Monday, July 31, 2017

TCM in August: Summer Under the Stars Highlights

I'm always a bit sad when July comes to an end, but happily we can all look forward to Summer Under the Stars in August on TCM!

For a quick look at the 31 actors being celebrated this month, please visit my May preview post.

As usual, TCM also has a special Summer Under the Stars microsite with full details about the month ahead on TCM, and viewers might also want to take a look at a minute-long video about the upcoming month which TCM posted on Twitter.

The regular schedule is also available.

A note regarding the online schedule: In recent months the photo at the top of the TCM schedule has at times been misleading, not matching up with the month's schedule. To be sure you're looking at the correct schedule, check the date at the end of the web address; for August it should read "2017-08-01."

TCM fans should also note that August is sadly the last month of the print edition of TCM's Now Playing guide; we learned back in April that beginning in September the guide will only be available digitally.

There are many favorite actors and wonderful days ahead on TCM this month! Here are just a few of the August highlights on Turner Classic Movies. Click any hyperlinked title for my review.

...The festival begins with Marilyn Monroe on August 1st. I'd like to see NIAGARA (1953) again; I was surprised to realize it's already been seven years since I first saw it! Joseph Cotten and Jean Peters costar, and there's some spectacular location shooting.

...One of my favorite days on the schedule is Ray Milland Day on August 2nd. ALIAS NICK BEAL (1949) is a real treat, and I'm surprised that TCM isn't showing this film until 9 Pacific/Midnight Eastern time. The Now Playing guide doesn't indicate it's a TCM premiere, but it's surely a rarity on TCM, though it's been seen at Noir City fests in recent years. I saw it at Noir City Hollywood in 2014. The great Audrey Totter costars.

...Another great day on the schedule is Claire Trevor Day on August 4th. So many fun movies! Titles include ALLEGHENY UPRISING (1939) with John Wayne, which I just reviewed a few days ago, and one of my all-time favorite film noir titles, BORN TO KILL (1947), for anyone who missed the Noir Alley screening this past weekend.

...Gene Kelly Dad on August 5th has plenty of great musicals, of course, but fans may also want to check out one of his earliest films, a dramatic role in PILOT #5 (1943), which I recently reviewed. Franchot Tone, Marsha Hunt, and Van Johnson costar.

...August 6th marks the centennial of Robert Mitchum's birth, and TCM will honor him with a day of Mitchum films. I've seen a majority of the films being shown that day and you really can't go wrong with any of them! For something which mixes film noir with pure wackiness, check out HIS KIND OF WOMAN (1951), costarring Jane Russell, Raymond Burr, Tim Holt, and a giddy Vincent Price.

...Eleanor Parker has a great day on August 7th, featuring diverse titles ranging from the comedy of A MILLIONAIRE FOR CHRISTY (1951) with Fred MacMurray to the good Western ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO (1953) with William Holden to her Oscar-nominated turn in the prison drama CAGED (1950). I particularly recommend a couple of prime time films: SCARAMOUCHE (1952), seen at right, in which she's simply splendid opposite Stewart Granger, and THE NAKED JUNGLE (1954), where she faces down killer ants with Charlton Heston.

...Another day I love on the schedule is August 8th, Franchot Tone Day. There are more new-to-me titles on this list. I particularly recommend taking a look at THE GIRL FROM MISSOURI (1934) opposite Jean Harlow.

...I was pleasantly surprised by DOCTOR, YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING! (1967), starring an adorable Sandra Dee. Her day of films is on August 9th.

...You can't ever go wrong with BACHELOR MOTHER (1939), showing on Ginger Rogers Day, August 11th. David Niven costars in one of my all-time favorite comedies.

...John Wayne Day is August 12th. It's all good. Enough said?

...August 13th features Barbara Stanwyck. One of my favorite Stanwyck pre-Codes is THE PURCHASE PRICE, in which she's the mail order bride of frequent costar George Brent. William Wellman directed. Then stick around to see the same actors a little over a decade later in the wonderful MY REPUTATION (1946), filmed circa 1943 but (like a number of other titles), held back by Warner Bros. until after the war.

