The Dark Secret of The House on Telegraph Hill

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Have you ever planned to murder your husband or your wife? Me neither. I’m not married anyway. But that’s the type of conspiracy we saw more than once in the “wonderful world of cinema” and it’s not about to stop. However, as creepy as it may sound, this is the type of ambitions that can make a film strangely entertaining. Alfred Hitchcock, of course, was a master at that type of films with movies like Notorious or Dial M for Murder, but he was not the only one to excel at delivering us those thrilling husband vs. wife misadventures. Theresa Brown from CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch is hosting the ‘Till Death Us Do Part Blogathon which explores this type of movies. I’m glad to take part of it with my own review of The House on Telegraph Hill, a 1951 movie directed by Mr. Versatile Director: Robert Wise, and starring Valentina Cortese, Richard Basehart, William Ludingan and Fay Baker.

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By the way, I didn’t remember how great this film was before re-watching it for the blogathon. So, if you haven’t seen it yet, please do so.

Also, before going further, it’s my duty to tell you that this article will include major spoilers since I’ll be talking about it from A to Z.

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Where is Telegraph Hill? And where is this house at the heart of the story? In San Francisco, but everything starts in Poland during the Second World War. A woman’s voice-over introduces her own story to us from the first minutes of the film. She is Victoria Kowelska (Valentia Cortese). She has lost her husband during the war and her house has been destroyed by the Germans. She was deported to a concentration camp in Belsen. There, she met Karin Dernakova (Natasha Lytess) with whom she became great friends. Unfortunately, due to her poor health, Karin eventually died in the camp. To her great sorrow, Victoria has lost a good friend, but this situation was a way for her to have a better life. She knew that Karin has a son who lives with her rich aunt Sophia in San Francisco. So, she decided to take Karin’s papers and renounced her own identity.

When the camp is finally liberated, Victoria (now Karin) is questioned by Major Marc Bennett (William Lundigan), an American. The poor woman bursts into tears during the interview. Is it because she is presenting herself under a false identity? Is it because she is thinking of the horrors of the camp and the loss of her friend Karin? Probably both. Fortunately, Major Bennett is a kind man and tempts to reassure her. When Victoria leaves his office, he makes her notice that she has forgotten something. It’s her own passport. She tells the major that this passport belonged to her friend Victoria (who is, in fact, herself), but now that she is dead, she doesn’t need it anymore. So, Victoria tears it in two and definitely loses her real identity.

Victoria is then deported to a camp for persons displaced by the war where she communicates with Aunt Sophia. A cold answer comes a few days after: aunt Sophia is dead. The poor Victoria sees her dreams of going to America fading away, but her ambition is still there. Four years after she received the letter, Victoria manages to travel to New-York, where she makes the acquaintance of Alan Spender (Richard Basehart), Christopher’s guardian and a distant relative of aunt Sophia. It doesn’t take long for both of them to be charmed by each other and eventually get married. They moved to San Francisco to the house on Telegraph Hill, where Victoria finally makes the acquaintance of Karin’s son, Christopher (Gordon Gebert). But, now, she is the one who has to play the role of his mother. The moment where they first see each other is at first a bit awkward for both of them because, 1- Christopher hasn’t seen his mom in 9 years (when she send him to the US, he was just a baby) and 2- Victoria knows she is not Christopher’s real mom. Fortunately, our protagonist has a maternal instinct and they won’t take long before getting to know each other better and truly appreciate each other.

Karin now lives in a beautiful mansion and wears gowns to make every woman with good tastes jealous. Those were designed by Renié, and are the pure definition of elegance. She has a new husband whom she loves very much and lives a wealthy life.

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However, Victoria’s new happiness is only a brief illusion. Even since the first night in her new home, we can feel a certain discomfort. Like many people in a new and unknown place, she has difficulty sleeping, despite being in a much more comfortable place than a concentration camp.

But this is normal no? I mean, who wouldn’t have trouble sleeping in such a situation? After having lived such events?

