Sunday, May 31, 2020

TCM in June: Highlights

It's time to take a look at what promises to be a terrific June on Turner Classic Movies!

The month's schedule is filled with interesting things, including a Jazz in Film series every Monday and Thursday evening, hosted by Eddie Muller, and History of the Swimsuit the last three Wednesdays of the month.

The June Star of the Month will be Ann Sheridan. Approximately three dozen of Sheridan's films will be shown on Tuesday evenings beginning June 2nd. A detailed look at the schedule of Ann Sheridan films is coming soon. (Update: Please visit my post TCM Star of the Month: Ann Sheridan.)

The June Noir Alley films are THE UNDERWORLD STORY (1950) on June 6th and 7th, MURDER BY CONTRACT (1958) on the 13th-14th, UNDERWORLD, U.S.A. (1961) on June 20th and 21st, and THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1948) on June 27th and 28th. I really enjoyed THE UNDERWORLD STORY, which stars Dan Duryea and Gale Storm. I was fortunate to see it at the Noir City Film Festival half a decade ago.

Below are just a few of TCM's June highlights; please click on any hyperlinked title for my full-length review.

...A tribute to Frank Morgan on June 1st includes the classic MGM Americana THE HUMAN COMEDY (1943). If you've never seen it, don't miss it; among other things, it contains Mickey Rooney's best performance. Donna Reed, Van Johnson, James Craig, and many other wonderful actors are also in the film. There's even a brief appearance by Robert Mitchum!

...Rosalind Russell's June 4th birthday is celebrated with half a dozen films including SISTER KENNY (1946), in which she portrays the nurse who developed important treatments for polio.

...Later on the 4th the Jazz in Film series kicks off with titles including Lena Horne in CABIN IN THE SKY (1943) and STORMY WEATHER (1943), followed by A SONG IS BORN (1948), and HIGH SOCIETY (1956). I had a wonderful time revisiting HIGH SOCIETY, which has Louis Armstrong in a featured role, at last year's TCM Classic Film Festival.

...As a Preston Foster fan I need to see SEA DEVILS (1937), also starring Ida Lupino and Victor McLaglen. It's on June 5th.

...TCM is showing William Wyler's DODSWORTH (1936) on June 7th. I've reviewed it twice in the last few months, first after seeing it at a Robert Osborne tribute in October and very recently via Blu-ray. Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton, and Mary Astor star, and as a bonus there's a very young John Payne in a small role. Check it out and see what you think.

...There are some great "B" Westerns on TCM in June, including an entire daytime lineup of films on June 9th. Along with films starring Tim Holt and Roy Rogers, TCM is showing THE DESPERADO (1954), a terrific little film which should be better known. It stars Wayne Morris, Beverly Garland, Lee Van Cleef, and Jimmy Lydon, who turned 97 on May 30th. (Update: An important note, Tim Holt's DESERT PASSAGE, showing today, is not on DVD!)

...Judy Garland's birthday on June 10th is the occasion for a wonderful lineup of MGM musicals including SUMMER STOCK (1950) and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944). Hollywood musical entertainment at its very best.

...The History of the Swimsuit lineup on the evening of the 10th includes Virginia Mayo in the delightful comedy THE GIRL FROM JONES BEACH (1949). Ronald Reagan is her leading man. This one is a lot of fun; I've enjoyed it multiple times.

...On June 11th the Jazz in Film series features bios and screen appearances of big band leaders. THE GLENN MILLER STORY (1954) was one of those wonderful films which encouraged my love for classic films as I was growing up; James Stewart and June Allyson star. The schedule also includes Benny Goodman in SWEET AND LOW-DOWN (1944) which I saw at the 2018 Cinecon 54 Festival.

...June 12th is a wonderful day of pre-Code goodness including THREE ON A MATCH (1932), WHEN LADIES MEET (1933), and OUR BETTERS (1933). Also airing on that date is NO MORE LADIES (1935), a quite enjoyable Joan Crawford-Robert Montgomery film released shortly after the end of the pre-Code era.

...As a big fan of George O'Brien's "B" Westerns, I'm delighted to see so many of them turn up on TCM this month. On the 13th TCM is showing BORDER G-MAN (1938), costarring Laraine Johnson, who would soon change her name to Laraine Day.

...Can I ever recommend FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933) too many times? Nope! It's on June 14th. James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, and the most dazzling Busby Berkeley routines ever put on film.

