Friday, January 31, 2014

TCM in February: 31 Days of Oscar Highlights

January seems to have gone by in a flash, and the annual 31 Days of Oscar festival on Turner Classic Movies will very soon be underway!

TCM has a special microsite with information on each day of the schedule. There's also a .pdf version of the schedule showing the themes used to group various films each day. The usual monthly online schedule is also available.

TCM has dedicated this year's Oscar festival to the memory of former Academy President Tom Sherak, who recently passed away.

This month TCM is also premiering a new documentary on the Academy Awards, AND THE OSCAR GOES TO..., which will debut on February 1st and repeat four additional times over the course of the month.

I attended a preview screening of the documentary at the Academy last week and shared details in a post on the event. Additionally, TCM has issued a press release with information on both the documentary and the month's schedule.

There was big TCM news this week: As the Noir City Festival was underway in San Francisco, news broke that the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller has signed a three-year contract with TCM as an on-air host, which will allow him to also continue his work with the Film Noir Foundation. This is fantastic news indeed, and I'll be looking forward to further details on his future role at the network.

The Noir City introductions by Mr. Muller and his Film Noir Foundation colleague, Alan K. Rode, are always interesting, educational, and enthusiastic, and Muller's TCM Friday Night Spotlight series on film noir writers last June was excellent. He also makes annual appearances at the TCM Classic Film Festival. He'll make a wonderful on-air addition to TCM.

With a month of Oscar winners, it's hard to single out just a few titles, but here are a handful of the many highlights airing on TCM in February:

...The 31 Days of Oscar festival kicks off on February 1st with a 75th Anniversary tribute to the 10 Best Picture nominees from Hollywood's Golden Year, 1939. The amazing titles: GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS; OF MICE AND MEN; NINOTCHKA; WUTHERING HEIGHTS; STAGECOACH; MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON; THE WIZARD OF OZ; GONE WITH THE WIND; DARK VICTORY; and LOVE AFFAIR. That list would be a great excuse for a movie marathon!

...February 2nd's lineup includes 1945's Best Picture nominees, one of which is Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND (1945), which I reviewed here last September. It's one of the best-known examples of Hollywood's mid-'40s obsession with psychoanalysis. Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck star.

...For anyone who missed it at Christmas, the 1933 version of LITTLE WOMEN is superb. Katharine Hepburn, Frances Dee, Joan Bennett, and Jean Parker star as the March sisters. It airs on February 4th.

...The lineup on the evening of February 5th celebrates the Best Supporting Actor nominees of 1946, with excellent films including THE RAZOR'S EDGE (1946), NOTORIOUS (1946), and THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946).

...Robert Montgomery received one of his two Best Actor nominations for NIGHT MUST FALL (1937), airing on February 7th. His other nomination was for a very different film, the gentle comedic fantasy HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (1941), which airs on February 16th.

...On February 8th three actors named Robert -- Young, Mitchum, and Ryan -- star in Edward Dmytryk's CROSSFIRE (1947), which was nominated for five Oscars.

...It's always good news when one of Deanna Durbin's movies turns up on TCM, and happily THREE SMART GIRLS (1936) will be shown on February 10th. The supporting cast includes the charming young Ray Milland.

...The Best Original Screenplay nominees airing on February 10th include FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940), which just manages to edge out NOTORIOUS (1946) as my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film. It has great set pieces involving umbrellas, windmills, and an airplane, and a sterling cast led by Joel McCrea, George Sanders, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, and Robert Benchley. Wonderful entertainment.

...I reviewed Vincente Minnelli's SOME CAME RUNNING (1958), starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, just a few weeks ago. You can read another recent take on it from Judy at Movie Classics. It airs on February 12th.

...I've shared in the past that MRS. MINIVER (1942) had a huge impact on me as a young film viewer. This classic Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon WWII film will air on February 13th.

...The suspense film BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955), with Spencer Tracy as a one-armed veteran stopping over in a small town, boasts a cast with five Oscar-winning actors. (Can you name them all?!) It will be shown on February 14th.

...It's amazing there's a movie with favorites Robert Montgomery and Chester Morris costarring I haven't seen yet! It's THE BIG HOUSE (1930), a prison film nominated for Best Picture which airs February 15th. It's followed with another Montgomery-Morris film, THE DIVORCEE (1930) starring Norma Shearer.

