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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...


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 I saw three films this week.  Salt for Svanetia was clearly the best, with Kalatazov's trademark style in what is probably very questionable ethnography.  This Changes Everything would probably have been better if Naomi Klein had reversed the ratio of audience self-congratulation to anti-capitalist activism.  The Skeleton Twins was competent, but not particularly inspired.  Although Bill Hader and Karen Wiig gave good performances, there wasn't anything especially touching or clever or profound.

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I saw four  movies this this week.  "Pal Joey" (1957) is a watered down version that's not nearly as cynical as its Broadway original--but marvelous score and Frank & Rita make the film work.  "Zip" & "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" are my favorites--Sinatra is in fine voice here.  Novak's hurt, uncertain qualities make the patchwork finish work.  A scene-stealing terrier gets films biggest laughs.

 

 "Can-Can" (1960)  is puzzling.  Sinatra is unforgettable when he sings "It's All Right With Me"  to Claudine (Juliet Prowse), & rouses himself for his duet with MacLaine, "Let's Do It"--but otherwise, he makes little impression.  Maurice Chevalier coasts through on charm; Louis Jourdan makes a fine competing suitor for MacLaine--he had an ok baritone, & his expressions are worth ten pages of dialogue.  But MacLaine seems to be the only starring player who's knocking herself out to keep this musical afloat--she overacts to counter Sinatras' drastic underplaying.  And she knocks herself out (metaphorically) dancing and singing.  A final note on the title number; when it's performed, one can see that the women are wearing four(?) inch high heeled boots.  "Can-Can" (1960) is really MacLaines' (and Juliet Prowses') film, especially in the dance sequences; their co-stars gave it to them. 

 

"Lured"  (1947) is Lucille Balls' best mystery role, with George Sanders in an important supporting part.  Very good noir also stars Boris Karloff.

 

"That's Entertainment! (1974)--Wonderful compilation of musical film clips;  from "Singin' in the Rain from "The Broadway Melody of 1929 to "The Varsity Drag" from "Good News (1947) to "Hallelujah" from "Hit the Deck" (1955)--my favorite clip is "Abba Dabba Honeymoon" from "Two Weeks With Love (1950).  I saw TE on original release, as a sort of road show.  The impact of seeing it on a movie theatre screen,  as a quasi-road show (It had the Entrance and Exit music, but I don't remember any programs being sold) can't be overstated.  TE opened a new world to me, & I've been a classic movie fan ever since; and my favorite genre is the musical film.

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Here's what I have been looking at the past few days:

 

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YULE LOG is a warm, crackling video screen available on Amazon Prime. That's how it is described at the website. Directors Kevin Snell and Annie Loye have created a simple and cozy "movie" of a burning fire, that is sponsored by Starbucks. I love having it on in the background, since my home does not have a fireplace.

 

THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF UNCLE HARRY is a title on Amazon Prime I checked out when a fellow poster mentioned it in the George Sanders thread. I watched it twice. Why? Well, because I felt the production code compromised the ending and I wanted to see where it went wrong. But in a lot of places, it goes right. George was never better.

 

THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS aired on TCM for Kirk Douglas' 99th birthday. It's quite strange, indeed, that I keep watching it when I have seen it at least 20 times. But I love it. Don't you? Especially when Martha has that trouble with her mean old aunt (Judith Anderson) on the mansion staircase.

 

THE RAGE OF PARIS. This delightful romantic comedy from Universal appeared on Amazon Prime during the past week. It stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and French import to Hollywood, Danielle Darrieux. They are perfectly matched, and this charming rollercoaster ride of love will really reach your heart, when it's not getting at your funny bone. Darrieux is a natural clown. Fairbanks plays the flustered conquest to a tee.

 

CATTLE TOWN. I saddled up for one of Dennis Morgan's last films at Warner Brothers when it aired on TCM during a daytime tribute for costar Rita Moreno. To me, this is how a moderately budgeted 70 minute western programmer should be-- with likable stars, a not-too-taxing plot, and a lead who is not a singing cowboy but gives us some fine musical performances during breaks in the action. It's a winner of a moo-vie.

 

HELL'S HALF ACRE. I watched this one three times on Amazon Prime. The reviews for this Republic noir from the early 50s are very good. And I can see why. Evelyn Keyes plays a woman whose presumed dead husband may not have died at Pearl Harbor after all. He's still down in Hawaii, and he's now running a criminal syndicate. Republic spared no expense and filmed it on location. It's like a wonderful precursor to the long-running Hawaii Five-O television series. Do not miss this film, especially if you enjoy post-war noir.

 

LI'L ABNER. This Paramount late 50s musical treat was recently mentioned in a ClassiCategories discussion about films with memorable character names. I mentioned in the thread that I wish TCM would air it. A few days later it magically was added to Amazon Prime. Ask for Stupefyin' Jones (Julie Newmar) and Apassionata Von Climax (Stella Stevens) and ye shall receive.

 

MR. ACE. I love-love-love this film. I read that it was one of George Raft's only flops in the 40s (he was on a roll that decade). It should not have flopped. Producer Benedict Bogeaus pulled out all the stops for this independent United Artists release about a political operator (Raft) who helps a female congressional leader (Sylvia Sidney) become a governor at all costs. Early feminism and backlash conservatism side by side in a movie that really plays more like an unlikely love story. The leads made two other films together at Paramount in the 30s, and they radiate charm and chemistry. Every set is beautifully decorated. In some ways, this film is more gorgeous than a top of the line polished MGM production from the same period. This film is a real ace in the hole.

 

THE BIG WHEEL. TCM aired this Mickey Rooney late 50s adventure yarn several years ago but has yet to replay it. I had been wanting to see it again, since I do not own a copy of it. It was recently added to Amazon Prime, for which I am extremely grateful. This is a very well constructed programmer made by an independent producer. Mickey is great, and so is his supporting cast-- Thomas Mitchell, Michael O'Shea, Spring Byington and Hattie McDaniel. It was Hattie's last motion picture. But the race car scenes are what makes this film stand out so well. Portions were filmed at an actual Indy 500 rally, so it has a pseudo-documentary feel to it.

 

Things on Coronation Street moved right along this week. Leanne took Simon back home, but they started counseling. Tracy continued to be envious of the time her boyfriend Robert spent with Leanne. We had other drama going on-- Luke's blackmailer was arrested; and poor Mary learned that her prince charming wanted her to go away with him for the weekend-- because the conventions he attends usually bore his wife. Mary did not know Brendan was married until he nonchalantly mentioned it over an ale at the Rovers Pub. Oh, and speaking of marriage, Carla proposed to Nick, but before he could answer, they found out his sister Sarah had been hit by a car, and he hurried to the hospital. Sarah learned from a nurse that she is pregnant. Except the father, Callum, is dead and buried under her mother's bedroom floor. Yes, folks, this is Britain's number one serial.

 

NEVER SO FEW. This one aired as part of Frank Sinatra's month-long Star of the Month tribute on TCM. I watched it on-demand on Sling. I have to say that while I thought the script was fine, Sinatra barely registered any passion with Gina Lollobrigida. Zero chemistry. He had more sparks with costar Robert Bray. And Gina was way too subdued in this picture. Usually, she explodes on screen. But someone must have defused the Italian bombshell when the cameras started rolling.

 

RIVER OF NO RETURN was recently added to Amazon Prime. What a gorgeous film that takes full advantage of its visual potential with the CinemaScope process. The sequence with the raft on the rapids was most exciting. But unfortunately, aside form her smoldering musical numbers, Marilyn Monroe is not exciting at all. Her acting in many scenes is very amateurish. It is no wonder she was prompted to join the Actors Studio. Robert Mitchum tries to stifle giggles in some of their scenes, knowing full well she cannot act. She was in over her head with this role, and like the raft in the raging water, she is nearly submerged in spite of her best efforts.

 

YULE LOG. Another 90 mintues of a crackling video screen is playing on my Smart TV as I write this. Watch it. Yule love it.

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This week I saw six movies:  Morning for the Osone Family I'm afraid seemed less like the movie that showed the director's true feelings once freed from the restraints of the Showa Dictatorship, than a movie inclined to satisfy the new occupying power.  Rich and Famous did not make that much of an impression on me.  Having seen Candace Bergen for several years in "Murphy Brown," it's a bit surprising to see Jacqueline Bisset as the more sympathetic character.  The movie did not get good reviews at the time or now in retrospect.  Yet I feel like rereading the reviews since at least one admirer of Cukor finds hidden depths.  The Crimson Kimono is full of interesting ideas, reminding us that Samuel Fuller was certainly the most intriguing of B-Movie directors.  The performances strike me as a weakness:  Pickup on South Street this isn't.  The First Deadly Sin I watched for an interesting reason:  the sequel to the original novel was serialized in the Sunday (actually Saturday) funnies around the time the movie came out.  As such Frank Sinatra gives an interesting performance, even if the conclusion seems poorly thought out and crowd pleasing in a reactionary way.  The Ceremony was the most interesting movie of the week, and certainly the better of the two Jacqueline Bisset movies that I saw.  Stranger by the Lake is a thoughtful skilful thriller, with very explicit gay sex scenes.  One can empathize with the basic concept:  overwhelming sexual desire overriding basic common sense, though I suppose I would find the movie more effective if I found the central pair erotic, instead of unwise.

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River was not one of M's best efforts, true. She placed her voice too low and it was obvious. She may have been trying to get away from that breathy quality but in doing so she jumped out of the frying pan into the fire. 

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I saw four films & one documentary this week:

 

"Rich and Famous" (1981)--Uneven script  doesn't detract from Jacqueline Bisset's best performance (one that's light years away from "The Deep", 1977).  Candice Bergen does a Devastatingly funny caricature of a Southern writer (her severe chignon and salty language are Clues to who her character's based on.  Bergen should be given credit for being Much smarter than snide reviewers remarked).

 

"The Sheik" (1921)--Found on Vimeo.  Rudolph Valentino shows why he shot to stardom after this film was released.  Agnes Ayres, who plays the woman Valentino is infatuated with, is given a few intelligent titles to say & a Lot of truly stupid decisions to act out (maybe that's why she keeps rolling her eyes & tearing her hair).  Judging by this film, women were liberated but still needed a mans' protection.

 

"Sinatra Sings" (2011)--Documentary narrated by Tina Sinatra is priceless for its glimpse at Frank during a recording session.  Worth recording for this 11 minute bit alone.

 

"Unconquered" (1947)--Found on YT.  American History 101 as related by Cecil B. DeMille.  Gary Cooper keeps a straight face while bargaining for Paulette Goddard's life (with a compass?!) with British accented Guyasuta, Chief of the Senecas (Boris Karloff?!?!).  Cooper keeps a deadpan through all absurdities, including Goddard screwing up her face & repeatedly turning away from the camera (maybe she had an uncontrollable case of the giggles?)  Film is wonderfully entertaining If you're prepared to maintain a constant "suspension of disbelief".

 

"That's Entertainment, Part II" (1976)--Another nostalgia fest for the MGM musical.  My favorites are Bobby Vans' human pogo stick number and Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy's duet "Lover, Come Back To Me", from "New Moon (1940)--Eddy is still a hopeless actor, but his voice is richer, & MacDonald has lost the shrill qualities of her top notes. :)

 

Best film--All five should be seen. :)

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I'll post something later....but for now, I'll just say look for me to post something later. Really. Another time.

 

This past week I watched:

 

WHAT DREAMS MAY COME 

Watched it all the way through, although it just turned into a "chase" kind of movie to me. I liked the premise of the story, liked all the special effects, but sadly instead of being any strong philosophical statement about life after death, just seemed like it was trying to be an "action" picture.

 

SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE

Moody, electric performances and a story about making the film Nosferatu. An interesting avenue to take, it implies Max Schrek who played the lead actually IS a vampire. This fantasy story set in a real historical situation took some scary as well as humorous turns. Willem Dafoe was brilliant, if not a bit o-t-t campy in his role as Schreck and John Malkovitch was a riot as eccentric Murnau. It was nice to see Cary Elwes grown up & still very handsome.

 

COUNT DRACULA

Recommended by this board, this 1977 BBC production starred Louis Jordan as Dracula. Jordan made an excellent, very sexy Count and the special effects were trippy great. Overall, I liked it, but it was obviously made on videotape which lessened the "feel" of the piece. I like the grain of film, the blurring of depth-it just creates a better mood than video.

 

NOISES OFF

Stumbed on this while searching Peter Bogdanovitch directed movies at the library.  This ensemble piece about a stage play has Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, Chris Reeve, John Ritter among others. I couldn't follow it, didn't find it funny (as it claims) and took the DVD out halfway through. I'm sure for "stage" people, it's hilarious, but I know now why I've never heard of this movie before. For the rest of us, raspberry.

 

BLONDE CRAZY/WINNER TAKES ALL

Early Cagney double feature recorded last month. Turns out I've seen them before, but it was great revisiting them. Cagney tries hard to become his roles and succeeds deftly.

You can see his devilish charm playing against Joan Blondell in the first movie, and you KNOW he'll soon be a big star. I think he wear appliances as a fighter in the second movie, not needed later in his career. Both stories "sew up" neatly at the end, no matter how illogical. But this is the kind of programmer I enjoy sometimes-not any big heavy handed "message" picture.

 

MALIFICENT

Another one recommended by a message board member. My first time seeing Angelina Jolie act, I was impressed with her in this role. The melding of CGI & live actors was great (of course-Disney, right?) although I really disliked Jolie's "enhancement" of sharp cheekbones & crazy eye colors. It worked very well however, for the 3 fairies who sported real actresses faces on CGI bodies. Otherworldly.

Costumes were OUTSTANDING, sets less so and I hated the music-way too "typical choices".

I loved this story, the pace was excellent, the dialogue was ok. It failed for me in 2 aspects: the crazy "battle" scenes and the violence towards women. It was almost as if they had to include epic battles for "the boys". Bo-ring. The CGI is so dark, fast & overdone, your eyes can't really "see" anything. Fast forward through both of those scenes. 

