Movie Review – Mildred Pierce (1945)

Mildred Pierce (1945)
Written by Ranald MacDougall
Directed by Michael Curtiz

I’ve come to realize Joan Crawford is a far more complicated person than pop culture has made her out to be. Most people think of “No wire hangers!” or some other element of Mommie Dearest. I wouldn’t doubt Crawford wasn’t a great mother, but she certainly feels like someone ahead of her time as an actress. The role of Mildred Pierce is not a glamorous one. She’s an older woman whose daughter steals the spotlight, but Pierce is also so complex and layered, making choices that can’t be seen as operating inside your standard binary thinking. It’s the rich nuance and texture you’d expect from a story written by James M. Cain, a predominately noir-leaning author. 

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Movie Review – Casablanca

Casablanca (1942)
Written by Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch
Directed by Michael Curtiz

Few American films have ever been held in such universally high regard as Casablanca. I have to admit that the movie was a blind spot in my education on cinema until this viewing. I have certainly been hearing about Casablanca my whole life as it has been referenced, parodied, and paid homage to across film & television. It’s full of witty, memorable lines (“Here’s looking at you kid,” “Of all the gin joints in all the world…”) and a brilliant cast who are perfect for their parts. Humphrey Bogart was cemented as a film icon with this picture, and he will always be remembered for the role of Rick Blaine. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the picture after watching it, a bit worried it had been overhyped since its release, but I was pleasantly surprised with what a fantastic film is it.

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Movie Review – Angels With Dirty Faces

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)
Written by John Wexley and Warren Duff
Directed by Michael Curtiz

Recently, American conservatives voiced faux outrage over a relatively tame Super Bowl Halftime performance. Their reasoning was that elderly rappers with criminal records were the focus and encouraged moral decline. While race clearly played a part in the current blast of hot air from the right, moral outrage has existed in America since its founding. You can always count on some subgroup of people in the United States to find something to clutch their pearls over and blame it for “juvenile delinquency.” In the 1930s, gangsters were one of these cultural touchstones. For some, the criminals were seen as folk heroes fighting against the banks & powerful, while for others, they were harbingers of chaos bringing destruction to innocent lives in their wake. 

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Movie Review – The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Written by Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I. Miller, and Rowland Leigh
Directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley

The Adventures of Robin Hood was unlike anything that had come before and would shape the type of films to come, even today. It was Warner Brothers’ most expensive movie with a $2 million budget. Additionally, it was shot using the first three-strip Technicolor process, a piece of technology that made it stand out against its box office competition. This film used all 11 Technicolor cameras that existed in 1938, which had never been attempted before. At the time, Warner had garnered a reputation for its social issue and low-budget gangster flicks, so something like Robin Hood felt incredibly ambitious for the studio. Once again, the film mimics a Douglas Fairbanks film from the silent era, continuing Errol Flynn’s track of reprising the roles of that actor.

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Movie Review – Captain Blood (1935)

Captain Blood (1935)
Written by Casey Robinson
Directed by Michael Curtiz

Michael Curtiz was born Manó Kaminer in 1866 Hungary. His parents were Jews, his father a carpenter, and his mother an opera singer. They were lower-middle class and had times where it was a struggle to put food on the table. Curtiz loved the theater as a child and even constructed a tiny stage in his family’s basement when he was 8 years old. After high school, he joined a traveling theater troupe and performed throughout Europe. At age 26, Curtiz took his first theatrical directing gig and even fenced on the Hungarian Olympic Fencing team that year. Just a couple years later, World War I would pull young men into a brutal conflict, including Curtiz. From there, he was carried to a burgeoning film scene in Germany, where Curtiz truly learned the craft. In 1926, he came to the United States and began directing for Warner Brothers. That filmmaking partnership would span 28 years and 86 films, some of which are the most acclaimed films of the era. With 1935’s Captain Blood, Curtiz would see his star soar and the best work of his career just beginning.

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