#171 (tie) – Notorious (1946), dir. Alfred Hitchcock

Notorious

Crooked dealings. Alfred Hitchcock gets noiry with his angles and lighting in the post-WWII political thriller Notorious, starring Cary Grant (pictured), Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains.

And lo! Fan With a Movie Yammer has finally reached its first film by arguably the most famous director who ever lived. Yes, Alfred Hitchcock takes the stage in this yammer with his oldest entry on the Sight & Sound list: Notorious (1946). The British director certainly made a name for himself in his native land, getting into the directing biz back in the silent era, but it was in Hollywood where the “Master of Suspense” principally made his mark. And Notorious is a very Hollywood production in many ways, with its A-list stars, pro-America plotting, and Edith Head costumes. But the film runs darker than a lot of American studio productions, incorporating noir elements in its story of a federal agent (Cary Grant) enlisting the daughter of a Nazi spy (Ingrid Bergman) to infiltrate a ring of Nazi émigrés up to some sort of shady business down in Brazil. Though set after World War II, the film harnesses the trauma of that conflict and the brand new concerns of the nuclear age to craft a clockwork espionage thriller. And the movie largely lives up to its title, dealing in murky ethical waters with some very unsavory or emotionally damaged characters who are working to balance love and duty — even if the duty part may be quite distasteful indeed. (101 min.) Continue reading

#171 (tie) – His Girl Friday (1940), dir. Howard Hawks

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Follow my lede. Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant star as two conniving newspapermen (and former huband and wife) covering the upcoming execution of a murderer in the bullet-quick black comedy His Girl Friday.

Director Howard Hawks returns to the yammerverse for his third Sight & Sound list movie in as many years. His Girl Friday (1940) also marks the third time Hawks has made use of the talents of Cary Grant, who stars as Walter Burns, the unscrupulous editor of a popular, but very tabloidy, New York newspaper. But Grant takes a backseat in this vehicle to Rosalind Russell, whose Hildy Johnson is a hardnosed journalist and Walter’s ex-wife. Hildy is about to get remarried and leave the newspaper — two things Walter won’t stand for. His Girl Friday falls very much into Hollywood’s screwball comedy form, although the characters aren’t as loopy or pratfall-prone as one would find in Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby or Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve. Rather, this is a movie of very competent — and intensely chatty — characters who are trying to out-scheme each other to get what they want, be it money, love, or that exclusive story. And as it happens, His Girl Friday is actually a remake of an earlier film (The Front Page, 1931), which goes to show that not every remake is a sign of creative bankruptcy. Sometimes a story really needs a second chance, and His Girl Friday is all about seizing onto those second chances. (88 min.) Continue reading

#110 (tie) – Bringing Up Baby (1938), dir. Howard Hawks

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Since my Baby left me… Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and George serenade a roof-bound leopard in Howard Hawks’ madcap comedy Bringing Up Baby.

In the 1930s a new fast-paced and borderline insane form of movie laugh-making came to the fore in Hollywood: the screwball comedy. Rather than falling into the established pattern of wild comedic characters and suffering straight men, everyone is ridiculous in screwball comedy. For you non-baseball fans out there, a screwball is a little-used pitch that moves in the opposite direction to the more commonly thrown curveball, which lead to the term being taken up to refer to eccentricity. Often considered the peak of the screwball form is Howard Hawk’s Bringing Up Baby (1938), featuring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. And the situation in Bringing Up Baby is indeed eccentric, with Grant playing a nervous paleontologist trying to secure a grant for his museum and Hepburn as a confident but supremely ditzy heiress who tricks Grant into helping her transport the tame leopard Baby to her aunt’s house. The film is even more ludicrous than that sounds, with Hepburn’s lovestruck loon, in particular, serving as one of the most brazenly ridiculous characters to be found in classic comedy. That’s a pretty impressive feat, considering that she co-stars with a very naughty dog and a real, live jungle cat. (102 min.) Continue reading

#154 (tie) – Only Angels Have Wings (1939), dir. Howard Hawks

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Pea-nuuuuuuuuuuuts!!! Cary Grant and Jean Arthur star in Only Angels Have Wings (1939), Howard Hawk’s action-packed adventure melodrama about mail pilots flying dangerous mountain routes in South America.

A young woman gets mixed up with a group of hard livin’, hard drinkin’ expatriate pilots who careen through a life of reckless adventure in Howard Hawks’ Only Angels Have Wings (1939). Cary Grant plays the manager of a small airline contracted to carry the mail through dangerous South American mountain passes. Equipped with small, out-of-date planes, the pilots don’t have the equipment needed to fly above the mountains or navigate safely in bad weather, making every flight a chance for high drama. Our window into this insane business is a plucky American woman (Jean Arthur), who steps off a boat for what is supposed to be a few hours and finds herself unable to resist Grant’s churlish appeal. This is the first movie by Howard Hawks we are going to discuss, but it is certainly not the last, as Hawks has more films on the Sight & Sound 250 list than any other American director. (121 min.) Continue reading