2022: 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 2022. The year started off normally enough (although I did try to pull back from doing entries in my “What’s Old Is A New Release Again” series every week like I’ve done in the past, as that had felt like I was doing too much). I renamed my February 1 posts (which have generally been on films starring Clark Gable) as The King Of Hollywood And I: A Birthday Celebration, due to my shared birthday with him. However, that was as far as I got, as I never finished my logo for that series before events at home delayed a number of things I was trying to do (as I hinted at in my Upcoming Changes For The “Thoughts From The Music(al) Man” Blog post), and left me with no choice but to take the month of April off (apart from my Easter Sunday post). In May, I was able to resume my Thoughts From The Music(al) Man and Star/Genre Of The Month series on Sundays (albeit with biweekly posts as opposed to weekly like I had been doing since I started blogging), and I started doing roundups on multiple films (instead of individuals) for my What’s Old Is A New Release Again series.

Regrettably, those changes haven’t quite been enough, as I referenced more recently in my Changes Ahead Again post. I am still trying to continue into 2023, but, like I had thought when I wrote that post, I have to pull back even further by ending the Star/Genre Of The Month series that I’ve been doing since 2021, and just do one regular Thoughts From The Music(al) Man post per month (although there might be a few exceptions here and there). I will be trying to continue my What’s Old Is A New Release Again series as roundups, but with a few new changes. I’m going to finish out the series on 2022 releases the same way that I’ve been doing so far (which at most means one or two new posts along with some updates to the 4K UHD Roundup and Bob Hope And Dorothy Lamour Roundup, since they’re the only two posts with more releases that I haven’t seen yet). Once I start in on the 2023 releases (which is likely to be in May), I will be doing one post per month in the series (regardless of format, star, etc.). The plan will be to do either a regular review if I only saw one new release the month before, or do roundups for two or more titles (still debating whether or not I will impose a maximum of four films per post every month with the possible exceptions of November and March, although multi-film box sets *might* get their own posts). The big change is that this series will no longer be posted on Wednesdays, but Sundays. My plan is to do my Thoughts From The Music(al) Man posts on the first or second Sundays of the month (although there may occasionally be exceptions) and What’s Old Is A New Release Again Roundups two weeks after that, with the exceptions for the roundups in November (where it will be the last Sunday before Thanksgiving) and March (the last Sunday of the month). Outside of special posts (mostly the “Year In Review” and “Top 10 Disc Releases” plus whatever might be centered on special days), all other posts will also be on Sundays from now on. Hopefully, doing things this way will allow me to keep going for a bit longer.

But, enough about the changes to the blog. What we were all here for was the movies, and, even though I had to pull back on how many films I reviewed per month, I still got in a number of good movies for the year. Like in 2021, I spent most of the year focusing on various movie stars every month (albeit not in blogathon form after the first few months), featuring actors and actresses (and screen teams) like Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy (January), Deanna Durbin (February), Bing Crosby (March), Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour (May), Frank Sinatra (June), Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (July), Audrey Hepburn (August) and W. C. Fields (November), with one detour in September focusing on musical screen teams. There really wasn’t much of a focus on anything besides that, since everything that happened forced me to pull back almost entirely in April, and, outside of this month’s two Christmas films and finishing up the Thin Man film series earlier this year, I didn’t really go in for anything specific (just watching a few of the movies I was given for Christmas 2021 and my birthday). I had a handful of big discoveries this year, particularly The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm (1962), a bunch of new-to-me W. C. Fields films and the new West Side Story (2021). Almost everything else was movies I had seen before (or films that I didn’t have *quite* as high an opinion of). But, I still enjoyed watching more movies with familiar stars and genres, so there was that!

And with all that said, here’s my list of the top 10 movies that I watched/reviewed for the year 2022, culled from the list of 2022 reviews, plus 2021 releases reviewed after January 1, 2021 and 2022 releases reviewed before December 31, 2022 (also a few films released on disc in prior years, but obviously they’re included in the 2022 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. Top Hat (1935) (Warner Home Video, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Previously reviewed in: Top Hat (1935)
    • The top spot for 2022 belongs to the one and only Top Hat! Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers play a couple who meet in London, England, but quickly go to Venice, Italy when she mistakes him for the husband of her good friend. The plot may not be the film’s strength, but we’re not here for that, as we want to see Fred and Ginger dance! And dance they do, to a score of some of (in my opinion) Irving Berlin’s best music, including “Cheek To Cheek” and the title tune. Add in a memorable supporting cast, including Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore, and we’ve got a winner that’s always fun to see!
  1. Funny Face (1957) (Paramount Pictures, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Previously reviewed in: Funny Face (1957)
    • In this musical, Fred Astaire portrays photographer Dick Avery, who convinces Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn), an assistant in a Greenwich Village shop, to go to Paris, France as a model for Quality Magazine. It’s a lot of fun, with the beautiful music of George and Ira Gerswhin (and a few newer tunes), plus the dancing of Fred and Audrey in their only film together. With all of that, it’s a film that can’t miss, and is highly recommended!
  1. Monte Carlo (1930) (Criterion Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Previously reviewed in: Monte Carlo (1930)
    • In Monte Carlo (1930), Jeanette MacDonald plays a broke countess who goes to Monte Carlo to avoid a marriage to a wealthy duke that she doesn’t love. In the process, she falls for her hairdresser (who is actually a count in disguise). As usual, Jeanette is in fine voice, especially for her signature tune “Beyond The Blue Horizon” (which was introduced here).  There are a few other very fun tunes and various bits of comedy to help fill out this wonderful pre-Code, making it well worth seeing!
  1. Can’t Help Singing (1944) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Previously reviewed in: Can’t Help Singing (1944)
    • In her only Technicolor film, Deanna Durbin stars as a senator’s daughter who goes west to marry the soldier she thinks she loves, but finds real love on the way with a card sharp. It’s a fun film, with Deanna singing a number of memorable tunes, including the title song and “Californ-I-Ay.” It might be a little too similar to the classic screwball comedy It Happened One Night (1934), but it’s still entertaining, and worth being recommended!
  1. Kiss Me Kate (1953) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Previously reviewed in: Kiss Me Kate (1953)
    • In this classic musical, Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel star as a divorced couple who co-star (and fight both on- and off-stage) in a musical version of Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew.  It’s an overall fun film, with the benefits of beautiful and/or entertaining music by Cole Porter, plus some fantastic dancing by the likes of Ann Miller, Bob Fosse, Tommy Rall, Bobby Van and others!  It’s a well-regarded film musical for a reason, and I can’t recommend it enough!
  1. West Side Story (2021) (20th Century Studios/Disney, 4K UHD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Previously reviewed in: What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) 4K UHD Roundup
    • With regard to this film, the needle may be stuck in a crack, but I can’t help repeating myself. I did not care for the original 1961 film and had no intention of seeing this one. But I decided to give it a shot anyway when it showed up on Disney+, and I was floored by just how much fun this film was! I thought the cast did really well, the songs were fun and memorable (and made me want to get up and dance to them), and the cinematography was beautiful! Plain and simple, this one was a pleasant surprise (and I can’t help but feel like it should have done better, not only financially, but at the Oscars as well), and highly recommended!
  1. Charade (1963) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Previously reviewed in: Charade (1963)
    • In this film, Audrey Hepburn stars as Regina Lampert, who has returned home from a vacation in the Swiss Alps, only to find her husband dead and several men trying to shake her down for some money he had stashed somewhere. I’ve said before that I’m no fan of director Alfred Hitchcock (or the types of films he was known for), but this film, Stanley Donen’s homage to Hitchcock, is a thrill from start to finish! I love seeing Audrey and Cary Grant working together, as she makes us cheer for her, while he manages to stay just mysterious enough that we don’t know whether he is a good guy or a bad one. I know the ending, and yet I still feel the suspense every time I see this film. So this is an easy recommendation because of the leads and the story!
  1. The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm (1962) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 9/10)
    • Previously reviewed in: What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) Blu-ray Roundup #1
    • The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm tells the tale of the Grimm brothers Jacob (Karl Boehm) and Wilhelm (Laurence Harvey), as Wilhelm seeks out various fairy tales while his workaholic brother insists on doing their job of writing a duke’s family history.  This was very much a new film to me, and it was fantastic from start to finish!  The three fairy tale sections were the best part of the movie (especially with their more musical moments), but the film really shines with all of its scenery, filmed in its original Cinerama glory.  The recent Blu-ray release of this long-forgotten (and long thought to be too difficult/expensive to restore) movie made me a fan, and I heartily recommend it to others!
  1. Murder By Death (1976) (Shout! Factory, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Previously reviewed in: Murder By Death (1976)
    • In Murder By Death (1976), a group of famous detectives and their associates are invited to dinner and a murder. After the murder is committed, the race is on to prove who is the best detective! I’ve seen this spoof numerous times over the years, and it’s one that continues to make me laugh from start to finish, with memorable lines and ridiculous situations. It’s not the most politically correct film (as I mentioned in the original review), but it’s enough fun to recommend it with great enthusiasm!
  1. The Ten Commandments (1956) (Paramount Pictures, 4K UHD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Previously reviewed in: The Ten Commandments (1956)
    • It’s The Ten Commandments (1956).  It’s director Cecil B. DeMille at his very best, bringing all the spectacle and drama of the classic biblical tale to life on the big screen.  With Charlton Heston in the lead role as Moses and a host of many famous names in support, this film is certainly one of the greats of classic cinema.  It may run a bit long for some, but it more than makes up for it in entertainment value in my mind.  I would easily classify it as one of the better movies that I’ve seen this year!

