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Paper Orchid (1949)
Didn't Quite Know Whether It Was a Romantic Comedy or a Murder Yarn!!
Because the murder doesn't take place until more than half way through
it's almost as though this film doesn't quite know what it wants to be -
is it a racy newspaper adventure that Hollywood did so well in the 30s
and 40s with beauteous Hy Hazell as Stella in the role that either Bette Davis or Glenda Farrell would have made their own? She gets a job on a paper with
false references - suave Hugh Williams is her boss but changes are
imminent with the death of the paper's owner. His widow takes charge and
one by one the reporters find themselves wending their way to the
Suddenly an artist, a "lame dog" being championed by a dizzy news photographer is found murdered in Stella's flat and things turn dramatic. The film had been bouncing along and I think at 90 minutes it was too long to sustain the light weight plot and the murder investigation seemed like an after thought. Sid James is fabulous, he has a couple of those famous chuckles but it's interesting that he seemed to be thought of as a heavy in the early part of his career. Not really a "heavy" here but his character has a lot of light and shade as Freddy Evans, a news hound who falls for Stella deeply, too deeply for this light weight yarn.
The Plane Makers (1963)
Bought this along with "The Power Game" but have only just got around
to watching this. Series may seem a bit patchy because only one episode
of the first series survives. While "The Power Game" is all big business with
Wilder's Machivellian machinations in taking control of Bligh Constructions
this series, initially, has a bosses vs workers theme.
Reginald Marsh is superb as Sudgeon, the managing supervisor who is suddenly thrust onto the board, as his old union chum says "we need someone like you on the board to fight for us but the workers will hate you"!! So while Wilder (Patrick Wymark) episodes are to do with wheeling and dealing in the board room and he is portrayed as ruthless, Marsh shows a man who is fair and human, although as in "Don't Stick Your Head Out" gets a glimpse into how Wilder operates. Once the series settles in it becomes a slice of life into the many departments of the Scott Furlong Air Company. In "Any More for the Skylark?" Wilder tries to put a stop to the practice of issuing free passages on test flights and a young clerk (Rodney Bewes) finds courage he never knew he had. "A Matter of Self Respect" finds Sudgeon giving a helping hand to a friend who has just been released from prison for manslaughter - this is particularly emotive as the man struggles to cope with his first visit to his young daughter!!
Unfortunately mid way through series 3 Sudgeon is forced to resign - I noticed that throughout the start of the season Marsh's role was diminished and Alan Dobie who played the icy David Corbett gained prominence. Corbett was as coldly calculating as Wilder but he just didn't have the older man's passion and emotion to say nothing of charisma - I found him impossible to warm to. So without a character who audiences could relate to - the ying to Wilder's yang, the edginess went out of it and I can understand why the show ended when it did!!
A Family at War (1970)
Can remember viewing this back in the day - I've just spent the last few months being thoroughly
gripped by the realness of this family - it should be compulsory viewing
for anyone interested in war history. This series makes other family sagas
pale in comparison, sometimes the people at home suffer just as much
psychological trauma as those who go off to fight and often if a person
has deep character flaws, going through the war does not necessarily
make everything rosy. They emerge at the end unscathed by what they
Towering above all is Colin Douglas as the father Edwin Ashton, a man who, as he describes himself, has spent most of his life working under a man whom he can't respect - that's his brother-in-law Sefton. Edwin, originally a miner, married out of his class - Jean, and as the series progresses he finds himself questioning whether marrying for love was the right decision. Their children - idealistic Phillip who is involved in a couple of episodes depicting the Spanish Civil War. By the time he comes home, he realises the hell of war but can't believe his effort was in vain. Margaret (Lesley Nunnerley) is brusque, opinionated and determined and marries John Porter (Ian Thompson) mainly because she feels it is her last chance - Porter's character goes through a complete change within the series - from a shy, mother dominated clerk to a complex man struggling to come to terms with his wife's affair.
David is the black sheep but again so real - he is a man with whom failures are always someone else's fault and who sees the war as something where he will make his mark but once back in civvy street all his weaknesses return. When his job turns sour he runs, leaving gallant Sheila with the kids and a mortgage to pay. Last episode finds him bragging around the table - those people just don't change.
Standing beside the standout Colin Douglas would have to be Margery Mason (who seemed to make a career out of sour faced personalities) - she is Mrs. Porter, a mother-in-law that even hell would quake before. Apart from Colin Douglas who was older and had another standout role as a stubborn factory owner in a few episodes of "Telford's Change", only John Nettles as Frieda's husband, the forward thinking doctor, found "The Family at War" a springboard to bigger things ("Bergerac", "Midsomer Murders") - that's the show's real mystery. Everyone had a role they were born to play but somehow it didn't propel anyone to stardom. Maybe the trouble was they were too good. Colin Campbell had had his moment in "The Leather Boys" - he was outstanding as the selfish David. Coral Atkins broke your heart as the long suffering Sheila. Barbara Flynn as the mercurial Frieda and Trevor Bowen as the very decent Tony who looks upon Edwin as more of a father figure than his own, Sefton.
Die Puppe (1919)
Dear Little Ossi!!
Was so excited to see this as it featured darling Ossi Oswalda, so very
popular during silent times but could not make a go of it in talkies.
She happened to catch the eye of budding director Ernst Lubitsch who
used her as a leading lady in a few of his early directorial efforts. Based
on the story of "Coppelia" it is, supposedly, one of the first of Lubitsch's
films to show his magic touch and Ossi is delightful.
