International LGBTQIA+ Films

Chester County Library is celebrating Pride all throughout the month of June, and you can celebrate with us by checking out some of the LGBTQIA+ movies in our collection! This list features LGBTQIA+ inclusive movies from all around the world!

Bad Education (Spanish, 2004, Rated R)
Follows two lifelong friends from the school where they each suffer sexual abuse, and throughout their lives, exploring how this violence colors their experiences.

Being 17 (French, 2016, Not Rated)
Two teen boys, initially rivals, are forced by unseen circumstances to live together, and must navigate their budding attraction to one another.bad edu

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (German, 1972, Not Rated)
Two women form a complicated love triangle with the eccentric fashion designer Petra von Kant when they move into her apartment.

The Cakemaker (Hebrew, 2017, Not Rated)
After his lover dies in a car crash, a young German baker moves to Jerusalem and helps his lover’s widow revitalize her café with his baking. But how long can he lie about who he is?

End of the Century (Spanish, 2019, Not Rated)
Two men encounter one another over and over in what appear to be a series of coincidences. But as they begin a love affair, they find they might be drawn together by destiny.

A Fantastic Woman (Spanish, 2017, Rated R)
Marina, a transgender waitress and nightclub singer, copes with the loss of her boyfriend and with the scrutiny his death brings upon her.

Fire (Indian, 1996, Not Rated)fire
Banned in India upon release, this was the first Indian film to explore a lesbian relationship. Trapped in loveless marriages, Sita and Radha find comfort and love in their increasingly close relationship.

Greta (Portuguese, 2019, Not Rated)
To secure a hospital bed for his dying friend, an elderly gay nurse sneaks a convict out of the hospital and begins to care for him in his apartment.

The Handmaiden (Korean, 2016, Not Rated)
A Korean woman (secretly working for a con man) is employed as a handmaiden to a wealthy Japanese lady, but falls in love with her even as she’s trying to rob her.

Hazlo Como Hombre (Spanish, 2017, Rated R)
Three lifelong friends have their world rocked when one of them comes out as gay. Initially hesitant, the other two help their friend embrace his new life.

Heartstone (Icelandic, 2016, Not Rated)no way jose
Two boys come of age one summer in a remote fishing town. One, Thor, falls in love with a girl while the other, Christian, falls in love with Thor.

Jitters (Icelandic, 2010, Not Rated)
A first kiss with a boy one summer abroad causes Gabriel to realize he is gay. Returning home, he faces scrutiny from his family, and things get more complicated when his summer crush reappears.

José (Spanish, 2018, Not Rated)
Growing up in a conservative, religious city and with an overprotective mother, José doesn’t think he’ll ever come out. But when he meets the gentle Luis, a world of new possibilities opens up.

Kanarie (Afrikaans, 2019, Not Rated)
At the height of South African Apartheid, a young man must serve his compulsory military training in the South African Defense Force Choir and Concert Group.

Knife + Heart (French, 2018, Not Rated)la cage
When porn producer Anne is dumped by her girlfriend, she vows to win her back by making an extravagant new film with a flamboyant gay man. But her plan has scary consequences…

La Cage Aux Folles (French, 1978, Rated R)
A gay couple must fool their son’s ultra-conservative new father-in-law by using their drag skills to disguise one of them as a woman. But how long can they keep up the disguise?

Mom + Mom (Italian, 2018, Not Rated)
A young lesbian couple desperately want a child, and go through many trials and tribulations trying to have one. Based on the director’s true-life experiences.

No Dress Code Required (Spanish, 2017, Not Rated)
Victor and Fernando want to get married in their small hometown of Mexicali, Mexico, but must overcome countless legal and social hurdles to do so.

North Sea Texas (Dutch, 2011, Not Rated)portrait of a lady
A teenage boy, Pim, falls in love with the boy who lives next door to him.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (French, 2019, Rated R)
A young woman is hired to secretly paint the bridal portrait of a wealthy lady recently released from a convent. As they spend time together, their friendship grows into collaboration and love.

Santa & Andres (Spanish, 2016, Not Rated)
In Eastern Cuba, a young girl is assigned to stand guard at the house of a blacklisted author for three days. But as they spend time together, they realize they have a lot in common.

Spa Night (Korean, 2016, Not Rated)
A young man starts working at a spa and, seeing gay customers there, begins to consider his own sexuality. He struggles to balance being true to himself with pleasing his traditional, conservative family.

Stranger by the Lake (French, 2013, Not Rated)
While on vacation, Franck falls madly in love with the mysterious Michel. But when a murder occurs, the men’s affair makes them the prime suspects.

Summertime (French, 2015, Not Rated)tom of finland
During the early feminist movement of the 1970s, Carol and Delphine fall in love. But when Carol is called home to the countryside, she must choose between love and duty to her family.

Thelma (Norwegian, 2017, Not Rated)
A shy young woman leaves home for college, but while there begins to suffer terrible seizures. She must cope with her burgeoning feelings for another girl as well as budding supernatural abilities.

Tom of Finland (Finnish, 2018, Not Rated)
The true-life story of the titular artist, from his time serving in WWII, to his struggles with repressive 1950s Finnish society, to the triumph of his art during the sexual revolution of the 70s.

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (Chinese, 2013, Not Rated)
A married doctor bumps into an old friend at a party, which awakens repressed feelings. Yearning to be more true to himself, he begins to look for true love.

The Witnesses (French, 2008, Not Rated)will you still
At the dawn of the AIDS crisis in France, the lives of a writer, her boyfriend, a renowned doctor, and a handsome young gay man all unexpectedly intersect.

Xenia (Greek, 2014, Not Rated)
After the untimely death of their mother, two brothers, Dany and Ody, travel across the countryside of Greece to find their estranged father.

XXY (Spanish, 2008, Not Rated)
Alex, an intersex teenager, begins to develop feelings for the son of a family friend. But to protect her from the prejudice of others, her family decides to move from Buenos Aires to a small, remote town.

LGBTQIA+ Comedies

Chester County Library is celebrating Pride all throughout the month of June, and you can celebrate with us by checking out some of the LGBTQIA+ movies in our collection! This list of films features movies that celebrate LGBTQIA+ friendship, love, laughter, and joy.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994, Rated R)
An aging drag queen named Bernadette relives her glory days on a road trip through the Australian desert with her friends.

Anchor and Hope (2017, Not Rated)
The idyllic life of a young lesbian couple is interrupted when one’s mother demands a grandchild. The couple and a male friend contemplate p17043_p_v10_acmaking a baby.

Battle of the Sexes (2017, Rated PG-13)
Based on the real-life match between tennis stars Billie-Jean King and Bobby Riggs, and the events in their lives that led up to the match.

The Birdcage (1996, Rated R)
A middle-aged gay couple has their lives turned upside-down when their son decides to marry the daughter of a conservative senator.

