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Liliom (1930)
8/10
The Man Who Came Back
14 July 2019
LILIOM (Fox Films, 1930), directed by Frank Borzage, stars Charles Farrell in the title role taken from a famous play by Fernec Molnar. With some silent screen adaptations based on this material, including A TRIP TO PARADISE (Metro, 1921) starring Bert Lytell, LILIOM became its first sound edition. Popularized years later as the Broadway musical, CAROUSEL, later adapted as a motion picture, this early screen edition offers romance and sentiment in the Frank Borzage tradition, is often hailed as a motion picture of great promise weakened by the performance by its leading actor.

Opening title: "This play is the love story of Julie, a serving maid, and Liliom, a merry-go-round barker. Liliom gropes and struggles through life and death, and even beyond death, ever seeking escape from himself, while Julie's love for him endures always." Set in Budapest, Hungary, Julie (Rose Hobart), works as a servant girl accompanied by her friend, Marie (Mildred Van Dorn). As much as Julie turns down dates with a caring young carpenter (Walter Abel), Julie's sole interest Liliom Zadowsky (Charles Farrell), an amusement park merry-go-round barker and ladies man. Although their union on the carousel is innocent, Liliom stirs up jealousy from his domineering employer, Madame Muskat (Estelle Taylor). She soon warns Julie to stay away from Liliom, who enters the scene by doing what he pleases. Losing his job, Liliom goes with Julie to the pub where he drinks away his sorrows. Three months later, Liliom and Julie, now married, struggle through life's hardships. Lilion, still unemployed and having the reputation of being a lazy loafer, turns down offers to return to Madame Muskat in favor of joining forces with Buzzard (Lee Tracy) to commit a robbery and use the stolen money for a better life in America, especially after learning that Julie is going to have a baby. Their plot of robbery fails. With Buzzard captured by the police, Liliom chooses the easy way out by taking his own life. On a train bound for Paradise, the soul of Liliom meets with the Chief Magistrate (H.B. Warner) who offers him a second chance in life to return to Earth. After serving ten years "in the hot place," he is given temporary freedom to visit with his daughter (Dawn O'Day). What Liliom does should determine his fate with destiny. Also in the cast are Lillian Elliott (Aunt Hulda); Bert Roach (Wolf Feiser); and Harvey Clark (The Angel Gabriel). Dawn O'Day would later become professionally known as Anne Shirley following to first leading role as ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (RKO, 1934).

As much as Charles Farrell's popularity rested upon his frequent pairing opposite Janet Gaynor (12 films in all), it's a wonder how successful he would have become acting opposite other young actresses instead. Having already done solo work opposite other leading ladies as Maureen O'Sullivan or Joan Bennett, Farrell is given Rose Hobart, in her movie debut. Farrell's leading role here, sporting dark curly hair and mustache, might have done it for him, but his weak voice was somewhat against him. Playing a similar character as an egotistical young man with a heart of gold in his first role opposite Gaynor in SEVENTH HEAVEN (1927), LILIOM, certainly has the makings of another Gaynor and Farrell romancer. Had Spencer Tracy assumed the role of Liliom instead, chances are the movie would have been a hit since Tracy acting ability seemed to be a better fit than Farrell. It's been critically said that the 1934 French-made adaptation of LILIOM starring Charles Boyer to be far superior, and possibly so. For the role of Julie, Rose Hobart does a commendable job. Her performance as a loyal wife with eternal love for her husband is certainly believable, as opposed to the pretty Mildred Van Dorn, whose weak acting and method of speaking limits the movie's credibility.

For an early 1930 talkie, LILIOM looks somewhat advanced in the European cinema sense, especially with its Heavenly futuristic scenes that make this movie seem more like a 1935 release instead. Aside from dark visuals of "film noir" style and underscoring, the train express leading to the clouds of Heaven with lavish settings is quite impressive. Aside from OUTWARD BOUND (Warners, 1930), the Heavenly theme and spiritual guidance would be done repeatedly a decade later starting with Robert Montgomery in HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (Columbia, 1941), which set the pace for other fantasies of this nature to come.

Unavailable for viewing in decades, LILIOM, has been resurrected through its distribution to DVD as a tribute to Academy Award winning director, Frank Borzage. For those familiar with the movie musical version of CAROUSEL (1956) starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones, may want to take a look at this dramatic form of the same story and compare. (**)
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7/10
Show Boat Antics
14 July 2019
THE NAUGHTY NINETIES (Universal, 1945), directed by Jean Yarbrough, stars the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in their first film in period setting, the 1890s. Somewhat inspired by Edna Ferber's SHOW BOAT, that was later musicalized on Broadway and the basis of two (1929 and 1936) screen adaptations, THE NAUGHTY NINETIES doesn't provide memorable melodies as "Ole Man River" nor its passage of time elements, but mostly sight gags dominating plot and songs to better advantage for Abbott and Costello's world of comedy.

Following the original screenplay by Edmund L. Hartmann, John Grant, Edmund Joseph and Hal Fimbers, the photo-play introduces Captain Sam Jackson (Henry Travers), head of The River Queen Show Boat with entertainment suitable for family and children. Along with his daughter, Caroline (Lois Collier), who sings and acts in its stage productions, Jackson's company includes lead actor, Dexter Broadhurst (Bud Abbott), and his bumbling assistant, Sebastian Dinwiddie (Lou Costello). After the boat docks in St. Louis, Captain Jackson, having encountered Bonita Farrell (Rita Johnson), Crawford (Alan Curtis) and Bailey (Joseph Sawyer), who have recently run out of town by the sheriff (John Hamilton), a trio of card sharks, unknown to him their attempt on acquiring The River Queen and turning it into a gambling casino. While at The Gilded Cage, Captain Jackson loses his River Queen to those crooks, now acting as his new partners. Holding a $15,000 note against the show boat, it is up to Broadhurst and Sebastian to save the River Queen from further ruin. Also in the cast are Joe Kirk (The Croupier); Jack Norton (The Drunk); Sam McDaniel, Edward Gargan, Donald Kerr, among others.

New songs by Edgar Fairchild and Jack Rose include: "The Show Boat is Coming to Town," "My Blushin' Rosie" (by Edgar Smith and John Stromberg); "On a Sunday Afternoon" (sung by Lois Collier); Minstrel Show tap dance; "I Leave My Opium for You," "No Luck Malone," "I Can't Get You Out of My Mind" (sung by Lois Collier); and "Heaven" (performed during the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" segment featuring Lou Costello playing Little Eva). Though set in the 1890s, Lois Collier's rendition and orchestration to "I Can Get You Out of My Mind" definitely belongs to the modern era of 1945.

Of all the Abbott and Costello comedies, THE NAUGHTY NINETIES contains more individual comedy segments than usual. Whether these gags enacted were originated from vaudeville skits or earlier motion pictures featuring other notable comic performers, the try and true routine best associated with Abbott and Costello is their one and only "Who's on First?" performed here in its entirety. Taking place 39 minutes into the story, this seven minute enactment remains fresh and funny. Though the team performed this routine on radio and later television, they used it briefly for their debut film, ONE NIGHT IN THE TROPICS (1940). The segment where Costello's Sebastian auditions by singing "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" and mistaking Abbott's Broadhurst behind him giving orders to his stage crew and not to him, was similar performed by Louise Fazenda and Teddy Hart in READY, WILLING AND ABLE (Warner Brothers, 1937) starring Ruby Keeler. The "life saver" bit was earlier done by Groucho Marx to Thelma Todd in HORSE FEATHERS (Paramount, 1932), while the mirror routine between Costello and Joseph Sawyer is lifted from Groucho and Harpo Marx's classic DUCK SOUP (Paramount, 1933). Let's not overlook the head clunking gag originated from Harold Lloyd's classic, THE KID BROTHER (Paramount, 1927), and the "cat meal" sequence borrowed from The Three Stooges. Amazing how much gag material got squeezed into this 76 minutes.

While not exactly a comedy masterpiece, THE NAUGHTY NINETIES is a delight to fans of the comedy team, particularly their "Who's on First?" Along with frequent commercial television broadcasts from the 1960s to 1980s, THE NAUGHTY NINETIES, formerly distributed on video cassette and cable television's American Movie Classics (2000-2001), is available on DVD as part of Universal's Abbott and Costello classic film collection. (**1/2)
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8/10
Abbott and Costello in College
7 July 2019
HERE COME THE CO-EDS (Universal, 1945), directed by Jean Yarbrough, stars the comedy team of Abbott and Costello in their one and only college musical-comedy. Having appeared in earlier comedies focusing on military themes, westerns, murder mysteries and the Hollywood sound stages, it would be a matter of time before Abbott and Costello would join forces with other comedy teams as The Marx Brothers, The Ritz Brothers or Laurel and Hardy to appear in a college setting movie theme. With its formatted material of comedy antics and musical interludes in the mode of the Marx Brothers at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or some violent gags in the class of The Three Stooges, HERE COME THE CO-EDS provides Abbott and Costello with their familiar routines for this above average comedy with some below average song numbers.

The story opens at the Miramar Ball Room where "Slats" McCarthy (Bud Abbott), a publicity agent for his sister, Molly (Martha O'Driscoll), and friend, Oliver Rackenbush (Lou Costello) are employed. Oliver, a dance escort, through no fault of his own, becomes responsible for the trio losing their jobs following one fiasco after another. Later, Larry Benson (Donald Cook), dean of Bixby College for Girls, who, after reading a magazine article on Molly publicized by Slats, offers her a scholarship to his college. She accepts, having Slats and Oliver accompany her with their new jobs as assistant caretakers under Strangler Johnson (Lon Chaney Jr.). During the course of the story, Oliver becomes involved with co-ed Patty Gayle (Peggy Ryan), while Benson struggles to improve the college with more up-to-date methods as opposed to the old-fashioned thinking by Jonathan Kirkland (Charles Dingle), chairman of the Board of Regents, who also holds a mortage to the college. Kirkland's daughter, Diane (June Vincent), who loves the dean, notices his attention leaning towards Molly. Because Kirkland intends on closing the college, the co-eds, along with Slats and Oliver, hope on raising money needed by holding a basketball tournament between Bixby and Carlton College. However crooked gamblers enter the scene with unfavorable methods of their own.

With music and lyrics by Jack Brooks and Edgar Fairchild, songs include: "Some Day We Will Remember," "The Magic Violin," "Let's Play House" (performed amusingly by Peggy Ryan and Lou Costello); "I Don't Care If I Never Dream Again," "Hooray for Our Side," "Jumping All Saturday Night" (sung and performed by Peggy Ryan and co-eds); and "Hooray for Our Side." With specialty numbers performed by Phil Spitalni's Moment of the Hour and His All Girl Orchestra, with Evelyn Lay Klein and her Magic Violin, these instrumental moments bring class to the film, including Evelyn Klein's talented but slow tempo violin playing bog down the film's fast pacing. Only Peggy Ryan's jive number, "Jumping All Saturday Night," which was often cut from commercial television broadcasts in order to fit in a 90 minute movie into a 90 minute time slot with commercials, lifen things up a bit, though its long stretch of unscored tap dancing would be impossible to appreciate for radio listening audiences in the story.

HERE COME THE CO-EDS gets off to a rousing start of priceless comedy during its first ten minutes. Lou's encounter at the night club with a jealous near-sited husband (Richard Lane); being its highlight. Other routines include Costello's dice swallowing; Abbott and Costello's "Jonah and the Whale" routine that was introduced in their debut film, ONE NIGHT IN THE TROPICS (1940); hiding a girl in their dormitory room from Johnson; Costello's struggle eating oyster stew; Costello's wrestling match with the Masked Marvel; the climatic basketball game between Bixby and the Amazons, and a chase scene with Abbott and Costello on a runaway sailboat on a busy street, among others. The foot in the dough scene is quite extensive in length, without any resolved conclusion. Lon Chaney Jr., taking time away from his horror film ventures, makes a good advisory for Lou Costello. It's interesting that Abbott doesn't take part of the wrestling match scene. Instead, Peggy Ryan's character steps in cheering him on with instructions instead. Because of its over length, the film appears to have been heavily edited, especially where some scenes seem to suddenly fade in the middle or near-ending sequences.

As much as HERE COME THE CO-EDS is overall satisfactory entertainment, only the Spitalni interludes slow down the pacing. HERE COME THE CO-EDS, which was formerly available on video cassette and broadcast American Movie Classics in 2001, can be found on DVD for fans of the comedy team to sit back and enjoy. (***)
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7/10
Will Rogers Spoofs the Movies
6 July 2019
BIG MOMENTS FROM LITTLE PICTURES (Pathe, 1924), a Hal Roach comedy directed by Roy Clemens, stars the legendary Will Rogers in a 20 minute comedy short spoofing the movies decades before comedienne Carole Burnett would do the same in her hour-long variety show in the 1970s. Unlike most short subjects containing a story, comedy and chase scenes, this edition is a parody of silent movies of the day.

