Friday, May 31, 2013

TCM in June: Highlights

Summer's almost here, my favorite time of year!

There's a great schedule ahead in June on Turner Classic Movies.

The June Star of the Month will be Eleanor Parker.

Over two dozen Parker films weill be shown on Monday evenings in June. I'll be taking a closer look at those titles in a couple more days.

This month's Friday Night Spotlight series will be film noir writers, hosted by Eddie Muller. I'll also be sharing info on those titles in a separate post before the series starts on Friday, June 7th.

Here's a look at some more of the interesting titles ahead on TCM in June:

...I was interested to learn earlier this year that '40s actress Linda Hayes was the mother of Cathy Lee Crosby and Lucinda Crosby. She stars with Kent Taylor in the "B" film SUED FOR LIBEL on June 1st; the entire evening lineup is devoted to the theme of libel! Only on TCM.

...The summer series Essentials Jr. starts off on Sunday, June 2nd, with a terrific choice for kids of all ages, THE COURT JESTER (1956). All well-rounded children should know how to recite "The vessel with the pestle has the pellet with the poison, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!"

...June 3rd is the birthday of Paulette Goddard. Titles on the schedule include MODERN TIMES (1936), THE WOMEN (1939), THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940), and SECOND CHORUS (1940). The last title is probably the weakest of Fred Astaire's musicals, but Paulette is one of the things that makes watching the film worth the time for Astaire completists.

...Tuesday, June 4th, may be my favorite day on the schedule. It's filled with movies starring "B" Western leading lady Virginia Vale, many of which team her with George O'Brien. I just saw them in THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY (1939) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Five of the six films O'Brien and Vale made together will be shown, as well as one she made with Tim Holt, ROBBERS OF THE RANGE (1941), and there are other Vale "B" titles too!

...June 5th celebrates one of my all-time favorites, Robert Taylor, including a couple of my top Taylor picks, HIGH WALL (1947) and WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951).

...D Day is being commemorated with war films shown on June 6th. Earlier this year Jacqueline wrote about the Army Air Corps training film RESISTING ENEMY INTERROGATION (1944) at Another Old Movie Blog. It has an interesting cast including Lloyd Nolan, Arthur Kennedy, and Craig Stevens. How great that TCM is going to show it!

...CAREFREE (1938) is one of my favorite Fred and Ginger movies; it feels more like a screwball comedy than a musical -- though it's got plenty of music too -- and I find it grand fun. It's on June 7th.

...One of my favorite songs from Busby Berkeley's Warner Bros. musicals is "I Only Have Eyes For You." That song originated in DAMES (1934), showing on Sunday, June 9th. DAMES stars Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, and Joan Blondell.

...Frank Lovejoy and Edmond O'Brien in the same movie, directed by Ida Lupino? I need to catch up with THE HITCH-HIKER (1953), which airs on June 11th.

...One of the more amusing themes on TCM this month is "Working Women Who Surrender in the End." Half a dozen films fitting this description will be shown the evening of June 11th, including Ruth Chatterton and George Brent in FEMALE (1933) -- some of the set designs in that one have to be seen to be believed -- and Joan Crawford and Melvyn Douglas in THEY ALL KISSED THE BRIDE (1942).

...On June 12th the theme is "Lana Turner in the '50s," including IMITATION OF LIFE (1959), THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952), and LATIN LOVERS (1953). The latter is colorful MGM escapism, costarring Ricardo Montalban and John Lund.

...Preston Foster and Basil Rathbone star in THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (1935) on June 13th. I have trouble imagining Preston Foster in a costume drama such as that, but as a Foster fan I guess I need to check it out!

...The theme is pre-Code newspaper photographers on June 17th, with back to back showings of William Gargan in HEADLINE SHOOTER (1933) and James Cagney in PICTURE SNATCHER (1933). HEADLINE SHOOTER is the only film I know of offhand which features the Long Beach Earthquake; I'd love to know if there are more.

