Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Photos From the Road: Owen Rose Garden in Eugene, Oregon

Here's the first in a series of photo posts from this summer's road trip to San Francisco, Oregon, and the Sierras!

The day after our daughter's graduation from the University of Oregon we visited Owen Rose Garden in Eugene, where I snapped some of these gorgeous flowers.

Click any photo to enlarge for a closer look.









The Rose Garden is a beautiful spot which is definitely worth a stop when visiting Eugene.

We also visited Camp Putt, the prettiest mini golf course I've ever seen, after which we had lunch at neighboring Roaring Rapids Pizza. This was our beautiful riverside view during lunch:


Our day also include driving to the top of Skinner Butte, which has nice views of Eugene:



It's easy to see why we enjoy spending time in Oregon, aside from visiting our daughter and son-in-law!

More "Photos From the Road" still to come: San Francisco classic film locations, the Walt Disney Family Museum, and Highway 395.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star in the fantasy JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO (1990), recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

I'm a big fan of Hanks and Ryan's SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (1993) and YOU'VE GOT MAIL (1998), which I consider modern classics, and I'm particularly fond of YOU'VE GOT MAIL, which made my 10 Favorites of the Last 25 Years post in 2014.

Somehow, though, I'd never caught up with this first Hanks-Ryan collaboration; I think that over the years the plot description put me off. Joe (Hanks) is told he's dying and agrees to jump into a volcano? And Ryan plays three people? The concept just didn't grab me.

The Warner Archive release was the perfect time to finally try it. I must admit that during the first 20 minutes or so I wondered what I'd gotten myself into. The movie was visually ugly, annoying, and depressing.

Hypochondriac Joe works at a stupid job in a filthy building with awful fluorescent lighting, and then a doctor (Robert Stack) tells him he has a "brain cloud" (okaaaaay) which will kill him in a few months. Soon after, a crazy rich man (Lloyd Bridges) offers Joe unlimited credit cards if he'll agree to jump in the previously mentioned volcano.

After that the cloud which hangs over the movie itself begins to lift, as Hanks shapes up (boy, did he need that haircut), the visuals become colorful and appealing, and Joe likewise begins to meet colorful and interesting people in his journey, starting with a limo driver named Marshall (Ossie Davis).

Ryan's initial character, as a secretary in Joe's office, looked so different I had to look it up to make sure it was her! Though she was very un-Ryan, she wasn't very interesting, but Ryan's second character, the rich man's redheaded artist daughter, was quite amusing; later, the artist's half-sister looks and sounds like the Ryan we know and love.

The movie is on the crazy side but as its 102 minutes unspool the viewer comes to realize that it's a fairy tale of sorts about trying to live with appreciation (or "amazement," as Ryan says at one point) and setting aside fear -- and, as the modern saying goes, "live your best life."

I ultimately found the movie upbeat and weirdly charming, well worth checking out. The film's message would pair very well on a double bill with another '90s film from my 10 Favorites of the Last 25 Years list, GROUNDHOG DAY (1993).

JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO was written and directed by John Patrick Shanley. It was filmed by Stephen Goldblatt. The excellent score was by Georges Dellerue and Peter Gordon.

The supporting cast also includes Abe Vigoda, Dan Hedaya, Amanda Plummer, and Nathan Lane.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray is a lovely widescreen print. Extras carried over from the original DVD release are the trailer, a featurette, and a music video.

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Son of Paleface (1952) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Bob Hope, Jane Russell, and Roy Rogers star in SON OF PALEFACE (1952), which is being released on DVD and Blu-ray by Kino Lorber on August 29th.

SON OF PALEFACE is the sequel to Hope and Russell's THE PALEFACE (1948), with Hope playing Peter Potter Jr., son of the original film's Peter "Painless" Potter (Hope) and Calamity Jane (Russell). In SON OF PALEFACE Russell plays Mike "The Torch" Delroy, a saloon singer/stagecoach robber who's being tracked by Marshal Roy Barton (Rogers).

