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The Duke and the Duchess
WITHOUT RESERVATIONS (1946), directed by Mervyn LeRoy, features the unlikely pairing of sophisticate Claudette Colbert (Oscar winner as the spoiled runaway heiress in It Happened One Night) and hunky John Wayne. She plays Chris "Kit" Madden, author of a best-selling novel that tells the story of a virtuous soldier who puts so-called "progressive" beliefs above "reactionary" ones; i.e., he doesn't let his base emotions dominate his life; he treats a woman with respect and gets to know her before he romances her. The movie is a comic attempt to mock those beliefs, essentially saying that a woman's place is in the home and her most important job is producing babies. This reactionary film is nonetheless entertaining, thanks to the expert playing of the cast, who make the most of a predictable scenario. The first two-thirds of the story move at a rapid clip, but the last third is tedious; we know Wayne, as a conservative marine who loves Kit and has taught her how to "live" as a real woman (not the bookworm theoritician she was before) is going to get Kit in the end; it's just a matter of time. Cary Grant, Jack Benny, and the film's director, Mervyn LeRoy, all make amusing cameo appearances (as does the RKO backlot, which doubles as the movie studio that is planning to film Kit's book).
I've been breezing through the second season of THE UNTOUCHABLES (1960-61), purportedly based on the life of T-man Eliot Ness (Robert Stack), who was the special treasury department investigator who brought down mobster Al Capone in 1931. Those who only know Ness from the big-screen interpretation by Kevin Costner in the Brian De Palma feature from 1988 will be surprised by the TV version. Stack, who was an Oscar nominee for his role as the drunken playboy in Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind, is a tough-as-nails, no-nonsense hero, who sees everything in black and white (you're either with me or with the mob) and who usually ends up blasting the bad guys in a hail of bullets (Ness usually shoots straighter than the bad guys who, though they are often armed with machine guns, generally lose to the pistol-packing Ness). There is a samenss to the plots, which have the appeal of Grand Opera – good vs bad, evil vanquished, innocence triumphs but at a cost – all given a veneer of documentary-like realism through the stentorian narration of 1930s newspaper columnist Walter Winchel, forgotten now but the Rush Limbaugh of his day. In real life, however, Ness never put away as many criminals as his television counterpart: his main claim to fame was nailing Capone – not with a gun but with a tax audit. Capone was sent to prison for tax evasion.
September 19, 2012
DEAD SILENCE (1997) Director: Daniel Petrie Jr. Cast: James Garner, Marlee Matlin.Well-made hostage thriller, with Garner as discredited FBI crisis negotiator who must prove his mettle in the face of skeptical authorities. The plot finds three escaped convicts holding a busload of deaf children hostage and the FBI's tense efforts over 25 hours to get them out alive. Tightly directed and well-paced, the movie is a engaging thriller, with just enough surprises and character to reinvigorate what has become a tired formula. Garner is solid, charming and charismaric as always. 6/26/98.