Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tonight's Movie: She Had to Say Yes (1933)

It's back to the department store for Loretta Young and Winnie Lightner, stars of last night's movie, PLAY-GIRL (1932). Tonight Loretta and Winnie play girls in a department store steno pool who are asked to entertain out-of-town buyers in SHE HAD TO SAY YES.

SHE HAD TO SAY YES was extremely entertaining, although it will make the women in the audience want to smack every man in the cast, and the jaw-dropping last five minutes will leave viewers with a severe case of mental whiplash. Indeed, the film's outrageous finale is part of its strange, bizarre charm. The modern viewer can't quite believe the script is for real, with lovely Loretta treated like dirt by two different men, yet happily going off into the sunset with one of them. (Well, not quite the sunset. The final shot left me gaping at the screen in stunned amazement.)

Pretty Florence (Young) is secretary to her fiance, department store executive Tommy Nelson (Regis Toomey). Tommy doesn't want his fiancee drafted into dating and "being nice" to aggressive out-of-town buyers, but then changes his mind when he decides he wants to two-time Florence and go out with Birdie (Suzanne Kilborn). Buyer Danny Drew (Lyle Talbot) puts the heavy moves on Florence, but then realizes she's really a nice girl and sends her home.

Florence catches Tommy with Birdie and breaks their engagement; meanwhile Florence is hotly pursued by Danny. Then Danny decides Florence could help him land a merger deal with Luther Haines (Hugh Herbert)...however, when Florence is successful, Danny becomes angry with her because he thinks maybe she's not really a nice girl after all. Got all that?! Before you know it, Danny and Tommy are duking it out over whether or not Florence is a tramp... All this in a mere 65 minutes.

This is Depression-era pre-Code soap of the highest order, with attitudes toward women so cavalier and alien that it really has to be seen to be believed. As a reviewer wrote at IMDb, "The final lines of dialogue will leave your head spinning...it will blow you away." Another reviewer said, "Having seen lots of pre-Code films over the years, I have to say this was the first time I held my hand over my mouth and gasped."

I thought Loretta's EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE, another department store melodrama from 1933, was disturbing, but this was on another level entirely...although ironically, I liked SHE HAD TO SAY YES a lot better than EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE. I thought it had better pacing and wasn't as depressing.

Although the overall plotline of SHE HAD TO SAY YES is from Mars, the script has some very good one-liners, a couple of which are given to Lightner, once again playing Loretta Young's best friend.

Loretta gives another of her excellent early '30s portrayals of a working woman struggling to get by and hoping for a loving marriage with a decent man. Poor Loretta's Depression heroines had the worst luck at times finding a man who was true blue and not a jerk. (James Cagney, who played Loretta's husband in the terrific 1932 film TAXI!, is another example of her characters' questionable taste in men.) Talbot is also particularly good as Danny, who is by turns charming, romantic...and downright scary.

Busy bit players Charles Lane and George Chandler, who were both in TWENTY MILLION SWEETHEARTS (1934), reviewed here last weekend, turn up again in this. Lane is a department store executive and Chandler is a taxi driver.

The cast also includes Ferdinand Gottschalk, Helen Ware, and Toby Wing.

This film was codirected by Busby Berkeley and George Amy. This was Berkeley's first directing credit.

SHE HAD TO SAY YES can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. It does not appear to have had a DVD or VHS release.

Like PLAY-GIRL, the movie has a somewhat racy trailer, although this one at least is more relevant to the movie's actual plot.

Noir City Film Festival Opens in L.A. April 2nd

Susan King has a nice interview with Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode about the upcoming Noir City Film Festival. The festival opens Friday night, April 2nd, at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

I have tickets to a double bill one night next week and am looking forward to sharing more about it here in a few days. I especially admire Eddie Muller, whose DVD commentaries I greatly enjoy, and hope he will be present that evening.

One detail in King's column which is incorrect: the article says none of the movies at the festival are available on DVD. EXPERIMENT PERILOUS is actually out on DVD-R via the Warner Archive. However, given that the playback of Archive products is unpredictable, this may be a minor factual quibble. It would be wonderful if all of the movies to be shown at the festival were available on burned DVDs.

More information about the festival is included in my post of March 23rd.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Play-Girl (1932)

PLAY-GIRL is the misleading title of an hour-long pre-Code melodrama starring Loretta Young and Norman Foster.

Loretta plays a young department store salesgirl who has high hopes for her career and has sworn off marriage, especially as she fears childbirth. Enter brash Wally Dennis (Foster), who sweeps her off her feet and marries her, only to be revealed as an inveterate gambler shortly after the wedding. Wally promises to get a real job but struggles to keep his word, until he learns his bride is going to have a baby...

In many ways this is a silly movie, with the unexpected, and rather unpleasant, plot detour into gambling and an even more unexpected detour when Loretta's character starts gambling herself near the end of the movie.

However, Loretta Young is absolutely magnetic. She was a stunning beauty as a teenager; she was just 18 or 19 when this was filmed. Even better, she was a mesmerizing actress, and she covers a great deal of emotional territory in this film. I like all of Young's work but find her films of the early '30s especially interesting. My favorite Young pre-Codes are MIDNIGHT MARY (1933) and TAXI! (1932). THEY CALL IT SIN (1932) is another I found especially entertaining.

Foster is pleasant, but he's never struck me as a particularly appealing leading man. Young and Foster also starred as husband and wife in WEEK-END MARRIAGE in 1932. Three years later, Foster became Young's real-life brother-in-law when he married her sister, Sally Blane (born Elizabeth Jane Young). He later directed Loretta in RACHEL AND THE STRANGER (1948).

PLAY-GIRL is also of note for its fairly stark depiction of life during the Depression era. I was especially fascinated by the huge department store time clock.

Loretta's best friend is played by Winnie Lightner, who was rather inexplicably top billed. Lightner's last film was in 1934. In 1948 she married film director Roy Del Ruth. They were married until his passing in 1961. Lightner herself lived till 1971.

The cast also includes handsome James Ellison (SORORITY GIRL). Dorothy Burgess plays a snarky salesgirl, and Guy Kibbee plays Lightner's beau.

PLAY-GIRL was directed by Ray Enright. It was photographed by Gregg Toland.

PLAY-GIRL does not appear to have had a VHS or DVD release, but it can be seen from time to time on Turner Classic Movies. The rather racy trailer doesn't have a great deal to do with the actual movie!

