Monday, May 31, 2021

Father Is a Bachelor

I had recorded the movie Father Is a Bachelor quite some time back, but never got around to it thinking it wasn't available on DVD. A recent search of the TCM shop said that it does in fact seem to be available courtesy of Columbia's MOD scheme, so I watched it to do a review on here.

William Holden plays Johnny Rutledge, who works in the traveling medicine show of "Professor" Mordecai Ford (Charles Winninger). The Professor is one of those con-artist types who make you wonder why anybody would buy the crap that he's selling. In fact, it seems as though Ford has been through this particular town somewhere in the Ohio River valley circa 1900 before as the townsfolk recognize Ford. Johnny was fortunate enough to be performing a song in blackface so that people don't recognize him; with the Professor getting arrested in put in jail there's no more work for Johnny.

Hanging around the area as a sort of vagabond and waiting for the Professor to be released, Johnny comes across a group of children for whom something seems to be not quite right. These are the Chalottes, named for the months of January through May. Their parents died some time back, but only the two oldest know the truth, telling the three younger ones that their parents are away. Johnny, feeling bad for them, decides to stay with them for a while, telling them that he's their long lost uncle, which of course is baloney.

Now, it should be easy enough to figure out where this movie is going, so it's the gettin there that's the more interesting part of the movie. Johnny needs a job to help support the children. Judge Millett (Lloyd Corrigan) has a farm and is fairly well-off, and his daughter Prudence (Coleen Gray) takes a liking to Johnny, so she gets him a job at Dad's farm. Meanwhile, Plato Cassin (Clinton Sundberg) gets in a fight with Johnny having claimed that Johnny isn't really the kids' uncle at all, which leaves a legal cloud hanging over Johnny.

It also turns out that one of the Chalottes has a great musical talent, to the point that perhaps he would to well to study at a conservatory in Cincinnati. But the only suitable music teachers in town are Plato's spinster sisters. It would be easier to get the kid into conservatory if all of the Chalottes were the legal wards of the Cassins, but to adopt them requires one of the sisters to be married, so Plato tries to blackmail Johnny into marrying one of them. Plato also tries to put a bug in Prudence's ear that Johnny only wants the Millett money.

Eventually, the Professor gets out of jail and moves in with Johnny and the Chalottes, having nowhere else to go, but Johnny, not really wnting to marry either of the spinster sisters and not being able to get married to Prudence, decides to become a vagabond again, leading to the movie's climax.

Father Is a Bachelor is an amiable enough little movie. William Holden apparently didn't like doing such roles, and it's easy enough to see why, although somebody has to make this sort of movie to appeal to the family market. Holden does a satisfactory job, while I found Winninger a bit more annoying than a lot of the other con-artist types. The kids are also adequate, although the situation seems a bit far-fetched. Certainly everybody in town would have known what happened to the parents and banded together to help the kids?

Sunday, May 30, 2021


I mentioned the other day that as part of FXM's meager programming for Memorial Day, they'd be airing M*A*S*H at 10:10 AM tomorrow. It's getting another airing on Tuesday, and more over the next few weeks. With that in mind, I watched it to do a review on here.

It's the summer of 1951, so for those of you who know your history, that means it's the middle of the Korean War. Hawkeye Pierce (Donald Sutherland) is a doctor who was drafted into the army to serve as a surgeon in the Korean War. He's just arrived in Korea to take a jeep to the field hospital near the front along with another draftee, Duke Forrest (Tom Skerritt). Understandably, neither of them wanted to be drafted.

So when the two men get to their new assignment, they don't care too much about Army rules and regulations, trying to organize things to their own benefit as much as possible as a way of dealing with the insanity of war. Also at this particular unit, numbered the 4077th, there's "Trapper" John McIntyre (Elliott Gould), who if anything is even more opposed to the Army way of doing things than Hawkeye or Duke. Unsurprisingly, there are people who enlisted to be in the army, and they would much prefer things to be run by the book, such as Maj. Frank Burns (Robert Duvall), and the chief nurse, Margaret Houlihan (Sally Kellerman), who gets the nickname "Hot Lips".

So there's a running theme throughout the film of conflict between Hawkeye and friends on the one hand, and Burns and Houlihan, with other people like unit commander Col. Blake (Roger Bowen) in charge, at least nominally. M*A*S*H, however, is more of an episodic movie, so that structure of conflict is really more of a frame for the various adventures that Hawkeye, Duke, and Trapper John get into.

The movie was based on a book and, having been successful, was then turned into a weekly TV series that ran for over a decade. Most people would probably know the TV show better than the movie, which presents a problem in that people will probably compare the TV show and the movie. The only actor from the movie who reprised his role on the TV show is Gary Burghoff as Radar O'Reilly. There are also characters in the movie not on the TV show (Duke Forrest), while Cpl. Klinger from the TV show is not in the movie.

Some of the episodes in the movie work better than others, mostly those set at the hospital, with there being a fair bit of dark humor which is understandable when you have to deal with death on a daily basis. Scenes set away from the hospital, such as Hawkeye and Trapper John's trip to Japan to perform emergency surgery on a Congressman's son, don't work so well; likewise, the climactic football game goes on way too long.

For me, it also didn't help that Hawkeye and Trapper John grew into increasing jerks as the movie wore on. Now, I tend to have a fair amount of disrespect for authority, but tend to do so quietly by doing my own thing rather than being obnoxious like Hawkeye. So I found the ostensible heroes to be characters difficult to like, which makes it difficult to like the movie as a whole.

M*A*S*H is a movie that didn't work for me, although watching it I can see why anybody who had to deal with the Vietnam War -- after all, the movie was released in 1970 and has always been seen as an allegory for Vietnam -- would have liked it at the time. By the same token, I can see why a lot of people today would still like it. So watch and judge for yourself.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Watermelon Woman

Another of the movies that I had the chance to see for the first time as a result of its inclusion in last autumn's TCM series Women Make Film is The Watermelon Woman. The TV listings sites say that it's going to be on Showtime Next tomorrow morning (or overnight tonight) at 3:15 AM, as well as a couple more times on Flix starting at the end of the coming week.

Cheryl Dunye, who also wrote and directed the movie, plays herself, or at least a character with the same name. She's a black lesbian living in Philadelphia who works at a day job in a video store (remember those) with her friend Tamara, with the two of them moonlighting as videographers for weddings and such. Cheryl dreams of being an actual filmmaker.

Cheryl also has an interest in old movies of the 1930s and 1940s, noting that many of the black women who played maids or slaves in those movies didn't even get mentioned in the credits. She watches one of those old movies, Plantation Memories, and sees a beautiful black woman playing a "mammy" role who got a credit, but only as "The Watermelon Woman". Obviously, this is an intriguing mystery to Cheryl, who decides she's going to make a video about her attempt to discover the Watermelon Woman's true identity and life story.

Cheryl's search yields information that the Watermelon Woman was also a lesbian, like Cheryl and Tamara, and that she had a relationship with her white director, Martha Page, which really bothers a lot of people, such as Page's surviving relatives, and a black woman who took care of the Watermelon Woman.

Interspersed around the mockumentary and the attempts to get it made is the story of Cheryl and Tanya's personal lives, as Tamara attempts to set up Cheryl with other women (while both are lesbians, they're not in a relationship with each other). Cheryl winds up, at least for a while, with a white customer, Diana.

The Watermelon Woman is a fairly short movie (about 80 minutes) for having two fairly distinct plots, and this is evidence of the movie's low budget being an independent movie in a decidedly niche genre. That's a bit of a shame, because the movie is interesting. Half of it -- the mockumentary half -- works really well. Among the highlights are feminist Camille Paglia playing herself and making comments that I'm assuming were spoofing herself about Italian-Americans and watermelons. There's also the woman running the "Center for Lesbian Information and Techology" -- notice the acronym.

Unfortunately, the scenes involving the personal lives of Cheryl, Tamara, and their friends drag the story down, in part because most of the cast are decidedly lesser actors. The script also doesn't really work here.

It would have made for a potentially really fun movie if Dunye could have gotten the funding to make a longer and more coherent movie focused mostly on the mockumentary. (Despite the beginning of the movie possibly trying to convince viewers that the Watermelon Woman was a real person, Dunye informs us explicitly at the end that it's all fiction, but does it matter since she's trying to celebrate the history of black lesbians.) Still, as uneven as it is, The Watermelon Woman is an interesting movie worth a watch.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Ah yes, Decoration Day is this Sunday

It's long been a tradition to decorate the graves of soldiers who died in war. After the US Civil War, with so many dead soldiers, it took on a more formal organization, with May 30 being the day to remember the Civil War dead by putting flowers on their graves. After more wars and more war dead, other it was eventually decided to make the holiday a catch-all day to remember all the war dead, which is how we got Memorial Day, with a federal law putting several holidays on Mondays moving it to the last Monday in May.

So all of that is a long way of saying that Memorial Day is this weekend. Unsurprisingly, TCM is running a programming salute of military and war-themed movies, starting tonight at 8:00 PM with Pride of the Marines and continuing through Monday's programming, whch means early Tuesday morning.

As is usually the case, World War II movies take up the bulk of the programming, in part because Hollywood made a lot of war movies for homefront morale during the war, and because it being the "good" war, they'd rather make movies about that instead of Korea or Vietnam until Hollywood changed in the 1970s.

Among the non-World War II movies is Thunder Afloat, Saturday at 7:00 AM, which is nominally about World War I having been released in 1939, but with its subject of German U-boats bombing coastal shipping in the US, it's clearly an allegory for the rise of the Nazis.

There's no Silent Sunday Nights or TCM Imports this weekend, but there's still Noir Alley, which is Act of Violence at midnight Sunday (still Saturday evening in more westerly time zones) with the repeat at 10:00 AM.

Over on FXM, I don't think they're really doing anything, although Monday's programming happens to include M*A*S*H at 10:10 AM Monday followed by Patton at 12:10 PM. M*A*S*H started showing up in the FXM rotation a few weeks back, and since I recorded it in one of those showings, I'll probably watch it this weekend to do a post on.

Four decades before The Revenant

Some time back, TCM ran a movie that was new to me, Man in the Wilderness. It's going to be on again this evening at 6:00 PM, so I made a point of watching it to do a review on before tonight's showing.

It's 1820 in the Pacific northwest, not that this region of the world was thought of that way back then. An expedition led by Captain Henry (John Huston) has been collecting pelts, but with winter coming, they have to get to the Missouri River to get downstream and back east before the snow comes. For no good reason other than Henry's vanity, they're portaging his boat back to the Missouri rather than making canoes or something useful.

Guide and scout Zachary Bass (Richard Harris) and one of the younger members of the expedition are out hunting to get more food for the crew. Bass is a good shot and the younger guy not so much, so after the younger guy misses, Bass goes after the second deer. Unfortunately for him, also in the area is a bear, which comes out and mauls him.

The mauling goes on for some time, and since it leaves Bass unconscious and with some fairly serious wounds, everybody else around him expects him to die. It's not just Henry and his men; the local Indians, led by a chief played by Henry Wilcoxon, also figure poor Zachary is going to die, so they just leave him there, while Henry and his men eventually keep trying to get to the Missouri.

But based on the amount of time I've spent saying they expect Zachary to die, and the amount of time the movie itself spends on it, you just know that Zachary is in fact not going to die, at least not as a result of the bear attack. At some point he regains enough consciousness to realize that he has to do something serious to survive.

Not only does this mean getting food and tending to his wounds; it also means avoiding the Indians who might well want to attack him (and attack Henry's men in the climax). Zachary, who has any number of flashbacks both to his childhood having to deal with Henry, as well as to the son he left behind back east when his wife died, wants to gain revenge on Henry. Henry and the other men, meanwhile, have this fear in the back of their heads that Zachary did not die and that he's coming for them.

This is based on a true story, the same one that was the basis for The Revenant (which I also haven't seen). It's certainly an interesting story, although I had some decided problems with the telling of it here. A lot of that comes down to John Huston. His character is such a jerk, and even though the credits say the movie was directed by Richard Sarafian, it felt like it had the fingerprints of Huston's direction all over it.

Large portions of the movie are slow and especially the flashbacks come across as a bit self-indulgent, as though the director is trying to add some sort of touch to make the material seem more highbrow than just a simple survival movie. The Robert Ryan movie Inferno did this much better.

Still, somebody who wants another take on the material behind The Revenant will find something of interest in Man in the Wilderness.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks #359: Globetrotting (TV Edition)

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. As always, being the final Thursday of the month, it's time for another TV edition, with the theme being fictional globetrotting. That is, no reality/competition shows and no travel shows, news, or documentaries. That makes it slightly more difficult until I hit on two different possibilities. Perhaps I could have gone with a theme within a theme by sticking to just one of the two genres, but I decided not to:

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-1968). Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) play spies from a secret international spy agency designed to fight non-national organizations that want to take over the world. The show was immensely popular, such that extra material was written for some up the episodes such that, with a longer running time, they could be released as movies.

Voyagers (1982-1983). Tragic Jon-Erik Hexum plays a "Voyager", a time traveler whose job it is to make certain history turns out the way it's supposed to; this results in his going all over the world to right the various wrongs in history. But he accidentally went to the wrong time and picked up a bratty kid (Meeno Peluce) who knows more about history than Hexum, who's on the show for sex appeal.

Quantum Leap (1988-1993). Scott Bakula plays a researcher in time travel who decides to test out his device before the government pulls the funding. He winds up trapped in the past, but with the help of a holographic version of his friend (Dean Stockwell), he travels to various times and places to try to get home.

TCM Guest Programmer May 2021: Frank Langella

TCM used to have a mostly monthly Guest Programmer (with the exception of 31 Days of Oscar and Summer Under the Stars), who would pick four of his or her favorite movies and set down with Robert Osborne (at least when he was still alive) to talk about the movies. The Guest Programmer feature became much more irregular after Osborne's death. I'm not certain when the most recent one was, as the last time I actually wrote a post about a Guest Programmer was back in November 2019.

In any case, there's a new Guest Programmer this month, that being Frank Langella who memorably played Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon. He's going to be presenting three of his favorite movies, I'm guessing in a video chat with Ben Mankiewicz, which air tonight. Interestingly, all of them are from his youth in the mid-1940s:

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes kicks off the evening at 8:00 PM, with Edward G. Robinson as a Norwegian-American farmer in World War II Wisconsin married to Agnes Moorehead and raising kid Margaret O'Brien.
That's followed at 10:00 PM by Arsenic and Old Lace, in which Cary Grant finds out that his two aunts are taking in lonely old men who have no family and hastening the men's deaths with poisoned elderberry wine.
The night concludes at 12:15 AM with a rather darker movie, The Stranger, starring Orson Welles as a Nazi fugitive who winds up in a small New England town and marries Loretta Young.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Make Way for a Lady

Anne Shirley was one of the honorees in last August's Summer Under the Stars. I finally got around to watching one of the movies that I recorded during the salute, Make Way for a Lady, available on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive.

Shirley plays Jane Drew, high school-aged daughter of Chris (Herbert Marshall), a widowed publisher living in one of those smallish towns an hour or so away from New York that seemed to be the sort of setting common for 1930s movies. Jane has a guy who might become her boyfriend in the form of Billy Hopkins (Frank Coghlan Jr.), while Dad doesn't seem to have a woman in his life.

But then there's Valerie Broughton (Margot Grahame). She wrote a book that Mr. Drew's company published, and she's decided to take a house down the street from the Drews in order to work on her new book. She's also given Mr. Drew a first edition of her current best seller, with an inscription to him.

Jane reads the inscription and gets it in her head that Valerie wrote her book about her Dad, and that the two might be in love. So she's going to work on the two of them and try to get them together because Dad could use a new wife.

Unfortunately, Jane doesn't know that Valerie's book is really about another man and that Valerie loves that man. Also, Dad doesn't love Valerie, but Jane's teacher Miss Emerson (Gertrude Michael). Worse, Jane finds this out, and decides to tell Emerson that she wouldn't make a suitable stepmother because Dad's got another woman in mind!

I've always found that RKO's B movies are not as high-quality for me as Warner Bros.' B movies, which I generally consider the best of them. While Make Way for a Lady certainly isn't bad, even as a B movie it could have been better. Anne Shirley is asked to be too irritating here, and the plot is resolved much too quickly.

Make Way for a Lady is another of those movies that would have been good on those old four-movie sets that TCM and Warner Home Video used to put out, rather than on a standalone DVD.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had recorded If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium some years back, but that a heavy rainstorm screwed up the satellite signal so a good chunk of the movie was missing. It showed up again recently and I recorded it again; since today's a Tuesday, I figured today would be a good day to do a blog post about it.

The movie opens with some stereotypes about preparing for a trip to Europe, with a varying group of unrelated people making their preparations. People get inoculations; one couple buys toilet paper because they apparently think European toilet paper is worthless; and another couple, the Fergusons (Murray Hamilton and Peggy Cass), decide they're going to bring their teenaged daughter (Hilarie Thompson) along on the three-week guided tour they're taking because they don't want to leave her alone with her boyfriend and all those hormones.

In London, where the tour is set to begin, tourguide Charlie Cartwright (Ian McShane) is romancing his latest girlfriend, to the point that he wakes up late to meet the group for World Wind Tours #225. In addition to the Fergusons, on the trip are:
Single professional woman Samantha Perkins (Suzanne Pleshette);
Older couple the Blakelys (Norman Fell and Reva Rose);
John Marino (Sandy Baron), who has distant relatives in Venice and is hoping to meet them;
Jack Harmon (Michael Constantine), who served in World War II and wants to see what happened to the woman he met in Rome;
Wido Jenny Grant (Mildred Natwick); and
Bert Greenfield (Marty Ingels), who wants to show his friends back home that he's got a woman in every port.

Once the tourists get to London, they start on a whirlwind tour of Europe that's supposedly nine countries in 18 days, although including the reference to Liechtenstein I think I only counted eight. They suffer through every stereotype of the guided tour of Europe, from overpriced shops where the tour guides get kickbacks (Pleshette's word) or commissions (McShane's word); American food in restaurants; a youth hostel for the Ferguson's daughter; and so on.

Each of the tourists also gets a subplot, some of which have already been mentioned. Among those I haven't mentioned is that Mrs. Blakely gets on the wrong bus at one of the stops and winds up separated for the rest of the tour; a tourist who steals something from every hotel room as a souvenir; and Charlie trying to romance Samantha, with her being ambivalent about the whole thing.

