Capsule Review: Notorious-The Greatest Cut of all…



Notorious is one of Hitchcocks best films. Why? Not because of the well-known movie stars that grace the film. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are at the top of their game, but ironically, it’s not their performances that stand out in this movie.

In Notorious, Cary Grant’s character is that of a cynical and slightly skewed personality. He comes off as a tad less than his characteristically perfect self. The Ingrid Bergman character is one of a fallen woman. She’s the girl who’s “been around the block”. She’s seen it all, done it all and is not a candidate for the illusion of true love.

Yet, one of the most memorable lines in Notorious is delivered by an obscure Austrian actress named Leopoldine Konstantin. She plays the well-developed Hitchock-ian role of the obsessively dominant mother figure. Not only does she delivers one of the greatest lines in all of Hitchcock, it could be considered as one of the definitive cuts of all time

While the portrayal of Mothers in film usually conspire to be in a nurturing and protective role, as was so often the case with Hitchcock, the image of Mom is turned on its head. In this instance, “Mother” is someone who might give Lady MacBeth reason to pause, as the mom in Notorious is by far the more ruthless and calculating of villains in the piece. . That’s saying a lot, as the characters in the film are part of a group of Nazi sympathizers.

Hitchcock was well known for the type of woman/mother figure portrayed by Madame Sebastian. In Marnie., the character of Tippi Hedrin’s mother was responsible for her young daughter’s psychotic behavior. In The Birds, Tippi Hedrin was again plagued by the domineering and darkly possessive mother figure. Then comes Psycho, with the most famously disturbed mother/son duo since Oedipus. In so many Hitchcock classics, we see a different image of  a Mom; one who is less than sweet as apple pie in most cases. Such was the world of Hitchcock.

The line Madame Sebastian delivers is to her own son, Sebastian/Claude Rains, who comes to her in anguish over the discovery that his new wife, Alicia/Ingrid Bergman, is in fact a spy. Frightened of the ruthless gang of Nazi cohorts he is entwined with, he comes to ask his Mother, Madame Sebastian, for advice.

Madame Sebastian pauses a moment to light a cigarette, the perfect bit of “business” that lends credence to her next statement. She then tells her son that all is not lost. Why? Because, she says, “You are protected by the enormity of your stupidity-for a time .” It’s then up to dear old Mom to come up with the idea of slowly poisoning Alicia.

The line works so well because it is played in such a matter of fact manner and given just the right amount of understatement to make the subsequent actions so completely evil.

And now, so many years later, I am reminded from time to time of the cool and utterly ruthless cut given to Claude Rains. Most of the time, it’s a self-deprecating phrase I use to put myself in my place. And it’s a saying that works every time.

“No worries, my dear, you are saved by the enormity of your stupidity” It translates to mean that no-one could possibly fathom the thought that such a colossal mistake could be made. The Peter Principle in effect applies here. The notion that one almost always rises to the level of their complete incompetence. Of course no-one believes you are THAT incompetent! That is your saving grace…

It is the type of clever cut that never fails to make its mark. Perhaps, as put-downs go, it is one of the truly great ones.. In the end, we are all protected by the enormity of our stupidity!

Notorious is playing at Tampa Theatre this Sunday, July 10th at 3:00 pm.


Tampa Theatre



It’s a Wonderful Life: Christianity + Americana 101!

Everything you need to know about the Christian religion is found in this movie. For that matter, everything you need to know about American values is also found in this film…It’s such a wonderful film, simply because of the simplicity that Frank Capra was able to bring to this sweet story. Of course, the film could never have survived the charge of “Capracorn” (excessive hokey-ness and cornpone), without the brilliant acting of Jimmy Stewart.

Not only did Stewart portray the Everyman that was George Bailey to the point of perfection, he was also able to bring the audience with him in his epiphany that began and ended on the bridge where he contemplated taking his own life.

Everyone has suffered from failures and setbacks. It is the art of learning how to deal with life’s frus-trations and our own sorrows that sets us apart. The definition of “Success” is seen in this film as the person who learns to live in a community of fellow men, caring for others and sharing the opportuni-ties we create together. The struggles seen in this film are often overcome by the sheer will power and “can-do” spirit that was typically identified as part of the American persona.

One of the lessons learned from this film is that the collective “we” could triumph, as our country did in World War II, if only we stuck together. Sadly, we see this trait often lacking in the psyche of younger Americans these days. This film was about as basic as you can find regarding the idea of community and the ties that bind us together to form the modern society.

Here then is the short list from “It’s a Wonderful Life”- Christianity/Americana 101:

Community: George Bailey’s Savings & Loan has been the lodestar of salvation and largesse for a sizable portion of the working class men and women living in
Bedford Falls. Before George took over, his father had run the savings & loan

The Good Samaritan: Probably the most recognized story in the Christian
religion, is a parable, a fable told by Jesus to illustrate just who should be
considered our neighbor. the answer lies in the man who shows compassion to a fellow traveler, one who has been beaten, robbed, and abandoned by the road. the Good Samaritan is the one who cares for a stranger in need, regardless of his religious affiliations or the color of his skin.George epitomizes the Good Samaritan’s role as he takes Clarence under his “wing”.