...My favorite movie, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), was nominated for Best Picture. It's shown on Sunday, February 16th. That's a great day with a lineup which includes HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (1941), THE THIN MAN (1934), and the Will Rogers version of STATE FAIR (1933).

...Tyrone Power and Joan Fontaine star in the 20th Century-Fox WWII film THIS ABOVE ALL (1943) on February 17th.

...Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are merry ghosts George and Marion Kirby in TOPPER (1937), with Roland Young in the title role. It's on February 19th.

...Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman star in Douglas Sirk's version of MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION (1954) on February 20th.

...The classic romantic drama RANDOM HARVEST (1942), starring Greer Garson and Ronald Colman, airs on February 22nd. It also stars lovely young Susan Peters, who was nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar. There's more about Peters in this post.

...Do movies get any better than THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938)? To borrow a phrase, it's practically perfect in every way. Incidentally, Southern Californians can see it on a big screen at UCLA on February 23rd -- and there's free admission, too!

...When I visited Monument Valley last summer, one of the most thrilling things for me was to see locations from SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949), one of my favorite John Ford-John Wayne movies. This Oscar winner for Best Cinematography will be shown on February 25th.

...Also on February 25th: Rex Harrison, Gene Tierney, and George Sanders in the classic comedy-drama-fantasy THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947).

...My first viewing of HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941) last New Year's Eve was a very moving experience. This John Ford multi Oscar winner airs February 26th. Don't miss it.

...THE HUMAN COMEDY (1943) is classic '40s MGM Americana, directed by Clarence Brown with a superb cast led by Best Actor nominee Mickey Rooney. It's shown on February 28th. I was surprised this week to read that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are reuniting to collaborate behind the camera on a remake, to be named ITHACA after the town in the William Saroyan tale.

...The 31 Days of Oscar series continues for the first three days of March; among the final titles in the series is Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in TOP HAT (1934) on Sunday, March 2nd.

For many more fine viewing options on TCM this coming month, please consult the schedule.

Previously: Quick Preview of TCM in February: 31 Days of Oscar.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Wings of Danger (1953)

Another night, and time to try out another of the Hammer Noir films! Having enjoyed TERROR STREET (1953) last evening, tonight I watched the 73-minute WINGS OF DANGER (1953) starring Zachary Scott.

In this film shot in the UK, Scott plays Richard "Van" Van Ness, an American employee of a British airline. Van's friend Nick (Robert Beatty) insists on flying in bad weather and his plane disappears.

Van and his girlfriend, Nick's sister Avril (Naomi Chance), both suspect Nick was involved in smuggling. Inspector Maxwell (Colin Tapley) wonders if Van is involved as well. Van tries to solve the mystery of Nick's disappearance and clear his own name, and airline boss Spencer (Arthur Lane) and Spencer's girlfriend Alexia (Kay Kendall) seem to be involved...

I found WINGS OF DANGER quite enjoyable. Like the other Hammer films I've seen to date, I find something cozy and appealing about these films, not least as they have such an authentic sense of place; along those lines, I also enjoy the aspect that an American has made himself so at home in a place I love to visit. I also especially liked that Zachary Scott's character has some moments of wonderfully snarky humor, which made me laugh out loud.

Also like the other Hammer films, the plot doesn't always make perfect sense, but I enjoyed the ride anyway. The film's main flaw is the unexplained subplot about Van being subject to unexpected blackouts, and the related abrupt ending. So why does Van keep flying, anyway? He seems a responsible sort, and surely he must realize that if he's "scraped out of someone's backyard" someday, as he puts it, he might take out innocent people at the same time.

Van refuses to marry his girlfriend because of this malady, and instead of seeking a cure or a way to cope with it, he's oddly fatalistic. At the end, he seems about to jump into a plane, presumably prepared to go ahead and just crack up due to his unexplained blackouts; then the film changes course at the last moment. It's all a little odd.

In fact, his sparring relationship with Inspector Maxwell is a bit strange, too, given that Van's really on the up and up. However, I simply forgave the plot weaknesses and, as I mentioned, enjoyed the ride. So far these Hammer movies are for me the equivalent of curling up with a novel on a rainy afternoon, a pleasant way to pass the time.

WINGS OF DANGER was based on a novel titled DEAD ON COURSE, which was also the U.S. title of the film. (The print I watched used the British title.) It was directed by Terence Fisher.

The supporting cast includes Diane Cilento, who was later Mrs. Sean Connery for a number of years.

