Monday, August 08, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Adventures of Don Juan (1948) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The great Errol Flynn stars in ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN (1948), just released on a beautiful Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

Flynn plays Don Juan de Marana, a love 'em and leave 'em ladies' man who is perhaps tiring of his endless romances with a series of beautiful yet forgettable women.

When Don Juan inadvertently wrecks a marriage of state in England, planned to ease tensions between Spain and Britain, the Spanish ambassador (Robert Warwick), an old friend, sends Don Juan home to Spain to reform and be of service to Queen Margaret (Viveca Lindfors).

The Queen is trying to prevent war between Spain and England, but her easily influenced husband King Phillip (Romney Brent) is under the sway of the evil Duke de Lorca (Robert Douglas) who is fomenting war.

Don Juan is captivated and impressed by the honorable queen, discovering that for the first time in his life he's truly in love -- with a woman he cannot have. She's also in great danger...

I had never seen ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN before, despite my great enjoyment of Flynn. I think partly the idea of him romancing an entire series of ladies instead of being truly in love with, say, Olivia de Havilland, as he was in so many films, put me off a bit. Perhaps at the back of my mind I was also thinking of the story being somewhat of a parallel to Flynn's own rough living offscreen, which would age him far too young.

I was pleasantly surprised at the outset to find that the screenplay by George Oppenheimer and Harry Kurnitz, based on a story by Herbert Dalmas, is quite funny. (Believe it or not, novelist William Faulkner is said to have done uncredited work on the script.) The film could have been distasteful, but it handles Don Juan's romances with a light and amusing touch.

And what a bunch of lovely ladies they are! When we initially meet Don Juan, he's wooing Catherine (Mary Stuart of THUNDERHOOF and THE CARIBOO TRAIL). Soon after, he's reunited with a past love played by Helen Westcott (THE GUNFIGHTER). Later on in a tavern he meets Barbara Bates; one of the other beautiful girls in the tavern is played by Caren Marsh, in her last film. Marsh turned 100 in 2019 and as far as I know is still with us today; if so, she is now 103.

The final lady, other than the Queen herself, is played by Ann Rutherford, in one of her last feature film roles. By the time Rutherford's character throws herself at Don Juan, he is tiring of the game playing and ready to retire from the field.

Flynn is by turns funny and moving, and all in all does an excellent job conveying the way Don Juan gradually becomes a more serious man...but maybe not too serious, as we see at the final fadeout.

Lindfors is a regal queen, and I liked her better in this than in the handful of other films I've seen her in; she's been a bit wooden in some of the other films and is better directed and photographed here, giving a deeper performance.

Alan Hale (Sr.) is top-notch as Don Juan's loyal friend; a scene early on where he scopes out Don Juan's likely means of escape from their latest "situation" is hilarious. It's fun watching Flynn and Hale together in this a full decade after they played Robin Hood and Little John in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938).

The deep cast includes an almost unrecognizable Raymond Burr as an evil soldier, with Fortunio Bonanova as Don Juan's fellow fencing instructor. Also in the cast are Douglas Kennedy, Jean Shepherd, David Bruce, Una O'Connor, Aubrey Mathers, David Leonard, Harry Lewis, Jerry Austin, and Albert Cavens.

Cavens' father, fencing great Fred Cavens, was the film's fencing master and doubled Robert Douglas. Jock Mahoney was also among the stunt crew, doubling Flynn. The excellent action sequences include a climactic duel between Flynn and Douglas (or, perhaps, their doubles) on a spectacular grand staircase at the palace.

The movie runs 110 minutes. It was directed by Vincent Sherman and filmed in Technicolor by Elwood "Woody" Bredell. The superb score is by Max Steiner.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray print is outstanding in every way.  The color is spectacular, and Steiner's robust score sounds fantastic.

Extras imported from the film's original DVD release are a commentary by Rudy Behlmer and Vincent Sherman and a "Warner Night at the Movies" collection of the trailer; a newsreel; a pair of shorts, SO YOU WANT TO BE ON THE RADIO (Joe McDoakes, 1948) and CALGARY STAMPEDE (1948); and the cartoon HARE SPLITTER (1948).

Recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection Amazon Store or from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.