...Another favorite, Ricardo Montalban, has a day on August 15th. You can see his dancing talent opposite Cyd Charisse in FIESTA (1947) and ON AN ISLAND WITH YOU (1948). Other favorites are TWO WEEKS WITH LOVE (1950) with Jane Powell and the Boston-set police procedural MYSTERY STREET (1950).

...On Rosalind Russell Day, August 17th, I especially recommend WHAT A WOMAN (1943). She's an agent, he's a magazine reporter, and together they're great fun.

...August 18th is Rod Taylor Day, which means SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963). I love this charming comedy which costars Jane Fonda and Cliff Robertson.

...It's hard to believe Angela Lansbury was about 19 years old in THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946). What a talent. This favorite musical has a great cast including Judy Garland, John Hodiak, Cyd Charisse, and Preston Foster. It's on Lansbury's day on August 19th.

...I've seen all but one movie showing on Cary Grant Day, August 20th. Last year I had a chance to revisit IN NAME ONLY (1939) on a big screen at UCLA, which left me loving this gorgeous soap opera even more than I already did. Carole Lombard and Kay Francis costar.

...It's Christmas in August with IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE (1947), showing on Ann Harding Day August 21st.

...Having been to San Francisco recently, I'd like to revisit EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962), which has some of the best San Francisco location photography ever. It stars Glenn Ford and Lee Remick; the movie will be shown on Ford's day on August 22nd.

...August 23rd is devoted to Greer Garson. One of her lesser-known films with Walter Pidgeon is SCANDAL AT SCOURIE (1953), in which some folks in a small Canadian town are perturbed when a Protestant couple (Garson and Pidgeon) adopt a little Catholic girl (Donna Corcoran). Garson and Pidgeon are charming; he's a shy, quirky storekeeper (an especially fine performance), and she's a can-do whirlwind.

...I'm thrilled Dennis Morgan has a day on August 24th! I've seen a majority of the films, and I particularly recommend one of my favorite WWII romances, THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944) with Eleanor Parker, and the lovely Technicolor musical THE DESERT SONG (1943).

...One of my all-time favorite James Cagney movies is THE GALLANT HOURS (1960). Cagney plays Admiral William F. Halsey in a fascinating look at leadership under pressure. Cagney's close friend Robert Montgomery directed and narrated; they're seen together at the left. James Cagney Day is August 26th.

...Leslie Caron will be celebrated on August 27th. Last year I wrote about her very special Cinderella film, THE GLASS SLIPPER (1955), which will be shown on that date. I also posted a special photo gallery of stills from my collection.

...A number of Marion Davies films I've not yet seen look interesting on August 29th. I found BLONDIE OF THE FOLLIES (1932) interesting a few years ago. Robert Montgomery costars.

...Another favorite day on the schedule is George Sanders Day on August 30th. So much good stuff, including a Saint and a Falcon film. The day also includes my very favorite Alfred Hitchcock film, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940), also starring Joel McCrea and Laraine Day. It's a great mix of suspense, humor, and unforgettable suspense set pieces.

...The month comes to a close honoring Elizabeth Taylor on August 31st. I really enjoyed revisiting FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950) last summer and recommend it. Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett costar, directed by Vincente Minnelli.

Enjoy Summer Under the Stars!

Sam Shepard, RIP

Sad news today with the passing of actor-playwright Sam Shepard.

Shepard died last Thursday, July 27th, from Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 73.

If THE RIGHT STUFF (1983) had been Shepard's only film, his iconic, Oscar-nominated performance as Chuck Yeager would still cement his place in cinema history.

I also particularly love him as the sweet, funny veterinarian who's part of Diane Keaton's new life in BABY BOOM (1987)...

...and he was excellent as a hardworking farmer in COUNTRY (1984), costarring his longtime partner Jessica Lange:

Shepard's other films included DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978), RAGGEDY MAN (1981), STEEL MAGNOLIAS (1989), THE PELICAN BRIEF (1993), and AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (2013), to name just a few. His most recent work included the TV series BLOODLINE.

