Wednesday, June 30, 2010

And now for something completely different...

This doesn't have anything to do with the movie, except that I really wanted to make it!  But it is one of my favorite appetizers to make for guests, especially around the holidays.  I guess this falls into Capra's "happy family" mentality in You Can't Take It With You.  Holiday Brie en Croute is easy, fast and delicious.  But I can't take any credit for it, my mother and I got the recipe years ago from the Pepperidge Farm's Puff Pastry box.  Read my instructions or go to website and see for yourself!

You'll Need:
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets  (1 sheet), thawed
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/3 cup dried cranberry
1/4 cup toasted sliced almond
1 (13- to 16-ounce) Brie cheese round

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F.   Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork to make egg wash.
  2. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  If it's too frozen, it will crack, but too warm and it will squish together.   Roll the pastry sheet into a 14-inch square. 
  3. Spread the jam on the pastry to within 2 inches of the edge in a circle. Sprinkle with the cranberries and almonds.Trim the sides so the entire pastry is a circle.
  4. Brush the non-jam part of the pastry with the egg wash.
  5. Place the cheese in the center of the pastry. Fold the pastry up over the cheese to cover. Trim the excess pastry and press to seal. 
  6. Brush the seam with the egg wash. Place seam-side down onto a baking sheet. Decorate with the pastry scraps, if feeling fancy. Brush the entire pastry with the egg wash.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

The recipe says to let stand for 45 minutes, but I've been fine serving it after only letting to sit for 10.  You can serve this with crackers, crustini, or other forms of bread. can just eat it!  But try to have more than two people eating, otherwise, as CAS and I discovered, you'll eat the entire thing and hate yourself for it.
 I also tend to vary the jam I use.  Pepperidge Farm recommends apricot preserves or seedless raspberry jam.  But feel free to use whichever jam or preserve strikes you.  This time I used "Raspberry Peach Champagne Jam" from Stonewall Kitchens.  Yum.  Still confused on the process?  Watch this helpful video from Pepperidge Farm.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

You Can't Take It With You

"Maybe it'll stop you trying to be so desperate about making more money than you can ever use? You can't take it with you, Mr. Kirby. So what good is it? As near as I can see, the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends." -Grandpa Vanderhof to Mr. Kirby in You Can't Take It With You
Always and forever will I be a big fan of Frank Capra.  And while this one isn't my absolute favorite, Capra and Stewart still make a pretty incredible film.  Even Lionel Barrymore, whose squeaky voice and quirky demeanor make him seem like the grandpa you've always wanted (as apposed to his turn as the evil Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life which makes him seem like the grandpa who kills kittens).  In any event, this film is a fun, Capracorn ride through small town America.  It's not his best, but it's definitely worth a look.

Capra editing You Can't Take It With You

The Plot
Mr. Anthony P. Kirby has everything he could want.  He has a thriving banking business and a son, Tony, who is vice president and ready to follow in his footsteps.  His latest business deal involves buying all the homes in a small town so he can build a plant.  Only one house now evades him, and he sends his man, Mr. Blakely, to bully Martin Vanderhof into selling "by any means necessary."

Mr. Anthony P. Kirby as played by Edward Arnold

Mr. Vanderhof, played by Lionel Barrymore, known to all as "Grandpa," has no interest in selling.  He once had a corporate job that brought him no joy, so he quit and went home to do the things that he loved.  He became a stamp collector, and from that moment on encouraged all his family to do the same.  His daughter, Penny Sycamore, writes plays, sculpts and paints.  His son-in-law, Paul Sycamore, makes fireworks in the basement along with the iceman, Poppins, who came in one day and never left.  His granddaughter Essie is a ballerina and makes candy, while her husband Ed plays the xylophone and sells her candy.  Her ex-Russian dance instructor, Boris Kolenkhov, is a frequent visitor.  Grandpa Vanderhof's most recent recruit is a teller at Mr. Kirby's bank who now helps out with the fireworks and makes his own masks and toys.  No one is particularly good at what they do, but all that matters is that everyone is having fun and enjoying life.

