Charlie Chaplin – City Lights

Another masterpiece by Chaplin. This 1931 movie followed “The Circus” and is truly a classic. It is like watching poetry in action on the screen. The shooting of this movie was full of stops and troubles for Charlie but the finished product flows perfectly. Chaplin’s pantomime works so well in this silent movie that you never miss dialog.

While other movies at the time were going toward “talkies” Chaplin stuck stubbornly to silent and the film is all the better for it. Sound films at the time were in their infancy and they were more times than not very clumsy. The actors would talk too loud and be glued to a single spot because of bulky cameras and microphones they had to use.

The Gold Rush has been mentioned as Chaplin’s best movie but this one is just as good or better. The last scene is one of the best scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie…silent or otherwise.

Chaplin had trouble with Virginia Cherrill the leading lady. She wasn’t an actress, she was a Chicago Socialite. Chaplin liked working with someone with little or no acting experience. He spent weeks showing her how to hold a flower properly. Chaplin was a perfectionist and would think nothing of shooting a scene over 300 times.

He spent almost 3 years filming this movie and almost scrapped it all at the end and replace Virginia and refilm but decided against it when he looked at the cost. After all of the trouble he went through including a divorce at the beginning of filming…he turned out another masterpiece.

If you haven’t tried a silent movie…give this one a try. Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton made some of the best comedies ever…not just in the silent period.

Below the trailer is an outtake from City Lights that he didn’t use…it’s brilliant how he used a simple piece of wood on a city grate to make a great comedy scene that he deemed unworthy. I used this clip in an earlier post on the Unknown Chaplin…if you get a chance… watch it…it’s only around 7 minutes long.

Short plot description of City Lights from IMDB

A simple story of The Little Tramp who meets a lovely blind girl selling flowers on the sidewalk who mistakes him for a wealthy duke. When he learns that an operation may restore her sight, he sets off to earn the money she needs to have the surgery. In a series of comedy adventures that only Chaplin could pull off, he eventually succeeds, even though his efforts land him in jail. While he is there, the girl has the operation and afterward yearns to meet her benefactor. The tear-inducing closing scene, in which she discovers that he is not a wealthy duke but only The Little Tramp, is one of the highest moments in movies.

Where is… the original King Kong model now?

I remember watching this great 1933 movie when I was 10 and loving every minute of it. I loved monster movies and this was a classic one. I was more of a Godzilla guy but King Kong was great.

I always wondered where the model was…well there were four of them. Two survive today. Eugene Hilchey saved one model from the studio, Hilchey entrusted the model to Bison Archives/Productions who brought it to Christie’s where is sold for $200,000 in 2009. The other one is the story below.

Special effects man Willis O’Brien and sculptor Marcel Delgado created two 18-inch-high full-body miniatures of the giant ape. They began by making durable metal armatures, which were covered with sponge rubber for the ape’s muscle structure, and rabbit fur for his hair. They also made one jointed 24-inch model of the same materials for the New York scenes and a small model of lead and fur for the climactic plummeting-down-the-Empire-State-Building shot.

Two of the Kong figures were later cannibalized for parts in other creations. The other armature survived because it was used again in “Son of Kong” (1933), which went into production soon after the first film was released.

The model stayed at RKO until 1962. Animator Phil Kellison rescued the Kong model from the studio. After discovering that the remaining rubber skin was beginning to eat away at the figure’s metal hardware, he had Kong steam-cleaned to its present state – the original bare metal skeleton. Film historian and collector Bob Burns, a friend of Kellison, said that when the person was told what he was cleaning, he began exclaiming “I’m killing King Kong! I’m killing King Kong!”

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In 1975, Bob found himself at the place where the artifacts from movies were stored. To Bob’s surprise, he spotted the King Kong armature in a corner, and immediately contacted Phil. After Kellison picked up the prop, Bob was surprised yet again when Phil gave him the armature for his collection – where it resides to this day.

The Smithsonian Institute has tried to borrow or purchase the skeleton from Bob. Fearful of it being lost again, he has refused.

