Some Charlie Daniels’

RIP music great, Charlie Daniels. I vividly recall visiting my North Carolina cousins and hearing your “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” for the first time.

 

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia”

“Long-haried Country Boy”

High Society

Starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holme and featuring Louis Armstrong and his band, High Society (1956) follows in the footsteps of the 1940 Philadelphia Story. Here socialite cum snob Tracy Lord (Kelly) is about to marry the straight laced George. Her baby sister protests and puts in many a good word for Tracy’s ex-husband Dexter (Crosby). Tracy’s appalled. She could never consider returning to the even-keeled, kind Dexter who betrayed her by using his musical talents for jazz rather than classical music.

Yes, she’s that snobbish.

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What style!

She’s about to marry George a drab businessman who looks good in a suit. Yet tabloid journalists played by Sinatra and Holme appear to get the scoop on this high falootin’ wedding.

What? Why?

Well, Tracy’s given the choice of either enduring the cheap coverage of her wedding or allowing the rag to publish a scintillating exposé on her father who ran away with a showgirl. Reluctantly, Tracy allows the tacky reporters in to save her mother from shame. She’s not completely selfish or clueless.

As you’d expect, Dexter still loves Tracy and Mike from the tabloid soon falls for her, while George’s buddy-duddy side gets increasingly pronounced.

With some good singing and dancing, High Society entertains. It also puzzles. Aside from her beauty, what does Tracy have going for her? Dexter was married to her and is presented as a man who’s perceptive so he would know her beyond the superficial. He’s still in love with such a snob, a snob who hates jazz because she sees it a crass. That wouldn’t matter much, except jazz is Dexter’s art. Hmm.

I was struck by Crosby’s cool guy persona and Grace Kelly’s perfect silky hair and elegant outfits. All in all, I liked the film flaws and all.

 

 

The Smiling Lieutenant

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I only knew Maurice Chevalier from “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” from Gigi. However, I discovered his much earlier film The Smiling Lieutenant, 1931 a grand farce. If you like silly old time films with romance, you’ll like this. Chevalier plays a young lieutenant who’s quite a flirt. At the start of the film, his superior comes to him bemoaning how he loves a sweet young thing in spite of loving his wife. Chevalier’s Niki advises him to stick with his wife, and shortly thereafter Niki is wooing the sweet young Franzi, played by Claudette Colbert. Franzi is a modern woman who’s fine with “free love.” I hadn’t seen a 1930s woman with such a character.

Niki and Franzi fall madly in love, but trouble ensues when Niki accidentally waves at a sheltered princess from a small province. Her father a prince feels disrespected and immediately interrogates Niki. Before you know it, Niki saves his skin by talking his way into a shotgun wedding to the princess. What to do?

On the wedding night and during the honeymoon phase, Niki breaks the princess’ heart by keeping his distance from her and slipping off for rendezvous with Franzi.

It’s not the usual romance. I kept wondering how the story would end happily. While the film was a little sillier than I like, it was fun and different. There are several light-hearted songs which enhanced the film. I did think it was odd that Chevalier is supposed to be a native of Vienna though he speaks with his usual distinct French accent.

All in all, it was a fun film, though not a masterpiece.

Gold Diggers of 1933

“We’re in the Money” is just one of the memorable tunes in Gold Diggers of 1933 is a romantic comedy about some dancers whose show gets nixed because the producer couldn’t pay his bills. Next they’re seen shivering in their beds unwilling to get up as it’s easier to starve in bed.

Soon the producer comes to their apartment and hears their talented piano playing neighbor. He convinces Brad, the piano player to write some songs for his new show which will be a smash, if he can just get the funds. Brad, who’s sweet on one of the dancers, turns out to be a rich boy and he finances the show. When the male lead falls sick, Brad must go on and his true identity is revealed, which leads to family interference in his love life. In response to his brother’s meddling the other dancers pretend to be money grubbers to teach him a lesson.

