Friday, January 19, 2018

Notable Passings: Dorothy Malone and Jean Porter

Very sad news today for classic film fans: Oscar-winning actress Dorothy Malone has passed away at the age of 92.


She would have been 93 on January 30th.

Malone would doubtless be beloved to Golden Era fans if only for one scene, wherein she plays the bookstore clerk who memorably flirts with Humphrey Bogart in THE BIG SLEEP (1946):


Her career, of course, was much more than that, including her Academy Award winning role in Douglas Sirk's WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956) and her work in so many enjoyable Westerns and film noir titles, such as SOUTH OF ST. LOUIS (1949)...


...and PUSHOVER (1954), below with Phil Carey:


For more on Dorothy Malone's career, I invite my readers to visit a birthday tribute I wrote three years ago.

Survivors included her two daughters from her marriage to actor Jacques Bergerac (GIGI).


Obituaries may be found at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

A few days ago the death of effervescent actress Jean Porter was announced. She was 95.


Porter, the widow of director Edward Dmytryk, was in a number of MGM films of the '40s, including THE YOUNGEST PROFESSION (1943) and TWICE BLESSED (1945), and she had a terrific supporting role in the film noir CRY DANGER (1951).


Porter also had typically bubbly roles as "the girl next door" to Guy Madison in TILL THE END OF TIME (1946) and as Shirley Temple's best friend in THAT HAGEN GIRL (1947).

She was survived by two daughters and a stepson.

An obituary was published by The Hollywood Reporter.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Undertow (1949)

I've been meaning to watch UNDERTOW (1949) for quite a while now. It's a Universal Pictures film noir with an appealing cast. I finally pulled it off the shelf thanks to my friend John Knight including it on his list of 2017's Favorite Discoveries at the Rupert Pupkin Speaks blog.

For me it's hard to beat a movie starring Scott Brady and John Russell, who costarred the same year in a favorite little Western, THE GAL WHO TOOK THE WEST (1949), along with Peggy Dow and Dorothy Hart as the leading ladies. Both actresses have short filmographies and I hope to eventually work my way through both lists!

For those who may be unaware, Brady is the younger brother of noir icon Lawrence Tierney (DILLINGER, BORN TO KILL). Brady himself was a reliable noir lead with titles like the classic HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948) as well as I WAS A SHOPLIFTER (1950) among his credits.

Brady plays Tony Reagan, a recently discharged vet who plans to go into business with a deceased buddy's father at a lodge outside Reno. First, though, he needs to fly from Reno to Chicago and reunite with his long-unseen fiancee Sally (Hart).

There's only one problem: Sally's Uncle Jim, a bigtime mobster, turned down Tony marrying Sally years ago. Sally suggests that they elope but Tony plans to be up front and ask Jim's permission again; however, before he can do that, he's framed for Jim's murder. His only help comes from Ann (Dow), a nice Chicago-area teacher he'd briefly met in Reno, and his old pal on the Chicago police force, Detective Reckling (Bruce Bennett).

The movie is a brisk 71 minutes and it's pretty easy to guess whodunit, although I admit I was confused by one character initially seeming to be on Tony's side even when on camera alone. Shouldn't we have been clued in to the fakery in those moments? Of course, then it wouldn't have been such an interesting reveal later on in the movie...

The four leads are all good, with particular kudos to the fresh-faced, earnest Dow in her film debut. She only made eight additional films, including THE SLEEPING CITY (1950), HARVEY (1950), and YOU NEVER CAN TELL (1951); she retired after 1951 for marriage and motherhood, raising five sons in Oklahoma.

Hart similarly was out of films by the mid-'50s, after which she moved to New York and worked with the United Nations; she had one son.

I always enjoy Bennett, who was in the terrific MYSTERY STREET (1950) right after this one. Even more fun: A detective who walks in and discusses evidence with Bennett is one Roc Hudson, in his second film. It looks like this was the only film in which his name was spelled that way, if IMDb is accurate.

Character actors who pop up in the film include Thomas Browne Henry, Almira Sessions, Marjorie Bennett, and Francis Pierlot. The telegraph clerk was Anne P. Kramer, who was married at one point to director Stanley Kramer.

