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Actress with the Saddest Eyes In Hollywood Pleads Case for Indian Nobility
9 August 2018
This is a film based on a now obscure novel by socialist writer Theodore Dreiser. It paints a picture of a hypocritical alcoholic and adulterous upper class at the beginning of the 20th Century. Gene Raymond plays a son of the this class who hates the class and wants to marry an ordinary (but beautiful) secretary. His family ruins his chances and he leaves the family vowing revenge. He goes out west and becomes involved with an Indian woman named Tonita Storm Cloud played by Sylvia Sydney. The rest of the movie deals with their relationship. The question that the movie explores is does he really want her or is he just using her to get revenge on his family. Sylvia Sydney had played in an adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's more successful novel, "American Tragedy" just two years before in 1931. This movie shows why the idea that actors be limited to their own ethnic and racial groups in casting is insane. There simply were no popular Indian actresses at this time, and the film wouldn't have gotten made without the popular Sylvia Sydney in the lead. The character of Tonita Storm Cloud is very sympathetic and heroic. Will the movie contradict its opening idea of a monolithic racist anti-Indian ruling class?
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The Twilight Zone: Once Upon a Time (1961)
Season 3, Episode 13
The Last Silent Film of Buster Keaton
15 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This was a perfect blend of Keaton's wonderfully impossible humor and whimsy, and a wonderfully moral Twilight Zone tale. Keaton's silent film always portrayed a cold and cynical universe, but one that did always somehow end up caring about the idealistic Keaton. Keaton's plans and hopes are usually dashed to pieces by fate, but just as he seems doomed, fate steps in to help him. That is what happens here. Woodrow Mulligan hates the 1890s world that he lives in, but doesn't find the 1961 world he time travels to any better. Yet it is his adventures to the worse world that makes him happy to return to his own time. Keaton was one of the kings of silent comedy alongside Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, from 1922-1928. His films are the most amazing of them all the great silent film comedians. His sound career was uneven, at best. Most of his talking short films perhaps 50 or more, were amusing, but none amazing. He starred in about a dozen features between 1929 and 1936, and only three or four can be called good. His appearances in a dozen other features are small parts and cameos, with the exceptions of Charlie Chaplin's "Limelight," and "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum," (his last film in 1965). Although these are great films and he is great in them, he is only onscreen in both for about four minutes. Was there ever a funnier time travel movie Than this little Twilight Zone episode? I don't think so. For more Keaton time travel, see his first feature film, "Three Age," (1923), a spoof of DW Griffth's "Intolerance."
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Roscoe and Mabel in Love
10 January 2018
This is a wonderfully sweet and romantic movie. Mabel and Fatty speak slapstick fluently and poetically here. Al St. John and Teddy are great in it too. Does anybody know who did the cinematography? It is beautiful.

The scene of Roscoe's shadow kissing Mable goodnight is still incredibly beautiful after more than 100 years.

This is another movie where Mabel Normand gets to run around in her pajamas. It was risque for the day. It was the equivalent of a nude scene today. She also did it in 1914 in her first film with Charlie Chaplin - "Mable's Strange Predicament."

This should be included in all retrospectives of the best works of both Mabel Normand and Roscoe Arbuckle.

Watching it again, I noticed the actor Wayland Trask. I didn't know who he was and he was hilarious as the gang mob boss. I wondered why he hadn't gone on to be a known silent film comedian.

I looked him up on IMDB. It turns out that he died in an auto accident, the following year that this movie was released. He only had a four year career doing shorts. He appeared in 48 of them, most of them with Charles Murray and Louise Fazenda, and a few more with Al Saint John. He did get co-star billing with Murray in three or four films. He was talented and may have become a star if not for the accident.
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Cowboy Vs. Playgirl - Much Better than You Expect
28 December 2017
Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard are magic together. It is hard to tell if they are acting or just carrying on an off-screen romance on-screen.

At the beginning of the movie, socialite, playgirl Carol sashays over to her straight-laced aristocratic father, bends over and says, "Spank me, good daddy, I need it." You know immediately we are in a pre-code film.

Cooper plays a slow talking cowboy who doesn't think she's anything special. He tells her that all women are a disappointment to him. She's angry that he's not falling at her feet and drooling. She explains her plan explicitly to get him to fall in love with her. When the plan ends, she finds that she's succeeded, but she laments that she has also trapped herself. They're in love. That's the first twenty minutes of the movie, then it really gets interesting, as the movie explores the problems of love between two people from two different social and class backgrounds.
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A Royal Flush
3 December 2017
Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, Dorothy Mackaill, and Grant Mitchell are all excellent actors. There careers were thriving at this point. It may have been depression times, but this warm and witty comedy hardly notices.

