Sunday, February 28, 2010

Las Vegas: M&M's and Coca-Cola Stores

We started sightseeing our first afternoon in Las Vegas with a stop at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood.


As is the case inside so many Las Vegas resorts, it's perpetually nighttime, regardless of how sunny it might be outdoors:


The interior of the Miracle Mile Shops was reminiscent of the Mexico Pavilion at Disney World's Epcot, another spot where it's nighttime at all hours. We were happy to find a Sur La Table kitchen store here!

Then for a walk down Las Vegas Boulevard to the Coca-Cola Store and M&M's World, which are right next to each other. Unfortunately these attractions, which are most likely to appeal to families, are next to one of the sketchier blocks on the Strip, where at least a couple dozen lowlifes were aggressively hawking some of the city's less savory attractions. It was an...interesting...walk, but we enjoyed ourselves once we arrived at our destination!


The Coca-Cola store features two floors of Coke merchandise of all kinds. It was great fun looking around. Since our family likes Cola Pot Roast, I was happy to discover CLASSIC COOKING WITH COCA-COLA.


Next door is the very colorful M&M's World, four floors of displays and merchandise featuring nothing but M&M's, of course!

You can buy M&Ms in any color...


...even a "racing team mix" with colors matching the M&M's NASCAR car. A full-sized car is on display as well!


Some of the endless displays of M&M's merchandise:




These are "must" stops in Las Vegas for fans of two classic American products. There's also a Hard Rock Cafe nearby, a fun place to stop for lunch or dinner.

Coming next: The Bellagio Water Fountains.

Previously: Weekend Fun: Road Trip!; Back From Las Vegas!

Updates: Las Vegas: Bellagio Water Fountains and More; Las Vegas: Resorts and Roads; Las Vegas: More Resorts.

Back From Las Vegas!

We had a great trip to Las Vegas this weekend. First and foremost, we attended a lovely wedding Saturday evening. The occasion was also a wonderful opportunity for me to see Las Vegas for the first time since childhood.

We stayed in a very nice hotel near UNLV:


It was a gaming-free hotel, which was a relief after spending hours walking up and down the Strip.

Las Vegas has a fascinating skyline which makes it a lot of fun for shutterbugs such as myself, and there were many interesting things to see and do. This was NASCAR weekend in Las Vegas so the streets were filled with racing fans in colorful NASCAR gear. I very much enjoyed seeing many things "in person" which I'd heard about for years; the Bellagio Water Fountains, in particular, more than met expectations.

Below, the New York New York hotel and casino, complete with indoor-outdoor roller coaster:


Although we found plenty to enjoy, I'm not likely to return to Las Vegas without a good reason. The "sin city" aspects are quite oppressive. It's impossible to walk up and down Las Vegas Boulevard without the dregs of humanity invading one's personal space hawking their "business cards"; the sound they make fanning their cards to get your attention grows downright creepy after a while. The Las Vegas business community and local government apparently have no desire to do anything about cleaning this up.

When one adds to this the ground everywhere littered with more "business cards," the racy advertising plastered all over town (including mobile ads being driven up and down the Strip!), and the ever-present fumes of smoke and alcohol -- well, that's just not my personal idea of a good time, nor is it particularly family-friendly.

That said, I'm glad we went and we made many good memories; and I've got a camera filled with photos of all the interesting and colorful sights!

Below, the full moon next to the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas:


I'm looking forward to sharing more photos of Las Vegas in future posts.

Previously: Weekend Fun: Road Trip!

Updates: Las Vegas: M&M's and Coca-Cola Stores; Las Vegas: Bellagio Water Fountains and More; Las Vegas: Resorts and Roads; Las Vegas: More Resorts.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Here are two reviews of one of my favorite pre-Code films, Loretta Young's MIDNIGHT MARY (1933), by Movie Classics and Mondo 70. This just might be my favorite Young performance, and she's ably supported by Franchot Tone and Ricardo Cortez. It's on DVD.

...Leonard Maltin reviews the new Bad Girls of Film Noir DVD sets. Incidentally, I have to confess disappointment with Mr. Maltin's new website, which is disorganized and doesn't seem to be updated with new content as often as his old site.

...This post was written a couple of years ago, but it's never too late to enjoy a tribute to Robert Montgomery.

...The highly regarded Power Line, one of the finest political blogs on the web, is now a free iTunes app, in a format which is easier to read on a mobile device than going directly to the Power Line website.

...Moira Finnie recently wrote a lovely essay on Tyrone Power at Skeins of Thought. And over at the TCM Blog she has a very interesting post on the film THE SILVER CORD (1933), starring Irene Dunne and Joel McCrea.

...Ivan had the good news that one of my favorite country singers, Don Williams, has been elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

...I came across Four Story Mistake, a children's lit blog, thanks to the blogroll at Flying Down to Hollywood.

...Monty at All Good Things reviewed FIVE CAME BACK (1939), a short little RKO movie which packs a punch. I've never forgotten how much it spooked me when I saw it as a teen at the L.A. County Museum of Art. It was remade as BACK FROM ETERNITY with Robert Ryan in 1956... All Good Things has been added to the blog roll at the left. (Hat tip: KC at Classic Movies.)

