Tag Archives: James Stewart

Classic Courtroom Dramas: Witness for the Prosecution, & Anatomy of A Murder

I am continuing the celebration of classic films this month with this double film review post. American legal dramas of the 1950s were in a league of their own, and, apart from the two films I will discuss below, there were also such films as Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men [1957], Edward Dmytryk’s The Caine Mutiny [1954] & Fritz Lang’s Beyond a Reasonable Doubt [1956].

Witness for the Prosecution [1957]

This is a mystery legal drama directed by Billy Wilder (The Lost Weekend (1946), The Apartment (1960)) and based on Agatha Christie’s theatrical play.

Charles Laughton plays eminent British barrister Sir Wilfrid Roberts whose declining health prevents him from participating in major criminal trials, but who, nevertheless, reluctantly agrees to take on a very strange murder case. Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power) is accused of murdering his female acquaintance who, quite unexpectedly, left him a large inheritance. But, did Vole actually murder her or was her tragic death the result of a burglary gone wrong? Vole’s enigmatic German wife, played by Marlene Dietrich, and the murdered woman’s housekeeper give evidence in court as Sir Wilfrid, acting for the defence, soon finds that his hands are more than full as a result of all the confusing details emerging in this case. Although initially rather “slow-burn”, this film finally has so many “mind-blowing” twists it can still put to shame many modern productions. Moreover, its use of humour, brilliant acting and intriguing flashbacks all mean that the story is as engrossing as its characters are mesmerising to watch.

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The Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn Blogathon: The Philadelphia Story (1940)

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Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hosting the Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn Blogathon, honouring the fantastic classic duo from the Hollywood’s brightest times, and my contribution is a short review of one of Hepburn’s most distinguished films:

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

George Cukor’s “The Philadelphia Story” is based on a Broadway play of the same name also starring Katharine Hepburn. In this film, Hepburn plays a rich socialite Tracy Lord, who is about to be married to George Kittredge (John Howard), after her previous marriage to a yacht designer C.K. Dexter Haven, played by Cary Grant, fell apart. Meanwhile, two reporters Mike Connor (James Stewart) and Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) are secretly “planted” in the house of Tracy to spy on her and to try to cover the big wedding. Surely, they are helped in their endeavour by Tracy’s ex-husband Dexter, who still secretly hopes that Tracy will realise that their love was genuine and true. The gist of the comedy here is that Tracy knows about the true purpose of Connor and Imbrie, and her family puts on the show to impress and mislead the reporters. As Tracy flirts with Connor, the realisation of her mistake in the decision to marry Kittredge becomes more apparent. The great thing about this film, apart from its cast and performances, is the way it cleverly combines a witty story, involving a theatre of “appearances deceiving”, and the reflecting character study.

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The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Rope (1948)

338Maddy at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is hosting The Alfred Hitchcock blogathon, and this is my entry dissecting one of Hitchcock’s most claustrophobic and intriguing films: “Rope” (1948). Even thought this film may not be as ambitious as Hitchcock’s later “Psycho” (1960), it is still suspenseful, tense, cerebral and belongs to one of my favourite cinematic “genres”: “one location” setting films. This “genre” was later used by Lumet (“Twelve Angry Men” (1957)), Polanski (“Repulsion” (1965)) and Mangold (“Identity” (2003)), among others, to a great result. And, this is because in such films what the audience is usually left with is the fascinating psychological “game” among characters of scheming, guessing, suspecting or simply going crazy, without any outside “distractions” being present. Hitchcock’s “Rope” is no different.

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