POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES (Frank Capra, 1961) and LADY FOR A DAY (Frank Capra, 1933)

Pocketful of Miracles, from a Damon Runyan story, did not fare well with reviewers; their savaging of it convinced Frank Capra, its director, to retire from filmmaking. It is overlong, opulent and inflated, in the reigning Hollywood style of its day. Everyone agrees that its Great Depression fairy tale about Dave the Dude and Apple […]

THE LETTER (Jean de Limur, 1929)

A curio, the Hollywood film version of W. Somerset Maugham’s story and play The Letter previous to the famous 1940 version that William Wyler brilliantly directed draws attention on two grounds: pre-code, it retains Maugham’s ironical resolution of the plot; it stars Jeanne Eagels, a legendary American stage actress who made nine films beginning in […]

STORM CENTER (Daniel Taradash, 1956)

Well, belatedly I’ve seen it: the first Hollywood film to address openly and directly McCarthyism and the postwar reactionary atmosphere engendering hysteria and fear in the U.S.; (as far as I know) the first Hollywood film to use the term “civil liberties”; the first Hollywood film to ask the pertinent question, “What would Thomas Jefferson […]

WHERE LOVE HAS GONE (Edward Dmytryk, 1964)

In the late fifties, Hollywood glamourpuss Lana Turner, once the “sweater girl” and “the girl next door,” became embroiled in a scandal involving the stabbing death of boyfriend Johnny Stompanato, an enforcer for gangster Mickey Cohen, presumably by Turner’s 15-year-old daughter. An inquest determined the motive as self-defense, but rumors arose that the girl, who […]

ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO (Anatole Litvak, 1940)

Bette Davis would have been Oscar-nominated for her magnificent, deeply moving performance as young French governess Henriette Deluzy-Desportes had William Wyler’s The Letter, in which Davis acts even more brilliantly, not come out the same year and closer to year’s end. Based on an actual scandal involving rumored adultery, a woman’s violent death and her […]

HUSH…HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE (Robert Aldrich, 1964)

The most amazing thing about Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte is not the screwy murder-mystery/conniving-relative plot, which includes ridiculous accents of Greek tragedy among its more conventional Southern Gothic elements, but Bette Davis, who as Charlotte pulls affecting moments of quiet dignity, like a rabbit out of a hat, from her otherwise outrageously demented characterization of a […]

WATCH ON THE RHINE (Herman Shumlin, 1943)

Mostly relying on Lillian Hellman’s expanded stage melodrama and some terrific performances, Watch on the Rhine is a stirring entertainment. Herman Shumlin’s first film—Shumlin had directed the Broadway production—has me crying so hard I can barely breathe whenever I watch it.      On the train to Washington, D.C., Sara Muller, who has been in Europe for […]