Saturday, January 15, 2022

Tonight's Movie: The Bitter Stems (1956) - A Flicker Alley Blu-ray Review

THE BITTER STEMS (1956), known in its native Argentina as LOS TALLOS AMARGOS, was recently released by Flicker Alley in a terrific Blu-ray/DVD combo set.

Flicker Alley released the film simultaneously with another Argentinian noir, THE BEAST MUST DIE (1952), which I reviewed last night.

I first saw THE BITTER STEMS almost half a dozen years ago, at the 2016 Noir City Hollywood Film Festival, and enjoyed returning to it with a fresh eye.

It's a surreal tale, even more so than the melodramatic THE BEAST MUST DIE; when I first saw it I described it as "dreamlike." Some have described it as THE TWILIGHT ZONE meets film noir, and that's not wrong.

Briefly, the story concerns reporter Alfredo Gaspar (Carlos Cores) and bartender Liudas (Vassili Lambrinos), who join forces to create a fake mail order journalism school. They rake in the dough but provide nothing in return.

Gaspar gives Liudas a larger share of the money to help him bring his family from Hungary to Argentina, but as time passes Gaspar begins to suspect his partner is cheating him. The disturbed Gaspar slips further and further away from reality as he begins to plot his revenge...which boomerangs as Gaspar then finds himself haunted by what he's done.

As with THE BEAST MUST DIE, I'm not sharing a great deal about the plot; it's an unusual story which viewers should discover for themselves. Also like THE BEAST MUST DIE, it builds to an extremely memorable conclusion.

THE BITTER STEMS is admittedly my least favorite Argentian noir seen to date; in fact, in 2016 I said I wasn't quite sure whether I liked it, though I acknowledged it was memorable and worthwhile. I think the movie's exceptionally dark tone, especially toward the end, contributed to my hesitation, along with the lack of someone to be "rooting for" in the movie.

I also wrote in 2016 that I suspected my appreciation for the movie would grow with closer acquaintance, which is one reason I wanted to revisit the film via the new Blu-ray, and my guess was correct. I often find that knowing what to expect going in helps me to enjoy a film more -- for the most part I'll never be someone who avoids "spoilers" -- and that was the case here.

There's just something about being mentally prepared for what a film is or isn't which helps me to relax and spend more time noticing things like the craftsmanship and performances, and indeed, this 90-minute film is well made and acted.

Incidentally, while Laura Hidalgo of THE BEAST MUST DIE made me think of Yvonne De Carlo, BITTER STEMS lead actor Cores rather reminds me of an American film noir star, Zachary Scott.

It was directed by Fernando Ayala and filmed in black and white by Ricardo Younis. The screenplay by Sergio Leonardo was based on a novel by Adolfo Jasca.

I watched the Blu-ray from the combination set, which has a beautiful print and excellent sound. It's a real thrill that this long-unseen film, a joint restoration project of the Film Noir Foundation and the UCLA Film & Television Archive, is now available for home viewing.

Like Flicker's Alley's release of THE BEAST MUST DIE, the physical set itself is appealing, with attractive contrasting colors on the Blu-ray and DVD discs; there is also reversible case cover art featuring a Spanish-language poster. The glossy booklet in the case features photographs and an essay by Maria Elena de las Carreras.

Extras consist of an introduction by the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller; a commentary track by the always-excellent Imogen Sara Smith; an 18-minute profile of composer Astor Piazzolla narrated by Max Steiner biographer Steven C. Smith; and a 12-minute conversation between Eddie Muller and Argentine film archivist/historian Fernando Martin Pena. 

I still need to hear the commentary, which I will definitely be doing soon, but the rest of the extras helped further develop my appreciation of an unusual movie and its history.

Thanks to Flicker Alley for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray/DVD set.

THE BITTER STEMS may be purchased through the Flicker Alley website as well as through retailers such as Amazon.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Last week I mentioned a few film festivals which had recently cancelled or were in danger of cancellation. Since then the Noir City Film Festival scheduled to take place in Oakland from January 20th through 23rd has been indefinitely postponed. Festival producer and host Eddie Muller hopes to reschedule sometime this spring.

...Following up on another story from last week, here's a Variety article, "Why Does Disney Keep Sending Pixar Movies Straight to Streaming?"

...Happiest birthday wishes to Margaret O'Brien, born January 15, 1937. Here is my 2010 birthday tribute, updated with more recent movie review links.

...From Glenn Erickson, a review of A WALK IN THE SUN (1945) starring Dana Andrews and Richard Conte. It's being released on Blu-ray this month from Kit Parker Films and MVD Entertainment Group.

...Farran Smith Nehme, aka the Self-Styled Siren, has written about the wonderful SISSI movies starring Romy Schneider. I reviewed a couple of the films here back in 2010.

...Here's information from the It's a Wonderful Movie site on how to stream Christmas and other movies from the new GAC channel. Some of the movies star actors familar from the Hallmark Channels, including Danica McKellar and Jen Lilley.

...Karen Burroughs Hannsberry has shared five of her all-time favorite noir films in her Noir Nook column at Classic Movie Hub.

...The Metzinger Sisters of Silver Scenes have a fun post up on the real-life Josie and the Pussycats band, which included Cheryl Ladd, then known as Cherie Moor. The band was created to coincide with the cartoon series, which debuted in 1970.

..."Coming soon" to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, from a brand-new 2K master: IF I WERE KING (1938) starring Ronald Colman, Frances Dee, Basil Rathbone, and Ellen Drew. What a cast! Frank Lloyd directed.

...Kino Lorber has confirmed BLUE SKIES (1946) and BACK STREET (1941) for March 22nd release, with SHAKEDOWN (1950) coming on March 29th.

...On January 18th the Film Detective will be releasing THE CAPTURE (1950), starring Teresa Wright and Lew Ayres, directed by John Sturges.

...The UCLA Film & Television Archive has rescheduled several January screenings at the Billy Wilder Theater, including a double bill of THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK (1928) and THUNDERBOLT (1939). Those films will now play on March 26th. Coming to the Billy Wilder Theater in February: A screening of STORMY WEATHER (1943).

...Notable Passing: I was saddened to learn of the death of critic, author, and playwright Terry Teachout on January 13th. He passed away in his sleep at the age of 65, less than two years after the death of his wife Hilary following a double lung transplant. Terry was a friend to all on Twitter who shared his passions, and over the last few years we had many enjoyable chats about our love for Westerns, in particular; among other things, Terry was a big fan of Audie Murphy's NO NAME ON THE BULLET (1959). This past year Terry shared with his readers the unexpected joy he felt thanks to a new love, which makes the abrupt ending of his life all the sadder. Here are tributes by his friends, mystery writer Laura Lippman (who incorporates a reference to some of my favorite books, the Betsy-Tacy series) and JazzWax's Marc Myers. I also loved a story at Ricochet about Terry's kindness to a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. Terry will be very much missed.

...More Notable Passings: Dwayne Hickman, star of TV's THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS (1959-63), has died at 87. Like his older brother Darryl, who survives him, Dwayne began as a child actor in 1940s Hollywood. He also appeared on THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW (1955-59). Here are additional obituaries from Variety and Deadline...TV director Dick Carson, the brother of Johnny Carson, has passed on at 92...I learned from Alan K. Rode that Lee Server, author of highly regarded biographies of Robert Mitchum and Ava Gardner, has passed away. He was 68.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my January 8th roundup.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Tonight's Movie: The Beast Must Die (1952) - A Flicker Alley Blu-ray Review

One of the great joys of attending the Noir City Hollywood and Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festivals has been becoming acquainted with Argentinian film noir.

My first such film was HARDLY A CRIMINAL (1949), also known as APENAS UN DELICUENTE, in 2014.

Since then I've also seen THE BITTER STEMS (1956), aka LOS TALLOS AMARGOS, at Noir City in 2016; THE BEAST MUST DIE (1952), known in its native Argentina as LA BESTIA DEBE MORIR, on opening night of the 2020 Noir City Festival; and most recently THE BLACK VAMPIRE (1953), EL VAMPIRO NEGRO, at last fall's Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.

It's a genuine thrill that two of these films, THE BEAST MUST DIE and THE BITTER STEMS, are now available from Flicker Alley in beautiful Blu-ray/DVD combo sets.

I'm starting off with a review of my favorite of the two films, THE BEAST MUST DIE, which was based on a 1938 novel by Nicholas Blake. Blake was a pen name for Cecil Day-Lewis, who incidentally was also the father of Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis.

THE BEAST MUST DIE is a rather dark but very absorbing film which starts off with an exciting opening and ultimately builds to an equally impressive ending.

The audience initially sees Jorge Rattery (Guillermo Battaglia) dropping dead -- poisoned! His family members are surprised but no one seems especially distraught, other than his mother (Milagro de la Vega). In fact, they all rather take their time about calling for help!  Hmmmm.

Eventually we are introduced to Frank Carter (Narciso Ibanez Menta), who writes some memorable words in his diary: "I am going to kill a man. I don't know his name, I don't know where he lives, I have no idea what he looks like. But I am going to find him and kill him."

On these words the story hinges, as Frank adopts an entirely new identity as Felix Lane. Frank/Felix is on the trail of the man who killed his little boy (Eduardo Mayano), and a beautiful movie star (gorgeous Laura Hidalgo) unknowingly leads "Felix" to the man he's seeking -- her brother-in-law, Jorge Rattery. I'll leave it to the viewer to discover what happens from there...

This is an atmospheric film with moving performances and an almost spiritual ending. In fact, I think the final scene impacted me even more on this second viewing than on the first.

Honestly, I also think remembering that this was one of the very small number of films I saw theatrically in 2020 added to the way it moved me as I revisited it. Things were already getting strange on the evening we saw it, and five days later the state of California shut down. For me personally, those memories rather add to the film's haunting mood.

Anyone who loves American film noir should try this film along with THE BITTER STEMS and any other Argentinian noir there's an opportunity to see. I've found my experiences with Argentine cinema to date quite rewarding and look forward to seeing more.

I especially hope to see more films starring Laura Hidalgo, who reminds me of Yvonne De Carlo. Hidalgo was born in Romania but grew up in Argentina. She passed away in La Jolla, California, in 2005.

THE BEAST MUST DIE was directed by Roman Vinoly Barreto, who also cowrote the script with lead actor Ibanez Menta. It was filmed in black and white by Alberto Etchebehere. It runs 95 minutes.

I watched the Blu-ray in the Flicker Alley set. The Film Noir Foundation print, restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, is beautiful.

The Flicker Alley set is beautifully produced; I loved the contrasting colors of the Blu-ray and DVD discs, which provide pleasing "eye candy" before the movie's even begun. The case cover can be reversed to show striking Spanish-language cover art, and there's also a glossy booklet with an essay by Eddie Muller and numerous photos.

The booklet includes a wonderful color photo of writer Cecil Day-Lewis's family, including his son Daniel, who was a young boy at the time.

Muller also provides an interesting introduction to the film on the disc itself. Additional extras include a commentary track by Guido Segal; a featurette on lead actor Narciso Ibanez Menta; and an interview with Daniel Vinoly, son of the director.

I'll have a review of THE BITTER STEMS up soon. (Update: Here is the review!) I'm also extremely excited about Flicker Alley's upcoming release of one of my all-time favorite discoveries thanks to the Film Noir Foundation -- REPEAT PERFORMANCE (1947).

Thanks to Flicker Alley for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray/DVD set.

THE BEAST MUST DIE may be purchased at the Flicker Alley website as well as through retailers such as Amazon.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Dinner at Eight (1933) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

MGM's all-star comedy-drama DINNER AT EIGHT (1933) was recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

Given the cast, it's almost hard for me to believe I'd never seen it before. I'm glad to have finally watched and enjoyed it.

DINNER AT EIGHT was written by Frances Marion and Herman J. Mankiewicz, based on a Broadway play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. Donald Ogden Stewart also contributed to the screenplay.

Mrs. Oliver Jordan (Billie Burke) is planning a dinner party for members of the British nobility who are shortly to arrive in New York. Unknown to Mrs. Jordan, her husband (Lionel Barrymore) is suffering from significant business setbacks and health issues; meanwhile her daughter Paula (Madge Evans) is considering dumping her fiance (Phillips Holmes) for a much older, alcoholic, has-been actor, Larry Renault (John Barrymore).

As Mrs. Jordan organizes her guest list, we're gradually introduced to the other guests, including actress Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler), who was once Oliver's lover and who has fallen on difficult times financially; rough-edged business tycoon Dan Packard (Wallace Beery) and his wife Kitty (Jean Harlow); Kitty's lover, Dr. Wayne Talbot (Edmund Lowe), and his wife Lucy (Karen Morley); and Mrs. Jordan's no-nonsense cousin Hattie (Louise Closser Hale) and her husband Ed (Grant Mitchell).

