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Thread: 2007 Repertory: Oldies but Goodies

  1. #31
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    This post is such an eye-opener, Oscar. I graduated in 1970 and notice titles completely foreign to me. I only recognize "Love Me Tonight" because my girlfriend forbid me to see a Maurice Chevalier film. I asked her why. "That collaborator!" she accused at the time (this was thirty years ago, but now I recall). Is it true he had some dealings with the German's during WWII?
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  2. #32
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    I'm glad you find this thread valuable. I no longer have time to post about everything I watch (as I did in 2005). The films I review here are the ones I really like that I haven't seen before or that I haven't seen in the past twenty years. Thus any interest in them is doubly appreciated.

    Besides Love Me Tonight, I'm a huge fan of the films Chevalier made with Ernst Lubitsch around the same time. I have to check wether they're available on dvd like Love Me Tonight. By the way, I'd like to mention that the version of the film now available is the print re-released in the 40s, when the original version, released in the more permissive early-1930s, was subjected to a number of cuts by the censors.

    FROM WIKIPIDEA:
    "During World War II, Chevalier kept performing for audiences, even German soldiers. He admired Philippe Pétain, who led the collaborating Vichy regime during the war. (It must be stated that many Frenchmen at that time admired Pétain for his victories in World War I.) He moved to Cannes where he and his Jewish wife, Nita Ray, lived and where he gave several performances.

    The Nazis asked Chevalier if he wanted to perform in Berlin and sing for the collaborating radio station Radio-Paris. He refused, but did give several performances in front of prisoners of war in Germany where he succeeded in liberating ten people in exchange. In 1944 when the Allied forces freed France, Chevalier was accused of collaborationism. Even though he was formally acquitted of these charges, the English-speaking press remained very hostile and he was refused a visa for several years."

  3. #33
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    HEAVEN CAN WAIT (USA/1943)

    Maverick director Ernst Lubitsch's first color picture and his last collaboration with renowned screewriter Sam Raphaelson. A most unfashionable movie to be released during the conservative and jingoistic 1940s in America. The "hero" is a spoiled, rich man who champions hedonism and makes no attempt to accomplish anything. He is Henry van Cleeve (Don Ameche) and we meet him at hell's lobby, shortly after his death. Henry figures he belongs there and offers evidence to "His Excellency" in one long, episodic flashback.

    The first half of Heaven Can Wait is as witty and funny as Trouble in Paradise and Design for Living. The second half is less so. Lubitsch serves up a piercingly insightful examination of what happens to a man whose worth and security is based on his ability to charm and seduce women as he ages and becomes less attractive. He achieves a sublime, bittersweet tone and a thoughtful ambivalence towards his protagonist (rumored to share some of the director's proclivities). Heaven Can Wait was poorly received in the heartland and flopped at the box office despite wonderful performances by Don Ameche and the underrated Gene Tierney. Heaven Can Wait has steadily acquired a reputation as Ernst Lubitsch's last masterpiece. Like many of the medium's best products, it was released at a time when its potential audience was not ready to appreciate it.

  4. #34
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    OLD HEIDELBERG (USA/1927)

    This Ernst Lubitsch film is the best of many versions based on the novel "Karl Heinrich" by Wilhelm Meyer-Foster. It was turned into a famous operetta called "The Student Prince" and re-released by MGM with that title during the 40s and 50s. It's the story of Karl Heinrich, the heir to the throne of Karlsburg, who is separated from his mother at age 10 by his uncle, the King, and home-schooled at the Royal Palace. The prince (Mexican-born Ramon Novarro) is lonely and isolated until he finishes high school, when he is sent, along with his beloved tutor, to university in Heidelberg. The prince falls in love with enchanting barmaid/innkeeper Kathi (Canadian-born Norma Shearer) and discovers the joys of friendship and beer-drinking. Then the King's declining health and an arranged "marriage of state" threaten the prince's happiness.

    Old Heidelberg is simply lovely. It achieves sublime poignancy when the prince returns briefly to Heidelberg prior to asuming the throne. He seeks informal camaraderie fom his college buddies but they regard him with respect and reverence. An older couple remarks "It must be great to be a King" but the expression in Novarro's face is resigned and mournful. Novarro and Shearer were never more appealing than as the tragic couple here. Their love scene in a field of waving grasses and daisy-studded hills is glorious and unforgettable.

    Old Heidelberg was the centerpiece of the last edition of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. It was reportedly a huge hit with the contemporary audience. It's available on vhs and laser disc (if you can find it).

  5. #35
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    Heaven Can Wait.

    I guess the 1978 Warren Beatty/Buck Henry film of the same title is not based on this original but on Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) ?

