the station by his wife Greta (Enid Bennett), and Holger is met by his wife Margit (Edna Best) and his youngest daughter Ann Marie (Ann Todd).  Margit and Anne Marie are overjoyed to finally be reunited with Holger and he is delighted to see them too.  Once home Holger is also greeted by his son Eric (Douglas Scott) and is soon being regaled with tales of home life.  Ann Marie excitedly tells her father that she is learning piano from a young lady, one whom Margit tells him he will meet soon.  Holger is happy to be with his family but something has changed.  While he still loves Margit the long separation has taken its toll and the relationship has become more distant.  Family memories will have to wait until later as Ann Marie’s piano lesson is about to begin as her teacher, Anita Hoffman (Ingrid Bergman) has just arrived.  Holger and Anita exchange greetings and the lesson begins.

The next evening a small gathering is being held to celebrate the return of Thomas and Holger.  Ann Marie accompanies her father on the piano, much to the delight of everyone.  After her performance with her father, Ann Marie asks Anita to play for everyone.  Anita eventually agrees and gets up to play just as Holger comes over to congratulate his daughter.  He is eventually drawn to Anita’s playing and takes up his violin again.  As the two play Margit watches, concern in her eyes.  Holger asks Anita to consider being his new accompanist but she refuses.

One night as Holger and Thomas leave a concert, they are met by Anita who has just attended the very same performance.  Thomas soon excuses himself, and Holger and Anita continue on walking and talking together.  Anita finds herself drawn to the offstage persona of Holger Brandt.  For his part, Holger is attracted to Anita’s youth and vibrance.  As they walk their attraction for each other deepens and before the night is over their affair will begin.

Some time later Anita comes to the Brandt household early in the morning.  She asks to speak with Margit, and as she waits she lovingly touches Holger’s violin as it sits in its case.  Margit coming down the stairs notices this, and enters the room with trepidation.  Anita tells Margit that she can longer teach Ann Marie as she has decided that she must leave Stockholm.  Margit looks at her and understands the deeper meaning behind these words, telling her that she is sure Anita is doing what is right.  Anita leaves and goes to a nearby cafe where she meets Holger.  The two have been meeting in secret for some time, carrying on their affair.  Anita is ashamed of what they are doing and tells Holger that they must end things.  Holger agrees at first but then realizes that he cannot let her go.  He returns home and confesses all to Margit.  His marriage in tatters he leaves, seeking Anita to continue their romance.

Anita and Holger go on tour together from city to city.  At the end of the tour they decide to take a vacation together and for a time they are terribly happy.  Then one morning Anita receives a letter from Thomas.  He tells Anita that she has been awarded a prestigious scholarship for music, one that will help bolster her fledgling career as a concert pianist.  He urges her to not allow anything to come between her and her bright future.  Knowing that accepting this scholarship would mean leaving Holger behind, Anita burns the letter and resolves to stay with the man she loves.  But soon she questions whether or not she has made the right decision.  Not only does she feel guilty for the pain they have caused, but she has also noticed that Holger’s longing for his family is beginning to creep back and is only growing with each passing day.

This is such a beautiful love story.  It is a quiet and adult tale, not over the top or too melodramatic.  The love between Holger and Anita is subtle but still feels deep and passionate.  It is not the love of two teenagers rather of two adults who enter the relationship with their eyes open to the hurt and disruption they will cause.  Leslie Howard is perfectly suited to the role, bringing a quiet intensity to Holger that speaks to a man who has put all his passion into music, leaving none for his wife.  He feels the lack of fire in the relationship and the prospect of losing his accompanist, and therefore his ability to play music with the emotion and fire he has heretofore been able to, leaves him open and vulnerable to being attracted to any other source of that passion.  Like a moth to a flame, Holger finds himself drawn to vibrance, youth, and life, things he finds in abundance in Anita.

