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Unheralded, but still great


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This is a thread I am starting that will have very low maintenance hopefully. I just want it to be a place where I can add a comment or two when I see a film that deserves a little bit of extra attention. 

 

While not considered Essentials (in the TCM sense of the word), these are studio films that are very well put together and succeed on many levels.

 

Today, I took out a disc of June Allyson & Van Johnson films I had recorded when she was Star of the Month earlier this year. The first film I watched is the one I want to mention now. It was HIGH BARBAREE. A reviewer on the IMDb says it is part Leave It to Beaver and part mystical journey, and I really like that description. 

 

As expected, MGM's production values are superb, and the leads are well restrained and ably supported by Thomas Mitchell and Cameron Mitchell (no relation). There is also an early performance by Claude Jarman Jr. that really stands out and captures the viewers' attention. I feel like with so many excellent elements, this is a film that should be more widely known. It's a relatively unheralded classic.

 

Another one that seems undervalued or under-appreciated to me is RKO's NIGHT SONG, starring Dana Andrews as a blind pianist and Merle Oberon as the woman who loves him. The music is wonderful, and while the plot is full of melodramatic complications and a liberal amount of hokum, it still manages to entertain and engage the audience because the characters are well-drawn and well played. The film boasts the added bonus of having Ethel Barrymore and Hoagy Carmichael in the supporting roles.

 

In some ways, NIGHT SONG reminds me of MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, where Irene Dunne (or Jane Wyman, take your pick) experiences blindness and manages to find love in an unlikely source. I would like to see an evening where TCM plays these films as part of a double feature. 

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This is a thread I am starting that will have very low maintenance hopefully. I just want it to be a place where I can add a comment or two when I see a film that deserves a little bit of extra attention. 

 

While not considered Essentials (in the TCM sense of the word), these are studio films that are very well put together and succeed on many levels.

 

Today, I took out a disc of June Allyson & Van Johnson films I had recorded when she was Star of the Month earlier this year. The first film I watched is the one I want to mention now. It was HIGH BARBAREE. A reviewer on the IMDb says it is part Leave It to Beaver and part mystical journey, and I really like that description. 

 

As expected, MGM's production values are superb, and the leads are well restrained and ably supported by Thomas Mitchell and Cameron Mitchell (no relation). There is also an early performance by Claude Jarman Jr. that really stands out and captures the viewers' attention. I feel like with so many excellent elements, this is a film that should be more widely known. It's a relatively unheralded classic.

 

Another one that seems undervalued or under-appreciated to me is RKO's NIGHT SONG, starring Dana Andrews as a blind pianist and Merle Oberon as the woman who loves him. The music is wonderful, and while the plot is full of melodramatic complications and a liberal amount of hokum, it still manages to entertain and engage the audience because the characters are well-drawn and well played. The film boasts the added bonus of having Ethel Barrymore and Hoagy Carmichael in the supporting roles.

 

In some ways, NIGHT SONG reminds me of MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, where Irene Dunne (or Jane Wyman, take your pick) experiences blindness and manages to find love in an unlikely source. I would like to see an evening where TCM plays these films as part of a double feature. 

 

I'm a big fan of Night Song.    I still have some problem with the casting of Dana Andrews as a musician but that is because of my bias towards his iconic performances in noir films.     Still an actor with a softer looking face might have fit the role better.    What you say about the hokum is on target but the film is still moving and interesting.    Of course I loving just looking at Merle Oberon so I'm biased there as well!

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I'm a big fan of Night Song.    I still have some problem with the casting of Dana Andrews as a musician but that is because of my bias towards his iconic performances in noir films.     Still an actor with a softer looking face might have fit the role better.    What you say about the hokum is on target but the film is still moving and interesting.    Of course I loving just looking at Merle Oberon so I'm biased there as well!

Exactly, it works on so many levels. I really like the relationship between Oberon and Barrymore in this picture. Barrymore gives the film its much needed realism, and Carmichael gives it some of its more legitimate musicality. I read that Andrews actually did play the piano in this film-- not sure if that was exaggerated studio publicity, or if he really did play the piano and it was not faked/dubbed. 

 

In a way, I find it surprising that RKO made NIGHT SONG-- because they were not very well known for their musicals in the 1940s, especially the late 40s when the focus was on war films and noir. 

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Just finished watching THE HASTY HEART a little while ago. Another great, somewhat unheralded film (by Warners). It's based on a play and I would imagine a lot of the original dialogue has been preserved-- there are some deep, heavy themes in this story. Spoiler follows.

 

The guy (played by Richard Todd) is terminal, he's quite young-- he was raised without a father, with no friends and I suppose we are to assume he's never been with a woman. He's a ball of anger, and Todd plays him perfectly. But Ronald Reagan as one of the men who must deal with him in this condition and who eventually forges a bond of friendship with him, is just as effective in his role. The other minor characters are all strongly defined, and so is the nurse, portrayed by Patricia Neal. 

 

I like the way this story makes me think, and I like how the filmmakers have managed to capture the lighter moments as well as the tragedy. It's a beautifully made motion picture.

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Today I watched a disc I had of Technicolor westerns. The first picture was Jacques Tourneur's CANYON PASSAGE, filmed for Walter Wanger's company at Universal. It's been awhile since TCM broadcast it, and every so often it turns up on the Encore Westerns Channel. There's a very nice article about it in the TCM database. 

 

I think Dana Andrews works well in westerns, though he did not make many of them. And Susan Hayward, looking very young as a love interest of Brian Donlevy, also did not appear in many westerns but she's very suited to the genre, in my opinion. 

 

The supporting cast here is a who's who of character actors in their prime -- Ward Bond as a heavy; Andy Devine (and two of his real-life children); Fay Holden; Halliwell Hobbes; Frank Ferguson; and Ray Teal. Plus, rising star Lloyd Bridges has a good part.

 

But it's a solid story photographed in sumptuous Technicolor and the beautiful on-location landscapes that make the film must-see. Add Hoagy Carmichael in a supporting role, performing four songs he wrote, and you have a winner.

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Exactly, it works on so many levels. I really like the relationship between Oberon and Barrymore in this picture. Barrymore gives the film its much needed realism, and Carmichael gives it some of its more legitimate musicality. I read that Andrews actually did play the piano in this film-- not sure if that was exaggerated studio publicity, or if he really did play the piano and it was not faked/dubbed. 

 

In a way, I find it surprising that RKO made NIGHT SONG-- because they were not very well known for their musicals in the 1940s, especially the late 40s when the focus was on war films and noir.

 

If I remember correctly, I believe Dana Andrews had a.great trained singing voice. It was something he did not want the studio heads to know, however, as he feared he might be typecast as a singer on musicals. He might've done a reverse career arc as that of Dick Powell, going from noirs to musicals instead of the opposite.

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Tonight I am watching 99 RIVER STREET. I agree with user reviews on the IMDb that this is one of Phil Karlson's best films, and one of the best noir pictures of the 50s. I love the entire cast-- John Payne, Evelyn Keyes, Brad Dexter and Peggie Castle all give credible performances. 

 

This movie should be better known. 

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THE STORY OF VERNON & IRENE CASTLE belongs in this discussion. It's probably the most overlooked Astaire-Rogers musical. Personally, I think it's one of the best in terms of cinematography, costumes and supporting cast. Plus it has more of a storyline than the earlier efforts for this duo.

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