“Star Of The Month (February 2022)” Featuring Deanna Durbin in… Because Of Him (1946)

We’re back for another film featuring this month’s Star, Deanna Durbin! This time, it’s her 1946 film Because Of Him, also starring Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Barber Of Seville (1944)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 56 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker stops in at the Seville Barber Shop for a haircut, but the owner is out for his physical. When an Indian chief and a construction worker come in, Woody proceeds to wreak havoc on the two men. This was another fun one! I’ll admit, it quickly brings to mind the later Rabbit Of Seville Bugs Bunny cartoon, given its references to the Barber Of Seville opera, and is not quite as much fun as that Looney Tunes cartoon. The biggest problem here is the series of stereotyped gags revolving around the Native American customer. Take away that, and this one is a lot of fun, especially once Woody starts in singing “The Barber Of Seville Overture” while working on the construction worker. That sequence alone is well worth it (and, compared to some of the previous shorts, Woody Woodpecker is now sporting the look that he seems to be best known for)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Lead stage actor John Sheridan (Charles Laughton) has just finished a successful run in the play Cyrano De Bergerac, and is looking forward to enjoying his vacation doing nothing but fishing. However, his producer, Charlie Gilbert (Stanley Ridges), is trying to line up the cast for John’s next show, Strange Laughter, currently being written by Paul Taylor (Franchot Tone). The playwright and producer both have an actress in mind for the lead, but John wants somebody else (but doesn’t say who before leaving). On his way to his fishing spot, John stops at a diner, where he gives an autograph to his waitress, Kim Walker (Deanna Durbin). What he doesn’t know is that the piece of paper that she had him sign was a typed letter of introduction to Charlie Gilbert endorsing her for the role! With the encouragement of her friend and roommate Nora Bartlett (Helen Broderick), Kim takes the letter to Charlie’s office. Charlie (who was unable to get ahold of John since John had given him false information as to where he would be going fishing) takes the letter at face value and decides to give her the part. When he comes into Charlie’s office, Paul (who had met her on the street and tried to flirt with her) questions her about her stage experience. When he finds out that she has none, his attitude toward her changes, and he decides that she cannot have the part. Choosing to go with “John’s” advice, Charlie decides to ignore Paul, and throws a party at John’s apartment to announce her for the role. John arrives at his apartment while the party is going on (having ended his vacation early due to frequent rain preventing him from doing any fishing), and quickly finds out what is going on from his butler, Martin (Donald Meek). He allows Kim to keep her deception going, but tries to walk her home as soon as possible. Once they arrive, he admits that he does like her, but advises her to return to her hometown. Seeing how devastated Kim is over his words, Nora decides to call up the newspapers and tell them that Kim attempted suicide because of John’s rejection. The next day, after seeing the news, John decides to go “reconcile” with her and take her out to a nightclub (merely for the sake of appearances). Afterwards, he still believes she should abandon her hope of acting. That is, until he hears her sing, and then he decides to give her the part in the play. When she arrives back at her apartment, she runs into Paul, who had seen the paper and thought that she had tried to commit suicide because of him. They start to fall for each other, and he offers her the part. Then he sees the script that John had given her, and, although she tries to tell him the truth, he refuses to believe her. In rehearsals, he really picks on her acting, which results in John threatening to leave the show if Paul doesn’t stop. So, Paul leaves, with John now directing the show. As the show opening gets closer, Paul sues to have his name removed from the play. Kim tries to convince him to come see the final rehearsals, but he won’t budge. Will the play be a success? Will Paul come to his senses about Kim?

After It Started With Eve, Deanna Durbin had tried to branch out with different types of roles under producer Felix Jackson (who became her second husband in 1945). She tried tackling some more dramatic roles, but her fans much preferred her in the musical comedies that she was known for. So, Universal made plans for her to work with her It Started With Eve co-star and friend Charles Laughton (although the film was originally to be titled Catherine The Last). When Franchot Tone (who had co-starred with her in Nice Girl? and His Butler’s Sister) was brought in, the title became Because Of Him. When released, the film received mixed to bad reviews, which certainly didn’t help Deanna Durbin out any as her career was now winding down.

Quite simply stated, another Deanna Durbin film, another new one to me, and another one that I liked! Overall, it was quite a fun film, and kept me laughing throughout! Deanna is fun as a wannabe actress trying to find an inroads into the profession (even if she really doesn’t know much about acting), and Charles Laughton’s John Sheridan is also a hoot! I thoroughly enjoyed watching him ham things up as an actor constantly borrowing lines from his plays and making everything more dramatic (and teaching her a thing or two in the process). Plain and simple, their relationship is the heart of the film, and makes it quite entertaining!

In spite of that, though, I will readily admit, it’s one of the weaker Deanna Durbin films I’ve seen so far. The main issue I have with the film is the relationship between Deanna’s Kim and Franchot Tone’s Paul, as they spend most of the film at odds with each other. It starts out innocently (and humorously) enough, as he flirts with her when he meets her on the street (even if she doesn’t give him her phone number). Then, when he realizes that she is an amateur trying to make it into his play, he soundly rejects her for the part, and never lets up (except when he briefly believes that she attempted suicide “because of him”). The idea that they are “in love” just doesn’t work too well for me. I’m also not too crazy about the music in the film, although I will say that I enjoyed how it was staged (with Deanna singing “Good Bye” standing out quite a bit, as she tries to pester Paul throughout his hotel in an attempt to get him to come to the final dress rehearsal). With regards to Deanna’s co-stars here, I don’t think this film is as good as It Started With Eve or Nice Girl? (can’t speak to His Butler’s Sister, as I haven’t seen that one yet). It was still an entertaining one that I look forward to seeing again and again (whether on its own merits or in watching any of Deanna’s filmography)! Certainly one that I would recommend!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Because Of Him (1946)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios. The Blu-ray release appear to be an HD scan that overall looks very good, with little to no damage evident. I’ll admit, I was surprised to see this one released on Blu-ray, since it was NOT one of the nine Deanna Durbin films that Kino Lorber had licensed (with six of them getting dropped when the first three-film set bombed). I didn’t expect this release, but it looks quite good, and is probably the best way to see this very fun film!

Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Can’t Help Singing (1944)Deanna DurbinSomething In The Wind (1947)

It Started With Eve (1941) – Charles Laughton – Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952)

Nice Girl? (1941) – Franchot Tone – Here Come The Groom (1951)

Nice Girl? (1941) – Helen Broderick

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

“Star Of The Month (February 2022)” Featuring Deanna Durbin in… Can’t Help Singing (1944)

I’m here now for my first film in this month-long celebration of actress Deanna Durbin with her 1944 film Can’t Help Singing, co-starring Robert Paige, Akim Tamiroff and David Bruce!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Ration Bored (1943)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 51 seconds)

Disregarding the idea of conserving gas and tires, Woody Woodpecker goes out for a drive, only to run out of gas at the bottom of a hill. He and his car are then smacked into a junkyard, where he siphons gas from a few other vehicles, including a cop car (with the cop in it). Seeing as this short was released during World War II, it’s hard to cheer for Woody at first as he ignores the good sense to conserve gas (although it’s hard not to laugh when, as he sees a sign asking if a trip is really necessary, he replies with “Sure, it’s necessary. I’m a necessary evil!”). Once he starts dealing with the poor cop, then it’s a little more typical Woody Woodpecker (and a much better cartoon from that point on). Certainly not the best Woody cartoon I’ve seen in this bunch, but I can’t deny it was worth a few laughs!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s the time of the gold rush in California, and the U.S. cavalry has just delivered the first shipment of gold to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. After finding out the results of the recent election, cavalryman Lieutenant Robert Latham (David Bruce) has rejected the daughter of an outgoing senator in favor of the daughter of the more popular (and successful) Senator Martin Frost (Ray Collins). The senator knows that the lieutenant is a political opportunist, but his daughter Caroline (Deanna Durbin) believes the lieutenant’s intentions to be true, and wants to marry him. Trying to discourage the romance, the senator uses his political connections to get the lieutenant sent back to California as quickly as possible. That’s not enough to stop Caroline, as she tricks her father into giving her enough money to catch up to the lieutenant and runs away. Once she gets to Independence, Missouri, she finds out that her only way forward is to join up with the wagon train heading west. After she realizes that she has been conned into buying a wagon by Sad Sam (Andrew Tombes) (who doesn’t own the wagon that he “sold” her), she tries to get her money back. However, Sad Sam has lost the money in a poker game to another card sharp, Johnny Lawlor (Robert Paige). When the owner of the bar announces that the local marshal has warrants for many people, including card sharps and the daughter of a senator (whose father is offering a substantial reward for her return), they both skedaddle. Johnny realizes that Caroline is the senator’s daughter, but he can’t quite turn her in by himself due to the warrant for his arrest. She decides to offer him double what her father is offering in exchange for getting her to Fort Bridger (where her fiancé is stationed), with the money to be paid by the rich Jake Carstairs (Thomas Gomez) (whom she claims is her fiancé instead of the lieutenant). Johnny reluctantly agrees to the proposition, and they pay for the wagon that Caroline had tried to buy earlier (but this time, from the rightful owner). They find themselves joined by Prince Gregory Stroganovsky (Akim Tamiroff) and his friend Koppa (Leonid Kinskey), who had been trying to get into Caroline’s trunk after she had previously told them it contained her valuables. In order for their group to join the wagon train, they have to pretend that Gregory is Caroline’s husband (since the leader of the train doesn’t want any unattached females that he has to help keep out of trouble). Over the trek, Caroline and Johnny argue a bit, but they also find themselves falling for each other. The spell is broken, though, when the train nears Fort Bridger, and Johnny helps Caroline join up with another family heading that way. But will their love bring them back together? Or will Johnny find out the truth about who she was going to see?

