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Strictly Unconventional (1930)
okay drama from S. Maugham
Well, it's a somerset maugham story, so we know its going to be a drama, with lots of pain for someone at some point. The story opens with Arnold Champion Cheney (Tyrell Davis) fawning over a chippendale chair he just received. We see signs of trouble, as his wife Elizabeth (Catherine Owen) complains that he likes his belongings more than he likes her. Then it is announced that Champion's mother (Alison Skipworth) is coming for an unexpected visit. LOVE Alison Skipworth, so fun to see her as Lady Champion, stirring things up. Elizabeth starts spending time alone with Ted the Canadian, so we can see there is trouble in paradise. At one point, we see Tyrell Davis with an "alfalfa" type hairdo... not sure what the point of that was ? The main story is about the friction between Elizabeth and Arnold, and with Arnold's parents as well. Lots of dinner party scenes, lots of talking, but you can tell we are missing some of the story, with 20 minutes cut from the film. No big deal really. Not Alison Skipworth's best work. This was her first talkie.... she was SO much better in her later films. See her in one of the W.C. Fields films instead. Lewis Stone (from Grand Hotel) is in here as well.
Owen stopped acting in 1931, so she doesn't seem to have done well in the talkies. Directed by David Burton, who only directed about 15 films, mostly in the 1930s. He doesn't seem to have stuck around long. Screenplay by Sylvia Thalberg, the sister of big-time producer Irving Thalberg.
Wise Girls (1929)
so so lover's quadrangle
"Of course I'm going to marry you... sometime." That's what Duke (Roland Young, from Topper and Philadelphia Story) tells Kate, played by Norma Lee, in one of the two credited roles she ever did. in the very next scene, she marries the next guy she meets, who happens to be "Kemp" (Elliot Nugent), who her dad treats like enemy number one . Kemp's claim to fame is : "I rule my own life, and I don't stammer!" You can see why she fell for him. This is all quite silly, but the picture and sound quality are actually pretty good for a film from 1929. It's all a family affair, because Kate's dad in the film is Elliott Nugent's actual father, J.C. Nugent. To confuse things further, Norma Lee was actually married to Elliott Nugent, who also wrote and directed. The Nugent father and son team had written the play on which this film is based. The editing is pretty rough. About halfway through, there's a scene where the camera stays on sister Ruth, while she makes eyes at Kemp for a minute or two; the camera stays on her for an extra long time, which is awkward in itself, then we cut back to the wide shot, and suddenly her mouth is down-turned, in an unhappy, dour look. The whole story starts with the question of the family deciding whether or not to accept the new husband, when everyone had expected her to marry Duke. More silly, smarmy looks from sister Ruth towards Kemp. Much ado about nothing. Elliott Nugent's acting is terrible... he should have stuck to writing. and Marion Shilling keeps turning to stare into the camera after she says a line. lame. At one point, she fondles his wrench VERY slowly and suggestively as she says: "Just think, here we are all alone in the world...". Could leave this film on while you are doing homework, or cleaning house, or something. big yawn.
I Married a Witch (1942)
boy meets ghost
We are shown various bits of history of the Wooley family through the ages. A twenty year old Veronica Lake is "Jennifer", who had put a curse on the Wooley family for all time. March is Wallace Wooley, the latest member of the family, who stops to save someone from a burning building. He meets "Jennifer"... the ghost. Some fun co-stars helping out - the low key Robert Benchley, Susan Hayward (will go on to win an Oscar 15 years later), and Jennifer's father ( Cecil Kellaway, from Postman...) There is a scene where Jennifer gets out of Wooley's bed as the housekeeper walks in, and the housekeeper is shocked - pretty rough stuff for 1942. All Wallace says is "I'll explain later." The pace of this is a little off; the basic story is good, but the acting and rapport between the actors is quite stilted. A couple demerits for that. Directed by Rene Clair, who, according to wikipedia, had worked in France, England, and then Hollywood. Story by Thorne Smith, who had also written the hugely successful "Topper". He seemed to be adept at working ghosts who speak with the living into his stories. In this one, everyone can see the ghost as she goes around causing trouble.