...KC also pointed me in the direction of an interesting review of Zachary Scott and Betty Field in THE SOUTHERNER (1945) by Cliff at Immortal Ephemera. I've had the DVD from VCI on my shelf for a while now but haven't yet watched it.

...John DiLeo pays tribute to the late actor-dancer James Mitchell at Screen Savers. DiLeo focuses on Mitchell's work in the musical DEEP IN MY HEART (1954), and three great dramas: BORDER INCIDENT (1949), STARS IN MY CROWN (1950), and DEVIL'S DOORWAY (1950).

...This slow cooker carnitas recipe at A Year of Slow Cooking looks great!

...I just came across an enjoyable 2009 post at Kevin's Movie Corner about Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and his film THE EXILE (1947).

...Musings on Kitchen-Aid stand mixers are at Al Dente...my husband has had a cobalt blue Kitchen-Aid stand mixer for years, but the funny thing is, he and our children are the only ones who use it. I've never used anything but a hand mixer. Maybe someday I'll give it a whirl!

...Valentine's Day has passed, but it's never too late for romantic movies...here's an interesting list posted by Panavia999.

...My friend Michele passed on this link about a new book, COLLECTIBLE MOVIE POSTERS.

...A 2008 British version of THE 39 STEPS airs Sunday night on MASTERPIECE. USA Today published a story on the new adaptation.

...Here's more on the UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS sequel first mentioned here last fall.

...And speaking of British TV, don't forget that the first season of POLDARK is out on DVD next Tuesday, March 2nd! (Update: More good POLDARK news -- POLDARK II will be released on September 28, 2010.)

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekend Fun: Road Trip!

We're heading out early today for a whirlwind trip to Nevada to attend a family wedding.


Prior to attending the wedding Saturday evening, we'll have about 24 hours free to explore Las Vegas. While my husband is there fairly often on business -- in fact, he has to go back next month! -- I haven't been to Las Vegas since the early '70s.

I'm looking forward to seeing M&M's World, the Coca-Cola Store, and the Bellagio Water Fountains.

While I'm on the subject of Las Vegas, I highly recommend the photo book FABULOUS LAS VEGAS IN THE '50S, by Fred Basten and Charles Phoenix. It's a great collection of retro photos and other memorabilia showcasing Las Vegas "back in the day."

If our hotel has wi-fi I may be able to moderate comments while I'm away. Otherwise any comments submitted while I'm gone will be posted Sunday evening.

I've pre-scheduled an Around the Blogosphere post to publish Saturday morning -- so check back for lots of fun reading links to enjoy over the weekend while I'm away!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In Disney News...

...The spring-like view to the left is of the Disneyland Hub on a recent February day. (Click to enlarge.)

...There's lots of interesting Disneyland info in the new MiceAge update from Al Lutz.

One line that particularly caught my eye: "Part of the developing master plan for Disneyland, and something that is now quickly gaining support from the TDA team, includes a Disneyland Paris style arcade on the east side of Main Street USA."

I think this is a wonderful idea. The arcades in Paris serve the dual purpose of relieving congestion during parades and providing protection from inclement weather; weather is much more of a factor in Paris than Anaheim, but Anaheim has a greater need for alternate walkways than Paris. Many Disneyland veterans know how to create an "alternate exit path" by weaving through the backs of Main Street stores when the park is crowded, but an arcade would be much easier.

The Paris arcades are also visually attractive and provide interesting nooks and crannies to explore. Here's a photo of one:


...Thanks to the blogroll at Motion Picture Gems for introducing me to the Disneyland Daily Photo blog.

It contains some very nice photos and bits of trivia. Disneyland fans will want to check it out. I've added it to my Disney blogroll at the left.

...Speaking of Disneyland photos, the official Disney Parks blog has a great photo of the Sailing Ship Columbia on a dark, foggy morning.

I really enjoy the contributions of Disneyland's chief photographer to the official blog. Disney's doing a great job utilizing "new media" in this way.

...Disney recently surprised many when the company announced this year's animated film RAPUNZEL has been renamed TANGLED.

The buzz is that Disney thought a more generic title wouldn't be as likely to discourage boys from attending what they might perceive as a "princess" film.

TANGLED is due in theaters for Thanksgiving 2010.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New on DVD: Eye Witness (1950)

It's been a few months since I posted about the upcoming DVD release of Robert Montgomery's EYE WITNESS, so I thought I'd mention that it was released today, February 23rd.

EYE WITNESS is being released as No. 13 in VCI's Forgotten Noir series. The 1952 movie BREAKDOWN is included in this "double feature" DVD release.

I preordered my copy for a low price (under $9) from Deep Discount, but don't find a current listing there for the movie. (Is anyone else having trouble with Deep Discount's search function or not finding titles since they recently overhauled the site?) EYE WITNESS is also available from Amazon.

Coming to DVD: It's Complicated (2009)

IT'S COMPLICATED, starring Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin, comes to DVD on April 27th.

