Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Lost in America

Another of the movies that I decided to DVR because it had an interesting-sounding synopsis was the 1980s satire Lost in America. I finally got around to watching it recently; as always, that also means the blog post on the movie is getting written and posted.

The movie opens up late one night in one of the wealthier neighborhoods of suburban Los Angeles. David Howard (Albert Brooks) is lying in bed, worried for any number of reasons. He's and a worker at an advertising agency up for a promotion that he knows he's nearly certain to get; there's the formality of a final interview. The promotion will enable him and his wife Linda (Julie Hagerty) to move up to an even better place; in fact, the couple have already packed up, having closed on buying a new house.

But things aren't going perfectly. Linda works in hiring at a local department store, and she confides in one of her friends that she feels like the marriage is stuck in a rut. David thinks the promotion and move to a better house is going to solve all of that, but Linda isn't so certain. In fact, she's not certain she even likes the new house. But if that's a problem for Linda and David, things are about to get much worse.

David walks into that final interview, only to find out that it's not an interview for a promotion. Instead, they've brought in someone else who is in charge of acquiring the account for Ford Motors. It's a big deal, but the company needs somebody who can run that account instead of needing a new executive. David is just the right person for the Ford account. Far worse than not getting the promotion, however, is that the account is being managed out of New York, necessitating a transfer almost immediately. David reacts to the news very badly, telling off his boss in such a way that the boss fires him.

In some ways, all of this may be a blessing in disguise. David has a fair amount of money saved up, and if they sell the new house and a bunch of their assets, they'll have enough money to get out of that rut by buying a Winnebago and traveling across America. Nowadays, when high-speed internet and working from home are common, it's a heck of a lot easier to do the van life thing and at least make a modest living. Trying something like this in the 1980s is much more radical.

Linda somehow agrees to all of this, and off they set with with a Winnebago and a six-figure sum in travelers' checks. They make it to Las Vegas, with the thought of renewing their vows there. But since they haven't done any planning, they're not able to get a nice hotel room. What they get isn't anything like the honeymoon suite. The next morning, David wakes up to find Linda not there -- she's gone down to the casino, cashed all the travelers' checks, and blown it playing the roulette wheel.

With no money and no prospects of good jobs, all of this threatens the marriage. Will the couple be able to survive? Will they ever love each other again?

Lost in America is yet another of the sort of movie where it's easy to see why watching it how Albert Brooks, who co-wrote and directed in addition to starring, would think this is really great material. And indeed, a lot of critics back in the day really liked it. For me, however, Lost in America came across as a bit of a misfire. I think that's in part because the characters aren't the most appealing to me, be it David losing it towards his boss or Linda gambling all the money away and David trying to convince the casino manager to turn it into an ad campaign.

But, because of all the cricial adulation for Lost in America, it's definitely the sort of movie you'll want to see and judge for yourself.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Deep Blue Something

Tomorrow, April 16, is the centenary of the birth of composer Henry Mancini. Mancini wrote the music for a whole bunch of well-known movies, so it's no surprise that TCM is honoring Mancini with a 24-hour (give or take) programming block of movies to which he wrote the music. I happen to have one of those movies on my DVR: Breakfast at Tiffany's, which shows up at 10:15 PM on April 16. With that in mind, I decided to watch the movie to do a review here in conjunction with TCM's airing of it.

The movie opens with a titular breakfast at, or at least in front of, the famed Tiffany & Co. jewelry story in New York. Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) gets out of a taxicab at the store, and proceeds to nosh on her breakfast of a croissant and a cup of coffee. Not that she can afford anything in the store, of course; it's just dreams for her. But she returns to her apartment that you wonder how the heck she can afford. There, she has to fend of advances from a man she went out with the previous night.

Later in the morning, an obliging young man buzzes her apartment for her to let him into the building. That man is Paul Varjak (George Peppard), struggling writer. He wrote a book of short stories some time back that actually did get published, but since then, nothing since he's been trying to write the Great American Novel that nobody ever actually succeeds in writing. He was accompanied to the building by "decorator" E. E. Failenson (Patricia Neal), and it seems clear that she's the one paying the bills for him. Or, in other words, Paul and Holly have something in common.

The two talk, and Holly reveals that she's a sort of escort for a series of men; if there weren't a Production Code she'd probably be a high-priced call girl procuring women for wealthy men. In any case, one of the men she sees regularly is Sally Tomato (Alan Reed), a mobster imprisoned at Sing Sing who gives her the "weather report" every week, something that is obviously coded language for Holly to pass on to the appropriate person on the outside. But Holly acts too dim-witted to know that this is what she's getting paid good money to do.

As you can guess, Holly and Paul are eventually going to fall in love, although there are going to be a bunch of complications along the way, most of them on Sally's side. She's not certain whom she loves, at times thinking of marrying an American millionaire or a Brazilian politician. And then Doc Golightly (Buddy Ebsen) shows up, claiming to be the husband of Holly although she claims the marriage has been annulled. She's also got a brother in the military who's about to get out after serving his hitch, although that doesn't quite go to plan either, with it having a decided effect on Holly.

Breakfast at Tiffany's is another of those movies where it's very easy to see why there's a fairly large group of people who like it. Hepburn gives a fine performance, Mancini's music has become iconic, especially the song "Moon River", and the movie is well-photographed. Oh, and Hepburn's clothing by Givenchy. For me, however, the movie has one big problem, which is that the character of Holly as written for the movie is one I find hard to like. She's one of those people that you wonder how they can possibly survive; for me, that's not a very appealing character. At least the Paul Varjak character is troubled enough that you can see why the two would wind up together, even if in real life the relationship would be a different one. It's not like Barefoot in the Park or The Owl and the Pussycat where the romantic leads are so wildly difficult and one (especially in The Owl and the Pussycat) so utterly obnoxious.

Still, I'd say that Breakfast at Tiffany's is decidedly worth watching.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

I guess tax day is Christmas for *some* people....

Another well-known movie that I'd never actually done a post on before is Meet Me in St. Louis. So, when TCM ran it during 31 Days of Oscar, I decided to record it so that I could rectify the omission of it from my reviews. With this being the 100th anniversary of MGM and TCM doing a retrospective of the studio every Monday, it's not a surprise that Meet Me in St. Louis is one of the films selected. That airing is coming up tomorrow, April 15, at 11:45 AM.

For good reason, Meet Me in St. Louis is thought of as a Christmas movie, that being the debut of the song that's now a Christmas standard, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". But two-thirds or more of the film is really not about Christmas. In fact, the movie is set in the run-up to the 1904 World's Fair held in St. Louis, and looks at the life of one family living in St. Louis, the Smiths.

Esther (Judy Garland) is the second oldest of four daughters of Anna (Mary Astor) and upper-middle-class lawyer Lon Sr. (Leon Ames); Lon Jr. is a fairly minor character in the story. As the film opens it's the summer of 1903. The family is thinking somewhat of the exposition coming to their growing city in the final year, but Esther and her elder sister Rose (Lucille Bremer) are both thinking about love. Rose has a beau currently in New York, Warren Sheffield, who is supposed to call long distance that night, which is a big deal for 1903. Rose and Esther are hoping Rose can get Warren to propose marriage to her during that call. Rose, for her part, loves the next-door neighbor, John Truett (Tom Drake), but he doesn't quite seem to notice it yet.

Fast-foward to the autumn, specifically Halloween. The two much younger daughters, Agnes (Joan Carroll) and Tootie (Margaret O'Brien), go out and engage in the sort of tricking that I suppose was done in the days before trick-or-treating. Tootie comes back claiming to have been beaten up by John, which threatens to put a crimp in the budding relationship between him and Esther. But putting a much bigger dent in those plans is one evening when Dad comes home and announces that the firm has given him a "promotion" that requires he transfer to New York. Everyone is going to have to start anew, which is a massive problem for the two eldest daughters. Not only that, but they'll miss the World's Fair!

We move again to winter, which means Christmas. There's a big formal ball coming up for Esther and Rose, but mishaps occur that may make the ball a disaster for the both of them. Also, with Christmas coming up, it means that the family's time in St. Louis is about to end, since the family is supposed to move to New York in the New Year. (I'd have thought they'd be closing up the house by Christmas, not leaving everything to literally the last week. Having moved my father a year ago from the house where he'd lived for almost 50 years, I know how arduous that is.) But, since we're getting to near the end of the TCM's allotted time slot for the movie, we know that a happy ending is about to come. The movie concludes with the spring of 1904, which is really a coda of the family at the exposition, lasting far shorter than the previous three seasons.

It's once again easy to see why audiences of 1944 when the movie was released loved it, flocking to it and making it a huge box-office hit. Released during World War II, it's a nostalgic look back much like some of the Fox musicals I've mentioned favorably here. The Technicolor is lovely, and the songs work for those who like musicals. I'm not the biggest fan of musicals in general or of Judy Garland's vocal stylings in particular; I'd much rather re-watch her in The Clock where she's excellent.

But just because Garland isn't to my personal taste doesn't mean the movie isn't good. A year or two earlier the Academy cut the number of Best Picture nominations from ten to five; if they hadn't I'm certain Meet Me in St. Louis would have been nominated. For anybody who's a fan of musicals, Meet Me in St. Louis should be highly appealing.

TCM's 30th anniversary

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Turner Classic Movies signing on; technically it's not a broadcast since it's cable. A lot has changed in the last 30 years, and as we've seen there's been turmoil even in the little world that is TCM. Unsurprisingly, TCM itself is marking the occasion. They've actually been doing so all this month, with various staff members, current and former, sitting down with Ben Mankiewicz on Thursday nights. I have to admit I haven't been watching live, so I haven't seen whether all of the Thursday selections are also airing with old introductions from Robert Osborne.

