Just in

Three American film classics…and one not so

Like our Rusters journeying to and from the Antipodes I do not enjoy a long haul flight. My way of passing the time is to watch classic movies by genre. Thus on a long haul flight recently I watched 3 American classics.

The first two were Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and The Seven Year Itch.

Whilst England was making Carry On films and Ealing comedies with busty blondes and camp humour the Americans were producing more sophisticated metro comedies though busty blondes still featured. Both these films featured the ultimate busty blonde Marilyn Monroe. I never thought Mariyn Monroe could really act and alongside Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as two good time girls she comes out second best. With the number Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend it’s an entertaining romp mainly shot on a cruise ship and in Paris.

George Axelrod wrote the play Seven year Itch and adapted it for the screen directed by one of the Hollywood titans Billy Wilder. Tommy Ewell, who was in the stage play, the husband conflicted by loyalty to his wife who to avoid the New York summer heat he has packed off with his son to summer camp, only for the lovely Marilyn Monroe to move in upstairs and drop a tomato plant on his terrace. So begins their non-romance. Aside  from the humour, there is interesting underlying sexuality. The Hays code prevented even shooting a double bed and the film was banned in Eire. Its famous shot is of Monroe warming her thighs from a pavement ventilator. It is in the genre of The Apartment, featuring naughty husbands, and dates reasonably well largely because of the humour.

Jaws is a different beast altogether. It was the film that made Steven Spielberg. I preferred the first half with panic on the seashore of Amity and the shenanigans of the mayor seeking to suppress the story to protect the summer beach business. The second had the chief of Police Brodie (Roy Scheider), the nerdy oceanographer (Richard Dreyfuss) and the hard-drinking sea dog (Robert Shaw) hunting down the shark. Not for the first time Robert Shaw with his extraordinary film presence steals the show. It is rightly a classic of American cinema.

Two others are The Godfather: Part One and Two. Personally I prefer part two as it does not glorify the mafia. In the first the moral message of being let down by the American dream and turning to the Godfather is dubious. I watched Godfather III. The plot is too stretched and the key players of the earlier ones now look old. Too many of the scenes – like the wedding – are reprised but only serve to remind you how brilliant they were. It did not engage me and I must admit to falling asleep during the final shoot out in Sicily.

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts