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Have written many published career articles on some of Hollywood's most luminous stars.
Latest career article on June Allyson in November 2012 Issue #449 of CLASSIC IMAGES on JUNE ALLYSON: American Dream Girl with 38 photos.
Career article in September 2007 Issue #387 of CLASSIC IMAGES on DOROTHY McGUIRE: QUIET SERENITY, her life and career with 19 photos.
Additional details for published articles can be found by clicking onto &Publicity& for each star at their IMDb site at left side of screen.
OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND: Living Legend
ROBERT MITCHUM: One Hell of a Guy
GENE TIERNEY: Face in the Misty Light
DANA ANDREWS: Flawed Hero
SUSAN HAYWARD: She Never Looked Back
MARIA MONTEZ: I Am So Beautiful!&
JENNIFER JONES: Portrait of Jennifer
HEDY LAMARR: Beauty in Repose
ROBERT WALKER: Demons Beneath the Charm
GALE SONDERGAARD: The Charm of the Spider Woman
BASIL RATHBONE: Classic Hero, Classic Villain
CLAUDE RAINS: Master of Menace
LANA TURNER: Dangerous Curves
RITA HAYWORTH: Queen of Columbia
SHIRLEY TEMPLE: The Child Star Who Tried to Grow Up
GINGER ROGERS: Emotion in Motion
GEORGE SANDERS: Self-Confessed Scounrel
LON CHANEY, JR.
WILLIAM HOLDEN: Tragic Hero
LARAINE DAY: All American Girl
IDA LUPINO: Acting in her Blood
GREER GARSON: Regal Star
RAY MILLAND: Against Type
LAIRD CREGAR: Hero in a Villain's Body
JOAN FONTAINE and OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND: Oscar-Winning Sisters
VICTOR MATURE: Beautiful Hunk of Man
GEORGE BRENT: Emotional Support
BRIAN DONLEVY: Sweetest Fella Who Ever Lived
DEBORAH KERR: Innate Gentility
CARY GRANT: Who is Cary Grant?
Thanks to all of you on the Classics Film Board who have written to me about my articles with some interesting comments.
Written, but awaiting publication:
Favorite Technicolor films from the Golden Age:
GONE WITH THE WIND
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD
THE WIZARD OF OZ
DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK
(All from 1939 in gorgeous Technicolor).
Favorite Technicolor films from the '40s:
THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD
NORTH WEST MOUNTED POLICE
THE RED SHOES
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF COLONEL BLIMP
THE THREE MUSKETEERS
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS
THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES/THE HEIRESS
STELLA BY STARLIGHT (Victor Young) from &The Uninvited&.
Favorite Directors: ALFRED HITCHCOCK and WILLIAM WYLER
Favorite Genre: FILM NOIR
Favorite Actor: CARY GRANT
Favorite Actress: OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND
Favorite modern romantic mysteries:
LAURA/THE UNINVITED/THE UNSUSPECTED
Favorite Fantasies: PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD, THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR
Favorite war films:
THE SANDS OF IWO JIMA/ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT/PATHS OF GLORY
It goes without saying that most of these beauties were indeed beauties. Here they are, not in any particular order:
OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND
King of the Underworld (1939)
Bogart puts comic spin on dumb criminal in programmer...
The central role in this low-budget crime melodrama really belongs to KAY FRANCIS, and she makes her lady doctor pretty believable. But it's HUMPHREY BOGART who walks off with the show, which is no more than a programmer made on the cheap, by playing up the comic elements of his character.
Bogart is an illiterate man who wants his "genius" to be known. He kidnaps a man (James Stephenson) with a reputation as a writer in order to tell him his life story and make him the "king of the underworld." But Kay Francis spoils all his plans when she has to prove herself innocent of criminal charges pending against her due to a prior event. She fools the hoods into believing they will go blind if they don't let her help them.
The story has several implausible script problems and never really comes off as credible. Interesting only to see that Bogart was far more worthy of his early material than the studio realized. And Kay Francis has one of her more believable roles in this crime melodrama.
The Vampire Bat (1933)
Low-budget horror film has its creepy moments...
And most of them belong to Dwight Frye as the town idiot who specializes in cuddling bats--much to the horror of the village inhabitants.
