Sunday, February 28, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Seminole (1953) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Rock Hudson stars in SEMINOLE (1953), recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

The film is part of the three-film Rock Hudson Collection from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The set also contains BENGAL BRIGADE (1954) and the previously reviewed THE GOLDEN BLADE (1953).

Hudson stars as Lt. Lance Caldwell, who returns from West Point to his native Florida in the mid-1830s.

Caldwell discovers that his new commanding officer, Major Degan (Richard Carlson), is an angry martinet who is determined to wipe out the neighboring Seminole tribe. Caldwell, knowing the Seminole are peaceful, attempts to change the major's mind, to no avail.

Though Caldwell has been gone for five years, he hopes to continue a romance with his childhood sweetheart, Revere (Barbara Hale). Unbeknownst to Caldwell, Revere has fallen in love with their mutual friend John (Anthony Quinn), a half-Indian who is now known as Osceola, chief of the Seminole.

Osceola wants peace, but when he travels to the fort under a flag of truce, Major Degan betrays Osceola's trust and imprisons him.

I hadn't seen this film since 2012, and my reaction today was much the same as then; it's a handsomely produced film with beautiful Technicolor filming in the Everglades by Russell Metty.  

I find the romantic relationship depicted by Quinn and Hale of particular note in this well-done film.  Their portrayal of mature adults wrestling with the problems accompanying a cross-cultural romance is both touching and interesting.

Leading man Hudson is sympathetic throughout, and there's a nicely done supporting performance by Lee Marvin as a sergeant the major assigns to keep an eye on Caldwell.

And, as was the case in 2012, a solid 87 minutes is marred only by the difficulty of watching Carlson's major be such an unreasonable idiot for much of the running time. That said, if Wikipedia is accurate, Major Degan was based on a real person who was forced to resign from the military in disgrace, so perhaps Carlson's performance isn't that far off the mark. His character's name was changed for the film to prevent a potential lawsuit by the man's descendants.

The film is briskly directed by Budd Boetticher, who of course is best known for his series of Westerns made with Randolph Scott.

Incidentally, another of Boetticher's films from the same year, WINGS OF THE HAWK (1953), was also just released by Kino Lorber and will be reviewed here at a future date.

Kino Lorber has also released a two-film set of Anthony Quinn Westerns which I'll be reviewing as well.

The SEMINOLE Blu-ray is a beautiful print. There were a couple brief moments where the picture is in rougher condition, but for the most part it's excellent, with a strong soundtrack.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray includes the trailer and a commentary track by Nick Pinkerton.

I'll have a review of the final film in the set, BENGAL BRIGADE, posted here at a future date.

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

TCM in March: Highlights

It's time for a review of the March schedule on Turner Classic Movies!

As has been the case the last few months, TCM no longer shares the complete monthly schedules before the first of the month. This post was written using information from multiple sources, including what's been visible to date on TCM's upcoming daily schedules as well as advance schedules made available by blogger Movie Collector Ohio.

The full March schedule will go live at the TCM website on March 1st.

The March Star of the Month is Doris Day. She'll be celebrated with screenings of over 30 films on five consecutive Monday evenings beginning on the 1st.

This is Day's second time as Star of the Month. She was also celebrated with an unusual week-long celebration in 2012. I'll have a separate Star of the Month post up on Monday, March 1st.  (Update: Please visit TCM Star of the Month: Doris Day.)

The TCM Spotlight for March is "Growing Up On Screen." This series will focus on several child actors who made the transition to adult acting, including Judy Garland, Dean Stockwell, Kurt Russell, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, and more.

There are a couple of "Special Themes" on TCM in March. "Reframed: Classic Films in the Rearview Mirror" takes a look at classic films which have elements which may be considered problematic by modern-day viewers. It's an interesting idea for a series, though quite frankly there are at least a couple of films on the list I just can't see as having issues warranting discussion, unless one is trying hard to be offended. I mean...SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), really? Enough said.

The other theme, "Movie MacGuffins," is a two-evening lineup of films about mysterious or elusive objects, such as CITIZEN KANE (1941).

