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Holiday Inn (1942)

Boy, Girl, Boy singing and dancing group. One boy, Jim (Bing Crosby), decides to settle down with the girl, Lila (Virginia Dale), marrying her and moving to Connecticut, leaving the New York rat race…especially working on holiday’s. Lila stands up Jim and stays in New York with Ted (Fred Astaire) to keep on performing. Jim moves to Connecticut anyway…and hates farming. He meets a new girl, Linda (Marjorie Reynolds), and they join forces to open a Holiday Inn- literally only open on holiday’s. Lila runs off with a millionaire, leaving Ted high and dry. Ted goes to Connecticut, hi-jinks ensue as he steals Linda from Jim, and away to Hollywood. Jim, depressed at Thanksgiving, heads to Hollywood to track down Linda. He locks Ted up and takes his place at the piano where he and Linda sing “White Christmas” together. She agrees to marry him after all…and Lila, having found her millionaire lacking, returns to join Ted in their dance show again. Hooray! Every boy has a girl, every girl has a boy!

An Irving Berlin feature, Holiday Inn is most notable for being the first use of the song “White Christmas”, later used in my favorite Christmas movie, White Christmas (1954). It also features the song “Easter Parade”, first heard in the Broadway review As Thousands Cheer (1933). Nice song and dance numbers are seen throughout the film but, a black-face performance, and a stereotypical “Mamie” character, Mamie (Louise Beavers), strikingly showcase just how prevalent this type of racism was in society at this time, and made me very uncomfortable as I was watching, literally cringing as the beautiful Ms. Beavers came on the screen, thinking about how much more they could have done with her if they had been aware of the waste of talent they were perpetuating. Thankfully, Ms. Beavers did have periodic times to shine in her career…read her bio (linked above) for more!

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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The Wild Bunch (1969)

Exploding the mythological conventions of prior Westerns, The Wild Bunch tells the story of a gang of outlaws (William Holden, Ernest Borgnine) looking for a new racket after a bank robbery yields nothing but metal washers.They are pursued by a posse of bounty hunters hired by the Rail Road and led by Thornton (Robert Ryan), a former member of their gang. The gang crosses over into Mexico and quickly find themselves recruited by the self-styled General Mapache (Emilio Fernandez) to rob an American Army train carrying rifles and ammunition to be used in the fight against Pancho Villa. Upon robbing the train, of course, the gang adds the U.S. Army to the list of those pursuing them.

One of the members of the gang, a Mexican named Angel (Jaime Sanchez) is upset that the General, after plundering Angel’s home village, has taken his girl as a concubine (of her own free will). He avenges this slight by helping the Natives who live in the mountains outside Agua Verde (the General’s garrison) steal a box of rifles and ammo. At the last of a series of exchanges of gold for weapons, the General seizes Angel who is abandoned by his fellow gang members.

The gang finally returns to Agua Verde in order to hide out among the now heavily armed Mexicans. They witness the dragging death of Angel and, when they seek to reclaim his body, the Mexican’s slice Angel’s throat. The four remaining gang members open fire, improbably killing dozens of the General’s men before finally being taken out themselves. The posse come across the scene of the carnage and are delighted to scavenge the bodies of the Mexicans for goodies and collect the bodies of the gang members in order to cash in on the reward. A feeling of what? Compassion? Sadness? strikes Thornton and he stays behind at Agua Verde, eventually joining the Natives in their crusade against the Mexicans.

The violence, gore, nudity and language show the impact of the adoption of the MPAA standards in 1968. None of it is gratuitous. The cinematography is most effective when showcasing the vast vistas of the open West. Stereotypes about Mexicans and Natives, although utilized in the movie, are not nearly as egregious as other Westerns of the period. Slow paced (it takes an hour to get to the train robbery), but with richly developed characters, this is a Western that can be enjoyed by someone who really hates Westerns (me!)

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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