What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941)

We’re back again for more adventures with Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy, respectively) in a film that is only a Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941)! 😉

Coming Up Shorts! with… Choo-Choo! (1932)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 3 (1932-1933) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 42 seconds)

When a group of orphans come through on a train, a few of them who are trying to run away decide to switch places with some of the Gang.  Mr. Henderson (Dell Henderson) is stuck trying to bring the “orphans” back to where they belong.  This one was quite entertaining, what with all the antics as the kids keep causing trouble on the train.  In between getting into fights with each other (and some of the other passengers), plus keeping everybody awake by being noisy and letting some animals and fireworks loose, this one is full of laughs (although the gag of Spanky punching everybody quickly grows old).  Oliver Hardy even makes an appearance in this one, encouraging the kids in their mischief!  Overall, quite fun, and one I would definitely look forward to coming back to!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Tell-Tale Heart (1941)

(Available as an extra on the Shadow Of The Thin Man Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 19 minutes, 45 seconds)

An assistant to an old weaver suffers great mental and physical abuse from his master, and decides to kill him.  However, his conscience gets the better of him, as he is haunted by the sounds of his late master’s heartbeat.  This short is based on the Edgar Allen Poe story, and really does it justice.  Joseph Schildkraut plays the young man, as he slowly goes insane, particularly when questioned by the authorities on the whereabouts of his master.  Roman Bohnen as the Old Man with a milky eye manages to prove nasty and creepy in a short time.  Overall, this short is very well-acted and very effective in showing how one’s conscience can get the better of you when you do wrong.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Goose Goes South (1941)

(Available as an extra on the Shadow Of The Thin Man Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 6 minutes, 12 seconds)

It’s that time of the year when all the geese fly south for the winter.  All but one, that is, as he decides to try and hitchhike his way down there.  This short was fairly entertaining, especially with the recurring gag of one driver who speaks in double-talk as to why he can’t give the goose a ride.  Some gags are questionable, especially those that don’t really have anything to do with the plot of the goose trying to make his way south (and there are several of those moments).  It’s not the greatest short, but it provided a few laughs, which made it worth at least one viewing, anyways!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Nick Charles (William Powell) is enjoying his “retirement” from detective work with his wife Nora (Nyrna Loy) and their young son Nick, Jr. (Richard “Dickie” Hall).  However, on a trip to the racetrack, Nick and Nora find the place crawling with cops.  Apparently, one of the jockeys had been shot, and the police, led by Nick’s friend Lieutenant Abrams (Sam Levene), are trying to figure out who did it.  The police and the reporters all ask Nick if he is there to work on that case, but, interested though he may be, he denies being involved with it.  Later, reporter Paul Clarke (Barry Nelson) and Major Jason I. Sculley (Henry O’Neill), a special deputy to the State Legislature, stop by the Charles’ home.  They explain that they both have been trying to work on taking down a gambling syndicate. Apparently, that jockey was supposed to be their best (and only) witness, and so they ask Nick’s help in trying to find out what happened (but he declines again, stating that he promised to take Nora to a wrestling match that night).  While Nick and Nora are watching the wrestling match at the arena (which is run by members of the gambling syndicate), “Whitey” Barrow (Alan Baxter), another reporter (who has been helping keep the syndicate out of trouble), has decided that he wants out, and blackmails the leaders in exchange for his silence.  Paul borrows a key to one of the leader’s offices from his girlfriend, Molly Ford (Donna Reed), and looks for evidence.  When he finds a ledger that could do the trick, Whitey walks in, and a fight ensues. Whitey manages to knock out Paul and take the ledger, but someone else shoots him with his own gun before he can get out of there. The police show up (right as Nick and Nora are getting ready to leave the arena), and they end up arresting Paul for Whitey’s murder. Nick believes him to be innocent, and looks back over the jockey’s locker room the next day. He realizes that the jockey accidentally shot himself, but he convinces Lieutenant Abrams to keep going with the story that both the jockey and Whitey were killed by the same person to help root out the real killer. As he keeps investigating, Nick finds several suspects, and one more body. When everybody is gathered together, he hopes to reveal everything. But will he get the right killer, or will they get away with it?

With Another Thin Man (1939) continuing to be profitable for MGM, it was a given that they would keep the series going with a fourth entry. However, it wasn’t that simple behind the scenes. The husband-and-wife writing team behind the scripts for the first three films, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, had tired of doing the series, and refused to do another. Instead, Harry Kurnitz and Irving Brecher wrote the script (which was based on a story by Harry Kurnitz himself, as opposed to author Dashiell Hammett, who was at least partly involved on the first three films in the series, but not at all for the last three). William Powell, meanwhile, had been reluctant to do much acting work for the last few years, in between his health as he recovered from rectal cancer and the death of his fiancée, Jean Harlow, in 1937. The only films he had done since his recovery were a few opposite Myrna Loy (including Another Thin Man, I Love You Again and Love Crazy). Still, even with all those problems going on behind the scenes, audiences still went to see the movie, making it profitable for MGM (and encouraging them to keep making more).

Like with the earlier entries in the series, this was my first time seeing this movie as well. Plain and simple, I did like this one! The humor still worked well for me, from Nick Jr. pushing his father to drink milk instead of his favorite beverage (in a moment that made me think of W. C. Fields and how he would have potentially reacted in the same situation), to the way Nora started really getting into the wrestling match they were watching (with Nick getting stuck in a hold), to Nick being stuck on the merry-go-round (and so many more hilarious moments)! I will admit, I can see the series starting to lose steam with this film, as it did seem to be more of the same (you just knew that all the suspects would be gathered at the end for the reveal of the killer, with many of them looking very guilty for a brief moment), and the mystery itself didn’t seem to be any great shakes. Still, it was entertaining, especially for more time with William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora! Definitely still good enough to recommend (just don’t binge-watch the whole series, or it won’t be as enjoyable)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection featuring a new 4K scan of the best surviving preservation elements. Once again, the transfer is top-notch (it’s from the Warner Archive Collection, after all), with a crisp image and all the dust and dirt cleaned up. Very easy to recommend, along with all the earlier entries in the series!

Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Another Thin Man (1939) – William Powell – The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)

Another Thin Man (1939) – Myrna Loy – The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)

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“Star Of The Month (February 2022)” Featuring Deanna Durbin in… For The Love Of Mary (1948)

We’re here to finish up our celebration of actress Deanna Durbin as the Star Of The Month, and what better way to do it than with her 1948 film For The Love Of Mary, co-starring Edmond O’Brien, Don Taylor and Jeffrey Lynn!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Ski For Two (1944)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)

As he looks through various travel brochures, Woody Woodpecker finds one for the Swiss Chard Lodge which promises good food, so off he goes. When the proprietor, Wally Walrus, throws him out for not having a reservation, Woody decides he’s still going to get the food he wanted! This was another fun one, due to the adversarial relationship of Woody and Wally! Woody also had another song as he skied through the snow, which added to the fun. I’ll admit, for my first time seeing it, I’m mad at myself for my timing in watching it, as Woody dressed himself up as Santa Claus in one of his attempts to get at the food (and I had made the choice to briefly stop watching through the set after The Beach Nut right before Christmas itself, so I saw this one a few weeks after the fact). As much as I enjoyed it, though, I know I have another fun short to watch around Christmastime when it comes around again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Mary Peppertree (Deanna Durbin) has recently left her job with the Supreme Court, and started working as a telephone operator at the White House, where her father Timothy Peppertree (Griff Barnett) works as a guard. Her first day is spent fielding calls from marine biologist David Paxton (Don Taylor), who is trying to talk to the President (but she and the other girls at the switchboard have been told not to let his call through), as well as calls from her ex, Justice Department attorney Phillip Manning (Jeffrey Lynn) and from several Supreme Court justices trying to help the couple reconcile. When they all meet at a restaurant owned by immigrant Gustav Heindel (Hugo Haas), Mary explains to Phillip that she broke up with him because, when he was caught out with another woman (for his job), she wasn’t the least bit jealous about it, and felt that, for them to be an actual couple, she should have been at least a little jealous. In discussing her first day at the White House, they are overheard by David in the next booth, who promises Mary that he will get through to the President despite her interference. The next morning, David shows up just outside the gate to her job, where he tries to apologize to Mary. She quickly realizes that he is insincere, and leaves him there. The incident causes her to have the hiccups, and when the President talks to her at the switchboard, they get real chummy with each other as he helps her get over the hiccups. Phillip calls Mary at the switchboard to make sure that she is going with him to Supreme Court Justice Peabody’s (Harry Davenport) party that night, but she decides to stay home. As she is leaving work, she sees David trying to get in, and the guard, who sees that they know each other, asks her to drive him away (otherwise, David will be arrested). They drive a short distance before they decide to part ways, but not before Mary offers him a chance to talk to the President’s executive secretary, Harvey Elwood (Ray Collins), if he will take her to Justice Peabody’s party that night (which he agrees to do). However, she is picked up that night by Lieutenant Tom Farrington (Edmond O’Brien), who was sent to take her to the party on the President’s orders (since she hadn’t unplugged from his phone when she was talking with Phillip). She has fun with Tom at the party, as his presence makes Phillip boil over with jealousy. When Tom takes her home, they are greeted by David, who was waiting there to keep his end of the bargain. The next day, Mary has lunch with David, and promises him that her ex, Phillip, can help him with his problem. However, Tom again shows up for Mary that evening to take her to a movie at the White House (again, on the President’s orders, but this time to stop her from seeing the one-track minded David). David meets with Phillip at the same time, but Phillip is completely distracted by the idea of Mary going on another date with Tom, prompting David to consider leaving town since everybody there only seems to be concerned with Mary’s affairs. Meanwhile, newspaper publisher Samuel Litchfield (Frank Conroy) complains about the situation to Elwood (since the publisher’s daughter was dating Tom until the President ordered him to start going out with Mary), which forces Elwood to consider helping David out with his problem (and convince him to go out with Mary). With all this attention, will Mary be able to figure out which guy she likes? And will any of the troubles that the men are facing be dealt with successfully?

When he made his move to MGM around 1941, producer Joe Pasternak (who was a producer for many of Deanna Durbin’s earliest films at Universal Pictures) had plans to make a movie called Washington Girl, which was based on a story by Ruth Finney. That never happened, and Universal ended up buying the rights to the story from MGM as a film for Deanna Durbin. At first, it was to be produced by Karl Tunberg, directed by William A. Seiter and would also co-star Donald O’Connor, but the producer and director ended up doing Up In Central Park with Deanna (and Donald O’Connor was assigned to a different movie). The film title was changed to For The Love Of Mary (which was originally supposed to be the title of the previous year’s Something In The Wind). The film had mediocre results at the box office, and Universal sued Deanna for money they had advanced her. After negotiations, she agreed to do three more films for them, but they let her contract expire, and so she left Hollywood for good.

