Wednesday, June 30, 2021

TCM in July: Highlights

Happy summer movie viewing!

It's time for a close look at the July schedule on Turner Classic Movies.

The July Star of the Month will be Elvis Presley. I believe he was last a TCM Star of the Month two decades ago, in January 2001. His movies will be shown on Thursday evenings this month. Please note there will not be a separate Star of the Month post for July.

The July Noir Alley films are GUILTY BYSTANDER (1950) on July 3rd and 4th, THE BRIBE (1949) on the 10th and 11th, THE BITTER STEMS (1956), aka LOS TALLOS AMARGOS, July 17th and 18th, and CAUSE FOR ALARM! (1950) on July 24th-25th.

All of this month's Noir Alley films are worthwhile. I especially like THE BRIBE, which has a fantastic cast including Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, John Hodiak, Charles Laughton, and Vincent Price -- not to mention a spectacular fireworks finale.

"Neo-Noir" will be the theme on Friday evenings, co-hosted by Eddie Muller and Ben Mankiewicz. Titles will include CHINATOWN (1974), BODY HEAT (1981), and TEQULIA SUNRISE (1988), to give an idea of the kinds of films which will be part of the series.

Wednesdays the TCM Spotlight will feature films From Hollywood to the Heartland. And on July 19th there's a unique day, 100 Years of Olympic Films.

Below are some additional highlights from among the many great viewing options on TCM this month. Please click on any hyperlinked title to read a full-length review.

...July 1st is a tribute to the great William Wyler, with half a dozen films including MRS. MINIVER (1942) and THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946). Can't ever go wrong watching those movies. I'd also note that BEST YEARS repeats on July 25th, and Wyler's classic Western THE BIG COUNTRY (1958) can be found on July 10th.

...The theme on July 2nd is troubled children. I recommend BOYS' RANCH (1946), a nicely done MGM family film starring James Craig, Dorothy Patrick, and Jackie "Butch" Jenkins. Craig plays a former baseball player running a ranch for orphaned and troubled boys, who include Darryl Hickman and Skip Homeier.

...Saturday morning films on July 3rd include the "B" film LADY GANGSTER (1942) with Faye Emerson, a brisk 62-minute remake of LADIES THEY TALK ABOUT (1932) which starred Barbara Stanwyck.

...Independence Day kicks off with AH, WILDERNESS (1935) and its MGM musical remake SUMMER HOLIDAY (1948), seen here with Mickey Rooney and Gloria DeHaven. That day I especially recommend Nelson Eddy in LET FREEDOM RING (1939), a lesser-known MGM musical which I really enjoyed. As is often the case, the evening's entertainment includes THE MUSIC MAN (1962), YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942), and 1776 (1972).

...July 5th features a lineup of fun romances including A GIRL, A GUY, AND A GOB (1941) starring Lucille Ball, George Murphy, and Edmond O'Brien.

...WHEN LADIES MEET (1941) stars the wonderful quartet of Greer Garson, Robert Taylor, Joan Crawford, and Herbert Marshall. It's a remake of a 1933 version which starred Ann Harding, Robert Montgomery, Myrna Loy, and Frank Morgan. It's on July 6th.

...The entertaining aviation disaster film THE CROWDED SKY (1960) airs on July 8th, starring Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Years later Andrews and Zimbalist were involved in another mid-sky collision in AIRPORT 1975 (1974)!

...A day of films with "sun" in the title on July 9th includes Jeanette MacDonald in her last film, the moving THE SUN COMES UP (1949). Lloyd Nolan, Claude Jarman Jr., and Lassie costar.

...July 11th features back-to-back screenings of MGM's THE WOMEN (1939) and THE OPPOSITE SEX (1956), both made with all-star casts. Unlike the original film, the remake does include men in the cast.

...Two superb 1948 Westerns recently restored by the Warner Archive air early on July 14th: BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948) and RACHEL AND THE STRANGER (1948). BLOOD ON THE MOON stars Robert Mitchum, Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Preston and Walter Brennan; its previously murky print is now hugely improved. As for RACHEL AND THE STRANGER, with Mitchum joining Loretta Young and William Holden as leads, 12 minutes were restored to the film for the first time in decades.

