Archive 383 - September 2017
Laurette Luez, Joan Crawford, Armored Command, Blonde Crazy, Vivien Leigh
Blonde Crazy - 1931
Blonde Crazy - Released November 14, 1931 - Directed by Roy Del Ruth
James Cagney is a smarmy bellhop constantly looking to run a minor con on someone, and he tries to do so on the new hotel employee played by Joan Blondell (she's a maid). She's streetwise and can't be taken, and soon the cagey con-artist is upping his game to try and win her approval, and the two become an enterprising con-artist team that travels higher into upper class society specializing in stealing from other crooks.
Armored Command - 1961
Armored Command - Released July 9, 1969. Directed by Byron Haskin
I felt sorry for Howard Keel while watching Armored Command. For the most part, it seems like he's in a completely different Armored Command (a better one) than the one which features Tina Louse, Burt Reynolds and Earl Holliman (in the not so good one). The split-story fragmented tale keeps these two separate halves apart, though they do cross-paths in a few places, but Keels' no-nonsense Colonel Devlin who uses step-by-step detective skills to build a case to predict an imminent German Panzer attack 1 moves along like a pretty-good war film, but the other Armored Command bogs down in melodrama about a army platoon with a female German spy in their midst. 2
Director Haskin treats Tina Louise pretty well with a lot of carefully-lighted and directed scenes to show off her beauty and acting, but the script (from Ron Alcorn) is loaded with predictable dialogue (some of it kind of laughable). Earl Holliman (as good-natured Sgt. Mike) has the thankless task of being cuckolded by Burt Reynolds (as Skee) who is a rapist (but is given compensating values by the script, Skee is apparently a good cook and skilled with a 50-calibre), but in the end Burt gets shotgunned by his victim.
The script just isn't up to dealing with the human element of the platoon and its tragic story of betrayal, and when Colonel Devlin's prophesied German assault finally arrives 3 it is a welcome diversion from the other Armored Command which can't make up it's mind whether Tina Louise's spy is to be pitied or loathed, whether Mike is too naive or too thick-headed, and whether Burt is a vicious rapist or a regular soldier who lost his way due to the rigors of war. Director Haskin and cinematographer Ernest Haller make the confusion look good on screen, but that's not enough.
The stunt work and the battle scenes are well done, though after a little while there's repetition in footage (the same tank formation and muddy soldiers pass before our eyes doing the exact same movements) and the sound effects take on the character of a stuck vinyl LP. If you like Patton tanks there's plenty here to look at (this same anti-historical use of the M-48 shows up in the later 1970 film titled, ironically, Patton). Filming in Germany for Armored Command gives the film's scenery and combat sections authenticity (and Director Haskin is very good at lining up a camera). It looks cold out on the wintery landscape filmed with a moody black and white chiaroscuro. I certainly enjoyed looking at Armored Command more than listening to it.
Howard Keel's clever Colonel Devlin saves the American flank but he can't save this movie. Holliman, Louise and Reynolds are badly served by the script and editing.
1. [Actually, repainted Patton tanks]↩
2. [Tina is the spy, and the character isn't German, but Alcasian, from that strip of land that France and German fight over periodically century after century]↩
3. [Devlin's superiors listen to his carefully constructed and logical reasons for why the Germans are coming through his sector, but in the end they always respond "it's impossible!" and "Stop telling us!"]↩
Armored Command is currently streaming via Warner Archives online service.
Born Reckless - 1958
Born Reckless - Released November 1958, Directed by Howard H. Koch
Mamie Van Doren (as rodeo "trick rider" Jackie Adams) meets itinerant rodeo bull and horse rider Kelly Cobb (actor Jeff Richards) and his buddy, a wizened veteran rodeo hand "Cool Man" (actor Arthur Hunnicutt) and the three end up travelling together from rodeo to rodeo. Frequently she is accosted by men who are too eager to invade Jackie's personal space (basically they grab her) and repeatedly Kelly comes running to the rescue. Soon an unsaid romantic interest is growing between the two, but wealthy rodeo fan Liz (Carol Ohmart) intervenes and distracts Kelly not only from Jackie, but from his original goals for following rodeos in the first place: to scrape together enough money to buy a piece of land to settle down on.
Van Doren sings several numbers in Born Reckless ("Home Type Girl," "A Little Longer," "Separate the Men from the Boys," and "Something to Dream About") and usually hits her notes, but not always, and this seems to indicate a lack of training or lack of time on the part of the production company to get it right. The script from Richard Landau leans heavily on double entendres more or less in the same mode as some Marilyn Monroe films, but Landau goes a step further with rodeo language and it certainly becomes tedious. Director Koch follows suit with camera positions that seem intended to record the biggest possible visual statement about Van Doren's torso.
There are plenty of perfectly banal scenes in which Van Doren, Richards and Hunnicutt struggle to survive while on the rodeo circuit, crisscrossing the rural United States and living off bad food and dealing with dangerous animals, double-dealing rodeo business people and loneliness, and the question is why didn't Landau and Koch build-up and sharpen this human part of the film versus the laughably exploitive parts? Van Doren is quite good in some places, as is Hunnicutt everytime he's on camera, but Richards is doomed to play a male love interest that inexplicably goes from kind-hearted, hard-fisted country boy to seedy, washed-out and jaded for a long segment, and then back to patient and sincere, which doesn't make a lot of sense except its how the mechanical plot requires him to go when Carol Ohmart pulls him from the Hollywood straight and narrow.
There are pieces here and there of a pretty good film interspersed throughout the 80-minute runtime, but too much of Born Reckless is predictable, and at it's worst it becomes a smarmy cartoon. Stunt work is good, and the rodeo segments are good, too. But in the end, Hunnicutt deserves better, Van Doren needed better, and Richards probably would have been better, too, with a different production emphasis.
Born Reckless is currently streaming via Warner Archives online service.
Vivien Leigh - 1938
Photos by Gregory Anthony 1938 - Source: nitratedamile
Original Page September 10, 2017
Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck [Illustrated with 310 Photographs] - amazon.com
- The Stand In - 1937 - Leslie Howard, Bogart and Blondell
- The Black Book - 1949 - Robert Cummings and Arlene Dahl
- Who Done It? - 1942
- Cat-Women of the Moon - 1953
- The Viking Queen - 1967
- Little Miss Marker - 1934
- Get Out - 2017
- Man's Favorite Sport
- Braveheart 1995
- Bringing Up Baby - 1938
- The Comedy of Terrors - 1963
- Day of Anger - 1967
- Central Park - 1932 - Joan Blondell has trouble on her hands when she gets suckered into helping a gangster to rob a charity event. Though this film stars Joan and Wallace Ford, it also features the American Great Depression which is the background for the hunger and desperation that flavors the film.
Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial