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

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

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Screwdriver (1941)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 36 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Rex Harrison – My Fair Lady (1964)

Les Girls (1957) – Kay Kendall

The Harvey Girls (1946) – Angela Lansbury

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

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2021) with… Christmas In Connecticut (1945)

We’ve got one last Christmas movie to get through before the holiday itself, so let’s get to it! It’s the 1945 holiday comedy Christmas In Connecticut, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Star In The Night (1945)

(Available as an extra on the Christmas In Connecticut Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 21 minutes, 27 seconds)

On Christmas Eve, a drifter stops in at the Star Auto Court out in the desert, which is run by Nick Catapoli (J. Carroll Naish). Nick is quite cynical about the holiday, but he changes his tune when some of his complaining customers decide to pitch in and help when a young couple arrives (with the wife about to give birth). Very much a (then) modern version of the original Christmas story, with a pregnant couple, no more room at the inn, a group of three men bearing gifts, and others in awe at the event. As such, it is one that I have enjoyed coming back to again and again! A heartwarming tale that is very much in the spirit of the holiday!

And Now For The Main Feature…

After a German submarine blows up their ship, sailors Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) and Sinkewicz (Frank Jenks) find themselves on a raft for eighteen days without food. When they are rescued and taken to a Navy hospital, Jefferson’s dreams of eating good food again are dashed by the doctor’s orders. Listening to his friend Sinkewicz, Jeff decides to play up to his nurse, Mary Lee (Joyce Compton) to get some good food (even going so far as to get engaged to her). When it is almost time for him to be discharged, he tries to renege on his engagement. Mary Lee, feeling that it is because he’s never known a real home, writes to Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), a big publisher whose granddaughter she had helped nurse back to health. She asks him to have one of his writers, Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck), invite Jeff to her “perfect home” in Connecticut to see what a real home is like (an idea that Yardley approves of). There’s just one hitch: Elizabeth is not what she claims to be. Unlike the persona she tries to put across in her columns, she is not a wife or mother, she can’t cook and she lives in an apartment in New York City. This is a real problem for her and her editor, Dudley Beecham (Robert Shayne), as Yardley absolutely insists on printing the truth. She tries to meet with Yardley and talk him out of it, but only finds herself with yet ANOTHER guest when he invites himself along. Facing the prospect of unemployment, Elizabeth decides to finally accept the marriage proposal of her friend, architect John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner) (even though she doesn’t love him). That gives Dudley an idea, as Sloan lives on a farm in Connecticut, so he suggests they follow through with the idea, and he convinces Elizabeth’s friend and restaurant owner Felix Bassenak (S. Z. Sakall) (who had been supplying her with recipes for her column) to come along and help do the cooking for her. Reluctantly, Elizabeth decides to go along with the idea. On Christmas Eve (the day that Jeff is supposed to arrive), Elizabeth comes to Sloan’s house, where he has brought a judge to marry them. Before they can start the ceremony, Jeff arrives early, forcing them to postpone the ceremony. Upon meeting him, Elizabeth is instantly infatuated with him. He is interested, too, but is unsure of how to react, given that he believes that she is married. Yardley arrives not long after. Over the next two days, Elizabeth is constantly in danger of being revealed as a fraud, as she tries (and fails) to get through a wedding ceremony secretly deals with Yardley pushing her to cook for him, and dealing with different babies on each day (who were actually the kids of local mothers being watched by Sloan’s housekeeper Norah, as played by Una O’Connor). Can she keep up this ruse, or will she be discovered?

At the time that Christmas in Connecticut was made, lead actress Barbara Stanwyck was coming off her success as the villainess Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity, and was looking for a lighter comedy to do. Originally, Bette Davis was to be cast as Elizabeth Lane (a character that was somewhat based on real-life Family Circle Magazine columnist Gladys Taber), but was replaced by Stanwyck only a few months after that initial announcement. Actor Sydney Greenstreet was also looking for a change of pace, as he had mainly been playing various heavies in his previous films. Peter Godfrey, who had been in Hollywood for nearly six years (both on- and off-screen), was given the job of directing the film. He got along well with everybody, particularly Greenstreet (as both had come from the London theatre scene, and spent a lot of time on set entertaining everyone) and Stanwyck (who became friends with the director and would later work with him on the 1947 films Cry Wolf and The Two Mrs. Carrolls). As the war was still going on at the time of filming, studio head Jack Warner tried to cut costs, including re-using a mink coat from Mildred Pierce (1945) and some of the set from Bringing Up Baby (1938) for the Connecticut home. It all worked out for the movie, as it rode a wave of post-war euphoria at the box office, resulting in it being one of the more successful movies that year.

