Thursday, February 29, 2024

So You Don't Trust Your Wife

It's been almost four years since I did a post on one of the Joe McDoakes shorts, but recently one of the movies I did a post on had enough space before the next movie started on TCM that they put in one of the Joe McDoakes shorts: So You Don't Trust Your Wife.

Since this is a short, and relatively close to the end of the McDoakes series, there's not all that much here. One night, Joe McDoakes (George O'Hanlon) is in bed, while his wife Alice (Jane Frazee) is in the other twin bed in the room. She's worried about finances, so Joe informs her that he has a life insurance policy, and that as a result she'll be taken care of if anything should happen to him.

But this gives paranoiac Joe a horrible idea: he begins to think that Alice will find him worth more to her dead than alive, what with that substantal (for 1955 standards) insurance policy. It doesn't help that everything that happens, from the headling in the morning newspaper to a handyman showing up with an ax. Eventually as a result of all the worrying, Joe winds up in a sanitarium!

As I said, there's not a whole lot here, and once again, it's pretty much a one-joke short. But it mostly works, and I suppose that's a reason why series like this were popular until episode TV led movie studios and theaters to come up with other ways than the full night of movies to compete with the idiot box.

I'm not 100 percent certain if I've mentioned it before, but the Warner Archive did put out a box set of the Joe McDoakes shorts. I haven't checked to see if that set is complete. But you can buy it at Critics' Choice Video and at Amazon. (For some reason, Amazon kept wanting to change my search of McDoakes to McDonalds, which is why I couldn't find it on Amazon at first.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Art of Love

Norman Jewison died back in January. I knew that TCM would likely wait until after 31 Days of Oscar to do a programming tribute to him; looking ahead to the March schedule I see that there is one planned for some time after 31 Days of Oscar. But I'll post on that closer to the day of the actual tribute. I had a movie on my DVR that was directed by Jewison and is unsurprisingly not part of the programming tribute, so I've decided not to delay my post on it to coincide with the tribute. That movie is The Art of Love.

After an animated opening credits sequence that looks like it's imitating the Pink Panther style in large part because it was made by the same people (DePatie-Freleng), we cut to a shot of Dick Van Dyke punching his fist through a bunch of art canvases. It's more or less OK, however: Van Dyke is playng Paul Sloan, a starving artist living in a garret apartment in Paris, together with his friend, equally struggling write Casey Barnett (James Garner). Paul has decided to give up the dream of becoming an artist and plans to move back to America to marry his fiancée Laurie. Casey is distressed by this because the two of them have been living off allowances sent by Laurie's wealthy father. If Paul goes back to the US, so do the allowances.

Casey tries to sell some of Paul's canvases, and comes up with an idea. He's trying to write a book based on the American owner of a dive nightclub, Madame Coco (Ethel Merman) and the young women who make up the floor show there. Madame Coco is struggling too, so Casey comes up with the idea that she should buy a couple of the paintings in order that Paul will have enough money to stay in Paris, at which point Casey will too, and can complete the book that will be a big advertising boost to Madame Coco.

Paul, meanwhile, has gone to his art dealer, Zorgus (Roger C. Carmel). In a conversation, Zorgus mentions that a lot of artists are bums, but that bums have a way of becoming famous after death and their paintings suddenly becoming worth a lot more even though they're no better artistically than before the artist's death. With that in mind, Paul mentions it to Casey, and they joke about suicide, with Casey beginning to write a phony manifesto on one of the bridges over the Seine.

But Paul sees a car on the bridge with the headlights still on and the doors open. A woman is threatening to jump off the bridge! Paul doesn't think about his own life any more and decides he's going to try to save her. She falls in the river while he falls on top of one of the barges carrying cargo down the Seine. Thankfully, he's able to save the woman, a young girl named Nikki (Elke Sommer) who had been living with an uncle in Strasbourg but tried to make it in Paris. Not having done so, she decided to try to kill herself instead of going back to Strasbourg. The next day, after the trip has traveled some distance away from Paris, Paul convinces her to get on a bus for Strasbourg.

But at the bus stop, Paul sees a newspaper that has announced the suicide of an American in Paris. As you can guess, that American was one Paul Sloan. Paul of course knows he's not dead, but since he doesn't have any ID with him he wouldn't be able to prove it to the authorities. Or he just doesn't think about that, this being a comedy. Instead, he decides to make his way back to Paris. There, he finds that with his suicide having been publicized in the media, his paintings are selling like hotcakes. Casey concocts a nutty plan to keep Paul in hiding, making new paintings, until showing up at an art show claiming amnesia.

Complicating all of this is that Laurie has decided she's going to come to Paris, although she doesn't know about Paul's supposed suicide or any of the stuff that's followed from there. (She not being the wife, the embassy wouldn't inform her, I guess.) Things fairly quickly spiral out of control from there, as you wonder how the writers are going to extricate themselves from all of this and come up with an ending that satisfies the still-in-place Production Code along with giving viewers the requisite happy ending.

The Art of Love was part of an evening of Dick Van Dyke movies on TCM, presented by Dave Karger. In his outro after the movie, he mentioned that it was a flop. It's really not hard to see why. The movie is an absolute mess. It's not nearly as funny as it would like to think it is, and it seems like there are so many absurd plot holes surrounding Paul's "death" not being found out. It also doesn't help that the Casey character becomes increasingly mean, and taking big part in one of those "comedies of lies" that I tend not to like.

I can see why the people involved with The Art of Love wanted to make it, but can also see where it fails. But as always, judge for yourself.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Call Me Mister

It turns out that there is at least one movie in the FXM Retro rotation that I hadn't blogged about before, at least according to my most recent search of the blog. That movie is Call Me Mister. I recorded it the last time it showed up, figuring that if I hadn't seen it before, it would show up again soon enough and I could do a post on it. With that in mind, the next airing is tomorrow (Feb. 28) at 8:55 AM.

The movie released in 1951 but based loosely on a Broadway revue that was first staged in 1946, starts off by informing us how on the evening of August 14, 1945, America was waiting for the news that eventually did come out of Japan, namely that Japan had surrendered to end World War II. The action then switches to Japan, since there were many many soldiers who were not going to be part of the occupation long term and they needed to be shipped back home.

One of those soldiers is Sgt. Shep Dooley (Dan Dailey). He was a vaudevillean before the war, and supposedly pressed into war service so quickly that he carried his tap dancing shoes with him throughout the Pacific. So now he wants to dispose of them on the black market. Good luck with that. Anyhow, while in Tokyo, he walks into a store that's selling kimonos. Who does he run into but one Kay Hudson (Betty Grable). She was his partner in vaudeville before the war, and was even married to him, but the marriage went sour in large part because Shep was a ladies' man and a smooth operator, consistently leaving Kay in the lurch. However, she was never able to finalize the divorce before the war.

Kay is in Japan as part of a group called the CATs, the Civilian Actress Technicians, a group set up by the Army to provide entertainment, but not quite the way the USO did. Instead, the CATs looked for talent within the members of the armed forces, and trained them to put on shows themselves. Kay having been an enertainer stateside, this is the perfect sort of service for her, and would have kept her far away from Shep, or so she thought. What bad luck running into him here.

But there are servicemen stationed in lots of places in Japan, and the army is looking at putting on some shows over in the Kyoto area in the west of Japan. They just need some volunteer CATs. Kay, wanting to get away from Shep again, volunteers, going with her friend Billie (Benay Venuta). At the base where she ends up, she's consistently told nobody can spare men to put on a show, at least until Capt. Comstock (Dale Robertson) sees her. She's so good looking that of course he's willing to let his men do the show just so he can keep her close by. One of his men has natural talent, but that man, PFC Stanley Poppoplis (Danny Thomas) is stuck doing KP. Will he get discovered by Kay?

Unsurprisingly, Shep finds out that Kay has run off to Kyoto, so he follows her out there, making up a story that he's been transferred to Kyoto. He even gets himself put in the show, what with being a more natural performer than any of the regular servicemen. But his story is a lie, and he when he goes back to Tokyo, he finds that the boat that was supposed to take him back to the States to be demobbed has already sailed, leaving him technically AWOL.

And that's part of where all the problems I had with Call Me Mister are. Dan Dailey worked well with Betty Grable, but in Call Me Mister he's being asked to play a character that's more like the sort of schmoozer Jack Carson was playing over at Warner Bros. If the Shep character were a supporting character and not supposed to end up with the leading lady at the end, it might work. But here, we're rooting against Shep until the orders from above that you know are going to come to reunite Shep and Kay as well as to satisfy the Production Code.

The 1951 release date that I mentioned also doesn't help. Fox had made a number of good morale-boosting musicals during World War II, and then followed that up after the war by making nostalgic musicals set a generation or two before the release date. This one, however, is only set five years or so before the release, so the old-fashioned pre-war style (musical numbers staged by Busby Berkeley) really make the film seem old-fashioned in a bad way. The movie isn't a period piece, but gives off vibes of being dated.

In many ways, that's a shame, since Grable is always appealing, and Danny Thomas does quite well relatively early in his career. There are also one or two good numbers, with "Goin' Home Train" probably being the best of them. So give Call Me Mister a chance, even though it's decidedly not the best movie from any of the people involved.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Tale Tale

I recorded several horror movies off of TCM last October; needless to say this includes a couple starring Vincent Price. One that I hadn't seen before was the horror anthology Twice-Told Tales.

I recognized the title, because that is actually the title of a collection of short stories by 19th century American author Nathaniel Hawthorne. This movie adaption has three stories from Hawthorne, although only one of them is actually from Hawthorne's original. The other connection is that Vincent Price is the star in all three of the stories, obviously not playing the same character.

