Monday, August 31, 2020

TCM in September: Highlights

It's hard to believe that the end of August is here and it's time to look at the September schedule for Turner Classic Movies!

Many interesting things are ahead on TCM in September, starting with Dorothy Dandridge as the September Star of the Month.

Eight of Dandridge's films will be shown spread across three Sunday evenings this month, starting on September 13th. As I wrote in July, I'm especially curious about THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS (1951), airing on September 20th. Please note there will not be a separate Star of the Month post for September.

There are no Star of the Month films the first weekend of the month as TCM is presenting something quite different, "The TCM End of Summer Concert Tour," which features rock concert films for much of Labor Day weekend.

The 14-part WOMEN MAKE FILM documentary debuts September 1st. In addition to weekly episodes of the documentary, TCM has scheduled numerous films directed by women, which will be hosted by TCM's Alicia Malone and Jacqueline Stewart. The Women Make Film programming is a special three-month event which runs through December 1st.

Another big event in September is Leonard Maltin's Shorts Showcase on September 14th. I'm quite excited about that lineup, especially as Mr. Maltin's THE GREAT MOVIE SHORTS has been in my film book library longer than I can remember.

The TCM Spotlight will focus on "Honoring Our Medical Heroes" every Thursday evening. I've noted several interesting films in that series below.

Noir Alley is preempted by the "End of Summer Concert Tour" the first weekend of the month and then returns from its annual August hiatus on September 12th. The titles for the last three weekends of the month will be DANGER SIGNAL (1945) on September 12th and 13th, GILDA (1946) on September 19th and 20th, and THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME (1947) on the 26th and 27th. It's a trio of very entertaining movies. DANGER SIGNAL is seen here with Bruce Bennett, Mona Freeman, and Dick Erdman, who star along with Zachary Scott and Faye Emerson.

Update: NIGHT EDITOR, further discussed below, turns out to be part of the Noir Alley schedule. While the usual Saturday night time slot is preempted on the 5th, Eddie Muller will be hosting NIGHT EDITOR on Sunday morning, the 6th.

Below are some additional highlights from TCM's September schedule. Please click any hyperlinked title to read my corresponding review.

...A day of several Alfred Hitchcock films on September 1st includes two of my favorites, THE LADY VANISHES (1938) and FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940), along with a lesser-known but quite enjoyable film STAGE FRIGHT (1950). The latter film stars Jane Wyman, Michael Wilding, Marlene Dietrich, Richard Todd, and Alastair Sim. STAGE FRIGHT also airs on the 15th.

...PAN-AMERICANA (1945) sounds like my kind of movie: An RKO "B" film starring fave Audrey Long and Phillip Terry, who later costarred with Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney in the film noir classic BORN TO KILL (1947), airing a few days later, on September 10th. PAN-AMERICANA also stars Eve Arden, Robert Benchley, and Lita Baron, billed as Isabelita. It's on September 2nd.

...The first evening saluting medical heroes, which begins September 3rd and runs into September 4th, includes YELLOW JACK (1938) early on the 4th. It's an interesting film in which Robert Montgomery plays a soldier who agrees to participate in human trials to prove that yellow fever is spread by mosquitoes. Lewis Stone plays Major Walter Reed, a doctor working to find a cure.

...NIGHT EDITOR (1946) is an entertaining and stylish 68-minute film noir from Columbia Pictures which airs on September 6th. Janis Carter is riveting as psychologically damaged woman. William Gargan and Jeff Donnell costar.

...Some of the all-time greatest heist movies air on the 8th, including one of my favorite little movies, ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950). Charles McGraw plays an L.A. cop on the trail of criminal mastermind William Talman.

...On September 9th I'm particularly excited about an evening of "college" films which includes Clifton Webb and Shirley Temple in MR. BELVEDERE GOES TO COLLEGE (1949), Virginia Mayo and Ronald Reagan in SHE'S WORKING HER WAY THROUGH COLLEGE (1952), and the TCM premieres of Penny Singleton in BLONDIE GOES TO COLLEGE (1942) and Loretta Young and Van Johnson in MOTHER IS A FRESHMAN (1949).

...The "Medical Heroes" films on September 10th include a movie I've never seen before, THE STORY OF DR. WASSELL (1944), with Gary Cooper and Laraine Day. Cooper plays a Navy doctor who helps wounded sailors escape the Japanese during World War II. Sounds very interesting.

