Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2023) on… To Be Or Not To Be (1942)

Welcome back everybody, and Happy New Year! As we start into the new year, I will be doing even fewer posts than I have been in the past (as I hinted at in yesterday’s 2022: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched post), but I’m hoping that by doing so, I’ll still be able to stick around! And with that, let’s dig into our first film for the year, the 1942 comedy To Be Or Not To Be, starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Two Too Young (1936)

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

(Length: 10 minutes, 10 seconds)

Buckwheat (Billie Thomas) and Porky (Eugene Lee) brought some fireworks with them to school. Believing them to be too young (and wanting to play with the fireworks as well), Spanky (George McFarland) and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) try to get ahold of them. Once again, Spanky and Alfalfa manage to bring the humor. Their attempt at portraying a “G-man” to get the fireworks was quite funny, as was Alfalfa’s recitation of “The Charge Of The Light Brigade” (with the fireworks going off in his back pocket). This one was very, very enjoyable, and worth seeing again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1939, and, although the threat of war with Germany looms over the horizon, all is well yet in the Polish town of Warsaw, especially for a troupe of performers led by Joseph Tura (Jack Benny) and his wife Maria (Carole Lombard). They are rehearsing a new play called Gestapo while performing in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Maria has found herself with an ardent admirer in the form of aviator Lieutenant Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack), and she encourages him to come backstage to see her while her husband performs the “To be or not to be” soliloquy. She becomes interested in Stanislav, and sees him the next day. The troupe had been planning to premiere Gestapo that night, but their government orders them to cancel the play (since they fear the possibility of offending Adolf Hitler). So, they perform Hamlet again, and Stanislav once again walks out on the soliloquy to see Maria. He misinterprets her interest, and threatens to tell her husband (who is mainly angry that a member of the audience walked out on his soliloquy twice, but doesn’t know the reason why). However, before anything can be done, they all learn that Hitler has invaded the country. With the country quickly falling to Hitler, Stanislav ends up joining other Polish pilots in the British Royal Air Force. While on a break from their missions, the lieutenant and some of the other pilots meet Professor Alexander Siletsky (Stanley Ridges), who has been giving speeches on the radio in favor of the Polish resistance. When the professor accidentally lets it slip that he’s about to go on a mission that will take him to Warsaw, all the pilots (including Stanislav) ask him to take messages to their loved ones still in Warsaw. However, Stanislav becomes suspicious when he tries to send a message to Maria Tura, and the professor doesn’t recognize her name. When Stanislav tells his superiors about his suspicions later, they send him by plane to Warsaw to prevent the Gestapo from going after the families of the Polish resistance and pilots. However, the professor has also gotten there (but not in time to do any damage yet), and has Maria summoned to pass along the lieutenant’s message. She had already seen the lieutenant when he arrived, so she is careful of the professor (but doesn’t let on that she knows). The professor, now interested in her himself, invites her to dinner later that night in the hopes of seducing her to become a spy for the Nazis. She returns to her apartment to change, arriving in time to prevent a fight between the lieutenant and Joseph (who had just come home to find the lieutenant sleeping, but still only knows him as the man who walked out on his soliloquoy). They make a plan for later, hoping to fool the professor into giving them the information. They are successfully able to get the professor to the theatre (now disguised as Gestapo headquarters), and get him to give them everything by having Joseph pretend to be Colonel Ehrhardt of the Gestapo. However, Joseph slips up when the professor tells him about the message from the lieutenant (for Maria), and so the professor attempts to get away from them. However, in trying to sneak out of the theatre, he is fatally shot by Stanislav. Afterwards, Joseph disguises himself as the professor to get the rest of the information and get his wife out of the German-occupied hotel, but is immediately summoned by the REAL Colonel Ehrhardt (Sig Ruman). Joseph is able to keep up the ruse, and even manages to deflect the Colonel away from some of the resistance leaders. He makes arrangements with the Colonel for himself and Maria to get a plane out of Poland. The ruse starts to fall apart later when some of the Colonel’s men discover the body of the real professor when they are trying to get the theatre ready for the arrival of the Führer, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph unknowingly makes the mistake of calling the Colonel in order to meet with him again. Joseph is briefly able to evade capture by making it look like the real professor is an impostor (by removing his beard and putting on a fake one), but some of his troupe arrive in German uniforms and take him away after revealing him as a fake. They get out safely, but their interference has ruined Joseph’s plan to get out of Poland. Their producer, Dobosh (Charles Halton) borrows an idea from an old play they had done (which had flopped) to help get them all out of the country. Will his plan work? Will Joseph be able to perform Hamlet again (without interruption), or will they all be captured by the Nazis?

Director Ernst Lubtisch had previously started his own production company to produce his comedy That Uncertain Feeling (1941), with plans to follow that up with an original idea for another comedy (an idea that would become To Be Or Not To Be). However, That Uncertain Feeling did poorly in theatres, resulting in the production company being dissolved. The result was that Alexander Korda, a co-owner of United Artists, financed the film over at United Artists while agreeing to let the director have control over casting, writers and the final cut of the movie. At first, the director thought about casting Maurice Chevalier in the lead, but instead decided to go with comedian Jack Benny, whom he built the film around. Miriam Hopkins was considered for the female lead, but she turned it down, complaining about Jack Benny getting all the funny stuff. Carole Lombard saw the role as being more than just Jack Benny’s “straight man,” and got the part. There were some minor troubles on the film (mostly to do with the film’s satire of the Nazis), but for the most part, the cast had a lot of fun doing the film. As much fun as Carole Lombard had doing the film, it ended up being her last, as she died in a plane crash upon returning from a war bond drive. Her death, combined with the film’s comedic treatment of the Nazi menace, left the film getting heavily criticized by both critics and audiences. However, time has been favorable to the movie, as it has become not only one of the director’s best known films, but also a well-regarded film for both of its major stars.

I first saw To Be Or Not To Be (1942) a number of years ago, and didn’t immediately take to it. Part of that was the fact that I had also seen and liked the later 1983 version with Mel Brooks beforehand (since I more or less grew up with Mel Brooks’ style of humor via the likes of Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men In Tights, not to mention the classic TV show Get Smart). However, I’ve had the desire to revisit the 1942 film for a number of years now, and I finally got the opportunity to see it again in preparation for this review. All I can say is, “Wow! Time has certainly changed my opinion of this movie!” The film’s more dramatic moments really pull you in, helping you to feel for the characters and worry about their safety. Of course, this film knows the value of a laugh, and it does indeed provide many! The main moments that stick out were Jack Benny’s Joseph Tura masquerading first as Colonel Ehrhardt (“So they call me ‘Concentration Camp’ Ehrhardt?”) when meeting with Stanley Ridges’ Professor Siletsky (the only character who is played completely straight/dramatically), and then when he disguises himself as the late professor when meeting with the real Colonel Ehrhardt, as played by Sig Ruman. Speaking of Sig Ruman, his role as the Colonel is one of the funniest in the whole film, especially when (after initial prompting by the fake professor) he continually tries to place the blame for all of his mistakes on his own lieutenant, Captain Schultz (as played by Henry Victor), even at the end of the film. How I went so long without watching this movie (or enjoying it), I’ll never know. But I will readily admit to this film’s greatness now, and I highly recommend it for a good laugh (from start to finish)!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 39 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Nothing Sacred (1937) – Carole Lombard

Broadway Melody Of 1936 (1935) – Jack Benny

Nice Girl? (1941) – Robert Stack – Great Day In The Morning (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!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2022) on… Murder By Death (1976)

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “Never consider murder to be business, Mr. Diamond”

And yet, for the Fall 2022 blogathon from the Classic Movie Blog Association (CMBA), that is the business, as the theme is “Movies Are Murder!” On that note, I decided to go with a murder comedy I’ve enjoyed for a long time (but haven’t gotten around to writing about yet), 1976’s Murder By Death, starring Eileen Brennan, Truman Capote, James Coco, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Nancy Walker and Estelle Winwood!

Five famous detectives and their associates have received an invitation to “dinner and a murder” at the mansion of Lionel Twain (Truman Capote). This group includes Dick Charleston (David Niven) and his wife, Dora (Maggie Smith); Inspector Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) and his adopted son Willie (Richard Narita); Milo Perrier (James Coco) and his chauffeur, Marcel Cassette (James Cromwell); Sam Diamond (Peter Falk) and his secretary, Tess Skeffington (Eileen Brennan); and Jessica Marbles (Elsa Lanchester) with her nurse, Miss Withers (Estelle Winwood). In the leadup to the dinner, there are various attempts on their lives, which all fail. During the dinner, their host (who had previously kept to himself) appears, and explains why he brought them all there. Every one of those detectives had a reputation for solving every one of their cases, and Mr. Twain wanted to bet them all that he could solve a murder before them. He predicted that one person sitting at that table would be murdered at midnight, and another would be the murderer. While he disappears, everyone else vows to stay together, although at various times, they leave the room to investigate some of the goings-on in the house. At midnight, Mr. Twain himself appears, dead (and murdered exactly as he had predicted). So, the detectives and their associates all set out to figure out who indeed murdered Twain. But will they succeed, or will Mr. Twain get the upper hand (even though he’s dead)?

Ah, the murder mystery. The genre has long been a favorite with readers and moviegoers alike. Of course, with good murder mysteries come various detectives, who become famous for their wit and their ingenuity in solving these crimes. Some authors were able to create memorable detectives that audiences loved and followed through entire series, both on the big screen and in the written word. Murder By Death was writer Neil Simon’s spoof of the detective genre. In particular, he parodied detectives from Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple), Dashiell Hammett (Nick and Nora Charles, Sam Spade) and Earl Derr Biggers (Charlie Chan). A number of big stars were offered roles (including original Thin Man actress Myrna Loy), but they turned them down. Those that did decide to take part in the film enjoyed themselves. Alec Guinness in particular thoroughly enjoyed himself, as he made the trip to Hollywood to make the film (not something he was prone to doing). In fact, he had to reassure author Neil Simon that he was having fun with it (since the author liked him so much that he offered to rewrite anything to suit him). Admittedly, some of the cast didn’t exactly have a lot of faith in the film, as Peter Sellers sold his share of the percentage back to the producers of the film, and the company that David Niven’s son was working for (and which had invested in the film) believed they would be writing it off as a tax loss. And yet, the movie ended up being the eighth biggest hit of 1976.

