Category Archives: 1953 Films

Torch Song-1953

Torch Song-1953

Director Charles Walters

Starring Joan Crawford, Michael Wilding, Gig Young

Scott’s Review #1,402

Reviewed September 25, 2023

Grade: B

Since I’m a huge fan of legendary Hollywood Actress Joan Crawford I’ll willingly watch any film of hers, both quality films and mediocre offerings.

Her style, confidence, clothes, makeup, and yes, those eyebrows capture me every time I see her. She’s also a damned good actor.

Torch Song (1953) is a film made when her career was waning despite just scoring an Oscar nomination the year before for Sudden Fear (1952).

She would find success in the 1960s with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1963).

The film is fun to watch because it reportedly best captures her true personality in a role that is realistic to who she was. Faye Dunaway even studied the role closely before she portrayed the star in 1981’s cult classic Mommie Dearest.

The story is about a talented and demanding Broadway star named Jenny Stewart played by Crawford. She is used to snapping her fingers and having her every whim catered to without question. She rewrites scenes and fires talent for shows she stars in if she deems them beneath her.

One day she meets her blind rehearsal pianist Tye Graham (Michael Wilding) and finds herself attracted to him. At first, clashing over his refusal to put up with her bullshit she comes to realize she admires him.

The feeling is mutual and the lovebirds tenderly nurture their budding relationship.

I’m not sure if non-Crawford fans would appreciate or enjoy Torch Song as much as we die-hards would. The story is basic with few twists and turns and it’s not hard to imagine that Jenny and Tye will wind up together.

Torch Song was famously spoofed by comedienne Carol Burnett in the 1970s on her television show when she replicates a dress rehearsal scene from the film in a hilarious fashion.

But Crawford is devilish and fierce in the film. She prances confidently in each scene wearing getups as outlandish as a haughty yellow nightgown with high-heeled slippers and a garish scene from the production wearing  ‘black face’!

When she yanks off her wig revealing her messy red hair, black face, and wide emotion-infused eyes as she desperately watches Tye exit the auditorium it rivals any scary scene from a horror film.

Jenny is the star as much as Crawford is and one wonders if she had the same ferocious clout as the fictitious character. We’ll have to ask the cast if any are still alive.

Crawford’s singing voice was dubbed by India Adams and she lip-syncs to the recording Adams originally made for Cyd Charisse in a number discarded from the 1953 film, The Band Wagon.

When she belts emotional numbers like ‘Two-Faced Woman the comic relief is unintentional. Adams sounds nothing like Crawford which makes the dubbing glaring and nearly pitiful. Crawford had a decent voice and sang the songs only available on the home video release.

Oddly, actress Marjorie Rambeau who played Crawford’s mother received an Oscar nomination for the role. Her performance is adequate but not Academy Award-worthy.

This must have irritated Ms. Crawford who wasn’t known for being a gracious co-star. She must have felt usurped.

Crawford seamlessly carries the film from beginning to end credits like the seasoned professional she always was. She pokes her co-stars and chews up the scenery like nobody’s business.

Deserving of mention is actor Michael Wilding since he equals Crawford in performance. He never appears outshined or swallowed whole during a scene instead relaying good chemistry with her.

A mediocre Torch Song (1953) is made better by the mix of the competitive Broadway lifestyle and the star playing a ferocious and seasoned veteran.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress-Marjorie Rambeau



Director Kenji Mizoguchi

Starring Masayuki Mori, Machiko Kyo

Scott’s Review #1,147

Reviewed May 31, 2021

Grade: A

Kenji Mizoguchi, who directed the brave Japanese masterpiece, Ugetsu (1953), successfully brought Eastern cinema to Western audiences when the film was discovered. The result is a groundbreaking ghost story that fuses reality with the supernatural in gorgeous ways.

It’s not always clear what is going on but in only the best of ways. It’s like being inside a dream.

The notice is a long time coming since Mizoguchi had been making films since the 1920s! But his forever stamp on cinema is worth the wait and Ugetsu is a timeless treasure.

