Sunday, January 31, 2021

Tonight's Movie: The Shepherd of the Hills (1941) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

For the past couple of years, one of my viewing goals has been to catch up with all of the 1940s John Wayne films I've not yet seen.  

The list has been surprisingly lengthy, but Kino Lorber releases have helped me check off several titles: SEVEN SINNERS (1940), THE SPOILERS (1942), PITTSBURGH (1942), and DAKOTA (1945).

I've now seen another of Wayne's '40s films thanks to another Kino Lorber release, THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS (1941). 

THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS was a fairly unusual film, based on a novel by Harold Bell Wright.  It's set in a community of backwoods moonshiners, where knowledge of the outside world is limited, ways of speaking are unfamiliar to newcomers, and superstitions persist.

Into this closed-off rural village comes Daniel Howitt (Harry Carey Sr.), who happens to show up at a cabin one day just in time to help Jim Lane (Tom Fadden), who's been shot by the "revenuers" patroling for moonshiners.  

Daniel develops a friendship with Jim and his daughter Sammy (Betty Field), and Sammy helps Daniel navigate among her neighbors, who are suspicious of outsiders.  

Daniel saves the life of a little girl (Virita Campbell), earning the gratitude of her parents (Dorothy Adams and John Qualen) and grandmother (Marjorie Main), but Young Matt Matthews (John Wayne) and his family continue to view the outsider with a wary eye.  That said, Matt's Aunt Mollie (Beulah Bondi) is willing to sell Daniel some land when he offers a thousand dollars -- especially as the land is considered haunted. 

Young Matt has sworn to kill his long-absent father, whom he blames for indirectly causing his mother's death.  Little does Matt know that Daniel might be able to help him resolve that issue.

It's a fairly odd story and setting, but the willing viewer soon settles into the film's rhythm and style.  The cast couldn't be better, and much of the film was shot in Technicolor in the Big Bear area of Southern California, which adds greatly to the film's appeal. 

In addition to being beautifully made, the film has a worthwhile message about love versus hate.  Young Matt, caught between his bitter, angry aunt and the kindly Daniel, must choose which path to follow.  One will result in an unhappy, empty life like his aunt's and the other will end with him having the love of a wife and family.

I doubt Carey ever gave a bad performance; large role or small, he always commands the screen.  

It's wonderful seeing the young Wayne filmed outdoors in such brilliant color, and I was surprisingly impressed with Field's performance.  In the wrong role she's a disaster (I'm particularly thinking of the otherwise excellent THE GREAT GATSBY), but her rather off-kilter persona fits this film perfectly.  She's quite likable as the young woman who cares for both Matt and Daniel.

Marjorie Main has a fine scene as Grandma Becky, whose eyesight is restored thanks to an operation paid for by Daniel.  The deep cast also includes Ward Bond, Samuel S. Hinds, Olin Howland, Fuzzy Knight, James Barton, Marc Lawrence, Henry Brandon, and Selmer Jackson.

THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS was directed by Henry Hathaway.  It was filmed by W. Howard Greene and Charles Lang.  The screenplay of this 98-minute film was by Grover Jones and Stuart Anthony.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray print is gorgeous.  There is one scene towards the end where there are some faint, odd-looking red streaks, but otherwise I thought it was beautiful.  The sound is also excellent; despite most of the characters speaking in a rather convoluted fashion, I had no difficulty understanding anyone.

The Blu-ray includes a commentary track by Simon Abrams, the trailer, and a trailer gallery for half a dozen additional films available from Kino Lorber.

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

Tonight's Movie in 2020: The Year in Review, Take Two

My annual video celebrating the previous year's viewing is now available at YouTube!

The video features posters from all the films I watched in 2020.  It's a fun quick visual to remember a whole lot of enjoyable viewing.

Click below to watch, or head directly to YouTube.

Related Post: Tonight's Movie in 2020: The Year in Review.

