An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2022) with… A Christmas Carol (1938)

For the last Christmas film I’m looking at before the holiday itself, we’ve got one version of one of Hollywood’s most frequently told tales: that of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol! This time, we’re looking at the 1938 film starring Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bored Of Education (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 6 (1936-1938) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 10 minutes, 21 seconds)

It’s the first day back to school after a long vacation, but Spanky (George McFarland) and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) don’t want to go to school. Their new teacher, Miss Lawrence (Rosina Lawrence) overhears their plot to get out of school, and comes up with a plan of her own to get them to stay. It’s an entertaining short that shares a similar plot to the earlier Teacher’s Pet (1930). Spanky and Alfalfa are indeed the fun here as they use a balloon to fake a toothache (which later affects Alfalfa’s singing a little bit). Personally, I enjoyed it, and I would heartily recommend it!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Christmas Party (1931)

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

(9 minutes, 2 seconds)

Jackie (Jackie Cooper) hopes to host a Christmas party at his house for his football team. However, when the guest list gets bigger than he imagined, he gets permission to use a soundstage at the MGM studio to host the party. Once you get past the whole opening, there really isn’t much plot to this short. Most of it is the dinner at the soundstage, with some of the big MGM stars of the time like Clark Gable, Marion Davies and others serving the kids their meal. That doesn’t necessarily make for a great short, but it’s at least an interesting holiday short anyways.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Peace On Earth (1939)

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

(8 minutes, 50 seconds)

Around Christmastime, a grandpa squirrel comes to visit his grandchildren. When they ask him about the phrase “goodwill to men,” he relates the story of how mankind destroyed themselves in their last war. It’s an interesting antiwar cartoon, made just as the second World War was starting to ramp up. I can’t deny that it still feels way too relevant, as I watch how everybody has to fight over every single thing even today. It’s beautifully animated, and certainly echoes the right holiday spirit for this time of the year, which makes it worth seeing every now and again.

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s Christmas Eve, and young Fred (Barry MacKay) has come to see his uncle Ebenezer Scrooge (Reginald Owen) at his counting-house. Fred hopes to invite his uncle to Christmas dinner with his fiancée, but Scrooge turns him down, considering Christmas to be nothing more than a humbug. Scrooge begrudgingly gives his employee, Bob Cratchit (Gene Lockhart), the day of Christmas off, but ends up firing him later when Bob accidentally wrecks Scrooge’s top hat in the streets. At his home later that evening, Scrooge is visited by the spectre of his dead partner, Marley (Leo G. Carroll), who warns him that he must change his ways or he will suffer in the afterlife, even more than Marley is. Marley further informs him that three ghosts will visit him that night. At one o’clock, Scrooge is visited by the Spirit Of Christmas Past (Ann Rutherford), who shows him what Christmas looked like for him in the past, when his sister was sent to bring him home from school, and later when he was apprenticed to Fezziwig (Forrester Harvey). At two o’clock (after the Spirit of Christmas Past had left him), he meets the Spirit Of Christmas Present (Lionel Braham), who shows him how his nephew is celebrating Christmas, as well as how Bob Cratchit is enjoying the day with his family, including his young and ill son, Tiny Tim (Terry Kilburn). After he is warned that Tiny Tim may not survive his illness, Scrooge then meets the Spirit Of Christmas Future (D’Arcy Corrigan). The Spirit shows him a future in which Tiny Tim does not survive, and Scrooge himself dies alone with nobody to care about him. Finally, he awakes to find that the Spirits had shown him all this in one night. Will their message take hold and help him to become a better man, or will he continue to be a selfish miser?

Nowadays, Charles Dickens’ tale of A Christmas Carol has been adapted for the big and small screen many, many times. However, back when the 1938 film version was done, that wasn’t quite the case, as it had mainly been done for a few shorts and one film (mostly in Britain). In the 1930s, actor Lionel Barrymore was well-known for playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge every year on the radio, and when MGM wanted to make a film version of the tale, he was their first choice for the role. However, he had been struggling with arthritis for some time, and that plus two recent hip injuries resulted in him being unable to walk (having already been on crutches for the same year’s You Can’t Take It With You). So he declined the role, but suggested Reginald Owen for the part. To help audiences accept Reginald Owen in the part, Lionel Barrymore appeared in a special trailer for the film, and let Reginald Owen perform as Scrooge on the radio that year. Production on the film had already been delayed, and they rushed to get through filming in about six weeks. The film did decently at the box office, and would be the go-to version of the tale for a number of years, until more faithful versions of the tale appeared.

First off, I should say that I’ve never had the chance to actually read Charles Dickens’ story yet (although it’s one that I would like to get to one of these days), so I can only compare it against other film versions. I actually first saw this movie somewhere around ten to fifteen years ago. It was part of the four-film Classic Holiday DVD Collection from Warner Brothers, which I had bought for a film I had already seen, Boys Town (1938), with plans to try out the rest of the group (which also included the previously reviewed 1945 film Christmas In Connecticut). I can tell you right now, even then I had seen a huge number of adaptions of Dickens’ classic story, and was feeling burnt out on the whole story, so this was probably the film in that set that I least looked forward to seeing. I would definitely say that the movie changed my opinion and made me a fan! Reginald Owen makes for a very good Scrooge in my opinion, as we see his journey from miserable miser to the kind and giving man at the end of the tale. And he’s supported well by a number of other actors and actress, especially Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit.

To me, this film is as much about embracing your inner child even as an adult. Scrooge seems to have forgotten, and it’s only when he is given a reminder that he changes. Barry MacKay’s Fred fits this idea well with some of the film’s more memorable moments (for me). When we first meet him, he is sliding on the ice with some of the kids, having just as much fun as them. Later on, he tries to convince his fiancée Bess (Lynne Carver) to join in, and initially she resists. It’s only after they see the minister shoo away some of the kids sliding in front of the church and then, when he thinks nobody’s looking, enjoy a quick slide himself, that she joins in. Also, we get to see the Cratchits’ Christmas almost entirely from the kids’ viewpoint, without seeing much of the sorrow that their father is dealing with. Even Bob Cratchit cheers up (after he was fired) when he starts doing what he can to make his family’s Christmas a good one, anyways.

