An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm & Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2022): 1939 with… Balalaika (1939)

It’s December now, and with the holidays upon us, it’s time to look at a movie that fits within the season! So, for today, we’re looking at the 1939 musical Balalaika starring Nelson Eddy and Ilona Massey!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Arbor Day (1936)

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

(Length: 17 minutes, 39 seconds)

It’s Arbor Day, and the school is putting on a pageant featuring all the kids, which is something that Spanky (George McFarland) wants to avoid. He is caught by the truant officer, along with a pair of midgets from a nearby circus mistaken as kids. This one was, at best, average. My big complaint is how much of the short was taken up by the Arbor Day pageant, with mostly forgettable music (aside from Alfalfa memorably “singing” the poem “Trees”) and dancing. Spanky attempting to play hooky was funny (but not long enough). I was also amused by the antics of the two midgets as they tried to escape their manager, and then later when they tried to perform in the pageant (which they had been dragged to). Plain and simple, this one wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t leave me with a desire to see it again, either.

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1914. The Russian Cossack Guards have just come back from maneuvers, and want to stop at the Cafe Balalaika for wine, music and women. Cafe singer Lydia Pavlovna Marakova (Ilona Massey) quickly catches their eye, and she is ordered to come have a drink with them. Unbeknownst to any of the Cossacks, Lydia and her family are a part of a group of revolutionaries, so, in spite of being blackmailed to go to them by the cafe owner, she finds a way to get out of there in a hurry. She doesn’t meet one of the leaders of the Cossacks, Prince Peter Karagin (Nelson Eddy), but he sees her as she leaves and is impressed. He quickly finds out that she has a thing for students, so he goes undercover as a student named “Peter Illyich Teranda” in order to catch her eye. Due to his singing ability, he is accepted by Lydia’s musician father and brother (although they don’t trust him enough to tell him of their revolutionary activities). When Peter learns of Lydia’s desire to sing in the opera, he gets her an audition with the opera’s director, Ivan Danchenoff (Frank Morgan). Danchenoff is impressed with her ability, and, pressed by Peter, gives her a spot in the opera. Things are starting to look up for them, but Lydia’s brother starts speaking out in a public square. In all that mess, the Cossack guards (including Peter) arrive to break up the gathering (trampling Lydia’s brother in the process). Lydia and Peter see each other in all that mess, and she refuses to see him again. On one of his attempts to see her, he announces that he will be resigning from the Cossacks, which gives her mixed feelings. On the one hand, she’s glad to hear it, but on the other hand, some of her associates had made plans to assassinate Peter and his father, General Karagin (C. Aubrey Smith), at the opening of the opera. Without telling him the real reason why, Lydia convinces Peter to stay away from the opening (and get his father to not come, either). However, Peter’s father does indeed go to the opera, as does Peter, who comes to deliver a message to his father. Before the assassins can do anything, the general announces to everyone in the opera that Germany had declared war on Russia. His announcement leads Lydia’s father to reconsider their plan, but his associate still manages to get a shot off before they are caught (but he only wounds the general). Once the Cossacks learn that Lydia’s father was one of the attempted assassins, she is quickly arrested. Before he goes off to war, Peter manages to get Lydia freed, but she has a hard time of it. In between the war keeping them apart and the brewing revolution, will Peter and Lydia ever get back together, or will they be separated by distance and ideology?

Balalaika was based on a 1936 London stage musical of the same name by Eric Maschwitz, with music by George Posford and Bernard Grun. MGM bought the rights, but it took them nearly two years before production actually started on the film. The studio had hoped to have Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy star in the film together, but the two stars had been demanding solo films. So, Nelson Eddy got Balalaika, with the song “At The Balalaika” being the only one retained from the show, while music director Herbert Stothart adapted other music for the film. With Jeanette MacDonald out of the picture, the role of the leading lady was offered to Miliza Korjus, but she believed it to be a joke (thinking that Jeanette would be teamed with Nelson again) and turned it down. So, the role was given to Ilona Massey (who had worked with Nelson, albeit in a supporting role, in Rosalie two years earlier, and would work with him again for 1947’s Northwest Outpost, his final film).

