Sunday, March 30, 2014
NORTH TO ALASKA is one of my most watched John Wayne films. What makes it so entertaining is how energetic everything is. Right from the beginning it's non-stop yelling, screaming, fighting, shooting, furniture crashing, jumping and so on. It never slows down for a minute. Also the slow-burn romantic story between is Wayne and Capucine is really fun to watch. I love the scene where she and Stewart try to make Wayne jealous. It's too funny.
Fun story, beautiful scenery (I don't think any of it was actually from Alaska though), great crowd scenes, title song sang by Johnny Horton, excellent pace, strong supporting cast including some funny dude who keeps sneezing during the final scene. One of the funniest of Wayne's comedic films.
From what I've read the idea for this movie was to reunite the three stars of the previous years hit THE MORE THE MERRIER: Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn. Now that would make a lot of sense, since TMTM is a delightful wartime romantic comedy that's still great even now. Arthur and Coburn both signed up, but McCrea didn't. I don't know why, but if I had to wager a bet he probably got a whiff of that lame script and went running for the hills.
I love Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn, but you've got to have a script that works and chemistry between the two leads. This one has neither. With McCrea there would have been chemistry, but that still leaves the weak story. The idea of a couple getting to know each other in a home environment after they've already been married and had a child is full of possibilities, but unfortunately everything in this possibility comes off as lazy, too convenient and forced. Also the side story about the boarder a complete waste of time because first off it's never built up properly (the dude is a total wiener and Arthur isn't interested in him at all) and secondly it's never resolved! One moment he's there, then boom movies over.
Lame story, zero chemistry between Lee and Jean, poor attempts at humor, interesting supporting cast with lots of familiar faces (including Luke Skywalker's Uncle Owen), slow pace. The film had its moments (I got a good giggle out of the military guy at the dance club), but there's so much better stuff out there I wouldn't really worry about it.
Friday, March 28, 2014
Having just finished the novel I was curious to see how they even made it into a mainstream movie back in 1953 since the novel itself is grim and sexually explicit, but they did a great job. Yeah, a lot of stuff was cut out or changed completely, but the dismal feel is still there. And the acting! It's easy to see why this film received five Oscar nominations for Acting and won two...if Ernest Borgnine's role had been bigger he probably would have been nominated also! I don't even know who's performance was my favorite. Montgomery Clift was great, especially at portraying the internal (almost suicidal?) struggles of Prewitt, Burt Lancaster was just straight up awesome, Donna Reed (who I mostly know from her show and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE) was surprisingly adult. Seeing her here as a jaded hostess at private gentlemen's club was quite an eye-opener!
Beautiful B&W photography, Claude Akins screen debut, Frank Sinatra showing his acting chops, Deborah Kerr being sexy, excellent story, great pace, beautiful Hawaiian scenery. If the story wasn't so censored, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY would be close to going on my Best Movies list, but as it is I think the majority of modern audiences would find the whole thing too dated. Highly recommended though for classic movie fans.