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Jazz on a Summer's Day (1959)
Like a Cool Ocean Breeze on a Hot Summer Night
A treasure to savor is JAZZ ON A SUMMER'S DAY is a concert/documentary of the 1958 jazz festival at Newport, RI. It captures a time and a sound, a mood of America that's now only a fairly distant memory. Interspersed with the music are shots of the Americas Cup trials, some shots of Newport etc. But the focus is the music and the stars. Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington, Anita O'Day, Gerry Mulligan, Thelonius Monk, Mahalia Jackson, Chico Hamilton, and Jack Teagarden. And in a nod to more contemporary stuff (and a portent to the end of cool jazz), Chuck Berry also sings. There's also Big Maybelle, who I never heard of. It's all cool and relaxing and the audience seems happy and well dressed. Dig those crew cuts and all those people smoking!
While the photography and sound are a little primitive, they don't detract from the stars. Armstrong and Teagarden do their "Rockin; Chair" duet, Washington sings "All of Me," O'Day scorches "Sweet Georgia Brown" Monk plays "Blue Monk" on piano. There's also an impossibly young Mulligan wailing on his sax, and Jackson in a moving set of songs.
The audience is fascinating. Society matrons amid the hipster fans. Smoking, drinking, dancing. Kids and adults. It was a time when music still spoke to a universal audience. Shots of kids enthralled by Chico Hamilton's hypnotic drum set. Smiling faces enjoying the music and patter of Armstrong and Teagarden.
Within a few years, the famed Newport Jazz Festival would be geared more for rock and roll, screaming crowds, and higher decibels. That's exactly what makes this 1958 outing such a cool treat.
Coastal Elites (2020)
Bette Midler Is Superb
This HBO film, a series of five blistering monologues (comedic with an edge) about the current state of politics, the pandemic, etc. was written by Paul Rudnick. Each of the five actors plays a character dealing with life in 2020 America. Each character talks to a camera while in quarantine. And no it's not static; it's a lively and engrossing 90 minutes (or thereabouts).
Bette Midler starts things off superbly as Miriam, a woman who has been booked for attacking a man in a coffee shop. She talks about her life in New York as a middle-class Jewish woman and the things that are important to her. Next is Dan Levy as a gay actor in LA trying to get a role in a gay superhero movie and dealing with gay stereotypes.
Third is Issa Rae as the daughter of a wealthy Black businessman who has political ties through her years in boarding school and who talks about the politics of wealth and privilege. Fourth is Sarah Paulson as a meditation guru who talks about her visit back home with her working class family and the blindness of political fervor. Last is Kaitlyn Dever as a NYC nurse dealing with the day-to-day grind in a hospital flooded with pandemic patients and the loss of one special patient.
Tough, trenchant, and funny.
Love Sarah (2020)
Bake Me a Julekaka
British movie from a woman director about the bonding of three women when they open a pastry shop in Notting Hill which had been the planned project of dead Sarah. It's Lifetime movie posing as a feature film, devoid of any depth. A couple of subplots are thrown in but the director never scratches the surface of these women. Celia Imrie plays the well-to-do mother of Sarah. Imrie seems to have owned a circus but we never learn much of anything. The granddaughter (Shannon Tarbet) is a dancer. We know this because we see her strike a few poses in a dance class. Sarah's friend (Shelley Conn) is some sort of business executive who used to bake. Aside from this stirring stories, we get lost of close-ups of pies.
To add zest to the story (if not the pies) we get Bill Paterson as a neighboring inventor who sparks Imrie and Rupert Penry-Jones as an "old friend" of Sarah who may also be the granddaughter's father. He's not, so that subplot goes nowhere.
After the pie hole fails, we're told that London is the most multi-cultural city in the world, so the gals go out and get recipes for "foreign" food and all the immigrants (in Notting Hill) come flying to buy the goodies. Again, lots of close-ups of pastries but no information at all. In the end, it would have been more exciting to watch the dough rise for a Norwegian julekaka.