Alice and Grandpa Vanderhof

Alice Sycamore, Grandpa Vanderhof's other granddaughter, is the only remotely normal one of the bunch.  Alice, played by Jean Arthur, is Tony Kirby's secretary.  Tony, played by Jimmy Stewart, isn't very interested in a career in banking.  He is far more interested in Alice, and despite his mother's disapproval proposes marriage.  He meets her family when he picks her up for a date, and is drawn to their zany, fun-loving way of life.  He watches Grandpa refuse to pay a tax collector, as he is convinced the government has no need for his money.  Tony tells Alice he and a college classmate had been trying to invent a way to harness solar energy, but gave up their dreams to work stable jobs.

Alice Sycamore and Tony Kirby

Try as she might, Alice continually fails to fit in with Tony's parents.  Convinced that their marriage and families can fit, Tony has Alice invite his family over for dinner.  But to stop her from making her family into something they're not, he deliberately brings his parents over on the wrong day.  He finds the family in a more than usual state of craziness and the clash between the two families comes to a boil.  Distraught, Alice asks Tony and his family to leave.  Meanwhile, Blakely has been hard at work to corner Grandpa Vanderhof, and causes the police to raid the home in search of illegal fireworks and communist propaganda.  They arrest everyone in the house but inadvertently set off all the fireworks, forcing everyone into the street.

Poppins poses for Penny while Essie dances for Boris

Everyone is in jail, divided by the sexes.  Mr. Kirby treats everyone as though they are beneath him, and berates his son for causing so many problems.  Mrs. Kirby rebuffs all of Alice's attempts at a reconciliation.  Grandpa finally confronts Mr. Kirby and loses his temper, telling him that all the money in the world won't make him happy without friends.  He feels badly after, and offers his harmonica as a gift to make amends, knowing that Mr. Kirby was once a great harmonica player.  Mr. Blakely weasels up to the jail and starts to threaten Grandpa before realizing that his actions have also jailed Mr. Kirby.  He hurries to put it right by calling all of Mr. Kirby's lawyers.
The families at odds

Finally, they are all called into night court, where the seats are filled with the entire town (all of Grandpa's friends.)  The Vanderhofs are let off for disturbing the peace, but are charged $100 for making fireworks without a permit.  Mr. Kirby (through his lawyers) offers to pay the fine as a charitable donation, but instead the townspeople rush forward to pay the fine together.  Unless Mr. Kirby can explain why he was visiting the Vanderhofs, he will be charged with disturbing the peace.  Mrs. Kirby refuses to admit that her son was considering marrying someone as lowly as Alice, and Grandpa finally has to save them by suggesting that Mr. Kirby was visiting to consider buying his house.  Alice, however, marches up to Mrs. Kirby and proclaims the truth, adding that Mrs. Kirby need not worry, Alice would never marry into such snobs.  Reporters burst through the door, and Alice runs away.

Alice tries desperately to impress the Kirbys

Alice has gone to stay with an old friend to avoid the press, but cries herself to sleep every night.  Tony is desperate to fine her, but her family refuses to tell.  Grandpa Vanderhof decides to move to be close to her so Alice has her family and sells the house to Blakely.  Mr. Kirby's deal goes through, and everyone in the town is evicted.
Tony brings his family to dinner on the wrong day.

Mr. Kirby decides that his son will be in charge of the new deal, putting his friend Ramsey out of a job.  But Tony refuses the job and quits, knowing that this job will never make him happy and still grieving over Alice.  Ramsey dies of heart failure from the stress of losing his job.  Mr. Kirby is left with only his job, now having lost his son and his friend.  He rides the elevator up to the meeting, but lets the doors close again and rides down to the lobby.  He walks over to visit the Vanderhofs.

