Tuesday, January 31, 2023

TCM's Jean-Luc Godard tribute

I mentioned at the beginning of the month that Star of the Month Marion Davies was going to have her movies featured on the first four Tuesdays in January. Now, since this month happens to have five Tuesdays, that means TCM needed something else to program on that last night. And they decided to do a tribute to French director Jean-Luc Godard, who died back in September at the age of 91.

TCM will be running five movies directed by Godard in prime time (well, into the wee hours of the morning or overnight depending upon your perspective), startng at 8:00 PM with Breathless. The full lineup is as follows:

8:00 PM Breathless
9:45 PM Le petit soldat
11:30 PM Masculin-feminin
1:30 AM Contempt
3:30 AM Vivre sa vie

I have to admit to not having seen too many of Godard's pictures, although with the exception of Alphaville, the ones I've seen I've all had a strong negative reaction toward, unlike, say, François Truffaut. Alphaville was just so different that it's interesting even if a lot of people are going to find it a mess. And it's a shame that it's not part of tonight's lineup so that people can judge for themselves.

Monday, January 30, 2023

The Nevadan

Some time back I made my way through the first box set of Randolph Scott westerns that I picked up, so I bought a second set. Recently, I put in one of the DVDs to watch another Scott western I hadn't seen before, The Nevadan.

We don't see Scott right at the beginning. Instead, we see Forrest Tucker, who is playing Tom Tanner, a wanted criminal who is getting off a stagecoach in some western town while he and the marshal accompanying him wait for a change of coaches. Tanner uses this as an opportunty to escape, and he rides off into the wilderness, which is where he eventually catches up with Randolph Scott's character, Andrew Barclay.

The two fall in together, more as an alliance of convience, and make it to the next town, where Tanner goes into the bank to get something from what in the present day would be a safety deposit box if he were in a more advanced time and place. Instead the banker only has one lockbox with everybody's things, and fishes out the envelope Tanner requested. Except the banker wants to see some ID. Tanner uses a gun as his ID and, having taken the envelope, continues out into the wild with Barclay.

The two make there way somewhere -- we don't know yet where they're going -- when they come upon a pair of brothers, Jeff (Frank Faylen) and Bart (Jeff Corey). They want what Tanner get from the bank, except that we've already seen it's a piece of paper that Tanner burned without letting Barclay see it because it's none of Barclay's business. However, the brothers seem to know Tanner's past, and are able to deduce that he obtained a map to where a bunch of gold bullion that was stolen some years back was hidden, with the person holding the map apparently having died in the interim. The brothers would like the map for fairly obvious reasons.

They threaten to kill Tanner even though this would destroy the last source of knowledge of where the gold is hidden. In any case, Barclay saves Tanner's life, and has to beat a hasty escape before the brothers come upon him again. He winds up at the Galt ranch, where he meets Karen Galt (Dorothy Malone), daughter of the ranch owner, Edwrd (George Macready). Galt also owns the nearby town of Red Sand in one of those old western tropes.

Karen begins to take a liking to Barclay, not knowing why Barclay showed up and certainly not knowing anything about the gold. She also doesn't know that her father is among the people looking for that gold, he being the boss of Jeff and Bart. And why is Barclay around anyway...?

The Nevadan is in many ways a fairly standard B western. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking going on, but there's also nothing particularly wrong with it. In fact, thanks to the presence of a cast a cut above B actors, the quality of the movie is raised to something that's eminently entertaining even if you might find yourself confusing it with Scott's other westerns after a while. Still, it's absolutely worth a watch, and the sort of thing that's really nice to have on a box set like this.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Three Comrades

In looking through the movies on my DVR, I noticed something that's coming up on TCM, so I figured I'd watch it now to do a post on it: Three Comrades, which airs at 6:30 AM January 30.

The movie starts off with an establishing shot that has the words "Nov. 11 1918" written in the clouds. Now, if you recall your history, you'll know that this was the day on which World War I ended, although at the time the movie was released it was still known as the Great War because the European theater of World War I was still a year away from kicking off. Als, if you paid attention to the opening credits, you'll have spotted the name Erich Maria Remarque, writer of All Quiet on the Western Front, so you can guess that this is written about Germans. Sure enough, we see a group of German officers and flyboys hoping that real peace can come to the world.

Among the flyboys are three who hope they can keep up their friendshpi and hope that in the new Germany they can put the skills they learned in the military to good use as auto mechanics. Those three are Erich Lohkamp (Robert Taylor), Gottfried Lenz (Robert Young), and Otto Koster (Franchot Tone). They meet up again in early 1920, and Otto actually has a car of his own, so they not only do an auto-repair business, they try to make money on the side by using the car as a taxi. While out for a joyride one day, they get in a race with a car that has a female passenger, Patricia Hollmann (Margaret Sullavan). Patricia was part of one of the pre-war noble families, but the war destroyed all that, and she's reduced to trying to get a sugar daddy (Lionel Atwill) to bankroll her.

All three of the young German friends like Patricia, but it's Erich who really falls in love with her. Eventually, he's convinced by his to try to start a relationship with Patricia, who loves Erich in return, even though Erich thinks his low social class will hurt him with Patricia. But no, she really loves him, so the two decide to get married.

The two go on a honeymoon someplace on the German coast that really looks more like the Northern California coast, but that's beside the point. It's not a happy honeymoon, however, as Patricia collapses with what is presumably tuberculosis although I don't think that's actually named in the movie. Dr. Jaffe (Monty Woolley, who only has a couple of scenes) is called in, and tells Erich that Patricia really needs to get to a sanitarium, the sooner the better.

Not that the three friends have the money for this. And they're also coming up against the political realities of early Weimar Germany. It's a volatile place, what with Germany having been defeated in the war and a lot of people chafing at the reparations, even though the real disasters of the 1923 hyperinflation still hadn't occurred. In any case, there's already political street violence, and it does eventually touch the three men. Gottfried believes in the teachings of a radical pacifist, and that's dangerous, as the proto-Fascists want to shut down such political expression, by force if necessary. (They didn't have social media giants to shut down such speech under the guise of "fake news" back in those days.) Gottfried gets shot and killed, although fortunately this is after Patricia has gone off to the sanitarium so she doesn't know about it.

What she does learn is that she needs an operation, because in those days a vague operation could apparently cure any serious illness other than cancer, which would invariably kill you within months. However, the operation involves her having to remain nearly still for weeks on end, and she may not be able to follow medical instructions....

Three Comrades is one of those movies that has all the gloss MGM could offer, although I couldn't help but feel that it was a bit of a mess. The plot twists of Patricia falling ill and then needing an operation felt more like a soap opera to me than what is supposed to be a serious film. MGM was also never the best studio to handle the sort of serious social commentary that's on offer here with the backdrop of Weimar political violence, so I felt like there was an earnest tone that didn't quite fit the material.

That having been said, there is the MGM gloss, which is definitely a sign of quality production values, while the cast also do the best they can with the material even if some of them are miscast. (Guy Kibbee in a supporting role is most definitely not German, but he's as professional as ever. And there are a lot of people who praise the movie much more highly than I do, so it's definitely worth a watch to judge for yourself.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

O mpampas tis nyfis

There was a free preview weekend over Thanksgiving, and that gave me the chance to record a movie that's already 20 years old, but that I hadn't seen before despite its great box office success: My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Nia Vardalos, who wrote the material basing it on her own life as the daughter of Greek immigrants to Canada, stars as Toula Portokalos, a 30-year-old single woman living with her Greek family in the Chicago area. Her father Gus (Michael Constantine) emigrated from Greece, and built up the family by opening a Greek restaurant and having all the children work in the restaurant. Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) runs a travel agency specializing in tours of Greece, and the family as a whole is steeped in all things Greek. Dad is extremely proud of his Greek heritage, to the point that he tells Toula a Greek woman is supposed to marry a Greek man, produce a lot of Greek children, and cook Greek food for the family.

Toula, unsurprisingly, chafes at a lot of this. It doesn't help that she looks relatively plain. Other kids teased her for her Greek heritage when she was a kid, and she had to go to Greek school to learn the language when other kids got to do more normal things like join the Girl Scouts. The movie being set in the era when personal computers were beginning to get used in small businesses in a big way, Toula decides to go to night school to learn business computing.

While downtown, she runs into Ian Miller (John Corbett), a nice youngish man who had been a customer at the restaurant some time back. It takes Ian a little bit of time to recognize Toula, because she's changed her appearance by getting contacts and a more suitable hairdo, much like Richard Basehart in Tension. But Ian, having met Toula again, is immediately smitten with her, in part because she's just so different.

There is, of course, a serious problem. Gus wants Toula to marry a Greek man. Needless to say, he finds out about the relationship with Ian, in part because the Portokalos family is so big that you can't get away from one or another cousin spotting you somewhere. Dad is horrified by it, and tries to put his foot down. But Ian is so in love with Toula that he's even willing to convert to Greek Orthodox, even though he doesn't quite know yet just how ebullient Toula's family is.

And then there's the problem of Ian's parents. They're nice enough people, but they're not Greek either, and the sort of people who seem to prefer a quieter, relatively conservative life. The meeting between the two sets of parents isn't helped by the fact that Gus and Toula's mom Maria (Lainie Kazan) get the brilliant idea of inviting the whole family to the meeting and making a big party out of it.

You can probably guess that love does eventually win out since, after all, the movie is titled My Big Fat Greek Wedding and you have to expect there to be, well, a wedding in the proceedings. And both sides of the family learn to respect each other.

