Sunday, May 28, 2017

Laughing Sinners

Another movie I watched off my DVR because it's available on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive Collection is Laughing Sinners.

Joan Crawford plays Ivy Stevens, whom we see at the beginning of the movie rushing to catch a train back to one of the midwestern big cities. She's got a job as the lead act in a nightclub. She's also catching the train because her boyfriend Howard (Neil Hamilton), nicknamed "Howdy", is on it. Howdy is a travelling salesman along with several of his friends like Fred (Roscoe Karns) and Cass (Guy Kibbee).

Anyhow, poor Ivy doesn't know that back in his hometown, Howdy has gotten engaged to a wealthy man's daughter, and that Howdy is planning to let her know that he's dumping her for the (only seen in a newspaper photo) rich woman. This devastates Ivy, to the point that she doesn't want to dance any longer despite attempts from her friend Ruby (Marjorie Rambeau) to change her attitude.

Eventually, Ivy decides she's going to end it all by jumping off a bridge, and we see a scene reminiscent of the one at the beginning of Mildred Pierce. Only this time, there's no cop to bank his nightstick against the railing. Instead, there's Carl (Clark Gable), a Salvation Army officer. He sees what Ivy is about to do, and convinces her not to do it. He also tells Ivy that the Salvation Army folks are holding a day out in the park for the disadvantaged kids, and he'd love it if she came along to help. We wouldn't have much of a movie if she didn't help out, and she finds that she likes what the Salvation Army is doing, to the point that she joins herself and starts going from town to town with Carl and the rest of his merry men and women.

Now that Ivy is an itinerant worker of sorts, we know that sooner or later, she's going to wind up in the same town as Howdy. And wow is Howdy a creep when he sees Ivy in the Salvation Army band. He hounds her in her hotel room until she joins him, and he tries to put the moves on her, convinced that she'll start being his mistress again if only she gives him another chance! And surprisingly, she gives in. Can Carl save her soul again?

Laughing Sinners is an odd little movie. Who would ever have expected either Clark Gable or Joan Crawford to play Salvation Army workers? And Neil Hamilton as a creep? Crawford is clearly more in her element when she's the dancer, even though she can't dance to save her or anybody's soul. But she tries, bless her heart, and her dance numbers in any film are worth it for that. This one has her in backless overalls, with detachable legs for the second half that's surprisingly revealing.

The film itself lurches from place to place and the pacing is all wrong, going from tedious to overwrought in the blink of an eye. If it weren't a Clark Gable/Joan Crawford movie, there would really be no reason to watch it. It's too bad that the movie only seems to be available on a standalone DVD as the Warner Archive DVDs are overpriced. This is another one that needs to be part of one of those four-movie sets along with some other dancing Joan Crawford pre-Codes.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Pleasure Seekers

So I noticed that The Pleasure Seekers is available on DVD from the Fox MOD scheme, and decided to watch it off my DVR so I'd have something to do a full-length post on and clear up a bit of space on the DVR.

The movie starts off with Maggie (Carol Lynley) taking a taxi through the streets of Madrid to pick up her friend Susie (Pamela Tiffin) at the airport. Maggie is an American ex-pat working in Madrid for their bureau of America's "Continental News" orgainzation; Susie doesn't seem to have any plans for Spain other than to see all the art. Susie already has another roommate in the form of Fran (Ann-Margaret), who's studying flamenco dance but works doing nightclub-type shows at private parties..

Anyhow, when Susie arrives at the apartment where she's going to live with Maggie and Fran, she starts asking Maggie about her life, and specifically the "problems", which all seem to be man-related. In fact, Maggie thinks a lot about men and gives Susie advice on the topic, such as not to look directly as Spanish men lest they think they're interested in you and start looking back. Like, for example, the guy in the aparment across the way from theirs, which is a running joke throughout the movie (and actually handled quite well at the end).

So you can guess that a major theme in The Pleasure Seekers is going to be the men the three women meet. And you'd be right. Fran has the simplest relationship. While she's rushing to rehearsal, she nearly runs into a moped being driven by Andres (André Lawrence). Andres is a doctor in a small Spanish seaside town who wants to open up a clinic of his own there and is visiting Madrid to learn about how clinics are run. The only problem is, he seems to be more in love with his clinic than he ever could be with any woman. He doesn't want Fran to know his full identity, and at first doesn't want to see her again, even though he really does like her.

Slightly more complicated is Susie's relationship. She goes to the Prado one day and, while looking at the paintings, finds two men talking about her. One of those men turns out to be Emilio (Anthony Franciosa). He doesn't seem to be working right now, but that's in part because he comes from a family that's wealthy enough for him to be able to do the playboy thing while he apparently lives off his investments or plans to go into some family business or something. (His father is apparently dead; we do meet his mother who likes Susie.) Complicating things is the fact that Emilio was "last year's problem" for Maggie, and she keeps telling dumb Susie what a cad Emilio is. But Susie keeps pursuing the relationship.

And then there's Maggie and this year's problem. She works with a lazy reporter in Pete (Gardner McKay) who would be right for her, although neither of the two realize this in each other. Meanwhile, Maggie's boss Paul Barton (Brian Keith) feels as though he's trapped in a loveless marriage to Jane (Gene Tierney) and decides he's going to pursue Maggie for a mistress. It's a problem when you're going after your secretary, and a further problem that another of your employees is actually the right man for your secretary. But Maggie goes back and forth with Paul and Pete.

The romantic plots are reasonably well-handled, and make the movie competent if a bit old-fashioned. It's a remake of Three Coins in the Fountain and still seems to be going for that 50s innocence vibe. But it bears repeating that there's nothing in terms of plot that's actually bad about the movie. The other big plus about the movie is the cinematography. Madrid looks gorgeous and everybody is well-served by all the location shooting. If there is one big problem, it's the fact that Fran is a singer and dancer, and so given several musical numbers. These all drag the film down, slowing it to a screeching halt, when you just want them to get on with the story.

The Pleasure Seekers does succeed as entertainment, even if it is nothing special.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Uncle Tom's Cabin (1903)

Because I can't think of anything else to blog about today, and because I have to do a ridiculous amount of work before I actually get a three-day weekend (surprise surprise), here's the 1903 version of Uncle Tom's Cabin, in the public domain on Youtube:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thrusday Movie Picks #150: Time Travel (TV edition)



This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This being the last Thursday of the month, it's time for another TV edition, and this month's TV theme is time travel. Eh, it's not a topic I'm that well versed on, but I've got three shows that kinda sorta qualify.

Rocky and His Friends (1959). I'm not quite up on all the various names of the shows that featured Rocky the Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose, but one of the recurring skits was Sherman (the boy) and Mr. Peabody, who would get in the Wayback Machine and view various events in history through a rather humorous and not particularly accurate perspective. Movie fans will enjoy Edward Everett Horton's narration of "Fractured Fairy Tales". In fact, it's from the various Bullwinkle incarnations that I first learned about Horton, before realizing he had a distinguished career as a character actor.

