Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Love is a Racket (1932) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

LOVE IS A RACKET (1932) is an entertaining pre-Code available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

I first saw this film a dozen years ago, half a decade or so before the film first became available from the Warner Archive. I enjoyed it pretty well then, but I liked it even more on this viewing; wider viewing and personal connections in the years since provided a new context for this rewatch.

The movie is a brisk 72-minute story about Broadway newspaper columnist Jimmy Russell (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), who's head over heels for lovely would-be Broadway star Mary Wodehouse (Frances Dee).

Mobster Eddie Shaw (Lyle Talbot) also lusts after Mary and obtains blackmail material in order to force her to meet him, obviously planning to have his way with her. Jimmy sneaks onto Eddie's penthouse balcony, intending to deal with him in some manner, but he hasn't counted on Mary's protective Aunt Hattie (Cecil Cunningham) getting there before him...or on his best pal Stanley (Lee Tracy) arriving in time to see Jimmy doing some "cleanup" work and misconstruing what happened.

The movie is quite entertaining thanks to the fast-paced direction of William Wellman, a cast of pre-Code favorites, and a somewhat racy story which is a good exemplar of that short-lived movie era. Most notably, a straight-out murder not only goes completely unpunished, it's even rewarded, in a manner of speaking.

I find Fairbanks Jr. a charming leading man, engaging and energetic, with a great smile. He's ably supported by Tracy and Ann Dvorak; Tracy is carrying a torch for Dvorak's character, Sally, who in turn wants to be more to Jimmy than just a pal. The roles are very much a change of pace for Tracy and Dvorak from their costarring parts in their previous film, THE STRANGE LOVE OF MOLLY LOUVAIN (1932).

Dvorak is underused, but she has a nice little scene trading subtle insults with Dee, and her knowing smile at the end of the movie is delightful. Tracy has more to do as the loyal friend who's completely jolted by what he thinks he's seen one dark and rainy night but who nonetheless does his best to help.

Dee is terrific as the calculating Mary, who waffles between pledging eternal love for Jimmy and simply using him to meet famous men and bail her out of jams. There were two definite sides to the actress in this era; on the one hand, she excelled at playing troubled, manipulative young ladies in films such as this and BLOOD MONEY (1933), which I saw at last year's TCM Classic Film Festival. These roles are quite a contrast from her more wholesome role as responsible, earnest Meg in LITTLE WOMEN (1933). Bridging the gap between these two types of roles is FINISHING SCHOOL (1934), in which Dee plays a sweet schoolgirl who finds herself in the family way.

In the years since first seeing LOVE IS A RACKET I've seen countless additional pre-Codes, and I've also had the pleasure of chatting at length with William Wellman Jr., son of the director, and Wyatt McCrea, grandson of Frances Dee. Those experiences and the understanding gained regarding the backgrounds of director and actress added an additional level of enjoyment to my viewing.

LOVE IS A RACKET was one of Lyle Talbot's earliest films, and as it happens, last year his daughter Margaret paid a visit to McCrea Ranch, Dee's longtime home. Not only did Lyle Talbot appear with Dee in LOVE IS A RACKET, but he had later costarred with Dee's husband Joel McCrea in OUR LITTLE GIRL (1935).

A short talk by Talbot was recorded on the occasion of her visit to the ranch, and it's available on YouTube. Among other things, she discusses director Wellman meeting her father and casting him in this film. The trailer for LOVE IS A RACKET, which is quite delightful, is shown at the very end of the video.

LOVE IS A RACKET was filmed by Sid Hickox. The script by Courtenay Terrett, which has some very good lines scattered throughout, was based on a novel by Rian James. The supporting cast also included Warren Hymer and Andre Luguet.

The print and sound of the Warner Archive DVD are quite good for a film of this vintage. The disc also includes the trailer.

As I write, the WB Shop has temporarily suspended operations due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The movie may still be ordered from other retailers, although in the case of Amazon shipping may be delayed in order to prioritize delivery of essential items.

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, April 05, 2020

TCM Star of the Month: Jane Russell

Actress Jane Russell is the April Star of the Month on Turner Classic Movies.

17 of Russell's films will be screened on Monday evenings this month, beginning April 6th..

Here's a quick look at the complete lineup. Please click on any hyperlinked title for my corresponding full-length review.

Air times for each time zone may be found on TCM's online schedule.

April 6th


April 13th

MACAO (1952)

April 20th


April 27th

FOXFIRE (1955)
HOT BLOOD (1956)

There are a number of entertaining titles here. The first three films on April 13th, costarring Robert Mitchum (HIS KIND OF WOMAN and MACAO) and Victor Mature (THE LAS VEGAS STORY) are very enjoyable, and when I saw GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES at the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival for the first time in years, it was wonderful to be reminded how funny it is.

I also very much like FOXFIRE, a romantic melodrama costarring Jeff Chandler.

For more on TCM in April 2020, please visit TCM in April: Highlights and Quick Preview of TCM in April, as well as TCM's online schedule.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...Like many of my readers, I've been enjoying a number of "old favorite" films during our enforced hibernation. This weekend I've rewatched GREEN FOR DANGER (1946), which I reviewed here in 2009. What a marvelous film! And strangely reassuring to watch others coping bravely with a life-threatening situation -- the movie depicts periodic bombings in WWII Britain. Highly recommended.

...Actor Norman Lloyd, who is now 105, is living through his second pandemic. He was a four-year-old during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

...Walt Disney's former home in Palm Springs is for sale. The Los Angeles Times provides a photo tour.

...Kenneth Turan has just retired as senior film critic at the Los Angeles Times. For his final column he listed 14 comfort movies he recommends for viewing during these nervous days. The terrific list includes one of my all-time favorite films, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938); Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in SWING TIME (1936); James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940); more wonderful films starring Greer Garson and Irene Dunne; and one of my very favorite discoveries of the last few years, Hayao Miyazaki's MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (1988). The latter film seems particularly apt viewing for our current times, as magical creatures help two little girls navigate a challenging period in their own lives. Turan describes it thus: "A charming and joyful Japanese animated film, so magical it’s almost impossible to accurately describe." I agree 100%.

...Kino Lorber's latest upcoming Blu-ray announcements include KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS (1948), starring Burt Lancaster and Joan Fontaine. It will be released on June 9th, with extras including a commentary track by the always-worthwhile Jeremy Arnold. Coming in July: NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK (1941), starring W.C. Fields and Gloria Jean.

...I think I shared this 2015 video a few years ago, but this tour of Fred MacMurray and June Haver's Healdsburg, California ranch home hosted by their daughter Kate is worth another look. The MacMurrays' warm and low-key decor reminds me very much of McCrea Ranch, home of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee.

...Here's a quick peek into the projection room of Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre. Having seen many movies there, it was fun to take a look.

...I just came across a very nice extended February interview with Loretta Young's son Chris and his wife Linda.

...This year Kimberly Truhler of GlamAmor will be offering a web version of her annual "Fashion in Films of TCMFF" talk. The subject matter of her April 15th presentation will tie in with films shown in this year's "Special Home Edition" of the festival, which airs on TCM from April 16th to 19th. Registration for the fashion presentation is at Zoom.

...Disney has announced new release dates for its upcoming slate of movies. JUNGLE CRUISE has been delayed for a year, from July 24, 2020, to July 30, 2021. BLACK WIDOW (2020) originally scheduled to come out in May, is being bumped to November, and the Marvel films originally scheduled to be released in fall 2020 and beyond have all been bumped forward to as late as 2022.

...Ben Model has announced he'll be hosting "Silent Comedy Watch Party" for the next several Sundays. Visit YouTube on Sunday, April 5th, at noon Pacific/3:00 Eastern for the live stream.

...See's Candies announced that Oriental Trading Company will be selling and shipping See's unsold Easter candy, while supplies last. As mentioned last week, See's is fully closed for the first time in its nearly 100-year-old history due to the coronavirus shutdown. (April 7th Update: See's has announced that Oriental Trading Company has now sold out.)

...Festival producer Alan K. Rode has announced that this year's Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, which was scheduled to take place in Palm Springs from May 7th to 10th, will be postponed to later this year.

...Notable Passings: Soap opera actor John Callahan, star of ALL MY CHILDREN and SANTA BARBARA, has passed on at the age of 66....Actress Patricia Bosworth, who also wrote several actor biographies, has died at 86...Teenaged actor Logan Williams, who appeared in the Hallmark Channel's THE COLOR OF RAIN (2014) and WHEN CALLS THE HEART, has sadly died at the age of 16...Actress Julie Bennett, known for voicing Cindy Bear on Yogi Bear TV cartoons for decades, has died at 88.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my March 28th roundup.

