Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Around the Blogosphere This Week

The media's been All Obama, All the Time the last few days, but I figure everyone's probably getting their fill of this story elsewhere. One of the columns I enjoyed the most was by Peter Wehner at National Review Online (subject link). Betsy's Page also had an excellent summation.

Turning to some of the other interesting odds and ends found on the Internet in recent days:

NY Demanding Web Retailers Collect Sales Tax: A new law will require companies based outside New York to collect New York sales tax for purchases made by New Yorkers. I'm really curious about this law's legality. I wouldn't be surprised if it's tested in court.

Undoing America's Ethanol Mistake: By Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. This is particularly interesting to read in light of another article, Food Crisis Starts Eclipsing Climate Change Worries. I think we can safely say at this point that pulling corn out of the food chain to make fuel has been a disaster in more ways than one.

Widening U.S. 395 in the Eastern Sierra Could Be a Lifesaver: Anyone who regularly travels the 395 will be happy to hear that it's (oh-so-slowly) being widened to two lanes in each direction. My daughter traveled the 395 for a geology field trip outside Big Pine last weekend; we'll be driving it again this summer.

Patricia Ziegfeld Stephenson, 91; Daughter of Broadway Impresario: The only child of Florenz Ziegfeld and Billie Burke had an interesting life.

California Gun Owners Face Further Harrassment: California has a bill pending which would put extreme restrictions on owning or transferring ammunition. Another bill which will see a Constitutional challenge?

Trip Overseas Provides Fresh Perspective on Nanny State: Gas is nearly $10 a gallon in Scotland. An interesting column by Katherine Kersten of the Star Tribune.

Paving the Way for the Fairness Doctrine?: Back to nanny statism, here's a depressing post by Iain Murray at the Corner, who notes "The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering reviving a regulatory mandate requiring TV broadcasters to maintain a physical presence in each city in which they broadcast. This, despite the massive technological evolution that has made it possible — and more efficient — for stations to locate studios in remote locations without sacrificing a focus on community content." There's more to read.

Laura Bush Hatred at the SF Chronicle: My letter to the editor was as follows: "After reading Mark Morford's nasty, pointless screed about Laura Bush, all I could think was 'And newspaper publishers wonder why their circulation is tanking at unprecedented rates?!'" More from NewsBusters.

Finally, if you are interested in the FLDS child custody case, there has been excellent ongoing coverage in recent days by DRJ at Patterico's Pontifications, as well as by the Headmistress at The Common Room. The Common Room is raising interesting questions about whether Texas authorities are acting responsibly and seeing that the hundreds of people involved receive due process, and what this could mean for other religious groups in future. I have no idea who's right or wrong in this mess, but she has written some thought-provoking posts analyzing the case.

Tonight's Movie: It Had To Be You (1947)

IT HAD TO BE YOU has a couple of great things going for it: Ginger Rogers as the leading lady, plus a fabulous title song. Unfortunately, for the most part, the film is an annoying, dull mishmash.

Ginger plays Victoria, who -- in a series of amazing gowns by Jean Louis -- leaves a succession of suitors at the altar in scenes that are a forerunner of RUNAWAY BRIDE. While Victoria is on a train trip George, a man in an Indian costume (Cornel Wilde), appears in her sleeper car. Turns out George has been conjured up from her subconscious mind and come to life; the strange thing is everyone can see him, not just Victoria. George refuses to leave Victoria alone. Some of the scenes where she tries to get away from him and he's everywhere she turns, popping out of windows, are a little too realistically nightmarish to be enjoyable.

George is on a mission to help Victoria realize that she hasn't been able to marry anyone because she's in love with someone she met when she was six years old, Johnny, who is also played by Cornel Wilde. Confused?

The movie has some amusing moments here and there but the first two-thirds of the film in particular just drags on. Wilde is quite annoying in a one-note performance as the devilish, obnoxious George, but is more appealing as Johnny. Overall, however, he's too wooden to breathe much life into the movie. Ginger is absolutely gorgeous in this but plays Victoria with a breathy, childlike demeanor; I like Ginger in anything, but I think I prefer her when she's shooting off sarcastic one-liners.

The film comes to a sudden conclusion with no explanation for one character's change of heart; it was as if the filmmakers decided "Okay, we're done now!" I love romantic comedies and I also enjoy fantasies, but this particular one just didn't work very well for me.

The supporting cast includes Spring Byington, Thurston Hall, Ron Randell, and Percy Waram. It was directed by Don Hartman and Rudolph Mate; Mate was also one of the film's cinematographers. This black and white movie runs 98 minutes.

IT HAD TO BE YOU isn't out on DVD or video, but can be seen on TCM, where it next airs July 16, 2008.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Disney Should Fire Annie Liebovitz

While the majority of the blame for this week's dust-up over the half-naked photo of Miley Cyrus deserves to be laid squarely at the feet of her parents, who showed appallingly poor judgement and didn't protect their daughter from an inappropriate situation, there is another angle to this story which I haven't yet seen explored elsewhere.

There was another adult involved in this photography session: the photographer, Annie Liebovitz. Liebovitz, who has said the come-hither photo of Cyrus was "misinterpreted," has in recent months taken a series of photographs for Disney with various celebrities posing as Disney characters. The most recent photo, of Julianne Moore as the Little Mermaid, was just released.

Given that Liebovitz did not have the common sense to recognize that it was wrong to turn a 15-year-old girl into a sex object -- let alone a 15-year-old looked up to by many young girls as the one "tween" star who seemed to have a sensible head on her shoulders -- Disney should immediately sever its connection with the photographer. Liebovitz saw an opportunity to make "news" with a controversial photograph and, heedless of what this would do to either Miley Cyrus or Disney, she took it.

It makes no sense to have the same person whose work injured the reputation of a young girl -- perhaps permanently damaging her Disney franchise -- used to publicize and pay tribute to other parts of the Disney empire. Disney should make this clear in no uncertain terms.

Update: Michelle Malkin weighs in on the controversy.

Coming to DVD: Centennial (1978)

As I posted in February, the miniseries CENTENNIAL is coming to DVD this summer.

The huge cast includes Robert Conrad, Richard Chamberlain, Barbara Carrera, Stephanie Zimbalist, Gregory Harrison, David Janssen, and Dennis Weaver.

The DVD release date has now been announced at TV Shows on DVD; it will be available on July 29th.

The set includes a featurette, "Memories of Centennial."

It's shaping up as a very exciting summer for fans of classic movie and TV DVDs.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Coming to DVD Rumor: Sports Night 10th Anniversary Edition

One of my all-time favorite TV shows is SPORTS NIGHT, which I discovered via DVD, several years after its brief two-season run.

This show, a behind-the-scenes look at the crew producing a cable sports news show, is beloved by many -- check out the 8.7 IMDb rating. It has a superb cast, including Felicity Huffman, Peter Krause, Joshua Malina, and Robert Guillaume. SPORTS NIGHT was created by Aaron Sorkin just prior to his success with THE WEST WING. It's a shame the show didn't run a few more seasons.

TV Shows on DVD passes on the rumor that a 10th Anniversary DVD set is coming this September, complete with extras, which were nonexistent on the original release.

