Saturday, December 31, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Fancy Pants (1950) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

My final movie review of 2023 is FANCY PANTS (1950), a Bob Hope-Lucille Ball comedy recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

I found this film about Humphrey (Hope), a bad actor who ends up impersonating both a butler and an earl, to be one of the stronger Hope comedies. It has a good cast and plot; the story is said to be inspired by the book RUGGLES OF RED GAP by Harry Leon Wilson. RUGGLES OF RED GAP was filmed in 1935 but I've not yet seen it.

Humphrey is part of a British acting troupe hired by George Van Basingwell (Hugh French) to impress a wealthy visiting American, Agatha (Ball), and her mother (Lea Penman). Van Basingwell has designs on Agatha's fortune and wants her and her mother to believe he's from a titled family, who are actually all actors.

Agatha's mother wants to take Humphrey back to America to work for her and causes him to be fired by Van Basingwell, who also strikes out with Agatha.

The action then shifts from England to New Mexico Territory, where Cart Belknap (Bruce Cabot) mistakes Humphrey as competition for Agatha, while the local citizens mistakenly believe that Humphrey is an earl.

Things get even crazier when President Teddy Roosevelt (John Alexander) arrives in town. Alexander's appearance is the best thing in the movie; he played Uncle Teddy, who believes he's Teddy Roosevelt, in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (1944), so it's fun on multiple levels.

I like Ball's work in a number of films but she didn't do much for me in this one as the hoydenish Agatha, who at times seems to be channeling the title character from the same year's ANNIE GET YOUR GUN (1950); that said, she looks great in Technicolor.

Along with Alexander, I also found Norma Varden -- later Frau Schmidt in THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) -- particularly funny as the actress posing as Van Basingwell's mother. Eric Blore is also rib-tickling as an actor whose words always come out in an unintelligible blur.

This 92-minute movie was directed by George Marshall and filmed by Charles Lang The Kino Lorber Blu-ray, which was remastered by Paramount from 4K scans of 35mm 3-strip Technicolor elements, looks terrific.

Extras consist of the trailer; an extensive Bob Hope trailer gallery; and a Kino Lorber Hope promo.

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

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all!

Here's Dorothy Lamour ringing in the New Year in festive fashion.

Best wishes for a very happy and healthy 2023!

Previous classic film New Year's photos: Joan Leslie, Anita Louise, Dorothy Patrick, Mona Freeman, Joan Caulfield, Esther Williams, Ann Blyth, Doris Day, Ann Miller, and Loretta Young.

TCM in January: Highlights

Happy New Year and very best wishes to all for a wonderful 2023.

It's hard to believe, but it's already time to take a look at the Turner Classic Movies schedule for January.

Marion Davies is the January Star of the Month. 23 Davies films will be shown on Tuesday evenings. Please note there will not be a separate Star of the Month post for January.

The January Noir Alley titles are DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK (1952) on January 7th and 8th, THUNDER ROAD (1958) on January 14th-15th, THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS (1947) on the 21st and 22nd, and HIGHWAY 301 (1950) on January 28th and 29th.

Unusually for me, to date I've only seen one of this month's Noir Alley films. They all look quite interesting; I've heard particularly good things from friends about HIGHWAY 301, which stars Steve Cochran and Virginia Grey.

The TCM Spotlight focuses on "Car Chases" on Wednesday evenings. "Female Detectives" will be the theme on the first three Fridays of the month, including films from the Nancy Drew and Torchy Blane series.

A favorite "B" film, WANTED! JANE TURNER (1936), starring Gloria Stuart and Lee Tracy, is also among the detective titles on the schedule, on January 20th.

Here's a look at a few more of the many interesting movies being shown this month on TCM. Please click any hyperlinked title to read my extended review.

...2023 starts in cheery fashion with the classic MGM musical comedy SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) on New Year's Day.

...A day of 1930s Westerns on January 2nd includes George O'Brien and Laraine (Johnson) Day in BORDER G-MAN (1938). It's also got some nice singing by Ray Whitley, who sings his classic composition "Back in the Saddle Again."

...A January 3rd birthday tribute to Ray Milland includes the RKO comedy WISE GIRL (1937), costarring Miriam Hopkins.

...A night of car chases on January 4th includes HIGH SIERRA (1941), in which Humphrey Bogart races up Whitney Portal Road outside Lone Pine. Today the car can be seen at the Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine.