...A primetime tribute to Sammy Cahn on June 18th includes one of my all-time favorite musicals, the underappreciated TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT (1945). Rita Hayworth, Lee Bowman, and Janet Blair star in a story set during the London Blitz.

...A TCM programmer had fun lining up several movies with one-word titles for June 20th. The films shown include Gail Patrick and Anita Louise in RENO (1940), Humphrey Bogart and Alexis Smith in CONFLICT (1945), and Dick Powell in CORNERED (1945).

...A lineup of Jane Russell movies on June 21st includes her first film, THE OUTLAW (1943), followed by YOUNG WIDOW (1946) with Louis Hayward and Faith Domergue, plus two films with Gilbert Roland, THE FRENCH LINE (1954) and UNDERWATER! (1955).

...CALAMITY JANE (1953) is one of my very favorite Doris Day movies. She plays the title role, costarring with Howard Keel as Wild Bill Hickok. The terrific score includes "Secret Love." It airs June 23rd.

...I really enjoyed the trio of Laraine Day, Lana Turner, and Susan Peters as WACs in the WWII film KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY (1945). It will be shown June 25th.

...Marie Windsor and Richard Denning star in DOUBLE DEAL (1950) on June 26th. I've never heard of it but Marie Windsor makes any movie more interesting.

...Patricia Medina, also known as Mrs. Joseph Cotten, passed away last year. On June 27th TCM honors Medina by showing several titles in which she appeared, including PIRATES OF TRIPOLI (1955) with Paul Henreid, DRUMS OF TAHITI (1954) with Dennis O'Keefe, THE BLACK KNIGHT (1954) with Alan Ladd, and THE LADY AND THE BANDIT (1951) with Louis Hayward.

...LURED (1947) is a very entertaining Douglas Sirk thriller starring George Sanders and Lucille Ball. It will be shown in the early morning hours on June 30th.

...MGM musical fans will want to catch GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953) on June 30th. It stars Marge and Gower Champion, Debbie Reynolds, and the young and adorable Bob Fosse.

Be sure to check out TCM's complete schedule. Happy viewing!

Update: For information on classics on Fox Movie Channel this month, please visit Fox Movie Channel in June: Highlights.

Today at Disneyland: Mickey and the Magical Map

Hooray for Friday! It was great to reach the end of the week and enjoy time with friends this afternoon at Disneyland.


As much as I love Disneyland at Christmas, I think I love it most in the summer.


The traditional summer flags and bunting are up on Main Street. Those decorations automatically make me think of long, carefree summer days, my favorite time of year.


We saw the new program MICKEY AND THE MAGICAL MAP, which has been well received by some critics.


It's wonderful to have a musical show playing once more in the Fantasyland Theatre, after an absence of several years.


I'm not sure I really "got" the plot, such as it was -- for instance, why were Mulan and Rapunzel in the Pocahontas "West" segment? -- but I enjoyed the presentation, including some very precise and personable dancing, and especially the music.


The show is sort of a variation on FANTASMIC!, a pastiche of Disney moments and music under the umbrella of Sorceror Mickey "exploring."


Hoping to visit the resort again soon and see the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST show in Fantasy Faire, as well as the MONSTERS UNIVERSITY student union at California Adventure. The Pixar Play Parade at DCA also has a new MONSTERS UNIVERSITY float.

I loved seeing the original MONSTERS, INC., last December and am really looking forward to MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (2013), which opens June 21st.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tonight's Movie: The Falcon in San Francisco (1945)

THE FALCON IN SAN FRANCISCO is a solid entry in the long-running series, featuring a bit of nice location photography along with a good story.

The movie starts with Tom Lawrence, also known as the Falcon, and his friend Goldie Locke (Edward Brophy) on a train to San Francisco.  As someone who loves "train movies," watching Tom and Goldie enjoy drinks while relaxing in the club car is a great start to the film.  Those were the days!