If this comes to pass and the extras are good, I'll seriously consider buying the new set, as my original purchase is currently living in a college dorm room.

If you haven't yet watched this show, I highly recommend it. I do suggest trying several episodes to decide what you think of it, as unlike WEST WING, it wasn't "together" from the pilot episode; the show took a few weeks to find its rhythm. The original SPORTS NIGHT DVD is out of print, but it appears to be available via Netflix if you can't wait for September.

May 16th Update: An update from TV Shows on DVD here including a release date and cover art!

Now That's Service!

Kudos to eight employees at Disney World's Wilderness Lodge who donned protective gear and and combed through the resort's garbage in search of a woman's wedding, engagement, and anniversary rings. And found them!

(Hat tip: Mouse Planet.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Woman Chases Man (1937)

Joel McCrea and Miriam Hopkins costarred in several films in the 1930s, ranging from the heavily dramatic (THESE THREE) to adventure (BARBARY COAST, reviewed here earlier this month) to comedies. WOMAN CHASES MAN falls into the last category, and it's wonderfully diverting fun.

The movie is a spin on the standard Depression-era theme of the crazy rich and their hired help. The plot, about a penniless former millionaire (Charles Winninger), his ultra-sensible millionaire son (Joel McCrea) and the architect (Miriam Hopkins) who breezes into their lives, saving the son from the clutches of a gold-digging woman (Leona Maricle), doesn't really matter...it's simply very amusing entertainment.

A young Broderick Crawford plays an unlikely butler, with Ella Logan as his wife, the maid. Logan made only two more movies after this, but she starred on Broadway in the original cast of FINIAN'S RAINBOW in 1947, originating the role of Sharon McLonergan. Just a couple years after Logan's Broadway success, Crawford won the Best Actor Oscar for ALL THE KING'S MEN (1949).

Erik Rhodes, instantly recognized by many film fans from his roles in THE GAY DIVORCEE and TOP HAT, plays Maricle's "uncle" who is really her secret lover.

WOMAN CHASES MAN was directed by John G. Blystone, who had a long career in the silents. It was filmed in black and white and runs a fast-paced 71 minutes.

WOMAN CHASES MAN is not out on VHS or DVD. It can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. Click here to indicate interest in a DVD release.

Critic Stephen H. Scheuer calls WOMAN CHASES MAN "vastly entertaining" in his 3-star review. I agree, and look forward to watching it again.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Changes Coming to Dodger Stadium

As mentioned the other day, big changes are afoot at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers unveiled their proposed changes for the 46-year-old stadium Thursday. (Press conference photos here and here.) Dodgers owner Frank McCourt plans to build parking structures, stores, restaurants, and a Dodgers museum in the current parking lot behind center field.

The changes will cost more than McCourt initially paid for the team.

A Times architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne, notes that if the additions come to pass, while they are positive, it will change the way Dodgers fans have traditionally used the stadium, parking their car as close to their seating section as possible:

"The various updates, however, also offer a direct challenge to the relationship the ballpark has forged with fans since 1962. Though the stadium sits near the geographical center of the city, its spirit is wholly suburban. Even more than at other ballparks from the same era, Praeger's design makes it possible for fans to drive right up to the stadium edge, leave their cars and walk directly to their seats.

"There is no main entrance -- that would require fans to use their legs more than strictly necessary. You simply slip through one entry portal or another and -- wham -- there is the green field in front of you, with the hillsides beyond. At the end of the game -- or in the seventh inning, depending on the score and the state of traffic on the freeways down below -- you leave your section and hop back into your car.

"It isn't just living in Los Angeles, the ultimate auto-friendly big city, that has taught us to think of a visit to the stadium that way -- a mind-set Scott Johnson of Johnson Fain calls 'car-seat-car.' It's also the architecture of the stadium itself. There has never been a sense that O'Malley or subsequent Dodgers owners wanted to funnel you through a maze of attractions as you made your way to your seat, each offering something for sale. They were selling baseball (and maybe a Dodger dog and a beer), and aided by Praeger's layout of the stadium, that's what they gave you -- in remarkably pure form.

"There is a kind of freedom -- and even a kind of anonymity -- in the way fans use Dodger Stadium that mirrors the way we've historically moved through the city at large. Though the change is probably unavoidable, as pro sports and Los Angeles both continue to evolve, the Dodger Stadium of 2012 will probably offer a much different experience."

Well, like so many things in life, it seems change is inevitable. Let's hope it turns out to be worthwhile.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tony Snow Back at Work Today

Tony Snow was released from a Washington State hospital Thursday, and was back on the job today filling in for Bill O'Reilly on the radio.

Tony said, "I got wonderful care there and I'm out." He said the problem was not exhaustion, as previously reported, but problems with his digestive system related to having had multiple internal surgeries. He went into further detail in an interview with Wolf Blitzer which can be seen at the subject link.

I'm very glad to hear Tony is now doing well.

Tonight's Movie: When the Daltons Rode (1940)

WHEN THE DALTONS rode is an action-packed but ultimately depressing Western.

Although the stars are ostensibly Randolph Scott and Kay Francis, they have relatively little to do in the film, portraying friends of the Dalton brothers who spend most of their time looking worried. The film depicts how injustice turned the Dalton brothers into a gang of desperadoes, and then focuses on their increasingly violent crimes, building to a deadly climax. It doesn't make for especially fun viewing, unless you enjoy watching lots of train and stagecoach holdups.

The brothers are played by Brian Donlevy, Broderick Crawford, Stuart Erwin, and Frank Albertson. Crawford is a particular standout as the sheriff gone bad. Their mother is played by Mary Gordon, who appeared in at least 286 films; WHEN THE DALTONS RODE was one of a whopping 18 movies she appeared in which were released in the year 1940.

The supporting cast includes Andy Devine, who is intended as comic relief but is an annoyance as a townsman improbably chased by amorous women. George Bancroft and Edgar Buchanan also appear.

Randolph Scott made many wonderful Westerns, but this is one of his minor efforts. Indeed, as he plays a lawyer, he sees virtually no action in this movie.

A biography of Kay Francis quotes her as having told a magazine at the time of the film's release that she agreed to appear in the movie "just for the fun of it," because she wanted to make a Western.

WHEN THE DALTONS RODE was directed by George Marshall. It was filmed in black and white and runs 81 minutes.

WHEN THE DALTONS RODE is out on DVD.

McCain: "Out of Touch With Reality" and Republicans

John McCain continues to show why he is a troubling candidate for conservatives.

He's more interested in badmouthing the President and his own party than in laying blame where it's due, i.e., the state and local officials in New Orleans, or on Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright.

Just when a conservative thinks maybe it's possible to vote for McCain as the best of three bad choices, he goes and cozies up to liberals again, and all bets are off.

Saturday Update: Welcome to readers of Right Truth.

John Hinderaker at Power Line in "McCain Triangulates": "...if he thinks he can win by attacking his own party and out-Bush-bashing the Democrats, he is sadly mistaken."

Peter Wehner at National Review: McCain is "wrong and reckless" charging, in so many words, that calling attention to Obama's assocation with Reverend Wright is racist.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Actress Joy Page Dies at 83

Last week I enjoyed my first-ever viewing of BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY (1951), starring Robert Stack and Joy Page.

