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

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

Coming Up Shorts! with… Psychedelic Pink (1968)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 17 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 2 hours, 57 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

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

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

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

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

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

Agnes Mooreheard – Dark Passage (1947)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… The Bride Comes Home (1935)

We’re back for some more screwball fun with the 1935 comedy The Bride Comes Home starring Claudette Colbert, Fred MacMurray and Robert Young!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Love Business (1931)

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

(Length: 20 minutes, 27 seconds)

Miss Crabtree (June Marlowe) comes to stay at Jackie’s (Jackie Cooper) house. This causes trouble for some of the kids, as both Jackie and Chubby (Norman Chaney) have a crush on her. This was another fun one, as has been typical so far of June Marlowe’s appearances as Miss Crabtree. There were many wonderful moments, from Jackie’s mother accidentally knocking a box of mothballs into the soup (and everybody’s reactions when they try to eat it) to Jackie’s attempts to distract Chubby when he tries to propose to Miss Crabtree. Not to mention Wheezer’s (Bobby Hutchins) complaints about Jackie kissing him at night. Overall, very fun, very memorable, and one I look forward to watching again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

One night in Chicago, Jack Bristow (Robert Young) throws a party with his society friends to celebrate him inheriting nearly three million dollars. In trying to get ready for the party, one of his friends, Jeanette Desmereau (Claudette Colbert), finds out from her father, Alfred Desmereau (William Collier, Sr.), that they are broke, since he had to let most of their servants go. So, she makes plans to find a job (although, at her father’s insistence, she will pretend that she is just doing it for a lark so that nobody knows they are broke). Jack’s bodyguard, Cyrus Anderson (Fred MacMurray), is looking forward to being able to quit his job after Jack inherits the money (since he was appointed to his position by Jack’s guardian). However, Jack doesn’t look forward to going back to his big mansion alone, and stays the night with Cyrus. As they talk, Jack learns about Cyrus’ dream to be the editor of a magazine, and decides to use his new inheritance to start the magazine (and be the publisher). The magazine is called The Man, which Cyrus intends to be for men who have earned their way (as opposed to inheriting their money like Jack). Jack promises to let Cyrus do all the hiring, but when Jeanette comes around asking for a job, Jack breaks that promise and hires her as the assistant editor (much to Cyrus’ annoyance). The next day, when they come in to work, Cyrus decides to give her some of the most mundane tasks he can think of to get her out of his hair, but she still keeps pestering him as she tries to follow his orders (even though she knows that he’s trying to get rid of her). When all three go to lunch at the same place, Jack and Jeanette find out why Cyrus has been giving her a hard time, and she reveals that she and her father are broke. Cyrus now feels ashamed of his actions, but Jeanette isn’t immediately willing to forgive him. It’s only when she comes to Cyrus and Jack’s apartment (since Jack had moved in with him), intending to start another fight with Cyrus, that the two of them realize they love each other. They start going out together as a result. Jack, who has been proposing to Jeanette since childhood, keeps trying, but, as usual, she turns him down. Cyrus proposes, and she accepts. However, on the day they plan to get married in his apartment, Jeanette comes over early to clean up the place. When Cyrus arrives earlier than expected with the Judge (Donald Meek), she is a bit of a mess, and he finds that she’s moved around some of his important papers. After an argument, they decide to break things off, since all they seem to do is argue. After a while, Jack again proposes, and she decides to accept. But will this relationship work out, or will Jeanette and Cyrus come to the conclusion that they belong together?

The Bride Comes Home, which was the second of seven movies that paired up Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray, was based on a short story (of the same name) written by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding for Hearst’s International-Cosmopolitan. I hadn’t heard of the film until the Blu-ray was announced (more on that in a moment), and, upon that announcement, I found myself wanting to see it for several reasons, including the description of it as a screwball comedy, the fact that it starred Claudette Colbert (whom I’ve seen in several good comedies and whom I had just featured as a Star Of The Month), and Fred MacMurray’s presence (since I’ve enjoyed a number of his films over the years). Having seen it, I now find myself with mixed feelings towards this movie. I will readily admit that I did enjoy this movie, and got a few good laughs out of it. However, I find it to be a film that I would not recommend. My biggest problem? That the film almost promotes domestic violence. I say that, because Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray’s characters (Jeanette and Cyrus, respectively) almost seem to be the type that are sexually aroused by engaging in it (ok, the movie doesn’t go quite that far, but that’s most likely because of the then-recent implementation of the Code that would have prevented them from going that far). To be fair, there is no actual violence shown on the screen, it is just hinted at in the conversations for the characters. Admittedly, this does in some respects lead to some of the funnier moments in the film, particularly the end when we see Jeanette wanting to argue with somebody, but dealing with some wishy-washy people until she meets Edgar Kennedy’s justice of the peace. The other main part that is funny is watching her try to follow Cyrus’ orders on her first day. Admittedly, that brings up another problem, in the early emphasis on her needing work, but all the work stuff disappears completely from the movie once she admits to being broke. It would have been nice to at least see what Cyrus actually had her doing once he realized how much she actually needed the job. Like I said, I did enjoy this movie. But, when all is said and done, I would much, much prefer to watch any of the other comedies that I’ve seen her in so far (like It Happened One Night, The Palm Beach Story or Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife). Purely on the domestic violence aspects of this movie, I cannot bring myself to recommend it.

