Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cinema Tuesdays {Walk, Don't Run}

This is one of the few cases where the remake is just as good as the original. The original movie was The More the Merrier from 1943 with Jean Arthur, Charles Coburn and Joel McCrea and about the housing shortage in Washington DC after the Americans entered the war. Walk, Don't Run is set during the housing shortage of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and was filmed on location.
The original was a vehicle for Jean Arthur but this time, it's a vehicle for Cary Grant. Well, it was his last film and seems to have been deliberately chosen by him as a way to retire. Plus, what till you hear the reference he makes to Charade. Cary Grant plays Cary Grant, the industrialist who arrives in Tokyo two days early and his hotel room wont be ready for two days. Naturally, he goes to the Embassy to see if they can do anything, but Julius D. Haversack, the Second Secretary to the Minister of Protocol wont even look up until he hears who Cary Grant's character is.
In the mean time, Cary Grant decides to look at the bulletin board and sees an add for a room. So he wanders along and meets Samantha Eggar, who's playing Christine and is shocked to find out that she forgot to specify the gender wanted on her add.

But since he is Cary Grant, he manages to get her to agree to renting out her sitting room. What's great about this movie is that you get to see Sixties Tokyo, which looks way more traditional and friendlier than the Tokyo in Lost in Translation. Can you even still find walk-ups in Tokyo with paper walls?
Christine insists on maintaining a regimented schedule for use of the bathroom in the mornings, which is difficult since Christine is a morning person who only needs 12 minutes to do her makeup and big Sixties hair and Cary Grant has trouble reading the schedule and making coffee. But he does show you how to work a percolator.
He also meets Jim Hutton, who's playing one of the American Olympians and who also arrived in Tokyo two days early and doesn't have a room yet. Cary Grant likes Jim Hutton, who reminds him of himself a few years ago, when he was taller.
Cary Grant then follows Jim Hutton around and invites him to one of the public baths. Sure they're strangers, but hey, it's Cary Grant.
So, Cary Grant rents Jim Hutton half of his room.

If Christine didn't like sharing her apartment with one man, then she really doesn't like sharing her apartment with two. What would people say? Actually, she's the only character who finds this situation objectionable. And since she's already spent Cary Grant's rent money, she can't do anything about it.
This leads to alterations in the morning schedule for the bathroom. The morning scenes are the funniest scenes in the movie. And you get to see three different ways people act in the morning since Christine is a morning person, Jim Hutton isn't awake
and Cary Grant is confused in the mornings and takes the long way round in order to get the milk from the hallway.
The two little kids in the stairwell are just about the cutest thing in a movie ever!
Cary Grant's timing in the movie is just brilliant. He condenses all of the morning scenes from Mr. Blandings just into this one scene with his trousers.
This might also be one of the first Asian-set Hollywood movies with absolutely no racism of any sort. There's even Aiko, Christine's best friend, who is a modern working girl and isn't shocked to find Christine living with two men, but she still dresses in traditional garb when she visits her parents on the weekends.
The three room mates eventually get along. But Cary Grant's plans to play matchmaker are thrown off when he learns that Jim Hutton doesn't want to get married and that Christine has been engaged to Julius D. Haversack for 22 months and yet she still calls him "Mr. Haversack" and is only marrying him because he's stable and they can have a house with a washing machine.
No matter. Cary Grant never fails. He gets himself and Christine invited to dinner with some of the Olympians.
And lets Christine teach Jim Hutton to use chopsticks.
Meanwhile, since he picked the restaurant, he gets ham and eggs and cutlery and a chair.
The all-girl band isn't that good, but their dresses have ruffles and a bow at the waist!
Cary Grant leaves the next morning because his hotel is ready and he wants to leave his two room mates alone together.
Just when things are going to Cary Grant's plan, the KGB guy (who was also a Russian in Bye Bye Birdie) shows up and Mr. Haversack calls to say that he's waiting downstairs.
No matter. Cary Grant knows where Christine and Mr. Haversack are going and takes Jim Hutton along and then he spends the day talking to Mr. Haversack about the book he's writing about life as a minor diplomat.
There's also a great juxtaposition scene between the traditional Japanese home and tea service and the younger children watching a Western on the television.
Turns out that Mr. Haversack's book is quite long and exciting and Mr. Haversack must come up to Cary Grant's hotel room to tell him the end and Jim Hutton can take Christine home.
Just when things are really going well, the cops turned up because the KGB reported that they were spies. Don't you hate it when that happens?
So Mr. Haversack and Cary Grant are called down to the cop shop.
And then everyone and his brother shows up to explain.
But don't worry, since Sulu is the police captain and he immediately sees that the KGB guy is nuts and he sorts everything out because hey, he's George Takei. But he does have to write down Jim Hutton's Tokyo address.
Jim Hutton then leaves before he can sign the waiver to keep everything off the public record.
So, Mr. Haversack gets him to sign. Unfortunately, the guy in the blue shirt is a reporter and he learns everything.
So, Cary Grant takes off his clothes and tries to convince Jim Hutton to marry Christine for the day, so that no one will suspect that they were just friends.
Besides, if everyone cooperates they can have the marriage annulled in the morning, so long as they don't cooperate before that. After all, they are only getting married to protect Mr. Haversack's career.

