Monday, August 31, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Highway 13 (1948)

HIGHWAY 13 is a zippy little 58-minute thriller about murder and conspiracy in the trucking business.

Hank Wilson (Robert Lowery) is a trucker engaged to truck stop waitress Doris (Pamela Blake of SKY LINER). Hank works for a trucking company run by Frank Denton (Michael Whalen), whose wife was recently one of a string of road fatalities plaguing the company.

An insurance investigator (Steve Pendleton) is murdered and Hank is initially the suspect, but another insurance man (Dan Seymour) doesn't believe Hank was responsible and puts him to work undercover. Little does Hank know that the road to one of the suspects will lead straight back to Doris's elderly, nasty uncle (Clem Bevans).

This film moves along briskly and has a number of good character actors, including Mary Gordon as Doris's aunt and the always-welcome Lyle Talbot as a detective. Maris Wrixon (what a name!) plays the trucking company's human resources woman who is also the femme fatale of the piece; she's seen at the right.

One of the things I enjoyed is that the stand-by-your-man Doris finds a way to jump into action to save Hank's life -- and her own -- in a hair-raising sequence. I also got a kick out of multiple references to driving to Bishop, a town I'll be passing through this week.

It's worth noting that the movie is non-graphic but pretty brutal in doing away with a number of characters, especially near the end.

HIGHWAY 13 was directed by William Berke and filmed by Carl Berger.

HIGHWAY 13 is a Lippert production available in VCI's Forgotten Noir and Crime Collection, Vol. 4. It's a good-looking print. This set is a great value for those who enjoy these types of films; I wish VCI would put out another collection!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

TCM in September: Highlights

It's hard to believe that it's already time for summer to draw to a close. The relaxing days of the August may be just about behind us, but there's much to look forward to on the Turner Classic Movies September schedule!

Susan Hayward is the September Star of the Month, with 28 Hayward films being shown on Thursday evenings.

The Hayward celebration kicks off on September 3rd, and this coming week I'll be posting a more detailed look at the Hayward films on TCM's schedule. (Update: Please visit TCM Star of the Month: Susan Hayward.)

TCM has modified its Friday Night Spotlight franchise, with the TCM Spotlight shifting to Tuesday evenings for a series inspired by the book FIVE CAME BACK: A STORY OF HOLLYWOOD AND THE SECOND WORLD WAR by Mark Harris. I reviewed the book last summer.

Ben Mankiewicz and FIVE CAME BACK author Harris will host the series, which starts September 1st. It will showcase WWII documentaries by the five filmmakers chronicled in the book, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens, William Wyler, and Frank Capra.

The series will also incorporate the directors' pre-WWII feature films, such as ACROSS THE PACIFIC (1942) and MRS. MINIVER (1942), then look at how their war experiences impacted the making of such films as THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945) and THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946).

As I recently noted, TCM's September schedule balances excellent programming such as the Hayward and WWII series with an unusually high number of "newer" films, including at least 30 films released after 1970, as well as a significant number of films from the '60s. There will be even more post-'70 films airing on TCM in October, and then the number of "newer" films settles back down as of November.

Here's a look at just a few of the interesting titles airing on TCM this month. Click any hyperlinked title to read the corresponding film review.

...September 1st starts off with a little-known film which is quite good, BOYS' RANCH (1946), starring James Craig as a retired baseball player who founds a ranch to provide a home for orphaned or wayward boys. Dorothy Patrick is his understanding wife. The movie was inspired by a true story.

...I enjoyed the goofy but entertaining HER CARDBOARD LOVER (1942), starring Robert Taylor, Norma Shearer, and George Sanders. It's on September 2nd.

...The daytime theme on September 3rd is "Let's Go to Mexico," including Tom Conway in THE FALCON IN MEXICO (1944), Ricardo Montalban, Cyd Charisse, and Yvonne DeCarlo in SOMBRERO (1953), the creepy crime film THE HITCH-HIKER (1953), Montalban, Charisse, and Esther Williams in FIESTA (1947), and Jane Powell and Walter Pidgeon in HOLIDAY IN MEXICO (1946). A fun day of programming! The MGM films, SOMBRERO, FIESTA, and HOLIDAY in MEXICO, are all especially colorful, really gorgeous to look at.

...Tom Conway also stars in the Val Lewton "B" classic I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943), being shown on the 5th. Frances Dee costars, directed by Jacques Tourneur.