The first story is Dr. Heidegger's Experiment. Heidegger, first name Carl, is actually played by Sebastian Cabot; Price plays Heidegger's best friend Alex. The two are elderly best friends, who have stood by each other for decades, Alex helping Carl try to get over the death of his fiancée many years prior. When a storm knocks the top off of the fiancée's crypt, the two men are shocked to discover an exceedingly well-preserved corpse, with some sort of water dripping onto the crypt from a crack above. Heidegger extracts some of the water, and finds that it has remarkable restorative properties, making a withered rose bloom again. In a bit of science that wouldn't be much tried today, he decides to experiment on himself, and he too becomes young again! It also works for Alex, at which point Heidgger gets the thought of injecting it into the fiancée's corps to see if she can come back to life. It turns out there's more going on, of course....

Next up is Rappaccini's Daughter. Price plays Rappaccini, a former professor at a university in Italy who has become a recluse since his wife left him. He lives with his adult daughter Beatrice (Joyce Taylor) in an apartment that opens out to a walled courtyard. In a second-story apartment overlooking that courtyard is Giovanni (Brett Halsey). He sees Beatrice and immediately falls in love with her, but she's dangerous, in that her blood is toxic such that if anybody touches her they'll die. Giovanni doesn't want to believe this at first, and continues to try to get close to Beatrice, which enrages Dad, with nasty consequences.

Finally is The House of the Seven Gables, which is based on a full-length book by Hawthorn and which has been turned on its own into a feature-length film. Price plays Gerald Pyncheon, who returns to the titular house after 17 years. It turns out that the house is cursed for all Pyncheon men, the curse having been proclaimed 150 years earlier as a result of the Salem witch trial. But Gerald is convinced that there's buried treasure somewhere on the grounds, and he's going to find it. His sister, and a descendant of the man who put the curse on the house, both try to stop him. But Gerald is so greedy that he might even kill his own sister and wife to try to get at that treasure.

Twice-Told Tales is a well-done movie, thanks to presence of Vincent Price, good original stories by Hawthorne, and atmospheric saturated color. Being an anthology film, it has the added plus that if you don't like one of the stories, you don't have to wait too overly long for the next one to start: each segment is in the 35-40 minute range. It's definitely worth watching if you get the chance.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

1:08 Courage

A have a tendency to record the movies that Eddie Muller picks for Noir Alley in part because of the likelihood they'll be interesting, and in part for Eddie's presentation of the movies. One that I hadn't seen before was Two O'Clock Courage, which ran several months back. I've finally gotten around to watching it, so now it's time for the review.

The movie opens with a man on a corner of two city streets at night, with a cut on his head from which he's bleeding. He seems a bit out of it and, in trying to cross the street, is nearly run down by a taxi. The driver, Patty Mitchell (Ann Rutherford), gets out, and realizes that there's something wrong with this man. This becomes even more obvious when we learn that the man (Tom Conway) is an amnesiac! (As Eddie mentioned, amnesia seems a way overused plot device in noirs, although Two O'Clock Courage is really more of a mystery than a noir.)

To help the man figure out who he is, Patty has him look through his pockets; perhaps he's got some ID or something that will help jog his memory as to who he is. The somethings suggest that his initials might be D and R, and that he's been to the Regency Hotel. That's not much, so Patty offers to take the man to a police station, where they're more likely to be able to help. However, when they get to the local police precinct, they see someone hawking a newspaper. The screaming headline announces the murder of one Robert Dilling, famous theater producer. The story gives a description of a possible suspect, and that description fits our amnesiac fairly well!

Patty decides to do something that gives us a movie. If she just turned the man over to police, we wouldn't have much of a movie, so she suggests that the man get out of town. He feels he has to prove his innocence, so stays in town, and she decides to spend her shift helping the man as the two of them go about trying to solve the mystery. It seems like a daft idea, should cost Patty a day's pay at least since she's not picking up any fares, and ought to get her charged with aiding and abetting or obstruction of justice. But as I said, we wouldn't have a movie otherwise.

Needless to say, it's not too long before Patty and the amnesiac are found by others, investigating police detective Brenner (Emory Parnell) and reporter Al Haley (Richard Lane). Patty makes matters worse for her and her companion by making up a giant lie about the two of them having just gotten married and him being Clarence Smith, a reporter from Dayton who just stumbled on his case and decided to mix business with pleasure. But at least it's a way not to get thrown off the case.

The murder mystery gets ever more complicated, although at least our amnesiac is able to discover his identity halfway through the movie, one Ted Allison. Ted was in town over a play that a now deceased man (not the murder victim) wrote, and which is now the subject of a royalty dispute. Perhaps all of that might have had something to do with the murder. But who killed Dilling, and why? And was it Allison?

To be honest, you probably shouldn't think too hard to try to solve the murder mystery in Two O'Clock Courage. It's convoluted, and not particularly realistic. The movie straddles the line between post-war noirs with the amnesia (hence why Eddie selected this one for Noir Alley and the comedic murder mysteries that had been a big thing in the late 1930s and early 1940s. (The movie was released in mid-1945.) Being a B movie at only 68 minutes, Two O'Clock Courage doesn't try too hard, but that's something that really works in the movie's favor. It's the sort of thing you should sit back and relax with, rather than the closer attention that prestige movies demanded.

Tom Conway is good in his role; it's a shame that he didn't become quite as succesful as his brother George Sanders. Ann Rutherford also does well. And well down the credits as Helen, one of the beautiful young things Allison knows at the Regency, is a woman credited as Bettejane Greer. If you didn't guess it from the opening credits, that is indeed a young Jane Greer, who would go on to at least one big thing with Out of the Past.

Two O'Clock Courage is definitely worth watching if you can find it.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Dangerously Slight

A movie that I had surprisingly not seen despite it being part of the "Turner Library" of movies that for years made up the bulk of TCM's programming is Slightly Dangerous. So the last time that it showed up on TCM, I decided I'd record it in order to be able to watch it and then do a review here.

After the credits, a voiceover tells us about the town of Hotchkiss Falls, a made-up place supposedly in the mid-Hudson valley, which wouldn't be too far from where I am if it actually existed. But the towns here, places like Kingston and Poughkeepsie and Newburgh, are the same sort of boring places that the voiceover man tells us Hotchkiss Falls is. Anyhow, one of the residents of Hotchkiss Falls is Peggy Evans (Lana Turner), who typifies how boring the town is. She works at the soda counter of the local five-and-dime, and is getting a bonus for showing up on time for 1,000 consecutive shifts. Big deal, she thinks.

The place is so boring, that she gets into a debate with one of her co-workers about whether she could do her job blindfolded. A patron comes up, orders a sundae, and sure enough Peggy is able to fulfill the order properly while blindfolded. But as she was doing it, the store's new manager, Bob Stuart (Robert Young), walks in. Seeing a professional no-no, he calls Peggy into the office. It leads to an exchange in which Peggy, realizing how boring Hotchkiss Falls is, says she'll be Peggy Evans until the day she dies.

That gives her an idea as she thinks that she'll be Peggy Evans until the day Peggy Evans dies. With that in mind, she writes a note that could be construed as a suicide note, and goes running off to the big city, not telling a soul where she's gone. In New York, she starts thinking about getting a complete makeover, not just hair and clothes, but a new name as well. But she can't decide on what an appropriate new name would be.

Peggy decides to go to one of the newspapers to take out a classified ad that would presumably be like the billboard Gladys Glover rents in It Should Happen to You. But a sign painter is working over the evidence, and knocks down his paint bucket, hitting Peggy and temporarily knocking her unconscious. Having just undergone a makeover, she doesn't have any ID in her new pocketbook and no identifying marks on her new outfit. And when she comes to, she decides this would be a perfect opportunity to pretend to have a case of amnesia.

Editor Durstin (Eugene Pallette) decides to take Peggy's picture and put it in the papers to see if anybody can recognize her. Bob sees the story, and thinks he recognizes Peggy. But it's not an absolute, since part of the makeover involved getting her hair dyed blonde. And at the newspaper offices, we see that Bob isn't the only person who thinks he recognizes the mystery woman, although we know the rest of them are wrong.

Meanwhile, Peggy has been devious, looking through old newspapers at the library for a missing persons case that might involve someone who would now be close to her age. Eventually, she finds a Carol Burden who was supposedly kidnapped as a very young girl. Carol had a nurse named Baba (Dame May Whitty), so Peggy says she can remember the word "baba". Durstin has his researcher go through the files and he naturally finds the Burden case, with Caro's father Cornelius (Walter Brennan) being a very wealthy man.

However, they've already had to deal with other frauds claiming to be Carol Burden, so they're going to put Peggy-claiming-to-be-Carol through her paces to expose the fraud and prosecute to the full extent of the law. And of course Bob Stuart is waiting in the wings to recognize Peggy as well.

Slightly Dangerous is the sort of escapist light comedy that you can understand why audiences in 1943 when it was released would love. With a war raging in the real world, and Lana Turner being so glamorous, it's obviously just what the doctor ordered. And Lana Turner shows herself to be pretty adept at comedy as well. Somewhat more surprising is that Walter Brennan and Dame May Whitty also prove to do well in this sort of comedy. Not that they're bad actors, but Slightly Dangerous is rather more different from what they normally did.

If you want to escape with a slightly different comedy, don't hesitate to try Slightly Dangerous.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Teacher O'Zhivago

Robert Mitchum was TCM's Star of the Month in January, and one of his movies that I recorded not having seen it before was Ryan's Daughter. It's on TCM again during 31 Days of Oscar since it got multiple nominations. That airing comes up overnight tonight at 1:45 AM (or early tomorrow depending upon your perspective and time zone), so I made a point to watch in order to to a review in conjunction with the upcoming showing.

The movie starts off with a woman walking along a beach somewhere in the west of Ireland. That woman, Rosy Ryan (Sarah Miles), is the daughter of the local publican, Tom Ryan (Leo McKern). At the pub, we learn that it's around 1917, which would be the later stages of World War I, but before American involvement really turned the tide of war. Also, 1917 was just after the Eastern Uprising in Ireland. Ireland was still a part of the United Kingdom at the time, but a lot of people on the island wanted independence from Britain, while UK soldiers are also stationed on the island.

