Tuesday, January 29, 2008

As the Saying Goes...

..."I'm going to Disney World!"

An unexpected opportunity recently developed to spend the rest of this week in Orlando with a good friend. I'll resume blogging in a few days.

In the meantime, a few favorite shots from past trips...

Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom:


Wilderness Lodge:


Sunset at Bay Lake near Wilderness Lodge:


Animal Kingdom's
Expedition Everest under construction two and a half years ago:


The Canada section of World Showcase at Epcot:


Fun sign inside the Sci-Fi Dine-in at Disney's Hollywood Studios:


The Boardwalk viewed across Crescent Lake:


See you real soon!

McCain Aides: Private Sector Experience Worthless

From Time Magazine: "...some aides argue that Romney's private sector resume is, in itself, a handicap. McCain finance committee member John Lehman, a former investment banker and Secretary of the Navy, says that entrepreneurial experience is simply not transferable to the government sector."

More from George Will.

Apparently McCain thinks only "Washington elites" like Senators should be President?

Monday, January 28, 2008

McCain: Alito Too Conservative

From John Fund's Wall Street Journal column: "Mr. McCain bruised his standing with conservatives on the issue when in 2005 he became a key player in the so-called gang of 14, which derailed an effort to end Democratic filibusters of Bush judicial nominees. More recently, Mr. McCain has told conservatives he would be happy to appoint the likes of Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court. But he indicated he might draw the line on a Samuel Alito, because 'he wore his conservatism on his sleeve.'"

(Update: A McCain spokesperson says McCain worked to get Alito confirmed, but does not directly refute the quote or state whether McCain would appoint someone like Alito. Andy McCarthy points out many good reasons not to believe McCain would appoint conservative justices.)

Californians may be particularly interested to note that McCain's National Finance Co-Chair poured millions into trying to defeat California's Proposition 227, which dismantled so-called "bilingual education" (which was trapping children perpetually in Spanish-language classes), and he also donated toward opponents of Proposition 187, which banned social services for illegal aliens (a law which has since been thwarted by the courts).

McCain's associates say a great deal about his own non-conservative points of view.

SeeDubya at JunkYardBlog raises the scary prospect of a Vice President Lindsey Graham.

Update: McCain directly refutes Fund.

However, his record on judges still raises questions. There is an interesting dialogue about this going on at The Corner today.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Steyn on Sunday: "First, They Came for Piglet..."

Mark Steyn on Britain's "excessive deference" to Islam.

Read it and weep.

This is Where "Universal Health Care" Leads...

...to the denial of care for the elderly, the infirm, and those who don't meet government "standards."

It's quite frightening that so many Americans, including liberal politicians, want to import the systems that are failing in Britain, Canada, and elsewhere.

Previous posts on socialized medicine include: Obama: Universal Health Care By End of First Term, Socialized Medicine=Government Control, This is Just Creepy, Canada Outsourcing High-Risk Deliveries to U.S., and Britons Forced Abroad for Medical Care.

UCLA Hosts Pre-Code Film Festival

I've reviewed a number of "pre-Code" films from the early '30s in the last month. Southern Californians may be interested to note that next month UCLA is hosting a pre-Code film festival in Westwood.

The Kenneth Turan article at the link gives some background on pre-Code films as well as the specific movies to be screened in the festival. (I'm not familiar with any of them...)

Previous posts on pre-Code films include MAN WANTED, MIDNIGHT MARY, EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE, THEY CALL IT SIN, LIFE BEGINS, and LOVE IS A RACKET.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Love is a Racket (1932)

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. plays a lovestruck Broadway columnist who realizes by movie's end that LOVE IS A RACKET.

LOVE IS A RACKET is an interesting little pre-Code film about Broadway, the newspaper business, and mobsters, which was directed by William A. Wellman. The film has a slightly racy edge and plenty of moral ambiguity, typical of that brief era in film history. No one ever questions the hero looking the other way and burying newspaper stories about the mob. And this being the pre-Code era, someone literally gets away with murder! (A scene where the body is disposed of is briefly rather shocking.) The script has some really wonderful lines scattered here and there. It's a different kind of movie which is worth checking out.

Fairbanks brings a crisp energy to his part. Frances Dee is quite effective in her role as the ambitious, selfish woman careless of Fairbanks' affections -- a turnabout from the sweet roles she often played in films such as LITTLE WOMEN (1933) and FINISHING SCHOOL (1934), reviewed here last year.

Lee Tracy plays Fairbanks' loyal pal and Ann Dvorak is the woman who carries a torch for Fairbanks while he pines after Dee; both actors do a nice job, and Dvorak's knowing smile at the very end of the film is a nice touch.

According to IMDb, George Raft was originally in the cast but his scenes were deleted.

This movie runs 72 minutes.

The film isn't available on DVD or video but is part of the library at Turner Classic Movies. Click here to request that TCM add the movie to its schedule.

The trailer can be viewed here.

2013 Update: LOVE IS A RACKET is now available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive.

"The Failure of Normality"

A thought-provoking article by Andrew Ferguson for The Weekly Standard, about the highly abnormal process of running for President.

Fred Thompson's only problem, Ferguson says, is that he's a normal human being who finds "meeting" hundreds of people per day as a requirement to be President a pointless exercise.

I have a lot of sympathy with Thompson's point of view. As I've written here before, I find the current system of campaigning for President antiquated. This is a huge country, yet the candidates pay special attention to a few small geographic areas for months, while ignoring the rest of us.

Harnessing technology in order to communicate with voters nationwide, rather than pretending that a few thousand Iowans are all a candidate's best friends, makes a lot more sense to me. Thompson tried to do this new kind of campaigning, making excellent use of the Internet to spread his message; it didn't work for him, but I suspect he has laid the groundwork for future candidates.

Friday, January 25, 2008

McCain Hires Open Borders Anti-American Activist

John McCain has added another item to the long list of reasons conservatives are not interested in electing him to the Presidency.

McCain has unbelievably yet somehow not surprisingly hired Juan Hernandez, an open borders Anti-American activist who, among other things, does not recognize the existence of the United States (the U.S. and Mexico aren't two countries, "it's just a region") and who wants Mexicans who move to the U.S. to continue to put "Mexico first" for generations to come.

This is an obvious statement that McCain isn't serious about his newfound pledge to secure the borders first.

Mark Krikorian at The Corner wants to know if McCain has "offered Hernandez, a former high-level foreign government official who presumably swore an oath to uphold the Mexican constitution, a place in a future McCain Administration? That's not a rhetorical question."

McCain's campaign says Hernandez isn't paid (so?) and wouldn't answer directly whether Senator McCain repudiates Hernandez's belief in "Mexico first."

If that's not a simple enough question for a campaign spokesperson to answer right off the bat, well...

Update: More from Michelle Malkin.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Thompson Convention Nomination?

Steven Stark lays out a scenario whereby all the other candidates, none of whom have wholehearted Republican support, cancel each other out, paving the way for Fred Thompson to receive the nomination at the convention.

"When conventions deadlock, history teaches us that yesterday's disappointments become tomorrow's stars. If McCain can't stampede to the nomination and Super Tuesday doesn't produce another clear front-runner, we may not have heard the last of Fred..."

I find the idea highly unlikely, though appealing...but stranger things have happened. Whoever would have thought the 2000 election wouldn't be decided for 36 days?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tonight's Movie: A Letter for Evie (1946)

Lonely Evie O'Connor (Marsha Hunt), a secretary at a uniform factory during World War II, impulsively puts a letter to a soldier in the pocket of an outgoing uniform. She's delighted to receive a reply from Johnny McPherson (Hume Cronyn), who seems to be a kindred spirit. There's only one little problem -- insecure Johnny sends Evie a photo of his friend, Edgar "Wolf" Larson (John Carroll), rather than himself. When Johnny and Wolf have a couple days' leave in New York and meet Evie, naturally complications ensue.

The film is somewhat unusual in that neither of the two leading men are wholly honorable. Wolf is, well, a "wolf" -- a ladies' man careless of women's feelings, without much hope of reforming. And Johnny, while overall the better man, has deceived Evie. It's unclear for quite some time into the movie whether MGM's higher-billed wartime Gable backup, Carroll, or the less striking, lower-billed Cronyn will win Evie's hand. The resolution was somewhat unexpected and very satisfying.

Marsha Hunt is delightful, as always. The actress, who turned 90 last fall, is still going strong. She'll be appearing at the Noir City Film Festival in San Francisco this Saturday, January 26th, when her new short film THE GRAND INQUISITOR premieres.

Norman Lloyd, recently discussed here in my post on SABOTEUR, has a few scenes as Evie's boss. MGM musical fans will recognize Pamela Britton, who plays Evie's roommate, as the Girl From Brooklyn in ANCHORS AWEIGH. Wonderful Spring Byington has just one scene in the film, but she provides a key turning point in the plot.

A LETTER FOR EVIE was directed by Jules Dassin, who directed this film during his brief stint at MGM before moving on to direct darker fare elsewhere, including BRUTE FORCE, THE NAKED CITY, and NIGHT AND THE CITY. He was married for decades to actress Melina Mercouri. For more on Dassin, see my review of another film in which Dassin directed Marsha Hunt, THE AFFAIRS OF MARTHA, which includes a link to a profile on the director.

A LETTER FOR EVIE runs 89 minutes and was shot in black and white.

This movie isn't available on either DVD or VHS. Click here if you'd like to request Turner Classic Movies add the movie to its schedule.

The trailer is here.

Huntington Beach School District Regulates R Movies

Thanks to the courage of a mother and her 15-year-old daughter who spoke out against the showing of R-rated movies at Huntington Beach High School, here in Orange County, the district is adopting regulations about the showing of such films.

The district has banned the showing of entire R-rated films and requires parental permission before clips are shown.

Given that minors under 17 may not attend an R-rated movie without an adult, this is an appropriate step. It's only sad that teachers are so lacking in common sense that such a rule has to be formalized in the first place.

As the article said about the mom in this case, "...she understands that some may think she's sheltering her child too much."

The mom says in response: "It's my choice. She's my kid."

That's exactly right. More and more schools seem to feel comfortable making decisions in place of parents, and too many parents don't say anything.

The family was represented by the Pacific Justice Institute. (Note: The PJI article is in error that CHICAGO is an R-rated movie; it's PG-13. However, the modern PG-13 movie often strikes me as the equivalent of an R from a couple decades ago!)

Unfortunately, this isn't the only high school in Orange County where R-rated movies are an issue. A couple years ago my own daughter walked out of a movie referring to pimps and hookers, which was shown in her U.S. Government class, of all places!

McCain: The Answer's Still No

Perennial media darling John McCain is being strongly touted as a likely Republican Presidential nominee -- despite the fact that his wins have come in states where independent votes pushed him over the top.

As Michael Barone points out, McCain "hasn't been winning self-identified Republicans by any significant margin even where he has won, in New Hampshire and South Carolina. He has been running behind his 2000 percentages everywhere (though then he was in what was essentially a two-candidate race)."

Ed Morrissey (subject link) outlines the challenge McCain will have if he wants to win conservative hearts and minds.

Michelle Malkin gives a resounding thumbs down to McCain.

For a refresher course on why this conservative will never vote for John McCain, here's a roundup of some of my posts from the last couple years:

John McCain...Is Just Annoying, May 24, 2006.

The Answer is No..., July 12, 2006.

One Reason I'll Never Vote for John McCain, October 9, 2006.

Can McCain Win?, November 17, 2006.

Why John McCain is a No-Go for Conservatives, January 4, 2007.

Another Reason Not to Vote for McCain, March 7, 2007.

McCain Consistently Fought Tax Cuts, March 13, 2007.

It's the Contempt, April 10, 2007.

Border Deal: How Bad Is It?, May 17, 2007.

The Arrogance of John McCain, May 18, 2007.

The Arrogance of John McCain, Continued, May 20, 2007.

McCain: "Not Going to Erect Fences and Barriers", June 5, 2007.

McCain Going Down Swinging, June 10, 2007.

That Will Sure Win Over the Base...Not!, July 10, 2007.

Final food for thought: does any conservative believe that the sponsor of McCain-Feingold wouldn't sign the Fairness Doctrine back into law, thereby attempting to silence one of his most persistent critics, Rush Limbaugh?

If you look at my July 12, 2006 post above, you'll see that McCain says of some radio talk show hosts: "I don't think they're good for America."

I urge anyone on the fence about McCain, or wondering why McCain has such a difficult time with the conservative "base," to take a look at a few of these posts and the related articles.

McCain deserves credit where credit is due, for his military service and his support of the Iraq war. However, he has for the most part fought against rather than championed conservative causes, disparaging conservatives in the process.

McCain's record indicates to me that he will not govern as a conservative and is not deserving of conservative support.

Update: More from Holy Coast here and here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Don't Get It...

...how is it that people who don't pay income tax may be due to receive income tax rebates in the plan currently under discussion by the President and Congress?

I've never understood the rationale for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and I sure don't get "stimulus" suggestions that "rebate checks go to everyone who files an income tax return, regardless of whether they pay any income tax."

Some might call it welfare...I call it socialism, taking the money from people who earned it and passing it out to those who didn't.

If the government let those who earned the money keep more of it in the first place, I suspect our economy would be doing much better.

And just think of all the administrative money wasted handling rebates which could have simply stayed with taxpayers to begin with.

Sigh

Fred Thompson is out.

If Giuliani or Romney is smart, one of them will sign up Thompson as their V.P. candidate. (Update: For whatever it's worth, Captain's Quarters quotes a report saying that Thompson has no interest in a V.P. or cabinet position.)

According to Mark Levin, Thompson will not be endorsing another candidate.

80th Annual Academy Award Nominations

It's a sad commentary on the current state of Hollywood that of all the films nominated for Best Picture, Direction, and Acting, there is only one I have any interest in seeing: JUNO.

Well, I suppose I might amend that and catch CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR sometime, just for Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, knowing full well that its history and politics are inaccurate.

On a happier note, RATATOUILLE was nominated for Best Animated Feature, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Score, while three songs from ENCHANTED were nominated. (Does that mean they'll cancel each other out?)

Sadly but not unexpectedly, no recognition for Amy Adams' delightful performance in ENCHANTED, probably because it's a Disney film which is as close to G as a PG movie can get.

