Today! Because life is a state of mind –
Being There (1979)
Directed by Hal Ashby (x2)
Starring Peter Sellers (x2), Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden, Richard Dysart, Richard Basehart (x2), James Noble, Alice Hirson, Elya Baskin (x2), Ruth Attaway
Hal Ashby’s brilliant decade came to an end with Being There, a character-based comedy featuring an absolutely brilliant turn by Peter Sellers as the simple minded gardener Chance. Upon the death of his boss, he’s thrust out into society, which he only knows from television, and while there are some fish out of water moments, the point of the story is more the way he looks at life. Sure, it can be a little schmaltzy, but figure, he’s surrounded by monstrous politicians and people who don’t understand who he is from the second he’s out in the world, and yet he’s not immediately crushed by the unbearable weight of foreign circumstance. He just gets by, unaffected, even though society is almost designed to destroy such a person. Chance the Gardener – later, Chauncey Gardner – makes it work.
Shirley MacLaine is also magnificent in this movie
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