“Star Of The Month (July 2021)” Featuring James Cagney in… The Public Enemy (1931)

“I ain’t so tough.” – Tom Powers (James Cagney), The Public Enemy

Now that James Cagney is this month’s featured Star, we’ll start off with the film that established him in Hollywood, the 1931 gangster film The Public Enemy, co-starring Jean Harlow, Edward Woods and Joan Blondell!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Eyes Have It (1931)

(available as an extra on the Blu-ray for The Public Enemy from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 9 minutes, 57 seconds)

Young Charlie McCarthy has been missing school because of his eyesight, and is sent to an eye doctor. This was an early showcase for ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, along with his most popular character, Charlie McCarthy (minus his monocle, for sake of the story). Not really a lot of plot to it, and Charlie’s comments towards the female nurse don’t age the best. Probably not the best spot to start in with Bergen and McCarthy, in my opinion.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Smile, Darn Ya, Smile! (1931)

(available as an extra on the Blu-ray for The Public Enemy from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes)

Streetcar driver Foxy is singing the song “Smile, Darn Ya, Smile” as he makes his rounds. This short is mostly a showcase for the tune (which would later be used in Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Both Foxy and the lady fox are very obviously derivative of Disney’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse, just with fox tails and different shaped ears. Given the almost complete lack of plot, and the fact that similar shorts have been done elsewhere (and better), it’s a short that I will likely not feel the need to revisit anytime soon.

And Now For The Main Feature…

As kids, young Tom Powers and his buddy Matt Doyle are prone to getting into mischief. Tom’s older brother, Mike tries to get him to stay on the straight and narrow, to no avail. As they get older, Tom (James Cagney) and Matt (Edward Woods) start working for the local fence, Putty Nose (Murray Kinnell). Putty Nose lets them in on a robbery, promising to help them if they get in trouble. However, the robbery doesn’t go as planned, with one of their friends killed, and they end up killing a cop (and, of course, Putty Nose deserts them when they need him). When the U.S. joins the war (World War I), Mike (Donald Cook) enlists, but hopes Tom will try to take care of their mother (Beryl Mercer). With the arrival of Prohibition, Tom and Matt find themselves working for Paddy Ryan (Robert O’Connor), who helps them get into the (now illegal) brewery business. With the aid of mobster “Nails” Nathan (Leslie Fenton), they start forcing local speakeasies to take their beer or else (a problem with rival gang’s competing with them). One night at a speakeasy, Tom and Matt run into a pair of ladies, Kitty (Mae Clark), whom Tom is interested in, and Mamie (Joan Blondell), who catches Matt’s eye. The two couples end up staying together at a hotel when a newly-returned Mike throws Tom out of his mother’s house. Tom quickly grows tired of Kitty, and starts going with Gwen Allen (Jean Harlow) instead. One night when they go out as a group to celebrate Matt and Mamie’s engagement, Tom spots Putty Nose. Deciding to get even with him for abandoning them before, Tom and Matt follow him to his apartment, where they kill him. Soon, “Nails” Nathan dies when a horse he was riding knocks him off and kicks him in the head. In retaliation, Tom and Matt buy the horse and shoot it. With “Nails” out of the way, the city erupts in a gang war, resulting in Paddy’s bar being blown up. While he tries to get some men together to fight back, Paddy forces everybody to hide out. That doesn’t work very well, as the rival gang spots Paddy leaving the hideout, and a couple of men are stationed out front to get anybody that leaves. When Tom gets too stir crazy, he decides to leave. Matt goes with him, but they are shot at when they leave. Tom gets away safely, but Matt isn’t so lucky. Filled with a desire for revenge, Tom is determined to go after the rival gang. But will he succeed (and live to tell the tale)?

It’s hard not to think of The Public Enemy without discussing James Cagney himself. The movie was his fourth film. He was starting to rise through the ranks, and Warner Brothers was starting to become known for their gangster films, with the recent success of Little Caesar. For The Public Enemy, Cagney was actually originally cast as Matt Doyle, with Edward Woods getting the role of Tom Powers. However, director William Wellman thought he was miscast, having seen Cagney’s performance in Doorway To Hell, and so the roles were switched up. In the process, James Cagney forever became associated with the gangster genre, giving us a performance of an increasingly tough and ruthless man, with only a soft spot for his own family, whom he tries to take care of.

I’ve only recently had the opportunity to finally see this movie, and the main thing I can say is that the movie is worth seeing for Cagney’s performance alone, he’s that good. I can easily understand why the scene with the grapefruit is one that he’s well-remembered for (although, considering it’s a scene of domestic abuse, I feel sorry for Cagney, who was constantly being reminded of it by his fans who used to send him grapefruit). And the scene with him standing in the rain, as he’s about to go after the rival gang members is also pretty powerful. Outside of that grapefruit scene, most of the violence occurs offscreen, but it’s done quite well and leaves an impact. I will admit, though, that some of the rest of the cast isn’t always up to Cagney’s level here, acting-wise. Jean Harlow is a bit wooden in her performance, much to my surprise, which makes her scenes a little harder to sit through. Donald Cook as the older brother Mike is also a little too awkward, particularly in his final scene (and I think he drags down Robert O’Connor as Paddy in what scenes they do share). Still, even with some less-than-stellar performances, Cagney alone makes this film worth it. Indeed, it is a classic performance that stands the test of time, as he proves how good (or maybe I should say “bad”) a gangster he could be onscreen. Definitely would recommend this one!

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, 24 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

James CagneyFootlight Parade (1933)

Jean Harlow – Dinner At Eight (1933)

Joan Blondell – Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)

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… Ben-Hur (1959)

Easter has come around again, and this time, I wish to celebrate it through The Faith In Films Blogathon, as hosted by the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. For that, I’ll be discussing the classic 1959 biblical epic Ben-Hur starring Charlton Heston!

