The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Chris Larabee Adams (Yul Brynner) drives the hearse while Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen) provides cover.

I’m not of the can-kicking, shovel-carrying, ear-scratching, torn T-shirt school of acting. There are very few real men in the movies these days. Yet being a real man is the most important quality an actor can offer on the screen.  -Yul Brynner

I saw this movie for the second time a few days ago; the first time, I didn’t pay much close attention.  The large ensemble cast is lead by Yul Brynner, undoubtedly one of the first leading men in Hollywood to transcend race.  Though his famed bald head is covered here, his unflinching gaze and deep authoritative voice (w/ its hard-to-place accent) are on full display.  In The Magnificent Seven, Chris is referred to as a “Cajun” by his old friend, Harry Luck (Brad Dexter).  It turns out that Yul’s paternal grandfather was of Swiss-German origin; his paternal grandmother was Russian, and was said to be of part Mongolian/Buryat ancestry.

Calvera (Eli Wallach, one of Hollywood’s most respected character actors) is the ruthless Mexican bandit leader.

I’ve never lost my appetite for acting; it’s innovative and challenging.  -Eli Wallach

Speaking of “exotic” men, the main villain in this story is played by Eli Wallach, the Brooklyn-born son of Jewish immigrants from Poland.  He grew up in an Italian neighborhood; he would go on to play Italian and Mexican characters in his six-decade career. 

Eli Wallach is the main reason you should watch “The Holiday” (2006).

My wife says that stage acting is like being on a tightrope with no net, and being in the movies, there is a net – because you stop and go over it again. It’s very technical and mechanical. On stage you’re on your own.  -Eli Wallach on film vs. theater acting

Wallach (who died in 2014 at age 98) studied “The Method” alongside Marlon Brando at The Actor’s Studio; this style would’ve differentiated him from several of his co-stars in The Magnificent Seven.  He learned to ride a horse for this role, w/ help from the Mexican stuntmen. 

Bernardo O’Reilly (Charles Bronson) is a Mexican/Irish gunfighter becomes a hero to 3 young boys of the village.

Acting is the easiest thing I’ve done, I guess that’s why I’m stuck with it.  -Charles Bronson

Speaking of 1st gen Americans, Charles Bronson (best known for his tough guy roles in Westerns) was the son of Lithuanian parents who settled in Pennsylvania.  You probably don’t recall seeing him as a young man, since he was a latecomer to Hollywood.  Bronson worked in the coal mines at age 16 to help support his family, then served in the Army as a young adult, then used the GI bill to study art- VERY cool! 


In this film, Bronson has a rare good guy role.  Three boys in the village grow close to him, much to his surprise and bemusement. These kids admire his skills, but (in one pivotal scene) Bernardo explains that gunfighting is NOT what makes a man “brave.” 

Britt (James Coburn) is skilled w/ a knife AND gun.  Catch him in “The Great Escape” (also w/ McQueen & Bronson).

I came from dust bowl folk — ordinary people who were stultified by the American Dream. 

I’m a jazz kind of actor, not rock’n’roll.

-James Coburn

Tall and lanky character actor, James Coburn (who hailed from Nebraska), is here more for his presence.  He has only a FEW lines on dialogue, and his usual big grin doesn’t come out (NOT apropos for his quiet, no-nonsense character).

Lee (Robert Vaughn) suffers from PTSD as a runaway from the Civil War.

With a modest amount of looks and talent and more than a modicum of serendipity, I’ve managed to stretch my 15 minutes of fame into more than half a century of good fortune.  -Robert Vaughn

The relatively-unknown Vaughn was suggested for his role thanks to college buddy, Coburn.  There was an actors’ strike going on also, so director (James Sturges) was open to the idea.  He’s more known for TV than film; you’ve probably seen him in commercials for law firms (all over the US).

They youngest of the bunch- Chico (Horst Buchholz)- attempts to motivate the frightened farmers.
Chico discovers that the young unmarried women of the village are hiding in the woods.
Chico watches for Calvera’s gang while Petra (Rosenda Monteros) admires him.

The one member of the seven that provides some humor (as well as romance) is Chico, a young/inexperienced Mexican man who has something to prove.  Chris recognizes this, as well as his fast reflexes, and he joins in protecting the village.  Horst Buchholz is the German actor who was sought after to play this role.  The film was a hit, first in Europe, then was re-distributed in the US (earning high profits).  His accent does NOT match w/ that of the Mexican-origin actors, BUT that’s just something you have to ignore to enjoy this film.