Returning from a visit to London is the local teacher, Charles Shaughnessy (Robert Mitchum). The first thing he does is go to the cemetery to visit the grave of his dearly departed wife. It's been a couple of years since Charles became a widower and it might be time for him to start thinking about finding another wife. Meanwhile, Rosy wants any sort of romance, just so she can get the heck out of this dead-end of a village, and when she meets Charles, she allows herself to be swept off her feet, even though for him, it's more a matter of practicality. When Rosy discovers that marriage isn't all it's cracked up to be, it leaves her rather disillusioned.

There's still another main character who has yet to be introduced: Major Doryan (Christopher Jones). He's obviously in the British Army, and served with quite some distinction on the front over in France. However, his service resulted in several injuries. One is a leg injury that's left him with a limp. More seriously, however, is a case of shell shock, which is part of why he's being sent to a backwater like this. However, he's a soldier in a uniform, and that's enough for Rosy. As you can guess, the two begin an affair.

But Doryan is English and Rosy is Irish. And this village is one of those places where the locals largely support independence from Britain, so they've been working to try to make life difficult for the British troops stationed there. At the same time, support isn't unanimous as they've got an informant in their midst. So when they try to run munitions, the British are going to find out, which is going to lead to disastrous consequences.

And then Charles is going to figure out that Rosy has been having an affair with Doryan. That also is going to have terrible consequences. Not only is Charles going to be unhappy, but the locals come to the logical conclusion that perhaps Rosy was the one informing on them to Doryan. After all, she was sleeping with the guy.

Ryan's Daughter was panned by critics at the time of its release, and it's not hard to see why. The movie runs 200 minutes, and its an incredibly slow 200 minutes at that. It's more of an intimate story than an epic, which doesn't have to be a bad thing. But here, the movie kept reminding me of Doctor Zhivago, a movie of which I'm not a fan to say the least. Part of that is the direction by David Lean, and part is the overbearing score by Maurice Jarre, who collaborated on Doctor Zhivago. While Lean made some great movies, his direction here is plodding.

As I said, Ryan's Daughter got multiple Oscar nominations, and won two. One was for the cinematography, which is the high point of the movie, and certainly Oscar-worthy, although I haven't seen all of the nominated movies to compare. The other one was for John Mills as Best Supporting Actor. He plays a character who's half Barry Fitzgerald from The Quiet Man -- the Quirky Villager who helps move the plot along at a few key times. The other half, however, is Nick Cravat, a Mills' character is for no explicable reason a mute. Either way, the character is obnoxious.

So as you can tell, I didn't particularly care for Ryan's Daughter. But as always, judge for yourself.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Johnny Trouble meets Miss Dove

It's time for yet one more of the movies that TCM ran during their spotlight to B movies over the summer, this one from the 1950s: According to Mrs. Hoyle.

The first thing to note is that the print TCM ran looks like a 16mm print for TV in that it's a bit wavy and not the sharp print that a 35mm print would be. That, and it's from Monogram so well down the ladder of studios. After the opening credits, we cut to what looks like a classroom if it were a mock-up of one for a TV show. There, the assorted bigwigs are about to bid a fond farewell to Mrs. Harriet Hoyle (Spring Byington), who has been teaching at the school for a quarter century but is now retiring after having taught many young men who grew up to become something of a success in life.

So in some ways, Mrs. Hoyle's life has been a success, but in other ways not so much, as she lives in one of those apartment hotels that were a thing before urban renewl shut down such things in the drive for better housing. Coming into the place is Morganti (Anthony Caruso), a gangster who has decided he wants to go straight and go into some sort of legitimate business. With that in mind, he's bought the hotel in order to be able to tear it down and turn it into something better. The only problem is all those residents, who are going to have to be evicted. Mrs. Hoyle is so charming, however, that she's going to ge Morganti to allow her to stay on.

And the tenants aren't really the only problem. Morganti has underlings, and some of them aren't so keen on trying to go straight, thinking it's a mug's game. Not in that number is young Eddie (Brett King). He takes out his suitcase, and we see a photo that looks remarkably like a younger Mrs. Hoyle.

Indeed, it is a younger Mrs. Hoyle, and Eddie is her son, not that she knows it. Mrs. Hoyle is too trusting of everybody, as we've already seen, and that extended to her husband, who she thought was a traveling salesman who from time to time would send her samples of the stuff he was selling. Of course, you can guess that Mr. Hoyle was a thief, presumably in Morganti's gang, and these are real jewels he's fencing. One day long ago, Mrs. Hoyle says, he just disappeared, taking her son with him, which somehow didn't embitter her.

One of the guys who really doesn't like Morganti's change of heart sees a business that hasn't been robbed before, and figures he's got the perfect scheme to rob it. However, part of that scheme is going to involve using Mrs. Hoyle to hide the stolen goods, her not knowing there are even any stolen goods to be hidden. But sure enough, the police are going to find out, and Mrs. Hoyle will face serious trouble....

Oh boy this is dated, hokey stuff. By the early 1950s when it was released, According to Mrs. Hoyle doesn't seem like the sort of stuff that would make it to movies any more, but land as part of some crappy anthology TV series that needed large numbers of cheap scripts, never mind the quality as long as the sponsor was paying to get the program made. Byington does the best she can, but the character she's asked to play is just too unrealistically good. Everyone else is from the bottom of the acting barrel, and the movie screams low budget all the way through.

As always, judge for yourself, but According to Mrs. Hoyle is decidedly sub-par material.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

I Cover the Waterfront

One of those movies whose title I'd seen in various of the sites that sell public domain movies on DVD is the 1933 feature I Cover the Waterfront, so when TCM ran it I made a point to record it so that I could finally watch it and write up a review here.

The movie starts off with opening credits done newspaper-style, and helpfully putting faces to names of who plays the man characters. We then see the main character, Joe Miller (Ben Lyon), climbing the stairs up to what would be a garret apartment if Miller were a starving artist in a movie set in Paris. But Joe is a reporter in one of the cities on the California coast, and his apartment overlooks the harbor. Indeed, Joe is trying to get a story involving the ships that come and go, although he has to work long hours and is fed up with it.

Joe's returned home to find another reporter, McCoy (Hobart Cavanaugh), coming out west to start a career in journalism here, which is fine by Joe since he'd rather go back east to a safer big city and reunite with his girlfriend whom he's hoping to marry. So now he'd have a chance to give his notice to his editor Phelps and finally make that big move. But before that can happen, Phelps calls him up with a different sort of story, about a lady calling from a house overlooking the coast who claims she sees a woman swimming stark naked in the Pacific!

Miller goes out to the coast to investigate, and finds that the woman is a pretty young thing named Julie Kirk (Claudette Colbert). Wouldn't you know it, but Julie just happens to be the daughter of Eli Kirk (Ernest Torrence), who is the very sea captain Miller has been investigating. Julie thinks that her father, like the captains of most of the boats in the harbor, is a fisherman and makes his money that way. But we see that Eli is really taking money to smuggle Chinese into the US by sea. Miller is on to this, and when he gets on a Coast Guard cutter to go after Kirk, he throws the guy he's smuggling overboard to his death! So we know less than a third of the way into the movie that Eli Kirk really is the bad guy in the piece.

Miller, having met Julie, now thinks he's got a new angle to get at Eli, and pretends to make nicey to her to get her to spill the goods on her father, not that she knows anything. But you can guess what happens next, which is that Joe is going to fall in love with Julie, and that the feeling is going to be mutual. To say that this puts both Joe and Julie in danger is an understatement.

I Cover the Waterfront is a pretty good movie for one that was produced independently and only has the running time of a B movie. Of course, having a young Claudette Colbert in the cast is a big help in that regard. The movie is actually kind of shocking at times, and also relevant today with the illegal immigrants flooding the US's southern border or in Europe all the illegals getting on boats and trying to cross the Mediterranean or get to the Canary Islands.

Thankfully, as I said at the beginning, I Cover the Waterfront fell into the public domain, so it's fairly easy to find.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Don't look for the Titanic

The comic mystery, especially with a husband and wife more or less solving the case together, was a thing back in the 1930s and 1940s, starting with The Thin Man and not really losing steam until World War II changed public tastes. A movie from later in the cycle was A Night to Remember.

This time out, the married couple is played by Brian Aherne and Loretta Young. Aherne plays Jeff Troy, a mystery writer, while Loretta Young is wife Nancy. As the movie opens, Nancy has just rented out a basement apartment in Greenwich Village which looks like it could have been rented by Ruth and Eileen from My Sister Eileen, both movies having been made at Columbia. Nancy has picked this apartment because she thinks it might give Jeff some ideas. This being Greenwich Village, there are bound to be a bunch of quirky people living in the building.

The couple gets to the apartment early, before the electric has even been turned on or anything has been delivered. That serves as a plot device for the apartment to be empty and dark for the first several scenes, with some humor about bumps in the night and somewhat. It also gives an excuse for the couple to leave the apartment long enough to get dinner, and for someone else to come into the apartment while they're at dinner.

While they're out, they find a couple of things. One is Polly Franklin (Lee Patrick), who owns the restaurant next door; she also lives in the building they do. But they also overhear a guy on the telephone making a call to meet somebody. The thing is that the meeting location is in the basement apartment they've rented. They get home and find some strange things have gone on while they've been out. But that's not the strangest thing of all.

The next morning, the police come knocking on the door saying there was a complaint of somebody sunbathing out in the courtyard. That's a euphemism, as it's actually a murder victim, and the reveal is done in such a way that Jeff and Nancy each believe that it was their spouse who died. In fact, it's the guy they overheard in the restaurant saying to meet in the basement apartment.

So now there's a murder case. And pretty much anybody who lives in the building could be a suspect. Jeff, being a mystery writer, starts investigating, and we fairly quickly hear the various residents conspiring together. Obviously they all know something about the dead guy, and they all perceive that Jeff might be a danger. But who did it, and why?

I have to admit that this A Night to Remember isn't my favorite of the films in this husband-and-wife murder-mystery genre. I think it's because the plot doesn't really work in the sense that the clues don't fit together in a satisfying way, while Jeff solves the case much too quickly. I can see why a movie like this got made, however. With World War II going on and with the genre having been popular for several years, why not another comic mystery to try to keep the homefront entertained opposite all that tough news going on in real life? It's just a shame that the movie doesn't quite gel.