Just two days after I saw the film and wrote this post, Joy Page passed away in Los Angeles.

As I wrote in the BULLFIGHTER post, Page's most famous role was as Annina, the young wife helped by Humphrey Bogart in CASABLANCA.

Aside from the two films mentioned above, another of Page's best-known films was the 1944 version of KISMET, in which she played Marsinah, a role also portrayed by Loretta Young and Ann Blyth in two of the many other filmed versions of the story. James Craig was her leading man in that film; Ronald Colman and Marlene Dietrich also starred.

Page was the stepdaughter of studio head Jack L. Warner and was married for many years to actor-producer William T. Orr, whose production credits include my favorite TV series, MAVERICK.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Michelle Malkin writes today that the "virtual fence" along our southern border appears to be an idea whose time has not come.

Other odds and ends of news this week:

Rice in Short Supply at Costco, Sam's Club: Are shortages of rice and flour in some areas a media-manufactured election year crisis, or the real thing?

The Stylish Fashion Choice in Penn. Poll Lines: 'Operation Chaos' T-Shirts: Jim Geraghty on the GOP crossover vote. Despite Democrats' cries of foul, since Democrats and Independents voting for McCain in early primary states helped give us the least conservative Republican candidate, it seems only fair that Republicans vote for Hillary and do their part to keep the two Democratic candidates slugging it out as long as possible.

The Media's Man: John Fund on the reaction to last week's Democratic debate: "Mr. Obama has said he wants to be judged and treated as any other candidate would be. The hostile establishment-media reaction to ABC's debate shows that he has not been. The presidency is too important to allow that kind of blinkered mentality to govern the rest of this year's election coverage. Bravo to ABC for finally asking a lot of questions many Americans have been talking about."

Dodgers to Unveil Plans for Restaurant, Shops at Stadium: The outfield parking lot may be turned into a promenade with restaurants, stores, and a Dodgers museum. The museum idea sounds promising. They'd just better not obscure the beautiful view beyond the lot...and they'd better start winning a few more games!

France Honors Charles Durning: The veteran character actor, who was wounded three times in WWII, is being awarded France's highest honor, the National Order of the Legion of Honor, in recognition of his wartime service.

Clinton Now Lying About Things He Said Literally Yesterday: You've probably seen the videos or read about it by now, but if not, check this story out. I don't know how else to describe our former President except to say the man's got some issues he needs to deal with, but thanks to the position he's in he probably never will.

Barbara McDermott: Mrs. McDermott, who died recently at age 95, was one of the last two living survivors of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. London's Daily Telegraph has her interesting life story.

Christening at the Castle for Sophie Wessex's Sweet Baby James: The infant son of Britain's Prince Edward and his wife Sophie was christened last weekend at Windsor Castle. Of particular note to royal history buffs is that the christening gown first used in 1841 by Queen Victoria's oldest daughter Victoria, which has been worn by generations of the royal family, has been retired after over 160 years of service. The Queen commissioned a new gown which is an exact replica of the 1841 gown; her grandchild James is the first to have worn it.

Introducing Princess Eleonore Fabiola Victoria Anne Marie of Belgium: In other royal news, lovely Crown Princess Mathilde of Belgium has given birth to her fourth child, a little girl.

Why 'Small World' Matters: Al Lutz of MiceAge weighs in on the Small World controversy.

Tonight's Movie: Everything Happens at Night (1939)

EVERYTHING HAPPENS AT NIGHT stars Ray Milland and Robert Cummings as journalists in Europe battling for a big scoop and the affections of Sonja Henie.

The film is a curious mixture: it's a romantic comedy, a WWII-era espionage thriller, and a Henie ice skating movie all rolled up in one. With only 77 minutes of running time, the movie doesn't spend very long on any one angle; indeed, Henie only has one skating number, though it's delightful.

It's fairly lightweight, but fun viewing for fans of the three leads. I particularly enjoy the young Ray Milland, who has a nice combination of elegance and good humor. It's hard for me to believe Henie was 27 when this was made; her persona is so sweetly childlike she almost seems too young for her leading men, who were just a handful of years older.

The supporting cast includes Leonid Kinskey and Fritz Feld. The movie was directed by Irving Cummings. It was filmed in black and white.

15 years later, Milland and Cummings would be memorably reunited by Alfred Hitchcock as the stars of DIAL M FOR MURDER, also starring Grace Kelly.

EVERYTHING HAPPENS AT NIGHT can be seen on VHS.

Southern California Restaurant News...

...with some Utah news thrown in.

In-N-Out Burger has opened its first restaurant in Utah. In-N-Out has always been very particular about not opening restaurants too far away from its California supply facilities, so that the company can guarantee the freshness of the food. Thus, the fact they've opened a Utah store is interesting news. Will In-N-Out continue spreading to other states?

(Hat tip: L.A. Biz Observed.)

In other Southern California food news, tomorrow El Cholo is opening its first "quick casual" restaurant, Cafe Maiz, in Mission Viejo.

And in the "you've got to be kidding" department, Bon Appetit, a company which manages hundreds of university dining halls, is rolling out a low carbon menu. That's carbon, not carbs. Burgers are verboten when the menu is in effect, as cows are supposedly worse for the environment.

I'm sorry to say that this plan is being inflicted on the restaurant at my alma mater, the University of Redlands, along with many other colleges.

Tony Snow Hospitalized

Tony Snow, who announced Monday that he is joining CNN, was hospitalized Tuesday in Washington State.

Tony is in "satisfactory" condition.

Media Bistro says Tony was suffering from exhaustion.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Sabre Jet (1953)

SABRE JET is the story of pilots based in Japan who go off to "work" each day flying combat missions during the Korean War. Each afternoon the pilots' wives gather anxiously at the airfield to see if their men have made it safely home from another mission.

Robert Stack plays a colonel whose estranged wife (Coleen Gray), a reporter, shows up at the base in Japan to write a story. Gray's character has always been obsessed with her career, but her time in Japan causes her to reassess the importance of her husband's military service and their marriage.

The movie is mildly hokey at times, but it's also reasonably entertaining, and interesting as a reflection of the era in which it was made. The two lead characters are a little cold; more development of their backgrounds and relationship would have been welcome. We're never really given the chance to see what once drew them together. Gray's blithely self-absorbed character is particularly hard to understand for much of the running time.

The supporting cast is filled with familiar faces including Leon Ames, Julie Bishop, Amanda Blake, Jerry Paris, and Kathleen Crowley. Ames in particular lends a welcome air of authority and professionalism to the film.

SABRE JET was directed by Louis King. It runs 90 minutes.

Curiously, although the opening credits and other sources indicate the film was shot in color, the print I taped from TCM during Aviation Month last summer was in black and white.

SABRE JET does not appear to have had a video or DVD release. Click on the TCM link above for a page where you can indicate interest in a DVD release.

Update: Acres of Books Land Sale Finalized

Long Beach's Acres of Books will vacate its longtime location on Long Beach Boulevard by May 2009, under the terms of a land sale finalized yesterday.

It is uncertain whether the store will reopen at a new location or close forever.

As pointed out by Missy in comments on a previous Acres of Books post, the 2007 film THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB did some location shooting at Acres of Books.

