Monday, June 30, 2008

A Barack Obama Roundup

John Hinderaker at Power Line notes that somehow Senator Obama equates dissent with the highest level of patriotism...which is interesting given his anti-American connections.

Something I've noticed about Senator Obama is that underneath the smooth oratory, he's a know-it-all, and I'm not sure that's going to wear well over the long haul...especially when he's a know-it-all who changes his positions at will. Regarding Obama's changing positions on gun control, Ed Morrissey asks "Obama Still Doesn't Get YouTube, Does He?"

Speaking of Obama's positions on guns, here's info on his record in Illinois...which does not match up with his stated approval of last week's 2nd Amendment decision from the Supreme Court.

Also of note: Robert Novak on "Obama's Dodge on Handguns."

Scott Johnson wonders about "the real Barack Obama"...and Charles Krauthammer notes that members of the press either ignore Obama's position changes, or offer admiration and sympathy for his political, er, flexibility.

Daniel Pipes examines the evidence and questions whether Senator Obama has been honest about his Muslim upbringing, and what this says about his character: "...if he was born and raised a Muslim and is now hiding that fact, this points to a major deceit, a fundamental misrepresentation about himself that has profound implications about his character and his suitability as president."

Most troubling of all, Peter Kirsanow notes Obama's "callous indifference," voting against the Induced Birth Infant Liability Act, which "was designed to extend the same medical care to babies who happen to survive an abortion attempt as is enjoyed by all babies born alive." In other words, if a baby survives an abortion, Senator Obama believes it's wrong to offer the baby medical care.

Kirsanow: "I suspect most people don't know about Obama's position on babies who survive abortion attempts and it's unlikely that they'll ever find out. The media seem more interested in reporting on the cultural implications of fist-bumps or the racial animus of those who question Obama's policies. I would wager, however, that if more people knew about Obama's disregard for babies who have the audacity to survive an abortion, there would be more scrutiny and less adulation."

Update: Jim Geraghty and Ed Morrissey on Obama's contradictory positions on gay marriage.

Living Large on the Taxpayers' Dimes

The stories about deadbeat Rep. Laura Richardson of Long Beach just keep getting worse.

The new Congresswoman has the single most expensive taxpayer-paid car lease in the entire U.S. Congress.

To its credit, an L.A. Times blog asks: "Would you pay $1,300/mo. to lease a car? You already do," and notes that taxpayers are footing the bill.

This is the same woman who used her Long Beach City Council car for thousands of miles of personal use, and the city has thus far not called her to account. The same woman who defaulted on three mortgages. The same woman who refused to pay printing and mechanic's bills until they were publicized in newspaper articles.

And yet the citizens of Long Beach just voted to give her the Democratic nomination to return to Congress, and she will run unopposed in the November election...and based on her history, she'll keep milking all of us -- not just the Long Beach citizens she represents -- to pay for the lifestyle to which she'd like to become accustomed.

Previously: May 28 and June 7, 2008.

Rich Lowry: "Our Worst Justice"

No, it's not's Anthony Kennedy, and I think Lowry is correct.

Lowry: "Why did the Founders bother toiling in the summer heat of Philadelphia in 1787 writing a Constitution when they could have relied on the consciences of Supreme Court justices like Anthony Kennedy instead?"

(Or as Mark Levin puts it: "...every time the Supreme Court meets in secret conference, it sits as a constitutional convention, rewriting the Constitution at will.")

Lowry writes that Kennedy's reliance on emotions over a clear judicial philosophy is deeply troubling, calling Kennedy "one self-important man who can't differentiate between his inner compass and the nation's fundamental law."

To quote Andy McCarthy: "There's got to be a better metric of how much say we have over our own lives than what side of the bed a justice happens to get up on that day, no?"

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Here Comes the Groom (1951)

HERE COMES THE GROOM...with a couple of French war orphans in tow. Bing Crosby plays the title role, a journalist returning from years working in post-WWII France with hopes of marrying his old flame (Jane Wyman) and adopting the children (Jacky Gencel and Beverly Washburn). It's essential that Crosby and Wyman marry within five days of his return to the States, or the children will be sent back to France. There's just one hitch: Wyman is set to marry her multimillionaire boss, played by dashing Franchot Tone.

That doesn't begin to cover the overstuffed plot. Wyman's costar in 1944's THE DOUGHGIRLS, Alexis Smith, plays Tone's kissing cousin who is secretly in love with him and resents Wyman. Wryly funny Robert Keith, who plays Crosby's newspaper publisher boss, conspires with Crosby to help Smith steal Tone from Wyman so that Crosby can have Wyman for himself.

The cast includes great character actors H.B. Warner, Ian Wolfe, and Adeline DeWalt Reynolds as Tone's wealthy aunt and uncles, while James Barton and Connie Gilchrist are Wyman's tough-as-nails parents. Charles Lane and Neal Dodd (more on Dodd here) are also in the film.

The film is very laid-back about plot progress, taking time out here and there for diverse specialty numbers by Anna Maria Alberghetti (playing a war orphan, in her second film) and a raucous group including Louis Armstrong, Dorothy Lamour, and Phil Harris. Armstrong and Co. just happen to be on Crosby's plane when he heads back to the United States with the children.

Although the film has a lot of ground to cover plotwise, it's amiable fun and has a breezy, witty script, which also manages to keep Crosby likeable despite a past history of having been commitment-phobic. Robert Riskin and Liam O'Brien were Oscar-nominated for Best Story.

The film is particularly notable for its classic Oscar-winning Best Song, "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael. In addition to being a great tune, the song is used well to move the story forward and depict the bond between Crosby and the children, and especially to establish Crosby and Wyman's longtime previous close relationship. Wyman doesn't appear until half an hour or so into the movie, but when she and Crosby launch into the song for old time's sake, it's a quick way for viewers to see their comfortable way with one another and be assured they would make a good couple.

The actors are all wonderful and make the film good fun. Particular kudos go to Franchot Tone and Robert Keith. Tone's "other man" role was written and played in a refreshingly non-cliched milquetoast "Ralph Bellamy" type here. One wonders at the end just which woman got the better deal. Keith is quite amusing, particularly in his one-sided telephone scenes, and tosses off some great one-liners. 1951 was a banner year for Keith, who also turned in fine performances in the dramas I WANT YOU and FOURTEEN HOURS.

HERE COMES THE GROOM was produced and directed by none other than Frank Capra. (I remember reading in his autobiography years ago that he shot Crosby and Wyman singing "live" during filming, rather than having them lip synch to a playback.) It was shot in black and white and runs 113 minutes.

HERE COMES THE GROOM is available on both video and DVD. The DVD is a "twofer" pairing HERE COMES THE GROOM with Crosby and Wyman's 1952 film JUST FOR YOU.

Fans of this film may enjoy visiting the Jane Wyman Official Family Website, the Anna Maria Alberghetti website, and the Beverly Washburn Official Website.

November 2014 Update: HERE COMES THE GROOM is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

January 2015 Update: Here is a review of the Warner Archive DVD.

November 2018 Update: HERE COMES THE GROOM is no longer listed as available at the Warner Archive website.

Disneyland: Storybook Land Canal

One of the most scenic spots in Disneyland is the Storybook Land Canal, where Disney Imagineers and gardeners have created detailed settings for several Disney classics in miniature.

On our trip a few days ago my younger daughter took some beautiful photos of this area from our vantage point on the Casey Jr. Circus Train. Click any of the photos to enlarge.

The Canal Boats and Circus Train are both original to the park; the train in particular has always been one of my favorite Disneyland rides.

Below, Pinocchio's village:

Alice in Wonderland's village:

From the Silly Symphony THE OLD MILL:

Toad Hall from Disney's version of THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, as seen in THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD:

Cinderella's Castle:

The setting for ALADDIN:

More about the ride and its history can be found here and here.

Disneyland Paris is the only Disney theme park, other than Disneyland, to have a Storybook Land Canal; it's called Le Pays des Contes de Fees. You can see a few photos of the Paris version here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dodgers Win Reverse No-Hitter

An unusual slice of baseball history tonight: The Los Angeles Dodgers were no-hit by the Anaheim Angels, yet the Dodgers won the game, 1-0.

Angels pitchers Jered Weaver and Jose Arredondo didn't allow the home team Dodgers a hit over 8 innings, but the Dodgers scored their single run on a sacrifice.

Vin Scully says technically the game isn't a no-hitter because the Angels didn't pitch the 9th inning.

This is only the 5th game since 1900 when a hitless team has won.

A photo gallery is here.

In other baseball news, here's an interesting story about former Angel Tim Salmon's visit to the troops in Afghanistan.

Update: Times columnist Bill Plaschke on the Dodgers' historically "bizarre" and "magical" win (adjectives courtesy of Dodgers manager Joe Torre).

Tonight's Movie: Pride of the Marines (1945)

PRIDE OF THE MARINES is a superbly acted true story about World War II hero Al Schmid (John Garfield), who was blinded at Guadalcanal, where as a machine gunner he killed at least 200 advancing Japanese soldiers.

Garfield is excellent in the lead role. He manages to portray the brash Al's hard edges while also making him sympathetic. Before making the movie, Garfield spent time living with the real Al Schmid; he also spent two weeks at the San Diego Naval Hospital learning about soldiers dealing with blindness. Garfield's performance is equalled by Eleanor Parker as Ruth, Al's fiancee, who had what it took to stand up to and tame a tough guy who claimed he didn't want a serious relationship, and later showed she had the spunk to stick with him when the going got rough. It's a surprise to me that neither Garfield nor Parker received acting nominations for this film. They are both realistic and deeply moving.

The supporting cast is also outstanding, including Dane Clark as Al's war buddy, Rosemary DeCamp as a Red Cross aide, and Ann Doran, John Ridgely, and Ann E. Todd as the friends who were as close to Al as family.

The film is almost three movies in one. The first quarter of the film is devoted to the courtship of Al and Ruth, whose initially antagonistic relationship evolves into friendship and then something much deeper. Watching Garfield and Parker spar and then make sparks is tremendously enjoyable. The next section of the film, depicting Al's experience at Guadalcanal holding off hundreds of Japanese soldiers, is nerve-wrackingly terrifying. The final hour or so of the movie concerns Al coming to emotional and practical terms with the loss of most of his vision. Al's initial denial that he might have permanent damage to his vision is heartbreakingly portrayed by Garfield.

The film is surprisingly undated; some of the dialogue, on topics like prejudice, patriotism, and sacrifice, is still very timely in today's world. Discussion about whether Mexicans would take jobs needed by returning soldiers sounds topical decades later, though in this particular case it was clear that at least some of the "Mexicans" were not illegal aliens, but those who had also served our nation in the war.

A biographical account and a photograph of Al Schmid's tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery can be found at Arlington The film sticks fairly close to the actual story.

According to IMDb, some location shooting was done in Philadelphia; although back projections are used in some of the Philadelphia scenes, it appeared to me that the actors were on location in at least some of the scenes, such as at the train station. Footage for establishing shots was also shot at the Naval Hospital in San Diego.

PRIDE OF THE MARINES was directed by Delmer Daves. It was filmed in black and white and runs 119 minutes.

Original 1945 reviews can be read at The New York Times and Time Magazine. A few snippets from Bosley Crowther of the Times: "...very real and affecting... A remarkably natural production... The performances are all unqualifiedly excellent... To say that this picture is entertaining to a truly surprising degree is an inadequate recommendation. It is inspiring and eloquent..."

PRIDE OF THE MARINES can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. It's not available on video or DVD. There have been rumors for many months of a forthcoming John Garfield DVD set; perhaps this film will be included if such a set is released. PRIDE OF THE MARINES certainly deserves a DVD release and exposure to a wider audience.

