Tuesday, February 28, 2023

TCM in March: 31 Days of Oscar Highlights

Tomorrow is March, and that means it's time for Turner Classic Movies' annual 31 Days of Oscar festival.

Every film shown on TCM this month must have received at least one Oscar nomination or award. Since that necessarily limits the lineup of films to a relatively small, familiar group of titles each year, TCM always tries to come up with a creative presentation.

This year's 31 Days of Oscar films will be shown grouped by genre. Two and sometimes three genres per day will be spotlighted.

The complete March schedule is available on a special TCM microsite which also has a .pdf link allowing the schedule to be downloaded and printed.

As usual, the regular TCM franchises, including Silent Sunday Nights and Noir Alley, will be taking the month off.

Noir Alley also announced there will not be any film noir in April due to a centennial celebration of Warner Bros. Noir Alley will return in May.

I'm kind of curious why TCM isn't working some WB film noir into the centennial schedule, but we'll have to wait to learn more over the course of this month.

Needless to say, since the March schedule is comprised of Oscar winners or nominees the titles are always more familiar than most.

Last year I focused on highlighting a select number of titles which I've seen many times, sharing why they have been important to me over the course of my life.

This year my focus will be to highlight a few of the comparatively lesser-known titles on this month's Oscar schedule.

...March 1st features family films, including LIFE WITH FATHER (1947). I loved reading Clarence Day's book when I was young, before I ever saw the movie. This film has been available in poor public domain copies for years; ClassicFlix is releasing the film on DVD in April and the scenes in their clip look pretty good compared to what I've seen in the past. William Powell, Irene Dunne, and a young Elizabeth Taylor star.

...I really liked DILLINGER (1945), with Lawrence Tierney in the title role and Anne Jeffreys in an intriguing performance as his girlfriend. I described it in my review as "stylish" and "zippy." It's on March 2nd.

...John Garfield and Eleanor Parker star in PRIDE OF THE MARINES (1945) on March 3rd. The story, about a serviceman blinded during World War II, has some similarities to BRIGHT VICTORY (1951), which I recently watched for the firs time.

...Last year I revisited the William Wellman version of A STAR IS BORN (1937) starring Fredric March and Janet Gaynor. The color on the recently released Blu-ray was exquisite! For me this is the version of the story to see. It's on March 6th.

...Pretty much every version of LITTLE WOMEN has something to offer. The 1949 MGM version showing on March 7th has gorgeous Technicolor and a marvelous cast including June Allyson, Elizabeth Taylor, Margaret O'Brien, Janet Leigh, and Mary Astor.

...There's more John Garfield during a lineup of "Spy Stories" on March 9th, as he stars in THE FALLEN SPARROW (1943). He has not one but three wonderful leading ladies: Maureen O'Hara, Patricia Morison, and Martha O'Driscoll.

...JANIE (1944) stars ebullient Joyce Reynolds in the title role as a giddy '40s high schooler. It has a large cast of fun faces and is an enjoyable watch. It will be shown March 10th during a lineup of "Teens on Screen."

...THE FLAME AND THE ARROW (1950), starring Burt Lancaster and Virginia Mayo, directed by Jacques Tourneur, was a delight at last year's TCM Classic Film Festival. I only haven't written about it here yet as there were so many movies to discuss after the festival! It's being shown on March 14th.

...Last year I revisited NATIONAL VELVET (1944) for the first time in many years and was thoroughly impressed. Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney star, directed by Clarence Brown. It's highly recommended. It airs March 15th as part of an evening of animal stories.

...Rosalind Russell stars as SISTER KENNY (1946), a nurse who devised effective treatments for polio, on March 17th. I found it an interesting film.

...ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN (1941) is a lovely piece of Americana starring Fredric March as a parson and Martha Scott as his wife. It airs on March 22nd. Definitely worth watching.