Booksmart (2019, Rated R)
Two high school best friends realize that their devotion to academics has made them miss out on some milestones. Together they try to cram four years of partying into one night before graduation.

Breakfast on Pluto (2005, Rated R)
Kitten Braden, a foundling raised in an Irish rectory, leaves Ireland for London to start a new life as nightclub singer.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, Rated R)
Tells the story of Hedwig, a genderqueer person who flees East Germany just as the Berlin Wall is about to fall, and tries to live a loud and glamorous rock and roll life.

I Love You, Phillip Morris (2009, Rated R)
After being arrested for a string of crimes, con man Steven falls in love with a prison inmate named Phillip. In order to build the perfect life for hedwigthem, Steven goes on another crime spree.

Ideal Home (2018, Not Rated)
A bickering gay couple, Paul and Erasmus, is thrown for a loop when a boy shows up on their doorstep claiming to be Erasmus’s grandson.

In and Out (1997, Rated PG-13)
After being outed by one of his students, a high school teacher struggles to conform to typical masculinity.

The Kids Are All Right (2010, Rated R)
Nic and Jules have two children and marriage that has lasted twenty years. As their oldest daughter prepares to go to college, the couple get in contact with the sperm donor who fathered their kids.

Kinky Boots (2005, Rated PG-13)
A straight-laced shoemaker enlists performer Lola to save his family business by making flamboyant stilettos for drag performers.

Lez Bomb (2018, Rated TV-14)
A young woman goes home for Thanksgiving, planning to come out to her family, but her family also has some surprises up their sleeves.love simon

Love, Simon (2018, Rated PG-13)
Simon is a closeted high-schooler, worried about coming out to his family and friends, and wondering which of his classmates is his anonymous online crush.

Never Goin’ Back (2018, Rated R)
Two high school dropouts run away from home and become waitresses to save for a beach trip. But saving turns out to be tough when life—especially nightlife—gets in the way.

Papi Chulo (2018, Rated R)
Sean, a lonely gay weatherman, hires Mexican migrant worker Ernesto to be his friend. Their friendship crosses borders of race, language, and sexuality.

Pride (2014, Rated R)
In the summer of 1984, gay activists in the U.K. help miners during their extended strike on the National Union of Mineworkers. Based on a true story.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975, Rated R)
An “ordinary” couple, stranded in a storm, seek refuge in a castle where they meet Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a mad scientist building Rocky, the perfect man.

Saving Face (2004, Rated R)saving face
A closeted lesbian must balance a relationship with her boss’s daughter and with housing her pregnant mother, who has been disowned by her parents.

Tangerine (2015, Rated R)
After being released from prison on Christmas Eve, sex worker Sin-Dee hears that her boyfriend has been unfaithful. She and her friend travel through L.A. to get to the bottom of things.

That’s Not Us (2015, Not Rated)
Three couples travel to a beach house for an end-of-summer getaway, only to find tension simmering among the group.

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995, Rated PG-13)
Three drag queens on a cross-country road trip get stranded in a sleepy Midwestern town, and shake up the locals with their colorful personalities.

Victor, Victoria (1982, Rated PG)
Victoria, a cabaret singer, rises to fame with an act where she pretends to be a man pretending to be a woman. But things get complicated when she meets the man of her dreams.

Staff Picks June 2021

Emily’s Picks

DVD: Maurice
maurice againA sweeping and deeply romantic gay love story, based on the final novel by E.M. Forster. Maurice, a young upper-class man in Edwardian England, must come to terms with his homosexuality and his feelings for a schoolmate in a time when such a love is not only unheard of, but illegal. All the cutting social commentary and lush, breathtaking romance of a Jane Austen story, with an LGBT twist for Pride month!

CD: No Shape by Perfume Geniusno shape
Mike Hadreas (better known by his stage name, Perfume Genius) devotes his fourth album to his longtime boyfriend and the love that they have shared, as well as themes of radical self-love. It is a dreamy, fantastical, almost transcendent album, and the music will transport you somewhere beautiful. Standout tracks include “Slip Away” and “Just Like Love.”

 

Jessie’s Picks

DVD: Fast Five

faster fiveFun and over-the-top, this installment in the series is part car movie and part heist movie.  The characters are what set this series apart from other car movies.

Audiobook: Less by Andrew Sean Greer less cd
This book is one of the few humorous titles to win a Pulitzer!  To avoid truly accepting that his ex is marrying someone else, Arthur travels the world and has humorous mishaps.

 

John’s Picks

DVD: King of Queens
A classic late-90s/early-2000’s family sitcom often overshadowed by the likes of Seinfeld, Friends, Everybody Loves king of queensRaymond, and The Office. This lineup of comedic all-stars included Kevin James, Leah Remini, Patton Oswalt, and of course, the late Jerry Stiller who’s eccentric character, Arthur Spooner, added so much to the storyline. Stiller once commented that this role tested him more than any other.  No longer competing in the primetime, this series is certainly deserving of a fresh look.

CD: False Alarm by Two Door Cinema Club false alarm
The fourth album by the Irish indie rock band delivers a new electric (almost disco-esque) feel—a style much different from the band’s earlier punk vibes. Just a colorful, feel-good album by a fun band. Their earlier albums are certainly worth a listen to as well, especially Tourist History.

 

Kim’s Picks

DVD: Scream and Scream Again
In 1970 this British horror/sci-fi film was considered too disjointed to warrant praise, and Roger Ebert gave it a negative scream and screamreview.  It did make money, however, and nowadays is reckoned something of a mini-masterpiece, an opaque or at least translucent piece of moviemaking applauded by master director Fritz Lang (Metropolis, The Big Heat).  Film historian Tim Lucas provides sharp commentary that illuminates the shenanigans involving composites (read cyborgs) who Vincent Price contends will become a super race, “but not an evil super race.”  Side-note: Price was born on May 27, while two other stars of the film, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, were born on May 27 and May 26, respectively.  How deliciously weird is that?

CD: Cinema Rhapsodies: The Musical Genius of Victor Young
Unless it is MGM house composer Herbert Stothart (Mutiny on the Bounty, Northwest Passage, Mrs. Miniver) the most cinema rhapsodiesunsung movie soundtrack composer of Hollywood’s Golden Age is Victor Young even though in his time he was reckoned the greatest and most prolific of melody makers.  Among his 22 Academy Award-nominated scores include those for My Foolish Heart, Around the World in 80 Days, Samson and Delilah, Shane, East of Eden, The High and the Mighty, and Written on the Wind.  The Uninvited (1944) featured Young’s popular and award-nominated tune, “Stella by Starlight.”  As this roster demonstrates, he was adept at composing for films in various genres.  These movies and more are represented on this CD.

