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Stinker of the Year
18 January 2021
I thought I'd get a chuckle and boy was I wrong. Despite toplining Diane Keaton and Jeremy Irons, this is easily among the handful of worst stinkers of the year. Directed and written by Dennis Dugan (who also appears as a game show host), the film blends the stories of several sets of "lovers" and each set is worse than the other. Take Keaton and Irons. She's a blind photographer (don't get me started) and he's a snotty wedding planner. They meet via a blind date (get it?) and their ridiculous "romance" entails her falling over furniture. Then there's a young woman (Maggie Grace) who has a rep as a "wedding trasher" trying to fix her bad rep by working with Irons on the wedding of a Boston politician. She falls for a musician in a band she's trying to book.

Back to the game show. Dugan snarls through his bit whereby four randomly chosen "couples" are literally chained together at the waist (they have panic buttons). Whichever couple lasts the longest wins the money. Two people I never heard get chained. He's the brother of the Boston pol and she's a Russian mafia moll. The fourth would-be couple has a Boston tour guide searching for the passenger with a "glass slipper" tattooed on her neck (I kid you not) since he's fallen instantly in love with her.

In between these various arcs, a HUGELY annoying fat street singer woman yowls and plays a guitar. Of course, all these disparate people come together for the wedding which is total chaos and everybody has a good time.

It is beyond me how many good film projects cannot get funding but there's always money for garbage like this. How desperate must Irons and Keaton have been to get involved?
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Ramona (1928)
Get Away from Me, You're Bad Luck
11 January 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Immaculate restoration of a film long considered lost. The picture quality is wondrous as is the Mont Alto music. Dolores Del Rio is terrific as Ramona and Warner Baxter, Roland Drew, and Vera Lewis are also very good. I never like the skeletal "priests" in these "old California" films. Always the stereotypical robe and long white hair. Gag.

Everything about this film is really great (acting, locations, set design, etc.) except for the story. Every stereotype possible is crammed into the 80-minute run. As for the character of Ramona, you want to yell at the screen, "Get away from me, you're bad luck!" All her mumbo jumbo religion and icons can't save her from a laundry list of tragedies.

Still, if these kinds of things can be overlooked it's a good film. It's always great to have a lost film found and restored.

Oh, and it's Mathilde Comont, not Mathilda.

SPOILER: One thing I don't get. How did Vera Lewis come to adopt (or take in) Ramona. If her parents were an Indian mother and a White father, whom Vera's sister had refused .... I must have missed something here. But I guess sis kept the big box of jewels anyway....
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Watch Me Wallow
8 January 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Horrible direction and glacial pacing kill this one deader than a dodo,

Speaking of dodos, why are all the characters in this film so damned dumb? Poor dumb Martha (Vanessa Kirby) is clueless. She wants to home birth her baby just because. We're not given any reason why. She probably saw it in a magazine or a TV reality show so she just wants to. Even during labor she doesn't have a clue what's going on (and she's been to birthing classes with her partner).

Boyfriend Sean (Shia LaBeouf) seems a tad more aware, but he's a manual laborer so no one listens to him. He defers to Martha and the midwife until it's too late. He's in thrall to Martha, who seems to come from money, and her imperious mother (Ellen Burstyn).

The movie then follows the aftermath of the birth as Martha sleepwalks around and refuses to accept or understand what's happened. Meanwhile the mother and sister launch a court case against the midwife. Martha grows apart from Sean as she wallows in her non-emotional state.

The courtroom scene is, I guess, supposed to be the dramatic climax, but it's as hollow as Martha's monotone speech. And by the time this happens, the audience has left the building.

Hideous direction shows us close-ups of shirt collars and all sorts of extraneous stuff. How about watching Martha walk up three flights of stairs? Yes, there's a thrill. How about endless shots of the river? Time passes. We get it.

I'll bet Kirby will be awash in awards but I found her annoying. And shall we talk about 88-year old Burstyn playing the mother of a thirty-something? She should have been the matriarchal grandmother. It would have made more sense.

