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TFTMM on… The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Time to delve into the classic 1940 comedy, The Philadelphia Story, starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart!

As Miss Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) prepares to marry her second husband, George Kittredge (John Howard), her first husband, C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) arrives with a writer, Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart), and a photographer, Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey), from SPY magazine, who are supposed to write about her wedding.  As the wedding gets closer, Tracy begins to feel conflicted, with George essentially putting her on a pedestal, while Dexter and her estranged father remind her that even she has faults, and shouldn’t be so harsh with her criticisms of others.

This movie is famous for essentially being Katharine Hepburn’s big comeback movie.  Apparently, partway through the thirties, she had been labeled “box office poison.” I’m not sure what film exactly caused this, although it seems like I read that maybe it was the failure of the 1935 movie Sylvia Scarlett (incidentally, also the first of the four movies in which she would be paired with Cary Grant).  After a few years of mixed to dismal results, she went back to Broadway, and got a role in the play The Philadelphia Story, which was able to showcase her abilities.  Howard Hughes bought the film rights and gave them to her, which allowed her the choice of director and cast (not to mention the ability to star in the movie).

I’ll admit, I’m currently coming off my second time viewing this movie (and the first in nearly a decade), but my opinion has improved over time (and seeing it restored on a recent Blu-ray release helps a little, too).  The first time I saw it, I didn’t particularly care for the movie, especially since I had seen the musical remake High Society for a few years already (and enjoyed that movie very much), so being a non-musical film version was, at that time, a strike against it.  The opening scene itself, as we see Dexter and Tracy separating (with him knocking her down), was also a point against it.  In the time since, I’ve seen another reviewer suggesting that maybe it would work better after having seen a few of their previous screwball films together.  When I first saw this movie, I don’t think I had seen much, if any, movies from either of them, but now, years later, I have seen quite a few (including two of the previous three movies they had made together).  It’s still a little rough, but I can see a little more humor in it (although not as much as audiences of the time, who may have wanted to see Katharine Hepburn knocked on her keister just due to her perceived personality, which audiences didn’t like at the time).

I know I have a lot to say on this, but this is a wonderful movie, and a bona fide classic.  I do very heartily recommend it to anybody interested.  This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection, and is one hour, fifty-two minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

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TFTMM on… Black Widow (1954)

This time, we are here for the movie Black Widow. No, this movie has nothing to do with the Marvel character, and outside of a brief mention at the very beginning of the movie, it really has little to do with the spider itself. This is a 1954 film noir, starring Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney and George Raft.

Van Heflin plays Peter Denver, a theatrical producer and husband of actress Iris Denver (Gene Tierney). Iris has to go visit her sick mother, but she makes Peter go to the party hosted by her actress friend (and star of Peter’s show) Carlotta Marin (Ginger Rogers). At this party, he meets Nancy Ordway (Peggy Ann Garner), an aspiring writer. He takes her to dinner (he does tell his wife, before anybody asks), and he offers her the use of his apartment for her to write during the day, while he is away. When his wife returns, they find Nancy hanging in the apartment. At first, it is assumed to be suicide, but then the police discover she was murdered (and apparently pregnant, to boot). Peter becomes the prime suspect, so he goes on the run and tries to find out what really happened.

Now, this movie is one I first saw because of Ginger Rogers. From what I have read, her performance in this movie is apparently one that people either like or dislike. I myself fall into the former, as I feel that she makes the movie worth watching. Watching her berate others (including Bea Benaderet, whom I mainly know from her role as Kate Bradley on the sitcom Petticoat Junction, although she has certainly done other things, like voicing Betty Rubble on The Flintstones) is amusing, but she also makes herself a rather despicable person (and makes it easy to feel sorry for her meek husband, as played by Reginald Gardiner).

I like this movie. I admit, it’s not the best noir I’ve ever seen, but it works well enough for me. I know some might argue whether it is a noir, since it is in color and not a black and white movie, but I still think it fits the bill well enough. I like the characters well, especially Van Heflin’s Peter Denvers, who seems like a rare character in a noir, who actually tells his wife about Nancy when he takes her out to dinner, instead of Iris finding out the hard way, like what would likely be the normal case in these movies. As a whole, I enjoy this movie. As I said, it’s not the best noir I’ve ever seen, but it’s good enough for me, and one I would recommend to anybody interested.