 

Mary’s Picks

DVD: How to Be a Latin Lover
how to be a latin loverEugenio Derbez creates a surprisingly likable and almost heartwarming comedic character, his delivery is priceless. This movie is pretty silly, but really made me laugh.

Audiobook: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams why we sleepby Matthew Walker  
A must read for everyone. Fascinating and enlighteningly insights on many aspects related to sleeping. Very well researched. In short, make sure you get a full night’s sleep!

 

Stephanie’s Picks

DVD: Young Adult
young adultRaw and honest, funny yet uncomfortable to watch at times, Young Adult is the story of a writer of teen literature who returns to her small hometown to relive her glory days and attempt to reclaim her happily married high school sweetheart.

Audiobook: I See You see youby Clare Mackintosh 
In this psychological thriller, danger lurks around every corner. You won’t want to stop listening.

LGBTQIA+ Dramas

Chester County Library is celebrating Pride all throughout the month of June, and you can celebrate with us by checking out some of the LGBTQIA+ movies in our collection! This list of films features serious stories of LGBTQIA+ love, tragedy, and triumph.

Albert Nobbs (2011, Rated R)
In 1890s Ireland, a woman chooses to live as a man to earn a living. After 20 years of living this way, Albert Nobbs is confronted with a problem that will alter the course of his life.

Ammonite (2020, Rated R)
Acclaimed paleontologist Mary Anning agrees to care for a tourist’s wife to earn extra money, and ends up falling in love with her. angels in america

Angels in America (2003, Not Rated)
In New York City, 1985, a young gay man afflicted with AIDS is given a message from heaven: he is to be a prophet. His life, and the lives of friends and strangers, are changed forever.

Beach Rats (2017, Rated R)
A Brooklyn teen with a bleak home life navigates his identity, struggling with friends, a budding relationship with a girlfriend, and online relationships with men.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2019, Rated PG-13)
This movie tracks the rise to stardom of iconic rock band Queen and its lead singer Freddie Mercury, from the band’s genesis to their once in a lifetime performance at LIVE AID.

Boy Erased (2018, Rated R)
Jared Eamons is outed to his Baptist parents and, fearing the loss of their love, enters conversion therapy. While there, he butts heads with its leader and begins to explore what he really wants.

Boys Don’t Cry (1999, Rated R)
Outed to his ex’s brother, trans teen Brandon runs away from home. Taking refuge in a small town, he falls in love with a singer, but his plans for a future are threatened by her violent friends.

The Boys in the Band (1970, Rated R)brokeback mountain
Harold’s birthday party goes off the rails when his friend Michael brings some unexpected guests, who play a game that raises tensions and unearths violent emotions.

Brokeback Mountain (2006, Rated R)
In a remote Wyoming town in 1963, two men are thrown together after taking a job watching sheep in the wilderness. There they kindle a love that alters the course of their lives.

Carol (2015, Rated R)
In 1950s Manhattan, young clerk Therese falls in love with the older, enigmatic Carol, a woman trapped in a marriage of convenience.

The Danish Girl (2015, Rated R)
Two artists navigate the changes in their love and marriage as one of them, Lili, transitions.

Disobedience (2017, Rated R)fingersmith
A woman returns to the community that shunned her for her same-sex attraction, and rekindles the affair that she was shunned for, exploring the boundaries of faith and desire.

Fingersmith (2005, Not Rated)
A young woman raised among thieves agrees to spy on a wealthy heiress, only to find herself falling in love with her.

God’s Own Country (2017, Not Rated)
A young Englishman stuck in a downward spiral starts an affair with a Romanian migrant worker that sparks deep change in his life.

Gods and Monsters (1998, Rated R)
At the end of his life, renowned horror director James Whale kindles a friendship with his handsome young gardener. But will his blossoming love be requited?

The Hours (2002, Rated PG-13)maurice
The lives of three women intersect over the course of one day: in 1929 Virginia Woolf is writing a novel, in 1951 housewife Laura is reading the novel, and in 2001 Clarissa is living the novel.

Maurice (1987, Rated R)
A young man in Edwardian England must come to terms with his homosexuality and his feelings for his close friends and schoolmate.

Milk (2008, Rated R)
Based on the true story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man ever to be elected to office in the United States.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018, Not Rated)
Sent to a conversion therapy camp after being caught with another girl, Cameron post finds herself forming a family with the other teens who aremoonlight trapped there.

Moonlight (2016, Rated R)
A young black man comes of age in a rough Miami neighborhood.

My Own Private Idaho (1991, Rated R)
Mike, an orphaned narcoleptic, and Scott, the son of wealthy parents, hitchhike across the Pacific Northwest in search of Mike’s mother, and themselves.

The Normal Heart (2014, Rated TV-MA)
At the dawn of the AIDS crisis in New York, a couple struggle as one of them is afflicted with AIDS, and the medical community struggles to advocate for those afflicted to an America in denial.

Pariah (2012, Rated R)
Alike, a Brooklyn teen with a love for poetry, wonders whether she should come out to her family as a lesbian.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017, Rated R)rocketman poster
Based on the true story of psychologist William Marston, and the polyamorous relationship between him, his wife, and his mistress, which inspired him to create the comic book hero Wonder Woman.

Rocketman (2019, Rated R)
A musical based on the life of rock legend Sir Elton John, his rise to fame and struggles with love and substance abuse.

Shelter (2007, Rated R)
Zach is stuck in dead-end jobs to support his sister, but when his best friend’s brother arrives home for the summer, he finds himself drawn to him, and finds a brighter future in their love.

Soldier’s Girl (2003, Rated R)
A young army private falls in love with a transgender nightclub singer, but their relationship ignites the anger and violence of his homophobic friends.

Summerland (2020, Rated PG)tipping the velvet
At the height of WWII, a reclusive writer names Alice takes in a London war evacuee, and finds they have more in common than she thought.

Tipping the Velvet (2002, Not Rated)
The story of a lesbian love affair kindled in the colorful world of 1890s music halls.

Wilde (1997, Rated R)
Based on the true story of renowned author Oscar Wilde, his successful writing career which meets an unfortunate end because of a then-illegal same-sex affair.

1985 (2018, Not Rated)
A closeted gay man coping with the height of the AIDS crisis returns to his hometown and religious parents.

The League of Alternate Superstars: Jean Simmons

Jean Simmons (1929 – 2010) was the fifth member of the unofficial quintet that might be lauded as the “Beautiful British Brunettes of the 50s.”  Think Joan Collins, Dana Wynter, Claire Bloom and Elizabeth Taylor.  All made their mark on the international scene, and it is debatable if even Taylor had more good roles than Simmons.

In The Great Stars:  The International Years, David Shipman said Simmons:

“…has always been taken for granted.  As a child player in Britain she was expected to be one of the best child players and she was; she was expected to become a big international name and she did.  In Hollywood for over twenty years she was given good roles because she was reliable, great-expectations_p7nHhfand she played them, or most of them, beautifully, and got good notices, and was liked.”