Judean prince Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) and his family are thrilled at the return of his childhood friend, Messala (Stephen Boyd), who has become a Roman tribune, which makes him second-in-command to the governor of Judea. However, their joy is short-lived when Messala pushes Judah to turn in some of the rebellious Jewish leaders, and Judah refuses. Not long after, the new governor arrives. While watching the governor’s entrance from a roof, Judah’s sister Tirzah (Cathy O’Donnell) accidentally knocks some tiles down onto the governor. Judah, his mother Miriam (Martha Scott) and Tirzah are quickly arrested. Messala learns the truth, but decides he will become more powerful by appearing willing to punish a close friend. Vowing vengeance, Judah is sent to the seaport of Tyrus to become a galley slave. After three years, Judah is still a slave, and now on a ship commanded by the Roman consul Quintus Arrius (Jack Hawkins). The Roman fleet engages with a fleet of Macedonian ships, but, before starting the battle, the Roman consul decides to leave Judah unchained (unlike the other prisoners). The consul’s galley is rammed during the battle, and Judah tries to save the other rowers. Getting topside, he saves the consul, who has been knocked off the ship by a Macedonian soldier. Judah keeps Arrius alive, and a Roman ship picks them up. In gratitude for saving his life (in a battle that they found out the Romans actually won), Arrius brings Judah to Rome, where he adopts Judah as his son. Still wanting to find out what happened to his mother and sister, Judah returns to Judea. Upon returning to his now broken down home, he finds his former servant Simonides (Sam Jaffe) and his daughter Esther (Haya Harareet) living there. Esther and Judah had developed feelings for each other before his arrest, but she now worries that he may be too consumed with hate for their love to work. Judah goes to meet with Messala, and offers to forget his vow of vengeance if Messala finds his mother and sister within the day. Messala sends one of his men to find them in the prison, and discovers they are still alive after nearly five years but are now lepers. They are sent away to a leper colony, but stop by their old home to see if Judah had returned. Esther sees them and tells them about Judah’s return, but they make her promise not to tell Judah what had become of them. When she tells Judah that they had died, he goes off to meet Sheik Ilderim (Hugh Griffith), whom he had met on his journey back to Jerusalem. He works with the Sheik’s team of horses to help train them in preparation for the chariot races, in which he hopes to beat the current champion: Messala. He does win the race, but Messala is fatally injured during the race. Before he dies, Messala tells Judah that his mother and sister are indeed alive, but have become lepers. Judah continues his downward spiral, as he now feels great anger and hate towards Rome, whom he blames for turning Messala into a monster. While all this is going on, a certain Nazarene (who once gave Judah a drink of water as he was being taken to the Roman galleys several years earlier) has been preaching a message of love and forgiveness. Will this message reach Judah’s hardened heart, or will he destroy himself as he tries to fight Rome?

In 1880, after doing much research to keep his story as authentic as possible, American Civil War General Lew Wallace published his famous novel Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ. The novel would become a bestseller for a long time, ranking only second to the Bible. With that popularity came stage versions and film adaptations (both authorized and unauthorized). In the 1950s, the MGM studio was struggling financially. After the success of their epic 1951 film Quo Vadis, they considered a remake of Ben-Hur (following their 1925 silent film version), but it took a few years (and a change or two in studio leadership) before the project came about. The project was given to producer Sam Zimbalist, who brought on director William Wyler, with the production to occur at Cinecitta studios in Rome. The movie ended up costing a lot more to make than had originally been budgeted (which made the studio executives nervous), but the movie ended up being quite a hit, making up for the costs (and then some), as well as winning eleven Oscars (out of the twelve it was nominated for)!

I will readily admit that I do really like this movie, and its religious elements tie into why! With the story partially following Christ from His birth to His resurrection (thereby making this both a good Christmas and Easter movie, much like the movie King Of Kings which I reviewed last year), it really does give us a possible glimpse into what it would be like for those of that time to come to Christ. This movie was still made during the time when the actors playing the role of Jesus didn’t show their face or speak in the movies (since we never see the face nor hear the voice of actor Claude Heater, who portrays Christ in this movie), but that’s really a point in its favor. Without facial expressions or the sound of his voice, Claude Heater relies more on body language to portray the Christ (not to mention the aid of the score by Miklós Rózsa). For that reason, his performance (which we are only able to see for just a few minutes) is SO much better than when we actually got a fuller view through Jeffrey Hunter’s portrayal two years later with MGM’s King Of Kings, especially going into the crucifixion.

And since this movie is subtitled “A Tale Of The Christ,” we can use that to talk about how faith in and of itself is a big part of the movie. As Judah Ben-Hur, Charlton Heston gives us a wonderful performance! As a Jewish man, we see him hold onto his faith, even when things go terribly wrong. For a good part of the movie, he struggles between his faith and the hate he feels for his old friend (and for Rome). Yet this faith is enough to sustain him, so much so that Jesus gives him a drink of water on his way to the galleys (when the Romans forbid anybody to do so). And he manages to survive several years as a slave on the galleys, when others didn’t last so long. Judah’s hate almost gets the best of him, when he learns from the dying Messala that his mother and sister are alive (but have become lepers). Yet, Esther, who has listened to Jesus’ message, is able to get Judah to realize how much his hate has consumed him, and, in the process, he tries (in faith) to bring his mother and sister to Jesus, hoping to see them healed.

Of course, this being Ben-Hur, I can’t get away without mentioning one of the best sequences in this movie (and one of the most thrilling for the era): the chariot race! I do very much admire the fact that Charlton Heston did learn how to operate the chariot for the big chariot race in this movie (of course, he had a little experience on the subject from The Ten Commandments). That race (a scene that last nearly ten minutes) is worth seeing this movie for! Normally, one would expect something like that to use rear-screen projection (or, in more modern films, a green screen and CGI). But here, you have the two actors right in the midst of the action, and it makes that scene so much more effective (yes, I know they did use some stunt doubles, but the movie is edited well enough that it’s hard to tell)! Plain and simple, this is a wonderful movie, fun to watch any time of the year! So I would have no trouble whatsoever recommending this one (seriously, see it right away if you haven’t yet)!

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

Film Length: 3 hours, 42 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Ten Commandments (1956) – Charlton Heston

Stephen Boyd – Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962)

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

“Star Of The Month (March 2021)” Featuring Gene Kelly in… Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

Time for my first entry of my own Star Of The Month for March 2021’s Gene Kelly, and where else to start but with one of his most well-known musicals, Singin’ In The Rain, also starring Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor! Of course, first we have a theatrical short to get through, and then it’s on to the show!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bully For Pink (1965)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 2 seconds)

The Pink Panther decides to try being an amateur bullfighter, and borrows a magician’s cape to use. This one is a bit of fun, with all the various tricks that occur because of the magician’s cape (including the angry rabbit). Admittedly, it does feel a lot like the classic Looney Tunes cartoon “A Bully For Bugs,” which is not a point in its favor, as that earlier Bugs cartoon is very much a classic, and this one feels like an inferior knockoff. Still, it does have a few good moments, and I certainly laughed a few times, so there is that.

And Now For The Main Feature…

(Narrator): All Hollywood is abuzz at the premiere of the new silent film The Royal Rascal starring that great screen team of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen).