...Robert Taylor, Ann Blyth, and Stewart Granger star in ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT (1953) on March 24th. It has stirring Miklos Rosza theme music and lovely Technicolor photography by George Folsey. While not a great film, fans of the three leads will find it worth a look.

...SERGEANT YORK (1941), starring Gary Cooper in the title role, made an impression on me as a child, but seems to be a film not seen as often these days. When I revisited it a couple of years ago I found myself deeply moved. Joan Leslie costars. It will be shown March 25th.

...Jane Powell is RICH, YOUNG AND PRETTY (1951) on March 28th. It's an enjoyable film with good music, including a number sung by the Four Freshmen.

...MEET ME IN LAS VEGAS (1956), starring Cyd Charisse and Dan Dailey, will be shown on March 29th. It's minor as MGM musicals go, but Cyd has some great dances and it's enjoyable.

...Another lesser-known but very enjoyable musical, THE SKY'S THE LIMIT (1943), airs on March 30th. Fred Astaire and Joan Leslie star. The score includes "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" and the Oscar-nominated "My Shining Hour."

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

Finally, a reminder that this year's Academy Awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, March 12th.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Tonight's Movie: The Lady From Shanghai (1947) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Orson Welles' THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947) was recently released as a Kino Lorber Special Edition Blu-ray.

THE LADY FROM SHANGAI was written and directed by Welles based on a novel by Sherwood King, with uncredited script input from William Castle, Charles Lederer, and Fletcher Markle.

The film's title character, Elsa Bannister, was played by Rita Hayworth, who was married to Welles from 1943 to 1947.

Elsa chances to meet Irishman Michael O'Shea (Welles) in a park, and soon thereafter Elsa's crippled attorney husband Arthur (Everett Sloane) hires Michael to work as a crew member on his yacht.

They embark on a bizarre San Francisco-to-Mexico cruise; most of the people on the yacht, including Arthur and his partner George Grisby (Glenn Anders) seem deranged. Against a backdrop of bizarre goings-on -- including Grisby attempting to hire Michael to "kill" him -- Michael and Elsa fall in love.

Once the yacht arrives back in San Francisco, a double murder creates chaos for the surviving characters, culminating in a raucous trial.

This was my first viewing of THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, and I really wasn't sure what to make of it. Hayworth is one of my all-time favorite screen stars, but while I loved watching her, most of the characters are so creepy that I didn't find it a great deal of fun to watch.

It's a bit as though all the nuts from the island in the pre-Code SAFE IN HELL (1931) were mixed up with additional oddballs from Welles' later TOUCH OF EVIL (1958).

I can't say I found it an especially enjoyable 87 minutes, but there were certainly some striking, impressive moments, including the famous finale in a fun house hall of mirrors.

While it will never be one of my favorite films, I've seen TOUCH OF EVIL as least two more times since my first viewing nearly a decade ago, and my appreciation for it has gradually grown. Due to that experience, I'm keeping an open mind about THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI and am particularly interested in hearing thoughts from two people I respect who are part of the disc's extras, Eddie Muller and Imogen Sara Smith. I'll be checking out their comments over the next few days.

Hayworth is entrancing as the ambiguous Elsa, particularly when singing (dubbed by Anita Ellis, who also sang "Put the Blame on Mame" for Hayworth in GILDA). We never really understand Elsa and her motivations; she baffles -- and fascinates -- both Michael and the viewer.

That said, it's hard to buy Elsa's romance with Michael; we know the actors were married in real life, but Welles is not exactly Tyrone Power and it's a stretch that she falls for the lumbering, if articulate, Michael -- even realizing that Elsa is playing a multilevel game of sorts.

Hayworth's luxuriant red hair was famously cut and dyed champagne blonde for this film; she's still beautiful, but it's a shame, presaging the harsh, aging haircuts actresses such as Betty Grable and Barbara Stanwyck would also soon undergo.

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI was filmed in black and white by Charles Lawton Jr. and the uncredited Rudolph Mate and Joseph Walker. The supporting cast includes Ted de Corsia, Carl Frank, and Erskine Sanford.

