Tuesday, October 31, 2017

TCM Star of the Month: James Stewart

James Stewart is the November Star of the Month on Turner Classic Movies.

56 Stewart films will be shown in 24-hour marathons starting every Wednesday morning in November, running into the wee hours on Thursday.

Also being shown this month are a handful of documentaries, including the biography JAMES STEWART: A WONDERFUL LIFE (1987). An excerpt from a 1976 appearance on THE TONIGHT SHOW is also on the schedule.

Below is a date-by-date rundown of the Stewart films on the schedule. Click any hyperlinked title for the corresponding review.

The series kicks off tomorrow morning, November 1st, with titles ranging from some of Stewart's earliest work to some of his best-known classics. First up during the daytime hours are films made during his ascent to stardom: THE MURDER MAN (1936), THE LAST GANGSTER (1937), WIFE VS. SECRETARY (1936), THE GORGEOUS HUSSY ( 1936), ROSE-MARIE (1936), SPEED (1936), THE ICE FOLLIES OF 1939 (1939), and MADE FOR EACH OTHER (1939) start off the day.

I've seen a majority of these films and found them worthwhile, even if Stewart's part is small. Favorites include WIFE VS. SECRETARY (with Jean Harlow, seen at right), ROSE-MARIE, and MADE FOR EACH OTHER, a soapy marital drama teaming him with Carole Lombard.

Prime time kicks off with the previously mentioned documentary, JAMES STEWART: A WONDERFUL LIFE, followed by MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939) and DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939).

The evening wraps up with his supporting role in AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936) and the comedy VIVACIOUS LADY (1938). VIVACIOUS LADY costars Ginger Rogers, who at one point was Stewart's steady date.

On November 8th there are more fun early Stewart films, NAVY BLUE AND GOLD (1937), BORN TO DANCE (1936), SMALL TOWN GIRL (1936), IT'S A WONDERFUL WORLD (1939), THE SHOPWORN ANGEL (1938), OF HUMAN HEARTS (1938), and YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU (1938). I'll be reviewing NAVY BLUE AND GOLD here in November! Capra's YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU is the gem of that bunch; it costars Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, and Edward Arnold, seen at left.

Prime time on the 8th features two films with Margaret Sullavan, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940) and THE MORTAL STORM (1940), followed by his Oscar-winning turn in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940).

That day's films conclude with the "docu-noir" CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948) and THE STRATTON STORY (1949), which was the first of three films he made with June Allyson.

November 15th starts off with POT O' GOLD (1941), NO TIME FOR COMEDY (1940), ZIEGFELD GIRL (1941), MALAYA (1949), and Hitchcock's somewhat experimental, absorbing one-room film, ROPE (1948).

Prime time kicks off with Hitchcock's VERTIGO (1958), followed by ANATOMY OF A MURDER (1949), THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS (1957), and NO HIGHWAY IN THE SKY (1951). NO HIGHWAY IN THE SKY, in which Stewart plays an offbeat character helplessly trying to warn that a passenger plane is about to suffer catastrophic failure, is unusual and interesting.

The day before Thanksgiving, November 22nd, you can find CARSON ON TCM: JAMES STEWART (1976) along with a rerun of JAMES STEWART: A WONDERFUL LIFE (1987). Then it's time for THUNDER BAY (1953), THE MOUNTAIN ROAD (1960), THE F.B.I. STORY (1959), CARBINE WILLIAMS (1952), and SHENANDOAH (1965).

Prime time on Thanksgiving Eve will be one of my favorites, THE GLENN MILLER STORY (1954), followed by HARVEY (1950), BELL BOOK AND CANDLE (1958), and two more Hitchcock films, REAR WINDOW (1954) and THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956).

The series wraps up on Wednesday, November 29th, with FOOL'S PARADE (1971), CHEYENNE AUTUMN (1964), FIRECREEK (1968), THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB (1968), and HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962).

Prime time on the 29th is devoted to some of Stewart's finest Westerns, beginning with John Ford's THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962). That's followed by a quartet of films directed by Anthony Mann, WINCHESTER '73 (1950), BEND OF THE RIVER (1952), THE FAR COUNTRY (1954), and THE NAKED SPUR (1953), all of them gems. The last title of the series is Ford's TWO RODE TOGETHER (1961).

For more information on TCM in November 2017, please visit TCM in November: Highlights or the complete schedule.

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween Wishes from lovely Ella Raines, seen here posing in a classic studio publicity shot.

Raines was a striking screen presence throughout the '40s and into the '50s, starring in favorite films such as PHANTOM LADY (1944), TALL IN THE SADDLE (1944), and IMPACT (1949).

Other notable titles in Raines' filmography include CRY HAVOC (1943), HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO (1944), THE SUSPECT (1944), THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF UNCLE HARRY (1945), THE RUNAROUND (1946), BRUTE FORCE (1947), A DANGEROUS PROFESSION (1949), THE WALKING HILLS (1949), and RIDE THE MAN DOWN (1952).

I'd love to watch her '50s TV series JANET DEAN, REGISTERED NURSE! Some episodes are available in iffy prints on YouTube. Oh, for a DVD release!

And for that matter, why isn't THE WEB (1947) with Edmond O'Brien and Vincent Price out on DVD? It's a Universal film...perhaps we can hope for a Noir City screening in the future? (May 2018: Ask and ye shall receive! THE WEB was screened at this month's Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival. Here is my review.)

2021 Update: THE WEB is now available on Blu-ray.

Previous Halloween Posts: Veronica Lake (2016), Barbara Bates (2015), Marsha Hunt (2014), Linda Darnell (2013), and the BEWITCHED cast (2012).

Monday, October 30, 2017

TCM in November: Highlights

It's hard to believe Halloween is almost here! That means it's time to take a look at the upcoming Turner Classic Movies schedule.

The November Star of the Month is James Stewart. This is the third time Stewart has received that honor.

56 Stewart films will be shown in 24-hour marathons beginning each Wednesday morning, starting November 1st. I'll have a closer look at the Star of the Month schedule here tomorrow. (Update: Please visit TCM Star of the Month: James Stewart.)

November's TCM Spotlight focuses on the Blacklist, each Monday and Tuesday evening.

The Spotlight series will include the TCM premiere of the very interesting THE MAN I MARRIED (1940), a suspenseful anti-Nazi film from 20th Century-Fox, starring Joan Bennett, Francis Lederer, and Lloyd Nolan. It screens November 13th.

This month's Sunday morning Noir Alley titles are SPLIT SECOND (1953) on November 5th, THE WINDOW (1949) on November 12th, NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950) on November 19th, and STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951) on November 26th. They're all good; I particularly recommend checking out the lesser-known SPLIT SECOND and THE WINDOW, which both deliver spooky, memorable entertainment.

Here's a look at just a few more of the interesting titles being shown this month. Click any hyperlinked title to read the corresponding film review:

...There's a marvelous nine-film birthday tribute to Ann Rutherford on November 2nd. (It's hard to believe it's been five years since her passing.) Titles include the classic A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938) in which she broke precedent playing the Ghost of Christmas Past, which was traditionally played by male actors; FOUR GIRLS IN WHITE (1939), seen at the left, which I hope to re-review in greater detail in the coming months; and THESE GLAMOUR GIRLS (1939), along with half a dozen other films in which she appeared.

...A day of sports biographies on November 3rd includes Esther Williams as Annette Kellerman in MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID (1952), costarring Victor Mature and Walter Pidgeon.

...Silent Sunday Nights offers Harold Lloyd in THE KID BROTHER (1927) on November 5th. It's a delightful film also starring Lloyd's frequent costar, the charming Jobyna Ralston.

...There's an entire day of Falcon Mysteries on Monday, November 6th. Eleven Falcon films will be shown. This fun series originally starred George Sanders, who was later replaced by his real-life brother, Tom Conway.

...Eight Miriam Hopkins films will be shown on November 7th. My pick of the day is a title I've recommended here regularly, THE RICHEST GIRL IN THE WORLD (1934). It's great fun, costarring Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, and Reginald Denny.

...The prime time lineup on November 9th consists of dramas which were later turned into musicals, including Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison in ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM (1946), seen at left, and Ronald Colman and Marlene Dietrich in KISMET (1944).

...There's more Esther Williams on November 10th, when she stars with Howard Keel in PAGAN LOVE SONG (1950).

...Get a jump on watching Christmas movies with HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949) on Sunday, November 13th. Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh star, with Wendell Corey in support.