The movie is available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time as a limited edition with 3000 total copies available through either or and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox, and is one hour, thirty-five minutes in length.

My Rating: 7/10

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TFTMM on… Here Comes The Groom (1951)

Time to dig into another Bing Crosby movie, the 1951 Here Comes The Groom, also starring Jane Wyman, Alexis Smith, and Franchot Tone.

Bing plays Pete Garvey, a reporter who has been in Europe a few years covering a story on war orphans, when he receives a message from his girlfriend, Emmadel Jones (Jane Wyman), telling him off for taking so long to marry her when they should have been married and had several kids by now.  After doing a lot of running around to find birth certificates and such for two of the orphans that he had become close to so that he could adopt them, he brings them home to America, with the requirement that he be married within five days.  Of course, he comes home to find out that Emmadel is now engaged to rich Wilbur Stanley (Franchot Tone), which has become a big “Cinderella”-type story for the news media, and she doesn’t want to give him up, even though she comes to care for the two kids.  So Pete wrangles an invitation from Wilbur himself to come stay in the gatehouse of his mansion, where he proceeds to try to win Emmadel back (of course, Wilbur is aware of who he is and what he is trying to do, as well).

Now, the first thing that needs to be mentioned here is the song “In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening.”  The song won the Oscar that year, the fourth (and final) song to do so that was sung by Bing Crosby.  This song needs to be mentioned, because it is one of those that, if you can’t stand it, then you will have a harder time enjoying the movie.  I say that, because, besides getting a full moment as a musical number, it is also a song that many of the characters are humming and singing throughout the movie, especially since, as we learn early, for both Pete and Emmadel, they “always leave ’em singing.”  Now, I enjoy it (and it always amuses me that Bing’s “rival” Bob Hope was briefly singing it in the next year’s Son of Paleface), so the frequent use works for me.

Of course, another moment worth mentioning is the song “Misto Cristofo Columbo.”  The song occurs on the plane ride over, and is prompted by one of the kids claiming he “discovered America.”  Of course, Bing starts in singing, with a few stars making cameo appearances, including Louis Armstrong, Phil Harris, and Bing’s Road movies co-star, Dorothy Lamour.

As a whole, this movie is one I do enjoy.  It does have its flaws, including the fact that Wilbur’s (fourth) cousin Winifred (Alexis Smith) likes him, and she has Pete and his boss help her to get his attention (including them whistling at her).  In spite of these flaws, this is a movie I recommend, as I always enjoy it when I get the chance to see it!

The movie was available on DVD from Paramount, and is about one hour, fifty-three minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

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TFTMM on… My Sister Eileen (1955)

And here we are for another movie given a new disc release in 2018, the 1955 musical My Sister Eileen, starring Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon and Betty Garrett.

Betty Garrett is Ruth Sherwood, and Janet Leigh is her sister, Eileen. Both of them have come to New York City’s Greenwich Village. There, they find an apartment to stay at, while they try to find work. Eileen hopes to become an actress, but she finds that the producers find HER interesting and not her acting. She becomes close with the manager of a local soda fountain, Frank Lippencott (Bob Fosse), who falls for her, and tries to help her out. Meanwhile, Ruth, who wants to become a writer, tries to submit her work to publisher Bob Baker (Jack Lemmon). He thinks most of her stories are bad, except for one on her sister Eileen. When he says he would like to meet her, Ruth falls victim to her own feelings of inadequacy and tells him that SHE is Eileen.

Apparently, everything came from a series of autobiographical short stories written by Ruth McKenny that was turned into a play (and then made into a movie in 1942 starring Rosalind Russell). It was brought to Broadway again in the early 50s as a musical called Wonderful Town, which prompted Columbia Pictures to make another film version. They had the rights to the story from the previous movie, but the rights to the music from Wonderful Town were apparently too expensive, so a new score was commissioned from Jule Styne and Leo Robin.

