I recently purchased the Criterion Collection edition of On The Waterfront (1954). I am very impressed. The film is a masterpiece. I have seen it a couple of times over the years, but it really hit home this time. The bonus features are great as well. They include a wonderful interview with Martin Scorsese and an hour long documentary on director Elia Kazan.
IMDB Storyline: Terry Malloy dreams about being a prize fighter, while tending his pigeons and running errands at the docks for Johnny Friendly, the corrupt boss of the dockers union. Terry witnesses a murder by two of Johnny's thugs, and later meets the dead man's sister and feels responsible for his death. She introduces him to Father Barry, who tries to force him to provide information for the courts that will smash the dock racketeers.
Malloy is played masterfully by Marlon Brando in what might be his best performance (at least from what I've seen). The supporting is fantastic too! Karl Malden, Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint and one of my favourites Lee J. Cobb.
I think it's fair to say this movie was very influential and opened the door for more progressive movie makers including Scorcese and Coppola. I also believe that the Malloy character is an influence on DeNiro's Jake Lamotta in Raging Bull (1980) and Stallone's Rocky Balboa in Rocky (1976).
After some spirited debate with a friend last night I have arrived at my Top Ten Classic Film Actors and Actresses lists...
They are in no particular order - it was hard enough coming up with the lists. And, they would constantly change depending on what movie I watched last. Not to mention, there are several other fantastic actors not on the lists! How's that for a cop out?
Top 10 Actors:
1. Humphrey Bogart
2. Cary Grant
3. Burt Lancaster
4. Peter Lorre
5. Richard Widmark
6. Tony Curtis
7. Marlon Brando
8. Fred Astaire
9. Montgomery Clift
10. Jack Lemmon
Top 10 Actresses:
1. Barbara Stanwyck
2. Grace Kelly
3. Rita Hayworth
4. Lauren Bacall
5. Ginger Rogers
6. Elizabeth Taylor
7. Shirley MacLaine
8. Marilyn Monroe
9. Mary Astor
10. Ingrid Berman
Next, I will attempt to make my Top Ten Classic Films list! God help me!
Last night, I watched Night and the City (1950) again. I've only seen it a couple of times, but I have to say it's become one of my favourite Noir films.
A small-time grifter and nightclub tout takes advantage of some fortuitous circumstances and tries to become a big-time player as a wrestling promoter.
Richard Widmark is fantastic as Harry Fabian, the small-time grifter. The film also features great performances from Herbert Lom (Dreyfuss from the Pink Panther movies) and Gene Tierney.
I've talked about Richard Widmark before. I believe he is a vastly underated actor. Check out one of earlier blog entries for some more Widmark suggestions! And definitely check out Night and the City!
Last night I had the wonderful opportunity of attending a TIFF Master Class with Guillermo Del Toro. Del Toro introduced Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943) then led a Q&A after the movie. Even though Guillermo was not feeling well I found him to be an absolute treasure chest of information. He brilliantly assessed the movie, gave great thought to all the questions asked of him and also displayed a great sense of humour.
Shadow of a Doubt is one of my favourite Hitchcock movies having seen it several times. I thought I knew the movie pretty well. Boy, was I wrong! Guillermo took me to school. It turns out I was missing a great deal. Small details I completely overlooked became huge talking points. I will never see the movie the same way. In fact, I plan on watching it again tonight.
If you haven't seen Shadow of a Doubt, you really should. It truly is a masterpiece!
As for Del Toro, definitely check out his work. I was a big fan of his heading into the master class and an even bigger fan heading out!
I recently had the pleasure of performing at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener, Ontario with a wonderful singer named Mary-Catherine McNinch-Pazzano. It turns out that she's a huge classic movie fan too! Check out her blog at classicmoviemoments.blogspot.ca/
And, you can check out her music at www.marycatherinemp.com/
Wow! Am I ever behind on my blog posts? Shame on me!
Let's get back on track!
I recently watched a fantastic movie called The Defiant Ones (1958) starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis.
IMDB Plot Summary:
Joker Jackson and Noah Cullen are two convicts (one black and one white) on a chain gang who hate each other. After a truck prison accident, they flee and are pursued by the police. While they're chained, the two are dependent on one another. When they eventually get rid of their chains, their hostility has been changed into fellowship and respect.
The Defiant Ones features fabulous performances by both Poitier and Curtis. Both received Oscar nominations for Best Actor, losing to David Niven in Separate Tables. The racial tension may not be as intense as No Way Out (1950), also starring Poitier, but it's certainly there. It's very interesting to watch the two convicts work their way through one racial stereotype after another, only to realize there's not much difference between them.
This is one of Tony Curtis' best performances. He is one my favourite actors. He was also great in Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Some Like It Hot (1959) and The Boston Strangler (1968). His autobiography is also a must read. Some classic stories!!!