Previously: 78th Annual Academy Award Nominations, 79th Annual Academy Award Nominations.

Monday, January 21, 2008

State Funeral of Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary's state funeral in New Zealand was held today.

The BBC has some striking photos of the service.

The service was televised through New Zealand, Nepal, and at the Scott Base in Antarctica, which was founded by Sir Edmund.

The service began with the ringing of the bell of the HMNZS Endeavor, the ship that took Sir Edmund's expedition to the Antarctic over half a century ago.

The ice axe Sir Edmund used to summit Everest lay atop his coffin, and as the casket left the cathedral, it passed an honor guard holding ice axes.

A fitting end to a remarkable life.

Previously: Sir Edmund Hillary Dies at 88.

Tonight's Movie: The War Against Mrs. Hadley (1942)

In THE WAR AGAINST MRS. HADLEY, the birthday party of Washington society hostess Stella Hadley (Fay Bainter) is ruined when news comes over the radio that Pearl Harbor has been bombed. Mrs. Hadley, a widow, views the war as an intrusion into her ordered life, especially when her beloved ne'er-do-well son (Richard Ney) is called up to serve. As time goes on Mrs. Hadley's life is impacted more and more by the war, particularly when her daughter (Jean Rogers) falls in love with a working-class soldier (Van Johnson) she meets at a canteen.

The plot builds to a moving climax. Although a couple of film rating books on my shelves only rated this film two stars -- one complained it was "dated propaganda" -- I found it a very well-made film which is surprisingly relevant today, when there are still many people in denial about the battle our country is facing. And as with PARTY WIRE, the film is also valuable as an historical artifact of its time.

The overt references to politics were also quite interesting -- Mrs. Hadley is a staunch Republican opposed to FDR's policies, who refuses to read her late husband's former paper because the new owners supported Roosevelt for a third term.

The cast is superb, beginning with Fay Bainter in the title role. Bainter is one of the great supporting actresses of Hollywood and a pleasure to watch in any of her films. Edward Arnold is equally good as her longtime friend, who thinks war service might force her son to grow up.

This was Van Johnson's first good-sized role, after appearing in bit parts and shorts. The deep cast also includes Spring Byington, Sara Allgood, Frances Rafferty, Connie Gilchrist, Halliwell Hobbes, and Dorothy Morris. Isobel Elsom shares a particularly moving scene with Bainter near the film's end.

I was tickled that my 9-year-old son recognized the voice of James A. FitzPatrick, host of MGM's long-running series of Traveltalk shorts, as the radio announcer on Pearl Harbor Day. In recent months I've videotaped a large number of Traveltalks, which are colorful time capsules about different cities and countries around the world. Although FitzPatrick is not listed in the IMDb credits, he was under contract to MGM so I feel pretty confident my son was correct in his identification.

The film's director was Harold S. Bucquet. The script by George Oppenheimer was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

The movie runs 86 minutes.

THE WAR AGAINST MRS. HADLEY is not available on VHS or DVD. Click here to indicate interest in a DVD release or request that Turner Classic Movies add the film to its schedule.

The trailer can be seen here.

Just Too Depressing...

There has been a dearth of political posts here in the last few days...not much new to say and it's a rather depressing time for conservatives.

California Conservative has a good summary of the current situation.

Of the five leading Republican candidates, there are two for whom I'd never vote; two more I'd consider voting for but who raise serious questions; and the best candidate may be on the verge of dropping out of the race.

Sigh.

I can take or leave George Will -- sometimes I enjoy him, other times I vehemently disagree with his viewpoints -- but I am in particular agreement with his new column on John McCain.

On the other side of the political fence, I don't know what's scarier -- the info that's come out in newly released government documents about how the Clintons tried to suppress dissent and smear critics of their healthcare plan, or the mainstream media's refusal to address these documents in a substantive way. If it weren't for the Internet and Rush Limbaugh, who read the documents on the air last week, I wouldn't even know about them.

New Movie: Leatherheads (2008)

George Clooney has terrible taste, in my humble opinion, when it comes to politics...but there's no doubt the man knows moviemaking.

Clooney directed and stars in LEATHERHEADS, a romantic comedy set against the background of 1920s football. His costar is Renee Zellweger.

Based on the trailer it looks like Clooney's got another winner.

LEATHERHEADS opens April 4, 2008.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

For Fans of Friday Night Lights

I've occasionally watched FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS this season -- I intend to go back and start at the beginning of the Season 1 DVD set, but I have enjoyed peeking in at Season 2 every so often as sort of a preview of "coming attractions."

For me, the main reason to watch the show is its realistic, documentary-style depiction of a solid, supportive marriage, with Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton as Eric and Tami Taylor.

If you also like the show, you'll enjoy this interview with Chandler and Britton which ran in the L.A. Times. (Although I wasn't impressed with what we were told about their off-camera language...par for the course in much of Hollywood, it seems.)

I didn't realize Britton was in the original film, which I've not seen. Interesting to note that her character in the film had a different name. I added the movie to my Netflix queue today.

Tonight's Movie: Party Wire (1935)

One of the great things about movies is that aside from entertaining, they serve as time capsules...a great example being PARTY WIRE, which demonstrates to modern audiences a phone system few people today have ever experienced.

Jean Arthur plays Marge, a nice girl who nearly has her life destroyed when vicious smalltown gossips misinterpret what they hear when eavesdropping on a party line. Arthur is her usual sweet self as one of the only nice people in town. As leading lady roles go, it's a relatively small part, as much of the screen time is devoted to people talking about her, rather than her being on screen.

Victor Jory has a rare leading man role as the wealthiest man in town, who finds a unique way to combat the gossip. Jory is best-known for playing villains, such as Injun Joe in THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER and Jonas Wilkerson in GONE WITH THE WIND. Here in Southern California he did play another hero role onstage, starring in the famous Ramona Pageant in the late '30s.

Charley Grapewin plays Marge's father, while Clara Blandick plays one of the gossips. Four years later Grapewin and Blandick would play Uncle Henry and Auntie Em in THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Walter Brennan has a brief uncredited part as one of the townspeople. The very next year Brennan would move from a long string of bit parts to the first of his three Academy Award winning roles, in COME AND GET IT. Brennan also received Oscars for KENTUCKY (1938) and THE WESTERNER (1940), and was nominated for SERGEANT YORK (1941).

The film runs 70 minutes and was filmed in black and white. It was directed by Erle C. Kenton, whose career began in the silents. Most of his films seem to have been relatively inconsequential "B" movies.

This movie is unfortunately not available on either DVD or video, but it can be seen on cable as part of the Turner Classic Movies library.

The film's cautionary conclusion is that sometimes people refuse to learn from their mistakes. It's an interesting, somewhat unusual film worth catching.

Update: This film is now available on DVD in the Jean Arthur Drama Collection in the TCM Vault Collection line.

Songwriter Lew Spence Dies at 87

You may not recognize Lew Spence's name, but you have probably heard his music. Spence composed the title tune for my all-time favorite Sinatra album, NICE 'N' EASY.

Other Sinatra fans may choose more serious Sinatra albums, such as IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS, as his best work, but for me, it's the bubbly, romantic NICE 'N' EASY, which also includes my all-time favorite Sinatra recording, "How Deep is the Ocean?"

