#77 The Big Sleep

Watched: January 22 2017

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Martha Vickers

Year: 1946

Runtime: 1h 54min

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Philip Marlowe is back, this time portrayed by (the not very tall, but oh so charming) Humphrey Bogart. Entering the Sternwood residence for an appointment with General Sternwood, he is immediately met by a Dame in the making – young miss Carmen Sternwood (Vickers), who tries to sit on his lap while he is still standing.

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Despite Carmen’s best efforts, General Sternwood is the first member of the family to have our hero undress

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Carmen has gambling debts and her father, the General, is being blackmailed by a man named Geiger. He hires Marlowe to clear everything up, and on his way out, the detective is summoned to the chambers of the older Sternwood daughter, Mrs Vivian Rutledge (Bacall), who is very interested in what exactly Marlowe has been hired to do. The two start measuring each other up (both figuratively and literally) and exchange quips.

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“She has all the usual vices, besides those she’s invented for herself”

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Marlowe starts his investigation in the usual way which comes complete with diagrams on page 47 of how to be a detective in 10 easy lessons correspondent school textbook. That is, he starts snooping around Geiger’s bookshop which he quickly discovers is a front for something else, although he strikes out with the lady working there. He has better luck with the saucy bookseller from across the street, and spends his afternoon with her sharing a drink.

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Yet another great example of how removing glasses and letting one’s hair down transforms a “plain,” bookish girl into an absolute stunner.

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Marlowe follows Geiger and stakes out his house. After a shot and a scream, he enters to find Geiger dead, a hidden camera, and a very drugged out Carmen in a near catatonic state. He takes the girl home, exchanges more banter with her older sister, and returns to the crime scene only to find dead Mr Geiger gone. The plot is very much thickening.

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Also thickening is the sexual tension between the two stars

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To sort out this mess, Marlowe and Rutledge (who’s divorced, by the way, so their relationship is completely on the up-and-up) have to work together. There are more dead bodies, more blackmail, more Dames and other cool women (such as Marlowe’s taxi driver), shady characters, quips and banter, silly henchmen, a fairly complicated plot (but great scenes, so it doesn’t really matter), and Humphrey Bogart being supercool.

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This is a man completely unaffected by having a gun pointed at him. Though Bacall doesn’t seem too perturbed either, to give her her due.

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There are beautiful clothes, sassy dialogue, and amazing characters portrayed by iconic stars. There’s also murder, intrigue, loose sexual morals, and an infamous restaurant scene we have no idea how got past the censors. It’s a classic for a reason and if you haven’t already checked this one out, you should! We loved it.

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Serious question though: how extremely innocent do you have to be not to read the subtext of this scene?

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What we learned: men in the 1940s were physically unable to see past a pair of glasses on a pretty girl. Also, sometimes personal chemistry works equally well on screen as in real life.

Next time: The Killers (1946)

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#50 His Girl Friday

Watched: October 28 2016

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy

Year: 1940

Runtime: 1h 32min

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Pop the champagne, people! We have reached #50! *sounds of corks popping and (two) people cheering* And what a way to celebrate – with our favourite comedy on the list so far, Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday.

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Featuring two familiar guys and a girl who can give them a run for their money any day!

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Newspaper editor Walter Burns (Grant) learns that his ex-wife Hildy Johnson (Russell) is getting remarried and he’ll have none of it! Not necessarily out of jealousy (although that plays a part in it), but because bad-ass newswoman Hildy is planning on marrying boring insurance salesman Bruce Baldwin (Bellamy) and retiring from being awesome. So he does the only reasonable thing he can think of: he ropes Hildy into doing one last story for him while continuously getting Baldwin arrested for various offences.

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“Seriously, where on earth did you get that hat, and can you get me one too?”

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Despite Hildy’s insistence that she is done with the news business and is looking forward to a quiet existence with Bruce and his mother, she is clearly in her element tackling other newsmen, law officials and a convicted murderer.

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Including her at one point physically tackling a guy, but we can’t find any pictures of that, so here’s one of her just being generally awesome instead.

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The dialogue is incredibly fast and funny with lots of overlapping lines (which probably has a technical film term with which we are unacquainted). Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell have wonderful chemistry and despite new boyfriend Bruce not being a bad guy at all (in fact, he’s rather sweet) we are rooting for them from their first scene together.

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Poor Bruce is so clearly out of his league with these two

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When you take the dialogue, the chemistry of the two stars, the funny and occasionally farcical plot and add one of the best female characters we’ve seen so far, you get movie brilliance. Despite being over 75 years old, His Girl Friday never seems dated and it will continue to stand the test of time.

What we learned: we’ll take a kick-ass career over safety and starting a family any day. Also, characters played by Ralph Bellamy tend to look like Ralph Bellamy.

Next time: Pinocchio (1940)

#44 Bringing Up Baby

Watched: September 17 2016

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant

Year: 1938

Runtime: 1h 42min

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Screwball comedies are always fun, and Bringing Up Baby is no exception. This was another rewatch which we enjoyed as much as the first time around (despite our dislike of having wild animals as pets).