...The Jazz in Film evening on June 15th includes ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW (1959), which has a score by John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte star.

...The next day, on the 16th, there's a multifilm tribute to Robert Ryan which includes the deliciously entertaining BORN TO BE BAD (1950), costarring Joan Fontaine, Joan Leslie, and Zachary Scott, directed by Nicholas Ray.

...The History of the Swimsuit on June 17th, which carries over into the early morning hours of the 18th, includes the always-entertaining WHERE THE BOYS ARE (1960), with charming Dolores Hart leading a terrific cast including Paula Presley and Jim Hutton.

...It's Jeanette MacDonald Day on June 18th! Movie entertainment just doesn't get any better than NEW MOON (1940), where she duets "Lover Come Back to Me" with Nelson Eddy, or SAN FRANCISCO (1936) opposite Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. I highly recommend these films for anyone who's not yet had the pleasure.

...Anyone who missed NIAGARA (1953)  on TCM this past week can enjoy it as part of a day of crime films on June 19th. This colorful suspense film features a charming performance by Jean Peters plus Marilyn Monroe in an early starring role as the femme fatale. Add in eye-catching locations and it's a visual treat in more ways than one.

...Father's Day on June 21st includes traditional favorites for the holiday such as William Powell in LIFE WITH FATHER (1947) and Spencer Tracy in FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950). Also on the schedule is the very first Andy Hardy film, A FAMILY AFFAIR (1936), with Lionel Barrymore as Judge Hardy; the role was played by Lewis Stone in all the later entries in the series.

...TCM celebrates the June 22nd birthday of director-screenwriter Billy Wilder with half a dozen films including the delightful THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (1932), starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland.

...Later on the 22nd, the Jazz in Film selections include JAZZ ON A SUMMER'S DAY (1959), which I recall seeing at the FilmEx festival in Century City as a young teen. As I recall, it was part of the movie musical marathon in 1977.

...One of the few films I've seen in a theater so far this year was LITTLE WOMEN (1933), which was an extremely special viewing experience. It's on TCM on June 23rd, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

...There are more "B" Westerns on June 24th, including RIDING THE WIND (1942), a not-on-DVD Tim Holt film I've never seen. There are also multiple George O'Brien films and STAMPEDE (1949), a very good Western starring Rod Cameron, Gale Storm, and Johnny Mack Brown. This is one of those "stay on the couch and enjoy the entire lineup" kind of days! (Update: Thanks to Lee for pointing out that RIDING THE WIND is in the Warner Archive's Tim Holt Vol. 4 collection, which I missed on an initial search. However, 1952's Holt film DESERT PASSAGE, showing on the 9th, is not on DVD!)

...Jazz in Film on June 25th will include PETE KELLY'S BLUES (1955) and BLUES IN THE NIGHT (1941).

...Ronald Reagan and Gloria Blondell star in ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN (1938), an interesting if not entirely satisfying programmer which airs on June 27th. Worth checking out for its storyline about an avaricious wife which seems to be a forerunner of later film noir titles such as TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949).

...There's an enjoyable selection of "B" crime films on June 29th including Robert Douglas in HOMICIDE (1949), Priscilla Lane and Lawrence Tierney (seen here) in BODYGUARD (1948), and Barbara Payton and Paul Langton in MURDER IS MY BEAT (1955). Each of these films runs 77 minutes or less and the first two mentioned are especially entertaining.

For more on TCM in June 2020, please visit my Quick Preview of TCM in June, TCM Star of the Month: Ann Sheridan, and TCM's complete online schedule.

Enjoy all the great movies showing in June on TCM!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Happy 85th birthday to Ruta Lee! She was born in Montreal on May 30, 1935. I'm fortunate to have seen her in person on a couple of occasions, most recently the 2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.

...Happiest 97th birthday wishes to Jimmy Lydon, reviewed here last weekend in HOT ROD (1950).

...After over a year, Netflix has closed the deal to buy the Eygptian Theatre from the American Cinematheque. I have concerns about how this will play out long term and hope it goes well.

...It's time to sign up for the Summer 2020 Classic Film Book Reading Challenge at Out of the Past!

...Here's a trailer for the Streamliners Vol. 2 Westerns Collection, coming in June from ClassicFlix. Nice to see the Alabama Hills in the trailer! Earlier this month I enjoyed TANKS A MILLION (1941) in the Vol. 1 set, and I anticipate reviewing more films from that collection in the future.