Hmmm… what to say re: Vin (Steve McQueen)?  He’s got that trademark tan, gorgeous blue-gray eyes, and GREAT skills on a horse.  The way he gets on and off his horse is even cool!  I liked this role for him, as it has hints of humor.  However, I think he shines even more in The Great Escape (which I saw a few weeks ago for the first time).  You can’t deny that this actor has screen presence!    

The Mexican farmers await the arrival of Calvera’s gang.

Donald Trump (ugh) would NOT like this film!  Why is that?  The Mexican villagers in it are portrayed like REAL people- they venture out to another town to hire gunmen, show kindness and hospitality, and (eventually) take up arms to stand up for themselves.  Being border people, they speak English VERY well, too (gasp)!  The three leaders of the village decide that they won’t be victims anymore, then convince everyone else to join in the effort to get rid of the bandits.   

Devotion (1946) starring Olivia de Havilland, Ida Lupino & Paul Henreid

On the moors: Bramwell (Arthur Kennedy), Emily (Ida Lupino), and Charlotte (Olivia de Havilland) Bronte

I’m certainly relishing the idea of living a century. Can you imagine that? What an achievement!  -Olivia de Havilland

Devotion, filmed in 1943, but released in 1946, has some real-life drama behind it.  Olivia de Havilland is an actress w/ a goody-goody public image, BUT she waged a 2 yr. legal battle against Warner Bros. over extending her contract for time she spent on suspension (for refusing a handful roles that she felt were too small and unsuitable to her talents). She won the case in California’s Supreme Court and went on to freelance, making two films for Paramount.

MOST of you know de Havilland as Melanie Wilkes, the cousin/wife of Scarlett O’Hara’s first love, Ashley Wilkes, in Gone with the Wind.  Others may know her as the lady love of MANY different characters played by the swash-buckling Errol Flynn in 8 films (early in her career).  Olivia and her sister, actress Joan Fontaine, had a VERY combative relationship for most of their life. 

Ida Lupino (who is simply fabulous in Devotion w/ real-life close friend, Paul Henreid) was ALSO a trailblazer in Hollywood.  She was one of the first women to be inducted into the Director’s Guild of America.  Her paternal ancestors came from Bologna, Italy to England, from where she sailed to the US at age 15 to begin her own career.      

Emily wants to stay at home; Charlotte yearns for travel.

This film showed some of the biographical background that would shape Charlotte’s (Olivia de Haviland’s) and Emily’s (Ida Lupino’s) fiction.  Emily’s loved the wild moors, which would translate into her imagery for Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights.  Charlotte had an infatuation with a foreign tutor she knew in Belgium (played by Belgian actor Victor Francen) which is used in creating the character of Paul in Villette.  Anne (Nancy Coleman), who wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, doesn’t have much to do in this film. 

The Bronte sisters with Rev. Arthur Nicholls (Paul Henreid) at a ball.

I’ve seen this film several times in my life. Each time I saw it, my heart broke anew for Emily Bronte. Miss Lupino’s performance was nothing short of wonderful. She truly conveyed the feelings of unrequited love.  -IMDB comment

The fiction is tied to a ruthless streak in Charlotte at her (perhaps more talented sister’s expense), especially over Reverend Nicholls (Austrian actor Paul Henreid from Casablanca).  In reality, Emily never yearned for Nicholls, or any man Charlotte liked.  Branwell (a young Arthur Kennedy, noted character actor in Westerns) is closest to Emily of all the siblings.  He tries to support her, but he becomes a drunk after failing to get a foothold in London b/c he doesn’t have any connections or much money.  (The Bronte’s father was a minister in a small/secluded town in Yorkshire.) 

Many literary critics consider Branwell as part of the inspiration behind Catherine’s older brother, Hindley Earnshaw, who becomes a drunk and gambler while away at college in Wuthering Heights.

Branwell was talented and educated, and had high hopes of success in the arts.  In fact, he planned to travel to London (and may have done so) to apply for the Royal Academy in 1834/1835.  His high hopes disappeared as he moved from job to job and scandal to scandal.  He wasted his life in drinking and drug-taking and was going through some of his worst situations when Emily was writing her novel.  It is likely that she based much of the degradation of Hindley on observations and experiences with the decline of her brother.  The Reader’s Guide to Wuthering Heights

Nancy Coleman (right), who played Anne Bronte, was model for Disney’s Snow White.


Disney’s Snow White with her forest friends.

In the last act of the film, Vanity Fair novelist, William Makepeace Thackeray (Sidney Greenstreet) escorts Charlotte around London, lending her his social prestige. However, he is more impressed by Emily’s writing (which is more imaginative and powerful) while Charlotte’s work is more polite.  Thackeray’s social snobbery comes out when he sneers at street kids in the East End (Not my public!), and when he warns Charlotte against Charles Dickens.

