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Merrily We Live (1938)
Really Hilarious Movie
I think that people make too much out of the supposed resemblance to "My Man Godfrey", in claiming that it is merely a "copy". "Godfrey" was not original itself. The basic idea was used many times before in books and plays, not to mention other movies. It is virtually impossible to come up with an idea that someone has not used before, nor is that really important. It is what you DO with a basic idea, how well you use it, that is more important.NOthing wrong with a "fresh variant" of an old idea. All of the actors are superbly cast, and succeed very well in making the best of their roles. As a COMEDY, I think that this is actually better than "Godfrey", which is often praised mainly because of its "social comment" aspects, how it looks at victims of the depression. But as pure comedy, I think that "Merrily" works better, non stop laughs. Clarence Kolb was an inspired choice, and is great in every scene, and Brian Aherne plays deftly off of Constance Bennet. And of course Bonita Granville and Billie Burke and Alan Mowbry and Patsy Kelly each contribute their own choice bits. All in all, a really funny movie, and after all, isn't that what you want from a comedy?
Visually very exciting
This is really a very entertaining old movie.The plot element has whiskers on it, but that is subordinate to the aircraft footage anyway. One thing about the plot which has fallen so far out of "style" as to be incredulous to most people of today is the idea that Jack keeps his word even though somebody misunderstands why he is doing something and he looses their friendship. The idea of "honor" seems to be a totally obsolete concept these days, hardly surprising in view of the "role models people have, ie. politicians.
The footage of vintage planes, and the detailed shots of the airship are fascinating, and the Antarctic scenes are gruesomely realistic, though of course simulated. It certainly shows the harsh reality of exploration. And certainly the scene of the breakup of the airship is very realistic looking and dramatic. All in all, quite a change from the usual movie of the period.
Very entertaining old movie
The plot is certainly familiar from many other movies, notably "Tell it to the Marines". The old timer versus the cheeky new recruit. And of course the girl that the sergeant wants is actually in love with the recruit, who feels rotten about it because the sergeant has been so nice to him. But the characters are interesting, particularly Jack Holt's,the camaraderie is nice to watch and there is plenty of action, flying scenes and battle scenes,fascinating shots of old time airplanes, all of which make this a fun movie to watch, which after all is the important thing in a movie of this type.Very pleasant entertainment in spite of the sound problems.
Allegheny Uprising (1939)
A Spirited Depiction of Early America
I think that this movie has been very much underrated and over criticized.As far as they way the actors speak, it is simply not practical to give them all lessons in how people spoke in those days.And many of the audience would't understand a lot of the dialog. After all, movies about Rome aren't made with everyone speaking Latin. As far as the way Claire Trevor dressed, well there is plenty of evidence that women on the fringes of civilization often dressed "practical",particularly young tomboyish ones Some people have referred to George Saunders as a "villain". Which he is not,Brian Donlevy and his men are the villains. He does cause trouble by his obvious contempt for the "yokels", and his insistence of going strictly by the book. But there is no doubt that if he had known Donlevy was violating the law by carrying forbidden goods,misusing his permit, that he would have arrested him on the spot. That is the one weak point in the plot. If when the fort surrendered, instead of having the troops march out and grabbing Donlevy and his men, Smith had exposed the whiskey kegs in the flour barrel and other frauds, the farmers could have left the fort and left Saunders in charge. Once Saunders had seen that Donlevy had deceived General Gage, and was desecrating the Royal permit in that way, he would never have protected the culprits.He was an honorable man, just stiff necked. He would have swallowed his pride and done his duty. This is a rousing movie about its times,and well captures the spirit that the colonials showed in those last days before the Revolution,and I think that it should not be judged too harshly on some of its technical shortcomings.
A really superb Bart Maverick episode
This is probably the very best of all of the episodes in which Jack Kelly appears alone. There are two plots, one the search for a man lost in a forbidden region known as The Burial Ground of the Gods, which is sacred to the local Indians, and from which no one who enters is allowed to come out alive. Claude Akins plays a man who mugs Bart to get the money to get to the wife of the missing man, claiming that he can lead her to him.The other plot is Maverick's pursuit of Akins to reclaim his money. Good mixture of exciting action and comedy with Kelly playing off against Akins, who is really funny. They make a great pair reacting with each other. Extremely well done episode showing what a really good actor the much underrated Jack Kelly was.
The Woman in the House (1942)
John Nesbitt's Passing Parade series were generally very well done, and very entertaining. This is certainly one of the strangest of them. some of the reviewers were skeptical about some of the details. One wondered how a "thatch roof" could last 40 years without maintenance. Well, the cottage shown in the film of course was probably not the real one, and in any event the one shown has a SLATE roof, which could easily last 40 years without repairs. What some people take for thatch only covers an irregular part of the roof and is probably really leaves which have accumulated over time. As far as plumbing and electricity, it is likely that the cottage had no electricity,since it hadn't been changed since 1901, and MANY people in 1901(and much later) still relied on gas. Being England, plumbing was probably minimal, especially in a rural area. Very likely an outhouse instead of a toilet. As far as "how she paid for the food"all those years, it is likely that when people realized the condition she was in, she received it via charity, probably from the parish. Of course Nesbitt didn't want to bog down the story by going into all of these details. But he is definite in stating that it was basic on actual case records, so apparently it is a true story.
