Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… They Came To Cordura (1959)

It’s December 17, so that means that it’s time for one last round of “Film Legends Of Yesteryear” featuring Rita Hayworth for 2021! For this series’ last post of the year, we’re focusing on the 1959 film They Came To Cordura, also starring Gary Cooper, Van Heflin and Tab Hunter.

Note: After doing this series for two years (on films from 1939 in 2019 and films of actress Rita Hayworth for 2021), I have decided to change up how I do this series. Both years left me feeling like keeping up with this extra series was a little overwhelming (granted, this year, I’ve done a HUGE number of posts compared to previous years, which doesn’t help). So, starting in 2022, I will be doing it a little differently. Instead of a special focus, I will instead use this series in place of either my Sunday or Wednesday posts whenever I have a movie from 1939 or one featuring Rita Hayworth. I will also be adding a third subject, which will fit in with some of my planned Star/Genre Of The Month blogathons (and which was a plan I hinted at when I put together this series’ logo): screen teams. I can’t guarantee posts in this series every month, but I will try to fit them in when I have a film that fits.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Woody Woodpecker (1941)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 58 seconds)

The woodland animals think that Woody Woodpecker is crazy, and so he goes to see a psychiatrist. So far, I haven’t had much opportunity to see too many Woody Woodpecker cartoons, but I certainly enjoyed this one! It was Woody’s first solo outing (following his appearance in the 1940 Andy Panda cartoon Knock Knock), with him still being voiced by Mel Blanc (the second of three shorts that Blanc voiced the character for). The character’s design is far different than what it would later become (and what I currently identify with the character), but the fun and insanity is there (similar to some of the Looney Tunes types of cartoons). At least, I look forward to seeing more of the cartoons included in this set!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1916. Pancho Villa has been terrorizing places along the U.S.-Mexico border, so some U.S. troops under the command of Colonel Rogers (Robert Keith) have been sent to stop him and his men. The Colonel has assigned one of his officers, Major Thomas Thorn (Gary Cooper), to be a battlefield observer, and nominate men for the Congressional Medal Of Honor (an assignment intended to cover up an act of cowardice by the Major). The Colonel and his men catch up with some of Villa’s men (led by Arreaga, as played by Carlos Romero) at the hacienda Ojos Azules, which is owned by Adelaide Geary (Rita Hayworth). As the Colonel is facing forced retirement soon because of his age, he prepares to lead his men in an old-fashioned cavalry charge (with Major Thorn and his Medal Of Honor nominee Private Andrew Hetherington, as played by Michael Callan, watching on the sidelines). However, the Colonel prepares for it poorly, with the men riding into a trench and being picked off by Arreaga and his men. It is only due to the brave actions of four men that they pull off a victory (although Arreaga and some of his men escape). Afterwards, Major Thorn decides to nominate the four men for the Medal Of Honor, but refuses to do so for the Colonel (who was bucking for a promotion to general before he had to retire). Feeling stabbed in the back (since he had helped cover up the Major’s act of cowardice), the Colonel orders the Major to take the five Medal Of Honor nominees (and their new prisoner Adelaide, who was being accused of treason for harboring Arreaga and his men) to Cordura for the ceremony. However, the trip is not an easy one. Along the way, they struggle with limited provisions, come under attack from Arreaga’s men, lose their horses to Arreaga (which forces them to continue on foot), and then have to carry one of the men when he is stricken with typhoid. And that’s just the external trouble, as all of the nominees would rather not receive the medal (and resent Major Thorn’s leadership upon learning of his past cowardice). Can Major Thorn get them all to Cordura? Or, for that matter, will the men let the Major survive?

They Came To Cordura is based on the 1958 novel of the same name written by Glendon Swarthout (who wrote military citations during the second World War). The idea for the story came from the United States Cavalry’s last mounted charge (which happened under the leadership of General John J. Pershing against Pancho Villa’s forces). Making the movie itself didn’t exactly turn out to be a smooth process. They started doing some location filming near St. George, Utah, but a record cold-snap forced them to move to the Moapa Valley near Las Vegas (where they had to reshoot everything). Gary Cooper’s participation in the film was against the advice of his doctors, as he was quite ill at the time, yet he still soldiered on. Sadly, making this film was the start of health problems Dick York suffered for the rest of his life, as he injured his back (an injury that would later force him to leave classic sitcom Bewitched partway through its fifth season). And that’s not even including changes to the movie required by the studio (including their demand that SPOILER ALERT Gary Cooper’s character had to live, which differed from the original novel END SPOILER ALERT). The film did poorly in theatres, and director Robert Rossen bought back the film rights, with the intention of putting out his director’s cut of the film. However, after making The Hustler (1961) and Lillith (1964), he died before he had the chance to work on restoring it.

