Sunday, December 17, 2017

TCM Remembers 2017

Today Turner Classic Movies posted its annual tribute to filmmakers who have passed on in the preceding 12 months.

TCM Remembers may be viewed via TCM's Twitter account or on the TCM website.

TCM always does a lovely, thorough job on these tributes, and this year is no exception. I was glad to see many favorites I've paid tribute to here included, including Lorna Gray (aka Adrian Booth), Lola Albright, Richard Anderson, Barbara Hale, and Robert Hardy, to name just a few.

So far the only person I can think of I wish had been included is Kathleen Crowley.

The last spot in the tribute is typically a place of honor for someone of special significance. I hadn't given any thought to who it might be and when that moment came, I found it quite emotional. I'm sure many of you will as well.

Past TCM tribute posts: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Quick Preview of TCM in February

Earlier this week Turner Classic Movies released the preview of its February schedule.

As usual, February will be TCM's annual 31 Days of Oscar series, which will conclude on March 3rd.

There are many excellent films airing in February, which makes it a particularly good month for viewers who are newer to classic films; the down side is that there isn't usually much variation in the schedule, since only Oscar-nominated films are shown.

I didn't notice anything particularly unusual or different about this year's Oscar schedule, which I'll discuss in greater detail here around the end of January. My only comment is I do personally wish TCM would stay away from airing controversial recent political documentaries, as it's otherwise a channel which brings people of all kinds together in their love for classic films.

Lana Turner is currently the December Star of the Month, with Charles Boyer coming in January.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Renegades of the West (1932) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

RENEGADES OF THE WEST (1932) is a Tom Keene Western just released by the Warner Archive.

Over time I've grown to enjoy Keene. The first film I saw him in, COME ON DANGER! (1932), was a disappointment, but I liked him quite well in CROSS FIRE (1933), which was also a Warner Archive release, and also in DESERT GOLD (1936).

RENEGADES OF THE WEST is a flawed film, but thanks to Keene and leading lady Betty Furness I nonetheless found it an enjoyable 55 minutes.

Keene plays Tom Bagby, who has recently done a stint in prison as cover so he can join a gang of rustlers while looking for his father's murderer.

Doctor's daughter Mary (Furness), who's initially attracted to Tom, gives him the cold shoulder when she learns he's an ex-con, but she gradually warms up again.

Tom meanwhile finds himself growing close to the number one suspect in his father's death, Curly Bogard (Rockcliffe Fellowes).

The movie has two annoying strikes against it: Keene spends the first few minutes of the movie coughing constantly, so his character has an excuse to visit the doctor (Rosco Ates)...and said doctor stutters constantly. The first 10 minutes or so of the movie are filled with nonstop coughing and stuttering, which doesn't make for a very enjoyable listening experience!

After that Ates's character's screen time is reduced and the movie picks up the pace. The screenplay by Albert S. Le Vino, based on a story by Frank Richardson Pierce, has some unusual aspects, notably the hero pausing mid-movie to judge...a beautiful baby contest!? Even more unexpected, when an orphaned baby (Roland Southern) is entered in the contest, Tom impulsively announces he's adopting him!

Tom's relationship with Curly is also quite interesting; they constantly attempt to one-up the other, whether it's shooting, riding, or fighting, with the winner saying "I'll teach you how." Curly becomes a father figure to Tom, causing Tom to feel quite conflicted since he believes Curly is probably responsible for his father's death.

The multigenerational thread connecting Curly, Tom, and the baby is an effective storytelling device; while not a perfect "B" Western, the film's positive aspects overcome the annoyances, building to a satisfying and touching conclusion. I'm hoping that the Warner Archive will release more of Keene's films in the future.

Furness is a spunky leading lady. Look for John Ford Stock Company stalwart Jack Pennick among the cowboys.

RENEGADES OF THE WEST was directed by Casey Robinson and filmed by Allan Siegler.

The Warner Archive print is good, especially considering the film's age. There are no extras.

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, December 10, 2017

Tonight's Movie: I'll Be Seeing You (1944) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten star in I'LL BE SEEING YOU (1944), recently released by Kino Lorber on Blu-ray and DVD.

