Go Out To A Movie
The Stars Are Singing
There’s an engaging air of youth about the musical that serves as Rosemary Clooney’s movie debut. It has both heart and gaiety, telling the story of an orphan (Anna Maria Alberghetti) who escapes from enslaved Poland and reaches New York. She knows no one there except an old family friend (Lauritz Melchior), former opera star now lost in drink. Rosemary, who lives in the same apartment house, sees the refugee’s case as a source of publicity that will advance her own singing career. With only this selfish motive at first, she persuades her lawyer fiance (John Archer) and a couple of other young hopefuls to join her in helping Anna Maria. Hoofer Tom Morton’s a likable newcomer, and Bob Williams scores in partnership with his hilariously indifferent “trick” dog, Red Dust. But Rosemary’s the gal to watch. Trim-figured, pert-faced, confident before the cameras, she rates better parts.
Verdict: Warm and charmingly informal tune-film (Family)
Smart scripting gets a quantity of homey comedy out of the problems of the young couple appealingly portrayed by Janet Leigh and Van Johnson. Though Van’s the scion of a millionaire cattle baron, he’s dedicated to the less profitable career of teaching. Janet has been loyally willing to scrape along on a college instructor’s salary. but when she discovers that the stork’s on the way, she decides the family finances need improvement. At this point, Van’s dad (in the imposing person of Louis Calhern) cavorts onto the scene to take a meddling hand in household affairs —especially the meat budget. You may think there’s nothing funny about the price of meat, but the laughs come along regularly, with assists from Walter Slezak, as the beamish butcher, and Gene Lockhart, as the dean that Van must red-apple. In this case, the apple turns out to be a large, juicy steak!
Verdict: Affable, down-to-earth little comedy (Family)
For brief reviews of current pictures see page 112
She’s Back on Broadway
Everybody’s a has-been this month! Here’s Virginia Mayo as a star who’s washed up in Hollywood at the age of twenty-seven. Her return to New York, to appear in a Broadway musical, provides a close-up of the theatre that’s full of convincing detail and sparkling touches. Steve Cochran, as the show’s director, is also on the skids, but he’s unhappy about this job, having an old grudge against Virginia. Seems he gave her her big chance on the stage, and she promptly skipped to Hollywood, leaving the show to fold without her. So a feud between one-time lovers accompanies the absorbing business of casting and rehearsing. Effective support’s lent by Frank Lovejoy as the sardonic. kindly producer, and Patrice Wymore, as Steve’s present girl-friend. But Gene Nelson has only a few dances and a minor acting role. Though the accent’s on the story, the tunes are generally good.
Verdict: Slight but bright backstage tale (Family)
In spite of its awkward opening sequences, in which Bette Davis is pretty obviously bucking for an Oscar, this inside-Hollywood drama pulls itself together to make some shrewd observations on what it’s really like to be a star. Out of pictures, bankrupt, fending off her sponging relatives, Bette can’t face the fact that she’s through. In despair, she goes on a drunken binge that lands her in jail. She’s bailed out by a marine-repair-shop owner (Sterling Hayden), whom she’d chosen as her leading man in one movie—his sole acting experience. He gives her shelter and seclusion, a chance to regain her mental balance. Realistically, she is still The Star at heart, and in her disastrous comeback attempt Bette does an acting job that makes up for the show-piece emoting at the outset. Hayden’s a sympathetic hero, and Natalie Wood, as Bette’s daughter, helps create tender moments.
Verdict: Uneven but substantial story of an actress (Adult)
The Member of the Wedding
A hit as a play, this portrait of a troubled adolescent offers some unusual and arresting material, but it never really jells into movie form. Though Julie Harris’ work as poor Frankie, who yearns so desperately to belong, may be technically admirable, the eye of the camera looks too close and tells you that this well-featured young woman is no homely twelve-year-old. And the drama is so static and repetitious that Frankie seems at times a thoroughly tiresome youngster. But the great warmth and truth of Ethel Waters’ performance break through the clumsy presentation; in her hands, the wise, compassionate cook who is Frankie’s refuge becomes an unforgettable person. Brandon de Wilde is rather listless as Frankie’s playmate, while Arthur Franz and Nancy Gates have limited opportunity as the about-to-be-married couple, focus of the young girl’s dreams.