Tom and Goldie befriend a little girl, Annie (Sharyn Moffett), whose nursemaid is murdered in her berth. Annie has a pretty older sister in San Francisco, Joan (FALCON series veteran Rita Corday); Joan owns a shipping company and is mixed up with a strange smuggling scheme.

While part of the San Francisco setting is done via better-than-average back projections, I was impressed that a crew actually went to San Francisco and filmed Conway in spots such as on a cable car and at Coit Tower. These shots add some nice atmosphere.

This was Brophy's first time playing the Falcon's sidekick Goldie, a role previously played by Allen Jenkins and Cliff Edwards. While I especially liked Jenkins in the role, Brophy is fine. He would play the part again in THE FALCON'S ADVENTURE (1946), with Vince Barnett also playing the role that year in THE FALCON'S ALIBI (1946).

Sharyn Moffett was a talented child actress who also appeared in films such as THE LOCKET (1946) and MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (1948). She also starred in BANJO (1947); at the recent TCM Festival actress Jacqueline White told an amusing story about working with the recalcitrant title dog in that film.

According to a 2009 Classic Images interview with Sharyn's brother Gregory, who was also a child actor, Sharyn and her husband have both served as Episcopalian ministers. Gregory said, "She is heavily involved in her church, probably one of the great prayer warriors or [sic] all time. She is a marvelous lady. She has had a great life."

The cast also includes Robert Armstrong, Fay Helm, Carl Kent, Dorothy Adams, and Myrna Dell.

THE FALCON IN SAN FRANCISCO runs 66 minutes and was directed by Joseph H. Lewis. The same year he directed the excellent "B" suspense film MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945). He went on to direct titles such as GUN CRAZY (1950) and THE BIG COMBO (1955).

There are two credited cinematographers, Virgil Miller and William Sickner. Perhaps one of them did the San Francisco shots and the other did the rest of the film; it seems like a good guess, in any event.

This film is available on DVD in a very nice print in the Warner Archive's The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, Vol. 2.

It's also had a release on Region 2 DVD.

Reviews of the earlier films in the series: THE GAY FALCON (1941), A DATE WITH THE FALCON (1942), THE FALCON TAKES OVER (1942), THE FALCON'S BROTHER (1942), THE FALCON STRIKES BACK (1943), THE FALCON IN DANGER (1943), THE FALCON AND THE CO-EDS (1943), THE FALCON OUT WEST (1944), THE FALCON IN MEXICO (1944), and THE FALCON IN HOLLYWOOD (1944).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Branded (1950)

BRANDED is a somewhat sluggish yet ultimately rewarding Alan Ladd Western filmed in beautiful Technicolor.

Ladd plays Choya, a gunfighter type who's convinced by a no good crook named Leffingwell (Robert Keith) to pose as the long-lost kidnapped son of a wealthy ranching family, the Laverys (Charles Bickford and Selena Royle).

Choya goes along with it, going so far as to have a birthmark tatooed on his shoulder, yet once he meets the Laverys he's overcome by their kindness. And he's very uncomfortable being "brother" to pretty Ruth (Mona Freeman), for whom he feels more than brotherly affection.

Spoiler alert: The entirety of the plot is laid out fairly early in the film, but stop reading here if you don't want to know the rest of the story!

Choya can't go through with the charade and decides he will find the Laverys' true missing son (Peter Hansen), who turns out to have been adopted by a Mexican bandit, Rubriz (Joseph Calleia).  Rubriz thought the little boy had been abandoned and has raised him with love. Getting the son away from Rubriz is a tall order, especially as the young man also loves his "father."

The movie is slow out of the starting gate and later has a very long-drawn-out action sequence, but the actual interactions of Choya with both families are very interesting, when the movie's pared down to those scenes.

It's curious that the movie's pacing is so odd, as IMDb lists the time as 104 minutes; the DVD I watched was 94 minutes, which is an alternate running time listed. The movie needed better editing, which makes me wonder what other print might be out there.

