Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Let's Do It Again (1953)

LET'S DO IT AGAIN is a musical remake of the Cary Grant-Irene Dunne classic THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937). While not on a par with the original, this time around the leads are played by Ray Milland and Jane Wyman, two Oscar-winning actors who had previously costarred in THE LOST WEEKEND (1945), and the film is quite enjoyable on its own terms.

Milland plays a Broadway composer and Wyman is his musical actress wife. They split because of mutual distrust, but keep finding themselves irresistibly drawn back to one another, despite romantic complications caused at various times by Aldo Ray, Tom Helmore, Karin Booth, and Valerie Bettis. Milland and Wyman are both entertaining, and Milland's comedic reactions are always fun to watch.

Like THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, another 1953 musical reviewed earlier this evening, LET'S DO IT AGAIN has beautiful Technicolor and fun '50s sets and fashions. (A highlight is Wyman's rendition of "Slow Burn" while wearing a stunning Jean Louis pink strapless evening gown.) THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is the better of the two films, but LET'S DO IT AGAIN is breezy, undemanding fun which goes down easily.

I was unfamiliar with Valerie Bettis and intrigued to learn she choreographed a fun MGM musical, ATHENA (1954), which starred Jane Powell and Debbie Reynolds. Bettis also appeared in and choreographed AFFAIR IN TRINIDAD (1952) with Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth; that film comes out on DVD later this year.

Karin Booth appeared in a number of MGM movies in the '40s, most notably THE UNFINISHED DANCE with Cyd Charisse and Margaret O'Brien.

The film runs 95 minutes. The supporting cast includes Leon Ames and Mary Treen.

The movie was directed by Alexander Hall, who had previously directed Milland in THE DOCTOR TAKES A WIFE.

LET'S DO IT AGAIN is not available on video or DVD. It can be seen on TCM, where it next airs September 25, 2008.

Tonight's Movie: The Girl Next Door (1953)

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is a marvelous little musical which has been largely overlooked since its release in 1953. Thanks to the wonders of DVD, musical fans such as myself have recently been discovering it for the first time.

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is played by June Haver, who is at her Technicolor loveliest as a musical star who buys a suburban home and finds herself falling in love with the widower next door. The widower, a cartoonist, is played by Dan Dailey, and his son is played by Billy Gray, who appeared for years in FATHER KNOWS BEST.

Haver and Dailey are a terrific dance team. They are showcased in several numbers, the best of which is an inspired noirish number called "Nowhere Guy." Gray gets a chance to shine himself in a nicely staged number in which he and Dailey toss breakable dishes back and forth. The movie also features a couple cute UPA animation sequences. The cartoon sequences and the movie's eye-catching set design, in particular, provide a great '50s time capsule.

Tenor Dennis Day -- best known as Jack Benny's sidekick -- plays Haver's financial manager, who has a yen for Haver's best friend, engagingly played by Cara Williams. Williams later received an Academy Award nomination for THE DEFIANT ONES (1958) and was Emmy-nominated for her role in the TV series PETE AND GLADYS.

The supporting cast includes child actress Mary Jane Saunders. I recently wrote a bit about Saunders' career in this post on A WOMAN OF DISTINCTION.

The cast also includes a couple familiar '60s TV faces, Natalie Schafer (GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) and Hayden Rorke (I DREAM OF JEANNIE).

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR was June Haver's last movie. In 1954 June married a widower in real life, actor Fred MacMurray, and she retired from the screen. Haver and MacMurray adopted twin girls. They were married until MacMurray's passing in 1991. Haver died in 2005.

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR runs 92 minutes and was directed by Richard Sale. Sale also directed the 1951 Loretta Young-Joseph Cotten comedy HALF ANGEL (reviewed here), which had a very similar candybox color palette. (THE GIRL NEXT DOOR was filmed by Leon Shamroy.) June Haver's beautiful costumes were designed by Travilla, who likewise worked on HALF ANGEL.

The DVD was released as part of the Fox Marquee Musicals series. The print is beautiful. Extras include three featurettes, including "Rediscovering The Girl Next Door" with musical historians Drew Casper and Miles Kreuger. Billy Gray participates in the featurettes as well.

The movie has also been released on VHS.

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR can also be seen on Fox Movie Channel, where it next airs September 17, 2008.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Alan Colmes Goes Completely Over the Edge

Is it just me, or has Alan Colmes grown particularly insufferable in recent months? He reflexively parrots the liberal line in all cases, no matter how silly it may be.

Tonight, though, he's gone round the bend. He devoted an entire blog post to whether or not Governor Palin and her doctor exercised proper medical judgment regarding the Governor's travel when the Governor was in early labor last April.

Funny, Alan wants to leave abortion to a woman and her doctor, but he wants the entire world to judge Palin's labor plan.

I sense a certain desperation here...which makes me all the more optimistic about the chances for the success of the Republican ticket this fall.

Update: Hugh Hewitt late tonight: "Scan the lefty blogs and you will see furious, even unhinged, attacks on Governor Palin. Which has to mean that the Obamians are unsettled..."

Yep.

Sunday Update: NewsBusters reports that Colmes has removed his post. I likewise found an error message when clicking on the link (found at the title of my post).

As NewsBusters notes, there is no apology from Colmes on his site. I hope Sean Hannity will take him to task for this. A special edition of HANNITY AND COLMES airs Sunday evening.

More from WizBang.

Update: I wrote Sean Hannity today (hannity@foxnews.com), and I encourage my readers to do the same.

I wrote, in part:

"I hope that you will publicly take Alan to task for his appalling blog post Saturday night questioning whether Governor Palin took proper medical care of her unborn child earlier this year...

"I see that as of today Alan has removed the post, but he has not apologized -- just the opposite, he removed it because of 'vile comments made by a plethora of conservatives.' He goes on to question a private medical judgment made by Governor Palin, in consultation with her doctor, and equates it -- among other things -- with criticism of political statements made by Mrs. Obama on the campaign trail.

"Alan is deeply wrong, and it really can't be allowed to stand unchallenged.

"All I can say is, the Democrats must be really desperate..."

Side by Side Comparison of Obama & Palin's Experience

Liberals, the media, and even some squishy conservatives (NRO's David Frum among them) are putting forward the notion that Governor Sarah Palin lacks the experience to serve as Vice President.

The reality is that not only does Governor Palin have a more impressive career than Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton -- who rode into office on her husband's coattails and had served a single term in the Senate when she began running for President -- Palin has more relevant career experience than Senator Barack Obama, who is at the top of the Democratic ticket! In particular, Palin has years of executive experience that Obama and Clinton both lack on their resumes.

I was particularly appalled by Mort Kondracke on Fox News Channel Friday, who suggested that Barack Obama's "experience" campaigning for President is more significant than Palin's actual career experience. Kondracke's statement was, as Bill Kristol noted in response, a perfect example of inside-the-Beltway thinking.