I first saw this film when it was given to me on DVD along with two other Peter Falk films (this film’s 1978 “sequel”, The Cheap Detective as well as the 1979 film The In-Laws). Even though I had no experience with any of the detectives that the film was spoofing (outside of Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon), I took to the film right away! The movie has a lot of twists and turns as we see the murder occur and then get solved (if you can call it that) by the film’s end. Admittedly, the film’s ending does leave you with a number of rather big plot-holes, but, at the same time, it’s so fun that I can easily forgive the movie as I get swept up in the proceedings! In general, I think all of the cast do quite well, from Peter Falk’s excellent imitation of Humphrey Bogart, to David Niven and Maggie Smith, who come off quite similarly to William Powell and Myrna Loy’s Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man films. Personally, I think that Alec Guinness’ role as the blind butler Jamessir Bensonmum is one of his best, as he is quite funny (especially with that name!). I have to throw in a SPOILER ALERT to say this, but he is at his absolute best when we see him at the end of the film, revealed as the culprits by the various detectives, and he changes his manner and character so well every time that one of the detectives comes in and accuses him of being somebody different. END SPOILER ALERT

Besides Alec Guinness, I also really like Peter Sellers here. Normally, I don’t care for him at all, but his performance as Sydney Wang is a real delight (even if it isn’t exactly politically correct, since he’s wearing yellowface to appear Asian). Quite frankly, he’s one of the most quotable characters in the film for me, with this line being a personal favorite:

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “Conversation like television set on honeymoon. Unnecessary!”

But aside from some of his sayings (or “stories” as he calls them), I most enjoy his interactions with Truman Capote’s Lionel Twain, who is almost a grammar Nazi with regards to Wang’s ability to speak English, as exemplified by this exchange:

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “What meaning of this, Mr. Twain?”

-Lionel Twain (Truman Capote) – “I will tell you, Mr. Wang, if you can tell me why a man who possesses one of the most brilliant minds of this century can’t say his prepositions or articles. ‘The,’ Mr. Wang, ‘What is the meaning of this?”

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “That’s what I said. What meaning of this?”

Of course, I just love how Wang refers to a moose head mounted on the wall (which Twain is using to watch them) as a “cow on wall.” Quite frankly, my only really serious complaint about this movie is that these two don’t interact enough.

Apart from that, I do know that this movie isn’t for everyone. Aside from Peter Sellers being made up to look Asian, the movie has a number of other things going on that keep it from being politically correct. In general, there are a handful of racist comments (usually directed towards Peter Seller’s Wang or his Japanese son, played by Richard Narita). There are definitely some issues with sexism going on, and a number of homophobic comments as well. Plain and simple, it’s not a perfect film. But, it’s one I have enjoyed seeing on an almost yearly basis (especially around the Halloween season) ever since I first saw it, and it’s one that I highly recommend (at least, for those who can get past its issues). And with that, I leave with a quote that admittedly needs another spoiler warning (since it comes from the end of the film, and hints enough at the film’s ending), but it’s one that feels apropos for the whole “Movies Are Murder!” blogathon (not to mention, it’s certainly how things sometimes feel when things don’t go our way). So thank you all for reading (and don’t let the “murder” referred to in this quote be the situation for you this weekend, either 😉 )!


-Willie Wang (Richard Narita) – “I don’t understand, Pop. Was there a murder or wasn’t there?”

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “Yes. Killed good weekend.”

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… Murder By Death (1976)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory. The transfer seems to be using an HD scan. For the most part, it looks pretty good. There is some damage in the form of specks and dirt, but it’s really only visible on bigger and better TVs. Overall, it’s the way that I would recommend seeing the movie.

Film Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #9 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964) – Peter Falk

Naughty Marietta (1935) – Elsa Lanchester

Magnificent Doll (1946) – David Niven

The Notorious Landlady (1962) – Estelle Winwood

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

“Star Of The Month (November 2022)” Featuring W. C. Fields in… The Old-Fashioned Way (1934)

We’re here now with our first look at a film featuring the Star Of The Month for November 2022 (W. C. Fields), the 1934 comedy The Old-Fashioned Way!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Our Gang Follies Of 1936 (1935)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 17 minutes, 54 seconds)

Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang put on a show for the kids of the neighborhood. However, one highly-demanded act is missing, so the Gang has to figure out what to do instead. This one was a lot more amusing than some of the previous shorts. The music is fun, but, as usual, it’s the comedy that manages to be memorable, with the monkey leading the way, either when he’s chasing Buckwheat (Billie Thomas) with a pitchfork, or when he’s hiding in the dress that Spanky has to wear to lead the others when they impersonate the Flory-Dory Sixtette. The only problem with this short for modern audiences is the way that they light up the eyes of the black kids whenever the lights are turned off (which only happens a few times for brief moments). Other than that, this one was quite entertaining, and I look forward to revisiting it in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