Nevertheless, Simmons didn’t receive a Best Actress Academy Award nomination until 1969.  “Maybe it doesn’t help to have been so good so young,” opined Shipman.

Simmons was born in London’s Islington district and tasted showbiz during World War II by singing on the stage in Winscombe.  A vocal cinematic moment occurred in the war film The Way to the Stars (1945) when Simmons jumped onto a table in the local dance-hall and let loose with “Let him Go Let him Tarry.”  As Shipman observed, it was sung “with great aplomb…”

Back in London after the war, she was spotted by novice but perceptive director Val Guest.  (Guest would later demonstrate a knack for the semi-documentary look he brought to such films as The Quatermass Xperiment, Hell is a City, and The Day the Earth Caught Fire.)

In 1945 Simmons was signed to a 7-year contact by Gabriel Pascal.  Playing the young Estella in David Lean’s critically acclaimed film version of Great Expectations boosted her fledgling career, and in 1948 the role of Ophelia in Olivier’s Best Picture-winning Hamlet brought her a Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination.  The Venice Film Festival gave her the Best Actress award.  She was now a star.  According to Shipman, esteemed writer and perspicacious critic James Agee commented that Simmons was “the only person in the picture who gives every one of herJeanHamleta lines the bloom of poetry and the immediacy of ordinary life.”  Terrence Rafferty’s reappraisal of the film for The Criterion Collection praised the actress:  “18-year-old Jean Simmons is the loveliest, most heartbreaking Ophelia you’ll ever see.”

At mid-century Simmons was, as Shipman observed, younger than her contemporary British leading ladies as well as “warmer, gayer.”

Simmons and husband Stewart Granger, perhaps the Pitt-Jolie of their time, went Hollywood, Granger to MGM for such high-end follow-ups to King Solomon’s Mines (1950) as remakes of Scaramouche and The Prisoner of Zenda, both 1952.  Britain’s Rank Organisation sold Simmons’ contract to RKO, a mixed blessing because at that time the U.S. studio was owned by eccentric billionaire and womanizer Howard Hughes.  Attempting to prey on Simmons, Hughes was told by Granger in no uncertain roads to back off or else.

Pascal produced Simmons’ first U.S. film, Androcles and the Lion (1952), with Victor Mature.  For her next RKO film, Angel Face, director Otto Preminger received orders by Hughes to have costar Robert Mitchum slap Simmons around in an important scene.  (Lee Server, Mitchum’s biographer, wrote, “Inflamed by Hughes’s fetishist dictates concerning her hairstyle, Simmons had abruptly taken a pair of shears and hacked off her rich dark locks till what remained was a variation on the hairdo worn by Stooge Moe Howard.  Wigs had to be quickly prepared to disguise the damage.”)

Mitchum honored the Hughes-inspired directive until Simmons was a wreck, whereupon he threatened or actually did slap Preminger.  Even if it was a threat, it spurred the director to ask Hughes to fire the actor. That didn’t happen. Mitchum was RKO’s biggest star.

JeanHomeaEven if he’d been fired, Mitchum’s mantra was always “Baby, I don’t care.” One wonders if his relationship with Simmons was similar to the compatible one he shared with Deborah Kerr with whom as with Simmons he made three films. He always let Kerr have first billing.

Hughes continued to take revenge by not loaning Simmons to Paramount for 1953’s Roman Holiday. Audrey Hepburn got the role and an Academy Award. It is easy to picture Simmons as the seemingly demure but adventuresome princess.

Nevertheless, 1953 was a banner year for Simmons.  An out-of-court settlement set her freed her from Hughes and RKO.  In MGM’s Young Bess she played the youthful Queen Elizabeth I while Granger popped in as Thomas Seymour. Simmons was top-billed over Granger, Deborah Kerr (as Catherine Parr), and Charles Laughton (reprising the title role that had won him an Academy Award for The Private Life of Henry VIII in 1933). The previously mentioned Angel Face became a film noir classic. In The Actress Simmons was the stage-struck daughter of a flustered father played by Spencer Tracy. (According to Shipman, in The Spectator Virginia Graham called Simmons “adolescence personified.”)  The least of the films Simmons made that year was Affair with a Stranger but the biggest and greatest success was Fox’s The Robe, another costume drama and the first film in CinemaScope. Many Brits, male and female, congregated in historical pageants, and Simmons was one of those. See, for instance, Androcles JeanSpartacusaand the Lion, Desiree, The Egyptian, and Spartacus.

Casting against type.  Simmons was teamed twice with Marlon Brando, both demonstrating their versatility, she resplendent in Desiree (1954) as the vivacious youthful paramour of Brando’s Napoleon, and Guys and Dolls (1955) in which Simmons’ mission as Salvation Army Sergeant Sarah Brown was to reform big city gamblers. Brando and Simmons did their own singing and a bit of dancing. It was a big success. In The Musical Film, author Douglas McVay, normally a harsh critic, commended Guys and Dolls as “the year’s most entertaining work in the genre….” As for the cast, the prize goes to Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons, as Sky Masterson the gambler and Sarah Brown the Salvationist. All their sequences together are a joy:  their opening meeting; their duet “I’ll Know When My Love Comes Along;” their evening out at the Havana bistro, where Sarah, whom crafty Sky has primed to the back teeth with “Bacardi milk shakes,” lets herself go in Dionysiac dance; her tipsily ecstatic ditty “If I were a Bell;” and their duet of “A Woman in Love,” back in the unaccustomed tranquility of a Manhattan dawn.  Marlon acts splendidly—but Jean has the better voice!

In a sense the entire 1950s was an admirable era for Simmons, and ending the decade and beginning the next was special.  The Big Country (1958) was an epic western with a stellar cast of which Simmons was second billed behind Gregory Peck and ahead of Charlton Heston.  According to Shipman, Peck said Simmons “was an exception among leading ladies: ‘There’s a girl who has managed to succeed in a profession that has destroyed femininity’.”  Elmer Gantry (1960) featured her as an evangelist latched onto by a conman.  As the title character, Burt Lancaster won an Academy Award.  (Shipman thought her work in Gantry was “simply stunning.”  A personal outcome was Simmons’ marriage in 1960 to Gantry director Richard Brooks.  Her marriage to Granger had ended earlier that year.)  In Spartacus (1960) Simmons was Varinia, the slave girl and mate of the title character played by Kirk Douglas.  Giving previously blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo screenwriting credit, Douglas pushed the envelope further by coaxing Simmons into a nude swim scene—mostly cut from the final print.  (Somehow Simmons escaped doing “cheesecake” JeanBigapublicity shots for her entire career.)  The Grass is Greener (1960) was a modern comedy of manners but hardly appealing to a mass audience despite the world-beating cast of Cary Grant, Simmons, Kerr and, if you can believe it, Robert Mitchum.