I first saw this movie just about a decade ago, and I’ve seen it numerous times since (otherwise translated, I like this movie). Nelson Eddy was the reason I first tried the movie, and remains one of the reasons that I like this film as well as I do. As usual, he’s in fine voice and has a few relatively fun tunes in the way of “At the Balalaika” and “Ride, Cossack, Ride.” But the songs that really stick out in my mind (and make the movie memorable) are him singing “The Song of the Volga Boatmen” (“El Ukhnem”), and singing the German version of “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht”). The latter song is done during a scene that takes place on the battlefield during the Russian Christmas (this is why I like to watch the movie at this time of the year), with it reminding me strongly of the famous Christmas Truce Of 1914 (even though this scene takes place three years later), as the Austrians (who had already celebrated their Christmas) start singing “Silent Night” to celebrate the Russian Christmas, with Nelson Eddy joining in.

Nelson Eddy is hardly the only reason I like this film. Ilona Massey is very good as his leading lady, with a beautiful voice. I think they have fairly good chemistry (admittedly, it’s hard not to compare her against Jeanette MacDonald, whose chemistry with Nelson was on a whole different level, but she’s not terrible, either). Frank Morgan is good here, too (if a little underutilized) as an opera impresario who is at first put upon by members of the Russian nobility in terms of who he has to cast in the opera, and then again at the end of the film (SPOILER) when he works as a doorman in Paris (END SPOILER). Overall, it’s Charlie Ruggles as Peter’s (Nelson Eddy) Cossack servant who manages to create a strong (and humorous) impression throughout the entire film, while winning our affections. This is not a perfect film by any means, with only a handful of memorable musical moments and (as I mentioned) some cast members being underutilized, plus it’s hard to feel much sympathy for either the Russian nobility (at least, not until the last few scenes of the movie) or the revolutionaries. Still, it’s one I like to watch (especially around Christmastime to hear Nelson singing the German version of “Silent Night”), so I would certainly recommend giving it a chance!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Girl Of The Golden West (1938) – Nelson Eddy – The Chocolate Soldier (1941)

Ilona Massey – International Lady (1941)

Bringing Up Baby (1938) – Charles Ruggles – It Happened On Fifth Avenue (1947)

Naughty Marietta (1935) – Frank Morgan – The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

Ninotchka (1939) – George Tobias – Music In My Heart (1940)

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

“Screen Team (Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy) Of The Month (January 2022)” Featuring Jeanette MacDonald in… The Cat And The Fiddle (1934)

We’re back again for another solo film featuring half of this month’s Screen Team, Jeanette MacDonald! For that, we’ve got her 1934 film The Cat And The Fiddle with Ramon Novarro!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Loan Stranger (1942)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)