A Piece of the Action (1968 episode of Star Trek). Kirk and company wind up on a planet that somehow learned all it knows from 1920s gangsters, led by Vic Tayback. Actually, this is a theme the Star Trek franchise used a lot. There was literal time travel in a few episodes, both back to earth and one other society that was about to go supernova; episodes that techincally weren't time travel included visits to a Roman-era planet (they couldn't figure out why Romans worshipped the sun) and a Nazi planet. And The Next Generation did an episode based on a planet that learned everything they knew about earth from one pulp novel.

Otherworld (1985). Technically, this is interdimensional travel, not time travel. A middle-class American family visits the Pyramids in Egypt and wind up going through a portal to another dimension and in the Otherworld find a place that has a bunch of provinces based on different periods, such as the 1950s but with the gender roles reversed. The poor family was always being chased as they tried to get to the portal back to the Earth they know and love. This one lasted all of eight episodes, which was a shame since it's an interesting premise and I liked it as a 12-year-old.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

TCM Guest Programmer May 2017, and a short

Tonight sees this month's TCM Guest Programmer: Humberto Martinez. You've probably not heard of him, because he's the winner of a TCM Backlot contest to select a Guest Programmer. I suppose it's nice that the Backlot members can have the chance to appear on TCM, but the Backlot is still overpriced. Unless they get some free wine from the Wine Club, I suppose.

Anyhow, Martinez will be presenting three movies; I don't know if this had to do with rights issues or scheduling or what since normal guest programmers generally get to show four movies. Martinez prefers musicals (not my genre), and has selected:

Pal Joey at 8:00 PM;
The Eddy Duchin Story at 10:15 PM; and
Bye Bye Birdie at 12:30 AM.

In between Pal Joey and The Eddy Duchin Story, there's a short of the actual Eddy Duchin, but that's not the one I was thinking about mentioning today. The one I'd like to mention comes just before prime time: The Forest Commandos, at about 7:38 PM. This one looks at the firefighters who fight forest fires in Ontario. It was originally filmed in Technicolor, although apparently accoring to IMDb the only surviving prints are in black-and-white, which is a shame, because I'd bet a subject like this would really benefit from color photography. There is a Youtube version, but it's watermarked and I don't know if it's been colorized or not; the uploaders don't mention.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Roger Moore, 1927-2017


Roger Moore (r.) with Maud Adams in Octopussy (1983)

I didn't think I'd be writing a second obituary post today, but Roger Moore, the British actor who played James Bond in seven films starting with Live and Let Die in 1973 through A View to a Kill in 1985, has died aged 89.

Of course, Moore is best remembered for playing Bond, as will be mentioned of Sean Connery (actually younger than Moore despite having begun playing Bond a decade earlier) whenever he finally dies. But Moore had a long acting career before Live and Let Die, probably most notably for the TV series The Saint in which Moore played Simon Templar.

Fans of old movies may remember The Last Time I Saw Paris. And who could ever forget Moore in the Spice Girls' vanity project Spice World:

Dina Merrill, 1923-2017

Actress Dina Merrill, who was born an heiress but wanted to act, has died at the age of 93. The daughter of Marjorie Post (of the Post cereal family) and E.F. Hutton (when he talked, people listened), Merrill had a lengthy career starting in the mid-1950s on both TV and in the movies.

Merrill's first role on the big screen was as one of Katharine Hepburn's co-workers in Desk Set. Merrill played quite a few supporting roles, as the other woman for Glenn Ford in The Courtship of Eddie's Father, or as the woman whose fur coat Elizabeth Taylor gets in Butterfield 8. In real life, Merrill was also married to Cliff Robertson for 20 years.

I was looking for a good photo to illustrate this post with, and the image search unfortunately had a lot of watermarked stock photos. One that wasn't was from I'll Take Sweden, which led to this look at Merrill's life where the photo no longer seems to be used. But the appreciation has a number of other good photos.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Now I'm curious

Over the weekend, somebody linked to this review of a DVD called Ozploitation Trailer Exploitation. Unfortunately, the review is three years old, and the DVD is now out of print.

I don't know how much I'd want to buy a DVD of nothing but trailers. But I wouldn't mind seeing some of the titles mentioned in the review. The reviewer talks about "'respectable' Oz features", and names a couple of titles that showed up a few years back when TCM did its spotlight on the Australian New Wave hosted by Jacki Weaver.

A few of the titles have shown up in places like TCM Underground, or the old IFC back when they actually showed independent film and didn't have any commercials, such as The Cars that Ate Paris and, I think The Last Wave. I never got around to watching either of those, however.

And then there's the one title that I've wanted to see for a long time, The Man from Hong Kong. I have no idea if it's any good, but it spawned a big hit, "Sky High", from the group Jigsaw. And ever since I learned that ages ago, I'd been curious to see the movie. There are several movies like that. I was pleased finally to be able to see The Happening (which gave us that great Supremes song); I've never seen Unchained (which gave us the melody later covered by the Righteous Brothers and used in Ghost. I didn't know until after seeing the movies that Percy Faith's A Summer Place theme and Roger Williams' version of Autumn Leaves were not the originals.

As for The Man from Hong Kong, it does seem to have gotten a DVD release at one point, but like the collection of trailers that spawned this whole post, it seems to be out of print.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Gymkata

So I was looking for something available on DVD to watch off my DVR. Today, that selection is Gymkata.

The opening shots are an intercut between a guy doing a gymnastics routine at a tournament, and another guy in some third world country trying to escape on foot from a bunch of guys pursuing him on horseback. The gymnast is a success; the other guy gets shot by an arrow, falling to his death.

Cut back to the gymnastics tournament. As our gymnast, Jonathan Cabot (Kurt Thomas), is leaving, he's taken aside by a man who turns out to be a federal agent. That agent informs Jonathan that his father was killed. It turns out that his father was that guy we saw in the opening sequence. Dad was not a fugitive so much as taking part in a high-stakes game that is now being used for geopolitical purposes.

It seems that in the far-off country of Parmistan, they have a weird game. (I don't think it's referred to as "Gymkata", only as "the game".) Apparently condemned criminals get a chance at parole, while foreigners get a chance to have one wish granted to them, if only they can win the game. And that game involves a cross-country pursuit in the style of The Most Dangerous Game, with some of the Khan's men chasing after the competitors. And nobody's won this game in like 900 years. But various countries have started training their best athletes to take part, because Parmistan just happens to be the perfect location for a missile base that both the Americans and "the other side" (not mentioned!) want.

Anyhow, Jonathan's father was killed playing that game, and now the government wants Jonathan to train for it, since he's already a world-class athlete and would have the added motivation of avenging his father's death. Plus, there's a Parmistani princess Rubali (Tetchie Agbayani) to whom Jonathan is immediately attracted, although she is one tough woman. Anyhow, we get a bunch of training before we get to Parmistan.

There's also a meet-up with another agent in a third country somewhere on the Caspian (a fictitious city in a fictitious country), and that poses all sorts of danger for Jonathan even before he can get to Parmistan. Indeed, Rubali is kidnapped, and Jonathan vows to rescue her before heading off to Parmistan. He does this despite taking on about a dozen expert terrorists. You get where this movie is going from the fact that Jonathan keeps facing ridiculously long odds and winning.

Anyhow, Jonathan finally gets to Parmistan, where he finds out that Rubali has been betrothed by her father the Khan (Buck Kartalian) to the Khan's closest advisor Zamir (Richard Norton). And Zamir, it turns out, is actually against the Khan, but the Khan is too damn naïve to understand this. Zamir is intending to break all of the rules of the game to make certain that Jonathan does not in fact win.

It's all utterly ridiculous. While the movie does have a plot, that plot is mostly one trope after another, hanging as a pretext for a series of set pieces that allow Kurt Thomas to use his gymnastics moves. One fight has him improvising a high bar in a narrow alley, while in another fight, there's a prop that just happens to have two handles on the top, enabling Thomas to use it as a pommel horse. While the fight scenes aren't very good, they're good for a laugh. And why does Rubali have a catsuit on under her dress?

But there's also the direction, which at times equally ridiculous. For no good reason, the director decided to have a lot of sections of the fight scenes where the action suddenly switches from normal speed to slow motion and then back to regular speed. And I don't think any direction could have helped Kurt Thomas who isn't much of an actor.

To be fair, it's all so bad that it's good. Go into this expecting a movie that's not going to be any good, and you'll have a blast laughing at how ludicrous it all is. And there's some nice location shooting. This was done as a co-production with a Yugoslav film company back in the mid-1980s when Yugoslavia was the "liberal" Communist country -- remember, they didn't join the boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics, and they gave us the Yugo car. Some of the old towns look like they'd be interesting places to visit, assuming it's not all done on a backlot which I don't think they had.

The TCM Shop has it available at a very low price. If you're interested in really bad movies, you might want to take a flyer on it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Bedazzled (1967)

Bedazzled is going to be on FXM Retro tomorrow at 4:00 AM and 11:20 AM. It doesn't seem to be available on DVD, so you're going to have to catch the rare FXM showing.

Dudley Moore plays Stanley Moon, who works as a cook at the Wimpy Bar, which isn't a bar but the sort of urban diner people went into in vintage movies to get cheap meals. Stanley flips burgers for waitress Margaret (Eleanor Bron) to serve to the patrons. Secretly, Stanley is in love with Margaret, but she has no idea of any of this, as Stanley is too timid to approach Margaret and tell her how he really feels about her. As a result, Stanley feels trapped in a dead-end life.

Feeling that his life is at that dead end, Stanley decides that the only thing for him to do is commit suicide. So he sets up a noose, ties the other end around a water pipe, and prepares to jump off a stool to his death. Except that this succeeds only in breaking the water pipe, spilling water into his flat and making his life even more of a mess, no pun intended.

Into all of this walks George Spiggott (Peter Cook). George seems to know a surprising amount about Stanley and his ancestry, more than Stanley knows about himself. The reason for that is George is in fact the Devil, and it's his job to know about people and use that information in an attempt to win people's souls. To that end, George offers Stanley seven wishes, after which George will be in eternal possession of Stanley's soul.

Stanley eventually decides to take George up on that offer. But of course, there's a catch, and here I don't mean the catch about George getting possession of Stanley's soul at the end of all this. Instead, every time Stanley makes a wish, George makes it come true. At least, only as far as Stanley specified things. Those parts of the wish Stanley failed to specify, well, George is going to interpret those in a way that makes Stanley dissatisfied. And when Stanley wants out of his wishes, he finds that George is constantly engaging in all sorts of mischief on the poor people of Earth.

Along the way, Stanley talks a lot with George on why anybody would want to become the devil if it's not as glamorous a life as you'd think, and why he acts the way he does, and George has some interesting -- and at times sensible answers. There are points that could actually be thought-provoking, although the movie is meant as a fairly light comedy in spite of the subject matter.


Peter Cook (r.) having a bit of fun with Dudley Moore explaining why he grew tired with God

In thinking about it more, I think I'd consider Bedazzled to be almost an alternate-universe version of Oh, God!. Where you have a charming George Burns wanting John Denver to let people know that, yes, God is still here; in Bedazzled you have a charming Peter Cook wanting to let at least one person know that yes, the Devil is still here. (The wishes seem detached from reality, and there's no indication that the other characters know what's going on in those wishes.) And indeed, both Cook and Moore are charming in their roles, to the point that you feel sympathetic for both of them even though Moore is on the verge of losing his soul. There are, however, a few points at which the movie feels it's running on a bit much. That criticism aside, Bedazzled is well worth a watch.

Note that Bedazzled was remade in 2000 and updated to have the Devil be played by a woman (Elizabeth Hurley), which I think not having seen the movie that it would add some unwanted sexual tension to the movie. Both versions did get a DVD release somewhere, which is something to watch out for if you're looking for an expensive used copy of the Cook/Moore version. The older one is, I think, out of print everywhere; the remake is not listed at the TCM Shop but seems available on streaming video for Amazon Prime members who can do the streaming thing.

Friday, May 19, 2017

May 19, 1992

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Amy Fisher's shooting Mary Jo Buttafuoco. For those who don't remember, Fisher, dubbed the "Long Island Lolita", was a 16-year-old who met auto body shop owner Joey Buttafuoco and began an afair with him that resulted in the shooting of Joey's wife.

Now, I was thinking about which old movie comes closest to the events in the sordid Fisher tale. Of course Fisher was referred to as the "Long Island Lolita" based on the Nabokov book and later movie, but Lolita doesn't shoot Mrs. Humbert or anybody else if memory serves.

Gene Tierney lets Cornel Wilde's kid brother die in Leave Her to Heaven, andn even goes so far as to kill herself and put the blame on her sister (Jeanne Crain) when that sister is found to be in love with the Wilde character. I suppose it's a bit of a reverse of the mistress trying to kill the wife.

Another woman got in the way of Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins in Pretty Poison, but that woman was Weld's mother, not Perkins' wife. Still, Pretty Poison is worth another watch, or a first if you've never seen it before.

Imitation of Life would have been much more interesting if Sandra Dee had tried to kill Lana Turner and run off with John Gavin. And in similar family shootings, there's Where Love Has Gone with Joey Heatherton killing her mother's new boyfriend. But that's a replay of Lana Turner/Joey Stompinato, and not Amy Fisher.

Ah yes, there's also Dead Ringer, in which Bette Davis kills the wife of her former lover, the wife also being played by Bette Davis. But in that one, the husband has already died.

