Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Revisiting Sleeping Beauty (1959) at the El Capitan Theatre

I had another wonderful Disney "big screen" experience today!

I followed last weekend's showing of 40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE (1962) at the Hollywood Heritage Museum, which featured a Disneyland sequence, with a very special 60th Anniversary screening of SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959) tonight at Disney's El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.

SLEEPING BEAUTY premiered in Los Angeles exactly 60 years ago today, so it was very special for me to be at this anniversary screening, as it's been my favorite animated Disney film for as long as I can remember.

It was hard to believe it's already been five years since I last saw SLEEPING BEAUTY at the El Capitan; most of my 2014 review still holds today, though Rob Richards, the El Capitan's house organist, has now been at the theater for 20 years rather than 15!

In fact, Richards provided an extra-special treat; the movie was due to start at 7:00 p.m. but was pushed back a half hour, I assume because so many people were still streaming into the packed theater at showtime. We ended up getting to enjoy a 45-minute concert of Disney music on the big Wurlitzer organ, which made the evening perfect!

As it happens, Leonard Maltin just wrote about Richards and the organ. Richards will star in a special concert, To Disney With Love, at the El Capitan next Monday evening, February 4th. (Ticket info may be found here.) It may rain Monday so I will probably regretfully pass, as the drive from Orange County to Hollywood at that time of day is challenging under the best circumstances, but I'm very happy I got to hear him play so many beloved tunes tonight.

The showmanship at the El Capitan is marvelous, including a short musical prologue featuring a succession of attractively lit curtains and screens, followed by a short dance by Princess Aurora herself -- and then confetti! It was still raining out of the ceiling as the movie began.

The audience was so enthusiastic and appreciative, applauding all the movie's big moments, and as usual I found myself tearing up in a couple spots out of sheer happiness.

There are more Disney classics ahead at the El Capitan over the next few weeks; for details please visit the post I wrote earlier this month. I hope to attend CINDERELLA (1950) in a few weeks!

Previously: Tonight's Movie: Lady and the Tramp (1955) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Cinderella (1950) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Peter Pan (1953) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Mulan (1998) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: The Little Mermaid (1989) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Mary Poppins (1964) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Sleeping Beauty (1959) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Swiss Family Robinson (1960) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Alice in Wonderland (1951) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: The AristoCats (1970) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: The Incredibles (2004) at the El Capitan Theatre; Revisiting Enchanted (2007) at the El Capitan Theatre; plus Tonight's Movie: The Jungle Book (1967) at the TCM Classic Film Festival.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Give Me Your Heart (1936) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Kay Francis stars in GIVE ME YOUR HEART (1936), a melodrama available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Francis was my most-watched actress in 2018, thanks largely to titles available from the Warner Archive, and I was glad to continue my Francis viewing with GIVE ME YOUR HEART, a particularly fine example of Francis doing what she does best, suffering nobly in stunning gowns by Orry-Kelly.

Francis plays Belinda Warren, who lives in an English village and makes the mistake of having a tryst with Robert Melford (Patric Knowles), a married man. Robert is married to Rosamond (Frieda Inescort), an invalid unable to have children.

It soon becomes apparent that Belinda has found herself in the family way, which is deduced by her friend Tubbs Barrow (Roland Young). Tubbs and Lord Farrington (Henry Stephenson), Robert's father, arrange for Robert and Rosamond to adopt the child, after which Belinda sets off for America.

On the train to Southampton -- a good half hour into the movie -- Belinda meets wealthy American lawyer Jim Baker (George Brent), and when next we see them they're married and living in New York. Despite Jim's love and her new marital happiness, Belinda is given to black moods and depression. Tubbs shows up in New York for a visit and, realizing Belinda's issue, he decides to to clear the air by throwing Belinda and Jim together with Robert and Rosamond, who are also in town...

This was a top-drawer drama thanks to a sensitive screenplay by Casey Robinson (based on a play by Jay Mallory), acted by a marvelous cast.

