There is a passage in Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby in which David Huxley (Cary Grant) and Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) are lost at night in the forest of Connecticut searching for a leopard called Baby and a fox terrier named George. If you don’t know the picture, don’t bother to ask, “Why a leopard?” Your every instinct is correct—there are (and should be) no leopards in Connecticut. Yet there might have been. We know now that the ingenious German plan to have a U-boat unload a cargo of fierce cats on that state’s shore in 1942 was aborted only at the last moment.
Why is this film called Rise of the Planet of the Apes? Because 20th Century Fox, the producers (including co-writer, Rick Jaffa, and Peter Chernin), and director Rupert Wyatt are thinking sequels and franchise rights. They’ll probably get their wish: After all, the Apes model as established by Charlton Heston as the rudely enslaved master race goes back 40 years now, and movie monkey business regards the extraordinary King Kong (1933) as its founding father. But the filmmaking enterprise might attend a little more closely to the eagerness for compromise in its own narrative set-up.
On the front page of the Weekend Arts section on Friday, the Times published an above-the-fold celebration of the work of Cary Grant so backhanded and begrudging as to be genuinely mystifying. The occasion was a retrospective taking place at BAMcinematek, and the author was Mike Hall, who usually writes about television. Hall begins by noting To put on a Cary Grant series ... presents some special challenges.
In the introduction to Home Movies I noted that, given the ascendance of video rental over theater attendance, movies are generally reviewed months before most people will see them. One exception, of course, is movies that aren't reviewed at all, having never been released theatrically. Ripley's Game, which Fine Line Features has put out on video after declining to distribute it to theaters, has not quite suffered this fate: A minor cause célèbre, it has gotten some attention in the press, and even enjoyed a three-night, sold out run in New York earlier this year.
To Catch A Thief is supposed to be a mystery having to do with the exertions Cary Grant must make as a famous jewel thief who has retired and is unjustly suspected of having resumed his vocation. The real mystery is how the product of Hitchcock’s direction, given such care, toil and intelligence, could be so poor. Jessie Royce Landis gives a remarkable performance as the heroine’s mother, and Danielle Lamar is more than remarkable, when the script permits her to be.