Tag: William Holden

MOVIE REVIEW | ***B&D SATURDAY FLASHBACK*** Sabrina (1954)

Sabrina poster
And so I stumble across another Billy Wilder picture that I had no idea was a Billy Wilder picture until his name popped up on the screen.  It turns out this dude churned out a lot of movies that have stayed pretty famous and kept good reputations 60 odd years later.  And of all his movies that I’ve seen, Sabrina definitely falls more on the side of things like The Seven Year Itch than something like The Lost Weekend.

So, Humphrey Bogart, the original hard boiled PI and king of film noir.  The ruthless gangster of more than one James Cagney movie.  The greed infected killer of The Treasures of the Sierra Madre…  Not exactly the guy you expect to see in a love triangle fuelled, romantic comedy romp.  But here is, none the less.

One half of pair of brothers with William Holden, the two are described in the opening voiceover with Bogart, “Linus Larrabee, the elder son, graduated from Yale, where his classmates voted him The Man Most Likely to Leave His Alma Mater Fifty Million Dollars. His brother, David (Holden), went through several of the best eastern colleges for short periods of time, and through several marriages for even shorter periods of time. He is now a successful six-goal polo player and is listed on Linus’s tax return as a six hundred dollar deduction.

While they grew up in luxury, their chauffer’s daughter, the titular Sabrina, played by Audrey Hepburn, grew up in love with their life and in love with David.  After a couple of years in France, Sabrina returns grown up enough to finally be noticed by David.  Hepburn really is one of the only actresses who could ever play a part like this.  When David declares his love almost immediately after her return, and when every man at a party stops dead in their tracks on her arrival, it never seems far fetched.  If any women in the history of Hollywood could have that effect, it’s Audrey Hepburn.

David’s infatuation with Sabrina threatens to destroy a $20million business merger, so Linus decides to intervene and stop the two from hooking up.  And you’ll never guess, but Linus falls in love with her too.

With almost six decades of terrible rom coms in its wake bastardising so much of movies like Sabrina, no one is going to be surprised by the ending and the path it takes to get there, but it’s how the movie delivers these now old standard devices that makes it work.  The comic relief of the Larrabees hen pecked father works every time, the growing attraction between Bogart and Hepburn is totally believable and the schmaltz is never too on the nose.

Really, with two of Hollywood’s greatest screen presences in Bogart and Hepburn (plus Holden isn’t too bad either), and one of the greatest directors of all time, I shouldn’t be surprised by how good Sabrina is, but it really did take me off guard.  I just never expected anything that could be described as a rom com to be this watchable.

(Review originally posted Dec 19, 2013)

Sabrina
Directed By – Billy Wilder
Written By – Billy Wilder, Samuel A Taylor, Ernest Lehman

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #16. Sunset Blvd. (1950)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.

Sunset 1
“Sometimes it’s interesting to see just how bad bad writing can be. This promised to go the limit.”

Billy Wilder is undisputedly one of the greatest directors to have ever made movies. This AFI Top 100 list includes several of his movies. His total here is only beaten or rivalled by legendary names like Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. I knew I liked and respected Wilder’s work before I started this countdown, but now I know I absolutely love it. And while his silly comedies, like The Seven Year Itch, are great, it’s his dark, cynical streak that I really dig. Movies like Double Indemnity and The Lost Weekend. And possibly the greatest display of his darker sensibilities, Sunset Blvd.


A dead body floats face down in a pool. But this is how Sunset Blvd. will end, so first, it’s time to flash back. Down on his luck Hollywood screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) hasn’t sold a script in a while and is broke enough to consider skipping town and heading back to Ohio. Doing his best to evade debt collectors and avoid having his car repossessed, he loses them by turning into the driveway of a rundown old mansion and hiding his car in the garage. Before he can leave, Joe is summoned inside by the home’s butler Max (Erich von Stroheim). Mistakenly believing Joe to be the monkey mortician (yep, I said “monkey mortician”) they’re expecting, Joe is sent upstairs where he meets the mansion’s owner, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #36. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.

