Thursday, December 31, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Harvey Girls (1946) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

I rang out the year in fine style with the new Warner Archive Blu-ray of one of my all-time favorite MGM musicals, THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946).

Other MGM musicals may be more lauded, but THE HARVEY GIRLS is one of MGM's "second tier" musicals like GOOD NEWS (1947) or SUMMER STOCK (1950) which are wonderful "feel good" films.  Perhaps they're not up there with MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944), SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952), or THE BAND WAGON (1953), but they're still head and shoulders above most other movies and among my very favorites.

Watching THE HARVEY GIRLS, I start smiling from the moment the opening credits begin, accompanied by some of the music from the film's fine Johnny Mercer-Harry Warren score.

For those who haven't yet had the pleasure, the movie tells the story of Susan Bradley (Judy Garland) of Ohio, who we first meet on a train headed for the desert town of Sand Rock. She's destined to be the mail order bride of H.H. Hartsey (Chill Wills), but the letters wooing her were actually written by Ned Trent (John Hodiak), owner of the Alhambra saloon.

After Susan's arrival -- and the mind-blowing production number of the Oscar-winning "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe"! -- she and Hartsey quickly call it quits and Susan goes to work as a Harvey girl, waitressing in the Harvey House restaurant across the street from the saloon.

Ned, Judge Sam Purvis (Preston Foster), and head saloon gal Em (Angela Lansbury, who was a stunning 19 or 20 when this was filmed) all want the Harvey House competition gone and try to scare the ladies away, but Susan and most of her coworkers are made of tough stuff and don't back down.

Things get really complicated as the warring Ned and Susan realize their attraction for one another...

There are so many things I love about this film, including the marvelous cast, the music, and the gorgeous Technicolor filmed by George Folsey, which has surely never looked better than it now does on this new Blu-ray.

Judy was at her loveliest and most charming, and she has wonderful chemistry with the handsome Hodiak.

As a Harvey Girl, Judy is surrounded by sweet young Cyd Charisse, amusing Virginia O'Brien (who disappears partway into the film due to a real-life pregnancy), and a plethora of beautiful young ladies. A viewer looking carefully can pick out Catherine McLeod (I'VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU) or Jacqueline White (THE NARROW MARGIN) among the group.  

I'd seen THE HARVEY GIRLS many times before Horace McNally, who plays Ned's competition for Em, was someone I recognized. Horace changed his name to Stephen McNally a couple years later and starred in classic film noir like CRISS CROSS (1949) and a host of marvelous Universal Westerns, including playing James Stewart's nemesis Dutch Henry Brown in WINCHESTER '73 (1950).

The movie's best scene, the staging of the massive "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" number, is something that only a studio like MGM could pull off. Watch how smoothly the camera moves and pulls back, often avoiding expected cuts, and note how the takes are even longer once Judy enters the scene. It's technically impressive and emotionally exhilarating.

The rest of the score may not be as well known, but songs like "It's a Great Big World" and "Swing Your Partner Round and Round" have been part of my life for most of my life, and I love them. The big choral numbers have that very distinctive "MGM sound" thanks to the scoring by Conrad Salinger and the Oscar-nominated Lennie Hayton.

The screenplay had too many contributors to name here, but it all works, and the film's 102 minutes fly by. This is one of those cases where I think I'd have enjoyed the movie being a bit longer, and indeed, some scenes that were filmed were cut from the final print.

THE HARVEY GIRLS was directed by George Sidney.  Cast members I haven't yet mentioned include Marjorie Main, Selena Royle, Kenny Baker, Roy Bolger, Jack Lambert, Morris Ankrum, and Ray Teal.

A couple fun personal notes: Years ago I met one of the Harvey Girls; she's the same chorus girl I wrote about in my post on MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS two years ago.

Also, I realized for the first time tonight that Judy Garland and John Hodiak filmed scenes at Iverson Ranch, which I've been able to visit a couple times over the past few years. It was great fun to suddenly realize they were standing in a place which looked very familiar.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray includes a song selection menu, deleted musical numbers, and studio scoring session music cues. It also provides the commentary track by director George Sidney which first appeared on the DVD nearly two decades ago.

THE HARVEY GIRLS never fails to make me happy. Most highly recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop or from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.

Tonight's Movie: What Happened to Jones? (1926) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

One of the most notable sets released this year by Kino Lorber has been the Reginald Denny Collection, a Blu-ray set of three silent comedies.

The movies give classic film fans a completely different perspective on Denny, who is probably best known today as a supporting actor in films such as Hitchcock's REBECCA (1940).

