What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… After The Thin Man (1936)

Today, we’re going back to the Thin Man franchise with the second film in the series, After The Thin Man (1936), once again starring William Powell and Myrna Loy! But first, let’s get through the two shorts included on the disc, and then it’s on with the show!

Coming Up Shorts! with… How To Be A Detective (1936)

(available as an extra on the After The Thin Man Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 8 minutes, 49 seconds)

Robert Benchley lectures on how to be a detective. The short has several sections, with him taking part in the gags as he tries to “demonstrate” what’s he teaching. It’s not a short that will have you completely busting a gut, but it has its moments of good humor. I’ve enjoyed Robert Benchley in the various movies I’ve seen him in, and he’s still good here, too!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Early Bird And The Worm (1936)

(available as an extra on the After The Thin Man Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 14 seconds)

The Early Bird chases the worm, although a “rattle” snake joins in, looking for a meal of its own. Another entry in the “Happy Harmonies” series of cartoons from MGM, this one is a bit of fun. While it starts out in a more musical style, it quickly gives way to the old “predator vs. prey” type, as the bird chases the worm. Of course, the two “enemies” become friends to save each other from the snake. The animation is fun here (although the two crows in the short are rather dated stereotypes, similar to the crows from the Disney animated classic Dumbo). A very enjoyable cartoon overall!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Following closely on the heels of The Thin Man (not really a spoiler, as it only acknowledges that the previous mystery was solved, but doesn’t say who did it), detective Nick Charles (William Powell) and his wealthy wife Nora (Myrna Loy) return to their home in San Francisco via train on New Year’s Eve. Hoping to be alone, they find a party going on at their home (supposedly a surprise party for them, but the guest list includes people they don’t even know). They are quickly invited to dinner with some of Nora’s family. They are both reluctant to go (Nick in particular), but Nora’s cousin, Selma Landis (Elissa Landi), pleads with them to come, so they do. Arriving at the home of Nora’s aunt Katherine Forrest (Jessie Ralph), they soon find Selma all worked up about something. They quickly discover that her husband has disappeared for a few days, and she wants them to find him. Nick quickly goes to a Chinese nightclub, which is run by “Dancer” (Joesph Calleia) and his partner Lum Kee (William Law). There, they discover Selma’s husband Robert Landis (Alan Marshal), drunk and waiting for his girlfriend, singer Polly Byrnes (who is played by Dorothy McNulty, or as her later stage name would be, Penny Singleton). Robert expresses no desire to go back to his wife, and leaves the nightclub with Polly. Later, he meets alone with Selma’s former boyfriend, David Graham (James Stewart), who gives Robert $25,000 worth of bonds to go away and never return. Robert takes the money, stopping off at his house to grab a few things before he goes. However, as he leaves, he is fatally shot, with it looking like Selma shot him. With Nick on the case to help prove Selma’s innocence, and the aid of police lieutenant Abrams (Sam Levene), will they be able to discover the truth, or will Selma be hanged for the murder of her husband?

The first Thin Man was a minor film, one that MGM had low expectations for, and only got made because director W. S. Van Dyke was able to film it in a very short period of time. The movie turned out to be more successful than MGM imagined, and they got the gang (Powell, Loy and director Van Dyke) back together for another go-round. Thin Man author Dashiell Hammett was brought in to write the story for the film sequel. Of course, they continued to use the “Thin Man” for the title (trying to imply that it took place after the first film), even though the reference was originally to a character in the first film (but audiences associated the phrase with William Powell’s Nick Charles, so the title stuck for the remainder of the series). They had a much bigger budget for the sequel, and more time to work with for filming, and they made use of the opportunity to do some filming in San Francisco itself. The film was another hit (and one of three films in 1936 pairing William Powell and Myrna Loy, with the other two being Libeled Lady and The Great Ziegfeld), and so the series continued on with another entry a few years later.