Previously: Acres of Books to Close?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Wings for the Eagle (1942)

WINGS FOR THE EAGLE is an interesting slice of early WWII and Southern California aviation history, depicting the contributions of Lockheed Aircraft workers to the war effort.

From a dramatic point of view, a love triangle among factory employees Dennis Morgan, Ann Sheridan, and Jack Carson meanders, and Morgan's character, who had initially hoped to ride out the war employed in an "essential industry," changes his mind about military service quite quickly. George Tobias is touching as a supervisor who's a naturalized citizen with a son in the Air Force. These are thin storylines on which is hung a bigger theme, the importance of aircraft production for the war effort.

As a reflection of its times and an example of a film made to support the war effort, the movie is well worth seeing, though far from the best of Hollywood's morale-boosting war films. Scenes such as the installation of anti-aircraft guns and camouflage at Lockheed after the bombing of Pearl Harbor were of great interest to me, as I grew up hearing stories about what it was like when nearby McDonnell Douglas was camouflaged in WWII. (My grandmother kept a copy of the Long Beach Press-Telegram about the California coast being shelled by the Japanese, a bit of history which some people have forgotten.) The film was released in July 1942, so it was obviously put together fairly quickly.

A "REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR" banner hanging in the factory particularly caused me to contrast this film with Hollywood's lack of support for our current war effort, something I also pondered last year when I watched a couple of WWII shorts. As a pair of Japanese planes were shot down and blew up near the end of this film, I thought back to last year's post, when I wrote, "These movies could not and would not be made today, when too many people are afraid of giving offense. You just know that today some timid P.C. types would claim that in insulting those who would kill us, we'd be driving them to hate us even more and inciting them to greater violence."

Although IMDb says that the movie was filmed on location at Lockheed in Burbank, most or all of that filming appears to have been second-unit footage which was mostly used in very obvious back projections.

This black and white film was directed by Lloyd Bacon. It runs 84 minutes.

WINGS FOR THE EAGLE has not had a DVD or video release. It can be seen on cable on Turner Classic Movies, where it next airs May 7, 2008.

The trailer can be seen here.

Disney Returns to Nature Documentaries

Walt Disney Co. has announced the creation of a new film production unit, Disneynature, which will make nature documentaries.

For much of its history Disney made highly regarded nature documentaries, such as those which were part of the True-Life Adventures series.

One of the first films to be released under the new label will be December's THE CRIMSON WING, about flamingos.

Let's just hope the documentaries are the real thing, a return to a great Disney tradition, and not political pieces designed to prop up global warming theories.

Tony Snow Signs With CNN

Former White House press secretary and Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow has signed on as a "conservative commentator" with CNN.

Tony joins CNN effective today.

Coming to DVD: Ozzie & Harriet: Best of Ricky and Dave

Last year saw the release of a beautifully produced DVD set, THE BEST OF THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE & HARRIET. It contained 24 of the best episodes of the long-running series.

Although I generally prefer full season sets, I thought the "best of" concept worked well for OZZIE & HARRIET, although the jumps in David and Ricky's age were a bit disconcerting at times as we moved through the episodes. Our kids have loved watching these shows with us. The extras, produced in cooperation with David Nelson, were outstanding, including home movies, commentaries, and a radio show.

Good news today is that a second volume will be released on July 8th: THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE & HARRIET: BEST OF RICKY AND DAVE. Like the first set, it will cherry-pick two dozen more of the show's best episodes. The extras include radio shows, a trivia game, and a "Ricky Sings" feature allowing viewers to watch only his performances.

Looks like more good old-fashioned family viewing fun ahead.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

USC Coach Pete Carroll Walks the Walk

Five years ago USC Coach Pete Carroll started a foundation, A Better L.A., which works to end inner-city violence.

In conjunction with that, a couple nights a month Carroll walks the streets of South L.A., trying to encourage people to turn their lives around and letting them know that someone outside their neighborhood cares.

Carroll is known for generously giving his time and attention to those who need it, as illustrated by this story last Thanksgiving. Having a winning team is far from the only reason Carroll is so popular at USC and in Southern California.

Stay safe, Coach.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Easy Living (1937)

EASY LIVING is one of my very favorite screwball comedies, which I watched again this evening.

Jean Arthur is adorable as Mary Smith, a secretary whose world is turned upside-down when a wealthy financier, J.B. Ball (Edward Arnold), tosses his wife's sable coat off a rooftop and it lands on Mary. When J.B. insists that Mary keep the coat, other people get the wrong impression of Mary and J.B.'s relationship, and for reasons too complicated to explain here, soon all sorts of people are showering bewildered Mary with lavish gifts.

In the midst of all this, Mary meets a nice young man, Johnny (Ray Milland), who works at the Automat. Unbeknownst to Mary, Johnny just happens to be J.B. Ball's son.

This is one of those movies where the chaos and misunderstandings build and build, with very funny results. Milland is utterly charming, Arnold is his usual blustery self, and there is a grand supporting cast including Franklin Pangborn, Luis Alberni, Esther Dale, Mary Nash, and Robert Grieg. Grieg seems to have cornered the market on playing butlers in the '30s; he was the butler in several films recently reviewed here, including TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932), FEMALE (1933), and MIDNIGHT MARY (1933).

The Art Deco settings are gorgeous; I can't help wondering if the ultra-elaborate bathtub helped inspire the bathroom design in MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY.

Perhaps the most famous sequence in EASY LIVING takes place in the Automat. All of the Automat windows fly open at once, and a melee ensues as people race to grab "free" food. A very hungry Jean Arthur trying to continue eating her beef pot pie amidst the chaos is a delightfully funny moment.

For a fascinating pictorial history of the Automat, I highly recommend THE AUTOMAT: THE HISTORY, RECIPES, AND ALLURE OF HORN AND HARDART'S MASTERPIECE by Lorraine Diehl and Marianne Hardart. The book is printed on glossy paper and has an interesting text along with numerous historic photos. Among the pictures are stills from movies with scenes set in the Automat. JUST THIS ONCE, reviewed here two years ago, is one of the films shown in the book along with EASY LIVING.

EASY LIVING was directed by Mitchell Leisen, from a script by Preston Sturges. This black and white movie runs 88 minutes.

EASY LIVING has previously been released on video in a very nice, crisp print. It's being released on DVD next Tuesday, April 22nd. To celebrate, TCM is showing the movie on the DVD release date.

If you're looking for a fun film which provides lots of chuckles, EASY LIVING is just the ticket. I think of wide-eyed Jean Arthur gasping "Golly!" and I smile all over again.

Steyn: Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

Mark Steyn on Senator Obama and "bittergate," aka "crackerquiddick": Obama's "not just snobbish nor even merely wrongheaded. It's an attack on two of the critical advantages the United States holds over most of the rest of the Western world. In the other G7 developed nations, nobody clings to God 'n' guns. The guns got taken away, and the Europeans gave up on churchgoing once they embraced Big Government as the new religion.

"How's that working out? Compared with America, France and Germany have been more or less economically stagnant for the past quarter-century, living permanently with unemployment rates significantly higher than in the United States."