(Host): Don’t you mean The Three Musketeers? 😉

(Narrator): Not completely. Yes, this movie did re-use some footage from that 1948 Gene Kelly film (without sound) for The Royal Rascal, but they also threw in some new stuff to add in Jean Hagen’s Lina Lamont for this “silent movie.” Getting back to the story, after the movie’s premiere, Don makes a speech to the audience, all the while preventing Lina from talking. Backstage, we find out why: she speaks with a thick Queens accent and with a somewhat squeaky voice (and, as the press agent Rod, who is played by King Donovan, puts it, “Lina, you’re a beautiful woman. Audiences think you’ve got a voice to match. The studio’s gotta keep their stars from looking ridiculous at any cost”). Of course, to make things worse, the gossip columnists and fan magazines keep linking Don and Lina together romantically. She doesn’t mind going along with the idea, but he has no interest in her.

Anyways, getting back to the story, producer R. F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell), the head of Monumental Pictures is throwing a party to celebrate his new picture. Don is riding with his friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) when Cosmo’s car suffers a flat tire. Before they know it, Don is mobbed by some of his fans, and, in an attempt to get away from them, he hitches a ride with passing motorist Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). At first she is startled, but, once she recognizes who he is, she offers him a ride back to his home (but not before she makes some comments about silent movie actors and their “lack of” acting ability). Don makes his way to the party, but he is slightly shaken by her comments. R.F. uses the party to show off some new sound technology, but nobody thinks it will take off, even though rival studio Warner Brothers is making the movie The Jazz Singer with the tech. When R.F. brings out a cake for Don and Lina, who should pop out but Kathy Selden herself? After she does a song-and-dance number with some others, Don pursues her. She tries to hit him with a cake, but misses and hits Lina instead.

(Host): That’s a sight that never gets old!

(Narrator): You’re darn tooting it doesn’t! Anyways, Kathy runs off after that. Don later hears that she has been fired, and tries to find her, but no luck. So, it’s up to Cosmo to cheer him up.

(Host): Indeed. To quote Cosmo, “Now the world is so full of a number of things I’m sure we should all be as happy as…, but are we? No. Definitely no. Positively no. Decidedly NO. Uh-uh. Short people have long faces, and long people have short faces. Big people have little humor, and little people have no humor at all. And in the words of that immortal bard, Samuel J. Snodgrass, as he was about to be led to the guillotine…”

(Narrator): You better not be getting ready to “Make ‘Em Laugh!”

(Host): Indeed I am! I mean, how can you not? That’s one of the most fun moments in this entire movie (and, for those who may recall, this was part of my Top 10 Dance Routines list)! I don’t care how much the music may have been lifted from the Cole Porter tune “Be A Clown” (from The Pirate), it’s still fun (and funny) to watch Donald O’Connor pull off all those stunts! As they say, “Don’t you know all the world loves a laugh? My dad said be an – (slips on a banana peel) Whoops! (goes sliding offstage) Where did that banana peel come from?

(Narrator): (finishes eating a banana) I have no idea. Are you all right?

(Host): Sure, although my feet crashed into the globe out here. (I wonder how many people will get the joke). I’ll just be a few minutes while I get out of it!

(Narrator): Ok. Getting back to the story, Don and Lina prepare to start their next film, but things get slowed up when everybody realizes that The Jazz Singer is a big hit, and they decide to turn the next Lockwood and Lamont film into a talkie. While watching a musical number being filmed for another movie, Cosmo runs across Kathy and lets Don know about it. Don is ecstatic to finally see her again (and gets a good chuckle out of the idea that she had known more about him than she had indicated during their first meeting). Of course, the show must go on, and so Don, Lina and the rest of the crew try to learn the new “talkie” business for their next film, The Dueling Cavalier. At a preview for the movie, the audience laughs at how poorly done it is, and everything is looking down for everybody. Despondent, Don, Cosmo and Kathy return to Don’s house. Things start looking up when Cosmo comes up with the idea to not only have the film changed into a musical, but also have Kathy dub Lina’s voice.

(Host): (Walks back onstage with a bunch of umbrellas and sets them down) And, of course, that brings us to this movie’s most iconic moment, that of Gene Kelly singing (and dancing) in the rain! For a song that had been published in 1929 and had made its way through a number of MGM films over the years, most notably by Cliff Edwards in The Hollywood Revue Of 1929 and Judy Garland in Little Nellie Kelly, it’s this simple moment that has been engrained in the hearts of all those that have seen it (of course, as I’ve said before, I enjoy swinging it Judy’s way in that earlier film, but I easily understand the appeal of Gene Kelly’s version, too)! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some dancing to do! Maestro, some music, please!

(Narrator starts up a record player. The song “Singin’ In The Rain” starts playing.)

(Host): (Picks up umbrella and opens it. Rainwater starts consistently pouring out from under the umbrella. Music stops) Well, that’s not the right umbrella. Let me try another here… (Opens up a new umbrella. This one has big holes that aren’t stopping the rain). Seriously, how are there multiple bad umbrellas in the same bunch? (mutters to self) Must be that somebody let the Narrator near the props again… (Pulls out another umbrella and opens it, finding it to be alright) (normal voice) Oh, good, a normal one! Well, here we go! (Music starts up again. Suddenly, a big wind comes rushing in, blowing the host up in the air like Mary Poppins and carries him way offstage) I’ll be baaaaaaaaaaack!

(Narrator): Now that that foolishness is over, let’s get back to the story. Don and Cosmo tell R.F. their idea, and, since he likes the idea, they get back into working on the movie almost immediately, with plans to give Kathy credit for the voice and a publicity campaign for her once the movie opens. Everything is looking good, and then Lina discovers what’s going on. She then does interviews for the newspapers, making herself out to be the new singing star, and privately threatens to sue R.F. if he tries to correct that (and forces him to make Kathy be her voice from now on). With all this trouble, will Kathy be given a voice (and career) of her own, or will Lina win out?

(Host): (Quickly running back onstage) Whew! That wind sure took me quite a ways away! And I see you finished telling the story without me. So, I guess everybody is here now for my opinion. Well, this is one of the movies that helped me to develop a fondness for musicals, and it was certainly my introduction to Gene Kelly. Watching him in this movie, whether he’s dancing alone, or with others, has always been fun, and made the idea of learning tap dancing appealing to me (and I can definitely tell you I once did a tap solo to the title tune for a dance recital)! The rest of the cast is great, too, and they all do their parts so well! And the music is quite memorable, with a good chance of it getting stuck in your head (it always does in mine, anyways)! Admittedly, as I’ve said in a previous post, with regard to the music of Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, I prefer the score to Broadway Melody Of 1936 more, but for sheer number of tunes, overall fun and a better movie, it’s hard to go wrong with Singin’ In The Rain! It’s one of the easiest movies for many to recommend, and I certainly would have to be part of that group! Seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet, go out there and see it now! And remember that motto: “Dignity. Always dignity.”

