The King Of Hollywood And I: A Birthday Celebration (2023) with… It Started In Naples (1960)

It’s February 1, so that means that we’ve got yet another special post on a film featuring birthday boy Clark Gable! This time, it’s his 1960 film It Started In Naples, also starring Sophia Loren and Vittorio De Sica!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pay As You Exit (1936)

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

(Length: 10 minutes, 41 seconds)

The Gang put on their own production of “Romeo and Juliet” (if you can call it that), but to convince the local kids to see it, Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) comes up with the brilliant idea for them to pay as they exit. Also, trouble arises when Darla (Darla Hood) abandons the show partway through. This one was fairly entertaining, in between Spanky’s (George McFarland) reaction to Alfalfa’s “pay as you exit” idea, and their whole show. In some respects, the short has its issues with Buckwheat’s initial role in their show, but it more than makes up for it when he is recast as Juliet (with the approval of the audience). I had fun with this one, and certainly think that it’s worth seeing!

And Now For The Main Feature…

American lawyer Michael Hamilton (Clark Gable) has come to Naples, Italy, to settle his late brother’s affairs. He meets up with Italian lawyer Mario Vitale (Vittorio De Sica), who reveals that Michael’s brother had died in a boating accident with his mistress. The two had left behind their eight-year-old son, who now lives with his aunt. Mario takes Michael to meet the aunt, Lucia Curcio (Sophia Loren), who wants nothing to do with Michael and leaves for her home in Capri. Michael is determined to find out if he does indeed have a nephew, and follows her to Capri. There, he meets his nephew, Nando Hamilton (Carlo Angeleti “Marietto”), and is willing to let things be. When he finds himself stuck overnight in Capri (because the boat schedule was wrong), Michael finds Nando distributing flyers for the adult nightclub that his aunt works at. Unhappy at his nephew being up so late (and not getting much of an education at school), Michael threatens to have Nando taken away from Lucia and sent to the American school in Rome. Angry with Michael, Lucia convinces Nando to go to school, and enlists the help of her neighbors to stop Michael from taking Nando away. While he prepares to bring suit against Lucia, Michael spends some time with Nando in an attempt to help persuade him to go along with his plans instead of Lucia’s. Hoping to avoid going to court (and play matchmaker at the same time), Mario secretly talks to Michael and Lucia, telling both of them that the other has some affection for them, which could help solve the problem. It works for a while, as the two fall for each other. However, when Nando tries to ask Michael if he will marry his aunt Lucia, Michael tries to avoid it, which results in the two adults being back at each other’s throats. Will they be able to solve their fight in court amicably, or will Nando be torn between them?

It Started In Naples (1960) was shot on location, with the interiors done at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios, while the exteriors were done in Rome, Naples itself and the island of Capri. Sophia Loren had grown up in Naples, but her return was marked by controversy due to her recent “marriage” to Carlo Ponti (who was in the process of divorcing his first wife). Clark Gable was very professional i his work ethic, but maintained in his contract that he would only work from nine to five (and wore a wristwatch that buzzed at five to let him know that he was done for the day). Filmmaker and actor Vittorio De Sica was brought into the production to help give it more of a Neopolitan flavor with the script, and did so by suggesting they work with writer Suso Cecchi d’Amico. As a result, Vittorio was also given the role of lawyer Mario Vitale. For Clark Gable (who had recently suffered a mild heart attack but continued to drink and smoke heavily), this film would turn out to be the last one he made that was released during his lifetime, as he died of a heart attack nearly three months after the film’s release (after having completed The Misfits).

This was my first time seeing It Started In Naples (1960), and I will admit that I enjoyed it! I have no problem admitting that Clark Gable was the main reason that I wanted to see it (particularly for this series of posts), and he certainly didn’t let me down. I thought that he and Sophia Loren had pretty good chemistry, which helped offset some of the lesser material here (which was plentiful, as the film stayed well within romantic comedy territory, and the film’s ending seemed to wrap up a little too quickly, in my opinion). I’ve seen it said by numerous others that the film has three stars, with the third (after Clark and Sophia) being Italy itself, and I can’t deny that this is indeed true. A good part of the fun here is seeing a lot of the beautiful Italian scenery (circa 1960). I would also say that Vittorio De Sica as the lawyer Mario Vitale adds some fun, in between his attempted matchmaking, plus his court monologue (spoken mostly in Italian), which almost seems to favor his opponent (instead of his own client!), even if he does have his sexist moment obviously ogling Lucia’s (Sophia Loren) legs. Again, the story isn’t really the film’s strongest point (and quite frankly, I’m not too thrilled with Carlo Angeleti’s performance as the kid Nando, either), but the whole thing was certainly enough fun that I would be glad to see it again. Clark Gable was definitely getting older and wasn’t at his best, but he’s still good enough to make it worth recommending (and his co-star Sophia Loren, along with the scenery, adds to the appeal)!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with…It Started In Naples (1960)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Pictures. As I said, I hadn’t seen the film before (at least, not before the new Blu-ray), so I don’t know how it looked before. Reading comments on what others have said, there was a new transfer made between the film’s DVD release and the recent Blu-ray. The transfer on the new Blu-ray looks absolutely gorgeous! There really isn’t any dust, dirt or other debris marring the picture, and the detail is fantastic! It really show off the Italian scenery (not to mention the cast), which to my mind makes this Blu-ray worthwhile for those interested in the movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Run Silent, Run Deep (1958)Clark Gable

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 2022)” Featuring W. C. Fields in… My Little Chickadee (1940)

We’re back for the second film featuring my Star Of The Month for November 2022, W. C. Fields! This time, it’s his 1940 film My Little Chickadee, also starring Mae West!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Divot Diggers (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 14 minutes, 51 seconds)

The Gang are all out having fun playing golf. When the caddies at the course go on strike, the owner convinces the Gang to help caddie for some of his golfing customers. I will admit that I have some mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, it’s a lot of fun watching the kids when they play golf by themselves at the start, and the chimp they bring along to help caddie is also entertaining. However, the focus on this one really isn’t the kids, it’s on the chimp and the adult golfers. While the adults are funny, I can’t help but feel that it takes away from the kids, who should have been the ones that this short followed. Still, I certainly can’t deny that this is one that I would have fun seeing again.

And Now For The Main Feature…

The stagecoach to Little Bend is robbed by a masked bandit. One of the passengers, Flower Belle Lee (Mae West), catches his eye, and he kidnaps her. Later, before the town can get a posse together to go after her, she wanders into town of her own volition. Later, the bandit visits her at night, but is seen leaving by the nosy Mrs. Gideon (Margaret Hamilton). When Flower Belle refuses to divulge who the masked bandit is (since she herself doesn’t know), the town council kicks her out, warning her not to come back unless she is married and respectable. On the train to the city of Greasewood, Flower Belle meets Cuthbert J. Twillie (W. C. Fields). He quickly becomes enamored with her, and she takes a liking to him after seeing that he carries a carpet bag full of money. Twillie quickly proposes marriage, and Flower Belle agrees. She convinces her friend, gambler Amos Budge (Donald Meek), to perform the “ceremony” (since everybody else assumes that he is a member of the clergy due to how he is dressed). In the town of Greasewood, Flower Belle quickly gains the attention of the local newspaper reporter Wayne Carter (Dick Foran) as well as that of the powerful and corrupt bar owner Jeff Badger (Joseph Calleia). After listening to some of Twillie’s tall tales (and learning that he is married to Flower Belle), Jeff immediately offers the job of town sheriff to Twillie, which he accepts. When he has the opportunity, Twillie tries to figure out a way to consummate their marriage, but he is shot down by Flower Belle at every opportunity. The masked bandit again visits Flower Belle, and Twillie, learning about how easily she lets the bandit into her boudoir, attempts to disguise himself as the bandit. Flower Belle quickly realizes that it’s him, but the two of them wind up in trouble when he is seen leaving and mistaken for the real bandit. Both of them are thrown in jail, but Flower manages to escape, hoping to clear Twillie. Will she be successful, or will Twillie be hanged as the bandit?

