We’re No Angels

What would Christmas be without Devil’s Island and escaped convicts?  This is probably a Christmas movie to avoid unless, like me, you are blessed\cursed with a quirky sense of humor.  On Christmas Eve 1895, three escaped convicts from Devil’s Island, portrayed by Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray, fall in with a family who run a store.  Initially planning on robbing and murdering them, the convicts instead end up helping the family and by the conclusion of the film decide to return to prison to serve out their sentences.  Hearing the plot, I am sure you are aware that a fair amount of suspension of disbelief is required while watching the film.

The dialogue is witty and the performances are superb, especially that of Basil Rathbone who portrays the greedy and villainous Uncle of the family.  His greed proves his undoing as this scene relates:

 

 

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Published in: on December 22, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on We’re No Angels  
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Herman Wouk: Requiescat in Pace

Herman Wouk has died at age 103.  A Navy veteran of the War in the Pacific, he became a celebrated novelist after the War.  To me his best novel will always be the Caine Mutiny, in which he drew upon his experiences to paint an unforgettable picture of life in the Navy during the War.  Here is my review of the movie based upon the novel:

For my sins, perhaps, I have spent my career as an attorney.  Over the past 27 years I’ve done a fair number of trials, both bench and jury, and I am always on the lookout for good depictions of trials in films, and one of the best is The Caine Mutiny.  Based on the novel of the same name by Herman Wouk,  who served in the Navy as an officer in the Pacific during World War II, the movie addresses the question of what should, and should not, be done in a military organization when the man at the top of the chain of command is no longer in his right mind.

 

The cast is top notch.  Humphrey Bogart, an enlisted man in the Navy during WWI and a member of the Naval Reserve, he tried to enlist again in the Navy after Pearl Harbor but was turned down because of his age, gives the performance of his career as Lieutenant Commander Philip Francis Queeg, the captain of the Caine.  In the hands of a lesser actor Queeg could easily have become merely a two-dimensional madman.  Bogart instead infuses Queeg with pathos and demonstrates to the audience that this is a good man who sadly is no longer responsible mentally for his actions.

 

 

 

Van Johnson delivers his usual workmanlike job as Lieutenant Stephen Maryk, the “exec” of the Caine, a wants-to-be career officer who does his best to remain loyal to an obviously disturbed CO, while also attempting to protect the crew of the Caine from Queeg’s increasingly erratic behavior.  Robert Francis, as Ensign Willis Seward Keith, is the viewpoint character:  too young and inexperienced to make his own judgment, he relies on Maryk and Lieutenant Keefer.  Fred MacMurray is slime incarnate as Lieutenant Thomas Keefer, a reservist who hates the Navy, spends all his time writing a novel, and eggs Maryk on to take command away from Queeg.  Finally, in a typhoon, reluctantly and only, as he perceives it, to save the ship, Maryk, with the support of Keith, relieves Queeg from command.

 

In the ensuing court-martial of Maryk and Keith, lawyer Lieutenant Barney Greenwald,  portrayed with panache by Jose Ferrer, reluctantly agrees to defend them.

What I admire most about the film is the realistic way that the defense is depicted.  A legal case consists of the facts, the law and people. (more…)

Published in: on May 17, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Herman Wouk: Requiescat in Pace  
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Radio Bird

I couldn’t be fonder of you if you were my own son. But, well, if you lose a son, it’s possible to get another. There’s only one Maltese Falcon.

Kaspar Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet), The Maltese Falcon

 

Something for the weekend.  A radio version of The Maltese Falcon broadcast in 1943.  Classic radio made grand use of music in its storytelling that has never been surpassed.  Bogart, Greenstreet and Astor reprise their screen roles.

Published in: on May 11, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Radio Bird  
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