Update: Here's a review of Young and Lightner as department store secretaries in SHE HAD TO SAY YES (1933).

Quick Preview of TCM in June

Turner Classic Movies released their June schedule online today. 

The June Star of the Month will be the beautiful Natalie Wood.

TCM will be showing over two dozen of Natalie's movies, although it doesn't appear at first glance that they'll be showing a title I'd really like to see, THE BRIDE WORE BOOTS (1946) with Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Cummings.  It's a Paramount title and Paramount films are shown relatively rarely on TCM, though the numbers have increased this year.

The June title I'm most excited about is a Robert Montgomery film, THE MYSTERY OF MR. X (1934), which I've been wanting to see for some time. It airs on Saturday, June 12th.

As always, I'll have more details as June approaches. And over the next day or two we'll start to take a look at TCM in April -- Robert Taylor Month!

June Update: Here are complete details on Natalie Wood as Star of the Month.

In Blogging News...

I've been doing quite a bit of research this month on problems resulting from Google's imposition of "Autopagination" on Blogspot blogs. You can read my previous posts on Autopagination here and here.

I discovered that, because I've been blogging a relatively long time (five years this summer), I am still using a "Classic" template which is HTML based. Among other things, classic templates do not have the "older posts" and "newer posts" buttons at the bottom of the page which newer blogs using a "Layouts" template have built into the template. Classic blogs also aren't able to support the "followers" feature and other features common on other blogs.

Autopagination is preventing access to the first half of each month's archives for all blogs with Classic templates. You can pull up a title from the first half of the month if you know what you're looking for (i.e., if you search for a movie title reviewed in the first half of a month), but it is not possible to scroll through the archives.

Unless Google decides to bestow an "older posts" link on Classic templates, which is probably not likely, this problem will not be going away. It may be possible to get around the problem in the short term by changing archives from monthly to weekly, as discussed in a prior post, but the only long-term solution for those who want to archive monthly is "upgrading" (I use the term advisedly) to Layouts.

Last weekend I set up an experimental "dummy" blog in Layouts, which mirrors a few posts from this site, so that I can learn how to use Layouts before I hit the "conversion" button. (One reader has already come across it!) My understanding is that I will have to manually reconstruct parts of this blog, such as my blogroll, so I want to have a good understanding of how everything works going into the conversion project. The Layouts format is much different from Classic, using "gadgets" which can be dragged into place.

I'm simultaneously exploring the "new" editor...the jury is out for me on that. Sometimes when I use the "insert link" feature the cursor then moves back to the top of the post, which I find annoying. And why do link lines have "http://" on them when you're going to copy that in anyway as part of the link? If you don't erase it, you end up with the "http://" doubled. I think maybe it might just be faster for me to continue typing the code for my links, since I've been doing it that way so long, but we'll see.

Although this situation has been rather frustrating, given the other ways I would prefer to be spending my free time...like watching movies and blogging...I am looking at this at an opportunity to expand my technical know-how. I have already learned quite a bit about why other blogs are different from mine; for instance in Layouts it does not appear possible for a post title to be a link, which was common when I started blogging.

I'm sharing the above so that if anyone stumbles across my "practice" blog you'll know what's going on, and if you click here one day in the next couple weeks and find things looking a little different, that probably means I'm working on converting! I also thought this info might be helpful if any other Classic template bloggers come across this post. When another blogger suggested setting up a "dummy" blog before converting I thought it was a great idea. It's made the experience much less intimidating since I can try out anything without being concerned about what it will do to my blog.

Thanks again to those of you who have taken the time to answer some of my questions on technical blogging topics!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bits of Entertainment News

Odds and ends to start the week...

...Turner Classic Movies accidentally showed a commercial Sunday night. Apparently it was a technical error.

...Beau Bridges has been cast as Rocky in the upcoming TV remake of the classic series THE ROCKFORD FILES. Rocky was memorably played by Noah Beery Jr. in the original show.

...I enjoyed John Nolte's tribute to the late Robert Culp's character on THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO, Bill Maxwell.

...At Classic Montgomery Carrie has an interesting link to a YouTube page with a bunch of Ray Milland movies. The list includes THE GILDED LILY (1935) and HER JUNGLE LOVE (1938) which I've been wanting to see. I took a look at a little of THE GILDED LILY and the print is very good.

...Actress June Havoc has passed away. Havoc was 97. Her films include HELLO FRISCO, HELLO (1943), reviewed here earlier this month, and also MY SISTER EILEEN (1942), NO TIME FOR LOVE (1943), GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT (1947), and THE IRON CURTAIN (1948). Havoc was the younger sister of Gypsy Rose Lee; their lives were dramatized in the musical GYPSY.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Where Do We Go From Here? (1945)

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? is a strange little Kurt Weill-Ira Gershwin musical which finds Fred MacMurray, Joan Leslie, and June Haver traveling through time. The movie is so odd it may be a bit difficult to describe. The film's sheer wackiness seems to foreshadow the later Fox musical THAT LADY IN ERMINE (1948).

During World War II Bill Morgan (MacMurray) is frustrated by his 4F status, especially as lovely USO hostess Lucilla (Haver) is attracted by uniforms. With no uniform, Bill is relegated to washing dishes in the USO kitchen. He's assisted by sweet Sally (Leslie); unfortunately Bill is oblivious to Sally's interest in him.

Later that night Bill is sorting scrap metal and rubs an old lamp, letting out a genie (Gene Sheldon). The genie sends Bill careening back through time, to Washington's army, Christopher Columbus's ship, and then old New Amsterdam, where everyone speaks backwards Yoda-style. Will Bill end up in the army in the right century, with the right girl by his side?

The film's best moments are a pair of duets between MacMurray and Leslie, particularly "Love Remains." MacMurray does his own singing, and he does quite a good job. Leslie is dubbed by her regular singing voice from several movies, Sally Sweetland.

It's also fun to see MacMurray playing opposite his future wife, June Haver. She's so tiny next to MacMurray! Haver is particularly amusing as an Indian maiden.

The film's funniest gag involves the usage of the 20th Century-Fox fanfare near the end of the film. Be listening for it.