Peter Jr. graduates from college and heads West to collect his inheritance, after which the lovely but greedy Penelope (Jean Willes) has agreed to marry him. Peter arrives in California but finds his father left him an empty trunk. Peter brazens it out, telling townspeople owed money by his father that he's rich and will be paying off their debts soon. Then Peter Jr. and Ebenezer Hawkins (Paul E. Burns) launch a hunt for the missing fortune.

Meanwhile Peter Jr., having been dumped by Penelope via telegraph, falls head over heels for gorgeous Mike after seeing her singing. Mike and her henchmen (including Bill Williams), who have an elaborate hideaway, are being followed by Roy and his fellow marshal (Lloyd Corrigan).

Along with the comedy gags and action there's some music scattered throughout, including the Oscar-nominated "Am I in Love," plus Russell and Rogers reprising the original movie's Oscar-winning "Buttons and Bows."

In all honesty the movie is sillier than I generally like, stretching out a thin story over 95 minutes, but there are some good gags, including (of course) a cameo at movie's start by Bing Crosby. One of my favorite jokes comes at the very end, when Roy is saying goodbye and Trigger rears up on his hind legs -- followed by Peter's car rearing up on its back tires! The coda about Peter and Mike's family is pretty funny as well.

Roy, with a rifle hidden in his guitar, plays it endearingly straight and was one of my favorite things about the movie. In an unintentionally funny moment, Rogers' stuntman is clearly a different person, seen almost full face in a couple of shots. Perhaps it was thought it would go by so fast on a big screen that no one would notice -- yet with that screen being so much bigger than a TV, you'd think the stuntman's face would be even easier to spot!

Incidentally, there are some great shots of Iverson Ranch, including a "day for night" sequence early in the film. I enjoy recognizing Iverson locations since visiting the area last November.

Kino Lorber's SON OF PALEFACE Blu-ray print is spectacular and adds a great deal to the movie experience. Even when Hope was growing wearisome for me, Harry J. Wild's shots of Russell with her gowns in eye-popping Technicolor made the movie a pleasant watch.

SON OF PALEFACE was directed by Frank Tashlin, who had also directed Hope's THE LEMON DROP KID (1951) and would later direct another very colorful film, SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1954).

The Blu-ray includes a commentary track by Greg Ford and an eight-minute stop-motion animated short which was also directed by Tashlin, THE LADY SAID NO (1946). Ford's commentary track is pleasant, although he frequently falls silent for chunks of time and relies overly much on simply restating what's happening onscreen.

THE LADY SAID NO was considered "lost"; although made in Technicolor, most of the short has been reconstructed from a black and white "dupe" print. Made in the style of George Pal's Puppetoons, it's cute and tuneful; it comes with an optional commentary track.

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

Tonight's Movie: In This Corner of the World (2016)

IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD (2016) is a moving, artistically beautiful anime film about daily life in Japan during World War II.

Called KONO SEKAI NO KATSUMI NI in its native Japan, it's the simple yet simultaneously rich tale of the life of Suzu (Non, also known as Rena Nounen). Young Suzu is a dreamy, creative artist; in a series of episodic vignettes we see some of her childhood experiences and then we watch as she becomes a young woman and leaves her town in Hiroshima, moving to Kure for an arranged marriage to Shusaku (Yoshimasa Hosoya).

Reminders of the war are in the background, as young men join the military and Suzu learns about all the ships in the harbor. As food supplies dwindle, Suzu finds creative ways to stretch meager rations for her husband, in-laws, and widowed sister-in-law. Bombings become more frequent and eventually there's the huge flash of light in the distance over Suzu's original home, Hiroshima...

Despite the setting, IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD completely avoids geopolitics or blame for the war, with the exception that Suzu cries that "violence" has won when the Emperor announces the war has ended on the radio. (There's no mention of violence when the film's onscreen calendar passes through December 1941...) Suzu's comment seems more a cry of frustration than anything else; Suzu's sister-in-law is simultaneously reminded of a painful loss, and both women are processing why they have had to endure the last few years.

