Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Tonight's Movie: The Crusades (1935) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

THE CRUSADES (1935), which might be my very favorite Cecil B. DeMille film, is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

The movie came out earlier this year, when I was doing a lot of traveling and covering film festivals, then gradually slipped down in the review stack due to "last in, first out."

Last night I plucked THE CRUSADES out of the viewing stack and was as mesmerized as I was the first time I saw the film a dozen years ago, at the 2011 UCLA Festival of Preservation. I strongly recommend it.

Henry Wilcoxon plays King Richard, who as the movie begins is rowdy and irresponsible. He makes a pledge to lead England into the Crusades chiefly to get out of his arranged marriage to Princess Alice of France (Katherine DeMille, daughter of the director).

Richard's experiences going to war, and his hasty but fortunate marriage to beautiful Princess Berengaria of Navarre (Loretta Young), transform him completely. He becomes a true leader, a man of faith, and a loving husband.

Wilcoxon and Young could not be better, and they share many excellent scenes, particularly those dealing with Saladin (Ian Keith) and King Philip of France (C. Henry Gordon). I loved the way Richard publicly honors and appreciates Berengaria, and I also liked Berengaria's bravery as she is faced with a succession of challenging circumstances. Both characters are very well written; the screenplay had a trio of writers, as well as several more who made uncredited contributions, but it worked out well.

Katherine DeMille is striking as Alice, who is handsome in her own way but a very cold, calculating woman. She even follows Richard to the Holy War when he doesn't marry her before leaving, only to be very unexpectedly thwarted. Her family connection with the director may have aided in being cast, but she really owns the role and is quite memorable.

DeMille later married Anthony Quinn; they had five children.

For more thoughts on this film, including the story of Loretta Young's behind-the-scenes secret pregnancy, please click over to my very detailed 2011 review.

The deep supporting cast includes Sir C. Aubrey Smith, Alan Hale (Sr.), Joseph Schildkraut, George Barbier, Montagu Love, Lumsden Hare, Mischa Auer, and Pedro de Cordoba. Searching carefully among the faces on screen will also reveal other familiar actors such as John Carradine, J. Carrol Naish, Ann Sheridan, and Ian Hunter.

THE CRUSADES runs 125 minutes. It was beautifully filmed by Victor Milner. I'd add that one can't help but be impressed by the sheer numbers of extras in those pre-CGI days!

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray is very beautiful, with excellent sound. I enjoyed watching this movie on every level. Don't wait as long as I did to check it out!

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray extras consist of the trailer; a gallery of 11 additional trailers for other film available from Kino Lorber; and a commentary track by Allan Arkush and Daniel Kremer.

Highly recommended.

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

Monday, August 28, 2023

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

SIERRA (1950) is now available on Blu-ray as part of the brand-new Audie Murphy Collection II from Kino Lorber.

I first reviewed this film a decade ago when it was part of a TCM Vault DVD collection of Murphy films. I quite enjoyed revisiting it via Kino Lorber's lovely Blu-ray print.

SIERRA was Murphy's fifth film, and he's right at home in this Western, which ironically was not filmed in the Sierras at all, but in scenic Kanab, Utah. I wrote about Kanab a couple years ago for Classic Movie Hub. The familiarity I've gained with this location since my last viewing definitely added to my enjoyment this time around.

Murphy and Dean Jagger play Ring and Jeff Hassard, a father and son who live high in the mountains. Ring's father Jeff (Jagger) is a fugitive from justice, accused of a murder 15 years before. The Hassards survive by capturing and breaking wild horses, sold by their friend Lonesome (Burl Ives).

Into their lives stumbles a pretty young lawyer, Riley Martin (Wanda Hendrix), who later makes it her mission to help Ring when his horses are stolen. She also researches the old case involving his father and works to clear Jeff's name.

Although Riley is engaged to Duke Lafferty (Elliot Reid), she's viewed as a curiosity by townspeople because she's an educated attorney, and even Duke isn't really comfortable with her advocacy.  In her own way Riley is as much an "outsider" as Ring.

Soon enough everyone in town seems to be on a crash course regarding the Hassards...