I haven't even addressed his work as a playwright, which included winning a Pulitzer Prize. The world has lost a man of enormous talent.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Where the Boys Are (1960) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The Warner Archive has just released one of my favorite '60s films, WHERE THE BOYS ARE (1960), in a beautiful Blu-ray edition.

I first reviewed WHERE THE BOYS ARE almost exactly six years ago, and I've only grown to love it more since then.

Like another '60s favorite from MGM, VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964), WHERE THE BOYS ARE has a bright, cheery vibe, filled with appealing location shooting, colorful sets and clothes, attractive actors, and great music.

The movie is also an interesting look at cultural issues circa 1960. It explores important themes regarding self-respect and when in a relationship it's appropriate to "go all the way." The film also briefly tackles a disturbing sequence dealing with what we now would term date rape.

Four girls from a midwestern college head for spring break in Fort Lauderdale: Merritt (Dolores Hart), who's smart but inexplicably struggling academically; gangly Tuggle (Paula Prentiss), who happily admits she'd love to marry, drop out of school, and become a "walking, talking baby machine"; ebullient singer Angie (Connie Francis); and sensitive Melanie (Yvette Mimieux).

In short order Tuggle is romanced by the quirky TV (Jim Hutton), while Merritt falls for a millionaire senior from Brown (George Hamilton) and Angie spends time performing with a musician (Frank Gorshin). Melanie is first dated by Dill (John Brennan) but then falls for Franklin (Rory Harrity), unfortunately mistaking his interest in a short-term fling for love.

Aside from its serious moments, WHERE THE BOYS ARE is simply great fun, with its engaging cast in a nicely written story set against eye-catching backgrounds. I especially enjoy the direct, thoughtful Hart (who famously became a nun a few years later) and the bubbly, uncomplicated Prentiss; some of today's viewers will find Prentiss's character hopelessly "unliberated," but I find her enthusiastic desire to create a family charming. This was the first of five films Prentiss made with Jim Hutton, one of those magical teamings with a couple so well-matched it seems they must have been a couple offscreen, though that wasn't the case.

Francis is wonderful singing the splendid title tune, and another highlight features Barbara Nichols as an Esther Williams-style mermaid performing in a restaurant. There's a rib-tickling, well-staged comedy sequence in which the entire cast ends up in the pool with Nichols.

Bess Flowers is one of the patrons in the pool sequence. The film also features Chill Wills as a police captain and Percy Helton as a hotel manager. Having since seen Helton in WICKED WOMAN (1953), his role here takes on an unintended level of creepiness! The film also deploys what must have been hundreds of extras; the crowd scenes near the beach are really something.

WHERE THE BOYS ARE was directed by Henry Levin. It was filmed by Robert Bronner in widescreen Metrocolor. The film runs 99 well-paced minutes.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray carries over extras from its previous DVD releases, including a commentary by Paula Prentiss, a featurette, and a newsreel.

WHERE THE BOYS ARE may be set during spring break, but it's perfect summer entertainment...or at any other time of year. Recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from Amazon or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

Tonight's Movies: The Bachelor Party (1957) and Baby the Rain Must Fall (1965) at UCLA

Friday was a terrific evening of movies plus a special interview at UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater.

The occasion was a double bill in UCLA's current series Golden Age Television Writers on the Big Screen. The films shown were THE BACHELOR PARTY (1957), screened in 16mm, and BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL (1965), shown in 35mm. Both movies costarred Don Murray, who was present for an interview between the films.

I wasn't certain at the outset if I would enjoy the films, as they seemed to fall in a "serious black and white drama" subgenre of the era which I often find phony and negative -- see my review of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962) for more -- but I'm glad to report that while the movies skated close to the edges of the style I don't like, I ultimately found them both interesting and worthwhile.

THE BACHELOR PARTY was directed by Delbert Mann from a story and screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky. It was evocatively filmed in black and white by Joseph LaShelle; I especially loved the opening early morning shots of a New York neighborhood.

In this 92-minute film a reserved bookkeeper, Charlie (Murray), has just learned that his wife Helen (Patricia Smith) is expecting a baby. It should be wonderful news, but Charlie realizes he'll have to give up his hope to take a year off work so he can quit night school and earn his CPA degree in a year. He'll either be in night school for years or have to give up his dream of career advancement.