UNDERTOW was directed by William Castle. It was filmed in black and white by Irving Glassberg and, per IMDb, the uncredited Clifford Stine.

UNDERTOW is available on DVD from the TCM Vault Collection as a single title or in the Dark Crimes: Film Noir Thrillers Vol. 2 collection.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Tonight's Movie: All the Brothers Were Valiant (1953) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, and Ann Blyth star in the seafaring adventure ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT (1953), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Thanks to recent discussion in the comments here I intend to review Taylor and Granger's Western THE LAST HUNT (1956) in the fairly near future. Before watching that for the first time, however, I wanted to return to ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT, which I hadn't seen in over a dozen years.

ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT tells the story of Joel Shore (Taylor), a seaman from 19th century New Bedford, Massachusetts. Joel returns home from a long voyage to discover his brother Mark (Granger) didn't come back from his last voyage and is presumed dead. Joel also finds Priscilla (Blyth), the beautiful granddaughter of his friend Captain Holt (Lewis Stone), all grown up and eager to marry him.

Joel is named captain of Mark's old ship and takes his bride Priscilla with him on his next whaling voyage, which is anticipated to last at least a couple of years. When the ship arrives in the South Pacific, who should turn up but Mark. Unfortunately things don't go well between the brothers...Mark had routinely taken away Joel's toys when they were children, and now he wants two things which are much more important, his ship and his wife.

There is much to like about this film, starting with the stirring theme music by Miklos Rozsa; I'd go so far as to say it might be worth watching the film at least once just for the score! The film was beautifully shot in Technicolor by the Oscar-nominated George Folsey, and the Warner Archive DVD looks especially good. I suspect it may be a remastered print but could not find confirmation.

When I first saw the movie years ago it was one of the first Taylor films I'd seen, and I found his character a little too stoic compared to the more flamboyant Granger. Viewed now, with more context, I really appreciate Taylor's restrained performance. Both actor and character have a quiet confidence which contrasts effectively with Granger's animated persona.

Blyth is enjoyable as Priscilla; I especially liked her exuberance in a scene where she climbs to the ship's crow's nest for the first time. Her character is young and innocent enough that it's believable she's able to be somewhat manipulated by Mark. Blyth looks beautiful in Technicolor, wearing dresses by Walter Plunkett.

Where the movie falls short is in its central conflict between Joel and Mark. I like Granger tremendously in films such as KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1950), SCARAMOUCHE (1952), and GUN GLORY (1957), but here he's entirely too believable as a total heel, to the point I grew weary of his character's screen time.

Mark is briefly sympathetic in a mid-movie romantic flashback sequence with Betta St. John, playing an unnamed native girl; however, that sympathy only goes so far -- what kind of man marries a woman and doesn't know her name? Unfortunately the flashback sequence goes on so long it becomes tedious and rather grinds the 95-minute movie to a halt.

Mostly, the viewer just wants Mark to go away and leave Joel and Priscilla to be happy again. Mark is a bad boy without much rhyme or reason; I suppose he was just born that way, but his special brand of evil isn't all that interesting.

Honestly, the movie would have been a lot more fun if it had simply been Joel and Priscilla's adventures at sea! All in all it's a film I enjoy and found worth watching a second time, but it's not wholly successful.

It is worth noting that the special effects for this film are quite good; a whaling sequence obviously uses process shots and a tank, but it's done particularly well. Likewise a storm scene manages to be quite believable despite being filmed on a soundstage. Location scenes were filmed in Jamaica.

The movie was directed by Richard Thorpe. Harry Brown's screenplay was based on a novel by Ben Ames Williams.

The supporting cast includes Keenan Wynn, Lewis Stone, James Whitmore, Leo Gordon, Michael Pate, Kurt Kasznar, Peter Whitney, James Bell, and John Doucette.

For more on this movie, please visit a typically thoughtful analysis by Jacqueline at Another Old Movie Blog.

The Warner Archive DVD includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Young in Heart (1938) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The classic comedy THE YOUNG IN HEART (1938) has just been released on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber.

