People Will Talk: Not What You’d Expect from 1951

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People Will Talk (1952 NR) is a movie with an unexpected take on pregnancy.  My impression of 1950’s movies and TV is that pregnancy and sex was not even spoken of.

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In The Quiet Man (1952 NR) wife Maureen O-Hara desperately seeks advice from her priest, yet speaks in native Gaelic, and the audience must guess she is asking why her new husband John Wayne doesn’t sleep in bed with her.


In TV’s I Love Lucy (1951-1957), Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz are married, yet sleep in separate beds.

In our movie, Cary Grant plays compassionate, if unconventional, Dr. Praetorius. Isn’t he dreamy?

His patient, Deborah (Jeanne Crain), is distressed to find she is pregnant out of wedlock.


The surprising thing to me, with my impression of the 1950’s, is the vocabulary they use.  Pregnant!  Not married!  A whole discussion about telling her father!

The good doctor saves the girl from shame by marrying her.  He works it so she doesn’t know that is what he is doing.  What a nice doctor!


The bulk of the movie is about the mysterious friend the doctor has (Finlay Currie) and the jealous colleague (Hume Cronyn) who tries to ruin the doctor.  An uneven film, but Cary Grant is always fun to watch.


The Girls Who Went Away, by Ann Fessler (2006), is a well researched book that tells the true story of how unwed pregnancy was handled in the 1950’s-1970’s.  Most often, girls who found themselves pregnant and not married were sent to out-of-town relatives or even a sort of group home to wait until they could give up their newborn babies for adoption.  Secrecy and shame often accompanied these girls.  Read this powerful book.

Even though Lucy and Ricky sleep in separate beds, Lucy still gets pregnant.  Share their joy in this clip!

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Twelve O’Clock High: A Movie for Memorial Day


We live in a military city, and so on Memorial Day we have many choices of services to attend at cemeteries, or parks, or mountain tops.  I always like to show an old war movie to my teenage daughters to help them appreciate why we remember those who have died in defense of our country.

Twelve O’Clock High (1949 NR), directed by Henry King, is the story of a tough general, General Savage (Gregory Peck), who takes over an American bomber unit based in England and tries to make them a success.


The movie takes place early in World War II, when the military was still trying to figure out how best to use the new B-17 bombers.  Flying into Germany at night, and at high altitude, caused the bombs to land inaccurately.  So, Gen. Savage is told to get the 21 airplanes and their crew of 10 men each to fly during the day, and to fly low, so that the bombs reach their target.  This most certainly will make their planes easier targets for German fighter planes and anti aircraft guns, and increases the risk of loss of life.


The movie is a bit odd.  It was released in 1949, just four years after the end of World War II.  From the movie poster tag line, “A Story of Twelve Men as Their Women Never Knew Them,” I think the intention was to reveal the peril that the crew in the air endured.  Also on the poster is a pretty nurse.  In the movie women are rarely seen, and only have a few inconsequential words to say (“More coffee, General?”).


The movie also starts unnecessarily in the present (1949) and spends too much time getting to the 1942 flashback.  And for a movie about a bomber squadron, the flight footage is saved until the very end.  That is because the director used actual footage, which must have been impressive to audiences at the time.  Still is.


Then, notice the twelve men mentioned in the poster.  The movie rarely uses close ups, and with everyone in uniform, or covered in flight gear, and everyone Caucasian, it is hard to tell the men apart.  Watch the movie with other people, so you can help each other keep the characters straight.

A more recent movie, Memphis Belle (1990), does a better job at conveying the life of a bomber squadron.  But where this movie succeeds is in showing General Savage’s commitment to winning the war – at all costs.

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Little Boy: Big Surprise for a Little Movie


Little Boy (2015 PG-13), directed by Alejandro Monteverde, tells the story of a small boy in a California town who believes that with enough faith, and actions to build that faith, he can bring his dad home safely from World War II.

The big surprise in this movie is how many types of people will enjoy it!


  • Star watchers.    Many of the actors, hidden under 1940’s hair and wardrobe, are well known.  My teenage daughter and I kept nudging each other and whispering, “That’s the guy from that Monk show,” and “Isn’t that the mother from that other WWII movie?”