Now, is this film flawed? Yes. In my opinion, where it seems to falter the most is in the writing. To me, this Scrooge seems to change too quickly, and almost makes me feel like they had at least one ghost too many. To make things worse, they skip over too much of Scrooge’s past, ignoring his romance with Belle almost completely (and in the process, they don’t show any of Scrooge’s gradual descent into greed). And the section with the Spirit Of Christmas Present almost seems questionable, as we don’t really see how Scrooge is affecting those around him (especially Gene Lockhart’s Bob Cratchit, who looks too well-fed for the role, even if his performance is otherwise flawless). That being said, none of these flaws detract from the story enough to stop me from watching it. It may not be my favorite version of the story, but it’s one that I will gladly watch (and recommend)!

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

With this being my last post before the holiday itself, 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, and to quote Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone!”

Film Length: 1 hour, 9 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Rose-Marie (1936) – Reginald Owen – The Pirate (1948)

Wedding Present (1936) – Gene Lockhart – Jesse James (1939)

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

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) – Ann Rutherford

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!

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!

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2021) with… Holiday Affair (1949)

For the third and final part of our Christmas-themed triple-feature, we’ve got the 1949 Christmas comedy Holiday Affair, starring Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and Wendell Corey!

War widow Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) works as a comparison shopper to support herself and her six-year-old son, Timmy (Gordon Gebert). She has been going with lawyer Carl Davis (Wendell Corey) for some time, but is reluctant to accept his proposal of marriage. Her life changes when, as part of her job, she buys an electric train set from Crowley’s department store. Unable to do anything further with the train set (since it is late in the day), she brings it home with her. Timmy discovers it and thinks (quite happily) that it is for him until she mentions needing to take it back the next day. When she tries to return it, she has to deal with the same clerk who had sold her the train, Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum). He had been suspicious that she was a comparison shopper from the start, and threatened to out her as such (which would have resulted in her being fired). However, after hearing about her struggles, he decides not to turn her in and gives her a refund (which results in him being fired by an eavesdropping floorwalker). With nothing else to do, Steve decides to help Connie out, although they get separated at a bus by the Christmas rush. With a little detective work, he catches up to her later at her apartment, although his presence causes trouble, as Carl is also there. In the process, Carl ends up leaving after he and Timmy fight (and Connie intervenes on Timmy’s behalf). Before leaving himself, Steve talks with Connie, making known his observations about how she is trying to keep her husband alive by making Timmy over into his image, which makes Connie angry. Steve quickly says goodbye to Timmy and learns how Timmy was really hoping for the electric train set for Christmas. Fast forward to Christmas morning, and there is a special present under the tree, which turns out to be that train! Timmy is ecstatic, but his mother, upon realizing who it was from, seeks out Steve to try to pay him for it. He refuses, so she gives him a necktie originally intended for Carl. Connie decides to tell him that she has finally accepted Carl’s proposal of marriage, prompting a rebuke from Steve about not letting go of the past (which, again, makes Connie angry). She leaves him again, intending for that to be it. But, will his words sink in, or will she stay with a man she doesn’t really love?

In the late 1940s, actor Robert Mitchum was enjoying success in film noir while working at RKO studios. His success was briefly slowed down when he was arrested for possession of marijuana in 1948. After serving a brief prison sentence, he was back to work at RKO. While his films after his arrest were hits at the box office, Howard Hughes still insisted on trying to soften Robert Mitchum’s image by casting him in a romantic comedy (based on a story by John D. Weaver). The film was not a success at the box office, but it has found greater popularity by frequent television showings around the holidays.

I was first introduced to this film through a four movie DVD set of Christmas movies (which included It Happened On Fifth Avenue, the main reason I bought the set). I enjoyed the movie then, and I still do now. For me, this movie is a wonderful time capsule, one that encapsulates so much of what Christmas means to me. Every character in this movie is a human being with flaws, and yet, they all seem to be decent people (well, with the exception of the “hobo” who gets Robert Mitchum’s Steve in trouble with the law). There’s a lot of stuff that happens in this movie that I couldn’t even dream of seeing be reality nowadays, whether it be Gordon Gebert’s Timmy going off on his own to try to return the train at the department store, or being able to see the department store owner (who gives him the refund after hearing his story, even though the train was accidentally broken due to the pushing and shoving of other customers in the store). Overall, it’s just nice to see people being nice to each other, and being full of the Christmas spirit (instead of the greed and unkindness that would seem normal now), and with great performances all around, I have no trouble whatsoever recommending this wonderful Christmas classic!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Holiday Affair (1949)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, with the Blu-ray utilizing a new transfer. This new transfer is a definite improvement over the previously available DVD, with better detail and a much crisper picture. I would certainly recommend the recent Blu-ray (which also includes, as an extra, the Lux Radio Theatre adaptation with Robert Mitchum and Gordon Gebert reprising their roles from the movie) as the best way to enjoy this wonderful Christmas movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Out Of The Past (1947) – Robert Mitchum – Fire Down Below (1957)

Janet Leigh – My Sister Eileen (1955)

Wendell Corey – The Killer Is Loose (1956)

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… It Happened On Fifth Avenue (1947)

We’re here again for the second part of today’s Christmas-themed triple-feature, and this time, it’s the 1947 movie It Happened On Fifth Avenue, starring Don DeFore, Ann Harding, Charles Ruggles, Victor Moore and Gale Storm!

