Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fox Movie Channel in July

Fox Movie Channel has pros and cons. First, the cons: The channel shows a relatively small list of the same films over and over again, only occasionally introducing a new title.

The prints are sometimes disappointing; for instance, the channel shows too many pan & scan prints, although it was nice to see they upgraded to a widescreen copy of BLACK WIDOW (1954), which was previously run on Fox in pan & scan. I recently caught a bit of THE DARK CORNER (1946) and was puzzled by the very poor, fuzzy print quality, considering I had just watched a pristine DVD picture a few days before. (THE DARK CORNER airs again on July 31st.)

On the other hand, FMC does show some excellent films. Spotlighting Fox Movie Channel's lineup on a monthly basis is probably not practical, simply due to the repetitive nature of the lineup, but those who have Fox Movie Channel may not be aware of how many good classic films are shown on the station. The older films are typically shown in the early morning hours, while the evening time slots are often given over to newer action and horror films.

The films below are only listed for one air date, but they are often shown several times a month; search the Fox website for additional airdates.

...July 1st Fox is showing the very interesting NO HIGHWAY IN THE SKY (1951). PANIC IN THE STREETS (1950) with Richard Widmark is another excellent film airing on the 1st.

...THE PROUD ONES (1956), a Western with Robert Ryan and Virginia Mayo, airs on the 2nd. Also showing that date is WING AND A PRAYER (1944), a WWII film with Don Ameche and Dana Andrews.

...July 4th is SLATTERY'S HURRICANE (1949) with Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell, and Veronica Lake. The classic THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940), one of my very favorite movies, also airs on Independence Day.

...July 5th the pre-Code ME AND MY GAL (1932) will be shown; it's a Raoul Walsh film with Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett. Two Betty Grable films, THE SHOCKING MISS PILGRIM (1947) and PIN-UP GIRL (1944), also show on the 5th.

...Gems on the 6th include LLOYD'S OF LONDON (1936), which made Tyrone Power a star; NOB HILL (1945) with Joan Bennett, George Raft, and Vivian Blaine; and A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949). (Fox recently also showed the 1985 TV-movie remake with Stephanie Zimbalist, Michelle Lee, and Loni Anderson. It can't hold a candle to the remake -- what could? -- but what fun to see Ann Sothern from the film's original cast in a supporting role.)

...July 7th don't miss Jeanne Crain in APARTMENT FOR PEGGY (1948). And O. HENRY'S FULL HOUSE has a terrific cast including Crain, Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Laughton, and Oscar Levant -- all in the same movie!

...July 10th there's more Crain in the thriller DANGEROUS CROSSING (1952). TAMPICO (1944) stars Edward G. Robinson and Lynn Bari, and there's lots of noir goodness with PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953), NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950), and THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET (1945).

...July 13th is another great viewing day: HEAVEN WITH A BARBED-WIRE FENCE (1939) with a very young Glenn Ford and Richard Conte; Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in THE IRON CURTAIN (1948); SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT (1946) with John Hodiak and Lloyd Nolan; and Jeanne Crain and Jean Peters in VICKI (1953).

...I really enjoyed THE SECRET OF CONVICT LAKE (1951), starring Gene Tierney, Glenn Ford, and Zachary Scott, being shown on July 15th. The Tyrone Power films JOHNNY APOLLO (1940) and NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947) are also on on the 15th.

...The classic comedy SITTING PRETTY (1948), with Clifton Webb as Mr. Belvedere, airs on July 16th. Robert Young and Maureen O'Hara are the hapless parents.

...July 18th is the air date for the biographical film A MAN CALLED PETER (1955), starring Richard Todd and Jean Peters.

...Robert Mitchum and Susan Hayward are the draws for WHITE WITCH DOCTOR (1953) on July 21st.

...July 23rd the classic THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947) will be shown, starring Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders, and young Natalie Wood.

...July 25th is MR. 880 (1950), with Burt Lancaster, Dorothy McGuire, and Edmund Gwenn.

...Alice Faye and Tony Martin star in SALLY, IRENE AND MARY (1938) on July 26th. Jimmy Durante and Fred Allen also star.

...BENEATH THE 12-MILE REEF (1953) is on July 27th. It stars a young Robert Wagner, plus Terry Moore and Gilbert Roland.

...Look for THE FORBIDDEN STREET (1949), aka BRITANNIA MEWS or AFFAIRS OF ADELAIDE, on the 28th, starring Dana Andrews and Maureen O'Hara. DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK (1952), with Richard Widmark and Marilyn Monroe, airs the same day.

There are countless films buried in the Fox archives I wish the channel would show, starting with CENTENNIAL SUMMER (1946), starring Jeanne Crain and Linda Darnell. But in the meantime, those who have Fox Movie Channel may wish to check out some of the interesting titles listed above.

Happy viewing!

TCM in July

It's summertime! July is one of my favorite months of the year, and it's also shaping up as a great month at Turner Classic Movies.

The July Star of the Month is Gregory Peck. His films will begin airing on Monday, July 5th. I'll be focusing on the Peck films being shown on TCM this month in a later post.

In the meantime, here's a look at just a few of the interesting titles airing on TCM in July...

...July 1st is a birthday tribute to Leslie Caron and Olivia deHavilland, including Caron's LILI (1952) and THE GLASS SLIPPER (1955) (more here) and deHavilland's Oscar-winning turns in TO EACH HIS OWN (1946) and THE HEIRESS (1949).

...Friday, July 2nd, the Douglas Fairbanks Jr. film SUCCESS AT ANY PRICE (1934) will be shown. For a very interesting essay on this film by "MorlockJeff," visit the TCM Blog.

...Those interested in the too-short career of tragic Susan Peters will want to record TISH (1942) on July 3rd. It also stars a trio of fine comedic character actresses, Marjorie Main, ZaSu Pitts, and Aline MacMahon.

...MY SISTER EILEEN (1955), which remakes Rosalind Russell's 1942 comedy, is a good movie in and of itself, with fabulous dancing by Bob Fosse and Tommy Rall. Betty Garrett, Jack Lemmon, and Janet Leigh star. It airs on July 6th.

...July 7th I'm looking forward to recording BANK HOLIDAY (1938) starring Margaret Lockwood and John Hodge, directed by Carol Reed. This film about Britons going on summer vacation sounds like perfect July viewing.

...July 8th is a terrific lineup of film noir titles: BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT (1956) with Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine; Ann Sheridan in the title role of the very dark NORA PRENTISS (1947); Laraine Day and Robert Mitchum in THE LOCKET (1946); the great "B" film set on a train, THE NARROW MARGIN (1952), with Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor; and the murder mystery about a radio crime show producer, THE UNSUSPECTED (1947), with Claude Rains, Constance Bennett, and Audrey Totter. And that's only part of the lineup!

...KILLER McCOY (1947), starring Mickey Rooney, Ann Blyth, and Brian Donlevy, sounds quite interesting. The IMDb rating is a solid 6.8. It's on July 12th.

...Howard Keel and Jane Greer costarring in a film directed by Joseph H. Lewis, who made GUN CRAZY (1950)? It's DESPERATE SEARCH (1953) and it airs July 14th.

...Anthony Mann's THE BLACK BOOK (1949), aka REIGN OF TERROR, starring Robert Cummings and Arlene Dahl, is also on July 14th.

...MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945), an hour-long B movie which I enjoyed in May, is yet another of the interesting titles on July 14th.

...If you haven't seen the terrific airline disaster movie ZERO HOUR! (1957), July 17th is your chance.

...July 20th is a great day for Loretta Young fans. In the morning hours the pre-Code THE TRUTH ABOUT YOUTH (1930) will be shown, costarring Myrna Loy. That evening SUEZ (1938), about the building of the Suez Canal, will air. This is the only one of Tyrone Power and Loretta Young's five films I haven't seen yet. SUEZ also stars Power's first wife, Annabella.

...Also on the 20th, Jacques Tourneur's CANYON PASSAGE (1946) is an interesting Western in beautiful Technicolor. It stars Dana Andrews, Susan Hayward, Brian Donlevy, Patricia Roc, and Hoagy Carmichael.

...The 20th might be the best day on TCM's July calendar, as the wonderful film MY REPUTATION (1946), starring Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, and Eve Arden, will be shown as well.

...On July 21st look for the pre-Code BUT THE FLESH IS WEAK (1932) with Robert Montgomery and Sir C. Aubrey Smith. It's the original version of FREE AND EASY (1941), which I recently reviewed.

...July 23rd is a four-film tribute to Shirley Temple: POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL (1936) with Alice Faye, HEIDI (1937), THE LITTLE PRINCESS (1939), and HONEYMOON (1947). Growing up, I found HEIDI and THE LITTLE PRINCESS disappointing because of their deviations from the original books, but taken on their own terms they are enjoyable. The films provide good roles for one of my favorite child actresses, Marcia Mae Jones, who plays Klara in HEIDI and Lavinia in THE LITTLE PRINCESS.

...July 25th Joan Crawford, Robert Young, and Franchot Tone star in THE BRIDE WORE RED (1937).

...I'm looking forward to ABOVE SUSPICION (1943) on July 26th, starring Fred MacMurray and Joan Crawford. The plot, about honeymooners asked to spy on Nazis, sounds quite intriguing.

...The Busby Berkeley directed STAGE STRUCK (1936), with Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, and Warren William, is also on my list to check out on July 26th.

...ONE WAY PASSAGE (1930), with Kay Francis and William Powell, is supposed to be excellent. It's on July 29th. The remake, 'TIL WE MEET AGAIN (1940), starring Merle Oberon and George Brent, is also on in July, on the 9th.

...STRANGE BARGAIN (1949), starring Jeffrey Lynn, Martha Scott, and Harry Morgan, has a fascinating history: nearly four decades later a sequel to the movie was filmed for the series MURDER, SHE WROTE. All three actors appeared in the TV episode. STRANGE BARGAIN will air July 30th.

...I love character actor Sam Levene, who played Lt. Abrams in a couple of the THIN MAN movies. He was also fun in THE MAD MISS MANTON (1938) with Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. Levene costars with real-life married couple Bill Williams and Barbara Hale in A LIKELY STORY (1947) on July 30th.

Be sure to check out the full schedule at the TCM website.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gone Fishing

It's almost time for us to head out on our summer trip to the Sierras!

I'm especially looking forward to our vacation since we didn't go camping last summer. (Instead we took an anniversary trip to London and Disneyland Paris, so no complaints there!) It's great to spend family time in a beautiful environment, and I also love the opportunity to read a few books instead of proofreading a few hundred pages a day!

We expect to have a great time celebrating an old-fashioned small-town 4th of July in Bridgeport, California. We were there for Independence Day in 2005 and had a wonderful experience.

Bridgeport was the setting for the opening scenes in the film noir classic OUT OF THE PAST (1947), starring Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, and Jane Greer. Check out this fabulous video on YouTube which matches up actual modern-day Bridgeport locations with scenes from the film.

On our drive up Highway 395, or maybe on the trip home, we hope to stop in at the Beverly and Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film History, which we last visited in 2007.

I have prescheduled four posts to run while I'm out of town, so check back periodically for new content!

Blogging should resume sometime after July 7th.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Season 1 of THE GOOD WIFE, starring Julianna Margulies, comes to DVD on September 14th. My oldest daughter has high praise for this show, and I plan to try it out.

...Matthew ran a terrific birthday tribute to Jane Russell at Movietone News.

...The Silly Symphony Swings have opened at Disney's California Adventure.

...This past week Another Old Movie Blog took a fun look at two films about the early days of television, DREAMBOAT (1952) and CALLAWAY WENT THATAWAY (1951). My 2009 review of DREAMBOAT is here.

...Progress City U.S.A. has an interesting article about Disney artist Herb Ryman, who was the subject of the book WARP AND WEFT: LIFE CANVAS OF HERBERT RYMAN by John Stanley Donaldson.

...Southern Californians may be interested to learn that Ken Crane's is going out of business after 62 years selling TV's and other electronics.

...Fall cookbook season is coming, with a bunch of new entries from Food Network stars: BAREFOOT CONTESSA: HOW EASY IS THAT? by Ina Garten will be out on October 20th...NIGELLA KITCHEN: RECIPES FROM THE HEART OF THE HOME is due on October 12th...FAMILY MEALS: FINDING THE FEAST IN YOUR BACKYARD by Tyler Florence is also due on October 12th. I particularly like Ina Garten's recipes; several have become family favorites.

...Jane Skinner retired last week after a dozen years at Fox News Channel. Skinner, incidentally, is married to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

...Suzidoll wrote about Chester Morris in THE BAT WHISPERS (1930) at the TCM Blog last week. I recorded it for future viewing...

...Another new cookbook, due out November 2, 2010: THE GOURMET COOKIE BOOK: THE SINGLE BEST RECIPE FROM EACH YEAR, 1941-2009. I miss Gourmet magazine...Bon Appetit just isn't the same.

...Last Friday Susan King of the L.A. Times wrote about new classic film releases on DVD, including A STAR IS BORN and remastered films from the Warner Archive.

