What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Stagecoach (1966)

Happy New Year, everyone! And what better way to start the new year than with a long-delayed review of the 1966 western Stagecoach, starring Ann-Margret, Red Buttons, Mike Connors, Alex Cord, Bing Crosby, Bob Cummings, Van Heflin, Slim Pickens, Stefanie Powers and Keenan Wynn!

As the movie starts, we find Crazy Horse and the Sioux attacking the cavalry. Meanwhile, in a local town, there is a fight between two Army men over dance hall girl Dallas (Ann-Margret), with the two men killing each other, while the boozy Doc Boone (Bing Crosby) looks on. Dallas and Doc Boone are both thrown out of town by Army Captain Mallory, and decide to leave on the stagecoach. They are joined by an embezzling banker (Bob Cummings), a whiskey salesman (Red Buttons), the pregnant wife of Captain Mallory (Stefanie Powers) and a gambler (Mike Connors), with the marshal (Van Heflin) joining the regular stagecoach driver (Slim Pickens) to go to Cheyenne. Due to the Sioux war party, they are accompanied on the first part of the trip by a troop of cavalrymen. They run into escaped convict Ringo Kid (Alex Cord), who joins them on their trip, under the watchful eye of the marshal. Along the way, the group constantly argues on whether to keep going, as they continue to hear about Crazy Horse’s war party.

This is a movie that I enjoyed very much. I saw it originally, for one reason, and one reason only: Bing Crosby. As a fan of his films, this was one that I wanted to see. For him alone, this movie is worth viewing, as he provides a lot of the humor, and does pretty well with the role (although it saddens me that this ended up being his last theatrical movie, as he pretty much made a complete switch to television after this, mainly doing his various TV specials).

I would say that my feelings towards the rest of the cast are mixed (although they do well enough to make the movie enjoyable). Bob Cummings does great as the thieving banker, who proves himself a jerk as he continues to insist on pushing forward in spite of the danger (even when the doctor says they shouldn’t move on after Mrs. Mallory gives birth). In spite of his brief appearance at the end, Keenan Wynn makes for a very despicable Luke Plummer, making it easy for the audience to cheer for the Ringo Kid. Mike Connors as the gambler and Stefanie Powers as Mrs. Mallory really don’t make much of an impact in their roles, but I feel they fare better than Alex Cord as the Ringo Kid. He does decently, BUT he is taking over the iconic role from John Wayne, who became a big star after appearing in the 1939 film, and Alex Cord just doesn’t compare to him.

What this movie does have in its favor is the improvements that came with time. This movie is in color, and widescreen, allowing us to see some wonderful scenery from the Colorado location shooting. This movie came out around the time that things were changing with the Production Code (whether you like that or not is up to you), so they were able to show a little more, as evidenced by attacks by Crazy Horse and the Sioux (although the blood more or less looks quite fake, which is fine by me). I have seen all three versions of Stagecoach, and this is the film I prefer. Is it perfect? No, but it is a fun ride just the same, and one I would recommend seeing.

Getting back to why this review has been long-delayed, I originally had planned to post it on March 3, 2019, after watching my copy of the out-of-print DVD from Twilight Time. However, before it could be published, Twilight Time announced an upgrade to Blu-ray and I pulled the review until I could see the new Blu-ray and see how it looked. I have seen it now, and I can say that it is a definite improvement over their earlier DVD release. The picture shines in high definition, allowing the beauty of the different locations to really shine. And of course, the color is great, too, showing off the different costumes for the main cast. An easily recommended way to see this movie! The movie is one hour, fifty-four minutes in length.

The movie is available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time as a limited edition with 3000 total copies available through either www.screenarchives.com or www.twilighttimemovies.com

My Rating: 9/10

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Hello, Dolly! (1969)

It’s time to “put on your Sunday clothes,” so we can get into the 1969 musical Hello Dolly! starring Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau and Michael Crawford!