For a number of years now, Aloysius T. McKeever (Victor Moore) has survived by staying in the homes of various wealthy people (when they’re not around). In particular, he has been staying in the mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City that is owned by millionaire Michael J. O’Connor (Charles Ruggles) for the last three winters, while Michael is living in Virginia during that time of year. McKeever has mainly been living by himself (well, and his dog too), but this year will be a little different. He comes across veteran Jim Bullock (Don DeFore), who has been evicted by Michael so that a new building can go up. Without any place to stay, Jim is sleeping on a park bench when McKeever comes across him, and offers him a place to stay. That night, they are interrupted by an interloper: Trudy O’Connor (Gale Storm), who has run away from the finishing school she had been sent to! Of course, Jim and McKeever don’t know who she really is, as they assume her to be a thief (since she was trying to take some of her own fur coats out of the place). In doing so, McKeever reveals to Jim that he is not living there by Michael’s invitation, and so they cannot turn Trudy in to the police (which she overhears, and decides not to reveal who she really is). The next day, she gets a job at a music store, and Jim walks her home afterwards. They run across his old army buddies Whitey (Alan Hale, Jr.) and Hank (Edward Ryan) (and their families), who are struggling to find a place to live (so, of course, they also movie in). Michael has come back to New York to find Trudy, and when they come across each other as she is leaving her job, he tries to start in ordering her around. She refuses to go back to finishing school, and tells him about Jim (whom she has fallen in love with). She convinces him to disguise himself as another homeless man to meet Jim (since she worries about Jim loving her for her sake and not for her father’s money). “Mike” tries, but it isn’t long before he is irked at his treatment by the others, and he confides to Trudy that he will have everyone removed from the house. Unsure of what to do, Trudy brings in her mother, Mary O’Connor (Ann Harding), to help. Meanwhile, Jim and his friends are trying to buy the army barracks at Camp Kilson, with the intention of remodeling the barracks to be housing. The problem is that Michael O’Connor has also been bidding on them, and he tries to stop them (and even has one of his companies offer Jim a job out of country). Will Mike come to his senses, or will everybody be thrown out of the mansion?

At the time, Monogram Pictures was a Poverty Row studio mainly known for releasing “B” pictures. They started a new division, Allied Artists Pictures, which would attempt to release more “A” films, and It Happened On Fifth Avenue was the first movie released under Allied Pictures. The film proved to be a decent hit, and was nominated for a Best Story Oscar (although it lost to another Christmas classic, Miracle On 34th Street). The movie ended up being part of a package of movies licensed by Monogram/Allied Artists for television broadcast in the early days of TV, where it still enjoyed some popularity (mostly because the major studios hadn’t licensed out any of their stuff yet). When the bigger studios did license their films for broadcast, It Happened On Fifth Avenue faded into the background, eventually staying off the air for nearly twenty years from the 90s on. When the film was released on DVD finally, in 2008, the movie started to make a comeback, eventually becoming a regular holiday film on TCM.

I probably saw the movie for the first time through TCM within a few years of when it came back, and took a liking to it on that first viewing! The cast here is wonderful! Of course, the main standouts are Victor Moore and Charlie Ruggles as their relationship is the most fun to watch. In general, it’s hard to fault any of the characters, as they all seem to be decent people at heart. Victor Moore’s character may seem to be a sponge, as he lives in the homes of the wealthy, but at the same time, he doesn’t believe in stealing either, as we see when he comments about needing to restock the food stores. And while Charlie Ruggles’ rich character starts off on the wrong foot, as he is all business (and how to make more money), he slowly comes around to the idea that life is not all about money, as he tries to help the others out.

As a whole, this movie is full of many fun moments. I know I get a good laugh near the end of the movie, with Don DeFore and Gale Storm’s characters out at a restaurant with a wobbly table (and a waiter trying to fix it). And I know I get a chuckle out of watching Don DeFore’s character and his buddies stuffing Homer Bedloe – er, I mean Charles Lane in a drinking fountain (sorry, after having watched several seasons of Petticoat Junction, I can’t think of actor Charles Lane as anybody else 😉 ). But it’s the Christmas scene that certainly sticks with me. The movie has a few songs by Harry Revel in it, but it’s the song “That’s What Christmas Means To Me” that sticks with me. For me, that song (while not a well-remembered one over the years) speaks very much to what the Christmas season does indeed mean to me, with the company of family and friends all together, and peace to all! This is such an overall wonderful movie. If it has much in the way of flaws, it’s the use of rear-screen projections whenever the characters are out walking on the streets, as the action doesn’t quite fit with the footage (but, again, this wasn’t from a major studio, so I can forgive it). Seriously, this movie is a lot of fun, and one I would highly recommend (mainly at Christmas, but it’s nice to watch throughout the rest of the year, too)!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… It Happened On Fifth Avenue (1947)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. This new release makes use of a restoration from a 4K scan of the best surviving nitrate elements, and it looks wonderful! The detail is superb, and all the debris is gone. Seriously, this classic Christmas movie hasn’t looked this good for a while, and it also includes a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast that adapted the story, with original cast members Victor Moore, Don DeFore, Charlie Ruggles and Gale Storm! This Blu-ray is certainly highly recommended!

Film Length: 1 hour, 55 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Don DeFore – Romance On The High Seas (1948)

Balalaika (1939) – Charles Ruggles

Ziegfeld Follies (1945) – Victor Moore

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… The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

Today, we’ve got a Christmas-themed triple-feature (mainly because they are recent releases and I don’t want to wait for December to review them)!  To start things off, we’ve got that 1940 classic The Shop Around The Corner, starring Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart!  So let’s first get through our theatrical short, and then it’s on with the show!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Field And Scream (1955)

(Available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 9 seconds)