However, much of the film left me cold, especially when Leslie and Haver aren't on screen. There is an extended musical sequence with Christopher Columbus that I simply found boring. The Hessians singing a German drinking song, with all the barmaids wearing blond wigs, didn't do much for me either. Given the cast and my love for musicals, I wanted to like the film more than I did; perhaps I'll give it another chance at some point in the future.

Anthony Quinn plays an Indian chief who sells Manhattan, and Alan Mowbray is George Washington.

This film was directed by Gregory Ratoff. It was shot in Technicolor by Leon Shamroy and runs 74 minutes.

This movie isn't available on DVD or video, but it is shown from time to time on Fox Movie Channel.

For more on this film, visit Lou Lumenick's blog at the New York Post.

December 2012 Update: This movie is now available on DVD-R from the Fox Cinema Archives.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Ramrod (1947)

RAMROD is an absorbing, fairly dark Western depicting a brutal range war. The bloodshed is incited by a manipulative woman (Veronica Lake) with "daddy issues"; this grim tale with interesting psychological overtones calls to mind "noir Westerns" such as BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948) and especially PURSUED (1947).

Connie Dickason (Lake) wants to marry a sheep rancher, but her cattleman father (Charlie Ruggles, in a somber role) drives the man out of town. Connie takes over her erstwhile fiance's land and hires Dave Nash (Joel McCrea) as her ramrod to run the operation. Dave, a one-time drinker due to the deaths of his wife and son, is now a responsible gentleman who has great respect for the sheriff (Donald Crisp) and insists on doing everything by the book. Little does Dave know that Connie has gone behind his back to plan a stampede that will directly lead to multiple deaths.

The film reunited Lake and McCrea, who starred in the classic SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS in 1941. Lake's Connie uses her feminine wiles to trick men into doing what she wants. She's ultimately revealed as a very coldhearted woman. It's a rather unusual character and an interesting performance by Lake. McCrea, as always, is the sturdy Western hero who can always be counted on to do the right thing. I always enjoy McCrea in a Western; it's the movie equivalent of "comfort food."

Somewhat to my surprise, the movie is just about stolen by Don DeFore, as McCrea's sexy (Don DeFore?!), morally ambiguous sidekick. DeFore's performance was a revelation; I wish he'd done more roles like this instead of constantly being relegated to playing the comedic second banana to the male lead, such as in WITHOUT RESERVATIONS (1946).

The film has an excellent supporting cast. I liked Arleen Whelan as Rose, the resourceful dressmaker who quietly loves Dave. Whelan had an important role in John Ford's YOUNG MR. LINCOLN in 1939. Whelan appeared in about 30 movies and TV shows; I'd like to see more of her work.

Donald Crisp plays the by-the-book sheriff with quiet dignity. His relationship with McCrea in this film made me think of his role as Robert Taylor's mentor in SADDLE THE WIND (1958) over a decade later.

Preston Foster is the slimy rancher who is in cahoots with Connie's father. Watch for Lloyd Bridges in a small role as Foster's henchman. Nestor Paiva, Sarah Padden, and Ray Teal are also in the cast.

Ben Johnson is said to have worked on this film as an uncredited stuntman, a job he performed in many films before landing more substantial roles -- notably in John Ford Westerns -- beginning in the late '40s.

This 95-minute film has strong production values, including location cinematography in Utah by Russell Harlan and a musical score by Adolph Deutsch. The extensive outdoor filming gave the movie an authentic, "dusty" feel. Lake and Whelan's dresses were designed by Edith Head.

This film was directed by Andre de Toth, who was married to Veronica Lake at the time this film was shot. De Toth and Lake were married from 1944 to 1952 and had three children.

RAMROD is available in the United States on VHS. The print I watched from Republic Pictures Home Video was of good quality.

The movie has been released on DVD in Spain.

It can also be seen from time to time on the Encore Westerns Channel.

Fall 2012 Update: RAMROD will be available on DVD from Olive as of November 20, 2012.

Tonight's Movie: Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934)

Singing waiter Buddy Clayton (Dick Powell) is an almost-overnight sensation as a radio crooner. Buddy wants to marry his girlfriend, Peggy (Ginger Rogers), but Buddy's radio bosses frown on the idea, believing it will ruin his popularity with his TWENTY MILLION SWEETHEARTS -- the women in the national radio audience who each believe Buddy is singing just to them.

Like last night's Dick Powell movie, HARD TO GET (1938), the film is pleasant, though not particularly special -- until Powell gets the chance to sing a great new song by Harry Warren. Out of the blue Buddy's friend Pete (Allen Jenkins) produces the music for a song he wrote "with Harry Warren and Al Dubin." Buddy sits down at the piano and introduces the world to "I'll String Along With You," and it's pure movie magic.

The film is also distinguished by an early film appearance by the wonderful Mills Brothers, who sing two numbers and back up Powell on a third song.

Otherwise the film's storyline is fairly humdrum. As Buddy's agent, Pat O'Brien plays his trademark loudmouthed jerk, a character only slightly less obnoxious than he portrayed in the last film in which I saw him, GARDEN OF THE MOON (1938). Ginger sings one song and duets briefly with Powell on a reprise of "I'll String Along With You," but her character tends to stay in the background reacting to the goings-on. Powell comes off the best of the trio, playing a nice guy who gets plenty of singing time; besides "I'll String Along With You" and his Mills Brothers number, he also sings Warren and Dubin's "Fair and Warmer."

The three leads in this film were all very hard-working actors in the early '30s. O'Brien, Powell, and Rogers were cumulatively in a whopping 17 films in 1934. Rogers' 1934 tally included her big hit with Fred Astaire, THE GAY DIVORCEE.

The supporting cast includes Grant Mitchell, Henry O'Neill, and Joan Wheeler. Watch for George Chandler and Charles Lane as reporters; speaking of hard-working actors, Lane and Chandler tallied up 18 film appearances between them in 1934!

TWENTY MILLION SWEETHEARTS was directed by Ray Enright. It runs 89 minutes.

A side note: 15 years later "I'll String Along With You" was used in a different Warner Bros. musical about an agent and a new singing star, MY DREAM IS YOURS (1949), starring Doris Day.

This film is not out on DVD or video, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer here.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Moira Finnie has a most interesting profile of actress Helen Walker at the TCM Blog; Moira will have more on Walker's career in a Part 2. Walker's credits included CLUNY BROWN (1946) and CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948). In the early '70s I saw the nutty comedy MURDER, HE SAYS (1945), starring Walker, Fred MacMurray, and Marjorie Main, at the L.A. County Museum of Art. At the time I think the film's humor was lost on me, but I'd like to try it again.

