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7/10
Franchot Tone at his peak
15 November 2019
Remember that brief period of time when Franchot Tone was young, handsome, making good movies, and not yet destroyed by life? If you love him like I do, check out Love Is a Headache. It was before his infamous divorce and subsequent wrong paths, and he's at his handsome and charming best. In this romance, he's paired with Gladys George, an actress he bickers with as much as he woos. She's had a string of stage flops, and in an attempt to gain positive publicity before her new show opens, she adopts a pair of recently orphaned kids, Mickey Rooney and Virginia Weidler. Franchot is a newspaper man famous for telling it like it is, and he's been the one behind the negative theatrical reviews. He was also a friend of the kids' parents, so he doesn't want to see them taken advantage of just for publicity.

This one has some laughs, some cute parts, and a healthy enough dose of drama to make it feel like a grown-up movie. Both leads were enjoying their peaks in the 1930s, before age and life and newer stars took their places. Check this one out if you like stories about hardened hearts getting softened by kiddies, or if you like the cast. You'll also see Frank Jenks among the supporting players, as Franchot's completely inept sidekick who makes mistakes as easily as breathing, and Ralph Morgan, as Gladys's ardent admirer with no flaws other than the fact that he's not Franchot Tone.
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Hide-Out (1934)
7/10
Cute '30s romp
15 November 2019
After Robert Montgomery, a bad-boy gangster, gets wounded in a shoot-out, his cronies decide to do what's best for him even though he's protesting every step of the way. One of his pals knows a guy who knows a guy, and before he knows it, Bob's cooped up in a farmhouse in the country during his recovery. He complains and wishes he could leave, until the daughter of the house, the young and beautiful Maureen O'Sullivan, brings him a cup of tea. After that, he tries to stay as long as he can!

It's always fun to watch two beautiful people fall in love on the big screen, so if you'd like to see Mia Farrow's mom and Elizabeth Montgomery's dad in a romance, check this one out. It's very obviously made in 1934, though, so be prepared for an old movie. Cell phones weren't invented yet, jokes are made about how to milk a cow, and the idea of a really great date is to pack a picnic and eat among the great outdoors looking at a river. For my fellow old movie buffs out there, if you liked The Life of Jimmy Dolan, you'll probably like this one. Both center on a gangster hiding out with a nice farming family, who fall in love with the pretty daughter, and who are being chased by a hard-nosed, soft-hearted cop. The cop in Hide-Out is Edward Arnold, and the rest of the "aw shucks" family who soften up Robert Montgomery and help him realize he's got a chance for a better life are Elizabeth Patterson, Whitford Kane, and Mickey Rooney.
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Hide-Out (1934)
7/10
Cute '30s romp
15 November 2019
After Robert Montgomery, a bad-boy gangster, gets wounded in a shoot-out, his cronies decide to do what's best for him even though he's protesting every step of the way. One of his pals knows a guy who knows a guy, and before he knows it, Bob's cooped up in a farmhouse in the country during his recovery. He complains and wishes he could leave, until the daughter of the house, the young and beautiful Margaret O'Sullivan, brings him a cup of tea. After that, he tries to stay as long as he can!

It's always fun to watch two beautiful people fall in love on the big screen, so if you'd like to see Mia Farrow's mom and Elizabeth Montgomery's dad in a romance, check this one out. It's very obviously made in 1934, though, so be prepared for an old movie. Cell phones weren't invented yet, jokes are made about how to milk a cow, and the idea of a really great date is to pack a picnic and eat among the great outdoors looking at a river. For my fellow old movie buffs out there, if you liked The Life of Jimmy Dolan, you'll probably like this one. Both center on a gangster hiding out with a nice farming family, who fall in love with the pretty daughter, and who are being chased by a hard-nosed, soft-hearted cop. The cop in Hide-Out is Edward Arnold, and the rest of the "aw shucks" family who soften up Robert Montgomery and help him realize he's got a chance for a better life are Elizabeth Patterson, Whitford Kane, and Mickey Rooney.
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5/10
Mickey Rooney as a bad guy
15 November 2019
If you're not ready to see Mickey Rooney as a bad guy, don't rent Baby Face Nelson. He really gets into the role, and it's impossible to see any molecule of Andy Hardy in his performance. He plays the famed 1920s gangster, and it's not a sympathetic portrayal. He's got a temper, a jealous streak, anger issues, and very few weak feelings. Once, while committing a crime, a couple of kids wander into the fray, and Mickey poises his gun. If they turn around and get a good look at his face, he'll shoot. Thankfully, they don't, but Mickey's girlfriend, Carolyn Jones, says warily, "Lie to me, baby. Tell me you wouldn't have killed them." Mickey says in a deadpan, "I wouldn't have killed them," and it's obvious he's lying.