  • History buffs.  The entire movie looks and feels authentic for the period.  And those of you who know history will feel really smart for figuring some things out in advance.


  • Children.  The little boy (Jakob Salvati) is very close to his loving father, who imagines stories in which they are the heros.  There are town bullies that pick on Little Boy, and we see his father captured during fighting, so you will have to decide for yourself if the PG-13 rating means your child should wait to see it.


  • Teens.  The older brother is played by David Henrie, famous for his starring role in Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place.  In the long running TV show, he plays the geeky big brother.  In this movie, he is the big brother who has to keep the family business running while his dad is gone.  He shows an intense range of emotions, and is a quality actor.


  • Church people.  Little Boy hears in church that if he has faith like a mustard seed, he can move mountains (Matthew 17:20).  Father Oliver (Tom Wilkinson) discusses this pracitality with him, and suggests he complete a list of good works to ‘strengthen’ his faith.  Father Oliver handles Little Boy’s tricky questions with honesty and shows how Christians grapple with God’s will.


  • Schools.  One of the things on Father Oliver’s list for Little Boy is to befriend the only Japanese man (Cary-Hirojuki Tagawa) in town.  The movie does not shy away from the unpleasant way the government treated Japanese living in America during World War II.  This movie has humor and drama and conflict and action, and would be a terrific classroom movie.

Check out these other articles about the movie, and then watch it yourself.  It’s a good movie for everyone!

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B. B. King and Robert Downey Jr.


Here’s a scene from a forgotten gem of a movie, Heart and Souls (1993 PG-13).  Robert Downey Jr has to help a ghost of an aspiring opera singer who was too afraid to sing in public.  He has to do this before the green bus to heaven arrives.  I know, it sounds strange, but the movie is really fun!

At a concert, Downey gets the opera ghost to use his body to sing the national anthem before B. B. King takes the stage. No one expects the Star Spangled Banner, which makes the scene clever.

And B. B. King’s reaction is the best part of all!

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Cinderella: It’s Fun to Dress Bad


We all rave about Cinderella’s blue ball gown.  And it’s no wonder!  It seems to simply float!

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But I am also interested in the costumes the bad girls wear.

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Every gown the evil step-mother wears is green.  Is the costume designer trying to show us that she is jealous of Cinderella?


All her dresses are full of hard angles and make sharp shadows.

This reminds me of movie stars of the 1940’s.  Do you know these Hollywood beauties?  (The ANSWER is below)


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It turns out that is also what the director was going for!

ANSWER:  The Hollywood actresses pictured, from top left, are Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford again, Lauren Bacall, Rosalind Russell, and Ann Blyth.

How many did you get right?

Interview with Costume Designer Sandy Powell

Dress Old Hollywood Glamour Today

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Fast & Furious: A Crash Course

I like movies about cool cars, so I was surprised then Furious 7 arrived, and I had never seen any of the previous 6 movies.  So, before seeing 7 in the theater, I needed to watch six movies!

All the movies are about guys (and the occasional girl) who race tricked out cars in illegal street races, and the team who helps them.  Sometimes they are against the law, sometimes they work with the law.  Sometimes the bad guys become good guys, sometimes the good guys become bad.  But through it all, they are family.

The cars are always cool, the girls at the races always wear skimpy clothes, the stunts are always impressive, and the cast always seems to have lots of fun.

The Fast and the Furious (2001 PG-13), directed by Rob Cohen


Los Angeles.  Lots of body shop time, with cars up on lifts, and the risk of the race is emphasized, but no fatalities.  We meet the team who helps Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) win the races, and helps Dominic rob trucks loaded with freight.  How else do you pay for these fancy cars?  Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) wants in, but really is an undercover police officer trying to stop the crimes.

At the end, one of Dominic’s crew is gunned down, and when chasing the killer, Dominic rolls his dad’s car.  This was very painful for me to watch!  Most people walk away from the crashes in the movie, but it was nice to see that Dominic was shaken and in pain and unable to use his arm after the terrible crash.  So it hurt him to wreck such a beautiful car, too!  Brian the cop gives him his own car so he can escape.  Watch to the end of the credits to see where Dom ends up.


