Sunday, December 8, 2019

A pimpernel's love is different from a square's

One of the first movies I put on the new DVR was the 1934 version of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

It's 1792 in France, and if you know your history which you should since I just mentioned this era a week or so ago regarding Désirée, there's a revolution on, and the revolutionaries are killing the non-revolutionary nobles. However, a cart driven by an elderly lady leaves Paris. Only it's not an elderly lady, but an Englishman, Percy Blakeney (Leslie Howard) in disguise. The guards let the cart pass because Percy says there's a patient with the plague in the back, which is why they don't inspect it. In fact, there's a nobleman who was slated for the guillotine.

Now, the authorities know about a man called the Scarlet Pimpernel who has been getting noblemen out of France, but they don't know the identity of the Pimpernel (if you haven't figured it out from my description, it's made quite clear that it's Blakeney). So Robespierre (Ernest Milton) sends his envoy Chauvelin (Raymond Massey) to England to try to figure out who the Pimpernel is, because after all there's a substantial French expat population in England.

One of those French is Blakeney's own wife Marguerite (Merle Oberon). Percy still loves her, but doesn't really trust her, because after all she's French and there's been some rumor that she was responsible for getting some noblemen arrested. Worse, Marguerite's brother Armand (Walter Rilla) is one of the Pimpernel's men in France, so Chauvelin has Armand arrested so that he can put pressure on Marguerite to reveal the identity of the Pimpernel (which she doesn't know).

The Pimpernel has to head back to France for his most dangerous mission, saving one of his own men, knowing fully well that Chauvelin has more men then ever trying to find the Pimpernel. Marguerite follows him to France to try to warn him, but that might be a mistake because if Chauvelin can get her in custody, then there's even more pressure on Percy.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a Korda brothers production, made in England for London Films, which if you've seen enough movies from that era you know is a byword for high technical quality. The only thing is, I couldn't help but think the movie could have been better. But that's largely because knowing the basic plot synopsis, I was expecting more of an action movie. Instead, The Scarlet Pimpernel is rather talky at times, especially in a long section I haven't mentioned set at a society party attended by Percy and Chauvelin. The one big action scene comes in the finale, and even that doesn't have all that much action.

Still, as I implied in the previous paragraph, the acting and production values are both top-notch. So if you know going in that there's a bit less swashbuckling-type action, it's not a bad movie at all.

The TCM Shop has a DVD of the movie from Reel Vault available for purchase that doesn't seem to be on Amazon. Amazon, however, has the movie on streaming. The story has been filmed for the big screen and TV on quite a few occasions, so you may want to make certain you're getting the right version.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Room for One More

TCM ran a bunch of family-friendly movies over the Thanksgiving holiday, so I took that opportunity to watch Room for One More.

Cary Grant plays George Rose, a civil engineer for the small city in which he lives, married to Anna (Grant's real-life wife at the time Betsy Drake), with three children and too many pets -- Anna takes strays in, much to George's constant irritation.

He's about to get more irritated. Not only does a dog show up, but another human does, too. Anna and the other members of the local PTA have made a visit of one of the orphanages for older children who can't be adopted, and after the visit, administrator Miss Kenyon (Lurene Tuttle) knows of a case that would be just right for the Roses to take in as a foster child on a trial basis. Anna pretty much accepts without even discussing it with George, which should be a serious red flag in any marriage, but somehow this marriage survives.

Jane (Iris Mann) is about 16, so older than the Roses' own children, and has a lot of problems. Her father died and Mom didn't want her, so she has serious abandonment issues and doesn't expect the Roses to want to keep putting her up after the two-week trial period. Somehow, though, the Roses -- Anna especially -- are just such magically good parents that they're able to keep Anna, who grows to like living with the Roses.

But if one foster child isn't bad enough, Anna inflicts a second, much more difficult case on George. Jimmy John (Clifford Tatum Jr.) is a boy of about 10 with polio, who wears leg braces and has become extremely withdrawn as a result of all the times he spent in hospital. It's to the point that he doesn't talk at all, and can't read either. Anna is determined to help him, but he's going to be a much more difficult case. And then both Jimmy John and Jane have serious problems over the Christmas holidays....

Room for One More is a movie looking at a topic that didn't get much mention in the movies, that of foster parenthood. There's always been adoption of infants, as in the recently mentioned My Blue Heaven or Cary Grant's earlier Penny Serenade, but the emotional difficulties of older children in need of a stable home weren't discussed very often. In that way, Room for One More is a really nice addition to the family movie genre.

But I also had some pretty big problems with this one, notably in the relationship between Anna and George, as well as the fact that everybody's problems seemed to be solved way too neatly. I can't help but feel Jane would have had problems for a lot longer than two weeks, for example, while in the real world nobody would have let Jimmy John try to get his Scouting merit badge in the dead of winter.

Still, Room for One More is definitely worth a watch, and available at Amazon on a Warner Archive DVD as well as from the Prime streaming video.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Peter O'Toole does comedy!

Another of my recent movie viewings was My Favorite Year.

New York, 1954. It's what Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker) describes as his "favorite year". Benjy is a junior writer for the live sketch comedy TV show hosted by King Kaiser (Joseph Bologna), working under Sy Benson (Bill Macy). It's not all a bed of roses, however. One problem involves a series of sketches the show has been doing about a mobster named Hijack, which in and of itself would be no big deal. But the show is clearly spoofing a guy named Rojeck (Cameron Mitchell), and he's pissed. He visits Kaiser and the rest of the writers, and threatens them if they don't stop doing sketches about him.

The other problem involves this week's guest star. Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole) is one of Benjy's favorite old actors, being a swashbuckler who's very obviously modeled on Errol Flynn. Alan, it turns out, is only doing the show because he's very heavily in debt to the IRS and needs the money. It's a headache for Kaiser and the writers because Swann is a notorious party animal and drinker, two things which just won't work for live television. But since Benjy is such a big fan, he offers to take the job of making certain Alan can stay sober and show up for all the rehearsals and the show on Saturday night.

It's not going to be easy, since the first time we meet Alan we see his chauffeur finding all the bottles Alan has hidden. And the first thing Alan wants Benjy to do is to escort him to one of those nightclubs of the sort that featured in screwball comedies -- one where Swann caused a major incident the last time he was there. (In the end, Swann creates another incident, but by dancing with a woman there for her anniversary, played by Gloria Stuart.)

Against the backdrop of all this, Benjy is in love with one of the other junior staffers, Dowling (Jessica Harper), which creates another thread running throughout the movie. Then Benjy's mom Belle (Lainie Kazan) invites him for dinner, and since Benjy has to chaperone Alan, he brings Alan along, which creates another big scene since everybody in the building knows who the famous Alan Swann is and wants to see him.

But events conspire to threaten Swann's appearance on the show. One is that he's got a daughter in Connecticut he hasn't seen in a year, what with him having been through several marriages. On the morning of the show, he decides to pop over to Connectict -- as if he doesn't know that it's well over an hour away -- to see the daughter. Worse, he finds out that the show is actually going on the air live, something the producers neglected to tell him, apparently knowing this would be a problem for Swann. And, the show is scheduled to start with another Hijack routine, which fortunately Swann doesn't have a part in so at least they have a few more minutes to get Swann ready if that need arises. But of course, there was that threat from Rojeck....

I've said on quite a few occasions that while I enjoy contemporary movies from any era (at least if they're good), I've always been more ambivalent towards more recent movies looking back at the Boomer era, so I've long been hesitant toward My Favorite Year. But to be honest, I really enjoyed it. I don't know that Peter O'Toole got to do a whole lot of comedy -- there's How to Steal a Million, although most of what I can think of is more dramatic. But O'Toole really shines in My Favorite Year and makes the movie work. He's helped by a very good script and direction from Richard Benjamin who clearly has a soft spot in his heart for this material.

There are also a lot of good supporting performances. In addition to the actors I've mentioned, Selma Diamond in the wardrobe department and Lou Jacobi as Benjy's uncle come to mind.

If you haven't seen it before, I can highly recommend My Favorite Year.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks #282: Adaptations

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week's theme is "Adaptations", which is a broad one, since there are so many movies that have been adapted from books, plays, and short stories. So I decided to think about doing a theme within a theme, and unsurprisingly, that turned out to be fairly easy too:

Baby Doll (1956). Mississippi cotton mill owner Karl Malden is set to marry his naïve, barely legal bride Carroll Baker, when into town comes rival mill owner Eli Wallach. Malden has his henchmen burn Wallach's mill, and when Wallach visits the house to get a statement from Baker, the two get rather racy, which really ticks off Malden. It's adapted from a play by Tennessee Williams, who was known for his overheated Southern Gothic plays.

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). Katharine Hepburn plays a matriarch who wants to donate to a clinic run by Montgomery Clift. But there's a catch: the donation is contingent upon his performing a lobotomy on her niece Elizabeth Taylor. It seems that Taylor was on vacation with Hepburn's son when the son died a rather shocking death, and Hepburn thinks this his wrecked Taylor's mind. The truth, however, might not be quite what it seems at first glance. This was adapted from a play by Tennessee Williams.

Sweet Bird of Youth (1962). Paul Newman plays a gigolo escorting Geraldine Page back to his hometown in Florida. Town political fixer Ed Begley (who won an Oscar) doesn't want Newman around, because Newman used to be the boyfriend of Begley's daughter. Meanwhile, Begley has a hotheaded son who has no qualms being too violent toward Newman, and a mistress who is threatening to spill the beans and destroy the political machine. If this all sounds over-the-top melodramatic to you, it's because this too was adapted from a Tennessee Williams play.