Honorable mentions: You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man (1939) (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray), The Three Musketeers (1948) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray), The Clock (1945) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray), Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray)

So thank you all for sticking with me in 2022, and I wish you a Happy New Year as we head into 2023! And please let me know what movies you’ve enjoyed this year as well (whether those you’ve seen or whatever movies I’ve reviewed, whatever works for you)!

Previous Years

2021

2020

2019

2018

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2022) with… A Christmas Carol (1938)

For the last Christmas film I’m looking at before the holiday itself, we’ve got one version of one of Hollywood’s most frequently told tales: that of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol! This time, we’re looking at the 1938 film starring Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bored Of Education (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 6 (1936-1938) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 10 minutes, 21 seconds)

It’s the first day back to school after a long vacation, but Spanky (George McFarland) and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) don’t want to go to school. Their new teacher, Miss Lawrence (Rosina Lawrence) overhears their plot to get out of school, and comes up with a plan of her own to get them to stay. It’s an entertaining short that shares a similar plot to the earlier Teacher’s Pet (1930). Spanky and Alfalfa are indeed the fun here as they use a balloon to fake a toothache (which later affects Alfalfa’s singing a little bit). Personally, I enjoyed it, and I would heartily recommend it!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Christmas Party (1931)

(Available as an extra on the A Christmas Carol Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(9 minutes, 2 seconds)

Jackie (Jackie Cooper) hopes to host a Christmas party at his house for his football team. However, when the guest list gets bigger than he imagined, he gets permission to use a soundstage at the MGM studio to host the party. Once you get past the whole opening, there really isn’t much plot to this short. Most of it is the dinner at the soundstage, with some of the big MGM stars of the time like Clark Gable, Marion Davies and others serving the kids their meal. That doesn’t necessarily make for a great short, but it’s at least an interesting holiday short anyways.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Peace On Earth (1939)

(Available as an extra on the A Christmas Carol Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(8 minutes, 50 seconds)

Around Christmastime, a grandpa squirrel comes to visit his grandchildren. When they ask him about the phrase “goodwill to men,” he relates the story of how mankind destroyed themselves in their last war. It’s an interesting antiwar cartoon, made just as the second World War was starting to ramp up. I can’t deny that it still feels way too relevant, as I watch how everybody has to fight over every single thing even today. It’s beautifully animated, and certainly echoes the right holiday spirit for this time of the year, which makes it worth seeing every now and again.

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s Christmas Eve, and young Fred (Barry MacKay) has come to see his uncle Ebenezer Scrooge (Reginald Owen) at his counting-house. Fred hopes to invite his uncle to Christmas dinner with his fiancée, but Scrooge turns him down, considering Christmas to be nothing more than a humbug. Scrooge begrudgingly gives his employee, Bob Cratchit (Gene Lockhart), the day of Christmas off, but ends up firing him later when Bob accidentally wrecks Scrooge’s top hat in the streets. At his home later that evening, Scrooge is visited by the spectre of his dead partner, Marley (Leo G. Carroll), who warns him that he must change his ways or he will suffer in the afterlife, even more than Marley is. Marley further informs him that three ghosts will visit him that night. At one o’clock, Scrooge is visited by the Spirit Of Christmas Past (Ann Rutherford), who shows him what Christmas looked like for him in the past, when his sister was sent to bring him home from school, and later when he was apprenticed to Fezziwig (Forrester Harvey). At two o’clock (after the Spirit of Christmas Past had left him), he meets the Spirit Of Christmas Present (Lionel Braham), who shows him how his nephew is celebrating Christmas, as well as how Bob Cratchit is enjoying the day with his family, including his young and ill son, Tiny Tim (Terry Kilburn). After he is warned that Tiny Tim may not survive his illness, Scrooge then meets the Spirit Of Christmas Future (D’Arcy Corrigan). The Spirit shows him a future in which Tiny Tim does not survive, and Scrooge himself dies alone with nobody to care about him. Finally, he awakes to find that the Spirits had shown him all this in one night. Will their message take hold and help him to become a better man, or will he continue to be a selfish miser?

Nowadays, Charles Dickens’ tale of A Christmas Carol has been adapted for the big and small screen many, many times. However, back when the 1938 film version was done, that wasn’t quite the case, as it had mainly been done for a few shorts and one film (mostly in Britain). In the 1930s, actor Lionel Barrymore was well-known for playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge every year on the radio, and when MGM wanted to make a film version of the tale, he was their first choice for the role. However, he had been struggling with arthritis for some time, and that plus two recent hip injuries resulted in him being unable to walk (having already been on crutches for the same year’s You Can’t Take It With You). So he declined the role, but suggested Reginald Owen for the part. To help audiences accept Reginald Owen in the part, Lionel Barrymore appeared in a special trailer for the film, and let Reginald Owen perform as Scrooge on the radio that year. Production on the film had already been delayed, and they rushed to get through filming in about six weeks. The film did decently at the box office, and would be the go-to version of the tale for a number of years, until more faithful versions of the tale appeared.

First off, I should say that I’ve never had the chance to actually read Charles Dickens’ story yet (although it’s one that I would like to get to one of these days), so I can only compare it against other film versions. I actually first saw this movie somewhere around ten to fifteen years ago. It was part of the four-film Classic Holiday DVD Collection from Warner Brothers, which I had bought for a film I had already seen, Boys Town (1938), with plans to try out the rest of the group (which also included the previously reviewed 1945 film Christmas In Connecticut). I can tell you right now, even then I had seen a huge number of adaptions of Dickens’ classic story, and was feeling burnt out on the whole story, so this was probably the film in that set that I least looked forward to seeing. I would definitely say that the movie changed my opinion and made me a fan! Reginald Owen makes for a very good Scrooge in my opinion, as we see his journey from miserable miser to the kind and giving man at the end of the tale. And he’s supported well by a number of other actors and actress, especially Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit.

To me, this film is as much about embracing your inner child even as an adult. Scrooge seems to have forgotten, and it’s only when he is given a reminder that he changes. Barry MacKay’s Fred fits this idea well with some of the film’s more memorable moments (for me). When we first meet him, he is sliding on the ice with some of the kids, having just as much fun as them. Later on, he tries to convince his fiancée Bess (Lynne Carver) to join in, and initially she resists. It’s only after they see the minister shoo away some of the kids sliding in front of the church and then, when he thinks nobody’s looking, enjoy a quick slide himself, that she joins in. Also, we get to see the Cratchits’ Christmas almost entirely from the kids’ viewpoint, without seeing much of the sorrow that their father is dealing with. Even Bob Cratchit cheers up (after he was fired) when he starts doing what he can to make his family’s Christmas a good one, anyways.

Now, is this film flawed? Yes. In my opinion, where it seems to falter the most is in the writing. To me, this Scrooge seems to change too quickly, and almost makes me feel like they had at least one ghost too many. To make things worse, they skip over too much of Scrooge’s past, ignoring his romance with Belle almost completely (and in the process, they don’t show any of Scrooge’s gradual descent into greed). And the section with the Spirit Of Christmas Present almost seems questionable, as we don’t really see how Scrooge is affecting those around him (especially Gene Lockhart’s Bob Cratchit, who looks too well-fed for the role, even if his performance is otherwise flawless). That being said, none of these flaws detract from the story enough to stop me from watching it. It may not be my favorite version of the story, but it’s one that I will gladly watch (and recommend)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video.

With this being my last post before the holiday itself, I want to wish you all a merry Christmas (and to those who don’t celebrate it, I wish you happy holidays), and I wish you peace on earth, and goodwill to ALL, and to quote Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone!”

Film Length: 1 hour, 9 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Rose-Marie (1936) – Reginald Owen – The Pirate (1948)

Wedding Present (1936) – Gene Lockhart – Jesse James (1939)

Leo G. Carroll – Father Of The Bride (1950)

Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) – Ann Rutherford

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Film Legends Of Yesteryear: Screen Team & “Screen Team Of The Month (July 2022)” Featuring Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers in… Top Hat (1935)

Well, we’ve had one solo film each for July’s Screen Team Of The Month (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers), so that means that we need to finish the month off with one of their team ups! In this case, we’re going with their 1935 classic Top Hat!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Under The Counter Spy (1954)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 22 seconds)

A dangerous criminal called “The Bat” has stolen a secret formula, but has left the bottle in Woody Woodpecker’s house while evading the police. Woody mistakes the bottle for his tonic, and finds himself supercharged as he goes after “The Bat!” This one was apparently a spoof of Dragnet (which I’ve never seen but at least have some knowledge of), which makes it somewhat entertaining (probably even more so if you know the source material). Much of the humor is derived from the drained Woody drinking the tonic and then destroying everything with a mere touch. Of course, when “The Bat” goes after Woody while he is supercharged, “The Bat’s” foul deeds backfire on him! And I can’t deny that the final joke really makes this one! After being slightly disappointed with the previous few Woody Woodpecker cartoons included in the Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection, this one was a nice and hilarious return to form (without Woody having to be an obnoxious character) that I wouldn’t mind revisiting!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Watch The Birdie (1935)

(Available as an extra on the Top Hat DVD from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 18 minutes, 16 seconds)

Practical joker Bob (Bob Hope) wants to marry Dorothy Ripley (Nell O’Day). However, he goes too far with one of his jokes, and her father (George Watts) refuses to let them marry. This one is fairly entertaining, mainly as an early Bob Hope appearance. The various pranks he plays (and those played on him) are certainly a lot of this short’s humor (but, of course, Bob still has a few quips of his own). There’s also some extra fun with a quick appearance of Pete the Dog (of The Little Rascals fame). It’s not great, but I enjoy it enough that I don’t mind seeing it periodically.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Page Miss Glory (1936)

(Available as an extra on the Top Hat DVD from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 43 seconds)

A bellhop at a hotel in a small country town awaits the arrival of a big star, Miss Glory. While he waits, he falls asleep and dreams of being a bellhop in a big city hotel, where he has to page Miss Glory. This one was admittedly entertaining. There’s not much story to it, but who needs it when there’s some fun music written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. It’s an early Tex Avery cartoon, and while it’s not quite as wild as some of his later stuff, it’s good enough to be memorable. I certainly know I wouldn’t mind seeing it again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton) is producing a show in London featuring the American star Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire). One time, when Horace asks Jerry to stay overnight at his hotel room to help keep the peace between Horace and his valet, Bates (Eric Blore), Jerry starts madly dancing around the room. His dancing disturbs the sleep of Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers), who is occupying the room beneath them. When she comes up to complain (while Horace is away), Jerry becomes instantly smitten with her, and tries to go out with her. At first, she resists him, but she starts coming around to him. Their mutual attraction is short-lived, however, as various circumstances lead Dale to believe that Jerry (who had never introduced himself to her) is Horace Hardwick, who is married to her friend Madge (Helen Broderick)! Stunned and angry, Dale decides to leave London with her dressmaker, Alberto Beddini (Erik Rhodes), and go to Venice, Italy, where Madge is currently staying in order to warn her about “Horace’s” flirtations. Saddened by Dale’s departure, Jerry goes on with the show. When he learns from Horace backstage via telegram that Madge had invited them to go to Italy to meet her friend, Dale Tremont (since she was trying to set up Jerry and Dale as a couple), Jerry tells Horace to charter them a plane to Italy immediately. Meanwhile, in Italy, Dale tells Madge about “Horace” flirting with her, but Madge seems to take it in stride as being something in the norm for her husband. When Jerry and Horace arrive, Jerry keeps trying to see Dale, but is mystified as to why she is being so standoffish. At the same time, Horace is threatened by Alberto and is dealing with his wife being suspicious of him (but he assumes it’s because she heard about another accidental affair of his). When Jerry tries to propose to Dale, she slaps him, and later agrees to marry Alberto in the hopes that “Horace” will finally leave her alone. Will they be able to figure out the truth of what is going on, or will Dale be stuck married to a man that she doesn’t love?

Supposedly, the film was based on the 1911 play The Girl Who Dared by Alexander Faragó and Aladar Laszlo, but, from what I’ve read, the only aspect of the play retained for the film was the moment when Fred Astaire’s Jerry had to carry Horace’s (Edward Everett Horton) briefcase (which was one of the central moments that helped with the mistaken identity plot). More comparisons are generally made to the previous year’s The Gay Divorcee, in between the similar plot and (almost) identical cast (with Helen Broderick in Top Hat instead of Alice Brady). And it’s hard not to make that comparison, especially since Dwight Taylor, the author of the original play The Gay Divorce, was brought in to develop the story for Top Hat. However, Fred Astaire had some complaints about the initial script, including the idea that it too closely resembled The Gay Divorcee, and Allan Scott was brought in to do some rewrites (and yet, all these years later, the final film still resembles The Gay Divorcee in the minds of many). Irving Berlin was brought in to write the score, with the five songs that stayed in becoming hits at one time or another. Since Fred Astaire was mainly devoting all his time to the movies he was making with Ginger, he worked on most of the choreography with Hermes Pan (with Hermes Pan usually playing Ginger’s part), and they would show Ginger (who was still doing other films besides those with Fred) the choreography when they had it done. Top Hat would end up being a big hit with audiences, becoming the second highest grossing film of 1935 (behind Mutiny On The Bounty), and the highest grossing film in the Astaire/Rogers series. It would also be nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Original Song (Irving Berlin for “Cheek to Cheek”), Dance Direction (Hermes Pan for “Piccolino” and “Top Hat”) and Best Art Direction (Carroll Clark and Van Nest Polglase) (and regretfully losing them all).

Top Hat was the second Astaire-Rogers film that I saw (following 1949’s The Barkley’s Of Broadway, which I didn’t take to immediately), and it’s since become my favorite film in the series! Personally, Irving Berlin’s music is part of the film’s appeal for me, and I consider the score to be his best (I think some of the other musicals that used his music were better, but I like this score the best). All five songs are great fun (and easily get stuck in my head whenever I watch this movie)! I’d certainly give the edge to the songs “Top Hat, White Tie And Tails” (which I’ll admit to having done a tap solo to years ago, with the outfit becoming my go-to dance costume whenever I could use it for various specialty routines at dance recitals) and “Cheek To Cheek” (which is the song and dance that most defines the partnership of Fred and Ginger to me, and which I have also danced to, although it loses some of its meaning in the process since, at 6’4″, I’ve towered over most of my dance partners). But “No Strings (I’m Fancy Free),” “Isn’t This A Lovely Day (To Be Caught In The Rain)” and especially “The Piccolino” are all very delightful songs (and dances!).

The music (and dancing) are a big part of what makes the film a classic, but the comedy is right up there, too! Fred and Ginger certainly have some wonderful comedic moments together, and lines that stick with me, including this fabulous exchange:

-Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers): “What is this strange power you have over horses?”

-Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire): “Horse power.”

Of course, Fred and Ginger are hardly the only ones with comedic abilities here, as the rest of the cast handle it quite well, too. But it’s Edward Everett Horton (with his hilarious double-takes) and Eric Blore who steal the show, especially when together. Of course, Eric Blore’s Bates insulting the Italian policeman (who supposedly doesn’t understand a word of English) is one of the film’s most laugh-out-loud moments for me! Sure, the film’s plot is ridiculous, but with Fred and Ginger (and all the rest of the cast) to carry the film, who needs a good plot? I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending this film quite highly (seriously, go find a way to watch it now)!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Dancing Lady (1933)Fred AstaireFollow The Fleet (1936)

Star Of Midnight (1935)Ginger RogersIn Person (1935)

The Devil Is A Woman (1935) – Edward Everett Horton – Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

Helen Broderick – Swing Time (1936)

The Good Fairy (1935) – Eric Blore – Swing Time (1936)

Lucille Ball – Follow The Fleet (1936)

Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers (screen team) – Follow The Fleet (1936)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) 4K UHD Roundup

Welcome back to my new “Whats Old Is A New Release Again Roundup” series! This time around, I’m focusing on titles released on the 4K UHD format in 2022. Due to the slower pace of releases on the format (which is even slower when you account for the number of films that actually appeal to me), I will be starting out with two films, and updating this post as I see more (with the updates showing up on the 2022 Releases page). This post will be completed when I have seen all of the titles that I wanted that were released in 2022, or at the tail end of March 2023 (whichever happens first). So, let’s dig into some of the films that have been released on 4K UHD, starting with Singin’ In The Rain (1952) and West Side Story (2021)!

Remember, 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!

Note: Due to the fact that I had already used a short from a different set on my original review of Singin’ In The Rain (1952), I will not be adding another one on that post or this one.

Update: On 11/16/2022, comments were added on the recent 4K UHD release of Holiday Inn (1942). Due to there being a previously written review for that film, the “Coming Up Shorts!” comments were added to that review.

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Kid From Borneo (1933)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 18 minutes, 47 seconds)

Dorothy (Dorothy DeBorba), Dickie (Dickie Moore) and Spanky’s (George McFarland) mother has received a letter from her brother stating that he is in town with a carnival and wants to meet the kids. The kids go to the carnival, but they mistake the “Wild Man From Borneo” (their uncle’s “sideshow attraction”) as their uncle. This one is a bit of a mixed bag, but it’s pretty good. The short’s main problem is the characterization of the “Wild Man From Borneo” (who is a black man), but the short also makes sure to tell us that he is really not a threat (but the kids themselves certainly don’t know that). One of the short’s more amusing moments is when Spanky is cornered, and feeds this bottomless pit of a man everything in the icebox. It’s not a great short, but it certainly provided a few good laughs throughout.

Holiday Inn (1942)

  • Plot Synopses: A three person song-and-dance team splits up when one of their members, Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) gets the urge to buy a farm where he can rest and retire from show business. Farming doesn’t prove to be as easy or as restful as he thinks, and he decides to turn the farm into an inn that is only open for holidays (fifteen days a year). Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) is sent to the inn to audition, and she gets a job there. Jim falls for her, but one of his former partners, Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), finds himself partnerless. Upon meeting Linda, Ted also falls in love with her and wants to dance with her. Will Linda stay at the inn with Jim, or will she become a big star with Ted?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Extras (on both the 4K disc and the included Blu-ray): “A Couple Of Song And Dance Men;” “All-Singing All-Dancing;” “Reassessing ‘Abraham;'” Theatrical Trailer; and Feature Commentary By Film Historian Ken Barnes, including Audio Comments From Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby And John Scott Trotter
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 8/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: It’s a wonderful Christmas classic (obviously, it covers more than one holiday, but everybody remembers this film for its introduction of the song “White Christmas,” and for good reason)! Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire team up for the first time onscreen, with the resulting fun of “I’ll Capture Your Heart Singing” as the two of them try (and fail) to one-up each other in romance! Besides the two aforementioned songs, we also have some other fun Irving Berlin tunes including “Easter Parade” and “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.” The only real complaint about the film is the blackface number set to the song “Abraham.” The story may not be that great, but, apart from the blackface issues, this is a well-regarded film for good reason, and certainly recommended! If you need to read more on the film, check out my original review here.
    • On The Transfer: Honestly, this is a bit of a disappointing release. The 4K disc looks terrible, with a picture that is darker at times and loses some of the detail, and grain tends to be very distracting here, as if they are working from elements (or an older transfer) that doesn’t have 4K worth of data, although there are some moments here and there where the 4K disc actually looks good. Frankly, the included Blu-ray (which appears to use the same transfer, or close enough) actually looks better throughout. The Blu-ray is lighter and the grain is nowhere near as prevalent as it is on the 4K. Also, depending on your feelings about this, the film starts with a vintage Universal logo preceding the film’s Paramount logo. I only mention this because the film was originally produced by Paramount, was part of a large group of films sold to Music Corporation Of America (MCA)/EMKA , Ltd. in the 1950s, before becoming part of Universal Studios’ library when MCA took over the studio in the 1960s. Realistically, this release is at best recommended to those who don’t have the Blu-ray already (and even then it is questionable). If you already have the Blu-ray, then don’t bother with this one. If you want either the Broadway show or the colorized version of the film (neither of which is included as extras with this release), then I would suggest going with one of the earlier Blu-ray releases.

Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

  • Plot Synopses: Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are two of the biggest silent film stars in Hollywood. However, an encounter with one of his fans (Kathy Selden, as played by Debbie Reynolds) has left Don questioning whether he really can act. And now he really needs to prove that he can, as sound has come to the movies! He’s got the support of Kathy and his old friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor), but Lina proves to be a problem since she speaks with a heavy accent (not to mention the fact that she can’t sing or dance). Will Don and Lina’s new sound film prove to be a hit with audiences, or a flop?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes
  • Extras (on the 4K disc): Commentary by Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Stanley Donen, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Baz Luhrmann and Rudy Behmer; Musical Numbers
  • Extras (on the included 2012 Blu-ray): Commentary by Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Kathleen Freeman, Stanley Donen, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Baz Luhrmann and Rudy Behmer; Singin’ In The Rain: Raining on a New Generation, Jukebox, Theatrical Trailer
  • Label: Warner Home Video
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: The classic music of Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. Gene Kelly’s iconic dance in the rain to the title tune. Donald O’Connor’s pratfall-filled dance to “Make ‘Em Laugh.” All the comedy and the romance a film could need. What more needs to be said? (If more does need to be said, please read my original full review here).
    • On The Transfer: I had always thought that the earlier Blu-ray (from 2012) looked pretty good, but the new UHD blows it out of the water! The resolution is certainly much improved, allowing us to see better detail in the image (and all this from a film whose original camera negative was mostly destroyed, save for one reel, in the infamous 1978 Eastman House fire, and which has relied mostly on dupe negatives ever since). The colors are much improved by the HDR, toned down from the slightly yellowish image on the Blu-ray and DVD (and, according to the experts on the subject that I’ve read, the UHD is closer to being what it is supposed to look like). Of course, if you’re looking to “future-proof” this film, then do know that the Blu-ray included with the UHD is still the 2012 release, and not a remastered Blu-ray with a new transfer (which admittedly does allow you to see just how different the UHD is from the older Blu-ray). I’ll certainly recommend the 4K UHD quite heartily as the best way to enjoy this wonderful classic!

West Side Story (2021)

  • Plot Synopses: In the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the Jets are fighting for control of their territory with the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. The Jets’ former leader, Tony (Ansel Elgort), is trying to stay out of it, but he finds himself drawn in when he falls for Maria (Rachel Zegler), the sister of the Sharks’ leader, Bernardo (David Alvarez). This really angers Bernardo, pushing the Jets and the Sharks into a big all-out fight, with control of their territory at stake. Neither Maria nor Tony nor the police want this to happen. But, with all the hatred going around, can they stop the rumble before any blood is shed?
  • Film Length: 2 hours, 36 minutes
  • Extras (only on the included Blu-ray): The Stories of West Side Story, The Songs
  • Label: 20th Century Studios/Disney
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Plain and simple, I did not expect to like this version since I essentially hated the 1961 film. Boy, did that opinion prove to be wrong! The cast did right by their roles. The music and dancing proved to be very entertaining and memorable! Even the cinematography left an imprint on me! I would go so far as to argue that this may be the best film musical I’ve seen made within my own lifetime (if not the best movie made within my own lifetime, it’s so enjoyable)!
    • On The Transfer: I thought the accompanying Blu-ray for this film looked pretty good, but the 4K UHD blows it out of the water! The detail is exquisite and the color pops, especially for the extremely colorful “America” song and dance! The transfer really shows off the excellent cinematography here! A highly recommended release!

My Overall Impressions

Well, now that I’ve commented on both of these films, I’ll give you my rankings on these releases, from highly recommended (1.) to least recommended (3.):

  1. Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
  2. West Side Story (2021)
  3. Holiday Inn (1942)

Plain and simple, I think that Singin’ In The Rain is the better film of these three. It’s been a beloved classic for a long time (for good reason!), so it’s an easy choice. I do think that, as far as the 4K UHD releases go, West Side Story looks better, but I would also say that that has to do with modern filming technology which allows it to have much better detail combined with the fact that the original camera negative for Singin’ In The Rain no longer survives (but, as I said, that film still looks great on the 4K UHD, too). That being said, West Side Story is an easy recommendation for me as well. I enjoyed the film a lot (far more than I can say about the earlier 1961 film, for which I had the completely opposite reaction). I’ll give Singin’ In The Rain the edge here, but I can’t deny that both are wonderful films, and certainly deserve to be seen in the best possible format! Holiday Inn is another story. As to the movie itself? I would highly recommend it (maybe not as much as the other two films here, but it’s still a well regarded classic). However, as this is concerning the new 4K UHD release, Holiday Inn is easily the weakest of the bunch, with a poor transfer that leaves me recommending that you NOT look at the 4K, and instead go with one of the earlier Blu-ray releases.

*Singin’ In The Rain (1952) = ranked #2 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2022

**West Side Story (2021) = ranked #7 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2022

***West Side Story (2021) = ranked #6 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

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)!

Previous Years

2020

2019

2018

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2021) with… Christmas In Connecticut (1945)

We’ve got one last Christmas movie to get through before the holiday itself, so let’s get to it! It’s the 1945 holiday comedy Christmas In Connecticut, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Star In The Night (1945)

(Available as an extra on the Christmas In Connecticut Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 21 minutes, 27 seconds)

On Christmas Eve, a drifter stops in at the Star Auto Court out in the desert, which is run by Nick Catapoli (J. Carroll Naish). Nick is quite cynical about the holiday, but he changes his tune when some of his complaining customers decide to pitch in and help when a young couple arrives (with the wife about to give birth). Very much a (then) modern version of the original Christmas story, with a pregnant couple, no more room at the inn, a group of three men bearing gifts, and others in awe at the event. As such, it is one that I have enjoyed coming back to again and again! A heartwarming tale that is very much in the spirit of the holiday!

And Now For The Main Feature…

After a German submarine blows up their ship, sailors Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) and Sinkewicz (Frank Jenks) find themselves on a raft for eighteen days without food. When they are rescued and taken to a Navy hospital, Jefferson’s dreams of eating good food again are dashed by the doctor’s orders. Listening to his friend Sinkewicz, Jeff decides to play up to his nurse, Mary Lee (Joyce Compton) to get some good food (even going so far as to get engaged to her). When it is almost time for him to be discharged, he tries to renege on his engagement. Mary Lee, feeling that it is because he’s never known a real home, writes to Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), a big publisher whose granddaughter she had helped nurse back to health. She asks him to have one of his writers, Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck), invite Jeff to her “perfect home” in Connecticut to see what a real home is like (an idea that Yardley approves of). There’s just one hitch: Elizabeth is not what she claims to be. Unlike the persona she tries to put across in her columns, she is not a wife or mother, she can’t cook and she lives in an apartment in New York City. This is a real problem for her and her editor, Dudley Beecham (Robert Shayne), as Yardley absolutely insists on printing the truth. She tries to meet with Yardley and talk him out of it, but only finds herself with yet ANOTHER guest when he invites himself along. Facing the prospect of unemployment, Elizabeth decides to finally accept the marriage proposal of her friend, architect John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner) (even though she doesn’t love him). That gives Dudley an idea, as Sloan lives on a farm in Connecticut, so he suggests they follow through with the idea, and he convinces Elizabeth’s friend and restaurant owner Felix Bassenak (S. Z. Sakall) (who had been supplying her with recipes for her column) to come along and help do the cooking for her. Reluctantly, Elizabeth decides to go along with the idea. On Christmas Eve (the day that Jeff is supposed to arrive), Elizabeth comes to Sloan’s house, where he has brought a judge to marry them. Before they can start the ceremony, Jeff arrives early, forcing them to postpone the ceremony. Upon meeting him, Elizabeth is instantly infatuated with him. He is interested, too, but is unsure of how to react, given that he believes that she is married. Yardley arrives not long after. Over the next two days, Elizabeth is constantly in danger of being revealed as a fraud, as she tries (and fails) to get through a wedding ceremony secretly deals with Yardley pushing her to cook for him, and dealing with different babies on each day (who were actually the kids of local mothers being watched by Sloan’s housekeeper Norah, as played by Una O’Connor). Can she keep up this ruse, or will she be discovered?

At the time that Christmas in Connecticut was made, lead actress Barbara Stanwyck was coming off her success as the villainess Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity, and was looking for a lighter comedy to do. Originally, Bette Davis was to be cast as Elizabeth Lane (a character that was somewhat based on real-life Family Circle Magazine columnist Gladys Taber), but was replaced by Stanwyck only a few months after that initial announcement. Actor Sydney Greenstreet was also looking for a change of pace, as he had mainly been playing various heavies in his previous films. Peter Godfrey, who had been in Hollywood for nearly six years (both on- and off-screen), was given the job of directing the film. He got along well with everybody, particularly Greenstreet (as both had come from the London theatre scene, and spent a lot of time on set entertaining everyone) and Stanwyck (who became friends with the director and would later work with him on the 1947 films Cry Wolf and The Two Mrs. Carrolls). As the war was still going on at the time of filming, studio head Jack Warner tried to cut costs, including re-using a mink coat from Mildred Pierce (1945) and some of the set from Bringing Up Baby (1938) for the Connecticut home. It all worked out for the movie, as it rode a wave of post-war euphoria at the box office, resulting in it being one of the more successful movies that year.

I first saw this film as part of a four-film holiday collection on DVD, and I took to it after that first viewing! It was one of the first (if not THE first) Barbara Stanwyck films that I saw. For me, the whole cast worked quite well, from Stanwyck’s Elizabeth as she navigates trying to appear to be the “perfect wife” like in her column, to Dennis Morgan as the sailor fighting his own nature as he falls for a “married” woman (a no-no in his book), to Greenstreet as the publisher who doesn’t let anybody else get a word in edgewise. And, of course, there is S. Z. Sakall as Elizabeth’s cook friend, who is there to help her out. As usual, he’s a lot of the fun (and this was one of the films that helped me to realize that originally). It’s not a musical by any means, but there are some fun songs here, with Dennis Morgan singing “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” and “The Wish That I Wish Tonight” while Elizabeth decorates a Christmas tree. Overall, the comedy works well, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite moments, that of Elizabeth trying to flip a pancake for the men. After we see her trying(and failing) when practicing earlier with Felix’s help, it’s hilarious to see her succeed in front of all the men (with her eyes closed), only to have a look of satisfaction on her face like it was no big thing. It’s always guaranteed to have me laughing! Ever since the first time I saw it, this movie has become one of my favorite Christmas films, and I have no hesitation in recommending it! Seriously! See it if you get the chance! It’s even better with the one-two punch of this movie and the Star In The Night short that is included with it on the Blu-ray and DVD releases!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video.

With this being my last post before the holiday, I want to wish you all a merry Christmas (and to those who don’t celebrate it, I wish you happy holidays), and I wish you peace on earth, and goodwill to ALL!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Great Man’s Lady (1942)Barbara StanwyckThe Bride Wore Boots (1946)

Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) – Dennis Morgan – Perfect Strangers (1950)

The Maltese Falcon (1941) – Sydney Greenstreet

Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) – S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall – Romance On The High Seas (1948)

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 (November 2021)” Featuring Humphrey Bogart in… The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948)

We’re here for another film with this month’s Star, Humphrey Bogart! It’s the classic 1948 drama The Treasure Of the Sierra Madre, which also stars Walter Huston, Tim Holt and Bruce Bennett!

Coming Up Shorts! with… 8 Ball Bunny (1950)

(Available as an extra on the The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 8 seconds)

A penguin accidentally gets left behind by the Ice Frolics, and runs into Bugs Bunny as he attempts to catch up. So, Bugs volunteers to help him get home… to the SOUTH POLE!?!? (“Ooh, I’m dying!”) This is a fun classic Bugs cartoon, as he deals with all the trouble of trying to get the penguin south. More fun is added by the appearance of a Humphrey Bogart character, specifically Dobbs from The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (which makes this a PERFECT extra for that movie). All in all, this one is quite entertaining (and VERY much hilarious), making it one that I just love to come back to!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Hot Cross Bunny (1948)

(Available as an extra on the The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 10 seconds)

A doctor plans to experiment by switching the brains of a chicken and a rabbit. Of course, you can guess that the rabbit is none other than Bugs Bunny, and he wants to keep his brain right where it is! Another familiar cartoon, with all the fun that comes from Bugs dealing with the doctor, first via examination, and then him trying to escape the experiment. It’s a fun (and funny!) cartoon, and I know always get a kick out of it when I see it!

Coming Up Shorts! with… So You Want To Be A Detective (1948)

(Available as an extra on the The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 10 minutes, 53 seconds)

Joe McDoakes (George Hanlon), or maybe I should say Phillip Snarlowe, private eye, is searching for a killer. I’m not a huge fan of the Joe McDoakes series, but I will admit that this is one of the better ones that I’ve seen so far! With the story being told from the viewpoint of narrator Art Gilmore (literally being told that way, as the story is being shown in first-person view from his character’s standpoint), this adds a lot to the fun! The gags come fast and furious, from a dead girl in Snarlowe’s filing cabinet, to the “Tall Man,” to the “boys” that come to cause trouble for a big mobster. This one was worth quite a few laughs, and is one of the few from the Joe McDoakes series that I would thoroughly enjoy revisiting!

And Now For The Main Feature…

It’s 1925 in Tampico, Mexico. A pair of destitute Americans, Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Curtin (Tim Holt) find work in the oil fields under Pat McCormick (Barton MacLane). When they finish up and return to Tampico, McCormick goes off to get their paychecks, leaving them with a little drinking money. When the two men overhear somebody else at the bar telling about how McCormick cheats his workers out of their paychecks, they go to a flophouse to spend the night, and listen to tales of gold prospecting being told by Howard (Walter Huston). The next day, Dobbs and Curtin are considering Howard’s stories when they spy McCormick, and angrily demand their money. When he tries to get out of it again, they get into a physical altercation in which they come out on the wining side, and take the money that was owed them. Coming back around to the idea of gold prospecting, they turn to Howard for help (since they have no idea what supplies they would need). They pool all their money, and after buying some supplies and burros, they make their way toward the Sierra Madre mountains. The journey proves treacherous, and the younger, more inexperienced prospectors have a hard time keeping up with the much older Howard. Just when Dobbs and Curtin are ready to give up, Howard reveals that he’s found the best place for them to prospect for gold. They set up camp at the base of a mountain, and start digging. Their pile of gold starts to build, and they start dividing it up. Greed starts to get the better of them, but Dobbs in particular succumbs to it, as he grows ever more suspicious of his partners. After Curtin has to go to a nearby town for supplies, he is followed by another gold-hunting American named James Cody (Bruce Bennett). Once Cody arrives at their camp, he decides to stay, and asks for a share in all the gold they find from now on. However, Dobbs and Curtin decide he can’t be trusted, and decide to kill him. Before they can do anything, though, Cody spots a band of Mexican bandits nearby, who are looking for the group (mainly because they need some guns, and they heard in the village about Curtin, who was claiming to be a hunter in the area). They get into a gunfight with the bandits (led by Gold Hat, as played by Alfonso Bedoya), which ends when a group of federal soldiers catches up to the bandits, forcing them to make a run for it. However, Cody was killed in the fight, so the three men decide to bury him. Not much later, they find themselves getting less and less gold from the mountain, so they decide to call it quits, and try to restore the mountain as much as possible. On their trip back to Durango, they are met by a local group of Native Americans who are seeking medical help for one of their boys who had fallen into water and hadn’t come to yet. Howard goes to help them out, and when the boy is awakened, the people all ask him to stay while they honor him. Dobbs and Curtin, meanwhile, continue the trip, bringing along Howard’s burros and gold so that they can get their money for it in Durango. However, Dobbs, whose greed has been showing itself, not only in refusing to give a fourth of his gold to Cody’s widow and child (whereas Curtin and Howard were willing), he now considers just taking Howard’s gold as well. Curtin disagrees, but now Dobbs is suspicious that Curtin wants to off him and get HIS gold. Will these two men make it to Durango safely, or will gold fever finish one (or both) of them off?

While The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre made it to theaters in 1948, the movie itself was being considered nearly a decade earlier. John Huston (the film’s eventual director) had read the 1935 book by B. Traven in 1936, and thought it would make a great movie. By the time he became a director (with 1941’s The Maltese Falcon), Warner Brothers had already bought the film rights, and he asked for (and was given) the opportunity to direct it. However, the U.S. entered World War II, and Huston served in the Armed Services (making films). After the war, Huston came back to work on The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, corresponding with the book author B. Traven and being advised by the author’s “friend” Hal Croves (whom most sources claim was actually Traven himself). The movie was shot on location near Jungapeo, Mexico. When he first read the book, Huston had thought about casting his father, Walter Huston, in the role of Fred C. Dobbs, but, as time went on (and his father got older), that idea wasn’t as realistic, and so he decided to cast his father as the older Howard (and forced him to remove his false teeth for the role). Studio head Jack Warner was famously very unhappy with the way that filming was dragging on, as he felt it was costing him a lot of money. He also didn’t like the ending, and thought audiences wouldn’t accept it as is. Initially, he was right, as the film didn’t do too well, but that changed with the film’s re-releases over the years as it gained in popularity.

I will readily admit, that I’ve seen this movie a number of times over the years (and it was one of the earliest Bogart films that I saw, alongside The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca). I took a liking to it on that first time, and my opinion of the movie has stayed high over the years! Humphrey Bogart in particular makes this movie great, as he gives us a performance in which he (like many of us) thinks that gold fever wouldn’t affect him at all (or so he promises). However, Howard’s warnings get in his head, and his greed gets the better of him (with a few moments of near redemption in between). It’s a different role than some of what he had done earlier, but he is so effective that I can’t complain! The movie manages the drama well, and even throws in a bit of humor as well, particularly the moment spoofed in the Bugs Bunny cartoon 8 Ball Bunny with Bogart’s Dobbs pestering a stranger for money (with the stranger played by the film’s director, a fact I didn’t realize until I was reading about this film for this post in one of those “You learn something new every day”-type of things). I do know the film was remade (to a degree) a few years later as an episode in the first season of the Warner Brothers TV western Cheyenne, which I thought was fun (but nowhere near as good as this movie). Seriously, this movie is among the greats (for good reason!) and I have no problem whatsoever in recommending it myself!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video

Film Length: 2 hours, 6 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Dark Passage (1947)Humphrey BogartRoad To Bali (1952)

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) – Walter Huston

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 (November 2021)” Featuring Humphrey Bogart in… The Petrified Forest (1936)

Now that it’s November, we’ve moved on to the new Star: Humphrey Bogart! Now, for my first Bogart film this month, I went with a movie where he may not be the main star, but he still has an important part in it! It’s the 1936 drama The Petrified Forest starring Leslie Howard and Bette Davis.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Rhythmitis (1936)

(available as an extra on the The Petrified Forest Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 19 minutes, 37 seconds)

According to a doctor, Hal (Hal Le Roy) is suffering from “rhythmitis,” but a pill that the doctor gives him to “cure” it only makes it worse! Of course, star Lola Green (Toby Wing) and her agent are passing by, and decide to make Hal a star. This was a fun little musical short. Hal Le Roy does some pretty good dancing here. This short isn’t anything special, but it’s entertaining, with a twist for the ending that I didn’t see coming (as I had expected a different twist). Certainly one that would be fun to see every now and then!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The CooCoo Nut Grove (1936)

(available as an extra on the The Petrified Forest Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)

In this short, we visit a Hollywood nightclub and see some of the various celebrities. This is another fun cartoon in the vein of seeing some of the various Hollywood stars (here mostly from the 1930s) caricatured. Personally, I recognize most of them, which still allows for some of the humor to work quite well. I’ll admit, I’ve seen other cartoons with celebrity caricatures that were better, but this one was entertaining enough, even if it really didn’t have much of a plot.

And Now For The Main Feature…

In an Arizona desert, there is a fairly isolated gas station/diner called the Black Mesa Bar-B-Q. The place is run by Jason Maple (Porter Hall) with the help of his daughter Gabrielle (Bette Davis), his father (affectionately known as “Gramp,” as played by Charley Grapewin) and Gabrielle’s wannabe boyfriend, Boze Hertzlinger (Dick Foran). Gabrielle feels stuck there, and wants to go to Paris to see her mother and study art, but cannot afford to make the trip (so is stuck waiting for her inheritance when her grandfather dies). One day, a penniless hitchhiker named Alan Squier (Leslie Howard) stops at the diner, and captures Gabrielle’s imagination with his philosophy and tales of his travels. She falls for him, and decides to show him her artwork (something she’s not willing to do for much of anybody). However, he can feel that she is falling for him, and decides to leave. Understanding his desire to leave, she helps him catch a ride with a rich couple (Mr. and Mrs. Chisholm, as played by Paul Harvey and Genevieve Tobin, respectively) that are passing through. Their trip away from the diner ends quickly when they run into gangster and killer Duke Mantee (Humphrey Bogart) and his men, who steal the car and head towards the diner. While the Chisholms and their chauffeur try to see if they can repair the bullet-ridden car that Duke had abandoned, Alan tries to get back to the diner on foot to warn Gabrielle. He is too late, though, as Duke and his men had already gotten there, and decided to hold everybody hostage (including the Chisholms when they walk back). Duke’s men urge him to keep on going to the border, but he is intent on staying there, as he had promised to meet his girlfriend there. During one moment when Duke is distracted, Boze tries to wrest a gun away, but fails (and gets shot in the hand for his efforts). Feeling like he is doomed to die, Alan decides to sign his life insurance over to Gabrielle (so that she can afford to go to Paris), and asks Duke to kill him before he leaves. Will Alan and Duke go through with this plan? Or will Gabrielle give up on her dreams of Paris (and convince Alan to live)?

When he originally wrote the play The Petrified Forest, playwright Robert Sherwood originally based the character of Duke Mantee on John Dillinger (who was then public enemy #1). When the play was cast, Humphrey Bogart was chosen to play the role at least partly because of his resemblance to Dillinger. He put the time in to study footage of Dillinger and adopt some of his idiosyncrasies for his performance. It paid off, helping make the show a big hit. However, that wasn’t quite enough for Hollywood. When Warner Brothers bought the film rights, they brought along the show’s lead, Leslie Howard (already an established star in Hollywood). There were no plans to bring Bogart, however, as Warners wanted to cast their own star, Edward G. Robinson, in the role. Leslie Howard had promised Bogart that he would get the role for the movie, and threatened to walk off the picture if Bogart didn’t do it. So, the studio relented, Bogart was cast, and the film did well enough that he was put under a long-term contract with the studio. It wasn’t a major step (as he still had a few years ahead of playing second fiddle to some of the bigger stars, and doing leads in “B” pictures), but he had finally become a star in Hollywood.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had the chance to see a “new” Humphrey Bogart film (well, new to me, anyways), so this is a nice way to start off the month. Obviously, it’s still early Bogie, so the fact that he really isn’t the main character isn’t much of a surprise. That being said, his performance was definitely one of the high points of the film. He certainly manages to give us a sense of menace, while also still trying to be human (as he waits for his girlfriend). It was quite fascinating to watch him. Apart from him, the movie can be a bit slow. In particular, it really feels like it gets bogged down with some of the philosophy that Leslie Howard’s Alan Squier spouts. And for that matter, I’m not sure that I care much for Leslie Howard’s performance. The rest of the film is interesting, and I’m impressed with how it achieves so much with so little, since we spend most of the film in the diner (although the action does move away here and there). Apart from Leslie Howard, I find the rest of the cast doing well acting-wise, and it made it easier to sit through the movie. Amongst the gangster films I’ve seen (as of this writing, we’re talking about The Public Enemy, Little Caesar and Each Dawn I Die), I think this is the second best. Certainly one that I would recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video, either individually or as part of the four film Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics.

Film Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Leslie Howard – Stand-In (1937)

Bette Davis – Jezebel (1938)

Humphrey BogartStand-In (1937)

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

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2021) on… Little Caesar (1931)

Well, we’ve looked into a few gangster films earlier this year (mainly during my month-long celebration of actor James Cagney), but we’re back for another gangster classic, the 1931 film Little Caesar starring Edward G. Robinson and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Hard Guy (1930)

(Available as an extra on the Little Caesar Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 6 minutes, 28 seconds)

In the Depression, Guy (Spencer Tracy) and his wife Ellen (Katharine Alexander) wonder how they will be able to afford food for their sick daughter. With him reading about crimes in the news, his wife wonders if he may resort to that when she finds a gun in his coat pocket. It’s an interesting short, mainly appealing for an early look at Spencer Tracy as he was trying to break into the movies. Some of the acting is a little stiff (not surprised considering when it was made), but Spencer Tracy shows enough promise of what is to come to make this at least interesting. Apart from him, it’s not otherwise memorable.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Lady, Play Your Mandolin! (1931)

(Available as an extra on the Little Caesar Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 17 seconds)

Foxy comes to a Mexican café, where everybody is singing “Lady, Play Your Mandolin.” This short was the first in Warner’s “Merrie Melodies” series of animated shorts, in an attempt to showcase the title song. There really isn’t much of a plot here, just the music (with a few gags here and there). It’s not that memorable (nor, quite frankly, is the song), and, given that it features the Mickey Mouse-esque Foxy (and his requisite lady fox), it doesn’t come off as well as the more original Disney cartoons of the era.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Small town crooks Caesar Enrico “Rico” Bandello (Edward G. Robinson) and his friend Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) have just gotten away with robbing a gas station. Rico dreams of doing bigger things, and he decides they will both go to Chicago. In Chicago, there are two rival gangs, one led by Sam Vettori (Stanley Fields) and the other led by Little Arnie Lorch (Maurice Black). They both answer to Pete Montana (Ralph Ince), who answers to Big Boy (Sidney Blackmer). Rico joins up with Sam Vettori’s gang, and Joe becomes half of a dance team with Olga Stassoff (Glenda Farrell) (who becomes his girlfriend) at the Bronze Peacock nightclub owned by Little Arnie. Olga slowly starts trying to influence Joe to get out of the gang life, but he resists. Sam Vettori decides to have his men rob the Bronze Peacock on New Year’s Eve, and they decide to use Joe as an inside man. Of course, Big Boy has sent word to all the men to avoid killing due to the tough new crime commissioner breathing down their necks. The robbery almost goes right, except the crime commissioner walked in on them committing the crime, and Rico decided to take a shot at him. They get away successfully (although Joe, who witnessed the killing, is now starting to hesitate about staying in the gang). Policeman Sergeant Flaherty (Thomas E. Jackson) comes to Sam Vettori’s place looking for information, but doesn’t find anything. Rico starts believing that Sam Vettori is getting too soft to be in charge, and leads the other men in a successful mutiny. Little Arnie feels that Rico is getting too big for his own britches, and tries to have him bumped off. When Little Arnie’s men fail, Rico comes calling, and tells him to get out of town or else (he chooses to get out of town). Rico is called in to meet with Big Boy himself, who decides to give him the territory that Pete Montana had been in charge of. Things are starting to look good for Rico. However, his old friend Joe is quickly becoming a liability, and he needs to do something about it. Will Joe be able to convince his friend to let him out of the gang, or will things end badly for one (or both) of them?

Little Caesar was adapted from the novel of the same name by William R. Burnett. Several characters and events in the movie were patterned on real-life people and events, with Rico in particular being based on famous gangster Al Capone. Actor Clark Gable was considered at one point for one of the leads in the movie (although which role he was in consideration for varies depending on the source), but he was turned down. Edward G. Robinson (who had actually played a gangster onstage and in one previous movie) was considered for the role of Rico’s “yes man” Otero (who would be played in the movie by George E. Stone) before producer Hal Wallis decided he would be perfect as Rico. Of course, off-camera, Robinson was far different from the character he portrayed onscreen, with a particular aversion to gunfire which forced them to tape up his eyelids to keep him from messing up the takes when he pulled the trigger. While not the first gangster film, it proved popular enough that Robinson became typecast as a gangster for a time, and pushed Warner Brothers to focus on the genre (helped by the success that same year of Cagney’s The Public Enemy).

Like some of the other gangster movies that I’ve seen this year, this was my first time seeing Little Caesar, and I have to say that I enjoyed it quite a bit! Like James Cagney in The Public Enemy, Edward G. Robinson did indeed carry the film with quite a wonderful performance as a conceited, power-hungry killer. It was mesmerizing watching him as he slowly wormed his way into the affections of the other men, all the while making his leaders look “soft” enough that he could take over. I’ve seen some say that the acting in this movie is a bit wooden, and while I can’t completely disagree, I think it’s at least better overall than in The Public Enemy, with Robinson receiving better support from the other members of the cast. I admit that I found the banquet scene with all the gang members quite memorable (with that scene being based on an actual party held in honor of gangsters Dion “Deanie” O’Bannion and Samuel J. “Nails” Morton). Not going to lie, that scene made me think of the opening scene in Robin And The 7 Hoods (I know, that film was made later and was probably spoofing this scene, helped by the presence of Robinson himself, but I’ve seen that movie many times over the years, versus once for Little Caesar at the moment). The ending itself is also quite haunting (although you can probably predict it coming essentially from the start of the film with the intertitle quoting Matthew 26:52). It’s not a perfect film by any means, but, like I said, Robinson carries the film quite well (and I can certainly understand why he got typecast for a while after this one). Certainly worth recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video, either individually or as part of the four film Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics.

Film Length: 1 hour, 19 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

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

Edward G. Robinson – The Sea Wolf (1941)

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. – Having Wonderful Time (1938)

“Star Of The Month (July 2021)” Featuring James Cagney in… White Heat (1949)

It’s time again for another James Cagney movie as we continue to celebrate him as the Star Of The Month! This time, it’s his 1949 classic White Heat, also starring Virginia Mayo!

Coming Up Shorts! with… So You Think You’re Not Guilty (1950)

(available as an extra on the White Heat Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 10 minutes, 31 seconds)

Joe McDoakes is fined for going through a (malfunctioning) traffic signal, but, in his stubbornness to admit to his guilt, that small fine quickly turns into a stretch in prison! This was a fun one, with the increasing ridiculousness as everything snowballs! Of course, being directed by Richard Bare (who later directed the TV series Green Acres), I’m not surprised about that! This one may not be realistic on a number of levels, but it’s certainly a funny short!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Homeless Hare (1950)

(available as an extra on the White Heat Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 6 seconds)

When a construction worker destroys Bugs’ home, he vows revenge. Another type of Bugs cartoon in which he is wronged, and decides to fight back. You just know that construction worker won’t know what hit him. Of course, I was surprised to see him get one good shot in on Bugs partway through, but at least that allows for some variety. Still worth a few good laughs! (Compared to the previously reviewed version included as an extra on Young Man With A Horn, this one is not restored in any way).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) and his gang rob a train of nearly $300,000. The engineers are killed when they accidentally learn Cody’s name, but, when one of them is shot, they accidentally release a steam valve, scalding one of Cody’s men. Cody and his crew go to a mountain hideout, where his mother (Margaret Wycherly) and his wife Verna (Virginia Mayo) are hiding out. One of his men, Big Ed Somers (Steve Cochran), wants to take over the gang and have Verna to himself, but he is just afraid enough of Cody to avoid doing anything. When a big storm comes, they make their move and leave behind the scalded man. Later, some members of the Treasury Department discover the (now dead) scalded man, and are able to learn about Cody and his associates. They almost catch up to Cody, but his mother warns him in time, and Cody, along with his mother and wife, manage to get away. They split up, and Cody decides to turn himself in for another, lesser robbery committed at the same time they robbed the train. Unable to trap him for the train robbery, the feds decide to send in an undercover man, Hank Fallon (Edmund O’Brien), under the alias Vic Pardo, to find out more. Outside the prison, Ma runs the gang, with Big Ed going along with her. In prison, Hank tries to get in Cody’s good graces, but has no luck. That is, until a friend of Big Ed’s tries to bump off Cody, and Hank manages to save him. Cody’s mother comes in to see him right after, and, realizing Big Ed had tried to off her son, she tells Cody that she will deal with him personally. Less than thrilled with this development, Cody turns to Hank for help in breaking out of prison. Hank makes plans with another agent acting as his wife on visiting day, but, before they can follow through on their plans, Cody learns from a new inmate that his mother is dead. He suffers a breakdown, and is taken to the doctor. Another inmate smuggles a gun in to him, and they, along with Hank and a few others, successfully escape from the prison. Meanwhile, Verna is getting nervous about Cody coming after her and Big Ed (since she had killed Cody’s mother), but when she tries to escape Big Ed, Cody catches her. Thinking quickly, she accuses Big Ed of shooting Cody’s mother in the back, and helps him past Big Ed’s defenses, so that he can shoot Big Ed. Under the advice of his fence, Daniel “The Trader” Winston (Fred Clark), Cody and his crew decide to rob a payroll. Hank tries to get word out to the police, who tip the feds. At the place they are robbing, Hank is recognized by another con brought in to help them (whom he had arrested years earlier), but they are quickly surrounded by the feds. Will Cody finally be brought to justice, or will he evade the authorities again?

After Yankee Doodle Dandy, James Cagney had once again ended his contract at Warner Brothers. With his brother William, he had formed his own production company. However, they only made a handful of films, and they weren’t very successful. So, Cagney once again returned to Warner Brother, although this time with a little more freedom, since he still retained his production company. He returned to the gangster genre (which he had tried to leave behind, with his last one being the 1939 film The Roaring Twenties) with the film White Heat. At first, he wasn’t thrilled with the script, and made some suggestions to the writers about making Jarrett and his mother more like the outlaws Ma Barker and her family (and making Jarrett himself psychotic). His suggestions worked, as the film turned out to be a hit with audiences and the critics, and it is considered one of Cagney’s best roles.

To say that Cagney is good in this role is an understatement! As Cody Jarrett, he takes things even further than he had as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy. Once again, he only cares for his mother (but, this time, she knows about his life of crime and very actively encourages him in it). While Cody is a married man, he doesn’t really trust his wife that much and can be cruel to her (but certainly doesn’t want anybody else to have her, either). He suffers from headaches that really lay him low, but, with his mother’s help, he recovers from them and maintains his image as a tough guy. And we can see from Cagney’s performance that it is when he suffers a headache in prison and Edmund O’Brien’s Hank Fallon helps him out like his mother (with similar encouragement) that he finds himself trusting Hank more. But he is indeed a very tough guy! At one point, we see his wife worrying that he will just keep coming even if he is shot, which we see she is right to be afraid about (although when in the story is for you to see for yourself)!

I’m coming off my first time seeing this movie, and I would definitely go so far as to say that I liked it! James Cagney was the main appeal of The Public Enemy, and he was again here (although, compared to that film, he was supported much better by the other actors and actresses here). Virginia Mayo as his wife Verna is also good as a woman who wants riches and is constantly playing angles to survive and get what she wants from whomever she is dealing with (although with mixed success). As Cody’s mother, Margaret Wycherly is almost as tough as her son, and served by a sixth sense that is able to help keep them out of trouble (but, as we find out, even she can’t predict everything). But, again, Cagney is what makes this movie, as a psychotic man who seemingly can’t be killed by anybody else, and is therefore a big threat to everybody. I was fascinated by the whole movie, and I have no problem whatsoever in giving this movie a very high recommendation!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video, either individually or as part of the four film Ultimate Gangsters Collection: Classics.

Film Length: 1 hour, 53 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

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)James CagneyLove Me Or Leave Me (1955)

Out Of The Blue (1947) – Virginia Mayo – Great Day In The Morning (1956)