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Aquarius (2015–2016)
5/10
A Michael Moore "docu-comedy" hidden inside an Oliver Stone movie all wrapped up in an X-files wannabe.
10 June 2015
I found Aquarius watchable, but not absorbing, not commanding my attention enough to easily follow the story. The 60's are reasonably well simulated but with an occasional anachronistic phrase spoiling the effect. Acting is fine. I like David Duchovny and if it starred someone I didn't know, I wouldn't have been able to keep watching past two episodes. But the writing distracts us with too many subplots about other "'60s issues," clouding the main story aimlessly. It seems like they're trying to imply a bigger conspiracy behind what was already a horrible conspiracy. In true Hollywood fashion, trying to connect Manson via a fictional character to Nixon and any Republicans, even Reagan. A Michael Moore "docu-comedy" hidden inside an Oliver Stone movie all wrapped up in an X-files wannabe.
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Dinah! (1974– )
9/10
Best of the 1970's Variety Talk Shows
25 January 2015
Dinah! was an afternoon variety talk show similar to Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas, in the same era, and in my opinion the best of those--my mother used to watch it and I saw many episodes in the summers when school was out. Dinah Shore was a famous singer in the 1950s-1960s, and often sang on the show.

Guests included every star of screen, records, and TV you can think of, from Bob Hope, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Burt Reynolds to Michael Jackson, Debbie Reynolds and Vincent Price.

I sure wish Dinah! was available on DVD! Orson Welles, Sammy Davis Jr., Henry Fonda, Shirley MacLaine, Olivia Newton-John, Raquel Welch, Helen Reddy, Frankie Valli -- Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1976! -- George C. Scott, Sean Connery, Victor Borge, Jeff Bridges -- hundreds more stars, see the IMDb cast list for yourself!
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10/10
Best Comedy In Years
2 July 2014
SPOILERS Dinner for Schmucks is one of the best comedies I've seen in recent years, possibly since Austin Powers. It's funny without getting as crude and disgusting as other recent funny comedies like Borat, Team America, Harold & Kumar, and Super Bad. The characters are likable with their funny flaws, and Steve Carell performs his role better than anything I've seen from Adam Sandler, Will Farrell or any of the other current lead comics. Carell plays a not so bright, nerdy amateur taxidermist who makes dioramas featuring stuffed mice. But you like him because he's very talented at his hobby. Paul Rudd befriends him with an ulterior motive, to invite him to the title dinner to impress his boss - but humiliating him in the process. But even before the dinner, Carell, trying to helpful, creates a series of misunderstandings that mess up Rudd's relationships. This makes up the bulk of the movie and is very funny, if typical comedic misunderstandings, well staged with good comic timing. SPOILER: But the dinner finally comes and that's the outstanding part, as we see the schmucks invited really are better people than the snobs who invited them, just ordinary people with some extraordinary talents -- but intensely funny. This is one to watch over again every couple years.
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10/10
America's first serious look into outer space.
23 July 2012
Destination Moon was the first major Technicolor motion picture dealing with a trip to the moon, and the first serious, big budget science fiction film produced in the United States. Robert A. Heinlein (author of Starship Troopers, The Puppet Masters, Stranger in A Strange Land, and Space Cadet) co-wrote the screenplay very loosely from his 1947 novel Rocketship Galileo, although about all that remains unchanged in the film is the name Dr. Cargraves. In the book there is a veiled threat from unknown enemies that turn out to be Nazis (this was the first thing Heinlein wrote after the war) - in the film there's just a veiled reference to a communist threat. I suspect the film also draws from Heinlein's more sophisticated treatment from the same period, The Man Who Sold The Moon. The film's suspenseful and scientifically accurate plot depicts man's first voyage to and landing on the Moon, and the dangers of outer space travel. A Woody Woodpecker cartoon is included to demonstrate the principles of rocketry.

George Pal's first science fiction film (earlier he had done Puppetoons and The Great Rupert), Destination Moon earned an Academy Award for Special Effects. Later Mr. Pal would produce more science fiction classics including When World's Collide, War Of The Worlds, and The Time Machine. Photographed in Technicolor with an original musical score by Leith Stevens and stunning artwork by Chesley Bonestell, Destination Moon is a milestone in special effects and a classic in the science fiction genre.