Paleontologist David Huxley (Grant) is trying to assemble a Brontosaurus skeleton and also secure a 1 million dollar donation to his museum. Meanwhile, his path keeps crossing that of heiress Susan Vance (Hepburn) who, after several chance encounters, falls madly in love with him and comes up with increasingly complicated excuses to keep him near.

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You can see why she likes him. It takes a man secure in his masculinity to pull off this look.

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Susan, believing David is a zoologist, talks (read: cons and guilts) him into helping her transport her leopard, Baby, to Connecticut, and the scenes with them singing “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” to soothe the (relatively small) cat are among the funniest in the film.

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“Are you sure this is going to work? Because right now she looks at me like I’m lunch…”

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There are mix ups, wardrobe malfunctions, romance, snappy dialogue and everything else you’d want in a farcical screwball comedy. Grant and Hepburn are adorable – their performances and chemistry really make the film, and Hepburn is amazingly good at balancing being annoying with being wonderfully charming. In the end, Susan saves David from a entering into a disastrous marriage, and he finally has all the bones he needs to finish his Brontosaurus. All in all, a happy ending, and we had a blast with this one.

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“Well, fellas, I’m not gonna brag, but despite the connotations of this pose, I will fight the temptation to make a dick joke. You’re welcome.”

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What we learned: when a man is wrestling a leopard in a pond he is in no position to run anywhere. Also, there’s an abundance of leopards in Connecticut in spring.

Next time: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

#37 Twentieth Century

Watched: September 9 2016

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: John Barrymore, Carole Lombard

Year: 1934

Runtime: 1h 31min

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Lingerie model Mildred Plotka (Lombard) has been discovered by theatre producer/director Oscar Jaffe (Barrymore) who wants to make her a star, despite the protests of his coproducers and assistants. He renames her Lily Garland, manages to “mine her performance for gold” and their play is a huge success, making her an overnight sensation.

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“I’m so glad you saw the talent in me and in no way hired me for my looks or the allure of me being a lingerie model!”

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Fast forward three plays and while their working relationship is still productive and successful, his manipulative behaviour has all but driven her away. When he hires a private detective to watch her every move, she finally has enough and runs away to Hollywood where she becomes a film star.

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Still a better love story than Twilight, as the old internet adage goes.

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After her departure, Jaffe struggles to produce another success, fails miserably, and is eventually wanted by the law for dodging debtors. While evading the police, he boards the Twentieth Century Limited, a train where Garland is also a passenger. When Jaffe learns of her presence, he starts plotting how to get her back under his thumb.

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It goes about as well as you’d expect

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Despite both main characters being narcissistic, manipulative bastards, they’re strangely charming and they really do deserve each other. Barrymore’s Jaffe is hilarious and fun in his flamboyancy and in the way he always thinks in terms of staging, and Lombard’s Garland is wonderfully divaesque. With great gags (“Baptist!”) and entertaining supporting characters in the increasingly drunk cohorts, this is a great watch with a bottle of wine and in a fabulous dress on a Saturday night. Or in any other setting, really. We’re not the bosses of you.

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May they live unhappily ever after!

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What we learned: the old south does not yodel. Also, we never thought we’d sink so low as to be actors.

Next time: A Night at the Opera (1935)

#24 Scarface

Watched: August 23 2016

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley, Boris Karloff

Year: 1932

Runtime: 1h 30min

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“This picture is an indictment of gang rule in America and of the callous indifference of the government to this constantly increasing menace to our safety and our liberty. Every incident in this picture is the reproduction of an actual occurrence, and the purpose of this picture is to demand of the government: “What are you going to do about it?”. The government is your government. What are YOU going to do about it?” So opens the most violent PSA of the ’30s, Scarface.

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“I’m gonna f**k some s**t up, is what I’m gonna do!”

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The man f’ing things up is Tony Camonte (Muni), ambitious strong-arm for the mafia and part-time overprotective brother. After being interrogated for the murder of his old boss, he teams up with new boss Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins) to run the Chicago underworld. Tony is simultaneously very smart and very stupid, and his ruthlessness, charm and excellent beer ordering system help him climb to the top, gradually taking over the territory as well as the boss’ girl.

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To be fair, she comes with the territory

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Gang war ensues and Tony spirals and grows gradually more insane, more ambitious and more ruthless. Despite everything though, he is very charismatic and strangely likeable at times, up until the point he completely ruins his sister’s life which effectively ends his operation.

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“How dare you fall for men similar to the only male influence in your life!”

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Despite the violence, there’s a lot of comedy in Scarface as well, especially in the form of Tony’s “seckertary” Angelo. There’s great use of shadows and we loved the “shooting the days away”-bit. We also liked the women in this; Poppy and Cesca were great, and Tony’s mother was no fool, unlike some of the other mafia mums we’ve seen.

Another one we’ll recommend if you like action, great clothes, cool characters and the absence of father figures (seriously – none of these gangster types in any of these movies have (good) fathers). The ending made us sad, though not so much for Tony as the ones around him. We’re now looking forward to rewatching the 1983 film of the same name!

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“I’m shooting in the rain, just shooting in the rain!”

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What we learned: Killers sure liked to whistle back in the day. Also, never get attached to the comic relief.

Next time: The Mummy (1932)