Much like when I watched and reviewed the first Thin Man a few years back, this was my first time seeing this movie. Of course, being a bit more familiar with the first film now (having watched it again right before seeing this sequel), the exact style of the movie isn’t as much of a surprise (nor was the idea that I would like it). I thought the first film focused more on the comedy than the mystery, but the comedy was increased even more here! As with the first film, the booze was flowing freely for Nick and Nora, and their banter continues to add to the fun! James Stewart is also interesting in one of his early roles, as a previously spurned lover. I think I prefer the first film for its mystery and the innuendoes that got through (since it was a pre-Code), but this one is still good fun, and leaves me looking forward to seeing the rest of the series!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, featuring a 4K scan of the best surviving preservation elements (which in this case was a safety fine grain made back in the 1960s, before the original camera negative was gone). As I already said, I hadn’t seen this movie previously, so I have no past experience with how it looked. But, I can say with enough confidence that this transfer is fantastic (but, it’s from Warner Archive, so that’s nothing new)! The detail and clarity is there, with all the dirt and debris removed. I can think of no better way to be introduced to this classic mystery comedy, and I can only hope that the rest of the series (including the already announced for Blu-ray Another Thin Man) can get this kind of treatment!

Film Length: 1 hour, 52 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #10 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Libeled Lady (1936) – William Powell – Another Thin Man (1939)

Libeled Lady (1936) – Myrna Loy – Another Thin Man (1939)

Born To Dance (1936) – James Stewart – Vivacious Lady (1938)

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

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

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

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

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

(Length: 7 minutes, 9 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 39 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Good Fairy (1935) – Margaret Sullavan

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

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

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

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Vivacious Lady (1938)

And now, for my last review of 2019, we have the classic 1938 comedy Vivacious Lady starring Ginger Rogers and James Stewart!

Professor of botany Peter Morgan (James Stewart) comes to New York City in search of his cousin Keith Morgan (James Ellison), in an attempt to bring him back to the university at Old Sharon. He finds him at a nightclub waiting for a girl he likes, but before Peter can get him out of there, he meets and is instantly smitten with Francey (Ginger Rogers), the lady Keith was waiting for. After one date, Peter and Francey are married, and she comes back with him to Old Sharon. However, Peter hasn’t told his parents yet, nor his fiancee, which leaves him apprehensive of how everybody will react. Before he can tell his father (Charles Coburn), he assumes her to be there with Keith, and disapproves. Peter hopes to tell them at the university’s prom, but things go wrong when his now former-but-doesn’t-know-it-yet fiancee Helen (Frances Mercer) starts a fight with Francey, which Peter and his father come upon at a poor time. When he gets frustrated from his failed attempts at being alone with Francey, Peter manages to tell his father, who disapproves and doesn’t want Peter to tell his mother. However, his mother (Beulah Bondi) soon finds out accidentally, and she approves. However, Mr. Morgan comes to tell Francey that either she will divorce Peter, or he will have to demand Peter’s resignation, which angers Mrs. Morgan and results in her leaving her husband. Francey doesn’t want to cause trouble for Peter, so she decides to leave.

This wonderful comedy was directed by George Stevens, who was working with Ginger again after previously directing her in the Astaire/Rogers film Swing Time. His comedy pedigree came from working with comedy team Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy on some of their classic short comedies. James Stewart was chosen for this movie by Ginger herself, since they had dated previously, and she had gained enough starpower to make that choice. And of course, this was one of several times that actress Beulah Bondi would portray James Stewart’s mother, including in the previously reviewed Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

Overall, this is a wonderful comedy, with at least two particularly wonderful comic bits. The first one would be when Ginger’s Francey and Frances Mercer’s Helen butt heads at the prom. They start out calmly discussing things before they start slapping each other, then kicking, then brawling (and Jimmy bringing his father out to meet Francey only to see them still going at each other just makes it that much funnier)! Then of course, there would be the moment where Francey and James Ellison’s Keith teach Mrs. Morgan the Big Apple dance. It’s so much fun to watch all three of them really getting into it, and then in comes Mr. Morgan, who is incensed at seeing what was happening! While these are two of the more memorable moments for me, the whole movie is a lot of fun, and one I would very much recommend for a good laugh!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Seeing as how this is my last review for 2019, I want to wish you all a happy New Year (and of course, I hope you’ll tune in again tomorrow to see my 2019: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched)!

Film Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Swing Time (1936)Ginger RogersHaving Wonderful Time (1938)

After The Thin Man (1936) – James Stewart – You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

A Damsel In Distress (1937) – Jack Carson – Having Wonderful Time (1938)

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

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

And now for my entry in the Fifth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon, we have the 1938 screwball comedy You Can’t Take It With You, starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart and Edward Arnold!

Banker Anthony Kirby (Edward Arnold) is trying to create a monopoly on munitions by buying up all the property around a competitor. However, he can’t get his hands on one home, which infuriates him. That home belongs to Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore), who refuses to sell at any price. His granddaughter, Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) works for Kirby’s son, Tony (James Stewart) and has fallen in love with him. Alice insists on Tony’s parents meeting her family, but Tony purposely brings them over for dinner the day before, in order for his parents to see what her family is really like. However, things go wrong, and they are all arrested. When Alice sees how much Tony’s mother doesn’t like her family, Alice decides to break off the engagement and disappears.

Well, since I’m doing this for a blogathon on the Barrymore family, I suppose I should have *SOMETHING* to say about Lionel Barrymore. 😉 At the time, his arthritis was really bothering him, leaving him so stiff he could hardly walk, and required hourly shots to help ease the pain. But he wanted to do the part of Grandpa Vanderhof, and decided to try doing it on crutches. It was written into the script for the movie that his character had injured his foot sliding down a bannister on a dare from his granddaughter, and, considering how well Lionel does with the part, I believe it! Sadly, even on crutches, he was still in a lot of pain, and would mainly be using a wheelchair for the remainder of his career. Like many, I mainly associate Lionel with his role as the cranky Mr. Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life, and his role here is certainly quite different from that one!

Getting into the movie itself, it’s a screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, one of the best directors for the genre. And the movie is crammed full of many wonderful actors and actresses who can all handle the comedy well! From Charles Lane’s quick appearance as an IRS agent trying to find out why Grandpa Vanderhof hasn’t paid any income tax to James Stewart and Jean Arthur running into his parents at the restaurant to many other such wonderful moments! Of course, Edward Arnold deserves some mention, too, for portraying the redemption of his villainous Anthony Kirby, a rarity in Capra’s films. While the movie definitely deviates from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play it is based on, I like some of the changes that were made! And, of course, I have a hard time getting through this movie without getting the song “Polly Wolly Doodle” stuck in my head (but you won’t hear any complaints from me on that)! All in all, a movie I would highly recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Film Length: 2 hours, 6 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Easy Living (1937) – Jean Arthur – Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Dinner At Eight (1933) – Lionel Barrymore –Since You Went Away (1944)

Vivacious Lady (1938) – James Stewart – Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)

Easy Living (1937) – Edward Arnold – Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (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!

Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2019): 1939 on… Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)

Now for a patriotic turn, we have the classic 1939 drama Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, starring Jean Arthur and James Stewart!

When U.S. Senator Foley dies, Governor Hopper (Guy Kibbee) has to appoint a new one. Political boss Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold) has a man in mind that he orders the governor to appoint, but some citizen committees have somebody else. Governor Hopper’s own children have a recommendation of their own: their leader of the Boy Rangers, Jefferson Smith (James Stewart). Taylor and Senator Joe Paine (Claude Rains) decide to let the choice of Jeff Smith be. When Jeff gets to Washington, he explores the monuments, and enjoys the feeling of history. However, some of the reporters make fun of him, and make him realize his appointment is honorary, and that he is expected to be nothing more than a “yes man,” going along with what Senator Paine tells him to do. With the help of his secretary Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur), he tries to introduce a bill for the creation of a boys’ camp. When it is discovered he wants to use land that Taylor owns and is planning to sell for use for a dam in another bill, Taylor visits Washington to straighten him out, or else. Jeff tries to speak up about the graft, but HE is instead accused of graft and tries to run away. Saunders stops him, and helps him to go into a filibuster to delay his expulsion from the Senate.