With today being the actual anniversary, it's not a surprise that TCM is doing stuff today as well even though it's a Sunday. Back in 2014, Robert Osborne sat down with Alec Baldwin for another installment of the irregular Private Screenings that is sadly one of the casualties of all the budget cuts. The interviews from the TCM Classic Film Festival being edited into program-length shows is a nice thing, but I think not quite as good as the old Private Screenings. In any case, the Robert Osborne interview airs at 6:30 PM.

That will be followed at 8:00 PM by Gone With the Wind, which was the first feature film shown on TCM all the way back in April 1994. (As I understand it, it was preceded by the "100 Years of Film" piece that used to air quite a bit on TCM but not in recent years. Of course, one of the changes since 1994 is the political attitudes around movies like Gone With the Wind, and I'm sure that Ben Mankiewicz or whoever presents it will insist on showing how much more socially conscious they are now.

In 2015, Robert Osborne was honored at the TCM Classic Film Festival, in a show reminiscent of the old This is Your Life, hosted by Alex Trebek, another of the many Friends of TCM who is no longer with us. That show will also be showing on TCM, overnight at 1:30 AM, so still Sunday out in the Pacific.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Leaves are better than wind

I've been putting a ton of movies on my cloud DVR simply because I can, there only being time restrictions instead of space limitations. As a result, I've wound up watching a few movies that aren't as good as I might have hoped for. One of the movies that disappointed me was the 1970s western The Winds of Autumn.

An opening subtitle informs us that the action is set in the Montana Territory, 1884. Out hunting is young Joel Rigney (Chuck Pierce Jr., son of the film's director). While out, he spots a couple of shady-looking people, an old woman and two men that look to be about the right age to be her kids. Joel has the good sense to hide from them. We then hear a bit of their conversation. The woman is Ora Mae Hankins (Jeanette Nolan), together with her son Wire (Andrew Prine) and his uncle Pete (Jack Elam). They're planning to get another Hankins out of prison, breaking him out of a work detail.

Joel goes home to inform his family about what he saw, which is when we learn that the Rigneys are Quakers. I didn't know that Quakers made their way to the Montana Territory, as their pacifism seems rather unwise for the American frontier: while they turn the other cheek, the rest of the world is going to chew them up and spit them out.

The Hankins' breakout doesn't quite go to plan, as one of the boys gets shot in the back by a prison guard. The family goes somewhere looking for a safe space to hide and remove the bullet while allowing him time to recover. Wouldn't you know it, but that place just happens to be the Rigney spread. One of the sons sees Joel's older sister, and he's taken with lust, so when she winds up in the barn, he rapes her. Mom goes looking for the girl, and the Hankins men have to act fast, so they murder the entire family.

Well, not the entire family, as Joel was off seeing his friend, the man with a past, Mr. Pepperdine. Joel comes back to the farm to find that his entire family has been murdered, and the rest of the Quaker community looks for a place to put Joel, hopefully with people who can raise him right and not with Pepperdine if at all possible. Never mind what Joel wants.

And since they don't care what Joel wants, Joel decides that he's not going to care so much about what they want. He decides he's going to go look for the people who shot his family, even though he's naïve and doesn't know all that much about the big wide world....

There's a good idea at the heart of The Winds of Autumn, but it's one that doesn't quite work. I think it's down in part to the direction, and partly down to the casting of the kid, who didn't go on to have much of a career when he wasn't being direceted by his father as he was here. It's not a terrible movie, but the whole thing feels decidedly mediocre and more like the 1970s when it was made than the 1880s when it's set.

That having been said, although it's a disappointment, it's an interesting disappointment, and probably deserves one watch so that you can judge for yourself.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Living on Love

When Merian Cooper left RKO, he was involved in a contract dispute that was ultimately resolved with his getting the rights to half a dozen RKO movies, which didn't see the light of day for decades. Around 2007, TCM, finally resolved the rights dispute and showed the films for the first time anywhere in over half a century. One of those six, which shows up really rarely since it's a B movie, is Living on Love. TCM recently did re-run it one of their Saturday matinee blocks, so I finally got the chance to record it.

Now, I knew more or less what the movie is about, since it's a remake of the 1933 film Rafter Romance that shows up a bit more since that one stars Ginger Rogers. Taking the Rogers part is on Whitney Bourne, playing a Mary Wilson. There's a depression on, and Mary is having trouble paying the rent at the Venus de Milo Arms rooming house where she lives. With that in mind, her landlord Eli (Solly Ward) is about to dispossess her. But: he has a proposition for her.

He's got a basement room, and another tenant who is also having trouble meeting the bills. He can have the two of them share the basement room at a reduced rate. One of the catches, however, is that they only get it for half a day each since Mary works days and the other tenant works nights. (As I think I said regarding Rafter Romance, what about weekends?) Mary doesn't like the arrangement, especially when it looks like the other tenant is... a man.

Indeed, that other tenant is male, struggling artist Gary Martin (James Dunn). He doesn't like the idea of sharing his room, even more so since he learns that the other partner is a woman. With that in mind, the two "roommates" start playing a series of increasingly nasty pranks on each other.

Of course, you know that the two are going to meet, although not at the apartment. Instead, it's at a restaurant, and as you can guess the two fall in love. Now, you'd think they'd figure out fairly quickly who each other is, but apparently they don't. They each also have someone pursuing them. For Mary it's her boss, telemarketer Oglethorpe (Franklin Pangborn); for Gary that person is sausage magnate Edith (Joan Woodbury). Everybody winds up meeting for the finale....

Where Rafter Romance is charming, Living on Love comes across as just mean. I think that's partly because Whitney Bourne doesn't have the charm of a Ginger Rogers, and partly because the direction, from RKO's B-king Lew Landers, feels like it's on an extreme budget, running a good 10 minutes shorter than Rafter Romance. Definitely stick to the original.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

The Terminal Man

Michael Crichton had some interesting ideas, both as a writer and a director. Some of the ideas worked out incredibly well, such as The Andromeda Strain or The Great Train Robbery. But one movie where he only wrote the original story, and wasn't so much involved with the making of the actual film, is The Terminal Man. Still, the last time it came up on TCM and I saw the synopsis, it sounded interesting, so I recorded it to watch at a later date.

The movie begins with a pre-credits sequence of a couple of doctors looking at pictures of a man named Benson (George Segal). These pictures were all taken before the "accident" and "incidents", which are alluded to but not fully explained until later. Then we get the credits, set against an eye looking through a door eyehole, obviously spying on someone and suggesting a dystopian panopticon. Once that's over, we see Benson being brought into a hospital, with a couple of policemen standing guard outside the door to his room. He doesn't want the police around, but the hospital think that's necessary because, well, reasons.

Dr. Ross (Joan Hackett) proceeds to tell a bunch of doctors about Benson's injuries and why he's really there. Apparently, he was injured in a car accident, and one of the results was that a brain injury gave him what the doctors call para-epilepsy; that is to say he has seizures that make him violent but that also given him amnesia in that he can't remember what he does while he's having one of his seizures and for some unstated period of time afterward.

Benson is, or certainly was before the accident, a brilliant research scientist working in the then nascent field of artificial intelligence. As a result, the doctors think Benson might be a perfect candidate for an experimental treatment that will implant some sort of computerized device in his brain that will ostensibly control the seizures. It is, however, the first time the procedure has been performed on a human being. And since this is a movie, you have to wonder whether the procedure is going to be successful. Indeed, one of the doctors is not sanguine at all about the prospects of the surgery, especially considering how Benson has become paranoid as a result of the accident and worries about the AI he's been working on taking over the human mind. You have to wonder why he would consent to the surgery -- or whether he's been honestly informed about what the surgery entails.

Eventually, the operation is performed, and Benson is brought into one of those rooms with a one-way mirror to talk about what's going on in his mind as the doctors in the adjoining room watching him activate various electrodes; again, you have to wonder whether Benson is aware of what the doctors are doing to him. One also wonders whether the doctors know what sort of an effect this might have on Benson.

Wouldn't you know it, but the machine malfunctions, and Benson is able to break out of the hospital despite the police guard, eventually looking for his estranged wife (Jill Clayburgh) and the robot research facility where he worked to get revenge on everybody. The police see Benson as a threat and just want to kill him now; Dr. Ross thinks Benson can be reasoned with.

It's easy to see how Crichton came up with this idea and made something that the studios thought would have potential. But watching it, it's also easy to see how the execution goes wrong with the result that a lot of people have less than positive reviews with the same criticism. The movie seems too slow for its own good, certainly in the half of the movie that's set in the hospital. And then once he does escape, the movie seems awfully conventional, like an amalgam of a modern-day Frankenstein story meeting the George Sanders character in Village of the Damned; that is, the one man who wanted to do research rather than destroy the threat immediately.

I have to admit that I tend to fall on the negative side regarding The Terminal Man. Not only is it slow; I also think that George Segal isn't really the best guy for the role, Segal being better suited to slightly roguish comedy than this sort of science fiction dystopia. He tries, but he's not given much to do to make a likeable character.

Still, The Terminal Man is one that should probably be watched if you want to look for ways to see how a movie can go wrong.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Talk about bad luck in men

I don't know how many times I've mentioned it, but I'm always up for a pre-Code movie. One that I recorded a while back and thought that I did a post on, although a search of the site says I didn't, is Lilly Turner. With that in mind, I watched it again and now you get the belated post on the movie.

