Category Archives: 1953 Movie reviews

The Band Wagon-1953

The Band Wagon-1953

Director-Vincente Minnelli

Starring-Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse

Reviewed December 24, 2010

Grade: B

The Band Wagon, made in 1953, is a second tier MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) production- and by that I mean it is not as stellar as other musicals of its time. It lacks the grandiose appeal of other similar musicals like An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain.

Directed by Vincente Minnelli- a legendary musical director of the 1950’s and starring Fred Astaire, The Band Wagon tells the story of a washed up movie star trying to revive his career on Broadway. He meets opposition from his co-star and prima ballerina, Gabrielle, played by Cyd Charisse, ironically, an actress who appeared in Singin’ in the Rain.

The Band Wagon is a fun movie, just not nearly on the level of the aforementioned movies, and rather a pale imitator. While other musicals of similar style can be watched numerous times, The Band Wagon is a one and done affair.

The story starts off slowly, but gets much better towards the end. The film has a few memorable musical numbers, most notably “That’s Entertainment”.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes-1953

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes-1953

Director-Howard Hawks

Starring-Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe

60004540

Reviewed March 13, 2016

Grade: B+

One of the iconic and legendary  star Marilyn Monroe’s better known offerings from her brief career is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a fun musical/romantic comedy. She stars alongside Jane Russell, another popular Hollywood star from a golden era of film to create this wonderful gem. Together they have great chemistry and an easy yin and yang relationship, which makes the film light and cheerful, but not meaningless or too fluffy. It is just right for the genre that it is. As mentioned before, the romantic comedy has changed in modern cinema and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes contains the innocence and charm that has since been lost. The 1950’s were a perfect time for this genre of film.

Lorelei Lee (Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw (Russell) are American showgirls and best friends who perform a stage show together. Lorelei loves diamonds and rich men- she is dating Gus Esmond , an awkward yet lovable young man, who is wealthy, but controlled by his father. Dorothy is less interested in being showered in wealth, but prefers handsome, in shape men. When the girls head to Paris on a cruise ship, the adventures begin- Lorelei is being observed and followed by a private investigator (Malone) hired by Gus’s father, while Dorothy is pursued by members of an Olympic swim team.

The film is entertaining and a must-see for all Monroe fans, as it really was at the time when she was at her best- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like it Hot are my personal favorites and she was in the prime of her tragically short film career- sure she plays the “dumb blonde” character with gusto, but there is something innocent and fun about her portrayal of Lorelei and we fall in love with her immediately. Dorothy is the leader- the smart one- and she compliments Lorelei’s naivety. More worldly and sophisticated she watches out for her counterpart.

What makes the film really work so well is the chemistry between Monroe and Russell. The audience buys them as best friends and the two actresses (who reportedly got along famously). Monroe shines during the legendary number, “Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend”, a number that famously inspired the 1984 Madonna video “Material Girl” that will forever live on in music history.

My favorite scene takes place on the ship as Lorelei gets into trouble as she sneaks into the private investigator’s cabin to obtain incriminating evidence and winds up stuck in the tight cabin window. The shot of Monroe sticking halfway out the window is funny. She then hilariously enlists a young, precocious child to help her avoid recognition and fool a man with sub-par vision. In fact, vision also comes into play when Dorothy disguises herself as Lorelei in silly fashion (she appears looking more like a drag queen) in a courtroom scene over hi-jinks involving a stolen tiara.

Interesting is the scene in which Dorothy is flocked by dancing Olympic gymnasts and is as provocative as could be in 1953. Certainly unable to show any form of nudity whatsoever, the dancers are clad in nude colored shorts, which certainly suggests elements of sexuality, an illusion of nudity, and fits the scene perfectly as Dorothy is in testosterone heaven.  It is like a big, giant fantasy for her.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a successful offering from another cinematic time- a time that is sorely missed. Cute, but not trivial, the film is worth dusting off for a watch every so often and to marvel in the iconic Marilyn Monroe.

How to Marry a Millionaire-1953

How to Marry a Millionaire-1953

Director-Jean Negulesco

Starring-Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable

60004541

Reviewed February 28, 2016

Grade: B

How to Marry a Millionaire is a light hearted, fun, romantic comedy from 1953 that features three leading ladies, famous at the time- Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, and the legendary Marilyn Monroe.  The backdrop used in the film is New York City, in the 1950’s, warm and sophisticated and pleasing. This is an appropriate setting as all three women featured in the film are models searching for wealthy suitors.