I hadn't seen this film since I first reviewed it here nearly a decade ago. Shortly after I first saw the movie, I had the amazing experience of seeing the movie's stunning car, the "Flying Wombat," at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. Photos of the car may be found here; one is also at the end of this review.

Revisiting this film via Kino Lorber's beautiful Blu-ray was a real treat. This David O. Selznick production is quite delightful. I've always been a bit surprised this film isn't better known, and seeing it again underscored that impression. I hope new audiences will find this film thanks to this great-looking Blu-ray release.

The somewhat unusual story is about the Carletons, a family of fortune hunters, with Roland Young and Billie Burke the parents of George-Anne (Janet Gaynor) and Richard (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.).

When the Carletons are particularly down on their luck they meet the appropriately named Miss Fortune (Minnie Dupree), who takes them into her home. The Carletons determine to act like "normal," honorable people so that the elderly Miss Fortune will want to name them in her will...but then they find themselves actually enjoying things like...gasp...working for a living!

The father is so successful selling automobiles that he's eventually named branch manager, and Richard finds work at an engineering firm, where he's soon spending his spare time reading up on the business and making discreet inquiries about night courses. It rather reminds me of LARCENY, INC. (1942) a few years later, where crooks take over a business in order to have access to the bank vault next door, but then they discover they like running a store!

Although the scenes with Miss Fortune could easily be saccharine, the combination of Dupree's sincere performance and the film's overall humor keeps things from getting too sticky.

The cast couldn't be better, with Fairbanks at his most dashing and Gaynor pulling off an ingenue role despite being in her early 30s. Young and Burke, who also played a married couple in the TOPPER movie series, are delightfully droll.

Richard Carlson makes his film debut as George-Anne's Scottish love (he gets an "introducing" card in the credits), and Paulette Goddard plays an American businesswoman working at Richard's firm. Carlson and Goddard are both wonderful, and one of the refreshing things about the film is that both love interests are "on" to the family situation from the early going, so there are no dramatic negative revelations; instead, both Carlson and Goddard keep hoping their respective loves will reform.

Also of note: Goddard's role as a savvy, confident career woman is surprisingly modern and a nice surprise to find in a film of this vintage.

The film is a well-paced 90 minutes, although I've felt from the first time I saw it that there might be some scenes with Gaynor and Carlson which were left on the cutting-room floor, more's the pity. I'm not sure if the still above is a publicity photo or a missing scene; Gaynor wears this dress in other scenes in the movie.

Henry Stephenson plays Miss Fortune's lawyer. Smaller roles are played by Lucile Watson, Walter Kingsford, Irvin S. Cobb, and Margaret Early.

THE YOUNG IN HEART was directed by Richard Wallace. It was filmed by Leon Shamroy and, curiously, three uncredited cinematographers: William H. Daniels, Bert Glennon, and Ted D. McCord. The production design was by William Cameron Menzies.

For more on the history of the movie's "Flying Wombat," please visit this informative post.

The lone extras are the trailer and a gallery of four additional trailers for films available from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Tonight's Movie: A Royal Winter (2017)

A ROYAL WINTER (2017) is a charming entry in a favorite Hallmark Channel subgenre, "I Didn't Know the Cute Guy I've Been Dating is a Prince." (See also: A ROYAL CHRISTMAS and more, which will doubtless be reviewed here in due course.)

Maggie (Merritt Patterson) is a recent law school grad who takes a winter vacation with her friend Sarah (Rhea Bailey) in the small European kingdom of Calpurnia.

Maggie "meets cute" with A.J. (Jack Donnelly) when he accidentally runs over her hat with his motorcycle. They enjoy getting to know one another, but then Maggie happens to visit the local museum, where the prince in the portrait gallery looks suspiciously like A.J. A quick Google on a smartphone fills in the rest.

Maggie and A.J.'s relationship continues, but his mother Queen Beatrice (Samantha Bond) disapproves of her son dating an American. The Queen also worries that A.J., whose real name is Adrian, isn't ready to be crowned as king -- not knowing that he has a secret life working on projects such as a children's foundation.

Meanwhile Maggie needs to decide whether to return to her "real life," beginning a new job at a law firm, or take a gamble and give her romance with A.J. a chance by remaining in Calpurnia.