And if only Cary Grant can think of a way to get around Mr. Haversack insisting that he's going to sleep in the hall, then his work will be done.
Naturally he thinks of a way, because he's Cary Grant.

And that is how you retire gracefully from the screen.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vintage Novels {Mystery Mile}

Now then children, shall I tell you about Albert Campion? Are you sitting comfortably?
Albert Campion is not a detective, although he does usually solve the crime. Campion is an Universal Aunt and amateur adventurer. He will undertake your case, so long as it is deserving. He is recommended by Important Persons, the police and criminals. Albert Campion is one of his many aliases, but the one he uses most often. He is actually the second son of a viscount and is regarded as the black sheep of the family. He is tall, blond, wears glasses that make him look like an owl, speaks in nonsense most of the time and wears a blank and idiotic expression to hide his intelligence. He is assisted on his adventures by his housekeeper and ex-burglar Lugg.
Margery Allingham wrote 18 novels featuring Campion, but I prefer the more light-hearted pre-War ones. Allingham did not write just your ordinary whodunits and they aren't exactly detective stories either, since the crime is not meant to be solved by the reader. Instead, she wrote mystery-adventure novels, with touches of romance, folklore and truly sinister crimes.

Mystery Mile is about an American judge named Lobbett who is very close to knowing the identity of the mysterious and evil gangster Simister. Simister's men have already tried to kill him four times, but instead killed four of his servants. Marlowe and Isopel are taking their father away from New York, thinking that they could escape. The Lobbetts meet Campion on the boat going over to London and he saves the Judge's life. Once in England, Campion arranges to take the Lobbetts to stay with some friends of his. Giles and Biddy are twins and the owners of the small village of Mystery Mile (isn't that a great name?) which is also an island connected to the mainland by a narrow road. Sounds safe, doesn't it, you could easily spot a stranger approaching. But then the vicar kills himself, the officious shop keeper kidnaps Biddy, a harrowing rescue over the rooftops, a spot of arson and the Judge mysteriously disappears from a maze and his blood-stained clothes turn up later. And what does a red chess piece, a children's book and a valuable painting have to do with the solution? Everything leads up to a final deadly confrontation between Simister (who's identity is easy to figure out once the clue is revealed) and Campion. In a shaky hut. Over a pit of quick sand. At night. And there's some acid involved. It's dashed exciting, I can tell you.

Eight of the Campion novels were adapted into two 50 minute episodes each in 1989-1990. Brian Glover plays Lugg and Peter Davison (the Fifth Doctor and Tristan Farnon on All Creatures) played Albert Campion, who he looks like. They are simply wonderful adaptations filled with beautiful and sometimes eccentric 30's costumes. Campion is available on Regions 1, 2 and 4 and at your local library but not your local video rental store. The Region 1 DVDs are quite expensive (HMV wants $100 for each series) but definitely worth it. Mystery Mile was adapted as the last episode of series 2.

This is the intro to series 1 and that's Peter Davison singing.

Here is a clip from Mystery Mile.