Ruth Chatterton plays the titular Lilly Turner, who as we see almost from the start of the movie has incredible "bad luck" in the sort of boyfriend she chooses, although at least in some cases she doesn't necessarily have much choice. Not with the first guy, however. Rex Durkee (Gordon Westcott) is a magician, and, being on the stage, is the sort of thing that seems to charm Lilly, who lives in one of those small towns that people in movies of this era always seemed to want to get away from. So, thinking Rex has made it big in vaudeville, she basically elopes with Rex against Mom's advice.

Fast-forward six months, and life on the road isn't nearly all that it's cracked up to be, as she's in one of those traveling carnivals that is struggling to make ends meet. Not only that, but Rex seems to be more interested in his assistant Hazel (Mae Busch in a small role). And then when Lilly finds out that she's gotten pregnant, Rex leaves in a hurry. Although, he's got other reasons for leaving, as we see when a process server comes in looking for him, with Mrs. Durkee in tow. Yes, there's already a Mrs. Durkee, which at least means Lilly isn't legally married and can dump him without consequences. (The baby is stillborn as a plot convenience.)

The closest thing Lilly has to a friend is one of the show's assistants, Dave Dixon (Frank McHugh), who cares about Lilly but also has the problem of being an alcoholic. The carnival boss gets fed up with that, so Dave and Lilly both leave the show, eventually winding up with a medicine show run by "doctor" McGill (Guy Kibbee) and his wife.

Part of the show involves showing how McGill's patent medicine works, and to do that, he has a "strongman" in Fritz (Robert Barrat). Fritz is thoroughly interested in Lilly, although the love is unrequited, and that fact is slowly driving Fritz insane. Literally. When taxi driver Bob Chandler (George Brent) shows up in the audience and starts making eyes at Lilly, Fritz gets some sort of "headache" that's diagnosed by a doctor as a precursor to hereditary insanity, sending Fritz to the insane asylum.

Bob takes on the strongman role, because the taxi driving is really beneath him. In fact, he's got a degree as a civil engineer, but with the depression on he hasn't been able to get any jobs in the area he's qualified for. As you can unsurprisingly guess, he and Lilly fall in love with each other. But then Fritz literally breaks out of the asylum, and comes lookin for poor Lilly....

Lilly Turner is a movie that has an absolutely bonkers plot, fitting so much into its 65 minute running time. And just when you think it's about to settle down, it gets even more nuts. Now, to be honest, for some movies that might be a strike against it, and I can't blame anybody who has a problem with Lilly Turner as a result. It probably didn't bear much resemblance to reality even in 1933. But the cast make this one so absurdly fun.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Within the Law

I've been going through all the B movies I recorded during TCM's salute to B movies last summer, and I think I've finally gotten to the last of the movies I recorded. That would be Within the Law, which has some similarities to the previous one I blogged about, Convicted Women. In any case, having watched Within the Law, now I can do the post on it.

Ruth Hussey, early in her career before she had her breakout role in The Philadelpha Story, plays Mary Turner, working as a shopgirl in Gilder's (Samuel S. Hinds) department store, in the jewelry department. She's dumb enough to leave some of the items on the counter and telling another clerk to watch them. A third clerk takes one of the pieces, intending to store it in her locker until closing time. However, some detectives come into the locker room, forcing this mystery clerk to look for somebody else's unlocked locker to hide the stolen piece. That locker just happens to be the one belonging to Mary. Gilder decides to make a lesson of Mary, with her ultimately getting a three-year sentence.

In prison, she meets Agnes (Rita Johnson) who's been working con games with her boyfriend Garson (Paul Kelly), only to be the one to get caught this last time. Mary and Agnes become friends, but while Agnes intends to go back to Garson once she gets out, Mary looks for a way to get revenge on Gilder. But, because she's got so much time on her hands in prison, she takes books out of the prison library, specifically law books. Her revenge on Gilder is going to be strictly legal.

Eventually, she and Agnes get out of the slammer, and Agnes puts Mary up in part because Mary could use a place to live, while Agnes likes the idea that Mary knows enough about the law to be able to help her and her boyfriend's gang con people in a perfectly legal way. And Mary is surprisingly clever for someone who isn't really a lawyer.

But Mary's plan for revenge on Gilder is to find Gilder's son Richard (Tom Neal) and "con" him into marrying her, although this con is only immoral, not illegal. Richard falls in love with Mary, and because he's a licensed pilot, is able to take a plane to another jurisdiction to elope with Mary before his father can learn what's going on. But complications arise when Mary finds herself falling in love with Richard. He, for his part, fairly stupidly believes that Mary can't possibly be guilty of shoplifting. (The fact that he's right is immaterial; he's still fairly naïve.) A much bigger complication is that Garson decides that with Mary in the Gilder place, he might be able to worm his way into the place and get his gang to steal some of Gilder's artworks.

Within the Law is based on a play that was first staged in 1912, which may be why the plot seems so unbelievable even for a movie from the 1930s. But despite how much the material strains credulity, it's still surprisingly entertaining, thanks to a good performance from Ruth Hussey, and all the sheen that MGM could put on a movie. Within the Law is one of the surprise cases where MGM's gloss actually helps a movie by getting a fine cast for the material. It's definitely worth a watch if it shows up anywhere.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Will you do the fandango?

I think I mentioned it back in September that there's such a thing as a National Day of Silent Pictures, obviously promoted by the sort of groups that want to preserve the extant pictures and restore any that should be found. TCM ran a full day of silents to promote the occasion, and it gave me the opportunity to record several movies that I hadn't seen before. One of them was the 1923 film version of Rafael Sabbatini's Scaramouche.

The movie helpfully informs us that it is set in France during the reign of Louis XVI, with all of the class baggage that this implies. We are then sent to a village somewhere in provinical France. Having grown up here and left for Paris to study law is André-Louis Moreau (Ramon Novarro), who is about to return to his home village together with his friend Philippe, who is studying for the priesthood. They return just in time to see an injustice where a peasant dies.

Philippe, being a bit of a Catholic radical, decries this just as the local bigwig, the Marquie de la Tour (Lewis Stone) shows up. Philippe keeps up his radical views, and when the Marquis acts like a dictator, Philippe slaps him, resulting in the Marquis challenging him to a duel. Of course, the seminarian knows nothing about fencing, so the Marquis bests him, killing him in the process. This is, after all, a duel.

And the Marquis can get away with it too, since he's a nobleman. André, not knowing what to do, goes to his godfather, Quintin de Kercadiou. He's got a daughter Aline (Alice Terry) who is about the same age as André, so naturally he falls in love with her. However, it's a love that's not to be satisfied just yet, since the two have class differences and Dad hoping to marry his daughter off to somebody of good social standing like the Marquis. Never mind that Aline loves André and wouldn't want to marry a drip like the Marquis.

André keeps trying to get justice for the death of his friend, but since he's accusing a marquis he's making some very powerful enemies. This results in an order for his arrest, not that of the Marquis. André rather sensibly flees, ultimately joining up with an acting troupe. He becomes a successful playwright, eventually winding up in Paris and getting engaged to the daughter of the man who leads the troupe. The Marquis and Aline show up at one of the plays, and of course she spots André. Meanwhile, the Marquis, being an utter jerk, starts hitting on André's fiancée.

But since this is all set during the reign of Louis XVI, you know that the Revolution is about to start, and that's going to cause problems for everybody, since the mob is going to be braying for the heads of as many aristocrats as they can get.

Scaramouche is the sort of movie where it's easy to see why it was such a big box office hit when it was released a century ago. It's got an easy-to-follow storyline and the sort of melodrama that leads up to a visually exciting climax. Navarro is unsurprisingly good, and this movie was a big boost to his career. The print that TCM ran also looked to be in surprisingly good shape for a movie from 1923. One thing that is slightly surprising, however, is that some of the intertitles look to be a more recent restoration, since there are two totally different typefaces used. Definitely give Scaramouche a chance if should come across it.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

I'm not the only person who thought of From Here to Eternity

Last year on Veteran's Day, TCM ran a lineup of war movies, with prime time being a special look at the role of the American Red Cross during various wars, with Ben co-presenting together with a bigwig from the American Red Cross. One of the movies presented was new to me, The Proud and Profane. Not having heard of it and with the movie having an interesting-sounding plot, I decided to record it and eventually watch it.

The movie opens in 1943, in Nouméa, which is the capital of French New Caledonia. This is the height of World War II in the Pacific, and since France itself had been occupied by the Nazis, overseas territories the Nazis couldn't get to might be used by the allies for their own war-staging efforts, at least when such islands weren't taken by the Japanese. Coming to New Caledonia on the latest transport is new Red Cross worker Lee Ashley (Deborah Kerr).

Lee is met at the airport by the head of the Red Cross mission, sympathetic but no-nonsense Kate Connors (Thelma Ritter), who also knows a thing or two about operating with the limited supplies that the various military and adjunct groups have to deal with. The Red Cross' role here is partly like the USO on the home front, to entertain the men who get rotated out of theater here, as well as to do what they can to minister to those who are brought here injured. It's tough work, and Kate isn't so certain Lee is up to it in part because her husband died some time back on Guadalcanal.

Coming into all of this is a platoon of marines commanded by Lt. Col. Black (William Holden, with a ridiculous mustache that I'd have thought wouldn't conform to USMC regulations). He demands perfection out of his men, in part because there's a war on out there and he has to keep his man alive; at the same time, it's also the Marine way and that's the only like Black knows. Lee is a bit put off by this at first, as is Kate, and the platoon's chaplain Holmes.