Maurine Watkins who wrote the play "Chicago" in 1927, contributed to the screenplay. I think we have her to thank for a sophisticated point of view towards morals and for Lombard's character being able to show desire and passion with truth and subtlety. Being a librarian in a small town (Glendale) and realizing that Gable is a big city slicker and ladies man trying to seduce her, she rightly rejects him. However, being bored out of her mind with a small town life in her small town, she decides to gamble on him for a chance to escape. She's a lot less puritanical than Marian the Librarian from "The Music Man." The movie has a Damon Runyon flavor to it. The crooks and cops are playing a gentlemanly game and give each other sporting chances. In this respect it reminds one of Little Miss Marker.

Dorothy MacKaill's character plays an angry, criminal woman who also has a passion for Gable. She could also be a character from Wakkin's "Chicago."

The film is a delight with many skillfully executed twists and turns that still surprises us.
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Saigon (1948)
This Happened Because It Had to Happen
26 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This movie does prove that Alan Ladd looks great in a tuxedo and would have made a great James Bond. Veronica Lake plays a secretary without a sense of humor until the last 1/3 of the film where she suddenly starts to look more like her usual sexy, peekaboo self. Only the last 1/3 of the film takes place in Saigon. The first hour is just the characters trying to get to Saigon. Weirdly, almost all the last 1/2 hour takes place in a hotel where their appears to be no Vietnamese. The movie could have been called Santa Cruz or San Diego, or any city name with as much relevance to the plot. The movie is surprisingly lacking in wit and suspense, at least until the last 20 minutes where things pick up a bit. I think the movie is just for Alan Ladd fans. The quote "This happened because it had to happen" is the best line in the movie, which tells you how bad the movie is.
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The Squall (1929)
Here Comes Nubi
19 September 2017
Nubi (Myrna Loy) is Gypsy Girl. Me crazy in love with Nubi. Me cheat for Nubi. Me steal for Nubi. Me give up family for Nubi. Me ruin my reputation for Nubi.

Only problem is every man in village love Nubi. Nubi so beautiful, every man love Nubi. Every woman jealous of Nubi. Me can't think of any other actresses when Nubi on screen. Not even think of Zazu Pitts or Loretta Young.

Can Nubi help it if every man love Nubi and fight over Nubi. Everybody love Nubi. Nubi love nobody . Poor Nubi. Poor Gypsy girl. Poor movie, but Myrna Loy is wonderfully sensual in this painfully slow morality tale of Eve causing a squall in the Hungarian Garden of Eden.
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Perfect Screwball Comedy
19 September 2017
At the very beginning of this film, Nina Tennyson (Leona Maricle) tells lover Henrie Saffron (Erik Rhodes) that she is going to marry millionaire Kenneth Nolan (Joel McCrea) "so you and I can live happily ever afterwards." She explains that she is going to marry Nolan for his money and then leave him. Henrie say, "Holy Mackerel, what a way to make a living." "Do you know any other way to make a living," she wisecracks.

Besides his fiancé, Nolan's father, B.J. Nolan (Charles Winninger) is also after his money. He has started a suburban housing community called "Nolan Heights" and creditors are going to ruin him if his son doesn't invest in the project. His son has specifically been ordered in his mother's will, not to invest in his father's hair-brained schemes. Thus both father and son are in trouble.

At this moment, Virginia Travis (Mariam Hopkins) shows up looking for a job as an architect for Nolan's "Nolan Heights" housing project. She gives a wild and hilarious introductory speech:

"I know what you're thinking that I'm a girl. Yes, Mr. Nolan, but I have a man's courage, a man's vision, a man's attack...For seven years, I studied like a man, researched like a man. There is nothing feminine about my mind. Seven year ago I gave up a perfectly nice engagement with a charming, wealthy old man because I chose a practical career. I left him at the church to become an architect and today I'm ready and he's dead. Here I am Mr. Nolan with the key to Nolan Heights. I've found a way to make us both rich. I can make you a fortune. Why I have a million dollars right here in my hand."

At this point, she faints dead away. A doctor is called and he explains that she fainted due to hunger. She hadn't eaten in 48 hours. "49 hours," Virginia corrects him, coming out of her faint.

This is a very sweet movie where all the main characters are both con-artists and lovers.