Here is the only other clip I could find, but I forget which episode it's from.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cinema Tuesdays {Three Coins in the Fountain}

The plot is really rather simple. It is the story of three American girls living in Rome who wish to get married. The biggest disappointment is that Sinatra is singing the title song over a wonderful travelogue around Rome and he doesn't show up once in the film!
These are the three secretaries: Anita, Frances and Maria. What is interesting about them is how their costumes show who they are and who they will end up marrying.
Maria is the youngest and has just arrived in Rome wearing a wonderful travel suit with a matching polka dot blouse and belt and carrying matching luggage.
Her clothes are just a bit more expensive and tailored compared to her two room mates. Her wardrobe looks new and make her look older then she is and she probabily bought everything just before she went to Rome and they look like her first grown up clothes.
Here they are at a cocktail party. I love the criss-cross belt on Frances, but not the colour. Anita looks the most modern and least American and I'd rather have her dress. Maria looks like she's trying to be a society lady, but hasn't yet found herself.
Louis Jourdan plays an Italian prince with a French accent and a cool car. Maria sets her sights on him and starts stalking him. Well, he is a wealthy playboy prince -wouldn't you?
I love this dress of hers. Look at the buttons on the sleeve and her backwards belt and her turquoise choker.
Ooo, a striped double-breasted blouse with a Peter Pan collar!
Maria wears a lot of light colours and pastels in very fine fabrics, like this chiffon wrap.
And the light lime gown underneath.
This is Louis Jourdan's mother. She rocks! Black lace shawl showing that she's a widow, but that expensive necklace shows her position and her little knowing smile can make anyone feel guilty, especially Maria.
A very dull dress, somewhere in between school girl and maiden aunt, but perfect for meeting Mama.
Let's move onto Frances, who can't be older than 35 but she wears drab dresses that make her look about 10 years older then she actually is. Well, she is over 30 and unmarried! But the see-through cardigan shows that she is still trying to look her age.
Frances is the secretary to famous older American writer and she's been in love with him for 15 years. Writer has never noticed this because he isn't interested in women. Oh, right. This is a Code movie. Writer doesn't see that Frances is in love with him because Clifton Webb was miscast and William Powell should be playing the writer.
I love her twisted necklace with the coral to match her dress, the blue for her hat and pearls for shine. I also like Maria wearing a scarf with pearls, which makes her look both old and young.
This is the youngest that Frances looks in the movie and the cut and neckline really go with her figure.
And then she finally wears a real colour at the end. Do you know, I don't think she's wearing a bra!
Anita has the best wardrobe in the film. She looks like she belongs in Rome. She dresses for the weather and wears vibrant colours. Rossano Brazzi and Anita have been in love with each other for two years, but they can't do anything about it because the boss wont let the secretaries date the Roman employees. I don't know why.
Maria wears pencil skirts, but Anita wears nice, flowing skirts and sandals. I still want that dress.
For a picnic in the country, Anita wears a polka dot dress with a draped neckline, matching orange cardigan and belt and a medium-sized picture hat.
The green dress is by favourite. Just look at the button detail on the shoulders.
And the lighter green accents. It's also quite sexy and she covers it up with a voluminous blue duster coat and a sweet straw hat in order to hide her form when walking the streets without an escort. I found it quite bold for a mainstream Code movie to show Anita staying in Rossano Brazzi's room for a couple of days without a set of twin beds.
This travel suit with a pussy bow blouse is the first time that we see Anita dress like an American and it's because she's leaving Rome and going back to her old life, but the beaded bracelet shows that she would prefer to stay in Italy. Suitcases should be brought back, you can sit on them, but you can't sit on the soft wheelie bags that are made now.
Lets look at some of the minor characters. First, there's one of these at every large cocktail party -the society matron who thinks that she could be a great wit if only the popular author of the day would help her. But I really like her pleated cape.
This is the boss and his wife. The wife is the one who got her husband to implement the no office romance rule, but you knew that from the way she is dressed.
The wife is also a gossip and tries to hard to show her position as an American Abroad, but still connected with the Establishment. The dress is nice, but combined with the wrap and her age, she is just trying too hard.
The sets are gorgeous! Like the Writer's antique filled, but airy flat above and Louis Jourdan's family den.
Until I saw the boss's office, I didn't know that many shades of beige existed.
I really like the girls' apartment, it has a very Fifties colour scheme.
That cupboard is so beautiful. I really love the packing scenes! Steamer trunks with built in hangers and drawers and suitcases with straps to hold everything in!

Here is the original trailer. I forgot to mention, but this is the first movie shot in breathtaking Cinemascope.