“Star Of The Month (November 2021)” Featuring Humphrey Bogart in… The Caine Mutiny (1954)

We’re back for one last go-round with Humphrey Bogart as our Star Of The Month! This time, it’s his 1954 drama The Caine Mutiny, also starring Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray and Robert Francis!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pinkadilly Circus (1968)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 2 seconds)

When the Little Man pulls a nail out of the Pink Panther’s foot, the Panther offers to be his slave out of gratitude. Personally, I find this to be a fun one, with different types of gags throughout the short. At first, the Panther’s affections (upon the nail being pulled out) are unwanted by the Little Man, until the Panther helps tell off his shrewish wife. Then the gags revolve around the Panther coming to rescue the Little Man from his wife when he whistles, before the wife tries to get rid of the Panther (with no luck). Of course, you can see the ending coming a mile away, but that doesn’t take away from some of the fun here. Obviously, your enjoyment will depend on how you view the stereotypical shrewish wife here, but there is some fun to be had here!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1944. Upon graduating from officer’s training, Ensign Willis “Willie” Keith (Robert Francis) is ordered to report to the U. S. S. Caine in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. There, he meets the communications officer (and novelist) Lieutenant Tom Keefer (Fred MacMurray), executive officer Lieutenant Steve Maryk (Van Johnson) and Captain De Vriess (Tom Tully). Willie is disappointed, both with the ship itself (a rather beat-up destroyer/mine-sweeper), and with the relaxed discipline under the captain. The ensign’s disappointment is short-lived, however, as the captain is quickly transferred. Now in charge is Lieutenant Commander Philip Queeg (Humphrey Bogart), who vows to enforce Navy discipline (which thrills Willie, especially after he is made the morale officer). However, Willie soon runs afoul of the new captain when, during a target practice exercise, the captain finds a poorly dressed sailor and bawls him, Willie and Tom out over it. While that happens, the ship goes in a circle and steams over the cable that they are towing the target with. Captain Queeg tries to place the blame on faulty equipment, but the ship is recalled to San Francisco. When the ship sets sail again (with Captain Queeg still in charge), they are ordered to escort a group of landing craft for an invasion of enemy-held territory. When the Caine gets too far ahead of the landing craft (amidst all the shelling), Captain Queeg gets scared, drops a yellow dye marker for the landing area, and forces them to hightail it out of there. Later, he calls a meeting of his officers to apologize and ask them for their support. After the meeting, Tom mentions to Steve that the Captain is showing signs of mental illness, but Steve won’t have it, asking him to take his thoughts to the medical officer (which Tom refuses to do). However, Steve considers what Tom had been talking about and, after reading a book on mental illness, decides to keep a journal on the captain and his behavior. The captain’s behavior gets more and more irrational, with the final straw being him seeking out who finished off a quart of strawberries (even after a departing ensign had told him what happened). Steve, Tom and Willie decide to take Steve’s journal to the fleet commander, but at the last moment, Tom decides they shouldn’t do it. They go back to their ship, where they have been ordered to set course through a typhoon. When Captain Queeg freezes, Steve decides to relieve him of command, backed up by Willie. Back in San Francisco, Steve and Willie face charges of mutiny, and the only lawyer willing to help them is Lieutenant Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer). Will their charges stick, or will they be able to prove that Captain Queeg is indeed mentally ill?

The movie was based on the best-selling 1951 novel The Caine Mutiny: A Novel Of World War II by Herman Wouk. Producer Stanley Kramer was able to get the film rights for Columbia Pictures by helping convince the Navy to let them do it (since the Navy had outright rejected other attempts by some of the other studios). Even then, the Navy was hesitant about the idea, as they worried about how the public’s perception of the Navy would be after seeing the film, so the production was required to make some changes to the story, including softening the character of Captain Queeg (and they managed to keep the title, even though the Navy initially balked at the use of the word “mutiny”). Of course, Columbia head Harry Cohn made his own stipulations, demanding a romance story for Robert Francis’s Willie Keith, as well as keeping the movie’s length under two hours. Herman Wouk (who had already adapted the story as a play) was brought in to write the screenplay, but his screenplay would have translated to a fifteen hour film, so he was replaced. Humphrey Bogart was highly desired for the role of Captain Queeg, but Harry Cohn knew that Bogart desperately wanted the part, so he got him to settle for less than his usual salary. It still worked out for Bogart, though, as the role became one of his most highly-praised performances (and his final Oscar nomination).