...There's an absolutely marvelous day of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy films on July 15th. I've seen all but one and especially recommend SWEETHEARTS (1938), seen here, and NEW MOON (1940), but they're all good.

...Barbara Stanwyck's birthday is celebrated on July 16th with a lineup of nine films. I've again seen most of that day's movies and want to mention an enjoyable, short little film, THE SECRET BRIDE (1936), costarring Warren William and Glenda Farrell.

...The British murder mystery GREEN FOR DANGER (1946) is also great "movie comfort viewing"; indeed, it was a film I turned to to revisit early in last year's lockdown. Alastair Sim plays the investigator, with Trevor Howard, Leo Genn, and Sally Gray among the suspects. It's on July 17th.

...On July 19th, Silent Sunday Nights features Harold Lloyd in THE KID BROTHER (1927), costarring the wonderful Jobyna Ralston.

...July 22nd is an especially wonderful day on the calendar, leading off with Joyce Reynolds as JANIE (1944), seen in this photo, followed by the Lane Sisters in FOUR DAUGHTERS (1938) and eight Irene Dunne films! A really wonderful day of movies.

...A day of "Sinbad" films on July 23rd includes Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Maureen O'Hara in the colorful SINBAD THE SAILOR (1947).

...You can't find a better movie for a relaxing summer Saturday afternoon than THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), being shown on July 24th.

...Aline MacMahon, Ann Dvorak and Preston Foster star in the engrossing desert drama HEAT LIGHTNING (1934), showing on July 26th.

...AS THE EARTH TURNS (1934) is a fine filming of the Pulitzer Prize nominated novel by Gladys Hasty Carroll, a favorite of mine since high school days. Jean Muir heads an excellent cast. The air date is July 28th.

...William Powell fans rejoice! His July 29th birthday will be celebrated with a lineup of nine films including LAWYER MAN (1932) with Joan Blondell, FASHIONS OF 1934 (1934) with Bette Davis (and the "Hall of Human Harps"!), and DOUBLE WEDDING (1937) with Myrna Loy.

...A day of spy films on July 30th includes Paul Henreid and Hedy Lamarr in THE CONSPIRATORS (1944).

...The month closes out July 31st with one of the best "B" films ever made, RKO's FIVE CAME BACK (1939). It's amazing how much tension can be created in 75 minutes mostly spent in a soundstage jungle. Chester Morris, Lucille Ball, Kent Taylor, and Wendy Barrie head the cast.

For more on TCM in July 2021, please check out my Quick Preview of TCM in July along with TCM's online schedule, which will be available beginning July 1st.

Happy summer!

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Western Roundup at Classic Movie Hub: Kanab, Utah

I'm pleased to share the news that my latest Western RoundUp column is now available at Classic Movie Hub.

I'm especially excited about this month's post, which recounts my recent visit to a location from one of my all-time favorite Westerns, WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951).

I wrote about WESTWARD THE WOMEN in my very first post at Classic Movie Hub in June 2018, so it seems very "full circle" to return to that film three years later and share my visit to one of the film's key sites in Utah.

Please click over to Classic Movie Hub to check it out, and thanks very much 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, 2019; May 2019; June 2019; July 2019; August 2019; September 2019; October 2019; November 2019; December 2019; January 2020; February 2020; March 2020; April 2020; May 2020; June 2020; July 2020; August 2020; September 2020; October 2020; November 2020; December 2020; January 2021; February 2021; March 2021; May 2021; June 2021.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Green Dolphin Street (1947) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The excellent MGM romantic adventure GREEN DOLPHIN STREET (1947) was recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

I have a wonderful old used copy of the novel by Elizabeth Goudge -- still in print today -- and love both it and the movie. I believe the last time I saw the film was before I was blogging, so it had definitely been a while!

It was a joy to return to the movie thanks to the pristine new Blu-ray. GREEN DOLPHIN STREET is a great example of MGM movie-making firing on all cylinders; it's perfectly cast and is beautifully produced in every respect.