...The Self-Styled Siren has a fun review of women's movie fashions.

...NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH (1940) was released on DVD last week. Casey Burchby says "The picture quality is remarkable" in a review at DVD Talk. I'm especially looking forward to seeing this one. (Update: According to Amazon, the release date was changed to June 29th.)

...The G-rated TOY STORY 3 (2010) is pulling in audiences of all ages.

...Kevin Thomas of the L.A. Times reviews Charlotte Chandler's biography of Katharine Hepburn, I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING.

Have a great week!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Wagon Master (1950)

John Ford's WAGON MASTER is one of the most exquisitely beautiful Westerns ever filmed. It's not just one of my favorite Westerns, it's one of my favorite movies. I've seen it countless times, and each time I appreciate it more.

It's almost difficult for me to put into words all the things I love about this movie. I shared some of my thoughts on the film in a post when it came out on DVD last fall. The DVD print is a gorgeous presentation of the film's awe-inspiring Monument Valley vistas, photographed by Bert Glennon.

WAGON MASTER is a simple story about two young horsemen (Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr.) guiding a wagon train of Mormons led by Elder Wiggs (Ward Bond). Along the westward trail the pioneers meet up with some stranded show folk (including Joanne Dru and Alan Mowbray) and a clan of evil outlaws (including Charles Kemper, James Arness, and Hank Worden).

What makes the film special? So many things, starting with the natural, charming performances by a pair of genuine horsemen, Johnson and Carey. That's Johnson doing every bit of his exciting riding scenes; he started out as a stuntman. Every scene they're in has interesting bits of business.

Every part is perfectly cast, down to the smallest role. Every bit of dialogue matters. (In fact, a great deal of the original script was pared down for the film; it's fascinating to read the script, which fleshes out things such as Carey's courtship of lovely Kathleen O'Malley.) The film has a naturalistic feel which incorporates many incidents which simply happened to occur during filming, such as an unexpected horse fall or Ward Bond's pants being split during a fight scene due to having been attacked by a dog as cameras were rolling. The more I watch the film, the more things I notice and enjoy. For me, that's one of the marks of a great movie.

The film would also not be what it is without the songs of Stan Jones and the musical performances of the Sons of the Pioneers. Indeed, the movie is filled with music. One of my very favorite scenes is a long shot of the wagon train trudging slowly forward, with singing echoing in the distance; that's all there is to the scene, and it's unforgettable. I also love the square dance to "Chuckawalla Swing."

A bit of trivia: As John Ford fans are probably already aware, Ford's longtime set accordionist Danny Borzage, who appears in the film, was the brother of director Frank Borzage.

Monsters and Critics ran a nice interview with Harry Carey Jr. when the DVD came out. (2019 Update: This link no longer works.)

WAGON MASTER is 86 minutes long. It's occasionally shown on Turner Classic Movies. Besides the DVD, the movie has also had a release on VHS.

Most highly recommended.

Update: Toby of 50 Westerns From the 50s loves this film too. Many thanks for the link! (2019 Update: Here's a little more on the film from Toby.)

July 2019 Update: WAGON MASTER will be released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive in August 2019.

September 2019 Update: My review of the new Warner Archive Blu-ray may be found here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pixar Short Day & Night Now Available on iTunes

In an interesting marketing move, Pixar has released its short DAY & NIGHT (2010) for sale on iTunes for $1.99.

The short is currently playing in theaters with TOY STORY 3 (2010), which opened one week ago.

DAY & NIGHT is a fun look at friendship and appreciating differences.

Disney Archivist Dave Smith Announces Retirement

Dave Smith, who has served as the Disney archivist for the past four decades, formally announces his retirement today -- 40 years plus one day after he was first hired.

Smith will leave in October and be succeeded by archive manager Becky Cline.

Robert Tieman of the Archive is also retiring after 22 years, according to the Disney History blog.

The L.A. Times has interesting information: Disney President Robert Iger says a Disney museum in Glendale is a possibility.

I'm also curious about the Times mentioning that Smith has retrieved the Melvin, Max, and Buff animal heads from Country Bear Jamboree from Disneyland in order to preserve them in the Archive. Unless there are duplicates, does this mean the Country Bear critters are no longer hiding inside the Winnie-the-Pooh ride? If you turn backwards at one point during the ride -- which virtually no one does -- the heads are mounted over a doorway. A photo is here.

