Friday, July 31, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Torch Singer (1933)

Claudette Colbert is splendid playing the title role in TORCH SINGER, a fascinating title from the pre-Code era.

We first meet Colbert as Sally Trent, an unwed mother about to give birth in a charity ward. Sally struggles to provide for her baby girl, but after a period of time Sally runs out of both money and hope. Sally is despondent when she decides she must give her daughter up for adoption in order to ensure the baby's survival.

Over the next few years Sally gradually morphs into glamorous Mimi Benton, a notorious nightclub torch singer whose signature song is "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Love." Thanks to a fluke, Mimi also becomes "Aunt Jenny," star of a popular radio show for children, and she uses her radio stardom to attempt locating her daughter.

Colbert is marvelous in this film, going from bleary-eyed, loving young mother to hard-edged, glamorous chanteuse. She takes her character through quite a journey in just 72 minutes, putting up emotional defenses while drinking and partying to bury her pain. It's the kind of performance some might find Oscar worthy; it's a shame she wasn't nominated. (Colbert's Oscar would come for her performance in a film released the very next year...IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.) The resolution of the film was a bit odd and left me with a couple of major questions, but otherwise I found this to be a highly entertaining film.

Ricardo Cortez, who often plays the villain in films of this era -- notably 1933's MIDNIGHT MARY -- here plays Colbert's kind mentor and friend who helps develop her career and supports her as she searches for her baby.

I particularly enjoyed Mildred Washington as Mimi's energetic, caring maid and friend, Carrie. It was a refreshingly unstereotypical role for a black actress of the era. I sought to learn more about Washington at IMDb and was very much saddened to learn that she died early in 1933, before TORCH SINGER was released. She had an appendicitis attack during the Long Beach earthquake and died during surgery. Ms. Washington's biography indicates she was a well-educated woman, a high school valedictorian who spent time studying at UCLA and Columbia. She created a memorable character in TORCH SINGER.

The supporting cast also includes Lyda Roberti, David Manners, Charley Grapewin, Sam Godfrey, Florence Roberts, Helen Jerome Eddy, Toby Wing, and Cora Sue Collins.

TORCH SINGER was directed by Alexander Hall and George Somnes.

Colbert's stunning gowns are by Travis Banton; the movie would be worth watching even if the only interesting thing were Colbert's wardrobe changes!

TORCH SINGER is part of the 6-film Pre-Code Hollywood Collection. You can read details about the set in this post and also in a review by the DVD Savant, Glenn Erickson. (Update: This film is now also available as a single-title DVD release in the Universal Vault Series.) (Update: TORCH SINGER has been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber in October 2021. My review of the Blu-ray may be found here.)

TORCH SINGER is "must" viewing for fans of Claudette Colbert and the pre-Code era.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Coming to DVD: Claudette Colbert Legacy Collection

Welcome info from DVD Talk (click the title of this post) and Classic Flix: on November 3 a set of six Claudette Colbert movies will be released on DVD.

This is especially happy news as so few classic movies have been released on DVD this year.

Three of the six films have been reviewed here: BLUEBEARD'S EIGHTH WIFE (1938), NO TIME FOR LOVE (1943), and THE EGG AND I (1947). I thought NO TIME FOR LOVE was especially good.

The other three titles: MAID OF SALEM (1937), which costars Fred MacMurray, who was also in NO TIME FOR LOVE and THE EGG AND I; I MET HIM IN PARIS (1937) with Melvyn Douglas and Robert Young; and THREE-CORNERED MOON (1933) with Richard Arlen.

The set will include a featurette on Colbert which also appears in this year's release of her film CLEOPATRA (1934).

Update: Here's the Amazon link.

A Must Read on President Obama's Birth Certificate

The all-around treatment of President Obama's refusal to disclose his original "vault" long-form birth certificate has been mind-boggling.

Members of the media have attempted to ignore or, more recently, belittle the story; they have published incorrect facts, such as stating the original certificate was released (if you're confused, see below). CNN head Jon Klein even said the original certificate was destroyed in 2001 when Hawaii digitalized their records, which turned out to be completely untrue.

Respected conservatives roll their eyes at the story and suggest that the President releasing the original certificate "wouldn't work" because apparently those who would like to see it are nuts, while National Review Online this week published a factually muddled editorial saying the controversy should end.

Those who would simply like the President to disclose the original certificate, including the name of the hospital where he was born, are derided as "Birthers," akin to the 9/11 "Truther" conspiracy nuts or the crazies who insist Sarah Palin didn't give birth to her youngest child.

How refreshing, then, that today National Review published a lengthy, detailed article by respected former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, which not only corrects his own publication's errors on the topic but clearly sets out the facts of the controversy.

McCarthy explains that while the public has been shown a "Certification of Live Birth," which is simply a certified abstract of some of the information on the original birth certificate, the President's original birth certificate has not been released. McCarthy writes "Regardless of why people may want to see the vault copy, what’s been requested is a primary document that is materially more detailed than what Obama has thus far provided," and he asks a pointed question for the naysayers: "When did information suddenly become a bad thing?"

McCarthy also puts this controversy in the context of the President's constant changes to his life story, using example after example -- with many links -- to show that "Obama has demonstrated himself to be an unreliable source" on the facts of his own life. In this situation, it seems all the more important to have clear primary source documentation about the man who is, after all, President of the United States. Why should the current American public not be able to see something responsible future historians will surely wish to view?

McCarthy, incidentally, is also curious about the President's trip to Pakistan as a young adult, at a time when Americans were warned not to travel to that country, and whether Obama made the trip on an Indonesian passport. A reasonable question to ask about the man who is President of the United States.

In conclusion, McCarthy notes: "Why don’t the media — the watchdog legions who trekked to Sarah Palin’s Alaska hometown to scour for every kernel of gossip, and who were so desperate for Bush dirt that they ran with palpably forged military records — want to dig into Obama’s background?

"Who cares that Hawaii’s full state records would doubtless confirm what we already know about Obama’s birthplace? They would also reveal interesting facts about Obama’s life: the delivering doctor, how his parents described themselves, which of them provided the pertinent information, etc. Wasn’t the press once in the business of interesting — and even not-so-interesting — news?

"And why would Obama not welcome Hawaii’s release of any record in its possession about the facts and circumstances of his birth? Isn’t that kind of weird? It would, after all, make the whole issue go away and, if there’s nothing there, make those who’ve obsessed over it look like fools. Why should I need any better reason to be curious than Obama’s odd resistance to so obvious a resolution?"

And finally, he says:

"The point has little to do with whether Obama was born in Hawaii. I’m quite confident that he was. The issue is: What is the true personal history of the man who has been sold to us based on nothing but his personal history? On that issue, Obama has demonstrated himself to be an unreliable source and, sadly, we can’t trust the media to get to the bottom of it. What’s wrong with saying, to a president who promised unprecedented 'transparency': Give us all the raw data and we’ll figure it out for ourselves?"

Thank you, Mr. McCarthy, for being a much-needed voice of reason on this topic.

(Hat tip: Thomas Lifson at American Thinker.)

Previously: November 25, 2008 and December 4, 2008.

Saturday Update: Welcome to readers of

NBC Plans Rockford Files Remake

Oh, puh-lease...

Producer David Shore (HOUSE), who is heading up the remake, says, "It's one of the shows that made me want to become a writer."

Hmmm...then why don't you use that talent to create something new?

Remakes have their place...I certainly watch a fair number of movie remakes, and it can be interesting to see different takes on the same story.

However, I think modern Hollywood too often uses old material as a crutch and views a familiar title as something which will be easier to market.

In the case of THE ROCKFORD FILES, there will only ever be one Jim Rockford, and I suspect James Garner's legions of other fans will agree with me.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960)

PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES is a fun family film starring the very charming Doris Day and David Niven. 

 Larry Mackay (Niven) is newly promoted to being the theater critic for a major New York newspaper. Simultaneously Larry, his wife Kate (Day), their four rambunctious boys, and their neurotic dog trade their overcrowded city apartment for a ramshackle house in the country. Larry and Kate cope with various minor crises, including remodeling their house, Larry's possibly growing ego, and a flamboyant actress (Janis Paige) who has designs on Larry, but all's well that ends well. 

Day and Niven have excellent chemistry as Larry and Kate. Their calmly bemused reactions to their boys' antics are fun; at times Niven's Larry almost seems admiring of his sons' ability to create chaos. 

They are supported by a sterling cast including Spring Byington, Patsy Kelly, Richard Haydn, and Margaret Lindsay. Byington, in her last feature film, plays Kate's mother; Kelly is the housekeeper; Haydn is a producer friend who is the boys' godfather; and Lindsay, in her next-to-last film, is a snooty party hostess. Richard Haydn's most famous role was still a few years ahead: Uncle Max in THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965).

The children in the film include Charles Herbert, who was very good in 1958's HOUSEBOAT with Cary Grant and Sophia Loren, and Stanley Livingston of MY THREE SONS.

There is an interesting connection between Paige and Day, as Paige originated the role of Babe in Broadway's PAJAMA GAME, but she was not asked to repeat the role for the screen along with her costar John Raitt. The role of Babe in the 1957 film version was played by...Doris Day. 

Fans of Day's romantic comedies will enjoy another fun bit of trivia: one of the funnier lines comes when Day's character hollers in exasperation that she's been having a rendezvous with Rock Hudson!

The movie was based on the book by Jean Kerr, wife of drama critic Walter Kerr. I believe I first encountered this book, along with many others, in my junior high school library; I was familiar with the Kerrs long before I read DAISIES, however, as the Kerrs were the neighbors in one of my childhood favorites, KAREN: A TRUE STORY TOLD BY HER MOTHER by Marie Killilea.

PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES runs 112 minutes. It was directed by the underrated Charles Walters, who had a great knack for turning out consistently entertaining movies, starting with his first feature-length film in 1947, GOOD NEWS, and including EASTER PARADE (1948), SUMMER STOCK (1950), LILI (1952), THE GLASS SLIPPER (1955), THE TENDER TRAP (1955), and HIGH SOCIETY (1956). I shared an anecdote about the opportunity I had to meet Mr. Walters in my review of THE BELLE OF NEW YORK (1952).

This movie has been released in pan-and-scan format on VHS. It's also had a very nice widescreen DVD release which is available as a single title release or as part of the 8-film Doris Day Collection. (Update: This film will be reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive in January 2021.) 

PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available here. TCM also has a nice set of production photos available on their site.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

LACMA Closes Film Department

Susan King of the L.A. Times (click title link above) and Cari Beauchamp at Native Intelligence report that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is shuttering its film department and cancelling its weekend film series.

As mentioned here recently, the series currently playing at the Museum features James Mason.

When I was a teen in the '70s and early '80s the Museum was one of the places in Southern California to see classic movies, and our family saw dozens there. The evenings were usually hosted by the wonderful curator, Ron Haver, who sadly passed away in 1993.

My dad recently reminded me of one of our more unique experiences at the museum, when a movie arrived for a screening missing a reel -- but it was announced someone in the audience had a copy of the movie at home and saved the day by retrieving it and furnishing the missing reel!

The "Golden Age" of revival theaters in Southern California for the most part preceded videotape, cable TV, and DVDs, tapering off in the late '80s. The Museum has kept going for the last couple decades, but the director apparently feels he can no longer compete for audiences with DVDs. That might be understandable on one level, but an art museum has a greater mission, to preserve art and make it available to the public. The museum is not simply cancelling screenings, but apparently it's also discontinuing the preservation of film as an art form; the film department is closing and the curator is being moved to "consultant" status.

Cari Beauchamp mourns in her column that "The message from on high is loud and clear: Films are not considered 'art' at LACMA."

Thursday Update: L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan weighs in with a well-considered commentary.

Saturday Update: Thoughts from Richard Schickel.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Disneyland Paris: Once Upon a Dream Parade

The final entry in the photo tour of my May visit to Disneyland Paris is of the park's Once Upon a Dream Parade.

That afternoon was the most sun we experienced during our visit, so these photos look a little different than many of the photos I've shared here previously, which mainly feature gray skies.

As you can see, they really go all-out for the all-American look on Main Street in Paris, with a soda vendor dressed in an old-fashioned baseball uniform:

Mickey and Minnie greet the crowd to start off the parade:

I love Disney's Alice in Wonderland but found this float just a little bit creepy!


The Green Army Men precede the...

...Toy Story Float:

The floats are double-sided: this Pooh float -- one of my favorites -- is actually the back of the Toy Story float, while Pinocchio was on the back of the Alice float.

I also especially liked the Mary Poppins float:

Mary and Bert entertain the crowd with a dance:

If you'd like to get more of a sense of the parade, there are several YouTube videos available, including this one -- which also shows what the weather is often like at DLP (gloomy!).

It was a very good parade, although visually I found some of the designs -- such as the Alice float -- unsettling. It was definitely worth seeing and provided a nice way to relax after many hours spent on the go exploring the park.

Previously: Eurostar to Disneyland Paris: The Only Way to Travel!; Disneyland Paris: Walt Disney Studios Park; Disneyland Paris Resort: Sequoia Lodge; Disneyland Paris: The. Best. Castle. Ever; Disneyland Paris: The Resorts; Disneyland Paris: The Molly Brown; Disneyland Paris: Fantasyland; Disneyland Paris: Discoveryland; Disneyland Paris: Frontierland; Disneyland Paris: Adventureland; Disneyland Paris: Main Street, U.S.A.

Coming soon: books on Disneyland Paris.

"The Nationalization of Your Body"

A superb column by Mark Steyn on the ongoing healthcare debate/debacle: "’d be surprised how quickly the 'right' to health care elides into the government’s right to tell you how to live in order to access that health care. A government-directed medical system can be used to justify almost any restraint on freedom... Ultimately, it’s not the nationalization of health care but the nationalization of your body."

Follow that article up with "Deadly Doctors" by Betsy McCaughey, who has read both the House and Senate bills and is doing superb work on this topic.

As McCaughey explains, one of President Obama's top healthcare advisors is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of the White House Chief of Staff.

Dr. Emanuel advocates policies which would make Hitler proud. Among other things, he doesn't believe in medical care for the disabled, "who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens . . . An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia" (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96).

He justifies discrimination against providing medical care to the elderly with the suggestion that they will receive their share when they are young: "Even if 25-year-olds receive priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 years now was previously 25 years."

McCaughey also writes: "Since Medicare was founded in 1965, seniors' lives have been transformed by new medical treatments such as angioplasty, bypass surgery and hip and knee replacements. These innovations allow the elderly to lead active lives. But Emanuel criticizes Americans for being too 'enamored with technology' and is determined to reduce access to it. Dr. David Blumenthal, another key Obama adviser, agrees. He recommends slowing medical innovation to control health spending."

Of course, why do I suspect that these ideas would not apply to the governing elite, just as they are exempting themselves from the healthcare plans they are writing? There's something rather Kremlinesque about that.

Scary times, indeed.

Previously: Obamacare Outlaws Private Insurance.

Wednesday Update: The President proposes withholding payments from doctors as services are rendered -- called "bundling" -- and instead "rewarding" doctors based on the government's perception of the "quality" of care rendered to a patient over the long term.

This is sounding more Orwellian and intrusive -- and less capitalistic -- with every passing day.

It's also becoming increasingly clear that the President has some very negative opinions of those evil tonsil-yanking doctors. For instance, he says: "My interest is not in getting between you and your doctor... What we've said is, we just want to provide some guidelines to Medicare as and by extension the private sector about what works and what doesn't."

Does the President think that, after years of medical school and training, doctors don't already know "what works and what doesn't"? Are doctors not capable of forming opinions without direction from the government? What's the point of medical school?

As Rush Limbaugh recently said, "We don't need doctors. Just put out the list of what works best. Just put a list out!"

Update: The President's willingness to engage in baldfaced lies to promote his healthcare program is another cause for concern. He continually claims that "If you have insurance that you like, you will be able to keep that insurance," even though a review of the bills shows this is clearly untrue.

The President also says "Nobody is talking about reducing Medicare benefits," yet he has done exactly that.

If he'll lie about these issues, what else will he lie about, and why should we trust the President and the government to take over our health insurance?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tonight's Movie: A Night to Remember (1943)

"It was a dark and stormy night..." and so naturally a mystery writer and his wife decide to move into a spooky Greenwich Village apartment in A NIGHT TO REMEMBER.

Brian Aherne and Loretta Young play Jeff and Nancy, who have decided to move to Greenwich Village so he can soak up the ambience as inspiration for writing his latest novel. Their basement apartment has no electricity, a crazy housekeeper, a door which sticks at inconvenient moments, a tortoise with ghost-like habits, and most disturbingly, a body in their otherwise charming little garden. Naturally, Jeff and Nancy set out to solve the mystery, and all is neatly resolved within 24 hours.

Despite the spooky atmosphere, it's all played for laughs, with Aherne gamely managing to be both urbane and a klutz, and Young quite amusing as his somewhat ditzy, adoring, and very beautiful wife. It's not a classic, but it's a well-made, enjoyable film which provides pleasant company for the length of its 91-minute run time.

The supporting cast is comprised of a long list of pros who all make it work, including Sidney Toler, Gale Sondergaard, Lee Patrick, Jeff Donnell, Donald MacBride, and George Chandler.

A trivia note: 15 years later the title A NIGHT TO REMEMBER was used for perhaps a better-known film, about the Titanic.

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER was directed by Richard Wallace. The movie was filmed in black and white by Joseph Walker, who shot many Frank Capra films, as well as comedy classics like HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940), HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (1941), and MY SISTER EILEEN (1942).

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER is available on VHS.

The movie has had a Region 2 DVD release in Spain. It will be available on Region 1 DVD in the United States on August 4, 2009, as part of the Icons of Screwball Comedy, Vol. 2 set. The set also includes Young's THE DOCTOR TAKES A WIFE (1940), which was reviewed here, and two Irene Dunne comedies: THEODORA GOES WILD (1936) and TOGETHER AGAIN (1944).

Volume 1, incidentally, will contain two Jean Arthur and two Rosalind Russell films: Arthur's IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935) and TOO MANY HUSBANDS (1940), and Russell's MY SISTER EILEEN (1942) and SHE WOULDN'T SAY YES (1945).

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER was recently shown on Turner Classic Movies.

Recommended for fans of husband-wife detective comedies.

2021 Update: This film is also now available on DVD as part of a Loretta Young Comedy Triple Feature from Mill Creek and Critics' Choice.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Mrs. Mike (1949)

Just one week ago I shared that I had discovered that MRS. MIKE, a movie I haven't seen since I was a teenager, was available on DVD. I ordered the movie and now, a week later, I've already enjoyed seeing it again for the first time in years.

As I wrote in a post on favorite books, MRS. MIKE by Benedict and Nancy Freedman is a book I discovered in my junior high school's well-stocked library. I still remember the day I first read it -- I started it at school and was so engrossed that when I got home I didn't budge from my chair until I'd read the entire book! In the ensuing years I reread it several times.

MRS. MIKE is the story of Katherine Mary (Evelyn Keyes), a young Irish-American girl sent to visit her uncle in Canada, where she falls in love with and marries an older Mountie, Mike Flannigan (Dick Powell). (Kathy is 16 as the book opens; Evelyn Keyes was past 30 when she made MRS. MIKE and looks as though she's in her 20s. Dick Powell was likewise older than his counterpart in the book.) Kathy and Mike immediately move to his new assignment stationed in the far north of Canada, where he provides small rural communities with law enforcement, search and rescue, first aid, and even dentistry. Mike and Kathy's loving marriage is tested by isolation and tragedy.

I haven't read the book recently but I remember it as being superior to the movie and an intensely emotional experience. That said, the movie is a very nice condensation of the book, and I think I appreciate the film even more as an adult than I did when I was younger, especially with a bit of distance from reading the book. Powell and Keyes both give fine portrayals, and I particularly liked Powell's performance as Sergeant Mike; he was perfect. (As a teenager, I remember wishing Joel McCrea had played the part! I've become much more of a Powell fan since then.) The film has a unique mood to it, enhanced by Joseph Biroc's cinematography of stark, snowy landscapes and the score by Max Steiner and William Lava.

The movie believably conveys the far reaches of Canada, sled dogs and all, though I'm not certain they left California; location filming took place in the Big Bear Lake area.

The supporting cast includes Will Wright as a Scottish doctor and Angela Clarke as a kindly neighbor. (Clarke turns 97 next month.) J.M. Kerrigan plays Kathy's uncle.

The DVD was put out by Hollywood's Attic, which -- per its website -- is now known as Nostalgia Family Video. The disc indicates it's a DVD-R; I somewhat expected this, especially as I couldn't find the DVD widely available on the web, but I do wish companies like Movies Unlimited and Amazon would identify that format on their websites. The box looked fairly nice, other than listing the wrong release year for the movie on the back cover, and the DVD itself looked professional.

The print was visually excellent, although there was one sequence near the end that looked a bit fuzzier than the rest of the movie. There were a very small handful of spots where there were split-second digital picture skips, but they were minimal and infrequent enough they didn't detract overly much from the viewing experience.

My main criticism of the DVD quality is uneven sound levels -- music and thunderstorms were very loud but dialogue was often quite soft, so I felt the need to adjust the sound regularly one way or the other; I'm not certain if this was a problem with the original print or this particular DVD. All in all, however, considering how long I have wanted to revisit this film, I was satisfied with the DVD and especially pleased with the picture quality.

