1940s, 1950s, actors, directors, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies, musicals

L13FC: Vincente Minnelli

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Welcome back to Cindy’s Lucky 13 Film Club where we share comments with one another about a topic in the film industry. This is my lucky day because you are joining me on my birthday! Three cheers to Vincente Minnelli.

He was a costume and set designer in Chicago theater before he moved to New York City and was eventually hired in 1940 by producer Arthur Freed at MGM. Considered an auteur because of his style and creative control of his films, his background in theater and experience with stage sets and the use of color are trademarks of his musicals and dramatic films. According to The Gross: The Hits, The Flops by Peter Bart in 1999, Minnelli’s impact is profound in cinematic history. Vincente Minnelli directed An American in Paris (1951), Brigadoon(1954), Kismet (1955), and Gigi (1958). Other than musicals, he directed comedies and dramas including Madame Bovary (1949), Father of the Bride (1950), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and Lust for Life (1956), Designing Woman (1957), and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1963). He passed away at the age of 83 in 1986. Nominated several times, he finally won the Best Director Oscar for Gigi in 1958. As a director, he is credited for coaxing several actors (Shirley MacLaine, Spencer Tray, Gloria Grahame, Anthony Quinn, Kirk Douglas, among others) in Oscar-nominated performances. Would anyone disagree that Gene Kelley‘s magical dancing in the fantasy-rich sets of a Minnelli film is the best offering from MGM? I think not.

What’s the allure? It’s his use of color. Vincente used Technicolor better than most directors to shape the visual information much as a theater director does for the stage. Used as a device, he created motifs and incorporated visual imagery and symbols that added a layer of complexity for all to appreciate. Contrast his colorful worlds to the real world pallet of grays, browns, and Army green from the depression and WWII. In the fifties, the battered world needed the whimsical sweetness of a Minnelli film. His films were a tonic, the relief after the hangover of war.

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One example is his decision to use the bold color of fuchsia to signify the loose morals of Shirley MacLaine‘s “easy” character, Ginnie Moorehead in Some Came Running (1958). Walter Plunkett was the Costume Designer and combined with Minnelli’s vision to illustrate the theme of acceptance and the fracture of morality in small-town America in part by use of color, it was a memorable film.

Which sequences in his films have you noticed this theatrical trick to use color to help tell the story?

Since Gene Kelly was in several Minnelli films, take a look at this tribute by Christopher Walken.

"Sincerely, your favorite fan", 1960s, actors, directors, Film Spotlight, movies

Robert Mitchum Spotlight: Home from the Hill

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Thanks, everyone for the recommendations of Robert Mitchum films to explore during this winter’s festival of a star whose filmography I know too little about. Home from the Hill (1960) is a family saga of repressed passions with the scale and flavor of Giant (1956). This film is a better melodrama with puzzling characters that lodge in your heart. Combine the fine direction by Vincente Minnelli, the strong presence by Mitchum, the excellent acting by newbies George Peppard and George Hamilton, and place them on location shots of Paris, TX (exterior) and Oxford, Mississippi (interior) for a charismatic, southern experience.  Check out the Turner Classic Movies site for facts and trivia found HERE

“Requiem” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Under the wide and starry sky/Dig the grave and let me lie:/Glad did I live and gladly die,/And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you ‘grave for me:/ Here he lies where he long’d to be;/Home is the sailor, home from the sea,/And the hunter home from the hill.

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Captain Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum) has everything a man could desire. He possesses a beautiful wife, Hannah (Eleanor Parker), and the wealth and power as an East Texas baron. His son Theron will carry on the family name, and a collection of stuffed trophies are daily reminders of his prowess as outdoors man. Wade Hunnicutt is the epitome of the alpha dog who does what he wants when he wants because he can.

Now step behind the impressive facade of wealth and power, and the thorns and scars of a broken family emerge, player by player. Who is Rafe played by George Peppard? Sensitive, wise, calm, tender, honorable–George gives a performance that overshadows his mentor, Robert Mitchum. It is the primary reason to watch the film for Rafe is a character that will stay with you long after the film is over.  I admire the direction of Vincente Minnelli. His staging and versatile shots are beautiful, colorful and balanced.

For me, epics are hard to watch because they run too long or the melodrama descends into a soap opera or the acting dips and feels flat. Take Giant for instance. However, Home from the Hill has enough plot twists and room for all the characters to change and grow.  My only criticism would be I disliked how the music manipulated the audience to respond emotionally instead of allowing the actors to do that. When the scene changed, the music staged the mood and how you should react to it. Still, 150 minutes flew by, and I cared for many of the characters, especially Rafe. 4.5 / 5.

Did you feel sorry for confused son Theron? Libby who disgraced her family? Bitter and icy Hannah? What was your favorite scene?