Monday, May 30, 2011

Fifteen Movie Questions Meme

 Fifteen Movies Question Meme
from Defiant Success

I'm jumping on this one before it goes away since I can no more resist a good movie meme than I can a free chocolate truffle. From Defiant Success Blog, a fifteen-question meme. Since Meredith at Forever Classics and Clara at Via Margutta felt free to tag anyone who wanted to do the meme, I will answer the invitation. And anyone who stops by the blog, consider yourself invited to do the same.

1. Movie you love with a passion.

There are many, many, many movies I love with a passion. But since you're only asking for one movie, how about My Fair Lady? It seems to need a little passion these days since it's become one of those "uncool" classics. A lot of people despise it for taking Best Picture instead of Dr. Strangelove, for putting Audrey Hepburn and Marni Nixon over Julie Andrews, and for being one of those lumbering, studio-bound musicals right as the genre was dying. And yet I love it, love Audrey Hepburn in it, love its beauty and never-never land vision of Edwardian London. It's one of those movies that I inevitably feel compelled to finish, no matter what else I should be doing. It's been one of my favorites since childhood, one of the first movies to turn me on to what movies could do.

2. Movie you vow never to watch

I rarely make these kind of vows, but I think it's safe to say that The Human Centipede and I are destined never to meet.

3.  Movie that literally left you speechless.

That's a hard one since movies that impact me strongly are much more likely to leave me babbling to anyone who'll listen rather than striking me mute. Certain endings have left me gaping at the screen, like Caught or Criss Cross (both 1949, oddly enough). 2001: A Space Odyssey, definitely. Vertigo left me haunted for days afterward.

 4. Movie you always recommend.

Since old movies are my passion, it's hard to recommend classic films that movie buffs don't already know and that non-movie buffs won't refuse to watch. But one film classic that remains sadly more obscure than it should is William Wyler's Dodsworth from 1936. One of the best examinations of a failing marriage that I've ever seen and a great showcase for Wyler's talent with actors.

5. Actor/actress you always watch no matter how crappy the movie.

For the men, Jimmy Stewart. For the women, Barbara Stanwyck.

6. Actor/actress you don't get the appeal for. 

I don't hate Spencer Tracy, but I'm continually baffled by the way his contemporaries talked about him, as if he were Moses bringing the holy tablets of acting down from Mount Sinai. 

7. Actor/actress, living or dead, you'd love to meet. 

David Niven, because he was a great raconteur. Arlene Francis, Orson Welles, Michael Caine, Jon Stewart, Shirley MacLaine, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, and Angela Lansbury. Note that I'm trying to pick the ones who seem like they'd be fun in real life. 

8. Sexiest actor/actress you've seen. (Picture required)

James Mason. He could make a documentary on watching paint dry seem sexy to me.


9. Dream cast. 

How about an adaptation of one of my favorite Victorian novels, The Woman in White? With Ida Lupino as Marian Halcombe, Jean Simmons as Laura Fairlie, Vincent Price as Sir Percival, and Sydney Greenstreet as Count Fosco. Lupino's too pretty for Marian and Simmons isn't blonde, but whatever. Note that I'm not paying one jot of attention to accents. And yes, I know Greenstreet was Fosco in a 1948 film version, but I haven't seen that one yet. Although it did have the intelligence to cast Agnes Moorehead as Countess Fosco. 

10. Favorite actor pairing.

Just one? How about some of the less talked-about pairs? Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles, Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews, Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson.

11. Favorite movie setting.

Rick's Cafe in Casablanca. Somehow the talents of Michael Curtiz, the film's many scriptwriters, and the Warner Brothers stock company combine to make a refugee's cafe in wartime seem like the coolest, wittiest, most romantic place in the world.

12. Favorite decade for movies.

The 1940s. So many of my favorite movies seem to cluster in that decade and while it had some real stinkers, it was also a treasure trove of snappy dialogue, visual sophistication, and emotional depth. It was also the golden age for certain genres, like film noir and romantic fantasy. 

13. Chick flick or action movie?

I think ideally, I'd like my movies to have the elements of both (romance and adventure), without catering to the worst excesses of either one. I don't like movies that are wall-to-wall pop song montages and tampon jokes any more than I like movies that are wall-to-wall explosions. And for the record, the term "chick flick" gives me a headache.  

