Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Vivacious Lady (1938)

And now, for my last review of 2019, we have the classic 1938 comedy Vivacious Lady starring Ginger Rogers and James Stewart!

Professor of botany Peter Morgan (James Stewart) comes to New York City in search of his cousin Keith Morgan (James Ellison), in an attempt to bring him back to the university at Old Sharon. He finds him at a nightclub waiting for a girl he likes, but before Peter can get him out of there, he meets and is instantly smitten with Francey (Ginger Rogers), the lady Keith was waiting for. After one date, Peter and Francey are married, and she comes back with him to Old Sharon. However, Peter hasn’t told his parents yet, nor his fiancee, which leaves him apprehensive of how everybody will react. Before he can tell his father (Charles Coburn), he assumes her to be there with Keith, and disapproves. Peter hopes to tell them at the university’s prom, but things go wrong when his now former-but-doesn’t-know-it-yet fiancee Helen (Frances Mercer) starts a fight with Francey, which Peter and his father come upon at a poor time. When he gets frustrated from his failed attempts at being alone with Francey, Peter manages to tell his father, who disapproves and doesn’t want Peter to tell his mother. However, his mother (Beulah Bondi) soon finds out accidentally, and she approves. However, Mr. Morgan comes to tell Francey that either she will divorce Peter, or he will have to demand Peter’s resignation, which angers Mrs. Morgan and results in her leaving her husband. Francey doesn’t want to cause trouble for Peter, so she decides to leave.

This wonderful comedy was directed by George Stevens, who was working with Ginger again after previously directing her in the Astaire/Rogers film Swing Time. His comedy pedigree came from working with comedy team Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy on some of their classic short comedies. James Stewart was chosen for this movie by Ginger herself, since they had dated previously, and she had gained enough starpower to make that choice. And of course, this was one of several times that actress Beulah Bondi would portray James Stewart’s mother, including in the previously reviewed Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

Overall, this is a wonderful comedy, with at least two particularly wonderful comic bits. The first one would be when Ginger’s Francey and Frances Mercer’s Helen butt heads at the prom. They start out calmly discussing things before they start slapping each other, then kicking, then brawling (and Jimmy bringing his father out to meet Francey only to see them still going at each other just makes it that much funnier)! Then of course, there would be the moment where Francey and James Ellison’s Keith teach Mrs. Morgan the Big Apple dance. It’s so much fun to watch all three of them really getting into it, and then in comes Mr. Morgan, who is incensed at seeing what was happening! While these are two of the more memorable moments for me, the whole movie is a lot of fun, and one I would very much recommend for a good laugh!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection and is one hour, thirty minutes in length.

Seeing as how this is my last review for 2019, I want to wish you all a happy New Year (and of course, I hope you’ll tune in again tomorrow to see my 2019: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched)!

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Swing Time (1936) – Ginger Rogers – Having Wonderful Time (1938)

Born To Dance (1936) – James Stewart – You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

A Damsel In Distress (1937) – Jack Carson – Having Wonderful Time (1938)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Now we have one last Christmas movie before the holiday itself, the classic musical Meet Me In St. Louis, starring Judy Garland!

The story of the movie centers on the Smith family. Youngest daughters “Tootie” (Margaret O’Brien) and Agnes (Joan Carroll) are generally up to some mischief, especially on Halloween. Older daughters Esther (Judy Garland) and Rose (Lucille Bremer) are both eagerly looking forward to the upcoming St. Louis World’s Fair, while also trying to gain the attention of the men they are attracted to. Their father, Alonzo “Lon” Smith (Leon Ames), is offered a promotion with his law office that would require the family to move to New York, which he takes them up on, with plans to leave after Christmas.

The film’s origins come from a series of short stories written by Sally Benson. There were eight stories originally published in the New Yorker magazine from June 1941 through May 1942, all based on Sally Benson’s childhood memories of the Smith family’s adventures. They proved so popular that they were compiled into the book Meet Me In St. Louis with four new stories in 1942. MGM producer Arthur Freed liked them, and wanted to do a film musical based on them. Vincente Minelli was brought in to direct (after George Cukor had to turn it down when he was called in to serve in World War II). The film was planned all along for Judy Garland, even though she was reluctant to go back to doing a juvenile role after having finally done a few adult roles. It took a bit of work, but she finally came around, and the movie would become one of her best-known roles.

And this is just such a wonderful movie, fun to watch at Christmas or any other time of the year! The music is a mixture of old and new, with the new tunes provided by songwriters Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin. Judy obviously gets some of the film’s best songs, such as “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “The Trolley Song” and “The Boy Next Door” (and the latter would be used again ten years later with altered lyrics to reflect a change in gender of the singer in the MGM musical Athena). But the rest of the cast is equally wonderful, with Marjorie Main a little dialed back (well, more than she usually seems to be) as the maid Katie, Lucille Bremer does well as older sister Rose in her film debut (before her career would go downhill very quickly with a few box office bombs), and Harry Davenport as the grandfather just feels like the grandfather you’d always want to have, he’s so wonderful! And I could easily get into more about the cast, but the story is so much fun! Yes, it is a bit episodic in nature, but it works, as it takes place over most of a year. It was already a period film at the time it was made, and boy, do some things seem different (especially like how they celebrated Halloween, which is so different now it’s not even funny)! This movie definitely rates high with me, and I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, and is one hour, fifty-three minutes in length.

So, to everybody, I hope you “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (and for those that don’t celebrate it, I wish you happy holidays)! I wish you all peace on earth, and goodwill to ALL!

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

*ranked #9 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

For Me And My Gal (1942) – Judy Garland – The Pirate (1948)

The Maltese Falcon (1941) – Mary Astor

Marjorie Main – Murder, He Says (1945)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Glorifying The American Girl (1929)

Next up, we have an early talkie musical, the 1929 film Glorifying The American Girl starring Mary Eaton.

Gloria Hughes (Mary Eaton) has long wanted to be in the Ziegfeld Follies, but she has failed to get in so far, and has been working as a song plugger in the music department of a store. She works with Buddy (Edward Crandall), who loves her and their friend Barbara (Olive Shea), who loves Buddy. At a company picnic, Buddy proposes to Gloria, but she refuses, stating that the stage is her first love. A pair of performers at the picnic, Miller (Dan Healy) and Mooney (Kaye Renard), pick a fight, and Miller decides to go with Gloria as a new partner when he sees her dance. They start traveling together as a team, bringing along Gloria’s mother (Sarah Edwards), although Miller has certain designs on Gloria which she doesn’t agree with, resulting in the team almost breaking up. However, when Miller finds out she might have a chance at a Ziegfeld show, he tries to make up with her and offer her a five-year contract where they split everything 50-50, which she accepts at her mother’s urging. They come back to New York, where they audition for Ziegfeld’s director, who turns the team down, but Gloria, determined to make good, tries to show what she can do, and is hired. Buddy and Barbara had met them at the train station, but Barbara had been left behind and ended up in an accident and sent to the hospital. When Buddy found out, he came to her, and they ended up as a couple. Meanwhile, Gloria had the show to do.

Most of what I learned about this movie, I learned from the recent Blu-ray’s commentary by Richard Barrios, who wrote A Song In The Dark: The Birth Of The Musical Film. Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. was a famous theatrical producer, mainly known for putting on the Ziegfeld Follies from 1907 through 1927. With the Follies, he was indeed known essentially for “glorifying the american girl” (which would actually become the slogan of the Follies in 1922). In 1925, Paramount made a contract with Ziegfeld to use his name and the slogan for a silent movie. Obviously, we’re talking about a musical talkie from 1929, and not a silent film, so it’s safe to say that the movie suffered through a number of cast, director and script changes over the years. Production on the movie only really picked up steam after the success of the 1929 MGM musical The Broadway Melody. They cast actress Mary Eaton, who was coming off the Marx Brothers comedy The Cocoanuts, had been a Ziegfeld star herself for four years. However, troubles continued to plague the movie, and they brought in Rudy Vallee, Helen Morgan and Eddie Cantor to add more star power for the movie. Sadly, by the time it was released, the market had been flooded with many backstage musicals by that point, and the film flopped. Of course, it didn’t help that the movie had been highly publicized, resulting in everyone knowing that production had been jinxed.