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This release seems to have an older HD scan. For the most part, the transfer looks quite good. There are some moments here and there that look like they might have used lesser elements to work with, and the film has not been cleaned up of all the dirt and scratches. Still, the transfer is quite watchable, and likely to be the best this movie will look for some time.

Film Length: 1 hour, 23 minutes

My Rating: 5/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Cleopatra (1934)Claudette ColbertBluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

Fred MacMurray – Remember The Night (1940)

Robert Young – Honolulu (1939)

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

“Star Of The Month (June 2021)” Featuring Claudette Colbert in… The Palm Beach Story (1942)

For my last look at one of actress Claudette Colbert’s films (to end the celebration of her as the Star Of The Month), we’ve got her 1942 comedy The Palm Beach Story, also starring Joel McCrea!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pinknic (1967)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 9 seconds)

The Pink Panther is stuck in a cabin awaiting the arrival of spring, and is stuck with an equally hungry mouse. This short is, at best, average for the series. Certainly, the antics of the mouse as he tries to eat the Panther provide much of the humor, here. However, the fact that the Panther is hungry as well gets quickly dropped, as time moves quickly, with nary a drop of food hinted at (other than a picture of a fish that the Panther tries to cook but which gets eaten by the mouse). I like it, but it’s at best middle of the pack, and one I’m not *quite* as likely to come back to as often as others I’ve seen.

And Now For The Main Feature…

After six years of marriage, Tom (Joel McCrea) and Gerry Jeffers (Claudette Colbert) are flat broke.  The manager of their Park Avenue apartment building is showing their place to some prospective tenants (since they haven’t paid their rent).  Gerry is still in the apartment while this is happening, but she tries to keep out of sight.  However, one of the prospective tenants, the self-proclaimed Wienie King (Robert Dudley) pokes around, and comes across her.  When he finds out that the beautiful Gerry is broke, he decides to give her $700 to help pay the rent and other things.  Feeling better with the bills paid (and frustrated at the idea that they will quickly be in the same boat again since her inventor husband is struggling to get anybody to invest in his inventions), Gerry decides to divorce Tom and use her sex appeal to marry a millionaire (and help support Tom financially that way).  Tom doesn’t like the idea, but she manages to get to the train station to get away before he can stop her.  Without any money or luggage, she uses her appeal to get some men from the Ale And Quail Club to get her a ticket.  However, while in their private car, the men all get drunk and start shooting, so she makes her escape towards the front of the train.  There, she finds a berth above J. D. “Snoodles” Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee) and sleeps there.  In the morning, she finds that she has no clothes to wear (everything was in the private car with the Ale and Quail Club, and that car was disconnected because the conductor was fed up with the group’s antics).  So, Snoodles comes to her rescue at the next town, and buys her many outfits and bracelets, etc.  When he takes her the rest of the way to Palm Beach on his yacht, she learns who he is (one of the richest men in the world), and they get to know each other better.  In the meantime, Tom also meets the Wienie King, who gives him money to take a plane ahead of her in an attempt to reconcile.  When he learns from a porter about Gerry getting off the train with somebody, Tom goes to the pier to meet the yacht.  He is not the only one there to meet it, as it is also being met by Snoodles’ sister, the often-married (and divorced) Princess Maude Centimillia (Mary Astor), along with her current suitor, Toto (Sig Arno).  When she sees Tom on the dock, Gerry introduces him as her brother, “Captain McGlue” (since Snoodles already knew of her husband), and Maude takes an immediate liking to him.  Tom is not fond of the overall situation, but he wants Gerry back, so he tries to make the best of it (while keeping an eye on her).  Meanwhile, she works on Snoodles to get him to invest in Tom’s idea.  Of course, the question remains: will things work out for everybody?

Director Preston Sturges was enjoying great success at the time, following the well-received The Lady Eve (which I hope to review later this year), which had also allowed him to do his passion project: Sullivan’s Travels.  He had planned to possibly do another film with actress Veronica Lake (which ended up being handed off to director René Clair and would become I Married A Witch).  So, Sturges came up with his own idea, borrowing heavily from his own life experiences.  At the time, the story was tentatively being called Is That Bad? or Is Marriage Necessary? (both titles that got into trouble with the censors at the Hays office).  Originally, the plan was for actress Carole Lombard to star in this film, but her death changed things, resulting in Claudette Colbert taking over the role.  Rudy Vallee’s casting was mainly at the insistence of Sturges, as Vallee had mostly been a failure in previous movies, but this film’s success changed his career trajectory, allowing him the opportunity to do more comedic roles.  This film was an expensive one, in between the sets and the salaries of the cast, but it still proved a hit with audiences who wanted a relief from the various dramas and war films of the time.

I will readily admit that I like actress Claudette Colbert’s performance in this film.  She does great as a gal who prefers to live lavishly (but struggles to do so on her husband’s income).  Especially with the attention (and money) she gets from the Wienie King, she is quick to realize she is still young and beautiful, which she believes can get her anywhere.  We can see that she still loves her husband and wants to help him out, but, as she says, his jealous streak prevents her from doing anything to help him successfully. Through her performance, we are shown how she is trying to fight , not just for a better life for herself, but for her husband, and yet, she has to fight her own emotions and love for her husband in order to do so.

Overall, I will readily admit that I had a lot of fun with this one. That opening credits sequence gets the movie started off on the right foot (but I can’t describe it without spoiling some things). Admittedly, I would also say it almost feels like it belongs to a different movie, with the events shown not really coming into play until the very end (and even then, you’re still slightly confused about what was going on). Still, the cast are all quite fun, including Mary Astor as the man-hungry princess, who always gets the man she wants (but can’t seem to get rid of her current lover, Toto). The only other weak point, in a gag that really isn’t aging well, is all the hunters on the train, especially when they start shooting the place up (in a drunken stupor, but it’s still not as funny nowadays). All its faults aside, this is another classic comedy from director Preston Sturges that I thoroughly enjoyed, and one I would say is well worth recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection

Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)Claudette ColbertSince You Went Away (1944)

The Great Man’s Lady (1942) – Joel McCrea

The Maltese Falcon (1941) – Mary Astor – Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

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“Star Of The Month (June 2021)” Featuring Claudette Colbert in… Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

Next up for our June celebration of actress Claudette Colbert (as the Star Of The Month), we’ve got the 1938 comedy Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife, also starring Gary Cooper!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Rock A Bye Pinky (1966)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 8 seconds)

When the Pink Panther can’t sleep due to the Little Man’s snoring, he tries to do something about it! This one is a lot of fun, as the Little Man (who doesn’t know the Pink Panther is there) keeps blaming everything on his dog. Obviously, one can’t help but feel sorry for the dog (who keeps trying to save his master, only to be blamed for it), but the gags are funny enough that you want to keep watching! I know I do, as I enjoy coming back to this one again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Oh, the crazy things that can bring people together! While shopping at a store on the French Riviera, American millionaire Michael Brandon (Gary Cooper) tries to buy only the top half of a pair of pajamas, but the clerks and store owners won’t let him. It is only when Nicole De Loiselle (Claudette Colbert) steps in and offers to buy the pants that everything is cleared up. Michael is also struggling with insomnia, and tries to change rooms at the hotel he is staying at. However, the other room he attempts to switch to is still occupied by the Marquis De Loiselle (Edward Everett Horton) (even though he hasn’t paid his bill for some time and is being threatened with eviction), and Michael discovers the Marquis wearing the pajama pants that Nicole had bought. Realizing that Nicole is the daughter of the Marquis, Michael decides to buy an antique bathtub that the financially-strapped Marquis tries to sell him. Michael finds Nicole at the beach with her friend (and one of Michael’s bank employees) Albert De Regnier (David Niven). While Michael sends Albert off to type up a letter, he tries to propose to Nicole, but she turns him down. Michael keeps trying, and eventually she does agree to marry him. However, at their engagement party, Nicole finds out that he has been married not once, not twice, but SEVEN times previously. She resists the idea of marrying him, but, upon hearing that his previous wives all got a settlement of $50,000 a year for life, she proposes a settlement of $100,000 a year if they divorce, to which Michael agrees. However, things don’t go the way he expects, as, even after marriage, she tries to maintain a distance between them (as in, they don’t consummate the marriage). In spite of that, he’s bound and determined to try and keep this marriage going. Her efforts finally win out, when she attempts to make it look like she’s having an affair, and he walks in on Albert, who had been knocked out (by a prize fighter she had hired to pose as her lover). That’s finally enough to convince him to divorce her, but in the process he suffers a nervous breakdown. Will they come back together, or will this divorce last, too?

This movie was based on a French play by Albert Savoir and its English translation by Charlton Andrews. The story had been done onscreen before, as a silent film in 1923 starring Gloria Swanson. For the new film, director Ernst Lubitsch came in, and, for writers, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett were teamed up for the first time. The opening scene about the pajamas came from Billy Wilder, who, as the director and his co-writer later found out, was also prone to sleeping only in pajama tops, and had wanted to use the idea in a comedy for a while.