Verdict: Slow, talky, but often touching (Adult)
The Jazz Singer
Famous as the part-talkie that ushered in the sound era, this frankly sentimental story has been given a smooth new production. The pleasantly un-handsome Danny Thomas makes no effort to imitate the late Al Jolson in the title role. Danny gives a simple, relaxed performance as the singer (a Korean war vet this time) whose love for show business wars with his family’s traditions. His father, a cantor at a Philadelphia temple, expects him to follow the family vocation. The authority, grace and talent of Eduard Franz and Mildred Dunnock, as Danny’s parents, add to the dramatic force of this conflict. As the night-club singer who symbolizes all the charm that show business holds for Danny, Peggy Lee looks attractive and sells songs with her well-known skill, though she’s not yet at ease in the acting department. The score features new and old popular tunes and sacred music.
Verdict: Heart-tugging, richly produced musical (Family)
At last, Debbie Reynolds has a part that captures the sparkle of her off-screen personality. She’s an obscure chorine who dreams of Hollywood stardom, while her family tries to maneuver her into matrimony with a stuffy young businessman (Richard Anderson). Along comes Donald O’Connor, humble assistant to the chief photographer on a national magazine. Donald happily takes up Debbie’s time, shooting innumerable photos for an imaginary picture story. Finally, to outshine his rival, Donald promises he’ll try to make her a cover girl, dummying up a fake cover that Debbie mistakes for the real thing.
But the fragile plot’s subordinate to the musical numbers done with joyous spontaneity by the young stars. As Debbie’s kid sister, Noreen Corcoran’s a charmer, and Jim Backus turns in a smart comedy job as Donald’s saturnine boss.
Verdict: Light-hearted musical with lovable co-stars (Family)
(20TH CENTURY-FOX, TECHNICOLOR)
The story’s a tightly plotted suspense yarn, but the real accent of the picture is on two natural wonders: Niagara Falls and Marilyn Monroe. Both are studied raptly from every angle, and the results are awe-inspiring. Ostensibly, Marilyn’s playing a worthless wife, deliberately driving the already neurotic Joseph Cotten to the mental brink with her infidelity. Actually, from the first close-up to the last, through ali the longshots of Marilyn in motion, she’s creating a caricature of sex. The movie’s hers, but Jean Peters shouldn’t be overlooked. Refreshingly cast as a nice average girl, Jean has both beauty and acting competence to offer. A visitor to Niagara, she’s a witness to some incidents of Marilyn’s plan to murder Cotten and Cotten’s counterplot of revenge. Casey Adams makes Jean’s husband a likable figure, and Richard Allan has a few telling scenes as Marilyn’s lover.
Verdict: Entertaining melange of murder, Monroe and magniftcent scenery (Adult)
An up-to-date swashbuckler about sunken treasure teams Robert Ryan and Anthony Quinn as daredevil deep-sea-divers. The two are hired to look for a liner that went down in the Caribbean off Jamaica with a load of gold bullion aboard. Supposedly drowned, the captain is keeping the location of the wreck secret so he can grab the gold for himself. Between lively brawls on land and narrow escapes under the sea. Ryan falls in love with winsome Mala Powers, while Quinn gets involved with sultry Suzan Ball, who proves alarmingly marriage-minded. It’s cheerful action stuff most of the way, but the plot does stall from time to time. Quinn has the edge on Ryan, getting more color into his portrayal.
Verdict: Adventure yarn that has its dramade ups and downs (Family)
One far-from-typical day in the life of a New York hackie shows you some new angles on the city, mingling chuckles and sentiment. Dan Dailey’s at his best as the tough hero, who isn’t above gypping a passenger innocent of New York geography. But his intentions are finally reversed after he’s spent most of the day toting around an Irish colleen who’s searching for her no-good American husband. Suitably deglamorized and sporting a delicious brogue, Constance Smith proves her versatility in this role. Character parts are neatly done: Blanche Yurka, as Dan’s mother, bent on marrying him off; Neva Patterson, as a lady publisher who knows the missing husband too well; Anthony Ross, as a sour-faced, goodhearted immigration man.
Verdict: Pleasing vignette of the big city, with a wobbly plot (Family)
Reminiscent of a well-constructed radio thriller, this modest-proportioned movie concentrates on building and sustaining tension. On holiday in a remote section of the Lower California coast, Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan and Lee Aaker, their little son, face a double crisis. The partial collapse of an abandoned pier leaves Barry with his foot hopelessly pinned under a huge beam. The tide is coming in, and Barbara must get help to free him before it’s too late. Stacking the cards ruthlessly against its people as such tales usually do, the story puts her into the hands of a homicidal escaped convict (Ralph Meeker). He wants her car—and her, too. With their personable and persuasive qualities, Barbara and Barry lend warmth to this superficial idea. Mechanically, the hero’s fix isn’t quite convincing.