In October of 2005, when director Peter Jackson was finishing his remake of “King Kong,” he flew Bob Burns, his wife Kathy, and the King Kong skeleton to the location in New Zealand. They spent a week as guests of the production, showing off the historic armature to the crew. The animators even filmed the model for reference (animating it probably for the first time since its use in the “Kong” sequel in 1933). And Bob and Kathy were given cameos in the film, screaming at Kong during the film’s climax.

Another model from the film

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It’s A Wonderful Life

I didn’t watch this great movie until the late 80s. All it took was one time and I haven’t missed a year of watching it. I don’t tear up very easy..but it never fails at the end of the movie when Zuzu says… Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings…it gets me every time. This movie was released in 1946.

Poor George Bailey. All he wanted to do was travel and get out of Bedford Falls to see the world. Every single time he gets close…so close that it hurts…something happens and George ends up doing the right thing.

Bedford Falls needs George Bailey…every town needs a George Bailey but many end up with only a Mr. Potter. There is one thing about this movie which was unusual. Mr. Potter was never punished for what he did…which drew criticism at the time but it was more in line with reality to me.

This is a Christmas movie but really only the last part of the movie is about Christmas. It is a movie for any time not just for December. We were thinking of names for our unborn child and couldn’t think of one…I was watching this movie in November of 1999 and it hit me…Bailey…so the movie means more than some movies do.

Here is a small summary from IMDB…don’t read it…watch the movie instead. If you haven’t seen it…give it a shot…whether it is Christmas or July.

George Bailey has spent his entire life giving of himself to the people of Bedford Falls. He has always longed to travel but never had the opportunity in order to prevent rich skinflint, Mr. Potter, from taking over the entire town. All that prevents him from doing so is George’s modest building and loan company, which was founded by his generous father. But on Christmas Eve, George’s Uncle Billy loses the business’s $8,000 while intending to deposit it in the bank. Potter finds the misplaced money and hides it from Billy. When the bank examiner discovers the shortage later that night, George realizes that he will be held responsible and sent to jail and the company will collapse, finally allowing Potter to take over the town. Thinking of his wife, their young children, and others he loves will be better off with him dead, he contemplates suicide. But the prayers of his loved ones result in a gentle angel named Clarence coming to earth to help George, with the promise of earning his wings. He shows George what things would have been like if he had never been born.

A Christmas Carol 1951

There have been many versions of this great story. This is the version that I like the most. The great Alastair Sim plays Ebenezer Scrooge and he is the reason I like this so much. When I think of the Scrooge… I think of him.

The movie is in black and white which turns some people off but it makes it that much better to me. The effects they use are obviously not CGI but they get the point across well and serve the story. I like the scene where the ghost of Jacob Marley is warning Ebenezer of being greedy…the two were not on the set at the same time…it looked really good for being 1951…or anytime for that matter.

So get some eggnog or hot butter rum and sit back and watch this great movie.

From IMDB…spoilers

Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim) is a greedy businessman who thinks only of making money. For him, Christmas is, in his own words, a humbug. It has been seven years since his friend and partner, Jacob Marley (Sir Michael Hordern), died and on Christmas Eve. Marley’s ghost tells him he is to be visited during the night by three spirits. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Michael Dolan) revisits some of the main events in Scrooge’s life to date, including his unhappy childhood, his happy apprenticeship to Mr. Fezziwig (Roddy Hughes), who cared for his employees, and the end of his engagement to a pretty young woman due to a growing love of money. The Ghost of Christmas Present (Francis De Wolff) shows him how joyously is nephew Fred (Brian Worth) and his clerk, Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns), celebrate Christmas with those they love. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Czeslaw Konarski) shows him what he will leave behind after he is gone. Scrooge awakens on Christmas morning, a new man intent on doing good and celebrating the season with all of those around him.

