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

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

Coming Up Shorts! with… Free Wheeling (1932)

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

(Length: 19 minutes, 49 seconds)

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

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

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

(Length: 10 minutes, 50 seconds)

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

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

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

(Length: 7 minutes, 26 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

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

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

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 (2021) with… Annie Get Your Gun (1950)

We’re back for some more fun, as we dig into the classic 1950 musical Annie Get Your Gun, starring Betty Hutton and Howard Keel!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Small Talk (1929)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 1 (1929-1930) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 25 minutes, 4 seconds)

Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) is adopted, and the rest of the Little Rascals run away from the orphanage to come see him. This is the first sound short for the series, as evidenced by the title card (not to mention the silent start followed by all the noise created by the kids). Not too surprisingly, considering the new sound technology, the acting (from both kids and adults alike) is a little stiff. Still, there’s some charm and humor to be found, like with Wheezer’s attempt to call his friends on the phone, or Farina (Allen Hoskins) dealing with a parrot. It’s certainly enough fun that I look forward to watching more from this series!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show (as led by Colonel William “Buffalo Bill” Cody played here by Louis Calhern) has arrived in Cincinnati, and everybody is excited about it. One person who is not, however, is hotel owner Foster Wilson (Clinton Sundberg), who is still angry about the trouble caused at his hotel by a rival Wild West show run by Pawnee Bill (Edward Arnold). Foster has Buffalo Bill’s whole troupe thrown out, even after the show’s star, sharpshooter Frank Butler (Howard Keel), offers him a side bet of $100 if the local champion sharpshooter can best him. However, Foster then runs into Annie Oakley (Betty Hutton) and her siblings. When Annie shows him how good of a shot she is, he rushes off to make the bet. While she waits for the match, Annie meets Frank, and is instantly smitten with him (although he admits to her that she is not his type). Later, at the match (after she realizes that he is the “swollen-headed stiff” that she’s up against), she bests him in the match. Buffalo Bill and Frank’s manager, Charlie Davenport (Keenan Wynn), want to have Annie join the show, although Frank, bitter at losing, doesn’t want her to. Annie overhears the conversation, and convinces Frank to let her join the show as his assistant. As they tour the country, Annie tries to learn to read and be more ladylike to appeal to Frank. Business starts falling off for the show, however, as they realize how much competition Pawnee Bill’s show is bringing them. So, Buffalo Bill and Charlie decide to promote Annie as their star attraction, with plans to have her do a special trick that she has been practicing. She is reluctant to do it, until Charlie sells her on the idea that Frank would be thrilled to see her do it. The reality is different, however, as Frank is jealous over her quick promotion to star billing, and he feels betrayed when he sees her perform the trick. He decides to leave the show and join Pawnee Bill’s show. Meanwhile, Chief Sitting Bull (J. Carroll Naish) was in the audience when Annie performed her stunt, and he decided to adopt her as his daughter. In doing so, he offers to put money in Buffalo Bill’s show, which enables them to go on a European tour. They perform for the various crown heads of Europe, who give Annie many medals for her shooting abilities. However, Annie still misses Frank, and the show is going broke (because they weren’t being paid to put on those “command performances”). So, Buffalo Bill offers to take the show back home, to Annie’s delight. On the boat trip back, the troupe is invited to a party being given by Pawnee Bill to welcome them back, and, assuming that Pawnee Bill is doing well financially, they try to plan a merger of the two shows to help everybody out. At the party, they learn that Pawnee Bill is also struggling, but they make plans for the merger by planning to sell Annie’s valuable medals. Annie and Frank are reunited, but his old jealousies are reawakened when he sees all her medals, and the two decide to have a shooting match to determine who is indeed the better shot. Will these two be able to reconcile, or will their petty pride keep them apart?

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II produced a musical show based on the life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley. The original plan was to have composer Jerome Kern write the score (with Dorothy Fields providing the lyrics), but Jerome Kern passed away only a few days into working on the show. Irving Berlin was brought in to put together the score, and the show (which starred Ethel Merman as Annie Oakley) became a big hit. With the various studios vying for the film rights, producer Arthur Freed was able to get them for MGM, with plans to have Judy Garland star. However, he made the mistake of making Busby Berkeley the director. a problem as many of Judy’s pill addictions had begun as a result of working on some movies with him years earlier. She tried, but under Berkeley’s direction she struggled again, slowly going downhill health-wise and unable to give a good performance. Berkeley was fired, but, it was too late, as the damage had been done, and Judy’s struggles resulted in her being fired from the movie. Other actresses were considered, but it was ultimately decided to borrow Betty Hutton from Paramount. And that was hardly the only casting change to occur, either, as Frank Morgan (originally cast as Buffalo Bill) passed away in his sleep (and was replaced by Louis Calhern). The role of Annie Oakley was one that Betty Hutton had wanted, but she found a cold reception from the cast and crew of the film (not helped by some of her public comments on the matter). Still, the movie proved to be a big hit, more than making up for its high production cost.

