Just wanted to acknowledge that the final entry in the ‘One’ of My All-Time Favorite Movies Blogathon managed to come through, despite her ill health. Phyllis Loves Classic Movies posted her entry for Mickey’s Gala Premiere late last night. Please click here to read it! And thanks again to her and all of the other entrants for all of their wonderful blog entries for making the blogathon such a success!
Sorry that our blogathon couldn’t wait for Saturday morning, but we’re so excited to talk about our favorite animated films! Join us over the next three days as a golden collection of bloggers share their favorite cartoon memories with everyone!
If you are one of the participating bloggers:
- Please post the names and URLs of your blog and the cartoon you are blogging about, in the “Comments” section below, so that we can link to them.
- The only deadline is that we request you post your blog entry by the end of the day on Sunday, Nov. 9 — and the sooner, the better. (Inquiring cartoon buffs want to know!)
If you are one of our visitors, click on the appropriate blog and/or cartoon title below to link to the blogger’s entry about said cartoon. Keep us bookmarked, as we will continue to update the list below throughout the weekend as bloggers submit their entries. This blog will also be doing end-of-the-day wrap-ups of blog entries submitted on each day.
So sit back this weekend, and enjoy a guilt-free line-up of classic cartoons on us!
Here are the blogathon entries:
The following is my contribution to the They Remade What?! Blogathon, being hosted Oct. 9-11, 2015 by the blog Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Click on the above banner, and read blogs about some unlikely remakes of movies that most likely should have been left as is!
When director Gus Van Zant filmed his ill-fated remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1998, film critic Roger Ebert wrote about it: “Attending this new version, I felt oddly as if I were watching a provincial stock company doing the best it could without the Broadway cast.” It’s obvious that Ebert never saw the 1973 TV version of Billy Wilder’s film-noir classic Double Indemnity (1944), or Ebert would have written those same words 25 years earlier.
Someone is bound to ask why this version was ever made in the first place. I wish I had a concrete answer. My best guess is that Universal Studios — having inherited the movies bought by MCA, which had bought out Paramount’s pre-1948 film library for TV rights — was big on “Movies of the Week” at the time, had the rights to Double Indemnity, and figured they might as well have a go at it. The resulting version is positive proof that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.
I’m going to approach this review a bit differently, as I am not going to provide a major plot synopsis. My feeling is that most people who are reading this review are already well familiar with the original movie — and if you’re not, then believe me, you’re much better off viewing the classic Billy Wilder version first (assuming you ever want to view this TV version at all).
So let’s get down to cases. I’m sure you’d suffer major shock if I was to tell you that this TV-movie is even nearly as good as the original. I can ease your unsteady hearts right now by declaring that I’m not about to say that. But how terrible is this version?
This movie begins with two major strikes against itself. One is that the story is filmed in garish color. Besides removing the foreboding shadows of film-noir, its artless TV photography makes nearly everybody look orange, as though they’d all spent far too much time in the L.A. sun.
Strike Two is that the movie is inexplicably modernized (to 1973). The original movie was shot in a just-post-Depression, World War II era, which was meant to reflect its characters’ desperation. Conversely (as I’ll address shortly), this movie seems to have nothing but ‘70s materialism on its mind.
If the lead actors had been decent, I think this movie might have had a shot, but the leads are uniformly negligible. As Walter Neff, Richard Crenna doesn’t begin to suggest the too-smart-for-his-own-good insurance salesman that Fred MacMurray played so devilishly. Even worse is Samantha Eggar as Phyllis Dietrichson. It’s hard to believe she was an established actress at this point, since she comes off as a pouty glamour model making her film debut.
There are no sparks at all between Crenna and Eggar. This is one of those movies where, when the starring duo share their first kiss, you really have to take it on faith that the characters feel any heat, because the actors surely haven’t conveyed it.
Strangely enough, the supporting cast isn’t bad, maybe because for most of them, their roles are too brief to do any damage. As the passenger who almost recognizes Neff from the train, veteran character actor John Fiedler (“The Bob Newhart Show”) is dryly funny. And Robert Webber is quite plausible as the drippy boss of the insurance company.
Best of all is Lee J. Cobb as Neff’s superior Barton Keyes, the role first inhabited by Edward G. Robinson. Cobb is about the only performer who doesn’t make you compare him to the original actor, because Cobb really makes the role his own. Rather than Robinson’s spiffily dressed Keyes, Cobb spends the entire movie wearing an unbuttoned dress shirt with an undone tie wrapped around his collar, as though Keyes intended to dress that way for work every day. And Cobb really makes the dialogue his own. You forget that he’s aping a classic movie character and find yourself laughing at lines of dialogue you’ve heard a dozen times before. It makes you wish they’d just done a TV-movie about Keyes instead (although they’d have probably screwed that up as well).
As for the rest of this, the movie-adapted teleplay is written by — of all people — Steven Bochco, long before he made a name for himself as creator of TV series such as “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue.” And that teleplay takes some major liberties that poke huge holes in the story. For one thing, Neff lives in a seaside apartment that seems awfully lavish for the salary of a small-fry insurance salesman. The movie even emphasizes that Neff drives a Mercedes! If that’s the case, why does he need Phyllis’ insurance money?
The other major problem is the movie’s time constraint. The original film ran 110 minutes, but this version had to fit into an hour-and-a-half time slot that allowed for commercials. That whittles its final time down to 74 minutes, thus necessitating the removal of huge chunks of dialogue, settings, and exposition — everything, in short, that gave the 1944 movie its atmosphere.
We know what we’re in for when the “duo-logue” about “There’s a speed limit in this state” ends as soon as Phyllis tells Neff he was going “about 90.” No chance for funny, subtextual bandying back and forth.
And Phyllis, whose characterization isn’t helped by Samantha Eggar’s one-note performance, is curtailed even further when the movie removes most of her scenes of connivery. By the time Phyllis has her big scene of mock-hysteria in the insurance office — a scene that practically has you cheering for Barbara Stanwyck after she performs it — you wonder why Eggar/Phyllis even bothered.
This movie is so intent on emphasizing all the wrong details — see the cigarette close-up, above — that its tone comes close to that of a Carol Burnett parody. Coincidentally, just three weeks to the day after this TV-movie aired on ABC, CBS’ “Carol Burnett Show” — maybe as a reaction to this version — performed its own parody of Double Indemnity, titled “Double Calamity” and with Steve Lawrence and Burnett in the lead roles. (Click here to watch the Burnett version on YouTube.) Strangely enough, the Burnett parody goes to more trouble to get the details right than this “legitimate” version.
What would Billy Wilder have thought of this TV desecration of one of his favorite works? You needn’t ask. According to the Internet Movie Database, both Wilder and Barbara Stanwyck watched this version upon its original broadcast. When it was over, Wilder phoned Stanwyck to tell her, “Missy, they just didn’t get it right,” and promptly hung up.
The stars must be aligned in my favor today! One month to the day after being nominated for my first Liebster Award, my new blogger friend Summer Reeves from Serendipitous Anachronisms has nominated me for my second such award! I’m so proud to have two of them that I decided to adorn my mascot, Jane Russell, with both of my medals. Don’t they look swell on her?
Now, before I bore you again with more of my pretentious commentary, I must of course share the Liebster rules with you. Every Liebster nominee is expected to:
- Answer his or her nominator’s 11 questions.
- Nominate 11 additional bloggers.
- Ask 11 questions of your nominees.
- Share 11 additional facts about yourself.
Man, are you in for a painful read! Nevertheless, I shall begin by answering the lovely Summer’s questions. (A couple of these happen to overlap some questions from my previous Liebster questionnaire, so please don’t shoot the messenger.)
1. What movie have you seen more times than necessary?
This is a question that I covered previously. It’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I saw 50-plus times throughout my high school and college years. (Don’t knock it, it was the next-best thing I had to a social life.) Second place goes to practically any Laurel & Hardy movie, all of which I’ve been watching since I was 10 years old.
2. What movie scared you?
This might be the silliest confession of my life. But I saw the much-maligned Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1984 on video, about a year after it had been released theatrically. I watched it on a Friday night, and as it happened, the segment “It’s a Good Life,” about a sociopathic boy who uses magical powers to control his family members’ lives, happened to come on just after midnight. I was freaked out for the rest of the night.