The real obstacle that is placed in Victoria’s way is Margaret (Fay Baker), Christopher’s governess. There’s something about this film that can make us think a bit of Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940): Victoria marries a man she barely knows, they move to a beautiful mansion and she has to face a jealous domestic, Margaret that is. From her first on-screen minutes, we feel the cold tone of her voice and guess she isn’t particularly happy having Karin (Victoria) intruding her life. As she was the one who took care of Christopher during 9 years and not Karin, it is obvious that she feels like a mother to him. Tired of Margaret’s opposition to her, Victoria fires her, but Alan reasons her explaining that she can’t fire someone who worked for them for 9 years just like that. Victoria realizes her mistake and Margaret remains part of the house. After offering her apologies to Victoria, she somehow becomes a  more agreeable person (but she doesn’t smile very much so she keeps that ounce of creepiness).

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One afternoon, Victoria discovers something rather odd. While she is playing baseball with Chris (who now treats her like a real mother) the ball gets lost in the grass and Victoria goes after it. She arrives next to a little playhouse with broken windows. Victoria is intrigued, but Chris begs her not to go inside as it is a dangerous place. Victoria, too curious, doesn’t listen to him and enters. The chaos that she finds there has nothing very attractive and the place is, indeed, a dangerous one. There is a big hole in a part of the floor and a part of the wall and whoever might step into it would fall in the streets of San Francisco from a great height. Chris explains to her “mother” that this hole was caused by an explosion from his chemistry set. Victoria to talk about it with Alan,  but Chris begs her not to tell him as he apparently doesn’t know. Later, she talks about it with Margaret, who doesn’t see either the purpose of talking about it with Alan since the boy was not hurt during the explosion.

During the evening, the Spender receive guesses at their house, one of them being Major Mark Bennett. Recognizing him, Victoria first tries to hide in order to avoid an awkward situation. When she doesn’t have the choice to face him, Mark recognizes her but is not 100% sure who she is. She refreshes his memory and finally realises that she has nothing to be afraid of and can enjoy an evening in his company.

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Later, Victoria returns to the playhouse and it’s there that everything changes for good. She investigates the place when she is surprised by Alan. He wonders what she is doing here with a smile on his face, but this is exactly a pleasant smile. He makes a step toward her, she steps back, with fear in her eyes, and fall in the hole. Luckily, Alan catches her in time. From this moment, Victoria’s attitude toward Alan changes: she is afraid of him and always seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

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Not long after, Victoria is supposed to go to town with Chris. This one finally can go as he has to finish cleaning his room. So, Victoria goes alone. While she is going down a street, she wants to brake, but realises that the brakes aren’t working. Then starts a furious stroll in the streets of San Francisco similar to the one in Hitchcock’s Family Plot. Victoria manages to stop the car by bumping in a pile of sand. She is physically not hurt, but mentally it is different. When she realises that Chris was supposed to be in the car with her, a reasoning is quickly made in her head: Alan wants her and Chris to be dead. Why? Because he’ll be the one inheriting aunt Sophia’s money.

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She talks about it with Mark, but this one doesn’t think Alan is a murdered, despite not liking him very much. They, however, start their investigation, but, each time Victoria tries to reach Mark (to whom she has finally revealed her own identity), it seems that Alan is in her way. Without revealing it out loud, we know that he knows that she knows. However, he still continues to play the game of the worried husband.

A log is added to the fire of suspicion when Victoria discovers an article about aunt Sophie’s death in Margaret’s scrapbook. She realizes that she received that telegram announcing her death actually three days BEFORE the real date of her death. It is obvious to her that Alan got rid of aunt Sophia with his own head, in order to access fastly to the fortune.

But is Victoria right? Could sweet face Alan Spender really be a murderer? Is she only imagining things like Lina (Joan Fontaine) in Suspicion?  Well, unfortunately, she has it right from A to Z. And this slowly leads us to the thrilling ending of this film.

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During the “last supper” Victoria is tense since she hasn’t managed to reach Mark all day (she was always surprised by Alan). She can’t eat a thing so she decides to go to the office to read. She is soon followed by Alan, who seems decided to watch her. When they go to bed, Alan prepares their usual before-bedtime glass of orange juice. However, Victoria hears him putting something in her glass. Is it poison? She asks Alan to go take her book in the library which he does, and she takes the occasion to call the police. Unfortunately, as the phone in the library is off the hook, she is unable to make a call. From the library, Alan listens to her “help!” with an evil smile on his face.

When Alan comes back to the bedroom and realizes Victoria hasn’t drunk her orange juice, he convinces her to do so. They finally drink their respective glass of juice by looking at each other in the eyes. That is a very tense moment in the film. Knowing that his wife is now about to die (because yes, he DID put something in the juice), he confesses the murders and the reason, which was, indeed, money. He tells her that he has put a whole box of sedatives in her orange juice in order to kill her. Panicked, Victoria begs him to call a doctor, but not for her: for him! While he was in the library, she put her orange juice in the pitcher and put in her glass what was initially the pitcher. So, Alan is the one who drank the juice full of sedatives. Alan is not feeling well and goes to Margaret. Victoria is looking for Chris (whom she thinks has been “kidnapped” by Margaret, who has always menaced to take him with her). She finds him yes, with Margaret, but they still are in the house. He is sleeping in Margaret’s bedroom and she is taking care of him. Alan claims that Victoria tried to kill him, but with a ton a panic, she has to convince Margaret that he wanted to kill her. Alan begs the governess to call a doctor, but, when she realises that he tried to kill Christopher too, she doesn’t call him. Margaret and Alan, who were lovers, were supposed to get rid of the family to live a rich life together, but let him kill Chris? That is something Margaret would never have allowed.

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Without a doctor, Alan can’t do much for his life so he dies. When the police investigate, it is discovered that Margaret never called a doctor so she is arrested for murder. Poor Margaret! Victoria and Mark, who know that she has somehow nothing to do with Alan’s death offers all the help they can to get her out of this mess.

Victoria now has nothing to do anymore in the house on Telegraph Hill. So, with her only suitcase in hand, she leaves the house with Chris and Mark in order to finally begin, we hope, a somehow normal life.

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It is not really surprising that Alan should be the victim of his own crimes. In the Production Code Era, a murderer had to be punished. However, the real surprise eventually resides in the way he becomes the victim. Clever little Victoria!

From 1951 to 1960, Italian actress Valentina Cortese and Richard Basehart were married. They fell in love while filming this film. Despite playing opponents, we seize their beautiful chemistry in the film. It is really because of Richard Basehart that I first decided to watch The House on Telegraph Hill since he was an actor that has always intrigued me. No regrets.  As the villain with a calm temperament, he is quite different from the nervous and suicidal Robert Cosick from 14 Hours! Valentina Cortese is an actress all in elegance who delivers a convincing performance. Her chemistry with William Lundigan is the definition of friendship and make their moments together highly appreciated.

The House on Telegraph Hill is not a so well-known film, but it deserves more recognition. It has a dose of suspense that many will appreciate.

A big thanks to Theresa for hosting this blogathon! I invite you to check the other entries. The link will be live on July 24th!

‘Till Death Us Do Part Blogathon

See you!

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Top of the World: Olivia de Havilland Turns 101!

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Today, the strong, lovely, talented, legendary Olivia de Havilland is turning 101 years old and we are very lucky to still have her with us! Aging gracefully, she certainly is one of the most beautiful women of that age! For the occasion, Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Laura from Phyllis Loves Classic Movies are hosting The Second Olivia de Havilland Blogathon + Eroll Flynn!

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For the occasion, I’ve decided to present you a top 10 of my most favourite Olivia de Havilland’s films! Remember, these are my personal favourites, so it’s purely subjective. I ask you to respect my choices.

Just to give you an idea, I’ve seen a total of 12 of her films so far.

Here we go!

10. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle, 1935)

I’m not THAT much a fan of this film, but I’ve decided to put it at #10 as 1- It has to be praised for the excellent performances (including Olivia’s one), 2- A Midsummer Night’s Dream remains, after all, my favourite Shakespeare play, 3- I love the magic and poetry embodied by the dreaming cinematography and 4- the two other ones I saw, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and Santa Fe Trail left me a bit indifferent.

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9. Hush… Hush… Sweet Charlotte (Robert Aldrich, 1964)

Quite a creepy film, but I’ve always found Olivia de Havilland’s performance quite interesting as it is very different from the innocent Melanie Hamilton for example! And who would say no to a film reuniting her, Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten and Agnes Moorehead?

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8. The Proud Rebel (Michael Curtiz, 1958)

This western was the last collaboration between Curtiz and De Havilland. Somehow it’s not too well-known, but I think it deserves more recognition. It’s a beautiful film and our Livie is absolutely touching in it.

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7. My Cousin Rachel (Henry Koster, 1952)

One thing: I STILL have to read the book by Daphné du Maurier. Ok, this film contains his flaws, but it remains an appreciable one to see. Olivia is quite fascinating playing this ambiguous Rachel! Who is she really?! This film is a good way to size her versatility as an actress.

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6. The Strawberry Blonde (Raoul Walsh, 1941)

I actually just watched this movie today in honour of the celebrated one! I quite enjoyed it! It was a lot of fun. Olivia and James Cagney (such a great actor!) looked just adorable together. The presence of Rita Hayworth and Jack Carson was, of course, highly appreciated as well. A good comedy movie to watch when you feel like not concentrating too much!

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5. The Dark Mirror (Robert Siodmak, 1946)

I’ve always loved psychological movies and this one makes no exception to the rule. Playing two roles in one film never looks like an easy task, but, here, Olivia did it wonderfully. A fascinating film.

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4. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, 1938)

Of course, we all like the collaborations between Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn. This one has to be my favourite one without hesitation. Olivia is so lovely as Lady Marian and the film itself is a wonderful entertainment!

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3. The Snake Pit (Anatole Litvak, 1948)

I’ve said that I’ve always loved psychological movies. Well, this one is another great example. I love to see the evolution of the characters in these. Here, Olivia de Havilland certainly gives one of her best and more challenging performances. She received an Oscar nomination for her performance.

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2. The Heiress (William Wyler, 1949)

And happy birthday to William Wyler, who was born on July 1st too! Well, if Olivia won her second Oscar with this film, it’s not without reasons. An extraordinary performance, full of subtleties and perfectly calculated. She gives an extraordinary essence to her character and it’s hard to surpass her. I’ve loved this film since the first time I saw it. Of course, I don’t think William Wyler ever made a bad film…

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  1. Gone With the Wind (Victor Flemming, 1939)

Ok, I know, this is not a very creative #1, but what can I say? I love the film ok! There would be so much to say about it, but for what concerns Olivia, she illuminates the screen and is in perfect harmony with the rest of the cast. I couldn’t think of anyone better to portray Melanie Hamilton. This is the first film of hers I saw. What a great introduction to her filmography! 🙂

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Well, that’s it! Of course, don’t hesitate to share your choices with me!

I want to thank Crystal and Laura for hosting this amazing blogathon. Please take a look at the other entries here:

The Second Olivia de Havilland Blogathon + Errol Flynn Day 1

Happy 101 birthday dear Olivia!

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Top of the World: Celebrating Bernard Herrmann with 10 Wonderful Scores!

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Yesterday, the famous movie music composer Bernard Herrmann would have been 106 years old. He did not only share his brilliance in his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, but in all the movie scores he composed. It’s for that reason that he is a favourite among many cinephiles. He certainly was among those movie composers who perfectly knew how to musically illustrate the atmosphere of a film.

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I didn’t have time to “celebrate” him yesterday as I was working, but I thought I should honour him today with one of my traditional top lists! So, let me introduce you my 10 most favourite Bernard Herrmann scores! Of course, that was a most difficult exercise as he was a master of music. I had to change the order of my top many times.

Before continuing, remember that these are my personal favourite ones, so it’s purely subjective. You obviously can’t contest my personal tastes. 😉

Ok, here we go!

10. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

Ah! How can we forget this haunting music regrouping strings only?! The shower scene is not the most “melodious” Bernard Hermann moment, but probably the one people will remember the most.

9. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

As much as I’m not THAT much a fan of this film (despite the fact that it is considered the best movie of all times and blablabla), there are TWO things that I love enormously about it, one of them being the music (the other one being Joseph Cotten). I love how it is at the time very sinister or very joyful. Typical Herrmann!

 

8.The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956)

My favourite Hitchcock’s film! And certainly one of my favourite Bernard Herrmann scores! It’s so orchestral, I love it! You unfortunately won’t hear it in this clip, but, during the film, there are some notes that remind us a lot of Vertigo‘s score that Herrmann will compose two years later. Of course, we all remember Herrmann’s cameo in the film! 🙂

 

7. Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964)

Without being Hitchcock’s best film, one can’t deny that this is among Herrmann’s best scores! Actually, it might be the best thing about this film. I absolutely love it.

 

6. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)

When those notes start, you know you are in for something special! Somehow, I can always see Carlotta Valdes’s portrait when I hear this music or the famous dream sequence. A team work between Hitchcock and Hermann always creates prodigies! Another film that is considered “the best of all times” and, once again, Bernard Herrmann had the chance to be part of the team!

 

5. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)

As far as I can remember, North by Northwest has always been one of my very favourite music scores. It succeeds to so perfectly capture the attention of the viewers. Once again, one can perfectly visualize the film in his/her head while listening to this GREAT score!

 

4. Jane Eyre (Robert Stevenson, 1944)

I must be honest, I didn’t become familiar with that score until… well today. The reason is that I’ve seen the movie only once and quite a long time ago, so let’s say the music was not necessarily fresh in my memory! But when I was re-listening to some of the Herrmann scores, I discovered how great it was! I just can’t believe I haven’t took the time to listen to it more carefully before. It’s just ace! Somehow, I can visualize the movie in my head when I listen to it. It truly makes me want to watch it again! 4m14 – 4m30: this moment is absolutely terrifying, but great!

 

3. The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951)

That is THE sound of science-fiction! My favourite sci-fi film and very probably my favourite music score for a sci-fi film. In this score, we can hear both acoustic and electronic instruments, including two Theremins, which create those typical sounds from outer space.

 

2. Obsession (Brian de Palma, 1976)

It goes without saying, I am obsessed with this film score (ouuuu!). It’s just spellbinding. I especially love the first minutes of it. I can always see the scene where Cliff Robertson throws the suitcase with the money on the street or that unforgettable final scene… For a movie that is very similar to Vertigo, Bernard Herrmann was of course the ultimate choice for the music!

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  1. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

Ah, the last and ultimate Bernard Herrman’s score! From Citizen Kane (his first movie music score) to Taxi Driver (his last), he proved to be an absolute musical master. Taxi Driver‘s music is so mesmerizing and fits perfectly the dark New-Yorkian atmosphere of the film. It sort of makes me want to take saxophone lessons!

Well, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed! Of course, don’t hesitate to share your personal favourites in the comment section!

Cheers to Herrmann!

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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #22: Blackboard Jungle (1955)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My twenty-second review was for the 1955s classic Blackboard Jungle directed by Richard Brooks. Enjoy!

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The ’50s were marked by the arrival of rock ‘n’ roll, a musical genre that scandalized elders and delighted youngsters. In the world of cinema, Blackboard Jungle, a Richard Brooks picture released in 1955, played an important role in this musical history, becoming the first film to feature rock ‘n’ roll music with the hit “Rock around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets. The ’50s are also often considered the golden age of teen movies and though many mention Rebel without A Cause or The Wild One, Blackboard Jungle is one you shouldn’t neglect.

Blackboard Jungle takes place at North Manual Trades High School in a poor New York neighborhood. Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford) is the new English teacher. He has been told how most of the students are hard to handle and that most of them are hopeless cases. But, in Richard’s opinion, something can be done. There must be a way to make them want to learn while being entertained. The task won’t be an easy one. Richard has to face tough behaviors and rebellion, especially from Artie West (Vic Morrow). He finds an ally in Gregory Miller (Sidney Poitier), but has a hard time figuring if he is a recommendable student or not.

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These are the main lines of Blackboard Jungle, but more is going on, including problems in Richard and his wife Anne’s (Anne Francis) personal life, caused by the problematic school students.

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Blackboard Jungle is based on a novel by Evan Hunter which was based on Hunter’s own experiences as a schoolteacher in a tough school of the South Bronx.

For those unfamiliar with the work of underrated actor Glenn Ford, Blackboard Jungle is a good one to start with. Ford plays a sensible man who provides a range of emotions well chosen according to how the story evolves. When he arrives at the school, it’s easy to notice he’s one coming there to do good. He never overacts and shares a contagious and beautiful complicity with the charming Anne Francis who plays his wife, Anne.

The film is also an occasion to discover Sidney Poitier’s earliest film role. He hadn’t won his Oscar yet, but his thoughtful performance in Blackboard Jungle is proof he was on the right track. It is important to mention Poitier was one of the first African-American actors given important and significant roles. Among the other young actors in this film Vic Morrow, who plays Arnie West, does a credible and convincing job as the toughest student of Dadier’s group. Steve McQueen was considered for the role, but Morrow nailed the audition.

Let’s not forget Louis Calhern, who plays Jim Murdock, the history teacher. Calhern steals the show by simply being there. What an incredible actor he was! Richard Dadier is not the only new teacher at North Manual Trades High School. Joshua Edwards is the new mathematics teacher brilliantly played by Richard Kiley. Without revealing too much, Josh breaks our hearts. And finally, Lois Hammond is played by the beautiful Margaret Hayes. Even if her character has a crush on a married man (Dadier), Hayes manages to retain all the class she needs.

Director Richard Brooks was a prolific movie director and an excellent movie writer. Brooks wrote the screenplays of all his films, with a few exceptions. For Blackboard Jungle, he received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay but lost it to Paddy Chayefsky for Marty. Brooks gives the best tone to the film through his adaptation and knew how to make the characters and story unfold in the right way.

Despite being a brilliant film, on its release Blackboard Jungle brought a lot of complications. To include a rock ‘n’ roll song in its opening and ending credits attracted the teens, but some screenings were victims of vandalism. We notice that “Rock around the Clock” is never fully heard and that’s mostly due to the fact that, in the ’50s rock ‘n’ roll was considered a bad influence (especially on youngsters).

Luckily, Blackboard Jungle is best remembered for the good values it presents. It’s a film that proves every human can change for the better and every human can help if he or she wants to. The film should also be praised for its anti-racism message embodied by Richard (Glenn Ford), Gregory (Sidney Poitier) and the school principal, Mr. Warneke (John Hoyt), perceived in some crucial dialogue. For example:

Richard Dadier: Now, you pick up that magazine, Belazi. Pick it up! I wanna get one thing very clear in this classroom. There’s not gonna be any name calling here. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Now you understand that? All of ya!

Pete V. Morales: I was just kidding.

Richard Dadier: Yeah, I know you’re just kidding. That’s how things start. Like a street fight. Somebody pushes somebody in fun. Somebody pushes back, and soon you got a street fight with no kidding. That’s the same way with name-calling. All right, West, look. You’re of Irish decent. So is Murphy over there. You call him a Mick. He calls you a Mick. Suppose Miller called you a Mick. Is that all right?

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For those who want to see a classic that had important cultural impact, Blackboard Jungle is a good option. It remains a timeless masterpiece as such situations still happen in today’s schools. There is much more to say, but to reveal too much could spoil the future viewers’ experience.
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ClassicFlix (Teen Scene) – Review #20: Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

From March 2015 to April 2017, I was writing the monthly Teen Scene column for the website ClassicFlix. My objective was to promote classic films among teenagers and young adults. Due to the establishing of a new version of the website, it’s now more difficult to access to the old version and read the reviews. But, I’m allowed to publish my reviews on my blog 30 days after they had been published on ClassicFlix! So, I decided to do so as you could have an easy access to them. If you are not a teenager, it doesn’t matter! I’m sure you can enjoy them just the same! My twenthieth review was for the 1952s classic Singin’ in the Rain directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly. Enjoy!

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This month, I’ll explore the world of the musical, a movie genre too often underestimated by the people of the Y generation. Singin’ in the Rain is the kind of movie that even people who normally don’t like musicals can enjoy! There’s something magical about this film and it’s through the combination of its many positive points.

Singin’ in the Rain is a glorious tribute to the beginning of talking pictures. It starts in 1927 with the premiere of The Royal Rascal, a silent picture produced by Monumental Pictures, starring the two big Hollywood stars of the day, Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). On his way to the after party, Don is attacked by a bunch of fans and manages to run away. He jumps in the car of a young lady, Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), who snubs his movie-acting career claiming that theatre is better and that she is a stage actress herself. At the party, Kathy pops out of a giant cake, revealing that she is in fact just a dancer.

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The same evening, a talking picture is shown to the guests at the party. This is something completely knew and the people don’t believe in it. But The Jazz Singer, the first talking picture, is a big hit. Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont’s next film, The Duelling Cavalier, is meant to be a silent picture, but due to the competition created by The Jazz Singer, producer R.F. Simpson decides to turn it into a talkie. The result is a catastrophe, mainly due to Lina Lamont’s aggressive tone of voice. After the premiere, Don, Kathy and Don’s musician friend Cosmo (Donald O’Connor) find the solution: turn it into a musical! Cosmo also has the idea to use Kathy’s beautiful voice instead of Lina’s.

Singin’ in the Rain is best known for its title musical number. Gene Kelly sings about the “glorious feeling” under a torrential rain. But Singin’ in the Rain contains a bunch of other colorful musical numbers such as “Moses Supposes,” “Good Morning” and “The Broadway Melody Ballet.” The musical numbers are a spectacle for our eyes and ears, creating a contagious joy that makes us want to tap dance! The songs weren’t actually originally composed for the film. The majority were picked from previous movies produced by MGM. For example, “Singin’ in the Rain” song can originally be heard in The Hollywood Revue of 1929. “Good Morning” was first sung by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in Babes in Arms. The original versions of “Moses Suppose” and “Make ‘Em Laugh” also appeared in other films, although “Make ‘Em Laugh” is known for having a close resemblance to Cole Porter’s “Be a Clown” from the musical The Pirate (also starring Gene Kelly). Original or not, the songs are a delight, the musical arrangements are perfect and it’s a rich variety of music and lyrics.

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To this is added the incredible tap dance numbers by Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. One of the most impressive tap dance moments is “Moses Supposes” with Kelly and O’Connor. And how can we forget Cyd Charisse’s dancing cameo? Well known for her long legs, Charisse creates an unforgettable visual spectacle opposite Kelly. One of the best moments of the “Broadway Melody Ballet” is her poetic and angelic dancing as a long white veil trails behind her.

Apart from its unforgettable musical numbers, Singin’ in the Rain is best remembered for the strong variety of its characters. Gene Kelly couldn’t be more credible as Don Lockwood. He has the look, the charisma, the voice, and the perfect feet for such a role! Debbie Reynolds is adorable and charming as Kathy, a young girl who makes us think of a doll. Her smile is infectious. Donald O’Connor is a favorite as the sympathetic Cosmo Brown. Cosmo is the kind of person you want to be friends with. He is hilarious and the film wouldn’t be the same without him. Jean Hagen deserved her Oscar nomination because she is perfect as Lina Lamont. How can we forget that voice! And those words! Millard Mitchell has the perfect shape and attitude to play a film producer and Douglas Fowley is a wonderful discovery as the movie director. The poor guy is always on edge!

Singin’ in the Rain remains a fantastic picture for the evolution of its story. It shows us the musical in a perfectly entertaining and original way. However, that’s not exactly how it happened in real life, but it remains a rather sympathetic and amusing way to present it. The screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green contains a variety of memorable quotes which make the film one of the funniest movies of the 20th-century. There are too many to recount them now would fill the whole review! The best solution is to watch the movie!

Singin’ in the Rain has to be praised for the magnificent costumes created by Walter Plunkett (best remembered for his creations on Gone With the Wind). They seem perfectly suited to the fashion of the late ’20s and add pep to the film’s visual dimensions.

Singin’ in the Rain is a Technicolor marvel that’s utterly timeless. It is, with no doubt, a classic appreciated by all generations. This feel good movie will make you want to watch more musicals and do a time travel to the golden days of classic Hollywood!

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