During the silent era the British-born Denny was a talented comedian and romantic lead in films such as the three in this set, which include the previously reviewed THE RECKLESS AGE (1924) and SKINNER'S DRESS SUIT (1926).

My look at the set wraps up with a review of the third film, WHAT HAPPENED TO JONES? (1926).  I think I unknowingly saved the best for last, as while I enjoyed each of the films, this was my favorite.

Tom Jones (Denny) is due to marry Lucille Bigbee (Marian Nixon, billed as Marion) on the morrow, though he's not the preferred candidate of her parents (Melbourne MacDowell and Francis Raymond).  

On the eve of the wedding Tom's friend Ebenezer (Otis Harlan) convinces Tom to join him for a game of poker, which is promptly raided by the police.  Tom and Ebenezer escape but are chased to a ladies' "reducing parlor," where they have to hide in steam baths.  The police find Tom's wallet and look for him at Lucille's house.

Tom and Ebenezer eventually make their way to Ebenezer's house, where Tom masquerades as Ebenezer's brother, a bishop due to arrive in town who most of the family has never met.  The hurt and embarrassed Lucille, meanwhile, has called off her wedding to Tom and has consented to marry the man her parents favor, Henry (William Austin, who was also in THE RECKLESS AGE).

Ebenezer's forbidding wife (Emily Fitzroy) has a special surprise for the "bishop" -- she's arranged for him to perform Lucille and Henry's wedding!

This was quite a fun, madcap 69 minutes, with Denny carrying virtually every scene.  While I only found the bathhouse sequence mildly amusing -- the men end up in drag, never my most favorite thing to watch -- the scenes where Tom masquerades as the bishop grow downright hilarious.  

By the time the film arrives at the wedding sequence, it was quite suspenseful wondering how the "bishop" would get out of the situation and win back his true love, especially with the police still looking for Tom.  I'm sure it's no surprise that it's resolved in delightful fashion.

Denny is a wonderful farceur, and the entire cast is excellent.  I think this was the first silent film in which I've seen Zasu Pitts, who plays a maid Tom and Ebenezer must continually pay off for her silence; I could just imagine Pitts' funny voice droning her character's repeated refrain, "I didn't see him come in, I didn't see him go out, I didn't see nothing."

Leading lady Marian Nixon was in films from 1923 to 1936; among her films previously reviewed here are THE PAY-OFF (1930) and TOO BUSY TO WORK (1932).  Nixon married this film's director, William A. Seiter, in 1934, a marriage which lasted until his death three decades later.  Their son, Christopher, worked as an assistant director.  (It was rather "full circle" to read Christopher Seiter's 2003 obituary and find a quote by Dawn Wells, who passed away yesterday.)

In 1972 Nixon married Ben Lyon, who had been widowed when his wife Bebe Daniels passed away in 1971.  Lyon died in 1979 and Nixon in 1983.  She and Seiter are interred at Forest Lawn Glendale, while Lyon and Daniels are at Hollywood Forever.  

WHAT HAPPENED TO JONES? was filmed by Arthur L. Todd.  Melville L. Brown adapted the scenario from a play by George Broadhurst.

The original score on the Kino Blu-ray is by Anthony Willis.

The Kino Lorber print is excellent.  There's an occasional line on the screen but given the film's age, it's in great shape.  Like the other two films in the set, it includes a commentary track by Anthony Slide.

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

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my readers!

I think Ann Miller and her upbeat energy are just right to usher out 2020 and ring in a new, happier year.

Best wishes to all for a very happy and healthy 2021!

Previous classic film New Year's photos: Joan Leslie, Anita Louise, Dorothy Patrick, Mona Freeman, Joan Caulfield, Esther Williams, Ann Blyth, and Doris Day.

TCM in January: Highlights

Happy New Year!  I'm wishing all my readers an especially happy 2021.  We all deserve it after the year that was 2020!

There's lots to anticipate on Turner Classic Movies as we begin the New Year.  I'll post a link to the January schedule here as soon as it's available; TCM no longer has monthly schedules available before the start of a month.  I've cobbled together information from individual TCM pages and other sources to create this overview ahead of the 1st.

January 1st Update: This month's schedule has now been posted at the TCM site.

The January Star of the Month is Miriam Hopkins, who will be showcased with 17 films shown on Thursdays.  Please note there will not be a separate Star of the Month post for January; information on the Hopkins films screening this month may be found below.

The TCM Spotlight theme this month will be Whodunit Wednesdays, with several fun mysteries shown each week on Wednesday evenings.