...There's a seven-film tribute to Dick Powell on November 14th, including favorites like IT HAPPENED TOMORROW (1944), seen at right with Linda Darnell, and the career-changing film noir MURDER, MY SWEET (1944).

...The entertaining Robert Montgomery-Joan Crawford comedy NO MORE LADIES (1935) will be shown on November 16th. Franchot Tone and Charlie Ruggles costar, so you know it's fun!

..A nine-film tribute to Irene Dunne on November 17th includes the musical ROBERTA (1935), costarring Randolph Scott, Fred Astaire, and Ginger Rogers. A tenth Dunne film pops up the very next morning, and there are more later in the month, so fans of one of the great ladies of cinema have much to look forward to.

...A prime time tribute to Grace Kelly on November 18th includes HIGH SOCIETY (1956), costarring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Celeste Holm. It's every bit as fun as the movie it remade, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940).

...The Sunday before Thanksgiving, November 19th, TCM shows PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE (1952). Although the film could have been better, it has its pleasures, including the performances by Van Johnson and Gene Tierney and a fine musical score by Miklos Rozsa.

...Another early Christmas movie airs on November 20th, with Ginger Rogers and David Niven in the classic comedy BACHELOR MOTHER (1939).

...Those who love "B" cop movies will find CODE TWO (1953) pure fun. Keenan Wynn, Ralph Meeker, Jeff Richards, Sally Forrest, and Elaine Stewart star in this film about motorcycle officers, airing on November 21st.

...Thanksgiving Day, November 23rd, is filled with family-friendly book-based titles including LITTLE WOMEN (1933), I REMEMBER MAMA (1948), A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (1945), NATIONAL VELVET (1944), CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950), and YOURS, MINE AND OURS (1968).

...The Black Friday lineup on November 24th is an interesting assortment, including THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (1942) and THE QUIET MAN (1952).

...An evening of Henry Fonda films on November 25th includes SPENCER'S MOUNTAIN (1963), which I recently revisited for the first time in years and enjoyed tremendously. Maureen O'Hara costars.

...There's more Irene Dunne on November 27th, with the airing of CONSOLATION MARRIAGE, costarring Pat O'Brien.

...Movies directed by Norman Z. McLeod on November 28th include the very enjoyable LADY BE GOOD (1941) with Eleanor Powell, Robert Young, and Ann Sothern.

..The month wraps up with an eight-film birthday tribute to Virginia Mayo on November 30th. Titles include entertaining films such as THE GIRL FROM JONES BEACH (1949), SHE'S BACK ON BROADWAY (1953), and PAINTING THE CLOUDS WITH SUNSHINE (1951).

...Later on the 30th, TCM celebrates St. Andrew's Day with a lineup of films set in Scotland, including BRIGADOON (1954).

Please visit TCM's online schedule for complete listings. Happy viewing, and happy Thanksgiving!

A Visit to McCrea Ranch (and McCrea Blu-ray News!)

Over the last half-dozen years I've been privileged to pay several visits to the McCrea Ranch, once owned by Golden Age movie actors Joel McCrea and Frances Dee.

My most recent visit was this past April, when my husband and I took three friends in town for the TCM Classic Film Festival for a visit.

That wonderful trip was documented by Aurora in a lovely post at Once Upon a Screen, complete with an extensive photo gallery. Aurora posted it a few days ago to mark the occasion of Joel and Frances's wedding anniversary; they were married on October 20, 1933. Joel passed away on their anniversary date in 1990.

We had the opportunity that day to spend time chatting with Joel and Frances's grandson Wyatt. The resulting 25-minute interview is now available on YouTube, and I hope anyone interested in the McCrea Family will find it enjoyable and informative.

There's even more great McCrea-Dee news, as Kino Lorber has just announced it will release the couple's best film together, FOUR FACES WEST (1948), on DVD and Blu-ray this December 19th.

FOUR FACES WEST is a very special movie which I reviewed just about eight years ago. I very highly recommend it to anyone who loves McCrea or Dee; it's a wonderful chance to see them acting together.

To learn more about the McCrea Ranch, please visit the ranch's Facebook page as well as the Conejo Recreation and Park District page. I strongly encourage anyone interested to visit the ranch, where California movie and ranching history intersect.