We follow American sportsman Ed Jones as he goes fishing and hunting. This cartoon was a lot of fun, with some of the types of gags that Tex Avery was known for. To a degree, you can see the ending coming, but that doesn’t take away from the humor of it (or all the hilarity that led up to it). It’s one of the last cartoons Tex did for MGM, but it’s still enjoyable to see, and I look forward to future revisits!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In Budapest, Hungary, we find Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) working as the head clerk at Matuschek And Company, which, as the shop’s name implies, is run by Hugo Matuschek (Frank Morgan). One time, while they were waiting for Mr. Matuschek to open up the shop, Alfred tells his friend and co-worker Pirovitch (Felix Bressart) that he answered a personal ad from the newspaper, and is now writing letters anonymously to somebody else. That same day, Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) comes in looking for a job. Alfred tries to tell her they have no opening, but when she manages to sell a cigarette box that plays “Ochi Tchornya” when opened (something that Mr. Matuschek wanted to sell in the shop but Alfred thought wasn’t for them), she is hired. Fast forward to the Christmas shopping season, and a number of things have changed. For one thing, Alfred and his pen pal have become more serious, and are trying to plan when to meet. In the shop, Alfred and Klara continue to bicker and fight, and, for some reason, Mr. Matuschek is having issues with Alfred as well, resulting in him being fired one day(of course, it would be the day he hoped to meet his pen pal). Alfred’s friend Pirovitch takes him to the meeting place at a restaurant as his moral support, where they both see that his pen pal is none other than Klara! Alfred decides not to go in at first, but later comes back alone. He doesn’t reveal his identity to Klara, but instead stops to talk with her (and it’s not long before they start bickering again). Later that night, Alfred learns from the shop’s errand boy, Pepi Katona (William Tracy), that their boss, Mr. Matuschek, had tried to commit suicide (but Pepi stopped him from going through with it). The reason? Mr. Matuschek had found out his wife was having an affair with someone! He had suspected Alfred (which is why he fired him), but it turns out it was another employee, Ferencz Vadas (Joseph Schildkraut). In the hospital, Mr. Matuschek rehires Alfred, and makes him the store manager (since he himself will be away from work while he recuperates). Almost all of Alfred’s co-workers are happy to see him back (and in a new position), but Alfred quickly finds an excuse to fire the flattering Vadas (like Mr. Matuschek wanted him to do). Klara, however, wasn’t feeling well, and so doesn’t come in. Alfred checks up on her after work, and sees her perk up when she receives another letter from her unknown pen pal. With Alfred now genuinely falling for Klara, will he be able to tell her the truth, or will they continue to stay apart?

The Shop Around The Corner was based on the 1936 play Perfumerie by Nikolaus László. Director Ernst Lubitsch bought the film rights himself, and brought them with him when he signed with MGM. However, the two stars he wanted, James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, were unavailable to start right away, and, while he waited for them to become available, he directed the classic Ninotchka. In making The Shop Around The Corner, Ernst Lubitsch drew from his own life experiences working in his father’s tailor shop when he was younger. The film would end up being a hit, and would be remade on the big screen two more times (in 1949 as the musical In The Good Old Summertime and again in 1998 as You’ve Got Mail).

I’ve seen this movie once previously on television (I’ve actually had more experience with seeing its musical remake, In The Good Old Summertime), but that first viewing left me a fan of this movie! I’ll admit, I didn’t get the chance to see it again until the new Blu-ray release (but I’ll get to that in a moment). But I still enjoy this movie (possibly even more now)! The story is a fun premise, with the two main characters falling in love via their correspondence (and all without even knowing that they are actually working together). The chemistry between James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan is still there, in this third of four films they did together (and, so far, the only one of the four that I’ve had the opportunity to see). And the rest of the cast is good, too! Frank Morgan proves himself as an actor, in a role that’s different from his usual persona (but well-acted, as opposed to his stiff performance in Fast And Loose, which I reviewed earlier this year). He in particular helps make this movie great, as we see him struggle with his feelings of betrayal by someone he regarded as a son (even though he was wrong about it). And Joseph Schildkraut as the suckup Vadas does a great job of making you dislike him (even before the revelation about him having an affair with his boss’ wife), and I can’t help but cheer when he finally gets what’s coming to him later on in the film! And, aside from Vadas, you do get a sense of all of the employees at Matuschek being a tightknit family, so well do they work together (especially when Vadas is removed from the picture)! And, while the majority of this movie takes place around Christmastime, it’s still fun to watch any other time of the year as well (but I can guarantee that I’ll be trying to watch it again around Christmas)! So, if you get the chance to see it, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. As best as I can determine, the movie was restored from a 2K scan of some protection elements made from the original nitrate negative. Whatever was used, the movie looks FANTASTIC!! The picture is so nice and crisp, showing off all the details now. I’ve been waiting for this one to show up on Blu-ray for quite a while, and the wait has been well worth it! This release is highly recommended as the best way to see this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 39 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Good Fairy (1935) – Margaret Sullavan

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939) – James Stewart – The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Balalaika (1939) – Frank Morgan – Broadway Melody Of 1940 (1940)

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 (2020) with… Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)

Well, we’ve got one last Christmas film to get through before the holiday itself, so let’s get to it! It’s the classic 1938 film Love Finds Andy Hardy, starring Lewis Stone, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Cecilia Parker and Fay Holden!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Shocking Pink (1965)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)

The Pink Panther tries to relax, but the narrator keeps pushing him to work on some things around the house. Of course, as you can guess, things don’t go the Panther’s way as he tries to work on things. Particularly memorable are the two recurring gags about the basement light flicking on and off while he tries to go down there, and an out-of-control power saw that keeps cutting his tail off. With Larry Storch as the narrator, this one is a lot of fun, and one I don’t mind coming back to for a few good laughs every now and then!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Andrew “Andy” Hardy (Mickey Rooney) has got big plans for the Christmas Eve dance. He’s trying to buy a $20 car, but he can only pay the dealer $12, and has to promise to pay the remaining $8 of the price before he can get the car. However, his girlfriend, Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford), tells him she will be out of town visiting relatives for the holidays, which leaves him without a date to the dance. Both of his problems are seemingly fixed when his friend “Beezy” Anderson (George Breakston) has to go out of town with his family as well, and offers to pay him to go out with his girlfriend Cynthia Potter (Lana Turner) in order to keep the other guys away from her. At the Hardy home, Andy’s mother, Emily Hardy (Fay Holden), gets a telegram saying that her mother is badly ill, and she and her sister Milly (Betty Ross Clark) decide to leave for their mother’s home, leaving Andy’s sister Marian (Cecilia Parker) in charge as the “woman of the house.” Meanwhile, Andy has drawn the attentions of new next door neighbor, Betsy Booth (Judy Garland), who is in town visiting her grandmother. However, in spite of her affections and partly because she is a few years younger, Andy only thinks of her as a friend. Things start to go downhill for Andy, as he receives two telegrams. One is from Polly, stating that she would be coming back for the dance, but he tries to call and let her know he can’t take her because of a “previous engagement.” The other is from Beezy, who, instead of sending some money like he had promised, tells him that he found a new girlfriend (thereby negating their deal), and that Andy can take Cynthia to the dance without any trouble. Now facing the the trouble of not being able to pay for a car and a tough choice between two dates, Andy turns to his father, Judge James K. Hardy (Lewis Stone). But, even with his father’s help, can he get out of this mess? And will his mother (and her mother) be fine?