Spence also composed "Sleep Warm," which was the title of perhaps my favorite Dean Martin album -- which happens to have been conducted by Sinatra. Sinatra himself also recorded "Sleep Warm."

Rather remarkable that the same composer wrote the title songs for two favorite albums by two very favorite singers.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Elizabeth Enright's Melendy Books Back in Print

Some of my favorite books from the world of children's literature are coming back into print next week: Elizabeth Enright's Melendy Family series. The four books in the series are THE SATURDAYS, THE FOUR-STORY MISTAKE, THEN THERE WERE FIVE, and SPIDERWEB FOR TWO.

The first two books in the series are particularly fine; I read them countless times growing up. In THE SATURDAYS, published in 1941, four siblings who live with their widowed father and housekeeper in New York pool their allowances so that each Saturday one of the children gets all the money to go off and have an adventure. It would be unthinkable now, but the children travel on their own all around New York City!

The next book in the series finds the Melendys moving to an old house in the country, the "Four-Story Mistake."

Enright's other books include GONE-AWAY LAKE (a Newbery Honor book), RETURN TO GONE-AWAY, TATSINDA, and the 1939 Newbery Medal winner THIMBLE SUMMER.

All are highly recommended for the young readers in your life. Like most quality children's literature, grownups can enjoy them too. :)

Suzanne Pleshette Has Passed Away

Sad news tonight that longtime BOB NEWHART SHOW costar Suzanne Pleshette has passed away at age 70.

Pleshette, whose husband of nearly 32 years passed away in 2000, married Tom Poston, costar of Bob Newhart's second classic show NEWHART, in 2001. They had known each other since the '50s. Poston passed away last year.

Pleshette was part of the famous ending of the second NEWHART show, as Bob woke up in bed next to her and we learned he had dreamed the entire second series.

Her films included Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS, James Garner's SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GUNFIGHTER, and the Disney films THE UGLY DACHSUND, BLACKBEARD'S GHOST, THE SHAGGY D.A., and THE LION KING II: SIMBA'S PRIDE.

Monday: A nice article from USA Today.

Tonight's Movie: Whispering Smith (1948)

Alan Ladd stars as WHISPERING SMITH, a steely railroad detective working to solve a series of train derailments and robberies.

Smith's old friend Murray (Robert Preston) is mixed up in the derailments. As an added complication, Murray's wife Marian (Brenda Marshall) is the woman Smith had once hoped to marry himself.

The movie is a nice solid Western, not a classic but a worthwhile, entertaining film. Ladd is compelling as the determined Smith, who tries to turn his friend back onto the right path but is rebuffed. Brenda Marshall frankly has struck me as a bland actress in the couple of films I've seen her in thus far -- I've always regretted Olivia DeHavilland wasn't the leading lady of THE SEA HAWK -- and in this Marshall isn't required to do much more than look tearful for most of the movie. She only made one more film after this before retiring from the screen.

The excellent supporting cast includes Donald Crisp, William Demarest, Fay Holden, and Frank Faylen. Frequent Western character actors such as Will Wright, Ray Teal, Irving Bacon, and Hank Worden also appear in the film.

Cinematographer Ray Rennahan shot the movie in striking Technicolor. There are some particularly beautiful second unit location shots, although the lead actors themselves don't seem to have gone any further than the backlot or maybe Paramount Ranch. The shifts from the outdoors to soundstage are particularly noticeable; in one shot the camera pans past a large tree and as it does we leave the outdoors and are suddenly looking at the soundstage exterior of a ranch house.

There's also a very noticeable blooper: Ladd opens a harmonica box and the box falls to the ground, but in the very next shot the box seems to have jumped right back into his hand.

The movie was directed by Leslie Fenton. It runs 88 minutes.

WHISPERING SMITH is available on DVD.

It's also available on cable in the Turner Classic Movies library.

You can watch the trailer here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Disneyland's Small World Remodels

Disneyland's It's a Small World ride is closing for a lengthy rehab, shutting down from January 22, 2008, to November 28, 2008.

One assumes that when it first reopens it will be the Small World Holiday version of the ride, so it will be just about a year before we get to see the original Small World again.

We've been watching the new Disney Treasures DVD set, which is terrific. The set includes a WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR episode, "Disneyland Goes to the World's Fair," detailing Disney's creation of the Primeval World, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Carousel of Progress, and It's a Small World for the New York World's Fair of 1964-65. It's a fascinating slice of Disney and pop culture history.

As a side note, one of the things that particularly intrigued me in the World's Fair program was the 120-foot-tall Tower of the Four Winds mobile Disney built for the fair. Sadly, the mobile was scrapped after the fair rather than sent to Disneyland with the rest of Disney's contributions to the fair. A small model of it lives on at the Contemporary Resort at Disney World in Florida:


Click to enlarge the photo. I hope to take a much better picture -- without a flash reflection! -- on my next visit to Disney World...which I'm happy to say is going to be much sooner than I expected. :)

Previously: Joyce Carlson, Co-Creator of It's a Small World.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Coming to DVD: Enchanted (2007)

Disney's ENCHANTED is being released on DVD on March 18, 2008.

The release date is a few days before Easter -- I suspect it was timed so the DVD can be tucked inside many Easter baskets.

Extras include a "pop-up" short starring Pip the Chipmunk, featurettes, deleted scenes, and bloopers.

My children and I were saying the other day they really need to make a "pop-up trivia" edition with on-screen pop-up facts pointing out all the nuggets of Disney trivia used in the film. Or it at least needs a commentary which would do this...

Why do I have a feeling I'm going to be shelling out for an upgraded edition in a few years?!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tonight's Movie: The Uninvited (1944)

I often avoid "ghost" movies if they look too spooky, but I was very interested in THE UNINVITED as the leads are played by three actors I particularly enjoy: Ray Milland, Gail Russell, and Ruth Hussey. We did take the precaution of watching it this afternoon, before it got dark. :) It turned out to be a really wonderful film, which I highly recommend.

Milland and Hussey play Rod and Pamela Fitzgerald, a brother and sister who decide to pool their resources to buy a house on the English coast. It isn't long before they notice spooky goings-on in the house, but the Fitzgeralds try to ignore the unusual happenings and enjoy their new home.

Rod is soon enchanted by beautiful young Stella (Gail Russell), whose parents once lived in the house. It quickly becomes apparent that Stella and the strange happenings in the Fitzgeralds' house are connected, and Rod and Pamela set out to solve the mystery and free Stella and the house from whatever is haunting them. They are aided in their quest by the local doctor (Alan Napier), who has taken an interest in Pamela.

There are many elements which make the film so effective, starting with the performances of the four lead actors. Milland is charming as Rod, a composer and music critic simultaneously falling in love and fighting with ghosts. Hussey conveys her usual warmth and intelligence, and Napier was just right as the doctor who immediately believes the Fitzgeralds and calmly handles spooky lights and noises. (Napier is best-known as Alfred the butler in TV's BATMAN.) Russell is simply one of the loveliest and most haunting -- no pun intended -- leading ladies ever to grace film; how tragic that the stress of handling a film career led to her alcoholism.