...Also over at the TCM Blog, Kimberly Lindbergs reviews BACHELOR IN PARADISE (1961). I've got this one sitting in a stack of tapes to watch. I've heard it has terrific visuals, which Kimberly confirms, saying it's "an eye-full of early ’60s Americana."

...One more from an especially interesting week at TCM: Suzidoll takes a look a REAP THE WILD WIND (1942), which I reviewed here.

...Leonard Maltin gave the new film CITY ISLAND (2009), starring Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies, a thumbs up.

......And speaking of "thumbs up," you may have heard by now that AT THE MOVIES is no more, cancelled after nearly a quarter of a century.

...The classic Warner Bros. TV show 77 SUNSET STRIP may become a feature film directed by Greg Berlanti (BROTHERS AND SISTERS).

...Black and White: Cinema and Chocolate reviews Kay Francis in MARY STEVENS, M.D. My review from last fall is here.

...Disney World has dressed up its monorails to publicize TRON LEGACY, coming in December. Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner have roles in this sequel to their 1982 film TRON. The movie also stars Michael Sheen (THE QUEEN).

...Warner Archive is having a "5 for $55" sale through March 31st. Free shipping, too. You just have to check and make sure the DVD-R's work as soon as they arrive...

...Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches...the accompanying photo makes me hungry!

...I'd love to see James Mason and Joan Bennett in THE RECKLESS MOMENT (1949), which reunited Mason with Max Ophuls, the director of CAUGHT, released the same year. It's only out on Region 2 DVD, but it's a fairly low price at Amazon UK if you have an all-region player.

...It's been a depressing week for those of us who believe the economic facts show that, short of repealing Obamacare, the nation is now doomed to financial disaster. Add to that -- just for starters -- the coming decline in the quality and availability of medical care, the battle of statism vs. freedom, and the way we're continuing to mistreat our nation's longtime allies...and it's a very anxious, unsettled time.

...Welcome back to Ivan of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear! Ivan is out of the hospital and back to blogging. His posts this week include a tribute to Robert Culp.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Hard to Get (1938)

HARD TO GET is a pleasant though not particularly distinguished screwball romance about a silly heiress (Olivia de Havilland) and a gas station attendant (Dick Powell). The film is most notable for Powell's introduction of the Warren-Mercer standard "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," crooned to de Havilland while they are boating.

Wealthy Margaret Richards (de Havilland) drives off from home in a huff and finds herself with an empty gas tank and no purse. She has the tank filled at a motor court gas station, asking attendant Bill Davis to charge the gas to her father's address. Bill thinks Margaret's a deadbeat and, to her outrage, he makes her clean the 10 motor court rooms to pay for the gas she had put in her car.

Margaret decides to return the next day and pretend to apologize to Bill, thinking she'll get to know him and find a way to get back at him. They go to dinner, and Bill ends up thinking she's the maid at her family's mansion...and Margaret realizes Bill's really a nice guy...and on it goes in fairly typical romantic comedy style.

A large section of the plot focuses on Bill's attempt to sell his plans for a national chain of gas stations and motor courts to Margaret's father (Charles Winninger) and her father's friend (Thurston Hall). This angle goes on way too long and detracts from the developing romance, which plays second fiddle to Bill's business dreams.

I was also rather surprised that Bonita Granville and Isabel Jeans, who play de Havilland's sister and mother, disappear after the opening sequence and don't return until the movie's final scene. Granville is billed fifth, yet she's on screen far less time than actors billed much lower in the credits. I wish the movie had focused more on Powell, de Havilland, and the rest of her family. A dinner party scene where de Havilland trades places with the real maid (Penny Singleton) is amusing; more scenes like that would have been welcome.

On the other hand, did we really need to watch Charles Winninger and Melville Cooper unbelievably ride a beam up 40 stories high at a construction site to meet with Bill on business? The construction site scene alone sucked up a lot of time, without much purpose as far as driving the plot forward. That part of the story could have been told much more concisely. I think Winninger and Cooper had as much screen time together as Powell and de Havilland!

"You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" is one of a number of Harry Warren standards introduced by Dick Powell in the '30s. Other Warren titles which originated in Powell films include "I'll String Along With You" from TWENTY MILLION SWEETHEARTS (1934), "I Only Have Eyes For You" from DAMES (1934), and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" from ON THE AVENUE (1937).

The supporting cast also includes Grady Sutton, Allen Jenkins, John Ridgely, and Nella Walker, who's turned up in a couple other films I've watched in the last few days.

HARD TO GET was directed by Ray Enright. It runs 82 minutes.

This movie is available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive. It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

The trailer is here.

Coming to DVD: MGM and Fox on Demand

A new batch of "burned on demand" DVDs from Fox and MGM are now available for preorder. The release date has not yet been announced, but will be "soon."

Lou Lumenick has the press release and list of titles in his New York Post blog.

Most interesting to me is that at long last Lindsay Wagner's 1979 TV-movie THE TWO WORLDS OF JENNIE LOGAN is finally coming to DVD as part of this package of films. This title has long been on my "DVD wish list." Viewers who like time travel films such as SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1980) and THE LAKE HOUSE (2006) will want to check out JENNIE LOGAN.

My children were especially happy to hear that one of their favorite Christmas movies, Dick Van Dyke's FITZWILLY (1967), is on the list.

Other notable titles include Robert Montgomery's last feature film directorial effort, THE GALLANT HOURS (1960), starring his good friend James Cagney, and Henry Fonda in the political drama THE BEST MAN (1964).

Amazon has a special page for preordering these titles.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009); and a Visit to Walt Disney Studios

As I mentioned briefly last night, I was privileged to attend a screening of the new documentary WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY last evening on the Disney Studios lot. I received the free tickets thanks to my participation in the Disney Movie Rewards program. I'll have more to say about the film itself later in this post.

The drive from Orange County to Burbank was a bit of a challenge, as a leg of the trip that typically takes 15 or 20 minutes took an hour and a half! Fortunately I had allowed ample time for bad traffic and, after a brief detour in Los Angeles to pick up my daughter at USC, we pulled up at the Disney gate precisely on time, two and a half hours after I'd left home.