Just an enchanting story - the old Baron has decreed that all maidens shall present themselves in the village square so his nephew Lancelot can marry and the line shall not die out. Lancelot is a milquetoast and cries when he hears the news and runs away to a monastery!! If you've only seen Herman Thimig as an older character actor, he is absolutely super in this as the effete prince who thinks that marrying a doll is going to answer all his prayers!! And darling Ossi Oswalda is bewitching as (who else) Ossi, the cheeky, spirited daughter of a doll maker. Lancelot has bought the doll modeled on the doll maker's daughter but when the boisterous apprentice (young Gerhardt Ritterband's career was stopped when the Nazis rose to power because of his Jewish heritage - he is fabulous in this, a real show stopper) breaks the doll, the real Ossi takes her place!! There are hi jinks at the wedding ball and in the wedding night when Lancelot, still believing Ossi is a doll, uses her as a coat and hat stand!! She is not amused!!
A tremendous fun movie!!
Reckless Youth (1922)
A Young Constance Bennett Adds Sparkle!!
Once billed as "The Screen's Brightest Star" Elaine Hammerstein was a
protege of Lewis Selznick who acquired her for his Select Pictures after
Clara Kimball Young deserted him to form her own production company.
He thought Elaine, with her impeccable theatrical pedigree was a name
he could exploit. Selznick Pictures were lavish productions and Elaine
proved a popular personality - her flippant attitude to her career came
across in her screen portrayals in movies like "Reckless Youth".
"Youth chained to a house of decay, like a racing motor boat tied to a crumbling old wharf" - hard words indeed as applied to beautiful Alice who feels her spirit is being stifled by the austere family - even the butler spies on her comings and goings!! Just a beautifully restored film although there are missing scenes at the start - you don't meet her parents, even though her mother, played by the lovely Myrtle Stedman, has prominent billing.
Alice makes the break and confides to her friend John that she wants to go to the city and find out what it's like to be young and who cares about paying the piper, to which her friend replies "there'll be a bill all right"!! In order so she will not be forced home they marry but Alice sees it as an emancipation and just gallantry on John's part. She soon gets entangled with Harrison Thornby (Huntley Gordon), a playboy who is called dangerous by his sister. She sails close to the edge - Harrison tells her to call him when she has grown up a bit. Too late, John has already left her for his lodge. He is in a drunken haze and can't quite remember he has a house guest - "Tootles" a tough little flapper and it's Constance Bennett in her first adult role!! She is terrific and gives the movie a big boost - not playing a slinky sophisticate but a girl who "after a two by four hallway off Broadway find's John's cottage a paradise"!! Elaine Hammerstein is a darling as Alice, a spoiled girl who doesn't know what life is all about but Constance's "Tootles" is the character you remember. The ending is a let down!!
Emil und die Detektive (1931)
The Man in the Bowler Hat!!
"Emil and the Detectives" was the only one of Erich Kastner's pre
1945 works to escape Nazi censorship and what made it so popular
in it's day was the setting in contemporary Berlin and the 1931
adaptation followed on by setting it during the Weimar Republic. The
film found international acclaim and with a team of writers as Billy
Wilder, Erich Kastner and Emeric Pressburger - how could it fail?
Mordaunt Hall (of the New York Times) praised it fulsomely and also
must have been at the German premiere because he predicted stardom
for a few of the young boys who appeared in person, commenting that
America didn't have the monopoly on talented juvenile players.
Emil is being sent to Berlin by his mother, a hairdresser, to give his grandmother his mother's monthly salary of 140 marks - it is a big responsibility but Emil also gives care and attention to packing his marbles and slingshot. On board the train all the passengers are kind - except the man in the bowler hat!! Fritz Rasp is superb, he plays to the hilt the evilness and creepiness of the sinister gentleman. With all the reality and resourcefulness of children, Rasp is a standout and memorable!! First he tells Emil some very weird stories about life in Berlin - and succeeds in putting everyone in the carriage offside with his eeriness. He then takes the little boy on a hallucinating journey, flying over Berlin with an umbrella after he offers Emil a drugged chocolate.
Emil awakes in the train to find his money gone and while cousin Pony is waiting at the station, he is getting to know the local street kids who are enthused about helping him find his money. With Pony along on her push bike they track the "bowler" to a posh hotel - and by bribing a page boy they find that the enemy is in room 9!!
So many delightful and resourceful children playing and living to their own rules - Gus and his horn, Hirsch who speaks like an Indian (as in cowboys and indians) shows how much influence the American movies had world wide and little Mittenzwei who is the only boy with a home phone so he has to stay at home and mediate, much to his disgust!!
Also nice, the way the children are believed - all roads lead to the local police station and when Emil pleads that the notes will have pin pricks because he had pinned them to his pocket "Mr. Bowler Hat" is jumped on!! It seems he is not quite the small time thief as first thought but an escaped bank robber whose capture leads to a big reward. The end shows much rejoicing - all the boys wishing to marry Pony who sensibly tells them that she can be friends with all. Inge Landgut who is well known for playing Elsie in "M" makes an adorable Pony. Very sadly Rolf Wenkhaus who played Emil and others of the main juvenile cast died during the second world war. Hans Richter who played Hirsch, the Indian speaker found a phenomenal success, if type cast, as a freckled faced kid and had a long and fruitful career.
A Blue Diamond!!