BIG MOMENTS FROM LITTLE PICTURES opens with Will Rogers stepping out on stage from behind the curtain where he introduces himself and what movie viewers are about to see as spoken through title cards while doing his fancy rope work at the same time. Rogers talks about popular movies of the day before going through his own performance from some of those films. First comes BLOOD AND SAND (Paramount, 1922), where Rogers steps into Rudolph Valentino's role as Rufus, the famous matador, featuring a bullfight scene with a surprise finish. Moments later, Rogers spoofs swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks as ROBIN HOOD (United Artists, 1922) doing his bow-and-arrow tricks along with jumping about in slow-motion form. Rogers then goes into the melodramatic story of OVER THE HILL (Fox, 1921) where he takes a serious tearjerker to an amusing climax. The last of his brief movie satire concludes with Rogers imitating Ford Sterling and Charles Hall imitating Charlie Chaplin from Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops comedies, featuring the typical chasing scenes that have made the Keystone Kops so popular. Taking part of these projects are Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Earl Mohan and Noah Young.

The organ scored BIG MOMENTS FROM LITTLE PICTURES is possibly the only known Will Rogers film from the silent era to become available on television. It's most notable broadcasts was a sole showing on New York City's WNET, Channel 13, in 1973, and again on that same station as part of its 13-week summer series of "The Silent Years" (1975) hosted by Lillian Gish, following the feature-length Tom Mix western RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (Fox, 1925). Before the conclusion to the 90 minute showing of "The Silent Years," there were also film clips of Rogers doing imitations of two most relatively known movie cowboys of the silent film era, William S. Hart and Tom Mix, before Gish herself closes the show and what's to be presented on the series next week.

Will Rogers did a handful of silent shorts and feature films during the 1920s, but aside from his stage work, notably those under producer Florenz Ziegfeld for his annual "Ziegfeld Follies," Rogers became extremely popular in talkies of the 1930s in many comedy-dramas for Fox Film Studios before his untimely death by 1935. Though BIG MOMENTS FROM LITTLE PICTURES may not stand the test of time either for Rogers or the unfamiliar movie titles he is spoofing for contemporary viewers, taking a look at Rogers himself, even in a silent film, is an interesting aspect to his work, style and legend as a whole. (**)
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Vanity Fair (1932)
6/10
The Unfaithful
23 June 2019
VANITY FAIR (Allied Pictures, 1932), directed by Chester Franklin, is labeled in the opening credits as "a modern dress adaptation to BECKY SHARP by William Thackeray." With classic literature transformed to the screen dating back to the silent film era, VANITY FAIR, being one of them in 1915 and 1923, marks the first sound edition to the classic novel, bringing forth the unlikely candidate of the youthful Myrna Loy (courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) in this "poverty-row" production. Somewhat miscast in some respects, Loy managed to rise above material regardless of her softer appeal to such better suited actresses as British born actress, Heather Angel, for example, who might have made adventuress Becky Sharp a bit acceptable in character portrait.

In a limousine bound for London, Amelia Sedley (Barbara Kent), a rich college girl, accompanied by her best friend and classmate, Becky Sharp (Myrna Loy). Having no family of her own, Becky is invited to spend Christmas with Amelia and her family. After making the acquaintance with her parents, George (Herbert Bunston) and Rita Sedley (Mary Forbes), Becky is introduced to Amelia's brother, Joseph (Billy Bevan), having just arrived from his trip in India. Regardless of his overweight, Becky takes a fancy to him. After inviting Becky to spend the weekend with him in Brighton, Becky "accepts" this as a wedding proposal, thus scaring Joseph off to Scotland, leaving Becky a farewell note through Amelia. With Joseph out of the way, Becky takes an interest in Amelia's fiance, George Osborne (Walter Byron). Seeing them alone together has Mrs. Sedley advising Becky to leave. Accepting a position as governess to the two daughters of Sir Pitt Crawley (Lionel Bellmore), amiddle-aged man whose wife has been deadly ill for ten years. Sir Pitt comes on to Becky, though she shows more interest in Pitt's sophisticated adult son, Rawdon (Conway Tearle) instead. After Pitt's wife dies, he goes quickly to Becky to propose, only to discover she has married his son instead. Angry and bitter, Pitt leaves Rawdon penniless and orders the couple out of his home. On their own, Becky and Rawdon struggle financially, avoiding debt collectors, and cheating at card games to acquire extra money. After Amelia's husband, George, who Becky has been seeing secretly, dies in a fox hunting accident, Amelia begins her new relationship with Dobbins (Anthony Bushnell), her former beau. Having served time in prison, Rawdon returns home to find Becky alone with the Marquis of Steyne (Montagu Love). Learning he's been supporting her financially with expensive jewelry, Rawdon orders Becky out of his life. Living in Paris, Becky meets with one of her former suitors at the gambling casino, only to later see herself the way others have been for years. Others in the cast include Lilyan Irene (Polly), Tom Ricketts (Parker, the Butler), and Elspeth Dudgeon (The Housekeeper).

In spite of its slow packing and visuals that make VANITY FAIR look more like an early 1929 talkie, the film is made interesting through the presence of Myrna Loy. How she got this assignment to appear in an independent production as Becky Sharp remains a mystery. Though Loy starts off by speaking in British accept early in the story, this is soon abandoned for more natural speaking flair. Except for a couple of scenes, VANITY FAIR lacks background scoring. With other classic literature turned motion pictures by minor studios as Monogram's OLIVER TWIST (1933) and JANE EYRE (1934), major studios soon got into the act with Charles Dickens' GREAT EXPECTATIONS (Universal, 1934) and DAVID COPPERFIELD (MGM, 1935) before RKO Radio revamped VANITY FAIR three years later as BECKY SHARP (1935) starring Miriam Hopkins. Aside from resuming the original Thackeray story back to 19th Century England, BECKY SHARP went a step further as being produced in the newly formed three-strip Technicolor. Even with some dull stretches and not being a scene-by-scene remake, BECKY SHARP (1935) definitely was an improvement over VANITY FAIR (1932).

Virtually forgotten and out of television circulation since the 1950s, VANITY FAIR has come out of oblivion through its distribution decades later on both home video and DVD process. Initially clocked at 73 minutes, beware of shorter 67 minute DVD editions using a new opening that reads: Screen Craft Pictures Present "INDECENT: THE PRIVATE LIFE OF BECKY SHARP" starring Myrna Loy. Following this 1932 production, Loy returned to MGM, where she truly belonged. (**)
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Broadway (1929)
8/10
Night Club Murder
17 June 2019
BROADWAY (Universal, 1929), directed by Paul Fejos, is a Carl Laemmle Jr. Super Production, and it shows. Taken from the hit play by George Abbott and Philip Dunning, BROADWAY came at the time when movies were equipped with new sound technology, putting the silent films to rest. Of the many early talkies from 1929, BROADWAY proved to be one of the finer productions produced due to the Hungarian director's futuristic visuals and offbeat camera angles that make this musical/drama appear more modern than some of the other talkies primitive styles. With a handful of "Broadway" titles used for its early musicals, there are those that were backstage themes. BROADWAY is categorized as a "night club" story with production numbers and murder story combined. Headed by unfamiliar marque names to contemporary viewers, Glenn Tryon, playing the hoofer/singer, gets feature billing supported by actresses known for their silent screen performances as Evelyn Brent, on loan from Paramount, and Merna Kennedy, best known as Charlie Chaplin's co-star in his silent comedy classic, THE CIRCUS (United Artists, 1928).

BROADWAY gets its stunning visual opening with a studio set air view of New York City's Broadway district of glittering lights before a huge, half-naked man walks through the streets superimposed under the title cards, pouring a drink into his glass and sprinkling it over Broadway. Next scene resumes its camera tracking through the Broadway district of theaters, movie houses and hotels before settling into the Paradise Night Club managed by Nick Verdis (Paul Porcasi). Roy Lane (Glenn Tryon) and Billie Moore (Merna Kennedy) are introduced as a dance team for the club. Steve Crandall (Robert Ellis), a bootlegger, assisted by Dolph (Arthur Housman), have a run-on in the cabaret office with gangster, James "Scar" Edwards (Leslie Fenton) who has been robbed of a truckload of liquor by Steve's gang, leading Crandall to shoot and kill Scar in the back. Scar and Dolph carry Scar, passing as an unconscious drunk, outside the club as witnessed by Roy and Billie, onto the back of a parked truck where they cover the body with a blanket. Unknown to Crandall, Scar happens to be married to Pearl (Evelyn Brent), one of the chorus girls in the show. When she learns of his death, she vows vengeance on his murder. During the course of the story, Dan McCorn (Thomas Jackson), having discovered the body a few blocks away, and having his suspicions, enters the scene with investigations. Others in the cast are: Otis Harlan (Andrew "Porky" Thompson); George Davis (Joe, the Waiter); Marion Lord (Lil Rice); and Gus Arnheim and his Orchestra. Though some sources list character actor, Fritz Feld, to appear as Mose Levitt, his name is not in either of the cast or visible in the final print. Thomas Jackson stands out as the detective with his overly familiar slow-speaking tone sleuth.

The songs by Con Conrad, Archie Gottler and Sidney Mitchell include: "Hitting the Ceiling" (sung by Glenn Tryon), "Hot Footin' It," (featuring Glenn Tryon dressed as a child); "Which Came First? The Chicken or the Egg" (performed by Tryon dressed as a school teacher); Tap Dance Number; "Sing a Little Love Song" (sung by Tryon and Merna Kennedy); "Broadway" and "Hitting the Ceiling" (reprise/Technicolor finale). The production numbers are as impressive as the film's visual opening, especially with its Art-Decco sets. They are not as stunning as some of the latter musicals of the 1940s, 1950s and beyond, but often start with Glenn Tryon walking down a long and wide pathway introducing his songs as the camera captures him many feet above the stage and looking down at him. The first song opening occurs 20 minutes into the start of the film. With the songs interlude not performed in its entirely, often interrupted by cutaways and dialogue by other actors, it is evident that the plot element comes as its main factor.

Glenn Tryon, who physical appearance makes one think of either a teenage Frankie Darro or cowboy actor, Guinn Williams, gives a good account of his portrayed character. Virtually forgotten, and having performed on stage and the silent screen in the twenties appearing in both short and feature films, BROADWAY should have paved the way for greater success, but didn't. Eventually Tryon became director before returning to acting in the 1940s, mostly in minor roles before disappearing from view. BROADWAY was later adapted for the screen again by Universal in 1942 starring George Raft, Pat O'Brien and Janet Blair, with new songs and updated story, but without those visuals and art-decco sets that have made the 1929 original so memorable.

Fortunately a film survivor, this 105 minute production was placed on DVD. To date, BROADWAY has never been shown on cable television, which is a shame because the film as a whole remains as impressive today as it must have been in 1929. (***)
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Night Flight (1933)
8/10
Fly By Night
9 June 2019
NIGHT FLIGHT (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1933), directed by Clarence Brown, may have that "B" sounding movie title to it, but was actually another one of the studio's big all-star productions, following the pattern of GRAND HOTEL (1932) and DINNER AT EIGHT (1933), both featuring the Barrymore brothers, John and Lionel. John and Lionel also appear in NIGHT FLIGHT, with the able support of MGM's top performers of the day including Helen Hayes, Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy in their individual episodes for one solid 85 minute film. Taken from the 1931 novel by Abtoine de Saint-Exupery, there's no lavish scale MGM production, except for its simple story based on actual occurrence that takes place in a 24-hour time-frame around and outside the airport.