For fairly obvious reasons, as I was watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding I couldn't help but think of Father of the Bride. Pretty much everybody has been through multiple weddings from multiple perspectives, and much of the anxiety over the preparation is universal, with the only difference here being that the movie has a specifically Greek immigrant perspective. But the universality comes through in spades, and the Portokalos family is decidedly real, if exaggerated at times for comic effect.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a wonderful little movie, and the sort of thing that's almost guaranteed to lift your spirits. Who couldn't help but love the Portokaloses' zest for life?

Friday, January 27, 2023

Friends and Lovers

Er, not quite

Another of the movies that had been sitting on my DVR for quite some time was the short early talkie Friends and Lovers. With it being an RKO movie and with the two male leads, I'm surprised that it doesn't seem to have wound up in any Warner Archive collection.

One of the male leads is Adolphe Menjou, who plays Capt. Roberts, who we are led to believe is an officer in the British Army. Now, Menjou was a very good and often elegant actor, but one thing he most definitely was not is British. He's in London on leave or something, where he's been carrying on an affair with the equally un-British Alva Sangrito (Lili Damita, later wife to Errol Flynn). Alva is married to Victor (Erich von Stroheim), who "finds out" about the affair one night. Except that as we learn it's really a scam on the part of Victor and Alva. She has affairs, and then, when she gets caught, gets the other man to cut a big check so as to avoid any scandal. Nice work if you can get it.

So Capt. Roberts goes back to India, which at the time the movie was made was still a British colony, together with his manservant McNellis (Hugh Herbert, who is even less British than Menjou). One of the officers serving under Capt. Roberts is an actual Brit, Lt. Nichols (Laurence Olivier, who I don't think I knew had made a Hollywood movie this early in his career). Nichols talks about the woman he loves, and Roberts realizes the woman in question is Alva! Roberts knows now that Alva is bad news, but Nichols is thinking with his other head, and Roberts' comments about this sort of woman threatens to derail the two officers' friendship.

Meanwhile, back in England, Alva and Victor get into a heated argument, which has the looks of turning into a case of domestic violence, although I don't believe that term was used in the 1930s. Just when Alva really seems to be in danger, one of the servants shoots Victor dead! This being a pre-Code, we don't hear anything about the servant going to prison or Alva getting in any legal trouble. Alva sends a letter off to India, which one guesses explains what happened, but Roberts and Nichols decide to burn the letter without reading it, in order to save their friendship.

Some time later, Roberts and Nichols are both on leave again in England, where they're invited to a party at one of those country houses that populated movies of the 1930s set on either side of the Atlantic. Who should show up as one of the guests but widowed Alva? And, needless to say, it tests the friendship between Roberts and Nichols again.

Friends and Lovers is one of those movies where the whole is less than the sum of its parts. There are some scenes and performances (von Stroheim especially) that are a lot of fun, and the idea is certainly interesting enough, but the way the script resolves it just doesn't feel realistic. Maybe values being different in the 1930s and in England, it might have been something more likely to happen, but I'm not so sure. Other people speak very poorly of Damita's acting, although I didn't have as much of an issue as some did.

All in all, Friends and Lovers is one of those movies that probably should have made its way to one of those old four-film TCM box sets, but never did. It's not the sort of movie I'd pay standalone prices for, however.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Briefs for January 26-27, 2023

I actually have a feature and a short recently watched that I could do posts on, but I've been just busy enough with work and getting ready for moving house that I decided I wanted to do something a bit easier today. On top of that, one of the podcasts I listen to had an interesting piece that's relevant in a movie blog.

Radio Australia's Breakfast program included a segment with the headline, Why are we all using subtitles?. Well, I'm not for the most part, but then, that's actually part of what the report is about. Apparently, a lot of people watching modern movies and TV shows on Netflix are using the subtitles, even people who aren't hard of hearing. In an interview with audio dialogue editor Austin Olivia Kendrick, we learn what makes the sound quality of speech in today's movies different from movies of the past, including a brief clip from His Girl Friday, which is apocryphally considered to have the fastest dialogue in a movie. As I was listening, I couldn't help but think of the scene from Day for Night where Valentina Cortese says that Fellini had actors do their dialogue in post and that during the actual filming, they could just speak numbers. I'm not surprised that didn't get mentioned. There are actually some interesting reasons for the sound issues in modern movies.

I didn't pay attention to the Oscar nominations that came out the other day, although KBS Radio Korea seemed rather miffed that Decision to Leave didn't get nominated in the foreign-language feature category, or whatever it's being called now. I haven't seen any 2022 releases, so I can't comment on any of the films that got nominated in that category and whether Decision to Leave is better than any of the actual nominees. Of course, the real problem with that category is that each country gets to nominate one movie and then the Academy picks from those nominations to whittle the list down to five.

One film that did get a bunch of nominations was The Banshees of Inisherin. RTE went to the island where the movie was filmed, and interviewed the head of tourism for the island about two weeks back. A four-minute piece that's worth a listen.

A couple of movies back in the FXM rotation that I didn't mention in any of my recent posts mentioning changes to the rotation are on again tomorrow. First is Lady in Cement at 9:40 AM. It's a sequel to the Frank Sinatra movie Tony Rome, although instead of having Tony Rome on the schedule, FXM has a different Frank Sinatra detective movie, The Detective, at 7:45 AM. Of course, The Detective is absolutely worth a watch. Rounding out tomorrow's FXM Retro block is the Kirk Douglas movie The Fury, at 1:00 PM.

TCM is spending tomorrow morning and afternoon with the films of Ralph Richardson, even though it's not his birthday. The lineup is mostly British films, and earlier ones at that, so not quite so well known even if a lot of it was very fine stuff. I forgot that The Citadel at 10:45 AM also has a very young Rex Harrison in it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

You Light Up My Life

There are some movies out there that aren't very good, but that TCM could use in 31 Days of Oscar because they received a nomination for Best Original Song. I've already done posts on Endless Love and Ice Castles. Another movie n that category is one that I had wanted to see for a long time until TCM finally programmed it for 31 Days of Oscar: You Light Up My Life.

Anybody who is at least a certain age will remember the Debby Boone (yes, the daughter of Pat) song, which was a massive hit at the end of 1977. Debby doesn't actually sing the song in the movie, although it's definitely not the first time somebody other than the person who performed the song in the movie would have the big hit with it. Actually singing it -- well, doing the dubbing -- is a relatively unknown singer named Kacey Cisyk who would die fairly young.

Looking like she's singing it is Didi Conn, whom you might best remember from the sitcom Benson. Conn plays Laurie Robinson, who is the daughter of Si (Joe Silver). Si is a comedian, who thinks that Laurie would make a great comedian, and always has. Indeed, when Laurie was a kid, in an opening scene that made me think of the pre-credits scene of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, we see juvenile Laurie doing a comic act with a ventriloquist's dummy, dressed as though she should be on Hee Haw.

Laurie, however, doesn't want to be a comedian, in no small part because she knows she's no good at it, regardless of what Dad keeps telling her. She instead would like to become an actress, although to this point she's only good enough to do commercials. She sings some of the jingles, and she's probably got more talent for that, as well as for writing songs.

Laurie has a complicated personal life. She's engaged to tennis coach Ken (Stephen Nathan), who doesn't seem to get what the acting community is all about. And as for that wedding, Laurie feels as though her father is trying to organize it, with the result that it looks like a profoundly tacky 1970s wedding, complete with the bridesmaids and groomsmen (the aforementioned Cisyk apparently plays one of the bridesmaids) carrying the couple up to the altar in a giant clam shell. I'd seriously think about eloping instead.

As for Laurie, she goes out for a drink, which is where she meets would-be director Chris Nolan (Michael Zaslow). They proceed to have a one-night stand, which as you can guess is a big problem considering that Laurie is supposed to get married in a couple of days. On the bright side, it gets Laurie an in for some possible dubbing work of her own.

At the audition, Laurie performs one of the songs she's written, the titular "You Light Up My Life", and it's clear that Didi Conn is being dubbed because she and Kasey don't have similar voices at all. Everybody loves the song, and it gives Didi the hope that perhaps she can give singing a real try. But Nolan complicates her life by suggesting she might be up for a bigger role in the movie he'll be directing, and leading her on to think that the two really could be romantic.

The resolution of all those problems is where the movie hits a giant wall even if it hadn't already. It took me a while to figure out what other movie I had in my memory as I was watching, but it finally hit me that I was thinking about the scenes in Annie Hall where Diane Keaton goes out to Hollywood and Woody Allen follows her, noticing the artificiality of it all. Keaton as an actress has some acting chops and was able to pull it off, helped by the fact that most of Annie Hall is set in a Woody Allen New York that sees itself as urbane and sophisticated, in stark contrast to Annie Hall's perception of Hollywood. You Light Up My Life has none of that, and on top of it Conn just can't get the right emotions for the big climactic scenes, especially the confrontation with her father.

And if that's not bad enough, the movie makes a bigger mess by treating Laurie's musical career as a montage of her big song moving up the charts, much the way Lady Sings the Blues glosses over the last decade-plus of Billie Holliday's life through a montage of newspaper headlines. It doesn't work here either, turning the movie from marginally passable to a hilarious misfire.

But if you can find it, watch You Light Up My Life just once, to see what that segment of America that made the song such a huge hit was thinking. You might get a few laughs, too.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Three Cheers for the Girls

Tarnished Angel, which I blogged about a few days back, runs about 68 minutes, but TCM put it in a 90-minute block. Unsurprisingly, this means that they had time for a TCM Extra, a two-reeler titled Three Cheers for the Girls.

The short has a copyright date of 1943, and we're introduced to a dresser bringing in some costumes to a dressing room full of chorus girls. The girls then break into a song about how they're the Floradora Girls who appear in and make memorable all those musical numbers you may recall, even if you don't remember any of them in particular. (And looking at the credits on IMDb, I don't recognize the names of anybody in the framing story. We then get a cut to a musical number, with a bunch of chorus girls dancing and holding giant white flags that flutter thanks to a wind machine that's off-camera; the girls are dancing against a very black stage.

