Friday, April 19, 2019

Nancy Gates, 1926-2019

I was saddened to learn from 50 Westerns From the 50s of the death of Nancy Gates, a special actress from many Westerns and other films. She passed away in Los Angeles on March 24th at the age of 93.

Like so many actors of the era, I first became acquainted with Nancy Gates thanks to reruns of TV's MAVERICK. She costarred opposite Jack Kelly in two episodes, "Burial Ground of the Gods" (1958) and "Passage to Fort Doom" (1959). (Side note: Her future COMANCHE STATION (1959) costar Claude Akins was also in "Burial Ground of the Gods.")

Nancy was just a teenager when she began her film career with a small role in THE TUTTLES OF TAHITI (1942), reviewed here just last month.

She was tested for Lucy in THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942); the role went to Anne Baxter, but she appeared in a bit role. Additional small parts followed in HITLER'S CHILDREN (1943), A NIGHT OF ADVENTURE (1944), and BRIDE BY MISTAKE (1944).

One of her earliest roles with more lines was appearing with Robert Mitchum and Anne Jeffreys in the RKO Western NEVADA (1944):

Throughout the '50s she appeared in Westerns, film noir, and more. Many of her movies have been reviewed here over the last several years, including THE ATOMIC CITY (1952), SUDDENLY (1954), MASTERSON OF KANSAS (1954), TOP OF THE WORLD (1955), NO MAN'S WOMAN (1955), STRANGER ON HORSEBACK (1955), WORLD WITHOUT END (1956), SOME CAME RUNNING (1958), THE GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY (1959), and COMANCHE STATION (1960).

I especially loved seeing her in Westerns. Budd Boetticher, director of COMANCHE STATION (seen above, with Randolph Scott), has been quoted as saying his favorite leading ladies were Nancy Gates and Maureen O'Hara.

Nancy with Joel McCrea in THE GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY:

In the entertaining sci-fi film WORLD WITHOUT END:

Starring with Frank Sinatra in the suspense film SUDDENLY:

In addition to MAVERICK, Nancy appeared in many TV Westerns, including BRONCO, WAGON TRAIN, GUNSMOKE, and THE VIRGINIAN.

London's Telegraph ran a nice obituary on Nancy a week ago, and The Hollywood Reporter published a story today.

Nancy's husband passed away in 1992; her survivors include four children.

Like her contemporary Julie Adams, who passed on earlier this year, Nancy Gates was a special actress who brought a little extra something to every film and TV show in which she appeared. Her work has given me countless happy hours of entertainment, and for that I am most grateful. My sincere condolences to her family.

Pre-Codes Screening at UCLA on April 26th

This spring's big Los Angeles film festivals, the TCM Classic Film Festival and the Noir City Hollywood Festival, may have come to an end, but there's still plenty of classic movies ahead in Southern California theaters!

I'll have more coverage of both TCMFF and Noir City here in the near future, but first, a preview of the interesting pre-Code double bill showing next week at the UCLA Film & Television Archive's Billy Wilder Theater.

On Friday, April 26th, UCLA will be showing 35mm prints of THE SIGN OF THE CROSS (1932) and ONLY YESTERDAY (1933).

THE SIGN OF THE CROSS is a Cecil B. DeMille film starring Claudette Colbert, Fredric March, and Charles Laughton, preserved from DeMille's personal 35mm nitrate print. Margaret Sullavan and John Boles star in the second film, ONLY YESTERDAY.

I've never seen either movie, so it promises to be an interesting and educational evening. THE SIGN OF THE CROSS is considered to be an extreme example of the pre-Code film, from Colbert's milk bath scene and a dance sequence to gruesome arena scenes; honestly, despite my love for Colbert I've avoided the film till now due to the violence, but I feel like if I'm going to see the film, this is the ideal way to see it!

Mark Vieira, author of the new book FORBIDDEN HOLLYWOOD: THE PRECODE ERA (1930-1934), will be signing his book before the screenings.