As a fan of a lot of the classic movie musicals, many of which feature stories of vaudeville performers trying to make it big, it’s hard not to have heard of Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (especially when you’ve seen any combination of the movies The Great Ziegfeld, Ziegfeld Girl or Ziegfeld Follies). So I admit, seeing Ziegfeld’s name advertised on the cover, combined with it being an early talkie musical (an era I haven’t seen much of for the genre, a fact I am trying to rectify), this was a movie I wanted to try. To a large degree, it was about what I expected. The dancing was only so-so, which, from what I have seen, seems to be typical of the early talkie musicals, and the music itself was fairly forgettable. I would say at least two of the actors were rather wooden in their performances, but at the same time, they were VERY minor characters, so that is easy to live with. The main disappointments were the more downbeat nature of the film, poor editing to end a song and a comedy skits in the “show-within-a-show,” and the fact that neither the conniving dance partner nor Gloria’s leech of a mother get their comeuppance. All that being said, I did still enjoy the movie! Even if his comedy skit as “Moe The Tailor” was cut short (not to mention being a little out of place in an otherwise more serious movie), Eddie Cantor was one of the best moments of the movie. And the movie was interesting from a historical perspective, as one of the few remaining movies with any parts filmed in two-color technicolor to still survive. Of course, being a pre-Code film, it does have a few instances of minor swearing, and a few outfits that, from a distance, might give the impression of nudity, but it’s still minor stuff. This movie may not be a frequent viewing, but it’s still enough fun to make it worth recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber. Their transfer makes use of the UCLA restoration, and it looks fantastic! Sure, there are some scratches here and there, and the two-color technicolor sections don’t look great (but, according to the commentary by Richard Barrios, that was due to how it was filmed), but the movie’s restoration makes it worth seeing! The movie is one hour, thirty-six minutes in length.

Note: For the December 3, 2019 Kino Lorber Blu-ray release of this movie, it has been reported that there are audio issues on some (but not all) Blu-ray players, with sound playing only on left speaker, and Kino will be offering a replacement program (however, the replacements won’t be ready until about February or March 2020)

My Rating: 6/10

Audience Rating:

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Holiday Inn (1942)

It’s certainly time for a holiday celebration, and what better movie than the classic Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire!

Bing Crosby plays Jim Hardy and Fred Astaire plays Ted Hanover, two men working together onstage with Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale), with whom they are both in love. Jim decides to leave the act and live on a farm, believing it to be an easier life (and oh, how wrong he was). After a year, he decides to turn the farm into an inn that is “open holidays only.” Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), who wants to break into show business, is sent there to audition, and she gets the job. When the inn opens New Year’s Eve, Ted comes in, drunk, after Lila left him for a millionaire. He ends up dancing with Linda, but then passes out. In the morning, he remembers dancing with a new partner, but can’t remember what she looked like (although he believes he is in love with her). He figures she will be back at the inn, and on Valentine’s Day, is proven right. She wants to be his partner, but doesn’t want to leave the inn. She ends up leaving the inn when Jim tries to prevent her having the choice to go to Hollywood. The question remains: where will she stay? Hollywood or Holiday Inn?

Yep, I would definitely say that this movie classifies as a Christmas movie. And New Year’s. And Valentine’s, Easter, 4th of July and Thanksgiving (even making a reference to the then-recently changing time of November when the holiday was actually supposed to be celebrated). Composer Irving Berlin originally had been trying to put together a Broadway revue with music inspired by various holidays, but it was after meeting with director Mark Sandrich that the decision was made to do it as a movie instead (utilizing Irving Berlin’s music, of course). And with this movie, the world was introduced to the classic song “White Christmas,” which would go on to win the “Best Song” Oscar (Irving Berlin’s only Oscar win).

Besides “White Christmas,” I can definitely say that there are a few songs and dances that I enjoy in this movie. One of them is the song “You’re Easy To Dance With,” sung and danced by Fred Astaire and Virginia Dale. Amongst Fred’s early Irving Berlin film musicals, it continues the trend of him doing a dancing-related song. He reprised it with Marjorie Reynolds at the New Year’s Eve party, except this time he was drunk (and I do mean drunk, as Fred had two drinks of bourbon before the first take, and one more between each take, with the seventh and final take being what we see in the movie).

Then, of course, there is the more patriotic song “Let’s Say It With Firecrackers” to go along with July 4. This is Fred’s big tap solo in the movie, and he worked with actual firecrackers for it! Apparently, it took about 38 attempts before Fred was satisfied with it, but it is very impressive to watch him do, just the same! Apparently, a little bit of animation was used to further emphasize some of the blasts, but I still have to give Fred credit for trying to pull this one off (and doing pretty well, at that)!

