Wednesday, August 31, 2011

TCM in September: Highlights

Turner Classic Movies has a truly outstanding schedule ahead for September! It's a great viewing month including some rarely seen films such as THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943) and the controversial Miriam Hopkins pre-Code THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE (1933).

TCM has announced September's guest hosts, who will fill in as Robert Osborne continues his break. Actress Illeana Douglas, the granddaughter of Melvyn, will host the first 10 days of the month. She'll be followed by Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips, actress Winona Ryder, and the month will close out with Leonard Maltin hosting the week of September 26th. I'm especially happy about that last choice.

Kirk Douglas will be the Star of the Month beginning Tuesday, September 6th. I'll share more information on that in the next few days.

Here are just a handful of the TCM treats ahead as fall approaches:

...Early September starts off in fine style with an evening of mermaid movies on September 2nd, including Ann Blyth and William Powell in MR. PEABODY AND THE MERMAID (1948), which is a TCM premiere, and Glynis Johns in MIRANDA (1948) and its sequel MAD ABOUT MEN (1954).

...On September 3rd, an evening of William Holden films includes the only one of William Holden and Nancy Olson's four costarring films missing from my collection, FORCE OF ARMS (1951). Also that night, a TCM premiere of a hard-to-find Paramount film, YOUNG AND WILLING (1943), costarring Susan Hayward. My DVR is already set!

...Margaret O'Brien is superb as an orphan of the London Blitz in JOURNEY FOR MARGARET (1942), costarring Robert Young and Laraine Day. It's on September 4th.

...I'm very fond of Fredric March and Veronica Lake in I MARRIED A WITCH (1942), which also features a funny performance by a young Susan Hayward. It was directed by Rene Clair. Robert Benchley costars. The air date is September 6th.

...On September 7th Barbara Stanwyck stars in LADY OF BURLESQUE (1943).

...September 9th is one of those great days with all sorts of movies: Greer Garson and Robert Ryan in HER TWELVE MEN (1954), Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine in Fritz Lang's BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT (1956), Robert Taylor and Cyd Charisse in the terrific Nicholas Ray film PARTY GIRL (1958), Connie Francis and Jim Hutton in LOOKING FOR LOVE (1964), and Doris Day in I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (1952). That's entertainment!

...Mary Astor and Ricardo Cortez star in the pre-Code BEHIND OFFICE DOORS (1931) on September 10th.

...On September 12th I'm very much looking forward to Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Joan Blondell in the pre-Code UNION DEPOT (1932).

...Later on the 12th TCM is showing one of the last films I need in my Priscilla Lane collection, LOVE, HONOR AND BEHAVE (1938), costarring Wayne Morris and Dick Foran. The two Lane titles I'm still looking for: SILVER QUEEN (1942) with George Brent and THE MEANEST MAN IN THE WORLD (1943) with Jack Benny.

...I thought Jean Peters was wonderful in the suspense film NIAGARA (1953), part of a multi-film tribute to Marilyn Monroe. Joseph Cotten also stars.

...Robert Osborne may be off in September, but there will still be an evening of Robert Osborne's Picks on September 14th. His choices that night start off with the controversial, rarely seen pre-Code THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE (1933), starring Miriam Hopkins. Hopkins is seen again that evening in a completely different type of film, the romantic comedy THE MATING SEASON (1951), directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Gene Tierney, John Lund, and Thelma Ritter.

...PICCADILLY JIM (1936) returns to TCM on September 15th, starring Robert Montgomery and Madge Evans, with a delightful supporting turn by Eric Blore as (what else?) a loyal butler. Blore is also in THREE GIRLS ABOUT TOWN (1941), starring Joan Blondell, Janet Blair, and Robert Benchley. You can read an enticing review of that one at Kristina's Kinema.