TCM Star of the Month December 2019: Joan Blondell

Blondell talks to James Cagney in Blonde Crazy (tonight at 11:00 PM)

Now that we're in the first full week of a new month, it's time for a new Star of the Month on TCM. This time, it's Joan Blondell, who was a delight opposite James Cagney in the early 1930s, and continued to work through the 1970s. (I remember seeing her in an old episode of Starsky and Hutch on one of the vintage TV digital subchannels.) Blondell's movies will be airing every Thursday in prime time, into Friday morning.

Blondell worked a lot in the first half of the 1930s, so it's not surprising that a good half of the movies TCM is showing in their tribute to her are from this era. It also means that there's a surprising number of movies from this time that aren't part of the salute:

I love Night Nurse, but Blondell has a smaller part in this, and it's really Barbara Stanwyck's movie. So I'm not surprised that if TCM felt they could only show so many Blondell movies, this one didn't make the cut

Lady for a Day has Blondell in another supporting role, and since it's from Columbia and Blondell's selection as Star of the Month was made by the Backlot voters, I'm not surprised that TCM made certain they'd have enough stuff from the old Turner library for whichever star was selected.

The final night of Blondell's turn as Star of the Month on the 26th features movies from the 1950s and 1960s, including The Cincinnati Kid which I haven't blogged about before:

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

While the Patient Slept

Quite a few years back, I mentioned that Warner Bros. put out a series of short mystery films as part of a cross promotion called the "Clue Club" mysteries. The movies aren't related to each other in any other way, but one of those B mysteries showed up on TCM recently: While the Patient Slept.

An elderly businessman is believed to be on the verge of death, and all of his relatives as well as some other important people like his lawyer are at his mansion waiting for him to kick the bucket. He gets a telegram with some unexpected news, and this causes him to have a stroke -- but the stroke doesn't kill him. So the old man's doctor sends over Nurse Keate (Aline MacMahon) to take round-the-clock care of the old guy.

Needless to say, all the man's relatives want to talk to him; they're all cousins to one another. One guy is calling in an outstanding loan; there's also the old guy's lawyer, and so on. The old guy is in bed in a bedroom that seems to have been converted from a library or something because it seems to be way too big and right off the greatroom. So in any case there's a lot of traffic outside his room.

And then, suddenly, a shot rings out! And one of the cousins dies! And pretty much everybody in the house could have been a suspect. The police send over Detective O'Leary (Guy Kibbee), who obviously has a past relationship of some sort with Keate, and not just because MacMahon and Kibbee had starred together in Big Hearted Herbert a year earlier. As O'Leary tries to solve the case, he and Keate trade one-liners, helped by the fact that O'Leary's deputy is played by comedic character actor Allen Jenkins.

To be honest, I'm being a bit vague on the plot largely because the plot isn't the real reason to watch this one. It doesn't really matter who did it, because the real reason to watch it is the banter between MacMahon and Kibbee. They're both in good form, although they'd probably be in better form with a more original plot. The rest of the cast of character actors is professional but not something you're going to remember years from now.

While the Patient Slept is the sort of movie that belongs on a box set, although as far as I can tell it's only available on a standalone DVD from the Warner Archive collection.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Boys' Night Out

I've mentioned a few times in the past that I always enjoy watching those 60s color comedies at least for the set design, even if the movies aren't always particularly good. Another example of such a movie that came up short for me was Boys' Night Out.

Fred (James Garner) is a man from suburban Connecticut who works in New York City, taking the train in with three of his friends: George Drayton (Tony Randall), Doug Jackson (Howard Duff) and Howard McIllenny (Howard Morris). The four man, in addition to commuting together, also spend every Thursday evening staying in the city for a night out. Except that over time, the nights out haven't been particularly exciting, with them just drinking in a bar.

And then one night, Fred sees his boss Mr. Bingham (Larry Keating) walk in with a lovely lady who Fred knows is not Mrs. Bingham. Bingham is obviously wealthy enough that he can keep an apartment in town and have his girlfriend in it, not having to rely on an employee like C.C. Baxter to lend him an apartment for his assignations. Our four commuters start thinking about the idea of being able to have such an affair, although it is of course much too expense for middle-level workers such as themselves.

However, one of them gets the idea that perhaps they could rent an apartment together to put up a woman, and each of them could use it one night a week. At first, the math on this doesn't work out, as the good apartments are still too expensive. This is much to Fred's relief, as he doesn't like the idea since it implies they're all sharing the same women. The other three all have wives, and while Fred doesn't, he has his mother (Jessie Royce Landis) living with him. So he goes for an apartment that's obviously going to be out of their price range. But because of a scandal that happened there, the landlord is willing to rent it out cheap.

Meanwhile, they need a woman, and Fred is shocked that he's able to get one to respond so quickly. That woman is Cathy (Kim Novak). What she doesn't tell Fred is that she's a graduate student in sociology, working on her dissertation, on the sexual fantasies of the suburban male. So when she figures out what Fred and his friends have in mind, she's actually thrilled with the prospect, since it's perfect for the thesis. Her doctoral adviser, Prof. Prokosch (Oskar Homolka), however, thinks it won't work.

And to be fair, it doesn't quite work out the way Cathy or any of the guys plan it. Cathy starts to fall in love with Fred, and he with her, although they're not certain they realize it. The other three guys come to the apartment for their one night a week, and all three wind up being less than romantic, more getting companionship out of Cathy than they could at home with their harried wives and families.

As for those wives -- and Fred's mom -- they suspect something is up, but they can't quite figure it out, hiring a detective and then ultimately heading into New York to find out for themselves what's going on. They're going to find out just in time for the big comedic finale.

One of the big problems I had with Boys' Night Out is that that big finale was for me more grating than comedic. It also didn't help that Fred's three friends all come across as more obnoxious than funny, too. Even Tony Randall, who's normally quite good at material like this.

I did mention the set design, which is certainly worth a look, as in this view of the main room of the apartment Cathy is billeted in:

There's also the foam kitchen appliances in the apartment, with other pastels in the houses in Connecticut. It wasn't enough to make the movie fully worthwhile for me, but I'm sure there are other people who are going to like Boys' Night Out a lot more than I did. This is definitely one you should watch and judge for yourself.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Down to the Sea in Ships (1922)

One of the TCM spotlights this month is remakes. Every Monday they'll be running an older version of a movie followed by the remake. This first Monday has been seeing pairs where the first movie is a silent, followed by a talkie remake. (Well, technically, at least one of them isn't quite a remake, just a movie with the same title since the Errol Flynn Sea Hawk is not the same as the silent version.)

With that in mind, I noticed that FXM has the 1949 Richard Widmark version of Down to the Sea in Ships running tomorrow at 6:00 AM. I blogged about that earlier this year, and mentioned that it shared its title with a 1922 silent Down to the Sea in Ships that has a completely different story. (The title is a Biblical reference, to the Book of Psalms.) The silent version is in the public domain and has been available on Youtube, and is also on a DVD release, so I recently watched it to do a post here on it.

Marguerite Courtot plays Patience Morgan, a young woman in New Bedford, MA in the mid-19th century who is the son of Quaker and retired whaler Charles Morgan (William Walcott). She's in love with Thomas Dexter (Raymond McKee), a college graduate, who is opening up a factory in town. He wants to marry her, but Dad says no. His daughter is going to marry a Quaker, which is no matter to Dexter since he can convert. But more importantly, Dad wants his daughter to marry a whaler, which Morgan definitely isn't.

Meanwhile, nasty Siggs has a scheme to bilk Morgan and use the ships to search for gold rather than whales. And when he sees Patience, he falls in love with her and vows he's going to marry her. Of course, Dexter is still in the way, so Siggs has his underlings get Dexter good and drunk and then put him on the next whaling boat out of New Bedford. Also winding up on the board is Morgan's granddaughter and Patience's niece Dot dressed as a boy (Clara Bow in an early role), and her friend Jimmie. Dexter and Dot's disapperances are explained by saying they tok the Oregon Trail west, which might be plausible for the other characters in the movie, but we know better.

Dexter isn't exactly happy about being shanghaied, but he sees that he might have an opportunity to become a true whaler such that when he gets back he can ask for Patience's hand in marriage. Of course, Siggs might get there first. The ship is captained by a fairly bas man, so one of Siggs' henchmen who is also on board leads a mutiny which is part of the plot of getting the ship in order to go looking for gold....

Down to the Sea in Ships is an interesting movie, aided by the fact that apparently some of the whaling footage is about as real as they were going to be able to get at the time. Whaling was dying but hadn't died out completely which made the footage possible; of course, that footage may be uncomfortable to some viewers. For a silent action movie it's quite good, although since silents can be an acquired taste it might not be everyone's cup of tea. Bow is also immensely enjoyable as the one cast member likely to be remembered today.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

I should have blogged about this one last Wednesday

One of my recent DVD purchases was this six-movie science fiction set. I think I've already blogged about The Night the World Exploded, but don't think I've seen the other five. So I put one of the discs in my DVD player and watched The 27th Day.

