Category Archives: 1952 Movie reviews

Singin’ in the Rain-1952

Singin’ in the Rain-1952

Director-Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly

Starring-Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds

Scott’s Review #874

Reviewed March 4, 2019

Grade: A-

In the over-saturated field of musicals released during the mid- twentieth century Singin’ in the Rain (1952) is the one having most to do with the entertainment industry itself. The battle between the transition of silent pictures to “talkies” is the basis of the story, giving the film an important, along with a fun, subject matter. Likable stars and sing-along tunes make the film memorable and decidedly All-American, though perhaps not the greatest in the crowded musical field.

During the late 1920’s Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is a famous and well-regarded silent film star. His co-star and studio created romantic attachment is Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), an annoying and shallow leading lady with a harsh singing voice. As more successful “talkies” (films with sound) are produced Don finds himself smitten with musical chorus girl Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). The plot to dub Lina’s voice with Kathy’s leads to comical chaos and an idea to create a new musical amid a blossoming romance between Don and Kathy.

The fun and frolicking Singin’ in the Rain is lightweight but never silly nor superfluous thanks to the overriding message of the change in Hollywood priorities. Critically acclaimed from the get-go this is unsurprising since Hollywood loves stories about Hollywood especially since the film was made only a little more than two decades since sound-laden films overtook the world. Furthermore, in 1952 television was making its debut to legions of fans and the accessibility presented a serious threat to cinema in general making the subject matter even more relevant.

Kelly and Reynolds make a nice enough pair, but I never thought they completely knocked it out of the park either from a chemistry perspective. One slight knock is the lack of any hurdles preventing the couple from an inevitable union. Lina is the clear foil and ultimately played for laughs so she is no serious threat. The plot driven conflict involving Kathy’s initial dislike of Don because she values stage over film is cute, but ultimately revealed to be a sham since she has been a fan of his all along. Sure, the musical is a comedy, but better hurdles might have made for more interesting story.

Nonetheless, Singin’ in the Rain is sheer pleasure and a largely non-threatening experience. The hi-jinks involved as the characters strive and struggle to put on their production are comical and Lina’s New York accent and shrill singing voice threaten to steal the show from the more grounded central characters. The musical numbers are a dream especially favorites like “Make ‘Em Laugh”, “Good Morning”, and the epic title song.

Through no fault of the film’s the title musical number “Singin’ in the Rain” will forever not be associated with this film for me, but rather with the dark and cerebral A Clockwork Orange (1971). As the villain beats and rapes his victim by cheerily singing this tune the song will forever hold a much darker association for me.

The dramatic final act is the highlight as a lavish premiere of The Dancing Cavalier is unveiled to a live theater audience hungry for something good. When the crowd chomps at the bit for Lina to perform live the big reveal of Kathy being the truly talented singer is displayed a la the wizard in The Wizard of Oz style as Don and Kathy ultimately kiss and ride off into the sunset together in grand show biz fashion.

In the crowded genre of 1950’s and 1960’s musical productions that ravaged American cinema at the time I mostly choose to watch West Side Story (1961), Gypsy (1962), The Sound of Music (1965), and Oklahoma! (1955) for pleasure, but Singin’ in the Rain (1952), an earlier gem is worthy of value especially for the memorable musical soundtrack it offers. The story is light and harmless but also relevant and most importantly highly entertaining.

Sudden Fear-1952

Sudden Fear-1952

Director-David Miller

Starring-Joan Crawford, Jack Palance

Scott’s Review #873

Reviewed March 3, 2019

Grade: B+

Sudden Fear (1952) is a gripping film noir thriller, a genre that became common place for a time during the early 1950’s. The film is raised to lofty acclaim due in large part to the casting of legendary Hollywood star Joan Crawford in the lead role. Her performance led to an Oscar nomination and is the main draw of the film. Sudden Fear suffers from some cliches but is otherwise a solid watch although largely forgotten at present time.

Crawford stars as Myra Hudson, a successful Broadway playwright who rejects the suave and handsome Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) after he auditions for the lead role of her play. Later, they coincidentally meet on a train headed for San Francisco as Lester manages to sweep the mature woman off her feet. When Myra impulsively marries Lester his true intentions to manipulate and then kill her to inherit her money are revealed. The suave Myra uncovers the plot and instead plans to kill Lester and place the blame on his scheming former girlfriend, Irene (Gloria Grahame).

As a rabid fan of Ms. Crawford and her talents my opinion leans towards the film belonging exclusively to the star. With her expressive eyes and mannerisms, the role is tailor made for her talents and not too far from a role she would later play in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1966). As the strong yet beleaguered character Myra has been unsuccessful in the romance department and after a glimmer of hope is devastated when she realizes she is being played for a fool. Thanks to Crawford her pain and humiliation are palpable and her subsequent paranoia believable without overacting too much for effect.