GREEN DOLPHIN STREET tells the story of a pair of lovely sisters living in a town in the Channel Islands in the 1840s. Marianne (Lana Turner) is smart and headstrong, with a mind for business, calculating plans far into the future. Marianne's beloved sister Marguerite (Donna Reed) is quiet and shy, a more traditional young lady of the times.

Both girls fall for their new neighbor William (Richard Hart, DESIRE ME), who is the son of their mother Sophie's (Gladys Cooper) old flame Edmond (Frank Morgan). William shows signs of following in the footsteps of his hard-drinking father, whom Sophie had been forbidden to marry; instead she married kindly Octavius (Edmund Gwenn). But Marianne is determined William will not live an aimless, dissolute life; instead she forms a plan to turn William into a responsible officer and gentleman, and with her father's help gets him a commission in the navy.

Despite Marianne's work towards his future and their shared love of the sea, William secretly proposes to Marguerite. Years later, however, when William is living in New Zealand -- it's a long story -- and finally ready to marry, he drunkenly sends a letter to Octavius asking for the hand of...Marianne. No one is more surprised than William when the ship arrives and it's not the woman he loves, but his business partner, Timothy (Van Heflin), convinces him that he owes it to Marianne to marry her and make it work.

The above is only a small part of a long, rich story, but it's to the film's credit that the viewer's interest never wavers during the film's 141 minutes. There's an Oscar-winning earthquake sequence, a life-threatening native uprising, and several complex relationships, as William very slowly falls in love with his accidental wife, while she is also silently loved by Timothy.

There is so much I love about this film, including the sparring yet intimate relationship between Marianne and Timothy, who understands Marianne's strengths and faults -- and also saves her life on multiple occasions. This is probably my favorite of all Heflin's performances. His final scene with Marianne, a mature, honorable reckoning of their relationship and why Timothy must move on, is superb.

And speaking of superb, the final scene with Cooper and Gwenn, as she confesses to her husband and Marguerite how she had fallen in love with her husband after their marriage, is deeply moving, the kind of scene which is so powerfully engrossing that the viewer forgets for a bit that the people on screen are actors.

The above is also one of Reed's best scenes, simply reacting to her parents. Reed takes her smaller part as the unexpectedly rejected fiancee and makes something quite memorable of it. The viewer will not soon forget her glowing countenance at the end of the movie.

Like too many beautiful actresses, Turner never got enough credit for her acting; this is one of her best performances. The combination of Turner's acting and a well-written script make the steely Marianne a fully rounded character, both flawed and admirable. Marianne's determined nature is simultaneously her best feature and worst fault; she controls her husband too much, yet it's because she sees his potential and wants to help lead him to be the admirable man of her dreams. And despite being clear-eyed about her husband's own flaws, she remains completely committed to him.

For a costume drama, there are some fairly deep thoughts along the way about commitment and the meaning of true love. And as the viewer watches Marianne and William -- and Marguerite -- we also wonder about things such as simple fate versus a higher plan designed to lead all three people to their best lives.

GREEN DOLPHIN STREET was directed by Victor Saville, who also directed one of my favorite Rita Hayworth musicals, TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT (1945). The screenplay was by Samson Raphaelson, with uncredited work by producer Carey Wilson. The Oscar-nominated black and white cinematography was by George Folsey.

The supporting cast includes Gigi Perreau as William and Marianne's daughter Veronica, who is played at an older age by Carol Nugent. The cast also includes Dame May Whitty, Reginald Owen, Linda Christian, Patrick Aherne (brother of Brian), and Moyna MacGill, the real-life mother of Angela Lansbury.

Extras on the Blu-ray are the trailer and the 1949 Lux Radio Theater production starring Turner and Heflin, with Peter Lawford, Ed Begley (Sr.), and Joan Banks. A bit of trivia: Banks was married to Frank Lovejoy.

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 from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Ziegfeld Follies (1945) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

One of the things I've really been enjoying about the Warner Archive Collection releasing MGM musicals on Blu-ray is that it's been a wonderful excuse to revisit so many of them.

These movies were key as I became a classic film fan growing up, and over the years I've seen most of them many times. I haven't seen them so often in recent years, however, as I've explored many new-to-me genres and filmmakers for the first time, so I'm coming back to them with a fresh perspective.