...Here are some photos of the late Robert Conrad's beautiful Malibu home, now up for sale for over $5 million. Conrad passed away in February.

...The proposed Hedy Lamarr miniseries starring Gal Gadot is now lined up for Apple TV streaming.

...The latest upcoming Blu-ray announcements from Kino Lorber Studio Classics include THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK (1933), WAKE ISLAND (1942), THE RED BALL EXPRESS (1952), EVIL UNDER THE SUN (1982), and THE MIRROR CRACK'D (1980).

...Here's a salute to Twitter's #TCMParty hashtag and how comforting it is to "talk movies" during these challenging times.

...This Sunday's Silent Movie Watch Party, with live music by Ben Model, will include Harold Lloyd in GET OUT AND GET UNDER (1920). The Watch Party streams at 12:00 Pacific/3:00 Eastern on May 31st. Details here.

...Disney+ alert: Hayley Mills' THE MOON-SPINNERS (1964) is now available to stream.

...The Pacific Symphony has a John Williams concert on their site available to stream at no charge for the next 45 days.

...Notable Passing: I was sorry to learn of the death of film historian James Harvey at the age of 90. I reviewed his book MOVIE LOVE IN THE FIFTIES in August 2013 and his ROMANTIC COMEDY IN HOLLYWOOD: FROM LUBITSCH TO STURGES the following month. While I sometimes parted ways with his opinions, both books were interesting reads, and at their best they offered engaging, detailed analyses which made me want to rewatch some of the films described immediately.

...More Notable Passings: Marge Redmond, part of my childhood viewing as Sister Jacqueline on THE FLYING NUN (1967-'70), has passed away at the age of 95. The last feature film of her half-century career was MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY (1993)...Soap opera actress Melinda O. Fee has passed away at 77. She appeared on GUIDING LIGHT in the '70s and DAYS OF OUR LIVES and SANTA BARBARA in the '80s. She also costarred with David McCallum in the short-lived series THE INVISIBLE MAN (1975-'76). Fee's mother was Astrid Allwyn, who had a busy screen career in the '30s and early '40s.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my May 23rd roundup.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Man From Thunder River (1943)

THE MAN FROM THUNDER RIVER (1943) is a pleasant Bill Elliott "B" Western.

This was the second film of a total of eight in which Elliott costarred with Anne Jeffreys. I reviewed their first film, CALLING WILD BILL ELLIOTT (1943), for Classic Movie Hub last summer.

This one starts out with Bill saving a family in a runaway covered wagon while he's on his way to visit the Ferguson family, consisting of Aunt Bess (Georgie Cooper) and her niece and nephew, Nancy (Jeffreys) and Jack (John James). Bill is clearly sweet on Nancy, as he brings her a gift.

Baddie Henry Stevens (Ian Keith) has learned an abandoned mine owned by the Fergusons is valuable and is working to steal the ore, moving it into his own neighboring mine. When Jack tries to convince a banker (Edward Cassidy) to help him reopen the Ferguson mine, Stevens kills the banker and frames Jack.

It's up to Bill to clear Jack's name and save the mine by the time the movie's 57 minutes are up!

The film has a couple of notable aspects, starting with a full scene featuring Jeffreys singing. Her musical ability was also utilized in the prior film, and I'm hoping to hear more from her in the later movies in the series.

The film also has a notable actor as the villain. In the '30s Ian Keith played significant roles in DeMille films such as THE SIGN OF THE CROSS ( 1932), CLEOPATRA (1934), and THE CRUSADES (1935), where he had an especially good role as the Sultan.

Gabby Hayes is on hand as Wild Bill's sidekick. The cast also includes Jack Ingram, Jack Rockwell, and Eddie Lee. I've seen Lee in numerous small roles from the course of his two-decade career.

The movie was written by J. Benton Cheney and directed by John English. It was filmed by filmed by Bud Thackery.

Gene Blottner's book WILD BILL ELLIOTT confirms my visual recognition that the movie was filmed at Iverson Ranch, along with Corriganville.

All in all, this one is a solid "B" film which held my attention throughout.

New Western Roundup Column at Classic Movie Hub

My latest column is now up at the Classic Movie Hub site!

This month I return to the topic of my "Western Film Book Library."

