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The Secret Adversary (1983)
good adaptation of the book, although the book had its problems
This might be the only one of the Annis and Warwick versions to show them kissing. British reserve and all that. :) I very much enjoy watching these wonderful period pieces. This has some dramatic "I don't know which character to trust" moments but I think it had too many similar escape scenes. For baddies, they were very loath to kill people. :) What this story needed was fewer instances of holding people captive or more expendable characters. :)
Agatha Christie apparently believed the conspiracy theory that was swirling about in those days that a general strike couldn't be an industrial action but instead had to be a sign of the end of the world as they knew it. There was one in 1926 in solidarity with the miners over their wages being reduced and hours lengthened, and no anarchy, no revolution ensued. In fact, the result was so poor for the miners that the unions decided political action was the way to go in the future rather than general strikes.
Brits were as terrified by the demise of Cousin Nicky and his family in 1917 as they had been during the French Revolution with the loss of the French royals. Brits of a certain class were afraid of foreigners, afraid of the great unwashed masses, afraid of traitors within their own ranks. The economy was still struggling in the Twenties, many people felt the Great War had been horribly botched, and the Liberal party ended its disastrous run in Oct. 1922 around the time Christie's book came out and the year the USSR was formed, never to return to power up to the present day. It didn't take a seer to know that starvation wages and the threat of even worse would bring on a strike. You can only push people so far. Eight years after the war when they had sacrificed so much, they expected better. Well, that's understandable.
The problem with Christie's timetable is that her book was much more 1922 than 1918. Right after the war people in Britain didn't have the heart for a mass uprising, let alone another war. They wanted some peace and quiet, and time to heal. People just wanted their lives back, damaged though they were. They were still okay with sacrifice and restrictions and the difficulty with finding a job, because that was to be expected. The story simply didn't fit the way people were thinking.
And what was that draft treaty? Did Christie even have something in mind? It's fun to think what could possibly have been so very embarrassing that it would cause the masses to rise from their beds of pain in 1918 and carry out a coup, but honestly, Christie, that's lazy writing. So...if the US comes in on the side of Britain in its darkest hour against Germany, the US gets...the first born son of every Brit? Canada? The Prince of Wales as the president's chauffeur? What is sufficiently embarrassing to cause the demise of the nation and WWII? I'm not an expert on British politics but wouldn't the party in trouble just face a no confidence vote and/or an election?
So I am taking away two points for the over-abundance of rescues and the premise behind the plot. But I still like Tommy and Tuppence. :)
The Little Rascals (1994)
showed this today, in half hour chunks, to six classes--k through 5th
I hadn't seen it before but didn't mind watching it twice all the way through, unlike a lot of movies for kids. Some grades were just as icky squirmy over the kisses as the boys in the club. The older kids got more of the jokes but not as many as I did. The younger kids and older kids loved the action. I liked the end where Darla gets tough with the rich kid (with Trump saying he was the best son money could buy!!), and the girls and boys find they have similar interests and can be friends, which was the resolution of the conflict set up by the boys only club as all the boys are converted to appreciating girls. For an adult, it was fun to identify the stars that studded the movie. None of my classes showed any recognition of any of the stars, including Trump.
I didn't give it a 10 because I didn't need some of the words in the race scene (words deemed "not appropriate" in our school), and some of the writing seemed too adult, even suggestive which was borderline creepy and shouldn't have been included for adults to catch in a children's story, and too modern for me to suspend disbelief all the time. The acting was excellent; even the animals did well. I'm not a fan of updating shows but this one worked for me. And more than that, it worked for the kids. (By the way, I never liked the original Little Rascals and wouldn't have watched this version if I hadn't been told it was a good one for the children to see.)
The Love Test (1935)
woman gets promoted over duplicitous amoral man who plots revenge
The men who run the business act as if they were in a private club, including one who seems to spend most of his time dozing in a chair. The lab is ruled by an upper crust bully of a man who will do anything to anyone to stay in control, even if it ruins the business. But it's the men and women in the lab who provide the interest in what is a strangely egalitarian set up. When someone other than the creep is put in charge of the lab, in this case a woman, when he was sure it would go to him on the basis of seniority instead of to her on the basis of ability, he schemes to get her removed. He uses his coworkers over whom he has some kind of influence, perhaps because he comes from money and they don't and it helps in life if someone like that owes you a favor. A shy fellow who didn't like the idea was persuaded to try, undoubtedly because he was sweet on her. The plan was to get her so befuddled with love or being disappointed in love that she would fail at her job, with the snake smiling smugly through it all.