Ever since the late thirties, there were plans to showcase actress Deanna Durbin in Technicolor, but for various reasons, she either ended up not doing the films being planned, or they were done in black-and-white. Finally, they ended up pulling it off with Can’t Help Singing, a film that was based on the story Girl of the Overland Trail (written by Samuel J. and Curtis B. Warshawsky). The film was at least partly shot on location in Lake Arrowhead, California as well as various places in Utah (including, but not limited to, Johnson Canyon, Duck Creek, Cascade Falls, Navajo Lake, Strawberry Point, and Cedar Breaks). Up to that point, Can’t Help Singing was one of Universal’s more expensive films to produce, but it ended up being pretty well received, and was nominated for Oscars with regard to the score and the song “More And More.”

Like all the other Deanna Durbin films that I’ve seen (and reviewed), this film was new to me, and I will readily admit that I think it’s one of her better films! In color, she (and the scenery) look quite beautiful (and it certainly makes me wish that she had done more films in Technicolor)! As usual, her singing is superb, but I will definitely admit to liking the title song quite a bit, with the song “Californ-I-Ay” coming in a close second. That latter song has led some to compare the film a little bit to the stage classic Oklahoma, but I would say that the movie feels to me like a version of the classic screwball comedy It Happened One Night set in the old west (after all, we have a daughter’s potential marriage being rejected by her father, her running away to see her boyfriend, only to fall for someone else who helps her out). I certainly wouldn’t say that Can’t Help Singing is anywhere near as good as that classic, but it’s an enjoyable film with a fun cast, beautiful (and fun!) music, and great scenery! In short, like all the other Deanna Durbin movies I’ve seen so far, I would recommend this film without a moment of hesitation!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Can’t Help Singing (1944)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios. By and large, this movie looks quite good on the recent Blu-ray release! It really seems to show off the Technicolor look quite well! There seems to be some (barely noticeable) dirt here and there, but, again, it doesn’t really distract from the movie itself. I certainly like how it looks, and would have no hesitation in recommending the Blu-ray as the best way to see the movie (especially since it was one of the nine films originally licensed by Kino Lorber but dropped when their first set of Deanna Durbin films failed to sell)!

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #4 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

It Started With Eve (1941)Deanna DurbinBecause Of Him (1946)

The Great McGinty (1940) – Akim Tamiroff

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!

“Screen Team (Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy) Of The Month (January 2022)” Featuring Nelson Eddy in… Phantom Of The Opera (1943)

We’re here now to finish off our month-long celebration of Screen Team Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy by looking at one more of Nelson’s solo outings: the classic 1943 film Phantom Of The Opera, which also stars Susanna Foster and Claude Rains!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Screwball (1943)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker tries to watch a baseball game without paying, but has to deal with a policeman trying to stop him. While the idea of a cartoon character watching a baseball game and getting involved isn’t exactly an original idea, this short was indeed fun! There was a lot of hilarity here, from the policeman dealing with all the people watching through holes in the fence, to Woody dealing with other people in the stand so that he could see the game, to him going out on the diamond! This may not be the best baseball cartoon, but it provided quite a few good laughs, and I certainly want to come back and see this one again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

At the Paris Opera, chorus girl and understudy Christine DuBois (Susanna Foster) finds herself torn between two suitors: Inspector Raoul Daubert (Edgar Barrier) of the French police (who wants her to abandon a career in the opera) and the opera lead Anatole Garron (Nelson Eddy). Unbeknownst to her, she has another admirer: violinist Erique Claudin (Claude Rains), who has been anonymously helping to pay for her expensive singing lessons. However, that is about to come to an end, as he is losing the use of some of his fingers on his left hand, which has affected his playing enough that the orchestra leader Villeneuve (Frank Puglia) has let him go. Besides no longer being able to pay for Christine’s singing lessons, he also faces eviction, so he makes a desperate attempt to sell a concerto that he has written to a music publisher. When the publisher tries to throw Claudin out (while somebody in the other room is playing his music to attempt to help get it published), Claudin assumes that his music is being stolen, and strangles the publisher. The publisher’s assistant throws some etching acid in Claudin’s face to get him to stop, and he runs out of there. With nowhere else to go, Claudin makes his way into the sewers under the Paris Opera. He soon steals some costume pieces (including a mask), some food and the master key of the Paris Opera, an act of thievery that the superstitious stage manager Vercheres (Steven Geray) attributes to a ghost/phantom. At the next opera performance, Christine hears a voice promising to help her advance in her career. During the show, the Phantom drugs opera diva Biancarolli (Jane Farrar) and, as her understudy, Christine goes on in her place. Christine turns out to be a sensation, but afterwards, Biancarolli threatens to charge her and Anatole with attempted murder. She has no evidence to support her charge, but she relents when she blackmails everyone into trying to forget that anything happened that night (particularly where Christine is concerned). At the next show, the Phantom tells Biancarolli to leave Paris, but, when she refuses, he kills her and her maid. Anatole sees the Phantom and tries to give chase, but the Phantom escapes. As a result, the Paris Opera is closed by the orders of Inspector Daubert. When the Phantom sends a note demanding that the opera reopen and Christine be made the lead, the Inspector decides to allow the opera to reopen (but with someone else in the lead to lure the Phantom out of hiding). Meanwhile, Anatole has a plan of his own to get the Phantom out into the open. But will either of their plans succeed, or will more death and destruction occur until or unless the Phantom gets his way?

In 1925, Universal Pictures released a silent film version of the Gaston Leroux novel featuring Lon Chaney as the Phantom. The film was successful enough that Universal started producing a series of horror films, including the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, amongst others. A remake of Phantom was considered in the mid-30s, but it was shelved when the studio’s financial woes resulted in the ousting of Carl Laemmle (Universal’s owner and co-founder) and his son from the studio. Plans were revisited in the early 1940s, with the likes of Deanna Durbin, Boris Karloff and Allan Jones being cast. However, several of those stars became unavailable (Deanna Durbin mostly because of a suspension for several months), and the movie was briefly considered as a vehicle for new comedy team Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. After Deanna’s suspension was over, she was again considered for the role of Christine DuBois, only for her to finally turn it down when Nelson Eddy was cast in the role of Anatole (mostly because she respected his regular screen partner Jeanette MacDonald and didn’t want to be compared to her). With Claude Rains cast as the Phantom, work was begun in earnest, with part of the film’s budget going towards soundproofing the opera stage (which had been used in the 1925 silent film). The film received mixed reviews, but still did well at the box office (well enough that a sequel bringing back Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster and Claude Rains was considered, but story issues and Claude Rains being unavailable resulted in the film, eventually called The Climax, being changed so that it was not related to Phantom at all, with only Susanna Foster returning, albeit in a different role).

One thing I should say about this movie, now that I’ve seen it, is that it is one that will leave a lot of people divided. For the most part, this movie tends to get lumped in with some of the other Universal horror films, and it really isn’t one. Realistically, you can simplify what most seem to think of it with one quick statement: too much opera, and not enough Phantom. So, due to it being counted as a horror film (a genre that I’m really NOT fond of), I had a lot of hesitation going into this movie. Doing this Screen Team blogathon is what finally pushed me into trying it, and quite simply stated, I really liked this Phantom! The lack of horror worked better for me, as did the almost-musical nature of the film (for the most part, it’s mainly confined to them singing onstage). Nelson Eddy is still in good voice, and he manages to keep his comedic abilities going (which really got their start in The Chocolate Soldier two years earlier). Most of the comedy bits have to do with Eddy’s Anatole and Edgar Barrier’s Inspector Daubert competing for the affections of Susanna Foster’s Christine DuBois, with the two of them frequently trying to come through a doorway at the same time.

Now, is this movie perfect? Certainly not. While I like the lack of horror, I still think it needed to be a bit more present than it was (now, to be fair, I’ve never read the original story, and the only other way I’ve seen this story is a half-hour episode of the TV series Wishbone, so I’m certainly not the best judge on how well the story was actually done). I don’t feel like Claude Rains’ Phantom is as threatening as he should be, and the final sequence where his character kidnaps Christine just doesn’t leave me feeling like she’s really in that much danger. Given that that feels like an overall weaker spot in the film to me, I blame it on the direction (as I feel that none of the actors make you feel the urgency of trying to catch up to the Phantom like they should). I also think that the Phantom’s makeup and costume aren’t as effective as they should be, since what we can see of his face around the mask doesn’t look the same as when we finally see the mask taken off at the end of the film. In spite of these issues, though, I did have a good time with this one, and I look forward to revisiting it periodically (particularly around Halloween, but anytime of the year will work for me). As long as you can live with the opera music/lack of horror, then I think this film is worth recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Chocolate Soldier (1941)Nelson EddyMake Mine Music (1946)

Now, Voyager (1942) – Claude Rains – Notorious (1946)

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!

