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Paris will never be the same, 16 April 2014

I wish someone would do something for me like Ray Collins and Barbara Brown did for Ma and Pa Kettle. Collins and Brown are the parents whose daughter married their oldest son in a previous Kettle film. They send Ma and Pa tickets first to New York and then Paris. So off are Percy Kilbride and Marjorie Main to the City of Lights in Ma And Pa Kettle on Vacation.

Things start to happen on the plane over as Pa strikes up a conversation with Peter Brocco who seeing Pa's simple and trusting nature entrusts him with a letter to deliver it to him at the hotel both are staying at. But Brocco is killed by some other spies Bodil Miller and Sig Ruman. After that the fun starts.

Despite the ever present danger that the Kettles are blissfully unaware of Ma and Pa bring a bit of Ozark etiquette and humor to enliven those Parisian hearts. Funniest moment is when Marjorie Main crowns some poor Apache dancer. Reminded me of the time when I was a kid when some wrestling fan jumped in the ring, so carried away was he by the performance.

Eventually the Kettles do find out and our government enlists them in the apprehension of the spy ring. Percy Kilbride is nothing if not a patriot.

An enjoyable time with the Kettles.

Elopement (1951)
Cheaper to Elope, 15 April 2014

As I write this review my brother is currently contemplating the cost of a big wedding for his oldest daughter and is thinking that it would be nice if she went and did like her younger sister did, go off and elope. After the surprise of Elopement there's a lot to be said for that option.

Elopement finds Clifton Webb and Margalo Gilmore in a huge tizzy over the fact that their newly graduated daughter Anne Francis is eloping with none other than her philosophy professor William Lundigan. They get a hold of his parents Charles Bickford and Evelyn Varden and find similar concern about suddenly getting a new daughter-in-law. As Lundigan and Francis travel to Deerfield, New Jersey to get married, the in-laws to be are also racing against time to get the young ones to reconsider. In tow is Francis's godfather Reginald Gardiner and Lundigan's little brother Tommy Rettig.

Although he tries hard William Lundigan is way too old for the part. It's even indicated that he had war service in World War II. And if young Rettig is his brother all I can say is that Varden must have been fertile for much longer than the natural span of things for women. Someone closer to Francis's age should have been cast.

Webb and Gardiner work well together having the same urbane and occasionally acerbic style. Too bad they didn't do more films together.

Elopement is definitely minor league Clifton Webb although his fans will like it.

Drones invented in 1933?, 15 April 2014

It was interesting to learn in Son Of A Sailor that fourteen years before I was born the US Navy was already testing drone airplanes. It wasn't called drone then, the term was robot flying. Imagine what you learn in a Joe E. Brown comedy.

As the title says, the film is set in the navy and our protagonist is the braggadocious Joe E. Brown taking his Alibi Ike character into Uncle Sam's Navy. There ain't nothing this guy can't do if you listen to him. His pal Frank McHugh listens to him intently and as they role play they provide a lot of hilarity for the rest of the crew and the movie audience.

But Brown becomes a real hero when he saves the plans for the drone airplane and the plane itself from foreign spies. The last 15 minutes or so move like an Indiana Jones feature.

Son Of A Sailor is a prime example of the comedy of Joe E. Brown and a good introduction to his work.

Per the Lindbergh Law, 14 April 2014

Big House USA sounds like a prison picture, but only in part of the film is the setting a maximum security prison. There is the part how Ralph Meeker got there and the last part about his escape with several other solid citizens, residents of Big House USA.

A young boy with one rich father is kidnapped by Meeker and dies while in his custody. Not that he killed him, but kidnapping alone as per the Lindbergh law gets him the gas chamber. Father Willis Bouchey pays the ransom, but gets no child back.

Meeker is arrested, but all he's charged with is extortion, without a body dead or alive, the authorities can do no more. But with the reputation as a child killer, Meeker's not going to be a popular guy even in the maximum security federal penitentiary he's sent.

But cell-mate Broderick Crawford has other ideas about the ransom money never recovered and buried in a national park. He and confederates Lon Chaney, Jr., William Talman, and Charles Bronson escape with Meeker. They had an escape plan in the works already, a quite ingenious one which costs another prisoner his life during a dry run.

A chance to see all these guys in a film is never to be passed up. Crawford we're told is a smart guy. Personally if he were that smart he'd have realized that the authorities would know full well he was heading for the park and go anywhere else. But greed overtakes intelligence.

There's also a nice role here for Felicia Farr as Meeker's accomplice. FBI man Reed Hadley and chief forest ranger Roy Roberts represent the law.

Big House USA spends more time in the wide open spaces than in a maximum security prison. Still it's a tight little noir film with a fine cast of players.

A betting interest, 14 April 2014

The Frakes of Iowa and the Kettles of the Ozarks have a lot in common. Every member of the Frake family has a betting interest in State Fair in some event at the fair and the Kettles are heavy into gambling at a few events in their county fair. Between Percy Kilbride's horse race and Marjorie Main's cooking they're heavily invested.

There's a sudden need for money in the Kettle household as oldest daughter Lori Nelson wants to go to college. Of course a lot of family problems would be solved if Kilbride would just get a job. But he wouldn't be Pa Kettle then.

Marjorie Main's rival Esther Dale is also spouting off and saying she'll rub Ma's nose in it again. Of course Kettle resourcefulness and luck triumph in the end. Did you think it wouldn't.

This one's good entry in the Kettle series, nice story, nice people and a bit of a surprise from one of the regulars in the Kettle series.

Ryder Takes Flyte, 14 April 2014

If you remember the acclaimed mini-series of Brideshead Revisited than you're already well acquainted with the Flyte family, it's head Michael Gambon, it's most Catholic mother Emma Thompson and their children. Unlike the mini-series the emphasis here is on outsider Charles Ryder and his connection to Julia as opposed to her brother Sebastian.

Charles Ryder here is played by Michael Goode and during World War II of all the country estates in Great Britain he's sent to the estate of the Flyte family where during the 20s he spent considerable time. He was taken there by Ben Whishaw playing Sebastian who is at Oxford with him. Whishaw is the unofficial leader of a group of upper crust gay students and he'd love to bring Goode into the fold. Goode however keeps Whishaw at hand's length while he courts sister Hayley Atwell playing Julia.

In the mini-series Ryder and Sebastian get involved, here they do not. But in any event Goode's non-Catholicism and his unwillingness to convert vetoes him in the eyes of Emma Thompson for entrance into the family. How it all works out for Charles Ryder is for you to see.

Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews created the roles of Charles and Sebastian for the mini-series and next to them Goode and Whishaw are all right, but just don't measure up. Still those enjoyed the doings of the Flyte family back in the early 80s should like this. And fans of this generation ought to check out the mini-series.

The Kettles are really rubes here, 13 April 2014

I'm in agreement with the other reviewer who said it's best seeing this film after seeing the previous Ma and Pa Kettle films. The one immediately before has Percy Kilbride winning another jingle contest, this time a trip to New York is the prize.

But only for the adult Kettles, not for the 14 kids still at home. But that problem is solved when they leave the kids in charge of fleeing bank robber Charles McGraw who says he's a poet to Kilbride. I would have thought Marjorie Main had better sense. All they have to do is deliver a black bag from McGraw to one of his friends in New York. A bag that contains the stolen loot from his last job.

I found it hard to believe these people could be such rubes. When rural folks complain about their treatment on the big screen, it's films like Ma And Pa Kettle Go To Town they have in mind. Even Marjorie Main comes off stupid here. One wonders where their adult son Richard Long came from. Either it was the milkman or somebody was left on the Kettle door step.

It's all a comedy of errors about the black bag and of course all ends well. But the writers went overboard making the Kettles out to be so dumb.

Cult figures in red state America in the Truman/Eisenhower years, 13 April 2014

Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride proved so popular as characters in The Egg And I that Universal Pictures gave them their own series. This film Ma And Pa Kettle was the first of many as the Kettles become cult figures in red state America of the Truman and Eisenhower years.

Percy Kilbride as Pa Kettle was the role model for Edgar Buchanan in Petticoat Junction as the laziest man alive. Of course with the 15 kids that he and Marjorie Main produced he was good for at least one activity. But we do have to consider that Marjorie gave more of a long term commitment to producing the brood.

Anyway Kilbride does enter contests and this film concerns the fact that he entered a contest slogan and won a brand new house which is all push buttons. His contest win puts their Arkansas town on the map. But it brings more trouble than its worth sometimes.

In other news the oldest Kettle played by Richard Long is back from agricultural college and he's made himself a new and improved incubator for chicken eggs. On the train home he meets Meg Randall who is a writer for a magazine who is covering the Kettles and their new home as a human interest story. It's rough courtship as Randall has to get used to the ways of the Kettles, but she's a good person and a good sport.

As I wrote on another Kettle film review, if you were a big fan of things like Petticoat Junction and Green Acres, the Kettle films were your cup of tea back in the day.

What do the simple folk do?, 13 April 2014

A tale set in medieval France, The Advocate is the story of a lawyer who tired of the decadence of Paris longs for a simpler life Colin Firth heads for a most rural area where he figures the peasant folk to be a kindler, gentler lot than what he left in the Isle De France.

What he finds is a brutal and ignorant lot of people ruled by a cynical local lord played by Nicol Williamson who manipulates the populace for his own benefit. Williamson is not someone from an old and titled family, he's a harbinger of what was to come, a businessman who for services rendered got a title. Now that he's rich and with a title, he and his family can live a hedonistic lifestyle and they indulge themselves to the fullest. Williamson's son Justin Chadwick has all the vices and invents a few of his own.

Among the beliefs these folks have is that animals have souls, souls because of their simplicity can be readily possessed by Satan and his minions. They face trial for offenses as one poor goat does at the beginning with a man who sodomized him. Only a testament to the goat's good moral character saves him from Judge Michael Gough hanging him with the man who did him wrong.

As a defense advocate Firth gets one case to defend a pig owned by a family of gypsies. I will not go further except to say that Firth is quite disillusioned by everyone in what he thought was some rural idyll.

The film has a lot of nudity in it. Quite frankly it needed it to perk up the interest. The Advocate for the most part is one crashingly dull film and I think the players knew it. Even Donald Pleasence who usually can spark a film doesn't deliver at all. No doubt Pleasence was kept in strict directorial check, a pity.

Medieval France is recreated quite well, too bad the story just wasn't more interesting.

Big News (1929)
Big News no big deal, 12 April 2014

Big News casts Robert Armstrong and Carole Lombard as a pair of reporters married to each other but working for rival papers. If you expect to see the gifted comic Lombard from such future classics as My Man Godfrey and Twentieth Century Big News will disappoint you greatly. This one is strictly the show for Armstrong.

Armstrong drives his editor Charles Sellon to distraction with his drinking and carousing and it certainly is wearing on his marriage to Lombard. But as he says speakeasies are great place to pick up stories and Armstrong has been successful.

A particular speakeasy owner Sam Hardy is the leader of a narcotics ring in their town and Armstrong has the goods on him. Hardy tries something stupid, he goes to the newspaper office and murders the editor and frames Armstrong for the crime. But naturally our intrepid reporter is too smart for Hardy.

Big News is little more than a photographed stage play and the original play was no world beater either. It never holds your interest in the way such other films like Detective Story, Dead End, Rope, or Rear Window do that are all almost exclusively on one set.

Big News is directed by Greogry LaCava who also did My Man Godfrey. Whatever he brought out in Lombard for that film stayed buried here. In fairness to Carole, she was not given much to work with.

Still it's 1929 and movies were learning to talk. Films like Big News show how much was left to learn.

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