Friday, September 30, 2016

More California legal lunacy

A few days back, I commented about a new California law regarding websites posting the dates of birth of paid subscribers. I talked particularly about how it would affect IMDb (since, after all, an actress had sued them), but I suppose it would affect other resume sites too.

There's another interesting new law coming out of California. This one would require selling things with signatures to have a certificate of authenticity. I suppose you can say this sounds good on the face of it, but there are some problems when it comes to movie fans.

Consider some star, be it a star of today or an old timer, who's just written a book. It's not uncommon for authors to go on book tours, to bookstores where they'll do a sort of lecture/question-and-answer session on the book, and then sign copies of the book for people who bought it at the bookstore. Well, now you'd have to provide a certificate of authenticity with all those books.

I presume an auction house like Bonhams which partners with TCM for those movie memorabilia auctions has the provenance of all the items it's received in consignment, but when it comes to autographed stuff, I'd think getting a provenance for that is rather more difficult. Cary Grant signed a North by Northwest poster back in 1959? (That's just a hypothetical example; I don't know if it actually happened.) Good luck figuring out what happened to the poster after the movie's initial theatrical run. And what about the re-selling of autographed books?

I hope the TCM Film Festival wasn't planning on doing any book signings.

Lewis Milestone, 1895-1980


Lewis Milestone with one of his Oscars

Today marks the birth anniversary of director Lewis Milestone, who emigrated from what is now Moldova, a former Soviet republic between Romania and Ukraine, just after the Communist revolution of 1917. Milestone eventually ended up as a director in Hollywood toward the end of the silent era, and worked through the transition to sound, making close to 40 films in a career that lasted into the early 1960s.

In silents, he won an Oscar for Two Arabian Knights, as the Academy's first awards presentation had two directing categories, one for comedy and one for drama. He also did dramatic silents like The Racket.

In the sound era, there's another Oscar for All Quiet on the Western Front, all the way through to Ocean's 11 in 1960 and the Marlon Brando version of Mutiny on the Bounty two years later.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pat Neal is Back!

Well, she's still dead, of course. And there's no way she's going to be not dead any time soon. But I noticed while looking for the order of the movies in the Gene Wilder tribute that following The Frisco Kid, at about 4:20 AM, TCM is showing Pat Neal is Back, which is a promotional short for Neal's 1968 movie The Subject Was Roses. This was the first movie Neal made after the serious stroke she had suffered. The short doesn't seem to be available on Youtube, so you'll have to do with Neal hawking Anacin instead:



But the real reason I mention Pat Neal Is Back is because it looks like shorts are finally being listed again on TCM's daily/weekly schedules. There was a while where there were a few shorts that began on a half hour, as though they had been regularly scheduled like a feature, and that was it. (Well, the shorts in TCM Underground were there, too. but of course those are scheduled in the same regular way as the features.) But there are several shorts on the schedule through Saturday evening. Perhaps TCM will once again be showing the upcoming shorts.

TCM's Gene Wilder programming tribute


Gene Wilder (l.) and Jill Clayburgh in Silver Streak (1976)

Gene Wilder died at the end of last month, and TCM is finally getting around to running its programming tribute tonight. Unfortunately, some of Wilder's better-known movies aren't showing up probably because TCM couldn't get the rights to run them. But at least they've got Young Frankenstein at 9:15 PM. In and around that there's:

8:00 PM Role Model: Gene Wilder, an interview Wilder did for TCM with Alec Baldwin some years back;
9:15 PM Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks' spoof of the horror genre;
11:15 PM a reprise of the Role Model interview;
12:30 AM Start the Revolution Without Me, about twins getting caught up in the French Revolution;
2:15 AM The Frisco Kid, a comedy about a rabbi out west; and
4:30 AM Bonnie and Clyde, in which Wilder has a small part getting carjacked by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How old was Joan Crawford, anyway?

Stories of age discrimination have always been a thing in Hollywood. You have people at the young end trying to claim they're older than they really ae so they can be adults, and then at later ages, people claiming they're younger than they are so that they won't be preceived as old. I've seen various years of birth listed for Joan Crawford and Jane Wyman, for example, with the younger ones turning out to be the correct one as far as anyone can tell.

Apparently there are people still worried about age discrimination. Somebody actually tried to sue IMDb for putting out their real age; the person had been a subscriber to IMDb Pro which apparently people in the industry use for information. I'm not in the industry so I wouldn't know. But the Screen Actors Guild has responded by getting the California legislature to pass a law preventing web-sites from revealing dates of birth of paying subscribers. On the face of it, this seems reasonable, in that one shouldn't have one's personal information released. But this is a site where people are publicizing themselves.

The law is probably unconstitutional, and it's interesting that one of the only lawyers to say it does pass constitutional muster is the one working for SAG. But with today's judges, who knows what they'll find constitutional?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The last week of slapstick

This month's TCM Spotlight, on slapstick comedy, concludes this week with movies of the 1970s on Tuesday and 1980s and more recent movies on Wednesday in prime time. Some people may be shocked to see Anchorman on tomorrow night's schedule, but if you're doing a general survey that looks at the history of a genre, including something from only 10 years ago isn't that ridiculous.

The other interesting thing is that tonight kicks off at 8:00 PM with Bananas. Now, I happen to enjoy the movie, but there are a couple of scenes that I'm surprised to see showing up on TCM that early in the evening. There's a whole scene where he's trying to buy a pornographic magazine, as well as the final scene of Howard Cosell doing play-by-play of a married couple's first night. TCM doesn't cut movies, but they do tend to leave more difficult stuff for later in the evening.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Roller Boogie

So one of the movies I watched off my DVR over the weekend was Roller Boogie. It's available from the TCM Shop on both DVD and Blu-ray, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length post on it even though I don't think it's on the TCM schedule any time soon.

The movie opens to the strains of Cher singing a disco-styled song, with a bungh of people getting ready to go out roller skating in Venice Beach, CA, in what looks like Busby Berkeley meets the 1970s. Well, not quite Busby Berkeley, but close. Bobby (Jim Bray) is the best skater around, to the point that he's training for the Olympics! Now, of course, roller skating was not an Olympic event then, and still isn't one, but whatever. Suspend your disbelief here.

Meanwhile, over in Beverly Hills, there's rich girl Terry (Linda Blair). She's misunderstood by her parents (Roger Perry and Beverly Garland). Although she's an excellent flautist and is on her way to getting a scholarship to Juilliard, she wants to roller skate, and takes her car, gets friend Lana (Kimberly Beck), and goes off to Venice Beach. Now, you know she's going to meet Bobby, because there's no point in having a movie otherwise if you don't have a hoary plot point like this. Not only that, but she's going to fall in love with him, which is of course going to be a problem since they're from completely different social classes and because Terry's parents think the hilariously square Franklin (Chris Nelson) is right for her.

Once Bobby and Terry meet, Bobby teaches Terry how to skate, and spends some time with her at the skater's hangout rink, owned by past champion Jammer Delaney (Sean McClory). Jammer's rink is going to host the big roller boogie competition, too, and Terry is set on entering with Bobby and winning. There's one catch. Property developer Thatcher (Mark Goddard) has been trying to buy up the land, and has reached the point that he's willing to use his hired goons to intimidate Jammer into selling. Complicating things is that Terry's father happens to be Thatcher's lawyer, although Terry doesn't realize this.

Now, you can guess exactly where the movie is going to go, that the roller boogie competition is going to be held after all, and that Bobby and Terry are going to win, all obstacles during the movie aside. And yet the movie is still worth watching. Why is that?

Roller Boogie, it turns out, is hilariously awful. The plot is insipidly unoriginal, and not helped one bit by a male lead who couldn't act. To be fair to the producers, however, the role called for somebody who could actually roller skate almost as well as Sonja Henie could ice skate. Henie wasn't the greatest actress, although she got plots suitable for her limited range. Bray isn't even that good an actor. The movie is hilarious in all the wrong places.

Roller Boogie also winds up being worth a watch because it's a paean to the late 1970s. The fashions will, by turns, fascinate, astonish, and horrify the viewer. The 70s short-shorts combined with knee-high tube socks are interesting. Everybody gets to wear skimpy stuff, whether it's the women in either bikini tops or skin-tight leotards, or the men wearing shirts open all the way down the chest (or even the one guy in the opening number roller skating in the sort of old-fashioned wrestling singlet that covers up very little -- watch for the old Adidas logos in various spots too). There's also the 1970s technology; watch for the telephones as well as the one black character's headphones and cassette player.