I enjoyed this film, directed by Alfred E. Green and filmed by Russell Metty, as much on my revisit as I did initially. It's a fast-moving 83 minutes packed with a sea of great faces: Sara Allgood, Elisabeth Risdon, Griff Barnett, Houseley Stevenson, Tony Curtis, James Arness, John Doucette, Roy Roberts, and I. Stanford Jolley. It's hard to miss with a cast like that!

Ives adds a great deal to the film's mood with his genial presence and music, especially the haunting "Hideaway" by Arnold Hughes and Frederick Herbert.

The screenplay by Edna Anhalt and Milton Gunzburg was based on the novel THE MOUNTAINS ARE MY KINGDOM by Stuart Hardy. It was previously filmed as FORBIDDEN VALLEY (1938) with Noah Beery Jr. and Frances Robinson. I'd like to hunt that one down!

For more details on SIERRA, as well as background on the real-life marriage of Murphy and Hendrix, please visit my 2013 review.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray print looks and sounds great. Extras consist of the trailer; a gallery of four additional trailers; and a commentary track by Westerns expert Toby Roan.

Coming soon: My review of another film in this set, DESTRY (1954), will be published soon in my Western RoundUp column for Classic Movie Hub. A preview: I liked it a lot!  (Update: Here is my DESTRY review, and I've also now reviewed KANSAS RAIDERS.)

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

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Retribution (2023)

August 27th was the second annual National Cinema Day, with tickets at hundreds of theaters across the country only $4 apiece.

It was thus the perfect day to go to my local Cinemark Theatre and see the new Liam Neeson action film, RETRIBUTION (2023). A sold-out crowd taking advantage of the inexpensive tickets made the movie that much more fun.

RETRIBUTION is a remake of a Spanish film, EL DESCONOCIDO (2015). It's about a very bad day in the life of Matt Turner (Neeson), an American businessman living in Germany.

Matt is driving his teen son Zach (Jack Champion) and daughter Emily (Lilly Aspell, Young Diana in the WONDER WOMAN films) to school when a phone in the center console of his car starts ringing. No one knows whose phone it is...and the voice on the other end tells Matt there's a bomb under his seat. Any attempts to leave the car will result in being blown to bits.

Soon thereafter Matt witnesses a colleague's car bombing death and realizes the voice means business. Matt tries to placate him...and in the process coincidentally learns his wife Heather (Embeth Davidtz) is at that very moment visiting a divorce attorney. And the police seem to think he's responsible for the earlier car bomb. Yes, Matt is having a very, very bad day.

I'll leave off with the plotline there in order to leave the rest of movie for viewers to discover; the film is relatively short, and it's fun to watch the story unfold. It may not be Neeson's best action film, but I thought it was solid and it gave me what I wanted: An enjoyable, diverting time at the movies.

I mean, is there any better moment in a Neeson action movie than when the villain crosses the line and now Neeson's gonna make sure he regrets it?! There's a key sequence where the balance of power shifts that I especially loved.

Noma Dumezweni plays Angela Brickman, a Europol agent on the case who interacts with Matt. The actress seemed familiar, but it wasn't until I looked her up after the movie that I realized she was the Queen in THE LITTLE MERMAID (2023). Dumezweni is very good in her "negotiator" role, plying Matt with practiced discussion tactics yet also coming across as a sympathetic human.

Another of the film's pleasures: It's only 91 minutes! That's not the norm when seeing most modern movies, which so often run past two hours, and it's really nice when a movie ends before it wears out its welcome. That said, this movie actually could have used another minute of closure; it seemed like they weren't quite sure how to end it.

Parental Advisory: This film was rated R...and I'm really not sure why. Some people meet violent ends in explosions, but there's no gore. The swearing seemed minimal and appropriate for the circumstances. The movie is not for the young, especially as children are in danger for part of the film, but a PG-13 strikes me as a more appropriate rating.

The movie was directed by Nimrod Antal and filmed by Harry Gregson-Williams on location in Berlin.

The trailer is here. Those who care about spoilers might want to be aware that the trailer shows quite a bit of the movie's action.

Prior Liam Neeson movie reviews: UNKNOWN (2011), NON-STOP (2014), THE LEGO MOVIE (2014), THE COMMUTER (2018), HONEST THIEF (2020), THE ICE ROAD (2021), and MARLOWE (2023).