MRS. MIKE is also available on VHS. I'd be interested to know whether the video print has any sound issues.

MRS. MIKE runs 99 minutes. It was shot in black and white.

One of the film's screenwriters, DeWitt Bodeen, was also a film historian who regularly contributed to FILMS IN REVIEW, a magazine I have collected and enjoyed since I was a teenager. (Thanks in part to eBay, I have issues going back to the '50s.) Bodeen's impressive credits include Val Lewton's CAT PEOPLE (1942) and THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944), as well as THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE (1945), I REMEMBER MAMA (1948), THE MIRACLE OF THE BELLS (1948), and NIGHT SONG (1948).

Louis King, the director of MRS. MIKE, was the younger brother of director Henry King, whose credits included MARGIE (1946) and I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN (1951), both recently reviewed here. Louis King's own credits stretched from the silents up until late '50s TV such as Disney's classic THE SWAMP FOX. His film SABRE JET (1953) was reviewed here last year.

MRS. MIKE is a beautifully crafted depiction of love, commitment, and dedication to duty in the face of great hardships. It provides a most enjoyable evening's viewing.

August 2010 Update: An obituary of Nancy Freedman, co-author of MRS. MIKE.

2011 Update: The DVD reviewed here, which I purchased from Movies Unlimited, no longer seems to be for sale there, though at present a copy is on sale from an Amazon vendor.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...John Ford film fans in particular will want to read "Change Slowly Comes to Beautiful, Remote Monument Valley." Click the title of this post to read the article, published in Friday's USA Today.

...Here is a photo tour of the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, North Carolina.

...Big new plans for Fantasyland in Orlando's Magic Kingdom?

...I enjoyed a profile of British actress Patricia Roc at Movietone News. A couple years ago I saw the lovely Roc in CANYON PASSAGE, an interesting 1946 Western starring Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward. It's available on VHS.

...Here's your dose of Steyn on Saturday, as Mark Steyn uses his trademark wit to take on President Obama acting "stupidly," borrowing an adjective which was unfortunately used by the President himself.

...Kate celebrates her discovery of the great film HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (1937) at her blog Silents and Talkies. I first saw this movie about 18 months ago (reviewed here) and I think I'm ready to see it again...what an original and memorable film. It's available on video.

...Meg Cabot, author of THE PRINCESS DIARIES, blogged about speaking at the Betsy-Tacy Convention last weekend in Mankato, Minnesota. If you have a daughter who hasn't yet read the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, get thee to a bookstore or library. The "high school" books in the series will be republished in attractive editions in late September.

...Mrs. Happy Housewife links to a YouTube recording of former President Reagan speaking against socialized medicine...back in 1961! Betsy McCaughey, who has actually read every word of both the House and Senate bills, writes that the program would constitute an "Assault on Seniors" greatly reducing the access of the elderly to medical care.

...Nigella Lawson's NIGELLA CHRISTMAS, which I first wrote about here last fall, finally has a U.S. release date: November 1, 2009.

...The Self-Styled Siren links to a clip of Fred Astaire's great "One For My Baby" number from THE SKY'S THE LIMIT (1943), reviewed here in January. The movie is available on video.

...Another title in the nifty series reproducing vintage Betty Crocker cookbooks has been published: BETTY CROCKER'S OUTDOOR COOK BOOK.

...DVD rentals are booming during the current economy...Netflix's rentals were up 20% in the second quarter. Unfortunately what correlates with that is there have been far fewer DVD releases this year, particularly of classic films.

...Live in the greater Chicago area? (Hey, Missy!) A Film Noir Festival heads your way for a week starting July 31st. Noir experts Eddie Muller (who has done some of my favorite DVD commentaries) and Foster Hirsch will be in attendance at the Music Box Theatre. More info is at the Film Noir Foundation.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Today at Disneyland: Magical

We were all glad when another busy week drew to a close today. As soon as our daughter got home from her long internship commute, we headed out to Disneyland for our first look at the new Magical fireworks show.

These summery flowers have replaced the red, white and blue striped flowers which were at Town Square in the days surrounding Independence Day:

We grabbed dinner at the Bengal Barbecue and then staked out a prime viewing spot in front of the castle. Although there's a wait of a couple hours for the show, it's a relaxing way for a family to spend a beautiful summer evening.

