Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mother's Cookies Update

I've been wondering when we can expect to see Mother's Cookies in stores again...Mother's, a West Coast institution for nearly a century, went bankrupt last fall but then Kellogg's bought the recipes and logo.

I did some Googling today and found a report at Serious Eats (click title of this post) indicating that Kellogg's plans to reintroduce Mother's Cookies to West Coast stores by June 2009.

A list of the cookies we can expect is at Serious Eats; it includes Mother's Circus Animals and Double Fudge cookies.


Now if only we could get Kellogg's to make Flaky Flix, which had a brief comeback last year before Mother's went out of business.

May 4th Update: I received an email from Kellogg's today saying that Mother's Cookies are back in stores starting today.

Fox Backpedals re Extras for Rental DVDs?

Last month I wrote about the new policy from 20th Century-Fox to strip extras from DVDs intended for the rental and library markets.

The first film released with this new policy was SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

Apparently Fox has received a great deal of negative feedback for their new policy, which was intended to help drive up DVD sales.

The studio also failed to successfully execute the new policy, sending some rental stores "fully loaded" DVDs in error.

Fox will now allow libraries to order DVDs with extras. The DVDs cost the same with or without extras, so one would assume ordering copies with extras is a no-brainer.

It's not yet clear whether Fox is also going to give up on the idea for rental copies.

New Book: Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress

Last year I read IN AN INSTANT: A JOURNEY OF LOVE AND HEALING by Lee and Bob Woodruff.

Bob Woodruff, of course, is the ABC anchorman who was critically injured when an IED exploded while he was on assignment in Iraq. IN AN INSTANT recounts Mr. Woodruff's long road back from a traumatic brain injury.

It's no secret that I'm generally not an admirer of network newscasts, but I found the Woodruffs' personal story gripping and inspiring. It was a very worthwhile book.

The Woodruffs have had to meet other challenges in their lives, such as discovering one of their four daughters had profound hearing loss.

Lee Woodruff has written a new memoir, PERFECTLY IMPERFECT, which was released last week. (Click title of this post for the link.) It's a collection of essays about family life.

You can read more about her new book here.

Based on the strength of her previous book, I believe this book will be worth reading too.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Trailer: Julie and Julia (2009)

First Showing has the trailer for the upcoming film JULIE AND JULIA, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.

Click the title of this post to view it.

The movie hits theaters on August 7th, 2009.

Previously: Coming This Summer: Julie and Julia (2009).

Coming to DVD: Thirtysomething

Wonderful news discovered over this morning's breakfast cereal: THIRTYSOMETHING is coming to DVD at long last.

Funnily enough, I just happened to mention the show last night, as Sylvia Sidney guest-starred on the program at one point.

THIRTYSOMETHING is a wonderful ensemble drama about a group of "thirtysomething" friends in the early years of marriage, home ownership, and parenthood.

As the show began airing in late 1987, around the same time we bought a home and started a family, I particularly related to many of the small family moments and issues portrayed on the series each week.

The cast included Ken Olin (who has gone on to be a very busy TV producer-director, while continuing to act occasionally), his wife Patricia Wettig (BROTHERS AND SISTERS), Mel Harris, Timothy Busfield (THE WEST WING), Peter Horton, Melanie Mayron, Polly Draper, and Patricia Kalember.

The Season 1 DVD set from Shout! Factory will include interviews and commentaries. A great piece of news is that no music will be cut due to licensing issues. The president of Shout! Factory says "The visual quality is going to be incredible."

Season 1 will be released on August 25, 2009, and the additional seasons will be released approximately every six months.

I'll be able to clear my Beta tapes out of the cupboard at long last...

Update: TVShowsOnDVD has the DVD cover art (left).

It's available for preorder at Amazon.

What She Said

Longtime readers have doubtless noticed the very limited posting on politics in recent weeks.

At this particular point I've been feeling that I don't want to spend four years on relentlessly negative posts, which is what I'd be doing if I were writing about politics these days, so I've chosen to roll back political posting and focus instead on more upbeat topics. Given the challenges facing our nation this year, I believe many of us can use positive diversions!

I suspect I may resume more frequent political posting some time in the future, particularly as we near the 2012 the meantime, Michelle Malkin concisely summarizes much of my dismay with the much-vaunted "First Hundred Days." (Click the title of this post for her article.)

What's alarming is that her column barely scrapes the surface....

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Thirty Day Princess (1934)

Two nights, two wonderful fairy tales from the pen of Preston Sturges.

Last night I watched THE GOOD FAIRY (1935), which was written by Sturges, based on a Molnar play. When I chose tonight's movie, I had no idea until the opening credits rolled that Sturges had also cowritten its screenplay -- with Frank Partos -- about a starving actress hired to play a THIRTY DAY PRINCESS.

Crown Princess Catterina (Sylvia Sidney) is about to embark on a goodwill tour of the United States which is intended to drum up support for a large loan to her tiny European country. When Catterina comes down with the mumps upon her arrival in the U.S., banker Richard Gresham (Edward Arnold) determines the tour must go on and convinces actress Nancy Lane (Sidney, in a dual role), who is a dead ringer for the princess, to make the tour on behalf of the ill princess.

Of course, matters become complicated when the imposter princess falls head over heels in love with a commoner, newspaper publisher Porter Madison III (Cary Grant).

The movie breezes along in a fast-paced 74 minutes. The interwoven stories of the real and faux princesses are deftly told in a minimum of time, with a very nice payoff at the end. Although the princess and commoner plotline isn't original, and has been done many times since -- PRINCESS O'ROURKE and ROMAN HOLIDAY being just two examples -- the script is witty and inventive, ultimately touching as well as entertaining its audience.