When Woody’s car breaks down, he gets a loan from a loan shark (or wolf in this case). After thirty days, the wolf comes to collect, but Woody won’t give him the money! This one was back to being fun (after the previous one was a bit of a letdown), as Woody takes on the wolf (and, based on the introduction to the wolf, it’s hard not to cheer for Woody)! The gags are fun, and we also have Woody singing “Everybody Thinks I’m Crazy” again for more hilarity! Kent Rogers does pretty well here voicing both characters (a fact I wouldn’t have known had I not read the IMDb page!), and I know I look forward to seeing this one again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In Brussels, penniless pianist and composer Victor Florescu (Ramon Novarro) makes a deal with a restaurant owner to play some music in exchange for a meal.  When Victor eats more than he agreed to, the restaurant owner tries to charge him for it, but he runs out on the bill.  He makes a successful escape when he hops into a passing cab, which is occupied by Shirley Sheridan (Jeanette MacDonald).  Victor is instantly smitten with her, and, upon arriving at their destination (which, although it is two different apartment buildings, is essentially the same spot since they are next door to each other).  Victor offers to pay the cab fare, but is unable to come up with the money.  The taxi driver (Henry Armetta) decides to take Victor’s portfolio (which contains all his music) as payment (at least, until Victor can actually come up with the money for cab fare).  In his apartment, Victor meets with his music teacher, Professor Bertier (Jean Hersholt), who has good news for him: he has an audition with an arts patron, Jules Daudet (Frank Morgan), who may ask him to write an operetta (that is, if Daudet likes Victor’s music).  Without his portfolio, Victor tries to remember his music, but is interrupted when a neighbor tries to play their own music.  Victor tries to complain through the window, only to discover that the neighbor playing the music is none other than Shirley!  Victor climbs across, and helps her out with some music that she is writing, before remembering his appointment with Daudet that afternoon.  He rushes off to find the taxi driver who has his music portfolio, and, upon finding him, stops traffic while they argue.  A passerby named Charles (Charles Butterworth) loans Victor the money for the portfolio, and Victor rushes off to meet with Daudet.  He is late for the audition, and starts an argument with Daudet before realizing who he is (which almost ends everything right there), but Victor’s declarations of his love for Shirley and how that love is more important than the audition cause Daudet to reconsider.  Daudet is mildly interested in Victor’s music, but while he is playing, Shirley comes to the conservatory looking for Professor Bertier.  She plays her music for him, and Daudet offers to publish her new song.  However, she slaps him when he tries to get fresh with her, and leaves.  Later, Shirley also comes to the realization that she loves Victor, but Daudet tells Victor that, if he is to write the operetta that’s been commissioned, he must do it in Paris.  Much to Daudet’s surprise, Victor declines, preferring to stay with Shirley.  Still, Daudet publishes Shirley’s song, which turns out to be a big hit, and both Shirley and Victor move to Paris.  It doesn’t work out too well for Victor, though, as he struggles to write his operetta in the midst of Shirley’s success, and he plans to return to Brussels.  When Shirley announces her plan to return with him, a jealous Daudet convinces Victor that Shirley would ruin her career if she went back.  Reluctantly, Victor fakes not being in love with her anymore, and returns to Brussels alone. He finishes his operetta, and goes into rehearsal, with the former operetta star Odette Brieux (Vivienne Segal) in the female lead, and her wealthy husband backing the show (at least, until he catches Odette kissing a reluctant Victor and withdraws his backing). Now, Victor is without a leading lady and a leading man, and also facing trouble for writing a bad check. His friend Charles (who is playing the harp for the show) turns to Shirley for help, but she refuses. Will Victor be able to put on his operetta? Will he and Shirley ever get back together?

After filming Love Me Tonight (1932) for Paramount Studios, Jeanette MacDonald took a trip to Europe, and, while there, she signed with MGM. The Cat And The Fiddle, which was based on the hit 1931 Broadway musical of the same name, was her first film under that contract. She was paired up with tenor Ramon Novarro (whose career was already on the downturn at this time), and the film was given a decent-sized budget to work with, part of which went towards filming the finale in the new three-strip Technicolor process (previously used mainly for Walt Disney’s cartoons, since he held exclusive rights for a few years). The movie ended up not doing very well at the box office (resulting in MGM opting not to renew Novarro’s contract the next year), but it did provide a model for the type of movie that would work for Jeanette herself (especially when she was paired up with Nelson Eddy the following year for Naughty Marietta).

In preparation for this month’s Screen Team blogathon, I decided to go with The Cat And The Fiddle for Jeanette MacDonald because it was a new film for me. As has been the usual for the films I’ve seen so far with her in them, I liked it! I thought the story was fun, and I thought the two leads had some good chemistry (nowhere near as much as she had with either Nelson Eddy or Maurice Chevalier, but good enough to help carry the movie). I will admit, I didn’t really find the score by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach that memorable overall, but the tune “The Night Was Made For Love” stuck with me (helped, obviously, by Jeanette’s beautiful singing voice). The movie did have some good comedic moments, with one of the main standouts being early in the movie, when Novarro’s Victor is running out on his food bill and joins a passing parade, causing the marching band to speed up their beat (and go from walking to running as they played)! Seeing it switch from black-and-white to color for the last five minutes was also interesting (and, leading into it, you could tell that they were about to do something special). Admittedly, it could use a good restoration to improve how it looks, but that can only happen if they actually have the film elements to do so, and I currently have no idea whether they do or not. It may not be Jeanette at her absolute best, but it’s still an entertaining pre-Code that I think is worth recommending!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 29 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Love Me Tonight (1932)Jeanette MacDonaldNaughty Marietta (1935)

Fast And Loose (1930) – Frank Morgan – The Good Fairy (1935)

Going Hollywood (1933) – Sterling Holloway – Remember The Night (1940)

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

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… The Good Fairy (1935)

Today, we’ve got another double-feature! This one will be focusing on two movies that were written by Preston Sturges. The first one is the 1935 film The Good Fairy, starring Margaret Sullavan and Herbert Marshall! But first, we have a theatrical short to get through!