That said, the performances are solid all around, starting with Alan Ladd, who is believable as both the up-to-no-good loner early in the film and as the tormented man who can't stand to take advantage of his new "family's" kindness. By giving up his dreams of wealth and leaving, he ultimately finds his way back to the very same family and will ostensibly become their son-in-law.

The other actors in the film are always good, and this film is no exception. Joseph Calleia is particularly strong as the bandit who loves his adopted son deeply, and Tom Tully, playing the Lavery ranch foreman, is a welcome name in any cast.

Having watched GENERAL HOSPITAL through most of the '80s, it was fun to see Peter Hansen, who played somewhat stuffy attorney Lee Baldwin on that soap, as the wild young son of the bandit, complete with a Mexican accent.  Who knew?!

The movie was directed by Rudolph Mate, a former cinematographer, and filmed by Charles Lang. The movie was shot on location in Arizona as well as Kanab, Utah. The screenplay was based on a Max Brand novel, MONTANA RIDES.

The DVD is a beautiful print although I noticed that a couple things in the opening credits were in bright white, which didn't match the font style and color of the rest of the credits; the white words seemed to have been superimposed over the original sequence. Along with the running time, that made me curious.

The DVD is no longer available for rental from Netflix, which doesn't seem to bother replacing older films when the DVDs wear out, but it can be rented from ClassicFlix.

The film can also be bought via Amazon download, and it had a VHS release.

May 2014 Update: This film was recently reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive.

Seven Brides Dancer Virginia Gibson Dies at 88

The cast of my favorite film, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), has for the most part been long-lived, but time is inevitably starting to catch up as the film nears the 60th anniversary of its release.

Matt Mattox (Caleb) passed on in February of this year, following Jeff Richards (Benjamin), Howard Keel (Adam), and Betty Carr (Sarah).

I appreciate my friend and reader Mel letting me know of the recent death of Virginia Gibson, who played Liza; she's the fifth of the 14 principal cast members to pass away. She passed on in Pennsylvania on April 25th, at the age of 88.

Below is a scene from the legendary SEVEN BRIDES barn-raising dance, left to right: Virginia Gibson, Matt Mattox, Norma Doggett, Tommy Rall, Betty Carr, and Marc Platt. Kelly Brown and Russ Tamblyn can be seen in the background at the left and the right. Click on the photo to enlarge for a better look.


All of the SEVEN BRIDES photos in this post are scans from my personal collection, with the exception of the fourth picture down, which I do own but copied from the Internet.

Gibson is seen here with Jacques D'Amboise in a publicity photo from the film:


Gibson made several films at Warner Bros. in the early '50s, including TEA FOR TWO (1950), GOODBYE, MY FANCY (1951), PAINTING THE CLOUDS WITH SUNSHINE (1951), and SHE'S BACK ON BROADWAY (1953).

Another SEVEN BRIDES publicity photo:


A bit of trivia based on photos in my collection: While most of the cast took publicity photos only in their barn-raising outfits, as above, Gibson also posed in some photos in another dress, and she and Jacques D'Amboise were then cut and pasted into the cast photos, as seen below at the right.


D'Amboise was on loan from the New York City Ballet and there seems to have been an issue with his availability; if you watch the scene where Milly's baby is born, there is plainly a stand-in in D'Amboise's costume half-hidden behind the staircase!

After making SEVEN BRIDES in 1954, Gibson reunited with cast members Jane Powell and Nancy Kilgas (Alice) in the wacky musical ATHENA (1954). Gibson and Kilgas would later appear with castmate Ruta Lee (Ruth) in FUNNY FACE (1957).

Below, the end of the barn-raising dance. Sharp-eyed fans may notice that for some reason Gibson, here at the left, was matched up with Tommy Rall (Frank) for the last shot of the dance, while Rall's movie love interest, Betty Carr, is paired with D'Amboise.


THE INDEPENDENT published an admirably detailed obituary of the dancer-singer-actress, who in addition to films also did considerable work on Broadway. Gibson was a Supporting Actress Tony nominee for HAPPY HUNTING (1956). Her SEVEN BRIDES castmate Betty Carr (Sarah) was in the chorus.