I first saw this film as part of a four-film holiday collection on DVD, and I took to it after that first viewing! It was one of the first (if not THE first) Barbara Stanwyck films that I saw. For me, the whole cast worked quite well, from Stanwyck’s Elizabeth as she navigates trying to appear to be the “perfect wife” like in her column, to Dennis Morgan as the sailor fighting his own nature as he falls for a “married” woman (a no-no in his book), to Greenstreet as the publisher who doesn’t let anybody else get a word in edgewise. And, of course, there is S. Z. Sakall as Elizabeth’s cook friend, who is there to help her out. As usual, he’s a lot of the fun (and this was one of the films that helped me to realize that originally). It’s not a musical by any means, but there are some fun songs here, with Dennis Morgan singing “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” and “The Wish That I Wish Tonight” while Elizabeth decorates a Christmas tree. Overall, the comedy works well, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite moments, that of Elizabeth trying to flip a pancake for the men. After we see her trying(and failing) when practicing earlier with Felix’s help, it’s hilarious to see her succeed in front of all the men (with her eyes closed), only to have a look of satisfaction on her face like it was no big thing. It’s always guaranteed to have me laughing! Ever since the first time I saw it, this movie has become one of my favorite Christmas films, and I have no hesitation in recommending it! Seriously! See it if you get the chance! It’s even better with the one-two punch of this movie and the Star In The Night short that is included with it on the Blu-ray and DVD releases!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video.

With this being my last post before the holiday, I want to wish you all a merry Christmas (and to those who don’t celebrate it, I wish you happy holidays), and I wish you peace on earth, and goodwill to ALL!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Great Man’s Lady (1942)Barbara StanwyckThe Bride Wore Boots (1946)

Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) – Dennis Morgan – Perfect Strangers (1950)

The Maltese Falcon (1941) – Sydney Greenstreet

Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) – S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall – Romance On The High Seas (1948)

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

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

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

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

Coming Up Shorts! with… Woody Woodpecker (1941)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 58 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 2 hours, 3 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Alias Jesse James (1959) – Gary Cooper

Pal Joey (1957) – Rita Hayworth

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

Pal Joey (1957)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection

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

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

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

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

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 4 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 46 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Caine Mutiny (1954)Humphrey Bogart

Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) – Aldo Ray

Father Of The Bride (1950) – Joan Bennett

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

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

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An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2021) with… Since You Went Away (1944)

Continuing on with another film for the holiday season, we’ve got the 1944 movie Since You Went Away, starring Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Shirley Temple, Monty Woolley, Lionel Barrymore and Robert Walker!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Psychedelic Pink (1968)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 17 seconds)

The Pink Panther walks by a psychedelic book store, and comes inside after being hypnotized by the door. A lot of weird stuff happens in this one (although that’s not too surprising, given the hypnotism). It leans a bit into the look and feel of the era, which dates this a little bit. Some of the gags with the books and letters are decent, but this is not one of the better Panther cartoons (even if the Little Man does sport a slightly different look than usual because of the facial hair).

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s January, 1943. Advertising executive Tim Hilton has just left to join the Army, leaving behind his wife Anne (Claudette Colbert) and their two daughters, Jane (Jennifer Jones) and Bridget “Brig” (Shirley Temple). Without his income, they find themselves letting their housekeeper Fidelia (Hattie McDaniel) go, and, at Brig’s suggestion, they decide to take in a boarder. Their ad is answered by Colonel William G. Smollett (Monty Woolley), who takes over Anne’s room. They find themselves even more crowded when Fidelia returns (taking her old room), and then an old friend of Tim and Anne’s, Lieutenant Tony Willett (Joseph Cotten) shows up and take a room as well (for a little while before he is shipped out). Jane has a bit of a crush on Tony, but she also soon meets the Colonel’s estranged grandson, Corporal William G. “Bill” Smollett II (Robert Walker), who falls for her. After graduating from high school, Jane wants to get a job at a hospital instead of going to college (which Anne refuses to consider at first). After the family tries (and fails) to meet up with Tim when he has a train stop close by, Anne relents and lets Jane get a job as a nurse’s aid for the summer. Not long after, Anne receives a telegram telling her that Tim is missing in action. When Bill is given his orders to leave, he and Jane get engaged, with plans to marry after the war. However, those plans are put on hold permanently when he is killed in action. Later on, Anne’s “friend” Emily Hawkins (Agnes Moorehead) chides Jane for her work at the hospital, resulting in Jane calling her out for her own selfishness. When Emily tries to rebuke Jane, Anne comes to Jane’s defense, realizing that she herself hasn’t been much better than the very selfish Emily, and so Anne gets a job as a welder in a shipyard to do her patriotic bit. Will the missing Tim be found, or will the family have to carry on without him?