On Tuesdays, the month's special theme will be The Studio System, a look at the major studios during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

January entries for Noir Alley are THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF UNCLE HARRY (1945) on January 2nd and 3rd, THE GLASS KEY (1942) on the 9th and 10th, WITNESS TO MURDER (1954) January 16th-17th, BORN TO KILL (1947) on the 23rd and 24th, and THE KILLERS (1946) on the 30th and 31st.

All of the films I've seen are recommended, but if I had to choose just one it would be BORN TO KILL, which I rank near the very top of my list of favorite film noir titles.  It features a great cast headed by Claire Trevor and Laurence Tierney, seen here with Audrey Long to their left.

Here's a look at additional highlights airing on TCM this month.  Please click any hyperlinked title to read my extended review.

...New Year's Day starts the year off laughing, showing comedies all day, including a late-night screening of the gentle "rom com" MURPHY'S ROMANCE (1985). James Garner and Sally Field star.

...Last summer I saw A LITTLE ROMANCE (1979) for the first time, which stars Diane Lane in her film debut. It was an enjoyable film costarring Sir Laurence Olivier, with a good performance by Arthur Hill as Lane's thoughtful stepfather. It will be shown January 3rd.

...On January 4th there's a documentary which sounds quite interesting, CHURCHILL AND THE MOVIE MOGUL (2019).  It's shown as part of a two-night retrospective, "Produced By Alexander Korda."  Half a dozen of Korda's films will also be shown on this date, with seven more Korda films airing on January 11th.

...I saw fewer than 10 films in a theater this year, and one of them was  GILDA (1946), starring Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford.  See what I described as its "shimmering star power" on TCM on  January 5th.  It's part of the first evening of films saluting the "studio system."

...The first evening of "Whodunit Wednesdays" on January 6th includes DEATH ON THE NILE (1978), reviewed here last month.  Peter Ustinov and David Niven lead a cast of stars in this Agatha Christie mystery.  A couple years ago I also enjoyed Diane Keaton in the silly yet fun MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY (1993), showing later that evening.

...January 7th features some good pre-Codes, including one of my favorites, THEIR OWN DESIRE (1929), starring Robert Montgomery, Norma Shearer, and the fabulous Norconian Resort.

...Later on the 7th it's the first evening of Miriam Hopkins films.  The five titles showing that night are THE SMILING LIEUTENANT (1931), DESIGN FOR LIVING (1933), MEN ARE NOT GODS (1936), TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1936), and DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1932).  I especially recommend THE SMILING LIEUTENANT and TROUBLE IN PARADISE; both  are four-star classics directed by Ernst Lubitsch, who also directed DESIGN FOR LIVING.

...A day of films to celebrate Elvis's birthday on January 8th includes my favorite of his movies, the colorful VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964), costarring Ann-Margret.  The poolside number with Ann-Margret in a yellow bathing suit is my favorite scene in the movie.  Great happy vibes, which we can all use as we head into 2021.

...On January 9th Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame star in the excellent crime film THE BIG HEAT (1953).

...THEODORA GOES WILD (1936), starring Irene Dunne and Melvyn Douglas, is a wonderful comedy to help start the New Year on the right foot.  It's on January 10th.

...January 12th: Astaire. Rogers. SWING TIME (1936). Be there!

...On January 14th the Miriam Hopkins Star of the Month films are THE OLD MAID (1939), WISE GIRL (1937), OLD ACQUAINTANCE (1943), and LADY WITH RED HAIR (1940).

...TCM celebrates Ann Miller with several musicals on January 15th, including EASTER PARADE (1948) and KISS ME KATE (1953).  Ann is seen here with Tommy Rall, who passed on in October.

...January 16th there's a variety of very entertaining films on the schedule, including ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC (1943) with Humphrey Bogart, RACHEL AND THE STRANGER (1948) with Loretta Young, William Holden, and Robert Mitchum, and REAR WINDOW (1954) with James Stewart and Grace Kelly.  It's a good winter day to stay curled up under a blanket on the sofa with good movies!

...Last spring I watched the heist film THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (1974) for the first time and really enjoyed it.  It will be shown on January 17th.  Walter Matthau stars as a member of the NY transit police who handles the case.

...The great pre-Code EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE (1933) is being shown as part of an Alice White triple feature on January 19th.  Loretta Young and Warren William star.

...The MGM musical SUMMER STOCK (1950) with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly never fails to put a smile on my face.  Charles Walters directed; the supporting cast includes Gloria DeHaven and Marjorie Main.  It airs January 20th.

...It's time for another evening with Miriam Hopkins on January 21st.  I especially recommend the first title, THE RICHEST GIRL IN THE WORLD (1934), costarring Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, and Reginald Denny.  Also being shown that night: THESE THREE (1936), VIRGINIA CITY (1940), SPLENDOR (1935), and WOMAN CHASES MAN (1937).

...One of my favorite movies, THE NARROW MARGIN (1952), is on the 22nd.  Charles McGraw, Jacqueline White, and Marie Windsor star in this short, snappy crime film almost entirely set on a train.  More good film noir titles follow this one, making the 22nd one of my favorite days on the January calendar.

...OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES (1945) is classic MGM Americana starring Edward G. Robinson and Margaret O'Brien, seen here with Jackie "Butch" Jenkins.  It's on on the 24th

...It's Yvonne DeCarlo night on January 25th, starting with CRISS CROSS (1949).  MGM is really outdoing itself showing so many of my favorite film noir titles this months, also including BORN TO KILL and THE NARROW MARGIN.

...I was interested to see the Universal Pictures film SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS (1955) on the schedule on January 26th as part of the "Studio System" series.  It's an interesting film I just reviewed a few months ago, with Tony Curtis as a crook who can never manage to reform and George Nader as the cop who tries to help him.  Julie Adams plays Nader's wife.  Also notable on the 26th: Deanna Durbin in one of her best films, IT STARTED WITH EVE (1941).

...There's a special gem being shown as part of "Whodunit Wednesday" on January 27th: The British mystery GREEN FOR DANGER (1946). I revisited it earlier this year for the first time in a while -- "movie comfort food" at its finest.  It's not shown on TCM with great frequency, so be sure to set the DVR!

...January 28th features a day of Westerns starring Alan Ladd and Randolph Scott. Ladd is up first with four titles including DRUM BEAT (1954) and GUNS OF THE TIMBERLAND (1960), followed by Scott in several films including CANADIAN PACIFIC (1949) and CARSON CITY (1952).

...The final evening of Miriam Hopkins films on January 28th features THE HEIRESS (1949), THE CHASE (1966), and THE CHILDREN'S HOUR (1961).

...The month closes out on January 31st with another classic comedy, I MARRIED A WITCH (1942) starring Veronica Lake and Fredric March.

Wishing everyone a great year filled with wonderful movies!  Happy  New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

New at Classic Movie Hub: Can't Help Singing (1944)

I'm happy to announce that my latest Western RoundUp column is now posted at Classic Movie Hub.

This month's column is a close-up look at a Western musical, CAN'T HELP SINGING (1944), starring the great Deanna Durbin.  The movie has a score by Jerome Kern (SHOW BOAT) and E.Y. Harburg (THE WIZARD OF OZ).

CAN'T HELP SINGING was Deanna's only Technicolor film.  Please click over to Classic Movie Hub for much more on this very enjoyable film.

Thanks to everyone who takes time to read and/or comment on my Classic Movie Hub posts, it's greatly appreciated.

Happy New Year!

Previous Classic Movie Hub Western RoundUp Column Links: June 2018; July 2018August 2018September 2018October 2018November 2018December 2018January 2019February 2019April 5, 2019April 30, 2019May 2019June 2019July 2019August 2019September 2019October 2019November 2019December 2019January 2020February 2020March 2020April 2020May 2020June 2020; July 2020; August 2020; September 2020; October 2020; November 2020.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Tonight's Movie: P.J. (1968) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

George Peppard plays the title role in P.J. (1968), recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

Peppard's P.J. Detweiler is a down-on-his-luck New York detective reduced to taking unsavory jobs in order to pay off debts.

He's hired by business tycoon William Orbison (Raymond Burr) to protect his mistress, Maureen (Gayle Hunnicutt), whose life has been threatened.  The possible suspects include the relatives of Orbison's wife Betty (Coleen Gray), who fear losing their meal ticket as Orbison lavishes money on his lady friend and includes her in his will.

Other than paying his mistress well, Orbison is a notorious penny-pincher who is cruel to the other people in his life, including his wife.  Betty tries to ignore Maureen's existence but Orbison forces them to meet at a social event.  Awkward!

It soon becomes clear that P.J. wasn't hired to protect Maureen, but was set up to kill someone else -- but who planned it and why?

The cast of characters also includes Orbison's niece Linette (Susan Saint James, in her feature film debut), Orbison's assistant Jason (Jason Evers), and the police inspector (Brock Peters) on a small island visited by Orbison and his retinue.

P.J. is reasonably interesting for most of its 109-minute running time.  Peppard is solid as the beaten-down detective who's fast on the uptake most of the time, but not so smart he's not capable of being "played" a time or two.  

There's a colorful cast of characters, with Burr playing an extremely weird, controlling man who has millions yet obsesses over pennies.  Hunnicutt is gorgeous as the femme fatale of the piece, and Gray is effective in a small role as the beleaguered wife.

The screenplay, written by Philip H. Reisman Jr., based on a story he created with Edward Montagne, gets a bit rambly and could have been tighter, but the puzzle is interesting enough to hold viewer attention.

Tonally the film is a bit all over the place.  At its best the film has some of the vibe of the later Philip Marlowe film FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975), with perhaps a touch of James Bond thanks to the lovely Hunnicutt, who looks every inch a glamorous Bond girl.

At other moments the movie goes off the deep end with a mod '60s setting, even having one big set piece with a couple of girls dancing in a giant champagne glass, to the point where it starts to feel it's edging close to being a spoof, but then it reels back in.  

Most of the time it simply feels like a run-of-the-mill TV-movie -- a pleasant enough time-passing mystery, but not much more than that.  

P.J. was directed by John Guillermin and filmed by Loyal Griggs.  The annoyingly repetitive, very '60s score was by Neal Hefti.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is an attractive widescreen print with excellent sound.  The print includes a fun plug at the end: "When in Southern California visit Universal City Studios."

Extras include a commentary track by Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell, an image gallery, the trailer, and a gallery of five additional trailers for films also available from Kino Lorber. 

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

Monday, December 28, 2020

A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale

A few days ago we drove up to Forest Lawn Glendale to spend a morning strolling the grounds while paying our respects to a number of beloved filmmakers.

As was the case with our visits earlier in the year to Pacific View Memorial Park and Glen Haven Memorial Park, such an excursion also provides a good way to "get out of the house" and enjoy some "socially distanced" exercise, as no one is ever around us as we walk through the cemetery.

Forest Lawn Glendale is very large, spread over 300 acres; it's the original flagship location for a chain of Southern California cemeteries. It's beautifully maintained and filled with religious and patriotic artwork. The grounds also house an art museum and a trio of chapels which have hosted not just funerals but many wedding ceremonies, including Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman at Wee Kirk o' the Heather Chapel in 1940.

We could easily make several more visits before locating all of the filmmakers buried there. To begin to get an idea of what it's like, please visit my photo posts on our visits in 2015 and 2016, A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale, Part 1, A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale, Part 2, and A Visit to the Forest Lawn Museum.

One of the interesting things about Los Angeles area cemeteries is that a visitor will likely stumble across famous names during a walk, even without doing prior research.

For instance, as we walked through the Whispering Pines section, I discovered the final resting place of Jack Oakie:

When I came across this marker for Kathryn Blondell, a quick search on my phone revealed that she was the mother of Joan and Gloria Blondell. Her husband Edward is buried in the same area.

Character actor Edward Everett Horton is also buried in Whispering Pines, alongside his mother and sister.

Fay Holden played Andy Hardy's mother Emily in MGM's Andy Hardy movie series.

Holden's husband, David Clyde, a Scottish-born bit player in films, is buried nearby.

I had no idea before our visit that Fay Holden was the sister-in-law of Andy Clyde, beloved to "B" Western fans as California Carlson in the Hopalong Cassidy films. Andy is buried next to his son John Allan, who sadly died of meningitis as a young boy.

Ralph Hepburn was an Indy 500 driver who appeared as himself in THE CROWD ROARS (1932), which starred James Cagney and Joan Blondell. This is another gravestone I chanced across and looked up, as I was intrigued by the design.

Michael Curtiz, the director of many classics including THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), CASABLANCA (1942), MILDRED PIERCE (1945), and WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954).

Richard Dix, an actor I've come to greatly appreciate in the last few years, is buried next to his son Richard Jr., who died in a logging accident just a few years later.

Director Vincente Minnelli is buried in a semi-private garden. I was deeply moved to stand at the gravesite of the director of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944), THE BAND WAGON (1953), and other beloved classics. Such a perfect sentence on his gravestone, "You made this world more beautiful."

I love the character actor Louis Jean Heydt. For anyone trying to place him, he has a moment as a soldier in GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) holding baby Beau Wilkes; he's one of two officers bumped off the final flight at the end of THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945); and he played Joe Brody in THE BIG SLEEP (1946).