After parking in the guest lot just inside the main gate, we were invited to walk through the lot to the Frank G. Wells Building, where the movie was screened.

The Disney lot is small compared to other lots I've visited; it looks more like a college campus than a movie studio, with tree-covered walkways, park benches, and a large, inviting commissary. In our walks back and forth across the lot we were able to see notable studio landmarks I've read about over the years; it was almost surreal to actually be standing on the Disney lot seeing them for myself.

The biggest thrill for me was seeing Pluto's Corner, with its famous street signs designating Mickey Avenue and Dopey Drive. We also saw the Hyperion Bungalow, which dates from the original Disney lot on Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles, and we walked by the animation building which doubled as the high school in the TV series ANNETTE.

The Disney Archives are housed in the Wells Building, and there are several interesting displays from the Archives in the lobby. One display was of famous hats from Disney films, including Fess Parker's coonskin cap from DAVY CROCKETT and Mary Poppins' hat with cherries. There were also several display cases of costumes; I especially enjoyed seeing Giselle's "curtains" dress from ENCHANTED.

After the screening we were able to explore Legends Plaza, which is something of a cross between the Chinese Theater and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There are columns throughout the plaza covered with plaques honoring those who have made great contributions to Disney history. Many of those who were honored, including Fred MacMurray and Julie Andrews, contributed hand prints to their plaques. We were touched by the large wreath on a stand next to Fess Parker's plaque.

The lot's history and buildings are described in a post at Disney Fans Insider. It didn't seem appropriate to us to take a camera inside ourselves last night, but there are excellent photos here of the Legends Plaza and the Wells Building lobby; and here are more photos of the lot, including Pluto's Corner and the Hyperion Bungalow.

The screening of WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY was held in the Frank G. Wells Screening Room, with director Don Hahn introducing the movie and answering questions afterwards. My daughter had missed the chance to see Hahn present the film at Leonard Maltin's class as USC, as she had to make a trip to the airport that evening, and yet she ended up seeing it in a much more intimate setting at the studio; funny how things work out! And to top the night off, each guest was sent home with a WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY poster.

The documentary is about the resurgence of Disney animation beginning in the mid '80s; Disney animation had reached its nadir with THE BLACK CAULDRON (1985), and the studio was threatened with purchase and dismantling by a corporate raider when Roy Disney rescued the company and brought in Michael Eisner and Frank Wells to run it. (Years later, Roy would once again rescue the company by dispatching Eisner, but that happens after the film ends...) Roy Disney, Eisner, and Wells, along with Jeffrey Katzenberg, led the company to a "second golden era" of Disney animation, with titles including THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989), BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991), ALADDIN (1992), and THE LION KING (1994).

The film ends in 1994, when the triumph of THE LION KING was overshadowed by the tragic death of Frank Wells in a helicopter accident. Within the next few months Michael Eisner had a heart attack and Katzenberg left the company; excellent movies continued to be produced, but the focus largely turned to Pixar's computerized animation after the Pixar hit TOY STORY was released in 1995.

The story is told using home movies (some of which were shot by a young John Lasseter), Disney archival material, and news footage. New audio interviews were recorded for use on the soundtrack, but there are no new on-screen "talking head" segments. Hahn laughed that Eisner initially contributed in a "passive-aggressive" way, saying he wasn't interested in being interviewed but then providing a tape of an old interview he gave Diane Sawyer.

Given the film's limited 88-minute running time, it doesn't contain a great deal of specific information about the making of the films. (The place to go for that is the extras on DVD sets such as BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.) Most of the creative sequences focus on the brilliant lyricist Howard Ashman, whose death in 1991 was a great loss to Disney. The film's main focus is on the overall studio environment and behind-the-scenes politics which fostered the surge in filmmaking excellence. In some ways the documentary felt like only part of the story -- it could easily have spent another half hour or so on topics such as the films' creation, the post-1994 corporate battles, and the impact of the computerized animation revolution -- but the movie does an excellent job presenting its particular slice of Disney history.

A side note: the movie caused me to muse a bit on the creative process; for instance, what inspires someone to look at an animated crab and decide "Let's make him Jamaican!"?

WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY opens Friday, March 26th, in limited engagements in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York.

Reviews have been published by the L.A. Times (an "unexpectedly fine film") and San Francisco Chronicle ("a thoughtfully detailed study...a pleasure").

In response to my question, Mr. Hahn said the film will be out on DVD in August 2010.

Previous posts on WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY: February 10, 2010; February 20, 2010; and March 15, 2010.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Coming Soon: A Visit to Walt Disney Studios

My daughter and I had a wonderful visit to Walt Disney Studios this evening to see the new documentary WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY (2009), courtesy of the Disney Movie Rewards program.

The movie was excellent, and the entire experience was very special for a lifelong Disney fan.

It's too late to post the details tonight, but I'll be sharing more about our wonderful evening in the near future.

Update: Tonight's Movie: Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009); and a Visit to Walt Disney Studios.

Robert Culp Passed Away Today

It's been a sad week and a half for fans of classic television...first came word of the passing of Peter Graves, then we learned that Fess Parker had died...and I just found out that actor Robert Culp has died. He was 79.

I'm pretty sure I saw every episode of I SPY in syndicated reruns when I was a teenager. I loved the charming interplay between Culp's Kelly Robinson and Bill Cosby's Alexander Scott, secret agents who traveled the globe. I SPY is credited with being the first drama series to star a black actor.

The multi-talented Culp wrote several I SPY scripts and directed an episode. One of Culp's scripts was nominated for an Emmy award. He was also nominated for a few Best Actor Emmy awards but lost each time to Bill Cosby.

In the late '80s Culp guest starred as Cliff Huxtable's old friend, Scott Kelly, in an episode of THE COSBY SHOW -- note the way the name incorporates the names of their I SPY characters. The show seemed to be a reflection of real life, two very old friends simply sitting around talking over old times and cracking jokes.

In the early '80s Culp starred in another fun TV series, THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. Culp played Bill Maxwell, the perennially exasperated FBI contact of the title hero. As he had on I SPY, Culp also wrote and directed episodes.

Culp's film roles included appearing as Jane Fonda's boyfriend in SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963).

Thank you, Mr. Culp, for many hours of wonderful entertainment.