At his patient wife's urging, Charlie attends a bachelor party for a coworker (Philip Abbott). Along with three fellow colleagues (Jack Warden, E.G. Marshall, and Larry Blyden) the men spend a drunken evening, which includes Charlie being momentarily tempted by a lonely, talkative Bohemian type (Oscar-nominated Carolyn Jones). The men attempt to have a raucous good time, but it rings hollow. Level-headed Ken (Blyden) finally has the sense to call it a night and go home, while the others try to drown out their fears and loneliness by continuing the drunken partying.

Meanwhile Helen's sister-in-law (Nancy Marchand) visits and frightens Helen with tales of raising three children while her doctor husband sees women on the side.

It's a downer night for all involved, but Charlie's experiences over the course of the evening ultimately give him a new perspective on his life, his wife, and his marriage.

As portrayed by Murray and Smith, I found Charlie and Helen believable, interesting, and sympathetic characters. Except for Blyden's Ken, the couple are unfortunately surrounded by a bunch of very unhappy people seemingly just marking time through life. The bachelor party in particular looked like an evening of sheer misery!

It's not always that enjoyable watching loud-mouthed, drunken people pretending to have fun, but Carolyn Jones's brief appearances pumped up the film's energy level considerably, and the film's final minutes and revelations made it all worthwhile. Hopefully Charlie and Helen aren't doomed to the same unhappy lives their friends and family are experiencing.

THE BACHELOR PARTY was released on VHS (seen at left) but appears to have only had a Region 2 DVD release in Spain.

Murray's previous film, BUS STOP (1956), is also one of his best-known movies. In his interview (seen at left in the photo below) he said a New York critic was skeptical about the BUS STOP "cowboy" playing a New Yorker, not realizing that he had grown up in New York and had never ridden a horse before being cast in BUS STOP!

He said that while BUS STOP was a "star vehicle" (for Marilyn Monroe), he wanted to do something completely different for his next film; he likened acting in THE BACHELOR PARTY to being part of a "jazz ensemble."

He was appreciative that the movie is still being watching 60 years after it was made and expressed how much it meant that his films are preserved at places like UCLA and that audiences come out to watch them. He was really lovely, and I was honored to shake his hand and thank him after the interview. Incidentally, he'll be 88 on Monday, July 31st! He's still acting, with one of his most recent roles being in David Lynch's revival of the cult TV series TWIN PEAKS.

Murray played a supporting role as Slim, a widowed sheriff, in the night's second film, BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL. Slim attempts to help a troubled former schoolfriend, Henry (Steve McQueen), who has just been released from prison and reunited with his wife Georgette (Lee Remick) and the young daughter (Kimberly Block) he's never met.

Henry is irresponsible enough he hasn't even tried to contact Georgette before she shows up in his hometown, but he responds positively to her somewhat naive optimism and trust. Henry rents a small house, little more than a shack, for the newly reunited family, and Georgette gets a job at a drive-in to help save money toward Henry's dream of going to California and becoming a singing star.

Unfortunately it becomes apparent fairly quickly that Henry, who was abused by his foster mother, is a disturbed man in serious need of help, and his issues are such that he's unlikely to remain out of jail for long.

A positive meaning or point to this film is more elusive than in THE BACHELOR PARTY, but I think in large part the upbeat aspect is the contrast between what we learn of Henry's sad childhood and the love Georgette showers on her little girl, Margaret Rose. Along related lines, the film's message seems to be to illustrate the lifelong impact of child abuse.

Remick is appealing and admirable as Georgette, who at times seems to live in a bit of a fantasy world -- I even wondered if she named her little girl for Queen Elizabeth's sister -- yet at the same time she faces up to a tough real world on a daily basis, working hard and keeping house in a shack with paper-thin walls. (Murray's slight wince before assuring her the house will be warm enough in winter is a great little acting moment.) Georgette is an optimist with a lot of love, which she showers on her daughter and tries to give to Henry as well.

