Wednesday, November 30, 2016

TCM in December: Highlights

December has rolled 'round again, and there's a wonderful schedule ahead this month on Turner Classic Movies!

Myrna Loy is the December Star of the Month. Over 60 Loy films will be shown in December, spanning 1927 to 1960. I'll have a closer look at that aspect of the schedule later this week. (Update: See TCM Star of the Month: Myrna Loy.)

As I do every December, I'll also have a separate post up focusing on all the Christmas movies being shown on TCM this month. Be looking for that post early on December 1st! (Update: Please visit TCM in December: Christmas Movies.)

Here's a look at a few of the other great titles on this month's schedule. Click on any hyperlinked title to read the corresponding review.

...I've got to catch up with the Warren William Perry Mason movies soon! He stars with Mary Astor and Allen Jenkins in THE CASE OF THE HOWLING DOG (1934) on Saturday morning, December 2nd.

...TCM features a primetime lineup of early films directed by Douglas Sirk on December 3rd. Titles include HITLER'S MADMAN (1943) with Patricia Morison and Alan Curtis (seen at right), and LURED (1947) with George Sanders and Lucille Ball.

...The 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone will be celebrated on December 5th. This is one of those great "only on TCM" events, featuring numerous shorts, along with feature films such as the delightful WHY BE GOOD? (1929) starring Colleen Moore.

...The 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day will be marked on TCM with a 24-hour marathon of World War II films. There are several excellent titles on the schedule, including FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953), which depicts the attack. Raoul Walsh's THE REVOLT OF MAMIE STOVER (1956), a 20th Century-Fox film starring Jane Russell, Richard Egan, and Joan Leslie, is a TCM premiere.

...A day of dance movies on the 8th includes the delightful GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953) with Debbie Reynolds, Bob Fosse, and Marge and Gower Champion. The Champions are also featured that day in EVERYTHING I HAVE IS YOURS (1952), costarring Dennis O'Keefe.

...Another "only on TCM" event is an Alice White triple feature on December 9th. I'd especially like to see PLAYING AROUND (1930), also starring Chester Morris.

...Noel Coward's BLITHE SPIRIT (1945) airs on December 10th, with Rex Harrison visited by the ghost of his late first wife (Kay Hammond) -- to the dismay of Wife No. 2 (Constance Cummings)!

..The classic Fox film A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1948) airs on Sunday, December 11th. The all-star cast includes Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Paul Douglas, Jeffrey Lynn, and Kirk Douglas.

...I've been meaning to revisit HAVING WONDERFUL TIME (1938). When I saw it a few years ago I found the script weak, but what a cast: Ginger Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, Red Skelton, Lee Bowman, Jack Carson, Dean Jagger, Frances Gifford, and more! I figure it's worth taking another look, with that cast. TCM will show it on the 12th.

...There's a wonderful lineup of Van Heflin movies to celebrate his birthday on December 13th. The titles include THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS (1946), which I saw at UCLA in September. Barbara Stanwyck, Kirk Douglas, and Lizabeth Scott costar.

...There's a great lineup of "B" films costarring Dick Purcell on December 14th, including titles such as ALCATRAZ ISLAND (1937) with Ann Sheridan and ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN (1938) with Ronald Reagan. Looks like a fun day for "B" movie fans.

...December 15th honors director William Keighley, with titles including KANSAS CITY PRINCESS (1934) with Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell, SECRETS OF AN ACTRESS (1938) with Kay Francis and George Brent, and YES, MY DARLING DAUGHTER (1939) with Priscilla Lane and Jeffrey Lynn.

...I've heard good things about LOVE LETTERS (1945), costarring Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten, but I haven't seen it yet! It's on December 17th. William Dieterle directed.

...You can't do better than THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) on Sunday afternoon, December 18th. One of my all-time favorite films.

...There's a great day of crime and film noir on December 19th. CONFLICT (1945) is a really interesting movie in which Humphrey Bogart bumps off his wife in hopes of having a relationship with her oblivious younger sister (Alexis Smith). Sydney Greenstreet is the psychologist who figures out what's going on.

...TCM honors Irene Dunne with an eight-film birthday tribute on December 20th, including SHOW BOAT (1936).

