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Cary Grant: The Complete Filmography - Watching All Of His Movies (1 Viewer)

Bob Cashill

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This lovely thread does make me recall Michael Caine's story about his having lunch with Grant at the Beverly Hilton. On their way down the elevator, two tourists excitedly buttonholed Caine, getting his autograph. Before the doors opened, one of the tourists turned to the unrecognized Grant and said, "Isn't this wonderful? We've been here two weeks and hadn't met a single movie star until now!" "Yes, it is," Grant deadpanned.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I watched Monkey Business last night. I was rather astonished that Marilyn Monroe got fourth billing, but then she was experiencing a meteoric rise at Fox in this period, and her part is more substantial than those in the previous couple of years. Loved boss Charles Coburn's line to secretary Monroe, "Get someone to type this for you."

Or Ginger Rogers' line to Marilyn when she thinks Monroe has stolen Grant: "I'll pull that blonde hair out by its black roots!"
 

Josh Steinberg

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Great story about Caine and Grant. :)

I gather Monkey Business is only a DVD release? No BD. I just ordered it. I have not seen that one either as I kept thinking of The Marx Brothers.

Yeah, for now it's DVD only. I'm hoping that now that Kino has access to Fox titles, and since there's already an HD master streaming on Netflix, that eventually they'll release a disc.
 

Josh Steinberg

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#19 - Once Upon A Time (1944)
Viewed on March 27, 2016
Viewing Format: iTunes HD 1080p Streaming Rental (Sony)

After watching The Talk Of The Town for the first time in years, I decided I wanted to watch another Cary Grant picture from the same time period, preferably one that was new to me, and maybe something a little bit lighter. Those criteria led me to select a streaming rental of Once Upon A Time, which someone managed to both match its blurb on the rental site and yet completely defy every expectation I had. There are no two ways about it: this is a weird little movie, and seems out of place as a Columbia picture of 1944. Everything about it plays more like one of Grant's films when he was under contract to Paramount in the early to mid-1930s, and not like the more prestigious films he made at Columbia.

This may be one of my more spoilery reviews, so be forewarned; it's a hard movie to talk about without describing what happens, and yet, what happens is so slight that knowing the story in advance doesn't really spoil anything. You'll either be amused or you won't, and if the story description doesn't do it for you, I don't think the movie will either. For a lot of these reviews, I've written things like "don't let my summary dissuade you from seeing it, it doesn't do the story justice" - but in this case, I feel like it's an accurate summary of a trifle of a film. In Once Upon A Time, Grant plays a conniving talent agent who must come up with $100,000 or lose the theater he has rented. As he's walking around, he encounters a young orphan boy (played by Ted Donaldson) who has something hidden in a shoebox he wants to show Grant. Of course, Grant doesn't want to look, but when he does, he sees that it's a caterpillar named Curly that dances to the sound of a particular song that young Donaldson plays on the harmonica. (Because the caterpillar lives in a shoebox with a peep hole for viewing the dancing, we never actually get to see this caterpillar; instead, we are treated to visuals of people passing the box around, looking inside, and then suddenly looking astonished. This astonishment was not shared by me as I watched the film.) Donaldson refuses to sell the caterpillar, so Grant offers to make him a partner, and improbably, their caterpillar becomes a nationwide success. Their show is placed in jeopardy when a group of scientists try to take Curly for research purposes; ultimately Grant and Donaldson are able to keep Curly out of their hands. But then Grant receives a telephone offer from Walt Disney himself (who's never actually seen or heard onscreen) for $100,000 for Pinky, it's too much to turn down, and Grant steals the caterpillar from his young friend. Overcome with guilt, Grant can't go through with it, and returns Curly. However, the caterpillar soon disappears, and Grant and Donaldson have a falling out. Members of the Curly fan club conspire to reunite Grant with Donaldson, and they patch up their falling out. As they do that, they discover that Curly hasn't actually gone missing - he's just transformed from a caterpillar into a butterfly!

