Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Briefs for June 30-July 1, 2021

I have a couple of posts already scheduled for tomorrow, so today is just a briefs post, even though one of the things I'm mentioning would normally get a mention tomorrow. That would be TCM's new Star of the Month for July 2021, since the month begins tomorrow. Every Thursday in prime time, TCM is showing the movies of Elvis Presley, which I know a lot of people like but aren't necessarily to everybody's taste, largely because Col. Tom Parker typecast him.

In fact, I was recently listening to this interview with Irwin Winkler from November 2019, being way behind in my podcast listening. One of the things that isn't mentioned in the text exceprts on that page is that Winkler claims Elvis saw Point Blank and wanted to star in a movie like that, but Col. Tom would never greenlight that. I think movies like King Creole show Elvis was a better actor than he gets credit for, although I don't know that he could have pulled off that sort of role.

Among today's birthdays are Oscar-winner Susan Hayward; she was born on this day in 1917. Also born on this day -- and in 1917 too -- was Lena Horne. However, neither actress really got honored on TCM since the daytime theme was pregnant women. (Susan Hayward does show up in Susan Slade, which was on earlier.) Interestingly enough, the prime time lineup is for somebody whose birthday is tomorrow, that being the 105th birth anniversary of Olivia de Havilland. Why TCM isn't spending tomorrow morning and afternoon with her instead, I don't know.

I looked at StarzEncore Westerns and saw The Broken Land on the schedule, tomorrow at 5:03 AM. For some reason the title looked familiar and I was thinking of one of those B westerns that Fox distributed while they were trying to get the Elizabeth Taylor Cleoptra to the screen. But then I was thinking the ones I blogged about were The Purple Hills and One Foot in Hell. As it turns out, I was right on both parts, as you can see from the link. The Broken Land has a very young Jack Nicholson right at the beginning of his career.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021


I hadn't intended to do blog posts on two films coming up on Epix on consecutive days. But I had recorded Scorpio last August when Alain Delon got a day in TCM's Summer Under the Stars. It didn't seem to be on DVD the last time I checked, and it's going to be on Epix tomorrow morning at 5:40 AM, so I made a point of watching it to do a post on now.

The movie starts off with what seems like an unrelated scene of some Middle Eastern leader getting shot at in a firefight at Orly Airport in Paris. Except that one of the assassins is Jean Laurier (Alain Delon), nicknamed Scorpio. Scorpio is a relatively young guy working with CIA agent Cross (Burt Lancaster). Cross has given Scorpio a lot of advice about the spy game which the two might use when they head back to America.

Back in the US, Cross returns to his wife Sarah (the recently deceased Joanne Linville), while Scorpio has a sister who works for Air France along with an American girlfriend Susan (Gayle Hunnicutt) whom he's planning to marry. Sarah sees that somebody is spying on their house, which she's come to accept as natural because the CIA are nasty people who have no qualms about spying on Americans (as the Church Committee would tell us a few years later; of course, as Edward Snowden revealed, the US government never stopped spying on American citizens. But somehow it's now OK since they're spying on Trump supporters.)

In fact, the head of the CIA, McLeod (John Colicos), wants Cross dead, because in McLeod's insistence, Cross is a double agent known to have worked with Soviet agent Zharkov (Paul Scofield). Worse for all involved, McLeod had expected Scorpion to kill Cross in Paris, which obviously didn't happen. But in any case, Cross learns that he's been targeted for killing, and high-tails it to Vienna, where Zharkov is. Unsurprisingly, it's not going to take all that long for McLeod to figure out where Cross went, and send Scorpio there to liquidate Cross.

If it's not bad enough for Cross that Scorpio and the CIA are after him, there's also only so much protection he can get from Zharkov. Apparently, Zharkov's bosses think it would be a great intelligence coup to get Cross to come over to Moscow the way they got Brits like Kim Philby. Zharkov, given the choice, would like to keep Cross safe, but there's only so much he can do what with all the pressure that his bosses are putting on him.

It continues like this for nearly two hours, punctuated now and then by some action sequences. The two big problems with the movie are that running time, along with a plot that really meanders. I found myself not caring much about any of the characters, feeling them to be all unsympathetic spies. Maybe that's part of the point of the movie, but it doesn't make watching such a movie easier unless we're supposed to be rooting for them all to meet untimely deaths (which is not the case here). The plot could have been wrapped up with 20 minutes to go, but they decided to add some sort of twist or coda that didn't really work, and only extends the running time.

On the plus side, there's some nice location shooting, and the chase in Vienna is reasonably well done. Cross' arrival in Vienna also involves an iconic location that movie buffs should recognize, but I won't give away. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to save Scorpio for me. Still, as always with a film I didn't particularly care for, watch for yourself and make your own judgment.

TCM Guest Programmer June 2021: Andrew McCarthy

I don't know if the TCM Guest Programmers are back for good, but this is the second month in a row that we've got a Guest Programmer. This time around, it's Andrew McCarthy, whom you might recall from such classic 1980s films as Less Than Zero. Anyhow, he selected three of his favorite movies (I don't know if it's a think too that new Guest Programmers will pick three movies instead of four as they did when Robert Osborne was interviewing the Programmers), which will air tonight in prime time. McCarthy's selections are:

A Place in the Sun at 8:00 PM, in which Montgomery Clift falls in love with Elizabeth Taylor but knocks up Shelley Winters;
East of Eden at 10:15 PM, with James Dean in World War I-era northern California; and
The Philadelphia Story at 12:30 AM, in which Cary Grant shows up with a reporter and photographer (James Stewart and Ruth Hussey) at the wedding of his ex-wife (Katharine Hepburn).

Monday, June 28, 2021

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

During one of the free preview weekends quite some time ago, I had the chance to DVR the first two Star Trek movies, which I've already blogged about. More recently, I DVRed Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. It's going to be on again soon, overnight tonight at 1:35 AM on Epix (and, I think multiple times in the near future as well as being on DVD). So recently I watched to do a blog post on it.

The movie picks up where Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan left off: Spock sacrificed his life to save the Enterprise and kill Khan. Spock's coffin was deposited on the newly-formed Genesis planet. Thereafter, the crew of the Enterprise heads to get repairs on the ship. But this is where all sorts of problems begin to crop up. The first one is big, and a professional problem, which is that the Enterprise is going to be decommissioned. After all, it's a good 20 years old, and technology advances quite a bit in 20 years; just think about cars from 2001.

More personally, however, is that Bones McCoy (DeForest Kelley) is acting strangely. He broke into Spock's quarters on the way back to Earth, and talked to Kirk in what sounded a lot like Spock's voice, leading any reasonably intelligent viewer and Star Trek fan to figure that Spock must have done some sort of mind meld with McCoy before dying. Surprisingly, it takes Kirk a lot longer to figure this out, needing to be told by Spock's father Sarek that both McCoy and Spock are in emotional anguish, and that the way to put things right involves getting Spock's body and bringing both Spock and McCoy to a certain sacred mountain on Vulcan.

Meanwhile, everybody in the galaxy has heard about the Genesis project and wants to know what really happened, which is top secret for understandable reasons. A Klingon captain, Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), has gone rogue, and is killing everybody he can to get that information. So he's heading to the Genesis planet, while Kirk & Co. will also be doing so once they commandeer the Enterprise out of dry dock.

At the Genesis planet, the people involved in the experiment, including Kirk's son David and Lt. Saavik, find strange life readings on the planet that shouldn't be there. Oh, there's already plant life, but there's animal life too. When David and Saavik go down to the surface to investigate, they find Spock's coffin with a bunch of parasite-looking organisms that you could guess decomposed Spock's body. But the two are dumb enough to open the coffin and find that Spock seems to be alive, having been regenerated by Genesis into a young kid.

But there's still a big problem. Spock is evolving at a faster than normal pace, because David used a highly controversial type of matter that caused the experiment to go awry and play out at warp speed, meaning that the planet's life-cycle is going to be pretty short and that they'll need to get themselves and Spock the hell out of there. That, of course, isn't going to be easy because of the presence of the Klingons followed by Kirk who is supposed to save the day, this being Star Trek after all.

I've always read that bigger fans of Star Trek than I have generally panned the odd-numbered entries in at least the original movie series, claiming that the even-numbered movies are much better. Now, to be honest, it's hard to follow up a tightly-plotted movie like The Wrath of Khan, especially when this movie directly follows the events of that earlier movie. But it's really not a bad movie in its own right. There are some plot holes that I mentioned above, but the Enterprise characters are what you expect and Lloyd is fun as the villain.

I'd certainly recommend Star Trek III, although I would also point out that it would definitely help to have seen Star Trek II first.

Sunday, June 27, 2021


TCM has been running a marathon of Alfred Hitchcock movies this weekend. It's going to conclude overnight, or early tomorrow morning, with Frenzy, at 3:45 AM.

In contemporary (1972, when the movie was released) London, a politician is talking about the pollution in the Thames while telling a crowd that a new bill being proposed will clean up that pollution. Ah, but the river is polluted in ways that our politician friend didn't expect, as a dead body floats to the shore. Worse, it's a woman who is completely naked, except for the necktie with which she's been strangled. So everybody knows this is the work of the Necktie Killer.

Cut to a pub in Covent Garden where Richard Blaney (Jon Finch) works as a barman. He's in a relationship with the barmaid, Barbara (Anna Massey), but more annoying to the owner is that Richard takes a drink for himself now and then and pays for it from behind the bar, which leads the boss to think that he's stealing drinks, getting him fired for his trouble. He's also been living in a room above the pub, so he doesn't seem to have a place to live.