It’s a light-hearted romp, that entertains, unless you judge past eras for their gender stereotypes. The most surprising part of the film was the closing number, “Remember My Forgotten Man” a tribute to the men who served in WWI and whose lives were ruined as a result.

Unfaithfully Yours

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In Unfaithfully Yours, Rex Harrison plays conductor Alfred de Carter, a pompous egotist. (Doesn’t Harrison play a lot of this sort?) De Carter’s clueless brother-in-law Augustus misunderstood his request to “look after my wife while I’m gone and as a result Augustus has Daphne, the wife, followed by a detective.

At first Alfred wants to give his wife the benefit of the doubt, but other people want to tell him that his wife was found leaving his secretary’s hotel room in a negligee in the middle of the night. Soon Alfred’s high minded ethos are out the window and while he’s conducting a symphony concert, he’s plague by different scenarios involving confronting Daphne about this affair.

Each variation is more comical than the last. Directed by Preston Sturges, Unfaithfully Yours is a madcap comedy with a perspicacious take on jealousy. I particularly liked how well music was worked into the story and how each piece fit Alfred’s mood to a T.

The psychology of jealousy is explored to the limit. Harrison offers a superb performance of slap stick humor in a scene towards the end when he tries to trick his wife. Unfaithfully Yours moves at a clip and in spite of a few corny jokes stands up to the test of time. In the 1980s, they did a remake of Unfaithfully Yours starring Dudley Moore. I doubt it could match this clever film.

The Criterion Collection version includes a bonus feature with Terry Jones of Monty Python fame describing how he discovered Preston Sturges and his thoughts on the film.

Marguerite

 

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Touching and true, Marguerite (2015) is set in France of the 1920s. The central character Marguerite loves music and supports her local music club lavishing funds on them with the one stipulation that she’s allowed to sing at various concerts. The film opens with such a concert that she hosts at her mansion. The musicians and young singer who opens the performance are top notch, but when Marguerite takes the stage glass cracks and you want to cover your ears. She has no idea what pitch is. Two cads from Paris who crash the event are delighted. Their twisted sensibilities find her the perfect means of satirizing the current art scene.

Yet no one — not her unfaithful husband, her duplicitous servant, the voice coach who’s desperate for money or her friends at the music club — will tell her the truth. Encouraged by the cads, Marguerite decides to sing publicly and while many know they should tell Marguerite that she can’t sing, no one can burst her bubble.

Listening to Marguerite’s screeching and seeing her tricked all the way to the rather sad ending isn’t easy but it is enjoyable enough. It was good for a long flight and the lead actress Catherine Frot made me sympathize with and like a character who would be easy to look down on.

The Burmese Harp

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I’m catching up on my blogging. I saw this movie before I left China and haven’t had time to blog.

Another Criterion Collection DVD, this one based on a popular Japanese novel, The Burmese Harp is set as WWII ends. A company of Japanese soldiers is in Burma, on the look out for British soldiers. Their captain is very musical and has used singing to build espirit de corps and to trick the Brits, or try to. When they hear the British soldiers approaching their camp, the captain urges his company to laugh and sing to give the impression that they’re goofing off though they’re on their guard. When they start singing a song with the same tune as “Home Sweet Home,” the Brits echo back. Soon the Japanese learn that their side has surrendered.

Yet there’s another Japanese company up in the mountains, a fervent nationalistic group that’s still fighting. Mizushima, a soldier who’s learned to play the Burmese harp, volunteers to go up the mountain and tell these soldiers the war’s over. He’s given 30 minutes to get these hold outs to surrender. No matter what he says, they refuse. They don’t believe Mizushima and feel their duty is to fight to the death no matter what.

After 30 minutes, true to their word, the British start attacking. Most of the hold outs get killed. Mizushima survives, but is shocked. His world’s been shattered and he can’t  return to his unit. He steals a Buddhist monk’s robes and wanders the countryside as a monk.