I first posted on this subject last summer and returned to it in the fall.

With most of us spending so much time at home right now, it seemed like the perfect time to take a look at some more favorite books on the subject of Western movies.

Please click over to Classic Movie Hub to check it out, 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; June 2019; July 2019; August 2019; September 2019; October 2019; November 2019; December 2019; January 2020; February 2020; March 2020; April 2020.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Edge of Eternity (1959)

EDGE OF ETERNITY (1959) is a solid action thriller, attractively filmed, per the opening credits, "at one of the Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon."

Cornel Wilde stars as Deputy Sheriff Les Martin, who works in a rural mining area near the Grand Canyon. As we will later learn, he's a former attorney struggling to get over the death of his wife and subsequent career difficulties.

Martin's flirtatious relationship with feisty mining heiress Janice Kendon (Victoria Shaw, THE CRIMSON KIMONO) is continually thrown off track due to a strange series of murders in the area. The killings were all committed in very different ways, but the timing of the deaths coming in rapid succession alarms local community leaders; Martin and his boss, Sheriff Edwards (Edgar Buchanan), are under increasing pressure to solve the crimes.

Les begins to make some headway, but the evidence leads him to the Kendon home to pose some uncomfortable questions to Janice's father (Alexander Lockwood). She's also got a brother (Rian Garrick) who's been drinking way too much lately...

This was a good, well-paced film directed by Don Siegel. I've been enjoying catching up with Siegel's work over the last couple of years, most recently THE GUN RUNNERS (1958) and MADIGAN (1968).

Siegel turns out a colorful, fast-paced film which is a visual feast for the eyes, filmed by Burnett Guffey. He makes great use of the Grand Canyon and the aerial tramway to the Bat Cave Mine.

There are also some wonderful "Southwest Americana" shots of places like a gas station and the Mohave County Courthouse in Kingman. I also loved the way Janice's colorful wardrobe vividly contrasts with the desert exteriors. The movie's look is really top-notch.

The Kendons live fairly modestly in a small brick home, but it's got an attractive pool and barbecue. The wealthy family and the desert mining exteriors combined to make me think a bit of the second half of A KISS BEFORE DYING (1956), filmed in different areas of Arizona a few years previously.

The climactic fight sequence on an aerial cable car called to mind the Robert Mitchum film SECOND CHANCE (1953), which was shot in Mexico. The aerial scene is pretty well done, mixing long shots of the cable car with process shots; it's convincing enough that I gasped at one point!

Dabbs Greer turns up as a gas station attendant in a beautifully filmed dawn sequence, and Jack Elam has several scenes as a mining employee.

The screenplay was by Richard Collins and Marion Hargrove (under the pseudonym Knut Swenson), from a story by Hargrove and Ben Markson. The 80-minute film actually could have stood to be a few minutes longer in order to flesh out Martin's past and his relationship with Janice more fully, but it's first and foremost a mystery-action film and what made it onto the screen is quite enjoyable.

I watched this film on a good-looking DVD from Sony Choice.

EDGE OF ETERNITY also had a limited edition Blu-ray release from Twilight Time. The Blu-ray includes a commentary track by C. Courtney Joyner and the late Nick Redman.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Model and the Marriage Broker (1951)

This afternoon I marked the birthday of Jeanne Crain by watching THE MODEL AND THE MARRIAGE BROKER (1951) for the first time.

Jeanne plays Kitty, a model who chances to meet the marriage broker, Mae (Thelma Ritter), when their purses are mixed up in a shop.

Mae takes a liking to Kitty and helps give her the fortitude to dump the boyfriend she's just learned is married. Mae then sets up Kitty with handsome Matt (Scott Brady), an x-ray technician.

Things are going along swimmingly for Kitty and Matt until Kitty learns about Mae's profession. Despite how much she likes Matt, Kitty resents that matchmaking was done behind her back and fears Mae is pushing Matt into a commitment.

All manner of complications ensue, but eventually Mae's pal Doberman (Michael O'Shea) sets Kitty straight, telling her how much Mae cares about her and starting Kitty, Matt -- and Mae -- on the path to a happy ending.

The film was pleasant enough to stick with, but frankly not what I was expecting; I was surprised to find this film's tone as serious as it was. I was anticipating a more lighthearted romantic comedy, but instead the script by Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, and Richard Breen veers toward a more somber storyline with occasional flashes of humor; what's more, at 103 minutes it goes on quite a bit longer than it should.

