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Oil in West Texas, 21 April 2015

This Red Ryder film has Wild Bill Elliott trying to save cousin Peggy Stewart's ranch as some unscrupulous people are trying to get a hold of it because there's oil on the property. Something that young geologist Jay Kirby late of the Hopalong Cassidy series is trying to prove. But the fact that Kirby served a term in prison does compromise his believability.

In fact the town takes a lot of convincing as Stewart rides to town in what they called back in the day a horseless carriage and frightens the horses and livestock. Most upset of all is sheriff Tom London who appeared in a gazillion of these B westerns. This will never take the place of the horse, especially in the not so wild west at this point.

Wild enough in Conquest Of Cheyenne for their to be a few murders that the villains try to pin on Kirby. Not being fooled a bit is Red Ryder as usual.

Fans of the Red Ryder series should be pleased.

Fargo (1952)
Bill gets the barb, 21 April 2015

Fargo has Wild Bill Elliott coming back to Dakota Territory to take up a crusade that his murdered brother House Peters, Jr. tried. While Elliott was roaming the west Peters took up the family ranch and sublet it to a lot of homesteaders with the inevitable barbed wire that they bring to fence in crops. That got Peters killed and Elliott back to Fargo.

Elliott continues with his brother's ideas which is that the days of open range are over, that if worked right the farmers can sell their grain to the ranchers for feed as well as to outside markets. But some people are set in their ways.

Wild Bill really gets wrapped up in this one when chief enforcer Myron Healey and his gang capture him and send him back to the farmers and sympathetic ranchers gift wrapped in barbed wire. Quite lucky he wasn't killed in the process. All that did was get the peaceable man quite provoked.

Their are some plot holes in this western, but the final gun battle between Healey's gang and the forces of law and order and progress will not be denied. As if they ever are in these westerns.

Trio western on a bigger budget., 20 April 2015

Around the time Rangers Of Fortune was made by Paramount hero trio westerns were a big deal with such folks as the Three Mesquiteers, the Rangebusters, the Roughriders all competing for those Saturday afternoon dimes. Not to mention the most famous of all Hopalong Cassidy which was being produced at the Paramount studios at the time this film came out. Somebody made a decision to do one for a slightly bigger budget with one of their top male stars in the lead.

Fred MacMurray who was most famously quoted as saying that he never felt comfortable in westerns because 'the horse and I were never one' stars with Gilbert Roland and Albert Dekker as a trio not much for law and order and freshly fleeing from some Mexican Rurales over the border, become three gallant knights ridding a Texas border town of some outlaws terrorizing new settlers. No one knows who is doing this or why.

MacMurray and Roland are their usual selves. Dekker was quite a revelation in a part that first call would have gone to Warren Hymer. Patricia Morison who recently turned a 100 years young has all the men in town trying to win her except Albert Dekker. Dick Foran is over from Warner Brothers as an eager young settler. Joseph Schildkraut is the elegant owner of the local saloon.

The copy of Rangers Of Fortune I saw on YouTube shows this film is in sore need of restoration. It's worthy enough to be saved if for nothing else than one unusual Albert Dekker.

Promotion for Lake Arrowhead, 20 April 2015

The threadbare plot of A Swinging Summer is just an excuse to have some of the rock and roll performers of 1965 come up and strut their stuff and use the film to sell some records. It's also quite the promotional film for the resorts at Lake Arrowhead which I'm guessing was losing a bit of its crowd to the California beaches.

William Wellman, Jr., James Stacy, and Quinn O'Hara after having some summer jobs shut down on them have this idea to promote their own rock and roll shows and make money for college tuition. After being told by Allan Jones that they have to come up with a big bond type guarantee Quinn O'Hara goes behind Wellman's back and says her rich dad will cough up the dough, but don't tell Wellman as he's quite the alpha male. Upon this lay all the romantic complications for Wellman and O'Hara and the rest of the film.

Which is just an excuse to see The Righteous Brothers, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Donnie Brooks and a few others long forgotten. At least this film is a record of sorts for them.

Who knows what enticed Allan Jones to do two brief scenes at the beginning of the film. But I wish they could have worked a song in for him as he's far more my taste.

But early Sixties music fans should love A Swinging Summer.

The party would never end, 20 April 2015

This 1948 film starts its action 20 years earlier in 1928 when the country was in the throes of the Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age when it seemed like the national party would never end. You Were Meant For Me stars Dan Dailey as a Rudy Vallee like band-leader with Jeanne Crain as the small town girl whom he falls for and marries while on tour. One thing though, Vallee never had the dance moves that Dan Dailey had. I always marveled at how gracefully that big man moved.

If this had been done over at Warner Brothers Jack Carson would have been cast in the lead. Dailey is quite the party animal when good times are plentiful. But the stock market crash comes even with bookings canceling all around him, Dailey feels the need to put up a big front. The man needs a reality trip and Crain is ready to give it to him.

The score is taken from various standards of the Roaring Twenties and that's the best part of the film. Oscar Levant is in the cast as his usual witty and cynical self and we hear him do Gershwin's Concerto in F. Percy Kilbride and Selena Royle are Crain's small town, home town parents who give out some practical advice.

If you like the music of the Twenties than You Were Meant For Me is meant for you.

Noble and kind, 19 April 2015

Jean Hersholt was introduced to the big screen in his most memorable role as Dr. Paul Christian, small town country doctor and jack of all medical trades. He has to be in his small town where another physician is hours away.

In his feature films and on radio where he played Dr. Christian as well, Jean Hersholt represented the idealized image of the country doctor as sure Lionel Barrymore was the noted big city physician. Hersholt certainly has Barrymore beat in the bedside manner department. But both are competent medical professionals.

In this film Hersholt runs afoul of the town's big mover and shaker Paul Harvey despite the fact that Hersholt has been his family physician as well for decades. They clash in the matter of their town of River's End needing a hospital there. Harvey has bigger plans, at least bigger in his mind than a hospital. Some tragedy close to home convinces him that maybe Dr. Christian is right. He also gets a new perspective on how lucky his community is to have Hersholt around.

In real life Jean Hersholt's charitable work was a legend around the film capital and no small wonder that the Motion Picture Academy started a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. That image blends well with the Dr. Christian image conveyed in Meet Dr. Christian and the Dr. Christian films that followed.

I wish all the physicians were as noble and kind as Jean Hersholt was as Dr. Christian.

The Judge (2014)
Lewis Stone never had these problems, 19 April 2015

Robert Duvall's performance as an irascible old man dying of cancer in the title role both got an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and is the highlight of the film. Duvall who is now 84 years old puts a lifetime of learning and experience into this role, a part he literally aged right into.

Robert Downey, Jr. plays Duvall's estranged son, a very successful Chicago criminal attorney who gets a call from his brother Vincent D'Onofrio that their mother has just passed on. Right in mid trial he gets a postponement and flies to the small Indiana town where he grew up to be with his brothers and dad.

While still in mourning a man is run down by a car identified as Duvall's and he's arrested. Turns out to be a man he gave a break to in his court who came back and pulled a horrible crime. He'll need a good lawyer, but Duvall won't make the obvious choice.

There's a whole lot issues separating Duvall and Downey making a gulf as wide as the Pacific Ocean. As he proudly points out Downey commands some big fees in Chicago. My favorite scene in the film is Duvall insisting that local attorney Dax Sheppard be his lawyer. Sheppard is a part time lawyer and a full time antique dealer who got his law degree at a school Valparaiso, Chile, good old Valpo as he calls it. Downey is beside himself at this guy's incompetence.