Ingrid Bergman is almost the Anti-Garbo to me.  I don’t mean that I prefer her to Garbo, rather that where Garbo is distant, aloof, and at times cold, Ingrid Bergman is open, inviting, and warm.  Where Garbo has a mystique, Bergman radiates honesty and authenticity.  She brings these qualities to her roles and in Anita she finds a way of projecting youth without immaturity. She manages to make Anita wholly sympathetic even though she is technically “the other woman”.  You never feel like she is destroying a marriage or taking a father from his children, although that is what happens.  Ingrid Bergman creates a character that is so happy, warm, and charming that we fall in love with her just has Holger does.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that she is stunning as well.  There is a story that when David O. Selznick hired Gregg Toland to take over the photography of INTERMEZZO, he asked Toland why Bergman looked so beautiful in the original European production and so terrible in this version. Toland replied, “In Sweden they don’t make her wear all that makeup.”  Selznick then had all the previous footage reshot with Ingrid Bergman’s natural beauty producing the stunning film we see today.

Ingrid Bergman shines in this, her first American film and her English language debut.  She is utterly wonderful as is the story of Anita and Holger.

Spending Time with Turner Classic Movies: THE SET-UP (1949)

Some time ago I asked for suggestions of films I should watch and post about here.  Among the suggestions was a movie called THE SET-UP starring Robert Ryan, which was recommended to me by Karen of Shadows and Satin.  Well thanks to the Summer Under the Stars my DVR has been working overtime and I am now finally getting a chance to watch some of the films I recorded in the previous months in an effort to make more space!  Which leads me to this post as I finally watched THE SET-UP.

Stoker Thompson (Robert Ryan) is an aging boxer.  At the age of thirty-five he is considered ancient by his sport’s standards.  He is also not a very successful boxer, usually being the one down on the mat rather than standing up and basking in the cheers of the crowd.  Thanks to his reputation pretty much everyone has counted Stoker out.  The older boxers have a fondness for him but for the most part Stoker is a joke to everyone else.  Among those who have little respect for Stoker are his manager Tiny (George Tobias) and his trainer Red (Percy Helton).  So it should come as very little surprise to anyone that Tiny and Red have very little compunction about taking bribes.  They are doing just that on the night of Stoker’s fight against a new boxer.  Apparently the new kid is the personal fighter of  one Little Boy, a gambler with big dreams for his new champion and even bigger threats to back them up.  Little Boy’s man offers Tiny money in exchange for Stoker to take a dive in the second round.  Tiny and Red agree but don’t tell Stoker, figuring he is bound to get beaten anyway, and pocket the money for themselves.

In the hotel across the street from the boxing arena, Stoker and his wife Julie (Audrey Totter) are arguing.  Stoker wants Julie to come and see him fight just like she always has.  But Julie, after dutifully supporting her husband all these years, is tired of watching the man she loves be beaten to a pulp night after night.  She is tired of hearing that he is just “one punch away from the top”.  She tells Stoker that she has a headache and will not be going to the fight.  She begs him to retire from the ring, fearing that the fights will one day kill him.  Stoker is hurt but leaves any way, telling Julie “when you’re a fighter, you fight”.

Backstage at the arena Stoker is surrounded by fighters old and new.  The older fighters chat easily while they prepare, while the new guys are more energetic.  One young kid prepares for his very first fight with a few trips to the bathroom before heading out.  Some fighters win and others lose.  Stoker watches them all, pensive and disturbed by Julie’s words.  He believes that he can beat his opponent, that he can come out on top this time, but he feels Julie’s sadness and concern.  It all becomes too possible when the door to the backroom bursts open and one of Stoker’s buddies, a washed up fighter named Gunboat Johnson, is rushed in in bad shape from a severe pummeling.

Stoker prepares for his fight and looks out the window to the hotel across the street.  Julie begins to head out and at the last minute takes the ticket her husband left her.  Stoker sees the light go out and happily believes his wife is coming to see him fight.  Julie makes her way to the arena but as she enters the door she hears the familiar sounds of the crowd reacting to a man being beaten to within an inch of his life.  She turns and hurries away into the night.  Stoker heads to the ring full of confidence, unaware of what awaits him.  Tiny and Red advise him to hold back and keep away from his opponent but Stoker insists that he is going to beat the newcomer.  Tiny and Red share a look and a smirk as they send Stoker off to meet his fate.

