Tag Archives: 1950’s

Movie Review: The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

6963bf970042a53305d53fb5b6afaca7Based on the non-f book by Terry Ryan.

Version: 2005; starring Julianne Moore.

Genre: drama; biographical

Plot Summary: Evelyn Ryan is a housewife and mother of five who keeps her family afloat during the 1950’s by entering jingle-writing contests.

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

I vaguely remember reading something similar (about a mother entering contests to make money) in an old edition of Reminisce magazine at the dentist’s years ago.  It may have been about the same family, or perhaps another family of the same era.  In any case, I interested in seeing this movie with a strong, female character.  Also, I was wanted to see Julianne Moore’s acting since she won an Oscar last year for Best Actress.  I was not expecting this film to be as thought provoking as it was.

You’re a hardworking housewife with a family of 10 kids. You’re husband has a job but drinks all the money away.  It’s the 1950’s.  Few women work outside the home and there aren’t many options.  What would you do?  For a woman named Evelyn Ryan, the answer was sitting right in front of her in the living room via the television. Decades ago, it used to be that companies would put out commercial contests in which ordinary citizens could win prizes and cash money by winning jingle-writing ads for products.  But there weren’t many who could actually say they made a living off of it.

b8596f51518b3a0ca2c8ac5898239391It’s remarkable the talent, creativity and ingenuity that an ordinary woman with no degree in anything had to put food on the table. Most would shrivel up in bitterness and negativity, full of blame and despair.  But even though the Ryan children grew up in a family with an alcoholic father, they saw their mother persevere with optimism and a compassionate attitude toward her husband.  We see the family’s story through the eyes of the middle daughter, Tuff.  Their pain is not masked by a fake smiley-face and the realities of growing up in a dysfunctional family take their toll, but their mother’s strength manages to keep them all together through the many hardships they face.  As a result, the children grew up to be quite successful adults.  The complicated interactions between Evelyn and her husband are well acted, and the food scene in which Mr. Ryan begins a tantrum while Mrs. Ryan enjoys her meal was quite interesting psychologically.

I enjoyed the acting, costumes and props in this movie. There really is no adult content, but there are some curse words (during the father’s drinking binges).  There is some sensuousness between husband and wife, but nothing gets graphic.  I believe my favorite scene was when Evelyn wins an all-you-can-pack-into-a-cart-in-10-min. shopping spree.  Do not cross a woman with a method!

It’s hard for me to say if this is a ‘family movie’. It’s not easy watching the themes presented, but sadly it is a reality for many in this world.  It may be one for parents to prewatch if they have concerns.  Otherwise, I really would recommend it.  There was nothing shabby about the quality of this film, and there was a lot of retro eye candy for vintage lovers!

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Posted by on May 28, 2016 in Movie Reviews


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Movie Review: A Caribbean Mystery

MISS_MARPLE_CARIBBEAN_MYSTERYBased on the book by Agatha Christie.

Genre: mystery; 1950’s

Version: 2013; starring Julia McKenzie, Charity Wakefield

Plot Summary: At first when the Major is found dead at a Caribbean resort, it looks like a natural case of high blood pressure. But Miss Marple isn’t so sure. The Major had been carrying the photograph of a murderer in his pocket but now the photo seems to be missing. Who could be the culprit? Was it the maid? Someone who would benefit from his rich employer? The resort owners? Or someone with a marital secret?

My Movie Review: I don’t like to watch Agatha Christie mysteries without first having read the book, and this was one I’d read several years ago. I’d also seen a previous version (starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple), but it had felt a little lackluster. The trailer to this updated film-take seemed more colorful and exciting so I looked forward to trying it.

I wasn’t disappointed. It was a pretty good rendition, carried the suspense well (esp. since I’d forgotten who the murderer was), and had a great soundtrack. Plus it wasn’t as overwhelmingly gorey as some of the Christie movies have been in recent years. Although there may have been some slight shuffling around about minor details of the story, I felt it stayed pretty true to the original plot.

There are two couples who have affairs in the plot, but it is only talked about and thankfully we are spared bedroom scenes.  There is some talk about voodoo, but the plot doesn’t rely heavily on it and I didn’t feel disturbed.

If you are an Agatha Christie lover, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this adaptation.  It makes for a good last-hoorah for the summer movie.  Happy Labor Day!


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Posted by on September 5, 2015 in Movie Reviews


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Book Review: Gone-Away Lake, Elizabeth Enright

7636138Genre: children’s literature; classic

Plot Summary: When Portia Blake and her cousin Julian discover an old, abandoned community of lake houses in the middle of the woods, they are mystified as to how it got there.  Then they meet elderly Mrs. Cheever and her brother Pindar Payton who live there, and summer vacation just got more wonderful!