It's quite well scripted by Ernie Barbarash and Mark Amato; Barbarash also directed. The film has particularly strong production values, filmed by Viorel Sergovici on location in Romania. Since most of the Hallmark films are produced in Canada, the European locale is a particular plus.

The two leads are charming and sympathetic, and Bond, who was Moneypenny in the Pierce Brosnan 007 films, adds some gravitas as the Queen. Ryan Ellsworth is particularly fun as a hotel manager who turns out to be a key ally for Maggie.

For those who think such a romance is unlikely, consider the story of Mary, a young Australian woman who met a handsome man named Frederik in a pub during the Sydney Olympics. The man was Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, enjoying an evening out with a group which included his cousins Prince Felipe of Spain and Prince Nikolaos of Greece. (All those intermarriages of Queen Victoria's descendants means many of the royal families are related.) Mary is now Crown Princess Mary of Denmark; 13 years after their wedding, she and Frederik have four children.

And then there's Meghan Markle, an actual American Hallmark movie actress (WHEN SPARKS FLY and DATERS HANDBOOK) who will be marrying Britain's Prince Harry in May!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Commuter (2018)

If "train movies" and not-too-scary action films are your thing, then THE COMMUTER (2018) is the movie for you. I had a very good time watching this one.

Three years ago I really enjoyed Liam Neeson in the "plane movie" NON-STOP (2014). Neeson reteamed with director Jaume Collet-Serra for THE COMMUTER.

Like NON-STOP, THE COMMUTER is a good old-fashioned "popcorn flick" made to entertain, and it does so very well. The plot may be slightly confusing -- I think it will be clearer on a future viewing -- but it's executed stylishly. The opening sequence is particularly creative, an endless series of dissolves as we see day after day of the commuting life of Michael MacCauley (Neeson).

When the camera finally lands on MacCauley's life in real time, the ex-cop turned insurance salesman is about to have a very, very bad day. He's laid off from his job, and then he finds himself in the midst of an "unusual" situation on the train home out of NYC.

An odd woman (Vera Farmiga) gives the now financially desperate Michael what he thinks is a hypothetical proposition: Find $25,000 hidden in the train's bathroom, then find someone on the train who "doesn't belong." Put a tracking device on the person and receive another $75,000. That's it. Supposedly.

Michael finds the cash in the bathroom and sticks it in his bag but he's not really interested in playing along. Unfortunately, it turns out the mysterious woman is somehow able to watch his every move, and the game is about to get a whole lot deadlier. Stop after stop, the cat and mouse routine continues as Michael tries to understand what the mysterious powers-that-be want; simultaneously he tries to figure out the identity of the person on board they're after, with almost nothing to go on.

The film blends derivative elements -- a little MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS and UNSTOPPABLE here, a bit of THE NARROW MARGIN there, with a dash of SPARTACUS (!) on the side -- with a gritty, creative style, culminating in a truly spectacular derailment; kudos to the special effects team.

Neeson's character bluntly states he's 60, five years younger than his actual age, but he's still got it as an aging action hero. His final epilogue scene left me with a big smile on my face.

I'd guess Elizabeth McGovern spent two days working on the film in bookend scenes as Neeson's wife. Dean-Charles Chapman plays his son; one of the more enjoyable and unusual themes is that Neeson's character reads all his son's literature assignments in order to tutor him through high school English. The way it's tied into the rest of the plot is a fun bit.

I find Farmiga an annoying actress, perhaps because I associate her with her not-so-nice role in UP IN THE AIR (2009), but I suppose in this case it made her perfect as the creepy puppet master.

It's always a pleasure to see Sam Neill in a movie, here playing a police captain. I initially didn't recognize him under the gray hair, thinking "Why do I know this face?!" Patrick Wilson plays Neeson's former partner. Colin McFarlane registers well as a conductor.

The movie was filmed by Paul Cameron. The running time of an hour and 44 minutes seemed just right to me.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG-13 for some language and "intense violence." It's a fairly mild PG-13 in my eyes. Neeson does flip someone off, and there's a creepy sequence involving a corpse. On the plus side, we've got Neeson ultimately determined to protect everyone who needs it, and a community of strangers coming together to help.

