Category Archives: 1955 Films

Queen Bee-1955

Queen Bee-1955

Director Ranald MacDougall

Starring Joan Crawford, Barry Sullivan, Betsy Palmer

Scott’s Review #1,288

Reviewed August 10, 2022

Grade: B+

Queen Bee (1955) is a drama served straight-up Southern style and is highly recommended only for fans of legendary screen actress Joan Crawford. Made during the downward turn in her career the character is tailor-made for the actress and her fans.

She struts across the silver screen in flashy gowns and heavy makeup, admiring herself in the mirror, and firmly ensconced in bitch mode. With matching garish eyebrows and a sassy smirk, she chews up and spits out every character she crosses paths with.

Otherwise, audience members unfamiliar with or otherwise turned off by Crawford probably shouldn’t bother with Queen Bee. There’s not a lot of character development or anything interesting story-wise other than watching her cause havoc.

Set in the 1950s American South, the vicious and conniving Eva Phillips (Crawford) takes pleasure in making the lives of those around her miserable, especially her husband, Avery (Barry Sullivan), who is so depressed he resorts to heavy drinking and becomes an alcoholic.

Meanwhile, when Eva discovers her sister-in-law (Betsy Palmer) intends to wed her former lover Judson (John Ireland), she decides to ruin their engagement for no reason other than being nasty.

Eva’s niece, Jennifer Stewart (Lucy Marlow), arrives in town and moves in with the family serving as Eva’s confidante. She is warned by everyone not to cross paths with the scheming vixen but must learn for herself how deadly Eva is.

At some point early on Queen Bee turns from high drama into soap opera camp and becomes silly and plot-driven. It’s also melodramatic and stagey especially once events spin out of control.

Despite a talented supporting cast, Crawford is the headliner. The part is written with her in mind and intended as a comeback vehicle when her career was dusty and needed a dash of drama.

It’s a delight to watch Crawford as Eva, pouring her heart and soul into a role that allows her to be as vicious as she wants. I guess in some way you could say Eva’s manipulative motivation is her claim for love but that’s a stretch and hardly justifies leading one character to suicide.

In proper form, Eva gets her due at the end of the film which left me, and likely most audiences, clapping with happiness.

Speaking of the supporting cast, I practically squealed with delight at the appearance of Betsy Palmer, forever known to horror audiences as the knife-wielding maniac on Friday the 13th (1980). Jaw-dropping is to see her play a weak, vulnerable character with no bloody ax anywhere in sight.

Barry Sullivan as Avery is also noteworthy as is a small and odd cameo appearance by Fay Wray (King Kong-1933).

Director, Ranald MacDougall wrote the screenplay for Mildred Pierce (1945) which won Crawford the Academy Award and was deemed a major comeback for her. He also wrote Queen Bee clearly with the idea that she would star and perhaps lightning would strike twice.

It didn’t save for two surprising technical Academy Award nominations.

Palmer’s Carol offers the most poignant character summarization of Eva.  She tells Jennifer that she once read a book about bees and feels that Eva is like a queen bee who stings all her competitors to death.

For late-night satisfaction immersed in an hour and a half of delightful wickedness from Joan Crawford, Queen Bee (1955) is highly recommended.

Her scheming Atlanta socialite Eva is towards the top of a list of characters one loves to hate.

Oscar Nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Black-and-White

East of Eden-1955

East of Eden-1955

Director Elia Kazan 

Starring James Dean, Julie Harris, Jo Van Fleet

Scott’s Review #1,092

Reviewed December 17, 2020

Grade: A

James Dean wasn’t with us for very long, tragically dying at the tender age of twenty-four, but he made three films: Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Giant (1956), and East of Eden (1955), all-powerful showcases and unique.

Dean gives a brilliant, humanistic, and sometimes tragic performance.

East of Eden, his first film, is the only one he got to preview. I hope he liked it because it will live forever as a gem.

Based on the John Steinbeck novel of the same name, the story is also a biblical retelling of Cain and Abel, brothers who clash and spar. Director, Elia Kazan, famous for supporting and using Method actors in his films, got a tremendous performance out of Dean, which was key to the empathetic nature of the film.

The key to East of Eden is that it reflects on several characters, who are both good and bad, possessing qualities of each, detailing their struggles.

Nobody is completely good or completely bad. The story is an analysis of good versus evil and the multitude of layers that exist between both extremes. This makes the experience juicy, truthful, and brilliant.

Set during World War I, around 1917, two sunny coastal California towns are the backdrop for the action, Cal Trask (Dean) perceives his father, farmer Adam (Raymond Massey) as favoring Cal’s brother, Aron (Richard Davalos), which leads to much resentment, jealousy, and conflict. Aron is the apple in Adam’s eye, and we wonder why.

Furthering the drama is Cal’s love for Aron’s girlfriend, Abra (Julie Harris) who doesn’t rebuff any advances. Cal and Aron’s mother, Kate (Jo Van Fleet), who they think is dead, is alive and well and running a brothel in a nearby town. Assuming a different name, she harbors secrets.

Before you get the impression this is some cheesy soap opera, East of Eden, like the novel, is heavily character-driven and nuanced with development. It completely draws the audience in and envelopes one around the simmering qualities of everyone.

East of Eden is packed with powerful scene after powerful scene and in more than one the allegiances and rooting values shift from character to character.

Some of the best are when Cal self-destructs following his father’s refusal of his birthday gift, or when Cal cruelly exhibits the true nature of their mother’s vocation to the innocent and unsuspecting Aron.

Finally, Cal and Abra’s kiss atop a Ferris wheel is filled with smoldering desire and deadly consequences.

The acting was tremendous across the board, much of the thanks must go to Kazan for pulling fabulous performances out of the players- a talent only a Method acting director can achieve.

While the cast is exceptional, the film belongs to Dean, who provides enough emotion and vulnerability to sustain his character’s topsy-turvy and tortured existence. Knowing that the actor died soon after filming gives an eerie and sentimental feeling.

This is comparable to a more modern-day example when Heath Ledger died after giving a brilliant performance in The Dark Knight (2008).

This is hardly a war film or a guy’s film, as the ladies get to shine with rich characters too. Julie Harris and Jo Van Fleet portray flawed characters in juicy roles rife with meaty scenes filled with conflict.

As with most of Steinbeck’s works, specifically The Grapes of Wrath, the landscape is a character, and East of Eden is no exception. With dusty roads and mountainous backgrounds, events ooze with atmosphere and beauty.

The lush northern, coastal, California landscape portrays a grandiose magnificence that counterbalances the conflict its human beings are dealing with.

The major note to take away from East of Eden (1955) is that we are complex creatures with a mixture of good and bad. We sometimes want to do the right thing but hurt those we love. The main characters suffer from pain, regret, good intentions, poor decisions, and loss.

The rich dialogue, adaptation, acting, and cinematography make the film near perfection.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Director-Elia Kazan, Best Actor-James Dean, Best Supporting Actress-Jo Van Fleet (won), Best Screenplay

5 Against the House-1955

5 Against the House-1955

Director Phil Karlson

Starring Brian Keith, Kim Novak

Scott’s Review #998

Reviewed March 11, 2020

Grade: C-

5 Against the House (1955) is a film that may have influenced heist films such as the Rat Pack Ocean’s 11 (1960) or countless other films featuring groups of young men holding up an establishment for money.

The film is mediocre and lacks much that is memorable as nothing distinguishes it from other similar-themed genre films.

Star Brian Keith is charismatic in the lead, but the chemistry with Kim Novak goes nowhere with any of the actors.

The film is mildly interesting with a few tense moments but little more. 

Four Midwestern University college pals, Brick (Keith), Al (Guy Madison), Ronnie, and Roy, devise a grand casino heist while drunk and partying one weekend in Reno. The idea is to go through with their plan and then return the cash to prove they can get away with the high-stakes prank.

But when one of the group betrays the others and plots to keep the money for himself, he imperils them all.

Novak plays Kaye, the girlfriend of Al, who recently has become a singer at a local nightclub.

The standouts from the cast are Keith and William Conrad because the then-unknown actors became television stars in later years, for Family Affair and Jake and the Fat Man, respectively.

Keith is great in the lead role of Brick, the tormented and conflicted ex-veteran of the Korean War, unable to forget tragedies he saw while abroad. He is a cool every man with an edge, angry and out to prove something to the world. He also needs the money that the heist will provide him.

The character is interesting and empathetic.

Conrad is gruff and memorable as a cart operator, who plays an important role in the film’s finale. Sent to retrieve cash from the money room, using the prerecorded message to make him believe that there is a desperate man with a gun in the cart who will shoot him if he does not cooperate, Conrad does wonders with his eyes and facial expressions.

The luscious Novak, soon to be a household name in the stunning and cerebral Alfred Hitchcock film, Vertigo (1958), is not as compelling as Kaye.

The main reason is that she has little to do but stand around and serve as window dressing. This is too bad since the actress has talent and charisma for miles, but this work is beneath her.

Not her debut, but one of her early films, What’s a Girl to Do? To add insult to injury, her voice was dubbed by another singer. Novak needed the paycheck.

Director, Phil Karlson is unsuccessful at bringing the picture completely- circle but does pepper in some nice exterior night scenes of Reno. The casino sequences are also commendable with proper zesty and flashy set pieces when appropriate.

But trimmings never make a film complete and 5 Against the House needs more meat on the bone than it serves up.

The heist is the main attraction. Some tension does exist but not enough, and the finale is a letdown. After the robbery, which is unspectacular, Brick leaves the others behind and escapes with the money, and a pursuit ensues. Kaye, having alerted police, follows them, and a tepid standoff follows.

Ultimately, Brick changes his mind while Al and Kaye embrace on a crowded street. The feeble final scene is meant as a romantic sendoff between Al and Kaye, who didn’t have chemistry, to begin with.

5 Against the House (1955) contains an adequate cast and a few positive tidbits worth mentioning, but the story is way too predictable, the conclusion, which should be the high point disappoints, the actors are too old to be believable as college-aged students.

