Saturday, March 25, 2023

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...A couple weeks ago I mentioned Jon Burlingame's new book, MUSIC FOR PRIME TIME: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN TELEVISION THEMES AND SCORING. Last Thursday we had a wonderful evening, beginning with eating at Musso & Frank Grill for the first time since California's lockdowns, then attending a presentation and book signing at Larry Edmunds Bookshop. Steven C. Smith (seen at left), author of biographies on Bernard Herrmann and Max Steiner, chatted with Burlingame (center) about the book prior to the signing. That's Jeffrey Mantor of Larry Edmunds taking a photo of the crowd, which included Alan K. Rode and Tim Millard of The Extras podcast; it was great to meet Tim for the first time!

...ClassicFlix has announced a new Rare Television line, which debuts in June with the DVD release of Dennis Morgan in 21 BEACON STREET (1959).

...Chris Yogerst has written a wonderful article for The Hollywood Reporter concisely distilling the history of the Western and how frequently it's been declared "dead" only to rise again.

...Today I went to a well-attended 35th Anniversary screening of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (1988). I've now seen it multiple times since my first viewing a few years ago, including twice theatrically; the movie speaks to me in profound ways. I love the way the adults and fantastical creatures join together to reassure and provide a beautiful life for two little girls going through trauma, with their mother hospitalized long term. The Cat Bus showing up to help Satsuki find Mei always makes me mist up. It's hard to express how much this film touches my heart. Very highly recommended.

...Upcoming Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases will include June Allyson and David Niven in the remake of MY MAN GODFREY (1937) on May 23rd and the Dark Side of Cinema XIV collection on May 30th. That set consists of UNDERCOVER GIRL (1950), ONE WAY STREET (1950), and APPOINTMENT WITH A SHADOW (1957). All three films have commentary tracks. I'm especially excited about seeing Scott Brady and Alexis Smith in UNDERCOVER GIRL.

...Glenn Erickson's CineSavant reviews at Trailers From Hell this week include the Criterion Collection's 4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray release of MILDRED PIERCE (1945) and the Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray release of THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL (1957).

...The Criterion Channel's April lineup will include an extensive Harold Lloyd collection. Also available in April: The fairly rarely shown GOOD MORNING, MISS DOVE (1955) starring Jennifer Jones.

...Over at Riding the High Country, Colin has reviewed THREE VIOLENT PEOPLE (1957) starring Charlton Heston, Anne Baxter, and Gilbert Roland.

...I always enjoy perusing the monthly viewing tallies at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Lots of good ideas for things to watch!

...Too ridiculous for words: A remake of VERTIGO (1958) starring Robert Downey Jr.?

...Every film on Turner Classic Movies next month will be from Warner Bros., in celebration of the studio's centennial. Some of the films will also appear on the HBO Max streaming service. Here's a preview from The Hollywood Reporter. Look for schedule highlights posting here around March 31st!

...In other TCM news, as mentioned here in my May preview, the complete TCM Classic Film Festival schedule is now available. I'll share my thoughts and picks here in the fairly near soon as I finish work on my tentative itinerary, which is as hard as ever to choose.

...Notable Passings: Director Peter Werner has passed on at 76. He directed a number of episodes of MOONLIGHTING including the classic "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice" (1985) with Orson Welles guesting; series stars Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis are seen here in that episode...Writer-Producer Gordon T. Dawson has died at 84. His credits included writing several episodes of THE ROCKFORD FILES between 1975 and 1979 and later producing and writing another James Garner series, BRET MAVERICK (1981-82). He was long associated with WALKER, TEXAS RANGER (1993-2001)...Screenwriter Ann Green de Toth, widow of director Andre de Toth, has died at 82.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my March 18th roundup.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Quick Preview of TCM in May

April will be a special month on Turner Classic Movies, celebrating the Warner Bros. centennial.

I'll have much more information on that schedule here next week, but in the meantime, here's a quick advance peek at TCM's May schedule!

The May Star of the Month is someone who's a favorite of many classic film fans, William Powell. 40 Powell films will be shown spread across Wednesdays in May.

After a two-month hiatus Noir Alley returns to the network in May, along with other franchises such as Silent Sunday Nights and TCM Imports.

The May Noir Alley titles will be THE FILE ON THELMA JORDON (1949), FLAMINGO ROAD (1949), DIAL 1119 (1950), and THE FALLEN SPARROW (1943).