Although I was familiar with Sylvia Sidney due to her TV work in the latter part of her career, when she guest-starred on shows like WKRP IN CINCINNATI, EIGHT IS ENOUGH, and THIRTYSOMETHING, I believe this was the first time I'd seen her in a movie. I had no idea what to expect -- I remember some of her TV roles as edgy, bossy, wisecracking types -- and thought she was absolutely wonderful as both characters. The scene where she must play yet a third part, an uncouth version of the real Nancy Lane, was particularly impressive. She was a delight in this film.

Cary Grant, of course, was...Cary Grant! Marvelous as always. He began in films in 1932; he and Sidney had appeared together in 1932's MERRILY WE GO TO HELL, his fourth film. MERRILY WE GO TO HELL is part of the new Pre-Code DVD set from Universal. THIRTY DAY PRINCESS, in fact, was released just a few weeks before the Pre-Code era ended in mid-1934.

The film has a terrific supporting cast. Edward Arnold is excellent as the American banker trying to save his big business deal. (Sometimes I'm amazed by the way an "old" movie ties in with current events; at one point Arnold sighs "We don't boast about being bankers these days. We're all in the doghouse.") Henry Stephenson, one of my favorite character actors, plays King Anatol, Catterina's father. Robert McWade is particularly good as Grant's managing editor.

The only character I didn't care for was Vince Barnett as bubble-headed, lisping Prince Nicholeus, who was played so broadly as to be unbelievable. (Surely the King would never have asked his daughter to consent to an arranged marriage with this ding-dong, even if it would have benefited the nation...) This character was the only sour note in an otherwise delightful piece of whimsy; fortunately his screen time was relatively brief.

THIRTY DAY PRINCESS was directed by Marion Gering. Gering's fairly short list of credits includes RUMBA (1935) with Carole Lombard and George Raft.

THIRTY DAY PRINCESS is part of the Cary Grant Screen Legend DVD collection. Two of the films, WEDDING PRESENT and BIG BROWN EYES, both released in 1936, have been reviewed here previously. The other titles in the set are WINGS IN THE DARK and KISS AND MAKE UP. (Update: THIRTY DAY PRINCESS is now also available as a single title DVD from the Universal Vault Series.)

Having seen the vast majority of Cary Grant's films over my lifetime, it was a real treat to discover this charming film for the very first time. THIRTY DAY PRINCESS is highly recommended for film fans who love Cary Grant or '30s romantic comedies.

Coming to DVD: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Disney's SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS will be released in a new two-disc edition on November 24, 2009.

SNOW WHITE was previously released in a two-disc Platinum Edition in 2001.

The new edition will have a "spectacular assortment" of new extras, which have not yet been announced.

In a move which might create some confusion, Disney is releasing a Blu-Ray edition on October 6, several weeks before the regular DVD is released.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tonight's Movie: The Good Fairy (1935)

THE GOOD FAIRY is a whimsical Ernst Lubitsch-like confection directed by William Wyler, from a screenplay by Preston Sturges. I don't think Wyler ever made a film that was less than a classic, and this relatively little-known movie is no exception. It deserves to have a much wider audience.

The plot, which originated as a play by Ferenc Molnar, is unusual, to say the least. Luisa (Margaret Sullavan) is a sheltered, dreamy orphan who leaves her Budapest orphanage and goes into the "real world" to work as an usherette at a movie palace. Luisa has pledged to do a good deed every day and takes her commitment to being a "good fairy" very seriously.

Before you know it, Luisa has two vastly different fairy godfathers in her life: a wealthy man, Konrad (Frank Morgan), with devious plans regarding Luisa's virtue, and a hotel waiter (Reginald Owen) who sneaks her into a ball and thereafter is determined to protect her from Konrad.

Enter Max Sporum (Herbert Marshall), a poor but honest lawyer Konrad believes to be Luisa's husband, for reasons far too complicated to explain here. It's better just to see the movie and settle in for the 98-minute ride.

As one might expect, Sturges' script is excellent, with many amusing scenes and memorable phrases, including "Go! Go! Go!" from the movie being shown at Luisa's new place of employment. (You'll understand when you see it...) I especially loved Luisa waving a light-up arrow in the theater lobby (the arrow is also a wonderful bit of visual design), and later defending her "genuine Foxine" wrap to Konrad; perhaps my favorite moment was Max's childlike delight in his new pencil sharpener. The climactic scene, with the four lead characters trying to unravel the complicated story from their various perspectives, is a wonderful blend of comedy, poignance, and romance.

Sullavan, who was married to director Wyler in this time frame, is excellent as the sweetly daffy Luisa. Marshall, who just a couple years previously was the star of the Lubitsch masterpiece TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932), is an actor I especially like who should be better remembered today. He can always be counted on to raise the quality of any film up a notch. He gives an excellent performance as Max transforms from a dour, bitter man without hope to someone who looks a decade younger and rhapsodizes joyously over "office equipment!"

Morgan, as the man whose playboy exterior covers a nervous wreck who really just wants to get married and settle down, seems to be in training for his role as another man with a split personality, THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939). In fact, a couple times Morgan's Konrad refers to himself in the film as a "wizard," which is an interesting bit of film history foreshadowing.

Owen is quite funny as Luisa's exasperated, dogged protector. (He'll always be "Admiral Boom" to me despite his appearances in scores of other films.) The superb cast also includes Alan Hale as the movie theater owner, Beulah Bondi as the orphanage director, Eric Blore as a friend of Konrad's, and Cesar Romero as a man who tries to "pick up" Luisa at the stage door.

Sullavan and Morgan would later costar in another film set in Budapest, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940), directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

In 1947 THE GOOD FAIRY was remade as I'LL BE YOURS, starring Deanna Durbin, Tom Drake, Adolphe Menjou and William Bendix.

THE GOOD FAIRY is available on DVD from Kino in their series "The William Wyler Collection." The print was excellent. DVD extras consist of a trailer and photos. (Update: This movie is now also available on DVD in the Universal Vault Series.)

THE GOOD FAIRY would be perfect paired on a double bill with Mitchell Leisen's MIDNIGHT (1939), another "fairy godfather" film of sorts which also has a European setting.

Herbert Marshall films reviewed here previously: TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932), IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935), GIRLS' DORMITORY (1936), MAD ABOUT MUSIC (1938), THE LITTLE FOXES (1941), and HIGH WALL (1947). Marshall also appeared in one of my all-time favorite Hitchcock films, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940), and he starred in the excellent adaptation of THE SECRET GARDEN (1949) starring Margaret O'Brien.

January 2020 Update: THE GOOD FAIRY is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. My review of the Blu-ray is here.

Legendary Imagineer Marty Sklar Retiring

A year ago this month we had the opportunity to see famed Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar in person at a Disneyland tribute to Julie Andrews:

Marty, who has served as "Imagineering Ambassador" for the past three years, has announced that he is retiring this summer after over half a century with the Disney company.

In a letter to his fellow Imagineers (click title of post for the text) he announced that he will retire effective July 17, 2009. That date, as Disney fans know, is Disneyland's 54th anniversary.

New Books: Best Grilling Recipes and Cooking for Two

The publishers behind Cook's Illustrated, America's Test Kitchen, and Cook's Country have two new cookbooks out for spring.

May 1st is the official release date for Cook's Country's BEST GRILLING RECIPES: MORE THAN 100 REGIONAL FAVORITES TESTED AND PERFECTED FOR THE OUTDOOR COOK. (Click the title of this post for a link.) It's already available via Amazon.

I have Cook's Illustrated's 2000 volume THE BEST RECIPE: GRILLING AND BARBECUE. I'll have to compare titles and see if the new book would be a worthwhile purchase.

The title of COOKING FOR TWO: 2009, from America's Test Kitchen, suggests that there will be future volumes; and indeed, a video on the Amazon page says that this is definitely a new annual series.

Although at this stage of my life I'm more likely to cook for a crowd than for two, my experience is that you can never go wrong with recipes from the publishing group -- so if this book fits your situation I recommend looking it over.

I don't believe I've ever had a problem with any of the many recipes I've made from the Cook's Illustrated, America's Test Kitchen, or Cook's Country books.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Wife, Husband and Friend (1939)

Leonard Borland (Warner Baxter) is a successful contractor whose business is currently struggling due to the late '30s recession. At home Leonard is also contending with his lovely young society wife, Doris (Loretta Young), who has a burning desire to be an opera star. There's just one problem...Doris's voice would be fine for a church choir, but it's not star material.

Leonard hates to disappoint his wife with the Awful Truth about her singing...especially when it's inadvertently discovered that Leonard himself has an amazing singing voice which literally shatters glass.

WIFE, HUSBAND AND FRIEND is a good-but-not great film which makes for an enjoyable hour and 20 minutes. The recession jokes about Leonard's construction business are surprisingly -- if sadly -- undated; Leonard and his partner (Eugene Pallette) are hoping for the stimulus of a new New Deal. The singing, at least for Baxter, is obviously dubbed, but doesn't detract from the film.

My main disappointment with the film was with plot developments in the final 10 minutes or so of the movie, particularly the climactic opera sequence. I also found Doris's parents (Helen Westley and George Barbier) to be a little too over-the-top in their meanness. These characters and the plot points near the end threaten to tip the film from comedy into pathos; it should have been handled with a lighter touch.

Warner Baxter (born 1889) was just about twice the age of his costar, Loretta Young (born 1913). However, while he definitely appears older on screen, the difference doesn't appear as pronounced as one might expect -- at least, until the scene where Leonard goes on a drunken binge -- and it fits with the storyline of the self-made contractor who probably spent years developing his business before becoming the doting husband of a beautiful young wife.

The supporting cast includes Binnie Barnes as the opera singer who discovers Leonard's talent and Cesar Romero as Doris's teacher.

WIFE, HUSBAND AND FRIEND was directed by Gregory Ratoff. It was shot in black and white.

Nunnally Johnson's screenplay was based on a novel by, of all people, James M. Cain, author of the crime classic THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE.

WIFE, HUSBAND AND FRIEND was remade a decade later as EVERYBODY DOES IT, with Paul Douglas, Celeste Holm, and Linda Darnell in the Baxter, Young, and Barnes roles, and a supporting cast including Charles Coburn, Lucile Watson, and Milburn Stone. I recently recorded the remake when it was shown on Fox Movie Channel so I hope to watch it fairly soon. The remake generally seems to be considered the superior of the two versions.

WIFE, HUSBAND AND FRIEND has been shown on Turner Classic Movies, although it's a Fox film, so it might eventually also turn up on Fox Movie Channel. It has not been released on VHS or DVD.

2013 Update: This film is now available on DVD-R in the Fox Cinema Archives series.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tonight's Movie: No Man of Her Own (1932)

One of Hollywood's most famous couples, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, starred together in only one film, 1932's NO MAN OF HER OWN. Their screen chemistry is electric, and it's cinema's loss that they never worked together again.

Gable plays Jerry, a New York City card sharp who takes a sabbatical in a small town when law enforcement starts circling too close. He meets a feisty librarian, Connie (Lombard), who is tired of her routine life, and before much time passes they marry and head back to the big city.

Jerry tries to keep Connie from finding out how he makes money, going so far as to get an office job during the day as a cover. As time passes, Jerry discovers that an honest life with Connie by his side might be what he wants, but will he be able to reform?

