50 Movie Hollywood Legends, Disc 11

No, I don’t watch movies that fast. In an earlier post, I discussed a problem with another disc in this set—a problem that the publisher resolved in fine style, showing exceptional customer service. While they were solving it, I went ahead with the movies that were on Side A of the problematic disc—which were the first two movies on this dics.

Heartbeat, 1946, b&w. Sam Wood (dir.), Ginger Rogers, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Adolphe Menjou, Melville Cooper, Basil Rathbone. 1:42.

A young woman escaped from reform school shows up at a Paris school for pickpockets, where she seems to be doing well—but when she attempts to lift something, she’s caught. The person catching her—an older diplomat–tells her to steal a watch from a young diplomat at a dress ball (or she’ll go to prison). She does, notices that there’s a picture of the older diplomat’s wife inside the watch, removes it before giving it to the older diplomat. He tells her to return the watch, which she does—and in the process of the two dances, she and the younger diplomat fall for one another. Maybe.

That’s just the beginning of a moderately confused plot involving marriages of conveniences, a variety of con men, trains to and from Geneva…naturally, it all works out in the end. (The sleeve plot description is wrong on several counts, but that’s par for the course.) The movie’s well filmed and generally well played—but to me, Ginger Rogers seemed more vapid than she needed to be in the star role, seeming not to show much of any emotion or even interest, even when she’s crying from happiness. That hurts the picture. So, in the case of this print, does some minor visual damage and fairly major sound problems—the sound is frequently distorted, making dialogue a bit difficult to understand. In the end, I come up with $1.25.

He Found a Star, 1941, b&w. John Paddy Carstairs (dir.), Vic Oliver, Sarah Churchill, Evelyn Dall, Gabrielle Brune, J.H. Roberts. 1:29 [1:15].

A British stage manager wants to be more, and with the help of a woman friend (played by Winston Churchill’s daughter) starts a small-time talent agency, specifically looking to help out the unknown talents. They struggle for some time but eventually build a business of sorts—and he continues to treat her as nothing but a secretary. It all climaxes when he gets a would-be star (who’s a reasonable success, and who he wants to propose to) out of multiple “exclusive” contracts, signs her up for a big new show—and finds that she’s going to run off to Hollywood.

Naturally, it all works out in the end. In the meantime, the action’s constant but the plot’s a bit hectic, possibly because of a lot of missing footage. To my eye, the various acts were fine (the traditional baritone turned one-man band is a charmer) but the dramatic actors didn’t make much impact, and I never got any sense that the secretary desired the talent agent until the last few minutes of the flick, somewhat undermining the dramatic conflict. Given that, a sometimes-damaged print and a sometimes-damaged soundtrack, I’m hard put to give this more than $0.75.

Affair in Monte Carlo (originally 24 Hours of a Woman’s Life), 1952, color (b&w on this disc). Victor Saville (dir.), Merle Oberon, Leo Genn, Richard Todd. 1:30 [1:04]

Merle Oberon is excellent in this tale of sudden romance and gambling addiction, told mostly as a flashback—but there are two problems. The biggest one is that this seems like “scenes from an affair”—at 1:03, it’s much far too short for its story and has gaps in continuity. Given the fairly slow pacing of the movie, that’s particularly unfortunate. Noting IMDB after rating this, I see that’s what’s happened: The movie should be 90 minutes long, the U.S. version was trimmed to 75 minutes (why?), and this version—apart from losing its color—is down to a mere 64 minutes.

The other—well, the credits list a Technicolor colour consultant, but there’s no color in the movie as presented here. The scenery would be much nicer and the film more convincing in color. It doesn’t have the qualities of great b&w cinematography. (Actually, it looks like desaturated color, which is what it apparently is.) Nice little story, good scenery, some good acting, but ultimately I’m generous at $1.00.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1952, color. Henry King (dir.), Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner, Hildegard Knef, Leo G. Carroll. 1:54 [1:53].

Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Susan Hayward. Spectacular scenery, well filmed. Ernest Hemingway. What more could you ask for? Well… Not to speak ill of classics, but this movie seemed a little thin and soapy to me, apart from the starpower and writer’s credentials. (On the other hand, it’s a Hemingway short story, so maybe it is a little thin for a two-hour flick.) But that may be me. Good print (by and large), although there’s some ticking on the soundtrack for a few minutes near the end. Even though it isn’t quite my cup of tea, it deserves $1.50.

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