The movie isn't a conventional horror film in that there is no gore or anything visually scary, other than a couple of apparitions. It's all about mood, sounds, and animals that run away from home or refuse to go upstairs. A brief seance attempting to find out what's wrong with the house is as close as the movie gets to anything truly unpleasant. There's no ugly music indicating terrible things are about to happen; to the contrary, the score is exquisitely beautiful, including the memorable "Stella By Starlight." The score was composed by Victor Young. The film's resolution is logical and satisfying.

The supporting cast includes Donald Crisp as Stella's grandfather and Cornelia Otis Skinner as a strange woman who appears to have liked Stella's mother a little too intensely.

The film runs 98 minutes and was directed by Lewis Allen. The screenplay was cowritten by Dodie Smith, author of the novels I CAPTURE THE CASTLE and 101 DALMATIANS. I CAPTURE THE CASTLE sits on my shelf of favorite books. (Anyone who has read it can probably recite the opening line by heart..."I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.")

THE UNINVITED can be seen on VHS and on cable at Turner Classic Movies.

Requests for a DVD release at TCM are higher than I've ever noticed for any other movie -- over 2411 at present. This movie deserves a DVD release with informative extras about the making of the film. Sadly, none of the cast is with us any longer.

The trailer is here.

A most enjoyable movie which I'll be watching again in the future.

Update: This movie was released on Region 2 DVD in Europe in October 2012. It is the first authorized DVD released anywhere in the world.

July 2013 Update: Finally, a Region 1 DVD release in the United States! THE UNINVITED will be released by the Criterion Collection on October 22, 2013.

CA Backpedals on Thermostat Control...For Now

The California Energy Commission has, at least for the present, removed the proposed building code requirement that future construction include thermostats which can be programmed by the state government.

The folks at Patterico's site suspect this isn't the end of the idea, and I think they're right.

As Joseph Somsel writes in a comment, "The root problem is the state’s policy of 'Conservation First'" rather than "energy adequacy."

Bradley J. Fikes raises more questions at The Festering Swamp.

The 39 Steps Becomes Broadway Comedy

A spoof of Alfred Hitchcocks's THE 39 STEPS has opened on Broadway at the American Airlines Theater (what a name for a theater!).

The comedy, which originated in England, has been very well-received. USA Today writes that it "mines Hitchcock's dry wit and breezily sends up the spy-thriller genre." The New York Times calls it "absurdly enjoyable" and notes "many of the funniest — and more surprisingly, the raciest — lines in Mr. Barlow’s play come directly from the movie. This '39 Steps' isn’t using its source material as a satiric target but as an accomplice."

The play also works in references to other Hitchcock movies, including shadow puppet crop dusters (?!). It sounds just a bit like Disney's ENCHANTED, a movie which is both spoof and loving tribute to Disney film history.

The Hitchcock original came up in the comments discussion for my post on SABOTEUR over the weekend. There are apparently some plot similarities between THE 39 STEPS and SABOTEUR.

In a stroke of good timing, the movie airs on TCM next week on January 22, 2008.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Irene (1940)

IRENE was a very pleasant discovery, a blend of musical and screwball comedy starring Ray Milland as Don, a wealthy playboy who secretly owns the swankiest dress shop in New York, and British actress Anna Neagle as Irene, the Irish shopgirl he loves. When Don secretly arranges a modeling job for Irene at his store, all sorts of complications -- romantic and otherwise -- ensue.

IRENE has quite a cast. Alan Marshal and Marsha Hunt, two actors I enjoy very much, play the second leads, with Billie Burke as Marshal's absent-minded mother and Roland Young as the manager of Milland's dress shop. Arthur Treacher plays one of his patented deadpan butler roles ("If butlers told all they knew, society would be a shambles!"). May Robson (FOUR DAUGHTERS) plays Neagle's grandmother. Way down in the uncredited cast you can even find Dorothy Dandridge, who performs in a musical number when Irene attends the theatre.

Years ago I happened to read Anna Neagle's autobiography THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW and found it interesting, but this was the first time I'd actually seen her in a film. I found her quite enjoyable, although I wasn't particularly wowed by her style of singing and dancing. While her dance with Milland at a ball was lovely, her solo dance near the end of the film was repetitive and seemed a bit out of place plotwise. That said, she was just right in the part, and a good match for Milland, who was at his charming and comedic best in this film.

The film has a number of unique touches -- perhaps the most noticeable is that while most of the movie was filmed in black and white, there is an extended Technicolor party sequence in the middle of the film, which takes perhaps 20-25% of the film's 101-minute run time. THE WOMEN, released the previous year, also had a Technicolor sequence in the middle of an otherwise black and white film, but it's perhaps more effective in IRENE. In IRENE the party is actually part of the storyline and helps convey Irene's wonder at being part of a high society ball, whereas in THE WOMEN color was used simply for a fashion show that was extraneous to the plot. The color scenes in IRENE are so beautiful -- showing off Neagle's red hair and "Alice Blue Gown" to perfection -- that it makes one wish the entire movie were filmed in color. At the end of the color section, a card appropriately reads "Comes the Cold Grey Dawn," and we're back to black and white.

IRENE was directed by Herbert Wilcox.

IRENE is not available on DVD or video, but can be seen on cable on Turner Classic Movies. Visit the TCM page to indicate interest in a DVD release or request that TCM schedule the movie.

Netflix Offers Unlimited Online Viewing

This will be old news to Netflix subscribers who received the email notice a month ago, but Netflix has now publicly announced that they have lifted time limits for online viewing.

Although I haven't yet used this feature, our college daughter has watched several things online via Netflix and it seems to work very well.

Some people talk about online streaming as being the death knell for DVDs; that's hard for me to imagine, as I would think there are people like me who want the certainty of owning a film collection you can actually lay hands on and know you own forever, including all the extras.

Still, it's an interesting new twist as entertainment technology continues to evolve.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Entire Cast Reunites for HSM3

News that will make HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL fans everywhere jubilant: it was announced today the entire cast will reunite for the HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 theatrical film, due to start shooting this spring.

Straight Talk From Fred Thompson

America needs more of this common sense, small government thinking: Thompson was asked whether "as a Christian, as a conservative" he would continue President Bush’s programs to combat global AIDS.

Thompson: "Christ didn’t tell us to go to the government and pass a bill to get some of these social problems dealt with. He told us to do it."

There's more -- read it all.

Thompson's poll numbers in South Carolina are rising as Huckabee's are falling.

The Corner's Peter Robinson says Thompson excitement is building in South Carolina. We can only hope.

I'm getting awfully tired of the media declaring the primaries about over when they're just getting started.

There must be a better way to nominate a Presidential candidate than an endless year of way-too-early buildup followed by being told the competition is over after four or five states vote...

Tuesday Update: More on Thompson momentum from Jonathan Adler at The Corner.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

NYT Reviewer Clueless About Veggie Tales

Yesterday three of my children went to see the new VEGGIE TALES movie, THE PIRATES WHO DON'T DO ANYTHING, and had a very enjoyable time. They are all VEGGIE TALES fans, especially the 19-year-old, who loves the sly humor and inside jokes.

NewsBusters notes that the New York Times review was written by someone who was apparently completely clueless about the VEGGIE TALES franchise; his review was consequently utterly lacking in value for those who would be most likely to want to see a VEGGIE TALES movie.