This isn't my favorite gangster picture. Yes, these big-time hoodlums are usually pretty rotten people, but sometimes it's fun to glamorize their backstory and add some sympathetic side to their character. This one makes him out to be a straight villain, and why watch Mickey Rooney as a bad guy when you can watch him as a good guy in other movies? If you want to see him in a different role, and to share tons of steamy smooches with Carolyn Jones, you can rent it.
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7/10
Don't rush growing up
15 November 2019
I certainly watched the wrong Andy Hardy movies first. Love Finds Andy Hardy and Andy Hardy Meets Debutante are so silly, all ridiculous pantomimes of a teenage boy's hormones, but the other fourteen films aren't like that. They're supposed to be about the patriarch, Lewis Stone, who helps his children through their problems, a precursor to television shows like Father Knows Best. The series even uses the same theme music during the opening credits in every film, like a television theme-only these movies were made before television. Much of Mickey Rooney's character is how he tries to handle his raging hormones, but much of it isn't. In this one, he falls for his drama teacher, Helen Gilbert, and while sometimes he's goofy when trying to act like a grown-up and speaking in a different, theatrical voice, sometimes he's heartbreakingly real and insecure in his feelings. He talks it out with Helen and with his dad, and they both help him through it.

Mickey makes his character human, and even though he does his signature whooping, he gives a lesson to his teenage audience: it's okay to want to grow up, but don't rush it. Learning to take responsibility should be a slow process, and you should be able to enjoy being a kid without complications ruining things. In this one, he gets chosen by Helen to write the school play, and that's enough responsibility for any high schooler. "He's a regular T.A. Edison!" Lewis Stone exclaims proudly, a foreshadowing-and perhaps plugging-of Mickey's next year's film Young Thomas Edison, because his play has volcano pyrotechnics incorporated in the script. Fay Holden and Cecilia Parker are in this one, of course, but they're not prominently featured. If Mama Hardy and Marian are your favorites, check out You're Only Young Once and Love Laughs at Andy Hardy.
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8/10
Surpisingly moving
5 November 2019
Isn't it funny when you figure out a movie's a remake? When I was watching The Life of Jimmy Dolan, I sensed it was familiar. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. plays a successful southpaw boxer who claims to have a squeaky-clean after-hours image for his fans. When asked if he's going to party after the fight by a reporter, he grins and says he doesn't drink but instead will be hanging out with his mother. When he's shown drinking with his arm around a blonde floozy in the next scene, I realized I'd seen it before. They Made Me a Criminal, starring John Garfield, is the 1939 remake!

I didn't like the John Garfield version and actually turned it off after half an hour, because the prominently featured Dead End kids were too irritating. So the rest of The Life of Jimmy Dolan was a nice surprise for me. After an accidental fatal beating at the after-party, Doug Jr. passes out, and his best friend runs off with his girl, his car, and his watch. They get in a car crash and explode, and the news reports Doug Jr.'s death instead. If he comes forward and says he's alive, he'll be arrested for murder, so his only option is to stay out of the limelight and start a new life. He hides out in an out-of-the-way farmhouse and falls in love with Loretta Young.

If you watch this movie, which is infinitely better than its remake, you'll see a very young, very handsome John Wayne for about ten minutes as a boxer preparing for a fight. You'd never believe he'd become one of the most popular movie stars of all time after seeing him in this, but he certainly is cute.

This was a surprisingly good movie. I expected to turn it off, but I ended up with tears in my eyes in the final scene. Doug Jr. gives a very strong, emotional performance, making you wonder why his career fizzled out. He does everything the character needs him to do, and since the movie was made in 1933, it's understandable that a little of his silent movie acting style still lingers. Guy Kibbee costars as an ambitious journalist who doesn't believe the famous boxer was killed in the car crash, and he's given a couple of great scenes to sink his teeth into. Check this one out if you've never seen Doug Jr. in a talkie. The ending will stick with you for a long time.
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The Healer (1935)
3/10
'Sister Kenny' is a better medical drama
5 November 2019
In the grand tradition of "aw shucks, small towns are better than the big, bad city" films, The Healer stars Ralph Bellamy as a do-gooder doctor who gets seduced by promises of bigger and better. He's a small country doctor who works at a clinic with hot springs that helps crippled children learn to walk again. His devoted aide, Karen Morley, is in love with him, but he can't tell. Instead, when he comes to the wealthy Judith Allen's rescue, his head gets turned by her finesse. She fills his head with ideas of a larger practice and more people he could help, but really, she just wants him to become a rich, city doctor she can be proud to wear on her arm. Meanwhile, the kids and Karen feel neglected and miss their old doctor and friend.

Mickey Rooney is the most prominently featured child at the clinic, and while it is Ralph Bellamy's movie, Mickey steals the movie when he's forced to use his legs in an emergency. I won't tell you what the emergency is, but he gives a great performance, especially since he was only a teenager at the time. This is a pretty forgotten movie, and if you're looking for a medical drama about helping kids with polio, this isn't it. You'll want to see Sister Kenny for that. But if you're just looking for young Mickey Rooney without his usual frenetic girl-crazy antics, you might want to look for this one.
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Girl Crazy (1943)
4/10
Like an Andy Hardy flick
5 November 2019
This isn't an Andy Hardy movie, but it might as well be. With a plot so thin you'll be hard-pressed to remember what it is mere minutes after the credits roll, it's a compilation of song and dance numbers to entertain audiences in the thick of WWII. Tommy Dorsey and his band are given a few songs, and Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland take center stage, performing "Fascinating Rhythm," "Embraceable You," and "I Got Rhythm." You'll get to see Judy showing off her dance skills and Mickey showing off his piano playing. You'll also see June Allyson belting out, "Treat Me Rough," and if you keep your ears peeled, you'll hear an out-of-place cultured British accent delivering one line. Look to the left of the screen; it's Peter Lawford!