I will admit, this movie is certainly not a perfect one. I personally think that the lyrics for the song “I Can’t Tell A Lie” are rather cringeworthy, and the music itself is rather forgettable. The only redeeming quality is the fun of watching the music changing styles and “throwing off” Fred and Marjorie’s characters in their dance (since Bing’s character was trying to stop them from kissing in their dance). Then there’s the song “Abraham.” The use of blackface really drags it down (and I have a really hard time understanding why Bing did it, especially since he had been so instrumental a few years earlier in getting Louis Armstrong cast in Pennies From Heaven). The lyrics don’t help, either, and I certainly appreciate them not being used when the song was brought back for the “not-quite-a-remake” film White Christmas when Vera-Ellen and John Brascia danced to it. Still, in spite of those flaws, I do like this movie and would definitely recommend trying it out (for any holiday associated with this movie)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios and is one hour, forty minutes in length.

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Zanzibar (1941) – Bing Crosby – Road To Morocco (1942)

Broadway Melody Of 1940 (1940) – Fred Astaire – The Sky’s The Limit (1943)

Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire (screen team) – Blue Skies (1946)

Marjorie Reynolds – The Time Of Their Lives (1946)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Susan Slept Here (1954)

As fond as I am of Christmas movies, I couldn’t help but want to be a part of the Happy Holidays Blogathon, hosted by Pure Entertainment Preservation Society (and I thank them for letting me join in on the festivities)! And with that, it’s time for the 1954 comedy Susan Slept Here with Dick Powell and Debbie Reynolds!

Screenwriter Mark Christopher (Dick Powell) has been in a rut ever since he won an Oscar. On Christmas Eve, one cop (who had consulted on one of Mark’s movies) and his partner bring 17-year-old juvenile delinquent Susan Landis (Debbie Reynolds) to his apartment, since Mark had previously mentioned to the cop that he had wanted to talk to a juvenile delinquent to help come up with a story. They leave her there, with plans to come back the day after Christmas so she doesn’t have to spend the holiday in jail. Susan doesn’t trust Mark (and he’s not thrilled with the idea, either), but after spending part of the night gaining each other’s trust (especially after Susan accidentally causes a fight between Mark and his girlfriend), they start to open up to each other. Mark learns about Susan making her mother go on a honeymoon with her new husband (which she only agrees to after Susan claimed she wanted to marry a guy she knew and her mother gave her written consent). When the police come back quicker than expected, he decides to take Susan to Las Vegas to get married (so that she would have a means of support and not go back to jail). After dancing all night at the clubs, they returned to Mark’s apartment, where he left a sleeping Susan and immediately left to go work on a story at a cabin in the mountains. While he’s away, he tries to have his lawyer get Susan to sign some annulment papers, but she is convinced that she has married the man she loves. The question remaining is whether he will come to the same conclusion?

Personally, I’m of the opinion that this movie qualifies as a Christmas movie. I’ll admit, there is some room for debate, but close to half the movie does take place around that time. And after all, the cops are trying to offer Susan a delay in being arrested to begin with due to the holiday spirit! But it’s still a fun movie to watch any time of the year.

And what a cast! We have Dick Powell as one of the leads (who, at 50, admittedly looks older than the 35-year-old character he’s supposed to be playing), who plays the character as sympathetic, without him ever making any advances. Alvy Moore is fun as Mark’s buddy Virgil, who works for Mark (but doing what, who knows, as Susan calls it when she says it is a “phony job”), and Virgil is certainly a much more lucid character than I’m used to with Alvy Moore, considering he is best known as the ever confused (and confusing) county agent Hank Kimball on classic sitcom Green Acres. Anne Francis is Mark’s fiance Isabella Alexander, who is generally a hoot as the spoiled daughter of a senator, and she spends most of her screen time furious with Susan, either when she answers Mark’s phone or when they meet in person. Comedian Red Skelton gets a quick, silent cameo near the end of the movie.

But Debbie Reynolds is the heart of this movie as Susan Landis, and makes it work so well! From the moment we meet her, when she is screaming and fighting with the cop as he tries to drag her in (and she does it in a way only Debbie Reynolds could do), we see just how she got into trouble (but at the same time, can easily understand why she would be putting up such a fuss). As we get to know her along with Mark, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for her by the time the cops come back early. And I know I’m cheering for her when she has the police escort Isabella from the apartment (especially since the cop carrying Isabella out had just had a picture frame purposely dropped on his feet by Isabella only a few moments before). The dream sequence is a little odd, but Debbie makes up for it (even though it has some dancing, I can’t quite call it a dream ballet, as it utilizes Dick Powell, Alvy Moore and Anne Francis besides Debbie, but she is the only one really doing much dancing). As a whole, just a wonderful movie to watch around Christmastime (or any other time of the year)! It may be the type that wouldn’t get made today (and for good reason), but it’s still a lot of fun!

While the Warner Archive Collection had previously made this movie available on DVD, their Blu-ray release a few years back was a wonderful improvement, really bringing out some of the vivid colors! So that would certainly be the way I would recommend seeing this almost-forgotten gem! This movie is one hour, thirty-eight minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Murder, My Sweet (1944) – Dick Powell

The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950) – Debbie Reynolds – Tammy And The Bachelor (1957)

Lovely To Look At (1952) – Red Skelton – Ocean’s 11 (1960)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Bachelor Mother (1939)

Now, to finish out our celebration of the 80th anniversary of 1939 is the classic comedy Bachelor Mother, starring Ginger Rogers and David Niven!

Ginger Rogers stars as Polly Parrish, a seasonal worker in the toy department at the John B. Merlin & Son department store, who has just been fired the day before Christmas. While on her lunch break trying to find another job, she comes across a baby being left on the doorstep of a foundling home. Running to pick it up, she is discovered and mistaken for the mother. She denies being the mother, and leaves the baby there. However, they come to see her boss, David Merlin (David Niven), who gives Polly her job back. Later, back in her apartment, the baby is delivered to her. In her frustration at being stuck with the baby, she tries to leave the baby with David to be put back in a home, while she goes to try and make some money in a dance contest with her co-worker, stock clerk Freddie Miller (Frank Albertson). David is waiting for her at her apartment, and threatens to fire her if she doesn’t keep the baby. She decides to keep the baby, and she and David start to develop feelings for each other. However, unknown to them, Freddie, who believes David to be the father (due to some of Polly’s comments that he overheard), has tried to tell David’s father, John Merlin (Charles Coburn), that he is a grandfather. Mr. Merlin decides to try and take the baby away when David refuses to be pushed into marrying Polly, which forces her to find a way out of this problem.

Bachelor Mother was Ginger Rogers’ first solo outing after doing The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle with Fred Astaire, which was planned to be their last movie together (and was until they were reunited one final time for The Barkleys Of Broadway a decade later). David Niven was starting to rise after being in many supporting roles, with this movie giving him his first chance as a romantic comedy lead. The story had already been done before in the movies, and the fifties would see a remake, Bundle Of Joy starring Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. But Bachelor Mother has become the best-known version of the tale, helped by the presence of the leads, along with Charles Coburn as the “grandfather.”

This is a movie I have enjoyed ever since the first time I saw it! So many fun moments! Even though her partnership with Fred Astaire had ended, we still get to see her dancing with co-star Frank Albertson (and, if only because of her, it’s no surprise when they win the dance contest)! And, before I go any further, I should also mention one of her “co-stars” in this movie: Donald Duck! No, it’s not him in animated form, it is instead a group of toy Donald Ducks. Ginger’s character works in the toy department selling these things. It’s definitely fun to see RKO studios connection to Disney at work here (since they were distributing Walt’s films at this time), and see what some of those toys must have been like. Of course, it’s a lot of fun watching David Niven’s character trying to exchange a broken duck at his store incognito (in order to prove to Polly that the store does do exchanges). And there are certainly many more wonderful comedic moments in this movie that make it worth watching, so I definitely have very high recommendations for this movie!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection and is one hour, twenty-two minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle (1939) – Ginger Rogers – Fifth Avenue Girl (1939)

David Niven – Magnificent Doll (1946)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Tomorrow Is Forever (1946)

As we get into the holiday season, let’s get started with the melodrama Tomorrow Is Forever starring Claudette Colbert, Orson Welles and George Brent.

