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About Jlewis

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  1. I think it has always been that way. Just over different subject matter. Throughout the 20th century, censorship was much stronger than it is today and the reasons why something was censored was often quite questionable by today's perspectives. With YouTube and everything related, you can basically express anything you want. However it may still be removed by the authorities in control if there is enough protest and outrage. It all boils down to business is business and what harms business must be eliminated. Bottom line, everything made today will have something wrong with it in the future. Take the coronavirus epidemic and the lack of "social distancing" in too many movies and TV shows to count, including a ton of material completed barely months ago. Society norms are changing constantly. I think the basic problem is that the average American has too short of an attention span and very little knowledge or interest of history. Not to get political here, but even some major leaders and figureheads prefer a "dumbed down" society and never bother fact-checking themselves before they make a speech. If we were a more academic nation that bothers to read and research instead of just responding to short opinions and comments on a computer screen that lack any real analysis or reacting to a media story without studying it more carefully, this would not be a problem. For example, in the context of older movies receiving a new audience, a big company like Disney will never ever reissue Song of the South and only would make available censored versions of Fantasia, Make Mine Music and other old material that has something "taboo" in it in regards to racial stereotypes, cigarette smoking, gun play and other concerns that parents have in regards to what their children watch. Apparently too many parents expect that company (and TV and videos in general) to be their child's babysitter and have no time (and often no desire) to sit and watch everything their children watch, explaining things to them when they ask questions. Personally, what I think a company like that should do is this: make all of their material available uncensored but provide a rating system similar to the MPAA ratings that indicate material that is "historically offensive" and specify what it is that is a concern. In this way, educated adults and educated children who bother to read can make their own choices as to what they want to see. Warner video used to do that with their Looney Tunes compilations with statements at the start of the videos (sometimes by a celebrity like Whoopi Goldberg, sometimes with just words on the screen) indicating that the ethnic stereotypes and sexism in the old material was "wrong then and wrong today" and do not represent the company's opinions of today, but to ignore them is to pretend that they never existed to begin with. Just paraphrasing here. Fortunately we have YouTube making so much of it available despite all of the copyright ownership battles. Context is everything, especially when it comes to specific words heard in dialogue. For example, if the N-word is used in a historical picture depicting racial prejudice in all of its ugly forms, it is acceptable. Also less disturbing if spoken by people of a darker skin tone, the general target of such words. If used in a joke by an all-Caucasian cast who have never be called that word, it is not. Ditto the use of the F-word, the three and six letter versions and not the four letter version. Older movies use it frequently because so many called that were "closeted" and less open, although the most famous example, Midnight Cowboy, was directed by an openly gay man and he was addressing some criticisms of society at the time. Also any World War II film is difficult for modern day Japanese viewers to watch since the vast majority of them are all too young to be responsible for Pearl Harbor. If educated on history and the notion "yes, this was the way it was and society was not all that socially positive back then", there is no problem. Today you have to EXPLAIN everything you do and the "why".
  2. One curio scene worth adding. Florence Bates makes a memorable, but un-credited, role as some ex striptease artist who appears Down Under. She had met Henry before and flaunts her legs briefly before getting the trap-door trip to fire and brimstone. I am curious as to "why". Was she the one guilty for getting Henry in trouble with his wife ages ago? She is so entertaining and does not come off all that decadent and "sinful". Maybe this was another spoofing on Victorian "morals" making much ado about nothing?
  3. That is so true but Hades/Satan obviously enjoys sitting back and listening to it all "replayed" in detail. This is one movie that actually suggests Down Under is not all that bad of a place to visit. In a curious way, Laird Cregar plays his role almost like a psychiatrist with Don Ameche on his "couch".
