“I Walk Alone” starring Burt Lancaster, Lizabeth Scott, Kirk Douglas, & Wendell Corey

Two things I can handle baby… guns and dames! -A tagline for the movie

Frankie Madison (Burt Lancaster- one of my faves since I was a kid) returns to NYC after 14 yrs in prison. Noll Turner (Kirk Douglas), Frankie’s former partner in bootlegging, is now a successful nightclub manager/owner. Frankie is expecting him to honor a verbal “50-50” agreement they made before he was caught; Noll luckily got away. The two men’s friend, Dave (Wendell Corey), is the bookkeeper at the club. The club’s singer is Kay Lawrence (Lizabeth Scott); she is also Noll’s L/T gf. Mrs. Alexis Richardson (Kristine Miller) is the society lady w/ her eye on Noll.

Alexis: You know, you’re quite an attractive man.

Frankie: Keep goin’.

Alexis: How far do you want me to go?

Frankie: I’m at the plate. You’re doing the pitching.

This movie has great dialogue; the screenplay was written by Charles Schnee from a play by Theodore Reeves (The Beggars Are Coming to Town). Some viewers have called it a BIT “too wordy.” Schnee also wrote the screenplay for a must-see film noir, The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), which also starred Douglas. The director, Byron Haskin, worked his way up from commercial movie photographer to cameraman, then became an assistant director (AD) at Selznick Pictures. Haskin was a cinematographer in the silent era; he helped develop the tech that brought sound to the film industry. He began directing in the late 1920s at Warner Bros. Haskin made Disney’s 1st live-action film, Treasure Island (1950).

Alexis: [in Noll grabbing her by the arm] You’re hurting me.

Noll: And you love it.

As the hosts on Out of the Podcast commented: “You can tell everyone is young and hungry in this one.” This is Lancaster’s 5th film at age 33; the actor (6’2″ tall/classically handsome) started out as an acrobat, which explains his strong physical presence. He can fight (and make it look believable), as we see in this movie! Douglas (5’9″ w/ a striking face) came from the theater world and studied The Method; this is his 4th film at age 30. It MAY seem strange to some viewers to see Douglas as a villain; this was the case in his early roles. This is the 1st of 7 movies that Lancaster and Douglas made together; they also became close pals.

Noll [to Kay]: Sure, that’s why men take women to dinner – to have someone to talk about themselves to.

The husky-voiced Scott (who is NOT the most confident/versatile actor) raises her game here, perhaps b/c she is cast opposite (future) Hollywood heavyweights. Scott acted w/ Lancaster and Corey in Desert Fury (a weird movie, BUT may interest noir-istas). Frankie and Kay have strong romantic chemistry; Lancaster looks at Scott in a sweet/gentle way. Kay’s songs were NOT sung by Scott; her voice was dubbed. I loved ALL of Kay’s outfits (chosen by Edith Head); they are classy and seductive. Check this movie out!

[1] It’s the kind of movie where the stars are more memorable than the story.

Scott and Douglas, for example, really shine. Scott does some of the best acting of her career as the conflicted glamour girl. But I especially like Douglas’s slimy version of a smooth-talking mastermind who’s so self-assured, you can’t wait to see him get what he’s got coming.

[2] There’s a lot to like in the film- particularly the acting. In addition, the camera-work is great, as is the beating scene… The street scenes late in the film had a great use of shadows- a film noir trademark.

-Excerpts from IMDb reviews

Spoiler-Free Review: “House of the Dragon” (Episode 1: “The Heirs of the Dragon”)

Lords, ladies, knights, high-born, or common-born- MANY of us were hotly anticipating this (prequel) show to Game of Thrones (GoT)! As many critics/fans/casual viewers commented, GoT was the last “water cooler” show in recent yrs. With almost 10M viewers, this ep was the MOST watched series premiere in HBO’s history; the HBO Max app crashed that SUN night (so I had to wait to see it on the following MON). The ep’s title is taken from the chapter’s name in the book Fire & Blood (by George R. R. Martin) on which the show is based. Are any of y’all book readers (as I’d like to know your opinions also)? This time, David Benioff and Dan Weiss are NOT involved (take a long sigh of relief, if you need)! The showrunners here are an American- Ryan J. Condal (who met w/ Martin 8+ yrs ago; they became pals and collaborators)- and British director Miguel Sapochnik (who worked on some of the highest-rated/most action-packed eps of GoT). There was some breaking news tonight: Sapochnik will NOT return as co-showrunner for S2. Alan Taylor will be taking over; he also worked on GoT.