Following a lengthy forward passage which tells that "This picture is based on an incident from the archives of South American aviation," the story opens in Rio De Janiero where a sign is placed on home doors reading "Infantile Paralysis, Keep Out." A worried mother (Helen Jerome-Eddy) comforts her desperately ill son (Buster Phelps) resting in bed, with the possibily her little boy will become another fatality. Doctor DeCosta (Irving Pichel), in need of a serum that will help save the boy, telephones to learn the nearest place to obtain it is from a hospital in Santiago, Chile. Desperately needing the serum to arrive by noon the next day, the hospital notifies the Trans-Andean European Air Mail to have the packaged and addressed serum flown directly to the City Hospital in Brazil. Because the airline having been in business for five years with prompt accuracy in arrivals and no known mishaps, its stern airline director, Riviere (John Barrymore) assures the serum will arrive on time without fail. Against the objections of Daudet (C. Henry Gordon), the company president, Riviere is determined to succeed, even if it means heavy fines for his pilots, with no excuses accepted. With dense fog where visibility is impossible, Robineau (Lionel Barrymore), airline inspector, finds Riviere to be driving his pilots to a blink of suicide assignments simply to fulfill his position as head man. The first pilot, August Pellerin (Robert Montgomery), a ladies man, leaves both his girlfriend (Dorothy Burgess) and Buenos Aires to deliver the serum to his connection at another airfield. Jules Fabian (Clark Gable), pilot of Plane No. 603, and his wireless operator, Guimet (Leslie Fenton) leave for their destination, flying through dangerous weather patterns of high winds through mountains and dense fog. Before long, they are lost, behind schedule and very low on fuel. Others involved in this high tense melodrama are Madame Simone (Helen Hayes), Fabian's wife, awaiting patiently for her husband's return so they can have dinner together at home; and a Brazilian pilot (William Gargan) who must take his night flight to deliver the serum before heading for Europe, leaving his wife (Myrna Loy) to await home during those long days he'a away, alone, worrying about his safety. The supporting players consist of Ralf Harolde (Pilot No. 5); Frank Conroy (The Radio Operator); and Maurice Black (The Nightclub Manager).

Though not in the same league as some of the now classic all-star productions, NIGHT FLIGHT is an interesting enough presentation more for its star power than its airbourn story. John Barrymore gives a good account of a forceful cigarette smoking air director who never leaves his office. One scene has him firing a long-time employee (Harry Beresford) for one mistake, indicating that the official head must continue to show strength rather than weakness to his staff. Helen Hayes has a few dramatic motions while awaiting for her husband's return while Myrna Loy (coming 49 minutes into the story) has little to do with her few brief scenes opposite William Gargan. Clark Gable, billed third in the credits, in pilot's cap and goggles, does what he could with his role set mostly inside his airplane flying over the clouds and he making reports in his logbook. At least Robert Montgomery, who also has little to do, breaks away from piloting for a dining scene opposite the nervous body-scratching inspector (Lionel Barrymore) inside a cabaret.

For decades, NIGHT FLIGHT had been unavailable for viewing after it was taken out of circulation around 1942. It appeared the movie may never be seen again. In 1981, the Regency Theater in New York City, listed NIGHT FLIGHT as among the movies to be shown during its tribute to the Barrymores (John, Lionel and Ethel). Eagerly awaiting to attend the screening of NIGHT FLIGHT, I was disappointed with its cancellation to have John Barrymore's classic comedy, TWENTIETH CENTURY (Columbia, 1934) shown in its place. It wouldn't be until 2011 when legal claims to NIGHT FLIGHT have finally been cleared and made available for viewing on DVD before NIGHT FLIGHT finally made its cable television premiere on Turner Classic Movies on August 10, 2012. Depending on mixed reviews by today's standards, NIGHT FLIGHT, heavily scored with some "film noir" fashion, remains a long-awaited star attraction aviation movie worth viewing. (***1/2)
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8/10
Close Encounters
2 June 2019
STRICTLY DISHONORABLE (Universal, 1931), directed by John M. Stahl, stars Paul Lukas (courtesy of Paramount Pictures), Sidney Fox and Lewis Stone (on loan from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), in this screen adaptation from the original stage play by Preston Sturges, years before winning fame as a comedy director for Paramount Pictures in the 1940s. With the screenplay by Gladys Lehman, which was reportedly said to have stuck close to the play and mood, this screen adaptation, virtually a filmed stage play, comes to life through much of its then risque dialogue that would never have gone passed the production code of 1934.

Plot summary: Isabelle Parry (Sidney Fox) is a Southern gal engaged to marry the bespectacled stuffy bond salesman, Henry Greene (George Meeker). While driving down the crowded New York City streets of Broadway (with movie marque of Maurice Chevalier starring in "The Smiling Lieutenant" visible) on their way home to New Jersey, the couple decide to stop at a speakeasy. Managed by Tomasso (William Riccardi), the bar also consists of a former judge, Dempsey (Lewis Stone) having a few "old fashions." While Dempsey befriends Isabelle, he gets turned off by Henry's arrogance. Also entering the scene is Gus Di Ruva (Paul Lukas), a famed opera singer better known by his stage name of Tino Caraffa. Like the kindly judge, who lives in the apartments above, he also gets turned off by Henry's unlikable personality. As Officer Mulligan (Sidney Toler) asks the owner (Henry) whose car is parked next to a fire hydrant to have it moved, during his absence, Isabelle and Gus become better acquainted during their dancing to the record playing tune of "It Happened in Monterey," Discovering this, Henry's jealousy and rude remarks force Isabelle to call off their engagement. Wanting to have Mulligan arrest Gus and Tomasso for the abduction of Isabelle, Henry ends up jailed instead. In the meantime, with no place else to go, the free-spirited Isabelle, who has been living with Henry and his parents under the same household, is offered a place to stay - being Gus's apartment on a "strictly dishonorable" basis. While the judge feels Isabel to be immoral and that she's be better off staying at the Martha Washington Hotel instead, Gus comes to the conclusion of buying her train tickets back to where she came from, but begins to have second thoughts. Situations occur when Henry, released from jail, returns to the scene.

In general, STRICTLY DISHONORABLE is a showcase for Sidney Fox. She not only gets enough camera closeups, but is virtually in every scene. Her Southern accent comes similar to her performance in THE MOUTHPIECE (Warners, 1932), for which she once more plays a girl from the South. Lewis Stone, who interestingly was featured in a similar sounding movie title, STRICTLY UNCONVENTIONAL (MGM, 1930), is perfect as the moral-minding judge, a role no different from his Judge Hardy portrayal in the "Andy Hardy" family series (1937-1946) for his home studio of MGM. The top-billed Paul Lukas is perfectly cast as the accented-speaking opera singer whose character is hinted as one being a ladies man and no stranger of having women living in his quarters. His girlfriend, Lilli (never seen) is passed off as his cousin to Isabel.

One interesting aspect for STRICTLY DISHONORABLE is the camera tracking through windows and stairways to keep this 91 minute production from being virtually stage-bound. Maybe not as amusing as it was back in 1931, STRICTLY DISHONORABLE comes as surprising through its frankness as the Isabelle character showing no shame in saying she lives with her fiance. This dark-haired beauty with a male-sounding name, Fox proves herself worthy in what might be considered her best screen performance to her short-lived movie career. Situations move briskly throughout the story, especially how one could fall in love and want to marry a total stranger the very same evening of their first encounter. George Meeker is strictly obnoxious in character while William Riccardi (reprising his stage role) is strictly available throughout for comedy relief gestures involving both judge and opera singer friends.

Unavailable for viewing due to the 1951 MGM remake starring Enzio Pinza and Janet Leigh, which has been softer in tone, this 1931 original, which has never been distributed to either video cassette and DVD, has been rediscovered to a new generation of movie lovers in 1997 on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. Though broadcasts for the original STRICTLY DISHONORABLE have been limited, the film in general is strictly worth viewing mainly out of curiosity. (***)
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Be Yourself! (1930)
7/10
The Prizefighter and the Lady
27 May 2019
BE YOURSELF! (United Artists, 1930), directed by Thornton Freeland, stars Fanny Brice, popular comedienne from burlesque to Ziegfeld Follies to popular radio character of "Baby Snooks," in one of her very rare motion pictures in which she starred. As much as Brice, with her odd facial structure, would be somewhat hard to cast, here she plays a self-sacrificing nightclub entertainer with a soft spot for a hapless prizefighter. Billed in the credits as Fannie, BE YOURSELF!, somewhat mistitled, offers the original "funny girl" herself a chance to be both funny in her manner and sentimental through her feelings. With little evidence to the popularity she gained on stage, this is one opportunity getting to see the one-and-only Fanny Brice on the motion picture screen.

The story opens with prizefighter, Jerry Moore (Robert Armstrong) losing to McGloskey (G. Pat Collins) in the boxing ring. Next scene finds both boxers, seated in separate tables, being entertained by nightclub singer, Fannie Field (Fannie Brice), who very much favors Jerry. Because of his reputation as a boozing fighter who loses his matches, Fannie feels Jerry has potential to become a heavyweight boxing champion. She has her lawyer brother, Harry Field (Harry Green), to give up his practice by acting as his manager. Fannie invests her own money is $200 in fees and $1500 for Jerry's training, but shows no improvement in his boxing style. In time and with the proper training, Jerry wins six successful victories. All goes well until Fannie's showgirl rival, Lillian Wilson (Gertrude Astor), changes her affections from McCloskey to Jerry, even to a point of having his nose fixed and engagement to be married, causing Fannie to feel miserable and betrayed, until she comes up with an idea. Also in the cast are Buddy Fine ("Step"), and Rita Flynn (Jessica).

Fanny Brice, who made her movie debut in a part-talking musical titled by her signature song, MY MAN (Warner Brothers, 1928), currently unavailable for viewing, makes BE YOURSELF! the earliest filmed document to the Brice legend available today. With her acting style a mix between that of comediennes Winnie Lightner and Mae West, Brice does what she can with the material documented. Though she handles both comedy and sentiment convincingly, BE YOURSELF makes one wish this were a solid screwball comedy showcasing Brice's comedic talents. Though the story is rather ordinary, it's highlighted by some good song and dance interludes, including "When a Woman Loves a Man" (sung by Fanny Brice, Gertrude Astor, Marjorie Kane, and chorus); "Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love" "Stasha the Passion of the Pasha" (both sung by Fanny Brice) "Cooking Breakfast for the One I Love" (reprise by boy singer, Jimmy Tolson, dressed in bellhop uniform); "Kicking a Hole in the Sky" (a Satan number with lyrics of "Lovely ladies down in Hades," performed by Brice and others); "It's Better to Be Grateful" and "When a Woman Loves a Man." Of the lively tunes, only the final rendition of "When a Woman Loves a Man" is sentimentally sung with feeling by Brice in the "My Man" mode, but not quite as legendary.

One of the many musicals produced during the 1929-30 era, BE YOURSELF is one of those rare treats that would be of interest today due to the presence of Fanny Brice, or an early look of Robert Armstrong, three years before his iconic adventure film, KING KONG (RKO Radio, 1933) opposite Fay Wray. Harry Green's acting style, which could be annoying at times, is better structured this time around. Though this 65 minute edition of BE YOURSELF might be a shorter reissue edition to a longer original theatrical showing, this is what's circulating today. Briefly distributed on video cassette and DVD through KINO Home Video, BE YOURSELF did broadcast years ago on cable television's American Movie Classics (1997-2000) during the early morning hours. For what it's worth, BE YOURSELF entertains due to Brice's "be yourself" personality along with well-staged production numbers to help move it along. (***)
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8/10
The Misadventures of Professor Lambert
19 May 2019
PROFESSOR BEWARE (A Paramount Release, 1938), directed by Elliott Nugent, stars Harold Lloyd, silent film comedian of the 1920s, in his final sound comedy of the 1930s. Lloyd, whose movie career dates back to 1915, first appearing in comedy shorts before reinventing his "glasses" character from short to feature length comedies through the next decade, has come a long way since his talking debut in WELCOME DANGER (1929). Producing a new comedy every two years by the 1930s, Lloyd was always searching for new ideas to make his next comedy better than his last. Though PROFESSOR BEWARE attempts to work its way with familiar material adding a fine mix of old and new comedy routines, the final result is a series of segment chases during its 93 minute course.

The prologue opens briefly "in ancient Egypt 3000 years ago" where Neferus is being buried alive in a tomb while Anebi, the woman responsible for his downfall, screams while looking on. Move forward, "Los Angeles, 3000 years later," introduces Professor Dean Lambert (Harold Lloyd), an archealogist for the Olympia Museum, who happens to be the exact replica (except for his glasses) of the statue image of Neferus. Because of Neferus' fate, which has Lambert refusing to have anything to do with women fearing it may be responsible for his own downfall, as explained on the Egyptian tablets, history begins to repeat itself. No sooner after driving away from the museum does Lambert meet Jane Van Buren (Phyllis Welch), a damsel in distress stranded on the road with her car in the ditch with "Snoop" Donlan (William Frawley), her talent scout, on their way to an audition. Hanlon not only happens to be found drunk inside her car, but happens to be left unconscious in his underwear. Lambert is talked into giving his clothes to Donlan so they can be on their way to the theater. When Lambert is caught by the police in his underwear, he gets arrested and immediately loses his museum job. Invited to go on an Egyptian expedition, Lambert accepts, leaving for New York City to meet the boat on its way to Egypt, but has trouble heading for his destination. Being accused of stealing Donlans's priceless watch, Jane, who loses her audition anyway, drives cross country in the stolen museum station wagon, searching for Lambert to bring him back to prove his innocence. Their paths eventually do meet, with Lambert, determined not to miss that boat to Egypt, both venture on their cross country road tour which becomes a series of one misadventure after another. Also in the cast are Raymond Walburn (Judge James G. Parkhouse Marshall), Lionel Stander (Jerry Jerimiah), Thurston Hall (J.J. Van Buren), Clara Blandick (Amelia Green, the landlady), Cora Witherspoon, Sterling Holloway, Irving Bacon, Montagu Love, Charles Lane, Guinn Williams, Ward Bond, among many others.

