Swing Time (1936)

swingtime_5Starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore, Helen Broderick, Eric Blore, Betty Furness, Georges Metaxa

Directed by George Stevens

Expectations: Very high.

fourstar


In the case of Swing Time, it would be very appropriate to say, “They just don’t make them like that anymore.” This common phrase is often clouded in rampant nostalgia, but here it is a true statement; they simply don’t make films like this anymore. Films this charming have gone the way of the dodo long ago, but what’s interesting is that the base structure of the plot is still thriving in today’s romantic comedies. Apparently, they do still make some movies kinda like this, but just without all the parts that make Swing Time stand out and dance its way around the crowd of other similarly plotted films.

Swing Time opens as Lucky Garnett (Fred Astaire) has decided to leave show business to settle down and get married. He talked his troupe into performing in his hometown, and apparently he got nostalgic and wanted to re-root himself there. Lucky’s performing buddies don’t think too much of the idea, though, so they do everything they can to thwart his attempts at leaving them. It works, and it sets in motion the main plot of the film, causing Lucky to eventually meet up with the beautiful dance instructor Penny Carroll (Ginger Rogers).

Continue reading Swing Time (1936) →

Giant (1956)

giant_6Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Carroll Baker, Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo, Rod Taylor, Judith Evelyn, Earl Holliman, Robert Nichols

Directed by George Stevens

Expectations: Low.

threestar


Giant is a Texas-themed soap opera about a cattle rancher named Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) who marries a Virginian girl named Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) while he’s in town buying a horse from Leslie’s father. When they return as husband and wife to Bick’s ranch Reata, Leslie doesn’t quite fit in with all the Texas bigots. This, surprisingly, becomes an overarching theme of the film, but you’ve gotta sit through a whole lot of Texas-sized movie before it ever pays off. And — spoiler alert — even that payoff is less satisfying than I’d have liked it to be. In a film this long (201 minutes!), is it too much to ask that we actually build toward something worth waiting for? I guess if I was a hard-hearted racist jerk, it’d take almost 3½ hours to get me to understand why the film ends as it does, but I was already on-board right from the get-go.

What’s strange about the length of Giant is that it’s an epic unconcerned with being epic. There are moments when it slips into epic mode, but for the most part it’s a fairly straightforward chronicle of 30–40 years in the Benedict family’s lives. So why is it as long as it is? The answer lies within the familial relationships of the Benedict family. Allowed extra space to breathe, Giant presents more nuanced and layered relationships than are usually seen in films — especially one from the ’50s. But even with its extended length, it still feels like it’s breezing through the years and could have easily been longer if it wanted to be.

Continue reading Giant (1956) →

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,593 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages

My Top 10 Favorite Sam Fuller Movies
Four Riders (1972)
New Police Story (2004)
Something Just Right
Killers on Wheels (1976)
City Hunter (1993)
The New Shaolin Boxers (1976)
My Lucky Stars (1985)