Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… The Reluctant Debutante (1958)

We’re back for my last review of the year!  In this case, that would be the 1958 film The Reluctant Debutante starring Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall, John Saxon and Sandra Dee!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Screwdriver (1941)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)

Woody is speeding through the countryside in his car, and decides to pick on a traffic cop watching for speeders. This one was still fun, especially with Mel Blanc voicing the character for the third and final time (in the shorts). Woody’s dealings with his car before he gets to the cop are entertaining, but it’s his torment of the cop that is when the real fun of this short begins! He drives the cop crazy (enough to send him to a mental hospital), where Woody shows up as one of the doctors! The character still sports the same design as he had in the previous short Woody Woodpecker, and provides fun and laughter (I know I certainly was laughing throughout)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

English banker Lord James “Jimmy” Broadbent (Rex Harrison) and his wife, Lady Sheila (Kay Kendall), are eagerly looking forward to the imminent arrival of his 17-year-old American daughter (from a previous marriage), Jane (Sandra Dee).  When they pick her up at the airport, Jane and her stepmother seem to hit it off quite well.  However, that is relatively short-lived, as Sheila runs into her gossipy friend Mabel Claremont (Angela Lansbury) and her daughter Clarissa (Diane Clare).  At first things are all right, with Jane and Clarissa going off to see the changing of the guard, while Jimmy, Sheila and Mabel go back to the Broadbents’ home.  During that time, all Mabel can talk about is the upcoming debutante season (where the parents of seventeen-year-old girls throw a lavish ball to help initiate them into society), which depresses Sheila, as she had missed her own due to the advent of World War II.  When Jane and Clarissa arrive, Sheila announces that Jane would also be taking part in the season (much to Jane and Jimmy’s surprise).  At the first ball, Jane dances with all the boys, but is completely bored by everything (and doesn’t bother to hide it).  Sheila tries to pair Jane off with the royal guard David Fenner (Peter Myers), but Jane is bored by him, too (not to mention the fact that, while she and Clarissa had been off on their own, Clarissa had told Jane that she had a crush on David Fenner).  However, Jimmy runs into a drummer named David Parkson (John Saxon), and he introduces him to Jane (since we have two Davids in the story, from here on we will refer to them as either Fenner or Parkson).  Jane is fascinated by him and enjoys his company.  However, Sheila is less than thrilled at this development, especially when her friend Mabel reveals that he has a less than stellar reputation due to a scandal the year before, and tries to separate them.  Of course, there’s not much trouble there, as Parkson has to leave to help take care of a sick uncle for a few weeks.  Meanwhile, Jane, Jimmy and Sheila continue to attend balls nightly (which leaves Jimmy completely exhausted), and Jane continues to show no interest in any of the boys.  With Jane’s ball fast approaching, Sheila starts getting desperate, and calls Mabel to ask for Fenner’s phone number.  Out of spite, Mabel instead gives her Parkson’s number.  So, Sheila calls him up, and invites him to dinner with everybody that night (which he accepts).  Shortly after she ends the call, Fenner calls up to invite Jane out to dinner alone.  Instead, Sheila advises against it, and makes sure he knows to come out with them to dinner.  At the restaurant, they are joined by Mabel and Clarissa, and both Davids show up.  Jane, of course, is happy to see Parkson (and the two of them quickly realize Sheila’s mistake).  Jane convinces him to take her out to a nightclub after he finishes playing the drums at the ball that night.  Sheila, meanwhile, insists on keeping an eye on them at the ball (and pushes Jimmy to do so as well).  Fenner, meanwhile, tries to kiss Jane against her will (out of sight of everybody else), but she gets away from him and runs off with Parkson before her parents can stop her.  Back at their home, Jimmy and Sheila wait for her to come back, with Sheila bound and determined to stop Jane from seeing Parkson again.  Will Sheila get her way?  Or will Jane (and Jimmy) be able to convince her that Parkson isn’t such a bad guy?

The Reluctant Debutante started out in London, England, as a 1955 play by William Douglas Home.  One of MGM’s London exectuives saw it in a pre-London tryout and loved it.  Their enthusiasm prompted producer Pandro S. Berman to see it.  He liked it as well, and convinced MGM to buy the film rights and finance a New York production as well.  In casting the film, Berman wanted rising comedienne Kay Kendall to play the part of the mother (with a little change of making her the stepmother, since she was fairly young herself, at the age of 32).  They brought in Rex Harrison to play the father (especially since he and Kay Kendall had recently married, and were looking for another project to do together after having both been in the 1955 British film The Constant Husband).  The film ran into script troubles, with Julius Epstein making some changes to the story that Rex Harrison didn’t approve of.  They planned to film in Paris, France, mainly because Harrison was a tax exile (trying to live outside of Britain for most of the year to avoid their high income tax), but with him committed to a London production of My Fair Lady, that meant they had to solve their script problems quickly.  So they brought in the original playwright, who changed a lot back to what had originally worked well for the play.  When the movie premiered, critics liked it, but outside of New York and London, audiences didn’t come, resulting in the picture losing money.  Sadly, it was also Kay Kendall’s second-to-last picture, as she was already dying from leukemia (which she and her husband kept as a secret from everybody).

Prior to this film’s Blu-ray release (more on that in a moment), I can’t really say that I had heard of this one.  The presence of Rex Harrison and Angela Lansbury in this movie is what really appealed to me (I hadn’t seen anything yet with Sandra Dee, and I’ve only seen Kay Kendall previously in Les Girls, where her performance didn’t register as strongly with me).  So I was very happy to discover this almost-forgotten film!  Rex Harrison was as good as I could have hoped for, and Kay Kendall certainly provided the comedy quite memorably! I know I had quite a few laughs out of watching the two of them reacting when Sandra Dee’s Jane and John Saxon’s Parkson go out to a nightclub (and even more so when the young couple arrive home and are being spied on)! Then, of course, there was the whole thing with Kay’s Sheila trying to call Fenner (when she was given Parkson’s number instead), which is just delightful in all the confusion that happens. But also, as a fan of many of the MGM musicals, I can appreciate the background music with the familiar strains of music from some of the studio’s earlier films (it’s the result of a musicians’ strike that happened during post-production, but it’s still entertaining, just the same). I can’t deny that the film’s main concept (with the “season” and all the balls and such) is a bit dated, but the film acknowledges that by referencing the then-recent decision of the queen to abolish the idea (not to mention Jane and Rex’s Jimmy disliking the whole idea). So, we have a case of “out with the old, and in with the new” that almost makes this a good film to watch around New Year’s (although I could easily watch it any time of the year). I would say that the film’s biggest problem, though, is the character of David Fenner. Most of the film’s humor concerning the character revolves around his only topic of conversation being traffic (and directions to various places). That’s fine, that’s not a problem. What IS (and may indeed be enough to offset that) is the fact that SPOILER ALERT he practically assaults Jane at the one ball, and it later comes out that HE is the cause of the scandal that David Parkson was accused of. In short, he is a rapist, and, outside of the fact that Jane turns down his marriage proposal, he essentially gets away with it scot-free (with Clarissa going out with him instead). Whether you can live with that aspect of the film will certainly affect how you come away from it. For me, the rest of the film more than makes up for it (particularly all the better comedy moments), and I would indeed recommend it!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Reluctant Debutante (1958)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, with the Blu-ray sporting a new 2K master (if I am correct).  Personally, I think it looks fantastic!  The detail looks quite good, as does the color.  The picture has been cleaned up of all dirt and debris.  In short, the Blu-ray is certainly the best way to see this fun film!

Also, if you are interested in joining in on my first month-long “Screen Team Of The Month” blogathon for 2022 featuring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, please be sure to check out my Announcing the Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy “Screen Team Of The Month (January 2022)” Blogathon post to sign up!

Film Length: 1 hour, 36 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Rex Harrison – My Fair Lady (1964)

Les Girls (1957) – Kay Kendall

The Harvey Girls (1946) – Angela Lansbury

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you).  If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… They Came To Cordura (1959)

It’s December 17, so that means that it’s time for one last round of “Film Legends Of Yesteryear” featuring Rita Hayworth for 2021! For this series’ last post of the year, we’re focusing on the 1959 film They Came To Cordura, also starring Gary Cooper, Van Heflin and Tab Hunter.

Note: After doing this series for two years (on films from 1939 in 2019 and films of actress Rita Hayworth for 2021), I have decided to change up how I do this series. Both years left me feeling like keeping up with this extra series was a little overwhelming (granted, this year, I’ve done a HUGE number of posts compared to previous years, which doesn’t help). So, starting in 2022, I will be doing it a little differently. Instead of a special focus, I will instead use this series in place of either my Sunday or Wednesday posts whenever I have a movie from 1939 or one featuring Rita Hayworth. I will also be adding a third subject, which will fit in with some of my planned Star/Genre Of The Month blogathons (and which was a plan I hinted at when I put together this series’ logo): screen teams. I can’t guarantee posts in this series every month, but I will try to fit them in when I have a film that fits.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Woody Woodpecker (1941)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 58 seconds)

The woodland animals think that Woody Woodpecker is crazy, and so he goes to see a psychiatrist. So far, I haven’t had much opportunity to see too many Woody Woodpecker cartoons, but I certainly enjoyed this one! It was Woody’s first solo outing (following his appearance in the 1940 Andy Panda cartoon Knock Knock), with him still being voiced by Mel Blanc (the second of three shorts that Blanc voiced the character for). The character’s design is far different than what it would later become (and what I currently identify with the character), but the fun and insanity is there (similar to some of the Looney Tunes types of cartoons). At least, I look forward to seeing more of the cartoons included in this set!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1916. Pancho Villa has been terrorizing places along the U.S.-Mexico border, so some U.S. troops under the command of Colonel Rogers (Robert Keith) have been sent to stop him and his men. The Colonel has assigned one of his officers, Major Thomas Thorn (Gary Cooper), to be a battlefield observer, and nominate men for the Congressional Medal Of Honor (an assignment intended to cover up an act of cowardice by the Major). The Colonel and his men catch up with some of Villa’s men (led by Arreaga, as played by Carlos Romero) at the hacienda Ojos Azules, which is owned by Adelaide Geary (Rita Hayworth). As the Colonel is facing forced retirement soon because of his age, he prepares to lead his men in an old-fashioned cavalry charge (with Major Thorn and his Medal Of Honor nominee Private Andrew Hetherington, as played by Michael Callan, watching on the sidelines). However, the Colonel prepares for it poorly, with the men riding into a trench and being picked off by Arreaga and his men. It is only due to the brave actions of four men that they pull off a victory (although Arreaga and some of his men escape). Afterwards, Major Thorn decides to nominate the four men for the Medal Of Honor, but refuses to do so for the Colonel (who was bucking for a promotion to general before he had to retire). Feeling stabbed in the back (since he had helped cover up the Major’s act of cowardice), the Colonel orders the Major to take the five Medal Of Honor nominees (and their new prisoner Adelaide, who was being accused of treason for harboring Arreaga and his men) to Cordura for the ceremony. However, the trip is not an easy one. Along the way, they struggle with limited provisions, come under attack from Arreaga’s men, lose their horses to Arreaga (which forces them to continue on foot), and then have to carry one of the men when he is stricken with typhoid. And that’s just the external trouble, as all of the nominees would rather not receive the medal (and resent Major Thorn’s leadership upon learning of his past cowardice). Can Major Thorn get them all to Cordura? Or, for that matter, will the men let the Major survive?

They Came To Cordura is based on the 1958 novel of the same name written by Glendon Swarthout (who wrote military citations during the second World War). The idea for the story came from the United States Cavalry’s last mounted charge (which happened under the leadership of General John J. Pershing against Pancho Villa’s forces). Making the movie itself didn’t exactly turn out to be a smooth process. They started doing some location filming near St. George, Utah, but a record cold-snap forced them to move to the Moapa Valley near Las Vegas (where they had to reshoot everything). Gary Cooper’s participation in the film was against the advice of his doctors, as he was quite ill at the time, yet he still soldiered on. Sadly, making this film was the start of health problems Dick York suffered for the rest of his life, as he injured his back (an injury that would later force him to leave classic sitcom Bewitched partway through its fifth season). And that’s not even including changes to the movie required by the studio (including their demand that SPOILER ALERT Gary Cooper’s character had to live, which differed from the original novel END SPOILER ALERT). The film did poorly in theatres, and director Robert Rossen bought back the film rights, with the intention of putting out his director’s cut of the film. However, after making The Hustler (1961) and Lillith (1964), he died before he had the chance to work on restoring it.

Like a number of the Rita Hayworth films from the set that I’ve been reviewing all year, this was my first time seeing this film. Frankly, I have a hard time not comparing it to similar episodes of various Western TV shows that I’ve seen over the years (the type where the show’s main hero has to transport a prisoner or lead a group across the desert, with the rest of the group turning against him to the point that he can’t fall asleep for fear of being killed). Compared to some of those TV shows, this movie does feel a bit too long and drawn out for the idea. But, it also has the opportunity to be much more adult (at least, within the confines of what was still enforceable for the Production Code at the time). And that’s where all the performances here shine, as we watch Gary Cooper’s Major deal with the fallout from his previous act of cowardice (and, in the process, manages to show courage as he has to face down his men all the while keeping them alive, even if they think that he is trying to kill them). Watching all the men slowly turn against him is rough, particularly at the end (already did a Spoiler Alert, so not going to do anything further). I will admit, it’s not the greatest Western (and particularly for those looking for action, you will get that in the opening minutes, and then not so much afterwards), but I did enjoy it enough that I would certainly recommend it!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… They Came To Cordura (1959)

This movie is available on Blu-ray either as part of a double-feature with The Man From The Alamo (1953) or as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection (both releases are from Mill Creek Entertainment). Quite frankly, I think this is one of the weakest (if not THE weakest) transfers in the twelve-film set. The picture is full of a lot of dirt and debris throughout the movie, and the color seems off in a number of places. It’s not completely unwatchable, and does offer some decent detail. It’s just that it looks so much worse than those that it was packaged with (and I assume the transfer is the same for the double-feature). The set is probably not worth it for this movie alone except for big fans of the film or those who want at least a few others from the set as well.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection

The Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection, available on Blu-ray from Mill Creek, includes twelve films starring actress Rita Hayworth (The DVD equivalent features four more movies, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about). The Blu-ray set includes Music In My Heart (1940), You’ll Never Get Rich (1941), Tonight And Every Night (1945), Down To Earth (1947), The Lady From Shanghai (1948), The Loves Of Carmen (1948), Affair In Trinidad (1952), Salome (1953), Miss Sadie Thompson (1953), Fire Down Below (1957), Pal Joey (1957) and They Came To Cordura (1959). These twelve films are spread out over six discs. Three of them (You’ll Never Get Rich, Miss Sadie Thompson and Pal Joey) were all previously available individually from Twilight Time, and this release still uses those really great transfers (albeit with a lesser encoding due to several movies being put on each disc by Mill Creek). Two (The Lady From Shanghai and They Came To Cordura) were already available individually/as part of a double-feature from Mill Creek, and I assume use the same transfers. For the most part, the transfers in this set all look quite good. They could use a bit of clean-up to get rid of some of the dust and specks of dirt, but otherwise are okay. The only transfers that I think could use some serious restoration (and hold the set back from being much better) are Tonight And Every Night and They Came To Cordura. But, for the price, this set provides hours of entertainment, most of which looks really good, and I would certainly happily recommend it for many of these wonderful movies!

Also, if you are interested in joining in on my first month-long “Screen Team Of The Month” blogathon for 2022 featuring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, please be sure to check out my Announcing the Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy “Screen Team Of The Month (January 2022)” Blogathon post to sign up!

