Monday, April 30, 2018

The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review

It's hard to believe, but the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival is now over -- another very special experience I will always remember.


The festival was filled with great movies and good times with friends. TCM continues to provide its festival guests with an array of fantastic experiences in the heart of Hollywood.

I'm especially pleased that TCM continues to show many 35mm prints, along with "DCP" digital presentations; it's especially noteworthy that for the second year in a row, a 35mm nitrate print was screened each evening at the Egyptian Theater.


Although there were some occasional hiccups with line management, and "sellouts" in tiny Theater 4 were an issue again this year, by and large the festival continues to run as a well-oiled machine, with a dazzling schedule of numerous choices for every hour of the day.


At this year's festival I saw 17 films, matching last year's tally of 16 films and a cartoon program.


Of the 17 films seen this year, ten were repeats and seven were completely new to me. That said, I'd previously only seen three of the ten "repeat" films on a big screen, and I hadn't seen a number of the films in many years, so pretty much everything I saw felt fresh.


While only a third of the films I saw in 2015 were in 35mm, increasing to nine 35mm prints of the 16 movies seen last year, this year 14 of the 17 films I saw were in 35mm -- and three of the 14 were nitrate prints. I'm very happy about this, as I prefer to see "real" film which can only be seen at a theater. If I'd really wanted to I'm pretty sure I could have filled my entire schedule with nothing but 35mm.

The three digital prints I saw all looked good; it's only been a few years, but digital prints seem to have come a long way from the awful muddy, pixilated digital print I saw of ON THE WATERFRONT at the festival in 2013.


I successfully carried out the schedule I posted here earlier this month, with the exception being that for my final film I dropped the nitrate print of A STAR IS BORN (1937) in order to see the pre-Code comedy BLESSED EVENT (1932). I was quite happy with that choice!


I thorough enjoyed everything I saw, perhaps with the exception of BULL DURHAM, which was way more raunchy than I recalled. I liked the parts focused on Kevin Costner and baseball but could have done without numerous scenes in the movie, and I'm unlikely to return to it in the future. Everything else was very enjoyable, even titles I hadn't initially been that excited to see.


Out of the many terrific films I saw, I think I'd probably choose Lubitsch's THE MERRY WIDOW (1934), starring Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier, as my favorite experience. It was such fun watching it with an audience which appreciated the humor and the actors! I felt such a warm glow of happiness at the end that I might have teared up a little.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935) and its silvery cinematography also made a big impression; that was one of the titles I'd not been especially enthused about which ended up being a high point in the festival. I was so glad I chose to see it!


Happily there were no issues in my screenings this year with people trying to photograph the opening credits on their cell phones! It was a bit odd, however, that a couple of movies had inappropriate audience laughter, including the screenings I attended of LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945) and SPELLBOUND (1945). (Apparently the book dedication to "The Girl With the Hoe" in LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN is riotously funny. Good grief.)


This kind of tittering reaction isn't typically a problem when I attend L.A. screenings the rest of the year, so it was a disappointment that it happened at the festival; you'd think TCM audiences would be more sophisticated. It was reported that Leonard Maltin actually said something to the audience before the closing night screening of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925), which seems to have helped. Good for him!


I'm already missing the many wonderful people in our online classic film community, but what great memories we made again this year!

It's been an amazing movie month, beginning with the Noir City Hollywood festival opening on April 14th, and it's not over yet! The Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival opens in Palm Springs next week, on May 10th.


As usual, in the coming days I'll be posting overviews of each day of the TCM Classic Film Festival, and hopefully I'll also have time to write some reviews of individual films.

As the posts go up I'll add the links just below this paragraph, so that all of this year's festival coverage may be easily found in one place.

