Tag Archives: hollywood

Marilyn Monroe – The Biography

Probably the most detailed, exhaustive and explosive biography one can ever get of the enigmatic, beautiful and mysterious Marilyn Monroe.

Donald Spoto has done full justice to Marilyn Monroe by bringing to light all aspects of Marilyn’s life from her birth to her sad and unnecessary death. She had a tragic life for sure, being born an illegitimate child, with her mother leaving her to foster home at the age of 6 months itself. Father unknown and a history of mental illness from the supposed father side, succession of foster homes, being treated like a burden by the families, mother becoming a mental patient and incarcerated for the better part of her life in an institution.

From that emerged a star, hesitant at first, but with clutching to one friend after another, one affair after another not finding happiness anywhere. Succession of marriages with Joe DiMaggio the baseball star and Arthur Miller, the playwright, being the famous ones. Both marriages ended in fiasco with DiMaggio physically abusing her and Miller a mediocre playwright depending upon her for succor. In the end Joe DiMaggio was the one who truly loved her and understood her fully.

Psychological problems, health problems, one after another doctors, psychiatrists, all clinging like leech to her and using her for their personal gains, all selfish, ambitious at her expense. And then her nervousness in front of the camera, studio bosses berating her, blaming her for production losses – all that a girl alone in the world has to endure, she did it with equanimity without blaming anyone.

A really tragic story of a life snuffed out prematurely, possibly murdered because of jealousy and hatred. No connection to the Kennedys which according to Spoto was pure humbug. Brilliant biography of a troubled star by Donald Spoto. Goodreads 5/5

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The Trouble with Harry

Delightfully nice comedy film “The Trouble with Harry” directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring John Forsythe, Shirley Maclaine among others.

A corpse is found in a small village and the story revolves around it. At first it is an unknown corpse but later it is revealed to be the husband of Jenifer Rogers (Shirley Maclaine) who did’nt have a good relationship with her husband. Another story is narrated by Miss Ivy Gravely (Mildred Natwick) who says she accidentally killed him when the man Harry tried to drag her into the bushes. Meanwhile Capt. Albert Wiles (Edmund Gwenn) thinks he has accidentally killed him with his shotgun whilst shooting for rabbits.

In comes Sam Marlowe (John Forsythe) who sort of neatly ties everything in, though he is not a cop. In the process of finding about Harry, couple of relationships gets formed.

Its a nice delectable little comedy movie made by Alfred Hitchcock. There is always a suspense when Hitchcock is around and that is served aplenty. Shirley Maclaine has done a good role, this being her debut film. IMDB 6/10

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Krush Groove

American musical movie “Krush Groove” (1985) directed by Michael Schulz and starring Blair Underwood, Sheila E among others.

Its a story of a record label owner growing too fast with no official finance from banks etc. Russell (Blair Underwood) who owns Krush Groove has multiple hits to his label’s name but no money to finance production of records, those were the gramophone record days not unlike today’s digital era. He is forced to drop into a loan shark for the funds which then he is unable to repay and the consequences.

One of the music groups belongs to his brother who then moves away to another record label because there is no official written contract between them. It all comes to a pass in the end. Meanwhile both he and his brother are wooing a red hot singer Sheila.

Lot of foot tapping music in the movie, which makes up for the weak story. The singing and dancing are super throughout. IMDB 3/10

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Alice Does’nt Live Here Anymore

American coming of age comedy drama “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Ellen Burstyn, Kris Kristofferson, Harvey Keitel among others.

Alice (Ellen Burstyn) has a rough as an edge husband who is a truck driver and a 11 year old precocious son Tommy. The husband dies in a vehicle crash leaving Alice with virtually nothing on hand. She does a garage sale of her meagre belongings and sets off on a road trip with her talkative son with a plan to reach Monterrey, California where she grew up and where she was a singer before her marriage.

Along the way, they stop in Phoenix, Arizona for her to get a singing job, pick up some dope until she meets a younger forceful Ben (Harvey Keitel) who gets into bed with her. One fine day Ben’s wife lands up at her door, and Ben follows causing mayhem and forcing Alice and the kid to leave post haste.

Then they reach Tucson and she finds a job as a waitress in a dining parlor with lots of customers and too much to do for a first timer and with all her stresses with her. There she meets David, a divorced ranch owner who gets along with Tommy very well until a point when Tommy gets on his nerves and he whacks him. Their goal was to reach Monterrey by the time of Tommy’s 12th birthday.

Its a nice comedy drama with some very fine acting by Ellen Burstyn. All others are okay as well. The kid Tommy got on my nerves as well. Nice movie to watch with the family. imdb 6/10

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Game Night (2018)

American comedy film Game Night (2018) starring Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman, Kyle Chandler among others.