In 1939, Universal Studios successfully teamed up James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich (whose career had been in decline after her initial success under director Josef Von Sternberg) in the Western comedy Destry Rides Again. Hoping for a similar success, the studio decided to pair up W. C. Fields (who had recently signed with them for the film You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man) and Mae West (whose career had been in a slump ever since the rise of the Production Code, with My Little Chickadee being her first film since 1937’s Every Day’s A Holiday at Paramount Pictures). Behind the scenes, this didn’t turn out the best. Both stars had a preference for writing their own material, not to mention W. C. Fields had a penchant for ad-libbing (compared to Mae West, who preferred to stick to the script). It’s unclear as to who wrote what (and how much), as different sources have claimed different things, with Mae West claiming that she wrote everything apart from a scene set in a bar, and others have claimed that they wrote their own scenes (and ad-libbed their stuff together). Either way, they reportedly didn’t get along very well off-screen. It wasn’t enough to stop audiences from going to see the movie, however, as it turned out to be Fields’ highest-grossing film at Universal, and Mae West’s last successful film.

This is a movie that I’ve been wanting to see for a while, particularly after hearing via one of the forums I frequent that the movie was being restored (but more on that in a moment). I’ve finally had the chance to see the movie twice within this last year, and I’ve enjoyed it! Now, I’ve seen it said that originally, W. C. Fields received a lot of praise in this movie, while Mae West was heavily criticized. First off, I should mention that this was my first time seeing any Mae West films (as opposed to the various caricatures and imitations of her in many cartoons that I grew up with). On that initial impression, I’m inclined to agree with the critics who took issue with her in this film. Don’t get me wrong, she is funny here, with a number of innuendo-laden lines that somehow got past the censors, not to mention when she takes over as a schoolteacher for the classroom of young boys. My problem with her is that her performance is very one-note, as she essentially purrs EVERY line in that “come-up-and-see-me-sometime” manner. Not one hint of emotion beyond that, which really doesn’t work when she helps defend the train against some attacking Native Americans or when she escapes from jail in an attempt to help clear W. C. Fields’ Twillie of wrongdoing. If she could have managed more emotion, especially in those situations, I wouldn’t have been bothered as much by it.

W. C. Fields, on the other hand, does manage to give a good performance (and leave me laughing in the process). During that same train attack I mentioned, he was effectively cowering and trying to hide with the children in another train car (while using a slingshot to try and shoot at their attackers). He spends a good deal of the movie trying to get into his “wife’s” boudoir, with the most memorable attempt being him actually getting in, but making the mistake of taking a bath in her bathroom (while she gets ready to leave and go elsewhere, leaving him with a goat in the bed instead). Of course, he plays cards (and cheats at that, too), so he fits right in in a Western. The only complaint about him is how he treats his Native American friend (although that is typical of how his characters tend to treat others). The plot itself is kind of all over the place, which in some respects shows how they were having trouble writing it behind the scenes with the two competing egos. In my book, Fields alone makes this film worth seeing (he’s not enough to make it a great film, but he overcomes most of the film’s problems), so I would certainly recommend giving it a shot!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… My Little Chickadee (1940)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The transfer is sourced from a 4K restoration done by Universal Pictures and the Film Foundation using a 35mm nitrate composite fine grain and a 35mm dupe negative. In short, this film looks fantastic on Blu-ray! The detail is shown off beautifully, and all the dust and debris has been cleaned. This may not be the best W. C. Fields film on Blu-ray, but it’s certainly the best-looking one on the format, making it highly recommended!

Film Length: 1 hour, 24 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Mississippi (1935)W. C. FieldsNever Give A Sucker An Even Break (1941)

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 (2022) on… Murder By Death (1976)

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “Never consider murder to be business, Mr. Diamond”

And yet, for the Fall 2022 blogathon from the Classic Movie Blog Association (CMBA), that is the business, as the theme is “Movies Are Murder!” On that note, I decided to go with a murder comedy I’ve enjoyed for a long time (but haven’t gotten around to writing about yet), 1976’s Murder By Death, starring Eileen Brennan, Truman Capote, James Coco, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Nancy Walker and Estelle Winwood!

Five famous detectives and their associates have received an invitation to “dinner and a murder” at the mansion of Lionel Twain (Truman Capote). This group includes Dick Charleston (David Niven) and his wife, Dora (Maggie Smith); Inspector Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) and his adopted son Willie (Richard Narita); Milo Perrier (James Coco) and his chauffeur, Marcel Cassette (James Cromwell); Sam Diamond (Peter Falk) and his secretary, Tess Skeffington (Eileen Brennan); and Jessica Marbles (Elsa Lanchester) with her nurse, Miss Withers (Estelle Winwood). In the leadup to the dinner, there are various attempts on their lives, which all fail. During the dinner, their host (who had previously kept to himself) appears, and explains why he brought them all there. Every one of those detectives had a reputation for solving every one of their cases, and Mr. Twain wanted to bet them all that he could solve a murder before them. He predicted that one person sitting at that table would be murdered at midnight, and another would be the murderer. While he disappears, everyone else vows to stay together, although at various times, they leave the room to investigate some of the goings-on in the house. At midnight, Mr. Twain himself appears, dead (and murdered exactly as he had predicted). So, the detectives and their associates all set out to figure out who indeed murdered Twain. But will they succeed, or will Mr. Twain get the upper hand (even though he’s dead)?

Ah, the murder mystery. The genre has long been a favorite with readers and moviegoers alike. Of course, with good murder mysteries come various detectives, who become famous for their wit and their ingenuity in solving these crimes. Some authors were able to create memorable detectives that audiences loved and followed through entire series, both on the big screen and in the written word. Murder By Death was writer Neil Simon’s spoof of the detective genre. In particular, he parodied detectives from Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple), Dashiell Hammett (Nick and Nora Charles, Sam Spade) and Earl Derr Biggers (Charlie Chan). A number of big stars were offered roles (including original Thin Man actress Myrna Loy), but they turned them down. Those that did decide to take part in the film enjoyed themselves. Alec Guinness in particular thoroughly enjoyed himself, as he made the trip to Hollywood to make the film (not something he was prone to doing). In fact, he had to reassure author Neil Simon that he was having fun with it (since the author liked him so much that he offered to rewrite anything to suit him). Admittedly, some of the cast didn’t exactly have a lot of faith in the film, as Peter Sellers sold his share of the percentage back to the producers of the film, and the company that David Niven’s son was working for (and which had invested in the film) believed they would be writing it off as a tax loss. And yet, the movie ended up being the eighth biggest hit of 1976.

I first saw this film when it was given to me on DVD along with two other Peter Falk films (this film’s 1978 “sequel”, The Cheap Detective as well as the 1979 film The In-Laws). Even though I had no experience with any of the detectives that the film was spoofing (outside of Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon), I took to the film right away! The movie has a lot of twists and turns as we see the murder occur and then get solved (if you can call it that) by the film’s end. Admittedly, the film’s ending does leave you with a number of rather big plot-holes, but, at the same time, it’s so fun that I can easily forgive the movie as I get swept up in the proceedings! In general, I think all of the cast do quite well, from Peter Falk’s excellent imitation of Humphrey Bogart, to David Niven and Maggie Smith, who come off quite similarly to William Powell and Myrna Loy’s Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man films. Personally, I think that Alec Guinness’ role as the blind butler Jamessir Bensonmum is one of his best, as he is quite funny (especially with that name!). I have to throw in a SPOILER ALERT to say this, but he is at his absolute best when we see him at the end of the film, revealed as the culprits by the various detectives, and he changes his manner and character so well every time that one of the detectives comes in and accuses him of being somebody different. END SPOILER ALERT

Besides Alec Guinness, I also really like Peter Sellers here. Normally, I don’t care for him at all, but his performance as Sydney Wang is a real delight (even if it isn’t exactly politically correct, since he’s wearing yellowface to appear Asian). Quite frankly, he’s one of the most quotable characters in the film for me, with this line being a personal favorite:

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “Conversation like television set on honeymoon. Unnecessary!”