Luise Ulrich bought to life a gallery of uncomplaining, subservient
women, exactly the type of film heroine embraced by Germany in the
mid 1930s - although sparkling Olga Tschehowa threatened to eclipse
Luise before she had even entered the movie. The very dependable Anton
Walbrook plays Frank Reynolds, an industrial magnate, who is returning
to Germany for the first time in 10 years. On the boat home he captures
the heart of sizzling Floris but after ten years of work he finds her too
capricious, she is a "charming adventure" - he is looking for a "blue
Staying in Bavaria, Frank is taken with the guileless Regine and after a whirlwind romance they marry but she also has family secrets - a father and brother who are layabouts and see her marriage as a chance to bleed her dry of money!! Blissfully happy at first, Frank engages an old family friend to polish off her gaucheness and she enchants everyone with her freshness and honesty. Suddenly Floris reappears and under a guise of "friendship" offers to take Regine under her wing when Frank is called away on business but in reality she is a trouble maker and wants to entangle the young girl in a romantic predicament in which she almost succeeds with tragic results.
The critics of the day praised the movie but felt Ullrich was the principal reason for the movie's success. True to the feeling in Germany in the 1930s, one reviewer carped that once Regine entered high society she forgot her wholesome values (she didn't). There was some breath taking location scenes along the Rhine and through the Bavarian alps. Director Erich Waschneck had already directed an earlier version of "Regine" in 1927 (from a popular German novella) with 1920s star Lee Parry in the title role.
Sailor's Luck (1933)
Victor Jory Gives This One Pep!!!
Sally Eilers and James Dunn were given the roles of a life time as the
pair of street wise New Yorkers who face trials and tribulations when
they marry. Sally was originally a Sennett girl whom Sennett called "the
most beautiful girl in movies" - she did get around socially but movie
stardom evaded her. With "Bad Sister" both she and Jimmy could show
their true talent but even though both they and the film were praised to
the skies, Fox saw them as a B team - Sally may have scored a hit on her
own with "State Fair" but together their films were double bill fare. Sally
was also having marriage problems which along with her forth right
opinions and salty language may have been why Fox never really got
behind her. "Sailor's Luck" was her first movie after her divorce woes and
once again she was co-starred with Dunn.
Dunn plays extrovert sailor Jimmy who meets swim instructress Sally (who can't swim!!) - which makes for shennanighans at the local pool. Not a movie up there with Raoul Walsh's best, seems to rely on comic turns from the supporting cast, as well as the charm of Jimmy and Sally. Victor Jory helps a lot - he does his best to give the film a bit of grittiness, he is Baron Portolo, the sleazy hotel manager where Sally is staying. Jimmy promises to return but once he is aboard all leave is cancelled!! So the Baron moves in on her!!
There is the usual misunderstanding - Jimmy returns and feels Sally's room is like Grand Central station - what with the Baron and frazzled Mr. Brown, whose little boy Elmer Sally is minding. Sally gets fed up with Jimmy's moods, impulsively enters a dance marathon organised by the Baron and soon there is a free for all on the dance floor!!
Victor Jory had a bumper movie year in 1933 with 9 releases. This is very light weight fun!!
Nedbrudte nerver (1923)
A 1923 comedy mystery movie from Denmark. The titles were very satirical, I found
myself laughing out loud - some of the jokes I didn't quite get until they
were almost gone but it was because they were witty and the titles played
around with some of the scenes.
Erik Brandt is an ace reporter with shot nerves because he has just apprehended a murderer - he's a wreck!! but back at his flat with the prospect of 2 weeks leave he looks out and thinks he sees another!! Worse is to come - now a jittery mess he visits the seaside and his friend introduces him to Joan - the prettiest girl on the beach and he recognises her as being the assailant. Williams, his policeman friend is working on another murder so Erik thinks he will help by bringing in Joan!! Of course by this time they have fallen in love with each other so Erik tries to protect her even to the extent of going to the police station and confessing himself!! All to no avail - Joan has committed a crime she feels she will never live down - but it's not murder!!
Gorm Schmidt was very good as the intrepid Erik and although his career only lasted until the end of the silents he was famous for his portrayal of David Copperfield. Olga Belajeff was the beauteous Joan and she was lovely. Again, another casualty of sound, she appeared in Italian, Danish and German movies.
Sold!! - For a Pair of Shoes!!!
When Mary MacLaren was spotted by director Lois Weber standing
with a group of extras, she never realised what a life changing event
it would be. As Mary recalled, she often walked to the Universal Studios
to save bus fare and one day Weber came across her looking pretty
bedraggled, looked down at her feet and exclaimed "Shoes"!! - Mary
didn't know what she meant!! Lois' husband Phillips Smalley recognized
her from small roles in "Where Are My Children" etc, he started to
tell her about a story they had found in "Colliers" magazine and gave it
to her to read. By being cast in "Shoes" Mary was elevated from extra to
leading lady and Weber had nothing but praise for her, saying "she was
the luckiest find I ever made". She also told the "Motion Picture World"
that "when the movie was run, everyone in the room fell in love with
her. She was only 16 but is the most sensitive and intelligent girl I've
Mary MacLaren was an amazing find, she was a natural actress in the Mae Marsh tradition. She was a standout as Eva, the breadwinner of a poverty stricken family in which the father sat about and read magazines all day. She is desperate for a pair of shoes to replace the ones which have been worn threadbare in her daily struggle. Every night she cuts out cardboard soles, careful that she doesn't strain the already worn out leather. Then comes a week of rain - not only are Eva's shoes wrecked but she soon becomes seriously ill because of standing around in wet shoes all day. She is praying for the day when her mother can give her money for shoes but week after week she is disappointed. She becomes desperate.... Meanwhile her friend from the notions counter is enjoying a very different life because she is free with her favours. Her man of the moment - a sleazy cabaret singer has his eye on Eva and invites her to "The Blue Goose"....