  4. Some of the older movie textbooks, including the Lubitsch biographies stretching back into the 1970s, tend to goof on the production dates. One source I copied for my own personal notes suggested filming done October and November. However I believe the November 6 to December 24th dates to be accurate, considering the sources of the AFI site (and TCM copying their information). Hard to believe that Lombard would die only weeks after the December finish. I have to go back and listen to the Pearl Harbor aired episode of Jack Benny's Jell-O Program (always broadcast on Sunday nights and the Japanese attack occurred that Sunday morning) to see if the movie was mentioned. Its filming and promotion was covered in two or three 1941-42 shows. The December 7th one featured his comic spoof of Spencer Tracy in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".
  5. I have yet to watch this western but it looks so fascinating in its storyline and cast. You mention the controversy of Brock Peters' character being... um... abusive of his “native” wife at first. Then again, viewers were less bothered by such things on screen back then than today (unfortunately... sad, but true). Also makes me wonder if he accepted this role to counter-act (in a 180 degree turnaround) his most famous role as Tom Robinson in a certain Harper Lee adaptation that requires no introduction. That character was an innocent sweetheart who just suffered from ol' South segregation, being accused of an assault that he did NOT commit with Gregory Peck defending him as his lawyer unsuccessfully against an all-white jury.
  6. Yeah... that was my boo-boo initially. No clue why I typed Wally instead of Ronny when I went the extra mile to check out Ronny's career online. Saw two of the Lord of the Flies movies and read the book in my youth. The wild and rugged settings are similar. Obviously here the characters remain buddies to the end instead of at war with each other.
  7. Adding one humorous addition here. There is a rather amusing Hollywood liberty taken. The calendar in the school room reads Friday, December 13, 1932 when the actual 13th was a Tuesday. I am curious why they did not just use a calendar without the year printed on it.
  8. The above referenced WITH A SONG IN MY HEART is another interesting, if slightly bland, musical biopic too. Susan Hayward is emotionally appealing and anything with Thelma Ritter "telling it like it is" keeps me watching.
  9. As mentioned above, Robert Lacey's passing prevented him from attending the reunion of cast members, yet he was the one with the most substantial career. Many Baby Boomers and Generation Xers remember him as the key villain in the first RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. I have yet to see THE LEATHER BOYS, but the star here, Dudley Sutton, took a very risky move in the part he plays there. Then again, the Brits had already paved the way with VICTIM, A TASTE OF HONEY, THE L-SHAPED ROOM and others by the time that film was made in 1963. Then still more advancements were made in the coming years. Taken as a whole, these films actually did help influence Parliament to do away with all of those antiquated laws left over from the Victorian Age by 1967, which put that country (if not other parts of the British Empire right away) ahead of the United States. We tend to forget that certain activities that were generally done in the privacy of the bedroom were still considered illegal and subject to arrest in several states as late as 2003 regardless of how many pride marches took place by then.
  10. I don't want to typecast certain individuals who may live in the grittier parts of a city. Yet I have to add to your comments about Shelley Winters being miscast. She also seems a bit too glamorous and sophisticated here. She's slightly Park Avenue-ish despite living in a modest and somewhat cluttered apartment. This contrasts with some other roles of hers, particularly in the seventies, when she does act very streetwise and "earthy" in her mannerisms. Why she decided not to behave that way here is a mystery, because she seems a bit out of place with her surroundings.