14. Hero, villain, or anti-hero?

All three of course, but I especially love it when movies are able to craft an intelligent, compelling hero or heroine. Villains are a lot easier. To make goodness as interesting as evil, that takes talent.  

15. Black and white or color?

You want me to choose between this:

and this: 

Well, those are my answers. I'd love to hear other people's answers, if anyone's in the mood.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ten Hat Quips from Film

1. "My best friend gets hit by a streetcar, there's Civil War in Spain, we have an earthquake in Japan--and now you wear that hat!" --James Cagney, Great Guy

2. "I am constantly surprised that women's hats do not provoke more murders." --Charles Laughton, Witness for the Prosecution

3. "You'll find I mean business!"--Norma Varden
    "Oh, really? Then why are you wearing that hat?"--Jane Russell, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

 4. "Why it's just a hat, darling, belonging to a small-headed man of limited means who lost a fight with a chicken…"--Roger Moore, Live and Let Die

5. "And why do I sew each new chapeau with a style they must look positively grim in?/Strictly between us, entrez-nous, I hate women."--Danny Kaye, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

6. "Hello, handsome. Is that a ten-gallon hat or are you just enjoying the show?"--Madeline Kahn, Blazing Saddles

7. "I've met another man. He's the best man I've ever met. He's bright, handsome and he's crazy about me. And, he's married. There's only one thing; he doesn't like my hat."--Lena Olin, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

8. "Twenty years ago I made the unpardonable error of thinking I could civilize a girl who bought her hats out of a Sears-Roebuck catalog."--Clifton Webb, Titanic (1953)

9. "Do you mind very much, Mr. Shane, taking off your hat in the presence of a lady with a gun?"--Bette Davis, Satan Met a Lady

10. "I'm warning you, lay off - or you'll wake up one morning and find your hat floating in the lake, and who do you think will be under the hat?"--Bette Davis, That Certain Woman

First two pictures credited to the exemplary Film Noir Photos, and Joan Crawford's hat is credited to Mothic Flight and Flutterings

Monday, May 23, 2011

Two Blogathons to Watch

I have an announcement to make:

For those of you still recovering from the wonderful Classic Films of 1939 Blogathon and for those of you who've missed it, there's more fun on the way. Nathanael, over at Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear and Caroline at Garbo Laughs, are both hosting two separate blogathons for June. Nathanael has declared a Roger Corman Blogathon for June 17-19 and Caroline will be hosting the Queer Film Blogathon on June 27. Are you excited? 'Cause I am.

Anybody who loves film has to feel at least some fondness for Roger Corman, the man who has worked tirelessly for over fifty years doing what he loves, the man who influenced and inspired scores of famous directors, and the man who gave us decades of cult film classics. Last year, he received an Honorary Academy Award in recognition for his achievements. He just turned 85 this year and is thankfully still with us. So please, hurry over to Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear and sign up for a slot. Nathanael's got a good list going already and for those who need added incentives, he's promising some prizes for the best review/article.

Caroline is a woman of great ambition (what else can you expect from someone who tackles The Rules of the Game?) and is putting a lot of effort and love into this blogathon, which will also be hosted on Facebook. The purpose is to focus on "lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or otherwise non-heterosexual, non-gender-binary depictions or personages in film." Caroline has posted a small list of possible films on her blog to provide inspiration for any who wish to participate, but you can also take on books, star biographies, and even pictorial posts, just so long as it's relevant.

I'll be posting my own entries to each blogathon here of course, as well as encouraging others to post. But even if you don't choose to participate, please consider dropping by to read and comment--that always counts.

Photos gratefully credited to Dsata's blog Pictures, one of the best picture sources around.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Movie Review: In Old Chicago

In Old Chicago (1937)
directed by Henry King, starring Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, Alice Faye 

The widowed Mrs. O'Leary (Alice Brady) and her three sons come to the city of Chicago in 1854, determined to fulfill the hopes and dreams of the late Mr. O'Leary (J. Anthony Hughes). With a little effort and ingenuity, they become modestly successful and Chicago thrives along with them. The youngest one, Bob (Tom Brown), is content to just help his mother milk the cow and while away his spare time flirting with the pretty Swedish servant Gretchen (June Storey). But the older boys have much grander ambitions. 