Eve Wingate (Valerie French) is a British woman spending a nice day on the southwest coast along with her painter boyfriend. She goes off to towel off, and hears a stentorian voice telling her to come with him, followed by a blinding flash of light. Jonathan Clark (Gene Barry) is a reporter for a Los Angeles newspaper, covering the night shift, and he hears a similar voice. The same thing happens to Pvt. Godofsky, a sentry at the Kremlin; West German scientist Prof. Bechner (George Voskovec); and a woman from a war-torn(?!) part of China.

It turns out the five have been brought on board an alien spaceship somewhere in outer space. The Alien (Arnold Moss) informs them that he's a representative of an alien race from a planet far away, one whose sun is about to go nova, destroying the planet and their civilization with it. The need a new planet to live on, and see that Earth fits the bill quite nicely and has several hundred million years before life is going to die out, so they're going to settle Earth.

Of course, Earth already has sentient life forms on it, and these aliens have just enough morals that prevent them from simply destroying Earth life as we know it and replacing it with their own civilization. Instead, they come up with a rather devious idea, which is to take earthlings' naturally self-destructive tribal tendencies and exploit those to get us humans to destroy ourselves. Because that's obviously so much more moral.

To achieve this, the Alien gives our five humans a compact-like case with three capsules that are something like the supposed neutron bomb, that is, something that was designed to kill humans while leaving the rest of the infrastructure intact, although neutron bombs were designed to kill over a much smaller radius. These cases could only be opened by the thoughts of the five people given the cases, each person being able to open only his or her own case. No other power on earth could open it, although once open, anybody can use the weapons. If mankind can avoid using these weapons for 27 days, the aliens won't invade, but the aliens are confident they won't need the full 27 days. After explaining how the weapon is operated, the Alien sends the five humans back to Earth.

Now, my first thought is that the five people given these weapons could simply dispose of them by burial or whatnot, with nobody finding the weapons and nobody but the five being able to open the cases. Besides, only these five know about the weapons, so there's no reason to use them. Indeed, Eve is smart enough to take her case and throw it into the English Channel. But the aliens aren't so stupid. In a gambit reminiscent of The Next Voice You Hear, they're able to take over all TV and radio broadcasts, and give out the names of the five people who have these weapons! So now, everybody wants access to these weapons, possibly to stop them from being used, or most definitely in the case of the Soviets, to gain a tactical advantage over the Americans by using theirs first.

I didn't name the Chinese woman because she kills herself, which causes her weapon to disintegrate just as the Alien said. Eve, after throwing hers away, flies off to Los Angeles to find Jonathan. (How she evades passport control is not answered.) Jonathan picks her up and the two go into hiding at a race track that is currently out of season. The Soviets put pressure on Godofsky to explain and then use the weapon, while Prof. Bechner is picked up at the airport in the US leading the Feds to try to examine his weapon and figure out what to do.

The 27th Day is another of those movies with a really great premise that ultimately winds up having some problems with it that might mitigate your enjoyment of it. For me, the big problem was the resolution, which involved Bechner trying to figure out mathematically how the weapon works and coming up with a bit of a deus ex machina. I also mentioned the problem of Eve being able to get into the US. Some potential problems were actually covered, with a mention of relativity accounting for time dilation. There's also the broadcast naming the five possessors of the weapons, which solved what would otherwise have become a big problem for me. I also really liked how thought-provoking the movie is.

All in all, The 27th Day is quite good for a low-budget sci-fi movie, even with some of the problems it has. The box set is quite inexpensive, making The 27th Day more than worth the low price.

As soon as December comes....

We're in the first day of a new month, and with that month being December, it means Christmas on the 25. And Christmas movies throughout the month. Some places started well before Thanksgiving, but I'm not really into Christmas before Thanksgiving. (Other than the fact that I've done all my Christmas shopping on Amazon already, except for the bottle of wine for Dad.)

TCM claims that it's running Christmas double features in prime time on Sundays, and that's true as far as it goes. Tonight sees the 1951 (Alastair Sim) version of Scrooge tonight at 8:00 PM, followed by The Bishop's Wife at 10:00 PM. They're both often shown, but to be fair they're movies that deserve that many showings because of how good they both are.

In fact, however, it's not just prime time double features on TCM. The Christmas movies are starting in the afternoon. If memory serves, The Lady in the Lake at noon is set around Christmas, while Little Women (the 1949 color version with Elizabeth Taylor and others) definitely has Christmas scenes. And the following two movies, Holiday Affair at 4:00 PM and The Shop Around the Corner at 6:00 PM are most definitely Christmas films.

One could also argue that the prime-time lineup isn't just a double feature, since there's time after Scrooge for the 1945 two-reeler Star in the Night, a retelling of the Three Wise Men story.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

It's Love I'm After

One of the movies that TCM ran during Bette Davis' turn as Star of the Month that I had not seen before is It's Love I'm After. Since it's available on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive, I sat down to watch it and do a review here.

Bette Davis is nominally the female lead here, but the story is really about the male lead, Leslie Howard. He plays Basil Underwood, a Shakespearean actor who has had a long love-hate relationship, both personally and professionally, with Joyce Arden (that's Bette Davis). She plays the female leads in Basil's stage productions, and shares a hotel suite with him as they travel on the road. She's a bit tired of this in that she wants him finally to propose marriage to her.

But before that can happen, another woman shows up. That's young Marcia West (Olivia de Havilland), a star-struck young woman who for whatever reason thinks the world of Basil and shows up at his dressing room one night after a performance and carries on a conversation with him while Basil and Joyce are zinging insults at each other through the wall that separates their dressing rooms. Never mind that Marcia is already engaged to be married. Unsurprisingly, Joyce catches a glimpse of Marcia as she's leaving the theater, although she can't be certain Marcia was in Basil's dressing room.

The one person (well, other than Basil and Marcia themselves) who is certain of it is Marcia's fiancé Henry (Patric Knowles). He loves Marcia and doesn't want to lose her to Marcia's fantasy view of Basil, so he goes to Basil's hotel suite to see him after Marcia goes home. By this time, Basil has finally proposed to Joyce, but Henry has a big favor to ask: could Basil show up at Marcia's mansion and show himself to be such a jerk that Marcia's image of him will change? Joyce is certain to be unhappy about it, but Basil knew Henry's father and is certain this is only going to take a couple of hours, so he reluctantly accepts.

Of course, things don't go as planned. No matter what Basil tries, it only seems to solidify Marcia's image of him. And she's also got a batty screwball comedy family, notably bratty eavesdropping kid sister Gracie (Bonita Granville). Further complicating matters is that Joyce shows up at the house, alternatively claiming to be married to Basil already, and being totally willing to give him up to Marcia.

How is everybody going to extricate themselves from the sticky situation? Well, you can probably guess that the movie is set up so that Basil and Joyce are together at the end, as are Henry and Marcia. So the fun is supposed to be in how the two get there. In that regard, however, It's Love I'm After seems slightly off, even moreso than the Warner Bros. screwball comedy I previously recommended, Four's a Crowd. I think that a lot of it comes down to the Marcia character, who is written as a bit of a jerk. (Well, OK, I found her more than a bit of a jerk.) Add to that that none of the four were normally screwball actors, and the problems mount.

Still, everybody tries, and the leads all being professionals, it not any of their faults that the movie has the problems it does. One standout is Eric Blore as Digges, Basil's valet, playing the sort of role he could play in his sleep.

Even though It's Love I'm After was definitely not one of my favorites, you might want to give it a try since it's definitely the sort of movie some people are going to like more than I did.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Civil War fantasy

Some time back I picked up a DVD of Shenandoah. With my previous DVR having died, forcing me to watch some of my DVDs, I finally put this one in the player and watched.

James Stewart plays Charlie, the patriarch of the Anderson family in western Virginia's Shenandoah Valley in 1864. Now, if you know your history you should know that this is over three years into the US Civil War, and in the Confederacy. By this time the war was already effectively lost for the South. But dammit, it looks as if the war hasn't touched the Anderson place at all. None of his six sons has gone off to fight the war, and they somehow grow or make everything they need, as all the oil lamps stay lit. Indeed, Charlie is pissed that Confederate procurement agents want his horses. (To be fair, I'd be pissed too about it. But you'd think at least one of the sons would have gone off to fight.)

In addition to having six sons, he's got a daughter Jennie (Rosemary Forsyth) and daughter-in-law Ann (Katharine Ross in her movie debut), the latter of whom is married to son James (Patrick Wayne) and pregnant. Somehow, all of these people are able to live a fairly idyllic life with the only real tragedy seeming to be that the matriarch died in childbirth with youngest son Boy (Philip Alford).

But we wouldn't have much of a movie if this idyllic life just kept going on. A couple of things happen. One is that Jennie gets married to Confederate officer Sam (Doug McClure) who has to go almost straight from the wedding back to the front. And then one day while Boy is out hunting, he runs into a Union ambush. Since he had stupidly put on a Confederate cap that he had found, he gets taken prisoner by the Union.

Charlie finds out, and he decides that he's just going to get up from the farm and form a search party to find Boy come hell or high water! And he and most of the remaining children are just able to go off and do the searching, barely being troubled by any of the soldiers from either army going around the area. They find a Union officer (George Kennedy) who doesn't have Boy and suggests a rail transport; there they find Sam but not Boy. Meanwhile, things aren't particularly safe back at the farm....

Shenandoah goes on like this for the entirety of its 105-minute running time. Most of that time I found maddening, since the plot not only strains credulity, it breaks it, stomps on its carcass, and demands that we respect it for having done so. OK, I'm being a bit hyperbolic. But not much. Stewart gives a good performance, and frankly there's nothing wrong with the acting from the supporting players either. It's just that plot.

Well, one other technical problem I had was that Shenandoah uses some battle footage from Raintree County. In and of itself that's no big deal, but Raintree County was in a 2:35:1 aspect ratio, while by the time of Shenandoah the 1.85:1 ratio was much more standard, so all that Raintree County footage looks grainy and out of place.

Still, many of you will probably like Shenandoah much more than I did, so get a copy and judge for yourself.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Heaven of Color

While starting to fill up my new DVR with movies to post about here, I actually watched one or two as they were actually airing, the horror. One of those movies was the Fox musical My Blue Heaven.

Betty Grable plays Kitty Moran, happily married to Jack (Dan Dailey). They're an entertainment couple that started in vaudeville and worked their way up into radio, where they've been fairly successful. That's about to change, as Kitty has found out she's pregnant! It's a happy occasion, at least for a little while. What makes it less happy is that as the two celebrate one evening, Kitty is the designated driver since she's not drinking during pregnancy and Jack is more than happy to drink for himself, Kitty, and the baby. But while driving on Fox's backlot, Kitty immediately gets in a car accident.

She's going to be OK, but the baby isn't. And her uterus probably isn't going to be OK either, since the doctors tell her she's likely never going to be able to have children. Unsurprisingly she's extremely unhappy about it. But the couple has friends the Pringles (David Wayne and Jane Wyatt), who have adopted three of their six children, and they suggest to the Morans that adoption is a good option.

So they do go to an agency, where they find a frankly nasty boss who doesn't like entertainers, thinking they never have time to take care of the children properly. It's nonsense because a successful couple, whether on radio or heading to the then-new medium of television to which Jack decides to decamp on the grounds that it's wide open, would have the money to hire help, and because the schedule doesn't have to be that much worse than your typical 9-5 job. Jack and Kitty aren't helped either by the fact that the Pringles organize a big party when the Morans finally get the baby. You'd think they would have known that the head of the agency wouldn't like such a loud party. So the head of the agency takes the baby back right then and there.

Mr. Pringle's next idea is to go through with what seems like a rather skeezy private adoption, which is presented almost as if the Morans are just buying their baby. But they get their baby. Kitty takes maternity leave to look after the baby, and her understudy Gloria (Mitzi Gaynor) starts putting the moves on Jack! Further problems arise when Kitty decides to go back to work and confront Gloria, and the mother who gave up her baby for adoption gets second thoughts.

My Blue Heaven is a movie that takes a bunch of nice ideas and puts them together in a way that's unfortunately less than the sum of its parts. I think a large part of it is due to the talents of Grable and Dailey. They were a nice screen couple, and suited to the sort of musical Fox was making in the 1940s, but in this one, there's enough of a plot that it didn't need to have musical numbers. It does, and practically every one of them makes the movie come to a screeching halt. I also found several of the plot points logic-defying.

Still, the performances are nice, and it's an amiable enough movie. It's just not one of Grable's greats. It's available on a Betty Grable box set, so you may like some of the other movies on the set as well. Note that there's a 1990 movie also titled My Blue Heaven, starring Steve Martin and telling an entirely different story.

Thursday Movie Picks #281: Dystopia/Apocolypse (TV Edition)

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. Now that we're at the final Thursday of the month, it's time for another TV edition. And with it being Thanksgiving here in the US, what better theme than dystopia! Now, of course, I look at dystopia a bit differently from the rest of you, so I'm sure my selections are going to be rather different. In fact, I probably could have used the same selections I used for the "Horror" theme last month, but am not going with those.

Cops (1989-). Long-running TV show in which the police run roughshod over people stupid enough to sign the release forms to be used on TV, and one of the many police shows over the decades that have inculcated in people the idea that the cops can do no wrong and that the "obey or die" mentality is a good thing, one that got ramped up after September 11, 2001: look at all the people traveling for Thanksgiving who meekly submit to the useless TSA.

Sports Night (1998-2000). Tedious "comedy" about a late-night cable sports show and its behind the scenes workings, which had the idea that sports shows should be about shoving the proper political opinions down people's throats, an idea that ESPN has run with increasingly over the past several years. It also inflicted Aaron Sorkin on the world.

Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? (2000). One-off special in which 50 women competed to win the right to marry a multi-millionaire whom they did not see until the end of the show. Because that's how I want to find a partner. Needless to say, the marriage did not last.

And with that, have a happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

In the Mood for Love

We've got one Wednesday of movies left in the TCM spotlight on cinematography, and a movie that's part of that spotlight is In the Mood for Love, which will be on at 6:15 PM.

The scene is Hong Kong, 1962. Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) shows up at a cramped apartment in a high rise looking to take a sublet that has been advertised by Mrs. Suen (Rebecca Pan). She informs him that she's just rented the sublet to Mrs. Su (Maggie Cheung), but that there's another sublet next door. Chow is able to get that one.

Chow is a journalist whose wife is away on business a lot, while Su works as a secretary at an import/export firm; her husband is also away a lot on business trips. This, combined with Mrs. Suen spending more time with her mahjong-playing friends, mean that Chow and Su keep running into each other. As they talk about their respective spouses absences, two things happen.

First, they get the distinct feeling that perhaps Mrs. Chow is going off and having an affair with Mr. Su! Second is that Chow and Su start to develop an emotional attachment to each other. Chow dreams of writing a martial arts serial, and perhaps Su can help him. But there's also a problem in that a relationship like theirs is bound to garner attention, this being a fairly conservative society.

Eventually, Chow takes an efficiency so that Su can visit him without being noticed by anybody who is going to know them in the rest of their lives. But then Chow gets a job at a newspaper in Singapore, and asks Su to leave her spouse and join him in Singapore, which seems like it would be rather scandalous. After some consideration, she leaves. Can our two secret lovers be happy together?

I think it's with good reason that In the Mood for Love is in TCM's cinematography spotlight. The camerawork is excellent, deftly showing the cramped spaces of a Hong Kong apartment and how these two lovers have almost no privacy. Also of note is the production design, notably the vintage dresses that the women wear. There's also a lot to be said for the score, including instrumental string music and any number of contemporary songs, notably by Nat King Cole.

You may note that I haven't commented on the actual story, and that's because it can be a bit sparse and tough to follow if you're not paying close attention. I think that's by design, but it won't necessarily be to everybody's liking. The ending, which takes place at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, is something that you can probably see coming a mile away; at least I could, although that's not a neagtive.

All in all, In the Mood for Love is a movie that's absolutely worth a watch. It's gotten a release to DVD and Blu-ray, but from the pricey Criterion Collection.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Time for the full-length post on Désirée

At the beginning of the month, I mentioned that the movie Désirée showed up on FXM, but that I didn't have the time to do a full-length post on it for various reasons. It's going to be on FXM again, tomorrow at 10:50 AM and then again at 8:00 AM Thanksgiving, so now's the time to do that full-length post.

Jean Simmons plays Désirée Clary, a young woman living with her family and working at the family's millinery in Marseilles, France in 1794. If you know your history, you'll recognize the date as toward the end of the French Revolution. So who should show up in the Clarys' milieu but Napoleon Bonaparte (Marlon Brando), together with his brother Joseph (Cameron Mitchell)? Napoleon has plans of going to Paris to do great things, and gets more or less betrothed to Désirée in Marseilles. Désirée has a sister Julie (Elizabeth Sellars) who gets engaged to Joseph.

Napoleon does go to Paris, and some time passes. Sadly, Désirée receives no word from Napoleon. So she rather impulsively goes to Paris in order to look for Napoleon. She finds that he's at a party, but it's one of those swanky invitation-only things held by high society, and not only does Désirée not have an invitation; who's going to let her in anyway. Thankfully for her, one of the guests, General Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (Michael Rennie), shows up without a companion. He's so taken by Désirée's beauty and her ardent desire to get into the party that he makes her his guest.

Désirée, of course, is going to find that Napoleon has met Josephine (Merle Oberon), who is of much higher upbringing than the Clarys and so better for Napoleon to have politically. In theory he still could have loved Désirée -- and in some ways he still does. But he needs a marriage that can help him obtain his ultimate desire, which is power. Josephine can provide that; Désirée can't.

Désirée settles by marrying Bernadotte, and it turns into a marriage of love, which is more than can be said for Napoleon and Josephine. Napoleon also has the problem that Josephine is barren, and he needs an heir once he's crowned himself emperor. But Désirée already has children by Bernadotte, so she's out of the question.

Political events become more heated as Napoleon is trying to take over all of Europe. He's installed his brother Joseph on the throne of Spain, and then it turns out that Sweden needs a new monarch as well. So they call on Bernadotte, offering to make him King because their current royal house has no heirs. He accepts despite Désirée knowing no Swedish.

She's unhappy in Sweden with the austere court life and her lack of Swedish, so she eventually decides to return to France, just in time for Napoleon's disastrous 1812 campaign. This leaves her effectively a prisoner in France under house arrest. And after that comes Waterloo and Napoleon's refusal to abdicate. The other powers all think Désirée is the only one who can get Napoleon to go to St. Helena....