For me, this is one of those wonderful movies that was really well done by all those involved. I have great admiration for the set crew, who had to recreate the Senate chamber in Hollywood (since they couldn’t use the real location for filming). James Stewart works so well in his role as Jefferson Smith, it’s easy to see why he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. Yes, as the audience, we learn all about the corruption in power early on, but it’s hard not to get swept up by Jeff’s earnestness and admiration for the Capitol and all the landmarks. And of course, director Frank Capra does a great job with Jeff’s big filibuster. While it lasts for quite a while, it doesn’t get stale or boring, especially interspersed with all the action as Edward Arnold’s James Taylor goes to work trying to tear him down in the state while Jean Arthur’s Saunders tries so hard to reach the people! I do enjoy this movie very much, and it is one I would highly recommend (especially in high definition, allowing you to see so many more details in the sets)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Film Length: 2 hours, 10 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Only Angels Have Wings (1939) – Jean Arthur

You Can’t Take It With You (1938) – James Stewart – The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938) – Claude Rains – The Sea Hawk (1940)

You Can’t Take It With You (1938) – Edward Arnold – Nothing But The Truth (1941)

The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938) – Eugene Pallette – The Mark Of Zorro (1940)

Fifth Avenue Girl (1939) – Jack Carson – Lucky Partners (1940)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Rose-Marie (1936)

And now we’re here for the 1936 version of Rose-Marie, starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

In this movie, Jeanette MacDonald plays Rose-Marie de Flor, an operatic diva (emphasis on “diva”). When she hears that her brother, John Flower (James Stewart), has broken out of prison and killed a mountie, she decides to come to him in the wilderness. On the way, she runs into Sergeant Bruce (Nelson Eddy), the mountie who has been tasked with finding her brother. Bruce quickly figures out that she is the famous opera diva, but, due to Rose-Marie’s relationship to her brother being kept secret, he doesn’t realize her main reason for being there. After she leaves with her guide, he puts two and two together, and follows her. She loses her guide and is stuck with Bruce (who doesn’t admit that he knows, instead admitting to going a different direction). Of course, on the trip there, they both fall for each other, which makes Bruce’s job that much harder.

What can I say? This is a wonderful movie! This is the second film version of a 1924 stage operetta, following a (now believed to be lost) 1928 silent film and later followed by the 1954 version starring Howard Keel, Ann Blyth and Fernando Lamas. In spite of the fact that this version deviates the most from the play as far as the story is concerned, this is the best-known version. This film does make use of some of the music from the stage operetta to wonderful effect. We have songs such as “The Mounties,” sung by Nelson Eddy and the title tune “Rose-Marie,” sung by Nelson Eddy as a serenade for Jeanette MacDonald’s character (which works until he starts to sing it again and accidentally substitutes another lady’s name for Rose-Marie’s, revealing that he’s used the song before). But the best song would have to be “Indian Love Call” (although, if you don’t like the song, it’s very hard to enjoy the last half hour of the movie, as it’s sung about four times within that time frame). But it is such a wonderful song, and I personally have never heard it sung better than either Jeanette MacDonald or Nelson Eddy.

Speaking of the film’s two stars, this is the second of eight movies that they were paired together for. This ended up being the first of their movies together that I saw (I had previously seen maybe one film each for their solo outings). Any knowledge of these films I possessed previously was from clips of some of their movies being included in the That’s Entertainment trilogy, and, as I have never been terribly fond of opera, I was reluctant to try them out. Then I saw the 1954 film with Howard Keel (whom I did like), enjoyed it and wanted to try this one. I was blown away by how much I liked this one, and it became easy for me to try to seek the others out. I still don’t really care for opera, but I am willing to put up with it for these movies. And this movie in particular has always felt like a lesson in great chemistry, because the movie relies quite heavily on just these two for the vast majority of the film. And it works! And we also have James Stewart in an early (and brief) role as the escaped convict brother, which apparently helped to get him noticed (and a few bigger roles, too) after having only done small bit parts. So, yes, I very much recommend this one!!

This movie is available on DVD either individually or as part of the four film Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy Collection: Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection.