...Treasures From the Disney Vault has been a great quarterly addition to the TCM schedule since its debut in December 2015. The series returns on Wednesday, December 21st. Leonard Maltin will host PERRI (1957), OLD YELLER (1958), THE LITTLEST OUTLAW (1955), SAMMY, THE WAY-OUT SEAL (1962), and more. (Click the photo of the Treasures schedule to enlarge it for a closer look.) I saw OLD YELLER at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival and liked it a lot more than I expected, being a dog lover. Recommended.

...A day of films paying tribute to Ruth Roman on December 22nd includes the very entertaining DALLAS (1950), also starring Gary Cooper.

...PLEASURE CRUISE (1933), starring Genevieve Tobin and Roland Young, was a popular film at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival. It's showing on December 28th.

...On December 29th TCM pays tribute to several performers who have passed on in the last year, including Gloria DeHaven (TWO GIRLS AND A SAILOR, at right with Tom Drake) and dubber extraordinaire Marni Nixon (WEST SIDE STORY).

...Spend New Year's Eve with THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! (1974) and all three sequels!

For more on TCM in December, please visit the complete online schedule.

Tonight's Movie: Love Me or Leave Me (1955) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Doris Day stars as singer Ruth Etting in LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME (1955), recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

It's been many years since the only time I previously saw LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME (1955), at the Vagabond Theater in Los Angeles, circa late '70s or early '80s.

Although I'm a huge Doris Day fan, this is a title I hadn't gone back to simply because the plot is pretty dark; I prefer Day's sunnier musicals. That said, both her performance and singing are phenomenal. It's worth seeing the movie just to hear her sing so many great standards; her performance of "Ten Cents a Dance" in particular, with perfect staging and costuming, is unforgettable. In the end it must be said the movie is essential Day viewing.

In this biopic Day plays singer Ruth Etting. Ruth's career is promoted by gangster Martin Snyder (James Cagney), and she becomes dependent on him, despite her very real talent.

The contrasting dynamic between Day's quiet, somewhat uptight Ruth and Cagney's bluster as the obnoxious Snyder is a big part of what makes the movie interesting. As the film goes along, however, and Ruth turns to drink, their relationship becomes increasingly difficult to watch.

Day rather bravely plays a woman who is, frankly, selfish; it took two people to have a bad relationship. Cagney is always compelling and was Oscar-nominated for his performance as the abusive Snyder, but here again, given the choice I'd much rather watch him in FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933)!

The supporting cast includes Cameron Mitchell as a pianist who's the other man in Ruth's life. Robert Keith, Tom Tully, and Richard Gaines round out the cast.

LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME was directed by Charles Vidor. It was filmed in CinemaScope and Eastman Color by Arthur E. Arling. Day's memorable costumes are by the great Helen Rose. The running time is 122 minutes.

Besides Cagney's nomination, the film received five additional Oscar nominations, with Daniel Fuchs winning for Best Story. He cowrote the script with Isobel Lennart.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray is lovely. Extras carried over from the previous DVD release include the trailer and three shorts, including Ruth Etting in A MODERN CINDERELLA (1932) and ROSELAND (1930).

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.

A Birthday Tribute to Virginia Mayo

Beautiful, multitalented Virginia Mayo was born on this date in 1920.


She was born November 30th in St. Louis, Missouri.

As a film star Virginia Mayo could do it all: comedy, drama, and also an accomplished dancer in musicals.


The more I see of Mayo's work, the more I appreciate her; indeed, she was my most seen actress of 2014. I'm not sure whether I like her best in musicals or crime dramas! She's a delightful dancer, seen here with Gene Nelson in SHE'S BACK ON BROADWAY (1953).


She was Danny Kaye's leading lady in several colorful films, and they wouldn't have been the same without her. This is publicity for WONDER MAN (1945):


She also makes noirish dramas such as SMART GIRLS DON'T TALK (1948)...


...and FLAXY MARTIN (1949) great fun...


...and when I saw WHITE HEAT (1949) I was surprised she didn't receive an Oscar nomination.


Beyond the musicals and crime dramas, the Western FORT DOBBS (1959), costarring Clint Walker, became an instant favorite when I saw it a few years ago:


The same year she made WHITE HEAT she was superb opposite Joel McCrea in the Western COLORADO TERRITORY (1949):


I sometimes think Mayo hasn't received enough recognition for her talent and the breadth of her fine filmography. She was a beauty who made it all look easy!


Mayo was married to actor Michael O'Shea from 1947 until his passing in 1973. They had one child, a daughter.