As w/ GoT, you’ll meet MANY characters, BUT the main conflict arises from the (platinum blonde) individuals who are part of the same (Targaryen) family who lived nearly 200 yrs before Daenerys. Before King Jaeharys died, he held a High Council meeting where a 1,000 lords decided on who should be his successor on the Iron Throne. It came down to one woman, Rhaenys (Eve Best), and her (male) cousin, Viserys. Unsurprisingly, the lords chose Viserys; a woman has never sat on the Iron Throne. Will he be a good (effective) king to his people? Now, in the 9th yr of his reign, King Viserys (Paddy Considine- a British character actor), still doesn’t have a direct male heir (son). He has ONLY one child w/ his loving wife/cousin, Aemma (Sian Brooke), a 14 y.o. daughter named Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock- a newcomer from Australia). She is observant, intelligent, w/ a rebellious streak; some viewers thought of her as a mix of Arya and Daenerys from GoT. She has a dragon that she loves to ride; dragons are a part of this world (much more than in GoT). Ser Harrold Westerling (Graham McTavish- a Scottish character actor from The Hobbit and Outlander) is the bodyguard (one of the 7 in the Kingsguard) to Rhaenyra. Lately, the girl is concerned for her mother, as she is close to giving birth.

Rhaenyra’s best friend, Lady Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey- the young Diana in Wonder Woman), is red-headed, reserved, and lady-like. Some were reminded of Sansa (in early seasons of GoT) when they watched Alicent. Her father, Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans- a Welsh character actor), is the Hand of the King; he keeps things close to the vest. Rhaenyra also has an affinity w/ her uncle/Viserys’ younger brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith- star of Doctor Who and The Crown). They speak together in High Valyrian (which adds to their closeness); he gives her a necklace made of Valyrian steel (as we saw in one of the promo pics). Daemon (an unabashed rebel of the family) seems to be popular w/ commoners; they call him “The Prince of the City.” He is commander of the City Watch (AKA Gold Cloaks) and the (unofficial) heir to the Iron Throne. (FYI: The throne has a different/more intimidating look than in GoT). We also get to meet the members of the king’s Small Council, which incl. Otto, Daemon (who never attends), Grand Maester Mellos (David Horovitch), Lord Lyonel Strong (Gavin Spokes), Lord Lyman Beesbury (Bill Patterson- veteran Scottish character actor recently in Fleabag), and Lord Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint) AKA the Sea Snake/Rhaenys’ husband. The Velaryons are an even older family than the Targaryens in Westeros, BUT they don’t ride dragons (they’re known for sailing expertise). Lord Corlys (a Black man in this adaptation) is the richest man in Westeros; he and Rhaenys have the (rare) love marriage.

King Viserys is happy and confident, feeling that Aemma will give birth to a boy V soon! Instead of worrying about potential threats to the kingdom (as Lord Corlys describes), he turns his attention to a grand tourney to celebrate his heir. Lords and ladies from ALL over the realm come to watch knights from various houses/backgrounds joust, conduct business, and share gossip. We see colorful/decorative heraldry (which is something Martin noted was missing from GoT). It looks like each of these knights has a slightly different design to his armor. One of the knights, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel- an actor of French, British, and Indian heritage), wears slightly tarnished armor; he is common-born, BUT a strong fighter. Daemon (also a great fighter) has the MOST fancy/decorative armor (incl. a helmet w/ dragon-shaped wings). Some reviewers (YT; podcasts) compared the fighting to that of Ridley Scott’s recent medieval drama- The Last Duel. I thought the same, through I think this show is more bloody! There probably isn’t much that’ll shock those who followed GoT.

I was V impressed w/ Smith, Daemon already is a compelling presence! I haven’t seen him in many shows/movies yet, BUT plan to check out Doctor Who (he starts out in S5). I loved David Tennant in that role, so have high expectations. Alcock (who is just 22 y.o. now) looks to be a promising actress; I thought she had a good handle on Rhaenyra. I’m curious to see what Ifans will do w/ his role; I’ve seen him in a few movies MANY yrs ago. I loved the music (from Ramin Djawadi) and the general look of the show, esp. the costumes. Now, I’m NOT an expert on visual/special effects, BUT they looked impressive. Do check out this ep for yourself, and let me know your thoughts (in comments below or Twitter- where I’ve been sharing some content)! There are many “Easter eggs” for fans of the previous show, too.

