The Spiral Staircase
Sadly, there aren't any bitchy old women like Ethel Barrymore anymore. This movie is more fun as a comedy than as a thriller, what with Elsa Lancaster hamming it up and Sara Allgood's Nurse playing Felix to Barrymore's Oscar. But those eyes! Those eyes! It's one of my secret phobias, but now everyone will know: I'm terrified of "intense" and/or buggy eyes. Fear:
Dick Powell: sex on a stick in this one. Oh, why do I love his flat delivery so? It's like he thinks that by delivering his lines in a disinterested monotone the audience will be fooled into thinking he's all tough and shit, and yet, I love it and totally buy him as tough guy! He plays the kind of asshole who gets the chicks because some chicks secretly love an asshole who lives up to the hype. And Powell lives up to the hype with his snappy noirish dialogue (Bad Guy: "You get in my way and I'll kill you;" Johnny O'Clock: "You took the words right out of my mouth"), gun battles and bullet wounds, and the sad, soulful eyes he turns on the hat check girl's sister. And yeah, they totally did it, and it wasn't just the cigarette that told you: She was wearing a completely different outfit when they faded back in after the clinch! Evelyn Keyes, you tramp. Still trying to out-do your sister, Scarlett, eh? Also, could Ellen Drew be any trampier and awesome? No. Someone needed to make a movie all about her character.
The Facts of Life
You take the good, you take the bad, you take it all and there you have a fairly intelligent adult comedy about adultery that did the impossible for me: Made me like the adulterating couple. And it didn't turn the other spouses into jerks in order to do it. And it also didn't make the two cheaters getting together seem like the height of romantic fulfillment. But yet, you still liked seeing these two people being happy together. And then you liked seeing them go back to their respective spouses at the end (spoiler alert!). I'm not sure how the filmmakers did it, but I am sure, in our developmentally arrested times, we'll never see the likes of this movie again. Artistic regression, thy name is Now.
I have seen this one before, so don't think I grew up deprived or anything. But man, seeing it again now as an adult who's obsessed (among other things) with the cool hepness of the 50s and early 60s, this one's out of sight! I could stare at the backgrounds all day long:
Her Highness and the Bellboy
June Allyson has to go. She ruined a perfectly good piece of 1940s cotton candy and turned it into a downer with a stupid fantasy musical number that reminded me of Shirley Temple's fantasy sequence from A Little Princess only bad. Replace cute little Shirley with adult June and yes, it really is that annoying. I'm still not sure what her good qualities were besides being cripple. I know Hedy is in love with that random newspaper guy who shows up for five minutes in the middle of the movie and then disappears until the credits, but who can blame Robert Walker for wanting to trade Allyson's two-packs-a-day smoker's voice for Lamarr's fun little German accent. A more accurate title for this one might be, "Her Annoyingness and the Bellboy and also their Is-he-mentally-challenged? friend who chews a lot of scenery, and oh yeah, also some princess or something, we're not really sure why she's here except as eye candy."