Monday, July 17, 2006

Gable vs. Gable

I received my Gable box set right on time, and I've been working my way through the movies since then. Some of them I had already seen: Dancing Lady, China Seas, and Wife vs. Secretary (now I can sell my VHS tapes on eBay). The other weekend was an action double feature with Boom Town and San Francisco. Last night was Mogambo, which of course I had to compare with its previos incarnation, Red Dust.

Mary Astor vs. Grace Kelly? Eh, I could take or leave either of them. Grace was a little too uptightly British, I thought. Mary Astor did the shooting scene better. It was easier to believe her outraged emotions. Grace just screamed and twirled around and hid her face in her hands in a cliched bit of overacting.

Jean Harlow vs. Ava Gardner? This one was closer, but I'm going to have to give it to Jean here, because I just adore her. Her character, as a prostitute, was tougher and in a way, more interesting, and therefore more of a contrast to the other woman (Grace/Mary) than Ava's society lady character was.

Gene Raymond vs. Donald Sinden? I guess we'll call this one a tie. I like Gene as an actor better mainly due to his role in Sadie McKee, but Donald did a good job as the husband. He seemed alittle less clueless than Gene Raymond sometimes. But only a little.

Philip Stainton was quite likeable as Gable's sidekick, Brownie. I don't remember the equivalent character in Red Dust, if there even was one (it's been a few years since I saw it) so Stainton wins by default. He was jolly and fun but also serious about his job and the dangers of the jungle.

As far as the love story goes, I'm about even with both versions of Gable pining away after the saintly English wife. Even though I prefer Harlow to Gardner, I did like Gable's relationship with the latter better. There seemed to be more fondness between the two. In RD I got the impression Gable thought of Harlow as little more than a warm body. He's so mean to her sometimes, you wonder how she can go on loving him. There was more genuine liking and tenderness between Gable and Gardner.

As it stands, the box set is an excellent one. I stand by my earlier thought that I would have substituted one of the Gable action movies with Spencer Tracy for the great gangster film Manhattan Melodrama. Since Jeanette MacDonald doesn't do much for me, I would have pulled San Francisco for MM.

So many of Jean Harlow's movies have now been released on DVD on their own and as part of other people's box sets, that there aren't a whole lot left (she only made 41, and that's generously including the bit parts) for a "signature collection" set of her own (and she absolutely should have one). Here's what I would include in her set:

The Girl From Missouri
Hold Your Man
Red-Headed Woman
Reckless (well, maybe not; not such a great film)
Suzy (I'm kind of lukewarm about this one; her undying love for cad Cary Grant kind of annoyed me)

A lot of her other movies I have never seen, so I can't really say for sure which ones I would include. Additional options include:

Personal Property

I'm only counting movies that aren't on DVD already (and there's more than I thought). Of course some could be rereleased, like they did with Mildred Pierce when they made the Joan Crawford box set.

Again I ask: Ted Turner, are you listening? ;)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

It's Alive!

No, no, not Frankenstein. The Clark Gable Signature Collection! He should have been the first to get one, being the "King of Hollywood" and all, but at least he has one now. Or he will, come June. I've already pre-ordered mine.

I found the selection of movies somewhat surprising:

Dancing Lady
China Seas
San Francisco
Boom Town
Wife vs. Secretary

First, I thought I was the only one who adored Dancing Lady and thought it a great example of Gable's work. He is good in that film (everyone is), but I think instead I would have selected Forsaking All Others, which is a fabulous witty drawing-room romatic comedy with some great zingers in the dialogue. It's just a joy to watch. I've talked about it before.

China Seas I like, but I would have picked Red Dust for a Jean Harlow/Gable pairing for this set, especially since Mogambo was also chosen, and it's a remake with Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly in the female roles. Maybe that would have seemed repetitive, but on the other hand, it could be interesting to compare the two.