Have a great week!

Friday, April 03, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

A few months ago I saw a trailer for THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (1974), nicely edited to David Shire's excellent score.

I was intrigued, as I enjoy watching a good action or heist film every so often, so I ordered the Special Edition Blu-ray released by Kino Lorber.

I've now caught up with the movie and am happy to say it didn't disappoint. It's a well-paced, interesting, and even funny film, shot on location in New York.

The movie immediately plunges the viewer into the action. A quartet of code-named villains -- Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw), Mr. Green (Martin Balsam), Mr. Brown (Earl Hindman), and Mr. Grey (Hector Elizondo) -- methodically take over a New York subway train, Pelham 123, holding the passengers hostage.

They give their ransom demand -- a million dollars in small bills, to be delivered to them in one hour -- to Lt. Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau) of the transit police. Garber becomes the point man, dealing with Mr. Blue on the phone and then passing on operational information to law enforcement colleagues, including Lt. Rico Patrone (Jerry Stiller) and Inspector Daniels (Julius Harris).

Getting the million dollars to the hijackers in the allotted time seems to be an impossibility, and when it's apparent there will be a delay, Garber improvises in an attempt to keep the hijackers from killing the passengers.

Garber also knows that there happens to be an undercover cop on the train, but no one seems to know who it is and what he or she might do. And how the hijackers intend to escape from the subway tunnel once they have the money is anyone's guess.

This was quite a good movie, jam-packed with action and story from start to finish. The characterizations are gradually revealed as each person responds to a high-pressure situation. Matthau's Garber initially seems to be a man stuck in a fairly ho-hum job -- as the film begins he's giving some Japanese subway executives a tour with a decided lack of enthusiasm -- but as matters unfold he shows himself to be quite competent and focused as he works the problem, and he confidently uses sarcasm and a dose of reality as he's negotiating with Mr. Blue.

On the street above Garber's command station, all is chaos, but he remains coolly in control -- except when he has to shake some sense into a coworker (Dick O'Neill) who's more concerned about the train system being down for the upcoming rush hour than the hostages.

I've said in the past that I don't particularly consider myself a fan of Matthau, and yet I have to admit that in the right role he's really entertaining to watch. He was the best thing in MIRAGE (1965), for example, and the movie lost a lot when his character exited partway into the film, and I've watched him in the excellent CHARLEY VARRICK (1973) a couple of times. He's terrific in this, right up to his very last priceless expression as the movie ends. Perhaps I'm becoming more of a fan...

Among the villains, Balsam's ill Mr. Green is rather annoying, while Elizondo's Mr. Grey is perhaps the scariest of the hijackers, as he turns out to be a ruthless killer. Dissension among the hijackers will ultimately prove to be a factor that works in Garber's favor.

I also liked that the hostages were a gritty group of New Yorkers; although there's a mother fearful for her two boys, by and large the varied passengers respond to the situation in such a way that the viewer is not overly weighed down with distress about their situation. Indeed, an elderly man (Michael Gorrin) that one might feel most concerned about proves to be one of the people who copes the best, engaging the hijackers in conversation and encouraging his fellow passengers.

The film is rated R, but while it's violent, it's not bloody. I was more annoyed with the inordinate amount of cussing; I sometimes feel this was overdone in movies of this era simply because they could, freed relatively recently from previous Production Code restrictions. Eventually it gets to the point where the words are simply meaningless.

The film was directed by Joseph Sargent, who was primarily known as a director of TV-movies; I've seen quite a bit of his TV work and especially liked CAROLINE? (1990) with Stephanie Zimbalist.

The movie was shot on location in New York by Owen Roizman. The film's script was by Peter Stone, based on a novel by John Godey; it runs 104 well-paced minutes.

The Kino Lorber Special Edition Blu-ray includes the trailer; interviews with Hector Elizondo, David Shire, and editor Gerald Greenberg; a commentary track; and more.

The trailer is here.

The movie was remade in 2009, with Denzel Washington and John Travolta in the Matthau and Shaw roles.

Recommended for fans of heist films. It's a good one!

A Birthday Tribute to Doris Day

Note: I paid tribute here to the late, great Doris Day on her birthdays in both 2014 and 2018.