This is a movie that I have been enjoying for quite a while now! I will readily admit that Irving Berlin’s music is one of the biggest reasons I like it, with songs like “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “They Say It’s Wonderful,” “You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun,” Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly,” “I Got The Sun In The Morning,” “My Defenses Are Down” and “Anything You Can Do!” Howard Keel is good in what was his first lead role in a film musical (and, besides Irving Berlin’s music, was also part of the film’s appeal way back when I first saw this film). As to Betty Hutton and her performance, I have to say that I like her in this film. In some of the other films I’ve seen with her, she tends to be too much at times, but, being too young myself to have ever seen Ethel Merman in the role on stage (although I’ve seen her in a few other films she made both before and after this one), I think that Betty Hutton fits the part of Annie Oakley far better than Judy Garland could have (and I can say that, having seen the outtakes from the movie, which include footage that was shot for Judy for two of the songs). Plain and simple, this is one movie I really enjoy! The only really sour point about it (and that may have come from the Broadway show) was the ending, which is different from what actually happened historically, and, in the process, takes on a very sexist attitude that ruins things a little. But, for me, the rest of the film builds up more than enough goodwill to offset that. This is a very entertaining show business musical, and one I highly recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The Blu-ray makes use of a new transfer made from a 4K scan of most of the original nitrate Technicolor negatives. I say “most of” because two reels worth of the original negatives were burned up in the infamous Eastman house fire that claimed many film elements all those years ago. For those two sections, they made use of positive safety separations that had been made for protection for those moments. Regardless of the sources, this film looks ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL!! The color is as good as one could hope for, and the detail is much improved. Seriously, this Blu-ray is highly recommended (and, quite frankly, the only ways to see this movie are either via physical media or on TV, as they haven’t gotten the rights cleared yet to show this one digitally, either via digital copies or streaming)!

While this film has no connection to my reviews for June’s Star Of The Month (Claudette Colbert), it does effectively end the month! So stay tuned for tomorrow, when we shift gears to July’s star, James Cagney!

Film Length: 1 hour, 48 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #7 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Howard Keel – Show Boat (1951)

The Asphalt Jungle (1950) – Louis Calhern – Athena (1954)

Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949) – Edward Arnold

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 (2019) with… Stagecoach (1966)

Happy New Year, everyone! And what better way to start the new year than with a long-delayed review of the 1966 western Stagecoach, starring Ann-Margret, Red Buttons, Mike Connors, Alex Cord, Bing Crosby, Bob Cummings, Van Heflin, Slim Pickens, Stefanie Powers and Keenan Wynn!

As the movie starts, we find Crazy Horse and the Sioux attacking the cavalry. Meanwhile, in a local town, there is a fight between two Army men over dance hall girl Dallas (Ann-Margret), with the two men killing each other, while the boozy Doc Boone (Bing Crosby) looks on. Dallas and Doc Boone are both thrown out of town by Army Captain Mallory, and decide to leave on the stagecoach. They are joined by an embezzling banker (Bob Cummings), a whiskey salesman (Red Buttons), the pregnant wife of Captain Mallory (Stefanie Powers) and a gambler (Mike Connors), with the marshal (Van Heflin) joining the regular stagecoach driver (Slim Pickens) to go to Cheyenne. Due to the Sioux war party, they are accompanied on the first part of the trip by a troop of cavalrymen. They run into escaped convict Ringo Kid (Alex Cord), who joins them on their trip, under the watchful eye of the marshal. Along the way, the group constantly argues on whether to keep going, as they continue to hear about Crazy Horse’s war party.

This is a movie that I enjoyed very much. I saw it originally, for one reason, and one reason only: Bing Crosby. As a fan of his films, this was one that I wanted to see. For him alone, this movie is worth viewing, as he provides a lot of the humor, and does pretty well with the role (although it saddens me that this ended up being his last theatrical movie, as he pretty much made a complete switch to television after this, mainly doing his various TV specials).

I would say that my feelings towards the rest of the cast are mixed (although they do well enough to make the movie enjoyable). Bob Cummings does great as the thieving banker, who proves himself a jerk as he continues to insist on pushing forward in spite of the danger (even when the doctor says they shouldn’t move on after Mrs. Mallory gives birth). In spite of his brief appearance at the end, Keenan Wynn makes for a very despicable Luke Plummer, making it easy for the audience to cheer for the Ringo Kid. Mike Connors as the gambler and Stefanie Powers as Mrs. Mallory really don’t make much of an impact in their roles, but I feel they fare better than Alex Cord as the Ringo Kid. He does decently, BUT he is taking over the iconic role from John Wayne, who became a big star after appearing in the 1939 film, and Alex Cord just doesn’t compare to him.

What this movie does have in its favor is the improvements that came with time. This movie is in color, and widescreen, allowing us to see some wonderful scenery from the Colorado location shooting. This movie came out around the time that things were changing with the Production Code (whether you like that or not is up to you), so they were able to show a little more, as evidenced by attacks by Crazy Horse and the Sioux (although the blood more or less looks quite fake, which is fine by me). I have seen all three versions of Stagecoach, and this is the film I prefer. Is it perfect? No, but it is a fun ride just the same, and one I would recommend seeing.

Getting back to why this review has been long-delayed, I originally had planned to post it on March 3, 2019, after watching my copy of the out-of-print DVD from Twilight Time. However, before it could be published, Twilight Time announced an upgrade to Blu-ray and I pulled the review until I could see the new Blu-ray and see how it looked. I have seen it now, and I can say that it is a definite improvement over their earlier DVD release. The picture shines in high definition, allowing the beauty of the different locations to really shine. And of course, the color is great, too, showing off the different costumes for the main cast. An easily recommended way to see this movie!

The movie is available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time as a limited edition with 3000 total copies available through either www.screenarchives.com or www.twilighttimemovies.com

Film Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964)Bing Crosby

They Came To Cordura (1959) – Van Heflin

The Bride Wore Boots (1946) – Robert Cummings