In fact, Richard's life is a bit of a mess. He was married for about a decade to Brenda (Barbara Leigh-Hunt), who runs a dating service, and it's humiliating to him to have to rely on her for money. The closest he seems to have as a friend, othern than possibly Babs, is Robert Rusk (Barry Foster), who runs one of the produce providers in Covent Garden. It doesn't help, however, that Rusk gives Richard a horse tip that Richard can't cash in on, not having enough money.

To be honest, Rusk is even less of a friend than that. We learn relatively early in the movie that Rusk is in fact the Necktie Killer, as we see when he goes to visit Brenda's business. Rusk, under an assumed name, had been a client, looking for women who were into kinky sex. When Brenda won't provide that, Rusk flies into a rage, raping Brenda before killing her. Not long after that, Richard goes up to the office to see Brenda, finds out what happens, and realizes the police will suspect him.

Investigating the case for Scotland Yard is Inspector Tim Oxford (Alec McCowen), who is also part of the film's dark humor together with his wife (Vivien Merchant). She tries to make gourmet meals for her husband, this being a time when finding high quality out-of-the-ordinary foods was much more difficult, so everything she makes is less than appetizing. (Evidence of how limited the British palate was at the time is that she has to list the ingredients in a margarita, pronouncing the liquor as "tekwilla".)

Richard, on the run from the law, is spotted by an old RAF buddy who puts him up, and could even provide an alibi if it weren't for the fact that his wife doesn't want to get involved and especially doesn't want to get her husband brought up on charges of being an accessory after the fact. So eventually the authorities find him, and Rusk has been quite good at planting even more evidence to make Richard look guilty....

Frenzy is, for whatever reason, one of Hitchcock's lesser known movies. I think that's in part down the cast, which is a bunch of people who were never Hollywood names, although that's deliberate. Another part is probably because the movie was made in Britain on location in Covent Garden, giving it a gritty look. The much more explicit subject nature thanks to the end of the Production Code might be a factor too. Frenzy is pretty dark stuff even by the standards of Alfred Hitchcock.

Having said that, Frenzy absolutely works thanks to its great story and that gritty location shooting. Finch and Foster both look enough like creeps to make their characters realistic. Finch, like John Hurt's character in the previous year's 10 Rillington Place is also enough of a chancer that it's obvious to see why the police would immediately suspect him and nobody would have sympathy for him.

So if you haven't seen Frenzy before, it's one that I'd absolutely recommend.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Miami Story

A couple of years back, I picked up the Noir Archive Volume 1 Blu-ray set. Recently, I put another of the films from that set into the player: The Miami Story. I don't think I'd quite consider it a noir, but it's a worthwhile watch and people like Eddie Muller probably would say it's noir adjacent.

The movie starts off with one of those narrations like you'd see in the Fox docudramas, talking about how the virtuous federal authorities were smashing organized crime rings in the years after World War II, with the results that the bigwigs in organized crime decamped to someplace that wasn't known as a hotbed of crime, that being Miami, which you could probably have figured out considering the title of the movie. Anyhow, we get a flight from Havana -- this was still five years before the Castro revolution succeeded in bringing Communism and misery to the island -- landing at the airport. Two men get shot to death deplaning while a female witness is horrified.

Getting away with murder is Ted Delacorte (John Baer). He works for one of the crime syndicates, led by Tony Brill (Luther Adler). Brill's big place in Miami is the Biscayne Club, which has illegal gambling; Brill has hired Gwen Abbott (Adele Jergens) to handle the touts, young women who bring in wealthy tourists to gamble and lose at the casino.

The good-government types in Miami are horrified at the crime that's going on. Newspaperman Charles Earnshaw brings several of them together, and has an idea. Some years back, there was a gangster named Mike Flagg who knew Brill. But Flagg went absent a dozen years ago after having been framed for murder by Brill, and may be dead for all we know. Earnshaw has the daring idea of taking out ads in papers looking for Flagg, who has changed his name to Pierce and lives in rural Indiana with his young son.

Sure enough, however, people in Indiana recognize the photo, and Mike Flagg (Barry Sullivan) is kinda sorta forced to go to Florida to redeem his good name. He gets in touch with Earnshaw and the police, who are willing to use him to do things that the police might not be able to do themselves. Or at least, they wouldn't be able to do those things back in the days when people thought the police were virtuous. Nowadays the police have no compunction about violating the Fourth Amendment, or any other Amendment for that matter.

Coming to see Mike is the woman who was the witness on the plane. This is Holly (Beverly Garland), who just happens to be the sister of Gwen Abbott. Holly had gone to Havana because she heard her sister was there (she was before returning to Miami) and is looking for her. Eventually Gwen does come calling and gives Holly the sensible advice to get the hell out of Miami if she knows what's good for her. Holly doesn't, and gets the crap beat out of her.

It goes on like this, with more twists and turns, for a brief running time of 75 minutes. The Miami Story is not exactly bad, but it's certainly not anything groundbreaking either. Watching it feels like watching any of a hundred other gangster movies. But Sullivan and Adler are both old pros, doing their jobs well and make this one more than worth a watch among the B movies out there. It's just more of a crime movie than a noir.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Should be on a double bill with The Alligator People

A couple of months back, FXM put a movie into its rotation that was completely new to me: The Frogmen. It's going to be on again tomorrow at 7:50 AM and again Sunday (June 27) at 6:00 AM. So with that in mind, I went and watch the recording I had made of one of the several previous airings.

On an American ship somewhere in the Pacific theater of World War II, one group of guys is trying to relax on the top deck before the regular crew of the ship drives them off having to wash the decks. It turns out that the first group, led by Flannigan (Dana Andrews) are part of the UDT, the Underwater Demolition Team. In short, they're the titular "frogmen", whose job it is to go underwater just off shore of islands and rig things to be blown up, or do other surveillance that can't be done any other way. They're currently on a transport ship captained by Lt. Cmdr. Vincent (Gary Merrill).

From the first scene it seems like Flannigan is the frogmen's commanding officer, but that's not quite true. Their actual CO is Lt. Cmdr. Lawrence (Richard Widmark), who has only recently replaced Cassidy, who died on a mission. So there's a fair amount of enmity between Flannigan and the lower-ranking men, who all really liked Cassidy, and Cmdr. Lawrence, who's more by the books, cold and distant.

The group has three missions during the course of the movie. The first is reconnaissance to determin whether a secondary beach can be a landing point for an American assault on a Japanese-held island. Flannigan gets injured in this mission, and Lawrence thinks the mission is more important than any one man, which leads to even more enmity.

Flannigan might get a chance to prove himself to Lawrence, however. Lawrence gets an injury, having been infected through a scratch on some coral, and is in no position to actually rig the Japanese defenses to be bombed. Unfortunately, Flannigan does something really stupid, which is to have one of his men put up a sign on the beach welcoming the Marines. The man gets shot and fairly seriously injured.

But Flannigan ultimately does redeem himself when the transport ship gets hit by a torpedo that doesn't detonate. Flannigan and Lawrence are going to have to work together to defuse it, all while there's water coming into sick bay where the frogman who had gotten shot is lying, relatively immobile.

Finally, the UDT gets called over to a submarine for a super-secret mission to bomb a Japanese submarine pen. It's a much more dangerous mission, especially once the Japanese discover that the frogmen are right beneath them. One of the frogmen, played by a young Jeffrey Hunter, nearly gets killed.

There's a lot that's fairly standard in a movie like The Frogmen, starting with the whole conflict between the men who have been together a long time and their new commander. But The Frogmen tells its story well enough, with more than competent acting from the leads, and a reasonably good amount of suspense. It's not the greatest war movie made by any stretch of the imagination, but it succeeds at what it set out to do. People who want a war movie they might not have seen before would do well to catch The Frogmen..

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks #363: Fish Out of Water (TV Edition)

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. We're at the last Thursday of the month; after all, next Thursday is July 1 already. So that means another TV-themed edition of the blogathon, with the theme this time being "Fish Out of Water". It took me a little while, but I was able to come up with three sitcoms:

The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971). The Clampetts, a hillibilly family who discover oil on their land, making them wealthy enough to move out to Beverly Hills. The resulting culture clash leads to exactly the sorts of jokes you're probably thinking of. A movie version was made in the early 1990s; has it really been that long?

Green Acres (1965-1971). Eddie Albert plays a big-city attorney who has always wanted to live down on the farm. However, he's got a glamorous wife (Eva Gabor) who isn't so thrilled about the move, making her the fish out of water.

Perfect Strangers (1986-1993). Mark Linn-Baker plays a man who has just moved into his first apartment when he gets a surprise visit from distant cousin Balki (Bronson Pinchot) from the Mediterranean island of Mypos, intending to live with his cousin. Balki, of course, has a less than perfect understanding of American culture that leads to much of the show's humor.

Violent Playground

I mentioned at the beginning of the month that one of the movies coming up in the June spotlight on juvenile delinquent movies is Violent Playground, a British film that I had on my DVR but hadn't gotten around to watching. It's airing overnight tonight at 1:30 AM, so I made a point of watching it to review today.

In Liverpool in the late 1950s, there's a string of arsons going on that's baffling the police. One of those policemen is Det. Truman (Stanley Baker). But that's going to be the least of his problems. The current Juvenile Liaison Officer has to take a leave of absence, and the department needs somebody new to replace him for a while. Truman's boss has "volunteered" him for this job. It'll take him away from real police work, and instead deal with social work stuff since they believe that everybody can be prevented from turning to a life of crime.

Meanwhile, a couple of kids who really should be in school set up a con on a shopkeeper. It's something they've been doing repeatedly, and finally one of the shopkeepers has had enough and wants the police involved. Since the two kids are only seven years old and not old enough to deal with even the beginnings of juvenile court, it's the Liaison Officer who gets involved. Fun work, isn't it?

Those two twins are the Murphys, Patrick and Mary (Fergal and Brona Boland respectively). They live with their elder brother John (David McCallum before he'd play Illya Kuryakin on The Man from UNCLE) and even older sister Cathie (Anne Heywood). Cathie acts as the mother of the family because the real Mom and Dad are out of the picture, but having to hold down a job and take care of the young kids makes it difficult if not impossible. She also has a healthy hatred of the police, as everybody in the projects does.

But it's John who's the biggest problem. He seems to be the leader of all the disaffected youth and the reason why this is a juvenile delinquent movie in the first place. he can get the others to do his bidding with just a word, and all of them are often gratuitously mean just because it makes them feel good.

Now, part of the plot is fairly predictable. Truman is going to start developing feelings for Cathie, but it's going to be a rocky road because of her hatred of the police. The arsons are going to keep happening, and you know Truman is going to get involved again. The big surprise is the finale, which happens as a school hostage situation that seems surprisingly gritty for the late 1950s.

But then again, this is Basil Dearden directing, and he did a fair amount of stuff that pushed the boundaries, most notably Sapphire and Victim. Violent Playground isn't quite as good, but definitely worth watching. It last aired on TCM as part of a Star of the Month salute to Peter Cushing, who has a supporting role as a Catholic priest who tries to do his own work with the troubled youth. (There was a lot of Irish emigration to Liverpool in the first half of the 20th century.)

I don't think Violent Playground is on DVD in the US, which is a shame. It's too bad Criterion didn't or couldn't include it in its Eclipse Series box set of Dearden films.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Live, Love, and Learn

Robert Montgomery did a lot of breezy comedies and other light programmers in his 1930s days at MGM. So some of them get lost in the shuffle because they're like some of the others. A good example of this is Live, Love, and Learn.

Montgomery plays Bob Graham, a starving artist who at the start of the movie is somehwere out in the country, set up next to a stone wall and painting a landscape. Suddenly, a whole bunch of horsemen come jumping over the wall, obviously on a fox hunt, forcing Bob to keep ducking his head so that he doesn't get hit by any of the horses. The last person to jump over the wall is Julie Stoddard (Rosalind Russell), who doesn't make it, getting thrown from her horse and eventually going right through Bob's canvas, understandably ticking Bob off.

So what does Bob do? In the very next scene, we see him and Julie at a justice of the peace getting married! Bob keeps acting as though he's not really going to go through with it, but of course he does, and almost immediately after the wedding ceremony the two are on their way back to Bob's walk-up apartment in the starving artist part of town; Julie seemingly happy with all of this because she doesn't necessarily want the family money.

Not long after getting to the apartment, the couple is interrupted by Oscar (Robert Benchley), a thoroughly obnoxious drunk which probably wasn't that much of a stretch for Benchley to be playing. Oscar apparently kinda-sorta lived in the apartment with Bob or some such, as Bob seems to be quite used to Oscar, and Julie for whatever reason doesn't mind this either. But there's the question of how they're going to pay the bills.

Bob goes out to paint in the park, and a couple of Navy guys don't care for Bob's painting. There are some guys from the Army, however, who like it, and this sets off a fight among the servicemen that makes the front page of the newspapers and brings a bunch of them to Bob's apartment. Not that he wants to talk to any of them, especially once they start lying and passing themselves off as art dealers. Among them is Mr. Bawltitude (Monty Woolley), who actually does own an art gallery but is treated horribly by Bob, Julie, and Oscar because they understandably think he's yet another journalist in disguise.

When they discover that Bawltitude really does on a gallery and can set up a showing for Bob, it opens doors for him that Julie doesn't particularly care to have opened. Bob is able to make enough money to support Julie and not be a starving artist any longer, but Julie thinks that this is going to cause Bob to lose what he had in his character that made him so much fun to be with in the first place.

To me there were a lot of standard tropes in Live, Love, and Learn, and the way they were put together didn't really gel all that well. It's even less understandable why these two got married than in other screwball comedies, for starters. Oscar is a really irritating character and why Julie is OK with him makes no sense. And half the time it tries to be too dramatic, with it never being funny enough when it's trying to be a comedy.

Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell both made much better stuff than this. But it's available on a Robert Montgomery box set if you want it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Big Snooze

Quite some time back, I bought a TCM Cary Grant box set. Recently, looking for some shorts to watch, I decided to see what was included as extras in this particular set and saw a lot on the DVD of Night and Day. (I should probably first point out, however, that in this box set, all the DVDs are on one spindle, which is a bugaboo of mine.) There were a lot of extras on that particular disc.

First up were some trailes to Cole Porter movies, and just for fun I watched the trailer to Broadway Melody of 1940, which coincidentally was on a couple of days ago. The interesting thing about the trailer is that it didn't use any dialogue, just scenes from the movie with music and text superimposed. There was a short called Musical Movieland that looked like it might be recycling clips, and a search of IMDb pointed out that indeed it was. I didn't watch the short of Desi Arnaz, and was most interested in the cartoon, The Big Snooze.

Obviously taking its name from the movie The Big Sleep, this is another Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd cartoon. Bugs runs through a hollow log and Elmer chases him, setting up a running joke of Bug rotating the log so that Elmer comes out the other side off the edge of a cliff. Eventually Elmer gets so fed up with this that he rips up his contract with Warner Bros. to retire to a life of fishing. Poor Bugs wants Elmer to think of him; what job will he have without Elmer? (Yosemite Sam had actually made his debut a year before The Big Snooze, so Bugs had him to harass.)

Bugs finds Elmer sleeping under a tree, so Bugs takes a sleeping pill in order to enter Elmer's dream and turn it into a nightmare, making Elmer reconsider retirement. It's a bizarre nightmare that has, among other things, Elmer dressed as a femme fatale. On the whole, however, I found this particular short a lot of fun. From what I could tell on IMDb, it did get a release on one of the collections of Looney Tunes shorts in addition to showing up here.

Monday, June 21, 2021

They All Come Out

I've mentioned MGM's Crime Does Not Pay series on several occasions. A movie that has an interesting relationship to those shorts is They All Come Out, which will be airing at 10:00 AM Tuesday (June 22).

The movie starts off with US Attorney General Homer Cummings (the man who was the inspiration for the Fox docudrama Boomerang!) giving a brief statement about the job of the federal penitentiary system being to rehabilitate criminals. We then cut to the real action. Kitty (Rita Johnson) is in the south, talking on the phone with Reno (Bernard Nedell). He's the leader of a gang, and she cases banks letting him know about the security situation so that it will be easier for them to get away with robbing the banks.

While she's driving home from casing the bank, she runs into a down-on-his-luck man Joe (Tom Neal). He's a perpetual vagrant, having injured his hand in an industrial accident that left him unable to do the manual labor he had done to that point. But he's got a way with cars, and when there's a problem with Rita's car, he's able to fix it. He's also able to take over some of the driving back to Reno's place. (Rita doesn't die on Neal unlike the car owner in Detour.)

You can guess what happens next, which is that Rita suggests Joe's name when Reno needs a reliable and good driver. So Joe gets sucked into the gang, having no other job, and becomes an excellent getaway driver. Until the gang gets caught with the members being sent to various federal prisons. Rita is sent to a women's prison where they're going to try to rehabilitate her back into the beautician trade; Joe is given free surgery which will allow him to resume his manual labor.

However, it's not going to be smooth sailing once they get out of prison. Reno had buried the money from the last bank heist, and wants that money back. Joe wants to make good on his second chance and doesn't plan to get that money for Reno. And he sure doesn't plan to tell anybody else. Rita, on the other hand, has the problem of the media coming around to report on her, which is bad business for anybody who would otherwise have the sympathy to hire her.

They All Come Out isn't a bad movie, but it does suffer from the flaws that I tend to see in MGM's B movies. In doing this blog, I've sen a whole bunch of B movies, and Warner's B movies are generally much more interesting than MGM's. Where Warner engaged in social commentary, MGM was very much a law-and-order promoter, as seen from the whole Crime Does Not Pay series. The movie plays out as a bunch of propaganda for the federal prison system. The movie is good, helped by direction from Jacques Tourneur, who had worked his way up from the MGM B unit to this first feature, but you get the impression it could have been a lot better.

They All Come Out is, as far as I know, not available on DVD, so you'll have to catch the rare TCM showing.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man

Another of the movies that's been back in the FXM rotation over the past couple of months is Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man. It's going to be on FXM again, tomorrow (June 21) at 6:00 AM, so I'm mentioning it now.

As you can probably guess from the title, the movie is based on works by writer Ernest Hemingway. Specifically, it's the Nick Adams stories, which I don't think I've actually read although as I understand it they're loosely based on some of Hemingway's own experiences. After all, they always tell starting writers to write what you know about. Nick Adams (Richard Beymer) is a young man of about 20 circa 1916 living with his parents, Dr. Henry (Arthur Kennedy) and Helen (Jessica Tandy) in a small town in northern Michigan. Mom runs the family and is frankly dominating, trying to force Nick into a marriage to nice local girl Carolyn (Diane Baker) and henpecking Dad. Nick has had enough of it, so after a bender one night with his friend George (Michael J. Pollard), he decides he's going to run off and grow up.

Nick tries to ride the rails, but gets knocked off by another man, ending up in the countryside where he makes the acquaintance of a man nicknamed the Battler (Paul Newman). The Battler was a boxer back in the day, but as with Anthony Quinn's character in Requiem for a Heavyweight, he's obviously taken a few punches too many and isn't good for anything. The Battler has a trainer in the form of Bugs (Juano Hernandez). Unfortunately, while Bugs doesn't dislike Nick, he realizes that the Battler needs to be kept away from everybody, so Bugs ultimately sends Nick on his way.

Nick ends up in another small town where he meets the chronically drunk Billy Campbell (Dan Dailey). Billy's job is to put up posters advertising the burlesque show run by Mr. Turner (Fred Clark), only to leave for the next town before Turner shows up to find Billy drunk and try to get Billy into rehab (or "taking the cure", as they called it back in the day). Ultimately neither Billy nor Turner is ultimately a bad person, but they're just incompatible and Billy really doesn't want to deal with his boss' hectoring him about his drinking. Billy and Nick sleep in late one day, not getting out of town before Turner shows up.

Since Nick hasn't been able to do much in life so far, he thinks about giving up, wiring Dad for the money for a ticket home (James Dunn plays the telegrapher). But just before the telegraph gets sent, Nick decides that no, he doesn't want to go home, and goes to New York City, where he thinks he can get a job writing for a newspaper even though he's never done this before. The editor tells him to come back when he gets experience. He then does some odd jobs, ultimately working as a busboy/waiter who is serving an Italian-American effort to raise money for the war effort in Italy, the Great War going on and the US not yet being involved in the war.

Nick signs up to become an ambulance driver in Italy, even though again he's got no experience and can't speak a word of Italian, qualities which understandably vex his commanding officer, Maj. Padula (Ricardo Montalban). Nick gets paired with another American, John (Eli Wallach), and actually does a fairly good job as an ambulance driver. But a bombing campaign leaves him badly injured and sent to a hospital in Verona, where he meets Rossana (Susan Strasberg), a nurse who takes care of him and with whom he falls in love.

Some people are going to like Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man, but I had three substantial problems with it. First off was the episodic nature of the story, although that's the smallest of the problems. There are a lot of people in the movie, but for the most part they come and go and you can't really get that invested in them. Secondly, the movie runs at a very leisurely pace, ultimately lasting 145 minutes. Boy does it feel slow at times.

But the biggest problem was with the casting of Richard Beymer as Nick Adams. To me he just didn't have the charisma to pull off the role. Most of the supporting players do well with their roles, drawing an even sharper contrast with the bland Beymer just walking through his part.

I'm not certain whether fans of Hemingway will enjoy seeing the Nick Adams stories put on film, or feel that Hemingway has been butchered and dislike the movie as a result. In either case, watch and draw your own conclusions.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Walk the Proud Land

I hadn't intended to blog about two westerns back to back, but I noticed yesterday evening that a movie sitting on my DVR, Walk the Proud Land is coming up on StarzEncore Westerns tomorrow at 2:43 PM. With that in mind, I watched it to do a review on today.

Audie Murphy stars as John Clum, a real person who would go on to be mayor of Tombstone, AZ at the time of the famous gunfight at the OK Corral. But this movie is set several years earlier, in 1874, when Clum first shows up in the Arizona Territory to be an agent from the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the San Carlos Reservation for Apaches. It's a difficult job, in part because the restive Apaches under chief Eskiminzin (Robert Warwick) and rebellious Geronimo (Jay Silverheels) don't care for the white man or their agents, and in part because the Cavalry only supports force. Clum has a more humanistic attitude toward the Apache.

At the reservation, Clum meets Tianay (a hilariously miscast Anne Bancroft), an Apache widow who is attached to Clum's residents and acts as a sort of wife-in-waiting even though Clum has a fiancée in Mary (Pat Crowley). Boy isn't Mary going to be surprised when she gets out to the reservation and finds Tianay and a husband who can't quite satisfactorily explain how Apache culture led to his and Tianay's relationship.

In any case, as I said earlier, Clum wants to treat the Apache with more dignity, although it's going to require some work on their part as attacking the whites creates obvious problems. Not all of the provisions Clum orders are reaching the reservation, and the Apaches say that they would be just as comforable hunting for their meat, leading Clum to request that the Apaches be armed. If you've seen enough westerns, you'll know that the Cavalry is alarmed by this, but Clum gets his way. He even gets the Apache to have some autonomy on the reservation, setting up a sort of police force and parallel justice system that will enforce the laws on the reservation, which causes problems when a couple of white hunters get caught hunting on Apache land.

Clum's actions do win sume grudging respect for the Apache on the part of the cavalry, and some respect for him personally from Eskiminzin. But Geronimo still isn't happy, and plans a revolt with the guns that they've gotten from Clum. Clum and the tribal police force have to go round up Geronimo or face being killed....

Audie Murphy wasn't a bad actor, but as with Elvis Presley in the 1960s, Murphy get typecast by the studio and never really given a chance to show his range. Walk the Proud Land is interesting in that Murphy isn't quite playing the sort of Old West action hero that he would in a lot of the other westerns. Murphy does a good job here. The less said about Bancroft, the better.

Having read a little more about Clum, I get the impression that Walk the Proud Land has a lot of the same problems with reality that many Hollywood biopics have, having to fit a real person's story into the coventions of Hollywood, and even more so, western, storytelling. The romantic conflict is irritating, and the Apache dance sequence at Clum and Mary's wedding goes on too long. But overall, Walk the Proud Land is an interesting enough western.

Walk the Proud Land is available on DVD from a pricey Universal MOD disc.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Steel of Color

Not too long ago, I bought a Mill Creek box set of John Wayne movies. These are mostly B movies from his days on Poverty Row in between the failure of The Big Trail and his career boost in Stagecoach. Recently, I popped one of the DVDs into the DVD player and watched Blue Steel.

Wayne plays John Carruthers, who comes into a hotel in a small western town one night, and beds down in an alcove just off the lobby where nobody can see him. Following him in not too much later is the local sheriff, Jake Withers (Gabby Hayes, although he was not yet "Gabby" and just George Hayes). The sheriff has heard that the "Polka Dot Bandit" is around and might try to rob the safe, so the sheriff would like the room upstairs that has a knothole through which he can surreptitiously watch the lobby in the hopes of catching the Bandit.

Sure enough, the Bandit (Yakima Canutt, who obviously also handled stunts in the movie) shows up and commits the robbery, while the sheriff misses it. Carruthers, however, does see it and goes to look for evidence, at which point the sheriff comes out looking for the Bandit, and getting the understandable but mistaken notion that Carruthers is the Bandit.

In fact Carruthers is a US Marshal, also looking for the bandit. The Bandit, real name Dante, is working for a man named Malgrove (Edward Peil) who is one of the town's leading citizen. In fact, Malgrove wants to become the baron of the town. Apparently there's a rich seam of gold underneath the town, and Malgrove plans to drive off all the homesteaders by taking their money and provisions and having bandits rob any coach that tries to re-provision the town.

Dan Mason (Lafe McKee) operates the stagecoach, and has a lovely adult daughter Betty (Eleanor Hunt). Malgrove's men unfortunately kill Mr. Mason, but Carruthers figures out that Danti is the Polka Dot Bandit, and saves the day.

Blue Steel was a B movie from Poverty Row (IMDb says Monogram but the opening title says Lone Star), so don't expect a prestige picture here. Instead, with a brief running time of 54 minutes and change, anybody watching this knows they're getting a B movie with a simple story and characterizations. In that regard it succeeds just fine. Two dozen years later, this stuff would be fodder for one or another of the TV westerns. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anybody who wants to see what B westerns were all about will enjoy Blue Steel.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks #362: Natural Disasters

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. The theme this week is Natural Disasters, of which there are many. So I decided to do a mild theme-within-a-theme and pick three real-life disasters recreated on film:

The Last Days of Pompeii (1935). Preston Foster plays a previously pacificst blacksmith in Pompeii, embittered by his wife's death and resulting entry into the gladiatorial arena. His son (John Wood) went east to Judea, met Jesus, and returned to Pompeii the sort of pacifist Dad had been. The family conflict is about to take a back seat to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, however.... Basil Rathbone plays Pontius Pilate.

San Francisco (1936). In early 1906 San Francisco, Clark Gable runs a nightclub on San Francisco's Barbary Coast, falling in love with would-be opera singer Jeannette MacDonald. Spencer Tracy plays a priest who serves more or less as Gable's conscience. Of course, if you know your history, there's going to be a big earthquake in April 1906:

Wild River (1960). Montgomery Clift plays a man sent from Washington in the 1930s down to Tennessee to get the Tennessee Valley Authority dams built in order to mitigate flooding as well as electrify the region. One matriarch (Jo Van Fleet) doesn't want to sell out even though one of the dams will flood her land, as this is the only home she's ever known. Along the way, Clift falls in love with the matriarch's granddaughter (Lee Remick). The reason I'm including this one is because the film opens with actual documentary footage of a flood in Trumansburg, NY, in 1935. I don't think this is the actual footage used in the movie, but this was the best I could find on Youtube:

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A Streetcar Named Desire

Another of the classic movies that I surprisingly haven't blogged about yet is A Streetcar Named Desire. (Well, maybe not that surprising considering that I'm not the biggest Tennessee Williams fan.) It got an airing on TCM during 31 Days of Oscar, so I recorded it then. It's going to be on again tonight at 8:00 PM as part of the Teacher Guest Programmer spotlight, so I watched it to do a post on here.

I assume a lot of people already know the story. Vivien Leigh plays Blanche Dubois, who always depends on the kindness of strangers (although, surprisingly, that line comes at the end of the movie and, I'm presuming, the end of the play too). She arrives at the train station and asks a stranger from the Navy how to get to a certain address where her sister Stella (Kim Hunter) lives, married to Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando). The stranger tells her to take the streetcar named "Desire", which is about the only time we see the titular streetcar.

Blanche arrives to find that Stella and Stanley are living in a crappy little ground-floor apartment with only two rooms; obviously, the couple isn't in a very good financial situation. Then again, Blanche isn't, either. She had been taking care of the family "estate", Belle Rive, up in Mississippi, but the place has been mortgaged to the hilt, necesitating Blanche's leaving to come to New Orleans. That, and she's left her job as a teacher for... reasons.

Stanley is a loud, brutish blowhard, and damn if he doesn't know that Louisiana is governed under a different legal structure from the rest of the United States, civil law based on the Napoleonic Code, with Stanley bringing up "the Napoleonic Code" as though it were a magic incantation. What belongs to a wife belongs to a husband, and somehow this should mean part of Belle Rive is his. He keeps claiming to know people who can fix this sort of stuff or something.

Stanley and the other guys play poker, with one of those guys being Mitch (Karl Malden). The guys can get loud, and Stanley can be nasty to both Stella and Blanche, leading Stella on occasion to hide out in the apartment one floor above theirs and Stanley to cry out "Stella!" much the same way Jerry Lewis would say "Hey Lady!" At any rate, Mitch has a sickly mother who's probably terminally ill, and Mitch thinks Mom wants him to be settled before she dies. So he's willing to settle with Blanche.

At least, that is, until he begins to learn a little bit more about Blanche. She'a an alcoholic, probably propositioned one of her students which led to her having to leave her teaching position, and is probably about as sane as Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd. When Mitch starts to put two and two together, he dumps Blanche because he actually has some sense. And despite Stanley's being a blowhard, he has some sense too, figuring out what she's really like. Eventually Blanche's close-up comes for her too, albeit in a different way.

You can tell I didn't have as high an opinion of A Streetcar Named Desire as other people are going to have. That's partly because, as I said at the top, I'm not a huge fan of Tennessee Williams or this sort of overheated Southern gothic in general. (Remember I didn't particularly care for Wise Blood either.) But it's also down to the fact that the characters are mostly loud, obnoxious, and unsympathetic. Maybe I should go a bit lighter on Mitch and Stella, but all of these are the sort of people you want to take and shake some sense into the way Bette Davis does to Miriam Hopkins at the end of Old Acquaintance.

Still, all the actors play the parts they're given well, and the movie is definitely atmospheric. So those of you who like Southern gothic will definitely like A Streetcar Named Desire. As always, watch and judge for yourself.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Love Tunnel

Through an odd coincidence, I've been watching a bunch of movies from Columbia that are available on Columbia's MOD scheme. So in thinking about what to watch that isn't necessarily coming up soon, I looked through the films of March Star of the Month Doris Day. My first selection, oddly enough, was a Columbia movie, It Happened to Jane, so I'll save that one for later. Instead, I watched the MGM comedy The Tunnel of Love.

Doris Day plays Isolde Poole, a housewife living in Westport, CT with her cartoonist husband August (Richard Widmark), nicknamed Augie. She's been unable to have a baby, with the question of whether it's a medical issue on her or Augie's part being an open question. Meanwhile, the couple's neighbors and best friends, the Peppers (Gig Young and Elisabeth Fraser), already have three kids with a fourth on the way. There's theoretically some scope for tension between the couple, but this is a light comedy.

Isolde decides she's going to go to the Rockabye Adoption Agency, run by Miss McCracken (Elizabeth Wilson). There are a lot of couples who want a kid and not so many infants up for adoption, so it might be a wait. In he meantime, the agency sends a social worker, Estelle Novick (Gia Scala) to check on the Poole's situation as well as talk to references, which in this case means the Peppers.

Thanks to a series of misunderstandings of the sort you'd see on Three's Company 20 years later, Augie thinks he's bollixed the change for the couple to adopt. But Estelle comes back to give the couple a second chance, and Augie screws things up even more, taking Estelle to dinner, getting rip-roaring drunk, and waking up in a motel room the next afternoon.

Oh, and that's the half of his problems. Some months later, Miss Novick comes back for one last time, asking for a loan from Augie. Augie puts two and two together, and realizes that he must have knocked Estelle up on that night he got blackout drunk. He compounds his previous lies by cutting Estelle a check but not telling Isolde anything about it and making up a story with Mr. Pepper, who lies to his wife about it.

Amazingly, however, quite a few months later, or just about the time Estelle would put a baby up for adoption, the agency informs the Pooles that some sort of miracle has happened and the Pooles have been moved to the front of the line for adoption. The agency has a lovely boy for the Pooles to adopt, although technically they're just on trial for the first year. One minor problem is that everybody takes one look at the child and thinks he looks amazingly like Augie.

The Tunnel of Love is the sort of light comedy that most fans of Doris Day will probably like, but also the sort of thing that I have all sorts of problems with. That's mostly down to it being what I've always called a "comedy of lies", where a character has to make up a little white lie to get out of a situation, only for the lie to snowball and have to make bigger and bigger lies. When it's not a comedy, as with the recently recommended Quicksand, it can work. But for me, I've always found it grating. I also didn't like GIg Young in the supporting role, as his character was also written to be fairly obnoxious. I also wonder if any of that was down to Gene Kelly's direction. He should have stuck to choreographing musical numbers when behind the camera, I think.

Still, I know this is going to appeal to a certain segment of movie goers. I'm just not in that segment. So watch and judge for yourself.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Back on FXM, week of June 14-20, 2021

I've pointed out on a whole bunch of occasions that FXM, and the Fox Movie Channel before that, seem to have a small number of movies that run in a heavy rotation for a moderate period of time, only for some of them to get put back in the vault after several months and a few more to get the same treatment. Looking at the FXM schedule, it looks like we've got a new batch, as I see two movies tomorrow that I don't think I've seen in ages, and one that started showing up a couple of weeks back that I haven't mentioned yet:

The block starts off at 8:20 AM with Carmen Jones, which I first mentioned 12 years ago, although that was a TCM airing. Based on Bizet's opera Carmen but set in a wartime parachute factory, this one stars Dorothy Dandridge in the Carmen role and Harry Belafonte Jr. as her doomed lover.
That's followed at 10:10 AM by Violent Saturday, about a town where everybody seems to have some sort of scandalous secret in the closet, with the exception of three men who come to rob the town's bank, or Amish farmer(!) Ernest Borgnine. That's another one that I first mentioned almost a dozen years ago for a TCM airing.
Finally, at 11:45 AM, you can see The River's Edge. Theif Ray Milland cons Anthony Quinn into taking him across the border to Mexico, with Quinn's wife Debra Paget following along.

Later in the week, Snow White and the Three Stooges, which I don't recall if I've seen before, shows up at 7:30 AM Thursday (June 17), and Two for the Road is on at 4:00 AM Friday (June 18).

TCM's Norman Lloyd programming tribute

Norman Lloyd about to fall off the Statue of Liberty in Saboteur (1942), 8:00 PM

Norman Lloyd died last month at the age of 106. TCM is finally getting around to its programming salute to the late actor, spending all of tonight's prime time lineup with Lloyd, four films and one interview:

Saboteur at 8:00 PM;
Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival: Norman Lloyd at 10:00 PM;
Limelight at 11:00 PM;
He Ran All the Way at 1:30 AM;
The Southerner at 3:00 AM;
and a reprise of the TCM Festival interview at 5:00 AM.

Sunday, June 13, 2021


Unfortunately, quite a few of the B movies that I have on my DVR aren't available on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is why I haven't blogged about so many of them recently. I notice, however, that the last time I checked, Quicksand does in fact seem to be on DVD, so I watched that in order to do a blog post on here.

Mickey Rooney plays Dan Brady, who works as a mechanic for garage/used car dealer Mackey (Art Smith). It's not enough of a living, especially after having given the best years of his life serving in World War II. He doesn't have enough to support his old girlfriend Helen (Barbara Bates), but to make things worse, at a diner he meets vamp Vera Novak (Jeanne Cagney) behind the counter and Dan immediately falls for her, asking her out on a date.

For the date, he needs $20 that he doesn't have, being less than intelligent with his earnings. After trying to get the money legitimately from somebody who owes him $20 but can't pay it back until payday, Dan decides he's going to embezzle the $20 from the cash register he runs. Amazingly, Mackey doesn't check the register every day or at end of shift like happened to me when I was a cashier in one of my summer jobs, but only once a week when the bookkeeper comes in -- and that's after Dan's friend would pay him back.

Anyhow Vera talks to Dan on their date about a mink coat she dreams of getting, before introducing Dan to her former boss, penny arcade owner Nick Dramoshag (Peter Lorre). It's just the first sign that Vera is grasping and greedy, and somebody Dan should stay the hell away from. Worse for Dan, however, is that the bookkeper shows up to Mackey Motor Co. early in order to do some tax work for Mackey, and figures that since he's there, he might as well check the register.

This really sends Mackey into a downward spiral. First he comes up with the idea of buying something on the installment plan, and then pawning it so that he'll have the $20 to refill the register. But of course since there's a lien on the item he purchased, the lienholder is going to find out and come after Dan for the price of the object. So to get that, he's going to have to resort to one crime after another, until finally getting into an argument with Mackey over a car he stole and strangling Mackey in the process.

At this point things get really idiotic. Dan has to get away, hoping to get to Mexico, a place which isn't going to extradite him back to the US to face his crimes. But as he's about to drive away, who's in his car but Helen, still in love with him as ever. And when he tells her all the bad things he's done, she seems to accept it, since she's just so darn in love with him. Worse, when the car breaks down, Dan carjacks a man, and gets insanely lucky when it turns out the driver is a lawyer who would be willing to defend Dan at trial and get him the lowest possible sentence.

Quicksand isn't a bad movie, although it requires a pretty big suspension of disbelief. Thankfully, however, it's not too difficult to do that since the story is entertaining enough, and Rooney shows that he really was a capable actor when given deeper material and not just the lighter stuff MGM normally gave him. (Quicksand was a United Artists release, which might help explain why the movie has atypical material for Rooney.)

If you want something different, at least for Mickey Rooney, then Quicksand is certainly worth a watch.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Batman (1966)

Another of the movies that got put into the FXM rotation in the past few months is the 1966 version of Batman. It's on again tomorrow morning at 4:00 AM with a repeat at 1:10 PM, so I watched an earlier recording to do a blog post on here.

20th Century Fox, which at the time did not have a TV network although it did produce TV shows for the three existing networks, got the rights to develop a series based on the comic book, with one of the producers wanting to make a movie. But that would have been too expensive, so the TV series went forward. That turned out to be a massive hit in the winter of 1966, so hasty production plans were developed to make a movie based on the TV series for the summer of 1966; with most of the actors from the TV show reprising their roles in the movie.

Bruce Wayne (Adam West) and Dick Grayson (Burt Ward) are the alter egos of Batman and Robin respectively; the superheroes learn about a Captain Schmidlapp (Reginald Denny) whose yacht may be about to be waylaid, so they should go and protect him. In fact, he's already been kidnapped off his yacht and what Batman and Robin see is a holographic projection designed as a trap to kill them. They deduce out of thin air that this was a set-up by the United Underworld, four of Gotham City's biggest supervillains.

The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), who has put Schmidlapp into a submarine designed like Schmidlapp's below decks to fool him into thinking he hasn't been kidnapped, more or less leads the group, along with the Joker (Cesar Romero), the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and the Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, taking Julie Newmar's role from the TV series). Schmidlapp has created some sort of dehydration device, and the United Underworld wants to kidnap the Security Council of the United World (they obviously couldn't use the term United Nations although the producers did get establishing shots of UN Headquarters) and dehydrate them to hold the world to ransom.

Batman and Robin have any number of (mis)adventures involving a bomb along with the Penguin disguising himself as Schmidlapp before figuring out that the real plot is to kidnap the Security Council and ultimately saving the day, not that we didn't know the good guys would win in the end.

The TV series was conceived to be campy and over the top, with the movie taking the same tack. There's a lot of faux-serious scientistic dialog that in fact makes no real sense, but that's part of the fun. We only get the fight scene with the silly superimposed interjections ("Biff!" "Kerplunk!" "Sploosh!" and so on) toward the end. But everything that viewers of the TV series would have seen is still there, which is probably all the moviegoers of the time wanted.

If you're looking for an intelligent story, then don't watch Batman. But then again, I don't think anybody would go into this version of the comic book hero expecting anything more than silly campy fun. In that regard, it succeeds wildly. And if silly summer fun is what you want, then Batman is absolutely worth the watch.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Save me from tomorrow

No, not that Ship of Fools

Stanley Kramer's Ship of Fools aired on TCM during 31 Days of Oscar as it was nominated for a bunch of Oscars. It's getting another showing tomorrow at 5:15 PM on TCM, so I recently sat down to watch it and do a post on here.

After a montage of stylized pictures of the cast assembled into the shape of an ocean liner, wet get the opening words from a dwarf, Glocken (Michael Dunn), breaking the fourth wall to tell us that the ship is packed with fools of all kinds. Shortly we'll get to meet all of those "fools".

It's 1933 in Veracruz, Mexico. A German ocean liner is about to disembark, and if you know your history, you'll know that 1933 is the year that the Nazis came to power. So there are powerful changes coming as everybody makes their way back to Europe. Among the passengers are:

Rieber (Jose Ferrer), a German who is sympathetic to the Nazis' anti-Jewish propaganda. He's married with a wife and kid back in Frankfurt, but has an affair with a young woman on the ship;
Lowenthal (Heinz Rühmann), a German Jew who because of his Jewishness is excluded from the captain's table and is seated with Glocken. Lowenthal thinks the Jews have been too good for Germany for the Nazis to carry out their threats;
Freytag (Alf Kjellin), a man who gets demoted from the captain's table when Rieber finds out Mrs. Freytag is Jewish;
The Huttens, an older couple with a dog; and the Lutzes, who are traveling with their adolescent daughter;
David (George Segal), an artist who in a relationship with Jenny (Elizabeth Ashley), which seems more about the sex than real love;
La Condesa (Simone Signoret), a Spaniard who has an opiate addiction and is being deported to a prison in the Canary Islands);
Mary Treadwell (Vivien Leigh), a wealthy divorcée who seems to be looking for a younger man; and
Bill Tenny (Lee Marvin), a failed baseball player who meets Mary and finds the hatred is mutual.

There's also the ship's doctor, Schumann (Oskar Werner), who treats the Condesa and finds that he's falling in love with her. He's sickly, having had a heart attack in his early 40s, and wants to leave his wife behind and treat the Condesa if possible.

So, on the face of it, there's a lot going on, with things getting even more complicated when the ship is more or less forced to pick up 600 migrant workers that the Cuban government is throwing out and deporting back to Spain. Most of the passegners try not to pay attention to those poor Spaniards down in steerage, instead focusing more on their own personal dramas that nobody else on the ship really cares about.

Frankly, it's hard as a viewer to care about these people. There's just too many stories going on, and the characters seem more like archetypes who are there to fit the pontifications of Katherine Ann Porter (who wrote the novel on which the movie is based) and director Stanley Kramer, who never shied away from putting even more of a message into his social message pictures.

Other people, however, will probably enjoy Ship of Fools more than I did, so definitely give it a go and judge for yourself.

Thursday, June 10, 2021


Another of the movies that I had the chance to catch courtesy of one of DirecTV's free preview weekends was Starman.

In 1977, the US launched Voyager 2, a probe designed to visit the outer planets of our solar system before continuing on into deep space. On the off chance that there is any intelligent life out there, NASA included a disc with greetings from Earth in 54 languages and pictures of our planet. Starman posits that an alien civilization found Voyager 2 and decided to investigate this little planet.

Except, of course, the visit doesn't go as planned. NORAD finds the alien spaceship on its radar and, not being able to figure out what it is, sends airplanes to intercept and possibly shoot it down if it's a danger. Ultimately, they do shoot it down, and it crash lands in Chequamegon Bay, an inlet of Lake Superior bordering northern Wisconsin. (It's a real place in case you were wondering.)

The crash landing causes a big fireball, and when NORAD figures out where the shot-down thing might have landed, they, led by NSA chief George Fox (Richard Jaeckel) send people in to investigate. Eventually word gets to Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith), who had worked with SETI in his days at Cornell and is an expert on this stuff.

Meanwhile, there was a living being in the spacecraft, and that beign looks for the nearest shelter it can find, which is a house owned by Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen), a widow whose husband died a year ago. The alien, called "Starman", finds some strands of the dead husband's hair that still have DNA in them, and he uses this to clone himself into an image of Jenny's late husband, something which is understandably disconcerting to her.

Starman is a fairly quick learner, in that he's learned the entire disc that was on Voyager 2 by memory. But he still has a quite limited knowledge of the English language. He's able to communicate with some of his kind, learning that they'll come to pick him up at the Meteor Crater outside Winslow AZ in three days' time; otherwise they'll have to leave him behind and he'll die.

Starman has to get to Arizona, not knowing the geography of Earth, and not really being able to communicate to Jenny what exactly he needs. So he commandeers her and her car to drive him to Arizona, leading her to think he's kidnapping her. Jenny and Starman make their way to Arizona, while the authorities put the pieces together and try to intercept Jenny. George Fox wants to investigate Starman as a specimen, stopping him by force if need be, while Shermin thinks Starman has come in peace and doesn't want him hurt. Not that he has any influence.

Once the movie gets to the cross-country flight and pursuit, the movie becomes, if not quite predictable, a plot that is not unfamiliar. But Starman rises above that, in part thanks to a reasonably intelligent script and a very good performance from Jeff Bridges. Jenny's reaction is natural, starting off being frightened and angry that this thing has taken her with no good explanation of what he's doing, and slowly changes as the two begin to understand each other through Starman's increasing command of English. (I did, to be honest, wonder why the alien civilization didn't investigate Earth for longer before getting close enough to get shot down.) The military-as-bad-guys trope is old, but to be fair to them, they had no idea what they were up against.

Starman is absolutely worth a watch if you haven't seen it before.

Thursday Movie Picks #361: Worst Book-to-Movie Adaptations

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 "Worst Book-to-Movie Adaptations". We've done adaptations before, so I won't be surprised if I've already used at least one of my choices here, but not in some time. And I'm being a bit unfair with one of my choices, as you'll see in a bit:

Moby Dick (1930). John Barrymore plays Captain Ahab in this movie that's not necessarily bad, but it's not really an adaption of Herman Melville's novel, either; instead, it's closer to the earlier silent movie The Sea Beast. As an example of how much it's not an adaptation of Melville, Capt. Ahab lives to return home and gets the girl, played by Joan Bennett. There's nobody you can call Ishmael, either.

Doctor Zhivago (1965). I had to read the book in Russian when I was in college, so maybe I missed something. But the movie begins with what is the epilogue in the book, giving away the story. (Technically, there's a second epilogue of Zhivago's poetry.) And that shot at the end of the dam seems more social realism than Boris Pasternak's much more critical view of Soviet Communism. (Remember, the book was banned in the USSR for decades.) Add to this the fact that the movie is overlong and mawkish an you have a big mess.

The Alphabet Murders (1965). Based on the book by Agatha Christie (called The A.B.C. Murders), somebody thought that casting Tony Randall as Hercule Poirot would be a good idea. Sorry, but no. That, and turning Christie's mystery into straight comedy doesn't really work either.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Four Wives

John Garfield was TCM's Star of the Month back in February, which gave me the opportunity to blog about the movie Four Daughters. That movie was popular enough that two sequels were made, the first of which was Four Wives.

In the first movie, Garfield played Mickey Borden, a hard-luck case who married one of the four Lemp daughters, Ann (Priscilla Lane), only to commit suicide because he couldn't support Ann. Now, Warner Bros. didn't realize at the time that John Garfield was going to become a star, since Four Daughters was his first movie, which presented a bit of a problem since they killed off his character in the first movie. So Mickey appears here briefly as a ghost in a couple of scenes.

Ann is disconsolate at having lost her husband, and composer Felix Deitz (Jeffrey Lynn) has returned from a work engagement to propose to Ann. But there's a pretty big complication, which is that Mickey got Ann pregnant before killing himself. The movie actually handles the material pretty tastefully for a 1930s movie, without the plot devices that seem like they were introduced to deal with the Production Code.

Meanwhile, sister Emma Lemp (Gale Page) married florist Ernest Talbot (Dick Foran). The two were hoping to have a baby, but it turns out that Emma is unable to get pregnant. That fact and Ann's pregnancy are discovered at the doctors' offices of the Forrests, Clinton Sr. and Clinton Jr. (Eddie Albert). Clinton Jr. talks to sister Kay (Rosemary Lane) about Ann's pregnancy and the need to handle Ann with care. She needs a psychologist, but not somebody who's obviously trying to treat her, so Forrest is brought in to handle those duties. It's fairly obvious from the beginning that he and Kay are going to fall in love.

The fourth sister is Thea (Lola Lane), who, as you may recall from the first movie, married banker Ben Crowley (Frank McHugh). Thea decides, seemingly with no input from her husband, to adopt a child, something that I woudn't have thought possible if the husband hadn't known is wife was planning it -- wouldn't they need both parents' signatures on the application?

But the movie focuses most on Ann, with Felix trying to make a success of it as a composer and conductor. He gets a very lucrative job offer, but it's going to require his going off to New York while his pregnant wife stays behind. Ann wants him to go since she's still thinking about Mickey, while Felix is willing to forgo career advancement for the sake of his wife.

Claude Rains reprises his role as Adam, the patriarch of the Lemp family, with May Robson around as well as Aunt Etta.

Four Wives works well as a sequel, at least if you've seen Four Daughters already. If you haven't, you might be confused by some of what's going on and think that some stuff is explained too quickly. A lot of people in current-day audiences will probably find the movie old-fashioned, and to be honest, even back in 1939 when the movie was released I don't think it would have been considered anything groundbreaking, just a feel-good movie for the audiences of the day. In that regard it definitely succeeds.

Four Wives is more drama than comedy, but it's a fairly light drama with a fair amount of comedy mixed in, especially in scenes dealing with the students at the music school Adam runs. Claude Rains is given a lot less to do here than in a lot of his movies, but looks like he could have done the role in his sleep. Frank McHugh looks ridiculous with a moustache, and May Robson adds energy as the octogenarian who just won't quit.

People who like classic Studio Era movies will really like Four Wives.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Way We Were

TCM ran a bunch of romances back on Valentine's Day. This gave me the chance to record a movie I hadn't done a post on before, The Way We Were. Recently, I watched it to do a post on here.

Barbra Streisand plays Katie Morosky, who at the start of the movie is working as an assistant on a radio show in 1944, during World War II. Katie openly uses her position to edit the scripts to make characters and people who don't hold her political views look like jerks. To be fair, there was a lot of propaganda during the war, but Katie turns it up to 11.

Katie and her boss go to a club for dinner that evening, and at the bar, she sees one Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford), looking resplendent in his naval officer's uniform. This being a young Robert Redford, it's unsurprising that Katie should get the hots for him, although in reality, she already had the hots for the guy since Katie and Hubbell had a past together, back in college in 1937, and Katie starts thinking about that....

Katie was just as politically active and naïve in college, supporting the Soviets' backing of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War as if this were somehow nobler than the Francoists getting backing from Germany and Italy. (The movie conveniently omits the time between the Molotov-von Ribbentrop Pact and Germany's invasion of the USSR during which America's communists did a complete 180.) Katie and Hubbell were in the same graduating class at college, and in a creative writing course together. The professor singles out Hubbell's work, whch pisses Katie off. But Hubbell admires Katie's gumption if not her political views, while Katie feels something more physical toward Hubbell.

Back in the present day of 1944, Hubbell gets drunk and needs a place to flop for the night, so Katie puts him up, leading to more meetings and a torrid love affair. After the war, this is going to take both of them to Los Angeles, since they're both writers. They continue their affair, to the point that they get married and Hubbell gets Katie pregnant.

But then comes the House Un-American Activities Committee. Lots of Hollywood folks started receiving subpoenas, while ten of them refuse to testify before the committee. Those ten of course would become the first Hollywood blackistees, and Katie as a committed Communist herself goes to Washington to support them, something which could be very dangerous both to her career and her husband's. Hubbell is more sanguine, figuring that everything will blow over in a few years, and what purpose will all of this have served. It would be enough to break up their relationship, but as it turns out Hubbell has been having an affair anyway.

If you want a poignant romance, you could do a lot worse than to watch The Way We Were. It's filled with fine performances, a memorable theme song, and a story that works reasonably well. However, I have to admit that at times I had difficulty finding any sympathy for Katie. After all, she was deliberately using her job to screw over other people politically, and in other ways she consistently comes across as selfish.

I also had some dislike of the triumphalism of Hollywood's communists somehow being the victims. I've argued on several occasions before that the government shouldn't have been involved in things like this, but most people seem to be fine with the government shafting other people as long as it's not shafting them. Budd Schulberg, when he named names, said something to the effect that the Communists were in favor of free speech as long as it was speech they approved of, and that attitude is even stronger in today's society with cancel culture.

Still, I understand that most people are going to overlook such flaws and enjoy this manipulative romance.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Captain Salvation

It's been a couple of weeks since I've blogged about a silent movie, so I decided to sit down with one the other night, Captain Salvation.

Lars Hanson plays Anson Campbell, a young man in 1840 New England. He's left his small town to go off to seminary, and now he's returned, with the expectation of everybody in town that he's going to marry his long-time love Mary Phillips (Marceline Day) and settle down as the town's minister. Some, however, do wonde about his having returned by boat.

But that's not the biggest of Anson's problems. Some time later a storm blows through, and it's had an effect on some of the shipping. Since this is the nearest town, one of the boats sends off an injured passenger, Bess Morgan (Pauline Starke). Rumor has it that she's a woman of ill repute. Anson, being a good Christian, tends to the sick and the sinners just like the Gospels in the New Testatment say that Jesus did.

That, however, is no excuse for the prodush people of a small seaside New England town of that era. They continue to gossip to the point that it's clear they're not going to accept Anson as their minister, just because their such nasty blankety-blanks. In their eyes, anybody who is kind to Bess isn't good enough for them.

Since Anson can see the writing on the wall, he realizes that the only thing he can do is to get himself and Bess out of town. He hears of a ship, the Panther, that's heading down to Rio, with a captain played by Ernest Torrence. Anson gets himself and Bess on that ship.

However, Anson has gotten some misinformation along the way. The Panther isn't heading to Rio, but is in fact a ship transporting prisoners to who-knows-where. Anson and Bess are trapped on the ship, with Anson being left to the wolves and the captain trying to get Bess for himself.

Technically, I found Captain Salvation to be a fine example of silent filmmaking from near the end of the silent era. Some of the acting will seem overdone to people not used to silent pictures, while the photography is qutie good. The story is for the most part an interesting one, although I felt it started to break down a bit once the true nature of the ship Anson and Bess were on was revealed.

Apparently, Captain Salvation was a rarity for many years, until TCM commissioned a new score for it in what I'm assuming was one of the incarnations of the Young Composers Competition. That, and some of the intertitles are clearly modern-day reproductions. Still, having been distributed by MGM, the movie has received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive.

Captain Salvation isn't the sort of movie I'd recommend to people who don't know much about silents as one of their first; I've always said that I'd start with the comedies. But for fans of silents who might not have seen it, I'd definitely recommend Captain Salvation.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Flight of the Doves

Back on St. Patrick's Day, TCM ran Flight of the Doves. I recently checked, and it seems to have received a DVD release courtesy of Columbia's MOD scheme, so I sat down to watch it.