It’s the end of the first World War, and Elizabeth MacDonald (Claudette Colbert) is looking forward to the return of her husband John Andrew MacDonald (Orson Welles). However, she receives a telegram stating that he has been killed in action. Pregnant with his baby and grieving, she is helped by her boss, Larry Hamilton (George Brent), and they get married. However, John is alive, but in very bad shape in an Austrian hospital, and although the doctors can help him, he decides to let Elizabeth continue to believe him dead. Fast forward to 1939, and Elizabeth and Larry are still happily married, with her now grown-up son Drew Hamilton (Richard Long) contemplating joining the Canadian RAF to help fight in the coming war, much to his mother’s dismay. Larry has also recently hired celebrated Austrian chemist Erik Kessler (John MacDonald’s new name), who has emigrated with his adopted daughter Margaret (Natalie Wood). While Erik recognizes Elizabeth still, she doesn’t quite recognize him the first few times they meet. She is more concerned with the thought of losing her son Drew, much the same way she lost her first husband. While she starts to believe she recognizes Erik as John, he denies it while also trying to repair the rift between mother and son (especially since Drew doesn’t know he has a father other than Larry).

Admittedly, this is probably not a movie that can really be classified as a Christmas movie. Most of the connection to the holiday is in an early scene when Elizabeth is coming home with a Christmas tree, only to find the telegram that told her of her husband’s death. While the movie comes around to that time of year again, it is mainly to emphasize December 20, which was Elizabeth’s wedding anniversary with John MacDonald. Otherwise, there is no connection to the Christmas holiday. Still, it’s a good movie to watch any time of the year, whether for Christmas or not.

As I have mentioned previously, I’m not generally fond of melodramas, but this is one I very much enjoyed! More than anything, the cast is what makes this movie work. As Elizabeth, Claudette Colbert does a great job of portraying a woman who has kept herself busy in motherhood and everything else, delaying the possibility of closure in the “death” of her first husband, until her only son from that first marriage is now trying to go off to war. Natalie Wood does very well in one of her earliest roles. For me, personally, I have nothing but praise for Orson Welles in this movie. While I have seen the classic Citizen Kane, I found I completely disliked the movie and Orson Welles himself, and thus I have otherwise avoided a lot of the other movies that he did. This one I like, especially once he becomes Erik Kessler, helping him to express so much, all the while walking (and moving) like the cripple the character had become after the war. For me, there’s not a sour note in any of the performances in this movie, and I very much would recommend it to anybody interested!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix in yet another one of their stellar transfers. As usual, that made it an easy film to try out (and having actress Claudette Colbert in it didn’t hurt, either), and it is a release I would heartily recommend! The movie is one hour, forty-four minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

It Happened One Night (1934) – Claudette Colbert

Jezebel (1938) – George Brent – Out Of The Blue (1947)

Natalie Wood – Miracle On 34th Street (1947)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Jezebel (1938)

Now we’re here for that classic 1938 drama Jezebel starring Bette Davis, Henry Fonda and George Brent.

In 1850 New Orleans, Southern belle Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) bucks a lot of social conventions as she tries to do things her own way. She is engaged to banker Preston “Pres” Dillard (Henry Fonda), who disagrees with her, but seems more prone to giving in to her. However, things come to a head on the night of the Olympus Ball, when Julie plans to wear a red dress instead of the traditional white dress she was expected to wear. Pres isn’t thrilled, but he goes along with it when he sees that she refuses to back down. Once there, she starts to regret her decision as everyone else shuns her, but Pres forces her to take her medicine and stay there dancing with him. Afterwards, they break their engagement and Pres leaves New Orleans on business. After a year has passed, Julie has barely left her house, even as yellow fever is starting to hit New Orleans. Dr. Livingstone (Donald Crisp) encourages her and her Aunt Belle (Fay Bainter) to go to her plantation at Halcyon, but she really doesn’t want to. She changes her mind when she hears that Pres is coming back, and starts making plans for a big party. However, when Pres arrives, he brings along his new wife, Amy (Margaret Lindsay), which upsets Julie. As the party goes on, she goads her friend Buck Cantrell (George Brent) into trying to pick a fight with Pres, but he has to leave on business, and Preston’s brother Ted (Richard Cromwell) challenges Buck to a duel. When Buck is killed in the duel and Pres comes down with yellow fever, Julie is forced to reconsider her selfish actions.