However, the filming is on a very primitive scale. Sets and costumes have the proper Gothic mood but the production is obviously a cheapie made in a hurry to capitalize on other films featuring Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray which were decidedly more polished.
Melvyn Douglas, looking very youthful, is studying the case and can't figure out who the real culprit is. By this time, the audience can guess that it's "the one you'd least suspect."
Summing up: Watchable as a primitive horror film from Majestic Studio with a reasonably good cast. Has the necessary ingredients for classic horror films of this era.
Bright Leaf (1950)
Dismal story, dismal conflicts, unappealing characters...
Surprised I am that some reviewers here really liked this overwrought melodrama about the tobacco industry and one man's rise to power because he has the vision to see how cigarettes could come from machines.
Gary Cooper has the most unsympathetic role of his career as a stormy man caught between conflicted love with two women--Patricia Neal, headstrong and rich, and Lauren Bacall, the madam of a brothel. There's a suggestion of GWTW in these characters, but too much of the dialog resorts to confrontational moments that are never resolved.
Most of the hatred comes from Patricia Neal's dad, Donald Crisp, who from the very start of the film wishes Gary Cooper would drop dead. It takes up too much of the film with the love/hate relationships between Cooper, Neal and Bacall getting the most footage.
But in the end, with these unsympathetic characters chewing up the scenery with all their vitriol, the overall feeling is a waste of time. None of the relationships evolve smoothly, not even at the conclusion.
Summing up: No wonder the film is so little known today. The saving grace is an interesting score by Victor Young.
Rachel, Rachel (1968)
Poorly paced story of a desperately lonely woman...
Frankly, it appears that mine is a minority opinion. My own favorite story of a lonely woman is SUMMERTIME with Katharine Hepburn which had a lot more flavor as well as a genuinely entertaining and moving story.
However, RACHEL, RACHEL drags along at an interminably slow pace with many close-ups of star Joanne Woodward as she reflects on the emptiness of her dull, spinisterish life in a small town. And the script provides no scenes that give us any real hope that things have changed for her by the time we get to the fantasized ending. Most of the scenes are played too long to hold viewer interest.
As a result, I found it tedious and somewhat boring at times because nothing of real interest seemed to happen, except in a few flashbacks showing the effect her disturbing childhood had on her upbringing.
The acting is competent but I never found the story involving enough to care about the fate of the main character or the few supporting characters for that matter. It fails completely to be anything but a character study of a lonely teacher without the needed dramatic power to make us feel her suffering.
Pacific Rendezvous (1942)
Espionage tale borders on the absurd when it comes to comedy...
What really weakens what could have been a good narrative is the attempt to insert light hearted comic elements into the plot of PACIFIC RENDEZVOUS. Instead of playing it as straight drama, what could have emerged as a timely romantic drama about breaking the Japanese code during WWII becomes a trivial piece of fluff with an absurd spotlight on the silly character played by Jean Rogers.
She's the girlfriend of our hero (Lee Bowman) and does him no favors when it comes to helping the war effort crack the code. For sheer stupidity (and to make her character seem "cute" at all times), she slips dozens of sleeping pills in his coffee so he can get some rest from a heavy schedule of solving the code and ignoring her.
And throughout the movie she pouts, bounces around and shows jealousy of any other female who pursues Bowman, as for example female spy Mona Maris. Her acting is dreadful enough to bring the story down to the level of irritating fluff where it remains until the final reel.
An interesting cast headed by Lee Bowman, Russell Hicks, Mona Maris, Carl Esmond, Hans Conreid, Curt Bois and several other good players is defeated by a silly script which reduces the whole thing to a B-budget MGM programmer which played the lower half of double features in the '40s.
The Mark of Zorro (1940)
Tyrone Power excels in dual role...great swashbuckling adventure...
The only ingredient missing here is a Fox budget that would have provided Technicolor photography as a part of the film's lush production values. However, even without three-strip Technicolor, this B&W version of the famous legendary outlaw is acted to perfection by the entire cast.
Tyrone Power goes with great ease from the fop to the swashbuckler Zorro, all the while displaying a great deal of charm and good looks. The romantic role of "the girl" goes to Linda Darnell who is more than adequate in the looks department herself.
In the chapel scene and "The White Sombrero" dance routine they have a chance to show the kind of sparks that made them popular movie stars of the '40s. Linda was just about to break out of her virginal roles and about to play more tempestuous heroines, but she does an excellent job as Power's love interest.
