Friday, January 31, 2020

TCM in February: 31 Days of Oscar Highlights

It's time to look at the February schedule for Turner Classic Movies!

As is always the case in February, TCM will be celebrating 31 Days of Oscar this month. Thanks to Leap Day, 31 Days of Oscar runs through March 2nd this year, rather than March 3rd.

This year's schedule is titled "360 Degrees of Oscar." Each film on the schedule is connected to the film which follows by one of the cast members.

Here are a few of the highlights from among the many great films airing this month. Please click any hyperlinked title for my full review.

...William Wyler's classic WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939) is one of the first couple of films on the February 1st schedule. It stars Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon (seen at right), along with Geraldine Fitzgerald and David Niven.

...February 2nd is a particularly good day on the schedule. Among the many pleasures is HOLD BACK THE DAWN (1941) starring Olivia de Havilland and Charles Boyer, directed by Mitchell Leisen. This movie was hard to see for many years -- indeed, I first reviewed in nearly a decade ago after watching it on YouTube! -- so it's a great pleasure to have this film so readily available now. For anyone who can't catch it on TCM, last year Arrow Academy released a beautiful Blu-ray.

...NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER (1949) is a real "feel good" movie for me. Esther Williams, Ricardo Montalban, Betty Garrett, and Red Skelton star on February 3rd. The song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" debuted in this movie.

...Along with WUTHERING HEIGHTS, I have fond memories of watching Bob Hope and Virginia Mayo in THE PRINCESS AND THE PIRATE (1944) on KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles when I was growing up. (Ch. 5 had the rights to show the Goldwyn library!) It's being shown on the 4th.

...I loved seeing A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935) at the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival. It's the only film to have a winner who was a write-in candidate! (That would be Hal Mohr for Best Cinematography.) The movie features an all-star Warner Bros. cast which includes Dick Powell, Olivia de Havilland, James Cagney, and Anita Louise, to name just a few. It's on February 5th.

...Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker star in ABOVE AND BEYOND (1952) on February 6th. It's an excellent film about the Enola Gay and the atomic bomb which should be better known.

...The classic musical SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) airs on February 7th. Looking back, it's hard to believe Jean Hagen didn't win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. (It went to Gloria Grahame for THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.) Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O'Connor top a perfect cast.

...A top cast stars in William Wellman's BATTLEGROUND (1949) on February 9th. This film about the siege of Bastogne also features superb Oscar-winning cinematography. The cast includes Van Johnson, Ricardo Montalban, John Hodiak, George Murphy, Marshall Thompson, and James Whitmore.

...The classic Western STAGECOACH (1939) airs on February 10th, with John Wayne and Claire Trevor leading a marvelous cast, directed by John Ford.

...The aforementioned THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952) will be shown February 11th. I just saw this tale of Hollywood filmmakers for the first time in several years and thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it. Vincente Minnelli directs a terrific cast including Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Dick Powell, Walter Pidgeon, Barry Sullivan, and Gilbert Roland.

...Pier Angeli stars as an Italian war bride in TERESA (1951), airing February 12th. It's not a perfect film, but Angeli is marvelous, and there are some very beautiful moments which have stuck in my mind since seeing it; for those reasons I recommend giving it a look. Fred Zinnemann directed.

...On February 13th TCM shows WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951), a tremendously fun sci-fi fantasy. I had the chance to see it at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival with star Barbara Rush in attendance!

...WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956) is one of my favorite films directed by Douglas Sirk. It's a highly colorful (in more ways than one!) melodrama starring Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Malone, and Robert Stack. It will be shown February 15th.

...Deanna Durbin became a huge star in THREE SMART GIRLS (1936), a delightful film showing on February 16th.

...February 17th is an amazing day of musicals, the kind of day where it would be easy to watch the entire schedule! The many gems include Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier in ONE HOUR WITH YOU (1932).

...It's great to see the charming comedy-fantasy IT HAPPENED TOMORROW (1944) on the February 19th schedule. Dick Powell and Linda Darnell star, directed by Rene Clair. It's a treat.

...I hadn't seen the comedy MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940) in years and had a wonderful experience seeing Cary Grant's daughter Jennifer introduce it at last year's TCM Classic Film Festival. She also stayed and watched it with us! Besides Grant, the great cast includes Irene Dunne, Randolph Scott, and Gail Patrick. It will be shown February 20th.

...DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK (1939) was one of the films I saw most often on TV when I was growing up. I'm due to revisit it! Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert star in this Revolutionary War era story, directed by John Ford and filmed in gorgeous Technicolor by Ray Rennahan and Bert Glennon. The air date is February 21st.

...February 22nd one of my very favorite movies will be shown, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954). I never tire of the delightful cast, the songs, and especially the amazing dancing! Howard Keel and Jane Powell star, directed by Stanley Donen and choreographed by Michael Kidd.

...THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY-SOXER (1947) was another film seen at last year's TCM Classic Film Festival -- in 35mm nitrate! What a joy to laugh at the antics of Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, and Rudy Vallee with a packed crowd. It's on TCM February 23rd.

...When I saw THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (1967) for the first time at UCLA a few years ago, I felt a real sense of discovery. This candy-colored musical is pure joy. Catherine Deneuve, her real-life sister Francoise Dorleac, George Chakiris, and Gene Kelly are among the cast. Check it out on TCM on February 24th.

...Norma Shearer, Chester Morris, and Robert Montgomery star in the very entertaining pre-Code melodrama THE DIVORCEE (1930) on February 25th.

...February 26th is another particularly excellent day on the schedule. I just rewatched Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in SWING TIME (1936) last November for the first time in a few years, and I was particularly blown away by their spectacularly good number "Never Gonna Dance." Don't miss this one.

...KISS OF DEATH (1947) is a huge favorite starring Victor Mature and Coleen Gray, seen at right, and it made a star out of Richard Widmark. Don't miss it on February 27th.

...I most recently saw A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949) a little over a year ago, in 35mm nitrate. What a great movie! I especially love the performances of Linda Darnell and Paul Douglas. Jeanne Crain, Kirk Douglas, Ann Sothern, Jeffrey Lynn, and Thelma Ritter costar. It's on March 1st.

...It's been over a dozen years since I reviewed the Korean War drama I WANT YOU (1951) starring Dana Andrews and Dorothy McGuire. It's shown infrequently on TCM, so be sure to take advantage of the chance to see it on March 2nd. (And while you're at it, don't miss the next movie in the lineup, LAURA.)

For more information on TCM in February 2020, please visit my post Quick Preview of TCM in February, as well as TCM's online schedule and this year's 31 Days of Oscar TCM microsite.

For those who are interested, this year's Academy Awards ceremony is earlier in the year than usual, airing on February 9th.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Classic Movie Hub: Hidden Gems

My newest Western Roundup column has just been posted at Classic Movie Hub!

This month I look at three "Hidden Gems," the lesser-known but excellent films PANHANDLE (1948), THE DESPERADO (1954), and MAN OR GUN (1958).

Please click over to Classic Movie Hub to read it, and thanks, as always, for checking it out!

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; June 2019; July 2019; August 2019; September 2019; October 2019; November 2019; December 2019.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A Birthday Tribute to Victor Mature

Note: Victor Mature, a longtime favorite actor, was born on January 29th, 1913.

I paid tribute to Mature here several years ago, on the centennial of his birth.

This year's birthday tribute is adapted from my 2014 article on the actor for ClassicFlix. The focus is on nine recommended Victor Mature films which are all available on DVD. Click any hyperlinked title below to read a full review.

There's an oft-repeated anecdote about Victor Mature, whose application for membership in a fancy country club was turned down because he was a member of the lowly acting profession. Mature is reported to have said something along the lines of "I'm no actor, and I've got the films to prove it!"

Whether apocryphal or not, the quote embodies Mature's lighthearted approach to his life and career, and it also belies the fact that he was, in fact, a hardworking man and a very fine actor indeed. Mature's understated style has worn well over the years; he could express volumes of emotion with his eyes alone. Mature starred in every type of film, including film noir, Westerns, Biblical epics, and even a number of musicals, creating an impressive body of work which has stood the test of time.

Victor Mature was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 29, 1913. He dropped out of school at 14 and worked a succession of jobs before his interest in acting lured him to Hollywood in 1935.

Mature's biographer, James McKay, recounted that once Mature arrived in Hollywood he wired his father to say "Am in Hollywood, have eleven cents, what can I do?" to which his father replied, "When I arrived in this country I had six cents in my pocket and couldn't speak English. Good luck."

Mature promptly auditioned at the Pasadena Playhouse, making enough of an impression there that he was offered the chance to do odd jobs for the Playhouse to pay his tuition. He also took on a succession of other jobs, before winning a scholarship for the Playhouse in 1937. He appeared in over 60 plays, which provided a firm ground for his film career when he was signed by Hal Roach as the '30s drew to a close. His early movies included playing a caveman in ONE MILLION B.C. (1940) and starring opposite British actress Anna Neagle in NO, NO NANETTE (1940).

Mature then convinced Roach it would boost his career if he worked on the New York stage, and he was promptly cast as movie star Randy Curtis in the Gertrude Lawrence Broadway musical LADY IN THE DARK. He then returned to Hollywood where he starred with Betty Grable in an early entry in the film noir genre, I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941); he also costarred in several musicals with fast-rising stars, including the aforementioned Grable and Rita Hayworth.

As was the case for many actors of his era, Mature's career ascent was interrupted by WWII, and he served in the United States Coast Guard from 1942 to 1945. He then returned to his film career, giving one of his best performances in one of his finest films, playing Doc Holliday in John Ford's MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946).

Mature followed MY DARLING CLEMENTINE with another great film, KISS OF DEATH (1947), seen here with Coleen Gray; Mature plays an ex-convict whose attempt to go straight is complicated by mobster Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark). KISS OF DEATH was followed by another outstanding film noir, CRY OF THE CITY (1948).

Mature's diverse career included starring in a number of historical epics, including SAMSON AND DELILAH (1949), THE ROBE (1953), DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS (1954), and THE EGYPTIAN (1954). These big-budget films were interspersed with lighter fare such as WABASH AVENUE (1950) with Betty Grable and MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID (1952) with Esther Williams. He also starred in numerous Westerns, including FURY AT FURNACE CREEK (1948), CHIEF CRAZY HORSE (1955), and THE LAST FRONTIER (1955).

Mature was smart with his money, and by his own choice worked infrequently after the '60s. He enjoyed relaxing on the golf course and became a father for the first time in his early 60s.

Victor Mature passed away in Rancho Sante Fe, California, on August 4, 1999. He was 86 years old.

An excellent book was published on Victor Mature's life and career, THE FILMS OF VICTOR MATURE by James McKay.

Here are some personal favorites of mine among Victor Mature's many films which can be enjoyed on DVD:

I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941) - This early noir is a particular favorite, as Mature teams with Betty Grable to solve the murder of her screen sister, Carole Landis. It's evocatively scored with Alfred Newman's "Street Scene," which also turns up in Mature's KISS OF DEATH and CRY OF THE CITY; the song "Over the Rainbow" is also used, curious as it came from a movie released by another studio! Stylishly filmed in black and white, this is a treat from start to finish.

MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) - There's probably little that needs to be said about this Western classic directed by John Ford, a film that is pure visual poetry. Mature plays Doc Holliday opposite Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp, with an amazing supporting cast including Linda Darnell, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, John Ireland, Tim Holt, and Cathy Downs.

KISS OF DEATH (1947) - KISS OF DEATH is justly remembered for Richard Widmark's electric, Oscar-nominated film debut as the cackling gangster Tommy Udo, yet the film wouldn't work nearly as well as it does without the heartfelt and sensitive performances of Victor Mature and Coleen Gray as an ex-con and his bride. Mature's quietly played role is the perfect counterpoint to Widmark's flashy performance; the contrasting dynamic is a part of what makes Widmark so effective. An all-time great film noir.

CRY OF THE CITY (1948) - This might be my favorite Victor Mature performance; he plays Lt. Candella, who's on the trail of a cop killer (Richard Conte) from the old neighborhood. Just looking at Mature's soulful eyes evokes a wealth of emotion in the viewer, and I love his delivery of lines such as "The law doesn't want you, Teena Riconti. Go home." Mature is seen here with costar Shelley Winters; Debra Paget also stars. Don't miss it.

EASY LIVING (1949) - This underrated sports drama was a real discovery for me, with Mature starring as a pro football player whose career is at the end of the line. Jacques Tourneur directed a deep cast including Lloyd Nolan, Lucille Ball, Sonny Tufts, Paul Stewart, Jack Paar, and Lizabeth Scott; Mature's off-screen best friend, Jim Backus, makes an impression in a small role as a doctor. Although some of the issues surrounding Mature's marriage may jar the modern viewer, the rest of the film has a very undated feel. A rich viewing experience fans of Mature shouldn't miss.

THE LAS VEGAS STORY (1952) - Victor Mature, Jane Russell, Vincent Price, and Hoagy Carmichael on location in Vegas, with fabulous sets, lots of neon, and an amazing helicopter chase -- what's not to like? This film is just plain fun. One might quibble a bit over various aspects of the story, but Mature and Russell look great and are a wonderful screen team. This is the kind of movie to start playing on a lazy weekend afternoon and simply enjoy its company.

THE LAST FRONTIER (1955) - Mature stars an exuberant wild child of the West, a frontiersman who has trouble conforming to the rules of "civilized" society in this Anthony Mann Western. Mature's frontiersman lays claim to Corrina (Anne Bancroft) as his woman, despite (or because of?) the fact she's married to a martinet Army colonel (Robert Preston), then clashes with the colonel on how to handle an Indian uprising. James Whitmore, who plays the grizzled mountain man who raised Jed, was actually several years younger than Mature!

THE LONG HAUL (1957) - Like many other American actors, Mature worked in England in the '50s. THE LONG HAUL is a gritty trucking movie where Mature plays an ex-G.I. whose British wife (Gene Anderson) is reluctant to move to the U.S. He agrees to take a job driving for her uncle and soon finds his life spinning out of control as he becomes mixed up with hijackers and a gorgeous blonde (Diana Dors, seen here with Mature).

ESCORT WEST (1958) - This cozy Western produced by John Wayne's Batjac Productions is an unsung pleasure, with Mature in a very likeable performance as Ben, a widowed former Confederate officer heading to Oregon Territory with his young daughter (Reba Waters). Along the way, Ben rescues the survivors of a wagon train ambush, ultimately fighting both Indians and renegade soldiers. Faith Domergue and Elaine Stewart are among the wagon train survivors, and the supporting cast includes Western favorites such as Noah Beery Jr., Harry Carey Jr., Ken Curtis, and Leo Gordon, who co-wrote the script. Good Western, good company.

This post is adapted from an article originally published by ClassicFlix in 2014.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Man Who Never Was (1956)

THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS (1956) is an excellent fact-based World War II spy thriller.

I've been meaning to catch this one for some time, as it's one of my mother's favorite movies, yet somehow I'd never seen it myself. It did not disappoint.

THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS tells the story of Operation Mincemeat, an elaborate ruse designed by the British to draw the Nazis away from Sicily before the Allied invasion, in the hope of lessening casualties. Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu (Clifton Webb) and Lt. George Acres (Robert Flemyng) concoct a plan to obtain a dead body and give it a fictional persona, Captain (Acting Major) William Martin.

They plant letters in a briefcase carried by Martin indicating that the Allies' move toward Sicily is a feint and that the real action will be an invasion of Greece and Sardinia. A submarine then releases the body near the coast of Spain, making it appear it was in a plane which was shot down; when the body washes ashore the Spanish authorities return Martin's effects to the British -- but forensic study determines that the letters were opened before they were returned, which surely means copies are in the hands of the Nazis.

The Nazis indeed have the copies but are suspicious about whether Martin and the letters are legitimate. A Nazi spy (Stephen Boyd) posing as an Irishman is sent to London to make inquiries and visit places suggested by various documents and bills on the body.

A bank manager (John Welsh) handles the spy's phone call with aplomb, having his secretary take notes and even having it traced. There might be a glitch, however, as Lucy (Gloria Grahame), the roommate of Montagu's secretary (Josephine Griffin), had helped compose a love letter planted on the corpse; Lucy has no idea what's going on and might unknowingly give the game away when the spy pays her a visit.

This was a simply top-notch "spy procedural." It had some of the elements I liked in the opening scenes of the recently viewed OPERATION CROSSBOW (1965), with a plan being devised and executed, but while I thought OPERATION CROSSBOW fell apart in its violent second half, THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS sustains an excellent story from start to finish.

There are lovely touches throughout, from the poem quoted at the opening and closing of the film to the moment where the submarine officers, though in dangerous waters, pause long enough to pray over the body before sending it into the sea. The conclusion, as Montague suddenly realizes with clarity what his team must do -- or not do -- to avoid tipping off the spy that they're on to him is brilliant.

Webb is superb as Montagu; he's humorous enough to dub the plan Operation Mincemeat, but he also shows great sensitivity dealing with the father (Moultrie Kelsall) of the young man who has died of pneumonia and is thus perfect to simulate a drowning victim. (This part deviates from what I've read about the real operation, but the majority of the film seems accurate.) Webb is onscreen for a majority of the film and, along with the fascinating story, is a big part of the reason the movie is so engaging.

Grahame is quite good as the beleaguered Lucy, who's in love with a pilot (William Russell) engaged in risky operations; the one odd thing is that Grahame was photographed throughout much of the film with a brightly shining face. It's as though makeup forgot to apply powder in scene after scene.

The cast also includes Andre Morell, Cyril Cusack, Michael Hordern, and Laurence Naismith. Peter Williams plays Admiral Mountbatten, while Peter Sellers, of all people, is said to have been the voice of Winston Churchill.

Nigel Balchin's screenplay was based on the nonfiction book by Montagu. The movie was directed by Ronald Neame and filmed by Oswald Morris.

THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS is available on DVD, with a widescreen version of the film on one side of the disc and a pan-and-scan version on the reverse.

This film should appeal to a wide cross-section of classic film fans, including those who enjoy WWII films, spy thrillers, "true life" stories, or simply a very good, well-told tale. Recommended.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Pay-Off (1930) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Last summer I reviewed two films from Kino Lorber's RKO Classic Adventures set, THE SILVER HORDE (1930) and THE PAINTED DESERT (1931).

I've now returned to the set and watched the final film in the collection, THE PAY-OFF (1930). I found it similar to the first two films in that it's not a top-drawer film, but it has enough interesting elements to be worthwhile.

Marian Nixon and William Janney play a young couple, Nancy and Tommy. On the evening before they're planning to marry, they're in a park when Rocky (Hugh Trevor) robs them of the $230 they've saved for their wedding and honeymoon.

Tommy happens to know where the crowd Rocky runs with hangs out, and he hatches a plan to "steal" his money back from Rocky. It doesn't go very well, but elegant gangster Gene Fenmore (Lowell Sherman) admires the young couple's gumption and honesty -- only attempting to take back from Rocky exactly what was stolen from them -- and he not only returns the money to Tommy and Nancy, he invites them to live in his apartment.

Tommy and Nancy delay their marriage and move in with Gene, who sees in the pair an innocent way of living he wishes he could reclaim for himself. Gene would like to get out of the "racket" business but knows his life depends on staying "in." He does try to subtly back the gang off from a jewelry store robbery, but Rocky plunges ahead without Gene's knowledge, using the oblivious Tommy and Nancy to distract the employees. Unfortunately Rocky refuses to adhere to Gene's code of not killing anyone in the commission of a crime...

THE PAY-OFF was really almost two movies in one, packed into 72 minutes. The Tommy-Nancy story is frankly annoying; Nixon and Janney are little more than cartoon characters in their roles, with zero depth. It also didn't help that every time Nixon opened her mouth and a high-pitched squeak came out I thought of Betty Boop!

Sherman, on the other hand, was very interesting as Gene, and the gangster movie scenes were quite entertaining. (Sherman reminded me a bit of another actor from that era I enjoy, Edmund Lowe.) If a different story had been created around Gene, it would have been a very good pre-Code movie. As it is, viewers should be forewarned about the juvenile depictions of Tommy and Nancy, but it's still worthwhile and I enjoyed it.

Leading man Sherman also directed; he draws a fine performance from himself and some of the supporting players, just not Nixon and Janney.

I've previously reviewed other films directed by Sherman, including THREE BROADWAY GIRLS (1932) and BORN TO BE BAD (1934). Sadly, he died of pneumonia in 1934, only 46 years old.

THE PAY-OFF was filmed by J. Roy Hunt.

As with the other films in the RKO Classic Adventures collection, the print is quite good; the soundtrack is also crisp for its age. Overall, the set provides classic film fans with an enjoyable look at films from the early sound era.

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

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Men Must Fight (1933) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

MEN MUST FIGHT (1933) is a rather fascinating film, available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

The main theme of the film is pacifism versus patriotism and protecting one's country, but what makes it especially interesting is its amazingly prescient view of the future. The movie was made in 1933, but it essentially predicts World War II, FaceTime and similar "picture phones," and the popularity of television. Shots of the Empire State Building being destroyed are eerily reminiscent of 9/11.

And as the film ends, young Phillips Holmes' character has become a military pilot; in real life Holmes would join the Royal Canadian Air Force and die in an airplane crash while serving in Canada in 1942.

As the movie opens, lovers Laura (Diana Wynard), a nurse, and pilot Geoffrey Aiken (Robert Young) part as Geoffrey heads for combat. Geoffrey is almost immediately killed in action, and the grief-stricken Laura marries Ned (Lewis Stone), who loves her and is willing to give the baby she's expecting a name and security. (Side note, I wonder how many times Stone played that type of noble role...)

Laura and Ned have a successful marriage, but when he eventually becomes Secretary of State and war breaks out in 1940, he must support the President and the United States in the conflict, which is at odds with Laura's intractable pacifist views. Laura is determined that her son Bob (Phillips Holmes) will not die in a war like Geoffrey did. Bob initially holds to his mother's views, which puts him at odds with his fiancee Peggy (Ruth Selwyn).

The family story, as scripted by C. Gardner Sullivan (from a play by S.K. Lauren and Reginald Laurence), is actually fairly absorbing, including allowing for reasoned debate on both sides of the pacifism/self-defense issue; it ultimately acknowledges, in actions if not in words, that there is evil in the world and sometimes there is no choice but to fight it, which is reflected in the film's title.

What really makes the movie interesting is the wider setting; the 1933 predictions for what life would look like in 1940 are great fun. Laura and Ned's apartment is sort of Art Deco meets THE JETSONS, with gorgeous "swirls" in the chairs and walls; the elevator is simply fabulous. This 1933 film also imagines a world where televisions are commonplace, and the "picture phone" is pretty much what Skype or FaceTime is now.

On a less happy note, the world war the film envisions would come to pass within a very few short years; by the time 1940 arrived for real, much of the world was either already in the conflict, or soon would be.

It's not a great film, but as may be clear from the foregoing, I felt it was definitely one worth seeing.

The supporting cast includes plus May Robson and Hedda Hopper, both pictured here, along with lovely Mary Carlisle. This was the second film this week where I saw Robert Greig play a butler! Robert Young is dashing and handsome in his brief appearance as the movie opens.

MEN MUST FIGHT was directed by Edgar Selwyn and filmed by George J. Folsey. It runs 72 minutes.

The Warner Archive print is good, with a strong soundtrack for a film of this era. 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.

Tonight's Movie: The Interrupted Journey (1949) - A Kino Lorber DVD Review

Kino Lorber has just released the five-film British Noir II collection. This DVD set is a sequel to Kino Lorber's first British Noir set, which was released in 2015.

The titles in the new set, in chronological order, are: THE INTERRUPTED JOURNEY (1949); COSH BOY (1953), also known by the title THE SLASHER; TIME IS MY ENEMY (1954); TIME LOCK (1957); and THE VICIOUS CIRCLE (1957), also known as THE CIRCLE.

THE INTERRUPTED JOURNEY stars a pair of appealing leads, Richard Todd and Valerie Hobson.

Todd plays John North, a struggling writer who as the movie opens is running off by train with his mistress Susan (Christine Norden). However, rather than being thrilled, John is wracked with guilt at leaving behind his wife Carol (Hobson). John eventually works himself into such a state that when the train nears his home, he suddenly pulls the emergency cord and hops off the train as it stops, running home for a happy reunion with his wife.

John and Carol's reunion is cut short by the sound of a horrific crash, as another train plows into the train still stopped on the tracks. The couple run to help, but John is horrified to see Susan's body in the wreckage and later has nightmares that he caused the crash by pulling the cord which stopped the train.

John eventually comes clean to Carol about having been on the train and changing his mind, and the couple recommit to their marriage. They are further relieved to learn John didn't actually cause the wreck. But then something far worse happens -- it transpires that Susan died before the crash...murdered. And the police identify John as the likely suspect.

THE INTERRUPTED JOURNEY is a cautionary tale in the manner of THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW (1944), with a dash of the mental trauma from SPELLBOUND (1945) on the side. The moral of the story: Never, ever cheat on your wife, or Very, Very Bad Things Will Happen!

I don't think the reference to THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is overly spoilerish, as THE INTERRUPTED JOURNEY telegraphs quite early on that all is not as it first seems. The viewer watches with suspicion as the film becomes increasingly nightmarish and exaggerated; some of the scenes near the end called to mind the Dali-esque nightmares of SPELLBOUND. Most viewers will probably figure out the ending far in advance; some will greet the resolution of John's predicament with relief (I did), while others may feel cheated.

I like Todd, and while his character here isn't always admirable, I nonetheless enjoyed watching him. He's particularly effective in the scenes where his love for Hobson's character is rekindled. This is perhaps a good spot to enthusiastically recommend his early '50s films for Disney, including THE SWORD AND THE ROSE (1953) and ROB ROY: THE HIGHLAND ROGUE (1953), which both costarred Glynis Johns.

Hobson is charming as the devoted wife trying to hang on to her marriage. I especially enjoyed her repartee with the Inspector (Ralph Truman). Hobson's best-known roles include the adult Estella in GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946) and KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949). She retired from the screen in 1954 when she married British politician John Profumo, would later be involved in a great scandal, leaving Hobson in a marital situation not too dissimilar from this film; she and and Profumo remained married until her passing in 1998.

THE INTERRUPTED JOURNEY runs 77 minutes. It was directed by Daniel Birt. The black and white cinematography was by Erwin Hillier.

The print has some minor yet noticeable flaws, particularly in the early going, but is entirely watchable. I do wish the film had been subtitled, as occasionally British accents can be a challenge to understand, but this is a fairly "bare bones" set in the manner of Warner Archive DVDs, with the main purpose being to make the movies accessible to the public.

The disc includes trailers for three additional British films available from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this DVD.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Over the past few days Kino Lorber has announced several titles coming in April, starting with Ernst Lubitsch's ANGEL (1937), starring Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, and Melvyn Douglas. It will have a commentary track by Joseph McBride, author of HOW DID LUBITSCH DO IT? I reviewed ANGEL after seeing it at UCLA in 2018...Also coming in April: SUPERNATURAL (1933) with Randolph Scott and Carole Lombard.

...Kino Lorber will also be bringing out some of the titles which were released on DVD in the 2005 Gary Cooper Collection: BEAU GESTE (1939), which I reviewed at UCLA in 2015, will have a commentary track with William Wellman Jr. and Frank Thompson; THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER (1935) will have a commentary by Eddy von Mueller; and THE GENERAL DIED AT DAWN (1936) will have a commentary by Lee Gambin and Rutanya Alda.

...Finally, Kino's March releases will include two different versions of INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE (1953), starring Jennifer Jones and Montgomery Clift. Additional March releases from Kino Lorber were listed in my last two roundups.

...Over at 50 Westerns From the 50s, Toby says Kino Lorber will be bringing out a bunch of Universal Westerns on DVD and Blu-ray. This is potentially very exciting news, if the forthcoming films are titles which haven't yet had Region 1 releases. The upcoming Kino release of Universal's WINGS OF THE HAWK (1953) gives me hope we might get more titles which haven't been available in the U.S. We'll see...

...The Disney+ series in which Ewan McGregor will reprise his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi, announced with great fanfare at last summer's D23 Expo, is at least temporarily on hold. The search is on for a new scriptwriter. McGregor and director Deborah Chow are expected to remain with the project after it is retooled.


...A sequel to last fall's lovely DOWNTON ABBEY (2019) movie is in the works.

...I'm rather baffled by the announcement that the Criterion Collection is handling the Blu-ray releases of Netflix's brand-new Oscar-nominated movies.

...On my wish list: PINE-THOMAS PRODUCTIONS: A HISTORY AND FILMOGRAPHY by David Tucker, published by McFarland last summer.

...Big news at Animation Scoop and Cartoon Brew: The Warner Archive will be bringing out a Blu-ray collection Avery Screwball Classics, Vol. I, on February 18th.

...Attention Southern Californians: A new exhibit is coming to the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana this March: Inside the Walt Disney Archives: 50 Years of Preserving the Magic.

...Notable Passings: John Karlen, whose extensive TV work included the series CAGNEY AND LACEY (1981-88), has died at 86...Jack Kehoe, who played the Erie Kid in THE STING (1973), has passed on at 85.

...For additional links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my January 18th roundup.

Have a great week!

Friday, January 24, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Easy to Love (1934)

EASY TO LOVE (1934) is a delightful pre-Code bedroom farce, with charming Genevieve Tobin heading a terrific cast.

This short 61-minute comedy is in the style of a pair of Tobin's later films, THE GOOSE AND THE GANDER (1934) and SNOWED UNDER (1936). They were all made for Warner Bros. and accomplish something that's just not done in the movie business anymore, spinning a funny romantic yarn in about an hour and then calling it quits.

Tobin plays Carol, who as the movie opens is frustrated by her husband John's (Adolphe Menjou) lack of romantic interest; she laments that her marriage has gone from a double bed to twin beds to separate bedrooms.

Carol visits their doctor (William B. Davidson) for advice, thinking John is tired out from playing too much polo, but when she realizes he's not actually spending his afternoons at the polo grounds she hires a private detective (Frank McHugh). Lo and behold, John is keeping company with Carol's best friend, Charlotte (Mary Astor)!

Carol and John's friend Eric (Edward Everett Horton) has long carried a torch for Carol, and she hatches a plan for the two of them to stop by Charlotte's apartment while John is there. As John hides in a closet, he fumes while listening to Carol carry on about carrying on with Eric.

Of course, a story like this could be a total melodrama, and Tobin does have a couple of poignant moments coping with her husband's infidelity, but it's mostly played for laughs. The movie builds to a very funny conclusion, with all four leads characters present in a hotel room while a justice of the peace (Guy Kibbee) presides over the "ax wedding" of Carol and John's daughter Janet (Patricia Ellis) and her boyfriend (Paul Kaye). (The justice of the peace quips "I've had a lot of shotgun weddings, but this is the first fire ax wedding I've ever officiated at!") As the end credits rolled I had a big smile on my face.

The cast also includes the wonderful Robert Greig as Carol and John's butler and Hobart Cavanaugh as a desk clerk; Grieg's character is sweetly solicitous of his employers, and Cavanaugh has a great line.

EASY TO LOVE was directed by William Keighley, who married Tobin just a few years later. They were married from 1938 until his passing in 1984.

The script was by Carl Erickson and Manuel Seff, based on a play by Erickson and David Boehm. Although there are a fairly limited number of sets, the movie manages to escape the feeling of being a filmed play; perhaps the energetic cast and brisk pacing contribute to the cinematic feel. For those who may wonder, this film has no connection to the 1953 Esther Williams film which has the same title.

The movie was filmed by Ernest Haller. Tobin and Astor's gowns were designed by Orry-Kelly.

EASY TO LOVE is available from the Warner Archive. It's a nice print with good sound.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Song of Scheherazade (1947)

The music of Rimsky-Korsakov is showcased in Universal Pictures' colorful and engaging SONG OF SCHEHERAZADE (1947).

I'll say at the outset this is a rather crazy movie, but in the best possible way. I think I smiled from start to finish.

It's 1865 and a Russian ship is moored in Morocco during a 116-degree heat wave. Crew member Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (Jean-Pierre Aumont) and his friend, the ship's doctor (Charles Kullmann) have shore leave and run from house to house looking for a piano to try out the music Nicky has been writing at sea.

They have the luck to stumble into the home of Madame de Talavera (Eve Arden) and her beautiful daughter Cara (Yvonne DeCarlo). Cara, incidentally, has a secret life dancing as an entertainer at a club, but anyway...

I don't even know where to go from there with a plot description, as it's all a bit nutty, but oh, is it ever fun, with the lush Rimsky-Korsakov music layered over some very amusing comedy. Miklos Rozsa conducted and composed additional music, and Kullmann, a Metropolitan Opera singer, has a glorious voice, while DeCarlo has the chance to do several dances.

Brian Donlevy is hilarious as the ship's captain, who insists his crew be perfectly turned out at all times despite the oppressive heat, though he reviews them while only half-dressed himself. The captain also has a talent for swallowing cigarettes...told you it's crazy! Donlevy plays the role of the seemingly stern captain with the proverbial heart of gold with great good humor. Donlevy biographer Derek Schulthorpe classes Donlevy's performance as "a delight...such fun to see him being so silly, sending up his own image."