3. What do you wish they would adapt or re-adapt to cinema?
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, an outstanding novel about a black family’s struggles in 1930’s Mississippi. Someone produced a TV-movie version of the story in 1978, and despite a few good moments and the casting of Morgan Freeman (shown at far right) in an early supporting role, the movie didn’t begin to do justice to the sprawling novel.
4. Are there any forthcoming films or TV shows you are excited about?
Last year, I saw a very funny trailer for Cuban Fury, a comedy starring Nick Frost (veteran of Simon Pegg comedies such as Shaun of the Dead) as a plus-sized man who decides to learn salsa dancing to win the heart of a curvaceous salsa dancer he sees. The trailer stated, “Coming this April,” and the Internet Movie Database claims the film was released in America last year, but IMDb shows no ratings or reviews for it, so I think they’re wrong. My guess is that the releasing company decided the movie wasn’t dumb enough to be released in America.
5. What are your favorite Shakespeare-ish films (Derivative work)?
This isn’t a movie, but I just can’t help citing “Atomic Shakespeare,” the Taming of the Shrew parody from the infamous 1980’s TV series “Moonlighting.” Whatever else you could say about that show, it brooked no middle ground; either it was buzzing with off-the-chart quality, or it was laying a huge egg before your eyes. The “Atomic” episode is as farcical-brilliant as anything Mel Brooks ever did, concluding by going the Bard one better with a pro-feminist speech beautifully delivered by Bruce Willis. At present, the episode is posted on YouTube; savor it while you can.
6. What’s your favorite movie about show business?
All That Jazz, Bob Fosse’s post-modern musical — full of all the truth about show-business self-loathing, joy, and backstage chicanery that would have made Mickey and Judy blush to admit it. It’s showtime, folks!
7. What’s your favorite documentary?
Les Blank’s Gap-Toothed Women, a celebration of physical imperfections and one of the most life-affirming movies I’ve ever seen. It would make a perfect curtain-raiser for Steve Martin’s romantic comedy Roxanne (which was coincidentally released the same year).
8. What’s your favorite movie score?
I don’t have much quarrel with anything Bernard Herrmann did, but for a score I listen to from start to finish, I prefer Taxi Driver — equal parts jazzy sax and sinister Gotham.
9. Why did you start blogging?
Since 2000, I’ve been creating websites devoted to my favorite movie comedians, but relatively few people have visited them. Then, a couple of years ago, I noticed that my then-supervisor at work had a blog that she used to promote retail items she liked. She told me she had 1,000 subscribers and that I should do something like that to promote my movie writing. Last year, I finally decided to do it.
10. What do you think is the nicest thing you’ve discovered about blogging?
I really like the cameraderie and the sense of community. I’ve met so many like-minded bloggers whose work is fun to read and who appreciate the kind of opinions that used to get me sneered at when I’d try to share them back in high school.
11. What are your other interests?
Reading and Facebook. I’m in my mid-fifties and fairly boring.
Now, I get to pick on 11 other bloggers. Some of them are people whom I already chose when I answered my first Liebster questionnaire, so don’t get peeved at me for pestering you again!
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You (Who couldn’t love that title??)
Since I received only a couple of responses from my previous Liebster questionnaire, I’m going to “recycle” it for this one. I’d appreciate it if the above-named nominees would answer the following questions and link your answers blog back to this (my) blog.
1. “All-time favorite movie” is too tough. What is your favorite genre, and what is your all-time favorite movie in that genre?
2. “Theatrical” is too easy. What’s your all-time favorite TV-movie?
3. The Great Movie Genie is allowing you to permanently change the ending of one movie. Which one do you choose, and why?
4. You’re the latest heinie-kissing Hollywood exec, slavishly following trends. Which movie, good or bad, would you like to sequelize or remake?
5. Name the movie whose screening you’d like to co-host on TCM with Ben Mankiewicz.
6. Describe your most memorable movie occasion — not necessarily your favorite film, but a movie you enjoyed with friends, one that evoked a particular memory, etc.
7. What is your favorite line of movie dialogue?
8. Why are movies special to you?
9. What do you enjoy most about blogging?
10. What is your favorite book about movies?
11. You have your favorite movie actor or actress to yourself for 24 hours to do with what you will. Name, please.
Finally, I must share 11 more facts about little ole me. Some of these are pretty “reaching,” as I used up most of the interesting facts about me on my first Liebster list.