May 2009 Update: PRIDE OF THE MARINES is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Friday, June 27, 2008

"Fine Dining at Disney World"

The New York Times reviews some of Disney World's most upscale restaurants.

I haven't eaten at any of the restaurants reviewed here, but I highly recommend Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club Resort, where we had an amazing meal a few years ago.

Congratulations to the Coghlans at Life in a Shoe

Congratulations to Kim and family at the blog Life in a Shoe, who were joined today by a healthy baby girl.

As she did two years ago, Kim live-blogged during her labor for the baby's home birth.

I'd guess they'll be changing their blog header to "family of 11" in the next few hours!

Pixar Does It Again: Wall-E Opens Today

Looks like Pixar and Disney have another huge hit on their hands with WALL-E, which opens today.

USA Today gives the movie a four-star review (click the post title above), while the L.A. Times says the film is "Daring and traditional, groundbreaking and familiar, apocalyptic and sentimental..." and the print edition headline says "sweetly wonderful and full of wonder."

The New York Times: "The first 40 minutes or so of a cinematic poem of such wit and beauty that its darker implications may take a while to sink in... We’ve grown accustomed to expecting surprises from Pixar, but WALL-E surely breaks new ground... a disarmingly sweet and simple love story, Chaplinesque in its emotional purity."

WALL-E is "voiced" by Ben Burtt, who created the sound effects behind R2-D2. John Ratzenberger, who has appeared in every Pixar film to date, plays a character named John.

I hadn't been sure about how interested I was in seeing a "robot movie," but then I wasn't quite sure about seeing a cooking rat, either (grin). Somehow Pixar always manages to pull it off.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Closings in California and Elsewhere

Collectors Bookstore, which has been selling movie memorabilia in Hollywood since 1965, closed its doors and went Internet-only half a dozen years ago. Now it is shutting down completely and auctioning off its remaining stock.

I shopped at Collectors in the late '70s and '80s, at three different locations. It wasn't my favorite movie memorabilia store, as its prices were higher than its competitors, but I found some wonderful treasures there. Thanks to Collectors I added to my extensive stills collections from SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS and THE SOUND OF MUSIC, and I acquired other neat odds and ends there as well.

Over in Long Beach, Ray Bradbury, the best-known regular customer of Acres of Books, has paid his last visit to the store. The store's location has been sold to a redevelopment agency.

Bradbury said, "I love this place. I love the smell of it. When it used to rain...I'd come to Long Beach, I'd come here to the Acres of Books and I'd go in the back."

I've been in the back myself when it was raining, and it was definitely a memorable experience. The back of the store is sort of a warehouse tucked onto the building. There are skylights but not much light. You'd hear the rain pounding away on the skylights, and it would be sort of gray and magical while you browsed the cavernous stacks. We were lucky to have the store while it lasted.

(Previous Acres of Books posts: April 7 and April 22, 2008.)

News from across the country: Highly regarded White Lily Flour will continue to be produced, but owner Smucker's is moving production from Tennessee to the Midwest.

The New York Times and Atlanta Journal-Constitution report on concerns about whether the flour's quality will remain the same.

My family members in North Carolina have sent me White Lily -- as well as other Southern flours -- which I enjoy using to make biscuits and pancakes. White Lily is wonderful stuff.

Something to Think About

The Supreme Court did the right thing today, issuing an opinion in support of the individual right to keep and bear arms.

It's disturbing, however, that this was a 5-4 decision, when the logical intent of the Founding Fathers -- the historical context is cited in the opinion -- was so clear.

Patterico gives us this sobering thought: "If the Democrats had appointed just one more Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, there would be no individual right to possess firearms in the United States of America."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Here are a few things which have caught my eye recently...

At the subject link (click above), Bill Bennett and Seth Leibsohn discuss 10 Concerns About Barack Obama.

The Court: Short and sweet from Mark Levin at The Corner: "Let me put this bluntly — every time the Supreme Court meets in secret conference, it sits as a constitutional convention, rewriting the Constitution at will." The Court's willingness to ignore the Constitution and serve as a super-legislature makes me a bit ill. I await the Heller gun rights decision Thursday with unease. (Update: At least they got this one right.)

Homeschool Advocates Fight For Parental Rights: Earlier this week the 2nd District Court of Appeal held a hearing on its February anti-homeschool ruling. Regardless of the court's ruling, homeschooling is here to stay in California. A handful of unelected judges aren't going to shove the genie back in the bottle.

Pelosi Supports "Fairness Doctrine": These are disturbing times in many ways. The threat of this policy returning to kill AM talk radio is a serious concern.

Drive-Thru Ban Mulled By Cities: This is happening in Canada, but I won't be a bit surprised if the U.S. is next. Some extremists seem determined to make us all as miserable as possible and push us as far back from modern living as they can. The drive-thru prescription window in particular has been a Godsend. I remember the miserable times when I had a sick child and the only way to get a prescription was to take the child into the drugstore...and of course the pharmacy is always at the very back of the store!

OC Register to Outsource Some Editing to India: The Register is the local paper. It seems like people partway around the world would have trouble doing thorough editing if only because of a complete lack of knowledge of local proper names...I'll be curious whether or not this works.

When Is a 19-Point Gap "Narrow" and a 12-Point Gap "Sizable"? When It's the L.A. Times Doing the Measuring!: Patterico finds the latest example of biased poll interpretations at the L.A. Times. (See May's Funny Math at the L.A. Times.)

Survey: Do You Call Your Local Freeway "The 10" or "I-10" or "10"?: This amused me as my Eastern friends have been mystified by my references to the 405 and the 605.

Giant Candle Co.: Rush Limbaugh mentioned this candle company earlier this week. Looks like an interesting website.

Out of the Past Locations: Someone's put together a YouTube video comparing some of the Bridgeport, California locations from the film noir classic OUT OF THE PAST with video of the town today. Bridgeport is our favorite town in the Sierras, and we'll be heading there again later this summer.

