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Portrait of Jennie

David O. Selznick’s marvelous romantic fantasy ode to Jennifer Jones was almost wholly unappreciated back in 1948. It’s one of those peculiar pictures that either melts one’s heart or doesn’t. Backed by a music score adapted from Debussy, just one breathy “Oh Eben . . . “ will turn average romantics into mush.

Portrait of Jennie

Blu-ray

Kl Studio Classics

1948 / B&W w/ Color Insert / 1:37 flat Academy / 86 min. / Street Date October 24, 2017 / available through Kino Lorber / 29.95

Starring: Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Ethel Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Cecil Kellaway, David Wayne, Albert Sharpe.

Cinematography: Joseph H. August

Production Designers: J. MacMillan Johnson, Joseph B. Platt

Original Music: Dimitri Tiomkin, also adapting themes from Claude Debussy; Bernard Herrmann

Written by Leonardo Bercovici, Peter Berneis, Paul Osborn, from the novella by Robert Nathan

Produced by David O. Selznick

Directed by William Dieterle

Once upon a time David O. Selznick’s Portrait of Jennie was an
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Independence Day Director Takes on WWII Thriller Midway Next

Independence Day Director Takes on WWII Thriller Midway Next
The Chinese-based Bona Film Group finalized the biggest deal to come out of the Cannes Film Festival, shelling out $80 million for a new World War II thriller Midway, which has Roland Emmerich set to direct. Bona Film Group has acquired worldwide film distribution rights for every market except the U.S., with CAA brokering the deal and representing the U.S. rights. It isn't clear if there is a domestic distributor being lined up quite yet, but this project is said to be Roland Emmerich's next film.

Deadline reports that Wes Tooke (Colony) wrote the script, with Bona Film Group's Yu Dong producing alongside Mark Gordon for The Mark Gordon Company, Matt Jackson and Harald Kloser. The film is an epic telling of the Battle of Midway, a turning point in the Pacific theater of World War II. The story follows the real soldiers and aviators who pulled
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Wagon Tracks

Wagon Tracks

Blu-ray

Olive Films

1919 / B&W / 1:33 Silent Ap / 64 min. / Street Date January 24, 2017 / available through the Olive Films website / 29.98

Starring William S. Hart, Jane Novak, Robert McKim, Lloyd Bacon, Leo Pierson, Bert Sprotte, Charles Arling.

Cinematography: Joseph H. August

Art direction: Thomas A. Brierley

Titles: Irvin J. Martin

Written by: C. Gardner Sullivan

Produced by: William S. Hart, Thomas H. Ince

Directed by: Lambert Hillyer

Last year we were gifted with an excellent Blu-ray of a silent John Ford western, 3 Bad Men, which turned out to be a satisfying sentimental action tale. This month we get a much older silent western that’s almost as interesting. Its star is William S. Hart, the silent icon most of know through a still of a man in a ten-gallon hat brandishing two pistols in a barroom. Hart frequently played gunslingers, but not always. Olive’s presentation of Wagon Tracks sees him
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They Were Expendable

John Ford's best war movie does a flip-flop on the propaganda norm. It's about men that must hold the line in defeat and retreat, that are ordered to lay down a sacrifice play while someone else gets to hit the home runs. Robert Montgomery, John Wayne and Donna Reed are excellent, as is the recreation of the Navy's daring sideshow tactic in the Pacific Theater, the 'speeding coffin' Patrol Torpedo boats. They Were Expendable Blu-ray Warner Archive Collection 1945 / B&W / 1:37 flat Academy / 135 min. / Street Date June 7, 2016 / available through the WBshop / 21.99 Starring Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond, Marshall Thompson, Cameron Mitchell, Paul Langton, Leon Ames, Donald Curtis, Murray Alper, Harry Tenbrook, Jack Pennick, Charles Trowbridge, Louis Jean Heydt, Russell Simpson, Blake Edwards, Tom Tyler. Cinematography Joseph H. August Production Designer Film Editor Douglass Biggs, Frank E. Hull Original Music Earl K. Brent, Herbert Stothart, Eric Zeisl Writing credits Frank Wead, Comdr. U.S.N. (Ret.), Based on the book by William L. White Produced and Directed by John Ford, Captain U.S.N.R.

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

They Were Expendable has always been appreciated, but hasn't been given a high roost in John Ford's filmography. Yet it's one of his most personal movies, and for a story set in the military service, his most serious. We're given plenty of service humor and even more sentimentality -- with a sing-along scene like those that would figure in the director's later cavalry pictures, no less. Yet the tone is heavier, more resolutely downbeat. The war had not yet ended as this show went before the cameras, yet Ford's aim is to commemorate the sacrifices, not wave a victory flag. By 1945 Hollywood was already rushing its last 'We're at War!' morale boosters out the gate and gearing up for production in a postwar world. Practically a pet project of legendary director John Ford, They Were Expendable is his personal tribute to the Navy. Typical for Ford, he chose for his subject not some glorious victory or idealized combat, but instead a thankless and losing struggle against an invader whose strength seemed at the time to be almost un-opposable. They Were Expendable starts at Pearl Harbor and traces the true story of an experimental Patrol Torpedo Boat unit run by Lt. John Brickley (Robert Montgomery), his ambitious second in command Lt. Ryan (John Wayne) and their five boat crews. The ambience is pure Ford family casting: the ever-present Ward Bond and Jack Pennick are there, along with youthful MGM newcomers Marshall Thompson (It! The Terror from Beyond Space and Cameron Mitchell (Garden of Evil, Blood and Black Lace) being treated as new members of the Ford acting family. Along the way Ryan meets nurse Sandy Davyss (Donna Reed). Despite their battle successes, the Pt unit suffers casualties and loses boats as the Philippine campaign rapidly collapses around them. Indicative of the unusual level of realism is the Wayne/Reed romance, which falls victim to events in a very un-glamorous way. There's nothing second-rate about this Ford picture. It is by far his best war film and is as deeply felt as his strongest Westerns. His emotional attachment to American History is applied to events only four years past. The pace is fast but Expendable takes its time to linger on telling character details. The entertainer that responds to the war announcement by singing "My Country 'tis of Thee" is Asian, perhaps even Japanese; she's given an unusually sensitive close-up at a time when all Hollywood references to the Japanese were negative, or worse. MGM gives Ford's shoot excellent production values, with filming in Florida more than adequate to represent the Philippines. Even when filming in the studio, Ford's show is free of the MGM gloss that makes movies like its Bataan look so phony. We see six real Pt boats in action. The basic battle effect to show them speeding through exploding shells appears to be accomplished by pyrotechnic devices - fireworks -- launched from the boat deck. Excellent miniatures represent the large Japanese ships they attack. MGM's experts make the exploding models look spectacular. Ford's sentimentality for Navy tradition and the camaraderie of the service is as strong as ever. Although we see a couple of battles, the film is really a series of encounters and farewells, with boats not coming back and images of sailors that gaze out to sea while waxing nostalgic about the Arizona lost at Pearl Harbor. The image of civilian boat builder Russell Simpson awaiting invasion alone with only a rifle and a jug of moonshine purposely references Ford's earlier The Grapes of Wrath. Simpson played an Okie in that film and Ford stresses the association by playing "Red River Valley" on the soundtrack; it's as if the invading Japanese were bankers come to boot Simpson off his land. Equally moving is the face of Jack Holt's jut-jawed Army officer. He'd been playing basically the same crusty serviceman character for twenty years; because audiences had never seen Holt in a 'losing' role the actor makes the defeat seem all the more serious. The irony of this is that in real life, immediately after Pearl Harbor, Holt was so panicked by invasion fears that he sold his Malibu beach home at a fraction of its value. Who bought it? According to Joel Siegel in his book The Reality of Terror, it was Rko producer Val Lewton. John Wayne is particularly good in this film by virtue of not being its star. His character turn as an impatient but tough Lieutenant stuck in a career dead-end is one of his best. The real star of the film is Robert Montgomery, who before the war was known mostly for light comedies like the delightful Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Montgomery's Brickley is a man of dignity and dedication trying to do a decent job no matter how hopeless or frustrating his situation gets. Whereas Wayne was a Hollywood soldier, Montgomery