Previous visits to the McCrea Ranch: November 5, 2011, March 16, 2013, and February 14, 2014.

January 2018 Update: Here is my review of the FOUR FACES WEST Blu-ray.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches (2016)

Charming, handsome Rod Taylor is someone I've come to very much appreciate in the last several years...although, as it turns out, I've actually loved him since I was a child. That, of course, is because he voiced Pongo in Disney's ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS (1961)...or as Taylor refers to him, "this English doggy."

Taylor's fascinating career, transitioning from being a commercial artist in his native Australia to an actor who worked with Disney, Hitchcock, Ford, George Pal, and many more is captured in the very entertaining documentary ROD TAYLOR: PULLING NO PUNCHES (2016).

A lengthy 2012 interview with the man himself is the centerpiece of the documentary. Taylor, who passed away in 2015, is jolly and self-deprecating, looking back with appreciation on a great career. (Although his take on DALMATIANS is a bit startling...he wasn't happy about it and felt it was akin to "a two-bit radio show.")

It's hard to believe at first that the man who looks like he'd be anyone's favorite granddad is the actor with the killer good looks, but then he grins and the eyes twinkle and yep, the Rod Taylor magic is still there.

Interviews with a number of Taylor's colleagues are also featured, including Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, Tippi Hedren, and Veronica Cartwright. Many of the films in Taylor's terrific filmography are discussed, including THE TIME MACHINE (1960), SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963), and THE BIRDS (1963), to name just a handful.

The documentary left me wanting to see THE V.I.P.s (1963) which Taylor fondly describes as "a movie...a big, old-fashioned movie." Taylor names his favorite film as YOUNG CASSIDY (1965) and his most impressive film as DARK OF THE SUN (1968). I especially enjoyed hearing about his deep affection for John Wayne, with whom he appeared in THE TRAIN ROBBERS (1973).

Taylor also discusses the one that got away, ruefully laughing that his reaction to the idea of a James Bond film was the biggest mistake of his life. ("Cubby, it will never work!") He thought the idea was more appropriate for a TV series.

The presentation of the documentary is one of the best I've ever seen, with beautifully designed retro graphics and terrific editing. As the attractive title cards of Taylor's various movies passed by, I kept thinking "I need to watch more of these!" The pace of the 80-minute documentary is sprightly, springboarding from topic to topic, yet I felt it managed a strong overview of his life and career without being strictly chronological or completely comprehensive.

The documentary left me especially wanting to see his season-long TV series HONG KONG (1960-61), which was a key factor in his rise to stardom along with THE TIME MACHINE. (Incidentally, reviewing his IMDb credits, how on earth did I forget that Taylor was in my favorite nighttime soap, FALCON CREST?!)

ROD TAYLOR: PULLING NO PUNCHES was directed by Robert de Young, with a script by de Young and Stephan Wellink.

Several other bloggers have reviewed this documentary. For more on the film please visit posts by Jessica at Comet Over Hollywood, Raquel at Out of the Past, KC at A Classic Movie Blog, and Andy at Journeys in Darkness and Light. Jessica also interviewed the producer and director, a very interesting read.

Special thanks to Raquel for connecting me with the documentary; seeing it was a real treat.

Hopefully this engaging film will be available on DVD and Blu-ray at a future point so that other movie fans can learn more about the life and career of Rod Taylor. For those new to Taylor's work, it's a great introduction, and those who already love him will find it delightful spending time in his company.

Thanks to Inkwell Films for providing access to an online screener of this film for review.

Escape From Fort Bravo (1953): A Photo Gallery

At the Lone Pine Film Festival earlier this month I tremendously enjoyed revisiting ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO (1953).

ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO stars William Holden, Eleanor Parker, John Forsythe, and Richard Anderson. It was shown at the festival as many scenes were filmed in nearby Death Valley. One of the interesting things about Lone Pine is that if you go one direction from town you end up at the highest spot in the continental U.S., Mount Whitney, and if you go the other direction you arrive at the lowest spot in the continental U.S., Death Valley's Badwater.

ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO was directed by John Sturges. Since last night I reviewed Sturges' later Western THE LAW AND JAKE WADE (1958), it seemed like the perfect time to take a look back at his ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO.

When I first reviewed ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO here a decade ago, I was unable to find much to illustrate my post. That isn't the case these days, with numerous publicity and set stills available. I hope my readers will enjoy perusing these great photos as much as I enjoyed gathering them.