Monday, February 19, 2024

El jardinero

Dirk Bogarde was TCM's Star of the Month back in September, and one of his movies that I recorded, never having heard of it before, was The Spanish Gardnener. Recently, I watched it, and now I can do a review of it here.

The movie opens up at the British consulate in Madrid. A young boy, Nicholas Brande (Jon Whiteley), is looking out the window while the executive secretary converses with him. Behind closed doors, we here a conversation between the ambassador and Nicholas' father Harrington (Michael Hordern). The ambassador is berating Harrington for a bunch of reasons, such as Harrington inducing his wife to leave him, which is why Dad is raising the boy alone. Meanwhile, Harrington gets sent to a job at some backwater on Spain's Mediterranean coast.

It might be good for young Nicholas, because there's a change of environment in more ways than one. Dad thinks Nicholas is sickly, which is why the kid hasn't been sent to the sort of consular boarding school that the children of all the other people in the Foreign Service get sent to. Instead, Dad's been home-schooling the kid. Nicholas isn't really sickly at all; it's just Dad's way of being overprotective.

Dad earns enough that he can employ the Garcias, a butler/chauffeur (Cyril Cusack), and his wife Magdalena as a maid. The previous occupants didn't keep up any sort of garden at all, which for Harrington just won't do. So Harrington sets about hiring a gardener. He finds one in young José (Dirk Bogarde), and José takes to his work.

Nicholas being cooped up in the house all day because fo his alleged sickness, and because he doesn't have any positive male role models in his life, Dad being overbearing and Garcia coming across as a bit mean, Nicholas starts to put José on a pedestal. This makes Dad exceedingly jealous, and Dad does everything he can to try to break of the relationship the boy is developing with José, despite the fact that José is probably the best thing for Nicholas. Meanwhile, Garcia figures out what's going on, and takes the opportunity to frame José while taking advantage of the Brandes.

The Spanish Garderner is based on a book by A.J. Cronin, a British author I've mentioned a couple of times before in regards to his medical-themed novels that were turned into movies. Cronin also had a decided moral view, and that unfortunately serves to make The Spanish Gardener a bit of a strident movie in the sense of the viewer getting the point already while the movie feels it needs to tack more on to make the viewer understand.

The other problem with the print that TCM ran is that the movie was filmed in Vistavision and Technicolor, but the print is in 4:3 and the colors look quite faded. A restoration, if possible, would definitely be in order.

Bogarde doesn't do a bad job, although it feels like he isn't being challenged. That, and pretty much nobody in the movie is convincingly Spanish. Taking all that in mind, it's not hard to see why this one isn't so well known to American audiences.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Panama Lady

I had a couple of Lucille Ball movies on my DVR, although I don't think they were all from her day in Summer Under the Stars. One that I wasn't certain I'd seen before, and definitely hadn't blogged about before, is Panama Lady.

The movie starts with a shot of Lucille Ball, playing a woman named Lucy, walking along a crowded sidewalk in New York. Ominous music wells up, which is a sign that Lucy is being chased, so she walks into a bar to try to escape. But the man chasing her, McTeague (Allan Lane) finds her, and wants her to go with him. Cue the flashback to why she doesn't want to go with him....

We don't just go back in time; we also go back in space, to Panama, in a bar that served the people who came down to the Canal Zone, then under American ownership, either to work there or on their way through to one or another place in South America. Lenore (Evelyn Brent), owns the bar, although it's doing badly enough financially that she can't really support the floor show of which Lucy is a part.

Lucy has a boyfriend in Roy (Donald Briggs), but she doesn't realize that he's an adventure-seeker who is currently involved in running guns to one or another opposition group in South America. She even stows away on his plane to try to escape Panama, but she's found out and sent back to Panama. There, she meets the aforementioned McTeague. One of Lucy's "friends" slips McTeague a mickey, and when he passes out the friend steals McTeague's money and flees, leaving Lucy holding the bag.

McTeague gives Lucy two choices, and one of them isn't much of a choice. The non-choice is jail, and the other one is to go down to South America with McTeague, who is prospecting for oil on a plot of land that he hasn't really registered as a claim with the authorities. Lucy doesn't particularly care for it, but she doesn't really have any way of getting out. She also has to deal with McTeague's indigenous maid Cheema, who doesn't like her at all.

Lucy had left a crude map at Lenores bar, however, and after a while Roy is given the map so he is able to find the place. Roy is going to rescue Lucy and they can live happily ever after. Except that since all of this is a flashback, we know that Lucy winds up in New York pursued by McTeague, not Roy. That's because Roy discovers that McTeague still hasn't had time to file the paperwork, and that McTeague has likely hit oil. The lure of easy money, combined with the fact that Roy isn't a good guy, means that Roy isn't really going to rescue Lucy....

As I was watcing Panama Lady it seemed awfully familiar to me. That's because the movie is a remake of a movie from the early 1930s called Panama Flo, and I believe it's that earlier movie that I'd already seen (although I search of the blog says I haven't blogged about that one either). Panama Lady was made well before Lucille Ball became a comedy legend, at a time when RKO still didn't know what they had. Ball, of course, is a better actress than just being zany in later years might lead people to believe, and she certainly had the range to carry off a role like the one she has here.

The material, however, is pedestrian, and feels dated, which it is since it was lifted from a pre-Code. Still, Ball does well with it, and makes the movie worth at least one watch.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Charlton Heston does comedy!

Charlton Heston is the sort of actor that when you think of him, you don't necessarily think of comedy, at least not intentional comedy. But he did do at least one, which TCM showed when Heston was their Star of the Month back in October: The Private War of Major Benson.

Heston plays Maj. Benson, who as the movie opens is commanding a bunch of men in some sort of training exercise. He's a decidedly by-the-books officer, making the men drill the portion they're working on over and over until they get it right. In response, one of the men gives Maj. Benson some choice words. The only thing is, Benson can't really do anything about it, since the words are his own words, that he had said in confidence some time back. Except that those words which weren't supposed to go anywhere wound up in Newsweek magazine for all the world to see.

For that, Benson gets called to Washington, where Maj. Gen. Ramsey (Milburn Stone) is exceedingly displeased. To punish Benson, Ramsey gives him a new assignment. Ramsey knows a school that has a junior ROTC program, except that it's not going very well. It's to the point where if they don't pass their next inspection, they're going to lose their ROTC affiliation, and that's going to drive the parents to pull their boys out of the school, putting it in jeopardy. Perhaps Maj. Benson can make the students pass inspection.

And then Benson gets to the school and finds... it's a Catholic military school, run by Mother Redempta (Nana Bryant), who also happens to be the sister of Maj. Gen. Ramsey, which would explain why he knows about this school and its problems. Also there are the new doctor, Kay Lamber (Julie Adams), who is also clearly there as a love interest to Benson; and John (William Demarest), the school's janitor/handyman since the nuns can't do that stuff themselves; and the boys, ranging in age from high single digits to high school age.

Oh, the boys. At this point the movie becomes a fairly predictable piece in which Maj. Benson is strict in part because that's the only thing he knows, while the boys are partly incompetent and partly rebelling against Benson's authority. It's a bit of a surprising cast of boys, too, considering what they went on to: Sal Mineo, David Janssen, and Tim Considine are among them. Considine plays Cadet Hibler, whose father knows a bunch of people in Washington. When Hibler has had it with Maj. Benson's discipline, he and the other boys write to his parents. They come for the parents' weekend, and, finding what Maj. Benson is like, take it to Washington, which threatens Benson's career in the Army.

Charlton Heston is one of those actors who I think wouldn't have been that adept at most comedy. But The Private War of Major Benson is a lot closer to the sort of movie where he's not being so funny as much as having everyone else around him be funny, as well as having a script structured to take Heston's talents and build the humor around that. The movie turned out to be a commercial success, and I think it's easy to see why. It's the sort of material that's comforting because it's predictable.

The Private War of Major Benson was never going to turn Charlton Heston into a comic actor. But it's a good enough movie that's worth a watch.

Friday, February 16, 2024


One of those movies that I had noticed on the TCM schedule several times but never got around to watching was Conquest. So with that in mind, the most recent time it was on the TCM schedule, I finally made a point of getting it on the DVR in order to be able to watch it and do a review here.

The movie starts off with an intertitle stating that the action is set in Eastern Poland in 1807. Now, for those who know your history, you may recall that over the previous roughly 40 years, Poland's neighbors: Prussia, Russia, and Austria-Hungary, had cooperated to take bits and pieces of the country until there was no longer a Poland as an independent entity. Count Walewski (Henry Stephenson) has worked for the last king, but now his estate is in Russian territory, and the Russians come in to commandeer the estate, running the horses into the house. This greatly distresses him and his young wife, the Countess Marie Walewska (Greta Garbo).

However, it's a chaotic political situation as Napoleon (Charles Boyer) has been moving from the west. Soon, the Countess' brother Paul (Leif Erickson) arrives to inform the Walewkis about this. And it's not long before Napoleon does make it as far as the Walewski estate and even is the guest of honor at a party there as he sets up what is a vassal buffer state in the Duchy of Warsaw. But at least the Polish people get to have something of their own for a little while. Anyhow, it's at that party that Napoleon first meets Countess Waleska. The two quickly develop an attraction to each other.

But, there's a problem. Both of them are already married, even if it is a marriage of convenience for both of them: Walewska needed the sort of money and a good name that the Count could provide, while Napoleon needed a wife who could produce him an heir and was from a place that could serve as a political ally on the grander European stage, which is why he married Josephine.

Fast forward a couple of years. Both Napoleon and Waleska are still married to their respective spouses, but they've both been unfaithful. Seemingly happily for Marie, her husband is willing to seek an annulment. And Napoleon, not having been given an heir by Josephine, is planning to get an annulment of his own. So it's with this in mind that Marie heads off to Vienna where Napoleon currently is.