Film Length: 2 hours, 3 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Alias Jesse James (1959) – Gary Cooper

Pal Joey (1957) – Rita Hayworth

Black Widow (1954) – Van Heflin – Stagecoach (1966)

Pal Joey (1957)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2021) with… We’re No Angels (1955)

We’re here today for a slightly-delayed look at the 1955 holiday film We’re No Angels, starring Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray and Peter Ustinov!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Come On In! The Water’s Pink (1968)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 4 seconds)

At Bicep Beach, the Pink Panther runs afoul of a muscle-bound freak with his various inflatables.  This one was quite fun, with all the various inflatables that the Panther pulls out of his bag that work well for him (but not so much for the other guy)!  The hunk proves to be a good foe for the Panther as he tries to regain the admiration of the girls on the beach, which certainly adds to the humor.  I know I like this one, and find it worth revisiting!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s Christmas Eve, 1895.  Three convicts (Joseph as played by Humphrey Bogart, Albert as played by Aldo Ray and Jules as played by Peter Ustinov) have escaped from Devil’s Island in French Guiana, and made it to the nearby penal colony of Cayenne.  There, the three convicts are able to blend in with other criminals to avoid detection, while making plans to escape via the Paris-bound ship in the harbor.  After giving directions to Medical Officer Arnaud (John Smith), they lift a letter that he was taking to store owner Felix Ducotel (Leo G. Carroll).  The rather inept Felix thinks they are there to help repair his roof, which they agree to do (with plans to later kill and rob him).  While they are on the roof, they overhear a conversation between Felix and his wife, Amelie (Joan Bennett) as they talk about Felix’s rich and miserly cousin, Andre Trochard (Basil Rathbone), who owns the store.  They also talk about how their daughter, Isabelle (Gloria Talbott), has fallen for Andre’s nephew Paul Trochard (John Baer), even though Andre himself will never approve of the relationship.  Once Felix finally opens the letter that the three convicts brought, he learns that his cousin (and Paul) are stuck quarantined on the ship in the harbor, and Andre is demanding Felix’s help getting off the boat.  After Felix runs off, Isabelle reads the letter herself, and faints upon reading about Paul’s engagement (at Andre’s insistence) to the daughter of a wealthy shipbuilder.  Upon seeing Isabelle faint, the three convicts come down from the roof.  Albert and Jules help carry her to her room to recover, while Joseph helps drum up business in the store. Later, to thank them for their help, Felix invites the men to stay for Christmas dinner.  Honored, the three help out by stealing some food and decorations to help make things better for the Ducotels.  With all the kindness and generosity being shown them, the three men reconsider their plans to rob and murder this family. However, things start going downhill when cousin Andre and Paul arrive at the shop in the middle of the night, with Andre demanding their best rooms and the account books without caring about what he’s putting the Ducotels through. Will the three convicts be able to help out their new friends, or will Andre and Paul make trouble for them, too?

Humphrey Bogart and director Michael Curtiz had worked together three times before (Angels With Dirty Faces, Casablanca and Passage To Marseille). For their fourth film together, they went with the story from the 1952 French play La Cuisine Des Anges by Albert Husson (although it later came out that they borrowed a lot without permission from the 1953 English version of the play, My Three Angels by Samuel and Bella Spewack, which forced those authors to sue). The film also featured Bail Rathbone (one of a handful of movies that he had done after the end of the Sherlock Holmes series), and Joan Bennett returned to the screen (with the help and insistence of Bogart) after a scandal nearly three years earlier had effectively blackballed her from Hollywood.

As I hinted at in the start of this post, I had actually intended to review this movie as my final film in November for my Star Of The Month, Humphrey Bogart.  That plan was delayed, as I had never seen the film before, and didn’t get my hands on a copy in time to review it then.  Having seen it now, I can definitely say that it was a lot of fun! It’s a fun story, as we start out with the three convicts trying to evade the authorities while they wait for a Paris-bound ship, and make the decision to rob the Ducotel family (but then find themselves getting involved in helping them out). The film makes use of some dark comedy, particularly with regard to the convicts’ jokes about prison. Some of the films’ most memorable comedic moments for me involve the three men “rushing” to tell Basil Rathbone’s Andre of the poisonous snake in the container he is trying to open (that he thinks they were stealing when it was in fact theirs to begin with), or their lack of worry when SPOILER ALERT the snake also bites Paul. END SPOILER ALERT It’s a different part for Bogart, since he rarely did any screen comedies, but he is effective (and funny!) in this film, which certainly helps make it entertaining. The Christmas holiday angle really makes the film work, as we have the added spirit of the season helping to reform the three convicts (and which also helps make Rathbone’s Andre even more villainous). Speaking of which, while it is a small part, it just goes to show just how good Basil Rathbone is as a villain that he can make us hate him in such a short time, and cheer on the convicts when they hope to do something about him. For being a new (to me) Christmas film, I found this one quite entertaining, and I certainly look forward to coming back to it again and again in the future around this time of the year (so, yes, I definitely recommend it)!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… We’re No Angels (1955)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Pictures.  In my opinion, the recent Blu-ray release looks pretty good.  Not having seen the movie before, my best guess is that it is probably the same transfer used for the DVD (but looking better with more space available on the Blu-ray disc).  There are some minor specks here and there, and some scratches more easily visible on bigger/better screens, but nothing too distracting.  For now, this is likely to be as good as this film gets, and I certainly recommend it!

Also, if you are interested in joining in on my first month-long “Screen Team Of The Month” blogathon for 2022 featuring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, please be sure to check out my Announcing the Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy “Screen Team Of The Month (January 2022)” Blogathon post to sign up!

Film Length: 1 hour, 46 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Caine Mutiny (1954)Humphrey Bogart

Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) – Aldo Ray

Father Of The Bride (1950) – Joan Bennett

The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad (1949) – Basil Rathbone

Father Of The Bride (1950) – Leo G. Carroll

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you).  If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… Fire Down Below (1957)

We’ve come around to November 17, which means that it’s time for the second-to-last “Film Legends Of Yesteryear” featuring Rita Hayworth (at least, for 2021, anyway)! So for that, we’ve got her 1957 film Fire Down Below, also starring Robert Mitchum and Jack Lemmon!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Dogs Is Dogs (1931)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2 (1930-1931) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 53 seconds)

Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) and Dorothy (Dorothy DeBorba) are stuck with the unkind Spud (Sherwood Bailey) and his mother (Blanche Payson) when their father doesn’t return. This one traded in humor for heart, as we come to feel sorry for the kids as they are treated poorly by their “evil” stepmother. This short is very much in the vein of stuff like Cinderella or A Little Princess. For its length, it’s hard not to feel for both Wheezer and Dorothy. It may not be one of the series’ best shorts, but it’s still worth seeing just the same!

And Now For The Main Feature…

A pair of Americans, Felix Bowers (Robert Mitchum) and Tony (Jack Lemmon), have been pulling odd smuggling jobs around the Caribbean. They are offered the job of smuggling a beautiful woman, Irena (Rita Hayworth), to another island. It seems that she has no passport, so she has been moving around constantly to avoid being deported. Tony is interested, but Felix doesn’t want to take the job. He only relents when they are offered a lot of money. Still, Felix is less than thrilled with having to take Irena anywhere, and makes sure his feelings are well known when she comes to the dock the next morning. Tony, on the other hand, is captivated by her. After a while, the two men fight each other due to their opposing opinions on her. When they stop at a port to go to a carnival, though, even Felix finds himself falling for her, although she rejects his advances. When the boat gets to the port they were hired to take her to, Felix lets her go it alone, which angers Tony enough that he follows her and ends his partnership with Felix. However, Irena finds herself in trouble when a hotel clerk realizes that she shouldn’t be there, and offers to keep quiet if she will sleep with him. When he hears about this, Tony (who had been planning to propose to Irena) decides to smuggle in a shipment of contraband to earn enough for them to live on. He tries to convince Felix to help, but he turns him down (but lets him take their boat for the job). However, Tony finds the Coast Guard waiting for him and abandons the boat to avoid being arrested. At the moment, he has no choice but to run away. He is certain, though, that it was Felix who tipped off the Coast Guard, and plans to get his revenge when he returns. After some time, he decides to come back, and gets a job on a freighter. However, the freighter collides with an ocean liner in very foggy weather, which causes a beam to fall and leave him trapped. When the port doctor, Sam Blake (Bernard Lee), is brought to the ship, he feels the best chance for Tony to get out is to have his legs amputated, but Tony refuses. Wanting to give him hope, the doctor goes looking for his old friends. But will the doctor’s efforts work, as filled with hate as Tony is?