Also in the platoon is Pvt. Eddie Wlodcik (Dewey Martin). He and Kate have a relationship together, but it's not a romantic one. Kate was Eddie's foster mother stateside and before the war, and they still have the sort of relationship that a mother and son have, at least among families that aren't dysfunctional.

As for romantic relationships, there's about to be one between Lt. Col. Black and Lee. He starts taking her around the island, and it begins to grow into something as Lee begins to realize that there's more to him than just the taskmaster. It also grows into more, once Lee realizes she's gotten knocked up by the lieutenant colonel. She's thinking of marrying him, the Code really requiring that, but that would also mean her getting sent back to the States.

In the opening that Ben and the Red Cross executive recorded, it was mentioned that the movie is a lot soap opera. And to be honest, once we learn of Lee's pregnancy, the movie really does veer into soap opera territory. We learn more about Black, as well as Lee's journey to find her husband's grave on Guadalcanal, which also leads to more revelations. The movie becomes faintly ridiculous.

As I said in the title, I couldn't help but think of From Here to Eternity as I was watching The Proud and Profane. Part of that is the presence of Deborah Kerr. That, and a scene she and Holden have on the beach were I almost expected them to do the Kerr/Lancaster thing. And of course, there's Kerr in the earlier movie mentioning her now infertility. This is also a movie that, although it's theoretically a war movie, is a lot less about the war itself much like From Here to Eternity isn't really a war movie.

All that said, The Proud and Profane is an inferior movie in every way, although that's not terribly surprising considering how good From Here to Eternity is. The Proud and Profane isn't terribly by any standard, however. It's just that it's the sort of movie that really could have been a good deal better.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Kentucky Fried Movie

Another one of those movies I had heard about as having a bit of a cult status, but never actually getting to see, is Kentucky Fried Movie. TCM ran it some months back, so I recorded it in order to be able to watch it and finally do a post on it. As you can guess, I have now watched it which is why you're getting that post.

Having said that, Kentucky Fried Movie is going to be a tough movie to do a traditional review on. It was made by the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team at the beginning of their career, and the success of the movie allowed them to go on to bigger and better things like Airplane! and the Naked Gun movies. Kentucky Fried Movie is, like those later movies, a broad spoof/satire, but with one big difference. The later movies have overarching plots into which to fit all the spoofs.

Kentucky Fried Movie, on the other hand, is more of a sketch comedy, not even an anthology, so there's not that much to tie the various sketches together. Ostensibly, there's a "movie within a movie" along with "coming attractions" that spoof other movies, and the sort of local TV broadcast in which you might see advertisements for the sort of movies being spoofed here. In fact, the movie starts with a broadcaster talking about what's going to be coming up on the 11:00 news, a broadcaster who comes up multiple times during the movie, along with a local morning talk show segment.

Among the movie genres being spoofed are 70s exploitation movies and the all-star disaster genre, the latter including cameos from Donald Sutherland and George Lazenby. The biggest parody, and the one that's the "movie within a movie", is "A Fistful of Yen", parodying kung-fu movies. Unfortunately, I found it to be the weakest part of the movie, and a part that really drags on.

The TV portions also include several advertisements that those who remember vintage advertisements will probably enjoy. That, and the sort of instructional movie those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s would have seen in school, along with a few extended parodies of TV show genres.

There's also a lot of sex, which makes it a bit of a surprise that the movie got the wider release it did, although also makes it understandable why Kentucky Fried Movie has the cult status it does.

Does the material work? Some of it does, but for me not enough of it did. A lot of contemporary critics unsurprisingly found the material -- especially the raunchiness -- juvenile, although that's not what put me off. For me, it was more that a lot of the humor in Kentucky Fried Movie is the sort where it feels like "you had to be there", and I don't just mean that you had to be old enough to have seen it on its original release in 1977. Yes, some of the material does require knowing now-dated references (the "Point/Counterpoint" that preceded Andy Rooney at the close of 60 Minutes being one example), but even then a good portion of it came across as stuff that really felt funny to a group of friends spitballing ideas late at night where people not at the spitballing sessions aren't in on it. Combined with the kung fu spoof portion of the film being the least funny and going on the longest, it all adds up to Kentucky Fried Movie being less of a hit for me than for other people.

Just don't call them Guest Programmers

Another of the TCM spotlights this month -- well, longer than this month -- is called Two for One. Debuting tonight, April 6, it claims to look at the popularity of the double feature.

They'll be doing this by bringing in a series of moviemakers from various parts of the movie business and having them sit down with Ben Mankiewicz to present a double feature of their own choosing, presumably explaining why the two movies put together would make for a good double feature. There will be 12 or 13 of these, every Saturday in prime time through June. The TCM website says 13 consecutive Saturdays, but there's no listing for May 25 as that's the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend which has tended to be given over to war movies.

Anyhow, the series begins tonight with director Martin Scorsese picking (a perfectly appropriate word; don't get me started on the TCM site's use of the word "curated") two films, both from 1948: Blood on the Moon at 8:00 PM, followed by One Touch of Venus at 9:45 PM.

Personally, I'd love to have seen somebody with the guts to select a double feature of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner followed by Soylent Green.

Friday, April 5, 2024

If it's awful it's better

Recently I was looking through the streaming movie channels on my Roku box, and Cinevault Classics was about to show something that looked interesting, and that I hadn't heard of before, so I sat down to watch it. That movie was the 1958 version of The Whole Truth, a title common enough that there are other movies with the same title and completely different plots.

Stewart Grainger, back in his native Britain more or less, is the nominal star here. He plays Max Poulton, a movie producer whose marriage to his wife Carol (Donna Reed) is hitting a bit of a rough patch. That's in part because his work has him away from home a lot, with the current movie he's working on having him on the French Riviera, or what a British studio's backlot thought could pass for the French Riviera. That movie stars Italian actress Gina Bertini (Gianna Maria Bertale), and because they're both away from home, they spend some time together.

That time together blossoms into something a little more, but of course Max is married, and he's been thinking about trying to patch up his relationship with Carol. Gina, for her part, now has information she could use to blackmail Max, information that might help her advance her career. Max goes to her apartment hotel where she's staying during shooting, to try to deal with this headache. It leads to the sort of heated verbal dispute that the folks in the next apartment would be able to hear, and they'll definitely see Max coming and going.

Max returns home where his wife is hosting a soirée, and coming to that party is an uninvited guest, Carliss (George Sanders). Carliss wants to see Max alone, and informs him that he's from Scotland Yard and that, much more distressingly, Gina has been found stabbed to death! Carliss is going to be working with the French authorities, and starts to pump Max for information about when he last saw Gina and the like.

After the conversation, Max is understandably worried, since the evidence might point to him, even though he's presenting himself to the viewing audience as completely innocent of Gina's murder. But some of the evidence is all the stuff he's left at Gina's place. He goes there to retrieve it so that the police won't find it, and when he returns home, he finds among the guests at the party... Gina, very much not dead!

Max talks to Gina, and we learn that Gina is actually Mrs. Carliss, and that their marriage is estranged in part because her being an actress with some public flings has been bad for her husband's career as a publisher of religious textbooks. (Whatever, although he needs to be in some career where having a straying wife would be very bad PR.) This leads Max to suspect Corliss is lying about a lot. But then Gina winds up being murdered, for real this time, with the body being found in Max's car! Is Max really guilty, or did Carliss do it?

The Whole Truth isn't bad, but the whole thing feels like the sort of material that, in a later generation, would have been a TV movie of the week. In fact, reading about it reveals that the material was originally written as a teleplay for the BBC when they were this sort of live drama the way that US shows like Playhouse 90 or the like were putting on live teleplays. The material then got worked into a stage play, from which the resulting movie was lifted.

Everybody does as well as they can with the material, but, as I said above, it feels kind of lacking. This especially for poor Donna Reed, who doesn't have much to do at all. The casting of George Sanders also sets off a metaphorical flashing red light over him, as if to indicate "Bad guy! Bad guy! Bad guy!"

So, if you're looking through the Cinevault Classic listings and see this one come up again, definitely give it a chance, even if it's by no means the greatest thing any of the cast did.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Clara Bow as a killer might be interesting

1920s actress Clara Bow was known as the "It" girl thanks to here appearance in a silent movie with the title It. Some forty years later, a completely different movie with the title It! was made in the UK. TCM ran it some time back -- I think during October since it's got decided horror elements -- and since the synopsis sounde interesting I decided to record it. Having recently watched it, I can now do the post on it.

The movie starts off with a fire in a warehouse somewhere in London. Cut to a museum, where assistant Arthur Pimm (Roddy McDowall) is walking in for a day at work. He and his boss, curator Mr. Grove, get news of the fire, and go to the warehouse to see what can be saved. It seems as though the only thing that's still standing is a stone statue that came from a delivery of stuff from Prague, which seems surprising considering this was the Communist era and I can't imagine a Czech museum working with the West in the 1960s. There's some sort of inscription on the statue, so Grove sends Pim to get a flashlight. While Pimm is doing that, the statue falls over, killing Grove!

But then things get really weird. Pimm goes home and starts talking to his mother, but the way the scene is staged it sure as heck seems that Pimm's mother is more like Mrs. Bates from Psycho (sorry to spoil Psycho), and sure enough.... Not only that, but Pimm has borrowed one of the jewelry exhibits from the museum for Mom to wear. This guy is an absolute creep.

The statue is getting a bit of attention, however. A curator from the States, Jim Perkins (Paul Maxwell) has learned of it and is thinking of buying it and shipping it to America for the museum he works for. But before this can happen, the statue kills a couple of janitors, which really makes the news. All this time, Arthur is trying to woo Ellen Grove (Jill Haworth), daughter of the deceased curator.

