Much like the complete portrait, Portrait of Jennie is a lovely feature where lovely people act lovely. There isn’t anything negative about that, but with such an overly sweeping narrative about the power of love and watching the actors fawn and gush about how in love they are, a bolt of lightning and a massive tidal wave is the shock to the system this film needs. My review is probably going to sound cynical despite my overall enjoyment of the feature, but much like cheap art the whole thing feels flat.
Before today Philip Marlowe was Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep, and his ultra-masculine, hardboiled take on the character set a high precedent for me. You can’t fault the studios for feeling equally wary in 1944 about casting song and dance man Dick Powell, two years before Bogart took the reins, purely because it’s hard fathoming such an ebullient figure in a dark role. Murder, My Sweet, while not topping the pure star talent of The Big Sleep, is a cynical and sarcastic film noir where Powell proves he can do more than tap his shoes.
**This post is written in participation with the Build-Your-Own Blogathon over at Classic Film and TV Cafe. Visit the site to read the other amazing participants’ entries.
We diverge from Summer Under the Stars for a day to look a radio play turned film starring the double whammy of Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster. My mother’s listened to Agnes Moorehead’s original radio production – a role she tackled till the 1960s – and I’m interested in comparing these two. As its own film, Sorry, Wrong Number is a tidy noir with a few too many complications sustaining the runtime.
The Constant Nymph plays like the antecedent to 1946’s Humoresque telling the story of a tormented musician plagued by stress and insecurity hindering their creative juices, and the wrong woman who encourages and enables. Unfortunately, The Constant Nymph is constant in making one’s head hurt with a romance that, on paper, probably plays as realistic but upon execution is anything but.
Take away the personal troubles and the tragedy, Judy Garland was a phenomenal actress, hands down. Much of that was due to her powerhouse vocals which, when blended with a fantastic story (A Star is Born, for example), created pure cinematic joy. Garland only starred in three non-musical features, so my Summer Under the Stars choice was culled from those three: The Clock. (This was also recommended to me by a reader whose name escapes me. Sorry!) The Clock is a poignant romance with a sobering set of circumstances ideal for the post-WWII audiences of the era.
We aren’t done honoring Nick and Nora yet, but this is the final Thin Man movie for the week. Song of the Thin Man was a financial disappointment upon release, that, coupled with the production issues during The Thin Man Goes Home cemented the decision to continue the franchise. It’s understandable that, by 1947, the actors were tired and their story had run its course, all in evidence during this final entry.
Remember yesterday’s review when I said no matter the individual film’s flaws there’s a consistently high level of quality? We’re starting to see a chink in the armor today. The Thin Man Goes Home was a troubled production, especially in light of the death of the preeminent director W.S. Van Dyke. He passed in 1943 – two years before this film and two years after directing Shadow of the Thin Man. With that loss, a bit of the bloom was off the rose. Adding to the already depleted morale, Myrna Loy turned the role down to get married and work for the war effort (almost being replaced by Irene Dunn), while the dog playing Asta “outgrew” the role and was replaced. With all these problems, The Thin Man Goes Home tries to go home itself, telling a simple story about visiting the in-laws but also miss the heart of the original movie. This is where the thin man starts to wear thin.