2019: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched

OK, so originally, this was going to just be a “Top Movies Watched In 2019” list, like what I had done for last year, and that was going to be that. However, after thinking everything through, I thought I’d throw in a quick bit of “Year In Review” as well, just for the fun of it (and I’ve also gone back and altered last year’s as well to reflect that change). Starting off 2019, for my regular reviews, I continued on with some of the remaining Bing Crosby film reviews, as well as including various movies I had been given for both Christmas and my birthday (working in the handful of Errol Flynn movies that I have). In finishing off the year, I also started working my through Ginger Roger’s filmography (at least, those I own on disc), with more to come in 2020. And of course, I threw in a few film noirs for “Noir-vember,” along with some more Christmas oriented movies for most of December. Considering I was making up for a few newer releases from 2018 that I had gotten (but hadn’t reviewed yet), since doing this blog has certainly been a process of figuring out what I wanted to do and making those changes, I probably continued longer with those 2018 releases on Wednesdays than I normally would be doing. Plus, with 2019 being the 80th anniversary of 1939, that classic year considered by some to be one of Hollywood’s best years, I threw in one 1939 movie per month. While I am obviously not done yet with films from that great year, going forward they will be back to being amongst the regular Sunday reviews (or Wednesdays, when there are any new releases). Of course, among some of my special posts this year were my celebratory 100th post with my list of the Top 10 Dance Routines, a delayed post on the Crosby/Hope Road series, the screen teams of Frank Sinatra &Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire & Cyd Charisse, and a few comparisons of classic comedies and their musical remakes. About the only other thing I can think of is the switch for my video reviews (on FB) to my new YouTube channel (although those videos are me pretty much using my posts as a script, so there is little need for them unless you want to hear the sultry sound of my voice 😉 ). Of course, to truly keep up with what I am watching, I would definitely suggest keeping up with my FB fan page.

And with all that said, here’s my list, for what I think are some of the best movies I watched in the year 2019, culled from the list of 2019 Reviews, plus 2018 releases reviewed after January 1, 2019 and 2019 releases reviewed before December 30, 2019.  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. Easter Parade (1948) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In the only film that teamed up Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, Fred plays a dancer who tries to take on a new partner when his old partner decides to break up the act and go solo. A wonderful musical that’s fun to watch any time of the year, whether for Easter, spring, or just any time, with music by the incomparable Irving Berlin! Full review here.
  2. My Fair Lady (1964) (CBS Home Entertainment, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison star in this classic musical based on the Broadway show!With many wonderful songs, including “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “On The Street Where You Live,” you can’t go wrong with this movie! Full review here.
  3. Swing Time (1936) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The sixth Astaire-Rogers film, and one of their best-known! With music by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields including the classic Oscar-winning tune “The Way You Look Tonight,’ plus others, it’s hard to go wrong with this one, now that it looks better yet on Blu-ray! Full review here.
  4. The Story Of Vernon & Irene Castle (1939) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The ninth Astaire-Rogers film, and the final one for RKO Studios, finds them playing the real-life husband-and-wife dance team of Vernon & Irene Castle. A lot of fun seeing how that couple influenced a lot of things in the world of dance, with equally fun period music to go along with it! Full review here.
  5. Lovely To Look At (1952) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The second filmed version of the Broadway show Roberta, this film again deals with a man (played by Red Skelton) inheriting a French dress shop from his aunt. With the wonderful music of Jerome Kern, some fantastic dancing provided by husband-and-wife dance team Marge and Gower Champion, some great singing from Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, plus Red Skelton’s comedy, it’s hard to go wrong with this wonderful movie! Full review here.
  6. Silk Stockings (1957) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Fred Astaire’s final musical for nearly a decade, and his second team-up with Cyd Charisse. She plays a Russian commissar sent to bring back a Russian composer who is working on an American film by producer Steve Canfield (Fred Astaire). With many wonderful Cole Porter tunes, including “All Of You,” Ritz, Roll And Rock” and many others, this is an absolutely wonderful movie! Full review here.
  7. Rose-Marie (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The second film featuring America’s “singing sweethearts,” Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, finds her going after her convict brother (played by James Stewart, no less) in the Canadian wilderness, with a Canadian mountie (Nelson Eddy) close behind. With some classic music, including what is probably the BEST version of “Indian Love Call,” this class is a winner, and one of the best MacDonald-Eddy films! Full review here.
  8. Maytime (1937) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • For their third outing together, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson returned in a Viennese operetta first done on stage nearly twenty years before. With the one song returning from that show, “Will You Remember,” that alone makes the movie worth watching (but the rest of the movie is pretty good, too)! Full review here.
  9. Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The classic Judy Garland musical, all about the Smith family in 1903 St. Louis, with the then-upcoming World’s Fair! With classic music such as “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “The Trolley Song” and more, it’s hard to go wrong with this movie! Full review here.
  10. Footlight Parade (1933) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this Busby Berkeley musical, James Cagney is a showman trying to put on short prologues to be shown on stage between movies. With several classic musical numbers, including “By A Waterfall” and “Shanghai Lil,” and a new restoration from Warner Archive, this movie is a lot of fun! Full review here.