...Early on September 11th the medical films continue with Kay Francis as Florence Nightingale in THE WHITE ANGEL (1936). Frequent Francis costar Ian Hunter is also in this one.

...I really like the underrated "gothic noir" EXPERIMENT PERILOUS (1944), with George Brent helping Hedy Lamarr, who is married to a very possessive man (Paul Lukas). Jacques Tourneur directed. It airs September 12th.

...An evening of Dorothy Dandridge's films on September 13th includes the delightful SUN VALLEY SERENADE (1941), starring John Payne, Sonja Henie, Glenn Miller, Milton Berle, and Lynn Bari. Dandridge appears with the Nicholas Brothers as a specialty performer during the elaborate -- and quite wonderful --presentation of "Chattanooga Choo Choo."

...FASHIONS OF 1934 (1935), with musical numbers designed by Busby Berkeley, airs on September 14th. William Powell and Bette Davis star.

...On September 15th Edward Arnold stars as a blind detective in a nifty little mystery, EYES IN THE NIGHT (1942), followed by the sequel, THE HIDDEN EYE (1945).

...I recently reviewed the Warner Archive release of RACHEL AND THE STRANGER (1948), which restored 12 long-missing minutes. It's airing on TCM on September 16th, and the 93-minute running time listed indicates that it will also be the restored version. Loretta Young and William Holden, seen here, star with Robert Mitchum in a wonderful film.

...A day of Otto Preminger films on September 17th includes the solid Western RIVER OF NO RETURN (1954) starring Robert Mitchum, Marilyn Monroe, and Rory Calhoun.

...This week's medical films include the interesting melodrama THE DOCTOR AND THE GIRL (1949) early on September 18th. The terrific cast includes Janet Leigh and Glenn Ford, seen at right, along with Gloria DeHaven, Charle Coburn, and Nancy Davis (Reagan).

...Playwright Noel Coward is honored with several films on September 22nd, including PRIVATE LIVES (1931), starring Robert Montgomery, Norma Shearer, Reginald Denny, and Una Merkel.

...TCM celebrates the centennial of the birth of Mickey Rooney with an all-day marathon on September 23rd. The titles include GIRL CRAZY (1943) and STRIKE UP THE BAND (1940), which I recently enjoyed revisiting for the first time in many years, especially GIRL CRAZY. Judy Garland costars in both. And don't miss Rooney's finest dramatic performance in THE HUMAN COMEDY (1943), a WWII "homefront" film which earned Rooney a Best Actor Oscar nomination.

...On September 24th the medical heroes films kick off with Lew Ayres as YOUNG DR. KILDARE (1938). Worth catching later in the night: The underrated THE GIRL IN WHITE (1952), starring June Allyson as a pioneering female physician.

...It's hard to believe it's been five years since I saw THE RED SHOES (1948) at UCLA. Powell and Pressburger's masterpiece, starring Moira Shearer, airs on TCM September 26th.

...Silent Sunday Nights on September 27th features OUR MODERN MAIDENS (1929), starring Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

...TCM celebrates Greer Garson's birthday on September 29th with half a dozen films including PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1940), which I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting earlier this month. A gem!

For more on TCM in September 2020, please visit my Quick Preview of TCM in September or TCM's complete schedule.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Shakedown (1929) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The last few years I've made many wonderful discoveries at the Cinecon Classic Film Festival, held in Hollywood every Labor Day weekend.

The decades-old festival won't be held this year, for what I'm sure are obvious reasons, so it was very nice to instead be able to revisit a film I especially enjoyed at the 2018 Cinecon Fest, THE SHAKEDOWN (1929).

This silent movie, directed by the great William Wyler, was recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

THE SHAKEDOWN, which runs a brisk 65 minutes, is the story of Dave (James Murray, THE CROWD), who's part of a boxing scam which moves from town to town. Dave will briefly take a job and settle into each place, presenting himself as a hardworking young fellow as he gets to know his new neighbors, but then he always ends up challenged to box with Battling Rolf (George Koltsonaros); the townspeople are then so excited to see "one of their own" in the boxing ring that the con artists rack up massive ticket sales and bets for a rigged match.

