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Pleasure Cruise (1933)
Daring Pre-Code Comedy
An excellent, fascinating and daring film to come out in the final months before the production code took effect. The cast all around is excellent, with special kudos going to Roland Young as the husband and Genevieve Tobin as the possibly unfaithful wife. Tobin's acting in this film is very natural, and makes the film that much more believable.
The plot is this: Roland Young and Genevieve Tobin have been married for one year, and they feel as if they are drifting apart in their marriage. They decide that they will take separate vacations away from each other to sort the marriage out. Tobin decides to go on a pleasure cruise, and while aboard many available men begin to hit on her, and she begins to contemplate having a quick shipboard fling with one of the men.
Unknown to her, her husband had gotten a job as a barber aboard the ship in order to keep a close tab on her and who she speaks to.
Later in the voyage she meets Ralph Forbes, who is the most forward of all the suitors they have met. After the fancy dress ball aboard the ship, he asks if he can slip into her cabin and spend the night. After some thought, Tobin decides to leave the cabin door unlocked, and when she is asleep a man slips into the cabin and makes love to her...but it was her husband and not the suitor.
Watch for some funny and awkward dialogue the morning after as Ralph Forbes tries to apologize for not going to her cabin the night before, and Tobin things he is apologizing for a poor performance in the bedroom.
This film is quite remarkable at how frank and sexual the movies could be before the production code came into effect, and if you can get your hands on a copy of this film, by all means watch it and enjoy.
Beyond Tomorrow (1940)
A Christmas Classic Given a Second Life
Beyond Tomorrow is a film that should be considered a Christmas classic, but sadly is film which has slipped through the cracks. This film began production in 1939 at General Service Studios which was rented out by Academy Productions, Inc. The film was released in May 1940, certainly not during the Christmas season. The film was distributed by RKO. This film was considered to be a second feature, or B picture. The cast, which are excellent in the roles, are all supporting players in other films, but here they are given the lead. This film was known as an "orphan" film. The copyright on this film was allowed to expire when Academy Productions went out of business. Because this film didn't have major stars in it, the film was not widely replayed during the Christmas season, except in smaller local markets. Interestingly, "It's A Wonderful Life" really only became the classic film it is, because it too slipped into the public domain, and repeated TV viewings around the holidays insured that film would become a classic.
In the age of DVDs "Beyond Tomorrow" would soon find a new life, and would appear on any of a number of DVDs from various film studios. Most of these DVDs, regardless of price, would use the same source material, mainly the print stored at the Library of Congress as part of it's copyright deposit collection. The film print that most people are used to is very dark, with cuts and splices throughout.
In 2005 the film was put out in a colorized verison on DVD. The distributer of the film is listed as 20th Century Fox, however the film was colorized by a different company. The colorization, though a major improvement over techniques used in the 1980s, still has its limitations. The color is muddy, very unrealistic, and even distracting. The print that they colorized, while a different print then the ones used on most other DVD releases of this film, was still poor, and that is reflected in the colorized version. Additionally several short scenes were cut from the color verison, but these scenes are included as "deleted scenes" on the DVD. Had these scenes been left in the film the movie would have made a bit better sense.
Intesesting Premise, best watched in fast forward
Being an avid film restoration film, I was eagerly awaiting the chance to see this film. This film is made up of random bits of film, from various film archives around the world, which has been spliced together at random. The one connecting feature of this film is that all film used is rotting, decaying, faded, bubbling...in other words the film is decomposing. Kudos to the filmmaker for salvaging some of this film and letting the public see what can happen to film if it has not be stored or cared for properly. The footage is totally random, some nature films, newsreels, features...countries featured include the United States, Turkey, Japan, Morocco....scenes of stars like William S. Hart, Larry Semon, Mary Pickford....scenes of dignitaries arriving aboard ships from 1920s newsreels; 1950s educational films.....a really vast array.
However the film can be agonizing to sit through, especially because it is in incredibly slow motion, and most of the time we get only a fleeting glimpse as to what is actually in the film frame, most of the time the entire image is distorted. I watched the movie in fast forward, and even then it was too slow. The movie has very haunting music, and this film could easily be shown in October as part of a scary movie festival.
