Posted on

The Front Row View: The Adventures of Robin Hood

The Front Row View is a regular column by Great Stories contributor Jim Cannizzaro.  He is a veteran community theater leading man, seasoned blogger, movie enthusiast, and family man.

rh

[Editor’s Note:  Jim posted this nod to a Hollywood classic on May 16th in another forum]

Whoops, I’m one day late—one of classic Hollywood’s greatest entertainments premiered on May 15th, 1938: Michael Curtiz and William Keighley’s swashbuckler The Adventures of Robin Hood. I have some great memories of watching this one Saturday afternoons with my dad. The incomparable Errol Flynn as Robin Hood (a triumph of casting), the impossibly pretty Olivia de Haviland as Maid Marian, and the most hissable villains to oil their way across a movie screen, Claude Rains’ Prince John and Basil Rathbone’s Sir Guy of Gisbourne. The best swordfight in movie history. A boisterous supporting cast in a perfectly paced classic. All in shimmering Technicolor. Welcome to Sherwood!

-Jim

Posted on

The Front Row View: My Fair Lady

The Front Row View is a regular column by Great Stories contributor Jim Cannizzaro.  He is a veteran community theater leading man, seasoned blogger, movie enthusiast, and family man.

myfairlady

The perfect Mother’s Day movie to watch with yo’ Momma—George Cukor’s 1964 classic My Fair Lady. Lerner and Loew’s amazing songs, the great performances by Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, the stylish sets and costumes by Cecil Beaton and the witty dialogue by the great George Bernard Shaw as adapted by Lerner. It’s first-rate Old Hollywood entertainment. Happy Mother’s Day!

-Jim

Posted on

The Front Row View: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

The Front Row View is a regular column by Great Stories contributor Jim Cannizzaro.  He is a veteran community theater leading man, seasoned blogger, movie enthusiast, and family man.

ww

In honor of the opening this weekend of Flint Farm’s ice cream stand (one of our favorite haunts, just minutes from where we live), I’m paying tribute to everyone’s favorite sweet treat movie. Mel Stuart’s 1971 musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory offers Gene Wilder as the titular confectionary genius. He offers a free tour of his chocolate factory for five lucky children who can find a golden ticket hidden inside of his famous candy bars. Roald Dahl adapted his ingenious book with his trademark sinister humor and bizarre characters (so glad they kept the “rowers” poem!). A group of skillful child actors play the spoiled brats on the tour (with the standout being Julie Dawn Cole as future band name Veruca Salt), Peter Ostrum, in his first and only movie, offered a warm and appealing performance as Charlie (Ostrum later became a veterinarian), and Jack Albertson is perfection as Grampa Joe (love his song and dance to “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket”—pretty limber for an old dude whose been bedridden for 20 years!). The can’t get-’em-outta-your-head songs by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, the colorful sets and cinematography and the brisk pacing wouldn’t mean a thing without the effectiveness of it’s star. This movie offers the perfect match of actor and role in Wilder’s performance as Wonka. Can you name a performer as brilliantly eccentric as Wilder? He combines befuddlement and charm with a fatherly way about him at the end—but somehow remains mysterious enough that I never trust him! The movie was financed by Quaker Oats, hoping to compete with the Disney films. It’s box office was disappointing, but with the help of television viewings and home video over the years, it’s become a classic. If this isn’t the perfect movie to watch with your family, then I’m a Vermicious Knid! Also worth a look—Tim Burton’s 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

-Jim

Posted on

The Front Row View: Easter Parade

The Front Row View is a regular column by Great Stories contributor Jim Cannizzaro.  He is a veteran community theater leading man, seasoned blogger, movie enthusiast, and family man.

easter

After you’ve seen Charlton Heston throw the tablets at those naughty Israelites, put on your dancin’ shoes and enjoy Charles Walters’ 1948 Easter Parade. The incomparable Judy Garland warbles the great Irving Berlin tunes, Fred Astaire makes all of his amazing dances look easy and Peter Lawford…well, I’ve never understood his appeal, but if you like him, he’s here! The plot is no great shakes (one of the scriptwriters was future megaselling author Sidney Sheldon), but the movie delivers with one great musical number after another, including the classic Garland-Astaire duet “A Couple of Swells.” As sweet as a chocolate Easter bunny, but without the calories! Happy Easter!