Also along the way, there are a whole bunch of cameos, many of which I didn't spot until the closing credits, which uses a touristic conceit of having vacation-type photos of the cast members with their names popping up on screen. Like the whirlwind tour, there's a whirlwind of cameos.

Unfortunately, as a comedy, the movie doesn't work as well as it might. Part of it is because the movie really plays up the "ugly American" stereotype, and part is because the movie doesn't get to stay in one place long enough to develop a feel. Even though they're in Rome longer, there's still so many characters and storylines going on that it's difficult to maintain focus. It doesn't help, for me at least, that I'm the sort of person who hates guided tours like that. Even in museums or other such buildings, I'd rather have signs to read and go at my own pace, as well as visiting smaller cities that can have almost as much charm as the national capitals. (Then again, I'm reminded of the time I bumped into somebody in one of the small German tourist trap towns and apologized in German, only to find out I'd bumped into a British tourist.)

As a time capsule of the late 1960s, however, If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium is mildly interesting; that and all the cameos. As a fully fleshed-out movie, however, it's not so good.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Riffraff (1936)

There are multiple movies with the title Riffraff. TCM recently ran the 1936 Riffraff, which I recorded and eventually sat down to watch.

Spencer Tracy, who had recently come over to MGM from Fox such that MGM didn't quite know what to do with him yet, plays Dutch Muller. He's a tuna fisherman in the fleet that operates off the California coast, supplying the cannery owned by Nick Lewis (Joseph Calleia). Working at the cannery is Hattie (Jean Harlow), who lives with big sister Lil (Una Merkel), who has a family of her own.

The fishermen are thinking of striking against Nick to try to get better wages, but Dutch realizes that this is precisely what Nick wants them to do, as Nick would love the chance to bring in non-union labor to be able to pay them lower wages to get the good but higher-priced fishermen out of the market. Dutch's speech to the other fishermen brings him to the attention of Hattie, and he falls in love with her, despite not wanting to be tied down with children.

The two eventually get married and Dutch gets voted the new head of the union, but Dutch lets power go to his head. He does the very thing he was railing against in the first reel, that being calling a strike. The strike drags on and Nick brings in outsiders to catch the fish, bankrupting the union fishermen and leaving Dutch to run off without Hattie, by now pregnant with their child, to try to find his fortune.

Nick has always held a torch for Hattie, so when Dutch leaves, Nick starts putting the moves on Hattie to try to get a divorce and marry him, not that she wants to marry him. When she hears that Dutch is in a hobo camp up near Sacramento, she "borrows" some money from Nick, something that eventually runs her afoul of the law.

Dutch returns, and tries to get honest work by petitioning to rejoin the union, but his fellow members blackball him. Dutch comes up with the brilliant idea that Hattie should break out of prison and follow him to Mexico where the living is supposedly easy, but Hattie wants to do things the honest way.

Riffraff may seem like an odd movie to put Spencer Tracy in, although this was one of his first films for MGM, and at the end of his time at Fox, he had made Dante's Inferno. A career turn like San Francisco would be some months in the future. But if it's odd for Tracy (and I don't really think it's that odd), then it's really odd for Harlow, who I think is badly miscast here. She tries, but I don't think she's quite able to succeed. Maybe Joan Crawford could have pulled it off, or else bringing in Barbara Stanwyck from whichever studio she was working at at the time.

Riffraff is also not helped by MGM's glossier production values and the casting of Mickey Rooney as one of Merkel's kids. He's in obnoxious mode here, probably scripted that way because the script has him be too dense to figure out what's going on in the run-up to the climax.

Still, while Riffraff has its share of flaws, it's probably worth a watch to see Harlow as miscast as she is.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Mrs. Parkington

I've argued before that there's a certain sort of opulent movie that MGM was quite good at making. An excellent example of this is Mrs. Parkington.

Greer Garson plays Mrs. Susie Parkington, a widow living in a big house in New York City in 1938, complete with servants and the works. It's Christmas Eve, and she's brought together all of her descendants to come celebrate the holiday with her. Her daughter Alice (Gladys Cooper) is stuck up and doesn't like the children caroling outside her house or her Mom's dogs. Her grandson-in-law Amory Stilham (Edward Arnold) is a businessman with two adult kids, Jack (Dan Duryea) and Jane (Frances Rafferty), who is about to be engaged to be married to Ned (Tom Drake). Amory's wife has a sister Madeleine (Lee Patrick), who has gotten serially married, currently to rancher Al Swann (Rod Cameron). Most of the relatives don't care much for the matriarch, only for her money; the exception is Jane.

So when Jane tells her great-grandmother that she's planning to elope with Ned, Susie starts thinking back to when she got married.... She was living out in Leaping Rock, Nevada, as the daughter of a woman who runs the local rooming-house, which serves as the place where a bunch of workers at the silver mine live. That mine is owned by Maj. Augustus Parkington (Walter Pidgeon), who is a bold risk-taker as a businessman, skimping on mine safety to get the silver out more quickly. Sure enough, a mine accident kills not just the workers but Susie's mom, so the major marries the orphaned Susie and brings her back to New York.

There, Parkington builds Susie a big house and introduces her to the Baroness Aspasia Conti (Agnes Moorehead), who loved Augustus in the past and, as a companion to him, helps Susie adjust to her new life. It's a difficult life for her, as the members of the Four Hundred, the social elite in New York, blackball Augustus for his actions in the Civil War that killed an ancestor of one of the Four Hundred, as well as his business practices.

Those business practices have continued to the present day; even though Augustus is long dead, Amory has been running the family business and speculating with the business itself, to the point that he's lost some $30 million that he's not going to be able to replace. The auditors are going to find the hole, arrest Amory, and bring shame to the Parkington family. In fact, that's why Ned wants to elope with Jane: he's seen Amory's criminal actions, and doesn't want to have to testify, thereby hurting his wife-to-be.

The financial hole could be plugged if the company could float an issue with Mrs. Parkington's fortune, but when she puts it to a vote of the other heirs, they all say no, because they want to keep their inheritance. It prompts Susie to have another flashback to the time when she finally reformed her husband's own shady business practices, as well as to a time after her son's death when it seemed another woman might take Augustus away from her.

Mrs. Parkington is a workhorse of a movie, taking a fairly familiar story idea -- the elderly person looking back at his or her very eventul life -- and imbuing it with all the class MGM could bring to it. Walter Pidgeon especially, and to a lesser extent Garson, were solid if unspectacular actors who could take this sort of material and make a professional, quality product. Both leads are the sort of actor it can be a bit hard to warm up to, not because of anything bad they're doing but because they're working with material that's really of its time. Everybody else is frankly much too old to be playing the characters they are, at least if you believe the opening that implies Mrs. Parkington is in her 80s, but they all do well enough, Arnold taking the honors among the supporting roles. But it's Greer Garson's movie all the way, even more than Pidgeon's.

Mrs. Parkington is available on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

The Night Holds Terror

The latest in the long backlog of movies on my DVR that I recent!y got around to watching is a Noir Alley entry, The Night Holds Terror.

Based on a true story and even using the real names of the victims, the movie tells the story of Gene Courtier (Jack Kelly), a civilian worker at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California, who lives with his wife Doris (Hildy Parks) and their two children. One day as he's returning home from work, Gene makes the mistake of picking up a hitchhiker, Victor Gosset (Vince Edwards). What Gene doesn't know is that Victor is a criminal, who pulls a gun on Gene and brings him to a deserted area where he has his two partners in crime waiting for him. Robert Batsford (John Cassavetes) is the leader of the group, while Luther Logan (David Cross) seems to be the sort of person who got roped in by somebody charismatic and doesn't really like getting in trouble. The three men plan to take Gene's cash, but he's got almost none on him, leading the guys to think about killing him.

Gene, obviously not wanting to die, comes up with a plan. He's got a nice late-model car worth a cool $2,000, and the three crooks can turn that in for cash. Amazingly, they eventually take Gene up on that offer, despite the fact that it will bring them into contact with people who will see them with Gene. Gene, for his part, sees this as a chance to escape. But things go wrong for both Gene and the criminals, with Gene not being able to escape and the criminals not being able to get their hands on the money until the next day. So they take Gene back to the house and hold the entire family hostage.

At this point, the movie becomes a bit of a standard family hostage movie, although, to be fair, there's only so much you can do with the idea of invading somebody's house and holding the family hostage. As implied above, the three criminals have differing personalities: Robert the brutal leader; Victor thinking sexually about Doris; and Luther being a bit reluctant about the whole thing. So naturally, Doris and Gene think they might be able to play the criminals off of each other. Also amazingly, the criminals show up on the one day where absolutely everybody wants to see the Courtiers, so there's the trop of a plot point about how the criminals are going to be able to keep outsiders from finding out what's going on.

Gene is able to sell the car back to the dealer on behalf of the criminals, but they learn that Gene's got a very wealthy businessman father. So they decide to take him elsewhere and hold him for ransom. Of course, this also gives Doris a chance to get the police involved, and when the criminals call with the ransom information, the police try to trace the call....