A Face in the Crowd (1957) starring Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal & Walter Matthau


We became acquainted with a community of strangers – it was not like a work experience, it was a life experience, a thing that affects you very deeply. We became a part of that Arkansas community settling down in new homes there. It was a terrific experience, right from the beginning, the people we met, the insights we got, the privilege we had of being inside a society that otherwise we would never have touched.  -Andy Griffith

Larry Rhodes (Andy Griffith, in his 1st movie role- VERY far from Sheriff Andy and Matlock) is in a small-town Arkansas jail when the niece of a radio station owner, Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal- always great in every role), interviews him and has him sing an impromptu song for a weekly radio program.  She even names him “Lonesome, ” much to his surprise and amusement.


You put your whole self into that laugh, don’t you?  -Marcia asks

Marcia, I put my whole self into everything I do.  -Lonesome replies

Lonesome quickly proves to be quite popular with his homespun humor/song lyrics. He soon has a radio show of his own (in Memphis).  An opportunistic/ambitious office worker, Joey DePalma (Anthony Franciosa) lands Lonesome a contract for a TV show (in NYC) thanks to support of Vitajex, a new dietary supplement.

A Face in the Crowd (1957) Directed by Elia Kazan Shown from left: Patricia Neal, Andy Griffith
A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Directed by Elia Kazan
Shown from left: Patricia Neal, Andy Griffith

I was totally taken by surprise by this edgy, brilliant movie. I was also mesmerized by the beautiful and fabulous Patricia Neal. …she just smoked in this movie.  -IMDB comment

They love his voice, they love his guitar, they love his ideas… they should know some of his ideas.  -Marcia says re: Lonesome

Lonesome becomes SO popular that he gets his own television show.  He brings his “Girl Friday” Marcia w/ him to NYC.  Their working relationship gets complicated, BUT you need to watch it to find out how!

A FACE IN THE CROWD, Andy Griffith, 1957
A FACE IN THE CROWD, Andy Griffith, 1957

The portion of the film where [Lonesome] “reinvented” the marketing message of the pill was like a precursor of current Viagra commercials, particularly the blonde in bed talking about how the pill helped her “boyfriend.”  -IMDB comment

Didn’t you know? All mild men are vicious. They hate themselves for being mild, and they hate the windy extroverts whose violence seems to have a strange attraction for nice girls. You should know better.  -Mel comments re: men like him

Mel Miller (Walter Matthau) is one of the writers who works on this show; he develops feelings for Marcia. In no time, Lonesome attracts the attention of a retired general, who introduces him to an aspiring politician.


I’m not just an entertainer. I’m an influence, a wielder of opinion, a force… a force!  -Lonesome exclaims re: his power over the masses

A comparison to the fictional Lonesome and the too real Donald Trump can’t be avoided. Art imitating life or is it life imitating art?  -IMDB comment

Did you know Marlon Brando (a frequent collaborator of director Elia Kazan) was considered for the lead role?  One of the hosts at TCM pointed this out after the film ended; it was shown in early October. Brando refused, probably b/c he knew that would’ve been woeful miscasting! 

On Twitter, a viewer noted that the dinner scene in Lonesome’s spacious penthouse was styled like the one in Citizen Kane.  Director Spike Lee noted that A Face in the Crowd film was a BIG inspiration for his film, Bamboozled.   

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) on the run!

Synopsis: In 1934, Bonnie Parker, a waitress, and Clyde Barrow, a criminal, just released from prison, are immediately attracted to what the other represents for their life when they meet by chance in West Dallas, Texas. Bonnie is fascinated with Clyde’s criminal past, his bravado in talking about it, and the power of his gun. Clyde sees in Bonnie someone who wanted more out of life- like himself. They decide to join forces to embark on a life of crime (mainly robbing banks) to make fast money and have fun.  Their  small gang of willing accomplices includes C.W. Moss (a mechanic) and Buck Barrow, one of Clyde’s older brothers.  Buck’s wife, a former preacher’s daughter, reluctantly joins in, but then becomes hysterical when faced w/ danger. 

Newspaper photo of the real life Bonnie and Clyde

If all you want’s a stud service, you get on back to West Dallas and you stay there the rest of your life.  You’re worth more than that.  A lot more than that.  You know it and that’s why you come along with me.  -Clyde says to Bonnie

To modern eyes, this movie is rather tame, BUT in it’s day, it caused quite a stir!  In a TV interview, director Arthur Penn pointed out that this film shows for the first time the firing of a gun and the consequences in ONE single frame. Before that, you’d see a gun being fired, then cut, and the next scene would show the bleeding body.  This was the first film to use squibs (which were embedded in costumes and wired to a central control that made them explode in sequence to create the illusion of being shot).

Leading man Warren Beatty (who was at the top of his profession then) wanted his then-girlfriend, Natalie Wood, for the role of Bonnie. However, SHE refused in order to be able to meet daily w/ her therapist. Producers auditioned a LOT of young actresses (incl. Jane Fonda) for the role of Bonnie; at first, they thought Faye Dunaway was not “hot.”  But then Beatty screen-tested w/ her and was convinced that she was the BEST one for the role. 

Gene Hackman (in one of his early roles) plays Clyde’s big brother- Buck

Warner Bros. thought it would be a flop, BUT it was a hit!  Roger Ebert had ONLY been a film critic for 6 mos. when he saw this film and hailed it as the first masterpiece he had seen on the job. ONE of the reasons why the film was so successful was because of its anti-establishment stance; people were becoming disillusioned with America’s involvement in Vietnam at this time.

Young Estelle Parsons (Roseanne’s mom in the ABC sitcom) plays Buck’s wife.

There is SOME humor in this film, too, thanks in part to Gene Wilder (in his debut)!  He plays Eugene, a wealthy Romeo who is robbed of his shiny new car while making out w/ his girlfriend, Velma, on the porch.  Eventually, the couple end up in Eugene’s car WITH the robbers!  When Bonnie asks Velma how old she is, she quickly responds with “33.” Eugene is silent and looks shocked (so she MUST have lied about it before)- LOL!


Here is a list of Hollywood conventions that were broken in this film (from a commentator on IMDB):

  1. The mix of comic scenes with scenes of violence, intense drama and that weird, beautiful family reunion scene.
  2. The realistic (for the time) portrayal of violence, with blood and moans and pain.
  3. The frank sensuality (for its time).
  4. The likeability (some would say glorification) of criminals (we are sad when they die).
  5. The unlikeability of the sheriff (who, in prior years, would have been the hero).
  6. The portrayal of an unconventional “family” who live together and mostly love each other, reflecting the ’60s hippie ethos.
  7. The use of period music (the bluegrass) rather than all orchestral scoring.
  8. The pointed social commentary (the Depression-era dispossessed, the poor farmer shooting at the bank sign and his foreclosed home, portrayal of the Establishment as villains).
  9. The depiction of “style” (the clothes, the brash attitudes, the coolness) and how its used to establish the triumph outsiders over law-abiding “squares.”

2016 AFI Latin American Film Festival: Mr. Pig (Mexico)

He [Danny Glover] traces Ambrose’s rapidly deteriorating physical with ease. But psychologically, the script (by Luna and Augusto Mendoza) just doesn’t provide a lot of depth to work with — for him or for Rudolph, also a welcome presence in a rare non-comedic role. Excerpt from Variety review


Luna doesn’t ease up on the sadness one iota, and it will undoubtedly be tough for some to sit through.  However, they eventually hit just the right groove, and Mr. Pig becomes an odd story of family reconciliation, one that isn’t afraid to wallow in the emotional mud. -Travis Hopson (The Examiner)


It turns out that Mexican actor (and noted international heartthrob) Diego Luna is ALSO a director/writer!  He’s in the next Star Wars movie, BUT that doesn’t mean that he wanted to rest on his laurels.  Mr. Pig (Luna’s third directorial attempt) starts out slow, w/ an old farmer, Ambrose (Danny Glover), and his beloved hog heading from his (soon to be repossessed) farm in Southern California to Mexico.  As a young man, Ambrose fell in love w/ Mexico’s natural beauty and its people.


In time, we see that Ambrose is dependent on alcohol and (possibly) ill. When his concerned daughter, Eunice (Maya Rudolph) calls, he doesn’t reveal anything about his money issues or deteriorating health. He goes to the large/industrial farm of his old friend’s son; the two men talk and joke about the old days for a night. But upon seeing the conditions in which the pigs are kept the next morning, he refuses to sell his hog!       

My friend and I BOTH liked this film, BUT it’s for those who need speed and want ALL the problems wrapped up in a nice bow.  I particularly liked the cinematography (by Damian Garcia).  The music was low-key, so it didn’t mess w/ that was happening onscreen.  Ambrose and Eunice have a troubled relationship, BUT she ends up going part of the way w/ him to Guadalajara (where old friends have pooled money to buy the hog).