DVD Times says the extras will include a "making of" featurette and a commentary by director Nancy Meyers and others who worked on the film.

I would have preferred a classier cover, but otherwise it looks like this will be a nice release of a fun movie.

My December review of IT'S COMPLICATED is here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tonight's Movie: On the Avenue (1937)

An excellent Irving Berlin score meets screwball comedy in the very enjoyable ON THE AVENUE, starring Dick Powell, Madeleine Carroll, and Alice Faye.

Powell plays Gary Blake, a Broadway tunesmith and singer whose new hit show includes a sketch making fun of the richest girl in America, Mimi Carraway (Carroll). Mimi initially tells Gary off, but after getting to know each other Gary and Mimi fall in love. Gary tries to rewrite the sketch so that it no longer insults Mimi, but his revision is sabotaged by his jealous costar Mona (Alice Faye), which throws a wrench into Gary and Mimi's romance.

There isn't much more to the plot, but it's got pleasant performers, some wonderful music, and typical screwball hijinks about the crazy rich. Carroll is gorgeous, Powell and Faye are in excellent voice, and the songs are a treat.

The great Berlin standard "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" was introduced by Powell and Faye in this film. It was fun to discover the origins of a favorite song.

The score also includes "The Girl on the Police Gazette," the very hummable "Slumming on Park Avenue," and "You're Laughing at Me." The latter song is perhaps my favorite scene in the film: Powell and Carroll walk through Central Park in evening dress as he sings the song to her and they fall in love. This scene positively glows with movie magic and is a great example of the shimmering black and white beauty of the "silver screen." The beautiful cinematography is by Lucien Andriot.

This film was released the same year Faye played the lead opposite Tyrone Power and Don Ameche in IN OLD CHICAGO. The next year the trio reunited for the hit Berlin musical ALEXANDER'S RAGTIME BAND, and Faye's career really took off. She appeared in 13 more films before her retirement in 1945, including ROSE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE (1939), LITTLE OLD NEW YORK (1940), LILLIAN RUSSELL (1940), WEEK-END IN HAVANA (1941), THAT NIGHT IN RIO (1941), HELLO FRISCO, HELLO (1943), THE GANG'S ALL HERE (1943), and FALLEN ANGEL (1945), her last film before retirement. I rewatched the excellent FALLEN ANGEL a few days ago; it's a shame that she was unhappy with that film, to the extent she left movie making. She returned to films for the remake of STATE FAIR in 1962.

The one sour note in ON THE AVENUE was the presence of the Ritz Brothers. I simply don't "get" their style of buffoonish, cross-eyed humor and could easily have done without them.

The supporting cast includes George Barbier, Alan Mowbray, Cora Witherspoon, Walter Catlett, Joan Davis, Billy Gilbert, Sig Ruman, E.E. Clive, Douglas Fowley, Stepin Fetchit, and Bess Flowers.

Look closely and Lynn Bari can be spotted as one of the chorus girls. Another of the chorus girls is Marjorie Weaver, who just a couple years later played Mary Todd Lincoln in John Ford's YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (1939).

This film was directed by Roy Del Ruth. It runs 89 minutes.

ON THE AVENUE is available in an excellent DVD print as a single-title release or as part of the Alice Faye Collection, Volume 1. Extras include a commentary track by musical historian Miles Kreuger. Glenn Erickson reviewed the set at DVD Savant and also liked ON THE AVENUE very much.

ON THE AVENUE has also had a VHS release.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Maid of Salem (1937)

I love American colonial history, with the exception of anything to do with the Salem witchcraft trials. I thus enjoyed the first half of Claudette Colbert's MAID OF SALEM, but once the witchcraft hysteria started it was time for me to hit the fast-forward button.

Colbert is enjoyable as the lively Barbara, a Puritan girl living in Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 17th century. Barbara wavers between conformity to her strict society and a yearning to break free. When she meets and is secretly courted by Roger Coverman (Fred MacMurray), a charming political refugee from Virginia, a new, happier life seems possible.

First, however, Roger must either receive a pardon or find a safe place where he and Barbara can settle -- Spanish Florida is a possibility -- and while he's off planning their future, Salem's witchcraft hysteria snares Barbara in its net. It doesn't help Barbara when a jealous woman (Gale Sondergaard) discloses that Barbara's mother was convicted of witchcraft back in Olde England.

Although I didn't care for the unpleasant storyline, one of the film's strengths is its deep cast. It's fun to see Colbert and MacMurray in somewhat atypical roles. Bonita Granville follows her portrayal of a wicked little girl in THESE THREE (1936) by playing an even worse child in this film, whose spiteful accusations lead to deaths. Virginia Weidler is Granville's cute little sister.

Familiar faces cast as citizens of Salem include Harvey Stephens, Beulah Bondi, Edward Ellis, Louise Dresser, E.E. Clive, Halliwell Hobbes, Donald Meek, Russell Simpson, Mary Treen, and Sterling Holloway. Helen Westcott (THE GUNFIGHTER) is said to be one of the uncredited children in the film. Babs Nelson, who plays little Mercy, did voice work for Disney's BAMBI (1942) a few years later.

