Month: November 2011

The Lady Eve (1941)

Henry Fonda doesn't know with whom he's dealing.

Poor Henry Fonda is no match for Barbara Stanwcyk.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a nice bicarbonate of soda with an egg in it.

Why would someone ingest that? you’re probably asking. We’re wondering the same thing.

We’ve been scratching our head about this drink? snack? hangover cure? ever since a character recommended it in The Lady Eve, which aired on TCM the other night.

It’s a terrific movie, if you’ve never seen it: fast-paced, funny, and zillions of great lines. Barbara Stanwyck, whom we love in everything, is fabulous as a charming con artist who falls for her mark (Henry Fonda). Charles Coburn, another of our favourites, is Stanwyck’s father, a card sharp who believes in being “crooked, but never common”.

There are many scenes in this movie that we never tire of watching, and we wonder why Fonda didn’t make more comedies. He’s a perfect straight man, and we like that his hair never looks like it’s been to a professional hairdresser.

(Also note that the costumes were designed by the famous Edith Head and, if you permit us a digression, we are convinced that costume designer Edna Mode in The Incredibles was based on our Edith.)

Be sure to watch this movie, if you ever get the chance. Oh! Speaking of chances, if you ever do try a nice bicarbonate of soda with an egg in it, please let us know how that went.

Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn. Written and directed by Preston Sturges. Paramount Pictures, 1941, 94 mins.

Lady in the Lake (1947)

Don't "Baby" me!

Hell hath no fury...

Ever wonder why they don’t film movies from a first-person point of view?

Lady in the Lake is why.

Please don’t misunderstand – we love:

  1. the film’s premise. (Famed detective Philip Marlowe is hired to find a missing woman and ends up in a murder case.)
  2. the puzzling romances. (What do any of these characters see in each other?)
  3. Audrey Totter’s over-the-top eyeball acting. (Trust us, you’ve never seen good eyeball acting until you’ve seen this movie.)

We suppose it’s a little disconcerting to have the actors directly addressing the camera. It’s also distracting to listen to a disembodied Robert Montgomery (as Marlowe) speaking from somewhere off-camera. He always sounds like the director (which he was), barking orders to the on-screen talent.

We think the main reason why first person POV doesn’t work is that it’s always teetering on the edge of cheesy disaster. An actor reaches out to shake hands and here’s Marlowe’s reciprocating arm, four feet away from the edge of the camera. Or, Marlowe looks at himself in a mirror and it takes him five minutes to turn around and face someone behind him.

But let us not discourage you from seeing this film! It’s campy fun with clever cinematography. And remember what we said about Audrey Totter’s eyeball acting – you’ll be glad we pointed it out.

Starring Robert Montgomery, Audrey Totter, Lloyd Nolan. Written by Steve Fisher and Raymond Chandler (yes, that Raymond Chandler). Directed by Robert Montgomery. MGM, 1947, 105 mins.