Friday, April 20, 2018

Joan Bennett in "Highway Dragnet" (1954)


Joan Bennett and Some Other Fancy Rides

Highway Dragnet 1954 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com Poster
"Highway Dragnet" (1954).

"Highway Dragnet" (1954), directed by Nathan Juran, stars Richard Conte, Joan Bennett, Wanda Hendrix and Reed Hadley (who has an amazing voice) in a routine murder mystery/chase film that almost certainly would have been the underbill on a typical double feature offering. Conte plays John Cassavetes of 20 years later, Hendrix does her best Mary Anne from "Gilligan's Island," and Joan plays, well, Joan at her diva best. I've already given you the plot above in only four words, but let me make it a little plainer: there's a murder, then a lengthy car chase, and then a resolution. Really, that's "Highway Dragnet," and everything else is simply padding (and I'm not talking about Joan Bennett's flowing, "Lawrence of Arabia" dress).

Highway Dragnet 1954 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com Richard Conte, Joan Bennett, Wanda Hendrix
Someone's been killed, and there's a clue as to whom the killer is in this still showing Wanda Hendrix, Joan Bennett, and Richard Conte - but you'll never figure it out unless you see "Highway Dragnet."

The plot ( is involved with that) is pedestrian - Joan Bennet's character basically announces the solution to the "big mystery" about halfway through - but, as I've said, I already gave you the plot. To give you an idea of the proceedings, the absurd coincidences abound (what are the odds that there would be two US Marines in civilian clothes being stopped at the same time at the same police checkpoint in the middle of the desert, enabling the suspect to get away?) which is part of the hammy fun. Joan gets lost in the desert, and everyone else is stumbling around looking for her and actually looking like they got lost in the desert - and she suddenly turns up unannounced as if she just dropped in by helicopter from a Beverly Hills beauty parlor.

Highway Dragnet 1954 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com Richard Conte, Joan Bennett, Wanda Hendrix
Joan is still lovely, but also definitely showing her years in the harsh desert sun.

What I want to do here instead is to make a few observations about the film as if it didn't have a plot - which is well-crafted with lots of complications and numerous "oh the phone rang so the suspect gets away from certain capture" moments. In other words, I am going to answer the question, why might you want to spend your time watching "Highway Dragnet" if a mundane murder mystery is not your cup of java?

Highway Dragnet 1954 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com Richard Conte, Joan Bennett, Wanda Hendrix
Lobby card from "Highway Dragnet."

I will confess here first that I decided to watch this film because I thought Jack Webb would pop up somewhere - he doesn't, but would have played the Sheriff perfectly. it's that kind of film - guy on the lam, so we get a lot of police procedural stuff. You know the drill if you've ever seen any episodes of any incarnation of "Dragnet."

Highway Dragnet 1954 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
And here in "Highway Dragnet" we have your standard police (Reed Hadley on the right) in a cruiser scene just like "Adam 12" or, well, "Dragnet."

Anyway, this is a '50s car film. You will see an exotic parade of Nashes, and Kaisers in their original, dirty, busted-up true lives. In other words, none of the cars is in that "ultra-restored without a dent or smudge and that you can see yourself in the shine" condition that you see in more recent films that attempt to portray the '50s. Instead, this is a companion piece to, oh, "The Girl in Black Stockings" (1957), for example - lots of fabulous old girls that have whitewalls and hood ornaments and big, roomy trunks. These are the types of cars that would break down every 50 miles in the desert, but that was okay because then you would just pop the hood up, throw in some water or tweak the carburetor a little and you'd be rolling again. Guys were handy to have around if only because they knew cars - an undeniable fact of '50s life which basically sets up our story in "Highway Dragnet."

Highway Dragnet 1954 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com Richard Conte
Richard Conte making himself useful in "Highway Dragnet."

Did you know that if you stay in a state for over 30 days, you technically are supposed to re-register your car there? You'll learn that little tidbit in "Highway Dragnet" - and it's still true today. That's how deeply into car culture "Highway Dragnet" is. If you are a car buff, this is your film. Just don't expect a lot of tail-fins, those only came along a few years later. These are big, boxy, roomy cars that easily sat three in a seat. Oh, and if you were hungry, where would you stop? Why, the place called "Eats," of course.