Steyn reinforces a critical point which I wrote about last Monday: Mr. and Mrs. Obama see government as something which will replace the need for religious belief. We've seen this gradually occurring in Europe, and it's critically important that the United States does not follow suit.

Steyn again: "Take it from a foreigner: In my experience, Americans are the least 'bitter' people in the developed world. Secular, gun-free big-government Europe doesn't seem to have done anything for people's happiness."

And one more important point: "Europeans did 'vote for their own best interests' – i.e., cradle-to-grave welfare, 35-hour workweeks, six weeks of paid vacation, etc. – and as a result they now face a perfect storm of unsustainable entitlements, economic stagnation and declining human capital that's left them so demographically beholden to unassimilable levels of immigration that they're being remorselessly Islamized with every passing day."

As the saying goes, Read the Whole Thing.

On Paul Revere, Boston, and Massachusetts

John Hinderaker has a great post at Power Line on the 233rd anniversary of Paul Revere's Ride.

I love Old North Church, Boston's Freedom trail, Longfellow's poem (here's a great edition), and David Hackett Fischer's book on Revere, so I'll basically just say a big "ditto" to everything in his post.

I would like to share the title of another Paul Revere book I love, PAUL REVERE AND THE WORLD HE LIVED IN by Esther Forbes, whose other great work was JOHNNY TREMAIN. I found my copy of the Forbes book in a fabulous used bookstore in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

I especially love Concord; check out this post by Jacqueline at New England Travels. Another good book is LEXINGTON AND CONCORD: THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION by Arthur Tourtellot.

Although I've been fortunate enough to make multiple trips to Massachusetts, I haven't been there since a few months before 9/11...I didn't have a digital camera then, which makes it more difficult to share my own photos here. Visiting the places "where America began" is a thrilling thing for anyone who loves our country.

Obama's Views on God and Guns Aren't New

Ed Morrissey has video of Barack Obama as far back as 2004 telling an interviewer that "men went hunting and women went to church out of frustration with economic hardships because of the comfort of family and cultural traditions."

Hmmm, so why is it we continue to go to church or hunt when times are good?

More from Ed about Obama's interview with Charlie Rose:

"...the construct still appears to follow the Thomas Frank assumption that voters who don’t vote for economic pandering are essentially idiots. Rose even mentions at the end how difficult it will be to keep the massive condescension it requires from becoming too obvious. Obama says, 'Exactly' — but three years later, failed to heed Rose’s warning."

As more than one pundit has noted in recent days, under this theory the Founding Fathers, with their reliance on God and guns, must have been very bitter people incapable of acting in their own political interests...!

Along those lines, back to Ed Morrissey, who shares my concern about Obama's socialism:

"The reliance on economics as the basis for political determinism serves as the basis for Marxist thought. It runs in opposition to the American experiment, which arose from isolation from the British political system more than any other impetus. The founding documents of the nation barely mention economics at all, with references only to minting currency and regulating interstate commerce. The focus on economic determinism insults the intelligence of the entire spectrum of American voters, and once again calls into question Obama’s concepts of politics, American culture, and the breadth and depth of how America changed the world."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Coming to DVD: The Carmen Miranda Collection

This June 17th Fox is releasing The Carmen Miranda Collection.

The five films included will be GREENWICH VILLAGE, IF I'M LUCKY, SOMETHING FOR THE BOYS, DOLL FACE, and what is perhaps Miranda's best-known film, THE GANG'S ALL HERE.

THE GANG'S ALL HERE was released on DVD last year as part of the Alice Faye Collection, but the universal consensus was that it was a terrible print, far below Fox's usual standards. Fox is going back to the drawing board and the movie is being newly remastered for the Carmen Miranda set. I wonder if Fox will offer a disc exchange program for those who obtained THE GANG'S ALL HERE last year; it certainly would be appropriate.

Details on the extras can be read at DVD Times; they include a four-part documentary on Miranda, a deleted scene and photo galleries. The same extras which accompanied THE GANG'S ALL HERE in the Faye Collection appear again here.

More good stuff is coming from Fox: as I wrote last month, Professor Drew Casper of USC, a frequent contributor to Fox DVD extras, confirmed to me that after the release of the Miranda set, we can look forward to Alice Faye Vol. 2 and Betty Grable Vol. 2.

Chelsea Clinton: Actual Truth Not So Important

It transpires that Chelsea Clinton has continued to tell the discredited story about the pregnant woman in Ohio who died because she lacked health insurance.

After stating that the woman's family says the story is true -- despite a detailed analysis by ABC News which concluded "...no hospital or clinic denied her coverage as a pregnant woman. She had insurance when she died" -- Chelsea has said, "What matters to me in the...story is that no one ever doubted that it could be true in our country."

Forget the actual facts, let's just go with our emotions and what "could" be true, and use a phony story to get everyone worked up. If the state of health care is truly that terrible in our country, why can't the campaign go to the effort to use an anecdote that's actually factual?

Chelsea has also stated that a 7-year-old and an 11-year-old asked her on separate occasions, "with terror in their eyes," what would become of Social Security.

The campaign could provide no details as to where or when she met the terrified children.

I fear that Ms. Clinton has learned certain things too well from her parents.

Peter Wehner on Barack Obama

Peter Wehner goes over Barack Obama and the Philadelphia debate in two different columns.

At Commentary Wehner assesses the hysteria of some on the left who didn't like the questions. Every word of this column is a must read; I've quoted it at some length below, but do read the whole thing:

"Consider this thought experiment: Assume that a conservative candidate for the GOP nomination spent two decades at a church whose senior pastor was a white supremacist who uttered ugly racial (as well as anti-American) epithets from the pulpit. Assume, too, that this minister wasn’t just the candidate’s pastor but also a close friend...

"In addition, assume that this GOP candidate, in preparing for his entry into politics, attended an early organizing meeting at the home of a man who, years before, was involved in blowing up multiple abortion clinics and today was unrepentant, stating his wish that he had bombed even more clinics. And let’s say that the GOP candidate’s press spokesman described the relationship between the two men as 'friendly.'

"Do you think that if those moderating a debate asked the GOP candidate about these relationships for the first time, after 22 previous debates had been held, that other journalists would become apoplectic at the moderators for merely asking about the relationships? Not only would there be a near-universal consensus that those questions should be asked; there would be a moral urgency in pressing for answers...

"The truth is that a close relationship with a white supremacist pastor and a friendly relationship with an abortion clinic bomber would, by themselves, torpedo a conservative candidate running for president. There is an enormous double standard at play here..."

Over at National Review (subject link), Wehner analyzes Obama's answers to the debate questions in some detail, noting that Obama "was on the defensive because of associations he’s had, things he’s said, and positions he’s embraced... People who were once impressed with Obama are beginning to wonder if the image he projects — post-partisan, post-ideological, post-racial, a uniquely unifying and hopeful figure for America — is deeply at odds with the man himself. As the election plays out, we will see if these concerns are valid. But it’s fair to say that for Barack Obama, the magic is gone."

Saturday Update: Michael Barone: "The Rules Change for Obama."

Tonight's Movie: The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1937)

THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY is a scrumptious romantic comedy starring three of MGM's biggest stars of the '30s: William Powell, Robert Montgomery, and Joan Crawford.