Rachel McAdams saves the movie, she is beautiful, vibrant, svelte, hot & sexy. Jason Bateman does characters which are irritating to the extreme, like he did in Horrible Bosses, keeps talking non stop puerile jokes which vexes the viewer. Kyle Chandler is okay after his role as a FBI officer in “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

There are some oddball characters in the movie, one who keeps asking his wife whether she has slept with a celebrity actor kind of a creepy one. a police officer who wears his uniform all the time, even inside his house.

Its a plot gone wrong horribly for some amateur gamers getting mixed up with real criminals and how they resurrect the situation with the on the button decision making which is incredible to say the least. Good laughs towards the end though. IMDB 2/10 (for Rachel McAdams)

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The City of the Dead

A Hollywood supernatural horror movie “The City of Dead” (1960) starring Dennis Lotis, Venetia Stevenson, Betta St. John among others.

Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) is a student in a college and for her term paper she selects witchcraft as her subject to research upon. Her professor Alan Driscoll (Cristopher Lee) urges her to visit the village of Whitewood in Massachusetts. She goes there against the pleas of her boyfriend and brother.

Upon reaching Whitewood, Nan finds it in a desolated state with nobody around. The only normal person is Patricia Russell (Betta St. John) who has come to the town because her grandmother passed away and her grandfather is the father of the church which is more or less closed down.

There is a history to the village going back some 200 years when a witch Elizabeth Selwyn was burned at stake on 1st February 1692 and she has sort of cursed this village. But the witches need two virgin ladies every year for their sacrifice during Candlemas Eve and Witches Sabbath.

Its not a bad movie, there are few elements of horror in it, plus ample supernatural forces by the way of witches. Its a clean uncomplicated story line with passable acting by the characters. IMDB 5/10

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The Gunfighter

Lovely American western movie “The Gunfighter” (1950) directed by Henry King and starring Gregory Peck, Helen Westcott among others .

Jimmy Ringo (Gregory Peck) is known as the fastest draw in the west and nobody ain’t matching him for that. A young reckless cowboy infuriates him forcing Jimmy to draw and the kill the young kid. His three brother wants revenge.

Jimmy heads to Cayenne where he hopes to meet his estranged wife and kid whom he has never seen so far. He runs into Marshal Mark Strett (Milard Mitchell) who is his old friend and treats him well, but urges him to leave town as soon as possible. His wife Peggy (Helen Westcott) refuses to meet him.

Meanwhile another daring young policeman needles Ringo for a draw but Jimmy refuses to get involved. He just wants to meet his wife and kid and leave. The three brothers meanwhile arrive into town for a showdown.

Nice clean movie with very little gun fight unlike what you normally see in western movies. In fact there is hardly any gunfight around save for one or two. Gregory Peck is nice and restrained and mature acting skills do him too good. Milard Mitchell as the sheriff has done a reasonably good job.

Lot of excitement in the movie, lots of human interest without too much of emotional showdown. There is a kind of a legacy for good honest gunners in the wild west with the underlying theme being either them or me. IMDB 8/10

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Last Night at the Alamo

Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 1984 Sundance, “The Alamo” (1984) a film about the closing down of a favorite bar somewhere in Houston, Texas.

Some oddball characters we have here, Ichabod and Mary, a married couple constantly fighting and arguing with each other. Claude is another character who had a huge fight with his wife back home and is the most dramatically angry. He constantly calls his wife who has ordered him to stay in motel for a couple of nights.

Then there is Cowboy Regan, who is supposedly in the movie business. He talks to his friend, the senator to stall the demolition of the bar, but fails in that attempt. His is shown as a pathetic character, because he tries to get into the pants of one girl but fails miserably, wins and loses a tequila contest, gets into a fight with another patron Steve, injuring himself in the process and tries to get into the arms of another girl who stays opposite the bar but gets slammed in return.

There is nothing worth a story in the movie. The acting is quite natural though and the production is quite good. Camera work, & photography are quite superb. Difficult to understand the Texan accent though.

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The Best Years of our Lives

Award winning American epic drama film “The Best Years of our Lives” (1946) directed by William Wyler and starring Myrna Loy, Frederic March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Cathy O’Donnell, Howard Russell among others.

Al Stephenson (Frederic March), Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) and Homer (Harold Russell) are returning from action in the World War II. Incidentally all three are from the same county and get a transport plane to fly them back.

Upon coming back, all three of them face problems in integrating back to normal society. Al is married to Milly (Myrna Loy) and has teenaged daughter and son. He is having anxiety problems having to go back to his banking job. Homer lost both his hands at the war and is fitted with steel hooks so he is having issues with his family including his girlfriend Wilma (Cathy O’Donnell). She still loves him, but he feels a burden on everybody, becomes moody and depressed and angry.

