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

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

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

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

(Length: 10 minutes, 21 seconds)

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

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

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

(9 minutes, 2 seconds)

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

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

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

(8 minutes, 50 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

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

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

With this being my last post before the holiday itself, I want to wish you all a merry Christmas (and to those who don’t celebrate it, I wish you happy holidays), and I wish you peace on earth, and goodwill to ALL, and to quote Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone!”

Film Length: 1 hour, 9 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

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

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

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

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) – Ann Rutherford

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

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2022) on… International Lady (1941)

Today, we’re here to look at a 1941 spy thriller called International Lady starring George Brent, Ilona Massey and Basil Rathbone!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Beginner’s Luck (1935)

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

(Length: 18 minutes, 38 seconds)

After having Spanky (George McFarland) recite for some of her lady friends, Spanky’s mother decides to enter him in an amateur talent contest. However, Spanky has no desire to win, and enlists the Gang’s help to sabotage his performance. It’s yet another short focused on Spanky, and the results are once again hilarious! Spanky brings the fun, whether dealing with a meddlesome parrot or doing his recitations (especially when he defends himself against everything the Gang was throwing at him). Of note with this short is the debut of future Our Gang star Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (although not as the character he would become known for). I laughed from start to finish on this one, which in my book makes it worth recommending (and I’ll certainly be coming back to it whenever I can)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

During the London bombing by the Nazis, Tim Hanley (George Brent) runs into concert singer Carla Nillson (Ilona Massey), and invites her to a bomb shelter/nightclub. There, they run into music critic Reggie Oliver (Basil Rathbone), who joins them. However, Tim and Carla had been followed there by somebody, and Tim decides to go down to the police station with the man to do something about it. There, he is joined by Reggie, and it is revealed that neither Tim nor Reggie are who they claimed to be. Tim (who had claimed to be a lawyer working with the U.S consulate) was actually an FBI agent while Reggie was from Scotland Yard, and they were both with Carla because she was suspected of being part of a ring of saboteurs trying to stop American planes from being shipped to England. However, the two men can’t quite agree on how to handle the case, resulting in Tim trying to sneak Carla off to Lisbon (without Reggie), where he helps her get a visa to America. While in Lisbon, Carla sneaks away to meet with members of the sabotage ring to get her new “music” (which is the code for the organization). Tim had seen her sneak away and tried to follow, but the cab he tried to take quickly lost sight of her. Reggie joined them after they got back together, and the three finished out the trip to the U.S. together. Once in the country, Carla went her way to the home of chocolate magnate Sidney Grenner (Gene Lockhart) (who was also the head of the ring of saboteurs) to prepare for his radio program (where they would use the music to communicate with the other members). At the party being held for Carla’s “concert,” Reggie goes undercover as a waiter, and snoops around while everybody is listening to Carla sing. He overhears a telephone conversation between Grenner’s “butler” Webster (George Zucco) (who is an expert marksman) and another member of the ring. After the concert, Tim finds Carla’s sheet music, and, discerning the existence of a code on there, he writes it down to pass off to another agent. When Webster sees Tim alone in the garden, he is suspicious and takes a shot at Tim (but doesn’t kill him on purpose). Carla discovers that Tim is an FBI agent, but she doesn’t reveal it to anybody else until after Tim has left the premises. With time running out as the saboteurs follow through with their plans to destroy all the planes being sent to England, Reggie works hard to crack their code. But will he succeed in time? And will Carla’s feelings for Tim stop her from continuing to take part in the sabotage (or will she let Tim get killed)?