1. When I was 9 years old, a rhinoceros peed on me at the St. Louis Zoo. I didn’t do anything to bring it on. He was caged, and I was a good distance away from him. It’s just that, when my brother-in-law grabbed my sister and their baby and said, “Run for it!”, he understood more about the meaning of a rhino turning his heinie to you than I did.
2. I’m left-handed. That’s nothing spectacular, I know. But at a young age, I was delighted to find out that some of my favorite entertainers, such as Harpo Marx and Paul McCartney, were/are also left-handed.
3. My wife’s name is Kathy. Her younger siblings, in order of birth, were known as Susie and Bobby (now Susan and Bob). When I saw the movie Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, imagine my surprise when Santa Claus started reading his list of “good” children, and he intoned, “Kathy, Susie, Bobby…”
4. My father’s name was — really was — Bill Bailey. And for years, he dined out on his story about meeting Pearl Bailey when he was a custodian at the Chicago Amphitheatre. As he told it, he was cleaning up after her performance one night, and Pearl started making small talk with him. As soon as she found out his name, she sat him down and sang “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?” just for him.
5. My wife is a local newspaper editor. For 11 years, I wrote weekly movie reviews for her paper. She blithely informed me one day that copies of all U.S. newspapers, including hers, are forwarded to the Library of Congress for cataloging. So apparently, my silly little reviews are sitting somewhere in the Library of Congress.
6. My father married twice in his life. My oldest sibling is my half-sister, who is 78 years old. By contrast, I’m my family’s youngest member, and I’m 54.
7. I’m not a huge Three Stooges fan, but one day, my then-9-year-old son was with me when I happened to watch Gents without Cents, the Stooges short where they perform the classic burlesque sketch “Slowly I Turned/Niagara Falls.” My son fell over with laughter. He re-watched the short with me a couple of times, and he became so obsessed with it that we finally ended up creating our own “miniature” version of it (minus the Curly-type violence so that I wouldn’t hurt him) and performing it for anyone who would sit still for us for two minutes.
8. I did not have cable TV in my man-cave until a couple of weeks ago. We have cable in our home, but there was a TV in everyone’s room except mine. (Not as punishment — I didn’t especially want one.) My mother-in-law recently died, and my son set up her old set in my room. Now I check the TCM schedule as religiously as any of my fellow bloggers. This #TCMParty thing is a hoot.
9. I got a pith helmet the other day. Again, not a major accomplishment, but still…I’ve always wanted one, I guess because I thought they looked cool and because they make me think of Groucho Marx in Animal Crackers. There’s a guy I’ve befriended on Facebook who also likes Groucho; this guy lives in the U.K. He had a pith helmet he was tired of, so for no particular reason, he sent it to me, free of charge. Pretty cool for something I never expected!
10. One summer, 15 years ago, I shaved my head bald. I was a middle-school teacher at the time, and I’d had an especially bad school year. I think that was my way of symbolically shedding the past year. My wife and daughter were horrified by my appearance. It was an interesting experiment, though; I think everyone should do that once in a lifetime.
11. My biggest accomplishment in my life is that I overcame the NO. I was raised by an embittered, widowed father whose philosophy was to settle for whatever crumbs life throws you, and to not ever ask for or expect anything special. Despite that, I grew up to: move across the country to L.A., interview my hero Chuck Jones (and get him to do a personalized drawing of Bugs Bunny for me), and write, direct, and star in plays that got produced locally. Don’t live the way a lot of my relatives lived, and die wondering why you didn’t do some of the things you wanted.
Thanks for your participation and your continued enthusiastic blogging! Jane is also awaiting your replies with much enthusiasm!
Our journey is nearly done, so let’s take a moment to review our trip through the Sea of Blogs with
Yesterday, we explored the yin and yang of Beatles cinema. Phyllis Loves Classic Movies critiqued the escapist comedy of Help!,
while Back to Golden Days examined the movie that documented The Beatles’ break-up, Let It Be.
But don’t leave yet! We still have one more day to go (Ringo Starr’s 75th birthday, no less)! And if you’ve missed any of our other great blogathon entries, follow these links to read them: