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TFTMM on… Crime Of Passion (1957)

Here we are again for another noir, this time the 1957 movie Crime of Passion, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden and Raymond Burr.

Barbara Stanwyck plays Kathy Ferguson, a San Francisco newspaper advice columnist, who helps police from Los Angeles to catch a woman who killed her husband.  One of the policemen is Bill Doyle (Sterling Hayden), who falls for Kathy.  They are soon married, and she leaves the newspaper business to become an average housewife.  She finds it hard to take, and decides to use the skills she had learned to advance in the newspaper world to try to help her husband advance, with unintended consequences.

In some respects, this movie has managed to maintain a modern feel, as we can feel some of the sexism of the times, since we can plainly hear Bill’s police captain tell Kathy when he first meets her that she shouldn’t be doing her work as a columnist and should instead be trying to make sure supper is ready for her husband.  Not to mention, we can see how maddening life as a suburban housewife is for her, with the men and women separating themselves (and I can’t say as I blame her, considering some of the conversations she had to endure).

Honestly, this is one of those movies I had never heard of, until it was released on Blu-ray and DVD in 2017.  I tried it, because I had seen a few of Barbara Stanwyck’s movies (although none of her noirs), but most of all, I tried it because it was released by Classicflix.  I had seen many reviews for their releases indicating they had taken it upon themselves to try to restore a number of lesser-known movies and give them well-done releases on disc at a time when most companies would have advised against it.  I have enjoyed a number of their quality releases (and I’m speaking mostly to the film transfers on that), and it makes it easier for me to try a lot of them.  This is a movie I enjoyed, and one that I would recommend trying.  The movie itself is about one hour, twenty-six minutes in length.

My Rating: 7/10

Audience Rating:

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TFTMM on… The Awful Truth (1937)

Here we are again with a new release for 2018, the 1937 screwball comedy The Awful Truth, starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant and Ralph Bellamy.

We find Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant) and his wife, Lucy Warriner (Irene Dunne) getting divorced, due to their suspected (but not proven) infidelities.  They try to move on, but Lucy’s attempted romance with Daniel Leeson (Ralph Bellamy) is sabotaged by Jerry’s constant interruptions.  Lucy finally realizes she loves Jerry and calls off the relationship with Daniel, only to find that Jerry has also taken up with somebody.  So Lucy decides to engage in some sabotage herself.

I have heard this being described as one of the best, if not the best, screwball comedies.  While I personally wouldn’t go quite that far, I can’t deny that this movie does belong up there.  I very much consider Cary Grant to be the king of screwball comedies, as the very mention of any of his movies being considered “screwball comedies” is enough to convince me to try the movie.  While, for me, this is one of his weaker screwball comedies, I still have nothing but high praise for the movie.

There are many things that this movie does right.  Ralph Bellamy in his Oscar nominated role as Daniel Leeson seems to be the forerunner of the type of character he would play again in other screwball comedies like Carefree (1938) and His Girl Friday (1940).  The buildup between Cary Grant’s Jerry and Alexander D’Arcy’s Armand Duvalle, the man whom Jerry suspects Lucy of having an affair with (not really true), which results in a fight that we can only hear when Jerry has to hide in Lucy’s bedroom at a time that Armand is already hiding from Jerry is absolutely hilarious.  And of course, I can’t forget Irene Dunne’s Lucy doing an imitation of one of Jerry’s early girlfriends after the breakup, Dixie Belle Lee (Joyce Compton), for the heiress he is almost engaged to, was certainly funny.  And to think that so much of what was done in the movie was spontaneous, due to director Leo McCarey’s style of doing things, is just awe-inspiring (never mind the fact that this movie was the first time that we get to see Cary Grant’s screen persona fully formed).

I do recommend this movie if you get the chance!  The movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection and is about one hour, thirty-one minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

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TFTMM on… The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Time to kick off the month of “Noir-vember” with some thoughts on the 1950 crime drama, The Asphalt Jungle, starring Sterling Hayden and Louis Calhern.

Upon being released from prison, “Doc” Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe) makes plans to pull off a jewelry heist.  He goes to the bookie Cobby (Marc Lawrence) for a cash investment and three men to help pull it off: a safecracker, a driver and a “hooligan.”  The heist goes as planned, except they run into trouble with burglar alarms in nearby places going off, a guard’s gun accidentally going off upon being knock to the ground and hitting one of them, and a traitorous fence.

Apparently, this is a bit of an important noir, coming from director John Huston, who had, amongst others, The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Key Largo (1948), to his credit.  It seems, from what I have read, that one important point about this movie, was that it made the criminals at the heart of the movie more human than had previously been done.  They all have their own issues that they are dealing with, that make it easier for the audience to relate to, whether it be that they are family men, or one who wants back a horse farm his family lost during the Depression, or any of a number of things.  Even the traitorous fence, lawyer Alonzo Emmerich, when listening to his wife worry about him having to deal with criminals, can only say that “there’s nothing so different about them.”  I can believe that, and I think that we can feel Doc’s pain, when, in spite of how well-planned everything was, they run into trouble because of “blind accidents” which couldn’t possibly have been accounted for.

This movie’s success resulted in a number of crime thrillers, including a few remakes.  It also helped Marilyn Monroe’s career.  Although her role was small, her performance left a big impression on Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of 20th Century Fox, who previously had her under contract, (but only in small non-speaking roles) and now gave her better roles as a result.  This movie spawned a thirteen-episode TV series of the same name in the early sixties (although it focused more on the police, and only one episode really related to this movie).

I did enjoy this movie, and I do recommend it (although some subject matter, such as a suicide that happens off-screen, might make it less palatable for young kids).  The movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection, and is about one hour, fifty-two minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

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TFTMM on… Going My Way (1944) and The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

Now, we have the two Oscar-nominated movies featuring Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley, both of which were directed by Leo McCarey. From what I have read, The Bells of St. Mary’s was actually the first movie that was planned, but since it was being planned for RKO, and Bing was under contract to Paramount, a deal had to be made for Going My Way to be done first.

In Going My Way, we find Father O’Malley coming to the troubled St. Dominic’s Church, which is run by the more-old-fashioned Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald). He is sent there by the bishop to help fix some of the church’s problems, which include the mortgage holder who is demanding payment and the youth of the church who are constantly getting into trouble with the law. Due to their differences in getting things done, Father Fitzgibbon goes to the bishop to have Father O’Malley transferred, only to find out why he was sent there in the first place. Although Father Fitzgibbon runs away at first, upon returning the two begin to bond, and with the help of Father O’Malley’s former girlfriend (now a big opera singer at the Metropolitan) and his friend, Father O’Dowd (Frank McHugh), they help to change the parish for the better.

This is a wonderful movie, with many different moments worth highlighting. The first few minutes as we watch Father O’Malley first arrive, from meeting some of the parish members, to joining a game of baseball with the neighborhood kids on the street, to being soaked as he tries to grab the ball, and then meets Father Fitzgibbon (who takes an immediate dislike to him). I know I can’t help but laugh at the kids singing “Three Blind Mice” as O’Malley tries to form the choir, which irritates Father Fitzgibbon (the song irritates him, that is). Of course, some of the most fun is watching Father Fitzgibbon when he joins Father O’Malley and Father O’Dowd on the golf course, followed by a game of checkers (watch it, and tell me you can’t laugh at it 😉 ). Watching the relationships develop in the movie is a lot of fun. Maybe it’s not just a straight plot, but there is much fun to be had here, just the same.

In The Bells of St. Mary’s, Father O’Malley is sent to be the pastor at a parochial school, and soon finds out what it means to be “up to his neck in nuns.” He and the head nun, Sister Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman), butt heads over how to run the school, and what they want to teach the students. Their most fervent disagreement is over Patsy Gallagher (Joan Carroll), who is in the school at Father O’Malley’s insistence, after her single mother asks him if Patsy could come there, since she was getting old enough to realize her mother was essentially a prostitute, which seemed to be one of the few ways she could pay the bills after her husband left her. Patsy isn’t as interested in school, hoping to get a job on her own, until Father O’Malley helps her build her confidence (at least, until she sees her father coming out of her mother’s apartment, mistaking him for somebody else). Father O’Malley and Sister Mary Benedict are also trying to figure out how to save the school, which is in bad shape and in danger of being condemned by the city council (with businessman Horace P. Bogardus, played by Henry Travers, building a new office building next door and hopes to use the school for parking space). Of course, the nuns are all praying that Mr. Bogardus will end up giving them his building for them to use for the school.

Bells of St. Mary’s is also a fantastic movie. Some of the fun is watching Sister Mary Benedict teach one of the boys who was being bullied how to box (which she had to do because he was trying to “turn the other cheek” as she had taught him). As a whole, Sister Mary Benedict is most of the fun, as she proves how clever she can be, as she can tell how Father O’Malley is helping Patsy a little with one piece of homework. And one can’t deny the humor in watching how, in a conversation with Mr. Bogardus, she plants the thought of him giving his building to the school. There are many other wonderful moments, but these are just a few worth mentioning, off the top of my head.

Both movies seem to qualify as Christmas viewing. Going My Way connects with Christmas mainly because, as Father O’Malley, Bing sings “Silent Night” as he starts working with the boys choir, and the end of the movie takes place near Christmastime. While The Bells of St. Mary’s takes place over the school year, it does briefly make a stop at Christmas. Father O’Malley can be heard singing “Adeste Fidelis” with some of the older students, figuring it to be necessary for a Christmas program, before being taken by Sister Mary Benedict to see the nativity play that the first graders are doing. Of course, they do it their own way (I’m not sure, but I think that the kids may have been improvising it within the movie, as Sister Mary Benedict implies through some of her dialogue for the scene).

As best as I can tell, Going My Way seems to have made more of an impact. About this time, Bing Crosby became the top actor at the box office for a number of years, and on the overall list of most tickets sold, he ranks third (behind Clark Gable and John Wayne). Apparently, Bing and Barry Fitzgerald had great chemistry, because they were teamed up again for at least two more movies, Welcome Stranger (1947) and Top o’ the Morning (1949). While haven’t seen the latter film, I have seen Welcome Stranger, and my own opinion is that it is Going My Way, except with the two as doctors instead of priests (which allows for Bing to be the romantic lead).

Going My Way also spawned a TV series of the same name in the early sixties. Gene Kelly took over the role of Father O’Malley, with Leo G. Carroll as Father Fitzgibbon (or “Father Fitz,” as they usually called him), and Dick York joined them as Tom Colwell. It lasted for one season, at thirty episodes. Having seen the whole series, I can say that I enjoyed it very much, although I rate the first half of the series as being better. Since I have seen little information about the show, I don’t know whether the episodes were aired out of order or not, but I was left feeling like the ratings affected the show, and as a cost-cutting measure, Gene Kelly’s Father O’Malley was reduced to brief appearances in each episode for the last half of the season (again, just a guess). Being that he was one of the reasons I wanted to see it, that lessened my enjoyment of it (although the show’s cancellation did leave Dick York room to be the first Darren Stevens on Bewitched a little over a year later). One thing worth mentioning is that Frank McHugh, who played Father O’Dowd in the movie, is possibly the only actor from that movie to make an appearance on the show, in the Christmas episode (although as a different character).

Both of these are movies that I highly recommend if you get the chance to see them. Going My Way is on DVD from Universal, and runs about two hours and five minutes in length. The Bells of St. Mary’s is on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films, and is about two hours and six minutes long.

As always, please be sure to use the Amazon links to help support this page!

Going My Way

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:,aps,196&sr=1-1&ref=sr_1_1&linkCode=ll1&tag=thoughtsfr066-20&linkId=3a98166df2deec1475373f57df58d90c&language=en_US

The Bells of St. Mary’s

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:,movies-tv,226&sr=1-1-catcorr&ref=sr_1_1&linkCode=ll1&tag=thoughtsfr066-20&linkId=36ba9c87ddf5ca2e275615d7ac47575c&language=en_US

TFTMM on… Summer Stock (1950)

And here we are again, by request, with the last Judy Garland/ Gene Kelly movie Summer Stock, also starring Eddie Bracken, Gloria De Haven, and Phil Silvers.

When her two hired hands quit on her, Jane Falbury (Judy Garland) goes to town to see her future father-in-law about a new tractor to help her with the harvest.  Upon returning, she finds a theatrical group setting up in her barn.  She finds out they came with her sister Abigail (Gloria DeHaven) and her boyfriend, Joe Ross (Gene Kelly), and were planning to use her barn to put on a show.  While furious at first, Jane agrees to let them do the show, as long as they help out on the farm.  While her fiancé and her father-in-law object to the show, Jane starts falling in love with Joe, while her sister Abigail becomes too arrogant (believing the show is beneath her due to the influence of the “star” actor) and leaves, with Jane having to take her place.

To get into what I think of this movie, it is one I very much enjoy.  Most of what I hear on the background information is all of Judy’s issues behind the scenes, which ended up resulting in this being her last film for MGM, her home studio since she got into the movies.  Sadly, it is partly evident on screen, most visible by her weight issues (with the last song in the movie “Get Happy” making it extremely obvious, since it was filmed much later, after she had gotten her weight issues a little more under control).  In spite of all that, I still think she, and everybody else, give wonderful performances that make this movie worth viewing.

The movie definitely seems reminiscent of the “let’s put on a show!”-type of movies that Judy had done with Mickey Rooney a decade earlier (and from what I gather, this was originally planned as another Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney team-up, if it weren’t for her health issues delaying the start of filming, and Mickey falling out of the good graces of audiences at that time).  Part of what this movie is known for is Gene’s solo dance to “You, Wonderful You,” in which he famously built a dance around a squeaky floorboard and a newspaper on the floor.  Of course, we also get him and Judy dancing together, with her looking at her best during the “Portland Fancy” at the square dance held at the barn.  There are many other wonderful moments, but these are just some of the best worth mentioning.  So I do recommend this one if you get a chance to see it!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Home Video, and is about one hour, forty-nine minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

As always, please be sure to use the Amazon links to help support this page!

TFTMM on… Screen Team Edition: George Burns and Gracie Allen

“When I saw George walk out on the stage, I said, ‘There’s the man I’m going to marry.’ Boom! Something hit me!”- Gracie

“Really?” – Mamie Kelly (Sarah Selby)

“Yes, it was my mother!”- Gracie (The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show)

I want to discuss some of the movies starring George Burns and Gracie Allen. I only have a handful to work with, and I know they made more together (although I’m not sure how many others have been made available on disc). Going into things, it’s definitely better to have an understanding of who they are and their style of humor, since they usually play the same type of character (and usually go by their own first names, too). To best understand them, I would suggest trying to find their radio show (The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show), which should be available as a podcast.

As to their history, George went into vaudeville, usually with a partner, sometimes doing dance, sometimes comedy, but he never really clicked until he met Gracie in 1923. At first, Gracie was the “straight man” and he delivered the punchlines, but that didn’t work, with the audience laughing more at Gracie than him. So they switched roles, and became a success, with it even becoming a running joke that Gracie was George’s “talent.” They made it big, first on stage, then got into the movies for the thirties. Not long after starting in the movies, they had a radio program that became a hit, and changed a little over the years. They then switched their radio show to TV, which also became a hit, lasting until Gracie finally decided to quit the show, partially due to health reasons.

College Humor’s plot mainly follows two characters: Barney Shirrel (Jack Oakie) as he goes through college, playing football for the college team, and Professor Danvers (Bing Crosby), who is in a love triangle with Barney’s sister Barbara (Mary Carlisle) and Barney’s football teammate Mondrake (Richard Arlen). To give a quick opinion on this movie, I wouldn’t recommend it. I enjoy it well enough, but I would sooner say this is a movie for “completists,” those who feel the need to see all the movies ever made for any of its stars. Considering this discussion is about George and Gracie, their appearance in this movie is more like two cameos, maybe amounting to about five minutes screentime, give or take a few. The movie is available on DVD, and is about one hour, twenty minutes in length.

The 1934 movie We’re Not Dressing mainly concerns a socialite and her friends who end up shipwrecked on an island. By now, you should have seen my individual review for the movie (if you haven’t yet, go do so!), so we’ll stick to George and Gracie. Their presence here is definitely greater than it was in College Humor, but they are for the most part separated from everything else happening in the movie. Their bits are still hilarious, though, and still worth seeing the movie for (I think).

In A Damsel in Distress, we mainly are concerned with the romance between Lady Alyce Marshmorton (Joan Fontaine) and Jerry Halliday (Fred Astaire). Again, this I have reviewed this one previously, I’ll stick to George and Gracie. George is Jerry’s press agent, and Gracie is their secretary (and not necessarily a good one either, but her father had invested in Jerry’s first show, as we are reminded multiple times). Of the (currently) 5 movies I have seen them in together, this one is the most fun, giving them a chance to dance with Fred Astaire (and doing a pretty good job of keeping up with him, I think).

College Swing basically goes with the premise of Gracie being in charge of the college. Gracie is given the lion’s share of screen time here, as it seems like they were trying to give her a solo career. George has his moments, too, both with Gracie and without, although this is one movie where they don’t end up together as a couple in the end.

Honolulu brings them both back, one last time. With a Prince and the Pauper type of story, Gracie accompanies Eleanor Powell to Honolulu, while George acts as the press agent for Robert Young’s Brooks Mason. George and Gracie don’t really have any screen time together, until the end of the movie. Gracie is given one chance to dance with Eleanor Powell, to the title tune, although it is quite obvious that dancing together almost seemed to hold Eleanor back a little, as her style was quite different than Fred Astaire’s, so Gracie didn’t end up doing the whole routine with her. I still think this movie is fun, although not as highly recommended if you are watching it for them as a team.

As a whole, George and Gracie are a wonderful comedy team. While I can only comment on a few of their films together, due to lack of availability of most of them, they are worth looking into. After Honolulu, Gracie had a couple of solo outings in the movies, while George didn’t return to the big screen until his Oscar winning role in the 1975 The Sunshine Boys, nearly a decade after Gracie’s death. But together, whether onscreen in the movies, on tv, or just on radio, they are always worth a good laugh when together, and I recommend trying to find any of their work if you can!

Ratings (note: Since they are generally not the main focus of these movies, I am also including a third rating, a “George and Gracie” rating, if you will, to reflect on how much I think the movies may be worth viewing for them alone).

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College Humor

My Rating: 4/10

“George and Gracie” Rating: 2/10

Audience Rating:

We’re Not Dressing

My Rating: 8/10

“George and Gracie” Rating: 6/10

Audience Rating:

(This applies to both College Humor and We’re Not Dressing),movies-tv,568&sr=1-2&ref=sr_1_2&linkCode=ll1&tag=thoughtsfr066-20&linkId=bf62f9c836f0259fb03ec441b859dbf3&language=en_US

A Damsel In Distress

My Rating: 10/10

“George and Gracie” Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:,aps,214&sr=1-3&ref=sr_1_3&linkCode=ll1&tag=thoughtsfr066-20&linkId=7c1c8d1fab14991c2900ed66456b5127&language=en_US

College Swing

My Rating: 8/10

“George and Gracie” Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:


My Rating: 10/10

“George and Gracie” Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:,movies-tv,703&sr=1-2-catcorr&ref=sr_1_2&linkCode=ll1&tag=thoughtsfr066-20&linkId=7669d21add4bee4a54a8b9e83026e593&language=en_US

TFTMM on… A Damsel In Distress (1937)

Here we are again, with another Fred Astaire-centric movie, the 1937 musical A Damsel In Distress, also starring George Burns, Gracie Allen, and Joan Fontaine!

The plot of this movie mainly concerns Lady Alyce Marshmorton (Joan Fontaine), who is now old enough to marry.  The staff at her castle are all betting on who she will marry, with the two frontrunners being Reggie, Alyce’s aunt’s stepson and “Mr. X,” an American Alyce had fallen in love with.  Now Alyce escapes to London to meet him, but, followed by her butler, she gets into a cab with Jerry Halliday, an American dancer (Fred Astaire).  One of the other members of the staff sees this, and believes Jerry to be Mr. X, and thus decides to help encourage the romance so that he can win the bet.  Now Jerry likes Alyce, and, unaware of the real Mr. X, tries to romance her.  At first, she believes him to be a friend, until he kisses her in the tunnel of love at a carnival, and she promptly slaps him.  After a while, she ends up falling for him, too.

The fun of this movie is the music by George and Ira Gerswhin.  Now, this is one of George’s final projects, as he died before the movie was released.  The movie includes (but is not limited to), songs such as “I Can’t Be Bothered Now,” “Put Me To The Test,” “Stiff Upper Lip,” “Things Are Looking Up,” “A Foggy Day” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”

“I Can’t Be Bothered Now” is a nice, short solo dance for Fred.  He ends up doing a dance on a street for a busker, as he tries to evade the policeman in London, after getting into a fight with the butler.  Of course, this all happens near the beginning of the movie.

“Put Me To The Test” is an instrumental piece of music that gives Fred, George and Gracie a chance to dance together.  Apparently, the dance came about as a result of George and Gracie’s audition for the movie.  They put together a dance involving whisk brooms, and when Fred saw it, he liked it enough that he wanted to join in on the fun!

The song “Stiff Upper Lip” is otherwise known as the “funhouse dance” with this movie.  Fred, George and Gracie all dance their way through a carnival, with various mirrors and other assorted things.  It was this dance that resulted in this movie winning the Oscar for “Best Dance Direction.”  Another tidbit is that one section of the routine, that mainly features Fred and Gracie, borrowed dance steps from some of what Fred had done on stage with his sister, Adele.

The song “Things Are Looking Up” is the main romantic routine, pairing Fred and Joan Fontaine.  The music is what I enjoy with this song, although the dancing is only so-so, mainly because actress Joan Fontaine was decidedly NOT a dancer.  It is nice to see her try (as opposed to the more modern way of using doubles), and I enjoy the old-fashioned way of trying to hide her ability (or lack thereof) through the camera coming behind trees or focusing on Fred.

“Nice Work If You Can Get It” is a fun song.  What is most enjoyable is when Fred reprises the song at the end of the movie.  He proves that he can dance AND play the drums at the same time (and quite well, at that)!

I very, very highly recommend this movie.  For me, watching Fred dance is ALWAYS fun, and being joined by both George and Gracie makes it better.  Of all the movies I have seen for George and Gracie, I feel like they are at their best in this movie (and I certainly remember some of their jokes with fondness).  The plot may be a little silly, but that is part of the fun with some of these older musicals, and I do enjoy this one.

The movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection and is about one hour, forty minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

As always, please be sure to use the Amazon links to help support this page!,aps,214&sr=1-3&ref=sr_1_3&linkCode=ll1&tag=thoughtsfr066-20&linkId=7c1c8d1fab14991c2900ed66456b5127&language=en_US