While she apparently didn’t like this film, I will happily admit that I enjoyed it! For me, the comedy here was very much what made this movie so much fun, as we see her various suitors drive each other nuts, helped along by various government officials! It’s an overall ridiculous idea as to how the government officials (including the U.S. President) get themselves all worked up about one girl’s love life (or at least, humorous compared to what most would complain about the government trying to do nowadays). The music is nothing major, although it’s still fun to listen to Deanna sing, including the song “Moonlight Bay” and particularly “Largo Al Factotum” (from The Barber Of Seville). It may not be anywhere near as good as some of Deanna’s earliest films, but it’s an entertaining film just the same (and certainly better in my eyes than what she thought of it)! So, yes, I definitely recommend this one!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… For The Love Of Mary (1948)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios. This one seems to have an HD scan, which looks pretty good with the vast majority of dust and dirt cleaned up. This was another one of the nine Deanna Durbin films that Kino Lorber had licensed (and one of the six they later dropped when their first three-film set bombed). I know I’m a broken record about that bit of information, but, as a new fan of Deanna Durbin trying to appeal to her fans both new and old, releases like this need to sell, especially if we want more, including at least one or two that seem to have legal clearance issues preventing release on home media (and I have no idea whether those issues are also keeping those films off TV or streaming, either). I think this film, like all of the other Deanna Durbin films that have made it to Blu-ray, looks as good as one could hope for, and I certainly hope more are coming!

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Something In The Wind (1947)Deanna Durbin

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!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Melody Time (1948)

After starting to dig into the classic animated Disney movies earlier this year with Make Mine Music (1946), I’m back for a look at another one!  This time, it’s the 1948 package feature Melody Time, featuring the talents of Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger, Dennis Day, the Andrews Sisters, Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians, Freddie Martin, Ethel Smith and Frances Langford, with Buddy Clark filling in as the Master of Ceremonies for the whole shebang! Of course, we once again have a table of contents to help you navigate the whole thing, if you so choose!

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… Free Eats (1932)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 3 (1932-1933) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 19 minutes, 14 seconds)

A society lady whose husband is running for office throws a special dinner for the poor kids in the area, so the Gang all decide to go. In the process, they help foil a “family” of thieves, with two midgets posing as little babies. This short’s main claim to fame is that it was George McFarland’s series debut as “Spanky,” a role he would play for another decade. Stymie (Matthew Beard) still provides most of the laughs with his quips, as well as him being the only one to realize that the “babies” are midgets (or, as he puts it, “fidgets”). Overall, it’s an entertaining short, and worth seeing again!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Casey Bats Again (1954)

(Available as an extra on the Melody Time Blu-ray from Disney)

(Length: 7 minutes, 42 seconds)

A sequel short to the original Casey At The Bat (part of Make Mine Music from 1946), this short takes up where the earlier one left off.  After his fateful loss, Casey is greeted by his wife with the news of an impending pregnancy.  He hopes for a son, but he winds up with nine daughters over several attempts (and a baseball team of his own).  I think it’s a fun (albeit dated) short, since it gives us a little more Casey.  It’s admittedly a far cry from the original, especially with a different narrator (instead of the very fun Jerry Colonna), and it’s rather sexist treatment of the girls (even if it does allow them to play baseball).  There is some humor to be found (in between Casey himself fighting to get into the game after being locked out and him essentially repeating his almost miss from the previous story), but that is the most to be said about this inferior sequel to a classic short.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Donald Applecore (1952)

(Available as an extra on the Melody Time Blu-ray from Disney)

(Length: 6 minutes, 44 seconds)

Apple farmer Donald Duck has to contend with Chip ‘n’ Dale when they start taking his crop.  Donald Duck vs. Chip ‘n’ Dale.  For me, that alone says all I need to know, as Chip ‘n’ Dale are among my favorite Disney characters, and them squaring off against Donald Duck is always entertaining.  The basic structure of the plot may be similar to a number of the other Donald vs. the chipmunks cartoons, but the gags are fun here, with the two chipmunks generally getting the upper hand over Donald.  I’ve seen this one many a time, and it’s one I have no problem coming back to again and again for a good laugh!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Lambert, The Sheepish Lion (1952)

(Available as an extra on the Melody Time Blu-ray from Disney)

(Length: 8 minutes, 15 seconds)

The stork has a mix-up in his delivery, and a lion cub named Lambert ends up being adopted by an ewe in a flock of sheep.  The other sheep make fun of him for being so different, but when a wolf comes around, will he be able to help save his mother?  Another fun short, with Sterling Holloway providing the narration (and also voicing the stork).  In some respects, another variation on the “Ugly Duckling” story, which adds some heart as we see Lambert trying to fit in.  It’s hard not to cheer for the big guy when he has to help his mother out and prove himself in the process.  I certainly find this one very entertaining, and like to see it every now and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Following in the footsteps of Make Mine Music, Melody Time was a package film, consisting of several shorter stories (in this case, seven), which were put together to help make a feature film. One of them, “Pecos Bill,” was initially planned to be paired with their version of “The Wind In The Willows” and the story of “Casey Jones.” Of course, “The Wind In The Willows” ended up being paired off with “The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow” for The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad (1949), “Casey Jones” wasn’t produced, and “Pecos Bill” was paired up with the story of Johnny Appleseed. Melody Time did well enough at the box office, but, like Make Mine Music, it was not reissued to theatres. Instead, some segments were given individual releases, and about five of them were later paired with four segments from Make Mine Music into another feature called Music Land (1955).

Due to the nature of this film, with its shorter sections, I will in some respects be treating them like my normal Coming Up Shorts! comments on theatrical shorts (like I did with Make Mine Music).

Once Upon A Wintertime

In this segment, Frances Langford sings the song “Once Upon A Wintertime” over a story of two couples (one human couple and one rabbit couple) who go out for an afternoon of ice skating.  Things start to go sour when the two males try to show off for their lady friends (only to make them angry instead).   Then the ice cracks, and the men, with the aid of some other animal friends, must save the ladies.  I’ve seen this one many times in my life (through this movie and various Disney Christmas programs that include the short, plus clips used as background for the song “Jingle Bells” on an old Disney Christmas Sing-a-long VHS), and it’s one that I still enjoy seeing! I admit, with age comes experience, and I can see that it’s treatment of the female characters is a bit sexist, with them getting into trouble (which, to be fair, was at least partly caused by one of the males) and fainting. Still, it’s a beautiful song, with equally beautiful animation and an entertaining story that keeps me coming back, even if I have seen it many, many times before!

Bumble Boogie

For this short, Freddy Martin and his orchestra play a swing-jazz variation of the song “Flight Of The Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Onscreen, a bee finds himself dealing with various instruments and piano keys chasing him around. This piece was, like the Blue Bayou segment in Make Mine Music, another short that had been considered for use in Fantasia (1940), but abandoned for that film. While there really isn’t a lot of story to this segment, I will readily admit that it is a fun one! The music itself is entertaining, and the action onscreen as we follow the bee works quite well together! It may not be this film’s best short, but it certainly doesn’t detract from the movie itself!

The Legend Of Johnny Appleseed

In this segment, we get the Disneyfied version of the life of John Chapman, better known in legend as Johnny Appleseed. Dennis Day provides the voices for Johnny, his guardian angel, and the old settler telling the story. Around the time that this movie was made, several of the studios were considering film projects about John Chapman (and Groucho Marx was considering a Broadway musical about him), but this segment ended up being the only one of those projects to be produced. Personally, I like this short the best of the seven in this movie. It’s a fun tale, with its memorable moments of humor (particularly when Johnny first deals with some of the forest animals, including a skunk). It’s the music that sticks with me, though, particularly the song “The Lord Is Good To Me.” Obviously, with a song like that, you can easily guess that this one does contain some more religious content, but that works quite well for me (and is, again, part of its appeal). This short alone has brought me back to the movie many, many times over the years!

Little Toot

In this segment (based on the 1939 story by Hardie Gramatky), the Andrews Sisters narrate/sing the story of a tugboat named Little Toot. This little tugboat continually got into trouble, until he was exiled from the city. In the midst of a storm at sea, only he can save a ship in distress. This one has always been a fun short, with a very entertaining story. The Andrews Sisters (in what would be the last movie to involve their whole group) tell the story well, and help add to the fun. I’ve seen this one many times, and it is always fun to come back to!


This segment features a rendition of the 1913 Joyce Kilmer Poem “Trees.” Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians perform the music (by Oscar Rasbach) and recite the poem. There is no plot to this one, just the scenery in a forest through different weather and seasons. As a result, I would describe this one as the weakest segment in the film. It is by no means terrible, though, as the animation and scenery are absolutely beautiful to see, making it a nice little diversion to sit through.

Blame It On The Samba

Donald Duck and José Carioca are feeling a little blue, until the Aracuan Bird helps perk them up with the rhythms of samba music! This one is very entertaining, with the song (“Apanhei-te, Cavaquinho” by Ernesto Nazareth) played onscreen by organist Ethel Smith, with the Dinning Sisters singing the lyrics. It’s fun to enjoy more of Donald and José, but I really enjoy getting another appearance by the Aracuan bird. His antics are crazy (as he first cheers the other two up and then starts picking on them), which is the source of much of the humor for this section. I know I enjoy watching it every time I see this movie! The only disappointment is that this is one of only three appearances in classic Disney for the Aracuan Bird (preceded by the 1944 movie The Three Caballeros and the 1947 Donald Duck short Clown Of The Jungle), and of the three, it’s the only one that he doesn’t really do his little “song” (which is mainly what I remember the character for). Still, that’s not enough to keep me from coming back to this one!

Pecos Bill

Luana Patten and Bobby Driscoll are out camping in the desert with Roy Rogers and the Sons Of The Pioneers, when the two kids are scared by some coyotes howling. To allay their fears, Roy and the others tell them the story of the legendary Pecos Bill, his horse Widowmaker and Slue Foot Sue. This segment is another one that I have always found entertaining, from the music to the characters and the outlandish story! Granted, it’s also the most dated, what with its stereotypes of the Native Americans and some of the sexism inherent in the story (and some of the young kids’ comments). But, it’s entertaining, and quite ridiculous, which makes it worthwhile to enjoy this one!

