Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Goodbye Again" Again

A week ago, I blogged about the movie Honeymoon for Three and how it was a remake of the 1933 film Goodbye Again. What I didn't notice when I was mentioning Honeymoon for Three was that Goodbye Again was going to be coming on on the TCM schedule in May. Specifically, it's on tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM. I stand by what I wrote in that post, which is that the Warren William and Genevieve Tobin character are so irritating that it makes th emovie difficult to like at times. It's a bit of a shame, since the basic idea of the movie is a good one, and Joan Blondell is always worth watching.

Goodbye Again is running as part of a morning and afternoon of 1930s comedies involving secretaries getting mixed up in relationships with their bosses. Some of the movie titles look familiar, as though I know I've seen them before, but can't quite place them. The reason for that might be down in part to the same reason why TCM is able to program an entire half-day's worth of such movies. That is, there are a whole lot of them, and the plots begin to blend together after a while

I should apologize for not having mentioned Goodbye Again's airing tomorrow back when I blogged about Honeymoon for Three last week. But as I've mentioned before, I tend not to download the schedule for a month until a couple of days before the start of the month. Usually, that's in time so that I can have a full week's schedule from Sunday to Sunday available on my hard drive. So I wouldn't have gotten around to downloading May's schedule until about the 24th, or a couple of days after Honeymoon for Three ran.

Billy the Kid vs. Wyatt Earp

No, I don't think a movie with that title was made, although there is a cheapie 60s horror movie called Billy the Kid Versus Dracula, from the same people who gave us Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter. Both of them have shown up in the TCM Underground slots at one time or another, although I don't think they're scheduled to show up any time soon. I mention the two old west figures, however, because tonight's lineup on TCM is a bunch of movies about Billy the Kid. Of the movies, the one that sticks out as seeming a bit more interesting in the sense that I haven't seen it but wouldn't mind it showing up at a more convenient time, is the 1930 Billy the Kid starring Johnny Mack Brown, at 3:30 AM.

Seeing a night of Billy the Kid movies led me to look up the movies that have Billy the Kid as a character, and then ask myself whether he showed up more often in movies than that other Western figure, Wyatt Earp. The answer is Billy the Kid, by a good ways, I think. The IMDb character pages list TV shows as well as movies, with TV episode appearances featuring prominently in the places you can see both characters. Billy the Kid was also the title character in a series of early 1940s movies put out by Poverty Row studio Pruducers Releasing Corporation, played first by Bob Steele, and then by Buster Crabbe.

Why does Billy the Kid show up rather more often? I'm not certain, but I'd guess it's in part due to the fact that Billy the Kid was an outlaw, which makes for much more interesting story lines than being the good guy. Look at how often Jesse James shows up in the movies, for example. But I also wonder if it has something to do with the fact that Billy the Kid died young. He was killed in 1881, so by the time Hollywood would have started making movies in earnest in the 1910s, he would have been dead 30 years and there was no wory about libelling people. Wyatt Earp, on the other hand, died peacefully at the age of 80 in 1929 in Los Angeles. He had actually worked in Hollywood consulting on several films, and his pallbearers included William S. Hart and Tom Mix. With a reputation like that and a wife in need of money (Earp's wife Josephine lived into the 1940s and was known to gamble), I can imagine why Hollywood wouldn't want to portray Wyatt Earp as a character.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Apparently I haven't blogged about "Tycoon" before

TCM's Star of the Month salute to Anthony Quinn has been running his starting roles early in prime time, and then at the end of the night and early the next morning going to movies in which he played supporting or tiny roles. One of those smaller roles is in Tycoon, airing early tomorrow morning at 4:00 AM on TCM.

John Wayne stars as Johnny Monroe. He's a construction engineer, working for Mr. Alexander (Cedric Hardwicke). Alexander is building a railroad in the Andes mountains of exotic South America. Johnny and Alexander have a constant clash of ideas, so when Alexander needs to see somebody about the progress on the construction, he usually talks to Johnny's partner Pop (James Gleason). It doesn't help that Johnny is one of those people who works hard and plays hard. Anyhow, John and Pop have come down from the mountains to the city where Alexander is living in part to unwind for the weekend, and in part to talk to Alexander. Alexander wants to build a tunnel, which in theory is shorter in the long run, but there's the question of expense if you really want to do the tunnel safely.

Meanwhile, John has gotten himself good and drunk and is ogling the ladies. He sees one particularly lovely lady going into church for Mass, and decides that he's going to get this woman because that what John Wayne always does in his movies. The woman turns him down at first probably because he's hung over, so he follows her home and finds out that... this woman is Maura Alexander, the daughter of his boss! It goes without saying that Dad is none too happy with the idea that his daughter is thinking about seeing this engineer. Doesn't she know he's going to love the railroad more than he'll love her? Oh, and there's the social class difference and John's hard living. After a brief romance that sees them get caught in the middle of nowhere one night, the two get married!

What the hell were they thinking? Maura tries to make the best of it, moving in with Johnny up at the camp where they're building the tunnel. By now, it's turned out that Johnny and Pop were right about the idea that you can't build a tunnel if you're going to cheap out on safety. There are multiple cave-ins at the tunnel site, and Johnny's obsession with getting the tunnel finished strains his and Maura's relationship to the breaking point. Well, she was wanred that he'd love the construction work more than he'd love her.

Eventually, it becomes clear that they won't be able to get the tunnel built on time or on budget, so Johnny insists that the better solution would be to build a bridge instead. In theory a bridge is cheaper, but there's the question of whether it can stand up to the rainy season and the increased flow of the river. Still, Johnny is insistent on getting the railroad done so that he can win back Maura....

There's a lot going on in Tycoon, and while the movie is fairly interesting, it generally doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts. John Wayne is about as good as he normally is, taking the lessons he learned from making all those westerns and the few military films he had done to this point and applying them to the job of playing a construction engineer. Laraine Day is lovely even if her role isn't all that demanding. James Gleason plays the moral conscience for the main character yet again, and is always worth watching for his supporting roles. As for Star of the Month Anthony Quinn, he plays Alexander's nephew who is also a construction engineer. Rounding out the cast is Judith Anderson as Maura's former governess who is sticking around as a sort of foster mother.

Tycoon is available on DVD, but you might want to watch the movie on TV first before deciding whether to spring for the DVD.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This Theatre and You

An interesting old short I don't think I've ever mentioned before is This Theatre and You, which you can catch tomorrow morning at about 9:35 AM, or following Gentlemen's Agreement (7:30 AM, 118 min). This is a propaganda piece, made for the theaters in small touwns (which would probably just be beginning to face the new threat of television, since this was made in 1948), is designed to show all the good things local theaters do for the community. Not just showing movies, but being part of charity drives and hosting other public functions. Two-thirds of a century later, this one is hilariously dated, and it's tough to imagine any theater like this today. Heck, I wonder if there were theaters like this in small towns back at the time the short was made. It's one that really ought to be run as part of a double bill with The Case Against the 20%Federal Admissions Tax on Motion Picture Theaters. Both are fun historical documents, but not very good filmmaking.

Speaking of those charity drives, there's another short coming up tomorrow morning that's worthy of mention: Lineup For Today: Ted Williams and Friend, at 11:41 AM, following The Tender Trap (9:45 AM, 111 min). This one has Ted Williams trying to get people to donate to the Jimmy Fund, a charity that raised money for research into pediatric cancers, something that would have been an even more terrifying prospect back in the 1950s than it is today, not that you want any children to be diagnosed with cancer. It's a bit surprising that Ted Williams has a friend, since the general history has it that he had a rather crusty relationship with the media. But then, the friend is Bing Crosby.

Another pair of obituaries

Jayne Meadows died on Sunday at the age of 95. Meadows wasn't a big star in Hollywood for her work in movies, but for what dhe did on TV and who she was. Her movie work includes the last of the Thin Man movies; the first person point-of-view movie The Lady in the Lake, and a part in David and Bathheba. On TV, she was a long-running panelist on the quiz show I've Got a Secret, which also landed her a part in the movie It Happened to Jane when the plot of that movie involved a scene with the game show. It's one of the few clips of the I've Got a Secret Set in color. Meadows was also known for her family; she was married to entertainer and early Tonight Show host Steve Allen for 45 years, and was the sister of Audrey Meadows, who was one of the stars of The Honeymooners.

Andrew Lesnie died yesterday at the age of 59. Like me, you're probably wondering who Lesnie was. That would be because his work was behind the camera as a cinematographer. I've mnntioned briefly that cinematographers are important and never really get the credit they deserve for the work that they do in making the movies we watch look as good as they do. At least, they don't get that credit from the general public. People recognize the names of directors like Kathryn Bigelow, but wouldn't know the names of most of the cinematographers, unless they're avid TCM watchers or otherwise movie buffs. It's pretty much only the Academy that puts cinematographers in more of a spotlight, and Lesnie did win an Academy Award for 2001's Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Don Mankiewicz, 1922-2015

The death has been announced of screenwriter Don Mankiewicz, member of one of the prominent families in behind-the-scenes Hollywood history. He was 93.

Don was the son of Herman, who wrote Citizen Kane (don't believe what the estate of Orson Welles would tell you), and nephew of Joseph, who won a pair of Oscars for directing A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve. This would make TCM's Ben Mankiewicz the nephew of Don.