SONG OF SCHEHERAZADE is a giddy fantasy which beckons viewers to go along for the ride, never mind the destination. Glorious music, stunning color, funny actors, and one of the most beautiful leading ladies to ever be filmed in Technicolor...I couldn't have asked for more. For me it was 105 delightful minutes.

Good-natured Technicolor escapism which also serves up ample doses of "culture" in the form of classical music was relatively common in the '40s yet simply isn't done anymore; that also makes this film a fascinating relic of its era in that regard.

SONG OF SCHEHERAZADE was written and directed by Walter Reisch. It was filmed by Hal Mohr and William V. Skall.

The supporting cast includes Phillip Reed, Terry Kilburn, John Qualen, Richard Lane, George Dolenz, and Elena Verdugo, who was seen last week in THE MARKSMAN (1953).

SONG OF SCHEHERAZADE is available on DVD in the Universal Vault Collection. I wondered if the color possibly should have been a little brighter at times, but other than that, the print looked terrific.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Fingerprints Don't Lie (1951)

FINGERPRINTS DON'T LIE (1951) is a 57-minute programmer available from VCI Entertainment in their Forgotten Noir Collector's Set Series 2.

I've previously enjoyed FBI GIRL (1951) from this collection, as well as films in other Forgotten Noir volumes. They're typically low budget but reliably entertaining, with good casts.

This film was less enjoyable than the typical "Forgotten Noir" film, but it still had its moments, and a couple memorably low-budget aspects almost pushed it into "so bad it's good" territory.

As the movie begins, Paul Moody (Richard Emory) is convicted of the murder of Mayor Palmer (Ferris Taylor) on the basis of fingerprint testimony by police forensic expert James Stover (Richard Travis, THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER).

The late mayor's daughter Carolyn (Sheila Ryan), who is also Paul's fiancee, visits Stover to see if there's any way his testimony could have been wrong. Although her father had opposed her marriage to Paul, there were corrupt officials with a far greater motive to murder her father, and she maintains faith in her fiance.

Although the fingerprint at the crime scene was clearly Paul's, Stover is concerned enough to start looking at other explanations for the murder.

The plot is fairly humdrum, but the execution is something else again -- starting with the film being scored with organ music! It reminded me of an old-time radio show -- this one just happened to have pictures to go with it. Other than silent film scoring, which is another thing entirely, I don't think I'd ever seen a film like this scored with an organ, and it was enjoyably bizarre.

Additional signs of a low, low budget abound, including an establishing shot of a building with the street numbers and words on the building backwards. I'm not sure if it was film or a filmed photograph, but whatever it was, the negative was flipped the wrong way!

Another odd moment comes when the real murderer looks out a window straight down to the street a few stories below. He's later shot and falls out the same window, but seems to fall onto a balcony, which had not been visible when he looked out the window. Or did he just happen to fall onto a mattress which wasn't meant to be in view of the camera?

For classic film fans, there's a certain sad irony in Tom Neal playing the prosecuting attorney, given his own very serious run-ins with the law. A few months after this film was released, he infamously beat up Franchot Tone in a romantic dispute over Barbara Payton, sending Tone to the hospital. In 1965 Neal was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in his wife's death; he was paroled after six years but died just a few months later.

Leading lady Sheila Ryan is a happier story. A steadily working actress from 1939, she appeared in everything from Busby Berkeley's THE GANG'S ALL HERE (1943) to the Anthony Mann film noir classic RAILROADED! (1947) to Gene Autry Westerns such as THE COWBOY AND THE INDIANS (1949). The year after this film was released she married Autry's sidekick Pat Buttram, a union which lasted until her passing nearly 23 years later. She was just 54 when she died.

Also in the cast is one-time Miss California Margia Dean, seen last week in RIMFIRE (1949). As was mentioned in the comments to that review, Dean is still with us; she'll be 98 in April.

Lyle Talbot turns up as a police lieutenant, one of many such small roles among that busy actor's scores of credits. The tiresome Sid Melton is ostensibly comic relief as a photographer; my hand itches to hit the fast-forward button whenever he's on screen. Michael Whalen and Rory Mallinson round out the cast.

The movie was directed by Sam Newfield and filmed in black and white by Jack Greenhalgh.

The print and sound quality are quite good, especially considering the film's low budget.

In addition to the previously mentioned collector's set, VCI released this film as part of a double feature disc.

The bottom line is that this "C" level film, while not on a level with other "forgotten" films from VCI, still has aspects which die-hard fans of the "B's" (and lower!) may find enjoyable. I found the cast and the nuttier aspects enough to offset the more mundane, dry scenes, and in the end it was worth an hour of my time. As the saying goes, "Your mileage may vary!"

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