Coming Up Shorts! with… The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection

Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m going with theatrical shorts starring Woody Woodpecker, featuring various shorts from 1941 through 1961 that have been released together on disc in The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection.

Here’s a list and quick plot description for each of the cartoons included in this set (for my comments on the individual cartoons, click on the title to go to my previous reviews):

  1. Woody Woodpecker (1941) (Length: 6 minutes, 58 seconds)
    • The woodland animals think that Woody Woodpecker is crazy, and so he goes to see a psychiatrist.
  2. The Screwdriver (1941) (Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)
    • Woody is speeding through the countryside in his car, and decides to pick on a traffic cop watching for speeders.
  3. Pantry Panic (1941) (Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker ignores the advice of the weather groundhog, and a cold snap hits, leaving him without any food. Then a hungry cat comes a-calling, but finds himself fighting with an equally hungry Woodpecker!
  4. The Hollywood Matador (1942) (Length: 6 minutes, 58 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker takes on the bull Oxnar The Terribull in the bullring.
  5. Ace In The Hole (1942) (Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)
    • Stable boy Woody Woodpecker longs to fly in the planes, but the bulldog sergeant refuses to let him.
  6. The Loan Stranger (1942) (Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)
    • When Woody’s car breaks down, he gets a loan from a loan shark (or wolf in this case). After thirty days, the wolf comes to collect, but Woody won’t give him the money!
  7. The Screwball (1943) (Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker tries to watch a baseball game without paying, but has to deal with a policeman trying to stop him.
  8. Ration Bored (1943) (Length: 6 minutes, 51 seconds)
    • Disregarding the idea of conserving gas and tires, Woody Woodpecker goes out for a drive, only to run out of gas at the bottom of a hill. He and his car are then smacked into a junkyard, where he siphons gas from a few other vehicles, including a cop car (with the cop in it).
  9. The Barber Of Seville (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 56 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker stops in at the Seville Barber Shop for a haircut, but the owner is out for his physical. When an Indian chief and a construction worker come in, Woody proceeds to wreak havoc on the two men.
  10. The Beach Nut (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)
    • Wally Walrus has come to the beach to relax, but Woody Woodpecker keeps pestering him.
  11. Ski For Two (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)
    • As he looks through various travel brochures, Woody Woodpecker finds one for the Swiss Chard Lodge which promises good food, so off he goes. When the proprietor, Wally Walrus, throws him out for not having a reservation, Woody decides he’s still going to get the food he wanted!
  12. Chew-Chew Baby (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
    • Wally Walrus kicks a very hungry Woody Woodpecker out of his boarding house (for nonpayment of rent). Looking in the newspaper, Woody finds a personal ad for Wally, and decides to answer it disguised as a woman.
  13. Woody Dines Out (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 42 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker is hungry, but all the restaurants that he can find are closed. Finally, he discovers a place that specializes in stuffing birds, but it turns out to be the establishment of a taxidermist!
  14. The Loose Nut (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker is out playing golf, but his ball goes into a wet patch of cement. He quickly gets into a fight with the city worker who was trying to smooth it out, and they keep fighting as the worker tries to get Woody to fix it.
  15. The Reckless Driver (1946) (Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • While driving on the highway, Woody sees a billboard reminding him to renew his driver’s license. Going to the department of motor vehicles, he tries to renew it with officer Wally Walrus.
  16. Fair Weather Fiends (1946) (Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • Everything is just fine for Woody Woodpecker and his friend, Wolfie Wolf, as they sail around on their boat, eating all day long. Then a storm leaves them stranded without food on an island, and hunger sets in.
  17. Woody The Giant Killer (1947) (Length: 6 minutes, 47 seconds)
    • With a housing shortage, Woody Woodpecker can’t find a place to stay. Buck Beaver gives him some magic beans, and a beanstalk takes him up to the giant’s castle in the clouds.
  18. Wet Blanket Policy (1948) (Length: 6 minutes, 25 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker is pushed by insurance salesman Buzz Buzzard into signing an insurance policy… with Buzz as the beneficiary!
  19. Wild And Woody! (1948) (Length: 6 minutes, 40 seconds)
    • In the town of Rigor Mortis, Arizona, outlaw Buzz Buzzard has a habit of killing off every sheriff. However, Woody Woodpecker decides to take the job, and gives Buzz a run for his money!
  20. The Woody Woodpecker Polka (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker wants to get in to the barn dance for the free food, but Wally Walrus, the ticket taker, won’t let him in without paying. So, Woody decides to dress up as a lady to get in free!
  21. Born To Peck (1952) (Length: 6 minutes, 38 seconds)
    • An elderly Woody Woodpecker looks back on his life as a baby.
  22. Termites From Mars (1952) (Length: 6 minutes, 21 seconds)
    • The Earth is being invaded by the Martians! However, as Woody Woodpecker quickly finds out, these “Martians” are a bunch of termites out to eat up his home!
  23. Under The Counter Spy (1954) (Length: 6 minutes, 22 seconds)
    • A dangerous criminal called “The Bat” has stolen a secret formula, but has left the bottle in Woody Woodpecker’s house while evading the police. Woody mistakes the bottle for his tonic, and finds himself supercharged as he goes after “The Bat!”
  24. Niagara Fools (1956) (Length: 6 minutes, 12 seconds)
    • Woody decides to try going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but a guide forbids him from doing so.
  25. The Bird Who Came To Dinner (1961) (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!