It's interesting Murray chose to take a lesser role in this film, but he's very good as a stable, helpful presence. Little is said of his background, except that if his wife had lived, she'd be going out on dates, which Slim refuses. Slim and Georgette actually seem tailor made for one another, but the film gives no hint as to whether they might eventually get together. Indeed, the open-ended conclusion leaves the viewer curious as to "what happened next."

It's rather interesting to me that while I didn't care for director Robert Mulligan's previous film, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962), I liked his next two movies, LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER (1963) and this one, which both starred McQueen.

BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL has moments of staginess but they're overcome by the sincere playing of the three lead actors and the evocative widescreen cinematography by Ernest Laszlo. It may not be an upbeat film, but the good in Remick and Murray's characters keeps it from being a downer experience.

I would also note in a humorous aside that with TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL Mulligan made films with two of the most unkempt little girls in movie history. I kept wishing Georgette would comb Margaret Rose's hair!

BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL is a 100-minute film written by Horton Foote, based on his own play.

BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL is available on DVD or Amazon Instant Video. It's also shown from time to time on Turner Classic Movies.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Marty Sklar, 1934-2017

Legendary Disney Imagineer Marty Sklar has died. He was 83.

Sklar, named a Disney Legend in 2001, began working for Disney in the summer in 1955, just weeks before the opening of Disneyland. Over the decades he came to be revered as someone who had worked with and understood Walt Disney, helping to carry on the Disney legacy after Walt's death.

Marty officially retired from the company in 2009 but continued his Disney association as an "Imagineering Ambassador" and was frequently seen at Disney events. One of many interesting tidbits about his life and career is that he attended the opening of every Disney theme park worldwide, including last year's opening of Shanghai Disneyland.

His passing on Thursday, July 27th, came as something of a surprise as he had been an active participant at the D23 Expo just a week and a half prior to his death.

His final appearance at the Expo was at the Legends of Walt Disney Imagineering panel hosted by John Stamos on July 16th. That panel can be seen in its entirety on YouTube.

One of many events at which I saw Marty was a 2008 tribute to Julie Andrews at Disneyland:

For an in-depth look at Marty Sklar's remarkable career, please visit an obituary posted by Disney. An additional obituary was published by the Los Angeles Times.

Marty spent his career working to make Disney fans happy. Thanks, Marty, for everything.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Overland Pacific (1954)

Jock Mahoney and Peggie Castle star in the United Artists Western OVERLAND PACIFIC (1954).

Mahoney, billed here as Jack, plays Ross Granger, an undercover railroad agent posing as a telegrapher. His mission is to discover why a railroad line's construction has stalled.

It turns out that a former friend, Del (William Bishop), is responsible. Del is paying Indians to attack the railroad crews because he wants the tracks rerouted to pass his town, although the surveyor (Walter Sande) says that route is unfeasible.

The surveyor who refuses to cooperate is killed by one of Del's men, never mind that Del is romancing the surveyor's daughter Ann (Castle). That said, as soon as Ann gets a look at Ross she clearly realizes she has the opportunity to switch her affections to a much better man, and she begins to back off her relationship with Del.

This is a fairly modest, run-of-the-mill Western which plays a bit like an expanded TV episode, an impression accentuated by the humdrum Simi Valley locations. Even so, I enjoyed it quite well. The 73-minute film moves like lightning -- perhaps even a little too fast, as I would have liked more development of the Mahoney-Castle relationship -- and there are a number of original touches.

First and foremost the movie benefits from its leads. Longtime stuntman Mahoney has a couple of brutal fight scenes in this, and just as in the later SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE (1956), it's clearly him onscreen all the way. A couple of his flips are worthy of a Gene Kelly dance, they're that good.

Castle is really lovely in this, and she plays a girl with spunk. In the final battle with the Indians she's shooting a rifle and lighting sticks of dynamite right alongside Mahoney. They're well matched.

Adele Jergens, who always strikes me as vaguely reminiscent of Virginia Mayo yet is an interesting film presence in her own right, is an added plus as the saloon gal carrying a torch for Del. Her final confrontation scene with Del is memorable.

Bishop always works well as the slimy chief villain. Chubby Johnson, who was in countless film and TV Westerns, has a larger role than usual as a crooked sheriff in cahoots with Del.