Like a number of the Rita Hayworth films from the set that I’ve been reviewing all year, this was my first time seeing this film. Frankly, I have a hard time not comparing it to similar episodes of various Western TV shows that I’ve seen over the years (the type where the show’s main hero has to transport a prisoner or lead a group across the desert, with the rest of the group turning against him to the point that he can’t fall asleep for fear of being killed). Compared to some of those TV shows, this movie does feel a bit too long and drawn out for the idea. But, it also has the opportunity to be much more adult (at least, within the confines of what was still enforceable for the Production Code at the time). And that’s where all the performances here shine, as we watch Gary Cooper’s Major deal with the fallout from his previous act of cowardice (and, in the process, manages to show courage as he has to face down his men all the while keeping them alive, even if they think that he is trying to kill them). Watching all the men slowly turn against him is rough, particularly at the end (already did a Spoiler Alert, so not going to do anything further). I will admit, it’s not the greatest Western (and particularly for those looking for action, you will get that in the opening minutes, and then not so much afterwards), but I did enjoy it enough that I would certainly recommend it!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… They Came To Cordura (1959)

This movie is available on Blu-ray either as part of a double-feature with The Man From The Alamo (1953) or as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection (both releases are from Mill Creek Entertainment). Quite frankly, I think this is one of the weakest (if not THE weakest) transfers in the twelve-film set. The picture is full of a lot of dirt and debris throughout the movie, and the color seems off in a number of places. It’s not completely unwatchable, and does offer some decent detail. It’s just that it looks so much worse than those that it was packaged with (and I assume the transfer is the same for the double-feature). The set is probably not worth it for this movie alone except for big fans of the film or those who want at least a few others from the set as well.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection

The Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection, available on Blu-ray from Mill Creek, includes twelve films starring actress Rita Hayworth (The DVD equivalent features four more movies, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about). The Blu-ray set includes Music In My Heart (1940), You’ll Never Get Rich (1941), Tonight And Every Night (1945), Down To Earth (1947), The Lady From Shanghai (1948), The Loves Of Carmen (1948), Affair In Trinidad (1952), Salome (1953), Miss Sadie Thompson (1953), Fire Down Below (1957), Pal Joey (1957) and They Came To Cordura (1959). These twelve films are spread out over six discs. Three of them (You’ll Never Get Rich, Miss Sadie Thompson and Pal Joey) were all previously available individually from Twilight Time, and this release still uses those really great transfers (albeit with a lesser encoding due to several movies being put on each disc by Mill Creek). Two (The Lady From Shanghai and They Came To Cordura) were already available individually/as part of a double-feature from Mill Creek, and I assume use the same transfers. For the most part, the transfers in this set all look quite good. They could use a bit of clean-up to get rid of some of the dust and specks of dirt, but otherwise are okay. The only transfers that I think could use some serious restoration (and hold the set back from being much better) are Tonight And Every Night and They Came To Cordura. But, for the price, this set provides hours of entertainment, most of which looks really good, and I would certainly happily recommend it for many of these wonderful movies!

Also, if you are interested in joining in on my first month-long “Screen Team Of The Month” blogathon for 2022 featuring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, please be sure to check out my Announcing the Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy “Screen Team Of The Month (January 2022)” Blogathon post to sign up!

Film Length: 2 hours, 3 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Alias Jesse James (1959) – Gary Cooper

Pal Joey (1957) – Rita Hayworth

Black Widow (1954) – Van Heflin – Stagecoach (1966)

Pal Joey (1957)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Alias Jesse James (1959)

I’ve covered two of comedian Bob Hope’s western comedies previously, and now I’m back for the third one, the 1959 film Alias Jesse James, which also stars Rhonda Fleming and Wendell Corey!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bargain Day (1931)

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

(Length: 19 minutes, 1 second)

Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) and Stymie (Matthew Beard) take the other kids’ things, and try to sell them door-to-door. When they come to the home of a poor little rich girl (Shirley Jean Rickert), they come in and get into trouble. This was another fun one, particularly following Stymie around the house as he got into various mischief. I particularly got a good laugh out of the three kids doing their little “Watt Street” comedy bit (a strong reminder of “Who’s On First” and similar comedy routines). Again, this one was a lot of fun, and one I certainly would recommend for its charm and humor!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s the early 1880s. At the Plymouth Rock Insurance Company in New York City, Titus Queasly (Will Wright) is looking at how his insurance salemen are doing. When he sees that Milford Farnsworth (Bob Hope) hasn’t sold a good policy in quite some time, he decides to fire Milford. At a local bar, Milford tries to get his job back by selling a policy to the bartender when he is overheard by a stranger in town. That stranger likes what he hears, and decides to buy a $100,000 policy and pays it in full. Taking the policy back to his boss (after getting a doctor to sign off on the policy), Milford is welcomed back with open arms. That is, until Mr. Queasly gets a look at a newspaper, and sees that the infamous outlaw Jesse James (Wendell Corey) has been in the city. When he shows the picture to Milford, he realizes that the stranger he had sold the policy to was indeed the famous outlaw. Mr. Queasly orders him to take the train to Angel’s Rest, Missouri to either buy back the policy from Jesse or protect him at all costs. On the train ride there, Jesse James stops the train and robs everybody, including Milford. Once he gets to town (after the robbery), Milford has the telegraph operator send his boss a message to wire him more money to pay Jesse. He tries looking for Jesse in town, but Jesse’s men pick on him and chase him out of town on the train. When Jesse learns from the telegraph operator that Milford had sent for more money, Jesse goes after him on the train, and brings him back to the James ranch as a guest. That night at a party being held at the ranch, Milford formally meets and falls for saloon singer Cora Lee Collins (Rhonda Fleming), who is Jesse’s “girlfriend” (as in, she doesn’t like him, but he likes her and he always gets what he wants). Afterwards, Milford finds out that a gunslinger has come calling for Jesse, planning to shoot him in the morning in the town. To prevent that, Milford dresses himself in Jesse’s clothes and rides into town. When facing the gunslinger, Milford pretends to surrender, then lifts his hat to fire his two guns (which were wired together), wounding the gunslinger. Impressed, Cora Lee kisses him and asks him to leave town before he gets hurt, although he refuses, still believing he needs to protect Jesse. When Jesse comes riding in, he realizes that, if Milford is killed (while dressed like Jesse), then they can claim that Jesse James is dead, and he can collect the insurance money (that would go to his beneficiary, Cora Lee). With Jesse now planning to kill him, will Milford be able to survive? Or will he need the insurance that he’s been peddling?

With Bob Hope returning to spoof the Western genre again, following his earlier films The Paleface (1948) and Son Of Paleface (1952), it’s a natural that this one is a lot of fun, too! Personally, I feel that Alias Jesse James‘ tone is somewhere in between those two, as it does have some elements that are almost cartoonish in nature, while still not going full-fledged live-action-cartoon (like Son Of Paleface). Regardless of tone, it’s a film that promises a lot of hilarity, and keeps that promise! I know that I get a good kick out of watching Bob Hope’s Milford getting pushed by his horse into the gunfight with Snake Brice (played by Jack Lambert), and then winning by lifting his hat (which, as I said, had strings tied to the triggers of his gun, which wing the gunslinger enough to end the fight). Then, of course, when Wendell Corey’s Jesse James first tries to kill Milford after holding up the train, Milford later arrives at the ranch while riding a cow! Then, of course, there is the slow-motion fight when Jesse and his men are all under the influence of mushrooms! I could also mention the film’s finale (and I will, but I’ll do that to end this post under a spoiler alert). Plain and simple, this is a fun film! Sure, it’s not perfect. The film certainly treats the Native Americans better than the earlier two films (where they were essentially one-dimensional villains), although Milford referring to two Native Americans on the train as “foreigners” hasn’t aged the best (even if it was the character being angry at discovering that they were salesmen for another insurance company after he gave them his sales pitch). To a degree, there’s not a lot of character work here, as far as arcs are concerned. And, for better or worse, Bob Hope’s age was showing, particularly off-camera, as he passed out (when trying to film what I can only assume was the final chase sequence, which was done on a treadmill in front of a rear projection screen) and had to be taken to the emergency room. Still, for a film made when it seems like Bob Hope’s movie career was already going downhill, I feel like it’s his last really great comedy (with the rest after it ranging from decent to awful). I think it’s one that anybody can enjoy (and I certainly like watching it with some frequency!), so I have no problem whatsoever in recommending it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This release seems to be using an older HD scan. It’s definitely got some good moments, where the detail looks quite good, as well as the color. That’s not completely true of the whole film, but most of those other issues are still relatively minor, and likely source-related. As good as this film is, I wish it could get a full restoration to improve the detail and color (but it’s owned by the current MGM, which would seem to mean that that is unlikely in the near future). So, for now, this is as good as it gets (and that’s good enough for me)!