They resume their relationship, and Marie even winds up pregnant with what is presumably Napoleon's child. Sadly for Marie however, she can't really offer anything of political advantage for Napoleon, so he decides to get married to an Austrian princess instead. This is only 1810, which means Napoleon still has the disastrous 1812 invasion of Russia ahead of him, as well as the first exile to Elba, the triumphant return to France, and then Waterloo before finally being sent way too far away to St. Helena. Marie pines for her Napoleon through all of this....

Conquest is the sort of material that may be it bit hokey for some, setting a silly romance against the backdrop of Great Events. But it's all based on real people, and how much of a relationship Walewska had with Napoleon is still a matter of debate. (DNA testing suggested that the real-life Marie may in fact have borne Napoleon's son.) And Conquest was made at MGM, which is exactly the right studio to make a costume drama like this, with all the gloss they could bring to the material. Garbo does a good job as Countess Waleska, but the movie is really Boyer's; after all, Napoleon in a proment place in any movie is going to be the natural focus.

Conquest is a fine example of the MGM magic in action, and definitely a movie worth watching.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Me and Mrs. Jones

One of the "stars" that TCM put the spotlight on in the 2023 edition of Summer Under the Stars was the Nicholas Brothers. They weren't really stars per se, being mostly a dance act. One dramatic movie in which only one of the two brothers, Fayard, appeared, was The Liberation of L.B. Jones, so naturally TCM included this as part of the brothers' day. I finally watched it and can now do a review on it here.

The movie opens up with a pre-credits sequence of train going down the tracks, with the camera highlighting three people on the train. Those are the newlywed couple of Steve and Nella Mundine (Lee Majors and Barbara Hershey respectively), and a black man who looks rather nervous: "Sonny Boy" Mosby (Yaphet Kotto). Sonny Boy jumps off the train not long before it gets to its destination. A police car is stopped at the crosing, and they spot Sonny Boy, harassing him because this is 1960s Tennessee, they're white, and he's black.

The Mundines are also getting off in the town of Somerton. They're met at the station by Steve's uncle, Oman Hedgepath (Lee J. Cobb). Hedgepath is the big white lawyer in town, and Steve, having recently graduated from law school and having passed the bar exam, is being given the position of partner in the newly-named Hedgepath and Mundine. At the law offices is L.B. Jones (Roscoe Lee Browne). He's the undertaker for the town's black population, which seems like about the closest thing to a black middle class Somerton is going to have. Jones is there looking for Hedgepath to represent him as he's looking for a divorce from his adulterous wife Emma (Lola Falana).

Hedgepath turns Jones down, which clearly has something to do with the racial politics of the small-town South of the late 1960s. Mundine doesn't understand why his uncle doesn't want to take the case, having spent a bunch of time in the bigger city at law school and obviously having developed more modern attitudes on race relations, and even offers to take Jones' case himself. Hedgepath doesn't want those attitudes to take over, so when Mundine offers to take on the case, he has a sudden change of heart and takes the case himself.

The reason Hedgepath decides he wants to take the case after all is because Emma has decided to contest the divorce. Emma has been having an affair Willie Joe (Anthony Zerbe), one of the cops in town, and more importantly, a white guy. Hedgepath understands that a white judge and jury in a divorce case isn't going to belive L.B. Worse for him, however, is when Willie Joe goes to see Emma. She tries to get money out of him, and he badly beats her and frames L.B. for it.

As for Sonny Boy, he had left town years earlier after being brutalized by the white cops. Where L.B. Jones is clearly a symbol of the Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King school of thought of integration by being peaceful and virtuous, Sonny Boy is part of the W.E.B DuBois and Malcom X strand that thought "by any means necessary". Sonny Boy doesn't want to get in more legal trouble than what forced him to leave town in the first place, but when he sees what the white man is doing to poor L.B., he might feel forced to go back to any means necessary....

As I watched The Liberation of L.B. Jones, I couldn't help but think of MGM, even though this movie was made at Columbia. What made me think of MGM is how they made a lot of stuff back in their heyday that was glossy but unadventurous, something that I even think I mentioned in regards to the Spencer Tracy movie Fury which dealt with mob justice. The Liberation of L.B. Jones is another of thse movies that feels like it was made a decade or two too late. It wants to say Important Things, but the Important Things have passed the movie by and instead we get a warmed-over set of pulled punches.

That's unfair to the cast, however. They all do the best they can with the material, and the performances are mostly pretty good. (I will say that Cobb feels like he's done this sort of character enough that he's not really putting as much effort into it as he did in, say, On the Waterfront.) The Liberation of L.B. Jones is another of those movies that's definitely worth one watch, but feels like it could have been a lot better.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Smart Girls Don't Talk

I'm always amazed by how many movies there are from the golden era of the Hollywood studio system that I hadn't really heard of before the showed up on TCM, let alone seen. A few months back, TCM ran a Virginia Mayo movie from Warner Bros. called Smart Girls Don't Talk. I recently finally got around to watching it off of my DVR in order to be able to do a review on it here.

The action opens up at the Club Bermuda, a relatively fashionable place in one of our big cities run by Marty Fain (Bruce Bennett). The only thing is, the club allows gambling, so several men come in, a gang led by a man named Johnny Warjak. When the maitre d' asks for their reservation, they say they don't need one, and proceed to go in and rob the place, taking cash and patrons' jewelry much like the gang in Uptown Saturday Night.

Fain doesn't really want to get the police involved, since he wants to maintain his reputation. To that end, he asks the patrons to inform them of what they lost, and he'd reimburse them. Not that he's planning to reimburse everybody, of course, since he knows some people are going to try to scam him. One guy, for example, claims to have had $10,000 in cash on him. Fain takes the money off the guys gambling debt, but then cuts the guy off and demands payment of the outstanding debt in short order. Smart guy.

Meanwhile, one or Fain's men recognized Warjak, so Fain approves of his underlings trying to follow Warjak and his men to get the goods back. But no violence, please. The underlings need to remember that Fain wants to keep his good name and keep out of the papers if at all possible. But it's a bit of fairly obvious foreshadowing that things aren't going to go the way Fain wants.

And then there's Linda Vickers (Virginia Mayo). She says she was wearing diamonds worth $18,000, which is a huge sum for the late 1940s, and you have to wonder where she got that kind of money. Fain doesn't believe her, but she's a nice-looking woman so Fain plays along. When Linda says she's got an insurance policy for the jewels, Fain insists that she take him back to her apartment and produce the policy immediately. Not a bad way to try to get into a hot woman's apartment.

But in some more obvious foreshadowing, they get to the front of the club only for the valet to inform them that Linda's car isn't readily available, the excuse being that due to the popularity of the club that night, Linda's was one of the cars that needed to be moved to an auxiliary lot. Smart readers will already know what's going on, but for anyone who hasn't figured it out, the story doesn't take that long to put two and two together.

The next morning, police detective McReady knows on Linda's door. The newspaper headling informs that Warjak was shot dead, and that a "mystery car" went driving off. The police have information that her car was found abandoned, so it's a logical next step for them to go asking Linda if she has any information she can provide them, such as her whereabouts at the time of the killing.

There's not much mystery here, but the movie gets more complicated when Linda's brother, "Doc" (Robert Hutton), having finished medical school, returns to town to be closer to family and take a nice new doctor's job. Of course he doesn't like the idea of Linda seeing Fain. But when Fain gets shot, he asks for Dr. Vickers to provide emergency treatment so that the police don't find out....

Once again, it's not hard to see why Smart Girls Don't Talk is one of those movies that isn't well-remembered. It's not that it's at all bad; it's just that it's a programmer from after the war when the studio system was already beginning to give way from the old paradigm, with prestige movies becoming bigger and little movies becoming a bit more overlooked. Still, everything here is competent, if a bit by-the-numbers if the studio was trying to churn out content the way studios would really need to start doing in a couple of years once television really took off.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

PRC Love Triangle

Just in time for Valentine's Day, we have an appropriate movie courtesy of TCM and their spotlight on B movies from last summer. The movie in question is Lighthouse.

After a brief title card about the significance of the lighthouse, we get to the action, in a lighthouse just off the coast on an island. Sam (Don Castle) is the assistant lighthouse-keeper, to Hank (John Litel). He develops a toothache, which is really just an excuse to go ashore. There, he's got a girlfriend in port in the form of Connie (Julie Lang), who works at the cannery with her best friend JoJo (Marion Martin).

Or, at least, Connie used to work at the cannery. She just got fired from the cannery because her boss had been putting the moves on her and she said no, considering that she's got a boyfriend in Sam. Back in those days, you couldn't really sue for sexual harassment. But with Sam coming ashore, Connie tells him that now would finally be a good time for the two of them to get married, and that perhaps this would be a good time for him to stop putting it off.

That's a problem because Sam already has a wife. At least, she's an estranged wife who kicked Sam out and she keeps pestering him for money instead of granting him a divorce. Sam can't marrie Connie until he can get a divorce. Eventually, Connie feels that she just have to go over to the lighthouse and beg Sam to marry her since he hasn't visited her in a couple of weeks, and communication wasn't so much back in those days.

The first tine Connie see when she goes over to the island is Hank, who informs her that he in fact is the manager and Sam is the manager. Hank doesn't yet know about the relationship between Connie and Sam. So when Connie goes into the house, she sees the picture of Sam's wife, and figures that it must be Hank's wife. Hank kindly points out that it's Sam's wife. This gives Connie a ridiculous idea: she's going to woo Hank and get him to marry her, just to get back at Sam!

Unbelievably, she does get him to propose, and the two get married and take up residence at the lighthouse. They get back to the lighthouse, at which point Sam finds out who Hank's new wife really is. Dramatic tensions ensue.

Lighthouse was released by Producers' Releasing Corporation, the same studio that made Edgar Ulmer's ultra-low-budget classic Detour. Lighthouse isn't quite as cheap, but it's definitely made on a low budget. That having been said, it's surprisingly good for a low-budget movie that has a relatively predictable plot. It's absolutely worth watching if you can find it.