RedState has put together a side by side of Palin and Obama's resumes, and it's quite eye opening. (Click title of this post to read it.)

In fact, I think the comparison needs to include a mention of Palin's service on the Ethics Commission of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission with her career history, instead of just mentioning it further down the list...

And at this time when energy is a critical issue, who knows more about oil and energy issues, the governor of Alaska -- who not only constantly deals with oil issues as governor, but whose husband has "real world" experience working in oil production -- or Barack "inflate your tires" Obama?

I loved this post by Mark Steyn: "Next to her resume, a guy who's done nothing but serve in the phony-baloney job of 'community organizer' and write multiple autobiographies looks like just another creepily self-absorbed lifelong member of the full-time political class that infests every advanced democracy."

More rebuttals of the "lack of experience" theme by Mark Levin and Ed Morrissey.

Governor Sarah Palin: Homeschooler

Nice to know our V.P. nominee is homeschooling friendly...

(Hat tip: Spunky Homeschool.)

The Palin Announcement: Candid Photos

Be sure to check out Meghan McCain's blog, which has some wonderful behind-the-scenes shots of yesterday's announcement of Governor Sarah Palin as Senator McCain's running mate.

Bobby Jindal: Another Republican Face of the Future

Just saw Governor Bobby Jindal interviewed on Fox News Channel.

The precision organization Jindal seems to have organized to evacuate New Orleans, with hundreds of busses, plus trains, planes, and a medical center waiting in Baton Rouge, is a beautiful thing. No whining and helpless hand-wringing, just doing. :)

Hope it all goes smoothly and the citizens of New Orleans take advantage of the plans. I pray for the very best possible outcome for any of our fellow citizens in Gustav's path.

Governor Jindal is another great new face for the Republican Party.

Friday, August 29, 2008

One More Palin Post...

Be sure to check out BeldarBlog's post on Governor Palin's July 2007 visit to wounded soldiers at Landstuhl in Germany.

She didn't do it for publicity, but because it was the right thing to do.

Another Interesting McCain-Obama Contrast

The logo for the McCain-Palin ticket has both their names in easy-to-read white lettering, in the same font size.

Obama's logo, on the other hand, printed Biden's name in a light blue that fades into the background and is harder to read, especially because Biden's name is in a smaller font than Obama's.

A reflection of Obama's ego, his feelings about his choice, or both?

I'm buried in work tonight but will have much more to say about Palin this weekend, I'm sure. Meanwhile, if you haven't looked at last night's posts lately, check out my updated post on Palin-related blog traffic. Palin is generating huge enthusiasm.

Suffice it to say, I have moved from pledging never to vote for McCain (and yes, I still have my concerns about him) to thinking I had to vote for McCain to vote against Obama to, as of today, contemplating getting a McCain-Palin yard sign.

Sarah Palin rocks!

Wow Wow WOW!

A pro-life woman executive. Works for me. It's going to be an exciting day and an interesting campaign.

I think this is a ticket that can win.

Update: Early reaction from Ed Morrissey: "This is change you can believe in."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Late Night VP Rumors

While everyone's focusing on whether Romney or Pawlenty will be Senator McCain's pick for V.P., the late night buzz on the internet is that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has arrived in Dayton, Ohio, via charter plane.

More reports: Red County, Change and Experience, Free Republic, and Draft Sarah Palin for Vice President.

Whoever it is, Senator McCain has done a good job holding the proverbial cards close to the vest, and we'll know the answer on the morrow.

That Fireworks Music, and Thoughts on The Speech

Although I had the TV sound off during Senator Obama's speech, I turned it up during the fireworks and immediately keyed in on the music.

Instead of rousing patriotic music, it was pseudo-THE NATURAL style music -- once again emphasizing, from my point of view, that for the Democrats this isn't about our country, it's about Senator Obama. The music was designed to spotlight him, not the country. It might be a subtle point, but I saw it as one more sign of the "cult of celebrity" surrounding Obama, particularly given tonight's setting.

There's lots of great commentary all over the web, particularly at The Corner. One of the reviews I found most interesting, by Victor Davis Hanson:

"Same old, same old of the last two decades.

"The convention's final workmanlike message: The country is wrecked. Our freedoms are lost. Our soldiers are victims, not triumphant heroes. We are all impoverished except for a parasitic few. All bad news is not due to globalized changes in a radically different world, but to the nefarious greed of Bush-Cheney-McCain nexus. The Obamas, Kerrys, Pelosis, Gores, et al. who make millions a year and live in mansions, are populists uniquely called upon to tax, expand government, and think of ever new programs, as if the United States doesn't have the largest government and the most ineffective programs in its history.

"And this is change? Political transcendence?"

One of the key differences between Democrats and Republicans: Democrats are depressed and see the U.S. as a declining country and its people as unable to cope without government help.

Republicans, on the other hand, are proud of their country and remain wary of the government being "here to help," to call Ronald Reagan's "nine most terrifying words" to mind.

As Andy McCarthy wrote tonight: "That used to be the greatness of America: I WANT TO BE ON MY OWN. Now, somehow, it's a problem — that if the government is not holding your hand, helping you work it all out, there's a problem. Earth to Obama: That IS the problem."

Update: Don't miss Charles Krauthammer: "The air of unease at the Democratic Convention this week was not just a result of the Clinton psychodrama. The deeper anxiety was that the party was nominating a man of many gifts but precious few accomplishments — bearing even fewer witnesses...

"The oddity of this convention is that its central figure is the ultimate self-made man, a dazzling mysterious Gatsby. The palpable apprehension is that the anointed is a stranger — a deeply engaging, elegant, brilliant stranger with whom the Democrats had a torrid affair. Having slowly woken up, they see the ring and wonder who exactly they married last night."

Interesting

A post I wrote about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin last June (click post title above) has received steady traffic ever since it was first posted.

This week it's escalated to hundreds of hits per day. I haven't found any particular link on the web so I'm not certain what's driving the traffic, but it's just kind of interesting to me that that particular topic is generating so many views.

Senator McCain certainly seems to be doing an exemplary job keeping the name of his V.P. selection from leaking. Friday should be quite interesting in that regard.

Early Friday Update: My goodness, over 27,000 hits on the June Palin post today! And the Sitemeter keeps spinning.

Update: The mind boggles: over 51,000 hits and heading up up up...

Late Friday Update: More hits than Hugh Hewitt? This afternoon on the radio Hugh said his website had had 130,000 hits today.

So far today I'm at 136,000 and counting!

A great day for the Republican Party resulted in a great day here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings. Thanks to everyone who's stopped by!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Obama: How High Can His Ego Go?