But aside from some of his sayings (or “stories” as he calls them), I most enjoy his interactions with Truman Capote’s Lionel Twain, who is almost a grammar Nazi with regards to Wang’s ability to speak English, as exemplified by this exchange:

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “What meaning of this, Mr. Twain?”

-Lionel Twain (Truman Capote) – “I will tell you, Mr. Wang, if you can tell me why a man who possesses one of the most brilliant minds of this century can’t say his prepositions or articles. ‘The,’ Mr. Wang, ‘What is the meaning of this?”

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “That’s what I said. What meaning of this?”

Of course, I just love how Wang refers to a moose head mounted on the wall (which Twain is using to watch them) as a “cow on wall.” Quite frankly, my only really serious complaint about this movie is that these two don’t interact enough.

Apart from that, I do know that this movie isn’t for everyone. Aside from Peter Sellers being made up to look Asian, the movie has a number of other things going on that keep it from being politically correct. In general, there are a handful of racist comments (usually directed towards Peter Seller’s Wang or his Japanese son, played by Richard Narita). There are definitely some issues with sexism going on, and a number of homophobic comments as well. Plain and simple, it’s not a perfect film. But, it’s one I have enjoyed seeing on an almost yearly basis (especially around the Halloween season) ever since I first saw it, and it’s one that I highly recommend (at least, for those who can get past its issues). And with that, I leave with a quote that admittedly needs another spoiler warning (since it comes from the end of the film, and hints enough at the film’s ending), but it’s one that feels apropos for the whole “Movies Are Murder!” blogathon (not to mention, it’s certainly how things sometimes feel when things don’t go our way). So thank you all for reading (and don’t let the “murder” referred to in this quote be the situation for you this weekend, either 😉 )!

SPOILER ALERT

-Willie Wang (Richard Narita) – “I don’t understand, Pop. Was there a murder or wasn’t there?”

-Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) – “Yes. Killed good weekend.”

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2018) with… Murder By Death (1976)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory. The transfer seems to be using an HD scan. For the most part, it looks pretty good. There is some damage in the form of specks and dirt, but it’s really only visible on bigger and better TVs. Overall, it’s the way that I would recommend seeing the movie.

Film Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #9 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Robin And The 7 Hoods (1964) – Peter Falk

Naughty Marietta (1935) – Elsa Lanchester

Magnificent Doll (1946) – David Niven

The Notorious Landlady (1962) – Estelle Winwood

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 (2022) on… Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

Like Doris Day with our look at Lullaby Of Broadway (1951) earlier this month, we’ve been a little overdue for another James Cagney film. And what better way to come back to him than with one of his more famous gangster films, Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), also starring Pat O’Brien!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Teacher’s Beau (1935)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 19 minutes, 3 seconds)

The Gang’s teacher, Miss Jones (Arletta Duncan) announces that she will get married, and that they will have a new teacher for their next year, Mrs. Wilson. Not wanting a new teacher, the Gang try to find ways to break up the engagement. This was yet another hilarious short. Most of the fun stems from the ways that Spanky (George McFarland) tries to interfere, only for his plans to backfire. In particular, him and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) trying to dress up as a “rival” (who doesn’t fool the fiancé for one minute) really left a strong impression on me. To a large degree, this one feels fairly similar to the earlier talkie School’s Out (1930), but it still feels fresh enough (and funny enough) that I would gladly watch it again!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Out Where The Stars Begin (1938)

(Available as an extra on the Angels With Dirty Faces Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 19 minutes, 15 seconds)

A Broadway dancer (Evelyn Thawl) has come out to Hollywood to get into the movies. With the help of a makeup man (Jeffrey Lynn) and the director’s assistant (Charley Foy), she becomes the movie’s prima ballerina. This was a fun little musical short. The music itself is fun (although not exactly memorable), with a dance sequence that takes up the majority of the short. Mostly, it’s entertaining seeing some of the various stars and movie sets of big 1938 films in 3-strip Technicolor. I know I enjoyed it enough to see it here and there!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Porky And Daffy (1938)

(Available as an extra on the Angels With Dirty Faces Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 32 seconds)

Daffy Duck is a boxer being managed by Porky Pig. When Porky sees an ad offering money to somebody who can beat the champion rooster, Porky immediately gets Daffy in the ring! This rather fun short was from the era when Daffy was still relatively new, and very, very zany. In this short, most of the humor is derived from the wacky ways that Daffy tries to fight with the rooster. That’s not a problem for me, as I always enjoyed Daffy, regardless of how screwy he could be (and here, he IS screwy), so I don’t mind coming back around to this one as well!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Two young kids, William “Rocky” Sullivan and Jerry Connolly, try to steal some fountain pens from a train car, but Rocky is caught when they try to evade the police. Jerry wants to come forward to help Rocky out, but Rocky insists that Jerry should clam up. Fast forward nearly fifteen years, and Rocky has been through reform school and spent several years behind bars. Upon being released from prison, Rocky (James Cagney) returns to his old neighborhood, where his friend Jerry (Pat O’Brien) is now a priest and trying to keep the local kids out of trouble. At Jerry’s insistence, Rocky finds a place to stay in a boarding house, where he runs into another old friend, Laury Martin (Ann Sheridan), whom he takes an interest in. Rocky’s next order of business is to see his lawyer, Jim Frazier (Humphrey Bogart) (who had insisted that Rocky take the fall for a robbery the two of them were involved with while promising Rocky that he would get his share of the money when he got out of prison). Jim, now working for gangster Mac Keefer (George Bancroft), doesn’t have the money readily available, and offers to get it together within the week. After leaving Frazier’s office, Rocky runs into some local boys, who pick his pockets. However, he follows them to their hideout (which also used to be HIS hideout when he was younger), where they learn just who he is. He quickly gains their confidence, and helps Jerry to get the kids to behave (although Jerry wonders whether Rocky will end up being a bad influence for the kids). On his way home, some thugs sent by Frazier attempt to kill Rocky, but he turns the tables on them. Afterwards, Rocky kidnaps Frazier and, in the process, also gets his hands on some information that Mac and Frazier were using to blackmail the city officials. With Frazier in his hands, Rocky demands a ransom from Mac of nearly $100,000. After giving him the money, Mac then tries to have Rocky arrested, but finds out from a newly freed Frazier that Rocky has the blackmail information. As a result, they drop the charges, essentially making Rocky another partner. Rocky tries to give some of the money to Jerry to help build a gym, but Jerry wants nothing to do with the tainted money. In fact, he warns Rocky that he’s going to go after all the gangsters in town, including Rocky himself. Jerry’s efforts start to gain traction, leaving Mac and Frazier trying to figure out how to get rid of both him and Rocky. Rocky manages to put an end to their plan (and to them as well), but is caught by the police. Will Rocky continue to be a hero to the end for the boys (as a gangster), or will Jerry be able to show them that Rocky’s way is wrong?

In the mid-1930s, James Cagney had a big contract dispute with Warner Brothers when he sued them for pushing him to do more films in a year than he was willing to do. While the court case went on, he made some movies for Grand National Pictures. Writer and director Rowland Brown came up with the story for Angels With Dirty Faces and, after pitching it at some of the various studios, was able to sell it to Grand National Pictures, who wanted Cagney to do it. However, Cagney had tried to avoid becoming typecast in tough guy roles and took on Something To Sing About for the smaller studio (with the film underperforming at the box office). With the lawsuit getting resolved and Cagney coming back to work for Warners, he brought the story with him (which the studio decided to buy). For the role of Rocky Sullivan, James Cagney (who had grown up on the Lower East Side of New York) was inspired by a drug-addicted pimp he had known (who particularly inspired some of Rocky’s mannerisms and the phrase “Whaddya hear? Whaddya say?”) as well as his childhood friend Peter “Bootah” Hessling (who was convicted of murder and executed in the 1920s). It all worked out well for Cagney, as the picture itself was a big hit, and his performance resulted in his first Oscar nomination.