My Overall Impression

This is one of those Disney movies that I’ve seen a number of times over the years, going all the way back to the era of VHS (although I went through a long period of not seeing it between the times I saw it on VHS and the recent Blu-ray). As a result, I’ll readily admit that I have a soft spot for this movie. Apart from the Once Upon A Wintertime segment, I mainly know all of the segments through this movie, so it’s a lot easier for me to have higher opinions of this film overall (compared to Make Mine Music). My opinions of the various sections may differ, but I do enjoy them all, particularly The Legend Of Johnny Appleseed for the reasons I mentioned already. Trees is the weak spot, but the fact that I can still enjoy it is one of the reasons why this film is always such a treat for me to see. I think I may have a higher opinion of a few of the individual shorts in Make Mine Music, but when it comes to the overall film, Melody Time is the better one in my book, and one I would definitely recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Disney. The Blu-ray release is available exclusively through the Disney Movie Club (or, for those who can’t become members, it can also be found through other sellers on eBay and other sites). Like their Blu-ray release of Make Mine Music, I think this one looks pretty good (although, to be fair, I have seen complaints against both of these suffering from similar transfer issues to most of Disney’s animated classics, such as DNR and the like, so take that how you will). However, unlike Make Mine Music, this film is completely UNCUT, which should make it more appealing for fans. It also has, as indicated above, three classic Disney shorts included as extras. The only other complaint I’ve seen lodged against this release is the audio, but I’m not sure of the exact problem (since I don’t exactly have the most advanced home theater equipment). As far as I’m concerned, I can understand everything clearly (even without the included subtitles), so this is a release I would still recommend for those who like this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 16 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Roy Rogers – Son Of Paleface (1952)

Road To Rio (1947) – The Andrews Sisters

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) – Frances Langford

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!

“Star Of The Month (February 2022)” Featuring Deanna Durbin in… Something In The Wind (1947)

We’re back again today for another film featuring this month’s Star, Deanna Durbin!  This time, it’s her 1947 film Something In The Wind. The film itself was based on a story by Fritz Rotter and Charles O’Neal called For the Love of Mary. That was originally planned as this film’s title, until they changed it to its current title, and saved that one for what ended up being her final film a year later. This movie also stars Donald O’Connor and John Dall!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Beach Nut (1944)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)

Wally Walrus has come to the beach to relax, but Woody Woodpecker keeps pestering him. This one was quite entertaining! It was Wally Walrus’ first appearance in the series, and he seems to be a worthy foe to Woody! It’s hard not to feel sorry for Wally, who was continually attacked by Woody without provocation (at first), and kept losing no matter what he did. Still, Woody’s antics were quite hilarious, and I look forward to further pairings for these two!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Mary Collins (Deanna Durbin) is a singing DJ on the radio, and has been trying to find a sponsor for her show.  One day, she is told that somebody wants to meet with her, and, assuming that the man is a potential sponsor, she agrees to the meeting.  However, it turns out to be the wealthy Donald Read (John Dall), who essentially accuses her of being his late grandfather Henry’s mistress, and he offers her a cash settlement so that she would make no claims to the family estate.  She tells him that she has no idea who he is (or who his grandfather was), and storms out of there.  At home, she finds out from her Aunt Mary Collins (Jean Adair) that her aunt had been a governess for the family, and loved Henry.  However, the Read family didn’t approve, and she was fired.  When she had to start taking care of her niece Mary (after the younger Mary’s parents died), the aunt had turned to Henry for financial help, which he gave her.  Meanwhile, Donald reported the younger Mary’s refusal to settle to his Grandma Read (Margaret Wycherly), who then demands that he and his cousin Charlie Read (Donald O’Connor) bring Mary to her the next day.  At the radio station, the two kidnap her, and bring her to the Read estate.  She still refuses to settle, and tries to tell them the truth, but they won’t listen, as they’re worried about the potential of a scandal derailing Donald’s planned marriage to Clarissa Prentice (Helena Carter).  Since they won’t listen, she demands a million dollars to help support her and her “baby.”  The Reads reluctantly agree, but want Mary to stay at the estate until their lawyers can draw up the legal papers.  When Clarissa shows up unexpectedly, Mary is sent off with cousin Charlie, who reveals that he knows that Mary is a fake. Instead of revealing that to the rest of the family, Charlie asks for Mary’s help in breaking up Donald’s engagement to Clarissa (since he is in love with Clarissa himself), and Mary agrees to help him. Under Charlie’s advice, Mary flirts with Donald at a fashion show (that Clarissa and her father are also attending). In between Mary’s attempts to ruin his relationship with Clarissa and Mary’s indecisiveness about actually accepting the cash settlement, Donald is getting quite frustrated. As a result, Charlie puts forth a different idea, suggesting that Donald try romancing Mary instead to get her to agree. Donald tries all right, and it works too well, as he and Mary find themselves falling for each other. Grandma Read sees this, and decides to have a talk with Mary. She threatens to disinherit Donald (which doesn’t bother Mary, since she really doesn’t want the money, anyways), and questions whether Donald himself would be happy that way. That’s enough for Mary to reconsider her relationship with Donald, and she decides to leave. Donald’s opportunistic uncle, Chester Read (Charles Winninger), has Mary thrown in jail for extortion, and offers to help get her out in exchange for half the check from his family (an offer which Mary turns down). She tries turning to Donald for help, but the Read family attorneys get there first with the check, and Mary accepts it, if only to break up with Donald by convincing him that she was only after the money. Will Donald and Mary get together yet, or will Grandma Read get her way?

It’s been said that Deanna Durbin hated the last three films she made (a group that includes Something In The Wind), but I found this one to be quite fun! Deanna is still in good voice here, and I think that she had at least three good songs here, including “The Turntable Song,” “Miserere” and the title tune. From a comedic standpoint, “Miserere” was fun, as she sings with the guard at the jail (all the while trying to get the key to her cell off of him so that she could make a phone call), and, when all is said and done, the guard knew what she was trying to do! The rest of the fun is in watching her pick on John Dall’s Donald Read (since he comes across as very annoying right from the start, and arguably quite deserving of everything that she dishes out to him). I will agree that it’s not one of her best movies, but I still think she is good enough to make it worthwhile.

That being said, I think Donald O’Connor steals the movie (in what was his first film back after serving in the army). His biggest moment is the “Make ‘Em Laugh”-esque “I Love A Mystery” song, with him doing some of his stunts and pratfalls, showing what some of the heroes in mystery stories go through! I certainly enjoyed that song quite a bit (and he even brought in Deanna for a little bit of dancing)! He also gets to do some comedic stuff for the song “Happy Go Lucky And Free” as well, but that’s not quite as much fun. The only complaint I have is that the film tells us that he likes Helena Carter’s Clarissa, but we never see much of a relationship between them (and, quite frankly, I would have much preferred to see him end up with Deanna Durbin’s Mary, especially since he was the male lead of the film, billing-wise). It’s not a perfect film by any means, but I enjoyed it like I have with all the Deanna Durbin films that I’ve seen so far (so, yes, I do recommend it)!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Something In The Wind (1947)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios.  The Blu-ray seems to be using an HD scan that looks pretty good.  There are some semi-frequent appearances of spots and dirt (more so than there has been on some of the other Deanna Durbin films that I’ve seen up to this point), but nothing so terrible or egregious as to make the film unwatchable.  Certainly as good as one can hope for in this case (since it was one of the nine films Kino Lorber Studio Classics had originally licensed and then was one of the six dropped after disappointing sales on their first three-film set of Deanna Durbin films), and certainly recommended for fans of the movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 29 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Because Of Him (1946)Deanna DurbinFor The Love Of Mary (1948)

Donald O’Connor – Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

John Dall – Gun Crazy (1950)

Little Nellie Kelly (1940) – Charles Winninger

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!

“Star Of The Month (February 2022)” Featuring Deanna Durbin in… Because Of Him (1946)

We’re back for another film featuring this month’s Star, Deanna Durbin! This time, it’s her 1946 film Because Of Him, also starring Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Barber Of Seville (1944)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 56 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker stops in at the Seville Barber Shop for a haircut, but the owner is out for his physical. When an Indian chief and a construction worker come in, Woody proceeds to wreak havoc on the two men. This was another fun one! I’ll admit, it quickly brings to mind the later Rabbit Of Seville Bugs Bunny cartoon, given its references to the Barber Of Seville opera, and is not quite as much fun as that Looney Tunes cartoon. The biggest problem here is the series of stereotyped gags revolving around the Native American customer. Take away that, and this one is a lot of fun, especially once Woody starts in singing “The Barber Of Seville Overture” while working on the construction worker. That sequence alone is well worth it (and, compared to some of the previous shorts, Woody Woodpecker is now sporting the look that he seems to be best known for)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Lead stage actor John Sheridan (Charles Laughton) has just finished a successful run in the play Cyrano De Bergerac, and is looking forward to enjoying his vacation doing nothing but fishing. However, his producer, Charlie Gilbert (Stanley Ridges), is trying to line up the cast for John’s next show, Strange Laughter, currently being written by Paul Taylor (Franchot Tone). The playwright and producer both have an actress in mind for the lead, but John wants somebody else (but doesn’t say who before leaving). On his way to his fishing spot, John stops at a diner, where he gives an autograph to his waitress, Kim Walker (Deanna Durbin). What he doesn’t know is that the piece of paper that she had him sign was a typed letter of introduction to Charlie Gilbert endorsing her for the role! With the encouragement of her friend and roommate Nora Bartlett (Helen Broderick), Kim takes the letter to Charlie’s office. Charlie (who was unable to get ahold of John since John had given him false information as to where he would be going fishing) takes the letter at face value and decides to give her the part. When he comes into Charlie’s office, Paul (who had met her on the street and tried to flirt with her) questions her about her stage experience. When he finds out that she has none, his attitude toward her changes, and he decides that she cannot have the part. Choosing to go with “John’s” advice, Charlie decides to ignore Paul, and throws a party at John’s apartment to announce her for the role. John arrives at his apartment while the party is going on (having ended his vacation early due to frequent rain preventing him from doing any fishing), and quickly finds out what is going on from his butler, Martin (Donald Meek). He allows Kim to keep her deception going, but tries to walk her home as soon as possible. Once they arrive, he admits that he does like her, but advises her to return to her hometown. Seeing how devastated Kim is over his words, Nora decides to call up the newspapers and tell them that Kim attempted suicide because of John’s rejection. The next day, after seeing the news, John decides to go “reconcile” with her and take her out to a nightclub (merely for the sake of appearances). Afterwards, he still believes she should abandon her hope of acting. That is, until he hears her sing, and then he decides to give her the part in the play. When she arrives back at her apartment, she runs into Paul, who had seen the paper and thought that she had tried to commit suicide because of him. They start to fall for each other, and he offers her the part. Then he sees the script that John had given her, and, although she tries to tell him the truth, he refuses to believe her. In rehearsals, he really picks on her acting, which results in John threatening to leave the show if Paul doesn’t stop. So, Paul leaves, with John now directing the show. As the show opening gets closer, Paul sues to have his name removed from the play. Kim tries to convince him to come see the final rehearsals, but he won’t budge. Will the play be a success? Will Paul come to his senses about Kim?