Senator Barack Obama will not only be giving his acceptance speech Thursday night in a football stadium -- he will be making it in front of a facade of a Greek temple.

A photo can be seen at Hot Air (click title of this post).

Ed Morrissey writes that the Obama campaign hasn't learned from the Presidential seal debacle: "That this scales heights of presumptuousness can hardly be refuted. What genius thought of this motif?"

Ed goes on to an amusing comparison of Obama and his choice of setting with a well-remembered STAR TREK episode about the god Apollo. It's good stuff:

"Obama wants to treat us the way Apollo treated the Enterprise crew — as children who need do nothing but gather food and worship him. He promises them peace, tranquility, and happiness, as long as they agree to become his servants and relinquish their free will. In the end, Kirk and his crew destroy his power source and send him off to his fellow demigods in bitterness rather than allow themselves to become enslaved to Apollo. Somehow, I think that American voters will understand those parallels, even if they’ve never seen this episode before in their lives."

For my part, I find it curious that Obama feels such a strong need to surround himself with quasi-Presidential trappings, including not only a Presidential "seal" but a chair on his charter plane which says "Obama '08 President," leaving out the crucial word "For." (The plane also erased the American flag in favor of an "O" symbol, but that's another story...)

Obama seems to be trying to make up for his lack of experience by attempting to market himself as looking Presidential.

Update: This morning Rush Limbaugh called attention to a quote from Obama about his plans for his speech: "I'm much more concerned with communicating how I intend to help middle-class families live their lives."

Shudder...we don't need Senator Obama to "help" us live our lives, thanks. Just leave our tax dollars alone and let us have the freedom to live our own lives.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New on DVD: Errol Flynn Westerns

The New York Times has published an enjoyable, informative review about today's release of a boxed set of Errol Flynn Westerns.

Information on the set's films and extras was posted here last May. The films included are VIRGINIA CITY, SAN ANTONIO, MONTANA, and ROCKY MOUNTAIN.

I think I've only seen SAN ANTONIO, which I don't remember well. Sounds like a very enjoyable set which I'll look forward to viewing in the future.

Tonight's Movie: Married Before Breakfast (1937)

MARRIED BEFORE BREAKFAST is a cute MGM "B" movie starring Robert Young as an inventor who comes into a financial windfall when he sells his razorless shaving cream formula. In the space of a single night, Young uses his newfound wealth to bring joy to his friends in his boardinghouse, gets mixed up with mobsters and milkmen, and ditches his stuffy fiancee (June Clayworth) in favor of a pretty travel agent (Florence Rice).

You can see the plot coming a mile away; the fun is in following Young and Rice through their madcap night. They make a good team, and a scene where they're hiding in a janitor's closet and start to see each other in a different light is charming. The film is by no means a classic, but it has an attractive cast and is a pleasant, fast-paced diversion.

The supporting cast includes a young Hugh Marlowe as Rice's fiance, plus a number of recognizable character actor faces such as Mary Gordon, Leonid Kinskey, Tom Kennedy, Barnett Parker, and Tom Dugan.

Florence Rice was a lovely blonde leading lady who spent nearly a decade on the screen, including a long stint at MGM, yet she never hit the top ranks of the profession. One of her best roles was costarring with Melvyn Douglas in the first film in the Sloane mystery series, FAST COMPANY (1938). Other Rice films previously reviewed here are DOUBLE WEDDING (1937) with William Powell and Myrna Loy, and a diverting "B" movie about student nurses, FOUR GIRLS IN WHITE (1939), costarring Kent Taylor, Ann Rutherford, and Alan Marshal.

MARRIED BEFORE BREAKFAST was directed by Edwin L. Marin. It runs 70 minutes.

This film can be seen on cable on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Michelle Obama...

...needs to stop wagging her finger when she gives speeches.

I had the TV on with the sound off -- having already read her speech online, I was juggling my work with waiting to hear what the Fox News panel thought -- and her body language was really interesting without the sound on. The way she constantly shakes her finger gives her a hectoring appearance even when she's trying to speak in a friendly tone.

The body language hints at the angry person which her other speeches suggest lies underneath the smile and polished appearance.

Blog: Major Garrett's Bourbon Room

Major Garrett is one of my favorite political reporters at Fox News Channel. He thinks outside the traditional mainstream media box and addresses issues from a "fair and balanced" perspective that is refreshingly different from the assumptions and attitudes one finds in reporters at other networks.

Major has a blog at the Fox News website which documents some of his reporting in written form. It should be worth bookmarking to check out as the Presidential campaign unfolds over the next couple months.

"Shakespeare on the Subway"

A pair of theater students from the University of Southern California spent their summer break performing a scene from ROMEO AND JULIET...on New York subway trains.

A fun story for your Monday morning.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Nice Girl? (1941)

NICE GIRL? is a wonderful slice of Americana, a lovingly rendered depiction of life in small-town Connecticut in the early 1940s.

Oliver Dana (Robert Benchley, in a pleasantly subdued performance) is a high school principal and scientist on the verge of publishing a book on nutrition. He has three daughters: glamorous Sylvia (Anne Gwynne) is an aspiring actress; little Nancy (Ann Gillis) is boy-crazy and prone to verbal gaffes; and middle daughter Jane (Deanna Durbin) is a musically talented "nice girl" with a good head on her shoulders.

Jane longs for excitement and romance, but the hunky boy next door (Robert Stack) is more interested in working on his car than in courtship. Then a dashing publisher's representative (Franchot Tone) comes to town to see Jane's father...

The entire cast is wonderful, especially the charming Deanna. Benchley, who is often a little much for me in his comedic supporting roles, is pitch-perfect as the loving father of three dramatically inclined young ladies; his performance was a very nice surprise. Tone is delightful as the good-natured bachelor who finds himself the object of the three daughters' wide-eyed admiration, and it must be admitted it's no hardship for the ladies in the audience to admire the muscular young Mr. Stack. Gwynne and Gillis are entertaining as Deanna's sisters.

The fine supporting cast includes Helen Broderick (known to Fred and Ginger fans from TOP HAT and SWING TIME) as Cora, the family housekeeper, and Walter Brennan as a whistle-blowing mailman and band conductor who has romancing Cora on his mind.

The film vaguely calls to mind other films about loving families filled with sisters, such as MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS and the FOUR DAUGHTERS series. The set design and decoration is especially good, capturing a 1940s town we'd all love to live in. (What I wouldn't give for Cora's kitchen!) The specter of war hovering quietly in the background gives the depiction of a peaceful life in a pleasant little town an added poignance. Deanna's subdued rendition of "Swanee River" at an otherwise upbeat 4th of July party seems just right, with her emotion on that occasion hinting at the challenges our nation would soon face.