As for Don himself, he had a substantial career writing for television; for the movies he wrote the screenplay to I Want to Live!, a movie that I'm sorry to say I have a deep place in my heart against. As I mentioned in my blog post back in 2008, even though I tend to have sympathy for the views presented in the film, the way they're presented in the film is so strident and heavy-handed thatg it detracts from the movie. But that's the movie that got Mankiewicz his Oscar nomination. I think I'd rather remember him for having written the novel that became Trial (he also wrote the screenplay). There's also the prison escape movie House of Numbers that I could swear I'd blogged about before, but apparently not.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

British India

In part because of the earthquake that hit Nepal yesterday, and in part because of a comment that somebody left on my post on Four Men and a Prayer, I started thinking about colonial India and the movies. Four Men and a Prayer, of course, is only partially set in India; I think there's more action in South America and more back in England. But it's what happens in India that gets the story going.

I'm not certain why India was such a popular subject for the movies, although there are any number of obvious reasons. First is that it would have seemed just as exotic as China (also a frequent subject for movies in the early 1930s), Japan, or Africa. But there's more to it. India was under British rule, and that would have offered ample opportunity for British people to go there and write stories about their experiences that could be turned into movies, with Rudyard Kipling being the most notable example. China had the missionaries; Japan not so much. I think being under British colonial rule also had something to do with it in another way, which is the garrisoning of British soldiers. Just as having US soldiers out on the western frontier provided a fertile ground for the telling of westerns, so having British soldiers between what are now Pakistan and Afghanistan would have made for some good material for adventure stories. And with the Anglophilia in the US, it's more natural that stories of Britain's colonies might be more likely to show up in Hollywood movies than France's African colonies or the Dutch East Indies.

As for the movies themselves, there's a wide range both of when the movies were made, and what time period is being portrayed. Mid-18th century figure Robert Clive shows up several times, most notably in Clive of India where he's played by Ronald Colman. As for the 19th century, the aforementioned Rudyard Kipling might be a good jumping-off point. I'm intending to do a full-length post on the 1970s version of The Man Who Would Be King the next time it shows up on TCM. And then getting to the 1940s and the Indian independence movement, you've got something like Gandhi, a good film for junior high school students needing a bit of history told in an easily digestible way.

There are a couple of movies I've blogged about. For the adventure aspect, you could do worse than Tyrone Power in King of the Khyber Rifles. It wasn't Power's first film playing somebody of Indian heritage; he had done so 15 years earlier in the melodrama The Rains Came. The Rains Came would get a lavish remake in the 1950s and a retitling as The Rains of Ranchipur with Lana Turner starring.

Less adventurous, and several decades later, is Man in the Middle (aka The Winston Affair), which is set during World War II and involving all those soldiers stationed in India, now keeping the place from being overrun by the Japanese. One of those soldiers (Keenan Wynn) commits an atrocity, and it's up to Robert Mitchum to defend the guy.

And I haven't even gotten into all those 1930s adventure films: Gunga Din, Lives of a Bengal Lancer, and the like.

I assume somebody's done a blogathon on the subject already. But what's your favore "British India" movie?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Briefs for April 25, 2015

Richard Corliss, Time magazine's movie critic died on Thursday at the age of 71. I only this morning noticed the obituary on Wikipedia's list of notable deaths, although I'm not certain when it was first reported. Corliss was one of the critics who showed up in the "Critic's Choice" month when, instead of having a regular Guest Programmer, TCM invited eight notable film critics to present two of their favorite movies each. More recently, Corliss could be seen on TCM promoting his book about Mom in the Movies. I guess we won't be seeing TCM haw that book this Mother's Day.

TCM is running a night of movies with screenplays by Frances Marion tonight. I've recommended all of the feature films before, with my favorite among them being The Big House at 10:45 PM. Perhaps more interesting is that there's going to be a documentary about Marion in among the feature films, at 9:45 PM. I can't recall whether I've seen this one before, or whether the stuff I've seen about Marion comes from some of the other documentaries about that era in filmmaking that TCM has shown. There's one called Complicated Women about the role of women characters in pre-Code films that shows up from time to time, and I think it was one about Irving Thalberg that discussed the collaboration between him and Marion on The Champ. If memory serves, it was Thalberg who resolved the perceived problems the movie had by coming up with the ending we see today.

I was under the impression that the establishing shots of the United Nations in North By Northwest were actually of the UN building, but obtained surreptitiously. I know the UN didn't want filming going on at the UN building, and understandably Alfred Hitchcock wouldn't have been able to film in their interiors. There are also overhead shots that Craig Barron and Ben Burtt pointed out were matte paintings. Those had to be, since there was no other way to obtain those perspectives. But the shots of Grant in front of the UN building before he goes in and gets involved in the shooting, I thought were the real deal. I don't know how much of thne land around the building the UN owned, but I'd think it should have been perfectly legal to film from across the street, much the way that anybody can stand at the fence around the White House and take tourist photos or home movies.

Being There is overrated. I might do a more substantial post on the film the next time it shows up, but there, I've said it. I have a feeling I'm seriously in the minority with my view, however.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Goodbye A. Arnold Gillespie

I've really been enjoying this month's Friday Night Spotlight on TCM with the two special effects men looking at the special effects on some of those old MGM movies. Tonight, however, is the final Friday night in April, so it's the last of the special effects from A. Arnold Gillespie. Tonight kicks off at 8:00 PM with the obvious special effects of Forbidden Planet. They don't have all that much time to discuss each movie, so it will be interesting to see how much they talk about each of the various aspects in Forbidden Planet, since it's got a lot of effects: the spaceship, the robot, and the Krell invention beneath the surface of the planet all spring to mind Oh, and the various monsters of the id that get produced.

Second is North By Northwest, at 10:00 PM. The Mt. Rushmore used is of course a mockup, just like Alfred Hitchcock had used a mockup of the Statue of Liberty on Saboteur 17 years earlier. I don't know if I'd quite consider that a special effect, but I presume that if Gillespie was in charge of the department that made it, then it's perfectly sensible to discuss the movie. Or are there other more conventional special effects that I've forgotten about? North By Northwest isn't one of those movies that I make it a point to sit down and watch for a third or fourth time when it comes on since I prefer the same story the previous two times Hitchcock did it and don't particularly want to invest two and a half hours on it. Instead, it's more of a movie to watch for certain individual scenes, like the kid plugging his ears before Cary Grant gets shot at the Mt. Rushmore visitors' center/cafe because the kid had sat through a dozen or more takes, or the scenes on Mt. Rushmore. Oh, there's also James Mason's house.

Finally, at 12:30 AM, you can see the 1959 version of Ben-Hur. Gillespie would have had to deal with MGM's water tank to do all the galleon scenes, and then of course there's the chariot race. If you saw the salute to Robert Osborne earlier this month, you'll know that he must be happy he doesn't have to mention the filming of that scene. Oh, and I suppose Jesus performs a miracle or two in this version, as he does in the 1920s silent version. I have to admit that even more than North By Northwest, the 1959 version of Ben-Hur is the sort of movie I'm always reluctant to sit down and invest the time in watching. I think I've mentioned in the past that once you get up to two and a half hours, there are almost no movies that couldn't benefit by being edited down somewhat. Not necessarily down to 150 minutes, but at least a bit. One of the few movies for which I'd say it's long running time doesn't feel long at all is The Best Years of Our Lives.

Next Friday being May 1, we'll be getting a bunch of Orson Welles, if memory serves. I haven't checked yet to see who's going to be presenting the films.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I know I've seen the original movie

TCM is showing a night of Ann Sheridan movies tonight, including Honeymoon For Three at midnight. I think I haven't actually seen this one, but have seen the movie of which it's a remake, Goodbye Again. (Actually, they're both film versions of a stage play.)

The plot involves a writer named Ken Brady (Warren William in the original, George Brent in the remake; I'll be putting the stars of Goodbye Again first in each case) is on tour to promote his new novel, accompanied by his long-suffering secretary Anne (Joan Blondell vs. Ann Sheridan). Ken was apparently a ladies' man and still is, which would explain why Anne is long-suffering. Into Ken's hotel suite walks Julie Wilson, née Clochessy (Genevieve Tobin vs. Osa Massen). She wants to see Ken, claiming to know him and still be madly in love with him; apparently they had had a torrid affair years ago in college. The problem is that Anne is trying to get Ken to marry him, while Julie already is married. So Julie's husband Harvey (Hugh Herbert vs. Charlie Ruggles) and sister Elizabeth (Helen Chandler vs. Jane Wyman) to try to get Anne to impress upon Ken the need to do something about Julie. Chaos ensues.

The problem I had with Goodbye Again is that it's what I think I've referred to before as a "comedy of lies", that is a story where the main character starts off with a smallish lie and keeps building upon it to try to keep the original truth from spilling out. I tend to find such stories grating, and Warren William pouring out the lies was a very obnoxious character to whom I reacted by wanting to reach through the screen and smack the bastard. The Julie character was also intensely irritating. Anne and Harvey should have let the two of them run off with each other and lived more enjoyable lives, either as a couple themselves, or finding more suitable partners. Still, those of you who enjoy that sort of comedy would probably like Goodbye Again and might well enjoy Honeymoon For Three too. As I said at the beginning, I can't really comment directly on the film.