-Jim

Posted on

The Front Row View: The Ten Commandments

The Front Row View is a regular column by Great Stories contributor Jim Cannizzaro.  He is a veteran community theater leading man, seasoned blogger, movie enthusiast, and family man.

ten


For this Passover weekend, what better viewing choice is there than that treasured chestnut The Ten Commandments? Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 blockbuster combines spectacle, gloriously hammy acting (Chuck Heston and Yul Brynner, you both never let me down!), the Burning Bush, the Golden Calf, the Stone Tablets and the killer Parting of the Red Sea. Throw in the sex bomb Anne Baxter as the vamping princess, Vincent Price being as Vincent Price-ish as ever and Edward G. Robinson as the traitor to the Jews. There’s just too much for a movie lover to handle! It’s a High Camp treat. So let it be written….so let it be done!

-Jim

Posted on

The Front Row View: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

The Front Row View is a regular column by Great Stories contributor Jim Cannizzaro.  He is a veteran community theater leading man, seasoned blogger, movie enthusiast, and family man.

MAD

What better way to spend April Fool’s Day than watching a bunch of fools? Namely an all-star cast playing a bunch of fools looking for a suitcase full of money….buried under a Big Dubaya. Stanley Kramer’s 1963 laugh marathon It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World will never win any awards for subtlety, but many who have seen it count it among their favorite movies. Comic legends from yesteryear go on a mad dash to find the loot before everyone else. What a cast!. Spencer Tracy, Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett, Phil Silvers and that Human Screech Machine known as Ethel Merman. Dick Shawn screaming for his “Mama!” Memorable cameos from Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny, Jimmy Durante and far too many others to mention. If you’re looking for cinematic art, watch Citizen Kane or The Seventh Seal. If you want some wonderful, dumb fun, this is the Foolish Ticket!

-Jim

Posted on

The Front Row View: The Time Machine (1960)

The Front Row View is a regular column by Great Stories contributor Jim Cannizzaro.  He is a veteran community theater leading man, seasoned blogger, movie enthusiast, and family man.

time

In honor of this past weekend’s Daylight Savings Time, I’m paying tribute to George Pal’s classic 1960 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. The pleasant Australian actor Rod Taylor plays the Time Traveler as a man who is eager to delve into the mysteries of science, yet is conflicted over how Mankind has used the tools of science over the years. He is weary over the warmongering of his brothers and thinks that Man’s existence is precarious. Taylor is likeable, yet a certain melancholy hangs over him, as if he feels that Man is doomed to extinction no matter what he does. He time travels (in a beautifully-designed machine) to the year 802,701 and encounters the peaceful, childlike Eloi, a fair-haired people who appear to spend their days doing nothing more than eating and playing in an Eden-like future. The Time Traveler is hopeful at first. He grabs at the possibility that Man has progressed socially and scientifically, no longer having to worry about conflict, and is free to pursue his days relaxing under the sun. But then come the Morlocks. Anyone who saw this movie when they were young enough can tell you of their nightmares upon seeing these subterranean beasts. I won’t go into any more plot details, other than to tell you that The Time Machine is a diverting treat, full of adventure and captivating science fiction. Some of the Oscar-winning special effects have an antiquated charm (such as the “lava” used in the nuclear blast scene), but most of the others have aged very well (the sun streaking across the sky like a yo-yo, the mannequin dressing and undressing itself). It’s a good one to see for the whole family, but smaller children might find parts of it scary (Have I mentioned the Morlocks?). Other time travel movie recommendations: Nicholas Meyer’s 1979 Time After Time (H.G. Wells pursues Jack the Ripper in modern-day San Francisco) and, of course, Robert Zemeckis’ blockbuster Back to the Future trilogy.

-Jim

Posted on

The Front Row View: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

The Front Row View is a regular column by Great Stories contributor Jim Cannizzaro.  He is a veteran community theater leading man, seasoned blogger, movie enthusiast, and family man.

