Paramount is clearing out the vaults before everything goes hi-def (in one way or another) and they’re not doing it on the cheap. Their new “Centennial Collection”
are reissues of their best and brightest classic films, although inexplicably with a heavy focus on Audrey Hepburn
’s films. All but one of these films marked for release features the lithesome goddess in a lead role. The major selling point is the extras package that each two-disc package is LOADED with. These are the definitive versions of these movies with multiple extensive documentaries about the stars, the filmmakers, and the era the films were made in. If you ever considered owning these classics, the time to whip out the credit card is now. These would make a fabulous FSMmas
present for Mom and Dad or anyone who loves the heyday of American cinema. Or, you know, for someone who wants to graduate from Professor Cyrus
’s class. Apples on the desk ain’t cutting it these days, junior.
Movies like “The Player”
and even “Tropic Thunder”
have to give it up: this was one of the first movies to mercilessly skewer Hollywood and it caused no end of chaos in doing so. Famed film producer/co-founder of MGM
, Louis B. Mayer
, read the film’s director (Billy Wilder
) the riot act in front of all the celebrities who had gathered for the premiere: "You have disgraced the industry that made and fed you. You should be tarred and feathered and run out of Hollywood."
Just goes to show you that even back then, the executive class at Hollywood were a stuffy lot who had no idea what art was. Not much has changed.
is Joe Gillis
, who narrates his own death from the beginning as we watch his dead body being fished out of a swimming pool. The film flashes back to Joe
's life as an out of work screenwriter desperately trying to hit up every last connection he has for money to avoid car repossession. On the run from the dastardly repo men, he pulls into a driveway to an abandoned looking palatial estate. He hides his car in the garage and starts to wander about the grounds when he is firmly summoned inside by a strange German butler (Erich von Stroheim
) to attend to a grieving elderly lady, Norma Desmond
). She believes he is the undertaker who was summoned to make a coffin for her beloved chimpanzee who lies dead in the room. Nothing like a dead monkey to suck the life out of a room. Nothing is less funny than a dead monkey. Nothing. Except maybe Korey
when he's drunk. Terrifying would be a better word for that.
plays no deception about not being the expected undertaker (these people don’t listen well), he’s quick to look for an angle on the old rich broad. When he realizes she’s a former Hollywood queen of the silent film and an opportunity is knocking….
Joe Gillis: "You're Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big." Norma Desmond: "I *am* big. It's the *pictures* that got small."
Turns out she’s written an endless, unfilmable version of ‘Salome’
for herself to star in for a come-back. Or maybe not those words, exactly…
Joe Gillis: "I didn't know you were planning a comeback." Norma Desmond: "I hate that word. It's a return, a return to the millions of people who have never forgiven me for deserting the screen."
isn’t really what you’d call humble.
knows that the script is a sprawling monstrosity of crapulence, like an early version of “10,000 B.C.”
(thought I was gonna make a prequels
joke, didn’t ya?) and no one would be crazy enough to try to film it, especially not with the aged star playing the young Salome
. It’s a chance to save himself from destitution though and he chooses the grifter’s path, even though at his heart, he’s not really that kind of guy.
becomes more and more attached to Joe
, in her kind of crazy, Buzkill
sorta way, so she becomes irrationally jealous, as crazy chicks tend to be, of his late-night outings to the town. Joe
is interested in writing for himself again due to the attempts to elicit his help from the begging-to-be-dressed-up-in-a-Supergirl
). She’s writing a script based on one of his ideas and unfortunately is engaged to one of Joe
’s friends (played by a was-he-really-ever-that-young Jack Webb
) because there’s no doubt right from the get-go that these two have enough sexual chemistry to start a fire. Things continue to heat up with Norma
’s jealousy and Gillis
’s resentment until everything ends up right where it started: floaty, dead Joe
Movies don’t get much better than this. I wonder if this was the first ‘meta’
film, with Erich Von Stroheim
playing an ‘elseworlds’
version of himself and even Cecil B. DeMille
playing himself in a crucial part. “Sunset Boulevard”
is not only possibly the first of the self-loathing Hollywood films, it’s still the best. It rules in every way a film can, whether you’re admiring the cinematography, the performances, or the jaw-droppingly amazing mansion sets. I guarantee you, when Swanson
utters the final line of the film, even though you’ve heard it referenced a million times before, you’ll never ever associate it with anything else but her glorious, creeptacular exit from her estate…
“And I promise you I'll never desert you again because after 'Salome' we'll make another picture and another picture. You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!... All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up. “
This is the movie that introduced Americans to the legendary Audrey Hepburn
, one of the classiest. smartest and just plain drop-dead gorgeous actresses in the history of Hollywood. Even her co-star Gregory Peck
knew that he was working with someone special. His contract gave him solo star billing but he personally insisted that Hepburn
’s name be put beside his, an act totally foreign to Hollywood’s mega-egos. She ended up winning best actress for the role and began her career at the top.