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...There are some great things coming to the Criterion Channel in September, including "Noir By Gaslight," a series of '70s car films, and "Directed by Allan Dwan," with an intro by Farran Smith Nehme, the "Self-Styled Siren." The Dwan series includes a 63-minute "B" film I've never seen, HIGH TENSION (1936), starring Brian Donlevy and Glenda Farrell. I've seen half of the gothic noir series, which includes favorites like EXPERIMENT PERILOUS (1944) and DRAGONWYCK (1946); I'm looking forward to checking out some new-to-me titles. I highly recommend this very well-curated channel which shows titles going far beyond those available from the Criterion Collection.

...Last month I shared the trailer for RETRIBUTION (2023) starring Liam Neeson. I anticipate going to see it soon, as it sounds like my kind of action movie, solid if a little predictable. Predictability isn't a bad thing for me in a movie like this, which I think of as "action movie comfort food."  (Update: Here's the link for my review!)

...I just learned about THE HILL (2023), a new faith-based film which also sounds like my kind of movie, inasmuch as it stars Dennis Quaid in a baseball film. Here are reviews by Josh M. Shepherd for the Faith and Family Media Blog and Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. I've read Ed for years and he calls it a "feel-good winner." The trailer for THE HILL is here.

...In other "new" production news, I haven't yet tried the new STAR WARS drama AHSOKA (2023) on Disney+, but am encouraged by the Variety review which calls it "a transcendent experience for lifelong fans."

...Last week I mentioned Kino Lorber's upcoming November Blu-ray release of COLUMBO, Seasons 1-7. In a curious development, Kino Lorber announced yesterday that they will no longer be able to include all the commentaries and other extras commissioned for the set. I'm guessing they ran into some sort of legal/rights issues; that said, we'll have to wait for further information to know for sure exactly what has been removed and why.

...DVD Savant Glenn Erickson has reviewed the new ClassicFlix release BLONDE ICE (1948) at Trailers From Hell. It's available on both Blu-ray and DVD. Leslie Brooks stars.

...Over at Out of the Past, Raquel Stecher has reviewed Kino Lorber's impressive new Soundies collection, which she calls "an absolute winner." Look for a review here by me at a future date!

...A few days ago I enjoyed revisiting MISS SLOANE (2016) starring Jessica Chastain and Mark Strong. My opinion was the same as it was on my initial theatrical watch: It's ultimately kind of silly, but it's also highly entertaining.

...There's a new Western TV-movie, THE WARRANT: BREAKER'S LAW (2023) on the way starring Dermot Mulroney and Bruce Boxleitner. It will air in the U.S. on cable's Inspiration Channel this fall.

...Alison Martino has a great photo-filled post on Owl Rexall Drugs at her Vintage Los Angeles blog.

...Speaking of vintage L.A., my copy of HOLLYWOOD SIGNS by Kathy Kikkert has arrived and it's a winner! I love that it can be ordered from Larry Edmunds Bookshop, which is featured in the book.

...Here's a list of "10 Favorite Dramas" from Rachel at Hamlette's Soliloquy. I've seen six of them so far...and I have a NORTH AND SOUTH (2004) DVD in my "watch soon stack" at this very moment! I look forward to it all the more based on her high recommendation.

...A reminder from Toby at 50 Westerns From the 50s about the Critics' Choice multi-film sets. I've bought several and sure wish they'd release more!

...Nancy Luna has a fun photo-filled overview of the history of In-N-Out Burger for Business Insider.

...There are more great Blu-ray releases coming from Australia's Viavision Imprint, including Essential Film Noir: Collection 5 and Tales of Adventure: Collection 2.  I'm especially interested in the latter set which includes rarities such as ANGEL ON THE AMAZON (1948) with George Brent, Vera Hruba Ralston, and Constance Bennett, and FAIR WIND TO JAVA (1953) with Fred MacMurray. Sometimes these Viavision films have later showed up in U.S. Blu-ray releases, which would be amazing if it happened.

...Greenbriar Picture Shows is always worth a look. John's latest post has some very interesting classic movie advertisements.

...Attention Southern Californians: Kimberly Truhler's "Film Noir Style" series concludes on Sunday, September 10th, with a look at the "Post-War Years" and a screening of OUT OF THE PAST (1947).  (Jane Greer is seen here in her initial "good girl" white wardrobe.)  The event will be held at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. We had a great time at a previous screening in the series and highly recommend going. The only reason I won't be there is I'll be participating in the MouseAdventure game at Disneyland for the first time in several years.