Many other film noir or heist films released before or after this film are superior and better crafted.

Lady and the Tramp-1955

Lady and the Tramp-1955

Director Clyde Geronimi

Voices Peggy Lee, Barbara Luddy, Larry Roberts

Scott’s Review #894

Reviewed May 5, 2019

Grade: A-

Released mid-way through a decade of prosperity, Lady and the Tramp (1955) is a lovely production representing an innocent time that still holds up well decades later.

The Walt Disney film, the story, animations, and characters are charming with a wholesome yet sophisticated vibrancy. A year in the life of its main character (Lady) never was more richly created providing adventure, romance, and fun for the entire family.

During the turn of the twentieth century, presumed to be somewhere in the mid-western part of the United States, John Dear gives his wife Darling a Cocker Spaniel puppy that she names Lady.

The couple is immediately smitten with Lady providing her with all the comforts of warm and lavish country living.

After months the Dears become pregnant causing Lady to feel left out. When the baby arrives and the Dear’s go on a trip, their dog-hating, and incompetent Aunt Sarah arrives, leaving poor Lady at risk for her life.

Meanwhile, a stray mixed breed named Tramp prowls the streets protecting his friends and avoiding the dog catcher. He dines on Italian leftovers at Tony’s and lives his idyllic life, proud not to be owned, able to live on his terms.

He befriends Lady through mutual acquaintances Jock and Trusty who reside nearby.

When Lady faces peril the duo embark on an exciting escapade that leads them to a dog shelter and a farm as they fall in love, eventually resulting in a candlelit dinner for two at Tony’s, the highlight.

All the animals are a treasure and voiced appropriately providing Lady and the Tramp with life and good zest. Tramp is gruff yet lovable with a “footloose and collar-free” outlook, charming and bold in his determination.

The voice of Lady is the polar opposite- demure, feminine, and proper. Her voice is cultured without being too snobbish.

In supporting roles, Tramp’s fellow strays Peg (a Pekingese) and Bull (a bulldog) possess a New York street-savvy, perfect for their characters.

Besides Aunt Sarah, the dog catcher, and a hungry rat, Lady, and the Tramp contain no villains and each character is somewhat justified in their motivations. The rat wants to eat, the dog catcher is doing his job, and Aunt Sarah, a cat lover with two Siamese pets, is foolhardier and more clueless.

She can be forgiven for wanting Lady to have a muzzle because she misunderstands Lady’s intentions toward the newborn baby. These characters are more comical than deadly and Si and Am add mischievous shenanigans to further the plot.

The heart belongs to the sweet romance between Lady and Tramp. The two dogs immediately appeal to the audience with instant chemistry.

The “Footloose and Collar-Free / A Night at the Restaurant / Bella Notte” medley is the best of the song arrangements as the duo shares a delicious plate of spaghetti and meatballs.

In the film’s most iconic and recognizable scene, the pair lovingly munch on the same spaghetti noodle- if that does not love then what is?

Lady and the Tramp (1955) is a charmer containing innocence, vivid colors, and a rich, welcoming story.

Beginning on Christmas and ending exactly a year later, Lady and Tramp’s wonderful journey is topsy-turvy but culminates in the birth of a litter of puppies cheerily celebrating life.

The happy ending is a perfect bow on a Disney film that is enchanting, harmless, and inspiring.

The quintessential American love story between the pampered heiress and the spontaneous, fun-loving pup from the wrong side of the tracks — has rarely been more elegantly and entertainingly told.

Guys and Dolls-1955

Guys and Dolls-1955

Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Starring Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra

Scott’s Review #887

Reviewed April 19, 2019

Grade: B+

The interesting pairing of Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra in the playful musical Guys and Dolls (1955) provides enough bombast and playboy inclinations to make the music lively and entertaining.

Though not one of my all-time favorites in the genre the film keeps up the pace with a nice flow and hearty musical numbers that successfully transfer the Broadway show to the big screen with an endearing production.

Nathan Detroit (Sinatra) is a full-fledged gambler, living and breathing the sport although commonly taken to task for his deeds. As the police clamp down on the shenanigans around town he is desperate to obtain a deposit for use of a secret venue allowing gambling.

Spotting acquaintance and fellow gambler Sky Masterson (Brando) the duo embark on a ridiculous and hilarious bet involving Sky’s invitation to dinner in Havana, Cuba with Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) a devout religious figure and non-gambler.

Predictably, events spiral out of control with romance, misunderstandings, and charming musical numbers.

The setup is plot-driven but forgivable given the fun involved. We are certain that Masterson will fall head-over-heels for missionary and seemingly unobtainable Sarah.

Will he get the girl? Will she forgive him when she realizes what Masterson and Nathan have hatched at her expense? Of course, the fun is in the revelations as the film goes along.

Naturally, Nathan has his antics; he must marry his years-long intended Adelaide (Vivian Blaine) because of losing a different bet.

The premise, the plot, and the conclusion all feel rather frivolous and a bit chauvinistic in the modern world as many 1950s productions do.