Really good roles were becoming rarer for her and contemporary co-star Deborah Kerr by the late 60s.  A notable exception was All the Way Home (1963), the film version of James Agee’s A Death in the Family.  Simmons turned to TV.  Most notoriously, she appeared in the TV movie Heidi in 1968.  The Oakland Raiders-New York Jets football game had not finished up by the scheduled 7 p.m. EST and NBC cut away. On the East Coast viewers missed a two-touchdown comeback by Oakland that gave them the victory.  The public was vociferous in its displeasure.

Back on the big screen in The Happy Ending (1969), Simmons finally had a plum role that garnered a Best Actress Academy Award nomination.  Some of Simmons’ other accolades included the 1953 National Board of Review’s Best Actress award for her work in The Actress, The Robe, and Young Bess. She won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for Guys and Dolls (1955).  On TV she received the Primetime Emmy Award Best Actress for The Thorn Birds (1983).

After a career worthy of note and breaking the “10-year-rule” by playing leading roles in quality films for more than two decades, Simmons died at the age of 80 in 2010.

References

McVay, Douglas.  The Musical Film. 1967.

Rafferty, Terrence.  Hamlet.  Criterion Collection, September 18, 2000.

Server, Lee.  Robert Mitchum:  “Baby, I Don’t Care.”  2001.

Shipman, David.  The Great Stars:  The International Years.  1972.

New Releases

MoviesRaya and the Last Dragon
Judas and the Black Messiah
The Little Things
Roe V. Wade
Sometime Other Than Now
Trances
The Virtuoso
Looking For Life On Mars
Land
The Marksman
The Mauritanian
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Dolly Parton: 50 Years at the Opry
The Father
Hemingway: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick
Minari
The Nest
Raya and the Last Dragon
Tom & Jerry: The MovieAtlantic Crossing
Above Suspicion
Cosmic Sin
Flowers of Shanghai
Supernova
Influence
Kinky Boots
Sheep Without A Shepherd
Shadow Lines season 1

TV Series
Atlantic Crossing
The Mallorca Files series 1
A Suitable Boy
The Alienist season 2: Angel of Darkness
The Salisbury Poisonings
Star Trek: Lower Decks season 1
Supernatural season 15
Every Star Above Mandy Barnett
Music
Every Star Above by Mandy Barnett
Working Woman by Grace Pettis
Detritus by Sarah Neufeld
Body Language by Blake Shelton
Wink by Chai

Audiobooks
21st Birthday by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
Family Reunion by Nancy Thayer
The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews
That Summer by Jennifer Weiner

Accidentally in Peril

This is a survey of good to great thrillers in which the protagonist(s)—campers, hikers, canoeists, hunters, divers, and explorers—finds himself or herself suddenly and unexpectedly facing an uncertain future in an unfamiliar and potentially deadly environment.  Not included are fantasies, supernatural horror films, and authentic comedies.  Thus, unforeseen shipwreck and plane crash sagas such as Cast Away and The Flight of the Phoenix are omitted.  No documentaries are included although some of the films are based on fact.  The focus here is on nature and/or dangerous humans throwing a monkey wrench into outings that were anticipated to be peaceful or relatively tranquil.  As if the environment isn’t perilous enough, most mountain climbing movies, of which there aren’t many, add elements of criminality, e.g., Cliffhanger, Vertical Limit, and are not reviewed.  The movies on this list are available in the Chester County Library system.

King Kong (1933)
Showman Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) leads an expedition to unexplored Skull Island where the mighty and mighty big ape Kong becomes enamored of the beautiful Ann Darrow (Fay Wray).  Many of the crew of the Venture fail to survive prehistoric beasts as well as Kong.  Kong is a genre cross-over film:  Adventure for sure, but maybe Fantasy?  Not time travel and thus not Science Fiction despite dinosaurs, which for all we know might be genetically produced in the near future.  Depending on your definition of a movie genre, King Kong may be the only movie that switches genre over time.

Inferno (1953)InfernoA
Millionaire Donald Whitley Carson III (Robert Ryan) breaks his leg and is left for dead under the scorching desert sun by his cheating wife (Rhonda Fleming) and her lover (William Lundigan).  Carson wonders if sucking on pebbles will allay his thirst.

A Man Called Horse (1972)
While hunting in the American West during the first half of the 19th century, Englishman John Morgan (Richard Harris) is captured by a native American tribe, made a slave but survives “the most electrifying ritual ever seen!” to become a warrior, then a leader.

Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
After the Mexican-American War, veteran Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford) journeys into the Rocky Mountains to live the life of a mountain man.  Through ignorance, not maliciousness, he makes enemies of several members of the Crow tribe, but his fighting prowess gains him the respect of his enemies.

DeliveranceDeliveranceA (1972)
Four businessmen (Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox) canoe down a remote Georgia river before it is dammed only to find themselves the victims of savage backwoodsmen, at least one of whom is mentally unstable.  The ensuing fight tests not only the physical mettle of the interlopers but their ability to remain civilized.

Duel (1971)
Steven Spielberg’s directorial debut is what some consider the best of all TV movies (that was modified for international theatrical release). It’s a spare and tense tale of a tanker truck at odds with a man (Dennis Weaver) driving a Plymouth Valiant during a business trip.  Who, if anybody, is driving the truck?

Southern Comfort (1981)
Keith Carradine and Powers Boothe play National Guardsmen reluctantly participating in a training exercise in a Louisiana swamp when several of their members antagonize the local citizens.  Precious little woodcraft is on display by the soldiers, who must contend with the elements as well as the Cajuns to stay alive.

The River WildRiverWildA (1994)
While testing their whitewater rafting expertise on Idaho’s Salmon River, Gail (Meryl Streep) her husband Tom (David Strathairn), their son and dog encounter a pernicious threesome evading the law.  Beautiful scenery and lovely score by Jerry Goldsmith.

Apollo 13 (1995)
In April, 1970 Apollo 13 leaves Earth’s atmosphere for a rendezvous with  the moon, but an accident necessitates the mission be aborted.  The responsibility for returning safely falls on Commander Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks).  Suspenseful, true-life, crowd-pleasing adventure.

Breakdown (1997)
Jeff and Amy Taylor (Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan) are driving through the Great Southwest when their jeep dies.  A trucker (J. T. Walsh) gives Amy a lift, supposedly to a diner where she can phone for assistance.  The nightmare begins.  Amy disappears.  The trucker denies having ever met the Taylors.  A true nail-bitter, Breakdown plays the one-man-against-the-world for all its worth and will leave the audience wrung out.  The chief villain’s denouement is well deserved.

Joy Ride (2001)
Pulling a prank on a presumed redneck trucker, two men and one’s girlfriend soon realize they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.  Bears comparison with Duel and Breakdown.  “Candy Cane.”