The Noir Alley films in March are KILLER'S KISS (1955) on March 6th-7th, THE NIGHT HOLDS TERROR (1955) on the 13th and 14th, THE THIRD MAN (1949) on March 20th-21st, and PEPE LE MOKO (1937) on March 27th and 28th.

Here are a few additional March highlights. Please click on any hyperlinked title for an extended review.

...The interesting pre-Code BLONDIE OF THE FOLLIES (1932) is on March 2nd. Marion Davies stars as a young woman looking for a way out of poverty, with Robert Montgomery as her true love.

...There's a wonderful day of Dennis Morgan films on March 3rd. My top recommendation are THE DESERT SONG (1943), where he gets to show off his singing talent, and the World War II romance THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944), costarring Eleanor Parker.

...March 4th features films about expectant mothers, including June Allyson in MUSIC FOR MILLIONS (1944). Margaret O'Brien and Marsha Hunt costar in this enjoyable MGM film.

...A few months ago I enjoyed BIG LEAGUER (1953), a "baseball procedural" about players auditioning for minor league contracts, starring Edward G. Robinson, Jeff Richards, and Vera-Ellen. It's on March 6th.

...One of my very favorite silent movies airs on Silent Sunday nights March 7th: GIRL-SHY (1924), starring Harold Lloyd and Jobyna Ralston. Very highly recommended.

...One of my favorite days on the March schedule is a day of '40s Westerns on March 8th. I especially recommend I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949), a Samuel Fuller film starring John Ireland, Barbara Britton, and the always-welcome Preston Foster. It's an interesting film which deserves a wider audience.

...The great Olivia de Havilland receives a daytime tribute on March 9th. I especially recommend THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), one of my favorite movies ever made, and a more recent discovery, LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA (1962).

...A birthday tribute to director Gregory La Cava on March 10th includes a film I've enjoyed more on each viewing, 5th AVENUE GIRL (1939), with Ginger Rogers heading a fine cast in a tale of an unemployed young woman who helps a wealthy family rediscover happiness.

...There's more Dennis Morgan on March 11th, with MY WILD IRISH ROSE (1947). Not a great film, but pleasant, with two interesting leading ladies, Arlene Dahl and Andrea King.

...March 12th is another wonderful day on the calendar, featuring films set on farms. I very much recommend AS THE EARTH TURNS (1934), based on a wonderful Pulitzer-nominated novel by Gladys Hasty Carroll, and HIDE-OUT (1934), one of my very favorite Robert Montgomery movies.

...Kay Francis receives a three-film prime time tribute the evening of March 14th. The night of pre-Code films features Ernst Lubitsch's TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932), followed by JEWEL ROBBERY (1932) and MANDALAY (1934).

...Leslie Caron stars in the Cinderella tale THE GLASS SLIPPER (1955) on March 15th. It's part of a day of fairy tales.

...St. Patrick's Day features a lineup of Irish-themed movies, including the delightful IRENE (1940), starring Ray Milland and Anna Neagle.  

...The Hal Roach Streamliner HERE COMES TROUBLE (1948) will be shown on March 19th. Bill Tracy, Joe Sawyer, and Joan Woodbury star.

...Yasujiro Ozu's LATE SPRING (1949), starring Setsuko Hara and Chishu Ryu, will be shown on March 21st. It's one of their very best.

...I've been hoping my next viewing of Hitchcock's SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943) would be in a movie theater, but given current circumstances, perhaps it's time to watch it on TV again! It will be shown on TCM March 22nd. Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, and Macdonald Carey star.

...March 24th features a lineup of films costarring Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, including THE CONSPIRATORS (1944). Hedy Lamarr and Paul Henreid star.

...It's been so long since I last saw Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in CHARADE (1963) that it's never been reviewed here. I'm overdue for a revisit! It's on March 28th.

Happy March movie viewing!

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...More great Blu-ray news this week from Kino Lorber! They have another "not on DVD" film noir "coming soon" from the Kino Lorber Studio Classic line: LARCENY (1948), starring John Payne, Joan Caulfield, Shelley Winters, and Dan Duryea. It will be from a 4K scan. I reviewed the movie in 2013 and in the intervening years have enjoyed seeing it at two film noir festivals.