2021: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve, everybody, and it’s time to take a look back at the year 2021. Like the rest of life, change happens here as well, so let’s dig into a couple of things that did change. We’ll start off with one relatively minor one that you probably wouldn’t notice if I didn’t mention it: I’m now making this post an annual thing for New Year’s Eve. Sure, I also did it on New Year’s Eve last year, but the reality is that, apart from my first year when I posted it on Thanksgiving alongside that year’s Top 10 Disc Release post (although it was technically a Top 5 post to start with), I was generally doing it the day after my last review for the year. Plain and simple, I felt this year that it needed to be a New Year’s Eve post every year. Simple as that. I’ve also been working here and there on logos for my various series, and renamed a couple (with one more renamed column making its debut in 2022). I’ve changed a few minor details with my review designs, and made some changes to my homepage’s look.

And there are a few more changes in store going into 2022. I don’t know if many noticed, but I had a HUGE number of posts this year, with my regular Sunday posts, almost every Wednesday (until the last couple of months) for my posts on new physical media releases, plus my newly named Film Legends Of Yesteryear column once a month, as well as entries in my series of The Long And The Short (Series) Of It, Original Vs. Remake, Coming Up Shorts! and Screen Team Edition. It was nice trying to push my limits, just to see how far I could go, but I can’t deny that, for the last few months, I’ve been feeling like I pushed it too far, with too many posts (normally, I like to have my regular Sunday posts written almost two months before they are published, but the last few months, I’ve been finishing a few within the last day before my scheduled publishing date). So, going ahead, I will be pulling back a little. As I mentioned in my last Film Legends Of Yesteryear post, that series will no longer be an extra one, and will instead be part of my regular Sunday or Wednesday posts (whenever I have films that are from 1939, include actress Rita Hayworth amongst the cast, feature screen teams or whatever else I decide to add down the line). I will also no longer be doing any more than two or three posts a month in my What’s Old Is A New Release Again series (if I have more, I’ll just lump all of them into one post with brief descriptions, with a later post to follow in November for titles included in my “Top 10 Disc Release Of The Year” post). How much I do for any of the other non-Sunday series will vary, but the main idea is that I want (and need) to pull back a little for now.

Of course, what we were all here for was the movies, and that didn’t change much. Most of the year has been focused on my various Star Of The Month blogathons, featuring actors and actresses like Doris Day (January), Clark Gable (February), Gene Kelly (March), Cary Grant (May), Claudette Colbert (June), James Cagney (July), Barbara Stanwyck (August) and Humphrey Bogart (November), with one detour in September focusing on the musical genre. Besides all those, I also saw a number of films from writer/director Preston Sturges, with a general emphasis on the comedies, and also had a once-a-month focus on actress Rita Hayworth. My biggest discovery for this year, though, would be the films of child star Deanna Durbin. I had barely heard of her before (but hadn’t seen any of her films), and now, I’ve seen at least six of her films (all of which I thoroughly enjoyed)! I think that more or less sums up my year of movie watching!

And with all that said, here’s my list of the top 10 movies that I watched/reviewed for the year 2021, culled from the list of 2021 reviews, plus 2020 releases reviewed after January 1, 2021 and 2021 releases reviewed before December 31, 2021 (also a few films released on disc in 2018 and 2019, but obviously they’re included in the 2021 reviews).  While I was able to enjoy watching a great many movies, some new and some I’ve seen before, the movies on this list are those I enjoyed the most, and would recommend to anybody that is interested!  And if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie titles to go to Amazon and support this site!

  1. Singin’ In The Rain (1952) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Taking the top spot for 2021 is the rather obvious choice of Singin’ In The Rain! Very much a tribute to the film’s producer Arthur Freed and his songwriting partner Nacio Herb Brown, this film makes use of some of their best songs, while giving us a story set in the end of the silent film era (close to the time when the tunes were originally written)! Of course, with a cast that includes Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, the whole affair is top-notch, from the acting to the singing (and especially the dancing!) and always worth seeing (or even just listening to)!
  1. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this biographical musical, James Cagney plays George M. Cohan as he rises to become a famous songwriter and producer. Much of Cohan’s music is here, including the likes of “You’re A Grand Old Flag,” “Over There,” Give My Regards To Broadway” and “Yankee Doodle Boy,” which adds to the fun! But it’s Cagney (in his only Oscar win) that makes the film, as he proves how good he was as a song-and-dance man! Always worth seeing (especially around July 4)!
  1. Naughty Marietta (1934) (Warner Archive, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The film that brought America’s “Singing Sweethearts” together for the first time! Jeanette MacDonald plays a princess who escapes to the New World to avoid an arranged marriage, and falls in love with the leader of a group of mercenaries (played by Nelson Eddy, of course). Their chemistry makes the film (especially when they sing the classic “Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life”), with aid from Frank Morgan and Elsa Lanchester as the Governor and his wife. An easy to recommend classic!
  1. Animal Crackers (1930) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The Marx Brothers are back after the success of The Cocoanuts! Groucho plays Captain Spaulding (“Hooray for Captain Spaulding! The African explorer!”), who is the guest of honor at a weekend party hosted by Mrs. Rittenhouse (played by usual Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont). With hilarious comic bits from the Brothers, including “Take A Letter,” Harpo’s thievery, the bridge game and the interactions between Groucho and Chico, this is one of their funniest and most anarchic films (and highly recommended)!
  1. (Tie) It Started With Eve (1941) (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Now we have a three-way tie for fifth spot on the list! In It Started With Eve, Deanna Durbin stars alongside Charles Laughton and Robert Cummings in one of her earlier adult roles! She has to pretend to be the girlfriend of Robert Cummings’ Johhny Reynolds, Jr. when his father (Laughton) is on his deathbed (and Johhny’s real girlfriend can’t be found), but she has to maintain the charade when the elder Reynolds recovers! It’s a very heartwarming film, with the song “When I Sing” as its biggest standout tune, and one that I have no trouble recommending for a bit of fun!
  1. (Tie) Mad About Music (1938) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In the second film from the three-way tie, Deanna Durbin is the secret daughter of a Hollywood actress, who can’t tell anybody about her mother, and makes up lies about her father. Her lies catch up with her when, to meet a boy, she says she is meeting her father at the train station, and then has to pick somebody out to maintain her lie! It’s another fun musical from Deanna, with the song “I Love To Whistle” as the film’s big standout! Of course, the comedy works well, too, especially with Herbert Marshall’s composer who must “fill in” as the father! Overall, very fun, and worth seeing!
  1. (Tie) Nice Girl? (1941) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this third film of the three-way tie, Deanna stars as the middle daughter of a high school principal (played by Robert Benchley). She’s tired of her “nice girl” image, and when a handsome field man (played by Franchot Tone) comes to see whether her father merits a fellowship, she decides to try to do something about her reputation. There’s more fun here with the music, as Deanna sings songs like “Perhaps” and especially “Swanee River.” The comedy works well, especially as she (and her other sisters) try to make up to the field man! Like the other two Deanna Durbin films on this list, it’s a lot of fun, and I think it’s well worth giving a chance!
  1. Roman Holiday (1953) (Paramount Pictures, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Audrey Hepburn’s first starring role! She stars as an over-worked princess who decides to take a day to herself. Gregory Peck co-stars as a reporter who figures out that the girl he helped out is the princess, giving him a potentially big story. An overall very heartwarming film. Audrey’s Oscar win is well-deserved, and the film’s place as a classic certainly merits being on this list!
  1. San Francisco (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • San Francisco features the “team” of Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald in their only film together (with Clark being paired up with Spencer Tracy for the first of three films together). In the lead-up to the infamous San Francisco earthquake on April 18, 1906, nightclub owner Blackie Norton (Gable) falls for his new singer, Mary Blake (MacDonald). The earthquake finale is well-done, as we see the city torn apart by mother nature. The movie has some fun musical moments throughout, including the title tune, “Would You” (later used in Singin’ In The Rain) and beautiful renditions by MacDonald of the hymns “Nearer My God To Thee” and “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic.” Overall, a wonderful classic that I love to periodically revisit!
  1. Bringing Up Baby (1938) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn star in this classic screwball comedy about a paleontologist who gets mixed up with a crazy young woman! I took to the film quite well the first time I saw it nearly a decade ago, and after seeing it for the first time since that initial viewing (and newly restored on Blu-ray, to boot!), I think the comedy holds up quite well! From a buried brontosaurus bone to panthers on the loose to time in jail, this film jut gets screwier and screwier (and ever more hilarious), making it one of the better films that I’ve seen this year!

Honorable mentions: The Lady Eve (1941) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray), It Happened On Fifth Avenue (1947) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray), Libeled Lady (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray)

So thank you all for sticking with me in 2021, and I wish you a Happy New Year as we head into 2022! And please let me know what movies you’ve enjoyed this year as well (whether those you’ve seen or whatever movies I’ve reviewed, whatever works for you)!