Lumley on Ice
Probably the best of Joanna Lumley's travelogue shows. In this one she travels to the Arctic Circle in northern Norway in search of the Northern Lights. And boy does she ever find them! The show culminates in a spectacular display of pulsating blue and green and purple lights over a snowbound landscape.
Along the way she visits several villages, treks by dog sled, and even sleeps in an ice hotel. Amazing stuff.
I Am Woman (2019)
Pleasant and Superficial
This comes off as a Lifetime movie and it's a shame. This biopic of Helen Reddy, one of the biggest names in 1970s music, skates over the politics of the day and concentrates on her marriage to Jeff Wald and her hits songs of the decade. The political climate is definitely in the background.
Reddy comes to New York from Australia in 1966 to be a singer. She gets work in nightclubs but is going nowhere. She meets and befriends a writer (Lillian Roxon) and a would-be manager(Wald) who guide her career.
Wald powers through the corporate music structure and gets Reddy a music contract. Out of her first album comes a hit song, "I Don't Know How to Love Him" and a minor song "I Am Woman," which gets picked up as an anthem for the women's liberation movement of the time.
From then on Reddy is a star and makes a ton of money. Wald manages a few other acts but has a drug problem. Reddy has a string of hits: "Delta Dawn" "You and Me Against the World," "Angie Baby, "Leave Me Alone," etc. but by the end of the decade, her hits have stopped and she's broke because of the husband and a crooked business manager.
Despite women's empowerment, it's telling that Reddy accepts no responsibility for the money problems and basically drops out of the business. When she returns, she becomes a nostalgia act (no new hits) and the film ends with her singing "I Am Woman" at a women's rally.
The film, directed by a first-time feature director, also swishes by Reddy's songwriting, implying she wrote "I Am Woman." She wrote the lyrics only. The song was written and arranged by Ray Burton. There's no other mention of Reddy as a songwriter or lyricist.
Ultimately, we get a look at a talented singer whose career was created and then possibly ruined by her husband. It's typical of this Lifetime style of movie-making that while the husband is outed for his excesses (and yes Wald was no angel), that the woman/wife is presented as a wide-eyed innocent.
In the long run, it presents Helen Reddy as a major singer of an era that also included Karen Carpenter, Carole King, Anne Murray, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler.... but we don't know any more about her as we do them.
Oh yes, and the Helen Reddy vocals are provided by Chelsea Cullen.
I Am Big. It's the Pictures That Got Small ... Real Small
Back in 1952, silent films were still is the memories of lots of Americans, but by 1952 the great majority of the silent idols had long since vanished into obscurity. Yet they lurked among us!
Here we have a staid Literature and Latin professor (Clifton Webb) and his dull daughter (Anne Francis) living quietly at a small college. The phenomenon of television has produced a series that uses old silent films to hawk a line of women's perfumes. The pitchwoman for the stinkum is a famous silent movie star Gloria Marlowe (Ginger Rogers).
When the campus kiddies get a look at this cheesy TV show they instantly recognize that the hero of these over-the-top silents is none other than their boring old professor. Embarrassed and outraged over his new-found fame, Webb launches a legal battle to have the old movies removed from the small screen. Of course he also has to tend with Rogers, who relishes the rekindled fame and glory.
Silly, yes, but great fun, especially the recreated silent scenes with Webb and Rogers hamming it up in hokey romantic adventures that defy all logic ... in a way similar to how silents were pictured in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, also released in 1952.
Rogers and Webb are terrific and give it their all. Anne Francis is stark as the daughter. There's also Elsa Lanchester as the head of the college, Paul Harvey as the lawyer, Jeffrey Hunter as the love interest, Fred Clark as the agent, and a very funny Victoria Horne as the swooning waitress. Oh, and the sexy dancer in the TV commercial is Gwen Verdon.