After producing the back-to-back Best Picture Oscar winners Gone With The Wind and Rebecca, David O. Selznick had closed up his production company Selznick International Pictures, and took a few years off (mainly using the time to lease out his various stars to the bigger studios and some film projects). He had been looking for another project to do under his new production company (The Selznick Studio) when he came across the novel Since You Went Away: Letters to a Soldier from His Wife by Margaret Buell Wilder. His first thought was to bring the author in to write the screenplay, but he later changed his mind and decided to write it himself. While stage actress Katharine Cornell had desired the role of Anne, Selznick advised her against it, and instead cast Claudette Colbert in the role. He assembled a group of other big stars, including Joseph Cotten, Monty Woolley, Shirley Temple (whom he had coaxed out of the retirement that she went into after her last film, Miss Annie Rooney, nearly two years earlier), and his new star (and future wife) Jennifer Jones (who was paired up with her current husband, Robert Walker). Selznick had hopes that the film would be another epic in the style of Gone With The Wind. While the film didn’t become the runaway success that Gone With The Wind had become, it still managed to be a decent hit with wartime audiences, and received a number of Oscar nominations (winning for the Best Score).

When I finished putting my schedule together for the year (with regard to my Stars Of The Month), I realized that I had at least one unreviewed holiday film for several of the stars, and made plans to review them this month for the holidays. Now, being that Claudette Colbert was one of my Stars, I opted to go with the film Since You Went Away (since I had already done Tomorrow Is Forever, and I don’t otherwise know of any other Christmas films that she had done). Now, I first saw Since You Went Away in early 2018, not long after it had been released on Blu-ray for the first time. I had no idea what to expect of it going in, but it turned out to be a movie that I enjoyed! For me, all the performances worked well. Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple all do well in showing us the struggles of a family in wartime, and help us care deeply for their characters. Arguably, Monty Woolley steals the show with a character who starts out quite similar to his Sheridan Whiteside from The Man Who Came To Dinner, but the family is able to help soften him up by the end of the film into a much more lovable guy. And Agnes Moorehead is, well, Agnes Moorehead (not a bad thing here!) as Anne’s selfish friend, who eventually gets her (well-deserved) comeuppance. The whole movie is good, with its moments of fun (like at the dance, which includes the familiar-to-me tune “The Emperor Waltz”, since I’ve seen the movie The Emperor Waltz enough times that I recognize the tune) and tragedy. Even though the film’s Christmas scenes are for the last fifteen minutes (of a nearly three hour movie), it’s enough for me to consider this a Christmas film. After all the tragedy and heartbreak we see the characters go through over the year’s time, it’s nice to see them have a good time and have hope of a brighter future. Plain and simple, this is a wonderful movie, and it’s one I have no hesitation in recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

Film Length: 2 hours, 57 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Palm Beach Story (1942)Claudette ColbertTomorrow Is Forever (1946)

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

Miss Annie Rooney (1942) – Shirley Temple – I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)

The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942) – Monty Woolley – Kismet (1955)

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

Agnes Mooreheard – Dark Passage (1947)

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!

“Star Of The Month (November 2021)” Featuring Humphrey Bogart in… The Caine Mutiny (1954)

We’re back for one last go-round with Humphrey Bogart as our Star Of The Month! This time, it’s his 1954 drama The Caine Mutiny, also starring Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray and Robert Francis!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pinkadilly Circus (1968)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 2 seconds)