Today at Disneyland

It's been a busy few days and I've had a heavy work schedule, so we were glad to enjoy an afternoon "off" at Disneyland today.

The Green Army Men are in the plaza between the parks, making sure guests know that the new Toy Story ride is in Disney's California Adventure. They explain the various games in the ride and are quite amusing:

The park is decorated and ready for Independence Day:

Flowers at Town Square on Main Street:

There was lots of new merchandise celebrating the 45th anniversary of the Enchanted Tiki Room, including these tile coasters:

Flowers near the Casey Jr. Circus Train in Fantasyland:

Photographed near the old Skyway stairs in Fantasyland:

Near Main Street's Plaza Inn:

I'll have more photos to share in the next day or two.

Jim Geraghty on the Great Seal of Obama

Jim Geraghty at National Review: " Michael Dukakis riding in a tank or John Kerry declaring that he voted for war funding before he voted against it, we may have just witnessed one of those unexpected moments that, in retrospect, comes to define one of the candidate’s unflattering traits."

(Hat tip: Power Line.)

Previously: June 20 and June 23, 2008.

DNA Testing For Your Mutt

Since we adopted our dog Chance a year ago, we've been curious about his background. The vet agrees with our guess that he is a Chihuahua-Dachsund mix.

A growing number of companies are providing DNA testing enabling pet owners to find out for sure just what breeds are in their dogs' bloodlines. It can be particularly interesting to find out because the information gives owners insight into pet behavior or possible health issues.

The testing is too expensive at this point to be worthwhile for us, but the ability of modern science to do this is fascinating.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Coming to DVD: Warner Gangsters Collection, Vol. 4

September 26, 2008 is the release date for the latest volume in the Warner Gangsters Collection.

This is marvelous news as, like the Warners Film Noir releases, the Gangsters sets are beautifully produced and filled with extras.

The titles in the new 6-disc set are THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE, THE LITTLE GIANT, KID GALAHAD, INVISIBLE STRIPES, and LARCENY, INC. The majority of the films star Edward G. Robinson, with a little Humphrey Bogart thrown in.

The set also includes a new feature-length documentary, PUBLIC ENEMIES: THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE GANGSTER FILM.

DVD Times details the extras, which include shorts, cartoons, newsreels, radio productions, trailers, and a commentary on each title in the set. USC professors Drew Casper and Richard Jewell team up for a joint commentary track, and other commentaries are by Alain Silver, James Ursini, Dana Polan, Haden Guest, and more.

Update: The release date has been changed to October 21, 2008.

Obama: Make Higher Gas Prices the Law

Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine interviewed Senator Barack Obama and writes: "to encourage a transition toward alternatives, Obama favors legislation that would make fossil fuel more expensive. Doesn't that mean more pain to come under an Obama presidency? 'There is no doubt that in the short term, adapting to this new energy economy is going to carry some costs.'"

Senator Obama was previously quoted as saying the problem isn't high gas prices, it's that they went up too quickly. Obama said, "I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment" but that he felt the higher prices would lead to "a more efficient energy policy."

Senator McCain needs to take this issue and slam it out of the ballpark.

Monday, June 23, 2008

NYC Trans Fat Ban Takes Effect July 1st

I can't believe this hasn't had a court challenge. How can a city decree what ingredients a business is allowed to use?

Meanwhile, the entire state of Massachusetts may soon ban trans fat.

The nanny state strikes again.

Governor Palin to Senator Reid: Drill Now!

I sure like this woman. She seems to have a great deal of common sense and solid ethics...and a lovely family, too. (She also has a newborn son not pictured in the photo at the link.)

I do think it's too early in her career for her to be an ideal pick for a Republican Vice Presidential candidate -- I feel the same way about Bobby Jindal -- and with young children, including an infant with special needs, it would probably be wise for Palin to defer national politics.

Hopefully, however, Palin and Jindal will be national conservative forces in the future.

August 29th Update: Over 81,000 hits to this post today, and going up fast! Welcome to all new readers. I'd be delighted to have you visit again. :)

Posts from late last night and this morning about Palin's selection are here and here.

Obama Ditches His Quasi-Presidential Seal

The campaign says the seal was only intended to be used at one event. If true -- a claim disputed by Fox News -- what does that say about Senator Obama's fiscal judgment, having his campaign invest so much time and effort in the design of a personal Presidential logo, when not intending to use it more than once?

Michael Graham shares his thoughts on the seal here.

One of the things about Senator Obama that concerns me most, however, is that the candidate who originally seemed to be "post-racial" is anything but -- baselessly smearing Republicans as racists.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What Happens When An Ambidextrous Pitcher Faces a Switch Hitter?

Watch the hilarious video (linked above) of a minor league game between the Staten Island Yankees and the Brooklyn Cyclones. I can't remember ever seeing an at-bat like this one.

Pitcher Pat Venditte, incidentally, was homeschooled through the 8th grade.

Tonight's Movie: Having Wonderful Time (1938)

Ginger Rogers plays a secretary who shares a crowded Bronx apartment with her parents and her sister's family. She saves for a two-week vacation at a Catskills resort, and thanks to meeting camp staffer Douglas Fairbanks Jr., she is soon HAVING WONDERFUL TIME.

The film calls to mind later summer resort romances, such as TWO WEEKS WITH LOVE (1950) and DIRTY DANCING (1987). HAVING WONDERFUL TIME is a lightweight, somewhat awkwardly constructed film, buoyed by several sunny, outdoorsy scenes filmed on the shores of Big Bear Lake, California, and by its large cast of familiar faces.

