Looking Forward: Friday Night “Second Looks,” featuring Ace in the Hole (1951), Top Banana (1954), It’s Always Fair Weather (1955), and Our Man in Havana (1960)

15 May
Ace in the Hole (1951)

Phone the neighbors, wake the kids: Second Looks!

Looking forward to this lineup quite a bit – I’m not certain about Ace in the Hole as a forgotten/underestimated film (there’s a Criterion edition, after all; I think of maybe Five Graves to Cairo or The Fortune Cookie falling more under that heading), but as far as recognition goes, it’s no The Apartment or Some Like it Hot, so I suppose it’s a fair choice. And for all my nitpicking here, I haven’t seen the damned thing and very much want to, so…shutting up and anticipating.

Top Banana (1954)

What I love about this picture? The snap.

Top Banana is kind of a mess to watch – the hacked up editing is a royal mess, and just gets worse as the movie continues, so I warn you not to concern yourself with puny concerns like a “plot” or “concern for characters.” Phooey. You’re here to watch a machine at work, and that machine is Phil Silvers in burlesque mode. There are actors in this who give you the impression that you’re watching a glorified 50s teleplay (which, in many ways, you are), but they only serve to make the Pros shine even more (not just Silvers; Dick Van Dyke Show players to be Rose Marie and Herbie Faye, plus Joey Faye and Jack Albertson) in what is more or less a live performance. The ladder scene, the burlesque flashback (pointless, technically, but also the prime reason to watch)…let’s just say that while sane actors have dream roles like Othello or Mary Tyrone or whatever, I’d love a shot at Jerry Biffle. You may say I’m a dreamer.

It’s Always Fair Weather is perfect as a Second Look, though I’m not sure what keeps people away from it. I suppose it’s a bit dark for a Comden/Green/Kelly/Donen musical, but man. Trashcans. Cyd Charisse. Roller skates. Cyd Charisse. Also, Cyd Charisse.

It's Always Fair Weather (1955)

I forgot how I was going to caption this.

I’m back.

Regardless, it’s not perfection like Singin’ in the Rain, and it shows some marks from its era, but it’s got a lot of masterful work in it. And also, Cyd Charisse.*

Our Man in Havana (1960)

A man called… “Smith.”

Lastly, another one I should be embarrassed about but can’t be (you know, one has only so many hours), Our Man in Havana. How is it that I’ve seen Alec Guinness vehicles like The Captain’s Paradise and Last Holiday, to say nothing of the more obvious big name Ealing comedies, but not this one, which I feel like I’ve known for years was out there waiting? Plus Maureen O’Hara, Ernie Kovacs and with Carol Reed in the canvas-backed highchair? My Saturday is going to be shot, but technology or no, I may have to stay up until 4:00 a.m. EST watching this one.

See you back here after (and probably making a nuisance of myself on #TCMParty during)!

*Not to mention Michael Kidd. The Wife and I, like most married types, have a running Michael Kidd gag. We went through a spell ten years or so ago wherein we watched several documentaries or DVD extras that were by chance for movies in some way featuring Michael Kidd. They were all famous and successful, but in his interview, an older, surlier Kidd (seemingly always during the same longer interview) started every story (at least, our memory has made this so) with some variation of, “Well, they called me and told me they wanted me to do this picture and I really didn’t want to. I wasn’t interested and I didn’t see any reason to get involved in it.” And the result was always Seven Brides or what have you.

Michael Kidd

“I didn’t want this Oscar, you know.”

This has taken on a life of its own in our household, sometimes pointedly (“Kidd didn’t want to cross left in that scene, you know”), sometimes at random (“You know who was supposed to star in Thoroughly Modern Millie but wasn’t interested?”), always hilarious. To us. The winter nights just fly.

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