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I Just Watched...

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On 3/31/2018 at 8:24 PM, TomJH said:

I don't know much about Pola Negri either, recalling her primarily for her passing out repeatedly antics at Valentino's funeral. This alienated the public especially since, for a woman deep in mourning over Rudy, she married just nine months later.

But I read that she made a succession of silents with Ernst Lubitsch, making films at Germany's UFA studios before signing with Paramount in 1922 to become the first of the Continental star imports, leading the way later for Banky, Garbo and Dietrich.

A Woman Commands, Negri's first talkie Lawrence reviewed, was not well received but a song the actress sang in it, "Paradise," was a hit, leading to several other artists having their own versions of it over the years, including Russ Columbo (with whom Negri apparently had an affair), Louis Prima and Keely Smith. In her autobiography Negri would say that in 1945 she had a Boston supper club engagement centered around "Paradise," this shortly before her retirement.

Negri is one of the stars who turned down the role of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Speaking of Billy Wilder, he would later say that his lead character in Fedora was based on Negri. Negri would emerge from retirement in the '60s for one final film, Disney's The Moon-Spinners.

The lady had an active private life, married to a count and later a prince, and said to have had numerous Hollywood affairs. Aside from Valentino (whom she called the love of her life) and Columbo, there was also Charlie Chaplin and Rod La Rocque. Negri died in San Antonio (where she had lived her final years) in 1987, age 90.

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Negri apparently had a long relationship with a woman in San Antonio. I read her bio years ago. A shame we cant see some of her silents on TCM. But Universal/Paramount again. :(  After her Hollywood career went bust, didnt she work in Europe for UFA? Or am I thinking of someone else?

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The Edge of the World (1937) - British drama from writer-director Michael Powell. The story charts the sad last days of the residents on Hirta, a small, isolated Scottish island. As more and more of the younger generations move away, the remaining residents are finding life, which was already a struggle, to be untenable. Young adults Andrew (Niall MacGinnis), Robbie (Eric Berry), and Robbie's sister Ruth (Belle Chrystall) all dream of moving to the mainland, and while Andrew's father James (Finlay Currie) can see the inevitability of it, Robbie and Ruth's proud father Peter (John Laurie) is determined to maintain life on Hirta as usual. Also featuring Kitty Kirwan, Grant Sutherland, Campbell Robson, George Summers, and Michael Powell as the Yachtsman.

This was the first major feature film for director Powell, and he's already showing skill at composing imagery. The location cinematography is bleak yet beautiful, and the film's editing ratchets up several scenes of suspense. The film's one weakness lies in its performances. Currie and Laurie are both excellent, but MacGinnis is a bit green, and many of the supporting and bit players are obviously non-professionals. Still, this is a terrific debut from one of Great Britain's greatest filmmakers.    (7/10)

Source: FilmStruck.

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As long as we're on a Pola Negri kick, here she is in a 1932 photo meeting some famous scientist (whose name escapes me) and his wife:

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She then wrote a 400-word essay entitled "My Impressions of Einstein," but I haven't been able to find it yet.

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1 hour ago, scsu1975 said:

As long as we're on a Pola Negri kick, here she is in a 1932 photo meeting some famous scientist (whose name escapes me) and his wife:

gOwCoLV.png

She then wrote a 400-word essay entitled "My Impressions of Einstein," but I haven't been able to find it yet.

LOL. She really thought highly of herself. I got that from her memoirs......

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There's a funny story about Pola and her Paramount rival, Gloria Swanson. They were both invited to a Hollywood party at the height of their fame in the 1920s, but neither one wanted to get there before the other one and wanted to make the grand entrance. So they both circled the block in their limos for quite some time. Unsure which one finally caved and gave in. It may have been just some press agent's story, but I'd like to believe it was true! :D

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Finger Man (1955)

Familiar but serviceable crime drama, with Frank Lovejoy as a small time hood, facing permanent time in the slammer, who agrees to do undercover work for the Treasury Department to nail a big time gangster responsible for turning his sister into a junkie. The gangster, played by Forrest Tucker, is pretty much behind all the corruption in town, gambling, prostitution, drugs, murders, you name it. Pretty Peggy Castle is cast as a girl who has been around the block more than a few times, with underworld connections, who agrees to help introduce Lovejoy, a guy she likes, to Tucker.

