Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2023) & Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2023): Rita Hayworth in… You Were Never Lovelier (1942)

We’re back again for a look at the other Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth film, their 1942 musical You Were Never Lovelier, co-starring Adolphe Menjou!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Spooky Hooky (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 6 (1936-1938) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 10 minutes, 42 seconds)

The circus comes to town, and Spanky (George McFarland) and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) make plans to play hooky to go see it. However, their plan goes awry when their teacher tells them that she bought tickets for the whole class to see it, leaving them in trouble when they have to retrieve their “doctor’s note” from her desk! It’s another short that seems slightly more fitting for the Halloween season, as the kids get spooked by everything in the school during a storm. It does lean a little too heavily into stereotypes when the black janitor gets easily scared, too, but that’s brief enough that it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s good fun, and I would certainly recommend it!

And Now For The Main Feature…

American dancer Robert “Bob” Davis (Fred Astaire) is in Buenos Aires on a “holiday.” Otherwise translated, he’s betting on the horse races at the Palermo Race Track. When he loses all his money, he decides that it’s time for him to get back to work, and heads for the Hotel Acuña, where he hopes to dance at the Sky Room. He tries to meet with the hotel’s owner, Eduardo Acuña (Adolphe Menjou), but Eduardo refuses to see him. Bob runs into his old friend, orchestra leader Xavier Cugat (played by himself), who offers to help Bob get noticed by having him sing with the orchestra at the wedding of Eduardo’s oldest daughter. At the wedding, Bob meets Eduardo’s second oldest daughter, Maria (Rita Hayworth), although he doesn’t immediately learn who she is. She is indifferent to him, and when he does actually talk to Eduardo, he makes the mistake of referring to her as being like “the inside of a refrigerator” (which is when he learns that Maria is Eduardo’s daughter). This certainly doesn’t endear Bob to Eduardo, and it also serves to alarm Eduardo with regards to Maria. Eduardo has two younger daughters, both of whom have fiancés, but it is the family tradition to marry off the daughters in order of their age. Eduardo consults Maria’s godmother (and the wife of his best friend), Maria Castro (Isobel Elsom), on what to do about Maria’s indifference to men (side note: with two characters in the cast called Maria, we will refer to them from here on out as Maria A and Maria C). Against her advice, Eduardo decides to start sending his daughter orchids and a note from an unknown admirer, with plans to produce somebody he approved of if the idea worked. For a time, it seems to work, with Maria A receiving orchids and a note every day at the same time. The idea starts to go awry when Eduardo takes a trip for a few days (and forgets to do something about the situation while he’s gone). Upon his return, he hastily attempts to make up for it, but, in an attempt to see Eduardo, Bob ends up taking the flowers and note (without Eduardo’s knowledge). When Maria A sees Bob deliver the flowers, she remembers him from her sister’s wedding, and assumes that he is the “unknown admirer.” Frustrated with this turn of events (and obviously unable to reveal that HE is the note writer), Eduardo has no choice but to go to Bob, who demands a contract to dance in Eduardo’s Sky Room in exchange for disillusioning Maria A. However, his attempts to deter her only make her fall harder for him (and he for her). At Eduardo’s anniversary party, Eduardo is so agitated by the whole thing that he announces that Bob is leaving the country (which Bob is forced to go along with). However, Eduardo’s wife walks in on him composing a farewell note to “Maria,” but assumes it is her friend Maria C. Bob sacrifices himself by revealing the whole truth, earning Eduardo’s admiration, but also finally disillusioning Maria A. Will Bob be able to overcome this problem and win Maria A’s heart back, or will their breakup be permanent?

In 1941, up-and-comer Rita Hayworth was teamed up with Fred Astaire for the Columbia Pictures musical You’ll Never Get Rich. She had enjoyed some success in films for other studios, but it was that film that established her as a major star for the studio she was under contract to. As a result, the studio wanted to replicate that success by teaming her up again with Fred. The studio decided to do a remake of an Argentinian film made the year before called Los martes, orquideas (otherwise translated as On Tuesdays, Orchids), with music provided by composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Johnny Mercer. Fred Astaire worked out the dance numbers with Rita, but, due to the lack of available rehearsal space on the Columbia lot, they had to rehearse in a room over a funeral parlor (usually pausing when there was a funeral procession). The film proved to be another hit with audiences and scored three Oscar nominations (Best Song for “Dearly Beloved,” Best Score and Best Sound Recording), although, due to circumstances, it was also the final time Fred and Rita worked together on the big screen.

This is a film that I’ve seen many, many times, and that I first saw when it was released on DVD back in 2004 (or thereabouts). Of the two Fred Astaire/Rita Hayworth pairings, this has long been my favorite. To say that I love the Jerome Kern/Johnny Mercer score is an understatement, but I particularly like the songs “I’m Old-Fashioned” and “Shorty George.” Fred and Rita’s dance duets to those songs are arguably the highlights of the whole film. Fred also has his fun dance solo for his “Audition Dance,” which is fascinating to watch as he makes use of the space in Mr. Acuña’s (Adolphe Menjou) office. The story itself is a bit ridiculous (and certainly creepy with a father writing love notes to his daughter). Still, this movie is a good source of humor that always keeps me coming back, especially with regards to Mr. Acuña’s secretary Fernando (played by Gus Schilling), who is constantly on the wrong end of Mr. Acuña’s wrath for one reason or another. The only real complaint I have against the film is that it takes a little over thirty-five minutes before we see any dancing in the film. OK, if you want to get technical, Rita does a little bit of dancing quicker than that when she (or rather I should say Nan Wynn, who was dubbing her) briefly sings “Dearly Beloved” in her bedroom, but that’s not really much of a routine. Apart from that (very) minor complaint, this is a film that I thoroughly love to see again and again, and I would very enthusiastically recommend it!!

This movie is available on DVD from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Holiday Inn (1942)Fred AstaireThe Sky’s The Limit (1943)

You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) – Rita Hayworth – Tonight And Every Night (1945)

Roxie Hart (1942) – Adolphe Menjou – My Dream Is Yours (1949)

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!

The King Of Hollywood And I: A Birthday Celebration (2023) with… It Started In Naples (1960)

It’s February 1, so that means that we’ve got yet another special post on a film featuring birthday boy Clark Gable! This time, it’s his 1960 film It Started In Naples, also starring Sophia Loren and Vittorio De Sica!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pay As You Exit (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 6 (1936-1938) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 10 minutes, 41 seconds)

The Gang put on their own production of “Romeo and Juliet” (if you can call it that), but to convince the local kids to see it, Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) comes up with the brilliant idea for them to pay as they exit. Also, trouble arises when Darla (Darla Hood) abandons the show partway through. This one was fairly entertaining, in between Spanky’s (George McFarland) reaction to Alfalfa’s “pay as you exit” idea, and their whole show. In some respects, the short has its issues with Buckwheat’s initial role in their show, but it more than makes up for it when he is recast as Juliet (with the approval of the audience). I had fun with this one, and certainly think that it’s worth seeing!

And Now For The Main Feature…

American lawyer Michael Hamilton (Clark Gable) has come to Naples, Italy, to settle his late brother’s affairs. He meets up with Italian lawyer Mario Vitale (Vittorio De Sica), who reveals that Michael’s brother had died in a boating accident with his mistress. The two had left behind their eight-year-old son, who now lives with his aunt. Mario takes Michael to meet the aunt, Lucia Curcio (Sophia Loren), who wants nothing to do with Michael and leaves for her home in Capri. Michael is determined to find out if he does indeed have a nephew, and follows her to Capri. There, he meets his nephew, Nando Hamilton (Carlo Angeleti “Marietto”), and is willing to let things be. When he finds himself stuck overnight in Capri (because the boat schedule was wrong), Michael finds Nando distributing flyers for the adult nightclub that his aunt works at. Unhappy at his nephew being up so late (and not getting much of an education at school), Michael threatens to have Nando taken away from Lucia and sent to the American school in Rome. Angry with Michael, Lucia convinces Nando to go to school, and enlists the help of her neighbors to stop Michael from taking Nando away. While he prepares to bring suit against Lucia, Michael spends some time with Nando in an attempt to help persuade him to go along with his plans instead of Lucia’s. Hoping to avoid going to court (and play matchmaker at the same time), Mario secretly talks to Michael and Lucia, telling both of them that the other has some affection for them, which could help solve the problem. It works for a while, as the two fall for each other. However, when Nando tries to ask Michael if he will marry his aunt Lucia, Michael tries to avoid it, which results in the two adults being back at each other’s throats. Will they be able to solve their fight in court amicably, or will Nando be torn between them?

It Started In Naples (1960) was shot on location, with the interiors done at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios, while the exteriors were done in Rome, Naples itself and the island of Capri. Sophia Loren had grown up in Naples, but her return was marked by controversy due to her recent “marriage” to Carlo Ponti (who was in the process of divorcing his first wife). Clark Gable was very professional i his work ethic, but maintained in his contract that he would only work from nine to five (and wore a wristwatch that buzzed at five to let him know that he was done for the day). Filmmaker and actor Vittorio De Sica was brought into the production to help give it more of a Neopolitan flavor with the script, and did so by suggesting they work with writer Suso Cecchi d’Amico. As a result, Vittorio was also given the role of lawyer Mario Vitale. For Clark Gable (who had recently suffered a mild heart attack but continued to drink and smoke heavily), this film would turn out to be the last one he made that was released during his lifetime, as he died of a heart attack nearly three months after the film’s release (after having completed The Misfits).