Désirée is a nice enough Hollywood look at history, with the House of Bernadotte being one of the parts of the Napoleonic era not to get much mention in any other Hollywood movie. I don't have much idea how inaccurate the movie is, of course. Still, it's nice to look at, and the main actors all do reasonably well. The one big problem is with the print FXM is running, which was letterboxed and pillarboxed. So if you've got a smaller TV screen, this one is going to look pretty darn tiny. It also doesn't seem to be on DVD, which is a shame.

Monday, November 25, 2019

That time Warner Bros. remade Libeled Lady

Some weeks back TCM ran a day of movies starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. One that I hadn't reviewed before was Four's a Crowd, so I watched it to do a post here.

The opening reminded me a bit of Libeled Lady, with the four main characters all walking down the street together. As for the real action, we don't see Flynn or de Havilland first. That honor goes to Rosalind Russell, playing reporter Jean Christy. She's got a great story, but it's not going to be printed, because her publisher, Patterson Buckley (Patric Knowles), is planning on shutting down the newspaper. Jean knows just the editor the paper needs to keep it going, but that's a former editor: Jean's on-again, off-again boyfriend Bob Lansford (Errol Flynn).

Bob, no longer at the paper, made the switch to public relations, handling the affairs of rich people and making them look better in the eyes of a public that didn't necessarily like them during the Depression. He's currently trying to get the biggest target of them all, John P. Dillingwell (Walter Connolly), but Dillingwell has the good sense not to get involved with PR firms.

Bob sees a chance to get a contract with Dillingwell once Jean informs him of what's going on at the paper. He'll have the paper publish a series of nasty stories about Dillingwell, which Bob can then use to get that contract, after which Bob will use the paper to make Dillingwell look good. Of course, that's if he can even get to see Dillingwell in the first place.

When he gets to the Dillingwell place, he mees John's granddaughter Lorri (Olivia de Havilland), and is immediately taken with her. There's only one minor problem: Lorri is currently in a relationship with Buckley! And God only knows what's going to happen if Lorri were to figure out that the PR campaign is solely for the purpose of enriching Bob.

I mentioned in the title of this post, and early on about the opening credits, that the movie kept reminding me of MGM's Libeled Lady from a few years earlier. Unfortunately, Four's a Crowd comes off like the poor cousin of Libeled Lady in any comparison. I can think of a couple of possible reasons for this.

First is that I think Rosalind Russell is really the only one of the four leads who was a natural for the screwball comedy. Everybody else tries, but seems better suited to other genres. Second is the fact that this was made at Warner Bros. Certainly there has to be at least one good screwball comedy to come out of Warner Bros. (maybe The Bride Came C.O.D.?), but Warner Bros. really seemed more adept at social dramas and action, while a glittering comedy like this was more in MGM's wheelhouse.

Still, everybody tries their hardest, and it's not as though Four's a Crowd is a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. It's just that you get the feeling it could have been so much better. Four's a Crowd is available on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive, so you can watch and judge for yourself any time you want.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Buck and the Preacher

I had a couple more Sidney Poitier movies to get through before my old DVR died. There are one or two unwatched, but I did get to see Buck and the Preacher, which was also Poitier's directorial debut.

The scene is a couple of years after the Civil War. The slaves have been freed legally, but southern whites aren't about to lose their grip on power, so they tried to prevent blacks from acquiring land and kept blacks as sharecroppers. Understandably there were blacks who didn't like this and wanted a better life, so they headed west to get the free land that was still being offered under the Homestead Act. Buck (Poitier) is a scout for the wagon trains leading such blacks west.

However, there are people trying to stop the wagon trains. There are Indians, who see that the advance of blacks is no better for them than all the whites settling their historic territories, and they demand tribute from wagon trains in exchange for free passage. There are also "night riders", whites who harass the black wagon trains and try to get them to turn around to go back to the South.

One such band attacks Buck, forcing him to make a hasty escape, to the point that it's going to kill his horse if he doesn't get his horse some needed rest. Thankfully, he runs across another black guy, a phony preacher named Willis (Harry Belafonte), who has taken a break from his itinerant ministry to bathe in a nearby river. So Buck takes it upon himself to take the Preacher's horse!

The Preacher takes Buck's horse and rides into town, where Deshay (Cameron Mitchell), the head of the night riders, questions the Preacher about where Buck is. The Preacher doesn't care about Buck at first, until he joins up with one of the wagon trains and sees the damage that the night riders are doing to black people. They've killed some of the settlers and taken all of their money that they're going to need for passage, and all of this gets the Preacher to form an uneasy alliance with Buck to go after the whites.

However, in the attempt to get the settlers' money back, Buck and the Preacher are going to commit actual crimes that are going to get the local sheriff to join up somewhat with the night riders. Previously, the sheriff's attitude was that none of these people had committed any crimes in the sheriff's jurisdiction. But now, Buck has, and Deshay can use that to his advantage.

Buck and the Preacher is a movie with a good story that I found ultimately wound up being less than the sum of its parts. I think one reason for that is that I've never been a fan of Harry Belafonte the actor, he being the weak link in a lot of the movies he's in. Another ws that the movie needed to take a bit more of a comic tone. There's something about the material that needs a lovable rogue rather than somebody who's deadpan serious playing Buck. The direction is competent, if stuck in the 70s with its zooms.

Still, Buck and the Preacher is certainly worth one watch, and you can get it on DVD.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Lil Dagover

Shortly before my DVR died, I watched The Woman from Monte Carlo. It's available on a Warren William box set, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length review here.

The scene is France's Mediterranean coast in 1914, so just before the start of World War I. Captain Corlaix (Walter Huston) is the captain of the Lafayette a French warship pulling into port. He knows there's a possibility of the war about to break out, discussing a secret code for a friendly ship to pass. Also, his men are ordered to stay on board and not go into port because of the tense situation.

However, there's a party for the officers' and sailors' wives, and among those is Lottie Corlaix (Lil Dagover). When she gets on board the ship, she sees that one of her husband's officers is Lt. d'Ortelles (Warren William), which is a problem since she has a past with him and Capt. Corlaix wouldn't be happy knowing that his wife was less than fully faithful with him. Also on board is Brambourg (John Wray), who also knows that Mme. Corlaix has a past, even if he doesn't fully know what it is.

I mentioned it was 1914 and that the situation is tense, and sure enough all of the wives are going to have to get off the boat because it looks like there really is going to be a war. However, Lottie has been busy seeing d'Ortelles, and fails to get off the boat in time, so it's already pulling out into the open ocean! It's not as if she can jump out a porthole and swim back to shore without being noticed, so she has to hide in d'Ortelles' cabin.

Meanwhile, Brambourg is doing a "lights out" inspection that requires him to go to every cabin, so there's a good chance that he's going to catch d'Ortelles and Lottie together. While he's in d'Ortelles' cabin, the two see the code that Capt. Corlaix was talking about at the beginning of the movie. But: it turns out that some spies had gotten a hold of the code, because this isn't a friendly ship, and it winds up attacking the Lafayette, with a substantial loss of life!

Unsurprisingly, there's a naval court of inquiry, and even though we know Capt. Corlaix is in the right, his defense doesn't have the evidence to prove it. Brambourg is seemingly the spy, having no desire to tell the truth that he saw the code given. As for d'Ortelles, he was wounded in the brief naval battle and has been in a naval hospital delirious ever since, so he's in no condition to testify. And even if he could testify, his health means his testimony would be discounted in favor of Brambourg's.

Ah, but there's one other witness to it all: Lottie. The only problem is, she wasn't supposed to be there, and if she gives her evidence, everybody is going to know that she and d'Ortelles were having an affair, which is also a bit of a problem.

This is based on a play which apparently starred Jeanne Eagels in its first American showing; and if the film has a weakness it's that the stage origins really show. All of the leads try but the material is ground that' been covered quite a few times in movie history and so this isn't the best work for most of the cast. It's not notably bad; it's just that it's also not notably great.

The one person worth mentioning is Lil Dagover. She was a European actress, born in the Dutch East Indies to German parents and became a silent film star in Germany, most notably in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. With the advent of sound movies and the popularity of both Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich, other Hollywood studios wanted their own exotic European actresses, so Warner Bros. brought Dagover to Hollywood to make this movie. She's really too old for the part but other than that isn't bad. However, she never made another movie in Hollywood, instead going back to Germany to continue a long acting career.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Hoagy Carmichael, 1899-1981

Hoagy Carmichael and Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not (1944)

Unfortunately, my DVR died, leaving me with a bunch of movies I'm not going to be able to get off of it, so while I'm waiting to fill up a new one, it's either DVDs or the two or three movies I've got already watched. And since I had to spend a bunch of time on the phone ordering a replacement, I don't really have time to do a real post. So instead, I decided to look up who's got a birthday today, not having done a birthday post in a while. That honor goes to Hoagy Carmichael, the pianist who brightened up a couple of movies in the 1940s and 1950s.

Among them is To Have and Have Not, which I mentioned above since I already had that still. I was looking for the scene in The Best Years of Our Lives where he plays "Chopsticks" with Harold Russell, but that scene doesn't seem to be on Youtube. Instead, a brief Youtube search revealed Carmichael playing for Jane Russell in The Las Vegas Story:

I had also forgotten that Carmichael is in Young Man With a Horn, although he's obviously not playing the horn....

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks #280: Over a Meal

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This time, the theme is "Over a Meal". Now, my first thought was of a certain memorable scene from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane:

But, I decided to go with three different films instead:

Come to Dinner (1934). Warner Bros. made this two-reeler which is a parody of MGM's 1933 hit Dinner at Eight. In making it, Warners used celebrity impersonators to impersonate the main stars of Dinner at Eight, with varying success, since it's nigh on impossible to duplicate Jean Harlow. (Billie Burke, on the other hand, is easy, and there's also an extra musical number added that includes a great ZaSu Pitts impersonator.) It also turns the original movie's plot on its head, as in the relationship between the John Barrymore actor character and the Lee Tracy agent. It's available as an extra on Dinner at Eight and if you know the original is highly worth a watch.

Sunday Dinner for a Soldier (1944). Anne Baxter and Charles Winninger play a poor family in Florida in World War II who take part in a program to provide a home-cooked meal for a soldier who's about to go off and fight. Things go wrong and they nearly don't get a soldier, but then all of a sudden sergeant John Hodiak shows up. He and Baxter wind up falling in love, despite the fact that he's going to be leaving for the war in short order.

Babette's Feast (1987). Stéphane Audran plays Babette, a Parisian chef who is forced to flee the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and winds up at a small village in northern Denmark where her opera-singer lover had a former lover decades earlier. That other lover and her sister never married, instead carrying on their late father's religious work, which isn't going well ever since Dad died. Babette changes the entire village's fortunes, until she wins the French lottery and she plans a special dinner for the old man's centenary, leading everybody to think she's going to leave.

John Ford night, and a documentary

Tonight's lineup on TCM is a night of movies directed by John Ford, some of which I've already mentioned before, starting with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance at 8:00 PM. But I mention the night for two reasons. First is that there's a new-to-TCM documentary on, John Ford: The Man Who Invented America, overnight at 1:15 AM. I haven't seen the documentary, but for some reason I get the same sort of vibe that I had after watching the documentary on James Stewart and Robert Mitchum that TCM ran at the beginning of the year, which while nice to see was nothing particularly noteworthy.

Just before the documentary, there's The Battle of Midway at 12:45 AM. This is one of the movies Ford made during his time in the military in World War II, taking actual footage from the battle to make a two-reel short about one of the decisive battles in the Pacific theater of World War II. No CGI here unlike more recent movies about the battle; of course they didn't have computers in those days to do CGI.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

This Gun for Hire

I mentioned a few days ago that I had watched This Gun for Hire because of an upcoming TCM appearance but was going to hold off on doing a post about it because it's already on DVD and there was something else on that I wanted to blog about. So now that I don't have much else to blog about, it's a good time to do that post on This Gun for Hire.

Alan Ladd plays Philip Raven, who lives in a rooming house and seems to have no friends save for a cat who lives on the fire escape and whom he feeds. Raven gets a letter, giving the address of where he's supposed to go for his next job. That job is... shooting a blackmailer! Worse, the blackmailer was supposed to be alone but there's a woman there, so Raven has to kill two people!

Raven gets paid off by Willard Gates (Laird Cregar), who makes it a point to give Raven bills that are known to have been stolen, from Gates' boss Brewster (Tully Marshall), a noted industrialist. Apparently the blackmailer knew somthing about either Gates or Brewster, but damned if Raven can figure it out. Looks like a chemical formula or something.

Meanwhile, I mentioned that there was money stolen from Brewster, although that's probably more of a set-up to get marked bills in Raven's hands. The police don't realize this yet, and have a police detective Michael Robert Preston) on the case. He's got a girlfriend in Ellen (Veronica Lake), and she's about to get involved in the whole case too.

World War II has recently started, and folks in Washington think there might be something hinky going on with somebody in Brewster's enterprise. So a US Senator get Ellen, a nightclub entertainer, to audition for a job at a club owned by Gates. Ellen heads out to Los Angeles to get to that club, while Raven heads there because the murder he committed was in San Francisco. Not only does he want to get away, he realizes he's been set up by Gates, and wants revenge.

Ellen and Raven meet on the train to Los Angeles, and the sparks fly, even though she's got a boyfriend, and even though they're ostensibly on opposite sides of the law, Raven being a hired killer after all. But sometimes the enemy of your enemy is indeed your friend, and once Ellen falls afoul of Gates, they're both going to be on the run, with both Gates and the police looking for them.

This Gun for Hire has a pretty complicated plot for a fairly short movie, so you're going to have to pay pretty close attention. If the movie has one problem, it's not the plot's complexity, but the fact that with the existence of the Production Code, a hired killer like Raven is going to have to face justice at the end, even though he is in many ways as much a hero here as the cops.

The acting is uniformly good, with it being really nice to see Laird Cregar away from his home studio of Fox. He died way too young, and it always makes me wonder how his career would have gone had he lived. This movie is the one that made Ladd a star, and deservedly so. Robert Preston is nominally top-billed alongside Lake, but he has the least to do.

If you haven't seen This Gun for Hire yet, it's one I can definitely recommend.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Endearing terms

When Shirley MacLaine got a day in TCM's Summer Under the Stars this year, one of the movies TCM ran was Terms of Endearment. Not having blogged about it here before, I finally sat down to watch it and do a post here.

Shirley plays Aurora Greenway, a new mother in Houston TX some decades back with a young daughter Emma. She's extremely protective of Emma, getting up in the middle of the night just to make certain the baby is breathing. Some years pass, and Aurora's husband dies. Aurora offers to comfort Emma by letting Emma sleep with her, but Emma doesn't need that. So Aurora gets into Emma's bed! Like I said, she's overprotective.

More time passesand we see a near-adult Emma with her friend Patsy (Lisa Hart Carroll), and finally, about to get married to Flap (Jeff Daniels), who is looking to start a career as a college English professor, something that's going to take a lot of struggle. Mom is none too certain that Flap is right for her daughter, to the point that Mom is willing to skip the wedding to protest.

So as we can see there are any number of complicated emotions between mother and daughter. However, they still get along well enough to call each other on the phone all the time, as they discuss Emma's path through life. First it involves her getting pregnant with her first son, followed by an event that's sure to be traumatic for Mom: Flap has gotten a job that might be tenure-track, but it's up in Des Moines, IA, a good 15-hour drive away if not more. Mom's going to be left all alone!

Well, not quite. Mom has a few friends in a doctor as well as Vern (Danny DeVito). There's also the next-door neighbor, astronaut Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson). He's a bit of a hard liver, constantly coming home with young women. One day he offers to take Aurora out to lunch, but she politely declines. Now that Emma is going off to Iowa, however, Aurora is thinking of finally taking Garrett up on that offer.

Life continues to go on for the two women, as Aurora and Garrett have an on-again, off-again relationship, while Emma has a second son, followed by a daughter, and figures that Flip might actually be cheating on her. As a result of that, when she makes the acquaintance of local banker Sam (John Lithgow), she decides to have an affair of her own.

Through it all, mother and daughter keep up their long-distance phone relationship, until a sudden change when Emma is diagnosed with cancer. Aurora goes up north to take care of the children, and possibly even take custody, while Flap is faced with the big choice of what he wants to do in life.

The idea of Terms of Endearment is quite a good one, and I found it interesting that it's based on a book by Larry McMurtry, since this is the sort of material you'd expect to have "chick flick" written all over. To be fair, that is at least somewhat the case, and any guy who prefers action movies to straight-up dramas may find this movie a bit tough to get through, especially in the last half-hour or so once Emma is diagnosed with cancer.

However, the performances are quite good, with Nicholson taking a step down and winning a Supporting Actor Oscar. MacLaine won the Best Actress Oscar, beating out Winger, as she gives an excellent portray of a mother who is at times obnoxiously overbearing. That having been said, some people might find the character a bit too overbearing; I know I wanted to shake some sense into her once or twice. Jeff Daniels is good in another dramatic role, although I'd mentioned that once before regarding Marie: A True Story. DeVito doesn't have much to do despite fourth billing, while Lithgow is surprisingly good in a drama, getting his second straight Oscar nomination.

Terms of Endearment may not be everybody's cup of tea, and I'm not certain if it deserved to win Best Picture -- I think I'd pick The Dresser. But it's certainly a fine movie worthy of seeing.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Terminal Station

One of the movies that TCM ran during the "Short and Sweet" spotlight back in October was Indiscretion of an American Wife. Not having done a post on it before, I decided to DVR it and watch.

Jennifer Jones plays Mary, an American in Rome who's apparently been visiting relatives there or something. At the start of the movie, she's writing a note saying that she can't see someone any longer -- but chickens out on delivering it. Instead, she goes to the central train station in Rome, looking for the earliest train out of the country to Paris. She's obviously escaping something. But what?

Before the train leaves, two people show up. One is her nephew Paul (a very young Richard Beymer). The other is Giovanni (Montgomery Clift), who was the intended recipient of that letter that Mary never delivered. The two were having a love affair, but Mary is maried with a husband back in Philadelphia. One would think Giovanni should have known about this and that the affair could never last, but he doesn't care or is stupid or something, because he keeps pressuring Mary to stay with her.

They talk about it in the station's restaurant, in a section that's closed so that they deservedly get kicked out. Then they talk about it in the corridors. Then they go outside and into one of the stopped train cars, where they have the sort of romantic tryst that we saw Bette Davis having in Now, Voyager in the flashback to what brought on her nervous breakdown, only the scene in Indiscretion of an American Wife isn't a flashback.

The two lovers get caught out and brought to the train station's police department, where they're going to have to face justice which is going to cause Mary to miss her train. Not that Giovanni cares, probably, since he still seems to want Mary to stay in Rome with him.

Indiscretion of an American Wife is a movie that has a bad reputation from the critics, and frankly, now that I've watched it I understand way. It's talky and tedious even though it runs barely over an hour. The movie was directed on location in Rome by Vittorio De Sica, and the locations are the film's one bright spot. De Sica's original work ran 89 minutes, and American producer David O. Selznick edited it down to about 63 or 64 for distribution in America. Some people suggest it's Selznick's ham-fisted handling of the movie that's the problem, but I can't help but think another 216 minutes of the stuff we do have wouldn't make it much better.

That having been said, it is possible to get that longer edit, called Terminal Station. Both edits (more or less) are on pricey a Criterion Collection release. (Note that the Criterion site says the American version is 72 minutes, including an overture by Patti Page that wasn't on the 63/64-minute print that TCM ran.)

Sunday, November 17, 2019

A heads-up and a review

There are multiple movies coming up that I watched in order to do reviews on. One of them is currently on DVD while the other one is getting a release in the near future, so I decided to make today's post a review of the latter and just mention the first in passing, saving a full review for a later day. So with that in mind, I'll point out that not too long after running it in Noir Alley, TCM has another airing of This Gun For Hire, tonight at 10:15 PM as part of a double bill of Alan Ladd Movies.

The movie not yet out is The Abominable Snowman (of the Himalayas), which is going to be on FXM tomorrow morning at 9:35 AM, and is getting a Blu-ray release on December 10. This is a Hammer Films release, made in the UK and distributed in the US by Fox, which is why it's back on the FXM schedule after a long absence.

Peter Cushing plays Dr. Rollason, who has been studying botany in the Himalayas, with his wife Helen (Maureen Connell) and an assistant Fox (Richard Wattis) along. They're about to leave, much to Mrs. Rollason's relief, but there's still one more matter to take care of. An American named Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker) is interested in figuring out whether the legend of the Yeti is real, and if it is, get evidence to prove it. Dr. Rollason knows more about the area than anybody else, and has a good scientific mind, so since the personnel are going to be limited so as not to frighten any Yeti that exist, he's going along as the true scientist.

The expedition includes him, Friend, Friend's assistant Shelley (Robert Brown), a Scot named McNee (Michael Brill) who claims to have seen the Yeti, and one Sherpa guide Kusang (Wolfe Morris) who also claims to have seen it. Helen and Fox are both staying behind in the village, seeing the mysterious Lhama who seems to know more than he's letting on from time to time in cutaways that I didn't understand why they were in the movie.

Being as high up in the Himalayas as the expedition requires is always tough, but it seems as though winter is coming on which is going to make things only tougher. But that's not the real problem. Friend is in charge of the expedition since he's doing most of the funding, and he reveals not too far in that the real point of it is to take one of the Yeti alive for showing it off like Carl Denham did in the original King Kong; this is something that bothers Dr. Rollason to no end.

Friend has also done a lot of other things that bother Rollason, such as setting traps for the Yeti and not telling anybody else, so that McNee eventually gets caught in one of the traps. Friend is so obsessed with capturing a Yeti that he doesn't even want to let McNee go back to the village. The sledge is for carrying a Yeti, not for carrying McNee.

The Yeti -- or whatever is out there -- have no intention of being captured. Something exists out there, however, as there are tracks and we see one scene of a hairy gorilla-like hand trying to steal one of the party's guns. This only serves to make Friend even more determined to catch a Yeti.

Eventually, they do get a Yeti, but to Friend's horror, it's a dead Yeti. He doesn't want a museum specimen; he wants something he can show off. But there are other Yeti out there. And they don't want one of their own to be taken down the mountains....

The Abominable Snowman (as it was called in the UK and on the print FXM ran; the Blu-ray and the box guide both list it under the extended title The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas) is a movie with a perfectly suitable premis. But it's ultimately brought down by the fact that there's a heck of a lot less going on than the premise would suggest. There are shades of The Thing From Another World here, but this movie feels a lot more perfunctory; I think it's not helped out by the constant going back to the village down the mountain. The foreshadowing and ominous threat we don't see are also not handled as well in some other movies.

Still, I'm sure there are other people who are going to think this one doesn't fizzle out, so as always, watch and judge for yourself. You've got a chance tomorrow, possibly later chances on FXM (although I should point out that the FXM print is panned and scanned down to 16:9 outside of the opening and closing credits), or the pricey Blu-ray next month.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

A Song to Remember

One of the movies that I recorded during Paul Muni's turn as TCM's Star of the Month was A Song to Remember.

The movie is a biopic of Polish composer Frédéric Chopin, but Muni doesn't play Chopin despite getting top billing. Chopin as an adult is played by Cornel Wilde, while the movie starts of with Chopin still a child in his native Poland. Muni plays Jozef Elsner, who was one of Chopin's early music teachers (in real life, at the Warsaw Conservatory; in the movie, the lessons take place at the Chopin family home and start at a much younger age). In any case, Chopin's musical talent was recognized from a fairly young age. Elsner has a letter from Parisian piano builder and music publisher Louis Pleyel (George Coulouris) that if the young Chopin is such a talent, then bring him to Paris. But the Chopin family doesn't have the money to send young Frédéric to Paris.

Some years pass. If you know your history, after 1815 the part of Poland where the Chopins lived became a Russian possession, and Frédéric is none too happy about this, vowing that he's going to help the people of Poland become free. Chopin grows up and his agitation for Polish independence becomes politically dangerous. Thankfully, Elsner has saved up the money to go to Paris that the Chopins don't have, so he and Frédéric are able to make a hasty escape to France.

When they go to see Pleyel, Pleyel remembers nothing about the letter, which is probably because the letter is now 11 years old. Pleyel wanted a child prodigy; adult pianists/composers are a dime a dozen, regardless of how much talent they seem to have. But Chopin is saved when the compositions he left in the other room are played by another pianist who turns out to be Franz Liszt (the movie puts him as being some years older than Chopin where in reality he was a year younger). Liszt had been studying in Paris for several years, so his vote of approval is a big deal, and Liszt and Chopin become friends.

Chopin's first recital doesn't go well, however, with only the author Georges Sand (Merle Oberon) supporting Chopin. She's interesting to Frédéric because she believes nobody will take a woman author truly seriously, which is why she's given herself a male pseudonym and does male things like wear pants and smoke cigars. Chopin really likes her, going to her estate outside Paris regularly, and then to Majorca when his health starts going downhill.

His health is one of the problems that threatens his career, with the other, at least in Elsner's eyes, being Sand herself. Then there are the political tensions back home, as the Polish revolutionaries Chopin knew before he left want him to raise money for their cause. It's all going to kill him at a young age....

A Song to Remember is a pretty movie to look at with its Technicolor photography, and lovely to listen to thanks to the music of Frédéric Chopin, played by José Iturbi. But very little of it is actually real. I mentioned a few mistakes already, while another big one I haven't mentioned is that Elsner did not go to Paris with Chopin, which rather makes all that follows with his character and the centrality of Elsner to the plot a bit tough to swallow if you're looking for authenticity. Still, all three of the leads do a creditable job and if you look at the movie strictly in entertainment terms instead of factualness, there's nothing wrong with it.

A Song to Remember is available on DVD and is more than worth a watch as an excellent example of the fictitious biopic from the studio era.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Back to Bataan

One of my recent DVD purchases was this four-movie set of John Wayne war pictures. First up from the set is Back to Bataan.

If you remember your history of World War II or have seen enough other movies, you'll recall that the Philippines were a US possession until after World War II, and that Japan invaded and ultimately took the islands a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, leading Douglas MacArthur to declare "I shall return!" The movie starts off with a brief scene of the US retaking the islands, flashing back to the start of the war in the Philippines.

John Wayne plays Col. Madden, who leads a bunch of US troops, which include Filipinos, such as Capt. Bonifacio (Anthony Quinn). The Japanese come, and while MacArthur retreats, Madden is ordered to get to the Filipino resistance and help them in their guerilla actions against the Japanese. Bonifacio is taken prisoner, ultimately being forced to take part in the Bataan Death March.

During the retreat, Madden and his men run into American schoolteacher Bertha (Beulah Bondi). The Japanese had stopped at her school and taken it over, hanging the principal for not taking down the American flag. Of course, the real reason for having Bertha and this school in the movie is because the schoolkids are going to make an appearance later in the movie.

The resistance goes on for about two and a half years, before MacArthur does in fact return at Leyte. But to prepare for the invasion, Madden and the Filipinos are going to have to hold off a bunch of Japanese troops, a lot more in fact than Madden has at his disposal....

Back to Bataan is in many ways a standard-issue war movie, which means that there's nothing particularly notable here, either good or bad. Part of the reason for that is that the movie was released in June 1945, and while production was going on, actual events in the war were overtaking the production, notably the liberation of the POW camps where the Bataan Death March participants were interned. All of this means that the plot, while not incoherent, seems definitely quite simplified. Then again, to be fair, American audiences in June 1945 probably weren't looking for their war movies to be particularly complex.

As for the actual box set, the one I got has two DVDs with two movies each; each DVD having its own spindle. (Some of the reviews on Amazon suggest different packaging, although with Amazon's movie reviews you often get reviews of different released mixed together.) I don't think there are any extras, but for the price you can't really expect extras. If you like war movies and/or the movies of John Wayne, this is definitely a box set for you

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks #279: Politics

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This time, the theme is politics:

Er, not quite like that. But in any case, I was able to come up with three old movies on the theme of politics:

Parnell (1937). Clark Gable plays Charles Parnell, the Irish politician who attempted to gain Home Rule for Ireland in the 1880s (remember, it was part of the United Kingdom at the time). However, he gets derailed by an affair with a fellow MP's wife (Myrna Loy), as well as some horrendous sideburns. A lot of people consider this Gable's worst movie, but I didn't really think it was that bad.

The Great Man Votes (1939). Drunk John Barrymore plays an alcoholic father who lives in an industrial district in town, where it turns out that he is now the only registered voter. Because the district has historically been considered a bellwether, the political machine is trying to get him to cast his vote for them, thus carrying the whole district.

Ada (1961). Susan Hayward plays Ada, a woman with a past who gets married to Dean Martin while he's running for governor. Of course, he's just the figurehead with a political machine manipulating him. When he figures this out he tries to take control himself, which nearly gets him killed in a car bombing. Ada takes over as acting Governor, which causes all sorts of controversy, especially when her past is discovered. This is one of those eminently entertaining, if not quite good, potboilers that Susan Hayward made so many of the the 1950s and 60s.

Guest Programmer November 2019: Sterling K. Brown

TCM's Guest Programmer spotlight seemed to be on hiatus for a while, but recently it's come back. Not too long ago there was Julie Andrews selecting several of her movies. Now, we've got actor Sterling K. Brown, who st down with Ben Mankiewicz and is presenting four of his favorite movies on the channel tonight.

I have to admit that I watch very little episodic television, so although I recognize the show This Is Us by title I've never seen an episode of that, or any of the other shows TCM's page for him lists him as having been in. Having said that, he's got an interesting selection of movies:

To Kill a Mockingbird at 8:00 PM, in which Gregory Peck defends a black man in a racially-charged case in 1930s Alabama;
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf at 10:30 PM, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton arguing over and after dinner and horrifying their two guests;
Cool Hand Luke at 1:00 AM, starring Paul Newman as a chain-gang prisoner who eats a bunch of hard-boiled eggs; and
The Pink Panther at 3:15 AM, with Peter Sellers playing inept detective Inspector Clouseau and causing chaos around him.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Valley of the Dolls meets the world of publishing

One of the movies that's come out of the vaults to run on FXM is The Best of Everything. It's going to be on FXM tomorrow afternoon at 12:55 PM, and again Friday at 9:55 AM.

Hope Lange plays Caroline Bender, who at the start of the movie is on her first day at her new job in the secretarial pool of Fabian Publishing, a New York publishing house with its fingers in a lot of different things. She's got a fiancé Eddie (Brett Halsey) who has gone off to England to study for a year, and whom she's going to marry when he gets back. She also has dreams of moving up the ladder to become a reader and possibly even an editor, but that would be well down the line.

But before that, there's getting used to the new job, her colleagues and her bosses. Among the fellow secretaries is Gregg (Suzy Parker), who has dreams of becoming an actress on Broadway and who probably should have been fired by now considering how many absences she has for auditions and what not. There's also virginal, naïve Apirl (Diane Baker). The two of them need a third for their apartment, so they invite Caroline in.

And then there are the bosses. Mike (Stephen Boyd) is the "good cop", if you will, in that he takes a professional interest in Caroline but other than that drinks too much. Mr. Shalimar (Brian Aherne) is of a piece with the bosses in The Apartment a year later, who probably would have used one of his employees' apartments for his assignations if he had male employees and had thought of the idea. As it is, he just pursues all the nice-looking secretaries. And then there's miss Farrow (Joan Crawford), who's a bitch and a half, treating the secretaries like dirt for getting even the tiniest little thing wrong.

There's lots of sexual tension, at least 1950s Production Code style, going on, Caroline's two new best friends try to navigate the world they're in. April meets Dexter (Robert Evans), who seems nice until something happens to April, while Gregg has her eyes on stage director David Savage (Louis Jourdan), who is about as bad as Mr. Shalimar at going through women. The fact that Gregg can't really act doesn't help her cause either, and she becomes more and more paranoid about David. Caroline is doing fine until she hears from Eddie that he got married to a rich girl who's dad owns oil wells.

It goes on like this for a good two hours, with the movie being in some ways a whole lot of silliness. Not that it's bad; it's just that it's very much a product of the late 1950s and stuck there so fabulously. There are the cultural norms of the time; there's Joan Crawford who is a hoot every time she's on; and there's the progression of poor Gregg, which might be the most hilarious. As for Lange, she gets to play the same sort of role that Barbara Parkins does in Valley of the Dolls, that of the bemused observer who occassionally gets too close to things.

Unfortunately, the print that FXM is running is screwed up, in that it's both letterboxed and pillarboxed, so if you don't have a big TV (and mine's only 32", I think), it's going to look pretty tiny. Thankfully, The Best of Everything is available on DVD. It's not exactly a great movie, but it's a hell of a lot of fun.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Those cinematographers again

I mentioned last week that TCM is running a spotlight this month to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the American Society of Cinematographers. Every Wednesday, they're running movies from some of the outstanding cinematographers in movie history. There's also a documentary being run several times, Image Makers: The Adventures of America's Pioneer Cinematographers. I recorded it last week, and it's going to be on again tomorrow at 4:30 PM and again on the 27th.

Having watched it, I'm not certain if the title is quite right, since it's not always about the "adventures". Sure, there was some of that since a fair amount of what was going on was being done for the first time. And the first cinematographers in Hollwyood certainly had some adventures. I knew that one of the reason film production moved to Hollywood was for the weather, which allowed for filming outdoors during much more of the year, something that was important when they didn't always have enough light to do more elaborate indoor scenes. I had forgotten that part of it was also due to patent issues. Thomas Edison was trying to patent as much of the movie-making business as possible. (Eventually, United States v. Motion Picture Patents Co. ended that.) This is covered a bit, and is an interesting part of the documentary.

Much of the movie is given over to about a half dozen cinematographers up through Gregg Toland and James Wong Howe, discussing some of their great movie work and how they created it. (I know I've specifically mentioned Toland's cinematography in The Best Years of Our Lives before, and one specific example of his work on that film that I'm mentioned here gets mentioned in the documentary as well.) A lot of that is interesting, if not exactly "adventures".

There are also some audio archives with pioneering cinematographers, as well as interviews with a couple of their descendants along with film historians like Kevin Brownlow, all of which provides a lot of good background information. All in all, even if it's not perfect, this one is quite a worthy documentary, and well worth a watch.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Better than that angel from the same street

Bette Davis' time as TCM's Star of the Month continues tomorrow morning with a bunch of movies from the mid-to-late 1930s, including The Girl from 10th Avenue at 11:00 AM.

Davis plays Miriam Brady, who at the start of the movie is on her lunch hour and standing outside a church where a society wedding is going on. Not that she's a society woman herself; she's a working girl who's going to be out of a job soon what with the Depression still going on. Standing next to Miriam is a man who has obviously gotten very drunk, and is about to make a scene. The police spot it and are about to detain the man, so Miriam whisks him away.

Eventually she gets him to a small basement cafe, where she learns that the man is Geoffrey Sherwood (Ian Hunter), and that he's the former boyfriend of the woman getting married, Valentine (Katherine Alexander), which is why he's getting rip-roaring drunk. Well, that's part of the reason; Geoffrey seems to be willing to get drunk at the drop of a hat. Two of Geoffrey's society friends, Hugh and Tony (John Eldredge and Phillip Reed) show up, offering to take Geoffrey off her hands, but he stays with her.

Fast forward to the next morning, when Geoffrey and Miriam wake up as a married couple, having gotten married upstate in a very hasty ceremony. Miriam is pretty clear that she's doing this to get Geoffrey off the sauce and back on his feet, and that if Geoffrey wants out of the marriage at any time, he's welcome to do it.

Some months pass, and Geoffrey and Miriam have returned from sobering him up, now living in a decent apartment building, but one that's clearly a step down from the society life Geoffrey had before meeting Miriam. He doesn't want anybody to know about the marriage, since Miriam isn't a society girl and would be considered all wrong in the eyes of everybody else in Geoffrey's former circle. He starts his own business, while she takes lessons from the building's owner, former gay 90s chorus girl Agnes (Alison Skipworth), on how to be the wife of a society man.

The two are doing OK in life, if living a non-descript life. But Valentine has grown tired of her husband John (Colin Clive), and has found out that Geoffrey is back in town, and decides she's going to look him up. Valentine is not one to be denied what she wants, so she's going to keep chasing Geoffrey, never mind that he's already married. By this time, Miriam has decided that she really likes Geoffrey and isn't so sure she wants just the trial marriage.

The Girl from 10th Avenue is a movie that is some ways has a very 1930s plot. That it works is mostly down to the acting of Bette Davis, who takes this material and runs with it. She's helped ably by Skipworth, who is a big bright spot in her couple of scenes. Hunter isn't bad, but he's clearly in support of Davis the way George Brent was in all his movies. Colin Clive also shines in his few scenes, while Alexander doesn't get enough to do.

The Girl from 10th Avenue is a great example of the sort of programmer Warner Bros. was making in the 1930s. This is not set the sort of prestige movie Bette would start getting cast in after she tried to break her contract with the studio, even if she's clearly the star. Davis would go on to bigger and better things, but she would have had nothing to be ashamed of with this movie.