If that sounds underwhelming, it played that way for me too. Grant plays a nasty character here. There's been a long screen history of no-good characters who were nonetheless lovable, but this isn't one of them. Grant is frequently rude, conniving and heartless - even going so far as to slap the character Donaldson plays. If there's one thing that will lose you sympathy among an audience, it's probably slapping a defenseless child. And if that didn't do it, that he spends a large portion of the film trying to figure out how to use the kid, and then steal from him, makes it an ugly thing to watch. Yes, Grant and Donaldson patch up their differences at the end, and yes, Grant apologizes and eventually does the right thing, but he does the wrong thing too early and too often into the movie for the ending to wipe out the bad taste that the rest of the film can leave. But really, Grant being nasty isn't the big problem here. The biggest problem is that this is supposed to be a comedy, and yet, it's not really very funny.

The HD stream from iTunes (from an HD master provided by Sony) looked about the same as the TCM broadcast of The Talk Of The Town. It seems that it's probably an HD master from the early 2000s that was probably used to make the (now out of print) DVD version of the film that was put out around that time. It's not perfect, and there are some scratches and blemishes that Sony would almost certainly fix if they were doing a new 4K restoration, but it's completely watchable and for the most part, very good. (If this master was used to make a Blu-ray, I'd be satisfied with the image quality - just know that you're not getting one of the more pristine, state of the art transfers that Sony now has a reputation for.)

Overall, I can't really recommend this movie, but it wasn't the worst thing I've ever seen either. At only 90 minutes, it goes by fairly quickly, and there are always worse ways to spend a night than with Cary Grant. But there are a lot of better and more interesting Grant movies that might be worth checking out first.
 

Josh Steinberg

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#20 - I Was A Male War Bride (1949)
Viewed on March 29, 2016 and June 7, 2016
Viewing Format: DVD (Fox)

Now this is more like it! Cary Grant reteams with director Howard Hawks (their fourth of five collaborations) for this fantastic film which deftly blends wartime absurdity with romance and screwball comedy. And as ridiculous as it will sound, it's based on a true story! Anytime Grant and Hawks are working together, it's gold. I had never seen this before, but was looking forward to it after getting the Cary Grant 7 Film Collection boxset. This is a great movie at any price, but that I got it for what works out to be about $2.25 is just ridiculous - I feel like I'm getting away with something. If this ever does come to Blu-ray, I'll have no regrets double-dipping. As it turns out, this is a pretty good moment to be building a Cary Grant collection.

In another later career World War II themed film (post WWII in this case), Cary Grant plays a French army officer who is assigned to work on a mission with an American (Ann Sheridan). The two have worked together before to disastrous results, and are not eager for the assignment. The first half of the movie details their efforts to track down a highly skilled lens maker in Germany who the French want to recruit. Things go wrong every step of the way, and Grant and Sheridan make a great pairing as they bicker and spar as they struggle to complete their mission. (Sheridan had appeared in bit roles in three of Grant's early Paramount contract films, but this is their lone pairing as co-stars.) But by the end of their mission, they have begun to fall in love, which creates an entirely new set of problems. Sheridan is being recalled to the United States, and the only way for Grant to be able to follow her is if they get married. And it turns out that while the military does allow for soldiers to bring home spouses they've met overseas, the system and culture isn't really prepared to handle a female officer bringing a male husband home. At every step of the way, they are forced to explain their situation again and again to disbelieving officers and guards and gatekeepers. Each time Grant is forced to say "I am an alien spouse of female military personnel en route to the United States under Public Law 271 of the Congress," it just cracked me up to no end. Grant's comedic timing, reactions and mannerisms are at their best as he's forced to endure indignity after indignity. I hesitate to spoil the surprise, but I almost died of laughter seeing what he has to do to finally be able to board the boat the U.S.

The DVD was on par with Fox's disc for Monkey Business. It's very watchable, includes English subtitles, and has generally very good picture and audio. It was light on bonus features, including a vintage newsreel. The real attraction here is the movie, and it's a quality presentation.

One of my favorite discoveries so far - I'd put this in the top tier of what I've watched so far this year. I think in the future when all of this is done, I'll have to do a mini-marathon with all of these war-themed films, this, Operation Petticoat, Father Goose, Destination Tokyo, etc. This was a delight from start to finish.
 