Rounding out the cast are Lee Tracy as Larry's agent and May Robson as Mrs. Jordan's cook.

The film has some marvelous comedic moments, mostly thanks to Harlow, Dressler, and Burke, but first and foremost it's a high-class melodrama. All of the characters are suffering in some way, to a greater or lesser degree; a couple of characters are close to death, some are broke, and some have unhappy relationships. And in the case of Cousin Ed, he's simply unhappy being forced into the role of last-minute dinner guest!

The film is stagey at times, with characters tending to lapse into theatrical "look at me acting" monologues, and that's when the film is at its weakest. Despite those moments where we're all too aware we're watching actors playing parts, for most of the film the cast transcends those too-obvious scenes thanks to their sheer talent and star power. It's quite a treat to see so many marvelous performers gathered in the same cast.

Dressler may have been the least of the cast in terms of looks, but her performance towers over those of her impressive colleagues. Carlotta seems to be entangled with every character, one way or another, but Dressler makes it work; Carlotta is both flamboyantly theatrical and very grounded in reality. She can also turn on a dime from compassionately giving someone very bad news to reeling off some of the funniest looks and lines in the movie.

I believe this is the first film I've seen Dressler in, and I'll be looking for more of her films in the future. What a shame she appeared in only one more film before her passing in 1934 at the age of 65.

I also especially appreciated Burke, playing her trademark ditzy wealthy matron role to good effect, especially in a scene where she learns the chauffeur has stabbed the butler, and...even worse!...the aspic she was so anticipating serving for dinner has tumbled to the floor during the melee.

That said, Burke has a very nice character arc which sees her crashing back to reality before movie's end, in moving fashion. Her reaction to learning of her husband's troubles is one of the finest and sweetest in the movie.

George Cukor directed this 111-minute film, which was produced by David O. Selznick. It was filmed by William H. Daniels. The gowns were designed by the great Adrian. MGM glamour at its finest!

The Warner Archive Blu-ray print and sound quality are both excellent, as viewers have consistently enjoyed from this line. This is a lovely presentation of an enjoyable film of historical significance, given the number of major stars of the era sharing the screen.

Disc extras consist of the trailer; the 47-minute documentary HARLOW: THE BLONDE BOMBSHELL (1993); and the short COME TO DINNER (1934).

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.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Disney California Adventure: Three Kings' Weekend

The holiday season at the Disneyland Resort drew to a close this weekend with Disney California Adventure's celebration of Three Kings' Day, also known as Dia de Reyes, as part of its Festival of Holidays.

We spent a couple of hours at the park on Friday evening soaking up the last of the holiday season.

I especially love the festive lights strung in the Pacific Wharf area.

I ate dinner at Cocina Cucamonga, which was also looking bright and cheery thanks to Christmas decorations.

A Three Kings display in the Plaza Gardens area:

A closeup:

It was a cold but beautiful evening!

One last look at the Carthay Circle Theatre as we left for home:

And so a very happy Christmas season concludes at the Disneyland Resort...I'm already looking forward to the holiday festivities returning next November!

Previous Disneyland Resort Three Kings' Day Posts: 2013, 2014, 2017, and 2018

Sunday, January 09, 2022

A Birthday Tribute to Anita Louise

Charming actress Anita Louise was born in New York City January 9, 1915.

Born Anita Louise Fremault, she began acting in silent films as a young child, dropping her surname in 1929. For the rest of her life she performed under the name Anita Louise.

For most of her career Anita Louise played a mixture of ingenues, leading ladies, and key supporting roles. Some of her most noteworthy parts included Ellie May, who loves Will Rogers' nephew (Tom Brown) in John Ford's JUDGE PRIEST (1934):

She was perfect as Titania, Queen of the Fairies, in the magical Warner Bros. production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935):

She played the Princesse de Lamballe, lady in waiting to Norma Shearer's MARIE ANTOINETTE (1938):

She starred with Bette Davis and Jane Bryan as THE SISTERS (1938):

She starred with Richard Greene (seen here) and Shirley Temple in THE LITTLE PRINCESS (1939):

And she was delightful opposite Cornel Wilde in the engaging Technicolor adventure film THE BANDIT OF SHERWOOD FOREST (1946):

Anita Louise was married from 1940 to 1960 to producer Buddy Adler (below); her bridesmaids included Ida Lupino and Wendy Barrie. The Adlers had two children. She continued her acting career, including a role in the TV series MY FRIEND FLICKA (1955-56).