I think Mariam Hopkins is brilliant in her performance and deserved an academy award. Unlike Katherine Hepburn, who appears loving, but feather-brained, in the popular screwball comedy, "Bringing Up Baby (1939), Hopkins manages to be both loving and smart.

Everybody is flawed and a little bit of a screwball in this comedy. That makes it a very wise comedy, indeed.
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Lady Killer (1933)
Cagney's Self Parody is Perhaps His Worst Film
2 September 2017
The opening twenty minutes works well, with Cagney getting fired as a movie usher and getting taken into a gang by a lost purse/gambling scheme. At this point the movie starts to make wild jumps that throw all believably out the window. For example, Cagney threatens a group of cheap gangsters with exposure and they let him into the gang. In the next scene, he is head of the gang and they own an expensive nightclub. How did that happen?

A wealthy woman shows up at the nightclub and for no particular reason the gang does a robbery of her house. Why pick a nightclub patron as their target? It doesn't make any sense. One of the gang kills somebody during the robbery. Up to this point, the movie has been comical, but this makes Cagney into a real criminal who has caused the death of a maid. The movie turns dark and mildly suspenseful for about 15 minutes.

The movie then goes completely off the tracks by having Cagney arrive in Hollywood and suddenly be picked to play an extra in a motion picture. The movie turns back into a comedy. Cagney is satirizing Cagney the actor, but this completely undercuts Cagney the gangster character in the first half of the movie.

The first half of the movie is really a bad remake of "Blonde Crazy" (1931). That movie has Cagney as a conniving hotel bellhop, just as this movie has him as a conniving movie usher. In that movie too, Cagney is tricked by a scam into becoming part of a group of gangsters.

That movie also makes some leaps, but it doesn't run out of ideas half way through as this movie does, or fall into a chaotic mess as this movie does.

With the minor exception of Mae Clarke, the other actors are quite forgettable in their roles.
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Lady Behave! (1937)
You Two Should Go to Bed - Totally Delightful
20 May 2017
This is a fast-paced, enjoyable little family romantic comedy that has fine acting and direction. The plot is really clever. Sexually liberated sister Clarice Kindall (Patricia Farr) goes out partying, gets drunk and marries a millionaire. Since she is on vacation, awaiting a divorce from her first husband, she has committed bigamy, a crime punishable with ten years in jail. Her big sister, Paula (Sally Eilers)comes to the rescue. Since the millionaire was too drunk to know who he married, she will pretend to be her sister and get a divorce from the husband Stephen Cormack (Neil Hamilton), but only after sister Clarice annuls the first marriage.

A complication appears as millionaire Stephen Cormack has two young teenager children Patricia (Marcia Mae Jones) and Hank (George Ernest). They are none too happy about having a mother who they believe married their father for his money while "in a fog." The cast does a great job keeping this light and fluffy, with enough wink-like actions to remind the audience that its a comedy and not to take any of this too seriously. Eilers is a precursor to Doris Day in her late 50s sex comedies -- which this resembles. She's trying to stay a virgin, despite having to live with a new husband.

The kids are adorable. Marcia Mae Jones (the crippled girl in Shirley Temple's "Heidi") and George Ernest. They had each done dozens of film roles before this and they are very professional in their comic timing. Marcia had a long career, but George pretty much ended his career when he became an adult.

The husband/father, Neil Hamilton is quite sophisticated and comfortable.

I was sad to learn that Patricia Farr who charmingly played sister Clarice tragically died of cancer at age 35, eleven years after this film. This turned out to be the height of her career. She only had a couple of small roles after this film. She handles her part well and showed talent. She was apparently hanging out modeling with another startlet at the time of this film. That was Rita Hayworth and her career took off while Farr's career went nowhere.

Eilers was in the middle of a 15 year - 50 picture career when she made this film. She is quite professional with wonderful comic timing.