Much of the movie has a nice outdoors feel; the coastal scenes, with Santa Cruz, California, filling in for Salem, look appropriately "Massachusetts cold." (I loved touring Salem's House of Seven Gables a few years ago. The house is next to the harbor, and I've always remembered the guide saying you could "smell the world" from the windows back in Hawthorne's day.) According to IMDb, other exterior scenes were shot at the Paramount Ranch.

This movie was filmed in black and white by Leo Tover. It runs 85 minutes.

MAID OF SALEM was directed by Frank Lloyd. Lloyd specialized in historical dramas; his credits include titles such as CAVALCADE (1933), BERKELEY SQUARE (1933), MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935), WELLS FARGO (1937), and THE HOWARDS OF VIRGINIA (1940).

MAID OF SALEM is available on DVD as part of the six-film Claudette Colbert Collection. The print was in good shape. There are no extras.

MAID OF SALEM is worth seeing once for fans who especially enjoy the work of Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray, but otherwise it's a pass for all but those deeply interested in the subject matter.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Among the interesting posts in last week's film preservation blogathon were articles by Lou Lumenick on Zane Grey adaptations, including Randolph Scott's TO THE LAST MAN (1933), and by Eddie Muller on CRY DANGER (1951), which starred Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming. Miss Fleming put up some of her own money to support the restoration of CRY DANGER.

...More thoughts on film preservation were posted by J.C. Loophole at The Shelf.

...The Self-Styled Siren discusses movie rights issues and "lost" movies with Lee Tsiantis of Turner Classic Movies.

...Eleanor Parker was the focus of two posts last week at Classic Film and TV Cafe. Sazball wrote about Parker in a post titled "Underrated Performer of the Week" and Rick focused on Parker's tremendously entertaining film with Charlton Heston, THE NAKED JUNGLE (1955). I'm always happy to see Miss Parker's fine work recognized by others.

...Two early Robert Montgomery films, SO THIS IS COLLEGE (1929) and LOVE IN THE ROUGH (1930), have been released by the Warner Archive. Carrie has more -- including a great poster for SO THIS IS COLLEGE, plus the Archive links -- at Classic Montgomery.

...Head to First Showing for the latest TOY STORY 3 trailer, which has many more scenes than previous trailers. TOY STORY 3 will be out June 18th.

...Have you seen the Giant Light Saber Battle, a "flash mob" which occurred a few days ago in Bristol, England? Pure silliness, but fun.

...The popular political website Hot Air was sold by owner Michelle Malkin to Salem Communications last week. Hot Air bloggers Ed Morrissey (one of my favorite bloggers) and "Allahpundit" are expected to remain with Hot Air.

...More on the global warming follies from London's Daily Mail.

...Region 2 DVD news: Frank Borzage Volume 1, released last November, includes 7TH HEAVEN and STREET ANGEL. The set is reviewed by Clydefro at DVD Times. Volume 2 has LUCKY STAR and LILIOM. In the United States these films were released as part of the giant Murnau, Borzage, and Fox Boxed Set, which was a fabulous release, but very expensive.

...California's trying again to find a way to tax Amazon and other online companies. I find it disturbing that so many in our government take it as a given that everything must be taxed. One of these days maybe California will get smart and cut spending instead. This possible tax "collection" is yet one more economy killer.

...Sean Hannity has a new book coming out at the end of March, CONSERVATIVE VICTORY.

...A columnist at Canada Free Press shares thoughts on I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN (1951), which I reviewed last summer.

...Mondo 70 reviews Claudette Colbert in the pre-Code TORCH SINGER (1933). I found this film very interesting; my review is here.

...ClassicFlix has a list of Paramount films which will be released on DVD by the new company Olive Films. While many of the titles are post mid-'60s and not of much interest to me, the title UNION STATION (1950) immediately caught my eye. It's a terrific movie. Company rep "OliveFrank" posted at Home Theater Forum all the films will be remastered and released in their original aspect ratios. They will be available at all major retailers.

...A Shroud of Thoughts has a very interesting obituary for actress Betty Lou Keim, whose best-known film might be Vincente Minnelli's SOME CAME RUNNING (1958), which starred Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine. Another obituary is at the Hollywood Reporter.

...The London Times ran a nice obituary on Kathryn Grayson. Among the many lovely tributes of the past week: The Shelf, Classic Movies, Classic Forever, The Baltimore Sun, A Shroud of Thoughts, and the Ava Gardner Museum, which posted a beautiful photo of Ava and Kathryn in SHOW BOAT (1951).

Have a great week!

Coming to DVD: Alice in Wonderland (1951) and The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

Two Disney films are being rereleased on DVD this spring.

One of my very favorite Disney cartoons, ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1951), will have a special 2-Disc Un-Anniversary Edition out on March 30, 2010.

According to the Ultimate Disney site, the Un-Anniversary Edition will have a new featurette, "Reflections on Alice," and a new deleted scene, "Pig and Pepper."