Also, if you are interested in joining in on my first month-long “Screen Team Of The Month” blogathon for 2022 (which starts tomorrow) 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 (or you can wait a few days to see who my star for February will be)!

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2018

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… Animal Crackers (1930)

For the Classic Movie Blog Assocation’s (CMBA) Fall 2021 blogathon, they chose the theme “Laughter Is The Best Medicine.” Of course, when it comes to providing laughter, it’s hard (for me) not to pick from the Marx Brothers’ filmography, so let’s go with their 1930 film Animal Crackers! Of course, before I go on any further, I have to give credit to my friends Angela and Anna, for their much-needed help and inspiration for this post (and for which I am very grateful).

Now that that’s taken care of, let’s head on down to the stage and join our crew for the day!

(The stage is covered with Christmas decorations. The Narrator comes walking out in that stooped manner that Groucho Marx was known for, wearing a pith helmet, horned-rimmed glasses, exaggerated eyebrows and a greasepaint mustache).

(Narrator): Welcome everybody, as we here prepare to celebrate the Halloween seas — (Stops and looks back at all the Christmas decorations, then turns around to look at the audience with a stunned look on his face, then turns back around.) What in the world?!?! What’s with the Christmas decorations? We’ve got trees, presents, lights, stockings on the fireplace —

(Host): (From offstage) And two hardboiled eggs.

(One honk offstage)

(Host): Make that three hardboiled eggs!

(Narrator): What are you doing? That joke’s from A Night At The Opera, not Animal Crackers! We’ll be doing that one soon enough! Now get out here!

(Host): Just a minute!

(Narrator): (Turning back to audience) As I was trying to say before, with the Halloween season upon us, we decided to celebrate in our own fashion. Since we’ve got a Marx Brothers movie to review today, we decided to dress up as the Marx Brothers.

(The Host walks on wearing a curly-haired wig, a Tyrolean hat and some slightly run down clothes)

(Host): (speaking in a fake Italian accent) That’s-a fine!

(Narrator): Drop the Italian accent. You know you can’t hold it for long. And what’s with all the Christmas decorations?

(Host): You said to decorate for the upcoming holiday!

(Narrator): I did, but I meant Halloween! It’s bad enough that everybody, particularly retailers, like to skip through the holiday season and emphasize Christmas. We’re not there yet! Now, do we have any Halloween decorations?

(A series of honks from offstage)

(Narrator): (Confused) I thought that was you?

(Host): Nope, not me. This time, even the Writer wanted to get in on the fun!

(The Writer comes on wearing a very large trench coat, a battered top hat, a blonde wig, and carrying a cane with a horn on the end. The Narrator offers his hand for a handshake as the Writer comes up to them, but instead the Writer puts his leg in the Narrator’s hand.)

(Narrator): (Putting the Writer’s leg down) So, you’re taking things to that extreme, eh?

(The Writer nods his head enthusiastically, squeezing the horn on his cane.)

(Narrator): (Speaking to the Host) So, apparently you’ve got a silent partner now.

(Host): Oh, that’s nothing. You should hear him when he really gets going!

(Narrator): (Sarcastically) Oooh, I’ll bet. (Speaking to audience) All right folks, I know you’re here for a movie review, and we’ll get to that in a moment. But first, we need to get this holiday mess settled. Do we have any Halloween decorations to put out?

(The Writer whistles to get the Narrator’s attention, and pulls a pumpkin out from his coat.)

(Narrator): Well, that’s one. Have you got any that have been carved?

(Again, the Writer nods enthusiastically, and pulls another pumpkin out of his coat, this time one with Harpo’s famous “Gookie” face carved into it.)

(Narrator): That’s the most gruesome looking object I’ve ever seen. And I’m saying that with you still standing here. And for the reading audience, who don’t know what Harpo’s “Gookie” face is (which I didn’t either, until researching for this), here’s a picture (obviously not on a pumpkin).

(Narrator): Now, can you imagine a pumpkin with that face on it? That’s as scary a thing as I can think of. Alright. I’ll let you put up some Halloween decorations while we get around to the movie.

(The Writer starts pulling various Halloween decorations out of his coat.)

(Narrator): (Stops to think) Now, what movie were we here for again?

(Host): That’s funny, it just slipped my mind.

(The Writer pulls a box of animal crackers out of his coat and starts munching on them while decorating.)

(Narrator): Ah, Animal Crackers, that’s it!

(Host): That sounds about right.

(Narrator): Oh, like you were going to come up with it. Nevermind. The Marx Brothers made it to the Broadway stage with the musical revue I’ll Say She Is (1924), a success which was followed up with The Cocoanuts (1925) and Animal Crackers (1928). In fact, their first talking picture would be the film version of The Cocoanuts, which they made at Paramount’s Astoria studios in New York City. They filmed The Cocoanuts during the day, and performed onstage in Animal Crackers in the evenings (a schedule which resulted in Groucho having one slight slip-up that made it into The Cocoanuts, where he accidentally started to refer to Chico Marx’s character by the character’s name from Animal Crackers before starting to correct himself). The Cocoanuts proved to be a hit with movie audiences, with the Marx Brothers in particular being singled out as the best parts of the movie, which obviously meant that they were going to do another film for Paramount. Of course, while audiences were enamored with their onscreen shenanigans, they were also a lot of trouble offscreen, arriving late to the set, leaving early for golf or lunch, sleeping in their dressing rooms, etc.

(While the Narrator is speaking, the Writer pulls a piano and a piano bench out of his coat. The Host walks over, helps set them up right, and sits down to play the piano.)

(Host): Alright!

(The Host plays the song “I’m Daffy Over You,” which was written by Chico Marx. Now, as an aside here to the audience, I am providing a link to a YouTube video of the song. If you haven’t seen the movie Animal Crackers, Chico plays the song over and over without stopping, much to Groucho’s annoyance. I have several videos placed throughout this post, but whether the timing and placement is correct may not be accurate. However you choose to do it, whether with the same first video or with every one, I would suggest playing the music in the background over and over until I stop it in this post so that you can get the general idea. Now, back to the Host, with the music starting.)

(Narrator): (Speaking to the Host) Keep quiet back there! (The music continues.) Oh well, I’ve heard worse. (Back to the audience) As I was saying their antics didn’t go over well with the studio, so Paramount hired Victor Heerman (who had a reputation for keeping discipline on his films) as the director. Of course, the Marxes were hardly his only duty, as actress Lillian Roth (who played Arabella Rittenhouse in the movie) had been a problem for director Cecil B. DeMille when filming Madame Satan (1930), and she was put in Animal Crackers as punishment (which was apparently effective). Of course, the end results on the movie spoke for themselves, as the Marx Brothers had another hit on their hands, which resulted in them moving to Hollywood and getting new film properties to work with (as opposed to adaptations of stage plays they had been in), starting with Monkey Business (1931).

(Host): (While still playing the music, and attempting an Italian accent again) That’s-a fine. Now how about the movie’s plot?

(Narrator): I thought I told you to drop the accent? I’m getting to the movie. I’m getting to it! The wealthy Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) and her daughter, Arabella (Lillian Roth) are hosting a party at their home for the social elite in honor of the recently returned African explorer Captain Geoffrey (or Jeffrey, as the film can’t make up its mind which spelling to use) Spaulding (Groucho Marx). The high point of the party is supposed to be the unveiling of the famous artist Beaugard’s painting After The Hunt by the famous art connoisseur Roscoe Chandler (Louis Sorin). Captain Spaulding arrives with his secretary, Horatio Jamison (Zeppo Marx) –

(The Host starts playing the song from the start again)

(Narrator): No, no, that’s the wrong song for this spot! Uy, uy. Anyways, upon his arrival, the captain announces that he will leave immediately. Mrs. Rittenhouse prevails upon him to stay, and they are shortly joined by Signor Emanuel Ravelli (Chico Marx) and his partner, the Professor (Harpo Marx), who will provide the musical entertainment for the weekend. Meanwhile, Arabella has invited her painter boyfriend, John Parker (Hal Thompson) to the party, but he laments over his lack of success with his paintings. He shows her a copy he had painted of the Beaugard painting After The Hunt (the one being unveiled), and, upon examination, they have a hard time distinguishing between the two. Sensing an opportunity, Arabella comes up with the idea to switch the paintings, so that they can reveal John’s talent and convince Chandler to commission a portrait. To switch the paintings, Arabella asks Ravelli if he could switch them when no one is looking. They are not the only ones plotting a switch, as Mrs. Rittenhouse’s “friends” Grace Carpenter (Kathryn Reece) and Mrs. Whitehead (Margaret Irving) plot to do the same thing (except with Grace’s very poor copy). They ask Mrs. Rittenhouse’s butler, Hives (Robert Grieg) (who had worked for them in the past) to change the paintings when he gets the chance. That night, Ravelli and the Professor successfully make the switch. The next day, Captain Spaulding regales everybody with tales of his adventures in Africa, followed up with music provided by Ravelli and the Professor.

(The Host once again starts playing the song from the beginning.)

(Narrator): (Slaps his forehead in frustration) How much would you take to go play in traffic or run into that wall over there?