“Born to Kill” starring Lawrence Tierney, Claire Trevor, & Walter Slezak

THE COLDEST KILLER A WOMAN EVER LOVED! -A tagline from the original poster

In Reno, Sam Wilde (Lawrence Tierney) kills Laury Palmer (Isabel Jewell), a young woman he’d recently dated and her L/T bf, Danny (Tony Barrett). It may NOT be the 1st time that he has murdered- yikes! Sam’s friend/roomie- Marty Waterman (Elisha Cook, Jr.)- chides him for his hasty behavior; he also reveals that last Sam had a “crack-up” last Summer. Helen Brent (Claire Trevor), a woman whose divorce has just come through, finds the dead bodies. She decides NOT to call the cops and become involved. The next day, Sam and Helen meet on the train to San Fran, unaware of the (deadly) link btwn them.

Marty [to Sam]: You can’t just go around killin’ people whenever the notion strikes you. It’s not feasible.

This film noir (considered one of the MOST brutal of the genre) resulted in a loss of $243,000 (over $2.78M in 2020) for RKO Studios. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tallulah Bankhead was 1st considered for the role of Helen that went to Trevor. French film maker, Jean-Pierre Melville, late said that he was influenced by this movie. The story starts out slow, as we meet Helen, Mrs. Kraft (Esther Howard- playing a boozy/older landlady), and Laury (a talkative young woman who lives next door). Mrs. Kraft (who is a widow) delights in the stories Laury tells re: her dating life.

Laury [describing the man she recently met]: Well, this big across the shoulders. He moved my trunk around the other day like it was a cracker box. He’s the quiet sort. And yet you get the feeling if you stepped out of line he’d kick your teeth down your throat.

Mrs. Kraft: Why, ain’t that wonderful?

Laury: Sure is.

As Eddie Muller commented, this movie has some great supporting characters. Mrs. Kraft can be funny, though she is also a brave/loyal friend to Laury (even after she is gone). Marty will do anything to help Sam, though he projects a humble/harmless persona. Mr. Arnett (Victor Slezak), the private detective hired by Mrs. Kraft, is BOTH jovial and a shameless opportunist.

Delivery Boy: My, that coffee smells good. Ain’t it funny how coffee never tastes as good as it smells.

Mr. Arnett: As you grow older, you’ll discover that life is very much like coffee: the aroma is always better than the actuality. May that be your thought for the day.

“This is the rare film noir that has a femme fatale and a homme fatale,” Muller noted. Trevor (already an Oscar winner) is compelling as a graceful, worldly, and (above all) cold-hearted woman. Helen wants money, as her adopted/younger sister- Georgia (Audrey Long)- is the one who inherited everything from their father. Of course, Georgia is happy to share, BUT Helen isn’t satisfied w/ her paying the bills. Though Helen is engaged to a wealthy man from her social circle, Fred (Phillip Terry), she is V attracted to Sam. Even after she learns he is a killer, Helen still wants to be w/ Sam- yikes!

Helen: [to Sam] You’re strength, excitement, and depravity!

Muller explained that Tierney (6’1″tall w/ a square jaw, intense eyes, and deep voice) was “a real-life tough guy” who was known for his drinking and public brawling. Yup, he was arrested several times! Tierney’s younger brother also became an actor; Scott Brady (V conventionally handsome) changed his last name when he got to Hollywood. Tierney and Cook, Jr. were best pals IRL, too (as in this movie). Some viewers commented that Sam doesn’t have the charm (which is usually expected from a leading man). There is NO doubt that Tierney has something that one can’t teach- screen presence. Somehow, he managed to have a long career; he appeared in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. Muller (who met Tierney in this later years) said that “he’s NOT acting” in this role- LOL!

[1] Tierney’s intense character, his hot temper and insane paranoid jealousy are, well, fun to watch once you get to like this actor and his tough-guy roles. Tierney, in this film, would kill over the slightest thing that would suggest to him that he might be getting double crossed. Talk about a guy with mental problems!

Trevor was effective as the immoral woman who cared for money first, and everything else a distant second.