Gable and Lombard are terrific together, and the sparks really fly when they're on screen. They're a very appealing couple in a solid, well-done pre-Code story which I look forward to watching again in the future.

At the time NO MAN OF HER OWN was filmed, Gable and Lombard were each married to others (Lombard to William Powell); they didn't marry until several years later, in 1939. They had been married just short of three years when Lombard died in a plane crash on a war bond tour.

The supporting cast includes Grant Mitchell, Elizabeth Patterson, Dorothy Mackaill, Charley Grapewin, and J. Farrell MacDonald. The movie runs 85 minutes.

NO MAN OF HER OWN was directed by Wesley Ruggles, younger brother of actor Charlie Ruggles. Wesley Ruggles directed movies for three decades, beginning in 1917 and ending in 1946. He was Oscar-nominated as Best Director for CIMARRON (1931), which won Best Picture.

This film is available on both VHS and DVD. A review of the DVD is available here.

It has also been shown on Turner Classic Movies.

July 2020 Update: This film will be released on Blu-ray in August 2020 as part of the Carole Lombard Collection from Kino Lorber.

April 2021 Update: My review of the Kino Lorber NO MAN OF HER OWN Blu-ray edition is here.

Today's Fun YouTube Video: Do Re Mi

A good friend sent me a link to this fun video...a group somehow pulled off staging a very large surprise production number set to "Do Re Mi" in the Central Station in Antwerp, Belgium. Click the title of this post to view it.

According to one website, the group only rehearsed twice. It helped promote a Belgian reality TV show in which they are searching for someone to cast as Maria in a stage production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC.

If you love Julie Andrews and THE SOUND OF MUSIC, in particular, it will put a smile on your face.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Disney Director Ken Annakin Dies at 94

British director Ken Annakin, director of several classic Disney films, has passed away at the age of 94.

Annakin's first Disney film was THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRIE MEN (1952), which coincidentally will have a long-awaited DVD release next Tuesday, April 28th.

Annakin also directed Disney's THE SWORD AND THE ROSE (1953), THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN (1959), and SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1960), which is an all-time favorite of many Disney fans. I have fond memories of seeing it as a child when it was rereleased in theaters.

(And as a side note, I've always been disappointed Disneyland removed the wonderful Swiss Family Treehouse...but at least it survives in Florida! And we'll see La Cabane des Robinson next month at Disneyland Paris.)

James MacArthur, star of THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN and SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, told the L.A. Times Annakin "was a general, which a director has to be, but he was a man of great intelligence and a very warm soul. But he knew what he wanted, and he was going to get it."

Annakin's non-Disney credits included co-directing THE LONGEST DAY (1962).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"The First Celebrity Cooks"

The L.A. Times Food section ran an interesting article today on Marian Manners and Prudence Penny, food columnists for the L.A. Times and the Hearst newspaper chain beginning in the 1930s.


The book looks like it should be a good read, especially given that my interests in biography, American history, and cooking intersect in this title. It received good reviews from both Publisher's Weekly and the Washington Post. Perhaps I'll take it along for plane reading next month.

The other books I already have stacked up for the roughly 21-hour round-trip from Los Angeles to London: BUT I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP: MY LIFE BEFORE, WITH, AND AFTER ROBERT TAYLOR by Ursula Thiess; THE WOMEN OF WARNER BROS.: THE LIVES AND CAREERS OF 15 LEADING LADIES; Mark Levin's No. 1 bestseller LIBERTY AND TYRANNY: A CONSERVATIVE MANIFESTO; and A HOMEMADE LIFE: STORIES AND RECIPES FROM MY KITCHEN TABLE by Orangette blogger Molly Wizenberg. A HOMEMADE LIFE received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly.

I think these titles, along with a couple Betty Neels paperbacks, should be just about right, especially as we'll also have a train trip under the Channel and back; I expect the view during that particular portion of the train trip will be a bit boring!

Over the years I've made myself travel lighter, but being stranded somewhere without reading material is a book lover's worst nightmare (grin). And since I read hundreds of pages each week for my proofreading business, I love to take advantage of travel time to catch up on my stacks of books! Having the time to read Jeanine Basinger's THE STAR MACHINE on a plane to Florida last year was a nice part of the trip!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rodgers & Hammerstein Catalogue Sold

The estates of Rodgers & Hammerstein have sold the rights to the composers' songs to a company based in the Netherlands.

The sale includes licensing rights for future productions.

The deal was estimated to be worth at least $300 million.

R&H President Theodore Chapin is expected to remain with the company.

I find it rather disquieting that the work of such quintessentially American composers is now being controlled by a European company...

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Warner Archive Releases Announced

Thanks to J.C. Loophole of The Shelf for alerting me to the release of a new wave of films at the Warner Archive today.

15 new titles are now listed at the site; I found this interesting as initial information from Warner was that 20 titles per month would be released. Perhaps there will be more later this month, or future months will have a full list of 20.

I'm listing the titles here for the convenience of my readers; I've also provided links for the films which have been previously reviewed here.

You'll find quite a bit of Randolph Scott, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Katharine Hepburn on the list, as well as MGM musicals:


HAVING WONDERFUL TIME (listed erroneously at the WB site as HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME)














Between my own collection and my father's, I already have access to 11 out of 15 of these titles, either via professionally released videotapes or TCM recordings. Given the costs -- and the films previously released which are on my wish list -- I'll have to make my selections carefully. The musicals and HAVING WONDERFUL TIME (an imperfect film, but a great cast) head my list, as well as Scott's CARSON CITY which neither of us owns.

Previous related posts: The Warner DVD Archive; Report on Home Theater Forum/Warner Bros. DVD Live Chat; Great News for Maverick Fans; and Tonight's Movie: Private Lives (1931).

Wednesday Update: Here's a post by J.C. at The Shelf; J.C. provides a coupon code he came across for a buy two, get one free deal.