...An evening of films themed around "The Jewish Experience" on January 5th includes CROSSFIRE (1947), with Robert Young, Robert Ryan, and Robert Mitchum.

...I've loved getting to know the sensitive work of director Frank Borzage in recent years. There's a day of eight Borzage films on January 6th, including the World War II film THE MORTAL STORM (1940), with James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan heading an excellent cast.

...Don't miss an all-time favorite, I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! (1945), on Saturday, January 7th. It's a magical romance which is being shown along with PYGMALION (1938) as part of a two-film tribute to Wendy Hiller.

...Last month I reviewed Raymond Massey in ABE LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS (1940), which was recently released on Blu-ray. It's being shown on TCM on January 8th.

...There are a bunch of good films airing on January 9th as part of a birthday tribute to Lee Van Cleef. I particularly recommend the little-known but very fine Western THE DESPERADO (1954), with Van Cleef playing identical twin villains opposite Wayne Morris, and THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953), in which Van Cleef has a memorable scene as an army sharpshooter. You've got to see it to believe it!

...The Marion Davies silent comedy SHOW PEOPLE (1928) is quite delightful. I saw it a few years ago at the TCM Classic Film Festival, introduced by Leonard Maltin and Davies biographer Lara Gabrielle, and I really enjoyed it. It's part of the Davies Star of the Month movies on January 10th.

...Snow is the theme on January 11th, with films including the classic ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1952), starring Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino. The film also features a great score by Bernard Herrmann.

...Errol Flynn is celebrated on January 12th with a terrific seven-film lineup including the WWII films EDGE OF DARKNESS (1943) and DESPERATE JOURNEY (1942).

...Several Torchy Blane films are showing on January 13th, including the first film in the series, SMART BLONDE (1937). I've found the films I've seen in this series to date fast-paced fun.

...One of my very favorite George O'Brien films, THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY (1939), will be shown on January 14th. It's a top "B" Western which is a loose remake of the Richard Dix film THE ARIZONIAN (1935).

...A pair of favorites, Kay Francis and Preston Foster, star in the stagy yet entertaining FIRST LADY (1937), adapted from a play by George S. Kaufman and Katherine Dayton. It's being shown January 15th.

...It's James Garner Day on January 17th, including BOYS' NIGHT OUT (1962), costarring Kim Novak.

...A day of "warm weather" films on January 20th includes Eleanor Powell, Robert Young, and Burns & Allen in HONOLULU (1939), a minor yet enjoyable film with top dancing by Powell.

...The classic screwball comedy LIBELED LADY (1936) will be shown on January 21st. William Powell, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow, and Spencer Tracy star. For anyone who hasn't yet seen my February TCM preview, there are lots more screwball comedies coming to the network in the near future.

...It's been a long time since I saw PERFECT STRANGERS (1950), an interesting film about a jury duty romance starring Ginger Rogers and Dennis Morgan. It's on January 22nd.

...A few years ago I enjoyed EVER SINCE EVE (1937), which stars Marion Davies and Robert Montgomery. It's on January 24th as part of an evening of half a dozen Davies films.

...THE BAMBOO BLONDE (1946) is an enjoyable "B" musical starring Frances Langford and directed by Anthony Mann. It's on as part of an entire day of films set in nightclubs on January 25th.

...Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell star in LIVE, LOVE AND LEARN (1937) on January 26th. It's a minor yet enjoyable film pairing two actors with good chemistry.

...Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara star in the 20th Century-Fox film THE BLACK SWAN (1942) on Saturday, January 28th.

...THIS COULD BE THE NIGHT (1957) is a relatively unsung charmer directed by Robert Wise, with a marvelous cast headed by Jean Simmons and Paul Douglas. I named it a "favorite discovery" when I first saw it a few years ago. Highly recommended. It's on January 31st.

For more on TCM in January 2023, please visit my Quick Preview of TCM in January along with TCM's online schedule.

Happy New Year!

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Lots of nice upcoming Blu-ray announcements from Kino Lorber Studio Classics over the last few days. The Westerns TOMAHAWK (1951) and BORDER RIVER (1954) are coming March 28th, the latter with a commentary track by Toby Roan of 50 Westerns From the 50s. Both films star Yvonne DeCarlo, with Van Heflin costarring in TOMAHAWK and Joel McCrea in BORDER RIVER.