(The Writer comes over, pulls a dollar bill out of the Narrator’s pocket, then goes running at the wall. Right as he reaches the wall, a pair of stagehands walk by with a set piece of a wall, blocking everybody’s view of the Writer. When they pass by, he has disappeared, without creating a hole in the wall.)

(Host): (Still playing the music) He, he, he. I guess that’s what you’d call a “Ghost Writer,” eh, Cap?

(Narrator): That may be, but he took my dollar! I didn’t even offer it to him!

(Host): Well, if you need it that much, I can give you a dollar!

(Narrator): Well, that’s as good an offer as I’ve had, thank you!

(Host): Here’s your dollar, Cap. (pulls a bill out of his pocket) $9 change, please.

(Narrator): (Puts his head between his legs for a moment, before coming back to an upright position) Never mind. I’ll be alright.

(The music stops playing a second before the Host seems to stop playing. The Narrator strokes his chin as he ponders what he just saw, while the Host clumsily tries to cover up his mistake.)

(Narrator): (Suspicious) Finally, you’re done with that music. But seriously, though, we’re talking about Animal Crackers here. I know that money gag is still Marx Brothers (Go West), but couldn’t you at least stick to jokes from this movie instead?

(Host): Eh, maybe I can. So, what happened next in this movie?

(Narrator): (Looks away back to audience) Next up was the unveiling of the painting. Upon seeing it, Chandler declares it to be a poor imitation. Shortly thereafter, the lights go out, and, upon coming back on, that painting is gone, too. Everybody proceeds to search the grounds in hopes of finding the painting.

(Host): So, the thief stole the painting?

(Narrator): (Annoyed) Yes.

(Host): Who did they suspect?

(Narrator): Well, some suspected the Professor, but they brought the police in to help find the painting, just the same. (Stops to think for a second) You know, it’s been awful quiet for a bit since the Writer left. Given how much he’s acting like Harpo, we need to check the inventory of everything around here and find him!

(Host): Sounds like a good idea. (Checks pockets to see if everything is there.) I’ve got everything, Cap.

(Narrator): (Checks his own pockets, finds nothing missing as well) Same here. Let’s go get him back out here to make sure about everything else!

(The Host and the Narrator both run offstage, and come back on after a moment, dragging in the Writer.)

(Narrator): All right. Empty out your coat.

(The Writer pulls out the bouquet of yellow roses.)

(Narrator): Wait a minute. Those were from the Author to his friends for their help and inspiration. Give them to me!

(The Narrator takes the flowers and puts them back at the beginning of the post where they belong. However, the Writer still has one flower and starts chewing on it.)

(Narrator): You’re really taking this one quite far, aren’t you?

(The Writer nods and keeps chewing on the flower.)

(Narrator): Come on, keep emptying that coat!

(The Writer finishes off the flower and starts pulling a string of Christmas lights out of his sleeve. The string just keeps coming and coming, and both the Narrator and the Host grab ahold and help pull it out. Finally, after pulling out one thousand feet’s worth of Christmas lights, they come to the end of the string.)

(Narrator): (Sarcastically) And I don’t suppose you can turn them on, either?

(The Writer nods enthusiastically, pulls a lightbulb out of his coat, grabs one end of the string of lights, sticks the lightbulb in his mouth, and all the lights light up.)

(Host): Well, he’s going to be prepared for the holidays.

(Narrator): Anything else in that coat of yours?

(The Writer pulls the lightbulb out of his mouth, and reluctantly pulls a giant screen TV out of his coat.)

(Narrator): If any of you at home can figure out how he pulled that one off, you’re good. (Turning to the Writer) Does it still work?

(The Writer pulls out a remote, and turns on the TV. On the TV is Animal Crackers, particularly the “Take A Letter” scene. The Writer pulls a chair out of his coat and sits down to watch it. The Narrator and the Host both pause to watch as well.)

(Host): (As they continue to watch the scene) Good stuff, eh Cap?

(Narrator): Indeed. That reminds me, I need to write my own letter to my girlfriend. Take a letter!

(Host): (Still intently watching the TV) Who, me?

(Narrator): Yes, you. Take a letter!

(The Writer pulls a pencil and notepad out of his coat and hands them over to the Host.)

(Narrator): I said take a letter! (Pauses for a moment) Have you written anything?

(The Host is still transfixed by the TV and says nothing.)

(Narrator): My dearest Niña.

(Host): So I’m writing this to Niña?

(Narrator): Don’t question me, let me think. “My dearest Niña. The earth stopped turning yesterday for about five minutes and threw off time. As a result, the laundry pile has gained consciousness. There is a wombat in the drainpipe. Not my fault. Hand me a paintbrush, stat! Pirate flags make everyone look more cultured. The eclipse will cause the cows to melt. There is cheese in my hair. My laptop is on fire. Oops. And in conclusion, I’d like to say that that person is really just made of bees, and I love you. Kindest regards.” You can put my name down later. Now, read it back to me.

(Host): “My dearest Niña.”

(Narrator): That’s good so far. Keep going.

(Host): Well, that’s all I have, as you started going off on a tangent, and I was too engrossed in the TV, so I decided to omit everything else.

(Narrator): (Slaps head in frustration) You realize you omitted the body of the letter? That’s the most important stuff!

(Host): Yep.

(Narrator): (Satisfied) Well, that’s fine. Put it in an envelope, and send it to Iris, Jillian, Daphene, Allison, Belle and Gemma. You’ll find their addresses in my phone.

(Host): But I thought I was sending it to Niña?

(Narrator): You are. That’s my pet name for all of them. Make several copies and send the letter as is, and tell them the body will follow.

(Host): Whose body?

(Narrator): Hopefully, not mine. I know they have gardening tools and have been looking for a project, but hopefully I can duck it. Anyways, after you make copies of the letter, burn the original, and shred the copies.

(Host): Ok, boss.

(Narrator): Now, back to the movie. Obviously, the police and everybody search for the painting, and at one point John Parker is accused of stealing it. But, the right painting is eventually found, and everything turns out well for everybody (almost).

(Host): That’s the end of the story, eh Cap?

(Narrator): Quite! Of course, this movie was originally released before the Production Code went into effect, so, upon re-release in 1936 (after the Code was implemented), a few moments here and there were cut from the original camera negative (in an era where they didn’t keep deleted scenes). After some time, Paramount essentially allowed its licenses for the film to expire (with the rights reverting to the authors of the Broadway show), and therefore it wasn’t shown theatrically or on television for quite some time. Eventually, Universal bought most of Paramount’s pre-1950 sound features, but Animal Crackers was such a legal mess that they left it alone. In the 1970s, some students from UCLA convinced Groucho Marx to help them push Universal to re-release the film in a very successful bid. Even so, it was still the edited version, which would be the only way the film was available until Universal found a 35mm duplicate negative held at the British Film Institute and restored it for theatrical distribution and a Blu-ray release in 2016.

(Host): What a life this film has had, eh?

(Narrator): Indeed! But, even after all this time, it still works as one of the best Marx Brothers movies. It’s hard not to laugh at their antics, whether it be Groucho and his tales of African exploration, or the bridge game, or the conversations between Groucho and Chico (honestly, some of the film’s best comedic moments), or watching everything fall from Harpo’s coat when the police are shaking his hand. Not to mention other moments that have been referenced here! For me, this is definitely still the Marx Brothers at their peak (which would still last for a few years after this, as they finished out their run at Paramount plus their first two films at MGM), which easily makes this film worth seeing, especially when in need of a good laugh (but I guarantee that you won’t stop at one laugh with this movie)!

This movie is available in its entirety on Blu-ray as part of the five-film The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection from Universal Studios.

(Host): Well, we finally got to the end.

(Narrator): Alright!

(“I’m Daffy Over You” starts playing again, and the Host hurriedly tries to push the Narrator around as he makes a mad dash for the piano to resume “playing” the song.)

(Host): (After a moment of playing with the song) Alright! (The music stops playing)

(Narrator): That’s real original. You know that’s an Abbott and Costello routine, don’t you?

(Host): Well, what am I supposed to do? I can’t maintain the Italian accent, the Author isn’t as good at writing wordplay like Chico tended to use, and I can’t play the piano, so what else was I supposed to do?

(Narrator): Well, you were supposed to —

(Writer): (Walking away from the television) “Hooray For Captain Spaulding, the African explorer!”

(The Host and the Narrator stop and gape at the now-speaking Writer.)

(Writer): Well, with this movie, SOMEBODY had to do it!

(The Host and the Narrator look at each other.)

(Host and Narrator): (In unison) Get him out of here!!

(The Host and the Narrator grab the Writer and proceed to run him off the stage. Offstage, the sounds of a scuffle can be heard.)

(Host): (Sticking his head back out) Well, that’s all we have to say folks! (Pulls head back off as offstage fight continues)

(Narrator): (Sticking his head back out) Thanks for listening, and come back soon! (Pulls head back off as offstage fight continues)

(The Writer sticks his head out, whistles, honks his horn and waves before pulling his head back off.)

Film Length: 1 hour, 39 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #4 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Groucho Marx – A Night At The Opera (1935)

Chico Marx – A Night At The Opera (1935)

Harpo Marx – A Night At The Opera (1935)

The Marx Brothers – A Night At The Opera (1935)

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

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… That Certain Age (1938)

For today’s recent Blu-ray release (and Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon entry), we’ve got another Deanna Durbin film from 1938, That Certain Age, also starring Melvyn Douglas!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pups Is Pups (1930)

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

(Length: 18 minutes, 39 seconds)

Farina (Allen Hoskins) gets a job as a page at a pet show, and the rest of the Gang get their pets ready to enter in the show. This was another fun short, with all the various goings-on. While the main “story” of this one is focused on the kids preparing for the pet show, the real focus seems to be on Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) as he plays with his five puppies (which have been trained to come when he rings a bell). The other humorous recurring bit is Dorothy DeBorba (making her series debut) getting all dressed up, only to go jump in a mud puddle. Overall, a very fun entry in the series, which continues to suck me in!

And Now For The Main Feature…

To help some poor Boy Scouts go to camp, Alice Fullerton (Deanna Durbin) offers to help put on a show with her Boy Scout boyfriend, Kenneth “Ken” Warren (Jackie Cooper). However, they run into trouble because they want to use the guest cottage at her home as a rehearsal space, and her father, newspaper publisher Gilbert Fullerton (John Halliday), has effectively ordered his reporter Vincent Bullitt (Melvyn Douglas) to come stay there to work on a series of articles. Alice and her friends are furious when they are chased out by the servants as they prepare the cottage for Vincent, but Alice gets an idea when her mother, Dorothy Fullerton (Irene Rich), says that the idea is to provide Vincent with peace and quiet so that he can do his work. When Vincent arrives, Alice and her friends try to make the cottage seem haunted. At first, Vincent is scared, but quickly realizes he’s being fooled when he finds a wire being used to move some furniture around. He gets them all in the cottage, and finds out why they are trying to scare him away. When he admits that he doesn’t want to be there himself, they all come up with a plan to fool Alice’s father so that Vincent can leave. However, when Alice learns that Vincent is a little sick with a fever, she makes sure that he has to stay. In the process, she develops a crush on Vincent, and starts spending a lot of time with him. Ken starts getting jealous over this development, and offers Alice’s part in the show to Mary Lee (Peggy Stewart), who had also offered them some rehearsal space. However, Ken still wants to make up with Alice, and sends his younger sister, Butch (Juanita Quigley), to tell her so. She doesn’t find Alice, who is busy buying a birthday present for Vincent. Instead, Butch finds Alice’s diary, in which she tells of her feelings for Vincent, and Butch proceeds to show it to Ken. At Vincent’s birthday party, Alice tries to wear a more grown-up dress. Upon seeing her in it, her parents force her to go back up and change (which she does, while also refusing to come back). Ken brings her diary back to her, admitting to having seen some of it, and she admits to her feelings for Vincent (and how she views Ken as her friend). Despondent, Ken fakes relief and prepares to leave the party. Before he leaves, though, he tells Vincent off (thereby revealing to Vincent that Alice has feelings for him). Unsure of what to do, Vincent tells her parents, and they all try to figure out how to help her past this infatuation. But will they be able to help her get over Vincent before Ken up and joins the Navy?

That Certain Age had four new songs written for it. Those songs are “My Own,” “Be A Good Scout,” You’re As Pretty As A Picture” and the title tune, all of which were written by Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson. Two other songs, “Les Filles de Cadiz” (by Léo Delibes) and the Aria from “Romeo et Juliette” (by Charles Gounod) were also included. I’ll admit, after the last two Deanna Durbin films I saw (three if we go all the way back to It Started With Eve), I was slightly disappointed with the music here, as none of it really stuck with me that strongly. I’ll admit, after listening to them again, that I did like “My Own” (which was nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar, one of two nominations this film received) as well as “You’re As Pretty As A Picture.” They’re not as good as some of the other songs she’s done, but I think they are still worth listening to. Realistically, though, I love listening to Deanna sing, even with less memorable music, so it’s only a minor complaint with this movie.

So far, though, of the six Deanna Durbin films I’ve seen, this one was the weakest (but, if you’ll notice my score on it, I still have a VERY favorable opinion of it). One of my biggest problems is that it seems to be fairly similar to the later Nice Girl?, and that film had, in my mind, better music and better comedy. Don’t get me wrong, this film certainly has its moments in the comedic territory. The section where all the kids try to “haunt” the guest cottage in an effort to get Melvyn Douglas’s Vincent Bullitt out of there is quite funny (especially after he realizes what’s going on). There’s more fun later on when watching the three adults trying to dissuade Alice’s interest in Vincent (and how their attempts backfire). I still had a very enjoyable time with this one, even if the music and comedy weren’t quite as strong as in some of the others. It’s still one worth recommending, in my book!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios. This film has a pretty good transfer for the Blu-ray release. There are some scratches and other dirt here and there, but nothing that would seriously mar the viewing experience. Like Nice Girl? and Mad About Music, this was one of the nine titles Kino Lorber Studio Classics licensed for Blu-ray releases before being dropped (along with three others) when what was intended to be the first volume of three 3-film sets bombed. I’m certainly glad that this one made it out just the same (and, much to my delight, no sooner had I finished watching this movie than the other three dropped titles were announced for Blu-ray release at the beginning of this month, along with a fourth Deanna Durbin title that hadn’t been licensed out)! A highly recommended Blu-ray release!

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Mad About Music (1938)Deanna DurbinThree Smart Girls Grow Up (1939)

Melvyn Douglas – Ninotchka (1939)

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

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Mad About Music (1938)

I hinted at the idea that I would be well-represented in this month’s Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon, and that continues to be true! Today, we’re looking at the 1938 Deanna Durbin musical Mad About Music, also starring Herbert Marshall, Gail Patrick and Arthur Treacher!

Coming Up Shorts! with… A Tough Winter (1930)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 1 (1929-1930) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 35 seconds)

On a cold winter’s day, the gang spend some time inside with handyman Stepin Fetchit before getting together for a taffy pull. This one is one of the weaker shorts in this bunch, purely because of how poorly Stepin Fetchit and his very stereotyped comedy have aged (i.e., not well). There is some fun to be had with the taffy pull, as it starts out with the old “radio recipe switch”-type of gag (you know, where it starts off with one recipe and switches to another while nobody is listening). Then, there is all the mess the gang creates as they try to pull the taffy through the house (and boy, is it sticky). I would say that there is some enjoyment to be had here, but it mostly requires also being able to stomach the altogether too prominent Stepin Fetchit and his schtick.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Gwen Taylor (Gail Patrick) is a big Hollywood actress, with an equally big secret: she has a fourteen-year-old daughter! However, much to Gwen’s dismay, her manager, Dusty Turner (William Frawley), believes it’s better that the public doesn’t know about her daughter, as Gwen is considered a glamour girl. So, her daughter, Gloria Harkinson (Deanna Durbin), is going to a boarding school in Switzerland run by the Fusenot sisters, Annette (Elisabeth Risdon) and Louise (Nana Bryant). Gloria can’t talk about her mother, and since her father, a Navy flier, died when she was a baby, she decides to make up stories about a world-traveling, big-game hunter father. To help maintain these stories, she writes herself letters to send through the mail using different stamps from around the world collected by her friend, Pierre (Christian Rub), and has her mother send her different gifts, like an elephant tusk (although her mother has no idea why Gloria wants any of these things). However, another one of the girls at the school, Felice (Helen Parrish), doesn’t believe Gloria, and is bound and determined to prove that Gloria is making everything up. At a church service, Gloria meets a young boy named Tommy (Jackie Moran) from a nearby military boarding school who has a crush on her. When she finds out that he is also an American, she makes plans to meet him the next day. However, she gets into trouble and is punished. Being that the Fusenot sisters don’t like the girls mixing with the boys, Gloria’s only way to get out of there is to pretend to be meeting her father at the train station. However, all the other girls (including Felice) follow her, so she picks out the newly arrived composer Richard Todd (Herbert Marshall), telling him lies while making it appear to the other girls like he is supposed to be her father. Later, the Fusenot sisters come to Richard (via his butler/secretary Tripps, played by Arthur Treacher) to invite him to lunch. Upon learning why, he decides to come and tell the truth, but Gloria’s pleading convinces him to go along with her stories and pretend to be her father. For a few days, Richard enjoys acting as Gloria’s father, but then he is called to Paris on business. At first, Gloria plans to say goodbye, with plans to later “kill off” her father, but, upon seeing a newspaper story saying that her mother is in Paris, she decides to sneak on the train with Richard to go see her. But, with her mother being accompanied by her manager, Dusty Turner (who is trying to help Gwen maintain appearances as a glamour girl), will Gloria be able to see her mother? Or, for that matter, will she be able to maintain all the stories that she’s been telling about her father?

Following on from what I said about Deanna Durbin’s 1941 film Nice Girl?, I enjoyed Mad About Music as much for the music as I did for the rest of the film. This film had her singing four songs: three new ones written for this movie (“A Serenade To The Stars,” “I Love To Whistle” and “Chapel Bells”) with music by Jimmy McHugh and lyrics by Harold Adamson, plus the classic hymn “Ave Maria.” I will admit, her version of “Ave Maria” is a little different than what I’m used to whenever I have heard the song. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just slightly jarring compared to how I’ve heard others do it. I do kind of like it, though and it’s one I hope will grow on me more with subsequent viewings. Of the three new songs, though, I quickly grew fond of “I Love To Whistle.” Of course, I should warn you that, if you don’t like that song, this movie will be harder to enjoy, as it’s sung at least three times in the movie (with Cappy Barra’s Harmonica Ensemble joining in for some fun on the second time). Again, I like it (and I thought the harmonica band was fun to watch), so, for me, it’s a plus to hear it so much!

Of course, the music is hardly the only reason I like this movie, as I certainly think the comedy adds something to it as well! Most of the comedy stems from the lies that Deanna’s Gloria tells about her father, and some of the lengths she has to go to to maintain them. The funniest moments are when Herbert Marshall’s Richard Todd decides to go along with them, particularly when he’s telling stories at the lunch, even managing to go along with the curve balls that Helen Parrish’s Felice is determined to throw to disprove everything. Overall, it’s a very heartwarming tale as we see Gloria and Richard becoming a father and daughter. The only complaint I have is how quick Richard and Gail Patrick’s Gwen Taylor become a couple at the end, without anything happening beforehand to indicate that they would like each other, but it’s a very minor thing. Overall, a very entertaining movie that I know I look forward to revisiting again and again in the future, and one I have no problem whatsoever in recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios. The transfer on this one is pretty good. A lot of the dust and dirt has been cleaned up. There are some scratches and dirt here and there, but they are relatively easy to miss (and forget). Like the previously reviewed Nice Girl?, this film was one of nine licensed by Kino Lorber Studio Classics (and one of the six that were dropped when the first three-film set bombed), so I’m glad to see that it did make it out to Blu-ray just the same, in a release I would certainly recommend!

Film Length: 1 hour, 36 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #5 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

One Hundred Men And A Girl (1937)Deanna DurbinThat Certain Age (1938)

The Good Fairy (1935) – Herbert Marshall

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

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Nice Girl? (1941)

For today’s movie review, we’ve got a movie doing double-duty again, both as a recent Blu-ray release as well as starting off my Musicals: With A Song And A Dance In My Heart blogathon! That film, of course, is the 1941 musical Nice Girl? starring Deanna Durbin!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bear Shooters (1930)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 1 (1929-1930) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 29 seconds)

The gang all go camping to hunt bears, but they unknowingly come across a pair of bootleggers who try to scare them off. While it’s not quite as good as some of the previous few Little Rascals shorts, this one was still quite entertaining. Of course, this one provides the laughs through two gags: Chubby (Norman Chaney) putting limburger cheese on the sick Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) instead of the grease he was supposed to, and one of the bootleggers dressed up as a gorilla. The gang are also joined by Leon Janney as “Spud” (apparently a one-time appearance), who is a rather forgettable character. Still, like the others that I’ve seen so far, it was fun, and worth seeing!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In the town of Stillwater, Connecticut lives high school principal Oliver Dana (Robert Benchley) and his three daughters. His oldest, Sylvia (Anne Gwynne), is a wannabe actress. His youngest, Nancy (Ann Gillis), likes to flirt with some of the boys (to the point of them physically fighting over her). His middle daughter, Jane (Deanna Durbin), helps him out with some of his dietary experiments. Jane resents her “nice girl” image, especially since her boyfriend, Don Webb (Robert Stack), seems to pay more attention to his car than to her. Due to the dietary experiments that he is working on, Oliver is being considered for a fellowship by the Van de Meer Foundation. They send their field man, Richard Calvert (Franchot Tone), to see for sure whether he merits it. As Richard turns out to be younger (and better-looking) than they had imagined, all three girls start vying for his attentions. Jane in particular attempts to impress him, although her attempts don’t quite work out. When Richard has to go back to New York ahead of a proposed trip to Australia, Jane volunteers to drive him. Since Don is working on her car, he offers to let her drive his car. When Don tells her that he would trust her no matter what she does, she is infuriated and decides to try to do something about her “nice girl” image. Using an idea she had gotten from something he had shown her before, she delays the car (without Richard knowing), which causes him to miss his train. In the process, she offers to drive him all the way back. On the way, they encounter a rainstorm (and, of course, the car malfunctions), resulting in them getting drenched. At Richard’s home, they both change clothes, and she attempts to seduce him. However, when Jane overhears him on the phone with his mother (in which he says that she is just “one of the Dana girls”), she feels foolish and leaves immediately for home. She arrives in town in the early morning, where she runs out of gas and accidentally wakes everybody in town up when the car’s horn gets stuck. Of course, that sets everyone’s tongues to wagging, and she locks herself in her room. She manages to tell her father the truth of what happened later, to which he is relieved. However, at the town’s charity bazaar, the gossip continues to flow, with everyone coming to the conclusion that she and Richard are engaged. Don hears the gossip, but doesn’t believe a word of it, and tells Jane so when she arrives. Furious at the fact that he is taking her for granted, she proceeds to tell everyone that the news of her “engagement” is true. Richard has also just arrived in town to tell Oliver that he is getting the fellowship, but, upon learning of the gossip, decides to go along with it. With some now pushing for an immediate ceremony, though, can they get out of this jam (especially since Jane realizes that she loves Don)?

Nice Girl? was based on a play called Nice Girl by Phyllis Duganne. The slight change in title was a reflection of actress Deanna Durbin being cast in the film. The young Deanna, who had up to this point been playing young girls, turned nineteen during the production of this film. As such, she was now making the transition into adult roles, and the film’s producers decided to add the question mark to the title to make it more ambiguous about whether she was indeed a “nice girl” (as her screen image had essentially been). When all was said and done, the movie essentially had three different endings: one where she sang the song “Thank You America” (which was the original one shown to U.S. audiences), one with her instead doing the song “There’ll Always Be an England,” which was mainly intended for their audience in the U.K., and a third version with her singing “Thank You America” in Spanish (for the Latin American countries).

As I’ve previously indicated, I had very little experience with Deanna Durbin prior to this year (outside of her being mentioned briefly in That’s Entertainment). Earlier this year, I experienced three of her films for the first time (and enjoyed all three quite a bit). Now, two of them, I mainly enjoyed for the stories and the performances, with the music not really sticking with me that much (although she certainly had a wonderful singing voice to handle it). With It Started With Eve, however, I found myself not only enjoying the story and her performance, but also at least the song “When I Sing.” Nice Girl? follows the trend of that film, not only with a good story and good performances, but also some very enjoyable music! I certainly know I enjoyed her opening song “Perhaps” quite well. But, the film’s best musical moment for me, was when she sang “Swanee River.” I’ve been hearing that song (and numerous versions of it) since I was a child, with my favorite being Bing Crosby’s version from the film Mississippi. However, with her voice, the chorus, and the overall orchestration, I found myself REALLY enjoying this version, and I would say it’s one of my favorite moments from her films so far!

Of course, I’ve enjoyed the comedy from her films as well, and this one still had it in spades! Admittedly, the best moments are when Franchot Tone’s Richard Calvert arrives at the Dana home, and all the girls start making themselves up for him (and never let him finish his story). Then, there’s later that evening, where they’re doing their exercises before going to bed (and he’s in the next room doing the same), and they talk about him (and how old they think he is), when he knocks on the door to tell them his age (and they then scurry off to bed). Honestly, both of those moments left me in stitches! Overall, this was a wonderful film, well-supported by a great cast, and it’s one I have zero hesitation in recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios. The transfer on this release is pretty good. Most of the dust and dirt has been cleaned up. There is an occasional speck or scratch, but nothing serious enough to ruin the enjoyment of this film. Sadly, of the three endings I mentioned, this release only contains the U.S. one (with her singing “Thank You America” to the troops), but, to be fair, this was one of nine titles originally licensed out to Kino Lorber Studio Classics (and one of the six that they dropped when the first set of three sold so poorly), so I’m grateful to be getting this one at all! It is a wonderful release, and highly recommended!

Film Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #5 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939)Deanna DurbinIt Started With Eve (1941)

Mutiny On The Bounty (1935) – Franchot Tone – Because Of Him (1946)

The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle (1939) – Walter Brennan – Sergeant York (1941)

Robert Stack – To Be Or Not To Be (1942)

Dancing Lady (1933) – Robert Benchley – You’ll Never Get Rich (1941)

Swing Time (1936) – Helen Broderick – Because Of Him (1946)

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

“Star Of The Month (June 2021)” Featuring Claudette Colbert in… Cleopatra (1934)

Next up for actress Claudette Colbert (June’s Star Of The Month), we have her 1934 film Cleopatra, also starring Warren William!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Genie With The Light Pink Fur (1966)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 7 seconds)

The Pink Panther tries to become a genie, to hilarious effect! Of course, nobody seems to care about the possibility of the genie in the lamp, as everybody has a different use for the lamp! I’ll admit, the tea drinker being scared when the Panther pops out of the lamp is one of the funniest reactions, but all the trouble the Panther gets into here is guaranteed to make me laugh! Another one of the better shorts, in my opinion!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert) is in a fight for control of Egypt with her brother, Ptolemy.  She and her philosopher/adviser Apollodorus (Irving Pichel) are kidnapped by Pothinos (Leonard Mudie) and left in the desert ahead of the arrival of Julius Caesar (Warren William).  However, Cleopatra returns secretly, and quickly gains an audience with Caesar.  She offers him the wealth of Egypt, as well as the treasures of India.  Caesar brings Cleopatra back with him to Rome, where he plans to divorce his wife Calpurnia (Gertrude Michael) and marry Cleopatra.  However, this idea doesn’t go over well with the Roman Senate, as they fear that will make him a king, and they plan to kill him.  Their plans are successful, and Cleopatra leaves to return to Egypt.  However, Marc Antony (Henry Wilcoxon) and Caesar’s nephew Octavian (Ian Keith) now share power as the rulers of Rome, and Antony vows to bring Cleopatra back in chains while he conquers Egypt.  Unfortunately for him, Cleopatra is wily enough that she seduces him easily.  Octavian makes use of this opportunity to brand Antony as a traitor, and vows to have him (and Cleopatra) killed.  With all his Roman troops and generals deserting him, will Antony and Cleopatra have a chance against the Roman army?