I’ve had the opportunity to see The Caine Mutiny a few times so far in my life, and it’s one that I will admit to liking quite a bit. Obviously, Bogart’s performance here is the big appeal of the film, as he goes from being a strict leader into madness. The image of his character rolling the metal balls in his hand is one that has stuck with me ever since the first time I saw this movie. The story itself is one that has stayed with me, the way everything turned out. I know I’m getting into SPOILER territory with what I have to say next, so if you haven’t seen the movie, then don’t keep reading. The first time I saw the movie, I felt for Van Johnson’s Steve and Robert Francis’s Willie, as I thought they were doing the right thing, based on Bogart’s performance. But Barney Greenwald’s (Jose Ferrer) drunken speech at the end revealing Fred MacMurray’s Tom Keefer as the true mutineer blindsided me (due to my own youth and inexperience on that first viewing), not to mention how all the men could have avoided trouble had they tried to help the captain when he asked for help. Ever since, I know I’ve watched the details more closely, especially with regard to MacMurray’s performance. It has such an element of truth, in terms of being willing to help others instead of being judgmental about it, and it’s something that still rings true, regardless of the situation (not to mention the idea that you don’t necessarily have to like your leaders, which is always a struggle, especially when politics are involved). END SPOILER Honestly, the romance between Robert Francis’s Willie and Donna Lee Hickey’s May Wynn (technically, Donna changed her name to May Wynn for this film) is the only point about this movie that doesn’t work well, but the rest of the movie is so riveting that I can’t really knock the film down any points for it. Seriously, this is a great film, and one I highly recommend!

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

And with that ends my final Star (Humphrey Bogart) Of The Month blogathon for the year! Stay tuned for my announcement (on December 6) of my first Star Of The Month blogathon for 2022, and in the meantime, I will be concentrating on Christmas films starting December 1!

Film Length: 2 hours, 5 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Bali (1952)Humphrey BogartWe’re No Angels (1955)

Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) – Jose Ferrer – Deep In My Heart (1954)

In The Good Old Summertime (1949) – Van Johnson – Brigadoon (1954)

Murder, He Says (1945) – Fred MacMurray

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Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… Pal Joey (1957)

Well, it’s September 17, which means that it’s time for another round of “Film Legends Of Yesteryear” with another Rita Hayworth film! Now, if I was strictly doing things in chronological order (working from the twelve film set I was given for Christmas 2020), then today’s film would be Miss Sadie Thompson. However, I’ve got the Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon that I’ve been hosting for the month of September, so I decided to skip around to the one film left in the set that really fits: the 1957 musical Pal Joey, also starring Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Teacher’s Pet (1930)

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

(Length: 20 minutes, 54 seconds)

The Gang have a new teacher, and, since they don’t think they will like her as much as their previous one, Jackie (Jackie Cooper) makes plans to play some pranks on her. The fun continues in this short, which introduced June Marlowe as their teacher, Miss Crabtree. The humor obviously comes from Jackie’s plans, and how he unknowingly reveals them to Miss Crabtree (and, all things considered, I can’t say as I blame him). Dorothy DeBorba makes a quick appearance, mainly making a nuisance of herself (for the kids, not so much for us) by repeating what the others are saying. Overall, a fun short that manages both humor and warmth, and keeps me looking forward to the rest of the series!

And Now For The Main Feature…

After being kicked out of town for trying to romance the mayor’s underage daughter, Joey Evans (Frank Sinatra) makes his way to San Francisco. He tries looking for work there as a singer, but finds no openings. Finally, he sees a poster promoting his friend, bandleader Ned Galvin (Bobby Sherwood), who is working at the Barbary Coast Club. Joey tries to get a job there, but runs into trouble with the Club’s owner, Mike Miggins (Hank Henry), who knows Joey’s reputation and doesn’t want to hire him. Mike only reluctantly gives Joey a job when his emcee doesn’t show up, and Joey gets up on stage and does it successfully. Afterwards, he is introduced to one of the chorus girls, Linda English (Kim Novak), whom he starts flirting with almost immediately (although she doesn’t respond in kind). Ned invites both Joey and Linda to join the band at a charity event that evening being put on by society lady Vera Prentice-Simpson (Rita Hayworth). Joey recognizes Vera as a former stripper and, when the charity auction doesn’t meet its goal, he proposes the audience bid for her to do one of her old stripper routines. With that, the charity meets their goal (much to Vera’s embarrassment). Later that night, Joey and Ned walk Linda back to the rooming house she is living at. Joey sees a “room for rent” sign and, after Ned leaves, he convinces the landlady to let him rent the room (which just happens to be connected to Linda’s room via the bathroom). Over the next few days, Joey wins over most of the chorus girls at the club, with the two exceptions of Linda and her friend Gladys (Barbara Nichols). One night, Vera comes in to the club, but she and her two male escorts leave without paying. Since her presence there was essentially Joey’s fault, Mike fires him. However, Joey is able to delay his firing by betting that Vera will be back by the end of the week, or he can be fired without pay. To do something about it, Joey returns to Vera’s mansion and tells her that she caused him to lose his job, which gives him no choice but to leave town. Meanwhile, Linda starts to soften and accepts his invitation to dinner that Saturday. However, when Saturday comes around, Vera comes to the Club (thereby allowing Joey to keep his job), and she and Joey leave together. When he tells her about his dream of owning his own club, she decides to invest in the idea. She offers him a place to stay, either on her yacht or at her mansion, and they find a place in a much swankier neighborhood to establish his club. Linda is back to being mad at Joey for missing their dinner, but she (along with everybody at the Barbary Coast Club) are hired to come work at Joey’s new place, “Chez Joey.” While the place is being remodeled ahead of the grand opening, Joey starts getting his show in place. When Vera sees that Linda has been given the love song to perform, she gives Joey an ultimatum: get rid of Linda, or Chez Joey will never open. Will Joey be able to give up on his dream of owning a nightclub for Linda, or will he give in to Vera’s demand?