Powell and Crawford play Charles and Fay, a pair of happy jewel thieves mixing it up with London high society in hopes of scoring a magnificent set of pearls. Fay, however, finds her taste for a life of crime waning, especially after she realizes that handsome Lord Arthur Dilling (Montgomery) has fallen in love with her. Lord Dilling is willing to give up his womanizing ways if Fay will have him for a lifetime. Can Fay give up her penchant for thievery?

Movies don't get much better than watching Powell and Montgomery trading witticisms; they're two of the smoothest, coolest actors ever. They're not only funny and divinely elegant -- yes, as you can tell, I really like them (grin) -- they also each managed to bring a tear to the eye at different points in the film.

I'll confess that Crawford has always headed my least favorite actress list (well, maybe Marlene Dietrich has her beat); however, I'm finally at the point where I've wanted to see a few of her movies simply because of the other actors involved. I actually think she did a good job in this; she wasn't as hard-edged and overly made up as she tended to be in her later films.

The stellar supporting cast includes Frank Morgan, Nigel Bruce, Jessie Ralph, Melville Cooper, Sara Haden, Aileen Pringle, and Benita Hume. This was one of Hume's last films; she married Ronald Colman in 1938, and after his death two decades later, she married George Sanders.

THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY was previously filmed in 1929 with Norma Shearer, Basil Rathbone, and George Barraud in the Crawford, Montgomery, and Powell roles.

The movie was directed by Richard Boleslawski as well as the uncredited Dorothy Arnzer and George Fitzmaurice. It runs 98 minutes.

THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY can be seen on video and on cable on TCM, where it next airs June 23, 2008. Vote here to indicate interest in a DVD release. (March 2014 Update: This movie is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.)

The trailer can be seen here.

A most entertaining film, which I'll definitely be enjoying again in the future.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yes, I've Seen the Back Side of Water...

Brady MacDonald at the L.A. Times Travel Blog points the way to a fun new website, WorldFamousJungleCruise.com, which pays tribute to Disneyland's Jungle Cruise.

The site is still partially under construction but I'll be checking back for updates.

The Times blog also has info on the Indiana Jones stunt show coming this summer; MiceAge has more details.

The show will play in the Aladdin's Oasis (aka Tahitian Terrace) area of Adventureland.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Obama Bombs Debate?

I didn't torture myself by watching the Democratic debate, but I've been reading up on it tonight. (Skipping actually watching Clinton and Obama is much better for my blood pressure...)

Ed Morrissey calls tonight's debate "Obama's Waterloo": "The last Democratic debate has finally concluded, and perhaps the last chances of ending the primaries early. Thanks to a surprisingly tenacious set of questions...Barack Obama got exposed over and over again as an empty suit, while Hillary cleaned his clock." He concludes that "Both Democrats came out of this diminished, but Obama got destroyed..."

Morrissey also notes that Obama again "described religion as a refuge people use when government doesn’t work — a fatal misreading of religious faith in America."

Chuck Todd of NBC: "This was not a good debate for Obama, period." Todd says it was "... a near disastrous performance by Obama in those first 40 minutes."

Thanks to Sean Hannity pressing the point with George Stephanopoulous in a radio interview, Obama was finally asked about his connections with terrorist William Ayers. Obama tried to compare Ayers to a pro-life senator, Tom Coburn. Excuse me?!

Obama also said he "disowned" Jeremiah Wright, after stating in his "race" speech he could "no more disown" Wright than his own grandmother.

Todd concludes, as does Morrissey, that the winner of the debate was John McCain.

It's really rather amazing how the Democrats are crashing and burning -- Rush's Operation Chaos really is working (grin). Now if only the Republicans had a candidate who appeals more to conservatives, as it's starting to look as though the Republican has a very good chance of winning this November.

Previously: Obama: Some People Make Too Much Money.

Tonight's Movie: Bullfighter and the Lady (1951)

I have zero interest in bullfighting, as teasing and torturing animals (er, "fighting") just isn't my thing. Despite that, I was drawn to see BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY for a number of reasons, and I thought it was an excellent movie. The bullfighting scenes themselves I found tedious, simply because of my lack of interest -- someone who enjoys the sport would be enthralled, as the scenes were superbly filmed -- but the overall film was outstanding.

BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY was produced by John Wayne and directed by Budd Boetticher. Boetticher, a former bullfighter himself, filmed the movie filmed on location in Mexico. Thanks in large part to the atmospheric locations, the film feels very authentic and "real," right down to the flies which can periodically be spotted flitting around on screen. It's beautifully filmed -- some of the black and white images of the characters against cloud-filled skies are stunning -- and extremely well acted. In short, it's a completely "different" kind of movie, which incidentally was Oscar-nominated for Best Story.

Although the film was unfortunately pared down to 87 minutes for its original theatrical release, UCLA has restored the film to 124 minutes. I taped and viewed a copy of this "director's cut" which aired on TCM.

Robert Stack plays Johnny, an American skeet-shooting champion on an extended sojourn in Mexico who takes up an interest in bullfighting. (Stack does his own skeet shooting, as well as some of the bullfighting stunts.) Johnny is mentored by a great matador, Manolo Estrada (Gilbert Roland), who has promised his pregnant wife (Katy Jurado, in her English film debut) he will soon retire. Meanwhile Johnny has also fallen in love at first sight with Anita de la Vega (Joy Page), the "lady" of the film's title.

The performances are uniformly fine. Stack captures Johnny's youthful, sometimes foolish bravado as well as the strong, honorable man he is becoming. I found Stack very appealing as a fully rounded character with both weak and strong points. (I was never quite clear how he and his friends had so much time available to spend in Mexico; independently wealthy?) Roland and Jurado are simultaneously charming and moving; Jurado in particular has several dynamic scenes, including a lengthy tirade in Spanish. In fact, there's a great deal of Spanish in the film, which lends to the authenticity of the setting.

Page is a unique leading lady who has a bit of the waifish look of a young Audrey Hepburn (think ROMAN HOLIDAY, which was released a couple years after this film). Page is perhaps best known for her role as Annina, the young wife helped by Rick in CASABLANCA. She was the stepdaughter of Jack L. Warner and married Warner Bros. producer William T. Orr in the mid-'40s; she only acted sporadically.

The supporting cast includes Virginia Grey and John Hubbard as Stack's American friends.

BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY has been released on video, but I would approach a VHS copy with caution; the tape was released in the '90s and I suspect it is the shorter original studio release version of the film. The movie has not yet had a DVD release but I am hopeful one might be released in a Special Edition, as was done for SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, which was also produced by Wayne and directed by Boetticher. It would be interesting if it included both the theatrical release and director's cut so film fans can compare the two versions. This movie demands a commentary and/or documentary on the film's production.

The trailer is here.

Leonard Maltin, in his 3-1/2 star review, writes: "The movies' best treatment of this subject, a fine, mature drama with unforgettable bullfighting scenes and an appealing love story as well."

Glenn Erickson writing about seeing the film on TCM, in his January 21, 2008 entry at DVD Savant: "The movie's nothing less than magnificent, an ode to the tradition of bullfighting that explains its glamour and roots in the Mexican - Spanish culture. The film stars Robert Stack, Gilbert Roland, Katy Jurado and Joy Page, and although it doesn't change my mind about the blood sport it was a big surprise -- one doesn't expect to find too many more hidden masterpieces like this one."