Neither of the two versions seems to be available on DVD either, so you'll have to catch the TCM showings.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Upcoming programming of note: April 22-23, 2015

This being a Wednesday in April, we're getting another night of Star of the Month Anthony Quinn on TCM. This fourth Wednesday in April is bringing a bunch of westerns, which will probably be a bigger pleasure for some of you than it is for me. Not that I particularly dislike westerns, it's just that they've never been my favorite genre. That having been said, I've watched a lot more westerns since I've started blogging, and I'd probably have to qualify those views somewhat. It might just be some of the westerns that always put me off the genre a bit. Stagecoach is excellent, but I tend to find it a bit difficult to get into John Ford movies and to a lesser extent John Wayne's westerns and war movies. Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher, as well as reading some of the westerns bloggers, have certainly softened my views of westerns.

Thursday, April 23, sees an interesting schedule on TCM. There will be four pairs of movies in which TCM is showing the "original" (or an early version; I'm not quite certain whether any of these stories were first done in the silent era; technically, some of them are adaptations of books or Broadway shows anyway) followed by a remake. All of the originals are worth mentioning but two of them are more worth a mention because I haven't really discussed them before. First, at 10:45 AM, is the 1931 version of Waterloo Bridge. Mae Clarke (she of the grapefruit in the face courtesy of James Cagney in The Public Enemy) plays an American chorine in London in World War I who thinks her husband dies in the war and winds up descending into prostitution because it's the only way to support herself. one of the things that makes it interesting is the presence of Bette Davis in one of her earliest movies. TCM is also showing not the 1940 remake with Vivian Leigh, but the 1956 remake Gaby with Leslie Caron.

The other original I don't think I've mentioned before is 1929's Rio Rita, at 4:45 PM. This is the first of some two dozen appearances for the comedy duo of Wheeler and Woolsey. They had been paired in the Broadway play, although they weren't the stars of that. They weren't supposed to be the stars of the movie either, but their comedy must have struck a nerve with the public or else we wouldn't have gotten all those other Wheeler and Woolsey movies in the 1930s. The other thing that's interesting about this one is that, like a couple of other early Wheeler and Woolsey movies, there's a two-strip Technicolor musical number at the climax of the movie. The remake, at 6:30 PM, stars Abbott and Costello.

For the record, the other two originals are the 1934 Bette Davis version of Of Human Bondage at 7:30 AM (TCM will be running the 1964 Kim Novak remake, not the 1940s Eleanor Parker version); and 1933's Mystery of the Wax Museum at 2:00 PM.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Four Men and a Prayer

FXM Retro ran Four Men and a Prayer today at lunchtime, and is repeating it again tomorrow morning at 4:32 AM for anybody who missed today's airing.

C. Aubrey Smith plays Col. Loring Leigh, who at the beginning of the movie is stationed in British India and being court-martialed for giving an order that led to a bunch of British soldiers being massacred. The only thing is, he's convinced the order is a forgery. He gets dishonorably discharged, and sends telegrams to his four sons: Geoffrey (Richard Greene) is working at the British embassy in Washington; Wyatt (George Sanders) is a barrister in London; Christopher (David Niven) is in the flying corps; and young Rodney (William Henry) is studying at Oxford. The four sons return to the old family home, where Dad is goign to show them the evidence that will clear his name. Except that before he can do so, he's shot dead in his study!

Fortunately for the four sons, Dad gave them a couple of names as leads before he was shot. One of them, Capt. Drake, is in London and is going to visit Geoffrey at the Leigh estate in the country; Capt. Loveland (Reginald Denny) has retired from the service and is in Buenos Aires where Christopher heads; and a Mulcahy (Barry Fitzgerald) is still in India, which is where Wyatt and Rodney go. Also showing up at the Leigh place is a woman Geoffrey knew in Washington, the lovely and well-dresses Lynn Cherrington (Loretta Young). She claims she's got something important to tell him, but he brushes her off because the meeting with Drake is so much more important. Except that Drake shows up at the Leigh estate dead and with the taxi driver missing. Geoffrey heads off to Buenos Aires, and Lynn, having figured out that's where Geoffrey is going, arranges to get a boat to New York and fly from there to Buenos Aires so that she can beat the boat from the UK to Argentina.

Eventually, there's a complex conspriacy theory that involves arms smuggling, a coup d'état in some backwater island just off the coast of South America, and people in India and Alexandria, Egypt who know more about what's going on than they're letting on. And just how much does Lynn know, anyway?

The idea behind Four Men and a Prayer is a good one, but the execution winds up being less than the sum of its parts. The movie doesn't spend enough time in any one place for that part of the movie to be interesting. Why Lynn knows so much about what's going on but not about the key plot point at the climax is never explained. How everybody flits through the island where the coup happens strains credulity: once they found out there was arms smuggling going on they would have been detained then and there unless you've got a preternaturally stupid bad guy. And Lynn leaves everywhere terribly quickly but has no problems moving her Kay Francis wardrobe around. There should be more to the film, but it never quite gets anywhere.

Four Men and a Prayer was directed by John Ford, and as such has wound up on one of the box sets of his work. I'm not certain if that set is still in print, although there do appear to be a few copies available at Amazon.

Sophia Loren night schedule heads up

If you're an avid TCM viewer like me you probably download the monthly TCM schedule. Sometimes, especially when it comes to scheduling those shorts which are part of the programming feature -- that is, things like a series of two-reelers in Silent Sunday Nights as opposed to the Traveltalks or other shorts that don't wind up on the printable monthly schedule -- TCM has some problems. Tonight, I think, is one of those nights.

TCM's spotlight on Sophia Loren begins with a short called Human Voice, based on a play by Jean Cocteau and directed by Sophia's son Eduardo Ponti. IMDb, and the daily schedule, both list the short as being 26 minutes, which I'd presume is right. The original monthly schedule, has it at 35 minutes, which is clearly wrong since it's being put in a 30-minute time slot. More noticeable, however, is that the monthly schedule lists it running three times tonight. The last of those airings is the one that's not goign to take place. The monthly schedule ends with Man of La Mancha at 3:30 AM, followed by the alleged third airing of Human Voice at 5:30 AM. However, Man of La Mancha is 129 minutes, and so clearly can't fit in a 120-minute time slot.

As for airing Human Voice at all, I wouldn't be surprised if there was some sort of agreement to run this in exchange for getting Sophia and Eduardo to come to the TCM Film Festival. I haven't seen it, so I can't comment on whether it's any good. For the record, the two airings that will be on are at 8:00 PM, and again at 10:30 PM.

TCM is also padding out the night's schedule with quite a few shorts. Unfortunately, cutting one airing of Human Voice and shorts that don't pad out the 10-15 minutes between the end of one feature and the start of the next would have only freed up an hour if I've counted correctly, so there wouldn't have been time to include an extra feature-length film. Since one of those shorts is a promo for Loren's movie Madame, it would be nice if TCM could actually show that (the feature, not the trailer).

Monday, April 20, 2015

Gregory Ratoff, 1897-1960

Gregory Ratoff (l.) and Hugh Marlowe in All About Eve (1950)

Today marks the birth anniversary of actor/director Gregory Ratoff. Ratof was born in the Russian Empire and served in World War I. The Communist revolution and resulting civil war led Ratoff to emigrate first to Paris, and then to New York. He started acting in Hollywood in the early 1930s, playing ethnic roles. One of those early roles is as Mae West's attorney in I'm No Angel. Acting roles continued through the 1930s.

In the middle of the 1930s, Ratoff started directing, with one of his more well-known works being the English-language version of Intermezzo: A Love Story, the movie that brought Ingrid Bergman to Hollywood. He worked at Fox in the 1940s, making movies such as I Was an Adventuress and Where Do We Go From Here?.

But it would be 1950 that would bring Ratoff what would probably become his most famous role, as the theater producer Max Fabian who helped discover Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) in the great backstage drama All About Eve.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The China Syndrome

Coming up this afternoon at 4:00 PM on TCM is the interesting, if sometimes polemical film The China Syndrome.

Jane Fonda stars as Kimberley Wells, a local TV news reporter out in southern California. She thinks she's a good reporter, but unfortunatley she's buried in the lunchtime features beat, doing crappy human interest stories that she doesn't care about because they're beneath her. She doesn't realize that one of those stories is about to blow up in her lap.

Wells andher cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) go to a nuclear power plant to do a report on how nuclear is going to solve America's energy problems, this being the era of oil embargos and such. As they get to the part of the plant that overlooks the control room, they have to turn off the camera for security reasons. While in that room, the plant has an incident. At first it just seems like a minor earthquake, since everybody feels shaking, and it's enough to trip some of the safety features. One of the features, however, malfunctions, as a water gauge seems to be showing more water than there should be. So when they shut of a valve, they think they're returning the water to its normal level, but in fact they're putting the water at a dangerously low level. Catastrophe is averted, however, and the plant is put off-line pending an investigation of the incident.

Kim isn't quite certain what to do, but Richard knows. He's much more of a hothead than she is, and just knows that the utility company and the federal regulators are pulling the wool over everybody's eyes, expecially when you consider that the utility has another nuke plant up for public discussion. The TV station, for its part, has its own problems. They have to produce a report that is factual lest they be subject to a libel suit, and also one that fits their contractual obligations, like not using footage that was surreptitiously obtained in direct conflict with a signed agreement.

