Reviews written by registered user
kidboots

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1473 reviews in total 
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Norma's Quiet Grace, 17 February 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Before "The Divorcée" (1930) and the sexually liberated looks that seemed to fit Norma Shearer like a glove, she had been slogging away in silents for a decade. Yes, she did marry Irving Thalberg and afterwards more than a few choice roles fell her way but she more than justified his faith in her. Initially, not fitting into the conventional flapper type, she took whatever part she could get (even at little studios such as Playgoers Pictures etc). Even in the early 20s her demeanour was graceful sophistication and she stood out like a beacon among all the "jazz baby" types. "A Clouded Name" was one of her earliest leading roles made at one of the still busy New York based studios: MGM beckoned the following year.

Gladden James (almost 20 years older than Norma) plays Jim Allen, the "If" boy of the town - "if only he'd finished college, if only his father hadn't disappeared" etc but after some initial levity, the story kicks in. "the clouded name" of the title is Jim's father and around the same time as Marjorie Dare's mother is found dead in the woods, his father mysteriously disappears leaving only a note to say that Dare has ruined him and he can't bear the shame!! Jim becomes despondent and escapes to the wilderness to try to sort out his feelings and by a huge coincidence becomes entangled with crooked Stewart Leighton who has also retired to his luxurious home in the woods, hoping to entice Marjorie to forget Jim and marry him. Jim also makes the acquaintance of "Smiles" (Yvonne Logan) and her reclusive daddy and bit by bit the puzzle is put together!!

I thought it was a pretty nice movie - Norma doesn't have a lot to do but she does look fetching and has a couple of hand wringing dramatic moments. The real star (according to the credits) is Yvonne Logan as she is the only actress billed. Play Goers Pictures was a family affair and "A Clouded Name" was the only film produced from this small New York studio, directed by Jean Logan, obviously designed to give his little daughter a chance to shine in the movies. Unfortunately it was her only chance but she may have been on the stage as her "Smiles" character was very winning and not nervous in front of the camera.

"You Belong to Me"!!!, 12 February 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Brian Clemens had an adventurous life in which he tried journalism, working in a private detective agency and working his way up from a messenger boy at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. While there he wrote a screenplay for the B.B.C. - "Valid for a Single Journey Only" and by that, came to the attention of the Danzigers. The Danzigers operated a cheap as chips film company and stories about their penny pinching ways were legendary. Most actors felt that a role in a Danziger film was like the end of the line but with Clemens they had an exciting young writer.

This movie was a cut above the usual and John Ireland playing his usual edgy self was an interesting red herring: as John, a draughtsman in line for an Arts directorship who seems to have something on his mind. But the pivotal part proves to be Pam (Susan Stephen) and the "return of a stranger" is all to do with her past. In a particularly seedy sub-plot, Pam was a 14 year old orphan who engendered some unhealthy interest from an older man. She was raped, there was a media spot light trial and the man was sent to prison. Fifteen years later, Pam and John start to receive strange phone calls and neighbours inform her that a man has made inquiries of her.

The police pass it off as a "woman's imaginings" (well it was 1960)!! You never see the man's face and because the problems seem to suggest a sabotage threat to do with John's promotion, the viewer is left guessing - also the fact that the back of the man's head doesn't seem to match any other backs!! I agree the opening upbeat music may have been another Clemen's red herring to throw you off the scent!! And poor Susan Stephens sold herself short, retiring soon after this movie she said of her time at the Danzigers "that was about as low as you could go"!!

Recommended.

Tired Mabel Tries But the Movie is Not Up to Her Best!!, 3 February 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

By 1918, tired and dispirited and fed up with Mack Sennett's treatment of her, Mabel Normand was thrilled to go over to the newly formed Goldwyn Pictures where she felt she would get an opportunity to show her talent as a versatile actress. Early in 1917 Goldwyn launched Goldwyn Pictures with the six women he had signed - Mabel Normand, Mae Marsh, Madge Kennedy, Jane Cowl, Maxine Elliot and opera star Mary Garden. His first movie with the temperamental Garden was a nightmare and he always claimed Mabel's movies kept the company solvent - even though they weren't as popular as her Sennett movies.