...Also coming from Kino Lorber: BROKEN LULLABY (1932) starring Lionel Barrymore and Nancy Carroll, directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

...At 50 Westerns From the 50s Toby Roan has an interesting entry on FURY AT SHOWDOWN (1957), a chapter in progress from his future book on '50s Westerns. The movie stars John Derek.

...The sixth and final volume of Hal Roach Streamliners is coming from ClassicFlix in June 2021: THE CURLEY COMEDIES. I've quite enjoyed the previous volumes and look forward to the new set.

...The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, now has a Keurig coffee line and seasonings.

...Growing up I read the novel HARRIET THE SPY by Louise Fitzhugh many times. I was interested to learn that a professor from my alma mater, the University of Redlands, has written a book, SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LOUISE FITZHUGH, RENEGADE AUTHOR OF HARRIET THE SPY.

...Phyllis Loves Classic Movies points out something I never noticed before: The HOLIDAY INN (1942) set turns up again in THE GLASS KEY (1942). Phyllis also shares a great January viewing list.

...I've been meaning to share Sarah Ganske's list Good Movies With Under 500 Checks on Letterboxd. I've seen many movies on her list; it's filled with terrific viewing ideas.

...The Walt Disney Archives has announced that its exhibit at the Bowers Museum, "Inside the Walt Disney Archives," will be extended through April 25, 2021. The exhibit has spent much of the last year closed since it first opened in March 2020. (March Update: The exhibit has now been extended through June 20, 2021.)

...Notable Passings: Actress Martha Stewart, who played the murder victim in IN A LONELY PLACE (1950), has died at the age of 98. She was also a big band singer...Oscar-winning sound editor Alan Robert Murray, who worked on 32 films with Clint Eastwood, has passed away at the age of 66.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my February 20th roundup.

Have a great week!

A Birthday Tribute to Franchot Tone

Today is the birthday of actor Franchot Tone.


Tone was born in Niagara Falls on February 27th, 1905.



In recent years I've come to greatly appreciate Tone, who makes every film in which he appeared better.



Reviewing Tone's filmography, I'm especially struck by the breadth of his career and how many highly enjoyable films he made.  He did a little bit of everything, and did it all well.  I'm a bit amazed to realize I've now seen over 30 of his films; review links follow at the very end of this post.


Below are some Tone films and performances I especially appreciate, starting with one of my favorite pre-Code films, William Wellman's MIDNIGHT MARY (1933).  He and costar Loretta Young later made THE UNGUARDED HOUR (1936) together.



I thought Tone stole THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER (1935) from Gary Cooper (they're seen here with Richard Cromwell):



He was nominated for the Oscar as Roger Byam in MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935), starring alongside Clark Gable and Charles Laughton.  He's seen here on the set...


...and with Movita:


Tone was absolutely delightful in TRAIL OF THE VIGILANTES (1940), a comedic Western which seemed to foreshadow James Garner's SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! (1969):


He was also superb in a very different role, as the stranded solder turned spy in Billy Wilder's FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO (1943):



He starred in one of my top favorite Deanna Durbin films, HIS BUTLER'S SISTER (1943), one of three films in which they appeared together:



Besides adventure films, romantic comedies, the random Western, and musicals, he also starred in the classic film noir PHANTOM LADY (1944), seen here with Ella Raines:



Another great film noir lead came in I LOVE TROUBLE (1948), which was written by Roy Huggins, creator of THE ROCKFORD FILES, and he again seems to foreshadow a future James Garner role as a wisecracking private eye.  Tone is seen here with Janis Carter and Janet Blair:




Tone was particularly adept at playing funny second male leads in romantic comedies such as THREE LOVES HAS NANCY (1938), seen here with Janet Gaynor and Robert Montgomery:



...EVERY GIRL SHOULD BE MARRIED (1948), with Betsy Drake and Cary Grant:



...and HERE COMES THE GROOM (1952), which he made with Bing Crosby, Jane Wyman, and Alexis Smith:



Offscreen, Tone's romantic life was a bit tumultuous; he married in succession actresses Joan Crawford, Jean Wallace, Barbara Payton, and Dolores Dorn; the relationship with Payton led to an infamous incident in which he was badly beaten by Payton's jealous boyfriend, Tom Neal. 


In a touching postscript, Tone remained friends with Crawford, who helped care for him during his final illness.  


Franchot Tone died in New York City in 1968, at the age of 63.  He left behind a wonderful body of work which continues to delight and entertain audiences today.



Franchot Tone films reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: MIDNIGHT MARY (1933), BOMBSHELL (1933), DANCING LADY (1933), THE GIRL FROM MISSOURI (1934), STRAIGHT IS THE WAY (1934), THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER (1935), RECKLESS (1935), NO MORE LADIES (1935) (also here), EXCLUSIVE STORY (1936), THE UNGUARDED HOUR (1936), LOVE ON THE RUN (1936), BETWEEN TWO WOMEN (1937), THE BRIDE WORE RED (1937), MAN-PROOF (1938) (also here), THREE LOVES HAS NANCY (1938), THE GIRL DOWNSTAIRS (1938), FAST AND FURIOUS (1939), TRAIL OF THE VIGILANTES (1940), NICE GIRL? (1941), THE WIFE TAKES A FLYER (1942), STAR SPANGLED RHYTHM (1942), FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO (1943), PILOT #5 (1943), HIS BUTLER'S SISTER (1943), PHANTOM LADY (1944), BECAUSE OF HIM (1946), HONEYMOON (1947), I LOVE TROUBLE (1948), EVERY GIRL SHOULD BE MARRIED (1948), WITHOUT HONOR (1949), HERE COMES THE GROOM (1952) (also here), and ADVISE AND CONSENT (1962).

Friday, February 26, 2021

Rio Bravo (1959) at Classic Movie Hub

My January Western RoundUp column is now posted at Classic Movie Hub!

This month I look at one of my all-time favorite movies, RIO BRAVO (1959).  John Wayne heads a top cast, directed by the great Howard Hawks.

Please click over to Classic Movie Hub to check it out.  Thanks to all for reading and taking the time to leave comments on my Western RoundUp posts, it's always appreciated.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2020

My annual list of Favorite Film Discoveries was posted today at Rupert Pupkin Speaks!

The column shares a dozen of the films which made the biggest impressions on me from my 2020 viewing.  

An additional 12 titles of interest are listed at the very end of the post.

For additional information on any film on my list, simply input the title in the search box at the upper left-hand corner of Laura's Miscellaneous Musings to pull up the full review.

Thanks so much to Brian of Rupert Pupkin Speaks for inviting me to share another list as part of this annual tradition!

Previous Favorite Discoveries Lists: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014Favorite Film Discoveries of 2015Favorite Film Discoveries of 2016Favorite Film Discoveries of 2017Favorite Film Discoveries of 2018, and Favorite Film Discoveries of 2019.

Additional guest posts at Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Five Underrated Comedies, Five Underrated WesternsFive Underrated Mystery/Detective Films, Five Underrated Action/Adventure Films, Five Underrated Thrillers, Five Underrated Films of 1955, Five Underrated Films of 1945Five Underrated Films of 1956, and Five Underrated Films of 1947.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Hot Lead (1951)

It's been quite a while since I last saw a Tim Holt Western, so I pulled out the Warner Archive's Tim Holt Western Classics Collection Vol. 3 and watched HOT LEAD (1951).

Tim and Chito (Richard Martin) are working as hands for Gail Martin (Joan Dixon, ROADBLOCK) -- although Chito, as always, is easily distracted from work by a beautiful lady.

A gang of robbers (John Dehner, Robert J. Wilke, and Paul Marion) are at work in the nearby town of Trail Head, planning to rob a gold shipment due by train.

Dave Collins (Ross Elliott) comes to town after being released from prison.  After a friend (Lee MacGregor) of Tim and Chito's is killed during a robbery attempt at the train station, Tim becomes suspicious of Dave, who's being pressured by the robbers to cooperate; they need his skills operating a telegraph.

Dave comes clean to Tim and Gail about his background, and Tim and Chito go to work to set a trap for the robbery gang.  This will hoepfully also pave the way for Dave to pursue a romance with Gail.

Tim and Chito's usual enjoyable bantering, Dehner and Wilke as bad guys, and attractive filming by Nicholas Musuraca (OUT OF THE PAST) combine for a lively and enjoyable 60 minutes.

This was one of five Holt films costarring Joan Dixon released in 1951-52; I previously reviewed GUNPLAY (1951). I've come across stills of Dixon in another of her Holt films, PISTOL HARVEST (1951), wearing one of the same dresses she wears in this movie!  I'll have to see if the costumes are repeated throughout all five of her films; it wouldn't surprise me.

Dixon had a short but interesting career; she's not a great actress yet has a distinctive personality I enjoy, along with striking looks.  In HOT LEAD her character, a woman running a ranch with the help of her hands, does not shy away from being assertive, both in business and romance.

In addition to GUNPLAY and ROADBLOCK, I've also reviewed Dixon's films BUNCO SQUAD (1950) and EXPERIMENT ALCATRAZ (1950).  I look forward to seeing her additional Holt Westerns.

HOT LEAD was directed by Stuart Gilmore and written by William Lively.  It was filmed on movie ranches in Southern California's Newhall-Santa Clarita area.

Other than a couple very brief moments with some debris, most of the Warner Archive DVD looks great.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Taxi, Mister (1943) - A ClassicFlix DVD Review

Tonight I watched TAXI, MISTER (1943), the final film in the enjoyable ClassicFlix set The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners Collection, Volume 3: The Taxi Comedies.

I previously reviewed the other two films in the collection, BROOKLYN ORCHID (1942) and THE MCGUERINS FROM BROOKLYN (1942).  All three films are about Tim McGuerin (William Bendix) and Eddie Corbett (Joe Sawyer), two guys from tough backgrounds who make their fortune in the taxi business.

In this short 46-minute film, Eddie recounts to Lucy Gibbs (Marjorie Woodworth) how Tim first met Sadie in the 1920s and fell head over heels in love.  Gangster Louis Glorio (Sheldon Leonard) also had his eye on Sadie, and Tim helping capture Glorio led to a reward which began the growth of their taxi business.

I don't want to oversell TAXI, MISTER and the other films in the set as great movies, but I've definitely developed a soft spot for them and wish there were more.  Like the other Streamliners, they're fast-paced entertainment with some funny gags and the movies are all over and done almost before they've begun.  My fellow "B" fans will probably enjoy taking a look at these movies.

For me the delight of this trio of films has been Grace Bradley's sassy comic performance as Sadie, but this was to be her last film.  Bradley loved her offscreen role as "Mrs. Hoppy," the wife of William "Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd, and from this point forward focused on supporting him in his busy career.

Woodworth, who was my most watched actress in 2020, has just a small part in this one, listening to Eddie's story.  Very strangely, she receives no billing whatsoever; she doesn't even show up in the extended unbilled credits at IMDb, but after seeing her in a number of films over the past year I have no doubt it was her, reprising her character from the first two taxi movies. 

There isn't a great deal of information about Woodworth, but I've learned that she went to USC; she married a fellow alum in 1947 and retired.  Her father was a prominent attorney in Inglewood, California, where the Clyde Woodworth Elementary School and Woodworth Avenue are named for him.  Woodworth and her parents are all buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery.  I found a little more background at a page on Woodworth family history.

TAXI, MISTER was directed by Kurt Neumann and filmed in black and white by Robert Pittack.

The picture and sound on this ClassicFlix DVD were both very good.  I'll have more Streamliners reviews here in the future as I continue to watch my way through these collections.

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

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Captain Newman, M.D. (1963) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Gregory Peck stars as CAPTAIN NEWMAN, M.D., which was released on Blu-ray last month by Kino Lorber.

It's 1944 and Captain Josiah "Joe" Newman runs a psychiatric ward at a dusty Air Force base in Arizona.

The doctor has a number of tough combat-related cases to treat, while simultaneously dealing with military brass who aren't overly sympathetic to mental health issues.  Dr. Newman is under pressure to solve cases within a few short weeks, hopefully returning the men to active duty.

He's aided by an orderly, Corporal Leibowitz (Tony Curtis), who is initially pressured into the job but who shows a real knack for understanding in his brash way.  Newman also persuades a nurse, Francie (Angie Dickinson), to transfer into the ward; among other things, he thinks the men will find her beauty an encouragement on their path to healing.

Eddie Albert, Robert Duvall, and Oscar-nominated Bobby Darin play Newman's most challenging patients.

CAPTAIN NEWMAN, M.D. was a fairly well-done film, though hampered a bit by Peck's tendency to arrogance -- thankfully punctured with frequency by Curtis, in a scene-stealing performance -- and the lack of "place setting" which strangely plagues 1960s World War II films.  Here we once more end up with anachronistic hairstyles, just as seen in the later THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY (1964) and BATTLE OF BRITAIN (1969).  We only know the film is set during WWII because we're told that's the case.

The film's bigger problem is that, while there is occasionally comic relief thanks to Curtis and a flock of sheep, it's very painful watching men in their deepest, darkest moments of agony and despair.  At some point I find it hard to call it entertainment.  It makes for a rather long 126 minutes even with -- because of? -- some strong and convincing performances.

Among the patients I was most interested in Duvall, with Bethel Leslie as his wife -- in part as theirs was the story which ultimately had the most hope. 

Peck is pleasant enough, but as hinted above, his character sometimes veers into an "I know best" attitude which makes a few of Peck's performances increasingly grating to me with the passage of time; THE BIG COUNTRY (1958) is another example. 

Curtis does something of a riff on his "scrounger" character from OPERATION PETTICOAT (1959), but he's such a welcome relief in that environment that the lack of originality doesn't matter too much.  Indeed, I particularly got a kick out of the scene where he punctures Dr. Newman a bit by sharing his belief that it's all pretty much common sense in dealing with their patients.

This was the third film I've seen Dickinson in since the start of the year; she's lovely but has little chance to show much in the way of acting chops.  Her role is to smile and look pretty.

The screenplay by Richard L. Breen and Henry and Phoebe Ephron was based on a novel by Leo Rosten.  The movie was directed by David Miller (SUDDEN FEAR) and filmed by Russell Metty.

The supporting cast includes Jane Withers, Larry Storch, Dick Sargent, James Gregory, Ted Bessell, and Gregory Walcott.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray is a sharp, crisp widescreen print with excellent sound.  The disc includes a commentary track by Samm Deighan, the trailer, and a gallery of trailers for eight additional films available from Kino Lorber.

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

Tonight's Movie: My Dream Is Yours (1949) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

MY DREAM IS YOURS (1949) is one of a pair of Doris Day musicals being released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive this week.

The other film is ON MOONLIGHT BAY (1951), which I'll be reviewing here in the near future.

This duo of bright and cheerful musicals are just what the world needs right now.  Indeed, after watching an unusually dark film last night the first thing I did was pop Doris in the Blu-ray player, ready for the sunshine and rainbows that only Doris can provide.

MY DREAM IS YOURS is one of my favorite Doris Day movies, which I first reviewed here in 2008 after a magical evening sitting in on my daughter's musicals class with Drew Casper at the University of Southern California.

Doris plays Martha Gibson, a young widow and mother who aspires to a singing career.  She's discovered by agent Doug Blake (Jack Carson) after he's dumped by his star client, radio singer Gary Mitchell (Lee Bowman, with singing dubbed by Hal Derwin).

Martha initially struggles to find success, until Doug realizes that Martha should be crooning ballads rather than singing jaunty novelty tunes.  Martha then makes the big time, but her love life is a mess, as she's torn between glamorous Gary and dependable Doug.  

This was only Doris's second film, following ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS (1948), but she owns the screen from her first scene and doesn't let go for the entirety of the movie's 101 minutes.  The camera loved her, and she seemed to love being in the movies right back, a completely confident performer.  

Doris easily handles both light comedy and tearful scenes, and she sings a number of good songs, including Harry Warren and Al Dubin's "I'll String Along With You" and the title song, by Warren and Ralph Blane.  She's a joy.

Doris has excellent chemistry with her ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS costar Carson; the viewer feels that they genuinely like each other.  I really like Carson in this pair of films; his mellow, supportive personality is appealing.  

