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.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Faust (1926)

Several weeks back, TCM's selection for Silent Sunday Nights was F.W. Murnau's 1926 version of Faust.

The basic story is one that's probably well known, although there are a bunch of variations on it because it's been done by various writers and composers across a couple of centuries and several European countries. Murnau being German, his version draws most heavily from Goethe's novel, although there are apparently differences between the two too. Fundamentally, God and Satan are fighting for the soul of the Earth, and eventually they decide to settle things with a wager for the soul of one man, whom Satan offers all sorts of good things in exchange for his soul.

Faust (Gösta Ekman) is an alchemist working in Anytown, Germany (or the German land since Goethe's story was written before the unification). After an archangel representing God makes the wager with Mephisto (Emil Jannings), Mephisto visits a plage on Faust's town that he is unable to stop, so Mephisto makes that offer for the power to stop it and one day of his wishes in exchange for a chance at the soul. If, after the day runs out, Faust wishes to keep having that power, Mephisto gets his soul.

During that day, the elderly Faust gets to be young again, and meets an Italian duchess with whom he falls in love. But just as he's about to make the relationship with the Duchess permanent, whoops! -- that day runs out. If he wants to keep it up, Mephisto is going to get his soul.

Faust does in fact make the agreement, but decides that Italy isn't what he wants, so he gets sent back to Germany, which is where he meets the lovely and virginal Gretchen (Camilla Horn). He falls in love with her, and she could fall in love with him, not realizing that Satan is going to have a hold on her too if she does have a relationship with Faust. Gretchen's brother Valentin (William Dieterle, who would eventually leave Germany and become a director in Hollywood) senses that something is up and tries to stop the Faust/Gretchen relationship from going forward.

Faust and Valentin eventually duel, with Faust winning, and Valentin blames Gretchen for this, which is going to bring her to justice. And that's the least of her problems. Faust had knocked her up, and nobody in town wants her around, so what are she and her child going to do?

Apparently, various versions of the Faust story have had different endings; I haven't read enough of them or seen the operas to know which is which. That's also part of why I'm not going to mention the end of this one; well that and not wanting to give away spoilers. As for this version, it's visually very stylish, which is to be expected from Murnau and German expressionism. The story is good, although the Faust/Gretchen half does drag at times.

One thing that was of particular interest to me since German is my second language was the intertitles, which were apparently the subject of a conflict between a couple of famous German writers of the day. The print TCM ran kept Murnau's original intertitles, which are mostly in the old German Fraktur, with one putting "Mephisto" in the more modern (or non-Germanic) Latin typefaces (technically called Antiqua) we see today. I can read Fraktur, but can't process it quite as quickly as I can Antiqua. It was also a bit more of a challenge for me in that being based on an old story, there's rather more old-fashioned German, which is definitely not my strong point. But most people are going to be reading the English translation of the intertitles at the bottom of the screen anyway.

I can definitely recommend Murnau's Faust, which you can find on DVD.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

She can't sink because she's a witch?

Every now and then, TCM runs a movie only a month or two apart. TCM ran The Unsinkable Molly Brown not too far back, and it's on the schedule for tomorrow at 4:00 PM, so I watched it a bit earlier than I might otherwise have done.

The movie starts off with a brief sequence of a baby being caught up in a flood in Colorado, shot both in distance with a doll in an actual river, and in close-up against obvious rear-projection photography. That baby survives the flood and winds up getting taken in by a widowed settler, Shamus Tobin (Ed Begley). She, now named Molly (Debbie Reynolds), has a couple of brothers who torment her constantly, as she wants to make something of herself in life even though she can't read or write.

Eventually she goes off on her own, inadvertently trespassing on land that's part of a mining claim of one John J. Brown (Harve Presnell), who takes her in at least to give her a meal. She doesn't like what she sees as his advances, since she intends to marry one of the rich Denver people, so at the first occasion she leaves for Leadville where she plans to get a job and take that first step to finding the rich guy.