A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery (2022) - Part 1

A few days ago we spent an afternoon in the Greater Los Angeles area, including a few hours visiting Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.


I've previously shared photos of a 2016 visit to Holy Cross in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. At 200 acres, Holy Cross is one of the larger cemeteries we've visited in the Los Angeles area. It's one of my favorites, as it's laid out in a particularly orderly fashion; I also feel it has an especially tranquil, positive atmosphere.

Our first stop was the gravesite of Stephen McNally, who I had paid tribute to on his birthday the day before our visit. He's buried under his birth name, Horace Vincent McNally; as I wrote in my tribute, he also acted under the name Horace for several years before adopting the name Stephen.


As it happens, our last visit of the day was the gravesite of the marvelous actor Millard Mitchell, McNally's costar in one of my favorite Westerns, WINCHESTER '73 (1950). Mitchell played "High Spade," while McNally played Dutch Henry Brown. Mitchell was only 50 when he passed on due to cancer in 1955.


Richard Egan, who passed on at age 65, shares a July 29th birthday with Stephen McNally, and like McNally, he was a devout Catholic and the father of several children. McNally's wife, actress Patricia Hardy, died in 2011 and is said to be buried with him but does not have a marker.


Ricardo Montalban and his wife Georgiana Young are also at Holy Cross. Georgiana was the younger sister of Loretta Young, whose final resting place at Holy Cross was shared in my 2016 post.


The two oldest Young sisters, who were also actresses, are buried at Holy Cross as well. Polly Ann Young, who had 40 film credits, is buried with her husband, J. Carter Hermann; the Hermanns' twin granddaughters are buried to their left.


The second oldest Young sister, Sally Blane (born Elizabeth Jane Young), is buried next to her husband, actor-director-composer Norman Foster. Sally had over 100 film and TV credits.


Multitalented Norman Foster was a pre-Code actor, a director, and he even composed music for Disney TV series including ZORRO (1957). His film credits included directing his sister-in-law Loretta Young in the excellent RACHEL AND THE STRANGER (1948).


It was especially meaningful for me to visit the final resting place of actress Joan Leslie, a longtime favorite. She's buried with her husband, Dr. William Caldwell.


Singer Dennis Day, born Owen Patrick McNulty, is buried with his wife at Holy Cross.  A regular on Jack Benny's radio show, he also appeared in films, including a lesser-known musical which is a personal favorite, I'LL GET BY (1951); he sang and narrated "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" in Disney's MELODY TIME (1948). Day was the brother-in-law of singer-actress Ann Blyth, who married his brother, Dr. James McNulty.


We also visited singer Al Martino. Martino played singer Johnny Fontane in THE GODFATHER (1972), which I just saw for the first time a few days ago.


I'll be sharing additional photos from our visit to Holy Cross soon.

Additional photo posts on the final resting places of historic Hollywood figures: A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale, Part 1, A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale, Part 2, A Visit to the Forest Lawn Museum, A Visit to Hollywood Forever Cemetery (2014), A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Musicians, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Comedians, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Actors, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - Writers, Directors, and More, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 1, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 2, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 3, A Visit to Desert Memorial Park, Los Angeles National Cemetery, A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 1, A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 2, A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 3, A Visit to Forest Lawn Cathedral City, A Visit to Oakwood Memorial Park, A Visit to Hillside Memorial Park, Part 1, A Visit to Hillside Memorial Park, Part 2, A Visit to Hollywood Forever Cemetery (2019), A Visit to Woodlawn Cemetery, A Visit to Valley Oaks Memorial Park, A Visit to Valhalla Cemetery, A Visit to Pacific View Memorial Park, A Visit to Glen Haven Memorial Park, A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale (2020), A Visit to Calvary Cemetery, A Visit to Home of Peace Memorial Park, Visits to Sedona and Las Vegas Cemeteries, A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale (2022), Visits to Orange County Cemeteries (Holy Sepulcher Cemetery and El Toro Memorial Park), A Visit to Inglewood Park Cemetery, A Visit to Mt. Sinai Memorial Park, A Visit to Palm Springs (Coachella Valley Public Cemetery), and A Visit to Marysvale Cemetery.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Enter Arsene Lupin (1944) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

This weekend was the August 6th birthday of one of my favorite actresses, Ella Raines, who was born in Washington State in 1920.