I personally think this is a wonderful movie. I am coming off my second viewing of this movie in my lifetime (not sure how long it has been since my first viewing), but I enjoyed it a lot more the second time. I still can’t really say as I care for the music itself, but I do think that it helps tell the story, so that is in its favor. The main appeal of this movie is the dancing, since Bob Fosse was in charge of the choreography. The main routines that are the most fun are the challenge dance between Bob Fosse’s Frank Lippencott and Tommy Rall’s newspaperman Chick Clark, and the song “Give Me A Band And My Baby,” where Betty Garrett, Janet Leigh, Bob Fosse and Tommy Rall are all pretending to play various invisible musical instruments. Now, this movie does have its ridiculous moments (everything connected to the “Conga” moments near the end are just nuts), but I think it all adds up to being the charm of the movie, so I would recommend this movie to everybody just for some good, clean fun!

The movie is available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time as a limited edition with 3000 total copies available through either or and DVD from Sony, and is one hour, forty-seven minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

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And here’s the Amazon link for the DVD:

TFTMM on… A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949)

Time for a bit of time traveling, with the movie A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (based on the Mark Twain story), starring Bing Crosby, Rhonda Fleming, William Bendix and Sir Cedric Hardwicke.

In 1905, blacksmith Hank Martin (Bing Crosby) is trying to return a horse to his owner during a storm, and is knocked out by a tree.  When he wakes up, he finds himself in Camelot, circa 528 A.D.  Found by Sir Sagramore Le Desirous (“Saggy”) (William Bendix), he is then condemned to be burned to death.  Performing a miracle, he is knighted by King Arthur (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), becoming “Sir Boss.”  At a ball, he meets one of King Arthur’s nieces, the Lady Alisande (Rhonda Fleming), and falls in love with her, even though she is engaged to Sir Lancelot.  Hank jousts with Sir Lancelot, winning his own way, but “Sandy” goes back to Lancelot.  Hank gets the king and Saggy to join him on a trip through the kingdom so that King Arthur can learn what his people really think of him.  As this is probably getting to be a little too much, I’ll just leave it there, and suggest you watch the movie!

I’ll admit, this movie is a little harder to recommend because of one reason: it is based on a well-known story.  How anybody reacts to this movie will depend on how they feel about the original story.  I have read the original story, as well as the Wishbone version of it (and I know that dates me just a little), and my conclusion on this movie is that it feels like the writers used the main concept from the story, a few specific events (some moved around in the story), a few character name, and wrote a story that was built around Bing’s screen persona, and the usual type of musical he would do.  Now, for me, that works, and I enjoy the movie far better than the original story (and for those young enough to still write book reports, I wouldn’t suggest watching this movie to help you write a book report, because you would get A LOT wrong)!

There are many wonderful things about this movie, though.  One wonderful (and hilarious) scene is at the ball, when Hank is introduced to the lords and ladies of the court.  He sees the old-style dancing and the music, and decides to make some changes.  Once he gets the musicians to start a new tune, he then starts to dance with Sandy in a more “modern” ballroom style.  At first, everyone else is incensed, until the king sees that it looks like fun as well, and then everybody joins in!  It always cracks me up, and is well worth watching the movie for!

The music is enjoyable as well.  The main standouts are the romantic tune, “Once And For Always” and the comedy song “Busy Doing Nothing.”  Just, as a whole, I do enjoy this movie and recommend it very much (at least, to those who can live with the movie not being a strict interpretation of the story)!

The movie is available on DVD from Universal, and is about one hour, forty-seven minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

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TFTMM on… Nothing Sacred (1937)

And here we are for the classic 1937 screwball comedy that proves indeed that there is Nothing Sacred, starring Carole Lombard and Fredric March.

Fredric March plays Wallace Cook, a reporter for the Morning Sun newspaper, who is trying a make a comeback after mistakenly reporting a shoe shiner as an African Sultan. He convinces his boss to let him report on Hazel Flagg (Carole Lombard), who is dying of radium poisoning. When he arrives in her hometown of Warsaw, Vermont, she has just found out from her doctor that she is NOT dying from radium poisoning, and that the doctor had made a mistake. This makes her sad, as she had hoped to travel out of Warsaw. She meets Wally as she leaves her doctor’s office, and before she can say anything, he offers to bring her and her doctor to New York, which she can’t bring herself to refuse. So, they make the trip, and she enjoys herself, all the while falling for Wally and trying to figure out how to break it to him that she isn’t dying (never mind get away from the public, now that she is a “dying celebrity”).