Not a Fitting Epitah for Harlow
Saratoga was not a great film. It has some clever and witty moments, such as the scene where Harlow is caught smoking a cigar, but on the whole the film is not among the best work of the wonderful cast which includes: Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Lionel Barrymore and Walter Pigeon. Harlow died before she completed filming this movie after a supposed illness which lasted 10 days. Watching the film you can see how unenergetic she looks, how puffy and tired and knowing that she does not live to finish the film casts the film in a poor light. When Harlow died, it was reported in the press that the film would be scrapped and left unfinished....but Louella Parsons reported in the press a few days after Harlow's death that the public outcry had been so great that MGM had decided to release the film. Being realistic here, it is hard to believe that MGM would ever seriously consider scrapping the film....the film had already cost millions and had other big name stars in the film. Parsons reported that the role played by Jean Harlow would be filled by actress Rita Johnson, and that at the point in the filming where Harlow died, co-star Lionel Barrymore would film an introduction announcing that Harlow had passed and that the film would be completed by another actress. None of this happened. There was no intro by Barrymore, and the role was taken over by actress Mary Dees. Dees was described in the press as having been both a $55 a week dancer at Warner Brothers, and also was said to have been pulled from a picture that she was shooting at Paramount with Bing Crosby to finish the role.
It is laughable to see the new actress in the role. At the point at which Harlow dies in real life, her character on the screen seems to almost vanish too. When she is shown, she is shown from the back, or with binoculars to her face, or a laughable scene with Hattie McDaniels where she is wearing a huge hat with a wide gauzy brim which obscures her face. This all makes what already was not a stellar film, get even worse. It is hard to say how the film would have been had Harlow lived. There is no question that her role would have been much larger.
In a macabre twist, in the scene where Jean Harlow is being examined by the doctor played by George Zucco, the gown she is wearing, white and with puffy sleeves, was the gown she was buried wearing.
Fantastic and Musy Be Seen
This was a three part series that aired on the History Channel of footage, all of it in color, that was culled from various film archives and home movie collections. While some of the color footage of Hitler has been seen before (the footage from Hitler's home movies) the rest of the footage has not been seen. It is amazing to see this footage in bright color. While the series only three parts, and not enough time to go through the entire War in depth, there apparently are hundreds of more hours of footage left on the cutting room floor, and one can only hope that there will be future shows.
This documentary is available on DVD and VHS.
Mr. Bug Goes to Town (1941)
If this film were by Disney it would be a classic
Mr. Bug Goes to Town was one of those films that I grew up hearing about, however a copy could never be obtained until now. I just watched this film on DVD and thought it was a delightful and charming film, with wonderful animation, a good plot and great songs. If this film was made by Disney then the film would be considered a classic, however because it was made by a little known film studio that is long gone, the film has slipped through the cracks.
The film was made by the Max Fleischer studios at their Miami, FL studios and was released through Paramount Pictures. The film was to have had its premiere on Dec. 7th, 1941, the date of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Though this probably did hurt the release of the film, the film did play at some movie theaters for up to a year as evidenced by doing some research. The film was called a family favorite by most of the major American newspapers. The film continued to be re-released about every year or so, usually around holidays like Easter, at least in major cities.
In the mid 1950s, this film was re-released under a new name "Hoppity Goes to Town," named after the lead character in the film.
The film is a true period piece, capturing a slice of Americana as it was back in the late 30s and 1940's. The animation is great, and many of the characters are very cute. The animation of the humans in the film is via the rotoscope process, meaning that actors were filmed and then that footage was traced over by animators, giving the movement a very real look.
The Fleishcher studios were one of several animation studios making animated cartoons back in the 30s and 40s. While some of the Fleischer characters like Betty Boop, Popeye and the Superman cartoons are better known, the work of the studio is more or less forgotten.
Almost as a whole the body of work of the Fleischer studios are in the public domain. All of the Superman cartoons are public domain, all but one of the "Color Classics" series are public domain, and the film "Gulliver's Travels" is also in the public domain. This film never appears to have been released in the US on VHS or DVD but was released in Europe. However some looking around on the internet can very quickly produce you with a copy. I recommend the search.
Convention City (1933)
How Can It Be Lost?
"Convention City" is one of those fabled films that seems to have grown with time. This is supposedly one of the films that brought about the production code and the censorship of movies under Will Hays. The film today is thought to be lost, and a user on this site states that Jack Warner himself, about a decade after the film was made, ordered that all prints of the film be destroyed, along with the negative. While I have yet to read that anywhere, it does appear that the film is no longer in the Warner Brothers archive.
From what I can best tell, the movie was filmed in the summer of 1933 and was released around Christmas of 1933, playing into the early months of 1934. Reviews of the film noted that it was very funny, and that the audiences wee roaring with laughter. Adolphe Menjou was singled out as the best actor in the film. The reviewers note that if you are a fan of drunks, then this movie has more then enough drunk scenes, that after a while can become tiresome.
So apparently the film was shown publicly as there were reviews in the paper. I own a copy of the script as well as several original stills from the film. A copy of the movie however appears to be lost. Now lets, talk about the film being "lost" for a moment.
When a film is shown, hundreds of prints could be made of the movie to be shown at various theaters across the country. The films usually open in a larger market first, then the films are packed up and shipped from one theater to another, until at the end of the run, the films are shipped back to the studio. The studio would tend to destroy most copies of the film, and keep just a few. There is always the chance that a copy of the film never made it back to the studio and is in private hands.
If Warners does not have the prints of negatives, there is a chance that the film might exist in a foreign country. Many US made films were shown overseas after having been dubbed into a foreign language. This is probably the case, though not definite, for this film. A copy of the film might reside in a small unchecked film archive in some other corner of the globe.
So, what does remain from the film. The shooting script, the dialogue script, stills. I have also read that some musical scores from the film remain, as well as establishing shots and scene shots, that show Atlantic City, where the film took place. This footage does not show any actors.
For many people this film is considered to be a Holy Grail...and I am sure a copy of the film exists out there somewhere as of yet undiscovered.
Great archival footage
This 2000 documentary was made for American Movie Classics and is hosted by Raquel Welch. It tells the story of the history of Grauman's Chinese Theater located in Hollywood, and the story behind the famous hand and foot prints in cement. The documentary features interviews with several people who have been immortalized in cerement at Grauman's, including Michael Keaton, Jane Withers, Donald O'Connor and Charlton Heston. The best thing about the film is the footage of the ceremonies themselves. Snippets are shown from color home movies and newsreels of stars like, Tom Mix, Kirk Douglas, Marilyn Monroe, Clifton Webb, Susan Hayward, Ava Gardner, Bette Davis, Joanne Woodward and so many more. This is a must see if you have even the slightest interest in Hollywood history.
Still Feisty at 90
This documentary was apparently one of the first to examine Leni's life with her actually being interviewed at great depth. The film is broken up into two parts, her films as an actress and her relations with the Nazi party, and then her later films and the rest of her life. The film is fascinating, showing many lengthy clips from all her films. There is no questions that she was a very, very talented filmmaker, and very innovative for her time. Many of the camera angles and shots that she used were invented by her, and are still in wide use today.
It is very clear that at the time the film was made, that Leni was still used to being in control. She is apparently difficult as an interview subject, and is seen in many shots refusing to do what the cameraman tells her. She is also very highly defensive of our association with the Nazi party. At one point, the interviewer asks her about her relationship with Goebels. She replies that she knew him only casually and then had a falling out, after which they never spoke again. However, when she is confronted with the diaries of Goebels, and according to them, they both saw each other at numerous social and political functions, Leni becomes mad and walks out.
My own personal belief is that she has tried to whitewash her association with the Nazi party in her later years.
German Propaganda film
This 1943 German version of the story of the sinking of the Titanic is pure German propaganda. While remarkable that a film such as this could be produced while Germany was at war, the film is full of historical inaccuracies, and many real life people had their roles in the sinking fictionalized.
In the film the British and the wealthy are the villains, not the iceberg. J. Bruce Ismay, the president of the White Star Line is shown as wanting to get the ship into NY a full day earlier then expected and he is shown as willing to do whatever in his power that he can do to achieve that goal. While this is probably historically accurate, the role of John Jacob Astor is not. In the film Astor is attempting to buy the majority of the stocks of the White Star Line so that by the time the ship reached NY he will own not just Titanic, but the entire shipping line.
The heroes of the film are, SURPRISE, all German. The fictional second officer in command Peterson who all along warned the owner and the captain that there was ice ahead, and a wealthy Baltic woman, one of the thought to be villains of the film, who comes around at the end and tries to save some people. While it is remarkable to see how Germany took a tragedy and altered all the facts to fit a propaganda need, it must also be remembered that many films made here in the U.S. were types of propaganda as well.
Be sure to watch for the scene in the film when the engines stop and all the steerage passengers leave the steerage part of the ship to ask the captain what happened, and the confrontation comes on the steps in the Grand Ballroom in the first class part of the ship.
The theater where the film was having it opening night showing was bombed and the film was taken out of circulation for decades.