The Great McGonigle (W. C. Fields) and his troupe of performers leave a town by train, barely getting past the sheriff who was trying to serve McGonigle for not paying his bills at the boarding house (or for anything else). The troupe is joined by Wally Livingston (Joe Morrison), a young college student who is courting McGonigle’s daughter, Betty (Judith Allen) (although she is trying to urge him to go back to college, to no avail). They soon arrive in the small town of Bellefontaine. McGonigle had been telling the troupe that the theatre there had sold out for their performance, but they quickly find out that only a handful of tickets have been sold. At their boardinghouse, they meet the stagestruck Cleopatra Pepperday (Jan Duggan) and her son Albert (Baby LeRoy). Cleopatra auditions to join the troupe, and, although she displays a complete lack of talent, McGonigle decides to let her join anyway (since she is the richest woman in town). When another member of the troupe leaves (on account of the lack of business), Wally auditions and becomes a member of the troupe (and, unlike Cleopatra, he does have talent). Another sheriff tries to force McGonigle to pay his bill by threatening to prevent the show from going on, but Cleopatra offers to pay the bill so that she can have her chance. So the troupe puts on the show for a full audience (since everybody in town wants to see Cleopatra make a fool of herself). The audience includes Wally’s father, who has come to convince his son to go back to college and to stay away from Betty. Will Wally listen to his father (and Betty), or will he stay with the show? For that matter, will the Great McGonigle be able to keep the show going, or will Cleopatra’s presence get them laughed out of town?

Like most of the other W. C. Fields films that I’ve reviewed in the past, this one was entirely new for me. Personally, I thought it was a lot of good fun, with W. C. Fields being the most enjoyable part! From his opening appearance when he deftly evades the sheriff, to his night on the train, to all his lies even to his own troupe members, Fields manages to be quite humorous! Personally, the most memorable moments are when he has to deal with Cleopatra’s child (played by Baby LeRoy), who ruins his dinner, and Jan Duggan’s Cleopatra auditioning (in that old “singing poorly while performing a song that the spectators keep thinking is about to end, only to go yet another verse and chorus” way) with “Gathering Up The Shells From The Sea Shore”. But some of the real fun here is seeing Fields juggle (which is what he originally broke into show business doing, as he quickly became one of the best), using balls and cigar boxes. The film is slowed down for about twenty minutes as we see the troupe perform the old temperance play The Drunkard, especially with it being performed in what seems to be the style of acting that would have been prevalent for the time this movie is set in (but which seems extremely odd now to us more modern audiences). This isn’t exactly the best W. C. Fields film that I’ve ever seen, but it’s entertaining, and kept me laughing throughout. In my book, that’s certainly worth recommending (especially to see Fields juggle, which I would argue is a thing of beauty to watch)!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… The Old-Fashioned Way (1934)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This release seems to be using an older HD master, but it looks pretty good. The detail is good enough (soft for some, but it is what it is), and while there is some damage present, it’s relatively minor and doesn’t take away from the film itself. Overall, this is likely to be as good a transfer as this film will get, making it the recommended way to see this fun movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 12 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Alice In Wonderland (1933)W. C. FieldsMississippi (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!

“Screen Team (Bob Hope And Dorothy Lamour) Of The Month (May 2022)” Featuring Bob Hope in… My Favorite Spy (1951)

We’re back for one final film as part of May’s Screen Team Of The Month featuring Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour! To finish it off, we’ve got one of Bob Hope’s solo outings, the 1951 comedy My Favorite Spy, also starring Hedy Lamarr!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Wet Blanket Policy (1948)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 25 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker is pushed by insurance salesman Buzz Buzzard into signing an insurance policy… with Buzz as the beneficiary! This one was an entertaining short, with a different slant than usual for a Woody Woodpecker cartoon. Usually, he’s the one being the pest for everybody else, but here, Buzz makes him look like a good guy! This time, Woody is mostly on the run from Buzz, who just keeps coming back after Woody hits him. I won’t say that it’s the greatest Woody Woodpecker cartoon, as the interplay between Woody and Buzz falls short of that between Woody and Wally Walrus. Still, it provided a few good laughs, making it worth returning to in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

At an airport, Eric Augustine (Bob Hope) is trying to evade some agents trying to capture him. He manages to get away, and the agents turn to the local police to help them catch him. The police pick up vaudeville comedian Peanuts White (Bob Hope) (who greatly resembles Eric). Peanuts tries to convince them of his identity, but they don’t believe him. That is, until they receive word that the real Eric is still hiding at the airport, so they let Peanuts go. However, they have to turn to Peanuts for help when the real Eric is injured in a shootout with the agents. They need Peanuts to impersonate Eric, who was going to buy a top-secret microfilm, but Peanuts, a bit of a coward, wants nothing to do with their spy intrigues. It takes a phone call from the U.S. President Harry Truman to convince Peanuts to go through with the whole charade. The agents help make him over to look more like Eric, and help him learn not only how to act like Eric, but who all Eric’s “friends” and enemies are. Upon getting him through enough training, Peanuts is sent off to Tangier. Upon arriving, he narrowly escapes an assassination attempt before ending up in a cab with Eric’s on-again-off-again lover (and fellow spy), Lily Dalbray (Hedy Lamarr). She quickly resumes her romance with “Eric,” but what Peanuts doesn’t know is that she is working for his nemesis, Karl Brubaker (Frances L. Sullivan). The plan is for her to steal the microfilm from “Eric” when he gets it, and have him killed. At the hotel he is staying at, Peanuts meets Tasso (Arnold Moss), another agent posing as “Eric’s” valet. Peanuts only has eyes for Lily, so Tasso has to keep reminding him that anybody could be passing him info on when and where he should meet with Rudolph Hoenig (Luis Van Rooten), the man who possesses the microfilm. Of course, while all this is going on, the real Eric has gotten away from the agents, and is making his way to Tangier. With all the double-crossing going on around him, can Peanuts successfully get the microfilm AND get out of the country alive? And will Lily fall for him, or follow through with her plan to have him killed?

