Posts Tagged ‘Gregory Peck’

My Classic Movie Pick: Arabesque

During the month of August, Turner Classic Movies aired their annual “Summer under the Stars” where they air one specific actor or actress’s films for each day of that month.   Sophia Loren, the beautiful actress from Italy, was one of  their featured stars  so  I decided to  tivo one of her films that I had never seen before.   I chose  1966’s spy thriller film,  Arabesque.   Her co-star, was the incomparable Gregory Peck.   When I pulled up  the film this week and started watching it,  child #3, commuter college student, happened to be home and as he saw Peck on the screen, he exclaimed, “It’s Atticus!”  remembering Peck’s Academy Award winning turn as lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.  I laughed and said that Peck was playing a far different character than Atticus in Arabesque.

Arabesque poster 1

Peck plays Professor David Pollack, a visiting American professor teaching at Oxford University, specializing in hieroglyphics.   One of his respected and older colleagues is called away  for an eye check-up and Peck fills in for this Professor, Dr.  Ragheeb.  The eye exam, unknown to Dr. Ragheeb, is  conducted by a Mr. Sloane, who is really an undercover agent.  During the eye exam, Sloane places  dilating drops  into Dr. Ragheeb’s eyes and he suddenly dies in much agony! ( This scene made me think that Arabesque did for eye doctors what the movie Marathon Man did for dentists!! )   Dr. Ragheeb had hidden in his eyeglasses a hieroglyph-coded message and Sloane snatches it.

Sloane, who is working for Arab shipping leader Nejim Beshraavi, contacts Professor Pollack to invite  him to come to Beshraavi’s digs in London and translate the hieroglyph.  Pollack tells Sloane that he’s not interested but when he is contacted by Middle Eastern Prime Minister Hassan Jena to accept Sloane’s invitation, Pollack agrees as he has a high opinion of Prime Minister Jena.  Jena tells Pollack that Beshraavi is up to something and whatever it is it might be a threat to his country’s national security.

Meeting Prime Minister Jena

Meeting Prime Minister Jena

Pollack arrives at Beshraavi’s house and is told that he can’t leave until the translation of the hieroglyph is done.  As Pollack looks around the sumptious library/den where he’s been left to begin working on the translation,  in saunters the beautiful Sophia Loren, playing Yasmin Azir.  It turns out that she owns the house, Beshraavi is her boyfriend, and could Pollack please help her zip up her nighty??  Pollack is immediately attracted to Yasmin but he also learns that Beshraavi is very jealous of any other man who might take Yasmin’s affections away from him so Pollack knows he has to tread carefully where Yasmin is concerned.

Zipping up her nighty!

Zipping up her nighty!

During a dinner at Yasmin’s that night, she is able to slip Pollack a newspaper clipping about Dr. Ragheeb’s death.  Yasmin is able to excuse herself from the dinner stating that she has a splitting headache.  Pollack excuses himself from the dinner stating that he needs to get back to his translating work.  Another dinner guest tells Beshraavi that in 2 days Prime Minister Jena is expected to sign a treaty that will have negative effects on Beshraavi’s shipping business.  Beshraavi doesn’t seem to be too worried about this fact.

Fun begins to ensue as Pollack meets Yasmin in her bedroom to find out what she knows about Dr. Ragheeb’s death.  Yasmin tells Pollack that Beshraavi ordered Ragheeb’s death to get that hieroglyph and that as soon as it’s translated, he’ll order Pollack’s death!  A knock at the door reveals that Beshraavi is there wanting to see Yasmin!  She tells Pollack to hide in her shower.  Then she quickly puts on her robe and tells Beshraavi to come in, that she is about to take a shower.  He tells her to go ahead, he’ll wait there for her to finish this task.  With no choice presented to Yasmin, she takes her shower, much to Pollack’s surprise and amusement.  She keeps her backside to him(we don’t see it but it’s implied) and Pollack stays huddled at the far end of the shower.  It’s an incredibly huge shower-6-7 people could stand in it and have a cocktail party!

That gigantic shower!

That gigantic shower!