DescentAThe Descent (2005)
Six women spelunkers, some with hidden agendas, become trapped in an Appalachian cave system.  As if that wasn’t enough, there is something else in the cave that bears them ill will. (Think Bone Tomahawk.)  As disturbing a thriller as you will find.

Into the Wild (2007)
The final destination of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) is the Alaskan wilderness, where he intends living off the land, but nature is unforgiving of mistakes and McCandless makes them.  Based on the Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air) bestseller, Into the Wild abstains from exploring the possibility that McCandless’s perceived individualism may have concealed mental illness.

127 Hours (2010)
Based on the account of Aron Ralston (James Franco), who while rock climbing alone in Canyonlands National Park was trapped in a crevasse by a boulder and took drastic measures to free himself.

All is Lost (2013)
1700 nautical miles from the Sumatra Straits, a CAL 39 sailboat is seriously damaged by a container fallen from a cargo ship.  The CAL’s owner (Robert Redford) must use all his skill and courage to survive.

Backcountry (2014)
To wind down from their hectic work schedule, Jen (Missy Peregrym) and Alex (Jeff Roop) trek into an Ontario wilderness park, promptly become lost and are terrorized by a hungry bear.

Wildwild-movie-still-2.jpg (2014)
Distressed by her mother’s death and a broken marriage, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) sets off hiking the Pacific Coast Trail in 1995 with an inchoate hope the 1,100-mile jaunt will improve her self-esteem.

The Martian (2015)
In 2035 a dust storm causes the evacuation of a scientific base on Mars, and the injured astronaut Matt Watney (Matt Damon) is left behind, presumed dead.  Such is not the case but Watney will need plenty of moxie and intelligence to survive until the next ship arrives—at Schiaparelli crater four years later and 2,000 miles away.

A Walk in the Woods (2015)
Author Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) and friend Stephen (Nick Nolte) decide they can safely negotiate the Appalachian Trail only to discover the grueling nature of their self-imposed mission.  Now, if they were younger…

The Lost City of Z (2016)
After World War I, the now virtually forgotten British veteran and explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) treks the Amazonian jungle, hoping to discover a long lost civilization.  Heat, disease, untamed terrain, wild animals and fierce humans must be overcome for the goal to be accomplished. But was it?ShallowsA

The Shallows (2016)
Surfing in a Mexican cove, stressed-out Nancy (Blake Lively) finds no solace when she is knocked into the water by a Great White Shark and stranded with an injured gull on a rocky outcropping.  Other beach-goers have gone home.  What happens when the tide comes in?

Edie (2017]
Widow Edie (Sheila Hancock) thwarts her daughter’s plan to place her in a retirement community and conducts her long-held desire to make solo climbs in the Scottish Highlands.  With a modicum of advice and assistance from outdoors store impresario Jonny (Kevin Guthrie) she arrives at Mt. Suilven.  Will she succeed in summiting this formidable piece of geography?

47 Meters Down (2017)
Off the Mexican coast two sisters (Claire Holt and Mandy Moore) observe sharks from inside a diving cage.  Too bad the cable is about to break.  Tense and thrilling but some events may be a product of hallucinations spawned by rising to the surface too fast and getting the “bends.”  You decide.

Adrift (2018)
After agreeing to sail a friend’s Hazana from Polynesian waters to San Diego, Richard (Sam Claflin) and the love of his life Tami (Shallene Woodley) find themselves in the midst of a Pacific cyclone.  Harrowing, heart-rending tale based on real events.

Prospect (2018)
Damon (Jay Duplass) and his teenage daughter Cee (Sophie Thatcher) search for rare elements on a distant planet’s moon and encounter other prospectors with mean intentions, which compound the hazards imposed by a super-allergenic atmosphere.  When tragedy strikes, Cee must league with another prospector, Ezra (Pedro Pascal) to survive.

Leave No Trace (2018)
Outside Portland, Oregon, war veteran Will (Ben Foster), whose wife died and who suffers from PTSD, and his now motherless teenage daughter Tom (Thomason McKenzie), live a survivalist’s existence until an injury to Will requires medical aid.  Although Will is given a job and Tom goes to school, Will eventually decides to return to the wilderness.  Tom is not having it.

Alone (2018)
Widowed Jessica (Jules Willcox) packs up and leaves the city for life in the hinterland only to be kidnapped and stashed in a concrete bunker.  Injured during her escape, she uses her wits to outwit her maniac captor and emerges into a clear-cut landscape where a helicopter suggests succor.  An element of dread permeates the movie from the get-go.

ManHorseA

See the Multimedia Blog (October, 2020) for “A Brief Survey of Jungle Movies” for kindred wilderness films, including The Most Dangerous Game, The Naked Prey, Papillon, and Jungle.

Staff Picks May 2021

Emily’s Picks

DVD: The Mummy

the mummy posterAn old-fashioned, campy action adventure movie with a lot of laughs and a great cast. Two Egyptologists and an American treasure-hunter accidentally awaken the sinister mummy Imhotep, and must race to stop his curse before it destroys the whole word. A rollicking good time!

CD: The Whole Story by Kate Bush the whole story

Kate Bush is known for her eclectic, experimental sound and her lyrics which draw reference from literature, history, and myth. This greatest hits album perfectly encapsulates that sound, with a collection of all of Bush’s greatest hits, including “Wuthering Heights,”, “Cloudbusting,” and “Running Up That Hill.”

Jessie’s Picks

DVD: Crazy Rich Asians

crazy rich asiansThis delightful movie is my favorite rom-com of the last five years.  It is basically a fish-out-of-water tale about a New Yorker going to Singapore for her boyfriend’s friend’s wedding and meeting his rich family and friends.  I especially enjoyed the hilarious supporting characters played by Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, and Nico Santos.

CD; Show Your Bones by The Yeah Yeah Yeahsshow your bones

The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s sophmore album is more restrained, reflective, and brooding than their debut.  My favorite songs are “Gold Lion” and “Cheated Hearts.”

 

John’s Picks

Libby E-Book: Joe Gould’s Teeth by Jill Lepore

joe gouldA really fun exploration in search of  the “longest book ever written.” During his lifetime, the eccentric Joe Gould claimed to be writing the longest book ever written—an account of everything anyone has ever said to him. Gould claimed to be a historian documenting the lives of everyday people. But when he died in 1957, his manuscript—supposedly containing 9 million words—was nowhere to be found. In 2016, accomplished historian Jill Lepore tried to track down Gould’s mysterious manuscript with some archival exploration and  good historical thinking. A quick, fun read!