I agree. This is a film well worth seeing.

April 24 Update: Just two days after I wrote this post, leading lady Joy Page passed away at the age of 83.

New Book: Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label

There's a new film book out that should be a feast for the eyes: ADRIAN: SILVER SCREEN TO CUSTOM LABEL by Christian Esquevin.

Adrian, as film fans will be aware, was a great MGM costume designer whose best-known work includes THE WOMEN, WATERLOO BRIDGE, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, ZIEGFELD GIRL, and even THE WIZARD OF OZ. He was married to actress Janet Gaynor.

I own another book on Adrian's career, GOWNS BY ADRIAN: THE MGM YEARS 1928-1941 by Howard Gutner. It's filled with glossy photographs and comments on his designs for specific films.

There are a handful of books on costume design for the movies, such as David Chierichetti's book on Edith Head, but it's a topic which hasn't received nearly enough attention from film historians. I would love to see more books on the work of specific designers who contributed so much to classic movies.

Obama: Some People Make Too Much Money

I didn't watch the Democratic debate tonight, but among the stories which have caught my eye was this post at The Corner by Jonah Goldberg:

"... the beginning of Obama's capital gains tax question was amazing stuff. He conceded the premise that revenues go up when you cut capital gains taxes. But he said it would be worthwhile to raise them nonetheless as an issue of "fairness" because some people are making too much money. In other words, even if the government loses money to pay for all of the wonderful things Obama wants to do, it'd be worth it because sticking it to rich people is a good in and of itself."

That truly is amazing: taking money from the wealthy as a worthy end in and of itself, even if doing so shrinks revenues.

It never ceases to amaze me that so many people are willing to vote for someone with such an anti-American platform, but I guess class warfare still sells.

Update: Obama Bombs Debate?

Thursday Update: More on this subject, including video, at Hot Air. Obama revealed himself to be an economically clueless Marxist.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tonight's Movie: The Hard Way (1943)

Helen Chernen (Ida Lupino), who has raised her little sister Katie (Joan Leslie), promises Katie that she will find a way for them to have a better life outside of their dirt-poor coal mining town, Greenville. When Katie becomes friendly with a vaudeville team (Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan) passing through town, Helen sees a golden opportunity and takes it; Katie joins the act (in more ways than one), and she and Helen are on their way out of Greenville. As Katie's acting career blossoms over the years, Helen will stop at nothing to see Katie reach the pinnacle of success, as Katie finds out THE HARD WAY.

This is a rather dark film, both literally and figuratively. Grim, grimy Greenville is memorably conveyed, as is the world of lower-end vaudeville. Although it's mostly a backstage drama, the film has a bleak, noirish overtone and a body count to go with it.

Helen and Katie initially have the audience's sympathy, but as Helen continues to manipulate their way up the ladder -- the gradual changes in hairstyles and Orry-Kelly costumes helping delineate the transitions in financial status -- the viewer is increasingly disturbed by Helen's lack of concern for others, including the two men who gave Katie her start. (Katie herself is complicit in some of Helen's bad decisions, but she is young, impressionable, and loyal to her sister, so she maintains more of the audience's sympathy.) For Helen, Katie's stardom equals financial security, which equals happiness. Relationships don't matter a bit.

The performances are outstanding. Lupino, always a fascinating actress, was given the Best Actress award for THE HARD WAY by the New York Film Critics. Leslie was just 17 when this was filmed, and successfully conveys both the childish, gum-snapping teenager and the more mature woman who has weathered tragedy and is trying to figure out what's really important in life.

Morgan and Carson, who are often associated with lighter fare, both give extremely good performances. Morgan's character starts out as a hardbitten skirt-chaser, who gradually wises up; it's interesting to contrast the trajectory of his character with that of Lupino's, as the two characters share many of the same experiences yet grow in different directions. Carson, who was also touching in the same year's PRINCESS O'ROURKE, is moving as a man who finds his dreams falling apart and can't handle it.

THE HARD WAY was directed by Vincent Sherman. The film was shot in black and white by James Wong Howe, and it runs 109 minutes.

THE HARD WAY is not yet available on DVD or video. I'd love to see an Ida Lupino DVD set with titles like this and THE MAN I LOVE. Click here to indicate interest in a DVD release.

THE HARD WAY can be seen as part of the library on Turner Classic Movies.

The trailer for THE HARD WAY can be seen here.

July 2009 Update: THE HARD WAY is now available on DVD-R format from the Warner Archive.

Last of Disney's "Nine Old Men" Passes On

Legendary Disney animator Ollie Johnston, the last survivor of Disney's "Nine Old Men," has passed away at age 95.

For decades Ollie lived next door to fellow Disney animator Frank Thomas, who died at the age of 92 in 2004. FRANK AND OLLIE chronicles their working and personal relationship.

Leonard Maltin's new book, MOVIE CRAZY, has a fascinating interview with Ollie's late wife, Marie, and Betty Kimball, who was married to Disney animator and man-of-all-trades Ward Kimball. Marie and Betty inked cells for the Disney art department.

Like Walt Disney and Ward Kimball, Ollie loved trains and owned a full-sized locomotive engine, which was named the MARIE E., afer his wife. A couple years ago, Ollie sold his beloved train to Pixar head John Lasseter, who arranged a wonderful surprise: he had the train put on the tracks at Disneyland and brought Ollie to Anaheim for a last ride on the train. Leonard Maltin's account of that morning is available at the official Frank and Ollie site.

In November 2005, President Bush awarded Ollie the National Medal of Arts.

Anyone who loves movies, animation, or Disney owes a great debt of gratitude to Ollie Johnston. His work has profoundly impacted all our lives.

Update: A tribute at The Shelf, and 2719 Hyperion reminds us of the great tribute to Frank and Ollie at the end of THE INCREDIBLES.

Thursday Update: The obituaries from London's Daily Telegraph and The Times.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Tell It to the Judge (1949)

TELL IT TO THE JUDGE is a fairly typical Hollywood divorce comedy, with Rosalind Russell and Robert Cummings as a couple who can't seem to agree on either marriage or divorce.

Russell's character is a judge with a pending appointment to the federal bench, whose marital shenanigans with her lawyer husband throw her confirmation into question. Misunderstandings and complications abound regarding a comely material witness (Marie McDonald) for one of the husband's cases; a smooth-talking gambling shill (Gig Young) the judge passes off as her new husband; and the judge's devious grandfather (Harry Davenport), who will stop at nothing to salvage her judicial appointment.

It's all very silly, but the stars are fun and provide pleasant, undemanding entertainment.

There are many great character actors in small parts, including Louise Beavers, Thurston Hall, Clem Bevans, Herb Vigran, Jay Novello, Frank Sully, and perennial bit part queen Bess Flowers.

This movie runs 87 minutes. The superb set decoration is by William Kiernan, and the film was photographed by Joseph Walker, who shot many great films including several Frank Capra classics. Rosalind Russell's gowns are by Jean Louis.