Now, I knew enough about history to suspect that the statue was in fact a golem, what with the inscription being in Hebrew, so you'd think the curators might have figured this stuff out right away. But since a lot of viewers probably wouldn't know, we get an establishing scene with a rabbit telling us that this is a golem, and that it would protect the Jews of the ghetto where it was created by finding the scroll and placing the scroll in its mouth.

Naturally, Arthur decides that he's going to look for the scroll, and then use that scroll to become the golem's master, first killing the new curator, since Arthur thought he was going to be named curator instead. Things spiral out of control from there, and there's the question of how to stop the golem.

It! is another of those movies where you can see why the people involved in making it would want to make it, but one where it doesn't quite work. I think that part of it is that I found it hard to believe it would have taken everybody so long to figure out that the statue was even a golem. A museum like that would have been seeking out experts right away. On top of that is McDoall's character, who is such a nasty creep that it's hard to have any sympathy for him. He's not a tragic figure, which I think it what the movie would need for a lead.

But, as always, watch and judge for yourself. It! wasn't made by Hammer, but I think the sort of people who like the 1960s Hammer horror might well enjoy It!.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

I'd like to buy a vowel

I tend to be up for watching movies from the 1930s, and especially if they star certain actors above others. One person I'm always willing to see is May Robson, so when TCM ran a movie of hers that was new to me, You Can't Buy Everything, I made a point to record it so that I could watch later. Recently, I finally got around to watching it off my DVR.

The movie starts with an opening scene set in 1893, with May Robson playing Hannah Bell, claiming to be the mother of a young child, Donny, which seems ridiculous considering that Robson would have been about 75 at the time. Now, if the movie concluded as something contemporary, ie. she'd have a kid pushing fifty, using her in this establishing sequence would make more sense. But.... In any case, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Hannah is taking Donny to the charity clinic under an assumed name, he having hurt his knee because Hannah wasn't able to care for him properly. After arranging for charity care, she reads a newspaper article about the Knickerbocker Bank, which has just elevated someone to the office of vice-president, John Burton (Lewis Stone). This absolutely enrages Hannah, who goes down to the bank.

There, we learn that Hannah is not in fact poor at all. She's quite rich, having married a who did well enough in business to leave Hannah seed money when he died, money which Hannah has grown into something quite substantial. But when she was less well off before her marriage, she apparently was in love with Burton, whose parents nixed the marriage. So Hannah has hated Burton ever since, and decides that she's not going to have one cent of her money in a Burton bank. She withdraws everything and takes it to a new bank, where she's more or less the boss because she's got the largest deposit.

Fast forward to 1906. Donny is now all grown up and about to graduate from Princeton, head of his class. Hannah is even richer than ever, and proud of Donny, expecting him to be able to run the bank now that he's a college graduate. Donny, however, doesn't want to go into banking; he'd rather be a writer. Hannah seems like even more of a miser than ever, so a mutual friend of her and Burton decides he's going to try to figure out what the heck made Hannah such a bitter blankety-blank.

Unfortunately, the planned meeting between Hannah and Burton doesn't happen. What does happen, however, is that Hannah and Burton's children meet. Donny (William Bakewell) meets Burton's daughter Elizabeth (Jean Parker) on the friend's yacht, and they fall in love. Of course, they learn about the difficult relationship between their respective parents, and that may prevent them from getting married, especially when Hannah thinks Elizabeth is only after Donny's money.

Move ahead one more year, to 1907. Donny and Elizabeth did indeed get married, and went off to Europe. While they're away, a bank panic hits. Banks like the Knickerbocker bank are in serious difficulty, while Hannah, who has always been more willing to invest only in safer schemes even if they don't bring in high interest. She sees this as her big chance to get back at Burton. They get back to news of the financial panic as well as what Donny's mom did to Elizabeth's dad....

As soon as I saw the opening scene in the charity hospital, I couldn't help but think of a woman named Hetty Green, who was in the old almanac-style Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest miser or some-such. That's a bit unfair to her; Hetty was closer to thrifty than miserly. But the legend of Green's miserliness was well-known in those days, and this story turns that up to 11, not using her real name probably out of fear of getting sued by her children (Hetty died a good 15 years before the movie was made).

The story in You Can't Buy Everything isn't bad, although it does feel like a bit of a cop-out at the end. Robson, for her part, does quite well playing the villainess who has a change of heart just in time, even if she is way too old for the opening scenes and probably a few years too old even for the bank panic era. There's nothing spectacular here, but You Can't Buy Everything is a good example of the sort of programmer MGM was putting out in the mid-1930s. It's definitely worth a watch.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

TCM Star of the Month April 2024: Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando (r.) with Karl Malden in On the Waterfront (8:00 PM, April 3)

This month sees the centenary of actor Marlon Brando. Specifically, that anniversary is tomorrow, April 3. Because the centenary is this year, it's not a surprise that TCM would finally pick this time to make Brando their Star of the Month. Every Wednesday in prime time, TCM will be airing some of the movies that Brando made during his roughly 40-year career.

Now, normally since the movies are airing Wednesdays in prime time, I'd put this post up on the first Wednesday of the month. But in fact, since tomorrow is the centenary, TCM is starting the tribute early, at 6:00 AM tomorrow with The Fugitive Kind.

As of right now, I don't have any of Brando's movies on my DVR that I haven't blogged about before, but I will be recording some stuff as there are a few of the movies airing that I haven't blogged about before. One pleasant surprise on the schedule is The Godfather on April 10; I thought one of the other cable conglomerates had the broadcast rights to that sewn up for ages. Apparently TCM had enough of a budget to get the rights for one more showing. Also on April 10 is Last Tango in Paris.

April 17 sees Guys and Dolls, which has been airing on one of the FAST platforms; I think it's the channel that airs old Samuel Goldwyn movies since they produced the film version originally. April 24 brings Apocalypse Now, as well as one spot on the schedule currently listed as "to be announced".

Monday, April 1, 2024

Accident

Dirk Bogarde having been TCM's Star of the Month last September, it gave me the chance to record quite a few of his films that I hadn't seen before, since most of his work was in Europe. Among those movies was one with an intriguing premise, Accident.

The opening credits are over what looks like one of those large houses on the outskirts of town, with some traffic sounds in the background. As the credits come to a conclusion, we hear what sounds like a terrible crash. It is indeed a terrible crash. Hearing it and coming out of the house to investigate is Stephen (Dirk Bogarde). He's a professor at Oxford who lives in the house with his wife Rosalind and their two children, although it's about to become three.

In the car are two of Stephen's students, William (Michael York) and the Austrian Anna (Jacqueline Sassard, who must have been yet another of those Europeans that English-language studios were trying to groom for stardom since I don't recognize the name. Sadly, William is dead, while Anna is in shock. So Stephen brings Anna into the house before calling the police, and keeping Anna from having to deal with the police. Since Stephen's house is out in the middle of nowhere, the police realize that William and Anna were on their way to visit him, and ask the obvious question of why.

Flash back to the rest of the story. Stephen has already been working as a sort of thesis advisor to William when Anna first shows up, supposedly the daughter of a former prince. She's good-looking, so naturally everybody becomes interested in her. Stephen is of course already married, so he shouldn't show any interest in her. William's the right age, and he's going to be one of Anna's fellow students, so it seems more natural for him to try to start a relationship with her. Even some of Stephen's colleagues seem to want Anna.

So we get a bunch of talky scenes where all of the prinicpals are together in some fairly nice-looking locations since this is Oxford, after all, and Stephen's house has some nice gardens. Stephen goes looking for nookie while his wife is in confinement, various people keep pursuing Anna, and there's a bizarre party scene where all the men play what seems to be a British grown-up version of keep away.

And this is where I had huge problems with Accident. It's one of those movies that seems like it's trying to be daring, and a bit arthouse, with the ultimate result that it's just boring and overcomplicated. None of the characaters are worth getting emotionally invested in.

Unfortunately, when it ran on TCM, Ben Mankiewicz seemed more concerned with the fact that the film's director, Joseph Losey, was one of those Americans who left for Europe as a result of the blacklist, as though this makes the movie immune from criticism. Accident is just plain lousy. But as always, judge for yourself.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Starting April's TCM features early

Today is still March 31, but I wanted to mention one of the TCM spotlights for April today already because it begins first thing on April 1. The year 2024 is the centenary of when Marcus Loew, owner of a theater chain, bought both Goldwyn Pictures (technically named only partly after Sam Goldwyn as he was born Goldfish and only later chahged his name to Goldwyn) and Louis B. Mayer's studio; speficially, the merger happeed in mid-April 1924 as the company became MGM.

Last year saw the 100th anniversary of the founding of Warner Bros., and TCM celebrated that one with a full month of movies coming entirely from the studio (and the distribution arms it wound up controlling at various points). For the MGM anniversary, however, TCM is only running 24-hour marathons every Monday, going from 6:00 AM to 6:00 AM Tuesday, which is why I'm writing up the post on Sunday, March 31, to be able to mention this.

In fact the first picture up is one that's still suitable for the Easter lineup, that being the 1925 silent version of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. The movies will be shown roughly chronologically, in that each Monday will be a different era, getting into the 1980s on the evening of April 29. Of course, MGM, unlike Warner Bros., didn't manage the transitional eras of the coming of television and then the end of the Production Code very well, so while the studio still technically exists, it's not exactly a big name like some of the other studios.

