Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Scarlet Dawn (1932)

SCARLET DAWN is a compelling and rather unique pre-Code drama set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution, anchored by a charismatic performance by Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

This sweeping drama packs a rather amazing amount of story into its scant 57 minutes. (Alas, 19 minutes are said to have been cut since the initial release; I assume that footage is gone forever.) Filmed a mere 15 years after the Russian Revolution, SCARLET DAWN tells the story of Baron Nikita Krasnoff (Fairbanks), an officer in the Tsar's army. When his regiment is gunned down by Bolsheviks, Nikita manages to escape; endangered once again when he returns to his estate, Nikita is saved by his loyal servant Tanyusha (Nancy Carroll), and together they flee across the border to Constantinople.

The film blends exciting, suspenseful action sequences with quieter and more touching moments. The extended depiction of an Orthodox wedding ceremony is one of the film's highlights. The movie's final scene is both lushly romantic and haunting, as the joyously reunited Nikita and Tanyusha face an uncertain future.

Fairbanks was at the height of his dashing appeal in this film. The New York Times in 1932 noted that "The handsome Mr. Fairbanks talks and laughs like his father, but he is a far better actor." More recently, blogger Doug Johnson termed Fairbanks' performance "magnetic and lively," a description with which I concur. Thanks in part to his charisma, Fairbanks' character maintains audience sympathy despite engaging in several less-than-admirable actions.

Carroll is touching as the brave Tanyusha, who aids and later loves Nikita, even when he doesn't deserve it. Nikita eventually comes to appreciate Tanyusha's steadfast, unquestioning love. The Times accurately noted Carroll was "graceful and appealing."

This film was of particular interest to me as I came close to a second minor in Russian Studies when I was in college. (I majored in History and minored in Political Science.) I was fascinated to realize just how close in time this film was made to the historical events it depicted. The Russian Revolution was nearly a century ago, yet for those who made the film it had happened in the fairly recent past.

SCARLET DAWN was directed by William Dieterle. The screenplay by Niven Busch and Erwin Gelsey was based on the novel REVOLT by Mary McCall Jr. IMDb says Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was an uncredited contributor of dialogue.

The film's supporting cast includes Lilyan Tashman, Guy Kibbee, and Sheila Terry.

This movie is available on video. It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which showed the film last week as part of its "Shadows of Russia" series. The trailer is available here.

I'm glad to see that Moira Finnie and John DiLeo like this one too; Moira writes "love this movie" and DiLeo says it's "Flavorful and romantic, and with genuine suspense and adventure."

SCARLET DAWN is an obscure gem which deserves a wider audience. Now if someone could only locate that missing footage...

Tonight's Movie: Small Town Girl (1953)

SMALL TOWN GIRL is a relatively minor but extremely enjoyable MGM musical, distinguished by a deep cast, attractive production design, and excellent musical numbers.

Sunday morning church services in the little town of Duck Creek are disturbed by the sound of a car screeching through town, followed by sirens. Wealthy Rick Livingston (Farley Granger) is arrested for speeding 60 miles over the limit, and when he gives the judge (Robert Keith) attitude, Rick is sentenced to 30 days in jail. This is a disappointment to Rick's fiancee Lisa (Ann Miller) as they were in the process of eloping.

An annoyed Rick goes off to serve his sentence in the town jail. Enter the judge's daughter Cindy (Jane Powell), who eventually proves to be a good influence on Rick's character.

The terrific musical sequences, staged by Busby Berkeley, include Bobby Van's famous "human pogo stick" number, where he hops all over town, and two great dances by Ann Miller. Miller's first dance, "I've Gotta Hear That Beat," features her dancing around instruments played by disembodied arms; THE BUSBY BERKELEY BOOK has a fascinating photo of Ann Miller on top of the platform and the men standing underneath it "playing" the instruments. It's a great dance, and I think I liked Miller's final number with Latin rhythms, "My Gaucho," even better.

Nat King Cole has a wonderful song performed in a nightclub visited by Granger and Powell; he sings the romantic "My Flaming Heart." The film closes with Powell and a choir singing a stirring rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus"; for a small town, Duck Creek boasted a superb church choir!

The film is interesting from a social history standpoint for its depiction of the early '50s: the film begins with various cast members leaving their homes for church, and closes with the hero and heroine reunited during another church service. Powell's family eat dinner together and grace is said at each meal (the interruptions of grace are a running joke). After dinner the family relaxes with checkers, needlework, or a trip to the movies; television had not yet invaded Duck Creek. The multiple references to church and prayer were doubtless unremarkable in 1953, and it's a shame that in today's world the film's comfortable depiction of religion as a part of daily life is somewhat unusual.

Billie Burke is marvelous in a small role as Granger's mother, and it's a real treat that Fay Wray (recently seen by me in 1932's ANN CARVER'S PROFESSION) came out of retirement to appear as Powell's mother. Wray retired for marriage and motherhood after marrying screenwriter Robert Riskin in 1942; she resumed acting in 1953, appearing in both SMALL TOWN GIRL and TREASURE OF THE GOLDON CONDOR.

The cast also includes Chill Wills as the town jailer, Philip Tonge as Burke's butler, and Roger Moore (not 007, but the older brother of actor Robert Young) as Burke's chauffeur.

This 94-minute movie was directed by Leslie Kardos, also known as Laszlo Kardos. Kardos, the brother-in-law of the film's producer, Joe Pasternak, only directed a handful of American films. Kardos' sister was the wife of S.Z. Sakall, who appears in this film as Bobby Van's father.

Longtime MGM cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg shot the film. The costumes were by Helen Rose, who later designed the wedding dress for Princess Grace of Monaco. Andre Previn was the film's musical director; he started working at MGM as a teenager and was all of 24 years old the year this film was released.

This SMALL TOWN GIRL has no relationship to the 1936 romantic comedy of the same name, which starred Robert Taylor, Janet Gaynor, and James Stewart.

The video I watched wasn't a particularly good copy, with the color in some scenes very washed out and a couple of scenes noticeably dark. The film features beautiful pastel costumes and sets which weren't done full justice by the video.

SMALL TOWN GIRL was recently released on DVD-R from the Warner Archive and I was curious about the print quality, as most films are being released to the Archive "as is." I found a consumer review at the Home Theater Forum with good news: "I just looked at Small Town Girl and it is in great shape. The transfer is clean and crisp with good color. I almost get the feeling the transfer was done for a regular DVD release for a Musical Collection that was aborted. It looks much better than some of the past musicals that were released through Warner Archive."

I'd like to pick up a copy when the Archive has a sale, as it's definitely a film my family would like to watch again.

SMALL TOWN GIRL can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available here.

TCM in February: 31 Days of Oscar

I have to admit that February is my least favorite month in the Turner Classic Movies schedule, simply because I am already familiar with so many of the titles shown during the annual 31 Days of Oscar festival.

The Oscar schedule doesn't leave room for some of the lesser-known fare I love to seek out, although I have to say that in 2009 TCM did a particularly good job including more obscure Oscar nominees in their "college" themed series.

This year TCM's schedule was inspired by "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," with the first movie on the schedule being a Bacon title. Each movie on the schedule is connected to the next by a common performer. Only on TCM would you find back-to-back Connie Gilchrist movies listed in the schedule! She connects the 1949 LITTLE WOMEN with 1942's TORTILLA FLAT.

The film which most intrigues me this month airs on February 4th: Mitchell Leisen's KITTY (1945), starring Ray Milland and Paulette Goddard.

KITTY is one of a number of Paramount films which have turned up on TCM's schedule recently; other examples are last weekend's screening of Olivia DeHavilland's Oscar-winning TO EACH HIS OWN (1946), which I recorded to watch at a future date, and today's showing of Fred and Bing in BLUE SKIES (1946). Another Paramount film, LADY IN THE DARK (1944) with Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland, is due in April.

Jack Benny and Ida Lupino fans may want to check out ARTISTS AND MODELS (1937) on February 24th. The last time TCM aired this film there were technical problems which resulted in a few minutes of the movie not being broadcast.

Jean Simmons admirers who missed last Friday night's tribute have the opportunity to record GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946), which is airing in the wee hours on February 2nd. Simmons can also be seen in THE ACTRESS (1953) in the early morning hours February 8th and in ELMER GANTRY (1960) on February 27th.

The late James Mitchell can be seen in THE BAND WAGON (1953) on February 11th.