Woody Woodpecker made his debut in the Walter Lantz Studio Andy Panda cartoon Knock Knock (1940). With audiences reacting strongly to the character, the animation studio quickly spun him off with his own series starting with the cartoon Woody Woodpecker (1941). For his first three appearances, the character was voiced by Mel Blanc, but Mel signed a loyalty contract with Warner’s Leon Schlesinger Productions, which ended his run in the Woody Woodpecker theatrical shorts (although the character’s laugh that he did was used as a stock sound effect for most of a decade). As time went on, Woody underwent several changes, both in terms of design and voice actors. Many potential foils, such as Wally Walrus and Buzz Buzzard were introduced to the series as well. For most of the 40s, the Woody cartoons were distributed by Universal Studios, but in the latter part of the decade, United Artists briefly took over when Walter Lantz and Universal couldn’t come to an agreement. During that time, George Tibbles and Ramey Idriss wrote “The Woody Woodpecker Song,” which became the series’ theme song. Going into the 1950s, Walter Lantz signed with Universal again, and his wife Grace Stafford started providing the voice of Woody. The latter part of the decade saw Woody make the jump to television, where his shorts were syndicated as part of The Woody Woodpecker Show. New shorts were still being produced for theatres, but that came to an end in 1972 when Walter Lantz had to shut down his studio as a result of production costs getting too high. Eventually, Walter Lantz sold all his shorts to Universal Studios, who later produced more Woody Woodpecker TV series.

For the most part, I really did not grow up with Woody Woodpecker cartoons (although I at least had something of an idea of who he was), so all the cartoons in The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection were new to me. Suffice to say, I enjoyed many of the cartoons in this set, with several that really stood out for me (in a good way). Outside of its treatment of a Native American chief, The Barber Of Seville (1944) really managed to be fun, especially with its music. Some of the shorts that featured Wally Walrus as his nemesis left me in stitches, especially Ski For Two (1944), Chew-Chew Baby (1945) and The Reckless Driver (1946). There were only two cartoons in this set that featured Woody dealing with Buzz Buzzard, but they left a strong impression on me. Admittedly, of the two with Buzz, Wet Blanket Policy was slightly weaker, but mainly because of “The Woody Woodpecker Song” carrying over beyond the opening credits, which obscured some of the opening dialogue (I have no idea whether the short has always been that way or if it was a mistake on this set). I did think that (as far as the cartoons included in this set are concerned) the series got a bit weaker as it went on, but the later Niagara Fools managed to be enough of a return to form that kept me laughing from start to finish! I wouldn’t call all of the shorts in this set memorable, but it was a fun introduction to the character of Woody Woodpecker. The biggest complaint is that this set doesn’t contain a large number of Woody Woodpecker shorts, including his first appearance (although everything included is at least put in order of original release). I certainly would enjoy looking into more if they are ever released (so yes, I do recommend this set)!

As far as how these shorts look on Blu-ray, I would say that this set has mixed results. To me, most of the earlier shorts included look really good, with nice, vivid colors. To me, one of the weakest looking shorts is The Beach Nut, which seems a bit fuzzier than others. The opening credits on a number of the latter shorts also don’t look as crisp, but, apart from that, the rest of the shorts look much better. Overall, this set certainly isn’t up to the quality that I would find in a Warner Archive release, but, for all intents and purposes, this is likely to be as good as we might get for Woody Woodpecker in the meantime.

