Thursday, May 29, 2014

This 'n That Thursdays: Two "Oldies But Goodies" Movies You Should Watch

Glenn Ford, Rita Hayworth, and Alexander Scourby
in a scene from "Affair in Trinidad" (1952)

I have a rather extensive collection of DVDs and old video cassettes (which I try to replace with DVDs when I can find them).  I love to buy old movies I have never seen before if I find their descriptions intriguing.  Sometimes these films are mediocre, occasionally they are pretty bad, but every so often I find some real gems.  A couple of weeks ago, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I watched two recently purchased old movies that I really enjoyed.


The first movie I watched was "Affair in Trinidad" (1952) with Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford.  Any film buff is familiar with "Gilda" (1946), which also stars Hayworth and Ford, but did you know that these actors actually starred in five movies together?  "Affair in Trinidad" is very similar to "Gilda" in terms of plot, and it marked the return of Hayworth to film after a four-year hiatus during her unsuccessful marriage to Prince Aly Khan.  This film is not as effective as the more compelling "Gilda", but I think I like Rita Hayworth more in this movie, because her character is portrayed as more vulnerable and less brazen than the latter's title character.  Glenn Ford's character is also less harsh -- although still a fairly hot-headed and rashly judgmental guy, he does seem to recognize and feel some remorse for these qualities.  I also rather liked the almost buffoonish villains for bringing just a touch of comedy to this film noir.  I especially appreciated the head villain (and Ford's rival for Hayworth's affections) portrayed by Alexander Scourby.

One scene in this movie just tickled me -- Scourby's villain is shot in crossfire as he and his associates are about the flee the island, and he urges his partners in crime to leave without him.  When they hesitate, he snarls at them, "If you're waiting for my last words, you've heard them."  What a line!  In fact, Scourby has most of the best lines in the movie.  Rita Hayworth has two musical numbers in the film, and both exemplify her trademark alluring style (watch her performance to the song "Trinidad Lady" here).  And now for my rather heretical confession -- I am not a fan of Hayworth's dancing!  I find her moves vaguely similar to the infamous Elaine Bennis scene in "Seinfeld", rather awkward and slightly graceless. My sister vehemently disagrees with me, arguing that the woman was unparalleled in her ability to dance in high heels, and I have to say that even Fred Astaire was impressed (he considered her his favorite dance partner), but I don't see it.  That's just me, however, and for me this opinion does not detract from her acting.  In fact, I find her performance in the excellent movie "Separate Tables" (1958) to be quite compelling.  I believe that Hayworth's acting abilities were often overlooked due to her sex symbol status (not an unusual complaint for movie stars).  Anyway, if you get the chance to see this movie, I highly recommend it!

From Movie Poster Shop

An even more fascinating movie is the second one I watched called "Blind Alley" (1939) starring Chester Morris and Ralph Bellamy.  This film is a psychological thriller pitting psychiatrist Bellamy against vicious but troubled gangster Morris.  After Morris' character kills a student of the psychiatrist, the doctor decides to destroy the gangster in the only way he can, which is by analyzing the man and discovering the root cause of his dangerous personality.  Chester Morris, who is best known for his later film role of jewel thief-turned-detective Boston Blackie, does a frighteningly chilling job portraying the hardened criminal whose psychological armor is about to crack.  Ralph Bellamy, who starred as detective Ellery Queen in several movies in the early 1940s, often played reliable if rather stodgy characters, so his role as the pipe-smoking psychiatrist and university professor in this movie is rather typical for him, and he does it well.  What really makes this movie work for me is the relationship between the two characters these men portray, and the slow but sure unraveling of the gangster's troubling nightmare as well as his tough facade.  There are other actors in this movie, but they are incidental to the main characters, and really don't make much of an impression.  Read a more in-depth description of this movie here.  "Blind Alley" does not get much notice, for some reason (although you can watch a few clips from the movie here), which I think is a real shame.  Watch this one if you can find it, especially if you are a fan of film noir, as this movie is considered to be a forerunner to the genre.

Ralph Bellamy and Chester Morris face off in a scene from
"Blind Alley" (1939).

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