Honestly, I hadn’t heard of this film at all until it was announced for a Blu-ray and DVD release from ClassicFlix (but more on that in a moment). I’ve come to enjoy trying out the different films that ClassicFlix has been putting out, so I was willing to give it a try (and the presence of Basil Rathbone in the movie certainly didn’t hurt its appeal). In general, the film turned out to be better than I had anticipated. I found the film’s way of showing the saboteur’s code being sent while Ilona’s Carla was singing to be an interesting way of portraying it. I have mixed feelings about George Brent’s performance, as I don’t think he fully works as the leading man in this film, yet I like his relationship with Basil Rathbone’s Reggie, as the two almost work well as a comedy team (with their main comedy bit being the language difference between British and American slang). Even apart from his dealing with George Brent’s Tim, Basil Rathbone really carries the film, especially when he is in disguise at the party (which is almost hard to notice at first unless you are really looking for it, which is saying something). You won’t really find a lot of tension here (especially since this is considered a spy thriller), and you won’t find much in the way of shootouts. Still, I found it to be a very entertaining film (and one I’m glad to have seen), and I think it’s worth giving a chance!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… International Lady (1941)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from ClassicFlix as part of their Silver Series line of releases. According to a post by the founder of ClassicFlix on one of the forums I frequent, their original plan was to release the film on DVD only, but they were given an HD master by the owner that was good (but not quite good enough for their main line of releases, and would be too expensive of a proposition for them to do a new and better master). Having seen it now myself, I’m still very impressed with a picture that looks quite good, with very little damage evident, and a fairly sharp picture throughout. Overall, it’s a very good transfer given a pretty good release on disk. Given that it’s part of their “no frills” Silver Series, there are no extras beyond a few trailers for some of ClassicFlix’s other releases, and there are no subtitles for those who need them (but dialogue is still relatively easy to understand the majority of the time).

Film Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Jezebel (1938) – George Brent – Tomorrow Is Forever (1946)

Balalaika (1939) – Ilona Massey

The Mark Of Zorro (1940) – Basil Rathbone – The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad (1949)

The Sea Wolf (1941) – Gene Lockhart – Going My Way 1944)

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“Star Of The Month (May 2021)” Featuring Cary Grant in… Wedding Present (1936)

As we continue on with Cary Grant as the featured Star Of The Month, we come to another film from 1936, the comedy Wedding Present, also starring Joan Bennett! But first, we’ve got a theatrical short!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Homesteader Droopy (1954)

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

(Length: 7 minutes, 31 seconds)

Droopy and his homesteading family find resistance from Dishonest Dan when they make a home in cattle country. A fun companion cartoon to Drag-A-Long-Droopy, as another wolf takes on Droopy. Of course, we have the recurring gag of his child wanting milk, and the different ways it’s given to him. As usual, Droopy beats the Wolf for most of the cartoon (which, considering the chemistry, always works). After all, “it’s the laaaaaw of the West” (and always fun to see)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Chicago newspaper reporters Monica “Rusty” Fleming (Joan Bennett) and Charlie Mason (Cary Grant) are about to get married, but his pranks result in them being unable to get the license before closing time. Their newspaper editor, Pete Stagg (George Bancroft), is frustrated with all their practical jokes, and sends them to get an interview from Archduke Gustav Ernest (Gene Lockhart). Not only do they manage to get an exclusive interview from the archduke, but Charlie rescues New York gangster “Smiles” Benson (William Demarest) (who promises to pay off for the rescue), and both Charlie and Rusty help rescue a ship lost in a storm. They are both given medals for their work, and Rusty gets to enjoy a month’s vacation in New York. While she’s away, Pete Stagg resigns as editor, and, instead of being fired completely, Charlie becomes the editor. In the process, he becomes a hard worker, and doesn’t let anybody else get away with the type of things he had previously done. When Rusty comes back, she tries to bring him back to his senses, only for him to fire her. As a result, she decides to return to New York City. At the airport, she meets author Roger Dodacker (Conrad Nagel), and they start going out together. Without Rusty at the newspaper, Charlie comes to his senses, resigns, and goes after her. In New York, he is met by “Smiles” Benson, who tries to help bring the two back together to return the favor for saving his life (but without success). Will Charlie and Rusty be together again, or will she stick with the boring author?

Wedding Present is based on the short story (of the same name) by Paul Gallico that originally ran in The Saturday Evening Post in September 1935. The movie is toward the end of Cary Grant’s contract with Paramount. As such, we can see that he has essentially gotten his screen persona together. He’s quite suave, and yet, he can be a bit of a screwball, too. I’ve seen a number of comparisons to his better known classic His Girl Friday (made a few years later), and it is a fitting one. Once again, he’s a character willing to get involved in the news story (and help create one), as we see him become friendly with the Archduke, and push a pilot to go help a lost ship (and give the pilot credit for being a hero, even though he and his partner had knocked out the pilot to keep the search going).

Now, I will definitely grant (pun intended) that Wedding Present is certainly no match for the far better His Girl Friday, but it is fun on its own terms. I certainly enjoyed some of the various practical jokes that Cary Grant’s Charlie and Joan Bennett’s Rusty played in the course of getting their stories at the beginning of the movie. Not to mention the stuff they pulled on their bosses (both the editor and the owner of the paper). Everything that Charlie tried to do to win back Rusty upon his arrival in New York was certainly enjoyable as well. But I probably got the most solid laughs out of the stuff that occurred at the film’s finale (I wish I could say what, but to do so would be to spoil it, so I won’t go there). All in all, this was a very fun screwball comedy. I think most (if not all) of the later screwball comedies that Cary Grant did were better, but this one was still worth seeing! So, I would indeed recommend it!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Wedding Present (1936)

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the three film Cary Grant Collection from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Like Big Brown Eyes in the set, the opening credits start out looking rough, with a lot of dirt and debris, but, once things get going, everything settles down. Of the three films in the set, this one looks the best, and it’s certainly worth seeing this way.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Cary Grant Collection

The Cary Grant Collection includes the movies Ladies Should Listen, Big Brown Eyes and Wedding Present. All three films have HD scans, with some variation in quality. None have been completely cleaned up, but that shouldn’t stop anybody from looking into this set. I think this set is worth it. I will admit, none of these are “Cary Grant with his screen persona” good, but they all manage to be fun, especially seeing him try to develop that persona, with some good co-stars. Again, this set is recommended!

Film Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Big Brown Eyes (1936)Cary GrantThe Awful Truth (1937)

Big Brown Eyes (1936) – Joan Bennett – Father Of The Bride (1950)

Star Of Midnight (1935) – Gene Lockhart – A Christmas Carol (1938)

Big Brown Eyes (1936) – Cary Grant Collection

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Star Of Midnight (1935)

Now we’re back for The Thin Man starring William Powell and Ginger Rogers. Wait, Ginger Rogers? Oh, that’s right, this is the 1935 film Star Of Midnight.

When Alice Markham disappears from Chicago, her boyfriend Tim Winthrop (Leslie Fenton) comes to New York to ask his lawyer friend Clay “Dal” Dalzell (William Powell) to help him find her. Dal is reluctant at first, but the two of them and Dal’s marriage-minded girlfriend Donna Mantin (Ginger Rogers) go to see the show Midnight, which features the big star Mary Smith, who always wears a mask in public. Before he can see the show, Dal is called away to see gangster Jimmy Kinland (Paul Kelly) to negotiate for some letters Donna wants back. After doing so, Dal returns to his apartment to hear that Mary Smith had disappeared, and newspaperman Tommy Tennant (Russell Hopton) comes to tell him what he found out about Mary Smith. However, before Tennant can tell Dal anything, he is shot and killed, and the killer tosses the gun at Dal. Having handled the gun, he is suspected by the police, so he decides to try and solve the case, with the aid of Donna (whether he wants her help or not). As he gets further into the situation, he learns why Alice had disappeared from Chicago, and tries to set a trap for the murderer, who is hunting her down, too.

In one of those examples of how Hollywood hasn’t changed in many years, with the success of The Thin Man came a number of copycat movies, as the studios tried to cash in on the idea. Thin Man star William Powell was in the process of signing a contract with MGM afterwards, but signed a quick deal with RKO, which allowed him to star in two similar films, the 1936 film The Ex-Mrs. Bradford and this one. Co-starring with him was Ginger Rogers, who was enjoying her own success co-starring with Fred Astaire in their own series of films. She did Star Of Midnight in between filming Roberta and Top Hat with Fred Astaire.