And what's with the vague Jewish trope? I would say this film is a piece of something ... but it ain't a woman.
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Classic Ending ... Almost
3 January 2021
Country boy (Lloyd Hughes) is bored with his bank job so mother (Claire McDowell) sends him to the city with the name of a man to contact for a job. He gets hired and becomes a "front man" for a vicious tycoon (Joseph Kilgour). But when he meets a girl (Betty Ross Clarke) she talks him into standing up for his principles and defy the tycoon.

At a party where they are about to bilk a rich man (Andrew Arbuckle) "from upstate" Hughes explains to the tycoon that he told the man's wife (Edith York) not to invest his money. The tycoon goes into a rage and tells Hughes exactly who he is (his son) and what his sweet old mother really is.

When a gun is produced, they fight for it and it goes off. Another woman (Betty Blythe) sees her meal ticket dead on the floor so she swears Hughes shot him. He's convicted on Blythe's evidence and sentenced to the electric chair.

McDowell races to the city and confronts Blythe, who's hard as nails. The two get into a cat fight with the rage of motherhood giving McDowell the upper hand. Blythe confesses and then it becomes a race against time and the elements to save her son.

With the district attorney, they race to the prison in the torrential rain ... in a convertible ... but can they get there in time?

Exciting and tense finale is somewhat ruined by a pukey tack-on showing "father time" and an angel reading a letter. Still, worth a look for top performances by Claire McDowell and Betty Blythe.
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Bridgerton (2020– )
Romance Drivel
30 December 2020
Plodding drivel right out of a grade-Z romance novel. The story drags on and on and then repeats itself every ten minutes. The "blind casting" is ridiculous and is explained at about the 300-hour mark that because the King married a Black woman, all England was instantly integrated ... especially the aristocracy. What a load of BS.

Hideous acting by the leads, Phoebe Dynevor and Rege-Jean Page, sink this even further than the moronic concept. The women look like they're dressed in gaudy wallpaper samples and parade around London without hats. Sorry, but this is so historically wrong, it's laughable.

In typical soap opera fashion, each episode crawls along without about half the episode given over to repeating what's already been shown. Garbage.

Julie Andrews narrates as Lady Whistledown.
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Trilogy (1969)
Geraldine Page
25 December 2020
"A Christmas Memory" is one of the three stories in this telefilm.

This achingly sweet, tender, and sad story is based on Truman Capote's lonely childhood and his friendship with an elderly female cousin (who is unnamed in this story). This story unfolds during the Great Depression years of the 1930s when the two friends plot and plan for Christmas and the making of fruitcakes. They live in a rural house with two other female relatives but stay pretty much to themselves.

Counting pennies and nickels and dimes, they scrape together the money to buy the many exotic ingredients and then send the cakes off to friends, casual acquaintances, and even President Roosevelt.

Two eccentric figures, they push a dead baby carriage (they call it a buggy) around the countryside gathering pecans for their cakes and harvesting a Christmas tree. They are accompanied by Queenie the dog. But this is their last Christmas together.

The boy is sent off to military school and the friend and Queenie are left behind. The dog dies and the friend slowly drifts into dementia, her letters to the boy becoming rarer and harder to read.

Simple and sweet.

Geraldine Page turns in a magnificent performance as the old soul who's never been to a movie or eaten a meal in a restaurant. Her whole life is the boy. She is unforgettable in this film.
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Julie Andrews, Robert Preston, Lesley Ann Warren
25 December 2020
So OK everyone knows the plot.

The high points are any scenes that include the luminous Julie Andrews and the hysterically funny Robert Preston and Lesley Ann Warren.

All the musical numbers are top notch, with special love for "Le Jazz Hot" and Preston's "Shady Lady" encore. Warren gets the "Chicago, Illinois" romp. Andrews gets the sad "Crazy World." All worth the price of admission on their own.

The incidental music, the sets, the costumes, are all top notch.

On the down side is James Garner in the role originally meant for Peter Sellers who died in 1980. It's not Garner's fault; it's just a bad role. And every scene devoted to his snooping and seeking to prove his manhood is dull. Ditto Alex Karras' bodyguard. Again, not the fault of Garner or Karras.

Even worse is the inept Clousseau character. He has no place in this film and may be a nod to Sellers, but it's boring.