The movie is available on DVD as part of the Hammer Film Noir Double Feature Vol. 4 from VCI. The other film on the disc is TERROR STREET (1953) starring Dan Duryea.

For more on this film, Sergio has reviewed it at Tipping My Fedora.

Previously reviewed Hammer Noir titles: Cesar Romero in SCOTLAND YARD INSPECTOR (1952), George Brent in MAN BAIT (1952), and Dan Duryea in TERROR STREET (1953).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Terror Street (1953)

I've recently been enjoying beginning to explore "Hammer Noir," films made in Great Britain in the '50s which were collaborations between the UK's Hammer Film Productions and U.S.-based Lippert Films.

The companies teamed up to take advantage of tax benefits intended to revitalize the British film industry in the postwar years, with Lippert supplying one or two U.S. movie stars who would make a film in England with a British cast.

The latest Hammer film I've watched is TERROR STREET (1953), which was titled 36 HOURS in Britain. As sometimes seems to be the case, I think the British title makes more sense!

The great Dan Duryea stars as Bill Rogers, an American airman who has a wife and a home in London. Bill has been training in the U.S. for an extended period of time, but when his wife stops answering his letters he has buddies smuggle him back into England without authorization. He must be back at the airfield in 36 hours for his flight home, and no one will be the wiser that he's hopped back and forth over the Atlantic.

Bill discovers his wife Katie (Elsy Albiin) has moved to a West End apartment which is way too expensive, and her wardrobe is similarly unaffordable. Bill confronts her in the new apartment but before they can say more than a few words, he's hit in the head. When he comes to, Katie is lying on the floor beside him, dead.

Bill flees, and though the police chase him, they don't realize who he is. His one advantage is that the police believe Katie's husband is in the U.S. A kind-hearted charity worker, Jenny (Ann Gudrin), meets Bill when he's on the run; she doesn't believe Bill's a killer and tries to help him solve the crime. Bill has just 36 hours to find the real killer and make it to his flight on time.

I very much enjoyed this movie. It's one of those cozy, comfortable "middle of the road" movies, nothing especially great but well-made and entertaining. In the first place, how could a movie starring Dan Duryea not be entertaining?

The film also has a solid cast and nice atmosphere. Countless American-made movies have been set in Britain, but these low-budget noirs actually made there seem more authentically detailed -- it's the little things, like the box of Weetabix on a kitchen shelf, that make the difference.

To be sure, it's not a perfect film. For a happily married man, Bill seems way too anxious to spend an extended period of time away from his wife. Was it really that much of a career coup? He also doesn't seem especially broken up over Katie's death, but then he had been away from her for a year or so...and why did he take a gun with him to see Katie?

That said, I felt the film's overall entertainment value outweighed any story defects...there's even a cat-loving villain who seems to presage Goldfinger!

TERROR STREET runs 85 minutes. It was directed by Montgomery Tully and written by Steve Fisher.

The supporting cast includes Jane Carr, Michael Golden, Eric Pohlmann, John Chandos, Marianne Stone, Harold Lang, and Kenneth Griffith.

TERROR STREET is available on DVD as part of the Hammer Film Noir Double Feature Vol. 4 set from VCI. The other film on the disc is WINGS OF DANGER (1952) with Zachary Scott. Extras include a trailer and a series of featurettes in which there is audio of the Film Noir Foundation's Alan K. Rode discussing the filmmakers, accompanied by some excellent stills. As always, Rode offers interesting information and insights.

The DVD can be rented from ClassicFlix.

There's a trailer on YouTube.

Previously reviewed Hammer Noir titles: SCOTLAND YARD INSPECTOR (1952) and MAN BAIT (1952).

Anthony Mann Festival Opens Friday at UCLA

Another wonderful series comes to UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater at week's end. The 22-film Dark City, Open Country: The Films of Anthony Mann opens on Friday, January 31st, and continues through March 30th.

The lineup focuses on Mann's crime films and Westerns. Max Alvarez, author of the new book THE CRIME FILMS OF ANTHONY MANN, will be appearing at the screening on Wednesday, March 12th. I anticipate receiving a review copy of this book in the near future and look forward to writing about it in conjunction with attending some of the screenings in this series.

All films in the series, with the exception of THE FURIES (1950), screen in 35mm; THE FURIES will be shown in 16mm.

Each date link below corresponds with UCLA's page on that particular evening's films, and the highlighted titles link to my past reviews.