Ugetsu is not the easiest plot to follow but that is fine because its brilliance lies in other areas. Like, every area to be clear.

The cinematography, the mix of reality and the supernatural, the tone, the questioning messages, and the character conflict all add muscle.

It’s cinema to be experienced and mesmerized by. Haunting, sad, and stoic, it explores themes such as war, family, and forbidden relationships.

Its cultural exploration is important and teaches Japanese customs. This film taught me what great cinema is- not necessarily linear or explained, but drenched with brilliance, thoughtfulness, and art. I was able to escape the confines of traditionally constructed films and it was an awakening in pleasure and creativity.

The lesson learned is great cinema knows no boundaries and the film was helpful to open my eyes to types and styles of films that may be deemed difficult.

Drawing its plot, particularly from Ueda’s tales “The House in the Thicket” and “The Lust of the White Serpent”, the film is set in Azuchi–Momoyama period Japan (1573–1600). Mizoguchi was fascinated and inspired by these fables and the supernatural style from the long-ago stories is powerful and classic.

A peasant farmer and potter, Genjūrō (Masayuki Mori) leaves his wife and young son behind during the civil war and is seduced by a spirit that threatens his life. He finds himself at a Kutsuki mansion to sell his pottery.

The mansion is run by fabulous Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo) who seduces him and requests he marry her.

But is Lady Wakasa real or a ghost from the past? She harbors a horrific secret.

A subplot involves Genjūrō’s friend, Tōbei (Eitaro Ozawa), who dreams of becoming a great samurai and chases this goal at the unintended expense of his wife. He steals the head of a well-known general and is rewarded with shiny armor. Eager to tell his wife he instead finds her working at a local brothel.

The costumes specifically deserve a shout-out. Drenched in Japanese drawings and colors they are exquisite to the eye despite Ugetsu being a black-and-white film. The obvious art looks better without color adding mystique.

My favorite visual is when two couples drift along in a boat on a tremendous lake. Amid fog and haze, the scene is gloomy yet magnificent offering lush Japanese geography. It’s a breathtaking visual with a fabulous texture and tone that, once again, is aided by black-and-white filmmaking.

The ghost story also is aided by the black and white cinematography. Isn’t everything? The scenes seem to scroll by in a fusion of live-action and gorgeous landscapes.

What is reality and what is not is up for debate. This adds to the confusion and overall beauty.

The humanity and moral conflict the two main characters face are hearty and worthy of discussion. They strive for great success and riches but live in a cruel world.

I found the men to be heroes. Ugetsu is as much a character study as it is an art film.

Ugetsu (1953) is a must-see for film lovers and those intrigued by other cultures. It should appear on lists of superior films shown at film schools if it is not already.

Oscar Nominations: Best Costume Design, Black and White

House of Wax-1953

House of Wax-1953

Director Andre De Toth

Starring Vincent Price, Phyllis Kirk

Scott’s Review #1,081

Reviewed November 13, 2020

Grade: B+

House of Wax (1953) is a classic horror film that should be watched by anyone with a fondness for the genre as the macabre elements make it a must-see.

Be sure to watch the 1953 version, not the mediocre 2005 remake that starred Paris Hilton with a severely changed storyline.

Interestingly, the 1950s version is a remake of the 1933 film Mystery of the Wax Museum, which I was not aware of until recently.

Pre-code 1930s horror is brilliant, so I cannot wait to watch this offering soon.

The production has the honor of being the first color 3-D film released by a major film studio and the result is stylish and impressive for that early in cinema. If this isn’t enough, the incomparable Vincent Price also has the starring role.

With these riches, one could anticipate a masterpiece like Frankenstein (1931) or King Kong (1933). It’s not quite on that level with a B-movie vibe that rises immensely in respectability with exquisite human art, a chilling premise, and a lesson about historical figures of long ago.

The film is a very short eighty-eight minutes.

The haunting and atmospheric opening titles, to immediately showcase the 3-D, appear in the first shot, alongside a rainy and dreary New York City set. The time is the early 1900s.

Director, Andre De Toth confirms to his audience that it’s a 3-D film with the bold title leaping out of the screen within seconds. This sets the tone perfectly as the illustrious wax museum set is up next.

Wax creations like Marie Antoinette, John Wilkes Booth, and Joan of Arc pose in the vast gallery.

Henry Jarrod (Price) is a Professor who views his creations as his children, each unique and human-like to him. Marie is his ultimate masterpiece and one wonders if she is his fantasy wife. His business partner, Burke (Roy Roberts) wants out of their partnership and goes to drastic measures to gain insurance money. He sets fire to the museum which burns to the ground, horribly disfiguring Henry.

The Professor goes off the deep end and rebuilds the museum using real human beings that he steals from the morgue! Frankenstein’s influence is obvious.

Besides Price, the star is the wax museum, almost a character, but never upstages Price. Henry is sympathetic and menacing, and I felt sorry for the guy. Not only is his house of wax destroyed, but he has a disfigured face for life. His insurance policy benefit is of little comfort, nor is killing the man responsible for his misfortune.

I guess we are supposed to root for Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk) and Scott Andrews (Paul Picerni), the main couple, and attempt to solve the mystery of why the wax figures look like dead people they know.

They are not the strongest element of the film, though. Like other famous horror villains Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter, Henry is appealing, and we like him.

I would have liked to learn more about Henry before his ruination. Besides a brief tour of his museum, where he cleverly describes each work, we don’t know much about his life. He is creepy, but what else? Has he ever married? What are his parents like?

Charles Bronson and Carolyn Jones have small roles as Henry’s mute assistant Igor and Burke’s gold-digging girlfriend, Cathy, respectively. This is fun since both went on to legendary careers in film and television.

A must-see for anyone studying cinematic technique or good horror trimmings, House of Wax (1953) contains state-of-the-art effects for the time, illuminating gas-lit streets of New York City, and a finale that includes a boiling hot vat of molten wax (what else!) that inspired a James Bond film.

These facets are nice, but any horror film starring Vincent Price is worth the price of admission.

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 like his other films.

The picture is not one of his best-remembered works and 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 are featured as big Hollywood stars of the day.

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 French sophistication and culture are added and the accents provide a European influence, especially powerful during the final act.

A 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 the 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 her husband Pierre (Roger Dann), a member of the Quebec legislature. They live comfortably 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 religion but makes certain of the conflict and demons that can encircle even a pious or righteous man.

Known as far back as the 1940s Rebecca was 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 connection 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 (1948) when an identical sequence occurs. The audience knows nothing about the stranger- yet.

In both films, the character, even after death, becomes integral to the plot twists and turns in store. The tremendous use of shadows and lighting is on careful display mirroring the look of the soon-to-come The Wrong Man (1956).

While not the cream of the crop among Hitchcock’s best film entries or even a top ten offering, I Confess (1953) is deserving of a viewing or two on its own merits.

Clift and Baxter have excellent chemistry and mystique, and the plot is enough to keep audiences well-occupied.

The final twenty minutes provide 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, Montgomery Clift

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 storytelling.

With great acting and a compelling story, the film is a bombastic Hollywood creation that conquers the test of time remaining timeless.

A trio of United States Army personnel is 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 dramatically before the devastating incident set to take place.

The film’s perspective is centered around the male characters which risks the film being classified as a “guy’s movie”. Enough melodrama and romance exist 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 affected and soon to be affected by the war.

The characters co-exist peacefully in their little slice of the world though there is the occasional bullying or insubordination among the ranks, 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 star’s torrid love affair and the need to run off to make love after shooting the scene could be a myth but have never been disproven.

Reportedly the camera crew shot the scene quickly and left the duo to their desires. Regardless, the scene may 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 powerful and dim.

Finally, the attack on Pearl Harbor is upon us just as the audience no doubt will sense is coming and ends sadly 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 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: 8 wins– 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, and 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 Cinderella in the reverse storyline 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 set the bar high in the romantic comedy genre.

Our heroine, Princess Ann (Hepburn), has it all 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, she snatches it and stumbles upon an American reporter, Joe Bradley (Peck). Despite differing backgrounds, they fall madly in love with one another.

At first, I found something missing in the film and the chemistry between Peck and Hepburn did not immediately embrace me. As the duo meets, 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 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 rides off into the sunset together.

While not a dark film, it goes 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, leans into contrived or predictable situations.

As Joe and Ann fall in love, the audience falls in love with them. The main plot hurdle- Joe’s temptation to profit off of Ann once he realizes her true identity after 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.

There are no physical hurdles to the duo’s relationship- no outside forces plotting to keep Joe and Ann apart, other than their lifestyles. Ann is in a world of royalty and pampering, but Joe is an everyman, so the chances of living happily ever after are slim.

Film lovers intent on discovering one of the early romantic comedies- one could argue that It Happened One Night (1934) was the first- ought to watch 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 mediocre start, the film finishes with gusto.

Oscar Nominations: 3 wins-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 majestic appeal of similar musicals like An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain.

Directed by Vincente Minnelli- a legendary music director of the 1950s 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 movies mentioned above, 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 slowly but gets much better towards the end.

The film has a few memorable musical numbers, 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 stars Marilyn Monroe’s better-known offerings from her brief career is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), a fun musical/romantic comedy.

She stars alongside Jane Russell, another popular Hollywood star from a golden era 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 1950s 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 observed and followed by a private investigator (Malone) hired by Gus’s father, while Dorothy is pursued by the Olympic swim team.

The film is entertaining and a must-see for all Monroe fans, as it 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.

Making the film 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 performance that famously inspired the 1984 Madonna video “Material Girl” that will forever live on in music history.

My favorite scene is on the ship when 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 child to help her avoid recognition and fool a man with a sub-par vision.

Vision also comes into play when Dorothy disguises herself as Lorelei in a silly fashion (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 for 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 (1953) 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 for 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 (1953) 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 1950s, warm, sophisticated, and pleasing. This is an appropriate setting as all three women featured 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 is out of the country and avoiding the IRS) and slowly sell the furniture to pay the rent.

Each woman encounters potential beaus, rich and poor, and must choose between true love and marriage for money. Or can they achieve both?

I noticed similarities to the 1980’s television sitcom The Golden Girls. 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 flirty 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 lady’s luxurious apartment where men come and go in attempts to pursue the eligible women.

The city skyline is 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 about 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.

The film itself is arguably fluff- lightweight to be sure. But there is a 1950s 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 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 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 engages in hilarious hijinks with her beau and meets dashing, but poor, Eban.

Light, fun, with bright colors and sets, How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), 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 the film is a nice thing.

Oscar Nominations: Best Costume Design, Color

Easy to Love-1953

Easy to Love-1953

Director Charles Walters

Starring Esther Williams, Van Johnson

Scott’s Review #86


Reviewed July 2, 2014

Grade: D

Easy to Love (1953) 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 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, she has three suitors all vying for her affection, 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 she was known for it, 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 Easy to Love (1953).

Williams is not a terrible actress, though hardly Katharine Hepburn either. The movie is 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 (1953), a film by famed director Billy Wilder, tackles the theme of POWs during World War II.

This film reminds me of the acclaimed television show M*A*S*H (1972-1983) in that the comedy elements are similar (men in drag, a light subplot of one soldier’s obsession with Betty Grable).

However, this film is heavy on the drama side and a deep cynicism that network television shows cannot match.

A group of American soldiers is held in a POW camp by Germans. Somehow any escape plan is realized by the Germans. A whodunit ensues to find out who the mole is and his motivations. 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 (1959) is depicted and shades of the darkness of Sunset Boulevard (1950) (also starring Holden) appear.

The black and white are effective in eliciting the confinement of the camp.

A quality film though a predictable “seen this all before” element nagged throughout.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Director-Billy Wilder, Best Actor-William Holden (won), Best Supporting Actor-Robert Strauss