Grandpa and Mr. Kirby reunite Tony and Alice

The Vanderhofs are in the middle of moving, but Tony can't help but stop by.  He pleads for Alice's address and while Grandpa refuses he does let Tony go upstairs, knowing Alice would soon stop by for her things.  The two fight it out upstairs and suddenly Mr. Kirby appears downstairs.  While Mr. Kirby is at a loss for what to do, Grandpa convinces him that if he just stops focusing on money and plays his harmonica, everything will turn out alright.  He's skeptical at first, but agrees to play with Grandpa.  The family and townspeople begin to dance and laugh.  Alice and Tony, hearing the noise, come downstairs and see their families reconciled.  Alice agrees to marry Tony and falls into his arms while Mrs. Kirby faints in the background.  In the final scene, Mr. Kirby has sold back the Vanderhof house and the family is sitting down to dinner.
The entire family sits down to dinner.
The History
Harry Cohen, the head of Columbia Studios, paid $200,000 for the rights to George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, You Can't Take It With You, which was still enjoying a successful run on Broadway when Capra's film opened.  Cohen didn't have much choice.  Capra had sued him earlier in the year for trying to market Jean Arthur's latest film, If You Could Only Cook, as a Capra picture (though it wasn't) and part of the settlement included the proviso that Columbia both purchase the rights to the film and allow Capra to direct it.  Cohen grumbled, but he should have remembered that Frank Capra had as much star power on a marquee as a famous actor.  The movie was a hit with critics and audiences, and was the highest grossing film of the year.  This would be the first paring of Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra, as well as the first of several films with both Jean Arthur and Jimmy Stewart.  During filming, Lionel Barrymore's arthritis was so bad he had to walk on crutches (which Capra worked into the film) and receive injections every hour.  Ann Miller, who was only 15 years old, had her first leading role as Essie, Alice's sister.  But the point shoes she had to wear hurt her feet so badly that she would often run off between takes and cry where no one could see her.  She never complained to the crew, but Jimmy Stewart noticed her tears and started sending boxes of candy to her room to make her feel better.  The film would go on to win two out of its seven nominations: "Best Picture" and "Best Director."  Today this film is notable as another Capra classic, though not perhaps as well known as It Happened One Night or It's a Wonderful Life.  But the combination of a star cast and Capra charm makes this film a solid classic that is still enjoyed today.

Capra at a screening for his film.

As far as the Academy was concerned, however, Capra ironically almost managed to throw a wrench in his beloved ceremony.  Having seen his success as the president of the Academy of Motion Pictures, the Director's Guild decided to elect him president as well.  When Joseph Schenck, head of the Association of Motion Picture Producers, refused to recognize the Directors Guild as representation for directors, Capra threatened to resign as president of the Academy, boycott the ceremony, and organize a directorial strike.  The Awards had become too important to producers; the AMPP backed down and the ceremony went on as usual--with Capra winning his third Oscar to date.

Capra directing You Can't Take It With You

The Academy refused to allow a radio broadcast of the event, but technician George Fisher hung an extra microphone with the PA system he had set up earlier and broadcast the Awards until Academy and Biltmore officials started to smash in his booth with axes in order to catch him.  Special awards were handed out to Mickey Rooney and Deanna Durbin as the year's two most profitable young actors, and to Walt Disney for his production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Disney's Oscar was a little different, it included one large Oscar and seven smaller statues.  And though Hollywood was beginning to question the validity of winning multiple Oscars, Spencer Tracey had no such concern.  He was only concerned with the fact that his name was spelled "Dick Tracey" on his second Oscar (for his turn as Father Flanagan in the film Boys Town).  He sent the statue back to be redone, and some enterprising publicist spread rumors that he was having it engraved for the real life Father Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town, a center for underprivileged young men.  Never a philanthropist, Tracey insisted that he then receive two statues, one for Flanagan and one for himself.  Even though the Academy capitulated, the next year's Awards ceremony would be the last he would attend.
Shirley Temple presents Walt Disney with his Special Oscar.

The Verdict?
This movie is best absorbed in parts, because as a whole you need to pause the movie several times to sort out your confusion.  An overabundance of characters and a desire to get as many moral messages out to the public as possible without real regard to the plot bogs down the film.  Just because something is funny or cute, doesn't mean it adds to the story.  The slower parts of the movie are made better by some truly bright spots, most of them including Jimmy Stewart.  He is so engaging that every moment he spends with Jean Arthur just makes me fall in love with him a little more.  Their scenes are by far the best part of the film, at least for me.  Come on, he bought Ann Miller chocolates!  How can you not fall in love?  Lionel Barrymore I can appreciate, but his role seems little more than an opportunity for Frank Capra to voice his views on the evils of big-city America.  Which brings me to...
The Anatomy of a Capra Film

As this is my last Oscar-winning Capra film, it's probably a good time to describe the basic structure of most Capra films.  This does not include It Happened One Night, but from the mid-thirties to the mid-forties, almost all of his films follow this basic pattern.  