The Night Holds Terror is an interesting movie in that it was treated as a docudrama, being based after all on a real incident. Directed by Andrew Stone and produced by him and his wife Virginia, the movie tries to use the real locations as much as possible; this combined with the Stones' lower budgets, gives the movie a look of gritty realism, or at least as gritty as the burgeoning southern California of the 1950s could get. It's not quite as gritty as, say, the Bronx scenes of the Stones' later Cry Terror!, but it'll do.

John Cassavetes was right at the beginning of his career but already does well, as does Vince Edwards. Everybody else is competent if not quite so memorable. But all in all the movie works, and is more than worth a watch.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Operator 13

Another of the movies that I recently got around to watching is a bit of a misfire, but an interesting one: Operator 13.

It's the early stages of the Civil War, and the North has just lost the second battle of Bull Run, creating not a small bit of panic in Washington. Gail Loveless (Marion Davis) is a stage actress in a show with one John Wilkes Booth, just to name drop, since this is a good three years before Lincoln's assassination.

Pauline Cushman (Katharine Alexander) runs the acting troupe, but that's just a front. In fact, she's a spy (called by the euphemism "operator") working under Maj. Allen Pinkerton (Sidney Toler), who is able to get into the South and get secrets out of it. Pauline thinks that Gail would be perfect for spy work, and Pinkerton agrees, so Gail becomes Operator 13.

The two women's first job together is to go down to Richmond to get some information on Confederate troop movements. Pauline is going to be a widow from New Orleans, accompanied by her one-eighth black maid from Martinique, to be portrayed by Gail in blackface that, well, is a topic for some discussion, which I'll get to later. But as a black servant, she's able to move somewhat freely among the other servants and thus get close to their masters and get the secrets. Along the way, she also meets Confederate Captain Jack Gailliard (Gary Cooper). He's actually a spy for the South, trying to figure out who the Northern spy is.

Gail falls in love with Gailliard's charm, although she can't act on it since she's a spy and she's supposed to be black, after all. She'll get a second chance, however. Pauline gets caught, the penalty for which is execution. But Gail saves her at the last minute and they both make it back north.

Gail now has another chance to go south, this time as her normal white self, since nobody will recognize her what with her having been black the last time. One again, she runs into Gailliard, and even has a chance to take the relationship further until she's caught out as a spy herself and has to try to make an escape.

As I was watching Operator 13, I couldn't help but think of Saratoga Trunk, another Gary Cooper movie that has two very distinct halves. In both cases, I didn't think the halves mesh well together. I also didn't find the ending of Operator 13 particularly realistic.

And then there's Davies' black disguise in the first half. Some people are obviously going to be very uncomfortable with this; I tend more to think about the dilemma Hollywood had on how to portray somebody who was of mixed race, since there's a fairly broad range of mixed-race. MGM wanted or needed to communicate to the audience that Davies was playing Martinican so they darkened her skin, but the problem is that it looks so ridiculous that you wonder how any of the Confederates could have thought she was really Martinican. Combine that with her mannerisms and phony accent, and it all comes across as really grating.

One bright spot in Operator 13 is the Mills Brothers, a black vocal group who here play part of a medicine show. Their harmonies are excellent, although they do come across as out of place.

Operator 13 is ultimately an interesting curio, but not a particularly good movie.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Cattle King

Robert Taylor made any number of competent, if not particularly memorable, movies in the latter part of his career. Hollywood made a bunch of competent, if unmemorable, westerns in teh 1950s and 60s. The two come together in the film Cattle King.

The movie helpfully tells us at the start that it's the Wyoming Territory, 1883. Sam Brassfield (Robert Taylor) owns the Teton Ranch, and one of his ranch hands Hobie is riding with Sam's adult niece June Carter. A bunch of folks who want an open range for cattle to graze show up with the intention of cutting Sam's barbed wire, and when Hobie tries to stop it, they shoot him dead!

So already we know that we've got a range war movie on our hands, a sub-genre within the western that's been done to death. There's basically one twist here, which is that Sam decides to go down to Cheyenne, because none other than President Chester Alan Arthur (Larry Gates) is supposed to stop there on his way to Yellowstone National Park (which had been established in 1872 if, like me, you were wondering whether there was an anachronism here; also, Chester Arthur really did go to Wyoming during his presidency, something not common in those days).

In Cheyenne, Sam and Johnny Quatro (Robert Loggia), one of his ranch hands who has a taste for women and violence, find President Arthur, who is being buttonholed by Clay Mathews (Robert Middleton), who runs the association of Texas Cattlemen. They want a corridor to run from Texas to Canada through which they can run their cattle. Sam opposes this because he thinks it's going to lead to an overpopulation of cattle and weaken the breeding stock. By closing off the range and selective breeding, they can come up with better cattle.

You can probably guess that Clay is going to stop at nothing to get his way, including violence. Living next door (or the next ranch over) to Sam is Harry Travers (William Windom) and his sister Sharleen (Joan Caulfield). Sam, never having married before, has finally decided to ask for Sharleen's hand in marriage, and she accepts. But then Clay's men show up, shooting Harry and wounding him, and shooting Sharleen dead. Also along the way, they laid west to another rancher's spread, Abe Clevenger (Malcolm Atterbury). Abe accuses Sam of this, and in the ensuing gunfight, Sam wounds Abe. Fortunately, Abe is able to learn the truth in time.

All of this leads to the inevitable climactic gunfight and the good guys winning, even if not everybody is able to live happily ever after considering that love interests have been shot dead.

As I said at the beginning, Cattle King is one of those competent movies that you could easily sit down and watch on any rainy day that TCM shows it, but it's nothing special. Taylor does OK, as do all the other main players. It's interesting to see Loggia at the beginning of his career, and the presence of Chester Arthur as a character. There's also some nice location cinematography of Wyoming.

It's too bad there aren't any more TCM-themed box sets being produced, as a movie like Cattle King would be perfect for a box set. Instead, I think it's only gotten the Warner Archive treatment.

Thursday Movie Picks #358: Cyberpunk

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week's theme is "Cyberpunk", which I have to admit is a bit difficult for me since I tend to watch older films, many from before the days when computers were a common thing to even be albe to have cyberpunk. After some thought, I came up with three movies that are dystopic and (well, at least two of them) combine technology and consciousness:

Alphaville (1965). French New Wave director Jean Luc Godard's movie about a secret agent (Eddie Constantine) who goes to the dystopic town of Alphaville (actually the Paris banlieues) to rescue another agent (Akim Tamiroff) and find the scientist responsible for the computer that created the dystopia that is Alphaville. Being a Godard movie, it's not the easiest in the world to follow.

The Stepford Wives (1975). A photographer and housewife (Katharine Ross) moves with her family to the town of Stepford, CT. After some time there, she and her new best friend (Paula Prentiss) begin to get the distinct feeling that there's something wrong with all the other housewives, as they're just a bit too perfect and robotic. And why don't they know what "archaic" means?

Brainstorm (1983). Natalie Wood's last movie (she died before it was completed, she plays the estranged wife of Christopher Walken, working together at a company that's coming up with a new virtual reality scheme. The government wants it to use as a weapon, while some of the money men humorously see that its biggest value is for VR sex. But another co-worker (Louise Fletcher) suffers a fatal heart attach while in the recording room, and decides to upload her death to a VR recording. Walken needs to find out what was on Fletcher's last tape, even if the government tries to kill him for it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

As FXM Retro keeps trundling along....

I think it's been almost 9-1/2 years since the old Fox Movie Channel became FXM and only had old movies on for half of the day. I said back then that I expected the FXM Retro block to be around for maybe six months before the whole channel went all newer movies with copious commercial breaks. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Indeed, whoever is in charge of programming at FXM is able to keep getting new rounds of movies out of the vaults, although there are a lot more 1970s movies in the Retro block than I think there were back in 2013. Today started another block of movies that I think only started showing up, and all three are again tomorrow, unsurprisingly:

Caprice, with Doris Day as an industrial spy in the perfume business who gets involved with Richard Harris, shows up at 6:00 AM;
M*A*S*H, which I think might have been on the old Fox Movie Channel when they had that Fox Legacy block with executive Tom Rothman presenting some of the more noteworthy movies from the studio's history, follows at 7:40 AM; and
9 to 5 gets an airing at 11:20 AM.

And then there's Friday, which sees a rare airing of All About Eve at 8:50 AM. I'm pretty certain this one was presened by Rathman as well, and don't remember it on the channel since, although it's gotten a handful of airings over on TCM. It's followed by another one of the movies Rathman presented, Can-Can; that presentation had him sitting down with Shirley MacLaine. I think Rothman has that presentation on his Youtube channel:

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

While You Were Sleeping

I must have had a glitch with the online shopping sites, because at some point quite a few months back I couldn't find a DVD available for While You Were Sleeping to do a post on it. I looked again and there it was, so here's your post.

Sandra Bullock plays Lucy Moderatz, who doesn't have much of a life. Her father died about a year ago, and she works collecting fares on the el train for the Chicago Transit Authority. She lives an a crummy apartment with her cat, with the son of the building's owner, Joe Fusco Jr. (Michael Rispoli), being a creepy self-styled ladies' man who tries to pick Lucy up despite her clearly not wanting it. Meanwhile, she sees the same good-looking guy depositing a token in her booth on his commute every day, and fantasizes about what this guy might be like.