In a story which I noted at the time was reminiscent of John Ford's JUST PALS (1920), Dave arrives in the town which is the latest "mark" and unexpectedly finds himself taking in an orphan named Clem (Jack Hanlon). He also falls hard for pretty Margie (Barbara Kent, LONESOME), a waitress at the diner next to the oil field where he gets a job.

Jim finds he doesn't want to let down either Clem or Margie and tells his manager (Wheeler Oakman) he's through...then is forced to fight Battling Rolf "for real."

This is a heartwarming story with an excellent performance by Murray, who's simultaneously an appealing all-American type and a real jerk; the film's main theme is essentially which side of Dave's soul will win the day. This is nowhere better depicted than in a scene where he saves Clem's life; initially he's heroic, risking his own life to save the little boy, but then the calculating "salesman" emerges, wondering if anyone saw the act, which would increase his local popularity. After all, his manager did tell him to try to do something dramatic like saving a life in his new town!

Murray is terrific depicting Dave's inner conflicts, ultimately winning audience sympathy, and Kent is as charming as she was in LONESOME. Hanlon does a good job in a role which could be outright annoying, given Clem's bratty tendencies, but he ultimately wins the viewer over with moments such as his struggle to form his hands into the proper position to say a prayer for Dave.

The movie has some marvelous photography by Jerome Ash and Charles Stumar. A sequence where Dave rides a piece of oil rig equipment down to the ground is as thrilling for the audience as an amusement park ride, as we see it from a first-person viewpoint. Later there's a great scene with an actual amusement park ride, as Dave and Margie ride a Ferris wheel and Dave steals a kiss. The shots of the various riders spinning by the camera are dizzying.

I loved the scenes in the oil field diner and wondered if it was an actual location or shot on the Universal lot. It feels very authentic -- all the more so when Margie is left to wash a mountain of dishes after the lunch crowd leaves.

A fun side note: Look for director Wyler in a cameo, holding a "Round 3" card during the final boxing match.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray print is terrific. There are a few lines here and there but it's entirely what one would expect from a film which is close to a century old. How wonderful this piece of film history has been preserved and made widely available thanks to this excellent Blu-ray! The Blu-ray print has an electronic score by Michael Gatt.

The Kino Lorber case has reversible cover art, with the choices at the top and bottom of this post. There's a glossy illustrated booklet with a thoughtful essay by Nora Fiore, aka The Nitrate Diva. I especially liked her line that the film "moves fast enough to outrun its own treacle." True! A commentary track by Nick Pinkerton completes the set.


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

Tonight's Movie: Six Bridges to Cross (1955) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

This summer I've been reviewing films from a trio of excellent Dark Side of Cinema Blu-ray collections released by Kino Lorber.

SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS (1955) is part of the Dark Side of Cinema IV set, along with CALCUTTA (1947) and AN ACT OF MURDER (1948). The first-ever home viewing release of CALCUTTA, starring Alan Ladd, is especially exciting. I'll be taking a look at both CALCUTTA and AN ACT OF MURDER here at a future date.

First, though, I've watched SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS for the first time ever thanks to this new Blu-ray release.

SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS, which is actually more a crime/cop story than a film noir, portrays the long-time relationship of a police officer, Ed Gallagher (George Nader), and a crook, Jerry Florea (Tony Curtis). They first meet in Boston during the Great Depression, when Ed is a rookie cop who shoots Jerry (played as a teenager by Sal Mineo) when he robs a store.

Ed and Jerry develop a friendship of sorts while Jerry recovers in the hospital, and over the years Ed attempts to set Jerry on the right path, including trying to get Jerry paroled out of prison into the army during World War II. That plan is unfortunately stopped in its tracks when research reveals that Jerry isn't a citizen.

Jerry values the friendship of Ed and Ed's wife Ellen (Julie Adams) and pays lip service to reforming, but he never manages to follow through. Despite that, the men remain connected over the years to varying degrees as Jerry periodically tips Ed off to information he can use to clear other crooks out of their neighborhood.

Ed thinks Jerry has finally turned his life around when Jerry marries Virginia (Anabel Shaw), a widow with three children. Jerry settles down to run a gas station...but things seem very suspicious when an armored delivery company across the street from the station is robbed of two and a half million dollars while Jerry and Virginia are eating dinner with Ed and Ellen.

This is a good if somewhat imperfect film with a solid performance by Nader and outstanding acting by Curtis, who breaks the viewer's heart with the varied emotions which cascade across his broken tough guy's face, no dialogue needed. In a just world, Curtis's performance would have merited an Oscar nomination. (Curtis would later receive his one and only nomination for 1958's THE DEFIANT ONES.) Jerry is the jerk you hate to love and love to hate all wrapped up in one package. Curtis is the key thing which makes the film worthwhile, although sticking with 90 minutes of a man incapable of reform is admittedly a bit wearing.

The movie has a good screenplay by Sydney Boehm, although as noted, it becomes a downer when Jerry repeatedly messes up despite helping hands and support. I was engrossed, but by the time the film moved into the final half hour I was ready for it to end, only because it didn't look like Jerry was going to end up anywhere positive.

There's also one curious thing in that Jerry's wife Virginia remains a background character with only a couple lines of dialogue until a climactic scene near the end of the movie. Given that she's important enough to cause Jerry to finally, after years of half-hearted yet failed attempts, to make a life-altering decision to "clean the slate" makes this a curious omission.

It seems as though at least a couple of the film's 96 minutes could have been spent developing their actual relationship. Instead all we know is what we hear from Jerry, including how thrilled he is to be a father to Virginia's children -- the long-ago shooting by Ed left him unable to father children himself. One wonders if this was a decision by the screenwriter or if a scene or two ended up on the cutting-room floor.

Julie Adams doesn't have a great deal to do as Ed's supportive wife, but she makes the most of small moments, whether it's visiting Jerry in prison while Ed is away during WWII or shooing an obnoxious investigator (Kendall Clark) out of their house when he implies Ed has benefited financially from his relationship with Jerry.

The supporting cast includes Jay C. Flippen as Ed's boss on the force, plus Harry Bartell, Tito Vuolo, Jan Merlin, Richard Castle, and William Murphy.

A fun bit of trivia is that the film's opening theme song was composed by Henry Mancini and actor Jeff Chandler, one of three films for which Chandler wrote the title song lyrics in 1955. (The others were FOXFIRE and THE LITTLEST OUTLAW.) While Chandler had a beautiful singing voice and sang the title track for FOXFIRE, the song heard in SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS was recorded by Chandler's friend Sammy Davis Jr.

Chandler did provide the opening narration, as he did for several other films in the early '50s; perhaps his background in radio helped Chandler cultivate an outstanding narrator's voice.

SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS was directed by Joseph Pevney, who also directed Curtis in a pair of films I really enjoyed at past Noir City Hollywood festivals, FLESH AND FURY (1952) and THE MIDNIGHT STORY (1957). Pevney drew excellent performances from the actor in all three films.

The movie was filmed in widescreen black and white by William H. Daniels, with a number of scenes filmed on location in Boston.

Kino's Blu-ray is a good-looking print, although the opening credits sequence looked softer than I expected. Overall it looks quite nice, with a strong soundtrack.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray includes a commentary track by Samm Deighan, a TV ad spot with Curtis, and two additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber.

For more Dark Side of Cinema reviews, please visit my posts on THE PRICE OF FEAR (1956) from Volume II and ABANDONED (1949) and THE SLEEPING CITY (1950) from Volume III.

Watch for more Dark Side of Cinema reviews ahead, along with films from Kino's new Tony Curtis Collection.

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

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Tonight's Movie: This Side of the Law (1950) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THIS SIDE OF THE LAW (1950) is an interesting little Warner Bros. mystery available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

The movie was initially released back in 2010, during the Warner Archive's second year, and the case has since been upgraded, with the plain blue cover art switched out for a movie poster.

THIS SIDE OF THE LAW is one of those creepy thrillers like MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945) or THE SIGN OF THE RAM (1948) which is set in a forbidding mansion conveniently located next to an oceanside cliff. And as the movie begins, David Cummins (Kent Smith) is trapped at the bottom of a well on the estate.

In flashback we learn that Cummins was picked up for vagrancy and Philip Cagle (Robert Douglas), an attorney, paid for his bail. It turns out that Cummins is a dead ringer for Cagle's long-missing client, who is about to be declared legally dead; Cagle wants to prevent that, for complicated reasons, and offers Cummins $500 to impersonate the missing man. After negotiating his price upwards to $5000, Cummins agrees.

Cummins spends a couple days getting up to speed on his new background and then goes to the Taylor family estate, where his first challenge is to get past a suspicious guard dog. In short order we meet his "wife" Evelyn (Viveca Lindfors), who isn't entirely sure what to make of her much nicer husband -- a plot device familiar from films such as SCOTLAND YARD (1942).

There's also a wild-eyed "brother" (John Alvin) to contend with, and adulterous sister-in-law Nadine (Janis Paige), who as it turns out knew her brother-in-law very well and can physically identify whether or not Cummins is really her husband's long-lost brother.

With a running time of only 74 minutes, the plot moves forward quickly. I wouldn't describe it as a great film, but it's of the entertaining two-and-a-half-star variety. The movie's chief attributes are Paige, whose energy makes her scenes the most interesting in the film, and plenty of spooky-looking black and white scenes filmed by Carl Guthrie.

I've seen Smith in a number of films, including NORA PRENTISS (1947), but have never found him a particularly compelling actor. I think I liked him best as the doctor trying to save Dorothy McGuire in THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1946). Here he's all right in the role, especially in the disturbing "trapped" scenes which open and close the film, although I felt like someone with more charisma would have upped the film's interest level. Maybe the Kent I enjoy much more, Kent Taylor, would have been good in the part, or someone like Zachary Scott could have done a good job with the role.

I really liked Douglas as a detective in the following year's HOMICIDE (1949) but again he wasn't quite so interesting here, though suitably ambiguous -- and a bit slimy -- as a lawyer with an agenda.

Lindfors is fairly bland, but Paige bring lots of fire to her role as the two-timing sister-in-law, and I felt she made the movie worth seeing. Alvin is simultaneously over-the-top and forgettable as the disturbed brother, a rather curious combination.

While most of the performances were only mildly on the interesting side, I still enjoyed the film. The setting and plot angles gave it a pleasant familiarity, Paige is a kick, the production values were quite solid for a film of its type, and the quick running time meant it moved along quickly. For those who share my liking for exploring minor films, it is probably worth a watch -- a "nice to have on in the background on a cozy weekend afternoon" type of movie.

The film was directed by Richard L. Bare. The screenplay Russell S. Hughes was from a story by Richard Sale.

The Warner Archive DVD print and sound are of good quality. There are no extras on the disc.

For more on this film, please check out posts by Colin at Riding the High Country and Dan at Mystery File. Like me, they enjoyed checking it out.

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.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Last month I mentioned that Kino Lorber would be releasing THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS (1941), starring John Wayne. Kino Lorber has now announced that it will be out on November 3rd, with a commentary track by Simon Abrams. Even better, Wayne's SEVEN SINNERS (1940), costarring Marlene Dietrich, will be released on the same day, with a commentary by David Del Valle.

...Some articles on the current state of moviegoing, via the excellent Cinema Treasures Twitter account: "What If the Movie Studios Decide They Don't Need the Theaters After All?" by Mark Harris for Vulture; "Movies Are Slowly Coming Back - But Can Hollywood and Theaters Stay in Business?" by Chris Hewitt for the Star Tribune; and "As TENET and NEW MUTANTS Open, Audiences Weigh Risk of Going Back to the Movies" by Rebecca Rubin for Variety.

...While Disneyland remains closed, fans can enjoy the new Galaxy's Edge Outpost Collection at Target. And coming in November, look for GALAXY'S EDGE: THE OFFICIAL BLACK SPIRE OUTPOST COOKBOOK.

...This weekend I belatedly caught up with a wonderful May post on "Classics for Comfort" by The Blonde at the Film. Her movie suggestions work for me any time I need a lift.

...Coming to Blu-ray and DVD from Mill Creek in November: Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection. The Blu-ray set has 12 films and the DVD set will have 16. (Thanks to reader Ashley for sending the info.)

...As mentioned earlier this month Disney's live-action MULAN (2020) will debut on the Disney+ streaming service for a $30 "premium" fee. The movie debuts next Friday, September 4th. It's now been announced that the movie will be available from Disney+ as part of the regular payment plan beginning December 4th.

...Among the excellent posts at the 5th Ingrid Bergman Blogathon hosted by Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema: Caftan Woman on INDISCREET (1958) and Erica on A WOMAN'S FACE (1938) at Poppity Talks Classic Film.

...Next month the Warner Archive will reissue the THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! trilogy (1974/1976/1994) on Blu-ray.

...I'm looking forward to checking out Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release of Universal's RED BALL EXPRESS (1952) soon. What a cast: Jeff Chandler, Charles Drake, Alex Nicol, Sidney Poitier, Jack Kelly, and Hugh O'Brian, directed by Budd Boetticher. CineSavant Glenn Erickson has a review up today at Trailers From Hell.

...Movies Silently takes a look at Kino Lorber's release of John Ford's HELL BENT (1918), which I'll be reviewing here in the fairly near future.

...Notable Passing: Charming Lori Nelson, seen at the right, has passed away at the age of 87. The Tinseltown Twins pay tribute in a lovely post. Nelson's films reviewed here over the years include BEND OF THE RIVER (1952), ALL I DESIRE (1953), TUMBLEWEED (1953), and UNDERWATER! (1955).

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my August 22nd roundup.

Have a great week!

A Birthday Tribute to Barry Sullivan

Actor Barry Sullivan was born in New York City on August 29, 1912.

Sullivan was a fine actor who had a terrific career which stretched for over four decades, as he moved easily back and forth between leading and supporting roles, gradually settling into character parts.

In addition to his long-running film career, he also starred in the TV series HARBORMASTER (1957-58), seen above, and as Pat Garrett in THE TALL MAN (1960-62).

Over the last couple of years I've particularly come to realize just how much I enjoy Sullivan's work, having reviewed over two dozen of the prolific actor's films, with more I look forward to seeing in the future. I find him an exceptionally compelling actor regardless of the size of his part.

My favorite Sullivan roles include his portrayal of Clark Gable's loyal assistant in ANY NUMBER CAN PLAY (1949); he's seen below on the left. He's a seemingly mild-mannered, bespectacled man who dotes on an unseen invalid wife -- but when his boss is crossed he reveals a coolly lethal side which made me wish we learned a lot more about his back story.

He's also fun to watch as the cagey detective in the mystery TENSION (1949), seen here with Cyd Charisse:

1949 was a great year for Sullivan, as he also appeared as Tom Buchanan opposite Alan Ladd in THE GREAT GATSBY (1949) and elevated BAD MEN OF TOMBSTONE (1949) with his charismatic performance (seen here with Marjorie Reynolds):

He was terrific in THE MIAMI STORY (1954), seen here with Beverly Garland; he plays a former gangster recruited to help clean corruption out of Miami. Again, his mere presence made what might have been an otherwise fairly minor movie highly enjoyable, and I chose the film as one of my Favorite Film Discoveries of 2019 for the website Rupert Pupkin Speaks.

I love his part as an accused criminal in the Western DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE (1957). When his traveling party comes under Indian attack in the desert, his character proves to be one of the bravest of the bunch, while also finding time to romance Mona Freeman (seen below). Sullivan and Freeman play two imperfect people who come to accept each other and then find love together.

And then there's his wily, dangerous outlaw in SEVEN WAYS FROM SUNDOWN (1962), matching wits with Audie Murphy:

Sullivan, who was married three times, had three children; his daughter Patsy married composer Jimmy Webb and daughter Jenny married rock star Jim Messina.

Barry Sullivan died on June 6, 1994, at the age of 81.

Barry Sullivan films reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: AND NOW TOMORROW (1944), LADY IN THE DARK (1944), FRAMED (1947), SMART WOMAN (1948), THE GREAT GATSBY (1949), TENSION (1949), BAD MEN OF TOMBSTONE (1949), ANY NUMBER CAN PLAY (1949), NANCY GOES TO RIO (1950), THE OUTRIDERS (1950), A LIFE OF HER OWN (1950), NO QUESTIONS ASKED (1951), CAUSE FOR ALARM! (1951), PAYMENT ON DEMAND (1951), THREE GUYS NAMED MIKE (1951), THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952) (also here), JEOPARDY (1953), PLAYGIRL (1954), HERE TWELVE MEN (1954), THE MIAMI STORY (1954), LOOPHOLE (1954), STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND (1955) (also here), JULIE (1956), DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE (1957), LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA (1962), and EARTHQUAKE (1974).

Reviewed for my Western Roundup column at Classic Movie Hub: SEVEN WAYS FROM SUNDOWN (1960).

Seen below, THE OUTRIDERS costarring Arlene Dahl and Joel McCrea.

Some of Sullivan's other noteworthy films not yet reviewed include SUSPENSE (1946), THE GANGSTER (1947), QUEEN BEE (1955), THE MAVERICK QUEEN (1956), FORTY GUNS (1957), A GATHERING OF EAGLES (1963), and PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID (1973).

I highly recommend delving into Barry Sullivan's highly enjoyable filmography, which provides a great many hours of excellent entertainment.

Update: I've now reviewed SUSPENSE (1946) and QUEEN BEE (1955).

Friday, August 28, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Calaboose (1943) - A ClassicFlix DVD Review

Tonight it was time to watch CALABOOSE (1943), the second title in the ClassicFlix set The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners Collection, Vol. 2: The Westerns.

Last month I reviewed the first film in the collection, DUDES ARE PRETTY PEOPLE (1942).

As with the other Streamliners, CALABOOSE is a short film consisting of a series of comedic set pieces loosely connected by an overarching plot. All three Streamliner Westerns star Jimmy Rogers (son of Will) and Noah Beery Jr. as a pair of goofy modern-day cowboys, Jimmy and Pidge.

In this 45-minute comedy Jimmy and Pidge take a job breaking horses, but it doesn't go so well; girl-crazy Pidge is distracted by Doris (Mary Brian of PETER PAN and IT'S TOUGH TO BE FAMOUS).  When Pidge isn't paying attention the horses escape and run riot through the local town, with one even ending up in the rear seat of a convertible!

It's a pretty amusing sequence, with an all-too-brief appearance by effervescent Jean Porter in a small role.

Pidge learns that Doris's uncle (William Davidson) is the local sheriff and that she loves to coddle and try to reform prisoners, so in the next sequence he works hard to get arrested, while Jimmy tries desperately to prevent it. Pidge finally manages to land in the very plush jail cell decorated by Doris.

In the final section of the movie, complications ensue with a notorious gangster (Marc Lawrence) also ends up in the jail and his gang breaks him out.

CALABOOSE might have been the weakest of the Streamliners I've seen so far, but I still found it mildly amusing. I liked the cast and had to chuckle at the craziness of the horse stampede, and with such a short running time, a Streamliner never has time to wear out its welcome! I find them pleasant company, and the best of the films have had moments which are laugh-out-loud funny.

CALABOOSE was directed by Hal Roach Jr. and filmed by Robert Pittack. The supporting cast includes Paul Hurst, Iris Adrian, Sarah Edwards, Nora Cecil, Jimmy Conlin, and William Farnum.

As with DUDES ARE PRETTY PEOPLE, the picture can be a tad soft at times but overall is entirely acceptable, with no distracting skips or jumps and a good soundtrack.

Earlier this summer I also reviewed films from The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners Collection, Volume 1: The Tracy & Sawyer Military Comedies, as well as from Volume 3, The Taxi Comedies. Just released this week was Volume 4: The Musicals.

Look for more Streamliners reviews here in the future, including the final film in this set, PRAIRIE CHICKENS (1943).

Thanks to ClassicFlix for providing a review copy of this DVD.

Chadwick Boseman, RIP

Devastating news tonight: Actor Chadwick Boseman has died of colon cancer.

The actor who played Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013) died on the same day baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day. His age has been reported by varied sources as 42 or 43.

Boseman's personal Twitter account indicates he had courageously made several films over the past four years in between surgeries and treatments.

Boseman was an appealing, charismatic actor, and it's sad to think of the performances we'll never see due to his passing at such a young age. I'm especially low contemplating that we'll not be seeing him star in the next BLACK PANTHER film which had been scheduled for 2022.

His family said "It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in BLACK PANTHER."

"Wakanda Forever!"

Previous reviews of Chadwick Boseman films: DRAFT DAY (2014), CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016), MARSHALL (2017), BLACK PANTHER (2018), AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018), and AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019).

Update: Here is a review of 42 (2013).

Thursday, August 27, 2020

New at Classic Movie Hub: Frontier Gambler (1956)

I'm happy to say my newest Western Roundup column has just been posted at Classic Movie Hub!

This month I've written about FRONTIER GAMBLER (1956), a minor yet interesting Western which borrows heavily from the classic film LAURA (1944).

Please click on this link for Classic Movie Hub to read it, and thanks, as always, for everyone's support of my Western Roundup columns!

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; May 2020; June 2020; July 2020.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Backlash (1956) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Richard Widmark and Donna Reed star in BACKLASH (1956), a melding of Western adventure and psychological mystery just released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

I reviewed this film very briefly way back in 2007, after having watched a commercial-riddled TV print, which I seem to recall was also "pan and scan."