The eldest, Jack (Don Ameche), is an idealistic, fervently reformist lawyer, who dreams of someday wiping out the corruption in the town. Starting with "The Patch," where Chicago's morally unencumbered citizens go to get some cheap fun and booze. The middle brother, Dion (Tyrone Power), has no problem whatsoever with dens of sin and sets himself up as a saloon owner in the Patch, with the assistance of singer Belle Fawcett (Alice Faye), who becomes his business partner and lover. Dion also has no moral qualms in dirtying his fingers with a little political corruption and pulls a few strings to get Jack elected Mayor of Chicago. But Jack will not be deterred in his quest to destroy the Patch. And the former big man of Chicago, Gil Warren (Brian Donlevy), is out to ruin the brothers. Everything comes to a head on the night that Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicks over a lantern...

In Old Chicago is definitely a product of Hollywood's "Me-Too" Syndrome. It's so obviously copycatting the previous year's San Francisco (beautiful female singer, a saloon keeper, a moral crusader, and a natural disaster that will redeem them all) that if you squint, you can almost see the actors hitting the same chalk marks. Not that Darryl F. Zanuck was even trying to be subtle about this. He originally planned to swipe Clark Gable, in a reprise of his San Francisco role, and Gable's frequent costar Jean Harlow as the leads. Harlow's untimely death would derail those plans. Instead, the film went ahead with a trio of stars that would become Twentieth-Century Fox's front line: Don Ameche, Tyrone Power, and Alice Faye. This was only Power's second leading role (after Lloyds of London) and it would be a big leap forward for Alice Faye as her persona shifted from knock-off Jean Harlow to warm, mellow-voiced lady of song. 

By today's standards, In Old Chicago barely qualifies as a disaster film. It's roughly seventy-five minutes of romance, family drama, and Alice Faye's singing; the grand spectacle of the 1871 Chicago Fire is all crammed into the last twenty minutes. The heart of the story is not the fire, but Chicago itself, split between high ideals and a down and dirty good time. The film isn't at all subtle in trying to portray this conflict, as personified by its Cain and Abel protagonists. The O'Leary brothers constantly flip-flop between being allies and rivals, sometimes within the same scene. Jack vows to destroy the Patch and its saloons and proudly tells Dion so to his face. Dion, in his turn, shovels some political dirt in order to get his brother elected mayor with apparently no awareness that his brother might have a problem with that. "Well," says pretty near every character in the movie, "we O'Learys are a strange tribe" (after about thirty repetitions of this catchphrase I wanted to take it outside and beat it with a stick). 

And yet, I found myself enjoying In Old Chicago quite a bit, and much more than I thought I would. What it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for with the charm and sweetness of its principal cast and the smooth direction of Henry King. King, Ameche, Power, and Faye would go on to make Alexander's Ragtime Band the following year and you can see why the studio liked to team them up. Together they keep the film running along quite pleasantly, so that you can enjoy the character's drama without waiting impatiently for the fire to start. Although the film does provide us with a villain in the form of Brian Donlevy and he does get a spectacular death scene in the film's final minutes, there is really no cynicism to In Old Chicago. Even the back-door politics end not in recrimination or ruin, but in balletic fistfights.

In its opening stretches, In Old Chicago fooled me into thinking this was going to be a self-important slog. It begins with the death of Jack and Dion's father, the very Irish Mr. O'Leary, who falls prey to the worst sickness of Hollywood historical epics: prophesying. Just take a look at his dying speech after being dragged by a horse: "'Tis a grand new place this Chicago...It'll be rich and strong like I was always minding to be. 'Tis a boom and you'll boom with it. Someday you'll be fine, big men. A credit to me name. And everybody speaking with respect of the O'Learys. And how they grew up with the city. And put their mark on it...Just bury me here and let Chicago come to me. I couldn't come to it." Thankfully, he expires before he can go on to predict the World Fair, the White Sox, and Bob Fosse.

Once he's out of the way, the story really gets going, as Jack and Dion grow up to be friends and rivals. Tyrone Power and Don Ameche had great chemistry together; they feel believable as brothers which smooths over some of the inconsistencies in their characters. There's a scene where Dion is watching Jack prosecute one of Dion's cronies, and even when he's supposed to be on the other side, Dion's eyes follow his speechifying brother with amazement and glee. That's his big brother up there after all. Watching the two of them play pool together or dress side by side or break out into spontaneous Irish dancing, you feel like there's history there. In real life, Ameche and Power were great friends and Ameche would be best man at Power's wedding to the actress Annabella. On the Fox lot, Ameche often played second fiddle to Power as his friend soared to matinee idol status, but the two easygoing actors didn't let it bother them.