I watched this picture just after watching Frank Capra's Oscar winning "You Can't Take it With You"(1939). I liked that film, but I thought this one was minute to minute funnier.
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Hats Off (1936)
John Payne First Starring Movie - For John Payne Completists
8 February 2017
I was wondering why John Payne looked like and acted like Jimmy Stewart in this movie. I think it was because 1936 was Stewart's break out year. He starred in four movies and had good parts in four more. His career was exploding. Somebody probably saw Payne and figured people would think he was Stewart. Payne never quite reached Stewart's level of super-stardom, but he seemed to have a greater acting range, playing tough guys as easily as sweetheart roles. Here, he is quite affable and charming. One wishes he had more screen time. This is also Sam Fuller's first screenplay. I am not that familiar with Fuller's corpus except for some of his major works - "The Big Red One," "Shock Corridor" "The Naked Kiss" and "Pick Up on South Street." This seems quite different from the other works that I've seen by him, much lighter in tone. Mae Clarke is dull and Helen Lynn does seem to be doing a Gracie Allen imitation. Only Luis Alberni as Rosero hits the right notes to brighten the film a bit. The other characters are not given enough screen time to make a solid impression. This is just passable and I think only John Payne fans would really be interested enough to watch the whole thing.
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Air Mail (1932)
Very Much a Prototypical John Ford Movie
26 January 2017
This is about a band of rugged air mail pilots who risk death to deliver the mail. It seems pretty silly nowadays, but I think people would have accepted the premise in 1931. Ralph Bellamy is excellent playing the heroic John Wayne style hero (Ford made 14 pictures with Wayne). He is a man of extraordinary courage and dedication and few words. Pat O'Brian is quite good as a hot shot, devil-may-care, egotistical flyer. Lacking any real villains, he plays the antagonist in the film. Slim Summerville gives a nice, comical sidekick performance. Besides them, Lilian Bond, as a faithless, bad girl, and Gloria Stuart (Titanic) as a faithful good girl are fun to watch.

The flying scenes are not as thrilling as they were in 1931, and it is not a masterpiece, but it is entertaining enough to hold your attention for the 84 minute running time.
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Runaway Bride (1930)
"Mr. Blaine, I've gotten myself into a mess"
5 January 2017
Yes, the movie is awful, but there are some redeeming features, and it almost makes it into the "so bad, its good" category. I suspect that this was supposed to be a breezy screwball-comedy, crime-mystery picture. The comedy falls flat and there are too many jumps in the script and jumps in character logic to make the crime-mystery satisfying.

For example, why doesn't Mary Astor's character, Sally Fairchild,just use the fire escape to escape from the room that her runaway bridegroom has locked her in? Obviously the fire escape led down to the street as a criminal uses it to enter her room a few minutes later. The only reason seems to be that Sally couldn't escape from the room because then the criminal could not plant the diamonds on her to start the merry chase that the moves the rest of the plot forward. Then one wonders why Sally doesn't call the police when the criminal and another detective are shot in the room. Again, the answer seems to be, the movie would end right there after fifteen minutes, so she has to do the stupid thing and runaway. The screenwriter might reply that she's a runaway bride and that would be scandalous and disgraceful if the police found out. True, but she should be intelligent enough to figure out that being accused of murder trumps being accused of being a runaway bride. When she confesses to handsome Lloyd Hughes (the Lost World, 1925), "Mr Blaine, I've gotten myself into a mess," it is almost as if she's confessing to the audience how she feels about the movie she's appearing in.

The most redeeming feature and the reason to watch the movie is Mary Astor's wonderful performance. It is so sincere and she looks so beautiful and distressed throughout that you want to rush in and comfort her. It is an "A" performance in a throwaway "B" picture. We feel angry that the script and other characters are not being as sincere as Miss Astor. You feel as if her talents are being ignored and wasted. Thank goodness for John Huston and "the Maltese Falcon," otherwise modern audiences would not have appreciated Mary.

As mentioned by another reviewer, the cinematography is also quite good. It is another element that makes us sad that the script is so lightweight. Leo Tover was only 28 at the time. He would become one of the great cinematographers in Hollywood. He was nominated twice for an Oscar, but sadly, never won. "the Heiress," "the Day the Earth Stood Still," and "Love Me Tender" are some of his most well known works.

I would also note that Paul Hurst seems very comfortable playing a police sergeant. He played a detective or cop in about 20 other movies, although he was most famous for playing in Westerns.

In summary, this is a cheap, frustrating, throwaway movie, but not an uninteresting one.
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Entertaining, Enthralling, and Thrilling while also Silly and Ridiculous
25 December 2016
There were plenty of alien disaster movies in cinema before this - "War of the Worlds," "Invaders from Mars" and "Day of the Triffids," and there were plenty of monster disaster movies, such "Gozilla" and "the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms," but hardly ever any disaster movies without aliens and monsters. The only ones that I can think of are "Things to Come," "Time Machine" and "On the Beach," and "Journey to the Center of the Earth"

The movie does add a nice love triangle subplot to the world disaster major plot with top scientists Dana Andrews and Kieron Moore both being in love with Janette Scott.

