Monday, May 31, 2010

TCM in June: Highlights

It's hard to believe it's June already. Summer is just around the corner, hooray!

It's time to take a look at a few of the interesting titles airing on Turner Classic Movies this coming month...

...Early Tuesday morning, June 1st, there's an interesting little movie about a boxer called RIGHT CROSS (1950). It stars Ricardo Montalban, June Allyson, and Dick Powell. Montalban is a dreamboat, and the film has interesting insights into ethnic relations of the era.

...If you haven't caught it yet, Robert Taylor's great WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951) airs on June 2nd. THE LAST HUNT (1952), with Taylor and Stewart Granger, also airs that day.

...June 3rd is a five-film birthday tribute to Paulette Goddard. Titles include SECOND CHORUS (1940) with Fred Astaire and VICE SQUAD (1953) with Edward G. Robinson.

...The evening of June 3rd there's a tribute to Sinclair Lewis. I plan to tape DODSWORTH (1936), which I've never seen before. It stars Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton, and Mary Astor. The relatively obscure I MARRIED A DOCTOR (1936), with Pat O'Brien and Josephine Hutchinson, also sounds interesting. I recorded CASS TIMBERLANE (1947) when it recently aired; it has a great cast including Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, Zachary Scott, and Mary Astor.

...Seven Rosalind Russell movies will be shown June 4th, including MY SISTER EILEEN (1942) and SHE WOULDN'T SAY YES (1945).

...MGM musicals airing on June 5th: the colorful HOLIDAY IN MEXICO (1946) with Jane Powell; LILI (1953) with Leslie Caron; and THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER (1941) with Nelson Eddy.

...Sunday the 6th TCM will be showing everything from Bette Davis in THE GREAT LIE (1941) to Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951) to Disney's OLD YELLER (1958) to THE DEFIANT ONES (1958). One classic after the other, in a wide variety of genres.

...June 8th is a SAINT marathon. George Sanders stars in most of the movies, with Louis Heyward in one and Hugh Sinclair in a couple more. (Update: At least some of the SAINT films will be preempted to make way for a five-film tribute to the late Dennis Hopper. The Hopper films shown will be THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER, TRUE GRIT, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, EASY RIDER, and NIGHT TIDE.)

...June 9th is another of TCM's "bridal" days. They did this a few months ago, but it's always a fun idea. The eight movies that day include OUR BLUSHING BRIDES (1930), BRIDE BY MISTAKE (1944), THEY ALL KISSED THE BRIDE (1942), and JUNE BRIDE (1948).

...The film I'm most interested in this month airs on June 12th: Robert Montgomery plays a jewel thief in THE MYSTERY OF MR. X (1934). It was remade in 1952 as THE HOUR OF 13, starring Peter Lawford. I wonder how many of Montgomery's films were remade? It seems like it must be a fairly high number.

...Robert Taylor's IVANHOE (1952) is also on June 12th. It also stars Joan Fontaine, Elizabeth Taylor, and George Sanders.

...A Dorothy McGuire birthday tribute on the 14th includes TILL THE END OF TIME (1946), about veterans returning from WWII, and I WANT YOU (1951). I WANT YOU, an excellent look at the impact of the Korean War on one family, also airs June 24th.

...I'm partial to Astaire and Rogers' screwball musical CAREFREE (1938), which is being shown on June 17th.

...THE HARD WAY (1943), airing June 19th, is an excellent drama starring Ida Lupino, Joan Leslie, Dennis Morgan, and Jack Carson.

...HIS KIND OF WOMAN (1951) is a fun film noir with Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell. Vincent Price has a marvelous, very funny role. I just wish the violence near the end wasn't so over the top. It's on June 21st.

...The frentic James Cagney comedy ONE, TWO, THREE (1961) has another airing on June 22nd. This one always makes me laugh!

...June 24th the March-Shearer-Laughton version of THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET (1934) is being shown. An "essential" in my book.

...June 27th's lineup includes the comedies MR. AND MRS. SMITH (1941), starring Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery, and SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963), with Rod Taylor and Jane Fonda.

...Only on TCM could one find a 10-film tribute to Anne Shirley! It's on June 28th. The obscure titles include GIRLS' SCHOOL (1938), THE MAYOR OF 44TH STREET (1942), and MUSIC IN MANHATTAN (1944).

...There are some good comedies on June 29th, including FORSAKING ALL OTHERS (1934) and THEODORA GOES WILD (1936). FORSAKING ALL OTHERS stars Gable, Crawford, and Montgomery, while THEODORA stars Irene Dunne and Melvyn Douglas.