Ann Gillis, who plays Nancy, notably starred as Becky Thatcher in David O. Selznick's classic adaptation of THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER (1938). Tommy Kelly and Marcia Mae Jones, who co-starred with Gillis in that film as Tom Sawyer and Cousin Mary, have bit parts in NICE GIRL?

Gillis had an interesting career as a child actress. She played Susan Hayward as a child in BEAU GESTE (1938), appeared with Bette Davis in ALL THIS, AND HEAVEN TOO (1940), and voiced the adult Faline in Disney's BAMBI (1942). She also appeared as Nan in LITTLE MEN (1940), which next airs on TCM on September 18th as part of the station's upcoming tribute to Kay Francis. Gillis is still living; her last film credit was in 1968's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, three decades after she played Becky Thatcher.

NICE GIRL? was the first of three films Durbin made with Franchot Tone, and the second film she made with Robert Stack. FIRST LOVE (1939), which was Stack's first film, was reviewed here, and you can read about HIS BUTLER'S SISTER (1943), costarring Tone, here. Durbin and Tone also costarred in BECAUSE OF HIM (1946).

NICE GIRL? was directed by William A. Seiter and produced by Joe Pasternak. It runs 96 minutes and was filmed in black and white.

NICE GIRL? is available on video. The video has an interesting extra, an alternate ending, which is included at the end of the tape. The U.S. version ends with Deanna singing "Thank You, America" at a military base, while the British release concluded with a closeup of Deanna singing "There'll Always Be an England" against a background with the U.S. flag and the Union Jack. On the video, "There'll Always Be an England," which runs a little over three minutes, is inserted into the film immediately after "Thank You, America," followed by the end title.

The video also has an appealing ad for the VHS copy of Durbin's only color musical, CAN'T HELP SINGING.

NICE GIRL? is another wonderful treat for fans of Deanna Durbin and movie musicals.

GWTW Actor Fred Crane Dies at 90

Fred Crane, known to fans of GONE WITH THE WIND as one of the Tarleton Twins, has passed away at age 90.

Crane played Brent Tarleton, while George Reeves -- later TV's Superman -- played Stuart. Crane and Reeves had to re-shoot the film's opening scene on multiple occasions. The still used here is a version of the opening scene not used in the final print of the movie; it was reshot with Vivien Leigh wearing a more virginal white dress, while the dress in this photo appears in the Twelve Oaks barbecue sequence.

Crane was believed to be the classic film's oldest surviving male cast member.

Crane was also well-known to Los Angeles radio listeners as an announcer at classical station KFAC for over four decades.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tonight's Movie: A Woman of Distinction (1950)

Alec Stevenson, a charming British astronomy professor (Ray Milland) on a lecture tour in the United States, meets A WOMAN OF DISTINCTION in the person of a rigid college dean, Susan Middlecott (Rosalind Russell). A press agent (Janis Carter) concocts a fictitious romance between Alec and Susan, and personal and professional chaos ensue.

The film veers sharply from unbelievable slapstick to nicely done quieter moments of budding romance between two mature, accomplished adults. Although the most exaggerated slapstick moments are not as enjoyable as the rest of the film, the strong cast makes the film worthwhile. Milland, in particular, simply lights up each scene in which he appears; watching his reactions and interactions with the other characters is great fun. The uptight career woman was a patented Russell role -- see previous reviews here of DESIGN FOR SCANDAL and TELL IT TO THE JUDGE -- but no one did it better.

Leonard Maltin writes in a 3-star review: "Minor but very enjoyable...energetic cast puts this over." I'm in agreement with his assessment.

The supporting cast includes Edmund Gwenn as Susan's father and Mary Jane Saunders as Susan's precocious adopted daughter, Louisa. Francis Lederer and Jerome Courtland are also in the cast. Lucille Ball appears in a cameo as herself early in the film.

Baseball fans may be interested to know that when Mary Jane Saunders grew up she married former Los Angeles Dodger Jay Johnstone. Johnstone had a reputation as a team comedian and has written several books on the humorous side of the game. Saunders' credits include SORROWFUL JONES (1949) with Bob Hope, FATHER IS A BACHELOR (1950) with William Holden, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (1953) with Dan Dailey, and THE REMARKABLE MR. PENNYPACKER (1959) with Clifton Webb.

A WOMAN OF DISTINCTION was directed by Edward Buzzell. It was shot in black and white and runs 85 minutes.

This movie is available on video. It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

Reno and the National Automobile Museum

While on our recent camping trip in the Eastern High Sierras, we took a day trip to Reno, about two hours north of where we camp.

Our college-age daughter had a summer internship and only had time for half our planned vacation, so we decided that flying her home from Reno mid-trip would not only allow us all to spend the first part of our vacation together, but it would be a good excuse for us to see some of Nevada.

We took the 395 north through Gardnerville, Minden, and Carson City to Reno. It was a pretty, scenic drive, including driving past Topaz Lake.

I hadn't been to Reno since I was a child and didn't have any clear memories of the city. I was expecting something akin to a miniature Las Vegas, but the reality turned out to be that -- other than its famous sign -- the "flashy" part of Reno consisted of a couple blocks of casinos which had clearly seen better days.


Not at all impressive.

On the other hand, Reno's National Automobile Museum was one of the highlights of our vacation:


Last May I thoroughly enjoyed the 1938 film THE YOUNG IN HEART, reviewed here. At the time I saw it, I was intrigued to learn that the sleek, eye-catching automobile featured prominently in the film, "The Flying Wombat," was on display at the National Automobile Museum in Reno.

The car is a 1938 Phantom Corsair. Here it is, meticulously preserved for all to enjoy seeing:


An identifying sign:


One more photo:


Seeing the 70-year-old Wombat was a real treat for all of us.

There were a number of other cars which were particularly interesting. This beauty once belonged to John Wayne, who later gave it to Ward Bond:


Mounted next to the car was a photo of Wayne and Bond standing next to the car in the '50s, with director William Wellman in the driver's seat:


And here's a car which was a gift from Douglas Fairbanks Sr. to Mary Pickford:


Nevada is a beautiful state, but the gambling aspect is a bit overpowering. When we walked into a gas station minimart and the first thing we saw was two rows of slot machines, complete with chairs, I could only burst out laughing. Our daughter snapped this photo in the airport -- these slot machines were immediately next to the chairs at her gate:


We found Carson City much more to our liking -- a pretty blend of historic old buildings and newer developments, including a shopping center with an In-N-Out Burger. There are only a half dozen or so In-N-Outs in the entire state of Nevada.


All in all, a very enjoyable day exploring a portion of one of our neighboring states. If you're a film fan visiting the Reno area, we highly recommend taking an hour or so to stop by the Auto Museum.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Secret Service on Way to Biden's House

So says ABC News.

The Weekly Standard says Biden will be the nominee.