Of course, Richar is not going to be the only one with questions about what's gone on at the facility. He steals the footage from the TV station (I told you he was a hothead), and shows it to some nuclear physicists who are firmly in the anti-nuclear power camp and claim that the plant was this close to suffering a meltdown. Far more important however, is what's going on inside the plant. The supervisor who was on duty at the time of the incident, Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon), has been doing some investigation of his own, and has come to the conclusion that there's a safety flaw at the plant caused by one of the subcontractors doing a shoddy job with the welding and not documenting it properly. He's willing to cooperate with Kim, but he's also discovered that he's got people tailing him, presumably to keep him from reporting what he knows. You'll have to watch the movie to see how Jack solves that problem.

The China Syndrome is a pretty entertaining movie, although it's one that's firmly grounded in the 1970s. Sometime after all that happened in Vietnam and with Watergate, Hollywood started making a lot of movies that have a conspiracy theory theme of how big business is evil and shady and controlling the government for its own ends. Soylent Green and The Parallax View come right to mind. The China Syndrome isn't quite as far to that end of the spectrum as especially The Parallax View, but as the movie goes on it does become increasingly clear in making the point that the utility company is going beyond bad in its handling of the situation. The ironic thing is that real life should eventually have disproved the movie. Shortly after the film was released, the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania had an event that was really quite minor, although those who would panic monger would have you believe otherwise.

Still, don't let all of that put you off The China Syndrome, which ultimately does succeed in entertaining, even if you'll dislike some of the good guys.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Another Great Train Robbery

The 1903 short The Great Train Robbery is generally considered a groundbreaking film in cinema histoty. 75 years later, another movie called The Great Train Robbery, with a completely different story, was released. That late 1970s movie is airing on TCM this afternoon at 5:45 PM. I briefly mentioned it when it last aired in January, but haven't done a full-length post on it, so now would be a good time to do so.

The scene is England in the 1850s. Trains are a relatively new technology, only having been in use for about a generation, and they transport government gold. Needless to say, there are criminals out there who would love the opportunity to get their hands on that gold, but for obvious reasons, there are a whole lot of technical difficulties inherent in trying to rob a moving train. You can't just stop it the way you would stop a carriage or old west stagecoach, and getting on and off the train to carry off that robbery is another problem. Edward Pierce (Sean Connery), however, thinks he's figured out a way to solve all these problems.

In this particular instance, though, there's a further problem, which is that the gold shipments are protected by several keys, which are held by multiple men in various locations. The first thing that Pierce has to do is to get duplicates of all these keys made. To help him, Pierce uses his girlfriend Miriam (Lesley Ann Down) to get to know one of the men while he and his accomplice Agar (Donald Sutherland) can make the wax impression that will allow them to duplicate the key. But that's only one of the keys, and the others present equal challenges. Indeed, getting the keys takes up a good half of the movie. Not to say that this half isn't entertaining; it's just that you might be surprised by how long it takes before they actually get to the train robbery part of the movie.

The actual robbery itself is just as difficult as getting the keys. The gold is kept in its own car, and the authorities have sealed that car from the outside in a further attempt to prevent anybody from getting into the car. Pierce gets Agar in by having him play a dead man in a coffin, the stench of death being provided by a dead cat. Pierce, for his part, has to go over the top of the train and do it within a certain amount of time so that he can abandon the gold where his other accomplice will be able to pick it up, and so he can get back to his seat on the train in time before the train stops at the next station where he'd be noticed. The plan is carried off perfectly, except foe one thing....

I'm not going to give away what that thing is, and what happens next. You'll have to watch to find out for yourself, and this is a film I'd thoroughly recommend watching. The first half involving the keys may seem a bit slow at times, but it entertains and sets up the more fast-paced and exciting second half. Connery is good as always as an antihero. In theory we're supposed to want him to get caught since he's stealing government gold, but dammit if he isn't so charming that we'd rather he windup with the money and not the soldiers for whom it's intended. The movie is also gorgeous to look at. Irish locales substituted for the English rail lines, since Ireland was still not built-up enough that it would spoil the period effect. The London scenes, however, are sumptuous and as far as I can tell suitably Victorian. The whole thing adds up to a film that's a blast to watch.

This version of The Great Train Robbery is apparently another of the movies that's fallen out-of-print on DVD, although Amazon says it's available for instant download. Note that there are other movies with the same title, so don't get them confused.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Cinderella Liberty

Over on FXM Retro, they'll be running the interesting if flawed film Cinderella Liberty, tomorrow morning at 3:00 AM (or tonight at midnight Pacific Time).

The movie starts off with a navy ship coming into Seattle for everybody to get a modicum of shore leave before the ship and its crew go out on their next voyage. Everybody, that is, except for John Baggs (James Caan). He's got a medical condition, some sort of cyst in hiss rectal region, so he has to go into sick bay and get that fixed. It's more a nuisance than any serious medical problem, but getting it taken care of and all the paperwork means that he's not going to be able to get back on board before the ship he was on goes back out to sea. So he's going to have some time ashore while he's waiting for his next deployment.

On Baggs' first night ashore, he goes to some bar on what passes for Seattle's equivalent of a boardwalk, the sort of place that back in the day had Coney Island-style attractions both clean (carnival rides) and more adult. In that bar, Baggs meets Maggie (Marsha Mason), a woman who picks up a few extra dollars by being a pool shark, although as we're quickly going to learn, she earns the bulk of her money in another way. Baggs challenges Maggie to a couple of games of pool, which he loses, before challenging her to a much higher-stakes game. When he wins the high-stakes game, he wins a free night with her.

Maggie, if you haven't figured it out, is a hooker, sleeping with lots of sailors for the money. She's already got a son by one of them, an 11-year-old mixed-race child named Doug (Kirk Calloway) who is sharing in Maggie's hand-to-mouth existence. He doesn't have a good bed, keeping a switchblade close at hand to protect himself from sailors who get too close; he's got terrible teeth because Maggie can't afford proper dental care; and he spends his evenings at the carnival; and he seems to know too much about life.

The only way we'd have a movie is if Baggs takes a liking to Maggie, so that's what happens. It's not an easy relationship because she has no money and he's got all the difficulties that come with being in the navy. It doesn't help that the Navy has lost his records, so he's technically jobless and won't have any money coming in until the Navy can find his records, which is going to take some time since this was the days before computerization. Still, Baggs does what he can for Maggie.

That is, until Maggie has a surprise visitor. No, it's not Douglas' father; whoever knocked Maggie up with Douglas probably had no idea that he got this prostitute pregnant. Instead, it's her social worker. She's determined to see that Maggie and Doug are living properly, and when she sees that there's a man in the apartment, she naturally figures that Baggs is taking on the duties of a father, which means that he should be able to support the child financially. Or, rather, the children: Maggie is pregnant, althoguh it's not Baggs' baby.

Cinderella Liberty is a movie that has some interesting premises, but that ultimately comes off unevenly. There were extended periods where I found myself having difficulty caring for any of these people. It's natural for Baggs and Maggie to yell at each other because their relationship isn't an easy one, but I found the bickering to be less than convincing. I also found the whole loss of records to be a bit unbelievable too, while the ending is certainly one that strains credulity. Still, the acting is for the most part OK, and you do wind up caring about Douglas at least by the end of the movie. All in all, Cinderella Liberty is one of those movies that I'm glad to see FXM Retro pull out of its vaults, but not one that I'd go out of my way to watch a second time.

Amazon seems to suggest that Cinderella Liberty is out of print on DVD, but that you should be able to get it on instant download if you can do the streaming video thing.

China Seas

TCM is showing another evening of movies dedicated to MGM's special effects man A. Arnold Gillespie. Concluding tonight's lineup is China Seas at 4:30 AM.

Clark Gable plays Alan Gaskell, the captain of a ship which is currently taking on cargo in Hong Kong. These are the days before container shipping, so a ship like this has a fair amount of both cargo and paying passengers who expect to have passage in the luxurious manner they've come to expect. Among those passengers are two women: Sybil (Rosalind Russell) is the proper woman, who Alan is supposedly going to be settling down with -- if he ever decides to take a desk job with the shipping line, that is; China Doll (Jean Harlow) is the woman with whom Alan has a past. China Doll is shady, presented partly as a nightclub performer, but likely being a woman of somewhat less repute. Among the men, there's Sir Guy (C. Aubrey Smith), who heads the shipping line, and a man named Jamesy (Wallace Beery), whom we'll get to in a minute. This being an MGM film, there's a supporting cast of various high-caliber actors rounding out the passengers.

This isn't going to be an easy voyage for a couple of reasons. First is the fact that they're going to be transporting gold bullion, which is difficult no matter where a ship is doing it. But this is the 1930s, and they're going from Hong Kong to Singapore, which is going to put them in the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca. Back in those days, those were the havens for pirates, although in the past few decades international cooperation has largely cleaned up the problem there, with Somali piracy being the big problem. So there's a risk for piracy regardless, but if anybody found out that the cargo includes gold, there's a huge problem. Needless to say, Jamesy has gotten some inside information that there may be a shipment of gold in this voyage. So he 's really there to coordinate with the pirates who are planning to waylay this voyage! Finally, further complicating matters is the presence of crewman Davids (Lewis Stone). He disgraced himself on his last journey by abandoning ship before he should have, so no nobody really wants him on their ship.