When the Little Man pulls a nail out of the Pink Panther’s foot, the Panther offers to be his slave out of gratitude. Personally, I find this to be a fun one, with different types of gags throughout the short. At first, the Panther’s affections (upon the nail being pulled out) are unwanted by the Little Man, until the Panther helps tell off his shrewish wife. Then the gags revolve around the Panther coming to rescue the Little Man from his wife when he whistles, before the wife tries to get rid of the Panther (with no luck). Of course, you can see the ending coming a mile away, but that doesn’t take away from some of the fun here. Obviously, your enjoyment will depend on how you view the stereotypical shrewish wife here, but there is some fun to be had here!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1944. Upon graduating from officer’s training, Ensign Willis “Willie” Keith (Robert Francis) is ordered to report to the U. S. S. Caine in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. There, he meets the communications officer (and novelist) Lieutenant Tom Keefer (Fred MacMurray), executive officer Lieutenant Steve Maryk (Van Johnson) and Captain De Vriess (Tom Tully). Willie is disappointed, both with the ship itself (a rather beat-up destroyer/mine-sweeper), and with the relaxed discipline under the captain. The ensign’s disappointment is short-lived, however, as the captain is quickly transferred. Now in charge is Lieutenant Commander Philip Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), who vows to enforce Navy discipline (which thrills Willie, especially after he is made the morale officer). However, Willie soon runs afoul of the new captain when, during a target practice exercise, the captain finds a poorly dressed sailor and bawls him, Willie and Tom out over it. While that happens, the ship goes in a circle and steams over the cable that they are towing the target with. Captain Queeg tries to place the blame on faulty equipment, but the ship is recalled to San Francisco. When the ship sets sail again (with Captain Queeg still in charge), they are ordered to escort a group of landing craft for an invasion of enemy-held territory. When the Caine gets too far ahead of the landing craft (amidst all the shelling), Captain Queeg gets scared, drops a yellow dye marker for the landing area, and forces them to hightail it out of there. Later, he calls a meeting of his officers to apologize and ask them for their support. After the meeting, Tom mentions to Steve that the Captain is showing signs of mental illness, but Steve won’t have it, asking him to take his thoughts to the medical officer (which Tom refuses to do). However, Steve considers what Tom had been talking about and, after reading a book on mental illness, decides to keep a journal on the captain and his behavior. The captain’s behavior gets more and more irrational, with the final straw being him seeking out who finished off a quart of strawberries (even after a departing ensign had told him what happened). Steve, Tom and Willie decide to take Steve’s journal to the fleet commander, but at the last moment, Tom decides they shouldn’t do it. They go back to their ship, where they have been ordered to set course through a typhoon. When Captain Queeg freezes, Steve decides to relieve him of command, backed up by Willie. Back in San Francisco, Steve and Willie face charges of mutiny, and the only lawyer willing to help them is Lieutenant Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer). Will their charges stick, or will they be able to prove that Captain Queeg is indeed mentally ill?

The movie was based on the best-selling 1951 novel The Caine Mutiny: A Novel Of World War II by Herman Wouk. Producer Stanley Kramer was able to get the film rights for Columbia Pictures by helping convince the Navy to let them do it (since the Navy had outright rejected other attempts by some of the other studios). Even then, the Navy was hesitant about the idea, as they worried about how the public’s perception of the Navy would be after seeing the film, so the production was required to make some changes to the story, including softening the character of Captain Queeg (and they managed to keep the title, even though the Navy initially balked at the use of the word “mutiny”). Of course, Columbia head Harry Cohn made his own stipulations, demanding a romance story for Robert Francis’s Willie Keith, as well as keeping the movie’s length under two hours. Herman Wouk (who had already adapted the story as a play) was brought in to write the screenplay, but his screenplay would have translated to a fifteen hour film, so he was replaced. Humphrey Bogart was highly desired for the role of Captain Queeg, but Harry Cohn knew that Bogart desperately wanted the part, so he got him to settle for less than his usual salary. It still worked out for Bogart, though, as the role became one of his most highly-praised performances (and his final Oscar nomination).

I’ve had the opportunity to see The Caine Mutiny a few times so far in my life, and it’s one that I will admit to liking quite a bit. Obviously, Bogart’s performance here is the big appeal of the film, as he goes from being a strict leader into madness. The image of his character rolling the metal balls in his hand is one that has stuck with me ever since the first time I saw this movie. The story itself is one that has stayed with me, the way everything turned out. I know I’m getting into SPOILER territory with what I have to say next, so if you haven’t seen the movie, then don’t keep reading. The first time I saw the movie, I felt for Van Johnson’s Steve and Robert Francis’s Willie, as I thought they were doing the right thing, based on Bogart’s performance. But Barney Greenwald’s (Jose Ferrer) drunken speech at the end revealing Fred MacMurray’s Tom Keefer as the true mutineer blindsided me (due to my own youth and inexperience on that first viewing), not to mention how all the men could have avoided trouble had they tried to help the captain when he asked for help. Ever since, I know I’ve watched the details more closely, especially with regard to MacMurray’s performance. It has such an element of truth, in terms of being willing to help others instead of being judgmental about it, and it’s something that still rings true, regardless of the situation (not to mention the idea that you don’t necessarily have to like your leaders, which is always a struggle, especially when politics are involved). END SPOILER Honestly, the romance between Robert Francis’s Willie and Donna Lee Hickey’s May Wynn (technically, Donna changed her name to May Wynn for this film) is the only point about this movie that doesn’t work well, but the rest of the movie is so riveting that I can’t really knock the film down any points for it. Seriously, this is a great film, and one I highly recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Entertainment