Cinematographer James Wong Howe will be the subject of a special theme series on Mondays.

Also of note in May: A tribute to the late Gina Lollobrigida; the premiere of MADONNA OF THE SEVEN MOONS (1945) starring Stewart Granger, Phyllis Calvert, and Patricia Roc; and the annual Memorial Day Weekend war films marathon.

The Musical Matinee series will be venturing beyond American-made musicals and showing Jessie Matthews and Robert Young in IT'S LOVE AGAIN (1936).

Filmmakers receiving multifilm tributes in May include Glenn Ford, Howard Hawks, Laurence Olivier, George Pal, Ernest Lehman, Cary Grant, Audrey Totter, and Fred Astaire.

May themes will include Mother's Day, housewives, newlyweds, Kansas, '50s comedies, nuns, shipwrecks, marital troubles, and classical music.

The schedule is still a work in progress; I'll be sharing many more details about the final May 2023 schedule around the end of April.

In the meantime, stay tuned for details on TCM's April Warner Bros. celebration, along with details on the TCM Classic Film Festival schedule which was announced today!

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Tonight's Movie: The Fearmakers (1958) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Some of my favorite releases of the last couple of years are the Dark Side of Cinema collections from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

So far 11 sets have been released, with at least four more coming in 2023. The next volume will be released in April.

I've reviewed the vast majority of the titles in the available sets, but a few are still on my "watch list" simply due to the volume of interesting releases. This week I've circled back to the Dark Side of Cinema VII set to watch Jacques Tourneur's THE FEARMAKERS (1958).

THE FEARMAKERS stars an all-time favorite, Dana Andrews, as Alan Eaton, who as the movie begins is recovering from the physical and mental trauma of a long stint as a prisoner in the Korean War.

Alan returns to Washington, D.C., intending to slowly resume work at the public relations and research firm his partner has been managing in his absence.

Alan is knocked for a loop when he discovers that not only was his partner killed in a hit-and-run car accident but that he sold the company to Jim McGinnis (Dick Foran). The partner only had power of attorney to manage the company, not sell it, but McGinnis brusquely claims otherwise.

McGinnis offers Alan a job, saying his former business connections can be of help to the firm, as some clients have gone elsewhere. Alan isn't enthused but is encouraged to accept by his old friend Senator Walder (Roy Gordon), who is suspicious of how McGinnis is running the business. The senator believes McGinnis is manipulating polls to help favored politicians willing to pay for it.

Alan begins looking into both the business and his partner's death with the help of young secretary Lorraine Dennis (Marilee Earle), but things become very dangerous very quickly.

This film was brand-new to me, and I liked it quite well. Some of the subject matter discussed by Alan is both incredibly prescient and undated; he dissects things such as push polling and using polling data to mold opinions rather than reflect what the public is thinking. The power of a few people to end TV programs via ratings polling is also discussed. I found those aspects fascinating. Not much has changed in 65 years.

The film isn't perfect; for instance, two of the villains (Foran and Kelly Thordsen) are cartoonish loudmouths, played without subtlety. Oliver Blake as Dr. Gregory Jessop, who "conveniently" meets Alan on the plane home and directs him to a place to stay in D.C., is a different type of character but also obvious in a smarmy kind of way.

The most creative depiction among the bad guys falls to Mel Torme as a beleaguered young employee with Coke bottle glasses. I got a kick out of seeing Torme in this, especially as when I was young I would occasionally see him in the audience at classic film screenings. A fond memory.

Earle is pleasant enough but I think the role would have been better served by a more mature, savvy actress. There's a 25-year age gap between Andrews and Earle, although their characters developing a relationship makes some sense in the context of the story; Alan has been traumatized and probably sees in Lorraine not only someone helping his cause but someone fresh and young, to help erase a horrible couple of years.

Still and all, even with its flaws this is a good film with messages which remain relevant today. The combination of Andrews and Tourneur is potent, and they make the most they can of the material, with Andrews onscreen in most of the scenes.

The script for this 85-minute movie was by Elliot West and Chris Apley was based on a novel by Darwin Teilhet. The supporting cast includes Veda Ann Borg, Dennis Moore, and Joel Marston.

The Blu-ray print of THE FEARMAKERS is from a new 2K master. Other than a handful of faint wobbly vertical lines in the early going, this is a fine-looking print showing off the stark black and white photography of Sam Leavitt.

Disc extras consist of a commentary track by Jason A. Ney and a gallery of three trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber.