Honorable mentions: Hello, Dolly! (1969) (20th Century Fox/Disney, Blu-ray), Vivacious Lady (1938) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD), The Thin Man (1934) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray)

So thank you all for sticking with me in 2019, and I wish you a Happy New Year as we head into 2020! 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)!

Previous Years:

2018

Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2019): 1939 on… The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle (1939)

Next up from 1939, we have the final Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers pairing for the RKO studio, The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle, also starring Walter Brennan.

The movie starts in 1911, as Vernon Castle (Fred Astaire) is trying to win the affections of the leading lady in the show he is appearing in. When he tries to follow her to the beach in New Rochelle, he ends up meeting Irene Foote (Ginger Rogers) when they both try to save a drowning dog.  Irene, an aspiring actress herself, discovers that Vernon can dance.   However, she is disappointed when she comes to the show that he is in and finds out that he is only a comic actor. They start courting, and they also start rehearsing a dance routine together in the hope of being in the show. After they get married, however, they are turned down. They are offered a job over in France, but they learn too late that it was only for Vernon to do his comedy routine again. They meet an agent, Maggie Sutton (Edna May Oliver), who gets them a job at a restaurant. Once they dance there, they become quite famous, resulting in a lot of people doing ballroom dancing their way. After a while, they decide to retire, but then World War I starts up, and Vernon, who hails from England, joins the Royal Flying Corps, while Irene, who had tried to keep him from it, has to keep going on.

While considered a musical by some, I would say that it barely qualifies. I know one complaint I have heard, particularly aimed at a lot of the early film musicals, is when the movies just stop to have the stars do a song and/or dance that doesn’t advance the story or work for the character. But this movie doesn’t really do that. Being that it is a biopic about a pair of ballroom dancers, and makes use of a lot of period music (with maybe ONE new song written for the movie), I would say that doesn’t quite apply here.

I do enjoy a lot of the music, but there are two moments that stand out for me more than the others. First, I would say I enjoy Fred’s tap solo to the instrumental version of the song “By The Light Of The Silvery Moon.” He does it while is waiting for the train leaving New Rochelle, and it is the moment that Ginger’s Irene discovers that Vernon can dance. I have heard this music many times, both before my first viewing of this movie, and since, but, whenever the song gets stuck in my head, I inevitably have this version replace it, and I can see quite clearly Fred dancing to it. Obviously, I might get different mileage out of it than others, but it is still a wonderful song. The other one is a waltz medley near the end of the movie, that includes “Missouri Waltz,” “Cecile Waltz” and “Nights Of Gladness,” according to IMDB (although I don’t know the music enough to know in what order). I really enjoy the orchestration here, and it just gets me every time. The dancing is simple, but really effective in combination with the music. Again, these are some of the standout moments for me.

As you can tell, I really like this movie. I know it’s not perfect historically, with Walter being played by Walter Brennan, a white man, when the real Walter was black (and so were the orchestras providing music for the Castles). As far as I know, this was done for Southern audiences, in an attempt to get those audiences to come to the movie. I disagree with it completely (especially since Gone With The Wind from that same year was really successful), although I can partially see where they were coming from, as the Astaire/ Rogers movies weren’t doing as well by this time (a combination of the fact that this was their ninth movie together since 1933 and the fact that Fred had been labeled as “box office poison” after his solo attempt, A Damsel In Distress, had failed, with Carefree also struggling). Still, I don’t like it, although I think Walter Brennan still gives a wonderful performance, as seems to be the case in those of his films that I have seen. Other incorrect historical problems couldn’t be helped by the filmmakers, as they had to deal with the strict censors of the time. Still, I would recommend this movie, especially to those interested somewhat in the history of ballroom dancing!

The movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #4 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Carefree (1938)Fred AstaireBroadway Melody Of 1940 (1940)

Carefree (1938)Ginger RogersBachelor Mother (1939)

Walter Brennan – Nice Girl? (1941)

Marge Champion – Show Boat (1951)

Carefree (1938) – Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers (screen team)

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