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Under-rated and Under-appreciated

Chaplin, Lancaster, Bogie, Olivier, Cagney...
Stanwyck, Garbo, Hepburn, Dietrich...

Everyone knows the names, and while we all might argue over who is the best of all time, I am sure that our top 20 lists of male and female stars from the golden age of the silver screen would have the same stars just in different orders.

But what about those little talked about actors and actresses?

I am not here to tell you the most overlooked actor of all time, but instead to shine a light on two overlooked thespians who should get their due.

This will be a reoccurring thread, the "under-appreciated actors of the classic age of movies." In our first edition we will look one actor and one actress and recommend a movie for each.

Walter Brennan

You could say that Walter Brennan was the most successful character actor of all time. Considering that most film fans barely know his name, or at the very least know his name but can't remember any pictures he was in.
He was the only actor to win Best Supporting Oscars 3 times; and was nominated for a 4th
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Sergeant York (1941) 
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
The Westerner (1940) 
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Kentucky (1938) 
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Come and Get It (1936) 
That is a fie year span in which he was nominated 4 times.
A man of many talents on and off the screen he was a singer who had a handful of top 100 hits.
Almost always cast as the hero's pal who sticks with him through thick and thin. Sometimes cast as "the old coot" in westerns you could always count on a solid performance.
Working right up until his death he has over 243 credits he is an actor worth a look. Rarely in the spotlight but always consistent.
Movie recommendation:
The only time he played a bad guy
"Old Man Clanton"
My Darling Clementine

Luise Rainer

The first Actor or Actress to win back to back Oscars. Which is an amazing feat, especially when you see the talent she was up against in those years (below) Beating out such luminaries as Garbo, Gaynor, Stanwyck, Lombard, Dunne so many actresses that we know with only their last name. So why isn't she considered one of the best of all time? She fell victim to what many consider the "Oscar Curse" (Cough-Cuba Gooding JR-cough). A classically trained actress she got "fussy" over her roles afterward and never made the impact she could have if given the proper respect.



Movie recommendation:
For the scene in which she is on the telephone congratulating Ziegfeld on his upcoming marriage
The Great Ziegfeld
Anna Held

Two stars Actors that should have been stars, that you should check out.


I have written about remakes before HERE but I wanted to mention a movie in particular that I have always thought would make excellent remake (in the right hands).

"Suddenly" (1954 Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden)


"Suddenly" (1954) has been accused of inciting Lee Harvey Oswald to kill President Kennedy, due to its similarity to the real event and to the fact that Oswald allegedly watched this movie in the same week that the assassination took place. Starring Frank Sinatra, the film tells the story of a hired gunman who likes his work a little too much. He and his partners end up in the town of Suddenly, waiting for the train that will bring the president to them for a brief moment, before he continues on his way. They move by force into a widow's house that gives them the upper hand, and the perfect opportunity to make their mark on the president.

Execution: Sterling Hayden is good as well as Sinatra. There is not enough development of characters and a poor explanation of the plot to assassinate or who the orders are coming from. All the basic elements are there for a really good thriller, but since this movie was only 1 hour and 15 minutes long, I can easily see how adding an additional 30 minutes of plot development and delving into the Sinatra's (John Baron) motivations would add more tension. Pop and Ellen Benson (played by James Gleason and Nancy Gates) could use a broadening of their characters too, especially since a main part of Ellen's character was her husband dying in the war but little is explained of that. The final scenes feel rushed and also not allowed to build up the tension enough. Instead of making it a modern day remake I think this would work well as a period piece kept in the 50's.

My casting suggestions:
John Baron - (Frank Sinatra) Ralph Fiennes
Sheriff Tod Shaw - (Sterling Hayden) Russell Crowe/James Spader
Pop Benson - (James Gleason) Tommy Lee Jones/Jeff Bridges
Ellen Benson - (Nancy Gates) Kerri Russell

and yes I am aware that they did remake the movie.. however when the person remaking the movie is Uwe Boll widely considered the worst director and writer of all time (and not in a fun way like Ed Wood Jr.) You aren't really getting a good remake.

The original is worth watching and not a bad movie by any means, I just feel like there is so much potential and it can be done without a big budget and in the hands of a good director who can get good performances out of the cast since 80 % of the movie takes place in one or two rooms of a house. As you watch remember my suggested cast and see if you can see what I see.
You can buy the original at the TCM shop HERE
or watch it on Netflix

Day 2 and 3

Day 2 and 3

The Happy Couple

As we awoke on Saturday morning, exhausted from the long day on Friday. Just enough time to grab breakfast and then it was off to the Stand-By line (Stupid Palace Pass) as we hoped to make it into the newly restored "42nd St."
From my camera 

The movie was introduced by Christine Ebersole who has played in 42nd St. the play
The movie was gloriously restored, only having seen it in its worn down scratchy form with poor sound, this was like seeing a whole new movie. with Sexual Innuendo absolutely dripping from the screen, you can only imagine what the original book, which is known to be quite racy, contains.

A much needed lunch break was on our agenda next. Not able to get into the Sophia Loren conversation we headed over to The Pikey to get some food.

Another long line and packed house for 'History of the World Part 1" introduced by Ben Mankiewitz. He really showed his love for the movie and at one point broke out in song. He did his version of this song;
I tried to get a picture as he did the whole dance, but my reactions were too slow

Next was our most anticipated of the festival (besides "Limelight")
Very concerned that we wouldn't be able to get in, and rightfully so as it was a hot event and was standing room only. Nearly the entire theater was packed with Media members and guests. All cramming in to see these rarely seen movies on a really old hand cranked camera, and an Edison wax tube player

We were the last two let in and sat right in the front. Seeing the earliest days of film was amazing and seeing the introduction of color on films as early as 1909 was quite special. Many of the films shown were being seen for the first time by an audience from the original 35mm film. The gentle hum of the hand cranked projector was soothing and would normally have lulled me to sleep, but we were too captivated by this rare opportunity.
They also used the original Glass Lantern plates in between reels which was quite funny. Here is an example of one
Day 3
The line for "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was long as suspected but we had a nice early place in line and our best seats of the festival so far int he beautiful Chinese theater IMAX

 Afterwards we saw the "100 Years of Title Design" which discussed the first few moments of a film and how the style of the intros have changed through the years. It sounded boring to quite honest, but in reality was quite informative. The styles of the intros run concurrent to the styles of advertising and movie making in general at the time. So just by watching a quick intro, even to a movie you have never seen before, you could tell what year it was made.

We had a wonderful time at the Festival and will be heading back next year. Completely worn out from our jam packed weekend we were glad to make it home. While it was nice to see these great movies restored and on the big screen with an audience that was as into it as you were. I am still looking forward to cuddling up on the couch and watching the original "Pink Panther" with Peter Sellers with my wife tonight.

As I said in my TCM video from the festival (below) the best thing about continuing to watch these classic movies is, if you haven't seen it, it's a new movie to you. And thee are so many out there i have yet to see.