...The lovely and talented Ann Blyth, who just turned 83, receives a five-film primetime tribute on September 17th. The evening starts with her Oscar-nominated performance in MILDRED PIERCE (1945). Next Blyth's lovely soprano dazzles singing standards like "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" and "Stranger in Paradise" in KISMET (1955); it's a relatively lackluster MGM musical but the duets by Blyth and Vic Damone are sublime. After that, Blyth is torn between good brother Robert Taylor and bad brother Stewart Granger in ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT (1953); we should all be so lucky! The adoption drama OUR VERY OWN (1950) and another musical, ROSE MARIE (1954), round out a great evening of diverse films starring a wonderful lady.

...On September 19th Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Elisabeth Bergner star in THE RISE OF CATHERINE THE GREAT (1934). Another film for my "record" list!

...The 19th will include "A Night at the Ballet," showing THE RED SHOES (1948), Gene Kelly's INVITATION TO THE DANCE (1956), Margaret O'Brien and Cyd Charisse in THE UNFINISHED DANCE (1947), and a 1938 film I'm not familiar with titled BALLERINA.

...Only on TCM: a tribute to Jack Holt! It's on September 21st. Titles include BLACK MOON (1934) with Fay Wray and WHIRLPOOL (1934) with Jean Arthur.

...Walter Pidgeon's birthday is celebrated with an eight-film tribute on September 23rd. I'm especially looking forward to a pair of 1939 films he made with Virginia Bruce, SOCIETY LAWYER and STRONGER THAN DESIRE. (As a side note, these two films were released by Warner Archive as a "double feature" DVD.) Pidgeon can also be seen with Audrey Totter in THE SELLOUT (1951) the previous day, September 22nd.

...Later on the 23rd, you just can't go wrong with KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1950), a terrific adventure with Stewart Granger's most charismatic performance, not to mention gorgeous redhead Deborah Kerr. It should be shown on THE ESSENTIALS, if it hasn't been already.

...Six films featuring the timeless music of Rodgers and Hart will be shown on September 24th. These titles include LOVE ME TONIGHT (1932), a must-see early musical directed by Rouben Mamoulian. It stars Jeanette MacDonald, Maurice Chevalier, and Myrna Loy, in a scene-stealing breakout role. The creative staging of "Isn't It Romantic?" was groundbreaking.

...On September 25th TCM is showing BACK STREET (1941), starring Charles Boyer, Margaret Sullavan, and Richard Carlson, back to back with its 1961 remake, which starred Susan Hayward, John Gavin, and Vera Miles.

...I love Joan Leslie, who can be seen costarring with Eddie Albert in THIEVES FALL OUT (1941) on September 28th.

...The rarely seen THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943), which was tied up for years by legal rights issues, will screen on September 28th as part of a 24-hour Tribute to the Library of Congress Film Archive.

...The superb docu-noir THE NAKED CITY (1948) shows up on September 29th, starring Barry Fitzgerald, Don Taylor, and an excellent supporting cast.

...The month concludes with a tribute to Deborah Kerr on September 30th, with titles including IF WINTER COMES (1947), costarring Walter Pidgeon and Janet Leigh; the Powell-Pressburger classic BLACK NARCISSUS (1947); and THE SUNDOWNERS (1960), in which the loving relationship between Aussie sheepherders Kerr and Robert Mitchum is the best thing about the film.

There's much, much more airing in September, including a big tribute to the films of Merchant Ivory; I'll be recording THE EUROPEANS (1979) on September 8th.

Please review the complete schedule for even more great viewing ideas, and enjoy TCM in September!

Update: TCM Star of the Month: Kirk Douglas.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Weekend at the 2011 D23 Expo, Part One

I spent the weekend of August 19-21 enjoying Disney's second D23 Expo in Anaheim, California.

Two years ago we attended one day of the inaugural D23 Expo, which was described in my posts of September 12, 2009 and September 15, 2009. This time around we signed up for the full three days!

The weekend of the Expo consisted of fun but very long days, and given the college trip to Arizona which followed shortly after the Expo ended, I'm only now beginning to review my photos and organize some thoughts on our experiences! This is the first of a couple of posts which I plan to share over the new few days.

The convention center entrance hall, with signs advertising locations where events would be held on the upstairs floors:

Click any photo to enlarge.