Capra takes your humble good-guy hero and plunks him in good 'ole small-town America.  He usually has a loving family, or family substitute, and a town filled with supportive, fun-loving characters.  Capra's big on individualism, so every one of this characters has his own story, his own flaws, and his own unique traits (giving rise to some incredible scene-stealing performances by Capra's character actors).  No one is too rich or too poor, and every is happy just going about their business.  As the villain, Capra throws in a money-loving, heartless capitalist who views common people as peons to be stomped on his way to more money and glory.  Now take our hero and make him clash with the villain.  Let him be beaten down by corporate America, perhaps disillusioned by what he thought he wanted.  And then, right as we believe all his small town values have failed him, Capra will let all the family/townsfolk march in and prove that with a little love and a lot of friends anything is possible.  Take that, Goliath.

Go and watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Meet John Doe, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and even my personal favorite, It's a Wonderful Life, and you'll find that all of these movies follow this basic pattern.  Capra's too good to ever slip into the formulaic, but you'll know where the film is headed by the end.  I always found it comforting.

You Can't Take It With You is no different.  It follows the same pattern, but I can't completely love it because it utterly fails in comparison to It's a Wonderful Life.  When the townspeople save Grandpa in the end, it feel comical rather than sincere.  And Grandpa's moralizing sermons on the dangers of living your life by rote lose their force because he repeats himself so many time.  It feels as though Capra has not evolved yet, and as this film is eight years before It's a Wonderful Life, he probably has not.  But I can find a place in my heart for this movie, as I can for any film by Frank Capra.  The Associated Press review of You Can't Take It With You encapsulates my feelings exactly: "You'll leave the movie house thinking it's pretty nice they have such things as movies, because movies have made you feel so very good."

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Viva La French...Baguette...

So I decided to make a baguette from scratch in honor of Emile Zola and France.  Making bread from scratch is something I've failed miserably at in the past, but my friend SFR swears it's easy.  She bought me a great book called How to Cook Everything, and I thought that I couldn't fail if I just followed that to the letter.

Well, yes and no.  The final product ended up pretty good, but I think it could use some tweaking.  I used bread flour instead of all-purpose flour, which may have effected the outcome.  I also think adding sugar might make it slightly better as well.  But it was good, and my family ate it, so I guess it passes the test!  We'll see if future forays into bread can do any better..although I may need supervision from my bread making friend.

The biggest issue I had?  Finding yeast!  I went to  a big local grocery store and spent a half hour scouring the baking aisle only to leave empty handed.  I should have just bitten the bullet and asked.  "Excuse me 16-year-old who clearly doesn't want to be bagging my groceries, but do you know if you have any yeast?"

The Baguette
You'll Need:
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tsps salt
1 1/2 tsps yeast
A few tbsps olive oil
About 1 cup warm water

  1. Combine the dry ingredients, preferably in a standing mixer or food processor.
  2. Gradually add water until the dough forms a ball.  You don't want it to be too sticky or too dry and flaky; add more flour or water to even out the dough if you have that problem.
  3. Dump the dough into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a cool, dry place at room temperature for 3 hours.
  4. When the dough has risen, put it on a floured counter or tabletop, and shape into two small baguettes.  You can shape them however you like.  Place them on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap or a cloth so they can rise again, about another hour.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  6. Once the bread has rise again, use a sharp knife to make baguette slashing marks (if you like).  Use olive oil to coat the bread evenly.  Bake until the crust is hard and golden brown, about 20 minutes.  The internal temperature should be around 210 degrees.  
  7. Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy!  Although my family always eats their bread with olive oil and garlic salt, you can try butter, jam, or even cheese if you want to be really French!
I have to say I might retire from yeast breads for offense SFR!  But honestly...a lot of work!  Kind of like this movie...
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    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    The Life of Emile Zola

    “You know that people don’t want to see the stark face of truth.  They would much prefer perfumed lights like these.  They ought to be burned like something unclean.”
    “Why Paul that’s splendid!  Why didn’t you think of that before?  We shall have a fire!”
    “We could sell them and—“
    “What?  And expose others to their stinking hypocrisies?  No my friend.  We’ll burn them…and let their lying pages warm the bones of men of truth!”