Highway Dragnet 1954 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com Richard Conte, Joan Bennett, Wanda Hendrix


If you are still reading this and found any of the above interesting - this may be a good choice for you. Just ignore the silly plot, enjoy the visuals, drink in Joan Bennett's incredibly hammy performance, and set your Fluid Drive at cruising speed. Lots of evocative scenes of things gone by, such as the Salton Sea with actual water in it, Apple Valley Inn at its height, Fremont Street in its early glory. There's also lots of snarky, subversive, misleading dialog that is just hysterical, such as:
[Detective shows hotel manager picture of suspected Strap Killer]
Det. Sgt. Ben Barnett: Ever see him before?
Mr. Carson: Let's see... of course! Now I remember! He's the strap killer!
Det. Sgt. Ben Barnett: You've seen him?
Mr. Carson: Yes!
Det. Sgt. Ben Barnett: Where?
Mr. Carson: In the afternoon paper, his picture's on the front page!
and
Mr. Carson: Say, you don't think you'll find him around here, do you?
Det. Sgt. Ben Barnett: I don't know, I'm not familiar with the habits of the Strap Killer.
The actor who played Barnett, Tom Hubbard, is given credit for "additional dialog," so he may have been the one that came up with some of the snarkiness on the spot.

Highway Dragnet 1954 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com Joan Bennett
The lovely Joan Bennett with some of her tools of the trade in "Highway Dragnet."

Okay, overall, can I recommend watching "Highway Dragnet"? The answer to that is yes. It is quick (70-minute), clean (Joan is spotless) fun, and I honestly felt good about the ending, trite as it was. The set-up is good enough that when you see Joan writing in the Salton Sea, it's a great emotional payoff. An unknown classic if you like cheap, unassuming drive-in flicks.



2018

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Marilyn Monroe - Early Photos

Marilyn Monroe movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Marilyn Monroe.

Everybody knows who Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson; June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962) is, because she is the premiere Hollywood sex symbol of all time. Virtually unknown at the start of the decade, she became the top female star of the 1950s.

Marilyn Monroe movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
If by any chance you have that ID badge Marilyn is wearing, well, now you're rich.

She grew up in foster homes, and during World War II worked in the new aircraft factory (built in 1941) in Long Beach. Robert Mitchum recalled that he met her while they were both working there, when she was just plain old Norma Jeane.

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After the war, Marilyn decided to try her hand at modelling. Her first shoot was a dog commercial, shown above.

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She had no experience, but then, when you look like Marilyn Monroe, you don't really need any. Bikinis, incidentally, were not very common in the 1940s.

Pageant Magazine Marilyn Monroe movieloversreviews.filminspector.com


The dog commercial attracted some notice because Norma Jeane was a pretty girl. She began to get some bit parts in Hollywood B movies.

Marilyn Monroe movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Nice monogrammed shirt!

Marilyn needed a better, catchier name. Mickey Rooney later claimed that Marilyn was in his, ahem, office one day when the subject of her stage name came up. A writer he knew was named Monroe Manning, and he simply told her "You're definitely a Marilyn."

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It is a good story, but the reality appears to be more mundane: her mentor Ben Lyon named her Marilyn after Marilyn Miller, and Monroe was Norma Jeane's mother's maiden name. Mickey was a great storyteller.

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Norma Jeane was not a shy girl. She was determined to get ahead, and she did. She shot what we would call "Cheesecake" photos early in her career, some of which were promptly lost and forgotten. However, many have turned up long after her untimely death in 1962. The beautiful shots below were found in a garage sale in New Jersey in the 1980s.

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Marilyn broke through to prominence in 1950, with some well-received performances in films like "The Asphalt Jungle." This led to starring turns in films such as "Niagara," one of the underrated classics of the 1950s due to Marilyn's unexpected insouciance as a troublemaking record lover.

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Right up until her breakthrough, though, she was cheerfully posing half- or all-nude for folks like Hugh Hefner.

Marilyn Monroe movieloversreviews.filminspector.com


Marilyn later went on to film timeless classics such as "Some Like it Hot," "How to Marry a Millionaire" and "The Misfits." She changed her look, became a platinum blonde, and became the iconic legend. However, her best look of all is when she was a fresh-faced ingenue, eager to make a good impression and happy to please.

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Marilyn Monroe movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Marilyn Monroe movieloversreviews.filminspector.com


PAGEANT MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 1952

How I Stay in Shape

By Marilyn Monroe

“Frankly, I’ve never considered my own figure so exceptional; until quite recently, I seldom gave it any thought at all. My biggest single concern used to be getting enough to eat. Now I have to worry about eating too much. I never used to bother with exercises. Now I spend at least 10 minutes each morning working out with small weights. I have evolved my own exercises, for the muscles I wish to keep firm, and I know they are right for me because I can feel them putting the proper muscles into play as I exercise.”