...Donald O'Connor stars in DOUBLE CROSSBONES (1951), arriving March 14th, and Bob Hope stars in THANKS FOR THE MEMORY (1938), releasing March 21st.

...Also on the way: Loretta Young in Cecil B. DeMille's THE CRUSADES (1935) on March 7th and John Barrymore in William Wyler's COUNSELLOR AT LAW (1931) on March 28th. Both films are well worth seeing.

...I was sorry to hear that Turner Classic Movies programmer Millie De Chirico was laid off just before Christmas. She programmed TCM Underground, booked films for Noir Alley, and is the author of the new book from TCM and Running Press, TCM UNDERGROUND: 50 MUST-SEE FILMS FROM THE WORLD OF CLASSIC CULT AND LATE-NIGHT CINEMA. Needless to say, with ongoing corporate changes one has to wonder a little what the future holds for TCM.

...This 2020 article at Vintage Leisure on Shannon Farnon -- sister of THE SOUND OF MUSIC's Charmian Carr and actress Darleen Carr -- is quite interesting. Their mother, Rita Oehmen, was George O'Brien's leading lady in GUN LAW (1938).

...Coming to the Criterion Channel streaming service in January: "Starring Joan Bennett," a series of ten films with one of my favorite actresses. The titles span two dozen years and include the rare WILD GIRL (1931) and an all-time favorite, LITTLE WOMEN (1933).

...The new film BABYLON (2022), about the early days of Hollywood, has been deconstructed by my friends Chris Yogerst (for The Hollywood Reporter) and Farran Nehme (for Vanity Fair). Based on the unpleasant trailer I don't think it's my kind of movie, but I enjoyed their articles very much!

...THE FARROWS OF HOLLYWOOD by Marilyn Ann Moss, which I shared last September was scheduled for publication in October 2022, has had its release date pushed back a couple of times. According to Amazon, the current release date is now March 7, 2023. It will be published by Skyhorse and distributed by Simon & Schuster.  (February 2023 Update: According to Amazon the release date has changed again, to April 11, 2023).

...A Fathom Events showing of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) did well at the box office last week. On that topic, I recommend this essay by Clare Coffey on Mary Bailey (Donna Reed, seen here with costar James Stewart).

...At Mystery File Steve recently wrote about the Republic Pictures film EXPOSED (1947), with Adele Mara playing a lady P.I. Robert Scott, Robert Armstrong, and Adrian Booth costar. I'll be hunting it down.

...Jessica has interesting titles on her "Favorite New-to-Me Films of 2022" list at Hollywood Comet. There are a couple listed which I've been meaning to see, including THE LAST OF SHEILA (1973).

...Colin's latest review at Riding the High Country is of Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS (1950).

...For my fellow fans of Hallmark movies, here's a nice interview with Hallmark leading lady Lacey Chabert at Vulture.

...Notable Passings: Actress Diane McBain has passed on at the age of 81. Her memoir FAMOUS ENOUGH was published in 2014. Her earliest screen roles were in a pair of 1959 episodes on TV's MAVERICK. She worked regularly in episodic television and appeared in films such as PARRISH (1961) and MARY, MARY (1963). She retired from screen acting in 2001...Prolific TV director Gabrielle Beaumont has died at 80. The series she worked on included REMINGTON STEELE, HILL STREET BLUES, and L.A. LAW. She last directed in 2000.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my December 17th roundup.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Bedtime for Bonzo (1951) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

I grew up hearing plenty of jokes about BEDTIME FOR BONZO (1951) on THE TONIGHT SHOW with Johnny Carson, inasmuch as the show's director, Frederick De Cordova, also directed the movie.

The fact that California governor turned President Ronald Reagan starred only added to the opportunity for late-night jokes, of course -- but the reality is that BEDTIME FOR BONZO, just released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber, is actually a pretty cute little family movie.

Reagan plays Professor Peter Boyd, who is engaged to Valerie (Lucille Barkley). Valerie's father (Herbert Heyes), the university dean, is aghast to learn that Peter's father was a criminal and wants them to break the engagement -- because who knows how their children will turn out?

Peter wants to do an experiment to show that how a child turns out is based on environment rather than genetics, with a chimpanzee named Bonzo as the "child." Peter hires young Jane Linden (Diana Lynn) to serve as Bonzo's "momma," and they try to teach Bonzo the difference between right and wrong and how to live as a member of a family.