With both My Favorite Blonde (1942) and My Favorite Brunette (1947) doing well for him, of course Bob Hope was going to return to this “series” again. For My Favorite Spy, he went back to spoofing the spy genre. Joining him for this third go-round (without any reference to her hair color in the film’s title) was Hedy Lamarr, whose own career was waning at this point. She hoped that, by working with Bob (then one of Hollywood’s biggest stars), she might be able to reverse that decline. Of course, the initial idea for the film was slightly different than what we got, with Bob’s character of Peanuts initially envisioned as being a schoolteacher (instead of a vaudevillian) being sent to Cairo (the movie’s working title was Passage To Cairo). But, things changed as they went along. Reportedly, Hedy Lamarr proved more adept at comedy (possibly even upstaging Bob Hope), resulting in Bob having some of the movie re-edited to make him the funnier one. The movie’s premiere took place at the home of Anne Kuchinka in Bellaire, Ohio (she had won a radio contest through Bob’s program in which people wrote letters giving reasons why the premiere should be held in their own home).

I’ve seen this one once or twice before, and I will admit that it’s one that I enjoy. As usual for a Bob Hope film, he’s certainly got his quips throughout, which usually land pretty well for a few good laughs. One of the film’s most memorable moments is when Bob’s main character, Peanuts, gets a dose of truth serum, with unexpected results (since the bad guys still think that he is the spy). I also enjoy the final chase sequence, which with its fire truck antics, is reminiscent of similar moments in the classic comedies Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (1941) and In Society (1944) (although, unlike those two films, it doesn’t share any footage). The film isn’t without its faults, though. For one thing, there’s no cameo from Bing Crosby (outside of a veiled reference). I’ll grant you that it’s not a major thing, since he didn’t make cameos in every Bob Hope film, but his presence is missed after he did make appearances in the other two “My Favorite” films. Another problem for me is that it feels like they really underused the “real” Eric Augustine in this movie. For the most part, he’s really not there a lot, and when he is around, he really doesn’t speak much, if at all (which is certainly enough to make you pause and wonder how everybody else mistook the far chattier Peanuts White for him). I don’t know how much of that is the tech (and its cost), but it just takes away from what could have been something more. It’s certainly far from a perfect film, but I think it provides enough humorous moments that I don’t mind coming back to it every now and again. Maybe for others, it might be better as a rental, but I think it’s worth recommending, anyway.

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Olive Films.

Film Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)Bob HopeSon Of Paleface (1952)

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

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with… Song Of The Thin Man (1947)

We’re back for not only one final go-round with William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, but one final (for now) individual review in my “What’s Old Is A New Release Again” series, as I switch to a roundup of quick blurbs about a group of movies (hopefully within the next few weeks). But enough about that, we’re here for the 1947 mystery comedy Song Of The Thin Man!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Free Wheeling (1932)

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

(Length: 19 minutes, 49 seconds)

Young Dickie (Dickie Moore) has a stiff neck which requires a neck brace, but the doctors say that he can and should take it off (although his mother disagrees with them). Dickie ends up joining Stymie (Matthew Beard) and the Gang in their makeshift taxi. This one was another entertaining short, with quite a few humorous moments. I know I enjoyed Dickie’s attempt to avoid taking castor oil (and his subsequent revenge on his nurse). Then there is the taxi (pushed by a mule) and all the various devices to simulate a real taxi ride. The final ride through the countryside is less than convincing due to the rather obvious rear screen projection, but that’s a rare complaint about an otherwise very enjoyable short with the Gang!

Coming Up Shorts! with… A Really Important Person (1947)

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

(Length: 10 minutes, 50 seconds)

Young Billy Reilly (Dean Stockwell) wants to write an essay on an important person for a contest, but he can’t think of anybody. It isn’t until he accidentally breaks a window during a baseball game and is pushed by his father to help repair it that he is able to come up with a subject. This short, part of John Nesbit’s Passing Parade series, was a good one. It has a good message of not always needing to look for heroes among the big names and celebrities, but also within your own neighborhood (and even your own home when applicable). It was well-acted, and very heartfelt. It’s the only short I’ve seen from that series so far, and, while not enough of a ringing endorsement for me to seek out more, it was at least an entertaining one.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Slap Happy Lion (1947)

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

(Length: 7 minutes, 26 seconds)