The Disney crowds were out in force:

Almost as soon as we entered the main exhibition hall we ran into Irene, a longtime reader and commenter here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings. It was great to see her again!

Our first event on Day One was a presentation on the history of the Disneyland Hotel, hosted by Don Ballard, the author of one of my favorite Disneyland-related books, DISNEYLAND HOTEL: THE EARLY YEARS, 1954-1988. Since that book was published, Mr. Ballard gained access to Wrather Archives holding a wealth of additional material, which is shared is his brand-new book, DISNEYLAND HOTEL 1954-1959: THE LITTLE MOTEL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ORANGE GROVE.

I picked up the new book in the Expo's Treasures of the Archives store, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Anyone who loves Disneyland history needs this book on their shelf.

Mr. Ballard's presentation included quite a bit of rare TV footage of the hotel, including film of the hotel's grand opening, with stars such as Yvonne DeCarlo and Alan Ladd present at the ribbon-cutting.

One of our favorite things on the main floor is the Parks and Resorts pavilion, which was this year called the "Carousel of Projects":

The pavilion provides an opportunity for an up-close look at future Disney plans. We especially enjoyed a lengthy chat with a Disney Imagineer who took the time to go over Walt Disney World's Fantasyland expansion with us in great detail. For me, the one-on-one interaction with Imagineers is one of the most unique and enjoyable aspects of the Expo.

Florida's Fantasyland is being reimagined (or should I say re-Imagineered!) to include a forest beyond the Cinderella Castle. Forests, of course, play key roles in many fairytales, and this new setting also provides much-needed shade from the Florida sun.

The new Fantasyland will include a Snow White mine train ride, described to us as a cross between a regular Disney "dark ride" and a thrill ride like Big Thunder Mountain. Here's a model:

As was announced at the Expo two years ago, the ever-popular Dumbo's capacity is being doubled. It will also feature a new style of waiting area, with activities to enjoy while waiting for the ride.

Here in California, the massive overhaul of Disney's California Adventure is well underway. Here are models of the new Buena Vista Street entrance, which is transforming the once-bland Sunshine Plaza into Los Angeles of the 1920s...

...and a closeup of the model of the replica of the Carthay Circle Theater, currently under construction:

One of the presentations we couldn't see was "A Good Look at Buena Vista Street." The official Disney Parks Blog has a terrific video with a bird's eye view showing what the completed street will look like; it's definitely worth the couple of minutes to check it out.

The Disney and More and WDW News Today blogs have video of the Buena Vista Street presentation, and MiceChat live blogged the details shared as the panel discussion was underway.

Our first day ended with a fantastic "Voices of the Parks" panel.

It was great fun to put faces with the voices heard throughout the parks for many years, and it was very entertaining seeing the voice actors reading some of their famous spiels "live." The gentleman who narrates the Mark Twain ride also does a remarkable imitation of Rex Allen Jr., who narrated many of Disney's nature films.

We especially enjoyed the opportunity to see Bob Joles, who went to college with my husband; he imitates John Rhys-Davies as the voice of Sallah on the Indy ride.

Inside the Magic has a 10-minute video of the various "voices" doing their thing, and Orlando Attractions Magazine has posted a YouTube video of the entire panel discussion.

I'll be sharing more photos and links in a future post -- or two! -- as well as thoughts on how the Expo can improve in 2013. I also expect to have a "Disney News" post up sometime in the next few days!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Ride the Pink Horse (1947)

RIDE THE PINK HORSE is a film I wanted to love, as it's a film noir directed by and starring Robert Montgomery, whom I admire tremendously. Instead I found myself watching this meandering, somewhat mystical film with a detached admiration, intrigued and interested, but not emotionally engaged.

The screenplay by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer was based on a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes. The film has a bit of the feel of Hecht's ANGELS OVER BROADWAY (1940) in that it unites disparate characters and focuses on the kindness of strangers as part of an otherwise somewhat murky plotline.