And then there are the musical numbers. I mentioned the opening one reminiscent of Busby Berkelery; there are a couple other crowd numbers too. More shocking is a solo number Bobby does when he learns Jammer is closing down the rink. What's up with that one.

Roller Boogie goes off the rails in oh so many ways, but it winds up being fun because of this.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

High and Dizzy

I couldn't think of anything to post about this morning without checking to see which movies I've watched recently are in print on DVD, so I decided to present the 1920 Harold Lloyd short High and Dizzy. It's available on Youtube, and since the copy shown doesn't seem to have a score (at least, not in the opening credits that I watched, there's no copyright problems for those who would worry:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Rome Express

Some months ago, I bought a copy of the movie Rome Express on DVD. Although I bought my copy cheaply at Amazon, it's not out of print since you can get it at the TCM Shop too. I finally got around to watching it last weekend, and I can certainly recommend it.

The movie opens at a railway station, presumably one of those in Paris since there's an overnight train going to Rome and there was no Chunnel yet for trains to use. Various characters embark. Alistair McBane (Cedric Hardwicke) is a millionaire in the days when that was a lot of money; he wants to use his money to make himself look better and seems to enjoy spending his time treating his servant like dirt. There's an actress Asta (Esther Ralston) with a past, and her publicist Sam (Finlay Currie) trying to puff her up; a divorcée; and the very nervous Poole (Donald Calthrop). He's trying to get away from the mysterious Zurta (Conrad Veidt) and Zurta's companion.

It turns out that there's been a Van Dyke painting stolen, and Poole and Zurta both know something about it. Zurta just knows that Poole has it in his possession to fence it but that Poole is trying to double-cross him. Poole obviously thinks that Zurta is on to this which is why Poole wants to avoid him. Humorously, Poole winds up getting "introduced" to Zurta -- as if they don't already know each other -- at a poker game in the club car!

Poole takes his attaché case, which happens to have the painting hidden inside, to the club car, but wouldn't you know it, McBane's servant/secretary has a very similar-looking case, and he's in the club car doing some late night work. Obviously you can figure that the two cases are going to get mixed up and that this is going to add to the suspense. It's also going to get a bunch more people involved in the robbery, if at least unwittingly or as witnesses.

One of the reviewers on IMDb made a comparison between this movie and Grand Hotel, both of which came out around the same time. I think a better reference would be to Union Depot, since it has the same conceit of intersecting stories but set at a train station. (I thought I had done a full-length post on Union Depot, but apparently not.) More similarly, Union Depot and Rome Express both come across as lower-budget (the former having Warner Bros.' realism and the latter being British) without the gloss that MGM could give to Grand Hotel.

That doesn't mean Rome Express is in any way a bad movie. The intersecting stories work well together in the end, although you'll have to pay a lot of attention. There's a fair amount of suspense here, which is in part down to the screenplay of Sidney Gilliat, who would later do the screenplays for Alfred Hitchcok's The Lady Vanishes and Carol Reed's Night Train to Munich. Conrad Veidt and Cedric Hardwicke are both quite good, albeit in different ways. All in all, Rome Express is well worth watching.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Briefs for September 23-24, 2016

So I got to watch the beginning of TCM's recent presentation of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and noticed that it had the overture. I have to get up at 4:30 to work the early shift, so I didn't get to stay all the way through the end, and didn't get to see if it was the full ~190-minute version, or whether the short that had been on TCM's schedule ran.

As for shorts, I'll repeat that there's a paucity of them on the schedule right now for whatever reason. TCM's online schedule only lists three, with two of them starting right on a half hour and the third being part of the Underground schedule. As for the first two, those were already on the printable monthly schedule that I would have downloaded at the end of August. Wedding in Monaco at 4:00 PM is clearly there since it's at the end of a half day of Grace Kelly movies. Hollywood Handicap at 7:30 PM, well, I'm not certain why it's there, but there it is.

I actually watched a DVD over the weekend. I've been meaning to get around to doing a post on the movie, since it's obviously available, what with my having purchased it from Amazon earlier this year. But various other things have prevented me for the time being. Probably this weekend.