After making Miss Sadie Thompson, Rita Hayworth again left the big screen as a result of her new marriage to singer Dick Haymes. During that time, she brought a lawsuit against Columbia Pictures in an attempt to have her contract terminated, but her case ended up being thrown out of court. Left without a choice, she agreed to do two more films for Columbia. Producers Irving Allen and Albert Broccoli had gotten the film rights to the 1956 novel Fire Down Below by Max Catto, and had planned to cast actress Ava Gardner in the lead. When she turned it down, they sought out Rita Hayworth (who had gone to Europe while waiting for Columbia to come up with a good film vehicle for her), who took the part. Joined by Robert Mitchum and rising star Jack Lemmon, they went to Trinidad and Tobago to do some location filming. Originally, the film was to be presented mostly in flashback, starting with some of what is currently the last scene, but the studio put it together in chronological order. In spite of the cast, though, the movie ended up losing money at the box office.

This was my first time seeing Fire Down Below, and I definitely would have to say that I liked it. For me, all three leads gave quite good performances, which certainly helped me to keep watching the movie, especially when Jack Lemmon’s Tony gets trapped on the ship. I know I liked the song “Limbo Like Me,” which was performed by the “Stretch” Cox Troupe (and it was stuck in my head for a while after, so I can identify with Tony and Edric Connor’s Jimmy Jean having it stuck in their heads and trying to do the limbo themselves). As I hadn’t read anything on the film beforehand, I thought the whole film worked well, but, upon reading about how the studio changed things around, I find myself thinking that there are aspects that certainly would have worked better had the studio left it the way the director originally intended it to be. But, we do get Rita Hayworth doing some dancing (and even Robert Mitchum gets in on it, even if it is only to get another guy away, but it’s still hilarious to watch). This was a very entertaining drama (one I certainly think was better than its original poor box office performance would have indicated), and I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending it!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Fire Down Below (1957)

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. This is one of the better looking films in the set. The color looks pretty good, and little (if any) dirt and debris is present. All in all, I think this set presents the best way to see this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 55 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) – Rita Hayworth – Pal Joey (1957)

Holiday Affair (1949) – Robert Mitchum – Home From The Hill (1960)

My Sister Eileen (1955) – Jack Lemmon – The Notorious Landlady (1962)

Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate CollectionPal Joey (1957)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… The Great McGinty (1940)

Here and there this year, I’ve been looking into films that were either written by Preston Sturges or written AND directed by him, and I’m back for another movie he wrote/directed with the 1940 film The Great McGinty starring Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus and Akim Tamiroff!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Sky Blue Pink (1968)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 11 seconds)

The Pink Panther tries to fly a kite, but keeps causing trouble for the Little Man. It’s a fun cartoon, with a mix of things going wrong (hilariously) for the Panther, and his actions having unintended consequences (also quite funny) that keep affecting the Little Man. Of course, the Little Man’s frustration with the Panther grows, resulting in him actively going after the Panther by short’s end. The gags all work pretty well for me, and make this one quite easy to revisit for a few good laughs!

And Now For The Main Feature…

At a soup kitchen, some crooked politicians try to recruit some homeless men to vote for the incumbent mayor Wilfred H. Tillinghast (Arthur Hoyt) in various precincts by offering two dollars per vote. One enterprising man, Dan McGinty (Brian Donlevy), goes off and votes thirty-seven times. This act catches the eye of the local political Boss (Akim Tamiroff), who hires him to extort protection money from various people. Eventually, McGinty becomes an alderman. When the mayor and many other politicians are caught in corruption, the Boss, who has a hand in every political party, decides to pick McGinty to be the next mayor as part of the reform party. The problem for McGinty? The Boss wants him married so that he can have the women’s vote. McGinty turns him down, until he talks with his secretary, Catherine (Muriel Angelus), who suggests a sham marriage so that he can get the women’s vote, and he agrees. After they get married, he learns that she has two children from a previous marriage, but decides to stick around anyways, since it’s not a “real” marriage for them. It’s all enough for him to be elected as the mayor, and he continues in his unscrupulous ways. However, after nearly six months of marriage, he finds that he does indeed love Catherine and her children. This love results in her starting to express her more idealistic politics to him, as she hopes that he will develop more of a conscience. McGinty is reluctant to follow through, as he feels that he doesn’t have enough power as the mayor to buck the Boss. Will he eventually have enough power to go against the Boss’ wishes? Or will he continue his unscrupulous ways in spite of his wife and family?

Preston Sturges wrote the story under the title The Story Of A Man way back as far as 1933, intending it as a vehicle for Spencer Tracy. When that failed, he tried to sell it to the Saturday Evening Post (but they didn’t want it, either). Up to that point, he had been writing his stories for the various studios he worked at, but he didn’t always like what the directors did with his films, and longed to direct them himself. After Remember The Night, he made the decision to direct his scripts himself. He tried selling The Story Of A Man to Paramount Studios at the low price of $10, on the condition that he, and only he, was to be the one who would direct it. They agreed, giving him a budget of $350,000, a three-week shooting schedule, and some of their more inexpensive stars. The movie wasn’t a big hit, but it did well enough that Preston Sturges was given the chance to keep working as a director.

I’m coming off my first time seeing this film, and going into it, I really had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by a decent movie. Sure, there are no big stars here, but, in some respects, that works much better, as you can see them as the actual characters much easier. I can’t deny that, in spite of its age, this film still feels quite relevant with regard to the world of politics. The political rallies shown certainly haven’t changed, with one rally complaining about the other candidate and their corruption, while the other (led in this film by Skeeters the Politician, as played by Sturges regular William Demarest) builds up his candidate and all the “things he has done for the people.” Watching Brian Donlevy’s Dan McGinty as he goes from being completely unscrupulous to gaining a conscience as he listens to his wife is a fascinating story. I’ll admit, the fights between McGinty and Akim Tamiroff’s Boss character are some of the most amusing parts of the story (especially how indifferent those around them are to the fights). I do think that some of Preston Sturges’ later comedies like The Lady Eve and The Palm Beach Story are far better, but I enjoyed this film a lot (and I certainly hope to get a chance at some point to see The Miracle Of Morgan Creek with Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff reprising their characters). I would definitely recommend this one!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Great McGinty (1940)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics coming from a new 4K master. My own opinion here is that this new transfer looks quite good! The detail is quite superb, and the picture has been cleaned up of a lot of dirt and debris. There are some shots that don’t look *quite* as good as everything else, but I suspect those are due to available elements and/or the way the film was originally put together. Certainly not something that would stop me from recommending a wonderful release of this entertaining movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Jesse James (1939) – Brian Donlevy – The Great Man’s Lady (1942)

Spawn Of The North (1938) – Akim Tamiroff – Can’t Help Singing (1944)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)

Well, it’s October 17, and that means it’s time for another round of “Film Legends Of Yesteryear” featuring Rita Hayworth! Of course, we’re REALLY celebrating here, as not only is it her birthday (her 103rd, to be exact), it’s also my 400th post on my blog! I know, in the past I’ve kind of preferred to celebrate milestones like that with a very special post (like a Top 10 list or something of that sort), but I couldn’t find a way to fit one in (and quite frankly, I had no idea for a list at this time). So, we are marking both occasions with Rita Hayworth’s 1953 film Miss Sadie Thompson, also starring Jose Ferrer and Aldo Ray!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Little Daddy (1931)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2 (1930-1931) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 21 minutes, 10 seconds)

Farina (Allen Hoskins) has been taking care of Stymie (Matthew Beard) by himself, but the authorities are coming to put Stymie in an orphan’s home. This one took a more dramatic turn than some of the other recent ones, but I think that works well in its favor! By now, we as the audience have started getting used to Stymie, so it’s easier to identify with Farina’s plight as he has to deal with losing Stymie. Of course, this short does have its more humorous moments, like Farina trying to tell Stymie the story of Noah and the ark, with Stymie constantly interrupting him. This one had heart, and that makes it just as enjoyable to see as the more hilarious shorts!