Granted, I think that if TCM had wanted to they would have been able to put together a full 30-day lineup of movies. Not saying they should have, of course; I know a lot of people found the month of Warner Bros. a bit tiresome. And if you've read this blog long enough you know some of the problems I have with MGM. But there is a reason they hold a big place in the history of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Easter Parade

With it being Easter today, TCM has a traditional lineup of movies with religious themes. But one other movie that they seem to pull out every Easter is an appropriate one not just because of the title, but because the opening and closing scenes are set on (secular) Easter: Easter Parade.

The movie opens on Easter Saturday, 1911, although the movie doesn't quite mention dates until much later in the movie. Fred Astaire, playing dancer Don Hewes, is singing a song and doing some gift shopping. Eventually, he goes into a toy store to by a stuffed rabbit, but that's really just an excuse for a fairly spectacular dance number involving him and the little boy from whom Hewes is going to get that bunny.

The gifts are for Don's kinda-sorta girlfriend, Nadine Hale (Ann Miller). But Nadine isn't just a possible romantic partner; she's also Don's dance partner in the dance pair Nadine and Hewes who do revue shows and the like. I say "is", but it's about to become "was". Don has signed the two of them up for another road show, but Nadine has decided she wants to try to make it on Broadway. With that in mind, she's signed a contract to appear in what is going to become the latest edition of the Zigfeld Follies.

Don can't convince her not to leave him, so he goes to a bar to try to drown his sorrows. Except that this is an odd little dive bar in that it also has a floor show, complete with numerous chorus girls. One of those chorus girls is Hannah Brown (Judy Garland), and Hewes is so taken with her that he decides to tell her she should come see him the following morning since he wants her to be his new dance partner. She thinks the guy is crazy, and even rips up his business card, until she finds out that he's the famous Don Hewes.

After rehearsal the next morning, Hannah runs into Don's best friend, Jonathan Harrow (Peter Lawford). Jonathan is also taken with Hannah, and proposes to take her out to dinner, but you know Jonathan is going to be the third wheel in any relationship in the movie. Indeed, he later winds up pursuing Nadine for reasons that don't really make much sense and don't do all that much to advance the plot.

Don and Hannah go out on the road and are able to work steadily if not spectacularly, at least not for several months. Eventually, Don signs a contract for the two of them to star in a musical revue of their own, which after rehearsals and road previews, is set to open on Broadway on Easter Saturday 1912. The premiere is in fact a success, but when the two go to the Ziegfeld Follies to celebrate, Nadine asks Don to do one of their old numbers with her, leading Hannah to think he only used her to get back at Nadine. This was in fact Don's original intention, but along the way he truly fell in love with her.

Easter Parade is a movie that has a very slight story -- indeed, it's the sort of on-again, off-again series of misunderstandings that I could easily have seen Fred Astaire doing with Ginger Rogers at RKO a decade earlier. Here, the story is set against a series of songs written by Irving Berlin that are used as the basis for dance numbers. The story isn't much, as I said, and frankly it's by far the weakest part of the story. Indeed, in that regard I'd rate the movie a notch below one of Berlin's earlier musicals, Alexander's Ragtime Band.

But what Easter Parade has going for it is a couple of things. One is those dance numbers. Fred Astaire was much better in terms of dancing that any of the cast of Alexander's Ragtime Band. It also has Technicolor, which makes a movie like this that much better. Indeed, I don't think the movie would be memorable at all if it had been made in black and white. That's how much weaker the story is than even the old Fred-and-Ginger films.

So, although I had some problems with Easter Parade, it's definitely a movie that's worth watching. And I think that if you're the sort of person who likes the dance numbers, you'll really love Easter Parade.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Untamed (1929)

A movie that I saw ages ago but never did a blog post on is the Joan Crawford early talkie Untamed. (I did briefly mention it once since there's a completely different movie also called Untamed starring Susan Hayward on which I did a blog post over a decade ago.) It aired on TCM some months back, so I recorded it in order to be able to watch it again and finally do a post on it. I've gotten around to watching that recording, and now you get the review.

The movie starts off with an intertitle, not uncommon for early talkies, informing us that the action is set in South America in the remote valley of Zoro. We then meet one of the main characters, Bingo (Joan Crawford), doing a dance for some of the oil workers in the area, at least for some values of dancing since this is after all Joan Crawford. Now you might think that Bingo is some sort of exotic native, but in fact she's really the daughter of an oil prospector Dowling who is presumably a widower, otherwise, Bingo would be back in the US with Mom. In any case Bingo's dance is exotic enough that all the men want to dance with her, including some locals who put the moves on her in a way she doesn't appreciate.

Back at home base, Dowling meets a couple of old friends he invited to help him with the search for oil, Ben (Ernest Torrence) and Howard (Holmes Herbert). While the three of them are in some sort of makeshift office, one of the locals who had propositioned Bingo at the dance shows up, telling Dowling that he's going to be pursuing Bingo. Yeah, right. Dad isn't about to have any of that, but instead of just saying no and waiting to escalate only if the guy tries again, he decides to use force to get the guy to back off. When Dad starts hitting the guy with his cane, the guy pulls out a knife and stabs Dowling fatally.

Ben and Howard aren't certain what to do with Bingo. They had been planning on going with Dowling farther into the wilderness in their search for oil, but with old man Dowling dead they don't know if taking Bingo with them is such a good idea. And besides, Bingo is technically rich since the oil wells were successful and she's inheriting the company. With that in mind, the two men decide they should take Bingo back to New York and make a woman out of her so that she can find a "suitable" man from among the smart rich set, even though she's never been around such men.

On the boat back to New York, Bingo bumps into Andy McAllister (Robert Montgomery). They've never met before, but the two immediately fall for each other, even though Andy seems to have a girlfriend with him on the trip. (There's one particularly humorous scene in which Bingo and the other woman nearly come to blows.) There's a problem, however, in that Andy doesn't really have wealth; he's the sort of guy in these pre-World War II movies who's trying to work his way up the ladder and you can see him getting an offer for a "job in South America" that may speed up proposing to his girlfriend.

When they get to New York, Ben tries to get Bingo to realize that Andy can't really provide for Bingo the way that a stereotypical man should be able to provide for a wife, and nobody wants Andy to be living off Bingo's money. So they separate for a while, but that's not going to cool their ardor. Things really get creepy when we learn that Howard also has some sort of feelings for Bingo and wants to take on Bingo as his duty to the late Mr. Dowling.

Untamed starts off in the vein of being crazy fun, with Hollywood's highly inaccurate look at Latin America while never getting off the back lot. The characters seem thoroughly unrealistic, but in a way that's strange and not tedious. Once everybody gets back to New York, the movie becomes more conventional, but it's never uninteresting because of its provenance as an early talkie.

Untamed got a DVD release from the Warner Archive MOD scheme many years ago, even before I posted about the Susan Hayward Untamed. In fact, the Susan Hayward movie eventually got a DVD release from Fox's MOD scheme not long after I posted my review on it back in 2013. So if you want to see the Crawford movie, pay attention to what movie you're getting.

Friday, March 29, 2024

How the West Was Won

I mentioned at the start of the week in conjunction with Debbie Reynolds being TCM's Star of the Month for March that there was was at least one of her movies that I've got on my DVR and haven't done a post on before. That movie is the epic How the West Was Won. It's coming up early tomorrow morning (March 30) at 4:30 AM, so now we get the post on it.

Spencer Tracy narrates this movie that at times feels like an anthology, but is really more of an episodic movie since some of the characters appear in multiple segments, and many of the characters who are only in one segment are all part of the same family. Anyhow, Tracy informs us that it hasn't been all that long since the American frontier was conquered, and that in the early days of trying to move west it was particularly difficult, at least until the construction of the Erie Canal (completed in 1825) really made it a good deal easier to get to at least western Missouri. We then cut to 1839 for the first segment....

The first segment, called "The River" deals with one family trying to migrate west in search of more fertile land, although west here more or less means the Ohio Valley, which I'd have though was fairly comprehensively settled by 1839; Wikipedia suggests Cincinnati had already been incorprated for a generation and had a population in the mid-five-figure range. In any case, the family, the Prescotts, consists of father Zebulan (Karl Malden), mom Rebecca (Agnes Moorehead) and daughters Eve (Carroll Baker) and Lilith (Debbie Reynolds). They meet trapper Linus (James Stewart) before all of them get waylaid by some dubious pirates of the river (their leader is played by Walter Brennan). An accident in river rapids kills Mom and Dad; Eve marries Linus and Lilith heads for greener pastures.

Those pastures take her to Saint Louis in 1850, where she's workin as an enterainer who finds out that she's somehow inherited a gold mine out in California. So as with Westward the Women mentioned recently, she has to go west to California to take possession of the mine. She's followed by some suitors, notably professional gambler Cleve Van Valen (Gregory Peck).

Back to Eve's side of the story, when the Civil War comes she's got an adult son Zeb (George Peppard). Linus and Zeb both go off to fight, but when Zeb sees the hell that war truly is, a confederate he meets (Russ Tamblyn) suggests the two of them desert and go off somewhere together. But there's a lot more tragedy to come.

After the Civil War, the Transcontinental Railroad gets built. Zeb is still in the Army, now in the cavalry, trying to keep the peace with the various Indian tribes despite the fact that Mr. King (Richard Widmark), the man from the railroad, wants to get the track laid and who cares what the Indians think.

Finally, after leaving the Army, there's one last segment that reunites the two branches of the Prescott family. Lilith is forced to sell her home in San Francisco, deciding to retire to a ranch in the Arizona territory. But she's old, so she invites her nephew Zeb, by now married (Carolyn Jones playing his wife) to come along and run the place. When they get to Arizona, Zeb runs into Gant (Eli Wallach), an outlaw who's there to try to steal one of the shipments of gold.