We go back and forth between musical numbers and the framing story, and I'm ashamed to admit it took me a few numbers to realize that these are all clips from previous Warner Bros. musicals. I think it's when they got to the one about Hawaii and I found myself wondering whether Flirtation Walk was a Warner Bros. musical or not. (It is, and is the movie from which that particular clip was taken.)

The last number was obviously Dick Powell, in a movie called The Singing Marine, which was followed by some footage of actual fighting Marines, or at least Marines in training, as I'm not certain whether Hollywood cameras would have gotten that close to the Marines in actual war. You have to remember that this short was released in 1943, which was at the height of World War II, so audiences probably wanted the morale boost of seeing the brave marines.

Warner Bros. probably also thought that audiences might go for something nostalgic, and what cheaper way to do that than to repackage some musical numbers from old movies? It doesn't hurt that these are all supposed to be feel-good numbers, too. Eighty years on, it's tough to say that this short still works. If you're not the biggest fan of musicals, then you probably won't remember the movies used. Even though I've seen a couple of the movies from which the clips are taken, these are lesser Warner Bros. musicals, never mind that Warner Bros. didn't have as good musicals as MGM.

It wouldn't surprise me, however, if audiences of the day did have a better memory of some of these movies, as the movies would have been less than a decade old. They certainly would still have had a fresh memory of Dick Powell, who had recently left Warner Bros. although he was still a year away from turning his career around with Murder, My Sweet. So I'm sure there are people who will enjoy this more than I did.

Monday, January 23, 2023

10-20 years after Cavalcade

Noël Coward did a lot: acting, singing, and writing plays. Quite a few of his plays have been turned into movies; one that I hadn't seen until now is This Happy Breed.

Frank Gibbons (Robert Newton) is the patriarch of a middle-class British family with a wife Ethel (Celia Johnson) and three adolescent children -- at least, they're adolescents at the start of the movie. The movie begins in 1919, just after Frank has returned from fighting in the Great War, and he wants to start life anew, which is why he's taken a nicer townhouse in one of the leafier districts of London.

On arriving at the new house, Frank discovers that his next door neighbor is somebody he knew vaguely during the war, Bob Mitchell (Stanley Holloway). Bob has a son Billy (John Mills) who's going to become a sailor and who falls in love with the eldest Gibbons daughter Queenine (Kay Walsh) once she grows up, although she doesn't realize that Billy is right for her, probably because being married to a sailor isn't easy. Just ask Brandy in that old 1970s song.

Anyhow, after the brief introduction in 1919, the movie moves forward to various points over the next 20 years, many of which would be well-knowon to students of British history (and certainly British audiences of 1944 when the movie was released). There's things like the 1926 general strike; references to Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin; and the death of King George V; although somewhat surprisingly, Edward VIII and his abdication wasn't a big deal.

There's also various cultural phenomena such as the radio and the advent of talking pictures, including a scene of a couple of characters watching The Broadway Melody which made me wonder who in Britain held the rights to the movie at the time and if there was an issue with that scene when the movie made it across the Atlantic. (IMDb says the movie didn't get released in the US until 1947, although I'd bet that has more to do with World War II and its aftermath than the presence of the clip from The Broadway Melody.)

Along the way, the family goes through various troubles, the two biggest being the death of the son in a car cash, and Queenie's affair with a married man, which causes Mom to disown her. Eventually, the movie makes its way to 1939 and the start of World War II, which seems a fitting place to conclude the movie.

As I was watching This Happy Breed, I couldn't help but think about the comments I made regarding First Lady a few weeks back. It's material that seems like it would play really well on the stage, especially with a large live audience. On the screen, however, it felt to me as though something was missing. On the other hand, the movie was made in Technicolor, which must have been a difficult feat in the UK at the height of the war. It's physically beautiful to look at.

On the whole, I'd give a positive recommendation to This Happy Breed, especially if you're an Anglophile. It's not quite as good as some of the other movies based on Noël Coward works, but it's definitely worth a watch.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Just one angel

Another of the movies that's been sitting on my DVR for ages that I wanted to watch before I have to change DVRs again is a late 1930s RKO movie called Tarnished Angel. This is not to be confused with the late-1950s Rock Hudson movie The Tarnished Angels, which has a completely different plot.

Sally Eilers, who had been a star in the first half of the decade, stars here, supported by a very young Ann Miller, who already gets to sing and dance. At the start of the movie, both of them are working at a nightclub that has an illegitimate casino business on the side. Miller plays the entertainment as Vi McMaster, while Eilers plays Carol Vinson, whose job it is to get the right people over to the casino and get them to bet to lose. Now, the casino itself is illegal, but compounding the problem is that in the back office there's also Dandy Dan Bennett (Vinton Hayworth) dealing in stolen jewelry!

Needless to say, the police know there's a casino going on here, and eventually raid the joint, but Carol and Vi are able to escape, together with Vi's boyfriend Eddie (Paul Gilfoyle). Carole at least has a modest amount of money that she got when her playboy boyfriend Paul's (Lee Bowman) father paid her off not to marry Paul.

But that money soon runs out. The detective Sgt. Cramer (Jonathan Hale), who just knows there's more to Carol than meets the eye, is following her and Vi around, seeing to it that Vi is unable to get a job anywhere as a dancer, even though she's probably the most innocent of any of the three. Just as the trio is about to run out of money, they come along a religious revival that's offering free coffee. Seeing it gives Carol an idea. The revivalist asks for donations after the meeting; perhaps Carol could pretend to be a revivalist and make a living that way.

So she tries it, passing herself off as Sister Connie, but it's not too much of a living, since she's trying to support three people and there's also quite a bit of expenses. So she decides to jazz things up by introducing a phony cripple act into the meetings. This gets a lot of money, but also a lot more notoriety, enough that Cramer winds up on the trail again.

So Sister Connie tries a bold tactic. When she sees Cramer out in the audience, she changes the topic of the sermon to her having been a fallen woman in her past life. She also announces that she's going to give the bulk of that night's donations to a charity of the people's choice; they choose the local children's sanatorium for polio victims, run by society matron Mrs. Stockton (Alma Kruger).

Working wth the children gives Carol a different outlook on life, to the point that she wants to give up the revivalist gag. But there are too many people who really do believe in her. That, and the jewel thieves from her old gig at the casino discover that Mrs. Stockton has a $100,000 necklace in a safe in her house, and want Carol to help them in exchanging out that necklace. Can Carol go straight and stay within the strictures of the Production Code?

I mentioned at the beginning that this was an RKO B movie, and I have to admit that in what I've seen on TCM, RKO didn't have the best B movies, as they seemed to have a lower budget than certain MGM and Warner Bros. It also feels to me as though they generally didn't have quite as good a stable of character actors to populate these movies that the other studios did. And yet, Tarnished Angel is one of the better RKO B's that I've seen. It's a surprisingly dark plot, with good performances from all involved. The ending is probably not quite as good as it could have been if the studio didn't have to deal with the Production Code, but at the same time I don't think audiences of the day would have wanted a darker ending.

It's too bad Tarnished Angel doesn't seem to be on DVD, and that it's the sort of movie that doesn't really fit into any thematic box set.

Saturday, January 21, 2023


James Caan died last year, and TCM ran a night of his movies as a programming tribute. This gave me the chance to record a couple of movies I hadn't seen before. One of those was Slither, which I recently sat down to watch.

Caan plays Dick Kanipsia, who's just gotten out of prison. Seemingly not having any place to go, he goes with fellow parolee Harry Moss, who takes Dick to his old place which at least seems to be standing still. However, the two don't realize that somebody has been following them, and that somebody opens fire on the house, shooting Harry. Harry decides to go out in a blaze of glory by blowing up the house, but not before informing Dick of two names: Barry Fenaka (Peter Boyle) and Vincent Palmer (Allen Garfield), whom Dick should look up.

Harry was part of a scheme that embezzled a mid six-figure amount of money, which would be nice today but was a heck of a lot more money back in the early 1970s. Harry and Barry somehow stole the money, and then when the heat came down on Harry, stashed it with Vincent, who was supposed to keep it safe until Harry got out of prison. Barry doesn't know Vincent's name or identity, which is why he wasn't able to screw over Harry.

Dick goes looking for Barry, hitching rides to the presumed destination, and running into Kitty Kopetzky (Sally Kellerman, who also died in 2022) along the way. Her car has broken down, and she's on her way to the Pacific coast for, well, reasons that aren't well explained. But Dick is able to fix the car, so the two wind up together, at least until Kitty holds up a diner. Dick is no dummy so he ditches Kitty and goes looking for Barry himself.

He eventually finds Barry, now married to Mary (Louise Lasser) and trying to live a respectable life which includes owning one of those old aluminum Airstream trailers to do the camping thing. Barry learns that Dick is there on behalf of the now-dead Harry, and decides to take Dick along on the quest to find Vincent. However, they set off on their way, and we keep seeing this odd black van that's trailing them. And then we see a second van just like the first one.

Along the way, Barry and Dick make it to the office of the Vincent Palmer Investment Advisors, where they're informed that Vincent no longer works for the company, having sold it to the guy there, at which point the guy gives Dick and Barry a forwarding address. This seems more of an excuse for Barry and Dick to wind up at the beach, where Dick is able to run into Kitty again. Kitty actually joins them on the search for the money.

In reading about Slither on Wikipedia, I noticed Caan said that he took the film for the paycheck, and that there's nothing there. I can't help but say that I largely agree with him. Some of the individual scenes work, but the movie as a whole feels like the writers couldn't exactly figure out how to make the plot come together. It also didn't help that the characters felt more like Hollywood caricatures than actual people.

In short, Slither is one of those movies that languished in obscurity; upon watching, it's not too difficult to see why.

Friday, January 20, 2023

The First Degree

Last September, TCM had a night of movies to celebrate Silent Film Day, including one that had only recently been refound, having been considered a lost movie for nearly a century: The First Degree.

In some ruralish corner of the country, a lot of farmers seem to be having problems with some of their sheep going missing. So the authorities have decided to set up a grand jury which, with the power of subpoena, might be able to get to the bottom of it. One of the people they're about to interview is Sam Purdy (Frank Mayo). He's relatively new to town, and seems to be a bit of a keep to himself sort of person, which is why he'd make a reasonable suspect, even if they're talking to everybody to try to figure out what happened.

And as it turns out, Sam has a guilty conscience, so when he goes to the grand jury, he goes believing that the game is up. But what he doesn't realize is that the grand jury only wants to know about missing sheep, the authorities not having told the interviewees why they're being interviews. And Sam does not actually have that guilty conscience over the missing sheep, since he's not responsible for those. He's got something far worse on his mind.

As he tells the grand jury, they'll never believe him when he says he killed a man in self-defense. To be fair, it's not as if he reported the death before this, and if anybody found the dead guy's body, of course there would be an inquest and the convening of a grand jury. But since this is a Hollywood movie, we're about to get another flashback as to what led Sam to kill this man.

The man also just happens to be Sam's half-brother Will (Philo McCullough). Sam had been in love with Mary (Sylvia Breamer) in that flashback. But so had Will, who was always a bad guy. So when matters come to a head, Will and a friend rob the bank where Sam works and escape with Sam trying to track them down, in such a way that Sam is the one left holding the bag. (The film, although found and restored, is missing about a reel's worth of material, so that helps explain why this part of the story is a bit unclear.) Sam does his time in prison, and gets out and moves to a new town.

In that new town, Sam becomes a pillar of society, and wants to run for political office -- certainly, the townsfolk want him to. But right at that time Will shows up and tells Sam that if he does try to run, he (Will) will tell the townsfolk about Sam's past. Sam is forced to move again, and it puts Sam's relationship with Mary on hold. So that's how Sam wound up a sheep farmer, something he can do and stay away from society. At least until Will shows up a third time....

The First Degree is an interesting little movie, although I can't help but think it would be better if it had been found whole instead of missing pieces here and there. The ending is also one that defies logic, although perhaps it was considered more original back in 1923 when the movie was released. But even with those flaws, it's always interesting to see a previously lost silent, and it's not overly long so it's not as if there's a huge time commitment here.

In theory, the visual print of The First Degree should be in the public domain, although I'm not quite certain how restoration work affects the copyright on the images. The restorers, however, also commissioned a new score, and that score would definitely be under copyright. So this is one of those films I watched just to get off the DVR.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Vintage

I've suggested in the past that the Production Code caused problems for quite a few movies in that there was no satisfactory way to end the movie while also satisfying the strictures of the Code. I couldn't help but think about that as I was watching The Vintage.

MGM filmed this movie on location in the south of France, presumably thanks to capital controls. But the movie starts off just over the border in Italy, as border guards from Italy are warning their counterparts just over the French border to be on the lookout for a couple of brothers as one of them is wanted by the Italian police. Sure enough, we almost immediately cut to those two brothers.

Not only that, but the brothers are crossing the border illicitly. Giancarlo (Mel Ferrer) is the elder brother, while Ernesto (John Kerr -- and wrap your mind around those two being brothers) is the younger brother, and the one wanted in Italy. Giancarlo is devoted enough to his brother that he's willing to make a lot of sacrifices to keep his brother safe. But Ernesto is getting to the point that he doesn't want to be that sort of burden on his brother any longer.

More importantly, the two need food and a roof over their heads. So they stop at each of the farms, which here are mostly vineyards, and ask if the owners need any help with the harvest. They eventually find there might be the possibility of work at the place owned by Louis Morel (Leif Erickson), who has a wife Léone (Michèle Morgan) and two kids, as well as an extended family which includes Léone's sister Lucienne (Pier Angeli).

But Morel has traditionally hired on Eduardo (Theodore Bikel in a role that at the beginning of the decade probably would have been given to Gilbert Roland) who leads a work gang of his "cousins". They get in a sort of scrap with Giancarlo and Ernesto that's like the one in The Adventures of Robin Hood where Robin and Little John become friends in a fight over the river. More importantly, it means Eduardo will stand up for the brothers when the authorities keep coming around.

Meanwhile, Giancarlo finds himself falling for Lucienne, while Ernesto falls for Léone. The latter one is an obvious problem, since she's married but trapped in what she feels is becoming a loveless marriage as Louis seems more interested in the vineyards than her. But Louis is also uncomfortable with the idea of Lucienne falling in love with an itinerant laborer, and frankly, it's not difficult to understand why.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the movie was made under the Production Code, so you know that sooner or later, the authorities are going to get to the point where they figure out it's Ernesto they're looking for. And the movie has no good way to resolve this problem, which is a pretty big issue for a movie like this.

That's not the only issue The Vintage has. I felt as though not only were Ferrer and Kerr unlikely brothers; they were also unlikely romantic leads. Or at least, the script doesn't let them show off whether they had the qualities to play romantic leads. They both feel terribly cold. On the bright side, however, the location shooting is lovely, with the one caveat that I always notice the focus issues when Cinemascope of that era pans.

It's a shame that The Vintage isn't nearly as good a movie as it had the potential to be.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The Guilty

I've recorded a handful of the Noir Alley selections that I haven't seen before, and recently got around to watching one of the more obscure movies, a little B picture called The Guilty.

Don Castle, who was apparently a friend of the producer, stars as Mike Carr, a World War II veteran who walks into a bar one evening and starts talking to the bartender about what happened some time in the past, cue the flashback because that's just such an original plot device.... Mike was living in an apartment near the bar with his war buddy Johny Dixon (Wally Cassell). Johnny wound up with a mild case of PTSD, as he's fairly nervous by nature now, and Mike seems to be helping take care of him to an extent.

Living nearby is the Mitchell family. The family has adult twin sisters, Estelle and Linda (both played by Bonita Granville, all grown up from her Nancy Drew days), and it should be unsurprising that the sisters have met the two war veterans living nearby. Mom, it seems, is a widow (at least, I don't recall seeing the father and there's no Mr. Mitchell listed among the characters), which would explain why she's taken in a boarder, Mr. Tremholt (John Litel, who had played Nancy Drew's father, so a little extra ick here), who seems a bit too interested in the tiwns. Since this is a movie, it should also not be a surprise that the two sisters wind up romantically involved with the two war veterans.

In another twist that could only be a Hollywood thing, the two sisters have totally different personalities. Linda is nice, and Estelle is a nasty, manipulative blankety-blank who probably would have boiled a bunny 40 years later in Fatal Attraction. Johnny is in love with Linda while Mike starts a relationship with Estell. Johnny seems the most serious about the relationship of the four, going so far as to buy Linda a bracelet. But Linda decides to break things off, returning the bracelet. Linda then winds up dead.

So it's a natural assumption that Johnny should be a prime suspect. And with his psychiatric condition from the war, he knows that he'll be suspected, and that he has no alibi. So he makes things worse by going into hiding. The police send in a detective in the form of Heller (Regis Toomey) to investigate, and hope that Mike can get Johnny out of hiding. Estelle, meanwhile, has her own motivations.

The Guilty is based on a story by Cornell Woolrich, who was also responsible for the stories behind noirs like The Window and suspense like Rear Window, so you know there's good source material here. While a low budget in noir often meant that directors had to get creative, I felt like the low budget actually hurt this one. As the story is about twins, having that low budget made things a bit too confusing at times. That's a shame since, as I said, the script feels like a pretty good one.

Eddie Muller suggested in the Noir Alley airing that this is one of the films that his Noir Foundation helped preserve, with it due to come out on DVD and/or Blu-ray. It doesn't seem to be available at Amazon, but Critics' Choice, which I believe is the company now nominally partnering with TCM, has a Flicker Alley double feature of that and High Tide.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The Mouse on the Moon

I've been going through a lot of the shorter movies on my DVR, and shorter movies generally means older movies. So even though TCM ran it just a few weeks back, I decided to watch The Mouse on the Moon rather than some of the stuff that's been on my DVR for a long time because it dates from the early 1960s.

The Mouse on the Moon is a sequel to The Mouse that Roared, a movie I thought I had blogged about but apparently not. The plot of the original movie involved the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, one of those small political entities that dotted Central Europe in movies from before World War II when the writers needed a prince from a fictional place -- think the prince who resolves the plot problems in First Lady if you watched that. Anyhow, the country more or less went bankrupt and came up with a ruse to get financial aid from the West.

A few years later, the country is still as backward as ever, and still as much in need of financial aid as ever to try to modernize the country. Worse, the country's main export, its wine, is being barred from export because the stuff has a nasty habit of exploding. Well, now that it's the early 1960s instead of the late 1950s, there's a space race going on. Prime Minister Mountjoy (Ron Moody) comes up with the brilliant idea to say that it wants to enter the space race, and get financial assistance to help in this regard. He knows the Americans will give on the reasoning that it's a diplomatic coup and the country will never be successful; Grand Fenwick can then use the money to do things like install running water.

