Flickbuddies: Rebecca (1940)

Steve here:

Rebecca (1940)

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. So begins Alfred Hitchcock’s film and Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca. This gothic tale tells the story of the whirlwind romance of a young woman (never named) with the handsome aristocratic widower, Maxim de Winter, and his young second wife’s struggles to compete with the memory of the first Mrs. de Winter (the eponymous Rebecca).

I have never read the original novel and hadn’t seen this adaptation before, and I thought it was superb. The dialog was snappy and smart, and the new bride’s anxiety at falling short in comparison to the dazzling late Rebecca was palpable. I thought the young and beautiful Joan Fontaine reminded me a lot of Kate Winslet.

Of all the films this month, I thought this was the most “unhitchcockian” maybe because I think he played it mostly straight up. Extra props for getting in topics (cousin incest, barely veiled lesbian obsession) that I would have thought would be pretty scandalous in 1940. Then again, maybe that’s why the novel was so popular.

Also, it’s funny in this social media obsessed  and over-sharing world that there was a time when people could have secrets. At some level you just want to shake de Winter and have him just be honest with his new bride for like five minutes instead of being all dark, distant and sulky.

What’s your name again, honey?

Things I liked most: The creepy Mrs. Danvers’ obsession with Rebecca. Fontaine’s performance that took her character from a wide-eyed girl to tough competitor fighting for her husband. “That’s not the Northern Lights. That’s Manderley!”

Things I didn’t like: de Winter is supposed to be around 40 and Fontaine’s character is in her early 20s. Isn’t that kind of creepy? Maxim could have solved a lot of problems by having a simple conversation with his new bride. Maxim not quite clueing in that a whole houseful of “R”-emblazoned things might make his new girl feel a little awkward.

Things that are still with me: The way the whole movie shifts when de Winter admits his true feelings about Rebecca.

Grade: A-

North By Northwest

I kind of hate myself for not having seen this before.  This movie was AMAZING.

Cary Grant plays the typical Cary Grant character—suave and ridiculously good looking.  He is mistaken for someone else and his life goes downhill from there. 

During our discussion of Marnie, Jenny pointed out that relationships in Hitchcock movies start super fast.  I hadn’t noticed that before but that is incredibly true in this movie.  They meet and sparks fly and it’s basically HARDCORE LOVE.  Except that it’s ALSO a Hitchcock movie, so the lady’s got some secrets.  (I’m pretty sure that in every Hitchcock movie, someone has some secrets.  Or multiple someones.)

This movie is ridiculously fun and may have just surpassed Psycho as my favorite Hitchcock.  (My top three are this, Rear Window and Psycho…I guess the order doesn’t REALLY matter.)

Flick Buddies: Torn Curtain (1966)

Steve here:

Torn Curtain (1966)

Torn Curtain is a Cold War thriller about the presumed defection of an American phyicist (Paul Newman) and his secretary/assistant/fiancee (Julie Andrews) to East Germany. Newman’s character is apparently bitter about having his missile-defense project killed by the Pentagon, so he’s taking his toys and going to the DDR. Or is he?!?!?!?

Torn Curtain

There’s a lot done right in Torn Curtain. I thought Newman’s grappling fight to the death with one of the agents assigned to him (Gromek) was ugly and prolonged (unlike most Hollywood fights) — and very effective. And the German Commies were played as credible foils – not omniscient, but not blundering fools, either. It was weird to see Germans be the enemy without them being Nazis. In the end, I didn’t love this movie mostly because Newman and Andrews have zero chemistry. ZERO. None. Zip. Nothing. Nada. I didn’t care about them or their relationship in anything more than the most abstract sense.

Thing I liked most: The death of Gromek. The incredibly slow “bus-chase” scene where Newman and Andrews attempt to bluff their way from Leipzig to Berlin with the aid of some sympathizers. The wide cast of supporting actors did a great job.

Things I didn’t like: Did I mention that Newman and Andrews had zero chemistry? Did he really save the day by causing chaos in a movie theater by yelling, “Fire!!”?? One of the most climactic scenes was two guys at a blackboard.