This was yet another wonderful screwball performance from actress Claudette Colbert. In general, a lot of the fun from this movie comes about as a result of how much smarter her character Nicole is than Gary Cooper’s Michael. Once she learns about his previous wives, she quickly figures out that the best way to keep him is to NOT to behave like a normal wife, and instead make him fight for their relationship. Heck, she even outsmarts the private detective he hires to follow her around, and turns the tables on him, too! Considering how casually Michael considers marriage, it’s hard not to cheer for her as she tries to bring him around to her way of thinking!

I may be coming off my first time seeing this movie, but, wow! What a screwball comedy! I personally think that the chemistry between Claudette and Gary Cooper makes this film work quite well! Again, the fact that he thinks he’s so smart (while she proves far smarter than him) is what makes this film fun! I’ll admit, one moment between the two that sticks out in my mind is when he reads Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew for inspiration on how to handle her. I’ll admit, the only reason this moment works (since he slaps her and then later spanks her) is because she gives as good as she gets, frustrating him to the point of throwing the book in the fire (without that, it wouldn’t be that funny). Honestly, if I have ANY complaint about this movie, it’s that Edward Everett Horton isn’t in it enough! In my opinion, he steals the picture, whether it be his reaction when he finds out about the previous wives (he faints offscreen), to the greed he displays when he hears about the settlements that the other wives got from their divorces. But I’ll never forget how he gets himself into the sanitarium to see Michael when he suffers a nervous breakdown. Seriously, this movie is just a hoot from start to finish, and one I look forward to seeing again and again (so, yes, I would definitely recommend it)!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This movie appears to be using an HD scan, one that was probably done a while back. Still, it looks at least decent, with very little dirt or debris. One would wish that it could be improved with a new scan, but this is still good enough for a wonderful movie, and the best way to see it for the time being!

Film Length: 1 hour, 26 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Bride Comes Home (1935)Claudette ColbertThe Palm Beach Story (1942)

Alice In Wonderland (1933) – Gary Cooper – Sergeant York (1941)

Top Hat (1935) – Edward Everett Horton – College Swing (1938)

David Niven – Bachelor Mother (1939)

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

“Star Of The Month (June 2021)” Featuring Claudette Colbert in… Cleopatra (1934)

Next up for actress Claudette Colbert (June’s Star Of The Month), we have her 1934 film Cleopatra, also starring Warren William!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Genie With The Light Pink Fur (1966)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 7 seconds)

The Pink Panther tries to become a genie, to hilarious effect! Of course, nobody seems to care about the possibility of the genie in the lamp, as everybody has a different use for the lamp! I’ll admit, the tea drinker being scared when the Panther pops out of the lamp is one of the funniest reactions, but all the trouble the Panther gets into here is guaranteed to make me laugh! Another one of the better shorts, in my opinion!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert) is in a fight for control of Egypt with her brother, Ptolemy.  She and her philosopher/adviser Apollodorus (Irving Pichel) are kidnapped by Pothinos (Leonard Mudie) and left in the desert ahead of the arrival of Julius Caesar (Warren William).  However, Cleopatra returns secretly, and quickly gains an audience with Caesar.  She offers him the wealth of Egypt, as well as the treasures of India.  Caesar brings Cleopatra back with him to Rome, where he plans to divorce his wife Calpurnia (Gertrude Michael) and marry Cleopatra.  However, this idea doesn’t go over well with the Roman Senate, as they fear that will make him a king, and they plan to kill him.  Their plans are successful, and Cleopatra leaves to return to Egypt.  However, Marc Antony (Henry Wilcoxon) and Caesar’s nephew Octavian (Ian Keith) now share power as the rulers of Rome, and Antony vows to bring Cleopatra back in chains while he conquers Egypt.  Unfortunately for him, Cleopatra is wily enough that she seduces him easily.  Octavian makes use of this opportunity to brand Antony as a traitor, and vows to have him (and Cleopatra) killed.  With all his Roman troops and generals deserting him, will Antony and Cleopatra have a chance against the Roman army?

Earlier in 1934, Cecil B. DeMille made his second film (of three) with actress Claudette Colbert, Four Frightened People.  However, unlike their earlier film The Sign Of The Cross, that film was a flop.  That prompted Paramount Studios head Adolph Zukor to push DeMille to do another historical epic in a similar fashion to The Sign Of The Cross. Of course, part of that earlier film’s appeal was the pre-Code elements, and, with the Hays Code being implemented in 1934, that made that harder to do. Still, Cecil B. DeMille still tried to flaunt the restrictions while he could, to great effect. The movie was popular at the box office, and garnered five Oscar nominations (and one win, for Best Cinematography).