The stage musical Pal Joey, based on a series of short stories by John O’Hara, made its Broadway debut in late 1940. This show was Gene Kelly’s first lead role on Broadway, and helped him on his rise towards Hollywood. He signed first with David O. Selznick, with his contract later being sold completely to MGM after his film debut, For Me And My Gal, turned out to be a success. While they tried to figure out what exactly to do with him, MGM loaned him out to Columbia Pictures for the 1944 film Cover Girl with Rita Hayworth. With his newfound freedom to choreograph his own routines, Gene Kelly helped make the film a hit. Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, had bought the film rights to Pal Joey, intending to have Gene Kelly reprise his role for the big screen, but, now that he was a bigger star, MGM refused to loan him out (at least, not for a price that Columbia was willing to pay), so the idea fell by the wayside. The play’s revival in the early 1950s also brought renewed interest in producing a movie, but the censors were now just as much what was stopping production. After making a number of changes (including some necessitated by the casting of Frank Sinatra, who was a singer as opposed to a dancer like Gene Kelly), the censors allowed production to go forward (of course, by that time, the Hays Office was getting a bit more lax in what they let through, combined with audiences no longer being as in favor of censorship as they had been). The film turned out to be a big hit at the box office, and even received four Oscar nominations.

In the original Broadway production of Pal Joey, there were fourteen songs, but only eight managed to make it into the movie, with four songs originally written for other shows being added. Personally, I think that Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth had the best songs in the film. While it was one of the Rodgers and Hart songs added for the movie, Frank’s rendition of “The Lady Is A Tramp” is one of the most memorable moments in the movie, in between being a great song (and Frank certainly does it justice with his singing) as well as the added comedy from Frank’s Joey using it to insult Rita’s Vera (with Hank Henry’s Mike Miggins groaning at this turn of events in the background). Then there’s Rita Hayworth singing (and when I say “singing,” I mean she was dubbed by Jo Ann Greer) “Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered” and “Zip” (which she also dances to), both of which manage to be quite entertaining. I’ll admit, even with her singing dubbed by Trudy Stevens, Kim Novak’s musical numbers are rather forgettable. She’s not terrible, but the other two leads feel far more at home in a musical than she does. Still, she has her moments in this film, including when her character tricks Joey into buying the dog (thus calling his bluff on a childhood sob story he had told her). I do think another weak spot on this movie is the film’s final musical number, a dream sequence set to the songs “What Do I Care for a Dame,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “I Could Write a Book.” It starts out fine, with Sinatra and the two leading ladies dancing together. The problem is the way it just cuts out, almost as if part of the movie is missing. From what I’ve heard, there was supposed to be more, with choreographer Hermes Pan putting together a much bigger sequence, but Frank Sinatra decided against it and started having stuff cut. I think it works well enough in the movie with the immediate reaction coming out of it, but it still feels cut short. In spite of these complaints, though, this is a movie that I have come to enjoy seeing every now and then. Certainly one I would recommend!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Pal Joey (1957)

This movie has had at least three releases on Blu-ray. The first edition came from Twilight Time waaaay back on February 14, 2012. That was a limited edition (at 3,000 copies) which has since sold out completely. On November 17, 2020, it was made available again as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. And for those who want this movie (but not any of the other Rita Hayworth films), on July 20, 2021, it was made available again individually by Sony Pictures Entertainment. I’ve seen both the Twilight Time and Mill Creek releases (but not the recent release from Sony), so the best I can say is that these appear to be the same transfer (which itself looks quite good), with the main differences being the disc encode. On that, the Twilight Time is better (but, again, it is out-of-print and very hard-to-find). Mill Creek releases tend to be done on the cheap (usually reflected in the pricing on their products and a poorer disc encode), so, unless you want any of the other films in the Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection, I would sooner suggest the Sony release (but, again, it all boils down to what you are willing to pay for quality).