Basil Rathbone is at his finest for the final dueling scene, surely even more robustly performed than the one he shared with Errol Flynn in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD--and that's really saying something. Power seems to be evenly matched with Rathbone in his skilled swordsmanship.
Alfred Newman's fitting pseudo-Spanish background music provides just the right amount of excitement to make this a most entertaining show. And the supporting cast--including Gale Sondergaard, J. Edgar Bromberg, Eugene Palette, Montagu Love, Janet Beecher and others is excellent.
By all means worth watching anytime for sheer entertainment.
The Doctor Takes a Wife (1940)
Highly improbable plot, even for a screwball comedy...
Loretta Young and Ray Milland aren't to blame for the weak and tedious script which keeps piling one mishap after another in an attempt to qualify as a smart screwball comedy.
Suspension of disbelief was not possible for me, especially for the sequence that has Milland running back and forth during a cocktail party to keep his fiancé from learning Loretta Young is in his apartment. Milland handles the bit with deft touches, but the improbability is too apparent even for a screwball comedy.
And Gail Patrick overdoes her "cutesy" act as his moronic girlfriend. Even Reginald Gardiner and Edmund Gwenn are unable to overcome some awkward comic moments.
Milland and Young do the best they can with the formula script, but the end results are meager with the film straining for a few genuine laughs. Furthermore, Young's character is too sarcastic to be likable for the first part of the story, but of course softens for the happy ending.
The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942)
B-film hijinks with Karloff and Lorre--but what were they thinking?...
Only afterward did I realize this must have been inspired by the screwball farce ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, but the script, unfortunately, lacks the comic finesse and wit of that film. This might have looked good on paper--take an old, crumbling Colonial inn, have a woman purchase it, fill it with odd characters and a mysterious doctor who keeps his secrets in a cellar, and lo and behold you've got another hit.
Alas, none of the humor is even remotely adult. You almost expect the Three Stooges to show up at any moment. Instead, we have Larry Parks show up to play the only slightly sane character in the cast. The sprightly Jeff Donnell is his ditsy ex-wife and she manages to keep her poise while playing the comedy with a few deft touches of her own.
Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre do what they can to inject some vitality and humor into a witless script but everything is so overdone that by the time Maxie Rosenbloom shows up I had to throw in the towel. Too much for me.
Summing up: Unless you don't mind the sophomoric humor, watch it at your own peril.
Arrivederci Roma (1957)
Mario Lanza sings a lot but the script is a dreadful trifle...
The "6" rating is only because Mario Lanza gets to sing a good number of worthwhile songs as only he can. But I could have done without his impersonation scene where he makes fun of popular Italian crooners like Perry Como and Dean Martin.
The story is so flat and unconvincing that it's hardly worth a mention. It's sufficient to say that you can forget it while enjoying abundant glimpses of Rome's landmarks and terrain, all nicely photographed in Technicolor.
Lanza was beginning to look heavier than usual but his voice is still able to belt out a mixture of operatic arias and pop tunes. The film itself is not an "essential," even for Lanza fans because the script is an uninspired bit of tedium. Just sit back and enjoy the scenery.
The Truth About Murder (1946)
Entertaining mystery with grown-up Bonita Granville...
A breezy mystery is given some nice performances from Bonita Granville and Morgan Conway as they attempt to solve crime in the big city.
I'm so used to seeing Bonita in some of her childhood roles, usually as a bratty teenager and later on as Nancy Drew, that it comes as a surprise to see how well she handled this adult role as an attorney.
The plot is sometimes light on logic and the ending using a lie detector test comes across as too pat a conclusion. It might have been better to furnish a stronger finish to the tale.
But it passes the time pleasantly enough, even if the guilty party becomes pretty obvious before the final scene.
Les Misérables (2012)
Real singers badly needed to put over this epic tale of squalor and redemption...
I have to give this a decidedly mixed review.
My first impression before the film's first hour was over was a silent reminder "don't buy the soundtrack." The singing, even from Hugh Jackman who acquitted himself so well as "Curly" in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Oklahoma!" is, to put it charitably, just passable. Russell Crowe does as well as can be expected since he is a non-singer to begin with, but the others do not have the kind of voices that are needed to put over this kind of material.