You've seen this kind of crime drama before. This one does have some gritty street atmosphere, and an okay lead performance by Lovejoy. It would, in truth, be easy to dismiss this film if it wasn't for the scene stealing supporting performance of a typically over-the-top Timothy Carey as Tucker's chief enforcing goon. Carey's face twitches so much you think he might have a facial nerve disease, and if he isn't doing that he's cracking his knuckles. You can't take your eyes off him.

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SPOILER ALERT: When Lovejoy finally goes mano a mano with Carey the latter falls apart, whimpering like a baby. But he does this over the top, as well, cringing and wailing, and putting on such a spectacle that you almost feel like you need a pair of ear plugs. It's also a little weird seeing a man who seems three quarters Carey's size having such total domination of him.

There's an okay print of Finger Man on You Tube.

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2.5 out of 4

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King Solomon's Mines (1937) - British adventure tale based on the novel by H. Rider Haggard, from Gaumont and director Robert Stevenson. Big game hunter Allan Quartermain (Cedric Hardwicke) is hired to guide Commander Good (Roland Young) and Sir Henry Curtis (John Loder) on an African safari. They encounter Irish lass Kathy O'Brien (Anna Lee) and mysterious native Umbopa (Paul Robeson), who are searching for Kathy's father after he left to find the legendary title locale. Their journey involves a desert trek, dangerous natives, and worse. Also featuring Arthur Sinclair, Robert Adams, and Sydney Fairbrother.

This is the first film version of five, and supposedly the most faithful to the book, but I've never read it. I've seen the 1950 and 1985 versions. This version naturally looks dated and cliched, although it's quite epic for a British film of the time. Quatermain is usually depicted as a square-jawed hero of the classic type, and Hardwicke isn't exactly that. Instead, he's more of an elder statesman, a gentleman of culture, and the more physical moments are given to Loder and Robeson. Paul Robeson gets top billing, which is impressive, and he sings a couple of songs.   (7/10)

Source: YouTube.

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7 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

King Solomon's Mines (1937) -

...

This is the first film version of five, and supposedly the most faithful to the book, but I've never read it. I've seen the 1950 and 1985 versions. This version naturally looks dated and cliched, although it's quite epic for a British film of the time. Quatermain is usually depicted as a square-jawed hero of the classic type, and Hardwicke isn't exactly that. Instead, he's more of an elder statesman, a gentleman of culture, and the more physical moments are given to Loder and Robeson. Paul Robeson gets top billing, which is impressive, and he sings a couple of songs.   (7/10)

 

 

I've read the book, and this version is closer to Haggard's story than the 1950 version. The 1950 version bored me to death; it was like watching a travelogue. I haven't seen the 1985 version, but I suspect it was done as a variation on Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Quartermain is an elderly adventurer in the novel, so Hardwicke is not a bad choice. Loder is so-so; I've always found him a bit dull as a lead, but I think he really shines as one of the sons in How Green Was My Valley. And Robeson has that spectacular stature to go with that booming voice.

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10 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

King Solomon's Mines (1937)

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This British version includes the crone-like witch doctor, who was a part of the book. I couldn't understand why the 1950 remake jettisoned that character. The Indiana Jones-clone 1985 version I saw at the show, and was enchanted by Sharon Stone's wholesome beauty and feisty performance, long before she became a screen sex symbol.

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1 hour ago, scsu1975 said:

I've read the book, and this version is closer to Haggard's story than the 1950 version. The 1950 version bored me to death; it was like watching a travelogue. I haven't seen the 1985 version, but I suspect it was done as a variation on Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Quartermain is an elderly adventurer in the novel, so Hardwicke is not a bad choice. Loder is so-so; I've always found him a bit dull as a lead, but I think he really shines as one of the sons in How Green Was My Valley. And Robeson has that spectacular stature to go with that booming voice.

I, too, was bored with the 1950 version. The '85 version was a corny, cheap Indiana Jones cash-in. It gained more of a following than it deserved thanks to being overplayed on HBO in the late 80's. 