The latest MGM musical released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive is ZIEGFELD FOLLIES (1945), which just came out in mid-June. It's a unique compilation of musical numbers and comedy sketches, initially introduced by Florenz Ziegfeld (William Powell, reprising his role from 1936's THE GREAT ZIEGFELD).

Honestly, in some respects the idea of the film is better than the overall finished product. The comedy sketches featuring the likes of Red Skelton, Keenan Wynn, and Victor Moore have never done a great deal for me, though they're imaginatively staged with minimalist sets.

Judy Garland's "The Great Lady Has An Interview" is another scene which has never been a favorite, though she looks lovely and seems to be having a good time with it.

The high points for me:

*The opening and closing numbers featuring a young Cyd Charisse, including the infamous "bubbles" in the finale. The introductory scene also includes Lucille Ball in an oddball bit wielding a whip, surrounded by several women in cat costumes, but it's interesting, I'll give it that.  The Dali-esque finale, "There's Beauty Ev'rywhere," is sung by Kathryn Grayson.

*Esther Williams in "A Water Ballet," short and sweet.

*James Melton and Marion Bell singing a duet from LA TRAVIATA, though it's very short. Bell soon would go on to be the original Fiona in Broadway's BRIGADOON, which opened early in 1947.

*Lena Horne singing "Love."

*Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer, an underrated favorite, dancing "Limehouse Blues" and "This Heart of Mine." The former number shows off Bremer's technical proficiency, matching Astaire step for step while also performing intricate fan movements; the latter is my favorite sequence in the movie, which looks absolutely dazzling on the Blu-ray.

In the end it's certainly worth seeing, including the opportunity to see Astaire doing a dance duet with Gene Kelly, but I can't help wishing at times that the film's 110 minutes contained more substantive musical numbers.

Additional cast members not already mentioned include Virginia O'Brien, Edward Arnold, Hume Cronyn, and Fanny Brice.

The Blu-ray includes the movie's overture, and the film can be played with a mono or stereo audio track. The picture, as one might expect, is excellent.

Extras carried over from DVD include the trailer; the featurette "Ziegfeld Follies: An Embarrassment of Riches"; a short and two cartoons; and extensive audio outtakes. The Blu-ray also includes a song selection menu. It's an excellent package, and those who never got the DVD will particularly want to add the Blu-ray to their MGM musical shelf.

The sequences were directed by Lemuel Ayers, Roy Del Ruth, Robert Lewis, Vincente Minnelli, George Sidney, Merrill Pye, and the uncredited Charles Walters, who worked with Garland on her "Great Lady" segment.

The cinematographers were George J. Folsey, Charles Rosher, and the uncredited Ray June.

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 from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Tonight's Movie: She Done Him Wrong (1933) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933) is one of nine Mae West films being released on Blu-ray next week by Kino Lorber.

West's second film, costarring a young Cary Grant, is being released in a Special Edition from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The disc includes an introduction by the late Robert Osborne; two different commentary tracks, by David Del Valle and Kat Ellinger; the Walter Lantz cartoon SHE DONE HIM RIGHT (1933); and half a dozen trailers for other West films.

It's a terrific package for a marvelous film. This was my first time to watch SHE DONE HIM WRONG, and I found it an impressive 66 minutes -- and surely one of the "pre-Code-iest" movies I've ever seen.

Although I've seen the vast majority of Cary Grant's movies, I'd always avoided his two pre-mega-stardom films with West, the other being I'M NO ANGEL (1933). When I was growing up she was more of a comedy punch line than anything else, and for years I wasn't interested in digging deeper, especially as she seemed such an incongruous match with the younger, dashing Grant. I'm really glad I decided it was time to do a "deep dive" and educate myself on her work, as I've thoroughly enjoyed both SHE DONE HIM WRONG and her first film, NIGHT AFTER NIGHT (1932).

SHE DONE HIM WRONG was inspired by a 1928 play written by West, DIAMOND LIL. Deemed too risque even in pre-Code Hollywood, DIAMOND LIL was rewritten for movies, with her character's name changed to Lady Lou.

