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Spotlight: Anne Baxter

Spotlight: Anne BaxterAnne Baxter was born in Michigan City, Indiana, on May 7, 1923. She was the daughter of a salesman and granddaughter of world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

By the time she was 13, she had already appeared on stage in New York to rave reviews. In 1937, Anne went to Hollywood to have a go at the film industry, but she was thought to be too young for film. She returned to the New York and continued to act on Broadway and in summer stock. Anne returned to California two years later to try again.

This time she was given a screen test at 20th Century-Fox and she was signed to a seven-year contract. As often happened during the “studio years” in Hollywood, Anne was loaned out to MGM before she would make a movie with Fox. At home in a variety of parts, she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1946 for her work in The Razor's Edge. She was nominated again in 1950 for performance in the title role of All About Eve, her most memorable role.

In 1960, Anne married Randolph Galt, American owner of a cattle station near Sydney, Australia. She left Hollywood in 1961 for Australia, an experience she described in her critically-acclaimed book Intermission: A True Story. Anne died of a stroke in New York. She was 62.

Other notable movies include Charley’s Aunt (1941), The Fighting Sullivans (1944), and The Ten Commandments (1956).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) R
I found this to be a fascinatingly complex tale of suspense, but then I didn’t read the book.

It is the story of a computer hacker with a troubled past and a crusading journalist who become the dynamic duo in this Swedish film version of Stieg Larsson’s first suspense novel. The two main characters, each intriguing in their own way, initially occupy separate story lines that converge only because she’s hired to spy on him. The well plotted story becomes a thriller as it takes its time unlocking one mystery only to uncover another.

Be aware that there are some disturbing scenes of violence which can be difficult to view. You have time to watch this film and compare it with the English version arriving in theaters in December.

Spotlight: Ann Sheridan

Spotlight: Ann SheridanAnn Sheridan was making movies in the days when Hollywood marketed movie stars by giving starlets names like “the Oomph Girl.” Ann Sheridan was a glamour girl, but she specialized in playing the hard-boiled type. Although she never really made the top rank of great stars, she always made the movie better because of her warmth and intelligence.

The 1940s was Sheridan’s most fertile movie-making decade when she made Angels with Dirty Faces (with Humphrey Bogart), Torrid Zone (with James Cagney and Pat O'Brien), Castle on the Hudson (with John Garfield), City for Conquest (with James Cagney), The Man Who Came to Dinner (with Monty Woolley and Bette Davis), and I was a Male War Bride (with Cary Grant). All of these and more are available at Indian Prairie.

Her work in King's Row (1942) demonstrated her acting ability and opened the door to a wider variety of parts. The film, which also features Ronald Reagan, is the story of a group young people growing up in a small American town in 1890. The social pressure, challenges and tragedies of their lives make for an emotional, albeit melodramatic movie.

Mother of Mine

Mother of Mine (2005)
This Finnish/Swedish film directed by Klaus Härö received good reviews from the Finnish press and several awards internationally.

Mother of Mine is based on a novel by Heikki Hietamies. During the Winter War (which began with a Soviet offensive on November 30, 1939 — three months after the start of World War II) Eero, like many Finnish children, is sent to Sweden as a refugee. He is forever conflicted because he feels his own mother abandoned him and his adoptive mother has a hard time accepting him.

The Shipping News

The Shipping News (2001) R
In a short space of time, Quoyle’s life is completely changed! He’s ready to go when his Aunt Agnis Hamm convinces him to return to his ancestral home in Newfoundland.

From the moment (almost) he arrives there with his daughter and aunt, his life is transformed. Starring Kevin Spacey, Judi Dench, and Julianne Moore. Excellent!

Based on a novel of the same name by Annie Proulx.
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Spotlight: Larry McMurtry

Spotlight: Larry McMurtryLarry McMurtry, author of 29 novels, has also written more than 30 screenplays. Predominantly set in the American Southwest, McMurtry’s works are as much about the place as about the people who live there. The TV miniseries Lonesome Dove (1989) is McMurtry's epic tale of a cattle drive full of action and unforgettable characters; the book won him the Pulitzer Prize. The story follows two longtime friends and former Texas Rangers, Woodrow Call and Augustus McCrae (Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall) at the end of the 1800s. Their lives as cattle ranchers along the Rio Grande have lost the excitement of their younger lawman days so they set off on a long and difficult cattle drive to Montana.

At his best when he thoroughly removes romanticism of the American West, McMurtry's immense talent takes the myth out of the cowboy legend. His ability to create believable and lovable characters, no matter what the setting, may be the reason his movies are so successful. And McMurtry’s explanation of this phenomenon? "I can write characters that major actors want to play, and that's how movies get made."

He is perhaps best known for the film adaptations of his work, especially Hud (1963) (from the novel Horseman, Pass By), starring Paul Newman and Patricia Neal; the Peter Bogdanovich directed The Last Picture Show (1971); and James L. Brooks's Terms of Endearment (1983), which won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture (1984).

In 2006, he was co-winner (with Diana Ossana) of both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for the screenplay of Brokeback Mountain (2005).

Spotlight: Graham Greene (Part 3 of 3)

Spotlight: Graham Greene (Part 3 of 3)
Our final Graham Greene film is The Third Man. Also check out his other movies available at Indian Prairie.

