Sunday, February 25, 2024

Tonight's Movie: Iron Man (1951) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Tonight I wrapped up viewing the Kino Lorber Dark Side of Cinema XVI collection with IRON MAN (1951).

I especially enjoyed this set, which was released last month. It also includes the previously reviewed CHICAGO DEADLINE (1949) and MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET (1942).

Like CHICAGO DEADLINE, I'd previously seen IRON MAN at the 2017 Noir City Film Festival in Hollywood.

As I commented then, I don't feel the movie particularly qualifies as film noir, but I was glad it was screened at Noir City thanks to Universal Pictures making a new print available.

I felt the same way about the movie's inclusion in this boxed set, as I like it and appreciated the chance to revisit it in such a nice print. The Blu-ray is from a 2K scan of the 35mm fine grain, and it does a nice job showing off the black and white cinematography of Carl E. Guthrie.

IRON MAN is the story of Coke Mason (Jeff Chandler), a small-town coal miner whose perenially hustling brother (Stephen McNally) encourages him to become a boxer.

Coke isn't really interested in boxing, but he's persuaded that it will be a way to leaving mining and make some quick money so that he can open his own business and marry his girlfriend Rose (Evelyn Keyes).

Cole is capable of defeating opponents, but his tactics are questionable. He turns into a vicious "mad dog" in the ring, causing audiences to boo rather than cheer his wins.

Rose, who was initially enthused about Cole's career, wants to get him out of the ring and makes a bad decision to that end. (I guess one could say it's her femme fatale moment in a story where she's mostly the good girl.) Cole must then decide if he wants to continue boxing, including coming to terms with what's going on with him when he enters the ring.

I'm a Chandler fan, and I find him moving as a man who isn't listened to for much of the movie -- particularly by his fiancee or his brother. One of the best scenes comes late in the film when he finally spills out the childhood experience at the root of his problems to a newly sympathetic sportswriter, well-played by Jim Backus.

Overall it's a solid drama thanks to a fairly good script and the strong cast, which also includes Rock Hudson, James Arness, and Joyce Holden (YOU NEVER CAN TELL). Holden only has a few scenes, but she's personable as a photographer, and in another screenplay she could easily have become the movie's femme fatale, but she doesn't get the opportunity to do more than put out some initial feelers on Cole's availability.

One might say that the movie is "noir adjacent," being based on a book by W. R. Burnett. Several of Burnett's books, including THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, were filmed, and he also worked on screenplays for significant films such as THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942).

The lead cast members, including Chandler, Keyes, and McNally, all worked in the film noir genre, particularly Keyes and McNally, so thanks to all these associations, this boxing film does have a bit of a noir vibe.

I don't think IRON MAN is as strong as another "noir adjacent" boxing drama of the era from director Joseph Pevney, FLESH AND FURY (1952), but it's a worthwhile 82 minutes.

The Blu-ray includes a commentary track by Gary Gerani. While this film's trailer is not included as an extra, the disc does also feature a gallery of half a dozen trailers for other films available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

I write frequently here about the Dark Side of Cinema sets and have enjoyed every one, but this particular collection is on the high end for me due to my enjoyment of the casts and the films themselves. Recommended.

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

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...The best news of the week was probably the renewal of ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL for not one but two more seasons. Even better news is that Callum Woodhouse returns to his role as Tristan Farnon for Season 5. As mentioned here earlier this month, Season 4 will be out on DVD and Blu-ray in the U.S. on March 12th.

...More good news this week: A consortium of 35 filmmakers has purchased the historic Village Theater in Westwood, which first opened in 1931. The new owners include Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Guillermo del Toro, Christopher McQuarrie, and Jason Reitman, to name just a few. Future screenings will include personal film prints by some of the directors who are among the new owners. This was wonderful news, as the property could easily have been sold to a developer and razed. I was amused by director Rian Johnson's Tweet: "WE BOUGHT A ZOO." My 2017 photo of the theater marquee is seen here.

...I saw a trailer recently for ORDINARY ANGELS (2024) and was intrigued. Leonard Maltin gives it a thumbs up. Hilary Swank stars.

