Donna's Cool Movies
Classic Drama Movies

In A Lonely Place

In A Lonely Place (1950)
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame
Director: Nicholas Ray

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One of Humphrey Bogart's finest performances dominates this unusual 1950 film noir, which focuses less on the murder mystery at the center of its plot than on the investigation's devastating effect on a fragile romance. For Bogart, already a noir icon, the Andrew Solt script afforded an opportunity to explore a more complex and contradictory role--an antiheroic persona in line with the actor's most accomplished and absorbing triumphs throughout his career. For maverick director Nicholas Ray, the film posed the challenge of taking crime dramas beyond their usual formulas and into a more mature realm, as well as a chance to cast a jaundiced eye on the film industry itself. Its protagonist is Dixon Steele, a Hollywood screenwriter with an acerbic wit and a violent temper. Tasked with adapting a bestseller, he meets a hatcheck girl who's read the book, hoping to glean its highlights before writing the script. When she's found murdered, Steele becomes the prime suspect, and a tightening knot of suspicion forms around the writer. Steele's only, inconclusive witness is a pretty new neighbor, Laurel (Gloria Grahame), and the couple fall in love even as the pressure mounts. At first the new relationship is a tonic to the hard-boiled writer, who plunges into his script with a renewed vigor and discipline. But as the police continue to shadow him, Steele's own penchant for violence erupts against friends, strangers, and even Laurel herself, whose feelings are increasingly eclipsed by suspicion that her lover is a murderer, and fear that he'll harm her. Bogart conveys Steele's world-weariness and underlying vulnerability, and manages the delicate task of making both his romantic yearning and sudden, murderous rages equally convincing. Ultimately, that performance and Grahame's sympathetic work elevate In a Lonely Place into what has been called "an existential love story" more than a crime drama
-from website

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Imitation of Life

Imitation of Life (1959)
Starring: Lana Turner, John Gavin
Director: Douglas Sirk

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The last film in Hollywood of director Douglas Sirk (Written on the Wind), the 1959 Imitation of Life--an adaptation of Fannie Hurst's novel--is an endlessly fascinating film that speaks volumes about the American journey toward materialism and the racial tensions that are inseparable from it. Lana Turner plays a white single mother and aspiring actress who takes in a black housekeeper (Juanita Moore) and her daughter (played by an adolescent Susan Kohner), the latter so light-skinned she passes for white. As the years pass and success mounts for Turner, Moore also becomes more comfortable but her status as a domestic never changes. Meanwhile, Kohner's character, chafing against social constraints, rebels at every opportunity and throws a wrench into the perfect order Sirk chillingly captures through the precise, architectural design of his images. On one hand a '50s weepie and on the other a daring allegory, Imitation of Life is an unusual masterpiece.
-from website

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The Carpetbaggers

The Carpetbaggers (1964)
Starring: George Peppard, Alan Ladd
Director: Edward Dmytryk

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The Carpetbaggers is the kind of trash classic most people are too embarrassed to admit they actually enjoy. But this Harold Robbins adaptation is so cheerfully vulgar, it's hard not to have a good time--especially given the thinly veiled portrait of Howard Hughes at its center. George Peppard plays the heel-hero, who founds an airline company in the 1920s and buys a movie studio in the 1930s, crushing friends and mistresses along the way. The high cheese factor is aided by the good-time cast: Carroll Baker as Peppard's hot stepmom, Bob Cummings (quite funny) as a cynical agent, and Elizabeth Ashley, who married Peppard, in her debut--uncharacteristically, as a good girl. The sad note is Alan Ladd, looking and sounding very end-of-the-line in his final role, as a man's man cowboy star. Elmer Bernstein's swaggering score helps goose the action along, but the rest is thick melodrama indeed.
-from website

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The Benny Goodman Story

The Benny Goodman Story
Director: Valentine Davies

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It lacks the tragic ending of The Glenn Miller Story, a smash hit released a year earlier, but this enjoyable musical biopic does a nice job of blending Benny Goodman's sweet swinging clarinet with a healthy dose of Hollywood hokum. The emphasis is on Goodman's struggle to get "hot music" into the mainstream, and his shy wooing of a socialite (Donna Reed). With Steve Allen cast as the bespectacled Goodman, there's a comic undertone to the bandleader's somewhat geeky demeanor, and Allen (a musician himself) is believable fronting the orchestra. Real-life swing figures, including Goodman Quartet players Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, and Lionel Hampton, lend verisimilitude. The climax comes with Goodman's legendary 1938 jazz concert at Carnegie Hall, a turning point in American popular music--and the sight of a mild-mannered man in a tuxedo leading his band through the glorious frenzy of "Sing, Sing, Sing" remains a delight
-from website

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The Glenn Miller Story

The Glenn Miller Story (1954)
Starring: James Stewart, June Allyson
Director: Anthony Mann

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James Stewart, at his warmest and most avuncular, plays the bandleader who rocketed to fame during the swing era. The Glenn Miller Story may be a whitewashed version of Miller's life, but it certainly is a pleasant example of the feel-good Hollywood biopic, with the usual conventions: early struggles, loyal wife (June Allyson at her chirpiest), personal sacrifice--Miller joins the Army when war breaks out, although he doesn't have to--and ultimate tragedy. All the Glenn Miller classics filling the soundtrack make the film pretty easy to take, too: "Moonlight Serenade," "A String of Pearls," "Chattanooga Choo-Choo." Miller plays the great "In the Mood" with his military band during a World War II air-raid warning. Pure corn, but it works. Director Anthony Mann, better known for his superb series of hard-bitten fifties westerns with Stewart, keeps the story moving gently and gracefully. A hot jazz interlude features Louis Armstrong and Gene Krupa.
-from website

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