And with that ends my final Star (Humphrey Bogart) Of The Month blogathon for the year! Stay tuned for my announcement (on December 6) of my first Star Of The Month blogathon for 2022, and in the meantime, I will be concentrating on Christmas films starting December 1!

Film Length: 2 hours, 5 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Bali (1952)Humphrey BogartWe’re No Angels (1955)

Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) – Jose Ferrer – Deep In My Heart (1954)

In The Good Old Summertime (1949) – Van Johnson – Brigadoon (1954)

Murder, He Says (1945) – Fred MacMurray

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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“Star Of The Month (November 2021)” Featuring Humphrey Bogart in… The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948)

We’re here for another film with this month’s Star, Humphrey Bogart! It’s the classic 1948 drama The Treasure Of the Sierra Madre, which also stars Walter Huston, Tim Holt and Bruce Bennett!

Coming Up Shorts! with… 8 Ball Bunny (1950)

(Available as an extra on the The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 8 seconds)

A penguin accidentally gets left behind by the Ice Frolics, and runs into Bugs Bunny as he attempts to catch up. So, Bugs volunteers to help him get home… to the SOUTH POLE!?!? (“Ooh, I’m dying!”) This is a fun classic Bugs cartoon, as he deals with all the trouble of trying to get the penguin south. More fun is added by the appearance of a Humphrey Bogart character, specifically Dobbs from The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (which makes this a PERFECT extra for that movie). All in all, this one is quite entertaining (and VERY much hilarious), making it one that I just love to come back to!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Hot Cross Bunny (1948)

(Available as an extra on the The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 10 seconds)

A doctor plans to experiment by switching the brains of a chicken and a rabbit. Of course, you can guess that the rabbit is none other than Bugs Bunny, and he wants to keep his brain right where it is! Another familiar cartoon, with all the fun that comes from Bugs dealing with the doctor, first via examination, and then him trying to escape the experiment. It’s a fun (and funny!) cartoon, and I know always get a kick out of it when I see it!

Coming Up Shorts! with… So You Want To Be A Detective (1948)

(Available as an extra on the The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 10 minutes, 53 seconds)

Joe McDoakes (George Hanlon), or maybe I should say Phillip Snarlowe, private eye, is searching for a killer. I’m not a huge fan of the Joe McDoakes series, but I will admit that this is one of the better ones that I’ve seen so far! With the story being told from the viewpoint of narrator Art Gilmore (literally being told that way, as the story is being shown in first-person view from his character’s standpoint), this adds a lot to the fun! The gags come fast and furious, from a dead girl in Snarlowe’s filing cabinet, to the “Tall Man,” to the “boys” that come to cause trouble for a big mobster. This one was worth quite a few laughs, and is one of the few from the Joe McDoakes series that I would thoroughly enjoy revisiting!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1925 in Tampico, Mexico. A pair of destitute Americans, Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Curtin (Tim Holt) find work in the oil fields under Pat McCormick (Barton MacLane). When they finish up and return to Tampico, McCormick goes off to get their paychecks, leaving them with a little drinking money. When the two men overhear somebody else at the bar telling about how McCormick cheats his workers out of their paychecks, they go to a flophouse to spend the night, and listen to tales of gold prospecting being told by Howard (Walter Huston). The next day, Dobbs and Curtin are considering Howard’s stories when they spy McCormick, and angrily demand their money. When he tries to get out of it again, they get into a physical altercation in which they come out on the wining side, and take the money that was owed them. Coming back around to the idea of gold prospecting, they turn to Howard for help (since they have no idea what supplies they would need). They pool all their money, and after buying some supplies and burros, they make their way toward the Sierra Madre mountains. The journey proves treacherous, and the younger, more inexperienced prospectors have a hard time keeping up with the much older Howard. Just when Dobbs and Curtin are ready to give up, Howard reveals that he’s found the best place for them to prospect for gold. They set up camp at the base of a mountain, and start digging. Their pile of gold starts to build, and they start dividing it up. Greed starts to get the better of them, but Dobbs in particular succumbs to it, as he grows ever more suspicious of his partners. After Curtin has to go to a nearby town for supplies, he is followed by another gold-hunting American named James Cody (Bruce Bennett). Once Cody arrives at their camp, he decides to stay, and asks for a share in all the gold they find from now on. However, Dobbs and Curtin decide he can’t be trusted, and decide to kill him. Before they can do anything, though, Cody spots a band of Mexican bandits nearby, who are looking for the group (mainly because they need some guns, and they heard in the village about Curtin, who was claiming to be a hunter in the area). They get into a gunfight with the bandits (led by Gold Hat, as played by Alfonso Bedoya), which ends when a group of federal soldiers catches up to the bandits, forcing them to make a run for it. However, Cody was killed in the fight, so the three men decide to bury him. Not much later, they find themselves getting less and less gold from the mountain, so they decide to call it quits, and try to restore the mountain as much as possible. On their trip back to Durango, they are met by a local group of Native Americans who are seeking medical help for one of their boys who had fallen into water and hadn’t come to yet. Howard goes to help them out, and when the boy is awakened, the people all ask him to stay while they honor him. Dobbs and Curtin, meanwhile, continue the trip, bringing along Howard’s burros and gold so that they can get their money for it in Durango. However, Dobbs, whose greed has been showing itself, not only in refusing to give a fourth of his gold to Cody’s widow and child (whereas Curtin and Howard were willing), he now considers just taking Howard’s gold as well. Curtin disagrees, but now Dobbs is suspicious that Curtin wants to off him and get HIS gold. Will these two men make it to Durango safely, or will gold fever finish one (or both) of them off?

While The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre made it to theaters in 1948, the movie itself was being considered nearly a decade earlier. John Huston (the film’s eventual director) had read the 1935 book by B. Traven in 1936, and thought it would make a great movie. By the time he became a director (with 1941’s The Maltese Falcon), Warner Brothers had already bought the film rights, and he asked for (and was given) the opportunity to direct it. However, the U.S. entered World War II, and Huston served in the Armed Services (making films). After the war, Huston came back to work on The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, corresponding with the book author B. Traven and being advised by the author’s “friend” Hal Croves (whom most sources claim was actually Traven himself). The movie was shot on location near Jungapeo, Mexico. When he first read the book, Huston had thought about casting his father, Walter Huston, in the role of Fred C. Dobbs, but, as time went on (and his father got older), that idea wasn’t as realistic, and so he decided to cast his father as the older Howard (and forced him to remove his false teeth for the role). Studio head Jack Warner was famously very unhappy with the way that filming was dragging on, as he felt it was costing him a lot of money. He also didn’t like the ending, and thought audiences wouldn’t accept it as is. Initially, he was right, as the film didn’t do too well, but that changed with the film’s re-releases over the years as it gained in popularity.

I will readily admit, that I’ve seen this movie a number of times over the years (and it was one of the earliest Bogart films that I saw, alongside The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca). I took a liking to it on that first time, and my opinion of the movie has stayed high over the years! Humphrey Bogart in particular makes this movie great, as he gives us a performance in which he (like many of us) thinks that gold fever wouldn’t affect him at all (or so he promises). However, Howard’s warnings get in his head, and his greed gets the better of him (with a few moments of near redemption in between). It’s a different role than some of what he had done earlier, but he is so effective that I can’t complain! The movie manages the drama well, and even throws in a bit of humor as well, particularly the moment spoofed in the Bugs Bunny cartoon 8 Ball Bunny with Bogart’s Dobbs pestering a stranger for money (with the stranger played by the film’s director, a fact I didn’t realize until I was reading about this film for this post in one of those “You learn something new every day”-type of things). I do know the film was remade (to a degree) a few years later as an episode in the first season of the Warner Brothers TV western Cheyenne, which I thought was fun (but nowhere near as good as this movie). Seriously, this movie is among the greats (for good reason!) and I have no problem whatsoever in recommending it myself!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video

Film Length: 2 hours, 6 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Dark Passage (1947)Humphrey BogartRoad To Bali (1952)

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) – Walter Huston

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

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

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

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

(Length: 20 minutes, 53 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 55 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

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

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

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

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

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