Cast

  • Alastair Sim (Ebenezer Scrooge)
  • Kathleen Harrison (Mrs. Dilber)
  • Mervyn Johns (Bob Cratchit)
  • Hermione Baddeley (Mrs. Cratchit)
  • Michael Hordern (Jacob Marley)
  • Glyn Dearman (Tiny Tim)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

This is my go-to Thanksgiving movie. Steve Martin and John Candy are a great team in this comedy. Personally, I think this is John Candy’s greatest movie. I watch it every year and always looked forward to it.

The movie is full of great scenes and some good lines from Candy and Martin.

John Hughes is the Director and writer. He shot over 3 hours and had to edit it down. Below is a short plot. For those who haven’t seen it…you are missing a funny movie. It was rated R because of a one minute scene with the F-Bomb used 18 times by mostly Martin. The movie was released in 1987.

Short Plot

In New York, a marketing executive Neal Page wants to travel home to Chicago for Thanksgiving. He has difficulties getting a taxi and his flight is canceled. He meets in the airport the clumsy and talkative shower curtain ring salesman Del Griffith who has taken his cab and they travel side-by-side to Chicago. However the bad weather shuts down O’Hare Airport and they land at Wichita, Kansas. They both want to go to Chicago and they decide to travel together.  Neal is cursed/blessed with the presence of Del Griffith, shower curtain ring salesman and all-around blabbermouth who is never short of advice, conversation, bad jokes, or company.

Along their journey, Neal changes his viewpoint about Del Griffith and his own behavior.

 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093748/

 

 

Night Shift 1982

This is one of the first movies I ever rented. It was one of the few left on a shelf at the video store…remember those? I had never heard of it but it was a good comedy.

This little movie from the early 80s gets forgotten but it a very good comedy. Ron Howard directed this movie about straight-laced morgue attendant Chuck Lumley (Henry Winkler) who gets a wonderfully crazy co-worker Bill Blazejowski (Michael Keaton in his breakout role) who talks Chuck into running a brothel out of the morgue…Chuck and Bill become unlikely pimps (or Love Brokers) after a group of call girl’s pimp gets killed by being dropped out of a window. Chuck falls for one of the prostitutes who is his neighbor named Belinda (Shelley Long).

Henry Winkler plays a character far removed from his Happy Day’s character…the cool Fonz. Henry is very good in this movie and is perfect as the straight man for Michael Keaton.

Micheal Keaton is great in this movie. His timing is perfect and foreshadows some of his comedies such as Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice.

Shelley Long had reservations about playing a call girl but decided to do it…Long, Winkler, and Keaton worked really well together. This was released a few months before she starred in Cheers.

Something to watch for…Kevin Costner makes one of his first big-screen appearance in a nonspeaking role in this movie.

Some quotes:

Chuck Lumley: As we sit here and idly chat, there are woman, female human beings, rolling around in strange beds with strange men, and we are making money from that.

Bill Blazejowski: Is this a great country, or what?

If you get a chance to watch this movie…give it a chance. It even has a 80s music montage.

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Back To School

I watched this tonight…oh how I miss Rodney Dangerfield. This movie was released in 1986 and while it’s not in the class of Caddyshack or Animal House…it’s a fun movie to pass the time.

Rodney plays a very rich owner (Thorton Melon) of Tall and Fat shops and has a son (Jason Melon) going to college played by Keith Gordon. Thorton catches his wife cheating…many times and they get a divorce. Jason lies to his dad about being on the swim team and in reality, is about to quit college. Thorton decides to be the oldest freshman on campus and joins his son in college.

Three interesting appearances in this movie…A young Robert Downey Jr…. he plays the eccentric best friend of Jason, Sam Kinison who plays a very loud Professor…and Kurt Vonnegut who plays himself.

This movie is a fun little comedy and Dangerfield gets off some really good one-liners:

With the shape my body is in, I could donate it to science fiction.

 

Bring a pitcher of beer every seven minutes until someone passes out, then bring one every ten minutes.

No kids? Well, get yourself some. Take it all. [hands officer more cash] And just remember, the best thing about kids… is making them!

I don’t know. I can’t figure women out. Today, they’re… independent. They only think about themselves. Why, during sex, Vanessa – she used to scream out her own name!

 

Probably the most famous scene of the movie.