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, either as an individual release or as part of the four-film Musicals Collection.

Well, now that that’s over, let’s try this song-and-dance again! (Opens umbrella and starts to sing, although badly offkey) I’m singin’ in the rain – (umbrella is hit with lightning bolt, and is now singed. Host pauses for a second before trying again) I’m singin’ in the – (umbrella is hit again with a bolt of lightning, and now only the umbrella shaft remains) I’m singin’ – (lightning hits the shaft, destroying it too) I’m s – (lightning hits the host, leaving him singed) I – (lightning hits again, and now the host is singed more and knocked out cold).

(Narrator): (tries to hide bag of lightning bolts) Hmm. has anybody seen that bag I borrowed from Zeus recently?

(A pie comes flying in from offstage and hits the Narrator in the face)

(Host): Now THAT’S funny!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with… Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

On April 26, 2022, Warner Home Video released Singin’ In The Rain in the 4K UHD format. I had always thought that their 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 (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!

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #2 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2022

**ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

An American In Paris (1951)Gene KellyBrigadoon (1954)

Something In The Wind (1947) – Donald O’Connor – Anything Goes (1956)

The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950) – Debbie Reynolds – Give A Girl A Break (1953)

The Harvey Girls (1946) – Cyd Charisse – The Band Wagon (1953)

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

“Star Of The Month (February 2021)” Featuring Clark Gable in… Mogambo (1953)

We’re back again for another film featuring actor Clark Gable as we continue to celebrate him as the Star Of The Month for February 2021!  This time, it’s the classic 1953 movie Mogambo, also starring Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly!

(Note: for those who may have noticed, I originally planned to review Clark Gable’s 1936 film San Francisco today, but then that movie was announced as a new February 2021 Blu-ray release. So I decided to delay that review until I’ve had a chance to see that new disc. Hope you still enjoy this one!)

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink Panzer (1965)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 5 minutes, 50 seconds)

The Pink Panther and his neighbor are slowly being turned against each other by the narrator. The action builds up as the “narrator” eggs the two on, until all-out war erupts. This cartoon is both an entertaining one, while also being disturbing about how easily small resentments can build up over time between those who seem to be at peace with each other. Paul Frees voices both the neighbor and the “narrator” (and does a really good job, particularly with the “narrator” whose reveal at the end of the cartoon certainly makes sense). Certainly some fun to be had with this one.

And Now For The Main Feature…

When safari guide and hunter Victor Marswell (Clark Gable) fails to catch a black leopard, he returns to his cabin, only to find that it’s been occupied by Eloise “Honey Bear” Kelly (Ava Gardner).  Apparently, she was invited to join a maharajah there, but he had left before she arrived. Now she is stranded there for about a week until a boat can come to take her away.  She’s not happy about it, but she tries to work around it.  She quickly becomes friendly with Victor’s friends and co-workers John Brown-Pryce (Philip Stainton) and Leon Boltchak (Eric Pohlmann), and a relationship starts to develop between her and Victor.  However, when the week is up and the boat arrives, Victor makes her pack (which hurts her feelings).  Arriving on that boat is anthropologist Donald Nordley (Donald Sinden) and his wife Linda (Grace Kelly).  While Victor knew they were coming, he is less than thrilled when Donald announces his intention to go up to the gorilla country, so he refuses to take them.  However, their argument is short-lived when Donald starts getting sick from a tsetse fly vaccination, and Victor has to help take care of him.  While that’s happening, Eloise returns, as the boat had run aground, so she is stuck with Victor and his crew again while the boat’s skipper waits for parts to repair it.  Eloise starts to notice hints of attraction developing between Victor and Linda Nordley, and starts trying to break it up.  After Donald recovers, Victor decides to take them up into gorilla country after all, and they plan to bring Eloise along so that she can get a ride back to civilization through the District Commissioner.  They make their way to a mission run by Father Josef (Denis O’Dea), where Victor has to take part in a “ceremony of courage” so that they can get some men and canoes to help get them further down the river.  When they get to the Deputy Commissioner in the territory of the Samburu tribe, they find him mortally wounded, and the natives themselves are threatening everybody.  Narrowly managing to get themselves out, the whole party continues on down the river.  Throughout the trip, Victor and Linda have really started falling for each other, a fact that everyone else has noticed (well, everyone except Donald).  Once they reach gorilla country, Victor determines to tell Donald, but finds himself unable to.  But, will Donald still find out, one way or another?  Will Victor and Linda be a couple, or will he come back to Eloise?

Mogambo was the second film version of the 1928 Wilson Collison play Red Dust.  The previous film version was the 1932 film Red Dust, which starred Jean Harlow, Mary Astor, and, in a career-making role, Clark Gable.  In 1950, MGM had made a hit with audiences with the film King Solomon’s Mines, which had been shot on location in Africa.  Wanting another property they could do there, they took the suggestion of King Solomon’s Mines star Stewart Granger, and decided to remake Red Dust.  However, they decided to cast Clark Gable in the lead (instead of Stewart) in an attempt to help revive Gable’s career (which had been going downhill at that time).  Director John Ford hadn’t seen the original film, but the script and the opportunity to film in Africa appealed to him.   While they had to tame down a lot of the more sexual elements of the original pre-Code film, Mogambo still managed to be a hit for all involved.

So far, I haven’t seen Red Dust (although it is one I hope to see at some point), so I can only comment on Mogambo at this time.  I can definitely say that Clark Gable is the main reason that I have seen this film.  As a somewhat older man, he brings some maturity and experience to his big game hunter.  Clark brings enough machismo to the role that it’s still easy to see that both women would be interested in him.  He alone manages to make this movie worth seeing.

The movie itself is not without its flaws, however.  The pacing can be slow, and it’s not that action-packed.  If you’re going purely by the theatrical poster, it’s a little deceptive, as it almost makes you think that Clark going against the gorillas is a big thing, whereas it is almost nothing in the movie (and the film’s editing makes it seem fairly obvious that neither he nor the gorillas were ever together).  You can also throw in a few minor subplots that appear and then disappear just as easily, particularly that of the mortally wounded District Commissioner, whom they can be seen carrying away from his home, but then he isn’t mentioned again on any further steps of the trip.  Still, these are minor things, and they don’t take away a lot from the movie.  If you can live with them, it’s certainly a movie I would recommend!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 56 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

San Francisco (1936)Clark GableThe Tall Men (1955)

Show Boat (1951) – Ava Gardner

Grace Kelly – High Society (1956)

“Star Of The Month (January 2021)” Featuring Doris Day in… Calamity Jane (1953)

For my next contribution for January’s Star Of The Month, we have Doris Day’s classic 1953 musical Calamity Jane, also starring Howard Keel! As usual, we have our requisite theatrical shorts to get through, and then, we’ll be ready for the movie!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pop-Pie A La Mode (1945)

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

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)

After being shipwrecked, Popeye makes it to an island that, as he later discovers, is inhabited by cannibals. This one is a bit harder to say much positive about. The cannibals are all rather blatantly racist stereotypes, with their blackface-type appearance, as well as their overall manner of behavior. That alone says it all about this cartoon. On the one hand, it should be preserved, as it has been, but at the same time, it certainly is a reminder of our past (and sadly, still present) issues, and should be avoided by parents with young and impressionable children. One of the weakest cartoons from this set for that reason.