Monday, February 12, 2024

A Dream of Love

I was watching something recently off my DVR -- I think Dirk Bogarde in The Spanish Gardener, since I've got a post on that coming up in a week or so and since the movie TCM aired immediately following was one with Bogarde as Franz Liszt -- and TCM ran a new-to-me short: A Dream of Love.

The movie starts off with an orchestra playing Franz Liszt's Liebestraum, which translates to "Dream of Love", hence the title of the short, befor informing us that this is a story about one of the great loves of Liszt's life that inspired the song. Go back in time to late in Liszt's life, where he's working at a monastery and gets a package that's got a bunch of flowers. That goes back in time to earlier in Liszt's life....

The young Liszt, trying to become a successful composer, needed to pay the bills, which he did by giving music lessons. One of his students was a 17-year-old girl named Caroline St. Cricq, daughter of a Baron and Barones and as such much above Liszt's class. The two fall in love and Liszt takes her to see some Gypsies, which gives them the chance to play a bit of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, the most famous of Liszt's Rhapsodies and the song used in the Tom and Jerry classic The Cat Concerto. Caroline's parents discover the relationship and are horrified, forcing the two to split up.

The first think I noticed as I watched this short is that it was directed by James A. FitzPatrick, of Traveltalks fame. Then I saw the copyright date, 1938, which made me think that MGM must have made it to go with one of their prestige movies, The Great Waltz, which was about fellow composer Johann Strauss Jr. And then in looking it up on IMDb, I saw why the movie is so disjointed and it feels like there's almost nothing that actually happens in the movie.

IMDb gives the movie a running time of 37 minutes, but the version TCM ran was only 17 minutes! And apparently the 17-minute version is the only one known to exist. Obviously, if a 37-minute short is cut down by half, there's a lot of narrative that's going to get cut out and what's left might not make a lot of sense, which is certainly the case here.

With TCM not announcing shorts on their schedule, I don't know when it's next going to be on TCM.

Briefs for February 12-13, 2023

I blogged yesterday about Knights of the Round Table airing later this afternoon, but there are a couple of movies worth mentioning, although you may not see them by the time you find this post. First up is Pride and Prejudice at noon, which is still on my DVR and which I blogged about several months ago. And tomorrow at 9:30 AM is the great foreign comedy M. Hulot's Vacation, which I think would be a great way to get people interested in foreign films. North by Northwest, which I don't think I've done a full-length blog post on largely because it's one of those very well known movies, shows up at 3:45 PM Tuesday.

Over on FXM, it doesn't look like there's anything that I haven't blogged about before. But I think it's been a while since I mentioned From the Terrace (3:30 AM Feb. 13), which is worth a mention for Myrna Loy's drunk before it turns into a Paul Newman/Joanne Woodward melodrama. It's a moderately fun one, however. From the Terrace is followed at 6:00 AM by Cavalcade which won Oscar's Best Picture of 2023 although it's really not the best picture of the year. Still worth a watch.

Not all that much in the way of birthdays today, although it is the actual birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was a subject of a whole bunch of movies since the Civil War is a pretty important part of US history. The holiday is next Monday, and as I understand it is still officially called Washington's Birthday while everybody calls it Presidents' Day.

As for deaths, I probably should have mentioned Carl Weathers at the beginning of the month, since Rocky is such a well known movie along with its sequels. And it's not as though that's all he did.

Finally, I came across an article about Warner Bros.' possible shelving of Coyote Vs. Acme. The idea sounds like a fun one, although I have no idea what the execution is like. As for why it's getting shelved, I have no understanding of the finances of the movie studios, or media conglomerates in general. So why a movie like this would get canned is not something I get. One only wonders whether there's some personal conflict driving it.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Knights of the Round Table

The story of King Arthur is one that's relatively well known. I was, however, a bit surprised to see that I had never done a post on the 1953 MGM movie Knights of the Round Table, which, as you can guess, is about Arthurian legend. It was on TCM not too long ago, so I recorded it. It's going to be on TCM again, tomorrow (Feb. 12) at 6:00 PM. So I made certain to watch it in order to be able to do a review on it here.

An opening voiceover tells us that the action is set in Britain not long after the Romans abandoned the island, which would make it the 5th century or so. Britain was in turmoil with rival warlords waging war against one another, until the king Uther Pendragon died. He left behind a pair of issue: Morgan Le Fay (Anne Crawford) was a legitimate daughter, but of course a woman. Then there's Arthur (Mel Ferrer), who was of questionable provenance. The sorcerer Merlin (Felix Aylmer) leads them to Excalibur, the "Sword in the Stone", and declares that whoever can get it out of the stone shall be King. Morgan's son Modred (Stanley Baker) tries and fails; Arthur succeeds.

Meanwhile, the French knight Lancelot (Robert Taylor) comes looking for Arthur. Along the way, he runs into a lone woman, Elaine (Maureen Swanson), who falls in love with him, and the two eventually marry, but much later in the movie. The two are waylaid by a bunch of Modred's men, but Lancelot is able to see them off, before Arthur shows up. Lancelot, not realizing who it is, challenges him to a fight which ends in a long draw, earning mutual respect. Then Elaine's brother Percival arrives, and declares that he wants to be a knight too. He's eventually going to be given the task of finding the Holy Grail.

It's going to take until the following spring for Arthur to defeat Modred and Morgan. Having done so, he can become the rightful king with all of the knights sitting around that round table. And they'll all live happily ever after. Well, of course that's not going to happen, since all of this happens with only one third of the film's running time having elapse. And we haven't even met Guinevere (Ava Gardner) yet.

Lancelot is back out on the road and comes to a castle where Guinevere is being held captive, Lancelot not realizing that Guinevere is already betrothed to Arthur. Still, he frees her and brings her back to Arrhur, thereby cementing his trust with the king. The king, however, has been fairly foolish in that after defeating Modred and Morgan and having united the island, he pardons them. They're looking for any way they can to get back at the king, and they think they've found one.

Lancelot, despite being set to marry Elaine, also pines for Guinevere, although in this movie he's utterly chaste about it because the Production Code would never let this Lancelot and Guinevere have an adulterous relationship. Still, when Modred's men find the two of them alone together, it doesn't take much for them to start gossiping and get enough people to believe that Lancelot and Guinevere have committed high treason with their relationship. It threatens to destroy all of Camelot.

Knights of the Round Table was the sort of movie that MGM was quite good at making. Here, they have the added advantage of Cinemascope, this being the studio's first movie in the wide-screen process. However, the movie feels like it's missing something. I think that's partly because the film's star, Robert Taylor, didn't particularly like making this sort of movie. Mel Ferrer is also decidedly not the right actor to be playing King Arthur.

For me, however, the bigger issue is that the movie really feels like multiple movies, or maybe an anthology story, in that the initial defeat of Modred and Morgan doesn't feel like it's at all connected with the love triangle of the second section. And then the final conflict is wrapped up rather too neatly and again in a way that doesn't feel so connected to the other two parts. At the same time, though, it's also easy to see why audiences of the early 1950s would have gone for a costume drama like this, especially one shot partly on location in vibrant color and that wide screen they couldn't get at home.

So watch Knights of the Round Table and judge for yourself.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

I bet pi would be lonely too

Some years back, I tuned into TCM in the middle of a then new-to-me 1970s movie called One Is a Lonely Number. I made a point of waiting for it to show up again in order to be able to record it. So when TCM did run it again several months back, I was finally able to get that recording. Recently, I got around to watching it, so as always, here's the review.

"James, what are you doing"? So says Amy Brower (Trish Van Devere) to her husband James in their San Francisco-area apartment as the movie opens. James, however, is not about to be her husband that much longer. He's leaving Amy for reasons she doesn't understand. Indeed, he's called in sick to his job as a professor at the local college, administered the final exam early, and left. And this is the era when a lot of women like her, even if they didn't have children to look after, didn't do actual paid work.

Not only that, but Amy doesn't have much in the way of real friends. The closest would probably be Madge (Jane Elliot). She introduces Amy to Gert (Janet Leigh), who is the head of the local chapter of what she calls the "divorcées' league", and has decided ideas about the value of men, having married and divorced five of them. But having been through so many divorces, she also knows the ins and outs of the divorce process, this being the days before no-fault fivorce was common.

The other "friend" or at least someone who's going to become a bit of a friend, is Mr. Provo (Melvyn Douglas). He runs the local produce stand, and the Browers have been customers of his through their entire marriage, so he sees both of them quite a bit and knows their tastes in fruits and vegetables. He's also a widoer, so he knows a bit about moving on after the end of a marriage, although of course his marriage ended in a rather different way from Amy's.

Still, Amy needs a job, and when she goes to the employment agency, they don't have much for her since she doesn't really have all that much in the way of marketable skills, having gotten the proverbial "MRS degree" in college: there's not much use for art history majors with philosophy minors. The man at the employment agency gets her a job, but it's only as a lifeguard at the municipal pool. And then he shows up one day at the pool trying to put the moves on her, which is really creepy.

Will Amy ever be able to find happiness in life again? Will she need a man to do it? With the destruction of the Production Code a few years prior to this movie, it's easy to see why filmmakers would be interested in something with more grown-up themes. And maybe this was original for 1972 when it was made. But 50 years on, it feels totally unoriginal and the sort of thing that would be made nowadays as a TV movie of the week for one or another of the cable channels or streaming platforms.

One Is a Lonely Number isn't really a bad movie, but there's nothing particularly strong to recommend it, either, not even the presence of Janet Leigh and Melvyn Douglas.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Uptown samedi soir

I don't normally intend to do a pair of movies with similar themes in close proximity. Sometimes, however, I happen to watch a pair of movies that have a commonish theme. A foreign film that I had on my DVR for a while before finally getting around to watching it was the French film Le Million.

The movie opens up with a musical number of people dancing late one evening. A couple of guys who are disturbed by the partying going on show up on the roof of the apartment building looking throught the skylight at the dancers, which is how they're noticed. One of the leaders of the dancers then informs the two men that they're about to hear the fabulous story of how all these people came to be dancing together, which means it's time for that most inventive film technqiue, the flashback....