My Book Review: This was one of those books I pulled off of Mr. S’s bookshelf in sixth grade because he made it mandatory we had to read two of his books each semester.  At first I thought it looked boring (I hate it when I’m made to read a book), but as the story got going I quickly became glued to it!  [Thanks, Mr. S! 🙂 ]  This was a reread for me, nearly sixteen years later, but I was surprised to find how much I remembered about it.  Unfortunately, I read it at an age where I didn’t take note of authors and titles, so it took me many years to find this gem again.

Elizabeth Enright certainly was a talented childrens’ book author.  The book was first published in 1957, which I deem the height of the golden age of children’s literature.  They often don’t make kids’ books like these anymore.  What I love about Gone-Away Lake is the realistic POV of the children characters.  They view summer as we all viewed summer at that age… full of sun and exploring and bugs and fun mysteries to solve.

“The kind where everything is peaceful and a little bit better than real.”

This book is written with such detail.  How much fun would it be to discover a mysterious abandoned village of houses in the middle of the woods?  And to meet a delightful old couple who never completely grew up?  I think we have just as much fun as Portia, Julian, and Foster do all summer long!

Enright’s love and understanding of nature is evident throughout the book.  She doesn’t go overboard with loading us with biology, but her descriptions of swamp and woods, storms, and late summer are what make us experience Gone-Away with all our senses.  I love her contrast between old and new.  The young children fall in love with wonderful Minnehaha Cheever and Pindar Payton, who ironically are eternally young despite their age.  Gone-Away has a way of drawing out the youth of the adults who eventually come to visit the old houses, as well.

11359f44718a332b8eef52b92972e2caOne of my favorite and most memorable parts is when the children first meet Mrs. Cheever in leg-of-mutton sleeves, who shows them her old Victorian drawing room.  She explains that she salvaged every good piece of furniture from the other houses and so her room is overstuffed with sofas and plant stands.  Each wall is decorated with a different patterned wallpaper.  A two page illustration cemented this scene in my mind forever afterwards.  The drawings by Beth and Joe Krush are the detailed line drawings you would love to color in with colored pencils.  If I ever find my own Gone-Away copy at a used book sale, that is exactly what I’m going to do!

There isn’t a thing I disliked about this book and I highly recommend it to one and all as a delightful summer read!  I often find that children’s books are even better enjoyed as an adult, so don’t make the mistake of believing you’re ‘too old’ and pass by this treasure!  But I loved it immensely at 11 and wish that I had known back then that there was a sequel, Return to Gone-Away (which I am definitely planning on reading, too).

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Posted by on August 22, 2015 in Book Reviews


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Movie Review: The Scapegoat

0dea732f30155471b26f8f61ad356962Based on the book by Daphne du Maurier.

Version: 2012; starring Matthew Rhys, Eileen Atkins

Genre: suspense; period drama; 1950’s; mystery; romance

Plot Summary: When John Standing meets Johnny Spence, he couldn’t be more surprised. He’s never met him before, or even heard of him for that matter, but the two could be identical twins. What seems to be a fun evening out on the town turns into one too many drinks and a terrible hangover in the morning, along with subsequent chaos and confusion. Mistaken for Johnny, John goes along with his new role as rich estate owner and family man trying to save a dying family business.

My Review: *Disclaimer I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  I had no idea what this movie was about, but it looked interesting, so I checked it out. Early on I knew this was my kind of movie! It reminded me of a dime novel. Later I found out it was based on a book by Daphne du Maurier. But I’ve also read that the movie has been changed drastically from the book, so I’m interested in reading the original.

It had all the elements I love in a good movie… drama, intrigue, mystery, and costumes. The story is well paced and keeps you puzzled + entertained. I felt I could really get into the characters’ heads and know what they were thinking without them saying it. That makes for some good acting!

Unfortunately, there were some parts here and there that I felt disappointed about. It doesn’t take John long to learn his lookalike Johnny has been living a double life. He has been sleeping around with his sister in law, while keeping several mistresses. At first John keeps up a good moral stance in avoiding these situations, but eventually falls into the same temptations as his lookalike. He also begins to fall in love with Johnny’s wife, and one thing leads to another… I believe another character in the story is implied to be lesbian, but the insinuation is subtle. As far as the ending goes, it kind of had me chuckling a little out of the irony of it all, but at the same time it caused me to lose respect for the main character.

I did enjoy watching this period drama (set around the time of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1952), and it was fun entertainment for an evening. But it’s not a family movie, and some may want to keep the fast forward button near.  There is another, older version of this story made in 1959 starring Alec Guinness and Bette Davis, but I have not viewed that one.



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Posted by on March 1, 2015 in Movie Reviews


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