The cast is rounded out by a dependable cast including Eve Arden, S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall, Adolphe Menjou, Lee Bowman, and Selena Royle.  Faces like Edgar Kennedy, Sheldon Leonard, and Franklin Pangborn also pop up, and Duncan Richardson is cute as Martha's little boy.

This is another great Warner Archive Blu-ray print, showing off the glorious Technicolor work of Wilfrid M. Cline and Ernest Haller.  The film is absolutely beautiful, with the "vintage" looks at 1940s Hollywood a particular treat.  Coming from an era where I first saw many movies edited and riddled with commercials, I don't think I'll ever quite get over my amazement at being able to play a beautiful print like this any time I wish.

Michael Curtiz, who also worked with Day and Carson on ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS, capably directed.  The Bugs Bunny animated sequence was directed by Friz Freleng.

Extras carried over from the film's original DVD release include a trailer, the cartoon A HAM IN A ROLE (1949), and two shorts, SO YOU WANT TO BE AN ACTOR (1949) and THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER (1950).  The disc also has a song selection menu.

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. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Tonight's Movie: The Great Man's Lady (1942) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Another weekend, and another set of Kino Lorber reviews wrapped up!

Last year I reviewed the first two films in Kino Lorber's Barbara Stanwyck Collection, INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY (1937) and THE BRIDE WORE BOOTS (1946).

There were so many interesting Kino Lorber sets released last year that I couldn't get to every film as each collection initially came out. With the pace of releases a bit slower this winter, I'm really enjoying circling back to completing watching these sets, and it's a good opportunity to remind readers of last year's many excellent multi-film releases.

THE GREAT MAN'S LADY is an historical saga directed by William A. Wellman.  Stanwyck appears opposite one of her regular costars, Joel McCrea, who also starred with her in the set's INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY, filmed half a decade previously.  In the intervening years they had also costarred in Cecil B. DeMille's UNION PACIFIC (1939); ultimately Stanwyck and McCrea would make half a dozen films together in close to 24 years.

THE GREAT MAN'S LADY is a story presented in flashback as 100-year-old Hannah Sempler Hoyt (Stanwyck) recounts her life to a writer (K.T. Stevens, billed here as Katharine).  

Hannah is a young girl when she elopes with Ethan Hoyt (McCrea), who dreams of building a great city on the frontier.  

The Hoyts struggle and have decided to go west in search of gold when Ethan loses everything he owns to gambler Steely Hoyt (Brian Donlevy).  Hannah manages to get everything back from Steely, and when the Hoyts go west, Hannah and Steely become close friends when Ethan is away for weeks at a time prospecting.

Hannah gives birth to twins in her husband's absence, but they die in a flood.  Ethan believes Hannah has died in the same flood and remarries.  Having lost everything, Hannah goes with Steely to San Francisco, while Ethan becomes a wealthy and powerful man thanks to finding silver.

The early part of the film is the best, with McCrea and Stanwyck as ambitious young dreamers who are head over heels for each other.  The second half of the film is absorbing enough to watch but the lighthearted energy gradually disappears and the film instead becomes depressing, as one can imagine reading the above.  Killing off two little babies, followed by the permanent break to the Hoyt marriage, was much too much.

The performances by Stanwyck and Donlevy are top notch, and Stanwyck really gets to show her stuff as her character ages by eight decades.  McCrea is a big favorite but has less to do in this film, especially in the second half, when he's more talked about than seen.  

There are a number of familiar supporting faces in the cast, from Thurston Hall, Charles Lane, and George Chandler to Etta McDaniel, Mary Treen, and Lloyd Corrigan, but only the three excellent leads make any impression.  

The film is worth seeing for fans of Stanwyck, McCrea, and Donlevy -- and I'm definitely one -- but ultimately it's kind of a long 90 minutes with all the tragedies befalling the characters in rapid succession.

THE GREAT MAN'S LADY was filmed by William C. Mellor.  The screenplay by W.L. River was based on a story by multiple contributors, including Adela Rogers St. Johns.  Additional great names behind the scenes included costumes by Edith Head and a score by Victor Young.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray is a nice print with excellent sound.  The disc includes a commentary by Eloise Ross along with the trailer.  

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

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