The "travelogue" description fits with many jungle and/or safari pictures, and I'm not a fan of many of them, but their appeal is understandable. They were made before nature shows, and eventually entire channels, brought that kind of thing to viewers. Even zoos were a rarefied experience, only for those with the time and money and geographic luck to live near one. So in rural America, and even in big cities, seeing these locales and animals was awe-inspiring. Trader Horn is a tedious slog to modern viewers but it was life-changing to many viewers back in 1931.

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2 hours ago, TomJH said:

The Indiana Jones-clone 1985 version I saw at the show, and was enchanted by Sharon Stone's wholesome beauty and feisty performance, long before she became a screen sex symbol.

As we learn from the "Electric Boogaloo" Cannon Pictures documentary, Menahem Golan kept saying through the '85 version, "Get me that Stone woman!" to play the heroine.  Everyone thought he meant Sharon Stone, who turned out to be a pain on the set and no one ultimately liked, until they finally realized too late Golan's overenthusiastic lack of English had meant Kathleen Turner from Romancing the Stone.

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11 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

I, too, was bored with the 1950 version.

At least you guys didn't go to see King Solomon at a drive in and have your wits half scared out of you by a clown who stuck his head in the car window, as was my experience as a seven or eight year old.

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"Keep still, keep very still. There he is lurking out behind the bushes. See that red nose? See those big feet? See that seltzer bottle in his hands? Careful! Don't get too close or he'll squirt you with it! God, he's a loathsome creature!"

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Make a Wish (1937) - Wholesome musical from RKO and director Kurt Neumann. Bobby Breen stars as Chip Winters, a precocious ten-year-old singing prodigy who is attending summer camp in Maine. Across the lake from the camp lies the residence of composer Johnny Selden (Basil Rathbone), who has moved from the city in order to overcome his creative stagnation. Selden meets Chip and the two become friends, and the youngster decides to try and set the older man up on dates with Chip's mother Irene (Marion Claire). Also featuring Donald Meek, Henry Armetta, Leon Errol, Billy Lee, Ralph Forbes, and Leonid Kinskey.

This cornball schmaltz had to have been irritating even in 1937. Breen sings a lot, Claire sings, and everyone's sweet and wholesome. Yuck. Was there really a time when a large group of boys would sit around quietly and watch Bobby Breen sing "Polly-Wolly-Doodle all the day"? I wasn't even there and I wanted to scream. I watched this for Rathbone, who may have appreciated getting to play something other than a creep or scoundrel. I hope he enoyed himself. The movie earned an Oscar nomination for Best Score (Hugo Reisenfeld).  (4/10)

Source: YouTube.

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I don't know though if the song Polly Wolly Doodle is quite so squeaky clean anymore after what went down in 1981's SOB where it was originally sung in a sugary-sweet film within a film that was hilarious in how chirpy it was, but later returned  reorchestrated as backdrop music for that film's most notorious scene.

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1 hour ago, CinemaInternational said:

I don't know though if the song Polly Wolly Doodle is quite so squeaky clean anymore

well, it did unite the Sycamore and Kirby families in You Can't Take it With You...

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Seventh Heaven (1937) - Romance from 20th Century Fox and director Henry King. Set in 1914 Paris, the film follows the denizens of one poor neighborhood, particularly sewer worker Chico (James Stewart) and Diane (Simone Simon), a dance hall "hostess". The couple hope to have a better life together, but World War One interrupts them. Also featuring Jean Hersholt, Gale Sondergaard, John Qualen, Gregory Ratoff, J. Edward Bromberg, Sig Ruman, Victor Kilian, Thomas Beck, Mady Christians, Rollo Lloyd, Rafaela Ottiano, and John Hamilton.

This was famously filmed as a silent in 1927 with Janet Gaynor, who won an Oscar for it. This version isn't bad, although some of the sharper edges are dulled thanks to the production code. Stewart is very good, displaying a lot of screen charisma, even if he makes no attempts to be French or anything but Jimmy Stewart. Simone Simon is gorgeous, but her accent is very thick, muddling some of her lines. Sondergaard gets another good villainess role, while Jean Hersholt, playing a priest, replaced Don Ameche and John Carradine in the role. What a trio!  (7/10)

Source: YouTube.