Tyrone Power was all of twenty-three when he made this picture. There isn't a great deal of depth to Dion, but Power has the right amount of boyish charm and exuberance to keep the character likable. Otherwise, he's kind of a jerk. Making dirty political deals, double-crossing people, proudly telling his brother that the only reason he became mayor was through Dion's chicanery, proudly telling his new wife that now she can't testify against him...the list goes on. And yet, Tyrone Power brings an innocence to the character that Clark Gable couldn't have. There's a kind of "Ha-ha-ain't I clever" quality to Dion's dealings. He's just a kid seeing how much he can get away with. And he has a kid's expectations of how things turn out right; there's a scene where he literally hurls his mother and his lover Belle into the same carriage so they can start getting along. Dion spends most of the movie getting away with nearly everything he attempts, thus setting up for the climax of the film, in which his callowness must be burned away by the Great Chicago Fire.

Don Ameche is stuck playing the role of the good brother Jack, the one whose moral crusade slams right into his brother's high life. While the movie ostensibly sides with Jack on the questions of morality, the heart of In Old Chicago is really with Dion and Belle and the raucous saloons of the Patch. Fortunately for the character and the movie, Ameche doesn't play Jack as the pompous killjoy. He's just a little stiff-necked. And when the time comes for him to punch his brother, Dion has definitely deserved it. I have to admit I have a soft spot for Don Ameche (and secretly enjoy him more than I do Power), even though he has a reputation as a lightweight. Although is it just me or does the famous Ameche grin get a little frightening when he bares it full force? Power, too.

I have to slip in a side note that a lot of reviews of In Old Chicago claim that there's a love triangle between Jack, Dion, and Belle. Even the usually reliable TCM website says so. Well, there isn't. Not even so much as a hint. The romance is all between Dion and Belle. Jack doesn't meet her until halfway through the film and is nothing less than pleased as punch that his brother's marrying such a nice girl. That's it. No longing looks, no attempts to flirt with her, no last-minute confessions. Maybe people are mixing it up with Alexander's Ragtime Band? In any case, I'm glad that In Old Chicago didn't go for the obvious tack of making the brothers rivals in love as well as everything else.

This was my first encounter with Alice Faye, once one of Fox's crown jewels and now known only to movie buffs. David Shipman's description of her in The Great Movie Stars was my introduction to her: "She was blonde, cuddly, shapely and kind--almost bovine. When men crossed her, she didn't start throwing things...but quietly left the room, her eyes welling with tears....she was no great shakes as an actress but hers is the supreme example of an amiable temperament caught by the camera." Can you see why I didn't exactly rush to the video store for Alice Faye movies? 

But Shipman was only half right. Faye is blonde and cute and likable on screen. But she also gets to be smart and snappy and, in a running gag, does throw quite a lot of things at Tyrone Power. Her character Belle is a showgirl, but she's also a savvy woman who takes Dion as a business partner and lover in that order. There's a nice moment where Dion and Belle are planning some election day shenanigans during a dance and Belle slips him the A-OK signal without missing a beat. Faye was known for her singing and she gets to show off her warm contralto several times. Though I do have to wonder if the movie finds any irony in having Faye sing a loving rendition of "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" while its main villain reminisces fondly about his slave-catching days a few scenes later. Faye's performance is one of the things that weights the movie towards the "sinners" more than the "saints" since Belle is an independent, fun-loving and sympathetic woman. Far more interesting in fact than the O'Leary's very Irish Mother though for some reason, Alice Brady won an Oscar for her work here. Possibly it was a compensation Oscar for last year's My Man Godfrey?

The Great Chicago Fire, as reproduced by Fox, is one hell of a way to end a movie and the special effects here still hold up after nearly seventy-five years. With no help from computer graphics, the Fox Team created a stunning set piece of fire and smoke and controlled chaos. At the time, this was one of the most expensive films ever made and watching these last scenes, you can't help but be awed by the effort that went into them. There's a beautiful tracking shot of Tyrone Power walking through the dazed, dirty crowd huddled in the water as the flames and smoke rise above them. It's like he's literally walking through Hell.

In Old Chicago isn't about historical accuracy. It's about our idea of what this history was and how it was made. The movie makes the point that a city needs someone like Jack, someone with ideals, who can clean things up and make them safe and lawful. But then, would someone like Jack ever get elected without the help of someone like Dion? The film doesn't go far enough or deep enough with its ideas, but where it does go, it's entertaining and goodhearted. And unlike many disaster movies, you don't walk out of it feeling dumber. All in all, this was a great movie to watch on my birthday.