Lou is a saloon singer in the Gay '90s who's surrounded by many interested men including saloon owner Gus (Noah Beery Sr.), politico Dan Flynn (David Landau), grifter Serge (Gilbert Roland), and the man working next door at a Salvation Army type mission, Captain Cummings (Grant). Lou's jealous boyfriend Chick (Owen Moore) won't be happy if he gets out of jail and discovers Lou has not exactly been lonely and pining away for him while he's locked up.

In a little over an hour's running time Lou contends with a variety of sordid problems including rescuing a young woman (Rochelle Hudson) from Gus's nefarious plans, accidentally killing a jealous woman named Rita (Rafaela Ottiano) in self-defense, and having Chick escape from jail and turn up at the saloon, ready to kill when he realizes Lou doesn't want to run away with him. Meanwhile, Captain Cummings may not be precisely who he seems to be...

Rather like Marlene Dietrich, who it took me a long time to appreciate, West is a completely unique film persona in both looks and personality. She's front and center for almost the entire movie and absolutely owns the screen, whether she's tossing out clever double entendres or singing "Frankie and Johnny" during a brilliantly staged climactic action scene. And that hair-combing scene after Rita's unfortunate demise? Wow...! It all builds to an ending which is perfection, down to the last line of dialogue. In short, I was impressed. So was the Academy, which nominated SHE DONE HIM WRONG for Best Picture.

And as for West's song "I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone," I have no idea how that ever got past the censors. By today's standards it's tame, of course -- and part of its brilliance is that it would sail right over the heads of children -- but the meaning is more than clear.

Grant's relatively small role probably could have been capably played by any number of actors, but it's fun to see him in his second year in films, as he began climbing the ladder toward stardom. The rest of the cast, which includes Louise Beavers and Fuzzy Knight, does a terrific job creating the inhabitants of Lou's seedy world.

SHE DONE HIM WRONG was directed by Lowell Sherman and filmed by Charles Lang. Harvey Thew and John Bright are credited with the screenplay along with West.

The print and sound are both excellent for a film of this vintage; the picture may be a bit soft and the sound a bit tinny, yet it's hard to imagine a film from 1932 looking or sounding better.

One of the things I love about movies is that somehow, the more films you watch, the more there is to discover; the viewing pool keeps getting deeper instead of shrinking.  I thoroughly enjoyed this film and look forward to revisiting it with the commentaries to learn more about West and the film. I highly recommend this Blu-ray release for anyone who enjoys pre-Code films.

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

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Next month the Film Noir Foundation and the Hollywood Legion Theater will present a Summer Weekend of Noir, to be hosted by Alan K. Rode (in person) and Eddie Muller (in prerecorded introductions). Seven films will be screen in 35mm prints. Titles include one of my all-time faves, THE NARROW MARGIN (1952), as well as CRY DANGER (1951), LOOPHOLE (1954), and several more highly watchable films.  Update: It's now been announced that Eddie Muller will be there in person this weekend!

...July 17th at the Legion, Retroformat will be presenting a mid-afternoon screening of Harold Lloyd's SAFETY LAST! (1923), with an introduction by Suzanne Lloyd and live music by Cliff Retallick. This screening was originally scheduled to take place in March 2020. It's wonderful seeing people heading back to the movies again!

...Our pal Toby Roan of 50 Westerns from the '50s was recently video interviewed by Robert Bellissimo at the Movies on THE MAKING OF ONE-EYED JACKS.

...The TCM Classic Cruise, which had been rescheduled from the fall of 2020 to October 24-30, 2021, has now been rescheduled again, to November 12-17, 2022.

...Happiest birthday wishes to June Lockhart, who turned 96 on Friday, June 25th.

...Last week the Los Angeles Times published a story on Turner Classic Movies and how it's doing in a streaming world.

...It was a pleasant surprise last week to find a very nice "name check" in one of Glenn Erickson's most recent CineSavant columns. Glenn's latest reviews include the new Kino Lorber releases of ALIAS NICK BEAL (1949) and STRANGER ON THE RUN (1967). I love ALIAS NICK BEAL, starring Ray Milland, Audrey Totter, and Thomas Mitchell; I'd never heard of the TV-movie STRANGER ON THE RUN but am certainly intrigued by the cast -- Henry Fonda, Anne Baxter, and Dan Duryea -- directed by Don Siegel.