The space in which everyobdy was dancing is the apartment and studio of the artist Michel, who has a kinda-sorta fiancée in the form of Béatrice who lives across the hall. Meanwhile, he's also got a sort of mistress in Vanda. If that's not bad enough, Michel also has all sorts of financial problems in that he's got one creditor after another coming after him to collect money he owes them. And a thief shows up in their building causing all kinds of havoc as the police come rushing in to try to catch the thief. Who wants that much drama in their lives?

But things are about to change for the better. Michel's roommate Prosper comes in with a newspaper announcing the winning ticket in the Dutch lottery. Somehow Prosper remembers the numbers of the tickets the two bought and that one of the two of them has the winning ticket. That winner just happens to be Michel, not Proper. But, there's one catch. Michel had put the ticket in one of his overcoats for safe keeping, and he can't find that coat. Sound familiar?

At least Michel is able to remember that he gave the coat to Béatrice to mend it, so it's a simple matter to go over to her place and retrieve the coat. Except remember that thief the police were chasing through the building? Béatric lent him the coat as a sort of disguise so that he'd be able to escape. And so starts a journey through the streets of Paris to try to find that coat, which like the check in the short The Grand Bounce goes through one set of hands after another.

It's easy to see why a lot of viewers find Le Million a charming little movie. However, there's one big caveat to this, which is that the movie is a musical. I don't just mean this in the sense of musicals not necessarily being to everybody's taste; more than that, it's a musical in what for most readers of this blog will be a foreign language. I think even more than regular dialogue, the poetic nature of lyrics is something that loses some of its punch in translation.

But you really shouldn't let that stop you, since Le Million is really quite fun.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

31 Days of Oscar starts tomorrow

It's time for your friendly reminder that TCM is starting its annual 31 Days of Oscar programming tomorrow (Feb. 9). Back when they first started it, the Oscars were held in late March, which is why the programming was in March and why it got called 31 Day of Oscar, since the month is 31 days. Then at some point the awards got moved to February. TCM kept the 31 days theme, which if I had to guess is because they had an agreement with the Academy that allowed used of the phrase "31 Days of Oscar", no more or no fewer days, since "Oscar" in terms of the movie award is trademarked. This even though the programming would flow into the first few days of March.

This year, the reason for starting the programming on Feb. 9 is more obvious, as I mentioned at the beginning of the month. The real-life awards this year will be handed out on Sunday, March 10, which just so happens to be the 31st day of 31 Days of Oscar if you begin the programming on Feb. 9. Clever, isn't it?

It looks as though this year, the overall theme for the programming is once again based on categories, with each broadcast day's programming being given to movies that won or were nominated in a given category. Since there aren't 31 categories, some categories get more than one day. It also looks like prime time is for movies that actually won in the given category, with the morning and afternoon being for mere nominees. Well, more or less since sometimes the winners start before prime time. At least, this is what I can glean from the categories where I recognize who won.

I know there are a lot of people who are big fans of old movies who complain about 31 Days of Oscar because it means TCM only shows a limited set of movies for an entire 12th of the year. For me, I look at it a bit differently. TCM has always needed to try to find new viewers, people who are not yet really fans of old movies who would need some good reason to be drawn in. Oscar month is, I think, not a bad way to try doing that. And, of course, sometimes you want to see a better-known old movie you've already seen before and don't mind watching again.

The Life and Death of 9413

I've got a couple of movies on my DVR directed by Robert Florey, a man who directed quite a few films in the first two dozen years of the sound era. His is one of those names you may have seen in the opening credits without really knowing his work, since most of his work was not in prestige films. In looking him up, I came across a title that sounded really interesting: The Life and Death of 9413, a Hollywood Extra. It's now in the public domain and on Youtube, so I sat down to watch it.

Even before What Price Hollywood in 1932, Hollywood was a place people went to try to make it big, much in the same way people went east to New York to try to make it on the stage. John Jones is one such person. But he only gets considered as an extra, having the number 9413 written on his head. Also at the same casting call are two other people: a woman who gets number 13, and a man who tries out a bunch of different masks to do the sort of facial expression thing Marion Davies did in Show People. Somehow, this guy gets selected for stardom, and has a star written on his forehead.

9413 keeps trying to make it big, as he has DREAMS and chases SUCCESS (those words capitalized because signs with those words are a running theme throughout the movie, but that success eludes him. Eventually, 9413 dies and goes up to heaven. I don't think I'm giving much away considering this is a 13-minute short and there's that title.

This was made obviously early in Florey's career, and is heavily influenced by European expressionistic filmmaking. Many of the sets made me think of Metropolis. Florey directed, but the rest of the crew is worth mentioning too. Sets were made in part by Slavko Vorkapich, another name you'll probably have seen in the credits to movies of the 1930s for his montages and editing. The "Gregg" in the credits filming this is a young Gregg Toland, who would become really famous with Citizen Kane a dozen years later.

The Life and Death of 9413, a Hollywood Extra is a fascinating experimental film that's definitely worth watching. As I said, you can find it on Youtube, although I don't know that any of the prints have the music that originally went with the film.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The Preview Murder Mystery

TCM ran a month-long spotlight on B movies back in July, and as I've mentioned, I recorded a bunch of the movies they showed as part of the spotlight. So now it's time for another of those movies. This time out, it's The Preview Murder Mystery, which really is a mystery.

The movie starts off as a movie-within-a-movie, The Song of Toreador is wrapping production. Starring Neil Dubeck (Rod La Rocque) and Claire Woodward (Gail Patrick). It's a remake of a film from the studio's silent days, but unfortunately, the silent movie's star, Edwin Strange, is not around to see the remake. He disappeared just as movies were transitioning from silents to sound, and he's presumed dead. Meanwhile, there's been some debate over whether or not the studio should even be remaking the old silents.

So it's a stressful shoot, and it's only about to become more stressful as Neil receives a letter with a death thread. We soon learn that this isn't the first death threat he's received, and they all inform him that he's never going to live to see the success of Song of the Toreador. He's understandably jittery about it all. There's also the question of what to do about these death threats. Neil's been telling everyone at the studio about them, but the press have kept the story under wraps at the request of the studio bosses. This even though PR people like Johnny Morgan (Reginald Denny) think that if the story went public, it would be tremendous publicity for the new film.

Needless to say, Neil isn't thrilled about going to the preview, as he'd rather stay in hiding. But he does go into the theatre, sitting next to his co-star and the director, E. Gordon Smith (Ian Keith), who is also married to Claire. The preview is a smashing success. But, at the very end of the preview, it's discovered that Neil has dropped dead during the showing! It's an overdose of some narcotic, which brings up the question of whether it's suicide (possible but not likely), accidental overdose (which I think would be the most likely in real life), or murder. Since I'm reviewing The Preview Murder Mystery, as you can guess everybody soon thinks it might be murder.

And it's fairly quickly established that there are lots of possible suspects, starting with the director who could easily be portrayed as being jealous of the relationship between his wife and Dubeck considering the love scenes they had in Song of the Toreador. Things quickly go from bad to worse when somebody gets shot for real on the set of Claire's next movie due to real ammo being put in the prop gun. (Alec Baldwin is not in the movie.) The police investigating the murder order the lockdown of the entire studio, with nobody getting out since the murderer must still be on the lot.

It's at this point that the movie really becomes fun, as we get to see the Paramount back lot and a lot of Hollywood inside jokes if you will at the way studios were making films in the 1930s. The mystery itself isn't the greatest thing in the world; it's the atmosphere behind the mystery that makes this movie so much fun to watch. That and the movie running at breakneck speed.

But the fact that The Preview Murder Mystery was a B movie, and made in the mid-1930s at Paramount so that the rights were sold to Universal, that combine to make it a movie that's largely been forgotten. Indeed, I had never heard of the movie before seeing it show up in TCM's B-movie spotlight. That's a shame. It's the sort of movie that probably should have gotten a release on some box set of lesser-known content in the days when studios were still putting out box sets. The Preview Murder Mystery is absolutely worth watching. It's a hell of a lot of fun.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

The Best Years of Our Lives on a budget

A movie that I recorded when Robert Mitchum was TCM's Star of the Month in January is getting another airing now in early Feburary: Till the End of Time, tomorrow, February 7, at 4:30 PM. So, I sat down to watch it in order to do the blog post just in time for the TCM showing.

The movie opens not long after V-J Day ended World War II. A bunch of Marines who served in the Pacific theater of the war are getting demobbed, which is a fairly involved process since the government has to move a massive number of people and make certain that none of them end up not getting properly listed which, as in Identity Unknown could get you declared a deserter. There's also the adjustment back to civilian life and the fact that after close to four years a lot of the old jobs have changed.

Two of the Marines getting demobbed are Cliff Harper (Guy Madison, whom RKO was grooming for stardom) and William Tabeshaw (Robert Mitchum, who of course would become the big star at RKO). Cliff was a college boy before the war, having taken one semester at school before Pearl Harbor and his voluntary enlistment in the war. He's got middle-class parents in the Los Angeles area, and Dad is convinced that the place is going to grow in the years following the war. As for William, he had been working as a ranch-hand in New Mexico, and he's hoping to take his saved-up money and buy some land back in New Mexico to start a farm or ranch of his own. But he also likes to party and gamble. And he's got a steel plate in his head as a result of his war injuries.

Cliff gets home and finds his parents out for the day, and finds that he's got new neighbors who moved in during the war. They've got a high school-aged daughter Helen Ingersoll (Jean Porter), who immediately develops a crush on Cliff because in the World War II days, who didn't like a man in uniform? Cliff humors her, but doesn't really care for her as anything more than a friend.

Someone possibly more up Cliff's alley is Pat (Dorothy McGuire), a woman he meets at what in the Andy Hardy days would have been an ice cream parlor but became a bar during the war. Cliff falls for Pat until he sees her husband's picture. Except that it's her late husband, having been shot down over France. Now, she goes on flings with one guy after another.

Cliff can't quite decide what he wants to do, except that he wants to do something different from what he was being groomed to do before the war. This really pisses off his parents (Tom Tully and Ruth Nelson), who want to go back to life the way it was but don't want Cliff to dwell on his having been in the war, something that seems really mean on their part. And, after all, there are a lot of people who can't forget what happened in the war. We see this in one scene where Pat and Cliff run into a man who served and wound up with PTSD and a severe case of the shakes as a result. There's also a subplot involving Cliff and William's friend Perry (Bill Williams). He was a boxer before the war. But he lost both his legs, so he certainly can't box. He's got a kid brother, and damn if he isn't going to take his own broken dreams and put them on his kid brother, trying to train the kid to become a boxer.

It's difficult to watch a movie like Till the End of Time and not think about the Oscar-winning film The Best Years of Our Lives. However, Till the End of Time was released first, about four months before the better-known picture. It really feels like one of those movies that RKO was trying to make into a prestige picture, except that RKO never really seemed to be able to put together the sort of budget necessary to make the prestige movies that other studios could. So there's a bit of a shabby feeling here.

This isn't to say that Till the End of Time is a bad movie by any means. It has an ensemble cast of pretty good performances. Mitchum feels underused, although part of that is because he wasn't the big star yet that he'd become not long afterwards thanks to noirs like Out of the Past. McGuire is quite good, as are several of the supporting players, especially Selena Royle as Perry's mother.

It's understandable that Till the End of Time would be eclipsed by a movie like The Best Years of Our Lives. But it still stands on its own as a pretty darn good movie, and one that you should definitely catch.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Not the song from Urban Cowboy

Hollywood's always had a thing for singers and has tried to turn them into actors or actresses. Some have been quite good; others, not so much. I couldn't help but think about all of this as I watched singer Connie Francis in her movie Looking for Love.

The opening credits are over Francis' character, Libby Caruso, singing the title song for music producer Tiger Shay. Libby isn't a bad singer, although the music she's singing is a bit bland and dated for the time the movie came out, which is 1964, a few years after Connie Francis' heyday. Libby announces that if she can't get a break to be any sort of performer in Hollywood -- and she's been there a whole month for heaven's sake -- she's never going to get a break. She decides to give up on Hollywood and focus on finding a husband to start a family with.

The opening scene shows us how flighty and naïve Libby is, and when she goes to the employment agency, she announces that she's not competent at anything but singing. Indeed, she doesn't even seem to be competent enough to get herself dressed in the morning without making such a ruckus that she wakes up her roommate Jan (Susan Oliver). It's to the point that you wonder why Jan would keep such a roommate in the first place.

Libby decides that she's going to create a "lady valet", some sort of device that she can hang her clothes on overnight so that she can just take them off the valet first thing in the morning and save herself time. Looking for a broom hand to jerry-rig into the valet, she keeps knocking down grocery store worker Cuz (Joby Baker). Also at the grocery store, she and Jan see one of Jan's co-workers, Paul Davis (Jim Hutton), who works in promotions in the same office where Jan works. Jan tells Libby that Paul is never going to go with her, because he wants taller women.

Still, Libby is insistent on pursuing Paul, inviting him to a party she's throwing at her house. Paul is more interested in the lady valet than her, thinking it's an idea that might actually have some financial merit. He being in promotions, he's able to book a spot for Libby on The Tonight Show when Johnny Carson is coming out to Los Angeles to do a special week of episodes (Johnny didn't leave New York for LA until 1972). The appearance doesn't go well, at least not until Libby tells Johnny that she first came out to Los Angeles to try to become a singer. So Johnny has her sing a song, and this starts her on the road to music stardom.

But there's still all the romantic angles to solve, as everybody goes back and forth trying to figure out who's most appropriate for them romantically, interspersed with a bunch of cameos of Libby trying to advance her musical career.

Supposedly, Johnny Carson would joke about Looking for Love on The Tonight Show and how terrible it was. It's not hard to see why Carson would joke about it, the way he would tease his stage director Fred de Cordova about Bedtime for Bonzo. Francis isn't a very good actress in this one, and the plot is so inane it beggars belief. The music isn't that much better. The stars try, but I can't see any way they could save this one.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Ex-rich guy meets never-rich girl, vol. the umpteenth

Barbara Stanwyck was another of the people given a day in Summer Under the Stars this past August, and among the movies of hers that I hadn't seen before was a 1935 movie called The Woman in Red, not to be confused with other movies of the same title. Now that I've watched it, I can give you the review on it here.

This is one of those mid-1930s Warner Bros. programmers where the studio would routinely conclude the opening credits with brief head shots of each of the main charactes with the star's name and character wich is always a good way to put actors' names to faces. Stanwyck plays Shelby Barret, and and the beginning of the movie she's at the San Hernando Horse Show. But it's in a working capacity as she rides show horses for her boss, the wealthy widow Mrs. Nicholas (Genevieve Tobin), nicknamed Nicko. Nicko comes from old money, and showing horses from new money is Gene Fairchild (John Eldredge), who you get the feeling has a sort of thing for Shelby, except that he really wants to get into high society.

Accompanying Nicko, but riding her polo ponies instead of the show horses is Johnny Wyatt (Gene Raymond). He comes from old money; in fact, his extended family, the Wyatts, live back east on Long Island in a town named after them, Wyattville, this being the days before World War II whan Long Island was not yet suburbs halfway into Suffolk County. But they're living on past glory, and Nicko has Johnny riding her horses more because she sees him as a kept man.

Johnny, meanwhile, finds himself falling for Shelby almost from the moment he meets her, although the feeling isn't quite mutual at first. But he desides to ask her to marry him and take her back to meet his family on Long Island. They, thinking they're from old money and want to stay that way, are highly displeased with the idea of Johnny having married someone like Shelby. They go off to another of the family's residences, although it's one that needs a lot of repairs. The two also get the idea to start a business of a stable for other rich people's horses, but they need the seed capital to start the business.

And who should show up with the possibility of that capital but Fairchild and his yacht. Shelby wants it to be business and borrow the money from Fairchild as a real loan, but Fairchild still has feelings for her. So he invites her aboard his yacht, in part to help him secure another business deal while Johnny is away on business of his own. The only thing is, Fairchild's client brings a chorus girl along, making things look a lot more suspect than they would have been Johnny had accompanied Shelby. Worse is that the chorus girl gets drunk and falls overboard to her death a la Natalie Wood. And then Nicko, who is also a gossipy blankety-blank, was also at the dock seeing Shelby get on the tender to Fairchild's yacht. Fairchild is accused of killing Olga, but only Shelby can save him, and for her to do that might destroy her marriage to Johnny. His family are also worried about the family name.

The Woman in Red is the sort of Depression-era nonsense that you can't really believe could have happened in real life, but the sort of look at the wealthy that you can imagine audiences of the day loving. It's also material that feels like it's been done in a whole lot of othe movies of the era. In later years, there would be a slew of screwball comedies to do it, but in the first half of the 1930s it was a lot of dramas.

Still, Barbara Stanwyck is ever the professional and makes the material work, and even if she wound up in something lousy the movie would still be worth watching just for her. So definitely give The Woman in Red a chance.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Daddy's Gone A-Hunting

Another one of those movies that I recorded more because the plot synopsis sounded interesting, not having heard about it before I saw it show up on TCM, was the late 1960s thriller Daddy's Gone A-Hunting. Recently, I finally got around to watching it off the DVR.

Tragic British actress Carol White, brought over to Hollywood presumably to be the next big British thing in Hollywood, plays Cathy, a young woman who has just left the UK for a new job in San Francisco. On her first day in town, not long after arriving, she makes the acquaintance of a rather oddball guy, Ken Daly (Scott Hylands). He's a photographer who sees Cathy and is immediately taken with her, and thinks that the best way to make a good first impression on her is by throwing a snowball at her. This makes no sense, but it's a movie, so just go with it. Needless to say, the two hit it off.

They don't just start dating, but they pretty quickly move in together as well as start having sex, because who doesn't want to have hot steamy sex? Cathy, however, learns in fairly short order that Kenneth is more than just an oddball, in fact a rather demanding man who doesn't seem to happy about her doing better than him. That, and his controlling behavior. Unfortunately, Cathy didn't learn quickly enough, because by the time she figures out she doesn't want anything to do with him any more, she's gotten pregnant.

Not only does Cathy not tell Ken about her being pregnant, she does something controversial for the late 1960s -- she gets an abortion. And she lives happily ever after, dumping Ken and eventually finding true love in the form of Jack (Paul Burke), a scion of a family where such scions are groomed for bigger things, like elections to Congress. And after the wedding, the two of them set about raising a family.

But Cathy's having married someone relatively prominent means that it's going to be easier for Ken to find her. That's bad enough. Worse is that Ken really, really hates abortion in general, and especially so considering the fact that his baby was aborted. So he starts stalking Cathy, who knows she's being stalked but has never been able to tell Jack about the relationship with Kenneth and the fact that it resulted in an abortion. It would have been too much of a stigma in the late 1960s, and it would be easy to see how Cathy could believe letting the abortion become public knowledge might scuttle Jack's nascent political career.

This allows Ken to up the ante. Cathy killed his child, so he's going to make her expiate her sin... by forcing her to kill her own child! He's not going to do it since that would be wrong, but he's got some insane scheme to kidnap the baby and then force Cathy to kill it, even if unkowingly....

Daddy's Gone A-Hunting most certainly does have an interesting premise. Unfortunately, I have to say that I think it could have been executed better. As I was watching the movie I found myself thinking of another late 1960s film that goes way too far over the top, Once You Kiss a Stranger, the more lurid remake of Alfred Hitchcock's classic Strangers on a Train. The thing is that in the Hitchcock movie, the meeting between the two main players is a chance one with Farley Granger never expecting to see Robert Walker again. Here, you can't help but think Cathy should have run away the minute Ken hit her with that snowball. Of course, then we wouldn't have a movie.

So watch Daddy's Gone A-Hunting to see in interesting but flawed movie.