After It Started With Eve, Deanna Durbin had tried to branch out with different types of roles under producer Felix Jackson (who became her second husband in 1945). She tried tackling some more dramatic roles, but her fans much preferred her in the musical comedies that she was known for. So, Universal made plans for her to work with her It Started With Eve co-star and friend Charles Laughton (although the film was originally to be titled Catherine The Last). When Franchot Tone (who had co-starred with her in Nice Girl? and His Butler’s Sister) was brought in, the title became Because Of Him. When released, the film received mixed to bad reviews, which certainly didn’t help Deanna Durbin out any as her career was now winding down.

Quite simply stated, another Deanna Durbin film, another new one to me, and another one that I liked! Overall, it was quite a fun film, and kept me laughing throughout! Deanna is fun as a wannabe actress trying to find an inroads into the profession (even if she really doesn’t know much about acting), and Charles Laughton’s John Sheridan is also a hoot! I thoroughly enjoyed watching him ham things up as an actor constantly borrowing lines from his plays and making everything more dramatic (and teaching her a thing or two in the process). Plain and simple, their relationship is the heart of the film, and makes it quite entertaining!

In spite of that, though, I will readily admit, it’s one of the weaker Deanna Durbin films I’ve seen so far. The main issue I have with the film is the relationship between Deanna’s Kim and Franchot Tone’s Paul, as they spend most of the film at odds with each other. It starts out innocently (and humorously) enough, as he flirts with her when he meets her on the street (even if she doesn’t give him her phone number). Then, when he realizes that she is an amateur trying to make it into his play, he soundly rejects her for the part, and never lets up (except when he briefly believes that she attempted suicide “because of him”). The idea that they are “in love” just doesn’t work too well for me. I’m also not too crazy about the music in the film, although I will say that I enjoyed how it was staged (with Deanna singing “Good Bye” standing out quite a bit, as she tries to pester Paul throughout his hotel in an attempt to get him to come to the final dress rehearsal). With regards to Deanna’s co-stars here, I don’t think this film is as good as It Started With Eve or Nice Girl? (can’t speak to His Butler’s Sister, as I haven’t seen that one yet). It was still an entertaining one that I look forward to seeing again and again (whether on its own merits or in watching any of Deanna’s filmography)! Certainly one that I would recommend!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Because Of Him (1946)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios. The Blu-ray release appear to be an HD scan that overall looks very good, with little to no damage evident. I’ll admit, I was surprised to see this one released on Blu-ray, since it was NOT one of the nine Deanna Durbin films that Kino Lorber had licensed (with six of them getting dropped when the first three-film set bombed). I didn’t expect this release, but it looks quite good, and is probably the best way to see this very fun film!

Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Can’t Help Singing (1944)Deanna DurbinSomething In The Wind (1947)

It Started With Eve (1941) – Charles Laughton – Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952)

Nice Girl? (1941) – Franchot Tone – Here Come The Groom (1951)

Nice Girl? (1941) – Helen Broderick

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!

“Star Of The Month (February 2022)” Featuring Deanna Durbin in… Can’t Help Singing (1944)

I’m here now for my first film in this month-long celebration of actress Deanna Durbin with her 1944 film Can’t Help Singing, co-starring Robert Paige, Akim Tamiroff and David Bruce!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Ration Bored (1943)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 51 seconds)

Disregarding the idea of conserving gas and tires, Woody Woodpecker goes out for a drive, only to run out of gas at the bottom of a hill. He and his car are then smacked into a junkyard, where he siphons gas from a few other vehicles, including a cop car (with the cop in it). Seeing as this short was released during World War II, it’s hard to cheer for Woody at first as he ignores the good sense to conserve gas (although it’s hard not to laugh when, as he sees a sign asking if a trip is really necessary, he replies with “Sure, it’s necessary. I’m a necessary evil!”). Once he starts dealing with the poor cop, then it’s a little more typical Woody Woodpecker (and a much better cartoon from that point on). Certainly not the best Woody cartoon I’ve seen in this bunch, but I can’t deny it was worth a few laughs!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s the time of the gold rush in California, and the U.S. cavalry has just delivered the first shipment of gold to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. After finding out the results of the recent election, cavalryman Lieutenant Robert Latham (David Bruce) has rejected the daughter of an outgoing senator in favor of the daughter of the more popular (and successful) Senator Martin Frost (Ray Collins). The senator knows that the lieutenant is a political opportunist, but his daughter Caroline (Deanna Durbin) believes the lieutenant’s intentions to be true, and wants to marry him. Trying to discourage the romance, the senator uses his political connections to get the lieutenant sent back to California as quickly as possible. That’s not enough to stop Caroline, as she tricks her father into giving her enough money to catch up to the lieutenant and runs away. Once she gets to Independence, Missouri, she finds out that her only way forward is to join up with the wagon train heading west. After she realizes that she has been conned into buying a wagon by Sad Sam (Andrew Tombes) (who doesn’t own the wagon that he “sold” her), she tries to get her money back. However, Sad Sam has lost the money in a poker game to another card sharp, Johnny Lawlor (Robert Paige). When the owner of the bar announces that the local marshal has warrants for many people, including card sharps and the daughter of a senator (whose father is offering a substantial reward for her return), they both skedaddle. Johnny realizes that Caroline is the senator’s daughter, but he can’t quite turn her in by himself due to the warrant for his arrest. She decides to offer him double what her father is offering in exchange for getting her to Fort Bridger (where her fiancé is stationed), with the money to be paid by the rich Jake Carstairs (Thomas Gomez) (whom she claims is her fiancé instead of the lieutenant). Johnny reluctantly agrees to the proposition, and they pay for the wagon that Caroline had tried to buy earlier (but this time, from the rightful owner). They find themselves joined by Prince Gregory Stroganovsky (Akim Tamiroff) and his friend Koppa (Leonid Kinskey), who had been trying to get into Caroline’s trunk after she had previously told them it contained her valuables. In order for their group to join the wagon train, they have to pretend that Gregory is Caroline’s husband (since the leader of the train doesn’t want any unattached females that he has to help keep out of trouble). Over the trek, Caroline and Johnny argue a bit, but they also find themselves falling for each other. The spell is broken, though, when the train nears Fort Bridger, and Johnny helps Caroline join up with another family heading that way. But will their love bring them back together? Or will Johnny find out the truth about who she was going to see?

Ever since the late thirties, there were plans to showcase actress Deanna Durbin in Technicolor, but for various reasons, she either ended up not doing the films being planned, or they were done in black-and-white. Finally, they ended up pulling it off with Can’t Help Singing, a film that was based on the story Girl of the Overland Trail (written by Samuel J. and Curtis B. Warshawsky). The film was at least partly shot on location in Lake Arrowhead, California as well as various places in Utah (including, but not limited to, Johnson Canyon, Duck Creek, Cascade Falls, Navajo Lake, Strawberry Point, and Cedar Breaks). Up to that point, Can’t Help Singing was one of Universal’s more expensive films to produce, but it ended up being pretty well received, and was nominated for Oscars with regard to the score and the song “More And More.”

Like all the other Deanna Durbin films that I’ve seen (and reviewed), this film was new to me, and I will readily admit that I think it’s one of her better films! In color, she (and the scenery) look quite beautiful (and it certainly makes me wish that she had done more films in Technicolor)! As usual, her singing is superb, but I will definitely admit to liking the title song quite a bit, with the song “Californ-I-Ay” coming in a close second. That latter song has led some to compare the film a little bit to the stage classic Oklahoma, but I would say that the movie feels to me like a version of the classic screwball comedy It Happened One Night set in the old west (after all, we have a daughter’s potential marriage being rejected by her father, her running away to see her boyfriend, only to fall for someone else who helps her out). I certainly wouldn’t say that Can’t Help Singing is anywhere near as good as that classic, but it’s an enjoyable film with a fun cast, beautiful (and fun!) music, and great scenery! In short, like all the other Deanna Durbin movies I’ve seen so far, I would recommend this film without a moment of hesitation!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Can’t Help Singing (1944)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios. By and large, this movie looks quite good on the recent Blu-ray release! It really seems to show off the Technicolor look quite well! There seems to be some (barely noticeable) dirt here and there, but, again, it doesn’t really distract from the movie itself. I certainly like how it looks, and would have no hesitation in recommending the Blu-ray as the best way to see the movie (especially since it was one of the nine films originally licensed by Kino Lorber but dropped when their first set of Deanna Durbin films failed to sell)!

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #4 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

It Started With Eve (1941)Deanna DurbinBecause Of Him (1946)

The Great McGinty (1940) – Akim Tamiroff

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… In The Good Old Summertime (1949)

We’re back for one final post in the “What’s Old Is A New Release Again” series to finish out 2021.  This one is on the 1949 Christmas musical In The Good Old Summertime starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Chicago, The Beautiful (1948)

(Available as an extra on the In The Good Old Summertime Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 15 seconds)

This short from MGM’s series of TravelTalk shorts (narrated by James A. FitzPatrick) focuses on the American city of Chicago.  We get to see some of the city and its landmarks (particularly from the era of the late 1940s).  Those include several of the city’s big hotels, the old Watertower, Buckingham’s Fountain and Lorado Taft’s Fountain of Time, among others.  Seeing what the city looked like at that time is interesting, but this short probably has greater significance for those who consider the city home or have a great interest in the city and its history.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Night Life In Chicago (1948)

(Available as an extra on the In The Good Old Summertime Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 8 minutes, 53 seconds)