If anyone's curious as to the plot, Mickey is a playboy who needs straightening. He gets sent to a farmer-hard-work school in the middle of nowhere so he won't be distracted by girls and nightclubs. As soon as he meets Judy Garland, he gets distracted. "Would you like to help me celebrate my golden wedding anniversary?" Mickey asks. "I'd love to, if you don't think your wife would mind," Judy quips back. The little duo doesn't get together right away, but they work together to save the school, run by Guy Kibbee, and build a friendship while their romance simmers. This one's really silly, so only the die-hard Mickey and Judy fans should rent it.
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1/10
Why is this suitable for children?
4 November 2019
The Fox and the Hound: also known as the Disney movie that makes every child weep into their pillows. No one really knows why it was made, and no one knows why children are forced to watch it, but I've never met anyone who was spared.

Two little animals become friends as pups, a little fox and a little hound dog. They meet in innocent circumstances and have no idea that once they grow up, one will end up chasing the other to its death. It's supposed to be a sweet lesson on socialization, but I prefer South Pacific's lesson: "You've got to be taught before it's too late, before you are six seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate." It's succinct in one song lyric without breaking little kids' hearts. When the fox and the hound grow up, they're voiced by Mickey Rooney and Kurt Russell, respectively. Mickey knows he's the target of fox hunts, and Kurt knows he's supposed to sniff his old pal out so the humans can kill him. Why anyone thought this was a suitable children's movie is beyond me. The premise itself is too upsetting, and there are several scenes that are extremely frightening. Not only are there gigantic bears more vicious and larger than in real life, but there are guns and attempted killing of the little animals the children have become attached to. Everyone seems to complain about the beginning of Bambi, but for some reason The Fox and the Hound gets a free pass. In the supporting cast are Pearl Bailey, Jack Albertson, and Sandy Duncan, and you'll get to hear the classic song "Best of Friends."
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7/10
The first Care Bears movie!
4 November 2019
The first Care Bears movie! What 1980s or 1990s kid didn't grow up with Care Bears? My brother and I have a collection of stuffed animals, all the movies on VHS, most of the television specials taped the old fashioned way, and most of the songs ready to sing at the drop of a hat. The Care Bears are so great, and they teach such wonderful things.

In the first movie, Mickey Rooney is the owner of an orphanage who narrates the story of magical Care Bears who live up in the clouds and seek out little kids in need of help through emotional situations. The Care Bears always help kids get in touch with their feelings and learn to express healthy emotions. To the Care Bears, everything, even grumpiness, is celebrated. This story centers on two orphaned children, and a magician who succumbs to evil influences, and other little adventures up in Care-a-Lot. Some parts are scary, like most cartoons, so if you're watching it with little ones, you might want to preview it or be prepared to shove popcorn in front of their faces. You'll also hear Carole King's songs "Care-a-Lot" and "Home is in Your Heart", reminding you that the movie was made in the 1980s. When you're done with this one, check out the next Care Bear flick: A New Generation!
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9/10
A glamorous time capsule of 1961
3 November 2019
There's a reason Breakfast at Tiffany's captivates everyone who watches it and has catapulted several books and movies for modern audiences to stardom simply by mentioning or referring to it in the title or plot. Believe it or not, the reason isn't Audrey Hepburn's glamour. She was glamorous before this movie, and she remained glamorous after it. A few movies in every decade serve as a time capsule that future generations will watch, dreamy-eyed, and ask, "Was it really like that?" Breakfast at Tiffany's is one of those movies, ushering in the 1960s with a precedent of lushness that petered out by the end of the decade as protests replaced parties. By the end of the 1960s, hippies and the "Question Authority" mentality had taken over, leaving those who had enjoyed the passivity of the 1950s to mourn what they wouldn't see again until the 1980s. With Blake Edwards's classic, it was a farewell to the safe, frivolous 1950s, a salute to the dizzy quirks of the 1960s, and a statement against the ensuing grunge. "You can grow your hair long and wear grimy clothing," the movie says, "but we never will." Everyone in this movie is clean, fresh, and elegant. Yes, George Peppard plays a gigolo, and yes, Audrey famously throws an outfit together in five minutes without much thought, but they still look clean, fresh, and elegant.

The iconic opening scene is the rest of the film in miniature. In a Walk of Shame before it was so common it was given a nickname, Audrey walks the desolate streets of New York City at dawn, then enjoys her coffee and donut outside the window of Tiffany's. It's simple and everyone knows it, but it's much more than that. It's the same farewell, salute, and statement as the rest of the film. Can you imagine watching a beautiful, defenseless girl in a black dress roaming around the city in the wee hours of the morning nowadays, without worrying about her safety? When else would the quirk of eat a donut while looking at diamonds be completely acceptable? Is there any other statement of frivolity more powerful than such a silly ritual? See, even such a simple beginning has a world of meaning. That's why this movie is so captivating.