TCM 2018 Festival Posts: The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival: Days One and Two; The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Three; The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Four; The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Five; Tonight's Movie: The Merry Widow (1934) at the TCM Classic Film Festival; Tonight's Movie: The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1943) at the TCM Classic Film Festival; Tonight's Movie: How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) at the TCM Classic Film Festival; Tonight's Movie: Leave Her to Heaven (1945) at the TCM Classic Film Festival. [More posts coming soon!]

Previously reviewed films seen at the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival, listed in the order viewed: FINISHING SCHOOL (1934), STAGE DOOR (1937), THREE SMART GIRLS (1936), SPELLBOUND (1945), and BLESSED EVENT (1932).


Previous 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival coverage: TCM Announces 2018 Festival Dates and Theme (August 29, 2017); TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements (October 26, 2017); More TCM News: New Co-Hosts and Robert Osborne Award (March 2, 2018); The Latest TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements (March 10, 2018); The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule (April 16, 2018); Coming Soon! (April 25, 2018).

Roundups containing all links to coverage of past TCM festivals: The 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review, The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review, The 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review, The 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review, and The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

TCM in May: Highlights

It's hard to believe, but soon the TCM Classic Film Festival will be just a memory for those of us fortunate to attend -- which means it's time to look at the May schedule for Turner Classic Movies!

Marlene Dietrich is the May Star of the Month. It's been 16 years since the actress was last Star of the Month. Look for her films on Thursday evenings, beginning May 10th. (Due to my film festival schedule, there will not be a separate Star of the Month post for May.)

The first Thursday evening of the month, May 3rd, will be a celebration of the late Robert Osborne's birthday.

TCM is doing something really interesting in May, running weekly 48-hour marathons of over 20 different movie series. I've noted the various series below, and they're the main focus of this month's highlights post.

This month's Noir Alley titles: THE NARROW MARGIN (1952) on May 5th and 6th, CAGED (1950) on May 12th and 13th, CRIME WAVE (1954) on May 19th and 20th, and THE CLAY PIGEON (1949) on May 26th and 27th.

THE NARROW MARGIN and CRIME WAVE both rank not only among my top favorite film noir titles, but among my all-time favorite films of any genre. THE NARROW MARGIN stars Charles McGraw, Jacqueline White, and Marie Windsor (seen at right), while CRIME WAVE stars Sterling Hayden, Gene Nelson, and Phyllis Kirk. Both films are tremendously enjoyable.

THE CLAY PIGEON, about a WWII veteran, is featured during the annual Memorial Day weekend war movies marathon. It stars the husband-wife team of Bill Williams and Barbara Hale.

Below are just a few of TCM's May highlights; click on any hyperlinked title for my review:

...The movie series marathons kick off on May 1st with half a dozen films from the Blondie series, including BLONDIE (1938). This series starring Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake ran for a dozen years and over 20 additional entries!

...The initial movie series marathon continues through May 3rd, featuring the Mexican Spitfire films, starring Lupe Velez; the trio of Four Daughters films; 10 Maisie films, starring Ann Sothern; and a quartet of Great Gildersleeve movies starring Harold Peary (and a very young Nancy Gates!).

...The birthday tribute to Robert Osborne on the night of May 3rd includes ROBERT OSBORNE'S 20TH ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTE (2015) and PRIVATE SCREENINGS: ROBERT OSBORNE (2014).

...Last month I really enjoyed the Western WARLOCK (1959), with Richard Widmark, Dorothy Malone, and Henry Fonda, to name just three members of an outstanding cast. It's on May 5th.

...A tribute to Anne Baxter on May 7th includes a couple very good noirish titles, CHASE A CROOKED SHADOW (1958) with Richard Todd and THE BLUE GARDENIA (1953) with Richard Conte.

...As the movie series theme continues, TCM will devote roughly 48 hours, from May 8th through 10th, to Tarzan films (starring Johnny Weissmuller, followed by Lex Barker and Gordon Scott), Jungle Jim (also starring Weissmuller), and Bomba the Jungle Boy (starring Johnny Sheffield of the Weissmuller Tarzan movies).