Two of the NYT review's four paragraphs were meandering guesses as to what "faith" had to do with the movie; the reviewer also appears to have absolutely no idea that the series regularly has spoof titles and pop culture references, along with plots that are reworkings of Bible stories or classic literature. (He must have missed seeing THE ASPARAGUS OF LA MANCHA and SUMO OF THE OPERA.) He seriously seems to think the movie is ripping off the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN series. If the reviewer's not serious, he's a very bad comedian.

Hello?!

The L.A. Times, on the other hand, gave the movie a thumbs up in a well-written, knowledgeable review. The review starts out on a fun note: "Strange thoughts can occur when watching a movie populated entirely by vegetables. For instance, do Veggie Pirates get scurvy or beriberi?"

Tonight's Movie: Along Came Jones (1945)

ALONG CAME JONES is an amiable Western comedy. Gary Cooper stars as Melody Jones, a slow-drawing cowboy who can't shoot straight yet is mistaken for a notorious outlaw with the same initials. Loretta Young co-stars as Cherry, a beautiful girl who's a great shot and might, or might not, be the outlaw's girlfriend.

Cooper's finely nuanced comic performance -- watch his facial expressions and body language! -- is a lot of fun, and he has great chemistry with Young's spunky Cherry. The role was a real change of pace from Cooper's usual can-do heroes, while Cherry was quite a strong female character for the times. Cherry isn't above being swept off her feet, though; her dazzled, thunderstruck "Thank you!" after Melody kisses her is the film's sweetest, funniest moment.

In addition to starring in the lead role, Gary Cooper also produced this film.

Dan Duryea plays the outlaw, Monte Jarrad, while William Demarest plays Melody's sidekick. Familiar Western faces including Ray Teal, Russell Simpson, Lane Chandler, Frank Sully, and Walter Sande fill out the supporting cast.

Although Lone Pine's Alabama Hills are clearly seen in the background of some shots, it doesn't appear the actors ever left the studio backlot -- the hills are seen in very bad back projections as Cooper and Demarest "ride" their horses. Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne whimsically theorized that maybe the back projections were to emphasize that the movie was a Western spoof, but I suspect it was more a matter of the budget!

(A side note, the Soda City sequence in last night's movie SABOTEUR was also shot in Lone Pine. Another interesting connection with last night's film is that Gary Cooper had been Hitchcock's first choice for the lead in SABOTEUR.)

ALONG CAME JONES was directed by Stuart Heisler; his film THE GLASS KEY was reviewed here a year ago. The script was by Nunnally Johnson, whose credits include JESSE JAMES, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, and Cooper's CASANOVA BROWN. Johnson's wife, Dorris Bowdon, had memorable supporting roles in three John Ford films, including playing Rosasharn in THE GRAPES OF WRATH.

Some sections of ALONG CAME JONES, which I taped from TCM, are quite dark. I have been told the DVD copy is fairly dark in spots too, so that might be as good as this print gets. The movie runs 90 minutes.

It's available on DVD and VHS. It next airs on TCM March 21, 2008.

The trailer can be seen here.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Saboteur (1942)

Tonight I had the pleasure of watching Alfred Hitchcock's SABOTEUR for the very first time. This tale of a WWII aircraft factory worker on the run after being falsely accused of sabotage is terrific entertainment.

Robert Cummings plays Barry Kane, the man on the run who is looking (of course!) for the real saboteur. Cummings has exactly the right sort of "everyman" quality to be very believable as a factory worker. Lovely Priscilla Lane is a model who ends up aiding Barry, after initially wanting to turn him over to the police. I've seen Lane in a number of movies over the last year and really enjoy her.

There are a number of wonderful sequences -- a nerve-wracking party scene presages the famous party scene in NOTORIOUS a few years later -- climaxing with the final showdown at the Statue of Liberty. The film ends rather abruptly; it could have run longer than its 108 minutes to give us a bit more of a satisfying conclusion, but that's my only complaint.

The villain at the Statue of Liberty is played by Norman Lloyd, known to viewers of '80s TV as Dr. Auschlander on ST. ELSEWHERE. Otto Kruger and Ian Wolfe are among the other villains.

Classic Images published a nice profile of Priscilla Lane in 1999 which can be read online. Priscilla Lane made 22 movies in 11 years before leaving Hollywood behind. She had married an Air Force Colonel during the war and raised four children. She is buried beside her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.

Papers related to Priscilla and her performing sisters are archived at Simpson College.

SABOTEUR is available on DVD as a single-title release or as part of the Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection. The DVD includes a 35-minute documentary about the making of the film, with actor Norman Lloyd describing the filming of the Statue of Liberty sequence in great detail. I wish the featurette had included information about the two leads and their roles, but what's included is very interesting. Production stills, Hitchcock's sketches, and the movie trailer are also included.

The film is also available on VHS.

SABOTEUR can next be seen on Turner Classic Movies on March 19, 2008.

The trailer can be seen here.

Fred Thompson Endorsed By Human Events

Human Events editorializes: "We conclude that Thompson is a solid conservative whose judgment is grounded in our principles."

The magazine goes into detail on why they have chosen Thompson over his Republican rivals. A good read.

As a side note, Judge Robert Bork told Mark Levin today: "I don’t think that Senator McCain or Governor Huckabee deserves to be called a conservative."

Amen to that.

Coming to DVD: Walk the Line Extended Edition (2005)

If you want to see more of the Johnny and June Carter Cash bio WALK THE LINE, an Extended Edition with 17 minutes of new footage will be released on DVD March 25th.

I'm curious as to whether the extended edition will incorporate the deleted scenes seen on the original DVD release. It looks like this new edition only has a couple of deleted scenes, compared to 10 deleted scenes on the original.

The Extended Edition also includes uncut musical numbers on Disc 2. Several of them are said to be never-before-seen extras, so I assume that means they were not included in the 2-Disc Edition released in 2005.

Sounds like the new edition should be worth checking out.

My 2005 thoughts on the original theatrical release can be read here.

Hillary's $40 Billion Tax Rebate: Don't Believe It

Hillary Clinton has proposed an economic stimulus package which includes a $40 billion tax rebate if the "economy worsens."

Sure, that'll happen, just like President Clinton's 1992 campaign promise of a "middle class tax cut." You remember that one...the tax cut that he reneged on 26 days after he was inaugurated (moaning he'd worked harder than he'd ever worked in his life but couldn't do it); instead, he retroactively raised taxes!

If Hillary wants to take credit for everything good in the Clinton Administration, she needs to explain why the Clinton Administration said our economy just couldn't afford a tax cut in the early '90s but she would follow through on a tax cut herself.

The reality is that if Hillary Clinton is elected and there is still a Democratic-controlled Congress, it's a given that we'll all be looking at tax increases one year hence.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fred Gets Great Reviews

The folks at National Review were sure enthused by Fred Thompson's debate performance tonight. Scroll down and check out the many entries for January 10th at The Corner.

Jim Geraghty of National Review's Campaign Spot: "This performance was so commanding, I wanted his last answer to echo back to the lights in the back of the auditorium, blow out all the lamps and spotlights, for the theme to 'the Natural' to play, and for him to trot around the stage in slow motion while sparks showered down in the background."