In real life, Webb, Lanchester, and even Paul Harvey had all appeared in silent films. Indeed, Webb was in five silent films, dating back to 1917. Rogers came close, making her first film in 1929!
I don't recall that any real stars of the silent era are mentioned by name, but Webb seems to be playing a cross between John Gilbert and Douglas Fairbanks, while Rogers seems to be playing a Gloria Swanson type. Swanson actually starred in a TV series in 1948.
The ending is a surprise.
To Rome with Love (2012)
Ozymandias Melancholia with Charm
Woody Allen's TO ROME WITH LOVE weaves together four separate stories set in the Eternal City. Story one stars Roberto Benigni as a clerk who suddenly and for no reason becomes famous. The paparazzi follow him everywhere, fawning over ever word, desperate for a quote on any subject at all. And as soon as he becomes used to the fame and adulation, they dump him for a man walking down the street. As in STARDUST MEMORIES, this is Woody's musing on the stupidity of the fame culture. Story two has Jesse Eisenberg as an architecture student living with dumpy Greta Gerwig. When her friend (Ellen Page) comes to Rome, he becomes infatuated with her. Alec Baldwin plays an older version of Eisenberg remembering this bittersweet and youthful love, trying to inject some common sense into his younger self. Good luck. Love flies out the window when Page rushes back to the US for an acting part.
Story three involves some country rubes from Pordenone who are excited to move to Rome. When the wife goes out to book a banquet hall she gets lost and falls in with a movie crew, leading to an affair with a great Italian star. Meanwhile, a hooker (Penelope Cruz) enters the husband's hotel room by mistake. When his relatives barge in, they pretend she is the wife. The rubes learn about love. Story four has Woody Allen and Judy Davis visiting Rome after his retirement as a small-time producer. Their daughter (Alison Pill) is engaged to a local and when Woody hears the guy's father singing in the shower, he sets out to make him an opera star. Problem is, he can only sing in the shower.
Charming and wistful but not a laugh riot. The film earned nearly $74M worldwide and the Roman locales are beautifully filmed. The best line may belong to Woody when he opines to wife Davis about singing in the shower: "In life I have a terrible voice, but when I'm soaping myself under hot water, I sound just like Eartha Kitt."
Tales of the City (2019)
Farewell, the Journey Is Over
This ten-part miniseries has some very high highs and some very low lows.
Back at Barbary Lane are Laura Linney as the sometimes annoying Mary Ann and Olympia Dukakis and the magical Anna Madrigal. Two superb actresses. Also back is Paul Gross, the original Brian. Michael is now played by Murray Bartlett, a huge improvement over smarmy Paul Hopkins in the previous two outings, but not as sweet as the original Michael played by Marcus D'Amico. Barbara Garrick also returns as DeDe, but she's a marginal character here.
Chief among the newcomers to Barbary Lane is Ellen Page as the tough Shawna, the daughter of Brian and Mary Ann .... or is she? We also get a complicated lesbian couple (Garcia and May Hong), a snoopy "reader" (Victor Garber). and a strange lesbian filmmaker (Zosia Mamet).
I found DeDe's misbegotten twins extremely annoying. I'm not sure if they were meant to be comic relief, but they ain't funny. There are several other recurring characters but they're not terribly important.
A few name actors pop up in one or two appearances: John Glover as an old cop, Mary Louise Wilson as the home resident, Luke Kirby as a 1960s cop, Stephen Spinella as a dinner guest, Molly Ringwald as an art collector, and Danny Burstein as Connie's old husband.
The standout episode of this series in #8, which re-enacts the infamous drag queen riot at Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco. This looms as the backdrop to the flashback of Anna's arrival in San Francisco in 1966 as a 40-something woman.
And despite a largely annoying storyline that clutters the achingly sad finale, we finally clear the gaudy debris and get to the great loss we all knew was coming.