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11 hours ago, EricJ said:

 

As we learn from the "Electric Boogaloo" Cannon Pictures documentary, Menahem Golan kept saying through the '85 version, "Get me that Stone woman!" to play the heroine.  Everyone thought he meant Sharon Stone, who turned out to be a pain on the set and no one ultimately liked, until they finally realized too late Golan's overenthusiastic lack of English had meant Kathleen Turner from Romancing the Stone.

Whatever Sharon Stone may have been like on the set aside, her broadly played feisty heroine performance in King Solomon's Mines is completely unlike her later screen image. I found her engaging and likable in a comic adventure I saw as good goofy fun. The sequel, however, Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold, I recall as being a tedious bore. I admit it's been quite a few years since I saw these films so who knows if I'd feel the same about them today.

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8 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

Seventh Heaven (1937)

 

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The print on You Tube is really quite lovely.

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14 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

I, too, was bored with the 1950 (KING SOLOMON'S MINES)version.

The "travelogue" description fits with many jungle and/or safari pictures, and I'm not a fan of many of them, but their appeal is understandable. They were made before nature shows, and eventually entire channels, brought that kind of thing to viewers. Even zoos were a rarefied experience, only for those with the time and money and geographic luck to live near one..... Trader Horn is a tedious slog to modern viewers but it was life-changing to many viewers back in 1931.

1. The 1950 version of King Solomon's mines is probably one of the 10 most overplayed titles on TCM. Really wish they'd give it a rest

2 Every time I get bummed out by the fact that the most popular films of every year seem to always be the worst most ridiculous films of every year, I take some solace in looking back at even the Golden age of cinema and seeing that even back then stuff that was really popular is +QUITE CLEARLY+ absolutely horrible now. really, you need about 5 to 10 years time for the aura of things to fade and for everyone to kind of come to their senses. TRADER HORN - which yeah, absolutely rocked people's worlds back in 1931 – is probably one of the 10 worst films ever nominated for best picture. 

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12 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

Make a Wish (1937) - Wholesome musical from RKO and director Kurt Neumann. Bobby Breen stars as Chip Winters, a precocious ten-year-old singing prodigy who is attending summer camp in Maine. Across the lake from the camp lies the residence of composer Johnny Selden (Basil Rathbone), who has moved from the city in order to overcome his creative stagnation. Selden meets Chip and the two become friends, and the youngster decides to try and set the older man up on dates with Chip's mother Irene (Marion Claire). Also featuring Donald Meek, Henry Armetta, Leon Errol, Billy Lee, Ralph Forbes, and Leonid Kinskey.

 

 

An amusing incident occurred during the filming of this movie. Henry Armetta and Basil Rathbone were talking between scenes. Armetta had placed a cigarette stub in his pocket (an old habit) so he could finish it later. But it came into contact with an open book of matches in his pocket. One observer on the set reported that Armetta then gave "a very good imitation of a Roman candle on a rampage."

Although known for his comic performances, Armetta began his career playing villains in silent films. Perhaps his strangest role was in his film debut, The New Governor, in which he played a black man who rapes a young white girl, and then is hunted by down by dogs and killed. The film goes by another title, but I can't type it here without being censored.


 

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45 minutes ago, scsu1975 said:

An amusing incident occurred during the filming of this movie. Henry Armetta and Basil Rathbone were talking between scenes. Armetta had placed a cigarette stub in his pocket (an old habit) so he could finish it later. But it came into contact with an open book of matches in his pocket. One observer on the set reported that Armetta then gave "a very good imitation of a Roman candle on a rampage."

Although known for his comic performances, Armetta began his career playing villains in silent films. Perhaps his strangest role was in his film debut, The New Governor, in which he played a black man who rapes a young white girl, and then is hunted by down by dogs and killed. The film goes by another title, but I can't type it here without being censored.

 

 


 

Some years ago I came across an old autograph album. Among the signatures was this one

D85ydSq.jpg

I wonder if the "Armida" signed on the opposite page is a Sicilian/Italian version of Armetta's name.

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Bright Lights (1930)  7/10
Dorothy Mackaill as Fred Astaire...
 