It wasn’t quite an easy film for leading lady Claudette Colbert, though. She struggled with health issues, as she had contracted appendicitis while making her previous film Four Frightened People, which made it harder for her to rehearse for Cleopatra. And, just as bad, her fear of snakes resulted in DeMille delaying her scene with a snake as long as he could. Using psychology, he brought in a big boa constrictor, and, when she asked him not to use that, he offered up a small garden snake instead (which she was happier with). Regardless of her issues, she gives a great performance here, still against type, as she seduces two Roman men. She proves quite wily, and in control most of the time, as she throws the men off their game.

I will freely admit, I hadn’t heard of this film before it was announced for release on Blu-ray back in 2018. I had known of the later 1963 film starring Elizabeth Taylor in the title role (but have never been interested in that one because of her). With actress Claudette Colbert in the title role for the 1934 film (and Cecil B. DeMille in the director’s seat), I was a lot more willing to try it. I wasn’t disappointed! This movie was a thrill from start to finish. I’ll admit, the opening was slightly confusing, starting with her kidnapping already in progress, but the rest of the film was great fun! I really feel like all the performances worked here (which made it better, in my mind, than the earlier The Sign Of The Cross), and I would also include the sets, the costumes and everything else in that statement! I enjoyed this movie, and I would certainly recommend it highly!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… Cleopatra (1934)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios.  According to the Blu-ray case, it has been restored from 35mm original film elements, and I would say that this movie certainly looks wonderful!  The detail is superb, and there is very little print damage showing.  It looks (and sounds) even better than the previously reviewed The Sign Of The Cross, and for my money, is well worth it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

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

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

It Happened One Night (1934)Claudette ColbertThe Bride Comes Home (1935)

Upper World (1934) – Warren William

“Star Of The Month (June 2021)” Featuring Claudette Colbert in… The Sign Of The Cross (1932)

Well, we’re here to start celebrating actress Claudette Colbert as the Star Of The Month, and what better way than one of the films that helped to catapult her towards being a big star! Of course, I mean her 1932 film The Sign Of The Cross, also starring Fredric March, Elissa Landi and Charles Laughton.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink-A-Boo (1966)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 14 seconds)

The Pink Panther has to deal with a mouse and his friends who have come to party. This is a fun one, with the Panther trying (and failing) to deal with the mouse. There are some fun moments here and there (and I know I get a good chuckle out of the mouse elevator). It’s not the Panther at his best, but it’s certainly enjoyable enough to not be one of his worst (and be worth repeat viewings).

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 64 A.D., and the city of Rome is burning! There are rumors that the Roman emperor Nero (Charles Laughton) is behind it, but, to deflect the blame, he accuses Christians of being behind it. The Prefect of Rome, Marcus Superbus (Fredric March), comes upon a mob that is threatening Titus (Arthur Hohl), Favius Fontellus (Harry Beresford) and Mercia (Elissa Landi), a trio accused of being Christians (which is true). Enchanted by Mercia’s beauty (and desiring her as a conquest), Marcus decides to let them go. Angry at losing their bounty (for capturing Christians), the would-be captors turn to Marcus’ rival, Tigellinus (Ian Keith). Laying in wait for Mercia (or anybody connected to her), Tigellinus’ men catch Stephan (Tommy Conlon), a young Christian boy living with Mercia and Favius. He is tortured by the Romans until he reveals the location of their next meeting. Marcus finds out too late to completely stop the Roman troops from killing many Christians, but he saves those that remain, opting to send them to prison (although he has Mercia sent to his home). Tigellinus hears about this, and tries to tell Nero (since Nero had ordered all Christians to be executed). Empress Poppaea (Claudette Colbert), who has been lusting after Marcus herself (and is less than thrilled with his interest in Mercia), convinces Nero to have Mercia taken away, claiming that Marcus is no traitor but just interested in Mercia sexually. During a party, Marcus tries to convince Mercia to have sex with him, but she refuses. Tigellinus arrives, and takes her to the prison to await her fate with the rest of the Christians. Will Marcus come around to the Christian faith, or will he convince Mercia to renounce it?

Director Cecil B. DeMille had, during the silent era, helped establish Paramount Studios, but went independent in the mid-1920s. With the coming of sound, he made several talkies for MGM, but they proved to be financially unsuccessful. He came back to Paramount, contracted for just one film: The Sign Of The Cross (which was based on the 1895 play of the same name by Wilson Barrett). However, with the Depression also hitting Paramount, he was held back from all the free-spending habits he had maintained with some of his earlier films. Still, he brought back some of his previous crew (although on lowered salaries), and he was able to use some costumes and sets from his earlier 1923 film The Ten Commandments to help lower the costs. It’s been said that, when his assistant director Roy Burns let him know they had used all the money from their allotted budget, he yelled “Cut!” and worked with what they had to finish putting the movie together. The movie proved to be a hit, and he remained at Paramount for the rest of his career.