The series opens on January 31st with THE GREAT FLAMARION (1945), starring Eric von Stroheim, Mary Beth Hughes, and Dan Duryea. It's paired with Barbara Stanwyck in THE FURIES (1950).

One of the evenings I'm especially looking forward to is February 1st, which pairs Macdonald Carey in DR. BROADWAY (1942) with a favorite "B" mystery, TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE (1945). TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE stars Tom Conway and Ann Rutherford, with Jane Greer in a small role. This will be a short night as the movies are only 67 and 69 minutes long!

On Wednesday, February 5th, the delectably wacky STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT (1944) screens, starring Virginia Grey and the very odd Helene Thimig; it's just 56 minutes long. Playing alongside it is THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (1955), one of Mann's many films with James Stewart.

The classic docu-noir HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948), on which Mann did uncredited work, will be shown on February 9th. It's being shown with another James Stewart Western, THE NAKED SPUR (1953), costarring Robert Ryan and Janet Leigh.

On February 21st another really odd Mann "B" film will be shown, the 68-minute STRANGE IMPERSONATION (1946), starring Brenda Marshall. Also showing that night is THE LAST FRONTIER (1956), a Western starring Victor Mature, Guy Madison, and Robert Preston.

Two great film noir titles screen on March 1st: an effective little "B" film, DESPERATE (1947), plus RAILROADED! (1947). DESPERATE stars Steve Brodie and charming Audrey Long (Georgia in BORN TO KILL that same year), while RAILROADED! stars John Ireland and Sheila Ryan.

March 3rd features two Mann films for MGM: BORDER INCIDENT (1949) with Ricardo Montalban and George Murphy, and DEVIL'S DOORWAY (1950), which is widely acknowledged to contain one of Robert Taylor's finest performances.

There's more crime on March 12th, when author Alvarez is slated to appear. It's a classic Dennis O'Keefe double bill, T-MEN (1947) and RAW DEAL (1948); the latter film costars Claire Trevor and Marsha Hunt.

On March 15th I'm really looking forward to SIDE STREET (1950), which reunited Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell of THEY LIVE BY NIGHT (1948), playing with James Stewart and Dan Duryea in WINCHESTER '73. The latter film is on my list of 10 Classics to see in 2014.

I also hope to attend the March 23rd screening of the great Dick Powell train thriller THE TALL TARGET (1951), shown with James Stewart and Ruth Roman in THE FAR COUNTRY (1954). Fans of Dick Powell or train films should be sure not to miss THE TALL TARGET; I'm very happy to have the chance to see it on a big screen, as I couldn't fit in seeing it when it was shown last spring at the TCM Classic Film Festival.

The series wraps up on Sunday, March 30th, with the double bill MAN OF THE WEST (1958), starring Gary Cooper and Julie London, and THE TIN STAR (1957) starring Henry Fonda.

This series is a great opportunity to see a mix of classic and obscure titles in an ideal setting. For more information please visit the UCLA website.

Update: Links to reviews of films seen for the first time at the festival: DR. BROADWAY (1942), THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (1955), THE NAKED SPUR (1953), THE LAST FRONTIER (1955), RAILROADED! (1947), RAW DEAL (1948), SIDE STREET (1950), WINCHESTER '73 (1950), and THE FAR COUNTRY (1954).

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tonight's Movie: One Mysterious Night (1944)

One of the fun things about "B" movie series of the classic film era is that they served as a training ground for up-and-coming filmmakers.

A case in point is ONE MYSTERIOUS NIGHT, the seventh title in the 14-film BOSTON BLACKIE mystery series starring Chester Morris. ONE MYSTERIOUS NIGHT was directed by one Oscar Boetticher, who today is much better known as Budd Boetticher, the name he began using for billing starting in 1950. That was right around the same time his career really began to take off, with BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY (1951) followed by a series of Universal Westerns and eventually his famed seven-film collaboration with Randolph Scott.

ONE MYSTERIOUS NIGHT was also the biggest role to date for future Oscar winner Dorothy Malone, who'd begun toiling in bit parts in 1943. She plays the innocent sister of a man who collaborates in a diamond theft. Shortly thereafter she would have a small but flashy role as the bookstore clerk who memorably flirts with Humphrey Bogart in THE BIG SLEEP (1946), which was largely filmed the same year ONE MYSTERIOUS NIGHT was released; she continued onward and upward from there.

