Connect with us

Movies

Picnic (1955 with William Holden and Kim Novak)

Published

on

Picnic (1955 with William Holden and Susan Strasberg)

USA / 1955

Director: Joshua Logan
Writer: Daniel Taradash (based on play by William Inge)

Cast: William Holden, Rosalind Russell, Kim Novak, Betty Field, Susan Strasberg, Cliff Robertson, Arthur O’Connell, Verna Felton, Reta Shaw, Nick Adams

Joshua Logan’s adaptation of William Inge’s Pullitzer Prize winning play is a sweltering tale of deception, betrayal and illicit love in small-town Kansas. When you think of William Holden it’s usually as the crumbling hard-man leading The Wild Bunch through the blood and dust of Peckinpah’s spaghetti West. But that image is taken from a period in Holden’s career when his star had all but burned out, leaving only the cynical core of a man who’d fallen from a great height and landed in a vat of whisky.

However, his earlier winning mixture of looks, presence and menace is perfectly demonstrated in Picnic. Made at the peak of his career, Holden’s performance is scintillating. He plays Hal Carter, a wandering bum who rides into a tight-knit Kansas community on a freight train, hoping to get a job with the wealthy father of his old buddy Alan (Cliff Robertson). It’s a chance for Carter to recreate himself and he’s soon regaling the attentive townsfolk with romanticised stories of his wild and heroic life. He fools everybody, especially dowdy teacher Rosemary (Rosalind Russell) and young Millie (Susan Strasberg – daughter of Method guru, Lee), who hurl themselves at him with lusty fervour.

But Carter has fallen for Alan’s fiancée Madge (Kim Novak – in her first lead role), and her reciprocation is in striking evidence during the film’s most famous scene, as the couple dance with exquisite sensuality to the tune of Moonglow (which subsequently became a huge hit). Their relationship causes consternation, of course, and, goaded into a brawl with Alan, Carter finds himself on the wrong side of the law when he batters his old friend and is forced to flee town, with Madge in tow. Only then does his conscience get the better of him and he comes clean about his true character. But will Madge still love him now she knows who he really is?

Picnic enjoyed huge box-office success, was nominated for six Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Director) and won two (for Best Editing and Art Direction). Sizzling performances from Holden, Russell and Novak earned Logan (who already had a string of Broadway hits under his belt) a reputation in the film industry as an actor’s director. He would cement that reputation in the following year’s Bus Stop by coaxing Marilyn Monroe through the finest ‘serious’ performance of her career.

Advertisement












Movies

California Split (Columbia 1974, Elliott Gould, George Segal)

Published

on

By

California Split

California Split is a movie about the adventures of two card players, and it stars two of 70s-era Hollywood’s most prolific male actors. Elliot Gould (M*A*S*H, 1970) plays Charlie Waters, a small-time card player who has the charisma and moxie of someone who’s way better at the tables than he actually is. Alongside him is George Segal (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1966) who plays Bill Denny, a magazine writer who moonlights as a casual player. Charlie and Bill meet in a California poker parlour game that turns heated over a dealt card hitting the floor, raising concerns of cheating. Despite this, the game continues, and one of them wins. This leads to the two players getting mugged by one of the game’s sore losers, giving them an experience that’s worth bonding over. The two become fast friends and this starts them off on a poker adventure that will test and reveal their true spirit.

In a 1974 review, Roger Ebert called California Split a “magnificently funny, cynical film”, which is probably the best way to describe the succeeding events following Bill and Charlie’s meet up. Regarded by many to be one of the best poker movies ever made, California Split is a quirky but ultimately realistic and darkly comedic look into the life and mind of card players. Despite this, you don’t really need to know a thing about poker beforehand in order to enjoy the movie. It’s a classic American adventure movie that has inspired countless other road trip movies and casino films.

From start to finish, California Split follows Bill and Charlie through the race tracks, seedy bars, private poker parties, Vegas’ second-rate casinos, treating bruises with hot shaving cream, waking up to massive hangovers, and even another mugging in which their instincts are put to the test. The result is less of a movie with careful exposition, and more of what feels like an inside look into the hilariously nightmarish world of America’s casino scene. The Telegraph calls the film one of Robert Altman’s best out of his extensive catalogue. It is brilliantly pieced together by his signature subtle visual prose, realistically overlapping dialogue, and the bravely understated introductions of his many quirky characters, California Split is one of the 70s’ definite must-see adventures. Such was the film’s realism that PartyPoker state that legendary player Thomas Austin Preston Jr. aka ‘Amarilo Slim’ had a small part. In his time Slim was known as one of the greatest ever poker players, winning 4 WSOP bracelets, and would have been an inspiration for the two main characters.

California Split is definitely a treat not just for card players, but for anyone who likes well-crafted movies about friendship and the makings of the American Dream.

main stars
George Segal, Elliot Gould Ann Prentis, Gwen Welsh, Edward Walsh, Joseph Walsh, Bert Remsen

crew details
Director: Robert Altman
Producer: Joseph Walsh, Robert Altman
Director of Photography: Paul Lohmann
Editor: O. Nicholas Brown, Lou Lombardo
Composer: Phyllis Shotwell
Screenwriters: Joseph Walsh
Production Designer: Leon Ericksen

Video:

Continue Reading

Movies

House Of Secrets (1956, Michael Craig, Julia Arnall)

Published

on

By

House of Secrets

When Michael Craig got his big break in the movies, he was the last actor to be contracted to the Rank Organisation and was receiving £30 a week for his efforts. His break arrived – almost a decade after his brother, John Gregson, appeared in Saraband for Dead Lovers – in House of Secrets (aka Triple Deception), a forerunner to the James Bond movies that would later become British cinema’s most successful franchise.

Based on Sterling Noel’s novel Storm over Paris, Craig stars as Larry Ellis, a naval officer who bears such a resemblance to a counterfeiter that he’s mistakenly arrested by the French police. When the real counterfeiter, Chancellor, is killed in a car crash, Larry is asked to impersonate the dead man with the aim of capturing the rest of his gang and the head of the illegal operation. Luckily, there is some help in the form of a British police inspector, Burleigh (Geoffrey Keen). With a tense denouement set on board a plane in mid-flight and boasting a fine use of its extensive Parisian locations, House of Secrets is a gripping, ripping spy yarn.

Michael Craig (arguably best known for his performance in Yield to the Night, also 1956) makes the most of his opportunity to shine, while Gerard Oury also stands out as Pindar, one of the duplicitous gang leaders. Director Guy Green went on to collaborate with Craig four years later on The Angry Silence.

UK / 1956

Director: Guy Green
Writers: Robert Buckner, Bryan Forbes (based on the novel by Sterling Noel)

Cast: Michael Craig, Julia Arnall, Brenda De Banzie, Barbara Bates, David Kossoff

Continue Reading

Movies

When Eight Bells Toll (1971, Anthony Hopkins, Corin Redgrave)

Published

on

By

When Eight Bells Toll

In When Eight Bells Toll Philip Calvert (Anthony Hopkins) is a rough-and-ready naval secret service agent called in by controller Uncle Arthur (Robert Morley) to solve the piracy of a fortune in gold bullion. With sidekick Hunslett (Corin Redgrave), he follows the trail to Scotland and the yacht of Greek millionaire Sir Anthony Skouras (Jack Hawkins), who’s accompanied by his wife Charlotte (Nathalie Delon). As the action mounts, the double-crosses increase and the bodies pile up, is Calvert on the right track or is Skouras innocent?

Made in the decade when Bond was the height of cinematic popularity, Perier’s film is tougher (he hints at more than a professional relationship between Calvert and Hunslett) but just as thrilling, with stunts and explosions galore. Hawkins, whose voice had to be dubbed due to the throat cancer that would kill him two years later, and Morley provide excellent support, the latter offering light relief while Nathalie Delon, making a rare appearance in an English-speaking role, supplies the suitably enigmatic and glamorous love interest.

UK / 1971

Director: Etienne Perier
Writer: Alistair MacLean

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Corin Redgrave, Robert Morley, Jack Hawkins, Nathalie Delon

Continue Reading

More to View