A lot of the special effects are just old documentary footage of lava flowing and atomic bombs, but after a while you become absorbed in the situation and the badly mismatched reaction shots just relieve some tension and make the movie more fun. Scott and Kieron also played in "Day of the Triffids" (1959) together.

The message of the movie is that when scientists warn of disaster, we should pay attention. It is still a good message. Although I'm sure that the artificial intelligence machines that will be reading this in 2037, after the human race has been wiped out, will get a big laugh from it.
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Back to the Sixties - Nostalgia and Roots - Essential Allen Comedy
28 November 2016
Harsh critic reviews keep me from watching this for almost two months. As usual the mass of critics were wrong and I totally enjoyed the two and a half hours I spent binge-watching this on the day after Thanksgiving. By the way, Elaine May's "Ishtar" is another movie the mass of critics were totally wrong about. Trust me, it was hilarious - see it).

I felt that this was very much like some of Allen's early movie efforts from the 1960s and 1970s like "Take the Money and Run" "Bananas" and "Love and Death" where plot took a backseat to absurd and ridiculous one-liners and dialogues.

For example:

Lenny (Miley Cyrus): I don't dislike you, its just everything that you stand for.

Sidney: God's going to punish us in this. Kay: God's not going to punish you, you're an atheist. Sidney: But if I'm wrong we're in big trouble.

Kay: Chairman Mao say "Death's certain, life unpredictable." Sidney: He got that from Charlie Chan.

If you're familiar with early Woody Allen, watch this and see the amazing continuity. If you are unfamiliar, watch this and then get DVDs of "Bananas," "Take the Money and Run" and "Love and Death." You will see what a rich source of material the 1960s youth rebellion offered for sharp comedians of the time.

Miley Cyrus is terrific and Woody Allen is Woody Allen and Elaine May is Elaine May. That should be enough of a recommendation. After you see it, come back here and write a great review of it.
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Hitchcockian and Fun
23 September 2016
Most of the things I felt about the film were nicely expressed by the favorable reviewers I read, especially the ones from the U.K.. I remember Deborah Kerr from "the King and I," and sort of remember Trevor Howard from "Mutiny on the Bounty," the excellent 1962 version with Marlon Brando. It was nice to see them much younger in this 1946 film. I agree with the viewers that said this movie was witty, full of surprises and twists and turns and had a beautiful performance from a younger and very beautiful Deborah Kerr. I agreed with the negative criticism of the film that it is a bit long and the plot gets muddled a few times. In its defense, the movie does manage to unmuddle itself the numerous times that it strays from the beaten path. If you like movies that break formulas so much that you can't trust the narration, this is a joy. Actually the narrator tells you in the very beginning of the movie what to expect from the film when he says that he has chosen the wrong place to start his tale and restarts it at a completely different place. Thanks to all the U.K. and other reviewers who filled us in on the many historical and other references in the film.
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Iron Man (1931)
Put Your Robe On, You Wanna Get Pneumonia
1 September 2016
For a boxing movie, there really isn't a lot of boxing in the movie, perhaps ten minutes total. Apparently the original ran 73 minutes and the version I saw on Youtube ran 68 minutes. I suspect the missing five minutes were boxing scenes.

This may be a blessing as Lew Ayres is certainly too handsome and collegiate looking for a boxer. Without muscles, he certainly does not physically resemble any contemporary boxers.

However, the reason to watch this story is not the boxing, but to watch a strong tale of friendship between a coach and an athlete and the selfish, sinful woman who disrupts it.

The acting is terrific. Robert Armstrong had only been starring in movies since 1928 when this was made in 1931, yet this was his 20th starring role. This was two years before his career making performances in "King Kong," and "Son of Kong," but it is easy to see why he was chosen for the lead in those movies. He gives a rock solid, believable performance here.

Lew Ayres is a bit uneven at the beginning, but eventually grows into the part. He was 23 years old and only in his fifth starring role, with the first being the classic anti-war film "All Quiet on the Western Front." It seems that Ayres was trying to develop a tough guy image after the romantic image he portrayed in that first film. My guess is that it was the studio's decision. It worked with song and dance man James Cagney, but not with Ayres. Still, he's a great actor and is easy to watch throughout.

I was surprised at how well Jean Harlow did. We should remember that she was only 21 and this was only her fourth starring role. She is quite despicable in the movie, but that was her part. She plays it with intensity and believably. I think reviewers here are criticizing her unfairly, because she doesn't show much of her comic or sexy siren side here. However, that is not the role. She is a jaded, mean, despicable woman and she plays it straight.