...One of Esther Williams' best movies, NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER (1949), is on Tuesday, June 29th. It costars Ricardo Montalban, Betty Garrett, and Red Skelton. The Oscar-winning "Baby, It's Cold Outside" originated in this film. Williams and Garrett appeared at a screening of the movie at the TCM Film Festival in April.

...TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE (1945) is one of those intriguing "little" movies I'm looking forward to checking out. It stars Tom Conway (George Sanders' brother) and Ann Rutherford. It airs June 30th.

...One of Rita Hayworth's very best musicals, TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT (1945), is also on June 30th. It's about a theater trying to keep up morale by staying open for business during the London Blitz. It costars Janet Blair, Lee Bowman, and Marc Platt (SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS). I saw it multiple times in a revival theater in the late '70s or early '80s. Set your DVR and check it out.

TCM's Star of the Month for June is Natalie Wood. Her films will be airing on Monday nights beginning June 7th. I plan to post more about her month on TCM in a few days.

Many more titles are listed at the TCM website. Be sure to check out the full schedule, as it's a terrific month at Turner Classic Movies.

A note for those who have Fox Movie Channel: Titles airing this month include WING AND A PRAYER (June 1st and 4th), THE SHOCKING MISS PILGRIM (June 2nd), HANGOVER SQUARE (June 2nd), STORMY WEATHER (June 2nd), APARTMENT FOR PEGGY (June 10, 17, and 29th), NIGHT AND THE CITY (June 11th), CONFIRM OR DENY (June 14th), NO HIGHWAY IN THE SKY (June 24th), SITTING PRETTY (June 30th), and many more.

Check Fox Movie Channel's June schedule for details.

Update: For information on the June Star of the Month, Natalie Wood, please visit this post.

Tonight's Movie: Airport 1975 (1974)

AIRPORT 1975 is a deliciously hokey airline disaster movie in the tradition of ZERO HOUR! (1957), THE CROWDED SKY (1960), and SKYJACKED (1972). In the words of an Amazon reviewer, it's "so bad it's brilliant."

The filmmakers apparently had a sense of humor from the outset, as they decide to re-enact the collision between pilots Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Dana Andrews from THE CROWDED SKY 14 years previously, only this time around they switch places: Zimbalist is piloting the airliner and Andrews is in the small plane which veers off course. Alas, Dana's character has a massive heart attack -- he does get a nice phone scene first with wife Beverly Garland -- and his plane collides with the cockpit of Columbia Airlines Flight 409, a 747 descending to land in Salt Lake City.

Head stewardess Nancy (Karen Black) enters the cockpit to discover that the 747's copilot (Roy Thinnes) and flight engineer (Erik Estrada, a couple years before hitting it big on CHiPs) have been killed and pilot Zimbalist is semi-conscious and can't see. What's a good stewardess going to do now?

She's going to fly the plane, that's what! Nancy's boyfriend Al (Charlton Heston) and airline exec Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) give her voice instructions on changing course so she won't hit the Rockies, while trying to make sure she doesn't stall out when gaining altitude. Of course, Joe Patroni's wife (Susan Clark) and young son (Brian Morrison) are on board too, so both Al and Joe have a particular interest in Flight 409 landing safely.

Nancy keeps the plane from crashing, but there's no way she can land it, especially with some of the equipment damaged and the radio connection fading out. So Al and Joe come up with a plan: they're going to use a military jet helicopter to lower a pilot through the gaping hole in the 747's windshield. It's a beautiful thing.

From the vantage point of 36 years later, there's a lot of enjoyment from the sheer cheesiness of it all, including sideburns, bad clothes, syrupy music, and very unpolitically correct dialogue.

The movie star watching is great: you've got Ben-Hur's mother (Martha Scott) on board as a nun, not to mention two cast members from SUNSET BOULEVARD, Nancy Olson (as the mother of a critically ill kidney patient) and Gloria Swanson (playing herself, in an amusing, glamorous turn). Myrna Loy seems to be channeling Nora Charles's drinking habits as she downs one boilermaker after another. Linda Blair plays the kidney patient (the previous year she infamously starred in THE EXORCIST). Sid Caesar, Conrad Janis, Norman Fell, and Jerry Stiller are a bunch of obnoxious passengers. And Helen Reddy's along as a singing nun. Really.

If you look closely, Sharon Gless (BURN NOTICE) is one of the stewardesses, as is Laurette Spang (from the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA). Guy Stockwell (younger brother of Dean) is the first pilot to attempt boarding the plane while in flight. Other actors who wander in and out of the film include Ed Nelson, Terry Lester (THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS), Larry Storch, Judy Lewis (daughter of Loretta Young), and Kip Niven (Rev. Marshall from THE WALTONS).