The Third Man (1949)
An American writer of pulp westerns (Joseph Cotten) arrives in post-war Vienna to take a job with an old friend, but discovers he has been murdered. Or has he? This classic film noir thriller plays on national loyalties during the Cold War. Orson Welles is prefect as the manipulative Harry Lime, a black market drug dealer and Cotton does a great job as the quintessentially brash American. The underground sewer sequence is extraordinary. The film is scored with a haunting theme by Anton Karas on unaccompanied zither to an eerie effect.

Other Graham Greene films at Indian Prairie:

The Fallen Idol (1948)

This Gun for Hire (1942)

Spotlight: Graham Greene (Part 2 of 3)

Spotlight: Graham Greene (Part 2 of 3)
Thanks for joining our spotlight on Graham Greene. The second movie we're highlighting is The End of the Affair.

The End of the Affair (1999) R
During the Blitz of WWII, married Londoner Sarah Miles (Julianne Moore) unexpectedly ends her affair with writer Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes). After a chance meeting with her husband, Henry (Stephen Rea), Bendrix begins to believe Sarah is having another affair. His suspicion causes him to hire a detective (Ian Hart) to follow her, and Bendrix discovers her reasons for breaking off with him is her spiritual reawakening. Compellingly adult drama about love, faith, and moral dilemmas. This is a remake of the 1955 version produced in England with Deborah Kerr, Van Johnson, John Mills, and Peter Cushing.

Spotlight: Graham Greene (Part 1 of 3)

Spotlight: Graham Greene (Part 1 of 3)
Over the next week, we'll be highlighting three movies based on Graham Greene novels, plus present a selection of his other movies available at the library. First up is The Quiet American.

The Quiet American (2002) R
Set amidst the communist insurgence of Ho Chi Minh into French-held Indochina, this film is an examination of America's role in the Vietnam conflict, and how it was perceived by the rest of the world. Michael Caine plays the role of a lifetime as the English journalist Thomas Fowler. He is an aging and cynical correspondent based in 1950s Saigon obsessed with his beautiful young Vietnamese mistress Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen). When she also becomes a romantic object for brash American Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), Fowler becomes both suspicious and jealous of this do-gooder on a medical mission.

Check back on Tuesday for our next Graham Greene movie!

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008) PG-13
Set in 1939 London, the film follows Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand), a recently unemployed governess as she responds to an ad for work as a "social secretary" and into the glamorous show business world of American actress and singer Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams). In the film, the often silly actress and the frumpy governess form an (often comic) bond. In the end, they discover that they need each other much more than either one could have expected.

The art direction and nice musical score make this a delightful film reminiscent of the musicals of the '40s. The pivotal moment of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day occurs when Delysia sings "If I Didn't Care" in a 1939 London nightclub. The seemingly glamorous, emotionally calculating American movie star is overcome in this moment of truth and still does a swell job with the tune made famous by the Ink Spots.

Check out the book that was the basis for the movie and read The New York Times review.

One True Thing

One True Thing (1999) R
A daughter must return home to care for her dying mother. In the process, she resolves longstanding conflicts with her parents to face a final and dramatic choice. Starring Meryl Streep, William Hurt, and Renee Zellweger.

Based on the novel by Anna Quindlen.
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Two for the Road

Two for the Road (1967)
An architect and his wife motoring through France recall their years together, discovering the good and the bad. Starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney.

Watch a trailer for the film at IMDb.com.
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Changeling

Changeling (2008) RChangeling, based on a true story, is fascinating. The truth about the case of Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) is shocking and dramatic. In March 1928, Christine, a single mother living in Los Angeles, returns home to find that her young son, Walter (Gattlin Griffith), is missing.

What follows is a bureaucratic nightmare and her concern turns to anguish. This movie is beautifully designed and shot to recreate 1920s Los Angeles. It is a superbly acted drama that packs a powerful emotional punch.

Learn about the remarkable true story through an NPR article.
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Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond (2007) R
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond is set in Sierra Leone in 1999 amid the chaos of Africa in armed conflict. It is an action drama played against the backdrop of political turmoil. The movie is about the illegal trafficking of diamonds in Africa: diamonds are harvested in Sierra Leone, smuggled into Liberia, and from there, sold to the rest of the world. Although it is tricky to make a movie on a controversial issue that is neither do-gooder nor exploitative, in this case the effort is surprisingly successful.

Blood diamonds were so named in the 1990s to call attention to the fact that African diamonds were being smuggled out of countries at war specifically to buy more arms and kill more people.

Weaker moments in the story are overshadowed by the film's willingness to risk disturbing an audience's sense of the world and how it is run. Blood Diamond is very much aware that these are problems beyond an easy resolution, and making a film that understands that is quite an accomplishment.

It really is a good movie, well acted, with Africa playing a wonderful supporting role!

The Third Man

The Third Man (1949)
The Third Man is a British thriller of the post-war era, a clever and original mystery tale and I love it. Based on Graham Greene's script, it stars Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins, a naive American trying to track down an old college friend named Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in post World War II Vienna. Two aspects of this film make a must see: its dramatic photography of a divided Vienna, ravaged by war, and the film's musical score – provided by a solo instrument – a zither. The jaunty but haunting musical score stays with you long after the film's viewing.

It was recently voted the best British film of all time.