Dealing with the same subject as “City Across the River,” this study of youth in the slums isn’t as successful. However, like the earlier film, it gives newcomers a break. Patricia Hardy and Glen Roberts are an attractive pair as sweethearts whose romance is shadowed by tenement sordidness, though Patricia has a good deal to learn about acting. As her brother, Harvey Lembeck seems rather elderly for a juvenile delinquent. With his girl (Joyce Holden), he commits a burglary on the same night that the victim is murdered. Jaclynne Green, obviously too pretty for the role, gives a good character performance as the drab creature who loves the killer. Handicapped by flat dialogue and pat situations, Anthony Ross and Glenda Farrell draw sympathy as harried parents.
The Naked Spur
Thanks to an excellent cast headed by James Stewart, Janet Leigh and Robert Ryan and to some of the most beautiful scenery ever filmed, this Western shapes up as lusty entertainment. Commendably, it tries to provide strong character portraits along with the action. Ryan, who makes a spectacular desperado, comes off best because his character’s motive is the simplest and most forceful: He does not wish to be hanged. Stewart’s less lucky, playing a grim Kansan who, having nothing personal against the killer, has trailed him into the Rockies to collect the reward.
Giving her most effective performance so far, Janet’s a waif traveling with Ryan and defending him against his captors. The other two, also eager for the reward, are Millard Mitchell, as a Standard philosophical old prospector, and Ralph Meeker, as a slippery young adventurer. In contrast with the loveliness of springtime aspens and high snow fields, the picture shows an astonishing lot of violence, subjecting all its people to picturesque brutalities. Even Janet isn’t spared.
Verdict: Rugged, handsome but over-pretentious action story (Family)
Unassuming in manner, the music-trimmed story of three sailors on a Catalina shore leave turns out surprisingly easy to take. Dick Haymes and Ray McDonald divide up the song-and-dance chores, playing confident lads who quickly find themselves girls—Jody Lawrance and Peggy Ryan. But the real surprise is Mickey Rooney, more ingratiating than he’s been in years. He’s the little guy who’s pushed around by his carefree pals, lends them money and waits forlornly for his true love to come along. And it’s heiress Barbara Bates who takes a shine to him. In the stand-out sequence, Mickey daydreams himself into the middle of a romantic operetta, with Dick and Ray as villains and himself as the mighty-voiced hero. It’s a hilarious bit of satire.
Verdict: Bouncy, off-handed comedy with jaunty music (Family)
Here’s a period piece in a sense beyond its Victorian setting. There’s a quaint flavor about Peter Lawford’s misfortunes and exploits. Pete’s an officer framed on a spy charge (those Russians!), thrown out of the Army and condemned for treason. Escaping from jail, he astutely hides by re-enlisting in the Army as a private. His experiences as a gentleman ranker are interesting, and the action speeds up when his new regiment is sent to the very trouble spot in India where his old regiment has gone. (The story features several brazen coincidences.) Lawford’s forte is comedy, but he’s acceptable in this heroic role. Janice Rule, as his sweetheart, and Richard Greene, as his gallant rival, are wasted.
Verdict: Disarmingly old-fashioned melodrama of courage and intrigue (Family)
Red Skelton has shown his ability to project the quality of pathos that should be included in a good comedian’s bag of tricks. But his latest picture is overloaded with it. Another item in the has-been cycle, this one presents Red as a stage comic who has wrecked his own career through liquor and a touchy temperament. His only incentive for a comeback try is his worshipful young son (Tim Considine), his companion in poverty. Even the capable Jane Greer has trouble with the inconsistent role of the boy’s mother, now married to a wealthy man. Though Red has a few amusing knockabout numbers, the whole is hardly to his fans’ tastes.
Verdict: Blatant tear-jerker, with a slow and ambling pace (Family)
Here’s an actionful Western, hampered by its own delusion that it’s another “Stagecoach” or “Treasure of Sierra Madre.” After a stagecoach is wrecked, the passengers discover that there’s gold nearby. They set up a camp and begin panning. Discord’s created among them by greed, romantic rivalry and the dangerous temptation of richer gold deposits inside the forbidden confines of an Indian burying ground. Both Lloyd Bridges and Lee Cobb, affected by the picture’s malady, give slightly pompous performances. Luther Adler strays in the other direction, becoming arch. But Marie Windsor achieves a nicely balanced portrayal of a girl intent on money.
Verdict: Brisk little horse opera with big ambitions (Family)
The highly colored and terribly serious tale of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks gives Jennifer Jones a chance for some heavy emoting. She and blue-blooded Charlton Heston are linked by a wild passion, but, for practical motives, he marries a socialite. Jennifer’s rebound to Karl Malden leads to dramatic fireworks.
Verdict: Overwritten, overplayed and unconvincing (Adult)
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE APRIL 1953