She also worked steadily in TV throughout the '50s and '60s, including hosting the children's series DISCOVERY.

In 2009 Jane Powell reunited with Gibson and Norma Doggett (Martha) for an interview, which can be seen on YouTube here and here. The sound quality could be better, but it's worth hanging in there with it.


Gibson can also be seen briefly in this excerpt from a documentary on the film. The entire documentary is available on the 2-disc Special Edition DVD set.

Additional obituaries: The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times (paid notice), and Find a Grave.

I hope all of the SEVEN BRIDES cast members and their families realize how much joy they have brought to movie musical fans ever since the movie was released in 1954. I am deeply grateful.

Update: Here are additional reviews of Virginia Gibson movies: PAINTING THE CLOUDS WITH SUNSHINE (1951), STOP, YOU'RE KILLING ME (1952), ABOUT FACE (1952), and SHE'S BACK ON BROADWAY (1953).

Laura's Miscellaneous Musings at MovieFanFare

I'm delighted to share the news that two of my recent reviews have been cross-posted at the Movies Unlimited MovieFanFare site.

My reviews of Tim Holt's RIDER FROM TUCSON (1950) and the pre-Code NEW MORALS FOR OLD (1932) can now be found at the MovieFanFare site. I appreciate MovieFanFare sharing them with their readers!

My past MovieFanFare posts can be found at the site here.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Run Silent Run Deep (1958)

I chose to watch the WWII film RUN SILENT RUN DEEP in honor of Memorial Day. I'd never seen it before, despite my fondness for submarine films, and I found it tense -- as is the case with many submarine films! -- but also quite enjoyable.

It's 1943, and Commander Richardson (Clark Gable) has been on a desk job at Pearl Harbor since losing his submarine the year before. He's finally given command of another sub, the Nerka, but the crew members are unhappy as they'd expected Lt. Jim Bledsoe (Burt Lancaster) to be promoted to captain.

Richardson is obsessed with getting back to the Bungo Strait off Japan and taking out the ship that sank his previous sub, even if it means defying orders regarding the Nerka's course. As part of his plan, Richardson endlessly drills his men until they can fire torpedoes straight at a ship's bow and then dive with great speed.

The crew threatens rebellion over some of Richardson's unorthodox methods, but Bledsoe backs the captain despite personal misgivings. There's more conflict ahead between the two men, but ultimately Richardson and Bledsoe influence each other, leading to a final battle with the Japanese in the Bungo Strait.

RUN SILENT RUN DEEP is both an fascinating character study, of two disparate men trying to work together under the pressures of war, as well as a very good submarine film, filled with interesting details about life and survival on a sub.  Fellow movie fans who share my love for "Dive! Dive!" should definitely check out this film.

The last Gable film I watched was IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934) a few weeks ago, and seeing him in these two very different films, made nearly a quarter of a century apart, emphasized anew was a very special talent he was. He's absolutely outstanding, and rather fearless playing a character who isn't always sympathetic; Gable at least makes him understandable, and ultimately he earns the audience's respect, just as he earns the respect of Lancaster and the crew.

I don't think Lancaster will ever be one of my personal favorites, but he's fine in the role, and I have to give him his due, he certainly appeared in many excellent movies. He also worked on this film behind the scenes as one of the producers of Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions.

There's a very good supporting cast, particularly Jack Warden as a crew member who is sympathetic to Richardson and Brad Dexter as an officer who at one point suggests Bledsoe relieve Richardson of command for unnecessarily endangering the crew.

Other crew members are played by Don Rickles, Nick Cravat, Joe Maross, and Jimmy Bates. Bates plays one of the youngest crew members; some fun trivia is that a decade before, he was the little boy with the stuffed rabbit in Fred Astaire's "Drum Crazy" number in EASTER PARADE.

A location side note: In one of the film's earliest scenes, Bledsoe takes a taxi to Richardson's home in Hawaii, which faces the ocean. Having worked on Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach for a number of years, I suspected that was where the scene was filmed, and sure enough, I found confirmation online that the scene was filmed at 3421 Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach.