Every person is equal in the eyes of God: George is a small-town banker, not a
rich man, but his pleas are heard.God hears our prayers: In the film, we see Him at work in “strange and sometimes mysterious” ways!

Angels are among us: Everyday we walk among those who protect and shelter the needy and the downtrodden. We see these ” better angels of our nature” all the time, and we sometimes ignore them. Yet they are working among us even now, as illustrated by the fumbling goodness of Clarence.

Everyday, ordinary lives matter: Our lives matter more than we know. There is a domino effect, a causal ripple in the fabric of time created by the void made if
we simply didn’t exist. That is a major theme of the film.No matter how mundane our lives feel.or how inconsequential we feel at times, our lives matter to God.

People are basically good: Even those people that we see behaving out of
character have some reason to be hardened or cynical. But we know these people for who they really are, and they are the best versions of themselves. Each of us has a dark side, and we choose to live lives that matter to others-for the most part…

Evil does exist in the world: Mr Potter knew exactly what happened, as we, the
audience, see him furtively glance at the money Uncle Billy accidentally gives
to him. He could have easily rectified the problem, but instead chose, by his
own free will, to act in a way that only helped himself and could very likely
have destroyed another man’s life. Such is the true nature of evil.

Finally, No Man is a Failure…in the eyes of God. we see this manifested not
only by the completion of Clarence’s final thoughts to George, but also with the
full circle of actions leading us to the same conclusion.

No Person is a failure when he or she is part of a community. No one is a
failure when they lead a full life, working and sharing in a community. and
finally, No Person is a failure where there is Love.

This was Christ’s message, short and simple. No one has managed to deliver this message on film in a fuller, or more complete way, (with just a hint of American Exceptionalism thrown in for good measure).

Long Live Capracorn! Mr Capra, No Man (or woman), ever feels like a failure
after seeing this classic film.

Excerpt from “6 Degrees of Film”-The Rise of TV

At Christmas, the networks are planning to air some classic episodes of “I Love Lucy”…the extraordinary appeal of the TV series is unparalleled and began soon after the sitcom first aired. Here is an excerpt about the early Screen Gems studio…

The Rise of TV

This is one medium that I don’t believe Hollywood can give the old run around.
—Hedda Hopper

The studios learned to cope with the impending death knell as the old order passed. Formulaic movies, such as the Abbott and Costello and Ma and Pa Kettle movie series, were big draws. Science-fiction films were the order of the day in the 1950s. Some of the low-budget studios like Republic had retooled with telefilm productions by the late 1940s, and began selling their old features and shorts to television.

In 1949, Columbia created Screen Gems, a Hollywood-based telefilm company, that started actual productions for television in 1951. Desilu also came into its own in the early 1950s. The story was that Lucille Ball did not want to work in New York. She also wanted her husband, Desi Arnaz, to star with her. When they didn’t get what they wanted, Desi created Desilu to produce the pilot himself. They worked out of a Hollywood rental facility called General Services Studio.
After the pilot for I Love Lucy was shot, Arnaz and Ball convinced CBS to back the series. They signed for thirty-nine episodes, and the rest is history. Premiering in September 1951, the show was a runaway hit.
CBS wanted a live audience that seated three hundred spectators. Each episode of I Love Lucy was created essentially as a stage play, and theirs became the format for the modern-day situation-comedy or sitcom. The show was filmed with three cameras running at once, and cut through three editing machines. The thirty-minute show could also be rebroadcast, creating the idea for the rerun.
Lucy drew two-thirds of the viewing audience and was the first show to reach ten million households. What’s more, Desilu Productions could create 350 half-hour episodes at a fraction of the cost at which the major Hollywood studios could crank out films. The sitcom, a wonderfully profit-driven business opportunity, firmly nailed the lid on the coffin of the outdated studio system.
Three major events in 1954 cemented the inevitable fall of the studio era and its eclipse by the age of television. First, Screen Gems, a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, premiered Father Knows Best using a former MGM star, Robert Young. Second, the legendary David O. Selznick made a comeback of sorts and made television history when he produced a two-hour TV spectacle celebrating the anniversary of Edison’s invention of the light bulb. The program was simulcast on all three major networks and drew the largest viewing audience of the era . The third event was the premiere of Walt Disney’s anthology television series.
Disney, a master marketer and promoter, realized the potential in television in marketing his films, plus promoting Disneyland, his new theme park, and advertising the Disney brand. He could recycle all the old Disney film productions like Davy Crockett on television. The show was an instant hit.
With the potential of television now being realized, the studios unloaded sizable portions of their back-lot vaults. The studios had to adapt and transform themselves into distribution companies. The studio era was over, becoming something we all like to remember and marking the end of Hollywood’s Golden Age of Film.