Pageant Magazine Marilyn Monroe movieloversreviews.filminspector.com


She Doesn’t Like To Feel Regimented

EXERCISE. Each morning, after I brush my teeth, wash my face and shake off the first deep layer of sleep, I lie down on the floor beside my bed and begin my first exercise. It is a simple bust-firming routine which consists of lifting five-pound weights from a spread-eagle arm position to a point directly above my head. I do this 15 times, slowly. I repeat the exercise another 15 times from a position with my arms above my head. Then, with my arms at a 45-degree angle from the floor, I move my weights in circles until I’m tired. I don’t count rhythmically like the exercise people on the radio; I couldn’t stand exercise if I had to feel regimented about it.”

Pageant Magazine Marilyn Monroe movieloversreviews.filminspector.com


How to Feel Blond All Over

SPORTS. I have never cared especially for outdoor sports, and have no desire to excel at tennis, swimming or golf. I’ll leave those things to the men. Despite its great vogue in California, I don’t think sun-tanned skin is any more attractive than white skin, or any healthier, for that matter. I’m personally opposed to a deep tan because I like to feel blond all over.

Pageant Magazine Marilyn Monroe movieloversreviews.filminspector.com


By nature, I suppose I have a languorous disposition. I hate to do things in a hurried, tense atmosphere, and it is virtually impossible for me to spring out of bed in the morning. On Sunday, which is my one day of total leisure, I sometimes take two hours to wake up, luxuriating in every last moment of drowsiness. Depending on my activities, I sleep between five and ten hours every night. I sleep in an extra-wide single bed, and I use only one heavy down comforter over me, summer or winter. I have never been able to wear pajamas or creepy nightgowns; they disturb my sleep.”

Pageant Magazine Marilyn Monroe movieloversreviews.filminspector.com


A Set of Bizarre Eating Habits

BREAKFAST. I’ve been told that my eating habits are absolutely bizarre, but I don’t think so. Before I take my morning shower, I start warming a cup of milk on the hot plate I keep in my hotel room. When it’s hot, I break two raw eggs into the milk, whip them up with a fork, and drink them while I’m dressing. I supplement this with a multi-vitamin pill, and I doubt if any doctor could recommend a more nourishing breakfast for a working girl in a hurry.
Pageant Magazine Marilyn Monroe movieloversreviews.filminspector.com


DINNER. My dinners at home are startlingly simple. Every night I stop at the market near my hotel and pick up a steak, lamb chops or some liver, which I broil in the electric oven in my room. I usually eat four or five raw carrots with my meat, and that is all. I must be part rabbit; I never get bored with raw carrots.

Pageant Magazine Marilyn Monroe movieloversreviews.filminspector.com


P.S. It’s a good thing, I suppose, that I eat simply during the day, for in recent months I have developed the habit of stopping off at Wil Wright’s ice cream parlor for a hot fudge sundae on my way home from my evening drama classes. I’m sure that I couldn’t allow myself this indulgence were it not that my normal diet is composed almost totally of protein foods.”



2018

Monday, October 19, 2015

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Trailer


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There may be no more eagerly anticipated film this decade than "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens movieloversreviews.filminspector.com

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens," aka "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens," will appear in theaters beginning December 18, 2015, and undoubtedly for months thereafter.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens movieloversreviews.filminspector.com

The film stars, in no particular order:

Mark Hamill
Carrie Fisher
Harrison Ford
Andy Serkis
Billie Lourd
Adam Driver
Peter Mayhew
Gwendoline Christie
Daisy Ridley
Oscar Isaac
Max von Sydow

Personally, I think the fact that Ming the Merciless made it into the Star Wars saga is kind of cool. Somewhat ironic, too.

The film is directed by J.J. Abrams and written by him and , and .

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Max von Sydow in another science fiction classic.


2017

Friday, July 17, 2015

Jane Fonda, Iconic Beauty

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Jane Fonda in Paris, 1963

Jane Fonda (Lady Jayne Seymour Fonda, born December 21, 1937) is an American actress, occasional fashion model and fitness video creator. She is a two-time Academy Award winner, and in 2014, she was the recipient of the American Film Institute AFI Life Achievement Award.

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Jane Fonda and friend Brooke Hayward, 1960s, in a picture taken by Brooke's husband, Dennis Hopper.

Jane is the daughter of legendary actor Henry Fonda. Their family didn't come over on the Mayflower, but they weren't far behind, arriving in the 1650s.