I confess to succumbing to temptation upon this news; the code does work, J.C.! (And free shipping, too.) I've been saving up for our trip next month, but I decided to take advantage of the better pricing and picked up three titles which I haven't ever been able to record: ROOM FOR ONE MORE (aka THE EASY WAY) starring Cary Grant, which I watched many times growing up but haven't seen in years; THE CROWDED SKY with Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, Troy Donahue, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and Anne Francis; and CLOSE TO MY HEART starring Gene Tierney and Ray Milland.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Our Blushing Brides (1930)

This was a weekend for back-to-back Robert Montgomery movies: last night was YELLOW JACK (1938), and tonight was an early Montgomery film, OUR BLUSHING BRIDES, costarring Joan Crawford.

I was inspired to get out my tape of OUR BLUSHING BRIDES by Kate's photo essay at Silents and Talkies, which features a remarkable set from the film. It's even more impressive on the screen than it is in photos, the ultimate in imaginative set design.

OUR BLUSHING BRIDES is the very engrossing tale of three young women struggling to make a living working at a department store. Gerry (Joan Crawford) is strongly attracted to Tony (Robert Montgomery), whose family owns the store, but Tony's not necessarily interested in marriage, and Gerry won't compromise her morals. She keeps Tony at a distance, much to his dismay.

Gerry's friend Connie (Anita Page) becomes the mistress of Tony's brother David (Raymond Hackett), which comes to a bad end, and while their other roommate, Frankie (Dorothy Sebastian), achieves marriage to a wealthy man, marrying for money doesn't turn out to be a good idea either. Only Our Girl Joan, holding out for both true love and a ring on her finger, seems destined for ultimate happiness.

OUR BLUSHING BRIDES is the final film in a loose trilogy of Joan Crawford-Anita Page movies; the first two films were the silents OUR DANCING DAUGHTERS (1928), costarring Johnny Mack Brown, and OUR MODERN MAIDENS (1929), which also starred Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Dorothy Sebastian appears in the first and last films. I've recorded both of these films and will be watching them at some point in the future.

Though I've never been a Crawford fan, I've gradually been warming up to her, particularly in her '30s films, thanks to seeing her in a number of movies with costars I especially like. (Links to some of these films are at the conclusion of this post.) I liked Crawford and her sympathetic character very much in this film; it's a strong role and she gives an excellent performance. As for Montgomery, it's no secret here that he's become one of my very favorite actors. I've seen roughly two dozen of his films over the last couple years and liked them all.

The film has some interesting angles to it, including a fashion show which features costumes by MGM's great designer, Adrian; this sequence incorporates a brief Busby Berkeley style swim scene, which actually predates the great Berkeley's work. The film's release in the pre-Code era is also very much in evidence in various ways, from the frank subject matter to the frequent modeling of lingerie.

The Films of Joan Crawford has some excellent stills from the film, although I disagree with the reviewer's assessment of Montgomery's performance.

The supporting cast includes Hedda Hopper, John Miljan, Edward Brophy, Robert O'Connor, Doris Lloyd, and Louise Beavers. Ann Dvorak is said to be one of the models in the film; I'll have to take a closer look the next time I watch it.

OUR BLUSHING BRIDES was directed by Harry Beaumont. It runs 102 minutes.

OUR BLUSHING BRIDES is not available on video or DVD but can be seen on Turner Classic Movies. (March 2014 Update: OUR BLUSHING BRIDES is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.)

Previous reviews of films costarring Joan Crawford and Robert Montgomery: LETTY LYNTON (1932), FORSAKING ALL OTHERS (1934), NO MORE LADIES (1935), and THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY (1937).

As a postscript, Robert Montgomery fans might enjoy checking out this six-minute photo tribute at YouTube and his hilarious appearance on WHAT'S MY LINE? I also came across a creatively scored homage to Montgomery and Carole Lombard as MR. AND MRS. SMITH (1941)...watching it, it suddenly struck me that there is some similarity between MR. AND MRS. SMITH and PRIVATE LIVES (1931). But that's a subject for another day...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Yellow Jack (1938)

YELLOW JACK is the story of Major Walter Reed (Lewis Stone) and his work in Cuba -- circa 1900 -- discovering the cause of yellow fever.

Although the film is fictionalized, including changing the names of the soldiers who volunteered to assist Reed in his experiments, the basic outline of the story is true: with the help of human volunteers, Reed proved that mosquitoes transmitted the dread disease.

The lead volunteer in the film is Sergeant John O'Hara, an Irish soldier portrayed by Robert Montgomery, in a particularly fine performance. Virginia Bruce plays the dedicated nurse pursued by O'Hara.

The large supporting cast includes Buddy Ebsen, Sam Levene, Andy Devine, Henry O'Neill, Charles Coburn, Henry Hull, Alan Curtis, Phillip Terry, William Henry, and Jonathan Hale. The movie was shot in black and white and runs a fast-paced 83 minutes.

Cuba is obviously set entirely on MGM soundstages, except for some second-unit footage of a Cuban village near the end of the film, but the artificial setting doesn't detract from the film's power, especially as the viewer knows that the story of determined doctors and exceptionally brave volunteers is true. It's a very interesting piece of American, medical, and military history. The acting is uniformly excellent, as one might expect given the caliber of the names in the cast.

YELLOW JACK was directed by George B. Seitz. Seitz began directing in the silent era. He specialized in B pictures at MGM in the late '30s and '40s, including countless entries in the ANDY HARDY series. The Seitz-directed film MY DEAR MISS ALDRICH (1937) was reviewed here in 2007.

YELLOW JACK has not been released on video or DVD. It can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available on the channel's website.

April 2016 Update: YELLOW JACK is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive. My review of the DVD is here.