It's all fairly nutty, and you can see the Reagan-Lynn romance coming from a million miles away, but it's an entertaining, if overly simplistic, 83 minutes. Reagan and Lynn are appealing, and I particularly suspect that children, even in today's era, would find Bonzo's antics fun to watch.

The supporting cast includes Walter Slezak, Herb Vigran, Jesse White, and Edward Gargan.

The university exteriors incidentally, were filmed at L.A. City College.

The print is from a brand-new 2K master. Carl E. Guthrie's black and white cinematography is fairly bland, in the unmemorable style of his work on some of Universal's Francis the Talking Mule films, but the print and sound are fine. This was a nice way to catch up with the movie at long last.

Disc extras consist of the trailer; a gallery of four additional trailers for films available from Kino Lorber; and a commentary track by Eddy Von Mueller.

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

Christmas 2022 at Disney California Adventure

My final photo post on this year's Christmas celebrations at the Disneyland Resort focuses on Disney California Adventure.

Disney California Adventure combines Christmas with a Festival of Holidays celebration which incorporates additional holidays including Hanukkah, Diwali, and Three Kings Day. I'm combining day and night photos from two separate visits this month for an overview of the park's decorating this year.

Above is the beautiful Art Deco style Elias & Co. department store on Buena Vista Street; below is one of the decorations in Hollywood Land, inspired by vintage Hollywood Boulevard Christmas signs.

During our day visit we saw a fun Marvel Christmas skit in Avengers Campus, inspired by last year's HAWKEYE (2021) streaming series.

Love the "homemade" ornaments strung in the trees in the Condor Flats/Grizzly Peak Airfield area, including tin cans.

I thought the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail area looked especially beautiful this year, with lots of rustic decorating.

The Viva Navidad! celebration and parade remains one of the best things Disney does during the holiday season.

The Viva Navidad! Street Party, featuring the Three Caballeros, is simply joyous, with great music and dancing.

Here's a look at the park's Christmas tree at the end of Buena Vista Street, near Elias & Co.:

The Carthay Circle:

The windows at Trolley Treats on Buena Vista Street are always enticing!

I'm especially fond of these simple, colorful lights in the Pacific Wharf area.

And finally, Route 66 in Cars Land's Radiator Springs!

I'm looking forward to enjoying more time in Disney California Adventure early in 2023, including the Lunar New Year celebration and the Food & Wine Festival.

Happiest New Year wishes to all my readers!

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Facing Nolan (2022) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

One of my lifelong loves, along with movies, is baseball.

Although I've always been a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, I have fond childhood memories of watching Nolan Ryan pitch for the local California Angels in the '70s. (We'll gloss over Ryan later pitching his fifth no-hitter -- breaking the previous tie for the most no-hitters he held along with the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax -- when the Houston Astros played against the Dodgers...)

I was thus really looking forward to catching up with FACING NOLAN, a documentary on the pitching great which was released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber late this past summer.

I'm pleased to report that FACING NOLAN is a completely engaging 102 minutes. It's a must for baseball fans, but I think Ryan's story is so compelling and the documentary so nicely done that other viewers would enjoy it as well.

Ryan pitched for a staggering 27 years, from his teens into his 40s. His achievements included an amazing seven no-hitters, the last coming at the age of 44, when many pitchers are already retired; he also racked up over 5700 career strikeouts.

While the film focuses on Ryan's career, it also makes clear that his priority was his family; that commitment led to him choosing to play for the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers after leaving the Angels, so that he would be closer to home. Ryan and his wife Ruth, who married at ages 19 and 17, have been devoted to one another for most of their lives, and she's a key interviewee in the film.

Ryan reminds me a bit of actor Joel McCrea, who thought of himself firstly as a rancher; Ryan loves ranching and joked that when he headlocked Robin Ventura in an (in)famous brawl, it was simply a move he'd used on steers. (In an amusing moment, a card informs the audience that Ventura declined to be interviewed for the documentary.)

The film is filled with "talking head" interviews with many players familiar to me from years past, including one-time Dodgers catcher Jerry Grote, who played on Ryan's first team, the New York Mets. The enjoyable walk down memory lane also includes an interview with former Texas Rangers owner George W. Bush.

FACING NOLAN was directed by Bradley Jackson and filmed by Jacob Hamilton.

Blu-ray extras include the trailer, a pair of Q&A sessions, and clips.