Despite the harrowing ordeal, the body count is fairly low (4) and the entertainment quotient is very high, if the viewer isn't expecting classic cinema. Heston and Kennedy play it straight -- our man Chuck was a terrific disaster movie hero, and it's enjoyable knowing everything's going to be OK with him handling things -- but one can't help laughing at times at the dialogue and the ever-escalating situation. This is a fun movie to watch with a group to provide running commentary.

AIRPORT 1975 is 107 minutes long. It was directed by Jack Smight, who also directed Heston in MIDWAY (1976).

AIRPORT 1975 is available on DVD. Consumer reviews indicate that the version in the Airport Terminal Pack suffers from a distorted screen ratio. The DVD released by Good Times, which is the version we watched, is supposed to be the correct ratio. The cover is pictured to the right. (Funny thing, the location of the collision is incorrectly depicted in the DVD artwork. It's correct on the poster at the top of this post.)

This movie has also had a release on VHS.

The trailer is at IMDb.

February 2014 Update: An Evening of Airport Movies at the Egyptian Theatre.

With Gratitude on Memorial Day

We are thinking today of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and our freedom.

There are not adequate words to express our profound appreciation and gratitude.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Miranda (1948)

Before SPLASH (1984) and its mermaid led to a generation of little girls named Madison, there was MIRANDA, a gorgeous mermaid played by Glynis Johns.

MIRANDA is a delightful 80-minute confection about a lonely, lovely mermaid who "snares" a wealthy doctor, Paul (Griffith Jones), when he's fishing off the Cornish coast. She brings Paul to her cave and wants to keep him (it seems there's a shortage of handsome mermen), but agrees to return him to shore if he will help her see London and experience life as a human for a few weeks.

Paul brings Miranda home, telling his wife Clare (Googie Withers) that Miranda is an invalid patient. Miranda has apparently learned a great deal about how humans act from reading magazines; long dresses strategically cover Miranda's tail, but they don't explain her sleeping in a cold bath rather than a bed, or the otherworldly singing members of the household hear late at night...

Miranda has quite an effect on the men she meets, including Charles the chauffeur (David Tomlinson) and Nigel (John McCallum), an artist engaged to the neighbor (Sonia Holm). Charles and Nigel overlook Miranda's penchant for eating raw fish and drinking salt water; they are so taken with her that they are ready to break up with their girlfriends.

Meanwhile the perplexed Clare gradually figures out Miranda's secret; the moment she realizes fish have disappeared from the goldfish bowl is hilarious.

1948 seems to have been a year for mermaids, as Ann Blyth played a mermaid named Lenore in MR. PEABODY AND THE MERMAID the same year MIRANDA was released. Despite the existence of another movie mermaid that year, MIRANDA is a delightfully unique film -- and only a British film could have such a surprising ending in the '40s, which raises more questions than it answers.

Johns, who was recently profiled by Matthew at Movietone News, is absolutely delicious as the man-hungry mermaid. Miranda seems to accept men's admiration as her due, although she also accepts that nothing will come of her flirtations. Johns plays Miranda with just the right combination of innocence and calculation. And what fun to see her onscreen with David Tomlinson so many years before they appeared together as Mr. and Mrs. Banks in MARY POPPINS (1964).

Margaret Rutherford has a fun role as a nurse the doctor engages to look after his "patient." The nurse is rather eccentric, and when she is let in on Miranda's secret her reaction is delightful. Rutherford was the only cast member to appear with Johns in a Technicolor sequel, MAD ABOUT MEN, in 1954.

Griffith Jones's Paul also handles Miranda with remarkable aplomb. The movie does a good job showing his own attraction for Miranda, yet his love for Clare is never in doubt. Similarly, Clare is puzzled and mildly concerned about Miranda's effect on Paul, but she never lapses into the role of peevish "wronged wife." She's very likeable, particularly once she begins to realize that Miranda mesmerizes every single man she meets, not just Paul; at this point Clare takes on the role of amused onlooker as she waits for matters to become untangled.

The movie has a great black and white look, whether it's Miranda's magazine-strewn sea cave or Paul's elegant London flat. Miranda's tail looks remarkably believable, and Johns handles it as if she were truly born a mermaid.

MIRANDA has been shown on Turner Classic Movies. It does not appear to have had either a Region 1 or Region 2 DVD release.

MIRANDA is a very different fantasy which provides most enjoyable viewing.

July 2011 Update: MIRANDA is now available on DVD from VCI.

Tonight's Movie: The Great McGinty (1940)

THE GREAT MCGINTY is a very entertaining satire about political corruption, written and directed by Preston Sturges. Sturges won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for his tale of a hobo, Dan McGinty (Brian Donlevy), who ends up as governor.

Donlevy is superb in the title role. He recounts his story in flashback, beginning with the day he came to the attention of political bosses (Akim Tamiroff and William Demarest) after successfully voting 37 times in a single election. McGinty becomes an alderman, then the mayor and ultimately governor.