Update: Here's an excerpt on YouTube from an Archive of American Television interview with Culp, where he talks about his relationship with Bill Cosby, and here's a brief interview where Culp aptly describes his GREATEST AMERICAN HERO character. (I believe Culp's Bill Maxwell was the key ingredient on GREATEST AMERICAN HERO.) More Culp interview excerpts are available on YouTube.

Thursday Update: Here is the full-length L.A. Times obituary. And a London Daily Telegraph writer looks at Culp's guest roles on COLUMBO.

Update: A great tribute to Culp's Bill Maxwell character by John Nolte at Big Hollywood.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Caught (1949)

When James Mason met Robert Ryan onscreen toward the end of CAUGHT (1949), the phrase "clash of the titans" suddenly ran through my head. One almost expects to see sparks sizzling around the edges of the screen during the confrontation between two of the screen's most charismatic actors. CAUGHT is a compelling, unusual film which is highly enjoyable. I'd wanted to see this film for a long time and was not disappointed.

Barbara Bel Geddes is wonderful as Leonora Eames, a young girl from a poor background who believes she's met her Prince Charming in Smith Ohlrig (Ryan). Smith is a multimillionaire who sweeps Leonora off her feet and marries her.

Smith provides a life of luxury, with homes in Los Angeles and Long Island, but Leonora quickly discovers her husband is an emotionally abusive control freak who treats her as a possession. She struggles to make a go of her marriage, but realizes money isn't everything and flees her Long Island estate for a dingy rented room and a job as the receptionist for a pair of doctors serving an impoverished community.

Leonora falls in love with one of the doctors (Mason) and wants to divorce her husband, but discovers that a brief attempt to reconcile with Smith has left her with a problem which will complicate all their lives...

The movie is part film noir, part gothic melodrama; the mood is somewhat similar to titles like JANE EYRE, REBECCA, and DRAGONWYCK. The film's ending also called to mind Wyler's THE LITTLE FOXES (1941). It's a gripping story from start to finish. I would have liked just a bit more of a resolution at the end; the ending seemed rushed and was slightly odd, yet made sense in the context of the story.

Bel Geddes is excellent portraying her character's journey from sweet young thing to abused wife to a more mature woman with a deeper purpose in life. Mason had become famous for playing villains in British films such as THE MAN IN GREY (1943) so at this juncture of his career playing the noble hero was probably a nice change of pace. I really liked him in this film.

Bel Geddes and Mason both do well opposite Ryan, who otherwise dominates the screen with his portrayal of a very disturbed human being. One of the film's few flaws is that we never understand exactly what makes Ryan's character tick, although we're given some hints in an early scene where he visits a psychiatrist; some reviews suggest that Ryan's character was based on Howard Hughes. Despite this lack of character motivation, Ryan's performance as a man who lives for the challenge of acquiring and controlling things is fascinating.

Frank Ferguson, a wonderful character actor, has a nice slice of screen time as Mason's partner, an obstetrician who seems to live at the office. Natalie Schafer (GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) is the director of a charm school Leonora attends early in the film. Curt Bois is Smith's ever-present flunky. Watch for Barbara Billingsley (LEAVE IT TO BEAVER) as a department store customer early in the film.

CAUGHT was directed by Max Ophuls, billed here as Max Opuls. The movie was superbly shot in black and white by Lee Garmes. It runs 88 minutes.

Unfortunately CAUGHT is not available on DVD in the United States. Last week I bought a Region 2 DVD on sale from Amazon UK, which I watched on my all-region player. The price including shipping from England was approximately $12; it only took five days to arrive. The print is excellent, although the final shot of Bel Geddes was curiously fuzzy. Extras include a commentary, video essay, and photo gallery.

Film Noir Festival Coming to Los Angeles

The 12th Annual Noir City Festival comes to the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles next month.

The titles screening between April 2nd and 18th include CRY DANGER (1951) on April 2nd, with Rhonda Fleming appearing in person.

Last weekend I read a wonderful interview with Fleming in Films of the Golden Age. What a great lady! Her personal website is here.

Julie Adams appears in person at a screening of HOLLYWOOD STORY (1951). As I recounted here a couple years ago, when I was in high school I appeared in a play with Miss Adams. She's now in her early 80s and as of a couple of years ago was still acting.

The terrific "psychological noir" THE LOCKET (1946) screens on April 9th.

Other titles include a double bill of JULIE (1956) with Doris Day and Louis Jourdan and BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER (1953) with Joseph Cotten and Jean Peters; another double bill is SO EVIL MY LOVE (1948) with Ray Milland and EXPERIMENT PERILOUS (1944) with George Brent and Hedy Lamarr.

I would love to see all of these films and wish it weren't quite such a challenge to coordinate my work and family schedules plus the lengthy drive. The double bills mentioned above are especially appealing; maybe I can swing one of them... Fingers crossed!

More info is at the Film Noir Foundation site.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Faithless (1932)

FAITHLESS is an interesting and fairly brutal pre-Code look at one couple's struggle to survive during the Great Depression.

Initially the biggest problem to confront advertising executive Bill Wade (Robert Montgomery) and his fiancee, wealthy heiress Carol Morgan (Tallulah Bankhead), is Bill's insistence that they live on his income of $20,000 a year. As Bill and Carol squabble and reunite multiple times over the ensuing weeks, Carol loses her fortune and then Bill loses his job.

With finances no longer keeping them apart, Bill and Carol ultimately decide two can live cheaper than one and marry, only for Bill to be gravely injured his first day starting a new job. With all other avenues seemingly closed to her, Carol goes to unthinkable lengths to keep her beloved husband alive.

This was a dark yet romantic film which is as "pre-Code" as they come. The plotline would have been impossible to film just a couple of years later, especially as the heroine is not punished for her transgressions, as would have been required under the Code. The ending was somewhat unexpected and a bit improbable, but very touching.

The Depression storyline really hit home with me, as I'm feeling quite pessimistic and disturbed about the economy and our nation's future over the past couple of days. I fear that our nation's accelerating reckless spending -- and the inflation and taxation bound to follow -- is sending us careening straight into the same dire economic straits depicted in the film. But perhaps I digress...

This was the first film I've seen with Tallulah Bankhead. She was good in the role, but I can't say I particularly liked her. The main draw for me to see this film was Robert Montgomery, who is wonderful as Bill; despite his downward economic spiral, Bill retains optimism, and he is (rather amazingly) willing to look the other way at Carol's economic "choices" not once, but twice. Montgomery plays the role with a sweetness and vulnerability which is most appealing.