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Jane, Peter and Henry Fonda on the set of "Sunday in New York," 1963.

Jane has a brother, Peter, and maternal half-sister, Frances. Peter also is an Academy Award nominee (twice) and is the father of Bridget Fonda.

Jane Fonda movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Jane with her father, probably early 1960s.

She has been married several times, to French Director Roger Vadim, activist Tom Hayden, and television mogul Ted Turner.

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Jane and French Director Roger Vadim on their wedding day.

Jane went to Vassar, and rumors swirled about her time there. The story, apocryphal but fun, goes that she she was told once at dinner to go upstairs and change because she wasn't wearing gloves, and nobody was allowed to eat without them. She supposedly then came down for dinner naked save for the gloves.

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Jane acted in a series of mediocre films in the early 1960s, usually playing a brainless young blonde. However, it was invaluable training which she later put to very good use.

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She acted with some top names, such as Robert Redford, Lee Marvin and Alain Delon.

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Jane was happy to play up her sexuality before she became a "serious" actress.

She gained a great deal of experience, including learning how to sell a character and a film, which would prove invaluable in coming years.

Jane Fonda movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Jane in "Cat Ballou" (1965).

While just a minor Hollywood star, Jane was still the daughter of Hollywood royalty. She became a jetsetter who spent a great deal of time in Paris. After she married Vadim, though, she decided to give him what he wanted and film a sexy science fiction film, "Barbarella."

Jane Fonda movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Jane during the filming of "Barbarella," photo by Pat York.

The film marked a turning point for Jane. She was able to pick and choose her next film role, and she picked "They Shoot Horses, Don't They." It was a wise choice, turning Jane into a respected dramatic actress and earning her the first of seven Oscar nominations, including two wins. She credits the role with changing her career toward serious roles.

Jane Fonda movieloversreviews.filminspector.com

After that, Jane became an A-list actress. She also adopted a Bohemian lifestyle in keeping with the times and joined the anti-Vietnam protests. This earned her life-long enmity by many veterans of the war. She doesn't talk about that period of her life very much in public anymore.

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Jane earned an Oscar a few years later with her role as a callgirl in "Klute." She won another later in the decade for "Coming Home." It is not reaching to say that Jane was the top Hollywood actress of the 1970s. However, somewhat oddly, her fee dropped substantially during the middle portion of the decade, perhaps due to all the controversial publicity she was receiving. She recovered from that setback with "Julia" (1977), for which she received another nomination.

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As the '80s arrived, Jane remained at the top of her game, starring with her father Henry in the role that earned him an Oscar in "On Golden Pond" (1981). It was in many ways the pinnacle of her film career, and she never again had such a great role. Her final nomination was for "The Morning After" in 1987, a decidedly mediocre film.

Jane Fonda movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Julian Wasser. "Jane Fonda (pregnant) demonstrating", 1973.

Jane expanded her sway behind the camera throughout the '70s and '80s, and the huge amounts of money she was earning gave her the opportunity to repay her father for some of what he had done for her. She produced "On Golden Pond" and forever after very proud to have given her father the chance at the end of his life to receive the honor of an Academy Award. It was his final film and he passed away soon after.

Jane Fonda movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Jane's mugshot when she was arrested for protesting the Vietnam War. One of the great mugshots of all time.

The VCR also made its appearance in the early '80s, and Jane climbed aboard by filming and selling a line of exercise videos. Her most popular one, "Jane Fonda's Workout Video," sold 17 million copies. Clad in spandex and performing entire routines herself, Jane became the top-selling home video star of all time.

Jane Fonda movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Jane Fonda at Café de Flore Paris, 1961, by Willy Rizzo. Evidently, huge bags never go out of style.

Jane's career wound down in the '80s, starring in "The Old Gringo" with Gregory Peck in 1989 and a couple of other sub-par projects before officially retiring. She married billionaire Ted Turner, and they were happy for most of the 1990s. Eventually, though, Jane got the itch to return to acting. She divorced Ted and found a comeback vehicle in the 2005 Jennifer Lopez film "Monster-in-Law."

Jane Fonda movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Jane looking very French with her husband.

Since then, Jane has resumed her Hollywood career, including a cable television show with Lily Tomlin. Now deep into her '70s, Jane still looks fabulous, and the years have been very kind to her.

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Jane and Roger in St. Tropez, 1968.

Jane continues acting, and even mentions making a sequel to "Barbarella' some day. If any actress could pull it off at the age of 80, Jane Fonda could.


2017