The other extras will be from the 2-Disc Masterpiece Edition released in 2004, so those such as myself who already own ALICE may not wish to invest in an upgrade given the limited number of new extras.

THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (1986) returns to DVD in a Mystery in the Mist Special Edition on April 13, 2010.

THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE was previously released to DVD in 2002.

The main new extra listed at Ultimate Disney is a game. The other extras, including a "making of" featurette, were included in the 2002 edition.

This is a Disney film we've never upgraded from the VHS tape our oldest received when she was a little girl, so we might decide to take the plunge this time around.

As a postscript, a new version of DUMBO (1941) expected this year has been pushed back to 2011, when it will be released in a 70th Anniversary Edition. DUMBO has been released twice previously, for its 60th Anniversary and in a very nice Big Top Edition which our family owns.

As with all Disney films, titles are only for sale for a limited time before being withdrawn from circulation; they go back "into the vault" for several years until a new edition is released.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tonight's Movie: The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)

I can't believe it took me this long to finally catch up with Vincente Minnelli's THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, but it was worth the wait. It's 118 minutes of grand fun from the moment David Raksin's memorable score begins and the names of the all-star cast flash onto the screen. This highly entertaining film is the epitome of glossy MGM style, deservedly winning Academy Awards for its beautiful black and white Cinematography, Costume Design, and Art Direction, along with two more Oscars, for Best Supporting Actress and Screenplay.

The film tells the story of ruthless -- and highly successful -- film producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas), a character whose back story was clearly inspired by David O. Selznick.

Studio executive Harry Pebbel (Walter Pidgeon) summons to his office director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan), actress Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner), and screenwriter James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell), hoping they will agree to work on Shields' new picture, as Shields' career has hit a low point and he desperately needs a success. Shields believes he'll have a hit if he can work just once more with the successful trio.

In flashback Amiel, Lorrison, and Bartlow each tell how their careers were helped by Shields, who then betrayed each of them in turn. None of the threesome wants to work with Shields again, yet his magic is such that -- in a classic final shot -- they can't resist picking up the phone to listen together to his latest pitch.

The film is fairly melodramatic at times; Douglas in particular has a scene where his character, Shields, goes a bit over the top, screaming at Georgia (Turner), although I suspect this was meant to convey the depth of the guilt Shields felt for tricking her. For the most part, however, the melodrama is part of the fun, along with the film's wit, atmosphere, and clever allusions to familiar bits of film history. (Film fans will recognize characters and plot developments inspired by Val Lewton, Diana Barrymore, and Carole Lombard, among others.) The high point of the film might be the most melodramatic moment of all, Lana Turner's deservedly famous hysterical drive through the rain.

The film provides plenty of fodder for discussion. For instance, isn't nice guy exec Pebbel (Pidgeon) just as ruthless as Shields? His suggestion that Bartlow (Powell), who was a professor and successful author before Shields brought him to Hollywood, is better off because of Shields is absurd; Pebbel really believes that winning a Pulitzer is plenty of consolation for Bartlow's having lost his wife? Of course, we know that Pebbel has his own stake in signing the trio, since the last Shields picture left him broke.

Another question: Gloria Grahame won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for playing Rosemary, the Southern belle wife of Bartlow (Powell). Grahame is excellent, but how is it that she won the Oscar for her small role, while Lana Turner didn't even receive a nomination? (In his introduction on Turner Classic Movies, Robert Osborne suggests Grahame won in recognition for her entire body of work that year, which also included THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, SUDDEN FEAR, and MACAO.) Turner is flat-out terrific in this. A few years later her acting ability would finally be recognized with a Best Actress nomination for PEYTON PLACE (1957).

Another curious Oscar omission was the lack of a nomination for the superb score by David Raksin, which helps set the film's glamorous tone from the moment the opening credits begin. I suspect that many more people remember Raksin's score today than could whistle a few bars of the music for a couple of the actual nominees, such as THE MIRACLE OF OUR LADY FATIMA or THE THIEF.

Gorgeous Elaine Stewart is a scene stealer in a small role as Lila, who dates Jonathan and Latin lover Gaucho (Gilbert Roland). Her last scene, on a staircase, where she tells Lana Turner "You were swell" and then sashays back up the stairs, is classic. Musical fans might remember Stewart as Jane, Gene Kelly's fiancee in BRIGADOON (1954), also directed by Vincente Minnelli.

Little Sandy Descher plays the child actress screaming in the "Cat Man" film. Vanessa Brown has a few scenes as the girlfriend who later marries Amiel (Sullivan). Paul Stewart plays Syd, the studio press agent, and Sammy White plays Georgia's devoted agent. Look for Barbara Billingsley (LEAVE IT TO BEAVER) as a costume designer unhappy with the way Georgia wears her gown. The actor in Georgia's screen test is Steve Forrest (who, incidentally, was Dana Andrews' little brother). Kurt Kasznar can be spotted in an uncredited role in a party scene.