This year, on Doris's first birthday since her passing in May 2019, I share a tribute adapted from my 2014 article for ClassicFlix.

This column includes 12 recommendations for favorite Doris Day films, all available on DVD. Please click on any hyperlinked title to read my extended review.

When one of our greatest stars, Doris Day, celebrated her birthday in 2012, she made a rare public appearance for the occasion -- delighting not only fans present to see her in person, but those of us who were happy to see smiling new photos of the beloved singer-actress.

Day was the biggest female box office star in history, but she was off the movie screen for the last five decades of her life, living a quiet life in Carmel, California. At a past TCM Classic Film Festival, TCM staffers shared that Doris was Number One on their wish-list for a festival appearance, which sadly never occurred. The folks at TCM said Day seemed to have no idea just how greatly she was loved and admired. The network did persuade her to agree to a 2014 audio interview with the late TCM host Robert Osborne.

Day, born in Cincinnati in 1922, was an unlikely movie star. A successful big band singer, she was so ambivalent about a screen test that, when asked if she'd like to be an actress, she replied to director Michael Curtiz, "Oh, I suppose. I guess it might be interesting."

As recounted in Tom Santopietro's fine book CONSIDERING DORIS DAY, despite having no experience and simultaneously dealing with the stress of a collapsed marriage, Day sailed through her screen test, finding the ins and outs of filming effortless. Santopietro quotes Day as saying she "felt a nice exhilaration" when she heard "Action!"

Composer Sammy Cahn said when he saw Day's screen test, "The screen just exploded...a great star was born." Indeed, Day was a fully formed movie star from the very start of her screen career, starring in the leading role in ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS (1948), and she continued to delight movie audiences for two decades. Off the screen her personal life was turbulent at times, but onscreen she was pure movie sunshine.

When Day's eponymous TV series ended in 1973, roughly a quarter of a century after her film debut, she retired from the screen and has since devoted herself to protecting animals.

When it comes to Doris Day's filmography, the challenge is not in deciding which films to recommend, but which titles to leave out! She could truly do it all: Musicals, comedy, and highly dramatic roles.

Below are a dozen favorite Day titles showcasing the breadth of her talent. Day appeared in many more films which are also worth seeing.

ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS (1948) - Day's character, Georgia, is a brash and sassy singer in low-budget clubs who dreams of travel. About 40 minutes into the film, Day quietly launches into singing the Oscar-nominated "It's Magic," and a star is born.

MY DREAM IS YOURS (1949) - Day is lovely and very "real" as a young widow and mother determined to succeed as a singer. The film also has an attractive color palette, a nice low-key performance by Jack Carson, and an Easter sequence featuring Bugs Bunny.

ON MOONLIGHT BAY (1951) and its sequel BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON (1953) are very enjoyable films inspired by Booth Tarkington stories. Day plays tomboy Marjorie Winfield, who lives with her parents (Leon Ames and Rosemary DeCamp), little brother (Billy Gray), and housekeeper (Mary Wickes), then falls in love with the boy next door (Gordon MacRae). These films, with an early 20th century MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) vibe, are great family entertainment.

CALAMITY JANE (1953) - One of Doris Day's very best musicals, she shines in the high-energy title role, singing great songs like "Deadwood Stage" and "Just Blew in From the Windy City," and performing a duet with Howard Keel (as Wild Bill Hickock) in "I Can Do Without You." Best of all is the Oscar-winning "Secret Love."

YOUNG AT HEART (1954) - This loose remake of FOUR DAUGHTERS (1938) cut the number of daughters down to three -- Doris, Dorothy Malone, and Elisabeth Fraser -- but the film is especially notable for the onscreen teaming of two of the greatest vocalists of the 20th century, Day and Frank Sinatra. The movie may not be one of the best of Day's career, but it's absorbing, and the teaming of Day and Sinatra makes it must-see viewing.

LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME (1955) - One of Day's greatest performances, she plays singer Ruth Etting, who has a turbulent marriage with gangster Marty Snyder (James Cagney). Day and Cagney are dynamite together.

JULIE (1956) - This melodrama has Doris in the title role, determined to escape from her psycho husband (Louis Jourdan) and return to a quiet life as an airline stewardess. Sure, it's a little hokey, but Doris totally sells the great final sequence where she has to land a passenger plane. Just plain fun.