Any other good ideas? There's gotta be a lot of them in noir.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks #149: The Renaissance



This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This weeks theme is the Renaissance, and once again I've selected a bunch of older movies:

Prince of Foxes (1949). Tyrone Power plays Orsini, a low nobleman in the Borgias' court, Cesare being played by Orson Welles. Cesare has his eyes on another principality up in the mountains, and sends Orsini as his emissary in a complicated plot to take over the place. Of course, Orsini goes there and falls in love with the Count's daughter (Wanda Hendrix), as well as finding out that there are leaders who are nicer than the Borgias. Power is right at home here, and it's a shame that they weren't able to film in Technicolor, since it was done on location in Italy and San Marino.

Carnival in Flanders, aka La kermess heroïque (1935). Set in the early 17th century in Flanders, which at the time was part of the Spanish Netherlands. A troop of Spanish soldiers is coming through a town which is about to celebrate its annual carnival. The town fathers don't want to have to confront the beastly Spaniards, so they come up with a ruse that one of the town fathers has died and the rest of them are in mourning, which is why they can't wait hand and foot on the Spaniards. So it's up to the women to make the soldiers' night in this small town pleasant, and sparks fly as they use their feminine wiles to keep the peace. A delightful little comedy.

El Greco (1966). Biopic about the Greek-born painter (played by Mel Ferrer) who moves to Spain and spends his artistic life there. As is often the case, there was conflict between the painter's artistic desires and what his patrons (this was Spain, where the Catholic church was particularly strong) wanted. Unfortunately, the only time I saw this one on the old Fox Movie Channel years ago, they ran it in a panned-and-scanned print.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Frances Dee night

TCM is spending a night tonight with actress Francess Dee, who in addition to the movies she made was also married to actor Joel McCrea for 57 years until his death in 1990. There's a nice variety of movies here, from I Walked With a Zombie at 11:30 PM, to the Bette Davis version of Of Human Bondage at 2:45 AM.

I think the one I'm really looking forward to might be a TCM premiere, that being An American Tragedy at 9:30 PM. At least, I don't think it's been on TCM in ages, although the daily schedule has a genre next to the movie instead of a "TCM Presents" which tends to show up next to premieres. Anyhow, Phillips Holmes plays the son of a mission worker (Lucille Laverne) who goes off to the big city, gets a job with an uncle's factory, falls in love with a co-worker (Sylvia Sidney), and then meets and falls in love with a rich woman (Frances Dee) which causes all sorts of problems. If all this sounds familiar, it's because the movie is based on a Theodore Dreiser novel and the material was remade into the 1951 classic A Place in the Sun.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Home Movies

Some years back, I briefly mentioned the Robert Benchley short Home Movies. I found that it's an extra on the DVD of My Favorite Wife that's in the four-film Cary Grant box set that TCM (well, technically Warner Home Video) put out, so I can do a full-length post on it. Or as full as one can do for a seven-minute short.

Benchley tells us that he's going to tell us how to make good home movies, if only he can find that camera under all the film stock. Cut to a scene of Benchley hosting a bunch of neighbors and showing his vacation movie. I recall my Dad doing this for people of the pictures he took of his trip to Germany nearly 30 years ago, only my dad didn't have a movie camera; he took slides instead. Does anybody make slides any longer? Nowadays you'd just have the photos on a computer and hook that up to a large screen or a projector. In fact, Dad still has the slides and was in the process of converting them to digital before Mom died. That, and the old computer went belly-up after a lightning strike and I don't know if the software is Windows 10-compatible.

Anyhow, in the Benchley short, we see that all of his "friends" come up with excuses to get home early; apparently the being bored of other people's photos when you visit their home has long been a thing. This is why you'd go to the movies to see a Traveltalks short instead. And all of Benchley's movies are terrible. Benchley tries to make all of this funny, but he doesn't really succeed. The one funny bit comes at the end, but that one would no longer work either now that we have safety film.

I can recommend the feature films in the box set (Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, Night and Day, and the aforementioned My Favorite Wife), but as for the short it's one of the worst Benchley shorts I've seen.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Movies I blogged about years ago: May 15-16, 2017

I'm not certain what to blog about today, and with work still being a bitch I don't have as much time to do a good post on weekdays as I'd like. So I was looking at the schedules and saw a couple of movies I blogged about years ago that are coming up:

Seven Days to Noon will be on overnight at 1:45 AM on TCM. This is a nice little British thriller about a nuclear scientist who suddenly decides that Britain's work on the bomb needs to stop, and dammit, he's going to make them stop. It isn't perfect because of its small budget, but if you haven't seen it before it's well worth a look.

Come to the Stable is on FXM Retro this morning at 7:15 AM, but is going to be on again first thing tomorrow morning at 3:00 AM. Loretta Young and Celeste Holm play a couple of nuns over from France who get the small town they go to to put up a new children's hospital and church. Hokey at times, but good for the whole family.

The Big Street will be on TCM tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM as part of a morning and afternoon of Henry Fonda movies. Fonda plays a busboy at a nightclub who accidentally injures moll Lucille Ball, and then vows to take her down to Florida for a cure. It's a movie I have some serious problems with, mostly because it seems not to know whether it wants to be a screwball comedy or a drama, and winds up not succeeding at doing either.

[Edit:] I should have added that there's also a half hour of Lumière shorts overnight at 3:30 AM on TCM. I don't know which ones are in the set, and how they're presented.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dance, Fools, Dance

The movie I watched off my DVR this morning because it's available on DVD from the Warner Archive is Dance, Fools, Dance.

Joan Crawford plays Bonnie Jordan, daughter in a wealthy family, with a brother Rodney (William Bakewell). Neither of them has had to do a day of work in their life and live a decadent life of parties with their wealthy friends on Dad's yacht, even going swimming in just their undies which they can do since this is a pre-Code movie. Of course, since the movie was released in 1931, you know all of this intro is set in the past and that the stock market crash of 1929 is going to come.

Sure enough, that crash comes, and Dad, who trades stocks on the floor of the exchange, is wiped out. Not only that, he suffers a fatal heart attack on the floor of the exchange! Poor Bonnie and Rodney are told by the family's attorny that not only was Dad wiped out, he wasn't even able to save any money for the two kids in any sort of trust fund to leave the children set up in case of a situation like this. They're both going to have to work. Well, maybe not Bonnie; she's got Bob (Lester Vail) who's willing to marry her and give her a life of comfort.

But Bonnie won't have that, wanting to make her way in the world honestly. She decides to get a job at the newspaper, working her way up from the bottom writing crappy human interest stories. Poor woman. Rodney, meanwhile, hasn't been able to get any honest work, and since he's got a tab with the bootleggers (remember, this is the Prohibition era), he decides to meet up with the gangster Jake Luva (Clark Gable) and become a distributor and do other odd jobs for Jake.

One of those odd jobs involves driving the getaway car in a rub-out that's basically the St. Valentine's Day Massacre redux. But Rodney never knew that he was going to get into anything like this, and he can't stomach it. Worse, he can't keep his mouth shot. At the bar in Jake's nightclub, Rodney spills the beans to a lookout man who in fact isn't the lookout, but a veteran reporter on the newspaper where Bonnie works. Jake orders Rodney to shoot the reporter dead.