With chase scenes that remind one of scenes from North by Northwest, Sabotage, and an assassination plot like the one in The Man Who Knew Too Much ,  Arabesque is a fast, fun,  spy thriller.  Peck, as Pollack,  is great as the somewhat nerdy, cautious professor who gets caught up in this international espionage mess.  Loren, is gorgeous, smart, and a pawn of Beshraavi and of another spy.  She seemingly double-crosses Pollack, but it does get explained as to why she would do such a thing and she and Pollack are cute as they obviously are falling for one another.  The ending scene, in a tiny boat, even seemed to me a bit of a nod to the end of the James Bond movie, Dr. No.   Loren also wears some gorgeous clothes in this film, made by Christian Dior and she got to keep all of them after the film was finished.  What a nice perk!

Near the end of the film, in a tiny boat.

Near the end of the film, in a tiny boat.

A dazzler of a dress that Loren wears in the dining room scene.

A dazzler of a dress that Loren wears in the dining room scene.

A chic white dress and hat ensemble Loren wears for the Ascot scenes.

A chic white dress and hat ensemble Loren wears for the Ascot scenes.

Alan Badel  plays Neshraavi.  I wasn’t familiar with his work at all and he wears dark sunglasses throughout the entire movie; I at first thought he was Peter Sellers!  Badel is good as the main villain of the film, at first charming, then menacing.  A bit of a creepiness in the way he hangs around Yasmin, but wouldn’t we expect that out of the villain?  The rest of the cast gives fine performances too: Kieron Moore as Yussef, John Merivale as Sloane, Duncan Lamont as Webster, Carl Duering as Prime Minister Jena, and George Coulouris as Dr. Ragheeb.

Beshraavi may be a creepy baddie, but he gives out great massages!

Beshraavi may be a creepy baddie, but he gives out great massages!

With opening credits displayed over splashes and wild bending rays of colors, music by Henry Mancini, I knew Arabesque was going to be an enjoyable ride and it was.  Very creative cinematography by Christopher Challis-watch the scene when Sophia descends a staircase and we see her from a sideview, through the myriad of crystals hanging from a chandelier.  Or poor Pollack’s drugged out pov when he’s been forcibly given a truth serum that doesn’t give another set of baddies the answers they want.  Very interesting shots to view and they caused my son to utter, “Atticus!” again!  Produced and directed by Stanley Donen, with screenplay by three writers: Pierre Marton, Julian Mitchell, and Stanley Price.  Based on  the book The Cipher, by Alex Gordon.

Arabesque is available to purchase through Amazon on a regular dvd; not a blu ray issue.   It’s available through Shop TCM in a 5 dvd set of Gregory Peck films, and here’s a trailer that was shown back in 1966 for the film courtesy of Youtube.

For a fast-paced spy thriller with gorgeous Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck in a different role than a fatherly, lawyer type, check out Arabesque!

 

Arabesque poster 2

 

 

My Classic Movie Pick: Roman Holiday

My twin daughters, 13 year olds, surprised me last Saturday evening and asked to watch a classic movie, preferably one with Audrey Hepburn in it.  I was glad to help them search our Netflix Streaming site and was very glad when I found Roman Holiday.  So we popped up some popcorn and settled in for a well-crafted film, starring Audrey Hepburn in her first film role, and for which she won the Best Actress Academy Award in 1954.  RH poster This movie has two protagonists: Princess Anna(Audrey Hepburn) and American newspaper journalist, Joe Bradley(Gregory Peck).  Princess Anna is young, 19 or 20, and she is tired.  She is on a whirlwind tour of major European cities and in each one, she has to attend meetings, press conferences, visit schools or farms or museums, make speeches, and at night she has to preside over balls hosted by her country’s embassy.  Her life is  tightly wound around a schedule.  In one amusing scene at the embassy in Rome, she is standing forever shaking hands with all the dignitaries at the ball, and her feet hurt.  Her beautiful ball gown is long enough to conceal her feet, so she decides to take off one shoe and rub that sore foot on the shin of her other leg, and as she finally gets an opportunity to sit in a throne-like chair on the dais in front of all the guests, her dress length is shortened by the sitting and her empty shoe is revealed!  Joe Bradley, is a cynical newspaper man.  We don’t know how long he has been assigned to the Rome Bureau of his newspaper, but he does wish to eventually be reassigned to the American Bureau, at a higher position than what he currently has.  He doesn’t mind Rome and has learned the language and gets along fine with his landlord.  Fellow co-worker, photographer Irving Radovich(aptly played by Eddie Albert) is his poker playing buddy and they help each other out with loans of money and hanging out together when off-duty.

At the ball in Rome.

At the ball in Rome.