Night Spot (1938)
cheesy shortie from RKO
This shortie from RKO opens with Marge Dexter (Joan Woodbury) looking for work in a nightclub. Of course, there is a mixup, and she gets "mixed up" in the shenanigans going on with the employees that work there. Jack Carson is in here in a minor role. And Harry Parke aka Parkyakarkus is in here with his comedic word-fumbles and switcheroos. "Boss, everything is under patrol!" Parke is Marge's bodyguard, trying to protect her until she can testify. The whole thing is one big vaudeville bit, with long pauses, one liners, and sight gags. Allan Lane and Gordon Jones are musicians in the nightclub, observing and trying to cozy up to Marge. Pretty good entertainment, if a little cheesy, jam-packed into one hour. Directed by Christy Cabanne, who sure fit a lot of showbiz into his short life. As actor, writer, director, and other miscellaneous crew, he started in the biz in 1911 -- he must have been there almost right from the beginning.
Capriccio Italien (1953)
Great for doing homework, or painting, or something. interesting, droll, slightly dry piece. MGM symphony orchestra plays music by P. Tchaikovsky. people in the room with me commented that some of it sounds remarkably like the chase scene music from Wiz of Oz -- a good example of "nothing new under the sun", but everyone borrows from everyone.
orchestra directed by Johnny Green, who won five Oscars for various shows over 20 years. some real biggies: Oliver, West Side Story, American in Paris. Some great information on Green on wikipedia; he wrote (solo and collaborations) "Out of Nowhere", "Rain Rain Go Away", "I Cover the Waterfront", "You're Mine You", "I Wanna Be Loved", "Easy Come Easy Go", "Repeal The Blues". i also see Sound Recording done by douglas shearer, who seems to have recorded about 80 percent of the films made in Hollywood. Piece shown on TCM in between films.
Woman Against the World (1937)
bad luck follows her around
W.A.T.W opens with hunky Johnny, the farmhand, trying to help his girl Anna with her chores. Anna is played by Alice Moore, niece of actress and producer Mary Pickford. The grumpy old father gives him hell, so they marry in secret. Then things go downhill from there. Edgar Edwards (Johnny) seems to have written and starred in this shortie from Columbia Pictures, which was pretty rare for those days. Everything was so compartmentalized then... actors were rarely also writers. This one moves along pretty quickly... a little too quickly. We witness lots of big milestones, some unexplained, some are pretty straight-forward, and the couple runs into more and more bad luck. Can't really say too much here, storywise, to avoid giving away major plotpoints. The main plot line here is that she lost custody of her baby, and spends the remainder of the movie trying to find and reclaim her daughter. This seems to have been filmed in a Canadian studio, and at only 66 minutes, it feels like some helpful scenes have been cut or lost. It's an OK story, but given a few more scenes of explanation, could have been great. The sound and picture quality are remarkably good for a film from 1937.
Alice Moore died quite young at 44, but couldn't find out much about that. She seems to have married, moved to DC, and died just a couple years after her mother. Directed by David Selman; one of the last films Selman did.. he died the same year this was made.
House of Mortal Sin (1976)
campy Brit horror flick
Well... Mortal Sin opens with a pretty gruesome scene. Young chick comes home crying... runs up to her room, reads the bible, and we're off on the adventure. Then our star "Jenny" (Susan Penhaligon) meets up with her old school buddy (Norman Eshley) who is now a priest. Lots of talking, drinking tea, confessions in the church, and of course, eerie, creepy music. Anthony Sharp is Father Xavier, and plays a large part in our story. Some of the scenes don't really make sense, but I guess you have to buy into it. Next thing you know, her school, priest friend is now shacking up with Jenny. Holy guacamole, batman! Lots of odd things and nasty things. Not for the young 'uns. An entertaining viewing, but SO predictable. All of it.
Recommended on the Frank Dicaro show (XM radio), this is one of the campy horror flicks which didn't start out to be that way. Written, directed, and produced by Peter Walker, British director. Acc to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pete_Walker_(director) , he had made films that fell under various categories in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, frequently using the same cast of characters.
early G. Wilder
Gene Wilder, right after Producers and Revolution, but just before Willy Wonka. And Margot Kidder (Superman's chick), in her very early days. Wilder is Quackser Fortune, who has a horse manure collection cart in Ireland. They spend an awkward but fun day together, and hit it off right away. Quackser seems a bit "slow", but we quickly learn he is deeper than it appears. Beautiful photography of the Irish countryside along the way. His family wants him to earn an honest but boring living working at "the foundry".
When his own trade is no longer a viable option, he must find another path. Along the way, there are numerous misunderstandings, happy moments, sad moments, and the like. Zazel (Kidder) starts out liking Quackser as a boy toy, but can't quite decide if she REALLY likes him. She strings him along a couple times, and he keeps coming back for more. Not a very deep film, but a fun hour and a half. We don't really learn any life lessons here, but there are worse ways to spend the afternoon than watching Gene Wilder in his early days. Story very similar to Being There, with Peter Sellers. Directed by Waris Hussein, who appears to have been a big shot at BBC.
Women Are Trouble (1936)
kind of a gangster who-dunnit.... but not really
It's the battle of the sexes in this story of girl reporter against guy reporter. Prohibition has JUST ended, and the newspaper reporters are looking into shady murders. They both try to get a possible eye-witness to talk, but that doesn't work. Matt Casey (Stuart Erwin) is pitted against Ruth Nolan (Florence Rice) in this MGM shortie short - only 58 minutes. Erwin was a low key actor, and was nominated for Pigskin Parade in 1937. Later in the film, our stars both go to a costume party, and they fiddle diddle around for about ten minutes, without really accomplishing anything. Lot of ex-wife jokes. Excellent restoration, even if there are a film film quality issues here and there. Directed by Errol Taggart. Looks like he started in the silents, and continued directing into the 1930's talkies. Not a lot about him in wikipedia.org . Not a graceful ending to this thing, but it'll do for now. Only ten votes on IMDb as of today, so this one must have been kept in the closet. Not bad... but not great.
The Angry Hills (1959)
Adventure and intrigue... Mitchum style
With such an accomplished director (Aldrich) and author (Uris) involved, I was really surprised that this wasn't more of a success, but as previously discussed by others, this was probably over-edited and over-cut. Robert Aldrich also directed The Dirty Dozen, and TWO Bette Davis films (Baby Jane and Sweet Charlotte). Robert Uris wrote numerous books on the subjects of war and international conflict. The lead, Robert Mitchum was no slouch either, having starred in so many big films - Cape Fear, Out of the Past, Sundowners, Night of the Hunter. In Angry Hills, he is Mike Morrison, a journalist caught up in wartime Europe. He checks into his hotel, and meets someone who wants to give him a secret list that is to be delivered to British intelligence when he returns to London. He refuses, and that's when the adventures begin. Morrison escapes the clutches of the bad guys, (several times) and pops up in a village that has been conquered by the Germans. He is looked after by the beautiful "Eleftheria" and her family. (Gia Scala, who died quite young at age 38. she has an interesting write-up on wikipedia.org) He hangs around town, and then scoots off to another town. Keep an eye out for Sebastian Cabot, best known as the butler on the show "Family Affair", made a couple years after Hills. It's entertaining enough, and a believable tale, but the whole time, I got the feeling that he could have left the various villages much earlier to avoid trouble; he just seemed to dawdle around town for the sake of the script. Still, a good WW II adventure story.