And Now For The Main Feature…

On an island in the South Pacific where a military base is located, Marine Sgt. Phil O’Hara (Aldo Ray) and his men are anxiously awaiting their discharges. In the meantime, they are bored, and just going about their days with their humdrum tasks. One day, a ship stops by, with several passengers disembarking for a few hours while they stand by for the next leg of their trip. This group includes missionary Alfred Davidson (Jose Ferrer) and his wife, and Dr. Robert MacPhail (Russell Collins) and his wife. While Davidson and Dr. MacPhail leave to visit the missionary hospital, O’Hara and his men await the mail boat. The men perk up when they realize that the mail boat is also bringing one of the passengers: the beautiful Sadie Thompson (Rita Hayworth). Wanting to keep her presence to themselves, the men try to smuggle her in to the bar in the village (but some of the other Marines quickly find out as well). Their boisterous celebration quickly disrupts the nearby church service, and in the process attracts the attention of Davidson (who is less than thrilled with her conduct). After Davidson breaks up the party, O’Hara and his men rush to get Sadie to her boat, only to discover that everybody has been quarantined for a week. So the men take Sadie to the local hotel run by Joe Horn (Harry Bellaver) and his wife, Ameena (Diosa Costello). The Davidsons and the MacPhails had already gotten there first and got the best accommodations, but Sadie was willing to work with what’s left. Over the next few days, Sadie spends a lot of time with the men, particularly O’Hara, who has become quite fond of her. However, Davidson starts stirring up trouble for her, believing that she was a prostitute from a bordello he helped shut down in Honolulu. Since he thinks that she escaped being deported to San Francisco, he goes to the Governor (Wilton Graff) and demands that she be deported. Due to Davidson’s influence in the area, the Governor reluctantly goes along with it. Sadie tries to appeal to the Governor when she finds out, but he is only willing to rescind that order if Davidson will agree to the idea (which he doesn’t). When he learns that Davidson is unwilling to stop Sadie from being deported, O’Hara tries to talk to him, but learns Davidson’s suspicions about Sadie, which she essentially confirms. Shocked, O’Hara is angry, and leaves. Now on her own, can Sadie recover? Will she be able to escape deportation, or will Davidson convince her to go along with it?

In April 1921, the short story “Miss Thompson” was published by W. Somerset Maugham in the literary magazine The Smart Set. The story would be adapted in several different ways, including a 1922 play (Rain), a 1928 silent film (Sadie Thompson with Gloria Swanson) and a 1932 talkie (Rain with Joan Crawford). In 1952, movie producer Jerry Wald bought the film rights, intending to make a film musical version of the story with his production unit at RKO. However, the following year, he became a vice president and executive producer at Columbia Pictures, and brought the project with him. With Rita Hayworth enjoying a resurgence at the box office since her return with Affair In Trinidad, she was cast in the film, allowing them to have a bigger budget to work with. Some of the movie (mostly the exteriors) was filmed on location in Hawaii. Of course, with this film being made while the Production Code was still in effect, some of the story elements had to be changed to conform with the Code. The movie was also filmed in 3-D (due to the then-recent fad), although by the time the movie was released to theaters, the fad had died down enough that all 3-D prints were pulled after only a few weeks.

I’ve seen this a few times over the last few years, and enjoyed it. Admittedly, I haven’t seen the 3-D version since I haven’t had the technology to view it that way (nor will I, considering I can count on one hand the number of films originally shown in 3-D that I actually want to see that way, and the cost is beyond what my budget can handle). Rita Hayworth was part of the original appeal when I first heard of this movie, and I will say that her performance in this film did not disappoint! Watching her go from the good-time gal at the start, to slowly revealing her past (while still staying somewhat ambiguous) makes the movie work for me. I will admit, the (almost) musical nature of the film also appealed to me. And, in some respects, it’s also what hurts the film. To be fair, it’s not the musical aspects that bother me, it’s the change in tone. As I said, the movie was initially conceived as a musical, but partway through production, that idea was abandoned, and it shows. The first half (give or take a few minutes) does seem to veer into musical territory, with her singing with the Marines and a few solo moments (including her song-and-dance to “The Heat Is On,” the song that I came away remembering the most strongly) before veering into more dramatic, non-musical territory. Personally, I wish they’d just kept it as a musical, as I would have been much happier. I’m also not sure about the writing, especially near the end for Jose Ferrer’s Davidson. His ending almost seems to come out of nowhere for me, and kind of bogs things down. This is far from a perfect film, but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the only version of “Miss Thompson” on film that I have any intention of seeing (currently). And, for that reason, it’s definitely one that I would recommend!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. Like two other films in this set (You’ll Never Get Rich and Pal Joey), Miss Sadie Thompson was previously available individually on Blu-ray from Twilight Time (an edition which is now out of print). While this set uses the same transfer (which was pretty good on that release), the encoding on Mill Creek’s disc isn’t as good, thereby making the transfer not look *quite* as good. Of course, the Mill Creek release only contains the 2-D version (whereas the Twilight Time release had both the 2-D and 3-D versions). For the price, it’s not too terrible, but if you’re hankering to see it in 3-D, then this release would not be recommended.

Film Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Salome (1953) – Rita Hayworth – Fire Down Below (1957)

Jose Ferrer – The Caine Mutiny (1954)

Aldo Ray – We’re No Angels (1955)

Salome (1953)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate CollectionFire Down Below (1957)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… College (1927)

Following up last week’s review of the Buster Keaton silent comedy Go West, we’ve got ANOTHER Buster Keaton silent. This time, it’s the 1927 film College.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink Outs (1967)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 14 seconds)

In this Pink Panther cartoon, there is no story. It’s just a series of different gags, switching from one activity to another. Some are funny, others not so much. There is no real relation between everything going on, although the final one (with him mowing the lawn) builds on another one from earlier in the short. Honestly, the overall short is decent, but not that memorable. The Panther is generally better when there is a slight story being served by various gags, and not just a series of un-related ones.

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s high school graduation day at Union High School in California, and everyone is excited! The scholarly Ronald (Buster Keaton) gives a speech on “The Curse Of Athletics,” talking about how much more important education is than sports. However, his speech doesn’t go over well with the crowd (well, except for his mother, played by Florence Turner). In particular, the girl that he likes, Mary Haynes (Anne Cornwall), is furious with him, as she prefers the athletic type, like Jeff Brown (Harold Goodwin), whom she is dating. Jeff and Mary are off to the more athletically-inclined Clayton College, and Ronald decides to join them. The Dean (Snitz Edwards) is thrilled to have him at Clayton, and hopes that Ronald’s study habits will rub off on his athletic classmates. However, Ronald wants to try his hand at sports in an attempt to regain Mary’s affections, and tries out for the baseball and track teams (and fails miserably at both). As a result of his athletic attempts, his grades suffer, and Ronald is called in to see the Dean. The Dean is sympathetic when he hears why Ronald is trying to concentrate on sports, and makes him the coxswain for the rowing team. Of course, this doesn’t go over well with the crew coach (Carl Harbaugh) or the team, but for the moment, they are stuck with Ronald due to the Dean’s order. On the day of the race, the coach tries to drug Ronald with his drink, but the guy that everybody else wants to be the coxswain accidentally drinks it, and passes out. With no alternative, the team is stuck with Ronald for the race. Will he be able to help them win? Will his attempts finally gain the affections of the girl he loves?

In 1926, Buster Keaton completed what many would later call his one of his masterpieces, The General. However, audiences and critics of the time didn’t take to it very well, and he decided to go a more commercial route for his next film. Audiences were crazy about college at the time (and Harold Lloyd himself had had one of his biggest hits with the college-themed The Freshman), so that was the direction Buster Keaton elected to go. While he plays a (mostly) non-athletic character, that was obviously not the case in real life, with all the various stunts and pratfalls that he could do, so he actually had to hold back a little on his abilities (although he used a stunt double, which was a first for him, for a scene with him pole-vaulting through a window, figuring he didn’t want to spend months trying to train for it). Of course, he was plagued with some behind-the-scenes troubles, as his usual producer, Joseph Schenck, was unable to be that involved with the production (he had just become the president of United Artists), and left his publicity chief Harry Brand in charge (who made a nuisance of himself by frequently pestering Buster Keaton). Like with The General, critics and audiences didn’t care for the film, with the results being that he ended up making the career-destroying move of signing with MGM after Steamboat Bill, Jr.

