Marilyn Monroe is easily one of the most famous movie stars of all time. I don’t think you’ll find anyone who doesn’t know who she is. Sadly, most people don’t realize what an incredible actress she was. In addition to a stunning screen presence, she had an amazing comedic and dramatic talent. In the early 1950s, when she was still in mostly supporting roles, she was quite a scene stealer. When she started getting lead roles, she just sparkled in film after film after film. It’s tragic that she died so young. Who knows where her career would have gone.

Monroe made many, many films that are so incredible well known. Some Like It Hot was named the greatest comedy of all time by the American Film Institute. The Seven Year Itch, The Misfits, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How to Marry a Millionaire, among others, are considered to be classics. But she also made a lot of really good films that aren’t particularly well known today.

Don’t Bother to Knock (Roy Ward Baker, 1952)
In this unsettling sort-of-noir, Monroe gives an excellent performance as a mentally disturbed woman opposite Richard Widmark.  It’s really a pretty disturbing film for Hollywood in the 1950s. Monroe’s character is babysitting a couple’s kid in a hotel, but thanks to the fact that she’s kind of crazy, she does a really bad job of it. Like, tying the kid up kind of bad job. This is one of Monroe’s best performances. It’s really very subtle and natural, and while you’re appalled by how poorly she’s doing her job, your heart really breaks for her when you see just how sad her instability is.  Widmark also gives a very good performance, and his chemistry with Monroe is interesting and unique.

Home Town Story (Arthur Pierson, 1951)
This isn’t a great movie at all, but it’s a decent little newspaper drama with a really charming performance from Monroe.  It is blatantly patriotic, but it’s hardly the only film from the era of McCarthyism to carry the “America is Awesome” message. In addition to Monroe, the cast is  interesting enough to make this movie worth watching.

Bus Stop (Joshua Logan, 1956)
Monroe  got the chance to really put her acting talents on display in Bus Stop, showing off in this drama-comedy. You know, a dramady, if you will. The wide range of emotions she shows in this movie is really incredible, proof that she was a truly gifted actress.  Before this she had played mostly breathless blonds, but she left that persona behind to play a hardened, disappointed woman looking for love.

By Katie Richardson

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Year: 1951

Director: John Cromwell

Cast: Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Elizabeth Scott

In The Racket, RRobert Mitchum plays it straight and against type as an honest cop who’s out to get the mob. This was an unusual role for Mitchum who generally played guys on the other side of the law, or if he is a cop, is not on the straight and narrow like he is here as Captain Thomas McQuigg. Actually, it seems like almost everyone in this story is corrupt except for McQuigg. McQuigg, who was exiled because he was too honest in a corrupt world, is called back in to “clean up” a city now being over run by a new breed of gangster, mob men who run their corrupt business like a corporation, no longer killing each other off, like old style hood Nick Scanlon (Robert Ryan). Scanlon, a graduate of the Al Capone School of Mobsters, still believing in the doing things the old fashion way. The new organization believes in infiltrating the ranks, and filling the pockets, of dishonest politicians as a more progressive and profitable way of doing business. As a result Scanlon is getting pushed from both ends. The police led by McQuigg on one side and the new mob organization on the other. But Nick Scanlon is the kind of guy who when pushed, pushes back.

Robert Mitchum, who in real life as well as in reel life is the essence of cool and well known for his laid back almost non-acting style of acting seems uncomfortable as the straight laced McQuigg and is overshadowed in the film by Robert Ryan as the old style hoodlum Nick Scanlon. This is similar to the last time these two were matched up against each other a few years earlier in the superior film Crossfire. Over the years Ryan has made a career out of convincingly portraying evil cold blooded men. Also in the cast are Elizabeth Scott, who is pretty much wasted, Don Porter, William Talman and William Conrad.

While John Cromwell is given credit for directing the film there were four other directors who came and went thanks to Howard Hughes idiosyncratic style of running RKO Studios which he owned at the time. Mel Ferrer, Nick Ray, Tay Garrett and Sherman Todd all had a hand in this at one time or another. Like a soup with too many hands in the mix The Racket will keep you interested but is not a great crime thriller.

An interesting side note is that Howard Hughes originally commissioned Sam Fuller to write the screenplay, the source of which was a 1921 play. Fuller produced a script where the honest cop and the crime boss were not so black and white. Hughes nixed the script and hired W.R. Burnett (Little Caesar and The Asphalt Jungle) and William Wister Haines who received co-credit for the final script.

The film has also been labeled many times as film noir and has even been released on DVD in the continuing series of Film Noir Classics Collections, (Box Set number 3). I question whether this is really a noir film. It does not have the look or any elements of a true noir. No femme fatale, no dark shadowy lighting, no snappy dialogue or wet streets. Just look at this film and then look, at say, Preminger’s Where the Sidewalk Ends or the previously mentioned Crossfire and you will see the different between a true noir style and The Racket.

By John Greco

Year: 1951

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Starring: Cary Grant and Jeanne Craine

I had never seen People Will Talk before, nor had I ever remembered even hearing about it.

However, when I saw the description on my TV my interest was piqued.

I saw 1951.

I saw Carey Grant.

I saw something about an unplanned pregnancy, and I saw the title, People Will Talk.

Needless to say, I had to see this.

So, I recorded it with my DVR a while back and took some time to watch it yesterday.

Maybe it is just me, but I get some kind of thrill out of watching old movies deal with taboo subjects, like an unwanted pregnancy. If you are like me, you too will enjoy People Will Talk and how it handles some sticky subject matter. People Will Talk follows Dr. Noah Praetorius (played by Carey Grant) as a mysterious past catches up with him, threatening to possibly ruin his medical career. Part of what puzzles those who are investigating his past is his inexplicable connection to a man named Shunderson, someone who hardly ever leaves the side of Praetorius and someone to which Dr. Praetorious seems to be very very close. Dr. Praetorious refers to Shunderson as his “friend” but it is up to the viewer to determine exactly what their connection is. Also, under investigation is the doctor’s peculiar medical past and practices, including his beginnings in a small town and how his time there funded the opening of his own clinic.

This is a movie that is not only political, but way ahead of its time. It is meant to come across as a light romantic comedy, but underneath that 1950s conservative surface it deals with what were likely some of the director’s and/or writer’s political soapboxes. If for no other reason the movie is captivating due to how it deals with topics like premarital sex, abortion, the HUAC hearings, homosexuality, tax laws and ethics, the pharmaceuticals industry, government jobs, and the field of medicine, etc.

Don’t expect this movie to be preachy, it shys away from being preachy and was likely enjoyed and still can be enjoyed on a very surface level as a fun romantic comedy. That is to the credit of the script and the direction, much like many film makers that show a command of the medium, this film entertains and fascinates on many levels. There are some flaws to the film, the basic story line is a little drawn out (though I never found myself bored), some of the dialogue seems too scripted, and there are some unanswered questions (I was dying to know what became of the lives of those in this movie after the movie ends) that may be frustrating to some, but it certainly kept me attentive and I think classic film fans especially will be glad they took the time to see this atypical 1950s film.

Carey Grant is fun to watch as he plays this role. He seems to really enjoy the role, and his love for the character or the story or the issues being handled certainly is apparent. The life of Dr. Noah Praetorious and Carey Grant certainly are both filled with mystery. What is the truth about this man and this character he played? No matter what you think, no matter what conclusions you come to, People Will Talk will certainly have you talking about it, well after it is over.

By: Greg Dickson