Matchmaker Dolly Levi (Barbra Streisand) comes to Yonkers as “half-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau) is getting ready to go to New York City and propose to hatshop owner Irene Molloy (Marianne McAndrew). Horace pays Dolly to keep his niece Ermengarde (Joyce Ames) away from her fiancé Ambrose Kemper (Tommy Tune), although she encourages the two of them behind his back. Horace’s two clerks, Cornelius Hackel (Michael Crawford) and Barnaby Tucker (Danny Lockin) are supposed to mind the store while he is away, but they want to go to New York for a day and have an adventure for once in their life. Overhearing them, Dolly encourages them to go see Irene Molloy and her assistant Minnie Fay (E. J. Peaker), which they gladly agree to do. However, while they are in the shop talking to them, Horace comes in and breaks up with Irene when he realizes somebody else is in the shop ( but doesn’t know who, as both Cornelius and Barnaby were hiding while he was there). After he leaves, Dolly encourages them to spend the day together and go to the Harmonia Gardens restaurant that night. Meanwhile, she convinces Horace to go there as well. During the dance contest at the restaurant, Horace sees Ambrose dancing with Ermengarde, and ends up starting a fight. Seeing Cornelius and Barnaby there as well, he fires them, and goes home licking his wounds with everybody gone.

Obviously, with this movie, most of the fun has to do with the music, written by Jerry Herman. One can’t go wrong with a lot of these tunes, including “It Only Takes A Moment,” “Before The Parade Passes By” and “Elegance.” But I would definitely say I enjoy three (maybe four) of them more than the others. “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” is always fun, and is generally guaranteed to get stuck in my head (but I’m not complaining)! “Dancing” is also enjoyable, with all the fun dancing done throughout the park! But “Hello, Dolly!” is one of the film’s best songs, particularly helped by the presence of Louis Armstrong, who had had a hit with the song a few years earlier! And the “maybe” song would be “The Waiters’ Gallop,” where the music itself might not be that memorable, but watching all the waiters dance as they perform their duties is a lot of fun (even if it is unrealistic watching all the food stay on the trays when they are doing all the flips and spins and whatnot, but I don’t care)!

If you can’t tell, this is a movie that I really enjoy! Sure, maybe Barbra Streisand might have been miscast as Dolly, if only purely because she seemed a bit young for the part, but she takes the role and runs with it! She works well enough for me in what is the ONLY film she did that I could be convinced to watch (and I’ll easily take her in the role instead of Carol Channing, whom I would struggle to live with for the movie’s entire runtime). The movie is fun, and still maintains a lot of the style of some of the older film musicals (helped by the presence of director Gene Kelly, choreographer Michael Kidd and associate producer Roger Edens, all of whom had worked on a number of the classic MGM musicals). This movie is always fun to stick on every now and then, and enjoy getting the music stuck in my head again! A movie I can easily recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox, and is two hours, twenty-eight minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Titanic (1953)

Time to revisit that fateful night in April, 1912, for the sinking of the Titanic. No, this isn’t the 1997 film, it’s the black-and-white 1953 version, starring Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck and Audrey Dalton.

Well, we all have enough of an idea about the sinking of the Titanic, so I’ll keep my story comments to the Sturges family, which is what this movie focuses on. Julia Sturges (Barbara Stanwyck) gets on the ship with her children, Annette (Audrey Dalton) and Norman (Harper Carter). She is trying to get away from her society-climbing husband Richard (Clifton Webb), so she can go back to America and raise her children to not be snobs. However, Richard finds out and gets on the ship by buying a ticket from another passenger. He finds her, but she is determined to go on with her plan. The kids are another matter, since she hadn’t told them her plan, and her daughter decides she will return with her father. As they fight, it is discovered that Norman is not Richard’s son, but the result of a brief moment of infidelity for Julia, which results in Richard pushing himself away. Of course, everything changes when the ship hits that infamous iceberg.

I am mainly coming off my first viewing of this movie, but I did enjoy it. I mainly saw it because of actress Barbara Stanwyck. I have only seen a few of her movies so far, but I have liked her in all of them, so I felt it was worth trying out. I certainly enjoyed her performance, and it seems she has received a lot of praise, especially for the sequences when they were loading the women and children on the boats (and apparently, when they filmed it, it really hit her just what it must have been like for the people who were actually on the ship, as opposed to just reading or hearing about it, since the tragedy did occur when she was a little girl herself).

