Sunday, June 30, 2019

TCM in July: Highlights

Happy Summer!

It's time for a look at the July schedule for Turner Classic Movies!

Glenn Ford is the July Star of the Month. Over three dozen Ford films will be shown spread across Monday evenings this month. I'll have more on the Ford lineup in a separate post in the very near future. (Update: Please visit TCM Star of the Month: Glenn Ford.)

There are two very interesting series in July. Tuesday evenings will feature the sci-fi series Out of this World, will every Friday there will be a day-long tribute to 1939: Hollywood's Golden Year. I will have a separate post on the "1939" series towards the end of the week. (Update: Please visit TCM in July: 1939: Hollywood's Golden Year.)

July's Noir Alley titles are THE TATTOOED STRANGER (1950) on July 6th and 7th, THE PEOPLE AGAINST O'HARA (1951) on July 13th-14th, WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS (1956) on the 20th and 21st, and THIEVES' HIGHWAY (1949) on July 27th and 28th.

Below are a few additional highlights coming this month to TCM. Click any hyperlinked title to read the related review.

...Leslie Caron will celebrate her 88th birthday on July 1st. TCM honors the occasion with an eight-film lineup which includes a telling of the Cinderella tale, THE GLASS SLIPPER (1955). Bonus link: Check out my photo gallery of scans from GLASS SLIPPER stills in my collection.

...A day of Lucille Ball films on July 2nd includes the interesting "B" picture BEAUTY FOR THE ASKING (1939). Patrick Knowles and Donald Woods costar, with an excellent performance by Frieda Inescort. Yesterday was the anniversary of Inescort's birthday; she was born in Edinburgh on June 29, 1901.

...The wonderful Anne Jeffreys, who passed on in September 2017, stars as Tess Trueheart in DICK TRACY (1945) and DICK TRACY VS. CUEBALL (1946) on July 3rd. Morgan Conway stars as Dick Tracy.

...Independence Day viewing gets underway with a series of John Ford/John Wayne films, including SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949). That's followed by some films set during the Revolutionary War and then musicals including YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942) and THE MUSIC MAN (1962).

...BOMBARDIER (1943), showing on July 6th, is uneven, but it has a wonderful cast of favorites in Randolph Scott, Pat O'Brien, Anne Shirley, Robert Ryan, and in his first appearance as Chito Rafferty, Richard Martin. The Chito character would later make the transition from WWII to being the sidekick in the wonderful RKO Tim Holt Westerns.

...July 7th has a diverse lineup including musicals, comedies, and crime films. My pick for the day is Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934). Pure movie joy.

...A Greer Garson-Walter Pidgeon double bill on July 9th features MRS. MINIVER (1942) and MRS. PARKINGTON (1944). I've yet to catch up with the well-regarded latter film, but I've seen MRS. MINIVER multiple times and love it every time.

...It's "beach" films day on July 10th, including Frankie and Annette in BEACH PARTY (1963). Robert Cumming, Dorothy Malone, and Jody McCrea costar.

...Barbara Stanwyck stars in the pre-Code classic BABY FACE (1933) on July 13th, with a supporting cast including George Brent, Donald Cook, and John Wayne.

...On July 13th the Saturday morning "B" Western is DYNAMITE PASS (1950), starring Tim Holt, Richard Martin, and Lynne Roberts. Click the title link for pictures of the movie's Lone Pine locations!

...It's a newer film than I typically prefer to see airing on Turner Classic Movies, but I do have a great fondness for BABY BOOM (1987), which has a classic film sensibility. When I revisited it a couple summers ago I described how many things seen in the film have changed in 30 years; it was fascinating from that cultural perspective. Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard star on July 14th.

...A day of gangster films on July 15th includes Charles Butterworth in the amusing BABY FACE HARRINGTON (1935), directed by Raoul Walsh. The great supporting cast includes Una Merkel, Donald Meek, Nat Pendleton, and Eugene Pallette, to name a few.

...Among several interesting Maureen O'Hara titles on July 16th is THE FALLEN SPARROW (1943). I was fortunate to see this film at the Noir City Film Festival a few years ago, with costar Patricia Morison present. The film also has a nice role for another favorite actress, Martha O'Driscoll. John Garfield stars.

