“Star Of The Month (March 2021)” Featuring Gene Kelly in… Marjorie Morningstar (1958)

It’s the last Sunday of the month, and so we’ve got one last Gene Kelly film to end out his run as Star Of The Month! This time, it’s the 1958 movie Marjorie Morningstar (based on the 1955 novel of the same name by Herman Wouk), which also stars Natalie Wood! But first, we have a fun theatrical short!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Vitamin Pink (1966)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 25 seconds)

The Pink Panther is selling some pep pills out west, but finds himself stuck as a deputy when he gives some to an escaped convict. Of course, the fun here is in watching those pep pills work, first for an older man who is given new life to chase after a young and attractive woman (in one of the short’s more dated moments), and then the bandit, who gets away with a lot of money. It does admittedly repeat itself a little while the bank robber steals from a second and third bank, but the way that the Panther captures the villain is rather amusing, and a proper ending for the short (with everything coming full circle for the robber). I certainly know I enjoyed seeing it again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

College student Marjorie Morgenstern (Natalie Wood) is unsure of what direction in life to take. She wants to be an actress on the stage, but her parents, Arnold (Everett Sloane) and Rose Morgenstern (Claire Trevor), want her to marry and raise a family. Her mother is particularly thrilled when Marjorie’s boyfriend, Sandy Lamm (Edward Byrnes), proposes, but Marjorie turns him down. Her family is planning a summer vacation with Sandy’s family, but Marjorie wants to be apart from them. She ends up taking a job as the dramatic counselor at Camp Tamarack in the Catskills, along with her college friend Marsha Zelenko (Carolyn Jones). One night, at Marsha’s insistence, they take a canoe to the South Wind resort on the other side of the lake. Since they aren’t guests at the resort, they sneak into the theatre there, where Marsha runs off with a musician, and Marjorie stays to watch the rehearsals. She meets the director, Noel Airman (Gene Kelly) and his assistant Wally Wronken (Marty Milner). Wally is instantly smitten with her, but she only has eyes for Noel. Later that night, while waiting for Marsha to return, Marjorie is caught by resort owner Mr. Greech (George Tobias), but Noel bails her out by offering her a job. Soon, her uncle Samson (Ed Wynn) comes to the resort to work in the kitchen (and keep an eye on Marjorie for her parents). Marjorie and Noel become close, but trouble arises when uncle Samson dies of a heart attack when entertaining visitors. Marjorie returns to the city and finishes college. After she graduates, she runs into Noel, who has now become an advertising executive and seems to be doing well. However, his insecurities come to light when his former assistant Wally becomes a success on Broadway, and so Noel starts drinking. Again, Marjorie tries to leave him, especially after discovering him with another woman. Soon, Marjorie’s friend Marsha gets married, but she tells Marjorie off for leaving Noel, who very obviously loves her. Noel returns, announcing that he has finished a musical play that he had been working on, and Marjorie gets Marsha’s new husband to help finance it. Things still don’t go right, as the critics attack the show savagely, and Noel disappears once again. Can Marjorie find him this time, or will she let him be?

I’m now coming off my first time seeing Marjorie Morningstar (unlike the other Gene Kelly films that I’ve reviewed this month, which I’ve generally seen quite a few times at this point). I will readily admit to the fact that he is the main reason I wanted to see this movie. At the time he made this movie, Gene was coming off of his contract at MGM ending after nearly fifteen years. I’ve mainly seen his musicals from that era (and at least two of his non-musical roles), and this film feels like quite a departure. He’s not playing his usual cocky and self-assured self here. Instead, his character is full of insecurities, as he tries to figure out what to do with his life, especially as his new love for Marjorie pushes him to try and be better (although without much success). It’s a different role than I’m used to seeing from him, and yet, his performance here works for me. He does do some dancing here. It’s nothing big, and certainly nothing that would make us forget all the wonderful dances he had already done earlier in his career. Still, it doesn’t take away from the movie.

For actress Natalie Wood, this film was part of her transition from mostly childish roles into adult characters. I feel that she does a fairly good job here with the role. We do see in her a character that is trying to break the mold, trying to break away from tradition (mainly the old idea of getting married, settling down and raising a family instead of having a career). I wouldn’t say that her performance is anything special, necessarily, but she does well enough to sell the movie. Admittedly, she does have one dance routine (and not even with Gene), and it does feel awkward to watch. Quite frankly, I wonder why they even bothered putting it in the movie, as it would be just as good (if not better) without it.