Personally, having finally seen The Thin Man, it is easy for me to say that that is the better movie. The overall film is fun, made better by the chemistry between William Powell and Myrna Loy. That being said, Star Of Midnight comes awfully close, for me! Ginger’s not Myrna Loy, but she certainly brings her own brand of sass to the role, which is still just as fun in my book! While the relationship is an unmarried one, there is still enough history shown between the two, and I enjoy watching it a lot! I’ll admit, William Powell’s Clay Dalzell is very similar to Nick Charles, including a fondness for drinking, but while similar, it still works well with this movie! While I would say the right film ended up starting a franchise, I know I can’t help but wish that Star Of Midnight had been the start of a series for its two leads as well! It’s just a wonderful movie that I would easily recommend for fans of either star (or fans of The Thin Man, for that matter)!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Thin Man (1934) – William Powell – My Man Godfrey (1936)

Upper World (1934)Ginger RogersTop Hat (1935)

Gene Lockhart – Wedding Present (1936)

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… The Sea Wolf (1941)

And we’re back for the second half of today’s double-feature, the 1941 movie The Sea Wolf, starring Edward G. Robinson, Ida Lupino and John Garfield.

Escaped convict George Leach (John Garfield) signs on as a crew member on the Ghost ship to get away from the police.   Another escaped convict, Ruth Brewster (Ida Lupino) and a writer, Humphrey Van Weyden (Alexander Knox), both end up on the ship after the ferry they were on was hit by another ship in a fog.  On board the Ghost, they meet Captain Wolf Larsen (Edward G. Robinson), a cruel man who rules his ship with an iron hand.  Leach tries to lead the men in mutiny against Larsen several times, while Van Weyden tries to understand him, especially after he sees Larsen suffering from headaches that are slowly making him go blind. When the rest of the crew finds out, they turn on him.

When it was released back in 1941, The Sea Wolf turned out to be a big success.  The movie was reissued again in 1947 as part of a double-feature with The Sea Hawk. Due to the length of the two movies, both were cut (in the original camera negatives) to be fit in a shorter time frame.  As a result, the shortened versions were the ONLY versions available for a long time.  While Sea Hawk was restored to its original length in the 1980s, Sea Wolf wasn’t at that time.  Apparently, actor John Garfield’s estate had a 16mm copy of the full film, but the picture quality would have been obviously terrible for the scenes that would have been restored.  Warner Brothers did, however, find a 35mm copy at the Museum of Modern Art, which they restored and released to both Blu-ray and DVD in late 2017.  I can attest to the fact that the movie looks wonderful!

As to the movie itself, I can only speak to the complete version, as I hadn’t even heard of the movie before its announcement for release on Blu-ray and DVD.  One thing I feel I should say right off: I have a hard time recommending this movie for little kids if only because of the brutality of some of the characters, especially Edward G. Robinson’s Wolf Larsen.  I mean, the character seems to favor the line “better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven ” from Milton’s Paradise Lost, and he lives that way as far as how he treats his crew!  He drives the ship’s doctor to kill himself, he beats up on some of the men, he drags the ship’s cook in the water (and that’s after the cook gives him the names of the men who were trying to mutiny against him)!  As I said, I don’t recommend this movie for young children (but, in the end, that is still up to the parents).  This movie seems to have fallen through the cracks, at least partly because of the cuts, and, now that it is whole again, I think it deserves to be more widely seen.  I believe it to be one of the greats, and I recommend it highly!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Little Caesar (1931) – Edward G. Robinson – The Ten Commandments (1956)

Ida Lupino – Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)

Jesse James (1939) – Gene Lockhart – International Lady (1941)

Bringing Up Baby (1938) – Barry Fitzgerald – Going My Way (1944)

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Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2019): 1939 on… Jesse James (1939)

Now that it’s 2019, let’s start off the 80th anniversary of many movies from 1939 with the movie Jesse James, starring Tyrone Power in the title role and Henry Fonda as his brother Frank James.