...For sheer entertainment value you can't beat FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933), with James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, and Busby Berkeley's stunning "By a Waterfall." I can never see this one too many times. It's showing on July 17th.

...There's a great Audrey Hepburn double bill on July 18th, consisting of SABRINA (1954) and LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON (1957). I saw these films paired together a decade ago at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Leo S. Bing Theater. Having grown up attending films at that theater, I was sad that last week the theater showed its final film; the theater's very last film was coincidentally one I watched last week, Ozu's AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON (1962). The theater will be demolished as part of a renovation of LACMA. Sad.

...Tom Keene and Betty Furness star in the Western CROSS FIRE (1933) on Saturday morning, July 20th. I described it in my review as "quirky and entertaining."

...OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES (1945) is classic mid-'40s MGM Americana which should be better known. The peerless cast includes Edward G. Robinson, Agnes Moorehead, Margaret O'Brien, Jackie "Butch" Jenkins, James Craig, Dorothy Morris, Frances Gifford, Louis Jean Heydt and more great character faces. Roy Rowland directed from a script by Dalton Trumbo. It's on July 21st.

...One of the best films airing during this month's "Out of This World" series will be shown July 22nd: THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951), starring Kenneth Tobey and Margaret Sheridan, directed by an uncredited Howard Hawks. Fun like this is why movies exist!

...My February column for Classic Movie Hub, "Unexpected Western Leads," included Stewart Granger in GUN GLORY (1957). This favorite little Western, costarring Rhonda Fleming and Chill Wills, airs on July 23rd.

...One of my favorite films airing on July 24th is PRINCESS O'ROURKE (1943), which anticipated the "incognito princess" theme of ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953) by a decade. Olivia de Havilland plays the title role, supported by Robert Cummings, Jane Wyman, Jack Carson, and Charles Coburn.

...The regular team of Kay Francis and George Brent star in the enjoyable melodrama LIVING ON VELVET (1935), costarring Warren William. It will be shown July 25th.

...You can't ever go wrong watching a George O'Brien Western. He's charming in LAWLESS VALLEY (1938), airing on Saturday morning, July 27th. Kay Sutton is the leading lady.

...July 29th features several films costarring the great team of William Powell and Myrna Loy, including one of my all-time favorite comedies, LIBELED LADY (1936). Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow costar.

...I adore STAR WARS (1977), which has been an important movie in my life for a variety of reasons, but I confess I'm perplexed that TCM is showing it on back-to-back evenings, July 30th, as part of the "Out of This World" series, and again on the 31st; I suspect it's part of the licensing deal they made to show it. That's just a little too much like other channels with small libraries on constant repeat, not to mention its relatively recent vintage.

...A day of films about doctors and nurses serving in World War II includes the excellent, underrated HOMECOMING (1948) starring Clark Gable, Lana Turner, and Anne Baxter. It's on July 31st.

For more on TCM in July 2019, please check out Quick Preview of TCM in July, TCM Star of the Month: Glenn Ford, TCM in July: 1939: Hollywood's Golden Year, and the TCM schedule.

Enjoy the summer!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Tonight's Movie: There's Something About a Soldier (1943)

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT A SOLDIER is a World War II homefront/training film from Columbia Pictures.

Tom Neal plays Wally, a frankly obnoxious candidate in an officers training course in North Carolina.

The cocky Wally tries to charm Carol (Evelyn Keyes) while simultaneously rejecting working as a study team with his fellow candidates, who include rough-hewn but dedicated Alex (Frank Sully) and reserved Frank (Bruce Bennett), who had served with Carol's late brother in North Africa.

As the men struggle to master all aspects of their training and pass the course, eventually Wally begins to mature, causing Carol to warm up to him; however, Wally's newfound concern for his fellow soldiers leads him to do something rash just before graduation.

This is a nice little 81-minute movie, nothing special yet it's elevated by the presence of both Keyes and Bennett, not to mention the ever-bubbly Jeff Donnell as one of Keyes' friends. Neal isn't very likeable, but then he's not really meant to be, and he does show Wally's growth as the film continues.