February is packed with fine movies so be sure to check out the schedule. I can only randomly list a few of the excellent films airing this month:

February 4th: Two marvelous military movies with Eleanor Parker as the leading lady, PRIDE OF THE MARINES (1945) and ABOVE AND BEYOND (1952). And don't miss THE UNINVITED (1944). The latter is another Paramount film and one of the best "spooky" movies ever made, with the added plus of the beautiful song "Stella By Starlight."

The 4th might be the best date on the entire schedule as THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), which I consider one of the greatest movies ever made, airs that evening.

February 5th: GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933), one of the very best examples of the Busby Berkeley pre-Code musical.

February 6th: A trio of actors named Robert star in the fine CROSSFIRE (1947).

February 7th: Don't miss FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940) if you've never seen it, and you can also catch Hitchcock's other great 1940 film, REBECCA, winner of Best Picture.

February 8th: I thoroughly enjoyed SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964) last fall.

February 10th: TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT (1945), set during the London Blitz, is one of Rita Hayworth's very best musicals. I saw it three different times in a revival theater in the late '70s or early '80s. It's a crime it's not a better-known film. The movie costars Janet Blair, Lee Bowman, and Marc Platt (SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS).

PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953) is also airing on the 10th. Richard Widmark and Jean Peters at their noirish best.

February 15th: THE SEA WOLF (1941) with a powerhouse trio of leads: Robinson, Lupino, and Garfield.

The little known THE WAR AGAINST MRS. HADLEY (1942) airs February 17th. And don't miss one of the best war movies ever made, THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945), directed by John Ford, with a little help from Robert Montgomery.

February 18th: JOHNNY EAGER (1942) is said to be one of Robert Taylor's best films, with an Oscar-winning Best Supporting Actor turn by the always-interesting Van Heflin.

If you've never seen ON THE WATERFRONT (1954), February 21st is the date!

February 22nd: Back-to-back Robert Montgomery films, THE DIVORCEE (1930) and NIGHT MUST FALL (1937). Montgomery received one of his two Best Actor nominations for the latter film.

February 25th: THERE GOES MY HEART (1938), with Fredric March and Virginia Bruce, isn't a classic, but it tickled my funnybone.

February 27th: STAGE DOOR (1937), starring Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and a terrific cast including Ann Miller, Eve Arden, and Lucille Ball, is one of the very best comedies of the '30s.

March 2nd: My favorite movie, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), airs this date.

March 3rd: I have a real soft spot for OPERATION PETTICOAT (1959), starring Cary Grant.

Click the title of this post for TCM's special 31 Days of Oscar "micro site."

Happy viewing!

Around the Blogosphere This Week

...I just learned that two of Julia Child's shows, THE WAY TO COOK and BAKING WITH JULIA, were released on DVD in the last few weeks. Back in 2005 I wrote about how much I enjoyed learning from Julia's THE FRENCH CHEF series on DVD.

...Sad news: the Pasadena Playhouse, where many actors of the classic film era got their start, is closing in a few days and may declare bankruptcy. My dad once served as a volunteer at the Playhouse.

...I chuckled reading Glenn Erickson's review of THE CROWDED SKY (1960), which was our disaster movie choice last New Year's Eve. Glenn calls it a "hugely enjoyable Bad Movie," which is right on target.

...As a new iTouch owner who has installed the Kindle app, I was interested in this comparison of the Kindle and the newly announced iPad. There is a huge difference in battery life -- 10 hours for the colorful iPad versus a week for the Kindle.

...As I mentioned last week, the Universal Vault recently debuted without much fanfare, providing "burned to order" DVDs exclusively via Amazon. This is the third "burned to order" program to date, joining the Warner Archive and TCM's Universal/Paramount offerings. R. Emmet Sweeney has interesting insights at the TCM Blog.

...Did you know actress Marsha Hunt wrote a book on film fashion a number of years ago? The title is THE WAY WE WORE: STYLES OF THE 1930'S AND '40S AND OUR WORLD SINCE THEN. It has over 500 photos from her personal collection. I'd sure like to get a copy.

...Global warming funny business exposed: it was suppressed for months that the warning that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 was sheer fakery for political purposes, with no basis in science. (More links in last week's roundup.)