Jack Wild plays Finn Dove, a 13-year-old kid who is protective of his kid sister Derval (Helen Raye). They live in Liverpool with their stepfather Tobias Cromwell (William Rushton), their dad having died, Mom having remarried, and then dying herself. Tobias doesn't really care much for the kids, and if anything is somewhat abusive to them. The one memory the two kids have of their old family is a picture postcard of Grandma's (Dorothy McGuire) family homestead in Co. Galway, Ireland.

So Finn decides he's going to run away from his stepfather, taking Derval with him, and trying to get first across the Irish Sea and then to Galway. But they do so before learning that they are the heirs to a $10,000 estate. Learning about it is the kid's uncle, John Cyril Dove, nicknamed Hawk (Ron Moody). Hawk is a magician and actor, and a master of disguise, although the one thing he can't disguise is the hawk tattoo on his wrist. One of the terms of the will is that, if the kids are to die, then the estate should go to Hawk Dove. Hawk decides he's going to look for the runaway children and kill them in order that he can get the estate. What a nice uncle.

Thus begins a trip across Ireland, with the two children trying to stay one step ahead of both their uncle, and the police, who if they find the kids are going to return them to Tobias, since he is more or less their legal guardian.

Flight of the Doves was filmed on location in Ireland, and the vintage scenes of Ireland as it looked circa 1970 are nice Although there's an obvious threat from Hawk Dove, the plot really plays out more like a Disney movie, with the violence, while not cartoonish, being more something that kids can relate to. Mildly frightening for kids without being too frightening.

There's some nice incidental humor, most notably in the scene when the kids try to escape by going into what, unbeknownst to them, is a synagogue. For some reason I couldn't help but think of the scene in The Prize in which Paul Newman winds up at a meeting of nudists.

On the other hand, the producers seemed to have the American audience in minds by coming up with some rather doe-eyed musical numbers, one on St. Patrick's Day in Dublin, and another with a group of Irish Travellers. Both of these bring the movie to a screeching halt. For an adult, Derval might come across as mildly annoying. But to be fair, she's a seven-year-old girl and the sort of immaturity she shows is actually age-appropriate.

Flight of the Doves is more of a family movie, but even for those of us without families, it's not exactly bad by any means.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is one of those movies that shows up often enough on TCM, but that for some reason I'd never gotten around to watching. It showed up back in April during 31 Days of Oscar, so I recorded it then. It's going to be on again tomorrow, June 6, at 5:45 PM, and with that in mind I made it a point to watch the movie to do a blog post on now.

Alan Arkin stars as John Singer, a deaf-mute who works as a jewelry engraver in a small southern town and has as his best friend another deaf-mute, Antonapoulos (Chuck McCann) who, for whatever reason, uses his deafness as an excuse to get into trouble. His dad has had more than enough of this, as it's gotten him mixed up with the law one too many times, so he decides to have Antonapoulos committed to the state mental hospital. It's suggested to Singer that he move to the town to be closer to his friend.

In his new town, somewhere in Georgia or Alabama (IMDb lists Selma, AL as the filming location although the characters talk about going to Atlanta), John finds a house that's got a room to let, owned by the Kellys. Dad (Biff McGuire) is on disability with a bad hip, and Mom has let out the room because, frankly, the famliy needs the money. Their daughter Mick (Sondra Locke) doesn't realize just how dire the family's financial straits are, and has dreams of greatness that we all know in a small town like this are never going to come true.

John, even though he can't speak, can read lips, so he can generally tell what other people are saying, which enables him to make friends, even though none of them can really understand him since they don't know any form of sign language. In addition to being sympathetic to Mick, who takes a liking to John as a result, John meets the town drunk, Blount (Stacy Keach), who mistakes John's deafness as being a really good listener. But when he finds out the truth, Blount too likes John.

And then there's Dr. Copeland (Percy Rodrigues). John witnesses Blount getting beaten and takes him to the nearest doctor, who happens to be Copeland. There's just one problem, though. The patient is white, and Copeland is black. John can't understand why this might be a problem, but Copeland already has a problem with being seen as getting ideas above his station, and treating white patients, even in an emergency like this, is going to make people talk about him. Eventually, Copeland agrees to treat Blount in exchange for John's going along with Copeland on his house calls to a deaf patient.

Copeland has other problems, too, in that he has a daughter Portia (Cicely Tyson) whom he groomed to follow in his footsteps as a doctor and perhaps achieve a higher social station what with the changing times being more accepting of black people. But Portia married a farm hand and took a more traditional role for black people at the time. Dad hates both his daughter and her husband as a result.

Blount is eventually able to get a job at the local carnival, and this brings him into contact with Portia and Willie when they patronize the place. But a couple of white folks pick a fight with Portia and Willie, and when Blount takes the black couple's side, it lands him in prison even though the white guys instigated all the violence.

Meanwhile, is growing up and wants more grown-up things, hosting a party and finding that one of the boys there, two years her senior, takes a romantic interest in her. Mick's and the other people's stories converge, more or less.

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is a well-made movie, with excellent acting performances. But I have to admit that I didn't care for the ending, which I found baffling and didn't quite make sense. However, I'm sure there are going to be other people out there who appreciate the ending more than I do. Even though I didn't particularly like the abrupt ending, I can still definitely recommend the movie.

Friday, June 4, 2021


It had been a while since I watched anything off of my W.C. Fields box set, The Big Broadcast of 1938 aside (that being on my Bob Hope box set), so recently I put one of the DVDs in the player and watched Poppy.

Fields, surprisingly, does not play Poppy, since it sounds like it could be a nickname for a father figure. Instead, he's Professor Eustace McGarnagle, one of those traveling medicine men in the late 19th century like Charles Winninger in the recently mentioned Father Is a Bachelor. McGarnagle travels from town to town with his adopted daugher Poppy (Rochelle Hudson).

In the latest town they're in, Poppy falls in love with Billy Farnsworth (Richard Cromwell), son of the town's mayor (Granville Bates). This town once had a rich family, the Putnams, but the last known heir has died so people are trying to get their hands on the Putnam money. One of those is a countess (Catherine Doucet). The Countess' lawyer, Eddie Whiffen (Lynne Overman) convinces McGarnagle that Poppy looks enough like Putnam that she could possibly pass for Putnam's daughter. So why not come up with a forged marriage license claiming McGarnagle married Putnam?

For whatever reason, McGarnagle actually agrees with this, which I suppose is in part to try to give some happiness to Poppy, since the Farnsworths are concerned about Poppy not having any money and being the daughter of a medicine-show man, something which is clearly not an honorably profession. But certainly the ruse is going to be found out!

I found Poppy to be somewhat atypical of the Fields movies I've seen, in that it's not nearly as much about the zany comedy as the other of his movies. Fields does get to do some of his routines, but the dramatic/romance portion of the plot gets a lot of play here. It turns out there are two reasons for this. The first is that Poppy is based on a play in which Field had starred a dozen years earlier before he became a movie star, and then a silent film with Fields reprising his stage role. So he was already identified with the material and doing a talking film update of it is understandable. Fields was also apparently sick during filming which is why his comedy seems much more muted.

As for the romance half of it, it's the sort of thing that 1930s audiences probably would have found quite appealing, but audiences of today would probably find old-fashioned, and not just because it's set in the late 1800s. Hudson and Cromwell do an adequate job, but the plot doesn't feel like anything special. Not a bad movie, mind you, but more memorable for it feeling different from the rest of Fields' oeuvre.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks #360: Oscar-winning Screenplay

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. For several of the months this year, the first Thursday is given over to various Oscar categories. In June, that category is "Screenplay", which is technically a bit of a misnomer since the Academy has used different names for the category. Original Screenplay, for example, only became the name for the category in 1940; before that, the Academy had "Original Story" and "Screenplay", the latter of which could be an adaptation. Indeed, the very early awards ceremonies had a writing category of "Adaptation". The Academy's database for searching the Oscars has a catch-all search category for "Writing", and searching on that brings up multiple winners each year. I used that search to pick the movies, although as it turns out my three selections are all in the non-adaptation category:

Princess O'Rourke (1943). Winner: Norman Krasna. Olivia de Havilland plays the Princess, in the US to wait out World War II and in need of a suitably husband to produce a male heir for her country. Robert Cummings plays O'Rourke, a pilot who will be flying her to California. Due to misunderstandings the princess ends up with too many tranquilizers and O'Rourke has to take her back to New York. He falls in love with her, not realizing she's a princess since she was traveling incognito.

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947). Winner: Sidney Sheldon. Cary Grant plays the bachelor, a playboy who keeps getting in legal difficulties. Shirley Temple plays the bobby-soxer, who has a crush on the bachelor. Temple's much older sister (Myrna Loy) is a judge who sentences the bachelor to disabuse the bobby-soxer of her infatuation by "dating" her. All sorts of complications ensue as the bachelor and the judge wind up falling for each other even though the judge is engaged to another man. Sidney Sheldon would go on to create the TV series I Dream of Jeannie in the 1960s, and write trashy airport novels like Rage of Angels in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Hospital (1971). Winner: Paddy Chayefsky. Extremely dark comedy about a New York hospital where the chief of staff (George C. Scott) is beset by all sorts of problems. His personal life is a mess; there are protests going on outside the hospital; but worst of all, somebody is committing a string of murders in the hospital. If you've seen Network (also written by Chayefsky and better known), you know the sort of material to expect. Highly recommended as long as you don't have any scheduled medical procedures coming up.