Cinematically, it's a bit over-the-top with its wondrous camera views from high places. Nothing is done to suggest that the squalor isn't real. The mud is as muddy as possible and the make-up (in extreme close-ups of Anne Hathaway for example), is enough to convince us that these wretched people had nothing to sing about.
Not being a fan of the show and familiar with only a couple of the songs, I was not expecting to be thrilled by the score alone--and I wasn't. Whether you have an appetite for these kind of musical numbers is clearly a matter of taste. Most of the lyrics are as downbeat and desperate as the story itself suggests.
A much needed touch of humor is furnished by Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen, although some of the humor is a bit gross and overdone.
The almost unrecognizable first appearance of Hugh Jackman as a slave hauling a ship with his comrades as Jaffert (Russell Crowe) looks on, is an astonishing moment. Jackson looks nothing like his real self, so part of his performance can be attributed to a marvelous make-up job. But he does well with the anguish and pain of seeing so much suffering around him. Anne Hathaway is obviously a singer/actress who does all she can with the powerful emotions she displays in her big scene, but her role is a small one in the scheme of things.
Despite the power of some of the performances, the overall effect for me was a story that was not well told because of script problems, making it a confusing mess for anyone not familiar with the basic outline of the tale and hard to follow unless paying strict attention.
Your musical taste will decide whether or not you love or hate this film, but it's fair to say that the songs are not rendered in the best possible way by having them performed live. The pre-recording of all the lyrics would have enhanced the big numbers which required more vocal ability and professional technique than is offered here.
Summing up: Definitely not for everyone, but the squalor of the French Revolution period is magnificently realistic with lavish, detailed sets and costumes that convey the right atmosphere. Stunning photography is evident in the final scene where Crowe's conscience forces him to take drastic action.
Biggest flaw: The lack of tension in the cat-and-mouse game between Crowe and Jackman that was so powerfully portrayed in straight dramatic versions of the story filmed previously which sharpened the suspense. Instead, Crowe's recognition of the hunted man is done so casually that there is no building of suspense from the outset.
Creepy sci-fi horror film ranks with the best of the '50s "creatures"...
Aside from providing some quiet chills and impressive underwater photography, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON proves that it doesn't hurt to deliver your horror film with photogenic leads: Richard Carlson, Richard Denning and Julie Adams, all briefly clad to best demonstrate their physical attributes. Furthermore, they can all give decent performances worthy of a better film.
It's the underwater photography of a gill-man lurking in the Amazon waters while Miss Adams takes a brief swim that sticks in the mind after watching the film. The sheer suspense of seeing how selective he is in following her from the lower depths is given some striking underwater photography and subtle background music that captivates any viewer. When and how will this predator strike? It sets the stage for any suspenseful scenes that follow--and there are plenty of them.
Fans of sci-fi thrillers get their money's worth with this one, crispy photographed in glorious B&W. And while the story lacks what we might call "originality" today, it's a good example of how its slight plot of man vs. underwater monster should be made.
Interesting look at a famous collaboration...
Although I'm impressed by how well Steven Spielberg and John Williams have gotten along throughout the years on their collaboration as producer/director and musician, respectively, I'm surprised that the choices they made for film clips are not ones I would have chosen.
What I mean is, the background scores for all of those clips were not the film's strongest moments--with the exception of "Vertigo" which, of course, was a Hitchcock film with Bernard Herrmann's score.
The highlight chosen from "ET" for example, is the ride against the bright moon--but much more tender moments were written (score-wise) for the Henry Thomas/ET moments of good-bye with the surging score when the craft takes off. That's the moment when the score reaches its zenith.
And likewise, "Catch Me If You Can" was an uninspired choice.
But when the two answer questions about their collaboration, or simply sit and talk about their first encounter and the many films that followed, the documentary is on the right track.
Summing up: Especially interesting for film fans who pay a lot of attention to film music and have a high regard for film soundtracks.
Most amusing moment: When Spielberg talks about hearing Williams' score for "Jaws" for the first time.
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)
Ray Harryhausen's special effects steal the show...
THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD is an enjoyable fantasy with lavish looking sets, colorful costumes and a plot that takes advantage of the odd looking creatures Sinbad must fight to achieve whatever goals he has.