I think Buster Keaton’s presence certainly makes this movie work! His athletic abilities really come in handy for the stunts that he tries to do with the various sports his character tries to do! And it is those mishaps (mostly when trying baseball and the various events in track) when this movie is at its funniest! It’s hard not to cheer for him, especially when, despite all the stuff that keeps happening, he manages to help the rowing team! I do think the film has some issues, though, that work against it. We are shown two attempts by his character to get a job to pay for college. The first has him working as a soda jerk, which is fine, as it is also one of the funnier bits in the film. The second, however, has him working at a restaurant. The problem? The “help wanted” sign was advertising for a “colored waiter” (which means he dons blackface to hold the job). Especially with him acting out some stereotypes to hide his presence, that whole section has aged very poorly (and, since nothing further is shown of him working after he is fired there, leaves you almost feeling like the job hunt is just there to pad out the movie a little). I’m also not thrilled with the last few seconds of the ending, which come out of nowhere and almost seem out of place for what the rest of the film is doing. Again, though, it’s only a few seconds, and not enough to ruin the rest of the movie. It’s an entertaining movie, which provided a few good laughs (even with its issues). It’s hard not to compare it to Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman, though, which I felt was done much better (and doesn’t have stuff like the blackface and stereotypes that have aged poorly). Still, this one is enough fun that I look forward to watching it again, along with some of the other Buster Keaton silents!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… College (1927)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Cohen Media Group with Go West (1925) as part of “The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 4.” According to the info at the beginning of the movie, this transfer made use of a third generation safety dupe positive and second generation safety dupe negative. Given that, it looks fairly obvious that this transfer isn’t quite as good as the one for Go West on the same disc. It’s pretty good overall, don’t get me wrong, but the detail isn’t quite as visible, and some spots (especially the opening credits and intertitles) look a bit rougher. It’s still good enough to enjoy the movie, though, and with Go West looking as good as it does, I think this release is still worth it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 6 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The General (1926) – Buster Keaton – Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… Go West (1925)

I’m a little overdue for digging into any silent movies, so let’s get back to it with the 1925 Buster Keaton comedy Go West!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Hand Is Pinker Than The Eye (1967)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 15 seconds)

On a cold winter’s day, the Pink Panther sneaks into a house to get warm. What he doesn’t know is that the house belongs to magician Zammo the Great, and the Panther has to contend with all sorts of magical troubles! This one is quite a bit of fun, with all the different magical gags. In particular, the Pink Panther has to keep dealing with a pesky rabbit, who keeps messing around with the house! This is one of the better Pink Panther cartoons, and one I certainly enjoy coming back to!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In his hometown in Indiana, Friendless (Buster Keaton) is unable to get a job, so he decides to sell everything he has. He doesn’t get much for it, just enough for a loaf of bread and some meat. He hops a train to New York City, but he finds the city waaaaay too crowded. Thinking on the advice of Horace Greeley (you know, “Go west, young man, go west”), he hops on a train to Santa Fe. Along the way, he accidentally rolls off the train while hiding in a barrel, and finds himself stranded in the desert. Walking around, he comes to the Diamond Bar Ranch. There, the ranch owner (Howard Truesdale) gives him a job as a cowboy. Due to his lack of experience, he struggles early on with the various jobs he is given. He soon makes a friend, though, when he pulls a stone out of the hoof of a cow named Brown Eyes. Brown Eyes returns the favor by saving him when he gets his foot caught and a bull charges him. With his new friend alongside him, things are starting to look up for Friendless. However, that feeling is short-lived, as the ranch owner needs to sell his cattle to a stockyard (although another rancher doesn’t want him to, as that other rancher is holding out for a higher price). Still, the Diamond Bar Ranch owner insists on sending the cattle to the stockyard right away (with that group including Brown Eyes). When Friendless finds out that Brown Eyes is going, he tries to stop the ranch owner, but he only gets fired for his efforts. His severance pay isn’t enough to buy Brown Eyes, and, in an attempt to win enough at poker, he loses everything. So he decides to get on the train with Brown Eyes. On the way to the Los Angeles stockyard, the train is stopped by the other rancher and some of his men. The men from the Diamond Bar Ranch win the fight, but the train is started up and leaves before the men can get back on (except for Friendless). He is able to stop the train in L.A., and ponders leaving with just Brown Eyes. However, he remembers overhearing how the Diamond Bar Ranch owner is facing financial ruin if the cattle can’t get to the stockyard, and decides to walk them through L.A. But will his efforts work, or will the cattle run completely amuck with only one man trying to lead them?

Go West was shot on location about sixty miles from Kingman, Arizona. Of course, doing so caused some trouble with the heat (which at times reached nearly 120 degrees Fahrenheit) threatening to melt the emulsion on the film stock, requiring the cameras to be packed in ice. Buster Keaton trained the cow Brown Eyes himself, which caused production to be delayed a few weeks when she was in heat (and the combination of her appearance and training meant that she couldn’t be easily replaced). For the stampede at the end of the movie, the cattle were let loose in parts of L.A., with cowboys placed on the streets to keep people from driving into the shots. At the time, reviews were mixed, and, while it did decently at the box office, the costs of filming on location kept it from being a bigger hit.

Go West was the first silent Buster Keaton movie that I ever had the opportunity to see (with In The Good Old Summertime being the first Buster Keaton movie I saw overall). Of course, the fact that I’ve seen more of his films since then is certainly a good indication that I liked this one! I’ll admit, having worked with cows all my life probably made this one a lot easier for me (not to mention my family) to enjoy! I know we were all quite impressed with how well-trained the cow Brown Eyes was! I will admit, the two instances of a bull/steer “charging” (with the camera right behind looking down) certainly looked quite fake, but, then again, I wouldn’t trust a real bull or steer if it was charging, so I have to give Buster Keaton props for making it look at least decent! And, of course, Buster Keaton is still up to some of his usual pratfalls and stunts (which are always fun to watch)! I will certainly say, though, that final scene of him taking all the cattle through L.A. is both fun and hilarious (and, again, knowing cattle, I’m not surprised when some of them start to go off on their own instead of going where they’re supposed to)! I may be partial to this one since it was my first Buster Keaton silent, but I still say it’s a very fun movie, and one worth recommending!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Go West (1925)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Cohen Media Group with College (1927) as part of “The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 4.” According to the info shown at the beginning of the movie, several sources were used to create the 4K restoration included on this Blu-ray (since the original camera negative was incomplete and very much affected by chemical decay). Even with multiple sources, this movie looks quite good the vast majority of the time! The detail is easily visible, and most of the damage has been taken care of. There are moments (no doubt due to inferior elements) where it looks a bit more washed out and loses some of the detail, but for a nearly 96 year-old movie (or 95, if we’re counting when this Blu-ray was actually released), it’s still a pretty good transfer, and well worth seeing!

Film Length: 1 hour, 23 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Seven Chances (1925) – Buster Keaton – Battling Butler (1926)

Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… Pal Joey (1957)

Well, it’s September 17, which means that it’s time for another round of “Film Legends Of Yesteryear” with another Rita Hayworth film! Now, if I was strictly doing things in chronological order (working from the twelve film set I was given for Christmas 2020), then today’s film would be Miss Sadie Thompson. However, I’ve got the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon that I’ve been hosting for the month of September, so I decided to skip around to the one film left in the set that really fits: the 1957 musical Pal Joey, also starring Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Teacher’s Pet (1930)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2 (1930-1931) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 54 seconds)

The Gang have a new teacher, and, since they don’t think they will like her as much as their previous one, Jackie (Jackie Cooper) makes plans to play some pranks on her. The fun continues in this short, which introduced June Marlowe as their teacher, Miss Crabtree. The humor obviously comes from Jackie’s plans, and how he unknowingly reveals them to Miss Crabtree (and, all things considered, I can’t say as I blame him). Dorothy DeBorba makes a quick appearance, mainly making a nuisance of herself (for the kids, not so much for us) by repeating what the others are saying. Overall, a fun short that manages both humor and warmth, and keeps me looking forward to the rest of the series!