Favorite Quote: 

"You may be mayor, but I'm Chicago."

Favorite Scene: 

My vote would have to go for Dion and Belle's first kiss. He has been following her around, determined to win away a piece of land she owns. And possibly her heart into the bargain since he likes what he sees of her. To that end, he's been pursuing her, declaring mad passionate love and getting nowhere. Finally, he barges into her lacy, overstuffed bedroom. Belle, fed up with this nineteenth-century stalking, starts throwing vases, pillows, and knickknacks in his direction, yelling for him to get out. He tries to calm her and they end up tussling, with him holding her arms and pleading. Thanks to one clumsy kick, both of their legs go out from under them and they end up sprawled on the floor. The maid finds them and runs away screaming for the police. Dion leans over to Belle and they sink into a kiss. Opening her eyes, Belle asks calmly, "Now, won't you tell me what this is all about?" Dion insists that he loves her. "I mean, really," Belle says. "Well, you have a piece of property on Randolph Street and I thought that if you and I were to put up a place like Warren's, only better, more class, we could make a lot of money. But I really meant that about being crazy about you." Belle laughs and looks over at him. "Why didn't you say so in the first place? I'm a businesswoman. I'd have listened to any proposition without all this foolishness." Her wonderful, matter-of-fact smile clinches the scene.

Final Six Words: 

A fun, fictional, fiery good time

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Birthday Post: Alice Faye and Tyrone Power

Happy Birthday, Tyrone Power and Alice Faye (May 5)

I'm lucky enough to share my birthday with not one but two major stars. Tyrone Power was born May 5, 1914 in Cincinnati, Ohio and Alice Faye (Alice Leppert in real life), on May 5, 1915 in New York City. Even more lucky for me, my fellow 5-5ers made two movies together: In Old Chicago and Alexander's Ragtime Band. So to celebrate this year, I'm treating myself to a viewing of In Old Chicago, the review of which I'll post up here. Alexander and I have a date for next year.

It's strangely fitting that Alice Faye and Tyrone Power shared a birthday. They both got their start at Twentieth Century Fox, under the watchful eye of Darryl F. Zanuck. Twentieth Century Fox was founded in 1935, the result of a merger between the teetering Fox Film Corporation and the talented upstart Twentieth Century Pictures. Fox had a chain of movie theaters but little else. Twentieth Century was only a few years old, but it had a few prestige hits and the ambitions of Darryl F. Zanuck and Joseph Schenck (formerly the head of United Artists). So, Twentieth Century Fox was born. Both Faye and Power would grow up along with their studio. When they were first paired together for In Old Chicago, Twentieth Century Fox was barely two years old. Together, they were two of Fox's biggest stars. And they liked each other, too.

Tyrone Power and Alice Faye on the set of In Old Chicago

Talking with director Henry King

Alice Faye in her early days as a Harlow look-alike
As Fox's leading lady
In color
Tyrone Power
With Henry Fonda on the set of  Jesse James
Movie still from Brigham Young
Tyrone  Power, Annabella, and Alice Faye

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Baffling Cinematic Marriages

Marriage is like life in this - that it is a field of battle, and not a bed of roses.
~Robert Louis Stevenson

Have you ever been watching a movie and had the sudden realization that those two mismatched characters in the corner were supposed to be married? I'm not talking about bad marriages like the one pictured above, I'm talking about inexplicable ones, the kind where you have to scratch your head, and go, "What could possibly put these two people together, short of a crowbar or an arc welder?"  So, for today, I thought I'd rattle off a few headscratchers. Note that I'm only listing characters that waltz into the film already married, not the ones that get together within the course of the story.

1. Cecil Kellaway and Lana Turner (Nick and Cora) in The Postman Always Rings Twice

Okay does anyone, even the president of the Cecil Kellaway Fan Club, think for one second that the white-hot Cora Smith couldn't aim any higher than the old, drunken, washed-up owner of a roadside diner? I don't care what kind of mud hole Cora crawled out of, there must have been other options. Hell, Nick doesn't even seem that interested in the woman he married and shows no more awareness of his rival John Garfield than he would of the delivery man. The movie even seems to enjoy piling on the absurdities; Lana Turner is made up and photographed like the Patron Goddess of White Swimsuits and Cecil Kellaway is like an extra that wandered over from It's a Wonderful Life.