In Raines' honor I watched ENTER ARSENE LUPIN (1944), which was just released on Blu-ray in the Kino Lorber Dark Side of Cinema VIII collection.

To my knowledge, ENTER ARSENE LUPIN, a Universal Pictures film, has not had a prior release on DVD or even VHS. It certainly proved to be my kinda movie, 72 minutes of pure enjoyment.

Charming master thief Arsene Lupin (Charles Korvin), using a false name, "meets cute" with Stacie Kanares (Raines) when her priceless emerald disappears while they're traveling on the Paris-bound Orient Express.

Lupin "finds" and returns the emerald in order to woo the enchanting Stacie, then follows her to London along with his cook-valet-henchman Dubose (George Dolenz, father of Micky of The Monkees). He's also followed by the hapless French Inspector Ganimard (J. Carrol Naish).

Shortly after arriving in England Lupin realizes that Stacie's cash-strapped aunt (Gale Sondergaard) and uncle (Miles Mander) are trying to kill her in order to inherit her emerald. He needs to steal it again, but this time in order to take away the chance that Stacie will be murdered.

This is one of those movies which is just plain fun, an unexpected pleasure with a winning pair of lead actors and a couple of entertaining villains. Naish might be a little too buffoonish, but his performance does underscore that the thefts are all in good fun and the movie's not meant to be taken seriously. My only complaint is the very ambiguous ending, which made me wonder if perhaps a sequel had been contemplated. I would have liked that!

Raines may not show a great deal of range in this, but I simply like her, particularly when she's flirting with Korvin. I liked the confident way she "showed him the door" early in the film but also the way their relationship developed as the movie went on. It's quite sweet. And, as always, Raines looks gorgeous; her gowns are by Vera West.

I'd add that 1944 was an amazing movie year for Raines, who also appeared that year in PHANTOM LADY (1944), HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO (1944), TALL IN THE SADDLE (1944), and THE SUSPECT (1944) -- all top-drawer entertainment.

This was the film debut of Charles Korvin, who also stars in another film in the set, TEMPTATION (1946). I had previously seen him in supporting roles in a couple of films, including BERLIN EXPRESS (1948), and he also appeared in Disney's TV version of ZORRO (1958), but I am mostly unfamiliar with him. Korvin, who was born in Austria-Hungary, acted all the way up to the 1978 TV miniseries HOLOCAUST, as well as in a 1993 European TV-movie, and he passed away in New York City in 1998.

A fun bit of trivia I came across is that Korvin was a good friend of Julia Child's, who is said to have named him her favorite "amateur chef." 

ENTER ARSENE LUPIN was produced and directed by Ford Beebe. It was filmed in black and white by Hal Mohr. (I should note here there's one location scene with Raines fishing which suddenly switches to a back projection with odd sound which echoes a bit; I'm guessing they must have needed to reshoot part of the scene at the studio?) The screenplay was by Bertram Millhauser, based on character created by Maurice Le Blanc.

The Kino Lorber Studio Classics Blu-ray from a new 2K master looks lovely and has a strong soundtrack, other than the previously mentioned scene, which is probably inherent to the film. Extras consist of the trailer; two additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber; and a commentary track by Anthony Slide.

Kino Lorber has also just released another never-on-DVD Ella Raines film, TIME OUT OF MIND (1947), which I'll be reviewing here in the near future along with more films from the Dark Side of Cinema collections!

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

Book Review: There Are No Small Parts

Last weekend we spent an enjoyable afternoon "out and about" in Los Angeles, including a visit to Larry Edmunds Bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard.

Our visit was due to a special occasion: Author John DiLeo gave a presentation and book signing for his newest title, THERE ARE NO SMALL PARTS: 100 OUTSTANDING FILM PERFORMANCES WITH SCREEN TIME OF 10 MINUTES OR LESS. It was published earlier this year by Glitterati Incorporated.

I've reviewed a number of DiLeo's books over the past dozen years, including TENNESSEE WILLIAMS AND COMPANY: HIS ESSENTIAL SCREEN ACTORS (2010), SCREEN SAVERS: 40 REMARKABLE MOVIES AWAITING REDISCOVERY (2010), SCREEN SAVERS II: MY GRAB BAG OF CLASSIC MOVIES (2012), and TEN MOVIES AT A TIME (2018).