Hugh Hubert has a toned-down, atypical role as a man who wants to be Carol's "benefactor" early in the film, when she and Bill have split up. Maurice Murphy, Louise Closser Hale, Anna Appel, and Sterling Holloway are also in the cast. Particular kudos go to Ben Taggart as a kindly police officer who helps Carol when she needs it most.

The director was Harry Beaumont. The movie runs 77 minutes.

FAITHLESS has not had a DVD or video release, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, where it next airs as part of a Montgomery birthday tribute on May 21, 2010.

2012 Update: This film is now available on DVD-R in the Warner Archive Robert Montgomery Collection.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tonight's Movie: The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT is an exceedingly silly Doris Day movie. It's made palatable by the film's two leads, the lovely Doris herself and handsome leading man Rod Taylor. Taylor brings a much-needed dose of real-world sanity to the proceedings.

Doris plays Jenny Nelson, a widow who goes to work at a space laboratory owned by inventor Bruce Templeton (Taylor). Bruce is attracted to Jenny despite the fact that disaster seems to follow her wherever she goes. Bruce assigns Jenny to write his biography as an excuse to work closely together.

A goofy security guard (Paul Lynde) decides that Jenny is a Russian spy, and the plot gets sillier from there.

There are some genuinely funny moments, often provided by Taylor, who makes an excellent straight man. I enjoyed his bemused reactions to Doris's antics. His facial expression when he finds a couple of characters in an unexpected place near the end of the film is priceless. However, the film's frequent slapstick, cartoonish humor isn't my particular cup of tea; apparently this juvenile approach was director Frank Tashlin's typical style.

I did enjoy the set design and other aspects of the '60s lifestyle portrayed in the film. One of the more amusing scenes in the film has Taylor demonstrating his futuristic kitchen inventions to Day; his kitchen includes early versions of a microwave oven and a Roomba vacuum. A downside to the '60s look is that Doris is stuck with a bad haircut of the era, which she is constantly pushing back away from her face.

Doris sings a couple of songs midway through the movie; I wonder how many times she sang "Que Sera, Sera" onscreen? This is one of them. "Soft as the Starlight" is one of the movie's nicest moments.

Day and Taylor have excellent chemistry in this film, much better than as the battling couple in the previous year's DO NOT DISTURB. I wish they had made more movies together -- with better scripts!

Many of the supporting actors are familiar from '60s sitcoms; in particular, the movie seems like a BEWITCHED reunion. George Tobias and Alice Pearce, who played the nosy neighbors on BEWITCHED, play Day's nosy neighbors; Paul Lynde, another BEWITCHED semi-regular, is a security guard.

Dick Martin, Dom DeLuise, Edward Andrews, John McGiver, Arthur Godfrey, and Ellen Corby are also in the cast. Martin is effective in an occasionally witty role as Taylor's second in command, but most of the supporting cast is stuck with boring cartoon-style humor.

'60s TV fans will enjoy an amusing surprise cameo appearance near the end of the movie.

The cinematographer was Leon Shamroy. The film runs 110 minutes.

THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT has been released on DVD as a single title release or as part of the Doris Day Collection Volume 1. It's also had a VHS.

This movie can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is here.

A final note: other than a brief mention in the opening scene, the story has nothing whatsoever to do with a glass bottom boat!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Kathleen (1941)

Shirley Temple plays a poor little rich girl in the title role of KATHLEEN.

KATHLEEN served as a bridge transitioning the 12-year-old Temple from child to teen actress. Kathleen has been neglected by her widower father (Herbert Marshall) and emotionally abused by an unkind governess (Nella Walker).

Enter Dr. Angela Martha Kent (Laraine Day), a psychologist who agrees to serve as Kathleen's governess for a summer. Kathleen adores Angela and comes to hope her father will marry her instead of his gooey, insincere fiancee (Gail Patrick). One guess how the movie ends!

I wasn't expecting much from KATHLEEN, having read weak reviews of it over the years, but for the most part I found it pleasant, if unexceptional. A musical number in a dream sequence seemed a bit out of place, extending the length of the story unnecessarily (especially as Shirley was obviously dubbed), but otherwise it was an entertaining little movie.

The "Mary Poppins" type theme of an outsider healing a broken family has been done many times before -- 1935's SHE MARRIED HER BOSS is but one example -- but fans of the lead actors will probably enjoy spending time with them in this film.

I especially enjoyed Day and watching how Angela cultivated a respectful and then loving relationship with the distrustful Kathleen. Day was only 19 or 20 when she filmed this, not long after both FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940) and AND ONE WAS BEAUTIFUL (1940). Day is very self-possessed and mature; it's a bit mind-blowing to realize that in actuality her leading man, Herbert Marshall, was three decades her senior! In fact, now that I think of it, he played Day's father in FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT. I'm rather glad I didn't remember that while I was watching this movie (grin).

I'm always glad when Herbert Marshall -- and his beautiful voice -- turn up in a film. Marshall's diverse credits include classics for Hitchcock, Lubitsch, and Wyler, screwball comedies and film noir, pirate movies and Westerns. He often worked with young people in movies, whether it was Temple, Deanna Durbin in MAD ABOUT MUSIC (1938), or Margaret O'Brien in THE SECRET GARDEN (1949).

Lloyd Corrigan is effective in two scenes as a kindly doctor called in to assess Kathleen. Felix Bressart plays an antique dealer who serves as Kathleen's confidant, providing her with support and advice when she has no one else to whom she can turn. Watch for Florence Bates as a customer in the antique store.

The screenplay for KATHLEEN was by Mary C. McCall Jr., who coincidentally also wrote the screenplay for last night's movie, DESIRABLE (1934).

The movie was directed by Harold S. Bucquet. It was shot in black and white and runs 88 minutes.

KATHLEEN is not available on video or DVD, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, where it next airs on Shirley Temple's birthday, April 23, 2010.

A trailer is here.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Immortal Ephemera and Hollywood Dreamland both blogged about THE THIN MAN (1934) last week.

...Jim Hill saw a preview of TOY STORY 3 (2010) at the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas and pronounces it "a triumph...brilliant." He also said that the "hardened industry professionals" and "jaded theater owners" were "openly weeping" near the film's conclusion.