Instead of focusing on the reasons behind the war, the story stays tightly aimed at Suzu's experiences and what it was like to be a homesick young bride getting to know her husband and his family while making it through the day-to-day grind of wartime deprivations and losses. Despite the many challenges, Suzu remains determined and hopeful, and the film ends on an optimistic note.

Like other Japanese animated films previously reviewed here, THE WIND RISES (2013) and YOUR NAME. (2016), IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD pairs visual beauty with a substantive, deeply involving story. While a calendar counts down the history we know, within that framework the story is at times pleasantly unpredictable.

We initially fear Suzu may become a Cinderella-like drudge, but her husband is a nice guy, and she also comes to love his family, even his rude sister. Suzu works hard on the family's behalf but she's enthusiastic about tackling her new challenges, a mark of her continued maturation and an interesting contrast with her dreamy nature. (Those who enjoy "foodie" movies will find her cooking scenes fascinating.) In one of the most unexpected scenes, the in-laws' reaction when soldiers find Suzu sketching the harbor and accuse her of being a potential spy is delightful.

With its focus on daily life and family relationships and its deliberate pacing, the movie reminded me strongly of films directed by Yasujiro Ozu. In Ozu's films there are periodically references to family members who didn't return from the war. The Westernization of Japan is another of Ozu's regular themes, and this too is seen in the film, as swing music is played in a military hospital late in the war and later American soldiers are seen distributing food and chocolate.

I was deeply absorbed but managed to remain unemotional until a scene late in the film when characters rhapsodize that what they jokingly call U.S. Army "leftovers" are delicious and eat it gleefully; after all that had happened, the coming together of the two countries and the bright hope for the future was profoundly moving.

It may be helpful for viewers to know that Suzu occasionally has vivid dreams, making it hard at times to tell what's real and what's not; seeing YOUR NAME. earlier this year helped prepare me for that kind of fanciful storytelling, and eventually it all made sense.

The movie is just a little too long at 129 minutes, having a couple of "false endings" ahead of the real one, but that's my only criticism. This is a fine film which I highly recommend; I've seen over 200 films so far this year, and this is one of the best.

IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD was cowritten and directed by Sunao Katabuchi, based on a manga novel by Fumiyo Kono. I was interested to read that while it's animated, the filmmakers took great care in presenting Kure and Hiroshima as they authentically looked during the war.

Parental Advisory: IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD is rated PG-13 for "thematic elements" including "wartime images." The movie isn't graphic, but there are a couple of images and plot points which could be difficult for younger viewers. That's balanced with positive themes of perseverance, kindness, loyalty, and hope.

I saw IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD voiced in Japanese with English subtitles, and I strongly recommend experiencing the film that way rather than dubbed into English. A list of theaters screening the film can be found at the movie's website.

The U.S. trailer is at YouTube.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Passkey to Danger (1946)

PASSKEY TO DANGER (1946) is a minor mystery from Republic Pictures.

The story concerns Tex Hanlon (Kane Richmond) and his girlfriend Gwen (Stephanie Bachelor, EXPERIMENT PERILOUS) who are thrown into danger when Tex's advertising campaign is misinterpreted by numerous shady types.

Somehow his ads for the "Three Springs" attract the attention of various criminals -- including three brothers named Spring!

The plot gets so convoluted it's hard to describe it much further, although I noted that Wikipedia makes a yeoman's effort. I think I got lost when the toy puppets entered the picture... Fortunately the film is only 58 minutes!

Bachelor and Adele Mara, playing a woman who says she wants to work with Tex, are the best things in the picture, bright and energetic. It's also easy to track them, whereas there are so many nondescript men in the movie that they're hard to follow; among the crowd only Gerald Mohr stood out for me, thanks to his frequent appearances on my favorite TV series, MAVERICK, which debuted over a decade later.

Mara also appeared on MAVERICK, which was produced by her husband, Roy Huggins.

Richmond had over 100 credits but I must admit he wasn't very memorable either. I have some more of his movies in my collection so we'll see if he makes a stronger impression in the future.

PASSKEY TO DANGER was directed by Lesley Selander, who made many more interesting films in his long career, such as the Rod Cameron Westerns PANHANDLE (1948), STAMPEDE (1949), and SHORT GRASS (1950), not to mention COW COUNTRY (1953), which I'll be revisiting in the near future.

The movie was shot in black and white by William Bradford.

Any movie with Adele Mara is one I need to see, and I also really enjoy checking out "B" movies, which sometimes yield hidden treasures -- but this one is pretty forgettable. Onward to the next movie!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Quick Preview of TCM in November

Turner Classic Movies has released its tentative November schedule!

Please note that the picture and month header at the top of the schedule are for the current month, even though the link to the November schedule is correct. To verify you're looking at the correct schedule, click the link in the preceding paragraph and then check the web address, which should end in "2017-11-01."

James Stewart will be the November Star of the Month. If my reference is correct, this will be the third time Stewart has been TCM's Star of the Month, having previously been celebrated in May 1996 and December 2004.

Over 50 of Stewart's movies will be shown starting every Wednesday morning in November, ending in the early hours on Thursday.

Thanksgiving, November 23rd, is filled with family-friendly titles including LITTLE WOMEN (1933), I REMEMBER MAMA (1948), A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (1945), NATIONAL VELVET (1944), and CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950).

I was especially intrigued to see that TCM is showing the fascinating 20th Century-Fox WWII film THE MAN I MARRIED (1940)m, starring Joan Bennett, Francis Lederer, and Lloyd Nolan. It's part of the month's TCM Spotlight series on the Hollywood Blacklist, which will run on Monday and Tuesday evenings.

Ann Rutherford receives a nine-film birthday tribute on November 2nd, and the month ends with an eight-film birthday tribute to Virginia Mayo on November 30th. Other November tributes include Sophia Loren, Irene Dunne, Miriam Hopkins, Pat Boone, Grace Kelly, Henry Fonda, Marsha Mason, and Rosalind Russell.

November themes include sports biographies, wartime romance, road trips, Robby the Robot, and blackmail. I found a St. Andrew's Day lineup of Scottish films on November 30th especially inventive! There's also an evening of dramas which were later remade as musicals, including ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM (1946) starring Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison.

There isn't a Saturday morning "B" movie series in November, but there's an entire day of 11 FALCON movies on November 6th.

Currently TCM is celebrating Summer Under the Stars, with Jennifer Jones ahead as the Star of the Month in September and Anthony Perkins in October. Look for more information on TCM in November posted here at the end of October.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Duel in the Sun (1946) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The roadshow version of David O. Selznick's DUEL IN THE SUN (1946) will be released by Kino Lorber on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, August 15th.

Kino Lorber's release includes the film's original overture, prologue, and exit music, scored by Dimitri Tiomkin.

DUEL IN THE SUN (1946) was producer David O. Selznick's attempt to top GONE WITH THE WIND (1939), as well as to provide an important role for his eventual wife, Jennifer Jones. Selznick wrote the screenplay himself, based on a novel by Niven Busch; while Jones wasn't able to follow up her Best Actress Oscar for THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943) with another win, she did receive her fourth Academy Award nomination for the film, on her way to a total of one win among five nominations.

Jones plays Pearl Chavez, daughter of Scott Chavez (Herbert Marshall) and his dancer wife (Tilly Losch). In an unforgettably staged sequence, Scott shoots his unfaithful wife. Just before he hangs, Scott tells Pearl to go to Texas and live with his first love and distant cousin, Laura Belle McCanles (Oscar-nominated Lillian Gish). Marshall's role is both overwritten and overplayed, but he sets the tone for all that will follow in the same vein.

