Saturday, February 17, 2018

Stubs - County Hospital


County Hospital (1932) Starring: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Billy Gilbert Directed by James Parrott. Screenplay by H.M. Walker. Produced by Hal Roach. Runtime 19 minutes. U.S.A. Black and White. Comedy Short

Sometimes its hard to top yourself and in 1932, the comedy team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy had released what maybe their gold standard, The Music Box, the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film (Comedy). Knowing that, there maybe nowhere but down for the duo.

While not the follow up short, that would go to The Chimp, County Hospital was another short for the two. Written and filmed in February 1932, the film would be released on June 25, 1932. Like The Music Box, County Hospital has a pretty basic premise, one friend visits a sick friend in the hospital but in this case, the friends are two of the most talented comics to ever live.

Stan arrives at the County Hospital.

Stan is shown driving on his way to the hospital. For whatever reason, when he sees the typical Quiet Hospital Zone sign, his car rears up on its front wheels.

Despite his broken leg, Oliver looks content lying in his hospital bed.

Inside, Oliver is in bed with a broken leg in traction. He seems surprisingly happy for someone who is bedridden. When Laurel enters the room, he’s carrying a paper bag. When Oliver inquires about its contents, Stan tells him “hard-boiled eggs and nuts.”

What else do you bring to someone in a hospital bed but hard-boiled eggs and nuts?

But Oliver would rather have had candy, but Stan tells him that he can’t afford candy; Oliver never paid him from the last time. Even though Oliver doesn’t want an egg, Stan has one. Now you might imagine watching a man eat a hard-boiled egg wouldn’t be funny but, somehow, the way Stan eats it, without a care in the world, makes it funny.

Stan eats his egg like he doesn't have a care in the world.

When he’s done with one, even Oliver is surprised when Stan takes out a second one. But this time, the egg rolls off the night stand into Oliver’s water pitcher. He stops Stan from reaching his hand into the water to retrieve the egg. It takes two tries, but eventually, Stan is able to pluck the egg without putting his hand in the water. But the egg is wet and when Stan uses the towel draped over the table, he spills the water pitcher into Oliver’s bed.

Stan about to spill a pitcher of water into Oliver's bed.

Next, The Doctor (Billy Gilbert) enters to check on his patient. Oliver is happy to hear that he might have to stay in the hospital for a couple of months. While doctor and patient are talking, Stan decides to have a nut. When he sees the weight being used to hold up Oliver’s leg, he gets an idea what to use to crack the nut.

The Doctor (Billy Gilbert) arrives to check on his patient.

Picking up the weight, he tries to use it on the window sill. This sends Oliver up in the air, being held up by his broken leg. When the Doctor tries to pull the weight off the sill, he goes out the window, pulling the weight with him and Oliver further into the air.

The Doctor goes out the window.

Meanwhile, Nurse Smith (Estelle Etterre) is given a sedative for one of the patients. But hearing the commotion in Oliver’s room, she comes running into the room, putting the syringe down on a chair.
The doctor hangs on for dear life, while Stan feebly tries to pull him back inside all the time, Oliver is a human yo-yo. But dragging the rope back and forth over the edge of the sill eventually breaks it, sending Oliver crashing down, breaking his bed in the process. It takes Stan a while longer to finally pull the Doctor back into the room.

A publicity still showing getting Oliver back in his bed.

By the time the Doctor is pulled back into the room, the nurses and orderlies have gotten his bed back together. But the Doctor is mad and orders everyone to leave the room. When they’re alone, The Doctor orders Oliver to leave the hospital. Stan, though, doesn’t seem to react to the news with any haste.

Stan cuts the wrong trouser leg on the wrong pair of trousers.

When Oliver asks Stan to help him get dressed, Stan struggles with the pants leg, which is too small to fit over Oliver’s cast.  Oliver tells him to use a pair of scissors, so Stan cuts off one of the legs of a pair of trousers he takes out of the closet. But it turns out to be the wrong leg, so Oliver cuts off the right leg.

Just then, Oliver’s roommate (William Austin) returns with news that he’s too is going home, though most likely because he’s cured. But the roommate soon realizes that he’s trying to put on Oliver Hardy’s pants, whose names are even in the pants. Stan takes a seat in the chair and gets stuck by the hypodermic needle.

Into the room comes Nurse Smith looking for her syringe.  She finds it sticking out of Stan’s backside. She laughs at his predicament. She takes the syringe back to Miss Wallace (May Wallace), the head nurse, to get it refilled. Laughingly, she tells Nurse Wallace that Stan is going to sleep for a week.

Stan helps Oliver out to the car.

Stan, already starting to show the effects, helps Oliver out to the car. Oliver, despite the cast on his leg, insists on driving, but when they try to get his cast over the car’s windshield, he ends up in the backseat of the car. He insists Stan drive.

Stan is half-asleep while driving Oliver home from the hospital.

The rest of the movie is Stan, half-asleep, driving through what is possibly the streets of Culver City, with Oliver in the backseat all too aware of the danger they’re in. Finally, they end up getting squashed between two street cars, leaving their car bent in a semi-circle and driving in circles.

Publicity still showing the car after it's been squashed between two street cars.

While there are funny moments, the film suffers from poor production values. Its reliance on rear projection is undermined at just how bad those shots look. The last several minutes, which don’t look good at all, just drive the point home. I can’t underline how poor the final sequence looks, as it is so obviously rear projection footage that isn’t always to scale and doesn’t look the least bit believable.

Rather than a coherent story, like The Music Box, County Hospital seems to be a series of set piece sketches that don’t exactly work together to form a whole: hard-boiled eggs and nuts, the nut smashing with the weight, the cutting of the pants and the drive home, each sadly a little less funny than the sketch before.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy play pretty much the same characters they always do, which is not to take away from them. Most great movie comedians play a particular role or type of role through most of their films. Chaplin had his Little Tramp, Lloyd had the Glass Characters, the Marx Brothers had their own stock characters and so do Laurel and Hardy. Funnier together than separately, they play like a well-oiled machine. Too bad sometimes the material they’re working with isn’t always up to snuff.

The supporting cast is almost superfluous. With the exception of Billy Gilbert, none of them are all that memorable and in some cases, like Hardy’s roommate, don’t even have role names.

