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Whose Baby (1986)
Before DNA, there was "Whose Baby?"
This mini-series looks at an unfortunate case involving two mothers who gave birth within minutes of each other in a small Aussie hospital in the 1940s. Fearing an accidental baby switch, one family fights all the way to the highest court in the land to prove who the parents actually are.
What strikes me the most, is that today this would all be resolved so quickly & accurately with a simple cheek swab. It is a heart-wrenching movie and anyone who has ever given birth will understand the emotions of the two mothers, fighting for the same child. While not readily available on DVD, or shown on TV, it is the kind of movie one remembers long after the credits roll at the end.
What could possibly be worse than being 15 years old, coming home from school and finding your parents and two younger siblings brutally murdered? That's what happened to Charlie Otero, his brother Danny and sister Carmen in January of 1974. How would you ever be able to resume your life? This film is a look at the life journey of Charlie Otero since the murders, which were committed by serial killer Dennis Rader (aka BTK). BTK terrorized Wichita, Kansas in the 70's and 80's, killing mostly women and taunting the police through the media. It took over thirty years for the police department to catch him and put an end to 10 unsolved murders. As you watch, you can feel Charlie's anger, and by the end of the film, you realize he's made remarkable progress trying to rebuild his his life, and regain his shattered faith in God.
Be forewarned--there are 4-6 absolutely gruesome crime scene photographs shown of each murdered family member--including photos of the two children (both under 10 years of age). At the premiere, which I attended, no children under fourteen years of age were admitted to the theater! These photos are not for the squeamish or faint of heart, however, they do serve their purpose because the viewer cannot help but be outraged at the murder of four innocent people! According to the director, this film is scheduled to be viewed at several upcoming film festivals, so watch for it. Worth the time it takes to see it, in my opinion. Charlie is a likable guy, and by the end of the film, the viewer almost feels close to him. Thank you Charlie, for sharing your story with us, in such an honest way.
War Nurse (1930)
Anita Page Shines in Gritty WWI Drama
Anita Page gets the chance to be someone other than the rich socialite or the poor girl from the lower east side. In WAR NURSE, she shines as the teenage social butterfly who signs on, one imagines on a whim, to be a nurse in WWI. She is shipped overseas with a group of other girls who are all anxious to be nurses. At first she is afraid and cries for the easy life she used to have, but quickly becomes a competent nurse. Hedda Hopper, in a role before she became a gossip queen, plays the matron of the nurses. Look for the marvelous wisecracking Marie Prevost, one of the 1920's favorite flappers, and Helen Jerome Eddy as two of the other nurses.
In this film, Anita loses her heart to an American soldier she meets, only to find herself bitterly disappointed later. Suave, sexy Robert Montgomery provides the love interest for a nurse named Babs. Look also for Edward Neugent, playing another of his many "best buddy" roles, as a friend of Montgomery. This movie looks like it's used stock WWI war footage to document the war, but that only adds to the realism. Things look dark, dirty and, well, like a war is going on! Contrast these scenes with one later in the picture of the wild party at the nightclub, and I imagine you have some idea of what things were like at some point during WWI.
Like WATERLOO BRIDGE (1930), this movie provides viewers of today with a look back at the WWI era--it's conventions, morals, worries, and fascinating stories. If you can find this movie, it's worth the time it takes to see it.
Jungle Bride (1933)
A "Romantic" Gilligan's Island...1930's Style...
This delicious, 63 minute pre-Code movie stars Anita Page as the "jungle bride." Doris (played by Page) believes that Gordon Wayne (Charles Starrett) committed a murder that her brother is in jail for. In an attempt to clear her brother's name, Doris and her reporter fiance track Gordon to a ship traveling from South America. A shipwreck leaves Doris, her fiance, Gordon and his best buddy all alone on a deserted island. These four agree to coexist in the hopes of survival, but it's tough! It gets even harder when Doris begins to have feelings for Gordon!
One of the movie's highlights is the island set. It reminds me of a 1930's Gilligan's Island, complete with the attractively furnished huts. Anita's wardrobe is a hoot! She was, naturally, shipwrecked in an evening gown that rips to shreds, exposing her legs. She also gets to wear a circa 1930 Navy outfit that she looked pretty good in too! In one scene, she goes to wash her clothes in a river, and some naughty monkeys steal her clothing! Heeheehee! So much for wardrobe! I always think the "special effects" in a B-movie are lots of fun. Watch the shipwreck scene--was that a toy boat in a bathtub?
I think fans of either Anita Page or Charles Starrett would enjoy this film. It's very short, but fairly well packed with action so you don't get too bored with it. Anita was one of the brightest stars of the early 1930's, and she photographs beautifully in this one! It makes you sad that her career didn't last longer. As of this writing, she is still living, and appears every so often in a documentary or video clip on TCM. Look for this hard-to-find movie, and don't be too critical when you watch it.
Under Eighteen (1931)
Happy Days are Here Again!
This song was popular in the depression, so it's not a big surprise that one of the characters in this movie whistles it on the way to work. By the end of this movie, "happy days ARE here again," but for most of the picture you sure wouldn't think so! Directed by the capable Archie Mayo, this movie offers a chance for viewers today to see a wonderful contrast between the have and have nots of the 1930's.
Young Margie (played by Marian Marsh) who must be "under eighteen," works to help support her family now that her father has died. The family now consists of her older sister Sophie (Anita Page), her husband Alf, and their little baby. Margie is a seamstress in a NYC shop that makes and sells fashionable gowns. Margie's nobody's dummy--she sees the beautiful models attracting rich sugar daddies and dreams of the life she could have...if only! Her poor-but-honest-and-hard-working boyfriend, Jimmy (Regis Toomey) offers her stability and respectability , which she accepts until Sophie shows her a side of married life that is undesirable. One day at work, she meets ladies man Howard Raymond (Warren William), gets the opportunity to model a beautiful fur coat for him, and he charms her. A swiss cheese sandwich, an invitation to his penthouse, and a desperate need for money lead to trouble for Margie.
This pre-Code is rich in 1930's flavor. Raymond's penthouse apartment is an Art Deco delight, while the apartment where Margie's family lives is the exact opposite. Warren William is an absolute standout as the seducer of young women, a role he played many times, but no time better than in this movie! When young Margie shows up at his penthouse, he is outside on the roof, swimming in his pool. He invites her to stay and swim with the comment, "Take off your clothes and stay awhile." I was lucky to accidentally catch this movie on TCM. It doesn't show very often, but would be certainly worth your time, if it appears in the line up again.
Intertwined Love Stories and Lives
If you get the chance to see JALNA don't miss it! You will find yourself drawn into the story of the Whiteoaks family of Canada almost from the first. The family consists of very distinct, eccentric characters which makes the story interesting. Gran is the 99 year old matriarch with a crabby parrot named Boney as a pet. Don't let Gran fool you--she's a smart old bird, just like the parrot! Renny, Piers and Eden Whiteoaks are the three brothers who's love stories intertwine. Alayne Archer and Phesant Vaughn are the two ladies. Hmmm...three men and two ladies--yes, that's where the plot starts to thicken. How's this for a twist--the Whiteoaks' sister Meg was jilted years before by Phesant's father, Maurice, but both still have feelings for each other. The screenwriters expertly intertwine the romances of Renny, Piers, Eden, Alayne, Phesant, Meg and Maurice and the story does not disappoint.
Although this movie boasts a fine cast, Kay Johnson as Alayne, Ian Hunter as Renny, Nigel Bruce as Maurice, C. Aubrey Smith as Uncle Nicholas, Halliwell Hobbes as Uncle Earnest and David Manners as Eden, the character that really steals the show is Gran, played with just the right comedic touch by Jessie Ralph. What a mixture of spice, pepper and wisdom, all rolled up under a lace cap! Gran gets most of the funny lines, and mugs outrageously for the camera. You forgive her though, because she's such a wise old soul.
I think if you visit Jalna, you will not come away disappointed. This movie appears occasionally on Turner Classic Movies so keep your eyes peeled.
Half Marriage (1929)
A Slice of Flapper Life
Okay, so this film would never win any awards, but for the viewer today, it offers a rather interesting example of a film made during the transition to sound period. Viewers get to see a couple of roaring 20's party scenes, great flapper attire, hear a 20's style torch singer, and see a fabulous art-deco style apartment, and that almost makes it worthwhile.
The plot is simple: Two young people marry in secret because her rich family would disapprove of her "poor" up-and-coming boyfriend. However, keeping the marriage a secret leads to interesting complications.
Olive Borden, who plays "Judy" is a cute flapper who with her modern, 1929 morality, insists that slipping across the border to get married on the sly is being done all the time. She suggests to her young hubby-to-be she sell a bracelet from Daddy to finance their housekeeping, and tells "Dickie" that they can even move into her already paid for apartment, since the semester at the art school she attends is over and her roommates are packing to leave. You get the idea that although Judy is a modern young girl, she's still got a bit of the old morality left in her, and I liked that about her character. Dick, on the other hand, is a much more conservative man--insisting they should marry only when he can afford to be the provider.
This movie is an interesting transitional film that deserves a look by people willing to remember that this film was made over 70 years ago. Watch it for the art-deco sets, and the stylish flapperesque clothing worn by the ladies. Catch Hedda Hopper as Judy's snobbish mother and forgive the somewhat predictable ending. I enjoyed this movie.