I love Wife vs. Secretary and would have chosen that one myself. It's another great example of Gable being wonderfully happy-go-lucky, and it also has romance and some drama. Also great costars in Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow, and Jimmy Stewart. It was one of Harlow's rare "good girl" roles, and her favorite, so that makes it doubly a good choice.

I've never seen San Francisco or Boom Town, so I'll have some comments about those after I get my boxed set in June. I'm counting the days. ;) If they wanted a "tough guy" role, which I suspect these are, I would have chosen Manhattan Melodrama in place of one of those.

Next up, I would LOVE to see a box set of Joan Crawford/Clark Gable movies. This set would include:

Strange Cargo
Dance, Fools, Dance
Laughing Sinners
Forsaking All Others
Love on the Run

Come on, Ted Turner. Make my day. :)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Pilgrim? Duuuuude!

Last night I watched The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which I think has become my new favorite Western (a close second behind Dodge City). I'm going through a John Wayne phase right now, and Jimmy Stewart is always a winner in my book, so I decided to give this one a viewing. Rounding out the cast are Vera Miles, Andy Devine, and the uber-macho Lee Marvin (who, I was interested to discover, was a Marine and is buried at Arlington). When I saw the Netflix sleeve, I thought, "oh, geez, two hours," but the time flew by with this one.

I didn't realize this was the movie that started a million John Wayne imitations with "howdy, pilgrim." That's his nickname for Jimmy Stewart, and it sticks all through the movie; I couldn't help but giggle every time he said it, because it has become such a staple of the John Wayne persona. Also sort of darkly amusing yet also menacing is Lee Marvin's nickname for Jimmy, "dude," which he bullfrogs in a suitably sinister way. There was a decent amount of action and suspense; although I figured out right away who shot Liberty Valance, and not too long after realized how the rest of the plot would unfold, I did find myself tensing up in a few of the most dramatic scenes. When John Wayne goes home and throws the lamp into the half-finished addition to his house, it's such a painful moment, emotionally. You don't think of Duke as going to piece over a woman, but he does it here; knowing from the start of the movie how he ended up makes it even more difficult to watch, because you know this is the beginning of his downward spiral in that moment.

One thing that stuck in my mind, because I am obsessed by these kind of small details: the hairstyles. Duke looked all right, but Jimmy's hairpiece looked like a dead badger with an Elvis curl over the forehead. And Vera Miles, with her 60's bouffant with two braids clipped to the ends...not very frontier. Yes, I am insane.

Another movie, which I ended up spacing out over the course of the entire week, was one of my favorite Joan Crawford/Clark Gable pairings, Possessed. I'm a sucker for a good romance story where one person does something noble for the benefit of the other; here Joan pretends to be bored and sick of her lover Clark so she won't ruin his reputation when he runs for governor in the near future. The look on her face, which we see over his shoulder as he embraces her and proposes marriage (which she has long waited for) goes through so many emotions so beautifully, from a flash of joy to regret to steeling herself to hurt him so he'll let her go. And Clark's face, as he goes from laughter to disbelief to an angry resignation that Joan has made a fool of can almost feel the ice hardening around his heart. Oh, I know I'm talking like a bad romance novelist, but I do love those two, best of all when they act together.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Again, with the laxness

The movie viewing has gone on as usual. The blogging, as you can see, has not. I've watched a ton of movies since I last updated. Instead of one or two giant entries talking about them all, I think I'm going to stick with short, more frequent entries. (Famous last words.)

Here's a list of what I've seen lately:

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer
On the Beach
Crash Dive
Brief Encounter
Laurel & Hardy: This Is Your Life (so cute...they were really surprised)
The Hustler
Love Laughs at Andy Hardy
Gunga Din
Shall We Dance (1937)
The Barefoot Contessa
They Were Expendable

And the entire Greta Garbo box set, when I got snowed in over a weekend. The silents were great, as were the talkies, of course.

So hopefully we'll have some updates, sooner rather than later.