...The celebration of Marlene Dietrich as Star of the Month begins on the 10th. Don't miss SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1932)!

...TCM is showing Dick Foran "B" Westerns every Saturday morning in May. I especially enjoyed LAND BEYOND THE LAW (1937), showing on May 12th. Wayne Morris plays Foran's sidekick, and I love the song "The Prairie is My Home," which also turns up in some of Foran's other Westerns.

...The fun Mother's Day lineup on May 13th includes BACHELOR MOTHER (1939), LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA (1962), and I REMEMBER MAMA (1948).

...From May 15th through 17th, the movie series featured are the Andy Hardy series, the Five Little Peppers, Dr. Kildare, and Dr. Gillespie. I haven't seen the Peppers series yet -- it's a goal, as I read all the books as a child! -- by the other three series are all from MGM and quality entertainment.

...A wonderful nine-film Robert Montgomery birthday tribute on May 21st includes favorites HIDE-OUT (1934) with Maureen O'Sullivan and TROUBLE FOR TWO (1936) with Rosalind Russell. Both films feature charming and original romances.

...Time for more movie series on the 22nd! TCM will feature 48 hours of crime-solving mysteries, including Nancy Drew, starring Bonita Granville; Miss Marple, starring Margaret Rutherford; Torchy Blane, most starring Glenda Farrell; the Thin Man movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy; Perry Mason films, most starring Warren William; and Dick Tracy films with stars including Morgan Conway and Anne Jeffreys.

...One of my favorite pre-Codes is MARY STEVENS, M.D. (1933) starring Kay Francis, Glenda Farrell, and Lyle Talbot. It's a great exemplar of what makes a pre-Code "pre-Code"! It's being shown May 25th.

...The annual Memorial Day war movie marathon begins the evening of May 25th. It includes a great many good films, including what might be the best war film of them all, John Ford's THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945), starring Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, and Donna Reed, airing May 26th. BATTLEGROUND (1949) on May 28th is another special film, tough to watch yet beautiful, with its atmospheric snowy scenes and a great cast headed by Van Johnson, John Hodiak, and Ricardo Montalban; William Wellman directed.

...The final movie series marathon, beginning May 29th and ending on the last day of May, kicks off with Chester Morris as Boston Blackie, followed by several Bulldog Drummond films with various stars; the Saint series, mostly starring George Sanders; the Lassie and Rusty films, centered on smart dogs; and finally a pair of '60s movies featuring Flipper the Dolphin.

For more on TCM in May, please visit my Quick Preview of TCM in May and TCM's complete schedule.

Happy viewing!!

Friday, April 27, 2018

TCM Presents Mad About Musicals!

Turner Classic Movies has announced its newest online course, "Mad About Musicals!"

The free course will take place from June 3rd to 30th, 2018.

This will be the fourth film course TCM has presented in partnership with Ball State University. TCM and Ball State have previously provided classes on film noir, slapstick comedy, and Alfred Hitchcock.

Full information, including the four-week course syllabus, is available at the class Canvas site. Click the enrollment button at Canvas to sign up.

A list of the musicals TCM will be showing in conjunction with the course is on the TCM site.

For additional background, Julia has an interview with Ball State's Richard Edwards posted at her site Cinema Crossroads.

And for anyone who missed the link I shared in March, the Ball State Daily News had an interesting article on how the course was designed.

Mad About Musicals! is a wonderful opportunity for anyone who wants to know more about musicals to do a "deep dive" into the genre, learning film history along with enjoying some wonderful movies.

Update: I recommend two favorite musicals during each day of this series in TCM in June: Highlights.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Coming Soon!

It's hard to believe, but it's time to head to Hollywood for the TCM Classic Film Festival!

It's been a wonderful month to be a classic film fan in Southern California, first attending a quartet of films in the Ida Lupino tribute at UCLA, followed by several screenings at the 20th Annual Noir City Film Festival.