I was delighted that this beautiful hardcover from Running Press and Turner Classic Movies was included in this year's media bag at the TCM Classic Film Festival. I was unable to attend signings Vieira held during the festival so I look forward to having him sign my copy next week!

Monday, April 15, 2019

The 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review

The 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival is now over, another amazing experience which leaves behind many happy memories.

The festival's theme, "Love at the Movies," was reflected not just in the films themselves, but in the love festival attendees have for classic films. The entire festival was a truly happy experience filled with the joy of discovering or revisiting movies while surrounded by friends and enthusiastic movie fans.

This year was particularly special as it was the festival's 10th anniversary, and Sunday, April 14th, was the 25th anniversary of the TCM network.

As always, TCM provided an almost overwhelming variety of options for festival-goers. I could easily have made out two completely different schedules and been happy!

I generally stuck to the schedule I outlined before the festival, though I had to drop some titles due to lack of time to make it to the screenings. I was quite pleased with my final tally of 15 films plus one 90-minute clip show, and I even found time to eat dinner each day, which I didn't manage to do at last year's festival!

Six of the 15 films seen at the festival were first-time watches for me; of the nine repeats, three were first-time big screen viewings.

My 35mm tally was lower this year; while last year 14 of 17 films were in 35mm, this year only seven films were seen in 35mm -- but three of those were nitrate prints! There were several digital restorations, and I continue to marvel at how much better the digital projection quality is today compared to my earliest visits to the festival, when some of the digital prints were muddy and pixilated.

I enjoyed everything I saw to varying degrees, including ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1979), which I'd been slightly nervous about trying; it proved to be quite an engrossing movie.

Although I didn't see a silent film at this year's festival, my selections were quite varied, including musicals, romantic comedies, pre-Codes, a Western, sci-fi, crime films, romantic melodramas, and a Biblical epic. I saw three films with Cary Grant, two apiece with Irene Dunne and Barbara Rush, and two films directed by Don Siegel.

This year saw the addition of a new venue, the beautiful American Legion Post 43 Theater. Although the uphill hike to the theater and the distance combined to make it a challenge for some festival attendees to fit in a visit, it was an absolutely gorgeous venue! I'll be sharing more photos here in a future post. If there were a way for TCM to offer shuttle service from the Legion Theater to the other festival venues, it would be perfect.

The return of many pre-Codes from the Egyptian to the Chinese Multiplex did make for regular "sellouts" in the festival's smallest venue, Theater 6; I suspect the reluctance of some attendees to make the trek to the Legion Theater may have increased the pool of viewers trying to snag one of Theater 6's 210 seats. Other than that challenge and a couple of films which started late, the festival ran as smoothly as ever. It's safe to say that by now TCM has learned what works through a decade of experience.

It's hard to say what I enjoyed seeing the most, but I might have to say LOVE AFFAIR (1939) with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. Somehow I'd never seen it before, and it was simply exquisite. Honestly, though, everything on my viewing list was memorable for varied reasons, and I left each film a satisfied viewer.

Happily this year was much better than last year in terms of my not experiencing inappropriate audience reactions to films. I did have trouble with someone causing distraction by photographing the opening credits of MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION (1954) -- you've got to wonder what's going through such a self-centered person's mind when they do that -- but that was my only issue.

That said, friends reported similar problems with credits being photographed at other screenings, and at one screening I attended there was a specific request that audiences not do this, as it was happening with some frequency. I saw a picture on Twitter where someone had clearly photographed "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" as STAR WARS (1977) was beginning in the Chinese Theatre...sigh. Otherwise, all was good!

As usual, over the next couple weeks I'll be posting overviews of each day of the TCM Classic Film Festival, including lots of photos. I also plan to write reviews of some individual films, along with completing reviews of the films I recently saw at the Noir City Hollywood Festival, not to mention previewing next month's Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival! Southern Californians are truly blessed with classic movie riches.

As additional TCM Classic Film Festival posts go up, I'll add the links just below this paragraph, so that all of this year's festival coverage may be easily found in one place.

TCM 2019 Classic Film Festival Posts: [Coming soon!]