Of course, Brown's mining claim is going to pay off at some point, so he's going to have the money to marry Molly and give her what she wants, at least to a point. When John first comes to get Molly and then gets the money for selling the claim, she's such an idiot that she hides the cash in the stove, where it's obviously going to get burned. Thankfully John has a second claim that strikes and they do get rich.

This leads them to move to Denver, but as nouveaux riches none of the hoity-toity people like them. So Molly gets the idea that they should go to Europe where they can learn a little class. They go to Europe and come back, but it still doesn't seem to help, so Molly wants to go back to Europe again, even though John doesn't. So they separate for a bit. Molly eventually decides to go back to John, and books transportation on the RMS Titanic to do so....

The Unsinkable Molly Brown is another of those movies that may not be your cup of tea if you're not a fan of the genre. Debbie Reynolds give a mostly fine performance, although there are a few parts where Reynolds-as-Reynolds comes through and the character becomes irritating. (The opening where she's being tormented by her foster brothers is one glaring example.) It also may be difficult for some that the movie is a musical, with the songs going on and on -- too long for me in some cases, but then, I'm not the biggest fan of musicals. I always thought the movie was about her surviving the Titanic sinking, but in fact this doesn't come up until the final 10 minutes of the movie.

Still, I'd have to recommend The Unsinkable Molly Brown, because there's enough in it that a certain type of movie buff is definitely going to like. But it's also definitely the sort of movie that wouldn't be first on my list of things to show to people who aren't already movie buffs.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Raging Bull

During TCM's 100th anniversary salute to United Artists back in September, one of the movies the ran was Raging Bull. Not having done a post on it here before, I decided to DVR it so that I could do that post.

Robert De Niro stars as Jake La Motta, who at the beginning of the movie is a forty-something former world middleweight boxing champion who is now rather older and fatter, and doing a stage show in New York. Flash back to the beginning of La Motta's career....

Jake is toiling away in the lower rungs of boxing, not particularly getting anywhere. But Jake's brother Joey (Joe Pesci in the role that made him a star) has an acquaintance in the Mafia, Salvy (Frank Vincent), and tries to get Salvy to arrange some bigger fights for Jake. This happen, and eventually Jake is able to fight for the world championship (of course, World War II was going on at the time so how much of a world championship it was is debatable), as well as the first two in a series of matches with Sugar Ray Robinson, widely considered one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time.

Along the way, Jake meets the lovely Vickie (Cathy Moriarty) and marries her, although it's a troubled marriage. Jake is both insanely jealous, and has a tendency to violence outside the ring as well as inside. At one point, things get so bad that Jake accuses Vickie of having had sex wth Joey (who has a wife and kids of his own).

Jake continues to box, and in the late 1940s gets another shot at the world championship, before ultimately ending his career with another bad loss against Robinson. His career now over, he doesn't quite know what to do with himself, opening a nightclub down in Miami and trading off his fame. But his impulsive behavior is going to catch up with him in multiple ways....

Raging Bull is one of those movies that winds up on all the lists of "greatest movies of all time", but that I find myself wondering whether it quite belongs there. This is not to say that I disliked the movie, or that it's at all bad. In fact, all of the performances are quite good. It's more that the movie is praised so highly that it's easy to go into it with expectations that are too high.

The other thing to note about Raging Bull is the black-and-white cinematography (with the exception of La Motta's home movies, which are in color). It's excellent and gives the movie a distinctive look that I don't think it would have had if director Martin Scorsese had made the movie in color. There's a grittiness instead of the antiseptic vibrancy of too many color movies about the more recent past. The cinematography also extends to the fight sequences, which are quite stylish, if to my eye unrealistic.