The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection is available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios. The whole set has a runtime of two hours, fifty-five minutes.

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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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“Star Of The Month (August 2022)” Featuring Audrey Hepburn in… Charade (1963)

Well, now that we’ve gotten into the month of August with my focus on Audrey Hepburn as my Star Of The Month, it’s time to take a look at one of her films! So, we’re going to start off with her 1963 classic Charade, which also stars Cary Grant!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Niagara Fools (1956)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 12 seconds)

Woody decides to try going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but a guide forbids him from doing so. This one was VERY funny! Most of the time, the guide’s attempts to stop Woody from going over result in HIM going over instead! I know I got a good chuckle over seeing the guide’s reactions (especially once he was resigned to going over after several failures), and it was even funnier when he accidentally dragged over many other guides! Plus, there’s the guide’s nonsensical trip back to the falls (after getting accidentally sent to the North Pole) as he travels through many different sections of the world (all while yelling “Mush!”). I had a lot of fun with this one, and I certainly know I would gladly come back to it again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Regina Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) has just returned to Paris following a holiday in the French Alps with her friend Sylvie Gaudet (Dominique Minot). On the trip, Regina had told Sylvie that she was planning to divorce her husband Charles, but, upon returning to her apartment, she learns that he had been murdered, and had sold off all their furniture. She is quickly summoned by the police inspector, Edouard Grandpierre (Jacques Marin), who questions her about her husband (and in the process, she learns that he had been living something of a double life, with multiple passports under different names). At her husband’s funeral, three men show up, all of whom act strangely. Regina is later summoned to meet with Hamilton Bartholomew (Walter Matthau) at the U.S. embassy, who reveals that her husband was part of a group of men (which included the three strangers at the funeral) that had stolen a quarter of a million dollars during the war and hidden it. Apparently, her husband had gotten back to it before the others and took it, leaving them to go chasing after him. Mr. Bartholomew tasks her with trying to find the money and return it to the government before the men can do anything to her. With the three men, Tex Panthollow (James Coburn), Herman Scobie (George Kennedy) and Leopold W. Gideon (Ned Glass) threatening her over the money, Regina turns for help to a man she had met in the French Alps, Peter Joshua (Cary Grant), but he doesn’t seem to be who he says he is either. As a result, she keeps calling Mr. Bartholomew for advice about what to do. Mysteriously, the three men are murdered, and it’s up to Regina to keep herself safe while trying to figure out what her husband had done with the money. But can she do it and stay alive?

Peter Stone and Marc Behm originally wrote a script with the title The Unsuspecting Wife, and they tried to peddle it to the various movie studios (who all turned them down). It took Peter Stone turning into a novel (which was serialized in Redbook magazine) under the new title Charade before the studios gave it a second look. Director Stanley Donen, who had wanted a property that he could use to make an homage to director Alfred Hitchcock with, got the film rights, intending to make it at Columbia Pictures. He wanted Cary Grant for the film, but Cary was looking to make Man’s Favorite Sport (1964) with Howard Hawks and was thus unavailable. They tried several other big stars, but they were too expensive, and Columbia gave up on the picture (so it was sold to Universal Studios). Since he had decided that he didn’t like the script for Howard Hawk’s film, Cary Grant was once again back in the running for doing Charade. However, he was faced with being cast opposite the much younger Audrey Hepburn (he was nearly sixty, and she was in her early thirties at the time), an age gap that bothered him (and had been the reason why he had declined roles in Audrey Hepburn’s earlier films Roman Holiday from 1953, Sabrina from 1954 and Love In The Afternoon from 1957). The writers were able to circumvent his worries by giving all the romantically aggressive lines to Audrey Hepburn. Filming took place in Paris, France (where Audrey had just finished filming Paris When It Sizzles, which would actually be released after Charade) as well as Megève and the French Alps. The end result was a hit with audiences, becoming the fifth most profitable film from that year. In spite of that, it ended up being the only film that Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn would make together (technically, he tried to get her for Father Goose, but she was unavailable because she was doing My Fair Lady).