Five of these characters appear in other Fast & Furious movies, one is dead by the end of the first movie, and the other two simply aren’t there anymore.  From left:  Matt Schulze, Michelle Rodriguez, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Johnny Strong, Jordana Brewster, Rick Yune, Chad Lindberg

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003 PG-13), directed by John Singleton


Miami.  Street races pit foreign cars vs. American muscle cars. This movie has the first race fatality, and it is meaningless. Brian is no longer a cop, and is street racing in Florida.  He is needed again to go undercover, and he asks for an old friend/enemy to be released from parole so he can help him.  Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Brian get over their differences quickly, and the two actors seem to truly have fun together in this movie (ad libbing was allowed).  Paul Walker is getting a bit old (he’s 30), yet the wardrobe department still has him dressing like a punk kid.

Keep your eyes open at the beginning – the Universal Studios logo starts to rotate, then spins and chromes out to become a wheel – cool!  In the first race, four cars are lined up, and each driver in turn looks at Brian – a very awesome shot.

The pit crew characters are interesting.  FBI Agent Bilkins (Thom Barry) is back again and puts a grounded hand on the undercover work, in a nice contrast to the other federal agent characters, who act all hysterical.  Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes) is undercover.  Just because she is a girl doesn’t mean that she fall for Brian.  But she does.  Why doesn’t she fall for Roman?  They both race cars and talk big. No one important dies, and Brian and Roman steal just a bit of the drug money to help them open an auto shop of their own.


Only one character was in the first Fast & Furious movie. Three of these characters are in future Fast & Furious movies. The other two just stay in Florida and I miss them.  From left:  Tyrese Gibson, Paul Walker, Devon Aoki, Jin Auyeung, Ludacris


Bad guy Cole Hauser and undercover agent Eva Mendes hang out in a mansion formerly owned by Sylvester Stallone.

The Fast and the Furious:  Tokyo Drift (2006 PG-13), directed by Justin Lin


Tokyo (obviously).  Culture shock in high school.  Japanese mafia.  Skidding cars sideways instead of straight racing.  Japanese race girls dress skimpy, just like American race girls.  Teen Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) gets sent to stay with his Navy dad because he races illegally at home.  So, he immediately finds the illegal races in Tokyo.

All Fast & Furious movies have unbelievable parts to them.  You chose to ignore them and enjoy the movie.  But this one had unbelievable aspects that were too glaring to miss.  Lucas Black is 24, and looks nothing like a high school student.  American Sean has no difficulties driving on the wrong side of the road – it isn’t even mentioned.  There are mechanics and pit crew, but only once do they mention how the tires are damaged by drifting.  Why don’t you ever see new tires being put on?  Why does the gangster allow the whole movie to be decided by a race?

And why does the best character in the whole movie die?  And how does Dom show up at the end to say this dead guy is ‘family’?


Just because he has a back pack, doesn’t mean he looks like a high school kid. From left: Lucas Black, Shad Moss


The girl. And the boy, who happens to be the best villian; a conflicted, loyal, mean, intimidating bad guy boy friend. Nathalie Kelley and Brian Tee


Neither of these characters were in the first two Fast & Furious movies. Only one of them is in future Furious movies. From left: Sung Kang, Lucas Black

Fast & Furious (2009 PG-13), directed by Justin Lin


What a minute – Han is alive after all!  He’s in the Dominican Republic hijacking fuel trucks with Dom and his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez)!  Also new on the crew are Spanish-speaking friends Leo (Tego Calderone) and Santos (Don Omar).  Han (Sung Kang) finishes the job, then says he will go to Tokyo.  Don’t take the car, Han!  You’ll kill yourself!

Los Angeles.  Races through tunnels just to sell video games.  Computer databases that are realistically slow, used for a plot device.  No real pit crew to get to know.

Brian did good in Miami, so the FBI have him again investigating crimes committed by racing cars.  Letty is killed, Dom infiltrates the same car crime gang.  But Dom hates Brian because he’s a cop.  And because Brian broke his sister’s heart.

The best scene is when Dom and Brian, both undercover for different reasons, are at a party with the crime boss and try to pretend they don’t know each other.  Funny dialogue!  And watch – two animated cars race through the closing credits, one is Dom and the other is Brian.  Who will win?