Wonderful to see what was the original Goldwyn lion logo, an early example of Cedric Gibbon's art direction and the type of role perfected by Mabel - a small town dreamer who gets a chance to live out her fantasy!! She is Mayme Ladd, a notions counter drudge who yearns for romance. She eagerly laps up all that Madame Yvette, an Egyptian seeress (exotically played by Eugenie Besserer), tells her of her past life as a Spanish beauty, Rosa Alvero, and hunting around at home for some proof of her exotic heritage finds her mother's old Spanish dancing costume!!

From then on she is Rosa, whenever she dons the costume. Her flatmate thinks she is balmy, once friendly work mates shun her but that doesn't stop her going to the shopgirls picnic and stopping the show as Rosa "zee beautiful"!! She also catches the eye of Dr. Maynard Drew, someone else who longs for a little spice in their lives!! There are some funny gags - fiddling around with mannequin legs that are made to look like her own, the length she goes to, to wrest off an urchin's rags so she can get into the doctor's office incognito. But the old Mabel spark is not there, she looks tired, really thin, the gorgeous healthy, rosy cheeked Mabel is missing and it's easy to understand why the movie was not a success.

By the time of "What Happened to Rosa", Mabel's private life was catching up with her and it proved to be one of her last Goldwyn releases. Adolphe Menjou, at the start of his long career, played Dr. Drew's reporter friend.

Curiouser and Curiouser!!, 26 January 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Warner Baxter was not particularly proud of "The Crime Doctor" series. By the time he left Fox in the late 1930s his salary was enormous ($297,000 in 1940), he was off the screen for two years due to a nervous breakdown. He returned in the title role of the Crime Doctor and for the rest of his life desperately wanted to get back into character parts but it was not to be. Agree with the other reviewer, even though this is one of the better C.Ds, it is often the one unavailable for viewing. "The Crime Doctor" series was often a showcase for Columbia's new, young talent, some who disappeared to oblivion but one who didn't was the talented Nina Foch. Columbia was the home of Rita Hayworth so it was often hard for other starlets to shine their light but Foch proved, with some stellar performances in noir dramas - "Shadows in the Night" and "I Love a Mystery" that she was an actress to watch.

Starts very dramatically when Dr. Ordway is visited in the wee small hours by Lois Garland who feels compelled to kill herself, brought on by terrible dreams that only occur at night. Ordway discovers she has been followed and when he visits her lonely estate, realises it is her handyman (a very shifty looking Ben Weldon) who, while being protective of her, seems to pop up in trouble spots as the movie progresses. It wouldn't be a Crime Doctor without assorted odd bods and red herrings. There's Lois' theatrical brother-in-law, an anxious sister, a smug lawyer as well as a sinister uncle (George Zucco). There is also a strange servant couple and when Ordway finds himself dazed and wandering along the shore, he witnesses the old standby "If you don't keep quiet I'll have you committed"!! He is soon in sinister Uncle's laboratory and is shown a new fabric that Uncle is developing and all the money he earns for his invention will go to help Lois financially. Aaah!! but Ordway also discovers he has created a sleepwalking mist that is kept in the lab and is wafted through the vents in Lois' bedroom to instigate her sleepwalking stunts!! Maybe Uncle isn't so warm and fuzzy as he has shown himself!! In fact initially Ordway, who during his first wanderings discovers a body which later turns up in the surf, wonders whether he isn't going a bit crazy himself!!

That body is the first of a few - and because there is a vague feeling of unco-operativeness, even Lois' faithful boyfriend is played by cynical Edward Norris!! There may be a few gaps in the plot but it is still solid entertainment and was early in the series when Ordway was very integral to the plots!!

Highly Recommended.

"A Production of Unusual Merit", 21 January 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

....that's how the movie is introduced and it is - for an early western. Also a showcase for a forgotten star, William Russell. William Who? but back in the teens he was noteworthy enough to write a piece for a 1917 "Motion Picture Magazine" on "Being a Hero" and how he copes with the many letters from fluttery female fans!!

As the storm outside rages, the older inhabitants of Dry Town put forth theories and stories about the spate of killings and robberies that seemed to have only just started with the arrival of the new sheriff. Against all odds the stage coach gets through, among the travellers, comely Winifred Waverley (Vola Vale) but as soon as the congratulations that a road agent was kept away by the weather die down, one bursts in and demands the stage coach takings!! Soon after Buck Thornton (William Russelll) also known as "Six Foot Four" walks in - and even though he is well known and highly thought of - it doesn't take long for some of the old codgers to start believing in his guilt (even though there is no way the real robber was as tall!!). This is a very involving western with lots of twists and turns - it's clear that the sheriff and his minions are the baddies, including Winifred's uncle who only messaged her to pick up a large sum of money in the hope that Buck would accompany her home (which he does) and so dig an even deeper coincidental pit for himself. Soon after arriving Winifred is paid another visit by the robber!! She thinks it is Buck pulling a gag and playfully hands over the money but even she doubts him when he proclaims his innocence!!

There is even yet another plot twist when Buck sees a Wanted Poster and recognizes his old friend Jimmy Clayton who later turns up wounded and has Buck promising to bring gambler Kid Bedloe to his dying bedside even though the Kid has sworn to kill Buck on sight. And then just when you think the plot is twisty enough.....

Leading lady was Vola Vale, considered a great beauty and was a very popular actress in Westerns, especially those of William S. Hart.

Highly Recommended!!

The Brooch Provides the Twist in the Tale!!, 11 January 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Patricia Dainton, a very dependable B actress, gives a tremendous performance as a young independent blind woman who finds herself caught up in this very thought provoking Wolf Rilla directed programmer. She plays Jane Pringle, a switchboard operator who also coaches a young lad in Braille after work and it is this small scene that shows the film tries hard to give some dimension to a story that has been told often before. She is stoical about her blindness but Dan played by a young Richard O'Sullivan) is angry - he dreamed of joining the Airforce but now finds it difficult to go on. Her calm matter of factness and caring brings him around to a better frame of mind.

As well as all this, she also keeps old Mrs. Temple company but doesn't approve of her conversations with landlady Mrs. Finch, a compulsive gossip who has already broadcast down at the local pub that Mrs. Temple, for all her meagre living, is sitting on a treasure trove of riches. When the elderly lady is murdered, Jane comes face to face with the killer (a very imposing Nigel Green) and she also meets Inspector Coates (Conrad Phillips, a B stalwart who found fame as TV's "William Tell"), who recognises in her intelligence and sense. The twist in the tale is the brooch - the killer doesn't find it at first but when it is willed to Jane and the landlady again stupidly tells whoever will listen about Jane's good fortune, the stage is set up for a thrilling cat and mouse finale!!

Even though the film (at 62 minutes) was a second feature, in 1961 it was aired on American TV as part of the Kraft Mystery Theatre and won an Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Television episode.

Highly Recommended.

When Only Beer and Beefsteak Will Do!!, 5 January 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When Douglas Fairbanks' first film "The Lamb" was released he was just as surprised as the film execs (and D.W. Griffith) when it was a success. He was contracted to Triangle-Fine Arts and was supposedly under Griffith's supervision but Griffith was put off by his brashness and was only too keen to leave him to the writing duo of Anita Loos and John Emerson (who also didn't get on with Griffith). Anita Loos was the originator of the wise cracking title and together they came up with an endearing character for Doug - a sunny dispositioned, laughing at life optimist. Joining him in "Reggie Mixes In", only his sixth movie, was the lovely Bessie Love, a D.W. Griffith protégé.

Our hero Reggie (Fairbanks) is just fresh from college (by the look of him maybe 20 years before!!). He has a sweetie, Lemona (Alma Rubens) who has "one eye on him and the other eye on his bank account" but her secret heart really belongs to Sylvester!! While helping a lost child find her way home Reggie wanders into the "beer and beefsteak" part of town as opposed to the "champagne and oysters" section where he resides. He meets sweet Agnes (even sweeter Bessie Love), a new sort of girl for Reggie - poor she may be as well as a dancer at the notorious Gallagher's but she is the comfort of the slums. He moves out of home taking the hapless butler Pickleface with him!! Doug hadn't really hit his stride as an acrobatic derring do but the scenes between him and the dour Joseph Singleton are the best in the movie. Apart from an acrobatic display during the first scene, Singleton's reactionary facial expressions get the most laughs. Pickleface is not meant for the rough and tumble of slum life but Reggie shows inner resilience - during a night at Gallagher's he goes from being a cowardly custard to being offered the job of head bouncer - "My bouncer's a mutt, would you like the job?"!! He now has to deal with the notorious Gas House Gang whose leader wants to make Agnes his personal Jane and, unbeknownst to Reggie, has already vowed to do Reggie in!!