Again, this is a good dramatic piece and those looking for a sports movie or light comedy (although it does have moments of humor) will be disappointed. Those looking for sharp direction from Tod Browning and wonderful performances from three great actors will enjoy the movie.
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Liliom (1930)
A Beautiful Religious Fantasy Film In German Expressionist Style
12 August 2016
I was attracted to the film because of the lead, Charles Farrell. I enjoyed watching him as the wonderful father in the 1950s Gale Storm sit-come "My Little Margie." Watching him here was a total delight. I loved how he humanized and made us feel sorry for a character whom was meant to be a perfect bastard. He is vain, dumb, arrogant and egotistical, but we instantly understand why Julie (Rose Hobart) falls in love with him. He is a loser and a dreamer, but Farrell plays him as a lost kid. The sets are terrific and it was wonderful to see a good print from 1930. I saw it on Youtube, where most of the pre-code films are barely watchable because of the bad transfers. This still has the striking cinematography by Chester Lyons that rivals "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". Sadly Lyons died only six years (nine films) after this film at the age of 51.

This movie is a fairy tale, but of the pre-Disney, "Match Girl" Brothers Grimm kind. It is not nice, but shows the awful side of life for the poor. There is a hands motif throughout the film. People express themselves with their hands. Julie's friend Marie tells her about passionate love. She explains that it is when your lover holds your hand and swings it back and forth. Notice how the seductive Buzzard (Lee Tracy) uses his hands in his scenes. Notice too how his hand is held in the climatic scene by the man he attacks. Finally, it is the hand of Liliom slapping the face of his daughter that ends his second chance.

There is also a neat train motif. Notice that Liliom dreams of taking a train to get to his dreamland of America. He yearns to be one of the fine gentlemen who rides on those trains. It is also on trains that he finds his destiny. Some feminist critics were upset that Liliom was an abusive lover and mentioned that the movie promoted domestic violence. That is nonsense. The movie makes clear that Liliom's violence occurs because Julie is smarter than him and he can't answer her. In other words, it explains his actions, but certainly doesn't justify or promote them. Even Julie's statement that you can love somebody so much that you don't feel the pain when somebody hits you, just means that love is more powerful than violence, a beautiful message, which does not at all excuse or promote domestic violence. It simply offers insight into it.

The movie is a religious fantasy promoting a neo/pseudo-Christian world-view, but it is done with style, so like Cecil B. Demille's "Ten Commandments," you hardly notice the theological lesson being promoted.

One of the funniest jokes in the movie is when the Chief Magistrate tells Lilliom that he is going to hell on a train called "the Red Express," He then adds parenthetically that no political message was intended. Of course, that the name of the train was the Red Express and it was going to hell would have been taken by most of the audience to be a political attack on the Bolshevik regime in the Soviet Union. It seems that a political message was intended.

The movie is fascinating and a beautiful work of art from the period that still moves us emotionally.

I'll have to watch more of the director Frank Borzage's work with this film in mind.
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A very Macabre Murder Trial Movie
9 August 2016
The only other James Whale movie that I have seen, except for his classics, "Frankenstein," "Bride of Frankenstein" and "Invisible Man," was "the Old Dark House." I liked "the Old Dark House," but it wasn't a masterpiece like the other three.

I have never seen "Wizard of Oz" title character Frank Morgan in a leading role, so I always assumed he was a character actor, but he easily carries the film in this case. His wife is played by Nancy Carroll who starred in some 35 films from 1928 to 1935. She is quite fine. Gloria Stuart, famous for the Titanic (1997) has appears briefly in the film. Jean Dixon, as a very sharp statuesque woman lawyer nearly steals the picture with a sharp sense of humor.

The movie is about obsession, love and murder. Whale does a wonderful job of balancing comedy with tense scary moments as he did in "Bride" and "Invisible Man." The movie is very humanist and really solidifies the idea of him being a great auteur director. There's an hilarious scene of two gay newspaper men commenting on the trial. The movie is tight and short, barely over an hour, so it can't be called a masterpiece, but it does manage a lot of emotional intensity for a film of this length and this time period.
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Jean Arthur Rising
5 August 2016
Clara Bow and Jean Arthur both started starring in movies around 1924. Bow was 19 and Arthur was 24. In 1927, Bow reached super-stardom as the "It" girl in "It" and playing in first Academy Award Winning movie "Wings." So, now two years later you have superstar Bow, age 24 and star Arthur age 29 playing sisters.