Directed with Weber's style and attention to detail, the viewer experiences the poverty and desolateness first hand, the end scene is particularly chilling. The scene where Eva just about to go out on that fateful night, and views herself through a cracked mirror.
Weber's predictions of Mary's stardom came true but she performed best under Weber's guidance - without her Mary was reviewed harshly by critics. Lacks personality, acts mechanically, lack of beauty and never smiles were some of the comments. Who would smile having to read those reviews!! Unfortunately her older sister wanted a career and also took over the management of Mary's with disastrous results. Still Mary could always point with pride to her career highlight of "Shoes".
Suspended Alibi (1957)
Secrets and Alibis!!
Even though Patrick Holt's anti-hero was wooden and didn't really
make you care about his plight this movie got a lot of praise in it's
day - Honor Blackman as his harassed but cool wife elevated proceedings
and Alfred Shaughnessy in his directorial debut made it brisk and
efficient. Quite densely plotted about the sexual activities among the
middle class it has Holt as Paul Pearson, newspaper editor and "family
man" - in fact the opening scene explores the duality as a pair of
shadowy legs creep down the stairs, furtive with gun in hand but it is
only Pearson playing cowboys and indians with his son. A secret phone
call between him and Diana (Naomi Chance) reveals his double life -
but someone else knows, it is his nosy neighbour from across the street
who often listens into the party line and can't wait for him to get his
comeuppance!! He has quite a bit to hide as well - it seems that his
dalliance with Diana has been going on for years and friend Bill often
has to supply him with alibis!! On this occasion he asks whether Lyn (Blackman) knows about his gambling debts - she doesn't!! More secrets!! The alibi usually involves a card evening but things go wrong when Lyn rings and while on the phone Bill notices through a mirror that his partner is cheating at cards. A schuffle breaks out and Bill is stabbed - with the knife Paul has left behind after confiscating it from his son!!
The police visit and the truth about the affair comes out - Paul is now banking on Diana giving him a truthful alibi - the only problem is Paul had threatened her with harm if she reveals their meetings. A thoroughly nice chap - NOT!! So initially she lies to the police but when she realises the gravity of the charges she is keen to put things right - but someone wants her to maintain the deception!!
Even if you are never in sympathy with Holt's character, "To-Day's Cinema" called it "an hour of very honest enjoyment". Alfred Shaugnessy may have only directed four films but they were all good ones. He later turned to writing and was a main stay of "Upstairs, Downstairs".
Children of Pleasure (1930)
Wynne Gibson is Adorable!!
Lawrence Grey had quickly been promoted from unit production manager
to leading man at Paramount and he went through the 1920s as a
solid support to some of the screen's most popular actresses. When
MGM saw the good notices he garnered for his work with Marion Davies,
Bernice Claire and the Duncan Sisters, they rewarded him with the lead in
"Children of Pleasure" a modest programmer that took advantage of the
musical mad times and Grey's pleasing but modest vocal talents. Based
on a play "The Song Writer" by Crane Wilbur, an early matinee idol who
had since turned his hands to other behind the scenes talents, it was about Danny, a young singer song writer and his two very different women. Pat (Helen Johnson) is an heiress who determines that marriage with Danny is not going to end her affair with actor Rod Peck (Kenneth Thomson boo hiss).
Emma Gray (Wynne Gibson) was Danny's former vaudeville partner and is
now a co-worker in a Tin Pan Alley publishing house and is also true blue in
her devotion. I know within a couple of years Gibson's movie personality would not be described as adorable but she definitely was in this movie!!!
Danny is on cloud nine and dreams of a quiet wedding but Pat has big wedding plans - just before they walk down the aisle Danny overhears Pat flippantly proposing that she still keep up her relations with Rod. To his credit Rod is horrified but Danny goes to pieces and on a bender. It is Emma who finds him and tries to sober him up but while still under the influence he asks Emma to marry him. Realising he is still on the rebound she devises an ingenious plan!!
If anyone stood out in this pretty so-so movie it was Wynne Gibson - could this be the actress who the next year gave Sylvia Sidney such a hard time in "Ladies of the Big House"? Here she was sparkling and snappy and she really put over her song - there was a voice there!! Helen Johnson was pretty enough as Pat - she later changed her name to Judith Woods and wowed them on Broadway in "Dinner at Eight". Benny Rubin and May Boley provided the comic relief and with Kenneth Thomson playing the cad with a heart there was not much for poor Lawrence Grey to do - the movie proved he was better at supporting dazzling leading ladies than having to carry a whole movie.
The songs seemed to pick up in catchiness as the movie went on - I know "Leave it That Way" seemed promoted as the song hit but "The Whole Darned Thing's For You" was the movie toe-tapper in my opinion. It was sung at the bridal party and a popular band The Biltmore Trio joined in. Big musical number was the ambitious "Dust" which in any other movie of the time would have been the finale but here was presented 15 minutes in. A combination of "Dancing the Devil Away" and "I Want to Be Bad" - meaning lots of odd costumes, billowing smoke and an original Technicolor sequence although now only remaining in black and white. It had dancers on tiers with a few of the better ones out front, none better than Ann Dvorak who was giving it all she had. Unfortunately for most of her dance, the photography was bad and you couldn't see her feet!! If the sets looked similar to the "Singin' in the Rain" sequence from "Hollywood Revue of 1929" it's because the see through drapes were first used in that earlier movie.