Grace Zabriskie has a short but memorable performance as the mother of the man who was killed. Years of rage and hate come out at Duvall. As Downey points out when you're a town judge like that for 35 years you will make rulings and have a lot of people you ruled against hate you. In fact as we meet Duvall there's a great example of that when he orders this redneck deadbeat to cough up child support by giving title to his brand new truck over to his esteemed wife so she can sell it. In that world that's like ordering castration. You will make enemies with decisions like that. It kind of makes you wonder about all those old Andy Hardy movies where Lewis Stone was beloved by all in Carvel.

Downey and Duvall have a special dynamic working in The Judge. Their last scene together is exponentially poignant.

A whole lot of family dirt is exposed when the rug is lifted in The Judge. For fans of both Downey and Duvall this is a must.

An unusual household, 19 April 2015

Three Men And A Little Lady picks up where its predecessor Three Men And A Baby left off with bachelors Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and Steve Guttenberg all setting up house with Nancy Travis and their daughter Robin Weisman who's now about seven. Travis back in her swinging youth was involved with all these guys and all stepped up to the plate. They've created a most unusual household.

But Travis hasn't heard marriage from any of them and indeed why would she in this situation. So she's accepting the proposal of director Christopher Cazenove and is ready to move across the pond and do her acting career in the United Kingdom.

That doesn't sit well with any of the guys, particularly the one that Travis was really waiting for a proposal from. Time to bust this situation up since Cazenove hasn't been truthful about a few things especially where the little lady is concerned.

This film more than any other gives credence to Hillary Clinton's quoted African maxim that it takes a village to raise a child. Any more in that household you'd have a small village. If you liked the first film and the characters created you'll like this one.

The man hungry Fiona Shaw, headmistress of a most strict boarding school in England has the best supporting performance. What she does to Tom Selleck almost makes it to rape.

Three Men And A Little Lady should be pleasant viewing fare for fans of the three stars and Nancy Travis.

Scorned as the one who ran, 19 April 2015

I swear while watching Rory Calhoun in the title role in The Saga Of Hemp Brown I could hear the faint echo of that famous theme from Branded. Rory is a cavalry officer who loses an army payroll, his whole patrol but him is killed and also killed was the wife of the commanding officer who was hitching a ride back to the post.

For reasons I'm not clear on the leader of the outlaw gang John Larch wants Calhoun to live. So he sends Calhoun back to the fort tied to his horse and they give him the Jason McCord treatment. Dishonorable discharge because they can't prove he stole the payroll. But he's discharged for cowardice.

Calhoun accuses Larch, but the army says Larch was killed in action a few years earlier. So Calhoun goes out looking for Larch.

Calhoun wants Larch back alive, why I can't figure that since a corpse with a couple of fresh bullet holes would have certainly proved that Larch was not dead. That should have gotten Calhoun clear if not the army payroll returned.

Definitely not one of Rory Calhoun's better westerns though John Larch as always is one mean and swaggering villain.

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Benson gets a baby, Amaro gets a jackpot, 18 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Danny Pino has himself a nice jackpot with being arrested for giving a beat down to child pornographer who got off. Internal Affairs has him in their sights and he's got an arrest warrant. But he's got himself a good friend in retired detective Richard Belzer who doesn't have to obey any of the directives given the rest of the SVU squad.

But this episode marks a turning point in the life of Mariska Hargitay. During an undercover sting which nets an arrest of a pair of robbers who use Craig's List to target victims, the girl who set the marks up for Gavin Keith-Umeh turns out to be the mother of a baby that Sergeant Benson rescued in a previous episode. Will Emma Greenwell roll on Umeh who has quite a large prostitution operation as well as an illegal day care center that his mother runs.

Some extra-legal leverage is used to get Pino out of his jackpot. As for Olivia Benson, as Judge Jayne Houdyshell points out, Benson is the only one who's shown a real concern about the infant Noah. As the story concludes Olivia Benson becomes a foster mother.

This episode gets a bit into the personal lives of two of the squad regulars. These are truly three dimensional people.

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