Sunday, April 28, 2024

Tonight's Movies: Looney Tunes Collector's Choice Vol. 3 - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The Looney Tunes Collector's Choice Vol. 3 set was recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive Collection.

The set, featuring 25 cartoons on one Blu-ray disc, is a sequel to Volumes 1 and 2; I reviewed Volume 2 in January. I also previously purchased Volume 1.

I've noticed in reviews of the previous sets that some Looney Tunes experts have picked out minor errors with things like title cards, but as a non-expert who simply enjoys the cartoons, all the sets seem perfect to me!

Volume 3 contains cartoons featuring a wide variety of characters spanning three decades. Picture quality is outstanding; one of the pleasures for me is seeing the "wheel" of bright colors in the opening credits of many of the cartoons. I own several Looney Tunes DVD sets which I purchased for my children years ago, but I'm really enjoying revisiting the cartoons in these beautiful prints.

I particularly like the '30s cartoons, such as the bizarre CINDERELLA MEETS FELLA (1938) which features a very unorthodox-looking "Prince Charming." There are a number of funny jokes, some of which will sail right over children's heads, and I liked things like Cinderella heading off to see a Warner Bros. cartoon near the end.

The pre-Code Merrie Melodies cartoon HONEYMOON HOTEL (1934) features characters who are downright lascivious, trying to spy on a newlywed couple; the entire thing is reminiscent of the sequence by the same name in FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933). As I noted in the Volume 2 review, some of the humor in these cartoons is quite adult.

Of course, the cartoons are also violent, exemplified by A FEUD THERE WAS (1938).  This wasn't one of my favorites, but even a lesser cartoon such as this one is of interest; this cartoon was the first appearance of a character named Elmer Fudd, though he's not the Elmer known from later cartoons, and it also features the Sons of the Pioneers, including Roy Rogers, on the soundtrack.

As was the case with the previous set, I watched the cartoons using the "Play All" feature, which shows them alphabetically. They are listed in that order here: A FEUD THERE WAS (1938), CINDERELLA MEETS FELLA (1938), A HOP, SKIP AND A CHUMP (1942), CHINA JONES (1959), DUMB PATROL (1964), EGGHEAD RIDES AGAIN (1937), ELMER'S PET RABBIT (1941), HOBO BOBO (1947), HONEYMOON HOTEL (1934), I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU (1937), MEXICAN JOYRIDE (1947), THE MOUSE ON 57TH STREET (1961), MR. AND MRS. IS THE NAME (1935), OF RICE AND HEN (1953), PRE-HYSTERICAL HARE (1958), PUNCH TRUNK (1953), QUENTIN QUAIL (1946), RIFF RAFFY DAFFY (1948), SADDLE SILLY (1941), SHEEP AHOY (1954), THE SHEEPISH WOLF (1942), THERE AUTO BE A LAW (1953), TUGBOAT GRANNY (1956), WAR AND PIECES (1964), WET HARE (1962).

Recommended for animation fans.

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

Tonight's Movie: The Looters (1955) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

THE LOOTERS (1955) is one of a number of interesting spring Blu-ray releases from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

To my knowledge, this brand-new release is the first time is the first time this Universal Pictures film has been released for home viewing.

As THE LOOTERS begins, no-good Pete (Ray Danton) shows up at the remote Colorado cabin where his old army buddy Jesse (Rory Calhoun) lives.

Pete has lost everything gambling and Jesse, who owes Pete his life, agrees to let Pete stay while he figures out his next steps.

Shortly after Pete's arrival the men hear a plane crash and set out to find it, with experienced trail guide Jesse leading the way. It takes the men a couple days to reach the crash site in the rugged back country.

Along with the badly injured copilot (Rod Williams), there are three healthy survivors at the crash site: Model Sheryl (Julie Adams); Navy man Stan (Frank Faylen); and Parkinson (Thomas Gomez), who discovers an opportunity to steal money which was being transported on the plane.

Pete quickly throws in with Parkinson to grab the money, but what next? Pete and Parkinson are soon suspicious of each other, and they also debate killing the other survivors -- the problem being that they need Jesse's skills in order to make it off the mountain alive.

Meanwhile, shelling about to take place at a nearby army training camp may make things even more dangerous for everyone involved.