Several of Rogers' STAGE DOOR costars appear in the film, including Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, and Jack Carson. (Arden, with a strange New York accent and a vocabulary filled with the biggest words possible, is particularly amusing.) A young Richard "Red" Skelton plays the camp activity director, and if you don't blink you'll see Dean Jagger in an early scene as Ginger's brother-in-law. Lee Bowman, Donald Meek, Grady Sutton, Frances Gifford, Inez Courtney, Russell Gleason, Florence Lake, and Juanita Quigley are some of the other names in the large cast.

The movie was released a couple months after Ginger's film VIVACIOUS LADY (reviewed here) and a few months prior to Fairbanks' THE YOUNG IN HEART (reviewed here). Ginger is very enjoyable as hardworking, somewhat innocent Teddy, who plays a mean game of backgammon. Fairbanks is equally fine as the young lawyer who dreams of landing a better job; the scene where he races into Lee Bowman's cabin to save Ginger's virtue is the funniest moment in the movie.

HAVING WONDERFUL TIME was directed by Alfred Santell. It runs 71 minutes.

This movie has had a video release but may not be easily available. It has not yet been released on DVD. It can be seen on TCM.

The trailer can be seen here.

April 2009 Update: HAVING WONDERFUL TIME is now available on DVD via the Warner Archive.

January 2017 Update: My review of the Warner Archive DVD is here.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tonight's Movie: The Man in Possession (1931)

(Introductory Note: This review has been cross-posted at Classic Montgomery. If you like classic movies, be sure to visit this site. Carrie has some of the best film photos I've seen posted on the Internet, and she finds all sorts of interesting things to share with her readers, like this YouTube video of a Navy documentary narrated by Robert Montgomery and Robert Taylor.)

Thanks to the kindness of Carrie of Classic Montgomery, I had the opportunity to see THE MAN IN POSSESSION, a delightfully entertaining pre-Code comedy starring Robert Montgomery and Irene Purcell.

The film's London setting is quickly established by a shot of Westminster Abbey under the opening credits, accompanied by the Westminster Chimes. Cambridge-educated Raymond (Montgomery) arrives home from a stint in jail over a "misunderstanding" about the sale of a car. Raymond's mother (Beryl Mercer) greets him with joy, but his crochety father (Sir C. Aubrey Smith) and pompous brother (Reginald Owen) try to bribe Raymond to leave the country before he can do any more harm to the family reputation.

Instead, Raymond secures employment as a bailiff, and his first job is to keep watch over the possessions of lovely Crystal Wetherby (Purcell) until she pays off a writ for bills owed. Crystal has invited her new fiance and his parents to dinner, and Raymond agrees to pose as Crystal's butler so as not to tip off the fiance about her precarious financial condition. After all, when they marry, Crystal's fiance should be able to pay off her bills. You can probably guess who the fiance and parents turn out to be...

The movie is by turns funny, racy, and romantic. Montgomery is in peak form as Raymond; I've seen many of his films in the last year, and this is one of my favorites. It's the kind of amusing, appealing performance which makes one wonder why he isn't better remembered. His slight British accent does tend to fade in and out, but when it fades he sounds just like Robert Montgomery should, so it's not an issue that's especially noticeable.

Irene Purcell appeared in just seven movies, all made in 1931 and 1932. It's a shame her career was so short; she is just right as Crystal, managing to make a woman who regularly stiffs her creditors sympathetic. Purcell, who also acted regularly on Broadway in the '20s and '30s, lived another four decades after retiring from her film career.

The witty script by Sarah Y. Mason (LITTLE WOMEN) and P.G. Wodehouse is based on a play by H.M. Harwood. The superb cast includes Charlotte Greenwood and Alan Mowbray. The combination of the script and the marvelous reactions and double-takes by the polished cast make this film a treat from start to finish..

THE MAN IN POSSESSION runs 84 minutes and is in black and white. It was directed by Sam Wood.

There's a lovely still from the movie posted at Classic Montgomery.

MGM remade the movie just six years later as PERSONAL PROPERTY, starring Robert Taylor and Jean Harlow. It's interesting to note that Reginald Owen and Forrester Harvey reprised their roles from the original film in the remake.

Sadly, this movie isn't available on video or DVD. Click here to indicate interest in a DVD release. The film has been shown in the past on Turner Classic Movies so hopefully it will show up there again in the future.

2012 Update: This film is now available on DVD-R in the Warner Archive's Robert Montgomery Collection.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Coming to DVD: An American in Paris (1951) and Gigi (1958)

Director Vincente Minnelli's two Best Picture winners have had previous "plain vanilla" DVD releases, but MGM musical fans are in for a treat when 2-Disc Special Editions of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS and GIGI are released on September 16, 2008.

DVD Times reports that AN AMERICAN IN PARIS will have a spectacular new print using the "Ultra-Resolution" process, a "making of" documentary, and the documentary GENE KELLY: ANATOMY OF A DANCER.

GIGI will have a commentary by Leslie Caron and Jeanine Basinger, a "making of" documentary, and the French dramatic version of the story, originally released in 1949.

Fans of these films may be interested in two fine books detailing the filming of the movies: THE MAGIC FACTORY: HOW MGM MADE AN AMERICAN IN PARIS by Donald Knox, and THE WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT: HOLLYWOOD'S GREATEST MUSICALS by Hugh Fordin, which is also available in a newer edition. THE WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT is about the Freed Unit at MGM and details the making of all of the unit's musicals, from THE WIZARD OF OZ to BELLS ARE RINGING. These are two of my all-time favorite books on film.

Finally, did you know that Leslie Caron runs a bed and breakfast in France? Check out her official website.

Update: DVD Times now notes in its post that there is some confusion about whether or not the commentary and original dramatic film will be part of the GIGI set, as Warner Bros. has released contradictory information on the extras. Further Update: Not to worry, DVD Times has updated again and these extras are included.

Tacky, Tacky, Tacky

Senator Obama has created his own version of the United States Seal, which is not only presumptuously quasi-Presidential, it may be illegal.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Vivacious Lady (1938)

Peter (James Stewart), a quiet, proper small-town professor, is captivated by nightclub dancer Francey (Ginger Rogers) when he visits the Big Apple. Before you know it, Peter and Francey are married and on the train back to Peter's hometown, where Peter is nervous about introducing his staid parents (Charles Coburn and Beulah Bondi) to his wife, who is a VIVACIOUS LADY.

