Category Archives: 1953 Movie reviews

I Confess-1953

I Confess-1953

Director-Alfred Hitchcock

Starring-Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter

Scott’s Review #1,007

Reviewed April 2, 2020

Grade: A-

I Confess (1953) is an early effort by the brilliant Alfred Hitchcock with a decidedly religious slant but keeps the suspense and thrills commonplace in his other films. The picture is not one of his best remembered works and in fact is one of his least remembered projects. This is unwarranted because the film contains all the standard elements known to the director, creating an entertaining and enthralling effort. Montgomery Clift and Anne Baxter, big Hollywood stars of the day, are featured.

Not a fan of exterior shoots where he couldn’t control the elements, filming was nonetheless done largely on location in Quebec City with numerous shots of the city landscape and interiors of its churches and other emblematic buildings, such as the Château Frontenac, heavily featured. This factor adds to the enjoyment as a French sophistication and culture is added and the accents provide a European influence, especially powerful during the final act.

Handsome Catholic priest, Father Michael Logan (Clift), wants nothing more than to be a good priest but his calling is made complicated after someone confesses a murder to him and he’s subsequently blamed for the death. A World War II veteran, he harbors secrets told in back story, as a strong connection to another character comes to light. An easy way to clear his name is to reveal exactly what he knows, but doing so would break his vows as a clergyman and alienate members of his community who trust he will keep their steamy secrets very private.

Ruth Grandfort (Baxter) is a respected member of society, married to husband Pierre (Roger Dann), a member of the Quebec legislature. They live a comfortable existence in a lavish house with servants and regularly throw cosmopolitan parties befitting people of their stature. Amid martinis and festive party games, Ruth keeps not one secret but two and is being blackmailed for her shenanigans. Her connection to Father Michael slowly bubbles to the surface.

Christian viewers will neither be offended nor completely embraced either. Hitchcock does not mock the religion but makes certain of the conflict and demons that can encircle even a pious or righteous man. Known as far back as 1940’s Rebecca as toying with viewers and frequently adding an LGBTQ uncertainty, this can be said of I Confess. Assumed to be in love, Father Michael offers little romantic passion or zest towards Ruth and the connections seems one-sided. Could his descent into the Catholic Church be a front to cover up his sexuality? Only Hitchcock will know the answer.

Eagle-eyed Hitchcock fans will certainly discover similarities to his other works. In the very first scene, an unknown man is strangled to death, collapsing to the floor. This is reminiscent of the 1948 masterpiece, Rope, when an identical sequence occurs. The audience knows nothing about the stranger- yet. In both films, the character, even after death, become integral to the plot twists and turns in store. The tremendous use of shadows and lighting are on careful display mirroring the look of the soon to come The Wrong Man (1956).

While the not the cream of the crop among Hitchcock’s best film entries or even a top ten offering, I Confess (1953) is certainly deserving of a viewing or two on its own merits. Clift and Baxter have excellent chemistry and there is enough mystique and plot guessing to keep audiences well occupied. The final twenty minutes provides cat and mouse revelry and a shocking death perfect for a dramatic climax to a film oozing with Hitchcock’s finest traits.

From Here to Eternity-1953

From Here to Eternity-1953

Director-Fred Zinnemann

Starring-Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr

Scott’s Review #875

Reviewed March 7, 2019

Grade: A

Based on a popular novel of the same name, written by James Jones in 1952, From Here to Eternity (1953) tells a powerful story of romance and drama set against the gorgeous backdrop of Hawaii. The film is poignant and sentimental for its build-up to the World War II Pearl Harbor attacks, further enhancing the story-telling. With great acting and compelling story, the film is a bombastic Hollywood creation that conquers the test of time remaining timeless.

A trio of United States Army personnel are stationed on the sunny island of Oahu. First Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster), Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift), and Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra) are the main principals and their life in the Schofield Army Barrack is chronicled. They are joined by respective love interests Alma Lorene (Donna Reed) and Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr) and the triumphs and sorrows of each are explored in dramatic fashion prior to the devastating incident set to take place.

The perspective of the film is centered around the male characters which risks the film being classified as a “guy’s movie” but it really isn’t. There exists enough melodrama and romance to offset the testosterone and masculinity and as the characters weave in and out of each other’s lives a broader canvas is painted. This point is to the film’s credit as each character is rich with development, sympathy, or sometimes pure anger.

Many films have been told, and continue to be told throughout the decades, of the terrors and after-effects of World War II but From Here to Eternity remains towards the top of the heap. While not going full throttle with too much violence or grit, the film tells of the trials and tribulations of people effected by and soon to be affected by the war. The characters co-exist peacefully in their own little slice of the world though there is the occasional bullying or insubordination among the ranks, but the romance soon takes center stage followed by the dire attacks.

The smoldering beach scene featuring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the ravaging shores of Halona Cove is as iconic as a cinematic moment ever existed. Rumors of the stars torrid love affair and need to run off to make love after shooting the scene could be pure myth but have never been dis-proven either. Reportedly the camera crew shot the scene quickly and left the duo to their desires. Regardless, the scene may very well cause the iciest of hearts to turn into a torrent of heart pounding flutters.

The film suddenly takes a dark turn as if realizing that it is a film about a devastating war. A major character dies and another character goes on the hunt for revenge. Despite these deaths not being at the hands of an enemy or a battle they are nonetheless powerful and dims the mood of the film. Finally, the attack on Pearl Harbor is upon us just as the audience no doubt will sense is coming and ends in a sad way with simple dialogue between the two main female characters.

