This being Thursday, it's time for another Thursday Movie Picks, run by the Wandering Through the Shelves blog. This week's theme is actors and actresses who died in 2016, and of course as a lover of old movies, I'm picking some slightly older movies.
First up is Strait-Jacket, from 1964. This one is in honor of George Kennedy, although he only has a small role. The star here is Joan Crawford, playing a woman who axe-murdered her husband decades ago and spent a long time in a mental institution as a result. She's out now and living with her adult daughter (Diane Baker), but odd things start happening that bring Crawford's sanity back into question, especially when somebody gets axed to death. Kennedy's small part includes a memorable scene of him having to axe a chicken to death:
This was made by William Castle, known for his gimmicks; I guess the gimmick here is starring Joan Crawford.
Next we get the 1962 two-reeler Happy Anniversary. This was made by and stars Pierre Étaix, a French clown who made several movies in the 1960s, all known for their inventive visual humor. This short has Étaix playing a husband who is trying to buy a gift for his wife on her anniversary, only to have anything that can go wrong actually go wrong: there's traffic, he has trouble fitting a gift in his tiny car, and so on. Meanwhile, the wife is back at their apartment having made a nice dinner for her husband; they being French, she's also opened a nice bottle of wine. And she waits... and waits... and waits....
Finally, I'll mention another movie where the actor had a small role: Running on Empty. Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti play a couple of 60s radicals who accidentally killed an innocent janitor when they bombed a napalm factory; they've been on the run ever since with their two children. The elder of the two children, played by River Phoenix, is a piano prodigy, and good enough to go to Juilliard. Except of course that there's a problem, which is that if he were to go off it might reveal his parents' identities, and will also probably mean he's never see his parents again. I'm mentioning this film in honor of actor Steven Hill, perhaps best known from the TV series Law and Order. He plays Christine Lahti's father, and has one memorable scene when he meets his daughter at a restaurant for the first time in ages as she asks him to consider taking custody of her son so he can go to Juilliard.
I thought about using Debbie Reynolds so that I could mention What's the Matter With Helen, which has her and Shelley Winters playing two mothers who have to leave Iowa after their sons commit a notorious Leopold and Loeb-style murder. The mothers' friendship eventually goes downhill....
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