... in one of the wacky early talkies that I bet Michael Curtiz wishes he could have erased from his resume.

I give this 7 stars mainly for the early talkie fan. It really is pretty good for a 1930 back-stager and pretty original. The alternate title "Adventures in Africa" is rather puzzling since the movie spends all of ten minutes there, in a South African cabaret. However these are important moments as the conclusion to the entire story is dependent on events there.

The movie opens with Louanne's (Dorothy Mackaill) last night on the Broadway stage as she is marrying the wealthy Fairchild after the show. Fairchild is accompanied by his sour-faced mother and sister who look more like they are going to a funeral than a wedding since they are none too happy about the family heir marrying an entertainer. Frank Fay has a very good role here as Wally, the man who has been Louanne's protector and somewhat on-stage partner for years. Wally is definitely in love with Louanne, and Louanne seems to have a bit of a thing for Wally in spite of her engagement, although the love has remained unrequited. If you think it the thing of curiosity seekers to see Frank Fay playing romantic lead to Dorothy Mackail, then think again. The two have real chemistry.

The fly in the ointment? Noah Beery as the diamond smuggler Miguel who resents Louanne because she once forcefully resisted his attempted rape. Honestly, Mr. Beery! Didn't Warner Brothers ever think you plausible as simply asking a girl out for dinner and a show? In every early Warner Brothers talkie in which I've seen Mr. Beery he's either threatening human sacrifice (Golden Dawn) or execution by firing squad (Noah's Ark) in order to have his way with a woman.

Besides all of the drama, there are some really great musical numbers, some bizarre to the point of being charming. The opening number has Frank Fay in a big musical production entitled "Wall Street". From the lyrics people didn't like bankers any more in 1930 than they do today. After seeing Dorothy Mackail scantily clad for the tropical hula number "Cannibal Love" in which her fellow cannibals yield shields with crosses on them - maybe they ate some Crusaders??? - she returns for "Man About Town" dressed like Fred Astaire in tuxedo and tails with her blonde hair hidden under her top hat. The grand prize for most bizarre number has to go to a very short jazz number performed in the South African club by an unnamed stout short female singer with a booming voice accompanied by a rather clumsy chorus dancing right behind her. It looks as if any of the chorines took a wrong step and kicked just a little harder the jazz singing dynamo would have taken it right in the pants and landed in the front row of the audience.

Also look out for Frank McHugh as a drunken fresh reporter who even in 1930 is sporting his trademark mischievous laugh and James Murray of "The Crowd" in a rare talkie appearance.

I watched the Warner Archive copy of Bright Lights, and if you want to see it the way it should be seen I would advise getting a copy of this restored version. It doesn't have that fuzzy look that black and white copies of two strip Technicolor films generally have, and the picture and sound are crisp and clear throughout.
 
Source: TCM Michael Curtiz spotlight and Warner Archive DVD-R
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3 hours ago, TomJH said:

Some years ago I came across an old autograph album. Among the signatures was this one

D85ydSq.jpg

I wonder if the "Armida" signed on the opposite page is a Sicilian/Italian version of Armetta's name.

I suppose it's possible. While researching my Italian heritage, I've come across multiple spellings of family names. But these signatures are different, so maybe the "Armida" is someone else.

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31 minutes ago, scsu1975 said:

I suppose it's possible. While researching my Italian heritage, I've come across multiple spellings of family names. But these signatures are different, so maybe the "Armida" is someone else.

I suppose it could be someone else but I thought it too much of a coincidence that Armida and Armetta are beside one another. Yeh, the handwriting doesn't look that similar, I admit.

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52 minutes ago, scsu1975 said:

I suppose it's possible. While researching my Italian heritage, I've come across multiple spellings of family names. But these signatures are different, so maybe the "Armida" is someone else.

If it's the 30's actor who invented the stereotypic Italian-waiter sloping walk as he carries a tray, always thought that was Henry Armida.

In the wartime 40's, it wasn't popular to be Italian, so some actors either disguised their heritage, or, like Sinatra, went out of their way to do onscreen patriotic stunts--It's possible Armida became Armetta, though it's hard to tell from the picture.

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