After climbing to the heights in The Music Box released earlier in 1932, the pair comes back down to Earth in County Hospital. If you can just watch the first half of the film, then it is very funny, but like a bad SNL sketch, it goes on too long.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Stubs - You Nazty Spy!


You Nazty Spy! (1940) Starring: Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Curly Howard, Lorna Gray, Dick Curtis, Don Beddoe. Directed by Jules White. Screenplay by Felix Adler and Clyde Bruckman. Produced by Jules White. Run Time: 18 minutes. U.S.A. Black and White. Comedy, Satire, Slapstick

If you’re of a certain age, the Three Stooges was something you watched after school on television. For me, they were the feature on a show called Slam Bang Theatre, hosted by Icky Twerp (Bill Camfield) with his two sidekicks in ape masks, Ajax and Delphinium. They were not something that my parents really wanted me to watch, thinking these old slapstick shorts would be a bad influence on me and my brother. They never out and out stopped us from watching, just looked disappointed when we talked about it.

Long before the Three Stooges became mid-60s syndication figures, they had appeared on vaudeville starting as support players for Ted Healy. Larry Fine, a vaudeville violinist, met Shemp Howard and Ted Healy when they were performing in the Shubert Brothers' A Night in Spain. Since Shemp was leaving the play, Fine was asked if he wanted to replace him, a replacement stooge. At the time, Healy’s other two stooges were Bobby Pinkus and Sam 'Moody' Braun.

Later, in 1929, Healy signed a contract to perform in a new Shubert Brothers revue, A Night in Venice and brought with him Fine, Shemp and Moe Howard. Moe had previously worked with Healy as well, back in 1921 in vaudeville. A Night in Venice ran until March 1930. That spring and summer, they toured as "Ted Healy & His Racketeers" before heading to Hollywood for Fox Studio’s Soup to Nuts (1930).

The Stooges broke away from Healy after that, as "Howard, Fine and Howard: Three Lost Soles" until the Summer of 1932. In July, Fine, Moe and Moe’s brother Curly joined back up with Healy; Shemp had broken off to pursue a solo career.

MGM signed Healy and his Stooges to a contract in 1933 and they appeared in several feature films and short subjects. Their final film together was Hollywood Party (1934). After that, the stooges parted company. The Stooges would sign a contract with Columbia Pictures to make two-reel comedies. They would go on to make 190 shorts at Columbia between 1934 and 1958, though there would be changes in the group, with Curly replacing Shemp in 1932, Shemp coming back to replace Curly in 1946 and Joe Besser replacing Shemp in 1956. Curly Joe DeRita would replace Besser in 1958 until 1970.

Their humor was considered low-brow slapstick. Moe was basically the ringleader and used physical abuse to keep the others in line and to do his bidding. I can understand why my parents were wary of me watching them and over time I feel like I’ve outgrown their humor, though it’s been a long time since I’ve watched any of their shorts.

What is of interest here is You Nazty Spy! the groups’ 44th short. The subject matter is something that Hollywood had tried to ignore up until now, Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. While Charlie Chaplin would get a lot of credit for parodying Hitler in his film The Great Dictator (1940), the Stooges beat him to the punch by about 9 months.

At the time of the film’s release, the U.S. was trying to avoid taking sides in what was becoming a European War. So worried was the U.S. government about taking sides, in 1941, isolationist senators were investigating suspected anti-Nazi propaganda by Hollywood. The committee had gone as far as making a list of films with an anti-Nazi bent. (These hearings are little known because they were canceled on the morning of Monday, Dec. 8, 1941, and the findings were never reported.)

The Hays office and the production code discouraged or prohibited many types of political and satirical messages in films, requiring that the history and prominent people of other countries must be portrayed "fairly". Short films, though, like those starring the Stooges, were given less attention than features and apparently didn’t stop them from making the film.

Filmed between December 5 and 9, 1939, the film was released on January 19, 1940. Written by Felix Adler and Clyde Bruckman, the latter of whom had worked with Buster Keaton and W.C. Fields. The director was Jules White, head of Columbia Pictures' short-subject division. In the 1930’s, while other suppliers of comedy shorts Hal Roach, Educational Pictures and Universal Pictures were scaling back, Columbia was just ramping up. White was used to physical humor, which fit in well with The Three Stooges act. Rather than the physical humor of say, the Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges were much rougher. Rather than cutting a deck of cars with an ax, as Harpo does in Horse Feathers (1932), Moe is more likely to hit Larry over the head with one.

You Nazty Spy! featured a new title sequence including the Columbia logo's torch-bearing woman on the left-hand corner, standing on a pedestal where each step has printed out "Columbia," "Short Subject" and "Presentation." 

The short begins with a title card disclaimer that reads: "Any resemblance between the characters in this picture and any persons, living or dead, is a miracle."

The story takes place in the fictional country of Moronika, where three munition manufacturers, Ixnay (Richard Fiske), Onay (Dick Curtis), and Amscray (Don Beddoe), are sitting around complaining about the lack of money they’re making. They blame their king, Herman the Sixth and Seven-Eights, and his policy of peace over war. Their solution is to instigate an overthrow of the King and install a dictatorship in his place. But who in the kingdom would be stupid enough to be a figurehead they could control?

Ixnay (Richard Fiske), Onay (Dick Curtis), and Amscray (Don Beddoe) meet with Moe Hailstone (Moe Howard), Curly Gallstone (Curly Howard) and Larry Pebble (Larry Fine) to discuss setting up a dictatorship.

Ixnay suggests they use one of the paper hangers working in his living room. They go in and we meet Moe Hailstone (Moe Howard), Curly Gallstone (Curly Howard), and Larry Pebble (Larry Fine). It is decided that Moe shall be the dictator, Curly his Field Marshal and Larry as Minister of Propaganda, send-ups of Adolph Hitler, Hermann Göring, and Joseph Goebbels respectively.

Moe, Curly and Larry accept the offer and give their own version of the Nazi salute.

They are told instigate a Beer Hall Putsch; to buy beer for a crowd and then lead them against the King. This apparently happens off camera, as next, we see the flag of Moronika features two snakes in the shape of a swastika and the phrase "Moronika for Morons".

Moe gives a parody of a Hitler speech flanked by his Field Marshal and Minister of Propaganda.

Next, we see the Stooges, Moe is making a speech on a balcony flanked by Curly and Larry. As Moe speaks about helping Moronika helping its neighbors and then helping themselves to their neighbors, Larry holds up signs directing the masses on how to respond. The signs read "CHEERS", "APPLAUSE", and, accidentally, "HISS".