I’l admit quite freely, that once I made the choice to pick Audrey Hepburn as one of my “Stars Of The Month”, Charade was one of her films that I absolutely HAD to get in! I’ve seen the film several times over the years, and I’ve enjoyed it very much! It’s been said many times that this film is considered “the best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock never made,” and it’s very hard to disagree with that sentiment! As those who read my review of Notorious (1946) can tell you, I’m not exactly fond of Hitchcock’s films beyond the four he did with Cary Grant (although one of these days, I hope to see Hitchcock’s lone screwball comedy, the 1942 film Mr. And Mrs. Smith). Of course, this is Cary Grant’s “fifth Hitchcock film,” which is certainly part of the appeal. The other two factors that, in my mind, make this one Cary Grant’s best “Hitchcock movie” are the film’s score by Henry Mancini, and Audrey Hepburn. Henry Mancini’s music really works well for all the various situations that occur throughout the movie, and the title tune is a bit of an earworm (and you certainly won’t find me complaining about that). But it’s the chemistry between Audrey and Cary that makes this film work so well (and makes you wish they had been able to do more movies together). Their relationship proves to be humorous and loving, while also being potentially dangerous (since he seems to be such a mysterious character). To me, it speaks volumes about their performances that I’ve seen this film multiple times, and yet, in spite of knowing what the truth is, I always fear for her character’s safety during the final moments of the film when she is on the run. The movie even has a fun little Easter egg when Cary Grant references a song title from My Fair Lady, which Audrey would start filming after this one was done. I know I love to come back to this film every now and then, and it’s one that I can recommend with perfect ease!

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

Film Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #7 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Operation Petticoat (1959)Cary GrantFather Goose (1964)

Love In The Afternoon (1957)Audrey HepburnParis When It Sizzles (1964)

Walter Matthau – Hello, Dolly! (1969)

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

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

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

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

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 22 seconds)

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

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

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

(Length: 18 minutes, 16 seconds)

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

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

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

(Length: 7 minutes, 43 seconds)

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

And Now For The Main Feature…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

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

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

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

Helen Broderick – Swing Time (1936)

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

Lucille Ball – Follow The Fleet (1936)

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

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!

“Screen Team (Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers) Of The Month (July 2022)” Featuring Fred Astaire in… Funny Face (1957)

Well, a few weeks back, we looked at one of Ginger Rogers’ solo films, so now we need to look at a solo film for the other half of this month’s featured Screen Team, Fred Astaire!  In this case, we’re going with his 1957 musical Funny Face, also starring Audrey Hepburn!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Termites From Mars (1952)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 21 seconds)

The Earth is being invaded by the Martians!  However, as Woody Woodpecker quickly finds out, these “Martians” are a bunch of termites out to eat up his home!  This one was a bit of a departure from some of the other cartoons in the series.  It’s different seeing Woody be the one getting picked on almost throughout the entire short (until he finally manages to turn the tables).  It has its moments, particularly when the “Martian” invasion is being announced.  It’s not the most original (since, as you can expect, the termites eat up almost everything wooden in sight).  I can’t say as I like this deviation from the regular series that much, but it at least breaks up the monotony (and keeps Woody from becoming too obnoxious).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Quality Magazine editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) is always in search of starting the next big fashion trend, whether it be everyone wearing pink, or clothing for intellectual women, or finding one woman to represent Quality Magazine itself.  It’s while in search of the second one (clothing for intellectual women) that Maggie and her crew invade a Greenwich Village bookstore to take some photos with their model.  They immediately get on the nerves of the shop owner’s assistant Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn), who complains about how they just take over the shop.  When they are finally done, the place is a mess, and Maggie’s head photographer, Dick Avery (Fred Astaire), stays behind to help Jo clean up.  In doing so, he learns of her desire to go to Paris, France and talk to some of the philosophers there.  Later on, when Maggie starts planning out a campaign for the “Quality woman,” Dick suggests using Jo.  Maggie at first dislikes the idea, as does Jo when she is dragged into the Quality offices.  However, when Dick explains to Jo that doing the modeling would result in a trip to Paris, she comes around to the idea.  It’s not smooth sailing at the start, though. Without realizing that she needs to meet with French designer Paul Duval (Robert Flemyng) (who is designing her outfits), Jo goes to a local bohemian café to talk with some of the philosophers there, which prompts Dick to go looking for her.  He helps her to realize her responsibilities, and she shows up for work the next day.  Duval successfully designs a series of outfits for her, and so Dick spends the next week photographing her in those dresses throughout Paris.  However, when they take pictures of her in a wedding gown outside a small country church, she is overwhelmed, and reveals to Dick that she loves him (and he responds in kind).  On the night she is to be presented to the press, she learns that Professor Émile Flostre (Michel Auclair), whom she had come to Paris in hopes of seeing, is speaking at the café, so she stops by to see him.  When Dick comes around to pick her up, he quickly becomes suspicious of Flostre’s intentions and drags her away.  With the two of them arguing, her presentation to the press is a disaster.  Jo decides to not come to the fashion show, and instead goes to a party that Flostre is hosting at his home.  Trying to get her to come to the fashion show, Dick and Maggie go to Flostre’s home in disguise.  But will their efforts work, or will Dick continue to drive a wedge between Jo and himself with his suspicions?

