Monthly Archives: April 2016

Till the Clouds Roll By

maxresdefaultMGM’s 1946 Till the Clouds Roll By is the musical life story of beloved composer Jerome Kern, who gave his blessing to the production shortly before his death. The extended flashback relates the ups and downs of Kern’s early career and culminates where it begins, with Kern’s triumph as composer of the Broadway blockbuster “Show Boat.” The film’s biggest drawing card is its lineup of all-star MGM talent, performing Kern’s most famous numbers. Judy Garland (as Marilyn Miller) sings “Look for the Silver Lining”; Dinah Shore performs “The Last Time I Saw Paris” before a back-projected “Gay Paree”; Kathryn Grayson does a Rita Hayworth imitation with “Long Ago and Far Away”; Virginia O’Brien deadpans “A Fine Romance”; Tony Martin warbles “All the Things You Are”; June Allyson and Ray McDonald team up for the title number; and Frank Sinatra, incongruously dressed in white tuxedo, runs through “Ol’ Man River.” In addition, other musical contributions are made by Van Johnson, Angela Lansbury, Cyd Charisse, Gower Champion, and Lucille Bremer (cast as Van Heflin’s daughter). The film’s high point comes at the very beginning featuring Lena Horne, as Julie (the role she was born to play, but never did again on screen), delivering a powerhouse rendition of “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.”

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The Rules of the Game

13041067_542555809249438_7171550316461442564_oConsidered one of the greatest films ever made, The Rules of the Game (La règle du jeu), directed by Jean Renoir in 1939 (son of iconic painter Auguste Renoir) with costumes by Coco Chanel, it is a scathing critique of corrupt French society cloaked in a comedy of manners in which a weekend at a marquis’ country château lays bare some ugly truths about a group of haut bourgeois acquaintances. The film has had a tumultuous history: it was subjected to cuts after the violent response of the premiere audience in 1939—a member of the audience tried to set fire to the theater), and the original negative was destroyed during World War II; it wasn’t reconstructed until 1959. That version, which has stunned viewers for decades, is presented here.

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Man With the Golden Arm

600727_529279570577062_7346268091565695738_nWatch Frank Sinatra morph from top of the charts crooner into an Oscar nominated actor in Otto Preminger’s 1955 drama “Man with the Golden Arm.”  Sinatra beat out Preminger’s other considerations – William Holden and Marlon Brando –  to play Frankie “Dealer” Machine, an ex-heroin addict who’s released from prison and returns to his wife, played by Eleanor Parker,  in his old run-down neighborhood with a set of drums and a new outlook . Will his plans to live an honest life prevail when he’s welcomed back by old friends to a world of crime and deception?

Author Mario Puzo reportedly used Sinatra’s struggle for the “Golden Arm” role as a template for singer Johnny Fontane, a character in The Godfather. In the book and subsequent 1972 film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, a Hollywood executive who failed to cast Fontane in his latest release found a horse’s severed head in his bed. The character was based on Sinatra but the horse’s head scene was fiction, according to his daughter, Tina Sinatra.

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