Thursday, April 20, 2017

Harriet Craig (1950)

          Harriet Craig is a 1950 drama film noir based on the 1925 play Craig’s Wife, by George Kelly.  The sharp screenplay was written by Anne Froelick and James Gunn, and the film was directed by Vincent Sherman, who is also known for films such as Adventures of Don Juan, Mr. Skeffington, Old Acquaintance, The Young Philadelphians, and more.  Harriet Craig stars Joan Crawford, in her and Vincent Sherman’s second of three collaborations.  It also features Wendell Corey as a solid leading man, and others.
          Harriet Craig, played by Joan Crawford, is the wife of Wendell Corey’s character, Walter Craig.  She is a controlling, neurotic, manipulative wife and person in general, herself having money to her name.  Early on, she tells her psychiatrist that she hasn’t had children because her husband doesn’t like them.  But we soon find out that her husband believes she is unable to have them and himself finds it one of the greatest disappointments of his relationship with her.  Then there’s her cousin Clare, played by K.T. Stevens, who Harriet treats at times more like a servant than a relative, and whom she lies to as well.  Then she has servants, who no doubt get treated badly throughout the film as well.

          For how truly devious of a woman Harriet Craig continually proves herself to be, Joan Crawford surely had me glued to the screen.  At times, I sympathized with her, at other times I found it difficult to.  It delves into her childhood and the fact that it wasn’t a very good one, perhaps responsible for her apparent personality disorder.  I’ve never seen a Joan Crawford performance I didn’t like, but this one is perhaps one of the most memorable I’ve yet seen.  I’m surprised this wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award, perhaps because it wasn’t very commercially successful.  Either way, you’ll feel truly bad for Mr. Craig and everyone else in the Craig household throughout the picture.  And the tension between the two of them, Mr. and Mrs. Craig, at times is palpable.  If you were looking for a happy movie, this isn’t it.  This is full on film noir drama at its finest.  For Joan Crawford’s performance alone I’d give a good review, but this film as a whole is fantastic.  I give it 3.5 out of 4 stars!

Anna Christie (1930)

Anna Christie is a 1930 Pre-Code drama film based on a 1922 play of the same name by Eugene O’Neill.  It was released by MGM based on an adaptation of the play by Frances Marion, a popular screenwriter at the time who wrote such films as Camille, Dinner at Eight, the silent film The Wind, The Champ, and many more.  This film is directed by Clarence Brown, stars Greta Garbo, and is remembered by classic film lovers for being her first talkie!  MGM held off until 1930 (talkies began in 1928).  It also features memorable performances from Marie Dressler, George F. Marion, and Charles Bickford.
                The film starts off with George F. Marion’s character, Chris, sailor and father of Greta Garbo’s character, Anna.  He is there with Marie Dressler’s character, Marthy, before finding out Anna was on her way to meet him at age 20 for the first time since age 5.  Marthy meets Anna when she arrives, but leaves Chris’ barge in order to keep away from Anna so as not to badly influence her, as Marthy is a self-described “tramp” and alcoholic.  Anyway, when Garbo/Anna first steps into the room, in a bar, and asks for a drink, you know you’re in for a treat.  Garbo pulls the film together at all stops along the way, as a memorable Swedish-American girl with a rough upbringing spent on a farm and, later, as a prostitute.

                Anna’s father, Chris, takes her out on his barge to recover from her long trip, and we watch as she uses the opportunity to cleanse herself of her past as best as she can.  Her father, of course, does not know that she worked as a prostitute, at least not yet.  At one point, Charles Bickford’s character, Matt, is rescued out at sea by Chris and Anna, along with others.  It is not long before Matt and Anna fall in love, but can Anna live with herself not telling the man she loves about her past?  And if she tells him, what will happen?  And what’s to say for Anna’s father, who doesn’t want Anna to end up with another sailor?  These are the big questions, and the answers I’m not going to spoil.  This film was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Actress for Greta Garbo, and I can see why!  I give it 3.5 out of 4 stars!  If you’re a fan of Greta Garbo and haven’t seen this yet, add it to your list today!

They Made Me a Criminal (1939)

They Made Me a Criminal is a 1939 crime drama film noir, released by Warner Bros and directed by Busby Berkeley.  Busby Berkeley is more famously known for his work on musicals, having directed musicals like Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933, Dames, and more.  They Made Me a Criminal stars John Garfield, and also includes Claude Rains as well as Gloria Dickson, Ann Sheridan, a group of boys named “The Dead End Kids”, and others.  It’s a remake of an earlier film titled The Life of Jimmy Dolan, but it’s a worthy remake which some consider to be the greater of the two.
                This film was certainly one to remember, in my opinion.  John Garfield really carries this picture.  You may be a fan of his from other films like “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Humoresque”, two other pictures of which I’d recommend both, especially “Postman”.   The film starts off with John Garfield’s character, Johnnie, at the top of the boxing game.  It’s not long before someone is unintentionally killed, and Johnnie winds up to blame for it.  He wasn’t entirely unlucky though, as circumstances led him to knowledge that the police would be after him, and he was able to make the escape from town.

                Johnnie winds up further out West, meeting a bunch of young working boys on a ranch as well as a woman named Peggy, played by Gloria Dickson quite memorably.  He quickly takes an interest in her, and winds up working on the ranch under a different name.  Claude Rains plays the detective who is after Johnnie, and if you’re a fan of Claude Rains as I am (who isn’t?), you’ll surely like him in this role.  The characters just mentioned all come to know each other in interesting ways, making you root for Johnnie along the way.  I’m not going to spoil the ending, whether it goes with a happy or sad ending I’d rather you find out by watching the film!  I give it a solid three out of four stars!