The film is a clear case of a naughty guy meeting a good girl, the guy pursues the girl, the guy gets the girl, and the guy and girl ride off into the sunset, so the overall production is not cutting edge nor particularly progressive but is okay because of the fun and good chemistry among the characters.

Brando and Sinatra possess as much chemistry together as Brando and Simmons do.

The conclusion is satisfying and wrapped neatly like a tidy Christmas bow. To no one’s surprise, both couples tie the knot in beautiful style as all the misfires and misunderstandings end with a double wedding in the middle of Times Square, with Sky marrying Sarah, and Nathan marrying Adelaide.

A perfect climax and a way to show the bright and bustling New York City amid a romantic backdrop can forgive any other weaknesses the film may contain.

What makes the film rise above standard fare or mediocrity as an overall piece is the wonderfully adorable tunes and Sinatra and Brando as a duo. The actor-turned-singer Brando and the singer-turned-actor Sinatra crackle with harmony as they play off each other in style.

The clap-along “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” never fails to get any audience on its feet and the clever “Luck Be a Lady”, a classic Sinatra standard, still resonates today.

The art direction, cinematography, costumes, and music all wrap the film together nicely allowing the film a tight and well-muscled extravagant feel with maturity and richness perfect for the decade the film was released in.

Guys and Dolls sits beside other musicals with a style all its own. A handful of Oscar nominations followed though none for the top honors of Picture of any acting nominations.

The 1960s brought a decidedly darker texture to cinema leaving many 1950s films feeling dated or superfluous compared to more important story directions.

While this is the case with Guys and Dolls (1955) there also exists an innocence in watching the pure and charming character relationships and the resulting fun and frolicking.

A lively musical score, the bright lights of New York City, and the unusual locale of Cuba make the film lovely entertainment.

Oscar Nominations: Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, Best Art Direction, Color, Best Cinematography, Color, Best Costume Design, Color

Rebel Without a Cause-1955

Rebel Without a Cause-1955

Director Nicholas Ray

Starring James Dean, Natalie Wood

Scott’s Review #885

Reviewed April 14, 2019

Grade: A

Rebel Without a Cause (1955) is usually most associated with being the best-remembered film of star James Dean’s short-lived career. East of Eden (1955) and Giant (1956) are his other notable films in a much too brief time.

With Rebel Without a Cause Dean and underappreciated director, Nicholas Ray crafted a story about teenage angst and rebellion that has brilliant authenticity and was the first of its kind to influence countless other films.

In Los Angeles, three teenagers meet and commiserate at the juvenile section of the police station, revealing their respective crimes. Jim Stark (Dean) has been brought in for drunkenness and meets John “Plato” Crawford (Sal Mineo), who was brought in for killing a litter of puppies, and Judy (Natalie Wood), who was brought in for curfew violation.

All three of them suffer from problems at home and confide in one another with their deepest revelations becoming connected and bonded for life.

To complicate matters Jim is a new student and must endure challenges associated with this in addition to his troubled home life. His main rival is Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen), who challenges Jim to a knife fight and finally a deadly “Chickie Run” game.

This leads to Buzz’s death which infuriates his gang who mistakenly assumes that Jim ratted them to the cops. This puts a target on Jim’s back as he slowly falls in love with Judy and develops a deep friendship with Sal who idolizes him.

One key to the success of Rebel Without a Cause is in the casting. Dean, rebellious in real life and the roles he portrayed chews up each scene he appears in.

The famous scene in which Jim quarrels with his father (Jim Backus) results in a bombastic emotional unraveling and an exclamation of “You’re tearing me apart!” as his blind-sided parents bicker with one another over how best to handle the situation.

Dean is a pivotal reason for the film’s success and landmark status.

Wood infuses her character of Judy with poignancy and a calm demeanor. Judy is a good kid but behaves wildly out of frustration over her inability to communicate with her deliberately distant father (William Hopper).

Finally, Plato (Mineo), who is so sensitive that he threatens to break apart at the seams, has taken to killing puppies as a desperate cry for attention from his wealthy, always absent parents.

Wood and Mineo support the film in brilliant form.

Jim and Judy are likable as a pair from opposite sides of the tracks, another influential aspect of the film that became commonplace in oodles of entertainment genres over the years.

Good Girl meets Bad Boy is dangerous, tender, and filled with story possibilities.

It is implied that Plato is in love with Jim but in 1955 films were extremely careful about pushing the envelope much further than an implication when it came to homosexuality. Rumors ran rampant that Dean and director Ray had a torrid love affair off-screen.

Another positive is the entire film is told within twenty-four hours providing excellent pacing and an action-packed emotional punch. The best scenes take place at night especially the deadly car race and the fantastic conclusion at the old deserted mansion the trio of friends claim as their sanctuary.

The tragic final ending is sure to result in the shedding of a tear or two by anyone who watches and is entranced by the powerful finality of the event.

Watching the film in the present day one must appreciate the enormous influence that Rebel Without a Cause achieved.

