Tag Archives: Edmond O’Brien

The Set of 400: #170 – My Favorite Meal on the Cuff

Today! Because courage can be purchased at yon’ tavern –

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Directed by John Ford (x2)

Starring James Stewart (x2), John Wayne (x2), Lee Marvin, Vera Miles, Edmond O’Brien (x2), Andy Devine, Ken Murray, Woody Strode, John Carradine (x3), John Qualen, Jeanette Nolan, Lee Van Cleef, Strother Martin (x2), Denver Pyle, Carleton Young, Paul Birch, Joseph Hoover

In concocting this list, I realized that many of the movies I considered my favorites came to me because they were clearly the favorite of someone around me first. Hell, my little sister watched Strictly Ballroom so many times that I’ve committed lots of its dialogue to memory, and it nearly fought its way on here (Strictly Ballroom is great, by the way). My older sister had a poster for Moonstruck hanging up in their room for years, and it had all the glitz and glow of an Oscar winner, even for eight-year-old Joe, that even now I’m like “Yeah! Moonstruck! That movie’s great!” even though I have no recollection of what that movie is about. Does Nicolas Cage only have one hand in it? Is that right?

Jeez, what the hell was that movie about?

But the handful of John Wayne movies on this list I can attribute directly to my old man. Many of them blend together into one Indian massacre of a film that I can’t precisely distinguish, but a few others stand out pretty well. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is at the top of this western list. John Wayne is John Wayne as always (here, one Tom Doniphon), and Jimmy Stewart is the tenderfoot bookworm come to town, just as elections and the east are infiltrating old west life. The movie starts at the end, with Stewart’s Ransom Stoddard returning to Shinbone (the town is named Shinbone!) for a funeral, then jumps back to his initial arrival – and all the drama connected to Lee Marvin’s odious Liberty Valance. Along for the ride are a wonderful bunch of great comic turns – an odd staple of the best John Ford films – including Andy Devine’s hilarious Link Appleyard and Edmond O’Brien’s drunken, raging publisher Dutton Peabody. Continue reading

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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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