Monday, September 02, 2019

Tonight's Movies: Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957) and Night of Mystery (1937) at Cinecon

Saturday afternoon I paid my first visit to this year's Cinecon 55 Classic Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The festival opened on Thursday, August 29th, running through Labor Day.

First up, I saw the comedy OH, MEN! OH, WOMEN! (1957), shown as part of a tribute to actress Barbara Rush.

Later in the evening I saw nitrate prints of the Fleischer cartoon THE COBWEB HOTEL (1936) and a rarely seen Philo Vance crime film, NIGHT OF MYSTERY (1937). Both of the nitrate prints were originally released by Paramount Pictures and preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

OH, MEN! OH, WOMEN! was written and directed by Nunnally Johnson, based on a play by Edward Chodorov. It's extremely "stage bound," very much giving the feeling of a filmed play.

Although it has a good cast, I'd only class the movie as "amusing." I was glad I saw it for various reasons, including appreciating the set design on a big screen and checking another title off my Ginger Rogers movie list, but it was one of the weaker films seen at the festival.

David Niven plays Dr. Alan Coles, a psychiatrist preparing to leave on a cruise, during which he will marry his fiancee Myra (Rush).

Dr. Coles' client Mildred Turner (Rogers) insists on talking to him about her marital woes before he leaves; despite the love of her actor husband Arthur (Dan Dailey), Mildred feels unneeded and that the romantic flame is gone.

Dr. Coles also sees an oddball new client named Cobbler (Tony Randall) as a favor to another doctor. Dr. Coles is most surprised when in a short time frame he learns that Cobbler and Arthur both have had past relationships with his fiancee. Everyone's crazy relationships need to be set straight before the ship sails!

Niven is perfection and Rush is cute; the other three leads all overplay to various extents, without much nuance. Ginger does have one great little moment with a gesture when she praises her husband's courting technique.

It's interesting to note this is one in a string of several films Rogers made which focused on psychoanalysis, including CAREFREE (1938), LADY IN THE DARK (1944), and IT HAD TO BE YOU (1947).

I was particularly struck by the design of Rush's apartment, with mismatched furniture, dolls, myriad end tables covered in clutter, and a cute little TV tucked away in a corner where it wouldn't be convenient to watch it. I suppose it was all meant to reflect her disorganized personality, as also evidenced by the messy purse seen when her character is introduced and her disaster of a kitchen. It's a curious contrast to the presentation of Myra herself as a glamorous young woman who attracts a distinguished (and older) doctor.

OH, MEN! OH, WOMEN! was filmed in CinemaScope by Charles G. Clarke. The running time is 90 minutes. The supporting cast included Natalie Schafer, John Wengraf, and Franklin Pangborn in a typically amusing turn as a cruise ship clerk.

Rush participated in a Q&A with Cinecon's Stan Taffel after the film; some of her great stories are told in a new Susan King interview with the actress in the Los Angeles Times.

On hand to honor Rush at the Egyptian were Randal Kleiser, who directed Rush in a short titled PEEGE (1973), and Rush's PEEGE costars Bruce Davison and Barry Livingston (MY THREE SONS). This was a particular treat for me to see Davison there as I enjoyed spending some special time with him in the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine a couple years ago.

After a dinner break, the "Saturday Nitrate Fever" portion of the program began with the eight-minute cartoon THE COBWEB HOTEL, produced by Max Fleischer and directed by Dave Fleischer. The plot, with a spider trapping flies and then having the tables turned, was rather creepy, but the nitrate Technicolor print was wonderful to see.

Grant Richards then starred as detective Philo Vance in NIGHT OF MYSTERY, shown in a stunning 35mm black and white nitrate print.

This was a fairly simple, traditional mystery as Philo Vance is brought in to solve a perplexing case in which members of a wealthy family are bumped off one by one, but it was engagingly told at a breakneck 66-minute pace. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

There was a nice supporting cast, with Roscoe Karns playing Sgt. Heath; Vance works with the befuddled Heath tactfully so that he won't feel too offended at an outsider working on solving his case. Leonard Carey was particularly delightful as Lister, Vance's inquisitive butler.

Also in the cast: Elizabeth Patterson, Ruth Coleman, Helen Burgess, Harvey Stephens, Nora Cecil, June Martel, Purnell Pratt, Greta Meyer, and Ellen Drew in a small role as a secretary.

NIGHT OF MYSTERY was directed by Ewald Andre Dupont and filmed by Harry Fischbeck. It was based on the Philo Vance novel THE GREENE MURDER CASE by S.S. Van Dine.

All in all, the nitrate program was good fun and I'm very glad I was there to enjoy it.

Coming soon: Looks at four very enjoyable films seen at the festival on Sunday, consisting of a pair of silents, a mid '30s melodrama, and a 1950 comedy.


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