Everyone knows Marilyn Monroe was the author's first choice for the troubled call-girl. On paper, that makes sense, given everything we know of Marilyn's personal life, but can you imagine the energy she would have brought to the role? It would have been a completely different character, and a completely different film. Remember how tragic she was in The Misfits? Just as Judy Garland had already been cast in Annie Get Your Gun, her disturbed aura was not what the movie needed. Audrey Hepburn acts as if she hasn't a care in the world, which is necessary for Holy Golightly's character. George Peppard's character serves as the audience's perspective-akin to Nick in The Great Gatsby-and as he observes Audrey, he sees that her life is very far from the light projection she pretends to have. With an actress who comes across as troubled, her troubles would have seemed too heavy for such a glossy film. Audrey's carefree, purposely lax and vapid persona needs to contrast her life, so the audience can see how desperately she needs to appear that way in order to keep her head above water.

Just as every decade has its own style of parties that can never be repeated or relived by later generations, Breakfast at Tiffany's perfectly captures the 1960s party atmosphere. If you went to one of those parties, you can watch this movie with a knowing, nostalgic smile. If the 1960s were before your time, this movie will show you what they were like, but there's a tinge of sadness knowing that glamour and fun will forever be lost to you. You'll never get to wear your hair in a beehive, only to have it light on fire by someone else's long cigarette holder and be extinguished by someone else's sloppy cocktail. Breakfast at Tiffany's will have to sustain your dreams.

Among the many partygoers who come and go through Audrey's apartment, Martin Balsam is my favorite. For years after, whenever I'd see him in a movie, I'd refer to him as "the Breakfast at Tiffany's guy". He's such a perfect party guest, letting his hair down from the stressors of his work week and taking everything in stride. He nicknames George Peppard's character "Fred Baby," and in a hilarious scene when George telephones him, he doesn't even recognize him until George says, "It's 'Fred Baby'." Not skipping a beat to laugh at the nickname or the ridiculousness of the situation, Marty merely lights a cigarette and says, "Oh, hi, Fred Baby."

How can one discuss Breakfast at Tiffany's without mentioning Henry Mancini's powerful song "Moon River"? An icon in itself, the song is perfect for the film and the two heroes. "Two drifters off to the see the world," at first listen might not describe Audrey and George, but instead might seem to foreshadow the grunge later in the decade. However, since the song was written before all the protesting and anger, the lyrics were still sweet and hopeful. "I'm crossing you in style, someday," sings Audrey, showing the audience that even though she seems to have achieved more than her fair share of style, she still has dreams of bettering herself. She doesn't see herself the way the audience sees her; it's one word out of the entire song, but adding "someday" to the lyric completely describes her character.

Believe it or not, there are people out there who don't like "Moon River", just as there are people out there who don't think Audrey Hepburn is glamorous, and who don't like Breakfast at Tiffany's. I'm not one of them. I understand the song, Audrey's interpretation of Holy Golightly, and the movie. I understand them, and I love them. And I haven't even gotten around to using Cat as one of my reasons!
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3/10
Chemistry and good looks only get you so far
3 November 2019
Since I love Robert Montgomery, and since he has such great chemistry with Rosalind Russell, it's a cinch that I'd rent all five of their movies together. Live, Love and Learn may have given me terrific eye candy, but it ended up being so silly, it seemed like one of those terrible Doris Day comedies from the 1960s. You might want to just watch the first half hour and turn it off before it gets bad.

The first scene is incredibly cute. Bob is painting a landscape in the countryside, and a foxhunt passes him by. Roz is on horseback, and when she topples, she accidentally knocks over his canvas. They argue, and in the midst of their argument, the scene cuts to their wedding ceremony! Roz is giving him moony eyes, but all through their vows, Bob is constantly trying to talk her out of it, vowing she'll be sorry for ruining her life if she goes through with it. They do go through with it, and the rest of the movie follows their early years as he continues to be a starving artist and she gives up all her money and finery. They live in a studio apartment with loud, obnoxious neighbors and a live-in moocher, Robert Benchley, who refuses to leave even though he knows he's dampening their newlywed bliss.

The main problem with the movie is that although he's extremely handsome and charming, Bob's character isn't very likable. He never tries to better Roz's life, he pulls rude pranks on total strangers, picks fights when people don't like his artwork, and then, when he gets a whiff of success, he turns into an egotistical snob. There's only so far good looks can take a person, and unfortunately, his don't take him to the end of the movie. If you do decide to rent it, you'll see Monty Woolley as an art dealer, Helen Vinson as Roz's snobby pseudo-friend, and Mickey Rooney for about fifteen seconds as one of the neighbor kids. You'll also see that Bob and Roz could have easily been cast in the adorable Rag-winning comedy Third Finger, Left Hand.
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10/10
Freddie is such a doll
3 November 2019
Freddie Bartholomew is such a doll! It sure is a head-scratcher why he never received a Juvenile Oscar, but here at the Rag, we were proud to give him two Juvenile Rags in 1935 and 1936. With his adorable mannerisms and sweet innocent style of speech, he was perfectly cast in Little Lord Fauntleroy, a delightful classic.