I very much like this film, which is romantic, suspenseful, and action-packed, with a pair of wonderful, attractive leads and a terrific supporting cast.

ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO is available on DVD. I wouldn't be surprised if someday, like THE LAW AND JAKE WADE, it's reissued on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

2021 Update: ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO will be released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive in May 2021. My review of the Blu-ray release is here.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Tonight's Movie: The Law and Jake Wade (1958) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Robert Taylor and Richard Widmark star in the western THE LAW AND JAKE WADE (1958), recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

As the movie opens, Jake Wade (Taylor) repays an old debt, breaking Clint Hollister (Widmark) out of jail. Jake and Clint once robbed banks together, but after the last job Jake had buried the loot, disgusted at what he'd become, and moved on to a respectable life as a sheriff.

Jake parts ways with Clint after busting him out, but not for long: Clint almost immediately turns up in Jake's office, taking Jake and his fiancee Peggy (Patricia Owens) hostage until Jake digs up the buried treasure and hands it over.

It's a desperate situation, as Clint threatens to kill Peggy if Jake doesn't cooperate, and it also seems unlikely Jake and Peggy will survive once Clint has what he wants.

When I first saw this film in 2012, I enjoyed it reasonably well, but not as much as several of my friends who are also fans of Westerns. On this viewing I think I liked it incrementally better; I knew what to expect going in, and the passage of time has only deepened my enjoyment of seeing the Alabama Hills on film, having been to several Lone Pine Film Festivals in the ensuing years.

The film's key strengths are those beautiful landscapes and the two outstanding lead actors. The contrast of Widmark's sarcastic motormouth with Taylor's taciturn, stoic sheriff is compelling; they're the main reason to watch the movie, along with the beautifully photographed Alabama Hills, evocatively filmed in the fall or winter. It looks genuinely cold, and I suspect it was!

The pacing of this 86-minute film, scripted by William Bowers, is good insofar as it keeps things moving, but my criticisms remain the same as in 2012: I didn't find the plot especially enjoyable, with Robert Taylor's Jake pushed around and tortured by Clint for much of the movie, while the much bigger flaw is a real lack of connection between Jake and Peggy.

A second viewing underscored that I have zero idea why Jake loves Peggy, or if he really does; all I can guess at is that he loved the idea of her, as part of settling down as a respectable citizen. He did love her enough to ask early on if she'd be willing to leave town with him, but not enough to honestly share his situation.

As I wrote in a comment after my original review, "It seemed more like she was just someone he knew who had the misfortune to get mixed up in his problem." A stronger, more believable love story would have made a much more compelling film. It's the difference between a good film and something really special; I can't help feeling disappointed over the lost opportunity.

The movie would make an interesting double bill with Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott's similarly plotted THE TALL T (1957), also filmed in the Alabama Hills. THE TALL T is admittedly on the lower end of the Boetticher-Scott films for me because of the "hostage" storyline, but the development of Scott's relationship with Maureen O'Sullivan over the course of the film really makes the movie for me.

A further issue with THE LAW AND JAKE WADE is that the film's superb daytime landscapes stand in stark contrast with the nighttime scenes, very obviously shot on a fake-looking MGM soundstage, seen in the lobby card at the left. A movie entirely filmed on a soundstage can successfully create its own fantasy world -- for instance, MGM's BRIGADOON (1954), which I'll be reviewing soon -- but going back and forth between the realistic and the phony is jarring. Admittedly this does commonly happen in Westerns, and I'm often much more forgiving, but for an "A" film with stars of this caliber, MGM shouldn't have settled for less than the best when it came to production values. (That said, if it was as cold as it looks, perhaps shooting in the Alabama Hills at night was problematic in terms of the temperature.)

THE LAW AND JAKE WADE was directed by John Sturges, who directed other '50s Westerns I've preferred to this one, including ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO (1953) and SADDLE THE WIND (1958). (He also, of course, would go on to direct 1960's classic THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.) By contrast with those films, THE LAW AND JAKE WADE has strong elements and is definitely worth seeing, but on the whole I feel it isn't as successful as other Sturges Westerns in creating a gripping, enjoyable story. (Update: Per the comments below, while Sturges did uncredited work on SADDLE THE WIND, the billed director was Robert Parrish. Many thanks to Blake for the reminder!)