Also on the down side is the constant cutting away from the performer on stage to show audience reactions. This is especially bad in Preston's finale.

Among the co-stars are John Rhys-Davies as Cassell, Graham Stark as the snotty waiter, Pater Arne as the club owner, Malcolm Jamieson as the gay gigolo, Matyelok Gibbs as the acerbic secretary, and David Gant as the restaurant manager.

Andrews, at age 47 here. is downright amazing. She ranks as one of the great musical performers in movie history, and this film proves once and for all, she is a great actress.
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It Stinks on Ice
24 December 2020
George Clooney plays a geezer in a beard and he's dying at a polar outpost. The world has a war or something and everyone dies but him and a kid. A spaceship returning from one of Jupiter's moons is racing to Earth with the news the moon is habitable. But there's no Earth; it's a cinder. Clooney crawls across to a radio shack on the ice like Lillian Gish on a hunk of ice in WAY DOWN EAST to warn them not to land. The identity of the kid is a big surprise but I was yawning nonstop by then.

2 wasted hours.
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Damned Funny!
14 December 2020
Ruthless! is a videotaped performance of the West End musical in 2019 and it's a hoot and a half. The plot is a mash-up of pieces of The Bad Seed, Gypsy, All About Eve, and even Auntie Mame and features an all-female (sort of) cast. It's deliberately over the top and it's funner than hell. Kim Maresca plays the dull housewife who has a talented kid named Tina (Anya Evans) who's cast as the understudy in the school play. She kills off the star to get the lead. Harriet Thorpe (from Absolutely Fabulous) plays the pushy director, and Jason Gardiner plays the would-be female agent with a really big secret. It turns out you gotta have talent in your blood to be a star and it sometimes skips a generation which explains miss mousey housewife. Her mother (Tracie Bennett) was an actress-turned-critic and she hates musicals. But she has a secret also. Act 2 picks up the plot after Tina is released from prison but still wants to be a star. Great fun. Lots of inside jokes. Great performances.
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All Singing, All Dancing, Little Acting
7 December 2020
OK, once you get past all the British actors doing American 1930s accents and settle into the familiar story, this is a solid and enjoyable production. You also have to get past this Dorothy Brock's being at least a decade too old for the part.

Bonnie Langford sings OK as Dorothy but seems likes she's doing an impression of Andrea Martin. Her Brock is too old and too nasty, which makes her gracious exit a bit hard to believe. Faring better is Tom Lister as the frantic Julian. He's the only cast member who actually acts well and his singing voice is fine.

Peggy Sawyer is portrayed by a semi-frumpy Clare Halse (it may be just the hideous wig) who never quite captures that "star quality" the show is all about. She dances better than she sings. But she seems too short.

But Philip Bertioli is a joyous Billy who brings a much needed pizazz to his character, and his dancing is excellent. Also noteworthy is Jasna Ivir as Maggie the producer. She brings a big Tessie O'Shea energy to the show.

The music of Harry Warren and Al Dubin is timeless. And it's a joy to hear and the dancing numbers are very well done. Some of the cuts to close-ups are jarring.

The 1933 film starred Bebe Daniels, Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, and Dick Powell. The original 1980 Broadway production starred Tammy Grimes, Jerry Orbach, Wanda Richert, Lee Roy Reams, and Carole Cook.
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Mank (2020)
Mank and Marion Davies
5 December 2020
MANK is pretty much sensational. The story of Herman Mankiewicz' writing the script for what would become CITIZEN KANE is also a story of Hollywood's power system. Anyway, Gary Oldman is mesmerizingly wondrous as Mank, a witty, smart-ass alcoholic who's a so-so success in tinsel town because he can't keep his mouth shut and he eventually pisses everyone off. He writes the script after a car accident and he writes it alone. Orson Welles swoops in after receiving the first draft and tries to wrest it away from him so he can put his own spin on the story (and take sole writing credit).

The background of this shows the Hollywood of Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg, William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies, and pushes its powerful grasp into the world of politics when Upton Sinclair runs for governor of California. Ultimately, Mank has a Pyrrhic victory by winning and Oscar (with Welles) for Kane but basically never works again.