Funniest thing I heard all day: Dick Morris on HANNITY & COLMES suggesting that Biden could keep Obama from saying stupid things.

Joe Biden of "articulate and bright and clean" and countless other verbal gaffes?!

Saturday Update: The text-message rollout of the V.P. announcement didn't go so well, ultimately being sent in the dead of night because the media already had the scoop.

Doing For "The Least"

Think about this: While Senator Obama has worked to refuse medical care to babies born alive during abortions...

...Senator McCain and his wife "walked the walk" taking care of those who need it most, and adopted a child from Bangladesh who was in urgent need of medical care.

Bridget McCain, born with a severe cleft palate, was the kind of baby who might have been a candidate for abortion in some circles...the kind of baby Senator Obama would like to die without medical attention if it survived an abortion procedure.

The contrast is stark.

Obama's Childish Foreign Policy

Power Line (click title link) and Ed Morrissey point out Obama's skewed vision of the world and our nation's role in it.

Within the last couple days Obama has equated Russia's invasion of Georgia with our liberation of Iraq, saying we set a bad example for Russia, and he's praised China for having spent lots of money on their "infrastructure," which he calls "vastly superior" to the United States.

The lack of critical thinking behind these statements -- read both posts for details -- boggles the mind. I keep wondering how this man could possibly be one of the two nominees for President of the United States.

New Book: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

My favorite Food Network show is BAREFOOT CONTESSA, featuring Ina Garten.

I've made a number of Ina's recipes and always had excellent results. I love her books BAREFOOT CONTESSA FAMILY STYLE and BAREFOOT IN PARIS, which are both fun to read -- love the glossy photos -- and have great recipes. Our family's favorite Ina recipe is Lemon Chicken With Croutons.

Ina's latest cookbook, BAREFOOT CONTESSA BACK TO BASICS, will be released on October 28th. I'm looking forward to checking it out.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Obama-Ayers Connection

WLS has written a must-read article at Patterico's Pontifications about the relationship of Senator Barack Obama and terrorist William Ayers.

It's a detailed story but deserves to be read in full. Obama was a third-year associate at a law firm when he was made Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, responsible for handing out millions of dollars in grants to local schools...a curiously prestigious position for someone barely out of law school, even if he'd been the editor of Harvard Law Review. Ayers worked hand in hand with Obama writing grant proposals.

The University of Illinois is holding back papers -- see Stanley Kurtz's article at National Review Online -- which may show that Obama was a puppet who could funnel money for Ayers' goal of spreading Marxism in public schools.

Read the whole thing, and then head over to American Thinker to read additional information pulled together on this topic by Thomas Lifson.

Lifson also points out the Obama campaign's lie that Ayers' and Obama's children went to school together...the Ayers children are adults.

Lifson on the Annenberg documents: "Even if the archives continue to be withheld from public scrutiny, the cat is out of the bag with the documents available to all. The formidable analytical engine of bloggers trading insights and new data is warming up."

Byron York's Veep Diary

Earlier this week Byron York of National Review started a temporary blog at NRO as the "go to" place for all the latest rumors in the Veep stakes.

York is an excellent reporter so this site will be worth bookmarking and checking regularly over the next couple weeks.

August 27th Update: York's blog seems to have died a quick death; there haven't been any posts since Thursday, August 21st...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Obama and Infanticide: The Chilling Audio

For those like Bob Beckel and Alan Colmes whose heads explode at the mere suggestion that their candidate, Senator Barack Obama, supports infanticide, here's audio of Senator Obama arguing against the Born Alive Act in his own words; click the title of this post to listen.

My transcription of Obama's statement:

"Essentially adding an additional doctor who then has to be called in an emergency situation to come in and make these assessments is really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion."

Got that? Having a doctor come help a baby who happens to be born alive during an abortion is a "burden" to "the original decision." Since the woman desired to abort the baby, in Barack Obama's America, that baby should be left to die a miserable, lonely death without medical care.

That might be Barack Obama's America, but it's not mine, and I don't think Obama's point of view will sit well with many Americans, even those who otherwise might be pro-abortion.

This position is so radical that I suspect it's going to be a huge problem for Obama going forward, if only because once again it undermines his original political positioning as a reasonable man.

Add in his hypocritical claim to be someone who wants to follow the Biblical precept to "do for the least of my brothers" and his lying and obfuscations about his record on the born alive topic, and Senator Obama has a serious negative issue which won't be going away.

(Hat tip: The Corner.)

Thursday Update: More info on the tape from Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.

Introducing...

We finally decided on a name for our new puppy! There were so many good possibilities, we found it hard to narrow it down. Our thanks to all who made name suggestions here; Lucky and Hondo, in particular, were both seriously considered.

Meet Luke:


His name is a nod to two family favorites, STAR WARS and GILMORE GIRLS.

2008 Move-In Day at USC

It was a gorgeous, sunny Southern California day today at USC.

Here's a sparkling fountain opposite Tommy Trojan (click any photo to enlarge):


I don't think I fully appreciated Southern California's palm trees until a friend from Pennsylvania kept marveling over them on a visit here.

We attended a welcome back picnic on McCarthy Quad. Below: some Frisbee players on the quad, with Doheny Library in the background:


Over at the practice field, we glimpsed several sky-high photographers shooting photos of the football team, including these two:


The Lot is the temporary food court, erected in a giant tent, which is serving the campus while the new student center is under construction:


The news here today was that La Salsa is out and Baja Fresh is in.

Here's a shot of the Harold Lloyd Soundstage on W. 34th Street:


Fans of 20th Century entertainment greats will recognize other famous names on several campus buildings, including the Carson Television Center, (Alfred) Newman Recital Hall, Spielberg Scoring Stage, and Sinatra Hall.

Great progress has been made on the new building for the USC School of Cinematic Arts, funded by George Lucas:


You can glimpse the Cinema building's future Academy Courtyard:


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also contributed to the building. George Lucas has commissioned a statue of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. for the courtyard. Fairbanks was a founder of both the USC Cinema School and the Academy. Fairbanks gave the school's first lecture on cinema in Bovard Auditorium.

A pretty old fountain which looked very refreshing on a warm day:


United University Church:


Unlike some California campuses, USC is military friendly. I love this door topped with an Air Force ROTC emblem:


It's hard to believe that our daughter is over halfway to her degree. We can't say enough good things about her experience thus far at USC. We now understand why members of the Trojan Family are Trojans for life.

The L.A. Times posted a slideshow of move-in day at USC (click on the title of this post), which accompanied an interesting article on the relatively new phenomenon of spring admittance.

Previously: 2007 and 2006.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's All McCain's Fault

Gotta love this afternoon's L.A. Times story on Barack Obama tanking in the polls...of course, it's not Obama's responsibility whatsoever.