A trailer may be seen on YouTube.

As an aside, the poster art for THE COMMUTER is spectacular!

With this film I've wrapped up this week's plans to see four films in four days and am caught up on everything new I wanted to see...and I saw all four for a total ticket price of just $9.95 thanks to my MoviePass. According to Variety, MoviePass now has 1.5 million subscribers, having added half a million subscribers in just the past month. I continue to seriously wonder if the business model can be sustained, but in the meantime I'm certainly getting my money's worth, having used it for eight films in the two months since Thanksgiving. However long it lasts, like the movie, it's a fun ride.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Book Review: Ten Movies at a Time

Over the last few years I've enjoyed several books by John DiLeo, including SCREEN SAVERS, SCREEN SAVERS II, and TENNESSEE WILLIAMS AND COMPANY: HIS ESSENTIAL SCREEN ACTORS.

All were excellent reads, and I particularly liked the SCREEN SAVERS books which were essays on lesser-known films, many of which are my own personal favorites. Since I first read the SCREEN SAVERS books in 2010 and 2012, I've had the chance to see numerous additional films which were recommended by DiLeo in these volumes and I enjoyed them also. Our tastes in films are often similar so if he recommends a movie, I take note.

DiLeo's latest book is 10 MOVIES AT A TIME: A 350-FILM JOURNEY THROUGH HOLLYWOOD AND AMERICA 1930-1970.

This new book is a unique look at the history of Hollywood and the United States, accomplished in 35 chapters, each surveying, as the title says, "ten movies at a time." Each chapter has an introduction of two or three pages, setting the scene for that particular time in Hollywood, after which we dive into a discussion of the films.

The themes are grouped chronologically, beginning with "Our Jazzy Joan," a look at ten Joan Crawford films in 1930-32. The topics are fun and diverse, ranging from "Neglected Comedy Gems of the Early Sound Era" to "The Post-War Appetite for Fantasy," from Civil War Westerns to 1950s remakes of 1930s films, perfectly titled "What's Dunne is Done (Again)." (As I've written before, at least 10 films starring Irene Dunne were remade!)

While many of the movies are recommended by the author, he also includes some films which are good illustrations of a movie trend, even if they aren't very good. There are also a number of titles mentioned which I liked much more than he did (he didn't like NO MAN OF HER OWN?!); in that case I hope a reader might try some of them out anyway, and perhaps they'll find them as enjoyable as I did!

That said, perhaps I should have read the chapter on the worst films of that golden year, 1939, before watching IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD (1939) a few days ago!

The chapter on Civil War Westerns is a great example of what I love about the book: On the one hand it makes me want to watch unseen films such as TWO FLAGS WEST (1950) and ROCKY MOUNTAIN (1950), while I also enjoyed revisiting titles like ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO (1953) and THE PROUD REBEL (1958) in my mind's eye.

I especially love that DiLeo doesn't go for the obvious choices; for instance, this Civil War Westerns chapter also salutes minor favorites of mine such as ESCORT WEST (1958) and BORDER RIVER (1954).

I've reviewed most of the titles in his chapter on Communism on film; here again, another title I just watched, THE WOMAN ON PIER 13 (1949), aka I MARRIED A COMMUNIST, pops up -- he didn't think any more of it than I did -- along with another title I'll be reviewing soon, THE RED DANUBE (1949). Another personal favorite of mine, NEVER LET ME GO (1953), is discussed, and he includes BIG JIM MCLAIN (1952) despite finding it a bad movie. (Personally I really enjoy that one!)

The author has the same commitment to exploring and championing lesser-known films as I hope to accomplish here at my blog, and I hope that those who read this book will be inspired to try some of the titles he discusses. Other terrific films which come up for discussion in the book are FOLLOW THRU (1930), STATE FAIR (1933), IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935) (seen below), HOMECOMING (1948), THE RECKLESS MOMENT (1949), WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951), MY SISTER EILEEN (1955), RIDE LONESOME (1959), and so many more...350 titles total, to be exact!

Through it all DiLeo also helps keep our eye on changing trends in films and the country, from pre-Codes to film noir and beyond.  It's highly readable and enjoyable, whether you're agreeing with his take, mentally arguing with him, or jotting down titles to watch soon.