It’s taken me a long time to finally get around to seeing Angels With Dirty Faces. I’ve known of the film for a long time (especially having grown up with the first two Home Alone films and their title spoofs of the “movies” Angels With Filthy Souls and Angels With Even Filthier Souls that Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister watched), and the combined star power of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart made the film an attractive one. However, apart from a clip used in the TCM Scene It? DVD game, I’ve never had the chance to see the movie until this last year. Quite simply stated, it lived up to (and beyond!) my expectations. James Cagney alone carries the movie as a tough gangster who still has a soft spot for his old friend Jerry Connolly (played by Cagney’s offscreen friend Pat O’Brien) and the church. From start to finish, I was mesmerized by him! The ending for his character is ambiguous, and, although it was likely demanded by the Hays Office as part of the Production Code in force at the time, it still feels genuine to me. And, although it’s still early in his career, Humphrey Bogart also leaves a strong impression as a lawyer who thinks he can outwit Cagney’s Rocky (yet is caught every time). The movie kept me on the edge of my seat frequently, especially when the thugs came after Rocky and again when the police were hunting him down. This film is considered a major classic, and I definitely think it deserves that status! I personally might go so far as to call it my favorite gangster film, so I have no hesitation in giving it some of my highest recommendations! Seriously, go see it as soon as possible!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. The transfer comes from a 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative. It’s a typical Warner Archive release. In short, beautiful picture quality with the level of detail being shown off perfectly, and all the dust, dirt and debris has been removed. It’s a perfect release for a (in my opinion) perfect movie, and it’s highly recommended!

Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Footlight Parade (1933)James CagneyEach Dawn I Die (1939)

Stand-In (1937)Humphrey BogartThe Maltese Falcon (1941)

Ann Sheridan – Dodge City (1939)

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2022) on… International Lady (1941)

Today, we’re here to look at a 1941 spy thriller called International Lady starring George Brent, Ilona Massey and Basil Rathbone!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Beginner’s Luck (1935)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 18 minutes, 38 seconds)

After having Spanky (George McFarland) recite for some of her lady friends, Spanky’s mother decides to enter him in an amateur talent contest. However, Spanky has no desire to win, and enlists the Gang’s help to sabotage his performance. It’s yet another short focused on Spanky, and the results are once again hilarious! Spanky brings the fun, whether dealing with a meddlesome parrot or doing his recitations (especially when he defends himself against everything the Gang was throwing at him). Of note with this short is the debut of future Our Gang star Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (although not as the character he would become known for). I laughed from start to finish on this one, which in my book makes it worth recommending (and I’ll certainly be coming back to it whenever I can)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

During the London bombing by the Nazis, Tim Hanley (George Brent) runs into concert singer Carla Nillson (Ilona Massey), and invites her to a bomb shelter/nightclub. There, they run into music critic Reggie Oliver (Basil Rathbone), who joins them. However, Tim and Carla had been followed there by somebody, and Tim decides to go down to the police station with the man to do something about it. There, he is joined by Reggie, and it is revealed that neither Tim nor Reggie are who they claimed to be. Tim (who had claimed to be a lawyer working with the U.S consulate) was actually an FBI agent while Reggie was from Scotland Yard, and they were both with Carla because she was suspected of being part of a ring of saboteurs trying to stop American planes from being shipped to England. However, the two men can’t quite agree on how to handle the case, resulting in Tim trying to sneak Carla off to Lisbon (without Reggie), where he helps her get a visa to America. While in Lisbon, Carla sneaks away to meet with members of the sabotage ring to get her new “music” (which is the code for the organization). Tim had seen her sneak away and tried to follow, but the cab he tried to take quickly lost sight of her. Reggie joined them after they got back together, and the three finished out the trip to the U.S. together. Once in the country, Carla went her way to the home of chocolate magnate Sidney Grenner (Gene Lockhart) (who was also the head of the ring of saboteurs) to prepare for his radio program (where they would use the music to communicate with the other members). At the party being held for Carla’s “concert,” Reggie goes undercover as a waiter, and snoops around while everybody is listening to Carla sing. He overhears a telephone conversation between Grenner’s “butler” Webster (George Zucco) (who is an expert marksman) and another member of the ring. After the concert, Tim finds Carla’s sheet music, and, discerning the existence of a code on there, he writes it down to pass off to another agent. When Webster sees Tim alone in the garden, he is suspicious and takes a shot at Tim (but doesn’t kill him on purpose). Carla discovers that Tim is an FBI agent, but she doesn’t reveal it to anybody else until after Tim has left the premises. With time running out as the saboteurs follow through with their plans to destroy all the planes being sent to England, Reggie works hard to crack their code. But will he succeed in time? And will Carla’s feelings for Tim stop her from continuing to take part in the sabotage (or will she let Tim get killed)?

Honestly, I hadn’t heard of this film at all until it was announced for a Blu-ray and DVD release from ClassicFlix (but more on that in a moment). I’ve come to enjoy trying out the different films that ClassicFlix has been putting out, so I was willing to give it a try (and the presence of Basil Rathbone in the movie certainly didn’t hurt its appeal). In general, the film turned out to be better than I had anticipated. I found the film’s way of showing the saboteur’s code being sent while Ilona’s Carla was singing to be an interesting way of portraying it. I have mixed feelings about George Brent’s performance, as I don’t think he fully works as the leading man in this film, yet I like his relationship with Basil Rathbone’s Reggie, as the two almost work well as a comedy team (with their main comedy bit being the language difference between British and American slang). Even apart from his dealing with George Brent’s Tim, Basil Rathbone really carries the film, especially when he is in disguise at the party (which is almost hard to notice at first unless you are really looking for it, which is saying something). You won’t really find a lot of tension here (especially since this is considered a spy thriller), and you won’t find much in the way of shootouts. Still, I found it to be a very entertaining film (and one I’m glad to have seen), and I think it’s worth giving a chance!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… International Lady (1941)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from ClassicFlix as part of their Silver Series line of releases. According to a post by the founder of ClassicFlix on one of the forums I frequent, their original plan was to release the film on DVD only, but they were given an HD master by the owner that was good (but not quite good enough for their main line of releases, and would be too expensive of a proposition for them to do a new and better master). Having seen it now myself, I’m still very impressed with a picture that looks quite good, with very little damage evident, and a fairly sharp picture throughout. Overall, it’s a very good transfer given a pretty good release on disk. Given that it’s part of their “no frills” Silver Series, there are no extras beyond a few trailers for some of ClassicFlix’s other releases, and there are no subtitles for those who need them (but dialogue is still relatively easy to understand the majority of the time).

Film Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Jezebel (1938) – George Brent – Tomorrow Is Forever (1946)

Balalaika (1939) – Ilona Massey

The Mark Of Zorro (1940) – Basil Rathbone – The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad (1949)

The Sea Wolf (1941) – Gene Lockhart – Going My Way 1944)

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2022) on… Lullaby Of Broadway (1951)

It’s been a while since I’ve watched (and reviewed) any of Doris Day’s films, so I’m back today for her 1951 musical Lullaby Of Broadway, also starring Gene Nelson!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Anniversary Trouble (1935)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 19 minutes, 22 seconds)

Spanky (George McFarland) has been elected the treasurer of the Gang’s club (“Ancient and Honery Order of Wood Chucks Club, Inc.”) and the Gang have decided to trust him with the money. However, it’s also his parents’ wedding anniversary, and the envelope containing the Gang’s money has gotten mixed up with his father’s gift to his mother. This one was absolutely hilarious from start to finish! Much of the humor is derived from Spanky being called to go see his father at the office (since his parents thought he stole their envelope) while the Gang waits for their money (since they disbanded the club and want their money back). One of Spanky’s methods in trying to get away is questionable for modern audiences, since he tried to don blackface to disguise himself as Buckwheat in an attempt to get away. Still, the short was an entertaining twenty minutes that I wouldn’t mind seeing again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