Spoiler Alert:

Well, now that we’re under the spoiler alert, we can talk about this film’s very memorable finale. The whole thing starts with the aforementioned chase sequence, with Milford (Bob Hope) and Cora Lee (Rhonda Fleming) riding through the countryside on a buckboard (well, she’s riding, as he is forced to run in the hole he created when he tried to jump on the buckboard from a roof). Once they get to town, Milford faces off against the James gang. Like in The Paleface, Hope’s character is a poor shot with a gun. However, he doesn’t know that, as he is being secretly helped in what I can only call “the Western crossover to end all Western crossovers!” On the TV side, we’ve got Roy Rogers (from The Roy Rogers Show, as well as Bob’s Son Of Paleface co-star), Hugh O’Brian (Wyatt Earp, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp), Ward Bond (Major Seth Adams, Wagon Train), James Arness (Sheriff Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke), Fess Parker (Davy Crockett, Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett), Gail Davis (Annie Oakley, Annie Oakley) and Jay Silverheels (Tonto, The Lone Ranger). We also get Western movie star Gary Cooper and the requisite “Bing Crosby cameo in a Bob Hope film” (because, as he says in the movie, “This fella needs all the help he can get.”) Granted, all of these appearances feel like the stars just filmed them whenever their schedule allowed, so nobody interacts with each other (or the film’s main characters). That, and a few of them do something that feels out of character (not only for their characters, but for anybody in a Western): they put their guns back in their holster even before the gunfight is finished! Still, this scene is a lot of fun, and the movie is worth seeing just for this sequence alone!

End Spoiler Alert

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Bali (1952)Bob HopeThe Road To Hong Kong (1962)

The Killer Is Loose (1956) – Rhonda Fleming

The Killer Is Loose (1956) – Wendell Corey

Love In The Afternoon (1957) – Gary Cooper – They Came To Cordura (1959)

High Society (1957)Bing CrosbyHigh Time (1960)

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

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

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

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 8 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 26 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

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

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

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

David Niven – Bachelor Mother (1939)

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

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Sergeant York (1941)

Now we’ve got a movie I’ve been looking forward to seeing again for a long time, that classic 1941 movie Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper! Of course, we’ve got a pair of theatrical shorts to start with (both of which are included as extras on the recent Blu-ray release from Warner Archive Collection), and then we can get right to the movie itself!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Lions For Sale (1941)

(Length: 9 minutes)

This short shows how lions used to be trained for circuses. It’s interesting stuff to watch the lions go from being cubs to full grown within the types of training they undergo. The commentary by Knox Manning manages to be quite amusing, as he describes some of the action going on. Like I said, an interesting short, although one I probably won’t be revisiting much.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Porky’s Preview (1941)

(Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)

Porky hosts a showing of a cartoon that he drew himself. This was a fun little black-and-white cartoon, with a brief appearance from Porky himself (shorter than one would think, considering the cartoon’s title). Still, I enjoyed the gags, and the drawings for Porky’s “cartoon” certainly look like what one might expect a little child to draw. A very fun cartoon, although it does have one very dated moment, where part of Porky’s “cartoon” is fairly obviously making a reference to Al Jolson, with the character wearing blackface. But, that is the only drawback, and I enjoyed seeing an unfamiliar (to me) Looney Tunes short!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Our story starts in the state of Tennessee, in the year 1916. In the Valley of the Three Forks, Alvin York (Gary Cooper) works hard on his family’s farm, but he is also prone to drinking and getting into fights. One day, while out hunting with his brother George (Dickie Moore), Alvin meets and falls for Gracie Williams (Joan Leslie). While she is interested in him, she is less than thrilled with his fighting habit, particularly when he chases off a rival suitor, Zeb Andrews (Robert Porterfield). Alvin believes she turns down his proposal because he is poor, and sets out to buy a better piece of land. He makes a deal with Nate Tompkins (Erville Alderson) for some land, and promises to pay him the full price within sixty days. He works hard, but comes just short at the deadline. He convinces Nate to give him an extension of a few days so that he can win a turkey shoot to get the rest of the money. Alvin is successful at the turkey shoot, but Nate had already sold the land to Zeb, which makes Alvin angry. After doing a bit of drinking with his buddies, Alvin sets out to kill Nate and Zeb, but is stopped by a bolt of lightning. He finds himself near a church, and comes in, where he is received with great rejoicing by his friend, Pastor Rosier Pile (Walter Brennan). Now a Christian believer, Alvin sets out to make things right and apologize to Nate and Zeb.

