#309- Destry Rides Again

Quick recap: Destry, played by James Stewart, plans to whip a Wild West town into shape without the use of guns or regular beatings.

Who could say no to someone with such sharp fashion sense?

Fun (?) fact: In a continuation of me not always being able to tell Gary Cooper from James Stewart, Cooper was originally offered the role but turned it down because he wanted more money. Even movie executives were aware that the two actors are basically interchangeable.

Seriously, James Stewart is adorable and I kind of love him now.

My thoughts: We’ve got another Western! This one is different because it apparently parodies the classic Western, although I didn’t really see that. Most of the movie, especially the beginning with everyone shooting their guns in the air and punching random people, reminded me of a few weird trips to Six Flags. I guess the characteristic of Destry not owning guns was different, but he seemed to threaten with them a lot or just make his other deputies do it for him. I thoroughly enjoyed myself,don’t get me wrong, and I was glad to see this was much more lighthearted than the spaghetti Westerns I’ve been watching as of late. But it’s the plot holes that eventually got to me, as they always do.

The main lesson in Destry Rides Again, if there is one, is that violence isn’t always the answer. Destry’s father was a sheriff with a huge reputation of whipping towns into shape and here comes his son who doesn’t carry guns, always has a story about someone who learned a lesson and prefers milk over alcohol. But the thing is, the audience never really sees  Destry’s plan come into action so it’s hard to tell whether violence would’ve worked just as well. The villain, Kent, bullies everyone from the beginning and Destry always throws him off somehow, like conceding Kent has won a ranch in an obviously fixed poker game. It made me think there was a huge complicated plan to win the ranch back but there really wasn’t. Destry decided to focus on finding the body of the previous sheriff to indict Kent but even that continued to backfire. The only thing he had a hand in was wooing Frenchy, the town’s loose woman and causing her to rally the women to put a stop to the madness. It was a great twist and I loved how pissed off the wives were, but that wasn’t Destry’s plan. He couldn’t have known that would happen. And yet, at the end of the movie he is considered a hero and loved by all.

I really loved James Stewart’s portrayal of Destry. I thought the ‘aw,shucks’ personality would grate on me, but it never did. Marlene Dietrich, who played Frenchy was also great, although the musical numbers didn’t do much for me. She really played up her accent so the songs were hard to understand sometimes. Still, the performances were entertaining and I enjoyed watching something a little light for once.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: The General

 

#299- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Quick recap: A naive man becomes a senator and learns very quickly how much of a cesspool DC is.

Fun (?) fact: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was considered controversial to Americans who felt that it showed the government in a less than positive light. Meanwhile, Nazi Germany and other Socialist countries refused to screen the film because they felt it showed Democracy working as it’s supposed to.

Me: just stick to that Simpsons episode
Also me: bring in Trump

My thoughts: People always say, ‘greatest thing since sliced bread!’ and it makes me wonder what people compared awesome stuff to before sliced bread. Same concept goes for this movie. What did people compare DC drama to before this movie? I’m sure there were books and political cartoons, but this movie is just so perfect for so many situations. Back in the day, reporters had to go out and look for a comparison. ‘Gulliver’s Travels?’ they would say, hesitantly. ‘That sort of fits, I guess.’ But then, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington came out. ‘ This article practically writes itself!’ the same reporters said and left their typewriter to go swim in their giant piles of money.

I’m not sure if this is an unpopular opinion or not, but Jefferson Smith (played by James Stewart), did not do a very good job as Senator. He came in with an idea for a law that would only benefit a very small percentage of the population but would certainly benefit his home state. The senators against him wanted a dam in the same area, which is actually not that bad of a plan, considering this was the Depression and jobs were desperately needed. Surely there were more important pieces of legislation to debate besides a camp for boys? Despite all this, it’s hard to not get caught up in Smith’s excitement about being a part of the government. Despite my current bitterness for anything concerning politics, I couldn’t help but cheer him on. He was fighting the Political Machine, something that even in 2017 we haven’t figured out how to do.

Yes, this movie was ridiculous but it really does sell a person on Democracy. I’ve been so angry these days with the political climate so it was a nice reminder that some things never change. The only part of the movie I didn’t love was the love subplot. Jean Arthur as Saunders was such a badass. She really ran the show and would’ve made for a better senator than Smith, but of course she gets relegated to Love Interest. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is in fact a romance- between the people and Democracy, and that should’ve stayed the focal point. As it is though, still a very powerful movie.