Amanda Seyfried plays Marion Davies with, as one review put it, world-weary effervescence. I was a little put off by her slight Noo Yawk accent but she captures the essence of Davies, although Davies stammered in real life (but not in this film). Charles Dance plays Hearst as royalty and Arliss Howard plays Mayer as a putz. Oh, and the one time Oldman pronounces Davies' last name he reverts to British and says DAVIS.

The look of the film (B&W) is totally stunning and perfectly captures the era. A definite must-see film.
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Sordid Lives (2000)
High Hilarity, Y'all
4 December 2020
Billed as a black comedy about white trash, Del Shores goes back to his Texas roots for this this funny look at the denizens of a small town in the Texas bible belt. There are thumpers aplenty for this dysfunctional family to deal with as they guzzle booze, swallow Valium, and smoke cigarettes while dropping one-liners that are very very funny.

The plot almost doesn't matter in the hands of this great cast. Leslie Jordan plays the drag queen Brother Boy who's obsessed with Tammy Wynette and locked up in a loony bin. His sisters Latrelle and LaVonda (Bonnie Bedelia, Ann Walker) face the daily small-town barbs about their famility. Latrelle's son (Kirk Geiger) is gay and is an actor in Hollywood. There's also Aunt Cissy (Beth Grant) who's a chain-smoker and major town gossip.

At the local bar, we get Olivia Newton-John as the ex-con Bitsy who sings up a storm. The bar is run by Wardell (Newell Alexander) who tries to take of his customers. Chief among them are G.W. (Beau Bridges) and Juanita (Sarah Hunley). G.W. is married to trashy Noleta (Delta Burke) who lives in a trailer house next door to Cissy. At the loony bin, evil Dr. Eve (Rosemary Alexander is trying to de-homosexualize Brother Boy so she can be famous.

The big event in town is the funeral of the mother of Latrelle, LaVonda, and Brother Boy (Gloria LeRoy) who was having an affair with G.W. right under Noleta's nose. Will they let Brother Boy out of the nuthouse to attend?

There's also fat Vera Lisso (Lorna Scott), a real bible thumper who runs a convenience store, and the town tramp Glyndora (Dale Dickey) who ends up in jail.

Great performances by Jordan, Burke, Bedelia, Grant, Walker, and Hunley.
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The Undoing (2020)
Despite Kidman's Opening Song....
3 December 2020
I instantly skipped past Nicole Kidman's vapid trilling of "Dream a Little Dream of Me" in all 6 episodes, and once past that ordeal, the series was good.

A story of murder and betrayal among New York City's pampered elites is well done for the most part, but as with DEFENDING JACOB, end ending left me cold.

Story has Kidman as a snooty therapist married to a famous oncologist (Hugh Grant) with a 12-year-od son in a private school. The school has a handful of "scholarship" students and Kidman is on a committee with the mother of one of these kids. Then she gets killed.

Kidman's character seems weird. The mother seems even weirder. As the story unfolds, Grant turns out to be a prime suspect in the killing of the mother. It's then revealed that Kidman's father (Donald Sutherland) has always hated Grant and campaigns to get Kidman to take the boy and bail, leaving Grant to fend for himself.

Instead she sticks by Grant and Sutherland ends up having to pay millions in bail money. But while the police pursue Grant as the main suspect, others also seem to have motives to have killed the woman. Many secrets are revealed during the court hearings. The ending, however, is very weak.

Co-stars include Noah Jupe as the son, Lily Rabe as Kidman's best friend, Edgar Ramirez as the nasty detective, Douglas Hodge as the public defender, Rosemary Harris as Grant's mother, Matilda De Angelis as the dead mother, and Noma Dumezweni as the lawyer (especially excellent).
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Kay Francis and Lilyan Tashman
20 November 2020
This one remains a favorite pre-Code with Kay Francis and Lilyan Tashman playing a couple of party girls who work with Alan Dinehart to bilk the out-of-town rubes who come to New York City for a good time. Lots of zippy one-liners as the "girls" parade around in plunging gowns and dripping with jewels. After they ditch the boys from Des Moines (George Barbier, Robert McWade) they go on a yachting party and get involved with Joel McCrea and Eugene Pallette from Lansing. While Kay falls for McCrea, Lilyan tangles with Eugene and his wife (Lucile Gleason) to wrest some needed jewelry from cheapo Eugene. Great fun. The film takes a dramatic turn toward the end when Kay's discarded husband (Anderson Lawler) shows up on the mooch. Louise Beavers has a funny role as the girls' maid and Frances Bavier appears as one of the party girls.

Not to be missed!
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Sweedie Makes a Splash
16 November 2020
Superstar Wallace Beery had his first big film success in a series of 30 or more short comedies as Sweedie the Maid. The kicker was that Beery played the character in semi drag, making Sweedie an ungainly comic figure without a hint of femininity.

In SWEEDIE LEARNS TO SWIM, she gets the itch to swim when she runs into a gaggle of girls in swim suits. She find's Martin Delaney's book on learning to swim on dry land and tries it out some moves in a beach with her pal (Ben Turpin).

Later, back at the house where she works as a cook, Sweedie rigs up a contraption so she can practice swimming strokes and dives in the family bathtub. But of course the bathroom floods and crashes down onto a card party. This leads to a comic chase and Sweedie pays for her thoughtlessness.

Very few of the Sweedie films seem to have survived. Luckily, SWEEDIE LEARNS TO SWIM survives intact. It's also a marvelous time capsule of of Lake Michigan's beaches.

Wallace Beery of course would establish himself as a star actor, alternating between comic roles, villainous roles, and his trademark lumbering oaf that endeared him to moviegoers for decades.
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Three Remarkable Actresses
13 November 2020
BLUES FOR WILLADEAN offers three remarkable performances in a story about an abusive husband and three women who live in a trailer park in Texas. Written and directed by Del Shores and based on his play, the plot is a mix of drama and his patented Southern comedy.

Beth Grant plays Willadean, a simple, bible-toting woman who is married to a drunken bully. He's never forgiven her for getting pregnant in high school and costing him a chance at professional football. In his mind, it was all for nothing, since his son is gay and their daughter was killed in a car crash, and now he's stuck with her. Her neighbor, LaSonia (Octavia Spencer) is a commonsense woman who tries to broach the subject of domestic violence, but Willadean will not listen. She forever regrets that she could not save her sister from domestic violence. Rayleen (Dale Dickey) is pure white trash and works as a cocktail waitress at the local bar Willadean's husband goes to. She's also sleeping with him.

The three women share stories of their lives and hopes, but of course they are all trapped in their failed lives ... and in the trailer park. The three actresses are just plain amazing. Great performances. David Steen, also very good, plays the thankless role of the bully.

The only thing I didn't like was the "blues singer" who shows up to punctuate the dramatic moments with a song. Maybe this is a remnant from the stage play but it doesn't work on film and her lip sync wasn't very good.
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Renovation Inc. (2016– )
12 November 2020
Same old thing. Phony drama and hammy actors mugging for the camera. Baldy and Blondie ... Same old formula.
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Starring June Allyson
6 November 2020
Sort of a remake of the 1939 classic, THE WOMEN. It's more of an update with music. No matter. It stands on its own.

June Allyson stars as Kay Hilliard, a happily married woman with a trove of female friends. There's her unmarried writer friend Amanda (Ann Sheridan) and catty Sylvia (Dolores Gray), and the always-pregnant Edith (Joan Blondell). When Sylvia gets wind that Kay's husband is having a fling with a showgirl Crystal (Joan Collins), she can't wait to stir things up.

When Kay goes to Reno for a divorce she meets the oft-married Countess (Agnes Moorehead) and cabaret star Gloria (Ann Miller). When it turns out that Gloria has stolen Sylvia's husband, all hell breaks loose among the women.

Eventually Kay starts to fight back when she learns that Crystal marries her husband and starts an affair with another man.

The stars are all in fine form and Allyson gets to sing a few numbers like "Young Man with a Horn" and "Now, Baby, Now." On the down side is a horrible stage show about bananas, a terrible bit by Dick Shawn, and the nightclub opening featuring Buck Winston (Jeff Richards).

This version has men in it. There's also Leslie Nielsen, Bill Goodwin, Jim Backus, Harry James, Sam Levene, and Jonathan Hole. Co-stars include Alice Pearce as Olga, Charlotte Greenwood as Lucy, Barbara Jo Allen as Dolly the gossip columnist, and Carolyn Jones and Barrie Chase as dancers.

High points are Allyson's musical numbers, the catfight between Miller and Gray, and Allyson's slap across Collins' face that sends her earrings flying.

Gray sings the title song over the opening credits.
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Anybody's Nightmare (2001 TV Movie)
The Law Is a Ass ... a Idiot
4 November 2020
Patricia Routledge stars in this drama based on the real-life conviction and jailing of Sheila Bowler. Bowler was imprisoned for 4 years for the murder of her husband's aunt despite there not being a shard of evidence against her. She was finally able to overturn (quash) her conviction thanks to her children and a scrappy neighbor.

Harrowing story has Bowler taking the old lady out of the nursing home and driving her back to Rye for a visit. Along the way, she gets a flat tire and leaves the old lady in the car while she goes for help. When she gets back, the old lady is gone.

When she's found in the river a few days later. the local cops build a case against Bowler since the old lady was supposedly an invalid and could not have wandered off. Despite having no hard evidence of any kind, Bowler is eventually convicted by circumstantial evidence and supposition. She also seems to have had a totally inept legal defense.

Her children are totally ignorant of the legal system and only start to fight back when a neighbor pitches in and badgers the kids and the lawyers into seeking appeals.

Eventually they discover just how inept the legal defense was and start chipping away. The British legal system, however, fights them every inch of the way.

Routledge is superb as Bowler, the middle class music teacher who endures the harsh prison life for 4 years. Also notable is Nicola Redmond as Angela Devlin, on whose book this film is based.
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Split Personalities
1 November 2020
There's an important message in this play, and the performers are all in top form, but there seem to be two plays taking place. The main play is , as the title suggests, about the lives of four young men growing up and the influences of their church on their lives. The second play, which seems to act as both comic relief and something to fill time while costumes changes occur, features two barflies commenting on their lives.

The four boys encompass the range of gay lives. Mark (Emerson Collins) is the defiant one who sees the hypocrisy in bible teachings; Benny (William Belli) embraces his queerness to become a drag queen, Andrew (Matthew Scott Montgomery) becomes a victim of his own personal demons, and TJ (Luke Stratte-McClure) denies his gayness and lives a forced hetero life. These stories are quite moving.

The barflies are an aging queen (Leslie Jordan) and an aging woman (Dale Dickey) who tell their stories and compare their lives while quietly getting drunk, night after night. There's a quiet desperation underlining their stories and only alcohol can brig relief.

Jordan and Dickey are just plain great, perched on their bar stools and trading gossip and quips while they hoist glass after glass. They could center a play all by themselves. Montgomery becomes the dramatic center of the sissies.

The cast also includes Newell Alexander as the clueless preacher, Rosemary Alexander as Andrew's frantic mother, Ann Walker as Benny's grandmother, Bobbi Eakes as Mark's bible thumping mother, and Joe Patrick Ward as the pianist at the bar.

Many of these actors appear in other works by Del Shores and people his sordid universe of eccentrics and zealots.
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The Fireball (1950)
Mickey Rooney Is Terrific
30 October 2020
This is a terrific ultra low-budget film that hits its marks and offers a few surprises. Mickey Rooney stars as an orphanage kid no one wanted. He's past school age (Rooney's 30ish here) but the priest who runs the joint (Pat O'Brien) can't get him motivated to learn a skill. After a big fight, Rooney runs away ... much to O'Brien's delight. Now he'll have to learn a skill. Faced with harsh reality he steals a pair of roller skates and tries to hawk them and eventually lands a job as a dishwasher in a dive. But those skates. He goes to the local rink for lessons and his world changes. He finally finds a passion and becomes a roller derby star until tragedy hits and he learns a thing or two about fame, humility, and life. Fascinating film with Rooney doing much of his own skating. Beverly Tyler is the girl, Ralph Dumke is the dive owner, Milburn Stone is the rink owner. And Marilyn Monroe shows up and gets a few lines as a fan. She even gets a couple scenes with Rooney. I remember roller derby from 1950s TV. It made no sense to me then or now.
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The Colgate Comedy Hour: Anything Goes (1954)
Season 4, Episode 22
Three Great Stars
22 October 2020
Ethel Merman had starred in ANYTHING GOES on Broadway back in 1934 and the film version with Bing Crosby in 1936. The indestructible star had recently starred in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN and was hot in films again with CALL ME MADAM and THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS.