Film Length: 1 hour, 49 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Fire Down Below (1957) – Rita Hayworth – They Came To Cordura (1959)

High Society (1956)Frank SinatraKings Go Forth (1958)

Phffft (1954) – Kim Novak – The Notorious Landlady (1962)

Fire Down Below (1957)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate CollectionThey Came To Cordura (1959)

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“Star Of The Month (August 2021)” Featuring Barbara Stanwyck in… The Bitter Tea Of General Yen (1932)

Now that we’ve come around to August, with actress Barbara Stanwyck as our new Star, we can get into her 1932 film The Bitter Tea Of General Yen, also starring Nils Asther.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink Of The Litter (1967)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 1 second)

When a policeman catches the Pink Panther littering, the Panther is forced to clean up the town of Littersburg. This one was fun, with most of the humor coming from the Panther’s failed attempts to get rid of the trash. It’s enjoyable, and you certainly can’t help but cheer when the Panther figures out how to get rid of the trash! I don’t think this is the Panther at his absolute best, but it’s certainly one of the better ones, and worth revisiting!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In Shanghai, China, a group of missionaries get together to celebrate the wedding of fellow missionary Dr. Robert Strike (Gavin Gordon) and his childhood sweetheart (who has just arrived in China) Megan Davis (Barbara Stanwyck). However, the area is rife with civil war, and Robert decides to delay the wedding so that he can help rescue some orphans. Megan quickly volunteers to help him out, and they go to see General Yen (Nils Asther), so that Robert can get a safe passage pass for the area. However, the general writes in Chinese (which Robert still hasn’t learned well), effectively making fun of him for trying to rescue orphans instead of enjoying the company of his future-wife. When Robert and Megan try to get the orphans away, the crowd gets violent, and they are both knocked out. Megan awakes on a train, being cared for by General Yen’s mistress, Mah-Li (Toshia Mori), as they and the general go to his summer palace. When she awakes again at the palace, it is to the sound of gunshots, as the general is having his prisoners shot. She goes to him to protest the brutality, but he tells her that his other option is to let them starve to death, for lack of food that he can give them. General Yen’s financial advisor, Jones (Walter Connolly), lets him know he raised nearly six million dollars (which is currently hidden in a nearby boxcar), and tries to convince the general to send Megan back to avoid trouble (to no avail). After a dream, Megan finds herself falling for the general. However, trouble arises when the general discovers that Mah-Li has been spying on him with the help of one of his men, Captain Li (Richard Loo), and orders Mah-Li to be executed. Megan won’t have it, and the general pushes her to put her beliefs to the test, by taking Mah-Li’s place if she should prove traitorous again. And sadly, Mah-Li does, revealing the location of the general’s money to his enemies. However, in spite of losing everything, the general can’t bring himself to take Megan’s life. Can the two of them be together, or will the general’s misfortunes be the end of him?

The Bitter Tea Of General Yen was based on the 1930 novel of the same name by Grace Zaring Stone. The film was a project that director Frank Capra wanted to do (as he was in search of an Oscar at the time), and he got it when a previous director assigned to the property was fired. It was Capra’s decision to cast actress Barbara Stanwyck in the lead, after having worked with her previously on three films. For the role of the general, he didn’t want a big star made-up to look Chinese, so he went with a lesser-known Swedish actor in Nils Asther. Capra made sure to rehearse the other actors a lot, but not Barbara Stanwyck, as he felt she did better with fewer rehearsals. The film famously was the first to play at Radio City Music Hall, although its engagement there was cut short when it didn’t do good business. As a whole, the film failed at the box office, a fact blamed on the film’s interracial romance, which audiences didn’t care for (and sadly for Capra, the film didn’t even get nominated for an Oscar, either). It’s only been in recent years that the film has received a more positive reception.

So far, I would say that this movie is the earliest Barbara Stanwyck film that I have had the opportunity to see. And her performance in this movie is quite fascinating. Her character starts off the movie as an eager missionary, looking to marry and help her childhood friend (even willing to postpone her wedding to help him out with his work). However, life takes an unexpected turn, as she finds herself dealing with a Chinese general. As her erotic dream about him indicates, she certainly has some racist beliefs about the Chinese, but the general starts to work away at some of them. In the process, he even pushes her on how much her religious convictions are actually worth when put to the test. Of course, the movie’s ending is slightly ambiguous as to what will actually happen to her, but it’s interesting to see how Barbara’s performance even then is worth seeing!