The somewhat untamed, uneducated Pearl aspires to be a lady worthy of Laura Belle and Laura Belle's kind lawyer son, Jesse (Joseph Cotten), but she keeps finding herself entangled with Laura Belle's younger son, the aggressive bad boy Lewt (Gregory Peck). Lewt eventually breaks a promise to marry Pearl, and what's worse, he shoots not one but two men she truly cares for, leading to one of the movies' all-time epic showdowns and endings.

DUEL IN THE SUN is one wild movie! I've read a lot about it over the years, but this was my first time to see it, and it certainly made a distinct impression. The film's vivid colors and over-the-top characters seem to strongly foreshadow JOHNNY GUITAR (1954), and it's best appreciated in that light. This is not your ordinary movie, with its 144 minutes filled with florid performances and dialogue filmed in eye-popping Technicolor. While I'm not certain it was always good, it was both memorable and entertaining, filled with an array of superb actors.

While at first thought Cotten might seem more likely to play the bad boy, given his portrayal of the villain of SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943), he's excellent as an honorable man with conflicted feelings for both Pearl and his cantankerous father (Lionel Barrymore). Peck, meanwhile, plays a very, very bad man, and that's just the sins we know about. Lewt clearly has a very long back story filled with behavior indulged by his father, to his ultimate detriment.

Jones is likewise quite good as Pearl, who consistently hates Lewt yet can't also seem to stay away from him. Pearl is a rather unusual character, particularly for the mid-'40s, and Jones makes the most of it. Her earthy performance here is light years from favorite Jones performances, such as the sweet, ethereal title character in PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (1948). It's said that a steamy Jones dance sequence had to be removed; it would certainly be interesting to see it.

Among the large supporting cast I especially liked Harey Carey (Sr.) and Charles Bickford, who are each kind, calming presences among a whole lotta crazy. Also in the cast are Joan Tetzel, Otto Kruger, Walter Huston, and Sidney Blackmer. Butterfly McQueen appears for what was apparently meant to be comic relief, essentially reprising Prissy of GONE WITH THE WIND, but I suspect most viewers will agree that once was enough.

DUEL IN THE SUN was directed by King Vidor and numerous uncredited contributors. According to IMDb, Selznick's script also had an uncredited contributor, Ben Hecht.

The Technicolor cinematography was shared by Lee Garmes, Ray Rennahan, and Hal Rosson. The movie was filmed at numerous Arizona locations as well as in Southern California "movie ranch" territory. There's a location sequence in which the ranchers faces off against a railroad crew which employed scores of riders; it's incredibly impressive.

I reviewed the Kino Lorber Blu-ray, which is truly stunning, a feast for the eyes and ears. It's a marvelous way to enjoy this one-of-a-kind movie.

Extras include a trailer gallery with several DUEL IN THE SUN trailers, along with trailers for Peck's YELLOW SKY (1948) and THE BIG COUNTRY (1958); a commentary track by Gaylyn Studlar, which I'll be listening to this coming week; and an interesting new 10-minute interview with Peck's children Anthony, Cecilia, and Carey. Cecilia Peck shared that Jennifer Jones was one of her father's favorite leading ladies and that they remained lifelong friends. Joseph Cotten, who worked with Jones on four films, has also said she was his favorite leading lady.

A postscript: Later this month I'll be reviewing an entirely different kind of Kino Western release, SON OF PALEFACE (1949), with Bob Hope, Jane Russell, and Roy Rogers. SON OF PALEFACE will be released on August 29th.

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

Tonight's Movie: A Life of Her Own (1950) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Lana Turner stars with Ray Milland in A LIFE OF HER OWN (1950), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Lana plays Lily James, who leaves small-town life behind when she heads to New York City to make it in the modeling profession.

On her first day in the big city she's signed by Tom Caraway (Tom Ewell, who's great in the early going but then mostly disappears). Lily also meets a former model named Mary (Ann Dvorak) who has fallen on hard times; Mary's life serves as a cautionary tale for Lily, who seems intent on making some of the same unfortunate decisions.