The king's daughter (Lorna Gray) disguised as Moe's secretary.

Afterwards, Moe’s secretary, or stenographer as Curly calls her, is the king’s daughter (Lorna Gray). She announces to Moe that Mattie Herring (a spoof of World War I spy Mata Hari) is there to see him and then changes out of her secretary disguise. As Mattie, she comes to read Moe his future. Rather than a crystal ball, she uses an 8 ball, which she instructs Moe to sit behind. When the 8-ball gets busted in two, a note inside gives her away as the daughter of the King.

As Mattie Herring, she plays fortune teller with an 8-ball.

Suspecting her of being a spy, she is sentenced to death and Curly is supposed to execute her. But when he offers her a blindfold, she says “yes” and then puts it over Curly’s eyes. Curly, even though he can’t see anything, still tries to go through with the execution, but she takes the opportunity to make her escape.

Moe wants to have a round-meeting with neighboring countries, and when Larry points out that it is a square table, Moe gives him a saw to round it off with.

The map showing Moronika and the surrounding countries.

Then for some reason, a ballerina enters, dancing of course, and informs Moe that the delegates for the meeting have arrived. Moe tells those assembled that Moronika demands concessions from its neighbors, leading the delegates to start arguing with him. Curly quells them by knocking them out with golf balls.

But their triumph is short-lived. After the meeting, a large mob, led by the King and Mattie Herring, advance on the palace. The trio immediately abdicates and try to find a place to hide. They inadvertently run into a lion’s den and are eaten. The film ends with the lions wearing articles of the trio’s clothing. And if it’s not clear what took place, one of the lions burps.

The short was surprisingly successful, even playing at major theaters that had previously not shown their work. A sequel followed, I'll Never Heil Again, in 1941, the first in the Stooges film canon. By then, everyone was getting onboard the anti-Nazi bandwagon.

The short is in many ways typical fare from the Stooges; eyes are poked, heads are slapped and mayhem. It shows a limit to the Stooges repertoire, and parts of the act that would be used in pretty much every short they made. Theirs is a different type of physical humor that one sees in Charlie Chaplin and Marx Brothers movies.

There are some cultural references that many today may not get. An example is that while the Stooges are waiting for their fortune, they tell each other to shush, which turns into mimicking the sound of a train going down the track until stops. A conductor comes out of nowhere and announces All out for Syracuse!" Hearing that, Larry gets up and announces that it's his stop. Moe explains to a confused Mattie, that "The boy's from Syracuse" - a reference to the musical The Boys from Syracuse which premiered on Broadway in 1938.

The Stooges were all Ashkenazi Jews and would work in Yiddish into their dialogue. In Moe's imitation of a Hitler speech, he says "in pupik gehabt haben" (the semi-obscene "I've had it in the bellybutton" in Yiddish). The irony of hearing Hitler speaking Yiddish was not lost on the Yiddish-speaking Jews in the audience.

But the main aim of the film is to parody Hitler and Nazi Germany. The phrase on the flag "Moronika for Morons" is a direct play on the Nazi slogan "Deutschland den Deutschen" (Germany for Germans). Hitler’s failed attempt to take power in 1923, leading a Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, is also parodied. The reference to Hitler as a paper hanger refers to a 1937 speech by Cardinal George Mundelein of Chicago, who called Hitler an "Austrian paperhanger", perhaps because he was a failed artist. The nickname stuck, even though there is no evidence that Hitler actually ever made a living doing that.

Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 was as a figurehead of sorts. The Post World I German Weimar government was run by a coalition of fascists, communists, and socialists. All of the parties were pulling for power and when they had to elect a new Chancellor of Germany, none had enough votes to win the position. They decided to elect Hitler, as a puppet figurehead, because he seemed harmless enough.

In 1933, Hitler was elected by a democratic process to the position of Chancellor of Germany. Less than one month later, a fire broke out in the Reichstag building, similar to our Congress, known as the Reichstag Fire. Hitler seized on the moment and claimed the fire was really a coup attempt by the communists. The S.S. destroyed documents and framed the communists, the leaders of which were arrested and sent to Dachau -- the beginning of the concentration camps. As Chancellor of Germany, Hitler declared a state of emergency, taking away all personal rights and freedoms. The accidental fire allowed Hitler the opportunity to become Dictator.

The Three Stooges might not be to everyone’s taste, but you have to applaud them for being the first in mainstream Hollywood to satirize the Nazis and the Third Reich. There is a certain amount of bravery involved by not only the Stooges, but also the director and writers, not to mention Columbia Pictures, for going against the isolationist grain that was predominant at the time in the U.S. So, while you might not laugh out loud at the short, you have to appreciate the Stooges for taking a stand when no one else was willing to.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Coco


I’ll admit I initially didn’t know what to make of Coco when it was announced, since it centers around a Mexican holiday I only knew about on a high school level, in addition to me not wanting to sit through a 20-minute Frozen short in order to get to the actual movie (plus I had already decided to skip Cars 3 because Cars 2 left a bad taste in my mouth). What changed my mind about this movie was the positive word of mouth, as well as it being in the running for a number of Annie Awards, including Best Animated Feature (it has since won in every category it was nominated for). After deciding to see what all the fuss was about (after the overly-long Olaf’s Frozen Adventure was finally cut from screenings), I found myself enjoying it to the point that I would put it up there with some of Pixar’s better movies.

The film centers on a boy named Miguel Rivera (Anthony González), who comes from a large Mexican family making Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) preparations. After his mysterious great-great grandfather left the family to pursue a music career, Miguel’s great-great grandmother Imelda placed a generations-long ban on music from the family, instead getting into shoemaking and starting a family business; Miguel, however, secretly idolizes the late musician Ernesto de la Cruz, wishing himself to start his own music career. On the night of Día de los Muertos, after circumstances lead Miguel to believe that de la Cruz may actually be his unspoken-of great-great grandfather, he tries to make his talent heard in spite of his grandmother Abuelita’s (Renée Victor) objections. Desperate, Miguel attempts to steal de la Cruz’s guitar from his mausoleum, causing him to cross over into the spirit world; upon being able to see them for the first time, the spirits of Miguel’s late family members bring Miguel to the Land of the Dead to try and get him back to the Land of the Living.