Devil's Bait (1959)
A village baker is having a problem with rats in his bake house but his
abrasive phone manner means he is put to the back of the queue when
he rings the local authorities for help. He is finally given the number of
a rat catcher but the man is an alcoholic and uses out dated methods -
like potassium cyanide.
Pretty unusual start for a tension packed film but the stars - Geoffrey Keen and Jane Hylton make it work as a very unlikely husband and wife, he dour and uncommunicative, she attractive and trying to get the marriage over a rough patch!! I think there was a bit too much time given to the rat catcher and his behavioral quirks but I realise it was establishing just why he used such antiquated and dangerous methods!!
It's not "which is the poison bread" but one lonely loaf that has been baked in a broken pan which the workman used to mix the poison - he goes down to the pub intending to return later to clean up, becomes involved in an accident and never returns!! Gordon Jackson then makes his appearance as a harassed cop - initially Frisby muddies the waters when he realises his bakery could be shut down - then there is a bread hunt as the loaf's journey is tracked down!!!
Unseen Forces (1920)
The Girl Who Could See Around Corners!!
Sylvia Breamer was a beautiful Australian girl who got her start in
J.C. Williamson's theatrical troop. Unlike other stock companies
Williamson had a strong American connection and that's were Sylvia
decided to go - to New York and not the West End. From the start she
was appearing in stage productions and caught the attention of Thomas
H. Ince. Everyone predicted a glowing future for her and "Unseen Forces"
is a chance to see Sylvia in a leading role and surrounded by talented
Born under a stormy sign Miriam Holt (Breamer) grows up with the nickname "the girl who could see around corners" - she has second sight and is a puzzle to the small farming community. When Clyde Brunton (a very youthful Conrad Nagel) renews his childhood friendship with her they imagine a sunny future but a misunderstanding (he returns unexpectedly to the house and sees her in the arms of a devoted cousin) sees him, a couple of years after, in a disastrous marriage (to a stately Rosemary Theby). Miriam goes to New York to see if she can develop her psychic gifts and an old friend Captain Stanley, who has always believed in her powers, throws a party for her and she comes face to face with Clyde. Thrown into New York society she not only has to deal with skeptics and Clyde's devotion but also "idler and trifler" Arnold Crane. The closer he gets the more powerful her psyche becomes
- she knows that years before he had wronged a girl whose face is
This was one of the films found in a New Zealand vault - so apart from some disintegration it can be viewed just the same as it was seen by cinema audiences at the time. Sylvia Breamer was so pretty and really carried the movie - she was good!! Also the film benefited by Sidney Franklin's sensitive direction.
Children of Divorce (1927)
Travis Banton's Luminous Gowns Are the Star!!!
It didn't seem to matter if the story was flimsy - Gary Cooper was
already a heart-throb around the Paramount studio and being teamed
with Clara Bow, his female equivalent, was viewed with anticipation.
But it didn't go to plan - Cooper who had been mainly in out door epics,
was like a fish out of water in this sophisticated drama. After a few days
Cooper was sacked and replaced by Douglas Gilmore a more experienced
actor but Clara had campaigned behind the scenes on Cooper's behalf
and he was reinstated.
The movie started out as a daring, topical drama but not even Clara could save it. Most cinema goers found Esther Ralston mechanical and Gary Cooper unconvincing. I thought it was a case of Paramount trying to widen Clara's appeal but it didn't really work - apart from her initial scenes there was just too much pathos and until the end her character was unsympathetic.
Jean and Kitty meet in a French convent, both products of the divorce rage with parents eager to get back into the single swing and not wanting a child cramping their style (Joyce Coad makes a very appealing Kitty).
Years later they are both young debs - Kitty (Clara Bow) is the life of any party, yet as a child she lacked confidence. Maybe explained by her mercenary mother (Hedda Hopper, who else?) that because of their financial position she must marry money!! That's too bad for Prince Vico (Einar Hansen) an impoverished aristocrat who really loves Kitty who in turn returns his love. Jean (Ralston) on the other hand is supposed to be the richest girl in America - she catches the eye of Ted Larabee (Cooper), the wild boy of the group who remembers a childhood promise of marriage they both made to each other. Jean will not agree to the marriage - Ted is now one of the idle rich where once he had ambition to be an engineer and she wants him to find his self respect again. Kitty is determined that the only bridges he will be connected with are the ones he burns!! She takes him out for a night of revelry and he wakes up married - to Kitty who has tricked him into it!! Two years later, Jean has vowed never to marry even though receiving a proposal from Vico who truthfully confesses he can't give her his love!!
You can see it's a pretty doleful movie, no one is really happy and when Kitty finally tries to make amends by asking for a divorce when she realises that Vico still carries a torch for her, she finds no joy there either as his family will not allow him to marry a divorced woman. Clara has some emotive moments but Gary Cooper was the only actor to receive any glory - for his first leading role he is a stand out, you can't take your eyes from him!! And the restoration just illuminates Travis Banton's (although uncredited) luminous gowns, they are breath taking.
A bit of back stage gossip - none of the big wigs liked the movie but they couldn't shelve such an expensive A grade movie so they got in Josef Von Sternberg as a "movie doctor" to fix up many of the scenes. Since all the stars had already started their next movie filming was done at night and the non stop schedule was brutal!!
Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957)
"Everyone in the World Will Win the Lottery - but not us"!!
To describe this as a "man discontented with his marriage, seeks solace
with younger girl" is too simplistic. Anthony Quayle plays "Jimbo", a
drab, rather ordinary clerk whose private life is in chaos due to his
slovenly but sweet souled wife Amy. He desperately needs order and
finds it with Georgie, the office secretary, the initial scenes contrasting
the complete mess of his own home to the stark simplicity in which
Georgie lives. Young Sylvia Sims was really making her way in the film
world and she is fine as Georgie. Both she and Jimbo are living in a
fantasy of love although Jim tellingly says at the start that her attraction
for him was due to his just being there and that he isn't such a great
catch!! But by the film's showdown she has steeled herself to fighting
for Jim - as Amy says, he will not be doing any fighting himself as he
Yvonne Mitchell is a revelation as Amy - so chaotic, the type of person who can work all day and the house still looks like a bomb has hit it!! From the opening scene with the blaring radio, you are part of Amy's world and you really understand Jim's need to escape but Amy has the sweetest nature. She cooks both Jim and son Brian's (a very good Anthony Ray) meals and serves them on little trays with all the condiments (all the while keeping up happy chatter about her day) but the bacon is burnt, the chips are peculiar ("I've found the best recipe for chips") - it seems whatever she tries will always be second rate. The only person who loves her unequivocally is Brian and it's his bewilderment at the situation that hastens the climax. Jim tells Amy that he wants a divorce but she pleads with him to bring Georgie back to the flat so that they can talk sensibly.
Amy has a plan - she pawns her engagement ring and with the money goes to the hairdresser and buys a small bottle of whiskey, enough for the three of them but everything goes wrong. She gets caught in the rain and her hair is ruined, her best dress has a broken zipper and a well meaning neighbour plies her with drink. By the time Brian comes home from work, not used to spirits she is almost paralytic and when Jim and Georgie arrive, Jim is sucked into a vortex. Amy, while dependent on him, is just drunk enough to fight for her man and tell Georgie some home truths - "you may know a hundred things about him but I know a thousand"!!
At the movie's end there are no winners - Anthony Quayle is so good, walking a thin line between quietness and rage. As he says "we are not going to win the lottery - everyone in the world will win but not us"!! Well meaning neighbour Hilda was played by Carole Lesley a tragic actress who had undeniable charms but when she was dropped by film studio Alliance couldn't accept the fact that she wasn't considered star material. She took her own life at 38.
They Drive by Night (1938)
Ernest Thesiger - Scene Stealer Extraordinare!!
My golly, what a fabulous movie - I always loved Emlyn Williams in
whatever movie he made and even though he excelled as smarmy spivs
I've never seen him in the same characterization twice. Here he is in a
rare lovable larrikin role as "Shorty" Matthews, just released from prison
but already fleeing for his life from a murder charge. His old girl friend
Alice has been strangled and even though his whole demeanor cries out
"I'm a good guy" none of his friends believe him (maybe they've seen
too many of his movies)!! He plunges into the night world of long distance
lorry driving, hoping to lose himself but a face from his past emerges
with Molly, a dance hall friend of Alice's, who is trying to hitch hike back
to London but is mistaken for a "lorry girl" - women who ride with the
lorry drivers in exchange for favours!!
There's some fabulous cinematography - when Shorty comes across her, she is fighting off a man in the middle of the road, lights blazing on their rain drenched silhouettes. Later on, Shorty evades capture and there is a labyrinth of cross cutting, jumps, darts, again against a rain soaked background. He eventually returns to London and with Molly's help find a boarded up abandoned house - but they have been followed!!
Enter Ernest Thesiger - scene stealer extraordinare!! He plays Hoover and there's something very odd about him. He keeps a scrapbook about the dance hall murder which he hides behind his books on "Sex and Philosophy", not to mention his "Paris After Dark" magazines. He is a frequenter of dance halls and is pretty disgusted that "Shorty" has captured all the attention for the murder, he feels the murderer was far more intellectual and organized than just a petty criminal. Once Thesiger enters he is absolutely rivetting.
Teddington Studios had an interesting history - built in the 1910s, only one film had been released before Warners bought it in 1931 to turn out quota quickies finishing with "The Dark Tower" in 1943.
Channel Crossing (1933)
Matheson Lang Towers Over All
It may be an "All Star Extravaganza" but Matheson Lang is the whole
show - he plays larger than life financier Jacob Van Eeden and a real
attempt was made to present him as a multi layered personality. A hard
man who has his immediate future mapped out - he has some stocks and
is escaping to Paris to do a deal before he is found out - but he is found
out, overheard mapping out his plans to his adoring secretary Marion. The
eavesdropper is Peter (Anthony Bushell, suitably wooden) Marion's fiance
and a reporter. His first mistake is bursting into the apartment claiming
"I'll tell, I'll tell"!! Van Eeden then sends some pointless messages to the
telegrapher, guaranteed to keep him busy at his radio for the rest of the
trip. There is another side to Van Eeden, one that makes him beloved, even
by the lowliest man in the street - always willing to extend a helping hand
"you come and see me and I'll give you a hand" he tells a man with a hard
luck story and he knows everyone by name!! Edmund Gwenn as a husband
taking his family over for a weekend in Paris, echoes everyone in his
worshipful approach to Van Eeden. Van Eeden also has plans for Marion
and they don't include Peter. He and Peter have an altercation on the fog
bound deck and Jacob wrestles the reporter overboard but from then on
he has an epiphany where the good in his character slowly wrestles out
the bad. He forces the tired sailors to keep on searching and when the boy
is found gives up his own life saving medicine to save his life.