This is one of the first movies to utilize the concept of taking place in real-time.  The film lasts little more than seventy-two minutes and packs quite a bit of action into that short amount of time.  The various clocks shown during the film not only give a sense of the passage of time but they also give a feeling of doom as the countdown closes in on an unsuspecting Stoker.  It is a very similar experience to that of watching HIGH NOON, as the audience knows what is coming for the main character and we can see time slipping away as he tries to prepare.

Watching THE SET-UP I noticed how much of the action and drama actually takes place in the facial expressions, reactions, and unheard thoughts of the characters.  The noises and conversations of the other people often seem to be just so much noise as we try to watch the faces of Stoker, Julie, Tiny, and Red.  Robert Ryan is just fantastic at this, often saying so much with just one look.  He is definitely an actor that I am growing in appreciation of.  He brings a quietness and a stillness to his role, one that gives the viewer the feeling of a man who has been beaten down and made fun of for so long that he has almost started to believe it.  Almost.

THE SET-UP also gives a look at the corruption of the boxing world without being too heavy handed.  Instead of holding Stoker up on the moral high-ground and having Tiny get what should be coming to him, director Robert Wise simply shows the corruption as part of the environment that everyone acknowledges and accepts.  THE SET-UP is a fast, tense, and brutal film about a man surrounded by darkness with no way out except to fight.

Update on The William Wellman Blogathon!

The William Wellman Blogathon is coming up very soon and I am so happy with the response so far!  It is terrific that so many bloggers are willing to come together and celebrate the works and life of William Wellman!  Couple that with the blessing of William Wellman Jr. and I am excited for what is sure to be a terrific event!

We have had a great turn out so far but in case you haven’t signed up yet the announcement post along with the updated roster can be found here.  There are still plenty of films yet to be claimed (although duplicate topics are okay too), especially among Wellman’s silent and pre-code films.  Here are the unclaimed titles so far:

Lafayette Escadrille
Darby’s Rangers
The High and the Mighty
My Man and I
It’s a Big Country: An American Anthology
Across the Wide Missouri
The Next Voice You Hear…
Gallant Journey
This Man’s Navy
Buffalo Bill
Reaching for the Sun
The Light That Failed
Men with Wings
Small Town Girl
Robin Hood of El Dorado
The President Vanishes
Looking for Trouble
The Conquerors
The Hatchet Man
The Star Witness
Maybe It’s Love
Young Eagles
Dangerous Paradise
Woman Trap
The Man I Love
Chinatown Nights
Ladies of the Mob
The Legion of the Condemned
The Cat’s Pajamas
You Never Know Women
When Husbands Flirt
The Circus Cowboy
The Vagabond Trail
Not a Drum Was Heard
Cupid’s Fireman
Big Dan
Second Hand Love
The Man Who Won

The Anti-Damsel Blogathon: WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1952)

This post is part of the Anti-Damsel Blogathon hosted by Fritzi of Movies Silently and Jo of The Last Drive-In.  Be sure to check out the other entries here!

When I first heard of this blogathon I was beyond excited to take part.  I loved the idea of celebrating some truly tough and empowered women  in film.  As I go along I am finding that more and more classic films had some very fine examples of women doing what they want when they want and not giving a hoot what other people think.  Real kick-bottom-take-names type behavior.  Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think that there are some good examples of empowered women in television and film today, but often I feel that many modern “empowered women” in media are not as tough as we might like to believe.  Often it seems like a woman is meant to exude confidence and independence simply because she can fit into a leather catsuit without showing any cellulite or because she can punch and kick people in vaguely sexual ways while tossing witticisms over her shoulder.  To me being an empowered female is more about being treated, not as a man’s equal, but as a person.  Not wanting gender to come into the equation at all and not allowing my gender to affect either other people’s treatment of me nor my expectations of my own limits.  Being empowered is doing anything and everything that I want to, no matter how tough, not because I am a woman and I want to prove something but because I want to do it and why should my gender have any thing to do with anything.  If I want to go out and rebuild an engine I can, if I want to wear a tutu and dance in the ballet I can, and if I want to write a classic film blog I can.  To me being empowered is about respect and what I look like in a catsuit should have nothing to do with it.  There are no catsuits in WESTWARD THE WOMEN.  There are, however, about two hundred highly empowered, tough, and determined WOMEN (not girls).