  11. Figured I should add some more comments. First of all, we shorties fans must save up since the Warner Archive is plopping out some much anticipated (finally!) compilations. These include Tex Avery Screwball Classics, which double-dips some Droopy but also provides beautifully restored prints of Red Hot Riding Hood and others to match the ongoing Popeye series of the 1940s that also ape anything seen online. Of course, that one is cheaper at $19+ to the Pete Smith collection at $34+, but it only has 20 shorts compared to the whopping 75 here. Yes, you do get more bang for your buck. Plus only 12 titles here were previously available on DVD before as “extras”. Of the 63 that were not, my guess is that less than 20 were shown on TCM periodically and these may have been caught by avid DVR-ers. The remainder have likely only recently been dusted off from a vault. Practically zilch can be seen online on YouTube or anywhere else. Oh... there is a glitch with my particular copy and I am hoping it will be taken care of with customer service. While all of the Technicolor films are well presented on discs 1 through 3, there apparently was a problem with the pressing of my disc 4. Fala At Hyde Park and Now You See It are both presented in black and white, while the latter is available in glorious color as an extra on the DVD set TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams Volume 2. Therefore, I don't think the issue here is unavailable color prints. Just a goof in the production process. Not too optimistic that I will get it fixed, but... this is a nice compilation set to have... and I will comment accordingly. These Smithies are always a lot of fun to watch. I kinda half-understand, despite my overall disappointment, why Pete Smith was showered with lots of Oscars and nominations while his fellow MGM shortie host James FitzPatrick was totally ignored with his Traveltalks. I guess the reasoning was this: the travelogues showcasing the world's exotic sites in dazzling Technicolor from 1934 onward were very structured in their format with Jimmy's voice pretty much staying the same throughout, being very disciplined in how he documented each building, native in costume and the social life of any culture that lacked Mickey Mouse comic books. Also the titles are all straightforward in regards to where we are going; in hindsight, we modern viewers have seen The World a lot more than our grandparents did. Pete Smith is more “anything goes” and variety is the spice of life with the Smithies covering a wide menu involving athletes demonstrating their dexterity in slow-motion, comedy sketches on the human condition, animal hi-jinks, cooking lessons in Technicolor, quiz-reel audience participation games... you name it. Perfect case in point. In December 1938 and January 1939, Robert Carney made a cinematic Technicolor tour of the U.S. southeast, namely the Sunshine State, for no less than four MGM short subjects. Quaint St. Augustine, Old Natchez On The Mississippi and Glimpses Of Florida went to Jimmy while Marine Circus, covering the only recently opened Marine Studios (still going strong today as Marineland despite being 33 years older than the Magic Kingdom), went to Pete. To be fair, Glimpses Of Florida, which wasn't released until 1941, did include footage of Ross Allen milking the rattlers and wrestling gators in Silver Springs and Jimmy narrates this material entertainingly enough. Yet it is obvious who is having a real blast commenting on one odd looking fish “being turned down flat” by the “glamour fish at The Studio”, the manatee as a “sea cow, which makes the man you see a sea cowboy... si, oui”, manta rays “they deemed the ray Martha I guess”, and, commenting on a penguin gulping a too big of a fish, “you just sit there and listen to your arteries harden”. One criticism of the early films may be too much emphasis on narration. The production values are first rate, so it may not have been necessary to frequently shoot the material silent or at least have multiple actors dub voices. The little girl crying over her beloved Killer-Dog falsely accused of a coyote's sheep killing is quite dramatic visually but feels odd in its presentation with Pete being slightly comical in voice-over. The “dramedy” piece The Grand Bounce, covering how one man's un-cashed check is utilized by various other people, makes for slightly dull viewing only because we hear Smith's voice on the soundtrack and none from the too-many actors and actresses on screen. Pete and his editors were quite skilled at matching the lips on screen, however. Poetry In Nature with its talking black bear and Please Answer (I.Q. Quiz #3) with its talking cow even predate Paramount's popular “Speaking of Animals” series, while two later entries add some cell-animation just like that rival series. Eagle eyes may notice an interesting, but very gradual, change in how the races are integrated on screen since pre-war America itself was certainly NOT integrated. MGM has often been critiqued for being a bit too “lily white” compared to some of the other studios; if you want to see more great black jazz musicians and Asian-American acrobats on thirties celluloid, seek out the Warner Bros. shorties featured on the excellent Vitaphone Cavalcade Of Musical Comedy Shorts DVD set. Anesthesia is interesting in its somewhat critical take on black/white relations in the 1840s with our narrator clearly taking the side of the poor servant “boy” tormented by young white men who claim power over