Overall, though, I do enjoy the movie. Ed Wynn’s appearance in the movie is fun. Definitely different from many of the (mostly Disney) roles I’ve known him for most of my life, but he’s still entertaining, and makes you like his character. The movie’s main song, “A Very Precious Love” (by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster) ended up being nominated for an Oscar. Personally, it didn’t stick with me after one viewing, but we’ll see in the future. Like I said, this is a decent movie, and one I’m glad was pulled out of the vaults so that it could be seen again. It’s not as good as many of Gene’s earlier films, but it’s still one I would recommend giving a chance!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber Studio Classics (although last I knew, it was part of their “While Supplies Last” sale, so when it’s gone, it’s gone).

Film Length: 2 hours, 3 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Les Girls (1957)Gene Kelly

Miracle On 34th Street (1947) – Natalie Wood – Kings Go Forth (1958)

Raw Deal (1948) – Claire Trevor – Two Weeks In Another Town (1962)

Silk Stockings (1957) – George Tobias – The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

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TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Raw Deal (1948)

And now, we’re up for another noir, the 1948 movie Raw Deal, starring Dennis O’Keefe, Claire Trevor and Marsha Hunt.

Joe Sullivan (Dennis O’Keefe) is in prison, taking the rap for his boss Rick Coyle (Raymond Burr), but he is crying out for freedom. So, Rick arranges things for him to escape. However, Rick is NOT doing this out of the goodness of his heart, as he hopes the police will kill Joe as he tries to escape. Joe’s girlfriend, Pat Regan (Claire Trevor), is waiting outside the prison with the getaway car, and Joe’s escape is more successful than Rick had planned. The police do manage to hit the car with a few bullets, which stops them from getting away cleanly, and they stop at the apartment of Ann Martin (Marsha Hunt), who had been trying to help Joe’s lawyer at the trial. They take her hostage and take off in her car, making their way toward a previously arranged meeting spot with Rick. However, Rick has sent Fantail (John Ireland) in his place to kill Joe. Fantail fails, though, when Ann picks up a gun and shoots him (although he is only wounded). Joe has fallen for Ann (which has made Pat jealous), but he tries to send her back to San Francisco on her own. Fantail finds Ann and brings her to Rick. Rick calls Joe, but only talks to Pat, telling her Joe must come to him or Ann will die. The question is, can Pat tell Joe or will she let Ann die?

Raw Deal was originally made for Eagle-Lion Studios, re-teaming director Anthony Mann with his cinematographer John Alton and star Dennis O’Keefe after the success of the previous year’s T-Men (don’t ask, I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s currently on my short list of movies to watch in the near future, when I can get that far). I can’t deny the success of the director and cinematographer, as it does heighten the effect of the movie. While no doubt the censors were involved in what they could (or could not do), their creativity in working with that makes this movie wonderful. I know the scene where Raymond Burr’s angry Rick Coyle tosses a flaming brandy onto his girlfriend after she accidentally spills her drink on him is made more horrifying mainly because he throws it at the camera. We don’t see the actual “damage,” but our imaginations can certainly run wild with it. The camera angles just do a great job of making his character just that much more threatening. And of course, over it all, we have Claire Trevor’s Pat essentially narrating the story (in a rare instance of a woman doing so for the genre), as we get her viewpoint on the story. Honestly, I have to admit I enjoyed this movie, and it is one that I would quite readily recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix, either as a limited special edition or as part of a triple feature John Alton Collection with T-Men and He Walked By Night. The last I knew, the special edition, with all its extras, was running low on copies available, so if you want it, be prepared to buy right away, otherwise, the bare-bones triple feature release is still a good way to see it! And with a typically pristine transfer from Classicflix, with only a handful of specks on the image here and there, it’s an easily recommended release!

Film Length: 1 hour, 19 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Murder, My Sweet (1944) – Claire Trevor – Marjorie Morningstar (1958)

Raymond Burr – Great Day In The Morning (1956)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Murder, My Sweet (1944)

Continuing on with the month of “Noir-vember,” we have the 1944 film Murder, My Sweet, starring Dick Powell, Claire Trevor and Anne Shirley!

One night in his office, private detective Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) is visited by Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki). Moose wants to hire him to find his girlfriend, Velma Valento, who is missing after eight years. They don’t have any luck, but at least one person Philip talks to seems to know more than they let on. Soon, he is contacted by Lindsay Marriott (Douglas Walton), who wants to hire him as a bodyguard while he pays the ransom for some jewels. However, things don’t go well, and Lindsay is killed, with Philip also conked. After the police question Philip and warn him to stay away from psychic Jules Amthor (Otto Kruger), Philip returns to his office. There, he is met by Ann Grayle (Anne Shirley), who tries (and fails) to pose as a reporter. She reveals that it is her stepmother, Helen Grayle (Claire Trevor), who owns the jade necklace that had been stolen and Lindsay was trying to recover. Ann’s father, Mr. Grayle (Miles Mander), ends up hiring Philip to help find the jade necklace, but he finds the two cases intersecting as Amthor uses Moose to help shake information out of Philip on the location of the necklace.  But will Philip live to tell the tale?