...Here's a great-looking recipe for Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken at Apple a Day. I hope to try it soon. Thanks to Raquelle's roundup at Thoughtful Eating for introducing me to the Apple a Day site, which recently celebrated its second anniversary.

...Byron York in the Washington Examiner: "Has Obama Become Bored With Being President?" The Anchoress also has interesting thoughts about our current President's temperament.

...Disneyland's Showboat Jubilee is on hiatus as the Rivers of America have been drained for rehab, but Princess Tiana will be returning soon with a musical show in New Orleans Square.

...The California legislature is nuts, we're sinking into a financial abyss and they're worrying about launching universal healthcare and abolishing statewide free parking. To the social engineers in Sacramento, free parking is an evil which discourages the use of mass transit; forcing people to pay to visit businesses is just what our state economy needs, right?!

...For Southern Californians: a Renoir exhibit is coming to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art beginning in mid February.

...Some of the Jean Simmons tributes I especially enjoyed over the last few days: David Thomson, Moira Finnie, the Self-Styled Siren, Big Hollywood, and Another Old Movie Blog.

...I watched a good-sized section of Simmons' THE BLUE LAGOON (1949) on YouTube a few days ago and found it very interesting, although the ending was disturbing; I hope to watch the entire film at some point. It was directed by Frank Launder.

...Don't forget that Tuesday is Groundhog Day!

Have a great week!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Anything Goes (1956)

ANYTHING GOES is a surprisingly bland musical despite three excellent leads, Bing Crosby, Donald O'Connor, and Mitzi Gaynor. The film has some pleasant moments, particularly O'Connor and Gaynor's dance duet "It's De-Lovely," but overall this is a dull movie without much fizz.

Crosby and O'Connor's characters are going to play the leads in an upcoming Broadway show. On a trip to Europe before beginning rehearsals, Crosby finds the perfect leading lady in Mitzi Gaynor, while O'Connor signs a French dancer (Jeanmaire) as their costar. All four actors head for the U.S. on an ocean liner, where O'Connor must let Jeanmaire know she won't be in the show after all.

Part of the film's problem is its downer plot: the viewer waits through much of the movie for O'Connor to let Jeanmaire know she can't be in the Broadway show, and worries about sweet Mitzi Gaynor finding out she's got unexpected competition for the part; Jeanmaire, it's clear, can take care of herself.

Meanwhile, a Treasury agent has followed Gaynor's father (played by Phil Harris) onto the U.S.-bound ship; dear old dad will be arrested for tax evasion when the boat docks. The viewer basically spends most of the film anticipating unpleasant events. It's a full 90 minutes into the 106-minute film before the characters start untangling their issues.

I also didn't find Jeanmaire very interesting; her mannish costume for "I Get a Kick Out of You" was unattractive, and the male dancers' costumes were even worse. The costumes for the final "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" number were also disappointing -- those hats!

Whether costumes or sets are the issue, the film as a whole could have been more visually appealing, especially given that the movie was shot in the wonderful VistaVision process. When O'Connor and Gaynor dance on the ship's deck -- the film's best scene -- it's extremely obvious they're simply on a set in front of a painted backdrop. Such sets are common and easy to accept in many films but the fakery is especially obvious here, in a film which should have had better production values.

A final issue with the film is that for much of the movie Mitzi Gaynor plays the only truly likeable person. Crosby and O'Connor's characters have good-sized egos and are sometimes depicted as phonies. O'Connor shows immaturity when he makes a mistake, signing a leading lady without permission, and then won't step up to the plate to rectify matters. In addition, Jeanmaire's character is portrayed as quite calculating and worldly, which makes her all wrong for a Leslie Caron style ballet choreographed by Jeanmaire's husband, Roland Petit. (Petit and Jeanmaire have been married for over half a century.)

The score has a number of excellent Cole Porter standards. Unfortunately, the Porter songs are supplemented by some pretty bad Jimmy Van Heusen-Sammy Cahn songs; the Van Heusen-Cahn song which opens the film, "Ya Gotta Give the People Hoke," is on the painful side.

The supporting cast includes Kurt Kasznar, Walter Sande, and Argentina Brunetti.