Previously: The "year in review" videos for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

TCM in February: Highlights

February is another great-looking month on Turner Classic Movies!

As was the case last month, I've put together my highlights post based on information available from several sources, but the monthly schedule is no longer available at the TCM website until the 1st of the month.  (You can now see most of the February schedule using the daily calendar instead.)  TCM's February link will go live on February 1st here.

The February Star of the Month is John Garfield. This is Garfield's third time to be so honored, but it's the first time in 18 years. 30 Garfield films will be shown spread across Tuesday evenings this month.

I'll have a separate Star of the Month post here early next week, with a complete list of the Garfield titles on the schedule and a number of review links.  (Update: Please visit TCM Star of the Month: John Garfield.)

This month's Noir Alley films are THE KILLER THAT STALKED NEW YORK (1950) on February 6th and 7th, NATIVE SON (1951) on the 20th and 21st, and ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW (1959) on the 27th and 28th.

As mentioned in my February preview, Noir Alley will take a break on Valentine's weekend for TCM's "Romantic Getaway Weekend."

There's also a Valentine's theme for this month's TCM Spotlight, called "Kiss Connection."  These films, on Thursday evenings, will feature movies linked by the actors who kiss in each film.  

Wednesday evenings will feature a "special theme," "Noteworthy African American Performances," cohosted by Ben Mankiewicz and historian Donald Bogle.  The complete lineup may be found at the link in this paragraph.

I mentioned in my February preview that Ernst Lubitsch's silent film SO THIS IS PARIS (1926) was on the Silent Sunday Nights schedule, but unfortunately it's disappeared from the final February lineup.  The rarely seen ONLY YESTERDAY (1933) with Margaret Sullavan also didn't make the final schedule.  We'll cross our fingers that they can be shown on TCM in the future.

Here are additional highlights from the February schedule on TCM.  Please click any hyperlinked title to read my full review.

...I have a soft spot for NEVER LET ME GO (1953), a Cold War thriller starring two all-time favorites, Clark Gable and Gene Tierney.  It's on early on February 1st as part of a day-long Gable birthday tribute.

...TCM is celebrating Groundhog Day with a lineup of snow-themed movies on February 2nd.  The films include a delightful comedy, SNOWED UNDER (1936), with George Brent, Genevieve Tobin, and Glenda Farrell heading a top cast. Then later in the day stay tuned for some spring-themed titles including SPRING MADNESS (1938), a college drama with Lew Ayres, Maureen O'Sullivan, and Ruth Hussey.

...I was able to see Cary Grant's daughter Jennifer introduce MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940) at the last TCM Classic Film Festival I attended in 2019.  What a fun movie!  Irene Dunne, Gail Patrick, and Randolph Scott costar.  It's shown in prime time on February 4th.

...Irene Dunne is back on the 6th in JOY OF LIVING (1938), costarring Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

...The classic Ernst Lubitsch comedy TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942) is on the December 7th schedule.  I have such wonderful memories of seeing it at UCLA at 2016 and dream longingly of seeing a movie in 35mm once more!  In the meantime, don't miss it on TCM, especially if it's a first-time watch.  Jack Benny and Carole Lombard are in top form along with a superb supporting cast.

...On February 8th TCM will celebrate the centennial of the birth of Lana Turner with a 24-hour marathon featuring a dozen Turner films.  I've seen most of the films on the schedule and it's a very entertaining lineup, featuring everything from DANCING CO-ED (1939) to KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY (1945) to THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952).  Don't miss MARRIAGE IS A PRIVATE AFFAIR (1944), in which Lana is at her very loveliest, gowned in an amazing wardrobe designed by Irene.  I was fortunate to see one of the dresses (seen here) at the Hollywood Museum a couple of years ago.

...The very next day, February 9th, there's a spectacular nine-film tribute to Robert Ryan.  The entire lineup is worthwhile; I particularly recommend ACT OF VIOLENCE (1949), costarring Van Heflin and Janet Leigh, and BORN TO BE BAD (1950) with Joan Fontaine, Zachary Scott, and Joan Leslie.