actually fought in Pt boats in the Pacific. When he stands exhausted in tropic shorts, keeping up appearances when everything is going wrong, he looks like the genuine article. Third-billed Donna Reed turns what might have been 'the girl in the picture' into something special. An Army nurse who takes care of Wayne's Ryan in a deep-tunnel dispensary while bombs burst overhead, Reed's Lt. Davyss is one of Ford's adored women living in danger, like Anne Bancroft's China doctor in 7 Women. A little earlier in the war, the films So Proudly We Hail and Cry 'Havoc' saluted the 'Angels of Bataan' that stayed on the job, were captured and interned by the Japanese. Expendable has none of the sensational subtext of the earlier films, where the nurses worry about being raped, etc.. We instead see a perfect girl next door (George Bailey thought so) bravely soldiering on, saying a rushed goodbye to Wayne's Lt. Ryan over a field telephone. Exactly what happens to her is not known. Even more than Clarence Brown's The Human Comedy this film fully established Ms. Reed's acting credentials. The quality that separates They Were Expendable from all but a few war films made during the fighting, is its championing of a kind of glory that doesn't come from gaudy victories. Hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, the Navy, Army and Air Corps units in the Northern Philippines that weren't wiped out in the first attacks, had to be abandoned. The key scene sees Lt. Brickley asking his commanding officer for positive orders to attack the enemy. He's instead 'given the score' in baseball terms. In a ball club, some players don't get to hit home runs. The manager instead tells them to sacrifice, to lay down a bunt. Brickley's Pt squadron will be supporting the retreat as best it can and for long as it can, without relief or rescue. Half a year later, the U.S. was able to field an Army and a Navy that could take the offensive. Brickley's unit is a quiet study of honorable men at war, doing their best in the face of disaster. According to John Ford, Expendable could have been better, and I agree. He reportedly didn't hang around to help with the final cut and the audio mix, and the MGM departments finished the film without him. Although Ford's many thoughtful close-ups and beautifully drawn-out dramatic moments are allowed to play out, a couple of the battle scenes go on too long, making the constant peppering of flak bursts over the Pt boats look far too artificial. Real shell bursts aren't just a flash and smoke; if they were that close the wooden boats would be shattered by shrapnel. The overused effect reminds me of the 'Pigpen' character in older Peanuts cartoons, if he walked around accompanied by explosions instead of a cloud of dust. The music score is also unsubtle, reaching for upbeat glory too often and too loudly. The main march theme says 'Hooray Navy' even in scenes playing for other moods. Would Ford have asked for it to be dialed back a bit, or perhaps removed from some scenes altogether? That's hard to say. The director liked his movie scores to reflect obvious sentiments. But a few of his more powerful moments play without music. We're told that one of the un-credited writers on the film was Norman Corwin, and that Robert Montgomery directed some scenes after John Ford broke his leg on the set. They Were Expendable is one of the finest of war films and a solid introduction to classic John Ford. The Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray of They Were Expendable looks as good as the excellent 35mm copies we saw back at UCLA. This movie has always looked fine, but the previous DVDs were unsteady in the first reel, perhaps because of film shrinkage. The Blu-ray corrects the problem entirely. The B&W cinematography has some of the most stylized visuals in a war film. Emphasizing gloom and expressing the lack of security, many scenes are played in silhouette or with very low-key illumination, especially a pair of party scenes. Donna Reed appears to wear almost no makeup but only seems more naturally beautiful in the un-glamorous but ennobling lighting schemes. These the disc captures perfectly. Just as on the old MGM and Warners DVDs, the trailer is the only extra. We're told that MGM shoved the film out the door because victory-happy moviegoers were sick of war movies and wanted to see bright musicals instead. The trailer reflects the lack of enthusiasm -- it's basically two actor name runs and a few action shots. The feature has a choice of subtitles, in English, French and Spanish. On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, They Were Expendable Blu-ray rates: Movie: Excellent Video: Excellent Sound: Excellent Supplements: DTS-hd Master Audio Deaf and Hearing Impaired Friendly? Yes; Subtitles: English, French, Spanish Packaging: Keep case Reviewed: June 6, 2016 (5135expe)

Visit DVD Savant's Main Column Page Glenn Erickson answers most reader mail: dvdsavant@mindspring.com

Text © Copyright 2016 Glenn Erickson
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Claudette Colbert: Author James Robert Parish Discusses the Paramount Star

Claudette Colbert, Paramount star Those who remember Claudette Colbert, Turner Classic Movies' "Summer Under the Stars" featured player today, will likely picture a woman raising her skirt so as to hitch a ride in Frank Capra's 1934 Academy Award-winning comedy It Happened One Night. After all, Colbert's left leg immediately succeeds where Clark Gable's left thumb failed. [Claudette Colbert Movie Schedule.] Colbert, however, could get her way without having to resort to displaying her ankle to helpless oncoming drivers. In fact, during her nearly three decades as a film star — a film superstar during more than half that period — Colbert almost invariably got her way in both dramas and comedies, whether in modern dress or in period costumes. All she needed to do was raise a knowing eyebrow, open a megawatt smile, or bathe naked in a pool filled with asses' milk. On screen, Colbert could be funny, heartbreaking, witty, dazed and confused,
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In The Press: Channing Tatum & Jenna Dewan-Tatum Featured in People, Popsugar, Cosmopolitan, Life & Style and Glamour

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Both Channing Tatum and wife Jenna Dewan-Tatum (and their blankie-loving pup Lulu) have been featured in the press quite a bit in the past two weeks. Here’s a few of the latest articles from People, Popsugar, Cosmopolitan, Life & Style and Glamour (all can also be found in the CTU Photo Gallery)…

Beating out David Beckam, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Sam Worthington, Cristiano Ronaldo, Chace Crawford, Orlando Bloom, and more, Channing Tatum has made it into the top ten of Glamour.com’s 50 Sexiest Men of 2010. Check out the list’s top 10 below…

1. Robert Pattinson

2. Taylor Lautner

3. Ian Somerhalder

4. Xavier Samuel

5. Kellan Lutz

6. Johnny Depp

7. Justin Bieber

8. Gerard Butler

9. Hayden Christensen

10. Channing Tatum

If you don’t want to miss any of the latest pics I upload to the photo gallery, make sure you follow @UnwrappedPhotos on Twitter!!!

Love Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan-Tatum? Stay in the Know…
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In The Press: Channing Tatum Makes Men’s Health Magazine’s Top 10 Best Summer Bodies of 2010 List

Beating out Ryan Kwanten from HBO’s True Blood, David Beckam, Hugh Jackman, Paul Walker, Josh Duhamel, Ryan Phillippe, Bradley Cooper and more, Channing Tatum has made it into the top ten of Men’s Health Magazine’s Best Summer Bodies of 2010.

The editors of MensHealth.com set out to find the stars with the perfect beach body. David Zinczenko, editor-in-chief of the popular mag, said…

“All of this year’s finalists have a deep commitment to working out, staying fit and eating smart. They have a variety of workout regimes from boxing to weight training, kayaking and hiking to training for marathons. They’ve worked hard to achieve and maintain their amazing bodies - which is why they’ve earned their place on this year’s list.”

Without further ado, here’s the top 10 list for Men’s Health magazine’s Best Summer Bodies:

1. Kellan Lutz

2. Matthew McConaughey

3. Taylor Lautner
See full article at Channing Tatum Unwrapped »

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