It's easy on watching How the West Was Won to see why it was such a massive commercial success when it was released. The story is actually fairly pedestrian, but the movie was made in Cinerama, so I can only imagine how spectacular it must have been to see the movie as it was intended to be seen in the original Cinerama.

Unfortunately, however, most people don't have the sort of curved screen necessary to see Cinerama in its original aspect ratio and presentation format. In days past, this meant that TV presentations would be cut down, and there would be severe crease-like lines where the various segments of the print were supposed to meet up. Nowadays, restorers have tried to solve that problem through the use of the "smilebox" format that attempts to replicate the experience one would have had in the theater where the left and right edges of the screen are closer to the viewer than the middle.

I'm sorry to say that this doesn't quite work. First, I get the impression that the smilebox format is really more curved than it needs to be. Some of the photos I've seen of Cinerama screens do show a clearly evident curve, but not as much as the smilebox format has. The bigger problem, however, is how translating Cinerama to the smilebox distorts motion. I've always felt like there was something off in Cinemascope backgrounds when there are scenes with long panning in that the motion in parts of the background don't look quite right. In the smilebox format, this is much more severe, almost like what you'd see if you were moving around a sphere with stuff being reflected off of it.

But if you're the sort of person who doesn't tend to notice such distortion, or if you ever get the chance to see it in the original Cinerama (I don't know how many Cinerama screens still exist; would it be possible to translate Cinerama to an IMAX screen?), give How the West Was Won a chance. It's certainly a spectacle.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Westward the Women

A movie that's part of the old Turner library that formed the backbone of the TCM programming back in the day, one that I'd seen show up on the schedule a bunch of times but never got around to watching, was Westward the Women. The last time it showed up on TCM, I made a point of putting it on the DVR so that I could finally watch it and do a review on it.

The movie opens with a title card telling us that it's California, 1851. So, it's just after statehood, but much of what's between California and Missouri is terribly undeveloped such that getting across the country is difficult. As such, a lot more men have moved west than women, and in a place like Whitman's Valley, there's a bunch of unmarried men and no unmarried women. Mr. Whitman (John McIntire) meets Buck Wyatt (Robert Taylor), who recently guided another party across the plains and Rockies to San Diego. Whitman discusses the area's problems, and eventually decides that perhaps Buck should go back east for and arrange another crossing party, but this one with unmarried women who can then marry the men in Whitman's Valley.

Three months later, Whitman and Buck have made their way to Chicago, where they set about recruiting women for the trip. Buck expects that fully one-third of the women are likely to die since the trip is so difficult and who knows how experienced these women are. Some of the women seem like they're more than tough enough for the journey, such as Patience Hawley (Hope Emerson). On the other hand, a couple of showgirls, Fifi (Denise Darcel) and Laurie (Julie Bishop) show up in their good clothes. Whitman and Buck both think that's going to be a problem, but the two are so earnest that they find themselves some plain clothes and convince the two men to take them along.

After assembling a large group of women, Buck begins to tell them just how hard the journey is going to be, telling the women they're more than welcome to leave at this point, although of course none of them do. Thankfully a couple of them know how to handle horses, so they'll be able to teach the other women how to lead the horses and mules that are going to be handling the wagons and their packs. One other catch, however, is that Buck doesn't want the women fraternizing with his men, since that's bound to lead to conflicts if either multiple women like the same man or multiple men like the same woman.

Eventually, they set off on the voyage west. At least the first part isn't that difficult, as they head up the Missouri River to Independence, which is about as far west as they can get in Missouri without being too far north of where they need to go in California. That part they can do by boat. Once they get to Independence, they have several days to start training for all the hard work they're going to have to do, before finally setting out overland to California.

Unsurprisingly, the journey is as difficult as you can imagine, with pretty much everything you can think of as fitting into a movie about pioneering west showing up. Will everyone get to California? Will a third of the women die as Buck tells them at the beginning? Well, I won't tell you who lives and who dies; as with any good disaster movie from the 70s part of what makes it interesting is that it's not obvious who will be around in the final reel.

Westward the Women was made at MGM, where Robert Taylor was a contract player, and to be honest, westerns are the sort of genre I wouldn't expect MGM to be all that good at. But thanks to a very good script (conceived some years earlier by Frank Capra of all people) and excellent direction (unsurprising considering it's William Wellman), the movie turns out very well. And for an MGM movie it's surprisingly harsh at times.

The only bad thing is that Westward the Women was released in 1951, and in black and white. I think it would have benefited somewhat from color, but would have looked even better had it been made after the introduction of widescreen. Indeed, I'm thinking of a similar movie from much earlier, The Big Trail, which was actually released in an experimental wide-screen practice and covers many of the same themes. In any case, Westward the Women is definitely worth watching.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Abandoned

There's often some dispute over what counts as a noir when you're on the edges of the genre. Some movies have decided noirish elements even if I think they're not quite noir. But I can see why other people might group them in with noir. Such is the case with one of Eddie Muller's Noir Alley choices from several months back, the 1949 crime/suspense movie Abandoned.

After some narration that would have been right at home in The Naked City a year earlier, we're introduced to one of the main characters. Paula Considine (Gale Storm) walks into a police station in Los Angeles looking for the Bureau of Missing Persons. She's arrived in the big city from a small town in Pennsylvania, after having gotten a letter from her big sister. Since then, radio silence from big sister. The man at the desk is about to finish up his shift for the night, so he suggests Paula fill out the form overnight and come back in the morning.

Meanwhile, a fairly nosy man shows up at the desk and starts chatting up Paula. That man is Mark Sitko (Dennis O'Keefe), a reporter for the Mirror. Sitko may have been looking for information on somebody else, but he knows a good story when he hears it, and having heard Paula's story, he suspects a good one here. Eventually they go to the morgue and, looking through the book of unidentified dead people there, Paula recognizes her sister's photo. The sister was found in a car in the garage of a building under construction, dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, in what to the coroner seems like an obvious suicide. Except that Paula knows her sister didn't know how to drive, which to her suggests it's not a suicide.

Then, on the way out of the morgue, Mark is smart enough to realize that Paula is being tailed by a figure in the shadows. Mark comes up with a plan to get the man out of the shadows, and when that happens he recognizes the man as Kerric (Raymond Burr), a private investigator. He claims that he was working for Paula's father to try to find Paula's sister; once Paula left Pennsylvania her dad wanted Kerric to find her too. But of course all of this is several years before the premiere of Perry Mason on TV, so the presence of Raymond Burr in the cast likely means a bad guy.

Meanwhile, it's been revealed to us that the letter Paula received from her sister is on the letterhead of a hospital, and that the sister was pregnant and there to give birth. Mark thinks that there's something fishy going on, and that the sister may have gotten involved with what is not a reputable adoption agency. So they take the case to the district attorney (Jeff Chandler), who informs them that he's swamped, so they're going to have to do some investigating themselves.

As for Kerric, he goes to visit a Mrs. Donner (Marjorie Rambeau), and it's revealed that she's the woman involved with running the illegal adoption ring, paying the expenses of the unwed mothers and then selling off the babies to parents who can't wait to adopt through the normal channels. All of this is within the first 20 minutes or so of the movie, so there's not much mystery here. Instead, as Alfred Hitchcock would argue, it's suspense in that we know who the bad guys are and what they're doing, but will the reporter and sister be able to find out and get out of danger?

Abandoned was the sort of movie something between a B-movie and a programmer that Hollywood produced in the years after World War II; I've argued that MGM's equivalent tended to be the sort of films that paid for the Freed Unit to make all those musicals. This one, however, was made at Universal; that combined with definitely not being a prestige picture and not having the biggest stars goes a long way to explaining why it's not very well known today.

There are some obvious noir elements in the photography and the heavies that make it easy to understand why Eddie Muller would program it for Noir Alley. The fact that I consider it more of a crime/suspense movie than a noir doesn't mean I didn't like it, however. It's quite well done for a movie on a budget, with a fairly effective story and good characterizations, especially from Rambeau.

Abandoned is available on DVD from Universal's MOD scheme, and is definitely worth a watch.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Black Belt Jones

Some time back, TCM ran the blaxploitation movie Black Belt Jones. It's one of the blaxpoitation films I have to admit I had never even herd of, let alone seen, before TCM showed it, so I decided to record it. As is always the case, having recently watched it, I can now do the review on it.

The movie starts off with a James Bond film-style pre-credits sequence of a meeting at a winery. One guy is about to give two other guys a large sum of money for some pictures in what is apparently a form of blackmail. The guys who have the pictures, however, double-cross the blackmail victim by garrotting him! And then, during the credits, a black martial arts expert who is of course the titular "Black Belt" Jones (Jim Kelly) takes on an entire gang of what must be the most stupid criminals on film, the members of the gang trying to take down Jones one at a time.

Jones then meets with what seem to be federal law enforcement types, who inform him that three of their men were killed by the people involved with the winery, who are apparently involved with the Mob and have connections with some very highly politically-connected people. The people think Jones is the only one who can take them down, while he understandably doesn't want to be the fourth dead guy.

Jones, being an expert at karate, is friends with the guy who runs the local inner-city dojo/community center, Pop Byrd (Scatman Crothers). Pop is involved with all of this because he borrowed a fair amount of money from a guy named Pinky to be able to open up that dojo. What he didn't know is that Pinky had obtained that money from the Mob. All of this is relevant because the dojo is the last property in a district where the "respectable" city fathers want to build something but apparently can't use eminent domain to buy the dojo. The Mob wants to buy the dojo before the folks building the new place can get it, in order to be able to sell it at an exorbitant price to the buyer who really needs it.