This is another TravelTalk short on the city of Chicago.  This time, the focus is on the various hotels and other places that offer entertainment at night.  Place shown include the Walnut Room of the Bismarck Hotel, the Ambassador Hotel’s Pump Room, and the boardwalk at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, with some of the performers shown doing their various acts.  It’s an interesting idea (and, to a degree, you can’t help but wish they could have shown a lot more of the entertainment), but when all is said and done, most of the performers are quite unfamiliar to the average person, which takes away from the fun (especially when you do see some more famous names on the marquees that don’t make an appearance in this short).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Andrew “Andy” Larkin (Van Johnson) is the top salesman at Oberkugen’s Music Company in Chicago.  He has recently begun corresponding with a lady when he answered a personal ad in the paper (but neither pen pal knows who the other is).  Andy runs into trouble at work when his boss, Mr. Otto Oberkugen (S. Z. Sakall), orders one hundred harps, as Andy believes that they won’t sell due to the lack of market (which, of course, angers Mr. Oberkugen, since he likes them).  In comes Veronica Fisher (Judy Garland), who is looking for a job.  Andy and Mr. Oberkugen try to tell her that there isn’t any opening at the store currently, but Mr. Oberkugen hires her when she manages to sell one of the harps successfully (which, of course, gets her on the wrong side of Andy).  Andy continues to write to his pen pal (with the two of them slowly falling for each other), but doesn’t get along with Veronica at work.  The remaining ninety-nine harps continue to stay on the shelves (even with Mr. Oberkugen frequently trying to discount them), which causes friction between him and his bookkeeper/longtime girlfriend, Nellie Burke (Spring Byington).  One day, when she is so frustrated that she decides not to go out with him that evening (claiming she has a date with another man), Mr. Oberkugen’s jealousy gets the better of him, and he orders all his employees to stay after work for inventory (which really bothers everybody).  When Nellie decides to apologize to Mr. Oberkugen, he realizes how unjust he was being, and lets everyone go.  Andy had arranged to meet his pen pal at a restaurant that night, but when he and his co-worker/friend Rudy Hansen (Clinton Sundberg) arrive at the restaurant, they find out that his pen pal is none other than Veronica!  Disappointed, Andy leaves, but comes back later and tries to talk with Veronica (who gets very annoyed with him for disturbing her while she waits for her friend).  When she finally gives up and leaves, she finds a carnation outside (which Andy was supposed to wear to help identify himself as her friend). She believes that her friend had seen the two of them together and left, which depresses her enough that she calls in sick the next day.  Andy comes to visit her on his lunch break, and sees how much she perks up when she receives her next letter from her friend.  The next day, Mr. Oberkugen and Nellie have a party to celebrate their engagement, but, much to Andy’s chagrin, Mr. Oberkugen asks him to sneak in his prized Stradivarius violin (which he plays at work when he is low, except he does it poorly, much to the dismay of his employees).  Unsure what to do, Andy ends up loaning it to his friend Louise Parkson (Marcia Van Dyke) for an audition that night.  When he arrives at the party, Andy is unable to tell Mr. Oberkugen that he loaned it out, pretending that he just couldn’t bear to bring it and left it at home. When Mr. Oberkugen vehemently insists that Andy bring the violin, Andy borrows Louise’s violin, which Hickey (Buster Keaton), Mr. Oberkugen’s nephew (and one of his employees), accidentally breaks when he goes to give it to his uncle.  Andy is fired, but he gets the Stradivarius back after Louise’s audition goes well.  With him out of a job now, will he reveal himself as Veronica’s pen pal, or will they continue to stay apart?

This film, a remake of The Shop Around The Corner, was being considered as early as 1944, with the likes of Frank Sinatra and June Allyson attached to the film at one point or another.  By the time they got around to filming, Judy Garland was struggling a great deal at MGM, having been suspended (due to her addictions and illness causing her to miss shooting) from The Barkleys Of Broadway (originally intended as a follow-up to her successful teaming with Fred Astaire in Easter Parade), with her later filming two songs for Words And Music.  She had recovered her strength enough to do In The Good Old Summertime, and she was able to get through filming fairly easily (compared to some of her recent films), which some attributed to the cast and crew helping make sure that she felt needed, wanted, and happy.  Buster Keaton, who had been fired as a star by MGM in 1933 (but kept on as gag writer), was asked to help come up with a plausible (yet still funny) way to break a violin, and was cast when the director, Robert Leonard, realized that he was the only one who could do it (and Buster also came up with the comic bit when Van Johnson and Judy Garland’s characters first met at the post office).  It turned out to be his last film at the studio (and the introduction of Judy Garland’s young daughter, Liza Minelli), but the movie proved to be a hit at the box office.

I had originally seen this movie prior to The Shop Around The Corner (but we’ll get around to comparing them later), and it’s one that I’ve seen many times.  Of course, with a title like In The Good Old Summertime, you’d think that this was more of a summer movie, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, as all but about thirty minutes (give or take) takes place during the Yuletide season!    With Judy Garland taking pretty much all the musical chores, that of course means that we get her singing a holiday song, in the form of “Merry Christmas.”  To be fair, the song pales in comparison to “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” from Meet Me In St. Louis, but it certainly has its charm.  The real musical highlight of the film is Judy singing the song “I Don’t Care,” which is a lot of fun (and, quite frankly, Judy also looks like she’s having fun doing it)!  And while she doesn’t sing it, the title tune is also quite catchy (and prone to getting stuck in my head whenever I watch this movie)!  The rest of the cast makes this one enjoyable, too, especially S. Z. Sakall, who first made a big impression on me with this movie (and has been a fun character actor in every other film that I’ve seen him in since).  I do admit, the film’s biggest weakness is how underutilized Buster Keaton is, given that him breaking the violin is the only physical comedy bit that he does.   Still, this has always been a very entertaining movie for me to watch (at any time of the year, but especially around Christmas), and therefore, I have no qualms whatsoever in giving this film some of my highest recommendations!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… In The Good Old Summertime (1949)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection.  The Blu-ray makes use of a 4K scan of the original nitrate Technicolor negatives and preservation separations, and the results are typical of Warner Archive.  In short, it’s a great transfer, which allows the color to pop, and improves the detail over the earlier DVD.  Plain and simple, it’s a great release that treats this wonderful holiday classic right!

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #6 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Easter Parade (1948) – Judy Garland – Summer Stock (1950)

Van Johnson – The Caine Mutiny (1954)

My Dream Is Yours (1949) – S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall – The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950)

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) – Buster Keaton

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!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… A Night At The Opera (1935)

As I promised when I reviewed Animal Crackers recently, I had one more Marx Brothers film up my sleeve to review. So here we are for more fun with Groucho, Chico and Harpo in their 1935 classic comedy A Night At The Opera! Also, much like my review of Animal Crackers, I had some help and inspiration from some of my friends for this one, so I would like very much to thank Angela and Mary for their thoughts and ideas!

Coming Up Shorts! with… How To Sleep (1935)

(Available as an extra on the A Night At The Opera Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 40 seconds)

Robert Benchley gives a lecture on how to fall asleep. Of course, all we see is how much trouble he has falling asleep. Whether it’s trying to take a hot bath (or not), or trying to drink warm milk (and raiding the fridge at the same time), or the gymnastics that occur as one tries to sleep, it’s easy to relate to for those who struggle to get a good night’s sleep. Robert Benchley, of course, does a good job with the lecture, while also trying (and failing) to successfully demonstrate what he is talking about. Good fun, anyways!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Sunday Night At The Trocadero (1937)

(Available as an extra on the A Night At The Opera Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 20 minutes, 18 seconds)

Studio executives and various celebrities come to the Trocadero nightclub, in order to see the show being put on there. Reginald Denny is also on hand with his candid camera to get shots of the guests. It’s an interesting short, especially to see some of the various movie stars, like Robert Benchley, Frank Morgan and Groucho Marx (without his greasepaint mustache). There are a few fun songs, one or two of them with an accompanying dance routine that are entertaining. Some of the humor, particularly from Peter Lind Hayes as a uniformed messenger trying to do impressions for the execs, falls a bit flat. Honestly, the biggest problem here is that this short is very much in need of restoration, particularly for the sound, which is very hard to decipher sometimes.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Los Angeles: Wonder City Of The West (1935)

(Available as an extra on the A Night At The Opera Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 8 minutes, 32 seconds)

This short, from the TravelTalk series, focuses on Los Angeles. We see a few of the various landmarks of the city, before it focuses on a few of the movie studios. It’s fun seeing a few of the studios, especially RKO (which I haven’t seen too many pictures of). Near the end, the short stops at the Disney studios, and we even get to see Walt himself for a moment or two. I will still admit to not really being much of a fan of this series of shorts, but this one was kind of fun to see because of the movie studio aspects.

And Now For The Main Feature…

(The curtain is down.)

(Author): (Over loudspeakers) Welcome back everyone! Back by popular demand, it’s our Narrator, Host and Writer masquerading as the Marx Brothers! So heeeeere’s our Narrator again as Groucho!

(The Narrator comes walking out in that stooped manner that Groucho Marx was known for, wearing a tuxedo, horned-rimmed glasses, exaggerated eyebrows and a greasepaint mustache).

(Narrator): Thank you for that introduction, but that’s Nate Nubender to you! We do have names, you know!

(Author): (Walking onstage) So what? We’ve got more important things to do than worry about your silly names, so let’s get this show on the road! Raise the curtain!

(The curtain rises, revealing the set once again covered in Christmas decorations, including a tree, presents, lights and stockings on the fireplace. A steamer trunk is standing in the center of the stage. A banner reaches from one side to the other, with the phrase “How’s this, Lonnie Orangebottom?” printed across it.)

(Narrator): “Lonnie Orangebottom?” Whose funny name is that?

(Author): (Furious) Applebottom! That’s supposed to be “APPLEbottom!” Wait until I get my hands on those guys!

(Narrator): (Mocking the Author) What’s your problem? You said so yourself: We’ve got more important things to do than worry about your silly names!

(Author): Oh, shut up! I’m going to tell those two a thing or three when I find them (Walks offstage in a huff)

(Narrator): Well, now that I’ve got the stage to myself, it’s time for me to make a speech to introduce everything. Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!

(The audience pulls off their ears and throws them at the Narrator.)

(Narrator): Hmm, this audience has been watching some Mel Brooks lately… (Speaking to self) Hey, maybe I can use this… (Back to audience) Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your beards!

(Members of the audience pull off their beards and throw them at the stage, filling it with facial hair.)

(Narrator): That’s the ticket! (Whistles)

(The Writer comes on wearing a very large trench coat, a battered top hat, a blonde wig, and carrying a cane with a horn on one end and a broom on the other end, while also holding a bag. He starts sweeping the hair into the bag, and, when it is filled, takes it to the steamer trunk to empty it out.)

(Narrator): While he’s doing that, let’s get started with the story! The movie opens on the streets of Italy, as various Italians break out into bits of operatic tunes —

(Host): (From offstage) Hold it! (Pokes head in from the side) Before I come out, is “Orangebutt” here?

(Narrator): No, he’s off looking for you two elsewhere.

(Host): (Speaking in a fake Italian accent) That’s-a fine! (He walks out, wearing a curly-haired wig, a Tyrolean hat and some slightly run down clothes, as the Narrator shakes his head.)

(Narrator): Well, now that you’re out here, why did you stop me from telling the story?

(Host): Because you’re confusing some of the audience, that’s why! You’re trying to start with the film’s original opening, which hasn’t been seen in a LOOONG time (and you’re too young to have seen it yourself, you’re just trying to work with the description on the Wikipedia page). When the movie was originally released in 1935, it did indeed have a longer opening, and slightly longer running time. What later transpired was that the film was cut (when exactly, I’m not sure, as I’ve seen different sources state different timeframes). Everything that was cut from the film was particular references to Italy, partly due to the Italian government’s objections that it made fun of the Italian people. All those scenes were cut from the master negative (and supposedly destroyed), so that is the way that the movie has been seen ever since (and some of those edits are fairly noticeable). There is a rumor that —

(Author): (Gradually getting louder as if getting close to the stage) Where are they?

(In a comical, cartoonish fashion, the Host and the Writer both drop what they are doing and make a beeline for the steamer trunk. They manage to get it closed just a second before the Author pokes his head onstage.)

(Author): I could have sworn I heard the Host’s voice around here. Have you seen them?