Since she doesn't have much of a life, she works most holidays and is going to be working Christmas as well. The guy she fantasizes about shows up and, since it's a holiday, there's a lot fewer people on the track, with just this guy and two other guys who, it turns out, are muggers, trying to grab his coat and eventually pushing him off the platform and onto the tracks.

Since there's nobody else there, and the guy is unconscious, it's up to Lucy to save him, which she barely does. Unfortunately, the guy remains unconscious and has to be taken to the hospital by ambulance, with Lucy following when she gets off her shift. Since she's not family, she's not going to get to see the guy, now in a coma. But she talks to herself about the guy, and in the chaos of the ER, somebody concludes that Lucy must be the guy's fiancée, and she goes along with it.

Obviously, the guy's family doesn't know anything about this, since of course Lucy isn't really engaged to him. The guy is lawyer Peter Callaghan, elder son of estate sale arranger "Ox" (Peter Boyle) and grandson of Elsie (Glynis Johns). Peter has a kid brother Jack (Bill Pullman) who got roped into the family business since Peter decided to become a lawyer. Peter's not going into the family business would help explain why he doesn't see the rest of the family so often and why they wouldn't know if he'd gotten engaged recently. (To be fair, being Christmas, you could reasonably expect an engaged couple to hold off announcing it until the holidays.)

Since Lucy saved Peter's life and the Callaghans think she's Peter's fiancée, they invite her over for the holiday dinner they didn't get to have on Christmas what with the accident. Lucy realizes that this is a really nice family, people she never had in her life since her mom died quite young and she's an only child. Jack, however, wonders whether something might be wrong with this.

The viewers, of course, know exactly what's wrong with it. The only person who discovers is Saul (Jack Warden), Peter's godfather. He overheard Lucy talking to the comatose Peter confessing her lie, and Saul doesn't want her to say anything just yet because of just how much it would break everybody's hearts. Another complication is that Peter had another girlfriend, Ashley, and although it was apparently a rocky relationship, she decided that she really was going to accept his marriage proposal after all.

The last and most predictable complication is that as Jack is trying to prove Lucy wrong, the two find themselves really liking each other, to the point that Jack is finally ready to tell his father his true passion is making furniture, while Lucy might be falling in love with Jack, which is a problem since she's supposed to be engaged to Peter as far as everybody else knows. And what's going to happen when Peter wakes up?

While You Were Sleeping is predictable, but fun, thanks to the amiable performances of the leads along with the older actors getting one more chance to be useful. I didn't realize going in that it was set around Christmastime, and it is really the sort of movie you'd want to watch on a cold December evening with a warm blanket wrapped around you. Sure there are some plot holes (it should have been a lot easier to explain Joe to Jack) and improbabilities, but when watching a movie like this, you don't really think about such things.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Something Wild (1961)

Another of the movies that I recently got around to watching to try to free up some space on my DVR is Something Wild.

Carroll Baker plays Mary Ann, who goes to night school and lives with her mother (Mildred Dunnock). One night, while walking home from school through a park, she's accosted by a strange man and raped, although of course this being a 1961 movie it's shown with innuendo and never referred to as rape. In any case, it's obvious what happened as Mary Ann tries to clean both the literal and figurative residue of the assault off of her.

Mom doesn't understand what's caused such a change in her daughter, and the daughter isn't about to tell Mom the truth. Eventually, not being able to handle Mom any longer, Mary Ann runs away to get a room in a seedy apartment, and a job as a cashier at the local five-and-dime. A sign of how seedy it is is that one of her neighbors, Shirley (Jean Stapleton) brings home random guys and seems to be willing to offer Mary Ann a man, too, obviously not knowing that Mary Ann had been raped.

Mary Ann's co-workers also treat her less than well, also being unaware of her past. This keeps going on for a surprisingly long amount of screen time until one day, Mary Ann has decided she's had enough and decides that she's going to throw herself off one of the bridges that connect the various boroughs of New York.

She's saved by Mike (Ralph Meeker), however. Mike works for one of the taxicab companies as a mechanic, and lives in two run-down rooms in the basement of a dilapidated apartment building. Since Mary Ann won't tell him where she lives, Mike takes her to his place to let her sleep off her melancholy until she can recover and go home.

At least, that's what Mary Ann expects. She gets a bit of sleep, and even has a bite to eat with Mike. But Mike seems to figure that perhaps this will make Mary Ann fall in love with him, so he propositions her. Big mistake, even if Mary Ann hadn't been raped. Mary Ann wants nothing to do with Mike's drunken advances, so she kicks him, blinding him with one eye. Not that this is going to stop Mike from pursuing Mary Ann. Even though Mike is unconscious, Mary Ann doesn't leave, because she can't. Mike has locked the door and Mary Ann can't find the key.

Mike goes out to work and comes back, leaving Mary Ann trapped inside the apartment. (I'll assume she quit her job, which is why nobody comes looking for her.) Mike lets Mary Ann know that he's not going to give her up because he's a failure in life and sees her as his last chance. But really, what woman would want to be with a man who treated her this way?

Something Wild is an interesting, if very slowly paced movie. It runs 113 minutes, with the suicide attempt not being until almost halfway into the movie, and most of the second half being in just the two rooms of Mike's apartment. As such, some people are going to find it a bit of a slog. There's also the ending, which some people might find controversial.

But Baker and Meeker do ultimately make the material work, and are helped by the cinematography of New York City as it was about 1961, and not the glamorous parts of Manhattan that we normally get in New York-set movies of the era. People from New York City, or those interested in the city's past, will definitely like this aspect of the movie.

So even though Something Wild has its share of flaws, I'd say that it's worth a watch. It got a Criterion release which means it's a bit pricey, and doesn't show up on TCM enough. Note that there was a mid-1980s movie with the same title but different story which is also on DVD.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Lola rennt

Tonight's TCM Import is a movie that's relatively recent by the standards of what's on the regular TCM lineup, but not too recent considering what gets shown in the Imports slot: Run Lola Run, overnight at 2:00 AM.

Lola (Franka Potente) is a young woman living in Berlin with her mother who does bogus astrology readings and a dad (Herbert Knaup) who works at a bank. Lola has a boyfriend in Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), and one morning at about 11:40 she gets a call from him. Apparently something has gone very wrong, as he's excoriating Lola for not picking him up at the right place at the right time, and saying how he's going to get killed for it.

Manni, it turns out, is a relatively low-level courier for a group of gangsters who's been trying to move up the ladder, so he took on a job involving transporting cars (I'm guessing it involves stealing cars in Germany and reselling them in the old East bloc which was not part of the EU at the time). The payoff was DM 100,000 (a little more than €50,000), with Manni supposed to take it to another group of gangsters in the middle of Berlin. But Lola's moped was stolen so she couldn't pick Manni up, and he had to take the subway into town. When the inspectors came into his car because a drunk fell down, he beat a quick escape, forgetting the bag with the DM 100,000.

So you can see the bind that poor Manni is in. He's supposed to make the transfer at noon, and if he can't do it, well, you can guess what's going to happen. Manni wonders whether perhaps Lola can get the money from her father at the bank; otherwise, Manni might have to rob the supermarket just across the street from where he's calling Lola.

Lola runs out to try to get the money, although as you can expect Dad isn't necessarily just going to give his daughter the bank's money if he can avoid it. Far worse for Lola, however, is that when she arrives at her father's office, she finds him in a heated discussion with another bank executive, Frau Hansen. Apparently Dad's been having an affair with Hansen, and was planning on leaving Lola and Mom tonight. Walking in on all that causes Lola to miss the noon rendezvous with Manni by about a minute, by which time he's already gone into the supermarket to rob it.

Now, we're only about a half hour into the movie, and we see that trying to rob a supermarket isn't going to work. (I'd have thought they wouldn't have enough cash on them, anyway.) So what happens is that after some philosophical discussion, we see what happens if Lola tries a second way of getting the money. We see some of the same people, notably her father and the other folks at the bank, along with an ambulance that has to brake for workers carrying a plate of glass across a street, as well as some random people Lola runs into, and their hypothetical fates.

I'd seen Run Lola Run several years ago and bought the DVD, but never got around to re-watching it until seeing the movie on the TCM lineup. This time around, I found myself thinking of Before the Rain, which also posits time as being circular. The photo montages of what happens to the people Lola runs into are the one thing that didn't quite work for me, but other than that, the movie is a lot of fun, mixing regular action with animation and sections like the telephone handset reminding me of the way David Lynch made things like the beginning of Blue Velvet look unreal.

If you want a different sort of narrative structure than you normally get, I think you'll find Run Lola Run quite enjoyable viewing.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Tough to Review

A couple of months back, I did a post on The TAMI Show, the sort of movie that's difficult to review, and even more difficult to do a synopsis on. After all, it's just a concert movie, and whether you'll like it depends a whole lot on what sort of music you like. A similar movie is Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip, which is getting an airing tomorrow at 3:30 AM on The Movie Channel. (It's also got a few more airings later in the week on various parts of the Showtime family.)

In December of 1981, comedian Richard Pryor gave some sold out performances at the Palladium theater on Los Angeles' Sunset Blvd. Director Joe Layton filmed them and edited them together into the movie we have. (I figured that even with the number of cameras Layton had, it had to be a composite from multiple shows; IMDb says the most obvious sign is in Pryor's handkerchief.)