American entertainer Melinda Howard (Doris Day) has been in Europe for a number of years, but she’s earned enough that she decided to come home to New York City to surprise her mother, Jessica Howard (Gladys George), whom she believes to be the toast of Broadway. When she arrives at her mother’s mansion, Melinda meets the butler, Lefty Mack (Billy De Wolfe), who is also a friend of her mother’s. A surprised Lefty lies, telling her that her mother is on tour with a show, and is renting the place to brewer Adolph Hubbell (S. Z. Sakall) and his wife, Anna (Florence Bates). The truth is that Jessica has fallen on hard times as a result of her alcoholism, and the mansion is owned by the Hubbells. Lefty gives Melinda a place to stay in the servants’ quarters, and lets Mr. Hubbell know what’s going on. Since Mr. Hubbell is throwing a party that many Broadway performers have been invited to, Lefty hopes to get Jessica there to briefly see Melinda. At the party, Broadway producer George Ferndel (Hanley Stafford) tries to convince Mr. Hubbell to invest in his show. Mr. Hubbell refuses to do so because his wife is insisting that he not do so, and because Ferndel won’t let him do anything more than pay for the show. Meanwhile, one of Ferndel’s stars, Tom Farnham (Gene Nelson) (whom Melinda had unknowingly met on the boat to America) tries to spend time with Melinda (who was more open to him at the party than she had been on the ship). Melinda is disappointed when her mother doesn’t show at the party (because she had been hospitalized for drinking too much, although Melinda was told that she had to stay with her “show”), and vows to stay until she gets a chance to see her mother. With the food bills at the Hubbell household rising while Melinda stays, Lefty makes a suggestion that Mr. Hubbell should take her out to a restaurant, where she would be noticed by Ferndel (and also prove that Mr. Hubbell was not too old-fashioned to be involved in show business). As a result, she now has a part in the new show, with the opportunity to spend more time with Tom. Trouble arises when Mr. Hubbell spends too much time with Melinda and everybody else misconstrues their relationship. Things come to a head right before the show opens, when Mrs. Hubbell finds out about Melinda spending so much time with Mr. Hubbell, and she decides to divorce her husband. With everything falling apart, will Melinda be able to see her mother and perform in the show, or will she pack up and go back to Europe?

While actress Doris Day had originally planned to come to Hollywood as a dancer, a car crash ended that dream (resulting in her focusing on her singing instead). However, as she started to become a big star at Warner Brothers, she worked with dancer Gene Nelson and his wife Miriam to get back into dancing shape for her first starring role in Tea For Two (1950). With that film proving to be successful, she was paired up again with Gene Nelson for Lullaby Of Broadway. Gene’s promotion to leading man was mostly the result of him winning the 1950 Golden Globe for Best New Star (in Tea For Two) (that, and his Tea For Two co-star Gordon MacRae was proving to be an uncooperative contract player at Warners). Once again, Doris worked with Gene and his wife on the routines for Lullaby, including dancing on the staircase for the title number, which made her nervous. Onscreen, that nervousness didn’t show, and the film proved to be yet another hit for Doris Day and Warner Brothers.

I’ve had the opportunity to watch Lullaby Of Broadway a couple times this year (hadn’t seen it prior to the recent Blu-ray release), and it’s one that I will gladly admit to enjoying! Most of the fun is seeing a lot of the cast of the previous year’s Tea For Two together again (minus Gordon MacRae, as I mentioned before). The film is full of memorable tunes (culled from the catalog of music owned by Warner Brothers at the time), including the title tune, “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me,” “Just One Of Those Things,” “I Love The Way You Say Goodnight,” and several others. Doris Day is in fine voice for all of her songs, and she proves once again that she can dance, whether alone or with Gene Nelson! Honestly, the only complaint I have on her dancing is the slow motion section that ends “I Love The Way You Say Goodnight” (I think Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are great enough as a team to pull it off slow motion dancing in Carefree, but Doris isn’t as good technically, so it shows off her faults a bit more). As for her co-star Gene Nelson, I like him, but I’m not sure he fares as well as a leading man for two reasons: 1) he is fairly obviously dubbed on his singing voice (by Hal Derwin) and 2) compared to his earlier roles in The Daughter Of Rosie O’Grady (1950) and Tea For Two (1950), his dancing here seems “tamer,” lacking some of the acrobatic stuff and lifts he did before (which, in this case, makes him more like your average dancer as opposed to being a standout like he was in those earlier two movies). Apart from those two complaints, I’m good with him. S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall is fun as always, and Billy De Wolfe is funny in what feels like a rare role (for him) as a decent guy, especially when he does the comic routine to the song “You’re Dependable” with Anne Triola as the maid (and his girlfriend) Gloria Davis. I’m not quite as fond of this film as the earlier Tea For Two, but it’s still an entertaining musical with some fun music and dancing! As I said, I’ve already had fun watching it a few times in the time that I’ve had it on disc, and I certainly would recommend it!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Lullaby Of Broadway (1951)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. I haven’t been able to find anything specific about what was used for the transfer on the Blu-ray, but it’s still a typical Warner Archive release of a 3-strip Technicolor film. In short, the color looks great, and the picture has been cleaned up of all dust and dirt. However, this is a rare instance where I do have a complaint about the transfer, and that’s with some of the audio. The main problem is that the tap sounds for some of the dances (particularly Gene Nelson’s dance number “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart”) don’t quite sound right, as if that part of the audio wasn’t done right (similar to what I’ve heard was the problem on the initial pressing of Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ 2022 Blu-ray release of Blue Skies before that was corrected with a subsequent pressing). Since I only first saw this film through the Blu-ray, I have no idea whether that was something new or whether it’s always been that way. If it is a new problem for the Blu-ray, I wouldn’t say that it’s anything major (and, as far as I know, there has been no movement towards Warner Archive fixing it, which doesn’t surprise me after all the issues that they’ve had behind the scenes throughout the pandemic), so I still think that this release is worth it.

Film Length: 1 hour, 32 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Tea For Two (1950)Doris DayOn Moonlight Bay (1951)

Tea For Two (1950) – Gene Nelson

Tea For Two (1950) – S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall

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“Star Of The Month (August 2022)” Featuring Audrey Hepburn in… Paris When It Sizzles (1964)

We’re back for the second and final post on an Audrey Hepburn film (my Star Of The Month for August 2022). This time, it’s her 1964 film Paris When It Sizzles, also starring William Holden!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Bird Who Came To Dinner (1961)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 17 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker thinks he’s got it made when he poses as a toy woodpecker that a wealthy woman buys for her son. However, the son is very abusive towards all his toys, and intends to “play” the same way with his new toy! This one was entertaining, giving Woody a villain to fight against (one that seems very much to be the predecessor to Sid from the first Toy Story). It takes a moment for Woody to start fighting back, but it feels worthwhile watching the son get what’s coming to him. Not one of the best Woody Woodpecker cartoons, but it certainly did its job in providing a few good laughs.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Movie producer Alexander Meyerheim (Noël Coward) is currently awaiting the screenplay for his next movie. His screenwriter, Richard Benson (William Holden) has assured him that the script for the movie, currently titled The Girl Who Stole The Eiffel Tower, is almost finished. Alexander is suspicious of that claim, and has decided to visit Richard in Paris to see for himself. Since Richard hasn’t really written it yet (and only has two days to get it done), he hires a secretary, Gabrielle Simpson (Audrey Hepburn), to move in for those two days and help him finish it. On the first day, there are several starts and stops as Richard tries to piece together his ideas, but things go out of control when Gabrielle gets a little drunk and has to call it a night. Inspired by Gabrielle, Richard writes up most of a screenplay, and shares it with her the next day. The two then figure out where to go from there. As they write the screenplay, Richard and Gabrielle fall for each other, but he resists the idea strongly, having been through several failed marriages already. Will the two end up together movie-style when they finish, or will his past (and current issues) come between them?

There was a lot of behind-the-scenes drama in the making of Paris When It Sizzles (which was based on an earlier 1952 French film called La fête à Henriette), with some of those problems being started nearly a decade earlier. After enjoying some early success in her film career with Roman Holiday (1953), Audrey Hepburn had followed that up with the 1954 film Sabrina. During the making of that film, Audrey had an affair with her co-star, William Holden. The affair ended after the film wrapped, although it’s reported that the married William still carried a torch for Audrey. He also had a bit of a drinking problem that had been hurting his career for some time, and it really worsened during Paris When It Sizzles (which was indeed filmed in Paris). It got so bad that director Richard Quine rented a place next to William to help keep him in check. That wasn’t quite enough, and the director had to convince William to undergo treatment for one week. During that time, Tony Curtis was brought in for a quick appearance. Audrey herself was even guilty of causing some trouble, getting the original cinematographer Claude Renoir fired when she didn’t like how the dailies were turning out. In spite of that, Claude was helpful in getting Charles Lang (who had done Sabrina) to be his replacement. Filming was completed in late 1962, but when the Paramount executives saw it, they felt it was unreleasable and held it back until 1964 (which still wasn’t enough for audiences or critics, as the film didn’t do as well as originally hoped).

This does seem to be one of those films that you either love or you hate, and, after finally seeing it for the first time, I would say that I fall into the “love it!” group. The movie is quite enjoyable! Sure, it relies on a lot of romantic comedy clichés, but at the same time, it knows that, which is part of the fun! I know I enjoyed the various “false starts” in them writing the script, and I particularly had a few good laughs out of when the story got derailed completely at the end of the first day, with Richard Benson’s (William Holden) alter ego all of a sudden becoming Dracula and engaging in a madcap chase after Gabrielle’s (Audrey Hepburn) alter ego, in a sequence that was originally intended to be longer but had to be cut short when William Holden got injured in a car crash with one week left to film (although I personally think the shorter length made it better). Tony Curtis’ appearance in the “film-within-a-film” is also entertaining, especially the way that his character is talked about like he was actually a minor character in a movie. And the film’s ending (of Paris When It Sizzles, not the “film-within-a-film”), with all the requisite tropes being discussed by the characters as they engage in them was quite entertaining! And, the movie even threw in a few Easter Eggs referencing Audrey’s films, like Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961) and My Fair Lady (1964) (although, to be fair, I don’t know how much the reference to My Fair Lady was intentional, since Paris When It Sizzles was filmed BEFORE she filmed Charade but released after it, and I don’t know when she was cast in My Fair Lady, but it’s still fun just the same). I know not everybody will enjoy this movie, but I did! So, I definitely would suggest giving this meta-comedy a chance!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Paris When It Sizzles (1964)

This movie is available on Blu-ray either individually or as part of the Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection from Paramount Pictures. My best guess is that it uses the same transfer from the earlier DVD. As a result, the picture looks pretty decent (although probably not *quite* as good on bigger and better screens). There really isn’t much in the way of visible damage, so, while this doesn’t look as good as it could, it’s still probably the best that can be hoped for at the moment (short of a HUGE surge in popularity that would result in them doing right by it).

Film Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Forever Female (1953) – William Holden

Charade (1963)Audrey HepburnMy Fair Lady (1964)

Operation Petticoat (1959) – Tony Curtis

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with… Song Of The Thin Man (1947)

We’re back for not only one final go-round with William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, but one final (for now) individual review in my “What’s Old Is A New Release Again” series, as I switch to a roundup of quick blurbs about a group of movies (hopefully within the next few weeks). But enough about that, we’re here for the 1947 mystery comedy Song Of The Thin Man!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Free Wheeling (1932)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 3 (1932-1933) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 19 minutes, 49 seconds)

Young Dickie (Dickie Moore) has a stiff neck which requires a neck brace, but the doctors say that he can and should take it off (although his mother disagrees with them). Dickie ends up joining Stymie (Matthew Beard) and the Gang in their makeshift taxi. This one was another entertaining short, with quite a few humorous moments. I know I enjoyed Dickie’s attempt to avoid taking castor oil (and his subsequent revenge on his nurse). Then there is the taxi (pushed by a mule) and all the various devices to simulate a real taxi ride. The final ride through the countryside is less than convincing due to the rather obvious rear screen projection, but that’s a rare complaint about an otherwise very enjoyable short with the Gang!

Coming Up Shorts! with… A Really Important Person (1947)

(Available as an extra on the Song Of The Thin Man Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 50 seconds)

Young Billy Reilly (Dean Stockwell) wants to write an essay on an important person for a contest, but he can’t think of anybody. It isn’t until he accidentally breaks a window during a baseball game and is pushed by his father to help repair it that he is able to come up with a subject. This short, part of John Nesbit’s Passing Parade series, was a good one. It has a good message of not always needing to look for heroes among the big names and celebrities, but also within your own neighborhood (and even your own home when applicable). It was well-acted, and very heartfelt. It’s the only short I’ve seen from that series so far, and, while not enough of a ringing endorsement for me to seek out more, it was at least an entertaining one.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Slap Happy Lion (1947)

(Available as an extra on the Song Of The Thin Man Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 26 seconds)

The lion is the king of the jungle and afraid of nobody. That is, until a mouse keeps picking on him. This Tex Avery short is quite funny, especially with the various lion roars (and the reactions of the different animals when they run in fear). Of course, the fight between the mouse and the lion (which is the majority of the short) is nothing new in and of itself. The main humor there is doing things Tex Avery’s way (which is certainly entertaining). It’s an overall fun cartoon (especially with that ending), and it’s one I don’t mind revisiting!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Phil Orval Brant (Bruce Cowling) is hosting a society benefit on his ship, the S. S. Fortune, and Nick (William Powell) and Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) are there hobnobbing with the rest of them. There is a jazz orchestra playing there, under the leadership of Tommy Edlon Drake (Phillip Reed). However, Tommy is getting into trouble in various ways, and, after the event is over, he is shot. The police think that Phil is the guilty party, but, when Phil and his new wife, Janet Thayar (Jayne Meadows), show up the next day to visit the Charles, Nick and Nora at first assume that’s it’s because of their new marital status (until Phil and Janet explain to them what has happened). They are shot at by some unknown assailant, and Nick decides to turn Phil in to the police for safety (since he thinks the shot was intended for Phil). Later, Nick sneaks onto the Fortune (which is being guarded by the police), where he meets the members of the jazz orchestra. He learns how none of them liked Tommy, particularly clarinet player, Buddy Hollis (Don Taylor) (who isn’t there with the rest of the group). Nick convinces another clarinet player, Clarence “Clinker” Krause (Keenan Wynn), to help him locate Buddy, but they have no luck. Nick later has an idea, and, with the aid of Nora, questions Janet and her father, David I. Thayar (Ralph Morgan) (who did not approve of Janet’s marriage to Phil) about an antique gun (since David has a collection of them). During their conversation, Janet gets a mysterious telephone call, and the whole interrogation ends abruptly. Nick and Nora follow Janet to an apartment, where they find the dead body of the band’s singer, Fran Ledue Page (Gloria Grahame). They find a clue that leads them to a rest home, where they find Buddy (who has been staying there after his alcoholism broke his mind). By all appearances, it almost looks like Buddy is the murderer, but Nick isn’t sure. Working with the police, he manages to gather all the suspects on the Fortune, where he hopes everything will be revealed. But will his plan work?

With Myrna Loy returning to Hollywood (after her failed marriage to John Hertz, Jr. and all her work for the war effort), The Thin Man Goes Home continued the success of the Thin Man series. However, things had changed enough that the series no longer had the guaranteed success it had previously known. With the death of W. S. “Woody” Van Dyke (who had directed the first four films), and different writers behind the scenes, only the onscreen talent remained the same. Song Of The Thin Man brought back actor Leon Ames from The Thin Man Goes Home (the original plan was to have him be the same character, except his onscreen wife from the previous film was unavailable, so he was instead given a different character to work with). The role of Nickie, Jr. (played in Shadow Of The Thin Man by Richard “Dickie” Hall) was recast with Dean Stockwell for Song Of The Thin Man. The presence of William Powell and Myrna Loy wasn’t enough to save the film this time for audiences, as the movie ended up losing money at the box office. In the process, it not only ended the series, it also ended up being the last full movie pairing William Powell and Myrna Loy (with her making a cameo appearance in another 1947 outing for William Powell, The Senator Was Indiscreet), as well as being Myrna’s last film at MGM.