I found this an enjoyable 87 minutes. While not a great film, it's solid entertainment, bolstered by a good story and almost the entire movie being filmed in the great outdoors.

A group of travelers fighting both internal and external forces for survival is an old favorite movie theme, most often seen in Westerns such as DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE (1957) and ESCORT WEST (1958), to name just two titles among many.

The added threat of the Army, who depending on circumstances could be the group's salvation or death, reminded me a bit of the crime film SPLIT SECOND (1953). Greed influencing the dynamics of a small group of people is another easily recognizable story theme.

Richard Alan Simmons' screenplay, based on a story by Paul Schneider, thus weaves many familiar elements into a story which also has some unique aspects, as the two villains decide what to do with the others in the group. Pete and Parkinson are outnumbered, but they have the guns.

Calhoun and Adams are longtime favorites, and Danton is extremely effective as a man who is both a sleaze and maybe not quite right in the head. Gomez was also an experienced movie villain; he doesn't bring anything to this role we haven't seen from him before, but he's fine in the part.

I particularly liked Faylen as the genial Navy man on the verge of retirement who can't believe he's suddenly in a more dangerous situation than he ever was while serving his country.

Russ Conway plays an army major, and Bess Flowers fans will briefly spot her as one of the plane passengers early in the movie.

The film was briskly directed by Abner Biberman. There's nothing particularly noteworthy about the widescreen black and white cinematography of Lloyd Ahern, but it gets the job done; I did appreciate a couple nicely atmospheric foggy scenes.

The excellent print is from a new HD master from a 2K scan of the 35mm fine grain. Sound quality is very good.

Extras consist of a gallery of half a dozen trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber, along with a commentary track by Toby Roan. Toby's tracks are always well researched, and I'm looking forward to learning more background on the film, including the location shooting.

For more on this movie, my friend Kristina also wrote about it a few years ago at her site Speakeasy.

Fans of the cast and well-done adventure films should enjoy this one, now easily available at long last thanks to Kino Lorber.

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

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...There's lots of interesting information on new releases this week, starting with the Warner Archive Collection's upcoming Blu-ray of THE MAN I LOVE (1947), starring Ida Lupino. I last saw it in 2007 and am excited to see it again in a beautiful print-- especially as the film has had six minutes restored which have been unseen by the public since 1956! It will be out on June 14th.

...Also coming in June from the Warner Archive Collection: THE SHINING HOUR (1938), ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948), and the TV series THE ALASKANS (1959-60) starring Roger Moore.

...Over at 50 Westerns From the 50s, Toby has reviewed the brand-new Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray release of the TV series COLT .45 (1957-60), saying "I've never seen a black & white TV show look this good - ever...The contrast is perfectly dialed in and the grain is just right." This half-hour show has many of the same guest stars who appeared in other WB series of the era such as MAVERICK, CHEYENNE, and THE LAWMAN.

...Glenn Erickson also reviewed COLT .45 at Trailers from Hell, saying the Blu-ray set is "quite an achievement." I anticipate reviewing this set here in a few weeks!

...There's also good news from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The Dark Side of Cinema XIX Collection has been announced for a June 18th release date. DARK CITY (1950) will have a commentary track by Alan K. Rode; NO MAN OF HER OWN (1950) will have two separate tracks, one by Imogen Sara Smith and the other by Julie Kirgo and Peter Hankoff; and BEWARE, MY LOVELY (1952) will have a track by Jason A. Ney.

...And coming in July is the Dark Side of Cinema XX Collection! It includes the Alan Ladd films CAPTAIN CAREY, USA (1950) and APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER (1951) plus the Stephen McNally-Dorothy McGuire film MAKE HASTE TO LIVE (1954).

...Also coming from Kino Lorber in July: COLUMBO: THE RETURN, with movies released from 1989 to 2003. And in June look for a Kino Lorber set with THE NORTH STAR (1943) and ARMORED ATTACK! (1957), a re-edited, shortened version of THE NORTH STAR.

...In addition to the COLT .45 review mentioned above, Glenn Erickson's latest reviews include the Arrow release of THE TIN STAR (1957) and the Film Masters DVD release of BOMBS OVER BURMA (1942), which I also reviewed earlier this month.


