Sep 11, 2007

Jane Wyman 1914-2007

Jane Wyman started her film career as an ingenue, flitting in and out of celluloid parties and dancing in chorus lines. She developed her talent throughout the forties, gaining special attention as Ray Milland's sensitive girlfriend in The Lost Weekend (1945). In 1948, sge reached new heights with her performance as a deaf-mute woman in Johnny Belinda. The industry rewarded her with the Academy Award for Best Actress. As she entered middle age, she excelled as the sensible gal capable of quite unreasonable passion in the Sirk melodramas, Magnificent Obsession (1954) and All that Heaven Allows (1955). By the mid-fifties, she had moved to television, where she had her own show, Jane Wyman Presents the Fireside Theatre, for three years, in addition to appearing on several other shows. She even made her mark on the golden age of evening soaps, playing the steely matriarch of Falcon Crest throughout the eighties. Solid and dependable, but with a flirtatious charm, she has left behind a diverse and satisfying body of work.

Sep 7, 2007

49th Parallel (1941)

With Leslie Howard, Raymond Massey and Laurence Olvier all taking huge pay cuts to make this film “for the war effort” and Anton Walbrook donating half his salary to the International Red Cross, there’s no doubt that this World War II era film is propaganda. It is also great entertainment. A U-boat full of Nazis lands off the coast of Northern Canada and sends a small group of men out for provisions—with orders to destroy anyone who stands in their way. They take over an isolated outpost surrounded by Eskimos and soon learn by radio that their comrades have all been lost. As their numbers dwindle, they try to escape across the border to the still-neutral US, while blindly promoting their fuehrer and trampling the friendly strangers who try to help them along the way. The unusual focus on the antagonist’s story can bring up flashes of pity for these essentially brainwashed men, but their crimes are too severe to be entirely forgotten.