) is a princess whose entourage is staying in Rome, making a good-will tour of various European capitals. She’s bored and frustrated to tears with all the affairs of state and the never-ending polite curtsies & conversations that come with being royalty. She decides to sneak out one night and see the city but an injection of a soporific given to her by her doctor takes effect during her secret constitutional and she passes out on a bench. Joe
) finds her and tries to give her money to take a cab, tries ever gentlemanly thing he can think of to get her to someplace safe, but eventually finds himself with a passed out chick on his couch. If I had a nickle for every time…
realizes the next day exactly who it is he’s got sleeping on his settee and being a reporter, he groks what a story he’s sitting on if he plays it right. He summons his photographer pal Irving
) to come along (playing innocent and unknowing) to take “Anya”
, as she names herself, on a whirlwind tour of Rome
, surreptitiously snapping pics of the princess experiencing real life for the first time. What Joe
doesn’t expect is to fall for her which makes for a bit of an ethical conundrum. Too bad Korey
wasn’t there to straighten him out. I can see it now, Korey
dramatically, “Rule number one, Pecker, you're there to hit that tail, NOT to fall in love.”
Irving Radovich: "She's fair game, Joe. It's always open season on princesses."
I could watch the young Hepburn
wash dishes and still be fascinated. “Roman Holiday”
, while not uneventful to the degree of household chores that largely are left undone around the Cyrus
household, largely is interesting solely based on Hepburn
’s magical charm. Seriously, it defies the laws of physics. It’s a script that wasn’t worthy of her witch powers. It’s a good thing Hepburn
never turned evil
because even a Slayer
couldn’t stand up to that hot mojo.
Perhaps much was made of the decision to end the film the way they did, and even now it’s a somewhat unexpected conclusion, but I never felt emotionally connected enough with the other characters to feel either way about it. A bar fight with the princess smashing musical instruments over brawlers heads is amusing but everything else here is hurt by the film’s imitators. Not the fault of “Roman Holiday”
but now as a viewer...whatareyagonnado
? The princess slumming it and falling for a commoner hasn’t exactly been unexplored dramatically at this point. While I didn’t feel I wasted my time watching “Roman Holiday”
, I can’t say I’d go back and watch it again, unlike most of the rest of Hepburn
’s well-known films.
followed up her massive cultural coup in “Roman Holiday”
(she was on the cover of Time Magazine
for it!) with another gigantic hit, and the superior film by far for my money, Sabrina
, under celebrated director Billy Wilder
, Sunset Boulevard
, The Apartment
). Oddly enough, this second film for Hepburn
was also the second one where the male lead was originally supposed to be Cary Grant
but he demurred (later they would terrifically team-up in “Charade”
). This time, the role went to Humphrey Bogart
who apparently was resentful and crabby on set the entire time partially because he felt wrong for the film and like ‘second best’
next to Wilder
’s first choice of Grant
. As it turned out, his character’s stand-offishness was exactly what the role needed.
was a dreamy teenager, the chauffeur’s daughter living in the servant’s quarters of a huge family estate. She long dreamed romantically of the dashing younger son David
, who Hepburn
had a torrid and much-publicized affair with on set) but he didn’t even notice the lanky teen existed. Reluctantly, she ships off to Paris to go to a culinary academy for a few years. When she comes back, gone are the pink accoutrements of childhood, down comes the "Boyz II Men"
posters, and on is the sexual demeanor of a gorgeous young lady. Nobody notices faster than David
, who is an total dog. He’s engaged (it's a family arranged marriage) but is ready to throw it all out the window, including an important financial merger with the bride’s family, in order to hit that. Can’t say I blame him. Standing in his way is his brother Linus
) who is the responsible one in the family. When David
injures himself and has to be bed-ridden for a few weeks, Linus
takes advantage of the situation to woo Sabrina
in order to keep her away from David
so his marriage can go through. Surprisingly, it works better than he could have hoped, only problem is, his callous, all-business exterior isn’t as hard as he thinks it is…
I love a good romantic comedy and “Sabrina”
is a GREAT
one. Despite an early annoyance with the teen Sabrina
the movie had her grow up quickly because I really, really wanted to smack her) and a 30 year age difference between her and Bogey
that was, at points, quite creepy, it’s almost impossible not to be charmed.
Linus Larrabee: “Look at me. Joe College, with a touch of arthritis.”
I dug the complexities of the romantic aspects of the film, via the carefully buried feelings of Linus
, but it’s the sparkling dialogue and wit that makes “Sabrina”
Oliver Larrabee (father of the family): "All columnists should be beaten to a pulp and converted back into paper!"
I woulda told ya that this didn’t sound like my thing at all but there I was, laughing out loud at the jokes and enthralled by the love triangle, feeling like a neglected housewife. It’s unclear how things will turn out as there are multiple satisfying conclusions possible (something you don’t see often in RomComs) so there is a degree of inherent tension that keeps you interested. I’m willing to withstand any aspersions cast on my sexual preferences and tell you that “Sabrina”
is gonna find a positive audience no matter where it plays...unless it plays as a remake
with Harrison Ford
. I take no responsibility for your reactions there.
Click Here to Buy "Sunset Boulevard - The Centennial Collection"
Click Here to Buy "Roman Holiday - The Centennial Collection"
Click Here to Buy "Sabrina - The Centennial Collection"