Thursday, December 9, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks #387: Rags to Riches

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week, the theme is "Rags to Riches". It didn't take me all that long to come up with three movies that fit the theme:

Curly Top (1935). Impossibly perky orphan Shirley Temple is noticed by one of the benefactors of the orphanage (John Boles), who has decided to adopt one of the orphans. The only problem is that Shirley has an adult sister (Rochelle Hudson) who won't let the two of them be split up. So Boles adopts both of them, but finds himself falling in love with Hudson. Boles also has a neighbor who starts falling in love with Hudson, too.

Inside Daisy Clover (1965). Natalie Wood plays Daisy Clover, who at the start of the movie is living a hand-to-mouth existence with her mother (Ruth Gordon) on one of the piers in the Los Angeles area in the 1930s. Daisy records a song at one of those pier attractions where you can record your voice. Movie producer Swan (Christopher Plummer) hears it, and this is the start of Daisy becoming rich and famous, although life at the top isn't as easy as it's cracked up to be.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) decides to hold a contest in which five children will be lucky enough to get a grand tour of the Wonka chocolate factory as a prize. Charlie (Peter Ostrum), a young boy from a very poor family, is one of the lucky five, and is also the only one who has any redeeming qualities, which allows him to win the ultimate prize.


Brittani Burnham said...

Aww I love Curly Top. I used to watch all of Temple's movies when I was a kid. Willy Wonka is a classic as well.

Birgit said...

I have seen a few of Temple’s films but not this one and one I have always wanted to see. I haven’t seen the 2nd film but I have seen Willy and prefer the original over creepy Johnny Depp’s. I do enjoy how all these kids meet their

joel65913 said...

Love your description of Shirley in Curly Top!! That incredible perkiness was her stock in trade as a kid but she always makes it work for her. Where in other children it would be noxious she's just so damn sincere it makes her endearing. While it's no Bright Eyes this Shirley vehicle is one of her more appealing ones though John Boles appeal has always escaped me, he's a vapid lump of nothing as far as I can see. I guess he is a victim of changing taste, in his day I'm sure he was thought quite dapper and alluring.

While it's not a terrible movie Inside Daisy Clover is a bit of a misfire. As much of a fan as I am of Natalie Wood, and despite the fact that she fought for the role since she felt she understood Daisy, she's miscast in the lead. First of all she's much too old to be believable as a young teen. Then despite her very real star quality she doesn't possess the proper sort of skills attributed to the character. Obviously modeled on Judy Garland I'm not sure who they could have cast at the time who would have been able to fill the role. The film is well mounted but empty.

Willy Wonka is a joy with a dark edge which makes it much more durable than something like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or other feel good musicals turned out at the time. In contrast to Daisy Clover it has a perfectly cast lead performer, no one could have topped Wilder.

I picked three that looked at the theme both comedically and dramatically.

If I Had a Million (1932)-To keep his money from going to the pack of vultures that are his family, a steel tycoon (Richard Bennett) chooses eight random strangers from the phone directory and gives each $1 million. For some-an entertainer (W.C. Fields), a salesman (Charlie Ruggles), a prostitute (the great, unjustly forgotten Wynne Gibson), an office clerk (Charles Laughton), a retiree (May Robson)-the windfall brings joy both temporary and permanent. For others-a death row inmate (Gene Raymond) and a gangster (George Raft)-sorrow and for one-a Marine (Gary Cooper) disbelief but it changes them all. Each vignette was helmed by a different director including Ernst Lubitsch.

Brewster’s Millions (1945)-Penniless Monty Brewster (Dennis O'Keefe) fresh out of the service learns that his uncle has left him $8 million! There’s a catch, the will stipulates that Monty must spend $1 million before noon of his 30th birthday two months hence. Monty thinks it will be a snap until he finds out it must be done in complete secrecy following a set of arcane rules including remaining single, much to the chagrin of his fiancĂ©e Peggy (Helen Walker). Wackiness ensues as Monty discovers just how difficult it can be to spend a million dollars!

Caught (1949)-Poor department store model Leonora Eames (Barbara Bel Geddes-Vertigo and Miss Ellie of Dallas fame) tired of struggling to make a buck sets her sights on marrying a millionaire. When she snags multi-millionaire industrialist Smith Ohlrig (Robert Ryan) Leonora thinks she’s the luckiest girl in the world finding herself awash in every luxury imaginable. But it’s a false dream, Smith is a cold, controlling nutcase who holds her a virtual prisoner and delights in finding new ways to mentally torture her and Leonora finds herself “Caught”! Will kindly slum doctor Larry Quinada (James Mason) be able to save her in time? Atmospheric and unsettling noir.

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

I think what makes Bright Eyes so good is Jane Withers, who is a delightful antagonist for Shirley and gets that great finale.

I thought about using If I had a Million, but I had used it back in 2017 for a TMP on cars -- as Joel well knows, Fields buys his wife (Alison Skipworth) a bunch of beater cars to stage crashes because the couple is sick of bad drivers. And the Wynne Gibson segment is superb, especially the ending that says everything without saying a word.

I also thought about using one or another of the versions of Brewster's Millions -- I think there have been nine or ten movie versions in all, going back to the silent era. But I decided to go in a different direction.