Detective Story (1951) starring Kirk Douglas & Eleanor Parker

[1] The writing is a bit too well-structured, almost like clockwork, the characters are a bit too symbolic and easy to categorise. The comic relief kicks in just on schedule. The psychological diagnosis is too precise. And yet, this is one of the greatest films ever made. It has a sense of respect for the totality of life, and makes tragedy almost poetic. 

[2] Kirk Douglas carries the burden of McLeod and makes the tormented policeman painfully believable–it is almost a nonstop, swirling performance… 

[3] The abortion angle of the original play was taken to the screen, partly because of censorship, and partly because the close-up, immediacy of the camera requires rage to be clearly more explained than on the stage…

-Excerpts from various reviews (Amazon & IMDB)

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A poster for the film

Evil’s got a smell of its own. A child could spot it. -McCloud says, before giving some info re: his father/parents’ relationship

In this film, abortion is sinful, criminal, horrifying (personally and socially)- a tragedy. It appears from different angles: the Dutch abortion doctor (w/ his clever lawyer), the detective’s wife, her ex-boyfriend (who got her pregnant), and eventually, the detective. When Mary (Eleanor Parker) finally tells her husband (Kirk Douglas) about it, his worldview is too black and white to handle it. He calls her a “tramp”- she’s wasn’t expecting that reaction. All that matters is that she was intimate with someone before being married to him. She says she’s leaving him forever. He doesn’t go after her, as his fellow detectives urge. Mary gets her freedom.

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Mary (Eleanor Parker) begs and cries, but McCloud (Kirk Douglas) doesn’t see her virtues.

This may be one of the early “typical day” genre- several different stories occurring over one day in the same location, but melded into a whole (as on the TV shows, Hill Street Blues and Barney Miller). A key ongoing side plot involves an unlikely/lovelorn first offender and the younger sister of his former girlfriend. He stole from his employer to win back his (model) girlfriend who has moved on to a different circle. McCleod’s partner, Det. Brody (William Bendix) is more gentle/understanding; this man reminds him of his dead (WWII hero) son.

Oscar nominations were given out for William Wyler’s direction, the screenplay, and for Parker and Lee Grant, lead and supporting actresses respectively. At a little over 20 minutes, Parker’s performance in this movie is the shortest to ever be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.

I built my whole life on hating my father. All the time he was inside me, laughing. -McCloud finally realizes the truth about his personality 

Since it was impossible to film the movie without portraying the killing of Detective McLeod, so this movie resulted in another amendment to the Production Code. From December 20, 1938 to March 27, 1951, there was a rule forbidding the display of law enforcement officers (EX: detectives, security guards, etc.) dying at the hands of criminals. From March 27, 1951 onward, the Production Code allowed such portrayals, if they were “absolutely necessary to the development of the plot” (as noted in the book The Dame in the Kimono by Leonard Jeff and Jerold Simmons).

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Holiday (1938) starring Cary Grant & Katharine Hepburn

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A poster for the movie.

Set in NYC, this film stars Cary Grant as Johnny Case, a 30 y.o. businessman working at a “financial house.” While he takes a skiing holiday to Lake Placid, he meets Julia Seton (Nolan); the two fall in love (in ONLY 10 days). They get engaged!

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Johnny Case (Cary Grant) is amazed by the size of the Seton family’s home.

It turns out that Julia comes from a VERY wealthy/influential family. Johnny is surprised and bemused, BUT then finds himself taken w/ Linda (Katharine Hepburn), Julia’s free-thinking/dramatic older sister and her little brother, Ned (Lew Ayres), a musically-gifted alcoholic. (Linda Seton was loosely based on Gertrude Sanford Legendre, a former débutante who left high society to become a big-game hunter and later spied for the OSS during WWII.) 

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Sisters Julia (Doris Nolan) and Linda Seton (Katharine Hepburn) surround Johnny (Cary Grant).

There are a lot of humorous little episodes. I tried to get Father to let me take a nursing course at a hospital. Oh yes, and I almost got arrested trying to help some strikers over in Jersey. Well, how was I to know that Father was on the board of directors at the company? You see, Case, the trouble with me is I never could decide whether I wanted to be Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, or John L. Lewis. -Linda talks about her past

It turns out that Julia is NOT that different from her father; at some point you wonder WHAT Johnny saw in her in the first place! Her siblings are discontented with being under their father’s thumb. Mr. Seton is NOT a bad guy, BUT has strong feelings about how things should be done to keep the family on the up and up. 

You’ve got no faith in Johnny, have you, Julia? His little dream may fall flat, you think. Well, so it may, what if it should? There’ll be another. Oh, I’ve got all the faith in the world in Johnny. Whatever he does is all right with me. If he wants to dream for a while, he can dream for a while, and if he wants to come back and sell peanuts, oh, how I’ll believe in those peanuts! -Linda explains, revealing her true feelings for Johnny 

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Johnny (Cary Grant) with his friends, Professor Nick Potter (Edward Everett Horton) and his wife, Susan (Jean Dixon).

[Quoting an imaginary society column] ‘Miss Linda Seton – on New Year’s Eve – entertained a small group of Very Unimportant People.’ -Nick jokes 

In the original play, Nick and Susan Potter are wealthy socialites. Due to the Depression, the plot was altered so that Johnny (“the common man”) would have more ordinary, down-to-earth friends. Johnny’s friends, the Potters, were intellectuals and funny- great combo. They added a LOT of fun to this film! 

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Johnny (Cary Grant) thinks about his future while his fiancee Julia (Doris Nolan) and her father (Henry Kolker) look on.

[1] Hepburn, clearly the star of this production, acts each scene with an emotion and charm that is almost unheard of in the mainstream cinema of the present. …I found myself becoming so endeared to her character that I probably would have been completely devastated if she didn’t get some sort of happiness in the end, probably one of the highest compliments that I can give to an actor’s performance… He [Grant] is such a fresh and passionate character… 

[2] Cukor takes a lighthearted approach to this story, which keeps it upbeat and entertaining, and he laces it with warmth and humor that’ll give you some laughs and put a smile on your face. But beyond all that, Cukor shows some real insight into human nature and the ways of the world. And it makes this film timeless. 

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

New Year, New Shows: Billions & Mercy Street

Billions (Showtime)

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Series Premiere: SUN, 1/17/16, 10PM EST

Cast: Damian Lewis (Homeland), Paul Giamatti, Maggie Siff (Mad Men), & Malin Ackerman

Synopsis: U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Giamatti) goes after hedge fund king, Bobby “Axe” Axelrod (Lewis) in a battle between two powerful New York figures.

Trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_raEUMLL-ZI

 

Mercy Street (PBS)

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Premiere: SUN, 1/17/16, 10PM EST

Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Hannah James (newcomer), AnnaSophia Robb (The Carrie Diaries; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother), Gray Cole (recently on HBO’s Veep), Norbert Leo Butz (Bloodline; theater actor), Donna Murphy (theater vet), & Jack Falahee (How to Get Away with Murder).

Synopsis: This 6-part miniseries follows the lives of two volunteer nurses at a Union hospital during the Civil War- New England abolitionist Mary Phinney (Winstead) and Confederate supporter Emma Green (James), along w/ the Greens (whose mansion houses the hospital), doctors (including Dr. Jedediah Foster, played by Radnor), and two young black characters (one free, one slave).

Location: This series was shot primarily on location in Richmond, VA.

Related TV Spots:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWQk4NYEIJo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5XOW0PTmKY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkj_LsEqhcs