Tag Archives: James Stewart

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: #303 – My Favorite Snoring Conversation

Today! Because I don’t need anything in the world, darling, but you and a toothbrush –

After the Thin Man (1936)

Directed by W.S. Van Dyke

Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, James Stewart, Elissa Landi, Joseph Calleia, Jessie Ralph, Alan Marshal, Sam Levine, Penny Singleton, George Zucco, Teddy Hart, Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins, William Law

The best of the Thin Man sequels, and by some estimations the top movie in the series, After the Thin Man picks up where the first film leaves off – with Nick and Nora on a train heading west, replete with their boozy banter and dog Asta in tow. Sure, their comrades from the first movie two years earlier who were also taking this train are no where to be seen, but what of it? There are new mysteries to solve immediately upon arriving home in San Francisco! Forget that Thin Man case!

For the uninitiated, the Thin Man movies follow a pretty standard formula for film mysteries of the ’30s and ’40s – central master detective, tight running time, lots of punching, one or two gunshots. What made the Thin Man movies stand out – even from the other, previous William Powell mystery series, Philo Vance – was the light comedy injected by the leads, the married “former” detective Nick Charles and his socialite wife Nora, along with their Wire Fox Terrier Asta, occasionally embroiled in his own drama, due to Mrs. Asta and a neighborhood hound, as in this film. Fun fact – Asta was portrayed by Skippy, who had a robust film career in the ’30s, appearing in the first three Thin Mans, as well as The Awful Truth, Topper Takes a Trip, Sea Racketeers, I Am the Law, and Bringing Up Baby among others before retiring in 1941. In his heyday, he was pulling down $250 a week! Great Depression my foot!

Rin Tin Tin had nothing on Skippy

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