Actress Claudette Colbert benefited greatly from being in this movie. Previously, she had mainly played the ingénue type of role, but Cecil B. DeMille offered her a chance to be, as he put it, “the wickedest woman in the world” (which she said yes to doing). And boy, does she! From the moment we meet her as she takes a milk bath (in one of the film’s many famous pre-Code moments), we learn of her character’s lust for Marcus. As we go through the movie, we see how she tries to manipulate events to get what she wants. And, near the end, Marcus accuses her of being a harlot, to which she shrugs as if to say “So what else is new?” It’s a different role than I had seen previously from her, but I think that she is very effective in it!

I myself am coming off my first time seeing this movie, and I will admit that I enjoyed it. I am both shocked and amazed at all the film’s pre-Code moments that the director was able to get away with (even with censors objecting while he was making the movie). I will admit, some of the acting is weak here (especially for the two leads, Fredric March and Elissa Landi), but I blame that more on director Cecil B. DeMille, who focuses more on the spectacle. And, that he does! The film really strongly contrasts the debauchery of the Roman people with the lifestyle of the Christians, and the last half hour, with all the stuff going on in the Roman arenas is indeed a show in and of itself (with stuff shown that filmmakers today wouldn’t likely do). But, I would still say that Claudette Colbert makes this film worthwhile, as does her onscreen husband, as played by newcomer Charles Laughton. This has been mentioned as a major classic pre-Code, and I would concur. So, if you get the chance to see this one (and can stomach the pre-Code moments), be sure to give it a try!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Sign Of The Cross (1932)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Due to the film’s pre-Code content, the movie suffered cuts throughout the years from censors. In 1944, when the film was reissued (with some of these cuts), a new prologue and epilogue were added (keeping the length about the same), with new footage of pilots flying over Rome during World War II. That version was the only version seen for many years, until the original footage was restored in the 1990s. This Blu-ray release makes use of the UCLA restoration of the original film. For the most part, this movie looks quite good! There is some print damage here and there, but this is likely to be the best this movie will look for a long time. I personally think the audio is a tad low (but there are subtitles, which helps that a bit). Overall, I would definitely recommend this release!

Film Length: 2 hours, 6 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Fredric March – The Eagle And The Hawk (1933)

Claudette ColbertIt Happened One Night (1934)

Charles Laughton – Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)

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!

TFTMM Presents “Star Of The Month (June 2021)” Featuring Claudette Colbert

Well, it’s the first of June now, and that means we are ready to start our next round of the Star Of The Month Blogathon! This month, our star is actress Claudette Colbert!

Table Of Contents

Quick Film Career Bio

Birth: September 13, 1903

Death: July 30, 1996

After receiving acclaim onstage for her role in the play The Barker, Émilie “Lily” Claudette Chauchoin (who had been working under the stage name Claudette Colbert, a combination of her middle name and her maternal grandmother’s maiden name) went to Hollywood in 1927 for the silent film For The Love Of Mike. That film failed, and she decided at that time that she wouldn’t make another film. Unable to find further success on stage, she tried again in Hollywood, signing with Paramount Studios (although she stayed in New York City to film stuff there). Her early films garnered her some attention, but it took Cecil B. DeMille casting her against type in The Sign Of The Cross (1932) to give her career a solid boost. 1934 would prove to be an even better year for her, with her abilities as a comic actress on display in It Happened One Night, plus Cleopatra and Imitation Of Life (all three of which would be nominated for Best Picture that year, but it was It Happened One Night that not only won that award, but resulted in her WINNING the Best Actress Oscar).

With an Oscar win under her belt, that allowed her to renegotiate her contract with Paramount, getting a better salary and better films, which resulted in her getting nominated for Best Actress again for her role in Private Worlds. The rest of the decade kept her at it in various romantic comedies and dramas. In 1940, she decided against signing an exclusive contract with Paramount again, figuring she could earn more as a freelance actress. She got some more big roles, both in comedies like The Palm Beach Story and dramas like Since You Went Away (for which she was again nominated for Best Actress).

However, the latter part of the forties started to signal a shift for her, as, beyond The Egg And I, her films were no longer as successful. She kept at it, though, going into the fifties, but she made fewer films (and being unable to do All About Eve because she suffered a back injury certainly didn’t help). She appeared in a number of television programs, while also returning to the stage. In 1961, she came back to the big screen for the movie Parrish, but, while the film itself was a success, she was barely noticed, and decided that would be her last film. She continued to act, both onstage and in a few TV appearances, but her big career in Hollywood was over.

Filmography

This is a list of all the films that I personally have reviewed from her filmography so far. Obviously, I will be adding to it throughout the month of June, and it is my plan to add to it as I review more and more of her films even beyond this month’s celebration.