Since WWII films set in the U.S. are a longtime interest of mine, this film was right up my alley. I suspect audiences of the day would be interested in learning about the training process their family members or friends might be going through at officer candidate schools. It may not be great drama but I found it an interesting slice of WWII filmmaking.

The supporting cast includes Johnny Mitchell (PILLOW TO POST) as a sympathetic instructor, plus Jonathan Hale, Hugh Beaumont, John Hubbard, Blake Edwards, Lewis Wilson, Louise Beavers, and more. Apparently I missed picking out Shelley Winters in a bit role!

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT A SOLDIER was directed by Alfred E. Green. It was filmed in black and white by George Meehan and Philip Tannura.

It's available as a manufactured-on-demand DVD from Sony Choice/Columbia. It's also shown occasionally on Turner Classic Movies.

Criterion Half-Price Summer Sale at B&N

This is the annual reader alert that the Barnes & Noble half-price Criterion Collection summer sale is now underway!

The sale began yesterday and will run through August 4th.

Happy Blu-ray shopping, everyone!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Today at Disneyland: Return to Galaxy's Edge

Tonight I spent a wonderful evening in Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland.

In the month since our Opening Day experience, the reservation period for the new "Star Wars Land" was a big hit, with thousands of guests enjoying four-hour blocks in the new land. The rest of the park has been relatively empty for the start of summer, between most annual passholders being blocked out of the park and perhaps concerns regarding crowding and/or parking. (The parking issue should be alleviated with the opening of the new Pixar Pals parking structure this Sunday, June 30th.)

Unlike Walt Disney World, Disneyland attendance is hugely powered by annual passholders and local attendance, which remained light after Galaxy's Edge opened to the public without reservations last week on June 24th. As can be seen in these photos, Disneyland was quite uncrowded for a summer afternoon. The wait time for Peter Pan's Flight was only 25 minutes, which is unheard of for that popular family ride.

My daughter and I each have one of the higher pass levels which was not blocked out of Disneyland this summer, and thanks to the light crowds, Cast Members had their sign-in privileges unblocked, so a close friend was able to sign in other family members tonight.

As can be seen above, Galaxy's Edge was "open" without any "Boarding Group" needed. Boarding Groups are a sort of FastPass which Disney will use to control entry to the land when it's crowded, but I believe it was only used this past week on the first public day, June 24th.

Black Spire Outpost and the Millennium Falcon still impress on a second look!!

We paid a return visit to Dok-Ondar's Den of Antiquities. Love the ceiling detail:

Disney tracked down the jeweler who made Princess Leia's necklace from the final Throne Room scene in the original STAR WARS (1977), and he still had the original mold. These replicas made from that mold sell for a cool $2000. (I'd love to know if they've actually sold any!)

We rode Smugglers Run for a third time. I was a Gunner tonight, so I've now experienced all three positions on the ride, the others being Pilot and Engineer. This is the "pre-show" room with Hondo Ohnaka:

It was great to see Disneyland President Josh D'Amaro spending his Friday evening out and about in Black Spire Outpost, chatting with Disneyland guests. As I wrote last month, he was also front and center interacting with guests on the land's opening day.

Love the "lived in" look of Black Spire Outpost.

It's a good thing I bought my own loth cat on opening day as Disney hasn't been able to keep them in stock! There were none in the "critter" store last night other than the one napping in this crate:

Our daughter had been online right at 7:00 a.m. to snag our 8:00 p.m. reservations at Oga's Cantina.

DJ R-3X, otherwise known as Rex. Honestly, when the STAR WARS (1977) cantina music started playing my eyes misted at the sheer awesomeness of the experience.

I'd just as soon Disney had stuck to their decades-long policy of no alcohol in the park, but that ship has clearly sailed. They do at least have strict controls over the quantity and location, and the cantina is family friendly, with children allowed inside and numerous non-alcoholic drinks (even a version of milk and cookies!). Thankfully it also doesn't smell too much like a bar.

The drinks went by funny names like (left to right) Imperial Guard, Fuzzy Tauntaun, Jabba Juice, and Jedi Mind Trick.

The entrance to Smugglers Run by night...

...and a nighttime shot of the Falcon.

The Marketplace is simply magical at night!