Our movie tastes tend to be very much in sync, particularly with regard to the lesser-known titles he wrote about in his SCREEN SAVERS books. It was thus a real treat to have the chance to meet in person for the first time!

John began the event by reading a brief introduction from his book and then sharing a clip of the first performance he writes about, Elsa Lanchester in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935). He's seen here on the left, along with Larry Edmunds' Jeffrey Mantor at the right.

There were also some fun questions and comments from the audience, including a discussion of the difficulty in selecting the 100 performances for the book. My husband inquired about the omission of one of his favorite short performances, Dorothy Malone in THE BIG SLEEP (1946); John said he seriously considered her but when tough choices had to be made whittling down his list he ultimately decided she wasn't critical enough to the story.

As I mentioned in a comment of my own that afternoon, one of the things I appreciated about this very enjoyable book is the way it caused me to more deeply consider brief performances. I've always been very aware of character actors and love seeing the great "faces" in small roles in classic films, but I enjoyed musing over performances I might have included myself, and I think I'll be even more cognizant going forward of what an actor can add to a movie with just a few minutes of screen time.

The performances discussed in the book date from 1935, as previously mentioned, all the way up to 2019. Just over half of the films are from 1965 or earlier, which is my personal definition of the classic film era, with the rest from films released from 1966 forward.

This heavy 2-1/2 pound book is beautifully presented on glossy paper; there's even a built-in bookmark, a lovely touch rarely seen anymore. Each entry has a glossy photo and between two and three pages of text, including the running time of the performance. As with his earlier books, John is very detailed and evocative in his descriptions, so the print is on the small side to fit everything in, making me glad I recently got reading glasses for the first time in my life!

Some of my favorite inclusions in the book:

*Jean Dixon as Molly, the maid in MY MAN GODFREY (1936), 7-1/2 minutes: "Dixon wears a proper cap and uniform, which seems at odds with her cool-customer demeanor, making Molly practically a sight gag." He then traces the character's evolution, falling for Godfrey (William Powell, seen here with Dixon) and becoming "the jester who finds she has a soul."

*Granville Bates as the exasperated judge in MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940), 9-1/2 minutes: "a vaudeville of judiciary confusion: befuddled, crusty, and extremely impatient." The bit where he realizes Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott were alone on the island is utterly hilarious ("That should be in the brief; that's the most interesting part of the case!").

*Judith Anderson as Ann, the waspish relative of Gene Tierney's LAURA (1944), just under 10 minutes: "The beauty of the role and Anderson's civilized approach is that Ann is a woman with no illusions...There's no fuss in Anderson's acting." I also enjoyed his description of the movie itself: "...a world of grand apartments, priceless objects, and some of the best women's hats ever seen onscreen." Yes, definitely!

*Thelma Ritter as the harried Macy's shopper in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947), 2 minutes: "When Ritter pricelessly deadpans, 'I don't get it,' it's the moment when her two-decade love affair with movie audiences official began...Even with only two minutes onscreen, Ritter has time to make a transition from jaded to optimistic."

*Thomas Gomez as gangster Luigi Rossi in COME TO THE STABLE (1949) 7 minutes:  The shot of Gomez in the church near the end of COME TO THE STABLE never fails to move me to tears. DiLeo writes, "What Gomez brings to this light feel-good comedy is postwar real-world resonance...His understated private pain still resonates."

As someone who loves musicals, I also really appreciated DiLeo including Cyd Charisse's wordless dance performance in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) (5-1/2 minutes). He also includes Lena Horne's 5-minute performance as Julie in the mini-production of SHOW BOAT in the Jerome Kern bio musical TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY (1946).

I also like that he chose some performances in relatively lesser-known films which I've enjoyed, such as Jan Sterling in MYSTERY STREET (1950) and Frank Puglia in BLACK HAND (1950).

More recent performances I have enjoyed which are included in the book include Beverly D'Angelo in a 9-1/2 minute role as Patsy Cline in COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER (1980) and Jane Lynch in her 5-minute part as Julia Child's sister Dorothy in JULIE & JULIA (2009).