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Josh Steinberg

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#21 - Crisis (1950)
Viewed on March 30, 2016
Viewing Format: MOD DVD-R (Warner Archive)

Just as I was getting into my Cary Grant binge, Warner Archive ran a "4 for $44" sale, where they actually let you get unlimited titles for $11 each as long as you got a minimum of four. So, I picked up their Grant titles (I think there were nine) and a few Bogart movies. I was most intrigued by Crisis because it's a rare later period Grant movie that's a straight drama. Most of what I've seen Grant in has had him in roles that were mostly comedic, and even in a film like Kiss Them For Me where he has a very dramatic monologue, a good deal of the rest of the picture is comedy. So I was intrigued, and I'm happy to report the movie lived up to my expectations.

Grant plays an American brain surgeon on vacation in a Latin American country. As he and his wife (Paula Raymond) are preparing to leave, they are detained by the military, essentially kidnapped. It turns out that the country's dictator, played by a very good Jose Ferrer, will die unless he gets a kind of brain surgery that Grant specializes in. There are a couple good twists and turns that I don't want to spoil, but the real treat of the movie comes from seeing Grant and Ferrer playing opposite each other. With Grant championing another new director (as he had with Delmer Daves on Destination Tokyo), Richard Brooks makes his directorial debut here, working from his own script which had been adapted from a George Tabori short story. Somewhere between a morality play and a Twilight Zone episode, I enjoyed every moment of this tense film.

As for the transfer, it wasn't all that impressive. It began with the old "Turner" logo and music that used to be at the beginning of a lot of MGM VHS tapes. It looked like an older transfer, either made for VHS or maybe early TV. It looked like one of the older hard telecine masters that actually runs at 29.97fps (instead of one where it's 24p and the player will interlace to 30fps for older TVs), and in my experience DVD has a really hard time handling content in that format gracefully. So it looks.. clunky. It was totally watchable, but it probably wouldn't do well on an official review here. Of the few Warner Archive discs I own, this is the worst. For lack of a better description, it looked more like video than film. I watched it on my projector (100" screen), but afterwards I checked out a few minutes on my TV (which is 50") - it looked better on the TV, and you could still tell that it wasn't perfect but it wasn't as distracting. The actual print they used to make this master looked OK. Warner isn't Olive so there's like zero chance that they'd just do an HD scan of an older element and put it out warts and all, but I think that would look okay in a fresher transfer.

This mostly forgotten film is worth rediscovering. It might not be a masterpiece, but it's a tense thriller with some great performances, an interesting entry in Grant's later filmography, and a worth start to Richard Brooks's directorial career. And speaking of Brooks, if you'll indulge another recommendation, I also purchased another film of his starring Humphrey Bogart called Battle Circus. It's the story of a MASH unit during the Korean War, a contemporary story then, and in many ways seems like the template for the later M*A*S*H movie and show. Bogart is great, Brooks delivers a good script and solid direction, and that transfer is far better. So if you find yourself over at Warner Archive, check out Battle Circus as well.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Brilliant - yes, I've been following your Jimmy Stewart Westerns thread - the gentlemen you're covering are among my top handful of movie heroes.

Mine as well - Jimmy Stewart was my first favorite movie star when I was a kid. Seeing his footprints in front of the Chinese Theater on a family vacation was a huge thrill, I hope I still have that photo somewhere. I'm wondering if I should do a thread for him too, but oh man, I'll never catch up on the writing. It's bad enough I waited this long to start this thread and so far I'm only up to stuff I watched in March.
 

Matt Hough

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I agree completely with your assessment of Crisis. If one thinks of Grant's film career only in terms of Hitchcock thrillers and romantic comedies or romantic comedy-dramas, one tends to forget movies like Crisis which show what an effective actor he could be, and the tense atmosphere of this movie had my attention from beginning to end.
 

Nelson Au

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I've never seen or knew of Crisis. But after reading your review Josh, it brought to mind Grant's 1951 film, People Will Talk. I thought that was a bit of an odd ball film too. I've only see it on PBS once in its entirety and another time screening it already in progress on PBS a few years ago. The only similarity to Crisis I would guess is that he plays a doctor.

I'll be interested in you and you guys take on that film. It didn't seem like a comedy, but it wasn't exactly a full on drama either. One review I've read of speaks of Mankeiwicz making a political statement of sorts.
 
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Josh Steinberg

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I've never seen or knew of Crisis. But after reading your review Josh, it brought to mind Grant's 1951 film, People Will Talk. I thought that was a bit of an odd ball film too. I've only see it on PBS once in its entirety and another time screening it already in progress on PBS a few years ago. The only similarity to Crisis I would guess is that he plays a doctor.