Previously reviewed films seen at the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival: WINCHESTER '73 (1950) and WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951).

Previous 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival Coverage: TCM Announces 2019 Festival Dates and Theme, TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements, Latest TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements, New TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements.

Roundups containing all links to coverage of past TCM festivals: The 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review, The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review, The 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review, The 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review, The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review, and The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Happy Silver Anniversary to Turner Classic Movies

April 14th, 2019, marks the 25th anniversary of Turner Classic Movies!

I was honored to be quoted in a celebratory piece written by my friend Aurora for her blog Once Upon a Screen. I encourage everyone to read it -- as you will see, I'm in some fine company! The thoughts shared by everyone in that post combine to explain quite beautifully why TCM is so important to so many of us.

Happy Anniversary, TCM, and here's to many more!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Coming Soon!

It's time once more for the TCM Classic Film Festival!

After spending eight consecutive days at the 21st Annual Noir City Film Festival from March 29th to April 5th, now it's time to dive into the 10th annual edition of the TCM festival, which takes place from April 11th through 14th.

As usual, today will be spent at various festival-related activities, including a reception with TCM talent and executives as well as the annual gathering of classic film bloggers.

The movies begin on Thursday evening! My detailed thoughts on the schedule and my tentative plans may be found here.

Please follow me on Twitter for photos and updates in real time, then watch for my in-depth coverage here beginning next week. I also anticipate writing about the festival in my next column for Classic Movie Hub.

In addition to extensive coverage of the TCM Classic Film Festival, there's much more ahead here in the weeks to come, including:

*Additional reviews of films seen at the Noir City Film Festival.

*Complete coverage of the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, which takes place in Palm Springs, California, from May 9th through 12th. I'll have a close look at the schedule posted here shortly after the conclusion of the TCM Fest.

*A review of the new book DUTCH GIRL: AUDREY HEPBURN AND WORLD WAR II by Robert Matzen.


*A review of AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019) near the end of the month.

*Numerous reviews of DVDs and Blu-rays from Kino Lorber and the Warner Archive.

*An Around the Blogosphere link roundup.

*And I'm hoping to finally tackle a series of long overdue photo posts!

Exciting times ahead...stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Monday, April 08, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

Last week I spent eight wonderful evenings at the Noir City Film Festival in Hollywood!

I'll have more film noir reviews coming soon, but first, a total change of pace. This evening I saw Hayao Miyazaki's animated film HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE (2004) as part of Fathom Events' Studio Ghibli Fest 2019.

The movie was preceded by an introduction by Crispin Freeman, a member of the film's English-language cast.

HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE was written and directed by Miyazaki, based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones. It received an Oscar nomination as Best Animated Film of the Year.

HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE was the fourth Miyazaki film I've seen, following CASTLE IN THE SKY (1986), MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (1988), and THE WIND RISES (2013). While TOTORO is far and away my favorite of these films, I liked HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE quite well and found it an absorbing 119 minutes.

In this fantasy, Sophie runs a hat shop founded by her late father. One night Sophie is cursed by the mean Witch of the Waste, who turns her into an old hag. Sophie flees her hometown and happens across the "moving castle" which is the home of Howl, a temperamental wizard.

As "Grandma Sophie," Sophie keeps house for Howl and his young apprentice Markl in exchange for a roof over her head. Sophie doesn't know that Howl can see past the curse to the young girl underneath her aged exterior; the fire spirit Calcifer, who works for Howl, also recognizes that Sophie is cursed, and they pledge to help one another.

As war rages overhead and around them, Sophie helps Howl become more courageous. She also extends kindness to the Witch of the Waste when the Witch finds herself in unhappy circumstances, and an ersatz family comes together in the castle, comprised of Howl, Sophie, Markl, Calcifer, the Witch, and a dog named Hin.

As Howl bravely works to protect Sophie and end the war, Sophie very gradually transforms back to the girl she once was.