McGinty needs a wife to boost his political image, so he marries his secretary (Muriel Angelus), a divorcee with two young children. He never dreams that he will actually come to love Muriel and want the respect of her and the children, but he does, and becoming "respectable" is McGinty's downfall.

The 82-minute film has a marvelously witty script which remains amazingly topical seven decades later, as unfortunately political graft and manipulation are still with us. Besides the great dialogue, there are also some terrific visual gags, particularly during a taxicab brawl and later the jailbreak sequence. My only disappointment was the resolution of Mr. and Mrs. McGinty's relationship; perhaps it was the most realistic way for the film to end, but I'd have preferred that it not end on such a "downer" note.

British-born actress Muriel Angelus was a new name and face for me. She's delightful and original as Catherine, McGinty's wife. I love the way she introduces her children (and puppy!) to her new husband and the way she continues to call her spouse "Mr. McGinty." This was the last of Angelus's 19 films. Her other credits include William Wellman's THE LIGHT THAT FAILED (1939). She also appeared in Broadway shows including the Rodgers and Hart musical hit THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE (1938). She retired when she married orchestra conductor Paul Lavalle in 1946; they were married until Lavalle's death in 1997. Muriel Angelus passed away in 2004.

Steffi Duna plays the barroom dancer in the scenes which frame the flashback. I once met Duna at a screening of her early Technicolor short La Cucaracha (1934) and was able to have her autograph my program. She passed away in 1992.

The cast includes Allyn Joslyn, Louis Jean Heydt, Libby Taylor, Arthur Hoyt, and Thurston Hall.

Catherine's young children are played by Mary Thomas and Donnie Kerr, and when the children are older they are played by Drew Roddy and Sheila Sheldon. Sheldon appeared in three other Sturges films, and Kerr appeared in one more. Mary Thomas had the longest film career of the children; her roles included playing Barbara Stanwyck as a child in THE GAY SISTERS (1942) and appearing as one of Fay Bainter's children in MRS. WIGGS OF THE CABBAGE PATCH (1942).

THE GREAT MCGINTY has been released on both VHS and DVD. It's also been shown on Turner Classic Movies.

There's more on this movie at Senses of Cinema.

In his positive New York Times review, Bosley Crowther writes "Much praise must be bestowed on Brian Donlevy for his masterful comprehension of McGinty, who starts out as a plain dumb palooka and grows into a thoughtful man...Muriel Angelus is a beautiful contrast as the refined and level-headed wife."

The film was shown in the UK as DOWN WENT MCGINTY.

The trailer is here.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Last week SlashFilm posted a 1927 Paramount Studios map of California (seen at the left) which is sure to delight classic film fans, especially those who are familiar with California. Click to enlarge.

...The great swashbuckler SCARAMOUCHE (1952) is the subject of a post at Diary of a Celluloid Girl.

...The state is going broke, but California lawmakers are instead focused on a statewide ban on plastic grocery bags. (Banging head on wall...) Funny thing, when I was little we were told we had to give up paper grocery bags to save the trees.

...At Where Danger Lives, Mark takes a look at CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY (1944), a film noir with an unexpected cast: Deanna Durbin and Gene Kelly. I recently acquired this on Region 2 DVD and look forward to seeing it.

...Leonard Maltin reviewed the new Criterion edition of STAGECOACH (1939). It was also reviewed by Sam Adams at the L.A. Times. Those of us who own the excellent 2006 2-disc edition might just have to "double dip" in order to enjoy the wealth of new extras and an even better restoration.

...Mmmmm: "Making Soft Pretzels the Old-Fashioned Way" from the New York Times Dining & Wine section.

...New book: WARNING SHADOWS: HOME ALONE WITH CLASSIC CINEMA by the highly regarded biographer Gary Giddins. Should be a good read, though I take exception with what I've read of some of Giddins' opinions on Rodgers and Hammerstein in general and THE SOUND OF MUSIC in particular. More info is at Gary Giddins.com.

...Coming on July 13th from Laura Ingraham: THE OBAMA DIARIES.

...Feel good video of the week: a deaf eight-month-old baby boy responds to his mother's voice for the first time, thanks to a cochlear implant.

...More feel good news: Saturday Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay threw the 20th perfect game in all of baseball history. Remarkably, it was the second perfect game this year, following Dallas Brandon of the Oakland A's into the record books. Halladay's final inning is on YouTube.

...Last night I reviewed a terrific film noir, THE DARK CORNER (1946), starring Lucille Ball. Moira Finnie takes a brief look at another '40s Ball crime drama, Douglas Sirk's LURED (1948), courtesy of MovieFanFare. I have a recording of LURED which I'm looking forward to seeing.