The online headline: "Barack Obama's image suffers amid John McCain attacks, poll finds."

According to the Times, Obama's "public image has eroded this summer amid a daily onslaught of attacks from Republican rival John McCain."

It's all that mean ol' John McCain's fault...doesn't have anything to do with Obama being an arrogant supporter of infanticide who's a far-left liberal with numerous questionable anti-American relationships, does it?

White Christmas Coming to Broadway

A Broadway adaptation of IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS will open in Broadway's Marquis Theatre just this coming Thanksgiving week.

The production based on the 1954 film has toured the country, playing cities including Los Angeles. The Los Angeles production was at the Pantages Theater in 2005; the cast included David Ogden Stiers as General Waverly.

The producers say "the show is poised to become New York's newest holiday tradition."

If it's a good production, it sounds like fun.

I am curious, however, about the huge string of Broadway and London theatrical shows in recent years which are based on movies. Recent examples include THE 39 STEPS and MARY POPPINS, along with numerous Disney productions. A Broadway-bound production of NINE TO FIVE will shortly open in Los Angeles.

On the one hand, a good story is a good story and it's rather nice to be able to enjoy it in different forms, whether on the screen or on the stage. Indeed, some shows, such as MARY POPPINS, were classic books before they were classic movies, so they weren't precisely completely original films, either; and many classic Broadway musicals were based on earlier plays and books. Maybe Broadway producers have woken up to how much rich source material there is in movies?

On the other hand, I wonder if the heavy reliance on movies for inspiration may speak to a certain lack of talent and creative spark when it comes to producing original Broadway musicals these days? Interesting to ponder.

Noooooooooo

The Lieberman and Ridge rumors just won't go away.

Joe Lieberman for Secretary of State, sure. But one heartbeat away from choosing Supreme Court judges?

And Tom Ridge may be a Republican, but he's also pro-choice and not someone I've found particularly impressive. Bor-ing.

The only pro-choice V.P. nominee who might not alienate conservatives is Rudy Giuliani, who has pledged to appoint strict constructionist judges.

McCain should only appoint Lieberman, Ridge, or Meg Whitman if he wants to undo all the goodwill he earned with conservatives in last weekend's forum. You can't promise your administration will be firmly pro-life and then choose a pro-choice liberal as V.P., especially when you're going to be the oldest man ever sworn in for his first Presidential term.

Surely McCain's not that stupid...but then, remembering some of the anti-conservative comments he's made in the past, maybe he's just that stubborn.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Can You Say Hypocrite?

When asked last night about America's greatest moral failure, Senator Barack Obama replied, "We still don't abide by that basic precept of Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me."

It was an absurd condemnation of the most generous nation in history...all the more so as Senator Obama has had no interest in doing for "the least" of all, the unborn. Indeed, he also said last night that dealing with when babies have human rights is "above my pay grade." Who is more in need of protection than the most helpless among us, infants and unborn children?

The truth of the matter is, Senator Obama doesn't just want to accept the existence of abortion, he is an abortion radical who has actively encouraged infanticide and the murder of babies who survive abortion procedures.

He also supports partial birth abortion.

Considering Obama's complaint in the light of his own actions -- and inactions -- is troubling, to say the least.

A related thought I had is that perhaps Senator Obama won't be happy until our nation has "done for the least" by fully embracing socialism, which ironically is a completely Godless political ideology.

Just Amazing

Here's the video of the final relay race in which Michael Phelps won his 8th gold medal. The video includes the gold medal presentation.

A beautiful thing.

Previously: Awesome.

Good News at Fox News Channel

I was curious last night, while watching the roundtable discussing the Saddleback forum on Fox News Channel, when I noticed that reporter Bill Sammon was identified onscreen as the "FMR" Senior White House Correspondent for the Washington Examiner. Sammon is one of my longtime favorite pundit-reporters, so I was curious about the "former" designation.

The mystery appears to have been cleared up this morning when Sammon, sitting in for the vacationing Brit Hume on Fox News Sunday, was introduced by Chris Wallace as "Deputy Washington Managing Editor of Fox News."

I actually rewound the DVR to make sure I'd heard correctly, then checked online listings where, sure enough, Sammon was identified by the same title. What marvelous news!

I think Sammon is terrific; his book AT ANY COST is the single best book about the 2000 election, and he's written a series of interesting books on the Bush White House. His appearances on the Special Report roundtable are always interesting.

It certainly appears Sammon is in line to take over Washington Managing Editor Brit Hume's role when Brit semi-retires after the election. I hadn't really thought outside current Fox News employees as possibilities to replace Brit, and Bill strikes me as the perfect choice. He's an excellent reporter who, like Brit, can key in on stories overlooked by the rest of the media, and he also has a congenial personality.

I wonder if he will be taking over as host of SPECIAL REPORT?

I found a bit more news at Politico: Brian Wilson has stepped down from acting as FNC's Washington Bureau Chief and is returning to reporting and anchoring. Sammon's role as Deputy Managing Editor was identified as "a new role in the bureau."

Good news indeed.

I'll be watching for further details.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Second Honeymoon (1937)

SECOND HONEYMOON is an engaging piece of nonsense which finds Tyrone Power and Loretta Young contemplating giving love another chance.

The movie begins in promising fashion, with Ty and Loretta embracing on a moonlit balcony. We soon learn, however, that they are divorced; Loretta is now married to a staid businessman (Lyle Talbot), but secretly seems to be pining for Husband No. 1, who is clearly interested in winning her back.

It's a fun piece of '30s escapism, with the fabulously dressed idle rich romancing against the background of lovely resorts. The movie provides its audience with a good time as well as the pleasure of watching two beloved actors when they were incredibly young and gorgeous. Power was roughly 23 and Young about 24 when the movie was made.

While watching a moonlit sequence with enormous closeups of two of the most beautiful people who ever graced the movies, I couldn't help but muse how remarkable it is that although these actors are no longer with us, because they stood in front of a camera over seven decades ago a part of them continues to live on for us to enjoy. Every so often I'm simply struck anew with appreciation for movies.

SECOND HONEYMOON runs 78 minutes and was shot in black and white. The supporting cast includes Stuart Erwin, Claire Trevor, and Marjorie Weaver. One of Weaver's best-known roles was that of Mary Todd Lincoln in John Ford's YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (1939). A fun bit of trivia: The last Power-Young movie I watched, LOVE IS NEWS (1937), featured Pauline Moore, the actress who appeared in YOUNG MR. LINCOLN as Ann Rutledge.

SECOND HONEYMOON was directed by longtime Fox director Walter Lang, who made many wonderful musicals and comedies. Lang films previously reviewed here include LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST (1936), WEEK-END IN HAVANA (1941), SONG OF THE ISLANDS (1942), and STATE FAIR (1945). Among Lang's other notable films are THE LITTLE PRINCESS, MOTHER WORE TIGHTS, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, SITTING PRETTY, WITH A SONG IN MY HEART, and THE KING AND I.