Some of the visuals for this fairy tale are quite beautiful; the "prettier" moments are mixed in with the "steampunk" elements also seen in CASTLE IN THE SKY. While I prefer the gorgeous art of things like the beautiful fields of flowers Howl presents to Sophie, the steampunk designs are certainly creative, particularly the title castle with its "face" and legs. I'm glad I saw the film for the first time on a big screen where I could fully appreciate all the interesting visual details.

I felt the movie was 10 minutes too long and would have benefited from a running time closer to an hour and 45 minutes than two hours, but otherwise this was an engrossing, interesting film which I enjoyed.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG. There are some mildly spooky moments which might trouble some of the youngest potential viewers, but overall the film struck me as fine for the "8 and up" set. The film features an admirable heroine who bravely copes with her predicament and demonstrates that kindness to others -- even those who least deserve it -- goes a long way toward making life better.

HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE is available on DVD and Blu-ray. Miyazaki releases typically have both the Japanese and English voice casts. The English-dubbed version has an interesting cast including Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal, Blythe Danner, and Christian Bale.

As a related note of interest, when the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opens in Los Angeles later this year, the first of the museum's rotating exhibits will feature Miyazaki; the exhibit was developed in conjunction with Studio Ghibli.

The museum website says: "The Academy Museum’s inaugural temporary exhibition will be an unprecedented U.S. retrospective of famed Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki...The exhibition will take visitors on a thematic journey through Miyazaki’s cinematic worlds, featuring original production materials, including pieces that have never been seen outside of Studio Ghibli’s archives. Each of Miyazaki’s animated feature films are represented in the exhibition, among them MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (1988) and the Academy Award-winning SPIRITED AWAY (2001). The exhibition will present more than 200 concept sketches, character designs, storyboards, layouts, cels, and backgrounds, complemented by large-scale projections showing the most memorable clips from his films. A catalogue, film series, and public events will accompany the presentation, and unique Studio Ghibli merchandise will be sold at the Museum’s shop."

My husband and I are Charter Members of the Academy Museum so I will definitely be touring this exhibit at the earliest possible moment and share coverage here.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Quick Preview of TCM in July

The July schedule for Turner Classic Movies is now available!

Glenn Ford will be the July Star of the Month. Over three dozen Ford films will be shown spread across Monday evenings in July, running into the early hours each Tuesday.

This is Ford's third time as Star of the Month. Ford was previously the Star of the Month in June 1994, just after TCM began, and he was also honored nearly 18 years ago, in November 2001.

TCM will host two big Spotlight series in July, one on the films of 1939 and another on the history of science fiction. As part of the sci-fi series, TCM will be showing STAR WARS (1977). (I refuse to call it A NEW HOPE!)

July's Noir Alley titles are THE TATTOOED STRANGER (1950), THE PEOPLE AGAINST O'HARA (1951), WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS (1956), and THIEVES' HIGHWAY (1949). George Sanders, Ida Lupino, and Dana Andrews are seen at the right in WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS.

Saturday mornings feature Westerns with Dick Foran, Tim Holt, Tom Keene, and George O'Brien, along with Bowery Boys films, Traveltalk shorts, and the serial LOST CITY OF THE JUNGLE (1946).

As always, there is special programming for the 4th of July, including YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942) and THE MUSIC MAN (1962). Additional July themes include Sherlock Holmes, "Beach Party" movies, Spencer Tracy, priests, and doctors and nurses serving in WWII.

Filmmakers receiving multifilm tributes in July include Leslie Caron, Lucille Ball, Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, Tab Hunter, Maureen O'Hara, and William Powell.

I'll have more detailed information on the July schedule posted here in late June.

Paul Newman will be the Star of the Month for May, with Jane Powell to be celebrated in June.

Friday, April 05, 2019

New Western Roundup Column Posted at Classic Movie Hub

My latest Western Roundup column was posted today at Classic Movie Hub!

My new article is on "B" Western appearances by a trio of actresses, Marsha Hunt, Ann Rutherford, and Virginia Grey. Each of these ladies worked in "B" Westerns as teenagers before moving on to contracts at prestigious MGM.

Please visit Classic Movie Hub to check it out, and thanks very much for reading!