For those who don't know this film, it might be the best Christmas film you've never seen. I only discovered it myself a dozen years or so ago, then first reviewed it here in 2009. It's one of those movies which only gets better with repeat viewings, a very special film which was overlooked in the annals of great Christmas movies for far too long. I'm delighted it will receive additional exposure thanks to Kino Lorber.

The story concerns Mary Marshall (Rogers) who meets soldier Zachary Morgan (Cotten) on a train a few days before Christmas. They're instantly attracted to one another, to the point that Zach, who has nowhere special to go for the holiday, gets off at Mary's stop.

Unknown to each other, both Mary and Zach are troubled souls harboring secrets: Mary is on an eight-day "good behavior" furlough from prison, where she's serving a six-year term for manslaughter, and Zach is fighting shell shock.

During the holidays Zach becomes a regular guest at the home of Mary's aunt (Spring Byington) and uncle (Tom Tully), and he gradually opens up to Mary about his psychological issues stemming from his battle experiences. Mary, meanwhile, can't decide whether to tell Zach the truth about her situation; she loves him but is afraid of rejection, as well as that the news that she's soon headed back to prison could impede his recovery.

The unusual plot may sound a bit farfetched, but it's beautifully scripted and performed. (The screenplay was by Marion Parsonnet, based on a play by Charles Martin.) Rogers and Cotten are each excellent -- and did Rogers ever look lovelier than in this film? -- but for me the actors who really shine are Byington and Tully (who habitually says everything is "Fine! Fine!"). They give exquisite performances as Mary's aunt and uncle and seem very "real" as they sing a carol with their plum pudding and joke about getting tipsy on a glass of sherry. There's also a lovely sequence where Tully says grace, the kind of thing you just don't tend to see in movies anymore.

Shirley Temple also does excellent work as Mary's teenage cousin Barbara, who struggles with her feelings about Mary having been in prison. Along the way Barbara learns some important lessons and perhaps will do some maturing thanks to her relationship with Mary.

Though set in WWII, the story seems more timely than ever, addressing issues such as sexual assault by an employer -- it really seems Mary should have gotten off with self-defense -- and what we now term post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Add to all of the above the very special title song by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal, and it's quite a beautiful 85 minutes. Incidentally, listen for Louanne Hogan singing the title song at the New Year's Eve party. Hogan dubbed Jeanne Crain in multiple films including STATE FAIR (1945).

The film is for the most part a five-person character study, but there are small roles played by John Derek (billed as Dare Harris), Chill Wills, and Kenny Bowers.

I'LL BE SEEING YOU was directed by William Dieterle and, according to IMDb, an uncredited George Cukor. It was filmed in black and white by Tony Gaudio.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray print is lovely, with excellent sound. Extras include an audio commentary by film historians Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan, who did a fine job on Kino Lorber's release of LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER (1963), and a five-film Joseph Cotten trailer gallery, including the trailer for this film.

The film and Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release are both very highly recommended.

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

Tonight's Movie: The Kid From Texas (1939) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Dennis O'Keefe stars as THE KID FROM TEXAS (1939), one of a couple '30s Westerns recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

O'Keefe plays William Quincy, a cowboy and aspiring polo player. He heads east aspiring to star on the polo circuit, only to flop and end up in a Wild West show.

He has a crush on wealthy Margo Thomas (Florence Rice), but she doesn't give the brash, loud-mouthed cowboy who tells tall tales the time of day. Does Margo's argumentative nature hide a secret attraction for the goofy fellow? Anyone who doesn't know the answer probably hasn't seen very many movies.

I love Dennis O'Keefe and paid tribute to him on his birthday last year, but this early feature film effort is kind of painful at times. O'Keefe had recently graduated from years of bit player work to lead roles with HOLD THAT KISS (1938); here he's stymied by the combination of a bad script and his own unnuanced yokel performance.

Fortunately much better material and performances were in O'Keefe's future, including noir classics such as T-MEN (1947), RAW DEAL (1948), ABANDONED (1949), and WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950), not to mention my personal favorite O'Keefe film, COVER UP (1949), a "cozy" Christmas mystery which he cowrote.