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

Christmas at Disneyland 2022: Nighttime

Earlier this month we made a quick evening visit to Disneyland to eat dinner and enjoy the beautiful lights.

Here are a few pretty snapshots from that night to go along with some other nighttime photos I shared in November.

I'm always a little sad when Main Street USA and Sleeping Beauty Castle go "back to normal" after Epiphany! It's all so exquisitely beautiful.

One more look at Sleeping Beauty's Winter Castle for this season:

The start of the Christmas Parade, which I saw this year split over a couple of evenings:

I have one more photo post on Christmas at the Disneyland Resort in 2022 which I'll share soon.

Best wishes to all for a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

A Birthday Tribute to Lee Bowman

Actor Lee Bowman was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on December 28, 1914.

Bowman was a busy working actor from the time of his 1937 screen debut through '60s TV. He's sometimes dismissed as a "Ralph Bellamy" other man type, but I've always had a soft spot for Bowman since seeing him on a big screen at a young age in what became one of my all-time favorite films, TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT (1945).

Bowman starred opposite Rita Hayworth in a moving romance which takes place during the London Blitz.

Bowman was also the "other man" opposite Hayworth in COVER GIRL (1945), which like TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT I saw theatrically as a teenager in the late '70s. He's seen here in a publicity still along with Hayworth and Gene Kelly.

Opposite Jean Arthur in THE IMPATIENT YEARS (1944):

And starring with Rosalind Russell in SHE WOULDN'T SAY YES (1945):

I've seen a majority of Bowman's films, with a great many reviewed here -- see the links at the end of this post -- and whether he was the leading man or in a supporting role, I don't think there's a single film on the list I didn't enjoy. I feel that says something about his contributions to each movie.

Some of the films I love a great deal, including DANCING CO-ED (1939), where he played a dancer whose wife's pregnancy spurs a talent hunt for a new dancing partner:

He's seen here in DANCING CO-ED with Lana Turner.

I also love the "B-plus" mystery KID GLOVE KILLER (1942) opposite Van Heflin and Marsha Hunt, which I've seen many times. It was the first feature film directed by Fred Zinnemann.

Bowman was effective as a radio singer in MY DREAM IS YOURS (1949), a favorite Doris Day film:

Bowman's feature film career mostly ended as of 1950, but he had a busy career in TV throughout the '50s and early '60s, including a half-decade run starring in the title role in THE ADVENTURES OF ELLERY QUEEN (1950-55), a season-long run in MIAMI UNDERCOVER (1961), and multiple guest appearances on ROBERT MONTGOMERY PRESENTS (1950-56).

In one of his appearances on Montgomery's show he played Nick Carraway in a 1955 adaptation of THE GREAT GATSY, with Montgomery as Jay Gatsby and Phyllis Kirk as Daisy.

Like Montgomery, later in his professional life Bowman worked in communications consulting, serving as chairman of the Kingstree Group, which still exists today, and consulting for entities such as Bethlehem Steel and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Lee Bowman died on Christmas Day, 1979, three days before his 65th birthday.  According to the FindaGrave website, his ashes were scattered at sea.

Bowman was survived by his wife, Helene Rosson Bowman, who was the daughter of director Arthur Rosson and the niece of cinematographer Harold "Hal" Rosson and director Richard Rosson; she was also the stepdaughter of director Victor Fleming. The Bowmans had a son, also named Lee, and Bowman was stepfather to his wife's daughter from an earlier marriage.

Lee Bowman films reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: SWING HIGH, SWING LOW (1937) (bit), INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY (1937) (also here), I MET HIM IN PARIS (1937), THE LAST TRAIN FROM MADRID (1937), EASY LIVING (1937) (also here), THIS WAY PLEASE (1937), THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS (1938) (also here), HAVING WONDERFUL TIME (1938) (also here), SOCIETY LAWYER (1939), STRONGER THAN DESIRE (1939), DANCING CO-ED (1939) (also here), FAST AND FURIOUS (1939), WASHINGTON MELODRAMA (1941), DESIGN FOR SCANDAL (1941) (also here), WE WERE DANCING (1942), KID GLOVE KILLER (1942) (also here), THREE HEARTS FOR JULIA (1943), THE IMPATIENT YEARS (1944), TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT (1945), SHE WOULDN'T SAY YES (1945), THE WALLS CAME TUMBLING DOWN (1946), MY DREAM IS YOURS (1949) (also here), HOUSE BY THE RIVER (1950).

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