Tag Archives: Geraldine Page

Pete ‘n’ Tillie (1972)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Marriage and then tragedy.

Tillie (Carol Burnett) is a 33-year-old secretary still looking for ‘Mr. Right’. Her friend Gertrude (Geraldine Page) sets her up with Pete (Walter Matthau) a lifelong bachelor. The two don’t hit-it-off initially, but the other prospects are so dim they decide to make a go of it, so they get married and have a kid (Lee H. Montgomery) only to then be faced with terrible news.

On the onset this may seem like a misfire. The viewer expects, especially with these two stars, a very broad comedy of which this is not. Instead the script, which is based on the novel ‘Witches’ Milk’ by Pete De Vries, relies heavily on dry wit particularly through the dialogue, which on a low key level is quite funny. The attempt to create a sort-of unromantic romance that goes completely against what we’ve come to expect in most other romantic films is commendable and for the first hour or so it kind of works.

Matthau again shines by managing to make an unlikable character likable and even downright engaging while Montgomery is fun as the kid by playing a child that seems far more mature and sensible than his two parents. Burnett’s performance though doesn’t work as well. She’s known for her hammy performances from her TV-show and yet here plays a more serious part that barely has much comedy to it at all. The scene where she  screams up to the sky in a fit of rage over her son’s death is her best moment, but overall her appearance here is largely forgettable.

Her character’s motivations are confusing as well particularly with the way she jumps into marriage with a man she really doesn’t like and who would repel most other women and then she decides to stay with him even as it becomes painfully clear that he’s cheating on her. It just seemed that a reasonably attractive woman such as herself should have other male suitors to choose from, so why she sells-out for this one and sticks with him when others would run is not clear and the movie should’ve done a better job at answering this.

Geraldine Page’s character seems completely out-of-sync with the proceedings. She’s personally one of my favorite actresses and even though she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance here I didn’t see what her presence added to the story. Having her pass out at a courthouse simply because she doesn’t want to reveal her age gets rather exaggerated. The physical altercation that she has with Burnett afterwards does not fit the tone of the rest of the film, which tried to be low-key while this bit becomes over-the-top slapstick and completely out of place.

Had the film focused entirely on the courtship phase this thing could’ve been a winner as it has a nice dry offbeat touch. Even the melodrama of the second act I could handle, but the crazy antics of the third act don’t work at all and the ending leaves no impact at all making this an interesting experiment that ultimately fails.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 17, 1972

Runtime: 1 Hour 40 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Martin Ritt

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD-R (Universal Vault Series)

J. W. Coop (1971)

jw 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rodeo star makes comeback.

J.W. Coop (Cliff Robertson) has just spent 9 years in prison. After finally being released he finds that the world has changed quite a bit. He’s no longer the big rodeo star that he once was and younger, more educated men have now taken his place. There’s also the new hippie movement that he isn’t quite sure what to make of. With his mother (Geraldine Page) growing senile and no other friends to turn to he decides to take one last stab at the rodeo circuit and determined to beat the odds and become the champion because for him second place is the same last.

The film has a wonderfully gritty quality to it that fully immerses the viewer into the western rodeo landscape and lifestyle. The rugged characters and conversations seem authentic without ever being condescending. The film reveals a lot about the inner toughness needed to survive in that environment as well as the competiveness and eventual loneliness.

Robertson’s stab at directing is flawless and convinced me that he should’ve done more movies behind the camera. He uses several techniques that make the rodeo experience vivid for the viewer including filming a point-of-view shot from on top of the bronco as well as even more impressively showing one taken from underneath a horse as it is running. I also liked the shot where the screen gets split into four squares with each of them showing some of the many hotels that he stays at during his travels on the circuit, which visually hits home how exhausting life on the road can be. There’s also a haunting segment shot late at night at a lonely oil rig that is brief, but quite memorable.