ibs

With all of the salutes to the beloved late actor Leonard Nimoy, I’d like to pay tribute to what I think is Nimoy’s best movie role. It’s in Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. As Dr. David Kibner, a San Francisco self-help guru, Nimoy radiates Dr. Feelgood “warmth.” He uses his great voice and wide smile to pull us in to his confidence. Later in the movie he…..well, if you’ve seen it, you know what happens. If not, what are you waiting for?! The film critic Pauline Kael said “it may be the best film of it’s kind ever made.” My wife doesn’t care for horror movies, but she’ll always sit and watch this one. Hats off to the 1956 original, a low-budget winner, but the larger cash flow inspired the remake’s team to take the story and situations even further, creating memorable characters (not often seen in a horror/sci-fi film), horrific special effects (another rarity, those that serve the story and don’t overwhelm it) and some of the most suspenseful and frightening sequences in movie history. Stylishly photographed, scored and directed, the film also boasts a first-rate cast: in addition to Nimoy, there’s Donald Sutherland (a strange choice for a “hero”, but effective nonetheless), the appealing Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum in one of his best early roles and the wonderfully eccentric Veronica Cartwright. Also, effective cameos by Kevin McCarthy and Don Siegel (respectively, the star and director of the orginal) and a blink-and-you’ll miss him shot of Robert Duvall (as a priest on a swing!). It’s a classic. And hoo boy, that ending!

-Jim

Posted on

The Front Row View: It Happened One Night

The Front Row View is a regular column by Great Stories contributor Jim Cannizzaro.  He is a veteran community theater leading man, seasoned blogger, movie enthusiast, and family man.

10996044_1416170362011846_2512982632713683855_n

81 years ago yesterday, Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night premiered. Nobody expected much from it. Clark Gable was assigned to the movie by MGM, the studio that he was contracted to, as penance for being “uppity.” They loaned him out to Columbia Pictures, at the time a not too reputable studio derisively referred to by the industry as Poverty Row. He wasn’t happy with being assigned to it (as you can guess, stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age lacked the freedom that they have today) as was his co-star, Claudette Colbert (on loan from Paramount). A previous movie about a night bus had failed and It Happened One Night’s young director, Capra, hadn’t had a hit movie in some time. It was expected to pull in a few stray dollars at the box office and nothing more. Yet something wonderful happened. Depression-era America took immediately to it’s oddball mix of wise guy humor, cracker barrel philosophy and heavenly romance. Colbert was a sassy treat, Riskin’s script was crammed with unforgettable characters and situations, Capra directed at a brisk and flavorful pace, and Gable….well. Let’s just say that if ever I had an idol growing up, it was Gable in this movie…smart, resourceful, always on top of the situation and appealing even when he makes a fool of himself. The movie swept the 1934 Academy Awards and took the top 5 Oscars—Best Picture, Actor (Gable), Actress (Colbert), Director (Capra) and Screenplay Adaptation (Riskin). It’s a feat that’s only been duplicated twice more—in 1975, for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and in 1991 for The Silence of the Lambs. It Happened One Night is an American Classic that will never lose it’s appeal. Anyone who’s looking for a Golden Age dose of wit, sophistication and Hollywood Magic need look no further. Hope you enjoyed the Oscars!

Posted on

The Front Row View: Frankie and Johnny

The Front Row View is a regular column by Great Stories contributor Jim Cannizzaro.  He is a veteran community theater leading man, seasoned blogger, movie enthusiast, and family man.

10984058_1413312738964275_1437867180387449873_n

Finally to St. Valentine’s Day and what, IMHO, is THE best Hollywood romantic comedy. Garry Marshall’s overlooked 1991 Frankie and Johnny was adapted from Terrence McNally’s 2 character off-Broadway play Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune. Marshall and McNally opened it up from Frankie’s apartment to include other locations, as well as additional characters (memorably played by Nathan Lane, Kate Nelligan and Hector Elizondo, among others). The originality of this film lays in the aura of melancholy that drifts amongst the two main characters, both losers in life who would like to re-establish themselves, but are struggling to do so. Johnny, likeably played by Al Pacino in an underrated performance, served 18 months in prison for forging a check. He finds work at a Greek diner as a short order cook. Once there, he falls for Frankie, played by the luminous Michelle Pfeiffer in one of her strongest performances. Frankie is recently divorced and is juggling many personal issues of her own. To them, she now has to add Johnny. When Johnny first meets her, he’s struck by a lightning bolt. He wants it all from her and tells her…marriage, kids, everything. Frankie’s been doing more pushing away in her recent relationships than pulling in and constantly rebuffs Johnny’s attempts at courting her. Johnny, however, won’t take no for an answer. The film is full of witty banter. Some of it is sitcom-ish, to be sure (Marshall is the creator of TV’s Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy), but it’s directed with such swiftness and skill, and is performed so ably by the talented cast that it hardly matters. Pacino and Pfeiffer give career-best performances, and Marshall and McNally craft a thoughtful and meditative film that manages to deliver the hearts and flowers in tasteful amounts. Happy Valentine’s Day!

-Jim