A minor Frank Borzage melodrama, but not without interest for students of his style. Joan Crawford is a poor girl from the lower east side, unhappily married to a petty crook, who finds relief with Spencer Tracy, a self-made millionaire. Borzage’s gift for compact, succinct, visual metaphor is evident in his use of a flickering lightbulb in the stairway of Crawford’s tenement apartment; it becomes, in the space of a few frames, a heartbreaking symbol of dying hope. With Alan Curtis and Ralph Morgan (1937).
Fritz Lang‘s 1956 film was one of his personal favorites, a taste shared by few critics at the time, who never forgave him for leaving Germany and Die Nibelungen. A contest is announced at a New York newspaper: the reporter who catches the notorious “Lipstick Killer” will become the paper’s new editor. The story is a cynical twist on Lang’s famous M: the sex killer becomes the most sympathetic character in the film, as Lang reserves his venom for the desperately competitive reporters, including Dana Andrews, Thomas Mitchell, Ida Lupino, and George Sanders. 100 min.
Blake Edwards‘s parody of/tribute to slapstick comedy is obscenely overlong and insistently hammy, but so what? It’s highly inventive, self-conscious camp, made in 1965, well before the genre wore itself out in superciliousness. The story centers on a New York to Paris road race (think about that for a while) between the Great Leslie, a white-suited, teeth-flashing Tony Curtis, and the unscrupulous Professor Fate— Jack Lemmon in a Mack Sennett mustache. Very funny; creatively vulgar. 160 min.
The cloddish populism of Bob Clark (Porky’s, Rhinestone) mated with the manic blurriness of a New York street comedy—it seems deliberately designed to drive you screaming from the theater. Timothy Hutton is a wonderful, lovable kid (you know it because the other characters keep telling you) who mounts a graffiti campaign in an effort to redeem the reputation of his brother, a heroic fireman dismissed from his job by an unfeeling city bureaucracy. The material is nothing but a mass of programmed emotions and bumptious rabble rousing, but that isn’t enough for Clark—he’s got to make it even dumber by filling it with gross caricatures, incoherent action, and Irish music. And what this man does to actors, I wouldn’t do to cockroaches: among the performers turned into shrieking banshees are Robert Urich, Kim Cattrall, Robert Culp, Darren McGavin, and Peter Boyle.
Frank Capra‘s last film (1961) is a remake of his 1933 Lady for a Day, about a bunch of lovable gangsters who pitch in to help an elderly apple seller (Bette Davis) convince her long-lost daughter that she’s a queen of New York society. Capra’s powers as a cunning audience manipulator largely deserted him after World War II, when—with the glorious exception of It’s a Wonderful Life—he seemed to lose faith in the sentimental fables he told. This lumpy and depressing farewell film measures the extent of his fall from conviction; not a moment in it rings true. With Glenn Ford, Hope Lange, Peter Falk, and an amazing collection of aging character actors, including Edward Everett Horton, Thomas Mitchell, Sheldon Leonard, Jerome Cowan, Fritz Feld, and Barton MacLane. 136 min.