...On February 10th TCM will show the very special film MOONRISE (1948), starring Dane Clark, Gail Russell, and Allyn Joslyn, directed by Frank Borzage.

...BEAUTY AND THE BOSS (1932) is a wonderful pre-Code comedy starring Marian Marsh, Warren William, and Charles Butterworth.  It's on February 11th.  Very much recommended.

...There's more Lana on TCM on February 12th with the enjoyable TWO GIRLS ON BROADWAY (1940), costarring Joan Blondell and George Murphy.  Turner was quite a proficient dancer in her early films, making me wish she'd done more musicals.

...TCM's "Romantic Weekend Getaway" begins the evening of the 12th and runs through Valentine's Day.  It's a weekend filled with great movies, including THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940), which I just revisited very recently, and SWING TIME (1936).  Those titles air on the 13th and 14th, respectively.

...Mary Astor stars as a SMART WOMAN (1931), an interesting pre-Code showing on the 15th.  It's airing as part of a day of films on jealous lovers, which also includes RAGE IN HEAVEN (1940) starring Robert Montgomery, Ingrid Bergman, and George Sanders.

...A day of "royal romances" on February 17th includes Ernst Lubitsch's THE SMILING LIEUTENANT (1931) starring Miriam Hopkins, Maurice Chevalier, and Claudette Colbert.

...There's a great day of "Western Noir" on February 19th, featuring wonderful titles such as STATION WEST (1948), BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948), ROUGHSHOD (1949), and COLORADO TERRITORY (1949), to name a few.

...The visually stunning SINBAD THE SAILOR (1947) airs on February 20th, starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Maureen O'Hara.

...Although SO THIS IS PARIS dropped off the final schedule, February is still a great month for Ernst Lubitsch films on TCM.  February 21st's titles include TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932) with Kay Francis, Miriam Hopkins, and Herbert Marshall, and DESIGN FOR LIVING (1933) with Hopkins, Gary Cooper, and Fredric March.

...On February 22nd, TCM is showing both FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950) and its sequel, FATHER'S LITTLE DIVIDEND (1951).  Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, and Joan Bennett star in both films.

...A wonderful day of "Dream Cinema" on February 25th includes Vincente Minnelli's YOLANDA AND THE THIEF (1945) and BRIGADOON (1954).

...There's more Minnelli on February 28th with THE STORY OF THREE LOVES (1953), an anthology film with a cast including James Mason, Moira Shearer, Kirk Douglas, Pier Angeli, and Leslie Caron.

Have a wonderful month enjoying classic movies!

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Tonight's Movie: After the Thin Man (1936) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936) has been released on a lovely Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

AFTER THE THIN MAN is the second film in the beloved series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as detective Nick Charles and his wife Nora. The original film was released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive in 2019; my review is here.

This time around Nick and Nora arrive in San Francisco by train and pay a New Year's visit to Nora's tedious -- and wealthy -- relatives.

Nora is worried about her cousin Selma (Elissa Landi), who is distraught by the disappearance of her philandering husband Robert (Alan Marshal). Robert has a girlfriend, nightclub singer Polly (Penny Singleton, billed as Dorothy McNulty); meanwhile David (James Stewart) is mooning over Selma and is willing to pay off Robert if he'll divorce Selma and leave for good.

Naturally, it isn't long before Robert ends up dead, with Selma and David heading a long list of possible suspects, and it's up to Nick to solve the case.

AFTER THE THIN MAN has many delightful moments, but it runs way too long at 112 minutes; at times it simply meanders or spends time on scenes with no story value, such as a prolonged nightclub production number.

The screenplay by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich has some wonderful dialogue, there's just too much story with perhaps too many characters. The film would have been stronger if it had been tightened up to a running time closer to the 91 minutes of the original film.