The railroad is going around buying up people’s land (and not exactly honestly, either). When they come to the home of the James family, they find they are not able to make them sell the land. They try to get the James brothers arrested, but when they run, the house gets destroyed while their mother is in it. This sets Jesse and his brother off on a crusade to rob the railroad. Jesse’s girlfriend, Zerelda “Zee” Cobb convinces him to marry her and turn himself in in exchange for a light sentence. However, once he is in jail, the railroad president tries to change things around so that he would be hanged. Frank helps him escape from jail, and Zee joins them as they go on the run. However, when she gives birth to Jesse’s son, she decides to come home. Jesse lets her, but then starts taking more chances, and makes enemies even of friends that had supported him previously.

I enjoyed this movie very much. To me, it seems like it starts out as a “Robin Hood”-type story, with the railroad people taking the land from the farmers, and Jesse James and his brother start to fight back, with the support of the people. Then the movie diverges, warning about Jesse getting so used to robbing that that might be all he can do. Zee realizes this, and tries to get him to turn himself in. After some thought, he is willing to do so. However, when he does turn himself in, the president of the railroad decides to break his own promise and try to hang him. In the process, he just makes the situation worse, not just for himself, but everybody (of course, this shouldn’t be a surprise, considering what the men he sent to buy the land from the farmers were doing under his leadership). One can only imagine how much better the situation would have been (in the movie) if the bank president had only been a better leader overall, not just in his dealings with the James brothers, but with all the other landowners as well.

Now, I don’t know enough about Jesse James to know how historically accurate this movie is. I know one of Jesse’s real-life granddaughters was hired as a technical advisor for the movie, but I have otherwise heard that the movie is still inaccurate. Personally, I don’t really care, as I enjoy this movie very much. I mainly watched it for Tyrone Power in the title role, as I have seen a few of his other movies, and enjoyed them (and this movie being from 1939, long considered to be one of the best years in Hollywood, certainly helps). I do know that this movie had a sequel, The Return Of Frank James, with Henry Fonda reprising his role as Frank James, but I have yet to see this movie. But I do recommend Jesse James to anybody curious enough to try it!

The movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox.

Film Length: 1 hour, 46 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Tyrone Power – The Mark Of Zorro (1940)

Spawn Of The North (1938) – Henry Fonda – Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)

Brian Donlevy – The Great McGinty (1940)

A Christmas Carol (1938) – Gene Lockhart – The Sea Wolf (1941)

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An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2018) with… Miracle On 34th Street (1947)

Here we are again for another Christmas classic!  This time, it’s the 1947 movie Miracle On 34th Street, starring John Payne, Maureen O’Hara, and Edmund Gwenn.

Maureen O’Hara plays Doris Walker, a divorced mother who works at Macy’s.  When she has to fire the drunken Santa for the parade, she finds a replacement in the form of Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), who does well enough he is hired for the toy department at Macy’s.  While there, he tries to change things, helping out by sending parents to wherever they need to go to help find the toys their kids are asking for.  This works out well for Macy’s, and they institute it for more than just the toy department.  Of course, the fact that Kris Kringle believes he is actually Santa Claus causes some trouble, which results in him being sent to an institution.  At his trial, he is represented by Fred Gailey (John Payne), Doris’s boyfriend and neighbor, who must prove that Kris is indeed who he says he is.

I know it’s a favorite thing for some people to complain about how much Christmas stuff is put out in the stores far sooner than it should, or how some people start decorating, listening to music, or other such things a lot earlier, but his movie is, in some respects, a good example of how that problem has been there for a long time.  From what I gather, this movie, a Christmas classic in its own right, was originally released in theaters in early summer (May or June seems to be what I see listed)!  Apparently, the head of 20th Century Fox at that time, Darryl F. Zanuck, figured that the movie would do better if it was released during the summer.  Of course, they tried to minimize the Christmas angle in promoting it, but audiences apparently enjoyed it enough to keep seeing it, even at that time of the year!

I admit, as I get older, I tend to hold less affection for most of the various “Santa Claus” movies.  However, this one is the main exception to that rule.  For me, Edmund Gwenn IS Santa Claus.  I’ve never liked anybody else anywhere near as much in the role.  And apparently, even the rest of the cast in this movie agreed that he was well cast in the role (and apparently, Natalie Wood, who played Doris’s daughter in this movie, didn’t even know he wasn’t Santa until they were finished filming the movie)!  And I certainly found it interesting that the parade at the beginning of the movie was actually the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from 1946, where Edmund Gwenn was Santa in the parade!  But I do recommend this movie very highly, and would definitely suggest watching it during the holiday season!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox.

Film Length: 1 hour, 36 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1939) – Maureen O’Hara

Going My Way (1944) – Gene Lockhart

The Bride Wore Boots (1946) – Natalie Wood – Marjorie Morningstar (1958)

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The Long And The Short (Series) Of It on… Going My Way (1944) and The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

Now, we have the two Oscar-nominated movies featuring Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley, both of which were directed by Leo McCarey. From what I have read, The Bells of St. Mary’s was actually the first movie that was planned, but since it was being planned for RKO, and Bing was under contract to Paramount, a deal had to be made for Going My Way to be done first.

In Going My Way, we find Father O’Malley coming to the troubled St. Dominic’s Church, which is run by the more-old-fashioned Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald). He is sent there by the bishop to help fix some of the church’s problems, which include the mortgage holder who is demanding payment and the youth of the church who are constantly getting into trouble with the law. Due to their differences in getting things done, Father Fitzgibbon goes to the bishop to have Father O’Malley transferred, only to find out why he was sent there in the first place. Although Father Fitzgibbon runs away at first, upon returning the two begin to bond, and with the help of Father O’Malley’s former girlfriend (now a big opera singer at the Metropolitan) and his friend, Father O’Dowd (Frank McHugh), they help to change the parish for the better.

This is a wonderful movie, with many different moments worth highlighting. The first few minutes as we watch Father O’Malley first arrive, from meeting some of the parish members, to joining a game of baseball with the neighborhood kids on the street, to being soaked as he tries to grab the ball, and then meets Father Fitzgibbon (who takes an immediate dislike to him). I know I can’t help but laugh at the kids singing “Three Blind Mice” as O’Malley tries to form the choir, which irritates Father Fitzgibbon (the song irritates him, that is). Of course, some of the most fun is watching Father Fitzgibbon when he joins Father O’Malley and Father O’Dowd on the golf course, followed by a game of checkers (watch it, and tell me you can’t laugh at it 😉 ). Watching the relationships develop in the movie is a lot of fun. Maybe it’s not just a straight plot, but there is much fun to be had here, just the same.

In The Bells of St. Mary’s, Father O’Malley is sent to be the pastor at a parochial school, and soon finds out what it means to be “up to his neck in nuns.” He and the head nun, Sister Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman), butt heads over how to run the school, and what they want to teach the students. Their most fervent disagreement is over Patsy Gallagher (Joan Carroll), who is in the school at Father O’Malley’s insistence. Patsy’s single mother had come to him, asking if Patsy could come there, since she was getting old enough to realize her mother was essentially a prostitute, which seemed to be one of the few ways she could pay the bills after her husband left her. Patsy isn’t as interested in school, hoping to get a job on her own, until Father O’Malley helps her build her confidence (at least, until she sees her father coming out of her mother’s apartment, mistaking him for one of her mother’s “clients”). Father O’Malley and Sister Mary Benedict are also trying to figure out how to save the school, which is in bad shape and in danger of being condemned by the city council (with businessman Horace P. Bogardus, played by Henry Travers, building a new office building next door and hopes to use the school for parking space). Of course, the nuns are all praying that Mr. Bogardus will end up giving them his building for them to use for the school.

Bells of St. Mary’s is also a fantastic movie. I know I enjoy watching Sister Mary Benedict teach one of the boys who was being bullied how to box (which she had to do because he was trying to “turn the other cheek” as she had taught him). Honestly, with this movie, Sister Mary Benedict is most of the fun, as she proves how clever she can be, such as how she can tell Father O’Malley is helping Patsy a little with one piece of homework. And one can’t deny the humor in watching how, in a conversation with Mr. Bogardus, she plants the thought of him giving his building to the school. There are many other wonderful moments, but these are just a few worth mentioning, off the top of my head.

Both movies seem to qualify as Christmas viewing. Going My Way connects with Christmas mainly because, as Father O’Malley, Bing sings “Silent Night” as he starts working with the boys choir, and the end of the movie takes place near Christmastime. While The Bells of St. Mary’s takes place over the school year, it does briefly make a stop at Christmas. Father O’Malley can be heard singing “Adeste Fidelis” with some of the older students, figuring it to be necessary for a Christmas program, before being taken by Sister Mary Benedict to see the nativity play that the first graders are doing. Of course, they do it their own way (I’m not sure, but I think that the kids may have been improvising it within the movie, as Sister Mary Benedict implies through some of her dialogue for the scene).

As best as I can tell, Going My Way seems to have made more of an impact. About this time, Bing Crosby became the top actor at the box office for a number of years, and on the overall list of most tickets sold, he ranks third (behind Clark Gable and John Wayne). Apparently, Bing and Barry Fitzgerald had great chemistry, because they were teamed up again for at least two more movies, Welcome Stranger (1947) and Top o’ the Morning (1949). While haven’t seen the latter film, I have seen Welcome Stranger, and my own opinion is that it is Going My Way, except with the two as doctors instead of priests (which allows for Bing to be the romantic lead).

Going My Way also spawned a TV series of the same name in the early sixties. Gene Kelly took over the role of Father O’Malley, with Leo G. Carroll as Father Fitzgibbon (or “Father Fitz,” as they usually called him), and Dick York joined them as Tom Colwell. It lasted for one season, at thirty episodes. Having seen the whole series, I can say that I enjoyed it very much, although I rate the first half of the series as being better. Since I have seen little information about the show, I don’t know whether the episodes were aired out of order or not, but I was left feeling like the ratings affected the show, and as a cost-cutting measure, Gene Kelly’s Father O’Malley was reduced to brief appearances in each episode for the last half of the season (again, just a guess). Being that he was one of the reasons I wanted to see it, that lessened my enjoyment of it (although the show’s cancellation did leave Dick York room to be the first Darren Stevens on Bewitched a little over a year later). One thing worth mentioning is that Frank McHugh, who played Father O’Dowd in the movie, is possibly the only actor from that movie to make an appearance on the show, in the Christmas episode (although as a different character).

Both of these are movies that I highly recommend if you get the chance to see them. Going My Way is on DVD from Universal. The Bells of St. Mary’s is on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films.

More recently, on September 24, 2019, Going My Way has been released on Blu-ray by Shout! Factory, and on November 26, 2019, Olive films re-released The Bells Of St. Mary’s on Blu-ray as part of their Olive Signature line with a new transfer and extras. While I haven’t seen the Blu-ray for Going My Way, I have commented on the newly released Blu-ray of The Bells Of St. Mary’s here.

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!

Going My Way

Film Length: 2 hours, 5 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Morocco (1942)Bing CrosbyThe Bells Of St. Mary”s (1945) (here) (update)

The Chocolate Soldier (1941) – Risë Stevens

International Lady (1941) – Gene Lockhart – Miracle On 34th Street (1947)

The Bells of St. Mary’s

Film Length: 2 hours, 6 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Going My Way (1944) (here) – Bing Crosby (here) (update) – Road To Utopia (1946)

Gaslight (1944) – Ingrid Bergman (here) (update) – Notorious (1946)