The Blu-ray print is lovely and a wonderful reason to watch this Blu-ray in and of itself. Sound quality is also excellent.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray extras include two new commentaries, by Imogen Sara Smith and Tim Lucas; an archival commentary track by Peter Bogdanovich; a 21-minute interview with Bogdanovich; comments by Eddie Muller (also 21 minutes); the trailer; and a gallery of trailers for for additional films available from Kino Lorber.

The physical set itself is impressive; the DVD case has reversible cover art with two different, very striking designs, and yet a third poster design is on the set's cardboard slipcase.

For anyone wanting to see and learn more about this unusual film, the Kino Lorber Blu-ray is surely the way to go. I may be ambivalent about the movie at this point, but the set is highly recommended.

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

Disneyland: 100 Years of Wonder, Part 1

Earlier this month we spent a full day at Disneyland, from opening to late evening, enjoying the "100 Years of Wonder" celebration.

The centennial decorations include fountains in the castle moat...

...and the Good Fairies holding this banner above the drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Tarzan's Treehouse has been closed for quite a while now, and a "rethinking" of the Treehouse which is closer to the original Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse will open later this year.

In my last Disneyland post I mentioned the park's recent issues with signs. If you click on the photo below to enlarge it and read the sign at the right you can see that the word "site" is spelled "sight" and "permission" is spelled "persmission." The spelling of "archeology" was also changed to "archaeology" on the corrected version.

A new exhibit has opened in the Opera House on Town Square, "Film to Attraction, Attraction to Film." I'll have some exhibit photos in my next Disneyland post.  (Update: Here are the photos!)

At the Opera House entrance one can see the Griffith Park bench where Walt Disney sat when he first dreamed up Disneyland.

A horse from the Griffith Park Carousel.

Disneyland has a new fireworks and light projections show, Wondrous Journeys.

We really enjoyed it! The light projections on the castle are said to have bits of every Disney animated film.

More Disneyland photos coming soon!

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Amazing Blu-ray news (via Glenn Erickson): The Alan Ladd version of THE GREAT GATSBY (1949), which I saw in 2012 but which has never been available for authorized home viewing, will be released on Blu-ray in May by Australia's Viavision Imprint. It will include a commentary track by Jason A. Ney and a 1999 documentary on Alan Ladd. (Is it possible a U.S. release will follow, perhaps from Kino Lorber Studio Classics?)

...Coming to Blu-ray next week from ClassicFlix: OBSESSED (1951), starring Geraldine Fitzgerald and David Farrar.

...Kino Lorber Studio Classics has announced that a Blu-ray of YOU NEVER CAN TELL (1951), starring Dick Powell and Peggy Dow, is "coming soon."

...For those looking for podcasts with George Feltenstein of the Warner Archive Collection, he's been interviewed several times recently by The Extras.

...Last week I was intrigued by the trailer for SWEETWATER (2023), about Harlem Globetrotter turned New York Knicks player Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton. It will be out in April.

...Danilo Castro has reviewed UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (1948) for Classic Movie Hub. This Preston Sturges film stars Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, Rudy Vallee, and Barbara Lawrence, whose birth date was February 24th.

...As mentioned here in December, Turner Classic Movies laid off TCM Underground programmer Millie De Chirico. Last week TCM announced the end of the Friday night TCM Underground series. Beth Accomando of KPBS in San Diego interviewed Millie last week about her book TCM UNDERGROUND. The layoff coming just as Millie was promoting her TCM book was certainly odd, and one has to wonder a bit if more corporate cutbacks are on the way for the network, although the channel has sought to reassure fans (see the link in the top news item from my January 28th roundup).

...The Decades channel is changing its name to Catchy Comedy next month, with a lineup consisting of TV sitcoms.