This was my first time seeing It Started In Naples (1960), and I will admit that I enjoyed it! I have no problem admitting that Clark Gable was the main reason that I wanted to see it (particularly for this series of posts), and he certainly didn’t let me down. I thought that he and Sophia Loren had pretty good chemistry, which helped offset some of the lesser material here (which was plentiful, as the film stayed well within romantic comedy territory, and the film’s ending seemed to wrap up a little too quickly, in my opinion). I’ve seen it said by numerous others that the film has three stars, with the third (after Clark and Sophia) being Italy itself, and I can’t deny that this is indeed true. A good part of the fun here is seeing a lot of the beautiful Italian scenery (circa 1960). I would also say that Vittorio De Sica as the lawyer Mario Vitale adds some fun, in between his attempted matchmaking, plus his court monologue (spoken mostly in Italian), which almost seems to favor his opponent (instead of his own client!), even if he does have his sexist moment obviously ogling Lucia’s (Sophia Loren) legs. Again, the story isn’t really the film’s strongest point (and quite frankly, I’m not too thrilled with Carlo Angeleti’s performance as the kid Nando, either), but the whole thing was certainly enough fun that I would be glad to see it again. Clark Gable was definitely getting older and wasn’t at his best, but he’s still good enough to make it worth recommending (and his co-star Sophia Loren, along with the scenery, adds to the appeal)!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with…It Started In Naples (1960)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Pictures. As I said, I hadn’t seen the film before (at least, not before the new Blu-ray), so I don’t know how it looked before. Reading comments on what others have said, there was a new transfer made between the film’s DVD release and the recent Blu-ray. The transfer on the new Blu-ray looks absolutely gorgeous! There really isn’t any dust, dirt or other debris marring the picture, and the detail is fantastic! It really show off the Italian scenery (not to mention the cast), which to my mind makes this Blu-ray worthwhile for those interested in the movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)Clark Gable

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2023) on… To Be Or Not To Be (1942)

Welcome back everybody, and Happy New Year! As we start into the new year, I will be doing even fewer posts than I have been in the past (as I hinted at in yesterday’s 2022: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched post), but I’m hoping that by doing so, I’ll still be able to stick around! And with that, let’s dig into our first film for the year, the 1942 comedy To Be Or Not To Be, starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Two Too Young (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 6 (1936-1938) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 10 minutes, 10 seconds)

Buckwheat (Billie Thomas) and Porky (Eugene Lee) brought some fireworks with them to school. Believing them to be too young (and wanting to play with the fireworks as well), Spanky (George McFarland) and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) try to get ahold of them. Once again, Spanky and Alfalfa manage to bring the humor. Their attempt at portraying a “G-man” to get the fireworks was quite funny, as was Alfalfa’s recitation of “The Charge Of The Light Brigade” (with the fireworks going off in his back pocket). This one was very, very enjoyable, and worth seeing again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1939, and, although the threat of war with Germany looms over the horizon, all is well yet in the Polish town of Warsaw, especially for a troupe of performers led by Joseph Tura (Jack Benny) and his wife Maria (Carole Lombard). They are rehearsing a new play called Gestapo while performing in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Maria has found herself with an ardent admirer in the form of aviator Lieutenant Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack), and she encourages him to come backstage to see her while her husband performs the “To be or not to be” soliloquy. She becomes interested in Stanislav, and sees him the next day. The troupe had been planning to premiere Gestapo that night, but their government orders them to cancel the play (since they fear the possibility of offending Adolf Hitler). So, they perform Hamlet again, and Stanislav once again walks out on the soliloquy to see Maria. He misinterprets her interest, and threatens to tell her husband (who is mainly angry that a member of the audience walked out on his soliloquy twice, but doesn’t know the reason why). However, before anything can be done, they all learn that Hitler has invaded the country. With the country quickly falling to Hitler, Stanislav ends up joining other Polish pilots in the British Royal Air Force. While on a break from their missions, the lieutenant and some of the other pilots meet Professor Alexander Siletsky (Stanley Ridges), who has been giving speeches on the radio in favor of the Polish resistance. When the professor accidentally lets it slip that he’s about to go on a mission that will take him to Warsaw, all the pilots (including Stanislav) ask him to take messages to their loved ones still in Warsaw. However, Stanislav becomes suspicious when he tries to send a message to Maria Tura, and the professor doesn’t recognize her name. When Stanislav tells his superiors about his suspicions later, they send him by plane to Warsaw to prevent the Gestapo from going after the families of the Polish resistance and pilots. However, the professor has also gotten there (but not in time to do any damage yet), and has Maria summoned to pass along the lieutenant’s message. She had already seen the lieutenant when he arrived, so she is careful of the professor (but doesn’t let on that she knows). The professor, now interested in her himself, invites her to dinner later that night in the hopes of seducing her to become a spy for the Nazis. She returns to her apartment to change, arriving in time to prevent a fight between the lieutenant and Joseph (who had just come home to find the lieutenant sleeping, but still only knows him as the man who walked out on his soliloquoy). They make a plan for later, hoping to fool the professor into giving them the information. They are successfully able to get the professor to the theatre (now disguised as Gestapo headquarters), and get him to give them everything by having Joseph pretend to be Colonel Ehrhardt of the Gestapo. However, Joseph slips up when the professor tells him about the message from the lieutenant (for Maria), and so the professor attempts to get away from them. However, in trying to sneak out of the theatre, he is fatally shot by Stanislav. Afterwards, Joseph disguises himself as the professor to get the rest of the information and get his wife out of the German-occupied hotel, but is immediately summoned by the REAL Colonel Ehrhardt (Sig Ruman). Joseph is able to keep up the ruse, and even manages to deflect the Colonel away from some of the resistance leaders. He makes arrangements with the Colonel for himself and Maria to get a plane out of Poland. The ruse starts to fall apart later when some of the Colonel’s men discover the body of the real professor when they are trying to get the theatre ready for the arrival of the Führer, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph unknowingly makes the mistake of calling the Colonel in order to meet with him again. Joseph is briefly able to evade capture by making it look like the real professor is an impostor (by removing his beard and putting on a fake one), but some of his troupe arrive in German uniforms and take him away after revealing him as a fake. They get out safely, but their interference has ruined Joseph’s plan to get out of Poland. Their producer, Dobosh (Charles Halton) borrows an idea from an old play they had done (which had flopped) to help get them all out of the country. Will his plan work? Will Joseph be able to perform Hamlet again (without interruption), or will they all be captured by the Nazis?

Director Ernst Lubtisch had previously started his own production company to produce his comedy That Uncertain Feeling (1941), with plans to follow that up with an original idea for another comedy (an idea that would become To Be Or Not To Be). However, That Uncertain Feeling did poorly in theatres, resulting in the production company being dissolved. The result was that Alexander Korda, a co-owner of United Artists, financed the film over at United Artists while agreeing to let the director have control over casting, writers and the final cut of the movie. At first, the director thought about casting Maurice Chevalier in the lead, but instead decided to go with comedian Jack Benny, whom he built the film around. Miriam Hopkins was considered for the female lead, but she turned it down, complaining about Jack Benny getting all the funny stuff. Carole Lombard saw the role as being more than just Jack Benny’s “straight man,” and got the part. There were some minor troubles on the film (mostly to do with the film’s satire of the Nazis), but for the most part, the cast had a lot of fun doing the film. As much fun as Carole Lombard had doing the film, it ended up being her last, as she died in a plane crash upon returning from a war bond drive. Her death, combined with the film’s comedic treatment of the Nazi menace, left the film getting heavily criticized by both critics and audiences. However, time has been favorable to the movie, as it has become not only one of the director’s best known films, but also a well-regarded film for both of its major stars.

I first saw To Be Or Not To Be (1942) a number of years ago, and didn’t immediately take to it. Part of that was the fact that I had also seen and liked the later 1983 version with Mel Brooks beforehand (since I more or less grew up with Mel Brooks’ style of humor via the likes of Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men In Tights, not to mention the classic TV show Get Smart). However, I’ve had the desire to revisit the 1942 film for a number of years now, and I finally got the opportunity to see it again in preparation for this review. All I can say is, “Wow! Time has certainly changed my opinion of this movie!” The film’s more dramatic moments really pull you in, helping you to feel for the characters and worry about their safety. Of course, this film knows the value of a laugh, and it does indeed provide many! The main moments that stick out were Jack Benny’s Joseph Tura masquerading first as Colonel Ehrhardt (“So they call me ‘Concentration Camp’ Ehrhardt?”) when meeting with Stanley Ridges’ Professor Siletsky (the only character who is played completely straight/dramatically), and then when he disguises himself as the late professor when meeting with the real Colonel Ehrhardt, as played by Sig Ruman. Speaking of Sig Ruman, his role as the Colonel is one of the funniest in the whole film, especially when (after initial prompting by the fake professor) he continually tries to place the blame for all of his mistakes on his own lieutenant, Captain Schultz (as played by Henry Victor), even at the end of the film. How I went so long without watching this movie (or enjoying it), I’ll never know. But I will readily admit to this film’s greatness now, and I highly recommend it for a good laugh (from start to finish)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 39 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Nothing Sacred (1937) – Carole Lombard

Broadway Melody Of 1936 (1935) – Jack Benny

Nice Girl? (1941) – Robert Stack – Great Day In The Morning (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!

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2022) with… A Christmas Carol (1938)

For the last Christmas film I’m looking at before the holiday itself, we’ve got one version of one of Hollywood’s most frequently told tales: that of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol! This time, we’re looking at the 1938 film starring Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bored Of Education (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 6 (1936-1938) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 10 minutes, 21 seconds)

It’s the first day back to school after a long vacation, but Spanky (George McFarland) and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) don’t want to go to school. Their new teacher, Miss Lawrence (Rosina Lawrence) overhears their plot to get out of school, and comes up with a plan of her own to get them to stay. It’s an entertaining short that shares a similar plot to the earlier Teacher’s Pet (1930). Spanky and Alfalfa are indeed the fun here as they use a balloon to fake a toothache (which later affects Alfalfa’s singing a little bit). Personally, I enjoyed it, and I would heartily recommend it!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Christmas Party (1931)

(Available as an extra on the A Christmas Carol Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(9 minutes, 2 seconds)

Jackie (Jackie Cooper) hopes to host a Christmas party at his house for his football team. However, when the guest list gets bigger than he imagined, he gets permission to use a soundstage at the MGM studio to host the party. Once you get past the whole opening, there really isn’t much plot to this short. Most of it is the dinner at the soundstage, with some of the big MGM stars of the time like Clark Gable, Marion Davies and others serving the kids their meal. That doesn’t necessarily make for a great short, but it’s at least an interesting holiday short anyways.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Peace On Earth (1939)

(Available as an extra on the A Christmas Carol Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(8 minutes, 50 seconds)

Around Christmastime, a grandpa squirrel comes to visit his grandchildren. When they ask him about the phrase “goodwill to men,” he relates the story of how mankind destroyed themselves in their last war. It’s an interesting antiwar cartoon, made just as the second World War was starting to ramp up. I can’t deny that it still feels way too relevant, as I watch how everybody has to fight over every single thing even today. It’s beautifully animated, and certainly echoes the right holiday spirit for this time of the year, which makes it worth seeing every now and again.

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s Christmas Eve, and young Fred (Barry MacKay) has come to see his uncle Ebenezer Scrooge (Reginald Owen) at his counting-house. Fred hopes to invite his uncle to Christmas dinner with his fiancée, but Scrooge turns him down, considering Christmas to be nothing more than a humbug. Scrooge begrudgingly gives his employee, Bob Cratchit (Gene Lockhart), the day of Christmas off, but ends up firing him later when Bob accidentally wrecks Scrooge’s top hat in the streets. At his home later that evening, Scrooge is visited by the spectre of his dead partner, Marley (Leo G. Carroll), who warns him that he must change his ways or he will suffer in the afterlife, even more than Marley is. Marley further informs him that three ghosts will visit him that night. At one o’clock, Scrooge is visited by the Spirit Of Christmas Past (Ann Rutherford), who shows him what Christmas looked like for him in the past, when his sister was sent to bring him home from school, and later when he was apprenticed to Fezziwig (Forrester Harvey). At two o’clock (after the Spirit of Christmas Past had left him), he meets the Spirit Of Christmas Present (Lionel Braham), who shows him how his nephew is celebrating Christmas, as well as how Bob Cratchit is enjoying the day with his family, including his young and ill son, Tiny Tim (Terry Kilburn). After he is warned that Tiny Tim may not survive his illness, Scrooge then meets the Spirit Of Christmas Future (D’Arcy Corrigan). The Spirit shows him a future in which Tiny Tim does not survive, and Scrooge himself dies alone with nobody to care about him. Finally, he awakes to find that the Spirits had shown him all this in one night. Will their message take hold and help him to become a better man, or will he continue to be a selfish miser?

Nowadays, Charles Dickens’ tale of A Christmas Carol has been adapted for the big and small screen many, many times. However, back when the 1938 film version was done, that wasn’t quite the case, as it had mainly been done for a few shorts and one film (mostly in Britain). In the 1930s, actor Lionel Barrymore was well-known for playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge every year on the radio, and when MGM wanted to make a film version of the tale, he was their first choice for the role. However, he had been struggling with arthritis for some time, and that plus two recent hip injuries resulted in him being unable to walk (having already been on crutches for the same year’s You Can’t Take It With You). So he declined the role, but suggested Reginald Owen for the part. To help audiences accept Reginald Owen in the part, Lionel Barrymore appeared in a special trailer for the film, and let Reginald Owen perform as Scrooge on the radio that year. Production on the film had already been delayed, and they rushed to get through filming in about six weeks. The film did decently at the box office, and would be the go-to version of the tale for a number of years, until more faithful versions of the tale appeared.

First off, I should say that I’ve never had the chance to actually read Charles Dickens’ story yet (although it’s one that I would like to get to one of these days), so I can only compare it against other film versions. I actually first saw this movie somewhere around ten to fifteen years ago. It was part of the four-film Classic Holiday DVD Collection from Warner Brothers, which I had bought for a film I had already seen, Boys Town (1938), with plans to try out the rest of the group (which also included the previously reviewed 1945 film Christmas In Connecticut). I can tell you right now, even then I had seen a huge number of adaptions of Dickens’ classic story, and was feeling burnt out on the whole story, so this was probably the film in that set that I least looked forward to seeing. I would definitely say that the movie changed my opinion and made me a fan! Reginald Owen makes for a very good Scrooge in my opinion, as we see his journey from miserable miser to the kind and giving man at the end of the tale. And he’s supported well by a number of other actors and actress, especially Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit.

To me, this film is as much about embracing your inner child even as an adult. Scrooge seems to have forgotten, and it’s only when he is given a reminder that he changes. Barry MacKay’s Fred fits this idea well with some of the film’s more memorable moments (for me). When we first meet him, he is sliding on the ice with some of the kids, having just as much fun as them. Later on, he tries to convince his fiancée Bess (Lynne Carver) to join in, and initially she resists. It’s only after they see the minister shoo away some of the kids sliding in front of the church and then, when he thinks nobody’s looking, enjoy a quick slide himself, that she joins in. Also, we get to see the Cratchits’ Christmas almost entirely from the kids’ viewpoint, without seeing much of the sorrow that their father is dealing with. Even Bob Cratchit cheers up (after he was fired) when he starts doing what he can to make his family’s Christmas a good one, anyways.

Now, is this film flawed? Yes. In my opinion, where it seems to falter the most is in the writing. To me, this Scrooge seems to change too quickly, and almost makes me feel like they had at least one ghost too many. To make things worse, they skip over too much of Scrooge’s past, ignoring his romance with Belle almost completely (and in the process, they don’t show any of Scrooge’s gradual descent into greed). And the section with the Spirit Of Christmas Present almost seems questionable, as we don’t really see how Scrooge is affecting those around him (especially Gene Lockhart’s Bob Cratchit, who looks too well-fed for the role, even if his performance is otherwise flawless). That being said, none of these flaws detract from the story enough to stop me from watching it. It may not be my favorite version of the story, but it’s one that I will gladly watch (and recommend)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video.

With this being my last post before the holiday itself, I want to wish you all a merry Christmas (and to those who don’t celebrate it, I wish you happy holidays), and I wish you peace on earth, and goodwill to ALL, and to quote Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone!”

Film Length: 1 hour, 9 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Rose-Marie (1936) – Reginald Owen – The Pirate (1948)

Wedding Present (1936) – Gene Lockhart – Jesse James (1939)

Leo G. Carroll – Father Of The Bride (1950)

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) – Ann Rutherford

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Coming Up Shorts! with… The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5

Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m going with the Hal Roach theatrical shorts featuring The Little Rascals, and some of their shorts from 1935-1936 that have been released together on disc in The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5.

Here’s a list and quick plot description for each of the shorts included in this set (for my comments on the individual shorts, click on the title to go to my previous reviews):

  1. Anniversary Trouble (1935) (Length: 19 minutes, 22 seconds)
    • Spanky (George McFarland) has been elected the treasurer of the Gang’s club (“Ancient and Honery Order of Wood Chucks Club, Inc.”) and the Gang have decided to trust him with the money. However, it’s also his parents’ wedding anniversary, and the envelope containing the Gang’s money has gotten mixed up with his father’s gift to his mother.
  2. Beginner’s Luck (1935) (Length: 18 minutes, 38 seconds)
    • After having Spanky (George McFarland) recite for some of her lady friends, Spanky’s mother decides to enter him in an amateur talent contest. However, Spanky has no desire to win, and enlists the Gang’s help to sabotage his performance.
  3. Teacher’s Beau (1935) (Length: 19 minutes, 3 seconds)
    • The Gang’s teacher, Miss Jones (Arletta Duncan) announces that she will get married, and that they will have a new teacher for their next year, Mrs. Wilson. Not wanting a new teacher, the Gang try to find ways to break up the engagement.
  4. Sprucin’ Up (1935) (Length: 16 minutes, 58 seconds)
    • The kids are all complaining about how their mothers make them clean themselves up. However, when a new truant officer (and his beautiful daughter) move in, everybody changes their tune!
  5. Little Papa (1935) (Length: 19 minutes, 41 seconds)
    • Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang want to play football, but he’s forced to babysit his younger sister. Hoping that she will be less trouble if she is asleep, Spanky and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) try to find ways to make her sleepy.
  6. Little Sinner (1935) (Length: 17 minutes, 31 seconds)
    • Spanky (George McFarland) was just given a new fishing pole for his birthday, and he wants to try it out! However, it’s Sunday, and all the other kids warn him against skipping Sunday School (but he ignores them, to his regret).
  7. Our Gang Follies Of 1936 (1935) (Length: 17 minutes, 54 seconds)
    • Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang put on a show for the kids of the neighborhood. However, one highly-demanded act is missing, so the Gang has to figure out what to do instead.
  8. The Pinch Singer (1936) (Length: 17 minutes, 26 seconds)
    • A local radio station holds an amateur talent contest with a $50 prize. The Eagles Club (that’s the Gang) decide to have Darla (Darla Hood) perform, but when she’s late, it’s up to Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) to go on in her place!
  9. Divot Diggers (1936) (Length: 14 minutes, 51 seconds)
    • The Gang are all out having fun playing golf. When the caddies at the course go on strike, the owner convinces the Gang to help caddie for some of his golfing customers.
  10. The Lucky Corner (1936) (Length: 16 minutes, 21 seconds)
    • Scotty (Scotty Beckett) and his grandfather are selling lemonade, but a bully and his father (who have a store of their own) force them to move their stand when some potential customers go to them for lemonade. So, with Scotty and his grandfather now situated in a different spot where almost nobody goes, it’s up to the Gang to help them drum up some business!
  11. Second Childhood (1936) (Length: 19 minutes, 11 seconds)
    • A cranky old lady (Zeffie Tilbury) is miserable on her birthday (and making her servants miserable) until a toy airplane comes flying in and breaks her vase. Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang volunteer to do some work around the yard for her when they can’t pay for the vase, and in the process, help her start to enjoy life again!
  12. Arbor Day (1936) (Length: 17 minutes, 39 seconds)
    • It’s Arbor Day, and the school is putting on a pageant featuring all the kids, which is something that Spanky (George McFarland) wants to avoid. He is caught by the truant officer, along with a pair of midgets from a nearby circus mistaken as kids.

After nearly forty-five talkie shorts, the Our Gang/ The Little Rascals series was starting to settle into the cast it would become most known for. Matthew “Stymie” Beard left the series after Teacher’s Beau (1935), finishing a run that had started back in Teacher’s Pet (1930). Scotty Beckett left the series to go into the movies after filming Our Gang Follies Of 1936 (1935), although his appearance in the short The Lucky Corner (1936) was the result of that short’s release being delayed almost a year after filming began. Marianne Edwards left the series after The Pinch Singer (1936), but, like Scotty Beckett, her last appearance was in the delayed The Lucky Corner (1936). Meanwhile, in 1935, the series introduced the likes of Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (making his debut in Beginner’s Luck), Eugene “Porky” Lee (Little Sinner) and Darla Hood (Our Gang Follies Of 1936), cementing some of the series’ most well-known members, and resulting in the shorts becoming a bit more musical.

As I have said in my previous reviews of Volume 1 (which contained the shorts 1929’s Small Talk through 1930’s A Tough Winter), Volume 2 (1930’s Pups Is Pups through 1931’s Dogs Is Dogs), Volume 3 (1932’s Readin’ And Writin’ through 1933’s Forgotten Babies) and Volume 4 (1933’s The Kid From Borneo through 1935’s Shrimps For A Day), these shorts are all quite new to me. For me, the shorts included in this fifth volume have continued to be a lot of fun! As has been the case, I’ve continued to enjoy those focusing on George “Spanky” McFarland, as he continues to be one of the funnier members of the group. Anniversary Trouble (1935), Beginner’s Luck (1935), Our Gang Follies Of 1936 (1935), The Pinch Singer (1936), The Lucky Corner (1936) and Second Childhood (1936) all left me laughing, and certainly left me with a strong desire to come back to them again! As did Teacher’s Beau (1935), even if that one did border on being a retread of an earlier short. There are a few scattered problems that date some of these shorts, but the worst one would have to be Little Sinner (1935), which goes on a little too long with its portrayal of some rather spirited African-Americans during a baptism ceremony at night. I do admit, I miss Scotty Beckett as he is phased out, since I thought he and Spanky made a great comedy team in their appearances together in some of the shorts included in the fourth volume, but Alfalfa manages to add to the fun rather memorably! All in all, this set was still quite entertaining, and just as highly recommended as some of the earlier volumes (and I eagerly look forward to the sixth and final volume of the talkie shorts from Hal Roach)!

As I mentioned in my reviews of the earlier volumes, ClassicFlix announced (in late 2020) that they had licensed the Little Rascals shorts, and planned to restore the talkies and the silent shorts. The film elements for many films and shorts originally produced by Hal Roach’s studio have changed hands a number of times over the years, and haven’t been as well preserved as most would hope. ClassicFlix tried a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the restorations for the Little Rascals series, but that ended up falling short. Still, they went through with their plans to restore the shorts, and, much like the first four sets, these shorts look fantastic (some minor damage is still present, but it’s just about not even worth mentioning)! This set doesn’t necessarily give any hints as to what film elements were used like the first one did (beyond the comment on the disc case about scanning from original Hal Roach 35mm film elements), but the results speak for themselves (and if you don’t believe me, I included some of the YouTube clips posted by ClassicFlix at the bottom of the post so that you can get a better idea)! Once again, the team at ClassicFlix have put a lot of hard work into restoring these, and I would certainly recommend this fifth volume (plus the first four as well, if you haven’t gotten them already)! With the sixth set already released (thus completing all the talkies before MGM took over the series), we only await the arrival of the silents in 2023 and beyond (some of which will be on Blu-ray while others will be DVD-only due to the quality of the available elements)! In the meantime, there is also The Little Rascals: The Complete Collection Centennial Edition on Blu-ray (or DVD) from ClassicFlix. This set includes all the talkie shorts included in the six volumes (although it has been condensed onto five discs instead of six) plus a bonus disc of extras (that bonus disc, a limited release, is also available separately, and comes with a six-disc box for all those that previously bought the individual volumes).

The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 is available on Blu-ray from ClassicFlix. The whole set has a runtime of three hours, thirty-four minutes.

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An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm & Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2022): 1939 with… Balalaika (1939)

It’s December now, and with the holidays upon us, it’s time to look at a movie that fits within the season! So, for today, we’re looking at the 1939 musical Balalaika starring Nelson Eddy and Ilona Massey!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Arbor Day (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 17 minutes, 39 seconds)

It’s Arbor Day, and the school is putting on a pageant featuring all the kids, which is something that Spanky (George McFarland) wants to avoid. He is caught by the truant officer, along with a pair of midgets from a nearby circus mistaken as kids. This one was, at best, average. My big complaint is how much of the short was taken up by the Arbor Day pageant, with mostly forgettable music (aside from Alfalfa memorably “singing” the poem “Trees”) and dancing. Spanky attempting to play hooky was funny (but not long enough). I was also amused by the antics of the two midgets as they tried to escape their manager, and then later when they tried to perform in the pageant (which they had been dragged to). Plain and simple, this one wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t leave me with a desire to see it again, either.

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1914. The Russian Cossack Guards have just come back from maneuvers, and want to stop at the Cafe Balalaika for wine, music and women. Cafe singer Lydia Pavlovna Marakova (Ilona Massey) quickly catches their eye, and she is ordered to come have a drink with them. Unbeknownst to any of the Cossacks, Lydia and her family are a part of a group of revolutionaries, so, in spite of being blackmailed to go to them by the cafe owner, she finds a way to get out of there in a hurry. She doesn’t meet one of the leaders of the Cossacks, Prince Peter Karagin (Nelson Eddy), but he sees her as she leaves and is impressed. He quickly finds out that she has a thing for students, so he goes undercover as a student named “Peter Illyich Teranda” in order to catch her eye. Due to his singing ability, he is accepted by Lydia’s musician father and brother (although they don’t trust him enough to tell him of their revolutionary activities). When Peter learns of Lydia’s desire to sing in the opera, he gets her an audition with the opera’s director, Ivan Danchenoff (Frank Morgan). Danchenoff is impressed with her ability, and, pressed by Peter, gives her a spot in the opera. Things are starting to look up for them, but Lydia’s brother starts speaking out in a public square. In all that mess, the Cossack guards (including Peter) arrive to break up the gathering (trampling Lydia’s brother in the process). Lydia and Peter see each other in all that mess, and she refuses to see him again. On one of his attempts to see her, he announces that he will be resigning from the Cossacks, which gives her mixed feelings. On the one hand, she’s glad to hear it, but on the other hand, some of her associates had made plans to assassinate Peter and his father, General Karagin (C. Aubrey Smith), at the opening of the opera. Without telling him the real reason why, Lydia convinces Peter to stay away from the opening (and get his father to not come, either). However, Peter’s father does indeed go to the opera, as does Peter, who comes to deliver a message to his father. Before the assassins can do anything, the general announces to everyone in the opera that Germany had declared war on Russia. His announcement leads Lydia’s father to reconsider their plan, but his associate still manages to get a shot off before they are caught (but he only wounds the general). Once the Cossacks learn that Lydia’s father was one of the attempted assassins, she is quickly arrested. Before he goes off to war, Peter manages to get Lydia freed, but she has a hard time of it. In between the war keeping them apart and the brewing revolution, will Peter and Lydia ever get back together, or will they be separated by distance and ideology?

Balalaika was based on a 1936 London stage musical of the same name by Eric Maschwitz, with music by George Posford and Bernard Grun. MGM bought the rights, but it took them nearly two years before production actually started on the film. The studio had hoped to have Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy star in the film together, but the two stars had been demanding solo films. So, Nelson Eddy got Balalaika, with the song “At The Balalaika” being the only one retained from the show, while music director Herbert Stothart adapted other music for the film. With Jeanette MacDonald out of the picture, the role of the leading lady was offered to Miliza Korjus, but she believed it to be a joke (thinking that Jeanette would be teamed with Nelson again) and turned it down. So, the role was given to Ilona Massey (who had worked with Nelson, albeit in a supporting role, in Rosalie two years earlier, and would work with him again for 1947’s Northwest Outpost, his final film).

I first saw this movie just about a decade ago, and I’ve seen it numerous times since (otherwise translated, I like this movie). Nelson Eddy was the reason I first tried the movie, and remains one of the reasons that I like this film as well as I do. As usual, he’s in fine voice and has a few relatively fun tunes in the way of “At the Balalaika” and “Ride, Cossack, Ride.” But the songs that really stick out in my mind (and make the movie memorable) are him singing “The Song of the Volga Boatmen” (“El Ukhnem”), and singing the German version of “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht”). The latter song is done during a scene that takes place on the battlefield during the Russian Christmas (this is why I like to watch the movie at this time of the year), with it reminding me strongly of the famous Christmas Truce Of 1914 (even though this scene takes place three years later), as the Austrians (who had already celebrated their Christmas) start singing “Silent Night” to celebrate the Russian Christmas, with Nelson Eddy joining in.

Nelson Eddy is hardly the only reason I like this film. Ilona Massey is very good as his leading lady, with a beautiful voice. I think they have fairly good chemistry (admittedly, it’s hard not to compare her against Jeanette MacDonald, whose chemistry with Nelson was on a whole different level, but she’s not terrible, either). Frank Morgan is good here, too (if a little underutilized) as an opera impresario who is at first put upon by members of the Russian nobility in terms of who he has to cast in the opera, and then again at the end of the film (SPOILER) when he works as a doorman in Paris (END SPOILER). Overall, it’s Charlie Ruggles as Peter’s (Nelson Eddy) Cossack servant who manages to create a strong (and humorous) impression throughout the entire film, while winning our affections. This is not a perfect film by any means, with only a handful of memorable musical moments and (as I mentioned) some cast members being underutilized, plus it’s hard to feel much sympathy for either the Russian nobility (at least, not until the last few scenes of the movie) or the revolutionaries. Still, it’s one I like to watch (especially around Christmastime to hear Nelson singing the German version of “Silent Night”), so I would certainly recommend giving it a chance!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Girl Of The Golden West (1938) – Nelson Eddy – The Chocolate Soldier (1941)

Ilona Massey – International Lady (1941)

Bringing Up Baby (1938) – Charles Ruggles – It Happened On Fifth Avenue (1947)

Naughty Marietta (1935) – Frank Morgan – The Shop Around The Corner (1940)

Ninotchka (1939) – George Tobias – Music In My Heart (1940)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) Roundup Featuring… Bing Crosby

Welcome back to my new “Whats Old Is A New Release Again Roundup” series! This time around, I’m focusing on titles released in 2022 featuring Bing Crosby, whether they be on DVD, Blu-ray or 4K UHD. Short of something having been released that has escaped my notice (which is always possible), this post should essentially be completed now (outside of adding links if and when I do full reviews for any of these films). So, let’s dig into some of Bing’s films that have seen a new release in 2022. That list includes Here Is My Heart (1934), Holiday Inn (1942), Blue Skies (1946), Welcome Stranger (1947) and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949)!

Remember, 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!

Notes: Due to the fact that I had already added some comments on different shorts to my original reviews of Holiday Inn, Blue Skies and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, I will not be adding any more to those posts or this one (except for two shorts to accompany the films not yet reviewed).

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Lucky Corner (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 16 minutes, 21 seconds)

Scotty (Scotty Beckett) and his grandfather are selling lemonade, but a bully and his father (who have a store of their own) force them to move their stand when some potential customers go to them for lemonade. So, with Scotty and his grandfather now situated in a different spot where almost nobody goes, it’s up to the Gang to help them drum up some business! This one was an all-round entertaining entry in the series. I thought that the kids’ “parade” was fun to see, as were some of the performances as they got the crowd together. Of course, the rivalry between the bully and the kids added to the fun (especially when the bully’s attempts to steal away their customers backfired on him). This one was very enjoyable, and worth giving a chance (I certainly know that I want to keep coming back to it)!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Second Childhood (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 19 minutes, 11 seconds)

A cranky old lady (Zeffie Tilbury) is miserable on her birthday (and making her servants miserable) until a toy airplane comes flying in and breaks her vase. Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang volunteer to do some work around the yard for her when they can’t pay for the vase, and in the process, help her start to enjoy life again! This was yet another fun short. Zeffie Tilbury was fun as the grouchy old lady (even with her brief moments of happiness when she caused trouble for her servants), and her performance as she regains her joy for life helped make this short work! The scene with Spanky and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) joining her in a rendition of “Oh, Susanna” was fun, especially with her learning to use Spanky’s slingshot after it accidentally hit her. Overall, this one was a lot of fun, even though it did use some obvious rear-screen projection when Zeffie Tilbury was on roller skates (but, at the same time, I can’t blame the filmmakers, since the actress was legally blind at the time she made this short, not that you can tell from her performance). Certainly one that I would gladly come back to again and again!

Here Is My Heart (1934)

  • Plot Synopses: Singer J. Paul Jones (Bing Crosby) has achieved some success, and is looking to fulfill many dreams that he couldn’t do when he was poor. One of those ambitions is to buy the two original pistols that belonged to Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones, and present them to the Naval Academy. He’s got one already, but the other currently belongs to the Russian Princess Alexandra (Kitty Carlisle), who refuses to sell to him. In his attempts to buy the pistol, he is mistaken for her waiter, and makes use of the opportunity to spend some time with her and her associates. Will he achieve his dream and get the pistol, or will he find himself with a greater goal (love)?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 17 minutes
  • Extras: None
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 7/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions.
    • On The Transfer: The new Blu-ray appears to be making use of an HD scan. For the most part, it looks quite good. The opening credits look a bit rough, and there are some scratches present throughout (although nothing so terrible as to take away from the movie itself). It looks good enough for me, and is likely to be the best this movie will look for the near future.

Holiday Inn (1942)

  • Plot Synopses: A three person song-and-dance team splits up when one of their members, Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) gets the urge to buy a farm where he can rest and retire from show business. Farming doesn’t prove to be as easy or as restful as he thinks, and he decides to turn the farm into an inn that is only open for holidays (fifteen days a year). Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) is sent to the inn to audition, and she gets a job there. Jim falls for her, but one of his former partners, Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), finds himself partnerless. Upon meeting Linda, Ted also falls in love with her and wants to dance with her. Will Linda stay at the inn with Jim, or will she become a big star with Ted?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Extras (on both the 4K disc and the included Blu-ray): “A Couple Of Song And Dance Men;” “All-Singing All-Dancing;” “Reassessing ‘Abraham;'” Theatrical Trailer; and Feature Commentary By Film Historian Ken Barnes, including Audio Comments From Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby And John Scott Trotter
  • Format: 4K UHD
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 8/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: Honestly, this is a bit of a disappointing release. The 4K disc looks terrible, with a picture that is darker at times and loses some of the detail, and grain tends to be very distracting here, as if they are working from elements (or an older transfer) that doesn’t have 4K worth of data, although there are some moments here and there where the 4K disc actually looks good. Frankly, the included Blu-ray (which appears to use the same transfer, or close enough) actually looks better throughout. The Blu-ray is lighter and the grain is nowhere near as prevalent as it is on the 4K. Also, depending on your feelings about this, the film starts with a vintage Universal logo preceding the film’s Paramount logo. I only mention this because the film was originally produced by Paramount, was part of a large group of films sold to Music Corporation Of America (MCA)/EMKA , Ltd. in the 1950s, before becoming part of Universal Studios’ library when MCA took over the studio in the 1960s. Realistically, this release is at best recommended to those who don’t have the Blu-ray already (and even then it is questionable). If you already have the Blu-ray, then don’t bother with this one. If you want either the Broadway show or the colorized version of the film (neither of which is included as extras with this release), then I would suggest going with one of the earlier Blu-ray releases.