Watch Raging Bull for yourself, and you may well have the common opinion that I didn't that it's one of the greatest movies of all time.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks #278: Scientists

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. We're out of October, so no more horror! This time around, the theme is scientists, which sounds like one we might have done before. I came up with three movies, and when I checked to see if I'd used them before, a search of the blog said no I hadn't. However, at least two of the movies I thought I'd written a full-length post on before, and the search didn't find those. It's possible that Google's search (since they own Blogger) is screwing up, but when I did a search with DuckDuckGo, that didn't yield any hits either. One of these days I'm going to have to start getting around to making a database of all the movies I've done full-length posts on. Anyhow, with that in mind, here are the three movies for this week's TMP:

Yellow Jack (1938). You may have heard of Walter Reed, the doctor after whom the big army hospital in the Washington DC area is named. His claim to fame was figuring out that it was mosquitoes that transmitted yellow fever, and eradicated them first from Cuba and then Panama, enabling the construction of the Panama Canal. Lewis Stone plays Reed, with the fictive drama for the movie surrounding a Marine officer played by Robert Montgomery who takes part in the experiments to find the cause of, and cure for, yellow fever.

Green Light (1937). Errol Flynn plays a doctor at a private hospital who takes the fall when his coleague botches a surgery that leaves a patient dead. In order to redeem himself in the eyes of the dead patient's lovely daughter (Anita Louise), Flynn goes off to Montana where an old doctor friend of his (Walter Abel) is researching the cause of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Flynn takes part in the experiments, even though they could kill him since the cure for the disease is not yet known (at least, not at the time the movie was made).

Madame Curie (1943). Greer Garson plays Marie Skłodowska, a Polish physics student who meets Pierre Curie (Walter Pidgeon) and eventually marries him. Together, the two do all sorts of pioneering work in physics, notably isolating the element radium after a lot of research. But Pierre dies tragically while Marie would go on to die of a radiation-induced autoimmune disease.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Rolls-Royce of color

Anthology movies have a lot going for them, both in terms of watching and in terms of doing a blog post on. If you don't like one of the stories, you don't have to wait too long before the next one comes up, and when writing about it, it's pretty easy to give a brief synopsis of each segment and come close to a full-length post. Recently, I had the opportunity to watch The Yellow-Rolls Royce.

As you can probably guess from the opening paragraph, the movie features several stories involving... a yellow Rolls-Royce. Three stories, in fact, with the car being a 1931 Rolls-Royce according to IMDb and the stories set not too long after the car would have been made.

First up, we're in Britain. Rex Harrison plays Lord Frinton, a British aristocrat who is a higher-up in the British Foreign Office as well as an owner of racehorses who is intent on winning the upcoming Gold Cup. He's married to Lady Frinton (Jeanne Moreau), and they recently celebrated their anniversary, which he forgot, so he buys her the Rolls-Royce to make up for it. What he doesn't realize is that she's been carrying on with Fane (Edmund Purdom), an underling of his at the Foreign Office. So when he finds out, he gets rid of the car which is how we get the second story.

Somehow the car makes its way to Italy, where American gangster Paolo (George C. Scott) is visiting with his chorus girl girlfriend Mae (Shirley MacLaine) and his driver Joey (Art Carney). Mae sees the car and likes it, so Paolo buys it for her. They meet a photographer in Florence, Stefano (Alain Delon). When Paolo has to go back to the States to take part in a gangland shooting, Mae looks up Stefano again and starts a brief affair with him, one that she knows she's going to have to give up when Paolo returns.

She gives up the car too, which somehow winds up in the possession of Gerda (Ingrid Bergman), who married an American businessman who died some time back, leaving her fabulously wealthy. She's in Trieste in early 1941, which if you'll remember from Diplomatic Courier, was right on the border between Italy and Yugoslavia. Gerda is planning to visit the new Yugoslav king in Belgrade, but this being 1941, Yugoslavia is about to be attacked in World War II. Gerda winds up taking the mysterious Devich (Omar Sharif) across the border, where he is raising a group of freedom fighters. He eventually enlists Gerda and the Rolls-Royce to collect all of them.

Personally, I more or less liked the movie, but I found that all of the stories had something not quite right about them. I think it's down to who was cast in various roles. Jeanne Moreau was nondescript as the British wife, a role that probably should have gone to a British actress. In the second segment, Scott overacts terribly while Alain Delon is not right as an Italian. Finally, I wasn't particularly a fan of Sharif in the last segment, while Bergman is made to act like Clark Gable and Norma Shearer in the climax of Idiot's Delight.

Still, each segment just about works, and there's a lot of fabulous scenery in the last two segments that bumps up the movie a bit. Italy looks gorgeous in widescreen and color, too. The Yellow Rolls-Royce is a pleasant enough movie that never quite rises to greatness, but never sinks either.

A.S.C.: A Solid Century

If you've watched enough movie credits closely, you've probably seen the abbreviation A.S.C. after the names of some of the cameramen. That's the American Society of Cinematographers, which this year is celebrating its centenary. The A.S.C. and TCM are doing a spotlight this month on TCM.

That spotlight is starting Wednesday mornings and running through prime time, which would explain why the Bette Davis salute started on Tuesday morning rather than being prime time through Wednesday morning. In prime time each Wednesday, there's going to be a cinematographer sitting down with Ben Mankiewicz to discuss the movies presented and, I would presume, focus on the cinematography in those movies.

It should be noted that the spotlight isn't solely on A.S.C. members, considering the number of non-Hollywood films in the spotlight; this first week of the spotlight includes Metropolis at 3:30 AM tomorrow (or overnight tonight if that's your perspective). There are also going to be quite a few foreign films in the following week.

There's also a new documentary, Image Makers: The Adventures of America's Pioneer Cinemtographers, getting its TCM premiere tonight at 8:00 PM with a repeat at midnight and two more airings later in the month.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Follow the Sun

Another movie that's been on FXM for a few months now is Follow the Sun. It's going to be on again tomorrow at 6:00AM, and again next week.

The movie starts off with narration by Anne Baxter, who plays grown-up Valerie, mentioning that she grew up in Fort Worth, which is where she ran into Ben one day while their families were coming out of their respective churches. They meet again since they live close by, and eventually become friends, fall in love, and get married. But we're gettin ahead of ourselves here.

Ben is Ben Hogan, who of course would go on to become one of the best known golfers before the rise of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, but since the story begins before Hogan becomes a top golfer, we see him as a child being a caddy at the local country club who gets in what practice he can after the patrons' rounds, using clubs that probably aren't the right size for him.

Ben has dreams of becoming a professional golfer, but that's not going to come right away because he doesn't have the money to go on tour, so we see adult Ben (Glenn Ford) working as an auto mechanic while saving up the money to be able to join the PGA tour. Eventually he does save up enough where he figures he can try to make foney on the tour for a year, and if it doesn't work out he can always go back to his old job. Valerie joins him, mostly for support and not to have to keep two households. (You'd think she could get secretarial work or something.)

Life on the tour isn't easy. Ben meets professional Chuck Williams (not a real golfer but a made-up character played by Dennis O'Keefe), one of the top guys on tour who is also a bit of an entertainer out on the course. He befriends Ben, although Ben is most definitely not an entertainer, taking the game dead seriously. This causes conflict with one of the sportswriters, Jay Dexter (Larry Keating). As for Valerie, she spends time with the other golfers' wives, who all understand what it's like for young Valerie since they've been through this themselves.

It's a tough life since the prize money in those days was quite low and it's not uncommon to finish out of the money. Eventually, however, Ben starts doing better, even finishing in the top 10, and it's looking like he'll be able to stay on tour. As for Chuck, he marries Norma (June Havoc) and drinks way to much, which is eventually going to derail his career.

Ben's career gets derailed, too, when he's driving from one tournament to the next on a foggy road and runs into a bus. Valerie os OK, but Ben is seriously injured, and there's a question of whether he'll ever even be able to walk again, let alone play golf since the pros have to walk the course instead of riding golf carts. But, we know in real life what happened.

I'm not a golfer, so Follow the Sun is a movie I went into without any particular interest in the subject material. It's not terrible, but it's also certainly not the best in either Ford's or Baxter's careers. Part of the problem is that it's a formulaic Hollywood sanitized biopic. The other problem is the Chuck character, whom I found to be a bit unlikeable. Golf fans, on the other hand, will probably enjoy that in the last act, a couple of big-name golfers from that era have cameos as themselves, as does sportswriter Grantland Rice.

Follow the Sun has gotten a DVD release courtesy of Fox's MOD scheme.

TCM Star of the Month November 2019: Bette Davis

Now, Voyager airs November 19 at 2:00 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, that being Bette Davis. I probably should have posted this last night, since TCM's salute to Davis is actually starting on Tuesday mornings and going through prime time, rather than starting on Tuesday in prime time and going through Wednesday morning/afternoon.

Anyhow, this first Tuesday of the month sees a bunch of Davis' early films, before she won her first Oscar for Dangerous. I recently blogged about Ex-Lady, which is showing up at 3:15 PM today. The movie that follows is The Working Man at 4:30; this one stars her opposite George Arliss; I'll be recording this one to watch again and do a post on at some point when I get through the backlog of movies on my DVR. Davis and Arlis had also worked together in The Man Who Played God, but that movie doesn't seem to be on the schedule this month.

Fog Over Frisco (9:30 PM) is also a fun little movie out of today's lineup.

Monday, November 4, 2019


TCM had a "Monster of the Month" for October, this time being the Japanese monster Godzilla. One of the Godzilla movies is Godzilla vs. Mothra, which was an opportunity for TCM to segue into the original Mothra (Mosura in the original Japanese, which is the version TCM ran) in TCM Underground.

We don't see the monster for some time; instead, the movie starts off with a Japanese ship getting caught in a typhoon and capsizing, with the survivors getting shipwrecked on Infant Island, a Pacific island that belongs to the country Rolisica and which is abandoned because of atomic tests that had been performed there.

Eventually the shipwrecked men are rescued and, back in Japan, are put into isolation while they're examined for radiation poisoning what with all those atomic tests. But surprisingly, the men don't seem to have any ill effects at all! Naturally everybody wonders why this would be the case, so the authorities decide that a scientific expedition is in order to find out what's going on on Infant Island.

Heading that binational expedition is Nelson (Jerry Ito), a businessman of Rolisican descent; also on the expedition as a stowaway is the journalist Sen-chan Fukuda (Furanki Sakai), who has an oddly jolly look throughout and indeed provides a bit of comic relief during the movie. Nelson doesn't want any of the other scientists publicizing their research results without his explicit approval, which irritates them and implies that Nelson is up to something less than virtuous.

On the island, the men find an odd egg-like thing in a cave, with a couple of tiny young maidens around, the "Twin Fairies" as they're called. And when I say tiny, they look like humans but are only two feet tall if that. Nelson immediately sees a business opportunity similar to what happened in King Kong, and I'm not the first reviewer to make that connection So Nelson kidnaps the Fairies and takes them back to Tokyo for his new nightclub show.

He shouldn't have done that. The egg hatches revealing what looks like a hairless caterpillar, and it wants those Fairies. They, for their part, are kept in a cage at the back of the nightclub, but have some sort of telepathic ability by which they're able to sing a song with the word "Mosura" and have the caterpillar come to rescue them. The caterpillar understandably feels threatened, so when it homes in on the Fairies' call coming from Tokyo, it's going to stop at nothing to get the Fairies back, engaging in Godzilla-like (or Kong-like, if you prefer) destruction of Tokyo.

That is, until it gets to the Tokyo Tower, a broadcasting tower that looks a lot like the Eiffel Tower and was only a couple of years old at the time the movie was made. At this point, the caterpillar does what caterpillars do, and spins a cocoon. The authorities are thrilled by this, since they believe that Mosura's dormancy will allow them to destroy the cocoon. Of course, it doesn't work that way, and now Mosura is going to cause more damage as it goes back to Rolisica.

I have to admit that the monster movies aren't my first choice if I'm looking for something to watch. But I certainly enjoyed Mothra. The plot actually works fairly well, although that shouldn't be a surprise considering the similarity to King Kong. I personally found the Mothra effects to be laughable, especially Mothra as a moth. But the idea of lightening the mood with the journalist and his photographer worked well.

If you haven't seen Mothra before, I'd certainly recommend it.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Hunt down lots of people

Tomorrow is the birth anniversary of actor Gig Young, so TCM is running several of his movies. One that's not seen very often is Hunt the Man Down, which will be airing at 7:45 AM.

Bill Jackson (James Anderson) works at a bar in Salinas, CA, together with Sally (Lynne Roberts), who holds a flame for him even though he seems reluctant to reciprocate. One night after closing, she's tallying up the receipts when an assailant comes in. Bill stops the would-be robbery, which ought to make him a hero, except that he's a rather reluctant hero, not even wanting his picture in the paper.

There's a good reason for that. An assistant DA down in Los Angeles shows his boss a coupy of the paper with the candid shot Bill didn't want taken, and the DA eventually recognizes Bill as Richard Kincaid, whom the DA had prosecuted for murder a dozen years earlier. Kincaid took an opportunity to escape since he knew there was no way the jury was going to acquit him what with the way the evidence was stacked against him. He's finally been found, and the DA is determined to get a conviction this time.

Kincaid has no money, so he's assigned a lawyer from the public defender's office, one Paul Bennett (Gig Young). Kincaid tells the story of the case. He was at a bar one night when he accidentally spilled his drink on a woman. That led to her party inviting him over to their table, which led to his going up to her apartment with them for a party. However, she's married, and when the husband shows up, he's pissed, thinking Kincaid is the woman's lover. The husband was shot, and naturally Kincaid is prosecuted.

The obvious thing to do is to look for all the witnesses. Technically, the DA's office is supposed to do this too, but they've already got the testimony from the previous trial. There were three couples plus the wife of the murder victim, and pretty much everybody seems to have disappeared, except for college football star "Brick" Appleby (Willard Parker). On interviewing him, Paul finds that he was drafted and blinded in World War II, and that his fiancée who was at that party died while he was in the hospital recovering.

So Paul and his retired cop father Wallace (Harry Shannon) go to skid row to see if they can get information from the stool pigeon drunks who hang out there. This leads them to "Lefty" McGuire (John Kellogg), who had been a ladies' man but is now an inveterate drunk. He was married to Alice (Mary Anderson) at the time, but they're divorced now.

Lefty takes a powder after this meeting, and when Wallace finds him again, Wallace finds a couple of thugs trailing him, eventually shooting at him and Lefty! And then some thug finds where Alice lives and tries to beat her to death too! Will Paul be able to find all the witness and piece together what really happened?

Hunt the Man Down is a B movie with noirish elements. Other than Gig Young, the cast is chock full of supporting actors, but it's something that works well for a movie like this which is decidedly about the less glamorous side of life. Everything about the movie says competently made but never rising to greatness. There's nothing wrong with that, except that in a few short years with the rise of TV something like this would probably have become an episode of Perry Mason or one of the many lawyer or detective shows.

I think anybody who likes noir or wants an hour of solid if unspectacular entertainment will enjoy Hunt the Man Down. It doesn't seem to be on DVD, so you're going to have to catch the rare TCM showing (I think the last time it ran was for Gig Young's birthday back in 2015).