Coming Up Shorts! with… So You Love Your Dog (1953)

(available as an extra on the Calamity Jane Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 10 minutes, 31 seconds)

Joe McDoake’s “faithful” dog Dusty continues to get him in trouble by turning on him, both during war and peace. The dog very strongly resembles Lassie, and their intelligence makes this one quite fun. Poor Joe. He thinks Dusty is quite trustworthy, while the dog is actually trying to do him harm. Overall, it’s a bit of fun, and one of the few of the Joe McDoakes series that I’ve seen so far that I enjoyed enough that I would watch it again.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Duck Dodgers In The 24 1/2 Century (1953)

(available as an extra on the Calamity Jane Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 4 seconds)

Duck Dodgers (in the 24 1/2 Century!) tries to claim Planet X in the name of the earth, but Marvin the Martian has other plans. Yep, it’s that classic Daffy Duck (Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century!) cartoon! What more needs to be said? It’s always fun to laugh at Daffy’s antics here, especially with Porky Pig as the more adept “Eager Young Space Cadet” working in Daffy’s shadow. Seriously, it’s hard not to enjoy this one whenever I get the chance to see it! It may not have been restored for the 2015 Calamity Jane Blu-ray release, but the fun still shines through just the same!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Ah, “Calamity” Jane Canary (Doris Day). Trouble and her just seem to go together. Upon her return from riding shotgun on “The Deadwood Stage,” she learns from a pair of prospectors that Second Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin (Philip Carey), a soldier that she has a crush on, was killed by a Sioux war party. Or captured. The two prospectors didn’t really have a chance to find out, as they only narrowly escaped from the Sioux themselves. So, off Calamity rides, in hopes of finding the truth. She is able to find the Sioux war party, and, to her joy, she finds Danny alive. She quickly chases off the small band of Sioux, and rescues Danny.

Back in Deadwood, more trouble is brewing, as Calamity’s friend and proprietor of the Golden Garter saloon (and theatre), Henry “Milly” Miller (Paul Harvey), has hired Francis Fryer to headline his show. The problem? Milly was expecting an actress, not an actor! So he has Francis Fryer (Dick Wesson) dress in drag and pretend to be a woman, an act that doesn’t last long. With all Milly’s patron’s complaining and threatening to leave, Calamity tries to do what she can by promising them Milly has already sent for a big actress. When questioned about who he sent for, she mentions the only actress she can think of: Adelaid Adams (who was big around town because of her picture, which comes with some packs of cigarettes). Francis knows Adelaid, and he privately tells Milly that she would never come to Deadwood. Undaunted, Calamity goes off to Chicago (or maybe I should say “Chicagee,” like her). She catches a show, but is unable to see Adelaid Adams (Gale Robbins) up close. Going backstage, she meets Adelaid’s maid, Katie Brown (Allyn McLerie), in Adelaid’s dressing room, and assumes her to be Adelaid. In between the real Adelaid leaving and her own desires to be onstage, Katie decides to go with Calamity to Deadwood. Once there, she tries to perform like Adelaid, but fails. It comes out that she’s not Adelaid, and, after arguing with the audience, Calamity suggests they give her a shot anyways, since they all have their own dreams that they came to Deadwood hoping to see fulfilled. In doing it her own way, Katie makes a big hit with the men in town.

Calamity offers to take Katie out to live together in her cabin, and after the initial disappointment about the messy state of the place, the two of them work together to make it a home. While they are at it, Katie also gives Calamity a makeover to help her look more like a woman. Further trouble comes about when Danny and Calamity’s friend “Wild Bill” Hickok (Howard Keel) both come a-calling for Katie, with both hoping to bring her to an upcoming dance. Katie knows about Calamity’s feelings towards Danny, and tries to suggest they all go together. After drawing straws, Bill is stuck taking Calamity. At the dance, they and everybody are all awestruck to see how beautiful Calamity looks in a dress. However, Danny still only has eyes for Katie, and Calamity storms off after seeing them kiss. The next day, Calamity tells Katie to get out of town, before Bill takes her aside to tell her off. The question remains, will Katie go, or will all the relationship troubles get sorted out?

Calamity Jane was very much Warner’s answer to the MGM musical Annie Get Your Gun. Originally, Jack Warner had tried to get the rights to the stage musical of Annie Get Your Gun, intending it for Doris Day. However, MGM outbid him. When Judy Garland, who had originally been cast in Annie Get Your Gun, pulled out, Doris once again had hopes of doing the movie, but Jack Warner refused to loan her out, with the part going to Betty Hutton. Instead, Doris Day was given the part of Calamity Jane, with the role becoming one of her best-known, and one of her favorites (admittedly, it’s been said that Calamity Jane was a project already in the works for her even before the possibility of being in Annie Get Your Gun).

I will say that Calamity Jane was, if I’m remembering correctly, my introduction to Doris Day. At the time, I was more familiar with Howard Keel (mostly from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers). In all the time since, though, I’ve enjoyed watching this movie, as well as seeking out some of her other film musicals. I enjoy the overall film, from the cast, to the music, and the story as well. I know the movie version of Calamity Jane was far different from the real-life person, but I do enjoy this cleaned-up film (far more than the more recent HBO TV series Deadwood, which I barely could last through an entire episode of). The music in this movie, written by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, is quite memorable. I enjoy the “Deadwood Stage,” get a kick out of “I Can Do Without You” (which seems strangely reminiscent of “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Get Your Gun), and enjoy her signature tune “Secret Love,” but the song that’s always stuck in my head after watching this movie is her duet with Howard Keel for “The Black Hills Of Dakota.” That one I always enjoy. Honestly, this movie is a lot of fun, and I would have no trouble whatsoever recommending this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, either individually or as part of a four film Musicals collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

On Moonlight Bay (1951)Doris DayYoung At Heart (1954)

Lovely To Look At (1952) – Howard Keel – Kiss Me Kate (1953)

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 (2020) on… The Music Man (1962)

Around July 4th, I know one movie I enjoy watching is the classic 1962 film musical The Music Man with Robert Preston and Shirley Jones!