Pryor covers a wide range of topics, starting with relationships; going to discussion of a trip to Africa as a black man; working as a young man being an MC in a Mob-owned nightclub; and, finally, ending the show with discussion of his cocaine addiction and, most notably, the accident he had trying to light cocain for freebasing in which he severely burned himself.

Thankfully, the sort of material Pryor proffers dates much less than people like the interminably unfunny Mark Russell, who had satirical material based on current events. Still, even though we know when watching old movies with story lines that it doesn't necessarily matter if some of the comedy seems old-fashioned, with stand-up it still seems different. There are a few references to Presidents Carter and Reagan at the beginning, but after that, it's more about Pryor's own life experiences, which sound as though they're just suitably far in some unspecified past, just like any memoir.

My personal feeling was that the movie started off rather slowly, which is a bit of a problem since 78 minutes is more than long enough for a stand-up comedy set and the best material comes toward the end. This includes the parts about the Mob, as well as all of the cocaine-related stuff.

If you've never actually seen any of Richard Pryor's stand-up, give it a try. Just be warned that there's a lot of talk about sex as well as bad language, so it's not exactly a family-friendly movie.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Lafayette Escadrille

Another of the movies that I recently watched off the DVR is director William Wellman's final film, Lafayette Escadrille.

Tab Hunter plays Thad Walker, a young man from a well-to-do family in Boston circa 1916 who obviously feels the pressure of being the good son in a prominent family like his, and frankly, he can't really handle the pressure. He keeps getting into scrapes until finally, he steals a car for a joyride, in which his accidentally runs down a cyclist in full view of a policeman. That's an obvious problem, so he decides to do what adventurous young men of the era did, which is to go to France to be part of the French Foreign Legion, fighting for France in the Great War against Germany; after all, American still hadn't entered the war.

On the ship over to France, a stowaway Thad meets a couple of other Americans, including Duke Sinclair (David Janssen), Tom Hitchcock (Jody McCrea) and Bill Wellman (yes, the director as a young man, and played by William Wellman Jr.), who are willing to put him up. The get to France, where they're going to join the Lafayette Escadrille, a squadron of Americans fighting up in the air as pilots. But before they even get to the training grounds, they have a night out at a French bar, which is where Thad meets Renée (Etchika Choureau). She's a woman with a past who's now working as a conductress on the Paris metro, and she and Thad immediately hit if off despite not having any language in common.

The guys all go off to train, with Thad showing up some days later after having spent time with Renée. The training is rather comic, with a Vietnamese cook serving as reveille, the pilots having trouble taxiing in straight lines, and the men not being able to understand the French drill sergeant (Marcel Dalio). Eventually, though, they do get off the ground. Or at least, most of them do.

Thad doesn't becuase of that rebellious nature we saw at the beginning of the movie. The drill sergeant treats him badly one too many times, and That responds by decking him, which is a serious no-no. That gets put in the base jail, and his friends eventually break him out. But of course there's no way that he's going to be able to serve since they'll put him right back in jail first to complete his sentence.

So Thad runs off to Paris to meet Renée again, hoping to get enough money for the two of them to flee to South America. But he can't even really get a job with his poor command of French and his being a wanted man. Renée had worked at a brothel before, so the madam gets Thad a job as an escort, she being able to provide him a modicum of protection. One of the people he escorts is an American general (Paul Fix), which is how Thad learns America has entered the war and he'll get his chance at redemption by signing up with the Americans.

Lafayette Escadrille, or at least, a movie about the original squadron, is an idea that has a lot of potential, and you can see that this was a highly personal project for Wellman. However, it winds up falling flat, in large part because it doesn't seem to be able to decide what it wants to be. A movie that's fully a war movie probably would have been worked well, but with Tab Hunter in the cast, we get a romance tacked on to it that doesn't particularly work. The comic relief also doesn't work quite as well as it could have. The little flying we do get it nice enough, but you leave wishing there were more.

Lafayette Escadrille is definitely fairly far down the list of William Wellman movies I'd recommend.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Skin Game (1931)

I think I've mentioned before that I picked up a cheap Mill Creek box set of early Alfred Hitchcock. One of the movies that I hadn't blogged about before is The Skin Game, which I first saw an age ago during one of TCM's salutes to Alfred Hitchcock. So I watched it again to refresh my memory and do a post on here.

Based on a play by John Galsworthy, The Skin Game tells the story of two families. The Hillcrists are an aristocratic family, led by a patriarch (C.V. France) who owns a lot of land in this rural area and lets it out to tenant farmers who, like his own family, have been in the same place for generations. One day he sells some of the land to Mr. Hornblower (Edmund Gwenn), on the proviso that the tenant farmers get to stay in their cottages and continue to work the land.

Hornblower has no intention of doing that, however. He's a businessman, and interested in progress, having set up pottery factories. He wants those cottages to house his new factory's workers. When Hillcrist finds out he's been duped, he's displeased to no end. Worse is that Hornblower is intending to buy another large plot of land for the factory, and building the factory will really destroy Hillcrist's view from the manor house and the whole way of life in the area.

Fortunately, the land is going to be sold at auction, so Hillcrist is able to come to the auction along with an agent who is going to be doing Hillcrists' bidding secretly. Hornblower, of course, is none too stupid himself, so he does his own bidding while keeping another bidder in reserve. So when this reserve bidder winds up winning the auction, Hillcrist is at first relieved until Hornblower tells him nope, I pulled a fast one on you.

Thankfully, Hillcrist still has one trump card up his sleeve, although it's a rather dirty one. Hornblower's son Charles has married a womn named Chloe (Phyllis Konstam), and some of Hillcrist's agents have discovered that Chloe had a scandalous past, something involving getting paid to be the "other party" in divorce cases. It doesn't seem so scandalous by 2021 standards, but a century ago, among the polite classes, oh my. Hillcrist plans to use this to blackmail Hornblower: sell the land to me at a loss, or I'll reveal your daughter-in-law's secret. Predictably, tragedy ensues.

I said at the beginning that The Skin Game is based on a play, and there's a fair portion of it that's quite stagey, with few of the usual Hitchcock touches. The one place that does show Hitchcock's invention is in the auction scene, which has some mildly interesting panning and editing. But overall, this is a genre that Hitchcock doesn't seem terribly interested in, and the result is a movie that's mildly interesting but nothing great, especially not by the standards of Hitchcock.

The Skin Game is a nice addition to a box set, but don't expect typical Hitchcock.

Thursday Movie Picks #357: Period Drama

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week, the theme is "Period Dramas", which isn't too difficult. In fact, it's been done before, so the big task was to select three movies that I haven't used before, or at least not in a couple of years. (In fact, I don't think I've used any of them before this week.) I also decided to pick three movies that are all set in a period fairly close to each other:

Women in Love (1970). Glenda Jackson (who won an Oscar in a weak year for the category) and Jennie Linden play a pair of modern sisters in 1920s England who don't much care for the conventions of the time. They meet Oliver Reed and Alan Bates respectively at a friend's wedding, and begin to start torrid relationships. Based on the D.H. Lawrence novel, I frankly hated the movie as I felt it went nowhere and included a couple of pointless scenes, such as Glenda Jackson's interpretive dance when confronted by cattle:

As I said in my original review, the cattle realized there was enough BS in the movie already and walked off. Oh, there's also the nude wrestling scene between Reed and Bates, if that's your thing.

Agatha (1979). Mystery writer Agatha Christie (Vanessa Regrave) famously disappeared for 11 days in December 1926. There's been much speculation about what happened during those 11 days, although nobody really knows. This movie posits a rather fanciful scenario, with Agatha fleeing her estranged husband Archie (Timothy Dalton). An American journalist (Dustin Hoffman) finds her, but does she want his help?

Gosford Park (2001). In early 1930s England, one of those old English manors hosts a party for a bunch of people at which a murder occurs. The rich upstairs folks as well as the downstairs help are all scandalized by it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Coming up, May 13-14, 2021

Unfortunately, since I have DirecTV, every now and then it rains hard enough that the satellite signal goes out. (It's not anywhere near as frequent as detractors of satellite TV would have you believe, however.) Last weekend, I was finally going to get around to watching All That Jazz, which I had recorded off of TCM back in Spetmber. But somehow, the signal was lost for a good 40 minutes. At least, Ben Mankiewicz's outro ended at about 1:21 into the recording block. Anyhow, it reminded me of another movie that's coming up where the last time I recorded it, there was also a thunderstorm. That movie, If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, is on the schedule for tomorrow afternoon at 4:15 PM on TCM.

Elsewhere on TCM, there's Hot Money, Friday at 5:15 PM. It's a movie starting tragic Ross Alexander that I don't think I've seen before. But reading the synopsis sure made it sound familiar, and after a bit of thinking, I realized why. IMDb confirmed my suspicion that this is a remake of the William Powell movie High Pressure. (I find it hard to believe it's been a year and a half since I blogged about this one.)

Over on FXM, Conrack is back on, tomorrow at 3:00 AM and other times. There's also Compulsion at 9:35 AM, followed by Tony Rome at 11:20 AM. There was a sequel to Tony Rome called Lady in Cement that I've got on one of my Frank Sinatra box sets and have been meaning to getting around to watching, although other things have come up, like trying to watch stuff off the DVR considering how little room I've got left.

While looking through the premium channel schedules, the DirecTV box guide had the James Stewart movie Winchester '73 on StarzEncore Westerns. Unfortunately, TitanTV claims that it was actually the 1960s remake starring Tom Tryon, which will also be on tomorrow at 6:52 AM. TitanTV claims the Stewart version will be on a couple of times on May 20, but it could just as likely be the remake.

Another movie that was on as I was searching through the channels was At Close Range. This one will get another airing on Showtime Showcase at 4:00 PM Friday, as well as a couple of times thereafter on Flix.

Thoughts on the passing of Norman Lloyd

Norman Lloyd about to fall off the Statue of Liberty in Saboteur (1942)

By now, fans of old movies have probably heard about the death of actor Norman Lloyd, whos long career started on the stage in the late 1930s and continued through movies, TV, public appearances, and even small roles as he was pushing 100. I first mentioned Lloyd's birthday in November 2012 when he turned a sprightly 98, not knowing that he was going to live another 8-1/2 years. Lloyd was 106.

I began thinking about people whose careers began as adults in that era who might still be with us; unsurprisingly, there aren't many. Angela Lansbury started at 18 in Gaslight playing an adult role, as the maid Charles Boyer brings in. Ann Blyth is about the same age, but her breakout role as Veda Pierce in Mildred Pierce isn't quite an adult role. There's also Marsha Hunt, who's 103 now; she was the female lead in Kid Glove Killer opposite Van Heflin. It's a really fun little movie, one of the best of the MGM B's. There's also Jacqueline White, who was in bit parts at MGM before RKO put her in two classics, Crossfire and her final film, The Narrow Margin; she's 98.

Obviously, there are several more child actors from that era still with us. Dean Stockwell turned 85 in March; Dwayne Hickman turns 87 next week, and Dwayne's older brother Darryl, who famously drowns in Leave Her to Heaven, will be 90 in the summer. Among the girl stars, Jane Withers, who steals the show from Shirley Temple in Bright Eyes if you ask me, turned 95 last month.

I think Saboteur is my favorite of the movies I've seen Norman Lloyd in, although The Southerner is also interesting. Lloyd has a small role in John Garfield's final film, He Ran All the Way, which is definitely worth a watch. I haven't seen any news of a programming salute to Lloyd, but of course, TCM's web-site redesign cut out a lot of such things. I can't imagine them not doing a salute to Lloyd at some point considering he did an extended interview with Ben Mankiewicz at the 2015 (I think) TCM Film Festival.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Merrily We Go to Hell

During last autumn's Women Make Film series on TCM, they unsurprisingly included Dorothy Arzner, one of the few women directing movies in the golden age of the Hollywood studio system. The film TCM selected, Merrily We Go to Hell, was recently released on DVD courtesy of Criterion, so I sat down to watch it and do a review.

Sylvia Sydney plays Joan Prentice, daughter of a canned-foods magnate (George Irving) who, at the start of the movie, is a guest at a penthouse party in Chicago. Also at the party is newspaperman Jerry Corbett (Fredric March) who, like a lot of newspapermen in the movies, is cynical and a heavy drinker. Jerry hits Joan with an elastic band, which leads the two of them to talk, and Joan to invite Jerry to her house the next day for a party.

Jerry shows up, eventually, being late in no small part because of that drinking. But still, for some reason, Joan falls in love with Jerry, while Dad tries to disabuse Joan of any notions of romance. He also tries to disabuse Jerry, to the point that when he's proposed to Joan her dad offers Jerry a large sum to break off the engagement. But Jerry says he's going to marry Joan and live on his money, not her father's. Of course, he can barely bother to show up to the engagement party, having passed out drunk on the way when his friend and drinking buddy Buck (Skeets Gallagher) tries to bring him. And at the wedding, Jerry has lost the wedding ring. Talk about an auspicious marriage.

Jerry decides that he's going to right the Great American Play, although it's not clear if he'd ever tried to write any stage work before getting married. He's a journalist, you see, so he should be able to write anything. Unsurprisingly, success doesn't come at first, until just as he's about to give up and a telegram comes from New York saying the play can be produced if Jerry comes to New York to make changes.

Those changes are because the lead actress, Claire Hempstead (Adrianne Allen), demands them, and it seems she's had a past with Jerry. Jerry, for his part, has gotten on the wagon to try to get this play produced. But having Claire around is enough to drive any man to drink, especially considering she seems determined to drive a wedge between Jerry and Joan. Joan decides she too might think about stepping out. Only after she finally leaves Jerry to return home to Dad do we learn that she's gotten pregnant, too.

Merrily We Go to Hell is interesting if predictable, helped out by being a pre-Code movie and two good performances from Sidney and March. Cary Grant shows up ninth-billed in a small performance, but that voice is still instantly recognizable.

There are other pre-Codes that I'd recommend first, but Merrily We Go to Hell is definitely worth a watch.

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Comic

TCM had a couple of new-to-me movies in their tribute to Carl Reiner when he died last summer. I got around recently to watching the last of them, The Comic.

Dick Van Dyke plays the comic in question, a man named Billy Bright (not a real person, although many character traits were based on old-time comic actors). The movie opens with Bright's funeral, fairly sparsely attended since, as one passerby says, he didn't even know Bright was still alive. One of the attendees comes to the church with a package. As it turns out, he was hired by Bright to pie the eulogist (and the eulogist was in on it). After all, a pie to the face is always funny.

Bright had been big back in the silent days, before the pictures got small, and we flash back to those thrilling days of yesteryear as Bright narrates his own life story. Bright was a vaudeville clown with a very distinctive look who shows up in California ready to act in movies, although the directors want things done their way, not the way Billy necessarily wants. Eventually, Billy starts to do things the directors' way, and becomes a pretty darn good comic actor and silent film star.

Bright even falls in love with his female lead Mary Gibson (Michele Lee), marrying her and, as a wedding present to her, starting his own studio so they can produce their own movies. Not every actor knew the first thing about production, however, and it's bound to be difficult. Billy also has other problems, in that he has a tendency to drink, as well as an eye for other women, tendencies his best friend Cockeye (Mickey Rooney, obviously based on Ben Turpin) tries to stop with a noted lack of success.

Eventually Mary files for divorce so that she can marry a man who will treat her and the kid well, Billy's old director Frank Powers (Cornel Wilde). By this time, sound has come to the movies, and Billy makes the fatal mistake of saying that comics act, not talk. Like a whole bunch of other silent comics, he fails to make the transition to sound, and winds up living in comedy until a late-career rediscovery thanks in part to Steve Allen (playing himself). But will Billy live long enough to enjoy it?

Dick Van Dyke was a very good comic actor on The Dick Van Dyke Show, but other than tripping over the ottoman I hadn't much considered his ability for physical comedy. I also hadn't thought much about his love of silent movies (in real life he knew Stan Laurel at the end of Laurel's life, and of course also appears in the silent-film section of What a Way to Go!). Van Dyke gives a fine performance here, as does Rooney. Lee understandably disappears in the second half of the movie, although she's more than adequate as Billy's wife.

Where The Comic isn't quite as good as it could be is in the script, which doesn't balance the dramatic and comic sides as well as it might, being at times too zany (Pert Kelton trying to marry her daughter off to an elderly Billy being a big example). Still, as an homage to silent cinema, and especially the silent comics, it's definitely worth a watch.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

I Never Sang for My Father

Today happens to be Mother's Day, but I recently happened to watch a movie that might be more appropiate for Father's Day: I Never Sang for My Father.

Gene Hackman plays Gene Garrison, a college professor in New York who's picking up his elderly parents at Kennedy Airport after they spent what was presumably the entire winter down in Florida. Gene gets a wheelchair for his mother Margaret (Dorothy Stickney), although she's able to walk: some time back she had a heart attack, and dad Tom (Melvyn Douglas) has been doing more of the housework as a result.

Gene has a rather complicated personal life, as his own wife died some time back. He met a gynecologist from California, Peggy (Elizabeth Hubbard) in the mean time, and is thinking of marrying her. But Dad is insistent that if Gene were to move out to California to get married, that this would kill Mom. Mom seems a bit less certain of this, wanting her son to find happiness in life, and pointing out that Dad spends a lot of time sleeping in front of the television with old westerns on the screen.

Things are about to get a whole lot more complicated for Gene when Mom suffers another heart attack, which leaves her in the hospital for a day or two before she finally dies. This brings Gene's sister Alice (Estelle Parsons) back into the picture and puts in sharper relief the problems that Gene has had with his parents, especially his father. Alice fell in love with a Jewish man, and the decidedly Christian Tom couldn't handle this, pretty much throwing Alice out of the house with no mind to how much this might have hurt Mom.

Alice wants Gene to get a housekeeper for Dad, who could certainly afford it, given how he goes on about having worked his way to the top and making $50,000 a year when he retired in the mid-1950s (which would have been a good three times what Jim Blandings was making in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House if I ran the numbers correctly). Dad also needs somebody around, as he's clearly beginning to show the signs of early-to-moderate dementia. At some point, he's not going to be able to live independently, and that point is sooner rather than later.

Alice also wants Gene to live his own life, warning him that if he doesn't head off to California now, he's never going to get to live his own life since Peggy isn't going to wait for him. She, of course, also has the experience of having been thrown out by Dad and not particularly caring what happens to Dad as a result. Gene, for his part, feels extremely conflicted, and understandably so. This is amplified by his visit to a "good" private nursing home along with a state-run home which is much more frightening.