  6. #36
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    Exactly. Harry Segall's play "Heaven Can Wait" is the literary source for three movies: Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Down to Earth (1941) and Heaven Can Wait (1978) not the Lubitsch film of the same title (which is in my opinion the best, but not the funniest of them all). What bothers me about Here Comes Mr. Jordan is that I didn't "buy" Robert Montgomery as a boxer whereas Beatty does look like the quaterback he plays, who gets to heaven as a result of a mistake by messenger of death/heavenly escort #7013.

  7. #37
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    Thanks for this clarification, which may be useful to our readers.

  8. #38
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    "A guy named Joe" uses a similar plot device (which Steven Spielberg later remade as "Always") where the dead guy comes back to earth from heaven and affects the outcomes of the living. This same plot device is also used in "It's a wonderful life" with Clarence the angel saving George Bailey from committing suicide. Hollywood often uses angels as plot devices (Death takes a holiday, Meet Joe Black, What Dreams may come, City of Angels, Michael, etc). However, I like the Buck Henry script better than most of the others (Warren Beatty's version). He gave Jack Warden some wonderful lines which the veteran actor turned into a lucrative and career-saving role. Buck appeared on John Stewart this week, coming off with the same charm and wit that earned him two Oscar nominations years ago (Heaven Can Wait and The Graduate) and made me laugh very hard this week when Henry compared the 'milk' of candidates (9/24/07).


    http://www.comedycentral.com/motherl...&is_large=true
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  9. #39
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    The script of Heaven Can Wait (1978) was mostly written by the great Elaine May (1932-) with some input from Mr. Beatty. Ms. May seems to have been forgotten and I take the opportunity to praise her work here. Her masterpiece is probably Mikey and Nicky (1976), which she wrote and directed. A film starring John Cassavetes, Peter Falk and Ned Beatty which has not been seen by a large enough audience. I bought the vhs ages ago and watch it periodically. I don't know if it's available on dvd but it ought to be. Ms. May wrote and directed the excellent A New Leaf, directed Neil Simon's best screenplay (The Heartbreak Kid, which has been remade with Ben Stiller in the lead and comes out Friday), and also wrote the screenplay for Primary Colors. Ms. May's demise was caused by Ishtar flopping at the box office in 1987. Ishtar has been much maligned by the critics, largely in response to Warren Beatty's disdainful attitude towards the press (as documented by Jonathan Rosenbaum) and by audiences who didn't "get" that the songs are deliberately bad. Ishtar is not a great movie but it's worth watching. It's satire of American policy in the Middle East would probably be more welcome now than during its release twenty years ago.

  10. #40
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    I didn't like Heaven Can Wait much, but the trouble is that that kind of deus ex machina from heaven thing doesn't appeal much to my rationalistic mind. I ought to see it again some time, and my admiration for Beatty continues to grow. May and Nichols were a great team, and they've done important work separately too. I'm developing an aversion to Stiller, but I hope he redeems himself after a string of crap comedies. Ishtar was interesting; it would probably as you suggest be even more interesting to watch it again today.

  11. #41
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    Rosenbaum was about right when calling HCW ('78) charming, likable, but not very profound. Not worth revisiting for you perhaps, as you're not inclined to like this type of fantastic premise. I've enjoyed my two viewings but I prefer May's three other 70s movies.

    May and Nichols were indeed a great team, but she was equally great, most of the time, when working alone and with others.

    I have no problem with Stiller when the script and direction are good.

    Ishtar was interesting; more interesting to my sensibility than "safer", more conventional and, perhaps, "better" comedies.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 10-01-2007 at 05:30 PM.

  12. #42
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    Stiller has been in one or two good movies I guess, but his appetite for junk is off-putting. His record as a writer and a director may be better than as an actor.

    I'm not sure what you're referring to with Elaine May. Her record has been somewhat limited and she doesn't seem to have done anything during the laqst seven years or so. Mike Nichols has done some very significant work as a director even recently.

  13. #43
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    It's true that May hasn't done anything since her well regarded performance in Small Time Crooks and that her filmography is limited. But Mikey and Nicky, which is entirely hers, is a better film than anything Nichols has ever done. And her A New Leaf is as good as The Graduate or Carnal Knowledge or anything Nichols directed.

  14. #44
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    Those are large claims, my friend. I would have to see that to say.

  15. #45
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    I hate to enter the fracas but that is an awful boast, Oscar. Better than the Graduate? I like Elaine May. I would say Elaine is a brilliant writer. I watched them on the Sullivan Show years ago (the team of Nichols and May). But Mike Nichols directed "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" "Silkwood" "Catch 22" "Angels in America" "The Graduate" "Primary Colors" etc. That Mike Nichols? Are you saying that Elaine May is better than that Mike Nichols? I'm confused. If so, what is your proof?
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