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1041 reviews in total 
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Odd title considering the story, 8 February 2016

I'll at least set up the story and let you figure out why it was named such. Lois Moran, who never had much of a talking picture career, is the central figure as Julie Cavanaugh. She is a rich girl whose trust fund has gone bust, unknown to Count Ivan Karloff (Victor Varconi), who has invited her to a rural French inn where they discuss their upcoming wedding. At that rendezvous she tells him of her new poverty, and he says it means nothing to him. However, the next day he is gone, as are her jewelry and any money she had with her, and the count has stuck her with the bill. Along comes retired gangster Flashy Madden (Charles Bickford), who gives, at first, a humorous rendition of a hard guy trying to get the feel of a refined life. He has saved up a million dollars and wants to make it in the social circles.

Apparently Flashy has always had a crush from afar on Julie, and here she is in person and in trouble. He pays her bill and asks for nothing in return but that she teach him how to be a gentleman. She says "Gentlemen are made not born.", which is an odd thing to say seeing that she has just been robbed and jilted by somebody she thought was a gentleman. However, she does agree to teach him what to say and do in social situations and how to dress, and they share a car back to Paris. There she runs into Dick Webster, a senator's son she has known all her life and accepts his proposal just minutes before Flashy comes to Julie's room to make his own. However, he stops himself when she tells him of her engagement and he takes the news gracefully, wishing her all happiness. And shortly thereafter, after news of the engagement is published in the newspaper, the slimy count Karloff shows up. What happens? Watch and find out.

The acting in this one is very good, the plot will keep you engaged if you are into classic film, Charles Bickford in particular. This was one of many B films Bickford did after his acrimonious split from MGM.

I know this is was probably intended as a B film, even by poverty row Columbia, but the whole film supposedly takes place in France, and nobody apparently bothered to do some basic research. The keeper of the rural French inn where Julie and Flashy meet is speaking some combination of gibberish and a few French words - I speak French. When the film gets to the courtroom portion, it is strictly American not French trial customs that are shown, and there is talk of the electric chair which the French did not use. They used the guillotine up to the time that they abolished capital punishment.

I'd recommend it. You'll probably figure out where it is going ahead of time, but it is a fun ride and Bickford is always a joy to watch in whatever he does.

Lucky Dog (1933)
If this doesn't get to you, then you must have a garlic clove for a heart, 8 February 2016

Charles 'Chic" Sale is an apparently well off businessman, Arthur Wilson, who is not that well off. He has been embezzling from his investors to buy his wife the things that she wants - nice vacations, a nice home, etc. When he comes home from work one day he is greeted by two of these investors who inform him that they audited his books while he was on vacation and have discovered his crime. They demand that he write them a check for the 9000 dollars remaining in his account or they will call the police. That doesn't help, because the police show up ten minutes after they leave and arrest Arthur anyways. On top of that, before his arrest, he finds a note from his wife saying that she is leaving him because of the scandal. The only being on this earth that is on his side is his dog, who wants to play. Scared and depressed, he shoves the dog away but immediately feels remorse and hugs the dog, "Buster", telling him he is his only friend.

After his arrest, Buster is left on his own. Nobody comes to check on him, feed him, or take him in. He sits loyally on the front porch for days, signified by the piling up newspapers, wondering where his master is. He hears the sound of whistling, thinks it is his master, and this sends him out into the hard cruel world. He finds some people that like him - some rich drunks, another homeless dog, some immigrant kids. But in the case of the humans, something - not enough food for the human family, the dislike of the lady of the house etc., keeps him homeless. In the case of his dog friend - well let's just say Depression era America was cruel enough to poor people, just imagine what it was like for dogs.

And then Arthur Wilson gets out of prison after only six months. Like Buster, though, he has no place in the world. Arthur remembers the dog's loyalty and goes looking for him, homeless himself. Arthur's life parallels Buster's to a good degree. He looks more and more like the tramp he is with each passing day, getting dirtier with his clothes becoming ragged. Will these two ever find each other in this cruel Depression era world that has no use for either of them? Watch and find out.