Thanks to fine direction by novice director Fred Zinnemann, From Here to Eternity (1953) elicits a pure breadth of emotions and subject matters. At its core a cynical film, the picture is also rich with courage, integrity, and love of one’s country without suffering from any phony false patriotism. With a dash of romance and sexuality the film is utterly memorable and deserving of the hefty Academy Awards it achieved.

Oscar Nominations: Best Motion Picture (won), Best Director-Fred Zinnemann (won), Best Actor-Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Best Actress-Deborah Kerr, Best Supporting Actor-Frank Sinatra (won), Best Supporting Actress-Donna Reed (won), Best Screenplay (won), Best Musical Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Sound Recording (won), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (won), Best Costume Design, Black-and-White, Best Film Editing (won)

Roman Holiday-1953

Roman Holiday-1953

Director-William Wyler

Starring-Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn

Scott’s Review #694

Reviewed October 26, 2017

Grade: B+

Roman Holiday, released in 1953, was a box office hit, pleasing legions of fans at the time, in addition to being a critical darling. The film reaped a series of Academy Award nominations including the coveted Best Actress statuette for a young Audrey Hepburn. A happy, uplifting story, the film is not diminished by the Cinderella in reverse story-line, but rather is a charming, romantic experience immersing itself in pleasing locales of the cultural city of Rome. Admittedly, Roman Holiday is an example of a film in which I preferred the latter half to the former, but succeeds in setting the bar high in the romantic comedy genre.

Our heroine, Princess Ann (Hepburn, has it all- a glamorous life, gorgeous clothes, and assistants tending to her every need and want. However, she is unhappy and trapped in a rigid life that lacks freedoms or decisions of any kind, to say nothing of the fun she catches glimpses of party-goers reveling in each night from her expansive palace window. Simply put, she is lonely and unfulfilled. When she sees an opportunity to escape her life for a night of fun, she snatches it and stumbles upon an American reporter, Joe Bradley. The two, despite differing backgrounds, fall madly in love with one another.

At first I found something missing with the film and the chemistry between Peck and Hepburn did not immediately embrace me. As the duo meet, Ann, drunk from sleeping pills, and Joe being the ultimate nice guy and allowing her to sleep in his apartment, the story seems somewhat lagging and lacking a good punch. The pair drive around the city of Rome on a scooter and act childish and silly, Ann acting girlish because fun is an entirely new concept to her. At this point the film was reasonable, but little more than a farce.

As Roman Holiday plugs along, and especially through the final act, the film sheds a bit of its light skin and becomes much more poignant and meaningful. Ann and Joe, while in love, realize they will not and cannot embark on a fairy tale ending, which truthfully, would have made Roman Holiday little more than a standard romantic comedy we have all seen before- you know the type- boy meets girl, roadblocks persist, boy whisks girl away and ride off into the sunset together. Roman Holiday, while not a dark film, goes much deeper than a transparent, predictable ending.

Related to this point is that Roman Holiday contains a realness that sets it apart from many films undoubtedly drawn from it, but unlike this film, lean into contrived or predictable situations. As Joe and Ann fall in love, the audience falls in love with them. In fact, the main plot hurdle- Joe’s temptation to profit off of Ann once he realizes her true identity by way of a sought after interview- is earnestly done with a lack of any pretension. Other similar films ought to take note of this.

Certainly, the historic and culturally relevant locales of Rome are a major sell of the film and, if these scenes were shot on a movie set, a lack of authenticity would surely have emerged. Instead, we are treated to such fabulous location sequences as the Colosseum, the Tiber River, the Trevi Fountain, and Piazza Venezia. Such a delight is the long sequence of Roman escapades as Joe and Ann traverse the city in giddy bliss.

Enjoyable is how Roman Holiday contains no real villain of any sort. Nowhere to be found is any physical hurdles to the duo’s relationship- no outside forces plotting to keep Joe and Ann apart, other than merely their individual lifestyles. Ann is in a world of royalty and pampering, but Joe is an every man, so the chances of living happily ever after are slim to none.

Film lovers intent on discovering one of the early romantic comedies- one could argue that It Happened One Night was the first- ought to take a watch of a feel-good, Hollywood classic from 1953 that is rich in honesty, good humor, and raw emotion without being too much of a heavy melodrama. After a middling start the film finishes with gusto.

Oscar Nominations: Best Motion Picture, Best Director-William Wyler, Best Actress-Audrey Hepburn (won), Best Supporting Actor-Eddie Albert, Best Screenplay, Best Story (won), Best Art Direction, Black-and-White, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (won), Best Film Editing

The Band Wagon-1953

The Band Wagon-1953

Director-Vincente Minnelli

Starring-Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse

Scott’s Review #549

Reviewed December 15, 2016

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”.

Oscar Nominations: Best Story and Screenplay, Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, Best Costume Design, Color

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes-1953

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes-1953

Director-Howard Hawks

Starring-Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe

Scott’s Review #384


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

Scott’s Review #381


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.

Oscar Nominations: Best Costume Design, Color

Easy to Love-1953

Easy to Love-1953

Director-Charles Watson

Starring-Esther Williams, Van Johnson

Scott’s Review #86


Reviewed July 2, 2014

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

Scott’s Review #5


Reviewed June 16, 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.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-Billy Wilder, Best Actor-William Holden (won), Best Supporting Actor-Robert Strauss