...Notable Passings: Hersha Parady, who played ill-fated Alice Garvey on TV's LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, has died at the age of 78...David Jacobs, creator of TV's DALLAS and KNOTS LANDING, has passed on at 84...Soap opera actress Nancy Frangione, whose work included ANOTHER WORLD and ALL MY CHILDREN, has passed away at 70...I recently learned of the March passing of Lisa Montell at 89. She guest starred in a number of TV Westerns including the MAVERICK episode "The Forbidden City" (1961).  She was also in the enjoyable sci-fi film WORLD WITHOUT END (1956) which starred Rod Taylor.

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

Friday, August 25, 2023

Tonight's Movie: The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The Warner Archive Collection is doing something rather amazing this summer: Rescuing a pair of Elizabeth Taylor films from being available only in terrible public domain prints.

Those films are FATHER'S LITTLE DIVIDEND (1951) and THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS (1954), both made for MGM. Taylor was 18 when she filmed the first title and 22 when she made the latter movie.

First up for review is THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS. I'd never seen it in its entirety but can say the Blu-ray looks eons better than random scenes I've seen on TV over the years.

The movie was directed by Richard Brooks, who cowrote the script with Julius and Philip Epstein, based on a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

It's the story of Charles Wills (Van Johnson), a Stars & Stripes reporter who marries "wild child" Helen Ellwirth in Paris following World War II.

Charles and Helen love one another but he becomes increasingly depressed by his inability to sell a novel. Helen becomes more responsible as she matures, while Charles spirals and drinks.

They flirt with others (Roger Moore and Eva Gabor), they quarrel, they spend money unwisely, and eventually there's a custody tug of war between Charles and Helen's bitter sister Marion (Donna Reed) over Charles and Helen's daughter Vicki (Sandy Descher). Other sad things happen as well. It's that kind of movie.

I love the cast, which also includes Walter Pidgeon as Helen and Marion's irresponsible father, so I was a bit surprised to find that the movie really didn't work for me. It's listless, slow-moving, and depressing. I virtually always finish a film, but this is one I might have stopped watching if I wasn't reviewing it. I'm a "glass is half full" viewer always looking for what I like in any film, but I just wasn't in the mood to watch a slow-paced story about people living terribly unhappy lives.

It was also odd that Johnson -- who incidentally was born on this date, August 25th -- looks absolutely terrible, with a shiny red face. I've seen him in other Technicolor movies but never noticed him looking like this in scene after scene; it's as though the makeup crew forgot to apply powder.

Taylor looks terrific for the first hour or so, and then she hacks off her hair into a most unfortunate style.

George Dolenz (father of Micky) has a nice turn as Marion's eventual husband and is the most likeable character in the story. The cast also includes Kurt Kasznar, Celia Lovsky, and John Doucette.

The movie runs 116 very long minutes. It was filmed in Technicolor by Joseph Ruttenberg.

The print is a new 1080p HD master from a 4K scan of the original Technicolor camera negatives. I'm pretty sure it has never looked this good in any prior release, so those who wish to own the film should be sure to get this Blu-ray rather than older public domain prints.

The lone extras are the trailer and the widescreen Tom and Jerry cartoon TOUCHE PUSSYCAT (1954).

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

Quick Preview of TCM in October

It's time for a brief look at what's coming on Turner Classic Movies this October!

TCM will celebrate the centennial of Charlton Heston, born October 4, 1923, by honoring him as the October Star of the Month. Heston's films will be shown on Wednesday evenings.

The Heston schedule is currently incomplete but is expected to include TOUCH OF EVIL (1958), BEN-HUR (1959), and the TCM premiere of TREASURE ISLAND (1990), to name just a few.

Horror and Suspense films will be featured on Tuesday and Friday evenings.  Halloween falls on Tuesday, and there are also horror films Sunday evening, October 29th, and all day Halloween Eve.

Silent Sunday Nights will also be in an October mood, with the month's titles including THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) and DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1920).

The October Noir Alley titles are WHIPLASH (1948), DECEPTION (1946), THE BIG CAPER (1957), CASQUE D'OR (1952), and EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962).

September programming themes will include farmers, museums, angels, bridges, autumn, the Mexican border, inheritances, Westerns, and Morocco.

Filmmakers honored with multifilm tributes in October will include Groucho Marx, Elvis Presley, Kathryn Grayson, Jose Ferrer, Tod Browning, Dick Van Dyke, Jack Carson, and Charlie Chaplin.

As always, I'll have more details on the October schedule around September 30th or October 1st.

In the meantime, enjoy the remainder of the August Summer Under the Stars lineup, which will be followed by Dirk Bogarde as the September Star of the Month.

Update: For more on TCM in October 2023, please visit TCM in October: Highlights.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Foolish Wives (1922) - A Flicker Alley Blu-ray Review

Regular readers will know that Flicker Alley is responsible for some of the most impressive classic film releases of the last few years.

Flicker Alley has done it again with this summer's release of Erich von Stroheim's silent film FOOLISH WIVES (1922). This combination Blu-ray/DVD set features a new restoration of the movie by the Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

The film, which premiered in 1922 at a length of 14 reels, was gradually cut down to 117 minutes. This version, based on an early 1970s restoration by the American Film Institute, runs 147 minutes.

The Flicker Alley booklet says that while the new release is the same running time as the restoration of half a century ago, this is "a significant upgrade," combining the earliest possible film sources with modern restoration techniques.

von Stroheim not only directed FOOLISH WIVES, he also wrote the original story and stars as "Count" Karamzin. Karamzin and his "cousins" (Maude George and Mae Busch), supposedly Russian princesses, are renting a villa outside Monte Carlo.

In reality the trio are unscrupulous fraudsters who pass counterfeit money and bilk the wealthy. Karamzin's latest target is Helen Hughes (Miss Dupont), the wife of the new ambassador to Monaco (Rudolph Christians); he believes that cultivating her as a friend -- or more -- will cause Monaco society not to question his "family's" background. Helen is sweet, gullible, and a little bored with her devoted but staid husband; she's the perfect mark.

Karamzin is a sleaze extraordinaire, as he also has his eye on the mentally challenged daughter (Malvine Polo) of the counterfeiter (Cesare Gravina) he works with...and he's also promised to marry the maid, Maruschka (Dale Fuller).

The maid, realizing she's been led on, sets fire to a building which traps Karamzin and Helen, which starts the ball rolling downhill to Karamzin's ruin...

This was an interesting film, described by von Stroheim in an opening narrative card as "A tale of crime through the life of someone who knows it." The plot was frankly a little "out there" for me to fully enjoy that aspect; the dark tone is set from the opening scenes in the villa, with incense burning, one of the mean "Princesses" pinching the maid's arm when she's displeased, and the Count drinking an animal blood cocktail (?!) for breakfast. It's made clear at the outset that these are very abnormal people.

On the other hand, the film's narrative cards are delightful, even hilarious, such as a description of Monte Carlo which says in part that it's a place of "Amours! - and Suicides - and waves - and waves - and waves!"

After the Count and Helen end up trapped by the fire, one of the "princesses" says "You were supposed to compromise her, but you didn't have to call out the fire department!"

That levity helped offset the story itself, which frankly feels fairly grimy at times. von Stroheim, in particular, is fearless in playing a real creep. The moment where he jumps from a burning building first, leaving Helen behind, was a true gasp-inducing moment.

I was also wowed by the production values of this famously expensive movie, "the first real million dollar picture." There are elaborate sets with scores of extras; some of the filming (by William Daniels and Ben Reynolds) took place along California's Monterey coastline.

In addition to the aforementioned fire, there's a huge rainstorm, and the night scenes have beautiful tinting. The film is a visual pleasure, even if the story is on the sordid side, and it's hard to imagine this century-old film looking better than it does as seen on Flicker Alley's new Blu-ray.

As usual, Flicker Alley's set is visually enticing in and of itself; the Blu-ray and DVD (seen here) have attractive coordinated colors, and there's also reversible cover art. An informative illustrated 24-page booklet is included in the case.

Extensive extras include a documentary on the making of the film with Dave Kehr of MOMA; featurettes on the film's restoration and on the locations; an archival short with footage from the set; photo galleries; and restoration comparisons.