In ONE MYSTERIOUS NIGHT Boston Blackie and his sidekick the Runt (George E. Stone) work to help Inspector Farraday (Richard Lane) recover a famous stolen diamond.

Blackie and the Runt go from one scrape to the next in this 61-minute film, trailed by elegantly dressed reporter Dorothy Anderson (Janis Carter), who reports on their every move.

The film is nothing particularly special but, like the other films in the series, it's pleasant company, and Chester Morris is always a fun and even reassuring film presence.

Blonde beauty Janis Carter would go on to play a pair of riveting femme fatales in NIGHT EDITOR (1946) and FRAMED (1947). She deserves to be better remembered today.

Blackie's wealthy friend Arthur Manleder is played by Harrison Greene in this entry, but the actor who had previously played Arthur, Lloyd Corrigan, would return to the role in the next film, BOSTON BLACKIE BOOKED ON SUSPICION (1945).

The cast also includes William Martens, Robert Williams, Pat O'Malley, Minerva Urecal, and Robert E. Scott (later known as Mark Roberts).

This Columbia film is one of a handful of titles in the Boston Blackie series which have been released on DVD in the Sony Choice/Columbia "MOD" line. It can be rented from ClassicFlix.

Previous BOSTON BLACKIE reviews: MEET BOSTON BLACKIE (1941), CONFESSIONS OF BOSTON BLACKIE (1941), ALIAS BOSTON BLACKIE (1942), BOSTON BLACKIE GOES HOLLYWOOD (1942), AFTER MIDNIGHT WITH BOSTON BLACKIE (1943), and THE CHANCE OF A LIFETIME (1943).

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Loretta Young Centennial Tribute in Glendale on January 30th

I've admired actress Loretta Young since I first fell in love with classic movies as a child, and I treasure the memory of seeing her in person at a tribute at the Filmex festival in 1981. Over the years I've reviewed over three dozen Loretta Young films here, which I strongly suspect is the record for any actress.

I'm thus especially happy to announce that I'll be on the press list to cover a very special event this coming Thursday evening, the Loretta Young Centennial Birthday Tribute.

The tribute will take place on January 30th at 8:00 p.m. at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, which is located at 216 North Brand Boulevard.

Loretta Young was born in Salt Lake City on January 6, 1913, and Thursday's tribute is the culmination of a busy year of events celebrating her centennial.

I had the pleasure of speaking at some length today with Loretta's daughter-in-law, Linda Lewis, who is married to Loretta's son Christopher. As we spoke, Chris and Linda were in the midst of a cross-country drive, transporting special memorabilia to California for the program; among the items that will be on display that evening are Loretta's Oscar and Emmy. Linda was very gracious in sharing her time and memories of her beloved mother-in-law, as well as details about Thursday's tribute.

Linda said that the goal of the evening is "honor Loretta's 100th birthday and try to reintroduce her, especially to younger viewers."

She hopes to communicate the breadth of Loretta's 77-year career, which began when she was an extra in silent films at four years old, moved seamlessly into the sound era, and then on to television.

Linda said that her mother-in-law was quick to grasp the importance of the new medium of television, realizing she could reach more viewers in a single TV episode than one of her films would reach during its entire run.

She described Loretta as a "pioneering spirit" who "took risks" which helped to pave the way for women who followed her in the industry. She fought studio heads, sometimes at great price. When Loretta went into television, she was told she would be done in films, but she forged ahead anyway.

As the star of the highly successful, long-running LORETTA YOUNG SHOW, she was responsible for finding stories and having them adapted, casting, editing, and of course acting -- all while raising a family, with a busy social life and a lifelong commitment to charitable causes and her diocese.

One of the most interesting and touching things Linda shared with me was that "If I knew then what I know now, I would have asked her so many more questions!" She said she's learned a great deal about her mother-in-law's career since she passed on in 2000, thanks to sources such as the internet and Turner Classic Movies.

She's especially interested in her pre-Code work, films which weren't widely available years ago but which have provided "a new perspective" on Loretta's career for many of us, Linda included. She also mentioned how remarkable it was that in the early stages of Loretta's career she would make as many as eight or so films a year, having to keep straight the details of so many characters, lines, and stories in such a compressed time frame. She said, "The conversations we would have now...!"

Loretta Young fans may also be interested to know that Linda maintains an Official Loretta Young Facebook Page where she shares beautiful photos, and there is also an official website.

I've also been quite interested to learn there is a TV-movie about Loretta's life currently in pre-production.

This Thursday evening's tribute will be a mix of movie clips and trailers, photos, and conversations with those who knew Loretta, plus two actresses will appear in a series of reenactments of five key moments in Loretta's life, including her taking a fateful phone call from director Mervyn LeRoy, who was looking for one of Loretta's older actress sisters, and asking "Will I do?"

The evening will be hosted by Bryan Cooper of Hollywood Heritage and Stan Taffel. Among those slated to attend are Kim Darby, Kathleen Hughes, Johnny Crawford, H.M. Wynant, director Randal Kleiser, and Joel Brokaw, the son of Loretta's longtime agent Norman Brokaw of the William Morris Agency.

Several actresses who played Loretta's daughters on the THE NEW LORETTA YOUNG SHOW (1962-63), including Beverly Washburn, are also scheduled to attend.

Loretta's godchildren, Patrick Wayne and Marlo Thomas, are tentatively scheduled but not yet confirmed to appear.

Some members of Loretta's extended family will also be in attendance sharing their memories. Loretta is pictured here in THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL (1939) with her sisters Georgiana Young (who later married Ricardo Montalban), Polly Ann Young, and Sally Blane (who was born Elizabeth Jane Young; she later married actor-director Norman Foster).

The evening will also include the introduction of the young woman who received "The Loretta Young Innovative Women in Film” award at the Eureka Springs Indie Film Fest which took place over the last few days. It seems very appropriate indeed that part of Loretta's legacy is to encourage women filmmakers.

For more information, there's a video about the tribute, and all the ticket details are available at the Alex Theatre website.

A special note to any readers who work for Los Angeles area Catholic charities and organizations, including St. Anne's Home, a charity Loretta long supported: Complimentary tickets are available in recognition of Loretta Young's lifelong support of these organizations. Call (818) 480-3270 for more information.

This Thursday night should be a grand evening for classic film fans in general and Loretta Young fans in particular!

Update: Here's my account of a wonderful evening: The Loretta Young Centennial Birthday Tribute.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Wonderful news from the Warner Archive: The Dr. Kildare Movie Collection. The set contains nine films starting with YOUNG DR. KILDARE (1938) and ending with DR. KILDARE'S VICTORY (1942). Hopefully the six Dr. Gillespie films, which continued the series after Lew Ayres moved on, will be out in a future set! Van Johnson stars in four of the Gillespie films.

...Also coming from Warner Archive: Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries. Toby has more background info on these films at 50 Westerns From the 50s.

...My latest post at ClassicFlix is a short biographical sketch and DVD recommendations for actress Linda Darnell.

...New releases from Fox Cinema Archives include Victor Mature in THE GLORY BRIGADE (1953) and frequent costars Robert Wagner and Jeffrey Hunter in IN LOVE AND WAR (1958).

...KC has a review up at Classic Movies of a recent book, WILLIAM WYLER: THE LIFE AND FILMS OF HOLLYWOOD'S MOST CELEBRATED DIRECTOR by Gabriel Miller.

...The Noir City festival opened in San Francisco last Friday and runs through February 2nd. Here's a look at some of the movies in the festival.

..Over at Happy Thoughts, Darling, MC has been enjoying getting to know the films of Deanna Durbin, including FIRST LOVE (1939) and BECAUSE OF HIM (1946).

...I love the cover of the new book LOS ANGELES'S BUNKER HILL: PULP FICTION'S MEAN STREETS AND FILM NOIR'S GROUND ZERO! by Jim Dawson. It's from the great trailer park location in the Dick Powell noir CRY DANGER (1951). Richard Harland Smith reviewed the book at TCM's Movie Morlocks site.

...Actress-singer Pam Dawber hasn't appeared on camera since a film released in 2000, but she will reunite with her MORK & MINDY costar Robin Williams in an episode of THE CRAZY ONES. For those who saw MORK & MINDY during its original run: it's a bit mind-blowing that Williams and Dawber are both now 62. Dawber has been married to Mark Harmon for the better park of three decades. In the '80s I was fortunate to see her on stage multiple times in productions of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE and SHE LOVES ME.

...Glenn Erickson's latest reviews at DVD Savant include the Twilight Time 3-D Blu-ray release of MAN IN THE DARK (1953) and James Cagney and Loretta Young in the Warner Archive's TAXI! (1932).

