2021: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve, everybody, and it’s time to take a look back at the year 2021. Like the rest of life, change happens here as well, so let’s dig into a couple of things that did change. We’ll start off with one relatively minor one that you probably wouldn’t notice if I didn’t mention it: I’m now making this post an annual thing for New Year’s Eve. Sure, I also did it on New Year’s Eve last year, but the reality is that, apart from my first year when I posted it on Thanksgiving alongside that year’s Top 10 Disc Release post (although it was technically a Top 5 post to start with), I was generally doing it the day after my last review for the year. Plain and simple, I felt this year that it needed to be a New Year’s Eve post every year. Simple as that. I’ve also been working here and there on logos for my various series, and renamed a couple (with one more renamed column making its debut in 2022). I’ve changed a few minor details with my review designs, and made some changes to my homepage’s look.

And there are a few more changes in store going into 2022. I don’t know if many noticed, but I had a HUGE number of posts this year, with my regular Sunday posts, almost every Wednesday (until the last couple of months) for my posts on new physical media releases, plus my newly named Film Legends Of Yesteryear column once a month, as well as entries in my series of The Long And The Short (Series) Of It, Original Vs. Remake, Coming Up Shorts! and Screen Team Edition. It was nice trying to push my limits, just to see how far I could go, but I can’t deny that, for the last few months, I’ve been feeling like I pushed it too far, with too many posts (normally, I like to have my regular Sunday posts written almost two months before they are published, but the last few months, I’ve been finishing a few within the last day before my scheduled publishing date). So, going ahead, I will be pulling back a little. As I mentioned in my last Film Legends Of Yesteryear post, that series will no longer be an extra one, and will instead be part of my regular Sunday or Wednesday posts (whenever I have films that are from 1939, include actress Rita Hayworth amongst the cast, feature screen teams or whatever else I decide to add down the line). I will also no longer be doing any more than two or three posts a month in my What’s Old Is A New Release Again series (if I have more, I’ll just lump all of them into one post with brief descriptions, with a later post to follow in November for titles included in my “Top 10 Disc Release Of The Year” post). How much I do for any of the other non-Sunday series will vary, but the main idea is that I want (and need) to pull back a little for now.

Of course, what we were all here for was the movies, and that didn’t change much. Most of the year has been focused on my various Star Of The Month blogathons, featuring actors and actresses like Doris Day (January), Clark Gable (February), Gene Kelly (March), Cary Grant (May), Claudette Colbert (June), James Cagney (July), Barbara Stanwyck (August) and Humphrey Bogart (November), with one detour in September focusing on the musical genre. Besides all those, I also saw a number of films from writer/director Preston Sturges, with a general emphasis on the comedies, and also had a once-a-month focus on actress Rita Hayworth. My biggest discovery for this year, though, would be the films of child star Deanna Durbin. I had barely heard of her before (but hadn’t seen any of her films), and now, I’ve seen at least six of her films (all of which I thoroughly enjoyed)! I think that more or less sums up my year of movie watching!

And with all that said, here’s my list of the top 10 movies that I watched/reviewed for the year 2021, culled from the list of 2021 reviews, plus 2020 releases reviewed after January 1, 2021 and 2021 releases reviewed before December 31, 2021 (also a few films released on disc in 2018 and 2019, but obviously they’re included in the 2021 reviews).  While I was able to enjoy watching a great many movies, some new and some I’ve seen before, the movies on this list are those I enjoyed the most, and would recommend to anybody that is interested!  And if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie titles to go to Amazon and support this site!