There is very little speech in this film, and with just a camera the film manages to capture the soul of man's best friend. Animals have it great if their master is doing well materially, but if they are cast out into the world, there is no law that protects them from violence and starvation, at least not in 1933. I'd recommend this one for its uniqueness and early sentimental look on film at the bond between man and dog. Just have some Kleenex nearby.

In Cold Blood (1996) (TV)
Doesn't live up to the 1960's original, 8 February 2016

First off, the atmosphere is just not there. The 1967 film had black and white photography and a truly inspired score that really put you in the mood, and in the time and place. As usual in films that try to take you back to more innocent times - in this case rural 1959 Kansas - they get the art direction and costumes down and just get the personalities of the people all wrong. In reality, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith were just inches from turning on each other like wolves many times after the crime. Here they tussle a little, but the real dark differences between them are just not shown. Hickock was in actuality the stronger and the more sociopathic of the two, here he is shown as just a carefree womanizer with a criminal bent for theft. Likewise, the actual deep remorse that Perry Smith felt over the murders is not shown, nor is the fact that he was the weaker of the pair, and a dreamer. In fact, Perry is shown as the stronger of the two.

Not only are the criminals shown as not that menacing, the townspeople are shown as more modern in their speech patterns than was actually true. In a town where it really was true that EVERYBODY went to church every Sunday, where it really was true that a romance between a Catholic and a Methodist was doomed to failure, the female owner of the local diner is not going to yell across the room to a man who is a stranger to her "You bet your butt I do!" in response to how good a cup of coffee she makes.

Of course at the end, the details of the crime are shown - at least from Perry Smith's viewpoint - because today people are used to seeing that kind of thing in the news and on broadcast TV - a family killed by complete strangers. In the 1967 film the details of the grisly murders would have been out of the question since the production code was technically in force for another couple of years.

If you get a chance to see the 1967 version, it's a toss-up as to whether or not this one is worth your time. It is not bad, it is just not up to the standards of the original theatrical film.

oy vey - the arrogance of the one percent!, 6 February 2016

I'm talking about Raymond Massey as newspaper owner John Ives in my title, but I'll get to that later.

James Cagney plays Lew Marsh, a hard hitting newspaper man who just can't stay away from the bottle. The last straw is when he comes back from a bender and starts to write a story that is five days old. His long suffering editor finally cans him. He is obviously well liked at the paper, and he even has a best girl - Paula (Phyllis Thaxter), who also works in the newsroom.

After he is fired, Lew tells Paula to forget about him, to go find a young healthy guy. Time passes and we see Lew staggering down the street looking haggard and dirty. He falls in front of a passing truck, but is barely missed being hit. An ex alcoholic, Charlie (James Gleason), sees all of this. Lew is taken to the hospital and tied down to a bed until he is past the DTs. He swears off drinking because he claims he heard "angel feathers". Drunks may be running from life, but they are running from death even more, and this brush with death is what did it for Lew. Charlie, an ex drunk himself, meets him as he comes out of the hospital, gives him a home and a job doing construction. A big test of soberness is when Lew sees news of Paula's marriage to the nephew of the owner of the paper he was fired from. He passes that test - barely.

Then comes news he is wanted back on the newspaper. The owner himself, John Ives (Raymond Massey, believes Lew has changed and gives him a second chance. Years pass - six of them to be exact - and then one day John Ives calls Lew to his office. The guy who married Paula, Lew's ex-girl, has become a hopeless alcoholic, and since Lew has had so much success himself and success with picking employees for the newspaper who are ex-drunks that stay sober, he wants Lew to help straighten out the nephew, who is like a son to him - Boyd (Gig Young).

Lew says what the nephew needs are doctors and nurses. Ives is insistent on Lew being the guy to set the nephew straight. This is where my title comes in. Apparently Ives is a hands-on owner, so he has got to know something about Lew and Paula being in a relationship years before. Lew could just not succeed on purpose to get Paula back - Paula and Boyd's marriage is already on the rocks, or being around Paula that much could have Lew falling off of the wagon and being Boyd's new drinking partner. There is even an unexpected gangster angle thrown into all of this. How will all of this work out? Watch and find out.

It's funny, Cagney left skid marks on his way out of Warner Brothers after "Yankee Doodle Dandy", but that studio always seemed to have him pegged for the right roles. The stuff he did independently never seemed to work out and click, yet Warner's put him in films where he made three of his best mature performances - this film, "Mister Roberts", and "White Heat"- and in all three he plays completely different kinds of guys and plays them well.

As far as supporting performances here, they are all excellent. Thaxter is lovely but demure here, first the long suffering girlfriend of one drunk and then the long suffering wife of another. Sheldon Leonard is terrific as a gangster just shortly before he becomes the most successful producer in television. Raymond Massey is very good as gray character John Ives, giving Lew a second chance at the paper years before he knows he'll even need him, but when he needs him to reform his nephew, he rather undoes that good deed by using it to propel Lew forward to do his bidding. And then there is James Gleason in a small but vital "get wise to yourself" kind of role that he had been doing in front of the camera so well for twenty years.

"The Lost Weekend" it is not - but just barely. It does stress the point that alcoholism is a permanent disease, one that the alcoholic is always battling. As Lew Marsh says "One drink is too many, and all the drinks after that are the second drink". Highly recommended if you can ever find it.

Gigi (1958)
If only I could separate the artistic and musical elements from the story, 31 January 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The musical performances and art direction and most of all Maurice Chevalier make this watchable and even worthwhile. However, I can just not get over a young teenage girl who does not get the ramifications of what she is doing, being groomed for being and advised to be the mistress of a wealthy powerful man. Even the girl's grandmother, great aunt, and the wealthy man's uncle get into the act as in being pro teen mistress. I realize this was 1958, and thus this sort of thing did not seem so creepy at the time, but Maurice Chevalier singing "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" while ogling little girls on a playground, in the way that he did rather creeped me out too. I think if we didn't have the public spectacle of what happened to a young Monica Lewinsky, discarded by an older powerful man, unmarriageable and unemployable by reputation due to the scandal, whose name will be a joke long after she is in the grave, and now well into her forties alone, maybe I wouldn't feel this way so much, but I digress.

This was still the fifties however, and this film chickens out in the end and manages to have a production code approved ending. Somehow not having the courage of its convictions makes it even worse for me.

A precode in rural Maine, 31 January 2016

I didn't expect much from this film, but it really intrigued me. So much so that I want to find a copy of the book by the same name, published in 1933, and read the entire story.

The film focuses on three Maine farming families, all interconnected in some way. First there is the newly arrived immigrant Janowski family. They were encouraged to move there by their son, Stan, who gave up a career playing the violin in favor of farming.

Then there is the family headed by Mark and his second wife Cora. For Cora, what's his is hers and what's hers is hers. Part of her attitude is caused by the fact that she and her daughter by her first marriage hate the farming country of Maine and miss the big city.

The third family is headed by Mil and George. Mil openly goes around complaining about how she hates this kind of life and how shiftless George is - and he really is lazy. Mil is always advising any grown girl who will listen to her not to marry a farmer, don't do what she did and get "stuck", go to the city, do something with her life! When George's laziness is the cause of a needed cow dying and he goes to Mark to borrow one of his cows, and this prevents Cora's oldest daughter from going to secretarial school, all hell breaks loose. As one kid says "Who would know one cow breaking its leg could cause so much trouble".

The complicating factor is that Jean Muir as Jen, Mark's daughter but not Cora's, is content with this life, even though it is a hard one. And she and the Janowski's son Stan begin to develop feelings for one another. But Jen does not want to end up like Mil and George, so she insists on more time for making a commitment. She wants Stan to be sure and have no regrets. Stan sees this as rejection. And then there is Cora's oldest daughter, on the prowl for any man that will take her out of this place she considers a frigid hell.

It really is a complex soap opera set in an unusual place. The one thing that does not quite fit in is the solution to their ruts and boredom that the unhappy members of these families think they will find in the city. The book was written about Maine farmers in the 1920's before the crash. By the time this film was released there were no jobs there, and if you owned food producing land you might lead a boring life, but you would eat.

I'd recommend it for any number of reasons, but primarily it was well acted and it was a rare lead part for Jean Muir. She was mainly a supporting player as was the rest of the cast, plus it is a rare look into a world of farm families in a remote place where so many of the individuals were unhappy and restless, when farm life was generally portrayed as happy in most other films of the 1930's and 40's.

Spotlight (2015/I)
Solid yet I think the subject matter was what got it nominated for Best Picture, 31 January 2016

The opening is flat and not well paced. It came to life ten or fifteen minutes in with the first appearance of Billy Crudup as the trial lawyer Eric Macleish, who gave this film a much-needed jolt of energy.

Fortunately, the film does build, and the more the story unfolds, the more gripping it becomes, and seemingly, Tom McCarthy's direction improves, too. The performances are all very good, the writing is solid, and the production design is admirable. I don't see Mark Ruffalo's work as Oscar-worthy, which is not to knock it. I thoroughly appreciate the way the performances are underplayed--a performance cannot be more underplayed than Liev Schreiber's, yet that seems right for a character who never shows his cards. It's easy to imagine an approach that has all the reporters emoting heavily as they come to realize the horror of the situation.

Michael Keaton as Walter Robinson, John Slattery as Ben Bradlee, Billy Crudup as Macleish, Stanley Tucci as Garabidian, Jamey Sheridan as Sullivan, and Len Cariou as Cardinal Law are all outstanding, as are others I'm probably forgetting to mention. The minor parts are cast with actors with faces who look like they belong in Boston, such as Rachel McAdams' grandmother or the woman who plays the priest's sister.

The story is so compelling that I was very glad I had seen it, though a crispness of approach from the beginning, establishing characters from the get-go, would have made the movie even better.

Creed (2015)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Stallone deserves an Oscar, 31 January 2016

I can say with all seriousness that Sylvester Stallone deserves his Oscar, and I didn't believe that the original and rather obvious "Rocky" deserved Best Picture Oscar, so I'm not some fan blind to the weaknesses of the series . He was excellent in that film. While some can argue that the Oscar would be a reward for the entirety of the Rocky franchise, I think that Stallone's performance in Creed stands on its own and is wholly deserving of any accolades he receives. His performance of an aging Rocky Balboa coming to terms with his own mortality (and the mortality of his loved ones, like Pauly and Adrian) and dealing with the effects of aging and the realization that he cannot partake in the rigorous boxing world anymore is very heartbreaking and compelling. Without providing any spoilers, the scene in which Adonis Creed and Rocky return to the famous steps from the first Rocky is a very poignant scene.

Ivy (1947)
Poison Ivy, 30 January 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Joan Fontaine is terrific as Ivy, the villainess in this superb thriller. Ivy, like the plant for which she is named, just goes wherever she can without a plan. Ultimately, Ivy is driven by greed and opportunity. How she gets what she wants - and even what she wants - she figures out as she goes along. She and her husband, Jervis Lexton, are probably still married because Jervis is a very pleasant person who always lets Ivy get her own way. They were probably married in the first place because he had money at that time, but in the past five years they both have spent it all and are now living in cheap boarding houses in London.

But Ivy is socially charming and a friend gets Jervis a job in the London offices of the very wealthy Miles Rushmore (Herbert Marshall). There is instant chemistry between Rushmore and Ivy, and then he ends things from going any further saying he can have no part of taking up with another man's wife.

Ivy actually has two problems. First there is the husband who is now only good for wage slave money until death do they part, but there is also a doctor, Roger Gretorix, who constantly hounds Ivy to divorce her husband and marry him. You can tell that Roger getting this obsessive about her is not something that she wanted, even before Rushmore was in the picture.