I was particularly offended when a small fairy was slapped & flung hard, Aurora a child was slapped & flung hard and Malificent was flung hard then beaten. The ending was contrived, but hey, Jolie was producer and it showed there.

 

OK, so best of the week: MALIFICENT and worst of the week NOISES OFF

 

And wait for it.....I'll post again later, when I've watched more movies NEXT week!

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Oh, what a week: :D

 

"Summer Stock" (1950)--Judy Garlands' final MGM musical, is good fun with classic numbers "Get Happy" & Gene Kellys' dance with a newspaper & squeaky floorboard as his partners. 7.5/10 stars.

 

"A Summer Place" (1959)--A drama about teenage sex that uses every word except sex.  Impossible to take seriously. Sandra Dee wails and whines to Daddy about having to wear a girdle and bra like Mom is making her wear a chastity belt!  Nice theme song and musical score.  6.5/10 stars.

 

"Beyond The Forest" (1949)--Underrated noirish, moody drama with Camp elements (Bette Davis' Hideous black wig, a Pompous prologue that made me expect a Disaster on the scale of "The Exorcist II: The Heretic", a trash incinerator that in some shots' looks a mile away, in others in the Molines' front yard).  Joseph Cotten can keep his dignity in anything,  A fun watch; 8/10 stars.

 

"On The Town"--(1949)--Classic musical; Sinatra and Betty Garrett bring out the clown in each other. A great watch for musical lovers. 9/10 stars.

 

"Take Me Out To The Ball Game"--(1949)--Wispy plot is made up for by near non-stop musical numbers.  Is film where Garrett showed she was a fine clown, & that she & Sinatra were a marvelous team.  8/10 stars.

 

"The Gang's All Here" (1943)--I almost laughed myself into an asthma attack.  Directed by Busby Berkeley, film is Demented, Glorious, Hysterically Funny, Essential Camp--"The Lady In The Tutti-Frutti Hat" (sung by Carmen Miranda) and the finale are beyond description--a must-watch for lovers of the Silly.  :D

 

 

"Fallen Angel (1945)--TCMs' copy is 97 minutes; the copy I found is one minute over two hours.  Had no credits, but started at films' beginning.  Has a prolonged scene of police brutality (1945 version), and Alice Faye and Dana Andrews share a bed; my guess is I found a British copy.  With plot holes fixed, 8/10 stars.

 

"Frankenstein" (1910)--Filmed at The Edison Studios, film is primitive by 2015 standards, but is a must to watch; film is only 13 minutes long; is on YouTube, and who knows how long it will be available to watch.  One of the oldest films available to the general public, so rating is waived.  See it while it's available to be seen.

 

All films should be seen, but "The Gang's All Here" (1943) is the most fun to watch, IMHO.

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I saw five movies this week.  Peter the Great, Part One, is a 1937 Soviet film about the Russian monarch.  It's actually based on a novel of his life by Alexei Tolstoy, a distant cousin of the more famous Leo, which happened to be according to some reports Stalin's favorite novel.  Apparently the novel is slightly better than that, and so is the movie.  The version I saw was based on an awful print, and it starts out poorly.  And one can see the Stalinist elements when Peter bullies his nobles into following Western ways.  It's certainly not formally or intellectually on the same level as Ivan the Terrible.  But the lead performance is interesting, and there are some interesting battle scenes half way through the movie.  Swing Shift starts off with Goldie Hawn being unrecognizable, then with the movie becoming more likeable as Hawn gets a war job and becoming her usual self.  Her romance with Kurt Russell develops, but then Ed Harris returns and the movie loses what focus it has.  The Forbidden Room is certainly the most interesting movie I saw this week.  For once I appreciated Maddin's faux silent movie aesthetic, told in a series of interlocking weird stories that vaguely resemble A Manuscript Found in Saragossa.  I saw part of Babes in Toyland when I was eight.  Seeing the entire movie the problems with it become more apparent.  While very colorful, and the battle of toys at the end does have seem genuine charm, there is a complete absence of genius.  One problem is that Ray Bolger and Ed Wynn are patently more interesting than the leads, who are quite dull.  Finally, there is A Walk among the Tombstones.  I haven't actually seen Liam Neeson's vigilante movies before this, and I suspect that is a comparatively sober and competent example of it.  The slightly unreal sadism of the villains becomes a problem the more one thinks about it, and there's a clumsiness with the added-on climax, supposedly much less depressing than the one in the original novel.

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Is film where Garrett showed she was a fine clown, & that she & Sinatra were a marvelous team.  


 


She was so slight & tiny, she looked great with Frank.


 


I do not understand why Garrett never "broke out" as a bigger star. Was it because it was nearing the end of Hollywood musicals popularity? Did she stay on Broadway? 


