“Star Of The Month (November 2021)” Featuring Humphrey Bogart in… To Have And Have Not (1944)

We’re back for another Humphrey Bogart film as we continue celebrating him as the Star Of The Month for November!  And, of course, a month on him wouldn’t be complete without a film featuring him and Lauren Bacall, so let’s get into their first film together, the 1944 movie To Have And Have Not!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Shiver My Timbers (1931)

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

(Length: 21 minutes, 2 seconds)

The kids all play hooky from school to listen to the tales of a sea captain (Billy Gilbert) and dream of being pirates themselves. When Miss Crabtree (June Marlowe) complains to the captain, he offers to help cure them of their dreams of going to sea. This one was absolutely hilarious! Amongst the kids, Stymie (Matthew Beard) continues to provide a lot of the humor with his wordplay jokes, but the captain’s attempts to scare the kids are equally hilarious! It’s considered one of the better shorts, and I for one completely agree with this assessment! I certainly look forward to revisiting this one again and again in the future!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bacall To Arms (1946)

(Available as an extra on the To Have And Have Not Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 6 minutes, 13 seconds)

A group of animals are at the movie theatre, waiting for the new movie to start.  This was quite a fun one, with its parodies not only of the MGM and Warner Brothers logos, but also of To Have And Have Not, with “Bogey Gocart” and “Laurie Bee Cool.”  Of course, the movie characters have to interact with the audience a little, and we have a few gags around a wolf.  Given the era, you know what his problem is.  Still, the cartoon is a lot of fun, with the exception of the ending gag, where “Bogey” tries to smoke a cigarette that blows up in his face, thus leaving him with blackface and speaking in a manner reminiscent of Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, which is a joke in poor taste.  Other than that, I had a few good laughs with this one!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1940 in Fort de France, Martinique, after France has fallen to the German army.  A professional American fisherman named Harry “Steve” Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) has been taking a man named Johnson (Walter Sande) out fishing.  After a number of trips out, Johnson is frustrated with his poor luck at catching fish, and decides to give up.  However, he owes Harry a lot of money, and promises to pay him when the bank opens in the morning.  At the hotel that they are staying at, Harry is met by the owner/bartender Gérard (Marcel Dalio), who wants to rent Harry’s boat, the Queen Conch, for smuggling in some members of the French underground.  Harry, not wanting to be involved in the fight between the underground and the Germans, declines.  Later on in the hotel bar, Harry sees Johnson spending time with Marie “Slim” Browning (Lauren Bacall), who is staying in the hotel room across from Harry.  When he observes her pick Johnson’s pocket and leave, he follows her.  When he catches up to her, he reveals that he saw her lift the wallet, and asks her to return it.  He checks the wallet’s contents to make sure everything is there, and discovers that Johnson had enough money from traveler’s checks to pay him (but was planning to skip town early the next morning).  Harry and Marie take Johnson’s wallet back to him, and try to force him to sign over his checks to Harry.  However, while that is going on, some members of the French underground get into a shootout with the police, and Johnson is killed by a stray bullet before he can sign anything.  The police round up a few people in the bar for questioning, including Harry, Marie and Gérard.  At the police station, Captain Renard (Dan Seymour) takes the cash Harry had taken from Johnson’s wallet as evidence (along with Harry’s own money).  Upon being released, Marie expresses a desire to go home, and Harry decides to take Gérard and the members of the French underground up on their offer.  Upon being paid, he buys a ticket for Marie, and then, after getting his instructions from Gérard, goes off on his boat. He finds himself joined by his friend and shipmate Eddie (Walter Brennan), who had stowed away when Harry tried to convince him to stay behind. They follow the instructions, and pick up Paul de Bursac (Walter Surovy) and his wife, Hélène (Dolores Moran). On the return trip, they run into a patrol boat, which shoots at them (and hits Paul), but they are able to get away due to the fog. Harry successfully drops his two passengers off in a previously arranged spot, and returns to port. Upon returning to the hotel, Harry finds that Marie is still around, and working as a singer for the hotel band led by Cricket (Hoagy Carmichael). Gérard comes looking for Harry, and asks him to help remove the bullet from Paul de Bursac. Harry does so (with some help from Marie), and Paul starts to recover. The police start sniffing around (since they know it was Harry’s boat that was shot at), but Harry doesn’t tell them a thing. He starts making plans to leave the area (hoping to bring along Marie and Eddie), but then the police get ahold of Eddie. Will the police catch them all, or will Harry be able to make good on his escape plan?

The movie famously came about as the result of a fishing trip that Ernest Hemingway and Howard Hawks took together. Hawks was trying to convince Hemingway to try writing screenplays, which Hemingway felt he couldn’t do. Hawks boasted that he could make a good film out of Hemingway’s worst novel (which Hawks felt was Hemingway’s 1937 novel To Have And Have Not). So, Hawks bought the film rights from Howard Hughes, and then sold them to Warner Brothers. There were a number of changes made to the story at Hawks’ insistence, including focusing on one character (instead of two), and emphasizing the dialogue and character more than the plot. One change that was forced upon them was the change in location, as the original story was set in Cuba and, as this was still being made in the second World War, the Office of Inter-American Affairs objected due to the Roosevelt administration’s “Good Neighbor Policy.” Thus, they shifted the location to the German-controlled island of Martinique, once again making the Nazis the villains. Humphrey Bogart, who was still coming off of Casablanca, was cast in a similar role to his Rick from that film. Cast opposite him was Hollywood newcomer Betty “Lauren” Bacall, who was discovered for the part by Hawks’ wife. Bogart and Bacall famously began a romance during the making of this film, which would later lead to them getting married (after he divorced his third wife), with the two of them staying together until his death in 1957. The movie proved to be a hit with audiences, and would later be remade in 1950 (The Breaking Point, again with Warner Brothers) and 1958 (The Gun Runners with United Artists).

To Have And Have Not is a movie that I have had opportunity to see a number of times over the years, and it’s one that I always enjoy watching! Of course, I should admit right off that I’ve never had the opportunity to read the Ernest Hemingway story, so I have no idea whatsoever how close the movie is to the original tale, nor have I seen either of the later remakes (but they’re certainly on my list of movies to see). I’ve definitely heard this film compared to the classic Casablanca, and that does seem an apt comparison, what with Bogie’s Harry staying neutral between the French underground and the German authorities (at least, until he’s pushed into action). When all is said and done, this film definitely pales in comparison to Casablanca, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad film, either! Quite frankly, where this film has Casablanca beat is the chemistry between its two leads. Seriously, the Warner Brothers cartoon Bacall To Arms (included on the Blu-ray as an extra) wasn’t kidding when they spoofed Lauren Bacall bringing the heat as she walks into the room. You can feel the sexual tension between the two so vividly here, and that makes it worth watching (and I’m glad it was made during the Code, where they had to be creative in showing that, as opposed to now, where they would for certain be shown having a romp in the bedroom, which would be completely unnecessary). The police (under German influence) make for quite the villains to cheer against, and Walter Brennan makes for a fun sidekick. Seriously, this film is a good way to enjoy the Bogie/Bacall partnership, and is one well worth recommending!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)Humphrey BogartDark Passage (1947)

Lauren Bacall – Dark Passage (1947)

Sergeant York (1941) – Walter Brennan – Tammy And The Bachelor (1957)

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!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Sergeant York (1941)

Now we’ve got a movie I’ve been looking forward to seeing again for a long time, that classic 1941 movie Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper! Of course, we’ve got a pair of theatrical shorts to start with (both of which are included as extras on the recent Blu-ray release from Warner Archive Collection), and then we can get right to the movie itself!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Lions For Sale (1941)

(Length: 9 minutes)

This short shows how lions used to be trained for circuses. It’s interesting stuff to watch the lions go from being cubs to full grown within the types of training they undergo. The commentary by Knox Manning manages to be quite amusing, as he describes some of the action going on. Like I said, an interesting short, although one I probably won’t be revisiting much.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Porky’s Preview (1941)

(Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)