Fred barely knew his wife Marie (Virginia Mayo) before he was shipped out to war. Upon coming back he realises he still knows her very little. She has taken a job in a night club. He is an expert and accomplished bombardier in the war for the air force but has very little skill for getting a normal job. He goes back to his drug store job which fetches him very little money. His wife is ambitious so she leaves him.

Fred falls in love with Peggy, (Teresa Wright), the daughter of Al, but Al sees nothing in the marriage and asks him to break it off. Feeling dispirited he tries to leave the county, when he lands up a job to dismantle old aircraft parts for use in the building business.

Though very lengthy at 2.50 hours the script is quite good and very subtly hints at the issues surrounding the war veterans, the problems they have in adjusting to normal lives. They are hampered by bureaucracy in day to day life, whereas in the war, they had to take decisions upon instinct and gut upon the theatre of war. Very nicely each men belongs to different branch of the services – army, air force & navy.

It fetched a clutch of awards including the Oscars and Golden Globes. I thought Dana Andrews has done a superb job and also Frederic March. Among the ladies, it was okay performance from them.

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The Duel

Deadly psycho thriller movie from Steven Spielberg, The Duel (1971) where the villain is a truck, a monstrous one at that.

It was his directorial debut for Steven Spielberg. David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is an ordinary American returning home to his family in his Plymouth Valiant. He had differences with his wife early on in the morning. He is driving through the Mojave desert when he passes a tanker truck. The dilapidated truck overtakes him at high speed blaring with noise.

Then follows a cat and mouse game between the car driver and the truck driver, with the maniacal truck driver trying to kill David. The truck driver whose face is never shown on the camera tries to push David onto an onrushing trailer train at the railway crossing.

The deadly game has its own deadly moments when David tries to outguess, outrun and out flank the truck driver but fails miserably. The camera work is simply magnificent and shows the monster truck in its true elements with its size, sound and power of its engines.

Superb acting by Dennis Weaver, probably the only actor in this movie, besides the truck of course.

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Monkey Business

American comedy directed by Howard Harks and starring Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn among others.

Dr. Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant) is a chemist working in a pharmaceutical company and he is working on a formula to make people young. Edwina Fulton (Ginger Rogers) is his wife. Oliver Oxley (Charles Coburn) is his boss and anxious for the formula because he wants to be young and rich also.

There is a mix up when the monkey is let loose and mixes up some chemicals and dumps the remains in the office water fountain. Everybody drinks the water and acts funnily. Marilyn Monroe is the secretary working in Barnaby’s office. First Barnaby goes young and then his wife drinks the formula she goes young and ga ga. Ginger Rogers finds a baby sleeping on her bed along with her and thinks Barnaby has become a baby.

There is a laugh riot towards the end, with lot of mix ups. Cary Grant has to make an effort to be funny. Ginger Rogers shows us some of her legendary dance moves and Marilyn Monroe looks cute and svelte.

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How Green was my Valley

Epic saga of the Morgan family of a small Welsh mining village, directed by legendary John Ford, starring Maureen O’Hara, Walter Pidgeon, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowell, Anna Lee among others.

The Morgans are a hard working righteous family, the father and his sons working in a mine, except Huw (Roddy McDowell) who is sometimes the narrator of the movie. They earn their daily wages, sing Welsh songs, go back home, bathe thoroughly and eat dinner only after they have said their prayers. First signs of trouble erupt when mine owners decide to reduce their wages, which Senior Morgan (Donald Crisp) agrees with, commiserating with the owners, but the sons don’t see eye to eye with their father. Four of them leave home over differences with the dad.

The eldest one, Ivor gets married to Anna Lee. One of the sons is invited to sing a choir at the Buckingham Palace with his choir team. Many miners lose their job. Their daughter Angharad (Maureen O’Hara) is meanwhile smitten by the pastor Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon) but he can’t provide her comfort with his parish kind of tough life. She gets married to the mine owner’s son and relocates out of the country.

Meanwhile young Huw goes to school, gets bullied, comes back, learns boxing, goes back to school and trumps his beaters. But he decides to do colliery work instead of going to town to study medicine or law. Two of the Morgans leave for greener pastures in America. Two more leave after they have been discharged by the mines. There is a mine accident, in which Ivor loses his life on the same day that his wife Anna Lee gives birth to a boy.

Another disaster happens when there is a cave in, which takes the life of senior Morgan clutching to his dearest youngest son, while his life slipped away. Donald Crisp as the father has done a magnificent role in the movie as has Maureen O’Hara, Walter Pidgeon and Roddy McDowell as the child artiste. Sara Aligood as Beth Morgan the mother is also very good.

John Ford’s direction is magnificent as is the music, cinematography which is quite breathtaking. It has won a clutch of awards at the Oscars.

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F for Fake

Orson Welles’s penultimate film “F for Fake” (1973) is a kind of an essay film about fakes and forgeries.