The plot is pure old school--women are emotional and can't stay clear- minded. But the old school attitude doesn't prevail, not the least because of the shy fellow who was pleased she was put in charge and wanted her to be a success. One might say that even in late 30s Britain ideas were changing to the WWII view of women that they were just as capable as men in intellectual endeavors including science. But when you are up against an unscrupulous slime and those who follow his bidding, you better have an ally on your side.
The part where the secretary of very little brain but tons of experience was teaching the shy man kissing techniques was hilarious. As was the moment of his overcoming his inhibitions with his love in a cab. "Oh hang, we're here already." To the cabby, "Find a park and drive around it!"
The 1930s was a time of breakthroughs in safer cellulose acetate over cellulose nitrate which might have inspired this film. It would be interesting to know if this movie was on safety film.
We Have Our Moments (1937)
you can't get a good schoolteacher down
Plucky teacher seizes the moment and sails to Europe. Hilarity ensues. Okay, not the most original movie idea. But our gal drew her life savings out of the bank, left her boring fiancé behind, and went out to mingle with the rich and, as it turned out, criminal, on board ship and in Monte Carlo. She had to figure out the good guys from the bad, and face down a gang and her erstwhile fiancé while dealing with stolen money, the French police, and a detective who was in love with her.
The last scene left me wondering out loud, "So, what about the money?" Considering the fact that it was a huge sum, over one and a half million today, a viewer might want to see that part resolved. Can a US detective just carry that amount of money through customs? And we never did find out how much was won at roulette or if she got that wad back. But hey, who cares about mere money when love is in the air, non?
(If they marry they will have to live on his salary because in the Great Depression women who were teachers lost their poorly paid jobs if they got married. On the other hand, with WWII looming, there will be a lot of lucrative war plant jobs which will help supplement their income when he is drafted, probably with a couple of children in their family by then. Looking on the bright side.)
Car of Dreams (1935)
cute, happy movie
I'm not sure all the reviewers paid close attention when they watched. By the way, the couple took a test ride "in the shop," in their imagination only, just as they were imagining they were flying in the car later on, which made it okay that he wasn't looking very carefully where he was going, something that always bothers me in movies and TV shows because you never know if that means there will be a crash.
I enjoyed the protective parents who were nevertheless quite naive, not suspecting, for instance, the sudden upsurge in weddings and christenings wasn't true but let Bob give them some money.
The gossip of the workplace is certainly realistic although following the pair to the ice festival is like something out of an Astaire- Rogers mix up. In fact, the entire movie reminded me of them--silly people in silly situations with lots of singing and a large musical number. "Excuse me, have you seen a white cow lady?" Wonderful! (I have to assume there was a convenient costume rental on site--everyone was getting a room to change in, all of which costs money but by then the family was making more.)
In that era, Sonja Henie was hugely popular, so the audiences of the movie would have appreciated seeing skaters who frankly were better spinners than Henie, centered and didn't travel across the ice as badly as she did although it was her trademark. The fellow on stilts was really entertaining. Was he dressed as a character? He looked like a flame. After all, there had to be a reason for those people to meet as they tailed each other and this added a lot of movement and interest to the scenes.
I imagine Grete's family went to Britain to escape the devastation left by WWI. Because she was an immigrant she wasn't handicapped by a lower class accent in passing as higher class.
I don't think it was odd for a young woman to dream of luxury, beauty, and ease. Movies showing millionaire lifestyles were very popular then. It was a way to forget the hardships of the 1930s. Considering how little her father sold and how much the daughter spent to seem well-heeled, her lack of skills--she was even barely adequate at stamping making her getting a huge raise suspicious, and her casual disregard for showing up at work on time which undoubtedly got her fired a lot, the strange part was what they lived on before Bob came into their lives.
For me, almost any John Mills movie is a winner. This was upbeat and he was charming so I enjoyed it.
The Town Went Wild (1944)
fluff not to be taken seriously
Considering the fact that this is 1944 small town (not suburbia as one reviewer stated) America which was able to overlook WWII, I'd say it was a fantasy and should be treated as such. It's a what if. What if you found out when your son was grown that he had been switched at birth? What if he might be in love with his sister? Racy stuff. If this were a pre-Code movie it might have had premarital consummation and someone killing herself or himself over the shame and horror of it all. But as this was made firmly under the thumb of the censor, it's a broad comedy.
The sons look similar which makes swapping more plausible. I was glad I could see Freddie and Jimmy in early adult roles rather than as kids. And the very pretty sister could have been related to either one.
There are some nice little touches like the squeaky shoes of the Clarence Darrow-like lawyer, the authoritative woman judge with a heart of gold in a decade when drafted men left women in charge in many spheres on the home front, the elderly veteran (Spanish American War?) wearing his medals around town, the bragging useless guard, the slight attempt at quarantine for measles, the headlines about delinquent parents, the opportunity for corruption when everyone knows everyone and is related to everyone in one way or another, the reference to the territory that was Alaska where it seems they needed engineers although we aren't told for what, and the intrusive news reporters and photographers. I'm sure if I'd seen this in 1944 I would have caught more of the humor and parody.
I give it four stars for making a comedy about potential brother- sister marriage, which in any era is a bold move. I found the young people far more appealing than their elders, which was the point. As they said in Bye, Bye, Birdie, "Nothing's the matter with kids today."
There are plot holes and apparently actual holes in the film after so many years, and it's hard to overlook a missing world war, the draft, and rationing. But if you take it as the silliness it is, you might enjoy it. I did.
A Warm Corner (1930)
if you enjoy BBC Radio 4, you might find this hilarious--I did
Pickles reminds me very strongly of Gyles Brandreth. The witticisms are quite British which means an American might not catch them all but there are plenty of others coming along after the one you didn't understand. And there is the physical comedy such as the oyster eating, accurate if you are struggling to get the stupid thing to go all the way down. Or the utterly mad sword fight. Or the proposal that went all wrong. Not to forget the scrum for no particular reason at the beginning. (You couldn't call that scene static but I knocked off a star because the motivation wasn't there unless you believe people of certain nationalities fight over nothing so no explanation is necessary.)
The details are great, too, such as the sailor suit that has the same insignia on the front as on the sleeve as on the woman's bare arm, something I've never seen before. Or the clothes of the background people and the amazing hats. The astounding number of suits of armor and servants in the castle. The hilarious war time portrait. Excellent.
"Will you realize that the entire inhabitants of the Lido have arrived here in my castle and the map of Europe is going to be altered?" Oh, wonderful stuff. I just love it. There should be a thread just on quotes from this movie. It's fresh and modern and very, very funny, as if these people naturally spoke that way, about guests/ghosts and bags of cats.
French farce the British way? Maybe. Risqué? Not really because nobody got very far with anybody. But considering that the British movie industry was turning out old-fashioned plots about rich people demanding that someone marry because of besmirched honor, this was a big leap toward what the Americans were making, and what would become the screwball comedy. Impoverished foreign counts, the nouveau riche who don't quite fit in yet, the useless old money set, the bright young things, along with clever comebacks, wacky situations, and an irreverent attitude toward marriage, were all very familiar to American audiences in that era.
There Goes the Bride (1932)
It wasn't perfect, and the print I saw even less so however I didn't count it down for that, but I wouldn't mind watching it again some time soon. I particularly liked the silliness of the explanations to the fiancée about who the runaway bride was and why she was in the kitchen. Another choice moment was one woman wearing the other woman's dress, and what better way to usurp her place! This movie had some very inventive comedic ideas.
It was most definitely a farce and many of the plot points were therefore ridiculous. Yes, of course, she could just have said she wasn't going to be married, but clearly she wasn't the type to face the music and do the mature thing. He could have either turned her over to the police or walked on and ignored her but clearly he was intrigued by her and loved to rescue a damsel in distress, whether on a train or in the Alps. We saw the same in It Happened One Night when a spoiled, disruptive woman met a man with a hidden yen for romantic adventure.