While Francis does become a bit annoying with her unpleasant moods midway through the film, her performance in the first and third acts is simply wonderful. She takes Belinda from lovestruck girl through panic, pain, and the agony of loss, and then, in a beautiful scene, she's able to reset how she thinks of everything which has happened and begin to contemplate being happy once more.

Francis is matched step for step by Inescort, who's enormously sympathetic as the woman who has gained great happiness due to Belinda's loss. Francis and Inescort's scenes together, particularly one they share looking at the sleeping baby (Tockie Trigg), are moving and memorable.

Young and Stephenson are especially good early in the movie as they help Belinda deal with what was an almost unthinkable problem for a well-brought-up young lady. (I was almost surprised the story made it past the Production Code, although there were occasionally films about unwed mothers in this era.) Stephenson has always been a favorite character actor, and he's excellent here as the grateful grandfather.

Brent, who was often teamed with Francis, is another favorite actor; that said, he's only in the last 2/3 of the film and doesn't have much to do in this one other than be baffled by his new wife's behavior. Still, his presence is always welcome, and he and Francis are an appealing screen team.

The cast includes Halliwell Hobbes, Zeffie Tilbury, Helen Flint, and Edgar Norton.

I wasn't surprised to read that Bess Flowers was an extra in the nightclub sequence, though I didn't spot her. It's the kind of scene she appeared in frequently! The dancers in that sequence, incidentally, were Charles Teske and Velma Wayne.

GIVE ME YOUR HEART was directed by Archie L. Mayo and filmed in black and white by Sid Hickox. It runs a well-paced 88 minutes.

The print has some scratches here and there, particularly at the beginning of the first reel, but all in all it's a fine print with good sound. There are no extras.

Fans of Kay Francis will likely love this one, as I did. I found it a very satisfying film and recommend it.

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.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Tonight's Movie: 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962) at the Hollywood Heritage Museum

I spent a wonderful afternoon in Hollywood today at the Hollywood Heritage Museum.

The museum is located on Highland Avenue immediately across the street from the Hollywood Bowl. In fact, our family enjoyed a picnic right next to the museum before a concert several years ago, but until today I'd never been inside.

The occasion was "Afternoon at the Barn: Walt Disney's Disneyland." Chris Nichols, author of the fabulous new photo book WALT DISNEY'S DISNEYLAND, gave a talk on Disneyland history, which was followed by a screening of the film 40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE (1963).

Chris gave a slideshow of favorite photos from the book and shared stories about both the park and the two years he spent writing the book with his wife and coauthor, Charlene Nichols.

Chris said he was given complete access to the Disney Archives, and one of the things which makes the book unique is that it combines Disney's photos with pictures from many other sources. The book was obviously a labor of love, and I was glad to have the chance to let Chris and Charlene know today how much I've enjoyed the copy I purchased in September.

Universal Pictures produced a Blu-ray especially for today's screening. This was my first time to see a film at the Hollywood Heritage Museum, and the picture from the Blu-ray projection looked great. I particularly appreciated the excellent sound quality.

This was not only my first time to visit the museum, it was my first time to see 40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE! I've had the DVD on my shelves for quite a while but since "So many movies, so little time" is the story of my life, I was glad to have this event pop up. What better way to experience a movie filmed in Disneyland than with a crowd of appreciative Disneyland fans? As I mentioned here a few days ago, 40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE was "the first and only non-Disney produced theatrical film that was ever filmed at Disneyland while Walt Disney was still alive."

Tony Curtis stars as Steve McCluskey, the very precise neatnik manager of a Lake Tahoe casino. His orderly life is upset when a guest leaves behind a little girl, Penny (Claire Wilcox), and disappears.

Although initially exasperated, Steve is a nice guy at heart and when he ends up taking care of little Penny, she quickly gets under his skin. Steve and Chris (Suzanne Pleshette), a singer at the resort, enjoy getting to know one another while keeping an eye on Penny, and when Steve learns Penny's father has been killed in a car wreck he decides they'll take her to her favorite place, Disneyland, before breaking the news.

The only problem with Steve traveling to Anaheim is that once he sets foot in California he'll be targeted by a private detective and law enforcement for failing to pay money owed to his ex-wife (Mary Murphy), which results in a funny chase sequence throughout Disneyland.

The extensive scenes filmed in Disneyland were great fun to watch, although the geography was mind-boggling, particularly when the characters got off the Monorail in order to enter the park at the Main Street Train Station. Some of the other editing was equally bizarre for anyone who knows the park, but at the same time picking out those oddities also made it kind of fun.

And how fantastic to see Disneyland as it was when I was a young child, including the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train and the theater showing AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL.

The movie as a whole is very visually appealing, from Curtis's blue eyes to the '60s resort decor to the bright wardrobes and, of course, Disneyland. Curtis is at his most handsome and charming and is in all but a handful of scenes, so I found it a thoroughly enjoyable film.

The deep cast includes Kevin McCarthy, Karen Steele, Larry Storch, Edward Andrews, Phil Silvers, Stubby Kaye, Ford Rainey, Gregg Palmer, and Warren Stevens. Diane Ladd pops up as a honeymooning bride, and Allyn Ann McLerie is McCarthy's secretary. Familiar faces like Richard Mulligan, Jack La Rue, Jim Bannon, Helen Kleeb, and Bess Flowers also turn up. It's a great movie for "watching faces" along with all the eye-catching visuals.

40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE was directed by Norman Jewison and filmed by Joe MacDonald. It runs 106 minutes.

I recommend 40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE as an enjoyable comedy appropriate for the entire family. It's available on DVD.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Female on the Beach (1955) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

FEMALE ON THE BEACH (1955) is one of a pair of films starring Jeff Chandler recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

Earlier this month I reviewed the other Chandler release, FOXFIRE (1955). Like FOXFIRE, FEMALE ON THE BEACH is a romantic melodrama directed by Joseph Pevney.

I first saw FEMALE ON THE BEACH at the Noir City Film Festival nearly eight years ago; I wasn't quite sure what to make of it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it!

My reaction now remains the same. The movie is a bit nuts in some ways, but I find that adds to the enjoyment rather than detracting.

Joan Crawford plays wealthy widow Lynn Markham, who arrives at her late husband's Malibu property the day after the last tenant, Eloise Crandall (Judith Evelyn), fell off the balcony and died. Mrs. Markham's real estate agent, Amy Rawlinson (Jan Sterling), neglects to mention this curious fact to her client, who then discovers her balcony railing is broken and police are combing the beach below.

Broke but gorgeous neighborhood boat bum Drummond "Drummy" Hall (Chandler) makes a play for Lynn, but it's uncertain if he's interested in her or her money. Drummy, who lives down the road with a pair of con artists (Cecil Kellaway and Natalie Schafer), had had an affair with Eloise, and when Lynn finds Eloise's diary she realizes there are uncomfortable parallels with her own relationship with Drummy. The cautions of the police detective (Charles Drake) concern her as well.

And yet...Lynn can't resist Drummy, no matter where it leads, and eventually they make plans to marry. Given that he's played by tall, hunky Jeff Chandler, it's easy to have sympathy with her weakness for him!

As I wrote when I first saw the movie, I find Crawford at this stage of her career a bit baffling, with her heavy makeup and severe hairstyle perhaps somewhat at odds with her playing a romantic lead, but the woman undeniably has charisma and is a compelling performer. Chandler being a dozen years or so younger is completely compatible with the storyline, especially when he explains his back story, and I really enjoy watching them together.

I'd somehow forgotten "whodunit" so I also enjoyed that part of the story all over again! This is simply a really fun film, especially for fans of the leads, and the Kino Lorber Blu-ray is beautiful, with a crisp black and white picture. I had a great time watching it and will happily do so again in the future.

FEMALE ON THE BEACH runs 97 minutes. It was filmed by Charles Lang. The screenplay by Robert Hill and Richard Alan Simmons was based on a play by Hill called THE BESIEGED HEART.

Blu-ray extras include not one but two commentary tracks, one by Kat Ellinger and the other by David Del Valle and David DeCoteau. The disc also includes the trailer, additional trailers for films starring Crawford or Chandler, and an image gallery. The case has reversible cover art.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

New Westerns Column Now Posted at Classic Movie Hub

My latest Western Roundup column is now available at Classic Movie Hub!

This month's post is on the wonderful film CANYON PASSAGE (1946) and the Autry Museum of the American West, which I visited last month.

Please click over to Classic Movie Hub to read it.

Thanks to Classic Movie Hub for the opportunity to share my love of Westerns at their site!

Previous Classic Movie Hub Western Roundup Column Links: June 2018; July 2018; August 2018; September 2018; October 2018; November 2018; December 2018.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Quick Preview of TCM in April

The April schedule is now available from Turner Classic Movies!

It's a big month for TCM, as April 14th marks the channel's 25th anniversary. GONE WITH THE WIND (1939), the first film ever shown on TCM, will be shown in prime time that evening.

Greta Garbo is the April Star of the Month. According to my records, this will be Garbo's fourth time as TCM's Star of the Month. She was previously honored in May 1994, just after TCM went on the air, as well as in June 2002 and September 2005.

As TCM has sometimes done in the past, typically around the time of the TCM Classic Film Festival in March or April, the Star of the Month screenings are being compressed into a single week. 23 Garbo films are scheduled to be shown on the evenings of April 1st through 5th, along with a documentary.

In the second week of April, the evenings of the 8th through 10th will celebrate detective movies. The first night focuses on lady detectives, the second night on men, and the third night on married detectives.

The April Noir Alley titles are 99 RIVER STREET (1953), NOBODY LIVES FOREVER (1946), WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950), and M (1951). John Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald are pictured here in NOBODY LIVES FOREVER.

Saturday mornings will include Tom Keene Westerns and the Torchy Blane series. Easter Sunday, as always, will include a showing of EASTER PARADE (1948).

April themes include ships, Egypt, fake romances, the Civil War, Mounties, and the return of a presumed-dead love.

There will be multifilm tributes celebrating the work of Debbie Reynolds, Garson Kanin, George Cukor, Spencer Tracy, Kay Francis, Clark Gable, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert, Yasujiro Ozu, the Barrymores, Shirley Temple, and the comedy team of Wheeler and Woolsey.

At the end of April, just a handful of days before Robert Osborne's May 3rd birth date, TCM will air a new special, BEST OF PRIVATE SCREENINGS (2019).

Also of note for TCM in April: The 10th annual TCM Classic Film Festival takes place in Hollywood from April 11th through 14th. Links for festival announcements to date may be found here. Stay tuned for full coverage as the festival approaches!

In the meantime, Kathryn Grayson continues as the January Star of the Month, with 31 Days of Oscar in February and Fredric March scheduled as the March Star of the Month.

Update: For more on TCM in April 2019, please visit TCM in April: Highlights.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

91st Annual Academy Award Nominations

The 91st annual Academy Award nominations were announced this morning.

A complete list may be found at The Hollywood Reporter.

BLACK PANTHER (2018) made a bit of history as the first film in the long-running Marvel series to receive a nomination for Best Picture, but otherwise there's little of note for me on the list of nominees, despite my seeing a significant number of new movies last year.

Once upon a time the Oscar nominees were also films which were widely enjoyed by the public, but for the most part these days there's a real split between popular entertainment and what the Academy regards as worthy.

The only category of interest for me is Best Animated Film, where I saw four of the five nominees: INCREDIBLES 2 (2018), RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (2018), MIRAI (2018), and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018).

All four of these films are worthy nominees, creative and polished film-making of the highest quality. While the conventional wisdom seems to be that SPIDERMAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE will win, I would certainly not be sorry if MIRAI were to be a surprise winner.

I was mildly surprised Emily Blunt wasn't nominated as Best Actress for MARY POPPINS RETURNS (2018), as while I didn't think that much of the film, she was very good indeed.

For that matter, as I look back at last year's viewing, one of the performances I most remember was Michelle Yeoh as the steely matriarch in CRAZY RICH ASIANS (2018), an Oscar shutout.

Although I have no interest in the film, as a Sam Elliott fan I was pleased to see he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for A STAR IS BORN (2018).

And that's the extent of this year's Oscar commentary! On awards night I'll be watching for a text from our daughter letting me know about the Animated Feature Film winner, but I won't be watching the ceremony.

I don't even bother watching for the memorial reel any longer, as the Academy continually botches it.  Among the Academy's memorial reel goofs and deliberate omissions of recent years: Confusing Jennifer Jones and Jean Simmons, and omitting Harry Carey Jr., Oscar winner Dorothy Malone, and Oscar nominee Robert Vaughn.

Otherwise, as I wrote last year, "Between the Oscars always making some baffling choices and the ceremony itself tending to feel more like a political rally, my interest is limited to looking over the nominations and letting it go at that. As usual on Oscar night, I'll be celebrating my love of movies by...watching a movie!"

Winners will be announced February 24, 2019.

Previous Oscar nomination posts: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. There was no Oscar post in 2009.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Janie Gets Married (1946) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

JANIE GETS MARRIED (1946) is a sequel to JANIE (1944), reviewed here at the end of December.

Both films are available as part of a two-film, one disc set from the Warner Archive.

JANIE GETS MARRIED reunites 11 cast members from the original film, with the exception of leading lady Joyce Reynolds, who was replaced in this film by Joan Leslie. It would be interesting to know why the change was made. I like both actresses, and Leslie manages to imbue Janie with the same giddiness of Reynolds' portrayal.

The movie starts with Dick (Robert Hutton) returning from WWII service in Europe and marrying his sweetheart Janie (Leslie). The happy couple live in a quite a gorgeous little house for newlyweds just starting out, but they've still got worries: Dick feels he doesn't have a real job working for Janie's father (Edward Arnold) at his newspaper; Janie doesn't know how to let her mother (Ann Harding) and mother-in-law (Barbara Brown) know they've each gifted the couple with new living room drapes; Dick's old Army pal "Spud" comes to visit and turns out to be a gorgeous gal (Dorothy Malone); Janie's attempt to make Dick jealous with her old boyfriend Scooper (Dick Erdman) misfires; and for good measure, the contrary housekeeper (Margaret Hamilton) puts so much starch in Dick's shirts that they can all stand up on their own!

Things build to a crazy climax when Janie hosts a dinner party for Mr. Stowers (Donald Meek), who plans to buy her father's newspaper. With Dick's Army pals (including Mel Torme!) singing in the kitchen and another newly returned serviceman (William Frambes) sleeping in the bedroom, not to mention Mr. Stowers believing Scooper is Janie's husband, things turn laugh-out-loud funny.

It's an entertaining family comedy, and in fact I think it's a little stronger than the original film. Leslie's Janie is somewhat less manipulative than in the original; instead she's a little lost, trying to grow up and figure out how to manage adult relationships with both her family and her new husband. (Her idea of deciding with Dick whether to stay married every 30 days isn't exactly conducive to confidence!)

Leslie's backed by a strong cast, with Robert Benchley particularly winning as Dick's stepfather, a calming influence for Janie when things get crazy -- though he unintentionally gives her unwise ideas, too! Arnold, Harding, and Brown are all great. Hattie McDaniel as Janie's family housekeeper is seen too little in this go-round, but we do get to watch her once again manage Janie's bratty sister Elsbeth (Clare Foley) better than her own mother!

Costar Dick Erdman is now 93. I was fortunate to see him interviewed at a 2011 screening of CRY DANGER (1951) at UCLA. He appeared on the TV series COMMUNITY through 2015.