The Phantom in the House (1929)
very interesting old early talkie
Not a bad effort for its era. People seeing the audience reaction in "Singin' In the Rain" are seeing an anachronism.That would be the reaction of a 1950 audience used to perfected talking pictures.But for audiences accustomed to silent movies,even imperfect sound was marvelous,making complicated plots like this far more practical than with silents. As others said, Henry Walthall and Ricardo Cortez give very professional performances. The film of course is "stagy", partly due to the limitations of sound equipment at the time but more due to the type of story it was.Even later efforts like"The Mask of Demetrius" were just about as stagy because of the nature of the plot. For one thing, this and other movies allow us to see basically what a stage melodrama of the period was like,something almost impossible to completely duplicate today,because todays actors simply didn't grow up in that old tradition. Still, the sets are very interesting, and it is somewhat filmic, allowing scenes and shots such as closeups that stage can't provide, so it is better than merely a filmed stage play. All in all a rather interesting movie.
Blackbeard, the Pirate (1952)
Superb Kids' Storybook Pirate Movie
An old newspaper description of this movie went "Robert Newton hams his way through every pirate cliché in the book." Quite true, and just what is wanted in this type of movie. This movie makes no pretense to be a documentary, or depict pirates as they really were. What was intended was to bring to life the type of story and characters you used to see in old-time kid's story books. And Robert Newton and Raoul Walsh do a superb job of this. It was intended was to make a thrilling, entertaining adventure story, and judged by that standard they succeeded wonderfully. What no one seems to have noticed, or mentioned, is what a great job Newton does in portraying a character who one minute seems to be a jolly buffoon, but can in the blink of an eye reveal himself as a cold blooded killer without the slightest trace of a conscience.Sends chill up your spine looking at the expression on his face.Blackbeard isn't really a psychotic killing for the fun of it;he doesn't do that.He always has a reason;it just doesn't bother him to slaughter anyone in cold blood when it serves his purpose. A practical man who doesn't let sentiment interfere with his plans.There is such a wonderful cast of supporting characters,all of the actors so well cast. William Bendix as the din witted mate,Skelton Knaggs as the little flunky Gilly Blackbeard tells to keep a knife on Maynard while he removes a bullet from Blackbeard, but who slips Maynard a note begging him to kill Blackbeard.And when finished Blackbeard says that he knew Gilly was praying Maynard would kill him. Really wonderful scenes in this movie. Uniformly good, judged as a simple , but superbly done kids adventure story that adults can enjoy if they will let themselves be kids again for awhile.Suspend your disbelief, forget about the historical anachronisms(Yes, Morgan and Blackbeard lived in different eras and were never partners),and enjoy yourself watching a movie depicting not how things really were but the way THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN.
Murder by the Clock (1931)
Superb old murder mystery/horror movie
This is an excellent movie from the pre Production Code era that very well combines the detective gender with the horror one.Combining the graveyard setting with the old dark house, it has an atmosphere as creepy as any straight horror movie. The performances of all of the players are uniformly good.Lilyian Tashman is wonderful as the totally amoral con-woman, who manages to manipulate each one of the men she pretends to love into doing her killings for her while protesting that she didn't really MEAN for them to do that! William(stage) Boyd is superb as the tough, incorruptible police lieutenant who refuses to stop trying to learn the truth despite pressure and temptation by Tashman.Very much like Bogart's Sam Spade.Boyd reminds you in voice and somewhat in appearance of Randolph Scott.It is a pity that his problems with drugs and alcohol ruined his career and let to an early death.He was a great actor and might otherwise have rivaled Bogert and the rest as a tough, no nonsense leading man
His Lordship's Dilemma (1915)
Rather detailed review
I can understand the skepticism of the reviewer who wondered why the first reviewer had supposedly seen several apparently lost W C Fields movies no one else had.What makes me think perhaps he has is the very detailed description the first reviewer gives of this film.Either he has seen it at some time or read a very detailed account of it.If the latter, apparently William K. Everson was not able to locate it, as in his book The Art of W C Fields he acts as if nothing is known about the film. The first reviewer may have seen a print in a private collection in Belgium and was unable to tell us where because of an agreement,or perhaps it is in some obscure public institution and simply has not been made known to the general public because nobody in the institution thought it important. It just didn't occur to them that anyone would be interested.Knowing librarians as I do, that is easily possible. A well known rare book dealer once stated that only 2% of librarians knew the true function of a library.I think that his estimate was on the generous side.