The color cinematography by Lester White is faded; the credits said the color was by Color Corporation of America, which according to Wikipedia took over Cinecolor.

OVERLAND PACIFIC was directed by Fred F. Sears.

The movie doesn't appear to be available on DVD or VHS. It's been playing recently on the Starz/Encore Westerns Channel.

Western fans could do much worse than spending time with Mahoney and Castle in this entertaining little Western.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Don Murray at UCLA This Friday

Actor Don Murray will be appearing in person at UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater this Friday evening, July 28th.

The occasion is a double bill of two Murray films screening as part of UCLA's current series Golden Age Television Writers on the Big Screen.

Screening Friday are THE BACHELOR PARTY (1957), with E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden, Nancy Marchand, and Oscar-nominated Carolyn Jones, along with BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL (1965), also starring Steve McQueen and Lee Remick.

I plan to attend; I've never seen either film and it's a wonderful opportunity to hear Murray's reminisces in person. Look for a report on the evening coming this weekend!

July 30th Update: Here is my post on the screening!

Tonight's Movie: Concrete Evidence: A Fixer Upper Mystery (2017)

CONCRETE EVIDENCE: A FIXER UPPER MYSTERY (2017) is the second film in one of Hallmark's newest mystery movie series.

CONCRETE EVIDENCE follows FRAMED FOR MURDER: A FIXER UPPER MYSTERY (2017). Both films are based on a series written by Kate Carlisle.

Contractor Shannon Hughes (Jewel) has begun work on renovations for an old home owned by writer Mac Sullivan (Colin Ferguson), who's living in her guest house during construction.

While working on the house Shannon's crew discovers a dumbwaiter which has been intentionally stuck in place, and when they work it free it leads to the discovery of a skeleton. Soon Shannon and Mac are investigating a murder along with the police, as the mystery points them to several people of interest, including teachers at the local high school.

CONCRETE EVIDENCE builds well on the initial entry. Like the first film, there's a large cast to wrangle and track, but this time the movie doesn't have to simultaneously introduce the core cast of characters. Even better, the relationship between Shannon and Mac is already established and continues to grow over the course of the movie.

The charm and likeable chemistry of Jewel and Ferguson goes a long way to carry the film. The supporting characters don't particularly distinguish themselves from one another, but the attractive and personable lead actors make the film worth seeing. I'm looking forward to seeing them in the next FIXER UPPER title which is due to air on Hallmark Channel later in 2017.

Like the first film, CONCRETE EVIDENCE was directed by Mark Jean and filmed by Tyler Walzak. More films may follow the upcoming third title if the series does well in the ratings.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Allegheny Uprising (1939)

One of my recent viewing goals is to catch up with more previously unseen John Wayne movies. He's one of my favorite actors, but when I'm ready for a Wayne film I tend to go right to one of the many tried and true favorites I've come to love over the years.

ALLEGHENY UPRISING (1939) is part of a Wayne "to watch" list which also includes titles such as A MAN BETRAYED (1941), REUNION IN FRANCE (1942), IN OLD CALIFORNIA (1942), IN OLD OKLAHOMA (1943), THE FIGHTING SEABEES (1944), DAKOTA (1945), TYCOON (1947), WAKE OF THE RED WITCH (1949), and OPERATION PACIFIC (1951), to name a few. It's a good-sized list! Hopefully in the next few months I'll be able to check off having seen more of these. I'll soon be seeing BLOOD ALLEY (1955) for the first time when I review the new Warner Archive Blu-ray.

ALLEGHENY UPRISING reunited Wayne with his STAGECOACH (1939) costar of earlier that year, Claire Trevor. Immediately after this film they also appeared together in DARK COMMAND (1940).

ALLEGHENY UPRISING, a "Western" set in the pre-Revolutionary Colonial era, lacks the artistry of Wayne and Trevor's prior film -- which of course had been directed by John Ford -- but it's a sturdy little movie with a good cast which is worth a look.

There's not a great deal of plot to this 81-minute film. Wayne's Jim Smith leads Pennsylvania settlers against an evil trader (Brian Donlevy) who's sneaking rum to the Indians, which in turn incites the Indians to massacre settlers.