Ritter has the lion's share of the screen time, and her story has more than a bit of of pathos, as we learn that her now-widowed sister (Helen Ford) had stolen her husband decades previously. Mae struggles to eke out a living, though she's clearly appreciated by the people she helps.

While Ritter is always good, I was again surprised to find the story weighted so heavily toward her character, rather than being more balanced between the title characters; for much of the film, model Kitty is an afterthought, and Matt even more so.

Crain's Kitty is brittle and edgy, though ultimately softened by love for both Matt and Mae. It's a good performance, if not a particularly appealing one compared to Crain's usual more sunny screen persona. Brady is handsome and charming but doesn't have a chance to show much character depth.

O'Shea, in a smaller role, manages to break out of the large cast as his character moves to the forefront of the story in the final minutes. O'Shea -- who incidentally was long married to Virginia Mayo -- similarly made a good impression in supporting roles in films like MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY (1947) and SMART WOMAN (1948).

All in all, THE MODEL AND THE MARRIAGE BROKER was worth checking out, but despite names like screenwriter Brackett and director George Cukor attached to the project, in the end it didn't particularly win me over.

The supporting cast includes a number of familiar faces, including Jay C. Flippen, Nancy Kulp, Zero Mostel, Maudie Prickett, Helen Ford, John Alexander, Frank Ferguson, Joyce Mackenzie, Tommy Noonan, and, in a very small role, Edna May Wonacott , who played little sister Ann in SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943).

The movie was filmed in black and white by Milton Krasner.

THE MODEL AND THE MARRIAGE BROKER is available on DVD-R from Fox Cinema Archives. It's a nice, clean print. There are no extras on the disc.

Tonight's Movie: The Price of Fear (1956) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Four years ago Kino Lorber released The Dark Side of Cinema, a collection of film noir titles on Blu-ray and DVD.

The series returns in a big way this year beginning with The Dark Side of Cinema II, released on Blu-ray this month.

The three-disc set features THE PRICE OF FEAR (1956) along with THUNDER ON THE HILL (1951) and THE FEMALE ANIMAL (1958).

Additional sets have been announced, with the third collection coming in June and the fourth in July.

Two of the films in Vol. II, THE PRICE OF FEAR and THE FEMALE ANIMAL, are brand-new to me. I watched THE PRICE OF FEAR today and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The pleasure begins with that distinctive Universal Pictures '50s black and white widescreen look which I find very appealing. For me that style signals in straightforward fashion "Good viewing ahead!"

Merle Oberon plays Jessica Warren, an accomplished investment counselor who, tipsy from an evening out, hits an elderly man in the street while she's driving home.

Jessica flees the scene, but when she stops at a pay phone her car is stolen by Dave Barrett (Lex Barker), who's on the run from the mob. Dave owns an honest greyhound racing track, but mobster Frankie Edare (Warren Stevens) has just bought out and then murdered Dave's partner (Tim Sullivan).

Dave is ultimately arrested, and while he's suspected of his partner's death, he's also believed to be the hit-and-run driver. He can't be charged with both crimes since they took place simultaneously, so he goes along with the hit-and-run charge, which enables him to get out on bail and try to clear his name of everything which happened that night.

Jessica, meanwhile, begins a relationship with Dave, which allows her to manipulate him as needed; however, her nightmare grows even more complicated when Edare pressures her to "cooperate" with him. Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

Oberon and Barker give fairly low-key performances considering the strain both their characters are under, but they're attractive and good enough to get the job done, while Stevens is properly slimy as the mobster.

The always-reliable Charles Drake is on hand as Pete Carroll, the police detective working the case. It sometimes seems Drake was the detective or sheriff in every other Universal movie of the '50s, but I'm always happy to see him because he fit that type of role perfectly.

Gia Scala plays the daughter of the hit-and-run victim, with Stafford Repp and Mary Treen as a cabbie and his wife. The more I see of Treen, the more I like her; she's great as a woman who gives Jessica a run for her money in the manipulation department.

Director Abner Biberman has a scene as a police criminalist who updates Detective Carroll on the case. Biberman began directing in 1954 but had been acting for two decades at the time he appeared in this film.

The cast also includes Dan Riss, Konstantin Shayne, Phillip Pine, and Roy Engel.

The movie was filmed by Irving Glassberg. Robert Tallman's screenplay was based on a story by Dick Irving Hyland.

THE PRICE OF FEAR is a well-paced 79 minutes filled with crosses and double-crosses. It may not be a top-of-the-line crime film, but it's quite well done and entertaining. I liked it and thought it built to a pitch-perfect conclusion.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray print looks and sounds terrific. The disc includes the trailer.

I'll be reviewing the other titles from this set here at a future date, as well as films from the original 2016 Dark Side of Cinema collection.

Update: Here is my review of THE FEMALE ANIMAL, and THUNDER ON THE HILL is reviewed here.

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

A Tribute to Jeanne Crain

Note: I paid tribute to actress Jeanne Crain on her birthday a decade ago, in 2010.

This year I honor one of my favorite actresses with a column adapted from a piece I wrote for ClassicFlix in 2014. Below I recommend some notable Crain films which are available on DVD.

Jeanne Crain was the quintessential girl next door, a teenager who became a star overnight and went on to a long and successful career while also parenting a large family off the screen.

Crain was born in the California desert town of Barstow on May 25, 1925. Her family later moved to Los Angeles, where legend has it she was spotted by Orson Welles while she was on an RKO studio tour. He had her tested for THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942); that didn't work out, with Anne Baxter cast as Joseph Cotten's daughter, but shortly thereafter beautiful young Jeanne won a beauty contest in Long Beach and was put under contract at 20th Century-Fox.

Crain made her feature film debut in HOME IN INDIANA (1944), where she followed director Henry Hathaway's advice, "Look, you're just a kid, and this is just a kid you're playing. Be yourself." It worked; Crain simply glows, whether she's a tomboy with her hair in braids or dressed up as a young lady. The camera loved Jeanne, and her looks and her effervescent personality made her an immediate star. She's seen here in a photo with costar June Haver.

Just a year after HOME IN INDIANA, Jeanne was starring in films which would be come to be recognized as classics, STATE FAIR (1945) and LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945). It was the beginning of a busy career which would last the better part of three decades.

1945 was significant to Crain for another reason; she married Paul Brinkman, who had a brief film career under the name of Paul Brooks, at Hollywood's Church of the Blessed Sacrament on Sunset Boulevard. It was a marriage which would endure, despite some publicized ups and downs, until his death in October 2003.

One of the ironies of Crain's film career is that she was playing ingénues while simultaneously off the screen she was the mother of a growing family, giving birth to seven children over a span of 18 years. Jeanne lost a number of roles over the years due to her constantly expanding family, but when one looks at her long list of fine credits, it's rather impressive she managed such a substantive film career while also raising a large family. In James Robert Parish's THE FOX GIRLS, she was quoted as saying she preferred "an armful of babies to a scrapbook full of screen credits."

Jeanne's screen acting career finally came to a conclusion in 1972 with a role in the all-star cast of the very diverting SKYJACKED, starring Charlton Heston.

Jeanne died on December 14, 2003, just a few weeks after the death of her husband Paul. Her funeral was held at Mission Santa Barbara.

Jeanne was survived by five of her seven children as well as numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Some key Crain films have not yet made it to DVD, the Jerome Kern musical CENTENNIAL SUMMER (1946), and the film that's the favorite of many Crain fans, MARGIE (1946).

That said, here are a dozen titles available on DVD which Jeanne Crain fans will want to check out:

STATE FAIR (1945) - Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote their original score directly for the screen, and it's delightful in every respect. Jeanne stars as farm girl Margy Frake, who finds love with a handsome newspaper columnist (Dana Andrews). Jeanne introduced the Oscar-winning song "It Might As Well Be Spring," dubbed by Louanne Hogan, who served as Jeanne's voice double in three additional films.

LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945) - Jeanne plays evil Gene Tierney's good cousin, "The Girl With the Hoe," in this "color noir," a film especially memorable for Leon Shamroy's stunning Technicolor photography. She's seen here with costar Cornel Wilde.

YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME (1948) - A partial remake of Orchestra Wives (1942), this is a fine film in its own right, with a strong performance by Crain. She perfectly captures the youth, inexperience, and nerve of a young lady who falls for a band leader (Dan Dailey).

APARTMENT FOR PEGGY (1948) - This is classic Jeanne Crain, one of her best performances and most-loved films. Jeanne plays Peggy, the young bride of a veteran (William Holden) attending college. She hits all the right notes as the buoyant Peggy, who is determined that her husband will get his degree despite the fact they're living on a shoestring with a baby on the way.

A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949) - Jeanne plays Deborah, one of the three wives in this Oscar-winning classic. Her Deborah was a farm girl who fell in love with her husband (Jeffrey Lynn, seen here) while serving during the war; when they lose the equalizing effect of their military uniforms, Deborah finds herself very uncomfortable adapting to life as the wife of a financially well-off man.

PINKY (1949) - Half a decade after her film debut Jeanne received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for PINKY. Jeanne starred in the title role as a light-skinned African-American woman who "passes" for white. The film costars William Lundigan, Ethel Barrymore, and Ethel Waters; it was directed by Elia Kazan.

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950) - Jeanne gave birth to her third child shortly after playing Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy's oldest daughter Ann in this classic family comedy. She was also on board for the sequel, BELLES ON THEIR TOES (1952).

PEOPLE WILL TALK (1951) - This unusual film, written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, is a personal favorite. In a rather daring storyline for its day, Jeanne plays a suicidal unwed mother who marries an unorthodox doctor (Cary Grant). The extended scene in which Jeanne believes she's become pregnant with her new husband's baby, realizes the truth, and then accepts his assertion that who fathered the baby doesn't matter in the slightest is a classic piece of writing and acting. The movie was ahead of its time; in my opinion, it should have received some Oscar nominations.

DANGEROUS CROSSING (1953) - In the early '50s Jeanne starred in some good suspense films, this being one of them. Jeanne is a bride who embarks on her honeymoon cruise only to "lose" her husband and his luggage. There's no record her husband ever boarded the ship. Is she crazy? Michael Rennie plays the ship's doctor. Jeanne is seen here in a publicity portrait for the film.

VICKI (1953) - Jeanne took the role originally played by Betty Grable in this remake of I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941). Jean Peters has the title role as Jeanne's sister, a beautiful model who's murdered. Whodunit?

THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE (1956) - In this solid Western Jeanne plays the pregnant wife of mild-mannered storekeeper Glenn Ford, who's trying to escape his past as a gunslinger. Broderick Crawford plays a man who comes to town determined to usurp Ford's title as "the fastest gun alive."

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

On Memorial Day

Remembering today, with deepest gratitude, the brave men and women who have given their all for our nation and our freedom.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Hot Rod (1950) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

James "Jimmy" Lydon stars in HOT ROD (1950), available in a remastered print from the Warner Archive.

I caught up with this 2010 Warner Archive release this weekend and enjoyed it. It's definitely a fairly minor Monogram Pictures film, but I found it a pleasant 61 minutes to spend time with on a Sunday afternoon.

Lydon plays David Langham, a junior college student who lives with his father (Art Baker), a judge, and his older policeman brother Joe (Myron Healey).

Like many young people in the neighborhood, David wants his own car, in order to get around more easily and impress the girls. But once he has a car -- an old vehicle requiring a lot of TLC -- that's not enough. David wants to drive fast! And he makes special "modifications" behind his father's back which will allow his clunker to drive faster.

Judge Langham is worried by too many young hot rod drivers appearing in his court or worse, dying. He considers backing a proposal for a track which will allow young drivers to take part in timed races while safety is emphasized, but when he learns David has secretly modified his car all bets are off.

David being mistakenly accused of a hit and run doesn't help matters...

HOT ROD has a bit of a feel of a '50s Andy Hardy movie, right down to the dad who's a judge. A difference, though, is that Dad is not an endless font of wisdom in the style of Lewis Stone's Judge Hardy; at times he's just as obstinate as David.

Instead it's oldest son Joe, the cop, who sees both sides and calmly moderates the conversations between his father and brother. It's Joe who ultimately convinces Dad to bend a little so that everyone's happy.

Lydon, last reviewed here in A DATE WITH JUDY (1948), had a career of nearly five decades but is probably best remembered as a young male lead. He was well known for Paramount's Henry Aldrich films in the '40s, as well as LIFE WITH FATHER (1947). Along with LIFE WITH FATHER and A DATE WITH JUDY, Lydon also appeared opposite a young Elizabeth Taylor in CYNTHIA (1947).

A few years after HOT ROD Lydon starred with Wayne Morris and Beverly Garland in a Western I especially like and recommend, THE DESPERADO (1954).