While they may share the same name, the movie is NOT based on the 1927 Broadway show Funny Face that had originally starred Fred Astaire and his sister Adele (although several songs from that show’s score were included in the film).  Instead, the movie was based on an unproduced Leonard Gershe play called Wedding Day.  Producer Roger Edens, working at MGM under famous musical producer Arthur Freed, had bought the rights to the play, intending it as a vehicle for Fred Astaire and then-popular star Audrey Hepburn.  Both Astaire and Hepburn wanted to do the film, but there was one major problem: she was under contract to Paramount Pictures, and they had absolutely no intention of loaning her out to MGM.  So, Arthur Freed let Roger Edens take the project to Paramount, and he brought with him director Stanley Donen and some other MGM talent.  They did some of the location filming in Paris, but the weather caused a number of delays, forcing them to make some adjustments.  Reviews were positive, but the film didn’t do too well at the box office initially.  It wasn’t until the film was reissued in 1964, alongside Audrey’s next big musical, My Fair Lady, that Funny Face was able to become profitable.

I’ve seen Funny Face many times over the years, and it’s a movie that I always love finding an excuse to come back around to!  Fred Astaire’s presence was indeed my original reason for seeing this movie, and he has indeed remained one of the film’s main attractions for me.  And, to be fair, I would say that seeing this film time and time again helped me grow to love Audrey Hepburn as well.  Their three dance duets together (“Funny Face,” “He Loves And She Loves” and “‘S Wonderful”) are definitely the highlights of the film, with the romantic “He Loves And She Loves” being my favorite of the bunch.  Fred and Audrey also get some fun solo routines in the forms of “Let’s Kiss And Make Up” and “Basal Metabolism” (I’ll admit, “Basal Metabolism” took me a while to come around to, since the music and style of dance are so far out of my normal preferences, but it’s grown on me with time).  Kay Thompson adds to the fun in a rare onscreen performance as the no-nonsense magazine editor who usually runs roughshod over everybody to get what she wants (and I wish she had done more work onscreen, she’s so much fun).  All in all, Funny Face is a movie that I love to see again and again, and I certainly recommend it highly!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD either individually or as part of the Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection from Paramount Pictures

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #2 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Roman Holiday (1953)Audrey HepburnLove In The Afternoon (1957)

The Band Wagon (1953)Fred AstaireSilk Stockings (1957)

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

“Screen Team (Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers) Of The Month (July 2022)” Featuring Ginger Rogers in… Forever Female (1953)

Well, since it’s July already (with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as my featured Screen Team Of The Month), then I’d like to continue the “ladies first” trend with a look into one of Ginger’s solo films! In this case, that would be the 1953 drama Forever Female (partly adapted from James M. Barrie’s 1912 play Rosalind), also starring William Holden and Paul Douglas!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Born To Peck (1952)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 38 seconds)