Adler, an Oscar winner for producing FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953), sadly passed away in 1960 at the age of 51. 

Two years later Anita Louise married Henry Berger, a marriage which would last until her own untimely passing on April 25, 1970. She was 55 when she suffered a fatal stroke.

Anita Louise is buried alongside her first husband at Forest Lawn Glendale.

Today Anita Louise is not a particularly well-known name, but I'm always glad to see her in a movie's credits. She had a special presence which makes any film in which she appears that much better.

Previously reviewed films with Anita Louise: THE FLORADORA GIRL (1930), MILLIE (1931), OUR BETTERS (1933), JUDGE PRIEST (1934), PERSONAL MAID'S SECRET (1935) (also here), BRIDES ARE LIKE THAT (1936), CALL IT A DAY (1937), THE GO GETTER (1937), FIRST LADY (1937), RENO (1939), THESE GLAMOUR GIRLS (1939), GLAMOUR FOR SALE (1940), HARMON OF MICHIGAN (1941), DANGEROUS BLONDES (1943), and THE BANDIT OF SHERWOOD FOREST (1946).

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Jet Pilot (1957) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Thanks to Kino Lorber I've caught up with several John Wayne films over the last couple of years, including THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS (1941), THE SPOILERS (1942), and PITTSBURGH (1942).

This week, again thanks to a Kino Lorber Blu-ray, I finally saw Wayne's JET PILOT (1957). JET PILOT was a Howard Hughes production which began filming in 1949 yet infamously wasn't released for a full eight years. Hughes was notorious for continuing to "tinker" with films, never satisfied that they were ready for release.

The movie's odd production history was covered well by John McElwee in a 2006 post at Greenbriar Picture Shows. Suffice it to say that someone going in only knowing of the late '50s release date would not be quite prepared to see the young, dewy-eyed, 22-year-old 1949 version of Janet Leigh or her 42-year-old costar Wayne, who was then at the height of his physical appeal.

It's fashionable for many critics and historians to make fun of JET PILOT, and indeed, on one level it's, well, a pretty nutty movie. But in a way the film was simply ahead of its time, inadvertently playing as one of those '60s mash-ups of romantic comedy and suspense, in the vein of the recently viewed ARABESQUE (1966). Cartoony bad guys, a great wardrobe for the leading lady (by Michael Woulfe), suggestive's all there.

Indeed, some of the double entendres traded between Wayne and Leigh were absolutely eye-popping for 1949 or '50, to the extent I can't believe they even dared film those scenes then -- yet those lines would have been perfectly at home uttered by Rock Hudson a couple decades later.

The movie simultaneously calls to mind films from a decade previously such as NINOTCHKA (1939) and COMRADE X (1940). All in all, it's a giddy mix.

So, is the plot incredibly silly? Yes. And you know what? I loved it.

Leigh improbably plays Anna Marladovna, a Soviet pilot who as the movie opens defects to the U.S. Col. Jim Shannon (Wayne) is assigned by the military to spend time with Anna and pump her for Communist military information.

Anna and Jim are highly attracted to one another and fall in love, but...well, going further plotwise might be saying too much, but let's just say they end up married and flying back to Communist Russia...just go with it.

The film is basically a 103-minute cat-and-mouse game between both Jim and Anna and their countries, trying to figure out who's on the level when. Can a pair of potential spies find true love?

Goofy it may be, but Wayne and Leigh give it their all and are mesmerizing from both physical and acting standpoints. I believe Leigh made this just after HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949), on loan from MGM to RKO for both pictures. If I've got the dates figured out correctly, Wayne shot this in between SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949) and RIO GRANDE (1950).

The movie's opening credits say that the film stars Wayne, Leigh, and "the United States Air Force." Actual costars were Wayne's good friend Paul Fix, plus Jay C. Flippen, Hans Conreid, Joyce Compton, Roland Winters, and Ivan Triesault.

Costar Richard Rober, who plays an FBI man, was unfamiliar to me when I saw him earlier this week in DEPORTED (1950), yet a review of his credits shows I've seen him in several films. One of the many unusual things about JET PILOT is that due to the long passage of time between principal production and release, Rober had sadly been dead a full half a decade when JET PILOT finally made it into theaters.