Tonight's Movie: Rich, Young and Pretty (1951)

RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY is a relatively little known but entertaining MGM musical starring Jane Powell and Vic Damone (his film debut), along with Danielle Darrieux (charming star of 1938's THE RAGE OF PARIS), Fernando Lamas, Wendell Corey, and Una Merkel.

Like another, more famous 1951 MGM release, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY takes place in the City of Lights, MGM backlot style.

Jane Powell plays Elizabeth Rogers, who visits Paris with her father (Corey) and housekeeper (Merkel), where she falls in love with a young Frenchman (Damone); the convoluted way the film explains away Damone's lack of a French accent is amusing. Elizabeth also meets Marie (Darrieux), a singer who turns out to be the mother Elizabeth has always thought was dead. (It's a long story...) Marie is in love with her performing partner, Paul (Lamas).

Powell and Damone are charming and believable as the young lovers, and the older members of the cast are also very entertaining. I especially enjoyed the elegant Lamas, who has a very nice singing voice, as Marie's supportive lover.

Having recently seen Merkel as Robert Montgomery's unfortunate bride in 1931's PRIVATE LIVES, it was a bit of a jolt to jump forward two decades in film time and see her in a Thelma Ritter style role as the housekeeper. Merkel would have another memorable housekeeper role another decade on, as Verbena in Disney's THE PARENT TRAP.

The Brodszky-Cahn score is quite pleasing, including "Paris," "Dark is the Night," "We Never Talk Much" (my favorite song in the film), and the Oscar-nominated "Wonder Why," which lost to "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening." ("Wonder Why" was one of two songs nominated that year which were introduced by Jane Powell; "Too Late Now" from ROYAL WEDDING was also a nominee.) The soundtrack was part of an MGM series released on LP which I collected as a teenager; my only regret is that Vic Damone's singing is not on the album due to his contract with another record company.

It was a nice surprise to discover the Four Freshmen singing "How Do You Like Your Eggs in the Morning?" in a restaurant sequence late in the film.

The supporting cast includes Hans Conreid and Marcel Dalio. Norman Borine, whose book DANCING WITH THE STARS was reviewed here last fall, can be spotted backing up Darrieux in a stage number.

RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY was directed by Norman Taurog. It runs 95 minutes.

RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY has not had a DVD release, but has been released on VHS. The VHS print is of very good quality, other than an unusually noticeable bright green reel change circle popping up a couple of times.

This film can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available. The trailer is unusual in that it is hosted by the film's musical director, David Rose.

RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY may not be in the topmost tier of MGM musicals, but it provides very enjoyable entertainment.

August 2010 Update: RICH, YOUNG, AND PRETTY is now available in DVD-R format from the Warner Archive.


Two subsidiaries of Fatburger Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week.

They are seeking to break leases at unprofitable stores. The company plans "to restructure or reject a number of their unfavorable leases…so that they are left with only profitable locations, and to restructure their existing debt."

Fast Food Maven reports that stores will stay open while the company's loans are restructured.

As much as we like In-N-Out Burger, I think we like Fatburger even more. I certainly hope their stores in Buena Park and Newport Beach aren't closed.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Magazine Review: Disney Twenty-Three

I purchased the Premiere Issue of the new quarterly Disney Twenty-Three magazine tonight at Barnes & Noble and have been enjoying reading it.

The magazine is beautifully produced and covers a wide variety of Disney-related subjects. A sampling of the topics in this initial issue:

...Disney Chief Archivist Dave Smith.

...the California Grill restaurant at Disney World's Contemporary Resort.

...a visit to Pixar Studios.

...the new stage production of THE LITTLE MERMAID.

...vintage Disney comic strips.

...the Disney publishing company Disney Editions.

...the reopening of Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.

...the forthcoming Pixar film UP.

...the "Dream Suites" in Cinderella Castle and New Orleans Square.

...a random selection of interesting photos from the Archives.

...the founding of Disney Studios in 1923.

In short, there's something in the magazine for Disney fans of all types, whether a reader is interested in films, animation, amusement parks, books, or all of the above.

You can read more about the issue at the D23 website (click title of this post).

The production quality for this oversized, glossy magazine, which is 63 pages in length, is excellent. They took the precaution of shrink wrapping each copy in cellophane, which I appreciated as this is a "keeper" which will go on my bookshelves as part of my Disney collection. B&N had an unwrapped display copy available for inspection.

I did feel the price of $15.95 was on the high side; my B&N card gave me a 10% discount, but that amount is pretty much offset by California sales taxes these days. I'd like to see it sold for something closer to $12.95, but perhaps that's unrealistic for a specialty magazine of this type.

This new magazine is a wonderful opportunity for Disney to document and share more of its history with Disney fans. I'll definitely be watching for the next issue.

Jody McCrea Dies at Age 74

Actor Jody McCrea, the son of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee, has died at age 74.

He passed away on April 4th.

McCrea was a regular actor in several of the "Beach Party" movies of the 1960s.

Frankie Avalon told the Los Angeles Times (click the title of this post) that McCrea "was just a real fine gentleman and a lot more talented than he really got out of the career of being an actor. He was very bright, and he created this character that was kind of the dummy and, of course, he was the opposite of that. He was a well-built, real athletic-looking guy, and he really was a surfer: He'd get on that board and surf."

Avalon added that McCrea "never boasted about who his parents were." Jody's parents are two of my favorite actors.

Another obituary was published in the Roswell Daily Record. (Hat tip: Remembering Frances Dee.) His death was also noted on his official website.

McCrea is survived by his brothers Peter and David.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Time Warner Drops Metered Billing Plan

Good news today: Time Warner is dropping its trial plans to bill users based on their Internet usage.