Jezebel generally receives a lot of comparisons to Gone With The Wind, which was actually in production at the same time. Jezebel was actually based on a Broadway play (that had flopped) that was actually before the novel of Gone With The Wind was published. Warner Brothers was able to get the rights pretty cheaply, but it wasn’t until after the novel of Gone With The Wind became a big hit that Warner decided to revisit Jezebel, giving it to Bette Davis and teaming her with director William Wyler, whose frequent retakes allowed Bette Davis to improve her performance over time. Due to the similarity between the stories, Gone With The Wind producer David O. Selznick worried about how Jezebel would affect his own movie’s performance (of course, history has shown that David O. Selznick had nothing to worry about, as Gone With The Wind has become one of the biggest and most popular movies of all time).

To be honest, I was very hesitant going into this movie. I’ve never really been much of a fan of Bette Davis. Sure, I’ve seen a handful of her films (including her appearance in the previously reviewed Thank Your Lucky Stars), but as a whole, I just tend to avoid most of her films. With this movie, I was more willing to try it out, since I know Warner Archive Collection’s reputation for their Blu-ray releases, plus I’ve been waiting four long years to see more of the Warner-owned 30s movies given a Blu-ray release, and I wanted to support this one in hopes of continuing to see more of their films from that decade. All I can say, after having seen this movie now, is that it was WORTH EVERY PENNY. Sure, as a movie about the Old South, it’s not exactly the most politically correct when it comes to how the slaves are treated in the movie. But, it is well worth it just to see Bette Davis’ Oscar-winning performance. I admit, I was entranced right from the start, and, not only that, I now have a strong desire to see more of Bette’s filmography (starting with the recently restored WAC release of The Letter, if I can get to it sometime soon)! While it has certainly been compared time and time again to Gone With The Wind, I think this movie is good enough to stand on its own two feet! And for those that like to dream of the “what if”-type scenarios, it is as close as we will get to seeing what Bette Davis might have been like as Scarlett O’Hara in that classic! Again, see this movie if you get the chance!

As I said, this movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. Since this was my first viewing, I don’t know what the transfer was like on DVD firsthand, but I’ve heard it was definitely in need of a lot of work. For this Blu-ray, Warner Archive put in a lot of work, going with nitrate lavender fine-grain elements (since the original camera negative was gone), and it certainly paid off! The movie looks fantastic, almost as if it was filmed yesterday! I certainly can’t recommend this release enough, not just for the movie, but also for the wonderful restoration here, too! The movie is one hour, forty-four minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

*ranked #6 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Bette Davis – Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)

Henry Fonda – Jesse James (1939)

In Person (1935) – George Brent – Tomorrow Is Forever (1946)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… The Kid Brother (1927)

Next up, we have the recent release of the classic 1927 Harold Lloyd silent comedy The Kid Brother!

In the town of Hickoryville lives Sheriff Jim Hickory (Walter James) and his three sons. His sons Leo (Leo Willis) and Olin (Olin Francis) are both big and strong like him. However, his third son, Harold (Harold Lloyd), is the runt of the family. But what Harold lacks in size and brute strength, he makes up for in intelligence, as he finds ways to get his chores done more efficiently. Still, he wishes to be regarded as a man by his father. While his father and brothers are at a town meeting about money they were collecting to build a dam for the town, a traveling medicine show comes to the house. Since he had been messing around with his father’s gun and was wearing his father’s badge, they mistook him for the sheriff and had him sign a permit for them to set up in town. Later, Harold’s father found out and sent him to stop the show. Instead, the two men made fun of him, hanging him up on a bar. The town bully, Hank Hooper (Ralph Yearsley), tries to get in on the act, but in the process sets the wagon on fire. Afterwards, Harold offers Mary Powers (Jobyna Ralston), who was working with the show, a place to sleep at his home (although she ended up going to a neighbor’s home instead, since she would have otherwise been the only woman in the house). The next day was to be a town celebration, but things turned sour quickly when the money that had been collected for the dam and placed in the sheriff’s hands was discovered stolen. Hank’s father, Sam Hooper (Frank Lanning), accuses the sheriff of stealing the money. Unable to do anything himself, the sheriff sends Leo and Olin to find the men from the medicine show, but won’t let Harold. When his brothers fail to find the men, it is up to Harold to help save his father, but can he do it?