Jim Hill has more related news, including information on a new documentary, ARCHIVING THE ARCHIVES: FORTY YEARS OF PRESERVING THE MAGIC.

Update: MousePlanet reports that Melvin, Max, and Buff are still hidden in the Winnie-the-Pooh ride...those particular heads came from the Mile Long Bar rather than Country Bear Jamboree.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Prince Albert of Monaco Engaged

Next Summer, 2011, Monaco will host its first wedding for a sitting prince since Prince Rainier married American actress Grace Kelly in 1956.

Prince Albert II, the 52-year-old son of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, will finally end his bachelor years and marry South African swimmer Charlene Wittstock. Wittstock is 32.

The wedding will be televised in Monaco.

New (Old) Cookbook: The I Hate to Cook Book 50th Anniversary Edition

The 50th Anniversary edition of THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK, written by Peg Bracken, will be published on July 26, 2010.

The book has a terrific cover with retro graphic art. I'm not sure I can relate to the title, however...

I have to admit I've never heard of this book, although it's been around for so many years. Is anyone else familiar with it?

I found a New York Times obituary for the author, who passed away in 2007.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Coming to DVD: Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951)

As I mentioned here a couple weeks ago, PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN (1951) will be coming to DVD on August 3, 2010.

This is a restored print of the Technicolor movie starring James Mason and Ava Gardner. It was directed by Albert Lewin.

Extras on this Kino release will include an alternate opening title sequence, stills galleries, and a restoration comparison.

The restored print was screened in Hollywood at the first-ever TCM Classic Film Festival last April.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Oscars Moving to January?

Last year the Academy tried to rebuild interest in the Oscars by expanding the Best Picture category from five to ten comes news that tonight the Academy's Board of Governors has discussed getting the jump on the Golden Globes by moving the Academy Awards up from February or March to January.

The 2011 Oscar ceremony is currently scheduled for February 27, 2011. Nominations will be announced January 25th.

(I can remember when the Oscars were in April...)

Whether the move is logistically possible, particularly as soon as January 2011, is very uncertain.

Toy Story 3 Stories

There's a fun interview with Michael Keaton in today's USA Today about his role as Ken in TOY STORY 3.

Keaton says when he got the job offer "the phone literally fell out of my hands and I almost fell to my knees laughing. I don't know why exactly, frankly. It just started to make me laugh, and I haven't quite stopped since."

Many reviewers agree that Ken and Barbie just about steal the show in the third film in the classic Pixar-Disney trilogy.

There's more on Ken in another USA Today story.

The Big Hollywood site is hosting a week-long We Love Pixar! series, which began with John Nolte's review of TOY STORY 3 ("a masterpiece") and Christian Toto's tribute to TOY STORY.

Today Brad Schaeffer continues the series, writing that Pixar is "A Monument to Creativity and Free Enterprise."

Previously: Tonight's Movie: Toy Story 3 (2010).

LACMA Film Program Still in Jeopardy; Lubitsch Series in July

Although it won a reprieve from budget cuts last year and is safe for one more fiscal year, the film program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art still faces fundraising challenges and possible extinction.

Details are in today's Los Angeles Times.

The Museum has a fabulous lineup of Ernst Lubitsch films scheduled this summer. It's a wonderful opportunity for Southern Californians to see classics on the big screen, including TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932), THE SMILING LIEUTENANT (1931), THE MERRY WIDOW (1934), BLUEBEARD'S EIGHTH WIFE (1938), TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942), HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1943), CLUNY BROWN (1946), and more.

We had a great time at the Museum last fall seeing a double bill of Audrey Hepburn movies, and I hope to return again soon.

Previous LACMA posts: July 28, 2009; August 27, 2009; October 22, 2009.

Monday, June 21, 2010

New Book: Project Future: The Inside Story Behind the Creation of Disney World

PROJECT FUTURE: THE INSIDE STORY BEHIND THE CREATION OF DISNEY WORLD was released in late February but somehow didn't make it onto my radar screen until my father recently called it to my attention.

Author Chad Denver Emerson, a law professor, tells the story of how Walt Disney secretly obtained land in Central Florida to build his theme park. The acquisition project was code named "Project Future."

The Disney Blog has an interview with the author.

The book has been reviewed by several blogs including SamLand's Disney Adventure, WDW Daily News, ZannaLand, and MiceAge.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Bedside Manner (1945)

BEDSIDE MANNER, also known as HER FAVORITE PATIENT, is a pleasant small-town romantic comedy about a doctor (Ruth Hussey) and a test pilot (John Carroll).