Constance Cummings is great (as usual) giving a nuanced and professional portrayal. Two others Nigel Bruce and Dorothy Dickson who, in the 1920s, was Britain's answer to Marilyn Miller, play a bickering husband and wife who at the voyage end find they are better off together than apart.
"All Men Are Womanhandled"!!!
Just the funnest movie - just ambles along, full of cute little incidents
- boy meets girl, love at first sight but..... Molly has an idealized version
Before he can return in his new found western "he man" guise Molly pays a surprise visit and in a plot line straight out of Douglas Fairbanks' "Wild and Woolly" Bill enlists the help of the whole ranch to put on a show to keep Molly's dreams of the west alive!! As her mother says at the end whether from the east or west all men are "womenhandled". So many quiet chuckles, Bill's dealings with Molly's pesky brother and when they all sit down to eat and Bill puts on some rough western table manners for Molly's benefit. I agree, there must have been a reel missing, they could have had a lot of fun with the arrival of that gang of chorus cuties who showed up at the ranch 5 minutes before the end!! Both Olive Tell and Margaret Morris were also featured in the credits but apart from a few seconds at the start, none were seen. Morris played an old flame of Bill's
- that could have created a few situations!!
Was there ever a more beautiful actress than Esther Ralston, any movie where she is featured is so welcome. This movie happens to be a lot of fun!!
The Cardboard Lover (1928)
"Her Cardboard Lover" provided a solid role for both Jeanne Eagels
on Broadway and Tallulah Bankhead on the West End. The Broadway
edition lasted a very respectable 152 performances. For a Marion
Davies movie it is a crime that it is not restored - the softness and
"underwater" look take away a lot of the feeling of fun that this movie
would have had!!
Davies plays Sally, a frivolous flapper who is passionate about her hobby
- collecting autographs and when she is thwarted in her first attemps to
- yes, Marion gives of herself 110% but Asther shows such a sense of
There is just the funniest sequence, as a last ditch effort Sally dresses up as Simone as part of an aversion therapy technique - Marion is hilarious!! It's honestly so hard to tell both actresses apart and Jetta, even though she had the reputation as one of Hollywood's most temperamental actresses, had so much fun with the skit - even designing Marion's costume. Many thought that Jetta, by 1927, was a has-been but dear Marion came to her rescue with a part of the femme fatale in "The Cardboard Lover". Marion's niece Pepi Lederer can't be missed as an enthusiastic school chum at the hotel desk.
Wheel of Fate (1953)
Psychological Shattered Dreams!!
Amazing - at under an hour this movie is a gritty noir but also
encompasses the later kitchen sink cycle. It wasn't well received at
the time but now looks a top drama. Bryan Forbes (later a champion
director) plays Ted, a frequenter of dance halls, with loud ties and
greasy hair, has fallen for singer Lucky Price who he thinks is headed
for the "big time" - so does she but instead the night finds them running
from a ruckus. In desperation he turns to his more dependable brother
Johnny and the rest of the movie is played out amidst a run down garage.
Usually used to seeing Patric Doonan as cowardly thugs and never in a part that propels the story. He is sensitive Johnny who not only has to look out for his wayward brother but manage the garage for his infirm and demanding father. He sees the women in Ted's life very much like their mother whose drunken behaviour made life hellish at home for the boys.
Ted comes home with Lucky - he is desperate to get away, his dream is to open a pub, only his old man, bedridden but clinging to life and his gambling debts stand in his way!! Lucky initially impresses as drunk and rude but finds herself drawn to the belligerent Johnny who in turn finds that underneath she is just a lonely girl. All characters have depth - even Ted is damaged because of his mother, their tough and resilient exterior hides sensitivity. Even the unseen father with his weekly visits to the bank is unable to adjust to his bad health and post war conditions. Lucky and Johnny go to the movies and leave a shattered Ted doing night duty at the garage with his father's constant bangings pushing him to desperation!!
Blonde bombshell Sandra Dorne was Britain's "B" movie answer to Marilyn Monroe, pouty and often sulky - you always remember her even though the movies were often quickies. Temple Abady who worked on As and Bs as well as the London Philharmonic was responsible for the pulsating score!!
Broadway Love (1918)
The Eyes of Eve Southern!!
Eve Southern had a small but very pivotal role in the movie - she was
the nasty chorus girl who wanted to make trouble for the innocent Midge
so invited her home town visitor, bullying Elmer to Cherry's party knowing
he would cause a scene. But those eyes of hers were wonders!! Midge has
already encountered Jack Chalvey, a pathetic figure in the rain - he is
under the spell of Cherry Blow and has lost all his money trying to keep
her happy. Now Midge is just in time to keep him from suicide as he sees
all the gaiety from Cherry's party!!
Interesting thing - all the chorus girls look very hardened, especially Juanita Hansen whose career, so soon afterwards, was to end in tatters due to her drug addiction. She plays hard boiled Cherry who while initially taking the young Midge under her wing, eventually finds the other girl's goodness rubbing off onto her.