Though it hits the same notes as other contemporary Disney and Pixar movies, Coco uses them to tell an affective, heartfelt story that appeals beyond its core demographic and setting. Noted for its accuracy to the Day of the Dead and Mexican culture by Spanish audiences, Coco also provides interesting insight to those outside the culture, much like how Moana does the same with Pacific Island culture. It’s evident that a lot of work and research was put into this movie, as evidenced by its intricately-detailed interpretation of the Land of the Dead and how its residents interact with the Land of the Living once per year. It’s also because of its accuracy to the culture that I felt I was able to learn more about (and better appreciate) the subject matter in under 2 hours than I did from several years in school.

The art direction is simply spectacular, especially in the Land of the Dead, the setting for the majority of the movie. As shown in a short behind-the-scenes featurette attached to the screening I went to, a lot of work was put into making this setting as detailed and aesthetically pleasing as possible and it shows. The spirits of the dead, represented as skeletons with painted skulls, are also made to be very expressive, helped by placing eyes in the sockets in such a way as to not be (too) off-putting. The animation in general is some of Pixar’s best, striking a good balance between realism and signification that works in its favor. Special credit goes to the opening sequence, which is animated in the style of papel picado, a Mexican tissue paper decoration.

As the movie is somewhat of a musical (not one with random song breaks), the songs, of course, have to be good and Coco does it well. Each of the songs are used to good effect, aiding the story and showing off the voice actors’ singing abilities without overtaking the film. A stand-out song is “Remember Me”, a recurring original composition that ties into the main themes of the movie, though I will not divulge how for the sake of avoiding spoilers.

Coco is definitely one of Pixar’s better movies, showing that Pixar has learned from their missteps and serves as the return to form they’ve been heading towards since Inside Out in 2015. Going by reactions from Mexican audiences, the depiction of Mexican culture is spot-on and I felt like I learned a lot about the Day of the Dead holiday and what it represents. Coco is also a good movie in its own right, taking full advantage of its themes to drive home its messages in an effective manner. The animation is also some of Pixar’s best, which seems will only get better if the attached teaser for The Incredibles 2 is any indication. Even if you don’t celebrate Día de los Muertos, Coco provides something for everyone and is a must-see for Pixar and animation fans.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Stubs - A Dog's Life (1918)


A Dog’s Life (1918) Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Syd Chaplin, Henry Bergman, Charles Reisner, Albert Austin, Tom Wilson. Directed Charlie Chaplin. Screenplay by Charlie Chaplin. Produced by Charlie Chaplin. Run Time: 33 minutes USA Black and White, Silent, Comedy

An article in the January 26, 1918, issue of the Los Angeles Times heralded the opening of a movie studio on the corner of La Brea and Sunset in Hollywood, next to what had been a lemon orchard. Flush with a million-dollar contract from First National, Chaplin had spent about half of it, according to the story, to build his own studio.

In the article, written by Grace Kingsley, who was the LA Times’ motion picture editor from 1914 until her retirement in 1933, Chaplin discusses the first film he plans to make. "All about a dog!" Chaplin had apparently been thinking about the comic possibilities of working with a dog and felt that time was right.

But before he made A Dog’s Life, Chaplin wrote and produced a short called How Movies Are Made, which gave the audience a brief tour of the new facilities disguised as a day in the life of Charlie Chaplin, movie mogul. We see him arrive at his new studio, receive the morning fan mail, working with his crews, applying makeup on an actress and then giving her a screen test, rehearsing with his actors, editing his film, etc. We’re also shown how negatives are processed and the film dried on giant drums. A fairly interesting slice of life, but for whatever reason, never released.

In his effort to find the right dog, Chaplin looked at several breeds, including a dachshund, a Pomeranian, a poodle, a Boston bull terrier and an English bulldog before deciding what he needed was a mongrel. To find the right one, Chaplin picked up 21 dogs from the Los Angeles pound and brought them to the set. When neighbors complained, he cut back to 12 dogs before settling on one, Mutt. In her article, Kingsley refers to “a scrap of a mongrel” that was at Chaplin’s feet during the interview. She refers to the dog as Bingo, but it’s not clear if that is the same dog that made it into the film.

Chaplin films were not written in the usual way that we think films are written. Routines were worked out, sometimes on the set, with a trial and error to find the right bit. At the time of the Kingsley article, all that was known for sure about the movie was that it included an employment bureau in it.

When the film opens, The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) is sleeping in a vacant lot. When a traveling hot dog vendor stops to service a customer, Charlie reaches through the broken down fence to fish a hot dog out while the vendor isn’t looking. As he goes back for mustard, The Tramp is spotted by one of several cops on foot patrol. The Tramp avoids capture by rolling in and out of the lot through the missing bottom of the fence, while the hapless cop runs back and forth. When the Tramp sees his chance, he kicks the officer’s backside, when he gets stuck halfway under. The arrival of a second cop causes The Tramp to take off.

The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) gets caught stealing a hot dog from a vendor.

Meanwhile, we see a lonely Scraps (Mutt) who is also hungry and looking for food on the streets.

Things are much better for Scraps (Mutt).

The Tramp, with best intentions, goes to an Employment office where there are openings for strong men to work in the sewers but there are also openings for work at a brewery. Even though The Tramp is the first one in, he gets knocked off the bench, twice and gets cut on by others in line for the jobs. He runs back and forth between windows and clerks (Charles Reisner and Albert Austin) until all the openings are filled.

Charlie's attempt to find work gets thwarted at the Employment Bureau.

Back out on the street, The Tramp spies Scraps, who gets attacked by a pack of feral dogs over scraps she’s found. The Tramp rushes out to save her, fighting off dogs, one of which attaches itself to The Tramp’s backside.

Finally clear of them, The Tramp tries to find something to feed the dog. There is a bottle of milk on the porch, awaiting collection, the remnants of which Charlie lets the dog drink. To get to the bit on the bottom, The Tramp inserts the dog’s tail into the bottle and lets her lick the excess milk off of her own tail.

The Tramp steals muffins from a lunch wagon run by his half-brother Syd.

Later, the two happen by a lunch wagon and harass the owner (Syd Chaplin). First, Scraps steals two hot dogs the owner was preparing to cook. And then The Tramp helps himself to a plate of muffins set out for the paying trade. With the owner’s attention elsewhere, The Tramp steals and eats all of them. Things get harder when the owner grows suspicious. They play around with double and triple checks as The Tramp uses any opening to steal one.