That said, any time spent with Powell and Loy as Nick and Nora is a good time, and the movie is worth sticking with for its many enjoyable parts; a late night visit to the kitchen with Nick and Nora to scramble eggs is something akin to movie bliss. And what an incredible kitchen! Their entire apartment is gorgeous, and the same can be said for Loy's beautiful wardrobe by Dolly Tree.

The huge cast includes Sam Levene as the police detective, Lt. Abrams, a role he also played in SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN (1941). Joseph Calleia, Jessie Ralph, Paul Fix, William Law, and George Zucco are also in the movie.

Like the first film, AFTER THE THIN MAN was directed by W.S. Van Dyke. It was filmed by Oliver T. Marsh. (Marsh's son Owen, who had a long career as a camera operator, recently passed away.) Some brief location filming with Powell and Loy took place in San Francisco, including the Coit Tower area, which will look familiar to anyone who's seen THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL (1951).

The Blu-ray has an excellent picture and sound. Several nice extras are carried over from the film's original DVD release, including a 1940 Lux Radio Theater production of the film, also starring Powell and Loy; a Robert Benchley short; and the 1936 cartoon THE EARLY BIRD AND THE WORM.

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.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Exciting news from Kino Lorber: The company has announced that THE WEB (1947) is "coming soon."  THE WEB stars Edmond O'Brien, Ella Raines, Vincent Price, and William Bendix, and it's not had a previous release on DVD or VHS, so this is great news indeed.  I had the good fortune to review it thanks to seeing it at the 2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs.

...The Frommer's travel website has an article by Jason Cochran on James A. FitzPatrick's TravelTalks shorts. I've reviewed the Warner Archive Collection's TravelTalks sets here, beginning with Volume I.

...Coming in May from TCM and Running Press: SUMMER MOVIES: 30 SUN-DRENCHED CLASSICS by John Malahy, with a foreword by Leonard Maltin. I hope to review that title here.

...Also coming from TCM and Running Press: A revised and expanded edition of Eddie Muller's classic DARK CITY: THE LOST WORLD OF FILM NOIR.  I was fortunate to have Eddie sign my copy of the original edition of his book at the 2011 Noir City Film Festival in Hollywood.

...Dan Heaton takes a look at the classic 1966 Disneyland special DISNEYLAND AROUND THE SEASONS for The Tomorrow Society. The show can be streamed on Disney+, and it's also part of the wonderful Walt Disney Treasures set Secrets, Stories & Magic.  (Given how much those Disney Treasures sets cost now, I'm really glad I purchased them as they were released!)

...Here's a fun recent post by Mark at Where Danger Lives on the programmer WHY GIRLS LEAVE HOME (1945) starring Lola Lane, Sheldon Leonard, and Pamela Blake.  Long considered lost, it's apparently now "findable" out there in Internet-land for those who are good at searching... 

...Just last week in my review of CALCUTTA (1947) I sang the praises of Alan Ladd's voice.  With unknowingly perfect timing, my friend Aurora has posted some wonderful links to Alan Ladd's radio performances at Once Upon a Screen.  She links to many of his Lux Radio Theatre broadcasts, along with episodes of his series BOX 13, which I'm really looking forward to hearing.

...Glenn Erickson has reviewed the new Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray release of ROOM FOR ONE MORE (1952), starring Cary Grant and Betsy Drake.  I'll be reviewing that here in the near future.

...I always enjoy my visits to Riding the High Country, where Colin's recent reviews including the enjoyable George Montgomery Western CANYON RIVER (1956).  I reviewed that one here back in 2013.

...Speaking of Westerns, Jeff Arnold is blogging again!  He's left his Blogspot site and may now be found here.  His latest review is of THE STRANGER WORE A GUN (1953) starring Randolph Scott, and I'm glad to see that Jeff has kind words for my fave James Millican.  Jeff's new site is now in my blogroll at the left, listed as "Jeff Arnold's West (New Site)"; I left the previous link up for access to his past posts.

...Notable Passing: I was very sorry to learn that Loretta Young's son Christopher Lewis passed away last week at the age of 76.  His death was announced by his wife Linda.  I had the good fortune to meet Chris and Linda (both seen here) in conjunction with covering the 2014 Centennial Tribute to Loretta Young, and they couldn't have been nicer or more helpful.  My sincere condolences to Linda and all who will miss Chris.

...More Notable Passings: Marie Harmon,who appeared in "B" Westerns such as SPRINGTIME IN TEXAS (1945) with Jimmy Wakely and NIGHTTIME IN NEVADA (1948) with Roy Rogers, has passed away at the age of 97.  She also played bit roles in numerous film from 1943 to 1949...Actor Bruce Kirby, father of the late actor Bruno Kirby (WHEN HARRY MET SALLY), has died at 95.  Bruce Kirby played Sgt. Kramer on TV's COLUMBO...Cicely Tyson passed on last week at 96, the same week her memoir JUST AS I AM was published.  She gave interviews about the book shortly before her passing...Cloris Leachman also left us last week, at the age of 94.

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

Quick Preview of TCM in March

Thanks once more to Movie Collector Ohio I'm able to share a preview of the upcoming March schedule on Turner Classic Movies.

The March Star of the Month will be Doris Day. 30 of Day's films will be shown on Monday evenings in March.

The March Noir Alley films will be KILLER'S KISS (1955), THE NIGHT HOLDS TERROR (1955), THE THIRD MAN (1949), and PEPE LE MOKO (1937). This is a rare month where I've only seen one of the Noir Alley films so far, THE THIRD MAN.

The TCM Spotlight is "Growing Up On Screen," featuring actors who began in films as children and went on to successful adult careers, including Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, and Judy Garland, among others.

There are a couple of interesting March themes.  One features "Movie MacGuffins," featuring films with elusive, sought-after, or mysterious objects such as THE MALTESE FALCON (1941), CITIZEN KANE (1941), and CASABLANCA (1942).  I love this idea!

There's also a special "Reframed" theme in March, which will discuss important films which have elements which are now considered outdated or controversial, including THE JAZZ SINGER (1927) and GONE WITH THE WIND (1939).

Additional March themes will include pre-Code musicals, '40s Westerns, pregnancy, prisons, farm life, fairy tales, World War I, winter, spring, and films with the word "sweet" in the title.  

And as usual, there's a full lineup of Irish-themed films on St. Patrick's Day!

Filmmakers receiving multifilm tributes in March include Dennis Morgan, David Niven, Olivia de Havilland, Gregory La Cava, Michael Crichton, Irving Thalberg, and the duo of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre.

Particularly notable for me is a three-film prime time tribute to Kay Francis.  And only on TCM will viewers find a multifilm birthday tribute to Betty Compson!

I should have a complete look at the March schedule posted here on or before March 1st.

In the meantime, I'll also have an April preview posted here in the near future, in addition to a full rundown of February highlights. Watch this space!

Update: For more on TCM in March 2021, please visit TCM in March: Highlights and TCM Star of the Month: Doris Day.

Latest Westerns Column at Classic Movie Hub

My newest column is now available at the Classic Movie Hub website!

In this month's column I return to the subject of my Western Film Book library. It's a topic I previously wrote about in July 2019, November 2019, and May 2020.

With so many of us still spending much of our time at home, great books are more important than ever.

The post recommends several titles for the Western film enthusiast. Please click over to Classic Movie Hub to check it out, and, as always, 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, 2019May 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; August 2020; September 2020; October 2020; November 2020; December 2020.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Her Husband's Secretary (1937)

HER HUSBAND'S SECRETARY (1937) is an enjoyable 61-minute romantic melodrama starring Jean Muir and Warren Hull.

Muir, who starred in the delightful DESIRABLE (1934), plays Carol, who works as a secretary for Steve Gannon (Addison Richards). She's enthusiastically pursued by Bart Kingdon (Warren Hull), a riveter on a neighboring skyscraper project who pops through her office window, many stories off the ground, just to ask her for a date.

The movie makes some big leaps forward in time, from Carol and Bart's first date to a scene where Carol informs her boss she's leaving to be married. Carol has a surprise ahead: She thinks she's marrying a working-class riveter but when Bart takes her to visit his dying father (Harry Davenport), it's revealed that the Kingdons are quite wealthy and Bart is heir to a major construction business. He's been intent on learning the industry from the ground up -- or maybe we should say from the sky down, given that he was working atop skyscrapers!

Carol is deeply in love and deliriously happy with her husband and new life, and all goes along swimmingly until Bart hires Carol's former roommate Diane (Beverly Roberts) as his secretary. Bart's Aunt Gussie (Clara Blandick) warns Carol that it's not good for her husband to spend so many hours in the company of another beautiful woman, but Carol trusts both her husband and her friend. Until...things start seeming a little off, with Bart spending more and more time away on business, and Carol starts to wonder...

This is a fast-paced and enjoyable short film. I liked both Muir and Hull as the leads, and the story is told in an interesting way, dramatizing some key moments in the couple's lives while skipping over others entirely.

Only two things surprised me: The first is that Diane betrays Carol and sets out to lure Bart away from Carol for her own benefit, and the second is that Bart falls for it! It's hard to believe, if only because he has the charming Muir waiting at home, while I've never seen Roberts (CHINA CLIPPER, THE DAREDEVIL DRIVERS) be anything other than cold and chilly on screen. Maybe I just haven't run into a warm Roberts performance, but I have yet to see her appeal. Here she's simply brittle and calculating.

The big question is what Carol will do about it when her husband straight-out confesses to loving his wife but being attracted to another woman, though any thought of a fling with Diane is now over.

It's all resolved in just over an hour, with a dramatic forest fire sequence thrown in for good measure!  

The supporting cast includes Joseph Crehan, Minerva Urecal, and Pauline Garon. The movie was directed by Frank McDonald and filmed by Arthur Todd.

This film is not available on DVD, but it turns up from time to time on Turner Classic Movies.

Tonight's Movie: Blind Adventure (1933)

I've been curious to try out BLIND ADVENTURE (1933), which was shown on Turner Classic Movies last November as one of Leonard Maltin's Neglected Classics.

Shortly after the movie aired on TCM, it also had a nice write-up by Dan Stumpf at Mystery File.

I caught up with my TCM recording this week and BLIND ADVENTURE is indeed a fun little movie.  As other reviewers have noted, it won't set the world on fire, but it's got great foggy London atmosphere and a delightful trio of spy ring busting leads in Robert Armstrong, Helen Mack, and Roland Young.

Armstrong plays Richard Bruce, a wealthy American visiting London for the first time.  He feels so out of place at his staid hotel that he's more comfortable eating in his room while talking to the maid (Beryl Mercer), who coaches him on proper upper-crust behavior, such as dressing for dinner.

Richard decides to go for a walk after dinner but promptly gets lost in thick fog.  He knocks on the door of a mansion and when no one answers, he lets himself inside, hoping to get help finding his way back to his hotel, only to encounter...a corpse!

Richard runs outside, rounds up help...and returns to find no dead body, but a house filled with a seemingly normal family, headed by the Major (Henry Stephenson).

The confused Richard also meets Rose (Mack, THE MILKY WAY), who has just arrived from Canada to stay with the family, who are relatives she's never previously met.  Richard and Rose overhear the Major and others in another room discussing what to do with them, and alarmed, the twosome are about to make a quick getaway...only to encounter the "un-dead" corpse, Jim Steele (Ralph Bellamy).

Steele claims to be working for Scotland Yard and asks Richard and Rose to take a cigarette case with a secret message to his superior (John Miljan).  Richard and Rose then escape to the roof but are having a hard time figuring out how to get to the street when they encounter a friendly Cockney cat burglar (Young), who's happy to lend them a hand.