Mayo wrote an interesting memoir, THE BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE. While the book could have used some editing help, her disarmingly frank assessments of countless costars and her career make for fascinating "must" reading.


Virginia Mayo passed away in Thousand Oaks, California, on January 17, 2005.


Virginia Mayo movies previously reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: UP IN ARMS (1944), WONDER MAN (1945), THE KID FROM BROOKLYN (1946), SMART GIRLS DON'T TALK (1948) (also here), A SONG IS BORN (1948), FLAXY MARTIN (1949) (also here), THE GIRL FROM JONES BEACH (1949) (also here), WHITE HEAT (1949), COLORADO TERRITORY (1949), RED LIGHT (1949), THE WEST POINT STORY (1950), BACKFIRE (1950), PAINTING THE CLOUDS WITH SUNSHINE (1951), SHE'S BACK ON BROADWAY (1953), THE PROUD ONES (1956), THE TALL STRANGER (1957), THE BIG LAND (1957), FORT DOBBS (1958), and WESTBOUND (1959) (also here).


Additional notable Virginia Mayo films: THE PRINCESS AND THE PIRATE (1944), THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946), THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (1947), THE FLAME AND THE ARROW (1950), CAPTAIN HORATIO HORNBLOWER R.N. (1951), ALONG THE GREAT DIVIDE (1951), SHE'S WORKING HER WAY THROUGH COLLEGE (1952), THE IRON MISTRESS (1952), and THE SILVER CHALICE (1954).

Five Underrated Films of 1956

My latest contribution to Rupert Pupkin Speaks is a list of Five Underrated Films of 1956.

I always appreciate the invitation to share a list of favorite films with that site's readers!

I'm in great company; be sure to check out other posts by Kristina, Jerry, John, and our host, Brian, plus many more.

Please note that full-length reviews of each film mentioned in my guest post can be found by searching here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings; just use the search box in the upper left corner.

Additional guest posts at Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Five Underrated Comedies, Five Underrated Westerns, Five Underrated Mystery/Detective Films, Five Underrated Action/Adventure Films, Five Underrated Thrillers, Five Underrated Films of 1955, Five Underrated Films of 1945, Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013, Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014, and Favorite Film Discoveries of 2015.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...There's terrific DVD news this week: The "L.A." film noir ABANDONED (1949), starring Dennis O'Keefe, Gale Storm, Raymond Burr, and Jeff Chandler, is now available on DVD in the Universal Vault Collection. I reviewed this film last year -- in fact, I saw it twice in 2015! -- and loved it. Thanks to reader John Knight for the tip.

...Big thanks as well to reader Ashley for sending me links to many more interesting new Universal Vault DVD releases, including THE SLEEPING CITY (1950) with Richard Conte and Coleen Gray, SO EVIL MY LOVE (1948) with Ray Milland, Ann Todd, and Geraldine Fitzgerald, A WOMAN'S VENGEANCE (1948) with Charles Boyer and Ann Blyth, ANOTHER PART OF THE FOREST (1948) with Blyth, Dan Duryea, Edmond O'Brien, and Fredric March, SMOOTH AS SILK (1946) with Virginia Grey and Kent Taylor, BLACK HORSE CANYON (1954) with Joel McCrea and Mari Blanchard, and THE LEECH WOMAN (1960) with Coleen Gray, plus more. I'm very much looking forward to trying some of these; if only Universal Vault DVDs would go on sale more than once in a blue moon! I was able to see THE SLEEPING CITY in 2012 and particularly enjoyed it. I saw SO EVIL MY LOVE at the Noir City Film Festival in 2010; it was well done but very, very dark.

...An interesting new TV release from the Warner Archive: SAM BENEDICT, a 1962-63 legal series starring Edmond O'Brien. I'm hoping to pick that one up before too long.

...Coming to DVD and Blu-ray at long last, thanks to Kino Lorber: LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER (1963) starring Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen, which I reviewed in 2010 thanks to a showing on TCM. It will be out in early 2017.

...Here's a nice post on John Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald in NOBODY LIVES FOREVER (1946) at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies, including some nice screen captures of the film's location shooting at Mission San Juan Capistrano.

...Available for preorder: AVA: A LIFE IN MOVIES by Kendra Bean and Anthony Uzarowski. It's due out in April 2017. Kendra wrote the excellent VIVIEN LEIGH: AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT, which I reviewed in 2014. Based on the high quality of the Leigh book, I anticipate the Ava Gardner book will be a "must buy."

