Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… Fire Down Below (1957)

We’ve come around to November 17, which means that it’s time for the second-to-last “Film Legends Of Yesteryear” featuring Rita Hayworth (at least, for 2021, anyway)! So for that, we’ve got her 1957 film Fire Down Below, also starring Robert Mitchum and Jack Lemmon!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Dogs Is Dogs (1931)

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

(Length: 20 minutes, 53 seconds)

Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) and Dorothy (Dorothy DeBorba) are stuck with the unkind Spud (Sherwood Bailey) and his mother (Blanche Payson) when their father doesn’t return. This one traded in humor for heart, as we come to feel sorry for the kids as they are treated poorly by their “evil” stepmother. This short is very much in the vein of stuff like Cinderella or A Little Princess. For its length, it’s hard not to feel for both Wheezer and Dorothy. It may not be one of the series’ best shorts, but it’s still worth seeing just the same!

And Now For The Main Feature…

A pair of Americans, Felix Bowers (Robert Mitchum) and Tony (Jack Lemmon), have been pulling odd smuggling jobs around the Caribbean. They are offered the job of smuggling a beautiful woman, Irena (Rita Hayworth), to another island. It seems that she has no passport, so she has been moving around constantly to avoid being deported. Tony is interested, but Felix doesn’t want to take the job. He only relents when they are offered a lot of money. Still, Felix is less than thrilled with having to take Irena anywhere, and makes sure his feelings are well known when she comes to the dock the next morning. Tony, on the other hand, is captivated by her. After a while, the two men fight each other due to their opposing opinions on her. When they stop at a port to go to a carnival, though, even Felix finds himself falling for her, although she rejects his advances. When the boat gets to the port they were hired to take her to, Felix lets her go it alone, which angers Tony enough that he follows her and ends his partnership with Felix. However, Irena finds herself in trouble when a hotel clerk realizes that she shouldn’t be there, and offers to keep quiet if she will sleep with him. When he hears about this, Tony (who had been planning to propose to Irena) decides to smuggle in a shipment of contraband to earn enough for them to live on. He tries to convince Felix to help, but he turns him down (but lets him take their boat for the job). However, Tony finds the Coast Guard waiting for him and abandons the boat to avoid being arrested. At the moment, he has no choice but to run away. He is certain, though, that it was Felix who tipped off the Coast Guard, and plans to get his revenge when he returns. After some time, he decides to come back, and gets a job on a freighter. However, the freighter collides with an ocean liner in very foggy weather, which causes a beam to fall and leave him trapped. When the port doctor, Sam Blake (Bernard Lee), is brought to the ship, he feels the best chance for Tony to get out is to have his legs amputated, but Tony refuses. Wanting to give him hope, the doctor goes looking for his old friends. But will the doctor’s efforts work, as filled with hate as Tony is?

After making Miss Sadie Thompson, Rita Hayworth again left the big screen as a result of her new marriage to singer Dick Haymes. During that time, she brought a lawsuit against Columbia Pictures in an attempt to have her contract terminated, but her case ended up being thrown out of court. Left without a choice, she agreed to do two more films for Columbia. Producers Irving Allen and Albert Broccoli had gotten the film rights to the 1956 novel Fire Down Below by Max Catto, and had planned to cast actress Ava Gardner in the lead. When she turned it down, they sought out Rita Hayworth (who had gone to Europe while waiting for Columbia to come up with a good film vehicle for her), who took the part. Joined by Robert Mitchum and rising star Jack Lemmon, they went to Trinidad and Tobago to do some location filming. Originally, the film was to be presented mostly in flashback, starting with some of what is currently the last scene, but the studio put it together in chronological order. In spite of the cast, though, the movie ended up losing money at the box office.

This was my first time seeing Fire Down Below, and I definitely would have to say that I liked it. For me, all three leads gave quite good performances, which certainly helped me to keep watching the movie, especially when Jack Lemmon’s Tony gets trapped on the ship. I know I liked the song “Limbo Like Me,” which was performed by the “Stretch” Cox Troupe (and it was stuck in my head for a while after, so I can identify with Tony and Edric Connor’s Jimmy Jean having it stuck in their heads and trying to do the limbo themselves). As I hadn’t read anything on the film beforehand, I thought the whole film worked well, but, upon reading about how the studio changed things around, I find myself thinking that there are aspects that certainly would have worked better had the studio left it the way the director originally intended it to be. But, we do get Rita Hayworth doing some dancing (and even Robert Mitchum gets in on it, even if it is only to get another guy away, but it’s still hilarious to watch). This was a very entertaining drama (one I certainly think was better than its original poor box office performance would have indicated), and I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending it!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Fire Down Below (1957)