(Narrator): Hearing voices, eh? You know that’s bad for you!

(Author): Oh, you’re no help! (Goes back to looking around offstage)

(Narrator): (Walks over to the trunk and locks the Host and Writer in) Serves those two right for interrupting the story. (Walks back to center stage, while the trunk starts shaking about) Anyway, the wealthy Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont) has hired Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho Marx) to help get her into society. So far, he hasn’t done much for the salary that she is paying him, but he has helped her contact opera impresario Herman Gottlieb (Sig Ruman, billed here as “Siegfried Rumann”) to help finance an opera show in America. Gottlieb tells her that they should sign Italian tenor Rodolpho Lassparri (Walter Woolf King), and when Driftwood hears how much they are willing to pay Lassparri, he decides to go sign Lassparri himself (and try to pocket some of the money). Meanwhile, at the theatre, Lassparri is angry with his dresser, Tomasso (Harpo Marx) –

(Host): (From inside trunk) Hey, are you going to let us out?

(Narrator): Not yet! As I was saying, Lassparri is angry with his dresser, Tomasso. He is also annoyed at leading lady Rosa Castaldi (Kitty Carlisle), who has spurned his affections in favor of one of the members of the chorus, Ricardo Barrone (Allan Jones). Ricardo’s childhood friend Fiorello (Chico Marx) returns after wandering from one job to another, and offers to be Ricardo’s manager. When Driftwood comes backstage after the opera to sign Lassparri, he ends up talking with Fiorello and accidentally signing Ricardo instead. When Gottlieb gets backstage, he rectifies Driftwood’s mistake, and so Gottlieb, Mrs. Claypool, Driftwood, Lassparri and Rosa (Lassparri’s choice of leading lady) get on a boat to head to America. Lonesome for Rosa, Ricardo stows away in Driftwood’s steamer trunk, along with Fiorello and Tomasso.

(Host): (From inside the still shaking trunk) Hey, let us out!

(Narrator): Oh, alright.

(As soon as he unlocks the trunk and they start to walk out, they hear the sounds of the Author’s returning footsteps, and hurriedly get back in the trunk. The Narrator finishes locking them in and turns around to lean on the trunk just as the Author comes back onstage.)

(Narrator): Any luck finding them?

(Author): (Frustrated) None at all. They seem to have left the building.

(Narrator): Ah, too bad. Shall we get back to the story?

(Author): Eh. I’ll let you get back to it in a moment. In the meantime, we’ve got to plan the Thanksgiving meal. The Christmas decorations may not matter much, but we do need to have the meal planned out. (Pulls phone out of pocket) What do you think we need?

(Narrator): Well, we need some food, that’s for sure.

(Author): (Frustrated and annoyed) I KNOW that. What should we get?

(Narrator): What have we got for drinks?

(Author): Well, we’ve got our regular milk, chocolate milk, strawberry milk, milkshakes –

(Narrator): Whoa, whoa! Let’s turn off the taps on those cows, we don’t want to milk this joke too much, as we only need the regular stuff!

(The Author writes this down on his phone as the Narrator is speaking.)

(Narrator): So let’s see, we need some turkey, with all the stuffing.

(Host): (From inside the trunk) With two slices of ham.

(Narrator): With two slices of ham.

(Honk from inside trunk)

(Narrator): Make that three slices of ham.

(Author): What else?

(Narrator): Well, we need some scrambled eggs, deviled eggs and green eggs.

(Host): (From inside the trunk) With two slices of ham.

(Narrator): With two slices of ham.

(Honk from inside trunk)

(Narrator): Make that three slices of ham.

(Author): (Looking up from phone) Green eggs and ham?

(Narrator): Well, you didn’t expect me to just pass by the obvious reference did you, Sam I Am?

(Author): (Shaking his head as he goes back to his phone) What else?

(Narrator): Well, how about some baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and fried potatoes.

(Host): (From inside the trunk) With two slices of ham.

(Narrator): With two slices of ham.

(Honk from inside trunk)

(Narrator): Make that three slices of ham.

(Author): Any fruits or salads?

(Narrator): Have you got any grapefruit?

(Author): Yes.

(Narrator): Well, squeeze the grapes out for some wine, and that’ll be our fruit.

(Host): (From inside the trunk) With two slices of ham.

(Narrator): With two slices of ham.

(Honk from inside trunk)

(Narrator): Make that three slices of ham.

(Short honk from inside trunk)

(Narrator): And one slice of pork.

(Author): (Starting to get suspicious) Any dessert?

(Narrator): What options are there for pie?

(Author): Apple, pumpkin, cherry and raspberry.

(Narrator): Well, give them some ice cream and leave the sugary stuff in my room. No sense in giving those two enough sugar to start bouncing off the walls. We just finished repairing them from the last time.

(Host): (From inside the trunk) With two slices of ham.

(Narrator): With two slices of ham.

(A series of twelve honks from inside trunk as a fog bank rolls in from right stage.)

(Narrator): I would have said make that fourteen slices of ham, but there seems to be a fog bank rolling in. Better get that food ordered so that it can get here!

(Author): Ok. (Starts walking towards right stage, mumbling to himself) How in the world a fog bank is coming in to a stage, I’ll never know… (Walks offstage)

(Narrator): (Unlocking the trunk and poking his head in) That’s just fine. We know he’s an idiot, but you do realize that every time you open your mouth, I’m taking a big chance on him not figuring it out?

(Author): (Coming back toward stage) Hey!

(The Narrator quickly closes up the trunk and turns to look towards the Author.)

(Author): I found the source of the fog! Somebody left a fan running over here by the dry ice!

(Narrator): Well, that’s fine! Why don’t you turn it off and get around to the food?

(Author): OK!

(The Author goes back off to turn off the fan. The Narrator starts turning around again to open up the trunk, but the Author pokes his head back out, forcing the Narrator to abandon that action.)

(Author): I forgot to mention, getting the turkey might be difficult, as they seem to be a bit scarce this year.

(Narrator): Don’t worry about the turkey. I’ll take care of that.

(Author): OK. But don’t forget, if you find the other two, tell them that you all need to tame your antics down. This isn’t a review about one of Paramount Marx Brothers films, where they were a lot more anarchic. After doing Duck Soup at Paramount (long considered something of a flop), they came to MGM on the urging of producer Irving Thalberg (a bridge partner of Chico’s). Under Thalberg’s direction, they became less anarchic, and more focused on helping the lead romantic couple against whatever villains they faced (as opposed to anybody who happened to cross the Marx Brothers’ paths). (Goes back offstage)

(The Narrator finally has his chance, and lets the Host and Writer out of the trunk.)

(Host): He does realize that’s why we’re picking on HIM, right? That he’s our “villain?”

(Narrator): Who know, and who cares? The fun is in getting his goat! (Turns to the Writer) Now, it’s YOUR job to get a turkey! So get going!

(The Writer salutes him with his cane, and starts marching offstage.)

(Narrator): Well, now that that’s taken care of, shall we get back to the story?

(Host): Yes, let’s.

(Narrator): As I was about to say before that mess, when the three stowaways get out and about on the ship, they are caught and locked up. With Driftwood’s help, they escape, and disguise themselves as three famous bearded aviators. However, when the ship docks, they are taken to a ceremony at city hall, where police sergeant Henderson (Robert Emmett O’Connor) realizes that they are fakes. All three escape, and stay with a reluctant Driftwood at his hotel.

(All of a sudden, the air is filled with feathers, as the Writer comes in chasing a turkey and swinging a rubber mallet. The Narrator and the Host start ducking to avoid being hit with the mallet.)

(Host): That looks like the (Ducks down) turkey from Room Service, doesn’t it?

(Narrator): (Ducks down) That certainly looks like the (Ducks down), the one, yes.

(Host): Well, it looks like we’ve got our Thanksgiving Turkey cover –

(The Writer hits the Host on the head with the mallet, knocking him out. The Writer stops chasing the turkey, which gets away, and catches the Host, putting the mallet under his head to hold him up. He pulls out a bottle of smelling salts, and waves them under the Host’s nose.)

(Narrator): That’s good. That shows that you’re sorry.

(The Host starts to wake up. Before he can finish sitting up, the Writer grabs the mallet and hits him on the head again, knocking him out.)

(Narrator): Serves him right. I’ve been meaning to get rid of him and hire a new Host, anyways. Know anybody that’s available?

(The Writer nods enthusiastically, pointing to himself.)

(Narrator): Oh, so you’re available. Well, that’s fine. Let me get a contract out for you. (Pulls a couple of contracts out and starts reading them.) Let’s see… this contract is for an E. Hu… (Looks down at the unconscious Host and sets the contract on him before looking at the next one.) Alright, and this one hasn’t been signed yet, so we’re good. Now, shall we go over it together?

(The Writer nods.)

(Narrator): Ok. The first part says that, uh… “The party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part.” That sound good to you so far?

(The Writer nods. The Host starts to wake up, and the Writer hit him again with the mallet.)

(Narrator): Stay asleep, you. Now, what’s next? Oh, yes. “The party of the second part shall be known in this contract as the party of the second part.” How’s that?

(The Writer frowns, and tears off the top part of his contract.)

(Narrator): That bad, huh? Well then… (Tears off the top part of his contract) Uh… “The party of the third part shall be known in this contract -“

(The Writer grimace and tears off another part of the contract.)

(Narrator): Now, is my word worth anything to you about the next few paragraphs?

(The Writer shakes his head “no.”)

(Narrator): Well, then, let’s – (Tears off more of his contract.)

(The Writer tears off most of his contract.)

(Narrator): Not much left, is there? You must have really been on a tear last night! Is what’s left good enough for you?

(The Writer nods, and then hits the slowly reawakening Host with the mallet again.)

(Narrator): Ok, then. Why don’t you sign it?

(The Writer nods, and then signs it “I. Watt.”)

(Narrator): That’s fine. Now, I’ve got a new Host! (Starts to pocket the contract)

(The Writer notices the last paragraph, and points to it to show the Narrator.)

(Narrator): What? That? That says “If any of the parties participating in this contract are shown not to be in their right mind, the entire agreement is automatically nullified.” That’s in every contract! That’s what’s known as the sanity clause!

(The Writer looks at him with a quizzical look on his face.)

(Narrator): Now look, you. I made this contract with you, not him (Pointing to the unconscious Host). You better not be trying to tell me that there’s no Sanity Claus.

(The Writer shakes his head “no” vigorously, and pulls a white beard and a red Santa suit out of his overcoat and puts them on. He pulls a bell out of his coat, and starts to walk around the stage ringing it.)

(Narrator): (Tears up the rest of the contract) Well, there goes that. Either he’s insane, or I am. Either way, that contract is worthless.

(The Host wakes up and holds his head.)

(Host): Ouch. What hit me?

(Narrator): Haven’t you been hitting the eggnog a little early this year?

