Movie Reviews: Two Lesser-Known, Must-See Classics

Hey all,

Since I now have more-than-basic cable (YAAAY!), I’ve been able to see more older films (from the ’40s-’60s) on AMC and TCM.  There are hits and misses from “old Hollywood,” but the quality of dialogue was much, much better then.  Below are two (not very famous) movies that you MUST check out!

Thanks for reading,

EMMA.

No Way Out (1950)

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The Biddle brothers, shot while robbing a gas station, are taken to the prison ward of the County Hospital; Ray Biddle, a rabid racist, wants no treatment from black resident Dr. Luther Brooks. When brother John dies while Luther tries to save him, Ray is certain it’s murder and becomes obsessed with vengeance. But there are black racists around too, and the situation slides rapidly toward violence.  -IMDB synopsis 

Many of you have seen Lilies of the Field, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? and In the Heat of the Night.  Some have also liked A Raisin in the Sun and The Defiant Ones.  

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What’s NOT to like about Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier chained together!?

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But I’m betting not ALL of you have seen Poitier as an eager, intense, 22 y.o. doc in No Way Out!  Poitier lied to dir. Joseph Mankiewicz by saying he was 27 y.o. to get his 1st feature film role.  Like my dad said when he saw this film: “You can tell right away- some people are just meant to be stars!”

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This is quite a smart, sensitive film for its time!  There are different types of blacks and whites depicted.  The young resident, Dr. Brooks (Poitier), has a supportive and kind white mentor, Dr. Wharton (Stephen MacNally).  Dr. Wharton is totally committed to his job, and doesn’t see race.  (A bit naive of him,  but he’s a good character).  Even more unusual for 1950- you get to see inside Dr. Brooks’ (extended) family home!  His fam included adorably cranky lil sis (Ruby Dee), jolly bro-in-law (Ossie Davis), elderly mom, and an elegant, hard-working housekeeper wife.  Can you imagine a doc’s wife as a housekeeper in OUR time!?

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The Chief Resident at County Hospital, Dr. Wharton, goes w/ his protege to plead his case.  Here Brooks and Wharton appeal to waitress Edie Johnson (Linda Darnell).  They want to perform an autopsy on her deceased ex-husband, John Biddle.  Earlier, John’s brother, Ray (Richard Widmark), refused to have his brother “cut up.”

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Widmark was apparently very uncomfortable with some of the racist comments his character, Ray Biddle, made, especially given his friendship with Poitier.  As a result, after some of the takes involving particularly venomous remarks, Widmark actually apologized to Poitier for the remarks his character had made.  -IMDB trivia

Edie feels a connection to Wharton, though they are from two very different backgrounds.  She needs a protector, too, as she’s being pulled back to her old ‘hood by former bro-in-law/lover Ray.  In one scene, she’s taken care of by Wharton’s housekeeper.  Then they have an interesting conversation.  It’s VERY rare, and cool, to see a housekeeper with more than simple dialogue!

This film recently came out on DVD, so you can check it out for yourself.

A Patch of Blue (1965)

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Accidentally blinded by her mother Rose-Ann at the age of five, Selena D’Arcy spends the next 13 years confined in the tiny LA apt that they share with “Ole Pa”, Selena’s grandfather. One afternoon at the local park, Selena meets Gordon Ralfe, a thoughtful young office worker whose kind-hearted treatment of her results in her falling in love with him, unaware that he is black. They continue to meet in the park every afternoon and he teaches her how to get along in the city.   -IMDB synopsis

WARNING:  You’ll cry (or at least get teary-eyed) while watching this film, esp. the first time!  I’ve seen in 3 times now, but I STILL get affected.  It’s a simple story w/ few characs., but very emotional.  You’ll have to pay attn to the little things said and done by the actors.

Sidney Poitier was already a BIG star when he made this little gem of a pic; 18 y.o. Selina is played by an unknown actress, Elizabeth Hartman.  But once you get into the relationship, the would-be couple/friends don’t seem like such opposites!  Gordon empathizes with  Selina from the get-go; they are both “outsiders” in their society.  They both take pleasure in the little things in life.  Though Gordon is disappointed about race relations, he’s hopeful about the future.  His little brother/roomie, Mark, is VERY surprised by the friendship btwn Gordon and Selina.  He exclaims: “Let whitey take care of its own women!” when he hears of Gordon’s plan to better Selina’s life.

Gordon has a nice apt, works in an office, and has a bro doing medical residency.  He’s a middle-class guy, for sure.  Selina, though she is white, has a bleak life with her (often) abusive mother (Shelley Winters) and (often) drunk grandpa.   Selina has never been to school!

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Now the BIG question…

We know Selina is (totally) in love with Gordon by the end of the film, but how does HE feel?  Does he love her like a friend, a little sister, or is there potential for a (future) relationship?  You’ll be the judge; it’s open to interpretation!

 

 

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