him, while Social Sea Lions comically mocks the uppity house guests being ignorant of the invading flipper folk from the beach while the darker-toned chef is the one who is well aware of the intruders who do not belong. Considerable advancement is made by the time of Victory Quiz, one of the delightful “guess the answer in ten to fifteen minutes” reels. In this one, we close with a very ahead-of-its-time shot of soldiers holding hands in solidarity and being of multiple races, novel since the armed forces weren't yet, in reality, as integrated as Pete Smith apparently wants us to be "E Pluribus Unum". Pete was always impressed by the handicapped and their ability to overcome obstacles. This makes Seeing Hands one of the all time best entries of the series. It features Bel Helwig succeeding at making airplane parts at a war-plant with just his super sensitive hands and a German Shepherd guide dog who aids him on occasion when he drops a tool. Anytime there was a chance to feature a canine, Pete jumped at the opportunity. In fact, there are as many dogs as humans populating these films. (Yet he isn't terribly fond of coyotes, presenting them as villains in Killer-Dog and even showing them get shot by airplane in the compilation of older material re-hash, Sportsmen's Memories). No less than three times, we see a pooch save the life of a little girl almost run over by a car. Stuffie goes one better with a little terrier and a big Saint Bernard saving their mistress from a burning house! As that film demonstrates, not all endings are happy ones. Likewise, Man's Greatest Friend chronicles both canine and human lives lost with Pasteur and others' efforts to find a cure for rabies. Much of a particular film's appeal will depend on your interest level on the subject covered. I totally zoned out during Culinary Carving, but found Radio Hams still fascinating (and had seen it before on TCM) since I have now met some who continue this hobby today and use electronic equipment not too different than the ones featured back in 1939. Quicker 'N' A Wink and its Technicolor successor (despite my copy not being in Technicolor) Now You See It feature then-stunning slow-motion stroboscopic effects by Harold Edgerton and others of bulbs breaking, milk splashing, hummingbirds in action and close-ups of cat tongues and wrist-watches, while also ending with a typically Smithy ghoulish “joke” of a dentist drill chisseling through teeth (in the former) and a mosquito enjoying her bloody meal (in the latter). Penny Wisdom gets shown a lot since it is a 1937 Technicolor Oscar winner (and, yes, all of the Penny reels are in color on my three discs), but I greatly favor Penny's Party over it, this one also in beautiful color and released as a follow-up in the spring of '38 (right around the same time the other took home its statuette). Prudence Penny is her typical calm and relaxed self, making a dinner that is far more yummy than the one in the earlier title and actually one that is fairly easy for most of us to imitate, with tuna baked with potato chip crunch and green jelly rolls. Meanwhile, we get all of this mayhem with clumsy Gwen Lee mixing all kinds of toxic chemicals in the punch and blowing out her teeth in the process. Although slightly less pristine in its preservation, Penny's Picnic is still visually stunning in its use of outdoor scenery as an alternative to the standard kitchen, with Penny showing how to skin a fish and make dumplings on the back of a pan turned upside down. Penny To The Rescue involves her saving the day for the husband of the house and his poker buddies. I have a feeling that Julia Child caught some of these in theaters and was inspired. Cooking is supposed to be fun for those motivated enough and should involve its fair share of experimentation, which these Pete Smith reels make it doubly so. MGM did not have a regular sport series like the Grantland Rice Sportlights for Paramount, RKO-Pathé Sportscopes, Fox Movietone Sports Review, Columbia's World of Sports and Warner's Technicolor Sports Parade, so the Pete Smith series tended to compensate just as Universal's “Variety Views” often did with many sports oriented subjects. Roughly a quarter of his titles feature football in particular, with no less than ten Football Thrills featured on these discs. Historically interesting in their montage of “News of the Day” and other newsreels, they make for slightly dull viewing today simply because the camera equipment of the times was far less sophisticated than what is available on ESPN and Super Bowl Sunday today. So many action shots are done at a distance with few facial close-ups. More successful were standard set-ups of games like the hockey match in Hot On Ice that is wonderfully filmed at various angles and at multiple film speeds so that we feel every fall and crash as if you are a player yourself. Also of interest is Grid Rules, which gives us an amusing history lesson on how the rules of the game were created through trial and error over the decades in special reenactments. Much of the Pete Smith filmography makes for first rate “sugar coated” education. You learn a lot without realizing it because Pete is not a lecture-teacher but a comedy-writer who livens up subjects traditionally presented more on the dry side. Those quiz reels are NOT as challenging as a Jeopardy game show by any means, but it is still fun to learn that Leonardo Da Vinci was the one who practically invented the submarine, airplane and tank all in the same year of 1496.