(Host): (Still holding his head.) No, who do you think I am, Oliver Wendell Douglas?

(Narrator): (Gives the Host a side-eye.) Well, we’ll let that one pass. Anyway, getting back to the story, on the day of the opera opening, Gottlieb and Lassparri gets Driftwood and Rosa fired from the opera company. All the men decide to try and help get Rosa back her job, but when Gottlieb decides to turn them in to the police, they try to lock him up in a closet and disrupt the opera.

(Author): (Coming back onstage) Well, the food order is all taken care of — (Spies the Host and Writer) YOU.

(The Host and the Writer both duck back in the trunk. The Author hurriedly comes over to the trunk, and opens it up, only to find a squad of heavily bearded solders who start marching out as a backdrop of a war-torn countryside comes down. The Narrator’s outfit changes into a general’s uniform.)

(Author): Soldiers?!?! Where did these men come from?!?

(Narrator): From Freedonia, where else? This is what happens when you call their leader, Rufus T. Firefly an “upstart!”

(Author): Since when did I call Firefly an upstart? I don’t even know the man!

(Narrator): There! You did it again! All right men!

(The soldiers all line up at the back of the stage, while the Author stands on the prosceunium, shaking quite visibly.)

(Narrator): Ready!

(The soldiers raise their rifles.)

(Narrator): Aim!

(The soldiers take aim at the Narrator.)

(Narrator): Fire!

(The backdrop of the war-torn countryside rises back up, and the soldiers disappear before they can fire a shot. The Narrator’s costume reverts back to the tuxedo.)

(Narrator): First, the three men try to delay the opera by messing with the sheet music for the orchestra.

(Author): Wait a minute! Did I get shot? What happened to all the soldiers?

(Narrator): What soldiers?

(Author): The ones that you were ordering to shoot me!

(Narrator): (Winks at audience) I have no idea what you’re talking about. Now, let me get back to the story, please.

(Author): (Still visibly shaken) Sure.

(Narrator): Once the orchestra get themselves back in order, the opera starts. So, Fiorello and Tomasso get in costume to mess around onstage, while Driftwood causes trouble in the audience.

(A new backdrop of a horse race at the Ascot Racecourse drops down, and the Narrator disappears. The Author finds himself in the center of a racetrack.)

(Author): Now what?

(The sound of thundering horses’ hooves starts to shake the ground.)

(?): Come on. Come on, Dover, come on. Come on Dover, come on.

(The sound of thundering horses’ hooves starts to increase in volume. We see a lady in a beautiful floral dress behind a fence, but her face is hidden by her hat. She raises up her head so that her face is seen, and it is revealed to be the Narrator, still looking like Groucho Marx except for the dress.)

(Narrator): (To audience) I’ll bet you didn’t expect to see me here!

(The horses come rushing by the Author, narrowly missing him.)

(Author): (frozen in terror) Yikes!

(Narrator): Come on Dover! Move your bloomin’ –

(The Ascot Racecourse backdrop rises back up, and the Narrator’s costume reverts to the tuxedo. The Author falls over in a faint.)

(Narrator): All right, boys, time to take him away!

(The Host and Writer both come walking out in medical attendants’ uniforms with a stretcher between them. They toss the Author on, and walk off.)

(Narrator): That’ll take care of him for a bit. As I was saying, the opera is a disaster with the boys’ antics, until finally, they kidnap Lassparri, forcing Gottlieb to put on Ricardo and Rosa. But will the audience accept them? And will Ricardo, Tomasso and Fiorello be able to avoid deportation?

(The Host and Writer both come back on in their normal outfits. And by “normal,” I mean their Marx Brothers costumes. The Host comes out to the Narrator, while the Writer leans against the wall.)

(Host): Finally got through the story, eh boss?

(Narrator): Yes, indeed. After Duck Soup, the fourth Marx Brother, Zeppo, retired to become an agent. As a result of Duck Soup not going over so well, the remaining Marxes were worried about how well audiences would respond to them. At Thalberg’s suggestion, they took their material for A Night At The Opera on the road, testing it out on audiences on the stage. When stuff didn’t work, they re-tooled it, until they got the laughs they were aiming for, and then they inserted that material into the film.

(Host): And it worked, right?

(Narrator): Yes, indeed. Audiences took to it, making the film one of the Marx Brothers’ biggest hits. Thalberg planned out their next film, A Day At The Races (and they were under contract for another film), but Thalberg died during production of A Day At The Races, resulting in the Brothers’ film career going downhill as they were stuck with a studio that didn’t know or care about what to do with them.

Personally, I’ve seen this movie many a time over the years. I will admit, I do prefer the anarchy of their earlier Paramount film, but this one still has the Marx charm. Obviously, there’s the stateroom scene, with a whole bunch of people getting crowded into a small room (and the preceding “Hardboiled Eggs” routine right before it). There’s the Marxes messing with the police sergeant at the hotel room, as they move the furniture from one room to another, confusing him completely. And the contract signing/tearing. Simply put, the Marx Brothers have some of their best material here. The romantic aspect of the plot may not be the greatest, but it’s certainly better than the stuff that they were saddled with after Thalberg’s death. A good part of that is actor and singer Allan Jones, who manages to do all right (even if he is far from the zaniness of the Brothers), with the song “Alone” being what I consider to be this film’s standout musical moment. This movie is considered a great comedy for good reason, and it’s one that I certainly have no hesitation about recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, utilizing a 4k Scan of the best surviving preservation elements. While they have scoured the world over to try to find an uncut version of the film, they’ve had no luck so far. It’s been rumored that a print containing some (but not all) of the removed bits was found in Hungary, but apparently it hasn’t been verified or something, as the Warner Archive Blu-ray still has the same cut version that everyone has been seeing. But, in its defense, the picture has been cleaned up of all dirt and debris, and certainly looks better (even with its still obvious edits) than it has in a long time, which still leaves me wanting to recommend the release (especially for those who want more of the Warner-owned films from MGM and RKO)!

(Author): (Coming back onstage) Finally, I caught up with you two! Oh, what I’m going to do to you two!

(The Author grabs the Host from center stage, and walks over to the Writer, who is still leaning against the wall.)

(Author): And just what do you think YOU’RE doing? Holding up the building?

(The Writer nods enthusiastically.)

(Author): Well, you’re coming with me!

(Host): Be careful! Don’t forget, Harpo was holding up a building in A Night In Casablanca!

(Author): Don’t give me that! The building won’t come crashing down if I remove him!

(Upon pulling the Writer away from the wall, the building, or at least the part behind the curtain, does indeed start to cave in on the Author, while the Host and Writer safely join the Narrator, who is standing on the proscenium.)

(Author): (Weakly from beneath the rubble) Ow.

(Host): (Laughing along with the Writer) I TOLD you not to remove him!

(Narrator): Well, that’ll be all for now, folks! We’ll be back again when we get the theatre repaired (or get rid of the nut who tore it down, whichever happens first)!

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #5 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Animal Crackers (1930) – Groucho Marx – At The Circus (1939)

Animal Crackers (1930) – Harpo Marx – At The Circus (1939)

Animal Crackers (1930) – Chico Marx – At The Circus (1939)

Animal Crackers (1930) – The Marx Brothers – At The Circus (1939)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Dinner At Eight (1933)

We’re back again for a classic all-star film from 1933 that recently made its long-awaited debut on Blu-ray! That film, of course, would be Dinner At Eight, starring Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Lee Tracy, Edmund Lowe and Billie Burke!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Big Ears (1931)

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

(Length: 21 minutes, 8 seconds)

Wheezer’s (Bobby Hutchins) parents fight constantly, and the word “divorce” is thrown around. When he finds out what “divorce” means, Wheezer turns to Stymie (Matthew Beard) and Dorothy (Dorothy DeBorba) for help in getting himself sick to keep them together. This one took a different turn with touchier subject matter than I would have expected for a children’s short. There is some humor to be found, mainly in Wheezer’s interactions with Stymie. The bickering parents aren’t as much fun (and I agree with Petey the dog’s response at the end). Maybe not as much fun as usual, but still an entertaining entry in the series!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Come To Dinner (1934)

(Available as an extra on the Dinner At Eight Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 22 minutes, 12 seconds)

In honor of a duke and duchess, the Jurgens host a dinner party for a few of their friends. This short was very much a parody of the movie Dinner At Eight, and it works quite well! They picked a lot of actors who look very similar to the cast of the film, and manage to make fun of various moments. I had read about it being a parody beforehand, so I watched the movie first (instead of watching the short first like I normally would do). It certainly works a lot better that way, and I enjoyed it almost as much as I did the movie itself, the humor worked so well!

And Now For The Main Feature…

When Lord and Lady Ferncliffe accept her invitation to dinner, society matron Millicent Jordan (Billie Burke) eagerly plans a dinner party for some of her friends. Her husband, shipping magnate Oliver Jordan (Lionel Barrymore), doesn’t look forward to the idea, but he decides to go along with it, while their daughter, Paula (Madge Evans) is preoccupied with something else. At work, Oliver meets with his friend (and former lover), actress Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler) (who has been invited to the dinner). She is presently broke, and is trying to find ways to sell off some of her properties, and even asks Oliver to buy back some of her stock in his company. However, it’s the time of the Great Depression, which means Oliver’s business has been hit, too, so he can’t buy it back. He meets with the self-made mining magnate Dan Packard (Wallace Beery), and asks him to help finance them for a while (at least, until the Depression is over). Dan is reluctant to do so, but when he arrives home later, he openly brags to his wife Kitty (Jean Harlow) that he plans to take over the Jordan Shipping Line via stock purchases. Kitty, meanwhile, is faking illness and staying in bed all day so that she can see Dr. Wayne Talbot (Edmund Lowe) (with whom she is having an affair). However, she very much wants to get into society, and, when she receives an invitation to the dinner, she is determined to drag her husband there (which isn’t too hard, when he learns that the Ferncliffes, whom he has been wanting to meet for some time, are the guests of honor). On the day of the party, Millicent finds herself short one person when one guest comes down ill. Desperate, she tries calling movie actor Larry Renault (John Barrymore), who is in town to star in a play. Little does she know that Larry has been seeing her daughter Paula, who overhears the conversation from Larry’s end, and convinces him to accept the invitation to the party. As Paula leaves, Larry’s agent Max Kane (Lee Tracy) comes in, and tells him that the starring role in the play was being given to somebody else (partially due to a change in producers), and Max tries to convince him to take a bit part, if only to have something. Larry reluctantly considers the idea, if Max will bring the new producer around to see him. A very sick Oliver comes in to see Dr. Talbot at his office. Upon examining him, Dr. Talbot determines that Oliver is suffering from thrombosis of the heart (which could kill him at any time), but tries to hide this prognosis from Oliver (who isn’t fooled). When he gets home, Oliver tries to tell his wife that he is feeling poorly and needs rest. At the same time, his daughter Paula wants to tell them both about her relationship with Larry. However, neither of them manage to tell Millicent anything, as she is at her wits’ end after two of their servants get into a violent fight, which results in the food being ruined. On top of that, the Ferncliffes (you know, the guests of honor) have decided NOT to come to the party (and have gone to Florida instead). Meanwhile, Larry (who is an alcoholic) is thoroughly drunk as he prepares to go to the dinner. When Max arrives with the play’s new producer, Larry starts to berate him for trying to palm off a bit part on a “big star,” prompting the producer to leave. Left with no choice, Max tells Larry off and good, revealing how hard he had to work to get his washed-up client a chance at the bit part (revealing to Larry just how far his star had fallen). After Max leaves, the hotel management stops by and asks Larry to leave. In the midst of all these troubles, will that night’s dinner party turn out right, or will it be a complete disaster?

