The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

bishops

Starring: Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Monty Woolley, James Gleason, Gladys George, Elsa Lanchester

Director: Henry Koster

Summary: An angel helps set an ambitious bishop on the right track

Other Nominations: Director, Dramatic/Comedy Score, Sound Recording*, Film Editing

Positives

-The entire success of this movie comes down to Cary Grant being at peak charmingness as the angel. When I first saw Grant in She Done Him Wrong, The Awful Truth and The Philadelphia Story, I liked him but he never clicked as someone great; since then, I’ve seen him in Suspicion and this movie, which made me realize not only his charm, but his range as well and why he was such a treasure. More on this later, but without him in that role, this becomes just a corny movie.

-For the most part, the movie successfully balances being cute and overly-sweet, although I think there were one too many angel jokes

Negatives

-While it’s a light and easy family comedy, it lacks any sort of emotional resonance or really funny parts that would make it anything really memorable. As is, it’s a solid movie, but with a better script it could have been something more

Other Stuff

-Film originally had Cary Grant as the Bishop, Teresa Wright as the Wife, David Niven as the Angel and William A. Seiter as Director. Producer Samuel Goldwyn didn’t like what he was seeing, so he fired Seiter and scrapped what was a half-completed film. Wright got pregnant during the delay and therefore had to be replaced. However, what changed everything is when new director Henry Koster looked at the footage and realized that Grant and Niven should have their roles reversed, which is what made the film work in my opinion.

Overall

Easy to watch and enjoyable comedy for all ages that features a terrific performance by Cary Grant

Rating: B-

Advertisements

Crossfire (1947)

crossfire

Starring: Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, George “Robert” Cooper, Gloria Grahame, This kid: http://45.media.tumblr.com/566a5ca05aa2fb4476440b9a059af03c/tumblr_mwu4jvnlnM1rmy1hwo1_500.gif

Director: Edward Dmytryk

Summary: A crusading district attorney investigates the murder of a Jewish man

Other Nominations: Director, Supporting Actor (Ryan), Supporting Actress (Grahame), Adapted Screenplay

Positives

-Ryan gives an intense performance as a recent WWII vet, and embodies his character perfectly

-The film noir lighting works well for a crime drama and helps invoke a mood and expresses how we’re supposed to feel about the characters.

Negatives

-The theme of anti-semitism is fine and its heart is in the right place, but doesn’t explore it with a whole lot of depth. It’s just above simple a “racism is bad” kind of movie, and even then it doesn’t do much of that before the last 20 minutes of the movie. There are movies that have tried to deal with racism/religious discrimination in much worse ways (some of which are even coming up here), but for a movie that exists almost solely to convey a message, it doesn’t do that great of a job with it.

-Other than Ryan, nobody else even remotely stands out-they somehow made Robert Mitchum of all people the blandest character in the movie.

Other Stuff

-Both director Edward Dmytryk and producer Adrian Scott were blacklisted later in 1947 for refusing to cooperate with the HUAC investigation; Dmytryk would get off the blacklist in 1951 when he decided to name names, and would later go on to direct another Best PIcture nominee afterwards.

Overall

Below average crime drama/noir that doesn’t have much else going for it other than its message which is good, but not given the kind of exploration you want in a message movie.

Rating: C-

*Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)*

agreement

Starring: Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield, Celeste Holm, Anne Revere

Director: Elia Kazan

Summary: A reporter pretends to be Jewish in order to cover a story on anti-Semitism

Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (Peck), Actress (McGuire), Supporting Actress (Holm)*, Supporting Actress (Revere), Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing

Positives

-It certainly digs deeper into its subject, anti-semitism, than Crossfire did. It addresses under-the-surface prejudice (people who are biased against a group but won’t admit to it), racial self-inferiority (that you’re told you’re less than someone else enough times that you start believing it) and that prejudice is most enabled by good people standing by and doing nothing. For its time, its bold and intelligent in this aspect.

-I liked Dorothy McGuire and Anne Baxter quite a bit, with Baxter playing Peck’s wisened take-no-guff mother, and McGuire playing Peck’s fiance. McGuire’s character is honestly the real center of the movie, as she’s the one who has personal growth and had the most interesting things to say. Even if she has a flawed viewpoint, what she says does bring some nuance to the movie, especially in one scene towards the end near an elevator where she justifies why she happily told Peck’s son he wasn’t actually a Jew.

Negatives

-The biggest problem for me is the main character himself and Peck’s performance. First, I’m still not sold on Peck being a great leading man based on the three movies I’ve seen him in-90% of his appeal is his voice. What doesn’t help is that his character in this movie is really one-note and a lot of scenes feel the same: Peck starts talking to someone, it comes up that he’s “Jewish”, then that person says something or acts like “ew, he’s Jewish” but without saying as much, then Peck is disgusted/indignant. This is pretty much the entire middle hour of the movie.

-Considering the progress that has been made since the 1940’s (at least in the United States), the theme of anti-semitism is a bit dated. While it still certainly exists and there are plenty of people with prejudice under the surface (or even overtly), it feels like a fairly low rung on the ladder in terms of groups who face the most prejudice right now. While some of its themes can be applied to other groups that face more prejudice now, some cannot (i.e. that you would only figure out someone is Jewish if they told you or you made an assumption), and the closest analogy is probably homophobia.

-For a message movie to fully work, it either needs to absolutely hit that message home in the most powerful and intelligent way possible (example: Do The Right Thing), or it needs to be enjoyable as something more than just a message movie (like The Great Dictator). When a message movie falls short of that standard, like we see here, it gets repetitive.

Overall

This is pretty much a straight message movie, as even the romance aspects become a vehicle for expressing the message. It delivers that message with mixed success, but does better than many of its contemporaries even if some aspects are dated.

Rating: B-

Great Expectations (1947)

expectations

Starring: John Mills, Anthony Wager, Bernard Miles, Alec Guinness (in his first film credit), Finlay Currie, Jean Simmons, Martita Hunt, Valerie Hobson, Francis L. Sullivan

Director: David Lean

Summary: A mysterious benefactor finances a young boy’s education

Other Nominations: Director, Adapted Screenplay, B&W Art Direction*, B&W Cinematography*

Positives

-The film looks outstanding, from the dramatic lighting to the great cinematography to the outstanding sets and costumes. Special mention has to go to Ms. Havisham’s mansion, which is one of the best sets from any movie so far and tells you everything you need to know about the character right there.

-The performances across the board are really good, especially Hunt as Ms. Havisham, Simmons as the young Estella and Sullivan as Mr. Jaggers.

-I’m not a huge Dickens fan, but this is one of his better works. It has all the colorful side characters you would expect, but it also has a lot of memorable reveals, and has a great arc for its central character. While the movie does excise a lot of character development (we don’t really know much about Drummle other than he’s apparently a rich jerk) and some characters altogether (Orlick), what it does keep works well.

Negatives

-While his performance is fine, Mills at 38 is noticeably too old to be playing a 20 year-old Pip.

-I didn’t like the changed ending; actually, this would be the third different ending, as Dickens had an original ending and then a revised ending that was published in later editions. The whole story is moody and the completely happy ending feels out of place with what came before it.

Other Stuff

-This movie came out in 1946 in the UK, but was released in the U.S. in 1947, hence why it was nominated for this year.

Overall

Really good adaptation of a classic of English literature, especially from a visual and performance standpoint.

Rating: B+

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

miracle

Starring: Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, Gene Lockhart, Porter Hall

Director: George Seaton

Summary: A department store Santa claims to be the real thing

Other Nominations: Supporting Actor (Gwenn)*, Adapted Screenplay*, Story*

Positives

-Gwenn is basically the ideal choice to play Kris Kringle-he looks the part, he has a tremendous natural warmth to him, and he feels genuine. If you didn’t believe his performance, the movie would fall flat on its face because everything hinges on you thinking that there’s at least the possibility that in the universe of this film, he really could be Santa. What’s interesting is that

-The screenplay is original in concept, sincere, and fleshes out all the characters really well. The four main characters all have good arcs where their starting and end points make sense, nothing feels forced, and it straddles the difficult line of being sentimental (in a good way) without being too corny well. Probably my favorite scene that typifies this is when Gwenn talks to an adopted Dutch girl which is just a lovely scene, especially in the context of the time period (right after WWIII). Originally, I was going to complain that this is a movie against the commercialization of Christmas, yet Macy’s is a central part of the movie, until I looked it up afterwards and as far as I can tell was not a paid endorsement. Instead, they asked for permission to set it at Macy’s for authenticity: they sponsor the Thanksgiving Day parade and Macy’s is well-known for having Santa appear during the holiday season.

Negatives

-John Payne’s performance is mediocre and easily the worst among the main actors, which is a shame given that his character is perfectly good by itself.