...Jacqueline analyzes THE HEIRESS (1949) and INVITATION (1951) at Another Old Movie Blog. I've never seen INVITATION, which stars Dorothy McGuire and Van Johnson; it sounds quite interesting.

...Last week I made the Pioneer Woman's Chicken Pot Pie recipe. It was my first pot pie, and happily it was a big success, though I need more practice working with pie crust! I did leave out peas and increased the carrots and celery; the only thing I'll tweak next time is cutting the amount of onion used in half, and perhaps I'll try adding some diced potato. The recipe doesn't seem to be available on line, but it's in Ree Drummond's book THE PIONEER WOMAN COOKS. Another review of the recipe is here. The recipe makes two pies. (Update: Thanks to Dana for a great tip about the film rights to Ree's love story being purchased, with Reese Witherspoon interested in playing the lead. Here's the info from the Pioneer Woman site.)

...50 Westerns from the 50s has a pair of marvelous photos of Western sculptures by actor George Montgomery. There's lots of interesting info about Montgomery's artwork out there on the Internet, including this 1991 article published at the time of an exhibition of his art at the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum.

...FALL GIRL: MY LIFE AS A WESTERN STUNT DOUBLE by Martha Crawford Cantarini sounds interesting. It will be published May 25th. (Update: Many thanks to the author for emailing a link to her website. There are some great photos and a filmography.)

...I suspect I'm in the minority on this, but I couldn't understand the fuss over Farrah Fawcett being omitted from the Oscars memorial tribute montage, given that she was almost entirely known for being a TV star. (The only one of her films I can name is SOMEBODY KILLED HER HUSBAND.) And why on earth did they include non-movie star Michael Jackson? On the other hand, I feel the Academy really blew it in leaving out a former Best Actor nominee, Richard Todd. Todd's nomination was for THE HASTY HEART (1949). He had a substantial film career, including starring in a trio of Disney films made in Britain and appearing in A MAN CALLED PETER, THE LONGEST DAY, and DAM BUSTERS. Shouldn't Academy acting nominees, of all people, be included?

...I didn't realize until a few days ago that Vic Damone published his autobiography last year.

...Actress Danica McKellar, author of two books demystifying middle school math, takes on algebra in her next math book, due on August 3rd. McKellar's first book, MATH DOESN'T SUCK, was a great help to one of our daughters at a point when she was struggling with math; don't care for that title, but love the book! (P.S. Our daughter now does fine in math and will be taking an advanced combination Algebra II/Trigonometry class next year.)

...Angels Flight, the little Los Angeles railroad seen in CRISS CROSS (1949) and other classic films, reopened last week.

...A mini-review of CAUGHT (1949) at FilmsNoir.Net calls it "the most elegant and romantic noir melodrama you will ever see." It stars James Mason, Robert Ryan, and Barbara Bel Geddes. Last week I ordered it on Region 2 DVD from Amazon UK. (Update: Here is my review.)

...There's a search on for a camera lost 86 years ago on Mount Everest.

...She Blogged by Night reviews the Kay Francis films I LOVED A WOMAN (1933) and LIVING ON VELVET (1935).

...Flying Down to Hollywood features a great YouTube clip of Ricardo Montalban and Cyd Charisse dancing in ON AN ISLAND WITH YOU (1948). Montalban was a graceful dancer, and his numbers with Cyd Charisse in this film, FIESTA (1947), and THE KISSING BANDIT (1948) are wonderful to watch.

...What marketing angle will they think of next? You can now order M&Ms customized with Disney characters printed on the candy.

...Dodger fans everywhere had a scare when 82-year-old Vin Scully was hospitalized this week after falling and hitting his head. Happily Vinnie is now fine and will be back at work Sunday. As Bill Dwyre writes in the L.A. Times, we are all "blessed."

Have a great weekend!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Desirable (1934)

A businessman (George Brent) attempting to woo a famous actress (Verree Teasdale) instead falls head over heels for the actress's gangly but blossoming 19-year-old daughter (Jean Muir) in DESIRABLE. I enjoyed this delightful 68-minute romance as much as any other film I've seen this year; I watched most of it with a smile on my face and was sorry when it ended.

Age-sensitive actress Helen Walbridge (Teasdale) has hidden away her teenage daughter Lois (Muir) in boarding school, even insisting that Lois remain at school past the time when she should have graduated. Lois comes home unexpectedly due to a quarantine, and before her mother can find a new place to stash her, Lois meets her mother's would-be beau, Mac McAllister (Brent).

Mac is charmed by Lois, who is totally without artifice and doesn't hesitate to tell him how much she enjoys his company. This prompts a running joke as Mac repeatedly replies to Lois's honest compliments by saying, "Lois, you must never say that to a man," and when she asks why, he just smiles and says, "I'll tell you later." It's increasingly clear Mac's a goner, but he's reluctant to move too quickly, as the sheltered young Lois thinks of him as her best friend. Mac convinces Helen to allow Lois to remain in town. And then wealthy young Russ Gray (Charles Starrett) begins courting Lois...

It's such fun to discover a relatively unknown film like DESIRABLE. It has a briskly paced script which still allows time for interesting character development. It's well acted by an excellent cast. I especially liked Brent in this; by turns he's sensitive, romantic, and funny. Muir (seen last week in 1940's AND ONE WAS BEAUTIFUL) is an unusual leading lady as the coltish, awkward Lois, who is beautiful but out of her element when she is thrust into the social whirl of New York. Lois would rather chat with the maid (Theresa Harris) at a dance than deal with trying to fit in where she's not sure she belongs.

Teasdale (Mrs. Adolphe Menjou in real life) is effective as the brittle Helen, who is lovely but far too wrapped up in herself to have much left over to offer anyone else. Helen's acting ability also makes her quite a manipulator.

There are wonderful faces scattered throughout the film: John Halliday as one of Helen's admirers, Nella Walker as a dressmaker, Jane Darwell as a party guest, and Arthur Treacher as a butler.

This movie was directed by Archie Mayo. The cinematography was by Ernest Haller, and the costumes were designed by Orry-Kelly.

DESIRABLE has not been released on DVD or video, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available here.

DESIRABLE is a charmer, one of those unexpected little surprises which provides a most enjoyable evening's entertainment.

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