The film is accompanied by a new orchestral score composed and conducted by Timothy Brock which was originally commissioned for the 2020 San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

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

The set may be purchased at the Flicker Alley website or through retailers such as Amazon.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

I've now watched MR. WONG IN CHINATOWN (1939), the third film in the five-film Mr. Wong Collection from Kino Lorber.

This time around Princess Lin Hwa (Lotus Long) dies in the home of detective James Lee Wong (Boris Karloff). She had visited Mr. Wong for help and while waiting alone in a room was killed with a poison dart shot through a window!

Before dying, the princess writes "Captain J" on a piece of paper. That and the unusual murder method are the only clues for Mr. Wong and Police Inspector Bill Street (Grant Withers).

MR. WONG IN CHINATOWN runs 71 minutes, which is two or three minutes longer than the previous couple entries, but it felt a little longer. The sprawling plot isn't as tightly organized, and it was a bit harder to follow.

The movie does benefit greatly from the presence of Marjorie Reynolds as brash reporter Bobbie Logan. As the spunky, sassy Bobbie Reynolds lifts the film's energy whenever she appears. She's a key player when Wong's own life is at risk partway through the film.

Inspector Street had a girlfriend in the first film, played by Maxine Jennings, who was a good character and missed in the second entry. Reynolds' Bobbie Logan provides the series with a needed leading lady and some comic relief. I'm glad to know she's also in the final two films in the set.

Interestingly the actress playing this film's murder victim, Lotus Long, was also in the previous film, THE MYSTERY OF MR. WONG (1939) -- though playing a different role. That tends to happen in "B" mysteries; for example, I remember the same actresses appearing multiple times in the SAINT series.

All in all MR. WONG IN CHINATOWN was slightly less interesting than the prior films, but I still enjoyed it and am looking forward to seeing the rest of the series.

William Nigh directed, with black and white photography by Harry Neumann. The supporting cast includes Huntley Gordon, Peter George Lynn, James Flavin, Bessie Loo, Angelo Rossitto, and Richard Loo.

Like the other films in the set, the print was a new master from a 2K scan of the fine grain film. It looks good, particularly compared to prints I've seen my husband watch on TV in years past!

For more on the Mr. Wong Collection, please visit my reviews of MR. WONG, DETECTIVE (1938) and THE MYSTERY OF MR. WONG (1939).

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

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...There's fantastic Blu-ray news this week: The outstanding Western WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951) is coming to Blu-ray in September! It will be released by the Warner Archive Collection, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Also coming in September: SARATOGA (1937) with Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. It was Harlow's final film.

...This November Kino Lorber Studio Classics will be releasing COLUMBO: The 1970S, Seasons 1-7 on Blu-ray. The episodes are restored in 4K, and the set is packed with commentaries and extras. August 25th Update: Kino Lorber has announced that they will not be able to include all the commentaries and extras "due to unforeseen circumstances."

...Coming to Blu-ray in October: THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD (1926) starring George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor.

...Last week I mentioned the new release of THE PUPPETOON MOVIE, VOLUME 3, which incidentally arrived in my mailbox a couple days ago. Charlie Largent reviews the set at Trailers From Hell.

...ClassicFlix has announced the upcoming release of a restoration of CAUSE FOR ALARM! (1951) starring Loretta Young and Barry Sullivan.

...In July I mentioned the book HOLLYWOOD SIGNS by Kathy Kikkert, which was just published last week by Angel City Press. I've ordered a copy! Here's more on the book from the Orange County Register.

...Michael Lyons wrote about Disney's MAKE MINE MUSIC (1946) at Cartoon Research.

...Here's a piece on the importance of Turner Classic Movies and access to our cultural heritage.

...The son of David Hand, one of the director's of Disney's SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937), has spoken out about Disney's live-action remake, which sounds like a disaster.

...Mattel is releasing a Barbie doll honoring Mexican actress Maria Felix.

...Anyone in the Houston area has some wonderful opportunities to see Thelma Ritter films on the big screen next month at the Museum of Fine Arts. They'll be introduced by my friend Christy Putnam, who is writing a biography of the actress.

...A three-day Harold Lloyd Festival is coming to the New Beverly in Los Angeles in late September and early October.

...Last week Ann Blyth turned 95, and this weekend Debra Paget (seen here) turns 90 on August 19th. It's a great time to revisit my photo-filled tributes to these wonderful ladies; I honored Ann here and Debra here.

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

Thursday, August 17, 2023

A Visit to San Fernando Mission Cemetery

Last April we paid our first-ever visit to San Fernando Mission Cemetery, an old Roman Catholic Cemetery located in Mission Hills, California.

We paid our respects to a number of actors buried in the cemetery grounds, including "The Rifleman," Chuck Connors. His grave marker notes his most famous role along with his pro baseball and basketball affiliations. (Click on this or any photo to enlarge it for a closer look.)

There are a number of great character actors at this cemetery, including Walter Brennan. Brennan is one of a couple actors buried here who was in one of my favorite movies, RIO BRAVO (1959).

Edward Arnold, who was in several Frank Capra classics and many other films:

And a personal favorite, Henry O'Neill, who was in many wonderful films.

Ed Begley (Sr.) is there as well:

Penny Singleton of BLONDIE fame is under a marker for her sister, June; her name was never added. Their parents are buried nearby.

Estelita Rodriguez was another cast member from RIO BRAVO:

Olga San Juan (BLUE SKIES) was long married to Edmond O'Brien; they divorced in the '70s but neither ever remarried. Edmond O'Brien is buried at another Catholic cemetery, Holy Cross in Culver City.

Jo Ann Marlowe was a child actress of the '40s whose notable roles included Josie Cohan as a child in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942) and ill-starred Kay Pierce in MILDRED PIERCE (1945). She would go on to graduate from Loyola Law School and was an attorney in Los Angeles. Tragically she was in a coma for 22 years following an accident. Her marker contains her birth and married names.

Singer Ritchie Valens is also at San Fernando:

We also paid a couple of return visits to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills earlier this year, and I plan to share photos from those trips at a future date.

Additional photo posts on the final resting places of historic Hollywood figures: A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale, Part 1, A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale, Part 2, A Visit to the Forest Lawn Museum (Glendale), A Visit to Hollywood Forever Cemetery (2014), A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Musicians, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Comedians, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - The Actors, A Visit to Westwood Village Memorial Park - Writers, Directors, and More, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 1, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 2, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 3, A Visit to Desert Memorial Park, Los Angeles National Cemetery, A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 1 (2017), A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 2 (2017), A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Part 3 (2019), A Visit to Forest Lawn Cathedral City, A Visit to Oakwood Memorial Park, A Visit to Hillside Memorial Park, Part 1, A Visit to Hillside Memorial Park, Part 2, A Visit to Hollywood Forever Cemetery (2019), A Visit to Woodlawn Cemetery, A Visit to Valley Oaks Memorial Park, A Visit to Valhalla Cemetery, A Visit to Pacific View Memorial Park, A Visit to Glen Haven Memorial Park, A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale (2020), A Visit to Calvary Cemetery, A Visit to Home of Peace Memorial ParkVisits to Sedona and Las Vegas Cemeteries, A Visit to Forest Lawn Glendale (2022), Visits to Orange County Cemeteries (Holy Sepulcher Cemetery and El Toro Memorial Park), A Visit to Inglewood Park Cemetery, A Visit to Mt. Sinai Memorial Park, A Visit to Palm Springs (Coachella Valley Public Cemetery), A Visit to Marysvale Cemetery, A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 1 (2022), A Visit to Holy Cross Cemetery, Part 2 (2022), A Visit to Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills (2022), and A Visit to Rose Hills Memorial Park.

Articles on the final resting places of Western stars from my Western RoundUp column at Classic Movie Hub: May 2019, February 2022, November 2, 2022, November 29, 2022, and April 2023.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Mrs. Miniver (1942)

Last night I revisited MRS. MINIVER (1942), the classic, multi-Oscar-winning British homefront drama directed by William Wyler.

As many classic film fans will already know, it's the story of a family in a "quiet corner of England," to quote a line from the end of the film, whose pleasant lives are turned upside down by World War II.

As the film begins, architect Clem Miniver (Walter Pidgeon) and his wife Kay (Greer Garson) have three children: college student Vin (Richard Ney) and much younger Judy (Clare Sandars) and Toby (Christopher Severn).

At the outset of the film the biggest conflict in the Minivers' lives is that they've each splurged financially -- a new hat for her, a new car for him -- and it's really not much of a problem. They have a comfortable life, including a lovely home with a cook and a maid -- but with a declaration of war, everything changes, including Vin leaving college to become a pilot.

Soon the Minivers are having other experiences which would have seemed unreal just months or years before, as Clem participates in the Dunkirk rescue, Kay is forced to feed a gun-wielding downed German pilot (Helmut Dantine) in her kitchen, and they spend evenings comforting their younger children (and cat!) in their garden bomb shelter.

Meanwhile Vin has a hurried wartime marriage to his sweetheart Carol (Teresa Wright), granddaughter of a neighboring aristocrat (Dame May Whitty).

MRS. MINIVER deserves all the superlatives it's received over the years, both for its artistry, including six Oscars, and for its role encouraging Britain, the United States, and our allies. The movie was released in the summer of 1942, just months after the U.S. entered the war.

The film is simultaneously extremely polished and very natural and real. Was there ever a more likeable cast than Garson, Pidgeon, and Wright? Who could help sympathizing with them?

My favorite scene in the movie is an extended sequence in the bomb shelter, which is absolutely terrifying -- and all conveyed simply through top-quality acting and sound effects. The inclusion of the beloved family cat in the shelter and Kay reassuring her little boy as the bombs whistle that the cat is just hiding is a very relatable moment for any parent, along with little Toby's tearful comment that the Germans almost killed them that time.

As a side note, I met Christopher Severn, who played Toby, in 2015; click on this link. He's seen here with other family members, second from the left; his brother Winston, who was also a child actor, is in the center. (I particularly noticed on this viewing that when they're not in church, Toby and Judy spend much of the movie in their bathrobes!)

I honestly think MRS. MINIVER does a better job capturing the miracle of Dunkirk than either the 1958 or 2017 movies; both those films focus heavily on the trauma but relatively little on what was accomplished, avoiding spending much time showing the masses of little boats and the rescues.

MRS. MINIVER doesn't show what actually happens at Dunkirk, yet a single shot of the flotilla leaving for France is quite thrilling and conveys the audacity of what hundreds of private boats were doing. When Clem's group is informed there is danger ahead, one can see a brief flicker of concern cross Clem's face -- doubtless thinking of his family -- before he quickly sets about doing what must be done.

I also love the underplaying of the moment when Clem arrives home from Dunkirk -- he docks the boat and says almost nothing about the experience other than that he's very tired. The bullet holes, broken glass, and other damage visible on the boat say what words can't.

MRS. MINIVER was a key film for me as I became a classic film fan in my pre-teen years. I saw it on local commercial television (KTTV Ch. 11 in Los Angeles) when I was 11 or 12; the movie ran in a two-hour slot and the Dunkirk sequence was cut. I was thus surprised to later read that Mr. Miniver had been to Dunkirk! Although I saw many classic films in theaters growing up, this wasn't one of them, but I finally saw the entire thing years later, once the movie was out on VHS.

Despite the editing and commercials, my first experience with the film was powerful, evoking one of the strongest emotional responses I've ever had to a film before or since, and I love it to this day.

My first viewing of the movie would even inspire a couple of junior high school projects, including a paper on the importance of movies during WWII, an interest which continues to this day. When assigned to memorize a speech for English class, I found a copy of the final speech delivered by the vicar in a library book. That stirring speech which closes the movie was delivered by Henry Wilcoxon (seen here), whose real-life brother had been killed at Dunkirk.

MRS. MINIVER was based on a novel by Jan Struther; the four screenwriters included novelist James Hilton, whose books GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS and RANDOM HARVEST were both filmed with Greer Garson. The screenplay received one of the film's Academy Awards. The movie runs two hours and 14 minutes yet never overstays its welcome.

MRS. MINIVER was filmed in black and white by Joseph Ruttenberg, one of the film's Oscar winners. The movie also received awards for Best Picture, Best Actress (Garson), Best Supporting Actress (Wright), and Best Director.  There were additional nominations including Supporting Actress (Whitty) and Supporting Actor (Henry Travers).

The supporting cast also included Reginald Owen, Rhys Williams, Brenda Forbes, Marie De Becker, Mary Field, and John Abbott.

I watched the movie on DVD. It's also available on Blu-ray and VHS.

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