Greed, Green Eyes, and a few more movies

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Charlton Heston plays Brad, who runs a financially-struggling circus, and Heston hams it up, even by Heston standards of hamminess. 

Brad hires a big-name trapeze artist (Cornel Wilde) to bring in bigger crowds, but the show already had a daredevil trapeze lady (Betty Hutton), and she's now willing to take crazy risks to prove she's better.

Meanwhile, Buttons the Clown (Jimmy Stewart, under greasepaint) has a dark, secret past, and his present is pretty weird too — Stewart wears his clown face all through the film, even backstage, even during the off-season, presumably even when he's asleep.

Nobody in the circus thinks that's strange, because all the performers are often doing their acts backstage too, in this movie's crazy circus universe.

Also, everything is always clean, the animals are never mistreated, and gosh, Brad the manager sure is a swell guy. Hope nothing happens to him…

#306  [archive]
JULY 6, 2024

The Greatest Show on Earth is, in a word, not. It's a huge clunker from overrated moviemaker and enthusiastic racist Cecil B CeMille, who also narrates bombastically. It was made with the gracious cooperation of Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey, and it's a giant infomercial for the circus.

But hey, this is your only chance to see Gloria Grahame ride an elephant's trunk, and the flick also has Dorothy Lamour, Lawrence Tierney, and (of course) Emmett Kelly. 

Verdict: NO. 

♦ ♦ ♦

The Greatest Thing That Almost Happened (1977)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Jimmie Walker is a second-string high school basketball player, who gets leukemia.

It's a 'very special' TV movie, and a chance for Walker to be an actor, with no laughs and very little of his ordinary mugging and making faces.

The movie is Disneyfied dreck and even takes place at Christmas-time, the music is wrong, and it doesn't add up to a lot, but Walker is good.

Debbie Allen and James Earl Jones co-star, with bits for Valerie Curtin and Kevin Hooks. Directed by Gilbert Moses (Roots, Willie Dynamite). 

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Greed (1924)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

A jumbo-size and rather frightful-looking actor named Gibson Gowland stars as John McTeague, who trains as an apprentice to a dentist, and opens a dental shop in San Francisco.

A longtime friend of McTeague's brings his cousin Trina (Zasu Pitts) with a toothache, and Dr McTeague low-level molests her while she's under (pre-novocaine) ether. Just a kiss, but still, ick.

Then he pursues her through more appropriate methods, and soon after they're married, Trina plays an illegal lottery, and wins $5,000 in gold coins. She's thrifty, though, and refuses to spend a nickel of the money. 

McTeague's pal, the guy who introduced him to Trina, is increasingly resentful of the lottery winnings, so of course he reports McTeague to the newly-created California Board of Dental Examiners. The Board informs McTeague that, since he never attended dental college, he must close his office and cease drilling and filling teeth. So he's out of work, but still Mrs McTeague refuses to touch the winnings.

That's the basic beginning, but it gets weirder, with severe finger-biting, and off-beat performances by all the principal players.

I've always heard that this movie is great, and it's certainly quite good. For much of it I was riveted, and despite its long running time it never had me feeling antsy, but it gets a YES, not a BIG YES. The title is Greed, but this would be better titled Envy, or maybe Just Plain Weird.

Erich von Stroheim (Foolish Wives) co-wrote and directs, but does not appear on camera. He intended this film to run nine hours, but nobody's going to buy tickets to a 9-hour movie, so the studio sliced and diced it to two hours and twenty minutes, says IMDB. The version I saw had been reconstructed by Turner Classic Movies, and runs almost four hours.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Green Eyes (1977)

A Vietnam veteran returns to America, but can't find work, can't find where he's supposed to fit in stateside, so he decides to return to Vietnam, a country now at peace.

That's a gutsy concept for 1977, and Paul Winfield stars as the ex-soldier, Lloyd Dubeck. He's a decent man, and Winfield is an actor I've always found charismatic, and he's excellent here.

When his tour of duty ended in 'Nam, Dubeck left a pregnant girlfriend behind, and now he's looking for her, and also for the child. It's seems an impossible quest, especially since half-American kids have it rough in Vietnam, and half-black American kids have it even worse, and anyway, in all of Vietnam, nobody's willing to give Dubeck straight answers.

This is a made-for-TV movie, but it must've been a prestige project, because it doesn't feel televisiony, and doesn't follow the standard-issue storyline you'd expect. Filmed in the Philippines, the setting is immersive but bleak, but enlivened by some unexpected but always plausible humor, and especially by Winfield's warm performance.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Green Glove (1952)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

This is a too-religious melodrama of a church where nobody's supposed to ring the bells, so the bells ring themselves.

There's an American GI who returns to the ruins of France after the war (shades of Green Eyes, above) because he wants to find some mysterious green gauntlet full of jewels. There's a dull romance in the mix, and a framing for murder, and it feels like a noir gone wrong.

Written by Charles Bennett, who wrote some pretty good stuff for for Hitchcock (Foreign Correspondent, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage, The 39 Steps), so let's blame this mess on the direction by Rudolph Maté, and the full-of-itself musical score by Joseph Kosma.

Maybe blame me, too; I hated this almost instantly with its opening 'miracle' of the church bells, and spent the rest of the movie scowling and shaking my head.

It stars Glenn Ford, Geraldine Brooks, and (they want me to call him 'Sir' but I refuse) Cedric Hardwicke.

Verdict: NO.


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

Green Hell (1940)
The Green Room (1978)
Gregory's Girl (1980)
Gretel & Hansel (2020)
Grey Gardens (1976)
Grey Gardens

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

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Now accepting movie recommendations,
starting with the letter 'H'.
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Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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