Though PROFESSOR BEWARE doesn't compare with Harold Lloyd's best silent comedies (namely SAFETY LAST (1923), SPEEDY (1928), the film overall is entertaining enough to sit through its entirety without losing any interest. Scenes involving Lloyd's Lambert driving his car under a tent, or he ending up frozen after being taken out from a refrigerated train car, are reminiscent to any one of the Three Stooges comedy shorts. There's also a lengthy scene involving Lloyd, Walburn and Standing bumming a ride on top of a freight train and making a run the opposite direction as the train approaches a tunnel, this being one of the highlights. As mentioned before, PROFESSOR BEWARE is a series of individual chases before its climatic run involving a build-up crowd of people chasing after Harold, being more in mood than exact manner to Buster Keaton's better constructed comedy short, COPS (1922). The aforementioned character-types help the movie along, and PROFESSOR BEWARE does have its huge assortment of them to go around. Lloyd's co-star, Phyllis Welch, makes her first and farewell performance on film. She works well as Lloyd's traveling companion, and might have gone further in movies had she not married and retired upon the film's release.

Unlike Lloyd's silent and sound comedies, PROFESSOR BEWARE was possibly the only Harold Lloyd comedy circulating on television since the 1960s, and more commonly shown notably on New York City's WPIX Channel 11 (1967-1973) for several years before having a brief stint on public television in the early 1980s. From 1994 to 1999, PROFESSOR BEWARE became part of the film library to cable television's American Movie Classics As much as Turner Classic Movies has had many tributes to the films and career of Harold Lloyd, ranging from silent to talkies, thus far, PROFESSOR BEWARE has never become part of its movie package. With no know video cassette or DVD distribution, PROFESSOR BEWARE deserves better recognition considering it being one of those movies that appears to have improved with age, regardless of its thin plot with familiar run-on gags in Harold's Lloyd's world of comedy. (*** tablets)
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7/10
Judge Hardy's Family Home on the Range
12 May 2019
OUT WEST WITH THE HARDYS (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1938), marks the fifth entry to the "Judge Hardy's Family/Andy Hardy" series, following its previous installments of A FAMILY AFFAIR (1937), YOU'RE ONLY YOUNG ONCE (1937), JUDGE HARDY'S CHILDREN (1938) and the immensely popular, LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (1938). Featuring the standard cast of Lewis Stone (Judge James K. Hardy), Mickey Rooney (Andrew Hardy), Cecilia Parker (Marian Hardy), Fay Holden (Emily Hardy), this edition also welcomes back Sara Haden as the family's Aunt Milly Forrest, the role recast in two previous installments by Betty Ross Clark. As in many a film series, there would be a matter of time before its title characters would venture out west, and this is it, though not in a sense of cowboys, horses and bar room brawls found in many a western, but another vacation for the family where the father helps with another family's situations.

The story starts off not in a courtroom, but in the Hardy household where the family is having dinner before the lights suddenly go out, and son, Andy, solving the darkness problem by placing a penny in the fuse box. Situations soon occur when Mother Hardy, upset over her personal problems, feels she needs a rest. Receiving a telegram from a personal friend of Dora Northcole (Nana Bryant) for some personal assistance, Judge Hardy's decision for a family rest and relaxation and helping out an old friend is to take his family out to the Northcole ranch in Medville, Arizona. While there, Judge Hardy attempts in helping Dora's husband, Bill (Ralph Morgan) and his family settle their water rights problem with H.R. Bruxton (Thurston Hall), or else they will be evicted from their ranch. Then there's daughter, Marian, who recently had broken up with her boyfriend, Dennis Hunt (Don Castle) back home, becoming romantically involved with Ray Holt (Gordon Jones), a foreman rancher and widower father of an eight-year-old daughter, Jake (Virginia Weidler). Believing herself in love with Ray, Marian, contemplating marriage, decides to try out country living by awaking at 5 a.m., and making long preparations of the day starting with breakfast. Jake, however, disapproves of Marian with possibilities of her becoming her new mother. though she has taken a liking to her younger brother, Andy, though Andy would rather become involved with a girl closer to his own age. Others in the cast consist of Tom Neal (Aldrich Brown); Anthony Allan (Cliff Thomas); and Gordon Douglas (Mr. Carter). Series regulars Ann Rutherford (Polly Benedict, Andy's girlfriend) and Erville Aldderson (Dave, the courtroom bailiff) are available, but assuming smaller parts.

Though not as successful nor memorable as LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY, OUT WEST WITH THE HARDYS is standard comedy-drama. Though there are some moments of humor involving Andy trying life as a cowboy, there's also some serious moments involving Andy's accident while riding Jake's Calico horse, resulting to a broken leg, bringing tearful moments involving little Jake. Rooney and Weidler. who work well together, would reunite again in future films as YOUNG TOM EDISON (1940) and BABES ON BROADWAY (1941).

As with YOU'RE ONLY YOUNG ONCE, where the Hardy's take time away from their hometown of Carvel, OUT WEST WITH THE HARDYS returns to similar material involving Andy's antics and Marian's new romantic interest. A bit slow-going at 84 minutes, the film is worthy viewing mainly for fans of the series. Never distributed on video cassette, OUT WEST WITH THE HARDYS has become available most often on cable channel's Turner Classic Movies where this and the additional 15 episodes can be seen from time to time. Next in the series: THE HARDY'S RIDE HIGH (1939) (***)
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7/10
Masquerade in Zuppa
5 May 2019
ONE HEAVENLY NIGHT (United Artists, 1930), directed by George Fitzmaurice, was producer Samuel Goldwyn's contribution to the early talkie operettas. Following the pattern of MGM's Grace Moore, Warner Brothers' Bernice Claire or Vivienne Segal, or Jeanette MacDonald of Paramount, Goldwyn went on to introduce to the American screen the singing British entertainer by the name of Evelyn Laye (1900-1995). Appearing as her male co-star is the singing talent of John Boles (1987-1969), whose earlier contribution to the movie musical consisted those of THE DESERT SONG (Warners, 1929), RIO RITA (RKO, 1929), CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD (Universal, 1930), and several others before musicals of any way, shape or form became box-office disappointments. Though produced in 1930, and released in early January 1931, ONE HEAVENLY NIGHT came late into the cycle to be considered a success.

Set in Hungary, the story opens at the Cafe Budapest where Fritzi Yves (billed Fritzi Yajos) (Lilyan Tashman) entertains with her rendition of a naughty song. Being labeled "The Toast of Budapest," Fritzi, quite popular with the male population, ignores a handsome young soldier for her middle-aged guest, Baron Zagen (Lionel Bellmore). A fight ensues leading to a riot, police raid and Fritzi's arrest. Remaining behind is Lilli (Evelyn Laye), a flower girl at the cabaret who admires Fritzi's carefree ways. Upon her release, Fritzi is sentenced by the Prefect of Police to spend six months where she is to rest in the country chaperoned by some local magistrate of Zuppa. Before leaving, Fritzi visits with Lilli and talks her into masquerading as herself while she remains behind with Baron Zagen. Accompanied by Otto (Leon Errol), her guardian, Lillie, posing as Fritzi, spends her time in a villa which happens to be near the estate of Count Mirko Tibor (John Boles), the magistrate and ladies' man who very much wants to meet this notorious "worst woman in Budapest." He finally does after her horse she's riding on happens to cross over the boundaries onto his estate. Getting acquainted with him at his dinner gathering, with his manservant, Janos (Hugh Cameron) entertaining with Otto elsewhere, Mirko, who has kept his identity secret, finds it strange how this notorious "Fritzi" doesn't appear to be what her reputation describes. Also in the cast are Marion Lord (Liska); George Bickel (Papa Lorenc); Henry Kolker (The Prefect of Police); and Luis Alberni (The Violinist).

Songs featured include: "I Belong to Everybody, Everybody" (sung by Lilyan Tashman); "Along The Road of Dreams" (sung by Evelyn Laye); "My Heart is Beating" (sung by Evelyn Laye and John Boles); "The Goodnight Serenade" (sung by Laye, Boles and male chorus); and "Heavenly Night (When Evening is Near)" (sung by Boles and Laye). Although these tunes are forgettable, only "My Heart is Beating" stands out as the film's best song. With the song interludes being few and far between, and this being centered as Evelyn Laye's movie, it is Leon Errol who gets most of the attention with his comedy antics. Assisted by Hugh Cameron, amusements include one where they try to fix a Swizzle drink of rum through the instructions of a air-flipping pages book; and the art collection sequence where Cameron attempts to keep the careless Errol from breaking an assortment of china and glassware. Errol gets about two minutes to himself, sans any underscoring, trying in vain to place a stamp onto an envelope to mail. Though hilarious by 1931 standards, these comedy moments may seem long and drawn-out to contemporary viewers. Evelyn Laye is acceptable in her role, quite pretty, singing pleasingly and looking almost like Joan Bennett in her blondish headdress at times. Sadly her American movie career was short-lived. After returning to Hollywood for THE NIGHT IS YOUNG (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1934) singing opposite Ramon Novarro, it was realized she was better off appearing in British stage revues and music halls instead. As much as John Boles is a very good singer, he would soon abandon his vocalization for work in dramatic roles as STELLA DALLAS (1937) starring Barbara Stanwyck.

For Samuel Goldwyn's only attempt in operetta, ONE HEAVENLY NIGHT gets by on its own merits during much of its 82 minutes. With limited television broadcasts on New York City's WPIX, Channel 11 (1971-1975), ONE HEAVENLY NIGHT, which had a limited video cassette release but to date, no DVD, did have some brief cable television broadcasts such as on Wometco Home Theater and Showtime (1986), Nostalgia Television (1990s) and Turner Classic Movies TCM premiere: November 13, 2008). Virtually forgotten, possibly due to its unfamiliar cast names, namely Evelyn Laye, ONE HEAVENLY NIGHT is an agreeable little piece of early sound operetta from Hollywood's bygone era. (***)
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Girl Crazy (1932)
6/10
Dude Ranch
28 April 2019
GIRL CRAZY (RKO Radio, 1932), directed by William A. Seiter, is the first of three screen adaptations to the popular 1930 musical-comedy by John McGowan and Guy Bolton that starred Allen Kearns (Danny Churchill), Ginger Rogers (Molly) and Ethel Merman (Kate) in the cast. Most notable for the songs by George and Ira Gershwin, and the 1943 remake for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in name only starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, this edition is mostly centered upon the antics of the studios' own comedy team of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, with the central characters of Danny Churchill and Molly Gray placed mostly as background material.

The story opens at a cemetery of tombstones belonging to murdered sheriffs, all killed off by "Arizona Heavy" outlaw Lank Saunders (Stanley Fields), whose sole purpose is to take control over the sleepy western town of Custerville, Arizona. Playboy Danny Churchill (Eddie Quillan) enters the scene as a girl crazy individual whose millionaire father has sent him to the Molly O Ranch for two years to forget about the opposite sex. Easier said than done as Danny meets and falls in love with the post girl, Molly Gray (Arline Judge). Wanting to add some good entertainment to his relatively dull surroundings, Danny telegrams his friend, Slick Foster (Robert Woolsey), in Chicago, formerly a medicine man, auctioneer and hypnotist, now a compulsive gambler and husband to Kate (Kitty Kelly), to come over and convert the dude ranch into a place of jazz music, show girls and gambling. The Fosters soon acquire the taxi service of Jimmy Aloysius Deegan (Bert Wheeler), nine-year employee of the Checker Cab Company, to drive them all the way to Arizona, thus leaving his annoying kid sister, Tessie (Mitzi Green) behind. Following a long distance drive to Custerville, with the fare total of $465.30, Jimmy is accused of being the sheriff killer. After being saved from a lynch mob by Patsy (Dorothy Lee), the "girl of the golden west," she soon becomes Jimmy's love interest. Other than finding Tessie, who has stowed away by bus, awaiting for him at the ranch, Jimmy is then selected to become the town's next sheriff, with Slick acting as his campaign manager. As Jimmy unwittingly wins 800 to 1 vote (Slick demanded a recount), his biggest problem now is avoiding getting killed off by the habitual sheriff killer, Saunders. As for Danny, his biggest problem is the arrival of his New York City George Mason (Brooks Benedict) coming between he and Molly's romance. Other supporting players include Monty Collins (The Bartender); Lita Chevret (Maria); Chris-Pin Martin (Pete) and Nat Pendleton (The Motorcycle Cop).