ANYTHING GOES was directed by Robert Lewis, who was also an actor and a Broadway director. This was the only complete feature film directed by Lewis; he also directed a segment of MGM's ZIEGFELD FOLLIES (1945) and a couple of TV shows.

ANYTHING GOES is available on DVD. The DVD case, incidentally, has an incorrect plot description.

I really wanted to like this movie more, but for the most part I found it a misfire.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Today at Disneyland

After visiting Disney's California Adventure to check out the latest construction, we headed for Disneyland.

Today's beautiful flowers at Town Square, showing off January in California:

Friday afternoon on Main Street USA:

A pretty seasonal display in the window at Crystal Arts on Main Street:

Mickey and Walt in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle as the sun sets:

Sunset over Adventureland:

Space Mountain:

I love the holiday displays in the Market House window on Main Street:

One of my favorite spots, the Main Street Cone Shop:

The Castle in the distance on busy Main Street:

Although the last photo looks crowded, attendance was actually relatively light tonight compared to some of our recent visits.

We had a wonderful evening including riding the train, eating at Bengal Barbecue, and picking up the newly released spring issue of the Disney Twenty-Three magazine.

Happy weekend!

Today at Disney's California Adventure

I've had to work the last couple weekends, so I was very glad when Friday arrived today and I could look forward to a visit to Disneyland and then a weekend off!

We stopped in at California Adventure first to take a look at the ongoing construction projects.

There are lots of signs in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area about the coming Red Cars:

The sun sets behind Mickey's Fun Wheel as work continues on one of the World of Color platforms at Paradise Pier (click to enlarge):

The Orange Stinger is happily gone and the Silly Symphony Swings are taking shape:

For those who are curious about Disneyland and wi-fi, I had heard there's not much available in the way of wi-fi at Disneyland so I took my iTouch along today to check it out. The only place I found non-password protected wi-fi so far was in the area of the Grand Californian Hotel, where I picked up wi-fi both inside California Adventure (near Grizzly Rapids) and near the World of Disney store and tram stop.

It would be nice if Disney would expand wi-fi to the parks so that guests can use free apps like MouseWait. Disney has an official park app but it's only available to Verizon customers.

After strolling through California Adventure for an hour or so, it was on to coming in another post!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Coming to DVD: The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Disney's THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG comes to DVD on March 16, 2010.

DVD Times has information on the extras.

Unfortunately Disney is now going the route of other upcoming releases, such as THE BLIND SIDE, and including many more extras on the Blu-Ray release compared to the standard DVD.

I find these attempts to force a migration to Blu-Ray most annoying, especially as it seems that, other than brand-new films, future Blu-Ray releases will mostly be reissues of movies which I already own on DVD. They're just not going to invest money in Blu-Ray editions of many of the classic films which interest me most, and for that matter many classic films might not be appropriate for the Blu-Ray process.

Having already gone from Beta to VHS to DVD, I think I'm done upgrading!

Last December's review of THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG is here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tonight's Movie: And So They Were Married (1936)

Stephen (Melvyn Douglas) and Edith (Mary Astor) are snowed in together at a mountain resort near Los Angeles, California. At first they can't stand each other, but -- of course! -- annoyance turns to love, and they plan to marry. Just one problem: Edith's daughter Brenda (Edith Fellows) and Steve's son Tommy (Jackie Moran) dislike each other on sight. Brenda and Tommy plot to break up their parents' engagement.

This is a mildly amusing family movie about on the level of a TV sitcom, albeit with a classy cast. The movie starts out to be quite appealing, with Douglas and Astor sparring and then romancing, but the antics of the children move front and center about a third of the way into the film, and a little of that goes a long way. When the children aren't being complete brats, the movie is pleasant enough, with an appealing ski resort setting in addition to an attractive cast.

One of the best things about the film is the wintry outdoor location photography. According to IMDb, these scenes were filmed near Donner Pass, California. The sequences aren't as impressive as the scenes Douglas filmed in Idaho for I MET HIM IN PARIS (1937), where he ice skated with Claudette Colbert, but the atmosphere captured on camera is quite nice.

Edith Fellows played Melvyn Douglas's spoiled daughter the previous year in SHE MARRIED HER BOSS (1935). Fellows is quite appealing in this despite the fact that her character must spend much of the film being a pain in the neck.