Freddie lives with his mother Dolores Costello in a poor area of New York City. He has poor friends, Mickey Rooney, Jessie Ralph, and Guy Kibbee, but when he learns he's the heir to Earl C. Aubrey Smith, he's swept away to England and to a new world. There are so many sweet scenes in this movie, it's hard to pick one to describe, but one of my favorites is immediately following the news of his good fortune. He asks his benefactor, Henry Stephenson, for a small sum of money before he leaves America, and rather than spend it on himself, he buys each of his friends a present to remember him by. Each present is thoughtful, and his goodbye scenes with Mickey, Jessie, and Guy are very touching.

In England, he's acquainted with his grandfather, the gruff C. Aubrey, while his mother is banished to a separate cottage. Freddie tries to adjust to his new family member, as well as his new responsibilities as an heir, but he misses his mother terribly. Yes, you'll be able to see several tearful, sweet scenes between the little lord and "Dearest". Do you think he'll be able to soften C. Aubrey and mend the old family feud? You'll have to watch one of his cutest movies to find out. He's such a doll; if you've never seen him in a movie, you'll fall in love with him after this one. For your next movie night, rent David Copperfield!
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2/10
Terrible Christmas premise
3 November 2019
A loving, jolly grandfather dies, and when he makes it to the Big Man Upstairs, he asks for just one more Christmas to spend with his young grandson. If you don't think that's the worst premise for a Christmas movie ever, then you and I have extremely different tastes. Not only is it terribly sad and obviously depressing, but the grandfather is played by Mickey Rooney. No one wants to see Mickey Rooney-the beloved child star, and the voice of Santa Claus in two Christmas favorites-die on Christmas! Who thought that was a good idea?

Obviously, I've seen this movie. If I hadn't, I wouldn't be reviewing it. However, it's safe to say I'll never watch it again, and I'll never recommend anyone else watch it. Christmas is for watching heartwarming old movies or Hallmark cheesy flicks. You're not supposed to spend it bawling your eyes out and watching grandparents die.
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9/10
Powerful war-at-home film
3 November 2019
In The Human Comedy, American audiences in 1943 were treated to an extremely grim movie about the war at home, immediately following newsreels in the theater which updated them about the war abroad. Nowadays, it can't possibly have the same feeling, but try to keep in mind the circumstances that brought about such a movie when you watch it. To prove my point, that modern audiences can't see it the same way, Meg Ryan directed a remake in 2015, and while it was a good movie, it had hardly any emotional feeling behind it.

Mickey Rooney personifies the awkward age of all those in the audience who were too young to enlist and too old to feel grateful. His older brother is off fighting for his country, and Mickey stays at home and in school. He gets a part-time job as a bicycle messenger for the telegraph office, and at first he's extremely excited to transition into adulthood and to also do his part for the war. His bosses, James Craig and Frank Morgan are very different but both give him a different sense of accomplishment. James is a handsome mentor, intelligent and always busy, giving Mickey a much-needed father figure to look up to, since all the other older men are away at war. Frank is a burnt-out drunken reporter, so consumed with the bottle that he frequently passes out and needs to be splashed with cold water and plied with cups of strong black coffee. Mickey learns Frank's routine and feels important, like he's keeping a secret with the grown-ups, and through Mickey, Frank sees the youth and enthusiasm he used to have.

This is a very sad movie, full of memorable, powerful performances. Mickey shows he knows how to act without mugging to the camera, and he was rewarded with an Oscar nomination. In one tearful scene, he has to deliver a telegram from the War Department to a woman who can't read English. He's forced to read aloud that her son has been killed, and it's the pivotal scene in the film. He realizes his new job isn't just for fun, and he realizes that all his eagerness to join in the war effort means he'll witness and be involved in death and sadness. If you do decide you can handle this well-acted drama, you'll get to see a young pre-famous Robert Mitchum as a soldier on leave, as well as Fay Bainter, Van Johnson, Donna Reed, Don DeFore, Mary Nash, and Henry O'Neill.
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6/10
The first Andy Hardy, and he's hardly in it!
3 November 2019
A Family Affair is the first of the Andy Hardy movies, but ironically, the movie doesn't center around the love-crazed teen. In fact, Mickey Rooney actually claims to dislike girls! He complains about having to take a girl to a dance, but by the end of the movie, he's realized the joys of his hormones, setting the stage for the next dozen movies. The star of the movie is the patriarch, Lionel Barrymore, who-again, ironically-didn't continue on in any of the other Andy Hardy movies, but was replaced by Lewis Stone. He plays the upstanding judge who has to sort through his family's various problems, including his two daughters' love lives. His wife, Spring Byington, was also replaced by Fay Holden in the subsequent movies. Sara Haden, the spinster aunt, was the only one besides Mickey Rooney who remained.

When Cecilia Parker goes on a tearful tirade accusing her father of ruining her and the rest of the family's lives, Lionel says in his own inimitable way, "Well what about my side of it, darling?" Only Lionel Barrymore can be crotchety, wise, loving, understanding, and logical, all without being stern or unreasonable. However perfect his delivery is, it isn't enough to convince Cecilia, and she leaves the room in tears calling him a "bling old fogie." If you're shying away from this movie because you don't feel like watching goofy Mickey Rooney, he's hardly in the movie. This is Lionel's show, and as usual, he's wonderful. It's hard to believe he'd play such a famous villain as Mr. Potter after you've seen him as the perfect dad, Judge Hardy.
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9/10
Triple-threat drama
3 November 2019
The Devil Is a Sissy may have a really silly title, but it's a triple threat: Freddie Bartholomew, Jackie Cooper, and Mickey Rooney are the three leads in this surprising drama. All three child stars in one movie! You'd think it would be the most adorable movie ever made, but it's actually a really tragic drama that gives all three of the boys a chance to show off their acting chops.

Freddie takes the lead, as a product of divorce. He spends six months with each parent, and his dad Ian Hunter lives in a poor area of New York City. Sent to public school with a bunch of young hoodlums, Freddie desperately wants to make friends and be accepted. Because of his cultured accent and his naiveté, everyone picks on him, but his optimism is infectious and he continues to try to hang out with the cool kids. The leader of the "cool" gang is teen-heartthrob-in-the-making Jackie Cooper, the oldest of the bunch. As fresh as Freddie is, Jackie is experienced. He's so relaxed in front of the camera, it's as if he's been acting for thirty years, and his confidence is startling. Mickey Rooney is the second-in-command, and he propels the plot in his quest to buy a glorious tombstone for his father, who was given the death penalty at the start of the film.

They each have their sorrows and struggles. Freddie comes from a broken home and compromises his morals in order to make friends with punks. Jackie is regularly beaten by his father, Gene Lockhart, and he shows the audience the heartbreaking road of a child turning to crime. Mickey not only has to bear the burden of his father's death, but he sees his mother dating again and knows there's nothing he can do to stop it. There's a particularly powerful scene in which Mickey brags to Jackie how many volts of electricity it took to kill his father. He's proud, but also sickened, and the audience gets a harsh look at the wrong side of the tracks.

You've got to see this movie. It's always a marvel to see talented child actors, and with all three of the 1930s darlings, you can't afford to miss The Devil Is a Sissy. It's pretty dark, so be prepared. But since everyone gives such great performances, it's worth it. You'd never guess from watching Gene Lockhart in Christmas movies that he'd be able to play someone so terribly evil!
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7/10
Frank Morgan tour-de-force
3 November 2019
Broadway to Hollywood follows a vaudeville family as the mother vows her son won't be forced into show business and the father wants the legacy to continue. Frank Morgan and Alice Brady have their marital troubles, with Frank's womanizing and the instability of their profession, and when their son Jackie Cooper enters the scene, he manages to steal the audience's attention with his cuteness. Jackie's only in the movie for about ten minutes, until his character grows up,

Amazingly enough, in a movie set in vaudeville, none of the lead actors can dance. They're either filmed from very far away with obvious dance doubles, or in tight closeups that show them moving only their shoulders with huge grins. The exceptions are the kids, Jackie Cooper and Mickey Rooney, who ironically plays Jackie's son. You have to wait an hour to see him, and once again, he's only on the screen for a few minutes. This is a generational saga, with Frank and Alice aging decades in the ninety minutes. They start off as a young couple, then wind up with a grown-up grandson in their midst. If you're renting this movie to see the kiddies, you'll be disappointed. You'd better be watching it for Frank and Alice, who age very gracefully. With their white hair, Alice's dowager hump, and Frank's dark circles that show the hard life they've lived, it really feels as if you've known them their entire lives.

In the start of the movie, their gag at the end of their song and dance is for Alice to pick up a bouquet of roses thrown on the stage. Frank says to the audience, "I'll find the fellow who sent her those and break his neck!" to a strong laugh. As the decades pass, the laughter dwindles, and even though Frank's tone gives the same delivery, his eyes show he's humiliated and disappointed that he's never achieved more. Finally, as an old man, he uses a monocle, has a slack jaw, and wobbles his legs when he rises from his chair, all while preserving the dignity of a man who used to entertain audiences with his legs and the ladies with his good looks. If you're a Frank Morgan fan, rent it; he truly embodies the old hoofer who's tried and failed his whole life. If you're not, you probably won't enjoy it.
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10/10
Bring a box of Kleenexes
2 November 2019
Where to start on a review for the fantastic classic On Borrowed Time? It's extremely well acted, and based off the thoughtful Paul Osborn play, and it will keep your interest from start to finish. However, it's so incredibly sad, it's almost impossible to sit through. I don't think there's anyone on the planet who has sat through it without using up half a box of Kleenex. So, while I highly recommend this movie, I feel bad recommending it, knowing that I'm condemning you to an evening of Kleenex and uncontrollable sobs.