Frank Sinatra stars in this film noir from 1954. Sinatra plays would be assassin John Baron. Sinatra made this film just a year or so after his Academy Award winning role as Maggio in From Here To Eternity (1953). I think it was a brave choice on Sinatra's part. This is an edgy role and Sinatra's performance is quite good.
John Baron (Sinatra) is hired to assassinate the President, whose train is scheduled to stop in the small town of Suddenly. Baron and his "associates" trap the Benson family in their own home along with the local sheriff, played by Sterling Hayden. Baron believes their hilltop home near the railroad station will make the ideal location to take his shot.
Rumour has it that Lee Harvey Oswald watched this movie a few days before the assassination of JFK. Suddenly is definitely worth a watch.
My name is Jason Raso and I love musicals. I'm not ashamed to admit it.
One of my favourites is Guys and Dolls (1955). It really is a fabulous movie. Seeing Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra together in their prime is a sight to behold. Guys and Dolls has a great cast, a great story and a great soundtrack. In addition to Brando and Sinatra, the cast included Jean Simmons, Stubby Kaye and Vivian Blaine. The soundtracks includes some fabulous songs like "Luck Be A Lady" (sung by Brando!), "If I Were a Bell" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat" (my personal favourite).
The movie looks great too! The set and costume design is awesome. Movies like this are the reason I have such an affinity for the style of the 50's. Highly recommended!
In New York, a gambler is challenged to take a cold female missionary to Havana, but they fall for each other, and the bet has a hidden motive to finance a crap game.
Inspired by a recent Jazztimes article in which a musician picks 10 of his or her favourite tracks by one of their favourite artists, I decided it was time to write about Grant Green!! Grant Green is one of my favourite guitar players. He's certainly had the biggest influence on my guitar playing. His playing can be super funky and he can swing like hell! He's everything I want to be as a musician.
Here are my 10 tracks in no particular order...
1. My Funny Valentine - Grantstand (1961) - Grant Green was a beautiful ballad player. I've always loved this tune and hearing him play it is a real treat.
2. Cool Blues - Born to Be Blue (1962) - You can really hear Charlie Parker's influence on Green here. Green's phrasing is killer.
3. Just A Closer Walk With Thee - Feelin' The Spirit (1962) - One of my favourite Green albums. This track grooves for miles. I love the way Green delivers a melody. He makes it his own without straying too far from the original idea.
4. Joshua - Feelin' The Spirit (1962) - This is the first tune that comes to mind when I think about Grant Green. This would be the first tune I would play for someone who's never heard Green.
5. The Surrey With The Fringe On Top - Blues For Lou (1963) - I have always loved this tune. Such a great melody. I just love how Green and organ player John Patton approach the head.
6. Idle Moments - Idle Moments (1963) - Such a beautiful ballad written by pianist Duke Pearson. I love the instrumentation on this album. Green's playing on this track is beautifully melodic.
7. Django - Idle Moments (1963) - Another great tune handled deftly by Green. The rhythm section of Bob Cranshaw (b), Duke Pearson (p) and Al Harewood (d) really swings on this track.
8. I Wish You Love - Street Of Dreams (1964) - Another of my favourite Green albums. How could you go wrong a Quartet featuring Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Larry Young on organ, Elvin Jones on drums and Green on guitar? This track is beautiful. Some of Green's finest playing, in my opinion.
9. Freedom March - Sunday Mornin' (1961) - Green's phrasing is certainly on fine display on this track.
10. Down Here On The Ground - Alive! (1970) - An anthem for funky jazz guitar players. Green kills it!
It's 12:55am on a Saturday night. I'm tired and should probably go to sleep. I make the mistake of turning on TCM. I see that a movie I have been wanting to see is starting in five minutes. Should I stay up? The answer is no. Do I? Yes. This happens all the time. Damn you TCM!
This week it was No Way Out (1950) starring Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier.
Plot summary courtesy of IMDB...
"The Biddle brothers, shot while robbing a gas station, are taken to the prison ward of the County Hospital; Ray Biddle, a rabid racist, wants no treatment from black resident Dr. Luther Brooks. When brother John dies while Luther tries to save him, Ray is certain it's murder and becomes obsessed with vengeance. But there are black racists around too, and the situation slides rapidly toward violence." Written by Rod Crawford
First of all, I have to say that I was kind of shocked by the subject matter of this film given the year the film was produced. Sidney Poitier and Richard Widmark deliver fine performances. As does Stephen McNally and Linda Darnell. In my opinion, Richard Widmark is a very underated actor. His portrayal of the racist Ray Biddle made me feel very uncomfortable. I was also taken back by the very strong language used in the movie. The racial slurs used by Ray Biddle are tough to listen to. I've seen Widmark play some horrible people in movies before, but this one was something else. He played a terrible person in The Street With No Name (1948) but I actually sided with him in that movie. Definitely not the case here. He has become one of my favourite actors.
I imagine this movie made quite an impact when it was released. If it didn't, it certainly should have. I strongly recommend this movie. It stands as a bold statement against racism. I'm glad I stayed up to watch it.