...Moira also wrote a lengthy piece on HONDO (1953) for the TCM Movie Morlocks blog. I very much enjoyed seeing HONDO in 3-D at USC in the fall of 2008. As Moira mentions, I found the 3-D gave the film an amazing depth. It was unlike any other 3-D film experience I've had.

...More movie reviews: THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940) at A Shroud of Thoughts and THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945) at TCM's Movie Morlocks blog.

...Thanks to the BLACK BEAUTY (1978) DVD set, I became aware of the book HOLLYWOOD HOOFBEATS: TRAILS BLAZED ACROSS THE SILVER SCREEN written by Petrine Day Mitchum (daughter of Robert), along with Audrey Pavia. An interview with Ms. Mitchum is included as a DVD extra.

...At Hot Air, Doctor Zero offers thought-provoking ideas regarding Democrats and their attitude towards the United States.

...I'm happy that Toby of 50 Westerns From the 50s likes Ray Milland's A MAN ALONE (1955) as much as I do. Also check out his post and the link included on 50s Westerns as Comfort Food.

...Warner Archive is having a sale this weekend: 30% off regular DVDs and 20% off multi-disc sets, with free shipping on orders over $25. I ordered THE TWO MRS. GRENVILLES with Claudette Colbert and Ann-Margret, and SMALL TOWN GIRL (1953), which a reviewer indicates looks so good it might have been originally intended for a regular DVD release.

...Jon Weisman remembers Jose Lima and his short but memorable "Lima Time" as a Los Angeles Dodger. Lima passed away last week at far too young an age.

Have a great long weekend!

A Blessed Trinity Sunday

One of my favorite hymns, "Holy, Holy, Holy" was ringing out in church this lovely Trinity Sunday. What a great way to start the day.

Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tonight's Movie: The Dark Corner (1946)

THE DARK CORNER is 99 minutes of film noir bliss which sucked me in from the minute Alfred Newman's Gershwinesque "Street Scene" began playing over the opening credits. Newman's evocative composition was used in multiple 20th Century-Fox films over the span of decades, including I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941) and CRY OF THE CITY (1948).

Cut to a sign being painted on the window of a private detective's new office. The p.i. is Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens) and his attractive secretary is Kathleen Stewart (Lucille Ball). Lt. Frank Reeves (Reed Hadley) is keeping a close eye on Brad due to something which happened in Brad's mysterious past. Before long Brad and Kathleen are swept into dangerous intrigue and must race against time to save Brad from being framed for murder.

The cast of characters includes art gallery owner Hardy Cathcart (Clifton Webb), his beautiful, unfaithful wife Mari (Cathy Downs of MY DARLING CLEMENTINE), Mari's boyfriend Anthony Jardine (Kurt Kreuger), and "the man in the white suit" (William Bendix).

THE DARK CORNER has a sensational look, with shadowy black and white cinematography by Joe MacDonald, and loads of great film noir dialogue.

The theme of a couple racing the clock to save a man framed for murder was popular in April 1946; RKO's DEADLINE AT DAWN, with Susan Hayward and Bill Williams, was released the same month as THE DARK CORNER. The movie also calls to mind Clifton Webb's film LAURA (1944), as Hardy Cathcart (Webb) is obsessed with a woman in a painting, just as Dana Andrews was in LAURA.

Mark Stevens (recently seen in 1948's THE STREET WITH NO NAME) makes an excellent film noir lead, and Lucille Ball is a revelation in a straight role as the devoted, quick-thinking secretary. She's simply terrific. Those who know her only as TV's "Lucy" will discover a completely different Lucille Ball in this movie.

Deep-voiced Reed Hadley is most familiar to viewers of film noir as the narrator of films such as THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET (1945), BOOMERANG! (1947), HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948), and THE IRON CURTAIN (1948). It's great fun to see him on screen as the police detective. Is he Galt's friend or foe?

Mary Field has a funny scene as a movie theater ticket taker who overhears a conversation about Brad taking Kathleen up to his apartment. John Russell can be seen briefly as a cop writing a report after a brawl. Constance Collier and Eloise Hardt are also in the cast. Colleen Alpaugh, the little girl with the slide whistle, played one of the Kettle brood in THE EGG AND I (1947).

The film has a particularly good soundtrack, which utilizes Harry Warren's "The More I See You" and "There Will Never Be Another You" as background music. There's also some nice jazzy music provided by Eddie Heywood and his Orchestra. While Alfred Newman's "Street Scene" is used in the opening and closing credits, the rest of the score was by Cyril Mockridge, with music direction by Alfred Newman's brother Emil.