Now, it is hard to discuss this movie without at least comparing it some to the currently better known film from 1997. The effects here were a lot more practical than the ’97 film, as they used small models of the boat. However, it is really difficult to tell, and I think that it holds up better here than the CGI used in the ’97 film, which at this point certainly looks a lot more dated as computer technology continues to improve. And of course, as I said, the ’53 version is black-and-white, but that shouldn’t stop people, as the movie itself still looks wonderful, and I certainly think it works. The ’53 film version is a lot more family-friendly than the ’97 version (and is much shorter, too, clocking in at one hour, thirty-eight minutes, which works very much in its advantage). I don’t know how accurate it is (obviously, the Sturges family is fictional, and the “unsinkable” Molly Brown is here renamed Maude Young, probably due to some issues getting the rights from her estate), and I assume some things were discovered when they finally found the ship on the ocean floor back in the 1980s.  However, THIS is the version I like, and I would recommend it very much to anybody that is curious about it!

The movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox.

My Rating: 10/10

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… An Affair To Remember (1957)

The year: 1957.  The movie: An Affair To Remember.  The stars: Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.

In this movie, Cary Grant plays Nickie Ferrante, a well-known playboy who has become engaged to a rich heiress. Taking a boat to New York from Europe, he meets Terri McKay (Deborah Kerr), a nightclub singer on her way home to her boyfriend.  They end up falling for each other, but they try to resist it.   It becomes a lot harder when Nickie brings her along when he visits his grandmother.  When they get back on the ship, they make a pact to meet again in six months on the top of the Empire State Building.  In the meantime, they both try to deal with their current relationships, and Nickie tries to find a way to earn a living from his paintings.   However, tragedy strikes on the day they were supposed to meet.

I would say this movie kind of qualifies as a Christmas movie.  The end of the movie takes place around Christmastime, with Deborah Kerr’s Terri helping a group of children who are preparing for a Christmas concert.  Of course, we also see Cary Grant’s Nickie giving Terri the gift of a shawl from his grandmother.  To say much more would spoil the ending (although, for this type of movie, the idea of both Nickie and Terri getting together is a foregone conclusion).

I am coming off my first viewing of this movie, but I enjoyed it very much.  The movie is apparently the remake of the 1939 film Love Affair, also directed by Leo McCarey. Apparently, he tended to give his actors room to improvise, and some of those improvisations would end up making their way into the movie. All I know is that what they did for this movie worked. The movie can be funny. It can be sad. It can be romantic. Whatever the mood they go for, you can feel it! I haven’t seen the original version, but for my money, this one is absolutely wonderful, and I would highly recommend it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox, and is one hour, fifty-five minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Desk Set (1957)

And here we are for the eighth pairing of that famous screen team of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, the 1957 comedy Desk Set.

In this movie, Katharine Hepburn plays Bunny Watson, the head of the reference library at the Federal Broadcast Network and Spencer Tracy plays Richard Sumner, the creator of a computer called EMERAC (short for Electromagnetic Memory and Research Arithmetical Calculator). He is brought in to observe how Bunny and the other ladies work in the reference library, while he also figured out how to install EMERAC there. Bunny and the rest of the ladies working there are all worried that EMERAC will end up replacing them, although Richard tries to assure them that won’t be the case. Bunny has been going with Mike Cutler (Gig Young) for nearly seven years, but she finds herself falling for Richard.

Now, I would say this movie kind of qualifies as a Christmas movie. Most of the last part of the movie takes place around Christmastime. Mostly, it’s just an office Christmas party, with many of the workers partying together and getting drunk. And then, of course, they are hit with questions about the words to “Twas The Night Before Christmas” and the names of Santa’s reindeer (with Spencer Tracy’s Richard Sumner getting the question the second time and getting them mixed up with the dwarves from “Snow White”).

I think this is a fun movie. I admit, the EMERAC computer in some ways dates this movie, considering this was the age when computers took up most of a room, as opposed to the much smaller PCs, laptops, tablets, etc. that most of us are used to by this time. Of course, the worry about technology replacing people is still around, so that still keeps the movie somewhat current. But to see the reference library in action is kind of fun. I enjoyed seeing the ladies able to rattle off some information off the top of their heads, while going off in the library to find other information (of course, it’s nice to see how patient people were back then, as I can’t see people being as happy today if Google were to take that long to answer any questions like that). But, my point here is that I enjoy this movie, and would heartily recommend it to anybody!

The movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox and is one hour, forty-four minutes in length.

My Rating: 8/10

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… High Time (1960)

And now it’s time for us to dig into the 1960 college movie High Time, starring Bing Crosby!

Bing plays Harvey Howard, a 51-year-old restaurant owner who has decided that it is high time somebody in his family (meaning himself in this instance) went to college, much to the protests of his two children.  He prefers not to be given any special treatment because of his age, but wants instead to enjoy college life as all the other, younger students do.  Along the way, he ends up falling for Professor Helene Gauthier, the French teacher.

This movie is, at times, more like a series of events. We are mainly seeing Bing’s Howard as he goes through his four years of college, with the story stopping here and there to focus on different things. Amongst other things, we see the freshman bonfire, where they are told they need to build a bonfire taller than previous freshman, and Howard has to climb up the unstable pile with one last chair to help make it taller. One particularly hilarious moment is in his sophomore year. As a candidate for a fraternity, Howard has a few things to do, like scrubbing floors, polishing shoes, etc., but most hilariously, he has to dress in drag to go to a southern costume ball, where he has to dance with the host, an elderly gentleman who is suffering from gout and sitting it out. I find it hilarious, especially after hearing how uncomfortable Bing was in doing the “Sisters” number with Danny Kaye in White Christmas, to see Bing completely dressed in drag (of course, Howard’s two children were BOTH invited to the party, and are completely discombobulated by seeing their father like that, as well)!

The movie was directed by legend Blake Edwards (best known for stuff like Operation Petticoat, some of the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies, Victor/Victoria and others), and also includes a score by Henry Mancini (who worked with Blake Edwards on some of those movies as well). Not the greatest movie ever made by Blake Edwards, but it is one I do enjoy watching every now and then, even if it is a far cry from what college life might be like now (or might even have been like at the time it was made). So, if you do get a chance, I do suggest trying this one just for fun!

As to the availability for this movie, I’m not sure what to say.  The movie itself is owned by 20th Century Fox (or will be, until Disney buys them out).  They licensed the movie out to Twilight Time a few years ago for a limited run of 3000 copies on Blu-ray, which have since sold out, and as far as I can see, it was never available on DVD.  So, to see this one, your best bet is to wait and see whether Disney makes it available when they start their streaming service, catch it on TV, or find a friend that has the Blu-ray.  The movie is one hour, forty-three minutes in length.

My Rating: 7/10

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Jesse James (1939)

Now that it’s 2019, let’s start off the 80th anniversary of many movies from 1939 with the movie Jesse James, starring Tyrone Power in the title role and Henry Fonda as his brother Frank James.

The railroad is going around buying up people’s land (and not exactly honestly, either). When they come to the home of the James family, they find they are not able to make them sell the land. They try to get the James brothers arrested, but when they run, the house gets destroyed while their mother is in it. This sets Jesse and his brother off on a crusade to rob the railroad. Jesse’s girlfriend, Zerelda “Zee” Cobb convinces him to marry her and turn himself in in exchange for a light sentence. However, once he is in jail, the railroad president tries to change things around so that he would be hanged. Frank helps him escape from jail, and Zee joins them as they go on the run. However, when she gives birth to Jesse’s son, she decides to come home. Jesse lets her, but then starts taking more chances, and makes enemies even of friends that had supported him previously.

I enjoyed this movie very much. To me, it seems like it starts out as a “Robin Hood”-type story, with the railroad people taking the land from the farmers, and Jesse James and his brother start to fight back, with the support of the people. Then the movie diverges, warning about Jesse getting so used to robbing that that might be all he can do. Zee realizes this, and tries to get him to turn himself in. After some thought, he is willing to do so. However, when he does turn himself in, the president of the railroad decides to break his own promise and try to hang him. In the process, he just makes the situation worse, not just for himself, but everybody (of course, this shouldn’t be a surprise, considering what the men he sent to buy the land from the farmers were doing under his leadership). One can only imagine how much better the situation would have been (in the movie) if the bank president had only been a better leader overall, not just in his dealings with the James brothers, but with all the other landowners as well.

Now, I don’t know enough about Jesse James to know how historically accurate this movie is. I know one of Jesse’s real-life granddaughters was hired as a technical advisor for the movie, but I have otherwise heard that the movie is still inaccurate. Personally, I don’t really care, as I enjoy this movie very much. I mainly watched it for Tyrone Power in the title role, as I have seen a few of his other movies, and enjoyed them (and this movie being from 1939, long considered to be one of the best years in Hollywood, certainly helps). I do know that this movie had a sequel, The Return Of Frank James, with Henry Fonda reprising his role as Frank James, but I have yet to see this movie. But I do recommend Jesse James to anybody curious enough to try it!

The movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox, and is one hour, forty-six minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

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