In 1851 Roy Whitman (John McIntre) is running a prosperous ranching community in his valley in California.  There is one problem however.  There are no women around and the men are getting antsy.  The men want to lay down roots and start families of their own, which means that they need wives.  Roy turns to his friend Buck Wyatt (Robert Taylor), who is an experienced trail blazer, and recruits him to travel to Chicago with Roy in the hopes of finding enough women willing to come west and marry the hundred men of Whitman Valley.  Buck is resistant at first as he believes the journey would be too difficult for women to endure, but he finally agrees once Roy offers to double his usual salary.

Once in the city Buck and Roy set up a “casting call” of sorts for any eligible women willing to come out and marry some tough California ranchers, sight unseen.  Many women turn up, all seeking a new life, and Roy soon has one hundred and forty-eight women signed up.  The last two are Fifi Danon (Denise Darcel) and Laurie Smith (Julie Bishop).  Fifi and Laurie are prostitutes who, after seeing their other prostitute friends turned away, went off and changed their usual clothes for something more modest.  Roy seems fooled by the change but Buck sizes both women up immediately and silently registers his disgust.  The party is now full at one hundred and fifty women.  Among those chosen are Patience Hawley (Hope Emerson), the aging widow of a New England sea-captain and mother of two lost sons; Maggie O’Malley (Leonore Lonergan), farm girl and an expert with a gun; Rose Meyers (Beverly Daniels), who is pregnant with an illegitimate child; Mrs. Maroni (Renata Vanni), an Italian widow traveling with her nine-year-old son Tony (Guido Martufi).  Why fifty extra women you might be wondering?  Due to the toughness of the trek ahead, Roy and Buck expect fifty of the women to either die or abandon the journey.  Buck then goes off to recruit his own crew of men while Roy invites the women up to each choose the picture of the man she would like to marry.

Buck gathers his crew of hopefuls, among them a small Japanese man called Ito (Henry Nakamura) who becomes the cook for the team, and gives them all the rundown of what will be expected of them.  The men seem fairly eager to join up, especially when they hear so many women will be around.  Buck soon puts a stop to that and warns them to “stay away from the women” promising to shoot anyone who disobeys.  Over the next week some of the women who are versed in shooting guns, riding horses, and controlling mules teams teach the rest of the ladies how to perform these skills on the trail.  Buck arrives with his men, doubtful that the women will be able to carry their own weight.  He tells the women to prepare for a long and difficult journey and warns them to “stay away from the men”.  Buck then calls for the wagon train to move out which, much to his surprise, it does without any issues.

After a few days of travel things seem to be going well.  That is until Buck catches one of his men heading into a wagon with one of the women for some “quality time”.  True to his word, and much to the surprise of all the men, Buck shoots the offender in the shoulder promising to kill the next man who tries anything like that.  He has seen too many wagon trains descend into chaos when men and women start canoodling.  The men grudgingly accept this and things go one peacefully for a time.  One day the wagon train finds itself under threat from a band of raiding Indians.  As the women circle the wagons the men ready themselves for a fight.  The Indians admit that their arrows are no match for the guns of the wagon train but promise to come back when the odds are in their favor.  Buck decides to not push the train forward any farther that day and they make camp.  The women are enjoying a game of “Have you ever seen a sting bat?” when Fifi comes up asking if anyone has seen Laurie.  No one has and she rushes off, promptly running into one of the men coming back from the desert looking disheveled.  Fearing the worst, Fifi hurries off and finds her friend raped and beaten.  She yells for Buck, who comes running.  After taking in the scene Buck returns and confronts the man, who reasons that he didn’t kill Laurie but only “roughed her up a little bit” and gave her nothing more than she got a thousand times before in her profession.  Buck is unmoved and makes good on his promise, shooting the man dead.  The other men are shocked and one attempts to shoot Buck, before being shot dead himself by Maggie.  Buck thanks Maggie and then advises everyone to go to bed for the night, but he takes a few moments to voice his concerns for the wagon train to Roy.