Songs presented in this production include: "Bidin' My Time" (sung by cowboys); "I Got Rhythm" (sung by Kitty Kelly/cast); "You Got What Gets Me" (sung by Bert Wheeler and Dorothy Lee, danced by Wheeler, Lee and Mitzi Green); "But Not For Me" (sung by Eddie Quillan and Arline Judge/reprized by Mitzi Green); and "I Got Rhythm" (sung by chorus during closing credits). The "I Got Rhythm,"the film's signature number, might have benefited better from the singing style of Ethel Merman from the stage version, yet Kitty Kelly holds her own in her deep throaty rendition, with camera cutaways to a rhythm dancing owl and cactus trees. Aside from Mitzi Green singing "But Not for Me," she does this in her own imitating style of current celebrities of the day as Bing Crosby, the stuttering Roscoe Ates, George Arliss and Edna May Oliver. Of the four personalities, her best imitation goes to good ole Edna May.

For anyone who's seen the better known GIRL CRAZY (1943) will notice how much the original has no bearing with the remake except for the character names and a few good songs carried over from the Broadway show. With this being the ninth screen teaming of Wheeler and Woolsey, unlike their previous comedies starting with RIO RITA (1929), they don't start off as friends or partners. The first half finds Wheeler and Woolsey more as individual characters than an item, with Woolsey (the cigar smoker with horn-rim glasses) dealing mostly with his on-screen wife (Kelly) and Wheeler coping with his younger sister's (Green) annoyance. The second half reverts to traditional Wheeler and Woolsey material following their campaigning Wheeler's character for sheriff. As with many of their comedies for RKO, their gags and verbal exchanges are either hit or miss. Fine amusements include confuse dialogue mix between Mitzi Green and Bert Wheeler to Dorothy Lee (in similar fashion of Amos and Andy in CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK (1930)); Wheeler and Woolsey disguised as Indians, Sitting Bull and Sitting Pretty, among others. With Wheeler and Woolsey carrying on much of the comedy, the romantic girl crazy subplot between Eddie Quillan and Arline Judge offers little significance to the story.

Due to the latter MGM remakes, including the updated edition retitled WHEN THE BOYS MEET THE GIRLS (MGM, 1965) with Connie Francis and Harve Presnell, this GIRL CRAZY has been out of circulation for decades. It wasn't until July 14, 1995, when cable television's Turner Classic Movies brought this long unseen 76 minute movie back in circulation again. Available on DVD with another Wheeler and Woolsey comedy, PEACH O'RENO (1931) on the flip side, regardless of its current availability, it's the 1943 edition of GIRL CRAZY that remains the best of the three screen editions thus far. (**1/2)
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6/10
Broadcast News
21 April 2019
TWO AGAINST THE WORLD (Warner Brothers, 1936), directed by William McGann, goes on record as the first motion picture starring Humphrey Bogart. Having been in the movie business since 1930, he was usually a secondary character normally supporting its leading players. Having made an impression as Duke Mantee on both stage (1935) and screen (1936) versions of THE PETRIFIED FOREST, Bogart landed a contract with the Warner Brothers studio where he worked in a variety of roles, better suited playing gangster types. For TWO AGAINST THE WORLD, he's not a villain, but one of the bosses working for a radio studio supported by Warner Brothers stock players as his co-stars.

Set in New York City's United Broadcasting Company, "The Voice of the people," Sherry Scott (Humphrey Bogart) is called in by Bertram C. Reynolds (Robert Middlemass) the studio manager, to come up with new plan to help with popular appeal following its recent audience loss and low ratings, it is decided do a new radio series based on a 15-year-old notorious "Gloria Pembroke Case" by which the woman in question had murdered a man, but acquitted by trial and jury. Cora Latimer (Claire Dodd) and Martin Leavenworth (Harry Hayden) are hired to dig up articles in the archives to serialize the stories on a daily basis. Scott's loyal secretary, Alma Ross (Beverly Roberts) is against the idea, but the management goes on with it to boost up its ratings no matter who gets hurt. In the meantime, the real Gloria Pembroke, now known as Martha Carstairs (Helen MacKeller), living not far from the radio studio in an apartment on West 93rd Street, is alive and well, happily married to James (Henry O'Neill), who knows of her past. Their daughter, Edith (Linda Perry) is engaged to marry the following day to Malcolm Sims (Carlyle Moore Jr.). After presenting them their wedding present being a furniture-sized radio, the first thing they listen to is advertisement of the upcoming "Gloria Pembroke Case." Not wanting the young couple of ever learning about Martha's past, both Jim and Martha try in vain to keep these broadcasts from taking place. Mistaking Leavenworth for a minister connected with their daughter's upcoming wedding, Leavenworth discloses the information to the radio station for program use. However, after Jim loses his position at the bank, and Malcolm's upscale parents (Douglas Wood and Virginia Brissac) arrive demanding the wedding is not to take place, a series of unfortunate events soon follow, changing the lives of both families and the radio station as well. Others in the cast include: Hobart Cavanaugh, Frank Orth and Paula Stone. Bobby Gordon, who plays messenger boy, Herman Mills, may look familiar for anyone who's ever seen Al Jolson's THE JAZZ SINGER (1927), for which Gordon, a Jolson look-alike, was the one who played Jolson's character as a young boy early in the story.

If the plot summary sounds familiar, it's because the plot was earlier done by Warners as a newspaper story titled FIVE STAR FINAL (1931) starring Edward G. Robinson, Marian Marsh, Aline MacMahon and Boris Karloff in the Bogart, Perry, Roberts and Hayden parts. This remake, released five years later, changes much of its background to a radio station but retains it characters assuming different names. Nearly a half hour shorter, the remake suffers from rush production, leaving out material explaining certain incidents leading to connecting sequences, namely as to how the Leavenworth character was able to trace the actual Grace Pembroke to Martha Carstairs so quickly after being assigned and able to work into the Carstairs confidence by masquerading as a minister in their home. Maybe connections leading to subsequent scenes have been shortened (57 minutes) to the current circulating print under a different title showed on Turner Classic Movies of ONE FATAL HOUR. Theatrically released at 64 minutes, possibly its new title was substituted to avoid confusion to the studios' earlier 1932 drama bearing the same name but different story Constance Bennett and Neil Hamilton.

Though the central players give sincere performances, TWO AGAINST THE WORLD pales in comparison to FIVE STAR FINAL. It is interesting to note both Henry O'Neill and Helen MacKeller, normally found playing much smaller parts in other films, are given the rare opportunity becoming central characters as two against the world. Only debit, Linda Perry's bad acting towards the end, though not as over-the-top acting as Marian Marsh's performance in FIVE STAR FINAL. Regardless of differences in presentation, both films are satisfactory in both entertainment and star value. (** radios)
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Love Affair (1932)
5/10
The Lady Takes a Flyer
20 April 2019
LOVE AFFAIR (Columbia, 1932), directed by Thornton Freeland, is a minor second feature drama starring former Warner Brothers star, Dorothy MacKaill, opposite future Warner Brother star, Humphrey Bogart. Though the title bears no relation to the LOVE STORY (RKO, 1939) starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer (remade most famously as AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (1957) starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr), this 68 minute production, taken from a story by Ursula Parrott, offers little interest except for the presence of young Humphrey Bogart in one of his earliest screen appearances.

Plot summary: Carol Owen (Dorothy MacKaill), a carefree heiress, is first seen at Antone's (Harold Minjir) salon getting all dolled up for an event that's to take place that day. After taking flying lessons at Gilligan's (Jack Kennedy) flying school, she's to now take her first flight in the air. Refusing the guidance of Eddie (Frank Rice), she chooses a much younger instructor, Jim Leonard (Humphrey Bogart). Following her flight in the air, she takes Jim on a wild car wide in her roadster back to town. She stops at her home where Jim is introduced to her society friends. Bored and feeling out of place, Jim, totally ignored, leaves without notice. Carol comes to Jim's apartment where she learns his plans on leaving aviation school to dedicate his time working on and trying to promote his new airplane motor. Because of her interest in Jim, Carol arranges for Bruce Hardy (Hale Hamilton), a Wall Street tycoon and her financial adviser, to finance Jim $5,000 for his motor for him to form his Leonard Motor Company. In the meantime, Jim has a younger sister, Linda (Astrid Allwyn), an aspiring young actress working under the name of Linda Lee, who isn't what she appears to be. She not only supported and living in the luxurious apartment of Bruce Hardy, who loves Carol, but she's been using his financial means for Georgie Keeler (Bradley Page), a suave Broadway producer, to use for his show where Linda is to appear. Problems arise when Carol, learning that she is broke, to become engaged to Bruce and marry him for his money after promising Jim she loves nobody else but him. Also in the supporting cast are: Halliwell Hobbes (Kibbee, Dorothy's butler); and Barbara Leonard (Felice, the French hair stylist).

As much as there is no real love affair to mention, LOVE AFFAIR is actually two separate stories for the price of one, each involving either Jim and his sister. Dorothy MacKaill's character is very much the aggressor going after and getting what she wants, Dressed mostly in fur coat and high-fashion clothes, MacKaill may be best known for her pre-code melodrama, SAFE IN HELL (Warner Brothers, 1931), which is often claimed to be her finest work in the early sound era. Humphrey Bogart, in a role that might have gone to the likes of a Ralph Bellamy, Pat O'Brien or a Ben Lyon, might seem to be an odd choice as her male co-star. Though type-cast later in gangster roles or bad-guys, Bogart would prove his worth as a romantic-type in the 1940s, especially in the Academy Award winning drama, CASABLANCA (1943). Yet, LOVE AFFAIR would prove more interesting viewing today mainly due to Bogart's presence than the rediscovery of Dorothy MacKaill. Astrid Allwyn as Bogart's sister, interestingly, appeared also in the better known 1939 edition of LOVE AFFAIR as well.

Never distributed to home video, LOVE AFFAIR did become available on DVD . It's cable television broadcasts were mainly on Turner Classic Movies in 1994, with brief revivals later in 2009 and 2011, around the same time TCM unearthed many other obscure films of the Columbia Pictures library from the 1930s and 1940s. (**)
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8/10
The Courtship of Bobby's Father
14 April 2019
WEDNESDAY'S CHILD (RKO Radio, 1934), directed by John S. Robertson, is not an early screen adaptation about a sibling of Wednesday Addams from "The Addams Family," but a sensitive story about an 11-year-old boy who becomes the center of divorce court involving his parents. Making his motion picture debut is Frankie Thomas in a role he originated on stage earlier in the year of the film's release. Feature billing goes to Edward Arnold and Karen Morley in the opening credits, while Karen Morley and Edward Arnold are credited in that order for its closing casting. Arnold, basically a heavy-set character actor usually in supporting roles since his movie debut in 1932, gets his chance to carry on this photo-play of a loving husband and caring father whose life gets a turnaround after his wife decides she doesn't love him anymore.

The story opens with Ray Phillips (Edward Arnold) camping with his 11-year-old son, Bobby (Frankie Thomas), showing a good bonding relationship between father and son. The next scene follows Bobby and his mother, Kathryn (Karen Morley) bidding farewell to Ray at the train station heading for Florida on a business trip for a month. While playing with his friends, Bobby notices a woman in a car kissing a man, Howard Benson (Robert Shayne) in the front seat. The woman turns out to be his mother. Returning home two weeks earlier from his business trip. Ray is greeted happily by Bobby while his mother returns home, surprised he's home earlier than expected. All she could think about now is telephoning Benson warning him about her husband's arrival without arousing any suspicion, though she has noticed Bobby's strange reaction towards her lately. After Ray learns the truth about Kathryn's illicit affair, Bobby, awaken from their argument in the next room, becomes even more disturbed hearing his mother say she never really wanted Bobby in the first place. At divorce court, the judge (Frank Conroy) awards Kathryn custody of Bobby, with summertime with his father from June until September. Miserable living with his mother and her new husband, Bobby is overjoyed with his summer visitation with his father, until a strange woman, Louise (Shirley Grey), walks into their home. Because of his unhappiness living in both homes at separate times, Ray must decide whether Bobby would be happier away in military school, or come up with a better solution keeping Bobby from his state of depression. Others in the cast include: Paul Stanton (Attorney Keyes); Frank M. Thomas (Attorney for the Defense); Elsa Janssen (Martha, the Swedish Maid); and David Durand (Chick).

A well-acted story as seen through the eyes of a child, Frankie Thomas gives a fine performance in the title role. Though he starred in another movie, A DOG OF FLANDERS (RKO, 1935), he would be more in popular demand as a teenager and beyond, known for such roles as in BOYS TOWN (MGM, 1938) opposite Spencer Tracy; memorably playing Ted Nickerson opposite Bonita Granville in four "Nancy Crew" mysteries for Warner Brothers (1938-39); ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN (Warners, 1941) opposite Fredric March, as well as the title role in television's "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet" (1951-1955), among others. For WEDNESDAY'S CHILD, Thomas honestly shows his true affection towards his father, as any boy would, and his loss of affection towards his mother after finding her to be unfaithful towards his dad. Edward Arnold and Karen Morley do well in their roles, especially Arnold, who's believably likable as a father-like figure. Short and sweet, and overlooking some of slang-talk amongst kids from the 1930s, WEDNESDAY'S CHILD is simply told and well-directed during its 68 minutes.

RKO Radio remade this sensitive story as A CHILD OF DIVORCE (1946) changing the gender from boy to girl, wonderfully played by Sharyn Moffett. The difference between these two screen adaptations is the ending. Both are satisfying but the Moffett remake is effective and tear-inducing to say the least. Though both films are not relatively known or often revived, especially on video cassette or DVD, WEDNESDAY'S CHILD and CHILD OF DIVORCE have had cable television broadcasts either on American Movie Classics (1990s) and once in a while on Turner Classic Movies where each can be seen and compared. (***)
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8/10
Passport to Fame
13 April 2019
LETTER OF INTRODUCTION (Universal, 1938), produced and directed by John M. Stahl, is a feature showcase for young Andrea Leeds, who recently made an impression as a troubled stage actress in STAGE DOOR (RKO Radio, 1937) starring Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers. With this being sort of Universal's answer to STAGE DOOR, featuring Adolphe Menjou in both films, with Leeds assuming the same character type with first name being Kay, it adds a few elements of Eve Arden (of STAGE DOOR) along with the ventriloquist act of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy (who earlier worked opposite Menjou and Leeds in THE GOLDWYN FOLLIES (United Artists, 1938)), who both become part of the story during some of its brighter moments.

The story begins on New Year's Eve as Kay Martin (Andrea Leeds) and Edgar Bergen (Edgar Bergen) are returning to their boarding house to find their building is on fire. As Edgar runs in to get his dummy-companion, Charlie McCarthy, Kay also rushes in, risking her life to retrieve something of great value to her - a letter of introduction. Helping her through the search and out of the burning building is dancer, Barry Paige (George Murphy) who lives across the street. Unable to return to their residence, Kay and company are invited to attend a New Year's Eve party at Barry's place where at the stroke of midnight, following a kiss, Barry then realizes his love for Kay. Rooming with Honey (Rita Johnson), Barry's dancing partner, Kay also makes new friends with Cora Feldman (Eve Arden), a wisecracking stage actress who takes an interest in Edgar and his ventriloquist act. The following day, Kay gets to meet with John Mannering (Adolphe Menjou), a matinee idol of stage to screen at his luxurious apartment, to present him her letter of introduction. Mannering, age 52, who's been married and divorced three times, is currently engaged to Lydia Hoyt (Ann Sheridan), a young girl of 22 who becomes extremely jealous over his protege, with John unable to reveal Kay's true identity at present. Barry also becomes jealous over Kay spending too much time with Mannering, who offers her a chance to audition for the upcoming play, "Return to Paradise." After Lydia catches John and Kay dining together at the Park Plaza, she walks out on him forever. Kay has further troubles trying to keep Barry from leaving her as well. Seen in the supporting cast are: Ernest Cossart (Andrews, Mannering's loyal butler); Frank Jenks (Joe); Jonathan Hale (Lou); May Boley (Mrs. Meggs, the landlady); Frances Robinson (Maude Rawley); with Irving Bacon, Russell Hopton and Constance Moore in smaller roles.

A grand mix of comedy and pathos usually found in products directed by either Frank Borzage or John M. Stahl, LETTER OF INTRODUCTION works well in both directions. Adolphe Menjou's character, who appears 18 minutes into the movie, is obviously inspired by actor John Barrymore, better known as "The Great Profile." Also using the first name of John, Mannering is known as "The Great Lover," happens to be a decedent of an acting family of William Shakespeare plays. Aside from Mannering being formerly popular on both stage and screen, he's also an oft-married actor of younger women with a drinking problem, attempting to return to the stage after twelve years only to assist this young girl in her acting debut for reasons explained only in her letter of introduction.

The plot is also highlighted by an amusing but extended ventriloquist act between Bergen and McCarthy along with the slow-witted buck-tooth dummy named Mortimer Snerd. While it's been said in the story by one of the characters that ventriloquist acts are a thing of the past, it takes someone like Bergen to bring it back. As much as these are wooden dummies, Bergen makes those in the movie as well as those watching it believe they are real. Though Andrea Leeds is best known for her movie roles under Samuel Goldwyn in the late 1930s, her career might have extended to the next decade had she not married and retired from acting by 1940. For those who have never seen an Andrea Leeds movie, this and STAGE DOOR would be good movies of introduction.

A public domain title that enjoyed frequent broadcasts since the mid 1980s on public television and some cable channels as Nickelodian's Nick at Night Movie (1987) or the Christian Broadcast Network (prior 1989), the now forgotten LETTER OF INTRODUCTION has become available on video cassette from various distributors, mostly at 102 minutes. Later placed on DVD, but beware of shorter and darker prints in shorter length of 87 minutes. (***)
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Indiscreet (1931)
6/10
A Woman's Impulse
7 April 2019
INDISCREET (United Artists, 1931), directed by Leo McCarey, is not an early movie edition to the 1958 Cary Grant-Ingrid Bergman comedy bearing the same name, but a comedy based on the play "Obey That Impulse" by songwriters, Lew Brown, B.G. DeSylva and Ray Henderson, who also produced. Starring Gloria Swanson, a popular leading actress of the silent screen who has found some luck in early talkies as THE TRESPASSER (1929), who not only has a couple of suitors for INDISCREET, but gets to sing a couple of songs as well.

The story begins on New Year's Eve where Geraldine Trent (Gloria Swanson), a New York dress designer, decides to break off her engagement with Jim Woodward (Monroe Owsley), whom she feels isn't worthy of having him for her husband. Through Timothy Collins, better known as Buster (Arthur Lake), Jerry is introduced to his friend, Tony Blake (Ben Lyon), a novelist, who practices what he preaches through his latest book, "Obey That Impulse" by immediately falling in love with Gerry, wanting to marry her first, then getting to know her later. Finding him a bit crazy in his actions, Jerry finds Tony to be worthy of becoming her husband. In the meantime, Gerry's kid sister, Joan (Barbara Kent), convent educated in Paris, whom she hasn't seen in two years, is returning home by boat. Seriously in love with a man she met abroad, Jerry is surprised the man she's engaged to is Jim rather than Buster, who loves her. Gerry attempts on breaking up their relationship, but Joan refuses to listen to her warnings that she's engaged to a cad. At a social function in Westbury hosted by Jim's conservative parents (Henry Kolker and Nella Walker), where their engagement is to be announced, at first Jerry, who attends, pretends to have a touch of family insanity. When that doesn't work, she pretends her love for Jim, which hurts her more than helps when they are caught together by Joan and Tony. Maude Eburne also co-stars as Gerry's Aunt Kate.

Reportedly produced as a musical, only two songs survive in the existing print, including Gloria Swanson singing to the camera to "If You Haven't Got the Love," followed later by two renditions of "Come to Me." The problem with the song interludes is that Swanson is no singer. Her vocalizing style weakens the film. One notable scene, however, occurs during her shower/bath scene that reveals Swanson in silhouette behind glass shower door. What makes INDISCREET interesting viewing today is watching Gloria Swanson years before her triumph comeback performance in SUNSET BOULEVARD (Paramount, 1950), and Arthur Lake before winning immortality as Dagwood Bumstead in the "Blondie" movie series for Columbia Pictures (1938-1950).

Theatrically released at 92 minutes, circulating prints are 73 minutes. Being a reissue print minus twenty minutes of material makes one wonder what was deleted, and if INDISCREET will ever be seen again in its original theatrical format. Sudden cuts and blackouts that have been circulating on public television and video cassette since the early 1980s, along with DVD presentations, make INDISCREET both uneven and disjointed. A public domain title, which had some television showings in the now defunct cable channels as Tempo or Channel America back in the late 1980s. While a possible restoration may or may not make much of a difference, at least its original length might make better sense in its scenario, indicating how INDISCREET was originally presented to theater audiences way back in 1931. (**)
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7/10
Judge Hardy's College Boy
7 April 2019
ANDY HARDY'S BLONDE TROUBLE (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1944), directed by George B. Seitz, marks the 14th installment to the popular "Judge Hardy's Family/Andy Hardy" comedy series that all began as A FAMILY AFFAIR in 1937. Having graduated from Carvel High School with his classmates back in 1941, three years have lapsed since graduation day from ANDY HARDY'S PRIVATE SECRETARY (1941), followed by a few installments before Andy finally heads out for college by the end of ANDY HARDY'S DOUBLE LIFE (1942). Rather than titling this as ANDY HARDY GOES TO COLLEGE, it becomes ANDY HARDY'S BLONDE TROUBLE, meaning the usual antics involving Andy and more girl trouble along the way to college.

Starting off where the previous film, ANDY HARDY'S DOUBLE LIFE (1942) left off (over a year since its last release), Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney) leaves parents, Judge James K. Hardy (Lewis Stone) and Emily (Fay Holden), his Aunt Milly (Sara Haden) and his hometown of Carvel on a train bound for Wainwright College, now a co-ed university. (The train sequence which follows lasts nearly 40 minutes). While on board, Andy meets Kay Wilson (Bonita Granville), a girl raised by her guardian; Doctor M.J. Standish (Herbert Marshall), a middle-aged gentleman who not only winds up being a former student at Wainwright College, and his father's old classmate, but to be his college dean; and blonde sisters, the flirtatious Lee (Lee Wilde) and serious-minded Lynn Walker (Lynn Wilde). It so happens that the Walker girls are identical twins traveling separately so not to give away their secret that their father, believing Lee is heading for Vermont, that his daughters should be spending more time apart than always together. Yet complications ensue as the confused Andy believes one of the girls to be an individual and not a twin, especially after having loaned one of them money needed for his college expenses. While back in Carvel, Judge Hardy is treated for his tonsilectomy by by Lee Wong How (Keye Luke), a Japanese doctor from Brooklyn (New York). After his recovery, Judge Hardy visits Wainwright College to see how his son is doing, with some surprises ahead.

Other members in the cast are: Jean Porter (Kathy, Beezy Anderson's sister, who dumps her $8 car in the custody of Judge Hardy); Marta Linden (Mrs. Townsend); Connie Gilchrist (Mrs. Gordon); Tommy Dix (Mark); Jackie Moran (Spud); Irving Bacon, Eddie Acuff and Frank Sully (The Taxi Drivers). Series regulars as Marion Hardy (Cecilia Parker); Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford) and Beezy Anderson (Georgie Breakstone) do not appear. With this strictly Andy Hardy material, Lewis Stone still resumes his star-billing over Mickey Rooney's name in the casting credits. A classic Cole Porter tune, "Easy to Love" is vocalized by The Wilde Twins.

Aside from being the longest (107 minutes) of the entire 16-film series, ANDY HARDY'S BLONDE TROUBLE simply takes time resolving situations involved. The big surprise comes by the appearance of British-American actor, Herbert Marshall, known for his many movie roles dating back to 1930, in notable support, along with Keye Luke (of the "Charlie Chan" series) carrying on his role of Doctor Lee Wong How from the "Doctor Kildare" movie series starring Lew Ayres and Lionel Barrymore. While its extreme length might cause the movie to drag in spots, at least the cast members and Andy Hardy's blonde trouble simply add to its enjoyment.