Previous Classic Movie Hub Western Roundup Column Links: June 2018; July 2018; August 2018; September 2018; October 2018; November 2018; December 2018; January 2019; February 2019.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Appointment With Danger (1951) at the Noir City Film Festival

Last Saturday night was a marvelous evening at the 21st Annual Noir City Film Festival.

The night consisted of a double bill of APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER (1951) and SHADOW ON THE WALL (1950), both shown in 35mm.

APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER stars Alan Ladd, who happily has been a mainstay at Noir City over the last few years. Ladd films I've seen at the festival are THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942), THE GREAT GATSBY (1949), CALCUTTA (1947), THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946), and CHICAGO DEADLINE (1949).

(What's more, next month at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival I'll get to see THE GLASS KEY (1942) on the screen for the first time, along with revisiting CALCUTTA!)

In APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER Ladd plays U.S. postal inspector Al Goddard, who travels to Gary, Indiana, to investigate the murder of a colleague. The black and white location cinematography by John F. Seitz in Indiana and Illinois is just one of the film's pleasures.

The sole witness to the aftermath of the murder is a nun (Phyllis Calvert, THE MAN IN GREY). Cynical Al is constantly baffled by Sister Augustine's outlook and honesty as he works to keep her alive, but eventually it seems she might just be having some influence on his attitudes...

Al works to infiltrate the gang, played by Paul Stewart, Jack Webb, and Harry Morgan. It's rather delicious seeing future DRAGNET costars Webb and Morgan as heavies. The year before APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER they also each had a supporting role in DARK CITY (1950).

The supporting cast includes Jan Sterling as a music-loving gangster's moll, who has some great lines. Also in the film: Geraldine Wall, Harry Antrim, and David Wolfe.

In addition to interesting location filming and set pieces -- I loved a scene on a handball court -- the movie has a very good script, by Richard Breen and Warren Duff. Few were better than Ladd at delivering verbal zingers. He's terrific in a nuanced performance, starting out all sharp edges as the tenacious investigator but gradually softening thanks to his dealings with the good sister.

APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER runs 90 minutes. It was directed by Lewis Allen (THE UNINVITED, DESERT FURY). The musical score was by Victor Young.

For more on APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER, please visit a review by David Vineyard at Mystery File and another by "The Professor" at Noir of the Week. They admire the film, as I did.

APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER has been released on DVD and Blu-ray by Olive Films.

The second film of the night was the excellent SHADOW ON THE WALL (1950), which I reviewed on DVD in 2016. I also reviewed a TCM showing back in 2010.

It was a real treat to have SHADOW ON THE WALL introduced by former child actress Gigi Perreau. Eddie Muller spoke with Gigi about her career and at one point said it might be the most upbeat interview ever at a Noir City Festival.

Perreau was very appreciative of her experiences and the opportunity to work with many talented people. On SHADOW ON THE WALL she said she remembers liking director Pat Jackson's British accent, and she felt he trusted her acting ability, telling her to follow her instincts for a big scene.

She admired the cowboy boots Zachary Scott constantly wore, and near the end of the film he traced her feet onto paper and told her she'd be getting a surprise in a few weeks. She later received her own custom-made cowboy boots as a gift from him. She said he and Ann Sothern were wonderful to work with, and she remembered playing with Ann Sothern's little girl (who would have been Tisha Sterling).

She adored Nancy Davis (Reagan) and had fond memories of skipping with her to the commissary singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." It was the start of a lifelong friendship which eventually led to her visiting Nancy in the White House.

She also briefly discussed her trip to England for last year's royal wedding, where she watched the carriage procession. Perreau had been Meghan Markle's high school drama teacher and said Meghan was a wonderful girl. She also was highly complimentary of Meghan's father, saying he'd been a great help with technical support for their productions; she clearly felt he has been treated unfairly by the press.

It was great to hear from a former child actress who had such positive things to say about her career. Gigi clearly felt blessed by her unusual life experiences.

It was a terrific evening, with several more great nights still to come!