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 24 seconds)

The Pink Panther tries to get himself into the orchestra at a concert, but the conductor keeps throwing him out. Of course, the fun here is in the orchestra trying to do Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, but the Panther keeps trying to do the Pink Panther Theme. The chemistry between the Panther and the Little Man as the conductor is still as good as always, and makes for a great deal of the fun. Throw in a quick cameo at the end from Henry Mancini (through live-action footage), and this one is a lot of fun to come back to every now and then!

And Now For The Main Feature…

When Maurice Schlapkohl (Alan Hale), the owner of a big movie theater, comes to the municipal orphanage (for girls), he hires orphan Luisa Ginglebusher (Margaret Sullavan) to be one of his ushers. The head of the orphanage, Dr. Schultz (Beulah Bondi), tries to give her advice, both on how to deal with men, as well as the hope that she will try to do good deeds for those around her. One night, when Luisa leaves the theater, she is accosted by a man, and her only hope is to pretend that the passing Detlaff (Reginald Owen) (whom she had met in the theater) is her husband. After she explains herself and her situation to Detlaff over sandwiches, he gives her an invitation to a fancy party. When she arrives, she finds out that he is the waiter there (and therefore cannot speak to her very easily without getting in trouble). She at first confuses the owner of a South American meat packing company, Konrad (Frank Morgan), for a waiter, until he tells her who he is and tries to seduce her. To get herself out of trouble, she again claims to be married, but Konrad is still interested, and promises to help make her “husband” rich (if only to get him out of the picture). Figuring it to be a possible way to do a good deed for others, like Dr. Schultz had suggested, Luisa picks a random name out of the phone book when Konrad is distracted. The next day, he goes to see her “husband,” a lawyer named Dr. Max Sporum (Herbert Marshall) to offer him a five-year contract that would take him to South America (but he obviously doesn’t give the exact reason why he is doing this). Dr. Sporum believes this is essentially karma, as he has long tried to be honest and ethical in all his dealings, and finally things are going right for him. A bit later, Luisa tries to see him to tell him the truth, only to see how happy this has made him, and she can’t bring herself to disillusion him. They spend some time together, spending the money he has been given due to his new account, and they fall for each other. However, Luisa still has to meet with Konrad later, so that Dr. Sporum will be able to keep his position. Will she be able to go through with it, or will everything still work itself out for all involved?

The movie was based on the 1930 play A jó tündér (or The Good Fairy) by Ferenc Molnár (which had been translated and adapted by Jane Hinton for the 1931 Broadway show). Preston Sturges adapted it for the big screen, and tailored the script for actress Maureen Sullavan for her third film. In spite of many behind-the-scenes issues (such as Preston Sturges generally getting the script to everyone a day before they would shoot it, or quarrels between Maureen Sullavan and director William Wyler), the movie turned out to be a hit. The screenplay would be the basis for the 1951 Broadway musical Make A Wish, and the story would be remade onscreen as the 1947 Deanna Durbin film I’ll Be Yours and a 1956 TV movie for Hallmark Hall Of Fame.

I’m coming off my first time seeing this movie. I was willing to try it, having seen a few other films that Preston Sturges was involved with, and this one sounded like fun. Having Frank Morgan in the cast didn’t hurt, either, as he is usually fun to see (outside of in Fast And Loose, although I blame that one on the early sound technology and how it affected everybody’s acting). And, having seen it, I still maintain my opinion of Frank Morgan, as he is just as fun (and funny) here as I would expect! And he’s not the only one. Reginald Owen as the waiter Detlaff, who takes on an almost fatherly role for Margaret Sullavan’s character, provides some humor as well. Margaret Sullavan herself is quite a bit of fun, able to handle most of the comedy well as her character tries to navigate the whole situation. Eric Blore makes an enjoyable (if not altogether too short) appearance as the drunken Dr. Metz, the Minister of Arts and Decorations. I will admit, Herbert Marshall seems to be the weak link for me in the main cast, but even he’s enough fun (especially when he is being pushed to get rid of his facial hair at Luisa’s insistence).