I Never Sang for My Father is an always-relevant movie, as everybody is getting older and pretty much every family is going to be faced with the difficult decisions of what to do at the end of life and how to handle the conflicting needs of having to live one's own life (especially if one has children) and how not to abandon one's parents. In the case of the Garrisons, things are made much more complicated by the very demanding nature of Dad's personality, something that was apparently never seen by anybody outside the family. I Never Sang for My Father made me think of Make Way for Tomorrow, but rather more real since Hollywood wasn't really handling most topics with complete candor back in 1937 -- not that they were dishonest; just that Make Way for Tomorrow sugar-coats things in a way I Never Sang for My Father doesn't.

The performances in I Never Sang for My Father are excellent and ring quite true, I think. My own mother most likely had an undiagnosed mental illness that could make her as difficult to be around as Tom Garrison is here, and her own dementia only exacerbated that. Alice may seem like an extremely cruel character herself in the way she simply doesn't care about Dad, but looking at it from her perspective, it's awfully difficult to blame her.

I Never Sang for My Father may be difficult to watch at times, but it's an absolutely worthy movie.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Roberto Rossellini, 1906-1977

From left to right: Roberto Rossellini, Ingrid Bergman, and Vittorio da Sica

Today marks the birth anniversary of Italian director Roberto Rossellini, whose neo-realist films are eminently worth watching and led to one of cinema's more famous scandals.

Rossellini got his start in Fascist Italy, but once the Allies defeated Italy in World War II, Rossellini turned to making what would become Rome, Open City, the first film in a trilogy also including Paisan and Germania Anno Zero. Over in Hollywood, Ingrid Bergman was taken with these movies, and so wrote to him offering herself for a potential future project of his.

That project turned out to be Stromboli, in which Bergman plays a war refugee who marries and resettles on an isolated Italian volcanic island. However, that movie also resulted in Bergman and Rossellini falling in love, which would be quite romantic if it weren't for the fact that both of them were already married to other people at the time, which makes things rather more complicated. Public opinion turned against both, especially after Bergman got pregnant by Rossellini. Stromboli was a box office bomb in the US, although that might be because of RKO's editing of the movie. (I saw the movie many years back, although I don't recall what edit it was.)

Rossellini would eventually divorce Bergman after falling in love with another woman while on a film project in India; I suppose Ingrid should have seen it coming although by this time she was back in Hollywood's good graces. Criterion has a box set of three of Rossellini and Bergman's movies together.

Friday, May 7, 2021

The Navy Comes Here

Some movies showed up in TCM's 31 Days of Oscar for rather surprising reasons. One example of this is Here Comes the Navy. I had never seen it before, so I recently sat down to watch it.

James Cagney plays Chesty O'Connor, a riveter at a shipyard who's good at what he does, at least until Biff (Pat O'Brien) comes along. Biff is an officer aboard the USS Arizona (yes, the ship that sank in Pearl Harbor), but on land when he first meets Chesty who's busy catching rivets. A dispute comes up between them, and the two men nearly come to blows for reasons that make no real sense.

Some time later, Chesty is with his co-workers at the Ironworkers' Ball, and who should show up but Biff. Chesty wants his revenge from the previous fight, but when all the men go out into the alley to fight, Chesty learns that he's no match for Biff, costing him a deposit on a tuxedo, his girlfriend Gladys (Dorothy Tree), and even his job thanks to his injuries.

Now Chesty really wants revenge, but he finds out that Biff's ship has sailed, literally, since after all Biff is in the Navy. So Chesty decides he too is going to join the navy and get himself assigned to the same ship as Biff just to finish that fight and finally come out on top. This too makes no sense as I can't imagine the navy actually enlisting Chesty with such motivations, or Chesty ever getting anywhere close to the Arizona. He'd have ended up in the brig long before that with his constant insubordination.

But in that case, we wouldn't have a movie. So Chesty, along with his friend from training, Droopy (Frank McHugh), somehow get assigned to the Arizona, and Chesty immediately sets out to get himself booted from the Navy for his violent ways. Again, however, that just wouldn't do for the sort of movie Warner Bros. wanted to make, so we know that Chesty is going to be turned into a good person.

There's a big complication along the way, however. As part of a running joke about Droopy trying to buy his mother a set of false teeth (the running joke finally being revealed in the last scene), he and Chesty go to wire her the money. They meet telegraph office worker Dorothy (Gloria Stuart). Chesty immediately falls for her, and even gets her to invite him to her apartment for dinner the next night. What he doesn't know is that Dorthy is Dorothy Martin, Biff's sister. If Chesty wasn't in bad with Biff before, boy will he be now!

But Biff is going to get those chances to turn into a good person, when a couple of disasters happen and Chesty takes personal risk to save his fellow man, although in at least one case he only claims he's looking out for himself. Still, it's goin gto lead to the predictable ending that would have been pleasing for audiences of 1934 when the movie was released.

Amazingly, Here Comes the Navy got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. In 1934, there were 12 nominees for Best Picture, which might explain it. It's not exactly bad, although it has all sorts of facepalm-inducing motivations and seems unoriginal today. This, however, was the first pairing of Cagney and O'Brien, so it might have been more original to audiences of 1934. The two, as well as the supporting players, go through their paces and make something that definitely would have entertained audiences back then, although it may seem dated today.

There's also the archival footage of both the USS Arizona (indeed, some scenes were also filmed on board the ship) as well as the navy dirigible USS Macon. Everybody knows what happened to the Arizona; the Macon went down in an accident in 1935. Both ships are an interesting part of America's naval history.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks #356: Oscar Winners -- Best Director

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This year, several of the months have, on the first Thursday, a look at movies that won an Academy Award in one or another category. This time around, we're up to Best Director. I decided to go with five movies this time, since they have a common theme:

The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Alfred Hitchcock received his first nomination for Best Director for Rebecca in 1940, but lost to John Ford and his direction of John Steinbeck's book about Okies who migrate to California during the Dust Bowl, led more or less by Henry Fonda.

Going My Way (1944). Four years later, Hitchcock would be nominated again for Lifeboat, and should have won for both a tour-de-force of a movie on an extremely limited set, and an extremely disturbing story about mob violence. The fact that the mob was Americans killing a Nazi (Walter Slezak) probably doomed Hitchcock's chances. Instead, we get an incredibly mawkish story about a couple of priests (Bing Crosby and an absolutely retch-inducing Barry Fitzgerald) at a run-down parish that won a whole bunch of awards it didn't deserve. Almost anything else nominated should have won Best Picture (although I'd go with the unnominated A Canterbury Tale), and Alexander Knox should have run away with Best Actor for Wilson. I have no idea what the Academy was thinking in 1944.

The Lost Weekend (1945). Alfred Hitchcock would be nominated again the following year for Spellbound, but was up against Billy Wilder's daring movie about alcoholism, at least daring by 1945 standards. Ray Milland plays an alcoholic writer with writer's block with a girlfriend (Jane Wyman) who has the patience of Job and a brother (Phillip Terry) on the verge of giving up.

On the Waterfront (1954). Hitchcock would get a fourth nomination for Rear Window, and again did an extremely fine job in a tight set, but when you're up against On the Waterfront, something has to lose. Elia Kazan got an excellent performance out of Eva Marie Saint, along with fine performances from Marlon Brando and the supporting actors, of whom I'd single out Karl Malden as the parish priest. Brando could have been a contender for Best Actor, and in fact won.

The Apartment (1960). Alfred Hitchcock's final nomination was for Psycho in 1960, and once again, he had the terrible luck of being up against a movie that's really underrated. Hitchcock's direction is quite good although the sort of thing where it's obvious to see how it would earn a nomination. Billy Wilder brings more subtle direction to his story, getting another fine performance as a heel from Fred MacMurray; Jack Lemmon as the man who lets his bosses use his apartment for their nights "entertaining"; Shirley MacLaine as the jilted woman; and Jack Kruschen as Lemmon's neighbor who exhorts him to be a mensch. A really fine romantic comedy.

Ooh, a virtual film festival again

It's hard to believe that governments have been shutting stuff down for 14 months now thanks to the panic over the coronavirus. It wasn't that surprising that last year's TCM Film Festival got shut down in the "two weeks to flatten the curve" hysteria, but to still be shutting stuff down a year later when empirical evidence shows lockdowns haven't worked one bit is madness. At any rate, this year's TCM Film Festival starts tonight, virtually, on TCM and HBO Max.

I suppose one minor advantage is that if you do the streaming thing and subscribe to HBO Max, it's like those old-time movie theaters that would put a movie on loop and people would supposedly come in at whatever point in the movie and leave when they got to that point in the next showing, which frankly doesn't make any sense to me. The only difference is that with streaming you can start the showing whenever you want, and you don't have to line up outside a theater to do it. (At least, that's what I'm guessing; I don't know whether the films become available only at the same time as they air on TCM.)

In any case, the opening movie on TCM tonight at 8:00 PM is a 60th anniversary airing of West Side Story. It's 155 minutes but put into a 3:15 block, so I'm guessing that the extras on HBO Max will show up in the extra time allotted. I don't see any overriding theme for the four days of movies.

The Film Festival being this weekend also means there's not much going on for Mother's Day, with the exception of I Remember Mama at 4:30 PM Sunday.