This is a movie I wanted to see as much because it was directed by Frank Capra, and Barbara Stanwyck’s presence certainly didn’t hurt it! I do think that all the performances in this movie worked, as we got to know the various characters. Sure, there is some stereotyping going on, some because of the times (mostly like a white actor portraying a Chinese man), and others on purpose (like the racist image in Megan’s dream that gives way to her erotic feelings about the general). It’s definitely more of an “artsy” type of movie, but I found myself so fascinated by the story being told that I didn’t mind it. It was a nice way to start off celebrating Barbara Stanwyck for the month, with one of her pre-Codes (and I certainly hope I get the chance to see more as time goes on), and I would certainly recommend it!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Bitter Tea Of General Yen (1932)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Entertainment. To be fair, the Blu-ray for this movie barely qualifies as a new release for 2020. The movie actually made its Blu-ray debut back on August 1, 2017 (with the exact same transfer). That release was a part of the “Sony Choice Collection” line of MOD Blu-rays. However, a common complaint was that those were BD-Rs, not pressed Blu-rays (and this film ended up being the last one released as part of that line). Since then, Sony paused their MOD releases for a while, and then resumed with a few changes. For one, they were no longer under any special kind of brand, and, for another, they were pressed Blu-rays. Over time, they started re-releasing titles from their “Sony Choice Collection,” except now on pressed Blu-rays (and still utilizing the same transfers), with The Bitter Tea Of General Yen getting its re-release on September 22, 2020. But, enough about that. The transfer is a beautiful thing to behold, with all the detail and the properly cleaned-up picture. Certainly well worth it for that reason alone!

Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

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!

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Barbara StanwyckInternes Can’t Take Money (1937)

Walter Connolly – It Happened One Night (1934)

Original Vs. Remake: The Awful Truth (1937) Vs. Phffft (1954)

We’re back again for another round of “Original Vs. Remake!”  To be fair, like my original post in the series (on My Man Godfrey and Merrily We Live), this one isn’t so much on a film and its remake, but on two similar titles made over a period of time: The Awful Truth (1937) and Phffft (1954).  As usual, I will borrow my plot descriptions from the original reviews.

The Awful Truth: We find Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant) and his wife, Lucy Warriner (Irene Dunne) getting divorced, due to their suspected (but not proven) infidelities.  They try to move on, but Lucy’s attempted romance with Daniel Leeson (Ralph Bellamy) is sabotaged by Jerry’s constant interruptions.  Lucy finally realizes she loves Jerry and calls off the relationship with Daniel, only to find that Jerry has also taken up with somebody.  So Lucy decides to engage in some sabotage herself.

Phffft: After much thought, television serial writer Nina Tracy (Judy Holliday) decides she wants to divorce her lawyer husband Robert Tracy (Jack Lemmon). However, instead of the shocked reaction she expected, he announces that he had been feeling the same way. So, off she goes to Reno, Nevada, and the divorce is granted. Robert moves in with his playboy (and playwright) friend Charlie Nelson (Jack Carson), while Nina spends some time with her mother, Edith Chapman (Luella Gear). Robert and Nina both still have feelings for each other, but everybody else in their lives are trying to encourage them to move on. Nina tries to go out with one of the stars of her show, Rick Vidal (Donald Curtis), but he only wants to become the main character of the show. Robert tries going out with Charlie’s friend, Janis (Kim Novak), but it doesn’t work out well for him, either. Robert and Nina try to come back together, but they end up fighting again. Will these two be able to get along again as a couple, or will they be able to get over each other?

As I said, these two are not based on the same story (but I’ll get to that in a bit), but have quite similar stories.  They are both of the “a couple gets divorced but find themselves unable to make it stick” genre.  Getting more into the details of the story itself, both of the main female characters have an older female relative that they spend time with (Irene Dunne’s Lucy has her aunt in The Awful Truth and Judy Holliday’s Nina has her mother in Phffft).  In both of those instances, the relatives are pushing the main female character back into relationships with other men.  The main couples of these movies essentially manage to stay connected instead of going their separate ways (in The Awful Truth, Lucy has custody of their dog, but Jerry has visitation rights, and in Phffft, Robert still acts as Nina’s lawyer and helps her deal with her taxes).  As a result of them staying in contact, the couples almost come back together partway through in both stories, but something causes them to pull back apart, if only until the end of the film.