Schatze (Bacall), Loco (Grable), and Pola (Monroe) are blatant gold-diggers, set on using their looks and charms to seduce rich men into marriage. They rent an enormous and lavish apartment (the owner out of the country and avoiding the IRS) and slowly sell the furniture to pay the rent. Each woman encounters potential beaus, both rich and poor, and must choose between true love and a marriage for money. Or could they achieve both?

Very soon I noticed similarities to the 1980’s television sitcom The Golden Girls. As a whole, the ladies on the Golden Girls were constantly pursuing men- albeit not always rich men, but more specifically, Schatze resembles Dorothy in her directness, leadership skills, and height. Loco has qualities attributed to Blanche- sexiness and a coquettish manner. Finally, Pola is dizzy and blonde, a close match for Rose. Unquestionably, How to Marry a Millionaire influenced the iconic television series.

How wonderful the setting is. Interspersed throughout the film are shots of Manhattan, not to mention the visible New York City skyline from the ladies luxurious apartment where men came and went in attempts of pursuing the eligible women. The city skyline is clearly a set, however other locales are not. Numerous cinematic shots include the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, the lights of Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and the United Nations Building. As a lover of New York City, it struck me as both fantastic and melancholy to think how many people have come and gone throughout the iconic city, yet here it remains and always will. A slice of 1950’s Manhattan- another time entirely- was wonderful to see.

The film itself is arguably fluff- lightweight to be sure. But there is a 1950’s innocence and a sense of fun to How to Marry a Millionaire that has become tainted and is missing in today’s romantic comedy genre- everything is now so crude and cynical, which is why this film really works for me. There is a wholesomeness to it.

Sure, the women are manipulative (specifically  Schatze), but they yearn for true love and are kind women. Their escapades are humorous. Pola- frightened of being seen by a man wearing her glasses- and blind as a bat without them- constantly bumps her way into walls and navigates rooms by feeling her way around. More humorous still is when she mistakes a flight to Atlantic City for Kansas City, thereby changing the course of her life.

Loco (Grable), clearly the oldest of the three, and in fact, by this time Grable was looking flat out matronly, decides to go on a trip to Maine with her married beau, expecting to attend a convention filled with rich and eligible men. Misunderstanding the situation, she then engages in hilarious hijinks with her beau and also meets dashing, but poor, Eban.

Light, fun, with bright colors and sets, How to Marry a Millionaire, when watched now, brings me back to a more pure day, when films were innocent and fresh- filled with glamour and sophistication. A trip down memory lane in film is a nice thing.

Easy to Love-1953

Easy to Love-1953

Director-Charles Watson

Starring-Esther Williams, Van Johnson

70123585

Reviewed August 21, 2013

Grade: D

Easy to Love is a romantic comedy from 1953 starring competitive swimmer turned actress Esther Williams. Williams plays a (surprise!) swimmer in love with her boss who does not return her affections. She also has two other suitors madly in love with her, so it’s a love triangle type of film with Williams having a side-kick, played by Edna Skinner. They go from Florida to New York on a job adventure.

The main problem with this film is the silly script. It’s a romantic comedy of its day with Williams scampering from one beau to the next. By the end of the film she has three suitors all vying for her affections, but the viewer hardly cares whom she chooses or which one was meant to be the hero. The endless scenes of Williams swimming around were necessary since that’s what she was known for, but the film is a dud on almost every level.

Williams, hardly known for her acting ability, spends much of the film jet-skiing and prancing around in swimwear while men lust after her. That pretty much sums up the film. Williams is not a terrible actress, though hardly Katharine Hepburn either. The movie just seems lackluster and quite trivial and not too much fun.

Stalag 17-1953

Stalag 17-1953

Director-Billy Wilder

Starring-William Holden, Don Taylor

994592

Reviewed June 14, 2014

Grade: B

“Stalag 17”, a film by famed director Billy Wilder, tackles the theme of POW’s during World War II. This film reminds me a bit of the acclaimed television show M*A*S*H in that the comedy elements are similar (men in drag, a light subplot of one soldiers obsession with Betty Grable). However, this film is heavy on the drama side too and deep cynicism that network television shows cannot match.

A group of American soldiers are held in a POW camp by Germans. Somehow any plan for escape is realized by the Germans. A whodunit ensues to find out who exactly the mole is and what his motivations are. Liberties are taken- I doubt the real German soldiers would be as nice as they are depicted in the film.

William Holden stars as the cynic of the camp and the likely suspect, but is he the culprit? This film is a hybrid of other Wilder films- the cross dressing theme in “Some Like it Hot” is depicted and shades of the darkness of “Sunset Boulevard” (also starring Holden) appear.

The black and white is effective in eliciting the confinement of the camp. Good film though a predictable “seen this all before” element nagged throughout.