Then one day while in Gretorix' surgery, Gretorix is called out on an emergency case and a bottle of poison is left out on the table. Ivy puts some of that poison in her purse and goes home. When her husband gets home from a hard day's work and asks for a brandy and soda, she poisons it and gives it to him. Now realize Ivy doesn't know anything about this poison. It might kill in seconds, it might kill in hours, it might kill in days, and it might not kill at all in the amount she is using. But she gives Jarvis another poisoned drink the next morning when he is complaining about an upset stomach, and when the doctor tells her Jervis will recover, she poisons the broth that the doctor prescribed for him. Jervis dies that night, while Ivy is at the theatre (Jervis told her to go). Now hapless Ivy has not thought about there being an autopsy ordered (there is) and what the police will do when the results come back as poisoning being the cause of death (it is).

Now at first luck is on Ivy's side. Without her knowledge, Roger was the last person to see Jervis alone and alive and is instantly a suspect given his obsession over Ivy. So it looks like Ivy has a two-fer. She is free to take up with Miles Rushmore and possibly have millions to spend, AND she won't have to worry about Roger being a pest anymore as he will be hanged for the murder she did. But then her luck turns. Inspector Orpington of Scotland Yard begins to think that Ivy is not acting like a friend to Roger or a grieving widow. Plus it helps that in Edwardian England you do not need a search warrant to dig around a person's (Ivy's) home looking for evidence, even in a closed case. Orpington gets some luck too - the clock where Ivy stashed her purse stops working just as he is creeping around her flat - the clock where she hid her purse with the poison.

If you think Ivy takes this in stride and just marches stoically between two police officers into jail upon arrest you'd be wrong too. I'll let you watch and see how she does ultimately take all of this.

There really are marvelous performances by the entire cast. I just don't know how it could have been done any better.

Don't believe the low rating, 27 January 2016

This film is only a 5.x out of ten if you don't like the early sound films, in which case, what are you doing here? You get to see Bela Lugosi as a police inspector, two years before he becomes forever typecast in horror roles as a result of "Dracula", although his deep Hungarian accent in colonial India is unexplained. But that's alright, because there is also an mystic with a deep Irish accent who has somehow ended up in India and managed to raise a daughter without the same said accent. The mother and daughter have become estranged, but why and how are never explained.

Lugosi's character is investigating a murder - two actually. At the beginning of the film, Spencer Lee, described by his own best friend as a rotter, has already been murdered by person unknown. Apparently Lee was quite a lady's man and generally just a bad guy all around, so any number of people could have killed him. The best friend, Edward Wales, suggests a séance conducted by the previously named mystic. Meanwhile, the son of an aristocratic family (Conrad Nagel as Richard Crosby) is having trouble with his fiancée (Leila Hyams as Helen O'Neil) who says she has no right to marry him. Richard thinks it is because she is a secretary and he comes from a rich family, but there is obviously something else troubling Helen a great deal.

The séance is held in the Crosby home, and the participants see this mainly as an interesting diversion, but when the time comes for Wales to ask the spirit of his dead friend, Spencer Lee, who murdered him, there is a scream, and when the lights come on, Wales is dead with a knife in his back. Supposedly this was done by someone in the séance circle to prevent the spirit of Spencer Lee from answering his friend.

Several other reviewers note Bela Lugosi as the reason to watch this one, but I pick Margaret Wycherly as the psychic. She plays one of the oddest and most intriguing characters of any era of film. She acts more like a tour guide in her friendliness than a mystic, and then proceeds to show everybody all of her tricks when she is faking as a means of proving that this time she is not faking. She actually solves the crime with the help of Lugosi's character, who, upon hearing her idea to expose the murderer says "What you propose is too horrible to contemplate – but we will do it!" She gives such an odd but likable performance it is a wonder she wasn't nominated for best actress.

This early talkie is not too talkie - in that there may be quite a bit of conversation, but it is all for a purpose. It really is quite creative throughout and the plot twists will keep you guessing. I recommend it, just remember you are dealing with the limitations of very early sound film, which primarily was movement.

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