RIDE THE PINK HORSE is the story of Lucky Gagin (Montgomery), a rough-hewn, run-down WWII veteran -- an archetypal film noir character if ever there was one. Gagin arrives in a poor New Mexican town looking for Frank Hugo (Fred Clark), the man responsible for the death of Gagin's pal Shorty. Gagin is out for...blackmail? revenge?

Kindly FBI agent Bill Retz (Art Smith) is keeping a close eye on both Gagin and Hugo. Gagin is befriended by a genial carousel owner, Pancho (Thomas Gomez), and he's also shadowed by a mysterious young Mexican girl, Pila (Wanda Hendrix). Pancho and Pila's almost instant attachment to Lucky is one of the film's puzzling aspects.

Montgomery's Gagin, who speaks in a manner resembling Joe Pendleton, has no background other than the war. For much of the film it's not even quite clear if Gagin is a hero or a small-time crook, although thanks to the goodwill Montgomery has with the audience, as well as the trust of Pancho and Pila, the viewer is on his side from the beginning. The audience sympathy intensifies when Gagin is knifed and spends the rest of the movie staggering in pain, trying to complete...what?

The film presents a unique contrast, insofar as the story in the foreground is developed slowly and quietly, while in the background there's a raucous fiesta going on for much of the film's running time. The movie has a great sense of mood, including location shooting in Santa Fe and the extensive use of Spanish; when Spanish-speaking characters are talking among themselves, they speak their native language, which gives the film a feeling of authenticity.

I have a feeling this is a movie which might play better the second time around, as so much of the film's running time is spent simply trying to understand the characters and what's really happening. The characters and their motives are revealed only gradually, and there also seems to be quite a bit of symbolism which merits further study.

Although the film didn't completely win me over, Montgomery directs it with his usual flair. He had previously assisted John Ford on THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945) and then directed his first full-length feature film, LADY IN THE LAKE (1947). RIDE THE PINK HORSE was his second full-length directing effort.

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times wrote of Montgomery, "...he has artfully fashioned a fascinating film within the genre. He has done something else exceptional; he has given the other actors a real chance." Indeed, Montgomery directed Thomas Gomez (Pancho) to an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor for this film.

Montgomery would go on to direct ONCE MORE, MY DARLING (1949), EYE WITNESS (1950), and THE GALLANT HOURS (1960). It's a shame Montgomery didn't direct more films, as he had a real talent for it, but he chose to spend most of the '50s engaged in other endeavors, including television (ROBERT MONTGOMERY PRESENTS), Broadway (Tony winner as Best Director for THE DESPERATE HOURS, which starred Karl Malden and Paul Newman), and as a media advisor to President Eisenhower.

The producer of RIDE THE PINK HORSE was longtime Hitchcock associate Joan Harrison. She and Montgomery also teamed on ONCE MORE, MY DARLING and EYE WITNESS.

The film's cast also includes Andrea King as a femme fatale. The black and white cinematography was by Russell Metty, and the music was by Frank Skinner. The running time is 101 minutes.

Despite my reticence to completely embrace this film, it has many intriguing elements and really deserves to be available on DVD, where it can be more widely seen, analyzed, and discussed. It was a Universal production, so it's a shame it wasn't released as part of the Universal Noir Collection. Hopefully at some point it will at least be released as a manufactured-on-demand disc in Amazon's Universal Vault Series or TCM's Universal Collection.

December 2014 Update: RIDE THE PINK HORSE will be released by the Criterion Collection in March 2015, with extras including a commentary track and a Lux Radio Theatre radio production.

April 2015 Update: I had the wonderful opportunity to see RIDE THE PINK HORSE in 35mm at the Noir City Film Festival. Exactly as I had surmised, the movie played much better the second time around -- and the dreamlike atmosphere comes off particularly well on a big screen in the dark.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Tomahawk (1951)

Westerns and lazy Sunday afternoons seem to go together somehow, and today I watched a very good Universal Western, TOMAHAWK, starring Van Heflin and Yvonne DeCarlo.

I tend to think of Randolph Scott films as "movie comfort food," and if Scott's Westerns are the main course, Universal Westerns of the '50s must be the dessert -- the bright colors leap off the screen, and the supporting casts are jammed with familiar faces, including some of the best character actors in the business. Beginning to watch a Universal Western seems a bit akin to opening a box of favorite candy.

TOMAHAWK was just released in an exquisitely lovely print as part of the Universal Vault Series, available exclusively from Amazon. The movie would be worth watching if only for its many visual pleasures, but happily it's also got a well-acted, substantial story, notable for its even-handed treatment of Indians.

Van Heflin plays scout Jim Bridger, who tries to mediate a land dispute between the U.S. Cavalry and the Sioux Indians. Col. Carrington (Preston Foster) and Chief Red Cloud (John War Eagle) are honorable men, but their attempts to resolve matters peacefully are complicated by bloodthirsty types such as Lt. Dancy (Alex Nicol) and Captain Fetterman (Arthur Space).

On the personal front, Bridger is maligned by some prejudiced members of the cavalry for traveling with a mysterious Cheyenne Indian girl, Monahseetah (Susan Cabot). Bridger's life is further complicated by a traveling showgirl, Julie Madden (Yvonne DeCarlo), who is attracted to him but assumes Monahseetah is his wife.

TOMAHAWK is a solid, well-made film which is consistently interesting. I found the opening and closing narration a bit overbearing, but that was my only substantive complaint. Van Heflin is on screen a majority of the time, and as I've said in the past, he could make reading the phone book interesting. He gives a charismatic performance as the knowledgeable scout with a tragic past. I particularly enjoyed watching the body language and interactions between Bridger and Monahseetah and trying to puzzle out their relationship.

DeCarlo is beautiful and sympathetic as a woman who overcomes prejudice to become friends with Monahseetah. I found it realistic that there are no pat resolutions offered regarding the relationship between Bridger and Julie.

As is typical of Universal Westerns, the cast is packed with interesting people. I particularly appreciated a favorite character actress, Ann Doran, in a small role as Col. Carrington's kindly wife. Rock Hudson, then an up-and-coming young actor, is one of the cavalry members. Jack Oakie is good in a low-key role as Bridger's sidekick, and Tom Tully also has some nice moments as the actor traveling with Julie. I never did manage to spot Regis Toomey!

TOMAHAWK runs a fast-paced 82 minutes and was directed by George Sherman. It was strikingly shot in Technicolor by Charles P. Boyle on location in the Black Hills. Except for a couple brief soundstage inserts, most of the exterior scenes appear to have been done in the great outdoors. There are some shots of the Indians lined up under cloud-filled skies which are truly breathtaking.

The movie was previously released on VHS as part of the Universal Western Collection.

It's also had multiple releases on Region 2 DVDs. The title in the UK, incidentally, was BATTLE OF POWDER RIVER.

I couldn't help comparing TOMAHAWK to FORT BOWIE (1958), a Ben Johnson Western which I saw earlier this year. FORT BOWIE had many of the same types of characters, including a wise leading man, an honorable fort commander, and a prejudiced officer who's only too happy to massacre Indians. However, FORT BOWIE was well-nigh unwatchable due to a terrible script, bad acting, and low production values, as well as an unseemly willingness to wallow in violence.

I appreciate TOMAHAWK's strong production values, forthright but non-gruesome storytelling, and quality acting all the more when I remember FORT BOWIE. TOMAHAWK is recommended for those who enjoy well-made Westerns.

Update: This film is now also available in a 10-film Westerns collection which is a great value.

Update: TOMAHAWK will be released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber in March 2023.

May 2023 Update: My review of the Kino Lorber Blu-ray may be found here.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...The Self-Styled Siren and Sunset Gun conduct an interesting discussion of Gene Tierney's classic LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945). Their confessions of sympathy for Tierney's green-eyed (literally and figuratively!) Ellen make fun reading. The take on Jeanne Crain's Ruth is also thought-provoking. I can't say I ultimately agree with their points, but I found turning the story inside out and looking at it in a fresh way to be a fun exercise.

...Thanks to Raquelle of Out of the Past for Tweeting this link to photos of celebrity home libraries. The libraries shown which I'd most like to browse? James Stewart and Nigella Lawson's collections.

...The Lady Eve has a terrific post, "Father and Mother Were Movie Stars: Leatrice Gilbert Fountain Remembers."

...Dave Kehr discusses treasures hiding on Netflix in The New York Times, such as Barbara Stanwyck in NO MAN OF HER OWN (1950). I certainly agree with him that Netflix should make it easier to find these types of films. Filling my Netflix Instant queue has taken a great deal of patient hunting.

...There was a rare bit of good news for the Los Angeles Dodgers: Vin Scully will return to broadcast again in 2012, which will be his 63rd season with the team.

...Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, has a new show on the Food Network. I recorded it yesterday and am looking forward to checking it out. The Los Angeles Times has a story.

...Dear Old Hollywood visits the Hollywood Bowl, including screen captures of some classic films with scenes set at the Bowl. For more on the Bowl, please see my September 2010 post Turner Classic Movies at the Hollywood Bowl.

...If you're a classic film fan and you're not regularly reading 50 Westerns From the 50s, you're missing tips on all sorts of interesting, relatively little-known Westerns, such as THE COMMAND (1954), REPRISAL! (1956), and RETURN TO WARBOW (1958). (THE COMMAND is available from Warner Archive.) Some of Toby's regular commenters also have a wealth of knowledge to share on Westerns.

...Last week Rifftides paid tribute to Uan Rasey on his 90th birthday. Who's Uan Rasey, you may ask? He's one of the truly great trumpet players, whose work on the soundtrack of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951) is nothing less than thrilling.

...Kevin's Movie Corner reviews the Randolph Scott Cinecolor Western ALBUQUERQUE (1948). Another movie for my "to watch" list!

...Jake Hinson, aka The Night Editor, profiles Peggie Castle at Criminal Element. I've come to admire Castle through her work on LAWMAN and in films such as 99 RIVER STREET (1953) and TALL MAN RIDING (1955). It's a shame her life off the screen doesn't seem to have been a happy one.

...Government stupidity in action: a proposed law in California would require the use of elasticized fitted sheets on the mattresses of hotel beds. Yes, that's right, some California lawmakers want to criminalize -- think about that -- the use of flat sheets on hotel beds. The law would ostensibly protect maids from back injuries tucking in the sheets under the mattress. Never mind that maids would still need to tuck in the top sheet, or that elastic tends to wear out more quickly at the high temperatures hotels must use to thoroughly wash the sheets. Why must there be a law covering every single possible bad consequence in life?

...Reviews, reviews, and more reviews: MacGuffin Movies reviews Fred MacMurray and Joan Crawford in ABOVE SUSPICION (1941), which I watched last summer...Another Old Movie Blog takes a look at MISTER 880 (1950), starring Burt Lancaster, Dorothy McGuire, and Edmund Gwenn...Ferdy on Films writes about Douglas Sirk's charmer TAKE ME TO TOWN (1953)...and DVD Savant reviews the Warner Archive release of ATHENA (1954) with Debbie Reynolds and Jane Powell.

...I read an article from Wired Science, "Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything," nodding in agreement. I'm one of those rare people who always reads the last pages of fiction first and never minds plot spoilers before I see a movie. I actually like to have a "road map" for where the story is going and find I enjoy it more and can pay more attention to details when I'm not so concerned with the big picture.

...Jim of Jim Lane's Cinedrome responded to my admiration for William Wyler by letting me know about a multi-part Wyler series he wrote last year, which begins here. Fellow Wyler fans will want to settle in and enjoy Jim's thoughtful and informative posts. Thanks, Jim!

...While we're on the topic of Wyler, head over to Lazy Thoughts From a Boomer for an interesting essay on Wyler's THE BIG COUNTRY (1958). I've always thought Charlton Heston's Steve Leech, a relatively small part, is the most interesting character in the film; the post has some very interesting analysis of Leech, as well as high praise for Chuck Connors' performance.