In the morning Buck’s worst fears are concerned.  All the men, save Ito and a man named Jim Bailey (who has fallen in love with Rose), has left taking with them eight women and any hope of safely finishing the trail or so Buck believes.  When he tells this to the women, offering them an option of turning back and going home, everyone one of them responds “Not me!”.  Buck smiles and tells them to ready the wagons, the trail was tough before but it will be even worse now…and the Indians have not forgotten their promise.

This was an amazing movie.  Based on an original story idea from Frank Capra, which he then sold to his friend William Wellman, WESTWARD THE WOMEN is definitely going into my top ten list.  Often toted as a western that turned the genre on its head, I don’t feel like Wellman made this film for that reason.  I think he found this idea exciting and wanted to see it come to life, and if it riled a few things up in the world of westerns all the better.  After reading Wellman’s biography I got the sense that William Wellman was a man who didn’t care if you were a man or a woman.  He cared about what sort of person you were.  If you were a hard worker, tough and able to roll with the punches, then it didn’t matter if you were a woman or not.  I think he had great respect for strong women, women who didn’t put other people down to make themselves feel better, women who didn’t complain and want special treatment, women who meant what they said, said what they meant, and did what they said they would do.  And that attitude really comes out in this film.

In another director’s film, Ford, Hawkes, even Capra, there would have been a come to the light moment where Fifi and Laurie repent for their wicked former ways.  Wellman does not do this, nor does he make Rose regret her unmarried dalliance, nor Patience forswear love to any man but her lost husband.  Rather he allows each of these women to be human and to have a past that is less than perfect but one that remains with them and shapes who they are.  These women are seeking marriage not for love or the fairy tale ending, but for safety in a world which had very few options available to unmarried females.  The fact that he allows the women to choose their own husbands, to step up and pick rather than showing up and standing like a meat auction before the men, shows too that he is valuing these women and their choices as adults.  He is allowing them to have free will and independence, trusting them to know what is best for themselves.

Buck never sugar coats things for the women on account of their sex.  He tells them upfront how dangerous the journey will be and offers them a chance out at the beginning.  Not one women leaves.  He registers some surprise at this and Buck’s journey to respecting the women is part of the story of WESTWARD THE WOMEN.  And again, where other directors would have made a big show about it, would have had one great sudden realization on Buck’s part, Wellman does not do this.  Rather he allows Buck to realize through the continued observation of the strength and determination of these women, that he was judging them too quickly before.  He never says “I was wrong” but then he doesn’t need to because we see it and realize it too.

Do you know how sometimes you watch a movie and the characters set out on a terrible journey but the terrible things that face them are really about ten minutes worth of only moderately annoying events at best?  Like someone loses a shoe or their favorite locket, someone goes out in the rain to pout and gets pneumonia for a week, and someone falls and sprains their ankle (a classic) before finally reaching their chosen destination?  Yeah, not so much with WESTWARD THE WOMEN.  The wagon train faces some pretty terrible stuff like desert heat, wagon crashes, insanity, Indian raids, the aforementioned rape, and death.  Lots of death.  In fact the female body count is at least four times that of the male body county by the time the film is over.  These women face terrible odds and do so without ever asking for special treatment or consideration.  There is not one scene in which a woman whines about being tired, hot, or hungry.  Not once does a woman collapse and say “I can’t go on!  Just leave me behind!”.  No women is gathered up into the arms of a man and carried because she is too exhausted to go on. And any time a woman starts to lose her cool, another woman is right there ready to slap her across the face and tell her to get on with it.  There are so many great scenes that tell of the strength of women.  I won’t spoil them for you here (go watch this movie!), but for those who have seen it…Mrs. Maroni, Rose and the wagon wheel, Laurie’s look to Fifi after she comes back, and the women’s refusal.