...I recently discovered that the Cinderella musical THE SLIPPER AND THE ROSE (1976) came out on Blu-ray in November. (There does not appear to have been a corresponding release on standard DVD.) Terence Towles Canote reviews the movie, which includes Margaret Lockwood as the Wicked Stepmother, for the Margaret Lockwood Society. This one's on my "buy" list! I have the LP of the soundtrack but somehow have never seen the movie itself.

...Greenbriar Picture Shows has some wonderful publicity photos for STAND BY FOR ACTION (1942) with Robert Taylor, Charles Laughton, and Brian Donlevy.

...There's another great discussion of Westerns taking place at Riding the High Country, where Colin has most recently reviewed Randolph Scott, Joan Leslie, and Ellen Drew in MAN IN THE SADDLE (1951). And don't miss Toby's birthday tribute to Scott at 50 Westerns From the 50s.

...A few days ago I came across the Sony Choice "MOD" release of the 1984 TV miniseries THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII. I remember it being fairly interesting, particularly Linda Purl as a blind girl. The cast includes Lesley-Anne Down, Ernest Borgnine, Ned Beatty, Olivia Hussey, and Franco Nero, not to mention Sir Laurence Olivier.

...Judy of Movie Classics has been delving into the career of Frank Sinatra, including taking a look at SOME CAME RUNNING (1958), which I reviewed at the end of last year.

...Attention Southern Californians: Coming to the Egyptian Theatre on Thursday, February 6th: Nicholas Ray's JOHNNY GUITAR (1954) and IN A LONELY PLACE (1950).

...Notable Passings: Actress Sarah Marshall, the daughter of Herbert Marshall and Edna Best, has passed on at the age of 80. She had a number of Broadway credits, including a Tony Award nomination; her screen career included THE LONG, HOT SUMMER (1958) and many TV guest roles...Ed Hookstratten, lawyer and agent to TV and sports stars, has passed on at the age of 83. His first wife was actress Patricia (Pat) Crowley.

Have a great week!

Tonight's Movie: The World Was His Jury (1958)

THE WORLD WAS HIS JURY (1958) is a low-budget yet entertaining courtroom drama starring Edmond O'Brien as a star defense attorney.

As the film opens, Captain Jerry Barrett (Robert McQueeney) has taken command of the S.S. Paradise following the death of the captain. On the ship's last night at sea a fire breaks out, killing 162 passengers and injuring scores more. Captain Barrett, hit in the head as the ship is rocked by explosions, is temporarily incapacitated during the emergency, which his crew attributes to inebriation rather than injury.

Hotshot defense lawyer David Carson (O'Brien) defends Barrett on the charge of manslaughter. David's wife Robin (Mona Freeman) is unhappy as she, like the press and consequently most of the world, believes Barrett is guilty.

I'd be the first to admit the film is a little creaky in spots, including the stiff acting of Barrett's oh-so-cute kids (Gay Goodwin and Kelly Junge Jr.) and a lack of chemistry between O'Brien and Freeman; additionally, as someone who's read dozens of trial transcripts, I suspect some of the courtroom tactics used in the film wouldn't have actually been allowed, even given that the story takes place several decades ago in a different state.

That said, the movie is never dull, and O'Brien is on screen for most of the film; he's a charismatic actor who is reason enough for me to enjoy a movie, and he's entirely believable as a showy courtroom star.

The film also demonstrated the old saw that the more things change, the more they stay the same, as the newspapers in the film are just as obsessed with the disaster and trial as a modern media source would be today.

I enjoyed John Beradino in a significant role as Carson's investigator; the former baseball player went on to a long run as Dr. Steve Hardy on GENERAL HOSPITAL beginning in 1963.

This was the first of two films released in 1958 directed by Fred F. Sears and starring Karin Booth, who here plays Captain Barrett's supportive wife. Booth was George Montgomery's leading lady in Sears' BADMAN'S COUNTRY (1958).

The movie runs 82 minutes. It was shot in black and white by Benjamin H. Kline from a script by Herbert Abbott Spiro. This Sam Katzman production was distributed by Columbia Pictures.

The movie is available on DVD-R in the Columbia/Sony Choice line from sources such as the Warner Archive, Amazon, or Deep Discount. It can also be rented from ClassicFlix.

THE WORLD WAS HIS JURY has been shown on Turner Classic Movies.

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