...There's an Esther Williams double feature on Sunday evening, September 6th, pairing THRILL OF A ROMANCE (1946) with Van Johnson and MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID (1952) with Walter Pidgeon. Esther Williams can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned!

...On September 9th TCM is showing a Robert Montgomery film I've not yet seen, SO THIS IS COLLEGE (1929). My DVR will be set!

...A September 10th birthday tribute to director Robert Wise includes the excellent UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957), about four sisters in New Zealand simultaneously coping with WWII and difficult romances.

...Gregory Peck, Joan Bennett, and Robert Preston star in THE MACOMBER AFFAIR (1947), being shown as one of Robert Osborne's Picks on Friday night, September 11th.

...I really enjoyed the romantic comedy HONEYMOON FOR THREE (1941), showing on September 14th. George Brent and Ann Sheridan, who would briefly marry the following year, trade fast-paced banter, and the grand supporting cast includes Jane Wyman, Charlie Ruggles, and John Ridgely.

...Rosalind Russell plays a famed stage actress who becomes an accidental murderess in the engrossing crime drama THE VELVET TOUCH (1948). Sydney Greenstreet is the detective on the case. The air date is September 17th.

...Later on the 17th I highly recommend NIGHTFALL (1957) with Aldo Ray and Anne Bancroft. It was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who has a few good films airing on TCM this motnh.

...An evening of Abbott and Costello films on September 18th includes HOLD THAT GHOST (1941) with Richard Carlson and IN THE NAVY (1941) with Dick Powell.

...Sunday night, the 20th, TCM hosts an evening of detective films, starting with the Charlie Chan movies DARK ALIBI (1946) and DANGEROUS MONEY (1946), starring Sidney Toler. Those are followed by two FALCON films, THE GAY FALCON (1941) and A DATE WITH THE FALCON (1942).

...I've hit the jackpot on new-to-me Robert Montgomery films this month. In addition to SO THIS IS COLLEGE on the 8th, TCM is also showing VANESSA: HER LOVE STORY (1935), costarring Helen Hayes, on September 21st.

...TCM celebrates Walter Pidgeon's birthday on Wednesday, September 23rd, with a good lineup including THE SELLOUT (1952) and SCANDAL AT SCOURIE (1953). I really liked Pidgeon's performance in the latter film, one of many he made with Greer Garson. It's a good month on TCM for Walter Pidgeon fans!

...Say farewell to summer on September 27th with THE GIRL FROM JONES BEACH (1949), a delightful comedy with Ronald Reagan and Virginia Mayo, and TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME (1949) starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Esther Williams. It's also a very good TCM month for Esther Williams fans!

...The jazz baby silent film WHY BE GOOD? (1929), starring Colleen Moore, was one of the hits of this year's TCM Classic Film Festival. Don't miss the chance to see this fun film, which was once thought to be lost forever. It's being shown on September 28th.

...The month ends in fine style on September 30th with a film which is a real favorite of mine, I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! (1945). I try to never miss a chance to recommend this memorable, subtly mystical romance starring Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey.

For much more on TCM in September, please visit the complete TCM schedule.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Motor Patrol (1950)

MOTOR PATROL (1950) is another fun little movie from Lippert Pictures which will appeal to those who enjoy police procedurals of an earlier era.

Ken Foster (Don Castle) is training at the Los Angeles Police Academy with hopes of being a motor officer. Ken's good friend Larry (William "Bill" Henry) is already a motor officer, and Ken is engaged to Larry's sister Jean (Gwen O'Connor).

Larry is tragically killed while investigating a hit-and-run accident connected to a gang of car thieves, and Ken is recruited to join Detectives Robert Flynn (Reed Hadley) and Bill Hartley (Richard "Dick" Travis) in the investigation. Ken goes undercover, trying to obtain key information from femme fatale Connie Taylor (Jane Nigh).

This is simply an entertaining short cop film, over and done in 67 minutes. It's quite reminiscent of MGM'S CODE TWO (1953), perhaps on a slightly cheaper budget. I especially enjoyed the brief glimpses of 1950 L.A., including the Police Academy in Elysian Park.