Frank Sinatra had just finished a little number called FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, and a few months after this show aired would win his Oscar for that great film. Bert Lahr was winding down his legendary career and even though he was only 59 here, he looked a decade older.

Highlights of this live TV show are Sinatra's "All Through the Night" and Merman's "Blow, Gabriel, Blow." Both of these songs were cut from the 1936 film version. And yes that's Sheree North as the blonde flapper.

In 1956 another film ANYTHING GOES would be released with almost all the original songs but they totally scuttled the plot and characters.

So in many ways this 1954 TV show was the last real version of Cole Porter's great show to be filmed. Sinatra and Lahr blow a few lines here and there, but Merman is unstoppable. And to think she still had GYPSY ahead of her!
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The Glorias (2020)
Lousy Director and Kill the Puppets
4 October 2020
Plods along for 140 minutes in its telling of the life and times of Gloria Steinem. Her life has to have been more interesting than this windbag story into which director Julie Taymor injects her damned puppets in a Wizard of Oz riff. Title derives from having four actresses play Steinem at various ages. In small roles, Bette Midler is zesty as Bella Abzug as is Lorraine Toussaint as Flo Kennedy. But all four of the Steinems are pretty dull. The two adult versions are played by Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore. Stealing the film, ironically, is Timothy Hutton as Leo Steinem, Gloria's unorthodox father.

For those interested in Steinem, they'd be better off watching the recent TV miniseries Mrs. America.
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Kenneth Nelson Is Superb
2 October 2020
This is the film version based on the 1968 Off-Broadway play and with that production's original cast of actors. And they are excellent.

The plot revolves around a birthday party among a small group of gay friends and the uninvited guest who may or may not be gay.

Kenneth Nelson stars as Michael, a 40-ish gay man who is probably a lapsed Catholic and feels a sense of guilt for being gay, based on his religious upbringing. He apparently lives well but is much in debt.

Among the guests are Donald (Frederick Combs) a friend who's seeing a "shrink," Larry (Keith Prentice) who's in a relationship with Hank (Laurence Luckinbill) but who is not faithful to Hank who is divorcing from his wife. There's also Emory (Cliff Gorman) a flaming queen, and Bernard (Reuben Greene) a quiet Black man.

The birthday boy is Harold (Leonard Frey), a acerbic aging gay with bad skin and an imperious manner. His birthday gift is a gay hustler (Robert La Tourneaux) who dresses as a cowboy and who's not very bright.

The men drink heavily as they trade insults amid gossip and music and witty barbs. Into this mix comes Michael's old college roommate Alan (Peter White) who desperately wants to see Michael. But he's shocked by what he sees and is apparently unaware that Michael is gay.

The party quickly devolves into a series of arguments and even an act of violence. Very drunk, Michael insists they play a telephone game where each man has to call the person he truly loves and tell them so. Secrets are exposed.

Kenneth Nelson is superb as the bitter Michael, a many who's probably never found real love and is adrift in his life. Equally superb are Leonard Frey as Harold and Cliff Gorman as Emory. These are towering film performances. Every else is quite good.

Kenneth Nelson was basically known as a musical theater star. Indeed he played "the boy" in the original production of "The Fantasticks" along with Rita Gardner as "the girl" and Jerry Orbach as El Gallo. Ironically, he won a Golden Globe nomination for this film as "best newcomer."

This film is a time capsule of what it was like to be gay long before gay rights and even predates Stonewall and the AIDS epidemic. It's a trenchant look at a period of time. And this is a superb production and much better than the flimsy 2020 film remake.
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Like a Cool Ocean Breeze on a Hot Summer Night
29 September 2020
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.
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