The newspaper knows fully well Jake's gang is involved, but can't get the goods. So they get an idea, which is to have Bonnie go undercover and work at Jake's nightclub to find out who really killed their reporter. All the threads eventually come together.

Dance, Fools, Dance is a moderately entertaining movie. There are other better pre-Codes that I would recommend if I were trying to get people interested in pre-Codes. But Crawford and Gable are both worth watching in this one. Crawford even gets to dance (for some values of dancing) in a number at the nightclub, where Bob finds out what Bonnie has been doing for herself. The story, however, takes a while to get going, as almost half of the movie goes by before the real action begins. And it ends a bit too abruptly. However, this first pairing of Crawford and Gable proved to be a big success, which is why we get a bunch of later movies teaming the two.

Dance, Fools, Dance is yet another of those movies which would be well-served with a release on one of those four-film sets TCM likes to hawk. Unfortunately, it only seems to be available on a standalone Warner Archive DVD.

Briefs for May 14-15, 2017

I've got a full-length review coming up later in the day, but I was looking through the TCM and FXM Retro schedules and there are a few things I wanted to mention.

First, in my last briefs posts earlier in the week, I mentioned one of those Canadian "Spotlight" posts. The one that first brought the series to my attention when I saw it on TCM some years back, Spotlight No. 3, is going to be on TCM this morning after the Noir Alley selection, so around 11:45 AM. This one includes the value of the elements in the human body (not much), as well as a hill in New Brunswick that has strange magnetic qualities.

This being Mothers' Day, TCM brings out a lot of the usual suspsects for films about mothers. Mildred Pierce, for example, gets its umpteenth Mothers' Day showing at 2:00 PM, and there's I Remember Mama at 8:00 PM. Pocketful of Miracles, the remake of Lady for a Day, shows up at 10:30 PM, and that one doesn't show up quite as often. Frankly I wouldn't mind seeing a programmer daring enough to show things like Throw Momma From the Train, Our Mother's House, or Autumn Sonata on Mothers' Day.

This week's Silent Sunday Nights is a series of five one-reelers, so as always I have no idea what order they're going to show up in. They run from 1:00 to 2:00 AM, and are all Mack Sennett-directed shorts that are over 100 years old.

Finally, FXM Retro has brought Gospel Road out of the vault, showing it twice tomorrow, at 3:00 AM and 1:35 PM. They probably should have brought it out last month for easter. It's not quite my thing, but people who like the music of Johnny Cash will probably find it interesting.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Face of Fire

So I was looking for a movie to watch on my DVR this morning that's available on DVD so I could do a blog post on it. My selection was Face of Fire, which you can get courtesy of the Warner Archive Collection.

Based on a story by Stephen Crane, this one is set in the fictitious small town of Whilomville circa 1898, and informs us in an intertitle just after the opening credits that it portrays small-town people as fully human, and neither with the doe-eyed saintly view or as pure evil rubes. Monk (James Whitmore) works as a handyman for local Dr. Trescott (Cameron Mitchell) and is generally beloved around Whilomville, as can be seen in the opening scene where's returning from taking a group of local boys fishing at the local watering hole. He's also got a girlfriend whom he's planning to marry.

But tragedy strikes the town. The Trescotts' house catches fire. While the good doctor and his wife are able to get out, their young son Jimmie is trapped in his bedroom. Monk goes into the house and ultimately saves Jimmie, which ought to make him a hero. There's a catch, though, in that in trying to get Jimmie to safety, he has to go through the doctor's laboratory, where there are all sorts of dangerous acids around. One of the flasks spills open, dripping hot acid on Monk's face.

It looks as though Monk isn't going to survive the fire, but if that were the case, the movie would end then and there and we'd have a pointless two-reeler. So you know that Monk is going to survive, except that he's got a horrendously disfigured face and has likely suffered brain damage as a result of the fire. (Amazingly, the smoke inhalation didn't get him.) Trescott sets Monk up with a farm family just outside of town where Monk can recuperate without being bothered by anybody.

Apparently something about Monk's presence has frightened everybody, since nobody wants to visit the farmer any longer and Monk decides to escape. He makes it back to town, but when he shows up anywhere, his appearance scares the bejeezus out of people the the point that they suffer breakdowns or something. (OK, at least in one case the injury makes sense as a woman's screaming spooks a horse which results in a carriage running the woman down. But most of the others are just ridiculous.) The "proper" wives in town all decide that no, dammit, we're not going to have this monstrosity frightening us, and husbands, you're going to do what it takes to get rid of Monk. Eventually, Monk hops aboard a freight train and the next morning his body is found in the next town over.

Meanwhile, the men of Whilomville are still searching for Monk not knowing that the station-master in the next stop has announced Monk's death, and their posse nearly kills an innocent man. And of course, the wives (led by Lois Maxwell who's married to a character played by veteran character actor Royal Dano) has a feeling that Monk really isn't dead and she won't be satisfied until her husband sees the body. He sensibly tells her to go look for herself, and when there's a funeral you'd think the snotty wives would insist on an open-casket funeral.

All this obvious foreshadowing is leading the viewer to think that, of course, Monk is not dead, and that he's going to show up soon enough. But will the town ever get over its fear of Monk?

Face of Fire is a good movie with some interesting ideas, but at times it goes over the top. I found it faintly ridiculous that the townsfolk would go from loving Monk to absolutely hating the idea of his presence in the town. Also, you'd think Dr. Trescott would have tried to prepare the townsfolk for the idea that Monk had suffered a terribly disfiguring injury, and that any brain damage might have left him acting a bit childlike. Sure, some children would probably still be frightened by the new face, but the adults, on being informed of what happened to Monk, would have at least made a good faith effort to treat him well. Harold Russell's character in The Best Years of Our Lives comes to mind here, although to be fair the people around him are mostly family.

Face of Fire also has an interesting visual look. That's because Allied Artists produced this movie in a co-production with Svesnk Filmindustri (the studio that produced a lot of Ingmar Bergman's work) in Sweden. Indeed, quite a fair number of the behind-the-scenes crew are Swedish. If you went into the movie not knowing this, you might get the impression from the exteriors and cinematography that there's something vaguely "off" about the movie compared to other 50s movies from the various low-budget studios. That doesn't really distract from the movie, however, especially since it's a story that could have been set almost anywhere.

All in all, Face of Fire is a pretty good movie that probably deserves a better DVD release than the over-priced Warner Archive Collection. It's certainly worth a watch.

Rambling Film

I couldn't really think about much to blog about yesterday, as I mentioned by watching a one-reeler and doing a post on it. So when I noticed Brittani over at Rambling Film doing a series of posts in the Thursday Movie Picks blogathon, I decided to look at the blog.

It turns out the blog is one with a completely different focus on the movies than the one I have, since I prefer older movies; I have to admit to not knowing much about indie film. That's part because I've generally preferred older movies, but also because living in the middle of nowhere and with my lifestyle, I don't get to watch too many indie films.

Oh, I did watch the old IFC back when it was a commercial-free channel and they actually showed independent movies, and there were a couple of interesting movies I saw there. They not only showed "indie" movies, but also some foreign films that wouldn't show up elsewhere. I think that's where I first saw Dark Blue World and Death of a Cyclist. And I'm pretty certain I first saw Divided We Fall there many years ago, a movie about a Czech couple in World War II who wind up hiding a Jew for the duration, something that obviously brings up a whole bunch of problems. It's so sad to see that channel no longer there.

But back to Rambling Film. I've stated pretty much every time I add a blog to my blog roll that the two criteria for addition are being interesting, and being posted to on a relatively regular basis. This one fits both, so onto the blogroll it goes.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Audition (1933)

What with all the overtime I've been doing and not knowing what to blog about, I decided to watch an extra off of one of the DVDs in the Warner Gangsters set that I've been working my way through. Since I had last popped open The Mayor of Hell to watch the animated The Organ Grinder, I put that one in and watched the musical short The Audition.

Frankly, there's nothing in this short. Bandleader Phil Emerton (who apparently never appeared in another film) is leading his bland band in an audition for some impresario (not in the IMDb credits). The impresario suggests that the band needs a novelty, so we get a series of novelties. First is Hannah Williams, who also never made another movie, doing a rendition of "Get Happy". She's not bad, but not somebody you'd remember very long afterward.

Next the suggestion is made to do a location setting which would require nutty uniforms: a levee. So we get stock footage of a steamboat, and a group called the X Sisters (who actually appeared in four films) singing some songs. Finally, there's a very energetic tap dance number featuring a pair of dancers named Larry and Larry who also, according to IMDb, never appeared in another movie.

The problem is, the entertainment is no great shakes, and there's absolutely no plot. At least some of the later shorts (I'm reminded of the one I blogged about with Jan Savitt) made no pretense of being anything other than putting a big band leader on the screen. And many of those aren't very good. This one is even worse.

At least The Mayor of Hell is a really good movie.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks #148: Deserts



This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This weeks theme is Deserts, and as always I've picked three older movies.

Five Graves to Cairo (1942). Franchot Tone plays a British army officer whose tank is shot in the Sahara, leaving him the only survivor. He winds up at a hotel run by a local (Akim Tamiroff) and the Frenchwoman Mouche (Anne Baxter). The only problem is that Erwin Rommel (Erich von Stroheim) shows up with a bunch of his officers, and they're talking about something secretive enough that if they found out the truth about Tone's character, they'd execute him on the spot. Can he figure out the secret before the Nazis figure out his secret?

Destination Gobi (1953). Richard Widmark plays a naval officer who gets stationed along with his men in... the Gobi Desert! The reason for this is that it's World War II, and the navy needs accurate weather forecasts. The Navy assumes that if they can get people further west than the Pacific, they can learn what weather is coming up since weather patterns tend to travel from west to east. The Japanese find them, of course, and bomb the camp, leaving the survivors to make it to safety, which is difficult since they're in occupied China.

Inferno (1953). Robert Ryan plays a businessman married to Rhonda Fleming, and going to Arizona to investigate a business deal along with his partner, William Lundigan. What he doesn't know is that his wife and business partner are having an affair, and they decide that since the mineral rights investigation is in the desert, this would be the perfect opportunity to kill him by abandoning him with a broken leg and no horse. Only, Ryan decides he's not about to be abandond, and tries to walk to safety. Ryan is excellent, and the movie originally used 3-D, from what I've read mostly to make the desert seem bigger. And Fleming and her red hair are as gorgeous as ever.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Possibly back on FXM Retro: May 11, 2017

So in last week's Thursday Movie Picks thread, I mentioned The Day Mars Invaded Earth as one of the movies about the Doppelgänger. I was under the impression that it was going to be on FXM Retro this coming Thursday, for those of you who haven't seen the movie and who have access to FXM. And indeed, my DirecTV box guide lists it as being on at 3:30 AM Thursday.

However, as I was preparing to look that up to write this post, I looked on TitanTV, since I've got a link to that on my computer. And that doesn't list The Day Mars Invaded Earth. Instead, they've got Chronicle on at 2:00 AM, followed by an "FXM Presents" piece and an 80s movie called Gleaming the Cube at 4:00 AM.

Zap2It, which seems to have redone its TV schedules to make them more accessible again (Yay!), presumably gets its listings from the same source as DirecTV -- as I understand it, there are actually a fairly small number of listings sources. They have Chronicle at 1:30 AM (both have the same running time for it, 103 minutes although that would include commercials), followed at 3:30 by... The Day Mars Invaded Earth.

So I went to the FX channels' page -- individual channels don't get their own sites there -- to get the schedule straight from the horse's mouth. They have Chronicle on at 1:30 AM, and then nothing until 6:00 AM, when all of the schedules agree that The Desert Rats will be on.

If I had to guess, I'd guess that because the FX page has Chronicle at 1:30, that The Day Mars Invaded Earth will in fact show up at 3:30 AM. But frankly I have no idea. I'm up that time of the morning since I start work at 6, but I'm not live-blogging what's on FXM.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Leaving the factory

My bosses have been expecting us plebes to work an obscene amount of overtime recently, to the point where I couldn't post first thing this morning because I was getting up to go in early. So since my job doesn't require me to use my brain, I was thinking about what to blog about, and was thinking about that old Lumière short of a bunch of workers leaving the factory at the end of the shift en masse to go home. It turns out, I blogged about it four and a half years ago on Auguste Lumière's birthday.

So what other movies have scenes of people clocking in and out? My next thought was of how the Montgomery Clift character meets the Shelley Winters character at the end of the work day in A Place in the Sun. By the same token, Thelma Ritter isn't meeting anybody, but she and her co-workers can be seen at the end of a shift as temp workers in a scene in The Mating Season.

There's a funnier end-of-shift scene in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, although that's not at a factory, but on the building site. A different funny factory scene, albeit of the assembly line instead of clocking in and out, is in I'm All Right Jack.

But perhaps the best of them all is in Metropolis:



That's how I've been feeling these past few weeks.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Spotlight No. 2, and other shorts

About a year ago, I mentioned that TCM was running a short rather cryptically titled Spotlight No. 3. It's a Canadian short showing a couple of quick vignettes about Canada. As you can tell from the title, there are multiple shorts in the series. Overnight, or early tomorrow morning at 4:17 AM (following The Last Sunset), TCM is running Spotlight No. 2. IMDb's page does list the vignettes in this one, but that seems to be the only information, as this one doesn't have any IMDb reviews.

Back in October, I mentioned the 1935 short Crew Racing, which as I said back then sounds like it might be a Pete Smith short but in fact isn't; it's part of a different MGM series, the "Sports Parade". This one will be on again at 10:20 AM this morning, following Go Into Your Dance. Pete Smith fans, I think, don't get another short until Thursday, when The Fall Guy, the final entry in the series, shows up on TCM.

And there's yet one more chance to catch Crashing the Water Barrier, tonight at 9:42 PM after The Far Country. This is an interesting one made even more interesting if you read up on what happened to the short's protagonist afterwards.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Lizzie

I DVRed Lizzie when TCM ran it at the end of March. It's going to be on TCM again tonight at 8:00 PM, so I made it a point to watch the movie last night so I could do a full-length post on the movie today.

Elizabeth Richmond (Eleanor Parker) is a young woman who works at a museum by day and goes home to live with her aunt Morgan (Joan Blondell) at night. Elizabeth is a mousy little thing, having only one friend, in the form of coworker Ruth (Marion Ross). And home life isn't so good either, as Morgan spends most of her time drinking bourbon, the only thing that's worth drinking apparently. Add to all that that Elizabeth is constantly fatigued and receives death threats from somebody calling herself "Lizzie", and you've got a young woman with serious problems.

Ah, but that's just the beginning. One night, as Elizabeth is going up the stairs to her bedroom, she calls aunt Morgan a drunken slut, and claims to have no memory of having done so. We then see her putting on garish makeup and going out to a dive bar that has as the only thing going for it the presence of Johnny Mathis at the piano. This is Lizzie, and Lizzie is a polar opposite from Elizabeth. At the bar, Lizzie meets one of the co-workers from the museum, who obviously recognizes that there's something going on.

As for aunt Morgan, she doesn't recognize it until one morning when the bottle of bourbon is empty. Elizabeth claims to hate bourbon, and Morgan knows she didn't drink it all. So she talks with her neighbor Walter (Hugo Haas, who also directed) about it, and Walter suggests Elizabeth seek professional health. And Walter knows just the man for the job, psychologists Dr. Wright (Richard Boone).

Elizabeth does go to see Wright, who puts her under hypnosis revealing that Elizabeth has another personality in Lizzie. Actually, she's also got a third personality in Beth, who is probably the original personality that was suppressed under the extremely shy Elizabeth and the extremely vicious Lizzie because Beth had to survive some chidhood trauma. But what is that trauma, and how could it mess Beth up that much?

Lizzie is very reminiscent of The Three Faces of Eve, and both came out in the same year. Lizzie isn't remembered as much, probably because it didn't have studio backing -- it was produced by Kirk Douglas' independent production company. It's really not a bad movie, but it's one that's hampered by its subject material. It's so easy to wind up over the top when you've got as your story a person who plays three wildly different people, and then add pyschiatric counseling to all that. Lizzie, unfortunately, falls into that trap at times, with the result that you'll probably find yourself laughing at points that aren't supposed to be funny. Some would point out, however, that this makes it even more of a reason to watch Lizzie.

Lizzie has received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive collection (the movie was distributed by MGM; I don't know the rights status of other films produced by Kirk Douglas' company). It probably ought to be on one of those four-movie box sets than a standalone.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Music in My Heart

Since it's the weekend and I've got time to watch somemovies to do full-length posts on, I pulled out my Mill Creek set of Columbia romances and watched Music in My Heart. (Look up the title on the TCM Shop and you'll find the Mill Creek set for something like $5.99.)

Tony Martin plays Robert Gregory, an understudy to the lead in a Broadway show who just wants to get his chance. However, he's got other problems besides the star's never getting sick. Apparently he was born abroad and immigrated as an infant with his parents who have since died, because he's about to be deported and no good explanation is given, save something about his parents screwing up the citizenship papers. Anyhow the lead gives him his one chance to do the show, after which he's put on a taxi to the next boat over to Europe.

Along the way, his speeding taxi careens into another taxi, which has as its passenger Patricia (Rita Hayworth). It turns out that she's on her way to the same boat, where she's going to meet wealthy Charles Gardner (Alan Mowbray) and go to Europe with him to get married. Obviously she's doing it for his millions, and it's clear to Robert that she doesn't really love him. Anyhow, the taxi collision means that the two miss the boat, and have to go back to Patricia's Lower East Side (I think; I'm not certain of my New York City geography) digs, which are in the same building as a restaurant mananged by her "uncle" Luigi and run by Rusian émigré Sascha (George Tobias).

Patricia's kid sister, like everybody else in the movie, recognizes that Robert is the right man for Patricia, even though there's the problem of his looming deportation, or even imprisonment for fleeing the immigration agents. Meanwhile, jilted Charles realizes he's still in love with Patricia, and his butler Griggs (perpetual Hollywood butler Eric Blore) decides he's going to do something to make Patricia come back to Charles....

The story in Music in My Heart isn't a bad one, if nothing terribly original. Unfortunately, the movie stars Tony Martin. He's got all the charisma of a bassoon, and sings in that horrendous operetta style. In fact, he sings multiple songs in that manner, and the film (which is only 70 minutes to begin with) comes to a screeching halt on the occasions they have him sing. Thankfully, one of those occasions is the finale, so that doesn't brin the film to quite as much of a halt.

I mentioned that I got Music in My Heart as part of an eight-film box set. The box set is more than worth it for the price. Music in My Heart wouldn't be worth it on its own. Unless you like that style of music.

Just a reminder about The Essentials



I mentioned some weeks back that The Essentials was coming back to TCM, and tonight is the premiere. Alec Baldwin will be the host, and his first guest host is David Letterman. Tonight's Essential, at 8:00 PM, will be The Bad and the Beautiful, one of the great Hollywood-on-Hollywood movies. It's also the opening for a night (well, half a night, since there's TCM Underground overnight) of Kirk Douglas movies, including the first airing in a long while of Champion, which follows The Bad and the Beautiful at 10:15 PM. The last of the Douglas films is Lust for Life, at 12:15 AM.

And for an OT note: Google screwing over the preview until you click to dismiss the "warning" about including a photo not hosted by Blogger is really obnoxious.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Alice Faye, 1915-1998


Alice Faye and Tyrone Power in a publicity still for Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938)

It's been a while since I've done a birthday post, but with work piling up and no features I can think of to blog about right now, now would be a good time for another post. Today marks the birth anniversary of Fox star Alice Faye, who was born on this day in 1915. Faye made about 30 films for Fox over a 10-year period, before her career came to an abrupt halt with Fallen Angel. Of course, Faye was a musical star, and her career at Fox was being overshadowed by the rise of Betty Grable.

But in those 10 years, Faye made quite a few movies that are worth a match. Alexander's Ragtime Band, a musical about a musician (Tyrone Power) who rises, losing his girlfriend (Faye) along the way, might be the best. Of course, that's in part because of all the Irving Berlin songs; the story is well-done but nothing new.

In Old Chicago, another love triangle set against the backdrop of the Chicago fire of 1871, might be better known, but I prefer Alexander's Ragtime Band.

For sheer fun and nuttiness, however, there's The Gang's All Here, which has Busby Berkeley at perhaps his most bizarre.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks #147: Clones and Doppelgänger



This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This weeks theme is Clones and/or Doppelgänger, and as always I've picked three older movies.

A Stolen Life (1946). Bette Davis plays Kate and Patricia, a pair of sisters who both meet Bill (Glenn Ford) and fall in love with him. Patricia marries him much to Kate's chagrin, but when they both go out on their boat, the boat capsizes killing Patricia. Kate is found unconscious, and when she recovers, she decides to take Patricia's place so she can have Bill. It's reasoably well-made, but not nearly as entertaining as Davis' later:

Dead Ringer (1964). Davis plays Edith and Margaret, both of whom loved the same wealthy man. Margaret married him and Edith became a poor, debt-laden spinster, but when the man dies, Edith gets the brilliant idea to kill Margaret, make it look like it was Edith who died, and take Margaret's place in a life of luxury. There's only one small catch. It turns out that Margaret no longer loved her late husband, and was having an affair with playboy Tony (Peter Lawford), who obviously figures out something is going on.

The Day Mars Invaded Earth (1963). Kent Taylor plays Dr. Fielding, heading up an unmanned space probe mission to Mars. Something goes wrong upon landing, and it turns out that incorporeal Martians have decided they don't like having space probes show up on their planet. So they use the radio link back to Earth to travel over it, and take the place of Dr. Fielding and his family. Well, first they have to clone the Fieldings, and so there's a lot of the real Fieldings not realizing they've been cloned, and having the bejeezus scared out of them when they encounter their clones. This is one of those ultra-low-budget movies Maury Dexter was making for Fox to distribute while the Cleopatra production was hemmorhaging money (at least that's how I see it), and it's probably the best of them.

Creature features, but....

As we're in the first week of a new month, it's again time for a new feature on TCM, this one being the monthly TCM Spotlight. It's Creature Features, or those fun (if not always particularly good) monster movies mostly from the 1950s and 1960s. This week sees, among others Mothra overnight at 1:15 AM; I think it's the subtitled version since TCM's brief page on the subject mentions the English-language version of Rodan coming up later in the month. The night ends with Reptilicus, a co-production filmed in Denmark and with different versions for Denmark and the US; again, the website mentions that we're getting the American version (more unsurprisingly here).

However, the TCM page on the spotlight is in general quite brief. As with last month, there's no mention made of who's going to be the host of the spotlight. Since there was a guest host last month, I'd guess there's one this month too. In general the TCM pages seem to be less informative than in the past. Apparently to find out things like guest hosts you have to do the social media thing now.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

James Whitmore night on TCM

TCM is taking the time to show some of James Whitmore's movies tonight on TCM. Whitmore was one of those actors who showed up in a lot of stuff from the 1950s on, but never became a big star; and, with the advent of television, didn't get to do quite the meaty film work that earlier stars got to do. He was also at MGM, which means some of those B programmers the studio was churning out in order to subsidize the big budgets for the Freed Unit musicals. I'd like to mention a couple of the movies on tonight that I don't think I've mentioned in these parts before. Unfortunately, my Internet connection is a bit wonky right now so I've only got the time for brief one-paragraph synopses rather than full-length posts.

Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone, at 11:30 PM. Marjorie Main plays Mrs. O'Malley, a feisty woman from Montana ranching country who, for reasons I don't quite recall and which I don't think really matter for the point of the plot, is taking the train east to New York. (It's probably been since the last TCM showing some years back that I watched this one.) Whitmore plays Malone if memory serves. He's a lawyer trying to get paid by his previous client (Ann Dvorak). O'Malley is convinced she's seen a murder committed on the train, and dammit, she's going to prove it and prove who did it. You can imagine trying to deal with Marjorie Main, detective.

Shadow in the Sky, at 3:00 AM tomorrow. Whitmore plays a World War II veteran living with his wife (Nancy Davis before she became Reagan) and two young children trying to move into the middle class like a lot of returning veterans. However, his wife's brother (Ralph Meeker) suffered shell-shock in the war (as they called it then; now it would be PTSD) and has spent his time since the war in a military hospital trying to recover. They've determined that he can live outside the hospital, but it's going to take the support of somebody like his sister and her husband to help him recover fully. And the poor soldier still has a terrible fear of thunderstorms. You can probably guess where all this is heading. It's actually a pretty good little movie for one of those early 1950s MGM B movies, even if it does get a bit heavy-handed at times.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

TCM Star of the Month May 2017: Clark Gable


Clark Gable (r.) and Charles Laughton in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935); tonight at 11:30 PM)

So we're in the first full week of a new month, which of course means time for a new Star of the Month on TCM. (Well, excepting February and August.) This month, that means Clark Gable. Gable did a lot of work at MGM, so it's fairly easy for TCM to get the rights to those movies.

Gable's Academy Award, however, came when MGM sent him over to Columbia to punish him for whatever reason. That movie, It Happened One Night, became a surprise hit, and is a fitting choice to kick off TCM's Star of the Month salute. As mentioned in the caption to the picture at the top, the 1935 Gable version of Mutiny on the Bounty will be on at 11:30 PM tonight.



In fact, tonight's lineup includes a bunch of Gable's early movies, with Mutiny on the Bounty being the most recent from 1935. The movie that really made him prominent, A Free Soul, comes on at 3:00 AM. He was in a supporting role as gangster Ace Wilfong -- the male leads were ostensibly played by Lionel Barrymore (who won the Oscar for it) and Leslie Howard. But watching Gable here, it's easy to see why he was noticed for this. In between Bounty and A Free Soul, at 2:00 AM, there's a documentary on Gable.

The other two movies on the lineup are No Man of Her Own at 10:00 PM, starring Gable and future wife Carole Lombard years before they'd get married; as I understand it, they didn't become an item because of this movie. It's also the only movie they made together. And then, at 5:00 AM tomorrow, Gable has a smaller role as the chauffeur keeping the lady of the house drunk in Night Nurse, while nurse Barbara Stanwyck discovers he's having the children starved so he can get at the trust fund money!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Danielle Darrieux turns 100!


Danielle Darrieux, Helen Broderick, and Mischa Auer in The Rage of Paris (1938)

Today marks the centenary of French actress Danielle Darrieux, who is in fact still with us at 100. TCM is marking the day with a night of Darrieux' movies, including The Rage of Paris at 8:00 PM. This one, a realtively typical romantic comedy of the era, has Darrieux playing a girl struggling to make a living, who winds up falling for two rich men (Louis Hawyard and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) and then getting involved in a scheme with her friends to try to rope one of them into a romantic relationship with her.

Darrieux spent most of her career in France, making a couple of movies in Hollywood both before the war and then in the 1950s, and having the bad luck of being stuck in occupied France during World War II.