Lionel Barrymore, not nominated by the Academy but awarded his first Rag award, stars as an old grandfather raising his grandson after a tragedy takes both parents in an automobile accident. His wife is Beulah Bondi, and while young Bobs Watson gets along with both, he has a special bond with Gramps. They play and laugh together, with their own little songs and jokes. There are a couple of flies in their perfect ointment, though, in a mercenary aunt who wants to take Bobs away from Lionel so that she can be his legal guardian and gain his inheritance, and in the mysterious Mr. Brink, played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke. Lionel may be old and confined to his wheelchair, but he's young at heart and shrewd in mind, and as soon as he finds out who Mr. Brink is, he tricks him into climbing a magical tree in the backyard. With Mr. Brink stuck in the tree, Lionel and Bobs have some extra time together.

You can probably tell what the movie is really about, even with my vague synopsis, because of the title. If you're any sort of Lionel Barrymore fan-and who isn't?-your heart will ache seeing him in such a tragic role. It's also sad to see him in his wheelchair, knowing that whenever he was in a lot of pain. But this movie is supposed to be sad! It's supposed to make you weep! And what else can make you weep more than Bobs Watson showing such intense feelings of love, then bursting into tears seconds later? The two are a perfect pairing together, and it's always such a marvel to see such talent in a child. Both show off every ounce of their acting chops as they treat each other gently and as if they really are part of the same family.
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6/10
Gene Lockhart leads supporting cast
31 October 2019
Don Ameche stars as the famed telephone inventor in this 1939 biopic. He gives a solid performance, and the film isn't nearly as corny and ridiculous as the two Thomas Edison movies made the following year, but it's not really a top-tier flick. His love interest is Loretta Young, and her sometimes disapproving, sometimes supportive parents are Charles Coburn and Spring Byington. Loretta plays someone deaf who relies only on lip-reading, and her consistency led to her playing another deaf woman in 1944's And Now Tomorrow. If you like her in this one, check out the other, where she really shines. Henry Fonda in the 1930s was usually in movies that showed off his handsome mug, but perhaps he had a yearly quota to fulfil and was forced to play Don Ameche's lazy, perpetually hungry sidekick. He has hardly any screen time, and what little he does have is spent complaining about his growling stomach. I can't imagine he had much fun in this movie, since he's given none of Don's rousing speeches, purpose to the plot, romantic scenes, or memorable contribution.

In a couple of scenes you'll get to see Harry Davenport, as yet another judge, and Elizabeth Patterson, as Don's cranky landlady. Bobs Watson joins the supporting cast as a mute boy whom Don Ameche tries to cure. His father is Gene Lockhart, and it never ceases to impress me how versatile Gene's roles are. In the same year he played a sleazy slimeball in Blackmail, he plays a devoted, sorrowful father who bursts into tears as easily as Bobs usually does in his movies. It's a perfect father-son casting as they wrap their arms around each other and cry.
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The Big Wheel (1949)
5/10
Supporting cast is fun
29 October 2019
In The Big Wheel, Mickey Rooney plays a racecar driver who juggles his personal and professional troubles. Unless you're a die-hard Mickey fan, you might not like this one, since it's a pretty simple story and not particularly compelling. There are a couple of funny one-liners included in Robert Smith's script, and a supporting cast that helps make the movie more interesting. "He looks like Gary Cooper, James Mason, and Charles Boyer all rolled into one!" Mary Hatcher gushes before her first date with Mickey. "Uh-huh, and what does he look like when you unroll him?" Hattie McDaniels quips, seeing the young love through realistic eyes.

In another funny scene, while trying to get a good table to see his nightclub singer girlfriend, Mickey tries to bribe the headwaiter by telling him his name is Alexander Hamilton. "I don't have a Hamilton here," the waiter says as he looks as the reservation list, but Mickey whips out his wallet and says, "I have a Hamilton here." Ironically, the most memorable parts of the movie don't have anything to do with the racetrack. With Thomas Mitchell in a romantic role, and Spring Byington as someone not ridiculously vapid, it makes for a nice change.
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7/10
Enjoyable Americana piece
29 October 2019
In this sweet piece of Americana, Eric Linden stars as a rebellious teenager at the turn of the century. His idea of being rebellious is a little different than nowadays, which makes it refreshing to watch. He reads radical socialist literature and drinks beer after curfew, which makes his mother Spring Byington worry and his father Lionel Barrymore in constant need of helpful lectures to straighten him out. Weren't the good old days nice, when the biggest problem a man faced was how to stop his son from making an embarrassing valedictorian speech? If you think so, you'll love every version of this movie.

What is perhaps the cutest thing about this movie couldn't have been enjoyed if one had seen it at its release in 1935. Little Mickey Rooney, who plays the younger, prank-playing brother grew up and played the lead brother thirteen years later in the musical adaptation Summer Holiday. The casting of the remake is very respectful to the original, unlike many remakes. Lionel Barrymore, the perfect father figure, was replaced by Walter Huston, another perfect father figure, and the drunken yet jolly Wallace Beery was replaced by Frank Morgan. The spinster Aline McMahon was replaced by Agnes Moorehead, and the motherly Spring Byington with Selena Royle.