Of course, even with those similarities, these two films do manage to take different directions.  To start with, they’re not based on the same property, as The Awful Truth was based on a play of the same name by Arthur Richman (although how much of the play was retained is debatable, considering the film director’s penchant for letting his cast improvise), and Phffft was based on an unproduced play by George Axelrod.  Storywise, we find that Phffft does give us the “meet-cute” story (via flashback), while The Awful Truth doesn’t tell us anything of the sort.  Meanwhile, while the women in both films have a relative that they stay with or talk to, it’s not quite the same for the men, as Cary Grant’s Jerry more or less goes it alone (outside of his relationships), while Jack Lemmon’s Robert has his friend (played by Jack Carson) that he stays with (and gets relationship advice from).  And speaking of their separate attempts at romance, that alone is different between the two films, as The Awful Truth more or less focuses on those relationships, with little view into their outside lives (particularly their work), while we do see both of the main characters at their jobs in PhffftThe Awful Truth is marked mainly by the two characters trying to interfere in the relationships of the other, whereas no such interference actually happens in Phffft (it almost does near the end, when Robert tries to stop his friend from doing anything, but his friend has already failed his attempt and left before Robert can get there).

Getting down to which movie I prefer, it’s an easy decision: The Awful Truth.  I’ll admit Phffft does have some things going for it, as I like the characterizations given by the actors.  They give us a real relationship, with their characters displaying different personality quirks that make it more interesting.  Both films contain some dancing, which makes it fun for me, but the way it is used affects how much I enjoy it.  Phffft plays it more seriously, as both characters decide to take up learning to dance, and manage to end up at the same nightclub, where they accidentally end up dancing together. In The Awful Truth, the dancing is played up for fun, with Lucy stuck dancing a slightly “countrified” dance with Daniel, much to her embarrassment (and the amusement of both Jerry and us, the audience). But, when you ultimately get down to it, I’ll still pick the cast (and story) of The Awful Truth over Phffft. The more screwball aspects of The Awful Truth work better for this reason. When given the material to work with, Cary Grant is one of the funniest actors to see (and he got the material). Jack Lemmon is also fun, but I’ve seen him with far better material than he had here. I’ve had fun with both movies, and I would definitely recommend both, but The Awful Truth is the clear winner here for me!

The Awful Truth

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

Phffft

Film Length: 1 hour, 29 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

The Winner (in my opinion): The Awful Truth

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… The Notorious Landlady (1962)

For the second half of today’s Jack Lemmon double-feature, we’ve got his 1962 mystery/comedy The Notorious Landlady, which also stars Kim Novak and Fred Astaire!

Upon arriving in London, American diplomat William Gridley (Jack Lemmon) looks for a place to stay. He answers an ad from Carly Hardwicke (Kim Novak), who had some space to rent. At first, she was reluctant to rent to him, but he managed to win her over. Once that was settled, he offered to take her out for dinner that evening, after he checked in at his new job. A few weird things happen while Bill is with her, but for the moment, he makes nothing of it. The next day, he learns from his boss, Franklyn Ambruster (Fred Astaire), that Carly had been accused of killing her husband. He doesn’t believe that it’s possible, but Inspector Oliphant (Lionel Jeffries) of Scotland Yard pushes him to try and snoop around the house, looking for anything to prove her guilt or innocence. William starts to worry as a result of some things that the inspector said, but he is still certain of Carly’s innocence. That night, William and Carly try to grill some steaks outside, but accidentally start a fire. When it makes headlines, Mr. Ambruster threatens to send William away, but Carly intervenes. Now, Mr. Ambruster is also sure of her innocence, and he decides to help William try to prove it. However, that night, while William is talking to the inspector on the phone, a gunshot goes off in Carly’s room, and William finds her husband’s body (obviously, now he IS dead). At the trial, the inspector reveals that he had enlisted William’s help in spying on her (which he had to do when William tried to deflect the blame away from Carly towards himself). Carly is only exonerated when her elderly neighbor’s nurse, Agatha Brown (Philippa Bevans) testifies to Miles Hardwicke’s death being an accident. Afterwards, the nurse gets a pawn ticket from Carly, and Carly reveals to William that the ticket was for a candelabra that had some jewels in it (and was what her late husband was after). Realizing that it was her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Dunhill (Estelle Winwood), and not the nurse, that would have seen what happened, the two of them go searching for Mrs. Dunhill (especially after the nurse kills the pawnbroker). But, can they succeed, or will the two of them be arrested for this new murder (since they were seen leaving the scene of the crime)?

This is a movie that I’ve been enjoying seeing off and on for a number of years now. Fred Astaire was the main reason I saw the movie in the first place, and while his non-musical films can be hit-or-miss for me, this is one of his better ones. Even in his early 60s, he’s still in good shape, and even gets to do his own stunts/physical comedy here. And he also works with Jack Lemmon (it seems the two of them were friends offscreen)! Jack Lemmon’s antics throughout the movie generally keep me amused (but he also does well when the script calls for things to be more serious, too). And I love the score’s use of the classic Gershwin tune “A Foggy Day” (introduced by Fred Astaire nearly twenty-five years earlier in A Damsel In Distress)!