THE PAJAMA GAME (1957) - Another of Day's best musicals, in which she plays a union worker at a factory who falls in love with her manager (John Raitt) just as a strike is in the offing. Great performances, score, and widescreen photography; a must for Doris Day fans.

TEACHER'S PET (1958) - This excellent comedy has an intelligent, Oscar-nominated script and terrific performances from Doris, Clark Gable, and Oscar-nominated Gig Young. An old-school newspaper editor (Gable) clashes with a journalism professor (Day) in a film which remains surprisingly relevant today as newspaper employees struggle to compete with the immediacy of TV and radio news coverage. Day's knack for comedy is especially evident in the dazed moments after Gable first kisses her, as she struggles to remain upright.

PILLOW TALK 1959) - The first and best known of the slightly racy romantic comedies Doris made with Rock Hudson, it continues to amuse and entertain today. The bright screenplay won the Oscar, and Doris received her one and only Best Actress nomination for this film.

THE THRILL OF IT ALL (1963) - Day is deliciously teamed with James Garner in this entertaining tale of a doctor's wife who becomes a TV star selling laundry soap. Day and Garner have wonderful chemistry, and many viewers fondly recall the famous scene in which Garner inadvertently drives into a brand-new swimming pool; a must for those who love Day in comedies.

This post is adapted from an article originally published by ClassicFlix in 2014.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Quick Preview of TCM in June

Turner Classic Movies recently released a preview of its June schedule.

The June Star of the Month will be Ann Sheridan. Approximately three dozen of Sheridan's films will be shown on Tuesday evenings.

I think Sheridan is a terrific choice. She was previously the Star of the Month close to two dozen years ago, in August 1996.

It's a great lineup, though I do wish TCM were able to show her rarely seen but charming film directed by Douglas Sirk, TAKE ME TO TOWN (1953). Perhaps it's on Kino Lorber's list of Universal Pictures films to release this year...we can hope!

The June Noir Alley films are THE UNDERWORLD STORY (1950), MURDER BY CONTRACT (1958), UNDERWORLD, U.S.A. (1961), and THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1948).

The TCM Spotlight theme every Monday and Thursday will be "Jazz in Film." The schedule will include everything from band leader bios (for example, THE GLENN MILLER STORY) to films with classic jazz scores (such as ANATOMY OF A MURDER) to jazz musicians on film (HIGH SOCIETY) to documentaries (JAZZ ON A SUMMER'S DAY) and shorts (JAMMIN' THE BLUES).

There's also a "History of the Swimsuit" theme throughout June which includes "Beach Party" and Esther Williams films.

Father's Day will be celebrated on June 21st with a lineup including titles such as FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950). Additional May themes include prisons, pre-Codes, Miss Marple films, and "B" Westerns, including the rarely shown Tim Holt film DESERT PASSAGE (1952).

Filmmakers receiving multifilm tributes will include Frank Morgan, Rosalind Russell, Sam Peckinpah, the Marx Brothers, Judy Garland, Gregory Peck, Montgomery Clift, Robert Ryan, Jeanette MacDonald, Nicholas Ray, and Billy Wilder.

There's also a prime time double bill of a pair of films starring Carole Lombard and William Powell and a prime time centennial tribute to Ray Harryhausen.

I'll have a more detailed look at the June schedule available here around the end of May.

In the meantime, Jane Russell is the April Star of the Month, with Edward G. Robinson slated for May.

Happiest Birthday Wishes to Jane Powell

Happiest 91st birthday wishes to Jane Powell!

Powell was born on April 1, 1929, in Portland, Oregon.

Her films and soundtrack recordings, including my favorite SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), have brought me untold happy hours over the years.

I've also been fortunate to see Powell in person more than once; in the late '70s I saw Powell and her SEVEN BRIDES costar Howard Keel in a stage production of SOUTH PACIFIC at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. They're seen together above in a photo from SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS.

Around the time of SOUTH PACIFIC I also saw her speak at a USC course on musicals my parents audited in the late '70s. Below is the autograph she gave me on that occasion:

Click on the above photo to enlarge it for a closer look.

Happiest birthday wishes to a marvelous performer whose work has enriched my life!

Previously: 2015 Birthday Tribute.

