Tag Archives: Agnes Moorehead

The Set of 400: #40 – My Favorite Piece of the Puzzle

Today! Because if I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a really great man –

Citizen Kane (1941)

Directed by Orson Welles

Starring Orson Welles (x4), Joseph Cotton (x2), Everett Sloane, George Coulouris (x2), Agnes Moorehead (x2), Dorothy Comingore, Ruth Warrick, Erskine Sanford, Harry Shannon, Ray Collins

In the ballsiest decision since including Casablanca back at #74, today we find ourselves face-to-face with the greatest movie ever made, by loud acclaim, for the past eight decades. And while many all-time greats were omitted from this list and I would venture some are far too boring (e.g. Lawrence of Arabia), grim (Schindler’s List), or generally overrated (Psycho) to make any respectable favorites countdown, Citizen Kane nonetheless lands in this very strong position thanks to the sheer entertainment value of the undeniable masterpiece.

“But,” I can hear you asking, “where the hell do you get off?” Which is fair. I weirdly feel that to see Kane is to love it and recognize its brilliance, but that alone doesn’t immediately propel it to the top of a Favorites list. However, there’s nothing wrong with this movie – nothing whatsoever – plus I’ll contend it doesn’t even really have slow, dull, only-mildly-interesting parts. The direction and general visual construction of the piece negates that as a possibility. Say you don’t really give a damn about Charles Foster Kane – maybe he’s just too much a Trumpian asshole to really invest your emotion with – you still have to marvel at the gorgeous cinematography, the thoroughly inventive editing and use of sound, the borderline amazing scene transitions, and the wonderful acting across the board. Maybe all the flashing back and forth in time gives you cinematic whiplash – the driving documentary style narrative still manages to lay the plot out neatly and steadily march us through his life story. Maybe you can’t see Agnes Moorehead without thinking of Bewitched – that’s fair, there’s no work around for that.

I would argue there’s nothing wrong with being reminded of Bewitched, lustily and often

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The Set of 400: #324 – My Favorite Morbid Voyeurs First Date

Today! Because I don’t mind losing you, but I don’t want a whole daisy chain of cops sailing out that window –

Fourteen Hours (1951)

Directed by Henry Hathaway

Starring Paul Douglas, Richard Basehart, Barbara Bel Geddes, Grace Kelly, Debra Paget, Agnes Moorehead, Howard Da Silva, Robert Keith, Jeffrey Hunter, Frank Faylen, Martin Gabel, Richard Beymer, John Cassavetes, Ossie Davis, Willard Waterman

The jumper-on-a-ledge thriller seems to have existed since movies began – from Harold Lloyd hanging off that clock (okay, not exactly a ledge flick) straight through to the no-frills Man on a Ledge in 2012 starring that great ’08-’11 movie star Sam Worthington (did not make the list!). But the best one – at least where the entire plot deals with this element – is 1951’s gripping Fourteen Hours. 

The cast is first rate – lead by Basehart’s suicidal Robert Cosick and Douglas’s endearing Officer Dunnigan charged with talking him back into the room. The layered complications are pretty standard for this type of film – why is he out there? How do we get him in safely? Who can help us talk to him? But in addition to this – with the parade of terrific supporting performers like Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Keith, the always brilliant Agnes Moorehead, the screen debut of Grace Kelly – the film also takes the interesting angle of presenting what’s going on at street level. The mania of the onlookers to gawk at the macabre spectacle happening above, with some sympathy, but mostly just to be entertained. It’s a fascinating choice, and one that elevates the movie from what could’ve been a standard suspense will-he-won’t-he flick into a bit of a condemnation of media and humanity, and in 1951! Continue reading

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