And Now For The Main Feature…

After being kicked out of town for trying to romance the mayor’s underage daughter, Joey Evans (Frank Sinatra) makes his way to San Francisco. He tries looking for work there as a singer, but finds no openings. Finally, he sees a poster promoting his friend, bandleader Ned Galvin (Bobby Sherwood), who is working at the Barbary Coast Club. Joey tries to get a job there, but runs into trouble with the Club’s owner, Mike Miggins (Hank Henry), who knows Joey’s reputation and doesn’t want to hire him. Mike only reluctantly gives Joey a job when his emcee doesn’t show up, and Joey gets up on stage and does it successfully. Afterwards, he is introduced to one of the chorus girls, Linda English (Kim Novak), whom he starts flirting with almost immediately (although she doesn’t respond in kind). Ned invites both Joey and Linda to join the band at a charity event that evening being put on by society lady Vera Prentice-Simpson (Rita Hayworth). Joey recognizes Vera as a former stripper and, when the charity auction doesn’t meet its goal, he proposes the audience bid for her to do one of her old stripper routines. With that, the charity meets their goal (much to Vera’s embarrassment). Later that night, Joey and Ned walk Linda back to the rooming house she is living at. Joey sees a “room for rent” sign and, after Ned leaves, he convinces the landlady to let him rent the room (which just happens to be connected to Linda’s room via the bathroom). Over the next few days, Joey wins over most of the chorus girls at the club, with the two exceptions of Linda and her friend Gladys (Barbara Nichols). One night, Vera comes in to the club, but she and her two male escorts leave without paying. Since her presence there was essentially Joey’s fault, Mike fires him. However, Joey is able to delay his firing by betting that Vera will be back by the end of the week, or he can be fired without pay. To do something about it, Joey returns to Vera’s mansion and tells her that she caused him to lose his job, which gives him no choice but to leave town. Meanwhile, Linda starts to soften and accepts his invitation to dinner that Saturday. However, when Saturday comes around, Vera comes to the Club (thereby allowing Joey to keep his job), and she and Joey leave together. When he tells her about his dream of owning his own club, she decides to invest in the idea. She offers him a place to stay, either on her yacht or at her mansion, and they find a place in a much swankier neighborhood to establish his club. Linda is back to being mad at Joey for missing their dinner, but she (along with everybody at the Barbary Coast Club) are hired to come work at Joey’s new place, “Chez Joey.” While the place is being remodeled ahead of the grand opening, Joey starts getting his show in place. When Vera sees that Linda has been given the love song to perform, she gives Joey an ultimatum: get rid of Linda, or Chez Joey will never open. Will Joey be able to give up on his dream of owning a nightclub for Linda, or will he give in to Vera’s demand?

The stage musical Pal Joey, based on a series of short stories by John O’Hara, made its Broadway debut in late 1940. This show was Gene Kelly’s first lead role on Broadway, and helped him on his rise towards Hollywood. He signed first with David O. Selznick, with his contract later being sold completely to MGM after his film debut, For Me And My Gal, turned out to be a success. While they tried to figure out what exactly to do with him, MGM loaned him out to Columbia Pictures for the 1944 film Cover Girl with Rita Hayworth. With his newfound freedom to choreograph his own routines, Gene Kelly helped make the film a hit. Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, had bought the film rights to Pal Joey, intending to have Gene Kelly reprise his role for the big screen, but, now that he was a bigger star, MGM refused to loan him out (at least, not for a price that Columbia was willing to pay), so the idea fell by the wayside. The play’s revival in the early 1950s also brought renewed interest in producing a movie, but the censors were now just as much what was stopping production. After making a number of changes (including some necessitated by the casting of Frank Sinatra, who was a singer as opposed to a dancer like Gene Kelly), the censors allowed production to go forward (of course, by that time, the Hays Office was getting a bit more lax in what they let through, combined with audiences no longer being as in favor of censorship as they had been). The film turned out to be a big hit at the box office, and even received four Oscar nominations.

In the original Broadway production of Pal Joey, there were fourteen songs, but only eight managed to make it into the movie, with four songs originally written for other shows being added. Personally, I think that Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth had the best songs in the film. While it was one of the Rodgers and Hart songs added for the movie, Frank’s rendition of “The Lady Is A Tramp” is one of the most memorable moments in the movie, in between being a great song (and Frank certainly does it justice with his singing) as well as the added comedy from Frank’s Joey using it to insult Rita’s Vera (with Hank Henry’s Mike Miggins groaning at this turn of events in the background). Then there’s Rita Hayworth singing (and when I say “singing,” I mean she was dubbed by Jo Ann Greer) “Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered” and “Zip” (which she also dances to), both of which manage to be quite entertaining. I’ll admit, even with her singing dubbed by Trudy Stevens, Kim Novak’s musical numbers are rather forgettable. She’s not terrible, but the other two leads feel far more at home in a musical than she does. Still, she has her moments in this film, including when her character tricks Joey into buying the dog (thus calling his bluff on a childhood sob story he had told her). I do think another weak spot on this movie is the film’s final musical number, a dream sequence set to the songs “What Do I Care for a Dame,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “I Could Write a Book.” It starts out fine, with Sinatra and the two leading ladies dancing together. The problem is the way it just cuts out, almost as if part of the movie is missing. From what I’ve heard, there was supposed to be more, with choreographer Hermes Pan putting together a much bigger sequence, but Frank Sinatra decided against it and started having stuff cut. I think it works well enough in the movie with the immediate reaction coming out of it, but it still feels cut short. In spite of these complaints, though, this is a movie that I have come to enjoy seeing every now and then. Certainly one I would recommend!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Pal Joey (1957)

This movie has had at least three releases on Blu-ray. The first edition came from Twilight Time waaaay back on February 14, 2012. That was a limited edition (at 3,000 copies) which has since sold out completely. On November 17, 2020, it was made available again as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. And for those who want this movie (but not any of the other Rita Hayworth films), on July 20, 2021, it was made available again individually by Sony Pictures Entertainment. I’ve seen both the Twilight Time and Mill Creek releases (but not the recent release from Sony), so the best I can say is that these appear to be the same transfer (which itself looks quite good), with the main differences being the disc encode. On that, the Twilight Time is better (but, again, it is out-of-print and very hard-to-find). Mill Creek releases tend to be done on the cheap (usually reflected in the pricing on their products and a poorer disc encode), so, unless you want any of the other films in the Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection, I would sooner suggest the Sony release (but, again, it all boils down to what you are willing to pay for quality).

Film Length: 1 hour, 49 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Fire Down Below (1957) – Rita Hayworth – They Came To Cordura (1959)

High Society (1956)Frank SinatraKings Go Forth (1958)

Phffft (1954) – Kim Novak – The Notorious Landlady (1962)

Fire Down Below (1957)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate CollectionThey Came To Cordura (1959)

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“Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart (September 2021)” featuring… All-American Co-Ed (1941), Fiesta (1941) and Flying With Music (1942)

We’re here today for the first regular (Sunday) post as part of the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon, and it’s a triple-feature, as we delve into All-American Co-Ed and Fiesta from 1941, and Flying With Music from 1942!

Now why, you might be asking, am I doing a triple-feature in one post, as opposed to three like I’ve done before?  Well, the answer is simple.  These three titles are all streamliners!  For the uninitiated (which would also have included me a few years back), Hal Roach had been producing a number of short subjects (including the likes of Laurel and Hardy and the Little Rascals), up through the 1930s.  However, he felt that, by the mid-30s, they were becoming less popular with audiences.  With the rise of double-features, Hal Roach came up with the idea of films that were somewhere between the length of a short subject and a regular movie.  As not all theatres were equipped for regular double-features, this new format allowed them to show two streamliners in the space of one movie.  Due to their length, about four streamliners could be produced for the same cost of one regular movie, while also being more profitable.  So, since we have three streamliners that fit the musical bill, I figured it would be best to stick them all together in one post.