It presents the real life story of Elmyr de Hory, a Hungarian born painter who has made and sold thousands of art forgeries over a period of 22 years until he committed suicide in 1976. He is said to have his early life in a Nazi concentration camp, but not proven. His whole early life is a mystery. He says he has not sold any paintings to any private collector, but only to museums and those museums in turn made hundreds of dollars of profit from his forged paintings. He has painted when he was hungry and broke and sold for as less at 15 dollars to get his next meal. He is also said to have never signed his paintings as that of the original master. Elmyr is chased all over US and Europe but finally gets peace in an island in Spain called Ibiza where he stayed in a spacious rented house and threw parties in which young women were invited, but the rents were paid by a museum owner.

Alongside is the story of Clifford Irving, who wrote a book on Elmyr de Hory, titled “Fake”. It is from this book that Elmyr de Hory gained more celebrity or notoriety status. Clifford Irving is more famous for faking an autobiography as a collection of memoirs of US aviation pioneer, industrialist Howard Hughes. He created documents purported to be contracts between Howard Hughes and Clifford Irving for writing of an autobiography and based on that, received advances from publishing company.

Orson Welles then talks about himself, about his early life fakery when he got a job by falsely claiming to be a New York actor and his radio stories for War of the Worlds, when he managed to fool the American public into thinking there is going to be an imminent alien invasion.

The last bit of fakery is about his girl friend Olga Koder a beautiful Hungarian picture perfect model who managed to attract the attention of Pablo Picasso and inveigled him into painting 22 paintings of her in nude, semi nude and other attractive poses. She somehow also convinced him into giving all the 22 paintings to her and later on Picasso learns that some of his newer works are on display in a museum in Europe. Upon rushing to that museum, he finds that none of them were painted by him, but apparently by Olga’s grandfather who is also purportedly an art forger.

The last bit of the story is a fakery in itself, when Orson announces at the end that he has given 1 hour of realism to the viewers, whereas the last 17 minutes is fake. Note the connection between 22 years of art forgery by Elmyr de Hory and 22 paintings supposedly painted by Picasso. The movie is made in a mix of narration, actual dialogues and frozen images. Most of the monologues are by Orson Welles himself. The characters are played by themselves – Elmyr de Hory, Clifford Irving, Olga Kodar, who was apparently Orson’s last mistress until his death in 1985.

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Strangers on a Train

Deadly psycho thriller from Alfred Hitchcock “Strangers on a Train” (1951) starring Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Robert Walker, Patricia Hitchcock, Kasey Rogers among others.

Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is a tennis player of some repute and he meets on a train with Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) who is a kind of a possessive, inquisitive, fiendish chap. Guy is going through some marriage problems with his wife Miriam Joyce Haines (Kasey Rogers) a diabolical scheming woman out to get her pound of flesh. She is double crossing Guy while going around with others. Bruno does not like his father. He suggests to Guy crossover murder i.e. both of them murder each other’s enemies, thereby the motive will be lost and both will be free.

Guy scorns at such an idea but Bruno does not give in. He follows up relentlessly and goes after Miriam and kills her in an amusement park. Guy’s cigarette lighter was left behind by him in the train which is used by Bruno as evidence at the scene of the crime. Guy does not go to the police immediately as Bruno warns him about their crossover plot.

Somehow Guy’s present love Anne Morton (Ruth Roman) comes to know of little things as Bruno seizes up when he espies Anne’s sister Barbara Morton (Patricia Hitchcock – daughter of Alfred Hitchcock in a delightful cameo role) as Barbara looks almost alike Miriam Haines.

Things get to a pass and there is a deadly climax scene involving the merry go around, which spins around uncontrollably after the operator is shot dead. Superb natural acting by Robert Walker, Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Patricia Hitchcock and Kasey Rogers. I thought there would be a twist in the tale towards the end, typical of Hitchcockian suspense. Unfortunately Robert Walker died immediately after this film was released, himself suffering from alcoholism and mental illness.

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Leon: the Professional

A 1994 thriller starring Jean Reno, Natalie Portman among others, written and directed by Luc Besson.

Leon (Jean Reno) is a professional hitman. Matilda (Natalie Portman in her debut) is a 12 year old living in the same building as Leon. Matilda’s father gets caught in the drug business with corrupt DEA officials knocking him and his entire family out leaving her all alone. Leon tucks her into his house saving her from the police bosses.

Slowly they start jelling with each other, an unusual couple, he a hitman having no social skills and not even knowing how to read and she a smart kid with brains and wanting revenge for the death of her little brother. He teaches her the ropes and she teaches him to read and write. Strange.

It all ends up in a huge bust up with the police knocking down on the doors and several people getting dead and the whole neighbourhood coming down. Jean Reno and Natalie Portman have done good roles for their part, Natalie too good for a 12 year old kid. Good movie to watch for a time pass.

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