To get into my own opinion of this movie, it was one I thoroughly enjoyed! After watching both this movie and My Man Godfrey (1936), I certainly think that Carole Lombard was well-suited to screwball comedies! There are so many wonderful moments in this movie, it’s hard to choose which ones to mention! I know I enjoyed watching Hazel’s attempted fake suicide, where she planned to jump in the river, and have the doctor pull her out. Wally found out that she planned to commit suicide and got there before she could jump in, but he had to jump in and try to save her after he accidentally pushed her in (although she ended up saving him because he couldn’t swim)! And I certainly can’t help but wonder about the doctor, considering how much drinking he does while in New York! No wonder he originally made that mistake! Of course, I can’t avoid mentioning when Hazel tried to fight Wally (although I really can’t get into too many more details with spoiling the story more than what I have mentioned)! So this is a wonderful movie, and one I would recommend!

Now, my comments are coming off my first viewing of the movie from the recent 2018 Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber. Apparently, this movie has had a rough life. The movie was originally produced by David O. Selznick (the producer of Gone With The Wind), in Technicolor. It was re-released in the mid-40s, but printed in Cinecolor, which was cheaper to produce, but not quite as colorful, with some colors more muted. It was only seen this way until the Technicolor version was restored in the 1980s. In the meantime, the movie itself had fallen into the public domain. When Disney acquired a number of Selznick’s movies, they received the film elements and restored this movie in 1999. Apparently, this restoration hadn’t made it to home video until this recent release, which was part of a package of movies that Kino licensed from Disney for Blu-ray and DVD. The age of the transfer does show, but it does have its moments where it looks wonderful. I’m not an expert on how exactly it should look, especially since this was my first viewing, but I think it looks good enough to recommend trying the Blu-ray! The movie is one hour, thirteen minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

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TFTMM on… The Emperor Waltz (1948)

Time for a trip to Austria in the early 1900s, courtesy of the 1948 movie The Emperor Waltz, starring Bing Crosby as Virgil Smith, Joan Fontaine as Johanna, the Countess Von Stolzenberg-Stolzenberg, and Richard Haydn (in another Austrian-set movie pre-dating his famous role as “Uncle Max” in The Sound of Music) as the Emperor Franz-Josef.

In this movie, which proves that Vienna had “gone to the dogs,” we find the Emperor has summoned the Countess Von Stolzenberg-Stolzenberg and her father, the Baron Holenia (Roland Culver), to tell them about an arranged marriage: between their dogs!  At the same time, traveling salesman Virgil Smith has arrived with his fox terrier, Buttons, planning to sell a phonograph to the Emperor in the hopes that the country would buy it because he did.  Buttons ends up getting into a fight with the Countess’s poodle Scheherezade, which later causes her to suffer a breakdown.  At the advice of the veterinarian (who had studied alongside Dr. Freud),  she brings Scheherezade to Virgil and Buttons, for them to make peace.  In doing so, we see the dogs falling for each other, as well as Virgil and the Countess.  After a while, Virgil gets an appointment with the Emperor to ask for the Countess’s hand in marriage.  The emperor talks him out of the idea, instead opting to buy the phonograph.  You want more than that?  Watch the movie!

This is a movie that I very much enjoy.  A few of the songs in this movie are worth mentioning, such as the song “Friendly Mountains,” which is apparently based on some Austrian yodeling songs, and allows us to hear Bing singing with his echoes a little (cue at least one comedic moment of one “echo” intentionally being different than what was said).  Another song would be “I Kiss Your Little Hand, Madame,” used when Bing is trying to help the two dogs learn to get along (and he and the countess end up falling for each other, with the song affecting her afterwards when she can’t sleep), and we see a brief, balletic dance from two women working at the inn it is staged at and the countess’s driver.

The dogs themselves help make the movie, especially as they go along with their owners (while using a little more sense, since they aren’t as divided by class).  The movie works well for me, and it is one I highly recommend you see if you get a chance!  This movie is available on DVD from Universal, and is about one hour, forty-six minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

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