In 1932, MGM enjoyed great success with producer Irving Thalberg’s all-star film Grand Hotel, and they went about looking for another all-star vehicle. Irving Thalberg was able to secure the film rights to the 1932 George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber play Dinner At Eight, but some health problems (including a heart attack) forced him to take some time off to recuperate. Studio head Louis B. Mayer decided to try convincing his son-in-law David O. Selznick (who was working at RKO Studios at the time) to come over to MGM and form his own production unit there, sharing producing duties with Thalberg. Selznick brought over director George Cukor, and assembled an all-star cast, which included Marie Dressler in a role that differed from her usual type, and Jean Harlow (who was cast at the insistence of Selznick and Cukor, as she wasn’t previously regarded by the studio heads as being a great actress). With a great cast (some of whom helped contribute ideas for their characters) and great talent behind-the-scenes, the film turned out to be another hit at the box office for MGM.

Dinner At Eight is one of those big movies that I had heard of a long time ago, but never really got the chance to see (at least, not beyond the clip of the iconic exchange between Marie Dressler’s Carlotta Vance and Jean Harlow’s Kitty Packard that was included in the That’s Entertainment films). So when the recent Blu-ray release was announced, I felt it was high time that I saw it! Now, one thing I should admit beforehand. For the most part, my early impressions from what I had heard left me thinking that the film was going to be a comedy (at least, that’s what I was hearing until I saw what others were saying when the Blu-ray was announced, which is when I learned that it would be a bit more dramatic that I had previously thought). And I am glad that I heard that, as it kept the movie from being a disappointment to me. Yes, it does have its comedic moments, but this movie really classifies itself more as a dramedy (with a heavier emphasis on the drama). Regardless, I found it to be a very well-acted film! I’ve seen some of the actors in different films (like the Barrymores, Billie Burke and Jean Harlow), and some of the others were new faces to me. Everybody gave great performances here, which is indeed what makes it work, but I will readily admit that Marie Dressler and Jean Harlow essentially walk off with the film, as their acting was a thing to behold! Plain and simple, this movie’s reputation as a big classic is well-deserved, and I for one have no hesitation in giving it some of my highest recommendations!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The new Blu-ray features a transfer made from a 4K scan of the best surviving preservation elements. I’d love to come up with some extra fancy way of describing how this movie looks, but I prefer to keep it simple. As usual, Warner Archive has a winner here, with a great movie and a great transfer to show it off. Seriously, this is the best way to enjoy this fantastic film!

Film Length: 1 hour, 51 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

John Barrymore – Maytime (1937)

The Public Enemy (1931) – Jean Harlow – Libeled Lady (1936)

Lionel Barrymore – You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

Billie Burke – Merrily We Live (1938)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Alias Jesse James (1959)

I’ve covered two of comedian Bob Hope’s western comedies previously, and now I’m back for the third one, the 1959 film Alias Jesse James, which also stars Rhonda Fleming and Wendell Corey!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bargain Day (1931)

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

(Length: 19 minutes, 1 second)

Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) and Stymie (Matthew Beard) take the other kids’ things, and try to sell them door-to-door. When they come to the home of a poor little rich girl (Shirley Jean Rickert), they come in and get into trouble. This was another fun one, particularly following Stymie around the house as he got into various mischief. I particularly got a good laugh out of the three kids doing their little “Watt Street” comedy bit (a strong reminder of “Who’s On First” and similar comedy routines). Again, this one was a lot of fun, and one I certainly would recommend for its charm and humor!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s the early 1880s. At the Plymouth Rock Insurance Company in New York City, Titus Queasly (Will Wright) is looking at how his insurance salemen are doing. When he sees that Milford Farnsworth (Bob Hope) hasn’t sold a good policy in quite some time, he decides to fire Milford. At a local bar, Milford tries to get his job back by selling a policy to the bartender when he is overheard by a stranger in town. That stranger likes what he hears, and decides to buy a $100,000 policy and pays it in full. Taking the policy back to his boss (after getting a doctor to sign off on the policy), Milford is welcomed back with open arms. That is, until Mr. Queasly gets a look at a newspaper, and sees that the infamous outlaw Jesse James (Wendell Corey) has been in the city. When he shows the picture to Milford, he realizes that the stranger he had sold the policy to was indeed the famous outlaw. Mr. Queasly orders him to take the train to Angel’s Rest, Missouri to either buy back the policy from Jesse or protect him at all costs. On the train ride there, Jesse James stops the train and robs everybody, including Milford. Once he gets to town (after the robbery), Milford has the telegraph operator send his boss a message to wire him more money to pay Jesse. He tries looking for Jesse in town, but Jesse’s men pick on him and chase him out of town on the train. When Jesse learns from the telegraph operator that Milford had sent for more money, Jesse goes after him on the train, and brings him back to the James ranch as a guest. That night at a party being held at the ranch, Milford formally meets and falls for saloon singer Cora Lee Collins (Rhonda Fleming), who is Jesse’s “girlfriend” (as in, she doesn’t like him, but he likes her and he always gets what he wants). Afterwards, Milford finds out that a gunslinger has come calling for Jesse, planning to shoot him in the morning in the town. To prevent that, Milford dresses himself in Jesse’s clothes and rides into town. When facing the gunslinger, Milford pretends to surrender, then lifts his hat to fire his two guns (which were wired together), wounding the gunslinger. Impressed, Cora Lee kisses him and asks him to leave town before he gets hurt, although he refuses, still believing he needs to protect Jesse. When Jesse comes riding in, he realizes that, if Milford is killed (while dressed like Jesse), then they can claim that Jesse James is dead, and he can collect the insurance money (that would go to his beneficiary, Cora Lee). With Jesse now planning to kill him, will Milford be able to survive? Or will he need the insurance that he’s been peddling?

With Bob Hope returning to spoof the Western genre again, following his earlier films The Paleface (1948) and Son Of Paleface (1952), it’s a natural that this one is a lot of fun, too! Personally, I feel that Alias Jesse James‘ tone is somewhere in between those two, as it does have some elements that are almost cartoonish in nature, while still not going full-fledged live-action-cartoon (like Son Of Paleface). Regardless of tone, it’s a film that promises a lot of hilarity, and keeps that promise! I know that I get a good kick out of watching Bob Hope’s Milford getting pushed by his horse into the gunfight with Snake Brice (played by Jack Lambert), and then winning by lifting his hat (which, as I said, had strings tied to the triggers of his gun, which wing the gunslinger enough to end the fight). Then, of course, when Wendell Corey’s Jesse James first tries to kill Milford after holding up the train, Milford later arrives at the ranch while riding a cow! Then, of course, there is the slow-motion fight when Jesse and his men are all under the influence of mushrooms! I could also mention the film’s finale (and I will, but I’ll do that to end this post under a spoiler alert). Plain and simple, this is a fun film! Sure, it’s not perfect. The film certainly treats the Native Americans better than the earlier two films (where they were essentially one-dimensional villains), although Milford referring to two Native Americans on the train as “foreigners” hasn’t aged the best (even if it was the character being angry at discovering that they were salesmen for another insurance company after he gave them his sales pitch). To a degree, there’s not a lot of character work here, as far as arcs are concerned. And, for better or worse, Bob Hope’s age was showing, particularly off-camera, as he passed out (when trying to film what I can only assume was the final chase sequence, which was done on a treadmill in front of a rear projection screen) and had to be taken to the emergency room. Still, for a film made when it seems like Bob Hope’s movie career was already going downhill, I feel like it’s his last really great comedy (with the rest after it ranging from decent to awful). I think it’s one that anybody can enjoy (and I certainly like watching it with some frequency!), so I have no problem whatsoever in recommending it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This release seems to be using an older HD scan. It’s definitely got some good moments, where the detail looks quite good, as well as the color. That’s not completely true of the whole film, but most of those other issues are still relatively minor, and likely source-related. As good as this film is, I wish it could get a full restoration to improve the detail and color (but it’s owned by the current MGM, which would seem to mean that that is unlikely in the near future). So, for now, this is as good as it gets (and that’s good enough for me)!

Spoiler Alert:

Well, now that we’re under the spoiler alert, we can talk about this film’s very memorable finale. The whole thing starts with the aforementioned chase sequence, with Milford (Bob Hope) and Cora Lee (Rhonda Fleming) riding through the countryside on a buckboard (well, she’s riding, as he is forced to run in the hole he created when he tried to jump on the buckboard from a roof). Once they get to town, Milford faces off against the James gang. Like in The Paleface, Hope’s character is a poor shot with a gun. However, he doesn’t know that, as he is being secretly helped in what I can only call “the Western crossover to end all Western crossovers!” On the TV side, we’ve got Roy Rogers (from The Roy Rogers Show, as well as Bob’s Son Of Paleface co-star), Hugh O’Brian (Wyatt Earp, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp), Ward Bond (Major Seth Adams, Wagon Train), James Arness (Sheriff Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke), Fess Parker (Davy Crockett, Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett), Gail Davis (Annie Oakley, Annie Oakley) and Jay Silverheels (Tonto, The Lone Ranger). We also get Western movie star Gary Cooper and the requisite “Bing Crosby cameo in a Bob Hope film” (because, as he says in the movie, “This fella needs all the help he can get.”) Granted, all of these appearances feel like the stars just filmed them whenever their schedule allowed, so nobody interacts with each other (or the film’s main characters). That, and a few of them do something that feels out of character (not only for their characters, but for anybody in a Western): they put their guns back in their holster even before the gunfight is finished! Still, this scene is a lot of fun, and the movie is worth seeing just for this sequence alone!

End Spoiler Alert

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Bali (1952)Bob HopeThe Road To Hong Kong (1962)

The Killer Is Loose (1956) – Rhonda Fleming

The Killer Is Loose (1956) – Wendell Corey

Love In The Afternoon (1957) – Gary Cooper – They Came To Cordura (1959)

High Society (1957)Bing CrosbyHigh Time (1960)

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