...Coming to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber this October: COME SEPTEMBER (1961), starring Rock Hudson, Gina Lollobrigida, Bobby Darin, and Sandra Dee.

...Speaking of Kino Lorber, over 400 Blu-rays are on sale in their current "June Swoon" sale...I'm also hearing that the annual Barnes & Noble Criterion half-price summer sale starts July 2nd. (Update: Criterion Half-Price Summer Sale at Barnes & Noble.)

...31 animated films are coming to the Criterion Channel in July. Cartoon Brew has the rundown.

...Here's some history of the 60-year-old Wienerschnitzel hot dog chain, or as it was known when I was a kid, Der Wienerschnitzel. It was founded in Los Angeles in 1961.

...Last week Hayley Mills was interviewed to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the release of THE PARENT TRAP (1961). She says Maureen O'Hara was "absolutely wonderful." As I mentioned last week, Mills has a memoir due out in September.

...Liam Neeson's THE ICE ROAD (2021), an adventure film about a daring rescue, is now available on Netflix. I'll be checking it out soon.

...Here's Leonard Maltin's latest "New and Notable Film Books."

...Rachel Zegler, who is playing Maria in the upcoming movie remake of WEST SIDE STORY (2021), has been cast in the lead in Disney's live-action remake of SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937). (Enough with the remakes already, but no one's listening to me...)

...James Reasoner has a fun little post at his blog Rough Edges on a Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Whitman children's book.

...Vienna's Classic Hollywood features some fascinating photos of the premiere of DODGE CITY (1939). It's all the more appropriate as it will be the late Olivia de Havilland's birthday in a few days, on July 1st.

...The Warner Bros. Studio Tour has resumed business after closing down due to COVID.

...Regular readers know I'm a fan of the long-running Fast and Furious series. The latest entry, F9 (2021), is now out after a year's delay. I have tentative plans to go see it during an upcoming trip. Here's more on the movie and the series from the L.A. Times and Variety.

...Notable Passings: Actress Joanne Linville, a fixture in episodic television for decades, has died at 93...Television executive Norman Powell, the son of Joan Blondell and Dick Powell, has passed on at 86. In 2016 I sat across the aisle from Norman Powell at UCLA screenings as he watched his mother in I'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER (1934) and both his parents in FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933).  (One of his relatives commented at the latter screening that Norman's birth father, cinematographer George Barnes, had also worked on FOOTLIGHT PARADE.)  I remember thinking how remarkable it must have been to watch his parents as they were decades ago, around the time he was born.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my June 19th roundup.

...Please note that Around the Blogosphere This Week will be taking the next two weekends off while I travel. The column will return on July 17, 2001.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Quick Preview of TCM in August: Summer Under the Stars

This week Turner Classic Movies revealed its Summer Under the Stars lineup, initially announcing the names on Twitter.

The schedule is still "under construction," but a preview may be found here.

Each star listed below will be honored with a 24-hour marathon this August:
































A couple of brief notes: Bette Davis was due to have a day last year but it was switched out for a tribute to Olivia de Havilland after she passed away in late July.

August 8th is the centennial of the birth of Esther Williams, who was TCM's Star of the Month a decade ago.

I'll have a much more detailed look at the August schedule posted here after the schedule is finalized at the end of July. In the meantime, the July Star of the Month will be Elvis Presley.

Update: For more on August 2021 on Turner Classic Movies, please visit TCM in August: Summer Under the Stars Highlights.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Night After Night (1932) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Next week Kino Lorber will be releasing Blu-ray editions of Mae West's first nine films, originally released to theaters between 1932 and 1940.

I'll be reviewing the first eight films in that group, and they're all completely new to me. I started off with West's very first movie, NIGHT AFTER NIGHT (1932), in which -- despite the billing on the DVD cover -- she appears in support of George Raft and Constance Cummings.