George Sanders is the obdurate British military captain who insists that since the trader has a military pass, the goods are intended for the army and nothing untoward could possibly be happening.

Trevor plays Janie, a tomboy in love with Jim who regularly attempts to follow him into battle.

That's pretty much the story on which a number of battle set pieces are hung. The P.J. Wolfson script (based on Neil H. Swanson's story "The First Rebel") isn't much, but it's a nice outdoorsy film, with much of it shot in the Lake Sherwood area.

Trevor's perpetually animated character gives the film much of its energy, and it's perfectly understandable that she chases after the handsome young Wayne.

In addition to Wayne, Trevor, Sanders, and Donlevy, the supporting players include Chill Wills, Moroni Olsen, Ian Wolfe, Robert Barrat, Wilfrid Lawson, and Eddie Quillan.

ALLEGHENY UPRISING was directed by William A. Seiter. It was filmed in black and white by the great Nicholas Musuraca.

As an aside, the opening credits are particularly stylish, well-scored by Anthony Collins.

ALLEGHENY UPRISING is part of the six-film John Wayne Film Collection. The Amazon pricing on this set is currently a steal! I've previously reviewed two other films in the set, the very enjoyable WITHOUT RESERVATIONS (1945) and BIG JIM MCLAIN (1952).

Stay tuned for more Wayne reviews in the coming weeks!

The 2017 D23 Expo: Highlights, Part 3

Sunday at the 2017 D23 Expo started out much better than Saturday -- if only because we spent our early morning queue time before the show floor opened in the air-conditioned indoors!

My husband bought a day ticket for Sunday; he's a veteran of San Diego Comic Con, but this was his first visit to the D23 Expo. He came in part to see this year's Voices of the Disney Parks panel, where our friend Bob Joles was one of the participants. Bob will be the new voice of the conductor on the Disneyland Railroad when it reopens!

A full-length video of the Voices of the Disney Parks panel is here. I've attended two similar panels in the past, and it's a lot of fun putting faces with the voices one hears on every visit to the parks.

When the doors opened my daughter and I secured ShowPasses for the HERCULES program later that morning and then got in line for the LION KING Celebration. One of this year's improvements was a separate priority seating line for Gold Members for the "big room" panels, who were allowed to bring one guest each. I'm a Gold Member so that was a real plus, and we had great LION KING seats.

The LION KING panel might have been the highlight of my weekend. It began with a jubilant sing-along to "I Just Can't Wait to Be King!"

Participants included producer Don Hahn and co-director Rob Minkoff...

...along with voice actors Ernie Sabella (Pumbaa), seen below with Minkoff, plus Jim Cummings (Ed) and Whoopi Goldberg (Shenzi).

The marvelous climax to the hour was Carmen Twillie, the original movie soundtrack vocalist, coming out to sing "Circle of Life," accompanied by a large choir.

It was simply thrilling. Nothing gets me like great music!

Afterwards we had some time on the show floor. We stopped by this tribute to Fred MacMurray, the first Disney Legend:

And we took a look at this old Disneyland Railroad car:

I spent some birthday money on this limited edition BAMBI print, which I'm going to frame and hang near my computer. Seeing BAMBI at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival is a very special memory for me.

And then it was time for the HERCULES 20th Anniversary panel! I've only seen HERCULES once, but I found it goofy fun, with some good music like "Go the Distance."

A panel highlight was Susan Egan (Meg) singing one of her numbers while the film rolled with just the instrumental soundtrack.

My fourth panel of the day took place at the smaller Archives stage, with Disney Legend Tony Baxter discussing the creation and history of Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle dioramas. The panel didn't lend itself to photography, but here's the intro card which was onscreen as we entered.

All too soon it was time for the last panel of not only the day but the Expo, a presentation on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit by David Bossert, author of an upcoming book on Oswald.

The hour included the screening of three Oswald cartoon shorts, a great way to end the Expo!

Disney announced at the end of the Expo that the Expo will be returning in 2019. And yes, despite some issues popping up annually, we always have a really good time and plan to be there!

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