Then, war arrives (World War I, that is), and with it, the draft. Alvin, who believes that the Bible is against killing, hopes to get an exemption as a conscientious objector. However, Alvin’s request for exemption is denied, on the basis that his denomination has no formal creed against its members going to war, so he is drafted. Alvin’s shooting skills impress some of his superior officers, but he is wary about a possible promotion, still worried about having to kill. Major Buxton (Stanley Ridges) tells him briefly about the history of the United States, and of the sacrifices required of his fellow countrymen to maintain their freedom. Alvin is given a ten day furlough to think the matter over, and comes back declaring he is willing to stay in the army. Once training is over, he is sent over to Europe, where he is part of the Meuse-Argonne offensive. But, will he survive and be able to put his skills to good use?

Sergeant York is based on the life of the real Alvin York, a man who (spoiler alert!) lived to the age of 76, dying in 1964. Upon his return from war, he was immediately hit with many offers from Hollywood to have his story told on the big screen, but he turned them down. Producer Jesse Lasky tried to make an offer multiple times over the years (and was rejected), but with the threat of another war in Europe, he tried again to convince Alvin to allow a movie to be made about him. Alvin finally consented, with some conditions. Among those conditions, Alvin wanted Gary Cooper (and only Gary Cooper) to portray him, he wanted somebody who wasn’t a cigarette smoking actress to portray his wife Gracie, and he wanted his share of the profits to go towards a Bible School he was trying to build. With those conditions met, the movie was made, with great care taken to portray everything accurately (outside of a few changes here and there). The movie would prove to be very popular at the box office, and was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, winning two (including Gary Cooper’s first win as Best Actor).

I was introduced to Sergeant York most of a decade ago. I think I caught it on the Turner Classic Movies channel and recorded it. The main thing I do remember for sure is that the movie had my attention the entire time, and I really enjoyed watching it! So getting to see it again via the recent Blu-ray (more on that in a moment) was a real treat! For me, this IS Gary Cooper’s best movie (at least, from those I’ve seen so far). I like his portrayal of the real Sergeant York’s journey from his wilder lifestyle through his conversion and his wartime dilemma. Of course, the rest of the cast is no slouch either, with Margaret Wycherly as Mother York, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias as his army buddy “Pusher” Ross or the many others who helped make this a great movie! The wartime scenes are impressive, and it’s fun seeing Alvin use his skills from back home to help out in wartime. For some, the religious element may turn them off from the movie, but, to the best of my knowledge about the real Alvin York, that was very much a part of him, and the movie really wouldn’t be complete without it. But for my money, this movie is absolutely fantastic, and well worth seeing!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection sporting a 4K scan of the best surviving nitrate elements, which in this case is a second generation nitrate fine grain made off the camera negative, since, according to the Warner Archive podcast, the original camera negative was gone by the time that Warner sold their pre-1949 library back in 1956. A lot of work was put into restoring this film, and it looks fantastic! But don’t take my word for it! They’ve got a video up on YouTube to show their restoration compared to what it looked like before, as I have linked at the bottom of this page! Again, this movie looks fantastic, and this new Blu-ray release IS the best way to see this absolutely wonderful classic!

Film Length: 2 hours, 14 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2020

**ranked #3 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938) – Gary Cooper – Casanova Brown (1944)

Nice Girl? (1941) – Walter Brennan – To Have And Have Not (1944)

Joan Leslie – Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Music In My Heart (1940) – George Tobias – Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Alice In Wonderland (1933)

“‘The time has come,’ the walrus said, ‘to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.” If you haven’t guessed already, this time we’re here to talk about Alice In Wonderland. No, not the animated 1951 Disney classic, or the more recent 2010 live action remake, it’s the 1933 black and white live action film featuring Charlotte Henry as Alice.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Ant And The Aardvark (1969)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 15 seconds)

The ant finds a nearby picnic and tries to bring home some food, but is constantly being interrupted by the aardvark. The first cartoon in the series, giving us a typical predator vs. prey cartoon. A bit of fun here, with a few fun gags. Whether any will be remembered as being original, I doubt it, but it’s still a lot of fun, and one of the better cartoons in this set!

And Now For The Main Feature…

One night, while watching a snowstorm and petting her cat, Alice finds herself bored. In the process, she lets her imagination get away with her as she imagines things about a white rabbit, chess pieces and the looking glass above the fireplace mantle. She decides to try walking through the looking glass, and finds a different world there. When she spies the white rabbit, she follows him, only to fall down a rabbit hole. While there, she runs into many different characters, from the Caterpillar, to the Cheshire Cat, to the Red and White Queens, to the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, and many others.

Obviously, most will know of the 1951 Disney classic, but not too many know that Walt Disney had, with Mary Pickford, been trying to plan a live action and animation hybrid in the early 1930s. However, Paramount Studios beat them to the punch and got the film rights first (and had an animated segment in their film for “The Walrus And The Carpenter”). Many actresses were auditioned for the title role of Alice, with some sources claiming that Ida Lupino tested for it and was originally intended to get the role, but it ended up going to Charlotte Henry. It ended up being an all-star movie, as Paramount was hoping the film would help keep them from going bankrupt. However, the movie ended up being a flop.

Like many, I can guarantee that the 1951 Disney animated film is probably the most familiar version of the Lewis Carroll story for me. Not having read the actual stories, I can’t really say how accurate this movie is to the book. To a degree, I can understand why the movie originally flopped. In spite of all the big stars in the cast, most are hard to recognize underneath all those costumes. And speaking of costumes, I would certainly say that some of them might border on being too scary for little children, so this is not necessarily a movie for the whole family. As to plot, this movie is very episodic in nature, without much of a thread to pull everything together.

Still, that’s not a terrible thing, as some scenes are a bit of fun. I know I got a chuckle out of Alice’s conversation with the Dodo (played by Polly Moran), as the Dodo talks about history to help dry out Alice’s clothes (hmm, maybe I should try that sometime with my own 😉 ). While the character essentially seems to be a puppet, Humpty Dumpty is still very recognizable as being voiced by famous comedian W. C. Fields, and is one of the better scenes (even if it does feel too short). Edward Everett Horton seems well cast (and easily recognizable) as the Mad Hatter, and is joined by Charles Ruggles as the March Hare (although he’s not as easily recognizable in his costume) for the tea party scene (which is a lot of fun). As you can tell, I can EASILY go on about many of the scenes here, since they are so much fun (and that’s not even mentioning a familiar voice coming from the “wrong” character, since Sterling Holloway, who would later voice the Cheshire Cat in the Disney film, is the voice of the Frog here, with Richard Arlen voicing the Cheshire Cat here). I do think, when it comes down to preference, I would go with the Disney classic for its music, slightly more coherent story and it’s more family-friendly nature, but this one is still a bit of fun, and worth recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The movie looks pretty good in high definition. There are some scratches here and there, and the picture isn’t perfect, but, given the fact that the movie didn’t even make its home video debut on DVD until 2010 and is therefore not going to be popular enough to warrant a full restoration (I would assume), this release looks good enough for me to recommend it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 16 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Design For Living (1933) – Gary Cooper – Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

Running Wild (1927)W. C. FieldsThe Old-Fashioned Way (1934)

The Eagle And The Hawk (1933)Cary GrantLadies Should Listen (1934)

Dancing Lady (1933) – Sterling Holloway – Going Hollywood (1933)

Design For Living (1933) – Edward Everett Horton – Ladies Should Listen (1934)

Charles Ruggles – Bringing Up Baby (1938)

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… Design For Living (1933)

“Immorality may be fun, but it isn’t fun enough to take the place of 100% virtue and three square meals a day.” – Max Plunkett (Edward Everett Horton)

Now we have a bit of pre-Code fun with the 1933 movie Design For Living, starring Fredric March, Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins.

On a train bound for Paris, playwright Tom Chambers (Fredric March) and his painter friend/roommate George Curtis (Gary Cooper) meet commercial artist Gilda Farrell (Miriam Hopkins). They both take a liking to her (and she to them). Her boss and friend, advertising executive Max Plunkett (Edward Everett Horton), objects to their relationships, but his words fall on deaf ears (well, except Tommy, who borrows a quote for a play he is writing). Tom and George start arguing over Gilda, and she proposes a new arrangement: the three of them live together, with her pushing them to do better in their respective arts, but no sex. In no time at all, she helps Tom get his play in front of a big London theatrical producer, and he has to leave to help with rehearsals. After he leaves, George and Gilda end up breaking the pact (and let Tom know about it). After almost a year of success with his play, Tom comes back, only to find George became enough of a success to have moved in to a more upscale apartment. He also finds Gilda still receptive to him, but George arrives back from a trip early, only to find them together. When the two men start arguing again, she leaves them both, unable to decide between them. She marries Max, who takes her to the U.S., but soon finds herself bored with him.

Design For Living was based on a play written by (and starring) Noel Coward. When Paramount bought the rights, it was given to director Ernst Lubitsch. He brought in writer Ben Hecht to do the screenplay, who ended up changing a lot of things around, and, at most, kept one line of dialogue from the play. Lubitsch wanted Miriam Hopkins for the role of Gilda Farrell right from the start, but had trouble casting the male leads. He wanted Ronald Colman and Leslie Howard, but they were either too expensive or uninterested. Then Fredric March was brought in, along with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (although Fairbanks pulled out when he came down with pneumonia). So Gary Cooper, then mainly known as an action star, was cast. Critics and audiences at the time weren’t kind to the movie, but it has gained in popularity over time.

This is a movie I hadn’t heard of before. I only discovered it when I was looking for movies with Edward Everett Horton in them after I stopped to realize he was one of those actors well represented within my own film collection that I hadn’t been actively trying to collect the films of. Of course, Gary Cooper also starring in it didn’t hurt either, not to mention being directed by Ernst Lubitsch, who has done a few movies I like. So, I finally got the chance to see it, and I really enjoyed it! I’ll admit, it’s the earliest Gary Cooper movie I’ve seen, so I’ve already seen some of his later comedies. So, it was no surprise to me that he handled the comedy well. And, of course, Edward Everett Horton didn’t disappoint, either! The movie is easily full of good comedy and many wonderful and memorable lines! The pre-Code elements certainly make this movie fun, giving us the reverse of the usual situation (just like the movie indicates) with one woman falling in love with two men and trying to figure out which she prefers. The pre-Code elements are relatively tame compared to what would be in most movies of this type today, but I would still be wary of showing this movie to young kids, if only because sex is still enough of a topic in it. Still, I very much enjoyed this comedy, and I would very much recommend it to anybody willing to give it a try!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Eagle And The Hawk (1933) – Fredric March – Nothing Sacred (1937)

Morocco (1930) – Gary Cooper – Alice In Wonderland (1933)

Fast And Loose (1930) – Miriam Hopkins

Holiday (1930) – Edward Everett Horton – Alice In Wonderland (1933)

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Fly’s Last Flight (1949)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 3 from Warner Archive Collection)

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

Welcome to my new feature on various theatrical shorts! Sometimes my comments will be on shorts included as extras on a disc set I am reviewing, and other times, they will be completely unrelated to the movie being reviewed (and I will try to indicate which). Hope you enjoy!

(Length: 6 minutes, 41 seconds)

A tired Popeye tries to take a nap, but finds it interrupted by many things, particularly a fly. Well, at least this one broke completely with the formula! No Bluto in sight (o Olive, for that matter), and for once, the spinach was used AGAINST Popeye. Not the greatest short ever, but it was fun seeing one that tried to do something a little different!

And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring more of Popeye (and the eventual post on the entire 1940s Volume 3 set), along with other shorts!

TFTMM 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Morocco (1930)

And here we are, ready to dig into the first movie in the “Dietrich & Von Sternberg In Hollywood” set, the 1930 movie Morocco, starring, obviously, Marlene Dietrich, with Gary Cooper joining her, along with Adolphe Menjou.

Marlene Dietrich plays Amy Jolly, a cabaret entertainer who has just come to Morocco. On the boat over, she runs into rich Monsieur La Bessiere (Adolphe Menjou), but turns him away. At her opening at the nightclub, she meets Tom Brown (Gary Cooper), a womanizer in the Foreign Legion. He becomes interested in her, and she reciprocates, offering him a key to her place. He gets into trouble because he has been fooling around with his adjutant’s wife. He considers deserting after being told he has to go off on a mission with the adjutant, but he decides against it when he sees La Bessiere trying to court Amy. While he is gone, she ends up pining for him.

This movie has several points that have made it famous. It was Marlene Dietrich’s first American movie, and her second collaboration with director Josef Von Sternberg, as they had previously made the German movie The Blue Angel (which was to have its English version released in American theatres after Morocco had proven a success). Marlene’s opening performance near the beginning of the movie was one of those infamous moments that got past the censors, with her wearing a male tuxedo (apparently not done much yet at that time), as well as her kissing one of the female audience members, a scene that was held in the movie because she got a flower from her, which she gave to Gary Cooper’s Tom Brown a moment later (which wouldn’t have made sense if the scene was deleted). This is a movie that I hadn’t seen previously, but it was one that I did enjoy watching. It is a little slow at times, but I would still recommend it.

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Marlene Dietrich – Dishonored (1931)

Gary Cooper – Design For Living (1933)

Adolphe Menjou – One Hundred Men And A Girl (1937)

Dietrich & Von Sternberg In HollywoodDishonored (1931)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… Along Came Jones (1945)

And here we are for the only movie that Gary Cooper ever produced himself, the 1945 Western comedy Along Came Jones, starring Gary Cooper and Loretta Young.

In this movie, Gary Cooper plays Melody Jones, a “bronc stomper,” who has just ridden into the town of Payneville with his buddy George (William Demarest).  Upon seeing his initials on his saddle, the townspeople mistake him for the outlaw Monte Jarrad (Dan Duryea).  Before the townspeople can shoot them, they are helped out of town by Cherry de Longpre (Loretta Young).  Of course, she has her own reason for helping them: she is Monte Jarrad’s girlfriend, and she is trying to aim the posse the wrong way!  Not long after starting out, Melody realizes this, and he comes back.  He ends up helping her anyways, when he sees that she wants out of the relationship.

I would say that I enjoy this movie.  Most of the comedy is provided by Gary Cooper as he does a sendup of his cowboy image, as he is the biggest klutz with a gun, usually dropping it as he tries to draw or missing completely when he does manage to shoot.  I would say the movie’s biggest flaw is its use of rear projection screens.   While I know this was how they did things then because they didn’t have our modern technology to help, the effect is still a lot more jarring than usual, with the image really matching up poorly with the action in front.  If you can get past that, then there is a fun movie to be found here, I think.

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from ClassicFlix.  The movie starts with a disclaimer that more or less says that time hasn’t been kind to the film elements and they did the best they could to restore it.  There are still some scratches here and there, but I think the transfer looks pretty good (far better than I would have thought after seeing that disclaimer)!  And I do have to admit, I tried this movie mostly because ClassicFlix released it on disc.  And I wasn’t disappointed! So I do recommend this release!

Film Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Casanova Brown (1944) – Gary Cooper – Love In The Afternoon (1957)

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Love In The Afternoon (1957)

Well, with Valentine’s Day almost here, of course, we need a good romantic comedy! So let’s dig into the 1957 movie Love In The Afternoon, starring Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn and Maurice Chevalier.

Audrey Hepburn is Ariane Cheavasse, the daughter of private detective Claude Chevasse (Maurice Chevalier). Much to his consternation, she enjoys reading his various case files, as he would prefer to keep her away from his work. However, she overhears him telling one of his clients that their wife was having an affair with rich playboy Frank Flannagan (Gary Cooper), and that client decides he wants to shoot Frank!. Ariane gets to Frank’s hotel suite to prevent the shooting, thereby gaining Frank’s interest. She doesn’t reveal who she is, but she decides to pretend that she is more or less just like him, having had many lovers. Of course, he gets just a little jealous, as he starts to develop real feelings for her.

Of course, there are so many things that come to mind when I think of this movie. First, and foremost, I can’t help but think of the Gypsies, the four musicians that Gary Cooper’s Frank has hired to provide music to help his lady friends to get in the mood. They usually seem to end their time with the song “Fascination” (and on that note, I should mention, that, considering how much that song is heard in this movie, if you don’t like it, it will be that much harder for you to enjoy this movie). Another point I enjoy about this movie is Audrey Hepburn’s Ariane trying to make Frank Flanagan jealous, culminating in her recording a list of her “lovers” on his tape recorder. He listens to it, at first, with amusement, but as he listens to it multiple times, it increasingly gets under his skin (of course, all the while, I’m laughing my head off while I’m watching it)!

Up until this movie was released on Blu-ray in early 2017, I hadn’t really heard of it. However, at that time, I had been starting to watch some of Audrey Hepburn’s movies (beyond the one or two I had been watching for years), so when this one was announced (and coming from Warner Archive, with their reputation for well-done Blu-ray transfers), I had little hesitation in trying it out. Well, I firmly believe it was well-worth it, as this has become one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies! And I do admit, I enjoy the song “Fascination,” so I don’t mind the fact that it gets stuck in my head every time I watch this movie! While the movie has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day, I do admit to enjoying watching it around the holiday as a romantic movie (or any other time of the year, for that matter)! So I do very heartily recommend this movie!

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

Film Length: 2 hour, 10 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Along Came Jones (1945) – Gary Cooper – Alias Jesse James(1959)

Funny Face (1957)Audrey HepburnCharade (1963)

Love Me Tonight (1932) – Maurice Chevalier

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