One detail puzzled me: a body is hidden under a bed for at least a day...or was it two? It's not yet summer -- we know this because it's "early in the season" for a white suit -- but still, after many hours wouldn't the apartment have smelled funny when the housekeeper (Ellen Corby) entered?

THE DARK CORNER was directed by Henry Hathaway. Hathaway's work in the film noir genre included THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET (1945), KISS OF DEATH (1947), CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948), and FOURTEEN HOURS (1951).

THE DARK CORNER is available on DVD as No. 10 in the Fox Film Noir Series. Extras include a commentary track by Alain Silver and James Ursini. It's also had a release on VHS.

THE DARK CORNER can also be seen from time to time on the Fox Movie Channel, where it next airs on June 8, 2010.

There's more on this film at DVD Beaver and from Raquelle at Noir of the Week.

The trailer is currently available on YouTube.

Tonight's Movie: The Shining Hour (1938)

THE SHINING HOUR is an engrossing MGM melodrama with an outstanding cast, marred only by a rather improbable ending.

Olivia Riley (Joan Crawford) is a glamorous New York City nightclub dancer who has come a long way from her hardscrabble childhood, when she was known as Maggie. A prosperous gentleman farmer from Wisconsin, Henry Linden (Melvyn Douglas), proposes to Olivia and she agrees to marry him, although she's not in love; she is fond of Henry and he represents everything she hopes for, including marriage, a home, and security.

Some of Henry's relatives are none too enthused by the marriage. Henry's older sister Hannah (Fay Bainter) hates Maggie before she ever meets her, and his brother David (Robert Young) is upset that Henry has marred the family's good name by marrying a -- gasp! -- dancer from the big city. Only David's wife Judy (Margaret Sullavan) is kind to the Olivia when she and Henry arrive at the family's Wisconsin homestead. As time goes on, Hannah becomes ever more spiteful towards Olivia, but David's feelings move in the other direction and he falls in love with Olivia himself.

Joan Crawford gives a very attractive, appealing performance as Olivia, who truly wants her marriage to Henry to succeed. Douglas and Sullavan are also very likeable as the two Lindens who are loving and kind. Sullavan's self-sacrificing love borders on the deranged, however, and is one of the things which makes the film's ending a bit hard to believe.

Bainter and Young play a pair of siblings who are pretty much rats. Hannah's nastiness and cruelty are hard to understand, although there are hints that perhaps she is jealous of her brothers loving other women. It's the only explanation which seems to make sense, as even her concerns for the good name of the Lindens can't excuse her behavior in the face of Olivia being such a likeable woman. Only in a '30s movie could Bainter's Hannah end up pouring coffee to the family rather than being hauled off to jail -- or a psychiatric ward -- at the end of the film!

Young's David is a selfish brat who wants everything his own way and especially wants what he can't have. Young convincingly plays this unlikeable fellow, who seems to gain some self-awareness and maturity by story's end.

Hattie McDanield has a nice role as Belvedere, Olivia's maid. Allyn Joslyn rather wasted in a small role as one of Olivia's New York friends. The cast also includes Frank Albertson, George Chandler, Frank Puglia, and Bess Flowers. Charles Coleman appears as -- what else? -- a butler.

Near the film's opening Crawford performs a very nice ballroom dance in a nightclub; she is partnered by Tony DeMarco, who also choreographed.

The film was directed by Frank Borzage, who also co-produced with Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Borzage directed Margaret Sullavan in several films, including the 1938 classic THREE COMRADES, which costarred Robert Young, along with Robert Taylor and Franchot Tone. I'm looking forward to seeing another of the Borzage-Sullavan collaborations, LITTLE MAN, WHAT NOW? (1934), in the near future.

The production values of this 76-minute film are first class all the way, including cinematography by George Folsey, a musical score by Franz Waxman, and costumes by Adrian.

The screenplay by Ogden Nash and Jane Murfin is based on a 1934 play by Keith Winter; the Broadway cast included Raymond Massey and Gladys Cooper. For the most part the film's dialogue is sharp and interesting, although at times it's a bit self-consciously wordy.

THE SHINING HOUR has been released in DVD-R format by the Warner Archive.

It has also been released on VHS and is in the library of Turner Classic Movies, which showed the film as recently as last week. The trailer is here.

In Disney News...

Here's some of the interesting Disney-related news of the past few days...

...The IMAGINEERING FIELD GUIDE TO EPCOT was just released in an updated edition. The IMAGINEERING FIELD GUIDE TO THE MAGIC KINGDOM was updated last December.

The series also includes the IMAGINEERING FIELD GUIDE TO DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM and THE IMAGINEERING FIELD GUIDE TO DISNEYLAND. These are fun little books filled with interesting facts and trivia about each park, perfectly sized to carry in a purse or backpack.

