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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

In the words of Bosley Crowther: A Birthday Tribute

Bosley Crowther was a film critic for the New York Times during much of Hollywood's 'golden age', 1940-1967, and an author.  In his NY Times obituary from 1981--not unbiased, obviously--it was suggested that he was "the most influential commentator in the country on the art and industry of motion pictures".  I've come across dozens of his reviews online in the years that I've been a classic film enthusiast.  If you agree or don't agree with his assessment of the films, you can't help but admire his use of language.  It's his constant breezy and often brilliant and cutting wit that make his reviews a joy to read, and in some cases will induce a hearty belly laugh.  His birthday is July 13, so on this day I celebrate him with quoting a tiny sampling of his reviews, with links to the reviews and dates of publication indicated.

SANTA FE TRAIL (12/21/40):  "'Santa Fe Trail', Which is Chiefly a Picture about Something Else, Opens at the Strand."

"Mr. Flynn plays Jeb Stuart, who was famous for his flowing red beard, with but the trace of a moustache on his lip. A shorn and fragile Jeb, one may complain; yet think what the fans would say if Mr. Flynn had to play a romantic role behind a mess of herbage!"


"As the lady, Miss Loretta Young gives a performance which may best and most graphically be compared to a Fanny Brice imitation of a glamorous movie queen. Whatever it was that this actress never had, she still hasn't got. Alan Ladd, just returned from the Army, plays the doctor with a haughty air that must be tough on his patients—and is likely to be equally tough on yours."

"Faith has the strength to move mountains, but it is sorely taxed in sustaining this mountainous film."

ALL ABOUT EVE (10/14/50)"If anything, Mr. Mankiewicz has been even too full of fight—-too full of cutlass-edged derision of Broadway's theatrical tribe. Apparently his dormant dander and his creative zest were so aroused that he let himself go on this picture and didn't know when to stop. For two hours and eighteen minutes have been taken by him to achieve the ripping apart of an illusion which might have been comfortably done in an hour and a half."

"For a turkey dinner, with Christmas trimmings, is precisely what's cooking at the end of this quaint and engaging modern parable on virtue being its own reward. And a whole slew of cozy small-town characters who have gone through a lot in the past two hours are waiting around to eat it—or, at least, to watch James Stewart gobble it up."

THE THREE MUSKETEERS (10/21/46)"The abundant talents and resources of Alexandra Dumas, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the Technicolor company and Lana Turner's couturier contribute just about equally to the over-all effect of Metro's splendiferous production of Dumas' 'The Three Musketeers.'"

"As producer of the picture, Mr. Welles might better have fired himself—as author, that is—and hired somebody to give Mr. Welles, director, a better script."

BONNIE & CLYDE (4/14/67)
"It is a piece of bald-faced slapstick that treats the hideous depredations of that sleazy, moronic pair as though they were as full of fun and frolic as the jazz-age cut-ups in 'Thoroughly Modern Millie'.


  1. Hah! That's all very funny. Except that I love Alan Ladd in And Now Tomorrow, but hey, nobody's perfect.

    1. Yeah, Crowther could be snarky beyond belief, and often he wasn't too kind to Alan. I agree with him that Alan played up the haughty angle in this one but I ended up loving him, too. The film grew on me and I really liked it a lot better the second time I watched.

    2. Long before I cared about Alan Ladd or Raymond Chandler, I saw most of it on AMC as a teen, and looked for it for years and years after. Finally bought a grey-market copy, then upgraded to the "Vault Classics" one on Amazon when I fell for Alan. And I feel like the grey-market one (basically recorded off AMC long ago and now put on a DVD) had a better picture -- my Vault Classics one is terrible! Do you have the same one, from Amazon? Is the picture quality okay? I kind of hope I have a bum disc -- I would totally buy it again if I knew it was a bum disc and not a bad digitalization job.

      I liked it so much, I bought and read the book too, and got the hugest kick out of how Alan's character is exactly the same in the book -- pooh pooh to the critics who thought it was Alan being all snubby, cuz that's how the book portrays him too.

    3. I believe I saw this one courtesy of an online friend. Not sure where it originated. It was originally supposed to be on the compilation disk that TCM put out, that also had O.S.S., LUCKY JORDAN, & TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST. Apparently the quality wasn't good enough and they scrapped it. I hope one day it is restored and we can get a better copy!