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!

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!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2022) on… Murder By Death (1976)

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “Never consider murder to be business, Mr. Diamond”

And yet, for the Fall 2022 blogathon from the Classic Movie Blog Association (CMBA), that is the business, as the theme is “Movies Are Murder!” On that note, I decided to go with a murder comedy I’ve enjoyed for a long time (but haven’t gotten around to writing about yet), 1976’s Murder By Death, starring Eileen Brennan, Truman Capote, James Coco, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Nancy Walker and Estelle Winwood!

Five famous detectives and their associates have received an invitation to “dinner and a murder” at the mansion of Lionel Twain (Truman Capote). This group includes Dick Charleston (David Niven) and his wife, Dora (Maggie Smith); Inspector Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) and his adopted son Willie (Richard Narita); Milo Perrier (James Coco) and his chauffeur, Marcel Cassette (James Cromwell); Sam Diamond (Peter Falk) and his secretary, Tess Skeffington (Eileen Brennan); and Jessica Marbles (Elsa Lanchester) with her nurse, Miss Withers (Estelle Winwood). In the leadup to the dinner, there are various attempts on their lives, which all fail. During the dinner, their host (who had previously kept to himself) appears, and explains why he brought them all there. Every one of those detectives had a reputation for solving every one of their cases, and Mr. Twain wanted to bet them all that he could solve a murder before them. He predicted that one person sitting at that table would be murdered at midnight, and another would be the murderer. While he disappears, everyone else vows to stay together, although at various times, they leave the room to investigate some of the goings-on in the house. At midnight, Mr. Twain himself appears, dead (and murdered exactly as he had predicted). So, the detectives and their associates all set out to figure out who indeed murdered Twain. But will they succeed, or will Mr. Twain get the upper hand (even though he’s dead)?

Ah, the murder mystery. The genre has long been a favorite with readers and moviegoers alike. Of course, with good murder mysteries come various detectives, who become famous for their wit and their ingenuity in solving these crimes. Some authors were able to create memorable detectives that audiences loved and followed through entire series, both on the big screen and in the written word. Murder By Death was writer Neil Simon’s spoof of the detective genre. In particular, he parodied detectives from Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple), Dashiell Hammett (Nick and Nora Charles, Sam Spade) and Earl Derr Biggers (Charlie Chan). A number of big stars were offered roles (including original Thin Man actress Myrna Loy), but they turned them down. Those that did decide to take part in the film enjoyed themselves. Alec Guinness in particular thoroughly enjoyed himself, as he made the trip to Hollywood to make the film (not something he was prone to doing). In fact, he had to reassure author Neil Simon that he was having fun with it (since the author liked him so much that he offered to rewrite anything to suit him). Admittedly, some of the cast didn’t exactly have a lot of faith in the film, as Peter Sellers sold his share of the percentage back to the producers of the film, and the company that David Niven’s son was working for (and which had invested in the film) believed they would be writing it off as a tax loss. And yet, the movie ended up being the eighth biggest hit of 1976.

I first saw this film when it was given to me on DVD along with two other Peter Falk films (this film’s 1978 “sequel”, The Cheap Detective as well as the 1979 film The In-Laws). Even though I had no experience with any of the detectives that the film was spoofing (outside of Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon), I took to the film right away! The movie has a lot of twists and turns as we see the murder occur and then get solved (if you can call it that) by the film’s end. Admittedly, the film’s ending does leave you with a number of rather big plot-holes, but, at the same time, it’s so fun that I can easily forgive the movie as I get swept up in the proceedings! In general, I think all of the cast do quite well, from Peter Falk’s excellent imitation of Humphrey Bogart, to David Niven and Maggie Smith, who come off quite similarly to William Powell and Myrna Loy’s Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man films. Personally, I think that Alec Guinness’ role as the blind butler Jamessir Bensonmum is one of his best, as he is quite funny (especially with that name!). I have to throw in a SPOILER ALERT to say this, but he is at his absolute best when we see him at the end of the film, revealed as the culprits by the various detectives, and he changes his manner and character so well every time that one of the detectives comes in and accuses him of being somebody different. END SPOILER ALERT

Besides Alec Guinness, I also really like Peter Sellers here. Normally, I don’t care for him at all, but his performance as Sydney Wang is a real delight (even if it isn’t exactly politically correct, since he’s wearing yellowface to appear Asian). Quite frankly, he’s one of the most quotable characters in the film for me, with this line being a personal favorite:

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “Conversation like television set on honeymoon. Unnecessary!”

But aside from some of his sayings (or “stories” as he calls them), I most enjoy his interactions with Truman Capote’s Lionel Twain, who is almost a grammar Nazi with regards to Wang’s ability to speak English, as exemplified by this exchange:

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “What meaning of this, Mr. Twain?”

-Lionel Twain (Truman Capote) – “I will tell you, Mr. Wang, if you can tell me why a man who possesses one of the most brilliant minds of this century can’t say his prepositions or articles. ‘The,’ Mr. Wang, ‘What is the meaning of this?”

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “That’s what I said. What meaning of this?”

Of course, I just love how Wang refers to a moose head mounted on the wall (which Twain is using to watch them) as a “cow on wall.” Quite frankly, my only really serious complaint about this movie is that these two don’t interact enough.

Apart from that, I do know that this movie isn’t for everyone. Aside from Peter Sellers being made up to look Asian, the movie has a number of other things going on that keep it from being politically correct. In general, there are a handful of racist comments (usually directed towards Peter Seller’s Wang or his Japanese son, played by Richard Narita). There are definitely some issues with sexism going on, and a number of homophobic comments as well. Plain and simple, it’s not a perfect film. But, it’s one I have enjoyed seeing on an almost yearly basis (especially around the Halloween season) ever since I first saw it, and it’s one that I highly recommend (at least, for those who can get past its issues). And with that, I leave with a quote that admittedly needs another spoiler warning (since it comes from the end of the film, and hints enough at the film’s ending), but it’s one that feels apropos for the whole “Movies Are Murder!” blogathon (not to mention, it’s certainly how things sometimes feel when things don’t go our way). So thank you all for reading (and don’t let the “murder” referred to in this quote be the situation for you this weekend, either 😉 )!

SPOILER ALERT

-Willie Wang (Richard Narita) – “I don’t understand, Pop. Was there a murder or wasn’t there?”

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “Yes. Killed good weekend.”

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… Murder By Death (1976)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory. The transfer seems to be using an HD scan. For the most part, it looks pretty good. There is some damage in the form of specks and dirt, but it’s really only visible on bigger and better TVs. Overall, it’s the way that I would recommend seeing the movie.

Film Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #9 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964) – Peter Falk

Naughty Marietta (1935) – Elsa Lanchester

Magnificent Doll (1946) – David Niven

The Notorious Landlady (1962) – Estelle Winwood

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2022) on… Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

Like Doris Day with our look at Lullaby Of Broadway (1951) earlier this month, we’ve been a little overdue for another James Cagney film. And what better way to come back to him than with one of his more famous gangster films, Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), also starring Pat O’Brien!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Teacher’s Beau (1935)

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

(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. This was yet another hilarious short. Most of the fun stems from the ways that Spanky (George McFarland) tries to interfere, only for his plans to backfire. In particular, him and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) trying to dress up as a “rival” (who doesn’t fool the fiancé for one minute) really left a strong impression on me. To a large degree, this one feels fairly similar to the earlier talkie School’s Out (1930), but it still feels fresh enough (and funny enough) that I would gladly watch it again!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Out Where The Stars Begin (1938)

(Available as an extra on the Angels With Dirty Faces Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 19 minutes, 15 seconds)

A Broadway dancer (Evelyn Thawl) has come out to Hollywood to get into the movies. With the help of a makeup man (Jeffrey Lynn) and the director’s assistant (Charley Foy), she becomes the movie’s prima ballerina. This was a fun little musical short. The music itself is fun (although not exactly memorable), with a dance sequence that takes up the majority of the short. Mostly, it’s entertaining seeing some of the various stars and movie sets of big 1938 films in 3-strip Technicolor. I know I enjoyed it enough to see it here and there!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Porky And Daffy (1938)

(Available as an extra on the Angels With Dirty Faces Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 32 seconds)

Daffy Duck is a boxer being managed by Porky Pig. When Porky sees an ad offering money to somebody who can beat the champion rooster, Porky immediately gets Daffy in the ring! This rather fun short was from the era when Daffy was still relatively new, and very, very zany. In this short, most of the humor is derived from the wacky ways that Daffy tries to fight with the rooster. That’s not a problem for me, as I always enjoyed Daffy, regardless of how screwy he could be (and here, he IS screwy), so I don’t mind coming back around to this one as well!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Two young kids, William “Rocky” Sullivan and Jerry Connolly, try to steal some fountain pens from a train car, but Rocky is caught when they try to evade the police. Jerry wants to come forward to help Rocky out, but Rocky insists that Jerry should clam up. Fast forward nearly fifteen years, and Rocky has been through reform school and spent several years behind bars. Upon being released from prison, Rocky (James Cagney) returns to his old neighborhood, where his friend Jerry (Pat O’Brien) is now a priest and trying to keep the local kids out of trouble. At Jerry’s insistence, Rocky finds a place to stay in a boarding house, where he runs into another old friend, Laury Martin (Ann Sheridan), whom he takes an interest in. Rocky’s next order of business is to see his lawyer, Jim Frazier (Humphrey Bogart) (who had insisted that Rocky take the fall for a robbery the two of them were involved with while promising Rocky that he would get his share of the money when he got out of prison). Jim, now working for gangster Mac Keefer (George Bancroft), doesn’t have the money readily available, and offers to get it together within the week. After leaving Frazier’s office, Rocky runs into some local boys, who pick his pockets. However, he follows them to their hideout (which also used to be HIS hideout when he was younger), where they learn just who he is. He quickly gains their confidence, and helps Jerry to get the kids to behave (although Jerry wonders whether Rocky will end up being a bad influence for the kids). On his way home, some thugs sent by Frazier attempt to kill Rocky, but he turns the tables on them. Afterwards, Rocky kidnaps Frazier and, in the process, also gets his hands on some information that Mac and Frazier were using to blackmail the city officials. With Frazier in his hands, Rocky demands a ransom from Mac of nearly $100,000. After giving him the money, Mac then tries to have Rocky arrested, but finds out from a newly freed Frazier that Rocky has the blackmail information. As a result, they drop the charges, essentially making Rocky another partner. Rocky tries to give some of the money to Jerry to help build a gym, but Jerry wants nothing to do with the tainted money. In fact, he warns Rocky that he’s going to go after all the gangsters in town, including Rocky himself. Jerry’s efforts start to gain traction, leaving Mac and Frazier trying to figure out how to get rid of both him and Rocky. Rocky manages to put an end to their plan (and to them as well), but is caught by the police. Will Rocky continue to be a hero to the end for the boys (as a gangster), or will Jerry be able to show them that Rocky’s way is wrong?

In the mid-1930s, James Cagney had a big contract dispute with Warner Brothers when he sued them for pushing him to do more films in a year than he was willing to do. While the court case went on, he made some movies for Grand National Pictures. Writer and director Rowland Brown came up with the story for Angels With Dirty Faces and, after pitching it at some of the various studios, was able to sell it to Grand National Pictures, who wanted Cagney to do it. However, Cagney had tried to avoid becoming typecast in tough guy roles and took on Something To Sing About for the smaller studio (with the film underperforming at the box office). With the lawsuit getting resolved and Cagney coming back to work for Warners, he brought the story with him (which the studio decided to buy). For the role of Rocky Sullivan, James Cagney (who had grown up on the Lower East Side of New York) was inspired by a drug-addicted pimp he had known (who particularly inspired some of Rocky’s mannerisms and the phrase “Whaddya hear? Whaddya say?”) as well as his childhood friend Peter “Bootah” Hessling (who was convicted of murder and executed in the 1920s). It all worked out well for Cagney, as the picture itself was a big hit, and his performance resulted in his first Oscar nomination.

It’s taken me a long time to finally get around to seeing Angels With Dirty Faces. I’ve known of the film for a long time (especially having grown up with the first two Home Alone films and their title spoofs of the “movies” Angels With Filthy Souls and Angels With Even Filthier Souls that Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister watched), and the combined star power of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart made the film an attractive one. However, apart from a clip used in the TCM Scene It? DVD game, I’ve never had the chance to see the movie until this last year. Quite simply stated, it lived up to (and beyond!) my expectations. James Cagney alone carries the movie as a tough gangster who still has a soft spot for his old friend Jerry Connolly (played by Cagney’s offscreen friend Pat O’Brien) and the church. From start to finish, I was mesmerized by him! The ending for his character is ambiguous, and, although it was likely demanded by the Hays Office as part of the Production Code in force at the time, it still feels genuine to me. And, although it’s still early in his career, Humphrey Bogart also leaves a strong impression as a lawyer who thinks he can outwit Cagney’s Rocky (yet is caught every time). The movie kept me on the edge of my seat frequently, especially when the thugs came after Rocky and again when the police were hunting him down. This film is considered a major classic, and I definitely think it deserves that status! I personally might go so far as to call it my favorite gangster film, so I have no hesitation in giving it some of my highest recommendations! Seriously, go see it as soon as possible!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. The transfer comes from a 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative. It’s a typical Warner Archive release. In short, beautiful picture quality with the level of detail being shown off perfectly, and all the dust, dirt and debris has been removed. It’s a perfect release for a (in my opinion) perfect movie, and it’s highly recommended!

Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Footlight Parade (1933)James CagneyEach Dawn I Die (1939)

Stand-In (1937)Humphrey BogartThe Maltese Falcon (1941)

Ann Sheridan – Dodge City (1939)

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2022) on… International Lady (1941)

Today, we’re here to look at a 1941 spy thriller called International Lady starring George Brent, Ilona Massey and Basil Rathbone!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Beginner’s Luck (1935)

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

(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. It’s yet another short focused on Spanky, and the results are once again hilarious! Spanky brings the fun, whether dealing with a meddlesome parrot or doing his recitations (especially when he defends himself against everything the Gang was throwing at him). Of note with this short is the debut of future Our Gang star Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (although not as the character he would become known for). I laughed from start to finish on this one, which in my book makes it worth recommending (and I’ll certainly be coming back to it whenever I can)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

During the London bombing by the Nazis, Tim Hanley (George Brent) runs into concert singer Carla Nillson (Ilona Massey), and invites her to a bomb shelter/nightclub. There, they run into music critic Reggie Oliver (Basil Rathbone), who joins them. However, Tim and Carla had been followed there by somebody, and Tim decides to go down to the police station with the man to do something about it. There, he is joined by Reggie, and it is revealed that neither Tim nor Reggie are who they claimed to be. Tim (who had claimed to be a lawyer working with the U.S consulate) was actually an FBI agent while Reggie was from Scotland Yard, and they were both with Carla because she was suspected of being part of a ring of saboteurs trying to stop American planes from being shipped to England. However, the two men can’t quite agree on how to handle the case, resulting in Tim trying to sneak Carla off to Lisbon (without Reggie), where he helps her get a visa to America. While in Lisbon, Carla sneaks away to meet with members of the sabotage ring to get her new “music” (which is the code for the organization). Tim had seen her sneak away and tried to follow, but the cab he tried to take quickly lost sight of her. Reggie joined them after they got back together, and the three finished out the trip to the U.S. together. Once in the country, Carla went her way to the home of chocolate magnate Sidney Grenner (Gene Lockhart) (who was also the head of the ring of saboteurs) to prepare for his radio program (where they would use the music to communicate with the other members). At the party being held for Carla’s “concert,” Reggie goes undercover as a waiter, and snoops around while everybody is listening to Carla sing. He overhears a telephone conversation between Grenner’s “butler” Webster (George Zucco) (who is an expert marksman) and another member of the ring. After the concert, Tim finds Carla’s sheet music, and, discerning the existence of a code on there, he writes it down to pass off to another agent. When Webster sees Tim alone in the garden, he is suspicious and takes a shot at Tim (but doesn’t kill him on purpose). Carla discovers that Tim is an FBI agent, but she doesn’t reveal it to anybody else until after Tim has left the premises. With time running out as the saboteurs follow through with their plans to destroy all the planes being sent to England, Reggie works hard to crack their code. But will he succeed in time? And will Carla’s feelings for Tim stop her from continuing to take part in the sabotage (or will she let Tim get killed)?

Honestly, I hadn’t heard of this film at all until it was announced for a Blu-ray and DVD release from ClassicFlix (but more on that in a moment). I’ve come to enjoy trying out the different films that ClassicFlix has been putting out, so I was willing to give it a try (and the presence of Basil Rathbone in the movie certainly didn’t hurt its appeal). In general, the film turned out to be better than I had anticipated. I found the film’s way of showing the saboteur’s code being sent while Ilona’s Carla was singing to be an interesting way of portraying it. I have mixed feelings about George Brent’s performance, as I don’t think he fully works as the leading man in this film, yet I like his relationship with Basil Rathbone’s Reggie, as the two almost work well as a comedy team (with their main comedy bit being the language difference between British and American slang). Even apart from his dealing with George Brent’s Tim, Basil Rathbone really carries the film, especially when he is in disguise at the party (which is almost hard to notice at first unless you are really looking for it, which is saying something). You won’t really find a lot of tension here (especially since this is considered a spy thriller), and you won’t find much in the way of shootouts. Still, I found it to be a very entertaining film (and one I’m glad to have seen), and I think it’s worth giving a chance!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… International Lady (1941)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from ClassicFlix as part of their Silver Series line of releases. According to a post by the founder of ClassicFlix on one of the forums I frequent, their original plan was to release the film on DVD only, but they were given an HD master by the owner that was good (but not quite good enough for their main line of releases, and would be too expensive of a proposition for them to do a new and better master). Having seen it now myself, I’m still very impressed with a picture that looks quite good, with very little damage evident, and a fairly sharp picture throughout. Overall, it’s a very good transfer given a pretty good release on disk. Given that it’s part of their “no frills” Silver Series, there are no extras beyond a few trailers for some of ClassicFlix’s other releases, and there are no subtitles for those who need them (but dialogue is still relatively easy to understand the majority of the time).

Film Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Jezebel (1938) – George Brent – Tomorrow Is Forever (1946)

Balalaika (1939) – Ilona Massey

The Mark Of Zorro (1940) – Basil Rathbone – The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad (1949)

The Sea Wolf (1941) – Gene Lockhart – Going My Way 1944)

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2022) on… Lullaby Of Broadway (1951)

It’s been a while since I’ve watched (and reviewed) any of Doris Day’s films, so I’m back today for her 1951 musical Lullaby Of Broadway, also starring Gene Nelson!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Anniversary Trouble (1935)

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

(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. This one was absolutely hilarious from start to finish! Much of the humor is derived from Spanky being called to go see his father at the office (since his parents thought he stole their envelope) while the Gang waits for their money (since they disbanded the club and want their money back). One of Spanky’s methods in trying to get away is questionable for modern audiences, since he tried to don blackface to disguise himself as Buckwheat in an attempt to get away. Still, the short was an entertaining twenty minutes that I wouldn’t mind seeing again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

American entertainer Melinda Howard (Doris Day) has been in Europe for a number of years, but she’s earned enough that she decided to come home to New York City to surprise her mother, Jessica Howard (Gladys George), whom she believes to be the toast of Broadway. When she arrives at her mother’s mansion, Melinda meets the butler, Lefty Mack (Billy De Wolfe), who is also a friend of her mother’s. A surprised Lefty lies, telling her that her mother is on tour with a show, and is renting the place to brewer Adolph Hubbell (S. Z. Sakall) and his wife, Anna (Florence Bates). The truth is that Jessica has fallen on hard times as a result of her alcoholism, and the mansion is owned by the Hubbells. Lefty gives Melinda a place to stay in the servants’ quarters, and lets Mr. Hubbell know what’s going on. Since Mr. Hubbell is throwing a party that many Broadway performers have been invited to, Lefty hopes to get Jessica there to briefly see Melinda. At the party, Broadway producer George Ferndel (Hanley Stafford) tries to convince Mr. Hubbell to invest in his show. Mr. Hubbell refuses to do so because his wife is insisting that he not do so, and because Ferndel won’t let him do anything more than pay for the show. Meanwhile, one of Ferndel’s stars, Tom Farnham (Gene Nelson) (whom Melinda had unknowingly met on the boat to America) tries to spend time with Melinda (who was more open to him at the party than she had been on the ship). Melinda is disappointed when her mother doesn’t show at the party (because she had been hospitalized for drinking too much, although Melinda was told that she had to stay with her “show”), and vows to stay until she gets a chance to see her mother. With the food bills at the Hubbell household rising while Melinda stays, Lefty makes a suggestion that Mr. Hubbell should take her out to a restaurant, where she would be noticed by Ferndel (and also prove that Mr. Hubbell was not too old-fashioned to be involved in show business). As a result, she now has a part in the new show, with the opportunity to spend more time with Tom. Trouble arises when Mr. Hubbell spends too much time with Melinda and everybody else misconstrues their relationship. Things come to a head right before the show opens, when Mrs. Hubbell finds out about Melinda spending so much time with Mr. Hubbell, and she decides to divorce her husband. With everything falling apart, will Melinda be able to see her mother and perform in the show, or will she pack up and go back to Europe?

While actress Doris Day had originally planned to come to Hollywood as a dancer, a car crash ended that dream (resulting in her focusing on her singing instead). However, as she started to become a big star at Warner Brothers, she worked with dancer Gene Nelson and his wife Miriam to get back into dancing shape for her first starring role in Tea For Two (1950). With that film proving to be successful, she was paired up again with Gene Nelson for Lullaby Of Broadway. Gene’s promotion to leading man was mostly the result of him winning the 1950 Golden Globe for Best New Star (in Tea For Two) (that, and his Tea For Two co-star Gordon MacRae was proving to be an uncooperative contract player at Warners). Once again, Doris worked with Gene and his wife on the routines for Lullaby, including dancing on the staircase for the title number, which made her nervous. Onscreen, that nervousness didn’t show, and the film proved to be yet another hit for Doris Day and Warner Brothers.

I’ve had the opportunity to watch Lullaby Of Broadway a couple times this year (hadn’t seen it prior to the recent Blu-ray release), and it’s one that I will gladly admit to enjoying! Most of the fun is seeing a lot of the cast of the previous year’s Tea For Two together again (minus Gordon MacRae, as I mentioned before). The film is full of memorable tunes (culled from the catalog of music owned by Warner Brothers at the time), including the title tune, “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me,” “Just One Of Those Things,” “I Love The Way You Say Goodnight,” and several others. Doris Day is in fine voice for all of her songs, and she proves once again that she can dance, whether alone or with Gene Nelson! Honestly, the only complaint I have on her dancing is the slow motion section that ends “I Love The Way You Say Goodnight” (I think Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are great enough as a team to pull it off slow motion dancing in Carefree, but Doris isn’t as good technically, so it shows off her faults a bit more). As for her co-star Gene Nelson, I like him, but I’m not sure he fares as well as a leading man for two reasons: 1) he is fairly obviously dubbed on his singing voice (by Hal Derwin) and 2) compared to his earlier roles in The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950) and Tea For Two (1950), his dancing here seems “tamer,” lacking some of the acrobatic stuff and lifts he did before (which, in this case, makes him more like your average dancer as opposed to being a standout like he was in those earlier two movies). Apart from those two complaints, I’m good with him. S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall is fun as always, and Billy De Wolfe is funny in what feels like a rare role (for him) as a decent guy, especially when he does the comic routine to the song “You’re Dependable” with Anne Triola as the maid (and his girlfriend) Gloria Davis. I’m not quite as fond of this film as the earlier Tea For Two, but it’s still an entertaining musical with some fun music and dancing! As I said, I’ve already had fun watching it a few times in the time that I’ve had it on disc, and I certainly would recommend it!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Lullaby Of Broadway (1951)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. I haven’t been able to find anything specific about what was used for the transfer on the Blu-ray, but it’s still a typical Warner Archive release of a 3-strip Technicolor film. In short, the color looks great, and the picture has been cleaned up of all dust and dirt. However, this is a rare instance where I do have a complaint about the transfer, and that’s with some of the audio. The main problem is that the tap sounds for some of the dances (particularly Gene Nelson’s dance number “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart”) don’t quite sound right, as if that part of the audio wasn’t done right (similar to what I’ve heard was the problem on the initial pressing of Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ 2022 Blu-ray release of Blue Skies before that was corrected with a subsequent pressing). Since I only first saw this film through the Blu-ray, I have no idea whether that was something new or whether it’s always been that way. If it is a new problem for the Blu-ray, I wouldn’t say that it’s anything major (and, as far as I know, there has been no movement towards Warner Archive fixing it, which doesn’t surprise me after all the issues that they’ve had behind the scenes throughout the pandemic), so I still think that this release is worth it.

Film Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Tea For Two (1950)Doris DayOn Moonlight Bay (1951)

Tea For Two (1950) – Gene Nelson

Tea For Two (1950) – S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2022) on… The Ten Commandments (1956)

Since it’s Easter today, I’m back for a brief interruption of my month-long break for another film that’s appropriate for this time of the year!  This time, we’re going with the classic 1956 Cecil B. DeMille biblical epic The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo, John Derek, Vincent Price and John Carradine!

When Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses I (Ian Keith) is warned by his wise men that a star has announced the birth of a deliverer for his Hebrew slaves, he orders the death of all the newborn Hebrew boys.  Defying his edict, Yochabel (Martha Scott) puts her newborn son in a basket, and then places the basket in the Nile River.  The basket floats down the river, where it is discovered by the Pharaoh’s daughter, Bithiah (Nina Foch).  Believing the child has been sent from her late husband, she decides to take him in as her new son and names him Moses.  Her servant Memnet (Judith Anderson) sees the Hebrew swaddling cloth and warns her against doing this, but Bithiah forbids her from ever revealing Moses’ Hebrew ancestry.  Fast forward a few decades, and Moses (Charlton Heston) is enjoying great success.  He enjoys the favor of Bithiah’s brother, Pharaoh Sethi (Sir Cedric Harwicke), after a military victory against Ethiopia (and its resulting alliance).  Sethi’s son, Rameses II (Yul Brynner), had been tasked with building a city in time for Sethi’s jubilee, but he has been unable to complete it due to the Hebrew slaves awaiting the arrival of their deliverer.  With the two men vying for the hand of the Egyptian princess Nefretiri (Anne Baxter) (who has been promised to Sethi’s successor), Sethi tasks Moses with the job of finishing the city, and asks Rameses to find the deliverer (if indeed he exists).  When Moses gives the Hebrews one day of rest for every seven days and allows them to raid the temple granaries for food, Rameses and the temple priests try to use this to prove to Sethi that Moses intends to lead the slaves in rebellion against him.  However, Sethi finds that Moses has instead made great progress on building the city, and is now all but assured of being the next pharaoh (to the delight of Nefretiri). Everything is looking up for Moses.

Then things change when Memnet reveals Moses’ Hebrew origins to Nefretiri. While Nefretiri kills Memnet to stop her from spreading the story any further, Moses still learns the truth about his Hebrew ancestry. In the process, he joins with his real family and the other Hebrews in doing slave labor. Nefretiri tries to get him out of there, and reminds him that he could do more good for his people as the next pharaoh. However, Moses still needs to see the master builder, Baka (Vincent Price), before he will do anything more. That proves problematic, as he kills Baka when he finds him torturing the stonecutter, Joshua (John Derek), who had tried to rescue his girlfriend, Lilia (Debra Paget), from being taken advantage of. The Hebrew overseer, Dathan (Edward G. Robinson), sees all this, and, since he was tasked by Rameses to find the so-called Hebrew “deliverer,” he turns Moses in. At Sethi’s jubilee, Rameses reveals Moses “betrayal,” and Sethi has no choice but to make Rameses the next pharaoh. Rameses decides to have Moses exiled in the desert, expecting him to never return. Moses survives the desert, and meets shepherdess Sephora (Yvonne De Carlo), along with her sisters. While he still pines for Nefretiri, he decides to marry Sephora and start a family. One time, while tending sheep near Mount Sinai, he sees a burning bush on the mountain and decides to investigate. There, he hears the voice of God, telling him to go back to Egypt to free the Israelites from their slavery. But will Moses be able to change the heart of the pharaoh with God’s help? (Okay, that question has a VERY obvious answer, but we’ll go with it, anyways.)

In the 1920s, director Cecil B. DeMille filmed a silent film version of The Ten Commandments (which had a prologue that told the story of the biblical exodus before switching to a modern story about two brothers and how they viewed the Ten Commandments). The film was a success, and spawned a “trilogy,” with him doing the silent film The King Of Kings (1927) and later doing the 1932 talkie The Sign Of The Cross. After doing The Greatest Show On Earth (1952), he wanted to remake The Ten Commandments, but this time with a focus on the life of Moses. In spite of his then-recent successes, Paramount’s board of directors were initially hesitant to approve the idea, but they came around at the urging of the studio head, Adolph Zukor. DeMille did a lot of research on the subject, taking inspiration from books like The Prince Of Egypt by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, Pillar Of Fire by Joseph Holt Ingraham and On Eagle’s Wings by Arthur Eustace Southon as well as various historical texts (including the Bible, obviously). He did some location shooting in various places in Egypt, but Charles Heston, Yul Brynner and Henry Wilcoxon were the only major cast members to join him there for the actual shoot (with Yul Brynner really only there to film as Rameses leading the Egyptian chariots after the Hebrew people). The movie proved to be a huge hit with audiences, the biggest of Demille’s career. It also proved to be his last film as director, as his health went downhill (not helped by a heart attack that he suffered from partway through filming, although he was able to quickly return and finish the movie), and he would pass away a few years later in 1959.

I’ve seen The Ten Commandments many times over the years, through VHS, DVD, Blu-ray and now 4K UHD (but more on that in a moment). In short, I like it very much!! It was my first Cecil B. DeMille film, and it’s certainly made it easier for me to try some of the other films that he’s done as a director (even if this one does still remain my favorite of the bunch). And as a DeMille film, I can certainly say that it emphasizes the spectacle over the acting (and boy, does it). Don’t get me wrong, the actors and actresses do pretty well here. Charlton Heston as Moses is very much an iconic role, and I have yet to see any other actor I like better as Moses. That’s just how good he is here. Of course, Yul Brynner makes for a very good villain as Rameses, jealous of Moses’ success and determined not to let Moses get the better of him. Anne Baxter leaves a strong impression as Nefretiri, a temptress bound and determined to get what she wants (and heaven help the people that get in her way, regardless of how she feels for them). And then there’s Edward G. Robinson as the ambitious stool pigeon Dathan (a role that rescued him from being blacklisted at the time), who proves to be just as villainous as he tries everything he can to stay in Egypt after he gains power himself. Seriously, the performances here all make the film enjoyable. While the special effects themselves don’t look the best, I’d still say that they’re quite impressive (especially for a film made WAAAAY before CGI ever became a thing). Arguably, this is my favorite biblical epic, and for that reason, I have no problem whatsoever in recommending it (especially this time of the year)!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… The Ten Commandments (1956)

This movie is available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Pictures. For UHD, there are two options: a regular release that mainly contains the film on one UHD and two Blu-rays (plus some extras on the Blu-rays), or as a limited edition steelbook edition that includes everything in the regular version plus an entire disc of extras (on Blu-ray) that also includes the 1923 silent film version directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The transfer on the UHD still uses the restoration performed for the Blu-ray (released nearly a decade ago), which was already very good, and yet, the extra work done to put this film on 4K UHD shows off this movie just that much more! The colors pop much more, and the textures on everything are even more visible! Honestly, the only times this movie doesn’t look as good (and this is not the fault of the restorationists, but the original filmmakers themselves) are the moments where double exposures are used for the cast members that were not able to film on location. This was the first 4K UHD I was able to see (but, as some may have seen, the second one I have commented on, following my updated review of My Fair Lady, also from Paramount), and it was to my eyes quite spectacular to see. I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending the 4K UHD (especially the limited edition if you can still get it)!

And with that, I bid you “Happy Easter,” as I now resume my break from blogging for the rest of the month. Of course, come the first of May, I will indeed be back to feature my next Screen Team Of The Month (but you’re still going to have to wait until then to see just who I am featuring)! In the meantime, keep enjoying some good (or great) movies!

Film Length: 3 hour, 52 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #10 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Charlton Heston – Ben-Hur (1959)

The Sea Wolf (1941) – Edward G. Robinson – Two Weeks In Another Town (1962)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you).  If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… The Reluctant Debutante (1958)

We’re back for my last review of the year!  In this case, that would be the 1958 film The Reluctant Debutante starring Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall, John Saxon and Sandra Dee!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Screwdriver (1941)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)

Woody is speeding through the countryside in his car, and decides to pick on a traffic cop watching for speeders. This one was still fun, especially with Mel Blanc voicing the character for the third and final time (in the shorts). Woody’s dealings with his car before he gets to the cop are entertaining, but it’s his torment of the cop that is when the real fun of this short begins! He drives the cop crazy (enough to send him to a mental hospital), where Woody shows up as one of the doctors! The character still sports the same design as he had in the previous short Woody Woodpecker, and provides fun and laughter (I know I certainly was laughing throughout)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

English banker Lord James “Jimmy” Broadbent (Rex Harrison) and his wife, Lady Sheila (Kay Kendall), are eagerly looking forward to the imminent arrival of his 17-year-old American daughter (from a previous marriage), Jane (Sandra Dee).  When they pick her up at the airport, Jane and her stepmother seem to hit it off quite well.  However, that is relatively short-lived, as Sheila runs into her gossipy friend Mabel Claremont (Angela Lansbury) and her daughter Clarissa (Diane Clare).  At first things are all right, with Jane and Clarissa going off to see the changing of the guard, while Jimmy, Sheila and Mabel go back to the Broadbents’ home.  During that time, all Mabel can talk about is the upcoming debutante season (where the parents of seventeen-year-old girls throw a lavish ball to help initiate them into society), which depresses Sheila, as she had missed her own due to the advent of World War II.  When Jane and Clarissa arrive, Sheila announces that Jane would also be taking part in the season (much to Jane and Jimmy’s surprise).  At the first ball, Jane dances with all the boys, but is completely bored by everything (and doesn’t bother to hide it).  Sheila tries to pair Jane off with the royal guard David Fenner (Peter Myers), but Jane is bored by him, too (not to mention the fact that, while she and Clarissa had been off on their own, Clarissa had told Jane that she had a crush on David Fenner).  However, Jimmy runs into a drummer named David Parkson (John Saxon), and he introduces him to Jane (since we have two Davids in the story, from here on we will refer to them as either Fenner or Parkson).  Jane is fascinated by him and enjoys his company.  However, Sheila is less than thrilled at this development, especially when her friend Mabel reveals that he has a less than stellar reputation due to a scandal the year before, and tries to separate them.  Of course, there’s not much trouble there, as Parkson has to leave to help take care of a sick uncle for a few weeks.  Meanwhile, Jane, Jimmy and Sheila continue to attend balls nightly (which leaves Jimmy completely exhausted), and Jane continues to show no interest in any of the boys.  With Jane’s ball fast approaching, Sheila starts getting desperate, and calls Mabel to ask for Fenner’s phone number.  Out of spite, Mabel instead gives her Parkson’s number.  So, Sheila calls him up, and invites him to dinner with everybody that night (which he accepts).  Shortly after she ends the call, Fenner calls up to invite Jane out to dinner alone.  Instead, Sheila advises against it, and makes sure he knows to come out with them to dinner.  At the restaurant, they are joined by Mabel and Clarissa, and both Davids show up.  Jane, of course, is happy to see Parkson (and the two of them quickly realize Sheila’s mistake).  Jane convinces him to take her out to a nightclub after he finishes playing the drums at the ball that night.  Sheila, meanwhile, insists on keeping an eye on them at the ball (and pushes Jimmy to do so as well).  Fenner, meanwhile, tries to kiss Jane against her will (out of sight of everybody else), but she gets away from him and runs off with Parkson before her parents can stop her.  Back at their home, Jimmy and Sheila wait for her to come back, with Sheila bound and determined to stop Jane from seeing Parkson again.  Will Sheila get her way?  Or will Jane (and Jimmy) be able to convince her that Parkson isn’t such a bad guy?

The Reluctant Debutante started out in London, England, as a 1955 play by William Douglas Home.  One of MGM’s London exectuives saw it in a pre-London tryout and loved it.  Their enthusiasm prompted producer Pandro S. Berman to see it.  He liked it as well, and convinced MGM to buy the film rights and finance a New York production as well.  In casting the film, Berman wanted rising comedienne Kay Kendall to play the part of the mother (with a little change of making her the stepmother, since she was fairly young herself, at the age of 32).  They brought in Rex Harrison to play the father (especially since he and Kay Kendall had recently married, and were looking for another project to do together after having both been in the 1955 British film The Constant Husband).  The film ran into script troubles, with Julius Epstein making some changes to the story that Rex Harrison didn’t approve of.  They planned to film in Paris, France, mainly because Harrison was a tax exile (trying to live outside of Britain for most of the year to avoid their high income tax), but with him committed to a London production of My Fair Lady, that meant they had to solve their script problems quickly.  So they brought in the original playwright, who changed a lot back to what had originally worked well for the play.  When the movie premiered, critics liked it, but outside of New York and London, audiences didn’t come, resulting in the picture losing money.  Sadly, it was also Kay Kendall’s second-to-last picture, as she was already dying from leukemia (which she and her husband kept as a secret from everybody).

Prior to this film’s Blu-ray release (more on that in a moment), I can’t really say that I had heard of this one.  The presence of Rex Harrison and Angela Lansbury in this movie is what really appealed to me (I hadn’t seen anything yet with Sandra Dee, and I’ve only seen Kay Kendall previously in Les Girls, where her performance didn’t register as strongly with me).  So I was very happy to discover this almost-forgotten film!  Rex Harrison was as good as I could have hoped for, and Kay Kendall certainly provided the comedy quite memorably! I know I had quite a few laughs out of watching the two of them reacting when Sandra Dee’s Jane and John Saxon’s Parkson go out to a nightclub (and even more so when the young couple arrive home and are being spied on)! Then, of course, there was the whole thing with Kay’s Sheila trying to call Fenner (when she was given Parkson’s number instead), which is just delightful in all the confusion that happens. But also, as a fan of many of the MGM musicals, I can appreciate the background music with the familiar strains of music from some of the studio’s earlier films (it’s the result of a musicians’ strike that happened during post-production, but it’s still entertaining, just the same). I can’t deny that the film’s main concept (with the “season” and all the balls and such) is a bit dated, but the film acknowledges that by referencing the then-recent decision of the queen to abolish the idea (not to mention Jane and Rex’s Jimmy disliking the whole idea). So, we have a case of “out with the old, and in with the new” that almost makes this a good film to watch around New Year’s (although I could easily watch it any time of the year). I would say that the film’s biggest problem, though, is the character of David Fenner. Most of the film’s humor concerning the character revolves around his only topic of conversation being traffic (and directions to various places). That’s fine, that’s not a problem. What IS (and may indeed be enough to offset that) is the fact that SPOILER ALERT he practically assaults Jane at the one ball, and it later comes out that HE is the cause of the scandal that David Parkson was accused of. In short, he is a rapist, and, outside of the fact that Jane turns down his marriage proposal, he essentially gets away with it scot-free (with Clarissa going out with him instead). Whether you can live with that aspect of the film will certainly affect how you come away from it. For me, the rest of the film more than makes up for it (particularly all the better comedy moments), and I would indeed recommend it!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Reluctant Debutante (1958)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, with the Blu-ray sporting a new 2K master (if I am correct).  Personally, I think it looks fantastic!  The detail looks quite good, as does the color.  The picture has been cleaned up of all dirt and debris.  In short, the Blu-ray is certainly the best way to see this fun film!

Also, if you are interested in joining in on my first month-long “Screen Team Of The Month” blogathon for 2022 featuring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, please be sure to check out my Announcing the Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy “Screen Team Of The Month (January 2022)” Blogathon post to sign up!

Film Length: 1 hour, 36 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Rex Harrison – My Fair Lady (1964)

Les Girls (1957) – Kay Kendall

The Harvey Girls (1946) – Angela Lansbury

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you).  If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

We’re back for another Preston Sturges film with the classic 1941 movie Sullivan’s Travels starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Fly My Kite (1931)

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

(Length: 21 minutes, 4 seconds)

Grandma (Margaret Mann) faces eviction by her former son-in-law, but the Gang do their part to help stop his plans. This was another fun and sentimental short in the series, with the kids again facing off against a “villain” trying to do harm to Grandma. Jim Mason does well as the son-in-law, who makes us hate him and cheer on the Gang when they try to stop his plans. Overall, very entertaining, which is par for the course with these Our Gang shorts!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Hollywood director John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is known for his comedies, but he wants very much to direct the tragedy O Brother, Where Art Thou. His bosses at the studio, Mr. LeBrand (Robert Warwick) and Mr. Hadrian (Porter Hall), think he’s had too soft a lifestyle and hasn’t suffered enough to be able to make the movie, and would much prefer that he make another comedy. Agreeing with them on the point that he doesn’t really know suffering, he decides to dress as a tramp and take to the road to experience trouble. His bosses aren’t thrilled with the idea, but they make a demand of their own by sending along a bus (or, as the film refers to it, a “land yacht”) with a doctor, secretary, reporter, photographer and chauffeur to attend to his needs. Wanting to ditch them, Sullivan hops in a jalopy with a kid and makes a mad dash for it, with the bus trying its best to keep up. After a long chase, Sullivan finds himself unable to ditch the bus, but convinces everyone on board to let him go it alone for a while, with plans to meet up later in Las Vegas. He stops at a farmhouse to do some work there for a widow, but when he finds that she has other plans for him (besides working), he tries to sneak out at night. He gets away (making a lot of noise in the process), but the truck he hitches a ride with ends up bringing him right back to Hollywood. He stops at a diner for a cup of coffee, and he finds himself with some ham and eggs, paid for by a failed wannabe actress (or “The Girl” as the credits list the character played by Veronica Lake). In return, he tries to offer her a ride somewhere by pretending to be a friend of director John L. Sullivan. However, they are arrested by the police, and only freed when his butler (Robert Greig) and valet (Eric Blore) bail them out. At first, “The Girl” is angry at how Sullivan had tricked her, but when she finds out about his “experiment,” she insists on joining him. He protests the idea, but she won’t give up on it. The next day, with both of them dressed in tramp costumes, they hitch a ride on a train with all the other tramps. When they get off the train, they find themselves near Las Vegas. They find the bus, where they make a brief stop (mostly for Sullivan to start recovering from a cold he caught), and then they’re off again. They see what life is like for other tramps and homeless people, and Sullivan feels he has seen enough. However, he has one last thing he wants to do before returning to Hollywood, and he walks the streets, handing out five dollar bills (nearly five thousand dollars worth) to homeless people. One of them, who had stolen his shoes (which contained his identification), sees him doing this and decides to steal it. The man hits Sullivan on the head at a train yard, and drags him onto a train. He tries to get away with the money, but ends up getting killed by a train. Meanwhile, a confused and amnesiac Sullivan gets himself into trouble by fighting with a railroad worker when he wakes up, and is sentenced to six years of hard labor. Will Sullivan ever remember who he is, or will his friends ever find him, especially with someone else dead that they assume is him because of the I.D. in the shoes?

Actor Joel McCrea and Preston Sturges had originally met on the set of The Power And The Glory (1933) (which Preston Sturges wrote the script for), and they got along well. After Preston Sturges made the leap from writer to writer/director with the films The Great McGinty and Christmas In July, he came up with an idea for Sullivan’s Travels based on his feeling that some of his fellow writers were getting a little too preachy in giving their comedy films messages and needed to lay off the idea. He had only one person in mind to play the character of John L. Sullivan: Joel McCrea. Joel McCrea was surprised to have a script written specifically for him, as he felt that, most of the time, the scripts were written for Gary Cooper and he got them when Gary turned them down. For the otherwise unnamed “Girl” in the picture, Sturges cast Veronica Lake, who kept it secret that she was pregnant (until after filming had started), so that she could do the film. Of course, a few knew about her pregnancy, and they worked around it with different camera angles and costumes to hide it. The film received mixed reviews, and wasn’t as popular at that time, but it has grown in popularity over time as people have come around to the way it was made.

I’ll admit, when it came to the order I was planning to do my Sunday reviews in the month of October, I was really vacillating between different ways of doing it. Ultimately, I opted to go with the current order, leaving this post on Sullivan’s Travels to debut on October 31. While it wasn’t my original intention, I do find it to be the most fitting film of the bunch for Halloween itself. I mean, we’ve got our main character dressing up for a lifestyle that he knows almost nothing about. Of course, in what was a nightmarish scenario for the character, he did find himself increasingly becoming what he was pretending to be. But, in doing so, he did indeed walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, giving him a better view of life and how to help out others in his own way. Obviously, this isn’t a scary movie (unless you’re somebody rich who dreads becoming poor and unable to get out of trouble with your money), but it’s still a good Halloween movie.

Even ignoring the timing of this post, I’ll still say this was a wonderful movie. In some ways, it really hits home with the power of laughter. I know I certainly haven’t had things as bad as being in a prison gang (like the main character), nor as bad off as some of the others here were shown to be, but I do know that life is hard, and I do find myself enjoying breaks from that with comedies (and musicals). And this film does have some good comedic moments, what with the car chase near the beginning, which is the most screwball moment in the whole film! While things do calm down a bit after that, I still enjoy all the fun at Sullivan’s pool, and how his servants help him figure out how and where to get on the train. Admittedly, my biggest problem with this movie is its big shift in tone, going from screwball comedy (with a little romantic comedy in between) all the way to being a drama without many laughs for most of the last part of the movie. With the movie’s overall “message” on the importance of laughter, that does make it feel discombobulating to go so long without humor. Of course, I had already heard about that tonal shift before seeing this movie, so I was prepared. In that same vein, I also feel the need to forewarn you, that this movie is neither a pure comedy nor a pure drama. If you’re prepared for that, then there is a good movie to be found here. I do prefer Preston Sturges’ pure comedies like The Lady Eve and The Palm Beach Story much more, (and I Married A Witch with Veronica Lake), but I still find this one worth recommending!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Internes Can’t Take Money (1937) – Joel McCrea – The Great Man’s Lady (1942)

Veronica Lake – I Married A Witch (1942)

Road To Zanzibar (1941) – Eric Blore – The Sky’s The Limit (1943)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… The Great McGinty (1940)

Here and there this year, I’ve been looking into films that were either written by Preston Sturges or written AND directed by him, and I’m back for another movie he wrote/directed with the 1940 film The Great McGinty starring Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus and Akim Tamiroff!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Sky Blue Pink (1968)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 11 seconds)

The Pink Panther tries to fly a kite, but keeps causing trouble for the Little Man. It’s a fun cartoon, with a mix of things going wrong (hilariously) for the Panther, and his actions having unintended consequences (also quite funny) that keep affecting the Little Man. Of course, the Little Man’s frustration with the Panther grows, resulting in him actively going after the Panther by short’s end. The gags all work pretty well for me, and make this one quite easy to revisit for a few good laughs!

And Now For The Main Feature…

At a soup kitchen, some crooked politicians try to recruit some homeless men to vote for the incumbent mayor Wilfred H. Tillinghast (Arthur Hoyt) in various precincts by offering two dollars per vote. One enterprising man, Dan McGinty (Brian Donlevy), goes off and votes thirty-seven times. This act catches the eye of the local political Boss (Akim Tamiroff), who hires him to extort protection money from various people. Eventually, McGinty becomes an alderman. When the mayor and many other politicians are caught in corruption, the Boss, who has a hand in every political party, decides to pick McGinty to be the next mayor as part of the reform party. The problem for McGinty? The Boss wants him married so that he can have the women’s vote. McGinty turns him down, until he talks with his secretary, Catherine (Muriel Angelus), who suggests a sham marriage so that he can get the women’s vote, and he agrees. After they get married, he learns that she has two children from a previous marriage, but decides to stick around anyways, since it’s not a “real” marriage for them. It’s all enough for him to be elected as the mayor, and he continues in his unscrupulous ways. However, after nearly six months of marriage, he finds that he does indeed love Catherine and her children. This love results in her starting to express her more idealistic politics to him, as she hopes that he will develop more of a conscience. McGinty is reluctant to follow through, as he feels that he doesn’t have enough power as the mayor to buck the Boss. Will he eventually have enough power to go against the Boss’ wishes? Or will he continue his unscrupulous ways in spite of his wife and family?

Preston Sturges wrote the story under the title The Story Of A Man way back as far as 1933, intending it as a vehicle for Spencer Tracy. When that failed, he tried to sell it to the Saturday Evening Post (but they didn’t want it, either). Up to that point, he had been writing his stories for the various studios he worked at, but he didn’t always like what the directors did with his films, and longed to direct them himself. After Remember The Night, he made the decision to direct his scripts himself. He tried selling The Story Of A Man to Paramount Studios at the low price of $10, on the condition that he, and only he, was to be the one who would direct it. They agreed, giving him a budget of $350,000, a three-week shooting schedule, and some of their more inexpensive stars. The movie wasn’t a big hit, but it did well enough that Preston Sturges was given the chance to keep working as a director.

I’m coming off my first time seeing this film, and going into it, I really had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by a decent movie. Sure, there are no big stars here, but, in some respects, that works much better, as you can see them as the actual characters much easier. I can’t deny that, in spite of its age, this film still feels quite relevant with regard to the world of politics. The political rallies shown certainly haven’t changed, with one rally complaining about the other candidate and their corruption, while the other (led in this film by Skeeters the Politician, as played by Sturges regular William Demarest) builds up his candidate and all the “things he has done for the people.” Watching Brian Donlevy’s Dan McGinty as he goes from being completely unscrupulous to gaining a conscience as he listens to his wife is a fascinating story. I’ll admit, the fights between McGinty and Akim Tamiroff’s Boss character are some of the most amusing parts of the story (especially how indifferent those around them are to the fights). I do think that some of Preston Sturges’ later comedies like The Lady Eve and The Palm Beach Story are far better, but I enjoyed this film a lot (and I certainly hope to get a chance at some point to see The Miracle Of Morgan Creek with Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff reprising their characters). I would definitely recommend this one!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Great McGinty (1940)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics coming from a new 4K master. My own opinion here is that this new transfer looks quite good! The detail is quite superb, and the picture has been cleaned up of a lot of dirt and debris. There are some shots that don’t look *quite* as good as everything else, but I suspect those are due to available elements and/or the way the film was originally put together. Certainly not something that would stop me from recommending a wonderful release of this entertaining movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Jesse James (1939) – Brian Donlevy – The Great Man’s Lady (1942)

Spawn Of The North (1938) – Akim Tamiroff – Can’t Help Singing (1944)

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!