For those such as myself who notice such things, RUN SILENT RUN DEEP doesn't have a comma in the movie's title card, although the comma appears in the title card at the end of the trailer, seen above, and in posters, not to mention the DVD box.

The movie was directed by the great Robert Wise and filmed in widescreen black and white by Russell Harlan. The John Gay script is based on a novel by Edward L. Beach. Franz Waxman composed the score.

This movie has had a release on DVD. It's no longer available from Netflix, but it can be rented from ClassicFlix.

It was also released on VHS.

RUN SILENT RUN DEEP is periodically shown on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is here.

Tonight's Movie: Canyon Passage (1946)

CANYON PASSAGE is an exquisitely beautiful pioneer film directed by Jacques Tourneur. Having been overlooked for years by Western film historians, it's a film deserving of a closer look, as it presents an interesting story with excellent performances, outstanding location photography, and memorable music.

When I first saw CANYON PASSAGE eight or nine years ago, it was one of the first couple movies I'd ever seen directed by Tourneur. It was interesting to circle back to CANYON PASSAGE now, having gained an appreciation of Tourneur's artistry thanks to seeing several of his films in the intervening years. I finished CANYON PASSAGE this time even more impressed than I'd been previously. It's an excellent film with many subtle nuances and bits of storytelling which provides more to discover on successive viewings.

The movie tells the story of the people of 1850s Jacksonville, Oregon, particularly Logan Stuart (Dana Andrews), a merchant who also runs a pack mule delivery service. Logan and Lucy Overmire (Susan Hayward) seem attracted to one another, yet Lucy is engaged to Logan's friend George Camrose (Brian Donlevy). Camrose, unfortunately, doesn't emulate Logan's hardworking attitude and instead hopes for financial success at the gaming tables.

Seemingly feeling at loose ends, Logan proposes to pretty Caroline (Patricia Roc), an orphaned English girl who lives with his friends the Dances (Andy Devine and Dorothy Peterson). As time goes on, however, events serve to clarify and change the characters' relationships.

I recall that when I first saw the film, the plot seemed somewhat leisurely and meandering, perhaps because I was expecting it to be more tightly focused on Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward. On second viewing, I was struck that the film is really more a portrait of an entire community, with Logan and Lucy at the forefront. We watch their interactions with each other and their friends and see their characters revealed via a cabin raising and wedding, a brutal fistfight, dealing with a troubled friend, a trial, and an Indian attack. 

As portrayed by Andrews and Hayward, Logan and Lucy have a curious relationship. Given that they plainly care about each other, the viewer wonders what led Lucy to choose the dashing but less reliable George.  It seems that perhaps Logan was too invested in his business and the travel it required, while the lazier George was more available.

That said, the characters are portrayed in a very unique and compelling light, particularly Lucy. Lucy has a mature self-possession which is most attractive, and though she plainly enjoys Logan's kiss -- given in full view of George, at his instigation -- she's not a flirt, and she's loyal to George despite concern about his gambling.

Logan, meanwhile, is an ambitious businessman who simultaneously refuses to be overly obsessed with money, even handing over a large sum to a friend in need without a second thought. Logan seems to feel a sense of obligation to Caroline, who lives with a couple who treat her as their daughter but is plainly ready to be married with a home of her own. As Caroline is both sweet and pretty, it's no hardship for Logan to do nice things for Caroline, such as buy her a necklace, but Logan also decides to marry her, perhaps feeling that marriage is the next logical life step he's supposed to take.

Logan's proposal, however, is rather lacking in romance, simply asking Caroline if she likes him enough to marry him. One feels that if they were to follow through, two such nice and responsible characters would make a go of it as a married couple, but after their engagement it gradually becomes clear that Caroline and Logan want different things in life. Caroline wants to be permanently settled, while Logan's growing business may require him to move on.