Today's schedule is packed with pre-festival activities, including a media welcome reception with TCM executives and talent, followed by get-togethers with my fellow classic film bloggers.

The movies get underway on Thursday evening! My tentative picks from the festival schedule may be found here.

Please follow me on Twitter for "as it happens" coverage, including photos, then look for in-depth blog coverage on the festival beginning next week!

An overview of the May Turner Classic Movies schedule will be posted here while I'm away, as well as a post with information on TCM's new "Mad About Musicals!" online course scheduled for June, so please check back periodically for new content while I'm at the festival.

In addition to extensive coverage of the TCM Classic Film Festival, there's much more ahead here in the weeks to come, including:

*Complete coverage of the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, which takes place in Palm Springs, California, from May 10th through 13th; be sure to check out the terrific schedule!

*A review and giveaway of Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release of BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY (2017)

*A Visit to Iverson Ranch, a location seen in countless movies for decades

*A Visit to Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery, the final resting place of both Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

*A Visit to the Hollywood Museum, currently featuring an Annette Funicello exhibit

*Numerous reviews of DVDs and Blu-rays from Kino Lorber, Olive Films, and the Warner Archive

*A review of the latest Marvel film, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)

*An Around the Blogosphere link roundup

*A long-overdue photo post on last summer's visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco

*And the debut of my new monthly column on Westerns at the Classic Movie Hub website!

May will be a busy month here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, so please check back regularly!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival Opens in Palm Springs on May 10th

The 2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival opens in Palm Springs on Thursday, May 10th.

The festival, which runs through Sunday, May 13th, takes place at the Camelot Theatres, located at 2300 East Baristo Road.

I'm happy to announce that again this year I'll be providing complete coverage of the festival, with "as it happens" Tweets during the festival and a detailed recap of the festival once it's over.

I was fortunate to attend the Arthur Lyons Festival in both 2015 and 2017 and had a wonderful time. I enjoy attending several film festivals each year, and this one is definitely the most relaxed, with no lines, comfortable seating, and time for a meal at one of the many nearby restaurants in between screenings.

The films are presented by festival host and programmer Alan K. Rode, along with the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller. This year's festival will also feature a quartet of special guests, detailed below along with a rundown of what to expect at this year's festival. (Click any hyperlinked title in this post for my past review.)

Opening night will feature a screening of Robert Mitchum in FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975), with special guest Jack O'Halloran, who plays Moose Malloy in the film. I admit I'm also excited because he was in SUPERMAN (1978)! This will be my first time to see FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, so it's a great way to start the festival.

Friday morning kicks off with a 10:00 a.m. screening of the enjoyable LARCENY (1948), starring John Payne, Joan Caulfield, and Dan Duryea.

After lunch I'm very much looking forward to seeing THE TURNING POINT (1952), starring William Holden, Edmond O'Brien, and Alexis Smith. Paramount Pictures just did a new digital restoration which debuted at the Noir City Festival in Hollywood; I couldn't be there that evening so I was quite happy to see it turn up on the schedule for Palm Springs.

THE UNSUSPECTED (1947), which I saw at UCLA in February, has a marvelous cast, include Claude Rains, Joan Caulfield, Constance Bennett, and Audrey Totter. It was directed by Michael Curtiz, and as I've mentioned here before, Curtiz is the subject of a terrific new biography by festival host Alan Rode.

Friday evening wraps up with a film I've been wanting to see for quite a while, THE WEB (1947), starring Edmond O'Brien, Ella Raines, William Bendix, and Vincent Price. (It's rather fun that Friday alternates between Joan Caulfield and Edmond O'Brien films!) There will be a post-film Q&A with Vincent Price's daughter Victoria.

Saturday morning begins with Alan Ladd in CHICAGO DEADLINE (1949). I enjoyed this one at last year's Noir City Festival; I don't think I could ever get enough of Alan Ladd on a big screen so I'm happy to watch it again.