Things get more interesting when the Soviets respond by sending an actual rocket. Meanwhile, the country's top scientist, Dr. Kokintz (David Kossoff), has figured out that whlie the wine may be explosive, it also has anti-gravity properties that make it a perfect propellant for a rocket ship, as using it won't require the rocket to achieve escape velocity. So perhaps they'll be able to figure out a way to get to the moon, which would suit Kokintz just fine. It would also make Mountjoy's son Vincent (Bernard Cribbins) happy. In theory, he's supposed to be next in line for the hereditary prime ministership, but he really wants to be an astronaut.

Meanwhile, the Americans, Soviets, and British all get alarmed at the prospect that somebody else might get to the moon first, so they start trying to figure out what Grand Fenwick is really up to. Kokintz is able to get the rocket launched, but because they don't need escape velocity, it's going to take longer to get to the moon than it would take the Apollo program (well, technically Apollo hadn't been started yet) to, at least from liftoff from Earth to landing on the moon. So the US and Soviets both rush rockets into preparation to try to beat both Grand Fenwick and each other.

The problem with The Mouse on the Moon is that it feels like the writers ran out of ideas for Grand Fenwick after The Mouse That Roared. This, even though the movie is based on a book. The producers apparently had a financial hit with The Mouse That Roared, and wanting to continue that, came up with this, but like Grand Fenwick itself, not really keeping up with the times. So what we get is a lot of stuff that feels like it's past its sell-by date, and not quite as funny as it otherwise might have been.

I'll probably have to track down a copy of The Mouse that Roared and watch it, as it's been years since the last time I saw it.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Gina Lollobrigida, 1927-2023

Gina Lollobrigida with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis in a promotional photo for Trapeze

Gina Lollobrigida, who came on the scene a few years before Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot to become one of the first big European bombshells of the postwar era, has died at the age of 95. The obituary I read suggested she enjoyed working in her native Italy more than in Hollywood, but I was surprised at how many of her movies I've done posts on.

I couldn't find anything on the TCM website about her passing, but with the recent budget cuts I wonder how much updating is going on. I would assume at some point that TCM will have a prime-time programming salute to Lollobrigida, but I haven't seen anything about when it might be. 31 Days of Oscar isn't until March this year, so TCM has a good six weeks to program something.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

The Old Gray Mayor

TCM had a double feature of Bob Hope films last night, both of which are on the Bob Hope box set I bought some time back, and one of which, Caught in the Draft, I blogged about not too awful long ago. I also mentioned recently that when I put my DVD of the James Cagney movie G Men into my DVR, I noticed that one of the extras was an early Hope two-reeler, The Old Gray Mayor. So, I probably should have blogged about it yesterday; instead, you're getting the post a day late.

As I said, this is pretty early in Hope's film career; about the fourth film in which he appeared and the early work was almost entirely shorts until The Big Broadcast of 1938. But still, a lot of the Hope persona that we'd see in later films is here. In this short, Hope plays Bob, who wants to mary Gwen (Ruth Hall credited as Ruth Blasco). However, it's the days in which a prospective groom was expected to ask the bride's father for permission to take the daughter's hand in marriage, which is going to be an issue.

Dad is the mayor, and he's famously irascible, to the point that he's literally just thrown another man out of his office as Bob is getting ready to bring up the marriage proposal. Worse for Bob is that the Mayor has other plans for marrying off his daughter. Dad wants her to marry for political purposes instead, to form an alliance with Alderman Mulligan (Lionel Stander, whose voice you couldn't mistake even if it weren't for the fact that there are only five names in the credits.

The first half of the short is at City Hall, first in the mayor's office and then a shtick with the marriage license clerk that goes on too long -- any idiot would have gotten out of there right away and eloped. But Dad is too clever for that, getting the taxi to go to his house and more or less keeping his daughter hostage. Bob is going to have to come up with a ruse to get Gwen.

The Old Gray Mayor isn't the best of Hope's works, not even the best of his early short. I think this is largely because the scenes all go on too long. We get the point already, as it were. Still, it's the sort of short that's nice to have as an extra, and nice for fans of Bob Hope to see him at the very beginning of his movie career.

Martin Luther King Day 2023

January 16 is the third Monday in January, which means that we're at the annual Martin Luther King holiday here in the States. At least, it's a holiday for those who work for the government; I don't get the day off. But TCM is marking the day, as they do every year.

The surprise, however, is that TCM isn't spending the entire day, or even just the morning/afternoon or the evening with the films of Sidney Poitier. In fact, it looks as though there's only one Poitier film on the schedule, In the Heat of the Night at 10:00 PM. The rest of the day has quite the variety of movies.

There are a couple of race movies, those made by black directors for black audiences. One of the first such directors was Oscar Micheaux, and we get both his Within Our Gates at 8:30 and a documentary about him following that at 10:00 PM.

There's also a documentary about another director, Gordon Parks, titled Moments Without Proper Names, at 2:45 PM. That's followed at 4:00 PM by his feature film The Learning Tree. And for more traditional documentaries (by which I mean movies not about the movies), there's Freedom on My Mind at 6:00 PM.

Prime time is mostly serious post-Code movies (ie. not blaxploitation), including one I really enjoyed, Cooley High at midnight. And there are a couple of movies from the Studio Era when it was considered a big deal and daring. One of these is the MGM programmer Bright Road at 1:30 PM; where I panned Bannerline last week, Bright Road is one of the better programmers from that era.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Lady No. 1

Lucy Chase Wayne (that's Kay Francis if you couldn't guess) is one of those women. She's married to the current Secretary of State Stephen Wayne (Preston Foster), and the solons that run the party -- this being the days before widespread primary elections, days when nominations were routinely decided in back rooms -- might possibly accept him in nomination. Indeed, Lucy has the gravitas to be First Lady, being a wonderful Washington hostess and coming from a long line of family that has been in politics.

But of course Stephen isn't going to get that nomination unopposed. Not when there are other women out there who would like to be First Lady. One of them is Irene Hibbard (Verree Teasdale). The only problem is, she's married to a Supreme Court justice (Walter Connolly) who's not right for the job of President and the party bosses know that. Instead, Irene has her eyes on a hot young Senator, Gordon Keane (Victor Jory). He might be just right for the party's nomination, although he's apparently not married, which is why all the women, including married ones like Irene, want him.

And then there are the people who are the power behind the scenes. One is Lavinia Creevey (Louise Fazenda), the head of a national women's organization that has a lot of pull in the less urban parts of the country, and remember that back in the 1930s there was a lot of the country that was a lot less urban than today. There's also newspaper publisher Banning (Grant Mitchell); it's easy to see why somebody would want to get the seal of approval from the man who publishes a nationwide chain of newspapers.

As in a lot of other vintage movies about politics, there's a lot of back-room intrigue, although in this case it's the women engaging in it. Lucy decides to use some reverse psychology in suggesting Justice Hibbard for the nomination, thinking that there's no way the party bosses can take it seriously -- until the outside kingmakers like the idea. Lucy has to think quickly on her feet, although thankfully somebody presents her with an obscure technicality that might solve all Lucy's problems.

First Lady is based on a play by George S. Kaufman, and the stage origins really show in watching the movie. It's the sort of material that probably works well on stage in a live performance where you have all the right pauses that the actors can take when the audience laughs at the right lines. But when transferred to the big screen, it feels like one of those early talkies when producers decided instead of throwing everything on film and see what sticks (a la the recently reviewed Soup to Nuts), they'd just take a play and film it as is. That might have worked in 1930, and I do mean might. But here it feels like the material wasn't opened up at all. I found myself wondering during the movie whether the producers at Warner Bros. were deliberately giving Kay Francis poor material as her star was waning.

The other issue is historical, in a couple of ways. One is that the play premiered in the middle of Franklin Roosevelt's first term, and I don't think there was any way anybody could possibly have beaten him when he was running for a second term. And then the movie was made in 1937, one year after a presidential election. I can't imagine any of this seeming realistic to an audience under the overwhelming figure of Franklin Roosevelt. And for viewers today, there's the issue that none of this stuff is relevant when everything is decided in the primaries, ostensibly by the voters.

So First Lady is a curious little historical artifact, but not a particularly great movie.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Once to Every Woman

Quite some time back, TCM had a night when they premiered three pre-Codes that I had obviously never heard of before. Since I tend to enjoy pre-Codes, I recorded them all, and only recently finally got around to watching the last of them, Once to Every Woman.

The title isn't quite clear, although the woman in question is Mary Fanshawe, a nurse who is played by Fay Wray, showing she was much more than the scream queen from King Kong. She's the head of nursing at a hospital where the chief of staff is an aging surgeon, Dr. Selby (Walter Connolly). Working on staff with Selby are a couple of younger doctors, Jim Barclay (Ralph Bellamy) and Freddie Preston (Walter Byron). Dr. Barclay is the sort of up-and-coming doctor whom you can expect is going to take over after Selby retires -- and time is really beginning to catch up with Selby, although he'd rather not retire.

Barclay is also the sort of doctor who would be right for Mary. But right now she has the hots for Freddie, largely because every young nurse seems to have the hots for Freddie. And Freddie is certainly willing to take advantage of that fact. Nurse Doris (Mary Carlisle) also has a thing for Freddie, and those two would be better off together than pairing Freddie with Mary. Doris even has the experience to know that this is the case, but what experience she has in romance she doesn't have in nursing, as she's forgetful and constantly ticking off Mary. (To be fair to Mary, she's right to be ticked off, as the duties Doris is shirking are important ones.

The subplots involve a biopsy surgery that Selby is supposed to perform that's going to test whether he still has to ability to perform complex surgeries, as well as Freddie shirking his duties when he can't be found at a critical juncture. Dr. Barclay covers for Jim for whatever reason, and this threatens to screw up the professional relationship with Mary. But Once to Every Woman is the sort of movie where you know the right people are going to wind up together at the end.

If that sounds like a relatively brief synopsis to Once to Every Woman, well, that's because it's a fairly brief movie, clocking in at around 70 minutes. The screenplay is based on a story by A.J. Cronin, who also wrote the novel that became the doctor picture The Citadel as well as the source material for the early Gregory Peck movie The Keys of the Kingdom which is currently in the FXM rotation. If you've seen either of those movies, then you'll be able to spot the sort of value judgements Cronin is making in this movie, too.

Having said that, there's nothing notably wrong with Once to Every Woman; it's more that it feels like it's not breaking any new ground and is more solid entertainment for people for whom going to the movies every week was a thing and needed a production line of new movies to be released. In that regard, it succeeds.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Soup to Nuts

I think I've mentioned it a couple of times, but it seems like in the early days of talking pictures, there were several times where a studio decided to throw whatever they could at the wall and see what stuck. It's the only thing that could explain a plot like the one of Just Imagine. Another movie that fits this niche is Soup to Nuts, which started showing up in the FXM rotation recently. It's on again tomorrow (Jan. 13) at 6:00 AM and again at 4:45 AM on January 14, so I took the recording I made of it and watched it to do a review here.

I think I mentioned when it first started showing up in the rotation that it was a Three Stooges movie I hadn't heard of. That's technically true, although they're not credited as the Stooges; that wasn't to come for another few years. Instead, they're credited -- and a ways down the credits -- under their real names of Shemp and Moe Howard along with Larry Fine. They play a trio of firefighters, although it seems like they haven't had many fires to fight.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. One of the things that's more prominentin the credits than the names of the future stooges is of course their sort of manager Ted Healy, who's the male lead here. The other, more interesting thing, is the prominence given to one of the writers, Rube Goldberg. For non-Americans who may not be familiar, Goldberg was a cartoonist whose stock in trade was drawings of over-elaborate machines designed out of a bunch of everyday items to do a much simpler job. In fact, one of the old TCM intros was a Rube Goldberg-inspired piece:

In fact, a Goldberg device plays a plot element in the movie, as it's used as a sort of anti-theft device for a costume shop near the firehouse. The shop is owned by Otto Schmidt (Charles Winninger), while Ted Healy nominally works for Schmidt. But Schmidt is a lousy manager, as evidenced by that anti-theft device, and his store is in hock to the creditors, who send in a new manager in the form of Richard Carlson (that's the name of the character, not the future second-tier actor of the same name; Carlson is played by Stanley Smith). Carlson falls in love with Schmidt's niece Louise (Lucile Brown), but it takes a long time for the feeling to be mutual.

The plot is kind of muddled, as a lot of the movie is given over to various comedy sketches. Ted Healy and the Stooges were in vaudeville at the time, together with a fourth stooge, a mute played by Fred Sanborn. A lot of reviewers compare him to Harpo Marx, but I found myself thinking of Burt Lancaster's friend Nick Cravat who was equally irritating. Eventually all of the sketches coalesce for the finale, when the Stooges actually have to put out a fire and bring Carlson and Louise together.

Soup to Nuts is a hard movie to rate, largely because it's so strange. I mentioned Just Imagine earlier for a similar off-the-wall early talkie idea, and loved that one because the elements more or less work together. There's also the Dogville shorts that I really like too. Unfortunately, in Soup to Nuts, things don't mesh so well, so it's going to be a frustrating watch. Still, it's interesting to see the Stooges as they were in the process of developing into the Stooges we know today and for that alone the movie is worth a watch.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The Green-Eyed Blonde

There's something about women-in-prison movies that makes them more interesting to watch in an exploitation sense than watching seriously. In the case of The Green-Eyed Blonde, it doesn't help that the plot and dialogue are so nutty.

The movie doesn't start off with the blonde, but instead with brunette Betsy (Linda Plowman). She's just been sent from the juvenile justice system to a girls' reform school/prison that's more like Untamed Youth in that the girls aren't kept in cells, but in some sort of a house with a high fence topped with barbed wire surrounding the whole facility. Betsy, like some of the other girls, has had a baby, something the inmates refer to as "having a kid sister". Betsy is rebellious, hating the warden Mrs. Nichols (Jean Inness) because she's old and stringy!

Among the other girls are Cuckoo (Norma Jean Nilsson), who is perfectly willing to try committing suicide, and has the scars on her arms to prove it; Trixie, the nice black girl; and the titular blonde, nicknamed Green Eyes (Susan Oliver). Green Eyes has a boyfriend in Cliff (Ray Foster), and when he can, he gets down to the fence so that he and Green Eyes can make out through the fence until he can devise a plan to get Green Eyes out of there.

Meanwhile, there's a parental visiting day on Sunday, and Betsy's mom shows up with the baby in tow, ready to give the baby up for adoption. In fact, Mom cares so little about this grandkid that she's left the grandkid out in the car in the parking lot! So Cuckoo goes and kidnaps it so that Betsy can have her son, even though she doesn't particularly care for it. Indeed, all the girls keep the baby hidden away in the walk-in closet off their bedroom, as if nobody will find it or hear it. Not very realistic.

Eventually finding the baby is Maggie Wilson (Sally Brophy), the woman who fits the trope of the well-meaning prison worker who wants what's best for the inmates and hasn't developed enough cynicism to realize that they'll be back, or in a real prison. She actually keeps the baby's presence a secret until another adult finds it. When the kids learn the baby has been taken away, they start a hilarious riot.

Eventually, Green Eyes does get out and runs off with Cliff, at which point the movie has an abrupt denouement, as though the writers (Dalton Trumbo writing this nonsense along with a front) had no idea how to resolve things. Heck, the movie isn't even really about Green Eyes, so why she's the title character is a mystery.

The Green-Eyed Blonde is a mess. It's poorly acted, with bad dialogue and plot holes galore. But it's a fun mess, if you're looking for a movie that's unintentionally funny.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023


I've mentioned before that the programmers MGM produced in the 1950s are often just as interesting as the Freed Unit musicals, if not more so. Of course, those programmres also include some clunkers, as I discovered when I watched Bannerline recently.

MGM was trying to make a star out of Keefe Brasselle, who had recently been in one of the lesser segments of It's a Big Country, so he gets the starring role in this film. Brasselle plays Mike Perrivale, a young reporter fresh out of J-school who thinks he knows more than the people who have been in the newspaper business since they were his age at the turn of the century. Mike works for a paper in one of those small towns MGM liked to use their backlot to recreate, only this time the town has the more ethnic-sounding name of Carravia. Mike is the low man on the totem pole, which means he gets the crappy assignments and doesn't even make enough to support his girlfriend, the teacher Richie Loomis (Sally Forrest), who still lives with her mom (Spring Byington).

Among the crappy assignments Mike gets is interviewing Hugo Trimble (Lionel Barrymore), the male equivalent of Jenny Jones in Good Morning, Miss Dove, a teacher who can be a bit tough but who is actually loved by the people who took his classes. Trimble has been teaching for 50 years, but he's terminally ill in hospital. Hugo is disappointed that he'll die with the town having done nothing about the man who really runs the place, mobster Frankie Scarbine (J. Carroll Naish).

After Hugo teaches Mike how to conduct an interview that people will actually want to read, Mike decides the way to thank Hugo is to use the newspaper as a print shop, since centuries before this the printers who published the earliest newspapers did take on all sorts of other print jobs. In this case, the plan is to make a fake front page in which it will be revealed that Scarbine has been indicted, and let Hugo read that on his dying day.

But then Mike, along with Josh (Lewis Stone), who runs the newspaper's morgue, comes up with an idiotic idea, which is to release the fake front page to the general public. Unsurpisingly, Mike's editor/publish Stambaugh (Larry Keating) is pissed, especially because Scarbine can get a whole bunch of businesses to pull their ads. But this is an MGM programmer, so even though they tried to take on social issues in the era after ditching Louis B. Mayer, they were never anywhere near as good at it as Warner Bros.

In this case, the solution is to engage in some good old witness tampering. There's a grand jury investigating Scarbine, so Stambaugh and the rest of the staff at the paper decide that since they know who the foreman of the jury is, they'll just tell him the grand jury should act independently. As I said, it's blatant witness tampering, but this perversion of the justice system is treated as a good thing.

Bannerline has a whole bunch of problems. Keefe Brasselle is bland, and it's not surprising that he didn't become a big star, never mind the issues in his personal life. This movie, more than a lot of others, looks like it's all done on the back lot. And never mind the journalistic ethics; the rest of the movie is pretty badly mawkish, too.

Then again, the lack of journalistic ethics in Bannerline shouldn't have surprised me, considering the way the press of today spent the past six years working with the the Beltway establishment to violate all sorts of journalistic and constitutional norms to go after who have the wrong views either about Donald Trump or the coronavirus. I suppose the press was just as bad in the 1950s.

Still, there are probably people who have enough trust in the media that they'll like Bannerline. I'm just not one of them.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Tomka and His Friends

The latest selection that's been sitting on my DVR for quite some time is Tomka and His Friends, a movie that TCM ran back in the fall of 2020 as part of the Women Make Film series.

The movie is set in Berat, a provincial town in Albania, during World War II some time after the Italians have abandoned their occupation of the country. (I don't think the movie says specifically when it's set; I couldn't find information about that on the internet; and my knowledge of that portion of the war is a bit hazy. But I do recall that Hitler made the fatal mistake of sending troops to the Balkans to help out Italy in the spring of 1941 just before his invasion of the USSR, so it might be then.) Tomka is a young boy who does the sort of things that young boys like to do, like have made-up adventures with his boyhood friends or play soccer. And with abandoned military materiel there's definitely enough stuff to have made-up adventures.

But they're about to have a real-life adventure. As they're coming down the hill from their latest day out, they spot a column of vehicles on the main road going along the river. That column is the German Wehrmacht, who have come to keep Albania docile now that the Italians have left. As you recall from any World War II movie you've seen, having German occupation troops in your town is no fun, even if you're a child with a tendency not to grasp the full gravity of what's going on.

For the boys, however, it's about to get personal. When they go out to play soccer the next day, they find that their soccer field has been occupied by the Nazis as it's a nice, large, flat place for them to set up camp, which means not only makeshift barracks but a munitions dump as well. Now they want to do their part to help in the resistance effort. And in some ways, it might be easier for them to do it than for the grown-ups, especially the Italian man they meet who claims he's a partisan.

This kids look like they're playing -- and part of the time, it really is just harmless play, which is why it's so tough for the Nazis to figure out how to handle the situation. But they also have a key role in enabling the adults to carry out their mission, which is to blow up the munitions dump.

Tomka and His Friends was made in 1977, during the Communist era. Communism was gray and bad for most of the Warsaw Pact, but the other countries had the sense to realize they were going to need to deal with the West. Albania's dictator, Enver Hoxha, was much more fanatic, closing off the country and getting out of the Warsaw Pact, allying with China during the Cultural Revolution era instead of the USSR. And that's a big reason why a movie like this would remain so unknown outside of Albania. It's also why the movie has at times a more patriotic undertone even than the war movies Hollywood was making during the war, although the propaganda is less overtly pro-Communist than pro-solidarity and collective action, which seemed to me like a remarkably subtle message to be able to make with a leader like Hoxha.

In fact, Tomka and His Friends would fit in reasonably well with, if not the Hollywood war movies, the British ones, which seem rather less studio-bound than their Hollywood counterparts. It's extremely well made, telling a story that's pretty much universal and easy for anyone to understand. I'm somewhat surprised that Criterion hasn't been able to get the rights to put this out on DVD, as it seems like it would be a natural for them. The restoration, however, seems to have been done by the Library of Congress.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

One month before It Happened One Night

One of the movies that's been sitting on my DVR for a long time was a little MGM movie I'd never heard of but sounded interesting, Fugitive Lovers. Recently, I sat down to watch it.

One of the fugitives is Letty, played by Madge Evans. She's a chorus girl in New York, and she's got gangster Legs Caffey (Nat Pendleton) all hot and bothered by her. The only thing is, she doesn't like the attention she's getting from Legs; presumably she'd rather get attention from somebody more respectable. So when he suggests the two of them go to Atlantic City to get married, she decides not to go to Atlantic City, but to get out of town in a different direction by hopping a cross-country bus headed for Los Angeles. Unfortunately for her Legs finds out what's going on and gets on the bus with her, claiming she's his wife.

The bus travels west, passing through a town in Pennsylvania that's home to one of the state prisons. Having just broken out of jail is Paul Porter (Robert Montgomery), who had a plan to get away by car with an accomplice. But when that plan goes south, Paul hops aboard the back of the bus, climbing up on the roof where the luggage was kept in those days and where he can get a change of clothes courtesy of fellow passenger Hector Withington (Ted Healy).

Now, well-read viewers may recall that Ted Healy is just as well known for being the manager of what would become the Three Stooges back in those days before they struck out on their own, so it's not a surprise that the Stooges appear here, although it's in a relatively straight role as a musical combo who are, like Withington, passengers on the bus. Anyhow, the buss reaches Harrisburg, where Paul is spotted, forcing him to go into hiding while Letty gets back on the bus as it heads farther west. Paul, already having met Letty -- and you know the two are going to fall in love -- vows to catch up with Letty in St. Louis.

Paul and Letty do meet in St. Louis, but Legs has also found them there, and threatens to out Paul until Legs realizes just how much Paul and Letty love each other, and has a change of heart. At this point, the movie has a surprising change of tone. It's the middle of winter, and Paul commandeers the bus in a snowstorm after everyone else gets out at one of those auto-camps like the one in It Happened One Night where Clark Gable tells Claudette Colbert how to eat a doughnut. The bus comes across a school bus that has gone off the road into a snowdrift, threatening to kill all the students like James Caan was nearly killed in Misery. Now if Kathy Bates had found this school bus....

When I first saw the plot synopsis of Fugitive Lovers and decided to DVR it, my thought was of another Robert Montgomery movie from the same era, Hide-Out. In fact, watching the movie made me think a lot more of It Happened One Night although IMDb says Fugitive Lovers was released a month before It Happened One Night (January 1934 vs. February 1934). Although there are definitely some thematic similarities between the two films, Fugitive Lovers is much more of an odd beast in that it feels like the movie is trying to tie together a bunch of disparate plot elements. It also has the issue of how to handle Montgomery being a criminal on the run, even though the Production Code wouldn't go into full effect until July of 1934.

Despite the oddness and being a decidedly lesser film than It Happened One Night, Fugitive Lovers is definitely interesting enough that it deserves a viewing. It probably should have gotten a DVD release one one of those old four-film box sets the Warner Archive used to put out, but as far as I can tell it never got a release, which is a shame.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

My Forbidden Past

Ava Gardner was TCM's Star of the Month last month, and that gave me the chance to see one of her films that I hadn't watched before: My Forbidden Past. I'm glad I watched it, but not for the reasons the studio would have wanted back in the day.

Gardner plays Barbara Beaurevel, a young belle in turn-of-the century New Orleans. The movie starts off with having a torrid but illicit relationship with Dr. Mark Lucas (Robert Mitchum), who is some sort of research scientist at Tulane University. Mark is about to go to South America for a couple of months on a research expedition of some sort that's not explained, and he'd like Barbara to go with him and perhaps they can get married down in South America or even on the ship since the captain could perform the ceremony.

Of course, there's a catch. Barbara doesn't have any money, even though she lives in one of those grand old houses that the antebellum upper crust of New Orleans lived in. And it's not even her house, but that of her aunt Eula (Lucile Watson). Eula lives there with her son Paul (Melvyn Douglas), and the two of them most definitely don't approve of Barbara's relationship with Mark, him being a northerner to boot, oh the scandal. Barbara plans to elope, but Paul catches her packing her bags, and blackmails her into staying, writing a letter to Mark instead telling him she can't go and that she'll marry him when he gets back.

Of course, any sane viewer would recognize that Paul isn't about to let Barbara out of the house to deliver that letter, and that when he himself offers to deliver it, you know he's delivering it straight to the circular file. But Barbara doesn't get this, and won't be able to understand why Mark, upon his return, thinks Barbara jilted him.

Before that return, however, two things happen. One is that Mark marries the first reasonably good-looking American woman he meets in Latin America, returning to New Orleans with a wife Corinne (Janis Carter) in an entrance that surprises Barbara when she goes to the boat to meet Mark. The other is that a lawyer comes to the Beaurevel house looking for Barbara. Apparently Barbara had a grandmother with the forbidden past of the title, being engaged in some sort of activity that Eula finds so shocking that one doesn't even mention the name of this woman. (I think the family tree would require this to be Barbara's maternal grandmother, because otherwise it would be Eula's mother-in-law. In fact, since Barbara and Eula share a surname but the dead woman doesn't, that would make it the mother-in-law of Eula's brother-in-law.) The last member but one of that line of the family recently died out in California, leaving Barbara as the closest living relative, and set to inherit almost a million bucks, which is quite a sum of money for 1900.

Eula and Paul don't want Barbara to take the money, because everyone will find out where the money came from and this will somehow make the family's social status go down the drain. Barbara has the understandable idea that she doesn't want to be poor any more, and takes the money. And when she finds out a few months after that Mark has gotten married, she comes up with a plan to use that money to get Corinne out of the way.

If the movie wasn't ridiculous enough before that, it's about to get a whole lot more ridiculous, and that's why I enjoyed the movie. This is supposed to be some sort of serious melodrama, but everything is more like an absurdist comedy, even though that's decidedly unintentional. Mitchum is badly miscast, while Gardner does the best she can with the material. Watson is pretty good as the evil matriarch, if not to the level that Madam Konstantine was in Notorious. And Melvyn Douglas looks like he went back and rewatched Mildred Pierce so that he could learn to play the slimy, smarmy schemer role that Jack Carson so brilliantly portrayed. I don't know that Douglas got to play too many roles like this, and he runs with it for all it's worth.

As a serious picture, My Forbidden Past isn't all that good. But as unitentinal comedy, it's a blast.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Sid and Nancy

A few months back, TCM did a spotlight on rock and roll in the movies, and one of the movies profiled was Sid and Nancy. Not having seen it before, I decided to record it so I could watch it and do a review here.

Now, I'm not particularly into the punk rock scene, but I did know that Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman in an early role) was one of the main members of the British punk rock band the Sex Pistols, and that he'd died of a drug overdose. The movie opens up a few months before Sid's death, with the death of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb) in the residential hotel in New York where the two of them were living. The police are called, and in flashback, Sid tells the story.

Sid and his friends were the Sex Pistols, of course, while Nancy was an American groupie who was a fan of the Sex Pistols and came to London specifically to meet them. Everybody else Nancy meets treats her like crap, so Sid decides to show some sympathy for her, which is how they became romantically involved. It's a volatile relationship, as the two of them start using drugs together; how much they had done separately before meeting I have no idea. But their drug use makes them even nastier and more violent to each other and pretty much everyone around them.

It also screws up the Sex Pistols' US tour and causes a split in the band, with Sid remaining with Nancy after the breakup. Meeting Nancy's family doesn't help, and the two continue on a spiral downward until Nancy's death, followed a few months later by Sid's overdose.

I found it a bit hard to do a review on Sid and Nancy, largely because to me it feel as if there wasn't much plot, and what there isn't can be a bit confusing at times, as it's hard to tell if the story is linear. Much of the movie feels like two hours of two really unlikeable people going at it, although at least they didn't hurt people around them to the extent Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor did in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. While watching, I also though of the documentary Amy, which is also about a person whose story could have been difficult to warm up to. But the documentarians behind Amy definitely succeeded in doing so, while Sid and Nancy leaves us with two very unsympathetic characters.

Perhaps that's by design. In any case, Oldman and Webb both give excellent performances as the title characters, and those who are more into punk rock than I ever was will probably find the story much more interesting. And as always, watch and judge for yourself. It's not that I didn't like the movie so much as it's one of those that really left me cold, much like A Clockwork Orange.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Thursday Movie Picks and other administrative news

The 2023 schedule for the Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was released the other day, and it's a scaled back affair, with most months having only one movie week and one TV week. Since January's themes are about movies and TV shows from 2022, I'm not going to be taking part in either of those, as I didn't go to the theater at all in 2022 and don't watch much in the way of episodic TV -- and certainly not any shows that premiered last year. February gets back to romance, so I'll probably be rejoining the blogathon next month.

I've said on quite a few occasions that I prefer to blog about stuff that's either on DVD, or is coming up on one or another of the TV channels, mostly because I don't terribly like blogging about some great movie that none of you are going to have the chance to watch because it hasn't really been available since the last time TCM showed it. That policy is probably going to change somewhat over the next couple of months, mostly because of the fact that I'm going to be moving and likely getting rid of the current DVR. There are definitely movies on there that I'd like to see that don't show up often, so I hope I'll be able to get around to at least some of them and do posts on them.

Another of TCM's programming themes for January is The Jewish Experience, running every Thursday in prime time. It's a sign of the times that TCM put up a disclaimer saying that apparently there are people offended by the word "Jew", and it's not the antisemitic people. I'd never heard that complaint, and I listen regularly to the English newscast of Israel's public broadcaster which uses the word to describe Jewish people fairly regularly. The disclaimer really smacks of virtue signalling to me. In any case, I'm assuming most of the movies getting shown are the ones that were shown the last time TCM did such a theme, although the article implies that this time there's no guest to sit down with Ben.

Then, on Fridays, TCM is giving us a programming theme of female detectives, looking at a couple of different series since Hollywood liked to give us movie series in the 1930s and 1940s, at least on the first two nights. The third and final night looks to be a mish-mash of various unrelated movies that all happen to have women solving mysteries.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Battle in Outer Space

Another of the DVD box sets I'm just getting around to finishing up is a Mill Creek set of 50s and 60s scifi distributed by Columbia. The last of the films in the set is Battle in Outer Space.

It's quite clear from the opening that this is a Japanese production, with the US rights bought by Columbia so they could dub it into English, probably with some scenes changed to to make western involvement in the story make more logical sense -- I haven't seen the original. After the opening credits, an on-screen title informs us that it's 1965, which is only interesting once you realize that the movie was released in 1959 so the action is taking place several years in the future. This is a future in which they got to having orbiting space stations pretty quickly. But, alas, the space station doesn't have a bright future, as it's attacked and destroyed by what is obviously an alien force.

This force has some interesting powers, ones that you think would make it easy for them to take over Earth, but because this is a movie we can expect that the humans are going to be victorious in the end. (Then again, one thing I was thinking of as I was watching the movie is that these movies never discuss overextended supply lines.) Among those powers is a way of lessening gravity; as the movie theorizes, reducing atomic motion by reducing temperatures to near absolute zero is what decreases gravity. This enables the aliens to unmoor bridges and large ships among other things.

Since the destroyed space station was Japanese, and they suffered some other serious damage, they take the lead in hosting the international conference to determine what to do about the problem. At the conference, one of the delegates gets a sudden headache. Thanks to voiceovers, we learn that this isn't a traditional headache, but the aliens using their radio wave device to take over a human's mind and enslave the human into doing their bidding. (It's not mentioned, but I'm guessing if pressed the script writers would argue the aliens only have enough spectrum to enslave a minimal number of humans at any one time.) Said human tries to kill some of the other scientists, but it doesn't work.

In any case, the scientists along with government leaders realize they have to come up with weapons pretty quickly, as well as rockets to put them into orbit. They figure out somehow that the aliens have a base on the moon from which they're building up the equipment to attack Earth, so an advance team of earthlings is going to have to make it to the moon and attack alien headquarters there. Of course, this will be complicated by the aliens trying to enslave one of the members of this team.

To be honest, the plot of Battle in Outer Space is fairly straightforward and nothing groundbreaking. But then, this is the sort of movie that isn't supposed to be anything big and new, just solid entertainment for either the drive-in crowd (in America; I don't recall if Japan ever did drive-in theaters) or maybe whatever demographic in Japan likes science fiction. In that regard, it succeeds quite admirably.

Battle in Outer Space is one of those movies that I'm really glad wound up on a box set.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

TCM Star of the Month January 2023: Marion Davies

Marion Davies, with Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed

We're into the first week of a new month, which means that it's time again for new programming features on TCM. One of those is a new Star of the Month, and for January 2023 that's going to be Marion Davies, whose career successfully made the transition from silent movies to sound until her retirement in the late 1930s. Davies' movies will be airing the first four Tuesdays in prime time. (January 31 is the fifth Tuesday of the month, but that night has a salute to Jean-Luc Godard.) It looks like the movies are going to air roughly chronologically, with tonight being early silents, January 10 covering the transition to sound, and the following two nights being her 1930s talkies.

Those who have seen Citizen Kane will know that it was a thinly-veiled attack on William Randolph Hearst, who was the lover of Marion Davies. As a result, Davies' star waned not only because of her relatively early retirement. It's a shame, because she was indeed a talented actress who deserved to be better remembered. Thankfully TCM shows a lot of her films, and not just when she's Star of the Month. One that a search of the blog says I haven't done a post on before is the Hollywood-on-Hollywood movie Show People, which you can see at 9:30 PM on January 10.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Hollywood Cavalcade

Another of the box sets that I picked up ome time back was a five-film set of the movies of Alice Faye. One of the movies in the set that I hadn't blogged about before is Hollywood Cavalcade, so I recently sat down to watch it and do a post on it here.

Faye plays Molly Adair, a stage actress in New York in 1913. She's successful on the stage, while the new medium of moving pictures is moving out west for various reasons. Michael Connors (Don Ameche) is a director who works for a Mack Sennett-like producer (Sennett, in fact, had a cameo in the movie), Sennett being the man who gave us the Keystone Kops and was instrumental in advancing Charlie Chaplin's career. The producer is always on the lookout for new talent, and Connors is sent east to sign Adair to a movie contract with the studio. Instead, Connors signs Adair to a personal contract.

Adair is supposed to star in romantic one- and two-reelers, but during filming of one of these shorts, a blooper happens in which the male lead (Buster Keaton playing himself) accidentally hits Molly in the face with a pie. This of course gets big laughs, and it gives Connors the idea to turn Molly into a comedy star. Now playing comedy, Molly becomes wildly successful, and Connors with her since he's got the rights to her contract.

This gives Connors the idea that perhaps he should start his own studio, bringing Molly with him as the new studio's big star. He needs money for that, but fortunately, a good friend, Dave Spingold (J. Edward Bromberg) has an uncle die and bequeath him the money that could be put to good use starting a new Hollywood studio. Connors has daring new ideas for the direction moving pictures should take, and thanks to having Molly, those ideas mostly work.

Connors wants to make Molly a "serious" actress again, and takes her out of comedy, pairing her with an unknown, Nicky Hayden (Alan Curtis). They form a successful screen team, but this is where things begin to go off the rails. Molly has always like Connors, to the point that she would be happy if he proposed marriage to her. Unfortunately, Connors is more in love with the idea of making movies than he is with Molly. Not that he dislikes Molly; she's more than a good friend. But he's just so busy with his work that he doesn't see the big flashing signs that Molly is in love with him and those two should be together.

Molly and Nicky are definitely good friends too, and since Mike doesn't see what's going on, Molly finally decides she's going to marry Nicky since he asks her. Besides, the fans, seeing the two of them paired on the screen together, think they're romantically involved in real life.

Molly's marriage to Nicky causes Mike to go off the deep end and start acting extremely irrationally. He rips up Molly's contract, and starts making a series of other mistakes that causes his movies to become flops. Eventually, it causes his studio to go bankrupt while Molly continues to be a big star. Eventually, she asks her studio to hire Mike to direct her next picture, even though the studio isn't so sure.

Two nearly simultaneous events cause the movie to face disaster. One is that Molly gets in a car accident that also kills Nicky, while the other is the advent of talking pictures. Will Mike be able to save the picture? Well, this is a light movie, so you can probably guess the answer.

One gets the feeling that Hollywood Cavalcade was originally conceived as a musical, of the sort that Fox liked to make. Not big and bold like MGM did, but more homespun and nostalgic, often looking at the past. It was a style that suited Alice Faye well, but for some reason, Fox wound up making this one not be a musical. Perhaps they didn't want it to be too closely related to Alexander's Ragtime Band, which came out a year earlier and has a lot of plot themes that resemble Hollywood Cavalcade. (There's also The Great American Broadcast, released two years later, and decidedly fitting into the same space. In any case, the material mostly works here, including a simulacrum of the old two-reeler comedies that were big hits two decades before the movie was released. That's because that section uses a lot of people who had been in the silent comedies.

At the same time, however, Hollywood Cavalcade also feels formulaic and a decided step down from Alexander's Ragtime Band. It's a good enough movie, and one that is great to have in a box set, but definitely a lesser Fox musical.