Some classics that succeeded Rebel and stand out on their own include American Graffiti (1973) The Breakfast Club (1985) and even West Side Story (1961) which also starred Natalie Wood. Each is riddled with teenage angst, hormones, and elevating emotions and all contain a seriousness and a depth all their own.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955) is a film that should be viewed and viewed again for more than the obvious and impressive story it tells.

The film is directed well, and speaks to a generation of unruly and angry teenagers, giving them a much-needed voice. It is fraught with emotion and balance for current and future generations of teenagers to learn from.

Oscar Nominations: Best Motion Picture Story, Best Supporting Actor-Sal Mineo, Best Supporting Actress-Natalie Wood



Director Henri-Georges Clouzot

Starring Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, Paul Meuisse

Scott’s Review #878

Reviewed March 16, 2019

Grade: A

Diabolique (1955) is a masterful French thriller that is as compelling as frightening and offers insurmountable influence in years to come.

Shamefully remade and Americanized in 1996 starring Sharon Stone, a waste of time if you ask me, the original is the one to discover.

With a perfect blend of psychological intrigue, never-ending suspense, and even a good mix of horror that Hitchcock would find impressive (more about him later), the film is brilliant in its pacing and frequent twists and turns.

Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, Les Diaboliques is set in a crumbling boarding school in the metropolis of Paris. Sadistic headmaster Michel Delassalle (Paul Meuisse) runs a tight ship but works for his Venezuelan wife, Christina (Vera Clouzot), who owns the school.

Michel is immersed in a torrid affair with schoolteacher, Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret) and regularly abuses both women as well as his students. The two women embark on a plot to kill Michel, but when they succeed in their plan, Michel’s body goes missing.

The women panic.

In a few fun trivia tidbits, director Clouzot, right after finishing Wages of Fear (1953), optioned the screenplay rights, preventing Hitchcock from making the film. This movie helped inspire Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960).

Robert Bloch himself, the author of the novel version of Psycho, has stated in an interview that his all-time favorite horror film is Diabolique. If the film displays nuances incorporated in Psycho, this is undoubtedly the reason.

Clouzot also directs his wife Vera in the prominent role of Christina.

The brilliance is it could have been made by Hitchcock since the entire experience has his stamp and influence even though his best works lay ahead of him in 1955.

Still, from the Gothic mood to the “can’t believe your eyes” twisted, blood-curdling ending, the director immediately comes to mind every time I watch the film. The “shock” ending only exceeds expectations with a fantastic delivery.

The film takes an unusual stance on the dynamic between the two women, Christina and Nicole. Rather than take a traditional route and make the women rivals for the man’s affections, Clouzot makes the pair co-conspirators.

This only deepens their relationship as events unfold and take a darker and more dire turn.

They rely on each other as teammates rather than despise each other over their love for another man. Intelligently, they spend their energy on making sure the insipid man gets his just comeuppance for his dirty deeds.

Nicole leads Christina in the direction she needs to go.

The black and white cinematography is highly influential to the mood. With each unexpected twist or scene of peril, the lighting is perfect in radiating the suspense. The camera juxtaposes the frequent glowing of the white against the dark black exuding a frightening, ghost-like presentation.

The entire setting of the school is laden with dark corners that provide good elements of foreboding and sinister moments to come.

As the women become more and more unnerved by the limitless possibilities that the missing body presents, many questions are asked but are impossible to answer. “Where is the body?”, “Could Michel be alive?”, “If he is alive is he hell-bent on revenge?” The viewer will also ask these questions throughout most of the final half.

When an unknown person begins to call the women the questions multiply.

Clouzet uses frequent shots of objects to enhance the tension even further. Closeups of a dripping bathtub, a typewriter with a man’s hat and gloves, a woman’s feet as she removes her shoes, and a woman running in terror through the school.

These facets only enhance the overall experience as the suspense and the terror begin to mount.

Diabolique (1955) is considered one of the greatest thrillers of all time and I concur mightily with this assessment. A French version of Psycho (1960), that combines an acclaimed director’s ingenious subtle ideas into a giant web of delicious filmmaking.

The viewer will never see the surprise ending coming even if they think they have the plot figured out. This point alone is reason enough to see the film realize its greatness.



Director Joshua Logan

Starring William Holden, Kim Novak

Scott’s Review #550

Reviewed December 19, 2016

Grade: A-

Picnic is a dear, classic film, from 1955 that is just wonderful to watch over the Labor Day weekend holiday, or anytime throughout the humid summer season.

The film perfectly depicts summertime in a tiny town. Set in Kansas, it is a slice-of-life story that tells what life was like in middle America during the 1950s, trials, and tribulations notwithstanding.

William Holden stars as a “wrong side of the tracks” type of guy who arrives in a quiet Kansas town on Labor Day weekend, disrupting the town events and causing scandals for the townspeople.

He is a hunky former college football player and exudes sexuality.

He then falls in love with his best friend’s girlfriend, Madge Owens, played by Kim Novak. The chemistry between the two stars is the film’s main appeal.

The supporting cast makes this film special (Arthur O’Connell and Rosalind Russell star as townspeople, who are in a relationship of their own).

Picnic also contains a gorgeous and lovely musical score, precisely “Theme from Picnic” and “Moonglow”.