The second film of the day is a new UCLA restoration of THE RED HOUSE (1947). THE RED HOUSE was directed by Delmer Daves and has quite a cast, including Edward G. Robinson, Judith Anderson, Rory Calhoun, Julie London, and Lon McCallister. I'm really looking forward to seeing this one for the first time.

I'm also enthused about taking a second look at THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (1950), starring Lee J. Cobb, Jane Wyatt, and John Dall. I enjoyed this one tremendously at last year's Noir City Festival, and since that time the film has been restored. I'm looking forward to seeing the restored print, all the more so because last summer I was able to visit one of the movie's key locations, Fort Point in San Francisco.

(Side note for those who can't make it to Palm Springs: THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF will air on TCM's Noir Alley series on June 23rd and 24th, and later this year it will be released on Blu-ray by Flicker Alley.)

One of the other films I especially look forward to is the Saturday night screening of WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957), which I haven't seen in years. The festival will host a very special guest, cast member Ruta Lee, who will reminisce about her experiences working on the film, which stars Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton, and Marlene Dietrich, directed by Billy Wilder.

Sunday, the final day of the fest, is a three-movie day, beginning with UNDER THE GUN (1951) at 10:00 a.m. It stars Richard Conte and Audrey Totter, two names which are certainly enough to get me to the theater bright and early that morning! This is yet another film I'll be seeing for the first time.

Victoria Mature, who was present in the audience at last year's festival, will be present for a Q&A after the screening of KISS OF DEATH (1947), starring her father, Victor Mature, along with Coleen Gray (with Mature at left), Richard Widmark, and Brian Donlevy. KISS OF DEATH is one of my all-time favorite film noir titles, and I've never seen it on a big screen. Seeing it in that format with Victoria there to talk about her father should be a very special experience.

The festival will conclude with another film directed by Michael Curtiz, FLAMINGO ROAD (1949), starring Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott, and Sydney Greenstreet. I had been disappointed I was unable to see this new-to-me title at UCLA earlier this year so finding it on the Palm Springs schedule was a great surprise.

I'm very enthused about the schedule, which for me personally will be a great mix of old favorites and several new discoveries. I strongly recommend attending this festival; any classic film fan is guaranteed to have a fantastic long weekend immersed in some wonderful movies.

For those considering attending for the first time, we've enjoyed staying at both the Courtyard by Marriott, which is the official festival hotel, and the Best Western Plus Las Brisas.

Our favorite places to grab a bite between movies include Bill's Pizza, Sherman's Deli, and, for breakfast, Elmer's, the only California location of a chain we enjoy on our visits to Oregon.

Please visit the festival website for additional information and tickets; in addition to the festival "all-access pass," tickets may be purchased for individual screenings.

Hope to see some of my readers in the desert next month!

Update: The 2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Review.

Tonight's Movie: Comet Over Broadway (1938) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Kay Francis suffers divinely in COMET OVER BROADWAY (1938), just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

As the movie begins, our girl Kay plays Eve Appleton, a simple, gum-chewing young wife and mother who runs a small-town train station magazine stand. Eve dreams of the glamorous acting life depicted in the magazines she sells.

Eve is married to Bill (John Litel), and they have a baby girl (Victoria Elizabeth Scott, later Sybil Jason). Eve and Bill are mostly happy, save for Bill's horrid mother (Vera Lewis), who's constantly denigrating Eve.

Eve stars in a local theatrical production -- look for a young Susan Hayward as a fellow actress -- and a visiting actor in town (Ian Keith) offers to give her some professional advice. When Eve goes to see him it turns out he has more than advice in mind, but Bill arrives in the nick of time. Unfortunately, when Bill gives the actor the walloping he deserves, the man falls and dies and Bill ends up in prison.

Kay Francis being Kay Francis, her Eve has a plan; she farms her little girl out to a new friend (Minna Gombell) and sets out to work her way up through the show biz ranks, from burlesque to vaudeville to Broadway, in order to gain the power and money to set Bill free.

