of the Best
Twenty-Five Years of Motion Picture Leadership
M-G-M’s Silver Anniversary, 1924-49.
Some of the greatest films ever, and they know it.
The credit is “compiled by” (“supervised by Frank Whitbeck”) not directed, “under the leadership of Leo the Lion.” Lionel Barrymore does the honors, with every star on the lot.
The Battle Of Gettysburg
Dore Schary’s account, filmed on location.
The CinemaScope camera of George Folsey takes every vantage in the field, marked out by statuary, attempts the climb of Little Round Top with furious editing and slowly marches to a score arranged by Adolph Deutsch in Pickett’s Charge.
Supplemental paintings depict the carnage. Gettysburg Address a postscript.
The Invisible Boy
The very complex allegory is primarily based on Dante, Milton and Valéry (My Faust). Nine levels deep in the Stoneman Institute of Mathematics (its imposing gate stands behind the opening credits) a giant-size computer bears “the sum total of all human knowledge”, it aspires to be placed in orbit and rule the world, to which end it kidnaps its creator’s son. The instrument of this deed is Robby, the Robot.
Hoffman plays this matter-of-factly to great advantage, up until Robby is mistaken by the boy’s mother for a traveling salesman, and then he mounts the allegory in his unblinking style all the way through to the end, The monstrous script is chock-a-block with constant streams of material, which is the curious reason why reviewers have consistently failed to notice The Invisible Boy. It figures famously, however, as the framework of a Columbo, “Mind Over Mayhem”.
The Nick Moses Story
Frank Nitti keeps the peace among Capone’s mob while the boss is away. A bit of squabbling leads to a hit and Nitti’s verdict on the culprit, “you’re dead!”
Ness is waiting to hear from Washington on the new anti-racketeering law that will enlarge his scope of operations. Nick Moses is counting on it to save his life. No-one can touch Ness, the source would be obvious. If his enemies were to include criminals of every stripe, anyone might be blamed. Nick offers to eliminate Ness in exchange for a pardon from Nitti.
An assassin is placed on a rooftop, Ness is called out from dinner at Newton’s to receive a tip from a nervous hoodlum. Ness wheels him into the line of fire and holds him up by his lapels for a shield as the shots fly.
Louie Lotito acts as monitor for the time limit imposed by Nitti, Nick fails and is gunned down. “Either way,” Nitti had said, “I win.”
Details abound to prepare the portrait of a Georgia draftee, drawing on Sergeant York in some respects, advisedly.
The squad is on the march and rests to enjoy what Pvt. Braddock calls “a nice quiet summer day in the country.” Casualties have been heavy, one unit reporting a loss of 60%, ten replacements are available to the entire battalion. King Company fills in.
Moseby Lovelace has a pair of nice new boots, Sgt. Saunders offers as much as $50 for them, later prevents him from taking them off to ford a small river, and calls him “Stonewall Jackson” behind his back. It’s the Yankee army to Lovelace, who wants to fight, not dig foxholes.
He bests a German flanking maneuver and captures a machine-gun nest. “My draft board expects it of me,” he says, after Lt. Hanley’s curt thanks. And he does it barefoot.
A German patrol finds his boots on the riverbank and lays a trap. He takes them all prisoner, ordering the English-speaker among them to carry his boots. “You take mighty good care of ‘em, or you’re gonna be the sorriest Kraut this side o’ perdition.” This prize includes a minefield map.
Lt. Hanley reports on the Germans’ one-mile retreat as preparatory to an attack, witness twelve tanks spotted en route. Lovelace nearly spoiled this night patrol (“it’s like a turkey shoot,” Saunders tells him, “only you’re the turkey”) by shooting two motorcycle couriers, heard to complain in German about French coffee.
Now it’s cheers from the squad as he returns in triumph. “A Georgia boy is just as good goin’ barefoot as he is kissin’ pretty girls.”
A Real Nice, Friendly
A stray bullet hits Little Joe “in the Ponderosa”. Hoss trails the fellow who fired the shot to the locale of the title, a sort of sister city to Black Rock.
Two wild young men are well-protected in the town, and at home on their mother’s ranch. This is Louise Latham at her level-aiming grittiest, a stern woman with a sense of humor for some things and a slight fantastical air owing to the wool pulled just a bit over her.
She takes no criticism and has no patience with earnest Hoss and his tale of a saddle-sore brother, except insofar as the laughingstock it makes overweighs the somewhat distant vexing quality of the whole palaver.
Light gradually begins to dawn on her, however, while Little Joe recuperates prone and the boys find Hoss making his presence known, very gradually.
This odd surprise of a family makes for a bit of gratitude to Ben for a good upbringing.
Hoffman’s fine, racy script is the basis of an airy, elevated form of slapstick as cool as a cucumber floating down the Carson River.