It is shot on location in Kansas, mostly in and around Hutchinson, and is considered classic summer enjoyment.

Based on the Pulitzer-award-winning play.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins-Best Motion Picture, Best Director-Joshua Logan, Best Supporting Actor-Arthur O’Connell, Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Art Direction, Color (won), Best Film Editing (won)

To Catch A Thief-1955

To Catch A Thief-1955

Director Alfred Hitchcock

Starring Cary Grant, Grace Kelly

Scott’s Review #455


Reviewed July 24, 2016

Grade: A-

Cary Grant starred in five Alfred Hitchcock films in his day and 1955’s To Catch A Thief is right smack in the middle of Hitchcock’s prime period of masterful pictures.

Grace Kelly (her third and final Hitchcock film) co-stars making this film a marquee treat as both actors were top-notch in their heyday and had much chemistry in this film.

While not my all-time favorite of Hitchcock films, To Catch a Thief has mystery, a whodunit, and some of the most gorgeous cinematography of the French Riviera. The breathtaking surroundings are my favorite part of this film.

Grant plays John Robie, aka. “The Cat”, an infamous jewel thief who has now gone clean. He spends his days quietly atop the French Riviera growing grapes and flowers and keeping out of trouble.

When a new jewel thief begins to strike wealthy tourists, Robie is immediately under suspicion by the police. He is forced to prove his innocence by catching the real thief in the act as the thief uses the same style to steal as Robie once did.

Amid this drama, Robie meets the beautiful heiress Frances (Kelly) and her interfering mother Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis), leading to romance.

Although Grant could be old enough to be Kelly’s father, we immediately accept Robie and Frances as the perfect couple- she is sophisticated, stylish, and rich, and he equally with a bad-boy edge.

To Catch A Thief has a strong romantic element and a glamorous and wealthy tone. After all, the subject matter at hand- jewels- equates to lavish set decorations, women dripping in expensive jewelry, and a posh resort among the gorgeous French waters.

The supporting characters are interesting too. A triangle emerges as Frances plays catty with a young girl, Danielle, eager for Robie’s affection. Danielle, much plainer looking than Frances, though no shrinking violet, holds her own in a match of wits with Frances as they bathe in the water one afternoon.

Frances’s mother Jessie, is wonderful comic relief as she attempts to push Robie and Frances together- always searching for a handsome suitor for her daughter.

Finally, insurance man H.H. Hughson also contributes to the comic relief as he begrudgingly provides Robie with a list of wealthy visitors with jewels.

In their playfully awkward lunch- delicious quiche is the meal of the day- at Robie’s place, Robie proves how Hughson himself is a thief of sorts to accomplish what he needs to get from Hughson.

Despite all of the positive notes, something about To Catch A Thief that prevents it from being among my all-time favorite Hitchcock films. Perhaps it is because I never doubted Robie’s innocence and the caper- if dissected- is a bit silly.

I get the sense that the audience is supposed to question whether Robie is truly reformed or playing a game and is back to his dirty deeds, but I wasn’t fooled.

This is a small gripe and To Catch A Thief is a wonderful film.

The way the film is shot is almost like being on the French Riviera. Countless coastal shots of the skyline will amaze the viewer with breathtaking awe of how gorgeous the French country is and how romantic and wonderful it is.

This is my favorite part of To Catch A Thief.

The visuals of the film rival the story as the costumes created by costume designer and Hitchcock mainstay, Edith Head, are simply lovely. And who can forget the costume ball near the conclusion?

Though the story might be the weakest and lightest element of the story,  who cares? The visuals more than make up for any of that as To Catch A Thief will please loyal fans of Hitchcock’s vast catalog.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Art Direction, Color, Best Cinematography, Color (won), Best Costume Design, Color

Kiss Me Deadly-1955

Kiss Me Deadly-1955

Director Robert Aldrich

Starring Ralph Meeker

Scott’s Review #391


Reviewed April 2, 2016

Grade: A-

Kiss Me Deadly is a 1955 film noir drama that heavily influenced many films that followed it. On my “to see” list for years, I finally got around to viewing this influential gem and now realize the power of the film.

At times it’s confusing and perplexing and requires additional watches, I rate it a grade of A-, however, can see its grade rising to a solid A upon subsequent viewings.

Still, Kiss Me Deadly has much respect from me as a lover and appreciator of a good film.

The mysterious plot goes like this- Mike Hammer (played by Ralph Meeker) is a tough Los Angeles private eye. One evening, driving along a lonely country road, he picks up a hitchhiker named Christina (the film debut of Cloris Leachman) clad only in a trench coat.

He quickly realizes she has escaped from a mental institution but is compelled by her desperation.  When thugs catch up to them, this sets off events as Mike spends his days investigating the strange turn of events.

The plot twists and turns innumerable ways and becomes quite complex, but fascinates. A peculiar glowing box, which everybody seems to want, comes into play.

Wonderfully directed by Robert Aldrich, Kiss Me Deadly features unique and creative uses of lighting, camera angles, and moody shadows to great effect, and this is one of the first aspects I noticed.