SECOND HONEYMOON can be seen on DVD in the new 10-film Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection. The set includes three of Power and Young's five films; CAFE METROPOLE is included in addition to LOVE IS NEWS and SECOND HONEYMOON. The other Power-Young films are LADIES IN LOVE and SUEZ. It would be wonderful if another box of Power movies is released in the future including those titles.

And This Guy Wants to Be President?

In response to the question "At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?" Senator Barack Obama replied, "Whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade."

True leadership.

Not.

This from a man whose campaign seems to invest an awful lot of effort in official logos to make him look "Presidential."

All show and no substance.

Obama did assure us regarding abortion, "One thing that I’m absolutely convinced of is that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue. And so I think that anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue is not paying attention."

Uh, gee, ya think?

I didn't watch the actual question and answer sessions -- the prospect of two hours of Oprah-like questions from touchy-feely Rick Warren was too much for me -- but based on the clips I saw after the fact, I agree with Kathryn Jean Lopez: "Just keep replaying tonight and McCain wins."

Sunday Update: Analysis from Ed Morrissey.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Say It Ain't So

Mrs. Fields Cookies is filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy?

New Book: Walt Disney's Imagineering Legends

While shopping at Disneyland tonight we came across a great new Disney book, WALT DISNEY'S IMAGINEERING LEGENDS AND THE GENESIS OF THE DISNEY THEME PARK.

The book is by Jeff Kurtti, author of the gorgeous coffee table book THE ART OF DISNEYLAND, as well as many other Disney-related books.

The official release date is August 26th but it's already on sale in Disneyana on Main Street.

Curiously, the cover shown on Amazon is different from the cover on the copy I purchased, shown here at the right.

The book looks like a great combination of detailed history and historical photos. There are chapters on "The Prototype Imagineers" (including Herb Ryman and Sam McKim), "The Story Department" (Marc Davis and Claude Coats), "The Model Shop" (including Harriet Burns, who recently passed away), "The Music Makers" (including the Sherman Brothers), "The Unofficial Imagineers" (including Ward Kimball), and "The Renaissance Imagineer," John Hench. These are a few of the best-known names in the book, but there are profiles of many more Imagineers and their contributions to Disneyland.

Here's an interview with Jeff Kurtti posted at Jim Hill Media close to a year ago.

This book is a "must" for anyone who loves Disneyland.

Today at Disney's California Adventure: Pixar Play Parade

We spent the afternoon at Disney's California Adventure and saw the Pixar Play Parade for the first time. We thought it was fun and had a good time watching it.


Here's Mr. Incredible. His scooter's nifty:


Jack-Jack has a neat fire effect:


Crush and pals from FINDING NEMO:


A BUG'S LIFE:


Some characters from TOY STORY:


Love the Tinker Toy creation from TOY STORY:


Buzz Lightyear:


The parade is definitely a wet experience which makes shooting photos while keeping the camera dry a bit of a challenge!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Never a Dull Moment (1950)

Cowpokes marrying city women seems to be a theme of my viewing this week. A couple nights ago I watched THE COWBOY AND THE LADY, and I followed that up tonight with NEVER A DULL MOMENT, which is the story of a Broadway composer (Irene Dunne) who leaves Park Avenue for the "wild west" when she marries a rancher (Fred MacMurray). The film is fairly predictable and very silly, but thanks to its cast and a brisk pace it's also entertaining.

MacMurray doesn't have a great deal to do, as it's Dunne's character who takes center stage adjusting to ranch life and learning to be a mother to MacMurray's two little girls (Natalie Wood and Gigi Perreau). Dunne is on screen a majority of the time and even gets to sing a couple of songs. She's very likeable as she keeps trying hard to be a "fair hand" despite the setbacks she encounters.

The grouchy neighbor who threatens the ranch's water supply is played by none other than MacMurray's MY THREE SONS costar, William Demarest. Ann Doran, who was so good as John Garfield's friend in PRIDE OF THE MARINES, plays a neighbor who befriends Dunne and teaches her about ranch life. Andy Devine plays MacMurray's ranch hand.

The film was directed by George Marshall and runs 89 minutes. The plot is loosely based on the true story of composer Kay Swift, who herself married a rodeo cowboy. Swift wrote the film's songs.

NEVER A DULL MOMENT is available on VHS. It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

You can watch the trailer here.

NEVER A DULL MOMENT has a bit of a TV sitcom quality to it, but as such, it's a well-done sitcom with an engaging cast. It provides enjoyable family entertainment.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Love Is News (1937)

LOVE IS NEWS immediately tosses the viewer into the unique world of '30s screwball comedy, filled with rascally reporters, perenially apoplectic newspaper editors, and giddy heiresses.

In this case the reporter is Tyrone Power, the editor is Don Ameche, and the heiress is Loretta Young -- three wonderful reasons to watch the movie. Young's heiress turns the tables on reporter Power, who has been following her and printing stories of dubious truth about her love life; she announces that she and Power are engaged so that the press corps will chase him around town instead.

Despite the terrific leads, LOVE IS NEWS doesn't quite fire on all cylinders. The fun premise is handled in a rather slow-moving manner, and romantic sparks don't start flying between Young and Power until nearly an hour into this short 77-minute movie. Nonetheless, the film is worth watching for the fine cast, particularly the gorgeous, charming Power and Young. Power and Ameche also have good chemistry in their scenes together. And it's always fun escaping into the world of screwball comedy for an hour or two!

The supporting cast includes George Sanders (a small role relatively early in his career), Elisha Cook Jr., Jane Darwell, Walter Catlett, Slim Summerville, and Pauline Moore. Moore, who appeared in several CHARLIE CHAN movies, had the brief but memorable role of Ann Rutledge in John Ford's YOUNG MR. LINCOLN in 1939.

LOVE IS NEWS was directed by Tay Garnett, who had a career which lasted half a century, spanning the silents to the '70s. In addition to directing, Garnett was also a screenwriter. Garnett's films include CHINA SEAS (reviewed here), JOY OF LIVING (reviewed here), and THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE.

More thoughts on the film from Carrie Liz at Classic Ramblings.

LOVE IS NEWS is part of the brand-new 10-film Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection. Extras on this disc include a 15-minute featurette, "Ty and Loretta: Sweethearts of the Silver Screen." Power and Young costarred in five films in the '30s and were good friends as well as costars. The flip side of the disc contains Power's 1948 film THAT WONDERFUL URGE, which is a remake of LOVE IS NEWS costarring Gene Tierney and Reginald Gardiner.