Porky hosts a showing of a cartoon that he drew himself. This was a fun little black-and-white cartoon, with a brief appearance from Porky himself (shorter than one would think, considering the cartoon’s title). Still, I enjoyed the gags, and the drawings for Porky’s “cartoon” certainly look like what one might expect a little child to draw. A very fun cartoon, although it does have one very dated moment, where part of Porky’s “cartoon” is fairly obviously making a reference to Al Jolson, with the character wearing blackface. But, that is the only drawback, and I enjoyed seeing an unfamiliar (to me) Looney Tunes short!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Our story starts in the state of Tennessee, in the year 1916. In the Valley of the Three Forks, Alvin York (Gary Cooper) works hard on his family’s farm, but he is also prone to drinking and getting into fights. One day, while out hunting with his brother George (Dickie Moore), Alvin meets and falls for Gracie Williams (Joan Leslie). While she is interested in him, she is less than thrilled with his fighting habit, particularly when he chases off a rival suitor, Zeb Andrews (Robert Porterfield). Alvin believes she turns down his proposal because he is poor, and sets out to buy a better piece of land. He makes a deal with Nate Tompkins (Erville Alderson) for some land, and promises to pay him the full price within sixty days. He works hard, but comes just short at the deadline. He convinces Nate to give him an extension of a few days so that he can win a turkey shoot to get the rest of the money. Alvin is successful at the turkey shoot, but Nate had already sold the land to Zeb, which makes Alvin angry. After doing a bit of drinking with his buddies, Alvin sets out to kill Nate and Zeb, but is stopped by a bolt of lightning. He finds himself near a church, and comes in, where he is received with great rejoicing by his friend, Pastor Rosier Pile (Walter Brennan). Now a Christian believer, Alvin sets out to make things right and apologize to Nate and Zeb.

Then, war arrives (World War I, that is), and with it, the draft. Alvin, who believes that the Bible is against killing, hopes to get an exemption as a conscientious objector. However, Alvin’s request for exemption is denied, on the basis that his denomination has no formal creed against its members going to war, so he is drafted. Alvin’s shooting skills impress some of his superior officers, but he is wary about a possible promotion, still worried about having to kill. Major Buxton (Stanley Ridges) tells him briefly about the history of the United States, and of the sacrifices required of his fellow countrymen to maintain their freedom. Alvin is given a ten day furlough to think the matter over, and comes back declaring he is willing to stay in the army. Once training is over, he is sent over to Europe, where he is part of the Meuse-Argonne offensive. But, will he survive and be able to put his skills to good use?

Sergeant York is based on the life of the real Alvin York, a man who (spoiler alert!) lived to the age of 76, dying in 1964. Upon his return from war, he was immediately hit with many offers from Hollywood to have his story told on the big screen, but he turned them down. Producer Jesse Lasky tried to make an offer multiple times over the years (and was rejected), but with the threat of another war in Europe, he tried again to convince Alvin to allow a movie to be made about him. Alvin finally consented, with some conditions. Among those conditions, Alvin wanted Gary Cooper (and only Gary Cooper) to portray him, he wanted somebody who wasn’t a cigarette smoking actress to portray his wife Gracie, and he wanted his share of the profits to go towards a Bible School he was trying to build. With those conditions met, the movie was made, with great care taken to portray everything accurately (outside of a few changes here and there). The movie would prove to be very popular at the box office, and was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, winning two (including Gary Cooper’s first win as Best Actor).

I was introduced to Sergeant York most of a decade ago. I think I caught it on the Turner Classic Movies channel and recorded it. The main thing I do remember for sure is that the movie had my attention the entire time, and I really enjoyed watching it! So getting to see it again via the recent Blu-ray (more on that in a moment) was a real treat! For me, this IS Gary Cooper’s best movie (at least, from those I’ve seen so far). I like his portrayal of the real Sergeant York’s journey from his wilder lifestyle through his conversion and his wartime dilemma. Of course, the rest of the cast is no slouch either, with Margaret Wycherly as Mother York, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias as his army buddy “Pusher” Ross or the many others who helped make this a great movie! The wartime scenes are impressive, and it’s fun seeing Alvin use his skills from back home to help out in wartime. For some, the religious element may turn them off from the movie, but, to the best of my knowledge about the real Alvin York, that was very much a part of him, and the movie really wouldn’t be complete without it. But for my money, this movie is absolutely fantastic, and well worth seeing!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection sporting a 4K scan of the best surviving nitrate elements, which in this case is a second generation nitrate fine grain made off the camera negative, since, according to the Warner Archive podcast, the original camera negative was gone by the time that Warner sold their pre-1949 library back in 1956. A lot of work was put into restoring this film, and it looks fantastic! But don’t take my word for it! They’ve got a video up on YouTube to show their restoration compared to what it looked like before, as I have linked at the bottom of this page! Again, this movie looks fantastic, and this new Blu-ray release IS the best way to see this absolutely wonderful classic!

