Thursday, July 9, 2015

Black and White Night

One of the nice things about old movies (I mean "classics") is that they tend to be short, so you can get in two in an evening.

Our first feature was the British comedy Please Turn Over! (1959). It's the basic Theodora Goes Wild plot: young girl writes scandalous best seller and the whole town thinks it's true to life. In this one, the young girl is Julia Lockwood, who lives with her strict father, ditzy mother and spinsterish aunt in a dull English suburbia. When her book comes out, everyone in town believes that her father was embezzling to pay for his secretary's taste in clothes and jewels, that her mother is messing around with a family friend, that the aunt is a drunk pining for a lecherous doctor, and so on. After we get everyone's reaction to this, the family sits down to read the book and we get to see them acting out the story.

Lockwood is a very appealing teenager with a nice almost Twiggy style bobbed hairstyle. She can't believe anyone takes the book seriously, but thinks it's all too frightfully. An Angry Young Playwright wants to adapt the novel, and winds up proposing. It's all rather sweet and funny, although not really a knee-slapper. Joan Sims (from the Carry On movies, made by this same team) might get the best role as the snarling housemaid who becomes a French maid in the novel with an odd line of French: "Not on votre Nelly!"

Next up: the noirish The Racket (1951), with Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, and Lizabeth Scott. It's about a town where the organization is moving in, working with more traditional thug Robert Ryan. There's a lot of corruption, even the Organized Crime Special Investigator (William Conrad) and the DA (Ray Collins) are corrupt. The only truly honorable and upstanding cop is Robert Mitchum, who keeps getting shuttled around to smaller and less important precincts. About the only one he trusts is patrol officer William Talman, the Van Heflin looking actor who was played the prosecutor on Perry Mason. We called him Officer Dead Meat.

Lizabeth Scott doesn't get to do much as the song bird who won't sing on Ryan.

This seems pretty old-fashioned, which makes sense, since it's the remake of a silent film (Howard Hughes produced both). One nice touch is that we never find out who the "Old Man" is, the man behind the mob. Mitchum gets the drop on Ryan, but that doesn't finish it. That's just one man down, the rest of the city to go.

This is really only great for the lead actors - the story is pretty creaky - and Scott gets shorted on screen time. But if you like Mitchum and Ryan, you won't be disappointed.

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