The Sign Of The Cross (1932)

It Happened One Night (1934)

Cleopatra (1934)

The Bride Comes Home (1935)

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Since You Went Away (1944)

Tomorrow Is Forever (1946)

Entries For This Month

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man –

The Sign Of The Cross (1932)

Cleopatra (1934)

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Whimsically Classic

The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Rules:

Since this blogathon lasts a month, I’ll keep the rules here in case anybody is still interested in joining in:

  1. At this point, I am not putting any restrictions on topics related to the various stars, whether it be any of their films, or biographies, lists of favorites, etc.
  2. These celebrations are intended as tributes to these stars (even if they aren’t being done in months with birthdays), so I would ask that any participating posts be respectful of the stars themselves. Obviously, if you don’t care for that specific star, that would probably not be a good month to join in.
  3. I’m requesting that all posts would be new material, and not any previously published ones.
  4. As previously indicated, these celebrations of the stars and genres will last a whole month each, so you will have that whole month to work with. I myself will be publishing about four or five posts per month (depending on the number of Sundays and whether there are any recent disc releases that would fit the bill), so you can decide how many you want to do (within reason).
  5. If you are interested in joining, I would certainly suggest you either comment on this post, email me at astairefan7@gmail.com, or, for the Facebook savvy, contact me at my FB page. And feel free to use the banners I have put together (I’m still unsure of how much space I will have to work with over time on pictures, so for now I am doing one each).

Announcing the Claudette Colbert “Star Of The Month (June 2021)” Blogathon

Well, since I’m trying to do things differently than I have been for my “Star Of The Month” blogathons so far, I’ll take this opportunity to remind everybody that next month’s star is actress Claudette Colbert, and offer everyone the chance to sign up!

Table Of Contents

My Own Feelings On Claudette Colbert

My own introduction to actress Claudette Colbert was through her 1948 film The Egg And I. Truth be told, though, she didn’t make much of an impression on me (between that film and Boom Town and anything else I might have seen around that time). That changed over the last few years, after seeing her in It Happened One Night and Tomorrow Is Forever (and one or two others I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet). I will admit, she’s still far from being a favorite actress, but her presence in a movie is quickly becoming an asset. I’m looking forward (as I write this) to seeing the four films I currently have planned of hers (which will all be new to me). I hope I will enjoy them (and, in the process, hope I will bring to light films that others may want to see). And, by that same token, I hope others will join in, whether they be films new or old, that we can all find something new to try out!

Upcoming Schedule For 2021 (Beyond June):

July – star: James Cagney

August – star: Barbara Stanwyck

September – genre: Musicals

October – nothing

November – star: Humphrey Bogart

December (1-24) – genre: Christmas films

December (25-31) – nothing

Roster For The Claudette Colbert “Star Of The Month (June 2021)” Blogathon

Since this is obviously for next month’s blogathon on Claudette Colbert, then that’s all you need to worry about signing up for. As always, here are the rules that we are working with.

  1. At this point, I am not putting any restrictions on topics related to the various stars, whether it be any of their films, or biographies, lists of favorites, etc.
  2. These celebrations are intended as tributes to these stars, so I would ask that any participating posts be respectful of the stars themselves. Obviously, if you don’t care for that specific star, that would probably not be a good month to join in.
  3. I’m requesting that all posts would be new material, and not any previously published ones.
  4. As previously indicated, these celebrations of the stars and genres will last a whole month each, so you will have that whole month to work with. I myself will be publishing about four or five posts per month (depending on the number of Sundays and whether there are any recent disc releases that would fit the bill), so you can decide how many you want to do (within reason).
  5. If you are interested in joining, I would certainly suggest you either comment on this post, email me at astairefan7@gmail.com, or, for the Facebook savvy, contact me at my FB page. And feel free to use the banner at the top of this post (I’m still unsure of how much space I will have to work with over time on pictures, so for now I am doing one each).

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man

  • The Sign Of The Cross (1932), Cleopatra (1934), Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938) and The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Whimsically Classic

  • The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Top 10 Film Lists

  • Colbert and DeMille: The Sign Of The Cross (1932) and Cleopatra (1934)

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood

  • Imitation Of Life (1934)

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2019) with… Tomorrow Is Forever (1946)

As we get into the holiday season, let’s get started with the melodrama Tomorrow Is Forever starring Claudette Colbert, Orson Welles and George Brent.

It’s the end of the first World War, and Elizabeth MacDonald (Claudette Colbert) is looking forward to the return of her husband John Andrew MacDonald (Orson Welles). However, she receives a telegram stating that he has been killed in action. Pregnant with his baby and grieving, she is helped by her boss, Larry Hamilton (George Brent), and they get married. However, John is alive, but in very bad shape in an Austrian hospital, and although the doctors can help him, he decides to let Elizabeth continue to believe him dead. Fast forward to 1939, and Elizabeth and Larry are still happily married, with her now grown-up son Drew Hamilton (Richard Long) contemplating joining the Canadian RAF to help fight in the coming war, much to his mother’s dismay. Larry has also recently hired celebrated Austrian chemist Erik Kessler (John MacDonald’s new name), who has emigrated with his adopted daughter Margaret (Natalie Wood). While Erik recognizes Elizabeth still, she doesn’t quite recognize him the first few times they meet. She is more concerned with the thought of losing her son Drew, much the same way she lost her first husband. While she starts to believe she recognizes Erik as John, he denies it while also trying to repair the rift between mother and son (especially since Drew doesn’t know he has a father other than Larry).

Admittedly, this is probably not a movie that can really be classified as a Christmas movie. Most of the connection to the holiday is in an early scene when Elizabeth is coming home with a Christmas tree, only to find the telegram that told her of her husband’s death. While the movie comes around to that time of year again, it is mainly to emphasize December 20, which was Elizabeth’s wedding anniversary with John MacDonald. Otherwise, there is no connection to the Christmas holiday. Still, it’s a good movie to watch any time of the year, whether for Christmas or not.

As I have mentioned previously, I’m not generally fond of melodramas, but this is one I very much enjoyed! More than anything, the cast is what makes this movie work. As Elizabeth, Claudette Colbert does a great job of portraying a woman who has kept herself busy in motherhood and everything else, delaying the possibility of closure in the “death” of her first husband, until her only son from that first marriage is now trying to go off to war. Natalie Wood does very well in one of her earliest roles. For me, personally, I have nothing but praise for Orson Welles in this movie. While I have seen the classic Citizen Kane, I found I completely disliked the movie and Orson Welles himself, and thus I have otherwise avoided a lot of the other movies that he did. This one I like, especially once he becomes Erik Kessler, helping him to express so much, all the while walking (and moving) like the cripple the character had become after the war. For me, there’s not a sour note in any of the performances in this movie, and I very much would recommend it to anybody interested!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix in yet another one of their stellar transfers. As usual, that made it an easy film to try out (and having actress Claudette Colbert in it didn’t hurt, either), and it is a release I would heartily recommend!

Film Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Since You Went Away (1944)Claudette Colbert

Orson Welles – The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

International Lady (1941) – George Brent – Out Of The Blue (1947)

Natalie Wood – The Bride Wore Boots (1946)

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

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… It Happened One Night (1934)

Well, it’s February 1, so let’s celebrate Clark Gable’s birthday with one of his well-regarded classics (and his only Oscar win for Best Actor), the 1934 It Happened One Night, also starring Claudette Colbert.

Claudette Colbert plays Ellen Andrews, the daughter of wealthy Alexander Andrews (Walter Connolly). She has just married aviator King Westley, which angers her father. He tries to have the marriage annulled while keeping her on his yacht, but she escapes. Evading the private detectives he hires to find her, she gets on a bus bound for New York, where her husband is. Getting on that same bus is Clark Gable’s Peter Warne, a newspaperman who has just been fired. Once he realizes who she is, she is stuck with him helping her get there in exchange for the story (otherwise he would turn her in to her father). Of course, as they go on this journey, they both start to fall for each other.

Of course, I like this movie, since it is a screwball comedy (and one of the first, if not THE first, screwball comedies). There are many wonderful moments within this movie, but one of the better-remembered moments is the hitchhiking scene (a sentiment I fully agree with). Gable’s Peter Warne had by this point in the movie been telling off Colbert’s Ellen Andrews for being so spoiled and out-of-touch with common people for quite a while, so he thinks he knows exactly how to hitchhike. She watches as he fails with his different attempts to hail a car, and then on her first attempt, she succeeds (admittedly, she pulls up her skirt to show off her legs to do it). There are other wonderful moments to be found within this movie, but this is probably the most memorable.

It Happened One Night has a long legacy that has followed it. It was made by Columbia Pictures, a relatively small studio at the time, who didn’t really have any movie stars under contract to them. Instead, they relied on the bigger studios loaning them some of their stars (usually done by those studios as punishment, if they were starting to become bigger stars and threatened to demand more money). After this movie was released and became a success, it helped the studio itself to grow. Both Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert won Oscars for their roles in this movie, something that neither of them expected (with Claudette having to be brought from a train station as she was leaving to take a trip when it was announced she was the winner). The two would be reunited for the 1940 movie Boom Town, although not quite to the same acclaim that they received for this movie. As I said, this movie was an early screwball comedy, resulting in this being a popular form of comedy (with director Frank Capra returning to it several times, including the 1938 classic You Can’t Take It With You and the 1944 Arsenic And Old Lace with Cary Grant).

If you can’t tell, I REALLY do recommend seeing this movie if you get the chance! The movie itself is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 45 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Dancing Lady (1933)Clark GableMutiny On The Bounty (1935)

The Sign Of The Cross (1932)Claudette ColbertCleopatra (1934)

The Bitter Tea Of General Yen (1932) – Walter Connolly – Libeled Lady (1936)

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!