DVD: The Twilight Zone, Season 5

Rod Sterling’s psychological thriller series is an absolute classic that’s certainly hard to categorize. It’s a SciFi drama with twilight zoneelements of horror and mystery. No matter how you classify it, the series was certainly ahead of its time and still so absorbing decades later. Each episode is short, but they are packed with meaning and have so many twists and turns you’ll surely be left thinking . Major themes include science, mortality, anxiety, human virtue, and government power. Many of my favorite episodes are in Season 5 and include “Living Doll,” “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” “A Kind of Stopwatch,” and “The Masks.” Next stop, the Twilight Zone!

 

Kim’s Picks

DVD: The Magic of Belle Isle

magic of belleUntil recently, Monte Wildhorn (Morgan Freeman) was a successful western novelist despite an auto accident that left him paralyzed except for one arm.  Now he’s burned out and drinking excessively.  Reluctantly he lets his nephew (Kenan Thompson) install him in a lakeside cabin for the summer.  His only responsibilities are caretaking the house and dog-sitting a retriever who refuses to fetch.  Little could he have foreseen that his neighbor (Virginia Madsen) and her three girls would rejuvenate him.  Charming movie from director Rob Reiner.

CD: The Definitive Christopher Cross by Christopher Cross chris cross

Unfortunately, multi-Grammy winner in the late 70s plus Oscar winner for “Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do),” Cross chose not to engage with the MTV generation via music videos.  Here are his big hits, including “Ride Like the Wind,” “Never Be the Same,” “Think of Laura,” “Sailing.”

Mary’s Picks

DVD: Sicko

sicko“Michael Moore interviews Americans who have been denied treatment by the United States health care insurance companies — companies who sacrifice essential health services in order to maximize profits. Sheds light on the how complicated it can become for communities and individuals, and the sacrifices they have to make when they are denied health care coverage.”

CD: 3.0 by Marc Anthony 3.0

“The five-time Grammy winner, producer, and songwriter returned to the studio… to produce his first project of original music in the tropical genre in nearly a decade. His first single, ‘Vivir Mi Vida,’ obtained the #1 position on iTunes, national radio, and Billboard charts.”

Stephanie’s Picks

DVD: The Normal Heart

the normal heartBased on a play that tells the story of the onset of HIV-AIDS in NYC in the 1980s. Well-acted, beautifully told, and deeply moving.

DVD: The Whistleblower the whistleblower

Ripped-from-the-headlines thriller inspired by actual events. Corruption, cover-up and intrigue in post-war Bosnia.

All quoted material is from catalog.ccls.org.

New Releases

MoviesBarb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar
This is Not a Movie
Crisis
Some Kind of Heaven
Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles
Fagara
Daria
Test Pattern
Beast Beast
Irma Vep
ACASA, My Home
History is Made at Night
White Shadow

TV Series
Finding Joy Series 2Finding Joy
Cold Call Season 1
The Wisting Season 1
Doctor Who: The Creature from the Pit

Music
Beauty in Death by Chase Atlantic
Now and Then by Paul Stanley’s Soul Station
Is 4 Lovers by Death From Above 1979
My Savior by Carrie Underwood
Cuttin’ Grass Volume 2: The Cowboy Arms Sessions by Sturgill Simpson
Dancing with the Devil: The Art of Starting Over by Demi Lovato
Fearless (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor SwiftDancing_with_the_Devil-_the_Art_of_Starting_Over
In Another World by Cheap Trick
Baby, I’m Hollywood by Judith Hill
Head Up High by FITZ & Fitz and the Tantrums
11 Past the Hour by Imelda May
Heart by Eric Church
Let the Bad Times Roll by The Offspring
Beautiful Revolution Pt. 1, A by Common  
Peter Frampton Forgets the Words by Peter Frampton
Beautiful Scars by Merry ClaytonFearless Taylor Swift
Finding Wildflowers by Tom Petty
The Sonic Ranch by Midland
Soul by Eric Church
Surface Sounds by Kaleo
Alone Together Sessions by Hayes Carll
Sweep it Into Space by Dinosaur Jr.
A Better Word for Love by Ronnie Milsap
Korolen by London Symphony Orchestra & Toumani Diabate
Live at Knebworth 1990 by Pink Floyd
The Million Masks of God by Manchester Orchestra
Now That’s What I Call A Decade! 1990sTriple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder
Now That’s What I Call Music 78
Rosegold by Ashley Monroe
Typhoons by Royal Blood
Turn Up That Dial by Dropkick Murphys

Audiobooks
Turn A Blind Eye by Jeffrey Archer
A Gambling Man by David Baldacci
Ocean Prey by John Sandford
Sooley by John Grisham
Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke

The League of Alternate Superstars: Joel McCrea

Born in South Pasadena, CA in 1905, Joel McCrea is not a legendary name amongst today’s general populace despite having made in excess of 100 movies that include many classics equaling those of such Hollywood contemporaries as Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, and Clark Gable. It may be that McCrea’s decision to concentrate almost exclusively on westerns in the fifties (24 films) and early 60s negatively affected his legacy.  He’d demonstrated a comic as well as dramatic flair in the 30s and 40s, working with such master directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Preston Sturges, George Stevens, William Wyler, and Cecil B. DeMille.

As David Shipman wrote in The Great Stars:  The Golden Years, “Joel McCrea was one of the leading Leading Men of the 30s, a tall, good-looking, reliable actor without any great pretension.  Physically, he was not unlike Gary Cooper…”  He had no illusions and told the Evening Standard he never attempted acting:  “A placid sort of fellow, that’s me…”  Shipman added that, “McCrea didn’t reach the heights because he didn’t really want to.”

McCrea’s best movies include:

The Most Dangerous Game (1932).  You would not be wrong to discern jungle sets that were used again in 1933’s King Kong.  In Most, McCrea’s the-most-dangerous-game_FmozdiBob Rainsford survives a South Seas Island shipwreck and becomes the guest of Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks), who hunts the most dangerous game, aka man.  As a big game hunter, Rainsford provides Zaroff with a special prey, and Fay Wray, about to achieve cinema immortality in Kong, was the appropriately named and lovely Eve, to become Zaroff’s prize—if he succeeds in his nefarious activity.

Despite a restrictive Production Code that wouldn’t be implemented until 1934, Bird of Paradise (1932) was notorious for McCrea’s nude underwater swim scene with the equally unclothed and aptly named Luana (Dolores Del Rio).

In 1933 McCrea married a Hollywood leading lady of repute:  Frances Dee.  Her films include Little Women, Souls at Sea, If I Were King, and I Walked with a Zombie.  McCrea and Dee were married until his death in 1990.

These Three (1936) was based on a Lillian Hellman play but skirted the issue of lesbianism in its account of a student (Bonita Granville) falsely accusing two of her teachers (Miriam Hopkins and Merle Oberon) of indiscretion.  The object of their desire:  Joel McCrea’s physician.

Dead End (1937) top-billed Sylvia Sidney and McCrea in one of the decade’s socially conscious gangster movies.  This is the film that introduced the “Dead End Kids” to the cinema and became a major stepping stone to stardom for Humphrey Bogart as “Baby Face” Martin, a criminal.  McCrea was the ostensible hero, an out-of-work architect and youthful chum of Martin who needed to make a terrible decision regarding his one-time friend.

