“Culture: the cry of men in face of their destiny.”
– Albert Camus
Liberty Nation‘s Culture Corner: The place to sit back, get yourself a coffee, and find inspiration for the next book, play, movie, album to go on your To Do list.
Bogarts’s Acting Chops
The 1930s and 1940s were filled with gangster pictures. But there was one that stood out as possessing more depth than your typical action-filled Warner Bros. feature. What motion picture are we talking about here? Dead End. Humphrey Bogart was in the middle of his ascent to Old Hollywood stardom when he co-starred in the 1937 classic picture, which was around the time of the gripping Marked Woman and the surprisingly better-than-expected The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse. Dead End is a crime drama about a mobster (Bogart) returning to a New York neighborhood slum that is slowly being gentrified. He wants to see his mother and his old girlfriend (Claire Trevor); both meetings turn out to be unpleasant. There are a couple of other subplots: an unemployed architect (Joel McCrea) courting a woman who cannot choose between love and wealth, Sylvia Sidney’s character struggling to shield her brother from gangs, and the Dead End Kids getting into trouble. It is a simple but effective tale that highlighted the acting chops of Bogart, who made you feel sympathetic for despite murdering eight men. Dead End also showcases the impressive storytelling of legendary filmmaker William Wyler (The Best Years of Our Lives, The Heiress, The Desperate Hours, and Mrs. Miniver). It might not be a perfect depiction of old New York because it was filmed entirely on a set, but you will be too captivated by the thespian strengths of these fine performers to notice.
- Recommended by Andrew Moran
Some Like It Hot – Redefining What Makes a Classic
Billy Wilder’s glorious romp has something for everyone. A powerhouse team of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, with a little Marilyn Monroe thrown in for good measure, the enjoyment of the actors as they produce a flick that has stood the test of comedic time bursts onto the screen. Comedy (unless of the slapstick variety) tends to age poorly; especially as so many gags nowadays rely on cultural reference or present-day mores, but not so for the 1959 classic.
Whether it is Curtis remarking on the naming of Shell Oil in a truly memorable British accent, or Lemmon caught out in high heels, Some Like It Hot hits all the right buttons in terms of timing, physical comedy, and questing romance. Adapted in 1972 to a stage play, Sugar, it ran for more than 500 solid performances; revamped again for London’s West End in 1992 under its original name, the movie is set to make its third appearance on Broadway in early 2021. The set pieces and physicality involved in each scene make this a perfect contender for stage adaptation. Character-driven and classy, this movie set the standard of what timeless comedy should be.
- Recommended by Mark Angelides
The Third Man – The Greatest British Film Ever Made
If you have ever heard of the classic British motion picture, The Third Man, you immediately think of Orson Welles. Some film historians will quip that it is the greatest Orson Welles film he never made. But while Welles steals the show, despite arriving halfway and only appearing in the movie for a cup of Viennese coffee, the picture offers everyone a little bit of everything.
First, the script. It was adapted from the Graham Greene novel, and, suffice it to say, this is one of the rare occasions that the script is better than the original work. Of course, Welles’ memorable “cuckoo clock” bit was ad-libbed, but the rest of the written dialog is impeccable. You go from page to film, witnessing cinematography greatness. This was Robert Krasker’s crowning achievement, continuing his partnership with director Carol Reed, full of dutch angles and black and white photography. Nobody has been able to replicate Krasker’s dutch angles as well as he did. The Third Man’s score is unlike anything you have ever heard, or will ever hear in a movie. Anton Karas’ zither adds personality and uniqueness to an already marvelous film. The stars — Joseph Cotten, Trevor Howard, Welles, and Bernard Lee — give some of their finest performances. Alida Valli was an important character in the film, but the female lead was more interesting in the book. Valli’s performance was nauseating, though her final act in the last two minutes of the picture was great. Overall, this is perhaps the greatest British movie ever made.
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