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His unit search for him and don’t want to return to Japan without him. At one point they think they’ve passed him on the road, but Mizushima doesn’t acknowledge them. He’s too shattered and lost to return to his old life.

The Burmese Harp doesn’t address the atrocities the Japanese committed, but it does show the horrors and effects of war. Most of the civilian Japanese had no idea what their soldiers did overseas so it wasn’t part of the original novel, or something the director, who broke out with this film, knew of.

The Burmese Harp presents an interesting view of WWII, one that I’d never considered. It also depicts Japanese culture with nuance.

Hallelujah

I’ve always loved this haunting song. I’ll always remember it when it was used in The West Wing.  I think this is the best rendition I’ve heard.

the glee project: sexuality

This episode’s theme was sexuality and Naya Rivera (Santana) was the mentor. The gang sang a song I can’t remember and there was a lot of sultry looks and pumping and grinding. How I long for a bit more sophistication in our culture. I don’t blame the contestants they’re just seeing what’s out there and emulating. (Porpoise of Life’s blogger couldn’t remember the song either. Not a good sign. I did just watch the beginning again and the song was “I Wanna Sex You Up.” Ho hum.)

If you’ve seen the show you can pretty much predict how a lot of the contestants responded. Aylin was exuberant, but worried about what her parents thought. Yet she doesn’t really seem to care so it’s something of a non-issue. Tyler reminded us that his transgender transition makes this tough for him, yet when Robert announced the theme he was jubilant. I guess he just got caught up in the mob response.

Charlie won the homework competition and was on cloud 9 knowing that Naya considered him the success in the sexuality challenge. Yet this turned out to be a bit of a curse as it made him cocky the rest of the week.

The Star of the Week

Nellie interested me the most this week. She was honest and admitted this was a stretch since she hadn’t even seen a guy naked. I was glad someone had a different perspective. It’s interesting to watch someone who seems so real live through this fish bowl experiment.

The video for the week’s setting was a high school sex ed class in which a dowdy, non-sexy teacher assigns the class to write an essay on “What Sexuality Means to Me.” The Glee Project did get the banality and triviality that can pervade US classrooms right, but really this is an assignment that would result in parental outcry. Why should a teacher read and evaluate students’ sexuality? Is that their job? No teacher who’s right in the head would assign something that begs parents to call and complain.

Sexiness is in the eye of the beholder

In the studio, Michael stumbled over the lyrics as he sang with Mario. He just couldn’t get them right and in the end Nikki had to ask him to leave. Still over the moon from his homework win, Charlie was flirting with Aylin while recording which just made him look immature. He needs to wake up if he wants to stay.

Then during the video shoot, Charlie let his ADD and attitude get the best of him as he tried to direct Erik the Director, who was remarkably patient.

Tyler just got lost in the crowd. Lily vamped up her performance and shy Nellie got out of her shell and excelled in the shoot.

Tyler, Michael and Charlie had to do last chance performances. Charlie did a fun rendition of “I Get a Kick Out of You,” which got Ryan and Co. to overlook Charlie’s lack of professionalism that week.

Michael sang and forgot the words to “Lucky.” I thought he was a goner. Tyler sang Charlie Chaplin‘s “Smile” which he mentioned he’d never heard although it was featured in Glee‘s first season. If I were going on The Glee Project, I’d watch all the Glee episodes again since they tend to pull TGP songs from the series since those have been cleared for legal rights. I thought Tyler did a poor job and I winced at times as he was off pitch at times.

Michael and Tyler both botched their performances. Tyler’s been in the final three regularly and always reminds his judges that he’s going through a major transition vis-a-vis his gender. It’s true and sincere, but should he constantly get excused and protected? Then blowing the lyrics twice is quite a blunder. In the end the judges decided that Tyler should go. While they liked him and sympathized with his challenges, as Zach told Charlie, “This is a job.”  Tough as it was to do, the judges sent Tyler home.

I think that was the right decision, hard as it may have been. I doubt Tyler could deal — all at once — with the physical, emotional and professional challenges he signed himself up for.