The Kid Brother is considered to be one of Harold Lloyd’s best movies. It was his second-to-last silent film, as the sound era would soon start to creep in with the success of The Jazz Singer later on in 1927. Harold Lloyd put a lot of work into this movie, nearly eight months (more than usual), and it shows. From the location shooting, to the use of an elevator filming Harold as he climbs a tree to keep talking with Jobyna’s Mary, to the various gags all working with the story, to the final fight between Harold and the brutish Sandoni (played by Constantine Romanoff), everything just works and shows the effort put into the movie. Me personally, I enjoy many of the gags, but particularly watching Harold dealing with his brothers (and attempting to show how “brave” he could be in front of Mary) are some of the most memorable laugh-out-loud moments for me. I personally wouldn’t call it his absolute best movie, but I would agree that it ranks up there (admittedly, at this point, I’ve only seen about five of his films, but still)! Easily a movie I would recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection. The new restoration looks fantastic for a nearly ninety-year-old movie. Sure, there are some scratches here and there, but, for what they had to work with, I have no complaints! Add in the fact that the set includes two of his shorts, one the five minute 1917 Over The Fence which features him disguised as a baseball pitcher to get into the park when his tickets are stolen, and the other being the eleven minute 1918 short That’s Him, where he is mistaken for a mugger and chased by the police (word of warning, though, as this short does feature an obviously white man wearing blackface as a train conductor). The shorts don’t look quite as good as the movie, owing to the fact that many of his early shorts were lost in a fire, and they made use of what elements they could find. Between the movie, these shorts and a few other fun extras, this is a very enjoyable set! The movie is one hour, twenty-three minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

*ranked #7 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2019

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… The Killer Is Loose (1956)

Continuing on with the month of “Noir-vember,” we move on to the 1956 movie The Killer Is Loose, starring Joseph Cotten, Rhonda Fleming and Wendell Corey.

During a bank robbery, bank teller Leon Poole (Wendell Corey) tries (and fails) to stop the robbers. The policemen on the case, led by detective Sam Wagner (Joseph Cotten), soon deduce that it was an inside job, and learn from a wiretap that it was Leon Poole’s idea. Catching up to Leon Poole at his apartment, where he starts shooting at the police, they go in with guns blazing. However, Sam accidentally shoots Leon’s wife (who they had been told wasn’t there), and Leon is caught without any further fight. As he blames Sam for his wife’s death (even though Sam was cleared), he threatens to get even with him. After being a well-behaved prisoner for a few years, Leon is sent to a state honor farm. When one of the guards requires his help with a load of produce, he takes advantage and kills the guard, making his escape. Sam is brought in, as he is assumed to be Leon’s target. However, as Leon gets by the roadblocks and into the city, they learn from his former cellmate that his target is not Sam, but his wife, Lila (Rhonda Fleming)! So Sam tries his best to keep that fact from Lila, since she knows about Leon’s escape and believes Sam to be the target. Poole manages to keep ahead of the police and slowly racks up a body count, forcing Sam to offer himself as a target while trying to get Lila away.

In some respects, this movie still has a particular relevance due to its message on bullying. When we first meet Leon Poole, he ends up talking to his sergeant, Otto Flanders (as played by John Larch), who had humiliated him in the army by giving him the nickname “Foggy” since he couldn’t really see very well without his glasses. As Leon would later admit, everybody laughed at him. Everybody, that is, except his wife. Losing her was enough to send him over the edge. Wendell Corey does a great job with the character, on the one hand giving us a character who doesn’t seem like he should be a threat, but at the same time showing that even a mild-mannered bumbler can be a threat when pushed too far, and everybody around him suffers for it.

Of course, the rest of the cast is no slouch, either! Joseph Cotton does great as Sam Wagner, who does the job because it’s what he wants to do, but tries to accommodate his wife (even taking a desk job, as a compromise). Alan Hale Jr. gets to be involved a little as Sgt. “Denny” Denning. But Rhonda Fleming gives a great performance as Lila. On the one hand, it’s easy to sympathize with her, as she wants her husband to be safe, but on the other hand, we can see her getting on everybody’s nerves as she doesn’t like her life being changed, and she has a hard time understanding what her husband is going through, as she can only think of herself. It’s only when her friend tells her off that everything sinks in, and even then she still has to get herself into trouble. While I have seen better noirs, I still would recommend this one, as I do enjoy watching it every now and then!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix. What more can I say? Their restoration of this movie looks fantastic! I tried this movie mostly because of what I had seen before from them, and it was well worth it! So I would indeed recommend their release of this movie! The movie is one hour, thirteen minutes in length.

My Rating: 7/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

I’ll Be Seeing You (1944) – Joseph Cotten

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949) – Rhonda Fleming