Thursday, February 7, 2013

Double Feature: Picnic (1955) and Auntie Mame (1958)

Picnic - **

Based on the award-winning play by William Inge, director Joshua Logan's melodrama stars William Holden, Rosalind Russell, and Kim Novak in her breakout performance. Most of the film occurs over the course of one day in a small Kansas town, which is holding a Labor Day picnic. Visiting his old college friend Alan (Cliff Robertson), Hal Carter (Holden) arrives that morning and causes great unrest in some of the townspeople, among them Alan's girlfriend "Madge" Owens (Novak), her little sister Millie (Susan Strasberg), a local school teacher (Russell), and her boyfriend (Arthur O'Connell). The whole situation is complicated, but Carter leaves his mark on these citizens in a short period of time. Despite a promising premise, this misses the mark, as the characters are so unbalanced and the drama so overblown and forced that the edgy material feels too contrived and grating by today's standards. Though I can see why it received a Best Picture nomination, it's lost some of the impact it must've had in the 1950s.

The film received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Arthur O'Connell), Best Art Direction (Color), Best Film Editing, and Best Score (Dramatic/Comedy). It won awards for Best Art Direction (Color) and Best Film Editing.

Trivia: For his dance scenes, William Holden received an additional $8,000 as a stuntman fee.

Auntie Mame - **1/2

Rosalind Russell gives an Oscar-nominated performance as Mame, a wealthy socialite living life as frivolously as possible in the 1920s. When her brother dies, she takes her nephew Patrick (Jan Handzlik/Roger Smith) in, opening his world to art, drink mixing, lavish parties, life, and other adventures. The film consists primarily of scenes depicting Mame's wild lifestyle, but she manages to teach her nephew a few lessons on the way. (Whether or not they're essential ones is another matter.) Through the years that pass, Patrick's future is managed - as much as it can be - by his father's will executor. Patrick's questionable upbringing comes to a head when he brings his girlfriend home to meet Mame. While the film has its problems, Russell is perfect for the lead role, even if the film is excessively farcical. Really, at 143 minutes, it's too much. The Academy liked the film enough to give it a Best Picture nod, but it got in at the expense of more deserving films.

The film received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Peggy Cass), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography (Color), and Best Film Editing. It did not win any awards.

Trivia: Russell and Cass received Tony recognition for their stage performances before reprising their roles in the film.

10 comments:

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    1. Duly noted. And thanks for the follow! :)

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  2. Ahah, that Picnic poster looks straight out of a bodice ripper novel. I was just talking about Holden with a friend of mine who's into classics. I might give that one a shot.

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    1. I like Holden's work, but I was disappointed with the film. If you watch it, hope you like it more than I did.

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  3. I haven't seen either of these!!!! Looks like I don't really need to. I hated Ball's remake of Mame...not sure I'll like the original either :-P

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    1. Haha. These are only essential if you want to see them for their Oscar merit. Otherwise, I wouldn't highly recommend them. I could see myself watching them again in the future though. Perhaps I'd react differently later.

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  4. I wanted to see Picnic, but most modern people don't like it. I'll give it a chance for Holden maybe.

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    1. It hasn't held up well, but if you want to give it a shot, I'd say go for it.

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  5. I agree with Ruth -- that first movie poster looks like the cover of a tawdry "bodice ripper" romance. :-) Thanks for the honest, thoughtful reviews.

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    1. Yeah, it really does. Thanks for the kind words. :)

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