John Phillip Law makes a dashing Sinbad, Caroline Munro is the briefly clad heroine and Tom Baker makes a menacing enough villain who often steals the scenes he's in. But the real scene-stealer in this case are Ray Harryhausen's special effects creatures, particularly the six-armed statue that comes to life. All of the stop animation is amazingly well done for the time.
Only drawbacks are the lack of humor to keep the story moving with a lighter touch here and there. The music by Miklos Rozsa is fitting and the color photography is gorgeous to behold in the outdoor scenes. Many of the indoor scenes take place in dark caves which only emphasizes the dark nature of much of the story. But as with "Harry Potter," kids seem to love dismal darkness as well as the brighter aspects for their fantasies. Here there's a mixture of both.
Well worth watching for escapist fantasy entertainment.
Dr. Kildare's Crisis (1940)
Biggest flaw: the epilepsy angle is badly handled...
Some other crisis, rather than suspecting "epilepsy" as the cause of Robert Young's erratic behavior, would have made more sense. Having Lew Ayres decide, on some vague notion that Laraine Day's brother (Robert Young) has epilepsy and might be passing it on to her, doesn't make much sense. Then too, her hysterical fears (as a nurse) are unsubstantiated by reasons given in the script.
I must admit that these negatives, however, do not mean that "Dr. Kildare's Crisis" is not an uninteresting film. Indeed, it's so well acted by the leads that it's apparent they were ready for headier stuff, acting-wise. Laraine Day is so impressive as Nurse Mary Lamont that it's a wonder MGM didn't build a better career for her during her studio contract. She's not only extremely attractive but does a decent job in a role that's not particularly well conceived.
Robert Young does nicely with some starkly dramatic moments, proving that this MGM series was a good training ground for their young contract players. No surprise that better roles would lie ahead for Ayres and Young. Miss Day would have to wait until she left the studio for better assignments.
Lionel Barrymore is his usual grumpy and sometimes obnoxious self as Dr. Gillespie, using all of his well-known mannerisms and then some.
But for a drama dealing with medical terms and hospital life, the epilepsy angle is badly handled and factually incorrect both as to treatment and diagnosis.
Summing up: As it is, this is formula stuff--some romance, some light moments and then some darker elements before the windup with Ayres emerging as a heroic doctor.
Monte Carlo (1930)
Even Lubistch can make a dud...a musical comedy with only one memorable song...
Strictly for devotees of Jeanette MacDonald who have to see every one of her films. Pairing her with leading man Jack Buchanan is a big mistake here. He has neither the looks nor charm to be believable as her love interest.
She does get to warble at least one attractive and well-remembered song: "Beyond the Blue Horizon," but all the other musical numbers are patter songs that merely fill in the gaps between some not too witty dialog.
The tiresome tale is about a girl who runs away from her wedding and then mistakes a wealthy man (a Count) for a hairdresser. The mistaken identity goes on for almost the entire film without resulting in any real payoffs. Jeanette is her usual charming self but Jack Buchanan is really wasted here and never gets a chance to show what a great tap dancer he was--as in "The Bandwagon" years later with Fred Astaire.
This is one even Jeanette's most ardent fans can afford to skip.
One Hour with You (1932)
Musical farce with the Lubitsch touch...
Ernst Lubitsch (with some "assist" from George Cukor) directs this charming and witty farce which gives Maurice Chevalier a chance to steal the film from his very talented co-stars, including Jeanette MacDonald and Genevieve Tobin.
His rendering of "Oh, that Mitzi!" (he breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the camera--as in "Gigi" years later), and "Three Times A Day" remain the highlights of the film. The story itself is pure fluff, a tale about a happily married couple who each have a fling but remain faithful to each other for the finale. Of course, it's all pre-code morality done with style and wit.
The sprinkling of songs also includes some rhyming dialogue, always a clever mix of words and music. Jeanette's voice sounds tinny here and there's no use made of her operatic range as the songs are simple and sweet, but she's charming and appealing as Chevalier's happily married wife. It's hard to see why she couldn't suspect that her best friend Genevieve Tobin would want to seduce her husband when the woman is such an obvious flirt. But of course, the story is strictly fluff and full of many improbable moments. The rather abrupt ending seems an awkward way to resolve the whole marital situation.
Worth viewing to watch Maurice Chevalier deliver one of his most satisfying performances, especially good when addressing the audience with his problems. The catchy title song by Richard Whiting gets some nice singing moments from several players.
Design for Living (1933)
Gary Cooper gets the Lubitsch touch with a flair for comedy...
What really surprised me about DESIGN FOR LIVING was that Gary Cooper has fun with his role as a Bohemian artist involved in a three-way affair with roommates Miriam Hopkins and Fredric March. No surprise is that Miriam Hopkins is delightful as a free spirit who can't decide which man she loves most and that Fredric March is capable of switching to light comedy when the occasion demands it.
But it's Gary Cooper who had my attention in the kind of role he so seldom played and in a performance that's anything but deadpan, which is what his later career in westerns demanded. Under Ernst Lubitsch's direction, he allows himself to unbend and rid himself of any inhibitions, using facial expressions and body language that show he had a flair for comedy to match Hopkins and March.
The menage a trois angle is played up in this watered down version of the original Noel Coward play, but Ben Hecht's racy dialogue is evident in this pre-code era. Miriam Hopkins is perfect in the central role of the charming free spirited woman who falls in love with both men, but marries a stuffed shirt business man (Edward Everett Horton) when their relationship cools off. It's an unusual "straight" role for Horton usually assigned to someone like Ralph Bellamy who always played unlucky suitors.
Summing up: One of the most enjoyable pre-code romantic comedies from the '30s delivers wit and style and one of Gary Cooper's best early performances.
The Citadel (1938)
Interesting story of a doctor who almost loses his idealism...
While watching this version of an A.J. Cronin novel, I couldn't help seeing how closely it compared to a later work by Morton Thompson called "Not As A Stranger." Both films showed how a hard-working, idealistic young man loses his sense of values until a tragic mistake during an operation in which he loses his best friend makes him realize how lost he is. In "Not as a Stranger" the doctor returns to the forgiving arms of his wife. In "The Citadel" there's a more ambiguous scene in which the conflicts are never really resolved and some would find the ending somewhat flawed.
But there's no doubt about the fine performances of Robert Donat and Rosalind Russell. She gives the film the warmth it needs and is the first to sense that he's losing his moral compass when he talks of becoming a society doctor.
Small supporting cast roles by Emlyn Williams, Ralph Richardson and Rex Harrison are a delight to behold. King Vidor directed and got the most out of all the dramatic moments but could have injected some lighter moments in a script that is really much too grim.
Summing up: Uneven melodrama but worth watching for the performances.
Whistling in the Dark (1933)
Another case where the remake was far superior...
A dull, uninspired script that mixes comedy with suspense is the main reason why WHISTLING IN THE DARK gets stuck in a very dated '30s groove and stays there. Elliot Nugent's slow moving direction isn't light enough to keep the comedy aspects in focus.
MGM's later remake starring Red Skelton and Ann Rutherford was a much better variation on this tale told at a much faster pace.
Ernest Truex and Una Merkel are the hapless couple who happen to fall into the clutches of crooked mobsters headed by C. Henry Gordon, Edward Arnold and Nat Pendleton. Truex is a mystery writer forced to invent a perfect murder for Edward Arnold so they can rid themselves of a fellow gangster they want out of the way.
The plot involving a tube of poisoned toothpaste and turning a radio into a two-way connection is not only foolish but improbable, making the story incredible long before the finish.
For some, this will be a trifle easily forgiven and forgotten. Others may find it an uninspired B-film with little to offer in the way of real entertainment even though it began as a play that had a substantial Broadway run.
In any case, the remake with Skelton and Rutherford was far easier to take and was so successful that it became a "Whistling in the Dark" series for several years, to the delight of Red Skelton fans.
Narrow Margin (1990)
Decent remake of a cat-and-mouse chase aboard a speeding train...
If your memory is good, you'll recall that this is a remake of the B&W sleeper classic starring Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor called "The Narrow Margin," with most of the action taking place aboard the confinement of a speeding train. Their tough chemistry throughout made it very watchable indeed.
The remake has made a few minor changes in the story and expanded the scenery to include some lush images of Canadian forests and countryside to give credit to some photogenic Canadian wilderness from various angles.
The expansions mean the film isn't quite as taut as the '52 thriller with occasional dull stretches of talk, but the performances are so good that it doesn't matter too much. It still contains a spellbinding climax aboard the top of the train that includes some dangerous stunt work and a nice twist, as well as spectacular moments involving a helicopter.