Believe it or not that's probably just the first 25% of the 65-minute movie!  It gets quite convoluted and I confess that I was more than a bit confused at times; the British/Cockney accents on a somewhat rough 1933 soundtrack probably didn't help my understanding.  Yet somehow, the moments where I lost the thread of the plot didn't matter too much.

What I really enjoyed, beyond the story, was the interplay of the three leads.  Young makes every movie he's in better, and he seems to be having a grand time in an atypical -- and imaginatively created -- role as the burglar.  I especially got a kick out of a scene where he sternly prevents a coffee cart owner (Forrester Harvey) from charging his new friends usurious prices.

Mack is delightful as spunky young Rose, who charms both Richard and the burglar.  The nice chemistry of the actors and the foggy setting, which made the movie perfect viewing for an unusually cold and windy Southern California evening, made the movie a fun watch.  It just doesn't get any "movie studio better" than our characters stopping by a coffee cart for a warm drink in the middle of a strange and foggy night.

BLIND ADVENTURE was directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and written by his wife, Ruth Rose, with an uncredited assist on dialogue from Robert Benchley.

It was filmed by Henry Gerrard.  The supporting cast includes Laura Hope Crews, Tyrell Davis, Phyllis Barry, Marjorie Gateson, and Ivan F. Simpson.

This is the kind of obscure RKO movie which would have been perfect for a Warner Archive DVD release in years past, but with the Warner Archive's current focus on Blu-rays, I am wondering if their days of DVD releases of interesting minor films are over.  I suppose we'll know for sure as the year goes on.

For now, watch for BLIND ADVENTURE to return to Turner Classic Movies.  Those who enjoy this sort of movie will find it a diverting hour.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

A Centennial Tribute to Donna Reed

Today marks the centennial of the birth of actress Donna Reed.

Reed was born 100 years ago today, on January 27, 1921, in Denison, Iowa.  Iowa's governor, Kim Reynolds, proclaimed today "Donna Reed Day."

Reed, whose long career included a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953) and starring in the long-running THE DONNA REED SHOW (1958-66), continues to be celebrated in other ways in her hometown. There is a Donna Reed Center and Heritage Museum and Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts.

Reed's wholesome looks and personality made her a favorite of GI's in World War II. One of the nicest stories about Reed was that she corresponded with some of the soldiers; after her passing her children found a shoebox she'd saved for decades containing over 340 letters she'd saved from G.I.'s.

A gallery of Reed photos, starting with THE HUMAN COMEDY (1943):

THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945) with John Wayne and Robert Montgomery:

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) with James Stewart:


FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953) with Montgomery Clift:

Donna Reed passed away in Beverly Hills on January 14, 1986, just a couple of weeks before her 65th birthday. She is buried at Westwood Memorial Park.

A biography of Donna Reed is available, IN SEARCH OF DONNA REED by Jay Fultz.

Reviews of Donna Reed films at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: CALLING DR. GILLESPIE (1942), EYES IN THE NIGHT (1942), MOKEY (1942), GENTLE ANNIE (1944), THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945), THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945) (also here), CHICAGO DEADLINE (1949) (also here), BACKLASH (1956), and THE WHOLE TRUTH (1958).

Update: Here are reviews of SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN (1941), GREEN DOLPHIN STREET (1947), SCANDAL SHEET (1952)., and THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS (1954).

Additional notable films starring Donna Reed not already mentioned above include THE COURTSHIP OF ANDY HARDY (1942), SEE HERE, PRIVATE HARGROVE (1944), BEYOND GLORY (1948), TROUBLE ALONG THE WAY (1953) (below, with John Wayne and Sherry Jackson), and RANSOM! (1956).

I particularly want to mention Donna Reed's additional work in a genre near to my heart, Westerns: APACHE TRAIL (1942), HANGMAN'S KNOT (1952), GUN FURY (1953) (below, with Rock Hudson), THREE HOURS TO KILL (1954), THEY RODE WEST (1954), and THE FAR HORIZONS (1955).

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Calcutta (1947) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

One of my very favorite Alan Ladd films, CALCUTTA (1947), has been made available for home viewing for the first time thanks to Kino Lorber.

CALCUTTA was released last summer in Kino Lorber's THE DARK SIDE OF CINEMA IV collection, along with AN ACT OF MURDER (1948) and SIX BRIDGES TO CROSS (1955).  The latter film, starring Tony Curtis, was reviewed here last August, and with the pace of new releases slowing a bit recently due to the holidays, I'm now enjoying circling back to complete reviewing the rest of this set.

I first saw CALCUTTA via a "gray market" DVD in 2011.  I enjoyed it but my liking for the movie definitely grew when I revisited it in a beautiful new digital print at the 2017 Noir City Festival in Hollywood.  By the time I saw it again at the 2019 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs, I loved it.  I'm quite thrilled that it's now out on a lovely Blu-ray.

Ladd plays Neale Gordon, a pilot working the Calcutta to Chungking aviation route alongside his pal, pilot Pedro Blake (William Bendix).

When Neale and Pedro's fellow pilot and good friend Bill Cunningham (John Whitney) is murdered, they set out to investigate.  This includes looking into Bill's relationship with the quietly mysterious Virginia Moore (Gail Russell), to whom Bill had just become engaged.  

Virginia confesses to Neale that while she didn't love Bill, she was "devoted" to him, and assures Neale she didn't kill him.  Besides which, she seems way too fragile to be a murderess...

Jewels smuggled in the floorboards of the airline's planes are also involved, and all in all this is a highly enjoyable and atmospheric film which runs a quick 83 minutes.

Few screen actors were more attractive than Alan Ladd in the '40s, and he's at the zenith of his appeal in this film, including sharing a rather hot for its time love scene with June Duprez.  As I wrote of him after seeing CALCUTTA on the big screen for the first time, "Wow."  

And did anyone onscreen in that era have a better voice than Alan Ladd?  Some possible candidates come to mind, but I always land in favor of Ladd.

Every time I see the film I like Russell's performance more; she's the last person one would expect in this kind of "Is she or isn't she a femme fatale?" role, but that's part of what makes her so effective.  I love watching her eyes shift when she starts spinning stories, and her very last line to Ladd is an absolute killer.  I smile every time.

Duprez is effective in a small role as Neale's sometime girlfriend, a nightclub singer who openly carries a torch for him, hoping he might one day commit.

I tolerate Bendix in small doses, in part because of knowing that he was close friends with Ladd offscreen.  The film's director, John Farrow, also directed Bendix in his Oscar-nominated performance in WAKE ISLAND (1942), reviewed here last week.

The good supporting cast includes Lowell Gilmore, Edith King, Paul Singh, Benson Fong, Gavin Muir, Don Beddoe, Lee Tung Foo, and Marilynn Chow.

The movie was shot in beautiful black and white by John F. Seitz.  While much of the film was made on the backlot, IMDb indicates that the airport scenes were filmed at Gilpin Airport in Tucscon, Arizona.

As a side note, this film was made in 1945 but not released in the U.S. until 1947.  Some sources, including IMDb, list it as a 1946 film due to its release in the UK at the end of that year, but I'm using the U.S. release date.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray print is excellent.  There's one brief section midway through the movie when the picture turns darker and is more grainy, but it doesn't last long.  

The disc includes the trailer, two additional trailers for Alan Ladd films available from Kino Lorber, and a commentary track by Nick Pinkerton.

In addition to the Blu-ray release as part of this set, Kino Lorber has also released the previously hard-to-find CALCUTTA as a single-title DVD.  It's a "must buy" for fans of Ladd and Russell.

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

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