Other familiar faces in the cast include Ned Glass, Marietta Canty, Kathleen Freeman, Madge Blake, and Dabbs Greer.

I wonder how many of perennial bit player Bess Flowers' 785 credits were party scenes? The number must be in the hundreds. She's in an evening gown at a party again in this film.

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL has been released on VHS and DVD. DVD extras include the documentary LANA TURNER: A DAUGHTER'S MEMOIR.

It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies, where it next airs on March 7, 2010.

The trailer can be seen here.

Highly recommended as glossy, grand MGM entertainment at its best.

New Trailer: Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009)

A trailer has just been released for the Disney documentary WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY (2009), which opens in limited release on March 26th.

The movie will play in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York.

The website First Showing says "This is, hands down, a must see documentary for anyone that loves Disney or anyone that wants to see an honest and intimate look at the world of Disney Animation."



Sounds like it's going to be fascinating. Here's hoping it will also have a DVD release for those who are unable to see it when it plays in theaters.

Coming to DVD: The Barbara Stanwyck Collection

Great classic DVD news: the Universal Backlot DVD series continues with the release of the six-film Barbara Stanwyck Collection on April 27, 2010.

The films in the set will be: INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY (1937), THE GREAT MAN'S LADY (1942), THE BRIDE WORE BOOTS (1946), THE LADY GAMBLES (1949), ALL I DESIRE (1953), and THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW (1956).

INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY costars Joel McCrea in the first film featuring the character Dr. Kildare. Stanwyck and McCrea also star in THE GREAT MAN'S LADY, costarring Brian Donlevy.

THE BRIDE WORE BOOTS is a comedy with Robert Cummings, while THE LADY GAMBLES is a drama costarring Robert Preston.

ALL I DESIRE and THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW were both directed by Douglas Sirk. ALL I DESIRE also stars Richard Carlson and Maureen O'Sullivan, and THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW reunites Stanwyck with her costar from REMEMBER THE NIGHT (1940) and DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), Fred MacMurray. Joan Bennett costars in the latter film.

According to an Amazon reviewer, the only extras will be trailers.

It's very encouraging that Universal is continuing to release quality "pressed" DVD sets with relatively obscure titles included.

The Universal Backlot series has been a real bright spot for classic DVD releases over the past year, with superb entries such as the Pre-Code Hollywood Collection, Claudette Colbert and Cecil B. DeMille's CLEOPATRA (1934), and the wonderful Claudette Colbert Collection, one of my favorite sets of the last couple years.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Great Moments in Olympic Skating, Part 2

Now that Evan Lysacek of the United States has won the gold medal in Men's Figure Skating, here's a look back at my all-time favorite men's figure skating performance, Paul Wylie skating to "Henry V" at Albertville in 1992.

Wylie, a Harvard grad, was not favored to do particularly well -- he had never placed higher than 9th in previous international competitions -- but he poured his heart and his considerable talent into his performance and took home the silver medal. His jumps and spread eagles are absolutely exhilarating. This performance is what great skating is all about.



Wylie's surprise performance and medal were so inspiring that the U.S. Olympic Committee awarded him the 1992 Olympic Spirit Award, which has only been given to a handful athletes who demonstrate "the special spirit of Olympism, courage and achievement at the Olympic and Paralympic Games."

In addition, Wylie has always been a class act who is a great representative for the sport. He earned an MBA from Harvard and now lives in North Carolina, where he has worked with Billy Graham and coaches skating.

Previously: A look back at Pairs and Ice Dancing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Three Hearts for Julia (1943)

THREE HEARTS FOR JULIA is a silly but agreeable romantic comedy set against the backdrop of World War II. I suspect I liked this better than some reviewers, simply because I enjoyed spending 90 minutes in the company of Melvyn Douglas, Ann Sothern, and some pleasant orchestra music.

The plot is a fresh spin on the old plotline of a couple divorcing and reuniting. Jeff Seabrook (Douglas) has spent much of his marriage to Julia (Sothern) traveling throughout Europe, chronicling the war in newspaper columns and books. Julia, the concert master of an all-female orchestra, is tired of a long-distance marriage.

When Jeff returns home from Europe anticipating a happy reunion, Julia springs the news that she wants a divorce. The rest of the movie chronicles Jeff's attempts to dispatch Julia's other suitors (Lee Bowman, Richard Ainley) and win her back.

It's all been done before, but Douglas and Sothern make the most of their roles. Sothern is stuck with a part where her character lacks sufficient motivation; her husband having a job that takes him away doesn't seem like a good reason to split up, and she's downright rude when he returns and finds a bunch of women have taken over his home. Sothern does her best to keep Julia likeable, and Douglas is fun as the frustrated husband.

Julia's desire for her own career is lightly touched on; it still resonates as an issue today. The women's orchestra is an interesting aspect of WWII, when women filled many roles for men who were away at war; the conductor (Felix Bressart), a war refugee, is sometimes frustrated by the women's multi-tasking but ultimately comes to appreciate them.