Former model Cristina Ferrare, who is probably best known as being the ex-wife of automaker John DeLorean as well as host of ‘Home and Family’ gets a rare turn at acting playing a hippie who falls in love with Coop.  Her performance is solid even though I found it hard to believe why such a young woman would fall for a man who is so much older, less educated and having not much more money than she does. Their relationship goes on far longer than I realistically would expect, but I still liked the idea of how two people from two very different backgrounds and generations can still manage to connect. Robertson’s performance is equally good and the film also has the novelty of casting Page as his mother even though in real-life she was actually one year younger than he was.

The segment where a throne of teen girls jump out of a trailer and beg for Coop’s autograph as well as the ending in which Coop, with his leg in a cast, attempts to ride a bull are the only two times that it overreaches in a film that is otherwise quite honest and uncompromising and particular good at mixing subtle comedy with stark drama.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: October 3, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Cliff Robertson

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Dear Heart (1964)

dear heart 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Love at a convention.

Harry Mork (Glenn Ford) is a greeting card salesman traveling through New York on business when he bumps into the quirky and very lonely Elvie (Geraldine Page) who’s attending a convention there and eyes Harry as a potential catch. Harry though is already engaged to Phyllis (Angela Lansbury) a woman he has only known through correspondence, but is starting to have second thoughts about when he meets her grown son (Michael Anderson Jr.). Elvie tries putting on some moves, but Harry keeps backing away unsure at age 48 if he even wants to settle down at all as he has at times still feels the itch for the occasional fling.

One of this film’s crowning achievements and something that becomes like a third character are the crowd scenes. This may sound inconsequential, but many films have a hard time getting background extras to behave like people amidst large groups of strangers do, but here for whatever reason it gets it right and seeing the dizzying stream of people going back and forth leaves a strong impression and helps accentuate the loneliness and isolation of the main characters particularly Elvie.

I also liked the way the characters hemmed and hawed with each other during the beginning stages. At times Elvie seems more into Harry than he is with her and then other times it gets reversed. Both characters at different points put up an array of defenses and it takes a while for either of them to trust the other and come out of their shells and move into an actual relationship, which is far more realistic than most movies that usually jumps ahead too quickly and never shows the awkward phase that most anyone else goes when testing the waters with someone that they’ve just met.

Page is excellent as always playing the eccentric type of character that she’s proven to be quite adept at, however her myriad of strange quirks got a bit ridiculous and overdone.

Ford is equally good especially with this type of comedy where he plays nervous characters unsure of how to deal with some of the offbeat people around him. I was disappointed though that there was a long drawn out sequence where he tries to get a clerk at the gift card shop (Barbara Nichols) up to his hotel room for a fling, but the film then cuts away and never follows through with what occurred once they got up to the room even though it is later intimated that things didn’t go too well.

The supporting cast of familiar faces lends great comic support, but the most memorable thing about the film is that it features both actresses who went on to play the Mrs. Kravitz character in the ‘Bewitched’ TV-Show. There’s Alice Pearce, who played Mrs. Kravitz for the first two seasons before she died of cancer and then Sandra Gould who replaced her and there’s even a surreal moment where the two have a bit of a confrontation, which I found to be pretty cool.

dear heart 2

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 2, 1964

Runtime: 1Hour 54Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Delbert Mann

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video

The Trip to Bountiful (1985)

the trip to bountiful 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Old lady goes home.

Carrie Watts (Geraldine Page) is an elderly woman living inside a cramped apartment with her grown son Ludie (John Heard) and his wife Jessie Mae (Carline Glynn) in Houston, Texas during the 1940’s. Carrie dreams of one day returning to her childhood home in the small town of Bountiful and ‘escaping’ from Jessie Mae who is overbearing and treats her like a child, but she lacks the transportation or funds. She secretly hides her government checks with the hopes of saving enough to take a train. When she finally makes it to the train station she finds there is no longer any stops to her old town, which is now essentially abandoned, but with the help of the local sheriff (Richard Bradford) he takes her there while Ludie and Jessie follow close behind determined to drag her back with them.

Peter Masterson’s directorial debut shows a great appreciation for Horton Foote’s script as it manages to stay true to the period and tone. I especially liked the part where Carrie describes the quietness of her childhood home while the camera slowly pans the yard and allows the viewer to essentially experience what she is talking about. The recreation of the ‘40s is on-target making you feel like you are living there yourself. Having some tunes of the era playing on a phonograph in the background is a great touch and it’s nice to hear a soundtrack that isn’t from the preverbal classic rock period.