Although there's no music, watching Disneyland's fireworks from Batuu has become very popular.

Gorgeous! The perfect end to a very special evening.

For my complete coverage of Galaxy's Edge on Opening Day last May 31st, please visit this post and follow the links at the end of the post to read all of my four-part coverage.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

New Column Posted at Classic Movie Hub

My latest Western Roundup column was posted today at Classic Movie Hub.

My new post is about McCrea Ranch and my visit to the ranch's annual "Cowboy Cookout" fundraiser last month. It includes many photos of the beautiful ranch which was the longtime home of actors Joel McCrea and Frances Dee.

Please click over to Classic Movie Hub to see it, and thanks for reading!

Previous Classic Movie Hub Western Roundup Column Links: June 2018; July 2018; August 2018; September 2018; October 2018; November 2018; December 2018; January 2019; February 2019; April 5, 2019; April 30, 2019; May 2019.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Tonight's Movie: An Autumn Afternoon (1962)

In his 2011 review of Yasujiro Ozu's AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON (1962), Roger Ebert wrote "From time to time I return to Ozu feeling a need to be calmed and restored."

Over the last few years I've become familiar with that feeling, and when I felt the need for a cinematic "palate cleanser" after the sordidness of THE TARNISHED ANGELS (1957), Ozu was the first thing which popped into my head. I know any one of his movies will be peaceful and soothing, while simultaneously causing me to Think Big Thoughts about life, and watching AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON was really the perfect choice after the previous movie.

AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON, known in its native Japan as SANMA NO AJI, was sadly the director's last film; he died in 1963. It follows the pattern of a number of his earlier films, in which a parent (Chishu Ryu) must part with a beloved child (Shima Iwashita) when she marries.

Ozu's films are slow yet never dull, taking the viewer on a naturalistic journey through the characters' lives. A series of circumstances convinces the widowed Hirayama (Ryu) that it's in his daughter's best interest to marry so that she can have a home of her own and not spend the remainder of her life caring for him, ultimately to be left alone.

There is heartbreak -- a hoped-for match which is not to be, a father beginning life alone the night of the wedding -- but also comedy and great beauty. Some of Ozu's trademark static shots of signs and objects made me sigh with bliss, appreciating the bright pops of red against the pale backgrounds, and the first shot of Michiko in her wedding dress is exquisite.

Again like some of his previous films, Ozu uses an elliptical style which sometimes omits important moments. Just as EQUINOX FLOWER (1958), to name one example, skips the daughter's wedding, in AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON we never once see the bridegroom! I regretted him not appearing in a single scene, but it was an interesting choice.

I always love the baseball scenes in Ozu's movies, and there's a marvelous sequence where a game is being watched in a bar; I love the familiar rhythms of the game described in Japanese. Also fun was a rooftop driving range and Hirayama's son (Keiji Sada) being obsessed with MacGregor golf clubs.

I was intrigued by a discussion about what life would have been like if Japan had won the war, with Hirayama ultimately saying he thinks it's good Japan lost. Fascinating stuff.

There tends to be much drinking of sake in Ozu's films, but I felt that the drinking seemed to be rather overboard this time around, especially as Hirayama repeatedly runs into his old teacher (Eijiro Tono), who now runs a noodle shop and gets blitzed every time they get together. There were times I really wanted to take the bottle away from the fictional characters I was watching! But while they tend to drink much too much, it doesn't mar the film; I suppose it just makes them human.

Most importantly, the deceptively simple story causes the viewer to contemplate family, relationships, and the circle of life. While there are surface differences between life in the U.S. and Japan, starting with arranged marriages, the big issues of life are universal.

AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON runs 103 minutes. It was written by the director and Kogo Noda. The movie was filmed by Yuhara Atsuta.

I watched AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON on Criterion's DVD. The extras include a commentary track by Donald Bordwell.

Previously reviewed Ozu films: WHAT DID THE LADY FORGET? (1937), LATE SPRING (1949), EARLY SUMMER (1951), FLAVOR OF GREEN TEA OVER RICE (1952), TOKYO STORY (1953), EQUINOX FLOWER (1958), GOOD MORNING (1959), LATE AUTUMN (1960), and THE END OF SUMMER (1961).

Related review: IN SEARCH OF OZU (2018).

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Tarnished Angels (1957) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone, and Robert Stack star in Douglas Sirk's THE TARNISHED ANGELS (1957), available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

THE TARNISHED ANGELS was released as the spring classic film festival season was getting underway in Southern California, so I'm just now catching up with it. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is a beautiful widescreen print.

The film was a reunion for the three leads, who had all starred in Sirk's WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956) the previous year. Malone won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for WRITTEN ON THE WIND, while Stack was nominated as Best Supporting Actor.

In THE TARNISHED ANGELS Stack plays Roger Shumann, a WWI flying ace who is now living in "reduced circumstances." He's a barnstorming pilot performing stunts and racing at carnivals and air shows, with his wife LaVerne (Malone) performing parachute stunts. They're accompanied on the road by their little boy Jack (Chris Olsen) and airplane mechanic Jiggs (Jack Carson), who incidentally carries a torch for LaVerne.

Burke Devlin (Hudson), a reporter with a drinking problem, is interested in writing a story on the Shumanns and meets up with them in New Orleans. Over the course of a few days he becomes enmeshed in the Shumanns' complicated relationship, offering them a place to stay and helping them obtain a new plane after Roger survives a crash. Jiggs warns Roger the new plane can't be made airworthy in a short time frame, but Roger insists...

While Sirk's other '50s Hudson films, MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION (1954), ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, and WRITTEN ON THE WIND, were colorful romantic melodramas, THE TARNISHED ANGELS is distinctly different, a somber black-and-white Depression-era drama. (That said, other than the references to WWI a viewer could be forgiven for not realizing it's the Depression, as the wardrobes and hairstyles are completely anachronistic.) I loved the lush romance of MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION and especially ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, as the lead characters fall in love while also discovering what's really important in life.

I also very much enjoy WRITTEN ON THE WIND, in which the florid -- yet somehow still moving -- performances and garish Technicolor create an air of unreality which makes watching the problems of the wealthy entertaining in a DALLAS sort of way. The viewer feels for the characters, but at the same time is detached enough not to be brought down by their problems.

In contrast to those films, I wasn't taken with THE TARNISHED ANGELS. There's a certain genre of widely admired late '50s/early '60s widescreen black-and-white "serious dramas" which just don't work for me, and this was one of them. It held my attention but in the end it was simply sad, leaving me wondering "Why?"

There's not much character growth, other than LaVerne finally following her dream, and no romance. Roger and LaVerne seem to love each other deep down yet have a distant relationship, with Roger emotionally abusive at times, including the flashback scene in which he agrees to marry the pregnant LaVerne. He even basically expects her to prostitute herself for a new plane. As he admits in so many words, he's a junkie needing a fix, and he's willing to use his wife to get it. Ick.

I wouldn't class Burke's fleeting relationship with LaVerne as love, either, seeing as how a) he's a drunk and b) he's making moves on a married woman with a small child. Sure, he finds another way to get Roger his plane and save LaVerne from hooking up with Matt Ord (Robert Middleton), but whatever.

There's not a single truly sympathetic character in the film, nor are they especially interesting. I spent much of the movie pondering how completely messed up the Shumanns' son would be by the time he hit adulthood. It's all pretty tawdry and...tarnished. I was relieved when the 91 minutes came to an end, long after it should have.

I will say that I believe mine is a minority opinion on this movie, at least as it's come to be appreciated by many in recent years, and that sometimes films of this type go down better for me the second time around, when I know what to expect -- so I hold the door open to the possibility it's the kind of movie I may appreciate more on a second viewing.

If one sets aside the '50s hairstyles and clothes, the film does have a great look, shot by Irving Glassberg. The screenplay by George Zuckerman was based on the William Faulkner novel PYLON.

The supporting cast includes Troy Donahue, William Schallert, Alan Reed, and Alexander Lockwood.

As a footnote, Stack and Malone reunited a couple years later for the disaster film THE LAST VOYAGE (1960).

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray has a commentary track by Imogen Sara Smith, along with the trailer and four additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber. Fans of this film should be quite happy with the quality presentation from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

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