One of the suspicions has been that this was a ploy on Time Warner's part to stop the growth of online activities such as watching streamed movies via Netflix, and thus push customers back to Time Warner's cable business.

Previously: Is the End of Unlimited Internet Near?; Time Warner Tests Metering Internet Use.

The Feel-Good Story of the Week

First, read the excellent background story and opinion piece "The Beauty That Matters Is Always on the Inside" (click title of post).

Then click on YouTube and watch the performance of 47-year-old Susan Boyle on BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT, the UK equivalent of AMERICAN IDOL.

A few weeks ago my daughter saw Simon Cowell walking down the street in London. Seeing him go from his habitual eye-rolling snobbery to stunned amazement in this clip is a thing of beauty.

Update: Here's a lovely blog essay on Susan Boyle and how she is an example of "one of the wonderful things about diversity in God’s design - His manifold gifts are scattered far and wide, based on His joyful imagination and providential choices, not ours."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

An Interview With Marge Champion

Marge Champion has been on my mind this week, as the other day I watched part of TCM's screening of LOVELY TO LOOK AT. LOVELY TO LOOK AT is an underrated film -- perhaps because it's a remake of a Fred and Ginger movie, ROBERTA -- which contains my two favorite "Marge and Gower" dances: the ethereal "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and the jazzy fashion show finale where they dance the role of a jewel thief and his willing victim.

To the left is a photo of Marge and Gower Champion from the LIFE archive.

While taking a break from my work this evening, I was poking around YouTube and came across what looks like a most interesting 1998 archival interview with Marge Champion. I watched a few minutes of it and am looking forward to viewing the rest soon. Click the title of this post for the interview. (Update: This link is now dead.)

You can also enjoy Marge and Gower's joint appearance as "Mystery Guests" on WHAT'S MY LINE? thanks to YouTube. It's very cute and worth taking a look if you're a fan. (Update: This link is now also dead.)

I once saw Gower Champion in person, incidentally. In the late '70s he directed a production of OUR TOWN at the Center Theater in Long Beach, California. It was a very small, intimate theater, and when Mr. Champion came out to speak to the audience before the performance he was just a few feet away from our seats. He explained that Eddie Albert, who was to play the Stage Manager, had been delayed on a location shoot and that Eddie's son, Edward Albert, would play the role in the preview we were attending. (Edward did a fine job, carrying a leather-bound script since he hadn't had time to memorize the entire part.) Mr. Champion was a handsome man with great presence.

Marge Champion not only made wonderful contributions to MGM musicals, but to great Disney animated films as well. Very early in her career she worked as a model at Disney Studios; she, along with other actors, modeled character movements and dances to help Disney's animators create their characters. Marge worked on both SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS and FANTASIA.

About 18 months ago she attended a 70th Anniversary tribute to SNOW WHITE at the Disneyland resort; Leonard Maltin featured a photo of her at his site. She looked fabulous.

Marge also had an interesting post-dancing career. She was married to television director Boris Sagal and worked as a choreographer and dialogue coach on several of his productions, including THE AWAKENING LAND (1978, starring Elizabeth Montgomery), THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (1980, with Melissa Gilbert), and the unforgettable MASADA (1981), which starred Peter O'Toole and Peter Strauss. Mr. Sagal tragically died in a helicopter accident in 1981.

Marge Champion will turn 90 years old this fall. She is one of the greats whose work has given filmgoers tremendous pleasure over the years.

2014 Update: A 95th birthday tribute.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Coming This Summer: Julie and Julia (2009)

August 7, 2009, is the release date for what I hope will be an excellent movie: JULIE AND JULIA, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.

Streep plays Julia Child, with Adams playing blogger Julie Powell.

The film is a mixture of Child's memoir MY LIFE IN FRANCE -- a really wonderful book -- and Powell's JULIE AND JULIA. Powell blogged her experiences cooking her way through Child's MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING in a year's time and then turned the experience into a book.

Stanley Tucci plays Julia Child's husband, Paul. Nora Ephron (SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, YOU'VE GOT MAIL) writes and directs.

USA Today has a photo gallery.

Previously: Meryl Streep to Play Julia Child; Julia Child's Autobiography Reviewed; The NYT Reviews Julia Child's Memoir.

Turner Classic Movies Celebrates 15th Anniversary

15 years ago today Turner Classic Movies began airing uncut, commercial-free films, with widescreen films shown letterboxed.

I don't believe it's an exaggeration to say that TCM is one of a handful of the greatest things to ever happen to classic films.

Tonight TCM airs the film which launched the network: GONE WITH THE WIND.

TCM has also launched a new web page called The Dailies, where the network plans to publish fun film-related lists each day. Today's list is of five films where anniversaries play an important role, including 1943's HEAVEN CAN WAIT.

TCM will also be starting a social networking site, the Classic Film Union.

Congratulations to TCM, and here's hoping for many, many more years of success.

Previously: TCM's 15th Anniversary.

Update: I enjoyed this tribute by R. Emmet Sweeney at the TCM blog. His story about his dad taping and shipping movies to him when he was away at college reminds me a bit of my own family.

Monday, April 13, 2009

L.A. Dodger Hits for the Cycle

The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated their season home opener in style today, as Orlando Hudson became the first Dodger in 39 years to hit for the cycle.

There are all sorts of fascinating stats involved in Hudson's feat. He's only the second Los Angeles Dodger to hit a single, double, triple, and home run in a game -- Wes Parker was the first, in 1970 -- and Hudson's the first Dodger to do it in a 9-inning game since Gil Hodges in 1949. (Parker's cycle came in a 10-inning game.) Hudson was the first Dodger ever to hit for the cycle in Dodger Stadium.

Sources conflict on whether Hudson was the eighth or ninth player in Dodger history to hit for the cycle.