Of note, after the 1930s there were fewer and fewer stuntwomen working in Hollywood.  Many filmmakers would use men in wigs to substitute as women during stunts so it was quite something when Wellman decided to use all women in his production of WESTWARD THE WOMEN.  In fact he hired every stuntwoman working in Hollywood at the time and even cast a few in minor roles.  Stuntwomen like Opal Ernie, Evelyn Finely, Ann Roberts, Edith Happy, Polly Burson, Lucille House, Stevie Myers, Sharon and Shirley Lucas, and Donna Hall.  Polly Burson, who was a rodeo trick rider and had stunted for Betty Hutton, Dale Evans, and Barbara Stanwyck (among others), became the first female stunt coordinator on WESTWARD THE WOMEN.  Despite facing sexism and prejudice at the local town near where the film was shooting, there is a story Wellman told about the stuntwomen being harassed in a local bar which they soon put a stop to by putting a very tight grip on the men’s testicles (one stuntwomen broke a nail), the production crew seems to have never had an issue working alongside the two hundred women.  William Wellman certainly didn’t.

WESTWARD THE WOMEN is absolutely one of the most empowering movies that I have ever seen.  After watching it I had a feeling of the awesome power of just being a woman can be.  The assuredness that we can do anything we put our minds to.  The strength of those two hundred women is magnetic and leaps off the screen.  This is what empowerment truly is.

The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon: ARSENE LUPIN (1932)

This post is part of The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon hosted by Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.  Check out the other entries here!

What better film to watch during a Barrymore blogathon than a film that features BOTH John and Lionel Barrymore!  And one that is a ton of fun to boot!

In ARSENE LUPIN, Lionel Barrymore is police detective Guerchard who is called out to a robbery in progress. Once there the police chase a fleeing car only to find the passenger tied up in the backseat. The man (John Barrymore) claims to have just been robbed by the notorious Arsene Lupin, saying he is the Duke of Charmerace. Guerchard doesn’t believe this for a second and suspects that this man is in fact Arsene Lupin. However another man named Gourney-Martin (Tully Marshall) returns to the house and confirms the identity of the passenger as the Duke of Charmerace. Strangely enough the next day Guerchard finds that the shoe impressions taken from the outside of the scene of the crime are an exact match for his own shoes! Perplexed he goes to see the chief of police where he is told that if he wants to retire quietly to the country with his daughter he needs to do one last thing, and that is to catch Arsene Lupin! The police have just received a note from Lupin telling them that he will be at the Duke of Charmerace’s ball that night to take whatever he wants. Geurchard decides to go to the ball himself just to make sure that nothing goes wrong.

The Duke of Charmerace is having some issues of his own. Two bailiffs have arrived asking to collect past due bills. He manages to fob them off with drinks and food, while he returns to his ball. He sees Geurchard enter and begin talking to another male guest, who is an undercover policeman. It turns out that there are hidden police officers throughout the ball in an effort to trap Arsene Lupin should he try anything. At this point, the Duke is up in his bedroom where he has found a naked woman in his bed. The Countess Sonia Krichnoff (Karen Morley) claims that her evening gown is being mended in the other room and since she was cold, she took refuge under the covers of the Duke’s bed. After some risqué flirtation the Duke and Sonia rejoin the party and just in time for some cake. Unfortunately, as the lights are down for the cake’s arrival several ladies find that they are missing various pieces of jewelry. Sonia has lost a bracelet and she hurries to find the Duke. At this moment Guerchard’s men spring into action but Geurchard is nowhere to be found. He is a little preoccupied at the moment, being held at gunpoint by the two bailiffs upstairs who have mistaken him for Arsene Lupin. Once released by the two men, Geurchard begins the send all the guests downstairs to be questioned. However, he has a private word alone with the Countess Sonia before sending her on with the others.

Later the Duke and the Countess find themselves invited to Gourney-Martin’s home for the weekend. While there the Duke and Sonia continue their flirtations and Gourney-Martin demonstrates his new electrified safe. One morning Sonia awakes to find a real bracelet in place of her fake one from none other than Arsene Lupin. Tourney-Martin has also had a visit from Lupin, though his is far less pleasant. Lupin has left a note saying that he will come back and steal everything Tourney-Martin has because he is a war profiteer. Geurchard is called to the house at once to be there when Lupin makes his entrance. But who Arsene Lupin really? Is everyone who they appear to be?

I really enjoyed this film.  It is so much fun and really a joy to watch.  It is smart, sexy, witty, and exciting.  I loved the character of Sonia because she was used as more than just a placeholder in a slinky evening dress.  She holds her own alongside the boys and is just as cunning and clever as the real Arsene Lupin.  You simply could not have this film without her character or her story. Sonia is a complex, clever, and interesting woman, and is more than capable of handling Arsene Lupin and his ruses.