Dr. Hedy Fredericks (Hussey) is driving to a new medical research job in Chicago which she hopes will give her a respite from unpredictable doctor's hours. Along the way she stops off to visit her "Uncle Doc" (Charlie Ruggles), an overworked small-town physician who is plotting to keep Hedy in town as his partner.

Hedy becomes involved with test pilot Morgan Hale (Carroll), a trio of soldiers named Smith (Frank Jenks, John James, and Joel McGinnis), and Morgan's jealous girlfriend Lola (Ann Rutherford). Morgan falls for Hedy and soon joins her uncle's plot to keep her in town.

This United Artists release has low-budget production values -- for instance, characters converse inside a doorway while back projection cars and pedestrians go by -- but the congenial cast does a good job with the slight material. The intelligent Hussey elevates the film with her snappy line delivery, and she also looks great in a nice wardrobe, one of the film's only concessions to production quality. Carroll is an adequate if not especially memorable leading man. Rutherford is both beautiful and amusing, and Ruggles is always a solid performer.

The cast also includes terrific Esther Dale as Ruggles' nurse, Grant Mitchell as Carroll's boss, Bert Roach and Vera Marsh as Carroll's friends, and Claudia Drake as a Soviet soldier.

Ruth Hussey and John Carroll had previously been teamed in MGM's PIERRE OF THE PLAINS (1942). Fans of Ruth Hussey will enjoy visiting her official website, which is maintained by her family and has lovely photos. She passed away in 2005.

The film was directed by Andrew L. Stone (A BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER). It runs 78 minutes.

BEDSIDE MANNER has been released on DVD under its reissue title, HER FAVORITE PATIENT.

The DVD print from Alpha Video, which specializes in public domain films, is of fairly poor quality, although the picture improves after the first few minutes and is watchable throughout. The soundtrack occasionally has static but for the most part the dialogue is clear. It would certainly be nice to see the film in better condition, but given the choice between the Alpha DVD and not being able to view the film at all, the DVD is an acceptable option.

Tonight's Movie: The Court Jester (1956)

THE COURT JESTER is a colorful medieval comedy which shows off the talents of a fine cast headed by Danny Kaye and Glynis Johns.

King Roderick (Cecil Parker) has usurped the throne, but an infant who is the rightful heir to the throne has been hidden away by the Black Fox (Edward Ashley) and his band of merry men...and women, including lovely Jean (Glynis Johns). Hubert Hawkins (Danny Kaye), a former carnival performer who is one of the Fox's men, replaces Giacomo (John Carradine), the king's newly hired court jester, in order to obtain the key to a secret passageway which will enable the Black Fox to overthrow the pretender to the throne.

Hubert and Jean find themselves entangled in all sorts of intrigue while they attempt to gain possession of the key. Perhaps most problematic is that Roderick's daughter, Princess Gwendolyn (beautiful Angela Lansbury), wants to marry the court jester!

The excellent cast also includes Basil Rathbone (bringing to mind his 1938 ROBIN HOOD role as Sir Guy of Gisbourne) and Michael Pate as Sir Ravenhurst and Sir Locksley, who believe the court jester is an assassin they secretly hired; Mildred Natwick as a witch whose spells constantly confuse matters; and Robert Middleton as "grizzly, gruesome" Sir Griswold, who wants to marry Gwendolyn. Alan Napier and Patrick Aherne (brother of Brian) play knights.

The film's first few minutes are the weakest in the movie; the opening credits didn't do much for me, nor did Kaye singing "Outfox the Fox" on an unattractive set. After that, however, the film really takes off; it's colorful, funny, and filled with outstanding performers and clever set pieces. As the plot complications grow over the film's 101 minutes, it becomes ever funnier. My children saw this years ago and loved it; I can't believe it took me so long to catch up with it myself!

There are many memorable scenes, including Hubert crooning a lullaby to the baby king, dueling with Ravenhurst (there's a priceless bit with candles), and trying to remember "The vessel with the pestle has the pellet with the poison, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true." Or was it "the flagon with the dragon"? (Kaye's wife, Sylvia Fine, wrote the tongue-twisting songs along with Sammy Cahn.) This film features Danny Kaye in very top form.

I've been enjoying a mini Glynis Johns festival in recent weeks, also seeing her as the title mermaid in MIRANDA (1948) and as a sympathetic stewardess in NO HIGHWAY IN THE SKY (1951). She is wonderful in this -- not to mention absolutely gorgeous -- as the resourceful, fearless Jean.