Each entry is filled with insights on the character and performance, while also placing the role in the context of the actor's career.  The book is an engaging read which will interest readers in seeing some of the films for the very first time, while also causing the reader to want to revisit old favorites with fresh eyes.  I enthusiastically recommend it.

THERE ARE NO SMALL PARTS is 320 pages including index and acknowledgments.

Thanks to John Di Leo and Glitterati Incorporated for providing a review copy of this book.

Saturday, August 06, 2022

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...A pair of interesting films coming this October from Kino Lorber Studio Classics: BY CANDLELIGHT (1933), directed by James Whale, and MURDER AT THE VANITIES (1934), directed by Mitchell Leisen.

...This month Universal will be rereleasing single-title Blu-ray versions of a trio of Deanna Durbin films previously released in sets by Kino Lorber. They're also releasing three Bing Crosby Blu-rays. Click the link for full details.

...Robert Mitchum and Ella Raines were each born on August 6th. Please check out my past birthday tributes to Mitchum here and Raines here. Both posts are filled with photos along with review links for many of their films.

...Karen of Shadows and Satin celebrates "Christmas in August" with a review of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: THE OFFICIAL BAILEY FAMILY COOKBOOK, which was published last year. The gingersnaps in the illustration she shares look very appealing!

...At The Hollywood Revue, Angela does a book-vs.-film comparison of NOW, VOYAGER (1941) and the novel it was based on, written by Olive Higgins Prouty.

...I love the "Recycled Costumes" posts at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies; she has a great eye for recognizing dresses worn by famous stars when they are reused by extras and others. In the latest edition she shares costumes worn by Esther Williams, Jeanette MacDonald, and more which turned up in later movies.

...Speaking of Esther Williams, Jess of Box Office Poisons has an interesting article on the Trails Restaurant which was once owned by Esther and her husband, actor-singer Ben Gage.

...Reviews I enjoyed this week include Glenn Erickson on a UK Blu-ray release of BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY (1951)...At Riding the High Country Colin wrote about Zachary Scott, Lucille Bremer, and more in RUTHLESS (1948)...Jessica reviewed Bonita Granville in NANCY DREW...TROUBLE SHOOTER (1939) at Comet Over Hollywood...Raquel reviewed the Warner Archive Blu-ray release of THE YEARLING (1946) at Out of the Past...John McElwee of Greenbriar Picture Shows takes a brief look at Margaret Lockwood in BANK HOLIDAY (1938), a film I recall finding interesting back in 2010. I remember being fascinated that people were spending the night sleeping at the beach.

...Seems like it's been a long time since we've seen any new releases from Olive Films.

...Coming in September from Critics' Choice: A four-film William Castle Adventures Collection and a four-film Samuel Fuller Collection; the latter repeats some of the films from a Sony set released several years ago. Thanks to reader Ashley for the tip!

...I also noticed Critics' Choice has a Cornel Wilde Triple Feature due out this month consisting of SHOCKPROOF (1949), EDGE OF ETERNITY (1959), and BEYOND MOMBASA (1956). These sets are great deals for anyone who doesn't already own the films.

...Former CNN anchor Felicia Taylor, daughter of the late actor Rod Taylor, was arrested last week for a hit-and-run accident.

...Notable Passing: I was greatly saddened to learn of the passing of Clu Gulagher, who has died at 93. His best-known roles included playing one of the hired guns in THE KILLERS (1965) and Sheriff Emmett Ryker on THE VIRGINIAN from 1963 to 1968. Prior to the pandemic, Clu was a fixture at classic film screenings in both Los Angeles and Palm Springs, easy to spot from the shock of thick white hair in his favorite seat, front row center. I'm fortunate to have those memories of sharing enjoyment of so many classic films under the same roof with Clu. He's seen here in side profile, chatting with Monika Henreid, daughter of Paul Henreid, on the patio at the 2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.

...More Notable Passings: Pat Carroll has died at 95. Best remembered by most as the voice of Ursula in THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989), I especially remember her as one of the Wicked Stepsisters in the Lesley Ann Warren version of CINDERELLA (1965), along with Barbara Ruick...Roseanna Christiansen, who played the maid Teresa for nine seasons on TV's DALLAS, has passed away at 71...Nichelle Nichols of STAR TREK has died at age 89...Paul Coker Jr., who worked on classic Rankin-Bass animated holiday specials, has died at 93...M*A*S*H producer Burt Metcalfe passed on at 87. He was also an actor in numerous TV series...Interior designer Carleton Varney has died at 85.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my July 30th roundup.