“When I’m calling you-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo…”

Film Length: 1 hour, 51 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #7 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Naughty Marietta (1935)Jeanette MacDonaldSan Francisco (1936)

Naughty Marietta (1935)Nelson EddyMaytime (1937)

The Good Fairy (1935) – Reginald Owen – A Christmas Carol (1938)

James Stewart – Born To Dance (1936)

Allan Jones – Show Boat (1936)

In Person (1935) – Alan Mowbray – My Man Godfrey (1936)

Naughty Marietta (1935) – Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy (screen team) – Maytime (1937)

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!

Original Vs. Remake: The Philadelphia Story (1940) vs. High Society (1956)

And in this edition of “Original Vs. Remake,” we take a look at The Philadelphia Story (1940) (PS) and High Society (1956) (HS).

The plots are very similar, so I’ll just try to go with the common points of the story. Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn, PS or Grace Kelly, HS) is getting married again. Her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant, PS or Bing Crosby, HS) is back in town, hoping to get her to come back to him. Tracy also has to contend with a writer, Mike Connor (James Stewart, PS or Frank Sinatra, HS) and a photographer, Liz Imbrie (Ruth Hussey, PS or Celeste Holm, HS), who are there from SPY magazine to cover her wedding. Tracy feels pressure from her father and Dexter, who are trying to remind her that nobody is infallible, including her, which increasingly confuses her, and leads her to start drinking too much champagne, almost getting her into an affair with Mike Connor.

Not really much to say here on the similarities, since High Society is a remake, and does make use of a good fraction of dialogue from The Philadelphia Story, so we’ll just dig into the differences. Obviously, one big difference is the fact that PS is a comedy/drama, whereas HS is a musical. The setting also changes, with it being Philadelphia in PS, whereas it is in Newport, Rhode Island (which may have been because the film was planned as a combination of two films projects, one was a remake of PS, and the other was planned on the Newport Jazz Festival).

The actors’ portrayals are also different. With Cary Grant, I’m left with the feeling that he is bitter over the divorce, which is why his words feel like they have a little more venom, while Bing Crosby’s Dexter is not quite so bitter, and almost seems to have come to terms with the idea of her remarrying (although he obviously wishes it could be him). With Katharine Hepburn, I can’t help but feel like her Tracy Lord has always been a bit of a snob, looking down on other’s faults, while Grace Kelly’s Tracy seems like she wasn’t always so bad (as shown through her flashback when she is reminded of Dexter’s ship the “True Love”), mainly changing as the result of when her father cheated on her mother. And as to the two reporters from SPY magazine, James Stewart and Ruth Hussey’s characters seem more like they wish they could do what they want, but their necessity for money dictates that they have to work for SPY, while Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm’s characters are doing this as a normal job.

As to my own opinion as to which movie I consider the better movie? That would be High Society. I do enjoy both movies very much, but I usually prefer musicals and I like Bing Crosby as an actor. My opinion of The Philadelphia Story has definitely improved (and being able to see it restored on Blu-ray helps a little), but that opening scene still bothers me. I understand how it was done partly for audiences of the time who didn’t like Katharine Hepburn and wanted to see her knocked down, but it still bothers me, since I still don’t have that frame of mind. If not for that scene, I do think it would be a lot closer for me, but I still prefer High Society. However, both movies are wonderful, and I would certainly recommend watching either of them and making up your own mind!

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

My Rating: 9/10

High Society (1956)

My Rating: 10/10

The Winner (in my opinion): High Society

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Time to delve into the classic 1940 comedy, The Philadelphia Story, starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart!

As Miss Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) prepares to marry her second husband, George Kittredge (John Howard), her first husband, C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) arrives with a writer, Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart), and a photographer, Elizabeth Imbrie (Ruth Hussey), from SPY magazine, who are supposed to write about her wedding.  As the wedding gets closer, Tracy begins to feel conflicted, with George essentially putting her on a pedestal, while Dexter and her estranged father remind her that even she has faults, and shouldn’t be so harsh with her criticisms of others.