JANIE GETS MARRIED was directed by Vincent Sherman and filmed in black and white by Carl E. Guthrie, who also filmed the original movie.

The film runs 89 minutes.

The print has some noticeable streaks and speckles near the end but for the most part it looks fine. Like JANIE, the sound was somewhat muffled; since the films are on the same DVD I'm not sure if it was a disc issue or the soundtracks of these films just happen to be weaker than the norm.

All in all this is a fun little "double feature" set of family comedies with lots of fun faces. I enjoyed my time with the family and wish there were more than two films in the series.

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.

Tonight's Movie: Her Kind of Man (1946) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

A nice cast stars in the Warner Bros. melodrama HER KIND OF MAN (1946), recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

I first saw this film back in 2010. I liked it well enough then, though my reaction was somewhat muted; it grew on me more with this second viewing. I think knowing what I was going to get at the outset tempered expectations, and I simply relaxed to enjoy my time with the cast, not to mention the familiar Warner Bros. backlot. The theater and hotel seen in the background in a couple different scenes are still there today, over 70 years later!

Janis Paige plays Georgia King, who none too wisely loves Steve Maddux (Zachary Scott). Steve is a lazy gambler, which concerns his sister Ruby (Faye Emerson) and her husband Joe (George Tobias); Steve thinks he's smart enough to have it all the easy way. Other than loving Georgia, the truth is that Steve makes one dumb decision after another, culminating in accidentally shooting one of the few people who really loves him.

Georgia is also courted by Broadway columnist Don Corwin (Dane Clark), who backs out of the way when she decides to marry Steve.

The script zigs and zags, not always providing logical motivations or answers to questions such as: Why does Steve's bodyguard Candy (Harry Lewis) stick with him despite the constant abuse? (There's something really odd in that relationship...it does build to a fitting ending.) Why does smooth-talking Steve completely flip out when the police raid his gambling joint, to the point he wields a gun in a no-win situation? Why isn't Georgia outraged when Steve kills someone near the end? Why doesn't the end of the movie circle back to the flashback which opens the film? And so on.

And yet...well, it's just fun spending time with this cast. Paige (who turned 96 last fall) brings her usual energy to the role, although I wondered if some of her soprano singing was dubbed, as it didn't sound like her usual singing voice. Scott is always good as a heel, and Clark is likeable, though his character is somewhat ineffectual.

Tobias, who was also in the last Warner Bros. film I saw, WINGS FOR THE EAGLE (1942), demonstrates his versatility between the two films; thanks to makeup, he appeared much older in the earlier film. I especially like his happily married relationship with the more glamorous Emerson in this film, though I wished they both had more to do. Emerson is underutilized here but makes her moments count.

Look for John Dehner, seen a few days ago in THE GIRL IN BLACK STOCKINGS (1957), in an early bit role; he's wearing a tuxedo and seated next to Dane Clark in a nightclub scene.

Sheldon Leonard, seen last week as the villain in FRONTIER GAL (1945), also turns up in this movie as someone who meets an unfortunate end early on in the film. I love the way actors criss-cross the casts of my viewing, spread over years and studios; I can almost always count on seeing at least one actor more than once in a week's movie watching!

HER KIND OF MAN was directed by Frederick De Cordova. It was filmed in black and white by Carl E. Guthrie. The musical score is by Franz Waxman. The film utilizes a few standards in the background, including "It Had to Be You." The movie runs 78 minutes.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print. There seemed to be some sort of background echo in a few scenes but otherwise the soundtrack was fine. There are no extras.

HER KIND OF MAN may be imperfect, but it's also stylish and entertaining, with a pleasant sort of familiarity in every frame. Those who like the cast or Warner Bros. films of the '40s will probably enjoy it, as I did.

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.

Disney Classics at the El Capitan Theatre

Southern Californians have a wonderful opportunity to catch several classic Disney animated films over the next few weeks at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.

My past reviews of each film, most of them seen at the El Capitan, are linked below.

*THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989) has just opened and will run through January 30th.

*On January 29th the El Capitan is hosting a one-night-only 60th Anniversary screening of SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959). I already have my ticket! It's been almost exactly five years since I last saw SLEEPING BEAUTY, my favorite animated Disney film, at the El Capitan. Time for another look! (Update: Revisiting Sleeping Beauty (1959) at the El Capitan Theatre.)

*BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991) plays from February 1st through 10th.

*LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955) will be shown from February 11th through 18th.

*Finally, CINDERELLA (1950) screens from February 28th through March 3rd. I will probably be attending this one as well! (Update: Revisiting Cinderella (1950) at the El Capitan Theatre.)

After the animated series concludes, CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019) opens at the El Capitan on Thursday evening, March 7th. We already have opening night tickets for that one, although in that case we'll be seeing it much closer to home!

I'm looking forward to this year's Marvel films, which also include AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019) in April and SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2019) in July.

The El Capitan Theatre is located at 6838 Hollywood Boulevard, across from the Hollywood & Highland Center. Parking at Hollywood & Highland can be validated at the El Capitan and is very inexpensive with the validation.

The El Capitan is operated by Disney's Buena Vista Theatres. The El Capitan only shows digital prints, but having been there numerous times I can attest that the digital experience at the El Capitan is excellent. It's a beautiful venue with friendly Disney-style service, and I highly recommend making the effort to catch one or more of these timeless classics on their big screen.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Wings for the Eagle (1942) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Frequent costars Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson star in WINGS FOR THE EAGLE (1942), a patriotic World War II film now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

WINGS FOR THE EAGLE was released in July 1942, just seven months after Pearl Harbor, which provides a key turning point late in the film. The movie is a salute to Lockheed Aircraft workers, while also taking time for a love triangle between Morgan, Carson, and Ann Sheridan, who plays Carson's wife.

Morgan's character, Corky, isn't interested in enlisting and hopes to ride out what seems to be an inevitable war working in an essential industry, airplane production. His perspective gradually matures due to both Pearl Harbor and his association with a new American citizen (George Tobias) and his Air Force pilot son (Russell Arms).

As Corky puts selfish attitudes behind him, he also does the right thing and works to reunite his married friends (Carson and Sheridan).

As drama goes, this 84-minute film is far from scintillating, yet it's interesting as a piece of WWII history. Having grown up in Southern California, the center of the WWII airplane production industry, I would sometimes hear stories about those years and the movie is interesting in that regard, from the big band playing to boost worker morale to the antiaircraft guns and camouflage installed at the plant after Pearl Harbor.

Many forget that the California coast was shelled by a Japanese submarine in February 1942, and no one had any idea at that early point what the course of the war would be, hence the efforts to protect the plant. A "Remember Pearl Harbor" banner hanging at the plant provides the employees with a somber reminder of the importance of their work for the war effort.

All in all, this isn't one of the better films starring the team of Morgan and Carson, but those interested in Hollywood's WWII morale-boosting films will find it worth a look.

WINGS FOR THE EAGLE was directed by Lloyd Bacon. It was filmed in black and white by Tony Gaudio. Look for familiar faces including John Ridgely, Don DeFore, Frank Faylen, George Meeker, Fay Helm, and Billy Curtis in the cast.

The Warner Archive DVD includes the trailer.

For more on this film, please see my 2008 review.

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.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

40 Pounds of Trouble (1962) Screening at Hollywood Heritage Museum

One of my readers tipped me off to a wonderful event coming up later this month at the Hollywood Heritage Museum.

On Sunday afternoon, January 27th, Chris Nichols, author of the excellent book WALT DISNEY'S DISNEYLAND, will give a talk on Disneyland. He'll also be available to sign copies of his book.

The afternoon will also include a screening the Universal Pictures film 40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE (1962), which features an extensive sequence filmed inside Disneyland. The movie stars Tony Curtis and Suzanne Pleshette.

Disney historian Jim Korkis says the film "was the first and only non-Disney produced theatrical film that was ever filmed at Disneyland while Walt Disney was still alive."

I had my copy of WALT DISNEY'S DISNEYLAND signed by the author at Disneyland when it came out last September, but I'm looking forward to his talk and the movie!

The Hollywood Heritage Museum is located at 2100 N. Highland Avenue, near the Hollywood Bowl. Click here for ticket information.

For more on 40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE and its filming at Disneyland, please visit a pair of articles by Jim Korkis for MousePlanet: "The Secret Story Behind 40 Pounds of Trouble at Disneyland," Part 1 and Part 2.

Update: Tonight's Movie: 40 Pounds of Trouble (1962) at the Hollywood Heritage Museum.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Frontier Gal (1945)

Yvonne DeCarlo and Rod Cameron star in FRONTIER GAL (1945), a colorful and entertaining Western comedy from Universal Pictures.

Cameron plays Jonathan Hart, on the run from the law after being framed for his partner's murder. The murder was actually committed by Blackie (Sheldon Leonard) -- though it takes Jonathan a few years to figure that out!

While hiding from the law Jonathan meets up with saloon gal Lorena (DeCarlo), and to say they have a tempestuous relationship would be an understatement. There are arguments and misunderstandings aplenty but underneath it all there's always a burning attraction.

Lorena ends up forcing Jonathan to marry her at gunpoint, after which he insists on a wedding night...and then ends up being taken to jail the next morning. (Lorena tells a character she can't decide if they were interrupted "too early or too late.") Flash forward six years and Jonathan returns...and boy, is he surprised to find he's the father of five-year-old Mary Ann (Beverly Sue Simmons).

More problems and misunderstandings ensue, but all's well that ends well!

This is sort of a Western TAMING OF THE SHREW, and it's played in such a light fashion that none of the problems actually come across as that traumatic. For that matter, I should perhaps mention that this film is quite unpolitically correct and sure to scandalize those who care about such things, but I took it all in good fun in the spirit in which it was intended, and I had a very enjoyable time watching it. I found the sequence where Jonathan keeps kissing Lorena, and she keeps slapping him, increasingly weakly, especially amusing.

The movie is almost a musical, with DeCarlo singing a few numbers; it sounds like she's singing herself at least part of the time, but IMDb credits the dubbing of one song to Doreen Tryden. I found the early sequence where Cameron first enters DeCarlo's saloon to almost feel like a musical number itself, in the amusing way the blocking is choreographed. The capper is when Jonathan makes friends with Big Ben (Andy Devine), who has a VERY big beer glass!

The genial Cameron is just right in the lead, simultaneously confident and befuddled, if a little too prone to take Lorena for granted. I found DeCarlo not only fun but touching as she keeps hoping for a loving relationship with Jonathan yet is regularly disappointed as he has his sights set on a "real lady." And if there was a more beautiful actress in Technicolor than DeCarlo in the 1940s, I'm not sure who it would be! Jonathan seems a little crazy for being so reluctant to form a permanent relationship, even if she is a saloon gal.

Devine, Fuzzy Knight, and Andrew Tombes form a sort of Greek chorus who are always there to advise Jonathan and Lorena -- often with unintended results! Jan Wiley and Clara Blandick play Jonathan's schoolteacher ex-fiancee and her very proper aunt, and their characters are unpredictable enough that I felt a little bad for Wiley's character being jilted.

FRONTIER GAL was directed by Charles Lamont and filmed by Charles P. Boyle and George Robinson. It runs 85 minutes.

The only really weak spot in the film is some exceptionally terrible process photography near the end of the movie. Obviously they weren't going to put a little girl in jeopardy over a waterfall for real, so I wish they'd found another way to end the story, as these shots are so poorly done they pull the viewer out of the movie.

The beautiful location filming took place around Mammoth Lakes and Kernville, California.

This film is available on DVD in a beautiful print from the Universal Vault Series.

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