...Over at The Frame, my friend Jandy invited me to participate in her 2016 Movie Challenge and recommend two films she'd never before seen to watch this year. I chose a pair of favorite William Wellman films, the Loretta Young pre-Code MIDNIGHT MARY (1932) and the Robert Taylor Western WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951). I'm happy to say Jandy liked them both! Her post on MIDNIGHT MARY is here and WESTWARD THE WOMEN is here.

...A reminder that the recent Broadway stage production of SHE LOVES ME can be seen in movie theaters nationwide this Thursday evening, December 1st. It stars Zachary Levi, Laura Benanti, and Jane Krakowski.

...Jessica writes about one of my favorite musicals, Rita Hayworth's TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT (1946), at Comet Over Hollywood.

...Raquel's 2016 Classic Film Holiday Gift Guide is now up at Out of the Past!

...I'm even more excited to see LA LA LAND (2016) next month after reading this New York Times article.

...Like so many others, our family spent part of Thanksgiving weekend watching the entire six hours of GILMORE GIRLS: A YEAR IN THE LIFE on Netflix. Nine years after going off the air, the new show continues to serve up dysfunctional characters living in a charming, cozy small town setting surrounded by a recurring cast of eccentrics. Unlike some "years later" revivals -- THE WALTONS, I'm looking at you! -- GILMORE GIRLS stayed completely true to its history and brought back pretty much everyone except for Chad Michael Murray as Tristan -- in which case they pretended he was there, with another actor standing in in the distance! Happily none of the appearances felt rushed or shoehorned in, even Melissa McCarthy's cameo as Sookie, though I do suspect one of the final scenes was filmed as it was due to not being able to gather the entire cast at once! I have a few criticisms, such as the Stars Hollow musical sequences running far too long, and when exactly is Rory planning to grow up?! -- but for the most part the show proved you can go home again, and it feels great. And Lauren Graham knocks her key phone call scene in the final "Fall" episode out of the park.

...Notable Passing: Farewell to TV and musical star Florence Henderson, who by all accounts was an exceptionally nice and loyal woman in addition to being a multitalented performer. My earliest memory of Florence Henderson isn't THE BRADY BUNCH, but listening to her sing the role of Laurey on a studio recording of OKLAHOMA! with John Raitt. In fact, other than Julie Andrews movies, OKLAHOMA! might be the first musical score I was exposed to, from earliest memory, and I listened to that LP countless times over the years.

...For even more classic film links, please visit my most recent link roundup.

Have a great week!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Tonight's Movie: China Clipper (1936) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Recently I've enjoyed a number of Warner Bros. films starring Pat O'Brien. The latest is the enjoyable CHINA CLIPPER (1936), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

O'Brien plays Dave Logan, an entrepreneur who is inspired by Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight to open his own airline service. After initial financial struggles, he establishes a successful route of clipper ships which fly to Havana and points in the Caribbean, but he's not finished there. Dave dreams of an airline which will fly all the way to China, but as he struggles to reach his dream he pushes away those who are closest to him.

I liked this film, although it must be admitted that eventually O'Brien mindlessly shouting orders at everyone around him becomes a bit tiresome. Otherwise it's an interesting story about the dawn of international air travel, a topic I enjoy. His ideas on professionalizing and educating pilots were particularly interesting.

Beverly Roberts plays O'Brien's wife Jean. She has a rather chilly personality, and curiously the Brooklyn-born actress sports a British accent; if they ever explained why, I missed it.

Much more engaging is Humphrey Bogart as Dave's ace flyer Hap; even in a supporting role, Bogart's screen charisma shines through. Also strong is Ross Alexander as Dave's righthand man; sadly, this was one of Alexander's final films before his tragic death in January 1937.

This was the final film of Henry B. Walthall, seen by me earlier this year in JUDGE PRIEST (1934). The supporting cast also includes Marie Wilson, Joseph Crehan, Joe King, Addison Richards, and Ruth Robinson.

There's some fun people watching in the movie. During a scene where O'Brien lectures pilots, Gordon "Wild Bill" Elliot is a pilot seen in close-up. Wayne Morris is Bogart's navigator on the first run of the China Clipper to China. Anne Nagel, who was married to costar Ross Alexander at the time, plays O'Brien's secretary. Marjorie Weaver is another secretary. Milburn Stone plays a radio operator, and Frank Faylen is a weatherman stationed in Colombia. There are plenty more familiar faces, including Irving Bacon, Jonathan Hale, Milton Kibbee, Pierre Watkin, and Houseley Stevenson.