Edith Fellows began her film career in 1929. Her films included the 1934 version of JANE EYRE; MRS. WIGGS OF THE CABBAGE PATCH (1934); PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (1936) with Bing Crosby; and the four FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS movies, in which she played Polly Pepper. (Having read all the PEPPERS books, I've love the chance to see those movies.) Fellows only made one screen appearance between the mid-'50s and the early '80s, when she resumed her career with a number of TV roles, including appearing as costumer designer Edith Head in a 1993 TV-movie about Grace Kelly. (Cheryl Ladd, for those who wonder, played Grace Kelly.) Miss Fellows is now 87. An interesting bit of trivia is that Fellows' son-in-law, David Lander, is known for playing "Squiggy" on LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY.

The supporting cast also includes Dorothy Stickney and Donald Meek. The movie was shot in black and white and runs 74 minutes.

This movie was directed by Elliott Nugent, whose films include THREE-CORNERED MOON (1933) and THE MALE ANIMAL (1942).

AND SO THEY WERE MARRIED has not had a VHS or DVD release, but it is part of the library available for screening on Turner Classic Movies.

Leonard Maltin News

My daughter is taking Leonard Maltin's class at the University of Southern California this semester, and he recently announced to the class that his annual MOVIE GUIDE is now an "app."

Needless to say, as a new iTouch owner I was intrigued. I downloaded it last weekend; the cost is $3.99. Along with the MOVIE GUIDE itself, there is a "Current Picks" section with Maltin's reviews of new movies from his website.

I have been very impressed with this app. The movie entries in the guide have links to Netflix and iTunes at the top of the page, making it easy to add a title to a Netflix queue or order a download.

Many of the films have a poster or DVD artwork along with the rating and review, as well as a link for the trailer. I watched the trailer for my favorite movie, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, and was impressed with the quality of the widescreen print.

Cast members' names can be clicked for ideas for other titles. At the bottom of the screen are links to the movie's IMDb and Amazon pages.

By clicking a symbol on a movie's entry, the title can be added to a list of "Movies to See." The app also maintains a "Film Lookup History" so you can easily return to recent searches.

In short, this is an app which provides not simply a handy pocket version of Maltin's great reference book, but it includes a number of useful interactive features. It's a "must" for classic film fans, along with the TCM and IMDb apps.

In other Maltin news, the second edition of LEONARD MALTIN'S CLASSIC MOVIE GUIDE, which was originally due to be published this spring, had its publication date moved up to today. This book has many pre-1965 titles which are not included in Maltin's annual MOVIE GUIDE.

Leonard Maltin's 151 BEST MOVIES YOU'VE NEVER SEEN, which I wrote about earlier this month, is due on shelves February 9th.

February 5th Update: Here is a review of the 2nd Edition of Maltin's CLASSIC MOVIE GUIDE.

Baked Chicken With Onions, Potatoes, Garlic & Thyme

This is a super-simple "one pan" dinner from one of my favorite cooking magazines, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.

It has a short prep time, which makes it perfect for a busy day when there's not much time available to spend in the kitchen. And it smells wonderful while it's cooking!

Click the title of this post for the recipe at the Everyday Food website.

The recipe calls for a 12 x 16 pan, but I've found that a bit too small, as I'm usually cooking for five or six people. Instead I use a rimmed baking sheet.

The roasted garlic is wonderful spread on toasted French bread.

A couple other bloggers made this recipe and took beautiful photos of the results.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy Birthday to Joan Leslie

Thanks to KC for the reminder that today is the 85th birthday of the charming Joan Leslie.

Miss Leslie has perhaps never received the level of acclaim she is due. She began in films as a child and at a remarkably young age she more than held her own as the leading lady opposite some of Hollywood's greatest stars, including Gary Cooper, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Fred Astaire.

She was just 15 when starred opposite Cooper in SERGEANT YORK (1941). (Teenaged leading ladies were fairly common in that era; for instance, Linda Darnell was just 15 when she played opposite Tyrone Power in 1939's DAY-TIME WIFE.) The same year SERGEANT YORK was released she appeared in the classic HIGH SIERRA with Humphrey Bogart.

