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Marcus Welby, M.D.: A Full Life (1974)
A pleasant surprise to see an older Richard Basehart
I happened to come across this Marcus Welby TV episode, "A Full Life" and at first didn't recognize the actor Richard Basehart who plays a well- seasoned researcher, Professor Kirkcastle, whose health is scarred by past illnesses incurred in Malaysia that can turn serious for him in later life. He proves to be a very difficult patient for Marcus Welby to deal with but is willing to go along with the tests and treatment after some objections. It was easy to recognize the lovely Phyllis Thaxter later in the story as the nurse who tries to keep the professor in line and not overdo himself although he is adamant on going on this latest excursion to explore certain plants in a remote area. For me it was a trip down memory lane to see the old actors once again. At least we can appreciate having these films of them so many years later.
Strange Holiday (1945)
A reminder that freedom should not be taken for granted
I'm a great fan of Claude Rains so I enjoyed viewing this new (for me) film by such a fine actor who brings a dire warning message home to us. His perplexity and inability to comprehend what has transpired in the everyday world around him when he returns from a fishing holiday reveals a straight-line kind of thinking that sadly is quickly overturned when disaster has occurred.
The progress of the story, of complete alienation from routine life as he'd known it, made me realize how fortunate we are in N. America not to have experienced the oppression of an invading army such as what many small countries in Europe suffered in WW2 under the Nazis.
I don't know all the dates but it seems this film could have more logically fit into the period of wartime efforts to support 'the cause', as it has a propaganda ring to it which is ineffectual if coming after the war had already ended.
The Orwellian film "Nineteen Eighty Four" also has a similar message of individual oppression although there it's in the form of Big Brother.
Mention in the movie of Friday the 13th made me notice on my calendar that this week has a Friday 13th upcoming (December 2013). Small world at times!
"Strange Holiday" is a reality-check story with a message and there's nothing weird about it when properly understood. Just be thankful in the West that you've never been invaded by an oppressor.
This is a worthwhile film to add to one's collection particularly for Claude Rains fans.
A pleasant adventure in days gone by
I've just seen "Stingaree" the first time on TCM and enjoyed every bit of it as it takes me back to the excitement of the early movies I saw as a kid paying 25 cents for an all-day stay at the theatre on Saturday. To start was an hour of cartoons, the newsreel, then two feature films and we could stay to see it all over again if we wanted to. Those were the days! It does seem that the subject of Nellie Melba could've had a strong influence on this story, an unknown Australian singer who becomes famous worldwide. Irene Dunne is the servant girl Hilda who has dreams of a career and is given the chance to sing for the impresario Sir Julian. I had visions of Jeannette MacDonald in this role, it's her style, but Irene Dunne gives a more integrated performance and her singing is finer as it has somewhat more volume to project, in my opinion.
There ought to be a special medal created for Mary Boland, she's quite something in all her films, over the top, hilarious, showy, a grand flurry of mannerisms, delightful and absurd. She certainly adds wit to her films. Her amusing reference to protecting "British womanhood's virginity" brought back the quip, "Oh no, my dear, you mean chastity. Britain wouldn't have survived on women's virginity," was quite a funny hint.
Richard Dix has the role of Stingaree, the thief who is being hunted but he does have a good heart and is determined to help Hilda get her chance to be heard by Sir Julian which succeeds and she's off to make her career although Stingaree unfortunately gets captured in the process and must put in his time in jail during her venture into the world.
I'm always charmed by Una O'Connor who plays Annie the maid. She has such a distinctive presence in all her roles, one can only wonder what it'd have been without her in so many great movies such as Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) and Witness For The Prosecution (Ty Power).
Henry Stephenson performs as the man of the house, Mr Clarkson, married to the Mrs., Mary Boland, his is not a very large role but well done.
Andy Devine is quite young in this film and he plays the 'sidekick' of Stingaree for their robbery excursions.
One ought to be fair in judging the old movies, after all, the acting that was done in silent films is not what they did when talkies came along. So too, we should consider the time period and settle into that when viewing the oldies. Each decade brought along its own styles and fashions, and that needs to be taken into account when making a comment.
All in all I enjoyed a first viewing of this adventure/ romance/ comedy film and I believe it's available to buy so that's good news too. Add it to your collection if you are a dedicated collector. Well worth it!
This England (1941)
Wartime film to uplift British morale, five vignettes of historical courage
Now that many British films are available on the internet I was pleased to discover this one today. It appears to be a lovely mix of five time periods in England, a glimpse into the past when life was simpler and closer to the land, "rustic" would best describe it.
It's wonderful to see the in-between films of fine actors such as John Clements (of The Four Feathers, 1939), and Roland Culver. Emlyn Williams, who is credited with writing the dialogue, appears as a haunting presence in each story, a reminder of the poorer people who are usually the ones to suffer most. Each tale illustrated how the townspeople rose up to defy injustices as well as dealing with newcomers who were different which unfortunately reflected some of the fears and superstitions of their time especially toward the gypsy girl. The episode of wartime in 1804 made me realize how the state of marriage was often decided on as a ticket to a lifetime of security, much like Jane Austen's constant reference to a good match being based on the person's annual income.
I love the British films, very nostalgic. It also made me realize how in North America we are not tied as much by traditions or ancestral land memories, ours is still a relatively new world here.
"This England" is a treasure of early British films, produced during the war years, and reveals the extent of the Brits' determination and fortitude as they lived through challenging times in centuries past and in the present.
Anna Sten turns in a realistic, fine performance
This is the first time I've seen Anna Sten in Nana and it's worth every minute of viewing. Of course what comes to mind is the opera La Traviata by Verdi which in turn was based on Alexandre Dumas the younger's novel La Dame aux Camelias, and I daresay the story has been told many times, of ill-fated deception of too many lovers.
Anna, whose spontaneous manner reminded me of Miriam Hopkins' strong style of delivery, is true to life and far more believable than Garbo whose acting came across as stilted. There are traces of Dietrich mannerisms in Anna's facial expressions but her beautiful features are truly awesome, a real beauty that I never tire of seeing.
This is a movie that I can look forward to viewing several times and not get tired of it. Recommended.
That Wonderful Urge (1948)
Wonderful collection of fine actors in this comedy remake.
After half a lifetime of viewing movies I finally got to see this film "That Wonderful Urge" with Ty Power and Gene Tierney, once again teamed up. Always interesting to see a new film not viewed before.
There's a fabulous, well-rounded cast - Gene Lockhart, Lucile Watson, Reginald Gardiner, Chill Wills, Porter Hall - all familiar faces, and I really felt much more could have been done due to the presence of these great actors appearing all in one film. Well, in Marlon Brando's words (On the Waterfront), you could say, "I coulda been a somebody" because everything was there except a fine script, but I'm thinking drama instead of comedy, my fault really. I think the main problem is that Ty and Gene are forever enshrined in my memory as two of the finest actors in that great story, "The Razor's Edge," an influence which is hard to shake free of and I'd gladly welcome another film of that calibre with them in it but my expectations will have to remain a wish.
Since the story of "That Wonderful Urge" is based on comedy I must admit there are many amusing moments and unexpected turns as the tale unfolds.
Thomas Tyler (Ty), a reporter, is out to get the inside scoop for his newspaper on the heiress, Sara Farley (Gene Tierney). After he poses as an admirer in order to obtain a story of her personal side, she becomes aware of his trickery and is determined to show him what it's like being in the spotlight of public news, and she does this by announcing to a group of anxious newspapermen the fact that they are indeed married. Needless to say from hereon the newspapers take over and the plot is up and running. It is then Tom-Tom's turn to refute the statement and it gets more complicated at every turn.
I like Gene Lockhart in his role as a judge and it reminded me of his later role in "Carousel" also.
This movie is one I recently bought as part of a box set "Tyrone Power Matinée Collection" where I thought I was getting five movies but it turns out to be ten, plus more extras. It's a must-have for those who appreciate Tyrone Power's films.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935)
Fine acting and good story
Excellent - just excellent! Finally I got to view this movie and am glad I acquired the tape. I need not explain all the details of the story since others have done such a good job of it already.
Am a great fan of Claude Rains so it was interesting to see him here as a younger man and a very good actor at that.
I was really surprised about Douglass Montgomery who plays the role of young Neville Landless faultlessly, and then to see him also reappear in a secondary role halfway through the film as an elderly stranger, Dick Datcherly, who comes into town and rents a room. What struck me most about Datcherly's appearance was his mannerisms and way of speaking, the nose, the long beard - I immediately recognized a striking resemblance to Fagin, played by Alec Guinness, in "Oliver Twist" (1946), as it was identical right down to the rasping voice. I'm sure Alec G. need only have taken one look at this characterization of Datcherly and he'd have found his clue to Fagin's appearance, they are so much the same! The story moves along very well, kept my interest, no dull moments, in my opinion. I was captivated by such a fine integrated performance from all the actors. It's my kind of movie!
Captures your attention from the start
Hollywood was in the business of producing entertainment and not necessarily historical documentaries. I consider this film to be a very good action-packed movie, the kind we would expect when going to the movies on a Saturday night when we were younger. It's just great sitting through this one.
I like George Sanders in this role as he has more scope here as Richard the Lionhearted, and at least he isn't a cad or the usual bad character as in most of the other films he's done, so it's a nice change.
Laurence Harvey is just fine as Sir Kenneth, the loyal Scotsman, and portraying a Scot he displays their usual staunch reserve by nature, quite in character I thought.
Of course Rex Harrison as Saladin is the master showman here, wily and filled with crafty schemes, at the beginning he manages to work his way into his enemies' camp, in the guise of a physician sent there by Saladin to treat Richard's wound as he has been laid low by a poisoned arrow shot at him. Luckily he survives.
Lovely Virginia Mayo lights up the screen in my view with her exquisite beauty and although she doesn't have a really fulfilling role, her portrayal of Lady Edith is well done.
It's good entertainment with lots of action and should be appreciated as such. I'm glad to add it to my collection.
Escape Me Never (1947)
Surprisingly good performance by handsome Errol Flynn
I think the casting of the actors is exceptionally good and Errol Flynn's nonchalant manner fits perfectly in this story. I felt it demonstrated the lesson that we don't appreciate what we have until it is too late and is taken from us. We mustn't take love for granted.
I was particularly interested to see Albert Bassermann appearing in this film and recognized his voice immediately because of his next and last acting performance which was in the famous 1948 film "The Red Shoes" in which he had a fairly significant role - not bad for an actor nearing 80 years of age!
Ida Lupino as 'Gemma' is cast adrift after a short union in marriage which produced a son, but she must fend for herself when tragedy ends the union. She links up the Sebastian (Flynn), a musician, who also happens to have a brother that is in music too.
I like the moderate display in this production of the film, nothing overblown or showy, but just plain and simple, almost like a stage production in a way and more true to the story.
It's an excellent movie and well worth seeing.
Very fine singing in this version of Pagliacci
This DVD presentation of "Pagliacci" (1954) with Tito Gobbi as Tonio, Franco Corelli as Canio, and Mafalda Micheluzzi as Nedda, is the best version musically in my opinion and much more integrated.
Personally I think the Prologue as sung by Gobbi is a marvellous gift from heaven! Unforgettable and simply superb. In this wonderful solo he tells us that the drama, although performed by actors, is about real human beings who like everyone else have ordinary human feelings. This is opera solo music at its finest.
In Act 1, the travelling players arrive at a small village and are greeted enthusiastically by the crowds, then soon move off to the local tavern leaving Nedda alone at homebase. She daydreams of being freed from her life there, free as the birds in the sky, and sings a wonderfully inspired aria filled with joy. To me it is a special musical moment to be remembered. Present only is Tonio, the simpleminded member of the group, who has a crush on Nedda but of course she is married to Canio, the leader. Tonio forces his attentions on her, moved by the love that stirs in his heart, but she scorns him, strikes him with a whip, and he backs away humiliated, vowing vengeance. This sets the tone for much of what follows as one feels a tension in the air whenever he's around.
Silvio (Lino Puglisi) is Nedda's lover and he next appears after Tonio has left the scene. He'd like to take Nedda away with him, wanting her to leave the group, and questioning her again what her feelings are for her older husband, Canio. Surely if she doesn't love him she shouldn't stay. She hesitates then reluctantly agrees to meet Silvio after that night's performance, to run off together, and they finish the scene with exquisite singing of their love and future life together. Such beautiful music.
Canio (Franco Corelli) is the jealous husband and now arrives, but he returns only to find Nedda with Silvio so he frantically chases after him but Silvio manages to escape and not be recognized. Not knowing exactly who it is Canio roughly demands that Nedda reveal his name. She doesn't give in to him however. The day moves on and it's time to prepare for the evening's performance.
We find in Act 2 that the play onstage begins with a Serenade sung by Beppe, very nicely performed by Mario Carlin. He plays Harlequin who sings to his ladylove, Columbine (Nedda). Canio has to play the part of Pagliaccio who suddenly bursts upon the stage and Harlequin runs away. This role playing is too close to home for Canio who lapses into the real life drama that started off stage. Now he demands from Columbine (his wife Nedda) the name of her lover and there is no pretending anymore. Thereafter is the denouement to follow.
When the opera was first performed it was not highly regarded by the critics but the major tenors of the time enjoyed the Pagliacci role and that helped to keep it popular. In modern times the opinion has mellowed and it's considered a very good example of expressive artistry, a nice compliment given that it's rather a short opera compared to most others. One gets to appreciate this music more and more after some serious listening. Well recommended.