Fairbanks was never a poor boy trying to make good, he was always wealthy from the start and usually requiring a liberal lashing of beer and beefsteak to show him there was more to life than the shallowness of the idle rich!! That didn't mean the movies ended with love in an attic - no way!! In this one there is a convoluted ending where Agnes is seen to inherit money from a long lost uncle so she will be more appealing to Reggie's posh relatives!!

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Sally O'Neil Finds the Perfect Role!!, 27 December 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

By the time Sally O'Neil made this movie it was heralded as a comeback. She hadn't made a movie since 1931 but her private life always made sure her name was in the papers. Whether being sued several times for unpaid back taxes, unpayment for cars, groceries - even late library books, she and her sister were even shot at (which probably had more to do with her brother being a convicted felon and escapee). Apparently she was bitter towards Hollywood for her career ups and downs but her nose for trouble maybe had something to do with it as well. As Judy she found the perfect role - one that gave her a chance to act as a gamin, then as a peppy young lady.

"If it wasn't for the charity patients I'd give up medicine but if it wasn't for the rich hypochondriacs I wouldn't be able to treat the poor" - dedicated Dr. Michael Travers (Lew Cody) juggles a busy practice which doesn't leave him much time for his social butterfly fiancé, Diane (Aileen Pringle) who also has her hands full with her headstrong brother Dick. When a sick woman (Claire MacDowall) dies in his consulting room, Travers takes over the parental tasks of her daughter, the enchanting Judy. Sally O'Neil is terrific in this role - she mayn't look 14 but she turns on all her Irish charm and personality and you believe in her. A few years pass - Travis is back from a European lecture tour and Judy is just about to graduate from high school. She is in a secret engagement with Dick and it is here that the waters get a bit muddy - or in other words the movie has been edited!! If the cuts had been left in Dick would have come across as a less than perfect catch!! Initially Diane comes across as a social climbing society snob, more concerned with her brother's moodiness than spending time with the diligent Michael. Pauline Garon who in the 1920s found stardom in flapper roles, was still sassy and pert in this - she comes to the consulting room wanting to talk about her friend - and Dick!! She is cut off and it is only in a heated exchange between Michael and Diane towards the end, phrases like "that scandal" and "as if he is a proper husband for Judy" gets bandied about, you start to get the picture!!

"Uncle Michael" feels he has lost touch with Judy and wants to get to know her all over again - but without the "uncle" moniker!! Dick can see all too clearly what's happening and Diane who seems to have had a personality change since taking charge of Judy's schooling, is now a dutiful "mother" coaching the girl in her studies so she can make everyone proud of her!! Fortunately there is no surprise ending or it may have been conveniently "lost" after the code. It was almost a Wampas Baby reunion - not only Sally O'Neil and Pauline Garon but Marceline Day who had the very thankless role of "Brownie", the doctor's receptionist, she did provide a red herring because you actually thought the kindly doctor was going to end up with her.

Recommended.

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Not Nancy's Most Shining Moment!!, 20 December 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Nancy Carroll's career was going along just swimmingly, she had been voted "Queen of the Screen" in 1930, sure she was temperamental but so far her fans were oblivious to it!! Then came "Night Angel" and it was all down hill from there. As far as the critics went, director Edmund Goulding was to blame for trying to be a Von Sternberg but Paramount also pointed the finger at Nancy and even though Frederic March was panned by all as well, he came through unscathed!! Now that Nancy's work has been reappraised it's clear she made some of her better films in this doldrum period - "Hot Saturday", "The Kiss Before the Mirror", it didn't matter back then - the knives were out for Nancy. Only with "Child of Manhattan" did critics feel the old Nancy was back but by then it was too late for her career.

"Personal Maid" was the movie she made directly after "Night Angel" so reviewers were looking for faults but with Monta Bell as director, supervision by Lothar Mendes and camera work by Karl Freund, the production was at least stylish!! In an interesting beginning, the grocery delivery boy puts goods in a dumb waiter and as the device is pulled up there is a fly on the wall slice of life camera peeking into the various slum families.

"The only way men would take off their hats to your wife is if she was draped in the American flag"!! is just some of the choice conversation flying around the Ryan dinner table - and feisty Nora is sick of it. She decides to apply for a "personal maid" post - she wants to see how the other half live and also feels it would be a step up from tenement life. (Nancy's real life sister Terry plays the tiny part of Nora's sister at the start)!! The film was sailing along with nice characterizations by Mary Boland, Charlotte Winters and George Fawcett as the crusty old patriarch who despairs of his shallow self serving family. In fact when Pat O'Brien appears as the self made man who is friendly with the Gary family, there seems to be the beginnings of a social theme along the lines of Warners. But something goes wrong when Gene Raymond appears - he plays gad about collegian Dick Gary who when his mother realises he has been expelled sends Nora to meet the train and take him out of town so his appearance won't be noted by patriarch Gary Gary and their inheritance chances won't be scotched!! Nora who has been so sensible falls for the shallow Dick, this in spite of the fact that when they meet in the train he tries pretty dramatic cave man tactics, enough to make Nora afraid. He lures her to bed and in a very gritty pre-code scene she finds that in the morning (after a fade out of kisses) he has gone, along with the spending money she had kept under her pillow!! What is more, Shea (O'Brien) is exposed as a snob and an opportunist. Distant to Nora, he meets her again under different circumstances. She is fed up with the whole awful family and decides to take a week's holiday and pose as a wealthy heiress, Shea, who can't remember the old Nora is captivated by the mysterious "Eleanor Page"!! Of course when he meets her again he feels betrayed but still wants to set her up in a Park Avenue apartment - being only a maid, he feels she will grab the opportunity - but will she??

Mary Boland came in for most of the praise and it was a pity that her character wasn't given more to do. It was also thought that both Mendes and Bell didn't capitalize on their dazzling star and what was needed was a better story and stronger characterizations!!

Pauline is Perfect!!!, 15 December 2016
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In 1923 Pauline Garon was hailed as Cecil B. DeMille's big new discovery, she was prominent in "Adam's Rib" and was made a Wampas Baby Star but, strangely, refused a Paramount contract claiming she wanted to freelance. Free lancing usually meant a career death but Garon's cute looks made her a must for flapper roles in movies like "The Painted Flapper", "Eager Lips" and "Temptations of a Shopgirl".

"Sally Whipple was christened with an old fashioned name - but it didn't take"!! Pauline is perfect as Sally, a new fashioned girl pursued by the mysterious Rudolph (maybe a satirical homage to the then popular Valentino) and soon (after a visit to the library) to pique the interest of reporter Jimmy Monroe (Harrison Ford) who finds her a perfect subject for a series of articles he has to write about "the average woman" of today!! A very cute little scene in the library - Sally happens (on purpose!!) to glance at Jimmy's jottings on how to tell a flapper ("if she picks a lock with a hairpin, if she frequently uses Postscripts and if she is afraid of mice"). She incorporates all three in a neat little sequence which soon has Jimmy eating out of her hand!!

It could have continued as a nice battle of the sexes movie but all too soon gangsters and nightclubs rear their sinful heads!! Mysterious Rudolph is really the owner of a notorious tavern - he lusts after Sally and desperately needs a scandal in her family so she and her rich poppa will be in his power. Someone else is eyeing off Rudy as well, she is the older manageress of the club (De Sacia Mooers, who seemed to make a movie career out of just those sorts of roles) and when she finds out that the dirt she has dug up on Judge Whipple, which includes a little orphan who has made his home at the club, is going to be used for Rudy's benefit and doesn't include her - well, "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"!!!

David Powell who had the second lead as the sly Rudolph, was a British actor of some repute who had played opposite Ellen Terry in his 20s, he specialized in cad roles but unfortunately died of pneumonia in 1925 at the age of 42.

Highly Recommended


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