Peter's wimpy reluctance to break the news of his marriage to his parents is annoying, but without that angle, there would be no story! And the rest of the movie is so much fun, the viewer ultimately forgives Peter.

Stewart and Rogers are wonderful. They have excellent chemistry -- a scene involving a Murphy bed is subtly, yet definitely, steamy -- and it's a shame they didn't make more movies together. Jimmy is endearing, and quite amusing in his big drunk scene; Ginger is gorgeous in this, and wears a beautiful wardrobe by Irene.

Beulah Bondi is particularly good as Stewart's mother, who reveals a bit of a secret life behind her quiet exterior. James Ellison, who was Ginger's leading man in 5TH AVE GIRL (reviewed here), plays Stewart's cousin in this. Frances Mercer (her film debut) is Peter's ex-fiancee, although she doesn't know about the "ex" part for quite a while!

The movie is filled with funny character actors, including Franklin Pangborn (a stitch as the desk clerk in a women-only hotel), Phyllis Kennedy, Hattie McDaniel, Grady Sutton, Willie Best, and Jack Carson, in a small role as a headwaiter.

The movie was directed by the great George Stevens. It runs 90 minutes.

VIVACIOUS LADY doesn't appear to have had a U.S. video release (it was released in Britain) and is not available on DVD. It's a bit of a mystery to me how a good movie with two popular actors has not yet made it onto DVD. The movie can be seen on cable on TCM, where it next airs September 12, 2008.

The trailer can be seen here.

For Ginger fans, a nice review of some of her non-Astaire films can be found at Obscure Classics.

Update: VIVACIOUS LADY is now available from the Warner Archive in a newly remastered print.

Author-Illustrator Tasha Tudor: An Appreciation

Beloved author and artist Tasha Tudor has passed away at the age of 92.

My favorite Tudor book is probably A TIME TO KEEP, with its quaint paintings of children celebrating holidays.

I also particularly love her illustrated editions of The Lord's Prayer and The Lord is My Shepherd, which I have kept on my nightstand for many years.

Tudor is also known for illustrating beautiful editions of Frances Hodgson Burnett's THE SECRET GARDEN and A LITTLE PRINCESS. I feel THE SECRET GARDEN, in particular, was one of very best matches of illustrations and text in all of children's literature; I can't imagine reading any other edition. That book is one of my most vividly remembered childhood reading experiences; it was revisited by me many times over the years, and has since been read by my daughters.

A IS FOR ANNABELLE and 1 IS ONE are two favorites aimed at the very young; we have given 1 IS ONE, which was a Caldecott Honor Book, as a gift on many occasions. Tudor's MOTHER GOOSE was also a Caldecott Honor Book.

Tasha Tudor leaves behind a beautiful body of work which will be enjoyed by generations to come.

Friday Update: The Los Angeles Times obituary.

Update: Welcome to readers of Frog and Toad Are Still Friends.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

For Fans of Cyd Charisse

Here are two lovely sites, the Official Cyd Charisse site (click "For Fans of Cyd Charisse" above) and Legs: A Tribute to Cyd Charisse.

The official site includes a listing of all Cyd's movie dances, choreographers, and dance partners.

It's difficult to name a favorite Charisse film or number. I think of her small but memorable role as sweet Deborah, one of the HARVEY GIRLS, or dancing "Blue Room" in WORDS AND MUSIC. Then there's her fiery dance with Ricardo Montalban in FIESTA; Montalban is not usually thought of as a musical dancing star but he was one of her most effective partners.

Besides the obvious dances from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and THE BAND WAGON, I adore "Fated to Be Mated" and "Red Blues" in SILK STOCKINGS. There are more great films, more dances...but if pushed I think my favorite Charisse role was as Fiona in BRIGADOON, dancing "The Heather on the Hill."

A roundup of links:

Self-Styled Siren has a tribute posted.

And here's the New York Times obituary, as well as the Boston Globe's obituary and a tribute in the Washington Post.

Here is another appraisal of her career from the New York Times.

Turner Classic Movies has announced they will preempt their previously planned schedule Friday, June 27th, in order to pay tribute to Cyd Charisse. TCM will be airing SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, THE BAND WAGON, and SILK STOCKINGS.

Previously: Cyd Charisse Has Passed Away.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Al Gore, Energy Hog

Remember last year when it was disclosed that Al Gore was using astronomical amounts of electricity, while lecturing the rest of us to cut back on our energy consumption?

The former V.P. claimed he was trying to bring his usage down...but this year his electricity consumption has increased by 10 percent!

Just one more liberal who thinks he should be able to tell the rest of us how to live, while he himself adheres to an entirely different standard.

The AP Loses Their Marbles

The Associated Press has decreed that "fair use" means bloggers can only excerpt 4 words from the AP's articles; any further words will be charged at a rate of $2.50 per word.

Not only that, but the Associated Press is attempting to prohibit bloggers from quoting from the AP in order to criticize the AP, even if you pay their fee.

So, for instance, I am theoretically not supposed to quote this erroneous sentence from the AP's obituary of Cyd Charisse: "She also forged a popular song-and-dance partnership on television and in nightclub appearances with her husband, singer Tony Bennett."

The AP is apparently too slapdash to know the difference between Tony Bennett and Tony Martin, and they don't want such errors publicized. This seems to me to be a clear attempt to silence bloggers, especially those without deep pockets, and mute criticism of the AP.

I can't imagine the AP's position would withstand a Supreme Court challenge.

Update: Michelle Malkin and Patterico point out that the AP has no problem quoting from blogs at length, without offering to pay the bloggers; just yesterday the AP quoted 154 words of a Patterico post on the controversy regarding Judge Alex Kozinski. Meanwhile, the AP has been going after a blogger who used far fewer words from an AP article than the AP lifted from Patterico's site!

Cyd Charisse Has Passed Away

The incomparable Cyd Charisse has passed away.

Depending on the reference source, she was 86 or 87 years old.

I don't mind admitting that this is a death that brought tears to my eyes, simply because she brought me so much joy as a lifelong fan of classic films.

My first great film love -- other than MARY POPPINS and THE SOUND OF MUSIC -- was MGM musicals, and Cyd starred in many of MGM's greatest. She also provided high points in many of MGM's lesser-known musicals; for instance, the best scene in Esther Williams' FIESTA was Cyd's dance with Ricardo Montalban.

She is survived by her husband of 60 years, Tony Martin (who is now 95), and two sons.

In 2006 President and Mrs. Bush presented her with the National Medal of Arts in the Oval Office. The citation reads: "An American icon, she has entertained millions throughout her career with her many stunning performances."

Cyd Charisse was a beautiful, immensely talented woman who brought happiness to millions, and the work she leaves behind has made the world a better place.

Update: The L.A. Times obituary.

Tributes at The Shelf, Libertas, Something Old, Nothing New, and Classic Ramblings.

Wednesday Update: For Fans of Cyd Charisse.

Monday, June 16, 2008

New on DVD: The Sword in the Stone (1963)

June 17th is the release date for Disney's new 45th Anniversary Special Edition of THE SWORD IN THE STONE.

The movie was previously released in a Gold Edition, and it looks as though most of the Gold Edition extras have been duplicated in the new set. Extras which appear on both DVDs include a short about the Sherman Brothers, a scrapbook, and a couple of Mickey and Goofy cartoons. The main new addition appears to be a game.

I had initially planned to upgrade to the new edition, but after comparing the two DVDs, I decided to wait and see if they put out a new edition in the future that's truly special...maybe for the 50th anniversary?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Love in the Rough (1930)

Can a poor shipping clerk who plays a great game of golf find happiness with a millionaire's daughter? That's the extent of the plot in LOVE IN THE ROUGH, an early talkie musical starring Robert Montgomery as the shipping clerk and Dorothy Jordan as his wealthy love. The characters meet when Montgomery, playing a champion municipal golfer, accompanies his boss to a country club to help him improve his golf game.

Much of the first two-thirds of the film is well-nigh unwatchable, focusing far too much on obnoxious Benny Rubin as Montgomery's pal and caddy. The plot doesn't go anywhere very fast, and one is tempted to reach for the fast-forward button to get past the excruciating Rubin scenes.

The last third of the film is more interesting, with a lovely waltz scene followed by Montgomery and Jordan eloping. Finally, some plot development! In these scenes Montgomery is touchingly romantic, and Jordan is sweet as his starry-eyed bride who is unaware of her new husband's lowly career status.

Some of the musical scenes are very much in the '20s style, with ukeleles, and are not very impressive, but there is a cute Montgomery-Jordan duet called "Go Home and Tell Your Mother"; Montgomery appears to do his own singing.

The supporting cast includes Dorothy McNulty, later known as Penny Singleton, who would star in the BLONDIE film series.

I'd love to know where the country club scenes were filmed. As a comment at IMDb points out, the film is historically interesting inasmuch as it's an early talkie with a significant number of action scenes filmed outdoors; this was a challenge for early sound technology.

Dorothy Jordan left the screen in 1933, when she married Merian C. Cooper, who produced many of John Ford's films. She returned to movies two decades later, appearing in three of Ford's films before retiring from film acting for good. Her best-known role for Ford was as the ill-fated Martha Edwards in THE SEARCHERS.

LOVE IN THE ROUGH was directed by Charles Reisner. It runs 84 minutes. This was a remake of a silent movie, SPRING FEVER (1927), which starred William Haines and Joan Crawford.

LOVE IN THE ROUGH isn't available on VHS or DVD, but is part of the library at Turner Classic Movies.

All in all, this film should be seen by Robert Montgomery completists or those interested in early sound films, but I found much of the film to be fairly slow going.

February 2010 Update: This movie is now available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive.

Incredible Shrinking Groceries

I've noticed recently that a number of grocery items I buy regularly have been shrinking in size, rather than having their prices increased. Barilla Penne is the latest package to have shrunk considerably.

This is a practice which has always been around, but it seems to have hit epidemic levels lately as companies try to avoid being scratched off consumers' grocery lists altogether by keeping the price the same, but shrinking the package instead.

USA Today ran an article on the phenomenon last week which is an interesting read.

The Consumerist website has a section titled Grocery Shrink Ray which tracks shrinking grocery items. You'll soon be noticing smaller ice cream containers in your freezer aisle, as at least a couple brands of ice cream, including Dreyer's and Breyer's, are moving from 1.75 quarts to 1.5 quarts. The days of the half-gallon tub of ice cream are now long gone...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tonight's Theater: My Fair Lady

Tonight my daughters and I had a wonderful evening seeing MY FAIR LADY at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

This touring production stars British actors Christopher Cazenove as Henry Higgins and Lisa O'Hare as Eliza Doolittle. Cazenove is best known to American audiences as Charlie on Masterpiece Theatre's great THE DUCHESS OF DUKE STREET and as Ben Carrington on DYNASTY. O'Hare was the third actress to play the title role in MARY POPPINS in London's West End and will return to MARY POPPINS for the UK tour when the MY FAIR LADY tour is completed.

Cazenove knows his way around a stage and is a compelling, charismatic presence as Professor Henry Higgins. While the ghost of Rex Harrison is present in some of Cazenove's Harrison-perfect line readings -- which is a good thing -- Cazenove also makes the role fully his, including a childlike petulance at times, which is most amusing.

