Of Human Bondage (1934)

index

Original plot
Leslie Howard can’t quit bad girl Bette Davis.

Big thoughts
In a move that launched Bette Davis’ superstardom I was more captivated by Leslie Howard. Also, this is on recommendation from The Toast .

Obligatory bus anecdote
Sat next to a guy recently who had Aldo-style black shiny loafers paired with pj pants and a t-shirt. It was the exact opposite of me and my business casual+crappy sneakers.

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The Random Remake
Sensitive introvert Philip Carey (Cillian Murphy) is a man whose life is a series of silent tasks. He studies in med school at the beginning of a new semester in large lecture halls, alone in a row by himself. He comes home to a tiny loft in which he lives, of course, alone. He can spend days without uttering more than a few sentences to other human beings. And he’s adapted. But then, with a text on his phone, we see why his solitude is welcoming: the love of his life, bad girl Mildred (Emily Blunt) needs help.

Flashing back to their early college days, with Philip madly, disorientingly in love Mildred he followed her around in hopes of luring her in. But Mildred had other plans for other men, and chose someone else over Philip. Now she’s back in his life, pregnant and discarded by the father. Philip scrapes together his life savings (which isn’t much) to get Mildred a place to stay and accompanies her to the women’s clinic. He has to forfeit the semester at med school after he can’t pay the tuition. He hopes to win Mildred over again but fails to do so, and Mildred scorns him, tells him she never liked him, and leaves in the arms of a man down the hall in Philip’s building.

Philip, later, tries to move on, and accepts an invitation from one of his professors to lunch at his house after the prof was wondering where he was all of a sudden. Philip does not tell the prof the whole story of Mildred, but the other attendee at the lunch, the prof’s daughter Sally (Greta Gerwig), seems to get it. Soon Philip and Sally connect and get closer. But then, like clockwork, Mildred is back in the picture, things having soured with Philip’s neighbor. She says she needs money for cosmetic surgery so she can be a model. Meanwhile Sally, who does freelance graphic design, has lent Philip some money for school. Philip is standing in front of Mildred, reaching for his wallet, when his phone lights up with a loving text from Sally. Now Philip has a choice to make… Roll credits.

The pitch
Of Human Bondage: His heart is all tied up

Next up: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)

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Flamingo Road (1949)

Flamingo Road (1949) 4

Original plot
Politics makes strange bedfellows for Joan Crawford and a cadre of kingmakers.

Big thoughts
It’s fun when Joan Crawford can vamp it up and come out victorious.

Obligatory bus anecdote
So bus drivers miss stops sometimes, right? Or don’t open the backdoor for some reason. Some people yell to have the bus stop. Me, I just stood there at the backdoor while everyone looked at me and the bus kept moving. It’s too damn early in the morn for me to raise my voice. Besides, the extra half-mile walk probably did me good.

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The Random Remake
Fielding Carlisle (Michael Fassbender!) is a Southern gentlemen, a deputy sheriff, and an all-around OK kind of guy. He knows he’s being taken under the wing of the imposing sheriff Titus Semple (Robert Duvall), but he doesn’t know how far. Fielding is following the script: simple law degree, upstanding job, courting of the lady Titus implores him to marry. Everyone wants him to run for city council, but he says he wants to concentrate on his job. We see Titus doing some corrupt stuff: letting the son of a local business owner out of jail after a DUI, grabbing some free grub from the local diner, meeting in secret backrooms with other dignitaries.

Everything is pretty much on schedule until the carnival comes to town. One of its organizers, a rough lady named Lane Bellamy (Reese Witherspoon) makes a point of skirting the local ordinances for noise, land use, etc., and Fielding is sent to deal with the nuisance. Fielding soon becomes enchanted with Lane, who represents the gruff anarchy he has had to reject to fit in. He tells her that his whole life has been about landing on Flamingo Road, the nicest part of town.

Titus, obviously, doesn’t like Lane interfering with his plans and hatches schemes to get rid of her, including framing her for random crimes – even after Fielding pleads with her to quit the carnie and stay in town. Titus wants Fielding as a US senator, and soon Titus is back-channeling to get his ways. That is, until Fielding has a change of heart about being a stooge and stands up to Titus, who responds by creating a scandal for Fielding involving Lane and destroying his squeaky clean image and career. Fielding is distraught by the lies and his sudden depression alienates Lane. Fielding offs himself in the milieu, and now Lane wages war against Titus, who has decided to appoint himself to the absent senate seat, blackmailing everyone in the state to do so. Lane is up against a powerful adversary, but she has knowledge Titus doesn’t – and soon she’s sown the seeds of a drug scandal, drugging Titus and injecting with enough heroin to stop his aging heart. On her way out of town, she drives by Flamingo Road and bids it farewell.

The pitch
Flamingo Road: When their paths cross, the going gets rough

Next up: Of Human Bondage (1934)