  12. Eventually got this one and, of course, my list above... which was all speculation... was totally wrong. The corrected list of titles... just fixed it above... span the years 1936 through 1948 (instead of 1941). The format is similar to the Traveltalks discs. Instead of doing every title chronologically in a prescribed time period, there is a cross selection from a longer time period with the expectation that the missed ones will be part of volume 2. I will soon add information to the MGM shorties thread.
  13. Is it possible to buy a copy of this old RKO-Pathe Sportscope ‘short’? And if so, where?
    • Canoeman's Holiday (Earle Luby, producer; Douglas Sinclair) / October 4, 1956 Covers Loon Bay Lodge in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada and St. Croix River

    1. Jlewis


      I think Warner owns that one and did not release it on DVD because they weren't sure of its marketability. Because the Sportscopes stretch far back into the 1930s and they only have access to the mid-'50s ones, it might not be all that "fruitful" for them. However another guy told me that he contacted the Warner Archive on another vintage Sportscope from 1955 and they pressed either a free or a very cheap copy of it on DVD. Not sure if you will be quite so lucky, but you never know. This one may have been shown on TCM on one point and some folks may DVR it. Maybe ask here in email https://support.warnerarchive.com/hc/en-us/articles/225250947-How-do-I-request-a-movie-show- or on their facebook page.

  14. Sorry I am a little late in replying here. Figured I should comment on this thread since this is a better one for lengthier conversations of this sort. The UCLA site has quite a few Vitaphones but I couldn't find these there. https://cinema.library.ucla.edu/vwebv/searchBasic That does not mean that the films are lost. You can also email The Vitaphone Project too at http://www.vitaphoneproject.com/ If there is enough interest, the Warner Archive may plop out another Vitaphone DVD with newer discoveries like any with the Mexican Tipica Orchestra.
  15. I guess watching the Alexander Korda Technicolor version of 1940 after this one is a rather pointless exercise since the only primary connections that the two share are their titles and their similar use of William Cameron Menzies. The story material is different apart from the basic setup of characters embarking on wild adventures involving beasties and flying carpets. Speaking of beasties, we do get giant spiders in both, although the underwater one Fairbanks battles is far less sophisticated in its hydraulic movements than the one Sabu battles in its own web. Fairbanks is required in his version to be both an adventurer and a romantic. However he isn't terribly good at wooing the ladies on screen. They always look bored out of their minds waiting for him to return to them or rescue them from a fate worse than death. At least Julanne Johnston gets to contribute more to this film's overall plot than Enid Bennett did in ROBIN HOOD. I think Fairbanks would have preferred doing what Sabu does in the later version and leave the romantic declarations to John Justin. Not that John and Princess June Duprez make a particularly exciting pair. The reasons I enjoy the '40 version are due to Sabu's lovable personality and wonderful athletic skills (almost as good as Fairbanks despite a younger age and less training), bombastic genie Rex Ingram's booming voice and Conrad Veidt playing Jaffar in a far more sexually-obsessed and unsatisfied way than Disney's version of Jaffar.
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