Dom pulls his dad’s car back together, just to wreck it in another race.  They sure wreck a lot of cool cars in these movies!


One of these bad guys becomes a good guy in future movies. From left: Vin Diesel, Laz Alonso, John Ortiz, Gal Gadot.


Fast Five (2011 PG-13), directed by Justin Lin


The opening credits are a gift to movie fans!  Each character that is back gets highlights shown of their previous adventures with the Fast & Furious franchise!

Rio de Janeiro.  Dom’s team is made of everyone we know from previous movies.  Computer databases that are unrealistically fast, used for a plot device (Han’s full name is Han Seoul-Oh. His other car must be a Millennium Falcon). The first F-word (thanks a lot, Dwayne Johnson.)  Hundreds of Dodge Chargers made into Rio cop cars, just to be wrecked.  Brazilian race girls dress scantily, just like in America and in Japan.

The team is happy to see each other again, and to meet the members who were in episodes that they were not in.  This time they steal a huge safe and drag it through the streets.  A totally unrealistic stunt, but really fun to watch!

Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) shows up to fist fight Dom.  I wonder what the testosterone level was like on the set that day?

Stay to the end of the credits.  Eva Mendes returns (in a totally unprofessional business outfit) to show Agent Hobbs that Dom’s girlfriend Letty is really alive!


Vince is back, and living in Brazil. (Far left, Matt Schulze.) One of the team wont survive this movie.


Santos and Leo are also back (from left Don Omar, Tego Calderon). But they run off with their share of the profit, and are never seen again in Furious-land.


Both will be in future Furious movies, because Dom needs a new girlfriend, since his died in movie four, and Dom needs someone to fight. Elsa Pataky, Dwayne Johnson.

Fast & Furious 6 (2013 PG-13), directed by Justin Lin


London and Spain.  Girl fist fights.  Boy fist fights.  London race girls in skimpy clothes.  The second F-word (totally unnecessary, Tyrese Gibson.)  A surprise team change.

Han hasn’t made it to Tokyo yet, so he is still on the team.  Brian and Mia have a baby boy, so Dom is an uncle.  To find Letty (his formerly dead girlfriend), Dom calls on his friends/family to help.

The team is tighter.  Most of the races and chases are at night, which make it difficult to follow the action.  A cool tank chase, and the longest runway in the world chase.

Letty has amnesia, and shoots Dom in the shoulder, which he simply shrugs off (at least sit down when you pull the bullet out of your own chest!)  If Letty is back, what about Dom’s Brazilian girlfriend?  She gives up too easily.

If Letty is alive, then maybe Han will actually survive Tokyo!  Watch through the closing credits, and you see the next movie bad guy walk away from Han’s burning car.


Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is called “The Samoan Thor”, “Captain America”, and “The Hulk”. Riley (Gina Carano) can hold her own in any fight.  One does not survive the film.


My favorite parts are when the team interacts together, and plans together. Not all survive the film.  From left: Sung Kang, Ludacris, Gal Gadot, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson.

Now I can go see Furious 7!  Which Furious movie is your favorite?

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12 Angry Men on Screen and Stage


Would you stand alone?  Without a strong reason, just a feeling, would you refuse to go with the crowd?

On a hot afternoon, twelve people are locked in a room, tasked with determining the fate of a 16-year-old accused murderer. Can one juror make a difference?

12 Angry Men (1957 NR) is an excellent movie starring Henry Fonda as Juror #8, and the only juror who believes there is reasonable doubt for the kid’s guilt.  Other writers have give better explanations than I about the characters, and what we can learn from this show.  Be sure to follow some of the links at the end of this post.


This is a great movie for pointing out how groups work, how prejudices can distort, how strong personalities dominate, how conclusions should not be jumped to quickly.

Teenagers can learn from this, too!  And if they aren’t sitting to watch this old movie (and they should), they can act in the stage version!

12 Angry Men becomes Twelve Angry Jurors when played at American high schools.  Still set in the 1950’s, yet including girls, this is a one-set show that gives quality teenage actors a chance to shine.

Compare the set of the movie, with one of a recent high school production:



Watch this movie.  Or catch the play at your local high school.  And be convicted.  How would you act in the same situation?

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