...Recent movie reviews: Glenn Erickson's latest CineSavant reviews at Trailers from Hell include THE ROARING TWENTIES (1939), just out from the Criterion Collection, and BLOOD ON THE SUN (1945) from Kino Lorber Studio Classics...At The Digital Bits Stuart Galbraith IV has reviewed Kino Lorber's HAS ANYBODY SEEN MY GAL (1952)...Stephen Bjork's review of THE MARVELS (2024) for The Digital Bits has me considering seeing it...I loved Karen's review of SHED NO TEARS (1948) at her blog Shadows and Satin. She's got me very curious about it, especially as it stars June Vincent of a '40s, favorite, BLACK ANGEL (1946). I've got to try this one!...Another minor film I'm interested in seeing is CALENDAR GIRL (1947), which was reviewed by Jessica at Comet Over Hollywood. Anything with Gail Patrick is worth checking out!

...Viavision Imprint in Australia continues to have interesting Blu-ray release news. The most exciting for me is their release of a set consisting of the never-on-DVD THE UNSEEN (1945), paired with THE UNINVITED (1944). Both films star Gail Russell and were directed by Lewis Allen. Both films will have commentary tracks by Alan K. Rode. Additional extras include an interview with Imogen Sara Smith regarding Gail Russell's career.

...THE PROUD AND THE PROFANE (1956), starring William Holden and Deborah Kerr, is "coming soon" to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Kino Lorber's recent announcements also include STARTING OVER (1979) with Burt Reynolds, Jill Clayburgh, and Candice Bergen, and THE LADYKILLERS (1955) with Alec Guinness.

...Last week Adweek reported that Amazon will be getting rid of its Freevee streaming service, which carries commercials and is free to watch. Later in the day Deadline reported on Amazon denying that story, saying "There are no changes to Freevee." We'll have to wait and find out.

...Unexpected news last week: Sony is taking over Disney's DVD and Blu-ray business, handling manufacturing, distribution and marketing. Almost simultaneously came the news that several Barnes & Noble locations will be adding a section for Disney DVDs and Blu-rays. I'm hoping this might mean greater access not only to Disney films but to vintage 20th Century-Fox titles. Disney scooped up the 20th Century-Fox library yet has done very little with it in terms of viewer access.

...Attention Southern Californians: UCLA will present an evening of THE ROCKFORD FILES on March 23rd. The "Gandy and Rockfish Trilogy" (1976-77) consists of three episodes guest-starring Isaac Hayes. It falls during the upcoming Noir City Hollywood Festival (March 22nd-31st) but depending on what's playing at Noir City that evening, I hope to be there!

...And the Festival of Preservation returns to UCLA April 5th-7th. The festival will include Eddie Muller introducing the Argentinian film NEVER OPEN THAT DOOR (1952), aka NO ABRAS NUNCA ESA PUERTA. I believe that film will also screen at Noir City Hollywood; I'll have complete details on Noir City here as soon as they're available.

...Notable Passings: French actress Micheline Presle, also known in the U.S. as Micheline Prelle, has died at 101. Her English-language films included AN AMERICAN GUERRILLA IN THE PHILIPPINES (1950) opposite Tyrone Power (seen here). She was also in IF A MAN ANSWERS (1962) with Sandra Dee and John Lund...Pamela Salem, who played Moneypenny in NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983), has passed on at 80...Cynthia Strother of the Bell Sisters has died at 88. The sisters appeared in THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE (1953) with Rhonda Fleming...Film editor Tom Priestley has passed away at 91. His work included DELIVERANCE (1972).

...Please note that Around the Blogosphere This Week will not appear next weekend, March 2nd. The column will return on March 9th.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please visit my February 17th column.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

TCM Classic Film Festival Returning to the Egyptian Theatre

Great news today: TCM has announced that the TCM Classic Film Festival will be returning to the Egyptian Theatre this April.

Ben Mankiewicz made the announcement in a video shot at the theater.

This was especially good news as a November article at The Wrap had cast considerable doubt about the festival's future at the Egyptian. Happily those concerns have now been put to rest.

In a nice coincidence, I was just at the Egyptian last weekend for a 35mm nitrate screening of WINCHESTER '73 (1950).


It was my second time at the theater since its reopening; I also saw a 35mm print of DIE HARD (1988) there in late December. The photos of the Egyptian in this post were taken last Sunday.