 


"The Gang's All Here" (1943)--I almost laughed myself into an asthma attack. 


 


Hilarious! Perfect example of an entertaining musical for uninitiated.

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These are the things I watched during the past week:

 

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PUDDIN' HEAD...was recently added by the Paramount Vault on YouTube. I had been wanting to see this Judy Canova comedy for a few years, but of course, I did not want to buy a pirated copy of it online. Paramount, which controls the Republic library, has done a wonderful job restoring the print. It's the perfect companion piece, story-wise, to Canova's other hit at Republic, SIS HOPKINS. She patented the formula on hillbilly Cinderella tales, and PUDDIN' HEAD (so named because as she explains in a song, it's what her mammy called her) is charming from start to finish. 

 

GANGS OF CHICAGO...recently I told someone that I thought FIVE CAME BACK was the best B film of the 30s. Well, this is easily the best B film of the 1940s. Lloyd Nolan was never better, playing against type as a mob mouthpiece who uses his position within the law to help gangsters evade justice. The supporting players are smartly cast, including Rosemary Lane who appears as a potential love interest. At around 60 minutes, the story moves quickly and it somehow manages to make salient points about the legal system without being preachy. This Republic winner has been provided by the Paramount Vault on YouTube.

 

CHRISTMAS EVE...I spent part of the week checking out new uploads from the Paramount Vault on YouTube. This was another title I watched. In fact, Paramount has uploaded both versions-- the 1947 feature starring George Raft and Ann Harding; as well as the late-80s TV movie remake with Loretta Young taking over Harding's role. I haven't watched the remake, but probably will in the week ahead. The story is a collection of interrelated vignettes showing us what happened to the three adopted sons of an elderly woman (Harding). From what I have read, the remake changes it from her sons to her three missing granddaughters. In either case, it's a heartwarming comedy-drama that will please most holiday audiences.

 

MEXICANA...Another Republic south-of-the-border musical starring Tito Guizar. The star had covered similar musical territory with the studio's earlier release BRAZIL a year earlier. Since it was a hit, and Republic's boss Herbert Yates wanted to continue promoting the good-neighbor policy, a pseudo remake (now set in Mexico) was put into production. The results are quite good-- Guizar is in fine vocal shape, and the choreographed numbers are delightful to watch. Republic's rising new star, Estelita Rodriguez has her first major role opposite Guizar, and she is presented as an updated version of the late Lupe Velez. You get the idea.

 

THE GOLDEN GLOVES STORY...There is much to say about the greatness of this Eagle-Lion release. If you've been reading my comments in the past, you already know that E-L is my favorite smaller studio during the golden age of Hollywood. The U.S.-British company was in operation from about 1945 to 1951, and this is one of the last pictures to come off the assembly line for them. But it's more than assembly line stuff, because the entire thing was filmed on location in Chicago and goes the distance showing us how two young men (and an underage boy) strive to become amateur boxing champs. James Dunn plays an aging fight referee, and of course his daughter is romantically involved with the two main contenders. I had been wanting to see this film for quite some time, since I'm a fan of Dewey Martin and he did not make many motion pictures. This was his first movie, and as one of the main fighters (with a huge chip on his shoulder) he's great to watch. 

 

"Coronation Street"...Simon began his counseling sessions but soon wanted to stop going. Leanne was grateful to Robert for helping give Si a pep talk, much to the consternation of Tracy. Feeling that Robert was growing closer to Leanne, Tracy decided to visit an ex-boyfriend who is currently doing time. Meanwhile, Tracy had more issues when her father Ken saw more of Nessa and Nessa wound up spending the night in the house. The rest of the street does not really like Nessa either, but Ken seems charmed by her. In other matters, Mary contemplated being a mistress in Brendan's life. And Carla and Nick moved closer to marriage, even though Carla was hurt that her brother, who is behind bars, requested to see coworker Johnny instead of her.

 

STATE DEPARTMENT FILE 649...This is a unique film. It showcases Virginia Bruce in one of her last starring roles. Obviously made on a shoestring budget, the story itself is quite epic. The plot: Bruce's husband has been killed by communist Chinese, and she is now working for the U.S. government in Mongolia. She is joined by a missionary's son, played by William Lundigan, who is also working for the government to defeat communism abroad. The final sequence is highly sensational. I do not want to spoil the ending, but one of the main characters must make the ultimate sacrifice in order to blow up a bunch of communists. There is no doubt that this film, which came out in 1949, was Hollywood's way of dealing with the 'red scare.' The film is available on Amazon Prime.