Other Stuff

-Gwenn won for Best Supporting Actor, despite obviously being the lead; this is because Payne got top-billing as actor as the studio was, amazingly enough, not promoting this as a Christmas movie at all (as evidenced by the poster I linked to). They wanted to release it in May because that’s when people saw more movies, but thought that people didn’t want to see a Christmas movie in the summer, so they tried to dupe the public through its advertising into thinking it wasn’t. In addition to the poster, look at the trailer which tells you absolutely nothing about the movie itself, but does have Rex Harrison and Anne Baxter in it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUwyGo6PQzY

Overall

It’s strange that in the last two years, we got three Christmas movies (It’s a Wonderful Life, The Bishop’s Wife and this) as Best Picture nominees, but never had any others before or after to my recollection. I wouldn’t put it on the same level as It’s a Wonderful Life because it lacks the emotional impact that comes from Stewart and his character George Bailey, but this is still very charming movie that most anyone can enjoy and is very much recommended if you’re in the mood for a very well-done Christmas movie.

Rating: B+

1947 in Review

Other Notable Films of 1947

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s breakthrough film, this fantasy romance stars Gene Tierney as a young widow and Rex Harrison as the ghost of the former owner of the house. Named to the AFI 100 Passions list.

Out of the Past: One of the most acclaimed of all the classic film noirs, directed by Jacques Tourneur (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie), starring Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas. In the National Film Registry.

Black Narcissus: One of the best looking color films of the 1940’s, outright erotic for the time (especially considering it’s about a convent) and considered one of Powell and Pressburger’s best. On the BFI 100 Best British Films list.

The Pearl: Adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel about greed in a simple island village. In the National Film Registry.

Brighton Rock: Film noir starring Richard Attenborough that was named by the BFI as the 15th greatest British film of all time.

1947 Nominees in Review

Miracle on 34th Street: B+

Great Expectations: B+

Gentleman’s Agreement: B- (Won Best Picture)

The Bishop’s Wife: B-

Crossfire: C-

1947 wasn’t a bad year by any means, but it feels like a step down from 1946 even if nothing made me want to throw a brick through the TV like the Razor’s Edge. 1946 had two of the better nominees of the decade, while 1947 lacked anything that I found to be truly great (although many would disagree with that in regards to Great Expectations). This ends up feeling like one of the first years (of which there will be many) where a movie that had an “important message” beat out movies that were otherwise simply better.

1948 is a year I’m looking forward to, even if the Best Picture winner is not one of them. We have the only Shakespeare film to win Best Picture; a movie with a Best Actress winner who had no lines; Powell and Pressburger’s masterpiece that’s considered to be one of the best-looking color films ever; a movie that led to reforms in state mental hospitals; and one of the most acclaimed movies of all-time, with a son directing his father to an Academy Award.

Before we move on though, 1947 marked the 20th Academy Awards Ceremony, which means that I get to rank the previous decade’s worth of nominees and give my list of favorite movies, BP winners, actors, actresses and directors.

Best of 1938-1947

Top 10 Best Picture Nominees of 1938-1947

  1. The Maltese Falcon
  2. Ninotchka
  3. Casablanca
  4. Rebecca
  5. The Grapes of Wrath
  6. The Wizard of Oz
  7. The Philadelphia Story
  8. The Great Dictator
  9. It’s a Wonderful Life
  10. The Best Years of Our Lives

Ranking the Best Picture Winners

  1. Casablanca (1943)
  2. Rebecca (1940)
  3. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
  4. You Can’t Take It With You (1938)
  5. Gone With the Wind (1939)
  6. The Lost Weekend (1945)
  7. Mrs. Miniver (1942)
  8. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
  9. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
  10. Going My Way (1944)

Best Actor/Actress/Director of 1938-1947 (based on their work in Best Picture nominees)

Actor: Humphrey Bogart (Dark Victory, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca); Runner-Up: Jimmy Stewart (You Can’t Take It With You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Philadelphia Story, It’s a Wonderful Life)

Actress: Greer Garson (Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Blossoms in the Dust, Mrs. Miniver, Random Harvest, Madame Curie); Runner-Up: Bette Davis (Jezebel, Dark Victory, All This, and Heaven Too, The Letter, The Little Foxes, Watch on the Rhine)

Director: Michael Curtiz (The Adventures of Robin Hood, Four Daughters, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Casablanca, Mildred Pierce); Runner-Up: George Cukor (The Philadelphia Story, Gaslight)