It is said that this film was shown to President Eisenhower to persuade him to support the pre-NASA space programs. On 6 October 1988, after Robert Heinlein's death, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) awarded him the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal: "In recognition of his meritorious service to the Nation and mankind in advocating and promoting the exploration of space. Through dozens of superbly written novels and essays and his epoch-making movie Destination Moon, he helped inspire the Nation to take its first step into space and onto the Moon. Even after his death, his books live on as testimony to a man of purpose and vision, a man dedicated to encouraging others to dream, explore and achieve." -- James C. Fletcher, Administrator, NASA
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10/10
Profound Fmily Drama
2 July 2012
I've seen well over 4,000 movies (3,245 since I started keeping a list, and at least 100 a year before that), and of them all, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn stands out in my memory as the single most effective in terms of the performances of the actors affecting the viewer.

It's a simple story about a poor family, a timeless story that will ring true to millions of families around the world, similar in type to movies like I Remember Mama, The Human Comedy, and Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, but more serious, and in my opinion even more insightful than those fine films. And it's certainly one of the top five tear-jerkers of all time, up there with films like All Mine to Give, On Borrowed Time, Old Yeller, and Bridge to Terabithia. But it's pleasant to watch, even joyful at times, even if you anticipate the sad part.

Every actor in the film rose to the occasion, bringing the character's of Betty Smith's novel to life with fidelity and veracity, depth and breadth, in several cases giving the best performance of a lifetime. That's certainly the truth in the cases of Peggy Ann Garner as young Francie and James Dunn as her lovable, lovable, and lovable - and alcoholic - lovable father Johnny Nolan, both recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Oscars for their roles in this movie, for best juvenile performer, and best supporting actor, respectively. But also I think Dorothy McGuire as Francie's mother Katie, Joan Blondell as Aunt Sissy, and Lloyd Nolan as Officer McShane each gave their finest performances ever here. (Funny little coincidence of names: Nolan played Mike Shane in several movies, here he plays McShane in a movie full of Nolans.) There's not much point in detailing the plot here; you should certainly see it for yourself, and it's a shame it's not on DVD yet, as of this writing. Suffice it to say one parent is an irresponsible dreamer, the other a hard provider, both giving love in different ways, and young Francie must learn to retain the best from each. If you've read the book by Betty Smith, this film is very faithful except they left out one incident that would have been considered inappropriate in a film in the 1940s, when young Francie was approached by a molester. The film works perfectly without that.

Another favorite character actor has a small role: James Gleason (Here Comes Mr. Jordan, The Bishop's Wife, Suddenly), as one of Johnny's friends.
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8/10
Loose adaptation of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
18 May 2011
I saw The Here Between at it's premiere in Denver. The director told us it was loosely based on An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce.

It's about a lynch mob preparing to hang a young black woman from a train bridge.

Jada Roberts' performance as the woman is one of the film's strongest points. Another is a "dream" sequence that is more vivid than the "real" parts of the film, adding impact to the conclusion.

The film had a sombre effect on me and, as far as I could detect, the rest of the audience.

The Here Between was mostly filmed in McGraw Park, in Bailey, Colorado, taking advantage of authentic period buildings and other structures along the river, for an historically accurate backdrop.
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Comedy Break (1985–1986)
9/10
First Kevin Pollack impression of William Shatner
6 April 2008
This was a syndicated series that came on at 10pm after the news on the independent station, KWGN (2) in Denver in the mid 1980s.

The two hosts would do a standup bit at the start, like Jack Benny at the start of his old show, then this would be followed by a number of skits. Mainly what I recall is that it was the first time I saw Kevin Pollack's impression of William Shatner. I don't recall any famous guest stars.

The other comedy was usually funny enough to make me laugh, but that was the only thing that stood out enough to recall 20 years later. Still, if it came out on DVD I'd buy it, because it's so hard to find comedy you can be sure will make you laugh, and this was at least that, a sure laugh.
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Miracle Dogs (2003 TV Movie)
8/10
Great idea, great acting, could have been great film
10 August 2007
This film has a great idea and some terrific actors like Kate Jackson, Wayne Rogers, Rue McClanahan, Stacey Keach, and newcomer Josh Hutcherson (who has since starred in Little Manhattan, Bridge To Terabithia, and several others). The idea is about a boy who has to give away some puppies, and in the meantime when the puppies (or their mother) visit hospital patients, the patients miraculously get better. The reason I only give it 8 stars is that the film doesn't stay focused on that idea and follow individual stories for each puppy & patient, but gets sidetracked with other characters like a doctor (Wayne Rogers) who has little to do with the main story, a janitor (Stacy Keach), and a dog catcher. These characters and their stories are fine in their own rite & well acted, but they take time away from the main theme which could have been developed more and made this a great 10-star film.
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The Kid & I (2005)
9/10
Funny, heartfelt, appropriate family movie.
3 December 2005
I saw 3 new movies this weekend (12/3/05), and of them all The Kid And I was the best. This one is from the heart, and the only recent movie you could say that about. It's based on the true experience of Tom Arnold (who appeared with Arnold Schwarzenneger and Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies) with a young neighbor, Eric Gores, who has cerebral palsy. In the fictionalized movie, Arnold plays out-of-work actor Bill Williams (who also appeared in True Lies), about to commit suicide when his agent (Henry Winkler) tells him millionaire Joe Montegna (Searching For Bobby Fisher) offered half a million dollars to make a movie co-starring his son (Gores), who, like the actor playing him, has cerebral palsy.

You could tell the film was made with a relatively low budget (occasionally imperfect lighting, for instance), and Arnold's script has a few corny clichés, but on the whole it's original, imaginative, somewhat poignant, and as funny as most comedies out this year. What's more, the film is both entertaining for adults and appropriate for the whole family, with a minimum of the crude humor that permeates most of the other funny movies I've seen this year.

