Friday Night Classic: The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

I’m in the middle of reading John Huston: Courage and Art. It’s a great read, partially because it has made me envious of every actor/director/producer/average person who hung around Hollywood types during the classic era because everyone was screwing each other. And I mean, everyone. There are chapters dedicated to John Huston’s affairs. It’s wild and completely entertaining. It almost (almost) makes me wish I lived in 1940s.

Other than this, Courage and Art has made me realize that although I have seen many John Huston movies, I don’t remember them that well. I’m 99.9% convinced that I fell asleep through most of them. (How blasphemous!) So that’s what I did tonight – revisited The Asphalt Jungle.

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30 Day Film Challenge: Day 6

A Film That Reminds You of Somewhere

This last year I spent more time on Greyhound than anyone should ever have to. Some people probably think this is a sentence worse than death. But I freakishly love bus travel.

My bus travels are marked by the waiting, the constant smell of urine, the angry passengers who just can’t go with the flow, the people watching (so much people watching), the weird dude who will undoubtedly snore, and the unexpected sense of calm that falls over me. Especially if it is around 4 p.m. on a bus bound for upstate NY with only ten other passengers. It is those nearly deserted bus rides that are the best.

I like Greyhound so much that sometimes I am moved to take pictures.

How does my freakish fascination with bus travel relate to movies? As you can imagine, I adore anytime a movies features a bus (except Speed).

Like Bus Stop.

And the “Tiny Dancer” scene in Almost Famous.

And when Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert meet in It Happened One Night

Once again, the movies have set me up to have false expectations about everything and everyone I meet while traveling.

What I like most about buses, if I will attempt to rationalize this, is that they are this confined in-between space.  Even though there is a destination in mind, for a few hours you are just somewhere. And that is what these three movies are about: just somewhere, but really no where importantl. They’re special because of the parts that make the movie.

Ain’t There Anyone Here For Love? – Here’s To Jane Russell

Damn, I love Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

I love how suggestive it is and I love the female leads, played by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Monroe is delightfully ditzy at Lorelei and Russell is wonderfully savvy as Dorothy. As far as female performances go in classic Hollywood cinema, this duo is one of the finest comedic pairings.

Jane Russell passed away today at the age of 89. Russell is perhaps best known for her film debut in Howard Hughes’ The Outlaw (1943).

The Outlaw surrounded by controversy. A poster revealed too much of the then 19-year-old’s breasts and the Catholic Church kind of freaked out. The controversy made Russell a star and it got one thing right: Russell was one of the most beautiful actresses to grace the silver screen.

I prefer to think of Jane Russell performing “Ain’t There Anyone Here For Love?” one of the musical number’s from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Russell owns the screen with every suggestive glance, her fabulous checkered coat, and the way she sashays across the stage. It’s not for everyone, but I just love it.

What is your favorite Jane Russell moment? Sound off below.

Review: The Misfits (1961)

The Misfits, directed by John Huston and written by Arthur Miller, is an undeniably intriguing film. It holds a significant place in film history while also featuring unexpected and outstanding performances from the lead actors.

The Misfits is notoriously for being screen icons Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe final roles. Gable died 11 days after filming completed after suffering from a massive heart attack and Monroe died about a year and a half later of a drug overdose. Coincidentally, this also marks one of Montgomery Clift’s and Thelma Ritter’s final performances.

Set in and around Reno, Monroe stars as Roslyn, a recent divorcee. She meets Guido (Eli Wallach), a widower, who instantly falls in love with the sexy Roslyn. He allows her to move into his abandoned home (that is filled with memories of his dead wife), hoping this gesture will help Roslyn return his feelings. But, when Roslyn is introduced to Gay (Clark Gable), an aging cowboy, the two men compete for her affections, allowing for their worst traits to surface. Along the way, the trio meets Perce (Montgomery Clift), an old friend of Gay’s, who makes ends meet as a rodeo participant.

The men then find an easy way make fast money: capturing and selling wild horses (“misfits”) to make dog food. When Roslyn learns this, she protests, leading to the film’s emotional and disturbing conclusion.

As a whole, this is a stellar production. Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, and Eli Wallach all deliver fantastic performances. Thelma Ritter, as expected, adds plenty of humor and off colour remarks. Additionally, any John Huston and Arthur Miller collaboration is something that should not be missed out on. In fact, there is so much that can be written about The Misfits, but I think it is necessary to focus on the film’s most important and captivating element: Marilyn Monroe.

Monroe’s performance in The Misfits is something to note. Her impact on American culture has been analyzed for decades; Marilyn Monroe is, after all, why feminist film theory exists. But with this role, she steps away from that one image that clouded her film career: Marilyn Monroe, standing over a subway grate with her white dress blowing up (from The Seven Year Itch).

Don’t be mistaken: The Misfits depends on Marilyn Monroe’s sexuality quite frequently (how could it not.) But because Roslyn is a character with depth who, despite being a former prostitute, acts as the group’s moral compass, Monroe is able to prove something that is typically forgotten when people hear her name.

Marilyn Monroe had talent. In fact, she had so much talent that she was able to mold herself into a persona that to this day some people find stupid and pointless. Her roles, filled with innuendos still spark endless debates. And that is why The Misfits is Marilyn Monroe’s most noteworthy performance because while you are watching this film, you can easily forget that you are that same woman from The Seven Year Itch.

Updated October 19, 2010