Shot in highly effective black and white, allowing Kiss Me Deadly a murky, suspicious look- as if danger and doom might be around every corner.

Meeker and Maxine Cooper as Velda, Mike’s secretary/lover make a nice pair, as they are good-looking, but a rather B-movie type couple, in contrast, to say, Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, two gorgeous upper echelon Hollywood stars of the day.

Casting those stars might have changed the tone of the film.  Meeker and Cooper bring, perhaps, a blue-collar look to the film. Nevertheless, the chemistry works.

An interpretive film, Kiss Me Deadly undoubtedly influenced later film noir classics such as Chinatown (1974), L.A. Confidential (1997),  and Pulp Fiction (1994), not to mention science-fiction films and, arguably even Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

The list could go on as Kiss Me Deadly crosses into numerous genres.

The ending is highly complex, spooky, and downright weird. It is one of the craziest endings I have ever experienced.

Once the mysterious box is opened, the film transforms into a strange Twilight Zone episode, containing screeching sounds, and the explosion is open to complete interpretation and changes the dynamic. I had the enormous good fortune to view the alternate ending is not released in theaters.

Mike and Velda’s fates were vastly different from one end to another. My preference was the alternate ending. Sometimes the studios play things too safe.

What does it all mean? Nuclear weapons, the apocalypse,  the Cold War, glowing boxes, detectives. Many elements in one film.

A conversation about Kiss Me Deadly (1955) could be enjoyed and, in the end, that speaks volumes for the high quality of the film.

I look forward to seeing this revolutionary film again for further appreciation.

The Night of the Hunter-1955

The Night of the Hunter-1955

Director Charles Laughton

Starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters

Top 100 Films #66

Scott’s Review #351


Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

I would classify The Night of the Hunter (1955) as a fairy tale for adults. I categorized it as a thriller, but it certainly teeters on the edge of being a horror film. In addition to being a well-written film, it also contains breathtaking cinematography.

Made in the mid-1950s, it is shot in black and white and tells the tale of good versus evil in a small town. The film is a masterpiece and one of my all-time favorites.

The film is creepy but intelligent, and director Charles Laughton is responsible for the immeasurable success of the film, though the film was not a success upon release. It has only been as the years passed that it has finally received its due admiration.

The film is way ahead of its time.

It is based on the 1953 novel by Davis Grubb.

The time is the 1930s in rural West Virginia, set along the Ohio River. Ben Harper, a local family man, robs a bank and hides the stolen money inside his daughter’s doll.

His son and daughter (John and Pearl) are central characters in the story. Caught, Ben is out of the picture leaving his wife, Wilma (Winters), vulnerable and alone.

A serial killer, Reverend Harry Powell (Mitchum), a misogynist, is on the loose disguised as a preacher. In prison with Ben, he knows the money is hidden and is determined to find out where. He has designs on wooing Wilma.

When dire events occur, John and Pearl are left along the river to seek refuge with a kindly older woman, Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish).

The film is a combination of majestic, haunting, and artistic. Each scene seemingly glows as the dark black and white colors mix gorgeously and tranquil, despite the dark tone of the film’s subject matter.

The Night of the Hunter also has a visual dream-like quality. During one pivotal scene, we see a dead body, submerged at the bottom of the river. The scene is horrific with the bulging eyes and the bloating beginning to set in, but the scene is so creatively beautiful as well.

The flowing hair of the victim, and the posture, is a mesmerizing scene and stick with you for some time.

Poetic, and a sense of good versus evil, clearly laid out as Powell has two words imprinted on the knuckles of each hand- “L-O-V-E” and “H-A-T-E”.  These words create the basis of the film as both words can be applied to the characters.

My favorite scene is when John and Pearl travel along the Ohio River in flight from their rival. The shapes of the trees mirrored with the flowing river are just incredible to see and I can watch this scene again.

A thriller, written intelligently well, with creativity for miles, is a recipe for pure delight. Director, Laughton, only directed this one film and encouraged creative collaboration and participation from his actors, and it shows in the resulting masterpiece.

The Night of the Hunter (1955) has influenced countless directors.

The Seven Year Itch-1955

The Seven Year Itch-1955

Director Billy Wilder

Starring Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ewell

Scott’s Review #302


Reviewed December 18, 2015

Grade: B

Following a string of successful hits by director Billy Wilder (mostly famous for films in the 1940s and 1950s), The Seven Year Itch features Marilyn Monroe in her prime and at her finest.

It is a cute film made charming by the likable legend. While certainly not high art, it is a fun experience in classic romantic comedy cinema and it has an innocence certainly lost in today’s genre.

Playing a familiar character to what she was known for (sexy, flirty, sweet blondes), it is arguably Monroe’s best role (though Some Like it Hot still wins out for me as her best film role).

Richard Sherman, a successful New York publisher, finds himself alone for the summer when his wife and son leave for a vacation in the country. Middle-aged and bored, he immediately is enamored with his gorgeous new upstairs neighbor, known as The Girl, played by Marilyn Monroe.

The Girl is a commercial actress and former model and is quite friendly and bubbly. She is conveniently staying in New York City while filming a new television ad for toothpaste. Richard finds himself awkwardly tempted by the curvaceous Girl in one situation after another.

The Seven Year Itch is pure innocence and fantasy. The Girl has no designs on Richard, whatsoever, and his flirtation with her is harmless and juvenile. Richard is nerdy and socially awkward, not to mention fearful of his wife’s stern nature, should she find out that he is even spending a moment with The Girl.

Much of the film includes scenes where Richard imagines conversations with his wife or imagines her with another man, justifying his attraction for The Girl. These scenes are done hilariously as he imagines conversations with his wife and his thoughts are exaggerated.

Humorous scenes transpire such as the “champagne scene” in which The Girl and Richard attempt to open a champagne bottle while cooling off with Richard’s new state-of-the-art air conditioner.  The Girl keeps her underpants in a freezer to cool off.

The Girl appearing in her toothpaste commercial, comically, is also a treat. And who can forget Marilyn Monroe’s famous scene in which she stands over a subway grate, clad in a sexy white dress and high heels, the wind from the subway blowing her dress in the air is one of the most memorable in film history and priceless.

Some would argue that The Seven Year Itch (1955) is nothing but fluff and they in large part are correct, but in an age of crude and obnoxious films disguised as romantic comedies, with cheesy jokes and canned humor, it is refreshing to look back to the 1950s culture, largely an innocent era, and enjoy a fun film romp with one of cinema’s forever stars.

All That Heaven Allows-1955

All That Heaven Allows-1955

Director Douglas Sirk

Starring Rock Hudson, Jane Wyman

Scott’s Review #159


Reviewed August 26, 2014

Grade: B+

All That Heaven Allows (1955) is a perfect-looking film as Director Douglas Sirk famously dressed his films in a contemporary, stylish fashion. Traditionally, his films contain a social aspect as evidenced by the story in this film.

Affluent socialite Cary falls in love with handsome young gardener Ron and they face the discrimination of a town where status is everything and gossip is rampant.

I love the chemistry between Jane Wyman (Cary) and Rock Hudson (Ron) and the small town in New England is so perfect looking- sets, cinematography, that it fits the subject matter perfectly- most of the townspeople live these seemingly perfect lives and look down on anyone with a different outlook or way of living.

There is a feeling oozing from these people that contrasts perfectly with the open-mindedness and freedom of Ron and the conflict faced by Cary.

On the one hand, she is passionate about Ron and wants a life with him; on the other, she is unsure if she wants to toss away a comfortable, affluent life with perks like the social club and a beautiful house.

The chemistry between the leads is really what makes this film special.

All That Heaven Allows (1955) influenced one of my favorite films, the masterpiece Far from Heaven (2002), which substituted the age factor for race.


Oklahoma! -1955

Director Fred Zinneman

Starring Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Rod Steiger

Scott’s Review #51


Reviewed June 20, 2014

Grade: A-

Oklahoma! (1955) is one of a slew of memorable Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals to emerge from the 1950s and 1960s Hollywood and to be based on a popular stage version.

The film has an old-west, homespun, comfortable appeal to it. and is best watched during the summer months.

While seeming a bit too hokey and not my favorite musical compared to other more sophisticated stalwarts such as My Fair Lady (1964), An American in Paris (1951), or The Sound of Music (1965), Oklahoma! does emit a flavor and tasteful appeal of the West.

The plot focuses on a love triangle between a good old boy, Curly, a good girl, Laurey Williams, and brooding Jud, though the real rooting couple is Curly and Laurey.

The trio is supported by a large array of townspeople both gossiping about and helping  Curly and Laurey admit their true feelings and come together as a couple. Of course, Jud is the villain and conflicts come into play throughout the production.

There is also a lesser couple, Will Parker and Ado Annie, who find their way into each other’s arms amid the traditional small-town events such as a lively, summer fair.

Stars Gordon MacRae (Curly) and Shirley Jones (Laurey) are very handsome and likable in the lead roles making for a nice pairing.

Gloria Grahame is very appealing and comical as Ado Annie, especially in her rousing turn bellowing out “I Can’t Say No”, and Charlotte Greenwood is the moral voice of reason as Aunt Eller.

What works best in the film are the settings of Oklahoma, as the viewer experiences such a feel for life in the heartland long ago (though the exteriors were shot in Arizona).

It’s pure fantasy enjoyment and there is a magical Wizard of Oz feel though no cyclone nor munchkins are anywhere in sight. The film version closely follows the original stage version.

The musical numbers are quite catchy (“Oh What a Beautiful Morning”, “I Can’t Say No”, and “Oklahoma” are my favorites). The controversial mid-number “Dream Ballet” is provocative artistically enjoyable and jarringly different from the rest of the traditional tale.

This jaw-dropping number mirrors a similar spectacle in An American in Paris.

Perhaps Oklahoma! is not quite on par with other musicals of its day, but darned close.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins-Best Scoring of a Musical Picture (won), Best Sound Recording (won), Best Cinematography, Color, Best Film Editing