TEN MOVIES AT A TIME is a softcover book which is 407 pages including index. There are roughly three dozen photos scattered throughout the book; though printed directly on the non-glossy pages, the reproduction quality is good.

For those who might like to learn more, the author did a 30-minute interview which is available on YouTube.

Thanks to John DiLeo and Hansen Publishing Group for providing a review copy of this book.

Tonight's Movie: Lady Bird (2017)

The first time I saw the trailer for LADY BIRD (2017), I had zero interest in seeing it, thinking it looked like a depressing mess.

My daughter loved it and encouraged me to reconsider, and I'm so glad she did. It's only January 12th, but I suspect this film, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, will remain one of the highlights of my movie viewing year. I'm going to be thinking about it for a long time to come.

The movie stars Saoirse Ronan, who was so good in BROOKLYN (2015) two years ago. She's equally good here, although in some ways it's difficult to recognize her as the same actress, so completely does she inhabit each role.

Ronan plays high school senior Christine McPherson, who has renamed herself "Lady Bird." Lady Bird is anxious to leave her hometown of Sacramento for an East College college -- not just for the culture ("where writers live in the woods") but for a respite from everything she knows, whether religion (she's a scholarship student at a Catholic high school) or her fractious relationship with her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf). Lady Bird recognizes that her mother loves her tremendously, but as her father (Tracy Letts) says, they both have "strong personalities."

LADY BIRD is a coming of age story, following Lady Bird throughout her senior year in 2002-03. She deals with college applications, her father being laid off, her first job, first boyfriend (Lucas Hedges), second boyfriend (Timothee Chalamet), and juggling relationships with friends Julie (Beanie Feldstein) and Jenna (Odeya Rush).

Through it all she has ups and downs with her mother, who is crushed to learn Lady Bird applied to East Coast colleges without telling her, something she only learns when Lady Bird is wait listed at one of the schools.

As a fellow film blogger, Andy, wrote in his own review, a viewer may seem not to have a great deal in common with the characters in this film, yet it's amazingly relatable. And any parent who's ever had to tell their teenager things like "They're laying off a lot of people at your dad's office" or "We can't afford for you to attend your East Coast dream school" will instantly connect.

At the same time, I appreciated that the film was a bit unpredictable and didn't go for easy "button pushing" emotional moments. The emotions it brings up are from the truth of the scenes and characters, not because the filmmakers are manipulating the audience.

Lady Bird's choices aren't always admirable, but they always seem real, and she remains sympathetic even when I wished I could tell her "Oh, don't do that, you'll regret it!" I found the final scenes deeply moving, as she begins to reconnect with various aspects of her life which she had seemingly turned her back on.

All of the acting is excellent, including Letts as Lady Bird's quiet father, who's often a mediator between his wife and daughter. Particular kudos also go to Hedges as Lady Bird's troubled boyfriend and Lois Smith as a nun at Lady Bird's school. Smith's film career goes back to EAST OF EDEN (1955), and she's great here recognizing from Lady Bird's writing that she has deeper feelings for Sacramento than she realizes.

LADY BIRD was filmed by Sam Levy on location in Sacramento and elsewhere. Kudos also to Chris Jones and Traci Spadorcia, the production and set decorator who provided so many recognizable details, right down to the vintage Pyrex in the McPherson kitchen.

The movie runs a well-paced 94 minutes.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated R, which I feel is appropriate.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Post (2017)

Another day, another new movie!

This time around I went to see the latest collaboration between Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg, THE POST (2017). THE POST tells the story of Washington Post publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) deciding to publish the "Pentagon Papers" stolen by Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys).

I can't claim to know much about this aspect of history, which occurred when I was far too young to take notice of it, and it's not something I've read up on in the years since. Historians including Peggy Noonan have addressed that aspect; Noonan wrote "When you can say you spent two enjoyable hours watching a movie, it’s a good movie. But it’s not an honest one."

I set any questions of historical accuracy aside, along with my increasingly finding Streep's off-camera personality grating, particularly her uninformed maligning of Walt Disney a couple years back. I figure if I let real-life issues get in the way of my movie viewing there are far too many good things I'd miss!