Film Length: 2 hours, 14 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2020

**ranked #3 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938) – Gary Cooper – Casanova Brown (1944)

Nice Girl? (1941) – Walter Brennan – To Have And Have Not (1944)

Joan Leslie – Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Music In My Heart (1940) – George Tobias – Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

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!

TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Tammy And The Bachelor (1957)

Now we have another fun movie, the 1957 classic Tammy And The Bachelor starring Debbie Reynolds, Leslie Nielsen and Walter Brennan.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Tar With A Star (1949)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 3 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: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)

Popeye becomes sheriff of a western town, until Wild Bill Bluto shows up. Yes, it’s still Popeye fighting Bluto over Olive, but at least this time, it takes a few minutes for Bluto to show up, as Popeye cleans up the town. A few different gags related to the situation, which make it fun. One of the better shorts from this group, as I enjoyed it very much!

And Now For The Main Feature…

When Peter Brent (Leslie Nielsen) crashes in a Louisiana swamp, he is rescued by preacher John Dinwitty (Walter Brennan) and his granddaughter, Tambrey “Tammy” Tyree (Debbie Reynolds). Peter is in bad shape, but Tammy helps nurse him back to health. After he leaves, Tammy’s grandfather is arrested for bootlegging, and he sends her off to stay with Peter and his family. Walking with her goat, Nan, she makes it to Brentwood Hall, where she falls asleep from exhaustion. Peter and his family, which includes his father, Professor Brent (Sidney Blackmer), his mother (Fay Wray) and his aunt Rennie (Mildred Natwick) take her in. Peter, much to his family’s consternation, is trying to grow tomatoes in an attempt to make the farm self-sustaining again, while his mother is preparing for Pilgrimage Week to show tourists what things were like in the Old South. Tammy disturbs them with her plain ways and her refusal to keep quiet. She has fallen in love with Peter, but has competition from his girlfriend, Barbara (Mala Powers). Peter’s aunt Rennie likes Tammy, however, and she encourages Tammy to stay on and help Peter out.

Tammy And The Bachelor, which started a movie franchise, owed much of its success to the title tune! The movie was based on the novel Tammy Out Of Time by Cid Ricketts Sumner, but didn’t start out as much of a success at the box office. The title tune, written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, was recorded by the Ames Brothers for the opening credits, and by Debbie Reynolds, who sang it partway through the film. Unlike the movie’s slow start at the box office, Debbie’s record took off. The executives at Universal Studios pulled the movie from theaters, giving the song a chance to catch on, and then reissued the film to great success! A sequel was planned, but by the time they got to it nearly four years later, Debbie Reynolds (about 25 playing a 17-year-old for Tammy And The Bachelor) was about thirty and very busy, so they recast the role of Tammy with Sandra Dee for the next two movies, before casting Debbie Watson for the one season TV series (with four episodes cobbled together for one last movie).

In spite of the fact she was already leaning a little too old for the part, I still say that Debbie Reynolds is what makes this movie work so well! I love watching how she is able to tell others what she thinks most of the time, as her observations tend to be correct. Of course, she is still a bit naive, and that makes for some fun when she says some things that the adults mis-interpret as innuendo! And I know I don’t mind the idea of just sitting and listening to her telling her story when all the tourists are listening during Pilgrimage Week! Now, there are some things about this that don’t work, such as how some of the characters make light of slavery, whether it be Aunt Rennie claiming some of her paintings were done by slaves in an attempt to sell them, or making their black servant wear a slave bandanna (although, to be fair, the character doesn’t like it, and Debbie’s Tammy doesn’t like the look either). Still, I’ve enjoyed seeing this movie multiple times, and it’s one I have no trouble recommending!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 29 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Tender Trap (1955) – Debbie Reynolds – It Started With A Kiss (1959)

The Opposite Sex (1956) – Leslie Nielsen

To Have And Have Not (1944) – Walter Brennan

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #4 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2019

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

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

Carefree (1938)Ginger RogersBachelor Mother (1939)

Walter Brennan – Nice Girl? (1941)

Marge Champion – Show Boat (1951)

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

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