She played George M. Cohan's wife, Mary, in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942) and celebrated her 18th birthday on the set of THE SKY'S THE LIMIT (1943), in which she had the chance to dance with Fred Astaire. She proved to be an excellent partner for Astaire in this underrated film; it's a shame they didn't work together again.

Leslie's best work includes THE HARD WAY (1943), in which she plays the talented girl pushed to stardom by her sister (Ida Lupino). She was also excellent in BORN TO BE BAD (1950), as a warm career woman who loses her wealthy fiance (Zachary Scott) to a scheming golddigger (Joan Fontaine).

Miss Leslie married a doctor in 1950 and they were married for half a century, until her husband's death in 2000. She is the mother of twin girls.

We're very fortunate that Joan Leslie has contributed her memories in DVD extras for SERGEANT YORK, YANKEE DOODLE DANDY, and the Homefront Collection, in which she appears in all three movies, THIS IS THE ARMY, HOLLYWOOD CANTEEN, and THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS. She has a wonderful memory and is very articulate; it's a great gift to film history that her reminisces, including some delightful stories, have been preserved in this way.

Other Leslie titles reviewed here previously: SUSAN AND GOD (1940), THE MALE ANIMAL (1942), TWO GUYS FROM MILWAUKEE (1946), and MAN IN THE SADDLE (1951).

Classic film fans owe Miss Leslie a debt of gratitude for providing us with many, many happy viewing hours. Happy birthday!

Coming to DVD: The Blind Side (2009)

The excellent family film THE BLIND SIDE will be out on DVD on March 23, 2010.

Sandra Bullock recently won the Golden Globe as Best Actress for her role in this film.

My review of earlier this month is here.

DVD Times has the rundown on the upcoming DVD release. It looks as though the DVD will only have deleted scenes; unfortunately for those of us who are resisting yet another format "upgrade" to Blu-Ray, there are many more extras on the Blu-Ray release.

This is a movie very much worth seeing, or seeing again. I'm looking forward to adding it to our DVD library.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Actor Pernell Roberts Dies at 81

Actor Pernell Roberts, perhaps most famous for his role as Adam Cartwright on BONANZA, has died at the age of 81.

In the '80s Roberts also starred in TRAPPER JOHN, M.D.

I once saw Mr. Roberts in person; he was a client at a law firm where I worked after I first graduated from college.

Come to think of it, I also saw Roberts' TV father, Lorne Greene, once upon a time when I had lunch in a movie studio commissary.

Update: 50 Westerns From the 50s and Thrilling Days of Yesteryear remember Roberts' role in the classic Budd Boetticher-Randolph Scott Western RIDE LONESOME (1959). That one's on my "to watch" list...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Young Ideas (1943)

YOUNG IDEAS is an MGM "B" movie which starts poorly but builds to an entertaining second half, thanks largely to the talent of its fine cast.

Jo (Mary Astor), a best-selling author, is swept off her feet by small-town chemistry professor Michael (Herbert Marshall), much to the dismay of Jo's college-age children Jeff and Susan (Elliott Reid, Susan Peters). Jeff and Susan don't want to leave their home in New York, and Jo's agent Adam (Allyn Joslyn) is also apoplectic. Adam conspires with Jeff and Susan to break up Jo and Michael's marriage.

Jeff and Susan are unpleasant brats as they relentlessly lie to Michael to sabotage the marriage. (Indeed, Jeff's character is obnoxious throughout, although he attempts to redeem himself late in the film.) The film takes a turn for the better once Susan falls in love with an earnest young professor (Richard Carlson) and regrets what she's done to her mother's marriage. There are some genuinely funny moments late in the film, including the climactic courtroom scene. All in all, however, the script did not deserve such an outstanding cast.

Susan Peters was a radiant young actress, and she and Carlson are reason enough to see the film. Carlson was quite charming as a young man, in films such as this and THE YOUNG IN HEART (1938). Peters, whose film KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY (1945) was reviewed here last year, is perhaps best known for her Oscar-nominated role as Kitty in RANDOM HARVEST (1942). Her too-short career was cut short by a paralyzing accident on New Year's Day, 1945, and she passed away in 1952. The accident was a tragedy for Miss Peters personally, as well as for film fans who will always wonder what might have been.