Now, do I think that this movie is perfect? No. In general, the plot kind of feels uneven, particularly within the last part of the movie as they introduce new elements and then try to wrap them up too quickly (and apparently even Jack Lemmon later on admitted to being confused about what was going on when he watched the movie on television). I also feel like the tone is a little inconsistent. It works for the majority of the film, but (again) really changes things up for the last few minutes, as it borders on farce (in and of itself, not a bad thing, but it’s still quite a shift from the rest of the movie). Still, this is a movie that I have fun with, and would recommend trying!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Notorious Landlady (1962)

This movie was released on Blu-ray by Sony Pictures Entertainment. While I don’t know enough to be able to tell on my own whether this is a 4K, 2K or HD scan, I will say that the picture is quite pristine, and the detail is excellent, making this Blu-ray one I don’t mind having in own collection, and one I would advise fans of the movie to look into!

Film Length: 2 hours, 3 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Fire Down Below (1957) – Jack Lemmon

Pal Joey (1957) – Kim Novak

Silk Stockings (1957)Fred Astaire

Estelle Winwood – Murder By Death (1976)

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 (2021) on… Phffft (1954)

Today, we’ve got a Jack Lemmon double-feature, and we’re starting off with his 1954 comedy Phffft, also starring Judy Holliday, Jack Carson and Kim Novak. Of course, we have to start things off with a theatrical short, then we’ll get to the movie!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Pink Blueprint (1966)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 25 seconds)

The Pink Panther competes with the Little Man on a construction site. It’s nice to see the Little Man again, and it’s that chemistry that makes this one really fun! Admittedly, in some ways it does seem to be essentially the same story as the first Pink Panther cartoon, The Pink Phink, with them both arguing about how the building is supposed to look. Still, the humor works quite well, and I enjoy watching this one with some frequency!

And Now For The Main Feature…

After much thought, television serial writer Nina Tracy (Judy Holliday) decides she wants to divorce her lawyer husband Robert Tracy (Jack Lemmon). However, instead of the shocked reaction she expected, he announces that he had been feeling the same way. So, off she goes to Reno, Nevada, and the divorce is granted. Robert moves in with his playboy (and playwright) friend Charlie Nelson (Jack Carson), while Nina spends some time with her mother, Edith Chapman (Luella Gear). Robert and Nina both still have feelings for each other, but everybody else in their lives are trying to encourage them to move on. Nina tries to go out with one of the stars of her show, Rick Vidal (Donald Curtis), but he only wants to become the main character of the show. Robert tries going out with Charlie’s friend, Janis (Kim Novak), but it doesn’t work out well for him, either. Robert and Nina try to come back together, but they end up fighting again. Will these two be able to get along again as a couple, or will they be able to get over each other?

Columbia Pictures came to playwright George Axelrod, hoping to produce a movie based on his hit play The Seven Year Itch. However, the film rights for that play were unavailable, as it had already been acquired by somebody else (however, they were contractually unable to film it until the play’s run was over). So, George Axelrod instead offered Columbia a very similar play he had written earlier, Phffft. For his screenplay, George Axelrod was rewarded with a nomination for Best Written American Comedy at the Writers Guild. Although he lost (to Roman Holiday), his career was on the upswing, as he would write a few other big screenplays over the next few years (including the aforementioned The Seven Year Itch).

For their part, Columbia Pictures decided to use the movie to pair up Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon again after the success of their previous film together, It Should Happen To You. Now, I’ve not seen that earlier film (yet), but I will say that I did like this one! They make a fun couple, with their various quirks that at first (well, when we meet them in this movie) seem to drive each other apart, but then start to bring them back together again. Of course, we see them attempt other relationships, with the movie using (in what seems to be some of its more dated humor) almost uncomfortable situations, especially for Judy Holliday’s Nina, who keeps getting herself into trouble with men *almost* trying to sleep with her. There are some fun moments, especially with their attempts to change things up, and they do have a fun dance together partway through. I like the chemistry here, even if the rest of the movie doesn’t always quite support it as well as it should. Still, I had fun watching the movie, and I would certainly recommend giving it a shot!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Phffft (1954)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Entertainment. The transfer for the Blu-ray has been cleaned up of most dirt and debris. The detail looks quite good, for the most part, and I would certainly say that this release is the best way to see this movie.

Film Length: 1 hour, 29 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Jack Lemmon – Mister Roberts (1955)

My Dream Is Yours (1949) – Jack Carson

Kim Novak – Pal Joey (1957)

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 (2020) with… Murder In Greenwich Village (1937)

As the old saying goes, “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” so you can’t judge this next movie by its film title (or its original poster art, which was used for the recent Blu-ray release, for that matter). It’s the 1937 screwball mystery Murder In Greenwich Village, starring Richard Arlen and Fay Wray!

One evening, photographer Steve Havens Jackson Jr. (Richard Arlen) spies Kay “Lucky” Cabot (Fay Wray) climbing down a fire escape in someone else’s pajamas. He brings her back to his apartment, where he introduces her to his friends (and models) Flo Melville (Wyn Cahoon), Larry Foster (Scott Colton), “Angel Annie” (Mary Russell) and the Senator (Raymond Walburn). Steve takes a picture of Kay for one of his advertising ideas in exchange for some clothes for her to wear home. The next day, it is revealed that another photographer, Philip Morgan, had been murdered, and that it was his apartment Kay had been leaving the night before. Kay comes back to Steve, hoping to have him pose as her fiance in the hopes of providing herself an alibi. He is reluctant, but he does so when the police arrive. However, the two find themselves hounded by Philip’s brother, racketeer Rusty Morgan (Marc Lawrence), who wants to find his brother’s murderer. In return for Steve’s help, Kay turns to her friend Rodney Hunter (Leon Ames) to help get Steve a job in the advertising department at International Chromium Corporation. She helps Steve try to take some photos to help him get the job, but he loses out when one of his models, Larry Foster, is found murdered, and the police question Steve about it. While they have been falling for each other, Kay and Steve still find themselves at odds. Can they come together and see the murder solved?

As I said in my quick intro, this is a movie that, upon seeing its title or original poster, you would be thinking it would be a murder mystery or a film noir, but it isn’t. Now, before the recent Blu-ray release, I hadn’t even heard of this movie, so when it was announced, I looked it up to read a little about it. The moment I saw it described as being a “screwball” movie, I knew I wanted to see it! Especially now, during this pandemic, comedies appeal SOOOO much more to me than dramas (although not as much as musicals, but I’ll still take a good comedy when given the opportunity). So, in that regard, this movie did its job. It’s not going to be remembered for its mystery, which is barely there, with its main connection being the constantly intruding (or maybe I should borrow his mis-pronunciation and say “pro-truding”) detective Henderson (played by Gene Morgan). I mean, the murder does get solved, but it almost seems to come from nowhere, especially since the two main characters are not actively trying to solve it.

Like I said, though, the comedy worked. I know I enjoyed watching Raymond Walburn as the Senator (so-named because of his eloquence and not because of an actual job title). Richard Arlen’s character’s habit of dramatizing for his photographs (and when the police are snooping around) is also a lot of fun. And I guarantee that I’m going to remember the scene in the department store for quite a while! So, again, watching this movie is all about managing your expectations. If you’re looking for a film noir or a good murder mystery, based on the title, you will be disappointed. However, if you’re looking for a good comedy,then the possibility of enjoying it is there. I liked it, and for that reason I would indeed recommend it!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment through their manufacture-on-demand (MOD) line. As far as the transfer goes, this movie looks and sounds fantastic! On that regard, I couldn’t ask for better! This release is bare-bones, with no extras or menu (which is fine). The only complaint I have (and it’s a minor one) is lack of subtitles. As I said, the audio is good, and I can understand everything clearly. But, I am young yet, and not all their audience for this release will still have the ability to hear clearly. I understand that to have subtitles certainly costs money, especially for a movie like this one that has no prior release on home video (like DVD) where they would have been done. But I know that Warner Archive Collection (Warner’s MOD division) has subtitles on all their Blu-ray releases, whether they are upgrades of titles put out on DVD by their retail division (Warner Home Video) that had subtitles, upgrades of WAC DVD releases (which didn’t any) or titles that made the jump straight to Blu-ray (and all their releases cost less, too). If Sony’s MOD division can change that, then they are heading in the right direction (and I still recommend this release if this movie appeals to you)! The movie is one hour, eight minutes in length.

My Rating: 8/10

Audience Rating:

Coming Up Shorts! with… Lumberjack And Jill (1949)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 3 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

Welcome to my new feature on various theatrical shorts! Sometimes my comments will be on shorts included as extras on a disc set I am reviewing, and other times, they will be completely unrelated to the movie being reviewed (and I will try to indicate which). Hope you enjoy!

(Length: 6 minutes, 30 seconds)

Lumberjacks Popeye and Bluto fight over the new camp cook, Olive. While still formulaic, it’s nice to find another cartoon where Popeye and Bluto don’t start out as enemies. A few fun gags here and there making use of the lumberjack setting. Nothing big that’s new for the series, but it’s still worth a few laughs!

And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring more of Popeye (and the eventual post on the entire 1940s Volume 3 set), along with other shorts!

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)