The Warner Archive widescreen Blu-ray is beautiful, showing off the majestic Alabama Hills landscapes as photographed by Robert Surtees. The lone extra is the trailer.

October 2019 Update: I visited the site of the film's ghost town location at the 2019 Lone Pine Film Festival.

May 2020 Update: The Warner Archive is now also reissuing this film on DVD, coming in June 2020.

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

Tonight's Movie: Beat the Band (1947) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

BEAT THE BAND (1947) is a minor RKO "B" film, notable for musical performances by Frances Langford and Gene Krupa. It's available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

The flimsy plot has big band singer Damon Dillingham (Phillip Terry) newly returned from wartime service. While Damon was away his manager Eddie (Ralph Edwards) managed to lose Damon's savings and also married his girlfriend Willow (June Clayworth).

Damon's a forgiving sort and inexplicably goes along with Eddie's plan to raise funds to reassemble his old band by posing as a vocal instructor. Their first mark...er, pupil...is Ann (Langford), newly arrived in NYC to study opera.

It all works out in the end, however, as Ann would rather sing pop tunes anyway!

It's a fairly silly movie, including some mixed-up identities, but any film which has a few numbers with Langford singing and Krupa on the drums is worth music fans taking a look. Kudos to the Warner Archive for making it available.

It's only 67 minutes long, so it flies past pretty quickly, with a fair percentage of the time spent on musical numbers. The music starts strong with Terry (or a voice double?) singing "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night."

The ensuing songs by Leigh Harline and Mort Greene are more innocuous but still fun. Langford puts a smile on my face, and Krupa's band sounds great; I especially loved a camera shot looking up at Krupa through his drum!

It was also amusing trying to count Langford's endless changes of hairstyle and wardrobe; it might be a "B" movie but they didn't stint in these departments.

The supporting cast includes Grady Sutton, in one of his typical roles playing Ann's erstwhile fiance, plus Mabel Paige, Harry Harvey, Donald MacBride, Andrew Tombes, and Tommy Noonan.

BEAT THE BAND was directed by John H. Auer and filmed by Frank Redman.

The Warner Archive print and sound quality are solid. There are no extras on the disc.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Lucky Devils (1933) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

LUCKY DEVILS (1933) is an entertaining RKO pre-Code about the movie business. It's available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

LUCKY DEVILS reunited William "Bill" Boyd and Dorothy Wilson, costars of the previous year's MEN OF AMERICA (1932), along with MEN OF AMERICA'S director and cinematographer, Ralph Ince and J. Roy Hunt. Like MEN OF AMERICA, LUCKY DEVILS is an interesting and fast-paced film which has a relatively unique story and makes good use of locations.

Boyd plays Skipper Clark, Hollywood's "best stuntman." Skipper believes that stuntmen make bad husbands and husbands make bad stuntmen, until he meets Fran (Wilson), a down-on-her-luck actress. Skipper and his coworker Bob (William Gargan) take Fran under their wing, helping her get work as a bit player, and she quickly falls for Skipper.

The deaths of a couple fellow stuntmen (William Bakewell and Bruce Cabot) make everyone sad and anxious, especially once Skipper and Fran marry and there's a baby on the way. Skipper resolves to leave the business for a safer job but it's the Depression and he finds it tough to get work until a director takes pity on him and puts him on a labor crew. The need for money for doctor bills tempts Skipper to take on one last great stunt...

LUCKY DEVILS is a fun peek at what 1930s moviemakers thought of the movie business, or at least what they thought the public would like to see of it! The movie starts with an elaborate set piece which looks like a bank robbery, but the camera finally pulls back to reveal the soundstage and camera, a nice touch. There are some marvelous backlot shots which help make the movie a very interesting look at early sound-era filmmaking.

The movie's 68 minutes pass quickly; it might not be a classic but it's an interesting little slice of movie history which does what it set out to do, entertain its audience.

Costar Bob Rose, a real-life stuntman, cowrote the story. The cast also includes Julie Haydon, Rochelle Hudson, Lon Chaney Jr., and Betty Furness. Apparently I missed spotting Ward Bond as a crew member!

The Warner Archive DVD picture is a bit soft, but it's generally in good shape, with a strong soundtrack. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

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