Coming Up Shorts! with… We Give Pink Stamps (1965)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 7 minutes, 1 second)

The Pink Panther wanders around a closed department store, periodically trying to avoid the “little man” working as a janitor. Fun little cartoon, with the Panther having adventures wandering around, dealing with an electronic folding chair, and a tiger-skin rug. Doesn’t feel quite as memorable as either of the previous two. Still, it’s not a strict formula of “The Pink Panther Vs. The ‘Little Man,'” so it still retains enough fun to make it worth seeing!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Traveling salesman and conman “Professor” Harold Hill (Robert Preston) comes to the town of River City, Iowa to sell his wares, which include band instruments, uniforms, etc., plus himself as a boys band leader (even though he himself knows almost nothing about music). However, he can’t find any interest in a boys band until he manufactures trouble regarding the town’s new pool table with the help of his former partner (and current town resident) Marcellus Washburn (Buddy Hackett). He has potential trouble brewing in the form of librarian/piano teacher Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones), so he starts trying to worm his way into her affections (without much success). At the town assembly, he successfully convinces the townspeople of the need for a boys band, although Mayor Shinn (Paul Ford) is slightly suspicious and tries to get his credentials (without any success). Meanwhile, Harold wins the confidence of many of the young people in town, including juvenile delinquent Tommy Djilas (Timmy Everett) and Marian’s younger brother, Winthrop Paroo (Ron Howard). When the band instruments arrive, Harold tries to lead the kids utilizing his “Think System,” whereby they think of the music in order to play it. Everything is going great for Harold until the night he planned to leave, when anvil salesman Charlie Cowell (Harry Hickox) comes to town, bringing his evidence against Harold to the Mayor and the authorities. But can Harold leave before he is caught (or at this point, does he even want to)?

Yep, I finally got around to this one! The movie that somewhat inspired my overall blog title! Admittedly, this is NOT my absolute favorite movie, but, as much as I like musicals (and I do REALLY like this one), why not reference it? Indeed, this is an absolutely wonderful film, and one I always enjoy getting a chance to watch! Robert Preston just seems so perfectly cast as Harold Hill (and yet, who can believe that this was his first musical, never mind the fact that Jack Warner didn’t originally want to cast him in spite of his success with the Broadway show)! But, it’s obviously not just him that makes this movie work, as the rest of the cast is equally wonderful, too! Paul Ford is so much fun as the constantly befuddled mayor Shinn, a type of comedy he seemed to do well, since he also played a similar character on the classic sitcom The Phil Silvers Show. And then there’s that barbershop quartet, the Buffalo Bills as the four members of the school board who start out constantly arguing, but end up as friends constantly singing together (even if they are generally prompted by Harold so that he can avoid them). Seriously, they act like people who know each other, and goof around a little with some of their singing. That’s only a few members of the cast, but, honestly, I could easily praise the whole group!

But this is a musical, so we can’t forget about the wonderful music (and some of the dancing too)! Right from the start, we’re treated to wonderful music by Meredith Wilson! With such toe-tapping songs as “76 Trombones,” “Ya Got Trouble,” “Wells Fargo Wagon” and “Pick A Little, Talk A Little,” among others, you just can’t go wrong! Obviously, “Til There Was You” has become one of the better known classics from this show, and I can’t disagree, as it’s such a wonderful song! But the dancer in me says, “give me the likes of ‘Marian The Librarian’ and especially the ‘Shipoopi!'” I just love both songs, and watching the “Shipoopi” in particular always makes me want to get up and dance! Seriously, there aren’t enough good things to be said about this movie! It’s one I always enjoy watching, whether around July 4th or any other time of the year (if you haven’t guessed already, yes, I do recommend it)!!

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

Film Length: 2 hours, 31 minutes

My Rating: 10/10 (after all that build-up did you expect any less?)

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!

*ranked #2 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Robert Preston – Mame (1974)

Never Steal Anything Small (1959) – Shirley Jones

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… King Of Kings (1961)

Well, it’s Easter now, and what better way to celebrate it than with the classic 1961 biblical epic King Of Kings!

In 63 B.C., the Roman armies, led by General Pompey, conquer Jerusalem. After that, the Jewish people continue to rebel against Roman rule, resulting in Herod the Great being placed on the Judean throne. At that time, Jesus is born in Bethlehem, but escapes before Herod sends his soldiers to kill Him. Years later, Pontius Pilate (Hurd Hatfield) arrives to become the governor. With Pilate’s arrival, two different things happen: 1) Pilate is attacked by a group of Jewish fighters, led by Barabbas (Harry Guardino) and Judas Iscariot (Rip Torn), and 2) John the Baptist (Robert Ryan) starts preaching and baptizing in the wilderness, with one of his baptisms including a now-grown Jesus (Jeffrey Hunter). Barabbas’ attack is foiled by the arrival of Herod Antipas (Frank Thring) with his own troops (although Barabbas gets away), and Jesus goes into the wilderness for forty days. Upon returning, Jesus recruits His disciples, including Judas. Judas convinces Barabbas to try listening to Jesus, but he disagrees with Jesus’ message of peace. Meanwhile, Herod Antipas has arrested John the Baptist, and has him beheaded at the behest of his stepdaughter Salome (Brigid Bazlen). After preaching throughout Judea, Jesus comes to Jerusalem, which Barabbas uses as an opportunity to try attacking the Romans. However, the Roman troops are prepared for the attack and massacre the people (and capture Barabbas). This forces Judas to betray Jesus in the hopes that He will use His power to defeat the Romans.

Ok, let’s get one quick and very obvious point out of the way. Being a movie about the life of Christ, from His birth to His death and resurrection, obviously this movie qualifies as both a Christmas movie and an Easter one. Phew. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about this movie. Obviously, it’s not completely accurate according to the Bible and history. The movie makes Barabbas out to be a Zealot, fighting for Israel’s freedom from Roman rule, with Judas Iscariot helping him (and making that his motive for turning Jesus in to the priests instead of greed like the Gospel of John indicates). Still, in spite of the differences, it’s an interesting way to look at it, giving us two men, Jesus and Barabbas, as potential messiahs, depending on how the people of the time were interpreting the Scriptures, since I know the Jewish people of the time were looking to get out from under Roman rule and weren’t as likely to prefer Jesus’ message of peace as much.

