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Biopics

Posted: January 19th, 2015, 2:28 pm
by RedRiver
You know what? I think I like film biographies! They can be cheezy. They almost certainly stretch the truth to the breaking point. But the format suits dramatic storytelling quite well. Origin of the character, development and conflict, resolution. And...we're out! Some of them are more interesting than others. The music oriented ones don't do much for me. Sorry, but Jerome Kern's story doesn't compare with that of Woodrow Wilson! Maybe the genre needs just the right springboard. With that intact, you're halfway there!

I just watched JIM THORPE, ALL AMERICAN. Burt Lancaster as, perhaps, the greatest athlete of the century. We see his beginnings on an Indian reservation, schooling and collegiate athletics, professional career and alcoholic downfall. All kept on track by the dependable Michael Curtiz. Some of the sports stories are pretty corny. PRIDE OF THE YANKEES, THE STRATTON STORY, THE WINNING TEAM. But these aren't bad movies. They're just a little overly emotional.

ABE LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS doesn't attempt to tell an entire life story. But whatever it is, it's quite good! The same for Hawks' stirring SERGEANT YORK. The focus is on one aspect, one issue, of the man's story, rather than his whole life. Richard Burton is intriguing as Edwin Booth in PRINCE OF PLAYERS. I even like Charles Laughton as REMBRANDT. Tyrone Power as JESSE JAMES? Fun, but I really doubt Frank and Jesse were champions of the down-trodden! This type of story is more of an adventure than a biography.

The formula doesn't always work. Moss Hart's personal ACT ONE is a wonderful book. But a guy writing a play? Not very exciting movie material! JOHN PAUL JONES? Sounds like a good concept. But the ship sinks almost immediately! And those composers. Poor Robert Walker as Jerome Kern. Don't even! I believe Danny Thomas plays Gus Kahn. Isn't there one with John Garfield?

There are a lot of these movies. Hollywood loves a success story. Some are pretty good. Some are pretty bad. In general, the concept intrigues me.

Re: Biopics

Posted: January 19th, 2015, 9:43 pm
by Lucky Vassall
RedRiver wrote:You know what? I think I like film biographies!

Me toooo!

I fact, while watching it, I like to tell myself that Citizen Kane is a biopic.

And let us give a deep bow in the direction of the King of the Bipopic Actors: James Cagney, who left us not one but two of the greatest playing Lon Chaney and George M. Cohan.

Re: Biopics

Posted: January 19th, 2015, 10:51 pm
by RedRiver
Right after posting, I wished I had thought of Cagney in MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES. That's a fine example of how entertaining this format can be. LUST FOR LIFE is a good one. I even like Joel McRea as BUFFALO BILL, though I'm not sure how seriously we should take that one!

Re: Biopics

Posted: January 20th, 2015, 8:42 am
by movieman1957
Though I have not seen many my impression is that generally biopics of movie people, actors particularly, have not fared so well as others.

Some I recall as being pretty good is "The Life of Emile Zola" and even "The Glenn Miller Story." Pick your own Queen Elizabeth movie though those fall into more episodic and, like you said, questionable accuracy.

Re: Biopics

Posted: January 20th, 2015, 7:42 pm
by Lucky Vassall
And, of course, the prize for questionable accuracy (although it was a very enjoyable picture) goes to Cary Grant as Cole Porter in Night and Day.

Re: Biopics

Posted: January 25th, 2015, 4:19 pm
by sandykaypax
Coal Miner's Daughter about the life of country singer Loretta Lynn is one of the best bio-pics. I always seem to catch bits and pieces of it whenever it's on TCM. I've seen the whole film, of course, years ago. Sissy Spacek's performance knocks me out.

Sandy K

Re: Biopics

Posted: January 25th, 2015, 4:59 pm
by RedRiver
Gene Siskel liked the actor who played Loretta's father. He said he probably wouldn't be nominated for any awards because he didn't look like he was acting. He looked real! Gene must have been right. I have no idea what the man's name name was!

Re: Biopics

Posted: January 25th, 2015, 6:26 pm
by Professional Tourist
RedRiver wrote:Gene Siskel liked the actor who played Loretta's father. He said he probably wouldn't be nominated for any awards because he didn't look like he was acting. He looked real! Gene must have been right. I have no idea what the man's name name was!

Levon Helm portrayed Ted Webb, Loretta's father. He was better known as a musician, and member of the rock group The Band. About twenty years ago he was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Elton John's song "Levon" is named for him.

Re: Biopics

Posted: January 26th, 2015, 5:16 pm
by Fossy
My Wild Irish Rose (1947) is a biopic which I watched recently. It is based on a biography written by his wife Rita, not Rose as in the movie. Actually her name was Margaret. “Chauncey” Olcott was married twice and, as far as I can tell neither wife was named Rita. Perhaps it was a nickname. There is no mention of children in the movie, but there is suggestion that he adopted at least two children, in addition to their own.

What I would normally do is look for the biography and get these things sorted in my mind. I found three copies of the book. Two were used and damaged, and priced at $600.00 and $1000.00. The other was about $1500.00. I will give them a miss.

As usual, this, like all biopics is a good movie.

Re: Biopics

Posted: January 27th, 2015, 11:12 pm
by RedRiver
I didn't know that about Levon Helm, Professional Tourist. I've heard the Elton John song, but never payed that much attention to the words.

Re: Biopics

Posted: May 31st, 2015, 3:33 pm
by RedRiver
Some I recall as being pretty good is "The Life of Emile Zola"

You're right, Movieman! I watched the video last night. I just read a book about the Dreyfuss case, and found comparing the two stories fascinating. This movie is quite well filmed. Very visual for a story about a man of words. Political, in a non-pedantic way. Exciting courtroom drama. There's even a sharp anti-war message at the end, as Europe geared up for yet another global conflict. The film came out in 1937.

When classic era Hollywood wanted to make a biography, they called Paul Muni. Zola, Pasteur, Juarez. Twenty years later, it would be Charlton Heston!