Final review: 5/5, and yes there were spinning newspapers galore!

Up next: #300

 

 

 

#297- A Night at the Opera

Quick recap: It’s nothing but hijinks with the Marx Brothers! This time they get in on a money making scheme involving the opera.

Someone should’ve clued them in

Fun (?) fact: Producer Irving Thalberg made the mistake of leaving the Marx brothers in his office for several hours while he went to various meetings. When he returned, he found Harpo, Chico and Groucho completely naked and roasting potatoes in his office. Defeated, he sat down, ate one of the potatoes and never did that again.

Groucho, Chico, Harpo

My thoughts: The other day, my 7 year old told me in no uncertain terms that he hated black and white movies. My husband had shown him The Day the Earth Stood Still several months ago and according to him, it was super boring. Like any good parent in this situation, I went about trying to prove my child wrong- if it was the last thing I did.

My initial plan was to start playing A Night at the Opera and as soon as my kid became restless or started terrorizing the cats, I would turn it off. Then I would note how long he had made it and that would be the deciding factor in how I reviewed this movie. I didn’t account for the fact that he would absolutely fall in love with the film. He seemed bored at first ( Groucho was his least favorite) but anytime Harpo appeared, everything was good. Some of my kid’s favorite scenes:

Groucho ordering all that food for the stowaways

Everyone piling into the cabin

Harpo actually playing the harp

Harpo playing the trombone with a violin bow

And on and on and on. My son ate it up! It didn’t matter that there was barely a plot or that there were a few slow numbers we could’ve done without, the comedy more than made up for it. Had I watched the movie alone, the curmudgeon in me probably would’ve given it just a couple of points. Seeing this through fresh eyes made me appreciate it so much more. I think what astounds me most is how there are so many tv shows and movies marketed to kids nowadays but sometimes it’s the simple stuff they love the most. And Harpo.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Once Upon a Time in the West

 

 

 

#268- The 39 Steps

Quick recap: A man goes on the run after a woman is found dead in his apartment. However, the woman was actually a spy so not only does the man have to hide from the law, he is also tasked with taking down a bunch of villain spies out to steal information.

Fun (?) fact: The sheep that were brought in for one of the scenes ate up the plants and bushes and the crew had to keep replacing them. Sheep are going to do what sheep do.

Film_56_39Steps_original

Surprisingly, no one said ‘by jove!’ in this movie.

My thoughts: Seeing as this is my 6th Hitchcock film, I now feel qualified to have an opinion of him as a director. And so far, I think I like him best when he isn’t doing horror. It’s almost comforting to watch his films, knowing that even when this movie was made in 1935, Hitchcock had his trademarks set up: a man falsely accused, a MacGuffin, a director cameo, stairs. It’s all there. At the same time, each film is wildly different from the rest and seeing as this one was all about spies, I was fascinated even more than I normally am.

The character Hanney, the man on the run from the law, is one of my favorite elements of the film. When the movie opens, he’s just a regular guy, maybe hoping to get some action from this random woman who enters his life. But when she’s murdered by an evil spy ring, he gets thrust into the spy life. Throughout the movie, he never really does anything like a stereotypical spy and yet he has enough wits about him to stay one step ahead. In doing so, it made me root for him and want him to solve the mystery before the bad guys got to him first. It also surprised me how much I liked the character Pamela, who ended up handcuffed to Hanney, despite having no previous involvement with either side. She wasn’t just a dumb blonde and made her own decisions, thank you very much.

Seeing as how this movie was made over 80 years ago, I don’t really feel like I’m spoiling it to say that the secrets The 39 Steps were trying to smuggle out of the country were housed in a man called Mr Memory. It was a huge surprise to me when this was revealed, but I also kind of felt bad because his act was a super lame party trick. His schtick was basically that he knew a ton of facts and the audience could shout out obscure questions for him to answer. I mean, considering there was no Wikipedia back then, I guess it’s cool, except how does anyone know if he’s telling the truth? Except if you already know the answer to the question you asked and then in that case, you are just as lame as this guy. Anyway. Just as Hanney figures out he is the key to the whole thing, Memory is shot, but not before divulging his secret to Pamela and him. As he takes his dying breath, Hanney and Pamela hold hands and it was a beautiful ending to actually a really good movie.

the39steps2

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Happiness