There's just one problem -- on her rise to the top, Eve falls in love with a new man, producer-director Bert Ballin (frequent Francis costar Ian Hunter).

COMET OVER BROADWAY is quintessential Kay Francis melodrama, as she goes through 70 minutes of fast-paced trials and tribulations in an increasingly glamorous wardrobe by the great Orry-Kelly. It leaves the viewer guessing how things will turn out, and honestly I was surprised when it ended somewhat abruptly, especially as there had been a hint that the story would turn out differently.

That said, despite any defects it was fun to watch, and anyone who's a Francis fan will probably enjoy this one; I did!

I've grown to like Ian Hunter, and he's quite sympathetic in this one; Gombell has a nice role as well. Sybil Jason overdoes some of her scenes as Francis's daughter, who's more than a bit confused about her parentage.

Donald Crisp is also on hand as Litel's attorney.

Busby Berkeley directed, along with the uncredited John Farrow. The movie was filmed in black and white by James Wong Howe. The screenplay was by Mark Hellinger and Robert Buckner, based on a story by Faith Baldwin.

The print is rather soft and the sound is somewhat muffled, which required me to turn up my TV volume higher than normal, but all in all it's a watchable print, without major defects. There are no extras.

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 or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Act of Violence (1949) at the Noir City Film Festival

Sunday was a wonderful day, enjoying an annual pre-TCM Festival excursion with friends just arrived in town. We toured Iverson Ranch, where countless movies were filmed, and also visited Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery, the final resting place of both Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Photos from our day trip will be posted here after the festival.

That evening we all attended the last night of the Noir City Hollywood Festival. Closing night feels a bit like the start of the TCM Fest, as a number of people arrange to arrive in town a few days early in order to catch the tail end of Noir City. It was great to say hello to several online friends in person last night!

The closing night double bill consisted of ACT OF VIOLENCE (1949) and NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948). It was such a long day that we didn't end up staying for NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES, but it's a film I love and recommend. I first reviewed it back in 2011, then saw it in 35mm at Noir City in 2013, and then had the ultimate viewing experience, seeing it in nitrate at UCLA in June 2017. I hope that eventually the Criterion Collection will release this special film; star Gail Russell was also in MOONRISE (1948), out next month from Criterion, so perhaps there's hope!

I had never seen ACT OF VIOLENCE and was thoroughly impressed in all respects. It was well written by Robert L. Richards, based on a story by Collier Young, had excellent direction by Fred Zinnemann, and was beautifully photographed at L.A. locations by Robert Surtees. There's even a great shot of the Angels' Flight Railway, a classic staple of L.A. film noir.

The entire cast was outstanding, as one would expect with actors the caliber of Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, and Mary Astor. The performance which really blew me away, however, was that of 21-year-old Janet Leigh, her fifth film in an unexpected career which had begun just two years previously, after Norma Shearer spotted her photo at a ski resort.

As the film begins, WWII veteran Frank Enley (Heflin) is riding high: He has a successful business as a home builder, a lovely young wife named Edith (Leigh), a baby boy (Larry and Leslie Holt), a nice house, and an all-around good life.

Having just been honored at a civic ceremony, Frank heads out of town for a fishing trip with a friend, only to become frightened when he learns a man with a limp (Ryan) has been inquiring about him at the lakeside dock. Frank cuts the trip short and hurries home, startling Edith as he locks the doors and pulls the shades.

Joe (Ryan) is a fellow war veteran with a score to settle with Frank. Although Joe initially seems to be the bad guy, terrorizing the family and clearly intending to kill Frank, Frank soon confesses to Edith the reason Joe is after him: Frank had done something very bad when they were in a POW camp. The shocked Edith forgives Frank, but will Joe? And can Frank forgive himself?