The long-delayed IMAGINEERING FIELD GUIDE TO DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS, originally due in spring of 2009, is due to be published July 27, 2010.

...I thought this was a joke when I first heard it, but apparently it's not: Cinderella's Golden Carrousel at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is being renamed the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. Another victim of Disney's big push to market to boys?

Fortunately Disneyland's King Arthur Carrousel is already named for a man and not in danger of having its name changed as well. Le Carrousel de Lancelot in Paris also seems safe. (Pictured above: Mary Poppins riding the King Arthur Carrousel, photographed by me in 2004.)

...Yesterland takes a look back at one of my favorite Disneyland attractions, the Mike Fink Keelboats.

I was really happy when they were brought back in the mid '90s, after disappearing for a couple of years, and was very sad when the attraction permanently closed in 1997. The Gullywhumper can now be seen parked along the Rivers of America.

...As readers have doubtless heard by now, TV pioneer Art Linketter passed away last week at the age of 97.

Linkletter was named a Disney Legend in 2005. Linkletter was the TV host for Disneyland's opening day on July 17, 1995, in exchange for which he received rights to the park's film and camera concession stands for the next decade; this deal turned out to be a remarkable fee for one day's work. Incidentally, July 17th was also Linkletter's birthday.

Linkletter was part of the park's Golden Anniversary in 2005. To the left is a 2004 photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix published on MousePlanet, where Linkletter and Julie Andrews announced celebration plans.

Linkletter and his wife celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary last November. He is survived by his wife and two daughters. Three children predeceased him.

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear has a tribute.

Friday, May 28, 2010

New Book: Knott's Preserved

KNOTT'S PRESERVED: FROM BOYSENBERRY TO THEME PARK, A HISTORY OF KNOTT'S BERRY FARM, by Christopher Merritt and J. Eric Lynxwiler, recently turned up in my Amazon recommendations. It looks like a very interesting read for amusement park fans in general and Southern Californians in particular.

It's a brand-new hardcover book which is 160 pages long; it's also available in a softcover edition. It includes an introduction by legendary Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter.

One of the book's authors, Christopher Merritt, has worked on projects for Disneyland, including serving as the art director for the 2008 remodel of the Sleeping Beauty walk-through.

Werner Weiss reviewed the book at Yesterland. For more information, visit the book's website or Angel City Press.

By coincidence, this week's Los Angeles Times Food section ran an article on the history of the boysenberry.

For those who aren't yet familiar with it, a related book of interest is last year's KNOTT'S BERRY FARM: THE EARLY YEARS by Jay Jennings, which is part of the Images of America series from Arcadia Publishing.

Previous posts on Knott's Berry Farm and related subjects: Today in Buena Park: The Dreger Clock Dedication; The Dreger Clock and Knott's Berry Farm; Today at Knott's Berry Farm.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Please Pardon the Radio Silence...

...I've been in the midst of a huge work crunch which is barely allowing me time to breathe, let alone blog (grin). I should have everything wrapped up sometime Friday.

I rewarded myself for this week's hard work by finally joining Disney's D23. I'll no longer have to chase down the quarterly Disney Twenty-Three magazine at Barnes & Noble or the Disneyana store, plus I'll now be able to sign up to attend D23 events.

Back soon!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jeanne Crain!

One of my very favorite actresses, Jeanne Crain, was born in Barstow, California, on this date 85 years ago.


My favorite Jeanne Crain film is STATE FAIR (1945), Rodgers and Hammerstein's only original film musical, which is also one of my all-time favorite movies. Very close behind it on my list of Crain favorites are MARGIE (1946), about an awkward teenager blossoming into a swan in the Roaring '20s, and APARTMENT FOR PEGGY (1948), in which she played the effervescent, talkative young wife of a veteran (William Holden) trying to complete his college education.

STATE FAIR has had an absolutely wonderful DVD release; it's a beautiful print and has many extras. There was also an earlier DVD release without extras. If you've not yet become acquainted with this charming, colorful film, I highly recommend it. The Rodgers and Hammerstein standards which were written for this film include the Oscar-winning "It Might as Well Be Spring" as well as the marvelous "It's a Grand Night for Singing."

Unfortunately neither MARGIE or APARTMENT FOR PEGGY is available on DVD or video, although Fox Movie Channel has been including APARTMENT FOR PEGGY in its rotation in recent months; it next airs on June 10, 17, and 29, 2010.

In addition to her film career, Jeanne Crain was the mother of seven children. She passed away in 2003.

Relatively little has been published about Crain's career. In 1977 a lovely little book was published, JEANNE CRAIN: THE BEAUTIFUL DREAMER, by Phil Booker. There is also a chapter on her career in James Robert Parish's 1971 book THE FOX GIRLS, one of my favorite titles by that prolific biographer.