Princess Anna After the ball in Rome is over, Princess Anna is tucked in for the night, and she works herself up into hysterics about her rigidly run life, never getting to have any fun for herself or making her own decisions.  Countess Vereberg, the lady in waiting, immediately calls for the doctor who gives the princess a sedative.  After they leave the princess so she can go back to sleep, she gets up and dresses and decides to slip out of the embassy and see Rome for herself and on her own terms.  Unfortunately the sedative begins to take effect and that is where Joe finds the princess, alseep on a bench  in front of a building.  Being a gentleman, he tries to wake her but only gets responses that don’t make sense to him, so he deposits the princess into a cab and reluctantly takes her to his apartment and lets her sleep it off on his sofa.  Joe has assumed that this young woman is simply drunk and that he had better offer her shelter for the night instead of letting her sleep it off on the street.

A very sleepy princess meets Joe.

A very sleepy princess meets Joe.

The next morning, Joe finds out that he has overslept and missed the press conference with Princess Anna.  He rushes off to work and there finds out by looking at a picture in the morning newspaper, that the supposedly “sick” princess who had to cancel her press conference is really the young lady asleep on his sofa!  Joe decides to do a story about the princess and her time exploring Rome, and gets his photographer pal Irving to come along to take pictures with his new toy, a cigarette lighter with a camera hidden in it.  Joe tells his boss that he’ll have an exclusive story to give him about the princess that will bring in a lot of money when the other news outlets beg for it.  Thus begins Joe’s odyssey of helping the princess tour Rome and break free of her scheduled life, with Irving taking pictures along the way, all unknown to the princess as to who Joe and Irving really are.  She has not told Joe who she is, that she is just Anna Smith and he hasn’t told her who he really is, telling the princess that he is a fertilizer salesman!

The majority of the film is the fun Princess Anna is having touring Rome with Joe.  Many shots of famous Roman sites are in this film and there is a cute segment of the princess trying to drive a Vespa scooter.  A famous site that is visited is the “Mouth of Truth”, which is a face carved in stone that has an open mouth in the carving.  Joe tells Anna that legend says if a liar puts his or her hand into the mouth, it will get cut off.  Both challenge one another to place their hand in the mouth and the scene builds on the tenseness each character has developed about the lie they are living, by not revealing who each of them really is. Anna’s day of sightseeing is done but she is not ready to go back to the embassy.  She tells Joe about a dance near some boats that the hairdresser who cut her hair invited her to.  Off she and Joe go to the dance, with Irving tagging along to get some photographs.  The embassy  has meanwhile flown in secret agents from the home country and they have found the princess at the dance.  A melee results as Anna and Joe manage to get away and as they flee they realize they both have fallen in love with each other. What will happen?  Will they reveal who they really are to one another?  Will Princess Anna be allowed to marry an American who is obviously not royalty?  Will Joe be willing to give up his life to live in a palace?  Will Joe turn the story into his boss along with Irving’s pictures?Will Irving sell his photographs to make himself some extra money?  Will the newspaper story harm the Princess?  I am not giving away the answers because I want the readers of this blog to find this movie, view it and see the answers for themselves!

Fighting the secret agents at the dance!

Fighting the secret agents at the dance!

The Mouth of Truth

The Mouth of Truth

Learning to drive a Vespa!

Learning to drive a Vespa!

The Princess's new hairdo!

The Princess’s new hairdo!

Anna and Joe at the Spanish Steps.

Anna and Joe at the Spanish Steps.

Roman Holiday was directed by William Wyler and the screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo.  Trumbo won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay, and Edith Head won the Award for Best Costumes.  Two side-notes about the film: First, Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted in the late 1940s  for communist party sympathies, so even though he wrote the screenplay, his name couldn’t be listed as the actual writer.  Another writer agreed to let his name be used in Trumbo’s place in the credits, and this writer sent all payments for the film to Trumbo.  I also assume that this same writer after he accepted the Oscar, had it sent to Trumbo.  60 years after the movie was released, Trumbo was finally given posthumous credit for having written it.  Second, Elizabeth Taylor was the first choice to play the princess, but after Hepburn’s screen test, she so wowed the director and the crew that the part was hers. Roman Holiday is a very charming movie.  A gentle romance-comedy that is tastefully done and very well-acted.  I am glad that it was the movie that my twin daughters chose!   RH poster 2Joe loves her!

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