    --Paul Cezanne to Emile Zola, when Zola decides to burn their books, The Life of Emile Zola
    It has been a whirlwind few weeks, and I'm sorry to say that my blogging has suffered because of it.  But never fear, I haven't abandoned my quest!  Again, I think it didn't help that this wasn't a movie I was in any way interested in.  And I have to say it is quite jarring to see an opening title card claiming that the biopic I am about to watch is not historically accurate. So despite an opportunity to witness one of Paul Muni’s remarkable performances, this biopic is overacted, lacking in plot, and, well…yawn…

    The Plot
    Cezanne and Zola in their attic
     It is 1862, and radical political writer Emile Zola, played by Paul Muni, and his childhood friend, painter Paul Cezanne, share a poorly insulated attic in Paris that they can’t afford.  Luckily, Zola’s mother and fiancé burst in and proclaim that they have finally found a job for Zola, working for a local printer.  Zola and Alexandrine, his fiancé, can finally be married while Zola makes some money and still has time for his writing.  But even with Alexandrine to support, Zola refuses to stop publishing his incendiary articles and books, finally causing him to lose his job.  He writes the truth, exposing both the government and various bureaucracies to ridicule.  But it is not until his story of a poor and heartbroken prostitute, Nana, hits the stands that he is finally able to make money off his writing.  Cue the obligatory montage of the famous novels of Zola.

    Zola, Cezanne, and Nana evade the police
    It is many years later and the film focuses on the “Dreyfus Affair.”  Commandant Esterhazy has been selling French military secrets to the Germans, and one of his letters is finally seized.  The military officials are unsure who to blame, and therefore with no evidence decide to focus on Jewish Captain Alfred Dreyfus, played by Joseph Schildkraut in an Oscar-winning performance.  With a mockery of a trial (which includes forged evidence) the French military officials rip Dreyfus away from his young family and send him into life imprisonment on Devil’s Island.  After a few years, new military intelligence chief, Colonel Picquart, reviews the evidence and declares it is Esterhazy, not Dreyfus, who is guilty.  But the other officials refuse to admit to a mistake, and while Esterhazy is tried, they do not convict the higher ranking official.  Picquart is bundled off to Africa where he can’t cause trouble.  Though no one will listen to her, Dreyfus’s wife, played by Gale Sondergaard, continues to fight on his behalf.

    Dreyfus and his family
    Meanwhile, Zola has grown old, rich, and respected.  Though Cezanne finally leaves him for the country, claiming he has grown too complacent, Zola is happy in his old age and about to be accepted as a member of the French Academy.  But when Dreyfus’s wife shows up at his door, he is unable, despite his reluctance, to ignore an injustice of this magnitude.  He publishes his most famous piece, an article called “J’accuse!” on the front page of a local newspaper.   In it he accuses both the President and high ranking military officials of corruption and anti-Semitism.  His article causes the French people to riot in the streets and the government to charge him with libel.
    Cezanne tells Zola that all artists should stay poor
    Despite an intelligent and impassioned plea from his lawyer, Zola is convicted in a long courtroom scene.  It is clear that the government and military are so corrupt, Zola and Dreyfus will never get a fair hearing.  He must go into hiding in England rather than be arrested.  Finally, however, new government officials reopen the case and pardon both Zola and Dreyfus.  Zola has a new lease on life, and is happily writing away when he passes out due to the carbon monoxide leaking from his chimney.  While Dreyfus is being given military awards and pardoned in public the next day, the word suddenly reaches him that Zola has just died.  The final scene of the film is a long, intense monologue that sums up the entire plot of the movie and the moral lesson of integrity we were supposed to learn at Zola's elaborate funeral.

