The 1950s marked the introduction of cultural and technological changes (i.e. Rock ‘n Roll, TV sets) that reverberated into the themes and acting styles of this era. Many stars made their debut in the ’50s, while others continued their rise in stardom, including Sidney Poitier, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Charlton Heston, Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wagner, Marilyn Monroe and Gregory Peck. With Mill Creek Entertainment’s “The Nifty Fifties” DVD set, you can enjoy all these stars and more with over 65 hours of movies from the era.
To help get the word out about this release and Mill Creek’s many other Cheap DVD Packs, Premium Hollywood is giving one lucky winner a copy of the “The Nifty Fifties” DVD set. Additionally, we’re offering a 25% discount code that can be used on their official site. Just enter 50PACK25 when checking out before May 31, 2012 to save even more.
It’s time for another look at (relatively) recent Blu-Rays and DVDs aimed at the hardcore movie lover — though more casual viewers looking for something beyond Hollywood’s latest mass-market offerings are certainly allowed to kibitz at the Corner as well. Today’s selections are from Hollywood, off-Hollywood, England, and France and were made mostly in the 1930s or the 1970s, though we will be looking at one from 1998 — only yesterday!
Okay, so I was on my soap box just a bit in my prior movie moment post, decrying the truly sorry state of our present medical system and all that. However, it’s true that, under any system, there’s something about being a doctor that’s a little dangerous. For one thing, there’s the little matter of ego. Saving lives can be a heady experience and some folks get a bit, er, overwhelmed by the experience.
And, let’s face it, some doctors from other countries have even worse moral failings.
If things had gone a bit differently, she might well have been as huge a superstar as such contemporaries as Audrey Hepburn or Natalie Wood — she certainly had the talent and screen presence to do so. However, as I’m reminded by her New York Times obituary, an ugly situation involving a sexual proposition the married actress got from Howard Hughes may have prevented Jean Simmons from reaching the super-stardom she deserved as much as anyone. The vindictive aviation and filmmaking magnate may have deliberately put her in films he thought were inferior and refused to allow his film studio to lend her out for the lead in “Roman Holiday,” the role that deservedly made Audrey Hepburn a more or less instant star.
Nevertheless, Ms. Simmons, who sadly passed on yesterday at age 80 from lung cancer, outlasted her Hughes contract and gave witty and altogether enchanting performances in numerous and diverse films, ranging from break-out teenage performances as the young Estella in David Lean’s still-definitive 1946 version of “Great Expectations” (she’d eventually play Mrs. Havisham in a TV production) and as Ophelia in Laurence Olivier’s 1948 “Hamlet.” As a puckishly beautiful adult actress who pretty much owned the word “luminous,” she had no problem quietly stealing scenes on an epic scale from the likes of Kirk Douglas in “Spartacus,” Burt Lancaster in “Elmer Gantry,” Gregory Peck in William Wyler’s underrated “The Big Country,” and, most famously these days, Marlon Brando in her only musical appearance, “Guys and Dolls.” Brando was easy to outshine musically though she was also easily his acting equal or superior, but here she shows she would have had to chops to almost hold her own musically with with costar Frank Sinatra, if only the script had called for it. What she lacks in polish, she more than makes up for in sheer commitment.
An admitted survivor of alcoholism, Simmons was a class act on every level who famously complimented Hepburn on her great “Roman Holiday” performance, as painful as it must have been to watch and even though it’s not clear that she wouldn’t have been just as good in the role. She kept working through most of her life — her last significant role was her voice work in the English-language version of “Howl’s Moving Castle” — and her loss to the world of entertainment is not a small one. She was often low-key, but she was never dull.
I just woke up and realized that there’s more to life than our talented and ever controversial lantern-jawed friend. For example…
* I’ve made it clear too many times that I’m not innately hostile to remakes. But in the annals of apparent bad ideas, Robert Zemeckis using his invariably uninspiring/unconvincing style of motion-capture to remake the Beatles psychedlic animation “Yellow Submarine” is a real contender. I don’t consider the original a great film but it is what it is and remaking it with two of the original Beatles now long passed on seems bizarre to me. I truly don’t see a point here, but maybe I’m missing something.
* I’ve been remiss in not mentioning the whole mishegas going on between Redbox and Warner Brothers. If Warners doesn’t want to sell them the titles prior to 28 days after their release on home video, I’m not sure if there’s any legal justification for forcing them too, but then I’m not a lawyer. On the other hand, as Patrick Goldstein points out in the article from Monday I linked to above, business models like Redbox are going to be unavoidable as the home entertainment market becomes ever more important.
I get more DVDs than I have time to watch for free as part of my critic gig, but I honestly have never understood why anyone would purchase a DVD of a movie that isn’t a huge favorite, much less a movie they’ve never seen before. It’s not like a CD where you can pop it into your car stereo or put it on for background music while you make dinner and, of course, people are figuring out ways to not buy those as well. Seems to me that the economy is forcing people to be a little more discriminating.
* Executive Tom Sherak is the new head of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences (AMPAS to its friends), stepping in for the term-limited Sid Ganis. Anne Thompson has no problem with it. Stepping right into character, Nikki Finke has a huge problem with it, and so do many of her commenters, while the rest are pro-Sherak. Why is it that every time I read the comments at Ms. Finke’s, I get the feeling I’m watching the road company version of “All About Eve”?
* The guy has “movie star” written all over him — he’s a little bit Gregory Peck, a little bit Cary Grant (including Grant’s gift for comedy), with a touch of young Montgomery Clift — so especially with the widely touted ratings success of “Mad Men” on Sunday night, it’s no surprise Jon Hamm is getting movie work. The latest addition to his resume is Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch”. Anne Thompson prefers “The Town,” however. One thing’s for sure, if anyone ever decides to do “The James Mason Story,” he’s the guy.