Other Jeanne Crain films previously reviewed here: HOME IN INDIANA (1944), IN THE MEANTIME, DARLING (1944), YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME (1948), A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949), TAKE CARE OF MY LITTLE GIRL (1951), I'LL GET BY (1951), DANGEROUS CROSSING (1953), VICKI (1953), THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE (1956), and SKYJACKED (1972).

Monty has also posted a birthday tribute to Jeanne Crain, with a lovely photo, at All Good Things.

2013 Update: Here's an additional Crain film review, for THE TATTERED DRESS (1957).

May the Cookies Be With You

Just in time for the 30th anniversary of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK...Williams-Sonoma is now exclusively selling STAR WARS cookie cutters.

My 12-year-old STAR WARS fanatic is ready to head to Williams-Sonoma for these right now... That's not possible tonight but I wouldn't be surprised if we are baking STAR WARS cookies by this weekend. Very cute!

Pancake molds and aprons are also available.

Update: It just occurred to me that today, May 25th, was the release date of the very first STAR WARS film in 1977. Some of us -- ahem -- are old enough to remember the summer of STAR WARS...if I remember correctly, I saw it four times that year.

STAR WARS fans will enjoy this L.A. Times story posted last Friday about Harrison Ford and other cast members attending a charity screening of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Quick Preview of TCM in August: Summer Under the Stars

Thanks to Ivan for the hot tip that Turner Classic Movies has posted its August schedule online today.

Last weekend I shared TCM's press release listing 14 stars who would be first-timers in the Summer Under the Stars festival.

Here is the complete list, in date order, of actors who will each be celebrated in a 24-hour marathon on TCM in August:

Basil Rathbone

Julie Christie

Steve McQueen

Ethel Barrymore

Woody Strode

Ingrid Bergman

Errol Flynn

Bob Hope

Warren Beatty

Kathryn Grayson

Walter Matthau

Norma Shearer (This will make Raquelle happy!)

Robert Ryan

Gene Tierney (including three movies I don't own and have never seen!)

Margaret O'Brien

Lauren Bacall

Robert Stack

Ann Sheridan

Walter Pidgeon

Katharine Hepburn

Paul Newman

John Mills

Elizabeth Taylor

John Gilbert

Maureen O'Hara

Lee Remick

Olivia de Havilland

Peter O'Toole

Henry Fonda

Thelma Todd

Clint Eastwood

There's a little something for everyone in this list. I'll be taking a closer look at TCM in August this summer.

Stars of the Month coming soon: Natalie Wood in June and Gregory Peck in July.

Tuesday Update: There are more details at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Sissi - The Young Empress (1956)

One of the great pleasures in my movie viewing this year has been meeting SISSI (Romy Schneider) for the very first time. A couple weekends ago we watched SISSI (1955), the first film in the German-language trilogy about the Austrian Empress, and tonight was Part 2, SISSI - THE YOUNG EMPRESS (1956). These films are movie escapism at its glorious best.

SISSI - THE YOUNG EMPRESS chronicles the first year of marriage of Austria's Emperor Franz Josef (Karlheinz Bohm) and Empress Elisabeth (Romy Schneider), affectionately known as Sissi. They are radiantly happy, until Franz Josef's mother, Empress Sophie (Vilma Degischer), decides that Sissi is too young to raise her infant daughter and takes over the child's upbringing. Needless to say, Sissi does not take well to being pushed out of her child's life. Meanwhile Franz Josef faces the challenge of attempting to unite Austria and Hungary.

It's a bit difficult to explain these unique films, which are royal romance with, as Moira described, touches reminiscent of Disney as well as THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Though based on real people and incidents, the films constitute a fairy tale and leave the worst parts of the story to the history books. The color photography of the Austrian locations is absolutely glorious, the theme music by Anton Profes is lovely, the costume design is pure eye candy, and the cast do an excellent job bringing their characters to life.

Schneider and Bohm are excellent in the lead roles, and their young love is quite touching at times. Particular kudos go to Romy Schneider's real-life mother, Magda Schneider, for her warm-hearted performance as Sissi's mother, Duchess Ludovika. She's really wonderful, and her performance adds a great deal to the movie's charm. Also effective is Vilma Degischer as Sissi's dragon of a mother-in-law -- who also happens to be her aunt!

SISSI - THE YOUNG EMPRESS was written and directed by Ernst Marischka. It runs 107 minutes. The final film in the trilogy is SISSI - THE FATEFUL YEARS OF AN EMPRESS (1957).

This film is on DVD and is available from Netflix. There is an excellent extra, a vintage 20-minute "making of" featurette narrated by Romy Schneider, with extensive black and white behind-the-scenes footage.

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