Easy Living (1937)

Written by Michael Clawson

90/100

A comedy of coincidence causing chaos and one great big misunderstanding, with an enjoyably balanced combination of slapstick and screwball. Fed up with his wife’s extravagant spending, J.B. Ball, a oafish banker with a fortune as big as his ego, tosses his wife’s newly purchased sable coat off their roof. It happens to land on Jean Arthur’s Mary Smith, a single working girl without much money of her own, who thereafter is mistaken by various folks as Ball’s mistress. One of those folks is Mr. Louis Louis, the proprietor of an upscale hotel at risk of being foreclosed on by Ball, and who thinks he can stay in business by putting Smith (whom he presumes is Ball’s mistress) up in one of his rooms. 

The very first gag – Ball tripping and tumbling down a set of stairs – had me worried the humor would be too broad for my taste, but I was mistaken. It‘s plenty amusing. Edward Arnold and Luis Alberni as Ball and Luis respectively are very funny; Ball’s often looking hella confused and frustrated, while Louis mistakenly thinks he’s solved his problem. While Mitchell Leisen’s direction is more or less just point-and-shoot, it doesn’t need to be much more than that since the physical gags are cleverly and energetically executed, and Sturges’ witty screenplay offers many laughs. Even better than the accumulation of individual jokes is the joy in watching Arthur’s Mary revel in the luxuries of the rich. With sparkling tulle dresses, a lavish hotel suite, meals on the house, and of course that new coat, Mary couldn’t more pleased, and Arthur sweetly conveys her delight. A solid Sunday matinee.

Easy Living (1937) Full Movie

Easy Living is not currently available to purchase or rent digitally. The above link is a YouTube upload of the full film.

Make Way for Tomorrow

Written by Michael Clawson

90/100

After raising five kids over five decades of marriage, elderly Lucy and Barkley Cooper are separating. Not because they want to though. No, it’s that with Barkley out of work, he can’t keep up with the mortgage payments on their house anymore, and none of their grown kids have the wherewithal—or much of a desire—to take in both of their aging parents. The Cooper children aren’t intentionally being cruel, they’re just too preoccupied with their own lives and relationships now to put much thought into how they might keep their parents under the same roof. So Barkley goes to live with one of their daughters, Lucy goes with one of their sons, and since they’re still, after many many years, deeply in love, Lucy and Barkley’s hearts ache for each other.

The cold, snowy winter setting, which I loved, fits with the sadness at the film’s emotional core. Victor Moore and Beulah Bondie play Barkley and Lucy, and they’re both heartbreakers; their missing each other and disappointment with the situation they find themselves is profoundly poignant. McCarey’s direction is delicate and his rhythm unhurried as he cuts back and forth between husband and wife in their respective new homes, and his camera watches with a compassionate eye as Barkley and Lucy gradually come to the crushing realization that living together again might not be possible. But they do get one last night with each other before the physical distance between them becomes even greater, a romantic night out on the town where they relive their honeymoon with a little help from some generous strangers. It’s a beautiful ending to a beautiful movie.

Make Way for Tomorrow is currently streaming on Criterion Channel

Make Way for Tomorrow Trailer

The Blob

Written by Nick McCann

72/100

Just as people flock to movies to escape the fearful thoughts of our current virus lockdown, moviegoers of the 1950s were flocking to movies to escape fearful thoughts of Cold War anxieties. Monster and alien films were especially popular, with the decade providing a slew of wondrous and crazy cinematic creatures attacking familiar, real world sights. One such creature was very simple but went a long way, just like the movie it stars in.

For those familiar with the notion of the 1950’s sci-fi monster movie plot, “The Blob” easily identifies with that. Suspense builds as a meteor falls to Earth and releases the creature into a small-town community. It’s as classic as it gets, while also doing some things different compared to what came before. The story is very fun, both in its execution and how it lives up to what we consider the standard blueprint of the genre. It’s an innocent and non-taxing plot to be enjoyed.

There are also some lively characters. Steve McQueen leads the pack in his breakthrough role, demonstrating even in this simple role how charming and talented he is. He’s a likable and well-meaning guy to track a monster with. Everyone else does a great job too, having well-defined personalities and organically developed skills. Aneta Corsaut deserves special mention for breaking the mold of stereotypical horror damsels and for being an active help to the plot.

What’s probably most remembered is the special effects. They are crude even for the time, but there is still craft and creativity on display. The actual Blob looks good in motion, with its dark red appearance and all the variety of ways the director portrays it. There are also creative uses of drawn animation, which aren’t too shabby either. Visually it remains unique and the charm of it rubs off in an appealing way. Fake for sure, but never without heart or intent.

Rounding it out is the overall mood itself. Most of that stems from its low budget production design, which wears its 1950’s setting with a badge of honor in hindsight. From the costumes to the cars, it does give a peek into how the world of small-town America went about life. Not to mention some funny dialog among the characters. A classic monster score over it all seals the deal, most especially the theme song that’s strangely swings for such a serious movie. Thanks, Burt Bacharach!

“The Blob” is the poster child for the 50′ alien monster movie. Whenever someone compares modern creature cinema or recalls a film of the era, they most likely are going to think of this one. It doesn’t have the budget or name recognition of its peers, but that doesn’t matter when all in all, it’s so darn fun. It’s entertaining all the way through. If you want something more modern, Chuck Russell’s 1988 remake is also excellent.

The Blob Trailer

Currently available to stream on Criterion Channel and Kanopy