 Bridge

“I hate the British! You are defeated but you have no shame. You are stubborn but you have no pride. You endure but you have no courage.”

Some movies defy their age.  They refuse to ever become stodgy, dated or old fashioned.   Some movies continue to look amazing, no matter how little technology was available at the time.  Some movies make it immediately clear why they’ve earned legendary or masterpiece status.  Very few movies do all of that is thoroughly though, as The Bridge on the River Kwai.


After burying who is obviously just the latest in a long list of fellow prisoners, American WWII POW Shears (William Holden) witnesses his Japanese captors march in a large platoon of new British prisoners.  Lead by Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) , the prisoners are being forced to build a bridge vital to the Japanese war machine’s supply effort.  But in the jungles of Burma where workers die daily of malaria, dysentery and good old fashion physical abuse, the construction isn’t going so well. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #64. Network (1976)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
Network

“Hi. I’m Diana Christensen, a racist lackey of the imperialist ruling circles.”

It’s one thing for a movie to perfectly, accurately and unflinchingly capture its time.  It takes a little more balls to perfectly, accurately and unflinchingly satarise its time.  It takes balls and sheer brilliance to perfectly, accurately and unflinchingly satarise its time, while also perfectly predicting the future.  I assume Network was intriguingly subversive in 1976.  I assume Network was darkly hilarious in 1976.  But I would be surprised if anyone knew just how accurately prophetic Network was in 1976.  And with each year, it becomes less darkly hilarious and more depressingly hilarious as we see our media become more and more like the then-insanely hyper world of Network.


The ratings are falling on Howard Beale’s nightly news broadcast.  In retaliation, he declares live on air that he’ll blow his brains out in one week, live on air.  While his complacent crew in the control room are too oblivious to notice, the rest of America’s media does.  So he’s immediately fired by his best friend and news director, Max (William Holden).  All the while, in the back offices of the network, the ratings obsessed Diana (Faye Dunaway) is trying to figure out what sensationalist freak show will be the next ratings winner.  While the money obsessed Frank (Robert Duvall) is obsessed with cutting the news department’s massive, money losing budget. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI 100*** #79. The Wild Bunch (1969)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
Wild Bunch
“When you side with a man, you stay with him! And if you can’t do that, you’re like some animal, you’re finished.”

Like Bonnie and Clyde, The Wild Bunch is a movie I knew by reputation for years before I ever got around to actually watching it. And like Bonnie and Clyde, that reputation was 100% based on violence. These are two movies that churned stomachs and angered censors on release. But since they came out in the 60s, violence has been done to such an extreme in so many movies since, it’s always a risk that a move like The Wild Bunch won’t be as shocking or affecting by modern standards. Then I remembered that The Wild Bunch was directed by Sam Peckinpah, possibly the most stereotypical manly, alpha male, whiskey swilling director of all time, and I was immediately reassured that The Wild Bunch would still pack a punch.


It’s 1916 and Pike Bishop (William Holden) along the titular bunch ride into a small town, planning to rob the local railway office and make off with that one last big score that will set them all up for life. The only problem is, it’s a setup by former Wild Bunch member, now coerced lawman helper, Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan). After a lot of gunfire and more than a few casualties, Pike and his men escape with what they think is a fortune in silver, but turns out to be worthless metal washers.

Laying low in Mexico, the bunch, including Dutch (Ernest Borgnine), Lyle (Warren Oates) and Angel (Jaime Sanchez) head for Angel’s home village. After an indiscretion involving the local, corrupt Generalissimo, Pike bargains for his man’s life by offering to stage an elaborate train robbery to help the General’s war effort. All the while, Deke and his militia are hot on the bunch’s trail.

The bullets fly within the first five minutes of The Wild Bunch kicking off, and they rarely stop. As much as this is a neo western, at the beginning of a total new wave of American cinema that was the 70s, it still has its foundations deeply in classic Western mythos and genre rules. Peckinpah just heightens them and pushes them to new extremes. The violence is visceral and relentless, but it’s not what makes this movie so effective.

It’s the men at the centre of this violence. When Pike and Deke have a camp fire discussion about life, regrets and what drives them to be the ruthless men they are, this one short exchange is enough that you totally believe everything they do from this moment on. You probably won’t agree with their actions and motivations, but you at least understand them.

The characters of Pike and Deke share almost no screen time together, but those few, short moments are more than enough to completely fill in their history. They also let you know exactly how hard it is for Deke to carry out his current assignment, and how hard it is for Pike to view is former friend as a current enemy.

The violence might be what put The Wild Bunch on the map, but with decades of hindsight and the evolution of film violence since, it’s good that the violence is now kind of just a footnote to modern movie watching eyes. While it might have been shocking and distracting in 1969, now, it’s just one great part of telling a great story.

The Wild Bunch
Directed By – Sam Peckinpah
Written By – Walon Green, Sam Peckinpah

Academy Awards
Best Original Screenplay (Peckinpah & Green nominated, lost to William Goldman for Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid)

MOVIE REVIEW | Sabrina (1954)

Sabrina poster
And so I stumble across another Billy Wilder picture that I had no idea was a Billy Wilder picture until his name popped up on the screen.  It turns out this dude churned out a lot of movies that have stayed pretty famous and kept good reputations 60 odd years later.  And of all his movies that I’ve seen, Sabrina definitely falls more on the side of things like The Seven Year Itch than something like The Lost Weekend.

So, Humphrey Bogart, the original hard boiled PI and king of film noir.  The ruthless gangster of more than one James Cagney movie.  The greed infected killer of The Treasures of the Sierra Madre…  Not exactly the guy you expect to see in a love triangle fuelled, romantic comedy romp.  But here is, none the less.

One half of pair of brothers with William Holden, the two are described in the opening voiceover with Bogart, “Linus Larrabee, the elder son, graduated from Yale, where his classmates voted him The Man Most Likely to Leave His Alma Mater Fifty Million Dollars. His brother, David (Holden), went through several of the best eastern colleges for short periods of time, and through several marriages for even shorter periods of time. He is now a successful six-goal polo player and is listed on Linus’s tax return as a six hundred dollar deduction.

While they grew up in luxury, their chauffer’s daughter, the titular Sabrina, played by Audrey Hepburn, grew up in love with their life and in love with David.  After a couple of years in France, Sabrina returns grown up enough to finally be noticed by David.  Hepburn really is one of the only actresses who could ever play a part like this.  When David declares his love almost immediately after her return, and when every man at a party stops dead in their tracks on her arrival, it never seems far fetched.  If any women in the history of Hollywood could have that effect, it’s Audrey Hepburn.

David’s infatuation with Sabrina threatens to destroy a $20million business merger, so Linus decides to intervene and stop the two from hooking up.  And you’ll never guess, but Linus falls in love with her too.

With almost six decades of terrible rom coms in its wake bastardising so much of movies like Sabrina, no one is going to be surprised by the ending and the path it takes to get there, but it’s how the movie delivers these now old standard devices that makes it work.  The comic relief of the Larrabees hen pecked father works every time, the growing attraction between Bogart and Hepburn is totally believable and the schmaltz is never too on the nose.

Really, with two of Hollywood’s greatest screen presences in Bogart and Hepburn (plus Holden isn’t too bad either), and one of the greatest directors of all time, I shouldn’t be surprised by how good Sabrina is, but it really did take me off guard.  I just never expected anything that could be described as a rom com to be this watchable.

Sabrina
Directed By – Billy Wilder
Written By – Billy Wilder, Samuel A Taylor, Ernest Lehman