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Angelitos negros (1970)
Juanita Moore gives a moving performance
This version of "Angelitos Negros" is not as good as the 1948 version. It has the patina of poorly-produced early '70s film. However, its one great strength is the moving performance of Juanita Moore in the role of Mercé, the nanny of the prejudiced, grown-up Ana Luisa. The story of "Angelitos Negros" has similarities to Fannie Hurst's "Imitation of Life," and it is very interesting to witness Miss Moore's performance in this film since she received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her majestic performance in 1959's version of "Imitation of Life." Every star I've given in rating the film is for Miss Moore's performance alone.
Lucy remembers her audition tricks in this episode
This episode of "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour," while not one of the best remembered, does have its great moments. The best sequence occurs when Lucy is in the outer office of Paul Douglas, hoping to audition for the part of his new "Girl Friday" on his TV show. A collection of models enters to audition for the same part (one of the models is the stunning Joi Lansing) and Lucy attempts to emulate each girl's particular attribute: cleavage, long legs, classy chignon hairstyle, etc. Fans may remember Lucy did this same thing in a first season episode of "I Love Lucy" when she's auditioning to play Sally Sweet in the Cuban Pete sketch, and she tries emulating the other showgirls auditioning. Her comic timing and reactions are still on target and very funny in this later episode.
If only the show had centered on Anita!
Too bad this show didn't give Anita Morris more to do. In fact, if the show had centered on her character, Babs, and made her sort of a kinder and sexier version of Alexis Carrington, it might have been a whole lot more intriguing, instead of the less interesting triangle between Yvette Mimeux, Ben Murphy, and Andrea Marcovicci. The petty machinations of Claudia Christian and her husband Art Hindle were amusing and could have been played for more comedy. I was a big fan of all the nighttime soaps and Anita Morris as well. She came along too late, though. If she'd had the breaks that similar performers like Gwen Verdon had, she'd have been a huge star on Broadway with composers and show backers fighting to create vehicles for her. I would love it if the dozen or so episodes of "Berrenger's" were released on DVD, but that's not likely to happen.
Sun Valley Serenade (1941)
It happened in Sun Valley!
This is a simply great movie. What might appear to be a typical Sonja Henie ice musical is anything but typical. Ms. Henie is charming in her role as Karen, a Scandinavian refugee, who has been "adopted" by Ted (John Payne) and his band, who were expecting a little girl. Karen immediately falls in love with Ted, who already has a steady lady, the tempermental Vivian Dawn, who is the star vocalist for the band. Vivian is played by Lynn Bari, who had a long career playing arch high-society types and blowsy "other women". It's no contest who will end up together at the end, but there are so many things that elevate this movie above your average 40's musical. Perhaps the best thing is the presence of the Glenn Miller Orchestra (not Benny Goodman as another review states). Every song they deliver fits into the flow of the movie, and every song is a knockout. The classic "In the Mood", the gorgeous "I Know Why and So Do You" (THE most romantic song ever) and the stupendous "Chattanooga Choo Choo" (performed by Tex Beneke and the Modernaires, the number also features the supreme dancing and singing talents of the Nicholas Brothers and the lovely Dorothy Dandridge). Throw in the presences of Milton Berle and the wacky Joan Davis, the beautiful snow and ski sequences, and the marvelous "black ice" ballet at the end, and you've got one of the best Hollywood musicals from the 40's, indeed, from any decade!
It takes a lot of work to get to college!
This film may be seen as a rather slight offering in the musical genre of the early 50's; however, it's been a favorite film of mine since I first saw it years ago. Virginia Mayo sparkles as Angela, a sincere girl who wants to attend college, but has to work in burlesque as "Hot Garters Gertie" to earn the money. Ronald Reagan is her professor, and thankfully, the film is less concerned with his career woes (being passed over for promotions at the college, a rivalry with the football coach, etc.) than it is with the college kids and the musical numbers. Gene Nelson is handsome and an excellent dancer, and Patrice Wymore has the right degree of archness as "Poison Ivy". The musical numbers are a lot of fun, especially "With Plenty of Money and You" (Virginia, clad in gold fringe, pulls out the stops for her burlesque number), "I'll Still Be Loving You" (Virginia and Gene sing the cute romantic number in class), and the title song. It's a film I can enjoy watching again and again.
Tin Pan Alley (1940)
Great stars, great music, what more could you want?