CHINA CLIPPER was directed by Ray Enright and filmed in black and white by Arthur Edeson. It's an 88-minute film with a screenplay by Frank "Spig" Wead, who specialized in writing aviation-themed screenplays.

A funny blooper: The airline in the film is Trans Ocean. In a scene where Trans Ocean's China Clipper takes off for the first time, the stock footage plane is clearly labeled as Pan Am's Hawaii Clipper.

The print is mildly scratched at times but it plays smoothly, with excellent sound. The DVD includes the trailer.

Look for more reviews of Pat O'Brien releases from the Warner Archive here in the near future!

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Lone Pine Film Festival: Desert Pursuit (1952) and Mystery Man (1944) Location Tours

At last month's 27th Lone Pine Film Festival we enjoyed two movie location tours led by Don Kelsen.


We previously enjoyed tours led by Don in 2014 and 2015; as I wrote about a few weeks ago, he has tremendous knowledge of the Alabama Hills and does extensive research matching movie scenes to their Lone Pine locations.

The first tour, early Friday, was for the film DESERT PURSUIT (1952), starring Wayne Morris and Virginia Grey. Saturday morning's tour was for the Hopalong Cassidy film MYSTERY MAN (1944), starring William Boyd as Hoppy.


Each tour was preceded by a 7:30 a.m. screening of the movie in the high school auditorium. Including RAWHIDE (1951) on Sunday, which I wrote about briefly in my festival intro post, I made it to the early screening three days in a row!

Of course, it's easier to get up early when you know you'll have a view from your hotel room door like the one above!


DESERT PURSUIT, which is available from the Warner Archive, is by no means a great Western, but I've seen it twice in 2016 and I must say I quite enjoy it, not least because of the extensive Lone Pine locations.


There's a scene late in DESERT PURSUIT where Morris and Grey stumble into an Indian camp where the Indians are celebrating Christmas. An altar was built attached to the above rock.

At the foot of the rock Don happened to notice a very rusted nail, held below with the "altar" rock in the background. Given the fact it was found at that particular rock, out of many thousands, it seems quite likely it was part of the altar and has been rusting in the desert ever since the set was torn down.


This page of our screen shots booklet for DESERT PURSUIT shows scenes from the Christmas sequence, with the nail lying on top.


Thanks to the booklet Don prepared, it was easy to match up scenes with what was in front of us:



The tours provide a lot of insight into the budget moviemaking process. In the case of DESERT PURSUIT, scenes which take place miles apart were actually shot in a very compact area. On the other hand, in the case of MYSTERY MAN, a scene which ostensibly takes place in a single location was put together from shots filmed hundreds of miles apart! More on that below.


Once again we matched up locations for the movie we'd just seen with shots in our booklet:


Hoppy expert John Gilliland, who extensively researched his authentic late '30s version of the Hopalong Cassidy costume, kindly posed for us in a few of the same places where William Boyd had filmed the movie over seven decades before.


Our MYSTERY MAN tour didn't end in Lone Pine! The final shootout, for unknown reasons, was a mixture of scenes filmed in Lone Pine with scenes shot at Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, where countless other movies were filmed. Last weekend several of us who had been on the Lone Pine tour met up with Don at Iverson. Accompanying us on the tour was Dennis Liff of the Iverson Movie Ranch blog.

Dennis has written an extensive blog post about the MYSTERY MAN locations. His post includes a YouTube clip of the shootout and is highly recommended for anyone interested in the locations.

Below are just a couple of the photos I took as we hiked the MYSTERY MAN locations at Iverson.



While we were there we also enjoyed looking at locations from a few other films, including William Boyd's MEN OF AMERICA (1932), which is on DVD from the Warner Archive. Now that I've seen that movie's locations, I hope to review the film here in the not-too-distant future.

We also saw locations for MONTANA MOON (1930), STAGECOACH (1939), TENNESSEE'S PARTNER (1955), and OLD YELLER (1957). Be sure to visit the Iverson Ranch blog for photo posts on these locations; there's an index along the right margin of the site.

The stagecoach passes by here early in John Ford's classic:


Below on the left is Lone Ranger Rock, famously seen in the opening credits of the LONE RANGER TV series:


Our thanks to Don and Dennis for all their research and some great tours!

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