As played by the even here masterful Lon Chaney, Elmer, far from a rustic comic, is a bullying small town hick who while shocked at Midge's low cut dress is not above ogling the other girls. The story becomes complicated when the party's playboy Rockwell overhears Cherry complimenting Midge on her sophisticated tactics and thinks she will be an easy conquest. He tries some cave man tactics on the cab ride home and is appalled when she jumps from the moving car!! While recuperating in hospital Midge brings about a change in the playboy and he strives to be all that would make him worthy in her eyes. She is still pining for Jack - even though he hasn't given her another thought. At a beach resort where Midge is sent to recuperate she runs into Jack and her flame still burns for him - but he isn't half the man Rockwell is!! While Rockwell decides to step aside so Midge can pursue Jack - Jack and Cherry, tired of "broadway love" have decided to elope and leave the city behind!! Meanwhile Elmer is back in the picture - he has married Rockwell's sister and his gross behaviour at the beach ends in a fight, with Rockwell taking his sister and Midge (who finally realises he is her ideal) back to Arizona!!
This was Juanita Hansen's first feature after serving her apprenticeship in shorts but after only a couple of years in some solid roles she was in the grip of addiction that she couldn't break free from. William Stowell who played Rockwell died in 1919 when he was critically injured in a train crash en route to Cape Town. Dorothy Phillips was grand as the innocent Midge even though at 36 she was hardly an ingenue. She and her husband where mainstays of the Universal studios.
Who Was Maddox? (1964)
The Last of the True Blue Victorians!!
...He wasn't but his identity kept you wondering throughout. Jack Watling
became a household name with his continuous role through "The Plane
Makers" and "The Power Game" but he had such a dry, witty look, I think
he may have been quite at home in a Noel Coward play. Here he plays
Jack Heath who seems completely lost in the events that enfold him. He
and his wife Diane return home to find their place has been ransacked.
Jack is "what in the heck just happened" but Diane goes to her bedroom
and when she finds her jewels are still there hides them to get the
insurance. The reality is she has already sold them in order to pay Maddox,
a mysterious blackmailer no one has ever seen.
Suzanne Lloyd was gorgeous as Diane, an ex model who at first seems to know more than anyone. At work Jack seems to be fighting an up hill battle as an executive of a company whose general manager (Finlay Currie) is described as "the last of the Victorians". Jack wants to bring things into the 20th century by liquidation the magazine department as it's losing money - he's also disappointed that during a heated meeting he doesn't get the support of his work friend.
Adding to the confusion Heath gets a call later that night telling him Diane's uncle has been killed but when he rushes over there it is to find him very much alive. Of course that is the only way to put him in the place when the real murder happens later on that night. And here comes Bernard Lee as Chief Constable Meredith who after a heart to heart with Diane realises her actions are those of a scared black mail victim. In the meantime
- who is Maddox and who is that mysterious man trailing her at the zoo -
Black Sheep (1935)
Plenty of Snap and Sparkle!!
A fabulous cast - Edmund Lowe, Claire Trevor, Tom Brown and Adrienne Ames at their best, a breezy plot with a sprinkling of wisecracks. Ames shows that she would have made a terrific leading lady - not just a sizzling femme fatale!! Here she is Milly, a compulsive thief who confesses to love sick Fred Curtis that it was she who stole the Countess's pearls and far from falling hopelessly in love with him, she saw him as a dupe who could be easily persuaded to take the pearls through customs
- or she would tell about his gambling debts!! Nice girl - not!!
Fred (the always likable Tom Brown) is out of his depth with both her and his clumsy attempts to recoup his losses at the gambling table. His discomfiture is observed by a gentleman gambler Jack Dugan (Edmund Lowe) and pretty Janette (gorgeous Claire Trevor) - they both feel for him and think he is being fleeced by two wily professionals (Eugene Pallette and Jed Prouty). Along the way Jack realises that Fred is his son who he has not seen since Fred was a baby, kept apart by his steely mother in law. Lowe had a patent on these suave, slightly shady characters and now, along with Janette comes in and plays the two card sharps at their own game. He then has to somehow extricate those pearls from a unsuspecting Milly.
Claire Trevor progressed in leaps and bounds - from bland blonde ingenue to a sparkling cutie who is no pushover here!!
Woman to Woman (1929)
Betty Compson in a Stellar Performance
Betty Compson was almost an old hand at talkies by this time and it
made sense for the British film industry to remake this adaptation of a
1923 movie scripted by Alfred Hitchcock and also starring Betty Compson.
It was a British production directed by the ultra stylish Victor Saville (and
his style is there in every scene) but
filmed in America where sound equipment was State of the Arts. Also
James Hilton must have seen and remembered these films because
"Random Harvest" had a very similar plot line, especially in the earlier
Betty Compson was fabulous and her French accent never faltered (actually Juliette Compton gave a very passable British accent as Vesta). Betty is Lola, a French cabaret artist who meets British officer David (George Barraud) during the war. He is called to the front before they can marry and years later finds him in an empty sterile marriage with cold Vesta but having no memory of the war or Lola, the love of his life. Lola is now a celebrated dancer taking London by storm and one evening David, who is in the audience, suddenly finds his memory returning when Lola sings an old favourite military style sing along. David is keen to renew his old life with her and knowing she has his child makes him more determined. Strangely his wife doesn't share his keenness to make the break - she is a social climber and knows if David walks out she will be an outcast!! So Lola reaches out to her "woman to woman" to see if they can find commom ground!!
The ending is pretty hokey - Lola has a heart condition and another performance will kill her. She wants Vesta to be a mother to her little boy. I don't agree with the other reviewers that the child is whiney - I think he struggled with an accent and just gave up half way through!!