 

BROKEN LANCE...It had been a few years since I had seen this 20th Century Fox western. TCM never plays it, but it was recently added on Amazon Prime. Since I had forgotten much of the plot, I re-watched it. Spencer Tracy dominates the proceedings as a late cattle baron who still haunts the lives of his three sons and his widow from beyond the grave. The story is told mostly in flashback, and Robert Wagner as the youngest half-breed son finds himself inching closer to a deadly confrontation with his older brothers. There are a few continuity problems, but overall it's a dramatically satisfying story. Edward Dmytryk's direction could not be improved upon. I get the feeling TV's long-running western series Bonanza borrowed heavily from BROKEN LANCE. Michael Landon's character on the television program is a carbon copy of Robert Wagner's character in this film.

 

THE SECOND WOMAN...Still thinking about the late Betsy Drake, I decided to watch her in a rare dramatic role. This one is a 1950 noir made for producer Harry Popkin, and it teams her with Robert Young who was soon to transition to television. There is a public domain copy recently added on Amazon Prime. The story drags in places, but overall it is suspenseful and competently made. The outdoor sequences, filmed along coastal Monterey, are the highlight of this film.

 

THE FIRST DEADLY SIN...Frank Sinatra's last motion picture was released in 1980, and it was included recently as part of TCM's month-long retrospective. I was able to catch the film on-demand for Sling/TCM customers. I wasn't sure if I would like it, but honestly I loved it. Though it was Faye Dunaway's smaller role as a bedridden wife who stood out, and David Dukes makes a great impression as a serial killer on the loose. However, I must say that Sinatra's presence is commanding, especially in a climactic scene with Dukes. It helps the movie was shot on location in New York City. 

 

TURNABOUT...As part of the Carole Landis tribute recently on TCM, I caught up with this film (and other titles featured that evening). What strikes me about TURNABOUT, and why I am mentioning it here instead of the rest of the Carole Landis titles, is how it takes risks most movies are too afraid to take. Sometimes those risks do not pay off, and the result is embarrassingly painful to watch. But most of the time, the risks do pay off, and the comedy is richer for it. It also doesn't hurt that Carole and leading man John Hubbard are supported by a top-notch group of character actors.

 

REVEILLE WITH BEVERLY...I had to include this film in my list, because I had never seen it before and had been eagerly anticipating its recent broadcast on TCM. I was not disappointed. Frank Sinatra has a short four-minute number, but it's really Ann Miller's film (she plays a deejay). Overall, most of the scenes are pleasantly performed, and there are so many great musical acts that it deserves a much higher rating than crabapple Leonard Maltin gives it.

 

A ROOM WITH A VIEW...I didn't plan to watch this film, but after some Coronation Street episodes, I guess I was in the mood for more British drama. It's increasingly apparent to me that whether it's a daily soap opera or a Merchant-Ivory motion picture production, British actors are better trained than their American counterparts. They seem to exhibit greater skill at delving into the characters they play than most Hollywood performers do.

 

TIME WITHOUT PITY...I was relatively disappointed in this film which I found on Hulu. It stars Michael Redgrave as a lawyer who is battling the bottle and must sober up long enough to represent his son in a criminal case. On paper, this is a perfect story and most actors would love such a meaty role. Redgrave is definitely up to the task. But the direction felt off to me, and I don't think they realized all the potentialities of the script. Ann Todd, in one of her last leading roles on film, turns up in the story, but they don't really seem to know what to do with her. This film could have been, and should have been, so much better.

 

Ian Patrick's Reviews...A quick shout-out to Ian Patrick. If you have not been watching his posted video commentaries about classic holiday films, you are missing out. 

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TikiSoo--About Betty Garrett: she was married to Larry Parks (star of "The Jolson Story (1946) and other films).  She debuted on Broadway in 1942;  married Larry Parks in 1945(?) starred in the Broadway revue hit "Call Me Mister" (1948), where she attracted MGM's notice.  Her film debut was in 1948's "Big City".  Depending on which reference you credit most, Garretts' career was stopped short by:

 

A.) "Guilt by association" (Her husband Larry Parks admitted to being a Communist between the years 1941-45 before The House of UnAmerican Activities in 1950(?) and refused to name names.  He had been a Communist: therefore, his wife had been/was a Communist; both were Blacklisted.

 

B.) Her agent asked for too much money to star her in "Annie Get Your Gun" (1950), & Garrett became blacklisted.

 

C.) She was pregnant with her first child by the time her husbands' Hearings were scheduled; she retired from the screen to raise her family (she had two children).

 

My Guess--a combination of A and C--she did resume her career in 1955, although it was sporadic.  You may remember her from All in the Family (1971-?) as Archie Bunkers' liberal neighbor.

 

There is a good long article on Garrett on Wikipedia, and Garrett wrote a memoir in 2008(?)

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I'll Be Seeing You with Joseph Cotten and Ginger Rogers was a great surprise. Joe plays a soldier on a sort of furlough from a psychiatric hospital where he was being treated for PTSD and Ginger was a prison inmate on furlough for Christmas.  I've seen many Joseph Cotten films but never this one and it was quite a good film.  I don't consider myself a fan of Ginger Rogers (I've seen all of films with Fred) but she did a great job in this. I'm surprised she played such a role (it seemed like more of a Joan Crawford or Bette Davis theme but at the same time, this script was too schmaltzy for either). Perhaps mistakenly I think of Ginger as more of a "good girl". 

 

Christmas In Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, and S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall (Cuddles!).  Although I am a Stanwyck fan, I watched this because of Cuddles and Sydney Greenstreet (two of my favorite character actors).   I love watching films like this over the holidays. It was snowing when it was on and I just curled up with a huge mug of hot chocolate, had all my blinds open watching the snow come down while absorbing this movie. It was really a great day. I DVR so much from TCM and I chose the perfect day for a replay of this one. 

 

Crime and Punishment with Peter Lorre and Edward Arnold. A very short (88 min) adaptation of a very, very, very long novel. Very short but well done, especially the acting of Lorre and Arnold.  

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TikiSoo--About Betty Garrett: she was married to Larry Parks (star of "The Jolson Story (1946) and other films.  She debuted on Broadway in 1942;  married Larry Parks in 1945(?) starred in the Broadway revue hit "Call Me Mister" (1948), where she attracted MGM's notice.  Her film debut was in 1948's "Big City".  Depending on which reference you credit most, Garretts' career was stopped short by:

 

A.) "Guilt by association" (Her husband Larry Parks admitted to being a Communist between the years 1941-45 before The House of UnAmerican Activities in 1950(?) and refused to name names.  He had been a Communist: therefore, his wife had been/was a Communist; both were Blacklisted.

 

B.) Her agent asked for too much money to star her in "Annie Get Your Gun" (1950), & Garrett became blacklisted.

 

C.) She was pregnant with her first child by the time her husbands' Hearings were scheduled; she retired from the screen to raise her family (she had two children).

 

My Guess--a combination of A and C--she did resume her career in 1955, although it was sporadic.  You may remember her from All in the Family (1971-?) as Archie Bunkers' liberal neighbor.

 

There is a good long article on Garrett on Wikipedia, and Garrett wrote a memoir in 2008(?)

Betty Garrett was also the girlfriend of Laverne's dad in Laverne and Shirley.  That's where I first heard of her.  I hadn't realized she was in films until years later.  I first saw her when Nick-at-Nite acquired Laverne and Shirley.  

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Ian Patrick's Reviews...A quick shout-out to Ian Patrick. If you have not been watching his posted video commentaries about classic holiday films, you are missing out. 

 

Thank you TopBilled! That's really nice of you to mention me! I wish I could have done a lot more Christmas reviews but to be honest, I reach my limit at about 6 ahaha it's kind of like how at Halloween, I just got a little burned out on the horror flicks. My next review that I will be posting tomorrow will be on "Christmas in Connecticut." 

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About Betty Garrett: she was married to Larry Parks

 

Thanks FL. At first all I could think of was Bert Parks, the Miss America guy. 

 

I don't think anyone's career would fail because of an "agent asking too much", I'm sure that's forgotten until the next time. Was Betty considered for the lead? Betty was so great in that role, I can't imagine Betty -even with all her talent- carrying that role.

 

I was first introduced to Garrett on ALL IN THE FAMILY (as well as Vince Gardenia) never knowing their illustrious history. It made it all the more fun discovering them in movies! A true testament to talent!

(where IS all the talent nowadays?)

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Thank you TopBilled! That's really nice of you to mention me! I wish I could have done a lot more Christmas reviews but to be honest, I reach my limit at about 6 ahaha it's kind of like how at Halloween, I just got a little burned out on the horror flicks. My next review that I will be posting tomorrow will be on "Christmas in Connecticut." 

You're welcome.

 

I just recently watched CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT...so I'll be eager to see what you have to say about it!

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TikiSoo--About "Annie Get Your Gun"--Have read from two sources (both Internet Only--they're the sources I give least credibility to) that she Was considered for the lead; she would have had Howard Keel for support.  Would Garrett and Keel have struck the same comic sparks as Sinatra and Garrett?  We'll never know.  

 

I need to read her autobiography and let the lady speak for herself.  Until I read it, though, I blame the HUAC Blacklist for basically destroying her career/any career momentum she had built up.  And she Had career momentum; On the Town, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, & Neptunes' Daughter (all 1949 films). All box-office hits.  In ND, she got to sing (part of) the Oscar-winning duet (Best Song) "Baby, It's Cold Outside".

 

About the talent--I really don't know.

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I saw eight films and one television special this week.  

 

"That's Entertainment Part III" (1994)--was a fun watch, with dancing highlighted, along with songs that were cut from their intended movies.  My favorites were  "Pass That Peace Pipe" from "Good News" (1947) (June Allyson is Not in this number) and "March of the Doagies", a number cut from "The Harvey Girls" (1946) because the film was too long. 

 

"Nancy Goes To Rio" (1950)--Jane Powells' coming-of-age film, notable for three things.  Carmen Miranda co-stars and has two numbers.  The first is amusing.  The second, "Caroon Pa Pa" is where the director strolled out and took a break.  It's four minutes of cinematic insanity.  Helen Rose, MGMs' designer, must have watched 1943's "The Gang's All Here" & decided to outdo it; everyone else was inspired by her, because there is Nothing else like it in the film.  Song is a classic of craziness that's worth sitting through the rest of the film to see, IMHO.  Just before this, Powell sings an emotional version of "Embraceable You", & after dressing Modestly the first part of the film, starts dressing in evening gowns that show she has bosoms--in particular, a hot pink evening gown that emphasizes them.  NGTR was Ann Sotherns' last MGM film; she looks lovely and sounds lovelier.

 

"Call of the Flesh" (1930)--A prime example of "floperetta".  Ramon Novarro is fine as dashing young hero--until he tries to sing opera.  Dorothy Jordan is hopeless as his co-star; Novarro is OK in the brief excerpt of "Libiamo" he sings with his father.  But in the climactic opera scenes; OMG, he is Awful. I Wished for Nelson Eddy to appear and save the opera!   Unbelievably, this Mess made a profit & earned respectful reviews for Novarros' singing.

 

"King of Jazz" (1930)--The last of the studio revues (1930s'Paramount on Parade, etc.), KoJ was the most costly & arguably the best.  Influential 1920s' bandleader & composer Paul Whiteman "hosted" the film.  Centerpiece was Gershwins' "Rhapsody In Blue."  KOJ was filmed in Technicolor and was Bing Crosbys' film debut.  Because a glut of idiocies like "Call of the Flesh" were in release, the film lost over $500,000 in 1930's dollars.

 

"Number Seventeen" (1932)--Early Hitchcock, with no real script and the cast improvising as they go.  Not dreadful, not the nadir of his work.  Still, only for Hitchcock film buffs, IMHO.

 

"Frank and Bing" (1957)--Christmas television special they did that's marvelous, non-stop singing and verbal back-and-forth.

 

"Just Imagine" (1930)--A man dies in 1930 and is brought back to life in 1980.  This musical gets some things right (helipads, computers that serve as visual and spoken phones), and some hilariously Wrong (their imaginings about Mars).  Film takes a detour into Camp the last 35 minutes or so.  Stick out the cornball humor of El Brendel.  Films' score is OK.  Film lost a bundle at the box-office.

 

"The Flying Serpent" (1945)--Enjoyably stupid film about Quetzalcoatl, The Flying Serpent that, according to the films version of Aztec myth, guards Montezumas' lost treasure and has to kill whoever retrieves one of its' shed feathers.  Film has too many idiocies to list, but has a surprisingly effective monster for a Poverty Row studio (PRC);too bad actors don't live up to the monsters standards (The teenaged lead actress, who screams on cue, and George Zucco, sneering bird keeper, are excepted). Film is an enjoyable time killer.

 

"Janice Meredith" (1925)--One of Marion Davies' best films, a print is on YouTube.  Picture quality is so-so at best, but I thought the film was Lost.  Credit goes to TomJH for finding a link to it.  Film got raves when released, but has fallen into obscurity.  W.C. Fields is in one scene.

 

The two best films--"Janice Meredith" (1925) & "King of Jazz" (1930).

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I finally watched A Christmas Carol with Alistair Sim. Most everybody prefers

this one to any other, and I gotta tell ya, I thought it stunk! I did not like

it at all. I much prefer the 1938 MGM version with Reggie Owen.

I didn't care for any of the actors and the story seemed to drag on forever.

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Filmlover293 said: "The Flying Serpent" (1945)too bad actors don't live up to the monsters standards (The teenaged lead actress, who screams on cue, and George Zucco, sneering bird keeper, are excepted)

 

Man that George Zucco is in EVERY horror movie isn't he? Wonder if he sneered in anything else?

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TikiSoo--About George Zucco.  You may have seen him in "Marie Antoinette" (1938, 22nd billed), "After The Thin Man" (1936, 12th billed), "The Black Swan" (1942, 7th billed), "Sudan" (1945, 5th billed), "The Pirate" (1948, 6th billed).  As The Viceroy, he sneered at Walter Slezak the entire time he was on-screen in "The Pirate" (1948).  Zucco made 86 films in 20 years.  He died in 1960.

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