Many kudos to the indomitable Olympia Dukakis for her portrayal of Mrs. Madrigal over the decades and to Laura Linney for her chirpy performance as Mary Ann and also for producing this series.
Superb Episode, Based on Facts
This wonderful episode traces Mrs. Madrigal's arrival in San Francisco in the mid-1960s. Her story is set against a now forgotten riot at Compton's Coffee Shop.
While Anna is able to "pass" as a woman (although she's still pre-surgery at this point in time, she meets and befriends many other drag queens and transexuals who work the streets as hookers. Anna gets a job in the famous City Lights bookshop and meets a man.
While she angers several of the girls, she's also accepted into their world as a fellow traveler. Eventually they learn that Anna's man is a cop, and this distances them from her. To the girls, the city cops are the enemy. They harass the girls, arrest them for female impersonation (still on the books in the 1960s as being against the law). The cops also take bribes from the gay-oriented businesses in the Tenderloin as shakedown money. There are no laws that protect the drag queens from the predatory cops.
All this comes to a head in August 1966 when the drag queens stand up to the the manager at Compton's and refuse to leave. The cops are called and a riot breaks out. The riot attracts gay men as well as the other queens and, although it's hushed up by the city and the police department, it serves as a political flashpoint in uniting the various gay groups against the crooked cops.
A 2005 documentary called SCREAMING QUEENS details the story of this riot, three years before Stonewall, as a major event in the march toward gay liberation. The makers of this episode are clearly familiar with the documentary as many of the characters and events are derived from it.
Excellent acting here by Jen Richards as Anna, Eve Lindley as Lily, Daniela Vega as Ysela, and Luke Kirby as Tommy.
The infamous event of the drag queen throwing hot coffee into a cop's face (an act that starts the riot) as neatly depicted. We also learn exactly how Anna comes to own the house at Barbary Lane.
For lovers of this extended series, this is a seminal episode and is not to be missed.
The Iron Petticoat (1956)
Bad Is Putting It Mildly
And in the "what were they thinking" department we have THE IRON PETTICOAT (1956) a sodden sorta remake of NINOTCHKA with Katharine Hepburn as a Russian pilot who defects to the West and Bob Hope as an American military man who's assigned to "westernize" her. Jokes about ancient Cold War crap fall flat (there's even one about Joe McCarthy) and there's absolutely zero chemistry between the stars. Hepburn apparently thought she was getting into an updated Ninotchka-type story but it turned into a Bob Hope movie. The stars didn't get along and the director couldn't stop Hope from ad libbing. Scripter Ben Hecht tried to get his name removed. The British supporting cast is mostly employed to play Russians (James Robertson Justice, Sidney James, etc.).
Instead of her fascination being with a silly hat (Garbo version) Kate's fascination is with a lacy undergarment but she passes on the inflatable bosom. But all that frippery gets buried in a nonsense plot about kidnapping, Hope wrestling with a big woman, and a nothing subplot about Hope trying to marry into the British aristocracy.
It was said that Hope got MGM to announce that despite limited showings, the film still made a small profit. Cook them books!
Unsellable Houses (2019)
How phony can you get? These twins whiz into a house and and redecorate and then sell it, splitting the profits with the owners.
It's all cosmetics. They never deal with any structural problems, roofs, leaking plumbing, etc. With a minimum of interior construction, the majority of their "work" is all smoke and mirrors ... or in their case, pillows and wall hangings.
And they talk and talk and talk. They might be even worse than that mother/daughter show. They don't actually DO anything.
I looked forward to learning a little about Nikola Tesla, the inventor moved into the shadows of people like Edison and Westinghouse by history. Instead, I got a pretentious muddle of history and fantasy given in an underlit and murky tableau that's as dull as the narrative.
Ethan Hawke plays Tesla (sans accent) as if sleepwalking. But it doesn'r matter because the story has nothing to tell us anyway. We get disjointed scenes that depict this and that, some historical and some made up. They add up to not much of anything. The "device" of throwing in anachronistic touches (Google, cell phone, Coca Cola, etc) backfire. But the major atrocity is when Hawke's Tesla picks up a microphone and starts a karaoke session of "Everybody Wants to Rule the Word."
Avoid this garbage and spend your time reading the Wikipedia article on Tesla.
More Tales of the City (1998)
Jackie Burroughs Is Mother Mucca
This miniseries aired five years after the original TALES OF THE CITY mini. The first series aired on PBS; the second was shown on Showtime cable TV. Although filmed 5 years after the original, the story picks up one year after the first series. Only a few of the original actors have returned: Olympia Dukakis, Laura Linney, Barbara Garrick, William Campbell, and Thomas Gibson. The other returning characters are played by different actors and the the change is noticeable in a bad way.
Mouse is now played by Paul Hopkins, Mona by Nina Siemaszko, Brian by Whip Hubley, Frannie by Diana Leblanc, and Doro by Francoise Robertson.
Among the new characters are Jackie Burroughs as Mother Mucca, Colin Ferguson as Burke, and Swoosie Kurtz as Mona's mother.
Plot continues as Mouse and Mary Ann (Linney) look for love and Mrs. Madrigal (Dukakis) tells more of her backstory. DeDe continues the story of her pregnancy.
The loss of Chloe Webb as Mona and Marcus D'Amico as Mouse is felt. The new actors can't come close to filling out their quirky characters. But the second installment is saved by the fabulous Jackie Burroughs as the outrageous and foul-mouthed Mother Mucca, a character who ties together the story threads of Mona and Mrs. Madrigal.
Unfortunately, the new storylines for Mouse and Mary Ann aren't very interesting. And production values as a whole are a step down. This Canadian production seems skimpy and set-bound, compared to the original.
Turn Your Head and Cough
Dreary re-telling of Marie Curie's life as a scientist. Based on a graphic novel and directed by a woman I'm not familiar with, this one presents Madame as a rather nasty piece of work (maybe she was in real life) and sidelines Pierre Curie to a husband and assistant. Be that as it may, the really jarring things are the flash-forwards to show the evil uses of the radioactive elements the Curies discovered. Aside from a medical flash of little Johnny getting a cancer treatment, we get to see Hiroshima, Chernobyl, and an atomic bomb testing in 1950s Nevada. Even worse, while she is ill from radium poisoning and working as nurse (more or less) during WW I, she hallucinates the faces of the victims from the future. Please!
Rosamund Pike and Sam Riley play the famous pair. Pierre died in 1906 when his head got crushed in a street accident; Marie lived on until 1934 and finally died of radium poisoning.
I don't remember the Greer Garson/Walter Pidgeon 1940s film, but I guess I'll wait a while before I watch it
Never Too Late (2020)
The plot of this mess veers from lame comedy to idiotic drama trying for pathos. The basic plot is that a bunch of veterans from the Vietnam era are locked up in an Australian institution where they are medicated against their will, locked into their rooms, and roughed up by staff. The head of the institution is the daughter of a guard who was blamed for their escape from a war prison camp 50 years earlier. Oh please!
So the plot has the vindictive doctor mishandling senior citizens who only want to live out their days without being prisoners. Why they are prisoners is anyone's guess. The old "it's for your own good" is thrown in but it makes no sense. Apparently Australia has no laws that prevent the torture of patients in veterans' hospitals.
Into this mess comes the 50-year-old "love Story" between the American (James Cromwell) and the Australian woman (Jacki Weaver) who were parted all those decades ago. Now she has dementia, but he's determined to complete his romance by marrying her. But she's in a different institution, hence the several attempts to break out.
On the few occasions when the guys actually get out, they are chased and caught by the doctor and her goons. Apparently they have nothing else to do and don't bother calling the cops. Even when the cops are called to help round them up, this never gets any press attention. Their whole story takes place in a vacuum.
Each of the vets has a mission. Cromwell wants to marry Weaver. The wheel-chair bound vet (Roy Billing) wants a reunion with his estranged son. The dementia vet (Jack Thompson) wants to be remembered for his glory days as a soccer star. The dying vet (Dennis Waterman) wants to literally sail off into the sunset. Blah, blah, blah.
The actors try hard but this is a mess thanks to the writers and the director. The screaming and trite music blasts from the 60s and 70s doesn't help any.
Goes out with a whimper
Each episode was less interesting than the one before it but the final ep is total inane pretentious GARBAGE.
Letting in the Sunshine (1933)
Odd but Funny
Albert Burdon stars as an inept window cleaner with a funny mustache. He and his girlfriend, a house maid played by Renee Gadd, stumble onto a jewel robbery at a swanky masquerade party after they have crashed the party dressed up as ... a window clear and a house maid!
Directed by Lupino Lane, the film features several extended silent sequences accompanied by sound effects. Lane had had an extensive career as a silent film comedian. Burdon, did not appear in silent films, but he sort of resembles Lane (with touches of Monty Banks and Charlie Chaplin) in the silent scenes. While the plot isn't much, there are some delightful scenes, such as the extended dance Burdon and Gadd do.
Co-stars include Molly Lamont as the swanky Lady Anne, Henry Mollison as the lead crook, Syd Crossley as the butler, Ethel Warwick as the housekeeper, and Toni Edgar-Bruce as the duchess.
The best sequence has Burdon and Gadd in a movie theater, sitting next to a rubber-faced old lady, with a cat under their feet.
Castles for Two (1917)
Charm from Days Gone By
Lord Brian O'Neil (Elliott Dexter) takes over an estate in Ireland and, much to the distress of his three spinster sisters and mother, is not very good at collecting rent from the tenants. Arriving on the scene is an American heiress, Patricia Calhoun (Marie Doro), who's apparently come to Ireland to find fairies and freedom from staid American ways.
She's so intent on freedom that she instructs her secretary (Mayme Kelso) to pretend to be the heiress so she can run free in the woods and shed her inhibitions. After a cow scares her and runs her up a tree, she's finally freed by the meandering Brian as he passes by. There's an instant spark between the two and she lies as says she works for the "rich American."
Brian's three harpy sisters are after him to marry the "rich American" and bring some money to the estate and his aged mother. But he's seen she whom he assumes is the American and he wants nothing to do with her. He cannot tell them he's smitten with the strange young woman he met in the woods.
So while she romps in the woods with the fairies ... yes, she's found the Irish fairies ... he stews and frets about the money situation. Finally the Lord and family get invited to a dinner by the American. He's expected to propose marriage to the woman but announces he's going to wed Patricia. But Patricia ends the charade and makes a grand entrance as the rich heiress. Mortified, Brian rescinds his offer of marriage, but is the end to the story?
Doro and Dexter were married in real life and made several films together. Their chemistry is obvious. Kelso has fun as the fake heiress.
The existing print from Library of Congress hass several areas of bad decomposition, but most of the film is in good shape. But at a running time of only 45 minutes, I wonder if there' something missing from the first reel.
Two Tickets to Broadway (1951)
Ann Miller Steals the Show
TWO TICKETS TO BROADWAY looks like an MGM musical, but it isn't, despite stars like Ann Miller, Tony Martin, Janet Leigh, and Gloria DeHaven. Rather, it's a Howard Hughes production for RKO, in color, and with no expenses spared. Musical has Vermont girl Leigh going off to Broadway to be a star in a big production number called "Pelican Falls." That's the one and only ticket to Broadway (not two) in the film. On the bus she meets three weary chorus girls (Miller, DeHaven, and Barbara Lawrence) heading back to New York after their stinker of a show closes and leaves them stranded. Their inept agent, Eddie Bracken, had no money to send them. Meanwhile, another of his clients (Martin) is about to leave town because he can't get a job. The gathering spot is a deli run by the bickering Smith and Dale comedy team. Bracken hits on a plan to hire an actor to pretend to be a TV producer who's interested in hiring everyone for a show, so Bracken wheedles the up-front money from Smith and Dale to create an act. Eventually it all comes to a head when they find out they've been tricked but the TV host (Bob Crosby) hires them anyway because they're so swell.
Leigh, who was supposedly Hughes' girlfriend at the time, gets a chance to sing and dance, but Miller outshines everyone else. DeHaven gets a few songs, but Martin gets the majority of them. Among the supporting cast are Taylor Holmes as the fake agent, and among the chorus girls are Joan Shawlee, Joi Lansing and Vera Miles. Interesting to note that the bickering deli partners were originally to be played by Stan Laurel and Olivier Hardy, but one of them was ill at the time of shooting.
Several of the song numbers are duds, but the jaw-dropper is "Big Chief Hole-in-the-Ground" in which Martin plays an Oklahoma Indian who hits oil and gets rich, allowing him to have his four squaws quickly ditch their moccasins and don high heels, minks, and glittering jewels, and then get pregnant (each one carries a papoose on her back).
The Tiger Makes Out (1967)
Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson
THE TIGER MAKES OUT is an urban black comedy by Murray Schisgal that stars Eli Wallach as an alienated US mailman who life is in the toilet. He tries to kidnap a young woman to get back at an uncaring society but snags instead, a "middle-aged" suburban housewife (Anne Jackson), who has come into the city to try to finish her baccalaureate degree. In his basement apartment, they find they have much in common and suffer from the same urban malaise and dislike of modern society.
Sterling performances by Wallach and Jackson and many funny bits make this a neurotic delight. There's also a terrific supporting cast of familiar "New York" actors (and others) like Rae Allen, Sudie Bond, Bob Dishy, Charles Nelson Reilly, Dustin Hoffman (film debut), Ruth White, Jack Fletcher, Elizabeth Wilson, Frances Sternhagen, Bibi Osterwalkd, Judith Lowry, etc.
I'm not sure we as a society have improved much in the 50-odd years since this film was made.
Walk a Crooked Path (1969)
School Days, School Daze
British drama about a school master (Tenniel Evans) who is unhappily married to a shrew (Faith Brook) and has just been passed over again as head of the school. While he seems philosophical about it, she is furious and dwells on how far she has fallen socially since her carefree days as the daughter of a rich man. Then, all of a sudden, a boy (Clive Endersby) accuses him of sexual assault! While the outgoing head master doubts the veracity of the story, when the wife gets wind of it she drinks herself into a fury, takes the car, and is killed in an "accident." This scandal compounds all Evans' troubles. He's consoled by a fellow teacher's wife (Patricia Haines). Creepy Endersby's much-married mother (Georgina Cookson) suddenly shows up with a baronet in tow, but instead of taking the kid out of the school, we find that he's blackmailing her over her previous escapades. We also see that old Evans is paying Endersby as well. Blackmail galore! The twist ending casts doubt on Brook's death (suicide? accident?) as well as Evans' true relationship with Endersby. Good little film with lots of twists. Co-stars include Robert Powell as a schoolboy and Georgina Simpson as the sex bomb maid.
Low-budget entry but it's quite a solid little film.
The Picasso Summer (1969)
Ruined by Animation and Violence
Good movie about a San Francisco couple (Albert Finny, Yvette Mimieux) who go to France to find Picasso. Beautiful location shooting and some humorous situations as the stars meet various locals and eccentrics in their search. Simple plot is accompanied by music by Michel Legrand.
On the down side are a long and violent sequence in which Finney seeks out a famous toreador who is friends with Picasso. There are also three long and tedious animation pieces that depict Picasso's art and themes of war, love, and the bullfight. These are done in a pulsating psychedelic style and seem interminable.