Oddly, Arthur seems to be playing the younger sister. In the opening scene, Bow brazenly pulls up Arthur's dress and reveals Arthur's underwear for the camera. She accuses her sister of stealing her "step-ins". It establishes Clara as the dominant personality.

Later, there's a wonderful scene where both are in their underwear about to go to bed. Arthur has just stolen Bow's boyfriend. Bow prays, while Arthur hops into bed. She moans innocently, "I can't help it if he like me more than you." Bow snaps back, "Shut up, I'm saying my prayers." Bow is strong and gives a great performance, but its Arthur with a thin, almost squeaky, voice who steals every scene.

The movie moves briskly with nice scenes in a department store, on the street and on an apartment porch beneath what could be the Brooklyn Bridge.

Nice comic support is given by Edna Mae Oliver who plays a store manager putting on a pageant for Goldberg's, the store where the sisters work. In the play that she puts on, she casts Arthur as virtue and Bow as pleasure to show the triumph of virtue over pleasure. This is ironic as in the movie, they are playing the opposite roles.

Charles Sellon, the unforgettable Mr. Muckle in W.C. Fields "Its a Gift," also gives a great performance. He's gambler-neighbor who cons Arthur to give him money by reassuring her, "With me its not a gamble, but an investment." Bow would go on to make eight more films over the next four years and then quit movies forever in 1933 at the age of 28. On the other hand, Jean Arthur continued starring for twenty more years in classics like "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington".

Some people will be disappointed because the film is pretty light weight. It is barely over an hour and basically climaxes just when it is getting most interesting. Still, watching Bow at the top of her game and Arthur rising to match her is delightful.
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Paris Model (1953)
Charming, Little Sex Comedy from 1953
5 July 2016
This movie is a series of four short vignettes primarily tied together by a single Paris fashion dress. The dress starts out costing $890, but keeps getting more and more discounted in each story. In all four stories, a woman is using the dress to try and bend a man to her will. The name of the low cut dress is "Nude at Moonlight."

There are some small links in the stories besides the dress. For example, Tom Conway appears as the turban wearing Maharajah of Kim-Kepore in the first episode and reappears briefly in the fourth episode. Eva Gabor and Conway are delightful in this first story of two people conning each other. Paulette Godard, looking like a tall Bettie Page, shines in the dress in the second wife vs. secretary tale. In the funniest line in the movie, she asks a salesgirl for a Marilyn Maxwell type dress, "clingy and swinging." Marilyn Maxwell then dons the dress in the third episode. She uses it to tease and get a promotion for her husband from her boss, played by the always delightful Cecil Kellaway. Only the fourth episode with Barbara Lawrence doesn't really sparkle. It involves a girl trying to get her long time boyfriend to finally propose.

Some reviewers seem to be disappointed with the limited nature of the production. It is intended to be a "B" film with a few "B" list stars. Three hits out of four is fine. There are plenty of giggles for the hour and twenty minutes. The film looks forward to the more sophisticated and daring sex comedies with Doris Day and Marilyn Monroe that would be coming in the later 1950s.
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Hot Pepper (1933)
Hilarious Sexy Comedy
12 June 2016
I watched this because of Victor McLaglen who I knew best from "the Informer" and "Gunga Din." He was as delightful as was in these movies. I didn't know any of the other actors, but I found a host of wonderful ones here: Edmund Lowe, Lupe Velez, El Brendel, and Lilian Bond.

Edmund Lowe is a wonderful, handsome and witty leading man in the Cary Grant style. He has a great rapport with McLaglen. This was apparently the fifth movie where he played the character of Harry Quirt and McLaglen played the character of Jim Flagg. They make a great comedy team. Both like to insult each other and one-up each other, but underneath, there's a lot of affection. It reminded me of the relationship of Michael Caine and Steve Martin in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," which was a remake of the Marlin Brando-David Niven comedy "Bedtime Story." This movie seems to be a source for the comedy in those two movies. There are a couple of jokes between them that would later be part of Abbott and Costello routines, including the "ever ride a jack-ass,no, well get onto yourself" quip.

Lupe Velez is hilarious as a sexy Mexican woman. She makes lots of references to her irresistible sexuality. She's closest to Mae West in her self knowledge of her sex appeal. El Brendel plays a Swedish character named Olsen that he played throughout his career. He reminds me of Roman Polanski in "The Vampire Killers." He is shy and has a sweet disposition. When Lupe Velez tells him that she will love him until she kills him, he answers simply, "That's fair." Lilian Bond has a smart and sophisticated gold-digger style like Joan Blondell.