  1. Singin’ In The Rain (1952) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Taking the top spot for 2021 is the rather obvious choice of Singin’ In The Rain! Very much a tribute to the film’s producer Arthur Freed and his songwriting partner Nacio Herb Brown, this film makes use of some of their best songs, while giving us a story set in the end of the silent film era (close to the time when the tunes were originally written)! Of course, with a cast that includes Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, the whole affair is top-notch, from the acting to the singing (and especially the dancing!) and always worth seeing (or even just listening to)!
  1. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this biographical musical, James Cagney plays George M. Cohan as he rises to become a famous songwriter and producer. Much of Cohan’s music is here, including the likes of “You’re A Grand Old Flag,” “Over There,” Give My Regards To Broadway” and “Yankee Doodle Boy,” which adds to the fun! But it’s Cagney (in his only Oscar win) that makes the film, as he proves how good he was as a song-and-dance man! Always worth seeing (especially around July 4)!
  1. Naughty Marietta (1934) (Warner Archive, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The film that brought America’s “Singing Sweethearts” together for the first time! Jeanette MacDonald plays a princess who escapes to the New World to avoid an arranged marriage, and falls in love with the leader of a group of mercenaries (played by Nelson Eddy, of course). Their chemistry makes the film (especially when they sing the classic “Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life”), with aid from Frank Morgan and Elsa Lanchester as the Governor and his wife. An easy to recommend classic!
  1. Animal Crackers (1930) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The Marx Brothers are back after the success of The Cocoanuts! Groucho plays Captain Spaulding (“Hooray for Captain Spaulding! The African explorer!”), who is the guest of honor at a weekend party hosted by Mrs. Rittenhouse (played by usual Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont). With hilarious comic bits from the Brothers, including “Take A Letter,” Harpo’s thievery, the bridge game and the interactions between Groucho and Chico, this is one of their funniest and most anarchic films (and highly recommended)!
  1. (Tie) It Started With Eve (1941) (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Now we have a three-way tie for fifth spot on the list! In It Started With Eve, Deanna Durbin stars alongside Charles Laughton and Robert Cummings in one of her earlier adult roles! She has to pretend to be the girlfriend of Robert Cummings’ Johhny Reynolds, Jr. when his father (Laughton) is on his deathbed (and Johhny’s real girlfriend can’t be found), but she has to maintain the charade when the elder Reynolds recovers! It’s a very heartwarming film, with the song “When I Sing” as its biggest standout tune, and one that I have no trouble recommending for a bit of fun!
  1. (Tie) Mad About Music (1938) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In the second film from the three-way tie, Deanna Durbin is the secret daughter of a Hollywood actress, who can’t tell anybody about her mother, and makes up lies about her father. Her lies catch up with her when, to meet a boy, she says she is meeting her father at the train station, and then has to pick somebody out to maintain her lie! It’s another fun musical from Deanna, with the song “I Love To Whistle” as the film’s big standout! Of course, the comedy works well, too, especially with Herbert Marshall’s composer who must “fill in” as the father! Overall, very fun, and worth seeing!
  1. (Tie) Nice Girl? (1941) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this third film of the three-way tie, Deanna stars as the middle daughter of a high school principal (played by Robert Benchley). She’s tired of her “nice girl” image, and when a handsome field man (played by Franchot Tone) comes to see whether her father merits a fellowship, she decides to try to do something about her reputation. There’s more fun here with the music, as Deanna sings songs like “Perhaps” and especially “Swanee River.” The comedy works well, especially as she (and her other sisters) try to make up to the field man! Like the other two Deanna Durbin films on this list, it’s a lot of fun, and I think it’s well worth giving a chance!
  1. Roman Holiday (1953) (Paramount Pictures, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Audrey Hepburn’s first starring role! She stars as an over-worked princess who decides to take a day to herself. Gregory Peck co-stars as a reporter who figures out that the girl he helped out is the princess, giving him a potentially big story. An overall very heartwarming film. Audrey’s Oscar win is well-deserved, and the film’s place as a classic certainly merits being on this list!
  1. San Francisco (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • San Francisco features the “team” of Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald in their only film together (with Clark being paired up with Spencer Tracy for the first of three films together). In the lead-up to the infamous San Francisco earthquake on April 18, 1906, nightclub owner Blackie Norton (Gable) falls for his new singer, Mary Blake (MacDonald). The earthquake finale is well-done, as we see the city torn apart by mother nature. The movie has some fun musical moments throughout, including the title tune, “Would You” (later used in Singin’ In The Rain) and beautiful renditions by MacDonald of the hymns “Nearer My God To Thee” and “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic.” Overall, a wonderful classic that I love to periodically revisit!
  1. Bringing Up Baby (1938) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn star in this classic screwball comedy about a paleontologist who gets mixed up with a crazy young woman! I took to the film quite well the first time I saw it nearly a decade ago, and after seeing it for the first time since that initial viewing (and newly restored on Blu-ray, to boot!), I think the comedy holds up quite well! From a buried brontosaurus bone to panthers on the loose to time in jail, this film jut gets screwier and screwier (and ever more hilarious), making it one of the better films that I’ve seen this year!

Honorable mentions: The Lady Eve (1941) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray), It Happened On Fifth Avenue (1947) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray), Libeled Lady (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray)

So thank you all for sticking with me in 2021, and I wish you a Happy New Year as we head into 2022! And please let me know what movies you’ve enjoyed this year as well (whether those you’ve seen or whatever movies I’ve reviewed, whatever works for you)!

Also, if you are interested in joining in on my first month-long “Screen Team Of The Month” blogathon for 2022 (which starts tomorrow) featuring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, please be sure to check out my Announcing the Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy “Screen Team Of The Month (January 2022)” Blogathon post to sign up (or you can wait a few days to see who my star for February will be)!

Previous Years

2020

2019

2018

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Mad About Music (1938)

I hinted at the idea that I would be well-represented in this month’s Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon, and that continues to be true! Today, we’re looking at the 1938 Deanna Durbin musical Mad About Music, also starring Herbert Marshall, Gail Patrick and Arthur Treacher!

Coming Up Shorts! with… A Tough Winter (1930)

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

(Length: 20 minutes, 35 seconds)

On a cold winter’s day, the gang spend some time inside with handyman Stepin Fetchit before getting together for a taffy pull. This one is one of the weaker shorts in this bunch, purely because of how poorly Stepin Fetchit and his very stereotyped comedy have aged (i.e., not well). There is some fun to be had with the taffy pull, as it starts out with the old “radio recipe switch”-type of gag (you know, where it starts off with one recipe and switches to another while nobody is listening). Then, there is all the mess the gang creates as they try to pull the taffy through the house (and boy, is it sticky). I would say that there is some enjoyment to be had here, but it mostly requires also being able to stomach the altogether too prominent Stepin Fetchit and his schtick.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Gwen Taylor (Gail Patrick) is a big Hollywood actress, with an equally big secret: she has a fourteen-year-old daughter! However, much to Gwen’s dismay, her manager, Dusty Turner (William Frawley), believes it’s better that the public doesn’t know about her daughter, as Gwen is considered a glamour girl. So, her daughter, Gloria Harkinson (Deanna Durbin), is going to a boarding school in Switzerland run by the Fusenot sisters, Annette (Elisabeth Risdon) and Louise (Nana Bryant). Gloria can’t talk about her mother, and since her father, a Navy flier, died when she was a baby, she decides to make up stories about a world-traveling, big-game hunter father. To help maintain these stories, she writes herself letters to send through the mail using different stamps from around the world collected by her friend, Pierre (Christian Rub), and has her mother send her different gifts, like an elephant tusk (although her mother has no idea why Gloria wants any of these things). However, another one of the girls at the school, Felice (Helen Parrish), doesn’t believe Gloria, and is bound and determined to prove that Gloria is making everything up. At a church service, Gloria meets a young boy named Tommy (Jackie Moran) from a nearby military boarding school who has a crush on her. When she finds out that he is also an American, she makes plans to meet him the next day. However, she gets into trouble and is punished. Being that the Fusenot sisters don’t like the girls mixing with the boys, Gloria’s only way to get out of there is to pretend to be meeting her father at the train station. However, all the other girls (including Felice) follow her, so she picks out the newly arrived composer Richard Todd (Herbert Marshall), telling him lies while making it appear to the other girls like he is supposed to be her father. Later, the Fusenot sisters come to Richard (via his butler/secretary Tripps, played by Arthur Treacher) to invite him to lunch. Upon learning why, he decides to come and tell the truth, but Gloria’s pleading convinces him to go along with her stories and pretend to be her father. For a few days, Richard enjoys acting as Gloria’s father, but then he is called to Paris on business. At first, Gloria plans to say goodbye, with plans to later “kill off” her father, but, upon seeing a newspaper story saying that her mother is in Paris, she decides to sneak on the train with Richard to go see her. But, with her mother being accompanied by her manager, Dusty Turner (who is trying to help Gwen maintain appearances as a glamour girl), will Gloria be able to see her mother? Or, for that matter, will she be able to maintain all the stories that she’s been telling about her father?

Following on from what I said about Deanna Durbin’s 1941 film Nice Girl?, I enjoyed Mad About Music as much for the music as I did for the rest of the film. This film had her singing four songs: three new ones written for this movie (“A Serenade To The Stars,” “I Love To Whistle” and “Chapel Bells”) with music by Jimmy McHugh and lyrics by Harold Adamson, plus the classic hymn “Ave Maria.” I will admit, her version of “Ave Maria” is a little different than what I’m used to whenever I have heard the song. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just slightly jarring compared to how I’ve heard others do it. I do kind of like it, though and it’s one I hope will grow on me more with subsequent viewings. Of the three new songs, though, I quickly grew fond of “I Love To Whistle.” Of course, I should warn you that, if you don’t like that song, this movie will be harder to enjoy, as it’s sung at least three times in the movie (with Cappy Barra’s Harmonica Ensemble joining in for some fun on the second time). Again, I like it (and I thought the harmonica band was fun to watch), so, for me, it’s a plus to hear it so much!

Of course, the music is hardly the only reason I like this movie, as I certainly think the comedy adds something to it as well! Most of the comedy stems from the lies that Deanna’s Gloria tells about her father, and some of the lengths she has to go to to maintain them. The funniest moments are when Herbert Marshall’s Richard Todd decides to go along with them, particularly when he’s telling stories at the lunch, even managing to go along with the curve balls that Helen Parrish’s Felice is determined to throw to disprove everything. Overall, it’s a very heartwarming tale as we see Gloria and Richard becoming a father and daughter. The only complaint I have is how quick Richard and Gail Patrick’s Gwen Taylor become a couple at the end, without anything happening beforehand to indicate that they would like each other, but it’s a very minor thing. Overall, a very entertaining movie that I know I look forward to revisiting again and again in the future, and one I have no problem whatsoever in recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios. The transfer on this one is pretty good. A lot of the dust and dirt has been cleaned up. There are some scratches and dirt here and there, but they are relatively easy to miss (and forget). Like the previously reviewed Nice Girl?, this film was one of nine licensed by Kino Lorber Studio Classics (and one of the six that were dropped when the first three-film set bombed), so I’m glad to see that it did make it out to Blu-ray just the same, in a release I would certainly recommend!

Film Length: 1 hour, 36 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #5 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

One Hundred Men And A Girl (1937)Deanna DurbinThat Certain Age (1938)

The Good Fairy (1935) – Herbert Marshall

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