Earlier in 1934, Cecil B. DeMille made his second film (of three) with actress Claudette Colbert, Four Frightened People.  However, unlike their earlier film The Sign Of The Cross, that film was a flop.  That prompted Paramount Studios head Adolph Zukor to push DeMille to do another historical epic in a similar fashion to The Sign Of The Cross. Of course, part of that earlier film’s appeal was the pre-Code elements, and, with the Hays Code being implemented in 1934, that made that harder to do. Still, Cecil B. DeMille still tried to flaunt the restrictions while he could, to great effect. The movie was popular at the box office, and garnered five Oscar nominations (and one win, for Best Cinematography).

It wasn’t quite an easy film for leading lady Claudette Colbert, though. She struggled with health issues, as she had contracted appendicitis while making her previous film Four Frightened People, which made it harder for her to rehearse for Cleopatra. And, just as bad, her fear of snakes resulted in DeMille delaying her scene with a snake as long as he could. Using psychology, he brought in a big boa constrictor, and, when she asked him not to use that, he offered up a small garden snake instead (which she was happier with). Regardless of her issues, she gives a great performance here, still against type, as she seduces two Roman men. She proves quite wily, and in control most of the time, as she throws the men off their game.

I will freely admit, I hadn’t heard of this film before it was announced for release on Blu-ray back in 2018. I had known of the later 1963 film starring Elizabeth Taylor in the title role (but have never been interested in that one because of her). With actress Claudette Colbert in the title role for the 1934 film (and Cecil B. DeMille in the director’s seat), I was a lot more willing to try it. I wasn’t disappointed! This movie was a thrill from start to finish. I’ll admit, the opening was slightly confusing, starting with her kidnapping already in progress, but the rest of the film was great fun! I really feel like all the performances worked here (which made it better, in my mind, than the earlier The Sign Of The Cross), and I would also include the sets, the costumes and everything else in that statement! I enjoyed this movie, and I would certainly recommend it highly!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… Cleopatra (1934)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios.  According to the Blu-ray case, it has been restored from 35mm original film elements, and I would say that this movie certainly looks wonderful!  The detail is superb, and there is very little print damage showing.  It looks (and sounds) even better than the previously reviewed The Sign Of The Cross, and for my money, is well worth it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

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

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

It Happened One Night (1934)Claudette ColbertThe Bride Comes Home (1935)

Upper World (1934) – Warren William

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2020) with… Remember The Night (1940)

For today’s post, I’m pulling double-duty here, as I take part in the Queen Of Sass: Barbara Stanwyck blogathon hosted by Pale Writer, while also helping the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society celebrate Clean Movie Month 2020!  And with that let’s get into today’s movie, Remember The Night starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Marry-Go-Round (1943)

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

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

(Length: 7 minutes, 52 seconds)

Popeye’s pal Shorty tries to help him propose to Olive. A bit of fun here, with Shorty being one of those characters I have very little recollection of, and so it’s fun to see somebody else for a change. Once again, no Bluto (oh, if only that could have lasted longer), which keeps this one fresh. And, of course, they get their Paramount references in, with pin-up pictures of actress Dorothy Lamour. All in all, a fun cartoon, while also staying clean enough for the Code!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Right before the Christmas holidays, Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) steals some jewelry, but is quickly caught.  Assistant district attorney John “Jack” Sargent (Fred MacMurray) is chosen to prosecute.  However, in between the theatrics of Lee’s lawyer, Francis X. O’Leary (Willie Robertson), and the holiday spirit of the jury, which seems likely to get her acquitted, John decides to get the trial postponed.  However, when he hears Lee complaining about being in jail over the holidays, his conscience gets the better of him and he gets the bail bondsman to let her out.  However, the bondsman has the wrong idea, as he brings her over to John’s apartment, and then leaves.  John and Lee quickly sort things out, and he offers her a dinner out.  While at the nightclub, he learns that she is also from Indiana, from a town relatively close to where he is returning for the holidays, so he offers to give her a ride there.  However, once she arrives home, Lee finds her mother just as mean and unforgiving as she remembered, and Jack offers to bring her back to his home.  There, they are greeted by John’s mother (Beulah Bondi), his aunt Emma (Elizabeth Patterson) and their helper Willie (Sterling Holloway).  They are thrilled to have Lee with them, and offer her a place to stay.  Privately, John tells his mother about Lee, but she still does her best to help her feel like part of the family.  However, Emma smells a romance brewing, and does her best to encourage it, much to Mrs. Sargent’s dismay.  The night before John and Lee have to start their return trip, Mrs. Sargent takes Lee aside and tries to tell her how hard John worked to get where he was, work which may be undone if they continue their relationship.  Lee understands, and really sees John changing as he tries to encourage her not to return (although she firmly insists on coming back).  But, what will be the end result of her trial?

Remember The Night is remembered (ok, pun intended) for being the last movie that writer Preston Sturges wrote but didn’t direct.  The film’s director, Mitchell Liesen (who had previously directed the Sturges film Easy Living), famously pulled a number of scenes and dialogue that Sturges wrote, infuriating the writer. As a result, Preston Sturges made a big push to direct his next film himself, to great acclaim! Of course, in spite of all his troubles and complaints about the director, Preston Sturges still liked the end result with this movie. During filming, he also got to know Barbara Stanwyck, and promised to write a screwball comedy for her (which wasn’t in her usual wheelhouse at that time). Of course, a year later that promise was fulfilled when he wrote (and directed) one of her best-known comedies, The Lady Eve (personally, I haven’t seen it yet, but as a screwball comedy, and recently restored for Blu-ray, you can bet it’s one I hope to see soon)!

And, speaking of Barbara Stanwyck, since she is one of the reasons why we’re here for this post, let’s talk about her! Obviously, this is the first film that teamed up both her and Fred MacMurray (and so far, the only one of the four that I’ve seen, although I hope one of these days to see Double Indemnity). Offscreen, I have to admire all that I’ve read about her with regard to this movie. The movie was finished ahead of time and within the budget, and most of that was attributed to her and her professionalism on set. I have to admire her for that, especially reading about how she had a bad back, not helped by the corset she had to wear for the barn dance. Yet, she still hung around, ready for whenever they needed her. Never mind wearing winter clothing for the scene involving her and the cow when it was filmed in really warm weather! I just can’t begin to admire her enough for that!

And onscreen, she does such a great job! I know I love watching her as her lawyer gets carried away with her defense. At first, she seems fine with it, until Fred MacMurray’s assistant D.A. gets the trial postponed, and then she lets her lawyer have it, claiming is defense was such an old gag, she wasn’t surprised it didn’t work! And of course, she plays a woman who’s been around, as she doesn’t seem surprised when the bail bondsman brings her around to the apartment, fully expecting that she was there for an affair! But, at the same time, she makes you feel for her, especially when you meet her mother, and you have no problems then understanding why she struggled to stay on the straight and narrow! She may not have been the focus or the hero from what Preston Sturges originally wrote, but the film’s director wisely made her more important, as you do feel for her, and like seeing her in a more loving environment! Seriously, I just love her performance here!

Of course, the movie itself is also fun to watch every now and then (but especially at Christmastime)! For the most part, it’s definitely Code friendly. Admittedly, the hinted-at “affair”, whether it be the bail bondsman’s reason for bringing her to the apartment, or just the assumptions of others, like the one farmer who brought them in under citizen’s arrest, probably don’t quite fit the Code. Still, it’s only hinted at (and may go over the heads of the younger audience), so it’s not too bad. With the rest of the cast working well here, too, including Sterling Holloway, who’s rather fun as the over-worked hired hand for Mrs. Sargent (and who gets a brief moment to sing the song “A Perfect Day”). A very wonderful movie, easy to watch any time of the year (but, as I said, it’s best around Christmas), and one I very highly recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios.

Film Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Internes Can’t Take Money (1937)Barbara StanwyckThe Lady Eve (1941)

The Bride Comes Home (1935) – Fred MacMurray – Murder, He Says (1945)

The Cat And The Fiddle (1934) – Sterling Holloway – Make Mine Music (1946)

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!