Posts Tagged ‘jean simmons’

Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra), runs an illegal floating craps game (the game is held at different venues each night, to stop the police catching them gambling), in New York City.  To raise the $1000 needed to pay a man for a room in which to hold the game, Nathan bets Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando), a man who is known to take a gamble on just about everything, that he (Sky) can’t get a woman of Nathan’s choosing to go to Havana with him.  The woman Nathan chooses is Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons), a prim and proper Sergeant in the Save-A-Soul Mission.  Nathan takes the bet, but when he goes to see Sarah, events take an unexpected turn.

This film is a wonderful musical comedy/drama.  I was interested to see how Marlon Brando would be as Sky Masterson, as musicals are not a genre usually associated with Brando.  The first choice for this role was apparently Gene Kelly, who wanted very much to play Sky, but he was contracted to MGM, and they would not loan him out for this film.  As I watched Brando, I tried to imagine Kelly playing the role, and I do think he would have made a marvellous job of it.  However, Brando surprised me by really making the part his own.  He may not have the best singing voice, but he holds a tune well, and I enjoyed his songs, especially the well known Luck Be A Lady.  He is also at his most handsome and charming here.  Sinatra, naturally, sings his songs beautifully, and was wonderful as the slightly dodgy but basically likeable Nathan Detroit.

I also loved Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine as Sarah Brown and Miss Adelaide (the latter being the long suffering fiancee of Nathan Detroit, who despairs of them ever getting married).  Adelaide is a nightclub singer and dancer (backed by the real life dancers The Goldwyn Girls), and the couple of sings which we see her perform as part of her act are a real treat.  The opening dance scene, and the dance preceding the Luck Be A Lady are terrific, full of colour and beautifully choreographed, and the dancing in the Havana restaurant scene is also lots of fun to watch.

My only slight niggle about the film comes from its length – at 2 and a half hours, it is perhaps slightly overlong, but I’m probably nitpicking.  Overall, it was a funny film, packed with real talent, and well worth watching – highly recommended.

Year of release: 1955

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Producer: Samuel Goldwyn

Writers: Damon Runyon (stories ‘The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown’ and ‘Blood Pressure’), Jo Swerling (play ‘Guys and Dolls’), Abe Burrows (play ‘Guys and Dolls’), Joseph L. Makiewicz, Ben Hecht

Main cast: Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons, Vivian Blaine, Stubby Kaye, B.S. Pully


(Click here for my review of the 2016 stage production of Guys and Dolls.)



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This review is NOT of the 1960 film starring Spencer Tracy and Frederic March, but instead, a 1988 adaptation of Lee and Lawrence’s play. The play was based on the real-life Scopes Monkey Trial, but it NOT a retelling of that story. In essence, a young schoolteacher in a Baptist town in the 1920s, is arrested for teaching evolution to his students, and the case goes to trial, attracting nationwide media interest.

Kirk Douglas plays Reverand Brady, the lawyer for the prosecution, and Jason Robards plays Henry Drummond, the solicitor for the schoolteacher. Kyle Secor plays the schoolteacher, Bertram Cates. I have seen some unfavourable comparisons of Douglas and Robards in comparison to Frederic March and Spencer Tracy, who played the same roles in the original film adaptation. For that reason, it was probably beneficial to me as a viewer, that I have not seen that version of the film.

I was actually gripped by this film. Jason Robards was superb as Drummond, injecting a note of humour and a healthy dose of cynicism into the proceedings. He is frustrated by the Judge, who is clearly biased towards the prosecution, and who refuses to allow Drummond to call any of his expert witnesses. However, Kirk Douglas seemed somewhat jarring as Reverend Brady, and I actually found his character to be quite sinister. Jean Simmons was excellent as his wife, however.

Kyle Secor is an under-rated actor, and does a fine job here. However, despite being the character who is the reason for the trial happening in the first place, Cates is really just a supporting character. This film is all about the two lawyers.

As for the ending…well, I’m not sure whether it was what I expected or not. But it rounded things off perfectly. The film made me want to see both other movie adaptations of the play (as well as the 1960 film, there is also a 1999 adaptation, starring Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott), and also find out more about the real-life case, which inspired the playwrights. This 1988 version doesn’t come around on television that often, and I was unable to find a DVD version of it, but if you do see it playing anytime, it’s well worth checking out.

Year of release: 1988

Director: David Greene

Writers: Jerome Lawrence (play), Robert E. Lee (play), John Gay

Main cast: Kirk Douglas, Jason Robards, Darren McGavin, Jean Simmons, Kyle Secor, Megan Follows

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Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr play Lord Victor and Lady Hilary Ryall, a once aristocratic couple who have fallen on hard times, so open their stately home to paying tourists.  Charles Delacro (Robert Mitchum), a Texan millionaire is one such tourist who wanders into the wrong room, meets Hilary and is instantly attracted to her.  Hilary also feels the attraction and before long is running up to London for a secret tryst with Charles.  Meanwhile, Victor is upset at the thought of his wife falling in love with another man, and has a plan up his sleeve for getting her back…

This film is billed as a romantic comedy, and if you’re thinking that the above storyline doesn’t sound like a usual storyline for that genre – well so was I.  And indeed the first part of the film had little romance and even less comedy.  The storyline seemed to take massive leaps in a short period of time – Hilary and Charles met, and she went almost immediately from annoyance at his intrusion, to feeling mad about him and running off to meet him (although she had previously been apparently happy with her husband).  Victor meanwhile was lamenting the fact that his wife had fallen in love with another man, when she barely seemed to have had time to have exchanged more than a few words with him!  (I actually checked to make sure that I hadn’t missed out a huge chunk of the movie somehow).

However, just when I was starting to think I wouldn’t enjoy the film, things picked up with the arrival of Hilary and Victor’s vivacious friend Hattie, played wonderfully by Jean Simmons.  Thereafter, there was actually a lot of very funny moments and the film was most enjoyable.  Despite a rather disjointed first part, I was very glad I stuck with it!

What was perfect from beginning to end was the cast.  Cary Grant plays the part of the slightly scatterbrained Lord, who sees more than he lets on, to perfection, bringing humor and pathos to the character.  Robert Mitchum seemed an unusual choice for a romantic lead, but he was great – it’s no mean feat to make a character likeable when that same character is vigorously attempting to break up a marriage!  (And if you were thinking that it’s unlikely a woman would be tempted to pick Mitchum over Grant, here it’s just about plausible).  However, the part that really grabbed me was that of Hattie – Jean Simmons was so wonderful in this role.  It’s easy to imagine that Hattie could have been a very annoying character in the hands of  a different actress, but here she was sweet, sassy, lovable, exasperating and very very funny.  A special mention also for Moray Watson, who played the Sellers the butler.  Most of his interaction was with Victor, and he was the perfect foil for Grant’s bumbling Lord.  The only part that didn’t seem to stand out was that of Hilary, around whom the storyline revolved…I don’t think this was anything to do wtih Deborah Kerr’s portrayal, which was fine – it was more that the character was a difficult one to warm to.

And how does it all end?  Well, I’m not going to spoil it for you – you’ll just have to watch it and see…

Overall then, while this is not one of the best films I’ve seen recently, the cast made it definitely worth watching.  Any fans of any of the cast should certainly check this one out.

Year of release: 1960

Director: Stanley Donen

Writers: Hugh Williams, Margaret Vyner

Main cast: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Jean Simmons, Robert Mitchum

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