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 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!

*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!

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.

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.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tonight's Movie in 2018: The Year in Review, Take Two

It's time for the annual video celebrating last year's viewing!

The video features posters from most (hopefully all!) of the 282 movies I watched last year.

It runs just under six minutes. (The posters go by quickly!) Click below to watch, or check it out on YouTube.

I saw one movie twice, which accounts for it having two posters in the video.

2019 is off to a great start, with many more movies to come!

Previously: The "year in review" videos for 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Girl in Black Stockings (1957) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

THE GIRL IN BLACK STOCKINGS (1957) is part of the three-film Mamie Van Doren Film Noir Collection recently released by Kino Lorber.

The set, available on Blu-ray and DVD, also includes GUNS, GIRLS AND GANGSTERS (1958) and VICE RAID (1959).

THE GIRL IN BLACK STOCKINGS is a 75-minute murder mystery set at the Parry Lodge in Kanab, Utah. That fact alone caused me to enjoy this oddball film, as the lodge is on my "bucket list" of places I'd like to visit.

Over the years many movie companies have stayed at the Parry Lodge while filming Westerns in the area; it's seen here in a period photograph. (Also check out photos of some of the movie companies who stayed at the lodge in this blog post!) It was interesting, given all the murders that take place, that the name of the lodge wasn't changed for the movie; Ron Randell, playing the owner, was even given the last name Parry.

The mystery kicks off immediately as lawyer Dave Hewson (Lex Barker) dances with Beth Dixon (Anne Bancroft) poolside; as he lights up a cigarette they suddenly realize they're standing next to a woman's lifeless body!

Sheriff Jess Holmes (John Dehner) is soon on the case, and one of the things I really enjoyed about the movie was Dehner front and center investigating the murders. It's a nice big part for one of my favorite character actors. For added fun, the doctor investigating the murders is played by Richard Cutting, who was one of the officers in SOUTH PACIFIC (1958).

Before long there's another body in the pool, and then another, and... There are so many strange people at the lodge that the killer could be anyone, starting with Parry (Randell), who suffers from psychosomatic paralysis due to being dumped by his lady love years ago. (Needless to say, I wondered if he was faking...)

Beth has hangups too; every time handsome Dave puts the moves on her she shies away, and we learn that something really messed her up when she got married some time in the past...

For that matter, there's also Parry's sister (Marie Windsor), who seems waaaaay too attentive to her brother.

Van Doren has a small role as one of the lodge guests, and look for Dan "Hoss Cartwright" Blocker as the bartender.

I initially had some trouble recognizing Bancroft as the same actress from THE LAST FRONTIER (1955) and NIGHTFALL (1957); I guess her hair and makeup were different enough that she didn't register with me at first, though in closeups I finally realized it was her. Timid Beth is a rather strange part, though just how strange only becomes apparent gradually.

Barker is handsome, if a bit bland; the filmmakers make sure the former Tarzan has plenty of time to hang around poolside in bathing trunks!

Randell sneers endlessly in annoying fashion, while Van Doren perks things up a bit as a party girl. In the end the movie chiefly belongs to the always-interesting Windsor as the troubled sister and to Dehner as the sheriff. (Speaking of which, you won't believe what happens when he confronts one suspect at a lumber mill!)

Is it a good movie? Not really. Yet I found it quite an amusing 75 minutes, thanks to the extensive tour of the Parry Lodge as it looked in 1957 as well as the kooky storyline, which is certainly...memorable. It's the kind of lesser-known movie with great location shooting which I enjoy checking out.

THE GIRL IN BLACK STOCKINGS was directed by Howard W. Koch. It was filmed in black and white by William Margulies.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray print is excellent; what a pleasure to see this relatively obscure film looking so great. Extras consist of a new interview with Mamie Van Doren and trailers for all three films in the set.

Look for reviews of the other films from this set here in the future.

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

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Gold Fever (1952) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

GOLD FEVER (1952) is a low-budget Monogram Pictures Western available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

GOLD FEVER was co-written and produced by John Calvert, who stars as John Bonar. Bonar meets up with and befriends elderly Nugget Jack (Ralph Morgan), a prospector Bonar dubs "Old-Timer."

Bill Johnson (Gene Roth) wants Nugget Jack's mine and makes plenty of trouble. Rusty (Calvert's real-life wife, Ann Cornell) is often around to help Bonar and Nugget Jack with her pistol.

That's about all there is to this 63-minute movie, which is set at the edge of the Mojave Desert in Yermo, California. Curiously, the movie is set in post Gold Rush days but Yermo wasn't founded until 1902.

I love "B" movies, but this one really was...not good. That's despite the experienced direction of Leslie Goodwins, who'd been in the business since the '20s and would go on to direct many episodes of Warner Bros. TV Westerns, including several episodes of MAVERICK.

The acting was as creaky as any I've ever seen in a "B" Western, and that's saying something. Even Ralph Morgan, capping his long career with this film, seems off kilter in a hyper Gabby Hayes type "geezer" role.

Cornell added some spark to the production, but it wasn't always easy to stay focused on the plot despite its bare bones structure. The last quarter of the film is the best thanks to Cornell becoming an integral part of the plot at that juncture.

I wasn't familiar with Calvert before this film. He was a magician who also appeared in several films between 1943 and 1956, ranging from bit roles to playing the lead in two late '40s "Falcon" mysteries. He passed away in 2013, at the age of 102.

The movie was filmed by Glen Gano and Clark Ramsey.

The Warner Archive DVD looks terrific, and the excellent print, which also has a very good soundtrack, is frankly one of the few reasons to see this film. I absolutely love that Warner Archive rescues titles from obscurity and makes them available in outstanding prints, but I guess they can't all be winners!

There are no extras on the DVD.

For more on this film, check out Toby's review at 50 Westerns From the 50s.

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.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Weekend Movie Fun: Canyon Passage (1946) at the Autry (and Philippe's!)

We spent a wonderful day in Los Angeles today. It was rainy but that just made everything seem a bit cozier!

We started out with lunch at Philippe's near Union Station, our first visit since 2016.

It was wonderful as always!

I also brought home a great new mug for my collection! I enjoy using mugs from various fun places that we visit.

We then headed to the Autry Museum of the American West, formerly the Autry National Center. Somehow we hadn't been back since our visit in 2011!

We had a wonderful time exploring the exhibits and seeing the marvelous Western CANYON PASSAGE (1946) in the museum's Wells Fargo Theater. It was shown as part of the Autry's What is a Western? series and was preceded by a wonderfully detailed and informative introduction by Jeremy Arnold.

The 35mm print was beautiful, and I was thrilled to see the film on a big screen for the first time! The museum's sound system frankly left something to be desired, but fortunately I know the film well so that missed words didn't matter as much as they otherwise might have. (Update: See the comments for more information on this; the problem may have been with the print and not the sound system.)

We had a great time and hope to return next month for the museum's screening of THE TALL T (1957), which will also be hosted by Jeremy Arnold. (We'll just be hoping to sit in the front row close to the speakers!)

I plan to write more extensively about CANYON PASSAGE and the Autry for the Classic Movie Hub site soon and will share that link when it's available.

Related Posts: Tonight's Movie: Canyon Passage (1946); What is a Western? Film Series at the Autry; Weekend Fun in L.A.: Philippe's and the Autry (2011); Tonight's Movie: Criss Cross (1949) at Union Station (2016 visit including Philippe's).

Also: Weekend Movie Fun (February 2018); Weekend Movie Fun: Design for Living at the Egyptian Theatre (July 2018); Weekend Movie Fun: Counsellor at Law (1933) at UCLA (and the Apple Pan!) (July 2018).