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Rating History

Riff-Raff (1936)
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes


Jean Harlow is always remembered as one of the most glamorous stars of all time. But I find she's always at her most beautiful when her glamor is downplayed, like in this film, [i]Riffraff[/i], in which she plays a poor cannery worker. Yes, even in that awful dark-blonde wig, Harlow was never more beautiful than she was in her housedresses.

Harlow plays a cannery worker who has long been in love with fisherman Spencer Tracy, who ignores her feelings. The two are antagonistic toward each other, while Harlow gold-digs with the boss. But soon, their pushiness toward each other becomes love, and they get married. But Tracy wants to be a big shot, and his pride and stubborness get him kicked out of the union. He doesn't want to be with Harlow if he can't be important, so he leaves her, without knowing she's pregnant.

Spencer Tracy tended to play regular Joes (this role is very similar to his very favorite of mine, [i]Man's Castle[/i]), but Harlow usually played glamor girls, so it was a really nice surprise to see she fit in quite nicely in the world of unions and labor disputes. She and Tracy have remarkable chemistry (see also [i]Libeled Lady[/i]). Their arguments are realistic, as are their love scenes. Tracy is really good as the angry, stubborn fisherman, and Harlow is equally great as his tough, but sweethearted wife.

The romance and the core story of labor disputes are well balanced. One never overtakes the other, and they're blended together seamlessly. I always find slice of life films about the Depression interesting, and this one particularly, because it didn't make a huge deal that it was the depression, so it felt a little more like I'm just watching someone's life during the time.

And the last scene between Tracy and Harlow is one of the sweetest things I've ever seen in my life.

[b]Final Grade:[/b] A

Portrait of Jennie
7 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes


David O. Selznick was an obsessive control freak who usually ended up hurting more projects than he helped. But he deserves a lot of credit for taking on interesting and daring material that most producers at that time never would have touched. [i]Portrait of Jennie[/i] is one of those pictures, a unique and complicated romance that turned out to be the best picture Selznick ever produced, despite the problems he had on set.

It's Depression-era New York, and Joseph Cotten is a struggling artist. Despite support from two sympathetic art dealers, he hasn't found the one passion he needs to make him great. One day, he meets Jennifer Jones in the park where she's building a snow man. She's ten years old and very strange, talking about things that happened long before she could have been born. Cotten thinks she's just a funny kid, but something about her stays with him and he sketches her portrait, and its one of the best thing's he's ever done. From then on, he continues to meet Jones, but everytime he sees her, she's aged unnaturally.

It's the most beautiful love story I've ever seen. Love transcending not just death, but time also, to find the one person you're meant to love is just the most purely beautiful story I've heard. And it's filmed beautifully. The film becomes a bit misty whenever Jennie is around, and the scene at the lighthouse filmed all in green is great. It's score is great, and adds to the feeling. The bulk of the score is adapted Debussey works, which have an almost otherworldly feel to them already, reworked slightly to sound a little moreso.

Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten share a really intense, unique chemistry. Their relationship in the beginning, when she's just a kid is light and fun. As she grows older, it becomes romantic, and I think it's fascinating that they were able to portray such drastically different types of chemistry, while making their relationship seem like one that's progressing over years with just a few scenes.

[b]Final Grade: [/b]A+