2020: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve, everybody, and it’s time to take a look back at the year 2020. First, I’ll take a look at some changes with the blog itself that have been going on. One of the big ones was me joining the Classic Movie Blog Association back in August, which has been a thrill for me. I also, early on in the year, debuted a new feature on various theatrical shorts (Coming Up Shorts!), with me adding my comments on individual shorts on every review. Over the last few months, I’ve also been changing up my review format a little, as I’ve tinkered with it to get things around to where I’d like them. It’s not something I’m doing for every post, but I’m having some fun doing it (and, I hope, entertaining all my readers in the process). After finally getting around to working on it, I debuted my new logo design a month ago, while simultaneously announcing my attempt at hosting various blogathons with my Stars Of The Month being planned throughout 2021 (starting off with Doris Day, Clark Gable and Gene Kelly, in that order).

Obviously, one big thing going on for the entirety of 2020 has been the pandemic, which, particularly for a lot of us movie fans, has resulted in us going back to our “comfort cinema.” For me, that has long been the various classic musicals I like, along with a lot of the comedies (not so much the dramas). But, I would say my plans, particularly with regard to movies I’ve been reviewing for the year, didn’t really change that much, as that was mostly determined between the movies I was given for Christmas last year, and my birthday this year. What did change a little was the movies I was willing to purchase on disc (but, then again, I already covered that in my Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2020 post last month). I started out the year by finishing up my run through of actress Ginger Rogers’ filmography (from among the films I own on disc, anyway). After that, I switched to the films featuring comedy team Bud Abbott and Lou Costello (and threw in a post on them as a screen team). I also went through a handful of the silent movies featuring Harold Lloyd, my usual noirs for November, and a few Christmas films to finish out the year. Throw in my special 200th post on the Top 10 Years At The Movies and my 250th on Top 5 Dance Routines I Would Love To Learn, and that should cover most of what I had to do this year!

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

  1. An American In Paris (1951) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Obviously, for the top spot for this year, I would choose the classic film musical starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. With great tunes from George and Ira Gershwin, including “‘S Wonderful,” “I Got Rhythm” and “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” plus a number of others, it’s worth seeing just to have that fantastic music stuck in your head! And that’s not even covering the dancing, which is great, and one of the best reasons to see this movie, especially on the big screen (which I was fortunate enough to do this year, before the pandemic hit)! Seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and watch it first chance you get! Full review here.
  2. The Music Man (1962) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Following close behind for the second spot would be the classic 1962 film musical The Music Man! This is another film with a memorable score, that’s sure to leave me with a number of fun songs stuck in my head! With a great cast including Robert Preston as the conman Harold Hill, plus Shirley Jones as “Marian The Librarian,” it’s hard not to have fun with this one! So be sure to give this one a chance, too! Full review here.
  3. Sergeant York (1941) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Gary Cooper stars as real-life WWI hero Alvin York in this film. Through his journey from a man prone to drinking and fighting to a man of faith, especially as he goes off to war, this is one of Gary Cooper’s best performances (and his first Best Acting Oscar). After years of not looking too great because of the available film elements, this movie has been carefully restored, which allows this wonderful film to shine again! Full review here.
  4. Show Boat (1936) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Currently occupying the fourth spot for one of the best movies I watched in 2020 would be the 1936 Show Boat. Featuring Irene Dunne as Magnolia Hawks and Allen Jones as Gaylord Ravenal, the story follows their romance through its ups and downs. Based on the Broadway show (and with a few new songs added for this movie by composers Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein), this is the best known version of the tale, and rightly so! Even better, this black-and-white film has been restored, and now looks magnificent! Full review here.
  5. In Person (1935) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Ginger Rogers stars as an actress in hiding after being mobbed by her fans, but she slowly gets past her fear of mobs. This romantic comedy is a bit of fun, and throws in a few musical numbers featuring Ginger herself. The film has long been “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind,” but it’s a bit more available now, and well worth seeing (in my opinion)! Full review here.
  6. Love Me Tonight (1932) (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • This early pre-Code musical is the third of four pairings for Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald. He plays a tailor, and she a princess, and through some mistaken identity shenanigans, they fall in love. One of the first (if not the first) integrated film musicals, with music provided by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. In spite of its age, this movie still works quite well, and, with a new 4K remaster, it looks stunning to boot! Be sure to give it a shot if you can! Full review here.
  7. The Naughty Nineties (1945) (Shout Factory, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • It’s Bud Abbott and Lou Costello doing their complete “Who’s On First?” routine. In any normal year, that alone is good enough for it to make the list, never mind in a year with a pandemic that left me wanting good comedy more than ever! Sure, the plot of them facing off against a group of river gamblers who took over a showboat is nothing to write home about, but Bud and Lou make this movie well worth it! Full review here.
  8. In The Navy (1941) (Shout Factory, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Another Abbott and Costello film. This time, they’re In The Navy, and joined again by the Andrews Sisters, with an assist from Dick Powell! In this film, the boys help a famous singer stay out of the spotlight (although one female photographer is bound and determined to put an end to that)! The songs here are some of the more memorable ones (particularly the title tune), and with a plethora of comedy routines from Bud and Lou, it’s a fun film I enjoy watching every now and then! Full review here.
  9. Girl Crazy (1943) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland team up again for the last film in their “let’s put on a show” series. He is a girl crazy college student sent to a boys only western college, where he finds her as the only girl. Based on the original Broadway show, and making use of a number of big Gershwin hit tunes, this one is about as much fun as one could hope for! Throw in the newly restored picture, and this movie is well worth seeing! Full review here.
  10. Lost In A Harem (1944) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Hey Abbott! We’ve got another film featuring Bud and Lou, the second of three that they made for MGM. This one features them as a pair of magicians in the Mideast who help a prince overthrow his corrupt uncle. Bud and Lou work with Murray Leonard to pull off such fun comedy routines as “Slowly I Turned” (I’m still not mentioning the place!) and “Invisible Friend,” which for me are among some of their most memorable! Yep, Abbott and Costello continue to provide the laughs! Full review here.