Palance and Grahame are okay in their respective supporting roles but are either outshined by Crawford or written in a banal way- or both. Regardless, the roles are one note and not the best of either actor’s careers. The characters have little rooting value and we clearly know their motivations and shenanigans nearly from the start. The conclusion of the film produces a satisfying demise to each one as their comeuppance is in perfect form.

From a plot and pacing perspective the film is never boring and contains many twists and turns and surprises galore which will undoubtedly keep audiences engaged. The action moves along in stellar form and never tires as the viewer will undoubtedly anticipate a cool ending. The final chapter is fraught with chase scenes throughout the streets of San Francisco as a terrified Myra runs through the streets clad in a black coat and a white head shawl, wearing high-heels naturally, while being chased by a crazed Lester.

Sudden Fear adds some clever camera angles and cinematography mentions making it slightly left of center and creative looking with cool shadows throughout. Elements of Hitchcock emerge as a shaky hallway scene featuring a lumbering Lester approaches the camera. Closeups of the actors and the illuminating black and white lighting provide a glowing look to the film. Shots of a gun, a pendulum swinging representing a clock, or a bottle labeled “poison” add elements of tension.

For fans of the illustrious Joan Crawford, Sudden Fear (1952) is a recommended watch and will please those seeking a good helping of the star. She does not disappoint and is the main draw in an otherwise by-the-numbers genre film. The film’s conclusion is the high point and I wished for more layers and character development from Palance and Grahame, but Crawford shines in an otherwise forgotten offering.

High Noon-1952

High Noon-1952

Director-Fred Zinneman

Starring-Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly

Scott’s Review #638

Reviewed April 28, 2017

Grade: A

Billed as a standard western, but much more complex a film as a traditional, basic western, High Noon accomplished what no other western did in 1952- adding complexities from other genres , such as suspense and drama, to a film form. Additionally, High Noon challenged typical western themes such as male driven fights and chases, in favor of a moral and emotional approach, and oh is the film ever character driven.

The end results are astounding and the film ought to be studied in film school to understand and appreciate all of the elements going on. High Noon breaks the mold in a hearty way, being released at a time when the mainstream western was quite popular in film adding enormous risk-the results paid off in spades.

Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) has just wed his beloved bride, Amy (Grace Kelly), in a small ceremony in a tiny town in New Mexico. He plans to turn over his badge and retire to the prairie land with his new wife. Suddenly, the town receives word that a dastardly villain, Frank Miller, who was once sent away by Kane, has been released from a Texas prison, and plans to exact revenge on Kane. Miller is to arrive on the noon train as his three accomplices await his arrival, much to the chagrin of the rest of the town, who become panicked with each passing moment. The film begins at approximately ten thirty in the morning and ends shortly after noon.

High Noon has subtle yet prominent political themes and the messages taken from the film are clear examples of McCarthyism, though this is disputed by some. McCarthyism was a campaign launched by Senator Joseph McCarthy, which ended up blacklisting many artists suspected of communism. The main theme is how a group of people become frightened and blame and attack one another as a result of this fear. Our main protagonist (Kane) is faced with the dire feat of facing four angry gunmen, with revenge on their minds, alone, as a town full of people choose not to get involved.

Brilliant is that High Noon more or less takes place in real time. The inclusion of clocks in the film, and specifically of pendulums swaying back and forth creates a defined level of tension as character after character nervously glances at the time, knowing full well that with each passing minute they inch closer and closer to a fantastic and deadly showdown- much blood will be shed.

Cooper, old enough to be Kelly’s grandfather, is noticeable if one chooses to be nit picky, but the couple really do work well together and I bought the happily wedded couple as genuine.

I adore the character of Helen Ramirez, played by actress Katy Jurado. A Mexican character, Ramirez is a prominent business woman in the small town, owning a saloon. She is empowered, and confident, a character to admire regardless of one’s gender. A strong female character of Mexican heritage in film in 1952 was quite uncommon, also keeping in mind the film is set in the wild west.

Equally impressive and completely backwards for the time, the events of Amy coming to the rescue of Kane, instead of the standard, gender specific, “man rescues woman”, challenge the norm. Further groundbreaking is that Amy is written as a Quaker woman, not the traditional Christian woman, nor is she skittish or silly. Western stereotypes are completely turned upside down in the film which is arguably way ahead of its time.

Eerie, yet highly effective, is the use of a “theme song” either being sung or in another form (musical score or background music) throughout the film- the song is “Do Not Foresake Me, My Darling”, which became a hit forTex Ritter. Worth mentioning is that the success of this added “theme song” encouraged subsequent westerns to add similar songs to their films.

Challenging the standard in many ways, High Noon sets the bar very high in its thoughtfulness, its message, and its personal conflict. The film is an example of persons taking the film world and turning it upside down, the results being fantastic and inspiring.