Half an hour into the film, Lily meets and later falls in love with Steve (Milland), a married man; he sets her up in a lovely apartment, but their happiness together is tinged with guilt. They each know they're doing the wrong thing, especially as his wife Nora (Margaret Phillips) is stuck in a wheelchair due to an accident. Much of this 108-minute film consists of Lily's torment as she works her way through a life crisis and makes decisions about her future.

Everyone in the cast is solid. Turner is always interesting to watch, though I felt she wasn't always photographed at her best in this film, shot in black and white by George Folsey; she seems older than her real age of 29. I've read the suggestion that this was due to some hard living during the two years following Turner's last film, THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1948). Whatever the reason, she looked fine in later films, so she seems to have bounced back, and she's still a very beautiful woman.

Milland is a great favorite of mine; admittedly, he tends to spend much of this film looking pained, but it fits his character, a man who seems to feel he's hit a dead end in life. Like Turner's Lily, he has to ultimately make a hard choice, and whatever it is, someone will be unhappy and he'll feel guilty. He wants it all, but that's unrealistic and frankly selfish. Milland has a really great moment in his last scene when a look of hope flashes across his face, only to be dashed.

Barry Sullivan appears occasionally as a man interested in Lily who also provides a cautionary voice as Lily moves forward. Jean Hagen, as a kind, happily married model with a child, gives a glimpse of what Lily's life could be if she is willing to start over and make better choices. Louis Calhern plays Steve's friend and lawyer.

The supporting cast is a who's who of familiar faces: Phyllis Kirk, Whit Bissell, Sara Haden, Lurene Tuttle, Percy Helton, Kathleen Freeman, Queenie Leonard, Robert Emmett Keane, and choreographer Hermes Pan, plus future sci-fi and Westerns leading lady Ann Robinson, seen modeling hosiery for a young Richard Anderson.

While the story is a bit of a downer, it's always interesting, elegantly directed by George Cukor from a script by Isobel Lennart. Excepting Lennart's last film, FUNNY GIRL (1968), I don't think I've ever seen a film scripted by Lennart which I didn't find entertaining. I especially enjoyed the first half hour, depicting the working life of a model; it would have been interesting if the filmmakers had used that as the main basis for the movie, rather than the love affair!

Speaking of the love affair, it's interesting that the film was as frank as it was about the lead characters' relationship, given the year it was made. Given the rules of the Production Code, the filmmakers make sure to impart some information about Milland's character in the final minutes which I suppose was to underscore "unfaithfulness does not pay."

It's no secret that I enjoy Lana Turner films. A LIFE OF HER OWN marks the sixth Warner Archive movie I've reviewed her in so far this year, following DANCING CO-ED (1939), SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS (1943), KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY (1945), WEEK-END AT THE WALDORF (1945), and CASS TIMBERLANE (1947). All are very worthwhile.

Reaching further back in time I've reviewed Turner in several more Warner Archive releases, CALLING DR. KILDARE (1939), SOMEWHERE I'LL FIND YOU (1942), HOMECOMING (1948), THE MERRY WIDOW (1952), and LATIN LOVERS (1953). A review of DIANE (1956) is coming soon. I encourage anyone who enjoys Turner as I do to dig deep into her filmography for many hours of enjoyable viewing.

The Warner Archive DVD of A LIFE OF HER OWN has a good picture and sound. The disc includes the trailer.

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Any Number Can Play (1949) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Clark Gable heads an all-star cast in the absorbing drama ANY NUMBER CAN PLAY (1949), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

ANY NUMBER CAN PLAY was written by Richard Brooks, based on a novel by Edward Harris Heth. The film was directed by Mervyn LeRoy, who had previously worked with Gable on the excellent, underrated HOMECOMING (1948).

Gable plays Charley Kyng, owner of a high-class gambling establishment. The town police look the other way, thanks at least in part to Charley's substantial patronage of the annual policemen's ball; one infers that they also respect Charley's ethical management and the fact that many of the town's leading citizens patronize the business.