The lion is the king of the jungle and afraid of nobody. That is, until a mouse keeps picking on him. This Tex Avery short is quite funny, especially with the various lion roars (and the reactions of the different animals when they run in fear). Of course, the fight between the mouse and the lion (which is the majority of the short) is nothing new in and of itself. The main humor there is doing things Tex Avery’s way (which is certainly entertaining). It’s an overall fun cartoon (especially with that ending), and it’s one I don’t mind revisiting!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Phil Orval Brant (Bruce Cowling) is hosting a society benefit on his ship, the S. S. Fortune, and Nick (William Powell) and Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) are there hobnobbing with the rest of them. There is a jazz orchestra playing there, under the leadership of Tommy Edlon Drake (Phillip Reed). However, Tommy is getting into trouble in various ways, and, after the event is over, he is shot. The police think that Phil is the guilty party, but, when Phil and his new wife, Janet Thayar (Jayne Meadows), show up the next day to visit the Charles, Nick and Nora at first assume that’s it’s because of their new marital status (until Phil and Janet explain to them what has happened). They are shot at by some unknown assailant, and Nick decides to turn Phil in to the police for safety (since he thinks the shot was intended for Phil). Later, Nick sneaks onto the Fortune (which is being guarded by the police), where he meets the members of the jazz orchestra. He learns how none of them liked Tommy, particularly clarinet player, Buddy Hollis (Don Taylor) (who isn’t there with the rest of the group). Nick convinces another clarinet player, Clarence “Clinker” Krause (Keenan Wynn), to help him locate Buddy, but they have no luck. Nick later has an idea, and, with the aid of Nora, questions Janet and her father, David I. Thayar (Ralph Morgan) (who did not approve of Janet’s marriage to Phil) about an antique gun (since David has a collection of them). During their conversation, Janet gets a mysterious telephone call, and the whole interrogation ends abruptly. Nick and Nora follow Janet to an apartment, where they find the dead body of the band’s singer, Fran Ledue Page (Gloria Grahame). They find a clue that leads them to a rest home, where they find Buddy (who has been staying there after his alcoholism broke his mind). By all appearances, it almost looks like Buddy is the murderer, but Nick isn’t sure. Working with the police, he manages to gather all the suspects on the Fortune, where he hopes everything will be revealed. But will his plan work?

With Myrna Loy returning to Hollywood (after her failed marriage to John Hertz, Jr. and all her work for the war effort), The Thin Man Goes Home continued the success of the Thin Man series. However, things had changed enough that the series no longer had the guaranteed success it had previously known. With the death of W. S. “Woody” Van Dyke (who had directed the first four films), and different writers behind the scenes, only the onscreen talent remained the same. Song Of The Thin Man brought back actor Leon Ames from The Thin Man Goes Home (the original plan was to have him be the same character, except his onscreen wife from the previous film was unavailable, so he was instead given a different character to work with). The role of Nickie, Jr. (played in Shadow Of The Thin Man by Richard “Dickie” Hall) was recast with Dean Stockwell for Song Of The Thin Man. The presence of William Powell and Myrna Loy wasn’t enough to save the film this time for audiences, as the movie ended up losing money at the box office. In the process, it not only ended the series, it also ended up being the last full movie pairing William Powell and Myrna Loy (with her making a cameo appearance in another 1947 outing for William Powell, The Senator Was Indiscreet), as well as being Myrna’s last film at MGM.

Like all the previous entries in the series, this one was new to me. I will be very quick to admit that I still enjoyed this one, but, at the same time, it is indeed easy to see it was not as well done as the earlier films. The humor overall wasn’t as memorable, with the main comedy bits that stuck with me being the “Jive talk” that Keenan Wynn’s Clinker frequently engages in, to the particular confusion of Nick and Nora (and probably modern audiences who may not be as used to the slang). The mystery itself is decent here, but, at the same time, the final reveal wasn’t handled as well as the earlier films, lacking all the frequent misdirections (or at least, they were poorly handled here). My opinion may not be as favorable, but I can’t deny that the movie is still entertaining, and worth it for more time with William Powell and Myrna Loy’s Nick and Nora, who still have the same chemistry that had held all the series together. So, for them alone, this movie is still worth recommending (but, again, I don’t recommend binge-watching the whole series, as this film looks worse when compared directly against the earlier films).

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, featuring a new 4K scan of the best preservation elements. Quite simply stated, the movie looks as good as all the earlier films, with a good image that has been cleaned up of dirt and debris. I certainly recommend this release as the best way to see and enjoy this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Ziegfeld Follies (1945) – William Powell – Mister Roberts (1955)

The Thin Man Goes Home (1945) – Myrna Loy – Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

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Film Legends Of Yesteryear: Screen Team & “Screen Team Of The Month (May 2022)” Featuring Bob Hope And Dorothy Lamour in… My Favorite Brunette (1947)

Well, since I’m not doing as many films this month, I’m going to start off with a movie featuring this month’s Screen Team, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour! That film would be the 1947 comedy My Favorite Brunette, which also features Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney, Jr.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Fair Weather Fiends (1946)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)

Everything is just fine for Woody Woodpecker and his friend, Wolfie Wolf, as they sail around on their boat, eating all day long. Then a storm leaves them stranded without food on an island, and hunger sets in. This one was quite humorous, with the two attempting to eat each other. I’ll admit, the story was fairly predictable, pitting the two “friends” against each other when they get hungry, but they did have another bird to compete over briefly, which added to the hilarity. Not the most original cartoon, but it was funny, and I certainly would gladly watch it again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Ronnie Jackson (Bob Hope) is a baby photographer, but he dreams of being a private eye, just like Sam McCloud (Alan Ladd), whose office is right across from Ronnie’s studio. While Sam is away on a trip, Ronnie messes around in Sam’s office (since Sam asked him to man the phones while he is away) when Baroness Carlotta Montay (Dorothy Lamour) comes in. Mistaking him for Sam, she asks for his help in finding her missing wheelchair-bound husband. She leaves a map with him to keep hidden, and gives him an address to meet her at. Ronnie decides to take her case, especially when he sees her being followed by someone else, and drives out to the address. It turns out to be the mansion home of a friend of her family’s, Major Simon Montague (Charles Dingle). While she is out answering a call, the major tells Ronnie that her “husband” (actually, her uncle, as she thought that making him out to be her husband would make the case more attractive to “Sam”) is alright, and that she is currently mentally disturbed (which is why the baron is hiding in another room). At first, Ronnie believes the major based on her behavior when she returns, but, upon exiting the mansion, he looks in a window and sees the “baron” up and walking around (which he takes a picture of), leaving him to believe Carlotta’s story. He is discovered and makes a run for it, but one of Montague’s henchman, Kismet (Peter Lorre), follows him and attempts to burn the photo and its negative. Ronnie later tries to bring the police up to the mansion, but they don’t find anybody there (except for Kismet, who is posing as a gardener). Still suspicious, Ronnie tries to sneak in and look for clues. He does indeed find one (which was planted in an obvious spot for him to see by Kismet). Ronnie follows the clue to a sanitarium, where he is captured and held prisoner, alongside Carlotta and the real baron. While Montague explains to Ronnie what is really going on (he wants the baron’s mineral rights to a uranium mine), the baron secretly gives Carlotta a message to go see an engineer who had helped him put together the map (the one Carlotta had asked Ronnie to keep hidden). When they get the chance, Ronnie and Carlotta escape, and make their way to see the engineer, James Collins (Reginald Denny). However, before they can bring any of this to the police, Kismet kills James and makes it look like Ronnie did it. Ronnie gets away from the police, and escapes to Washington, D.C. with Carlotta. There, they attempt to stop Montague from getting the mineral rights, but will they ultimately be successful?

During the latter part of World War II, Bob Hope had some issues with the studio heads at Paramount Pictures, as he had wanted to hold onto more of his salary. It had been suggested to him by a big show business lawyer that he should form his own production company, and make his movies in partnership with Paramount. While he liked the idea, the heads at Paramount did not, and he was suspended for a few years. Of course, he had all his work with the USO to keep him busy, and enough popularity with audiences that the studio finally relented, and Hope Enterprises, Inc. was born. For their first production, they went with My Favorite Brunette, a sequel (in name only) to his earlier hit, My Favorite Blonde. Of course, with his own money being put in the picture, Bob Hope (known for goofing off on the set of his movies) took things a bit more seriously this time around. Given that they were spoofing film noir this time around, they were able to get genre regular Peter Lorre, as well as Lon Chaney, Jr. (in his first film upon leaving Universal Pictures). It worked well enough at the box office, though, as Hope Enterprises continued to produce Bob’s movies, and the My Favorite series would be revisited one more time in the early 1950s with My Favorite Spy.

Personally, I’ve seen My Favorite Brunette a number of times over the years, and enjoyed it. But when watching it for this review (the first time I’ve seen it in most of a decade), the film overall made a lot more sense to me. The biggest reason, of course, is that I am now a lot more familiar with the film noir genre (having mainly seen a bunch of movies from the genre after I made the jump to HD in 2014). So, that makes the presence of Alan Ladd (in a brief cameo as Sam McCloud) and Peter Lorre much better, as well as Lon Chaney, Jr., in a role reminiscent of the type that Mike Mazurki would normally be playing. Of course, the movie itself is fun because of Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour! While the film has many wonderful comedic moments, one of the most memorable is the scene where Bob’s Ronnie has just been told that Dottie’s Carlotta is crazy (while she was out of the room), and, when she comes in, she more or less does act a bit crazy, especially in the way that she handles the letter opener she is carrying (I know I certainly would be questioning her sanity while she is doing that)! And this film has what I consider to be one of the best “Bing Crosby cameo in a Bob Hope movie” moments (I can’t really say anything more without spoiling things, it’s one of those things that just HAS to be seen)! Quite simply stated, this is a fantastic comedy, with a great cast! I personally consider it the best of the My Favorite series with Bob Hope, and I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending it!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Utopia (1946)Bob HopeRoad To Rio (1947)

Road To Utopia (1946)Dorothy LamourRoad To Rio (1947)

The Maltese Falcon (1941) – Peter Lorre – Silk Stockings (1957)

Road To Utopia (1946) – Bob Hope/Dorothy Lamour (screen team) – Road To Rio (1947)

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

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

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

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

(Length: 20 minutes, 42 seconds)

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

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

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

(Length: 19 minutes, 45 seconds)

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

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

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 12 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

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

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

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 (March 2022)” Featuring Bing Crosby in… Mississippi (1935)

We’re back for another film featuring this month’s Star, Bing Crosby! This time, it’s his 1935 musical comedy Mississippi (based on Magnolia, a 1923 play by Booth Tarkington), co-starring W. C. Fields and Joan Bennett!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Woody Dines Out (1945)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 42 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker is hungry, but all the restaurants that he can find are closed. Finally, he discovers a place that specializes in stuffing birds, but it turns out to be the establishment of a taxidermist! This cartoon was fun, but it was only so-so. There was too much set-up going on, and the actual interplay between Woody and the taxidermist was virtually non-existent. There was barely any “battle” between them, which takes away from the fun. It was still enjoyable, just not the Woody Woodpecker series at its best.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Southern plantation owner General Rumford (Claude Gillingwater) is throwing a party to celebrate the engagement of his daughter, Elvira (Gail Patrick), to his ward, Tom Grayson (Bing Crosby), and he has invited a nearby showboat troupe, under the leadership of Commodore Jackson (W. C. Fields), to perform at the party. However, the festivities are interrupted when Elvira’s former beau, Major Patterson (John Miljan), arrives and challenges Tom to a duel for Elvira’s hand. When the pacifist Tom declines the duel, Elvira turns him down and he is ostracized by everyone. Well, everyone but Elvira’s younger sister, Lucy (Joan Bennett), who admires him for sticking to his convictions, and reveals to Tom as he is leaving that she has had a bit of a crush on him. He thinks that she is too young (since she is getting ready to go back to school), so he doesn’t make much of her confession. The commodore had offered Tom a job with his troupe, so Tom takes him up on the offer. When Tom saves the commodore’s life during a game of poker, the commodore responds in kind by trying to help Tom out. The commodore suggests the stage name of “the notorious Colonel Steele,” and builds him up as a singing killer, which is made much easier when Tom accidentally kills tough guy Captain Blackie (Fred Kohler, Sr.) in a brawl. The commodore continues to build up Colonel Steele’s reputation, by adding more “victims” (including a cousin of Lucy’s), regardless of whether anything actually happened. On a trip with her school, Lucy runs into Tom, and they fall for each other. However, when she learns that he is the notorious Colonel Steele, she rejects him. When Tom later learns that Lucy is engaged to Major Patterson’s brother, Joe (Ed Pawley), he must decide whether he will fight back this time or not. But will he be able to win out (and win back Lucy’s heart in the process)?

The role of Tom Grayson was actually planned for actor Lanny Ross, but Bing Crosby (a much more popular star at the time) was cast instead. My own opinion is that, nearly two years after doing College Humor (in which, as I stated last week, I thought his acting wasn’t quite natural yet), his performing skills had much improved (although I think he looks a little odd with the sideburns he is sporting, as well as the mustache he wears for the last part of the movie). I think he works much more effectively here (although there are some obvious moments with some of the stunts where the camerawork and editing don’t work as well to hide the fact that it wasn’t him doing the stunts), in a manner similar to most of his other thirties output (but still different from the persona he finally established going into the forties). Obviously, he’s in good voice here, crooning a few songs from Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (including the song “It’s Easy To Remember,” which was written for the film at Bing’s request after the two songwriters had returned to New York), plus “Swanee River.” As I had said in my review of Nice Girl? (1941), Bing’s version of “Swanee” was for a time my favorite for that tune (at least, until I saw that Deanna Durbin film). “It’s Easy To Remember” is honestly the only other song in the film that is that memorable. I would also say that his comedic skills were improving a little, helped by working with comedy legend W. C. Fields.

Speaking of W. C. Fields, he is one of the reasons that I’ve come to enjoy this movie as much as I have. It was the second film of his that I had seen (following The Big Broadcast Of 1938), and I particularly enjoyed his poker game, as he played with some men who claimed to hate cheaters (and yet, they were cheating themselves), all the while he kept drawing (and trying to get rid of) a fifth ace! Fields also gets some humor out of the song “Swanee River,” as it dates the film’s events as being around the time the song was written (since he is told that it is a new song), and then he claims that nobody will remember it (and then he keeps humming it throughout the rest of the movie)! It’s not a perfect film, as it struggles with some of the old stereotypes for blacks (since it is set in the Old South), as well as the way that Native Americans are treated (none really show up, it’s just Fields’ constant story of fighting off some Shug Indians). Still, it’s an entertaining film that I enjoy coming back to every now and then, and I think it’s worth trying (especially if it’s included as part of a set of Bing Crosby films)!

This movie is available on DVD from Universal Studios, either as part of the six film The Bing Crosby Collection or as part of the twenty-four film set Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 14 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

We’re Not Dressing (1934)Bing CrosbyRhythm On The Range (1936)

The Old-Fashioned Way (1934)W. C. FieldsMy Little Chickadee (1940)

Joan Bennett – Big Brown Eyes (1936)

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

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

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

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Something In The Wind (1947)Deanna Durbin

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

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

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

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 56 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

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

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

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

Nice Girl? (1941) – Helen Broderick

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