Never distributed on video cassette but available on DVD, ANDY HARDY'S BLONDE TROUBLE can be found broadcast on cable television's Turner Classic Movies. Next installment: LOVE LAUGHS AT ANDY HARDY (1946) reuniting Mickey with Bonita Granville and their further adventures at Wainwright College. (***)
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5/10
Heaven on Earth
31 March 2019
I MARRIED AN ANGEL (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1942) directed by W.S. Van Dyke, marks the eighth and final screen collaboration of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, one of Hollywood's beloved love teams. While memorably paired in such operatic classics as NAUGHTY MARIETTA (1935), ROSE MARIE (1936) and what many regard their best film together, MAYTIME (1937), MacDonald and Eddy continued romancing and singing to the delight of their fans with THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST (1938), SWEETHEARTS (1938), NEW MOON (1940) and BITTERSWEET (1940). Though they are best remembered for their singing against European period backdrops, somehow MacDonald and Eddy found their way into something quite different - a modern-day musical-comedy fantasy based on a successful Broadway play starring Dennis King, Vera Zorina, Vivienne Segal and Walter Slezak. Though these actors might have starred in the film version of the play, as it turned out, casting stronger marque names as MacDonald and Eddy cast against type were selected. What might have proved something different and favorable actually had fans and critics of the day labeling I MARRIED AN ANGEL to be their biggest mistake.

Set in "Budapest in the gay days of not so long ago," the down-to-earth story introduces Anna Zador (Jeanette MacDonald) coming to work riding her bicycle. A stenographer at the Palaffi Bank for six years, Anna silently loves its owner, a wealthy playboy, Count Willie Palaffi (Nelson Eddy). Palaffi hardly notices Anna, who spends his carefree days partying with other women and flirting with bank secretaries. In his absence, he has Herman Rothbart (Reginald Owen), affectionately called "Whiskers," the family business associate, to assume bank responsibilities instead of him. Invited to his upcoming birthday party with guests coming in costumes, Marika (Mona Maris), at the advise of "Whiskers," has Anna invited to attend dressed as an Angel with wings and halo. With Whiskers feeling the 35-year-old Willie should be married by now, he finds Anna would be a good influence on him. After dancing with Anna at his costume party, Willie, who feels Anna not to his liking, excuses himself to his upstairs room where he falls asleep, dreaming of himself marrying Brigitta, an angel in the image of Anna, and finding out what it's like having her as his wife.

Seen in the supporting cast are Edward Everett Horton (Peter); Binnie Barnes (Peggy from Paris); Douglass Dumbrille (Baron Szigetti); with Gino Corrado, Leonid Kinskey, Maude Eburne and Gertrude Hoffman in smaller roles. The songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart include: "There Comes a Time," "Tira Lira La," "An Angel Appears," "I Married an Angel," "I'll Tell the Man in the Street," "Hey, Butcher!" "Spring is Here," "Vallaneile," "To Count Palaffi," "I Married an Angel," "May I Present the Girl," "Tira Lira La," "I Married an Angel," "But What of Truth?" Surreal operatic montage of "Margarita," with Hawaiian dance of "Aloha Oe"; "I Married an Angel," and "Spring is Here." Of its bright scoring, the title tune comes off best.

Had I MARRIED AN ANGEL been produced ten years earlier by Paramount under its direction by Ernst Lubitsch, and featuring Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Edward Everett Horton, with Kay Francis and Genevieve Tobin in the Maris and Barnes roles, chances are this might have been as delightful as the other Chevalier and MacDonald's actual musicals of ONE HOUR WITH YOU or Rouben Mamoulian's LOVE ME TONIGHT (both 1932). Coming a decade later proved ill-timed for the team, especially with changing tastes is audience acceptance of film noir mysteries or World War II dramas high in box-office receipts at the time. The MGM 1942 treatment of I MARRIED AN ANGEL starts off amusingly well, even resembling that of an Ernst Lubitsch musical of a decade ago, down to Lubitsch stock players as Robert Greig and Tyler Brooke in minor support, along with cast members participating in recitations and songs. In fact, the song interludes prove better than the story material provided. Regardless of how the cast tries hard to make the situations work, at least Horton and Barnes manage to brighten up the proceedings with their humorous individual support. And what other movie can one find the sophisticated MacDonald becoming hip by 1940s standards doing a jitterbug-dance to swing music opposite Binnie Barnes.

I MARRIED AN ANGEL shows MacDonald and Eddy can do comedy, but somehow the weakness falls mostly during its dream sequence. Though highlighted by MacDonald's Angel insulting guests unintentionally by telling the truth (since Angels never tell lies), it lessens the mood as the truthful Angel becomes a woman of the world lying her way back into the confidence of those she earlier insulted. The movie in general should have worked, but really doesn't fit MacDonald and Eddy screen personas. As it turned out, I MARRIED AN ANGEL ended their on-screen relationship. Though MacDonald starred in three more MGM productions until her retirement in 1948, Eddy's long association with the studio came to an end with this film. A pity because I MARRIED AN ANGEL had fine potential. Interestingly, a similar titled-comedy, I MARRIED A WITCH (United Artists, 1942), starring Fredric March and Veronica Lake, proved so much better.

Being the least discussed or televised of the MacDonald-Eddy musicals over the years, I MARRIED AN ANGEL available on video cassette (in 1989) and later DVD, often appears on cable television's Turner Classic Movies along with other MacDonald and Eddy angel cake delights. (** harps)
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5/10
The Amos and Andy movie
24 March 2019
CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK (Radio Pictures, 1930), directed by Melville Brown, marks the feature movie debut of radio comedians, Amos 'N Andy (by arrangement with the National Broadcasting Company). Introduced in 1928, the characters of Amos and Andy were the rage of the radio airwaves, and what better way to get to see as well as hear them than on the motion picture screen. Though Amos and Andy were black taxicab drivers from Georgia living in the Harlem district of New York City, these characters were actually performed by white actors, Freeman F. Gosdon (Amos) and Charles V. Correll (Andy) convincingly playing blacks speaking in Negro dialect. CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK mixes comedy routines between Amos and Andy along with an extended sub-plot revolving around a socialite white family of Westchester County.

The story opens on a New York City street during a traffic jam where John Blair (Edward Martindel) and his wife (Irene Rich) await patiently in their limousine while on their way to pick up a family friend, Richard Williams (Charles Morton) at Pennsylvania Station. Holding up a line of cars is the run-down Model T cab by owners of the Fresh Air Taxi Company, Amos (Freeman F, Gosden) and Andy Brown (Charles V. Correll). Obtaining a taxi leading to the Blair estate in Hartsdale, New York, Charles meets with the Blair daughter, Joan (Sue Carol), whom he had seen since childhood, horse riding with her suitor, Ralph Crawford (Ralf Harolde). Ralph becomes jealous of their relationship and schemes on keeping them apart. Later, the Blairs hire Duke Ellington and his Cotton Orchestra to perform at their social function, but arrive two hours late due to their slow taxi transport by none other than Amos and Andy. "Check and Double Check" finally serves its title purpose as Amos and Andy attend their lodge club, "The Mystic Knights of the Sea." Their fraternity brother and mystic leader, Kingfish (Russell Powell), selects them as to spend the night in an old abandoned estate in Harlem acting as night watchmen and locate a piece of paper labeled "Check and Double Check," that's to be returned to the lodge the following morning. While the home has a reputation for being haunted, Amos and Andy are unaware the noises are being made by Ralph and assistant searching for an unclaimed deed of Richard's deceased grandfather needed in order for Ricjhard to marry Joan. Roscoe Ates (Roscoe); and Rita LaRoy (Elinor, Ralph's sister) are also seen in the cast. While Amos and Andy's girlfriends, Ruby Taylor and Madame Queen, are discussed, they do not appear.

Anyone familiar with the television series, "The Amos and Andy Show" (1951-1953), would be disappointed by this sole motion picture venture based on the same radio characters. Being an early talkie, certain sequences are drawn-out and stiffly played. Much of the story devotes more time on the Blair family than on Amos and Andy. Although there's no singers, the Blair function does present Duke Ellington's Band playing the hit tune to Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby's classic, "Three Little Words." Ellington, unfortunately, is glimpsed piano playing either by back of head or side facial profile, only gets his facial view in long shot.

With Hal Roach having Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and RKO Radio having Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, the same studio (RKO) gambled on the success by acquiring another comedy team, Amos and Andy. Reportedly successful in 1930, with viewers getting a full glimpse of the popular dual, interestingly there were no future follow-up Amos and Andy features nor comedy shorts. They did appear on screen once more, doing a guest spot in THE BIG BROADCAST OF 1936 (Paramount, 1935). As it appears, Amos and Andy were probably more popular and funnier on radio than on the silver screen. When Amos and Andy were transferred to television, the two-season comedy series featured natural black actors (Alvin Childress and Spencer Williams) in their title roles, yet they were mostly secondary players to its actual star of that program, Kingfish (wonderfully played by the scene-stealing Tim Moore).

Though Amos and Andy could be said to be black replicas to Laurel and Hardy, with Amos the thin and sensible partner to Amos's fat, loafing, cigar smoking character sitting back to think while Amos does all the work, their comedy routines include mix-up telephone conversation, their new math method with Kingfish; tire changing, and race against time taxi driving to Pennsylvania Station, which unfortunately lacks comedy scoring and obviously staged in front of a rear projection screen.

Who knows if CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK might have stood the test of time had Amos and Andy been played by actual black actors as Sam McDaniel and Clarence Muse, as opposed to white actors in blackface. Yet with them doing the same exact thing might still stir up controversy by the way how blacks obtain laughter rather than getting laughter.

Having turned up on television around 1979, CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK, a public domain title, did become available on video cassette (1980s) and years later on DVD. It has turned up sparingly on cable television's Turner Classic Movies, notably in 2006 as part of its subject matter, "Black Images on Film." As in 1930, this comedy would be seen today more as a curiosity than a comedy classic. (**)
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7/10
Queen of the Silent Serials
17 March 2019
THE PERILS OF PAULINE (Paramount, 1947), directed by George Marshall, is not an updated weekly serial to the famous silent 1914 adventure, but a fictitional biographical tale of the woman who became known as "The Serial Queen," Pearl White. Oddly cast by Betty Hutton, better known in the forties for her oddity singing and comedic style, this was the studio's follow-up attempt to her popular portrayal of night-club entertainer, Texas Guinan in INCENDIARY BLONDE (1945). Though Hutton's style might have been better suited for 1920s wacky songstress, Winnie Lightner, whose name was forgotten by this time, it's a wonder if the younger generation of 1947 has ever heard of Pearl White, let alone her most famous serial of long ago. Yet, Columbia's contribution to Al Jolson in THE JOLSON STORY (1946), starring Larry Parks, did bring forth a new generation of fans to a singer whose prime was way before their time, thus having other studios contribute its own ideas to other once famous names of the past to be relived again, even so briefly, in modern times.

Produced by Technicolor, credited as a salute to Charles W. Goddard who wrote the original serial, "The Perils of Pauline," the story opens with theater audiences watching Pearl White's Pauline (Betty Hutton) on the screen in her death defying scene on a moving train before the title card flashes, "TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK" followed by its introduction: "All this was thirty years ago. We assure you that Pauline DID escape. Week after week, our heroine, portrayed by Pearl White, defied death and foiled the dastardly villains who always pursued her. She had to - on account of the next episode. But let's start at the beginning ..." Pearl White is introduced working for the Metropolitan Garment Company where she later socks her supervisor, Joe Gurt (Frank Faylen) on his jaw for getting fresh with her. Witnessed by Julia Gibbs (Constance Collier), a customer and grand dame of the theater coming for her costume, she finds she's unable to get credit for $90 and must pay cash, which she does not have. It's up to Pearl to go with Julia and get the money owed Gurt. Because of Pearl's desire is to become part of the troupe, actor Michael Farrington (John Lund) offers her the opportunity to perform on stage while he and the other actors, including Timmy (Billy DeWolfe) prepare themselves for their stage production of "Romeo and Juliet." Pearl's singing style stops the show, and becomes part of the Farrington Players. Michael, however, finds Pearl a rotten actress for using hand gestures rather than being natural. Because of Farrington's conceitedness towards her, Pearl walks out on him for a job elsewhere. Accompanied by Julia, and unable to acquire theater work, they are talked into trying the "flickers" instead. Julia gets the job first, but it's Pearl's dynamic personality that grabs the attention of director, Chuck McManus (William Demarest), eventually leading her to star in the weekly serial, "The Perils of Pauline" for Artcraft Studios. Success comes to Pearl, especially when Michael comes back into her life as her leading man in the serial. Forced to use hand gestures in his scenes, Michael leaves both Pearl and the movies for military duty during the World War. Pearl attempts further perils in Paris, but can't stop wondering the real reason why Michael left her the way he did.

