Tag Archives: Cary Grant

The Set of 400: #145 – My Favorite Wedding Photo

Today! Because to hardly know him is to know him well –

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Directed by George Cukor

Starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant (x4), James Stewart (x3), Ruth Hussey, Roland Young, John Howard, John Halliday, Mary Nash, Virginia Weidler, Henry Daniell (x2)

The old time theater guy in me just can’t get enough of kinda stagey goofball comedies of seven and eight decades gone by, and few are more entertaining than Cukor’s acrobatically wordy The Philadelphia Story. It just manages to not feel like a play – what with the brilliant, wordless opening sequence, and shifting some action to a handful of remote locations – while also feeling as locked in as, say, 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or every adaptation of The Iceman Cometh or Long Day’s Journey Into Night ever made. Hell, Animal Crackers is little more than the filmed stage play, and even it manages to counter Philadelphia Story cinematically, for the most part.

Plus, comic spousal abuse! Hilarious!

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The Set of 400: #302 – My Favorite Bullet Removal

Today! Because in my last case, I had to throw my own brother out of an airplane –

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)

Directed by Carl Reiner

Starring Steve Martin (x2), Rachel Ward, Carl Reiner, Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd, Barbara Stanwyck, Ray Milland, Ava Gardner, Burt Lancaster, Cary Grant (x3), Ingrid Bergman (x3), Veronica Lake (x2), Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Fred MacMurray (x2), James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Charles Laughton, Vincent Price, George Gaynes, William Conrad, Edmond O’Brien

The great pairing of Carl Reiner and Steve Martin produced this noir spoof, intercutting Martin’s detective Rigby Reardon with actors/characters from hard boiled crime films of the ’40s for a new mystery adventure. Almost twenty different films compose Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, including Suspicion, Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, The Big Sleep, and #370 Notorious, providing plenty of long-dead screen legends new comic opportunities, and new chances at joining the prestigious Two- and Three-Timers club!

Martin and Ward, as the femme fatale Juliet, make a great straight-faced team, and do all the heavy lifting in the movie, with the only exception maybe being the heroic work of career comedy film editor Bud Molin. The worry about this movie on paper (in retrospect) is how can any of this footage actually be matched up, using 1982 technology? Sure, at the time, it must’ve seemed like this was a possibility, but now – can you imagine hearing about this concept for a movie from 35+ years ago and thinking it would work? Is this the first you’re hearing about this movie, and you’re in some manner of disbelief right now? Well, rest assured, it totally pays off. The movie doesn’t do a lot of complicated inserting of characters into old footage – à la Forrest Gump – instead filming new scenes that function against the existing footage. A lot of it is funny phone conversations, but they’re almost equally effective with same room sequences. And Martin has the patter down, so that the mismatched conversations actually sound like they’re happening – not just in context but in style and rhythm. It’s a hell of an achievement.

It’s also the rare dark-haired Martin role

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The Set of 400: #316 – My Favorite Gutzon Borglum Thrill Ride

Today! Because that plane’s dusting crops where there ain’t no crops –

North by Northwest (1959)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Starring Cary Grant (x2), Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Leo G. Carroll, Martin Landau, Jessie Royce Landis, Josephine Hutchinson, Philip Ober, Adam Williams, Edward Platt, Robert Ellenstein

Hitchcock it is! The one with all the memorable set pieces, North by Northwest lands squarely in the Hitch Wrong Man sub-genre, wherein a regular schmoe (even one who looks like Cary Grant) gets caught up in a helluva lot of intrigue and murder, and is forced on the run, encountering devious foreign agents, low flying planes, and the lovely tourist attractions of South Dakota along the way. This is also the latest Hitchcock movie chronologically that I actually enjoy, but in all fairness, I’ve never actually sat down and watched Topaz. Or, hell, Frenzy for that matter. Maybe I need to keep these sweeping statements to things I can actually stand by. Frenzy might be the greatest movie ever made, I don’t know.

But, come on, it’s not – right?

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The Set of 400: #370 – My Favorite Wine Cellar Key

Today! Because I am married to an American agent –

Notorious (1946)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman (x2), Claude Rains, Louis Calhern, Leopoldine Konstantin, Moroni Olsen, Reinhold Schunzel, Ivan Triesault

You’ll meet some people in your time spent discussing movies who live and die by Hitchcock. I am not one of those people. No, this isn’t his only appearance on this list, but many of his most popular, highest regarded films won’t pop up here in the days to come. I don’t know, I thought his later films either silly or admirable but not lovable. Feel free to write in and complain when the list is complete, and not a day before, Birds fans! That shit is ridiculous!

I have always really enjoyed the weirdly caustic romance of Notorious, though. It’s a deep-intrigue, double-crossing tale, with this exquisitely strange relationship between Grant’s government agent Devlin and Bergman’s shattered mole Alicia at its center. It’s not a will-they-or-won’t-they romance like the word makes you envision; it’s more a will-they-be-able-to-or-will-they-die sort of love story. Claude Rains is terrific as the object of Berman’s faux affections, and was nominated for an Oscar for his work, along with the excellent screenplay by the great Ben Hecht. As you will see in days to come, I’ve always preferred the straight crime or espionage Hitchcocks to the horror/psychological terror Hitchcocks. Not exclusively, but pretty close. Again, bitch if you like, Psycho-heads, but that is some silly hokum you’ve embraced right there. Continue reading

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