As an added bonus there are a number of cameo appearances by big stars. If you liked Arnold in The Stupids, this one doesn't have quite as much silly humor, but on balance is just as good. Heartily recommended for the whole family.
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6/10
Kids In Hollywood
30 October 2005
It's an interesting and entertaining film about high school kids rebelling against their principal. But unfortunately all their causes are filtered through the liberal Hollywood writer's viewpoint without much respect for any alternative views. The kids gripe about the hypocrisy of authority without ever addressing their own. A mass same sex kissing scene involving dozens of teens will offend many - maybe most - viewers. The film might have been very effective without that, but as it is, it turns away anyone who doesn't agree with the agenda without a chance to win them over. In spite of good acting by Gregory Smith and others, the comedy and other good qualities of the film don't overcome that. At least, if you're not homophobic or offended by condoms, you can enjoy it as a light comedy.
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Sunset Blvd. (1950)
9/10
Classic character drama.
24 September 2005
Sunset Boulevard is a real classic I first learned about from parodies on The Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s. I didn't see the film until some 20 years later, when I found it fascinating. William Holden (Rachel And The Sranger, The Earthling) plays Joe Gillis, a bankrupt B-movie writer who drives his car into the garage of an apparently abandoned mansion on Sunset Boulevard to dodge the repo men. But the dilapidated place is occupied by two fascinating but weird characters, former silent screen star Norma Desmond (Goria Swanson) and her butler, balding, German-accented Max (Erich von Stroheim). Norma hires Joe to ghost-write a screenplay for her come-back, but he soon finds he's as much a kept-man as a writer, enabling more than one of the has-been starlet's delusions. The characters of both Norma and Max are fascinating enough to keep the movie going, and their relationship turns out to be more than it seems. The cast includes a very young Jack Webb, actually speaking like a human being, and appearances by Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper, and Cecil B. DeMille as themselves. Carol Burnett made great fun of the role with Harvey Korman in the Max role 2 decades later, but the movie (directed and co-written by Billy Wilder) remains a grand drama, character study, and serious comment on the Hollywood star system.
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9/10
Abbott & Costello Meet An MGM Musical with Jimmy Dorsey
24 September 2005
Lost In A Harem is one of the best Abbott & Costello films for 3 reasons: One, unlike most of their films in the 1940s which were produced at Universal Studios (and available on DVD in a Universal set), this one was done at MGM with that studios usual higher production standards, including a few spectacular musical numbers. Two, it is one of only about a dozen filmed appearances of big band great Jimmmy Dorsey, who performs, with his band, a number called John Silver ("15 men on a dead man's chest") which I haven't found elsewhere, and a few other songs. Three, the "Pokomoko" routine ("Slowwwwly I turned, step by step I crept upon him . . .") is done to perfection by A&C with Murray Leonard as the Derelict, which I've always remembered as one of my favorite A&C routines since I was ten years old. Furthermore, there's a real live giant (Lock Martin), full costumes and exotic sets as you would expect from MGM, a magic skit by A&C, hypnotism, a fine performance from Douglas Dumbrille as the bad guy, and more good music. I would rate it below Abott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, In The Navy, In Society, The Naughty Nineties, and perhaps 3 or 4 others, but definitely in their top ten or twelve. But since it's not in the Universal set, it's not available on DVD anywhere.
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5/10
Awesome trivia value; lotsa stars
16 August 2005
The Poppy Is Also A Flower is an odd movie of great interest to film and trivia buffs primarily for having the coolest, if not largest, international all-star cast, including Yul Brynner, Omar Sharif, Trevor Howard, Gilbert Roland, Angie Dickinson, Rita Hayworth, E.G. Marshall, Stephen Boyd, Anthony Quayle, Marcello Mastroianni, Eli Wallach, Trini Lopez, and Grace Kelly, just to name those I can recall. The film concerns UN investigators tracing irradiated drugs from the poppy fields in Iran through the entire process of smuggling, refining, and sale. E.G. Marshall and Trevor Howard are the main protagonists on the trail of the drugs, which leads through the Mediterranean to Italy and Monte Carlo. Gilbert Roland is interestingly cast as a Mafia boss. Unfortunately the film isn't very effective, almost dull, in spite of super stars in exotic locations, in the first half, until one of the protagonists is caught by the bad guys. Sometimes it seems as if the dialog is dubbed or the soundtrack misaligned, or the acting just a bit stilted, though some is very good, especially Anthony Quayle as a cockney sea captain - he sounds like Cary Grant and looks like Victor McLaglen. The film has a few sights you wouldn't expect to find in any movie: E.G. Marshall hiding under Angie Dickinson's bed; Gilbert Roland watching Trini Lopez sing La Bomba; and Rita Hayworth playing a drug addict. So I'd recommend it if you're interested in the trivia aspects, but not for escapist entertainment.
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Saint Ralph (2004)
10/10
Athletic determination of a spirited boy against a backdrop of pathos.
6 August 2005
Clearly the best movie out this month (July/August 2005 - I've seen most of them). The easiest way to tell you about it is to compare it to similar movies, and the first that came to mind were Lucas (Corey Haim) and Rudy (Sean Astin). What Saint Ralph shares in common with these films is the extreme athletic determination, against all odds, of a spirited boy from a pathetic background. And it's the best of it's kind since Rudy (1993), at least, and in my opinion since Lucas (1986).

Ralph (Adam Butcher) is a naughty but naive 14-year-old boy, ready to take almost everything literally, now faced with the paradox of faith. His widowed mother is apparently dying in the hospital, and falls into a coma early in the story. A doctor says it will take a miracle to wake her.

Ralph is an interesting character, his even blend of pure and impure motives providing both the humor that make the film entertaining, and the realism that make it believable. His self-abuse in every sense defines the term, from the usual meaning to literally sanding his knees to pray in a pan of alcohol, the latter recommended by his girlfriend, who aspires to be a nun.

When his Catholic school's cross country coach says it would be a miracle if anyone on his team won the Boston Marathon, Ralph's literal mind seizes a fallacious opportunity. If he wins the Boston Marathon, it would be a miracle, and that's what his mother needs to survive. Most of the movie is about his training to run that race, both physical and spiritual, with the help of a priest (Campbell Scott), a nurse (Jennifer Tilly), and his girlfriend (Tamara Hope).

The blend of comedy and pathos is effective, the film kept entertaining by the comedy in the foreground, while the fact that Ralph's mother is dying keeps us interested in the outcome and rooting for the boy. Even if you don't like running or sports in general, the life at stake, or at least the boy's faith at stake, makes this race important.

There may be a bit too much sexual comedy for most parents to let small children see. For instance, after Ralph's caught in a venal sin in the swimming pool, that involved spying on the girl's locker room, he tells his mother "It was really an accident. The manufacture of the pool was faulty." The incident becomes a running joke, demonstrating Ralph's character trait of not caring what other people think. He later says they didn't really need to drain the pool (I'm not going to explain that, you've got to see it, but it was funny). But it's not as crude as other current comedies like The Wedding Crashers and The Bad News Bears.

I recommend Saint Ralph specifically to anyone who liked Lucas or Rudy, and generally to anyone old enough to take the humor maturely.
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Live action show, Not a cartoon
16 May 2005
'Fraid the other comment has it all wrong. This was not a cartoon, but a live action Saturday morning program. "Spencery, Tracy, and Kong" were the original Ghost Busters, and they were played by real live TV stars Forrest Tucker (Keeper of the Flame) and Larry Storch (Koko the Clown), and famous sci-fi movie buff Bob Burns (as the Gorilla, Tracy - Forrest Tucker was Kong). Tucker and Storch had appeared together before in F-Troop. It was pretty silly, but for 8-10 year olds relatively entertaining. For a live action kids show in the 1970s it was pretty dang good - consider what else we had then: Sigmund and The Sea Monsters, and a bunch of psychedelic Kroft fantasies.
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10/10
Most serious, intriguing Tracy / Hepburn film.
16 May 2005
One of my favorite Spencer Tracy movies, Keeper of the Flame is probably the most serious of all the films teaming Tracy with Katherine Hepburn, perhaps the only one that might fit the "noir" class. Mystery surrounds the death of national hero Robert Forrest. Reporter Steve O'Malley (Tracy) wants to do a biography of the late statesman, but the closer he tries to get to the family on their huge estate (sort of a Gothic version of the Kennedy Compound), the more it seems Forrest's widow (Hepburn) and secretary are trying to hide something. Tracy begins to suspect their foul involvement in the hero's supposed accidental death. In addition to the great Tracy and Hepburn and an intriguing story, there are fine performances from the supporting cast which includes a young Forrest Tucker (Spencer, Tracy, and Kong), Darryl Hickman (Fighting Father Dunn), Howard da Silva (1776), Percy Kilbride (Pa Kettle), and others.
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8/10
Pleasant nostalgia, no modern sophomoric gags
24 April 2005
This pleasant comedy may seem a bit on the dull side to modern audiences conditioned by R-rated gross-out fests (at least it's in color, for those so spoiled they lack the ability to get into a black and white story), but a nice nostalgia trip for those longing for the "simpler, more innocent" times of the mid-twentieth century. (I'm not an old fuddy-duddy chronologically, just in spirit.) Stewart is your average Dad, taking above average Mom (Maureen O'Hara) and family to spend the summer in a rustic Victorian house at the beach. They encounter the usual problems with antiquated plumbing and teenage romance, with a few interesting plot developments. If you know character actor Johm McGiver, he has one of his funniest roles as a bird-watching executive. Definitely recommended for Stewart fans or those interested in '50 & '60s nostalgia; but not for those who can only laugh at the stuff in Austin Powers or Team America (I like all these movies, incidentally).
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9/10
Early example of all-star suspense/disaster.
17 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Five Came Back is probably the first major example of a suspense disaster film about a plane crash with an all-star cast, filmed 30 years before Airport, and still gripping. It also features one of Lucille Ball's first major roles, and is one of the few movies you can find starring Chester Morris, who was a popular star in those days (he played Boston Blackie in a series of B-movies in the '40s). Morris and Kent Taylor are pilots of an airliner flying assorted passengers to South America. Included on board are an anarchist (Joseph Calleia) being extradited by a mercenary (John Carradine); a wealthy society playboy (Patrick Knowles) and his secret fiancée (Wendy Barrie); a retiring botanist (C. Aubrey Smith) and his wife (Elizabeth Risdon); a small boy in the care of a gangster (Allen Jenkins); and of course Lucille Ball in a serious role. In a violent storm the plane is forced to crash-land in the Amazon jungle, and they all ten survive the landing, but as the title hints, a suspenseful situation arises as they attempt to repair the plane.