It was a revelation revisiting the movie on Kino Lorber's beautiful widescreen Blu-ray. I appreciated the film much more on this viewing for multiple reasons, including the terrific Blu-ray print.

I think seeing it in a fresh context also contributed to my enjoyment. In the last 13 and a half years, faces like Robert J. Wilke and Glenn Strange have become old friends thanks to watching so many Westerns, and I've also developed an appreciation for the work of director John Sturges.

It was also fun to watch that chameleon of a character actor, John McIntire, in back-to-back movies, following THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS (1952). Both films were written by Borden Chase, who had a wonderful track record, particularly when it comes to Westerns.

This briskly plotted movie begins with Jim Slater (Richard Widmark) and Karyl Orton (Donna Reed) meeting in the Arizona desert, at the site of an Indian massacre. Jim is looking for his missing father, who may be dead, while Karyl is looking for gold she believes her estranged husband had prospected.

Though wary of one another, Jim and Karyl have an undeniable chemistry which heats up during their search, as they also contend with Apache Indians on the warpath, a range war between Major Carson (Roy Roberts) and Jim Bonniwell (McIntire), and the trigger-happy Welker brothers (Harry Morgan and Robert J. Wilke), who blame Jim for their brother's (Regis Parton) death.

In some ways it's a fairly simple Western plot, with the couple traveling around Arizona -- sometimes together, sometimes separately -- in their parallel searches, as they run into all manner of potentially lethal obstacles.

At the same time, the movie is filled with unique touches which provide added interest. As the story develops, we come to realize that this isn't a mere vengeance story, with Jim hunting for the killers of the father he believes dead; we learn that Jim has never even met his father, and an interesting psychological drama develops. Widmark is consistently compelling as the audience comes to understand the character and his life.

For her part, Karyl is far from the standard Western heroine. She's a tough gal who did what she needed to do to survive living in the South during the Civil War; we don't get details, but it bothered her soldier husband enough that he never returned to her after the war was over.

Karyl isn't intimidated dealing with tough men or situations; when she calmly makes coffee in the midst of an Indian attack, it's not a cliched moment of a woman feeding the men around her, but a testament to her strong character. She might die in the near future, but in the meantime, by golly, she's going to put the coffee on.

When a cantina shootout takes place right next to her, Karyl doesn't bat an eye. At one point the betrayed Jim hauls off and slaps her, but she essentially shrugs and moves on, not holding it against him. This doesn't make her a weak doormat; rather, her experiences have clearly given her a certain resilience and the ability to deal with difficult people. Reed is terrific in a carefully developed performance.

One of my favorite scenes is when Jim and Karyl turn in the body of Deputy Welker (Parton) to Sheriff Marson (Edward Platt of GET SMART). The suspicious sheriff has them come into his office and tells Jim to remove his gun. Jim refuses, and over the course of the conversation the sheriff gradually adjusts his behavior and expectations as he sizes Jim up, ultimately providing him with some needed information. It's a very well-written scene which also demonstrates the extra level of interest a couple of strong actors can bring to what could have been a humdrum sequence to provide Jim with the next clue in his search.

There are also some very well-done action sequences, with particular kudos for Jim's horse-to-stagecoach transfer while being chased by Indians.

McIntire played a wide variety of roles in Universal films of the '50s, and this is another noteworthy character who adds interest to the final third of the film. Barton MacLane is likewise excellent as a tough old soldier Jim and Karyl meet during an Apache attack, and William Campbell plays a wild-eyed gunfighter who reminded me more than a little of Widmark's well-remembered debut performance as Tommy Udo in KISS OF DEATH (1947).

The cast also includes Robert Foulk, Gregg Barton, Jack Lambert, Phil Chambers, and Fred Graham.

Chase's screenplay for this 87-minute film was based on a novel by Frank Gruber.

Director Sturges made a number of Westerns I've enjoyed, including ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO (1953). A couple years later he directed Widmark again in THE LAW AND JAKE WADE (1958).

The movie was shot in by Irving Glassberg at numerous Arizona locations, including Old Tucson.

Extras on the Blu-ray include the trailer, a gallery of trailers for five additional films available from Kino Lorber, and a commentary track by Samm Deighan.

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

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