I'll be interested in you and you guys take on that film. It didn't seem like a comedy, but it wasn't exactly a full on drama either. One review I've read of speaks of Mankeiwicz making a political statement of sorts.

Bit of trivia: Grant appeared in 72 features in his career, but in his personal papers, his own listing of his films only included 68 of them. 3 were early films made around his time as a Paramount contract player, but one of them was People Will Talk. He brings such charisma to his role that I enjoyed him in the movie, but the actual plot was kind of ludicrous, especially seen today. In its time, I suppose it had the potential to shock, although I think it ended up being a box office flop, so it seems that it didn't really attract enough interest. On one hand, Grant's doctor character in People WIll Talk is absolutely charming and perfect, and the guy you'd want your daughter to marry and every other superlative you can think of. On the other hand, it's not exactly an ideal portrayal of women as autonomous beings. I enjoyed Grant in it, but I wouldn't recommend it for date night watching unless you want to sleep on the couch!
 

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#22 - Dream Wife (1953)
Viewed on April 1, 2016
Viewing Format: MOD DVD-R (Warner Archive)

In Dream Wife, Cary Grant is paired for the first time with leading lady Deborah Kerr, and again with screenwriter Sidney Sheldon (The Bachelor And The Bobby-Soxer), who also directs here. This was Grant's last film before his first attempt at retirement. The box office failure of the film convinced him that it was time to walk away, and he turned down several parts after this movie (including Bogart's in Sabrina) before Hitchcock would lure him out of retirement to make To Catch A Thief.

As the movie begins, Grant is a businessman in the fictional eastern country of Bukistan, and has just broken off his engagement with a diplomat played by Kerr. Instead, he gets engaged to the princess of Bukistan (Betta St. John), who professes to be a traditional girl who only wants to bring pleasure to a man, an idea that initially excites Grant. What he doesn't realize is that in this case, "traditional" means that nothing at all will be happening before the wedding night. Things get even more complicated when the State Department assigns Kerr's diplomat to be their liaison at the wedding, fearing that if Grant makes a mistake, our country's oil interests could be at risk. As the pre-wedding period of courtship continues, Grant starts to realize that he's not satisfied with a subservient bride. Who will Grant wind up with in the end, the dream wife of the title, or Kerr, who finds that she's not quite over their relationship either?

The movie is a mostly unremarkable affair. It's pleasant enough and Grant and Kerr have an easy chemistry (even when their characters are fighting each other). Some of the eastern stereotypes would probably not fly in today's more politically correct environment, but I didn't find any of them to be truly offensive or mean-spirited either. It's all in good fun, and it's hard to get upset at a movie that's not taking itself seriously enough to warrant being upset over.

The DVD quality is about the same as Crisis, which is to say that it's very obviously an older VHS or cable master. The film element used in the transfer isn't so bad, but the limitations of older transfer equipment and older video masters end up making this disc look worse than how the print used probably looked. It is watchable, and there's never any difficulty understanding what's going on onscreen, and the audio is clear enough. The disc does not include subtitles, but did have a trailer.

All in all, this is a minor Grant movie that's an amusing watch. It's worth seeing, but perhaps not worth going out of your way for.
 

classicmovieguy

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The sound on the Warner Archive MOD of "Dream Wife" fluctuates quite badly and goes out of sync in a couple of places. It was one of their very early discs from the first year of the program, so that can be forgiven. Because it opens with the Turner logo, it was probably the same master used for the VHS release. Hopefully Warner Archive may reissue it as a "Remastered" title later down the track.
 

Josh Steinberg

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The sound on the Warner Archive MOD of "Dream Wife" fluctuates quite badly and goes out of sync in a couple of places. It was one of their very early discs from the first year of the program, so that can be forgiven. Because it opens with the Turner logo, it was probably the same master used for the VHS release. Hopefully Warner Archive may reissue it as a "Remastered" title later down the track.

I'm usually pretty sensitive to sync issues, but I must've missed them on this one. Thanks for elaborating on my review. And I would definitely be interested in a remastered edition later on - the movie wasn't the very best of his career, but there's a lot to like here.
 

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