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Student Tour (1934)
7/10
Charles Butterworth vehicle w/ Betty Grable
3 April 2005
This was one of Charles Butterworth's few leading roles. Though Jimmy Durante was top-billed, I believe, from watching it recently, Butterworth was on screen more in a more pivotal role. He was amusing to watch due to his mild manner and voice, which reminded me of Wilfred Hyde-White. The plot concerns a college rowing team on an ocean voyage. Butterworth is a professor sent to chaperone. Durante is their coach. The film is of interest because Betty Grable has an early appearance. I give it 7 stars in consideration of it's age, compared to, say, a 9-star W.C. Fields comedy or Astaire-Rogers musical. It's rare to find anything with Butterworth nowadays.
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7/10
An actual whodunnit, unlike most "mysteries"
11 November 2003
I've seen hundreds of old mysteries, and most turn out to be silly detective yarns where you know who the killer is from the start. This is a well-written exception where the clues gradually lead to the revelation of the killer at the end. Any of a variety of characters in a hospital could be the killer. The script balances suspense, drama, and humor to lead through some interesting plot twists to the inevitable conclusion. This film was a Crime Club selection. Bruce Cabot is probably best known as Driscoll in King Kong. Coincidentally Frank Reicher had a role in that too.
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10/10
One of my favorites.
13 July 2000
That's The Spirit is my favorite movie from that category of fantasy films that involve spirits or angels visiting the Earth to influence mortals, films like The Bishop's Wife, A Guy Named Joe, Beyond Tomorrow, and Here Comes Mr. Jordan. This one begins circa 1900 A.D. Gene Lockhart (A Christmas Carol, Miracle On 34th Street) is perfect as Jasper Cawthorne, an austere patriarch who forbids his daughter Libby (June Vincent) to see a show that includes such base vices as music and laughter. Libby sneaks out to see the show and falls in love at first sight with one of the performers, Steve Gogarty (Jack Oakie, in one of his best roles). Andy Devine (Island In The Sky) plays Gogarty's partner Martin Wilde. When Cawthorne learns of his daughter's involvement, he takes legal action to shut down the show, but discovering his daughter's presence backstage he insists she and Gogarty get married. Within the year Libby is giving birth to a daughter, Sheila, but the doctor indicates complications are arising during labor. In the waiting room with Cawthorne and Wilde, Gogarty prays that if anything's to happen to her, let it happen to him instead. The angel of death, on her way into the birthing room, hears his prayer, changes course, and leads Gogarty to Heaven. Cawthorne only sees her as a mysterious woman seducing his son-in-law. In Heaven Gogarty protests to a clerk, "L.M.," played by the great film comic Buster Keaton (The General, In The Good Old Summertime), who says he can't even consider sending him back to Earth until he's completed training. This takes 18 years. In the meantime Sheila grows up under Cawthorne's oppression. When Gogarty complains again, L.M. monitors Sheila's environment, agrees that Cawthorne is unfair to her, especially with his opinion of Gogarty, and sends Gogarty back to Earth, invisible to all except his daughter, who's never seen him before. As Gogarty's spirit attempts to guide the people surrounding Sheila to do the right thing, the film is filled with delightful humor and uplifting musical numbers, with a few poignant moments in the plot. The cast is sublime. Dancer Johnny Coy plays Wilde's son and romantic interest for Sheila, in a rare filmed appearance - he only performed on film about a dozen times. Arthur Treacher and Irene Ryan (who went on to play Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies) are splendid as the butler, Masters, and maid, Bilson. Trivia: The plot is similar to Rodger's & Hammerstein's Carousel, in which Gene Lockhart also had a role 11 years later.
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