...Variety has named Leonard Maltin Educator of the Year. An article on Maltin and his class at USC was published last week. Our daughter was one of many who has attended Maltin's class.

...Speaking of Leonard Maltin, he recently wrote a lovely tribute to the late Ned Comstock, Cari Beauchamp, and his longtime agent Richard Leibner. I recommend reading it...My husband and I are hoping to attend Ned Comstock's memorial service at USC next month. As I've written here previously, Ned was very helpful to both our daughter and my husband over the years, and we also appreciate the important role he played helping so many authors; it's been said by more than one person that Ned might be thanked in more film books than any other person.

...Hallmark Channel has announced a sequel to the popular Christmas film THREE WISE MEN AND A BABY (2022), starring Andrew Walker, Paul Campbell, and Tyler Hines. THREE WISER MEN AND A BOY (2024) will debut on the Hallmark Channel for Christmas 2024. The new film was written by Campbell, his frequent writing partner, actress Kimberley Sustad, and Russell Hainline.

...The Criterion Channel's May streaming lineup includes Columbia's Golden Era, featuring nine highly regarded films of the '50s, and a 16-film tribute to Shirley MacLaine.

...Turner Classic Movies has a new streaming partnership with Fandango at Home (formerly known as Vudu).

...Attention Southern Californians: Upcoming local events include an Art Deco Society of Los Angeles tour of Grand Central Air Terminal in Glendale, which I have a ticket to see next week, and the Los Angeles Conservancy's annual Last Remaining Seats summer program screening movies in classic Downtown Los Angeles theaters. There's also a current exhibit on Mary Blair and Disney's ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1951) at the Hilbert Museum in Orange.

...The American Cinematheque scheduled three screenings of the new 70mm restoration of THE SEARCHERS (1956) which I saw last weekend at the TCM Classic Film Festival. All screenings sold out, and another has been added. One screening takes place on April 28th at the Egyptian and the others are at the Aero in Santa Monica.

...And keep in mind the 25th Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival is coming next month in Palm Springs! Details in my post here.

...Notable Passings: Terry Carter, best remembered by me as Colonel Tigh on the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978-79), has passed on at 95. My husband used to see him at San Diego Comic Con and said he seemed to be in great shape for his age and very nice...Emmy-winning soap opera actress Marla Adams of THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS has died at 85. Her first screen role was in SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS (1961)...Soap star and writer Meg Bennett, an Emmy winner for writing GENERAL HOSPITAL, has died at 75. She played Julia Newman on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS for many years. Survivors include her husband, Emmy-winning soap writer Robert Guza Jr.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please visit my April 13th column.

Friday, April 26, 2024

New Western RoundUp Column at Classic Movie Hub

My new Western RoundUp column has just been posted at Classic Movie Hub.

This month I return to the topic of books on the Western film genre, sharing information on titles old and new.

Please click over to Classic Movie Hub for the column, and thanks, as always, for reading!

Previous Classic Movie Hub Western RoundUp Column Links: June 2018; July 2018; August 2018; September 2018; October 2018; November 2018; December 2018; January 2019; February 2019; April 5, 2019; April 30, 2019; May 2019; June 2019; July 2019; August 2019; September 2019; October 2019; November 2019; December 2019; January 2020; February 2020; March 2020; April 2020; May 2020; June 2020; July 2020; August 2020; September 2020; October 2020; November 2020; December 2020; January 2021; February 2021; March 2021; May 2021; June 2021; June 2021 (No. 2); July 2021; August 2021; September 2021; November 2021; December 2021; December 2021 (No. 2); January 2022; February 2022; March 2022; April 2022; May 2022; June 2022; July 2022; August 2022; September 2022; November 2022; November 2022 (No. 2); January 2023 (No. 1); January 2023 (No. 2); March 2023; April 2023; May 2023 (No. 1); May 2023 (No. 2); June 2023; July 2023; September 2023; September 2023 (No. 2); October 2023; November 2023; December 2023; January 2024; February 2024; March 2024.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review

The 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival has now come to an end, and it's possible that this was the best festival yet!

This was the 15th edition of the festival, which was held from Thursday evening, April 18th, through Sunday night, April 21st.

Turner Classic Movies is also celebrating its 30th anniversary this month, and it was wonderful to gather in Hollywood and celebrate! Reuniting with friends from across the country, Canada, and beyond is always the very best part of the festival.