When it comes down to my actual opinion of this movie, I really like it! I’ll admit, from my own movie-watching experience, I don’t recognize most of the cast, outside of Orson Welles as the narrator and Robert Ryan as John The Baptist (and I didn’t even know who he was the first time I saw this movie either). I think Jeffrey Hunter does a great job as Jesus, and the rest of the cast supports him well, too! The only part of the movie I struggle with is the “trial” before Pilate leading up to the crucifixion. For me, that’s when Jeffrey Hunter’s performance fails a little. Some things I get, like how violence is portrayed, and I certainly respect the decision not to show Jesus being tortured (even though, in some respects, seeing what He went through is supposed to mean a lot in the grand scheme of things). But I do struggle with the idea that, for all He was supposed to have gone through, this Jesus is barely bloodied up when He comes to the cross (and it just seems like He was in better shape than He should have been when He had to walk the last part). Still, minor gripes aside, I do enjoy this movie, especially with the beautiful score by Mikos Rozsa! It just helps this movie so much, and, especially at this time of the year (or Chirstmastime, too), I have no trouble whatsoever recommending this movie!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video, and is two hours, fifty-one minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Tall Men (1955) – Robert Ryan

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… An American In Paris (1951)

“It’s very clear our love is here to stay.” In case you haven’t guessed already, the next movie I want to talk about is that classic 1951 Gene Kelly musical, An American In Paris, also starring Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant and Georges Guetary.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Service With A Guile (1946)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 29 seconds)

Popeye and Bluto help Olive repair an admirals car. Another fun outing as Popeye and Bluto try to one-up each other in fixing the car, resulting in even more trouble. And a fun ending I didn’t quite see coming after Popeye eats his spinach and repairs the car. While still voiced by Harry Welch instead of regular Jack Mercer, I didn’t notice it as strongly this time, which made things better. While some of the gags may not be new, they worked well enough I had a good time watching this one! Certainly another fun short that continues to make this set (and seeing some of these old Popeye shorts) well worth it!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Ex-G.I. Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) is living in Paris as a painter, alongside his pianist buddy Adam Cook (Oscar Levant). One morning when displaying his paintings, Jerry ends up selling two of them to Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), who decides to help support him as an artist. They go out to a club that night, where Jerry runs into Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron). He is instantly infatuated with her, although she is less than thrilled with his attentions (and the same could be said for Milo as well). The next day, Jerry tries to ask Lise out again, and with a little persistence, she says yes. What Jerry doesn’t know is that she is engaged to Adam’s friend Henri “Hank” Baurel (Georges Guetary), who had raised her after her parents were killed in the war. Hank is given an offer to go to America, and he hopes that he and Lise can get married before they have to leave. Meanwhile, Milo is doing all she can to help Jerry towards giving an exhibition of his paintings, by providing a new place for him to work from and helping make contacts. When Jerry is given advice to tell Lise that he loves her, he does, only to find out she is engaged to another man (and to Hank, who had given him that advice without knowing who Jerry was in love with). In frustration, Jerry takes Milo to a party, where they run into Hank and Lise before they prepare to leave.

The idea for the movie famously came to producer Arthur Freed after he attended a concert for George Gershwin’s song An American In Paris. He liked the title for a movie, and went about getting the rights to the song (along with a number of other George Gershwin tunes). With Gene Kelly quickly cast, they ended up giving the role of his romantic interest to newcomer Leslie Caron, after Gene saw her performing in a French ballet and lobbied for her to get the part. Of course, the final ballet, set to the title tune, would prove a controversial addition, as previous attempts at lengthy ballets (especially in the 1945 Fred Astaire musical Yolanda And The Thief, also directed by Vincente Minelli) had failed to connect with audiences. But Arthur Freed and company stuck to their guns, and it became a high point of the movie (and the beginning of a trend whereby many musicals in the fifties would make use of dream ballets).

I can’t deny that a lot of the fun here is indeed the music and dancing! Gene Kelly gets a lot of the fun, especially with the likes of his tap solo to “I Got Rhythm,” where he gets to work with a bunch of French children as he teaches them a little English. Of course, he also has his romantic duet with Leslie Caron to “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” which is a thing of beauty in and of itself. But that ballet to the title tune is definitely a highlight, especially since some of the music should solidly be stuck in your head by that point, after having been used as background music for most of the movie. But the variety in dance styles and sets during that ballet is just so much fun to watch!

And this movie works so well as a comedy, too! From the character introductions for Jerry Mulligan, Adam Cook and Hank Baurel, we get the camera “mistakenly” showing somebody else before showing us the actual characters (especially a hoot with Oscar Levant’s Adam, if you know how much of a sourpuss Oscar’s characters tend to be and then we are shown a guy that is “too happy” before moving on to Adam)! And then the comic interactions between them on songs like “By Strauss” and “Tra-La-La (This Time It’s Really Love).” Of course, it’s hard not to laugh at Adam after Jerry tells him he is in love with Lise (especially since Hank had told Adam about Lise at the beginning of the movie) and then, when Hank comes in, Adam is nervously re-lighting his cigarette and drinking all the tea while he waits for Jerry or Hank to say just the wrong thing. Just priceless to watch! Honestly, this movie sells itself, it is just so wonderful, I can’t even begin to recommend it enough! “‘S Wonderful!”

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Summer Stock (1950)Gene KellySingin’ In The Rain (1952)

Leslie Caron – Father Goose (1964)

Oscar Levant – The Band Wagon (1953)

2019: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched

OK, so originally, this was going to just be a “Top Movies Watched In 2019” list, like what I had done for last year, and that was going to be that. However, after thinking everything through, I thought I’d throw in a quick bit of “Year In Review” as well, just for the fun of it (and I’ve also gone back and altered last year’s as well to reflect that change). Starting off 2019, for my regular reviews, I continued on with some of the remaining Bing Crosby film reviews, as well as including various movies I had been given for both Christmas and my birthday (working in the handful of Errol Flynn movies that I have). In finishing off the year, I also started working my through Ginger Roger’s filmography (at least, those I own on disc), with more to come in 2020. And of course, I threw in a few film noirs for “Noir-vember,” along with some more Christmas oriented movies for most of December. Considering I was making up for a few newer releases from 2018 that I had gotten (but hadn’t reviewed yet), since doing this blog has certainly been a process of figuring out what I wanted to do and making those changes, I probably continued longer with those 2018 releases on Wednesdays than I normally would be doing. Plus, with 2019 being the 80th anniversary of 1939, that classic year considered by some to be one of Hollywood’s best years, I threw in one 1939 movie per month. While I am obviously not done yet with films from that great year, going forward they will be back to being amongst the regular Sunday reviews (or Wednesdays, when there are any new releases). Of course, among some of my special posts this year were my celebratory 100th post with my list of the Top 10 Dance Routines, a delayed post on the Crosby/Hope Road series, the screen teams of Frank Sinatra &Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire & Cyd Charisse, and a few comparisons of classic comedies and their musical remakes. About the only other thing I can think of is the switch for my video reviews (on FB) to my new YouTube channel (although those videos are me pretty much using my posts as a script, so there is little need for them unless you want to hear the sultry sound of my voice 😉 ). Of course, to truly keep up with what I am watching, I would definitely suggest keeping up with my FB fan page.

And with all that said, here’s my list, for what I think are some of the best movies I watched in the year 2019, culled from the list of 2019 Reviews, plus 2018 releases reviewed after January 1, 2019 and 2019 releases reviewed before December 30, 2019.  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. Easter Parade (1948) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In the only film that teamed up Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, Fred plays a dancer who tries to take on a new partner when his old partner decides to break up the act and go solo. A wonderful musical that’s fun to watch any time of the year, whether for Easter, spring, or just any time, with music by the incomparable Irving Berlin! Full review here.
  2. My Fair Lady (1964) (CBS Home Entertainment, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison star in this classic musical based on the Broadway show!With many wonderful songs, including “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “On The Street Where You Live,” you can’t go wrong with this movie! Full review here.
  3. Swing Time (1936) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The sixth Astaire-Rogers film, and one of their best-known! With music by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields including the classic Oscar-winning tune “The Way You Look Tonight,’ plus others, it’s hard to go wrong with this one, now that it looks better yet on Blu-ray! Full review here.
  4. The Story Of Vernon & Irene Castle (1939) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The ninth Astaire-Rogers film, and the final one for RKO Studios, finds them playing the real-life husband-and-wife dance team of Vernon & Irene Castle. A lot of fun seeing how that couple influenced a lot of things in the world of dance, with equally fun period music to go along with it! Full review here.
  5. Lovely To Look At (1952) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The second filmed version of the Broadway show Roberta, this film again deals with a man (played by Red Skelton) inheriting a French dress shop from his aunt. With the wonderful music of Jerome Kern, some fantastic dancing provided by husband-and-wife dance team Marge and Gower Champion, some great singing from Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, plus Red Skelton’s comedy, it’s hard to go wrong with this wonderful movie! Full review here.
  6. Silk Stockings (1957) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Fred Astaire’s final musical for nearly a decade, and his second team-up with Cyd Charisse. She plays a Russian commissar sent to bring back a Russian composer who is working on an American film by producer Steve Canfield (Fred Astaire). With many wonderful Cole Porter tunes, including “All Of You,” Ritz, Roll And Rock” and many others, this is an absolutely wonderful movie! Full review here.
  7. Rose-Marie (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The second film featuring America’s “singing sweethearts,” Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, finds her going after her convict brother (played by James Stewart, no less) in the Canadian wilderness, with a Canadian mountie (Nelson Eddy) close behind. With some classic music, including what is probably the BEST version of “Indian Love Call,” this class is a winner, and one of the best MacDonald-Eddy films! Full review here.
  8. Maytime (1937) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • For their third outing together, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson returned in a Viennese operetta first done on stage nearly twenty years before. With the one song returning from that show, “Will You Remember,” that alone makes the movie worth watching (but the rest of the movie is pretty good, too)! Full review here.
  9. Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The classic Judy Garland musical, all about the Smith family in 1903 St. Louis, with the then-upcoming World’s Fair! With classic music such as “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “The Trolley Song” and more, it’s hard to go wrong with this movie! Full review here.
  10. Footlight Parade (1933) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this Busby Berkeley musical, James Cagney is a showman trying to put on short prologues to be shown on stage between movies. With several classic musical numbers, including “By A Waterfall” and “Shanghai Lil,” and a new restoration from Warner Archive, this movie is a lot of fun! Full review here.

Honorable mentions: Hello, Dolly! (1969) (20th Century Fox/Disney, Blu-ray), Vivacious Lady (1938) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD), The Thin Man (1934) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray)

So thank you all for sticking with me in 2019, and I wish you a Happy New Year as we head into 2020! 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:


Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… The Maltese Falcon (1941)

And now, to finish off the month of “Noir-vember,” we have the classic 1941 film The Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George and Peter Lorre!

At first, the case seemed simple enough. Private eyes Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) were hired by Miss Wonderly (Mary Astor) to help find her sister, who was with Floyd Thursby. But Miles is quickly killed, and so is Floyd, the man that he was trailing at the time. The police suspect Sam in the second killing, but can’t do much. Sam meets with Miss Wonderly again, who reveals that her story was false and that her real name is Brigid O’Shaughnessy. Not long after, Sam is visited by Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), who thinks Sam might have a bird statue that Floyd was carrying. In a second meeting with Joel, Sam brings in Brigid, but they are interrupted by the police, who take in Joel for questioning. Sam soon meets Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet), who is also interested in the statue, and tells Sam what all the fuss is about. He tries to bring Sam in, but decides against it when Joel comes to him. However, Sam ends up with the statue, forcing Kasper and his crew to come to Sam’s terms.

The movie was based on a story by Dashiell Hammett (who was also the author of The Thin Man) that had been written for Black Mask magazine before being put together as a novel in 1930. It was filmed shortly thereafter in 1931, with another version coming just five years after (although retitled as Satan Met A Lady and altered to be more of a comedy). By the time the 1941 film came around, it was given to first-time director John Huston, with hopes to star George Raft. However, in one of a series of career mistakes, he decided against it, and the role went to Humphrey Bogart (not the first time that a role he declined went to Bogie, nor was it the last). John Huston went to great lengths to plan out how he wanted to film it, since he had a limited time and budget to work with. Due to his preparations, filming went very well, and finished a few days early and under budget.

Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with this movie! It’s considered by some to be one of the first official film noirs, and while I don’t know enough to dispute that, I definitely think that everything works so well with this movie. Humphrey Bogart just fits the part so well, and you can easily see how he brought a bit of the character of Sam Spade to the role of Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep a few years later. Of course, the rest of the cast works well, and the story certainly keeps you on the edge of your seat, even when you’ve seen it so many times before! And it’s just as fun when you start to recognize some of the other actors and actresses who became bigger later, even if only for some of their TV roles, like Ward Bond in Wagon Train, or Barton MacLane from I Dream Of Jeannie. Personally, among film adaptations of Dashiell Hammett’s novels, I’ll take The Thin Man, if only because I prefer screwball comedy compared to straight drama. That being said, obviously The Maltese Falcon is no slouch! As I said, this is a great movie, and easily recommended, whether you’re a fan of the film noir genre or not!

This movie is available through Warner Home Video on Blu-ray (either individually or as part of the four-film Best Of Bogart Collection) and DVD.

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)Humphrey BogartThank Your Lucky Stars (1943)

Upper World (1934) – Mary Astor – The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Peter Lorre – My Favorite Brunette (1947)

Sydney Greenstreet – Christmas In Connecticut (1945)

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