It’s an understatement to say that this movie has a number of memorable moments within it! I know I get a chuckle out of the “movie-within-a-movie” scene early on, with its melodramatic tone and one character basically saying “Go” with different inflections the whole time (seriously, it seems like the type of thing that Singin’ In The Rain made fun of). And, honestly, the dynamic between Frank Morgan and Reginald Owen’s characters (Konrad and Detlaff, respectively) provides quite a few laughs throughout the movie. Of course, the two standout moments for this pair are when Konrad tries to order dinner for two (and Detlaff keeps looking for reasons to get Margaret Sullavan’s Luisa out of the private dining room to get her out of trouble), and the end, when everything gets explained. Plain and simple, I really enjoyed this movie, and had quite a few good laughs with it! So I would indeed recommend this one!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Good Fairy (1935)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, featuring a new 4K master. This transfer looks wonderful! The detail is superb! There are a few (very few) specks here and there, but so few that it’s hardly worth mentioning. It’s safe to say this wonderful film has been given the treatment it deserves, and the Blu-ray is well worth it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 38 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Margaret Sullavan – The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

Herbert Marshall – Mad About Music (1938)

The Cat And The Fiddle (1934) – Frank Morgan – Naughty Marietta (1935)

Stingaree (1934) – Reginald Owen – Rose-Marie (1936)

Eric Blore – Top Hat (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!

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2021) with… The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

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

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

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

(Length: 7 minutes, 9 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 39 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Good Fairy (1935) – Margaret Sullavan

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

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

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

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Fast And Loose (1930)

For today’s review, we’ve got that 1930 film Fast And Loose, which stars Miriam Hopkins, Carole Lombard and Frank Morgan!  Of course, we’ve got a theatrical short to get through first, and then it’s on to our movie!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Odd Ant Out (1970)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 7 seconds)

The blue aardvark competes with a green aardvark for a can of chocolate ants. This cartoon really focuses in on the aardvark rivalry, and the ant himself really only gets a cameo appearance. Regardless, it’s a lot of fun! I grant you, the humor is somewhat predictable, but the characters are fun enough to watch that they overcome that particular problem. I know that I enjoy watching it periodically!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Socialite Marion Lenox (Miriam Hopkins) finds herself engaged to Lord Rockingham (David Hutcheson).  She doesn’t feel that he’s the right man, but she mostly goes along with it because it’s what her parents want.  Or, rather, I should say, it’s a marriage that her mother, Carrie (Winifred Harris) and Carrie’s brother George Crafton (Herbert Yost) want for her.  Marion’s father, Bronson (Frank Morgan), doesn’t think it’s quite so good for her (but he’s going along with it for his wife’s sake).  And Marion’s not the only one who doesn’t want to marry someone of her “station,”  as her brother, Bertie (Henry Wadsworth), is interested in chorus girl Alice O’Neil (Carole Lombard).  Depressed about her situation, Marion goes out for a drive, and stops by a beach.  There, she meets auto mechanic Henry Morgan (Charles R. Starrett), who is out there just swimming.  The two start slinging insults at each other, but the seeds of attraction are there, and Marion decides to come back to meet him again.  Neither of them knows who the other really is, so they are both slightly shocked when they accidentally come across each other as he is working on her car.  She’s still interested in him, but, now that he knows who she is (particularly from her reputation), he’s a little more reluctant to continue their relationship. Meanwhile, when George learns about Bertie’s chorus girl girlfriend, he pushes Bronson to meet her.  Posing as a pair of theatrical agents, they meet Alice and her roommate Millie Montgomery (Ilka Chase) for dinner to find out what they can about her and buy them off.  Alice realizes that the two aren’t agents like they claimed, but doesn’t really know who they are.  Bronson is slightly more impressed with Alice, particularly when she points out his own mistakes as a parent.  Of course, everything is revealed when a drunken Bertie crashes the party, with Marion and Henry in tow, and all hope for both couples looks doomed.   Will they be able to work things out, or will they all go their separate ways?

Fast And Loose is based on the 1924 play The Best People by David Gray and Avery Hopwood.  I don’t know how fresh the story was at that time, but now it’s the type that’s been done any number of times with rich parents wanting their kids to marry into their “station.”  Still, there are only so many stories to be told in the world, and it all boils down to how well they are told.  Coming off my first time seeing this movie, I would argue this is not one of the better ones.  The biggest problem I have with this movie is that almost all the actors and actresses are a little too stiff in their performances.  Granted, I suspect that this is due to this movie being from 1930 (like the movie Holiday that I reviewed last year), with sound technology still being new and everybody trying to adjust how to act for the talkies.  But, unlike the previously reviewed Holiday, I’m not sure that there were any performances that were good enough to save this one.  My only previous experience with Miriam Hopkins is with Design For Living, and she was far better in that than she was here.  Carole Lombard, in spite of being billed second, is really not in this movie that much, and her performance might be a little bit better, but not much.  And it’s equally disappointing to see Frank Morgan a bit more stiff.  I’ve generally enjoyed him in most everything of his that I’ve seen, but here his screen persona isn’t really fully developed (but it is at least partially there, and it’s during those brief moments that things improve a little).  And it’s really hard to cheer for Charles Starrett’s Henry Morgan, as sexist as some of his comments can be.  Now, does the movie have its moments?  Certainly, as I do enjoy Ilka Chase as Millie, particularly as she tries to go after Herbert Yost’s uptight George Crafton.  But, she’s not there a lot, and the rest of the movie just drags a little too much because of all the weak performances.  So, I would not recommend this one.

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the Carole Lombard Collection: Volume 1 from Kino Lorber.  The movie has had an HD scan, which generally looks pretty good.  It does have its scratches and tears, but they don’t really take away from the movie.

Film Length: 1 hour, 11 minutes

My Rating: 5/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Miriam Hopkins – Design For Living (1933)

Carole Lombard – Man Of The World (1931)

Frank Morgan – The Cat And The Fiddle (1934)

Carole Lombard Collection: Volume 1 – Man Of The World (1931)

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 (2018) with… Casanova Brown (1944)

And now’s it’s time for us to get into the 1944 movie Casanova Brown, starring Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright and Frank Morgan.

Gary Cooper plays Casanova “Cass” Brown, who is about to be married to Madge Ferris (Anita Louise), when he receives a letter from a maternity hospital in Chicago, which makes him nervous. He confides in his future father-in-law (Frank Morgan) that he had actually been married before on a previous trip to New York, to Isabel Drury (Teresa Wright), although the marriage was annulled. Per Mr. Ferris’s advice, Cass goes to the hospital. There, he finds out that Isabel was pregnant, and gave birth to a baby girl, although she is planning to give her up for adoption.

Now, most of the fun here is from Frank Morgan (best known as the wizard in the classic The Wizard Of Oz). As the father-in-law advising against the marriage, he is a real hoot! Of course, it’s not Cass he is objecting to (since he likes him), but his own daughter! Of course, a lot of this is because it seems he *might* have married his wife at least partly for her money, which he maybe got to spend some of before she and her family put him on an allowance, making it much harder (especially after they had kids and at least one grandkid) for him to have any hope of getting any of the money.

Of course, the film is worth watching for more than just Frank Morgan. It’s nice seeing Gary Cooper teamed up with Teresa Wright again (his co-star from the classic The Pride Of The Yankees). Now, I will admit that this movie might be a little harder for some to enjoy, since a lot of the plot essentially has to do with Teresa Wright’s Isabel deceiving Gary Cooper’s Cass to get him to the hospital about the baby, when she could just as easily tell him, and so avoid a lot of the mess that happens. In defense of this idea, though, not all people are perfect, and we sometimes can (and do) make the mistake of deceiving people because we aren’t always sure how they would react to the truth (otherwise, why do so many people lie to others). This is a movie that I enjoy, and would recommend at least trying, as I think it should be worth a few good laughs!

The movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix.

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Sergeant York (1941) – Gary Cooper – Along Came Jones (1945)

Broadway Melody Of 1940 (1940) – Frank Morgan