    Zola on trial
    The History
    Paul Muni told Jack Warner that he wanted to be Emile Zola.  So Warner put the film into motion for one of his highest grossing stars.  He hired William Dieterle, the director who had won Muni a “Best Actor” Oscar for his previous film, The Story of Louis Pasteur.  One more overblown, moralistic biopic later, and Warner had another hit on his hands.  The Life of Emile Zola was Warner Brothers' highest grossing film of the year. Time magazine called it “the outstanding prestige picture of the season” and the New York Film Critics awarded it both Best Picture and Best Actor awards.  It received the most Oscar nominations of that year (10) and won for “Best Picture,” “Best Supporting Actor,” and “Best Screenplay.”  Warner, thrilled with his first award for “Best Picture,” called the film “the masterpiece this industry has so highly honored.”  While the film has since been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant," this film has largely faded into obscurity. sums its legacy up the best: “Well-written, well-meaning and solidly acted, the film may ultimately be more earnest than interesting.”
    Paul Muni as Emile Zola
    As far as the Awards go, this year was the biggest year for Capra to make peace.  In the Academy’s new charter, they officially relinquished any interest in regulating labor disputes and proclaimed that anyone involved in an official guild could vote for the awards, causing the voting numbers to jump from 800 to 15,000, most of whom were extras.  The Awards had to be postponed a few weeks because of storms and flooding, but when they finally arrived there was as much as drama as ever.  Though not everyone went (including Muni, who declared that since he won the previous year, arriving again would just “embarrass everyone”) the biggest coup would come when Luise Rainer won again for “Best Actress,” the first to ever win twice in a row.  Rainer also gave birth to what has now become known as the “Oscar curse.”  After her double win, her studio didn’t feel the need to exert themselves and she never got another good part from Hollywood.  Dealing with a dissolving marriage and a society where she felt she just did not fit in, Rainer finally returned to Europe in 1938 for good.

    Joseph Schildkraut as Captain Alfred Dreyfus
    The Verdict?
    Here is the single biggest thing that bothers me about this movie: the opening title card.  I can get past the outdated acting, the moralizing and the pontificating, even the strange meandering script.  But this?  This completely throws me for a loop.

    This film is a historical biopic.  I know this because the title of the film claims it is the story of a famous French writer.  So why does the opening card tell me that this film is fiction?  I actually don’t even really know what this is trying to say: “With the exception of known historical characters, whose actual names are herein used, no identification with actual persons, living or dead, is intended or should be inferred.”  So, basically, everyone in this film who is named after a real person is real, but everyone else is fabricated.  And possibly others. What??

    Its honesty should be refreshing.  As a lover of history, I can’t count the number of times I have yelled at the screen of a movie while watching it completely butcher history (looking at you, Elizabeth).  I understand that, given certain time constraints, it is difficult to come up with a completely accurate movie.  Unless you are looking to do a BBC miniseries, it is necessary to scale a picture back.  Sometimes altering or shortening history can benefit a film, and as long as the movie is good and doesn’t severely alter a beloved story, I can stick around to watch something that’s not quite true.  But even though I know the director is taking liberties with reality, I don’t want him to tell me before the movie starts!  This title card completely undermines the film.  If, other than the title character, this film is not based on fact, and the entire purpose of the film is the tell the story of a real person’s life, then what’s the point?  I spent the entire film attempting to ascertain what was real and what wasn’t, and wondering why I couldn’t just find another film that did tell me the truth about  Emile Zola.  Message to directors:  lie to me, I don’t want to know where you embroidered the facts until I go home and use Wikipedia.

    Other than that jarring title card, this film plods along predictably enough.  What’s strange for me is the first half hour of the movie.  The film is 2 hours long, and only the first half hour isn’t about the “Dreyfus Affair.”  This is what Zola is remembered for, but if they had cut the first half hour and devoted the whole movie to the “Dreyfus Affair” I would have been much less confused.  A half hour in, Dreyfus has become famous, achieved his goals, written all his books, and is about to retire.  I found myself asking where the rest of the movie was headed.  They could have summed the beginning of the movie up in one good title card.  One that didn’t undermine the whole film.

    Ultimately, I agree with  Muni and Schildkraut give convincing performances, and the creators of this movie clearly want to show us how earnest and moral they are.  But pompous dialogue, a confusing script, and one very silly title card combine to make this film one of those better left in the past.

    Help!  I'm drowning in overacted bravado!  Maybe I can count on Capra to pull me out of it?

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