I wasn't sure what to expect of this film, as reviews seemed to be all over the place. Leonard Maltin gave it two stars and called it "a crashing bore," while the current IMDb rating is a very respectable 6.8 stars, with over 640 viewers weighing in.

Danny of called it "woefully underseen" and "a nice little hidden gem," while Dan of Mystery File feels it's "quite a nice little movie indeed."

I'm pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it -- and I hope the esteemed Mr. Maltin will revisit it one day, as it's grand fun. I'm honestly surprised this film isn't better known.

Raft plays Joe Anton, who owns a speakeasy in a ritzy mansion which was formerly the home of Jerry Healy (Cummings), who has taken to sitting at a table night after night while she mourns the past and contemplates her future. Wealthy Dick (Louis Calhern) wants to marry her, but while she wants financial security, she doesn't love him.

Joe, meanwhile, is a busy fellow. He has two sort-of girlfriends, jealous Iris (Wynne Gibson) and laid-back, good-natured Maudie (West), who doesn't show up until well into the movie. He also has tutoring sessions every day with Miss Jellyman (Alison Skipworth), as he aspires to improve himself.  Miss Jellyman is a teacher who is both kind and determined as she works with Joe to clean up his grammar and help him better understand history and world events.

Meanwhile another gangster, Frankie (Bradley Page), is unhappy about Joe opening a business in his territory and is determined to push him out of the way, whether it's nicely (buying him out) or not-so-nicely (a gun battle is a distinct possibility).

The movie has a marvelous cast and gives them clever, interesting bits throughout. One of my favorite moments was early on when Joe unlocks a gun case and he and his men urgently arm themselves before heading to a confrontation with Frankie and his men.

Joe's righthand man Leo (Roscoe Karns) exclaims to wait a minute, and you think he's forgotten a weapon -- then he plucks a flower and puts it in Joe's lapel. You have to make sure you're properly dressed for possible gangland warfare!

Joe's first scene with Miss Jellyman is just delightful, as she patiently helps him read an article about world politics and converse on a higher plane. Miss Jellyman is unexpectedly drawn further into Joe's world when he asks her to dine with him and Jerry, wanting to make a good impression on the "high-class" Jerry with his erudite older friend.

Of course, wouldn't you know it, right in the middle of dinner is when Maudie (West) appears back in Joe's life and upsets the apple cart...but, hilariously, the earthy Maudie and the refined Miss Jellyman hit it off and become friends. There's a scene where Maudie asks Miss Jellyman to join her in business and Miss Jellyman is flattered but feels she's clearly too old for what she thinks Maudie's business turns out her impression is not exactly correct. Both ladies add some excellent comedy to the movie.

The always-lovely Theresa Harris has a too-small role as a ladies' room attendant, and this is one of numerous films featuring a pair of future stars as extras, "Wild Bill" Elliott and Dennis O'Keefe. They're each in the same nightclub scene; O'Keefe is the drunk passed out asleep with his head on a table, and Elliott can just barely be glimpsed on the dance floor. One of these days I'm going to attempt a count on how many movies feature both of these men in their bit player days.

I run hot and cold on Raft, finding him stiff in some films and more interesting in others; he's really quite good in this. His hurt when he believes he's been rejected by Jerry is palpable. 

Cummings, who I really liked in both SEVEN SINNERS (1936) and HAUNTED HONEYMOON (1940), is also good as the lovely yet brittle Jerry, wrestling with her heart and her finances.

The movie was directed by Archie Mayo and filmed by Ernest Haller.

The movie runs a brisk 73 minutes. Script contributors included Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Mae West, who apparently played a key role in creating her character and writing her own dialogue. One of her classic moments comes when a hatcheck girl (Patricia Farley) exclaims "Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!" and West's character replies "Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie!"

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray looks good and has a strong soundtrack, especially given the movie's vintage. The disc includes the movie's trailer, five additional trailers for other Mae West films, and a commentary track by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson.

My Mae West viewing started out on a strong note with this film, and I'm curious to become further acquainted with her work this summer thanks to Kino Lorber's releases.

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

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 (1933), MY MAN GODFREY (1936), MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940), LOVE CRAZY (1941), TALES OF MANHATTAN (1942), and CLAUDIA AND DAVID (1946).


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