You can guess some of what's going to happen in this volatile mix. China Doll is going to hit on Alan, but of course he's going to rebuff her advances at first even though you'd think the two of them are right for each other. After all, Alan does have that fiancée. So once she's jilted, she's going to start working with Jamesy. And you know almost from the beginning -- you don't need my synopsis to figure it out more than about five minutes in -- that there's likely to be a pirate attack. And Daniels' perfidy from his previous voyage really telegraphs that he's going to get an opportunity to redeem himself, although whether he actually takes that opportunity, you'll have to watch the movie to find out.

Although there's a fair bit about China Seas that's predictable if you've watched enough 1930s movies, that's not to say it's not a good movie. It's quite entertaining. MGM had more stars than there are in the firmament, so the claim went, and they use that to good effect here, both with the leads and the character actors. Production values are, as usual, excellent from MGM. The acting is good enough. This is a bit more of an action movie than a serious drama, you you're not really looking for the sort of acting you'd get from Gable or Harlow in something like Wife vs. Secretary.

China Seas is available from the Warner Archive collection.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Apparently I haven't blogged about Holiday before

Tonight's TCM lineup is a bunch of heiress comedies, starting at 8:00 PM with Holiday. A search of the blog claims I haven't mentioned this one before, so today would be a good time to do a post on the movie.

Cary Grant plays Johnny Case, a young man of modest birth who isn't quite certain what he wants out of life, but he knows that whatever it is, it's going to be the strenuous life. But it looks like there's going to be happiness in that life. He's recently met a nice young lady named Julia Seton (Doris Nolan) and is going to marry her. He just needs a little advice from his mentor/quasi-foster parents the Potters: Prof. Nick (Edward Everett Horton) and his wife Susan (Jean Dixon) tell him to see Julia's fmily and tell them that he needs to take a sabbatical and that if Julia really loves him, they can get married after the sabbatical.

What Johnny finds shocks him. Julia Seton is a Seton, one of the Setons, as though everybody should know who the Setons are. After all, their father is only Edward (Henry Kolker), one of the wealthiest bankers in all of New York. He's run the family fairly conservatively much like the sort of family that Arthur's parents want him to marry into in that Dudley Moore movie. Julia has taken her father's guidance to heart and, while she's not a bad person, she's just a bit boring. At the house, Johnny meet's Julia's sister Linda (Katharine Hepburn), and finds that Linda is completely different from everybody else in the family. We know that she's going to be the apparent right one for Johnny, not just because we need a plot conflict, but because Katharine Hepburn is billed first and Doris Nolan only third. Rounding out the family is Julia and Linda's brother Ned (Lew Ayres). He too is living the life his father thinks the Setons should live, but you can tell it chafes at in in a way he can't really understand, because he's a dissolute drinker.

You can probably guess more or less what happens in the movie, although there are two possible endings: the You Can't Take It With You ending where the family is changed by the newcomer (the Jean Arthur character being the newcomer, not her family being changed), or the Arthur ending in which the man marries for love and the jilted "proper" family basically gets written out of the story if there were a movie about the couple's life post-marriage. Holiday does what it does pretty well, except that it's got Katharine Hepburn in the cast. I've always had difficulty warming to Hepburn, feeling that in a lot of her movies she's basically playing a spoiled, self-centered bitch of the sort that you want to smack the way Cary Grant does at the beginning of The Philadelphia Story. I've never really been able to get the impression that Hepburn's characters would be compatible with anybody in the long term.

Holiday is based on a stage play that had already been turned into a movie once, back in 1930. That version stars Mary Astor as Julia and Ann Harding as Linda and is a movie I'd be interested to see. Only the 1938 version seems to be on DVD, however, as part of a Cary Grant box set.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Briefs for April 15, 2015

So the 20th anniversary salute to Robert Osborne last night was moderately interesting. It was more of a This is Your Life-style presentation of Osborne's friends and family. Not that I care all that much about Robert's nieces and cousins, but bringing them out on stage makes for good television, as Ralph Edwards knew 60 years ago. The bloopers were fun, particularly the outtakes of Robert saying he could use a drink. And I would have had trouble pronouncing "La Cienega" as well.

Tonight's Star of the Month salute to Anthony Quinn includes several of his epics, so three movies last almost the entire evenign. Barabbas (8:00 PM) already aired on Easter, while I've always found Lawrence of Arabia (1:15 AM) overrated. In between is The Shoes of the Fisherman (10:30 PM), whish has Quinn playing a Ukrainian priest who becomes Pope. There's probably a post to be made about Anthony Quinn's ethnic roles, the way I did about Edward G. Robinson years ago. Quinn was born in Mexico to a Mexican mother and ethnic Irish father; I can easily think offhand of his having played Ukrainian, Greek, Mexican, and French in addition to all his Americans.

Tomorrow morning sees a couple of silent two-reelers. First, at 7:30 AM, is Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton in Coney Island. That's followed up at 8:00 AM by Harold Lloyd in Number, Please. Both of them having been made before 1923 are in the public domain, and that unsurprisingly means both of them have made it quite legally to Youtube:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It's anniversary day again

Today is April 14, which is the day in 1994 when Turner Classic Movies first went out on cable. Satellite TV was in its infancy, and streaming stuff over the internet? Ha! I remember having to send a photo over email back in the early 1990s and how long it took, even with a university internet connection. Floppy discs still only held 1.5MB, so storing your media was still a problem. Oh, and all those America Online CDs that everybody used as coasters or suncatchers or whatever. Discs were only CDs, no DVDs for another couple of years yet. And you went to a rental place to pick up videotapes to watch for the evening.

But I have a feeling my readership consists mostly of people who remember those halcyon days of 1994, and not the young people who wonder how we all survived. No cell phones? Well, I discussed that one back in 2011. By 1994, though, we had advanced far enough to have... pagers. Oh boy, remember those? I'm reminded of when I was in high school and had to give the school officials my parents' emergency numbers where they could be reached and the time I had to change Dad's number to his pager number. They looked at me strangely because the number had an exchange that was a good half hour away, these being the days when small towns could still be identified by the three-digit telephone exchanges. Not that I go back as far as the named exchanges, which are evoked in a title like Butterfield 8. I do remember, however, getting an actual human operator while trying to make a long distance phone call with one of those calling cards (!) from a bus station in Rutland VT in the early 1990s when I was in college. Gotta love all those telephone switchboard operators that show up in classic movies.

All those phone lines remind me, too, of the idea of "tracing" a call, since caller ID wasn't much of a thing back in 1994. Dad worked for the phone company for 30 years, and when he retired, he got the phone service goodies free for life. Goodies back then, however, meant call waiting, which isn't much of a goodie if you're the person whose call is being interrupted. As for finding out who's calling you, there's a movie like The Slender Thread that covered that topic very entertainingly. Governments in our more outlying areas got "Extended" 911, which gave the dispatchers the address from which the call was being placed.

At any rate, I'd really meant to comment on the anniversry of TCM to mention that there's another TCM original coming up. Tonight at 8:00 PM, they're honoring Robert Osborne with a program that was probably mostly recorded in honor of the big 20th anniversary last year, but like the interviews from the TCM Film Festival, doesn't show up for quite some time after all the footage is recorded. I haven't seen this one and so can't comment on it at all. Not that I'm expecting much out of this one. As with many of the TCM originals, it gets a repeat airing for the benefit of the folks on the west coast, following one feature. That feature, at 9:00 PM, is North By Northwest, and the Osborne salute will be reairing at 11:30 PM.

As for North By Northwest, don't get me started on the deptction of the airport in Chicago. Compare that to flying today. Airline travel in all those old movies is probably a good subject for a list post.

Monday, April 13, 2015

TCM Guest Programmer, April 2015: Mo Rocca

We've reached that day of the month when TCM is putting up its monthly Guest Programmer to sit down with Robert Osborne and discuss four of his or her favorite movies. This month, that programmer is Mo Rocca, a writer/commentator whom I first remember on one of those snarky list show specials, probabaly VH1's I Love the 70s (or 80s), which look at a bunch of related events (in the case of the VH1 shows everything happened in the same calendar year; for other shows it's often a Top 10 countdown) and have Z-list celebrities make unfunny snarky comments about the things. I tend not to care for any of the commentators on shows like this, and often wonder why they're any more qualified than anybody else to be pontificating on the subject of the day. At least Rocca was far less obnoxious than Mario Cantone on the VH1 shows, though. Mario Cantone was another Guest Programmer some years back, and I found him irritating even in that capacity.

Anyhow, Rocca selected four interesting enough movies as part of his Guest Programmer stint, and those movies are showing up tonight. First, at 8:00 PM is the 1933 version of King Kong, starring Fay Wray as the blonde who gets noticed by the giant ape and carried up the Empire State Building. (Nobody ever shows the 1976 version any more.)
What's Up, Doc?, starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal as two of several people whose lives are turned upside-down by a mixup of identical overnight travelling bags, follows at 10:00 PM.
At midnight, Rod Taylor brings The Birds to Tippi Hedren in quiet little Bodega Bay, CA, only for the birds already there to start attacking.
Finally, at 2:15 AM, Al Pacino needs to pay for his lover to have an operation, and the only way he can think of to get the money is to rob a bank, in Dog Day Afternoon.

In between What's Up, Doc? and The Birds is the short Stopover in Hollywood.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Love Me or Leave Me

Another movie coming up on TCM today that's worth a watch is Love Me or Leave Me, which is part of a Doris Day double feature tonight at 8:00 PM.