TCM has announced that festival screenings at the Egyptian will include a 35mm nitrate showing of ANNIE GET YOUR GUN (1950) and a 70mm print of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962).

The previously announced world premiere screening of the restored THE SEARCHERS (1956) will also be a 70mm print shown at the Egyptian.



Having gone to the Egyptian for many years, it will take a while to get used to the lack of a balcony -- which I'd add was not original to the 1922 building. Here's how the interior of the theater now looks:



The remodeled Egyptian Theatre, now owned by Netflix, currently seats 516.



A view of the remodeled lobby, with the snack bar in the far corner:



The TCM Classic Film Festival will be held April 18th through 21st, 2024.

Previously: TCM Announces 2024 Festival Dates and Theme; 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements; Latest TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements; TCM Classic Film Festival Update; Latest TCM Classic Film Festival News.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Book Review: The Warner Brothers

Film historian Chris Yogerst, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has become one of the foremost experts on the history of the Warner Bros. studio.

I previously reviewed Yogerst's FROM THE HEADLINES TO HOLLYWOOD: THE BIRTH AND BOOM OF WARNER BROS. and HOLLYWOOD HATES HITLER! JEW-BAITING, ANTI-NAZISM, AND THE SENATE INVESTIGATION INTO WARMONGERING IN MOTION PICTURES in 2017 and 2020, respectively. I learned a great deal from each book, especially the latter title, which was completely new subject matter for me.

Yogerst has now written THE WARNER BROTHERS, a comprehensive study of the Warner family. It was published by University Press of Kentucky in their Screen Classics series.

Brothers Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack Warner, from a large family of Polish immigrants, got a toehold in their new country via hard work in a variety of businesses.

After an attempt at film distribution, thwarted by Thomas Edison's monopoly, the brothers ultimately went into movie production in Los Angeles, incorporating the Warner Bros. studio in 1923.

The Warner Bros. studio would be known for its innovations, including the ground-breaking sound film THE JAZZ SINGER (1927), and for leading Hollywood's fight against Nazi fascism, including the important film CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY (1939). The brothers refused to be intimidated by politicians unhappy with the studio's "warmongering"; of course, the politicians would ultimately be overtaken by the events of December 1941 and onward.

One of the important things the book does is put the studio's relatively well-known film history -- including Rin Tin Tin, gangster films, Depression musicals, and all the rest -- into the context of the lives of the Warners themselves. Yogerst deftly mixes studio and family history into an engaging story of triumph mixed with tragedy. The tragedies included the untimely deaths of Sam Warner in 1927, prompting a battle for the custody of his young daughter Lita, and Harry Warner's son Lewis in 1931.

Yogerst clearly admires Harry Warner, who believed in using movies for good, whether fighting the Nazis or educating the public. Jack's name may be the best known of the brothers today, but the book does a wonderful job underscoring Harry's importance to the business.

When I attended an author discussion of the book at the Burbank Public Library last November, Yogerst mentioned it was a bit of a challenge to rein in his discussions of Harry to keep the book balanced. It's fascinating to me that Harry and his far less admirable (ahem) but very successful brother Jack came from the same family; as the book makes clear, unlike Harry Jack sadly did not know the meaning of the word loyalty.

Given the subject matter covered, this could have been an unwieldy volume, but Yogerst's clear and concise writing style simultaneously hits the high points while keeping the story moving forward. The book gave me a richer appreciation of both the studio and the family behind it.

I read a softcover advance reading copy. The book includes extensive end notes; the ARC did not yet have an index prepared but there are placeholder pages indicating one should be in the final copy. The book includes 64 black and white illustrations reproduced directly on the book's pages alongside the text.

The final page count for the final hardcover edition of THE WARNER BROTHERS is 360 pages, weighing a little over a pound and a half.

I loved THE WARNER BROTHERS, finding it an excellent read which kept me engrossed for the duration of a recent cross-country plane trip! I'm far from the only one to appreciate this book, which was named one of the best film books of 2023 by Sight & Sound. This is an important, recommended read.

Thanks to Chris Yogerst and the University Press of Kentucky for providing a review copy of this book.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Book Review: Eleanor Powell: Born to Dance

MGM musicals were my "gateway" into my lifelong love of classic films, so I've been an admirer of dancer Eleanor Powell for almost as long as I can remember.