Things that are still with me: Newman was just too damned good looking to be a physicist. A biochemist, for sure, but never a physicist. Have you ever met one of those guys?

Grade: B-  Good overall supporting performances undone by leaden lead chemistry.

Flickbuddies: Marnie (1964)

Steve here:

Marnie (1964)

Marnie was my choice in Flickbuddies for August’s Alfred Hitchcock theme. I thought it would be a movie that many people hadn’t seen and I liked that it involved a man from Philadelphia (like me) and a woman from Baltimore (like Kelly and Jenny). In many ways, Marnie is sort of an odd movie. The title character (played by Tippi Hedren) is a con-artist-thief who is set to prey on successful businessman Mark Rutland (Sean Connery). She’s also sent into a panic by a) lightning, b) the color red, and c) being touched romantically by a man. So, naturally, Sean falls for her. I mean, who wouldn’t?

Maaaahhhhhrrrrrnie-h

Things I liked most: I actually liked the scenes where Marnie is a thief, more than the ones in which Mark is trying to “figure her out”. I’m also totally on Team Lil. Lil was Connery’s sexpot sister-in-law who pretty much threw herself at him and always (rightfully) distrusted Marnie.

Things I liked least: Well, Rutland pretty much rapes Marnie on their honeymoon cruise, so there’s that. But he saves her when she tries to kill herself later, so there’s that.

Things that are still with me: Occasionally I will catch myself walking around trying to say the name Marnie like Connery,  “Maaaahhhhrrrrnneee-h…  Maaaahhhhrrrrnneee-h“

Tippi

Grade: B-  Unlike some, I was not as offended my Marnie’s mom’s “Baltimore” accent and I liked all the performances, which I thought were pretty good given the somewhat stilted material.

Exiled in Style

The Flick Buddies theme for July is Hitchcock. Kelly chose Strangers on a Train.

I liked this movie. A lot. I watched it with my mom and she liked it, too. This is important to note because my mom will often fall asleep before a film finishes, but she stuck with this one to the end.

The story is likely familiar (even if you haven’t seen the film). Two men meet randomly on a train. One suggests they swap murders. The other thinks he must be joking. Only he’s not. Of course.

There were several moments in the film where Alfred Hitchcock‘s direction was readily apparent. I guess I’ve watched enough of his films now to recognize a few of his tricks. The man certainly knew how to work a scene.

The opening, focused on the two mans shoes, is great. All you needed to know about them…

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Rebecca

I’d read the book, and the movie follows the book pretty faithfully.  (I think—I read the book a couple years ago, but I didn’t have any moment during the movie where it was like, “Wait, THAT didn’t happen in the book.”)

The book and movie center around a young woman, an orphan, who is a paid companion (about the best work she can have, given her station in life).  She meets Maxim de Winter, a fairly attractive widower and they get married after a relationship that redefines “whirlwind courtship.”  Maxim’s very wealthy and so she goes from having nothing at all to living in a house that has servants and lets you say things like, “Yes, we are living in the east wing.”

Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca, was universally beloved and so the new wife has to figure out how to make her own way in the house while coming out of Rebecca’s shadow.

For me, the worst thing about the book and the movie is that we never learn the name of the second Mrs. de Winter.  (Which is sort of the point, I guess; she is a little bit generic.)

The movie is creepy, especially once we start to spend time with the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers.  She is usually called “Danny,” so you may think that she’s friendly and informal.  You would be wrong. 

Very fun movie although it isn’t a very Hitchcock movie.

Exiled in Style

It was only a matter of time before I missed one of my self-imposed Sunday deadlines. But I’m sneaky and backdating this post!

The Flick Buddies theme for July is Hitchcock. Bekki chose Turn Curtain.

I liked this movie a lot. In many ways, Torn Curtain is Alfred Hitchcock at his best. It was twisty and suspenseful and more than a little fun.