A Birthday Tribute to Leo Carrillo

Actor-Conservationist Leo Carrillo was born in Los Angeles on August 6, 1881.


Carrillo's family had deep roots in old California, and he followed in his ancestors' footsteps, playing a significant role in California state history along with his work as a character actor in the classic film era. Carrillo is also remembered for playing Pancho on TV's THE CISCO KID (1950-56).



Two of my favorite Carrillo film performances are as Mike Rossini, the gangster with gourmet tastes who hires Jean Arthur and Herbert Marshall as his cook and butler in IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935)...


...and Cesare the chef in Arthur's HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (1937), also starring Charles Boyer:


Off the screen Carrillo served for nearly two decades on the California State Parks Commission, and he is credited with having been instrumental in the state acquiring Hearst Castle.

A 2009 article in the Los Angeles Times detailed some of the varied aspects of Carrillo's life and work, saying his contributions on behalf of the state "left a cultural imprint arguably larger than his film legacy."


Today, a stretch of the California coastline north of Santa Monica is named Leo Carrillo State Park in his honor. The late, great Huell Howser filmed a show there called "Movie Beach" which can be streamed via Chapman University's Howser archives. Among the films shot at the beach is STEP BY STEP (1946), which I reviewed here last year.


Two California schools are named for Carrillo, one in nearby Westminster, California, about five miles from me, and another in Carlsbad, where his ranch was located.


Today the Leo Carrillo Ranch, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is a 27-acre tourist attraction in Carlsbad, not far from San Diego. Huell Howser also filmed a show there which can be watched online. I'm hoping to visit before long!


Leo Carrillo was 80 when he passed away in Santa Monica on September 10, 1961. He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the same city; I paid a visit in 2019.


Leo Carrillo films previously reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: FOUR FRIGHTENED PEOPLE (1934), MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (1934), THE GAY BRIDE (1934), IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935), MOONLIGHT MURDER (1936), HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (1937), THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST (1938), TOO HOT TO HANDLE (1938), SOCIETY LAWYER (1939), LILLIAN RUSSELL (1940), PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943).

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Tonight's Movie: For Me and My Gal (1942) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

This summer the Warner Archive Collection has released three Judy Garland films in honor of her centennial: ZIEGFELD GIRL (1941), reviewed here in July; the wartime romance THE CLOCK (1945), to be reviewed here soon; and tonight's movie, FOR ME AND MY GAL (1942).

FOR ME AND MY GAL is a black and white musical directed by Busby Berkeley which is particularly remembered as the film debut of Gene Kelly.

Kelly was always grateful to Garland for her early support of his career. They have an easy rapport and later teamed for two more movies, both of which have been reviewed here via Warner Archive Blu-rays: THE PIRATE (1948) and SUMMER STOCK (1950).

Kelly and Garland play Harry Palmer and Jo Hayden, who form a vaudeville act after he woos her away from another partner, Jimmy Metcalf (George Murphy).

Jimmy goes on to have a successful act with Sid Simms (Ben Blue), and though it takes a while, eventually Harry and Jo have an offer to play the big time -- the Palace Theatre in New York.

Along the way Jimmy carries a torch for Jo, who loves Harry, who might be interested in famed singer Eve Minard (Marta Eggerth).

It's a fairly melodramatic film set against the backdrop of World War I, with Jo's brother Danny (future director Richard Quine), a medical student, enlisting in the army. Between her worry over Danny and loving self-centered Harry, Jo's got a lot to contend with.

As an adult I'm sometimes surprised at how edgy Kelly's performances are, which I didn't notice so much when I was falling in love with him -- all he had to do was smile! -- and MGM musicals. His Harry is selfish and manipulative, even when he's getting Jo to try out a song with him. But then Kelly and Garland launch into their duet of the title tune and it takes me right back to my childhood and the magic of watching them on the shimmering silver screen at L.A.'s Vagabond Theater. The number is pure joy.

