Rating: The Good – 88.1 Genre: Comedy, Romance Duration: 112mins Director: George Cukor Stars: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart
Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart form a golden trio for this definitive comedy of manners. Hepburn is the iron clad “goddess” with an inside made of bronze, Grant is the ex-husband who resurfaces on the eve of her next marriage to one of the “new money”, and Stewart is the working writer sent to cover the wedding for a celebrity gossip magazine. The three way relationship is bang on perfect thanks to the three titans of cinema and the deliciously worded back and forths present in Donald Ogden Stewart’s magnificent adapted screenplay and Philip Barry’s original play.
Hepburn is immense as the quick witted socialite, Tracy Lord, who has learned to repress her more compassionate side. In any other movie, she’d own the entire thing but with Grant and Stewart in top form they share the spoils equally. Grant is at his most charming as C.K. Dexter Haven and, while only really coming to the fore in the second hour, he’s responsible for most of the film’s emotional thrust. As the one more responsible for the movie’s straight comedy, Stewart’s Macaulay Connor is the perfect foil for Tracy’s playful cynic and indeed the funniest moments are the product of their dynamic. There’s a fine support cast on show too with John Halliday in great form as Lord senior.
George Cukor does an exemplary job in coaxing the drama from the more constrained parameters of the stage and onto his luscious monochrome while simultaneously keeping the quick repartee as the primary driver. The Philadelphia Story is one of those rare immortal comedies in that it’s lost none of its sophistication as the years go by. In fact, with the relative dumbing down of the modern romantic comedy, it has only grown in stature.
Rating: The Good – 81.1 Genre: Thriller, Mystery Duration: 99 mins Director: Alfred Hitchcock Stars: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Cedric Hardwicke
Suspicion is a minor triumph on Alfred Hitchcock’s CV and one that plays as both a romance and a thriller shifting genres (in typical Hitchcockian fashion) somewhere around the midpoint. Cary Grant is in fine form as the charming playboy who catches the eye of would-be spinster Joan Fontaine and sweeps her off her feet. Things go well until shortly after they’re married, when she begins to suspect her new husband of ever darkening deeds as he attempts to avoid his massive gambling depths.
Suspicion is a beautifully photographed picture full of innovative devices the type of which Hitchcock typically uses to elevate tension and sink the hook deeper into the audience’s subconscious (check out that glass of warm milk!). Grant is excellent in a role that required some subtle contradictions and Fontaine doesn’t skip a beat. The two work off each other well to give what could have been an unappealing dynamic some proper zest, accessibility and, at the right times, a dubious warmth. It all pays off in a satisfying manner making this one of the Hitchcock’s more original films not to mention one of Quentin Tarantino’s favourite films of all time.
Rating: The Good – 78.5 Genre: Film-Noir Duration: 101 mins Director: Alfred Hitchcock Stars: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains
Terrific Hitchcock spy-movie starring Ingrid Bergman as the daughter of a convicted traitor who is asked by government agent Cary Grant to spy on her father’s German associates living in Rio de Janeiro. Films-noirs enjoyed the South American setting quite a lot for obvious reasons. Many of the cities were new and the influx of American money during the early part of the 20th century as well as the ports many of them were built around proved rich and vibrant feeding grounds for racketeers. They also offered to shelter to shady sorts who were looking to lie low and combined with the exotic location and ambiance, it seemed ready-made for the types of dark and seedy motivations full of murder and betrayal which the great films-noirs played on. Notorious is one of the best examples of such given that you have a bunch of nazis with typically nefarious plans, a complicated love affair, and bags of betrayal both real and perceived.
Cary Grant is not the type of actor one might immediately see as a good fit for the edgier roles but he proves more than up for it as he uses his smooth exterior to inveigle and seduce anyone who proves useful. When that anyone turns out to be someone he has feelings for his professionalism allows all sorts of complications to arise. However, good as he is, Notorious remains Bergman’s film and she’s utterly superb as the less manipulative of the two but not all together transparent. Her movement through the gamut of emotions which her character experiences is seamless and she offers a strength and radiance around which the film orbits.
The inevitable layers to the relationship which emerges between her and Grant are all handled as deftly by Hitchcock as it was by the two stars and though this is one of his more restrained projects from an innovation standpoint, it’s as solid, smoothly, and lusciously shot a thriller as the era (or genre for that matter) offered up. He uses all the tantalising qualities of the setting to give the plot and relationships a vibrant and original feel from the opulent dinner parties to the days out at the races. He also ensure the story hits the ground running which is something Hitchcock seemed to realise (more than most) was a hugely effective way of lacing the story with a powerful sense of mystique. Therefore, just as he did in Rope, Shadow of a Doubt and any number of films before or since, he has the audience in his hands from the first frame and like those films the experience remains intact and, if anything, grows as the plot becomes clearer. This of course, is made easier by Ben Hecht’s (he who penned Scarface) delicate script that captures all the nuances of the great drama-driven thrillers. Overall, Notorious is a wonderfully contained film that rises above most through its meeting of impeccable standards and the soft energy the story generates.
One of Hitchcock’s funnier thrillers and certainly one of his most epic, North by Northwest is an exquisitely shot and expertly paced thriller which ticks all the boxes. Cary Grant has never been wittier and commands the screen in his own inimitable way. He stars as a wealthy businessman mistaken for a spy by secret group who get him mixed up in the assassination of a UN diplomat. Eva Marie Saint is perfect as the mysterious female and James Mason is typically nefarious. The action sequences have gone down as some of the most memorable in history for many reasons but none more important than their choreography and cinematography. All in all, this is a sweeping tale that will keep you enthralled no matter how many times you’ve seen it.