The orchestra added a fresh twist to the story which made it more interesting for me. I also enjoyed hearing various familiar pieces of music, especially the concluding folk medley. How the actresses did "faking" playing, I'm not so sure, but the MGM Orchestra made it sound good!

Look closely and you can spot Marie Windsor and Jacqueline White, leads of the 1952 film noir classic THE NARROW MARGIN, as members of the orchestra.

Another face from THE NARROW MARGIN is Jeffrey Sayre, who plays a man in the balcony at the opera; Sayre had 324 credits in bit parts over the course of four decades.

Personable Marietta Canty plays Julia and Jeff's maid, Mattie. Some viewers may remember her as Dora in DEAR RUTH (1947) and DEAR WIFE (1949) or as Delilah, the Banks family maid in FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950) and FATHER'S LITTLE DIVIDEND (1952). Canty was in 40 films including SUNDAY DINNER FOR A SOLDIER (1944)and DREAMBOAT (1952); her final film was REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955), after which she retired. She passed away in 1986.

The supporting cast also includes Marta Linden, Reginald Owen, Eve Whitney, and Ann Richards. Perennial butler Robert Grieg shows up for a couple brief scenes towards the end of the film.

A random comment: Why is it that so many movies show eggs stored in bowls rather than egg cartons? I've been trying to find out when cartons came into widespread use but haven't found a date yet. Melvyn Douglas pulls a bowl of eggs out of the fridge in this film, and even in films of the '50s, such as THE KILLER IS LOOSE (1953), the eggs are refrigerated in bowls. The foodie in me is wondering whether the bowls were used for asthetic reasons, simply because they were more attractive on film, or if cartons weren't used at that point in time.

This movie was directed by Richard Thorpe. It was shot in black and white.

THREE HEARTS FOR JULIA is not available on VHS or DVD, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

As noted at IMDb, the TCM print is 90 minutes long. Other prints -- referenced by IMDb, Leonard Maltin, and others -- run just 83 minutes. My educated guess is that the shorter prints edit out a couple concert sequences.

The trailer is available at TCM here.

MGM Musical Great Kathryn Grayson Dies at 88

It's a sad, sad day for those of us who love MGM musicals in general and Kathryn Grayson in particular.

Miss Grayson passed away Wednesday at the age of 88. Her birthday was just a few days ago, on February 9th. Click the title of this post for the Associated Press obituary written by Bob Thomas.

Grayson's films were an important part of my teenage years, as I fell in love with MGM musicals. Her films have played the same role for my children, whose favorite films include KISS ME KATE and LOVELY TO LOOK AT. If KISS ME KATE is playing on TCM, it's usually playing on our TV, even though we own the DVD!

Grayson started out at MGM in ANDY HARDY'S PRIVATE SECRETARY (1941). She appeared in a couple of "B" movies and a black and white musical, SEVEN SWEETHEARTS (1942), played opposite Gene Kelly in THOUSANDS CHEER (1943), and hit the big time with ANCHORS AWEIGH (1945), a delightful Technicolor musical costarring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. ANCHORS AWEIGH has been one of my favorites since childhood, and it's another title I've loved being able to share with my own children.

She appeared in a number of enjoyable films in the late '40s, including TWO SISTERS FROM BOSTON (1946) with June Allyson and THAT MIDNIGHT KISS (1949) with Mario Lanza; another Lanza film, THE TOAST OF NEW ORLEANS, followed in 1950.

Grayson's best films may well be the trio she made with Howard Keel in the early '50s: SHOW BOAT (1951), LOVELY TO LOOK AT (1952), and KISS ME KATE (1953); I think the latter might be her best film performance. She was absolutely terrific as one half of the quarreling theatrical couple. (Her wig as "Kate," incidentally, made her look rather amazingly like Eleanor Parker in 1952's SCARAMOUCHE.) The first half of SHOW BOAT, in particular -- before the storyline grows more somber -- is MGM at its dazzling best.

In the '80s Grayson joined fellow MGM veteran Angela Lansbury in a few episodes of Lansbury's MURDER, SHE WROTE.

Many of Grayson's musicals have been released on DVD, though a couple are still only out on video or have not been released at all.

Grayson films ahead on the Turner Classic Movies schedule: TWO SISTERS FROM BOSTON airs on March 10th. SHOW BOAT and THE DESERT SONG (1953) will air on April 18th.

Hopefully TCM will take time out to pay tribute to a lovely lady whose career brought happiness to millions. I'm very grateful for her contributions to the MGM musical and the joy those films have brought me over the years.

February 21st Update: More links paying tribute to Miss Grayson are at the bottom of this post.

Turner Classic Movies has been running a lovely "TCM Remembers" tribute to Kathryn Grayson, replacing the usual theme with her rendition of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."

March 4th Update: Memories of Kathryn Grayson.

March 9th Update: Turner Classic Movies will pay tribute to Grayson by devoting a 24-hour block of time to her films during this August's Summer Under the Stars festival.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Disneyland in Forty Pounds of Trouble (1962)

Al Lutz has a great article at MiceAge with screen captures of Disneyland as seen in the 1962 film 40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE.