Even Hugh Hewitt, the No. 1 spinner for Mitt Romney, backhandedly admitted Thompson won the debate, having a "great" night to Mitt's "good" night. Wonders will never cease.

John Podhoretz at Reason: "Fred Thompson is not only winning this debate, he is giving the most commanding debate performance we’ve seen from any candidate in either party since the beginning of this endless primary process."

I find troubling the weight being given to New Hampshire and Michigan in the nomination process -- as independents and Democrats have the opportunity to vote for the Republican nominee!

I'm also completely sick of the media coverage, fitting the facts to their pet storylines, and fawning over their favorite candidates...NBC even admitted it's "hard to stay objective" covering Obama. (Brian Williams thinks it's "courageous" for his reporter to admit this. I suspect if the reporter were this enthused about a conservative, he'd be fired.)

The prospect of a liberal who calls himself a Republican being the nominee is quite disheartening.

And I'll add to that thought that the more I see of Mike Huckabee, the more I think he's a walking disaster...for our party and for the nation, should he happen to get as far as the nomination.

I'd sure like to think there's still hope for a true conservative candidate, such as Fred Thompson, to be the Republican nominee.

Friday Update: Re my comment above about the media fitting the facts to fit their favorite storylines and their preferred candidates: Rush Limbaugh is on a wonderful rant this morning about the drive-by media telling us that the most conservative candidates in the race don't have any hope. The media's pushing their storylines by saying it's "too late" for Thompson and that if Romney loses Michigan -- where Democrats can vote for Republican nominees! -- it's too late for him.

This is after just two states have voted!

First The Government Came for the Light Bulbs...

...then they took control of the thermostats?

It's bad enough the President signed a law banning traditional light bulbs, forcing all Americans to convert in the next few years to poorly functioning, harsh "energy saving" light bulbs which, among other things, are said to possibly cause skin cancer and migraine headaches. Not to mention causing toxic waste in your home if a bulb should break.

What was Congress -- and especially President Bush -- thinking?

Now something even worse may be looming: a California proposal which would give the government control of temperature thermostats in all private homes and businesses built in future is starting to cause a stir.

Rather than build new electric plants, California bureaucrats and politicians continue to look at ways to ration power. I wrote last summer about punitive electric rates which are pricing summer air conditioning out of the range of middle-class Californians.

The bureacrats' new idea: "California utilities would control the temperature of new homes and commercial buildings in emergencies with a radio-controlled thermostat, under a proposed state update to building energy efficiency standards. Customers could not override the thermostats during 'emergency events'..."

So, even if you can afford the bill, you might not be able to run air conditioning even if you want to...and if you find the temperature the State chooses for you to "enjoy" in your own private home too hot or too cold, you will be breaking the law if you change the State's setting.

Too Orwellian to be believed. The accumulation of things like this sure takes the luster off living in California.

Friday Update: The story hits The New York Times.

Commentary on the NYT article is at Patterico's Pontifications.

Coming to DVD: Bette Davis Collection, Volume 3

April 1st will see the release of a terrific new DVD set containing a half-dozen Bette Davis films.

The movies in the set are IN THIS OUR LIFE, THE GREAT LIE, WATCH ON THE RHINE, DECEPTION, THE OLD MAID, and ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO.

Extras include commentaries on four of the films, including one by the great film historian Jeanine Basinger for IN THIS OUR LIFE; a documentary on Davis; and Warner Night at the Movies, with year-appropriate newsreels, shorts, trailers, and cartoons accompanying each film.

Sir Edmund Hillary Dies at 88

Just about a year ago I wrote about the death of renowned mountain climber and photographer Bradford Washburn.

Tonight comes word of the death of the most famous mountaineer of them all, Sir Edmund Hillary. Sir Edmund, of course, along with Tenzing Norgay, was the first to summit Mount Everest, in 1953.

Sir Edmund devoted much of his life to helping the Sherpas in Nepal, raising money to build schools and hospitals in the Himalayas.

He was also a pioneer in the Antarctic, helping establish Scott Base at the South Pole. He just visited Scott Base last year for its 50th anniversary celebration.

Sir Edmund is survived by his wife, children Peter and Sarah, and grandchildren. His first wife, Louise, and teenage daughter Belinda died in a plane crash in 1975. Louise Hillary's book A YAK FOR CHRISTMAS is one of a number of Everest-related books on my shelves.

In 2003 Peter Hillary and Jamling Tenzing Norgay followed in their fathers' footsteps, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Everest summit by climbing Everest together.

Sir Edmund Hillary's stature in his native New Zealand is such that he will be honored with a state funeral.

Sir Edmund Hillary...one of a kind. A pioneering giant of the 20th century.

Friday Update: The obituary from London's Daily Telegraph. The Telegraph usually runs particularly interesting obituaries, and this one was no exception.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Come to the Stable (1949)

We spent the week after Christmas watching several "pre-Code" movies from early in Loretta Young's career. Tonight our viewing jumped ahead in time to the late '40s and Young's wonderful film COME TO THE STABLE. If, like me, you are a bit burned out on the current endless political speculation, COME TO THE STABLE provides a lovely, peaceful respite, focusing on the power of Christian faith. Although not a Christmas film, it has the same kind of positive, warm vibe as the best Christmas movies, and it leaves the viewer feeling better for having seen it.

COME TO THE STABLE is a unique movie, whimsical, funny, and also deeply affecting. Put simply, it tells the story of two nuns from France (Loretta Young, Celeste Holm) who wish to fulfill a wartime promise to God by building a children's hospital in America. The nuns begin with nothing, and their task seems impossible. Yet bit by bit, their dream begins to become reality. But will a composer (Hugh Marlowe) who doesn't want a hospital in his front yard stand in their way?

This brief description really doesn't do the film justice. The film is exquisitely acted by a large cast. It was deservedly nominated for seven Academy Awards. Loretta Young, who had won the Oscar for THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER in 1948, was nominated for Best Actress. Celeste Holm and Elsa Lanchester each received nominations for Best Supporting Actress; I found Lanchester particularly memorable as the absent-minded painter who somehow finds herself living with nuns.

The film was also nominated for Best Black and White Cinematography (this film beautifully illustrates the meaning of "glorious black and white"), Best Art Direction, Best Story (Clare Boothe Luce), and Best Original Song, "Through a Long and Sleepless Night," by Alfred Newman and Mack Gordon. The use of the song in the film is quite haunting; the music stays with the viewer after the movie ends.

The supporting cast includes Dorothy Patrick (whose best-known role might be Eva Kern in MGM's TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY), Dooley Wilson (of CASABLANCA fame), Regis Toomey, Basil Ruysdael, and Thomas Gomez. A fun bit of trivia is that Hugh Marlowe and Celeste Holm would shortly thereafter play husband and wife in the Oscar-winning classic ALL ABOUT EVE.

It's also worth noting that Hugh Marlowe and Dorothy Patrick's renditions of "Through a Long and Sleepness Night" were dubbed by Ken Darby and Eileen Wilson. Darby was a well-known composer in his own right, as well as the head of the Ken Darby Singers, who sang backup for Bing Crosby. Wilson dubbed Ava Gardner in a few movies, including THE HUCKSTERS, and also dubbed Cyd Charisse in WORDS AND MUSIC.