Page shines in her Academy Award winning performance. She has played evil characters with such a relish for most of her career that it is nice seeing her portray a sweet old lady for once and do it so well. Her presence adds to every scene she is in and helps make them more interesting particularly with her conversation on the train with Thelma (Rebecca De Mornay) and the way she holds up everyone in line at the train station specifically two men standing behind her who in real life where her twin sons. She also manages to cry effectively with tears actually coming out of her eyes as opposed to De Mornay whose tearless attempts at it where so pathetic it seemed almost embarrassing.

Carlin is quite good in the snippy adversarial role and I was surprised she didn’t at least get a nomination for her efforts. Heard is solid as a sort of mediator and De Mornay is perfect for the part simply because her fresh youthful face makes a great contrast to Page’s worn one.

The on-location shooting adds a lot of flavor and helps to make this superior over its original stage version. The story itself is slow moving, but a wonderful character study on aging that at times manages to be dryly humorous, honest and sad, but never maudlin.

the trip to bountiful 2

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 20, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Peter Masterson

Studio: Island Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

Summer and Smoke (1961)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: She is sexually repressed.

Alma (Geraldine Page) is an adult woman still single and living with her parents. Her father (Malcolm Atterbury) is a minister while her mother (Una Merkel) having suffered a mental breakdown several years’ earlier acts and behaves in a perpetual child-like state. Alma yearns for the affections of John (Laurence Harvey) the dashing doctor who lives next door with his father (John McIntire). However, John’s lifestyle is much too wild for Alma’s repressed tastes, but when she tries to change she finds that it may be too late in this film version of the Tennessee William’s play.

I have been a fan of Geraldine Page for years. She has a terrific ability to play fragile and eccentric characters while doing it with a panache and style. Her characterizations are always vivid and revealing and executed in a seamless fashion. One can become so entranced with her performances that sometimes it becomes more interesting than the story itself. Her appearance here proves to be no exception. She became known for playing a lot of dark, sinister characters, so it was a nice change seeing her play this part. She even does some singing and in fact the scene where she sings to John’s father as he lies on his deathbed for me left the most lasting impression. I always love watching the woman’s body language, gestures, and facial expressions and how she uses them to create a three-dimensional character. Her acting discipline should be studied and emulated by students of the craft everywhere.

Harvey as her co-star was an interesting choice. Despite his reputation as being an over-rated actor and possessing a strange personality off-camera I have found some of his performances to be excellent particularly the one in the original Manchurian Candidate. However, he seems to be better suited playing parts with a cold and aloof presence. The role here demanded more emotion and I didn’t think he could quite hit it. By the end Page was acting circles around him and turning the production into her own vehicle.

The supporting performers aren’t bad. It is fun seeing Rita ‘Hey you guys’ Moreno in an early role playing a young vixen with eyes for John. McIntire is fine in his small role and the part where comes home to find all sorts of drunken people lying about passed out in his living room and hallways is good. Thomas Gomez is memorable simply to glimpse his large almost unbelievable waist size.

I really didn’t like Merkel’s part as the crazy mother. I found it frustrating that there really was never any explanation for why she behaved in such a strange way. Simply saying that she had a ‘breakdown’ wasn’t enough and I wanted more of a scientific or medical reason. It also would have been more interesting to see what she was like before her breakdown, but that is never shown.

Technically the film is well produced. The sets, costumes and performances are all very turn-of-the-century and it helps draw you into the mood and thinking of the era right away. I did not like that the outdoor scenes where done on a soundstage as the foliage and sky look annoyingly artificial.

Most of William’s plays deal with sad, lonely, and pathetic characters and this one proves no exception. However, I was pleasantly surprised that after the expected histrionics this one manages to have a somewhat upbeat ending, which helped distinguish it above some of his others. The characters and situations are all too real and Alma reminded me very much of someone I know and others may know someone like her as well, which on a personal level made this story all the more fascinating.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: November 16, 1961

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Peter Glenville

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming