TFTMM 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Gun Crazy (1950)

Now we have another couple-on-the-run film noir, the 1950 classic Gun Crazy, starring Peggy Cummins and John Dall.

As a kid, Bart Tare develops an obsession with guns (although he can’t bring himself to kill after he kills a baby chick).  This obsession leads him to break into a store and steal some guns. He is caught, however, and sent off to reform school.  After several years in reform school and a stint in the army, Bart (John Dall) returns home.  His childhood buddies take him to a carnival, where he meets sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins). Bart briefly joins the carnival with Laurie, but they are both soon fired.  They get married, but, after a while, they start running out of money, and Laurie convinces Bart to help her rob a few places.  Bart reluctantly goes along, with the condition that they don’t kill.  They are successful on their crime spree, but their luck starts to run out when Laurie kills two people during a robbery. They find themselves on the run from the FBI and the police, as the law slowly closes in on them.

I admit, I was going into this movie for my first viewing after having just seen the recent Netflix movie The Highwaymen. After watching that movie, I was definitely feeling interested in seeing another Bonnie-and-Clyde type of movie, and this one was in a stack of Blu-rays given to me for my birthday, so it jumped to the front of the pack. Watching it, I found myself very impressed with what the filmmakers were able to do with this movie. I know one famous scene from this movie is the long take from the back seat of a car as they drove up to a bank, robbed it, and then drove away. The fact that it was apparently filmed at a real bank (plus the fact that the two leads did most of their own driving) really astounded me, and it helped their performances, considering they had to deal with the real problem of parking and improvise some of their dialogue. I definitely have to applaud the director and how he was able to do so much with so little, especially for the final scene (I’m not saying anymore, so that I don’t spoil anything). So, yes, I do like and recommend this noir to anybody that would be interested (and certainly to those familiar with the classic Bonnie And Clyde, which was apparently influenced by this movie)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection and is one hour, twenty-seven minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

Advertisements

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

All right, everybody, it’s time to get on board The Glass Bottom Boat with Doris Day, Rod Taylor and Arthur Godfrey.

Doris Day plays the widowed Mrs. Jennifer Nelson, who has just started working in public relations for a company developing technology for space travel. Her boss, Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor), takes an interest in her after he accidentally snags her mermaid tail swimsuit while he was fishing. He promotes her so that she is working more directly with him while he tries to get his technology ready in short order. Problems arise when the chief of security, Homer Cripps (Paul Lynde) overhears her calling her dog Vladimir on the phone and assumes she is a Russian spy. Bruce doesn’t want to believe it, but when she accidentally overhears a conversation between him and some of his colleagues who do believe she is a spy, she decides to turn the tables on them.

Sound absurd? It should, considering the movie was directed by Frank Tashlin, who had been an animator and director for a number of cartoons, including a few Looney Tunes, so the cartoonish elements of this movie certainly fit right in (including a few futuristic gadgets that seem like they might fit in on The Jetsons). This movie features many stars from the small screen, including Eric Fleming (Rawhide), Dick Martin (Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In), Dom DeLuise (in one of his earliest movie roles) and several from Bewitched, including Paul Lynde, George Tobias and Alice Pearce (the latter two of which essentially seemed to be playing the same type of characters as a married couple that they had on Bewitched). But Doris Day herself is the driving force of this movie, managing to pull off both physical comedy and verbal, and making a lot of moments work well that might not have in lesser hands.  I’ll admit, some jokes and other concepts haven’t aged well, but at one hour, fifty minutes in length, I still think this movie is worth a few good laughs just the same!

This movie has been available on DVD, first through Warner Home Video and then reissued through Warner Archive Collection, but it is the recent Blu-ray release from Warner Archive Collection that is the best version to see! Their new high definition transfer is gorgeous, allowing the colors to pop as they should! While I admit to having no prior experience with this movie before the Blu-ray, I can definitely say that the Warner Archive Collection’s reputation for stellar transfers made it an easy choice to try this movie out (having Doris Day in it didn’t hurt either), and I wasn’t disappointed!

My Rating: 7/10

Audience Rating:

TFTMM 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Two Weeks In Another Town (1962)

Here we are for the 1962 movie Two Weeks In Another Town, starring Kirk Douglas, Edward G. Robinson and Cyd Charisse.

Washed-up actor Jack Andrus (Kirk Douglas) has been staying at a sanitarium due to his alcoholism and general life issues. He got a message from his frequent director Maurice Kruger (Edward G. Robinson) to come to Rome and do a small part in the movie he was working on. Once there, however, he finds that there is no part, but Kruger asks for his help in getting the dubbing done for the movie. Of course, he finds the whole production to be a mess, with a quick deadline in which to finish the entire movie before somebody else is brought in to do it, the leading man (George Hamilton) is angry with the whole business and Kruger is apparently having an affair with the leading lady (and his wife knows about it, too). When Kruger has a heart attack, Jack tries to help finish the movie.

I have to admit, going into this movie, I had some relatively low expectations due to a lot of what I had read. The movie is the follow-up to what is considered one of the best dramas about Hollywood itself, The Bad And The Beautiful, which also stars Kirk Douglas and was directed by Vincente Minelli (heck, this movie even shows a few scenes from that movie as an “example” of what Andrus and Kruger had done before). I haven’t seen the earlier film, and I admit, it wasn’t one I had any interest in. I tried this movie because of actress (and dancer) Cyd Charisse (although having Kirk Douglas and Edward G. Robinson in this movie didn’t hurt, either). In spite of what I had heard previously, I ended up enjoying the movie and the performances of all the actors and actresses involved. And right now, I admit to also being curious about the earlier movie as well.

Does this movie have flaws? Yes. I’m not thrilled with the fact that Kirk Douglas’s character is somewhat abusive with some (but not necessarily all) of the female characters (but then again, outside of Daliah Lavi’s Veronica, very few characters come out of this movie looking squeaky-clean for one reason or another). The movie is a little loose with its plot (although, from what I’ve read, nowhere near as much as the novel it is based on). Part of the problem here is apparently how involved the censors and studio executives were in trying to make this more of a family movie (and how well they did with that is debatable for the reason I already specified). The use of rear projection screens is also somewhat disconcerting and quite noticeable, especially in a later scene when you should be feeling a little more fear because of how Jack Andrus is driving, but the rear projection really takes you out of the moment. If, and only if, you can get past these points, then I do think this is an enjoyable movie, and one I would recommend.

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, and is one hour, forty-seven minutes in length.

My Rating: 7/10

Audience Rating:

TFTMM 2019 & WOIANRA 2018 on… Mame (1974)

Time for us to “open a new window” and dig into the 1974 musical version of Mame, starring Lucille Ball.

In the late 1920s, young Patrick Dennis’ (Kirby Furlong) father Edward Dennis dies unexpectedly, and he is sent, along with his nanny Agnes Gooch (Jane Connell), to live with his flapper Aunt Mame (Lucille Ball).  She tries to raise him her way, but Dennis’ will had stayed that Patrick should be raised traditionally. The representative of the Knickerbocker Bank (who is supposed to reimburse Mame for raising Patrick the right way) discovered that Mame wasn’t raising him right, and so took him away and put him in a boarding school. Of course, this is also the same time the stock market crashed, so Mame has been wiped out and must find work. She meets Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside (Robert Preston), who falls for her and they spend a few years together until he dies in an avalanche. Meanwhile, Patrick has grown older (now played by Bruce Davison), still loving his Aunt Mame, but he has become more traditional like his father had intended, much to Mame’s dismay.

Personally, I’d like to think that this movie qualifies as a Christmas movie. I know, it’s only for about fifteen to twenty minutes near the beginning of the movie and it supposedly takes place just before Thanksgiving, but I think it’s still enough. It’s a wonderful scene in which we get to see how much Mame and Patrick mean to each other, along with Agnes Gooch and Mame’s butler Ito (George Chiang). We get the song “We Need A Little Christmas,” which evokes the feeling of wanting positive feelings and memories and the general spirit of Christmas, particularly when life was otherwise threatening to drag them down.

I admit, I was a little wary going into this movie after having read a number of negative reviews about the movie, specifically with regards to Lucy’s singing ability (or lack thereof). I will agree, she really couldn’t sing (and I certainly feel sorry for the sound technicians who had to piece together what we did get from many different takes). And I will agree that maybe she might have been too old for the part, but as an actress and comedienne, I like her very well in the role, and I certainly enjoy listening to her and Beatrice Arthur as Mame’s friend Vera Charles trading insults for the “Bosom Buddies ” number. It’s not the best movie in the world, but it is just good fun, and one I would suggest trying out!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, and is two hours, eleven minutes in length.

My Rating: 7/10

Audience Rating:

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Maytime (1937)

Let’s celebrate the month of May by digging into the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy musical Maytime.

Jeanette MacDonald plays Marcia Mornay, a rising opera star under the tutelage of Nicolai Nazaroff (John Barrymore). When she is presented to the court of emperor Louis Napoleon, Nicolai convinces an important composer to write an opera for her. Later, Nicolai proposes to her, and she accepts out of gratitude. In her excitement, she is unable to sleep and takes a carriage ride. She stops at a tavern when the horse runs away, and she meets Paul Allison (Nelson Eddy), who is instantly smitten with her. She resists, but she still meets him a few more times. Even though she likes Paul, she decides to stay with Nicolai and breaks things off with Paul. However, they meet again a few years later when Nicolai brings her to New York to do an opera there.

Originally, Maytime opened as a Broadway show on August 16, 1917, with music by Sigmund Romberg, and the book and lyrics provided by Rida Johnson Young. It would prove to be quite popular, with a second production running alongside the first, and it would be the second-longest running show of the decade. In 1923, it was made into a silent movie, keeping the story (sadly, this film no longer exists in its entirety, although four out of its seven reels have survived and been restored). It would come back again for the 1937 film, this time being planned as the third film for the then-hot screen team of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. This time, however, they would drop the story (although I get the impression that they kept a few elements of the original story) and most of the score as well, with the exception of the song “Will You Remember,” as they tried to play to the strengths of the two stars.

Of the eight movies starring MacDonald and Eddy, this ended up being the third one I saw, following Rose-Marie and Naughty Marietta (hmm… 2, 1, 3? Sounds like I might have seen the Dudley Do-Right movie too much growing up 😉 ). Anyways, I had no idea going into this one what it would be like. I had some familiarity with the other two, as I had heard some of the music before, and seen a few clips included in the That’s Entertainment films. This one, not so much. The closest I could claim was the song “Will You Remember” being included in the musical biopic on composer Sigmund Romberg, Deep In My Heart, which I didn’t care for after my first viewing (but that’s a story for another time).  With Rose-Marie setting the bar quite high for the series, I found myself feeling disappointed with this movie for the first hour.  Then I got to the May Day section, which included the song “Will You Remember,” and my opinion changed completely. That was the only song retained from the original score, and it was the only one that needed to be. I really enjoyed the song, which so strongly evokes the feeling of spring for me now, and the rest of the movie after that. Especially the finale, which was so wonderful, it gives me chills every time I watch it (but make sure you have a good supply of Kleenex)! And with repeat viewings, this movie just gets better and better! Is it perfect? No, I will admit, it does have some problems with sexism, although how much of that is inherent to the period the movie is set in, I’m not sure. But this is still a wonderful movie, and one I highly recommend!

This movie is available on DVD either individually or as part of a four-film Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy set from Warner Archive Collection and is two hours, eleven minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Rose-Marie (1936)

And now we’re here for the 1936 version of Rose-Marie, starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

In this movie, Jeanette MacDonald plays Rose-Marie de Flor, an operatic diva (emphasis on “diva”). When she hears that her brother, John Flower (James Stewart), has broken out of prison and killed a mountie, she decides to come to him in the wilderness. On the way, she runs into Sergeant Bruce (Nelson Eddy), the mountie who has been tasked with finding her brother. Bruce quickly figures out that she is the famous opera diva, but, due to Rose-Marie’s relationship to her brother being kept secret, he doesn’t realize her main reason for being there. After she leaves with her guide, he puts two and two together, and follows her. She loses her guide and is stuck with Bruce (who doesn’t admit that he knows, instead admitting to going a different direction). Of course, on the trip there, they both fall for each other, which makes Bruce’s job that much harder.

What can I say? This is a wonderful movie! This is the second film version of a 1924 stage operetta, following a (now believed to be lost) 1928 silent film and later followed by the 1954 version starring Howard Keel, Ann Blyth and Fernando Lamas. In spite of the fact that this version deviates the most from the play as far as the story is concerned, this is the best-known version. This film does make use of some of the music from the stage operetta to wonderful effect. We have songs such as “The Mounties,” sung by Nelson Eddy and the title tune “Rose-Marie,” sung by Nelson Eddy as a serenade for Jeanette MacDonald’s character (which works until he starts to sing it again and accidentally substitutes another lady’s name for Rose-Marie’s, revealing that he’s used the song before). But the best song would have to be “Indian Love Call” (although, if you don’t like the song, it’s very hard to enjoy the last half hour of the movie, as it’s sung about four times within that time frame). But it is such a wonderful song, and I personally have never heard it sung better than either Jeanette MacDonald or Nelson Eddy.

Speaking of the film’s two stars, this is the second of eight movies that they were paired together for. This ended up being the first of their movies together that I saw (I had previously seen maybe one film each for their solo outings). Any knowledge of these films I possessed previously was from clips of some of their movies being included in the That’s Entertainment trilogy, and, as I have never been terribly fond of opera, I was reluctant to try them out. Then I saw the 1954 film with Howard Keel (whom I did like), enjoyed it and wanted to try this one. I was blown away by how much I liked this one, and it became easy for me to try to seek the others out. I still don’t really care for opera, but I am willing to put up with it for these movies. And this movie in particular has always felt like a lesson in great chemistry, because the movie relies quite heavily on just these two for the vast majority of the film. And it works! And we also have James Stewart in an early (and brief) role as the escaped convict brother, which apparently helped to get him noticed (and a few bigger roles, too) after having only done small bit parts. So, yes, I very much recommend this one!!

This movie is available on DVD either individually or as part of a four film Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy set from Warner Archive Collection, and is one hour, fifty-one minutes in length.

“When I’m calling you-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo…”

My Rating: 10/10

Audience Rating:

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)

Now we have one of those all-star type of musicals made during the second World War to help benefit the troops, the 1943 movie Thank Your Lucky Stars. Since the billing for the movie was alphabetical order due to how big some of the stars were at the time (and not on how involved they were in this movie’s plot), I’ll try to list them according to their parts in the movie.  We have Eddie Cantor, Eddie Cantor (yes, I listed him twice on purpose), Dennis Morgan, Joan Leslie, Edward Everett Horton and S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall.

In this movie, we have Eddie Cantor playing a dual role as himself and Joe Simpson, a wannabe dramatic actor who can’t find work due to his resemblance to Eddie Cantor.  Farnsworth (Edward Everett Horton) and Dr. Schlenna (S. Z. Sakall) are putting on a wartime benefit with celebrity performers, and they want Dinah Shore for the show.  There’s just one problem: she’s under contract to Eddie Cantor, and they can’t get her without him.  So they reluctantly agree and almost immediately regret it, as he takes over and does things his way.  Elsewhere, we have wannabe singer Tommy Randolph (Dennis Morgan) and the aspiring songwriter Pat Dixon (Joan Leslie), who conspire to get Tommy into the show as a performer.   They convince their friend Joe Simpson to impersonate Eddie Cantor while they get the real Eddie out of the way for a while.

As you can see from my description, the plot isn’t this movie’s strength (and, quite frankly, I doubt it was intended to be).  This movie was supposed to be a morale booster for audiences at home.  And I think it still works in that fashion, at least for me!  I would probably describe the movie as being part musical (although, as usual for the times, the music doesn’t really serve the plot) and part revue, since the various stars are just doing various songs and dances (although it’s more like a talent show, since, outside of the movie’s leads, the stars are dramatic actors and actresses doing something out of their comfort zone). Speaking of the stars…

There’s such a wide assortment of celebrities in this movie that it could easily become a big discussion on just that, but I’ll try to keep it short by mentioning only a few moments that I enjoy. In spite of his prominent billing, Humphrey Bogart is only onscreen for a little more than a minute, but such a fun moment! While this movie works best when the viewers actually have an idea of what the various screen personas were at that time, a few are self-explanatory, like Bogie’s run-in with Dr. Schlenna. Seriously, the idea that a tough guy like Bogie looks weak against that teddy bear of a man is hilarious! Then there is Spike Jones And His City Slickers with their rendition of “Hotcha Cornia.” Seriously, why can’t orchestras play that way anymore, it’s so fun to watch (I highly recommend looking it up on YouTube at least)! Most of the stars were trying to sing, but the only memorable dancing is provided by Alexis Smith and her two male partners during the song “Good Night, Good Neighbor,” in which she does quite a few impressive lifts. And of course, that’s only just a few, with stars such as Bette Davis, Errol Flynn,John Garfield and many others getting in on the fun (also worth mentioning is one of Eddie Cantor’s regulars from his radio show, Bert Gordon, also known as “the Mad Russian,” whose only line is his well-known catchphrase “How do you do?”)! Again, this movie was intended to be a morale booster, but it works, and I would indeed recommend it as such!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, and is two hours, seven minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating: