Sunday, June 20, 2021

Tonight's Movie: A Chapter in Her Life (1923) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

A CHAPTER IN HER LIFE (1923) is the second movie in a two-film set of silent films directed by Lois Weber.

The set, recently released by Kino Lorber, also includes SENSATION SEEKERS (1927), which I reviewed earlier this month.

A CHAPTER IN HER LIFE was the perfect "palate cleanser" following DOCTOR X (1932), a horror film I'd watched earlier in the evening.

A CHAPTER IN HER LIFE tells the tale of little Jewel (Jane Mercer), who must be left behind while her parents go abroad on business. Jewel is sent to visit her wealthy grandfather (Claude Gillingwater), who had become estranged from her father when he married her working-class mother.

Jewel is lonely but, buoyed by encouraging notes her mother has left scattered throughout her belongings, she tries hard to be loving and understand the reasons that the people living in her grandfather's home are unhappy, including the grumpy housekeeper (Eva Thatcher) and sad relative-by-marriage Eloise (Jacqueline Gadsden).

Eventually Jewel's persistence and kindness brings significant changes to the lives of her grandfather and everyone else around her.

A CHAPTER IN HER LIFE is a simple film, told in just 63 minutes, but I enjoyed it very much. Jewel's story was based on a novel by Clara Louise Burnham, and I found it very much in the style of some of my favorite children's stories such as Eleanor H. Porter's POLLYANNA (1960) or Frances Hodgson Burnett's A LITTLE PRINCESS.

I suppose there are some who might find Jewel's relentless optimism cloying, but I loved her Pollyanna-esque efforts to be "glad." It's a positive and uplifting little movie about the good which can come from trying to understand people and offer kindness, even when it's least deserved. It's the kind of film which left me feeling better for having watched it.

The entire cast does a fine job. Director Lois Weber and Doris Schroeder collaborated on the adaptation of the novel. The movie was filmed by Benjamin H. Kline.

A CHAPTER IN HER LIFE is a new 2K restoration. It has some lines here and there but for a film which is nearly a century old this is an excellent viewing experience.

The two films in the set were enjoyable viewing experiences which were a good introduction to the work of director Weber.  I'll be curious to see more of her work in the future.

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

Tonight's Movie: Doctor X (1932) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

DOCTOR X (1932) is a horror film recently restored and released on a stunning Blu-ray by the Warner Archive Collection.

The restoration, a joint effort from the UCLA Film and Television Archive and the Film Foundation, is simultaneously spooky and beautiful. Green is the dominant look of this two-strip Technicolor film, which casts every scene in a creepy, otherworldly glow.

DOCTOR X was directed by Michael Curtiz. Lee Tracy stars as Lee Taylor, an intrepid reporter trying to solve a series of especially disturbing murders by the "Moon Killer."

The murders all occur near the Mott Street Morgue, where Dr. Xavier (Lionel Atwill) and several colleagues (including Preston Foster) are carrying out experiments. The doctors all have unusual elements in their backgrounds which make them possible suspects.

While trying to solve the mystery Lee also falls for Dr. Xavier's beautiful daughter Joanne (Fay Wray), who will soon be in mortal danger herself.

I generally don't watch horror films, but having skipped last year's Warner Archive release of the restored THE MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933), I decided to give DOCTOR X a try. The restored two-strip Technicolor (filmed by Ray Rennahan and the uncredited Richard Towers) and plentiful extras were a big pull, along with my liking for Tracy, Foster, and Wray.

The film's look is indeed very impressive, but DOCTOR X confirmed that horror is definitely not for me! Particularly befitting a pre-Code, the film was disturbing both verbally, with discussion of cannibalism, and visually, thanks to some, well, horrific special effects.

Thankfully Tracy's character serves to lighten things up periodically with both comedic reactions and his romancing of the lovely Wray, but the overall film was simply "too much" for me to enjoy for 76 full minutes.  That said, horror fans should absolutely love this fantastic Blu-ray presentation!

The Blu-ray disc includes a separately filmed black and white version of the movie which was also fully restored.  The disc also includes not one but two commentary tracks; Michael Curtiz biographer Alan K. Rode speaks on one track, and a 2006 DVD commentary by UCLA's Scott MacQueen is the second track.

Rode and MacQueen are also featured in a 28-minute documentary, MONSTERS AND MAYHEM: THE HORROR FILMS OF MICHAEL CURTIZ. A trailer and an 8-minute restoration featurette are also included.

Highly recommended for horror fans.

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

A Birthday Tribute to Gail Patrick

Gail Patrick was born June 20, 1911, in Birmingham, Alabama. Her birth name was Margaret Fitzpatrick.

On screen from 1932 to 1948, Patrick was an interesting actress who gave off a distinct air of intelligence; she was equally capable of playing frosty ice queens or warm mothers.

A woman of many talents and interests, Patrick was a graduate of Howard College and contemplated obtaining a law degree before entering the movie business. In the late '40s she left films for clothing design and for several years ran a children's clothing shop, Enchanted Cottage, in Beverly Hills.

She then moved on to a completely new career; billed under her married name as Gail Patrick Jackson, she was the executive producer of the highly successful TV series PERRY MASON, which ran from 1957 to 1966.

She's seen above in a 1936 Paramount Pictures publicity photo with William Hopper, who would play Paul Drake on PERRY MASON a couple of decades later.

Patrick was the mother of four. She tragically lost a set of prematurely born twins in 1945, and her marriage to Arnold White ended the following year. In the 1950s Patrick and her husband Cornwell Jackson adopted a daughter and son.

Gail Patrick passed away in Los Angeles on July 6, 1980.  She was 69.

Reviews of Gail Patrick films: NO MORE LADIES (1935) (also here), TWO IN THE DARK (1936), STAGE DOOR (1937), WIVES UNDER SUSPICION (1938), MAD ABOUT MUSIC (1938), RENO (1939), GALLANT SONS (1940), THE DOCTOR TAKES A WIFE (1940), KATHLEEN (1941) (also here), WE WERE DANCING (1942), QUIET PLEASE - MURDER (1942), TWICE BLESSED (1945) (also here), THE INSIDE STORY (1947).

Notable Gail Patrick titles not yet reviewed here include MURDERS IN THE ZOO (19330, MY MAN GODFREY (1936), MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940), LOVE CRAZY (1941), TALES OF MANHATTAN (1942), and CLAUDIA AND DAVID (1946).

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Wonderful publishing news: Hayley Mills' autobiography, FOREVER YOUNG: A MEMOIR will be out this September. That's a pre-order purchase for me.

...Born June 19, 1932: Twin sisters Pier Angeli and Marisa Pavan. Angeli died in 1971, while Pavan, who is the widow of Jean-Pierre Aumont, turns 89 today.

...The South Coast Repertory here in Orange County will be streaming a production of a new musical, HAROLD & LILLIAN, inspired by the 2015 documentary I reviewed in 2017. Husband and wife Michael McKean and Annette O'Toole star.  (Fun trivia: I saw O'Toole in a stage production of VANITIES at the Westwood Playhouse in the early '80s.  Meredith Baxter Birney and Shelley Hack costarred.)

...Good news from the Warner Archive Collection: July Blu-ray releases will include the minor crime films STEP BY STEP (1946) and I WOULDN'T BE IN YOUR SHOES (1948). I wondered if the days of WAC releasing these types of lesser-known movies might be over and am absolutely delighted. I reviewed STEP BY STEP, which stars Lawrence Tierney and Anne Jeffreys, in 2014. I WOULDN'T BE IN YOUR SHOES stars my kind of cast: Elyse Knox, Don Castle, and Regis Toomey. Can't wait!

...Also coming next month from the Warner Archive: Blu-rays of TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME (1948) starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Esther Williams, and OBJECTIVE, BURMA! (1945) starring Errol Flynn.

...Speaking of Esther Williams, the 100 Years of Esther Williams Blogathon celebrating Williams' centennial is coming this August, hosted by Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

...Coming to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber on September 21st: Steve Martin in DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID (1982).

...And here's some fantastic news just announced today by Kino Lorber: Dennis O'Keefe's THE DIAMOND WIZARD (1954), which I reviewed here after seeing it via Amazon Prime back in 2014, has had a 3D restoration by the 3D Film Archive and is coming to Blu-ray "soon." O'Keefe starred, co-wrote the story (using his pen name Jonathan Rix), and co-directed with Montgomery Tully.

...At The Hollywood Revue, Angela has written interesting book-to-film comparisons of the pre-Codes RED-HEADED WOMAN (1932) and 42ND STREET (1933). They've been reviewed by Angela as part of the 2021 Classic Film Summer Reading Challenge hosted by Raquel at her blog Out of the Past.

...I haven't participated in the Summer Reading Challenge for the last few years due to the press of other writing commitments, but since I have a significant stack of books I'm committed to review this summer, I'm in! I anticipate that my first reviews posted will be of the new Christina Rice bio of Jane Russell for the University Press of Kentucky and SUMMER MOVIES by John Malahy, from TCM and Running Press.

...The publication of the Jane Russell book will be celebrated in a free Zoom event with author Christina Rice, hosted by Larry Edmunds Cinema Bookshop on Monday, June 21st. June 21st is the centennial of Russell's birth.

...At Hometowns to Hollywood Annette Bochenek takes a look at significant places in the life of Robert Taylor.

...Thanks to social media I learned that the 110th anniversary of Taylor's birth will be celebrated August 20-22 in Taylor's hometown of Beatrice, Nebraska.

...Leonard Maltin has given a thumbs up to the new Disney-Pixar film LUCA (2021), which debuted on Disney+ yesterday. He says "LUCA doesn't look or sound like any film Pixar has made before" and calls it a "wonderful, disarming film." Justin Chang calls LUCA "funny and enchanting" in the Los Angeles Times. I anticipate reviewing it here on the blog sometime this summer. The trailer is here.

...Leonard Maltin has also recently written about Ben Model's Silent Comedy Watch Party, which has been streaming online every Sunday since March 2020. Ben accompanies the films with live music as they play.

...June 22-27 is "Cinema Week," welcoming movie-goers back to theaters.

...I was delighted to see that Steve of Mystery File has recently given a thumbs up to 36 HOURS TO KILL (1936). I really enjoyed that movie in 2017. It stars Brian Donlevy and Gloria Stuart and is especially appealing viewing for fans of "train movies."

...I've now watched the first two episodes of the newest Disney+ Marvel series, LOKI (2021), and am quite enjoying the return of Tom Hiddleston as the God of Mischief. He has excellent chemistry with costar Owen Wilson. Nerdist has a thorough rundown on all the series' "Easter eggs" and connections to the original comics which is updated as each episode airs.

...A postscript, Marvel's THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER (2021) debuted at a busy time for me and I've only seen a couple episodes so far. I'll finish it but it hasn't grabbed me like Marvel usually does. I think my main issue is I've never been interested in the character Bucky (Sebastian Stan), aka the "Winter Soldier." My initial impression is that the show is pleasant but Sam (Anthony Mackie) probably could have been given a stronger story. Wyatt Russell costars; in a fun connection, his father Kurt costarred in Marvel's GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017). Wyatt is a third generation actor; his grandfather was character actor Bing Russell.

...Glenn Erickson's latest CineSavant reviews at Trailers from Hell include Kino Lorber's release of LARCENY (1948), while his colleague Charlie Largent has reviewed the ClassicFlix release The Little Rascals Volume 1. I've seen LARCENY several times and like it more than Erickson did, but I always enjoy checking out his takes. Largent describes the Little Rascals restorations as "splendid," also saying "the detail is dazzling." I'll be reviewing both releases here in coming weeks.

...New fall cookbooks being published between September and November: TREASURES OF THE MEXICAN TABLE by Pati Jinich, TRISHA'S KITCHEN: EASY COMFORT FOOD FOR FRIENDS & FAMILY by Trisha Yearwood, and LIDIA'S A POT, A PAN, AND A BOWL by Lidia Bastianich.

...I enjoyed this Robert Lloyd piece in the Los Angeles Times: "John Stamos is One of TV's Most Underrated Actors." Stamos is from my area and went to nearby Kennedy High School in La Palma, California; I remember him going back to his GENERAL HOSPITAL days in the early '80s. (He's seen here on GH with Janine Turner, who went on to success -- with much shorter hair -- on NORTHERN EXPOSURE.) I'm planning to check out his new Disney+ series BIG SHOT at some point.

...Notable Passings: Ned Beatty has passed away at the age of 83. I especially remember him as Dr. Gibbs in the wonderful 1977 TV production of OUR TOWN and of course as Otis in SUPERMAN (1978)...Soap star John Gabriel, best known for a decade on RYAN'S HOPE, has died at 90. He also played sportscaster Andy Rivers in several episodes of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. Survivors include his wife of 52 years, ALL MY CHILDREN actress Sandy Gabriel...Frank Bonner, who played Herb Tarlek on WKRP IN CINCINNATI (1978-82), has passed on at 79...Actor-Director Dennis Berry, the widower of Jean Seberg and more recently Anna Karina, has died at 76. In 2016 I saw him introduce HE RAN ALL THE WAY (1951), directed by his father John, at the TCM Classic Film Festival.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my June 12th roundup.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Disneyland: 2016 Visit to Club 33

It's a good day in Southern California, with the state somewhat "reopening" and Disneyland simultaneously mostly ditching masks, at least for guests. I'm looking forward to returning to Disneyland at long last sometime this summer!

Today is also the anniversary of Disneyland's private fine dining restaurant, Club 33, which first opened its doors on June 15, 1967.

Given that anniversary and today's good news, this seems like the perfect time to finally share photos of our last visit to Club 33. And when I say finally...that visit was a full half-decade ago, in June 2016!  Hard to believe it's taken that long to cross it off my list of ideas for future posts.

It's always a thrill being able to press the buzzer and know you'll be admitted to Disneyland's most beloved, exclusive location!

The occasion was our youngest son's high school graduation; he is now an employed graduate of UC San Diego!

I believe this was our first visit since Disneyland had closed off Court des Anges to the public and begun using it as the Club 33 entrance.

Guests have the option of the staircase or an elevator:

The upstairs entrance:

A shot of the dining room...

...and here's another angle. The side table which can be glimpsed in the hallway is from MARY POPPINS (1964). Click on this or any other photo to enlarge it for a closer look.

A sketch of Court des Anges is among the beautiful artwork on display in the restaurant.

A view of the Rivers of America from a Club 33 balcony:

The charger plates had changed since our previous visit.

This between-courses sorbet "palate cleanser" was marvelous.

The main course:

The pastry chef always does a nice job with complimentary "congratulations" desserts!

One more fond look at the phone booth from THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE (1967)...

We have been so fortunate to celebrate several special occasions at Club 33 over the years, including each of our children's high school graduations.  I'm very grateful.

Now that I've finally caught up on sharing these photos, can photos from my 2017 visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum be far behind? That took place the month our youngest daughter graduated college...and later this month she'll become the mother of twins!

Photos from previous Club 33 visits: June 2006, August 2007, June 2011, and June 2013.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Lights of Old Broadway (1925) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Marion Davies stars in the silent romantic comedy LIGHTS OF OLD BROADWAY (1925), which was just released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

In retrospect it almost seems as though this delightful film should have begun "Once upon a time..."

Twin newborn girls are orphaned aboard a ship sailing to New York. One of the babies is picked up by wealthy Mrs. de Rhonde (Julia Swayne Gordon), the other by the poor Irish immigrant Mrs. O'Tandy (Eleanor Lawson). Each of the women, enchanted with the baby she holds, wanders off into another part of the ship, and thus the girls begin their separate lives.

Dark-haired Anne de Rhonde (Davies) and her adoptive brother Dirk (Conrad Nagel) are raised in luxury. Blonde Fely O'Tandy (also Davies) has a hardscrabble existence, living in a shack and ultimately going on the stage as a dancer at Tony Pastor's.

Dirk sees Fely at Pastor's and falls head over heels for her. When he introduces Fely to his family, she and Anne feel as though they've always known each other... The de Rhondes are kind to the awkward Fely but when Dirk's father (Frank Currier) learns that Fely is an actress (the horror!) he asks her to leave.

Dirk loves Fely deeply and leaves home rather than give her up. He's further horrified when he learns his father is about to evict the O'Tandys and others from their shacks. Can this tangled mess be solved?

I believe this was my third Davies film; several years ago I saw her in EVER SINCE EVE (1937) with Robert Montgomery, and I really loved her in the silent comedy SHOW PEOPLE (1929) at the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival.

I think I enjoyed her in this even more. Davies is absolutely marvelous in her dual role. Fely is the dominant character, but Davies also creates a nicely distinct second characterization with the reserved Anne. The viewer initially thinks that Anne might reject Fely, as her father has, but there's a pull between the two young women and Anne only treats Fely with kindness.

In contrast with Anne, Fely is a livewire, ready to dance or brawl as needed. The sequence where Dirk walks her home and they get to know one another is enchanting. Davies' body language, such as the way she sprawls across a rock as Dirk is leaving, in order to ask his name, contributes greatly to her vivid characterization.

Early in the film Davies plays Fely as a wild young girl. She is completely believable as a child of perhaps 12, and I was amazed to look up Davies' age and realize she was 28 when the movie was released. I would have guessed she was closer to 20 when playing a girl several years younger in the early scenes. She's remarkably effective.

LIGHTS OF OLD BROADWAY features a subplot involving Thomas Edison (Frank Glendon) and electricity. A color sequence with electric lights is among the film's delights; additional scenes are also in color. Three different early color techniques were utilized: Two-strip Technicolor, the Handschiegl process, and color tinting.

This 70-minute film was directed by Monta Bell and filmed by Ira H. Morgan, The screenplay by Carey Wilson was adapted from a play by Laurence Eyre. The movie, with several settings and Davies playing two parts, doesn't feel overly much like a filmed play.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray features a 2K master of a 35mm Library of Congress print which looks wonderful. There is a new orchestral score composed, arranged and conducted by Robert Israel which I thought was excellent.

The disc includes a commentary track by Anthony Slide and a nice image gallery.

I can confidently say that LIGHTS OF OLD BROADWAY will make my Favorite Discoveries of 2021 list. Recommended.

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

Tonight's Movie: Each Dawn I Die (1939) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

James Cagney and George Raft star in EACH DAWN IN DIE (1939), recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

The movie gets off to a terrific start with striking, very "Warner Bros." opening credits followed by an action sequence in which reporter Frank Ross (Cagney) investigates a corrupt politician (Thurston Hall) and his henchmen.

Frank and his newspaper are threatened to give up their reporting, and when Frank refuses, he's framed for a drunk driving accident and sent to prison for manslaughter.

Frank's faith in the justice system gradually crumbles as those working on his behalf are unable to prove the frame-up and secure his release; meanwhile, prison is a grim, dangerous place. The warden (George Bancroft) is a reasonable man, but some of the guards are sadistic.

Frank makes a deal with "Hood" Stacey (Raft) that he'll help Stacey break out, and then Stacey will work from the outside to try to free Frank.

Once out, Stacey is in no hurry to help Frank, until a visit from Frank's girlfriend Joyce (Jane Bryan) starts him thinking...and he comes up with an unusual plan.

EACH DAWN I DIE is a well-made film, albeit rather dark. Prison sadism and riots aren't my favorite thing to watch, but putting those scenes aside, this 92- minute film is well-paced and has excellent lead performances by Cagney and Raft.