Kelly's performance yo-yos like that through the whole movie, veering between annoying and wonderful; in the end, his charisma and more charming moments are such that one understands Jo choosing him over the more reliable but bland Jimmy. The screenplay by a trio of writers does a pretty good job rehabilitating Harry's character to make him truly deserving of Jo's love.

19-year-old Judy is delightful in this film in one of her first truly adult romantic roles; she was also at her loveliest, filmed in black and white by William H. Daniels. There was a half decade or so from the early to late '40s which were her most beautiful years on film, and that includes this movie. Of course, we now know with hindsight some of what those years cost her in terms of physical and mental health, but at the same time I'm forever grateful for the gifts of her performances, which will be enjoyed as long as movies exist.

In the case of FOR ME AND MY GAL, one of Judy's best scenes features her belting out "After You've Gone," while secretly brokenhearted over Harry's apparent interest in Eve. It's a marvelous musical moment.

Beyond "After You've Gone" and the title song, the other numbers aren't as impressive, but they're enjoyable. All in all FOR ME AND MY GAL is a solid 104 minutes of entertainment, providing an interesting look at two ascending stars.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray is an excellent print with a strong soundtrack.

Many of the extras on the Warner Archive Blu-ray are carried over from the film's original DVD release, including a commentary track by John Fricke; the trailer; the musical shorts EVERY SUNDAY (1936), costarring Deanna Durbin, and LA FIESTA DE SANTA BARBARA (1935), in glorious Technicolor; a radio production with Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, and Dick Powell; and deleted musical scenes.

The Blu-ray also adds a song selection menu, all the better to rewatch my favorite songs on a regular basis!

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection Amazon Store or from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

TCM in August: Summer Under the Stars Highlights

It's time for the annual August Summer Under the Stars festival on Turner Classic Movies!

Please check out my festival preview for a quick glance at the stars to be honored this month. The complete schedule is at TCM's Summer Under the Stars microsite.

As regular TCM viewers will be aware, August is one of two months of the year, along with Oscars month, when all of TCM's regular franchises take a vacation. Noir Alley, Silent Sunday Nights, and Saturday morning cartoons, serials, and "B" movies will resume in September.

Below are a handful of recommendations from an outstanding lineup. Please click on any hyperlinked title to read a complete review.

...Summer Under the Stars kicks off on August 1st with Elvis Presley, and my top Elvis recommendation is always the summery VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964). Ann-Margret, seen here, is delightful in a costarring role. An upbeat way to start the month!

...Jean Arthur, a huge favorite for many of us, has a full day of films on August 2nd. There are many wonderful titles, but I'll highlight THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES (1941), costarring Robert Cummings and Charles Coburn, which I don't think it shown on TCM very frequently.

...It's been a long time since I've seen BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955) but I vividly recall "Rock Around the Clock" on the soundtrack. It's airing on Sidney Poitier Day August 3rd. Glenn Ford also stars.

...August 4th will be the first time Ruth Roman has been celebrating during Summer Under the Stars. I've enjoyed several of the 14 films showing. I particularly recommend TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951), a "couple on the run" film costarring Steve Cochran.

...I've been meaning to watch THE UNFORGIVEN (1960) for quite a while. What a cast: Burt Lancaster, Audie Murphy, Lillian Gish, Charles Bickford, Doug McClure -- and Audrey Hepburn, who will be celebrated on August 6th, It was directed by John Huston.

...It's Gene Kelly Day on August 7th. I've seen every single one of the films showing that day! It's hard to pick favorites to recommend, but two of my all-time faves are SUMMER STOCK (1950) with Judy Garland and BRIGADOON (1954) with Cyd Charisse.

...Maureen O'Sullivan is another actress making her Summer Under the Stars debut with a 14-film day. I've seen about two-thirds of the films shown; although perhaps it's not the best part for her, cast as Ray Milland's perennially disappointed wife, my favorite of the day is THE BIG CLOCK (1948) which I've seen several times. I feel as though the more I see it, the more I get out of it, the mark of a really great film. O'Sullivan's day is August 8th.

...The gem on William Holden Day August 9th is DEAR RUTH (1947), a very funny romantic comedy shown infrequently on TCM. SoldierHolden shows up to meet his penpal Ruth (Joan Caulfield), whose letters were actually written by her little sister Miriam (Mona Freeman, in a very funny deadpan performance).