The only player of any team to ever hit for the cycle in Dodger Stadium prior to today was Jim Fregosi of the California Angels in 1964, when the stadium served as the Angels' home field. (Now that I think of it, I have Fregosi's autograph among my small collection of baseball autographs...he managed the Angels in the late '70s.)

I love baseball and its history, and the fact that every single time a game starts, there's the possibility of the unexpected or the historic.

Video of Hudson's hits is at the Dodgers site here.

An L.A. Times photo gallery, including photos of the opening ceremonies, is here.

The game was attended by the largest crowd in Dodger Stadium history, with the total number given as 57,099.

Vin Scully, beginning his 60th season with the Dodgers -- you read that correctly -- threw out today's first pitch.

Tonight's Movie: Never Say Goodbye (1946)

NEVER SAY GOODBYE is a diverting romantic comedy starring two of filmdom's most attractive actors, Errol Flynn and Eleanor Parker. Flynn and Parker play Phil and Ellen, a divorced couple whose charming young daughter Flip (Patti Brady) hopes her parents will remarry.

The visit of Flip's Marine Corps penpal (Forrest Tucker), who is attracted to Ellen, complicates matters a bit. The outcome is predictable, but the fun is in getting there. It's the kind of amusing "family comedy" which is made all too rarely these days.

Parker was at perhaps the height of her beauty in the mid-'40s, when she played appealing roles in excellent films such as THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944), PRIDE OF THE MARINES (1945), and THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE (1947). Parker was equally adept at comedy and drama, and becoming more familiar with her work has been a great pleasure over the past couple of years.

Flynn was not yet visibly on a downward spiral when this film was made, and he's absolutely charming as a devoted father. Viewing this film makes one wish he'd done more comedies. Near the end of the film, Flynn performs a funny Bogart imitation -- which, incidentally, was obviously dubbed by Bogart himself.

The supporting cast includes Donald Woods, S.Z. Sakall, Tom D'Andrea, Lucile Watson, Peggy Knudsen, and Hattie McDaniel.

Charles Coleman seems to be turning up frequently as the butler in movies I've viewed this year, and in this film he plays Withers, Parker's butler. Coleman has also played the butler in BACHELOR APARTMENT (1931), THE GOOSE AND THE GANDER (1935), THE RAGE OF PARIS (1938), WALKING ON AIR (1936), and TWO GUYS FROM MILWAUKEE (1946). Coleman appeared in over 230 movies in a career that spanned the early silent era to 1951, the year of his passing. I found him particularly funny in WALKING ON AIR; even in very small parts his performances as "the perfect butler" add a nice touch to each of his films.

NEVER SAY GOODBYE was directed by James V. Kern. It was shot in black and white and runs 94 minutes.

NEVER SAY GOODBYE is available on VHS. It has not had a DVD release.

It can also be seen on TCM.

You can watch the trailer here.

Update: This film is now available from the Warner Archive.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tonight's Movie: It's a Great Feeling (1949)

IT'S A GREAT FEELING is a rather bizarre but mildly amusing Warner Bros. comedy starring Dennis Morgan, Doris Day, and Jack Carson. The closest thing I can liken it to is one of Hope and Crosby's ROAD movies.

Carson and Morgan are ostensibly playing themselves in the film, although their film selves don't seem to have much resemblance to real life...for instance, they're portrayed as bachelor men about town types, and Morgan was many years into a 61-year marriage at this point. (Carson was nearing the end of his second marriage.) The plot premise is that no one at Warner Bros. wants to direct Carson in his next movie, because he's "such a ham," so Carson's going to direct it himself, and his buddy Morgan gets roped into starring in it as well.

Doris Day plays a waitress in the studio commissary who may get her big break starring in Carson and Morgan's film.

The movie is mostly set behind the scenes at the Warner Bros. studio, with side trips to the Hollywood Bowl and Schwab's Drugstore. The most enjoyable thing about the film is the cameo roles played by many Warner Bros. stars and directors, including Jane Wyman (with daughter Maureen Reagan), Ronald Reagan, Eleanor Parker, Patricia Neal, Joan Crawford, Edward G. Robinson, Gary Cooper, and more.

My favorite scene, though, was a rare quiet moment near the end of the film, when Doris sits alone in a railroad observation car and sings. The set and costume design, the music, and the glimpses of cafes through the train windows all added up to a lovely moment.

The final scene is also a classic...I won't say a word about it, so as not to spoil the surprise, but don't tune out before "The End" or you'll miss it!

This is one of many films teaming Morgan and Carson; you can read a little more about them in my review of TWO GUYS FROM MILWAUKEE (1946).

I'd love to know if actors like Morgan and Carson actually had off-set "dressing rooms" the size of small apartments on the WB lot!

IT'S A GREAT FEELING was directed by David Butler, who has a cameo in the film. Butler directed many of Doris Day's movies, including favorites such as BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON (1953) and CALAMITY JANE (1953).

The film runs 85 minutes. The supporting cast includes Bill Goodwin as a movie producer and Irving Bacon as an exasperated railroad clerk.

IT'S A GREAT FEELING is available on VHS, as well as on DVD in the newly released Doris Day TCM Spotlight Collection. I watched the DVD print, which is beautiful.

The DVD set, which is the third volume of Doris Day movies released to date, has some of her lesser-known musicals, including TEA FOR TWO, STARLIFT, and APRIL IN PARIS. (The fifth title in the set is one I didn't care for on a past viewing, THE TUNNEL OF LOVE.) These musicals are all brand-new to me so I'm very much looking forward to watching the rest of the set.

IT'S A GREAT FEELING can also be seen on TCM, which has the trailer available here.

May 2017 Update: IT'S A GREAT FEELING has been reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive.

Newer›  ‹Older