Ninotchka (1939)

“This picture takes place in Paris, in those wonderful days when a siren was a brunette and not an alarm—and if a Frenchman turned out the light it was not on account of an air raid!”

So begins the riotous story of Ninotchka and Leon in Paris, penned by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. Continue reading

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the subsequent entry into World War II by the United States of America, James Maitland Stewart joined the US Air Corps.  Before the war, Stewart was a talented pilot in the private sector, amassing hundreds of hours of flight time and even participating in a cross-country race as a co-pilot.  He had invested (and recruited more investments) in a pilot-training program hosted by Southwest Airways.  He was an immensely popular actor on the home-front, starring in such films as The Philadelphia Story with Katharine Hepburn and You Can’t Take it With You with Jean Arthur.  He was well-publicized, well-known, and was an interesting character, who loved flying, loved his country, and respected his family’s military tradition. Continue reading

Kane the Man

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Charles Foster Kane walks through the threshold of the room that was once occupied by his beautiful wife—a shrine to her celebrity, a celebrity that was as empty as it was critically panned—but now stands wrecked and uninhabited.  Through his own machinations, he had made that woman who she was; not only was her fame a product of his intrusion, but so, also, was her marriage to him.  For years they had sat on opposite sides of the vast hall, she with her jigsaw puzzles on the floor, he in his throne-like master chairs, looking at the gargantuan fireplace before him.  Were there ever two more isolated activities than those?  Now, that void had been finally realized, and she had left him—for once, a decision based on her own free will.  His behavior had brought about her departure, and he recognized his role in it.  But, he would not be undone.  He had built that shrine, he would tear it down.  And so he had.  And now, behind him, the bedroom lays a shambles: statues, trophies, linens and furniture broken, torn and scattered throughout the room. Continue reading

The Story of Citizen Kane: William Randolph Hearst and the Kane Controversy

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The story of Citizen Kane as already written in this blog—the story of Orson Welles, the Mercury Theatre, Gregg Toland, RKO Pictures, and Herman Mankiewicz—is all well and good; but the story has far more significance when examined from a different perspective.  Imagine, for a moment, that all those players about whom I wrote in my previous post—Orson Welles, the Mercury Theatre, Gregg Toland, RKO Pictures, and Herman Mankiewicz—are the “good guys”, the protagonists, in this story about the movie’s production.  Well, a good story always has a bad guy. Continue reading