Love Finds Andy Hardy was the fourth film in the Andy Hardy series, and the first to show the change of focus from the Hardy family as a whole to Andy Hardy himself (as played by Mickey Rooney). The film retained most of the cast of the previous entries (although with actress Betty Ross Clark for her second and final time playing Aunt Milly instead of series regular Sara Haden). With the increasing emphasis on Mickey Rooney’s Andy Hardy character and his relationships, the series was able to showcase up-and-coming actresses, and, in this film, it was Lana Turner as Cynthia Potter. The film also gave us Judy Garland in her first of three appearances in the series as Betsy Booth, which re-teamed her with Mickey Rooney after they first appeared together in the 1937 film Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry. With their chemistry becoming more evident, they would also soon be teamed up for their famous “let’s put on a show” series of films, starting with Babes In Arms the next year.

While I have seen the entire Andy Hardy film series, I will readily admit that Love Finds Andy Hardy is the one I have seen the most. And it’s fairly easy to guess one of the main reasons: its Christmas connection! Obviously, with the buildup to the big Christmas Eve dance and the Christmas tree we see put up in the Hardy home on Christmas Eve, it certainly works well enough (and, on the DVD, there’s also a short promo featuring the Hardy family on Christmas morning that ends with them addressing us, the audience). Of course, the rest of the movie is fun, too, even if it is fairly predictable that Andy will somehow get out of all his trouble. Still, Mickey Rooney does a great job as the character, and the addition of Judy Garland as Betsy Booth, especially with the three songs she gets to sing, makes it all worth seeing every now and then! So, yes, I recommend this one!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection as part of the 10-film Andy Hardy Film Collection Volume 2.

And, since is 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!

And if you are interested in joining in on my month-long “Star Of The Month” blogathons for 2021, whether for next month (Doris Day), February (Clark Gable) or beyond, please be sure to check out my Coming Soon In 2021: “Star/Genre Of The Month” Blogathons post to sign up!

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Mickey Rooney – Strike Up The Band (1940)

Judy Garland – Strike Up The Band (1940)

Ann Rutherford – A Christmas Carol (1938)

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 (2020) with… The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)

We’re here now for The 2nd Happy Holidays Blogathon, hosted by Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, and to celebrate the holidays, we’ve got double the fun! First, we have the classic Disney short Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952), and then we’ve got our main feature, the 1951 Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell comedy The Lemon Drop Kid!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952)

(Available to stream on Disney+)

(Length: 6 minutes, 56 seconds)

Mickey and Pluto bring home a Christmas tree. Unbeknownst to them, Chip and Dale are living in that tree, and proceed to cause trouble for Pluto. As a fan of Chip and Dale, I can tell you right now I’ve seen this one many a time, and it never gets old! Their antics as they go up against Pluto never fail to bring a smile to my face (admittedly, I prefer their other Christmas short, Toy Tinkers with Donald Duck, but this one is still fun)! And, the quick cameo for some of the other big Disney characters at the end (Minnie, Donald and Goofy) brings the whole gang together! Seriously, while this may be one of the later Walt-era cartoon shorts, it still goes to show that they were still great!

And Now For The Main Feature…

(The Kid): “St. Nick don’t smoke.”

(Santa Claus in line): “I thought I was supposed to be Santy Claus.”

(The Kid): “Santy Claus, Kris Kringle, St. Nick, it’s all the same guy.”

(Santa Claus in line): “Oh, I get it. He don’t give his right name either.”

(The Kid): “Oh, now that’s sweet, you’re going to do a big business.”

(Gloomy): “Thanks”

(The Kid pulls a bottle out of Gloomy’s Santa suit)

(Gloomy): “Well, it’s cold out there in the street.”

(The Kid): “Santy Claus don’t drink.”

(Gloomy): “Oh no? Well, how come he’s always falling down chimneys?”

(Host): Now that we’re done looking at the Santa Claus legend from a few different “viewpoints,” let’s talk about the movie. In 1949, Bob Hope had made Sorrowful Jones, a movie based on a Damon Runyan story. With his role well-received by audiences and critics, he looked for another Damon Runyan story to do and chose the short story “The Lemon Drop Kid.” For the movie, he went with his director from Sorrowful Jones, Syndey Lanfield, but got involved in the production himself as usual. After seeing the director’s cut of the movie, Hope thought something wasn’t quite right, and he convinced Paramount to hire Frank Tashlin to do rewrites (although he only agreed to do it if he could direct the retakes, which they consented to). But, enough about the film’s background. I’ll hand it over to the narrator to tell the story!

(Sounds of horses’ hooves in the background. Narrator stands with binoculars looking out at the audience.)

(Narrator): “Annnnnd it’s Hogwash in front, Applejack second by a neck. They’re coming into the stretch. It’s Hogwash and Applejack. C’mon, Applejack!” (Note: for the benefit of my reading audience, I’m borrowing this quote from the 1962 Foghorn Leghorn cartoon The Slick Chick, since it seems appropriate for the situation)

(Host): HEY!!!

(Narrator): Huh? What? Oh, right. The plot description. Can’t we do that later? I’m in the middle of a good race here!

(Host): Okay, you’ve had enough. You better get started for New York City, and we’ll have you pick up the story from there, while I start with the events in Florida.

(Narrator): Oh, fine. (leaves the stage)

(Host): (mumbles under breath so as not to be heard) And be sure to dress warm, it’s cold up there! (Normal voice). We’re at a racetrack in Florida. Sidney Milburn, otherwise known to all as “The Lemon Drop Kid” (Bob Hope), is touting, trying to fool some gamblers into parting with their potential winnings, by trying to get at least somebody cheering for (and betting on) every horse in the race. All is looking good until he spies a woman about to make a $2000 bet. He persuades her to choose a different horse than the one she was planning on, but, once the race starts, he learns that she is the girlfriend of mobster Moose Moran (Fred Clark) and was making a bet for him. When the horse loses (and the one Moose had tried to bet on wins), some of Moose’s thugs bring the Kid to see Moose. Moose is indeed quite angry at having lost $10,000 (the amount he would have been paid since the horse he had wanted to bet on won the race), and threatens to have one of his goons, Sam the Surgeon (Harry Bellaver), kill off the Kid. Thinking fast, the Kid says that he can get the money for Moose if he had until Christmas. Moose decides to let him try, but reminds him that he can’t get away. So, off the Kid heads for New York City.

(Host runs off the stage in a cartoonish fashion, leaving behind a puff of smoke)

(In blows a cold wind, a regular blizzard, with the narrator walking through, wearing winter gear)

(Narrator): You thought I wouldn’t be prepared, didn’t you? Well, I heard him, so there!

(Host): (from offstage) Darn it!

(Narrator): Anyways, back to the story. In New York City, they’re getting hit with a big blizzard, and yet the Kid is still wearing the same outfit he was wearing in Florida (unlike me). He runs into his friend, Nellie Thursday (Jane Darwell), who is having money troubles of her own with her landlord demanding his rent. He learns from Nellie that her husband Henry will soon be released from jail, but she won’t have a place for them to stay, as the old folks homes she had applied to turned them down on account of Henry being an ex-con. Moving on, the Kid makes his way to the apartment of his girlfriend, Brainey Baxter (Marilyn Maxwell). She’s still a little mad at him for conning her out of a fur coat before he left for Florida, but he works on her sympathies and gets some money to get a “marriage license” (although he really wants the money so he can gets his winter clothes out of hock). Once he gets his winter outfit, he goes to see Brainey’s boss, nightclub owner and mobster Oxford Charlie (Lloyd Nolan) to get the money to pay Moose, but he is turned down. As he leaves the nightclub, the Kid sees a Santa Claus collecting money for charity, and decides to do the same thing himself. However, he is quickly arrested by a cop and charged with panhandling.

(The Kid): “That judge didn’t look honest to me.”

(Policeman): “For eighteen years, he’s been a member of the bar”

(The Kid): “That’s what I mean, drinking on duty.”

(Host): (Walking back onstage) Don’t worry, everyone. In spite of the Kid’s opinions, that judge was quite sober (and honest) when he sentenced the Kid to ten days in jail (since he couldn’t pay the fine). On his way to his cell, he runs into Nellie, who has been arrested for trying to take her husband’s picture out of her room after she was evicted by her landlord.

(Narrator): Hey, I thought I was telling this part of the story! Anyways, while in jail, the Kid gets an idea on how he can get the $10,000 together. Brainey soon bails him out, and threatens to take him to get a marriage license, but he detours her while he gets together a group of other con men. His plan is to put together a “home for old dolls” as he puts it, for Nellie to live in when her husband is released. They get together a few other homeless older women from around Broadway, and are there to welcome Nellie when she gets out of jail. Afterwards, the Kid gathers all the men together in their new Santa suits to collect the money to help “fund the old dolls home” (but they don’t know the Kid’s real reason for trying to collect the money).

(Host): And this takes us to one of my favorite moments in the whole movie: the song “Silver Bells.” It surprised me to learn that this was one of the moments that was changed by Frank Tashlin. According to TCM, director Sydney Lanfield had staged it in an empty casino with all the cast members standing together, almost as if they were a choir. That was a scene that Bob Hope didn’t like, and it was restaged by Tashlin on the city streets, with Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell walking the streets singing it. For me, it’s a scene that has stuck with me. For a while, I actually preferred this moment to the song “White Christmas,” as I used to have this scene on repeat on DVD (mostly around this time of the year) while I worked on homework back when I was in high school and college. While I don’t like it quite as much as I did then, it’s still one of the better scenes in the movie, and one I always look forward to watching (not to mention watching all the con men trying to raise money in their Santa suits in the lead-up to the song).

(Narrator): Yes, indeed. A wonderful song. Getting back to the story, Brainey decides to quit her job in Oxford Charlie’s nightclub for a while to devote more time to helping out at the home. As she leaves, she tells Oxford Charlie how much money they had raised in such a short time. Putting two and two together, he gets his own idea. Figuring that wherever Nellie Thursday lives is where the “Nellie Thursday Home For Old Dolls” is (and therefore, the place that will get the money collected), Oxford Charlie has his men kidnap the old ladies and Brainey and has them brought to his mansion. When the Kid finds out that everyone was kidnapped, he and a few of the guys go over to get them back, but Oxford Charlie reveals the Kid’s reason for collecting the money to everybody (all while the Kid sneaks away to avoid being pummeled by the other con men). With Christmas fast approaching, will the Kid have a change of heart (and find a way to help everyone out), or will he taken apart by Sam the Surgeon?

(Host): In between the previously mentioned song “Silver Bells” and the story’s Christmas Eve deadline, there is no doubt about this movie’s qualifications as a Christmas film! I know I enjoy watching this movie around Christmastime, with Bob Hope’s antics and quips continuing to make me laugh every time I watch it! I’ll admit, his cross-dressing gag near the end of the film is probably a bit dated at this point, but he still does it in such a way as to have me laughing the whole time (even with the rear screen projection during the brief period he is riding a bicycle)! The rest of the cast is pretty good, too, with Fred Clark as a tough gangster, who certainly makes you think twice about crossing him, Jane Darwell who garners sympathy for her character as she tries to survive and get ready for her husband’s upcoming release from prison, plus William Frawley as one of the more prominent crooks conned into helping out as one of the Santas out collecting for the home. But, as I said, this film’s rendition of “Silver Bells” is one of the film’s best and most touching moments, easily making the movie worth seeing just for that alone! But, yes, I certainly enjoy and recommend the rest of the movie, too!

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

And if you are interested in joining in on my month-long “Star Of The Month” blogathons for 2021, whether for next month (Doris Day), February (Clark Gable) or beyond, please be sure to check out my Coming Soon In 2021: “Star/Genre Of The Month” Blogathons post to sign up!