This movie is famous for essentially being Katharine Hepburn’s big comeback movie.  Apparently, partway through the thirties, she had been labeled “box office poison.” I’m not sure what film exactly caused this, although it seems like I read that maybe it was the failure of the 1935 movie Sylvia Scarlett (incidentally, also the first of the four movies in which she would be paired with Cary Grant).  After a few years of mixed to dismal results, she went back to Broadway, and got a role in the play The Philadelphia Story, which was able to showcase her abilities.  Howard Hughes bought the film rights and gave them to her, which allowed her the choice of director and cast (not to mention the ability to star in the movie).

I’ll admit, I’m currently coming off my second time viewing this movie (and the first in nearly a decade), but my opinion has improved over time (and seeing it restored on a recent Blu-ray release helps a little, too).  The first time I saw it, I didn’t particularly care for the movie, especially since I had seen the musical remake High Society for a few years already (and enjoyed that movie very much), so being a non-musical film version was, at that time, a strike against it.  The opening scene itself, as we see Dexter and Tracy separating (with him knocking her down), was also a point against it.  In the time since, I’ve seen another reviewer suggesting that maybe it would work better after having seen a few of their previous screwball films together.  When I first saw this movie, I don’t think I had seen much, if any, movies from either of them, but now, years later, I have seen quite a few (including two of the previous three movies they had made together).  It’s still a little rough, but I can see a little more humor in it (although not as much as audiences of the time, who may have wanted to see Katharine Hepburn knocked on her keister just due to her perceived personality, which audiences didn’t like at the time).

I know I have a lot to say on this, but this is a wonderful movie, and a bona fide classic.  I do very heartily recommend it to anybody interested.  This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 52 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)Cary GrantOnce Upon A Honeymoon (1942)

Holiday (1938) – Katharine Hepburn – Pat And Mike (1952)

The Shop Around The Corner (1940) – James Stewart – The Glenn Miller Story (1954)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2018) on… Born To Dance (1936)

Like Eleanor Powell, I was Born To Dance (for those that don’t know me, I have always been fond of dancing myself, and it’s fun to imagine being related to Eleanor, even though that was just her stage name, as far as I know)! Of course, we’re here for the 1936 musical Born To Dance, starring Eleanor Powell as Nora Paige, James Stewart as Ted Barker, Sid Silvers as “Gunny” Saks, Una Merkel as Jenny Saks, Virginia Bruce as Lucy James and Buddy Ebsen as Mush Tracy.

Now as to plot, we find a submarine arriving in New York City. On their leave, three sailors (Ted Barker, Gunny Saks and Mush Tracy) all go to the Lonely Hearts Club, where Gunny’s wife works. There, Ted meets Nora Paige, an aspiring dancer, and he falls in love with her. Within a few days, the submarine is visited by Broadway star Lucy James. Her Pekinese falls in the water and is saved by Ted. Lucy falls for him, and goes with him to a nightclub. When Nora finds out in the newspaper, she decides to cool things off between her and Ted. Ted uses his influence with Lucy’s manager to get Nora a job as Lucy’s understudy in the show. Lucy doesn’t want any more publicity about her relationship with Ted, and she threatens to leave the show if anything more is printed about them. In a diva moment at rehearsal, Lucy says that nobody can dance to one of the songs. However, Nora does so successfully at the request of Lucy’s manager. That makes Lucy mad, and she demands Nora be fired. When Ted finds out about that, he knows what to do!

As to my opinion of the movie, it is a lot of fun, and one I would recommend. The score by Cole Porter is most of the fun, with songs such as “Rap-Tap On Wood,” “Hey, Babe, Hey,” “Easy To Love,” “Swingin’ The Jinx Away” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Part of the fun here is that this is one of the few musicals that James Stewart made, giving him a chance to do some of the singing and dancing.

To get into some of the music, we have the song “Rap-Tap On Wood.” It is an early song in the movie, and is one of Eleanor’s tap solos. It is one I enjoy watching, and the song is prone to getting stuck in my head. Just a lot of pure fun!

