Within the spectrum of smooth talkers, it appears that there are still three general candidates: (1) your charming, smooth-talker; (2) your tall, dark, and smooth intelligent gem; or (3) your rough and rambling nothing-can-stop-me guy who makes things happen.
Sometimes, simply the opening of a movie let’s you know just how great it’s going to be. Unfortunately, most movies today don’t have the ability to bring the bang that they promise for multiple reasons – great special effects do not a movie make. “The Great Race” starts off with a drawn synopsis of the movie accompanied by an orchestra playing moments from the highlights of the soon to be introduced main characters including none other than Tony Curtis. “Some Like It Hot” opens with sultry, upbeat jazz music and flashes names of celebrities including Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis, whom all had full and life-long truly successful careers. Having gangsters use a hearse as a getaway car is genius and almost the best way to smuggle liquor during prohibition. Two comic males dressed as women along with a bombshell is a combination for success. This movie is still hot. I love it. I love it. I love it!
“Sweet Smell of Success” debuted in 1957 and opened as a fast-paced, smooth-style bang. Is success about looking good or standing up for what moves you? This movie remains one of my favorite classics because it maintains the attributes of typical Hollywood films without compromising the storyline in order to have the standard five to fifteen minute cap that’s forced on the end of every movie: all problems receive closure, everyone lives happily ever after and whenever possible, fall in love and make babies. If this craptastic solution was just cut out altogether so many crappy movies would be that much better but that’s a different topic). The character JJ Hunsecker was based on Walter Winchell, who died still searching for his next big accomplishment despite creating the first gossip column (although some see these columns as the spirochetes of society) while working at the New York Evening Graphic, being married, having a son, who committed suicide, and a daughter. Larry King once said, “He was so sad. You know what Winchell was doing at the end? [He was] typing out mimeographed sheets of his column, handing them out on the corner. That’s how sad he got. When he died, only one person came to his funeral.” This movie definitely was a moment when life imitated art. He died just a couple of years after his wife passed.
“The Defiant Ones” is a film starring Tony Curtis as John ‘Joker’ Jackson and Sydney Poitier as Noah Cullen who is singing “Long Gone John “in the back of a police van as the nonstop rain falls in the middle of the night. Of course, they start a fight that forces the officers to pull over and they are the only two who manage to escape.
This movie takes on a lot of the problems in society via these two men. Tackling race and segregation are the two obvious but they also discuss how no one takes ownership and therefore doesn’t attempt to change what is: laws that are in place, derogatory names that used are not for us to change, alter, or condemn because we are not their creators. However, by not standing up, we are the perpetuators of the very issues that we claim to detest. Or how small time crooks get caught, but those who are the biggest crooks are able to get off if they’re even caught. “Bugs and people nobody understands anybody. At least bugs are smarter…” is one of many sharp and witty punches in the face of humanity and society.
Sydney Poitier was another smooth-talking and articulate actor who aided in paving a whole new set of roles for black actors. He showed white America that black men could walk, talk and act in educated roles. They no longer were immediately type-casted in the only roles that were available for black actors: slaves, servants or maids.
In “Looking Who’s Coming to Dinner” he played a rather accomplished doctor who was marrying a young white woman. Both sets of parents were appropriately movie-shocked – not shocked enough for real life, but appropriate for movie time. And the timing of what unfolded throughout the experience was superior.
“Buck and the Preacher” is one of very few westerns that I have the ability to tolerate. This film pays homage to all of those who dedicated their lives to aiding slaves who would not otherwise be able to find freedom do so and in return lived their lives as poor outlaws who were never recognized in history books or thanked in any fortune or fame oriented manner. These were truly altruistic heroes.
“In the Heat of the Night” is a film based on a John Ball novel that was so timely and necessary that the public needed more. And more came in the form of a television series that ran for eight seasons and reruns still air today.
“A Patch of Blue” is by far my favorite Sydney Poitier film. The movie is focused, the audience has time to really take in the symbolism and apply it to the next scene without losing interest in the down time, moral problems are evident from the get go and the resolution is not starring he audience in the face the entire time, it well written and performed to perfection.
“A Raisin in the Sun” is the movie about a family who’s conflicting dreams create climatic havoc when an insurance payment provides the possibility for someone’s dreams to be put into action. There are definite clear plans, with lots of long-term unknowns. This is a timeless work that will continue to dig deep into the hearts of anyone who has a family that they don’t always agree with – isn’t that everyone?
Sydney Poitier was born on February 20, 1927 in Miami, Florida. His parents were Bahamian. He is an accomplished writer, director, actor and diplomat. He has played pivotal roles in numerous films. “The Bedford Incident” is a 1965 Cold War film starring Richard Widmark and Sydney Poitier. “Duel at Diablo” was based on the book Apache Rising and was released in 1966 starring James Garner and Sydney Poitier. “A Piece of the Action,” “Uptown Saturday Night,” and “Stir Crazy” are few of the more than fifty films in which he has performed. He has directed several films, starred in several television movies and received acting awards to the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“Trapeze” began a bit slow in order to fully develop the dynamic variations of all of the main (and even some of the supporting) characters. The storyline maintained a spiral of climaxes while simultaneously moving like a circus would to the public. This captivating tale showcased some of the cutting edge editing melded with cut-throat actions. It reminds non-artists just how hard it is to make it in such an already streamlined market.
James Dean is a fantasy that women still long for today. Not only in the classic Mr. Dark & Mysterious Actors but in his memorabilia that is still being sold. “Rebel Without A Cause” opens with our star moving into fetal position as the police come to collect him. He never gets off of his stomach. He’s crazy stupid drunk and there’s a beautiful woman in red sitting in the lobby of the police station.
James Dean comes across as a believable character, a more developed person. Although, it sounds as if he’s talking through his teeth, he’s still really nice eye candy. Sydney Poitier’s depth, charm and carriage never failed to captivate his audiences. He is very economical in all of the treasures that he has been bestowed. Tony Curtis has a smooth style that matched his smooth voice; his whole package was always charming.
Tony Curtis dying at age 85 on 29 September 2010 is what rekindled my love of movies from the 1950s and 1960s. After getting through a handful, I realized that I prefer those with a smooth-talking lead and these three men continue to shape the way that smooth and charming men conduct themselves on and off the camera.