Paul Newman is a gorgeous man, and I enjoyed his performance here. Especially since he appeared shirtless quite a few times. Yum! But Julie Andrews was the true revelation for me. I know her as Maria from The Sound of Music or as Mary Poppins. Maria and Mary Poppins do not say, “Hell,” and they definitely don’t roll around in bed with a man who is not their husband – one has to wonder how much rolling around in bed former nun Maria would…

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North by Northwest

Heading into my first movie as part of Flick Buddies, I knew a few things about North By Northwest. Of course, there’s the iconic poster showing Carey Grant (who I always remember Ginger Grant gushing over on Gilligan’s Island) being chased by a crop duster. There’s Alfred Hitchcock and all that his name and reputation entails. Meanwhile, the OnDemand synopsis talked about how a case of mistaken identity sends Grant’s character on a cross-country chase.

And so, I expected North By Northwest to be a dark thriller, with a lot of chase scenes. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find the tone a lot lighter than I expected. In fact, far from being what I expected from a Hitchcock film, North By Northwest was a fun, engaging flick. But as much as Hitchcock is, rightfully, lauded as a first-rate director, I think it was Grant’s performance than made this film as enjoyable as it is.

As North by Northwest starts, we meet Roger Thornhill, a suave and charming New York ad man. Over drinks in a restaurant, he’s mistaken for a “George Kaplan” by the henchmen of a foreign agent named Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) who disappoints me by never pointing to himself and chanting “P-V-D”.

Despite the best efforts of Vandamm’s henchmen (led by Lawrence, played by Martin Landau), Thornhill manages to escape, and sets out to the United Nations to confront Lester Townsend, who he thinks masterminded the scheme. Things go from bad to worse when, not only is Townsend not the mastermind, but he’s killed and Thornhill is deemed the culprit.

And so, with becoming the subject of a massive manhunt and the real killers out to get him, Thornhill sets out to find Kaplan and clear his name. Along the way, he meets Eve Kendall (played by the very beautiful Eva Marie Saint) who helps hide him from the police and, as you might expect, along the way the two fall for each other.

Of course, nothing is ever as simple as simply travelling from Point A to Point B, and everything falling into place. Our beautiful Miss Kendall has a secret of her own, and Kaplan isn’t so easy to find, as a government agency, led by the Professor (Leo G. Carroll) ensures.

There’s a lot to like about North by Northwest. There’s a great element of mystery and thriller to it, for sure, but I like to describe it as a light-hearted adventure.

Grant, showing why he was one of the best and most charming actor of his time, plays Thornhill as a man who manages to keep his cool while trying to solve the crime and get the girl. (The romantic storyline between Thornhill and Kendall is very sweet to watch and you root for them to find happiness in each other’s arms by the time the credits roll.) His character isn’t necessarily an “everyman” thrust into an unusual situation, more like Mad Men meets Enemy of the State.

North By Northwest certainly didn’t meet my expectations, but it is all the better for that.

For more information on this film, visit the Internet Movie Database at  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053125/

Torn Curtain

Paul Newman is a scientist and defector to Germany (…or IS HE?!) and Julie Andrews is his fiancee who’s along for the ride. 

I hadn’t seen this before and was very happily surprised at how fun it is.  Although whenever I think of Julie Andrews, I think of Maria, of course, and she is sort of the anti-Maria here.

Paul Newman is young and impossibly gorgeous, and this is I think only the second movie of his I’ve seen (the other being Cool Hand Luke). 

I really enjoyed this film and I think it’s my favorite of the ones we’ve seen for Flick Buddies so far.  (Although since I have Rebecca and North by Northwest still to go, that is likely to change.)

Marnie

This was a weird, weird movie.

It’s got Tippi Hedren as the Hitchcock Blonde (IMO, the best Hitchcock Blonde is Grace Kelly) and Sean Connery as the…well, there’s no term for that, is there? Dashing Man Who Cannot Be Trusted?

Anyway. So Tippi Hedren is the title character. Marnie is a thief who hates (a) the color red (b) men and (c) thunderstorms. She eventually goes to work for Sean Connery (with the intent of ripping him off, too). He is totally onto her and eventually blackmails her into marrying him. And then it gets even weirder.

This is not one of Hitchcock’s best films and frankly is made all the worse by Tippi’s mom’s Baltimore accent. (SERIOUSLY?! We don’t sound anything like that, hon!)