One of the film's strengths is that for the most part the characters are good people working out interpersonal conflicts. Even George, who cheats miners of their gold and gambles away a small fortune, retains some audience sympathy for much of the film; he doesn't seem so much evil as tormented by some big problems. He knows he shouldn't be stealing the gold dust and does so with a look of guilt and disgust, yet he can't stop himself; his weakness is such that he can't even grab hold of the fresh start offered when a friend wipes the slate clean for him. And while George is attracted to Marta (Rose Hobart), one doesn't doubt his affection for Lucy, who he sincerely describes at one point as "adorable." George is truly a complicated man whose choices inevitably bring trouble upon himself.

Ward Bond and Onslow Stevens play a couple other bad characters whose actions bring conflict to the little settlement.  According to Andrews biographer Carl Rollyson, an onscreen brawl between Bond and Andrews resulted in both men receiving stitches!

I was interested to note that Rollyson, in his excellent biography of Dana Andrews, calls CANYON PASSAGE "a neglected masterpiece."

Those who want to learn more about CANYON PASSAGE might also be interested that my friend Blake Lucas, an amazingly knowledgeable film historian, wrote about this movie briefly as part of an essay in THE WESTERN READER. (Thanks to Blake, I have the 1998 edition.) He makes some interesting comparisons between CANYON PASSAGE and MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946), noting that both films are about the heroine's gradually changing affections against the backdrop of the building of a Western community. For me the film somewhat calls to mind another John Ford film, DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK (1939).

A random side note: on both viewings I was intrigued by the idea of Lucy, a young unmarried woman, traveling unchaperoned with Logan on multi-day trips, even sleeping in the same bedroom at the Dances' cabin. It seems to go against the propriety of the times, yet I suppose it can be logically attributed to the remote area in which they lived.

CANYON PASSAGE was a rare U.S. film for British actress Patricia Roc, the star of popular British films such as MILLIONS LIKE US (1943), LOVE STORY (1944), MADONNA OF THE SEVEN MOONS (1945), THE WICKED LADY (1945), and JASSY (1947). She would work with director Jacques Tourneur again when he filmed the Ray Milland thriller CIRCLE OF DANGER (1951) in England.

Hoagy Carmichael, as a storekeeper with his nose in everyone's business, is a key character who provides commentary and passes on critical information from one character to another; more importantly, Carmichael wrote songs for the film which included the classic "Ole Buttermilk Sky." "Ole Buttermilk Sky," cowritten with Jack Brooks, was nominated for the Oscar for Best Song. (It lost to Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer's "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.") This timeless song adds a great deal to the film and causes the viewer to reflect anew on the wealth of talent contributing to films of this era.

The townspeople are played by a large cast including Lloyd Bridges, Fay Holden, Victor Cutler, Stanley Ridges, Halliwell Hobbes, and Ray Teal. Andy Devine's little boys are played by his real-life sons, Tad and Denny.

Watch for Virginia Patton as Liza, the young bride. She was also Ruth Dakin Bailey in Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946). I read an interview with her which was published last Christmas. She'll be 87 next month.

One of the film's greatest attributes is its extensive location filming in Oregon, lushly shot in Technicolor by Edward Cronjager. The film shows off not only the beautiful landscapes, but Susan Hayward's lovely wardrobe by Travis Banton.

The Ernest Pascal screenplay for this 92-minute film was based on CANYON PASSAGE by Ernest Haycox. Haycox was also the author of STAGE TO LORDSBURG, which turned into STAGECOACH (1939).

I watched CANYON PASSAGE on a very nice 1998 Universal Western Collection VHS tape.

It's also had two DVD releases, in the four-film Classic Western Roundup, Volume 1, which was reissued a few years later as the 4 Movie Marathon: Classic Western Collection. The DVD can be rented from ClassicFlix.

Additionally, it's been released in Europe on Region 2 DVD.

Update: Thanks to Blake Lucas for the information that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will be screening CANYON PASSAGE on Tuesday, June 4th, in 35mm.

Newer›  ‹Older