THE COURT JESTER was produced, written, and directed by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama.

This film has been released on VHS and DVD. The DVD print is beautiful; the only extra is the trailer, which is available at the TCM website.

Paramount films are not often shown on TCM, but they have aired the film in the past, so perhaps it will turn up again, especially as there are plans for TCM to show more Paramount films in the future.

THE COURT JESTER is must viewing for the entire family.

"Get it?" "Got it." "Good!"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tonight's Movie: Airport (1970)

AIRPORT (1970), the original film in the 1970s series of airline disaster movies, is entertaining, though it lacks the giddy verve of later films like AIRPORT 1975 (1974) or what might be considered a companion film to the AIRPORT series, SKYJACKED (1972).

AIRPORT is a more staid "night in the life of an airport" story. That said, it does maintain interest throughout its lengthy run time of 2 hours and 17 minutes, building to a pretty good disaster film climax.

Mel Bakersfield (Burt Lancaster, with a poor haircut) is the manager of an airport which is close to being closed by a snowstorm. One dark and stormy night Mel must contend with a plane trapped in snow which is blocking a runway -- a runway which must be opened for a crippled airplane to make an emergency landing. Can Mel move the plane in time? Genius mechanic Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) will try.

Meanwhile, that same evening, Mel is threatened with divorce by his wife (Dana Wynter). He's not particularly sorry, as he's attracted to a widowed colleague (Jean Seberg).

Mel's brother-in-law Vern (Dean Martin), an airline captain, is juggling an age-appropriate wife (Barbara Hale) and a dalliance with an airline stewardess (Jacqueline Bisset) 27 years his junior...who announces early on in the film that she's pregnant. What to do?

A 707 crew comprised of Vern, Anson Harris (Barry Nelson), and Cy Jordan (Gary Collins) take off for Rome with passengers who include a stowaway (Helen Hayes) and a loser (Van Heflin) who plans to blow up the plane so his wife can collect his life insurance. I have previously said that Van Heflin could read the phone book and make it interesting, but I'm afraid that's not the case here; his jittery, vacant would-be bomber is depressing and nothing more. I also have to admit it was sad seeing an actor I admire looking so poorly in this film. He passed on the following year.

The cast also includes Lloyd Nolan as the head of customs, Virginia Grey as a passenger, Lisa Gerritsen (MY WORLD AND WELCOME TO IT) as Lancaster's daughter, Paul Picerni as a doctor, Jessie Royce Landis as a smuggler, and Mary Jackson (Miss Emily on THE WALTONS) as a nun. How is it nuns are always on these troubled airline flights?!

The film for the most part plays it straight, though some of the dialogue is a bit creaky. The film is not without its unintentionally laughable moments -- seen from the perspective of 40 years later, two mid-flight slaps can't fail to make viewers think of AIRPLANE! (1980).

Martin and Bisset offer two of the film's most interesting performances. I particularly liked Barry Nelson as one of the pilots. He gives a sympathetic peformance, although he appears to have been stuck with a bad toupee. Lloyd Nolan also generates interest in his few scenes as the customs official. I couldn't help but think of his Agent Briggs posing as a customs agent during a scene in THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET (1945) a quarter century before.

It's curious to note that Joe Patroni's wife Marie is played by Jodean Russo. The Patronis are said to have half a dozen children. In AIRPORT 1975 Patroni is married to Helen (Susan Clark) and appears to have one son. It's nice that Kennedy and Nelson play solid family men and fathers, given that the film's two leading men, played by Lancaster and Martin, are in crumbling marriages.

Although we found the movie quite enjoyable, it was surprising to realize that this film, which is somewhere just above the level of a well-made TV-movie, was nominated for a whopping 10 Oscars, including Best Picture; the Best Film award that year went to PATTON. Helen Hayes actually took home a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. I have to say that I was not impressed with Maureen Stapleton's performance, also nominated for Best Supporting Actress; her character staggering around the airport vacant-eyed struck me as contrived and failed to move me.

AIRPORT was written and directed by George Seaton (MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET). IMDb says an uncredited Henry Hathaway filmed the winter exterior scenes.

This was the last film score composed by the legendary Alfred Newman, who passed away early in 1970.

AIRPORT is available on single-release DVD or as part of the Airport Terminal Pack. It's also had a release on VHS.

AIRPORT has also been shown on Turner Classic Movies.