Cagney is touching in a relatively quiet role as a man who eventually falls apart due to a combination of cruelty and lack of hope. A scene where he can't emotionally deal with his mother (Emma Dunn) visiting him is enormously touching, including the quiet kindness of the guard monitoring the visit. The viewer has the feeling that even if Frank makes it out, he'll never be quite the same after what he's experienced.

Raft plays more of a supporting role, but his character really comes into his own in the last section of the movie when he makes up his mind to secure Frank's release. Fans of both the lead actors should quite enjoy their performances.

Bryan is appropriately emotional as Joyce but doesn't particularly stand out in the cast. The large list of supporting actors includes Stanley Ridges, Alan Baxter, Maxie Rosenbloom, Louis Jean Heydt, Victor Jory, and Paul Hurst. It's fun to note that the latter three actors all appeared in small yet memorable roles in GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) the same year.

EACH DAWN I DIE was directed by William Keighley and filmed in black and white by Arthur Edeson.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray print looks terrific; it's described as a 4K scan of the "best surviving nitrate preservation elements." Sound quality is also excellent.

There are plentiful extras carried over from the film's original 2006 DVD release, including a Lux Radio Theater production with Raft, Franchot Tone, and Lynn Bari; a featurette; cartoons, a newsreel, a short, and a blooper reel.

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

Tonight's Movie: The Crystal Ball (1943) - A ClassicFlix Silver Series DVD Review

The charming Paulette Goddard and Ray Milland star in THE CRYSTAL BALL (1943). It's a United Artists film, produced at Paramount, which has just been released on DVD by ClassicFlix.

THE CRYSTAL BALL is No. 12 in the ClassicFlix Silver Series, which focuses on making lesser-known films available for home viewing.

Goddard plays Toni Gerard, a down-on-her-luck Texan in New York.  Thanks to the kindness of a fortune teller, Madame Zenobia (Gladys George), and a shooting gallery owner (Cecil Kellaway), she finds work and a ramshackle place to live. 

Through a series of events Toni falls for handsome, wealthy Brad Cavanaugh (Milland).  Toni, hoping to land Brad for herself, works to free him from his wealthy girlfriend, Jo (Virginia Field, who at times seems to be channeling Eleanor Parker). 

It's all very goofy, including Toni pretending to be fortune-telling Madame Zenobia at times, but no one will be surprised that everything works out in the end.

I first saw this film in 2011 and enjoyed returning to it after the passage of a decade.  The screenplay by Virginia Van Upp (from a story by Steven Vas) may not be perfect, but it's cute enough to entertain for the film's 81 minutes, especially with such delightful leads.  Milland is very appealing, and in my opinion there were few actresses in the classic film era who were as purely likeable as Goddard.

Milland and Goddard costarred in four films, and Milland once said of Goddard, "I always liked working with Paulette. She was not a brilliant actress...but nobody knew it better than she did, and she was completely honest about it; she is the most honest actress I ever knew."

The supporting cast includes one of my favorite character actresses, Mary Field, playing Jo's devious maid. Also in the cast are William Bendix, Cecil Kellaway, Iris Adrian, Nestor Paiva, Fay Helm, and Tom Dugan.

THE CRYSTAL BALL was directed by Elliott Nugent, who had previously directed Goddard opposite Bob Hope in THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1939) and NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (1941).

The movie was filmed in black and white by Leo Tover.  It's notable that the film's costumes were designed by not one but two all-time greats, Edith Head and Adrian.

The ClassicFlix print is quite nice, especially considering that this is a "no frills" line where the focus is more on getting films into viewers' hands than restoration.  The sound is excellent.  

The DVD is a pressed disc; when initial supplies are depleted, Silver Series films may continue to be available in MOD (manufactured on demand) editions.  The disc includes a trailer gallery for additional films available from ClassicFlix.

I'm delighted that this movie is easily available at long last.  Anyone who enjoys the leads and '40s romantic comedies will probably enjoy spending time with THE CRYSTAL BALL.  I did!

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

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