It's also odd to consider that this movie was shot about two and a half years before THE NAKED SPUR (1953), which I watched Leigh in earlier this week, yet it wasn't released until four years later.

Hughes waited so long to release the movie that the Air Force uniforms and the jets even became outdated. It made me wonder if the movie set some kind of record for the longest time a film was deliberately held back from release.

The movie was originally filmed in 1:37:1, but when it finally hit theaters in the late '50s it was cropped to 1:85:1 for a widescreen release. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray includes both versions; I opted for the 1:37:1 fullscreen.

JET PILOT was written by Jules Furth and directed by Josef von Sternberg. It was filmed in Technicolor by the great Winton C. Hoch (SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON).

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray has a fine picture and a strong soundtrack.

The fairly minimal extras consist of the trailer and a nine-film trailer gallery for additional movies available from Kino Lorber.

Reviewer Glenn Erickson described the film a couple of years ago as "weird, crazy, but entertaining." Just so.

Perhaps a viewer has to approach this film with a certain frame of mind, but I had a thoroughly good time watching it and would happily watch it again.

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

Notable Passings

A number of significant filmmakers and performers have passed away since my December 18th news roundup, so I thought I would pay tribute to them in a post separate from my new Around the Blogosphere This Week column.

...Beginning with one of the most recent first, Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier has passed away. He was 94 when he died on January 6th at his home in Los Angeles. Here are additional stories from the Los Angeles Times and Variety. A lovely TCM Remembers tribute video may be viewed here.

...Director and film historian Peter Bogdanovich also died in Los Angeles on the 6th. He was 82 and suffered from Parkinson's disease. My first awareness of Bogdanovich was his film WHAT'S UP DOC? (1972), which I saw as a child on its original release, and a little later his book on John Ford was one of the earliest books on Ford and Westerns in my library. Here's more from the Los Angeles Times, Toby Roan of 50 Westerns From the 50s, Scott Johnson of Power Line, and Leonard Maltin. A TCM Remembers video honoring Bogdanovich is here.

...Another John Ford historian, Michael Wilmington, has passed away at 75. Like Bogdanovich, he had Parkinson's. Wilmington's book JOHN FORD, cowritten with Joseph McBride, joined my library around the same time as the Bogdanovich book. (It was very special to have McBride sign it at UCLA a couple of years ago.) Wilmington served as a film critic for both the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune during his career.

...I was saddened to learn of the passing of Sally Ann Howes, a significant performer of my childhood for her role as Truly Scrumptious in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG (1968). I was fortunate to see her star in Los Angeles theatrical productions of THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1972) and THE KING AND I (1974), the latter with Ricardo Montalban. Her film career began as a child actress in 1943.

...Betty White passed away on New Year's Eve, days away from celebrating her centennial birthday on January 17th. I will always associate her with her role as Sue Ann Nivens on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW in the '70s. (For anyone wondering why I don't mention her other best-known TV series, as far as I'm concerned the less said about it the better...) My mom recently told me a neat story, that her first memory of the television her parents bought in 1949 was seeing Betty White on the TV. Leonard Maltin shared a nice story about White's links to Buster Keaton.

...Jeanine Ann Roose, who played Gloria Grahame as a child in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), has died at the age of 84. Little Violet was her only film role; Roose also did some work in radio and television. She later became a psychologist. Roose is seen in this still between Robert (Bobbie) Anderson and Jean Gale, who played young George and Mary.

...Broadway performer Harvey Evans, whose credits included the original productions of WEST SIDE STORY and HELLO, DOLLY!, has died at 80.

...THE YOUNG VICTORIA (2009) is one of my favorite films of the last couple decades, which I've seen multiple times. I was saddened to learn that the director, Jean-Marc Vallee, died unexpectedly on Christmas at the age of 58. His other work included the Reese Witherspoon-Nicole Kidman TV miniseries BIG LITTLE LIES (2017).

...Composer Marilyn Bergman died today, January 8th, at the age of 92. I most appreciate that she wrote the title song of my all-time favorite Frank Sinatra album, "Nice 'n' Easy." She was a three-time Oscar winner. She's survived by her husband and cowriter, Alan Bergman.

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