Charley has just been told by his doctor (Leon Ames) that his weak heart requires that he give up his high-stress occupation and live a quiet life. Over the course of the next day and a half or so we watch Charley as he deals with his family, friends, and coworkers while he also determines what he's going to do with the rest of his life.

This film would be interesting if only to watch the stunning parade of faces go by. Some of the roles are fairly small and one might be tempted to say the actors are underutilized, but added together the effect is quite powerful, as they drift in and out of Charley's day. I don't believe the film was as popular as some of Gable's other work, but perhaps in a way the movie was ahead of its time, engaging in the "elliptical" storytelling of later classic TV series such as HILL STREET BLUES or MAD MEN.

Gable is as tough, bold, and charming as ever, tempered with intimations of his mortality, as he periodically pops nitoglycerin for his chest pains. (It's a bit painful seeing Gable in this, given how he would die 11 years after this film was released.) He's in a majority of the scenes, and as good as the rest of the cast is, the film wilts a bit in the moments he's offscreen, he's that compelling.

Alexis Smith plays Gable's wife of 20 years; we initially see her as a bit weak or lonely, but as the hours pass we learn she's built of tougher stuff than we think. It turns out she hasn't missed anything going on in her home, including the disloyal behavior of her sister (Audrey Totter) and brother-in-law (Wendell Corey); we calculate she felt sorry for them and that they weren't worth bothering about, rather than seeing her as a victim. Moreover, she's tenacious about supporting her husband.

Darryl Hickman -- who was a guest at last year's TCM Classic Film Festival -- plays Gable and Smith's troubled teenage son. He's embarrassed by his father's profession and feels he doesn't measure up to his father's expectations; for his part, his father unabashedly wants to see his son settle certain conflicts with his fists, which isn't the son's style. The son has been sheltered from seeing his father's business up close until one fateful night when his mother decides he needs a life lesson.

Barry Sullivan registers especially strongly as Gable's bespectacled aide, who dotes on an unseen wife who seems to have emotional problems. If I could have learned more about any of the supporting characters in the film, it would have been him. In one of the best scenes in the movie, he shows another another side entirely when a fellow employee disses his boss; the loyal Sullivan calmly removes his glasses and gives the man what looks like a couple of near-lethal punches before having him carried outside the premises. He certainly makes the viewer wonder about his back story! Edgar Buchanan, Mickey Knox, and Caleb Peterson are the other employees.

Mary Astor has a single scene as an old flame who stops by and has a heart-to-heart with Gable. Frank Morgan nearly breaks the house bank; William Conrad tries to rob it; Lewis Stone plays an alcoholic patron Gable supports; and Marjorie Rambeau plays a well-off poker player who's one of Gable's biggest fans. Look for Griff Barnett as the police sergeant and Art Baker a restaurant owner.

Like LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA (1962), reviewed earlier this week, ANY NUMBER CAN PLAY was one of a handful of dramas produced by MGM musical producer Arthur Freed.

The remastered DVD's print quality is good, showing off the fine black and white photography by Harold Rosson. Thanks in part to Rosson's photography, the film has great mood, opening on a rainy night. Later there's an iconic shot of Gable smoking a cigarette while he takes in the activity around him that is simply stunning...even if the smoking is also another reminder of both Charley and Gable's heart issues.

I wondered if some of "Charley's" ornate interior might have been repurposed from the MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) house, although a comparison of the staircase bannisters showed they're different. The ST. LOUIS staircase was seen in the same year's LITTLE WOMEN (1949), and the entire interior also turned up in 1947's CYNTHIA and CASS TIMBERLANE; it would be interesting to know if some of it was used in ANY NUMBER CAN PLAY or the set was built from scratch for this film.

I really enjoyed this movie, which ran a well-paced 112 minutes. For more on this interesting film, please visit a post Jacqueline wrote a few years ago at Another Old Movie Blog. I've been interested in seeing this ever since I read her post and am glad I finally caught up with it!

The Warner Archive DVD includes the trailer.

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

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