The movie appeared more modern to me in its look than many from its year, perhaps because it was British and the main characters and set were not extremely fashionable, in a Hollywood sense--this wasn't a movie draped in cinema satin starring a platinum blonde with penciled brows. (The big exception to that was her dancing which struck me as Charleston via Josephine Baker. The hands near waist, elbows forward, was apparently very popular in modeling and was shown in many movies of the period but I'd never seen it used quite this way in dance before and frankly I'm not entirely sure how she moved like that.) The French setting gave it a difference from the usual US fare, too, with a French maid who could actually have done the work rather than being employed to merely look pretty.
The British view of the French as people who were willing to "sell" their offspring in a business deal was also used in The Forsyte Saga, published from 1906 through 1921. That aspect didn't appear in It Happened One Night for the same reason that reviewers of this movie thought it made no sense. In that era you only saw an American woman in a movie pressured into marrying a rich man she despised if there was a threat to her loved ones if she refused to go along with it: bankruptcy, disgrace, jail, or all three.
The Pointing Finger (1933)
useless heir runs off to South Africa and comes back a changed man
I tend to agree with the more positive comments under the video online. The story has a few suspenseful moments and several twists. Why does the heir come back not knowing anything about the curse but knowing about a certain poem? What part do the low life criminals play? What part does the greedy potential heir play? What part does Africa play? What will happen with the "pal" who welcomed home her very different friend?
This is a British production. We have friendly and "rebellious" South African natives and an admiration for Cecil Rhodes. We have a bad Irishman who turned out to be a good Irishman under the influence of a friendship with an English gentleman. (Some hope in that for the Republic of Ireland getting along with the UK--acting like a gentleman is more important than ethnicity?) We have an Englishman born in South Africa with an English accent who is a part of some sort of militia to put down uprisings against their rule. We have an Englishman born in England with the same accent who appears to want to simply hang out in Africa indefinitely, I suppose living off his father's money, the idle rich. One might suggest that the movie promotes the British colonization of South Africa. One might also suggest the movie promotes the idea that if you are born to wealth you should be doing something constructive with your life, not avoiding your responsibility.
This reminds me of the Poirot story with the South African mystery. Apparently in South Africa secrets could abound because it was so far from Britain. Unhappily for some of the characters, what happened in South Africa didn't stay in South Africa.
"dark and stormy night" episode
I like when a series tries something different. This episode had an excellent cast of well-defined characters I could easily tell apart. It was interesting to see the actors when they were younger, in some cases before they got their signature roles. I lingered to watch it to the end when I really wanted to do something else, so it was compelling enough to make me stay. Even on a sunny afternoon when I watched it I found it sufficiently eerie. If I had seen it in prime time after the sun had set, it would have been creepier.
The house was quite well decorated. I particularly liked the big pot holding the palm tree next to the stairway. The inlay work in Betsy's bed and dresser were beautiful, and Jane Wyatt's final outfit was superb. There was quality all through this episode. Even the portrait of the dead girl had a mouth that was faintly irritated, a subtlety one might not expect. I kept looking at it when it came on the screen.
And because it was The Virginian, they had more than an hour to flesh out the story. Like many of the episodes, it verged on being a movie rather than just a TV show. I agree it wasn't the greatest mystery drama ever filmed, (it wasn't even in the top 100) but it was a pleasant way to pass the time and the acting was good enough to put across the VERY elderly plot.
They probably cut something that would have explained the letter better than it was covered in the final summing up that most mysteries rely on. File it under "scary stuff."
I just hope when they sell the mansion they include a warning that the beams had been weakened by the fire. We were given the impression it could barely survive a stiff wind! Strip it, sell the pieces, and then sell what is left with the land...unless someone wants to hide out in the cellar.... Ooh, spooky, spooky.
of course music is a matter of taste
I have to agree with those who thought the ballad ruined the episode. It wasn't in the same mood as the theme song, which made it jarring at the start and finish. It was also jarring in the middle because it didn't fit the tone of the episode, coming out blaring in moments when the music should have been subtle, the same way a loud laugh track will make a mild comedy seem repulsively unfunny.
MASH tried a balladeer for a few episodes and while it wasn't as obtrusive as in this show, it didn't fit the series, either. Cat Ballou showed how balladeers could advance the plot successfully, but it has been very difficult for TV shows to accomplish. Ballads are best left to theme songs, good in small doses and not interfering with the rest of the show. There isn't enough time in a TV episode to have both dialog and ballads explaining the easily understood plot. It's a gimmick that hurt the show.
It was interesting because of its complexity, covering issues of easement rights vs govt homesteading land, racism, cutthroat political ambition in a territorial setting with an eye toward statehood, the use of the law to degrade or lift up, and the possible loss of competence and courage with age. It takes place in both Medicine Bow and Washington, D.C., including exteriors of both and interiors of courtrooms in both. The 90 minute format enabled The Virginian to deal with more per episode than 60 minute shows.
I disagree with the previous reviewer who said the alcoholism wasn't explained. Manstead said he didn't suffer any of the usual losses that excused hitting the bottle and that was why he drank. He crawled into a bottle because he had become a coward, and it took a great effort to show him that he was more than he believed he was. This was a theme that was often used in Westerns with old sheriffs who had given in to fear. It was rarer to see it with a lawyer who couldn't handle the responsibility of his job.
"Something that is morally wrong can never be legally right." Good line, before the Supreme Court. Ah Sing never gave up so they fought the case to the highest court in the land. And the bigoted JP proved he wasn't evil so much as ignorant. He could be educated.
This took place in 1967 so the message would have meant something more to the audience then. Ah Sing's nonviolent protest would have seemed familiar to Americans from the Civil Rights struggle, not saccharine. He wasn't threatening but he wasn't giving up and he wasn't giving in.
I loved that the Chinese couple were not portrayed by people of European ancestry. Virginia Ann Lee was drop dead gorgeous. (I had to think that Elizabeth would soon have her walking beside her husband rather than behind him!)
I would have appreciated, though, not hearing Ah Sing talk like Charlie Chan. That lost it a star for me although I didn't take off a star for the idea that the bride was coming soon and we saw the changes of the seasons before she did, because soon is a flexible term. It lost another star because it tackled too many issues at once and fell short of adequately dealing with them all. I gave it eight stars because it tried.
Was the Virginian in this episode? I didn't see him. I thought he was in all of them.
parody of the sitcom biz
It would seem the powers that be didn't like parodies of what they did for work. Even the title of the terrible TV show that our hero starred in was jarringly old-fashioned for 1961. It's a grown up's sitcom with lines like, "Cheek kissing may be all right for you cool, composed Anglo-Saxon types but not me, baby. Me, I come from the sultry Mediterranean..." Or, "You're clean, you're wholesome, you're pure, you're harmless--you're predigested!" Then there was the secretary with an IQ slightly above that of a houseplant but all adults would know why she didn't lose her job.
Albert kept saying he found his sitcom star a shirtless laborer carrying a two by four over his shoulder, rather than the truth that he was a master carpenter, wore a suit, and had blueprints over his shoulder. There was also a whole lot of waving the flag when Albert was trying to be persuasive.
I didn't find the teens obnoxious. They had no idea what their father was trying to say because he kept getting interrupted. They seemed like typical, easily-distracted and self-involved teenagers. I did find them refreshingly normal-looking; skinny boys with no bulging muscles and girls who didn't look 25 years old, which are few and far between on sitcoms.
Archive.org under Failed TV Pilot: 'Daddy-O' (1961) has some comments that illuminate the reasons this failed.
Max Shulman wrote many books, as well. If you like his humor, you might like to read them.
All pilots need polishing, in some cases even recasting and reworking. This might have developed into something good, as The Dick Van Dyke Show and That Girl did. They both had major renovations done on them and both showed the insanity that exists in the world of entertainment against the backdrop of an average person's life. This pilot needed improvement to be watchable week after week. It crammed too much into a half hour in order to set the stage for the rest of the episodes, and there wasn't enough difference in tone between the faux family life and the real family life, so the result was a mess.
The Big Valley: Days of Wrath (1968)
oh no oh no she's doomed lol
Whenever I see a Barkley or a Cartwright getting serious about a woman I know the poor thing is a dead duck, a gone goose. The fact that this one lived long enough to elope with Jarrod is a departure from the norm.
These women were veritable bullet magnets! If there was a bullet in the area you can bet it ended up lethally lodged in them! He's lucky she wasn't shot before the wedding night--at least he had that. lol
Victoria was the best mother-in-law in the world. She wasn't the least upset over missing the wedding and welcomed Beth with open arms. I suppose after welcoming Heath this seemed like an easy one.
I don't think this is out of character for Jarrod. He has always seemed to be wound a bit too tight. He's probably been "the little man," since childhood, the one who made sure he didn't put a foot wrong through college and law school, the one who sometimes acted more like a father than a big brother to the rest. They could remain a bit immature but Jarrod had to be the voice of reason, too old too young. But underneath that restraint was a Barkley and the Barkleys were one and all passionate and protective, seeking justice on their own when they believed the powers that be wouldn't do the job. It must have felt really good, to both Jarrod and Long, to stop being the perfect elder son for awhile.
The sheriff's actions at the end were very believable. As was Victoria's advice--the show does well with pre-Freudian methods of coping, ie try to forget about it.
Beth's comment about feeling she was in another dimension was jarringly anachronistic but perhaps she was a scientist or a philosopher and thought in those terms. I won't take off a star for that. It's not a perfect episode but I really enjoyed it.
The theme as stated was if Jarrod kills the man he is after, how does that make Jarrod any better than him? And that Jarrod was not the man he thought he was. He was humbled and brought low. He will have a different view of life now, a less arrogant and judgmental view, perhaps.
The Big Valley: The Good Thieves (1968)
Charles Grodin delightfully insane-looking
This takes the tired, old "corrupt town" plot and puts a slight twist on it. I'm giving all the stars for Grodin who is hilariously strange. He is an excellent actor. I love the bit of business near the end with his suit jacket. Johnson's acting suffers in comparison but I do like the small touches he adds like his idly playing with the ribbon.
The end is the best part. I liked seeing the strategy between smart adversaries. There's even a fleeting moment of, "Okay, how are they going to get out of this one."
The theme of the episode was summed up in the warning about what people will do when you destroy their gods and the statement about hero worshipping the wrong hero. It might have been a statement about the political situation of the day.
Any Wednesday (1966)
cheerful guide to adultery
This is upbeat and fun, as sophisticated New Yorkers find amoral happiness with various partners, inside and outside of marriage. One reviewer said it was five years out of date but compare it to the coy Sunday in New York or the rather dark and sad The Apartment and you can see the attitude is totally different. Fonda's character has no hesitation in telling two men about her great baby-making pelvis. While a bit bemused by Murphy's character's attitude she is cool with being friends with the ex. The wife seems to be relieved to become the Wednesday lover, instead of her role as business asset. Fonda and Robards' characters parted very amicably despite his lies. Jones's character has no problem about taking on a woman with what used to be thought of as a scarlet past. Everyone seems to come out of it with what suited them the best. Nobody is punished. Everyone lives happily ever after. It's very Broadway not Middle America but one assumes the fact that it took place in NYC allowed the rest of the country to enjoy it, even while shaking their heads at those immoral city people. I wouldn't imagine it was a movie that parents wanted their teenagers to watch.
As for one reviewer's likening of the gay portrayal to the negative stereotypes of blacks in the movies, I would just say that in NYC in the arts there were people who behaved like that. My father had a cousin who was a musician and he acted like that. It's similar to the lesbians in early movies who are dressed in suits and look like men. There were women in sophisticated urban environments who did that at that time. I don't know if there are similar complaints on this site about the portrayals in La Cage aux Folles or The Birdcage, or if there are complaints about TV shows like Will and Grace but those are very similar. That doesn't imply that homosexuals who were, for instance, clerks in small towns would be anything like that. Probably most people in the arts in many major cities are at least a bit over the top, if not totally over the top and halfway down the other side. They don't want to blend in. They want to stand out.
amusing little period piece
This needs restoring to improve the sound quality but then a lot of old movies need that so I don't take off stars for something that wasn't part of the original film. The directing is like a stage production which makes it seem more silent movie-ish than it really is. This was clearly from a studio with money for beautiful clothes and a lush set for a one-reeler.
I should point out that "making love" then meant being romantic and flirtatious, not having sex. The game wasn't about swapping spouses in the modern sense but of each person believing someone else was having a lot more fun and wanting in on that, envying the good times the others were supposedly having, as well as making the boring spouse jealous and willing to change his or her dull ways. But the woman who proposed the game and set the rules didn't like the way it was going from the start, obviously envisioning platonic joys.