Playing the two tormented men, Heflin and Ryan are as good as one would expect, and part of what makes the film so compelling is that each actor plays a fully rounded character, neither hero or villain. Heflin aptly conveys a man caught in a waking nightmare, trying to lock out the terror just outside the door; the sound of Ryan's limping walk only adds to the nightmare quality. The despair on Frank's face near the end, realizing it's unlikely he can hang on to his life with his wife and son, is shattering.

Mary Astor is also due plaudits as a worn-out barstool flunky with odd little tics, such as picking at her fingernails. It's hard to recognize her as the beautiful woman who played Leigh's mother that same year in LITTLE WOMEN (1949), let alone as the mother from MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) half a decade before.

For me, however, the film is anchored by Janet Leigh's performance as the young wife. The film's dramatic arc is continuously mirrored in her expressive eyes, taking her character from the proud wife with shining eyes through worry, fear, resignation, and compassion. I've always liked her, but I was tremendously impressed with her performance in this and suspect working with director Fred Zinnemann helped draw from her an extra measure of excellence. Watching Edith's life collapse around her in the space of hours is heartbreaking; in a sense, it's Leigh's film, as Edith is the one caught between the two men, and she's the one left to pick up the pieces and carry on.

Phyllis Thaxter has a small role as the woman in Joe's life, trying to convince him to set violence aside. Connie Gilchrist plays Leigh's neighbor. The cast also includes Barry Kroeger, Taylor Holmes, Harry Antrim, and Will Wright.

The movie is a fast-paced 82 minutes. Most of the credits, incidentally, come at the end, and they're quite effectively presented in that format.

A fun bit of trivia: "Redwood Lake" was actually Big Bear Lake, and the words "Big Bear" can be seen on a boat in the background when Ryan's character arrives at the lake.

ACT OF VIOLENCE is available on DVD as part of the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4 or in a two-film set with MYSTERY STREET (1950), reissued by the Warner Archive.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Quick Preview of TCM in July

The Turner Classic Movies schedule for July has been posted!

Steve McQueen will be the July Star of the Month.

July will also feature a fun Spotlight theme, "50 States in 50 Movies."

I'm especially excited about a night of Republic Pictures restorations on July 27th, which will feature Mona Freeman in THAT BRENNAN GIRL (1946); Marsha Hunt and William Lundigan in THE INSIDE STORY (1947), which I saw at the UCLA Festival of Preservation in 2013; the memorable film noir CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS (1953); and TRIGGER, JR. (1950), a Roy Rogers Western I just reviewed on Blu-ray.

Saturday morning programming in July will feature early '40s Tim Holt Westerns, followed each week by a Tarzan film starring either Lex Barker or Gordon Scott.

July's Noir Alley titles will include ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950), a favorite film which I just saw at the Noir City Festival; Robert Taylor and Cyd Charisse in Nicholas Ray's terrific "color noir" PARTY GIRL (1958); and a personal favorite, Van Johnson in SCENE OF THE CRIME (1949), to mention just part of the lineup.

Olivia de Havilland will receive a six-film tribute on July 1st, her 102nd birthday.

Another birthday of note: Leonard Bernstein's centennial will be celebrated with his musicals, his score for ON THE WATERFRONT (1954), and, intriguingly, several 1961 OMNIBUS episodes.

Additional filmmakers receiving multifilm tributes in July include Barbara Stanwyck, Sally Ann Howes, James Dean, Joan Blondell, Joe E. Brown, Sterling Hayden, Red Skelton, Maximilian Schell, Mark Robson, and Jean Negulesco.

As always, there's an Independence Day theme on July 4th, including HOLIDAY INN (1942), which features Fred Astaire's great firecracker dance. July themes will feature comedy teams, the French Revolution, women doctors, zombies, and murder mysteries involving radio actors. That's certainly an eclectic assortment!

Coming soon: Marlene Dietrich will be Star of the Month in May and Leslie Howard is featured in June.

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