1940s, actors, crime drama, directors, Film Spotlight, movies, Winter Project: Classic Male Actors

The Killers (1946)

The Killers (1946)

Synopsis: Two hit men walk into a diner asking for a man called “the Swede” (Burt Lancaster). When the killers find the Swede, he’s expecting them and doesn’t put up a fight. Since the Swede had a life insurance policy, an investigator (Edmond O’Brien), on a hunch, decides to look into the murder. As the Swede’s past is laid bare, it comes to light that he was in love with a beautiful woman (Ava Gardner) who may have lured him into pulling off a bank robbery overseen by another man (Albert Dekker).

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What a lot of fun this noir was to watch for the first time. A film debut for both Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner, their careers established, and the admirable plot twists kept me guessing, but I found myself admiring the direction and cinematography the most. The variety of camera angles, the silhouettes, the position behind the driving wheel, just about every scene was staged in an appealing way–it was no surprise to me to learn that director Robert Siodmak was nominated for the Oscar in 1947.

Charleston: Stop listening to those golden harps, Swede. They can land you into a lot of trouble.

The screenplay was adapted by Ernest Hemingway‘s short story “The Killers” by John Huston, Richard Brooks, and Anthony Veiller. I want to reread Hemingway’s story and explore more of John Huston’s writing contributions.

How does this film-noir rate in your estimation? 

 

 

actors, authors, directors, Film Spotlight, movies, oscars

Film Spotlight: The Night of the Iguana

Who do you rank higher? Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams as the best American playwright of the 20th century? I think Tennessee is more influential because several of his stage classics became film classics and provided the meaty roles that propelled the careers of stars I hold in the highest regard.

Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Vivien Leigh, Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor all benefited from the plays of Tennessee Williams.

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I watched the 1964 John Huston classic, The Night of the Iguana, followed by a documentary on the making of the film. There’s plenty to like about this dark comedy. It’s a provocative story about morality and lust and redemption and the relationships between men and women. 

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The Rev. Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton) falls from disgrace from his pulpit and ends up as a tour guide, escorting women on his bus to Mexico.

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Temptation comes in the curvaceous form of young Charlotte Goodall, (Sue Lyons), a “Lolita” (Sue Lyons was the sexy seducer in Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film version of the fantastic book and screenplay by Vladimir Nabokov.) bent on seducing Shannon. The god-fearing women on the bus point recriminating fingers at Shannon, especially the possessive guardian, Miss Judith Fellowes, played to perfection by Grayson Hall. Remember her in the T.V. show, Dark Shadows?

Deborah Kerr’s character was Hannah Jelkes, an artist and philosopher who counseled Shannon during the long night. Ava Gardner’s character, Maxine Faulk, was the hotel keeper where Shannon brought his group of visitors. She was practical, smart and fell in love with Shannon.  I liked the bit part of Hannah Jelkes’s  grandfather who created a poem, stanza at a time that mirrored the plot of the story.

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Director John Huston built the entire set at Puerto Vallarta making the Mexican harbor a popular vacation destination thereafter. Engaged to Burton then, Elizabeth Taylor stayed as a guest on the set and offered moral support. Which woman did Elizabeth Taylor need to worry about? Kerr, Lyons, or Gardner?

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Check out the trailer:

The acting and gorgeous setting make this dark comedy worth watching. There’s enough layers of witty intellect and sultry fun, 1960s style, for anyone. I highly recommend it.