Like all the previous entries in the series, this one was new to me. I will be very quick to admit that I still enjoyed this one, but, at the same time, it is indeed easy to see it was not as well done as the earlier films. The humor overall wasn’t as memorable, with the main comedy bits that stuck with me being the “Jive talk” that Keenan Wynn’s Clinker frequently engages in, to the particular confusion of Nick and Nora (and probably modern audiences who may not be as used to the slang). The mystery itself is decent here, but, at the same time, the final reveal wasn’t handled as well as the earlier films, lacking all the frequent misdirections (or at least, they were poorly handled here). My opinion may not be as favorable, but I can’t deny that the movie is still entertaining, and worth it for more time with William Powell and Myrna Loy’s Nick and Nora, who still have the same chemistry that had held all the series together. So, for them alone, this movie is still worth recommending (but, again, I don’t recommend binge-watching the whole series, as this film looks worse when compared directly against the earlier films).

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, featuring a new 4K scan of the best preservation elements. Quite simply stated, the movie looks as good as all the earlier films, with a good image that has been cleaned up of dirt and debris. I certainly recommend this release as the best way to see and enjoy this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Ziegfeld Follies (1945) – William Powell – Mister Roberts (1955)

The Thin Man Goes Home (1945) – Myrna Loy – Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2022) on… The Ten Commandments (1956)

Since it’s Easter today, I’m back for a brief interruption of my month-long break for another film that’s appropriate for this time of the year!  This time, we’re going with the classic 1956 Cecil B. DeMille biblical epic The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo, John Derek, Vincent Price and John Carradine!

When Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses I (Ian Keith) is warned by his wise men that a star has announced the birth of a deliverer for his Hebrew slaves, he orders the death of all the newborn Hebrew boys.  Defying his edict, Yochabel (Martha Scott) puts her newborn son in a basket, and then places the basket in the Nile River.  The basket floats down the river, where it is discovered by the Pharaoh’s daughter, Bithiah (Nina Foch).  Believing the child has been sent from her late husband, she decides to take him in as her new son and names him Moses.  Her servant Memnet (Judith Anderson) sees the Hebrew swaddling cloth and warns her against doing this, but Bithiah forbids her from ever revealing Moses’ Hebrew ancestry.  Fast forward a few decades, and Moses (Charlton Heston) is enjoying great success.  He enjoys the favor of Bithiah’s brother, Pharaoh Sethi (Sir Cedric Harwicke), after a military victory against Ethiopia (and its resulting alliance).  Sethi’s son, Rameses II (Yul Brynner), had been tasked with building a city in time for Sethi’s jubilee, but he has been unable to complete it due to the Hebrew slaves awaiting the arrival of their deliverer.  With the two men vying for the hand of the Egyptian princess Nefretiri (Anne Baxter) (who has been promised to Sethi’s successor), Sethi tasks Moses with the job of finishing the city, and asks Rameses to find the deliverer (if indeed he exists).  When Moses gives the Hebrews one day of rest for every seven days and allows them to raid the temple granaries for food, Rameses and the temple priests try to use this to prove to Sethi that Moses intends to lead the slaves in rebellion against him.  However, Sethi finds that Moses has instead made great progress on building the city, and is now all but assured of being the next pharaoh (to the delight of Nefretiri). Everything is looking up for Moses.

Then things change when Memnet reveals Moses’ Hebrew origins to Nefretiri. While Nefretiri kills Memnet to stop her from spreading the story any further, Moses still learns the truth about his Hebrew ancestry. In the process, he joins with his real family and the other Hebrews in doing slave labor. Nefretiri tries to get him out of there, and reminds him that he could do more good for his people as the next pharaoh. However, Moses still needs to see the master builder, Baka (Vincent Price), before he will do anything more. That proves problematic, as he kills Baka when he finds him torturing the stonecutter, Joshua (John Derek), who had tried to rescue his girlfriend, Lilia (Debra Paget), from being taken advantage of. The Hebrew overseer, Dathan (Edward G. Robinson), sees all this, and, since he was tasked by Rameses to find the so-called Hebrew “deliverer,” he turns Moses in. At Sethi’s jubilee, Rameses reveals Moses “betrayal,” and Sethi has no choice but to make Rameses the next pharaoh. Rameses decides to have Moses exiled in the desert, expecting him to never return. Moses survives the desert, and meets shepherdess Sephora (Yvonne De Carlo), along with her sisters. While he still pines for Nefretiri, he decides to marry Sephora and start a family. One time, while tending sheep near Mount Sinai, he sees a burning bush on the mountain and decides to investigate. There, he hears the voice of God, telling him to go back to Egypt to free the Israelites from their slavery. But will Moses be able to change the heart of the pharaoh with God’s help? (Okay, that question has a VERY obvious answer, but we’ll go with it, anyways.)

In the 1920s, director Cecil B. DeMille filmed a silent film version of The Ten Commandments (which had a prologue that told the story of the biblical exodus before switching to a modern story about two brothers and how they viewed the Ten Commandments). The film was a success, and spawned a “trilogy,” with him doing the silent film The King Of Kings (1927) and later doing the 1932 talkie The Sign Of The Cross. After doing The Greatest Show On Earth (1952), he wanted to remake The Ten Commandments, but this time with a focus on the life of Moses. In spite of his then-recent successes, Paramount’s board of directors were initially hesitant to approve the idea, but they came around at the urging of the studio head, Adolph Zukor. DeMille did a lot of research on the subject, taking inspiration from books like The Prince Of Egypt by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, Pillar Of Fire by Joseph Holt Ingraham and On Eagle’s Wings by Arthur Eustace Southon as well as various historical texts (including the Bible, obviously). He did some location shooting in various places in Egypt, but Charles Heston, Yul Brynner and Henry Wilcoxon were the only major cast members to join him there for the actual shoot (with Yul Brynner really only there to film as Rameses leading the Egyptian chariots after the Hebrew people). The movie proved to be a huge hit with audiences, the biggest of Demille’s career. It also proved to be his last film as director, as his health went downhill (not helped by a heart attack that he suffered from partway through filming, although he was able to quickly return and finish the movie), and he would pass away a few years later in 1959.

I’ve seen The Ten Commandments many times over the years, through VHS, DVD, Blu-ray and now 4K UHD (but more on that in a moment). In short, I like it very much!! It was my first Cecil B. DeMille film, and it’s certainly made it easier for me to try some of the other films that he’s done as a director (even if this one does still remain my favorite of the bunch). And as a DeMille film, I can certainly say that it emphasizes the spectacle over the acting (and boy, does it). Don’t get me wrong, the actors and actresses do pretty well here. Charlton Heston as Moses is very much an iconic role, and I have yet to see any other actor I like better as Moses. That’s just how good he is here. Of course, Yul Brynner makes for a very good villain as Rameses, jealous of Moses’ success and determined not to let Moses get the better of him. Anne Baxter leaves a strong impression as Nefretiri, a temptress bound and determined to get what she wants (and heaven help the people that get in her way, regardless of how she feels for them). And then there’s Edward G. Robinson as the ambitious stool pigeon Dathan (a role that rescued him from being blacklisted at the time), who proves to be just as villainous as he tries everything he can to stay in Egypt after he gains power himself. Seriously, the performances here all make the film enjoyable. While the special effects themselves don’t look the best, I’d still say that they’re quite impressive (especially for a film made WAAAAY before CGI ever became a thing). Arguably, this is my favorite biblical epic, and for that reason, I have no problem whatsoever in recommending it (especially this time of the year)!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… The Ten Commandments (1956)

This movie is available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Pictures. For UHD, there are two options: a regular release that mainly contains the film on one UHD and two Blu-rays (plus some extras on the Blu-rays), or as a limited edition steelbook edition that includes everything in the regular version plus an entire disc of extras (on Blu-ray) that also includes the 1923 silent film version directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The transfer on the UHD still uses the restoration performed for the Blu-ray (released nearly a decade ago), which was already very good, and yet, the extra work done to put this film on 4K UHD shows off this movie just that much more! The colors pop much more, and the textures on everything are even more visible! Honestly, the only times this movie doesn’t look as good (and this is not the fault of the restorationists, but the original filmmakers themselves) are the moments where double exposures are used for the cast members that were not able to film on location. This was the first 4K UHD I was able to see (but, as some may have seen, the second one I have commented on, following my updated review of My Fair Lady, also from Paramount), and it was to my eyes quite spectacular to see. I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending the 4K UHD (especially the limited edition if you can still get it)!