Unfortunately, both couples were alike so mixing it up was futile, which was part of the humor. Amusingly both men had the same limited repertoire on the piano, and we saw that the one would-be Lothario thought he didn't have to say "I love you" to a wife. After that wreck of an evening, they parted with the same totally false conviviality with which they had begun, something not unknown in some social circles today. So the point was, in my view, that these people were useless socialites of no depth or inner resources with more money than brains, which we see in media-created celebs today. And keeping in mind that this was made in the Great Depression, anyone who envies THEM is a fool because this is what passes for the good life for these parasites. They weren't capable of learning any lessons from this but the audience might be--at least let's hope so!
If you don't expect much from this you will probably like it better. I found the final few minutes funny. Nice little twist there.
I'm guessing one-reelers were some sort of test movies for those involved, trying them out on a small scale before letting them do it on the large scale. But I could be wrong.
The Footloose Heiress (1937)
very charming leading man
He's the kind of figure that Indy Jones might have modeled his clothing and attitude on. This Depression era movie includes all the usuals--the educated hobos who find freedom on the road, the silly cops, the spoiled upper class, the heiress who needs to be taught a lesson, the hapless wealthy father worried about financial affairs while nobody else seems to have the slightest concern, the casual approach to marriage among the elite, the wonderful clothes and cars and homes, the use and abuse of publicity, the glib conversation, the hectic pace, ...so one might expect it to be the same old same old. But it held my interest, largely because of the hero whose smile lit up the screen and the unusual aspect of creating radio playlets that featured carbon. I wanted to see how it came out.
It also shows that the word capiche was used in the 30s and came into common parlance from comic books.
Public Wedding (1937)
reality star techniques in the 30s
Everything old is new again. How about a wedding that costs nothing because it, (very amusingly), advertises the businesses that provided the goods and services and has a paying audience? Or a painter who becomes popular with those with more money than brains because he has a reputation over a woman? Or good-looking con artists coming up with one scheme after another to make money from publicity while trying not to get arrested? It all sounds very familiar because it is entertaining and still works today to bring in the cash.
Hectic movie with many quips, turns of plot, and much running around. It's worth a look to see that the techniques used today were used in the 30s and were well-worn even back then. Visually it has interesting elements. On the whole, though, it's one of the lesser movies of the "attractive con artist" genre.
Decade for Decision (1957)
The Soviets threw down the gauntlet
University of Buffalo is used as the example of an "urban university" which uses the entire industrial scene as a teaching aid rather than having an ivory tower mentality.
The film pushes the idea that we have to teach in high school the physics that we are now teaching in college in order to catch up with the Soviets. We have to offer high school grads both a science/math background for the space race in "the present emergency" as well as liberal and fine arts. Applied science allows work on actual problems on farm or industry. Many of the students are plant workers who commute and are often financed by their employers to attend evening sessions if that fits their shifts. The emphasis is on the diversity of the student body, all ages and backgrounds.
The university evolved from a medical college and is involved in pure research on things like the heart. 59 years before, the first organized research on cancer began at this school. If people would give up cigarettes they could afford to pay teachers a decent wage. (Whether that is a nod to the cancer research is hard to say.) Pay for teachers is lagging way behind so inflation-adjusted wages are at 1940 levels which is why it is hard to get students into that field when we need them to build up the availability of higher education. 1970 was mentioned so the film seems to be anticipating the baby boom will create a big demand. The meshing of grads and industry benefits both. College is a right not a privilege. Come preserve our nation. Come and learn.
As with most of these short subjects, this is excellent as history and a lot of it rings true today, particularly the importance of matching the needs of business with the studies of the college students.
Touring Northern England (1950)
another historic gem
This is the first I've seen of the series that didn't end with a hope for peace, just that there is much to be learned from the past. Perhaps that hope was dashed in one case when a reviewer turned a deaf ear to what the narrator had to say.
I always look for signs of war damage in these British travelogues because most of the American movies set in postwar Britain try to obscure it. In this one a bit of that reality creeps in with the look at York Minster, comparing it to cannon damage by Cromwell's army etc. These old buildings always look so well scrubbed today since they've had some good cleanings and the people don't have coal furnaces and trains don't run on coal. Back then, buildings and clothing got pretty grimy, both in the UK and the US.
The cottages and flowers are lovely in this short and the music with them soothing and pastoral. I wonder if the curious little daughter of the caretaker ever got to see herself in the short and if she still lives in that area today.