At the Green Lantern, the Tramp and Scraps are escorted out.

From there, the two venture over to a street café, the Green Lantern. Despite a large sign saying No Dogs Allowed, The Tramp tries to walk in with the dog on a leash. However, The Tramp is not to be undeterred. Stuffing Scraps into his pants, The Tramp re-enters. And except for the dog’s tail sticking out of a hole in the back of his pants, he might get away with. Finally, he lets Scraps out of his pants.

The Tramp sticks Scraps in his pants and goes back in.

The Green Lantern is part bar and part nightclub. We see the patrons dance and see a girl dancer perform on stage. Then a new singer (Edna Purviance) comes to the stage and delivers a song that brings everyone, literally everyone including the musicians, to tears. Some cry so hard and so much that it is almost surreal.

The Bar Singer (Edna Purviance) is not good at flirting.

Despite her talent as a singer, she is encouraged by the Dance Hall Proprietor (Granville Redmond) to flirt with the clientele to get them to buy her drinks. Edna is not a natural flirt and it takes her telling The Tramp that she’s flirting with him for anything to happen. They dance a frenetic and awkward step together. The band seems to have only one speed, fast. Afterward, when The Tramp can’t afford to buy her a drink, the barkeep throws him to the curb.

The Tramp and the Singer dance while she holds Scraps' leash.

Meanwhile, a rich drunk is mugged by two assailants who steal his wallet. The cops are close by and take up the chase. One of the robbers buries the wallet in the same vacant lot Charlie lives in. The thieves escape and later we see the drunk rich man get up and stumble away.

Scraps makes a good pillow.

Later, when The Tramp and Mutt return to get some sleep, Scraps digs up the wallet. With his newfound wealth, The Tramp returns to the Green Lantern to look for the bar singer. He has money now and wants to marry her.

The Tramp shows the Singer the money he has.

Back at the bar, her failings as a flirt don’t go unnoticed by the owner. A rather large man at the bar (Alf Reeves) is very aggressive with her and when she resists, the man walks away but the owner fires her.

The Green Lantern also just happens to be where the thieves plan to rendezvous. They are there when The Tramp flashes the money to the Singer and they recognize the wallet. When they take it back by force, The Tramp and The Singer are escorted out.

Determined to get the wallet back, The Tramp sneaks back into the bar and gets in behind the crooks in their booth. He smacks one of the men on the back of the head, through a curtain, with a mallet. 
Reaching through holes in the curtain, he sticks his arm up behind the unconscious crook, assuming his identity. The Tramp does various gestures as if he were the Crook, straightening his tie, lifting a glass of beer for a sip, wiping his mouth and holding out his hand for a cut of the loot. His partner gives him half without question. The Tramp then waves the other Crook forward and hits him over the head with the bottle of beer when he leans in.

The Tramp takes the wallet and hurries out the way he had come in, as the Crooks revive and take chase. Out on the street, the Tramp takes refuge in the lunch stand, with the proprietor and him taking cover while the Crooks fire on them. Scraps relieves The Tramp of the wallet and takes it back to the Singer, as the cops move in and arrest the thieves.

The idyllic ending with Scraps as a new mother.

Now with the money, the Tramp and the Singer can live out their dream lives. As the film ends, the Tramp is shown planting seeds in the soil. Inside, the Singer is making dinner and brings him his robe at the end of the day. Together, they gaze down lovingly on a layette, within whicha reScraps and a lovely litter of puppies.

The film is notable for several things. This is the first film in which Charlie and his elder half-brother Sydney appear together on film. The two have had a working relationship going back to the English music halls. Syd had worked hard to get Charlie into the Fred Karno’s comedy troupe that would ultimately lead to him being discovered by Mack Sennett. Charlie, in turn, got Syd signed by Keystone where he starred in A Submarine Pirate (1915), the second most financially successful comedy that studio ever made, behind Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914), which starred Charlie.

After leaving acting, Sydney was the one who negotiated Charlie’s contracts with Mutual and First National. A Dog’s Life was Syd’s return to acting, though he would still handle his brother’s business affairs. Following his appearance here, Syd would also appear in films like Shoulder Arms (1918).

The film also represents a step forward in his own filmmaking. Not only was it his longest film to date but according to Chaplin, it was also the first in which he seriously considered comic plot construction. Chaplin’s next film, Shoulder Arms. would indeed be his first feature-length film. Released on April 14, 1918, A Dog’s Life would also be his biggest hit to date and was advertised as his "First Million Dollar Picture".

A Dog’s Life is often times more poignant than laugh out loud funny. Chaplin was in the process of taking the Tramp from his slapstick past into a more of a sentimental character. To quote John McCabe’s biography Charlie Chaplin, “It was clear to Chaplin that Charlie now needed a deeper dimension. Roguish tricks as such would no longer sustain such a character. The problem was that as a slapstick comedian his farcical plots did not easily accommodate sentiment. This conflict Chaplin helped resolve by making Charlie increasingly more of a Pierrot, that wistful mischievous clown who so artfully combines tears and laughter.” Chaplin was taking steps towards making films like City Lights (1931), that successfully married comedy and sentiment in what was perhaps one of his greatest and most memorable silent films.

All that said, A Dog’s Life is not all that great. The humor is never laughing out loud and in some cases, hasn’t aged all that well. That is not to say there are not funny moments, but they are not anything you haven’t seen before in a Chaplin film.

The speed at which the romance moves between the Tramp and the Bar Singer is lightning fast. In fact, it wasn’t all clear that they had shared more than a dance, let alone fallen in love until Charlie obtains the wallet. The money seems to propel them together. It is never clear how much money there is in there, but it must have been enough to buy a farm and start a new life. Talk about a gap between the wealthy and the downtrodden, as our wealthy drunk was carrying that much on him and doesn’t seem to be all that bothered about losing it.

While there are moments in A Dog’s Life, I can’t say that I would necessarily recommend it. This definitely points to better films to come and I would recommend you seeking those films out.