This is a smart and sexy pre-code comedy with lots of pretty women in their underwear or less. It is fast paced and delightful. I will have to find the other movies in the series, and look out for more movies with Edmund Lowe, Lupe Velez, El Brendel and Lilian Bond.
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Criminal (2016)
Jason Bourne Meets Frankenstein Meets Hannibal Lector Meets Deadpool
21 May 2016
The style is imitation Jason Bourne. Kevin Costner is relentless. It is also relentlessly stupid 75% of the time. The C.I.A. has a hundred agents, all the police in London and technology to view every street in London, and instantly identify every person with face recognition, but it keeps losing Costner, plus the guy he's trying to find - a hacker called the Dutchman, and the bad guy- Anarchist. They can plant memories in Costner's head, but they forget to plant a tracking device in his body.

The Dutchman has hacked into every defense system in the United States and launch any nuclear missile at will. Smart guy, right? Yet he asks for $10 million dollars to return control to the C.I.A. It reminds one of Dr. Evil in Austin Powers who demands 1 million dollars to not destroy the world. Does this guy really think the C.I.A. and security agencies around the world are going to just leave him alone if he gets 10 million dollars? He can still hack into the national defense systems and destroy the world. He apparently can control all the weapons in the world from a thumb drive. Yep, a thumb drive.

One could have a good time laughing at the ridiculousness of the movie, but it really has a nasty edge to. Its like the writers said, of course this is ridiculous, but the audience is 16 year old imbeciles and they won't care. There is a lot of disgusting and pointless violence. Yeah, the 16year old sadistic imbeciles like to see people getting hurt, so lets have the hero hurt a lot of people, smashing things over their heads and punching them in the face. Another problem with the movie is that Michael Pitt who plays the Dutchman is really a handsome young actor and should have had the lead role and Kevin Costner should have had the much smaller Dutchman role. Anyways, if you like stomach churning violence, ridiculously dumb plot elements, and few laughs, this is your movie.
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Shanty Tramp (1967)
Well Done Exploitation Film about a 1960s Southern Small Town
10 April 2016
There was a big market for films with sex and violence at their center in the 1960s. One can't blame the filmmakers for taking advantage of that. One also can't blame the filmmakers for not having much money and using not totally professional actors and actresses. On the other hand, there's a lot to like about the film. It is surprisingly realistic, thoughtful, and competently shot and edited. It manages to capture a lot of the attitudes and morals of the 1960s, showing both the racism and hypocrisy that was common in the South of this time period. It isn't a great film, but certainly holds your attention and is worth seeing for its historical value. If you want to see what the pre-civil rights South in America was like, this will give you a good idea.
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Terrific Jerry Lewis and Shirley MacLaine Slackstick Comedy
29 December 2015
This movie has three things going for it, cinematography, Lewis and MacLaine, Daniel L. Fapp was a great cinematographer who did "West Side Story" and "the Great Escape" among other films. The gorgeous and vibrant colors jump off the screen and embrace you here. Thankfully the Technicolor is preserved in all its glory. The second great thing about this movie is Jerry Lewis's slapstick. If you enjoy this genre of comedy, there are numerous scenes where Lewis shows off his superb skills. He and Danny Kaye were the two masters of it in fifties. My favorite scene where Lewis entwines a number of bodies during a back-rub sequence. The third plus is Shirley MacLaine. She only has five or six scenes but she is terrific and you see the origin of the Chaplinesque or more properly Normandesque (after Mabel Normand) character that she would play so magnificently in "The Apartment," "Irma La Douce," and "Sweet Charity." Shirley had only played in "The Trouble With Harry," a rare Hitchcock comedy misfire before this film. It is this film that really shows her best qualities and talents.

The script is generally quite funny and witty, but takes an odd turn in the third act when it adds an out of blue spy plot.

The film is also quite sexy. Its sexy talk and many sequences of beautifully dressed and nearly undressed women really pushed the boundaries of sexuality in movies in 1955.

One does feel a bit sorry for Dean Martin, as he plays a straight man who really has only average scenes that do not show his talents very well. He does have a couple of good song numbers.

The film's satire on the comic book scandals of the 1950's will also be appreciated by comic book fans. Lewis' character is in love with a comic book heroine called "The Bat Lady." reflecting the popularity of the Batman character even in this time period.

Fans of cinematography, slapstick, Jerry Lewis and Shirley MacLaine should definitely catch this one. Others might have a hard time with it.
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