I've previously enjoyed CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL (1957) from this set, and I'll be reviewing John Payne in THE BOSS (1956) at a future date.

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

Monday, March 20, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Sorrowful Jones (1949) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Bob Hope stars as Damon Runyan's SORROWFUL JONES (1949), a bookie who unexpectedly becomes guardian to a little girl (Mary Jane Saunders).

The movie was recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. This month Kino Lorber is also releasing the original version of the story, LITTLE MISS MARKER (1934) with Shirley Temple.

Sorrowful is saddled with little Martha Jane (Saunders) after her father (Paul Lees) is killed by a goon in the employ of racketeer Big Steve (Bruce Cabot).

Parenthood eventually comes to agree with the initially reluctant Sorrowful, who even upgrades his apartment for her sake. Caring for Martha Jane also reunites Sorrowful with his ex-girlfriend Gladys (Lucille Ball) -- who's recently been dating Big Steve.

The rest of the film has to do with fixed races, a horse named Dreamy Joe, and an array of "colorful" Runyonesque characters played by the likes of William Demarest and Thomas Gomez.

I class SORROWFUL JONES as a solid film but not a great one, running a tad overlong at 88 minutes. That said, Hope is nicely subdued in this, about as likeable as he ever is on screen, and he's well matched by Ball. The always-reliable Demarest and Gomez offer good support. I hadn't seen this since I was in my teens, and it was a pleasant revisit.

Saunders is pretty cute and does well as Hope's "straight man," although her high-pitched voice becomes slightly wearing by movie's end. As I've shared here before, a fun bit of trivia is that she was long married to former Los Angeles Dodger Jay Johnstone, who sadly passed away in 2020.

SORROWFUL JONES was directed by Sidney Lanfield and shot in black and white by Daniel L. Fapp.

Ball's singing was dubbed by Annette Warren, who also dubbed her in a later film Ball made with Hope, FANCY PANTS (1950). Warren also dubbed Ava Gardner in SHOW BOAT (1951).

The Blu-ray print is from a new 2K master. For the most part it looks very good; I did note a scene about halfway through which briefly had the "vibrating" look of a VHS tape, but otherwise this is a nice disc. The soundtrack is crisp and clear.

Disc extras consist of the movie trailer; a gallery of 14 additional trailers for Bob Hope films; and Kino Lorber Bob Hope promo trailer.

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

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Neptune's Daughter (1949) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

One of my favorite Esther Williams films, NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER (1949), has just been released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive Collection.

The movie costars Ricardo Montalban, Betty Garrett, Red Skelton, and Xavier Cugat in a lovely piece of fluff about a gorgeous swimsuit designer (Williams) romantically pursued by a handsome South American polo player (Montalban).

Meanwhile, the swimsuit designer's extremely giddy sister (Garrett) mistakes a masseuse (Skelton) for the polo player, with predictably silly results.

I previously reviewed the movie here over a decade ago, in 2012, and refer readers to that review for more on why I love the movie so much. A pair of classy, attractive leads plus the music, sets, color, wardrobes, and Xavier Cugat create a delightful and diverting 95 minutes.

Highlights include a dance number with the Cugat Orchestra, the swimming finale, and of course, "Baby It's Cold Outside," which originated in this film and won Frank Loesser an Oscar.

The one drawback to the movie is that Skelton can be wearing; over the many times I've seen it I find that how annoying he is seems to depend on my mood. In my previous review I was quite positive about his performance, while I found him more tiresome on this viewing. Garrett, on the other hand, will always be a favorite, no matter how goofy her character.

NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER was directed by Edward Buzzell and filmed in Technicolor by Charles Rosher. The lovely costumes were created by Irene.

The supporting cast includes Keenan Wynn, Theresa Harris, Mel Blanc, Mike Mazurki, and Ted de Corsia.

Regular readers know I typically rave about the quality of Warner Archive Blu-rays, but there were a couple odd things about this disc compared to the norm. First, the sound levels were unusually low, requiring me to turn the volume on my set up much higher than normal.

Second, because of the low sound levels I checked out the closed captions and was surprised to find they were substantially out of sync, appearing ahead of the actual spoken dialogue through the entirety of the disc. Just a heads up for anyone who relies on captioning.

The picture for the most part was bright and colorful, particularly in the swim finale; I did feel the color in a couple dramatic scenes was somewhat less vivid than I was expecting. As far as I noticed, the print was otherwise good, free of lines and other types of glitches.

It's a solid release, if not the absolute top tier of the Warner Archive's MGM musical Blu-ray discs such as GOOD NEWS (1947) or BRIGADOON (1954), to name two fine examples. The overall quality of the film plus the nice batch of extras make this a recommended disc, with the noted reservations.

Disc extras consist of the trailer; a song selection menu, which I always appreciate; the Pete Smith Specialty short WATER TRIX (1949); the Tom and Jerry cartoon HATCH UP YOUR TROUBLES (1949); an outtake song; Esther Williams' cameo from CALLAWAY WENT THATAWAY (1951); and a radio promo interview.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the Amazon Warner Archive Collection Store, Movie Zyng, or from any online retailers were Blu-rays are sold.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)

It was time to return to the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie series today with my first-ever viewing of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL (2011).

I've been catching up with the series over the last few years and have really enjoyed all of them. GHOST PROTOCOL might have been my favorite; it had a lighter tone and some nice humor along with the expected impressive action set pieces.

This time around Agents Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Jane Carter (Paula Patton) start off the film breaking Ethan Hunt out of a Russian jail. (It's a long story...)

The team's mission is then to stop Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), who has Russian nuclear launch codes and plans to attack the United States.

The agents' plan to deal with the issue at the Kremlin fails, and they're framed for a devastating explosion, after which the President invokes the "Ghost Protocol": The team is disavowed and will have no help whatsoever.

That said, Ethan's boss, the Secretary (Tom Wilkinson), privately urges Ethan to press forward on the mission. The team also ends up acquiring an additional member in the form of the Secretary's case analyst, Brandt (Jeremy Renner). Brandt is a good man harboring secret guilt related to Ethan and his wife (Michelle Monaghan).

I'll leave off with the plot there. Suffice it to say that the film's 132 minutes are packed with terrific action sequences in varied international locations. Apparently Cruise was actually clinging to a wall 130 stories in the air during the movie's most nerve-wracking section.

The film is also quite stylish at times, not least when Jane dresses in a killer green evening gown as part of the campaign to get the codes back.

I appreciated the film's tight quartet of agents who have excellent chemistry and are a lot of fun to watch. Cruise is always someone I think of as an ultimate movie star; they don't come any better. 

Unfortunately this was Paula Patton's only entry in the series; Jeremy Renner would return in the next film but then was apparently too busy appearing in Marvel films as my favorite Avenger, Hawkeye, to continue as Agent Brandt.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL was directed by Brad Bird and filmed by Robert Elswit. It was written by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec. The musical score was composed by Michael Giacchino.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG-13. The language is not too bad as these films go. Many people die but it's generally non-graphic.

I watched this film on DVD as part of the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 5-Movie Collection. It's also available in other formats.

I have one additional film to catch up with, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION (2015).

The next film in the series, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 7 - DEAD RECKONING - PART 1 (2023) is due to hit theaters this summer.


Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...New next week from ClassicFlix: THE LONG WAIT (1954) starring Anthony Quinn, Peggie Castle, and Charles Coburn. It's being released March 21st in a Blu-ray/4K UHD combination set. CineSavant Glenn Erickson has reviewed it at Trailers From Hell.

...Erickson has also reviewed SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR (1952), recently released on an all-region Blu-ray by Viavision/Imprint. The movie stars Ray Milland, Joan Fontaine, and Teresa Wright. It was previously released on DVD by Olive Films.

...March 18th is the 95th birthday of charming actress Peggy Dow, most recently reviewed here in BRIGHT VICTORY (1951).

...New from McFarland: SILENT FILM'S LAST HURRAH: THE REMARKABLE MOVIES OF THE LONG 1928. The author is David Meueul, who also wrote THE NOIR WESTERN and WOMEN IN THE FILMS OF JOHN FORD. It was released March 3rd.

...The Extras podcast had the exclusive March 16th announcement of April's Warner Archive Collection titles. As shared in visual format by Dawn of the Discs, the movies are SAFE IN HELL (1931), ONE WAY PASSAGE (1932), THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (1941), STORM WARNING (1951), and A LION IS IN THE STREETS (1955). They are expected out in the latter part of the month.

...Visit the Joel and Frances McCrea Ranch Foundation website for news of upcoming events, including the annual Cowboy Cookout fundraiser, to be held on March 20, 2023.

...Rachel of Hamlette's Soliloquy is hosting a Shades of Shane Blogathon April 21-23. Please visit her blog for details on how to participate. Rachel also has a handy summary of blogathons coming in the near future!

...New cookbook from America's Test Kitchen: EVERYDAY BREAD: 100 RECIPES FOR BAKING BREAD ON YOUR SCHEDULE. It's out on March 28th.

...Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy look back fondly on their time as TV's THE HARDY BOYS (1977-79).

...Notable Passings: I was very sorry to learn via Boot Hill of the passing of Western film historian David Rothel. His books included the impressively detailed TIM HOLT and THOSE GREAT COWBOY SIDEKICKS; I wrote about the Holt book at Classic Movie Hub in 2019 and the latter title there last year. I was fortunate to meet David at the Lone Pine Film Festival in 2014...Disney Imagineering great Rolly Crump has passed away, age 93. His achievements included working on the Enchanted Tiki Room, the Haunted Mansion, and Disney's Tower of the Four Winds for the 1964 New York World's Fair. He published a memoir in 2012, IT'S KIND OF A CUTE STORY.

...More Notable Passings: Author John Jakes has died at 90. One of my favorite TV miniseries, NORTH AND SOUTH (1985-86), was based on his books...Actor Lance Reddick has died at 60. His credits included TV's BOSCH (2014-21) and voice work on Disney's reboot of the DUCKTALES (2019) cartoon...Eugene Iglesias passed away last month at 96. He was in a number of Westerns and TV shows, including one of my favorite MAVERICK episodes, "Plunder of Paradise" (1958); his films included THE DUEL AT SILVER CREEK (1952) and TAZA, SON OF COCHISE (1954). I have not found an obituary but first learned the news via Western Clippings.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my March 11th roundup.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here's Dorothy Malone in an elaborate gown and headdress to help wish everyone a happy holiday.

Have a happy day!

Previous St. Patrick's Day Posts: 2013 (Maureen O'Hara), 2014 (Angela Greene), 2015 (actresses in green), 2016 (Maureen O'Hara), 2017 (more actresses in green), 2018 (posters for Irish-themed movies), 2019 (Maureen O'Sullivan), 2020 (THREE CHEERS FOR THE IRISH photo gallery), 2021 (GOING MY WAY sheet music); 2022 (Arlene Dahl).

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

TCM Classic Film Festival Announces Opening Night Movie

Today the TCM Classic Film Festival announced the festival's opening night film will be Howard Hawks' RIO BRAVO (1959). The film's leading lady, Angie Dickinson, will be in attendance.

The movie will be screened at the Chinese Theater on the evening of April 13th. Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz will interview Dickinson before the screening.

RIO BRAVO was previously announced for the festival in November, but today marks the first time it's been shared that it will be the opening night film, the world premiere of a new 4K restoration.

As a Warner Bros. film, the screening also ties into the studio's centennial celebration.

Directors Steven Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson, both Film Foundation board members, will present the film. The Film Foundation was a partner in the film's restoration.

I'm thrilled to learn of the restoration and especially happy that a Western will be in the opening night spotlight at the festival.

Although I've seen a number of Westerns at the festival over the years, percentagewise there are relatively few shown at the festival, so having one of the all-time best Westerns as the "red carpet movie" is wonderful. I'm also glad to see a film starring one of the all-time greats, John Wayne, accorded this honor.

That said, on a personal level I'm also disappointed, simply because I was really looking forward to seeing RIO BRAVO on a big screen for the first time in decades, and my pass does not cover the opening night screening! I wrote about how much I love this film for my Classic Movie Hub Western RoundUp column a couple of years ago.

However, I'm guessing there's a reasonably good chance that the restored print will be shown in Los Angeles again after the festival, perhaps somewhere like the Hollywood Legion Theater, so I'll hope for that!

The film at the top of my list to see at the festival is probably now SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943), a Hitchcock favorite I have never seen on a big screen.

The TCM Classic Film Festival will take place in Hollywood from April 13th to 16th, 2023.

The complete list of announced films to date has a page on the festival website. Club TCM events may be found listed here.

: TCM Announces 2023 Festival Dates and Theme (October 18, 2022); 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements (November 11, 2022); Latest 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements (January 25, 2023); New TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements (February 16, 2023); Latest TCM Classic Film Festival Announcements (March 4, 2023).

An additional brief festival update regarding Russ Tamblyn attending the festival is included in my January 14th "Around the Blogosphere This Week" column.