Blue Skies (1946)

  • Plot Synopses: Dancer Jed Potter (Fred Astaire) likes chorus girl Mary O’Hara (Joan Caulfield), but he makes the mistake of taking her to a nightclub owned by his friend, Johnny Adams (Bing Crosby). Mary falls instantly for Johnny, and he for her, much to Jed’s regret. However, Mary takes a slight issue with Johnny not being too responsible, as he has a bad habit of constantly buying and selling his nightclubs. That’s not enough to stop them from getting married, but Johnny’s refusal to change his ways really comes between them after they have a child, and they divorce. With Jed’s love for Mary growing over time, will she give him a chance, or will things go sour between them, too?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes
  • Extras: Audio commentary by film critic and author Simon Abrams, Trailers for Road To Morocco (1942), Daddy Long Legs (1955), Love Me Tonight (1932) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: According to the Blu-ray case, the transfer is coming from a new 2K master with newly remastered audio. In general, this release looks quite wonderful. It improves on Universal’s earlier DVD by fixing the previously windowboxed opening and closing credits, and the colors look quite good in general. It’s not quite as perfect as similar releases from Warner Archive, but it’s about as good as I can hope for with this film. The image has been cleaned up of scratches, dirt and debris. Quick note: on the initial pressing of this Blu-ray, there were some audio issues in which Fred Astaire’s taps were a lot more muffled. Kino Lorber Studio Classics looked into it and decided to fix the issue (it’s already been taken care of by this time). Customers are guaranteed to get the right copy at Kino’s own sites, but in case you get the incorrect copy from somewhere else, this link will take you to their replacement program.

Welcome Stranger (1947)

  • Plot Synopses: Dr. Joseph McRory (Barry Fitzgerald) has served the town of Fallbridge, Maine faithfully for nearly thirty-five years, and is looking forward to a well-deserved vacation. However, his temporary replacement being sent by the medical board is the younger Dr. Jim Pearson (Bing Crosby), whom Dr. McRory takes an instant dislike to, and encourages him to leave (advice that the younger doctor ignores). Dr. McRory’s opinions are shared by many of the townspeople, including schoolteacher Trudy Mason (Joan Caulfield) (whom Dr. Pearson takes an immediate liking to). Things start to change when, upon trying to leave for his vacation, Dr. McRory suffers from appendicitis, with no choice but to have Dr. Pearson operate on him (an operation that goes successfully). However, Trudy’s boyfriend, Roy Chesley (Robert Shayne), REALLY doesn’t like Dr. Pearson, and tries to use his influence to take away Dr. McRory’s position at a new hospital in the process of being built. Can Dr. Pearson help Dr. McRory regain the town’s favor, or will they both leave town with their tails tucked between their legs?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 47 minutes
  • Extras: None
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 8/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions.
    • On The Transfer: This Blu-ray appears to be using an HD scan which looks pretty good for the most part. Most of the dust, dirt and other debris has been cleaned up. The opening credits are just a little shaky (but that’s the only part of the movie that has that problem), and there are a few (very) light scratches still present throughout the movie (but nothing that takes away from the movie itself). Overall, likely the best this movie will look, and it’s certainly the recommended way to see it!

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

  • Plot Synopses: In the early twentieth century, blacksmith Hank Martin (Bing Crosby) tries to return a horse to his owner during a storm, but gets knocked out when he runs into a tree. When he awakens, Hank finds himself in the past, in the kingdom of Camelot under King Arthur (Sir Cedric Hardwicke). At first, Hank is mistaken for a monster, but quickly becomes popular with the people when he uses some basic tricks to make himself look like a powerful sorcerer. He falls for King Arthur’s niece, the Lady Alisande “Sandy” la Carteloise (Rhonda Fleming), but has to contend with her betrothed, Sir Lancelot (Henry Wilcoxon). Having also earned the ire of the wizard Merlin (Murvyn Vye), Hank finds himself in a lot of trouble. Will he be able to return to his own time, or gain the affections of Sandy if he stays?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 47 minutes
  • Extras: None
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 9/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: This Blu-ray seems to be working with an HD scan that looks pretty good. Most (if not just about all) of the dust, dirt, and other artifacts have been cleaned up. For the most part, the color looks pretty good, similar to the recent Blu-ray release of Blue Skies (1946) from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. There are some minor sections where the color doesn’t look quite as vivid as it seems like it should, but it’s an overall good release of a wonderful film (and certainly as good as it is likely to get anytime soon).

My Overall Impressions

Like all of my previous “What’s Old Is A New Release Again” posts focusing on the stars or screen teams that I picked for my “Star/Screen Team Of The Month” in 2022, I have gone without comments on the individual films as I reflect on my Star (from way back in March), Bing Crosby. Here Is My Heart (1934) is the oddball of this bunch, as it’s a film from fairly early in Bing’s career (and as such, his singing style and voice are quite different from the later films). He really only has three songs in this film, with the tune “June In January” being the most memorable. He has some comedic moments, especially when he poses as an alternate “incompetent” waiter, and when he is drunk interacting with Roland Young’s Prince Nicholas near the end of the film. For the rest, we move into the 1940s, when his career had taken a different direction. Holiday Inn finds us early in the decade, when his star was on the rise after finding success through the Road series with Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. Holiday Inn follows a similar formula, with Bing and Fred Astaire competing for the affections of two different ladies. Of course, the biggest highlight for Bing is his introduction of the classic Irving Berlin song “White Christmas,” which became a major hit for both Bing and Irving. He also croons a few other big tunes, including “Easter Parade,” “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” (which was actually the initial hit song from the movie) and “Happy Holiday”, plus we have him singing (and “dancing” if you can call it that) with Fred Astaire to “I’ll Capture Your Heart Singing.” Moving ahead a few years, Blue Skies follows up his Oscar win for Going My Way (1944) and his nomination for The Bells Of St. Mary’s (1945). As such, his role in Blue Skies is more dramatic, even though his character still competes with Fred Astaire’s Jed Potter for the affections of Joan Caulfield’s Mary O’Hara. Bing’s main highlights are him singing the title tune and the Oscar nominated “You Keep Coming Back Like A Song,” as well as dancing with Fred Astaire to “A Couple Of Song and Dance Men.” Welcome Stranger (1947) reunites Bing with his Going My Way co-star Barry Fitzgerald in what almost feels like a remake of Going My Way (except this time with the two of them as doctors instead of Catholic priests). The music is decent (personally, I prefer the song “Country Style”), but the main fun is in watching the developing friendship between Bing’s Dr. Jim Pearson and Barry Fitzgerald’s Dr. Joseph McRory as they go from bickering to working together. A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949) was made during the same time period, when Bing’s popularity at the box office gave him enough clout to choose his directors and castmates. The movie has some comedic moments, including Bing’s character “modernizing” the music and dancing at a ball, and the jousting tournament. On the musical side, Bing’s romantic duet with Rhonda Fleming to “Once And For Always” and him singing along with William Bendix and Sir Cedric Hardwicke to “Busy Doing Nothing” are the film’s big highlights.

Well, now that I’ve commented on these films, I’ll give you my rankings on these releases, from highly recommended (1.) to least recommended (5.):

  1. (tie) Blue Skies (1946)
  1. (tie) A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949)
  1. Welcome Stranger (1947)
  1. Here Is My Heart (1934)
  1. Holiday Inn (1942)

I’ll admit, this is a slightly harder group to pick one film that I would solidly recommend. I’m not trashing any of the movies, as I think they are all good, and worth giving a chance. Transfer-wise, I think that Blue Skies (1946) and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949) are pretty similar, and look the best. Here Is My Heart (1934) and Welcome Stranger (1947) look pretty good, although they have some minor issues that pull them down. Holiday Inn (1942)’s transfer is the weakest of the bunch (in spite of the fact that it is a 4K UHD and not a Blu-ray like the others). In a normal situation, my top pick would be easy: Blue Skies. I think the film looks just a hair better with this new release, it’s got some extras and I prefer the film itself overall. However, we’re discussing Bing Crosby here, and the things I like about that film are Fred Astaire, the Irving Berlin music and some of Fred’s dances. It’s not otherwise remembered as much for Bing’s presence. If it had a better transfer, I would be recommending the other Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire/Irving Berlin collaboration, Holiday Inn, since it features Bing introducing that classic song “White Christmas” (which became Bing’s best-selling song, and one of the biggest selling of all time), along with a few other fun tunes. But, again. the weak transfer leaves me not wanting to recommend the 4K UHD at all. A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court is also very much Bing’s film, and he is what makes it fun (even if I don’t think the film itself is quite as good as Blue Skies). Thus, I would put Blue Skies and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court at a tie for the top recommendations if we are talking strictly about Bing’s films. Welcome Stranger (1947) mainly suffers from its similarity to the far better (in my opinion) Going My Way (1944), although it’s certainly still an entertaining film in its own right. Here Is My Heart (1934) is still a little too early in Bing’s career, without the music or story coming off quite as memorably. Still, I have enjoyed all of these films off and on for years, and the four Blu-ray releases are all worth it to me, and certainly worth a recommendation (again, ignore the 4K UHD for Holiday Inn)!

“Star Of The Month (November 2022)” Featuring W. C. Fields in… My Little Chickadee (1940)

We’re back for the second film featuring my Star Of The Month for November 2022, W. C. Fields! This time, it’s his 1940 film My Little Chickadee, also starring Mae West!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Divot Diggers (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 14 minutes, 51 seconds)

The Gang are all out having fun playing golf. When the caddies at the course go on strike, the owner convinces the Gang to help caddie for some of his golfing customers. I will admit that I have some mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, it’s a lot of fun watching the kids when they play golf by themselves at the start, and the chimp they bring along to help caddie is also entertaining. However, the focus on this one really isn’t the kids, it’s on the chimp and the adult golfers. While the adults are funny, I can’t help but feel that it takes away from the kids, who should have been the ones that this short followed. Still, I certainly can’t deny that this is one that I would have fun seeing again.

And Now For The Main Feature…

The stagecoach to Little Bend is robbed by a masked bandit. One of the passengers, Flower Belle Lee (Mae West), catches his eye, and he kidnaps her. Later, before the town can get a posse together to go after her, she wanders into town of her own volition. Later, the bandit visits her at night, but is seen leaving by the nosy Mrs. Gideon (Margaret Hamilton). When Flower Belle refuses to divulge who the masked bandit is (since she herself doesn’t know), the town council kicks her out, warning her not to come back unless she is married and respectable. On the train to the city of Greasewood, Flower Belle meets Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields). He quickly becomes enamored with her, and she takes a liking to him after seeing that he carries a carpet bag full of money. Twillie quickly proposes marriage, and Flower Belle agrees. She convinces her friend, gambler Amos Budge (Donald Meek), to perform the “ceremony” (since everybody else assumes that he is a member of the clergy due to how he is dressed). In the town of Greasewood, Flower Belle quickly gains the attention of the local newspaper reporter Wayne Carter (Dick Foran) as well as that of the powerful and corrupt bar owner Jeff Badger (Joseph Calleia). After listening to some of Twillie’s tall tales (and learning that he is married to Flower Belle), Jeff immediately offers the job of town sheriff to Twillie, which he accepts. When he has the opportunity, Twillie tries to figure out a way to consummate their marriage, but he is shot down by Flower Belle at every opportunity. The masked bandit again visits Flower Belle, and Twillie, learning about how easily she lets the bandit into her boudoir, attempts to disguise himself as the bandit. Flower Belle quickly realizes that it’s him, but the two of them wind up in trouble when he is seen leaving and mistaken for the real bandit. Both of them are thrown in jail, but Flower manages to escape, hoping to clear Twillie. Will she be successful, or will Twillie be hanged as the bandit?

In 1939, Universal Studios successfully teamed up James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich (whose career had been in decline after her initial success under director Josef Von Sternberg) in the Western comedy Destry Rides Again. Hoping for a similar success, the studio decided to pair up W. C. Fields (who had recently signed with them for the film You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man) and Mae West (whose career had been in a slump ever since the rise of the Production Code, with My Little Chickadee being her first film since 1937’s Every Day’s A Holiday at Paramount Pictures). Behind the scenes, this didn’t turn out the best. Both stars had a preference for writing their own material, not to mention W. C. Fields had a penchant for ad-libbing (compared to Mae West, who preferred to stick to the script). It’s unclear as to who wrote what (and how much), as different sources have claimed different things, with Mae West claiming that she wrote everything apart from a scene set in a bar, and others have claimed that they wrote their own scenes (and ad-libbed their stuff together). Either way, they reportedly didn’t get along very well off-screen. It wasn’t enough to stop audiences from going to see the movie, however, as it turned out to be Fields’ highest-grossing film at Universal, and Mae West’s last successful film.

This is a movie that I’ve been wanting to see for a while, particularly after hearing via one of the forums I frequent that the movie was being restored (but more on that in a moment). I’ve finally had the chance to see the movie twice within this last year, and I’ve enjoyed it! Now, I’ve seen it said that originally, W. C. Fields received a lot of praise in this movie, while Mae West was heavily criticized. First off, I should mention that this was my first time seeing any Mae West films (as opposed to the various caricatures and imitations of her in many cartoons that I grew up with). On that initial impression, I’m inclined to agree with the critics who took issue with her in this film. Don’t get me wrong, she is funny here, with a number of innuendo-laden lines that somehow got past the censors, not to mention when she takes over as a schoolteacher for the classroom of young boys. My problem with her is that her performance is very one-note, as she essentially purrs EVERY line in that “come-up-and-see-me-sometime” manner. Not one hint of emotion beyond that, which really doesn’t work when she helps defend the train against some attacking Native Americans or when she escapes from jail in an attempt to help clear W. C. Fields’ Twillie of wrongdoing. If she could have managed more emotion, especially in those situations, I wouldn’t have been bothered as much by it.

W. C. Fields, on the other hand, does manage to give a good performance (and leave me laughing in the process). During that same train attack I mentioned, he was effectively cowering and trying to hide with the children in another train car (while using a slingshot to try and shoot at their attackers). He spends a good deal of the movie trying to get into his “wife’s” boudoir, with the most memorable attempt being him actually getting in, but making the mistake of taking a bath in her bathroom (while she gets ready to leave and go elsewhere, leaving him with a goat in the bed instead). Of course, he plays cards (and cheats at that, too), so he fits right in in a Western. The only complaint about him is how he treats his Native American friend (although that is typical of how his characters tend to treat others). The plot itself is kind of all over the place, which in some respects shows how they were having trouble writing it behind the scenes with the two competing egos. In my book, Fields alone makes this film worth seeing (he’s not enough to make it a great film, but he overcomes most of the film’s problems), so I would certainly recommend giving it a shot!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… My Little Chickadee (1940)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The transfer is sourced from a 4K restoration done by Universal Pictures and the Film Foundation using a 35mm nitrate composite fine grain and a 35mm dupe negative. In short, this film looks fantastic on Blu-ray! The detail is shown off beautifully, and all the dust and debris has been cleaned. This may not be the best W. C. Fields film on Blu-ray, but it’s certainly the best-looking one on the format, making it highly recommended!

Film Length: 1 hour, 24 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Mississippi (1935)W. C. FieldsNever Give A Sucker An Even Break (1941)

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!

“Star Of The Month (November 2022)” Featuring W. C. Fields in… The Old-Fashioned Way (1934)

We’re here now with our first look at a film featuring the Star Of The Month for November 2022 (W. C. Fields), the 1934 comedy The Old-Fashioned Way!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Our Gang Follies Of 1936 (1935)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 17 minutes, 54 seconds)

Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang put on a show for the kids of the neighborhood. However, one highly-demanded act is missing, so the Gang has to figure out what to do instead. This one was a lot more amusing than some of the previous shorts. The music is fun, but, as usual, it’s the comedy that manages to be memorable, with the monkey leading the way, either when he’s chasing Buckwheat (Billie Thomas) with a pitchfork, or when he’s hiding in the dress that Spanky has to wear to lead the others when they impersonate the Flory-Dory Sixtette. The only problem with this short for modern audiences is the way that they light up the eyes of the black kids whenever the lights are turned off (which only happens a few times for brief moments). Other than that, this one was quite entertaining, and I look forward to revisiting it in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

The Great McGonigle (W. C. Fields) and his troupe of performers leave a town by train, barely getting past the sheriff who was trying to serve McGonigle for not paying his bills at the boarding house (or for anything else). The troupe is joined by Wally Livingston (Joe Morrison), a young college student who is courting McGonigle’s daughter, Betty (Judith Allen) (although she is trying to urge him to go back to college, to no avail). They soon arrive in the small town of Bellefontaine. McGonigle had been telling the troupe that the theatre there had sold out for their performance, but they quickly find out that only a handful of tickets have been sold. At their boardinghouse, they meet the stagestruck Cleopatra Pepperday (Jan Duggan) and her son Albert (Baby LeRoy). Cleopatra auditions to join the troupe, and, although she displays a complete lack of talent, McGonigle decides to let her join anyway (since she is the richest woman in town). When another member of the troupe leaves (on account of the lack of business), Wally auditions and becomes a member of the troupe (and, unlike Cleopatra, he does have talent). Another sheriff tries to force McGonigle to pay his bill by threatening to prevent the show from going on, but Cleopatra offers to pay the bill so that she can have her chance. So the troupe puts on the show for a full audience (since everybody in town wants to see Cleopatra make a fool of herself). The audience includes Wally’s father, who has come to convince his son to go back to college and to stay away from Betty. Will Wally listen to his father (and Betty), or will he stay with the show? For that matter, will the Great McGonigle be able to keep the show going, or will Cleopatra’s presence get them laughed out of town?

Like most of the other W. C. Fields films that I’ve reviewed in the past, this one was entirely new for me. Personally, I thought it was a lot of good fun, with W. C. Fields being the most enjoyable part! From his opening appearance when he deftly evades the sheriff, to his night on the train, to all his lies even to his own troupe members, Fields manages to be quite humorous! Personally, the most memorable moments are when he has to deal with Cleopatra’s child (played by Baby LeRoy), who ruins his dinner, and Jan Duggan’s Cleopatra auditioning (in that old “singing poorly while performing a song that the spectators keep thinking is about to end, only to go yet another verse and chorus” way) with “Gathering Up The Shells From The Sea Shore”. But some of the real fun here is seeing Fields juggle (which is what he originally broke into show business doing, as he quickly became one of the best), using balls and cigar boxes. The film is slowed down for about twenty minutes as we see the troupe perform the old temperance play The Drunkard, especially with it being performed in what seems to be the style of acting that would have been prevalent for the time this movie is set in (but which seems extremely odd now to us more modern audiences). This isn’t exactly the best W. C. Fields film that I’ve ever seen, but it’s entertaining, and kept me laughing throughout. In my book, that’s certainly worth recommending (especially to see Fields juggle, which I would argue is a thing of beauty to watch)!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… The Old-Fashioned Way (1934)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This release seems to be using an older HD master, but it looks pretty good. The detail is good enough (soft for some, but it is what it is), and while there is some damage present, it’s relatively minor and doesn’t take away from the film itself. Overall, this is likely to be as good a transfer as this film will get, making it the recommended way to see this fun movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 12 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Alice In Wonderland (1933)W. C. FieldsMississippi (1935)

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 (2022) Roundup Featuring… W. C. Fields

Welcome back to my new “Whats Old Is A New Release Again Roundup” series! This time around, I’m focusing on titles released in 2022 featuring W. C. Fields, whether they be on DVD, Blu-ray or 4K UHD. Short of something having been released that has escaped my notice (which is always possible), this post should essentially be completed now (outside of adding links if and when I do full reviews for any of these films). So, let’s dig into some of W. C. Fields’ films that have seen a new release in 2022, which includes You’re Telling Me! (1934), Man On The Flying Trapeze (1935) and You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man (1939)!