[2] Marty Waterman (Elisha Cook Jr.) has a strange friendship with Sam and the fact that they share a double bed in the low-budget hotel may give a hint that they have a homosexual relationship.

[3] It isn’t a surprise that a good script and some talented actors are put together with such smart, fast panache by a young Robert Wise, more famous for West Side Story and Sound of Music. It ends up taking some astonishing twists, and some liberties with location shooting that are fabulous for 1947.

-Excerpts from IMDb reviews

“Persuasion” (2022) starring Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis, & Henry Golding

Anne Elliot [lamenting her status w/ Frederick]: Now we’re worse than strangers, we’re exes.

To put it succinctly: this movie (streaming on Netflix) is a hot mess! Y’all MUST have seen/heard some of the horrible to “meh” reviews, as it has been out since July 15. I’m NOT going to recount the plot here, as I’m sure MOST of my regular readers know it. To start, this movie (which often breaks the 4th wall) is confused; it doesn’t know which audience it wants to aim at- Gen Z or Millennials (particularly “wine moms”). It’s certainly NOT geared toward mature/long-time Jane Austen fans (AKA Austenites)! One young woman in a JA Facebook group asked: “Was Anne Elliot supposed to be an alcoholic in the book?” LOL! It would be funny, IF it wasn’t so sad (or disappointing).

Mrs. Clay [commenting re: beauty standards]: They say if you’re a 5 in London, you’re a 10 in Bath.

Even before the movie was out, MANY viewers/critics were appalled by the trailer. I decided to be chill and give it a chance- ugh, curse my (slightly) optimistic personality! While watching, I don’t think I found it funny, emotional, or even slightly interesting. OK, the scenery was nice- that’s about it! There more telling instead of showing, which is a no-no (as reviewers involved in filmmaking commented). There are zero funny moments (IMO), unless you find cringe-y lines humorous. Anyways, this tale is NOT supposed to be light-hearted.

The filmmakers here have characterized Anne all wrong; she’s a mix of Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice) and Emma Woodhouse (Emma). No longer is Anne introverted, observant, and self-sacrificing, she blabs her opinions, jokes around (incl. w/ men who are strangers), and drinks (red wine) often! This is the main problem book fans had, I’ve noticed. Dakota Johnson is probably NOT a bad actress (I haven’t yet seen much of her work), BUT she is wrong for this role. As some astute viewers commented: “She has a face that has definitely seen a cell phone.” Even some of the costumes are confusing; one glaring example a costume designer pointed out was Anne wearing black/fishnet gloves in the concert scene.

Sir Walter Elliot: What use is a title if you have to earn it? What use is anything if you have to earn it?

What about the supporting cast? They don’t fare much better than Johnson, sad to say. There is TOO much talking going on btwn Anne and Capt. Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis); notice all the chatting on the beach at Lyme. Jarvis (haven’t seen his work either) looks uneasy in his costumes and his face often has the same (pained) expression. His line delivery sounds awkward, BUT then so was much of his dialogue. As Anne’s father, Sir Walter Elliot (Richard E. Grant- a veteran character actor), provides a BIT of humor. Anne’s scheming cousin, Mr. Elliot (Henry Golding), is also a ray of light- though he doesn’t have much to do. The Crofts get V little to do also; that’s disappointing since they are such a LT/compatible couple. The MOST cringe-y moment (IMO) involves Anne and her older/widowed neighbor, Lady Russell (Nikki-Amuka Bird), as they have a picnic outdoors. Anne asks Lady Russell: “But do you ever miss company?” (meaning the company of men- or sex)! Oy vey…

Unlike most JA adaptations you MAY have seen in the past, this movie has “color conscious casting.” “Color-blind casting” is the practice of casting actors w/o considering factors such as ethnicity, skin color, body shape, sex, or gender. However, color-conscious casting is the practice of casting actors where these features are considered. Anne’s younger sis, Mary Musgrove (Mia McKenna-Bruce), has a husband (Charles) who is played by a Black actor; their (adorable) young sons are thus biracial. Charles’ younger sisters are played by 2 biracial actresses: Nia Towle (Louisa) and Izuka Hoyle (Henrietta). Though Louisa was trying to get Anne and Wentworth together for a time (all wrong from the book), I thought Towle was a fine actress (as did many other viewers). You can see this version and judge for yourself, BUT I recommend the 1995 movie (starring Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root) or the 2007 miniseries (starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones) instead!