COME TO THE STABLE was beautifully directed by Henry Koster. Koster directed many of Deanna Durbin's best-known films (including FIRST LOVE, reviewed here last September) and the classic Christmas movie THE BISHOP'S WIFE, also starring Loretta Young, along with Cary Grant and David Niven.

The movie runs 94 minutes.

COME TO THE STABLE is available on VHS.

Vote here at Amazon to indicate interest in a DVD release.

I hadn't seen this film since I was a teenager. What a treat to rediscover it! Highly recommended.

2012 Update: COME TO THE STABLE is now available on DVD-R from the Fox Cinema Archives.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tonight's Movie: True Confession (1937)

Carole Lombard is one of the few actresses who could make a comedy about a chronic liar entertaining. She pulls this feat off in TRUE CONFESSION, a zany, sometimes annoying, but ultimately fairly amusing film.

Helen, who has a longtime habit of making up stories, finds herself on trial for the murder of a lecherous employer. Helen is defended by her husband, Ken (Fred MacMurray), a straight-arrow lawyer. Although Helen didn't commit the murder, Ken leads her to believe her only hope is to plead self-defense rather than not guilty, so once again Helen finds herself making up a tall tale, this time to save herself from the electric chair.

If it sounds pretty strange, well, it is (grin). Once John Barrymore enters the picture as a blackmailer, things get even stranger.

This role was pretty daffy even for Carole Lombard, but she manages to convey enough childish innocence to maintain the audience's sympathy, although her character's inability to change grows frustrating. This was one of four films Lombard made with Fred MacMurray; this is the weakest of the three films I've seen thus far, but they are always an appealing screen team.

Una Merkel lends good support as Lombard's loyal friend. Barrymore's character was somewhat extraneous to the goings-on and he could easily have been written out (and it probably would have been a better movie, as he is given too much time to chew the scenery, for no purpose). Character actors in the cast include Porter Hall (MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET), Tom Dugan, Fritz Feld, Irving Bacon, and Hattie McDaniel.

TRUE CONFESSION was directed by Wesley Ruggles. It runs 85 minutes. The scenic mountain shots in the final third of the movie were filmed in the Lake Arrowhead/Big Bear area of Southern California.

TRUE CONFESSION can be seen on DVD as part of the six-film Carole Lombard Glamour Collection.

Reviews of other films in the set: MAN OF THE WORLD, LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST, HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE, and THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS.

On Hotel Schools

USA Today had an interesting article on the growth of hotel schools and "hospitality management" courses at various universities across the United States.

Cornell has long had the country's best-known hotel school, but the concept is now booming across the nation.

Lots of Disneyland News

Don't miss the latest big update from MiceAge, which includes detailed plans for the Disney's California Adventure makeover.

The description of the DCA Little Mermaid ride sounds amazing. Most of us were expecting a nice dark ride along the lines of Fantasyland rides or Monsters, Inc., but it's described as a real E Ticket in terms of artistry. Little Mermaid is slated to open in 2011 for DCA's 10th anniversary.

The World of Color water show will debut in DCA in 2010 in celebration of Disneyland's 55th anniversary.

The plans for Cars Land also sound great. I just hope they can bring back the Drive-In restaurant idea later on; the Sci-Fi Dine-In in Florida is great fun, and we'd love to have something like that in Anaheim.

A very exciting decade is ahead for Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure!

Monday, January 07, 2008

She Called It

The Anchoress, posting five days ago, on January 2, 2008: "What I dread most in this political season is the 'genuine' moment - and it is coming, soon, sometime between today and tomorrow, or tomorrow and New Hampshire - when Mrs. Clinton, in her ongoing effort to turn herself into whatever the polls says she must be, cries in public. It’s going to be genuinely ghastly."

Remarkably on target!

Tonight's Movie: The Prisoner of Zenda (1952)

THE PRISONER OF ZENDA is a humdinger of a good movie, just the pick-me-up if you have the post-Christmas January blahs. Action, romance, intrigue, and a spectacularly choreographed climactic sword fight -- it's all here, with a fabulous cast: Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, James Mason, and Jane Greer.

I won't say too much about the plot other than it involves a king, his lookalike cousin, and a plot by the king's evil half-brother to take over the throne. The king's fiancee, his cousin Flavia, whom he hasn't seen in years, also figures prominently in the plot.

Louis Calhern and Robert Coote are excellent as the king's loyal servants who hatch a daring plan to save the throne for the rightful heir.

Lewis Stone, perhaps best-known for his longtime role as Judge Hardy in MGM's ANDY HARDY series, is effective in a two-scene role as the Cardinal who presides at the coronation. Rather remarkably, Stone himself had played the lead role in the 1922 silent version of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA. Including him in the cast three decades later was a wonderful touch.

THE PRISONER OF ZENDA was directed by Richard Thorpe. Thorpe was a longtime MGM director whose career credits include a couple other swashbucklers, Robert Taylor's IVANHOE and KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE. Thorpe also worked on the TARZAN series and many of MGM's lesser-known but delightful musicals, including TWO GIRLS AND A SAILOR, A DATE WITH JUDY, and THREE LITTLE WORDS.

The movie was filmed in Technicolor and runs 100 minutes.

The film adapts Alfred Newman's stirring score from the 1937 ZENDA starring Ronald Colman. Many historians believe the Colman film is superior to the Granger version; I intentionally saw the Granger movie first as I loved Granger and Kerr in KING SOLOMON'S MINES and wanted to enjoy their version without comparing it to another. I don't know how this edition could be improved upon, but I look forward to finding out at some point.

THE PRISONER OF ZENDA is available on DVD, in either a two-film, single-disc release with the original 1937 version on the flip side, or as part of the six-film Literary Classics Collection. The color in the DVD print is absolutely gorgeous.

It's also available on VHS.

THE PRISONER OF ZENDA can also be seen on TCM. The trailer can be seen here.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Man of the World (1931)

MAN OF THE WORLD is a surprisingly dreary romantic melodrama, given that it stars two of my all-time favorite actors, William Powell and Carole Lombard.

Powell and Lombard play a couple of Americans in Paris. Powell is a con man who wants to reform when he falls in love with sweet young thing Lombard. Unfortunately, Powell's longtime partner in crime, Wynne Gibson, won't stand for Powell reforming.

Powell gives a sensitive performance, while Lombard doesn't have much to do but look beautiful. All in all, though, the film is slow-paced and melancholy, and one is glad when it draws to a close after 72 minutes. This one is for Powell and Lombard completists only.

Powell and Lombard starred in LADIES' MAN with Kay Francis later in 1931, and more significantly, they were married that year. Although the marriage ended a couple years later, the couple remained friends and went on to star in the classic screwball comedy MY MAN GODFREY in 1936.

Guy Kibbee, George Chandler, and Lawrence Gray complete the cast for MAN OF THE WORLD. The movie was directed by Richard Wallace and Edward Goodman (the latter uncredited). The script was by Herman J. Mankiewicz.

MAN OF THE WORLD is available on DVD.

Reviews of other films in the Lombard DVD collection: LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST, HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE, and THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS.

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