Pinky tries to take down the dojo, but since they know martial arts they're able to stop him the first time. So he tries something more like persuasion, but accidentally kills Pop in the process. In any case, Pop doesn't actually own the dojo; that's his estranged daughter Sydney (Gloria Hendry). Jones finds Sydney, and teams up with her to help take down the Mob and Pinky.

Or at least, that's what the plot is supposed to be. Unfortunately, Black Belt Jones doesn't quite work, in part because the story is a bit hard to follow, but more because the fight scenes strain credulity too much. I mentioned that the criminals in the opening credits are incredibly stupid, but the later fight scenes also have people trying to take down Jones who are so dumb you wonder how they got this far. Just hire a sniper or something to get Jones.

It also doesn't help that the acting is lousy. I'm sorry to say that Jim Kelly is one of the weakest stars I've seen in any of the blaxploitation films, at least those that got a release from a serious studio and not the more independent stuff. Still, because it's a blaxploitation movie and a martial arts movie, there are a lot of people who have elevated Black Belt Jones to the status of a cult film. So it's definitely worth watching once so you can judge for yourself.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Our Old Car

One of the shorts that showed up in the end of the time slot for one of the movies I recently watched was one of the shorts in the John Nesbitt's Passing Parade series: Our Old Car.

There's not a whole lot here, in many ways even less than in other entries in the series. John grew up with his family in one of the houses on the MGM back lot starting at the turn of the 20th century. Dad (Arthur Space) bought a series of cars, starting with a 1900-modely roadster that frightened his wife (Jacqueline White), she not having been close to a car before. As the decades go by, the family gets better and better cars, notably a Stanley Steamer, with John narrating how the technical specs on each car are better than the previous one.

But it's not all better cars. John grew up and went off to college, getting the sort of stereotypical jalopy that you'd see the young ones owning in movies of the era. The orther people who show up on their street also go through car ownership, and families grow and change. The short was released in June of 1946, so there's mention of one of the families being Gold Star parents, having lost a son in World War II.

This is in my opinion not the best of the Passing Parade shorts by any means although it's not exactly bad. But I mention it for a couple of reasons. One is that I've looked, and haven't been able to find that the Passing Parade shorts have ever gotten a DVD release the way some of the others have.

The other thing worth mentioning is the appearance of Jacqueline White as Mrs. Nesbitt. She's best remembered for her final film, The Narrow Margin, and is as of my writing this still alive. Sources differ on her age; some say she was born in November 1924 which would make her 99; others say 1922 which would put her at 101.

TCM Star of the Month March 2024: Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds and Harve Presnell in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (March 29, 8:00 PM)

With TCM running 31 Days of Oscar from February 9 through March 10, that made the "new" month's programming be a bit different. I mentioned a couple of weeks back that the spotlight on working women was five weeknights in prime time over one week, rather than one night a week for the month. And so it is for the Star of the Month. That Star of the Month is Debbie Reynolds, and her movies will be featuring every night this week in prime time, kicking off tonight at 8:00 PM with Singin' in the Rain.

Debbie Reynolds (r.) with Bette Davis in The Catered Affair (March 26, 8:00 PM)

I actually don't have all that many pictures of Reynolds saved. On the other hand, I've got several of her films on my DVR, although most of them I've already done blog posts on in the past year. The one exception is How the West Was Won (March 30, 4:30 AM), so that one will be getting a post of its own later in the week.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

I hadn't seen it, but in some ways I had

Another movie that looked like it was interesting but had a synopsis that sounded like I might have seen it before was Boxcar Bertha. As it turned out, it was new to mee, but there were good reasons why it seemed familiar.

That familiarity started with the American International logo, and opening credits that inform us this is based on characters from interviews an author did with one Bertha Thompson. Now, Bertha Thompson was a wholly fictional character, although the movie is adapted from a book published in the 1930s. But all of this made me think of some other American International pictures like Bloody Mama and even more so Big Bad Mama.

Bertha, who eventually gets the nickname Boxcar, is played by Barbara Hershey. As the movie opens, she's not yet Boxcar, instead living with her father who is a crop duster some where in the south during the Depression. The rich farmer he's working far isn't satisfied, so Dad has to go up again and do some more risky work, which results in his crashing and leaving Bertha an orphan.

Bertha takes to the hobo life, and in one of the rail camps she meets Big Bill (David Carradine). He's a sort of union organizer, but it's one of those communist-type unions -- or at least the authorities would have you believe so. Because of this, Big Bill is always on the run, and Bertha joins him. The two run into a couple more men. First is Rake (Barry Primus), a card sharp who is able to fleece rich men in card games; there's also Von (Bernie Casey), who worked for Bertha's father.

The team's crime wave, and the fact that Big Bill is a union organizer, has the head of the railroad, Sartoris (John Carradine) worried. So he keeps sending his Pinkerton-like armed goons after the gang, eventually getting them when they try to hold up his train. This results in the killing of Rake, while Von and Bill get sent to prison. Bertha escaped, however, but she doesn't have anywhere to go when she can't find the cash that they had taken when the team robbed banks.

As a result, Bertha is found by the owner of a brothel, leaving Bertha to pine over Bill. At least until she runs into Von again by chance, and he knows what happened to Bill. The two may or may not be able to live happily ever after....

It's easy to see why I was wondering whether or not I had seen the movie before. Producer Roger Corman made stuff on a budget with the aim of getting a lot of product out there. And with other Depression era gangster movies having been made at American International, as well as the release a few years earlier of Bonnie and Clyde, Boxcar Bertha has a decidedly derivative feel to it.

Indeed, when the film's director, a young Martin Scorsese, showed it to his mentor John Cassavetes, Cassavetes was scathing over the movie's perceived unoriginality, exhorting Scorsese to be more original. That's a bit unfair to the movie, however. Despite being very much a genre picture on a budget, it's not a bad little movie at all. While Scorsese would go on to much bigger and better things, Boxcar Bertha isn't anything to be ashamed of, and definitely worth a watch.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Titanic (1937)

A couple of months back, TCM aired another new-to-me movie from the 1930s that sounded interesting, so I recorded it: History Is Made at Night. It's got another airing on TCM coming up, tomorrow (March 24) at 8:00 AM, so as always with upcoming movies, I made a point of watching it in order to be able to do a post on it.

Irene Vail (Jean Arthur) is married to Bruce (Colin Clive), owner of luxury liners and yachts, but it's an unhappy marriage as she's not up on deck with him as the movie begins. In fact, she's just written him a letter telling him that she's going to try to obtain a divorce, and that she wishes she'd never met him. With that in mind, she heads off to Paris for the mandatory separation, while he's left to lick his wounds.

Well, not quite. Bruce is insanely jealous, and convinced that the only reason Irene would leave him is because there's another man in the picture. And if his employees insist that there isn't, well, he's going to create one. With that in mind, he has detectives find out where Irene is, and then sends his chauffeur there to create a situation where it looks like Irene has been having an assignation with the chauffeur, thereby destroying Irene's chance of getting a favorable divorce.

But the surprise meeting doesn't go as planned. Irene unsurprisingly resists, and another man not related to her hears it. That man, Paul Dumond (Charles Boyer) is a maître d' at a fancy restaurant in Paris. He barges in, pretending to be a jewel thief to try to save Irene. He and the chauffeur get in a scuffle before Bruce comes in, Paul pretending to take some jewels to make the lie more convincing to Bruce.

The chauffeur was only knocked out in the scuffle but Bruce kills him, telling the police that it was Irene's new lover who did it. Meanwhile, Paul has taken Irene to his restaurant for a meal, and the two fall in love. So when Irene shows back up at her hotel, she finds the chauffeur dead and that Bruce has made it appear that Paul is the guilty party in a way that nobody will be able to convince the authorities otherwise. Bruce uses this to blackmail Irene into going back to New York with him.

Eventually, Paul discovers Irene's real identity, that she's married to a wealthy man in New York, and heads across the Atlantic with his head chef Cesare (Leo Carrillo) to try to find Irene. He gets a job as maître d' at a fancy New York restaurant after saving it from bad business decisions, and sets out trying to do something to get Irene to discover the restaurant, since he doesn't know where in New York she is.

Unfortunately, Bruce learns that the police have found the man they're looking for, or the man they think murdered the chauffeur, even though we know it's neither Paul nor the actual killer. But Bruce is again able to use this to find Irene and blackmail her. Either she goes to Paris to save her lover, agreeing in the process to stay with Bruce, or her lover gets the guillotine. Bruce celebrates by taking her out to dinner, which just happens to be at Paul's restaurant.

So why have I titled this post "Titanic (1937)"? Bruce heads to Paris on the Hindenburg, since one of his ships is going to be trying to break the transatlantic speed record, and he wants to be in Le Havre to meet the ship. Irene takes the boat, with Paul following going with her to testify at the trial. And when Bruce finds out the truth about Irene's lover, he's perfectly willing to have his ship hit an iceberg!

History Is Made at Night is an interesting movie, although I had a problem with the severe plot hole that accompanies the climax of the movie. After the Titanic sank, rules were changed in order to make certain all transatlantic liners would have sufficient lifeboats for everybody on board. So the idea that anybody would be forced to stay on board for lack of space in the lifeboats is totally wrong. But the rest of the movie is pretty darn good, being an interesting mix of romantic drama, disaster movie, and some noirish elements even though noir wasn't really a concept back in 1937.

Boyer and Arthur make an appealing romantic couple, and Clive, who died much too young not long after this movie, is quite good as the nasty jealous husband. It's one that got a DVD release from Criterion and doesn't show up very often on TCM, so now is a good time to watch it.