I've read about Powell's work in numerous books on MGM over the years, and I learned about MGM's "star-making" process for Powell in Jeanine Basinger's wonderful 2007 book THE STAR MACHINE.

I've also read Peter Ford's 2011 biography of his father, Glenn Ford, which as a matter of course included insights into his mother, Powell. At a 2011 book signing Peter told me his mother was "an angel."

All that said, Powell has continued to be something of an enigma to me over the years and I've known little about her personal life compared to many of her MGM colleagues.

That's now changed thanks to ELEANOR POWELL: BORN TO DANCE by Paula Broussard and Lisa Royere. The book was published a few months ago in the University Press of Kentucky Screen Classics series.

Broussard and Royere's book is a detailed, impeccably researched account of the life of a woman they each had the good fortune to know personally.

As a side note, I felt a kinship reading that Royere first met Powell at the Gary Theatre in 1974, as it was right around that time my parents took me to see ON THE TOWN (1949) and SUMMER STOCK (1950) at the Gary, feeding my own growing love for MGM musicals, including Eleanor Powell's movies.

I was deeply impressed with this biography's level of detail, given that so many who knew Powell are no longer with us. The authors paint a portrait of Powell as a woman with incredible talent and a strong work ethic. Her films and dance numbers are covered in fascinating detail; musical fans will love that aspect.

In her personal life Powell was a loving woman who sadly was let down by a philandering husband. Powell was married to Glenn Ford from 1943 to 1959, but he was incapable of being faithful.

She stood by their marriage for many years for a combination of reasons, including fear of losing custody of Peter in a divorce. Her film career long over at the time of the divorce, Powell restarted her career performing in Las Vegas and nightclubs. This wasn't as easy as one might think, as she was overweight and out of shape when she hit on the idea of live performances as a way to improve her finances.

Another notable aspect of Powell's life was that she was a woman of deep religious faith. She spent years as a Presbyterian Sunday School teacher, and her career included hosting a local Los Angeles TV series, THE FAITH OF OUR CHILDREN, in the mid-'50s. Her program was unusual for its era in that she insisted on children of all races being part of her show.  The show won several local Emmy awards.

Late in life Powell enjoyed the resurgence of interest in her career following the release of THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! (1974). Sadly she was only 69 when she died of cancer in Los Angeles on February 11, 1982. Her final resting place, which I've had the privilege of visiting, is at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Despite the sadness she experienced with the breakdown of her marriage, I found Powell's overall story uplifting. She achieved enormous career success by dint of courage and hard work, she was a beloved mother, and she was clearly a very good person who treated others with kindness. Her faith and tenacity in the face of difficulties was inspiring.

ELEANOR POWELL: BORN TO DANCE is a hardcover which is 300 pages, including extensive end notes, bibliography and index.

The page count does not include an impressive 48-page insert of 84 well-produced black and white illustrations.

ELEANOR POWELL: BORN TO DANCE is highly recommended.

Thanks to the University Press of Kentucky for providing a review copy of this book.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Very interesting news this week is that Sony will be releasing a Blu-ray of the pre-Code COCKTAIL HOUR (1933), which screened at the 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival. It stars Bebe Daniels and Randolph Scott. It will be available on March 19th. I hope this is the start of many similar releases!

...Disney's WISH (2023) will be released on Blu-ray on March 12th. As previously mentioned here, that is also the release date for FERRARI (2023).

...ClassicFlix has cancelled its planned 4K release of MEET JOHN DOE (1941) due to lack of pre-order interest. They will have Blu-ray and DVD releases of this title coming out on April 30th.

...The March Criterion Channel lineup will include four films starring Jane Russell. For more details on next month's streaming schedule please click here.

...Disney+ is following in the footsteps of Netflix and finalizing plans to crack down on password sharing.

...As usual, Kino Lorber has recently made a number of interesting announcements regarding upcoming releases. HIGH NOON (1952) will have 4K and Blu-ray releases on April 16th; extras will include two new commentary tracks by Alan K. Rode and Julie Kirgo.