Florence Rice, seen most recently in NAVY BLUE AND GOLD (1937), is likewise usually a very enjoyable leading lady, but she spends much of the film looking down her nose at O'Keefe's character. Neither of their characters is especially appealing here, more's the pity.

The film has a good supporting cast including John Hubbard (billed here as Anthony Allan), Buddy Ebsen, Virginia Dale (HOLIDAY INN), Jessie Ralph, and Jack Carson, but they're working in service of a very weak story. I love MGM "B's" but this one is on the low end quality wise.

THE KID FROM TEXAS was directed by S. Sylvan Simon. It was filmed in black and white by Sidney Wagner. (An interesting aside, according to IMDb some scenes were filmed at Darryl F. Zanuck's polo stables.) The running time is 71 minutes.

The DVD includes the trailer. The print is slightly faded at times but all is all is quite watchable, with good sound.

Coming soon, a review of the new Warner Archive release RENEGADES OF THE WEST (1932), a Western starring Tom Keene.

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.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Operation Petticoat (1959) - An Olive Signature Blu-ray Review

The classic Cary Grant-Tony Curtis comedy OPERATION PETTICOAT (1959) has just been released as an Olive Signature Blu-ray by Olive Films.

Last year I reviewed a couple other titles from the Olive Signature line, JOHNNY GUITAR (1954) and NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY (1966). Earlier this year the Signature line went on hiatus; Olive has now resumed Signature releases, which going forward will be released on Blu-ray only, with each release limited to 3500 copies.

Olive Signature's OPERATION PETTICOAT Blu-ray is an extras-laden upgrade of their 2014 release of the movie, which I reviewed roughly 18 months ago. The Blu-ray looks terrific, and when all the new extras are factored in -- more on those below -- the Olive Signature OPERATION PETTICOAT is a "must" for fans of the film.

OPERATION PETTICOAT is fun from start to finish; I couldn't count the number of times I've seen it over the years, and watching it in back-to-back years was a pleasure. It's the rare comedy which runs a full 120 minutes yet seems shorter.

For anyone who might not have seen the film, OPERATION PETTICOAT is a "service comedy" about the crew of the USS SEA TIGER during WWII. As the film begins, the SEA TIGER is damaged by an air attack, but Lt. Commander Matt Sherman (Grant) and supply officer par excellence Lt. Nick Holden (Curtis) manage to get the sub working well enough to head for repairs at a Pacific island.

As the Sea Tiger travels the Pacific, it takes aboard five stranded nurses and later some expectant island women and their children -- not to mention a goat! At one point the sub ends up painted pink, and there's also a memorable adventure involving a pig. Grant's playing of the pig sequence is in my Top 5 funniest movie moments ever.

All in all it's an incredibly funny movie, set against the most serious of backdrops; the film's multiple screenwriters were Oscar-nominated. Grant and Curtis are brilliant, with impeccable comedic timing, and they're ably supported by a top cast including Arthur O'Connell, Virginia Gregg, Dick Sargent, Gavin MacLeod, Dina Merrill, Joan O'Brien, Marion Ross, and more.

OPERATION PETTICOAT was directed by Blake Edwards and filmed by Russell Harlan.

Olive presents some great extras on this disc, starting with a 20-minute featurette editing together separate interviews with cast members MacLeod and Ross. There's a shorter reminiscence of Blake Edwards the man and director, featuring interviews with his daughter, Jennifer Edwards, and actress Lesley Ann Warren (VICTOR/VICTORIA).

Also included are an additional featurette, on Cary Grant; newsreel footage; and a commentary track by Adrian Martin.

 The case includes an attractive booklet with an essay by Chris Fujiwara; unfortunately the print is so small it almost requires a magnifying glass, but Fujiwara's essay is also printed in bigger type as a Blu-ray extra.

Both the movie itself and Olive's Blu-ray release are highly recommended.

Olive Signature has also just released another Cary Grant comedy, FATHER GOOSE (1964), which likewise has plentiful extras. I'll be reviewing that here at a future date.