Screenings were spread across five main theater venues this year, plus the Hollywood Roosevelt pool and a special "one-off" screening of ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS (1961) at Disney's El Capitan Theatre.

As is always the case, there are many difficult viewing decisions to make at the festival, and I made more changes to my tentative schedule than is typical for me, including completely changing my opening night plans!

On opening night friends persuaded me that seeing WHITE HEAT (1949) in 35mm was the way to go, which ended up being a great choice, and then I stayed at the Egyptian Theatre to watch the new-to-me GAMBIT (1966), which I found amusing.

Friday there wasn't time to get to the Egyptian for THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! (1974) so I went with my backup plan and saw IT SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU (1954), which I hadn't seen since I watched it on TV as a child in the '70s.

I followed that with John Ford's THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND (1936) in 35mm, which particularly intrigued me as I recently reviewed a new biography of Warner Baxter. It was incredibly special to have costar John Carradine's son Keith there to discuss his father's work.

I was shut out of a sold-out screening of THE BIG HEAT (1953) on Saturday, but I managed to see it when it was one of the films chosen to replay on Sunday!

On Sunday I finally made my choice between CHINATOWN (1974) and THE SEARCHERS (1956), choosing the world premiere of the restoration of THE SEARCHERS, shown in 70mm; it was one of the best festival decisions I've ever made. That sold-out screening was a majestic, profound experience which left me awed and deeply moved.

Another wonderful experience for me this year was the presentation of the Robert Osborne Award to film historian Jeanine Basinger, who has been one of my favorite writers on film for the majority of my life. That emotional moment, combined with her chosen screening of WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951), was very special.

I enjoyed everything I saw, with additional highlights being the Ben Burtt and Craig Barron special presentation of THEM! (1954), featuring a surprise appearance by former child actress Sandy Descher; DIRTY HARRY (1971), with Eddie Muller hosting a terrific interview with Andy Robinson; and a partial cast reunion at a 30th anniversary screening of LITTLE WOMEN (1994), which I continue to feel is one of the finer films of the last few decades.

I saw 15 films again this year, the same number as I've seen at the last few festivals. Five films were in 35mm, one in 70mm, and the other nine films were in DCP format. Five of the films were new to me, and four of the repeat films were first-time big screen watches. The short THE GOAT (1921), which preceded a screening of SHERLOCK JR. (1924), was also new to me.

I'll add as an aside that I've gathered a small stack of a few movies I didn't get to see at the festival, including THE SMALL BACK ROOM (1949) along with the previously mentioned THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! and CHINATOWN. I'm hoping to catch up with those in the near future.

As always, I'll be sharing daily recaps in the coming days, offering more thoughts on the movies seen, along with additional photos. I also hope to write at least a couple of full-length film reviews, as time permits. There's lots more about the festival coming soon!

Previously reviewed films seen at the 2024 TCM Classic Film Festival, listed in the order viewed at the fest: WHITE HEAT (1949), THE GOOD FAIRY (1935), THEM! (1954), IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934), THE MAD MISS MANTON (1938), WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951), LITTLE WOMEN (1994), and THE BIG HEAT (1953).

As usual, I'll add future 2024 coverage links to this paragraph, so that all of this year's festival reports may be easily found in one place: [Coming soon!]

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Around the Blogosphere This Week...

...will not appear this weekend due to my attendance at the TCM Classic Film Festival.

My tentative schedule picks for the festival may be perused here.

Around the Blogosphere This Week will return on Saturday, April 27th.

For recent links of interest to classic film fans, please see my April 13th roundup.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

New Column in The Dark Pages

I'm pleased to share that I have an article appearing in the latest issue of The Dark Pages!

My 2019 review of the Flicker Alley Blu-ray release of TRAPPED (1949) has been adapted for the March/April 2024 edition which is Volume 20, No. 2.

Other articles in this print issue include Andy Wolverton writing on NIGHT EDITOR (1946) and Kristina Dijan on a pair of Robert Douglas crime films, HOMICIDE (1949) and THIS SIDE OF THE LAW (1950).

The Dark Pages may be subscribed to here. Back issues are also available, including issues I've written for in the past; descriptions of those issues are linked below.

Previous Dark Pages posts: January 2011, December 2011, January 2013, June 2013, December 2022, March 2023, and March 2024.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Tonight's Movie: Cocktail Hour (1933) - A Sony Blu-ray Review

One of the movies I most enjoyed at the 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival was the pre-Code COCKTAIL HOUR (1933).

The movie was introduced by the late Cari Beauchamp, so it seemed fitting that I watched it again this weekend on the day her memorial service took place. At the 2022 screening Cari interviewed Suzanne Lloyd about her grandfather Harold's friendship with the movie's star, Bebe Daniels. A fond memory.

At the time of that screening I expressed the hope that COCKTAIL HOUR would come out on DVD or Blu-ray, so what a delightful surprise to learn that the movie has just had a Blu-ray release from Sony!

This fast-moving 73-minute film tells the story of Cynthia (Daniels), a commercial artist who has many male admirers but loves her freedom. After a childhood on a Kansas farm, she's loving the high life and not having many responsibilities.

Randy (Randolph Scott), a magazine publisher who contracts for her paintings, proposes to Cynthia when she's about to leave for a European vacation. She boards her cruise anyway, where she's pursued by both a young nobleman (Barry Norton) and a cad (Sidney Blackmer) who conceals important information.

This movie is fun from the first seconds, as eagle-eyed classic film fans will spot "Wild Bill" Elliott delivering the first line and Dennis O'Keefe saying the third. Both actors worked frequently as extras and bit players throughout the '30s, very often -- as in this case -- in the same movies.

There's sort of a "taming of the shrew" theme and plenty of dialogue considered chauvinistic from the modern perspective, but honestly the eye-rolling lines just added to my enjoyment. It was a different time! And despite their periodic battles, both Daniels and Scott are appealing leads.

I also loved the Art Deco settings, especially the cruise ship. Movies set on ships and trains are among my favorite things.

The movie was directed by Victor Schertizinger and filmed by Joseph August. The screenplay was by Gertrude Purcell and Richard Schayer, based on a story by James Kevin McGuinness.

The supporting cast includes Muriel Kirkland, Jessie Ralph, George Nardelli, Willie Fung, and Marjorie Gateson.

The Blu-ray print is pristine, which adds to the enjoyment. A censored scene which now exists only via the soundtrack is included, with stills used while the dialogue plays.

There are no extras on the Blu-ray disc. English subtitles are available.

Kudos to Sony for making this rarely seen movie widely available, especially in such a nice print. Recommended for fans of pre-Code fun!

Thanks to Allied Vaughn and Sony for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. COCKTAIL HOUR may be purchased from Movie Zyng, Amazon, and other online retailers.

Book Review: The Mae West Films

Three years ago this summer I began watching Mae West films for the first time, and -- frankly somewhat to my surprise -- I discovered that I thoroughly enjoyed them.

As I described at the time, West had been something of a punchline to jokes when I was growing up, and I hadn't been interested in digging deeper. I'm certainly glad I changed my mind, as I found West "a completely unique film persona in both looks and personality...[she] absolutely owns the screen." West's films proved to be a wonderful discovery for me.

I've now seen all but the last couple of West's films of the '30s and '40s, and I was delighted to learn more about her life and career thanks to the new book by James L. Neibaur, THE MAE WEST FILMS. It was recently published by Bear Manor Media.

The book opens with a brief overview of West's life and stage work before the movies, then launches into in-depth looks at her dozen films. (I certainly regret the relative brevity of her movie career!) Additional biographical information is included towards the end of the book.

Each movie chapter contains the film's credits, production history, and contemporaneous critical reception, as well as some more recent assessments.

In the interests of full disclosure, this is a good place to pause and mention that I had the lovely surprise of finding my review of West's first film, NIGHT AFTER NIGHT (1932), quoted in the book. I loved her in it!

West was a unique movie personality; as Neibaur notes in his introduction, due to her pre-film stage fame she was able to have some control over her characters and dialogue, although she faced challenges when Production Code enforcement began in 1934. I appreciated the book's behind-the-scenes descriptions of these issues.

I found the book an informative and enjoyable guide which would also be the perfect companion to read alongside viewing the films; I'll return to it as I watch MY LITTLE CHICKADEE (1940) and THE HEAT'S ON (1943) for the first time, and I'm sure I'll consult it again when I rewatch her earlier movies in the future.

I reviewed a paperback edition of this book, which is also available in hardcover and e-book formats. The paperback measures six by nine inches and is 211 pages including bibliography and index. A nice selection of well-reproduced black and white photographs are printed directly on the pages.

Finally, I loved seeing that the book is dedicated to someone I admire very much, Farran Smith Nehme, aka the "Self-Styled Siren."


My previous reviews of Mae West films: NIGHT AFTER NIGHT (1932), SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933), I'M NO ANGEL (1933), BELLE OF THE NINETIES (1934), GOIN' TO TOWN (1935), KLONDIKE ANNIE (1936), GO WEST YOUNG MAN (1936), and EVERY DAY'S A HOLIDAY (1937).

Thanks to James L. Neibaur and Bear Manor Media for providing a review copy of this book.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Book Review: The Accidental Star - The Life and Films of Warner Baxter

I've seen Warner Baxter in a number of films over the years, but I can't claim to have known much about him

That's changed thanks to the excellent recently published book, THE ACCIDENTAL STAR - THE LIFE AND FILMS OF WARNER BAXTER. It was written by Dan Van Neste and published by Bear Manor Media.

This is an impressively detailed 491-page book. The first half is a biography which runs 243 pages; the second half of the book contains details on all Baxter's films, including cast credits, review excerpts, and miscellany regarding the productions. The filmography also includes information on whether the film still exists and currently available viewing formats.

My favorite Baxter films include 42ND STREET (1933) and PENTHOUSE (1933). Other titles I've liked include WIFE, DOCTOR AND NURSE (1937), WIFE, HUSBAND AND FRIEND (1939), and ADAM HAD FOUR SONS (1941).

I'll add that the film he made with director John Ford, THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND (1936), will be playing at the upcoming TCM Classic Film Festival, so perhaps I'll have the chance to see another of his movies.

Despite having been aware of Baxter for many years, I couldn't have told you he was an Oscar-winning actor! He won Best Actor for IN OLD ARIZONA (1928).

Baxter worked in movies beginning with bit roles in 1918 and continued working until 1950, the year before his passing. He was a well-liked professional and steadily working actor who was long married to actress Winifred Bryson.

Baxter maintained his career despite ongoing mental health struggles and later declining physical health, including cancer. He was only 62 when he died on May 7, 1951, and was buried at Forest Lawn Glendale.

I found THE ACCIDENTAL STAR to be both well researched and engagingly written. The amount of material the author was able to share about Baxter's early years is particularly admirable, given that that time period is now a century or more ago.

The author concludes the biographical section of the book with reflections on his subject. He assesses some of the reasons for Baxter's relative obscurity, including much of his silent work being lost, and also writes about his legacy.

Like the author, I was left with a positive opinion of Warner Baxter, who had a successful career despite his struggles; moreover, he seems to have been a fine person. The book, including the filmography section, sparked my interest in exploring more of Baxter's films.

I read a paperback edition of the book, which is also available in hardback and e-book form. It's well illustrated with black and white photographs printed directly on the pages.

In addition to the information listed above, the book also includes a list of Baxter's radio appearances, a bibliography, extensive end notes, and index.

As a postscript, I was moved to discover the book was dedicated to three women, two of whom were special in my own life: "Moira Finnie" (Gina Neylon) and "Caftan Woman" (Patricia Nolan-Hall). What a lovely tribute.


Thanks to the author and Bear Manor Media for providing a review copy of this book.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Russ Tamblyn's new memoir, DANCING ON THE EDGE: A LIFE OF LIVING, LOVING, AND TUMBLING THROUGH HOLLYWOOD, has just been published by Blackstone Publishing.

...Leonard Maltin has a short but welcome column focused on rare cartoons now available on Blu-ray.

...Thanks to Chris Yogerst for sharing the interesting title GANGSTERS VS. NAZIS: HOW JEWISH MOBSTERS BATTLED NAZIS IN WARTIME AMERICA by Michael Benson. It came out in hardcover in 2022 and is due out in paperback this summer.

...The latest book by TV and film music historian Jon Burlingame is DREAMSVILLE: HENRY MANCINI, PETER GUNN, AND MUSIC FOR TV NOIR. It was just published by Bear Manor Media.

...Coming to Blu-ray June 11th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics: MACBETH (1948), starring Orson Welles and Jeanette Nolan. The two-disc special edition will include both 119- and 85-minute cuts. Extras will include a commentary track by Joseph McBride.

...Glenn Erickson's latest reviews for Trailers From Hell include the new Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray release of 3 GODFATHERS (1948) and "Accidentally Preserved Volume 5" from Ben Model's Undercrank Productions.

...Turner Classic Movies turns 30 on April 14th, and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen was able to ask the TCM hosts their thoughts on the network's importance.

...Over at Comet Over Hollywood, Jessica Pickens has reviewed a favorite Deanna Durbin musical, the hard-to-find SPRING PARADE (1940). I'm still hoping for a DVD or Blu-ray release.

...Notable Passings: Eleanor Coppola, the wife of Francis Ford Coppola and mother of Sofia Coppola, has passed away at 87. A documentary filmmaker, her first feature film, the charming PARIS CAN WAIT (2016) with Diane Lane, was released the year she turned 80! I was interested to learn she was originally "local," born in Long Beach, California, and she grew up in nearby Huntington Beach...Robert MacNeil, longtime cohost of THE MACNEIL/LEHRER REPORT, has died at 93...TV director Bruce Kessler has passed on at 88. He's survived by his wife, actress Joan Freeman.

...Please note there will not be an Around the Blogosphere This Week column next weekend, when I will be covering the TCM Classic Film Festival. The column will return on Saturday, April 27th.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please visit my April 6th column.

Book Review: The Voice of Villainy: The Betty Lou Gerson Story

I love to read, particularly about movies, so one of the great pleasures of classic film blogging is reviewing books.

Sometimes between my day job -- which often requires reading hundreds of pages a day -- and my other writing commitments I'm a little slow getting book reviews up. Such was the case with THE VOICE OF VILLAINY: THE BETTY LOU GERSON STORY, which came out last year, but it was no less enjoyed!

THE VOICE OF VILLAINY was written by and self-published by Lona Bailey. Bailey's other books include biographies of actresses Virginia Gregg (for Bear Manor Media) and, more recently, Susan Cabot (self-published).

THE VOICE OF VILLAINY tells the story of the Disney Legend who memorably voiced legendary villainess Cruella de Vil in ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS (1961). Gerson also worked for Disney as the Narrator of CINDERELLA (1950) and in a small role in MARY POPPINS (1964).

Gerson was born to Russian Jewish immigrants in Tennessee in 1914. Bailey does a nice job reconstructing the Gerson family history, as well as placing it in a wider historical context. She was able to collect an impressive amount of information on family events which took place over a century ago.

Betty's father became a successful, well-off industrialist, and she had a comfortable upbringing in Birmingham, Alabama, but the family was rocked by his sudden death just as she entered her teens.

As a young woman living in Chicago, Betty took acting classes and in fairly short order became a radio actress in the 1930s. She moved to Hollywood in the '40s, working steadily not only in radio but movies and television. At one point she was appearing in nearly a dozen radio shows per week, as well as in occasional small roles in films like UNDERCOVER GIRL (1950).

Gerson was a steady working actress who was constantly busy yet never became a household name...but her most famous role, Cruella, certainly did!

Betty Lou Gerson died in Los Angeles in 1999, a few days after suffering a stroke. She was 84.

Bailey tells Gerson's life story in a fast-paced and interesting volume. The book seems to be very well-researched; Bailey describes some of her sources, such as recorded interviews and family remembrances, in general terms in the opening author's note.

That said, I would have found footnotes of interest clarifying the author's sources, other than the single brief bibliography/footnotes page provided; otherwise the reader takes her research on faith, though I would hasten to say I have no reason to quibble with it.

I read a paperback edition of the book, which is also available for Kindle. The printed book's size is six by nine inches.

The biographical section of the book is 121 pages, followed by lengthy lists of Gerson's impressive performance credits; the total page count is 222. There are no photographs.

I enjoyed THE VOICE OF VILLAINY and learned quite a bit about the actress behind the iconic character. As a result of reading this book I'm likely to seek out the author's other books in the future.

Thanks to the author for providing a review copy of this book.

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