This is a delightful film with some of the best stars from the 40's. Alice Faye has been a personal favorite of mine for years and her beautiful contralto singing voice is only one reason. She is also charming and beautiful, and it's no wonder she was 20th Century Fox's top blonde star for many years (until Betty Grable, who is, of course, also in this film). Alice and Betty make believable sisters and perform some knockout numbers together (especially "The Sheik of Araby", which also boasts the talents of the marvelous Nicholas Brothers). Alice is paired romantically in the film with John Payne (a frequent costar), and their chemistry makes you understand why Fox paired them often in film. The songs are delightful and the movie captures the image of Tin Pan Alley that may not have existed in reality, but isn't the image on film more romantic and lovely to look at? The only quibble I have: why, oh why wasn't this filmed in Technicolor?
In Caliente (1935)
South-of-the-border, Hollywood style!
Caliente was a stylish resort destination for the film community in the 1930's, and this film attempted to capitalize on that exotic fact for movie audiences. Very little of the film takes advantage of its sultry locale, however. The film is mainly concerned with Rita, a beautiful Mexican dancer, who is infuriated after Larry, a theater critic, savagely pans her dancing after failing to catch her act! She sets out to show him, and of course they fall in love. There is a good supporting cast, especially Edward Everett Horton as his usual nervous fussbudget. The two musical numbers were staged by Busby Berkeley. "The Lady in Red" is sung by a chorus of studio cuties and by the wonderful Wini Shaw (and a novelty chorus or two is sung by the delightful Judy Canova, doing her "country hayseed" character). The "Muchacha" number is one of Berkeley's typical sprawling numbers and makes good use of Dolores Del Rio's beauty and horses riding up a staircase! Pay attention to Del Rio in the scene at the pool. She wears what's believed to be the screen's first two-piece bathing suit. Just one look at her stunning beauty will make you long for the days when Hollywood was known for goddesses like Del Rio, Dietrich, Lamarr, Garbo, etc.
Enchanted April (1935)
A charming little film.
This version of "Enchanted April" isn't as ethereal or delightful as the 1992 version, but it does has a certain charm. Mainly conceived as a vehicle for Ann Harding (who was a big star in the mid-thirties, but not well-remembered today), the pacing is somewhat slow and almost appears to be a filmed stage play. We don't "see" and "feel" the changes everyone undergoes as a result of staying in the Italian villa (as we do in the remake), but Ann Harding does her best to get that point across. She is ethereal and pretty, and her "hothouse flower" talent would seem well-suited to the part. It's interesting to compare the two versions and see how the 1992 version managed to successfully capture the flavor of the period without sacrificing anything to a modern movie-going audience's baser expectations for entertainment. See both versions!
She Devil (1957)
A feminist B-movie ... obviously made by men!
I remember seeing this movie when I was a kid on the Sunday afternoon TV matinee. In the film, a terminally-ill woman will die unless an experimental drug is administered by the scientist who developed the serum, if I remember correctly, from some type of insect or spider (or was it some deadly plant?). Her life is saved, but she has developed extraordinary methods of survival and becomes seemingly indestructible. What can the scientist do to solve this situation? In many ways, this film is typical of the 50's "horror" genre as seen in its low-budget, B-list tier of performers and the opinion that a man can save a woman, but who can save a woman from herself (especially one who's developed into some kind of monster)? As a kid, I remember being really impressed with a scene where, to avoid being caught, the woman (having developed those incredible survival techniques), mentally changes her hair color from brunette to platinum blonde (much like a chameleon). I remember thinking that would be really cool to be able to do that! So while this film is no awards-contender, it's a memorable quasi-horror title from the 50's!
Auntie Mame (1958)
Still a laugh riot!
This movie has always been a favorite of mine, and Rosalind Russell's "tour de force" performance is only one of the reasons I love it so. Both Coral Browne and Peggy Cass are simply magnificent in it, but the character I just love is Gloria Upson, Patrick's snooty fiancee (played by Joanna Barnes). I can quote verbatim her famous scene about the pingpong ball! I never fail to fall down laughing after Joanna's big scene. To see how Gloria Upson might have turned out in the 90's, check out Joanna Barnes' brief scene in the remake of the "Parent Trap" (and any true fan of Miss Barnes will realize she played the snooty fiancee in the original "Parent Trap"). I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to walk into someone's apartment for the first time and say (in Gloria's perfect East Coast voice) what a stunning apartment it is and admire the decorative nature of all the books. "Auntie Mame" is a comic gem!