Magical begins...

You can just make out Dumbo flying under the fireworks (click to enlarge). It was pretty impressive. I was surprised, though, that the entire scene was to "Baby of Mine" and not "When I See An Elephant Fly."

You can see a clip of Dumbo flying on YouTube.

I've always believed that when I was very young I saw Mary Poppins fly at the start of a fireworks show in the '60s, along with Tinkerbell, but I haven't researched it to find out if it was reality -- it might have been a cardboard cutout -- or something I dreamed...

We enjoyed the show very much. I doubt any fireworks show could ever match the innovative and nostalgic Remember show created for the 50th Anniversary, but this was an excellent fireworks show.

I particularly liked the tribute to MARY POPPINS, which included kites and carousel horses superimposed on the castle and the effective use of "Chim Chim Cheree" and the "blue" and "pink" color battle from SLEEPING BEAUTY. I was happy to hear music included from ENCHANTED, but wished it were a longer part of the show.

This YouTube video has the opening, Dumbo sequence, and finale.

As we did after the Independence Day fireworks show, we then went over to enjoy the Pixie Hollow light and water show while the crowds dispersed.

Pixie Hollow is, well...Magical!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Disneyland Paris: Main Street, U.S.A.

As our photographic tour of Disneyland Paris nears its end, today we visit the first land visitors see when they enter the park: Main Street, U.S.A.

Main Street in Paris is incredibly detailed and beautiful. It was one of my favorite areas of the park.

City Hall! It almost feels like being in Orlando.

The Main Street Gazette...

...and a closeup of one of the entrances to the Emporium. One feels right at home, even with the occasional sign in French!

Notice that some of the Main Street buildings have fairly dark colors. While Orlando's Main Street was painted in "cool" colors because of the year-round heat, Main Street in Paris was painted in "warm" colors to give guests a bit of a psychological lift, since the temperatures in Paris are often chilly.

As these photos have shown, the sun only peeked through for short periods during our three-day visit in mid-May.

Another example of Main Street's darker colors:

This reminds me of the area around Anaheim's Main Street Cone Shop and Market House, although Anaheim's Market House doesn't have a delicatessen.

The ice cream parlor, which features the ever-present Ben and Jerry's:

And the Cable Car Bake Shop:

Casey's Corner is very reminiscent of Casey's in Florida, as well as Anaheim's Coca-Cola Corner:

The steam coming out of this coffee cup on a sign is just one of the many Main Street details I love; click to enlarge for a better view:

This window paying tribute to Walt and Roy Disney says Two Brothers, Inc., Dreamers and Doers: "If we can Dream it, we can Do it!" Below their names it says "Founders and Partners."

Main Street in Paris also has windows in honor of Michael Eisner, Marty Sklar, and the late Frank Wells, among others.

A view of Discoveryland and Space Mountain from the Hub at the end of Main Street:

One of the unique features in Disneyland Paris is the Main Street arcades, which run parallel to Main Street itself. These arcades, which allow visitors to travel the length of Main Street as well as enter Main Street shops through back entrances, relieve congestion on Main Street and provide protection from inclement weather.

An entrance to the Discovery Arcade:

Another view of an entrance to the Discovery Arcade:

The arcade interiors are visually appealing, with numerous interesting posters and signs. This was taken inside the Discovery Arcade:

Here is a video posted on the 'Net of the inside of the Liberty Arcade, which includes Liberty Court, an area paying tribute to the Statue of Liberty:

Plaza Gardens is reminiscent of Anaheim's Plaza Inn (not to mention the Plaza Pavilion, which is now Anaheim's Annual Pass Center). We ate lunch here our second day in the park.

As in other Disney parks, Main Street is home to old-time vehicles as well as a station for the Disneyland Railroad.

All Ears Net has an excellent array of Main Street photos taken at Disneyland Paris.

Previously: Eurostar to Disneyland Paris: The Only Way to Travel!; Disneyland Paris: Walt Disney Studios Park; Disneyland Paris Resort: Sequoia Lodge; Disneyland Paris: The. Best. Castle. Ever; Disneyland Paris: The Resorts; Disneyland Paris: The Molly Brown; Disneyland Paris: Fantasyland; Disneyland Paris: Discoveryland; Disneyland Paris: Frontierland; Disneyland Paris: Adventureland.

Coming soon: More on Disneyland Paris (Once Upon a Dream Parade); books on Disneyland Paris.

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