All-American Co-Ed (1941)

Film Length: 48 minutes, 26 seconds

When the Zeta Fraternity at Quinceton College puts on a big show, the publicity helps out that college.  Seeing what it has done for Quinceton, the publicist at Mar Brynn Horticultural School for Girls, Hap Holden (Harry Langdon), enlists the help of student Virginia Collinge (Frances Langford) to convince her aunt and college president Matilda Collinge (Esther Dale) that their college needs some publicity to attract more students.  They convince her to look into some horticultural beauty queens, designating them the “Girls Most Likely To Succeed.”  To help gain more attention, they also label the men from Quinceton’s Zeta Fraternity as the “Men Least Likely To Succeed.”  Now, the men of the fraternity don’t like that, and decide to send in one of their own “undercover” as one of the beauty queens.  Much to his regret, Bob Sheppard (Johnny Downs) is elected, and is given the alias “Bobbie DeWolfe,” who is the “Queen Of The Flowers.”  Once he arrives, he finds himself falling for Virginia, and wants to call off the stunt.  However, Virginia assumes that he and “Bobbie” are going together, and decides to break things off with him.  Meanwhile, his fraternity brothers are angry with him for trying to back out, and send in some local members to give him a nudge.  With all this trouble going on (and a show he’s helping the girls prepare), can Bob get himself out of this mess and back into Virginia’s good graces?

I’m more or less writing my comments now after having watched all three of these “films.” All-American Co-Ed was the middle of the group for me. I very much enjoyed this one for its story and some of its comedy. The music itself is only so-so, even “Out Of The Silence,” which was nominated for the Best Song Oscar that year. Again, the music is not really that memorable, but it’s enjoyable enough within the film. The dancing is nothing to write home about, with the opening number rather terrible (to be fair, that’s on purpose), although the final tune, “The Farmer’s Daughter” (which was written by Walter G. Samuels and Charles Newman) has some decent dancing. The film’s biggest trouble, in some respects, has to do with the concept of a straight male going undercover as a female at an all-girls college (even if he does otherwise try to keep to himself and keep sex out of it). Apart from that, this is an otherwise entertaining musical.

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Born To Dance (1936) – Frances Langford – Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Zenobia (1939) – Harry Langdon

Marjorie Woodworth – Flying With Music (1942)

Fiesta (1941)

Film Length: 44 minutes, 17 seconds

In a Mexican village, everybody is awaiting the return of Cholita (Ann Ayars), the niece of Rancho de las Flores owner Don Juan Hernández (Antonio Moreno).  In particular, her sweetheart José (Jorge Negrete) is planning to marry her.  However, when she arrives, Cholita quickly announces her engagement to radio star Fernando Gómez (George Givot).  When Fernando, who is not a native Mexican, makes some disparaging remarks about the town and the “bandits” in the area, José and Don Juan Hernández decide to teach him a lesson.  José and a few of his friends pretend to be bandits, and come riding into town.  They scare Fernando, and “kidnap” Cholita.  However, she gets away from them, and quickly realizes what they have done.  The next day, she announces her intentions to leave, along with Fernando.  Will she and José come back together, or will they go their separate ways?

Out of the three musical streamliners, Fiesta was arguably the one I came out of with the lowest opinion. This film’s biggest problem is that it leans fairly heavily on a few Mexican stereotypes (although, to be fair, it admits that with one of its characters spouting a few, and the other characters take advantage of that to try to scare him away). I would say that most of the music is forgettable. The main exception to that (for me) would be the song “Never Trust A Jumping Bean” (which was written by Edward Ward, Chet Forrest and Bob Wright and sung by Armida). After watching this streamliner twice, I find that that song manages to get stuck in my head (with no complaints from me!), and also has some fun Mexican dancing to go along with it. The story concept itself has certainly been done elsewhere (and better than here). While my comments may lean negatively here, I will still say that it was an enjoyable film, and one which I would have little trouble recommending for some (hopefully) harmless fun!

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

George Givot – Flying With Music (1942)

Flying With Music (1942)

Film Length: 46 minutes, 11 seconds

Harry Bernard (George Givot) has been hiding out on a Caribbean island, but finds himself pursued by two men: Joe (Edward Gargan) and his assistant, Wilbur (Jerry Bergen).  When Harry meets a man who is supposed to act as a tour guide for a group of American women (but is too scared to fly on the plane with them), Harry volunteers to take over as the guide.  The group includes one chaperone and five young women.  They are all on this trip because Ann Andrews (Marjorie Woodworth) convinced her father that it would be an “educational” trip.  So, their chaperone, Miss Mullens (Norma Varden), insists on just that, and Harry goes along with her orders to keep his job.  However, Ann’s real reason for taking the trip is to meet a Latin singer that she has fallen in love with (but has never met or seen, outside of a photograph).  When their pilot, Don Terry (William Marshall), asks her out, she takes the opportunity to go to a nightclub where her “flame” has been reported to perform at. At that nightclub, she finds that he is not there, but on the island of La Monica. Don learns why Ann is going out with him to the nightclub in the process, but decides to keep fighting for her interest. The island of La Monica is not on their itinerary, but, when they learn the truth about Harry, Ann and Don blackmail him into changing it (which works for him anyways, as Joe and Wilbur had once again found him). Don tries to keep romancing Ann, but will he be able to get her to forget her Latin “lover?”

Of the three, I find Flying With Music to be the most fun overall. It took a second viewing for me to come around to it more, but I find it to be quite enjoyable. The music for this film was written by Edward Ward, Chet Forrest and Bob Wright, and is overall the most memorable of these three streamliners. It contains songs like “If It’s Love,” “Pennies For Peppino” (which received a nomination for Best Song Oscar), “Rotana” (which, when all is said and done, feels like a poor man’s version of “Carioca” from the Astaire-Rogers film Flying Down To Rio, but it’s still entertaining), and the two I enjoyed the most, “Caribbean Magic” and “Song of the Lagoon.” More fun is added by Edward Gargan as a detective following George Givot’s Harry Bernard with the assistance of Jerry Bergen as Wilbur (who keeps his partner from actually catching Harry, since he would not be paid any further once they catch him). Admittedly, this also leads into one of the film’s more dated sections, with Harry getting knocked out and Wilbur putting clay on Harry’s face (thus making him look black), which is made worse by Harry leaning heavily into a cringeworthy black stereotype. Thankfully, it’s fairly brief. Even with that problematic moment, I will admit to enjoying this one quite a bit!

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Fiesta (1941) – George Givot

All-American Co-Ed (1941) – Marjorie Woodworth

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners Collection Volume 4: The Musicals

These streamliners are available on DVD as part of The Complete Hal Roach Streamliners Collection Volume 4: The Musicals from Classicflix. All-American Co-Ed and Flying With Music are both black-and-white films, and Fiesta is in color. The two black-and-white films look pretty good, save for a lot of dust and dirt and scratches that remain. I have no prior experience with Fiesta (and how it should look), so I can only guess, based on some of the other Technicolor films of the era that I’ve seen, that the color is off (again let me strongly emphasize, I AM GUESSING AS TO HOW IT SHOULD LOOK, I DO NOT KNOW FOR SURE). I wish all three could receive full-fledged restorations, but, at the same time, I fully understand why not. These are part of Classicflix’s DVD-only Silver Series, where they release films/streamliners/TV series that either don’t have the elements, or what they have is in bad enough shape that it would be too expensive to restore (compared to what the expected sales would be). It’s not perfect, but at least they are making sure these are made available for audiences to discover and potentially learn to love, anyway. I would say that the three musical streamliners in this set certainly are not big classics on their own, and there are some issues that date them. Still, they are quite entertaining, and I feel the set is well worth it, if only to enjoy some good music, some entertaining stories, and all within a shorter time span (seriously, if you can watch the entirety of an episode of an hour-long show in one sitting, you can watch one of these)! So I would definitely recommend it!

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you).  If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!