Movie's Explanation: Security.

My Theory: Black magic. We learned in I Married a Witch that Cecil Kellaway is an evil warlock and in both films, he gets completely soused. So my take on it is that one drunken night, Kellaway splashed himself and Cora with a love potion and by the time it wore off, Kellaway had forgotten most of his magic spells. Except the spell that does Cora's dry cleaning.

2. Hugh Laurie and Imelda Staunton (Mr. and Mrs. Palmer) in Sense and Sensibility

Yes, I know this one comes straight from the book. But, to my recollection, in the book it was implied that Charlotte came with a little money and was young, pretty, and vivacious, making it a little clearer why the sarcastic Mr. Palmer might get carried away briefly. And he can't despise her completely, since they do have a baby pretty quickly. In the film though, Hugh Laurie is just so eaten up with contempt for his wife. "If only this rain would stop," she sighs. "If only you would stop," Laurie mutters, with an expression that says he's one second away from grabbing an axe. Staunton also plays her character pretty broadly, so it's hard to imagine some previous incarnation of Laurie that looked at her with affection. Still, bickering couples are nothing new for film, and I have to admit I enjoy the Palmers, the same way I enjoy Eugene Pallette and Marjorie Main in Heaven Can Wait.

Movie's Explanation: Err, the rule that says there must be at least one mismatched couple in every Austen story.

My Theory: Mr. Palmer, being Hugh Laurie, subconsciously realized that he needed a comedic partner, somebody he could snark about without any fear of her understanding him. Behind that thunderous glare beats the heart of a satisfied comedian. 

3. Richard Barthelmess and Rita Hayworth (Bat and Judy Kilgallen) in Only Angels Have Wings  

The question isn't so much as to why the gorgeous, tremulous Judy would go for the older but still reasonably good-looking Bat. For what it's worth, Lilian Gish thought Barthelmess had the most beautiful face of any man who ever went behind the camera, even if his looks don't come off to greatest advantage in this sour, scowling part. The problem for me is that Bat is so completely on the course of self-destruction, so self-loathing, bearing the mark of his past cowardice like the mark of Cain. This not a Byronic hero, if anything, it's more like a noir hero. That Judy might decide to look past all that and go for him, okay it's a stretch, but she wouldn't be the first person to marry someone in the hopes of saving him. It's the idea that somewhere in his past, Bat could sufficiently rouse himself from his Slough of Despond to ever take her out on a date. How did this guy convince himself that he deserved Rita Hayworth in his life? Even when he's finally redeemed, Barthlemess still can't work up any renewed enthusiasm for his wife. What matters is what the other fliers think of him, not what she thinks. I'm not giving these two any great odds for the future.

Movie's Explanation: None.

My Theory: Bat was trying to punish himself even more, marrying a beautiful woman and then deliberately denying himself the chance to be close to her. Tough on Judy, though.

4. Katharine Ross and Peter Masterson (Joanna and Walter) in The Stepford Wives

Granted, it'd be pretty hard to make a movie of The Stepford Wives that doesn't make its male characters look like the worst bunch of assholes in the history of assholes. The problem for me isn't that Walter is pathetic or villainous; he has to be both those things for the story to work. It's that from the moment we meet him, he is so completely unattractive in every way and so unaffectionate towards his wife Joanna, that his final act of betrayal carries very little weight. Just look at him sighing longingly after Nanette Newman's cooking abilities or the way he looks at Katharine Ross as if to say, "Oh, you again?" He might as well have a giant flashing sign over his head saying, "TOTALLY FINE WITH TRADING IN WIFE FOR ROBOTIC DUPLICATE." But what brought these two together in the first place? We see Joanna snickering over the idea that one of the fat, balding Stepford men can sexually satisfy his gorgeous wife, so something tells me it isn't Walter's sexual prowess that made her fall for him. Whatever it was, she has more chemistry with Paula Prentiss than she has with him. The creepy power of The Stepford Wives comes from its ability to take a ludicrous, satirical plot and treat it with such deadpan seriousness. However, I have more suspension of disbelief for the robot wives than I have for Walter's powers of attraction.

Movie's Explanation: Any man can be a Walter, if given the choice.

My Theory: None. I really don't know.

So that's four examples, off the top of my head. Anyone else got some?