Be sure to check out other silent film reviews at our Silent Cinema Review Hub.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Stubs - The Shape of Water


The Shape of Water (2017) Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor. Produced by J. Miles Dale, Guillermo del Toro. Run Time: 123 minutes. USA Color. Fantasy, Science Fiction, Drama, Romance

A Creature From the Black Lagoon comes to the big city, in this case, Baltimore, story is one of this year's leading films to win a Best Picture Oscar. The film is also nominated in 12 other categories, in addition to Best Picture, including Best Director (Guillermo del Toro), Best Actress (Sally Hawkins), Best Supporting Actor (Richard Jenkins), Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer) and Best Original Screenplay (Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor). And after watching the film, I would have to say that it deserves these nominations, if not the awards.

Sally Hawkins, a gifted actress, plays Elisa Esposito, a mute who works as a janitor for a secret government agency. She lives above a struggling movie theater, next door to a lonely artist, Giles (Richard Jenkins), a recovering alcoholic with a penchant for finding old Fox films on local TV. She is accompanied at work by Zelda Delilah Fuller (Octavia Spencer) whose main purpose seems to be interpreting Elisa's sign language for the higher-ups. Those include Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), who are both working on a secret project, which turns out to be Amphibian Man (Doug Jones).

The film takes place during the Cold War, with the Space Race just starting to take shape, so there is some Russian espionage at work as well. Though neither side is really sure of what to make of the Amphibian Man, that doesn't prevent them from fighting over him. While I can't say that all the hairdos and suit styles are spot on, the feeling of the era is definitely captured.

Curiosity leads Elisa to find the Amphibian Man and an unlikely relationship begins. If you haven't seen the film, then saying more would be giving away the plot. And this is definitely a film you should see.

Del Toro directing a scene from The Shape of Water.

The name Del Toro is not always a sign of greatness, see Pacific Rim (2013), which like this film is a mixture of influences and genres. However, while Pacific Rim was sort of stupid, this time the combinations seem to work much better. Originally conceived as a remake of the aforementioned Creature From the Black Lagoon, an IP that Universal is not yet willing to part with, this time the creature is a much more sympathetic character and the film's heartwarming touches sort of catch you a little by surprise. There are the occasional plot holes, but not enough to take away from the overall film.

Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water.

Sally Hawkins, who is unafraid of nudity here, plays a very sweet character who finds an inner strength when she needs it. Hawkins overcomes the shortcomings that Elisa is unable to talk, but she still manages to get the character across to the audience.

Richard Jenkins plays Giles, Elisa's neighbor and confidant in The Shape of Water.

Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer, who play Elisa's personal and work best friends, are both good in their roles and deserve the accolades they've received. The film seems to give every main character a life away from the main story. While Giles is painted with more depth, Zelda is also drawn in three-dimensions.

I would say equally deserving is Michael Shannon's performance as Col. Richard Strickland. Unlike many movie villains, you see him as a somewhat believable character, a family man driven by an overzealous misplaced fervor for both the Bible and patriotism. A definitely flawed man, you never root for him but you have to appreciate the actor who brings him to life.

Michael Shannon gives his character a lot of depth, even though you can never root for him.

I am not going to predict the whims of the Motion Picture Academy, but I will highly recommend this film. There is so much to like here and every aspect seems to be done at a very high level from the acting to the story to the direction. This is one that you want to be sure to see so that you'll understand what all the fuss is about.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Stubs - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)


The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) Starring: James Stewart, Doris Day, Brenda de Banzie, Bernard Miles, Ralph Truman, Daniel Gélin, Mogens Wieth, Alan Mowbray. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Produced by Alfred Hitchcock. Screenplay by John Michael Hayes. Based on a Story by Charles Bennett, D. B. Wyndham-Lewis. Run Time: 120 minutes. USA Thriller

Throughout his long career, Alfred Hitchcock only remade one film, The Man Who Knew Too Much, one of his more successful British films and the one many credit with his long-running fascination with Thrillers. The remake was not initially his idea, but rather David O. Selznick’s, the producer Hitchcock was under contract to when he first came to Hollywood. Selznick bought the rights to the film. However, Hitchcock wasn’t ready to remake it until he was out on his own and under contract to Paramount Pictures. Then he looked at the remake as a way of fulfilling his contract with that studio.
And while he wanted to remake the film, he didn’t want it to be too closely similar to the original.

The writer, John Michael Hayes, who had worked with the director on such films as Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955), was not allowed to watch the original nor read the screenplay. Instead, Hitchcock told him the story and Hayes would outline the script from his notes. He had barely finished the first draft when production got underway.

For casting, James Stewart was a given as the father. The actor and director had worked together prior, in Rear Window, so there was already a familiarity. But Stewart represented a sort of everyman that Hitchcock wanted for his leading man and protagonist.

For the wife, Hitchcock had to fight for Doris Day for the mother. Best known as a singer, Day had appeared in Storm Warning (1951), a film noir thriller; a performance Hitchcock had seen and liked. But Associate Producer Herbert Coleman was not so sure. He suggested other actresses, including Lana Turner, Grace Kelly, and Kim Novak but eventually, Day was cast.

Production began on April 29, 1955, in Marrakech, Morocco. Riots broke out against the French protectorate that ruled the country and the production barely escaped Morocco before the French administrator was assassinated. Second unit photography had to rush their work as well, getting out of Morocco before Ramadan.

The production would move back to London, with shooting in and around the city, including The Royal Albert Hall. After that, the shooting returned to Paramount Studios in Hollywood, where it concluded on August 24, 1955.

The opening credits take place in Albert Hall, where the orchestra is playing Arthur Benjamin's "Storm Clouds Cantata"  which will later play a significant part in the film.

The cymbals are played at the climax of the piece.

After attending a medical conference in Paris, American physician Ben McKenna (James Stewart) takes his wife Jo (Doris Day) and son Hank (Christopher Olsen) to Casablanca, where he had been stationed during World War II and to Marrakech, Morocco. The film opens with the trio on the bus to Marrakech. Hank accidentally pulls the veil off a Muslim woman when the bus lurches, which angers her husband.

After rescuing Hank (Christopher Olsen), Louis (Daniel Gélin)
talks with Ben (James Stewart) and Jo McKenna (Doris Day)

Louis Bernard (Daniel Gélin), a Frenchman and fellow passenger, intercedes and calms the man down. For the rest of the bus ride, he questions the family, learning much about them, including that Ben is a doctor in Indianapolis, but Bernard avoids reciprocal information about himself. Jo is suspicious of Louis as a result. Louis says that he has business to attend to and can’t accompany them to the hotel. Before they separate, they make plans to have dinner that night and to meet for drinks in the McKenna’s hotel suite before.