Gil Stratton Jr. plays David's best friend Swifty. Stratton had been in the movies since appearing in MGM's BEST FOOT FORWARD (1943) and GIRL CRAZY (1943) and was still a youthful-looking 27 or 28 when he appeared here as someone roughly a decade younger. Stratton, whose films also included STALAG 17 (1953), is known to Southern Californians of a certain age for his many years as a local Los Angeles sports reporter on both TV and radio.

HOT ROD was written by Daniel B. Ullman and directed by Lewis Collins, both familiar names from many "B" Westerns. The movie was shot by Gilbert Warrenton. Locations included the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles.

The print and sound of this remastered Warner Archive DVD are very good quality. 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 Store at Amazon or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

Tonight's Movie: Tin Cup (1996) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Kevin Costner is probably my favorite movie star of the last three decades, yet somehow I'd never seen his film TIN CUP (1996). I've now rectified that thanks to a terrific new Blu-ray release from the Warner Archive.

Costner plays Roy McAvoy, who washed up as a pro golfer and now runs a rinky-dink driving range in West Texas. The opening scenes do a marvelous job setting the stage; the range is about to fall apart and threatens to be overrun by armadillos.

Psychologist Molly Griswold (Rene Russo) has just moved to town and shows up at the range for lessons. Molly's boyfriend, David Simms (Don Johnson), is a successful pro golfer who was Roy's college partner -- and longtime rival.

Roy is immediately smitten by Molly and begins a campaign to win her away from David. To that end, he decides to show her he's more than the man living a hand-to-mouth existence in a motorhome at the driving range; he works to get his act together and attempts to qualify to play in the U.S. Open.

That's about the extent of the plot; what matters is the journey, and it's a quirky and surprisingly humorous tale filled with richly detailed characterizations. I was delighted to discover that at times it's actually "laugh out loud" funny.

The film is probably about ten minutes overlong, clocking in at 135 minutes, but I smiled throughout, and you can't ask for much more than that from a movie.

As I watched I had the vague feeling that the movie reminded me of Clint Eastwood's BRONCO BILLY (1980), but at first I wasn't quite sure why. As I pondered it longer, the elements began falling into place, starting with the "high class" lady who's thrown into the midst of a "found family" of oddball characters.

Both films have elements of screwball comedy, but underlying are more serious themes of friendship, self-discovery, and deliberately choosing to change the course of one's life.

At times TIN CUP hits predictable notes, particularly with a ROCKY (1976) style "winning but not winning" climax, but on the whole it's filled with marvelous little surprises. Costner's talent and appeal are a known element, but Russo -- great in a more serious role in THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1999) -- here displays a charmingly off-center and quite funny woman who's smart but perhaps doesn't have her act quite together herself. I found her performance a delight.

The circle surrounding Roy includes his faithful, long-suffering caddy Romeo (Cheech Marin), backup caddy Earl (Dennis Burkley), and Doreen (Linda Hart), a stripper who was formerly Roy's girlfriend. They all sketch memorable characters, with Doreen's "between us girls" chat with Molly on the golf course being a highlight. Romeo and Roy marveling over the brand-new Titleist golf balls at the Open also had me chuckling.

Don Johnson nails the phony David, who has an unpleasant edge lurking underneath the smooth-talking exterior. The cast also includes Rex Linn, Lou Meyers, Richard Lineback, George Perez, Mickey Jones, and a few golfers and announcers playing themselves.

TIN CUP was directed by Ron Shelton, who wrote the screenplay with John Norville. Shelton was also the man behind BULL DURHAM (1988), one of Costner's beloved "baseball trilogy" along with FIELD OF DREAMS (1989) and FOR LOVE OF THE GAME (1999). Fun fact, I sat across the aisle from Shelton watching BULL DURHAM at the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival.

My most recent viewing of BULL DURHAM admittedly left me dissatisfied, but I had no such feelings about TIN CUP, finding it one of the more enjoyable films I've seen this year. As a matter of fact, one of my other favorite 2020 watches was revisiting another of Costner's sports films, DRAFT DAY (2014). It's hard to go wrong with Costner and a sports theme.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated R for language and other content, but I found it much more restrained than Shelton and Costner's too-crass BULL DURHAM.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray is a terrific widescreen print showing off the filming of Russell Boyd. It has excellent sound. The disc includes a trailer.


Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.

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