Thanks to Olive Films for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Coming to DVD and Blu-ray: A Man Alone (1955)

Terrific news this week from Toby at 50 Westerns: Kino Lorber will be releasing A MAN ALONE (1955) on DVD and Blu-ray.

Kino Lorber has released some interesting Republic Pictures films this year, including titles recently reviewed here such as THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE (1958) and DRIFTWOOD (1947), but the news about A MAN ALONE is extra-special for me.

Ray Milland directed and stars in A MAN ALONE, costarring Mary Murphy and Ward Bond.

As I wrote when I reviewed it in 2009, it was a movie which appealed to me from a young age and which I've continued to love in the years since. In 2014 I wrote about it in a piece on Underrated Westerns.

As Toby writes, at one point A MAN ALONE was expected to be an Olive Films release, but that fell through. I didn't have much hope of a release after that, so learning that it's now going to come out via a new 4K remaster from Paramount Pictures made my week!

I'll have more news here about its release in 2018 as it becomes available.

Monday, December 04, 2017

TCM Star of the Month: Lana Turner

The December Star of the Month is Lana Turner.

This is Turner's third time as Star of the Month -- she was previously honored in January 1998 and October 2001 -- but it's been over 16 years since the last time she was honored, so I'd say she was due! No doubt there will be many newer classic film fans who will enjoy becoming more closely acquainted with the actress and her films this month, and for the rest of us it's a welcome deep dive into a career packed with entertaining movies.

45 Turner films will be shown every Tuesday evening, continuing into Wednesday. Click any hyperlinked title below for the corresponding review.

First up, on Tuesday, December 5th, is Turner's notable early role in the Warner Bros. crime film THEY WON'T FORGET (1937). That's followed by a mixture of her early MGM and Warner Bros. films:


My favorites from the above batch are DANCING CO-ED (left, with Richard Carlson) and THESE GLAMOUR GIRLS. They made be MGM's version of a "B" film but they're packed with terrific casts and are highly entertaining. Also of note is ZIEGFELD GIRL, costarring Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr, and James Stewart, and HONKY TONK, her first film opposite Clark Gable.

There's another terrific group of films on December 12th, starting with the crime classic THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946), opposite John Garfield.

More MGM goodness follows that evening:


Turner is especially good playing an "accidental" bride of sorts in the costume drama GREEN DOLPHIN STREET, an engrossing film which includes a terrific disaster sequence. (She's seen at left with Richard Hart.) I also especially like the WWII drama KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY, in which she plays a wealthy woman who joins the WACs and tangles with military brat Laraine Day, with Susan Peters playing peacemaker. It's a good example of the well-crafted films MGM turned out so regularly throughout the '40s.

A mixture of '40s and '50s melodramas will be shown on December 19th, including a trio of her best-known films, PEYTON PLACE (1957), IMITATION OF LIFE (1959), and THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952).

Many more MGM films are showing on the 19th:


December 19th might be my favorite Turner lineup of the series. LATIN LOVERS, costarring Ricardo Montalban and John Lund, is just plain fun, filmed in gorgeous Technicolor, and she's outstanding in the underrated WWII drama HOMECOMING, opposite Clark Gable.

She's also especially good opposite Spencer Tracy in the May-December romance CASS TIMBERLANE. And I suspect she was never more beuatiful onscreen than in MARRIAGE IS A PRIVATE AFFAIR!

The series concludes December 26th with Turner films from the '50s, '60s, and even one from the mid '70s:

MADAME X (1966)
DIANE (1956)

BACHELOR IN PARADISE with Bob Hope is notable for its eye-catching early '60s visuals and should be seen for that reason alone!

I always enjoy Turner's films and hope she'll acquire new fans this month! For those who enjoy her I recommend the gorgeous coffee table book LANA: THE MEMORIES, THE MYTHS, THE MOVIES by her daughter Cheryl Crane with Cindy De La Hoz. It features beautifully reproduced photos from Turner's personal collection, many of which I'd never previously seen. Highly recommended.

For more on TCM in December 2017, please visit TCM in December: Highlights, TCM in December: Christmas Movies, and the complete online schedule.