Murder, My Sweet is based on the 1940 novel Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. RKO Studios had already bought the film rights and made a film just a few years before. However, the movie, The Falcon Takes Over (1942), was used as part of another detective franchise, replacing Philip Marlowe with detective Gay Lawrence (AKA the Falcon), and changing a lot from the novel. Due to some of the substantial changes made, it was easier to convince the studio heads to do a re-make so quickly. Of course, while he was cast as Philip Marlowe, Dick Powell was hardly who anybody would have picked for the role. At the time, he was typecast in a lot of musical roles, due mainly to the success of some of the Busby Berkeley films he starred in, such as 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, and a number of others. He was getting tired of them, but that’s all the studios wanted to cast him in. When signing with RKO, that’s what they wanted him to do as well, but he apparently had enough power to get it into his contract that he could do this movie. Of course, the movie was briefly released by the novel’s original title, Farewell, My Lovely, but, due to Dick Powell’s reputation, audiences thought they were going to see a musical, and came away disappointed. But, the title was changed, and the film became a hit, allowing audiences to see Dick Powell in a new light!

My own opinion is that this is a great noir. I love the dialogue, which gives us such vivid descriptions, and of a type that would not seem at home in any other film genre. The visuals, from the “smoke” when he is all “coked up” to the screen going black when the character is knocked out and many other instances, all make this movie a fun experience. While I mainly know Dick Powell from some of his musicals and comedies, this film is a wonderful change of pace, and he just works so well in it! It’s definitely an easy thing for me to give this movie some of my highest recommendations for a film noir!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. Since I had heard that it was given one of their usually fantastic transfers, it was an easy movie for me to give a chance, as I hadn’t seen or heard of it before then! And I’m glad to have seen it! The movie is one hour, thirty-five minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

In The Navy (1941) – Dick Powell – Susan Slept Here (1954)

Claire Trevor – Raw Deal (1948)

TFTMM 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Two Weeks In Another Town (1962)

Here we are for the 1962 movie Two Weeks In Another Town, starring Kirk Douglas, Edward G. Robinson and Cyd Charisse.

Washed-up actor Jack Andrus (Kirk Douglas) has been staying at a sanitarium due to his alcoholism and general life issues. He got a message from his frequent director Maurice Kruger (Edward G. Robinson) to come to Rome and do a small part in the movie he was working on. Once there, however, he finds that there is no part, but Kruger asks for his help in getting the dubbing done for the movie. Of course, he finds the whole production to be a mess, with a quick deadline in which to finish the entire movie before somebody else is brought in to do it, the leading man (George Hamilton) is angry with the whole business and Kruger is apparently having an affair with the leading lady (and his wife knows about it, too). When Kruger has a heart attack, Jack tries to help finish the movie.

I have to admit, going into this movie, I had some relatively low expectations due to a lot of what I had read. The movie is the follow-up to what is considered one of the best dramas about Hollywood itself, The Bad And The Beautiful, which also stars Kirk Douglas and was directed by Vincente Minelli (heck, this movie even shows a few scenes from that movie as an “example” of what Andrus and Kruger had done before). I haven’t seen the earlier film, and I admit, it wasn’t one I had any interest in. I tried this movie because of actress (and dancer) Cyd Charisse (although having Kirk Douglas and Edward G. Robinson in this movie didn’t hurt, either). In spite of what I had heard previously, I ended up enjoying the movie and the performances of all the actors and actresses involved. And right now, I admit to also being curious about the earlier movie as well.

Does this movie have flaws? Yes. I’m not thrilled with the fact that Kirk Douglas’s character is somewhat abusive with some (but not necessarily all) of the female characters (but then again, outside of Daliah Lavi’s Veronica, very few characters come out of this movie looking squeaky-clean for one reason or another). The movie is a little loose with its plot (although, from what I’ve read, nowhere near as much as the novel it is based on). Part of the problem here is apparently how involved the censors and studio executives were in trying to make this more of a family movie (and how well they did with that is debatable for the reason I already specified). The use of rear projection screens is also somewhat disconcerting and quite noticeable, especially in a later scene when you should be feeling a little more fear because of how Jack Andrus is driving, but the rear projection really takes you out of the moment. If, and only if, you can get past these points, then I do think this is an enjoyable movie, and one I would recommend.

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 47 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Young Man With A Horn (1950) – Kirk Douglas

The Ten Commandments (1956) – Edward G. Robinson

Silk Stockings (1957) – Cyd Charisse

Marjorie Morningstar (1958) – Claire Trevor

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you).  If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!