The Barrymore brothers are really hitting on all cylinders with this one.  Lionel Barrymore is fantastic as usual, bringing a gravitas to his role but also a sense of under doggedness.  You really sense that he respects Arsene Lupin as a foe and is quite determined to catch the thief no matter what it takes.  Lionel Barrymore is such a great actor that he is always terrific in anything and often acts as the grounding force in a film.  He does the same here, keeping the story feeling more real and more “risky”.  Where the story could get away and become almost too fantastic, Lionel Barrymore makes it more meaningful and more impactful.  He is not the usual bumbling detective, rather he is a smart man trying his best to outwit a man who might just be a little more clever than him.

For his part John Barrymore seems to be having the time of his life.  He is fabulous as the Duke of Charmerace.  He is funny and charming, also just mischievous enough to make you question his motives.  He seems to enjoy playing off his brother as well, particularly in the scenes where he gets to make a fool of him.  One can’t help but wonder if there was some similarity in the relationship between the Duke of Charmerace and Geurchard, and that of John and Lionel Barrymore in real life.  John Barrymore is definitely the star of this tale and he really carries the film forward.  Where his brother brings a sense of grounding to the story, John Barrymore makes things seems just a little more fun and fantastical.  It is really is thanks to him and his interactions with everyone else that ARSENE LUPIN is as much fun as it is.

One More Classic Film Book Haul

OK, OK, I promise this is the last one for a little while!  This weekend my Dad and I traveled to a local used book store and I lost my mind.  Seriously.  I did.

I got so many books that the man behind the counter upon seeing me said “I’ll go get you a box”.  But the crazy thing is that I left a lot behind!  I will definitely go back at some point, but for now I will content myself with THIS:


What I Got

Rita Hayworth; If This Was Happiness by Barbara Leaming

Ava by Ava Gardner

Love, Lucy by Lucille Ball

Burt Lancaster; An American Life by Kate Buford (Also, I didn’t see the back cover until after I bought it…Wow.)

Marlene by Marlene Dietrich

Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger (This was more of a curio interest rather than believing the stories to be fact.)

Child Star by Shirley Temple Black

Frank Capra; The Name Above the Title by Frank Capra

Lemmon by Don Widener

Vivien; The Life of Vivien Leigh by Alexander Walker

Self Portrait by Gene Tierney

Mabel; Hollywood’s First I-Don’t-Care Girl by Betty Harper Russell

Mae West; Empress of Sex by Maurice Leonard

The Kid Stays in the Picture by Robert Evans

Goldwyn; A Biography by A. Scott Berg

Like I said, I left a ton behind so hopefully I will get back there one day!  Let me know if you have read any of these books and what you thought.  Also, do you tend to prefer autobiographies or biographies of your favorite stars and why?

Classic Film Book Haul from Book Outlet

Since no one opposed the idea of seeing more book hauls here we go with another one!  Thanks to Raquel from Out of the Past and Vanessa from Stardust, I have recently discovered Book Outlet.  It has a ton of books for really low prices and they have quite a few classic film books!  This is my Book Outlet haul, which is actually about three hauls over two months condensed into one.  All told, with shipping, these books only cost me about $50!  Without further ado, here is my book haul…


What I Got

A Life of Barbara Stanwyck; Steel True 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson

Five Came Back; A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris

Hope by Richard Zoglin

Spencer Tracy; A Biography by James Curtis

Beautiful; The Life of Hedy Lamarr by Stephen Michael Shearer

The Searchers; The Making of an American Legend by Glenn Frankel

Empire of Dreams; The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille by Scott Eyman

The Accidental Feminist; How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice by M. G. Lord (This one was a total cover buy just from the title)

‘Tis Herself by Maureen O’Hara (Just finished reading and reviewing this)

The Entertainer; Movies, Magic and My Father’s Twentieth Century by Margaret Tablot

Have you ever read any of these books?  What did you think?  Let me know in the comments!  And stay tuned because my Dad and I are going to a used bookstore tomorrow so there might just be a haul coming from that!