Honorable mentions: Roxie Hart (1942) (20th Century Fox/Disney, DVD), The Freshman (1925) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray), Pat And Mike (1952) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray)

So thank you all for sticking with me in 2020, and I wish you a Happy New Year as we head into 2021! And please let me know what movies you’ve enjoyed this year as well (whether those you’ve seen or whatever movies I’ve reviewed, whatever works for you)!

Also, if you are interested in joining in on my month-long “Star Of The Month” blogathons for 2021, whether for next month, which starts tomorrow (Doris Day), February (Clark Gable) or beyond, please be sure to check out my Coming Soon In 2021: “Star/Genre Of The Month” Blogathons post to sign up!

Previous Years

2019

2018

Screen Team Edition & WOIANRA 2019 on The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection

“Heeeeey Abbott!”

We’re back again for another round of Screen Team Edition, and, you guessed it, this time we’re focusing on that classic comedy team of Abbott and Costello! Now, the boys mainly made their movies at Universal Studios, an output that has recently been represented on Blu-ray by Shout Factory as a 28-film collection with some extras, so I will focus on them and that group of movies, with a few comments around their non-Universal output as well.

The List (numbered by order of release date):

Their Universal Output (included in The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection):

1. One Night In The Tropics (1940) My Rating: 6

2. Buck Privates (1941) My Rating: 9

3. In The Navy (1941) My Rating: 10

4. Hold That Ghost (1941) My Rating: 8

5. Keep ‘Em Flying (1941) My Rating: 7

6. Ride ‘Em Cowboy (1942) My Rating: 8

8. Pardon My Sarong (1942) My Rating: 9

9. Who Done It? (1942) My Rating: 10

10. It Ain’t Hay (1943) My Rating: 8

11. Hit The Ice (1943) My Rating: 8

12. In Society (1944) My Rating: 8

14. Here Come The Co-Eds (1945) My Rating: 9

15. The Naughty Nineties (1945) My Rating: 10

17. Little Giant (1946) My Rating: 6

18. The Time Of Their Lives (1946) My Rating: 10

19. Buck Privates Come Home (1947) My Rating: 7

20. The Wistful Widow Of Wagon Gap (1947) My Rating: 10

22. Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) My Rating: 10

23. Mexican Hayride (1948) My Rating: 10

25. Abbott And Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff (1949) My Rating: 6

26. Abbott And Costello In The Foreign Legion (1950) My Rating: 9

27. Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951) My Rating: 9

28. Comin’ Round The Mountain (1951) My Rating: 8

30. Lost In Alaska (1952) My Rating: 5

32. Abbott And Costello Go To Mars (1953) My Rating: 4

33. Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953) My Rating: 5

34. Abbott And Costello Meet The Keystone Kops (1955) My Rating: 6

35. Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955) My Rating: 8

Their Non-Universal Output (not included in the set):

7. Rio Rita (1942) My Rating: 8

13. Lost In A Harem (1944) My Rating: 10

16. Abbott And Costello In Hollywood (1945) My Rating: 5

21. The Noose Hangs High (1948) My Rating: 9

24. Africa Screams (1949) My Rating: 9

29. Jack And The Beanstalk (1952)

31. Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952) My Rating: 8

36. Dance With Me, Henry (1956)

Background info (prior to their team-up):

William Alexander “Bud” Abbott was born on October 2, 1897. His parents, Rae Abbott (a bareback rider) and Harry Abbott (a publicist and booking agent) both worked for the Barnum and Bailey Circus. As a kid, he worked at New York’s Coney Island alongside his father. He eventually got into burlesque, where he worked both onstage and off. Along with his wife, he produced a number of variety shows, and started working as a straight man when he couldn’t afford to pay anybody else. His reputation as a straight man continued to improve enough that he started working with some bigger comedians.

On March 6, 1906, Helen and Sebastian Cristillo were blessed with a son, Louis Francis Cristillo, in the city of Paterson, New Jersey. He became a good athlete, particularly in basketball and boxing. However, Lou ended up planning on becoming an actor, so he hitchhiked out to Hollywood in 1927. Work didn’t come easily, though, as he mainly worked as a laborer, extra, or stunt man. None of that paid very well, so he worked his way back towards Paterson. He would start finding work in burlesque to gain some stage experience.

As a team:

While various sources seem to indicate different ways they met, the general idea seems to be that Bud and Lou did meet a few times, but they didn’t really work together until one fateful evening in 1935. They were both working at the same theatre, the Eltinge in New York City, when Lou’s usual partner fell ill, and Bud, who was working there, filled in. The audiences responded well to them, but they did not immediately decide to team up. However, they did meet up again, and more officially became a team in 1936. They toured through burlesque shows and vaudeville theaters as they honed their routines. They gained a lot more exposure and popularity in 1938 when they performed on the “Kate Smith Hour” radio show. After that, they moved out of burlesque and onto the Broadway stage for The Streets Of Paris. Universal Studios soon signed them for one film, which would turn out to be One Night In The Tropics. While the movie itself was not well received, Bud and Lou were, and Universal quickly signed them to star in two more films. Buck Privates would establish them even more, resulting in them doing another service film (In The Navy) before their second film (Hold That Ghost) could be released. Their films were very successful, essentially saving Universal Studios from bankruptcy, and propelling them into the top 10 movie stars for quite some time, and they were number one at the box office for 1942.

Everything was going great… and then, they suffered a one-two punch. First, Lou suffered a bout of rheumatic fever, which kept him laid up for most of a year. Then, right when he was getting ready to come back, Lou’s son drowned. While that hit him hard personally, he still came back to work, and they kept making movies. Of course, audiences were starting to tire of their films, with the plots staying fairly similar. As a result of that, and possibly a fight between the two of them, they worked separately for Little Giant and The Time Of Their Lives before going back to working together. However, it was with Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (a film Lou admittedly didn’t want to do) that they were back on top. Of course, the problem with that was that they were being given a new formula to work with, which Universal pushed over the next few years. Lou had another bout with rheumatic fever after Abbott And Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff that resulted in them being off again for another year.

The fifties brought about a number of changes for Bud and Lou, most of them not good. Up to that time, their films had all been black-and-white, as Universal had been reluctant to pony up for color for any of their films. However, as part of their contracts, they were allowed to do some outside films. Using that, they made Jack And The Beanstalk and Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd in color through their own production companies. Bud and Lou also started appearing on television, first as hosts of the Colgate Comedy Hour, and then they got their own TV sitcom. The problem was, this also worked against them, as, between the TV shows, their new movies, and some of their older films that Universal was reissuing to theatres, audiences were getting overexposed to them, and growing tired of them. The fact that they were both growing older didn’t help, especially since they were being given less-than-stellar scripts, as well as facing competition from the new and much younger comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

But one of their biggest problems was the IRS. Whether because of a crooked accountant or because of gambling their money away (or some combination thereof), Bud and Lou found themselves owing a huge amount of money to the IRS. It essentially forced them to sell off a lot of their assets, including their homes. That debt really hurt them when it came time to renew their contract with Universal. They demanded more money, in the hopes of being able to pay it off, but with their films failing to be as successful as they had been in the past, Universal decided it wasn’t worth it and dropped them.

The boys tried one more time with Dance With Me Henry, an independent film that, in some respects, allowed their characters to start showing their age. Still, it didn’t go over well with audiences. They were reunited for a 1956 episode of the TV show This Is Your Life that focused on Lou. They tried, however briefly, to go to Las Vegas to do their act, but the magic wasn’t there anymore, and they disbanded the team.

The aftermath:

After they broke up in 1957, Lou tried to keep going on his own, doing a few TV appearances and the movie The 30 Foot Bride Of Candy Rock before he passed away on March 3, 1959 from a heart attack. Bud, due to the IRS going after him, came out of retirement and attempted to partner with Candy Candido, although he quickly called it quits, feeling it wasn’t the same without Lou. He did provide his own voice for the Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Abbott And Costello Cartoon Show. After a series of strokes, Bud died of cancer on April 24, 1974.

The routines:

“Two Tens For A Five,” “Smoking,” “Who’s On First?,” “Jonah And The Whale,” “365 Days – Firing,” “Mustard,” “Dice Game,” “Loan Me $50,” “Drill,” “Play The Radio,” “You’re 40, She’s 10,” “The Lemon Bit,” “7×13=28,” “Buzzing The Bee,” “Moving Candle,” “Changing Room,” “Comic Ballet,” “Figure Of Speech,” “Go Ahead And Order Something,” “Poker Game,” “Herd Of Cows,” “Crazy House,” “Go Ahead And Back Up,” “Tree Of Truth,” “Stinker,” “Handcuffs,” “Limburger Cheese,” “Alexander 2222,” “Watts Volts,” “Mudder/Fodder,” “Betting Parlor,” “Teller What?,” “Pack/Unpack,” “Piano Scene,” “Handkerchief Gag,” “Go Ahead And Sing,” “Bagel Street,” “Life Guards,” “Oyster,” “Wrestling Match,” “Higher/Lower,” “Feathers In The Cake,” “Necktie Pitch,” “Frog In The Soup,” “Silver Ore,” “Money Exchange,” “Forefathers,” “Whale Spout,” “Venusian Balloons,” “Squirrel In The Bread,” “Take Your Pick,” and more!

The set (The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection):

This set contains all 28 of the Universal-owned Abbott and Costello films on Blu-ray, from One Night In The Tropics up through Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy. The transfers range from being decent (on most of them) to being really good (mainly for some of those released individually by Universal Studios). While I wish they could all have been restored, I also realize that would have been very expensive for them to do (and would have been reflected in a much higher list price than most would be happy with). So, these are good enough for me. Extras on this set include The World Of Abbott And Costello (1965), Abbott And Costello Meet Jerry Seinfeld, Abbott And Costello Meet The Monsters, Abbott And Costello Meet Castle Films, audio commentaries on a few movies, a few featurettes, some bloopers/outtakes from several movies, and a 44-page booklet on Bud and Lou and their films from Universal.

My opinion:

Bud and Lou are among the few classic film stars I grew up with (as opposed to learning to like in my late teens or older), so it is no surprise that I am fond of them. I can say that I’ve seen most of the movies a time or two before, along with their classic sitcom. With this recent run through of their filmography, I found my opinions of some films improving, while others more or less stayed the same. I do think, as a whole, that most of their earlier films are better than some of their later fare, but there are certainly enough laughs to be found throughout their entire filmography! I have no trouble whatsoever recommending the recent Blu-ray set, in between the movies and the extras!

TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… The Naughty Nineties (1945)

We’re back again today to help the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society continue celebrating the month of July as Clean Movie Month 2020, and we’ll start off today’s double-feature with the classic 1945 Abbott and Costello comedy The Naughty Nineties.

Coming Up Shorts! with… We’re On Our Way To Rio (1943)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)

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

(Length: 7 minutes, 50 seconds)

Popeye and Bluto come to Rio, where they run into Olive Oyl as a nightclub singer. Another fun cartoon. While it may be “Popeye Vs. Bluto,” it feels better than the formula would become later on. Of course, this short is a good example of the “Good Neighbor Policy” of the times (and we also get a reference to the rationing of the period, with the points on Popeye’s can of spinach). A lot of fun here, with some fun music, too, so this one is worth seeing every now and then!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In the 1890s, Captain Sam Jackson (Henry Travers) brings his traveling show boat The River Queen to Ironville along the Mississippi River. He introduces his new cast, which includes his daughter, Caroline Jackson (Lois Collier), and new leading man Dexter Broadhurst (Bud Abbott). At the same time, three gamblers, Bonita Farrow (Rita Johnson), Bailey (Joe Sawyer) and Crawford (Alan Curtis), are told by the sheriff to leave town that night. Before they leave for St. Louis, the three gamblers plan a party for Captain Sam when he arrives there. In St. Louis, Dexter and his buddy Sebastian Dinwiddle (Lou Costello) try (and fail) to stop Captain Sam from gambling at the party. Soon, they find the gamblers now have a share in the River Queen, and decide to make use of Captain Sam’s reputation for honesty in putting in some gambling rooms while Captain Sam tries to earn enough to pay them back. Obviously, Captain Sam doesn’t like this arrangement, and even Crawford finds it distasteful after someone is shot for accusing him of cheating (that, and his growing interest in Caroline). Dexter and Sebastian try to help, but it all comes down to one quick hand of poker to determine who maintains full control of The River Queen.

Ok, let’s get it out of the way. This movie is mainly known for having the complete “Who’s On First?” comedy routine done by Bud and Lou (as compared to the partial routine used in One Night In The Tropics). Reportedly, the director had trouble filming it, as the boys caused the crew to burst into laughter every time they tried to film it, and so that laughter ended up being left in. Now, personally, I can’t claim to have heard it, but for good reason: I’m just as prone to cracking up every time I watch them do it myself, so it’s hard for me to hear anything in the background over my own laughter! “Who’s On First?” was later inducted into the National Baseball Hall Of Fame, and it is this version from The Naughty Nineties that has been playing there on monitors continuously ever since.

But “Who’s On First?” is hardly the only reason to watch this movie. The boys also have a few other routines, including “Higher/Lower” (a.k.a. “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean”) and “Feathers In The Cake.” And I certainly get a kick out of watching them deal with a sleepwalking Bailey (as played by Joe Sawyer), when he constantly attacks Lou and then pauses to say “I Must Tell This To The General” (sure, it’s not exactly politically correct, since he believes he is fighting Indians, but it’s still a fun scene, just the same). And then there’s Lou with the “catfish burgers” (or maybe I should say “cat”)! Just many wonderful moments!

I can’t deny that this movie reminds me of the 1936 Show Boat. And well it should, considering they re-used the river boat from that film as the River Queen in this one. Admittedly, The Naughty Nineties doesn’t compare to that movie. While my ratings are the same between the two, my opinion of Show Boat is reflective of what I think of that movie as a whole, while my rating of The Naughty Nineties is based on the goodwill garnered from watching Bud and Lou, ESPECIALLY with their “Who’s On First?” routine, as the music and romance of this movie are not its strengths.

Still, it’s a good Code movie. All the violence is very comical in nature, whether it be in some of Bud and Lou’s routines, or their fight with the bad guys to end the movie. Obviously, there’s no swearing, with Lou’s line “I don’t give a darn” from “Who’s On First? being as close as it gets. And while we do see the gamblers in charge for a while, it’s obvious that they will be caught by the end of the movie. But I do enjoy this movie a lot! To see Bud and Lou do one of their best-known routines is well worth it, and it’s very easy to recommend this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of the 28-film The Complete Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 16 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #7 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Here Come The Co-Eds (1945)Bud Abbott/ Lou CostelloAbbott And Costello In Hollywood (1945)

Here Come The Co-Eds (1945)The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures CollectionLittle Giant (1946)