And with that, I bid you “Happy Easter,” as I now resume my break from blogging for the rest of the month. Of course, come the first of May, I will indeed be back to feature my next Screen Team Of The Month (but you’re still going to have to wait until then to see just who I am featuring)! In the meantime, keep enjoying some good (or great) movies!

Film Length: 3 hour, 52 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #10 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Charlton Heston – Ben-Hur (1959)

The Sea Wolf (1941) – Edward G. Robinson – Two Weeks In Another Town (1962)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)

We’re back again for a fifth round of hysterical mystery adventures with William Powell and Myrna Loy as the husband-and-wife detective team Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Pooch (1932)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 3 (1932-1933) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 27 seconds)

Stymie (Matthew Beard) is in trouble with the rest of the gang for stealing one of their pies, but gets back in their favor when he rescues their dogs from the dogcatcher (Budd Fine). However, the dogcatcher manages to get Petey, and threatens to gas him if the kids can’t come up with five dollars in a hurry. This was an all-round entertaining short. The attempts of Stymie and Spanky (George McFarland) to get some food early on are quite humorous. The short gets more dramatic when Petey is captured and nearly gassed. By that point, it’s easy to feel for the kids as they try desperately to rescue their dog. I enjoyed this short, both for its humor and its drama, and certainly look forward to seeing it again in the future!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Why Daddy? (1944)

(Available as an extra on the The Thin Man Goes Home Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 9 minutes, 24 seconds)

Joe Doakes (Robert Benchley) easily comes up with all the answers while listening to a quiz show on the radio. However, when he is a contestant on an actual quiz show, he struggles to get the right answers. This was a rather amusing short with Robert Benchley in the lead. It’s certainly a familiar thought, where we as regular home viewers listen to/watch various game shows and come up with the answers easily (and question why the actual contestants couldn’t do better), only to find out that, in the real situation, we couldn’t do as well as we think we could! It’s not quite laugh out loud type stuff, but it’s short and entertaining enough to be worth seeing every now and then!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Screwball Squirrel (1944)

(Available as an extra on the The Thin Man Goes Home Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection or as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 Blu-ray or DVD from Warner Archive Collection)

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

(Length: 7 minutes, 24 seconds)

Screwy Squirrel faces off against the bird dog Meathead. Another cartoon that starts out following another, more innocent character (in this case, Sammy Squirrel) before the direction changes. Many fun gags, as Screwy keeps taunting Meathead. As usual, many fun asides to the audience, as we’re easily reminded this is a cartoon. Got a few good laughs out of this one, so it’s worth it!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Nick Charles (William Powell) has decided to take his wife Nora (Myrna Loy) on a trip to his hometown of Sycamore Springs to spend some time with his parents and celebrate his birthday. While Nora has long known that Nick and his father haven’t been particularly close, she didn’t know until this trip that their problem is that Nick’s father, Dr. Bertram Charles (Harry Davenport), is disappointed that Nick didn’t choose to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a doctor. So Nora takes it upon herself to convince the doctor of Nick’s importance as a detective. When his father remains unmoved by a story of one of Nick’s cases, Nora takes it upon herself to encourage a rumor going around town that Nick is there on a case, in the hopes that it will become true. And indeed a case does come to their doorstep (literally!) when a man named Peter Berton (Ralph Brooke) comes to their house to tell Nick something, only to be fatally shot in the doorway by an unknown person. When he manages the opportunity to get away, Nick takes Asta to look at Peter’s lodgings to find out what he can about him. While he is there, the local eccentric Crazy Mary (Anne Revere) conks him on the head, knocking him out for a while. As he continues to investigate, the pool of suspects increases, and includes banking tycoon Sam Ronson (Minor Watson), who had objected to Peter’s friendship with his daughter Laurabelle (Gloria DeHaven) (and who also threatens to cause trouble for the hospital that Dr. Charles wants to open unless Nick withdraws from his investigation), as well as Edgar (Leon Ames) and Helena Draque (Helen Vinson) (who are after a painting by Peter that Nora had bought as a present for Nick). With the aid of town coroner Dr. Bruce Clayworth (Lloyd Corrigan), Nick tries to see Crazy Mary (without getting hit on the head, something she was known for doing to everybody except Bruce), where he reveals his discovery that Mary was actually Peter’s mother (who had to give her son up for adoption as a baby). After learning about how everybody was seeking after Peter’s painting, Nick tries to find it at a charity bazaar, but finds Helena unconscious. The trail brings him back to Crazy Mary’s place, where they discover her dead (and find the painting). Nick now thinks he has an idea of what is going on in the town, and decides to have the police bring all the suspects to his parents’ home. But will he be able to ferret out the truth, and impress his father?

After the success of Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941) at the box office, more adventures with Nick and Nora were in order. However, production was delayed when Myrna Loy left Hollywood upon divorcing her first husband and quickly marrying car rental heir John Hertz, Jr. The marriage itself barely lasted two years, but with the onset of World War II, she threw herself into her work with the Red Cross to help with the war effort. In the meantime, MGM tried to placate audiences by considering a different actress (Irene Dunne, in particular), but this just angered the fans and resulted in the project being shelved. Myrna Loy did come back, finally, and production was able to get going on the movie. Of course, in the time between, series director W. S Van Dyke had had some health issues with cancer and a bad heart, and (since he was a Christian Scientist and refused medical treatment) he committed suicide in 1943. His replacement for The Thin Man Comes Home was Richard Thorpe (who had also worked with William Powell and Myrna Loy on their 1937 film Double Wedding). The movie still managed to be profitable at the box office, and one more movie would end up being made after the war was over.

As usual for the Thin Man films, this is my first time seeing this movie. I will be very quick to admit that I enjoyed it! Yes, the series has become a bit cliched at this point, but I think that this film knew it, and was almost able to make fun of it. As usual, Myrna Loy’s Nora wants to help Nick out, this time by trailing someone she strongly suspects of being the murderer (Brogan, as played by Edward Brophy), although Nick believes him harmless and gives him a warning that Nora will follow him, which as a whole is a very funny sequence! Earlier in the film, we also have her rather animated (and humorous) telling of one of Nick’s previous cases (not one actually shown in the movies, but it’s just fun watching her try so hard to impress Nick’s father)! And the film’s self-aware acknowledgement at the end, with all the suspects gathered and Nora explaining to Nick’s father what would usually happen at this point, makes for rather entertaining viewing! Although it still pales in comparison to the earliest three films in the series (in my mind), I think it’s a little better than Shadow Of The Thin Man, which makes it easier for me to still recommend this one for a few good laughs and a delightful mystery!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, featuring a new 4K scan of the best preservation elements. At this point, it’s a simple truth: it’s a release from Warner Archive, which means it looks quite good! The clarity is there, with a crisp picture that has been cleaned up of all dirt and debris. Certainly the best way to enjoy this wonderful movie!

And with that, I now embark on a (almost) month-long break (as mentioned here), although I should *hopefully* have one new post on Easter Sunday! So, I’ll be back then (or the beginning of May, whichever ends up being the case)! In the meantime, keep enjoying some good (or great) movies!

Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941) – William Powell – Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

Shadow Of The Thin Man (1941) – Myrna Loy – Song Of The Thin Man (1947)

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!