Day stars as Ruth Etting. The movie begins with Etting working in a dive bar around 1920, which is the beginning of the Prohibition era. The Mob got its hands in every pie, and the bar where Ruth was part of the entertainment was no different. Gangster Marty Snyder (James Cagney) is the one muscling money out of the joint, and he's a man who when he finds somtething that he wants, he's going to get it come hell or high water. That something in this case happens to be Ruth. He likes the way Ruth dances, so when the place where she first works doesn't want to feature her, Marty gets Ruth a job at another place. But Ruth really wants to sing.

Marty, being smitten with Ruth, decides that he's going to do whatever it takes to make Ruth a successful singer. By this time, he's gotten married to Ruth, and is getting her music lessons and trying to get her on the radio, which he's eventually able to do since he's got influence. Sure enough, Ruth becomes a success. But success comes at a price. Marty knows what he wants out of life, and that holds just as true for Ruth. Marty has certainly helped her along the way, but Ruth chafes at his controlling nature, and wants to take her career on its own arc, not the one that Marty has mapped out for her.

Complicating matters is the presence of Johnny Alderman (Cameron Mitchell). He's Ruth's accompanist, and he admires Ruth. He's nowhere near as forward as Marty is and waits for Ruth either to come to her senses, or come to a spot in life where she's got the wherewithal to break from Marty. Perhaps that wherewithal can come in the form of someplace where they want Ruth for herself, and not because Marty is trying to get it for her: Hollywood. Ruth goes to Hollywood at the beginning of the sound era and becomes passably successful in a series of short films. Marty eventually follows and tries to keep managing Ruth's career, but Ruth has become more independent. She's willing to divorce Marty and marry Alderman. In a big twist, but something that happened in real life, Marty shot Alderman.

Love Me or Leave Me seems almost to good to be true, and although there's Hollywood sanitization, many of the main events in the film really did happen. Etting went from dancing to singing to a radio show to Hollywood. And Marty really shot Alderman, although his actual personal life was quite a bit messier than what the movie presents. While the story is good, the acting is excellent. I'm generally not a fan of Doris Day's comedies, because I tend to find her characters a bit too goody-goody. But when she got away from comedy or the lighter musicals and did something serious, Day really wan't bad. There's not much to be said about Cagney's acting. He'd already spent 25 years playing gangsters of one stripe or another, and probably could have played this role in his sleep. But he doesn't, and gives an effectively chilling portrayal of a man who knows what he wants out of life, is used to getting it, and is going to keep trying to get it even if it means hurting the people around him.

I've also said that I'm not the biggest fan of musicals. But Love Me or Leave Me isn't really a musical; it's a biopic about somebody who was a singer. In that regard, the movie works quite well, and I think can be enjoyed even by other people who, like me, aren't normally that interested in musicals.


I neglected to do a post on the 1963 film Charade the last time it aired. It's coming up again this afternoon at 4:00 PM on TCM, so now's your chance to get it.

Audrey Hepburn plays Regina Lampert, a French woman married to an American who's in the business of business, or something. She doesn't really know what her husband does, except that it provides her with a living that keeps her in all that Givenchy and going to fashionable places in the alps to spend her holidays with her friend Sylvie and Sylvie's son Jean-Louis. That's where Regina meets Peter Joshua (Cary Grant). He's walking along the breakfast terrace of one of those places, when Jean-Louis comes up and... shoots him with a water pistol! Peter and Regina strike up a converstaion, playing it a bit coy and Regina thinking nothing of it.

She'll have more time to think when she gets back to Paris. She returns to find that her apartment has been emptied, and her husband murdered, thrown off a moving train! It's some small consolation that Peter has somehow made it to Paris too, and is there to comfort the grieving widow. But if Regina thinks the shock is big, she ain't seen nothing yet. When she goes to the funeral, three strange men show up to pay their respects: Tex (James Coburn), Herman (George Kennedy), and Leopold (Ned Glass); all three of them show up briefly, do something strange, and then leave. And not long after the funeral, Regina gets a letter stating that she is to appear at the American embassy and meet officer Hamilton Bartholomew.

He's got an even bigger shock. Those three men were three of her late husband's four accomplices in the theft of $250,000 in gold that the five of them stole during World War II. One of the other men was believed already dead, and none of the remaining four had been able to get their hands on the hidden gold, apparetnly until now, with Mr. Lampert presumably having done so which would explain why the other three were trying to track down Lampert and get to him. They wanted their share. Regina, for her part, is completely innocent, having no idea that her husband was involved in anything like this and no idea where the quarter million could possibly be. A search of her husband's traveling back yields no clues.

And what does Peter Joshua have to do with this? He's passing himself off as a man who could be Regina's friend, and the one person she can trust in Paris while these other three guys are coming after her for the money, thinking that she's holding out on them. But as the movie goes on it's clear that Peter is keeping secrets from Regina, even as the two of them and the three obvious crooks wind up at the same run-down hotel in their search for the money and their attempts to keep their eyes on each other. Who among the various characters are the real criminals, and where is the money?

Charade is a movie with an excellent story, and one that's told exceedingly well. But, it's a movie that's got one small problem, and that's in the casting. Specifically, the casting of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Both of them are fine actors, Grant doing well playing the suave older gentleman and Hepburn being an elegant damsel in distress. But it's Grant and Hepburn. Both of them had reputations, and already 20 years earlier when Grant made Suspicion it was clear that producers hated the idea of him being an unalloyed villain and how audiences would respond to that. In the intervening 20 years, especially the decade or so leading up to Charade, Grant had become a man playing characters you knew where going to be the good guy regardless of what the story was trying to tell you. You can't help but expect that to happen in Charade too, and that's the one thing that works to the movie's ddetriment. Other than that, though, the movie is a winner in every way. It's lovely to look at, and there's a good mix of dramatic thriller elements and comic relief to break up the dark proceedings.

Charade is listed as being available from the TCM shop, but courtesy of the Criterion Collection, which means more pricey.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Her Sister's Secret

Some months back, TCM had a night of Edgar G. Ulmer movies including a documentary about his life and work. One of the movies that ran that evening was Her Sister's Secret. It's on again tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM on TCM, and is worth a watch if you didn't see the showing several months ago.

Nancy Coleman plays Toni, an unmarried woman living in New Orleans with her faily well-off but ailing father (Henry Stephenson). Toni spends her days the way the idle well-off people did in movies in those days, even though there's a war on. It's Mardi Gras now, however, so who cares about that war going on? Toni is celebrating with everybody else at Pepe's cafe, Pepe being played by Felix Bressart. It's at Pepe's that Toni meets Dick (Phillip Reed), a soldier on furlough. As often happens, these things turn into quickie romances, this one even though Toni is wearing a mask what with it being Mardi Gras. The two make an agreement to meet again the next day at Pepe's, but Dick's furlough is called off, and due to a mix up, neither of them is able to get information to the other about it.\

That alone could make for a nice plot if handled correctly, like in Before Sunrise. But that's not the story here. Toni eventually finds out that during that one night she spent with the soldier, she got knocked up! And the two of them didn't even have a quickie wedding, so Toni is pregnant out of wedlock! What's a young woman of a putatively proper class to do? Thankfully, Toni has a sister Renee (Margaret Lindsay) who agrees to take her someplace out west the way Bette Davis and Mary Astor did in The Great Lie where she can have the child without anybody knowing who Toni really is. After that, however, comes the difficult part. Toni is unmarried, and Renee has a hasband Bill (Regis Toomey) who could more than amply take care of the baby. So after the baby is born, the plan is for Toni to give the baby up for adoption to Renee and Bill, and never make mention of it again.

That's gotta be tough for Toni, but she still has her father to take care of, at least until he dies. Eventually, though, you know that she's going to want to see her own biological son, and really, who can blame her? Renee and Bill live up in New York, so after Dad dies, Toni goes there (you'd think Toni would have seen the kid at Dad's funeral). She sees the kid in a park with a nanny, and of course the kid has no idea who Toni is and is terrified of this strange lady. It's sad for Toni, but it's to be expected. Unexpected is that Dick survives the war, and he's looking for Toni, not knowing of course that he fathered a child by Toni.

Her Sister's Secret is an interesting movie that has a lot of what you might expect in 1940s melodrama. That having been said, it's still well worth a watch. Whether that's because it's a look back at thoroughly different cultural mores, or because it's interesting to see how Edgat G. Ulmer decided to tackle a melodrama, I'm not sure. But either way, the material winds up slightly fascinating. The ending is a bit pat, although the strictures of the Production Code probably had a lot to do with that.

TCM lists Her Sister's Secret as being available from the TCM Shop, while IMDb duggests it's not available at Amazon.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A. Arnold Gillesie, night 2

TCM's Friday night spotlight for April is MGM special effects man A. Arnold Gillespie. I mentioned last week that two modern-day special effects artists would be appearing "along with Ben Mankiewicz". I probably should have made more mention of this last Saturday after seeing some of the introductions to the movies.

I thought TCM's presentation was excellent. Baron and Burtt told Ben and all of us how some of the key sequences in those old movies were done with the limited technology they had back in the day -- no computers of course. Some of this is stuff we should probably already know, espeically for anybody who's seen enough movies about filmmaking or about vintage radio which used many similar techniques for sound effects. Still, being able to show the scenes on screen while discussing it, and in more detail than we'd often get, is well worth the price of "only" getting a bunch of MGM movies that some avid TCM watchers would complain are shown over and over.