As a side note, SONG OF RUSSIA (1944), in which Peters appeared opposite Robert Taylor, will air on Turner Classic Movies on April 13, 2010.

Look for MGM ingenues Dorothy Morris, Frances Rafferty, and Jean Porter as college coeds; Noel Neill (of TV's SUPERMAN) plays another coed. IMDb also credits Ava Gardner as a coed, but I didn't spot her.

George Dolenz (father of Micky Dolenz of the Monkees) and Emory Parnell also appear in the film.

A bit of interesting Disney trivia: Elliott Reid wears a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt in the movie's final scenes. It was fascinating seeing Mickey appear on clothing of the WWII era.

YOUNG IDEAS was directed by Jules Dassin, whose best films during his brief tenure at MGM included THE AFFAIRS OF MARTHA (1942), a delightful B movie starring Richard Carlson and Marsha Hunt, and THE CANTERVILLE GHOST (1944) with Margaret O'Brien, Charles Laughton, and Robert Young.

This film was shot in black and white and runs 77 minutes.

YOUNG IDEAS has not had a video or DVD release, but it can be seen as part of the MGM library shown on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available here.

March 2012 Update: YOUNG IDEAS is now available in DVD-R format from the Warner Archive.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the Internet...

...DVR Alert: The latest BBC production of Jane Austen's EMMA comes to the United States on MASTERPIECE beginning tonight. It will be released on DVD on February 9, 2010 -- just in time for Valentine's Day gift giving.

...DVR Alert #2: Huell Howser's CALIFORNIA'S GOLD, a public TV institution in this state for many years, has a new episode on the history of In-N-Out Burger which will first air on Los Angeles station KCET on January 31st. The episode will air on several other California public TV stations beginning February 4th. Details and a 30-second preview are at the CALIFORNIA'S GOLD website.

...Deep Discount is overhauling its website. I've noticed over the last couple weeks that they didn't have listings for releases coming out over the next couple months, but those titles now seem to be in the system. There's a discussion thread at Home Theater Forum assessing the changes.

...The BEST OF THE LORETTA YOUNG SHOW SEASONS 3 AND 4, authorized by the Loretta Young Estate, will be released on February 16th. The set will have 31 episodes. Seasons 1 and 2 were released in their entirety; I'm curious what's behind the change for Seasons 3 and 4.

...Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelly, who recently returned from maternity leave, will have her own show starting February 1st.

...A challenging expedition is planned to try cleaning up decades' worth of litter from atop Mount Everest. And it's interesting, though not surprising, to learn that predictions by global warming alarmists that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 were based on next to nothing. Indeed, many Himalayan glaciers are growing! (Update: The scientist who made the "melting glaciers" claim has now admitted it was not based on peer-reviewed scientific research and was made purely for political purposes.)

...The newest cookbook from America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated is THE BEST SIMPLE RECIPES, due in bookstores on March 1st.

...Ayla Brown, a daughter of new Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, has a lovely singing voice, as demonstrated in a YouTube video where she sings the National Anthem with the Boston Pops. As some are aware, she was at one point a contestant on AMERICAN IDOL.

...Disneyland looks pretty in the oldest son was there with friends on his rainy day off from school last Monday, taking advantage of the small crowds on such days.

...And speaking of Disneyland, here's a wonderful photo of the interior of Walt Disney's apartment atop the fire station on Main Street U.S.A.

...Season 3 of THIRTYSOMETHING comes to DVD on May 11, 2010. Season 2 was released last week.

...Columbia Classics has updated its DVD website.

...Susan King of the L.A. Times recently interviewed Julie Andrews.

...There's a new "on demand" DVD series from Universal, being sold exclusively through Amazon. Details from 50 Westerns From the '50s and TV Shows on DVD.

...Glenn Erickson reviews a new Warner Archive release, THE UNSUSPECTED (1947), at DVD Savant. My daughter enjoyed this on TCM. It has a great cast including Claude Rains, Audrey Totter, and Constance Bennett.

...Don't miss Mark Steyn, Daniel Henninger, Michael Barone, Matthew Continetti, and Victor Davis Hanson on last week's election results.

...Here's a great-looking recipe for Molasses Spice Cookies, which includes black pepper among the spices! (Hat tip: Too Many Dirty Dishes.)

Have a great week!

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