The bus arrives in Marrakech.

Soon afterward, Jo notices that Louis speaks to the man from the bus as if they are old friends, only adding to her suspicions.

Jo is suspicious of the Draytons, Edward (Bernard Miles) and Lucy (Brenda De Banzie).

When they arrive at their hotel, Jo notices that a passing British couple seems to be watching them, but Ben thinks she’s being paranoid.

That night, Louis meets the McKennas for a drink in their hotel room before dinner. While Jo is getting Hank ready for bed, the two of them sing “Que Sera, Sera” as if this is part of their bedtime routine.

Their plans change when Rien (Reggie Nalder) appears at the McKennas' hotel room door. Rien says he’s looking for someone and leaves quickly, but it’s clear he and Louis have made eye contact. Louis makes a call before telling Ben and Jo that he has a business appointment and promises they’ll do dinner another night.

The Draytons show the McKennas the customs of eating in a different culture.

Later, at an Arab restaurant, Ben and Jo seem out of their element, that is until they meet a British couple, the Draytons, Edward (Bernard Miles) and Lucy (Brenda De Banzie), the same couple who had been eyeing Jo when they arrived at the hotel. The Draytons explain the staring by claiming to be fans of Jo, who was a well-known singer prior to her marriage to Ben. Lucy had seen her on the London stage. The Draytons help the McKennas manage local customs which also involve how to eat without utensils.

While they’re eating, the McKennas see Louis come into the restaurant with a woman.  At first, Ben doesn’t seem to think too much of it, but Jo manages to rile him up and then has to restrain him from confronting Louis.

Hitchcock makes his appearance at the marketplace.

The next morning, the McKennas and Draytons meet at the local marketplace. Lucy seems to take Hank under her wing so Jo and Ben are free to explore on their own. Besides shopping, there are performances by locals. Everyone seems to be having a good time until the police are seen chasing a man through the crowd. But the man is purposefully and fatally stabbed by another man who is also running from the crowd.

The two families witness a murder in the marketplace.

With the knife sticking out of his back, the man stumbles into the crowd toward a surprised Ben. When he collapses in Ben’s arms, some of the dark make up comes off and Ben realizes that it is Louis disguised as an Arab. When Ben leans down, Louis tells him that there is a plot to assassinate an unnamed statesman in London. Ben hurriedly writes down the little bit he’s heard.

The makeup comes off, revealing the victim to be Louis.

The police want to question them. Edward offers to go with them since he speaks French. Lucy offers to take Hank back to the hotel with her. Edward’s presence isn’t required since the police detective speaks English. Ben thinks he’s being accused of somehow being a part of Louis’ murder and bristles. When he’s informed there is a phone call for him, he leaves Jo and goes to take it.

The unidentified man on the other end of the phone threatens Hank if Ben tells the police what he knows. Edward tries to call the hotel to speak to Lucy, but she hasn’t returned. Ben asks him to go back to the hotel to make sure everything is all right and Edward willingly goes.

Ben sedates Jo before telling her Hank has been kidnapped.

When they get back to the hotel, Ben learns that the Draytons have checked out and are gone. Realizing that Hank is now missing, he gives Jo a sedative before telling her what he suspects. She is not surprisingly upset, but too sedated to do anything about it.

By the time she wakes up, Ben has found that the Draytons have flown out on a private plane headed to London, so that’s where they’re going to look for Hank.

At the London Airport, Jo and Ben hear their son's voice on the phone.

When they arrive in London, they are surprised to be greeted by Jo’s fans and the police. Inspector Buchanan of Scotland Yard (Ralph Truman) is already aware that their son has been kidnapped and informs them that Louis was, in fact, a British Secret Agent. Jo pleads with Ben to tell the inspector what he knows, but he refuses. The Inspector, who is also a father, seems to appreciate their situation.
While they’re there, Jo receives a phone call from Lucy, who lets them speak briefly to Hank. Ben tries to get Hank to tell them where he is, but the call ends. The police manage to have traced it to a public phone.

Jo's London theater friends Val (Alan Mowbray) and Helen Parnell (Alix Talton),
 Jan Peterson (Hillary Brooke), and Cindy Fontaine (Carolyn Jones) come to visit and drink.

After checking into a London hotel, the McKennas attempt to call Ambrose Chappell, the name Louis told Ben, but they are interrupted by the arrival of Jo's old acquaintances: Val (Alan Mowbray) and Helen Parnell (Alix Talton), Jan Peterson (Hillary Brooke), and Cindy Fontaine (Carolyn Jones), old friends of Jo’s from her days in London. While Jo stays behind with her friends, Ben sneaks out through the hotel's service entrance to meet Chappell.

Ben goes to the wrong Ambrose Chappell.

The address he has is for the Ambrose taxidermy shop and Ben is slow to realize that neither Ambrose Sr. (George Howe) nor Ambrose Jr. (Richard Wordsworth) is involved in his son's kidnapping, and is forced to make a quick escape after the employees try to detain him for the police.

Ben gets into a scuffle at the taxidermist.

Meanwhile, at the hotel, Jo realizes that "Ambrose Chapel" is a place, not a person, and she leaves her friends to go there. Her friends are still there when Ben returns and he is only there for a few minutes when Jo calls. He leaves again and goes to meet her.

Inside the church, we see that Hank is being held captive by the Draytons, with the help of their assistant, Edna (Betty Baskcomb), who we had seen at the airport when Ben and Jo arrived. Edna is growing tired of babysitting Hank, but Lucy wants her to be nice to the boy.

Edward shows assassin Rien (Reggie Nalder) the musical cue to shoot.

Rien is also there is being instructed by the Draytons as to the exact moment during an Albert Hall concert that it would be safe for him to commit the assassination. It is a climactic cymbal crash in the performance of a cantata, which Edward plays for him several times. It is revealed that they were in Morocco to bring him back for this very mission.

The McKennas go to the right Ambrose Chapel.

Meanwhile, the McKennas enter the chapel just as the service, administered by Mr. Drayton, is about to begin. Lucy is walking around with the collection plate when she sees them standing in the church. She tries to warn her husband, but it is not until he sees Jo leave to call the police that he cuts the service short, sending everyone home to meditate.

The McKennas try not to be seen during the church service.