On the plus side are Finney and Mimieux. Familiar faces include Graham Stark as the postman, Georgina Cookson as the loud lady at dinner, Jim Connell as the artist at the party, and Peter Madden as the blind artist.
The final scene on the beach was filmed on Catalina Island and tacked on. The film was never released in US theaters but has been shown on television.
Sally, Irene and Mary (1925)
This 1925 MGM film helped make mega-stars of Constance Bennett, Joan Crawford, and William Haines. A Jazz-Age story of Broadway and three chorus girls in a show at the Dainties Theater, writer/director Edmund Goulding mines what was already a cliche in 1925 in the story of the good, the bad, and the innocent.
Bennett plays Sally, the lead chorus girl at the Dainties and the long-time girlfriend of Marcus Morton (Henry Kolker), a rich millionaire who collects chorus girls. Her cushy life is threatened when sweet young thing Mary (O'Neil) shows up as the "new girl." But she already has a boyfriend (Haines). Then there's Irene (Crawford), who dreams of a great love.
The plot follows jealous Sally trying to dump Mary and hold on to Marcus while Crawford tries to keep the peace. Jazz parties at Sally's wild apartment include loud music and lots of girls and men. Set and costume designs by Cedric Gibbons, Merrill Pye, and Erte, perfectly capture the era.
Subplot has Haines mooning over the loss of Mary to the wild life while their mothers (Kate Price, Aggie Herring --billed as Herrin) squabble. Everything is resolved by an unforeseen tragedy.
The three stars are all terrific, with Crawford getting to do her famous Charleston in the stage show. Haines is also a standout. Price and Herring are funny as the squabbling mothers, and Kolker is appropriately slimy as the cad.
The only bad news is the "special effects" in the climax, which seems pretty cheap and obvious for an MGM film.
The Sky Raiders (1931)
THE SKY RAIDERS (1931) is a low-budget filmo from Columbia that stars Lloyd Hughes as a pilot who is responsible for cracking up a transport plane. He bails for Mexico and gets involved with gangsters and eventually returns to redeem himself. Lots of aerial stuff supposedly filmed over the desert around Barstow, CA, but one airport building says it's Saugus (now Santa Clarita). Of interest to see Marceline Day in an early talkie. The film also has Wheeler Oakman as the baddie. Hughes, Day, and Oakman had all been silent film stars; none of them had much success in talkies.
No great shakes, but the aerial shots keep it interesting.
Bells Are Ringing (1960)
BELLS ARE RINGING probably seemed rather old fashioned even in 1960. The original Broadway production opened in 1957 and ran for two-and-a-half years (almost 1,000 performances). It produced hit songs like "Just in Time" and "The Party's Over," but its plot and structure come off like sketch comedy. The film stars Judy Holliday (her final film) who re-creates her Tony-winning Broadway success. Her character is based on a real-life woman named Mary Printz, who worked for a famous telephone answering service (pre-voicemail) in New York. The plot has Holliday getting involved in the lives of the customers, especially a song-writer (Dean Martin) who's having career problems after his musical partner leaves. A lame subplot has a bookie using "code" to have the phone-answering girls take and place bets on horse races. Co-stars include Jean Stapleton, Eddie Foy, Jr., Fred Clark, Ruth Storey, Frank Gorshin, Doria Avila, and hammy Dort Clark as a police detective.
What I found interesting was that so many well-known people showed up in bit parts. Elizabeth Montgomery plays a beatnik reading a book, Hal Linden plays a singer, Donna Douglas is at the party, Madge Blake is in a street scene, Len Lesser (Uncle Leo on SEINFELD is waiting for a street light, Gerry Mulligan (jazz musician) plays the blind date, Tommy Farrell (son of Glenda) is a party guest, Sammy White plays a street vendor, etc.
Ultimately, the film is too long. Subplots featuring Eddie Foy, Jr. and Frank Gorshin could easily have been trimmed.