As much as I love Lionel Barrymore, and you know how much I do, I like the 1948 version better. Frank Morgan is more sincere in his vows to reform than Wallace Beery, probably because of his own personal experiences he put into the role. The musical remake is softer and sweeter, as even though most of the troubles in this story are faced with tongue-in-cheek humor, there are some moments in the original that are a little sad. For example, there's a father-son talk about falling in love and facing real life, and after Lionel gives the talk, he's left alone to question himself and sigh in anguish and disappointment in the result. Walter gives the same talk and is able to fix his son's problems. Pick which cast you want to see, and rent one of the versions for a step back in time. The original is very enjoyable, so if you decide to try it first, you probably won't be disappointed.
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10/10
Mickey Rooney is perfect
29 October 2019
Much to Donald O'Connor's disappointment, no one associates him with playing Huckleberry Finn. It's Mickey Rooney who personifies the adorable, mischievous, barefoot hero. You just can't help but love him in this movie, even if he drove you crazy playing the lovesick, goofy Andy Hardy a dozen times. He's absolutely perfect, and with his infectious energy, he makes it seem like Mark Twain used time travel and met him before creating the character.

The screenplay of this version is very entertaining and engaging, including all the gimmicks and characters you know and love from Mark Twain's stories. You'll get to know Mickey's aunt, Elisabeth Risdon, and you'll come to love the push and pull between them. You'll enjoy the friendship between Mickey and Rex Ingram, who plays Jim. Walter Connolly and William Frawley play the two drifting conmen, and while they also steal lots of laughs, they also steal your attention and your hearts. Every scene of this movie is exciting and fun, and even though it might have been overshadowed by the large-scale epics of 1939, it's still a great movie in its own right. It doesn't have any "burning of Atlanta" scenes or a Technicolor splendor to transport you to another world, but it's unforgettable and heartwarming, which is some people's definition of a true classic.
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Dodge City (1939)
6/10
Errol Flynn is handsome enough to make this movie better
29 October 2019
There are few sights better-looking than Errol Flynn. After the opening sequence of Dodge City has shown him to the audience as a scruffy cowboy, he visits the "only bath house between Chicago and Colorado" and gets himself a good shave. The villain Bruce Cabot enters the establishment and demands Alan Hale, Errol's faithful sidekick, leave the bath so he can freshen up. "Wait a minute," says the mystery man under the hot towel. Errol Flynn stands up and shows the camera his freshly shaved and powdered mug, his mustache perfectly trimmed, and his smile perfectly in place.

The confrontation continues long after the pseudo-tense crisis at the bath house, and later on in the film, when Errol sabotage's Bruce's bid on some cattle, he finishes what's supposed to be a gigantic, sneaky win with a slip of his accent. True, at no point in the film has he deviated from his normal, cultured British accent-and let's face it, we wouldn't have put up with a British cowboy if he weren't so handsome-but as he exits the cattle bid, he says, "Good day," to the crowd. If you didn't know he was Australian before this movie, you'll certainly know it now! But it's very cute, and since it's Errol Flynn, we forgive him.

There are ups and downs to this 1939 western. You'll hear some fun, lively music from Max Steiner, but you'll have to sit through some silly saloon songs with Ann Sheridan. You'll get to see the perpetual crier Bobs Watson, but you'll also have to suffer through him meeting a terrible end. If you're particularly attached to adorable children, you might want to skip this one. The story's rather simple, and it's easily a cheap '30s flick, but you'll get to see Guinn "Big Boy" Williams Henry Travers, Victor Jory, Henry O'Neill, and Frank McHugh in the supporting cast. You'll also get to see Ward Bond for a few minutes, and who doesn't like to see Ward Bond for a few minutes?

This one's a keeper, if you like melodramas with damsels on trains and the handsome men on horseback who save them. Especially the handsome men-Errol Flynn is sheer perfection.
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3/10
Pretty corny and fictionalized
23 October 2019
The same year Spencer Tracy starred as the grown-up Thomas Edison in Edison, The Man, Mickey Rooney starred as the young inventor in Young Thomas Edison. If you thought the Spencer Tracy version was corny, you obviously haven't seen Mickey's movie. Little things like, "Gee willikers, wouldn't it be great if you could capture a sound?" are interspersed into Mickey's dialogue, only entertaining people in the audience who have no idea why Hollywood would make a movie about someone named Thomas Edison. He tinkers with inventions, chemicals, Morse code, and creating light with mirrors, but it's just way too corny to be any fun.

The most amusing part of the story is the difference in parenting between Fay Bainter and George Bancroft. While George spanks his children with his belt, Fay prefers a far gentler touch. We hear Mickey's tortured cries emanating from the barn after he pulled a prank on a neighbor boy. He sounds like he's in so much pain, George moves to open the barn door and stop the punishment, then he realizes, "She knows what she's doing," and correctly guesses it's all fake. Inside the barn, we see Mickey himself slapping a whip against a wooden table, and kissing Fay's cheek in between hollers.

If you want to show this movie to your kids in grammar school as part of their history unit, they might enjoy it since they haven't had it drummed into their heads for decades all that he accomplished. Plus, since the protagonist is younger, they might be able to relate to it more than either a dry textbook or the old and elderly Spencer Tracy in Edison, The Man. If you do watch this one with your kids, you'll actually see Spence in a cameo in the very end, as MGM promotes their "double feature" that will soon hit theaters and continue young Tom's story as he starts his life in New York.
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