...Caftan Woman recently featured an interesting post on Jack Carson, Don DeFore, and the films THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (1941) and its remake ONE SUNDAY AFTERNOON (1948).

...The UCLA Festival of Preservation tour continues. After playing Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C., it comes to Chicago Labor Day weekend. Berkeley, Portland, Columbus, Houston, and Vancouver are also on the schedule between September 2011 and April 2012. Please see my July post for links to some of the films which may play in each city.

...Sincere thanks to Dorian at Tales of the Easily Distracted for awarding Laura's Miscellaneous Musings the Irresistibly Sweet blog award. I deeply appreciate it! Dorian's fine blog recently celebrated its first anniversary. Her recent reviews include THE GAZEBO (1959) with Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford.

Have a great week!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tonight's Movie: The Bachelor's Daughters (1946)

THE BACHELOR'S DAUGHTERS is a creative spin on an oft-used movie plot, in which a group of young ladies seeking rich husbands pool resources and pretend to be wealthy themselves.

This film is a United Artists release, but the well-scripted story by writer-director Andrew L. Stone borrows familiar elements from 20th Century-Fox films of the '30s and '40s, including LADIES IN LOVE (1936), THREE BLIND MICE (1938), MOON OVER MIAMI (1941), and THREE LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE (1946). Stone manages to give the story a fresh presentation, and it's especially interesting that, as the title suggests, ultimately romance takes a backseat to the creation of a new family.

Eileen (Gail Russell), Cynthia (Claire Trevor), and Terry (Ann Dvorak) dream of rich husbands or successful careers, as well as the finer things in life, but they're stuck in dead-end jobs working for a department store.

One afternoon the trio decide if they pool their resources they can rent a mansion on Long Island, as well as enough furniture to fill the living room. They talk fellow employee Marta (Jane Wyatt) into coming along in order to share the rent.

Longtime department store employee Molly (Billie Burke), a former silent movie actress, is recruited to pose as the girls' mother, and the crusty store floor walker, Mr. Moody (Adolphe Menjou), reluctantly agrees to be the girls' "father" when persuaded it will be to his financial benefit.

The charade begins, and ironically it's Marta who falls in love and marries almost immediately; her new husband, Schuyler Johnson (Eugene List), has a surprising background. Schuyler's father is ready to disown him, as he wants to be a concert pianist rather than enter the family business. Marta encourages Schuyler to pursue his dream regardless of the financial consequences, and he's thus happy to move into the mansion and become one of the ersatz "family."

Love and troubles both develop for the other girls, but the most significant part of the story is the gradual thawing of Mr. Moody and the relationships he develops with each of the women in his new "family." It's a sweet and touching story which leaves the viewer smiling when it comes to an end.

One of the film's truly unique aspects is the inclusion of pianist Eugene List in the cast, in his only acting role. List's slightly awkward acting actually fits his character and works out fine, and his piano playing is sublime. List's performances underscore the drama in several scenes; in one such sequence, he begins playing MOONLIGHT SONATA for Marta (Wyatt) and then the focus shifts to other characters in a different location, while his playing continues as the background score. In another notable scene, a distressed Eileen (Russell) is dusting the living room as he plays, and the piano underlines her mental torment, emoted without a single word.

Russell is one of my favorite actresses, and I really liked her in this as the sweet but troubled Eileen, who makes a bad decision and then has to cope with the consequences. (Indeed, the film causes the viewer to ponder all of the characters' ethics quite a bit more than is usual for this type of plot. One doesn't really tend to worry about whether the girls' lies are problematic when watching, say, MOON OVER MIAMI.) Trevor plays the most cynical member of the group, while Dvorak plays a singer with career aspirations. Dvorak sang on screen the same year in the Western ABILENE TOWN, and I'd love to know if she was doing her own singing in these films.

Burke almost steals the show as sweet Molly, whose straightforward innocence and kind attentions help crack tough Mr. Moody's shell. Mr. Moody, a lifelong bachelor who pinches pennies till they squeak, finds that eventually he can't help responding to the young ladies who call him "Dad" and "Pop" and genuinely need his help. This is one of my favorite performances by Adolphe Menjou.

John Whitney and Damian O'Flynn play the men involved with Russell and Trevor's characters. Richard Hageman, Gladys Blake, Russell Hicks, Syd Saylor, and Clayton Moore are also in the cast.

The film runs 88 minutes; the story was a bit abrupt in a couple of spots, but I suspect it may have been due to the print I watched.

Andrew L. Stone is interesting, inasmuch as he very often wrote the screenplays for the films he directed; in the case of THE LAST VOYAGE (1960), he even wrote the musical score! Stone films previously reviewed here also include BEDSIDE MANNER (1945), A BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER (1953), and JULIE (1956).

The lone comment at present on IMDb says of THE BACHELOR'S DAUGHTERS, "What a surprise...was amazed how well it holds up. It is a total delight and is a film you should search out." I agree; while I don't want to oversell it, I really liked this movie's style and was charmed.

This movie has been on my viewing wish list for a very long time, and since it's not available on VHS or DVD, I'm indebted to my friend Carrie for making it possible for me to see it! I hope that one day this film will turn up on Turner Classic Movies or be released as a "made on demand" disc. It deserves to be released in a good-looking print and find a wider audience.

A Visit to Flagstaff, Arizona

Here's a few more photos from last week's trip to deliver our son to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff!

A bit of the long and winding road:

Flagsstaff is roughly a 7-1/2 hour drive from our home in Orange County.

It was time for a lunch break in Kingman, Arizona, and the highest-rated restaurant on Trip Advisor was Redneck's Southern Pit BBQ. We love good barbecue, so we decided to give it a try. The exterior doesn't look like much...

...but it's shiny bright inside, and much larger than one would guess from the exterior. And it was gooooood! I had a fantastic pulled pork sandwich and fries. The service was extremely friendly and helpful, and the bathrooms were immaculate. This will definitely be a stop on future trips to Flagstaff!

Classic film buffs will enjoy noting that one of the major thoroughfares in Kingman is Andy Devine Avenue.

Andy Devine was born in Flagstaff and grew up in Kingman, and he attended Northern Arizona University, which had a different name at the time.

I hadn't eaten at a Cracker Barrel in many years, as there aren't any in California. Happily there are Cracker Barrel restaurants in both Kingman and Flagstaff; we ate at the latter location. I've always loved the little bottles of maple syrup!

After moving our son into his dorm we went on a walking tour of historic Downtown Flagstaff. The Hotel Monte Vista dates from 1927.

Across the street is the 1888 Babbitt Brothers Building, which houses a sporting goods store:

I love the painted sign which identifies the Babbitt Brothers as "Ranchers, Merchants, and Indian Traders."

The year on the Hotel Weatherford sign is 1897:

The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany will celebrate its centennial next year:

Some of the NAU student volunteers helping on move-in day recommended Bigfoot Bar-B-Q, located in the basement of the Old Town Shops. We don't often have the chance to eat good barbecue in Southern California, so we enjoyed it two days in a row in Arizona!

Bigfoot was excellent; here's the Trip Advisor reviews.

With all this good eating, thankfully we did a great deal of walking on our trip! In fact, I wondered why I was feeling a bit winded the first day, given that I walk several hours each week for exercise, and then I realized that Flagstaff's elevation of just under 7000 feet was even higher than the spot where we camp in the High Sierras. That definitely takes a little bit of acclimating.

As a side note, perhaps it just happens to be where we ate, but Arizona seems to be a heavily "Pepsi" state. The non-chain restaurants and the NAU campus all carried only Pepsi products -- the one food-related disappointment of the trip for me, a dedicated fan of Diet Coke. :)

The Lowell Observatory and The Arboretum at Flagstaff are on our "to do" list for future visits, when we look forward to becoming better acquainted with the city.

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