Lovely O'Hare makes a winning Eliza, in a very entertaining performance. Her voice is wispier than one expects in such a demanding role, but very pleasing in the lower registers; my only disappointment was when she moved to the climactic high notes in a couple of songs, the tone veered a bit sharp. The end of "I Could Have Danced All Night" should be gloriously thrilling, not slightly wince-inducing.

It was a rare treat to see Marni Nixon -- who dubbed Audrey Hepburn as Eliza in the movie -- as Professor Higgins' mother. In a non-singing role, Nixon is very amusing as Mrs. Higgins, who is simultaneously grand yet down-to-earth, and not very approving of her son's behavior. (I've been reading Nixon's book, I COULD HAVE SUNG ALL NIGHT, which is quite interesting.)

Justin Bohon did justice to "On the Street Where You Live," though his characterization of Freddy was a bit loopier than I anticipated. The rest of the company was very professional, and the staging of "Ascot Gavotte" was particularly enjoyable. The choreography of "With a Little Bit of Luck" seems to have been partially inspired by IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER -- think Gene Kelly, Michael Kidd, Dan Dailey, and trash can lids -- or maybe by a little bit of STOMP. The sets were excellent.

A lovely production in every way, which I highly recommend. The show appears to be nearing the end of its tour, but it opens in Arizona next week.

Below, the staircase in Segerstrom Hall at the O.C. Performing Arts Center:

Reviews: The Long Beach Press-Telegram says "Cazenove is great...O'Hare is sweet and scrappy."

From The Daily Pilot: "...the spotlight gravitates toward Christopher Cazenove as the martinet dialectician Higgins. Cazenove dominates the stage with a wall-rattling voice and a leonine growl, adding an aura of physical menace to what previously has been primarily intellectual superiority. His 'I’m an Ordinary Man' and 'A Hymn to Him' numbers resonate with the primal force of this superior character. An outstanding performance."

The Hollywood Reporter: "One of the best musicals ever, with a production to match...a treat. How often do you get to see a classic musical staged with the brilliance it deserves and cast in a way to grant an audience the additional pleasure of seeing it again for the first time?" More: "What's especially gratifying about this the quality of the acting."

Related posts: Remake Coming of My Fair Lady; Tonight's Theater: The Phantom of the Opera.

April 9, 2010 Update: British Actor Christopher Cazenove, 1943-2010.

July 25, 2016 Update: Sad news today, the passing of Marni Nixon.

Coming to DVD: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

MGM's THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY is coming to DVD next October 7th, just in time for Halloween viewing.

The movie stars Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders, Donna Reed, Peter Lawford, and Angela Lansbury.

Marvelous news is that Angela Lansbury, who was around 19 when she appeared in the film, has contributed a commentary track. DORIAN GRAY was Lansbury's third film; it was preceded by GASLIGHT and NATIONAL VELVET (in which she played Elizabeth Taylor's older sister) and immediately followed by her role as the saloon girl in THE HARVEY GIRLS.

Shock: NBC's Tim Russert Dead at 58

Very sad news today: Tim Russert, host of NBC's MEET THE PRESS, has passed away at far too young an age.

The cause was apparently a heart attack.

Russert was undeniably liberal, but he conducted himself with class and I often found him more fair than many of his colleagues in the mainstream media. His extended-length cable interviews with Rush Limbaugh were particularly enjoyable viewing.

He will be missed.

Update: Rush Limbaugh has published a statement on his website: "It's just a shame. Tim was a regular guy with that perpetual smile he wore naturally all the time. He loved life and got everything he could out of it. Whether it was at dinner here in Florida while his son was taking golf lessons, or on the set of Meet The Press, Tim was always the same with me: genuine. He never condescended to anyone and was the consummate professional. He will be hard to replace. He was the closest thing there was at any of the networks to an objective journalist."

Update: Continuously updated posts today at the New York Times website, with many remembrances.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Today at Disney's California Adventure: Toy Story Midway Mania!

Today we had the opportunity to participate in the Annual Passholder preview of Toy Story Mania! -- aka Toy Story Midway Mania! -- ahead of its official June 17th grand opening.

It was a festive occasion, starting with several cast members exclaiming "Congratulations!" as we received our tickets for admission to the ride.

It was even more fun when we learned that we could ride as many times as we wanted! It was a unique opportunity to learn more about the ride in a short period of time. By our third and final ride, I had upped my score to just under 100,000 (grin). We give the ride a definite thumbs up, it's a great addition to the park in general and Paradise Pier in particular.

The ride building is beautifully themed with cool pastel colors and a "midway games" concept to tie in to the Paradise Pier surroundings.

In contrast, the version at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida plays up a brightly colored "toys" theme, with its building decorated with the Green Army Men and a Barrel of Monkeys, and the Florida ride queue is filled with more toys, including a giant Disneyland Viewmaster reel. The Florida version has FastPasses, while the California version does not, in keeping with the gradual phasing out of the use of FastPasses at most of the rides in Anaheim.

The interior section of the queue line is filled with colorful posters describing the ride's midway games. Riders wear 3-D glasses and aim guns at screens to play several different games such as popping balloons. The ride also incorporates effects out of attractions such as "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," with 3-D objects doing unexpected things such as squirting water on riders.

This poster gives hints on how the shooting equipment works:

Another poster:

Below, a domestic scene decorating the exit line area, featuring a child's Midway Mania toy. To the right of this scene, one can look down over a balcony and view the store below. The look and feel of the interior of the ride building is reminiscent of Disney's beautiful Beach Club resort in Florida, with a touch of the BoardWalk.

The extensive, detailed theming was greatly appreciated:

Mr. Potato Head serves as the barker inviting guests to try the ride. Although we watched him for quite a while, we didn't get to see him take his ear off...

Below is a view of another part of the queue area. California Screamin' roars by overhead:

The ride is truly fun for all ages, a very creative addition to the park which I'm sure we'll enjoy many times in the years to come.

We finished our day with cones at Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream and a walk through the lobby of the Grand Californian. A great time was had by all.

Previously: June 2 and June 9.

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