Tonight is the second night of the spotlight, with another four movies being shown for the two men to tell us how the effects were done:

First, at 8:00 PM, is Test Pilot, with Clark Gable as the title pilot who has an emergency landing in the Midwest where he meets farm girl Myrna Loy; Spencer Tracy plays Gable's best friend and mechanic. Obviously, with an airplane movie, there is a lot of opportunity for effects involving crashes or the planes in the air.

That's followed at 10:15 PM by Boom Town, another Gable/Tracy movie about oil drilling. You can probably figure there is some good scope for oil rig explosions here. Fire is incredibly tough to work with.

At 12:30 PM, we get Spencer Tracy again in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, based on the true story of James Doolittle who led the bombing raids over Tokyo at the beginning of the US involvement in World War II. More air scenes and bombing destruction should be the basis for ample Gillespie work here.

Finally, at 3:00 AM, we have The Good Earth, for which the biggest special effects need should be the plague of locusts. As the makers of The Swarm would discover 40 years later, insects are also difficult to work with, because they're nowhere near as trainable as Lassie.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ward Bond, 1903-1960

Today marks the birthday of actor Ward Bond, who would probably be best remembered for the long string of westerns that he made in the 1940s and 1950s. That success was a long time in coming, however. Bond started his career at the beginning of the sound era with a bunch of bit parts that are generally uncredited. IMDb claims he was a policeman in Blonde Crazy opposite James Cagney and Joan Blondell, a policeman in Lady For a Day, and a bus driver in It Happened One Night for example. (Not that I would have recognized Bond in any of those roles, but there you are. I don't know when Bond exactly became bigger, but by the end of the 1930s he was being credited in slightly bigger roles in a wide range of movies, be it Drums Along the Mohawk or Gone With the Wind.

Eventually he started working with John Ford, with their first collaboration being, I think, They Were Expendable. That led to a long string of roles in some of Ford's great movies of the late 1940s and 1950s, be it My Darling Clementine, the John Wayne version of 3 Godfathers, The Quiet Man, or The Searchers. (I have to admit that I tend to be a fan of stuff from that era other than the work of John Ford, but he was certainly an expert at his craft and there are a lot of people who like Ford's films.)

In 1957, Bond took one of the starring roles on the TV series Wagon Train, which was very successful. Unfortunately for Bond, he would suffer a heart attack in late 1960 and die at the surprisingly young age of 57. Wagon Train, having several stars, was able to continue for another three or four seasons after Bond's death.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Another excuse for repeats

To be fair, I was thinking about writing a full-length post on a movie coming up tomorrow, but it turns out that I've already done a post on that movie. So, there's no reason to do another post, other than to point out that it's been quite a few years since I've blogged about it and you've got another chance to see it coming up.

Anthony Quinn is Star of the Month, and his movies are on again tonight into early tomorrow morning on TCM. One of his lesse known films is Larceny, Inc., early tomorrow morning at 7:45 AM. Quinn plays a criminal just out of jail who shows up at the store being run by fellow ex-cons Edward G. Robinson and Broderick Crawford. This is Robinson's film all the way, and unsurprisingly, he's quite good.

After Larceny, Inc. is over, you can switch over to FXM Retro and catch The Story of Alexander Graham Bell at 7:30 AM. Don Ameche stars as the British-born, Canadian-raised man whose work with the deaf led him to America and eventually to the invention of the telephone when he was ttying to figure out a way to speak to them. Of course, the invention of the telephone would be disputed, as one Elisha Grey also invented a similar device with Bell getting the first patent. Loretta Young plays Mrs. Bell, and the story is a reasonably good Hollywood retelling of a romance, the invention, and then a courtroom drama surrounding the patent dispute.

A couple of character actor obituaries

James Best died on Monday at the age of 88. You may or may not recognize the name, since he had a long, long career in movies and on TV. One of his earliest movies was in the 1950 version of Winchester '73, and he had small roles in things as diverse as The Caine Mutiny and Forbidden Planet. However, Best will be most remembered for playing the sheriff, Rosco P. Coltrane, on the early 1980s TV series The Dukes of Hazzard. That shows up on one or another cable channel; as for Best's movies, you'll have a chance to catch him in The Raid, coming up again on FXM Retro at 10:30 AM Friday.

Geoffrey Lewis died yesterday at the age of 79. Lewis also had a fairly long career both in the movies, and on TV. Lewis would probably be best remembered for all the movies he did with Clint Eastwood, from at least High Plains Drifter in the early 1970s through to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in the late 1990s. Lewis also appeared as the US Consul to Tangier in The Wind and the Lion.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Documentary after documentary after documentary

Documentaries about the stars can be a good way of introducing people who aren't necessarily movie buffs to some of hte old stars. Indeed, I generally post fairly positively any time TCM runs a new documentary as part of their prime time lineup. That having been said, I find tonight's particular prime time lineup a bit baffling.

In short, it's one documentary after another about the stars. The night kicks off at 8:00 PM with James Stewart: A Wonderful Life, which as you can probably guess is about the actor James Stewart, made 10 years before he died, which tells you something about how old it is. I suppose it will be interesting to see if the post-1953 movie clips will show up in the proper aspect ratio, seeing as how many of these documentaries are made-for-TV things done at a time when TV still had the 4:3 aspect ratio as the standard. I'm sure it's a fairly good program that would fit in well on Stewart's birthday in May with a day of his movies, or during Summer Under the Stars.

But... it's followed at 9:45 PM by The Spencer Tracy Legacy: A Tribute By Katharine Hepburn. I'm not the biggest Katharine Hepburn fan, so I don't know how much I'd particularly like this one, but I'm sure that for those of you who do like her and think about the Tracy/Hepburn relationship as some sort of tragic, doomed romance might well find it interesting. (At this point I should probably make the disclaimer that I don't think I've seen any of these in their entirety.) It's not as if Tracy and Stewart have that much in common, despite having worked a couple of years together at MGM. I think the only movie they made together was Malaya.

And then we get even more documentaries. Jane Fonda talks about her father in Fonda on Fonda, which comes on at 11:30 PM. Fonda, at least, starred with Katharine Hepburn, who is the subject of Katharine Hepburn: All About Me, at 12:30 AM, in On Golden Pond. The last of the documentaries is Bacall on Bogart at 2:00 AM.

Each of these may be an interesting documentary, but putting all of them together? I'm not so sure. Perhaps it's a sign of the times and how TCM has been facing belt-tightening. Or perhaps it's easier to put a night like this up once in a while on the theory that it's easier to talk about a documentary on a star -- there's not much to say -- and they're trying to make life easier for Robert Osborne, who has been facing more health issues lately. At any rate, I find a programming decision like this a bit strange.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is airing on TCM tonight at 8:00 PM as part of a night of movies starring Jane Russell. According to a search of the blog, I've never done a full-length post on it before, so now might be a good time to do it. I've said before that I'm not the biggest fan of musicals, but this is one where the plot is good enough to make the movie worth watchign. That, and it's actually got one or two interesting musical numbers.

Marilyn Monroe stars as Lorelei Lee, a nightclub singer who's engaged to Gus Esmond Jr. (Tommy Noonan). Lorelei is the sort of person who wants the finer things in life, and so has wanted to marry a rich guy like Gus. Gus' father, however, isn't so sure that it would be a good thing for his son to marry a chorus girl. So when Gus Jr. sends Lorelei and her best friend Dorothy Shaw (that's Jane Russell) to Paris on a transatlantic liner with a letter of credit, Dad hires the private detective Ernie Malone (Elliott Reed) to get the dirt on Lorelei. Dorothy, for her part, is there to try to prevent any dirt from happening.

The results are somewhat predictable. Needless to say there are a whole bunch of people on board interested in Lorelei and Dorothy. They're really more interested in Lorelei because Dorothy is more open about her desire for a millionaire: she wants one she can love first. Lorelei doesn't necessarily want to hurt men; she just wants those diamonds. So a whole bunch of people wind up portrayed as potentially upsetting Lorelei's relationship with Gus, chief among them being "Piggy", real name Sir Francis Beekman (Charles Coburn). He's got diamonds, but they're on a wife. The other predictable part is that Ernie the detective falls in love with Dorothy along the way to Paris, which is definitely going to complicate matters.

The ocean liner eventually makes it to Paris, and Gus Jr. has heard about what's gone on on the boat, so he's cancelled the letter of credit, leaving our two singers stranded without cash or a job. The job is easy to get, and as for the cash, there are still a bunch of millionaires around. But Gus shows up to try to reconcile with Lorelei, and Lady Beekman's jewels go missing with Lorelei and Dorothy being among the subjects....

As I said, the plot of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is predictable and nothing groundbreaking. But Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe are both quite entertaining in their portrayals of the two singers, making the movie entertaining if it were just a romantic comedy. It's a musical, though, and there are a couple of numbers of note. Everybody connects Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Monroe's performance of the song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend", which she does in a very pink scene. But there's another song to look out for, which Russell gets early on in the film. In "Anyone Here For Love?", Russell performs among the men of the US Olympic Team, who are on the ship on their way to the games. It's only the men, and I don't think any of them is wearing more than a pair of those skimpy shorts that people wore to do sports back in those days. No wonder there's a stereotype of musical theater being a haven for gay men.