...I've seen all but one of the films on Jane Powell Day August 12th, and it's one of my favorite days on the schedule. It's a great day to take off work and watch the whole lineup, but I'll particularly recommend A DATE WITH JUDY (1948), one of the first films I reached for when California locked down in 2020. "Comfort movie viewing" at its very finest. Elizabeth Taylor leads a fine cast of costars.

...Elizabeth Taylor will be celebrated on August 14th. I've been meaning to revisit CYNTHIA (1947) for quite a while. It was on TV often when I was growing up and I always enjoyed it. Maybe not the world's greatest storyline, with Taylor playing a sickly girl trying to achieve some independence from her hovering parents (Mary Astor and George Murphy), yet it's quite entertaining.

...On August 15th it's time for some Randolph Scott Westerns! Lots of good ones, including one of my all-time favorite films, RIDE LONESOME (1959). Last year I wrote about visiting one of the movie's Alabama Hills locations for Classic Movie Hub.

...Spencer Tracy's films will be shown on August 17th. I recommend THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO (1944), with Tracy as Lt. Col. James Doolittle. The superb cast includes Van Johnson, Robert Walker, Robert Mitchum, Don DeFore, and many more.

...MEET DANNY WILSON (1951) is a Frank Sinatra film which has yet to have a U.S. DVD or Blu-ray release. (In the meantime, I'm hanging on to my VHS copy!) It's on as part of Shelley Winters Day on August 18th.

...The outstanding police procedural HIGH AND LOW (1963) will be among the Toshiro Mifune films shown on August 19th. Akira Kurosawa directed.

...The "must" Joan Crawford film on August 20th is QUEEN BEE (1955), which was shown at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival. Home viewers won't be able to replicate the gasps of a packed audience, but it's a great deal of melodramatic fun. Barry Sullivan and John Ireland lead a top supporting cast.

...A whopping 15 films starring Constance Bennett will be shown on August 22nd. It's a terrific lineup with many entertaining films. I'd like to call attention to the relatively little-known SMART WOMAN (1948), with Bennett playing a successful trial attorney. ; Brian Aherne and Barry Sullivan costar, and there's a fun turn by Michael O'Shea as Bennett's reporter pal who loves to drop by her place to eat.  Aherne and Bennett were teamed a decade before in the delightful comedy MERRILY WE LIVE (1938) which is also being shown that day.

...I revisited NATIONAL VELVET (1944) this spring for the first time in years and was extremely impressed by it. Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor lead a fine cast, directed by Clarence Brown. It's part of Mickey Rooney Day on August 23rd.

...I love that Gilbert Roland has a Summer Under the Stars Day! Such a handsome and charismatic actor. His day on August 24th includes UNDERWATER! (1955), with Roland looking mighty fine in the film's many boat and diving scenes. Jane Russell, Richard Egan, and Lori Nelson costar.

...HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953), with Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, and Lauren Bacall as three women looking for rich husbands, is delightful fun. The men in their lives are played by Rory Calhoun, David Wayne, Cameron Mitchell, and William Powell. It's part of a day of Monroe's films on August 27th.

...You can't go wrong with Cary Grant Day on August 28th! I've seen them all, and it's a great day of entertainment. I'll particularly single out a title here which I wish I'd been able to work into my schedule at this year's TCM Fest, HOUSEBOAT (1958), costarring Sophia Loren and Martha Hyer.  I have a lot of fond memories of this film, another one which aired on TV frequently when I was young.

...The very next day, August 29th, is Myrna Loy Day. I especially recommend PENTHOUSE (1933) a terrific film which was a breakthrough for Loy, reportedly inspiring her casting as Nora in THE THIN MAN (1934). It was directed by THIN MAN director W.S. Van Dyke. Warner Baxter also stars.

...Many more wonderful films air on Jack Carson Day, August 30th. I especially love THE TIME, THE PLACE AND THE GIRL (1946) costarring Dennis Morgan, Martha Vickers, and Janis Paige. It also features the absolutely lovely song "Oh, But I Do." Guaranteed smiles with this one.

Enjoy a wonderful month of Summer Under the Stars movies! Here's a link for TCM's promotional video.

For more on TCM in August 2022, please check out my Quick Preview of TCM in August or TCM's complete online schedule.

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