Thursday, June 15, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks #153: Based on a True Story

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week's theme is movies that are based on true stories. Unfortunately, I used They Won't Forget at the beginning of the year, which is based on the trial of Leo Frank. But I've got three (well, technically four since two are based on the same event and came out within a year of each other) other movies that are worth a mention:

The Gorgeous Hussy (1936). Joan Crawford plays Peggy O'Neal, the daughter of a Washington DC innkeeper who meets and marries a naval officer. He dies at sea and Peggy later remarries Senator Eaton (Franchot Tone). Eaton is named to President Jackson's cabinet, but the other Cabinet wives don't like Peggy and this threatens to cause a scandal.

Hangmen Also Die! (1943) and Hitler's Madman (1943). Both of these movies are based on the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, who was the Nazi governor of the protectorate of the Czech lands during World War II. The events in these movies might be a bit fresh to fans of more recent movies, because there was another movie Anthropoid released last year about the assassination of Heydrich. Hangmen Also Die! was directed by Fritz Lang, while Hitler's Madman was a low-budget affair directed by Douglas Sirk and released by PRC, the same company that put out Edgar Ulmer's movies.

Compulsion (1959). Based on the thrill killing committed by Leopold and Loeb, the names of the guilty are changed because Leopold was still alive at the time the movie was made. The two killers, college students at the University of Chicago, are played by Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman; they're defended at trial by Orson Welles. In the real case Clarence Darrow was the defense attorney; his name is changed too.


Katie Hogan said...

I think I'd like to see all three of the movies, but the Fritz Lang film most of all. Seeing different versions of the same event would maybe cover different angles? I really want to see Compulsion now!!

Birgit said...

I'd love to see all 4 of these films. I know about the first and last one but didn't know about the 2 middle films. I love Fritz Lang and I'm surprised that Douglas Sirk did the other film

joel65913 said...

Some interesting picks. Hangmen and Hitler's Madman are an interesting case of looking at the same event. Hangmen has a more European feeling which is truer to the story but it's always great to see Sirk working out his style at this early stage.

Compulsion is disturbing but a fascinating film with excellent work from the entire cast.

But the Gorgeous Hussy?! NO! NO! NO! Joan in hoop skirts! What were they drinking at MGM to think that Crawford, that most contemporary actress of her period, would for one second be believable as an 18th century creature. The whole picture, except for Beulah Bondi as Rachel Jackson, is horribly miscast turning an incident that almost topple Jackson's cabinet into a misguided bodice ripper.

I'm a big fan of this sort of picture which led me to choose three favorites from among the hundreds available.

Frost/Nixon (2008)-In 1977 well known showman David Frost (Michael Sheen) famous for glib interviews with pop stars is suffering a bit of a slump. He hits upon what he thinks is a surefire idea for a ratings grabbing showpiece. He sets out to interview former president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella), living in seclusion in San Clemente, CA after resigning in disgrace following the Watergate scandal. Nixon’s agent Swifty Lazar sure that it will be a puff piece encourages Tricky Dicky to take the sizable amount of money offered and run. The series of interviews get off to a rocky start with a loquacious and obdurate Nixon evading any sort of hard questioning but suddenly an unexpected breakthrough changes the course of the sessions into a revealing confessional. Sheen & Langella repeated their roles from the hit Broadway play that was the basis for the film which in turn was based on the actual interviews.

The Queen (2006)-In 1997 Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) has been on the English throne for 45 years, respected and beloved worldwide. Even more popular, though not within the royal family, is her former daughter-in-law Princess Diana whose marriage to Prince Charles had collapsed in acrimony after a decade of high exposure. She has since become a goodwill ambassador for many worthwhile causes as well as a paparazzi magnet and a bane to her former mother-in-law. When Diana is killed in a car accident caused by those same paparazzi hounding her the queen believes the proper course is a quiet funeral followed by a period of private mourning owing to the fact that Diana is no longer considered a member of the royal family. That turns out to be an almost catastrophic miscalculation that threatens the sovereignty of the throne and which requires new Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) to step in and guide her through to avert a disastrous outcome. Helen Mirren won an Oscar for her much lauded performance.

Inherit the Wind (1960)-Small town teacher Bertram Cates (Dick York-best known as the first Darrin on Bewitched) is arrested for teaching Darwin’s evolutionary theory to his students and put on trial. Representing him gratis is famed attorney Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) as the opposition is spearheaded by blustery litigator Matthew Harrison Brady (Fredric March) while wryly cynical newspaperman E. K. Hornbecker (Gene Kelly) observes and reports. As passions run high in the oppressive summer heat the local pastor Reverend Jeremiah Brown (Claude Akins) incites the townspeople with fiery rhetoric. A real acting showcase for both leads aided by a beautiful performance from Florence Eldridge (she was March’s spouse in real life) as Brady’s gentle wife who tries to temper his more outrageous behavior. Semi fictionalized version of the Scopes Monkey trial wherein famed lawyers Clarence Darrow & William Jennings Bryant fought in court over Darwin’s theory.

pilch92 15andmeowing said...

I am not familiar with any of these which is why I enjoy this hop so much. I like to learn of movies I have never seen.

Sonia Cerca said...

Never heard of any of these before, but I guess they are worth a watch.

Wendell Ottley said...

Haven't seen any of these. Thanks for the suggestions.

Daniel said...

Compulsion is such a strange movie. The first half is pretty conventional stuff, but then Welles comes waddling in and literally hijacks the movie, taking it over to deliver monologue after monologue, which would be hard to take if it were anybody else, and even he only barely pulls off. I liked it, but MAN it is WEIRD.

Ted S. (Just a Cineast) said...

Yeah, I tend to have a problem with Orson Welles too. Especially after listening to the Jaglom interviews, Welles comes across as an overweening asshole.