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. This is one of the better looking films in the set. The color looks pretty good, and little (if any) dirt and debris is present. All in all, I think this set presents the best way to see this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 55 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) – Rita Hayworth – Pal Joey (1957)

Holiday Affair (1949) – Robert Mitchum – Home From The Hill (1960)

My Sister Eileen (1955) – Jack Lemmon – The Notorious Landlady (1962)

Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate CollectionPal Joey (1957)

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An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2021) with… Holiday Affair (1949)

For the third and final part of our Christmas-themed triple-feature, we’ve got the 1949 Christmas comedy Holiday Affair, starring Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and Wendell Corey!

War widow Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) works as a comparison shopper to support herself and her six-year-old son, Timmy (Gordon Gebert). She has been going with lawyer Carl Davis (Wendell Corey) for some time, but is reluctant to accept his proposal of marriage. Her life changes when, as part of her job, she buys an electric train set from Crowley’s department store. Unable to do anything further with the train set (since it is late in the day), she brings it home with her. Timmy discovers it and thinks (quite happily) that it is for him until she mentions needing to take it back the next day. When she tries to return it, she has to deal with the same clerk who had sold her the train, Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum). He had been suspicious that she was a comparison shopper from the start, and threatened to out her as such (which would have resulted in her being fired). However, after hearing about her struggles, he decides not to turn her in and gives her a refund (which results in him being fired by an eavesdropping floorwalker). With nothing else to do, Steve decides to help Connie out, although they get separated at a bus by the Christmas rush. With a little detective work, he catches up to her later at her apartment, although his presence causes trouble, as Carl is also there. In the process, Carl ends up leaving after he and Timmy fight (and Connie intervenes on Timmy’s behalf). Before leaving himself, Steve talks with Connie, making known his observations about how she is trying to keep her husband alive by making Timmy over into his image, which makes Connie angry. Steve quickly says goodbye to Timmy and learns how Timmy was really hoping for the electric train set for Christmas. Fast forward to Christmas morning, and there is a special present under the tree, which turns out to be that train! Timmy is ecstatic, but his mother, upon realizing who it was from, seeks out Steve to try to pay him for it. He refuses, so she gives him a necktie originally intended for Carl. Connie decides to tell him that she has finally accepted Carl’s proposal of marriage, prompting a rebuke from Steve about not letting go of the past (which, again, makes Connie angry). She leaves him again, intending for that to be it. But, will his words sink in, or will she stay with a man she doesn’t really love?

In the late 1940s, actor Robert Mitchum was enjoying success in film noir while working at RKO studios. His success was briefly slowed down when he was arrested for possession of marijuana in 1948. After serving a brief prison sentence, he was back to work at RKO. While his films after his arrest were hits at the box office, Howard Hughes still insisted on trying to soften Robert Mitchum’s image by casting him in a romantic comedy (based on a story by John D. Weaver). The film was not a success at the box office, but it has found greater popularity by frequent television showings around the holidays.

I was first introduced to this film through a four movie DVD set of Christmas movies (which included It Happened On Fifth Avenue, the main reason I bought the set). I enjoyed the movie then, and I still do now. For me, this movie is a wonderful time capsule, one that encapsulates so much of what Christmas means to me. Every character in this movie is a human being with flaws, and yet, they all seem to be decent people (well, with the exception of the “hobo” who gets Robert Mitchum’s Steve in trouble with the law). There’s a lot of stuff that happens in this movie that I couldn’t even dream of seeing be reality nowadays, whether it be Gordon Gebert’s Timmy going off on his own to try to return the train at the department store, or being able to see the department store owner (who gives him the refund after hearing his story, even though the train was accidentally broken due to the pushing and shoving of other customers in the store). Overall, it’s just nice to see people being nice to each other, and being full of the Christmas spirit (instead of the greed and unkindness that would seem normal now), and with great performances all around, I have no trouble whatsoever recommending this wonderful Christmas classic!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Holiday Affair (1949)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, with the Blu-ray utilizing a new transfer. This new transfer is a definite improvement over the previously available DVD, with better detail and a much crisper picture. I would certainly recommend the recent Blu-ray (which also includes, as an extra, the Lux Radio Theatre adaptation with Robert Mitchum and Gordon Gebert reprising their roles from the movie) as the best way to enjoy this wonderful Christmas movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Out Of The Past (1947) – Robert Mitchum – Fire Down Below (1957)

Janet Leigh – My Sister Eileen (1955)

Wendell Corey – The Killer Is Loose (1956)

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… Home From The Hill (1960)

Next up, we have the 1960 drama Home From The Hill starring Robert Mitchum, Eleanor Parker, George Peppard and George Hamilton.

Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum) is a big man in town. However, his son Theron (George Hamilton) is a bit of a “mama’s boy.” After some of the men in town play a prank on Theron, Wade decides to teach him to be more of a “man’s man,” much to the dismay of his mother Hannah (Eleanor Parker). Wade has Rafe Copley (George Peppard) help Theron learn to hunt. Theron learns hunting quickly, and becomes a town hero after he single-handedly kills a wild boar that has been terrorizing the area. Theron also asks Rafe for help in asking out Libby Halstead (Luana Patten). While her father doesn’t approve, she likes Theron, and they go out together. However, when Hannah tells Theron that Libby’s father didn’t want Theron dating his daughter because Wade had a reputation of sleeping around (a fact Hannah had tried to keep hidden from Theron), then he tries to go off on his own, which results in even more trouble.

Coming off my first time seeing this movie, one word kept going through my mind : “Wow” (and I mean that in a good way). For the most part, I’ve never really gone in much for melodramas, but I enjoyed this one! The cast alone is fantastic! Robert Mitchum gives a wonderful performance as a flawed but powerful man who usually gets what he wants (except from his own wife). Eleanor Parker is wonderful as his hate-filled wife, angry with him ever since… wait, I didn’t mention it in the plot description, so I better shut up, but still, it is such a departure from the main role I associate her with, that of the baroness in The Sound Of Music. George Hamilton as Theron does well as a son who wants his father’s approval, but the constant hate between his parents has driven him to improve himself on his own. But George Peppard has the greatest presence, as a guy who has had to work hard his whole life and live in a less than ideal situation, all the while still making the best of things. All wonderful performances, which easily make this a movie I would highly recommend!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… Home From The Hill (1960)

I tried this one mainly after seeing Warner Archives announce it for Blu-ray (also available from them on DVD).  I had some recognition of some of the cast members from other movies that I’ve seen over the years, not to mention director Vincente Minelli, so I thought it would be worth trying (and it was). As usual, Warner Archive has given us a first-rate transfer, and it just helps bring to life a fantastic story!

Film Length: 2 hours, 30 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

*ranked #9 in Top 10 Disc Releases of 2018

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Fire Down Below (1957) – Robert Mitchum

The King And Four Queens (1956) – Eleanor Parker

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 (2018) on… Out of the Past (1947)

Time for another noir for the wonderful month of Noirvember: that 1947 classic Out of the Past, starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas!

Robert Mitchum plays Jeff Bailey, a former private eye.  As we find out, he was hired by mobster Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) to find his girlfriend, Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer), who had run out on him (after shooting him) with $40,000.  Jeff finds her and falls in love with her, as they try to keep away from Whit.  Jeff’s private eye partner finds them, and threatens to turn them in, but Kathie kills him and leaves Jeff.  Later, after hiding out as the owner of a gas station, Whit finds Jeff again and hires him, with the intent to frame him for another murder.

From what I gather, the movie helped propel the careers of its various stars.  This managed to be the second starring role for Robert Mitchum, and it would make him a star, particularly in the film noir genre, which he would revisit numerous times over the years.  At the time, Kirk Douglas was a bit of a newcomer, but his role in this movie helped to establish him as a good villain for a few noirs, while he continued to rise as a star.  It also helped Jane Greer, who was just starting to become noticed.  Of course, the movie itself would be remade again in the 80s, as Against All Odds, which would feature Jane Greer playing the mother of her character!

Now, I’ll admit, prior to seeing this movie, I hadn’t really seen too many film noirs.  Oh, maybe a few of Humphrey Bogart’s movies, but that was it, for the most part.  I had seen Warner Archive release this movie on Blu-ray, but I wasn’t really interested in it until my family recorded it from Turner Classic Movies on our DVR a few months later.  While I missed bits and pieces of it as my father watched it, from what I could see, it looked like it would be a worthwhile movie.  Once I got my hands on the Blu-ray, I was able to see for myself just what the movie was like (and be able to understand the plot a whole lot better).  This is a movie I enjoyed, and I have been seeking out a few other film noirs ever since.

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 36 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Robert Mitchum – Holiday Affair (1949)

Kirk Douglas – Young Man With A Horn (1950)

Rhonda Fleming – A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949)