It's possible to pick up interesting little bits about daily life from these films. I enjoyed that the first group of people seen performing impressively at the shooting range were female officers, which one might not expect in a film of 1950. A dramatic poster warning against "TEENACIDE," teens drinking and driving fast, also caught my eye. Social problems such as teens under the influence were an issue the police were trying to combat even back in that era.

The movie's attitudes and acting styles may seem a bit quaint by today's standards, but I find that's part of the charm. You just don't find movies made anymore with this kind of earnest, enthused, and at times hokey sincerity. It makes for fun viewing, even if it causes chuckles at times.

It's especially fun to find Hadley, the narrator of so many docu-noir titles, as a detective, and to run into faces enjoyed in other (often lesser-known) films, such as Castle (HIGH TIDE, THE GUILTY), Travis (THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER and the Warner Bros. B films BUSSES ROAR and TRUCK BUSTERS), and Nigh (STATE FAIR, OPERATION HAYLIFT, BORDER TREASURE, RIO GRANDE PATROL).

MOTOR PATROL was directed by Sam Newfield and filmed in black and white by Ernest Miller.

The supporting cast includes Frank Jenks, Onslow Stevens, Sid Melton, Charles Victor, and Charles Wagenheim.

MOTOR PATROL is part of the VCI set Forgotten Noir and Crime Collection, Vol. 4. As is typical for the VCI sets, the print is excellent.

Friday, August 28, 2015

TCM Announces 2016 Festival Dates and Theme

TCM released big news regarding the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival dates and theme earlier this week!

The festival will be held in Hollywood from April 28th to May 1st, 2016.

The theme is "Moving Pictures," described on the Festival site as "the ones that move us to tears, rouse us to action, inspire us, even project us to a higher plane...These are the films that set our love of cinema in motion."

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel continues as festival headquarters, with screenings at the Chinese, Chinese 6 Multiplex, and Egyptian Theatres, as well as "other Hollywood venues." I would anticipate those venues would include the El Capitan Theatre, which has hosted a day of screenings each of the last couple of years.

After a health-related absence in 2015, it's expected that Robert Osborne will return to serve as a festival host, along with his TCM colleague Ben Mankiewicz.

Ticket prices will hold firm this year, with no increases over last year's pricing.

The news caught many by surprise, as it was released weeks ahead of the usual September or October announcement. Indeed, I was on the road when the news was announced and found myself scrambling to immediately book my hotel on my smartphone as we drove through the Oregon mountains!

TCM also released a short promotional video. Like last year's video, it includes shots of my friends Kellee and Aurora, whose million-dollar smiles make them naturals for TCM ads!

Another friend, Will McKinley, has posted an overview of the 2016 festival news along with his suggestions on how TCM can beat the "seven-year itch" and keep things fresh. I really liked his commentary and thought it was great that TCM General Manager Jennifer Dorian Tweeted to Will "We're listening!"

Those interested will want to bookmark the festival's website and Twitter account.

Year after year, the TCM Classic Film Festival provides unforgettable movie-going experiences and the chance to share such moments with friends from all over the country -- indeed, from all over the world. (Last year I met friends from Japan and Scotland!) Seeing beautiful prints in historic venues with other enthusiastic classic film fans is a "must" experience.

Please visit my overview of this year's festival for a look at the TCM Classic Film Festival experience. Links to my coverage of prior festivals can be found at the bottom of the post.

November 2015 Update: TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements; February 2016 Update: The Latest TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements.

Summertime in Hollywood - The Color Edition

Labor Day is fast approaching, but summer's not over yet!

Here's a new batch of classic Hollywood stars enjoying the summer season, and this time around all the photos are in color. Enjoy!

Yvonne DeCarlo:


Hedy Lamarr and her backyard pool:


Esther Williams in Kodachrome:


Deborah Kerr:


Debbie Reynolds:


Elizabeth Taylor:


Jane Greer:


Gene Tierney:


Carole Landis:


Past Summertime in Hollywood posts may be found here, here, here, and here.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Radar Secret Service (1950)

RADAR SECRET SERVICE (1950) must have the lowest IMDb rating of any film I've ever seen -- and yet I quite enjoyed it!

I love this kind of rather geeky police procedural, with overly earnest members of law enforcement rhapsodizing about the wonders of RADAR! I'm not sure I'd say it's so bad it's good, but there's definitely something about its quaint attitudes and manner of storytelling which I find most enjoyable. Add in a good cast including Adele Jergens, Ralph (DICK TRACY) Byrd, and Myrna Dell, and it makes for a fun and breezy 59 minutes.