Carrie-1952

Carrie-1952

Director-William Wyler

Starring-Jennifer Jones, Laurence Olivier

Scott’s Review #240

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Reviewed May 3, 2015

Grade: B

Carrie, not to be confused with the Brian DePalma horror classic from 1976, is a drama from 1952 starring Laurence Olivier and Jennifer Jones- two big Hollywood stars of the time. Shot in black and white, the film tells the story of the self-titled ingénue (Jones) of mid-western upbringing, who travels to Chicago to make her fortune. Attempting to launch her own career, Carrie becomes immersed in a love triangle with Olivier- who is unhappily married and runs a restaurant, and salesman, Charles Drouet, played by Eddie Albert. Directed by William Wyler, the film has a melancholy tone to it as one of the characters sinks into a world of despair.

The highlight of this film is the performance of Laurence Olivier. He is excellent, as his character of George Hurstwood goes from successful restaurant manager with an affluent existence, to poverty stricken, lonely, broken old man. Olivier is so effortless and believable in his performance as his always was. I felt, however, that Jennifer Jones was miscast. Attractive, yes, I did not feel that every man would lust after her on sight alone, as was needed for the character of Carrie. Her acting, while okay, is not on the level of either Albert or especially Olivier, who she shares much screen time. Perhaps Vivian Leigh, Teresa Wright, or Kim Novak might have been wiser choices?

The story itself is compelling and interesting. Here we have a woman- at the turn of the twentieth century- forging ahead at an attempt to make it on her own- almost unthinkable for a woman at that time, taking menial jobs as a sewing worker in a factory to scrape by. Carrie resists the urge to become a rich husband seeking gal and believes in marriage and true love. That is why she is devastated when she learns that George is indeed married. Will true love win out for them? This seems to be the main aspect of the film.

Behind the scenes issues may have contributed to the problems that appear onscreen- Wyler reportedly did not want to cast Jones, Olivier did not like Jones, Olivier was injured during much of the filming, and the ending of the film was changed to provide a “happier” ending. Originally, George was to commit suicide, which might have successfully made the film more shocking and heartbreaking.

Containing beautiful costumes and interesting cinematography, Carrie has positives, but might have been much better than the final product ended up being, but for poor casting and real-life dramas that hurt the film.

The Greatest Show on Earth-1952

The Greatest Show on Earth-1952

Director-Cecil B. DeMille

Starring-Charlton Heston, Betty Hutton, James Stewart

Scott’s Review #204

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Reviewed December 14, 2014

Grade: B+

Considered by some critics to be one of the worst Best Picture winners of all time, The Greatest Show on Earth is quite an impressive Hollywood spectacle and tells the story of the world’s largest railroad circus as they launch a tour and travel throughout the United States, with plenty of drama to experience throughout the film. The film stars Charlton Heston, Betty Hutton, and James Stewart as general manager, acrobat, and clown of the show, respectively.

The film used over 1400 real Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s people in the production as well as hundreds of animals giving it an authentic circus feel. Unfortunately, the film also has a schmaltzy quality to it and not the best acting, which surprisingly does not bother me and, strangely enough, sort of works in a melodramatic way. Various characters have affairs with each other or fall in and out of love rather quickly- it makes for good drama anyway. The main appeal is the extravagant show, of course. While the drama sometimes takes center stage, the lavish production and real circus events shine through.

My favorite, and arguably, only interesting character with any depth in The Greatest Show on Earth is Buttons the clown, played by James Stewart. Buttons wears his clown costume complete with full makeup at all times. He is kindly and mysterious. We learn that he “mercy killed” his dying wife and has joined the circus for protection from the police. A wonderful human being, he was once a Doctor, and tends to anyone in the circus troupe who needs assistance. Later in the film, he plays a very important role after a tragic accident occurs. His heartbreaking, tender conversation with his elderly mother, whom he only sees secretly once a year for seconds as she tearfully and discreetly visits him in the audience, is painfully sad to watch and is such a sweet scene.

The Greatest Show on Earth’s best scene by far though, which still impresses today, is the massive train wreck, close to the conclusion of the film. Made in 1952, the special effects and direction of Cecil B. DeMille are brilliant. The way that the train derails on a dark night is just perfect- highly effective in its enormity, crashing into an approaching train and derailing. The scene does not look silly. The way that all of the drama comes together in this scene- Harry, the crooked midway concessionaire and the vicious elephant trainer, Klaus, responsible for the accident, Buttons true identity being revealed, and a major character in peril, make this scene top notch and a satisfying conclusion to the film.

The films stories involving Brad, Holly, Sebastian, and Angel are soapy and melodramatic and the weakest point of the film- as a viewer I couldn’t care less which character lusted after which or who wound up in bed together, but the film itself is a spectacle and that is my main enjoyment of it. The brightness, the revelry, and the circus performances are all wonderful.