Film Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

(original review of The Paleface) (update) – Bob HopeMy Favorite Spy (1951)

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 (2020) with… Pocketful Of Miracles (1961)

Continuing on with our Christmas holiday run of movies, we have the 1961 movie Pocketful Of Miracles, starring Glenn Ford, Bette Davis, Hope Lange and Arthur O’Connell!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pitchin’ Woo At The Zoo (1944)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 6 minutes, 51 seconds)

Popeye and Olive are walking through the zoo, and zookeeper Bluto tries to impress Olive. Yes, it’s a lot of the old “Bluto and Popeye trying to one-up each other to impress Olive” routine, but it’s still a bit of fun. The animals add to the fun, as Popeye has to square off with a tiger, a crocodile, leopards, an elephant, and many more! Especially having been restored, this cartoon now looks great, making the colors more vivid, and allowing you to enjoy the details! Certainly worth seeing every now and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s the end of Prohibition. Gangster leader and bootlegger Dave the Dude (Glenn Ford) has become a big man in New York City, at least partly due to the success of the nightclub he’s been helping his girlfriend Elizabeth “Queenie” Martin (Hope Lange) run. He also has had some good luck because of his “lucky apples” that he routinely buys from beggar woman Apple Annie (Bette Davis). Now, he faces the prospect of being part of a bigger mob syndicate being led by its “king,” Steve Darcey (Sheldon Leonard), but he wants in on his own terms, not Darcey’s. Trouble arises, however, as Apple Annie finds herself in a pickle. For years, she’s been sending money that she’s gotten from Dave buying her apples and from the other panhandlers on Broadway to her daughter, who lives in a Spanish convent. Their only contact has been the letters they’ve been writing each other, with Annie embellishing her own life by making herself out to be a big society lady under the name of Mrs. E. Worthington Manville. Now, her most recent letter from her daughter Louise (Ann-Margret) indicates that she will be marrying the son of a Spanish count, and the three of them would be coming to America by boat to visit her mother. Apple Annie is distraught and unsure of what to do. At first, Dave is unconcerned about her problems and only wants his “lucky apple,” but Queenie convinces him to help Annie out. He sets her up with a room in the Hotel Marberry, with Queenie helping to give her a makeover. They also enlist the help of judge Henry G. Blake (Thomas Mitchell) to act as Louise’s stepfather. When the boat comes in, Annie, the judge, Dave and Queenie are there to meet them (along with the rest of Dave’s mob to help keep away any nosy reporters). Over the next few days, Annie enjoys her reunion with Louise, while Dave has his own worries. Among them, some reporters show up to find out about “Mrs. Manville,” so Dave has them tied up and stashed in the pantry. Count Alphonso Romero (Arthur O’Connell) decides to announce the engagement of Louise and his son Carlos (Peter Mann) at a reception for Annie’s “society friends,” and, after some discussion, they decide to try using Dave’s gang and Queenie’s showgirls to pose as the guests. The newspapers start to make things miserable for the police and the Mayor (Jerome Cowan) due to the disappearance of the reporters, and the police start to suspect Dave of being involved. In the midst of all this, Dave’s friend and second-in-command, Joy Boy (Peter Falk), is sweating it out as he constantly nags Dave about the potential deal with Darcey. Can everything come together, or will Annie’s lies be found out?

Pocketful Of Miracles was based on the Damon Runyan short story “Madame La Gimp.” Director Frank Capra had previously filmed the story for Columbia Pictures in 1933 as Lady For A Day, but had wanted to do a remake for a while. He had some trouble with Columbia’s executives, who owned the screen rights and were reluctant to do a remake. In 1960, he was able to buy the rights himself, but continued to have troubles with casting it. Actor Glenn Ford offered to help finance the movie if he could be cast as Dave the Dude, and while Frank Capra didn’t think he was right for the part, he agreed to his terms, just so he could make the movie. The troubles didn’t end there, though. Throughput filming, Frank Capra had health issues, with many headaches caused by the stress, resulting in this being the last feature film that he directed.

For some, it might be a bit of a stretch to call this one a Christmas movie, but not me! They admit at one point that the movie does take place during December, and we do get to see a few decorated Christmas trees in the background of some scenes. The score also includes some Christmas music, including music from the Nutcracker Suite at key points of the story. But, ultimately, the story itself maintains some Christmas spirit. We see Dave the Dude go from caring only about himself and what he wants, to doing things for others and encouraging some of his gang to do things without reward (and we also see the effects radiate out to others that he deals with). As the judge himself says at one point, pointing to his heart, “In here, it’s Christmas.” And that is enough for me to call this one a Christmas film.

I really enjoy this film, with its score, its story, and all the performances of the various actors involved. In particular, though, I think the movie is worth it just to see Peter Falk in his Best Supporting Actor Oscar-nominated role as Joy Boy, and Edward Everett Horton as Hutchins, the butler. Both of them are generally hilarious throughout the movie, and even funnier during the few moments that they interact with each other. The only real sour note this movie has, in my opinion, is a scene of domestic violence between Glenn Ford’s Dave the Dude and Hope Lange’s Queenie Martin when he finds out she’s walking out on him, with the whole thing playing out like foreplay, until Peter Falk’s Joy Boy interrupts them (and it feels worse considering Glenn Ford and Hope Lange were an actual couple at the time this movie was made). Apart from that minor complaint, this is a movie I always look forward to watching around Christmastime, and I certainly would give it my highest recommendations!

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

And if you are interested in joining in on my month-long “Star Of The Month” blogathons for 2021, whether for next month (Doris Day), February (Clark Gable) or beyond, please be sure to check out my Coming Soon In 2021: “Star/Genre Of The Month” Blogathons post to sign up!

Film Length: 2 hours, 17 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

It Started With A Kiss (1959) – Glenn Ford

Another Man’s Poison (1952) – Bette Davis

Down To Earth (1947) – Edward Everett Horton

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2020) with… The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942)

I’m now ready to start off a round of Christmas films for 2020, and for that, I’m going with the 1942 comedy The Man Who Came To Dinner, starring Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan and Monty Woolley!