The supporting players, consisting mostly of former screen actors appearing in cameo roles, include William Farnum, Chester Conklin, Paul Panzer, Snub Pollard, James Finlayson, Bert Roach, among many others. Billy DeWolfe acting as a dastardly villain during the serial filming portion shows good casting on his part, while William Demarest memorably as the harassed movie director. New songs by Frank Loesser, mostly sung by Betty Hutton, include: "The Sewing Machine," "Rumble, Rumble," "I Wish I Didn't Love You So," "Poor Pauline" (by Raymond Walker and Charles McGarron)," "I Came to Paris" and the show-stopper, "Papa Don't Preach to Me." Though much of the plot has characters dressed in early twentieth century style costumes, the production numbers appear too 1947 modern in both orchestration and costumes. Even the Paris scenes, supposedly set during the Roaring Twenties, shows Hutton sporting a 1940s headdress.

As with most biographical films saluting famous entertainers from the past, THE PERILS OF PAULINE is more Betty Hutton than Pearl White. It is uncertain whether White sang professionally or not, or whether the extended runaway hot-air balloon involving Pearl and the fictitional Michael actually occurred. The screenplay eliminates certain names of Pearl's life, including Elmer Clifton, her leading man from "The Perils of Pauline." It also eliminates other serial titles for which she starred, along with few feature films for which she appeared during the early 1920s. Though she did take up residence in France performing in music halls later in her life, it makes one wonder what actually happened as opposed to what was presented here.

A public domain movie title, the 93 minute edition to THE PERILS OF PAULINE saw frequent broadcasts on both network and public television, along with video cassette and DVD releases by various distributors,. Cable television showings include American Movie Classics (1996-2001) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: November 3, 1998). Though there have been other PERILS OF PAULINE titles, such as the updated 1934 Mascot Studios sound serial starring Evalyn Knapp, there was another in 1967 for Universal starring Pat Boone, with the most famous being either the 1914 Pearl White silent or the 1947 Betty Hutton musical. Regardless of inaccuracies, this THE PERILS OF PAULINE is quite nostalgic to say the least. (***)
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9/10
Playing Detective
10 March 2019
MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE (Paramount, 1947), directed by Elliott Nugent, stars popular funnyman Bob Hope in another one of his top comedies. A sequel in name only to Hope's earlier comedy, MY FAVORITE BLONDE (Paramount, 1942) opposite Madeleine Carroll, later followed by another, MY FAVORITE SPY (Paramount, 1951), featuring Hedy Lamarr, his "favorite brunette" for this production is his frequent co-star, Dorothy Lamour, the third member of the trio opposite Hope and Bing Crosby in those seven wacky "Road to" comedy adventures (1940-1962). With MY FAVORITE BLONDE and SPY being a spoof on espionage thrillers, MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE does the same here, a satire in the best possible level to the then current trend of "film noir" detective mysteries.

The narrative begins in San Quentin Prison where Ronnie Jackson (Bob Hope) is on death row for his execution in the gas chamber for a murder which he didn't commit. With reporters awaiting for him to take his last mile, Ronnie narrates his story via flashback the circumstances leading to his conviction and prison sentence: Ronnie is introduced as a baby photographer in the Chinatown district of San Francisco (California) where he happens to have his studio directly across the hall from detective Sam McCloud's office. Wanting nothing more than to become a detective like him, McCloud, accepting an assignment in Chicago, advises Ronnie to do nothing more than to answer his telephone and take messages during his absence. Shortly after, a brunette named Carlotta Montay (Dorothy Lamour) enters the office. Mistaking Ronnie as McCloud, Ronnie assumes the role as detective and accepts her case involving her missing husband (actually her uncle) abducted by kidnappers wanting to steal his mineral rights to a uranium mine. Before she leaves, Ronnie is given a paper to hide containing the valuable map leading to the whereabouts of the mineral deposits. Ronnie then sets out on his first case that leads him to situations not even he could have imagined.

The supporting casts consists of John Hoyt (Doctor Lundau, the psychiatrist); Charles Dingle (Major Simon Montagu); Reginald Denny (James Collins); Jean Wong (Mrs. Fong); Jack LaRue (Tony); Frank Puglia (Baron Montay), Ann Doran (Miss Rogers, a reporter) and Willard Robertson (The Warden). During the proceedings, Dorothy Lamour finds time to sing one song, "Besides You" by Sam Evans and Jay Livingston.

What makes MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE extremely worthwhile are the comic support by two horror movie greats, Peter Lorre (Kismet, the villain), and Lon Chaney Jr. (Willie, the imbecile type from the Seacliffe Lodge Sanitarium) Chaney's performance is reminiscent from his breakthrough dramatic performance as Lennie from that great film, OF MICE AND MEN (United Artists, 1939) starring Burgess Meredith. Though being a comedy, Lorre plays his role straight and menacing, making his performance all the funnier, especially scenes involving him and Hope, who addresses him as either "Cuddles" or "Gremlin." Aside from in-jokes commonly found in Hope comedies, such as a reference to Ray Milland and his "lost weekend," there's also surprise cameos by top leading actors as Alan Ladd and Bing Crosby. For those who don't get the in-jokes and cameos, wouldn't understand the context and humor leading to a surprise conclusion. As in most "film noir" mysteries of this 1940s, MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE features off-screen narration (by Hope), car chases, murder and mystery.

Fallen into public domain, MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE was distributed by many video cassette companies during the 1980s and 90s, DVD thereafter often with bad audio, poor visuals, or both. Over the years, the film was broadcast on various commercial or public television stations throughout the 1980s, along with cable television viewings from Nickelodeon's Nik-at-Night Movie (1988); Arts and Entertainment (1990s); American Movie Classics (1997-2003), Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: October 19, 2006), among others, to assure its popularity value then and now. With no scenes to slow down the pace during its 88 minutes, this is certainly one favorite comedy. (***1/2).
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Meet John Doe (1941)
10/10
Man of the People
2 March 2019
MEET JOHN DOE (Warner Brothers, 1941), directed by Frank Capra, unites Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck for the first time. Though both worked separately under Capra in the 1930s, this proved one of their best under this famous director. After many years under the Columbia banner where Capra won the Academy Award three times as Best Director, he resumes his trademark style with this latest edition for the new decade under a new studio, borrowing elements from his previous work, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939) featuring James Stewart as a common man who takes on crooked politicians. In this edition, Cooper plays the common man who does the same, with both editions dealing with the political power enacted in both films by Edward Arnold. Though Capra might have used Jean Arthur, his favorite leading lady, for the role of Ann, Stanwyck does just as well as the news gal responsible for boosting circulation with her fake news.

The story opens with the Bulletin, a newspaper building, acquiring a new name (The New Bulletin), its new owner, D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold) with Henry Connell (James Gleason) the new managing editor. Under new ownership comes elimination of employees, one of them being reporter, Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck), who desperately needs the work to support her widowed mother (Spring Byington) and her two younger sisters (Carlotta Jelm and Tina Thayer). Though refused to work for less money, her final assignment is to finish her last feature story before walking out the door. Out of spite, Ann writes a fictitional story about a man named John Doe, unemployed for four years, who, through his protest against the state of civilization, intends on giving up his life for a principle by jumping off City Hall on Christmas Eve. The story not only gets great readership, but boosts up circulation beyond their expectations. Though Ann returns to her job with a $1,000 bonus, she admits her story was made up. Rather than admit to rival newspapers like the Chronicle as this being amateur journalism, Ann talks Connell into hiring a man to be John Doe, doing a day-by-day exclusive on him until Christmas Eve. Of the thousands of homeless men,, Ann chooses "Long John" Willoughby (Gary Cooper), a baseball player with a kind face, now a drifter, accompanied by The Colonel (Walter Brennan) for the past four years. Though John's speeches form a John Doe Club and a John Doe Movement, D.B. Norton takes advantages of this new wave for his own political gain.

Others in the cast include: Gene Lockhart (Mayor Lovett); Irving Bacon (Beany); Warren Hymer (Angelface); Rod LaRocque (Ted Sheldon, Norton's nephew); Sterling Holloway (Dan); and J. Farrell MacDonald (Sourpuss Smithers). Regis Toomey and the uncredited Ann Doran appear memorably as a married couple, The Hansens, who talk about how the John Doe Movement has moved them to become better people and how to love thy neighbor. Walter Brennan gives a memorable performance as a fellow hobo who calls greedy people "Heelots," and would rather be bumming around in freight cars with no money in his pocket than having fame and fortune. Interestingly, Brennan and Edward Arnold, who have starred together in COME AND GET IT (United Artists, 1936), share no scenes here.

Humor and sentiment are deftly blended in the best Frank Capra tradition. Though circulating prints clock at 123 minutes, MEET JOHN DOE does tend on going a bit long with certain segments, including a six minute Hansens talk with John Doe and the good he is doing for humanity; the drunken Connell talking to John at Jimmy's Bar on how much he loves the good old United States of America; or John's talk with Ann's mother about how to propose marriage to Ann, etc. Fine scenes including the convention reminiscent to James Stewart's filibuster sequence from MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON with Cooper's character facing an angry mob who refuse to listen to him.

Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck are naturally cast in their roles that have made this film a classic, especially when shown annually around Christmas time. The story itself holds up especially well, considering how elements of the story reflect upon human nature and politics today.

Regardless of its popularity, MEET JOHN DOE fell into public domain, distributed on video cassette in poor visual prints by various distributors. It also was shown on many cable channels like American Movie Classics as well as public television. Later visually restored and placed on DVD, the best available prints for have been shown often on Turner Classic Movies, often around Christmas Eve. For first time viewers, her's your chance to meet John Doe, man of the people. (****)
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9/10
South of Pago-Pago
26 February 2019
SADIE THOMPSON (United Artists, 1928), a Gloria Swanson production adapted and directed by Raoul Walsh, stars Gloria Swanson in the silent screen adaptation to a story made famous by W. Somerset Maugham. First popularized as a stage play titled "Rain" starring Jeanne Eagles, who, interestingly did not reprise her role in the screen adaptation, this edition offers Swanson a challenging role good enough to earn her an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress.

Opening title: "Pago-Pago, in the sultry South Seas - when there is no need for bed clothes - yet the rain comes down in sheets." The story opens with United States Marines stationed in the South Seas of Pago Pago in exile from white men and women. They watch a steamer boat from San Francisco, California, docking, with passengers including Alfred Davidson (Lionel Barrymore), his wife (Blanche Frederici); Doctor Angus McPhail (Charles Lane) and his wife (Florence Midgely); and Sadie Thompson (Gloria Swanson), a woman with a questionable past. Almost immediately, Sadie attracts the attention of the Marines, making the acquaintance of Sergeant Timothy O'Hara (Raoul Walsh), whom she affectionately calls "Handsome." Because her boat to Apia is delayed for ten days due to small-pox quarantine, Sadie finds herself being made comfortable in a hotel cabin run by Joe Horn (James A. Marcus) and his native wife, Ameena (Sophia Artega). Other than the constant sheets of rain keeping the passengers indoors, Sadie's biggest problem is Mr. Davidson, a reformer, who disapproves of her actions with the male population, and his intentions on saving the lost woman's soul by turning her to religion and the hope of sending her back to San Francisco where she will have to serve prison time.

For anyone who has seen its remakes, RAIN (United Artists, 1932) starring Joan Crawford and Walter Huston, and MISS SADIE THOMPSON (Columbia, 1953) with Rita Hayworth and Jose Ferrer, would be very curious about watching this 1928 original more simply for comparison reasons. Naturally the original was well-received, while Crawford's talkie released four years later, proved to be one of the year's biggest flops. Yet it would be the Crawford edition that has stood the test of time due to its frequent television revivals, as opposed to the Hayworth Technicolor updated carnation. Crawford's heavy make-up shows Sadie's toughness and strength, while Swanson's lack of heavy-dose make-up presents her Sadie still tough yet in softer tone. Aside from her heated arguments (through title-cards) between her and Davidson with strong language known only to lip-readers, there's also an interesting scene involving lighting cigarettes with Sadie and O'Hara pressing them lighted together while resting on their lips. Also interesting is seeing director Raoul Walsh in one of his few acting roles of his long and distinguished directorial career.

Unavailable for viewing due to unavailability as being a lost movie, SADIE THOMPSON was later discovered. Aside from acid stains noticeable in certain scenes, the final reel, which has decayed, was substituted with still photos and title cards cased on its scripting. Availability incomplete can be found in both Kino Home Video VHS or DVD editions, along with cable television broadcasts presented on Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: October 13, 1996), equipped with new and somewhat satisfying musical score conducted by Joseph Turrin. Though it would have proven better viewership with original music soundtrack, however, this is the best and only way to get to see Gloria Swanson and Lionel Barrymore at their primes the way movie audiences watched them back in 1928. (***)
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