Yosemite: Curry Village Review

I want to wrap up my series of posts on our recent visit to Yosemite with a review of the overall Yosemite experience, particularly the facilities.

Yosemite, as hopefully has been illustrated by my photos of just a few of Yosemite's wonders -- see the related links at the end of this post -- is truly one of the world's natural wonders and should be seen if at all possible. My posts have barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do. Visiting Yosemite is an experience you'll always remember.

The Yosemite experience is not without its problems, however, and I thought future visitors in particular might benefit from some advance knowledge.

There are three basic levels of accommodation in Yosemite Valley: to use Disney World jargon, the "Deluxe," most expensive experience is the Ahwahnee (described here). The "Moderate" price point is Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, built in 1915:


The "Value" accommodations are scattered throughout Curry Village, historically known as Camp Curry:


Curry Village includes a smallish but nice hotel; we stayed there in the late '90s and our room was spacious (3 beds, including one in a loft) and immaculately maintained.

Further down in price at Curry Village are wooden cabins (some come with bath, some without), tent cabins, and "housekeeping camp," which provides tents and, unlike the cabins, allows cooking.

Here's a view of tent cabins and wooden cabins:


A closeup of a wood cabin without bath:


Tent Cabins:


Reservations far in advance are recommended, but if you decide you'd like to visit shortly before you're able to make the trip, don't despair. In the case of Curry Village -- I'm not certain about the other lodgings -- cancellations must be made at least 7 days in advance of a reservation date in order not to lose the deposit. Last-minute guests can take advantage of other guests' cancellations in order to book a room within a few days of a trip.

On both our visits we have started phoning or checking the website a couple weeks before our intended stay, and in each case we have successfully obtained reservations even though the park was "fully booked" days and weeks before. This may take persistence for a few days, but we also know others who have successfully used this method to book last-minute rooms. You may not have your first choice in where you stay, but you'll be able to make the visit.

The immaculately maintained pool at Camp Curry:


I love the beautiful view from this pool, which never lets you forget that you're in Yosemite.

Staying inside Yosemite Valley is highly recommended, as the Wawona Hotel, located just inside the park's Southern entrance, and hotels outside the Southern and Western entrances are at least 45 minutes away, and lodging along the 395, outside the eastern Tioga Pass entrance, is 2 hours from the Valley.

Camp Curry, founded in 1899, has a rich history which is well documented in a fine book, YOSEMITE'S INNKEEPERS: THE STORY OF A GREAT PARK AND ITS CHIEF CONCESSIONAIRES by Yosemite historian Shirley Sargent. This book is available via the Yosemite Store. Among the evening programs available at Camp Curry is a Huell Howser show on the fascinating history of the park's firefall.

Good angles to staying in Yosemite Valley include easy access to many of the park's most famous sights, and an excellent bus system with clean, well-maintained buses which run frequently. You will want to park your car upon arrival -- it can be challenging to find a space -- and rely on the buses until you leave. Camp Curry has something of the feel of a jolly international summer camp; I'd estimate that at least one-third of the voices we heard were speaking with foreign accents or in foreign languages.


Our cabin was adequately maintained, given its age, and was clean other than the apple stickers someone had left behind on the furniture, and bedspreads which were stained and had seen better days. (I preferred to put my own bedding, available since we had our camping gear with us, on top of the bed.) Two electric lights, four electrical outlets, and a small fan are the concessions to modernity. Unfortunately the cabins are rather stuffy and windows must be kept shut when you're away if you have food in the cabin, due to the prevalence of bears in the area.

This cub was in the tree outside our cabin:


The bad: other than the Ahwahnee dining room (which I haven't yet experienced myself) and the extremely busy Pizza Patio at Curry Village, the food is uninspired, overpriced, and all around pretty awful. Our impressions of Yosemite foodwise are shared by other family members and friends who have discussed their Yosemite experiences with us.

Additionally, janitorial service in the outdoor eating areas was inadequate; when we ate at the Pizza Patio we never saw a soul sweeping or wiping tables.


Sadly, the concessionaire running the restaurants takes advantage of having no competition and a captive audience, since dining outside the Valley requires a lengthy drive which most park guests are unlikely to make, particularly in the dark or after a long day hiking. The dinner buffet at Camp Curry made my daughter's USC dining hall look like a gourmet restaurant, by comparison. We attended on a night when turkey and chicken fried steak were served. The salad bar, if you can call it that, consisted of a bowl of wilted lettuce and a small handful of toppings. What a colossal waste of money.

The Grill at Yosemite Village (below) produces adequate hamburgers, but barely so. And it closes at 6:00 p.m., so you're out of luck if you've been busy in the park and are ready for dinner at 6:00. The Curry Village Taqueria is inexplicably open only for lunch, so the few dining choices available shrink further at dinner.

Click to enlarge and read the Grill's menu:


When we visited in the late '90s the food situation was exactly the same, and nothing has been done in the years since. You'd think they'd at least have figured out how to serve more people faster at the Pizza Patio in the intervening years, but unfortunately we still had to stand in a long line on this trip, with it being over an hour from getting in line to being served the pizza.

To add insult to injury, the free breakfast tickets that came with our room indicated breakfast would be served in the Coffee Corner. After standing in line at the Coffee Corner for 20 minutes our first morning, we were directed to a completely different room for breakfast. An employee we spoke with, who had redirected another family just previous to us, said her supervisor knew about the ticket problem and just shrugged semi-apologetically.

Would it really have been so hard to print new breakfast tickets or put up a sign directing ticket holders to the correct room? In a nutshell, that experience speaks to an institutional laziness and lack of initiative on the part of both management and employees.

The hot items served at breakfast were adequate but nothing special. Fortunately it's hard to mess up cold cereal, toast and O.J. :)

The other significant issue throughout Yosemite Valley was poor maintenance of the bathrooms. It's a shame that so many park guests are slobs, but since they are, provision needs to be made by park management to deal with it. Long-term maintenance also needs to be addressed, as in some cases the bathroom equipment was sliding down the walls. Huge cobwebs and other things that needed to be cleaned were visible under the overhangs of the bathroom windows.

Farewell sign at Camp Curry:


If anyone wonders, I've shared these thoughts directly with Yosemite's concessionaire, Delaware North, via the survey they send guests after their stay.

Trip Advisor has dozens of reviews by other Camp Curry guests; many of them echo comments in this post.

The bottom line: Should you go to Yosemite? Absolutely! You'll have a wonderful time, and you'll always be glad you made the trip. Simply be mentally prepared for some inconveniences, including poor food and less-than-optimal bathroom maintenance. Pack plenty of healthy snacks to supplement anything you buy in Yosemite, but also be aware you can't store them in your car due to bears.

Related posts: Mariposa Grove, Vernal Fall, The Ahwahnee Hotel, and Yosemite Falls.

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