Coming Up Shorts! with… So You Think You Need Glasses (1942)

(Length: 10 minutes, 37 seconds)

Joe McDoakes has some issues with far-sightedness, and has to see an ophthalmologist about it. This short is an early Joe McDoakes short, before it became a more official series. It uses some humor for a more serious subject (and occasionally gets a bit more serious). Personally, I didn’t find it all that memorable, and no doubt science has changed a number of things since then, so I would be wary in recommending this rather forgettable short.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Six Hits And A Miss (1942)

(Length: 8 minutes, 55 seconds)

It’s a musical short, featuring the song “You Gotta Know How To Dance” played by Rudolph Friml Jr. And His Band, and sung by the singing group Six Hits And A Miss. It’s a fun short, and it utilizes footage of Ruby Keeler and Paul Draper dancing to the song, borrowed from the 1936 film Colleen. It’s a decent short, but at the same time, the new footage kind of takes away from the fun dancing from the earlier movie. Given the choice, I’d rather try to see the earlier movie, and enjoy it that way.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Radio personality Sheridan “Sherry” Whiteside (Monty Woolley) and his secretary Maggie Cutler (Bette Davis) have come to Mesalia, Ohio, where he is to give a lecture, but first, he is stuck having dinner with a prominent Ohio family, the Stanleys. Things go horribly wrong when Sherry slips on the icy stairs to go into their home and injures his hip. After two weeks, he finally comes out of the den in a wheelchair. He promptly threatens to sue Ernest Stanley (Grant Mitchell) for $150,000, and takes over the main part of the house for his activities, since the doctor says he shouldn’t be moved elsewhere. Ernest tries to get him to leave, but Sherry just threatens to sue him for even more money if he is forced out. Over the next few weeks, Sherry causes more trouble for Ernest by advising the Stanley children to follow their dreams. During that time, Maggie starts to fall for the local newspaper owner and editor Bert Jefferson (Richard Travis). Sherry is less than thrilled with this turn of events, especially when she decides to resign as Sherry’s secretary. Since Bert has written a play, Sherry decides to call up his actress friend Lorraine Sheldon (Ann Sheridan), in the hopes that she will break up Maggie and Bert’s relationship. Not long after she arrives, she starts in on Bert. Smelling a rat, Maggie enlists the help of a visiting actor friend, Beverly Carlton (Reginald Gardiner), to get Lorraine to leave. It almost works, until Bert accidentally spoils everything. Once she realizes she’s been tricked (and why), Lorraine promises Maggie that she will do her best to take Bert away from her, resulting in Maggie running off. The following day, Sherry finds himself in trouble, as Maggie is still planning to leave his employ, and Ernest Stanley has sworn out a warrant to have Sherry evicted from the place. Sherry’s Hollywood friend Banjo (Jimmy Durante) also comes to visit, but they find themselves trying to figure out how to help Sherry out of all the trouble he’s gotten himself into.

You can blame Alexander Woollcott for this one, folks. Supposedly, he at one point asked the playwriting team of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart to write a play for him to star in. They struggled to come up with an idea, until Hart remembered one time that Woollcott visited him overnight. Apparently, Woollcott had been real demanding and an absolute nightmare of a guest, and when relating the story to Kaufman, Hart pondered how awful it might have been had Woollcott broken his leg and been stuck there for the summer, which was the inspiration they needed for the play. Woollcott liked the play, but felt too close to the character to play him onstage, so the role ended up being done by Monty Woolley. They threw in a few other characters who were also based on real-life people, including Lorraine Sheldon (based on actress Gertrude Lawrence), Beverly Carlton (based on playwright Noel Coward) and Banjo (based on Harpo Marx). The play was a huge success, getting the attention of Warner Brothers, who bought the rights to film it. Bette Davis wanted very much to be in the film, and had no problem with it being more of an ensemble film, as she mainly wanted to be involved in it. She also hoped and campaigned for the idea of starring with John Barrymore as Sheridan Whiteside, but his drinking problem left him unable to do the film. Producer Hal Wallis tried some other big stars, but he eventually settled on going with the original Sheridan Whiteside, Monty Woolley, to great effect.

I will readily admit, I’ve been watching this one and getting a few good laughs out of it for a number of years now. The casting alone makes this movie work. Monty Woolley as Sheridan is generally hilarious, with all his complaining and demands, meanwhile protesting, in a manner similar to Professor Higgins from My Fair Lady, that he is a kind soul who is always kind to others (even though we can plainly see he wants his life HIS way, and heaven help those who try to have a life of their own). I feel for Grant Mitchell’s character Ernest Stanley, who, at the insistence of his wife (played by the great Billie Burke in an also humorous role), got stuck inviting Sheridan over for dinner, and lost the use of his house (all while being sued for a great sum of money). Of course, the way he treats his children and their dreams show us that he has his issues (not to mention the secret he is hiding about his sister Harriet). As Beverly Carlton, Reginald Gardiner is at his least reserved (and, consequently, about as funny as I can remember him being in any of his movies that I have seen)! And Jimmy Durante also adds to the fun as the Harpo Marx-based Banjo, mainly chasing girls like Harpo would (but otherwise far more conversational)! Throw in all the animals that get sent to Sheridan, Mary Wickes as the poor nurse stuck trying to take care of Sheridan, and this movie is guaranteed to keep me laughing for some time to come!

Of course, since I’m starting to get into the Christmas spirit here, I’ve certainly got to talk about that! This movie takes place over the Christmas season, with the last part of the movie taking place on Christmas Eve and Christmas day itself. Obviously, we also have the likes of snow on the ground, and Christmas trees in the house (including a second tree in the Stanleys’ bedroom, since they aren’t allowed in the main part of the house), with presents under the tree (not to mention all the gifts sent to Sheridan while he is recuperating). And Sheridan Whiteside has his radio broadcast on Christmas Eve, where he starts to regale his audience with the story of the original Christmas. I will readily admit that the movie pushes the boundary of being a Christmas film just because he can be such a nasty character (and doesn’t really seem to learn to be a better person by the end of the movie). But, whether you watch it as a Christmas movie, or just for fun any other time of the year, it’s a lot of fun, and worth quite a few good laughs! (So, yes, I do recommend it!)

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 52 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Letter (1940) – Bette Davis – Now, Voyager (1942)

Dodge City (1939) – Ann Sheridan – Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)

The Girl Of The Golden West (1938) – Monty Woolley – Since You Went Away (1944)

Jimmy Durante – Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962)

Zenobia (1939) – Billie Burke – Father Of The Bride (1950)

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