February 2014 Update: An Evening of Airport Movies at the Egyptian Theatre.

Filmmaker Ronald Neame Dies at 99

British filmmaker Ronald Neame, who turned 99 on April 23, has passed away. He died in Los Angeles on Wednesday, June 16th.

Neame could do it all; he was accomplished as a writer, director, cinematographer, special effects artist, and producer. He produced GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946), which was nominated for Best Picture. He also received Oscar nominations for Best Special Effects for ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING (1942) and for Best Screenplay for BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945) and GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1945).

Neame sometimes served in multiple roles on the same film; for instance, he cowrote the screenplay adaptation of Noel Coward's BLITHE SPIRIT (1945) and also served as cinematographer.

Among the films Neame photographed are the classics IN WHICH WE SERVE (1942) and THIS HAPPY BREED (1944). He was an assistant cameraman on Alfred Hitchcock's BLACKMAIL (1929), which is often credited as being England's first sound film. During World War II he contributed aerial footage shot in England to the U.S. production A YANK IN THE R.A.F. (1941).

Neame's directing credits include THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE (1969), THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972), and FIRST MONDAY IN OCTOBER (1981).

London's Daily Telegraph and the Washington Post have obituaries, and there is also a tribute by Ivan at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...50 Westerns From the 50s reports that APACHE RIFLES (1964), starring Audie Murphy, is coming to DVD August 11th. It's a VCI release with documentaries on director William Witney and Lone Pine. I'll be passing through Lone Pine on my summer vacation a couple weeks from now...

...One of my favorite articles of recent weeks is Moira Finnie's history of polo playing in early Hollywood, paying particular attention to Will Rogers, Walt Disney, and Spencer Tracy. A great slice of Hollywood history.

...I can't believe they're really making a big-screen version of TV's THE BIG VALLEY. Jessica Lange has replaced Susan Sarandon in the role made famous by Barbara Stanwyck. Jack Nicholson's daughter Lorraine plays Audra, the Linda Evans role. Lee Majors, who starred in the original show (seen at the left in the accompanying photo), has a role in the film. Richard Dreyfuss and Bruce Dern also star.

...Sweden today celebrates the wedding of Crown Princess Victoria, the nation's future queen. She married on her parents' 34th wedding anniversary. Victoria's flower girls and pages included a future king of Denmark and future queens of the Netherlands and Norway, who are all her godchildren. Photos are here.

...Reviews, reviews, and more reviews: the Warner Bros. all-star production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935) was reviewed at Kevin's Movie Corner...CODE TWO (1953), about an LAPD motorcyle unit, is discussed at Where Danger Lives. I recently recorded this and thought it looked like fun...Raven looks at ILLEGAL ENTRY (1949) at Noir of the Week. It stars George Brent and Howard Duff...Amanda liked Robert Taylor in HIGH WALL (1947), which she wrote about at A Noodle in a Haystack.

...Fun animal videos: a sea turtle did some filming with a lost underwater video camera which made a 1100-mile trek from Aruba to Key West...and Missy found a fun video of a pup chasing balls thrown by his automatic tennis ball launcher.

...At Out of the Past Raquelle goes over some of the ins and outs of classic film distribution, analyzing the studio history of the Charlie Chan films in general and TCM Spotlight's new Charlie Chan Collection in particular. (My younger kids are crazy about the Chan films. We have five boxed sets to date...I'll be looking for a good deal on this new set in the future.)

...Here's a great idea classic film fans may wish to bookmark: a way to Google search only among classic film blogs. The list is currently up to 136 blogs. I'm delighted to be included! It was created by Cliff of Immortal Ephemera. (Hat tip: Out of the Past.)

...New cookbook: SOUTHERN PIES by Nancie McDermott, author of SOUTHERN CAKES. It will be out September 1, 2010, from Chronicle Books.

...It's fun to read about how other classic film fans record, store, and view movies. Here's a post on that topic from Comet Over Hollywood. (Hat tip: Classic Movies.)

...Here's another lovely post by Moira, this time on Robert Ryan.

...TCM's Deanna Durbin Music and Romance Collection has had its release date changed from June 9th to June 30th, 2010.

...Lou Lumenick writes about Joe E. Brown movies and Red Skelton's WHISTLING... series, which have come to the Warner Archive DVD-R program.

...There are more new attraction posters up at Disneyland! Visit Disney Park Attraction Posters for a peek.

Have a great weekend!

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