So why did I go see THE POST? In the end, plain and simple, I was there for a "newspaper movie" starring Tom Hanks. I've always loved a good movie about the news business, whether it's HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940), TEACHER'S PET (1958), or so many more...and Hanks surely must be the most dependable and engaging actor of his era. Some have called him a modern-day Jimmy Stewart, and I'm not sure that would be wrong.

THE POST has raked in many outstanding reviews, but frankly I think the plaudits have been a bit excessive, perhaps due to the film's romanticization of the press. It starts out verrrrry slowly with Vietnam War scenes and Ellsberg making off with the infamous papers, finally picking up some speed once the focus shifts to Bradlee and Graham. It could have used some tighter editing and a paring down of its slightly too long hour and 56 minutes.

Once we're in the company of Hanks and Streep the film is good, solid entertainment, if a bit dry and slow moving at times. I'd call it a well-done three-star type film, definitely worth seeing, but probably stop there.

I loved the technical aspects of producing the paper, from the edited paper copy being put in a pneumatic tube to send it to the presses, to seeing some of the typesetting take place. The most exciting sequence in the movie, the publication and delivery of the paper, didn't rely on actors so much as machines and trucks to strike a thrilling chord.

Still, some moments are overly obvious, like the row of admiring young women watching Graham exit the Supreme Court at the end. Laying the "role model" point on just a bit too thick! We get it, we get it.

There are a number of interesting actors in the cast, including Philip Casnoff, who I remember as a villain on TV's NORTH AND SOUTH in the '80s, as reporter Chalmers Roberts. Carrie Coon (TV's FARGO) makes a good Meg Greenfield. Matthew Rhys, who plays Ellsberg, is from TV's BROTHERS AND SISTERS and THE AMERICANS; Bradley Whitford of THE WEST WING and Alison Brie of MAD MEN are also in the film. Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, and Tracy Letts are among the large cast.

THE POST was filmed by Janusz Kaminski. Anyone who watches Spielberg films won't be surprised to know that it was scored by, who else, John Williams.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG-13 for language and "brief war violence." It's a very mild PG-13, and I can't imagine that watching it would be problematic for younger viewers who are interested in the subject matter.

A trailer is available on YouTube.

Photos From the Road: Highway 395 and More

It's been a while since I posted photos from last summer's big road trip to Oregon and back! Though I've shared them in several posts, with the links all gathered here, there are still a few left!

This group of photos is from our drive from Oregon south into California's High Sierras and then further down the 395. Later on I'll be sharing photos from the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco to finally wrap up this series!

First, an early morning look at our favorite stop in Oregon, Dutch Bros. Love their hot cocoa!


As we headed through Oregon towards California we made a stop at Salt Creek Falls, described online as "One of 7 Waterfall Wonders in the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Region."


It was very pretty, although the shadows at that time of day made it difficult to get good photos!


Back in California, there were interesting things to photograph as we passed through Tulelake:





Shortly after we got home I learned that the late Huell Howser filmed an episode of CALIFORNIA'S GOLD in Tulake, which can be viewed via Chapman University's Huell Howser Archives.

Big Valley, California, is run-down in an interesting sort of way:



Driving to the Sierras from Oregon is interesting in that we drive into California, then Nevada and finally back into California! Topaz Lake is at the Nevada-California border:


The Topaz Lake re-entry station into California:


California is kind of odd in that you almost feel you're returning from a foreign country when you cross the border into the state, due to agricultural inspection stations such as the one above.

I was so happy to arrive back in our favorite town, Bridgeport!


And to visit our favorite bakery!! You can find many more Bridgeport photos by using the search box at the upper left corner of this page. Among other things, the movies OUT OF THE PAST (1947) and NIGHTFALL (1957) were filmed in Bridgeport.


Our June trip wrapped up with a one-night stop in Lone Pine! Several of the streets in Lone Pine are named after the Western stars who filmed movies there, including one of my favorites:


We returned to Lone Pine in October for the Lone Pine Film Festival, which I've already chronicled here.

Coming in the future: Photos from our visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

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