The stills are fascinating, giving viewers a close-up look at Disneyland of the early '60s. There are some great shots of long-gone rides such as the old Mine Train ride and the Sky Buckets. It's also quite interesting how the film "mushes" some things together; for instance, the Peter Pan sailboats travel through Mr. Toad and Snow White.

40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE stars Tony Curtis and Suzanne Pleshette in a telling of Damon Runyon's LITTLE MISS MARKER, previously filmed with Adolphe Menjou in 1934 and remade in 1980 with Walter Matthau and Julie Andrews.

40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE has just been released on DVD-R as part of the Universal Vault Series, sold exclusively through Amazon.

The Universal Vault Series also includes the Tony Curtis film THE BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH. I haven't watched it yet, but the rest of my family caught it one evening while I was working and said the print quality was very good, though perhaps not perfect. A couple scenes I saw looked excellent.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Coming to DVD: Up in the Air (2009)

DVD Times has the details on the DVD release for UP IN THE AIR (2009), which will be available for purchase on March 9, 2010.

Extras will including a commentary track by director Jason Reitman and other members of the production crew, as well as several deleted scenes with commentary.

Per the trend discussed here recently, the Blu-Ray release will have some additional extras, in this case more deleted scenes.

My December review is here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Nevada (1944)

NEVADA is a fun Western programmer "Introducing Bob Mitchum." The movie was largely filmed in the great outdoors of the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, California, which makes it particularly enjoyable for anyone who has visited the area. My photos of our 2007 visit are here.

Bob plays Jim Lacey, aka "Nevada," an amiable cowpoke who is unjustly accused of murder. Jim eventually figures out that the evil town banker (Craig Reynolds) was responsible. Along the way Jim is helped out by a saloon singer (Anne Jeffreys), the murder victim's daughter (Nancy Gates), and his friends Chito (Richard Martin) and Dusty (Guinn "Big Boy" Williams).

The movie -- based on a Zane Grey story -- is a trifle melodramatic at times, but it does a nice job for an hour-long B Western. The location shooting adds a lot of atmosphere, and the plot also works in the discovery of silver in the Sierra Nevadas. There are a few touches of humor, a song by Jeffreys, and lots of action sequences filmed around the "Movie Rocks" of the Alabama Hills. The confident Mitchum demonstrates why he would become a big star just a couple years later.

Lovely Anne Jeffreys just turned 87. She was married to actor Robert Sterling from 1951 until his passing in 2006, and they costarred in the TOPPER TV series in the 1950s. I'm not sure I'd ever had the chance to see her sing in a film before watching this.

Nancy Gates is three years younger than Jeffreys. Her best-known work was probably in Westerns, including MASTERSON OF KANSAS (1954) with George Montgomery; STRANGER ON HORSEBACK (1955) and GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY (1958) with Joel McCrea; and the Randolph Scott Western COMANCHE STATION (1960), directed by Budd Boetticher. She did a great deal of TV work, including a couple episodes of MAVERICK in the late '50s.

A fun bit of trivia: Richard Martin played the same character, Chito Jose Gonzales Bustamante Rafferty, in an endless string of different RKO Westerns throughout the '40s. The casts and characters varied -- many starred Tim Holt -- but Martin turned up time and again as a character with this unusual name. According to an Amazon DVD reviewer, the first time Martin played the role was actually in a World War II movie, BOMBARDIER (1943).

Sadly, Craig Reynolds passed away a few years after playing the villainous banker.

Alan Ward plays the by-the-book sheriff, with Edmund Glover as an assayer. Harry McKim plays Nancy Gates' little brother; he was one of a family of child actors which also included Sammy McKim, who became a Disney Imagineering legend.

IMDb says Ben Johnson is a saloon patron. I'll have to slip the DVD in again and see if I can spot him in the crowd.

NEVADA was directed by Edward Killy. It runs 62 minutes. It was filmed by Harry J. Wild, who seems to have shot both "A" and "B" type pictures; the same year he filmed NEVADA, Wild shot MURDER, MY SWEET.

NEVADA is available on DVD. The picture quality is fuzzy but acceptable; based on the opening title card, it's apparently a print which was used for airing on TV.

NEVADA is by no means a great movie, but it's fun entertainment and a nice little slice of movie history, capturing both the young Mitchum and the beautiful Alabama Hills on film.

Today at Disneyland: President's Day

After a rainy couple of weeks, it's been a beautiful holiday weekend here in Southern California.

Our daughter was home from college for the first time this semester, so early this morning we went out to spend a few hours at Disneyland before it was time for her to head back to campus.

The day couldn't have been nicer:


The low-key Valentine's decorations around Town Square were a fresh new touch.


I loved the tulips around the Partners statue at the Hub!




The Rivers of America area is walled off for a few weeks for refurbishment.


We enjoyed a nice lunch on the patio at Rancho Del Zocalo before heading home early this afternoon.


It was crowded but not unmanageably so. We were able to enjoy a few rides along with window shopping and simply enjoying walking around the park on a beautiful morning.

Happy President's Day!

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