The story concerns a unit of law enforcement which uses various radar gadgets; a handheld unit helps locate a gun buried in the dirt, and radar on a police car and a helicopter helps track down stolen atomic materials!

It's not always believable, but the fantastic uses for radar are part of the fun. For instance, I was never quite clear on how the radar beamed a crystal clear picture of various highways back to headquarters so that the police could watch car chases and note license plate numbers. And a chopper armed with a radar detector can sweep an entire city and zero in on atomic materials?

As told in this film, it seems like there's nothing radar can't do, causing femme fatale Adele Jergens to wring her hands about law enforcement and their radar getting in the way of her schemes. There are also delightful periodic newspaper headlines about another win for the radar unit.

The lead agents are played by John Howard (George Kittredge in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY) and Ralph Byrd, who I very much enjoyed in STAGE STRUCK (1948).

Tom Neal leads the bad guys. The cast also includes Pierre Watkin, Tristram Coffin, Sid Melton, Robert Kent, Riley Hill, and Robert Carson.

RADAR SECRET SERVICE was directed by Sam Newfield and photographed by Ernest Miller for Lippert Pictures.

The movie is part of VCI's nine-film Forgotten Noir & Crime Vol. 4. It's a beautiful print.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

2015 D23 Expo: Disneyland: The Exhibit - Part 2

Here's the second part of my visit to the amazing Walt Disney Archives presentation, "Disneyland: The Exhibit."

Click any photo to enlarge for a closer look.

While touring the Archives exhibit I had the pleasure of meeting Ron and David DeFore, sons of actor Don DeFore. They were so nice and friendly. When I shared how much I enjoy their dad in RAMROD (1947) they exclaimed "You're a real fan!"


The next day Ron and David did an hour-long presentation on their Dad's 1957-1961 Frontierland restaurant, Don DeFore's Silver Banjo Barbecue. More on that in a future post!

From Peter Pan's Flight:


The Matterhorn Bobsled ride:


Monsanto's Adventure Through Inner Space:


Mr. Toad's Wild Ride:


A float from the Main Street Electrical Parade:


One of my favorite things in the exhibit was learning that actor Harold Lloyd took a number of 3D photographs of the park in 1955, the year it opened. The photos were displayed on a monitor and were absolutely fascinating!


Maps, brochures, ticket books, and more!



And so the exhibit comes to an end...


...but as Walt said, Disneyland will never be finished!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2015 D23 Expo: Disneyland: The Exhibit - Part 1

This year's D23 Expo was a terrific experience in many ways, but for many of us the highlight was the elaborate exhibit from the Walt Disney Archives, Disneyland: The Exhibit.

As will be seen below, the exhibit displayed everything from maps to ride vehicles, tickets to costumes, parade floats to postcards. What a walk down memory lane! If there weren't so much to do at the Expo, I could easily have spent a couple more hours going through the exhibit more slowly, savoring every last detail. As it is, I'm doing that a bit revisiting my photos!

Click any photo to enlarge for a closer look.


The charming Little Golden Book LITTLE MAN OF DISNEYLAND was just reissued. Here's the original cover art:


John Lasseter loves this story about a leprechaun displaced by Disneyland construction to much that he was filmed reading it aloud, and it plays on a continuous loop in the exhibit.

Best of all, during the Expo weekend Disneyland unveiled the Little Man of Disneyland's tiny home in a tree near the Indiana Jones ride in Adventureland. There's more on the Little Man of Disneyland at D23.


Ticket Number 1 for Opening Day of Disneyland:


Artwork to announce the grand opening:


The Mouseketeers were at Opening Day. Here are Cubby and Annette's uniforms:


Pirates of the Caribbean memorabilia...


...and artifacts from the Alice in Wonderland ride:


Place settings and decor from the fabled private restaurant Club 33 in New Orleans Square:


Betty Taylor's gowns for her role as Slue Foot Sue in the Golden Horseshoe Review:


A vintage popcorn cart which was used in the park:


Ephemera about various restaurants, including Aunt Jemima's Kitchen...


... and Hills Bros. Coffee House:


Please visit again tomorrow for Part 2 on this amazing exhibit!

For even more photos of this exhibit, please visit MiceChat.

Previously: Back From the 2015 D23 Expo!

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