...A great-looking new book from George Geary: L.A.'S LANDMARK RESTAURANTS, which features favorites I've written about here, including El Cholo, the Pantry, Tail O' the Pup, Cole's, and Philippe's. I own and recommend the author's previous books on California restaurant history, L.A.'S LEGENDARY RESTAURANTS and MADE IN CALIFORNIA. I'll definitely be getting this new title.

...Here's an interesting Decider interview with Hallmark Channel Executive VP Lisa Hamilton Daly regarding the network's future.

...Vienna's Classic Hollywood has reviewed THE WHISTLE AT EATON FALLS (1951), a rare Robert Siodmak film available from Flicker Alley. I agree with her that it's a very worthwhile film.

...Last week I mentioned my memory of purchasing THE FILMS OF JAMES STEWART (1970) at Pickwick Books on Hollywood Boulevard. By coincidence, just a couple days later I learned from Toby at 50 Westerns From the 50s that two of that book's three authors, Arthur F. McClure and Ken D. Jones, wrote a book for the same publisher on Westerns: HEROES, HEAVIES, AND SAGEBRUSH: A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE "B" WESTERN PLAYERS (A.S. Barnes, 1972). A copy is now on its way to me!

...Good news from Cartoon Brew regarding the restoration of Walt Disney's Laugh-O-Gram studio in Kansas City, Missouri.

...The 2023 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival will take place in Palm Springs from May 11th to 14th, 2023.

...I'm happy to announce that I will be covering the TCM Classic Film Festival again this year as a member of the credentialed media. The festival takes place in Hollywood April 13th through 16th, 2023.

...Notable Passings: Prolific -- and sometimes controversial -- biographer Donald Spoto has died at 81...Actress Barbara Bosson of HILL STREET BLUES (1981-86) has passed away at 83...Gabrielle Upton, who wrote for both films and TV, has died at the age of 101. Her film work included GIDGET (1959) and ESCAPE FROM EAST BERLIN (1962); she also wrote for episodic television and multiple soap operas...Director Hugh Hudson (CHARIOTS OF FIRE) has passed on at 86.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my February 18th roundup.

A Disneyland Afternoon

Disneyland is the home base for Disney's 100th Anniversary celebration, "100 Years of Wonder."

I'll have more photos up in the near future of some of the brand-new things at Disneyland, including the Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway ride and the "Film to Attraction, Attraction to Film" exhibit, but for today here are a few quick snaps from a visit last week.

The Disneyland Resort has recently had an unprecedented number of issues with park signs, including misspellings plus incorrect quotes and facts. Many of us are wondering what's going on, especially given that the company has an entire Disney Archives department available for research, but to the park's credit they are at least fixing the mistakes as they are pointed out.

Case in point, the above Mickey Mouse statue above which was originally installed with an incorrectly worded Walt Disney quote; the statue then disappeared from the park briefly and now has the correct quote, seen above.

The 100th anniversary celebration park decor has a purple and silver theme, which is reflected in some of the park flowers (above) and even with a special wardrobe for Tilly at the Main Street Cinema (below).

Purple Mickey balloons, too!

More beautiful pink and purple flowers seen around the park.

They even have purple and silver popcorn buckets!

Before we left that afternoon we enjoyed a performance by the Disneyland Band.

More Disneyland photos are coming soon!

Friday, February 24, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Hanukkah on Rye (2022)

Mix a touch of CROSSING DELANCEY (1988) with a generous helping of YOU'VE GOT MAIL (1998), add in a unique voice of its own and you've got HANUKKAH ON RYE (2022), which debuted in December on the Hallmark Channel.

Molly (Yael Grobglas) and Jacob (Jeremy Jordan) are each part of different families who have owned Jewish delis for generations.

Molly, who will one day take over running Gilbert's Deli in New York, is looking for ways to ensure the historic deli's long-term future in the challenging restaurant business.

Jacob, whose family owns the less conventionally traditional Zimmer's Deli in Los Angeles, is looking to expand the business to New York...right down the street from Gilbert's.

Meanwhile, Molly and Jacob's grandmothers have each submitted their names to a matchmaker (Angela Narth) who insists her clients get to know one another by old-fashioned mail, delivered by courier. Molly and Jacob grudgingly cooperate and gradually warm up to their penpals; because they correspond using pseudonyms, they don't realize that they already know one another "in person," as competing deli owners.

The script by frequent Hallmark writer Julie Sherman Wolfe pays warm tribute to the older films, especially the classic YOU'VE GOT MAIL storyline, but it also goes its own way, including incorporating Jewish traditions and emphasizing the characters' strong family ties.

The lead actors are both charming and convey a nice sense of humor. The script deftly handles the conflicts, not drawing them out too long, and the final resolution was creative and moving.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I especially liked Tim Nhlazane, who offers solid comic support as the desk clerk in Molly and Jacob's building who facilitates their exchange of letters. His facial reactions are delightful.

HANUKKAH ON RYE was directed by longtime Hallmark director Peter DeLuise (son of Dom). It was filmed by Ken Krawcyzk with Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada standing in for New York.

This film is a great example of a top-notch Hallmark film which I believe would be enjoyed not only by Hallmark fans but by a wider audience. (And for classic film fans, there's even a scene with a Charlie Chaplin film!) Recommended.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Marlowe (2023)

Last week I saw the new film PLANE (2023), and today it was back to the movies for me to see another new film with a one-word title, MARLOWE (2023).

As classic film fans could probably guess, Marlowe (played by Liam Neeson) refers to Raymond Chandler's private detective, Philip Marlowe. The screenplay by William Monahan and Neil Jordan is not, however, based on one of Chandler's classic novels but on a book featuring the Marlowe character written by John Banville, aka Benjamin Black.

The film is set in a 1939 fantasy version of Los Angeles, complete with a suburb known as "Bay City." Although the film is set around the film industry, it's not a Los Angeles anyone who lives here would recognize, including a lack of Los Angeles location shooting -- the movie was actually made in Spain!

Even the movie posters seen on a studio lot have familiar titles -- two I noticed were the names of George O'Brien "B" Westerns -- but the poster artwork is not for the original films. Like much else about this "Chandler lite" movie, they're phony.

Similarly, the characters of the Ambassador (Mitchell Mullen) and Dorothy Quincannon (Jessica Lange) were clearly inspired by Joseph P. Kennedy (Sr.) and Gloria Swanson, but the movie doesn't dare use their names for this flight of fancy.

As the movie begins, Quincannon's daughter Clare Cavendish (Diane Kruger) asks Chandler to find her missing lover Nico (Francois Arnaud). No one will be surprised that that proves not to be a straightforward request and Chandler is quickly wrapped up in a complex mystery involving a man who may or may not be dead. I'll leave the story itself to viewers to discover as it unfolds.

MARLOWE has not received particularly strong reviews, but despite my comments above about the lack of authenticity, I found it an enjoyable afternoon at the movies. Neeson is on screen for most of the movie's 109 minutes and he frankly makes the movie; without him it's maybe a two-star film but thanks to his star power and acting ability he pushes the needle close to a three.

Is Neeson actually playing Philip Marlowe? There's little evidence of it, as to my thinking the character simply happens to be a detective in '30s L.A. with the name Marlowe; it actually works better for me thinking of him as a unique character, as it also erases questions about whether Neeson is the appropriate age. (I'd add that his age is addressed multiple times in the script.)

Could the movie have done more with what it had, given the cast? Certainly. It could have been more Chandler-esque and also a little less phony; along with what I mentioned previously, there are multiple anachronisms. A partial list: The women's hairstyles seem wrong for the late '30s; an actress (Seana Kerslake) would never have been allowed to show a graphic eye wound in an action scene in a 1939 movie; and I don't know why a prop house would have had the Maltese Falcon on hand, given the best-known version of the movie wasn't filmed until 1941. (I suppose it could have referred to an earlier version...)

What we're left with, however, is quite enjoyable, taking the film on its own terms, beginning with the pleasure of a reunion of ROB ROY (1995) costars Neeson and Lange. Both are true stars who are fun to watch every moment they're on screen.

The supporting cast has other fine players such as Alan Cumming and -- in perhaps nod to the MALTESE FALCON reference -- Danny Huston. There's also a nice through line with Danny's father not only having directed THE MALTESE FALCON but costarred in the period L.A. mystery CHINATOWN (1974).

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is delightful as a chauffeur. Colm Meaney and Ian Hart play Chandler's friends on the police force.

All in all, despite any flaws MARLOWE is an entertaining mystery with a fun setting which held my attention throughout -- pretty much my definition of a popcorn movie. There aren't a huge number of new movies released which interest me, and I had a pleasant time.

I think a viewer who approaches the film with an open mind, willing to accept some of the things I've described above, will probably also find it enjoyable. Viewers will have to look elsewhere for a movie which is authentically "L.A."

The movie deserves its R rating for some language and for violence which gets a little edgier than I typically care for in the final stretch; that said, the violence was reined in just enough it didn't spoil the film for me.

MARLOWE was directed by Neil Jordan and filmed by Xavi Gimenez.

The trailer is here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Tonight's Movie: I Was a Shoplifter (1950) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

I WAS A SHOPLIFTER (1950) is a delightfully enjoyable little movie which is part of the Dark Side of Cinema XI collection from Kino Lorber.

I first saw this film in 2017 at the Noir City Film Festival. I saw all 20 films shown at that year's festival and named I WAS A SHOPLIFTER as my favorite.

I WAS A SHOPLIFTER may not be a classic, but it's a highly entertaining 74 minutes with a great Universal Pictures cast, including Scott Brady, Mona Freeman, Andrea King, Tony Curtis, Charles Drake, Rock Hudson, and Peggie Castle. The latter two actors are in small but noticeable roles.

Freeman plays Faye, a wealthy but unhappy girl who lives with her nasty aunt (Nana Bryant). Her emotional woes lead her to the excitement of department store shoplifting; she's caught and in return for not being prosecuted she signs a confession which will result in a stiffer sentence if she ever shoplifts again.

Faye's woes aren't over, as she's blackmailed by a shoplifting ring run by Ina Perdue (King in a deliciously scene-stealing performance).

Jeff Andrews (Brady), a detective with the sheriff's department, has been keeping tabs on Faye and comes to her rescue when Ina's righthand man Pepe (a creepy Curtis) attempts to assault her.

Jeff and Faye fall in love -- with Jeff blithely assuring Faye her attraction toward shoplifting can be easily cured with psychological help. Before they can have a future together, though, there's an exciting chase south of the border to Tijuana and another great chase in a department store -- the use of a package chute in the latter sequence is hilarious.

The movie may not always make sense, especially in the way it minimizes Faye's issues, but every second of it is entertaining.

Brady is a stalwart hero, Freeman is lovely and sympathetic as the troubled heroine, and as mentioned, King seems to be having an absolute blast trading quips with Brady and others. The cast is marvelous top to bottom.

Anyone who enjoys minor crime movies of this nature should give this film a try, as it's fun, plain and simple.

I WAS A SHOPLIFTER was written by Irwin Gielgud based on his own story. It was directed by Charles Lamont and filmed by Irving Glassberg.

Supporting players include Larry Keating, Nestor Paiva, Ann Robinson, Gregg Martell, Robert Gist, Donna Martell, and James Best.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray print is from a new 2K master; it looks very good and has excellent sound. What a pleasure to have this movie available for home viewing in such a good print!

The lone extras on this disc are three trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber.

The other two films in this set are the previously reviewed A WOMAN'S VENGEANCE (1948) and BEHIND THE HIGH WALL (1956), which will be reviewed at a future date.

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

Newer›  ‹Older