Please Murder Me

Talkie of the Week: Please Murder Me

USA 1956, 78 minutes, black & white, Distributors Corporation America. Director: Peter Godfrey, Written by David T. Chantler, Ewald André Dupont, Donald Hyde and Al C. Ward. Cast: Raymond Burr, Angela Lansbury, Dick Foran, John Dehner, Lamont Johnson, Robert Griffin, Denver Pyle, Alex Sharp, Lee Miller, Russell Thorson

Plot summary: Attorney Craig Carlson falls in love with his best friend’s wife and asks for his approval to marry her. When his friend is found dead a week later, his widow is accused of murder and Craig defends her only to discover her darkest secrets.

Review: In Please Murder Me, Raymond Burr was cast as attorney Craig Carlson who falls in love with Myra Leeds, his best friend’s wife, played by Angela Lansbury. That was in 1956, the same year he started working on the Perry Mason pilot before she show went on the air on CBS to be a great success from 1957 – 66. The movie was Raymond Burr’s test run as a successful lawyer and a way for him to prove his leading qualities. A supporting actor since 1946, he finally got the break he deserved and made the best of it. Always immersing himself in his parts, Raymond Burr brought a lot of ruthless energy to his performance and built up a beautiful chemistry with his female co-star.

Angela Lansbury, a Hollywood veteran since 1944, brought an eerie quality to her performance, creating suspense and sizzling moments with Raymond Burr. As character actors, they both took the plot and made the best of it by adding depth to this emotional drama.

As a “typical” film noir, it is hard to summarize the plot without giving too much away. It is safe to say however that this film won’t leave you untouched. Thanks to the profound talent and expressiveness of its two leads, the film takes the step from diverting to excellent. Angela Lansbury and Raymond Burr aside, Please Murder Me was blessed with a decent cast of actors who breathed life into their characters and made the story believable. The perfect film for this moody April weather and a rainy Sunday night.

Available on DVD and online.

The Doris Day Show

TV classics: The Doris Day Show

USA 1968-73, 5 seasons,  128 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS, color. Created by: James Fritzell. Cast: Doris Day, Denver Pyle, McLean Stevenson, Rose Marie, John Dehner, Jackie Joseph, Phillip Brown, Tod Starke, James Hampton, Paul Smith, Fran Ryan, Bernie Kopell, Naomi Stevens, Kaye Ballar, Peter Lawford, Patrick O’Neal, Billy DeWolfe

Plot summary: Doris Martin is a widowed mother who raises her sons on the family ranch until she moves to San Francisco to become a working girl.

Review: The Doris Day Show was on the air for five seasons and had many distinct format changes, it is thus a little tricky to review. It’s probably safe to say however that die-hard fans of the show’s leading lady have embraced the program for what it mostly was: a vehicle for Doris Day to entertain her audience on the small screen.

In spite of her rather steady success and the network’s interest in keeping the The Doris Day Show on the air for another season, Ms. Day herself decided to cancel the show as both, the main attraction and executive producer of the show. She had been signed on for a five year run and decided to resign from acting altogether as the show ended in the spring of 1973.

The show was not, like many others of its era, revisited in perpetual reruns but was released on DVD with a variety of extras. It is thus available for a new generation of Doris Day enthusiasts who have been unfamiliar with the final acting endeavor of their favorite star. Lifelong fans of Doris Day’s work may also enjoy revisiting the ever-changing world of Doris Martin, from a widowed mother to a single city girl.

All in all, The Doris Day Show benefits from Doris Day’s movie stardom and musical fame. The theme song Que Sera already puts you in the mood for some good-natured entertainment and reminds you of Ms. Day’s many big screen hits. It was my main reason to have a closer look at the program and I haven’t regretted looking for it. It may not have made it on my top ten list but it’s still an enjoyable show for everyone who appreciates those comedy programs from the late 60s  when a certain kind of innocence still prevailed and was backed by an approving audience.

The Doris Day Show pilot episode

The Doris Day Show: “Doris’ House Guest” (season 4)

Lorna Doone

Talkie of the Week: Lorna Doone

USA 1951, 89 minutes, color, Columbia Pictures. Director: Phil Karlson, Producer: Edward Small, Written by: George Bruce, Jesse Lasky Jr., Richard Schayer, Based on the novel “Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor” by R.D. Blackmore. Cast: Barbara Hale, Richard Greene, Carl Benton Reid, William Bishop, Ron Randell, Sean McClory, Onslow Stevens, Lester Matthews, John Dehner, Gloria Petroff

Plot summary: When John Ridd falls in love with Lorna Doone, he doesn’t only fight the Doone clan to seek revenge for his father’s death but also to help Lorna escape her fate of having to marry another Doone against her will.

Review: Lorna Doone is a worthy adaptation of the novel written by R. D. Blackmore in 1869. Set in 17th century England, the story was cut down to a colorful movie of reasonable length with a beautiful choice of costumes and settings.

Barbara Hale stars as Lorna Doone, the female lead, who does not get as much screen time as the title may suggest, and that’s a let-down if you must look for one. Her portrayal of Lorna is emotionally gripping and excellently adapted to the time and place of the story which makes you long for more of her dilemma, her struggle. On top of that, Barbara Hale knows how to pull off those costumes, rich in color and detail. She practically glows in all of her scenes with on-screen partner Richard Greene, which may suggest a great casting decision or simply refer to her real life pregnancy with son William Katt at the time. Either way, it’s endearing to watch and underlines the romantic storyline with the right mix of heartache and surrender.

Richard Greene supports Barbara Hale’s intense performance with a smooth portrayal of John Ridd, the farmer’s son who seeks revenge for the death of his father and freedom for the woman he loves.

Evidently, Lorna Doone is a film for fans of genre films that come with sword fights, castles and men in tights. It is also a film for everybody who wants to see a decent cast of actors, including a charming male lead and an ever lovely and talented Barbara Hale. It’s a fantastic movie to lean back to and become a child again with a vivid imagination and romance-hungry eyes.

Available on DVD.