Ben gets locked in after everyone else leaves. Hearing his son's voice, Ben rushes to Hank's aid, only to be knocked unconscious by one of Draytons' henchmen.

The police arrive, but there is no answer at the church’s front door and they can’t enter without a warrant. The police are told to wait for Scotland Yard. In the meantime, Jo calls Buchanan, but he is unreachable as he is attending an important diplomatic function at a concert at Albert Hall.

In the meantime, the Draytons with their henchman and Hank leave out a back way undetected by the police. They take refuge at a foreign embassy.

When Rien sees Jo in the lobby he tells her Hank is a fine boy.

When the police are ordered to leave, she asks if they can take her to Albert Hall, but they take her to a taxi stand instead. In the lobby, Rien sees her and the assassin makes a point of telling her she has a fine boy as if to remind her that Hank's safety depends on her silence.

Ben makes his escape out of the church through the bell tower.

Meanwhile, Ben makes quite a stir as he escapes the locked chapel by climbing the church bell's rope. Once out, he also makes his way to the concert.

Bernard Herrmann, the film's composer, conducts the orchestra inside Albert Hall.

The concert, which features the "Storm Clouds Cantata", is conducted by Bernard Herrmann, who is playing himself. In the audience, Jo senses that Rien is about to shoot a visiting foreign prime minister and she screams at the appropriate moment causing the startled assassin to merely wound the dignitary in the arm.

Rien's aim is thrown off when Jo screams.

Ben then jumps Rien, and in his attempt to escape, the assassin falls from the balcony to his death. After the concert, the grateful Prime Minister (Alexis Bobrinskoy) invites them back to his embassy.

Lucy is protective of Hank.

Back at the embassy, the Draytons are informed by the ambassador (Mogens Wieth) that their assassination attempt on the prime minister has failed. Over Lucy's objection, the ambassador then orders her husband to kill Hank.

Jo belts out "Que Sera, Sera" at the embassy.

The police are unable to go into the embassy due to diplomatic immunity, so the McKennas enter alone. Jo is asked to perform for the guests, and her singing voice is soon recognized by Hank, when she sings their song “Que Sera, Sera”. Mrs. Drayton, who seems to have taken a liking to the boy, instructs him to whistle along with his mother’s singing. This guides Ben to the room in which Hank is being held.

Edward tries to use Ben and Hank as shields to get out of the embassy.

Lucy encourages them to hurry, but before they’re out of the room, Edward appears, gun in hand and pointed at the boy’s head. Rather than kill them, he decides to use Ben and Hank as human shields so he can escape from the embassy.

As they make their way down the grand staircase, Ben pushed Hank out of the way and pushes Drayton, who is killed when he falls on his own gun and it goes off.

The reunited McKennas then head back to their hotel room, where Jo's friends, now asleep, have been waiting the entire time.

The film was released in the U.S. on June 1, 1956 and turned out to be a box office success, taking in $11.333 million in domestic box-office receipts and $4.1 million in theatrical rentals. The film also received mostly positive reviews, including Bosley Crowther at the New York Times who called it “lean and fluid” and that even in “mammoth VistaVision, the old Hitchcock thriller-stuff has punch.”

Hitchcock must have been pleased with his remake. In his famous interview with François Truffaut, after the French New Wave director asserts that aspects of the remake were superior to the original Hitchcock replied, "Let's say the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional."

And there are certain aspects that are far better. While the original film seemed to be in a hurry, the remake seems almost languid in its approach to getting the story going. But it does allow Hitchcock to better set up the relationships between characters. Ben and Jo are shown to be a happily married couple and are presented as a typical American couple for the time period of the film. She naturally gave up her career when she married, to be a wife and mother, again expected of women at the time.

Their relationship with Louis is allowed time to develop and seems more realistic than the Lawrences had with their Louis Bernard in the original. Rather than an intimate stranger, Louis is presented here as a real stranger that the couple is simply friendly with, but still keep him at arm’s length.

James Stewart is, as usual, pretty good. While not my favorite role of his, he seems to really be living the character, warts and all. He is reserved but with a bit of a temper. Ben can be manipulated by Jo but also knows how to manipulate her in turn. He’s a lanky American who can’t help but stand out in the marketplace of Morocco.

Doris Day, despite Herbert Coleman’s reservations, seems like the perfect fit for the role of Jo, especially given her background as a singer. Her best acting here may be when she learns that Hank has been kidnapped. Despite having been drugged by her husband, she is still distraught.

The film is filled with interesting characters besides the main leads, especially the Draytons, who are surprisingly villainous for what appears at first glance to be a doting old English couple. Hitchcock has always liked to show people we think of in one regard in a different light. The nicer and more normal they appear, the more the character is hiding. The Draytons may seem like a God-fearing religious couple, but in the end, Edward would think nothing of putting a bullet through little Hank’s head.

Jo's London theater friends have small roles, but they seem to make quite an impression. You get the real sense that they are a tight-knit group who enjoy talking and drinking. They provide just the right amount of comic relief at the end of the film.

While the original film ends with the mother shooting and killing the assassin, here the ending is more comedic. Jo’s theater friends are still waiting, after many long hours, asleep in their chairs in the hotel suite’s sitting room. There are some other comedic touches, like Ben struggling to figure out how to eat with only two fingers and a thumb on his right hand but the one at the end works best.

The film looks good, though Hitchcock works against himself when he cuts between location shots and obvious studio ones. You have the same thing with other Hitchcock films, like the crop duster scene in North By Northwest (1959). While Hitchcock liked the control that a studio provided, the technology wasn’t there to seamlessly mix the two. Instead, it can be a little jarring at times.

The song “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” which is featured prominently in the film, was written by Jay Livingston (composer) and Ray Evans (lyricist). Doris Day wasn’t actually thrilled with the song herself, thinking it was a children’s song. According to Livingston, “She didn't want to record it but the studio pressured her. She did it in one take and said, 'That's the last you're going to hear of this song.'” Instead, it would become Day’s signature song, reaching number two on the U.S. Billboard charts and win the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song under the title: "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)".

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) like many of Hitchcock’s 50’s films, takes its time getting to the point. Helping to build tension and add to the suspense of the film, but you have to be willing to stick with it. If you can stick with it, the film is worth watching. While the payoff might not be as good as the original's, there is still a lot to like about the movie. If you have the time, stay with it, you’ll like it.