Christmas eve movie moment #1: “The Apartment”

This one’s for all you lonely folks out there, though please drink plenty of water and have cab fair ready should you attempt the 1960 behavior seen below as C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmons) waits out some not entirely welcome guests and briefly makes a new friend.

Katie Fineran won a Tony on Broadway for playing the equivalent role in the musical adaptation of the Billy Wilder-I.A.L. Diamond screenplay for “The Apartment,” “Promises, Promises” and I understand through friends who’ve seen the show that it was well deserved. Even so, the evocatively named Hope Holiday does a pretty bang-up job here as well as Mrs. Margie MacDougal.

  

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Another Tony Curtis moment

Blake Edwards’ 1965 “The Great Race” is an childhood favorite of mine —  I remember being about six the first time I saw it. I think I liked the cars, the broad slapstick, and the cartoony iconography. I watched it again a couple of years back for the first time in its entirety in probably more than 20 years and found it held up a lot better than I had expected, not least because of a really fine comic performance by Tony Curtis as the absurdly heroic and properly chauvinistic the Great Leslie.

In this scene — briefly interrupted by some very nice Laurel & Hardy-slapstick from villains Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk — good guy Curtis puts various gentlemanly moves on early feminist Natalie Wood, who he had also romanced the prior year in “Sex and the Single Girl.” It’s a very funny send-up of supremely confident romantic movie heroes of old and of Curtis’s own ultra-suave persona. It also features some very nice sword play by Curtis, who was actually knew how to handle a saber.

“The Great Race” airs Sunday night/Monday morning as part of TCM’s 24-hour Tony Curtis marathon tomorrow night at 1:30 a.m. Eastern/10:30 Pacific for you night-owls and DVR owners.

  

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Hard days at the office #2: Buddy boy learns the unpleasant truth

As our Labor Day weekend continues, we have a couple of scenes from Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment” — watch them in order — covering the ups-and-downs of corporate office pimpery.

  

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The Pacific war in the movies, pt. 4

HBO’s “The Pacific premieres on the West coast as I write this, and it’s time to take a look at two acclaimed films that take a sidelong look, even comic, look at the hardships and danger of war. Both of them, for whatever reason, have “Mister” or “Mr.” in the title.

Our first film is suggested by master cartoonist and my personal consultant on matters relating to World War II, Randy Reynaldo. Directed and co-written by John Huston, “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison” stars Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr as a Marine and an Irish nun who are forced to live under the noose of enemy Japanese soldiers when they become marooned on a remote island.  Though a hit on its release, it’s become a somewhat obscure film today, despite being one of Huston’s personal favorites and despite the enormous talent and appeal of its two stars. (Kerr was nominated for an Oscar; Mitchum was not, though many feel he was robbed.) I confess to having not seen it myself, but after looking at the trailer below, I really want to. Something tells me I might like it even better than the not-completely-dissimilar, “The African Queen.”

I’ve seen the second film so many times since childhood, it’s kind of fused with my subconscious, though I didn’t think of including it here until almost the last minute. Directed by two of the greatest classic-era directors, John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy, and featuring four of the greatest stars of three different Hollywood eras, “Mister Roberts” doesn’t break any cinematic ground but that doesn’t matter.

Starring Henry Fonda as an intelligent and humane officer desperate to get off the cargo ship he’s been stationed on and away from its small-minded, tyrannical captain (James Cagney) in order to see real action against the Japanese, it’s easily one of the funniest and most captivating tales of wartime life ever made, right through to its devastating conclusion. There isn’t a single battle shown, but no film I’ve even seen more powerfully conveys the grim seriousness of war in quite the same way. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s still a classic.

  

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Movie loving movie moments, Pt. 1

For numerous reasons, I haven’t had time to give certain movie news items their due this week, like the inevitable lawsuit that accompanies any unexpectedly successful film and countless items about who’s going to be in which movie (maybe), or how every single movie will be in 3-D or whatever.

But here’s the thing, I’ve been through a lot this past month or so (though things seem to be resolving themselves nicely, thank you), the Oscars are coming and for numerous reasons, I’m behind on my movie going and badly in need of a shot or two or three of movie love.

I may acknowledge the results of the very important Independent Spirit Awards tomorrow morning — a bit begrudgingly since Film Independent teased me by sending me an application and then rejecting me as not quite important enough to attend. However, as far as my other daily blog posts are otherwise concerned for the next two days as I prepare for the closest thing this non-sports-fan has to a superbowl, they are going to be little shots of film love. Nothing but clips that will remind me why I love movies and maybe draw you in a bit too.

So, why do I love movies, well, for starters there’s violence.

And where there’s violence, there must also be a little sex.

More to come.

  

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