The song “Hey, Babe, Hey” features most of the cast together. Jimmy starts out singing to Eleanor, and several others join in, with three different couples flirting with each other. The dancing here is only so-so, but that is mostly because, of the six people doing it, only Eleanor Powell and Buddy Ebsen are really dancers. I think, however, that the movie makes up for it by being a very fun and catchy tune!

With “Easy To Love,” James Stewart is again romancing Eleanor. This time is in Central Park, and it gives Eleanor a short dance solo. Some of the fun here is that, partway through, they are joined by a cop, played by Reginald Gardiner. He observes Jimmy “conducting” the music, and then does his own more serious conducting (apparently spoofing conductor Leopold Stokowski), which is also fun.

The song “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” is sung by Virginia Bruce to Jimmy. I personally don’t think it was the most memorable rendition, and how it became famous from that, I don’t know. The song was, however, also used by a couple at the nightclub that she and Jimmy visit. The couple, George and Jalna, do a dance routine to the song, with a few different lifts and whatnot. It is an example of the different types of dancing I had mentioned were fun to watch back in my post on King Of Jazz.

As I said, this is a fun movie. The plot may not be the movie’s strength, but I think the rest makes up for it. I do heartily recommend the movie. The movie WAS available on DVD from Warner Home Video (but currently appears to be out-of-print and awaiting re-release from Warner Archive Collection).

Film Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Broadway Melody Of 1936 (1935) – Eleanor Powell – Honolulu (1939)

Rose-Marie (1936) – James Stewart – After The Thin Man (1936)

Frances Langford – All-American Co-Ed (1941)

Broadway Melody Of 1936 (1935) – Buddy Ebsen – The Girl Of The Golden West (1938)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… The Glenn Miller Story (1954)

Here we are again for another new release on disc, this time the 1954 movie The Glenn Miller Story, starring James Stewart and June Allyson.

James Stewart plays Glenn Miller, a trombone player, who pals around with Chummy (Harry Morgan, or Henry, as he was billed here).  When the owner of the pawn shop where Glenn repeatedly pawns his trombone helps them find a job, Glenn makes use of the opportunity to visit his girlfriend, Helen Burger (June Allyson), whom he hasn’t seen in several years.  They enjoy a brief time together, before he leaves for New York.  A few years later, he realizes he can’t live without her, and has her come to New York so they can get married.  After they get married, she helps him towards realizing his long-time dream of discovering his “sound,” and he forms an orchestra of his own.

In reading about this movie, it appears that James Stewart attempted to learn to play the trombone for the role.  Apparently, he didn’t learn well enough, so he had to be dubbed for it, although he did learn to at least pantomime playing the trombone well enough.  The movie is supposed to be based on real events (although I’m not familiar enough to be able to determine just how accurate the movie is).  Of course, part of the fun with the movie is some of the real Glenn Miller’s peers who show up in the movie, such as Louis Armstrong, drummer Gene Krupa, Ben Pollack, and others.

The movie might barely classify as a Christmas movie, but that would mostly be due to the film’s ending.  I can’t really comment on that much more without giving away the ending, but it is a wonderful moment.  Now, I had not seen this movie previously.  At best, I could only claim to have heard of it in passing.  As I said, I’m not the most familiar with Glenn Miller himself, as I only really hear about most of these orchestras through movies such as this, whether they be biographical, like this one or The Eddy Duchin Story, or films that some of the orchestras themselves appear in (apparently, Glenn Miller had appeared in at least two movies in the early forties, although I haven’t seen them yet).  Whatever, this is a movie that I did enjoy discovering, and one I would recommend.

The movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and DVD from Universal.

Film Length: 1 hour, 56 minutes

My Rating: 10/10 (again, as with The Blue Dahlia, my opinion is solely on the movie itself, and not on the Blu-ray transfer, which looks like it could use some work, although it is at least widescreen now, as opposed to being pan-and-scan like older releases have been.  Still, I think it still looks good enough that it doesn’t take away from the movie itself).

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Philadelphia Story (1940) – James Stewart

Good News (1947) – June Allyson – The Opposite Sex (1956)

Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) – George Tobias – Silk Stockings (1957)