Union Pacific (1939) was one of director Cecil B. DeMille’s better epics.  McCrea played a troubleshooter for the famous railroad entrepreneurs, their dream of connecting the country by rail hurtling to its denouement after the end of the Civil War.  Major star Barbara Stanwyck played mail union-pacific_iFWgIlcoach mistress Molly.  With whom would she align herself, McCrea or likable but morally weak Dick Allen (Robert Preston)?  Great character actors abounded, including future leading man and Oscar-winner Anthony Quinn, Lynne Overman, Akim Tamiroff, Stanley Ridges, and Brian Donlevy (Academy Award Supporting Actor nominee the same year for portraying the menacing Sergeant Markov in Beau Geste, also with Robert Preston).

In 1940’s Foreign Correspondent, director Alfred Hitchcock used his cinematic expertise to entertain while simultaneously warning the western democracies about the coming storm.  World War II had begun in 1939 and a full-scale attack by Germany on France and England would take place only days after Foreign Correspondent opened.  As one might expect from a Hitchcock film, there are numerous tense set-episodes, perhaps the most suspenseful the scene in which McCrea’s American journalist Huntley Haverstock/Johnny Jones’ trenchcoat is caught in a windmill’s gears, threatening to injure or kill him or at the very least alert the spies to his presence.  Gary Cooper was the original choice to play Jones and apparently rued his decision not to take it.  Lesley Coffin wrote, “But one quality McCrea did have that became signature to him was a sincerity and trust with his audiences.”  The movie “benefits from having an anchor like McCrea who is completely trustworthy, as the audience is left to question the loyalties of so many surrounding him.”  After surviving a plane crash into the sea, Johnny radios to the still free world an ominous warning:  “It’s too late to do anything here now except stand in the dark and let them come as if the lights were all out everywhere except in America.  Keep those lights burning.  Cover them with steel.  Ring them with guns.  Build a canopy of battleships and bombing planes around them.  Hello, America!  Hang on to your lights, they’re the only lights left in the world!”

Sullivan’s Travels (1941) was the first of McCrea’s collaborations with comedic genius and director Preston Sturges.  In this one, film director John L. Sullivan  (McCrea) masquerades as a hobo to get the real dope on the downtrodden of the Depression years.  He teams up with “The Girl” sullivans-travels_6d27e8d3(Veronica Lake) and endures a number of misadventures before returning to his milieu with the goal of again making comedies to soothe people.  Sullivan’s Travels was one of the first films to be placed on the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

The Palm Beach Story (1942) featured McCrea and Claudette Colbert as husband and wife in this Sturges screwball comedy with a surprise ending.  It is reckoned another jewel in Sturges’ crown—and certainly in McCrea’s.

The More the Merrier (1943) was a delightful comedy from director George Stevens.  McCrea was Sergeant Joe Carter, desperate to find housing in more the merrierWashington, DC during World War II while waiting for orders to ship out. Endearingly curmudgeonly Benjamin Dingle (Charles Coburn, Supporting Actor Oscar-winner) sublets his so-called apartment to Carter without telling landlady Connie Milligan (Jean Arthur), who is aghast but has spent Dingle’s rent money and can’t oust him or Carter.  This suits Dingle fine; he’s playing matchmaker for the twosome.

Ramrod (1947) was considered by Brian Garfield “a little classic” that had “hardly dated at all.”  The title character Dave Nash (McCrea) tries to ameliorate the feud between Connie Dickason (Veronica Lake) and her father (Charlie Ruggles).  Surprisingly, matters are not wrapped up smoothly.

Four Faces West (1948) presented a pseudo-Pat Garret/Billy the Kid scenario with Charles Bickford’s Garrett tracking bank robber Ross McEwen (McCrea).  McEwen’s decision to risk his life helping a sick Mexican-American family convinces Garrett to vouch for him at the upcoming trial.  Brian Garfield found “Stretches of lyrical beauty” in the film.  “It’s a splendid example of what a low-budget Western can be:  its excellence is such that it can make you feel as if you have never seen a Western before.”

Colorado Territory (1949) was the western version of High Sierra (1941), the film that helped turn Humphrey Bogart into a leading man.  Here Wes McQueen (McCrea) plans a final robbery but it goes awry.  Wounded and in hiding, he agrees to marry the female member of the gang, Colorado Carson (Virginia Mayo), but cornered in the ruins of ancient cliff dwellers, both meet their dismal fate.  The most enjoyable scene is a gun-toting Mayo, blazing away at the posse.

Wichita (1955) allowed McCrea his take on the Wyatt Earp legend as he comes to Kansas and is appointed marshal.  Instituting a no guns in town policy works temporarily but when the wife of one of the town’s fathers is killed, Wyatt buckles on his sidearm and tames the essentially uncivilized cattlemen. Director Jacques Tourneur might deserve the back-handed compliment also given another director, Robert Wise (The Curse of the Cat People, The Flame and the Arrow, Executive Suite, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Andromeda Strain), i.e., a chameleon who could not be labeled an auteur.  But like Wise, Tourneur created classics in various genres, including I Walked with a Zombie with McCrea’s wife, Canyon Passage, Out of the Past, and Curse of the Demon.

In Fort Massacre (1958) McCrea played against type a psychologically-disturbed cavalry officer trying to keep his unhorsed troop together.  This is a movie containing a variation on the outrageous sentiment, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian, baptized or not!”  (Francis McDonald as Old RidehighposteraPiute Man). Garfield wrote, “The McCrea character is unusually complicated and it is fascinating to watch the changes in him.”

Ride the High Country (1962) was McCrea’s last significant film and although relegated to the lower half of a double bill, was soon recognized as a classic, even winning the Grand Prix e I’UCC from the Belgian Film Critics Association.  McCrea costarred with another actor from Hollywood’s golden age who chose to inhabit characters from the old west during his last working years:  Randolph Scott.  Ride the High Country was an early feature-length movie from director Sam Peckinpah.  Joining forces with Gil Westrum (Scott), ex-marshal Steve Judd (McCrea) is hired to transport gold from a mining site only to have his mission compromised by a half-witted gang of thugs and Elsa (Mariette Hartley), trying to escape an abusive father.  On-location filming near Mammoth Lakes, California, judicious gunplay, and a score by George Bassman enhanced the proceedings.

References

Coffin, Lesley L.  Hitchcock’s Stars:  Alfred Hitchcock and the Hollywood Studio System.  2014.

Garfield, Brian.  Western Films:  A Complete Guide. 1982.

Meyer, William R.  The Making of the Great Westerns.  1979.

Shipman, David.  The Great Stars:  The Golden Years.  1970.