Heydt and character actor James Millican, another big favorite, are somewhat easy to confuse, as they look and sound similar to one another; they even played brothers in AL JENNINGS OF OKLAHOMA (1951).  They also both sadly died far too young.  It seems fitting they are at rest in the same cemetery.  Millican was really hitting his stride as a supporting actor in films like DAWN AT SOCORRO (1954) and RED SUNDOWN (1954) when he passed away from cancer in 1955, at the age of 45.

Famed costume designer Edith Head:

Actress Cathy O'Donnell, who was in several classics including THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946), THEY LIVE BY NIGHT (1948), SIDE STREET (1950), THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (1955), and BEN-HUR (1959).  She's buried next to her husband, writer-producer Robert Wyler

The great director William Wyler is buried next to his brother and sister-in-law.

Wyler's many classics -- I'm not sure he ever made a bad movie -- included WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939), which starred Merle Oberon. She's buried in the lovely Garden of Remembrance.

Suzan Ball Long, the first wife of actor Richard Long and a cousin of Lucille Ball, was only 21 when she died of cancer. Her films included YANKEE BUCCANEER (1952) and WAR ARROW (1953); her last film was CHIEF CRAZY HORSE (1955) opposite Victor Mature.

While we were there we paid a return visit to Walt Disney, who's buried in a private garden in front of the Freedom Mausoleum. My husband and I met at Disneyland, so it was a chance to again say "Thank you" for that and so much more.

As always, our visit was a chance to reflect on the accomplishments of a number of notable people and appreciate anew how much enjoyment their work has added to our lives.

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

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Tonight's Movie: It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE (1947) is one of a trio of wonderful Christmas movies just released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

The other two films, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940) and HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949), will be reviewed here in the near future.

I first saw IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE in 2011. What a treat to revisit it thanks to Warner Archive's new Blu-ray!

The movie tells the story of "Mac" MacKeever (Victor Moore), a hobo who "winters" in a 5th Avenue mansion in New York while its owner spends the cold months further south.

Mac invites Jim Bullock (Don DeFore), an unemployed veteran, to spend the night in the mansion.  Jim only realizes that they're not "authorized" guests when Trudy (Gale Storm) shows up in the house.  Mac and Jim assume she's also looking for a warm place to stay, but she's actually the daughter of the mansion's owner, Mike O'Connor (Charlie Ruggles).

Trudy, who had fled finishing school, is attracted to Jim and decides to play along with the notion that she's poor to see if Jim will like her for herself and not her family's money.

Eventually the house is packed with more and more people, including additional veterans and Trudy's father and mother Mary (Ann Harding), both also incognito as members of the struggling lower class.  The group come together as a sort of ersatz extended family, helping and supporting each other as they deal with various challenges.

Under Mac's watchful eye, romance blooms, relationships are mended, and jobs are created.  I think the warm community depicted in the film hit an even stronger chord than it otherwise might have as we come to the end of this strange year, when so many of us have been cut off from spending time with others living outside our homes.

It's a delightful film which juggles rib-tickling humor with poignance, and when it got to Charlie Ruggles' last line, I cried this time around just like I did nearly a decade ago.  I won't wait another nine years before watching it again.

Everyone in the cast is pitch perfect, and that includes an actor I don't typically like, Victor Moore.  I was reminded today that the last time I saw this, one of our daughters likened the character to Mary Poppins, which I thought was apt -- the slightly mysterious Mac swoops in, sets things to rights, and then vanishes once more.

Ruggles is particularly amusing reacting to Mac bossing him around in his own home, and I love Storm and DeFore, who have excellent chemistry.

The strong supporting cast includes Alan Hale Jr., Dorothea Kent, Grant Mitchell, Edward Brophy, Edward Gargan, Edward Ryan, Charles Lane, and Cathy Carter.

The movie runs 116 minutes.  It was directed by Roy Del Ruth and filmed in black and white by Henry Sharp.  The lovely song "That's What Christmas Means to Me" was written by Harry Revel.  (And for those wondering, for some strange reason the director wouldn't let the talented Storm do her own singing.  I've never been able to unearth the name of the vocalist who dubbed her.)

A couple scenes near the end of the movie were slightly faded, but all in all this Allied Artists film looked lovely, with excellent sound.

There's a very nice extra on the disc, the 1947 Lux Radio Theater production with DeFore, Storm, Ruggles, and Moore repeating their film roles.

Both the film and the Blu-ray are very much recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from Amazon or from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold. 

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