“Yellow Sky” (1948) starring Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter, & Richard Widmark

In 1867 in the West, a band of bank robbers flee from the U.S. Cavalry into the desert on horseback. These men are: James Dawson AKA Stretch (Gregory Peck- one of Hollywood’s top leading men), Dude (Richard Widmark- a film noir darling/respected character actor), Lengthy (John Russell- a tall/darkly handsome actor who later became a lead on TV), Bull Run (Robert Arthur), Half Pint (Harry Morgan- long before fame on M*A*S*H), and Walrus (Charles Kemper). Near death from lack of water, all (except Walrus), stumble into what appears to be a ghost town (Yellow Sky). However, they soon discover a prospector, Grandpa (James Burton), and his “tomboy” granddaughter, Constance Mae AKA Mike (Anne Baxter- already an Oscar winner for her supporting role in All About Eve). After Dude discovers that this old man has been mining gold, the gang plan to steal from his claim.

James (Stretch) Dawson: Quite a punch you got there, ma’am. Come in mighty handy when you get married.

I learned that Widmark acted in a few Westerns, thanks to another classic movie fan (via Twitter). Yellow Sky is categorized as a noir Western. The director’s name may be familiar; William Wellman directed the original version of A Star is Born (1937). The story was by W.R. Burnett (one of the most influential writers in film history); the screenplay was by Lamar Trotti. The music was composed by one of the best in the field, Alfred Newman; he created the 20th Century Fox logo theme (which is still used today). In 1940, Newman was nominated for 4 Oscars for 4 different films- wow!

Shakespeare’s The Tempest influenced the plot/characters; I learned this from the review that indie director John Sayles did. However, Wellman said in the book, The Men Who Made the Movies, that he had no idea of the connection. In the fight between Lengthy and Mike at the spring, Baxter’s stunt double- Martha Crawford- was used. Peck broke his ankle in 3 places after falling from his horse in one scene, so the man wrestling w/ Baxter in the hay was his stunt double, Jock Mahoney. Wellman noted that Baxter hated working w/ Peck, BUT never gave a reason why. Hmmm… I found this surprising, b/c I’ve never heard of Peck’s co-stars having serious issues w/ him!

I’m NOT yet V familar w/ the Western genre, though I mostly grew up in the desert (Tucson, AZ). This movie is visually stunning w/ stark black and white photography of the natural landscapes. The filmmakers received permission to shoot in Death Valley, which had the dangers of extreme heat, scorpions, and tarantulas- yikes! Peck and Widmark make believable frenemies; they’re NOT only opposites physically, BUT also have different personalities. Each of the 6 men has his own style of speech, unique costume, and scene in which to reveal his character. The romance develops over a few scenes, as Mike learns that Stretch is NOT a bad man (deep down). The last scene looks tacked on (by Hollywood studio execs), as Sayles commented. This movie was re-made in South Africa as The Jackals (1967) starring Vincent Price.

[1] Gregory Peck plays the leader Stretch, an actor normally associated with a straight-laced gait, here he is is weather worn and tired, his portrayal of Stretch as convincing as a role I have seen him tackle. Richard Widmark, in what I believe to be his first Western entry, is truly magnetic, a smirking, snarling Dude that you just know you couldn’t trust if your life depended on it. Anne Baxter plays the sole female character of the piece (Mike), and she is pivotal to the whole film’s strength, tough and full of spunk, her grasping of the situation in amongst these ragged men gives the piece it’s time bomb ethic, and boy does Baxter do well with it.

[2] Performances are superb from all concerned. Peck gives one of his usual stalwart portrayals. Richard Widmark, in his first western is superb as the slimy, crafty double crosser. Also excellent is John Russell as the womanizing gang member (“Now ma’am, you wouldn’t shoot a fine young handsome fella like me, would ye?”)

[3] The main thing you might not catch is that this is an adaptation of “The Tempest,” by Shakespeare. Here, the band of travelers crosses a metaphoric sea (the desert) and reaches a “New World” where they sort out what matters between them. The set was built (and deliberately destroyed) from an old silent film set that was left over.

William Wellman was one of those consistently excellent directors who never really made a bad film, but didn’t always make exceptional ones, and this one is right in his usual mix of strong visuals, tight editing, fairly simple dramatic plots, and a key actor or two to identify with.

-Excerpts from IMDb movies