Jane Powell films previously reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: THREE DARING DAUGHTERS (1948), A DATE WITH JUDY (1948), TWO WEEKS WITH LOVE (1950), NANCY GOES TO RIO (1950), RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY (1951), SMALL TOWN GIRL (1953), DEEP IN MY HEART (1954), HIT THE DECK (1955), and THE GIRL MOST LIKELY (1958).

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Man in the Shadow (1957) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

MAN IN THE SHADOW (1957) is a very good melding of crime drama and social commentary starring Jeff Chandler and Orson Welles. It was very recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

The movie begins with an opening credits sequence typical of Universal Pictures in this era, introducing all of the main cast members onscreen. The film has a terrific black and white CinemaScope look which I found very appealing.

Chandler plays Ben Sadler, the recently elected sheriff of a small California town. When a migrant farm worker (Martin Garralaga) timidly arrives at the sheriff's office to report the murder of one of his coworkers at the vast Golden Empire Ranch, Ben's racist deputy (Ben Alexander) could care less. The sheriff, however, brushes off the deputy, saying he's paid to take claims seriously and enforce the law, and he heads to the Golden Empire to investigate.

The atmosphere at the Golden Empire is unfriendly, to say the least. Ranch owner Virgil Renchler (Welles) tells Sadler to mind his own business, and foreman Ed Yates (John Larch) seems threatening. There's also a guard dog who's downright frightening! Sadler gets nowhere with his questions but is increasingly concerned by the evasiveness of Renchler and his men, who also include Chet (Leo Gordon).

Renchler's daughter Skippy (Colleen Miller of FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER and PLAYGIRL) thinks something's amiss, especially when her father locks her in her room. She sneaks out of the house and into town, where she tells the sheriff about hearing screaming the night before.

The townspeople (including Paul Fix and William Schallert) pressure the sheriff to back down, fearful of what will happen to the local economy if the ranch takes all its business elsewhere. Sadler's wife (Barbara Lawrence), unnerved by threats, also asks her husband why he doesn't just listen to their neighbors, who want him to drop the matter.

After multiple attempts on his life while the circumstantial evidence grows, the sheriff heads back to the ranch. Only one townsman (Royal Dano) is brave enough to accompany him...

I really enjoyed this film, especially its attractive widescreen cinematography and the cast. Although the movie is in black and white, the opening with Colleen Miller looking out of her window rather called to mind the distinctive opening credits sequence of the previous year's colorful Douglas Sirk film for the same studio, WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956).

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray shows off the black and white cinematography of Arthur E. Arling to good effect. While the movie seems to have been fairly low budget, with a minimum number of sets, the town depicted feels authentic, and the film makes good use of Conejo Valley locations. Conejo Valley is the area around Thousand Oaks and Moorpark where the McCrea Ranch is located; the ranch is part of the Conejo Recreation and Parks District.

I found Chandler extremely compelling as he's increasingly isolated wrestling with a tough problem; he manages to come across as an "ordinary guy," yet at the same time, he's special enough that the viewer watches his every move.

Welles is properly creepy as the rancher willing to shrug off a murder or two...or three or four...and Gordon and Larch are evil personified. Incidentally, I couldn't get over how different Welles looked from the following year's TOUCH OF EVIL (1958); he's not thin in this, but the look is remarkably changed given that the films were released just a year apart.

MAN IN THE SHADOW isn't a perfect film; for instance, I'm an advocate for short movies, but at 80 minutes the film needed more character development, especially for the women's roles.

Miller is as appealing as always, but her relationship with her father isn't fleshed out quite enough. That said, having seen her in person at the 2019 Noir City Film Festival, it was a treat to see another of her films.

The always-excellent Lawrence is completely wasted with just two scenes as Sadler's wife. I would have liked to know more about their relationship, especially given her arguing for job security and the opinions of the townspeople over his commitment to equal justice under the law. Their discussion on that subject is interrupted, and that's the last we see of her.

What did make it into the film, however, is quite good, and at times even unnerving, as Chandler is abandoned, HIGH NOON (1952) style, by those he's sworn to protect and defend. It ultimately builds to a satisfying ending.

MAN IN THE SHADOW was written by Gene L. Coon and directed by Jack Arnold, who directed Chandler in another good crime drama, THE TATTERED DRESS (1957), released the same year. Arnold also directed the outstanding Audie Murphy Western NO NAME ON THE BULLET (1959) and several classics of the sci-fi genre.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray includes a commentary track by Troy Howarth and the movie trailer, plus a trailer gallery for seven additional films available from Kino Lorber.