The TCM Shop only seems to list one pricy, but big (15 films) box set available for purchase, while Amazon lists several DVD releases that all seem to be out of print.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Brady Bunch Movie

If you've got the Encore package, you've got a chance to enjoy some retro fun wihth 1995's The Brady Bunch Movie. It's coming up this afternoon at 4:20 PM (repeated three hours later if you've got both the East and West coast feeds of Encore), and is on the schedule again for Friday and Saturday.

If there's anybody here who isn't American and doesn't know about The Brady Bunch, I'd be surprised, but then, I don't know how much the original series made it to Europe. Mike and Carol were single paretns with three children each, who got married and started a blended family. If you thought Yours, Mine, and Ours was square, The Brady Bunch ups the ante, with the family living in suburban Los Angeles and being the model stereotype of middle-class life with First World problems; not that back in the 70s these things would have been called "First World problems".

The 1995 movie has a fun conceit: the Bradys are still living in the 1970s, although the world around them has evolved. Mike (Gary Cole) is still an architect, living in that iconic house and still designing all his buildings to look like variations on 1970s House. Somehow he's able to make a living, but that living is about to face a crisis: the neighbors the Ditweilers (Michael McKean and Jean Smart) are trying to sell the land in the area they all live to a developer who will build a mall on the spot (ah, the days of the shopping mall). To this end, they've been stealing the Bradys' mail, so that they haven't been getting their property tax bills. You'd think Mike and Carol (Shelley Long) would have noticed something, but they don't due to their 1970s ignorance, and wind up with a $20,000 tax bill.

What's a 1970s family with a $20,000 tax bill to do? Do what the Brady children did in a vintage episode from the original TV series and go on a TV talent show and win the grand prize! Interestingly, this movie comes from the era between when local TV was still producing a fair amount of non-news programming and when the "reality" competition shows like American Idol that hand out prizes big enough to solve the tax lien problem were around. But then, the whole point of this film is to be an homage to the original TV series.

As an homage, it broadly succeeds. If you liked the original TV show, I think you'll like the movie. References to the TV show abound. Also, all of the surviving stars from the original series (Robert Reed, who played Mike Brady, had died in 1992) have cameos. Almost as fun are some of the scenes with the Bradys being even more of fish out of water than they were in the original show. Jan pays a visit to a school psychologist and gets diagnosed with "Middle Child Syndrome" and is given some more startling advice; Greg knows what a car is but not a carjacking, Jack; and so on. If you didn't like the original show or are one of those non-Americans who never had it as a cultural touchstone, a lot of the humor may be lost on you or not stupidly funny.

The movie was successful enough among people looking for nostalgia that there was a remake, A Very Brady Sequel, that much more clearly takes ideas from the original show in creating its plot. I also have to admit that I prefer the sequel, but The Brady Bunch Movie is good fun for those looking for a warped trip back in time.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The art of Kim Novak

As I've stated quite a few times before, I like to listen to the international broadcasters that used to be on shortwave radio back in the days when that was the technology to use since Internet audio hadn't been developed yet. Anyhow, Thursday's edition of Radio Prague had the feature story 1950’s Hollywood actress Kim Novak exhibits her paintings in Prague.

There's text and a couple of photos at the link above. If you want to listen to the audio, there's an MP3 available for download here. The audio is just over 10 minutes, which means the file should be either about 5 or 10 MB; I can't remember offhand whether Radio Pragues individual features are 64 or 128 kbit/s. (The full-length program including news and current affairs is definitely 64 kbit/s, making Thursday's broadcast 10.5 MB for a program about 23 minutes.) The article states that the exhibit will be running for another two weeks, so if you're near Prague, you still have a chance to see the paintings. Some of Novak's work can also be seen at her website.

Friday, April 3, 2015

I Dream of Jeannie vs. The Love Boat

FXM Retro's current programming, as I've said regarding a couple of other movies, seems to involve putting on a movie early in the afternoon toward the end of the Retro block, and then repeating it early the next morning. An example of this is Twelve Hours to Kill, which comes up again tomorrow morning at 4:35 AM.

Nico Minardos plays Martin Filones, a Greek man who's been working as an engineer for an American petroleum company in Saudi Arabia and decided he wants to see the land of his bosses. But he gets more than he bargained for, as in the very first scene he witnesses a murder! Things like this don't happen every day in America, do they? Well, not this sort of murder, which is a gangland murder that involves a couple of guys in a car coming up on the guy they want to kill and doing the deed right outside Filones' window. What the decedent was doing in public and alone when he must have known he was a wanted man is glossed over, because we don't really care about the dead guy. Filones goes to the police, where he's interviewed by Lt. Carnevan (Grant Richards), a police detective who's just gotten out of the hospital after being shot in a case involving another witness to a high-profile killing; the witness in that case died. So Carnevan knows that witnesses like Filones are in real danger. He and his superior, Capt. Long (Russ Conway), decide to send Filones to a small town up the river where he can hide in relative anonymity.

Filones takes the train, where he meets a crazy lady with her dog, and then meets Lucy who doesn't reveal her name to him until the third act (Barbara Eden, later Jeannie in I Dream of Jeannie). They strike up a conversation, and when it turns out they're both getting off at the same station in the town of Denton, he lets her know that he's going to be picked up at the station. Who he sees ready to pick him up, however, is a problem. Filones has a good memory and a talent for drawing, and the illustration of the killer that he gave to Carnevan down in New York looks amazingly like one of the two men in a car waiting at the station (Richard Reeves). His fellow hitman is played by Gavin MacLeod, later Capt. Steubing on The Love Boat. Filones realizes something is wrong, and Lucy offers to take him to her house. Later in the evening she offers to take him to the hotel where he was supposed to stay to see what's up, where they find the two killers waiting there. Somebody in the New York police obviously tipped these killers off, so Filones can't trust any of the police. Meanwhile, Lucy has contacted the Denton police, who are doing their own investigation independent of the New York City cops.

It's all a good idea, but it winds up falling a bit flat in the execution. The climax, in particular, is badly filmed, looking extremely ark and murky and difficult to figure out precisely what's going on. It doesn't help that FXM is running a panned and scanned print. There's also stuff that's a bit too straining of credulity, like the pharmiacist recognizing the name of Lucy based on having filled a prescription, or Filones not remembering the name of the street Lucy lives on. On the other hand, watching Capt. Steubing smack Jeannie around is a bit of a hoot. As for other future TV stars, there's a third one in the cast in the form of Ted Knight, who plays a dispatcher in Denton, at least according to the IMDb credits.

Ultimately, Twelve Hours To Kill feels like something that, had it been made 15 or 20 years later, would have been made as a TV movie. There's nothing particularly great about it, but it's not terrible either, just perfunctory. It's worth one watch, but probably not much more.

A. Arnold Gillespie

I'll admit I wouldn't have recognized the name of A. Arnold Gillespie. He handled photographic effects at MGM for decades, producing things like the tornado in the 1939 Judy Garland version of The Wizard of Oz. TCM is putting the spotlight on Gillespie this month as the Friday Night Spotlight includes a bunch of the films on which he handled the effects.

Presenting the spotlight will be a few more people I've never heard of, visual effects man Craig Baron and sound designer Ben Burtt, although according to the TCM press release both of them have a fairly impressive list of credits. The press release says they will be "Along with Ben Mankiewicz", which I presume means they're sitting on one of the sets in Atlanta to do the interviews. (Does Ben's hacienda-style set even have chairs or couches? I know he's done sit-downs before, though.)

This first Friday night in the spotlight includes four of Gillespie's movies from the 1930s:

First, at 8:00 PM, you can see the aforementioned tornado, and a lot more, in The Wizard of Oz.
Then, at 10:00 PM, Gillespie recreates the 1906 earthquake that hit San Francisco;
Johnny Weissmuller swings on vines in Tarzan and His Mate at 12:15 AM; and
Ther are all sorts of ocean effects in the 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty at 2:15 AM.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Repeats, and a silent

Tomorrow is the birth anniversary of Marlon Brando, so TCM will be spending the say with Brando's films, many of which I'm sorry to say I don't really care for. At least over on FXM Retro they're going to be showing a movie I haven't mentioned in quite some time: Five Fingers. Istanbul is actually an interesting location for movies for several reasons. Turkey was neutral during World War II, which made Istanbul a natural place for people on both sides of the war to meet; something we also see in Journey Into Fear. Being on a very important shipping lane also meant that people from all over the world would show up, so Istanbul's location as a place for people to wind up together works in something like From Russia With Love, where James Bond is trying to get a Soviet cipher machine from the consulate in Istanbul, while the Soviets are trying to prevent it and SPECTRE are trying to get it themselves. End of the Game also starts off with a scene in Istanbul just after the end of World War II. And then there's Istanbul's being reasonably exotic, at least compared to the rest of Europe. That exoticness certainly looks nice in Topkapi.

Going back to tonight, however, TCM will be running a night of movies with men of the cloth, which is reasonably suitable since Easter is this weekend. The night starts off with One Foot In Heaven, which I mentioned last October. One thing I didn't mention back in October is that the movie being shown in the scene where Fredric March decides that moving pictures are actually suitable for Methodists is an actual vintage silent, The Silent Man from 1917 starring William S. Hart. Even though the movie is in the public domain, I was unable to find it on Youtube. So you'll have to settle for Hart's earlier film The Return of Draw Egan instead: