Wednesday, July 31, 2019

TCM in August: Summer Under the Stars Highlights

It's time for the annual Summer Under the Stars festival on Turner Classic Movies!

I find this year's Summer Under the Stars schedule especially exciting as there are a significant number of TCM premieres, including films from Paramount, Universal, 20th Century-Fox, and Columbia.

For a quick peek at the list of the 31 actors and actresses being celebrated on TCM this month, please click over to my May preview.

As usual, there is also a special microsite created by TCM, along with the online schedule.

Please note that TCM's usual features, including Noir Alley and Saturday morning "B" movies and serials, are not shown during August but will return in September.

I'm recommending one film for a majority of the days on the schedule. Click any hyperlinked title for my past review.

...Summer Under the Stars begins on August 1st with 24 hours of Henry Fonda films. I've seen a significant number of the day's titles and my favorite is unquestionably John Ford's YOUNG MR. LINCOLN (1939), a marvelous film which I feel has one of Fonda's best performances. There's a wonderful supporting cast, including future MAVERICK star Jack Kelly playing Richard Cromwell as a boy when he was about 12 years old. Kelly's older sister Nancy was a 20th Century-Fox star at the time and young Jack picked up roles in this film and THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL (1939), then left the screen for a decade, returning in young adult roles. Some fun trivia to go along with your Summer Under the Stars recommendations!

...Ruth Hussey beat out Ruth Roman in a TCM Backlot vote and thus will be honored on August 2nd. Again, I've seen a majority of films airing that day. It would be very easy to pick the superb THE UNINVITED (1944), but instead I'll recommend a film which is probably unfamiliar to many viewers, RICH MAN, POOR GIRL (1938). It's a straightforward, enjoyable 72-minute MGM programmer with a wonderful cast including Robert Young, Lana Turner, and Lew Ayres. Hussey is seen at her loveliest in this one.

...August 4th is Shirley Temple Day, with a wonderful lineup. While it's not the best film that day, I recommend SUSANNAH OF THE MOUNTIES (1939) because it's a 20th Century-Fox film which is a TCM premiere! Randolph Scott and the wonderful British actress Margaret Lockwood star with Shirley.

...There are three TCM premieres of Melvyn Douglas films on August 5th! One of the premieres is Paramount's I MET HIM IN PARIS (1937), a fun film costarring Claudette Colbert and Robert Young (seen at left). The other premieres are Paramount's MARY BURNS, FUGITIVE (1935) and THERE'S THAT WOMAN AGAIN (1938) from Columbia Pictures.

...It's Lena Horne Day on August 6th. The schedule is filled with MGM musicals including Vincente Minnelli's wonderful CABIN IN THE SKY (1943), costarring Ethel Waters and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson.

...August 7th is a day for one of the greatest movie stars of all time, James Stewart. There are many excellent titles on the schedule, so I'll recommend one I just saw for the first time earlier this year, THE MORTAL STORM (1940). Margaret Sullavan and Robert Young costar.

...August 8th is filled with the films of Ava Gardner. I'm quite partial to THE BRIBE (1949), which has a dazzling cast including Robert Taylor, John Hodiak, Vincent Price, and Charles Laughton. Watch for the fireworks finale!

...On August 9th, my pick from the day's Red Skelton films is NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER (1949), an MGM film which is "movie comfort food" at its best; indeed, it's such a favorite that several years ago it was the first film I watched when recovering from some surgery. Esther Williams, Ricardo Montalban, and Betty Garrett also star, along with the Oscar-winning song "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

...Natalie Wood Day on August 10th focuses mainly on the "adult" phase of her career. One of the best of those titles is LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER (1963), in which she and one-night stand date Steve McQueen deal with unexpected pregnancy. (Important Update: At some point after the initial version of the schedule appeared online the lineup was changed from Natalie Wood to Rita Moreno for this date. So I will instead recommend a film starring both actresses being shown on this date, WEST SIDE STORY!)

...I really enjoyed Humphrey Bogart and Raymond Massey in ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC (1943) earlier this year. It's showing as part of a day of Humphrey Bogart films on August 11th.

...Ann Sothern's films on August 12th include a little-known gem, WALKING ON AIR (1936), which I highly recommend. It's a charming romantic comedy/musical costarring Gene Raymond -- and fabulous Art Deco sets. This is definitely one to seek out.

...Only on TCM will viewers find programming such as 24 hours of Brian Donlevy films! A wonderful lineup on August 13th includes some excellent films, including his famous Oscar-nominated villain in BEAU GESTE (1939), but on this date I particularly recommend the crime film IMPACT (1949). Ella Raines, Helen Walker, and Charles Coburn also star, and there are some marvelous San Francisco locations.

...Another of the very best days on the schedule is August 16th, featuring the films of Irene Dunne. The movies showcase every aspect of her talent, including musicals, dramas, and comedies. There are two TCM premieres, Universal's HIGH, WIDE AND HANDSOME (1937) and WHEN TOMORROW COMES (1939). I've seen most of the films on the schedule, and this would be a great day to take off and watch TCM 'round the clock! A lesser-known film on the schedule which is quite good is the WWII comedy OVER 21 (1945), in which Dunne copes with her newspaper editor husband serving in the military during WWWII.

...It's Errol Flynn Day on August 17th, and I will pretty much always recommend THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), because I don't think it's possible to ever see this gem too many times! Classic era filmmaking at its very finest, utter perfection.

...Buster Keaton is celebrated on the 19th. I was blown away by his physicality when I finally caught up with THE GENERAL (1926) a couple years ago! There are some amazingly well-crafted set pieces.

...On August 20th TCM premieres the 20th Century-Fox film MOTHER DIDN'T TELL ME (1950) as part of a day of Dorothy McGuire films. This story of a doctor and his bride has its weaknesses, but it's a pleasure to spend time with McGuire and William Lundigan as her husband, and I want to be sure to point out some of the films which are new to TCM this month.

...It's Joel McCrea Day on August 21st! He beat out another wonderful actor, Robert Ryan, in TCM Backlot voting. The day is filled with gems, and I recommend WICHITA (1955), a Western which might be less familiar than some of his better-known movies. He's wonderful as Wyatt Earp. I wrote a little more about the movie for Classic Movie Hub last year.

...A day of films featuring Leila Hyams on August 22nd includes the very "pre-Code" RED-HEADED WOMAN (1932), with Jean Harlow and Chester Morris top billed.

...It's Fred Astaire Day on August 23rd. I've seen every film many times and you can't go wrong with any of them, but if pressed I would choose YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER (1942) as my recommendation, because this film costarring Rita Hayworth is one of my all-time favorite films.

...August 26th is Mary Astor Day, featuring a variety of films. I especially enjoyed her in the pre-Code SMART WOMAN (1932), as she copes with her husband falling for a gold-digger. She cleverly manages to win him back by pretending not to care and playing hard to get.

...TCM usually sets a day or two of Summer Under the Stars month aside for character actors, and so Walter Brennan's films will be featured on the 27th. There are many great films, including RIO BRAVO (1959), one of my favorite Westerns; I'll make not one but two recommendations of lesser-known films. The first is the 20th Century-Fox film HOME IN INDIANA (1944), charming Americana which also stars Lon McCallister, Jeanne Crain, June Haver, Charlotte Greenwood, and Ward Bond. The second film is the marvelous "noirish Western" BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948), which isn't nearly as well known as it ought to be -- and why isn't this terrific film, directed by Robert Wise, available from the Warner Archive, yet it's out on DVD in Europe? Robert Mitchum, Barbara Bel Geddes, and Robert Preston also star. Brennan has a fantastic line, "I always wanted to shoot one of you, and he was the handiest."

...Again, I've seen most of the titles on June Allyson's special day on August 28th, and it's a marvelous day of MGM entertainment. You can never go wrong with GOOD NEWS (1947), a delightful musical costarring Peter Lawford. (Side note, TCM is showing Allyson's 1949 version of LITTLE WOMEN on this date, with the 1933 version of the movie the next day as part of the films of Paul Lukas.)

...Paul Lukas Day on August 29th includes Jacques Tourneur's marvelous "gothic noir" EXPERIMENT PERILOUS (1944), also starring Hedy Lamarr and George Brent. It's a richly detailed, stylish film which I very much recommend.

...Another fantastic TCM premiere on August 30th is HOUSE OF STRANGERS (1949) from 20th Century-Fox. It's shown as part of Susan Hayward's day on the schedule. Richard Conte, Edward G. Robinson, and Debra Paget costar.

...The month comes to an end on the 31st with a day of films starring Kirk Douglas, including THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS (1946), also starring Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, and Lizabeth Scott.

For more on TCM in August 2019, please check out the complete schedule, the TCM microsite, and my Quick Preview of TCM in August: Summer Under the Stars. Additionally, check out TCM's promotional video.

Happy Summer Under the Stars Month!

Monday, July 29, 2019

A Visit to Valley Oaks Memorial Park

Last May we took a break from our drive up to McCrea Ranch and stopped to visit Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village.

It was particularly special for me to visit the gravesite of a favorite actress, Virginia Mayo.

Virginia is buried next to her husband, actor Michael O'Shea, whom she outlived by over three decades.

I was also very moved to visit the final resting place of singer Karen Carpenter. Karen was originally laid to rest at Forest Lawn in Cypress, but her family moved her to this small mausoleum at Valley Oaks in 2003.

There are a number of other greats from film and music at Valley Oaks, including Artie Shaw:

Singing cowboy star Eddie Dean:

Actress Ruth Hussey, another favorite of mine:

Actor Rafael Campos (BLACKBOARD JUNGLE):

Hanna Barbera theme composer Hoyt Curtin:

Oscar-winning composer Joel Hirschhorn, who cowrote "Candle on the Water" from Disney's PETE'S DRAGON (1977), a song which was a school chorus staple in the late '70s.

Marvel Comics great Jack Kirby, creator of many famous characters, including beloved superhero Captain America, co-created with Joe Simon:

Bill Severn was one of a family of child actors; his best-known performance was as Peter in MGM's JOURNEY FOR MARGARET (1942). He was later a Christian evangelist.

Bill's brother Clifford is there too, along with other family members. For the many readers who've seen MGM's A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938), Clifford is the boy Scrooge (Reginald Owen) asks to buy the Christmas turkey near the end of the film.

It's been my pleasure to meet several members of the Severn Family in years past at events at UCLA and the Egyptian Theatre, so it was a particular honor to pause and pay my respects at Valley Oaks.

Additional photo posts on the final resting places of historic Hollywood figures: A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale, Part 1, A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale, Part 2, A Visit to the Forest Lawn Museum, A Visit to Hollywood Forever Cemetery (2014), A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Musicians, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Comedians, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Actors, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - Writers, Directors, and More, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 1, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 2, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 3, A Visit to Desert Memorial Park, Los Angeles National Cemetery, A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 1, A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 2, A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 3, A Visit to Forest Lawn Cathedral City, A Visit to Oakwood Memorial Park, A Visit to Hillside Memorial Park, Part 1, A Visit to Hillside Memorial Park, Part 2, A Visit to Hollywood Forever Cemetery (2019), and A Visit to Woodlawn Cemetery.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Boss Rider of Gun Creek (1936)

Time to watch a Buck Jones Western! This time around I caught him starring in THE BOSS RIDER OF GUN CREEK (1936).

In this 60-minute Western Buck plays a dual role. Good guy Larry Day is a rodeo rider who's accused of a murder which was actually committed by lookalike Gary Elliott.

When Larry is convicted, a friend (Harvey Clark) and the sympathetic sheriff (Tom Chatterton) let Larry go, knowing there's no way he committed a murder.

Larry's plan is to trade places with Gary in order to solve the crime. It works so well that a posse chasing Larry guns down Gary, the actual murderer; that moment is actually just a bit shocking.

From this point things get a little murky, with Larry pretending to be an amnesia victim after he saves pretty Starr Landerson (Muriel Evans) from a runaway horse. Larry discovers Gary had lent Starr money on her cattle, which then disappeared. He also learns there's a gold mine on her property!

While the first half of the film is fairly exciting, I found the second half a bit too sluggish and confusing. It has its strengths, including a spunky performance by Evans, but overall I rank it as a lesser Jones Western.

Lesley Selander directed from a script by Frances Guihan, based on a story by E.B. Mann. The movie was filmed by Herbert Kirkpatrick and Allen Thompson. Location shooting took place near Kernville, California.

THE BOSS RIDER OF GUN CREEK has recently been shown on the Encore Westerns Channel.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

A Visit to Woodlawn Cemetery

Last May we paid a visit to Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica, which is the final resting place of a number of well-known actors.

Glenn Ford is in the Woodlawn mausoleum:

Nearby is Hal Smith, who was the voice of Owl in THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH (1977). Smith had a lengthy career as a voice actor and was also known for his work in episodic television, including playing Otis on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. The cemetery has posted photos of a few well-known actors to guide visitors.

George Bancroft (STAGECOACH):

Character actor Lynne Overman:

William Bishop:

Barbara Billingsley's gravestone mentions her famous role on TV's LEAVE IT TO BEAVER:

Other well-known television actors buried at Woodlawn are Ted Bessell of THAT GIRL...

...and Doug McClure of THE VIRGINIAN:

Cathy Downs of MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946):

Paul Henreid (CASABLANCA) and his wife:

Actor Leo Carrillo, who also served on the California Beach and Parks Commission, where he helped the state acquire Hearst Castle and other significant landmarks.

On the same day we made a brief stop at Los Angeles National Cemetery in Westwood a short drive away and paid our respects at the grave of actor Jack Holt, father of Tim and Jennifer Holt:

We had previously visited the cemetery briefly in February.

Coming soon: A visit to Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village.

Additional photo posts on the final resting places of historic Hollywood figures: A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale, Part 1, A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale, Part 2, A Visit to the Forest Lawn Museum, A Visit to Hollywood Forever Cemetery (2014), A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Musicians, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Comedians, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Actors, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - Writers, Directors, and More, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 1, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 2, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 3, A Visit to Desert Memorial Park, Los Angeles National Cemetery, A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 1, A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 2, A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 3, A Visit to Forest Lawn Cathedral City, A Visit to Oakwood Memorial Park, A Visit to Hillside Memorial Park, Part 1, A Visit to Hillside Memorial Park, Part 2, and A Visit to Hollywood Forever Cemetery (2019).

Friday, July 26, 2019

Summertime in Hollywood: 2019 Edition

It's time for a new collection of Summertime in Hollywood photos!

Click on any photo to enlarge it for a closer look.

Alexis Smith:

Virginia Grey:

Joan Bennett:

Ann Rutherford:

Debbie Reynolds:

Adele Jergens:

Anita Louise:

Ginger Rogers:

Ellen Drew:

Dolores Moran:

Shirley Temple:

For more great Summertime in Hollywood photos please check out the links below!

Black and white summertime photos: Summertime in Hollywood (August 22, 2013), More Summertime in Hollywood (August 29, 2013), Summertime in Hollywood (June 25, 2014), Summertime in Hollywood (July 9, 2015), Summertime in Hollywood - 2017 Edition (July 7, 2017).

Color summertime photos: Summertime in Hollywood - The Color Edition (August 28, 2015) and Summertime in Hollywood - The Color Edition Vol. II (August 2, 2017).

Update: Summertime in Hollywood - The Color Edition Vol. III (August 8, 2020); Summertime in Hollywood: 2020 Edition (September 1, 2020).

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A Dozen Lesser-Known Western and Noir Classics

Everyone loves familiar classic movies starring beloved stars, whether it's Bogart, Stanwyck, Gable, or Davis.

That said, one of the great pleasures of being a classic film fan is coming across an unfamiliar film which leaves the viewer exclaiming 'Good movie!' as it draws to a close.

Such films may not be perfect, but they can deliver a great deal of entertainment value with memorable moments.

What follows is a list of 12 lesser-known film noir and Western titles -- half a dozen apiece -- which I've particularly enjoyed in the last few years. Please click any title link to read a more extended review.

THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY (David Howard, 1939) - This 62-minute film is a gem of a 'B' Western, with original characters and creative staging. I can't get enough of sunny, handsome George O'Brien's Westerns, but this was my favorite. O'Brien is teamed with the charming Virginia Vale, his costar in half a dozen films. A young Henry Brandon, later known for his role as Chief Scar in THE SEARCHERS (1956), plays a hired gun, continually demolishing audience expectations. The final smoky shootout is a masterpiece of economical yet dramatic staging.

TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE (Anthony Mann, 1945) - This fast-paced charmer, a remake of TWO IN THE DARK (1936), stars Tom Conway as an amnesiac who stumbles in front of a taxicab driven by Patti (Ann Rutherford). The pair spends the evening unraveling the man's lost identity and solving his possible connection to a murder. Conway and Rutherford are appealing and have a nice camaraderie, with a supporting cast including Jane Greer, Jean Brooks, and Richard Lane. Fast-paced and engaging fun from early in the career of director Anthony Mann, who would soon go on to direct many film noir and Western classics.

THE DARK CORNER (Henry Hathaway, 1946) - Mark Stevens plays P.I. Bradford Galt, an ex-con, with Lucille Ball costarring as his Gal Friday. Reed Hadley is the police lieutenant keeping tabs on Galt. Who is the mysterious man tailing Brad, and who framed him for murder? The film is a piece of noir bliss, with great dialogue and sensational shadowy black and white cinematography by Joe McDonald. The film also has a terrific musical soundtrack, including Alfred Newman's "Street Scene" over the opening credits and Harry Warren's "The More I See You" and "There Will Never Be Another You" as background music. Clifton Webb, William Bendix, and Cathy Downs costar.

BLACK ANGEL (Roy William Neill, 1946) - This is one of a couple key films which caused me to become a big fan of Dan Duryea. He's heartbreaking as Marty Blair, an alcoholic whose scheming wife is strangled. After Kirk Bennett (John Phillips) is arrested for the murder, Marty teams with Kirk's loyal wife Cathy (June Vincent) to find the real murderer and save Kirk from the electric chair. Marty and Cathy get jobs as a pianist and singer at a nightclub in order to further their investigation. Marty sobers up and glimpses the tantalizing possibility of a normal life with a good woman; the longing he conveys for Cathy is palpable and quite romantic, while Vincent is a fresh screen presence, believable and appealing. This moving film, which has superb cinematography by Paul Ivano, deserves to be better known.

RIFFRAFF (Ted Tetzlaff, 1947) - This movie starts off with a crackerjack opening sequence; without any dialogue, two men get on a plane during a thunderstorm in Peru, but only one gets off in Panama! The man who gets off goes to local P.I. and "fixer" Dan Hammer (Pat O'Brien); Hammer soon finds himself tangled up with a pretty nightclub singer (Anne Jeffreys), working to solve his new client's murder. The film has its dark moments but it also has a delicious sense of humor, such as Hammer putting out food for his dog and ordering him not to eat it until 6:00 p.m. Percy Kilbride adds to the fun as a laconic cab driver serving as Hammer's right-hand man.

PANHANDLE (Lesley Selander, 1948) - A terrific Rod Cameron Western, co-written and co-produced by 25-year-old Blake Edwards. (Edwards also has a flashy role as a hired gun, one of his last roles in front of a camera.) The storyline zigs when you expect it to zag, and it has some excellent dialogue. There's also a memorably brutal fistfight and a very original gun battle in the rain at dusk. Cathy Downs, Reed Hadley, and Anne Gwynne costar.

COVER UP (Alfred E. Green, 1949) - A highly enjoyable cozy Christmastime mystery with an excellent script co-written by star Dennis O'Keefe. O'Keefe plays an insurance investigator traveling to a small town to investigate the apparent suicide of the most unpopular man there. The sheriff (William Bendix) doesn't offer much help, nor does anyone else, but at least he finds romance with lovely Anita (Barbara Britton). I love everything about this film; my only wish is that it had been a little longer!

MAN BAIT (Terence Fisher, 1952) - I've come to love '50s British-made crime films with American stars, many of which were co-productions of two UK and U.S. companies, Hammer and Lippert; MAN BAIT is a great example. George Brent and Marguerite Chapman play Americans who remain in London after WWII to run a cozy bookshop. Diana Dors plays a petulant employee who involves Brent in murder. There are many more fun titles along these lines starring the likes of Zachary Scott, Dan Duryea, Cesar Romero, and Dane Clark.

THE DUEL AT SILVER CREEK (Don Siegel, 1952) - This film was highly enjoyable simply as a "darn good Western," an example of the '50s Technicolor Universal Western at its most entertaining. Stephen McNally plays a sheriff who decides the best way to avoid trouble with a fast-drawing young gambler (Audie Murphy) is to hire him on as deputy. The sheriff mentors the younger man, yet it's the "kid" who is often the wiser man of the pair. Murphy shows his continuing development into a fine actor with some great timing and line readings early in his career, with Susan Cabot and Faith Domergue co-starring.

RIDE CLEAR OF DIABLO (Jesse Hibbs, 1954) - Ride Clear of Diablo is one of my favorite Westerns seen in the last few years. The heart of the film is the curious relationship between an upright young deputy (Audie Murphy) and a notorious gunslinger (Dan Duryea) who can't quite believe the fast-drawing, upright deputy is for real; their interplay is terrific. Susan Cabot again costars.

DAWN AT SOCORRO (George Sherman, 1954) - A moody, atmospheric spin on Doc Holliday (Rory Calhoun) and Wyatt Earp (James Millican). The opening OK Corral sequence is just the start of the action in George Zuckerman's excellent screenplay. Piper Laurie costars as a young woman running out of survival options after being tossed out by her father. It's great to see Millican, a wonderful actor who left us too soon, in a leading role in the first part of the film.

THE QUIET GUN (William F. Claxton, 1957) - Forrest Tucker gives a wonderful performance as an upright sheriff coping with town politics, the return of an old love (Kathleen Crowley), and a friend (Jim Davis) in trouble. Tucker's performance warrants close attention, as so much of his character's feelings are expressed without words. Mara Corday and Lee Van Cleef costar. THE QUIET GUN is a very good-looking Western which was a nice surprise.

This post is adapted from an article originally published by ClassicFlix in 2015.

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