The lido or Super Swimming Station at Morecambe in the short was built in 1936 to outdo the one in Blackpool. It was demolished in the '70s, partly to due a persistent leak from the very start that let in sea water at high tide and leaked pool water at low tide. But it was a monster lido, and no mistake.
I couldn't tell online if the other places mentioned were markedly different today from 1950 in traffic or urban renewal projects but I'd suspect they all went through a bad patch of several decades and now people are caring a lot more about saving historic buildings and cutting down on congestion.
I'm giving this a slightly lower score than I do for most of these because it probably has less archival interest than some, although it still should be preserved for the future.
I'd love to see another short about these areas today
As with the prewar shows of this series, there is a part that hopes for peace and understanding among peoples. And once again what the people will get, and soon, is war.
As always, this is remarkable history and should be returned to its former pristine state. All these shorts give us insight into their radically changing world. In this particular short we not only see a world that will face bloody upheaval from 1954 to 1962 with the end of the colonial era but also technological upheaval as represented by horse drawn vehicles, bicycles, and a few cars. Under the French rule, Muslims lacked the rights of other people, especially after the revolt of 1871. They could only apply for French citizenship if they abandoned their religion and, one supposes, their way of life. This short hints at their pain.
Young and Willing (1943)
before they were stars
The movie went along well enough when they weren't acting out parts that were supposed to illustrate they were still neophytes with very little talent. There were many elements of a screwball comedy but as much as I was interested in seeing the cast at this stage in their careers, this movie was so amateurishly written almost any of us could think of ways to improve it substantially. And Florence MacMichael's voice gave me a headache.
There was a bottle of medicine that figured in the plot that was supposed to be helpful for an expectant mother. It seemed to be a mystery substance known only to fictional doctors.
I'd suggest that a 1943 audience would be annoyed, even angered, that the guys weren't all in the military and the gals were totally uninterested in anything but acting. This movie would have gone over a lot better before Pearl Harbor.
I prefer Robert Benchley's writing to his movie roles but I always find him enjoyable and he worked well with Mabel Paige as the two responsible adults with all these immature young people.
If you are a very tolerant and easy-going person who laughs readily, you might enjoy this movie as a light-hearted romp. If you want to know what these people were like then, you might want to see this movie. Everybody else would be happier avoiding it.
It Looks Like Rain (1945)
apparently women were dying out in the US by 1945
This is one of those ponderous, self-important narrations that confuses MAN with men. Fortunately nowadays that seems to have largely died out in US documentaries although I've heard it when the narration seemed to be aping the old British style.
With the dam floods, tornadoes, hurricane, tropical storm, drought, so far this year, this short has particular resonance.
Historical perspective: radar was developed during the war. The technology of weather took a giant leap forward with that. For instance, nobody knew that the massive 1938 hurricane was on the way. Katherine Hepburn, among many others, almost didn't make it out alive. So the people, not all of them men!!, involved in meteorology were thrilled with the advances and on fire to change life as they knew it. We learn more now in grade school about the weather than most adult city slickers knew about the it in the 40s.
The short had several goals. One was to give city folk a clue that their self-absorbed perturbation about the weather wasn't the whole story. Another was to teach some basics about the weather and weather prediction past and present. And the third was to show examples of the wild swings that can occur thereby giving a reason for us to learn about the subject. I think they covered all three well in the time available. Points off for the mega snub of the ladies, when they had been working hard at all sorts of previously male-dominated jobs through the war including the weather biz.
good example of what would appeal to the audiences of the day
"Art, no matter what its origin or time, is clearly a joy forever." This short shows the interest the audiences between the wars had in all things artistic, which is why studios like MGM put so many different kinds of music into movies. There was enthusiasm for gaining in sophistication and taste, whether through classes or through their own efforts. It wasn't unusual for people whose only formal instruction was in reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic, to improve their skills outside the classroom. And those who got to college were just as likely to collect Bach and Beethoven as swing 78s. European hymns existed side by side with American gospel. Simple ballads were popular and so was complex jazz. The 1939-40 public would have oohed and ahed over the light show AND been thrilled to see famous paintings.
Excellent as history and beautiful as art. Having missed the first half showing the exhibition by day I didn't have the background on the exhibition that would have made it more interesting but I can't blame this film for my not seeing part one.