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

TCM in April: Highlights

Happy 26th Anniversary to Turner Classic Movies!

The network celebrates the completion of 26 years on the air on April 14, 2020.

This year will be a little different as, as anyone interested must know by now, the 2020 TCM Classic Film Festival, originally scheduled to take place in Hollywood from April 16th to 19th, has had to be cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.

TCM came up with a wonderful idea for everyone stuck at home, announcing a "Special Home Edition" of the festival to take place on the network on the original festival dates.

While most of the schedule was inspired by films shown at past TCM Classic Film Festivals -- many of which I was honored to see -- there are also four films scheduled for Sunday evening which were on the 2020 schedule. It's anticipated that this year's festival schedule will be held over for the 2021 festival.

The complete "festival at home" schedule may be found here. Please note all times on the schedule are Eastern.

On a related note, TCM host Alicia Malone has shared some of her favorite TCM movie suggestions to watch while isolating at home this month. It's a good list of upbeat films including Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Harold Lloyd, and an MGM musical -- some of my favorite "go to" kinds of films in times of stress.

The entire April schedule, including the special "at home" festival dates, may be found here.

The April Star of the Month is Jane Russell. Russell's career will be celebrated on Mondays beginning April 6th. 17 of Russell's films will be shown. I'll be taking a closer look at the Russell lineup in a separate post a few days from now. (Update: Please visit TCM Star of the Month: Jane Russell.)

April's Noir Alley titles will be ADDRESS UNKNOWN (1944) on April 4th and 5th, BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT (1956) April 11th and 12th, and WICKED WOMAN (1953) April 25th and 26th. The latter film is memorably weird!

The previously scheduled Noir Alley film WITNESS TO MURDER (1954), originally scheduled for April 18th and 19th, has been pulled due to the at home edition of the TCM Classic Film Festival. I assume it will be rescheduled at a future date, though that may take a while as Noir Alley films are typically scheduled far in advance.

The TCM Spotlight on Thursday evenings, starting April 2nd, focuses on "New York in the '70s." Please note that the TCM Spotlight films originally scheduled for Thursday, April 16th, were moved to Tuesday the 28th to accommodate the "Festival at Home" schedule.

Below are just a few additional highlights from the April schedule; click on any hyperlinked title for the related review.

...On Wednesday, April 1st, TCM will celebrate the centennial of Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. I've seen several of the films on the schedule and while they are all good, my highest recommendation goes to the crime drama HIGH AND LOW (1963). It's a gripping film which maintains audience attention for all of its 144 minutes.

...April 2nd begins with a trio of Joan Fontaine films, including the very enjoyable "B" film THE MAN WHO FOUND HIMSELF (1937), in which charming young Joan helps a troubled doctor (John Beal). It was directed by "B" film specialist Lew Landers.

...A day of films about maids and household staffers on April 3rd includes the very entertaining 58-minute "B" film PERSONAL MAID'S SECRET (1936) starring Margaret Lindsay, Ruth Donnelly, and Anita Louise; the latter two actresses are seen here. I've watched this one a couple of times and really enjoyed on both occasions.

...On April 4th the schedule includes the superb Anthony Mann Western WINCHESTER '73 (1950) starring James Stewart and an outstanding cast.

...The classic World War II "British homefront" drama MRS. MINIVER (1942), starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, airs on April 5th. William Wyler directed. Perhaps this is a good month to remember others who went through tough times -- and prevailed.

...While the world battles the coronavirus, why not be distracted by a day of battling sci-fi monsters? April 7th features some terrific films including THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953), seen here, and THEM! (1954), to name just two.

...Later on April 7th it's the TCM premiere of one of my very favorite film noir titles, 20th Century-Fox's CRY OF THE CITY (1948). Victor Mature and Richard Conte star, directed by film noir master Robert Siodmak. I highly recommend catching this one.

...A day of minor MGM musicals on April 8th includes LADY BE GOOD (1941), with Eleanor Powell, Robert Young, and Ann Sothern leading an excellent cast. The score includes the Oscar-winning "The Last Time I Saw Paris." Even "lesser" MGM musicals were top quality!

...Stay-at-homers can enjoy a wonderful day of pre-Codes on April 9th, including favorites such as FEMALE (1933) with Ruth Chatteron and George Brent and HOLD YOUR MAN (1933) with Clark Gable and Jean Harlow.

...THE UNSUSPECTED (1947) is a very entertaining crime drama starring Claude Rains, Joan Caulfield, Audrey Totter, and Constance Bennett. It airs on April 10th.

...The Easter Sunday schedule on April 12th will include, as always, EASTER PARADE (1948) starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, with Ann Miller and Peter Lawford offering delightful support.

...April 13th is a full day of MGM musicals directed by Stanley Donen. Along with big-name favorites like SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954) and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952), the schedule includes one of my favorite lesser-known films from MGM, GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953). Debbie Reynolds, Bob Fosse, and Marge and Gower Champion star. It's a delight.

...TCM honors actor Clifton Webb on the evening of April 14th with four wonderful films: CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950), THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS (1956), LAURA (1944), and SITTING PRETTY (1948). They're all really good -- LAURA is one of my all-time favorite films -- but I want to particularly call attention to THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS which I saw for the first time just a few weeks ago. It's an outstanding WWII spy drama.

...April 15th is a day of seven Fred Astaire films, consisting of half a dozen of his films with Ginger Rogers plus the marvelous THE BAND WAGON (1953) with Cyd Charisse. A marvelous day!

...The Special Home Edition of the TCM Classic Film Festival kicks off on the evening of Thursday, April 16th, with A STAR IS BORN (1954). As mentioned above, the at-home festival runs through Sunday the 19th. A highlight from the first night's schedule, shown in the wee hours of the 17th, is NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER (1949) starring Esther Williams, Ricardo Montalban, Betty Garrett, and Red Skelton.

...I was present for the 2016 TCMFF screening of another favorite film, SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949), introduced at the festival by Keith Carradine. John Wayne leads a terrific cast in this classic John Ford film, which also "stars" the Oscar-winning Technicolor photography of Winton Hoch. SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON will be shown on the 17th.

...The pre-Code DOUBLE HARNESS (1933), starring William Powell and Ann Harding, is legendary among TCMFF attendees for drawing crowds of such sizes that more people were probably turned away than got in to its two screenings, so I love that TCM included it on the April 18th "festival at home" schedule! (Incidentally, when I saw I wouldn't get into the initial screening of DOUBLE HARNESS I ended up down the street at the Egyptian for HE RAN ALL THE WAY, which turned out to be an excellent backup choice!)

...On April 19th, the final night of the Special Home Edition of the TCM Classic Film Festival will include FLOYD NORMAN: AN ANIMATED LIFE (2016), about the longtime Disney animator. Mr. Norman was due to be honored at this year's festival, and I hope that will be able to take place in 2021!

...A day of film noir and crime films on April 20th includes Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford in GILDA (1946), which I just reviewed after seeing it at this year's truncated Noir City Hollywood Festival.

...The April 21st schedule has some terrific crime films, first with a train theme and then switching to films about homicidal husbands. The lineup includes two of the very best train films, THE LADY VANISHES (1938) and THE NARROW MARGIN (1952), and I can't recommend them highly enough. Later in the day the lineup includes JULIE (1956), which I just rewatched a few weeks ago. Barry Sullivan and Frank Lovejoy try to save Doris Day from her murderous hubby, Louis Jourdan; by the end of the film stewardess Doris is at the controls landing a plane! Great fun to watch.

...You can't find better distraction than MY MAN GODFREY (1936), one of the all-time classic screwball comedies of the '30s, starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. It's on April 24th.

...On April 25th TCM will be showing a favorite little film I just watched last week, A DATE WITH JUDY (1948) starring Jane Powell and Elizabeth Taylor. The Technicolor photography by Robert Surtees is gorgeous, and the song "It's a Most Unusual Day" is guaranteed to lift spirits.

...Another MGM film I'm fond of is MUSIC FOR MILLIONS (1944) starring June Allyson, Margaret O'Brien, and Marsha Hunt. It airs on April 27th.

...The month wraps up with a tribute to Eve Arden on April 30th, including a favorite romantic comedy, THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE (1948), shown on TCM under its alternate title, ONE FOR THE BOOK. Eleanor Parker and Ronald Reagan are top-billed in a charming romance.

For more on TCM in April 2020, please visit my posts Quick Preview of TCM in April and TCM Star of the Month: Jane Russell, along with TCM's complete schedule.