...Two Blu-rays previously announced as "coming soon" from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, YOU NEVER CAN TELL (1951) and THE LOOTERS (1954), now have an April 9th release date. YOU NEVER CAN TELL will be accompanied by a commentary track by Michael Schlesinger and Darlene Ramirez, while Toby Roan does the commentary for THE LOOTERS. I'm very much looking forward to both these titles and hope to review them here this spring.

...Kino Lorber has also announced that a Blu-ray of PURSUED (1947), is "coming soon." PURSUED, which stars Robert Mitchum and Teresa Wright, previously had a no-frills Blu-ray release from Olive Films, which is no longer in business. This will be a great chance for anyone who missed the Olive Blu-ray to pick up a very interesting "psychological Western." Raoul Walsh directed.

...From Beth Accomando for the Showbiz Junkies site: "Till Death Do Us Part: 10 Film Noir Romances for Valentine's Day." Noir fans will enjoy this!

...There's more good Blu-ray release news, this time from Indicator: This May the company will release an eight-film collection of WHISTLER films. (This is a Region B release which requires U.S. consumers to have an all-region Blu-ray player.) Seven of these movies previously had a no-frills DVD release from Critics' Choice; the Indicator set also includes THE MARK OF THE WHISTLER (1944). All of the films in the new collection will have hi-def presentations excepting THE MARK OF THE WHISTLER, which will have a standard presentation. The set will include five commentary tracks, including one by Jeremy Arnold, who's in my "Top 5" commentary favorites. The set will also include featurettes, vintage documentaries, and a 120-page book.

...At Once Upon a Screen, Aurora has written a beautiful, photo-filled tribute to Katy Jurado.

...The newly reopened Vista Theater now has a coffee shop named Pam's Coffy in honor of actress Pam Grier.

...In her Classic Movie Hub "Noir Nook" column, Karen Burroughs Hannsberry celebrates the 75th anniversary of a quartet of great film noir titles originally released in 1949.

...Glenn Erickson's latest CineSavant Blu-ray reviews at Trailers From Hell include GENTLEMAN JIM (1942) from the Warner Archive Collection and RED PLANET MARS (1952) from MGM.

...Over at Riding the High Country, Colin's latest review is of a favorite John Wayne film, TALL IN THE SADDLE (1944). Colin does a great job placing the film in the context of Westerns in general and Wayne's career in particular.

...Notable Passings: Camera operator and cinematographer Alec Mills has passed on at 91. He was camera operator on RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) and several James Bond films, later serving as cinematographer for the Bond films THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987) and LICENCE TO KILL (1989)...Bill Post, inventor of Pop-Tarts toaster pastries, has passed away at 96.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please visit my February 10th column.

Last Weekend at the Disneyland Resort: Pixar Place Hotel and More

A couple weeks ago the Pixar Place Hotel officially opened at the Disneyland Resort. Disney has completely rethemed the hotel, most recently known as the Paradise Pier Hotel.

Last weekend we went to check out the new resort, starting with brunch at the hotel's main restaurant, Great Maple. Great Maple has three other locations, in Pasadena, Newport Beach, and San Diego.


This was our first time to eat at a Great Maple location. The restaurant's signature dish is a maple bacon donut, served at breakfast with fried chicken. It was a lot of food -- we took a donut home for later! -- but it was very good. We also appreciated the friendly service.


Our daughter had chocolate chip pancakes. Fortunately we went on to walk six miles around the resort after that heavy breakfast!


Pixar's Luxo Jr. ball and lamp have replaced the Paradise Pier "Surfing Goofy" in the center of the lobby:



Looking up from the center of the lobby:


One of things I most appreciated was this corner devoted to SOUL (2020), where "Joe Gardner" plays piano in the afternoons. The staircase location is a perfect thematic fit.


I also loved the Mid-Century furnishings:


As someone who loves "snail mail," I thought this beautifully designed mail drop was a particularly nice touch.


The lobby and halls are filled with Pixar art.





Of course, I came home with a few items to commemorate the resort opening!


We also took a walk over to the Grand Californian Hotel...


...to check out the fabulous dragon hanging above the main lobby in celebration of the Lunar New Year.



For more recent photos from the Disneyland Resort, please visit Today at Disney California Adventure: Lunar New Year.

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