Not bad at all, passes the time quickly and once the suspense aboard the train starts there's no turning away.
Perhaps not as good as the original, but still worth watching. Gene Hackman and Anne Archer do fine work at the head of a competent cast.
Captain January (1924)
Confession: The Temple remake ('36) was much better...
Baby Peggy may have wowed them back in 1924, and she certainly can be applauded for what child stars had to endure when taking into consideration the effect an early show biz career had on her life.
But let's face it--the Shirley Temple version years later told the story more skillfully and had the advantage of starring the world's number one box office star with the out-sized talent for a tot of her years. Temple dispensed so much charm and talent that she became a national institution.
Baby Peggy looks more like another famous child star--Jane Withers, but in a sweeter package. Withers was famous for her mischievous tomboy roles but Baby Peggy is simply more like a real life little girl who enjoys being around grown-ups.
The film has been well preserved with a pristine print, telling the well-known story of a lighthouse keeper and his tender care of a child who was lost at sea in a shipwreck. The simple story line builds on their close relationship and the fact that she might be taken away from him.
All of this was handled with more charm and humor in the later version starring Shirley Temple with Guy Kibbe as the lighthouse keeper.
Dracula's Daughter (1936)
Solid thriller is a shivery delight...
DRACULA'S DAUGHTER has all the elements Universal was capable of putting into their string of "Dracula" horror films. The atmosphere is captured beautifully with striking B&W photography of impressive sets, the players are uniformly excellent, and the script is a good one that should satisfy all lovers of horror films.
Gloria Holden is sympathetic (but evil) as the woman who confesses to being Dracula's Daughter toward the end, but only after her appetite for victims has been satisfied is she willing to seek escape from the cursed "undead." Otto Kruger is the psychiatrist she wants to help her rid herself of the curse from the other side and Marguerite Churchill is his frisky daughter. Edward Van Sloan is Prof. Von Helsing and Irving Pichel makes a creepy impression as Sandor.
Perfect film for the Halloween season, it makes a good sequel to the original even without the presence of Bela Lugosi.
Red Light (1949)
Mystifying title for a revenge crime melodrama featuring George Raft and The Bible...
With so much of this gangster melodrama revolving around the Gideon Bible holding the clue to the murderer, it's no wonder that Dimktri Tiomkin plays up the pious "Ave Maria" every time any mention of "the clue" is made. George Raft's monotone voice and intense expression never changes much throughout, but he's convincing as a man on a mission to find and kill his brother's murderer.
Along the way, he enlists the aid of the lovely Virginia Mayo, who helps him track down the killer while reminding him that his brother was strictly a "Thou shalt not kill" sort of Army Chaplain. Thus, the grim ending for the killer comes not from Raft but providence when he's disposed of quite dramatically.
Raymond Burr plays the "heavy," a sadistic thug who seems to enjoy every kill, even if it means pushing a man off a train or having a truck falling on top of a man in hiding. A good cast, including Arthur Franz as Raft's brother, Gene Lockhart, Harry Morgan, Barton MacLane, Ken Murray, William Frawley and Arthur Shields. Virginia Mayo gives an excellent performance as the gutsy gal who helps Raft in his quest to find a killer.
Trivia: Interesting to note that most of the supporting cast would go on to TV fame in an era when that medium was just starting to give film players some iconic breaks.
Summing up: Good revenge melodrama with film noir touches.
Tail Spin (1939)
Improbable tale of female aviators headed by Alice Faye...
If you can forgive the implausible casting of some of Fox's female stars caught up in a formula plot about lady aviators and their love lives, TAIL SPIN is easy enough to take.
Alice Faye and Constance Bennett share top billing, with Faye as the earthy waitress type who spends all her hard-earned money on flying lessons, while Bennett is a socialite with similar aspirations who has a hard time adjusting to the environment of gals jealous of her.
Lots of flying scenes and enough crashes to keep you awake while the plot unfolds in leisurely fashion. By the time it's over, you've more or less predicted the outcome.
Joan Davis provides a few laughs in comic support of Nancy Kelly, Jane Wymnan and others, but it's just a trifle that passes the time acceptably with Charles Farrell, Kane Richmond and Edward Norris in the leading male roles who wait patiently for the final clinch.