TELL IT TO THE JUDGE was directed by Norman Foster. You can read more about Foster's interesting career at my post on WEEK-END MARRIAGE. A curious bit of trivia is that late in life, then-widowed costume designer Jean Louis would marry Foster's sister-in-law, Loretta Young.

TELL IT TO THE JUDGE has been released on VHS. It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

Click here to indicate interest in a DVD release.

Update: This movie is now available on DVD-R from Sony/Columbia.

Save Us From Obama the Savior

Peter Wehner has a must-read column on Barack Obama at National Review. Among his many interesting points, Wehner notes the continuing arrogance in Obama's various attempts to put the issue behind him. (Jim Geraghty also points out Obama's ultimate refusal to take responsibility for his words, instead blaming others by saying "the way that these remarks have been interpreted have offended some people.")

Wehner's most important point is worth quoting at length: "On a deeper level, what we saw in Obama’s comments is a glimpse into a particular worldview, one that animates his political philosophy (contemporary liberalism). Senator Obama seems to view ordinary Americans as bitter, often broken, small-minded objects of pity rather than anger, ostensibly in need of instruction from — you guessed it — Barack Obama. The words of Michelle Obama are worth recalling in this context. She has spoken about her husband pushing us out of our 'comfort zones,' saying 'Barack knows at some level there is a hole in our souls' and 'Barack is the only person in this race who understands that before we can work on the problems as a nation, we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken in this nation.'

"This is the Politics of Meaning on steroids. If one views Americans as fundamentally needy children rather than competent citizens, one embraces the precepts of the nanny state — the state that (in Margaret Thatcher’s memorable phrase) takes too much from you in order to do too much for you."

I noted Mrs. Obama's curious statement on her husband wanting to "fix our souls" last February, but it takes on an entirely new significance in light of Senator Obama's derogatory statement about Americans "clinging" to religion. The Obamas obviously see the senator as some sort of governmental savior who will replace the need for religious belief. And that is pretty scary stuff. Rich Lowry calls it "secular messianism."

David Kahane has more quotes from Mrs. Obama: "Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed."

Is she describing some sort of new religious cult American citizens won't be allowed to leave, or the American Presidency?

Previously: Barack Blows It; Obama: The Fallout.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Lady in the Lake (1947)

LADY IN THE LAKE is a most unusual film noir, for many reasons: this is the first credited directorial effort of actor Robert Montgomery, who also stars as Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe; it's a film noir with a Christmas setting; and most significantly, Montgomery shot the film with a first person camera.

Other than a handful of "framing" sequences where Marlowe (Montgomery) directly addresses the audience, the camera acts as Marlowe's eyes. He is seen when he looks in a mirror, but otherwise we only hear Marlowe's voice as we watch the other characters reacting directly toward the camera.

This was a brave and interesting experiment, though not entirely successful. After the novelty wears off, the first person camera angle becomes a bit dull, although some scenes work better than others. When the actors emote to the camera, they don't seem to be acting as they normally would if we were watching a typical film shot with them reacting directly to Montgomery; they seem to "overemote" at times, perhaps because they're the only one filling the screen. I found Audrey Totter's facial expressions particularly distracting at first, although she grew on me as the movie went on.

I liked Montgomery's snappy, irreverent take on Marlowe, and the mystery itself was reasonably interesting. I was quite surprised when the movie started with cheery Christmas music and drawings during the opening credits, considering it was a murder mystery; the Christmas motif continues throughout the entire film, which provides a curious contrast to the dark goings-on. Despite its flaws, this is a film worth seeing just to experience a unique bit of cinema history.

Later in 1947, Humphrey Bogart's DARK PASSAGE also utilized the first-person camera, but only for the first portion of the film. Once his character has plastic surgery to disguise his appearance, viewers then see Bogart on camera.

Robert Montgomery is said to have had his first directing experience working on the classic THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945) when John Ford was temporarily indisposed. After leaving MGM he went on to host the long-running TV series ROBERT MONTGOMERY PRESENTS. He was the father, of course, of Elizabeth Montgomery of BEWITCHED fame. Two websites which Montgomery fans will enjoy visiting are The Earl of Hollywood and Classic Montgomery; the latter is also blogrolled to the left.

I came across a very entertaining interview with Audrey Totter which I recommend reading. It's a fun overview of her career.

LADY IN THE LAKE runs 103 minutes. The supporting cast includes Leon Ames, Lloyd Nolan, Jayne Meadows, and Tom Tully. I particularly enjoyed Tully as Police Captain Kane.

LADY IN THE LAKE is available on DVD as part of the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 3. The DVD includes a commentary track by film noir experts James Ursini and Alain Silver; a review of the DVD can be found here. I'm hoping to listen to the commentary in the next few days.

This movie is also available on VHS.

LADY IN THE LAKE can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies, where it next airs on May 31, 2008.

The trailer can be seen here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

President Clinton Bilking Taxpayers

Bill Clinton's post-Presidential expenses cost almost as much as the expenses for the two other living ex-Presidents combined.

Congress needs to pass a law capping these kinds of taxpayer handouts, particularly if a President decides to cash in financially to the extent of former President Clinton, who has made $110 million in the last seven years alone.

Can you imagine how much he and Hillary combined will be pulling in from taxpayers a few years hence should she (shudder) happen to be elected President?

This is Neat

Our family loves jigsaw puzzles. I recently came across this 2,000-piece puzzle of Washington Crossing the Delaware.

Somehow I think we'll be working this one at some point in the future...

Tonight's Movie: Stranded (1935)

STRANDED is a lightweight but enjoyable romance starring George Brent and Kay Francis.

Brent plays Mack, an engineer building the Golden Gate Bridge. Mack loves Lynn (Francis), who works for Traveler's Aid in a San Francisco train terminal. Mack doesn't see value in Lynn's job and is anxious for her to quit her job and devote her time to him. Lynn loves Mack but needs him to respect her job before she can agree to marry him. In a fast-paced 72 minutes we watch Mack and Lynn romancing and working. Will they smooth out their relationship before the end credits roll?

The movie's setting is quite interesting, whether it's the building of the Golden Gate Bridge (which opened in 1937), the depiction of Traveler's Aid and train travel, or the '30s battle of the sexes and discussion of male-female roles. Brent and Francis are charming; it's a fun way to pass an hour and twelve minutes.

The supporting cast includes Patricia Ellis, Barton MacLane, and Henry O'Neill. The screenplay is by Delmer Daves, and Francis's gowns are by Orry-Kelly.

Francis, an actress for whom I have an increasing appreciation, left a collection of diaries and other papers which are archived at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. It would certainly be interesting to be able to look through them. There are several books available on Francis which I'm interested in reading: KAY FRANCIS: A PASSIONATE LIFE AND CAREER; THE COMPLETE KAY FRANCIS CAREER RECORD; and KAY FRANCIS: I CAN'T WAIT TO BE FORGOTTEN.

STRANDED was directed by Frank Borzage. Borzage films previously reviewed here include FLIRTATION WALK (1934), HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (1937), FLIGHT COMMAND (1940), and SEVEN SWEETHEARTS (1942).

STRANDED is not available on DVD or VHS but can be seen on TCM.

August 2010 Update: STRANDED is now available in DVD-R format from the Warner Archive.

Newer›  ‹Older