Remember, 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!

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… Sprucin’ Up (1935)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 16 minutes, 58 seconds)

The kids are all complaining about how their mothers make them clean themselves up. However, when a new truant officer (and his beautiful daughter) move in, everybody changes their tune! This one was decent (although a bit of a letdown after the last few). Mostly, the fun is watching Spanky (George McFarland) and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) competing for the affections of the new girl, but it also gets old fast as they get on the father’s bad side. It’s not terrible, as I’ve certainly seen far worse shorts than this. It’s just not one that leaves me with a strong desire to rewatch it as soon as possible.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Little Papa (1935)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 19 minutes, 41 seconds)

Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang want to play football, but he’s forced to babysit his younger sister. Hoping that she will be less trouble if she is asleep, Spanky and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) try to find ways to make her sleepy. This one was fairly amusing. Admittedly, it’s really a two-joke short, with Spanky first trying to wear his sister out (and getting tired himself), and then he and Alfalfa try to quietly sneak out of the bedroom (and fail to do so) after she is fast asleep. Still, it was entertaining and left me laughing, so it would be worth seeing again!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Little Sinner (1935)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 17 minutes, 31 seconds)

Spanky (George McFarland) was just given a new fishing pole for his birthday, and he wants to try it out! However, it’s Sunday, and all the other kids warn him against skipping Sunday School (but he ignores them, to his regret). This one was a lesser short, in my opinion. It certainly had its moments, especially with all the stuff that goes wrong for Spanky as he attempts to go fishing. It goes a little off the rails for the last few minutes as Spanky and his compatriots Buckwheat (Billie Thomas) and Porky (Eugene Lee in his debut as the character) find themselves stumbling upon a baptism ceremony for blacks during an eclipse, with the kids getting scared by the spirited members. Those last few minutes drag this short down (and certainly aren’t politically correct nowadays, either), which is more or less why this one didn’t work quite as well for me.

You’re Telling Me! (1934)

  • Plot Synopses: Optometrist and inventor Samuel Bisbee (W. C. Fields) is in trouble with his family. His daughter, Pauline (Joan Marsh) wants to marry Bob Murchison (Larry “Buster” Crabbe), but his high society mother (Kathleen Howard) won’t hear of it. Samuel tries to sell his puncture-proof tire to the National Tire Company, but a mix-up in cars results in his sale falling through, leaving him pondering suicide by taking iodine. He decides against it, and ends up “helping” another passenger who had some iodine (but was NOT considering suicide). That passenger turns out to be the princess Marie Lescaboura (Adrienne Ames), who decides to help him out after hearing his story. Will things turn out all right for Samuel and his family with the princess’ help, or will his family be forever ashamed of him?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 6 minutes
  • Extras: “Wayne And Shuster Take An Affectionate Look At W. C. Fields” Vintage Documentary, Trailers for The Old-Fashioned Way (1934), You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man (1939), The Bank Dick (1940), My Little Chickadee (1940) and Alice In Wonderland (1933)
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions.
    • On The Transfer: According to the Blu-ray case, this transfer comes from a new 2K master. Quite simply stated, this transfer looks quite good! It really shows off the detail in the picture. There is some minor damage in the form of scratches, dust and debris, but it’s not so bad as to mar an otherwise fantastic release!

Man On The Flying Trapeze (1935)

  • Plot Synopses: Although he caught a pair of burglars in his cellar, Ambrose Wolfinger (W. C. Fields) finds himself in jail briefly for making liquor without a permit. While he’s in jail, his brother-in-law Claude Neselrode (Grady Sutton) steals Ambrose’s ticket to a big wrestling match. On the advice of his daughter, Hope (Mary Brian), Ambrose decides to take the afternoon off from work to try to see the match anyway. However, when asking his boss for the afternoon off, he lies and says that his mother-in-law had died and he was going to her funeral. He gets the afternoon off, but will he manage to see the wrestling match (or survive when his wife and still-alive mother-in-law find out about his lie)?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 6 minutes
  • Extras: “Wayne And Shuster Take An Affectionate Look At W. C. Fields” Vintage Documentary, Trailers for The Old-Fashioned Way (1934), You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man (1939), The Bank Dick (1940), My Little Chickadee (1940) and Alice In Wonderland (1933)
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
  • My Rating: 9/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions.
    • On The Transfer: According to the Blu-ray case, this transfer comes from a new 2K master. Like You’re Telling Me!, this one looks pretty good as far as detail is concerned. Again, not all the scratches, dirt and debris have been dealt with, but what’s there doesn’t really interfere with enjoying the movie itself.

You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man (1939)

  • Plot Synopses: Circus owner Larson E. Whipsnade (W. C. Fields) has been keeping a promise to his late wife to put his kids through college. However, the circus is losing money as a result, and he has to stay on the move to keep ahead of his creditors. Larson’s daughter, Victoria (Constance Moore) has fallen for ventriloquist Edgar (Edgar Bergen), even though he and his dummy Charlie McCarthy can’t stand Larson. However, with the circus close to being taken over by its creditors, Victoria feels she must do her part by marrying the wealthy Roger Bel-Goodie (James Bush). Will true love win out, or will Victoria marry a man she doesn’t care for to help her father out?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 19 minutes
  • Extras: Audio commentary by Filmmaker/Historian Michael Schlesinger, Trailers for You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man (1939), The Old-Fashioned Way (1934), The Bank Dick (1940), My Little Chickadee (1940), Alice In Wonderland (1933), The Ghost Breakers (1940) and Murder, He Says (1945)
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions.
    • On The Transfer: According to the Blu-ray case, this transfer comes from a new 2K master. Again, this one looks pretty good. There are some scratches and other debris to be found, but nothing serious. Likely to be the best this movie will look, and I have no problem with that, as good as it came out!

My Overall Impressions

Like with the other entries in my “What’s Old Is A New Release Again Roundup” series that have focused on my “Stars/Screen Teams Of The Month,” I’m sticking to comments about my stars (in this case, comedian W. C. Fields). In these three films (You’re Telling Me!, Man On The Flying Trapeze and You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man), W. C. Fields is up to a lot of his usual antics. In all three films, he plays a father to a very loving daughter. The earlier two films have him married to a nagging wife (of varying degrees), and have him resorting to booze a bit more. In You’re Telling Me!, the film’s memorable moments include his drunken entrance to his home at the start of the film, him buying an ostrich for his wife as an “apology pet” and the golfing sketch that ends the film. For Man On The Flying Trapeze, the whole opening sequence, in which Field’s character Ambrose is first being admonished by his wife to hurry up and come to bed (while he slowly takes off his socks and neatly folds them up) before she pushes him to get up and go after some burglars in the cellar, is quite funny, as is a later sequence in which he keeps receiving tickets from different policemen for being parked in a “no parking zone,” even though he was asked by one to pull over. You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man has some unforgettable moments, mostly within the running feud between Fields’ Whipsnade and Edgar Bergen’s dummy Charlie McCarthy (capitalizing on the “feud” between them on the radio show “The Edgar Bergen And Charlie McCarthy Show”) plus his daughter’s engagement party (in which he tells stories about some rattlesnakes, which keep causing the hostess to faint, as she fears snakes) and also him partaking in a heated game of ping pong. While these films are humorous throughout due to W. C. Fields, I personally consider these to be some of his strongest moments in each.

Well, now that I’ve commented on all of these films, I’ll give you my rankings on these releases, from highly recommended (1.) to least recommended (3.):

  1. You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man (1939)
  2. You’re Telling Me! (1934)
  3. Man On The Flying Trapeze (1935)

With this group of films, it really does come down to what I think of the movies themselves as to which I would recommend. Transfer-wise, they’re all pretty similar, with each sporting a new 2K scan that contains some scratches and other debris in small amounts. So, the films themselves are the thing. I admit, even though I recommend it the highest, You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man has the most politically correct issues, with Edgar Bergen’s dummy Charlie McCarthy wearing blackface briefly (in order to cover up a black eye), not to mention Eddie Rochester’s stereotyped character. Apart from those two issues, though, it really was the most hilarious, especially with Edgar Bergen and his dummies Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd adding to the fun. The other two films are generally quite good (with the golf sketch alone in You’re Telling Me! making that film worth seeing). Man On The Flying Trapeze does feel the weakest overall as a film, but it’s still strong enough that I could recommend that film just as easily as the other two. So, I certainly suggest giving all three a try, especially on Blu-ray!