An elderly Woody Woodpecker looks back on his life as a baby. This one was decently entertaining. It’s one of the few that I’ve seen that really emphasized Woody as a woodpecker, with everything that he keeps pecking on (although it becomes a bit of a one-joke cartoon in that regard). It’s hard not to feel for his father, who tries to take care of him (only for Woody to keep picking on him). I do like one of the final jokes, about Walter Lantz wanting to keep him around (when the elderly Woody attempts to commit suicide), as well as Woody trying to start pecking in a petrified forest (and you can guess what happens there). It’s a bit different, but it’s still one of his weaker ones (although it provided enough laughs that I’m willing to come back to it every now and then).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Broadway star Beatrice Page (Ginger Rogers) has just opened in a new play, No Laughing Matter, which was produced by her ex-husband, E. Harry Phillips (Paul Douglas). After the show’s opening night, Beatrice and Harry spend time at Sardi’s restaurant (joined by her current beau, George Courtland IV, as played by George Reeves) while they await the reviews. When the newspapers arrive, they find out that all the critics are blasting the play itself (while consistently praising Beatrice’s performance as the only positive of the show). While they are there, talent agent Eddie Woods (James Gleason) brings in his client, a new playwright named Stanley Krown (William Holden). Eddie tries to sell them on Stanley’s play, but Stanley can’t resist telling off Beatrice for her lack of humility before he leaves for his current job. He leaves his play, The Unhappy Holiday, with them, and Harry reads it overnight. The next day, Stanley comes to Beatrice’s apartment to get his manuscript back. Harry admits that he likes the play (which is about a nineteen-year-old pianist and her controlling mother), but since he only produces plays for his “twenty-nine-year-old” (otherwise translated, middle-aged) ex, Beatrice, he can’t use it as it is currently written. Instead, they suggest rewriting the play to make the younger girl twenty-nine years old so that Beatrice could play the part. Stanley objects at first, but Harry and Beatrice convince him to make the change. So, with Beatrice cast as the “younger” girl, Harry and Stanley set about to cast the mother, but have trouble finding somebody at the auditions. To their surprise, a young girl named Sally Carver (Pat Crowley) comes to audition for the role of the young nineteen-year-old girl (even though they try to tell her the part has been rewritten and cast). They try to leave her, but she later catches up to Stanley and reveals that she knew his original play because she had been employed at the agency that typed it up for him. Sally tries to convince him to go back to the play as it was originally written, but Beatrice, who is interested in Stanley herself, persuades him to keep the changes. Eventually, Beatrice gets Eddie to offer Sally a job in another show (out of town, of course). Later on, as the show gets close to its premiere date, Sally returns and, after watching a rehearsal, once again tries to get Stanley to see that the play is no good as it is. However, he still refuses to go back to his original play. When it finally opens, though, Sally is proved right. Beatrice still thinks there is hope, and encourages Stanley to keep working on it while she takes a vacation in Europe. While she is gone, Stanley and Harry hear about a small troupe that is performing Stanley’s original play, and go to see it. They discover that Sally is in it (playing the part she originally insisted she should play), and the audience likes it that way. Of course, the question remains: can Stanley convince Beatrice that she is indeed too old for the part, or will she get her way?

Since I pretty much reviewed all of the Ginger Rogers films I had on disc back in late 2019 and early 2020 (apart from six of her films with Fred Astaire), I knew that I wanted to look into a film of hers that I hadn’t seen in preparation for my Astaire and Rogers Screen Team Of The Month feature. Forever Female fit the bill (which worked for me, since it was a movie that I’ve wanted to see for some time). It’s a film that I’ve seen compared to the likes of Sunset Boulevard (1950) and All About Eve (1950) due to its subject matter (but I’m not in a position to compare it myself, since I haven’t seen either of those films yet). I find that Forever Female was a very entertaining film, and Ginger Rogers was certainly worth seeing in it. Her performance as a middle-aged woman who was pretending to be twenty-nine to continue to get younger roles worked quite well (much better even than some of her earlier roles where she was dressed up to look like a child, such as The Major And The Minor). I do think that the writing is where the movie fails her a little bit, however. SPOILER ALERT Considering her character, when she goes off on her “vacation” (which is really her chance to go to her own home and act her own age), I thought that her being obsessed slightly with her own youth was a little too much of a sexist female stereotype. Personally, I would have thought that, especially for a character involved with the theater, that audience appeal would have mattered more (since it seems like actresses have always struggled a bit more than men to get roles as they get older). END SPOILER ALERT Of course, I will also say that the rest of the cast worked pretty well here, too, in support of Ginger. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but I certainly enjoyed it. For that reason, I would certainly recommend giving it a try!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Olive Films.

Film Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Perfect Strangers (1950)Ginger RogersBlack Widow (1954)

William Holden – Paris When It Sizzles (1964)

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

Film Legends Of Yesteryear: Screen Team & “Star Of The Month (June 2022)” Featuring Frank Sinatra in… Some Came Running (1958)

For my second and final post on Frank Sinatra (my June 2022 Star Of The Month), I’m going with his other 1958 film. That, of course, would be Some Came Running, which also stars Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Woody Woodpecker Polka (1951)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker wants to get in to the barn dance for the free food, but Wally Walrus, the ticket taker, won’t let him in without paying. So, Woody decides to dress up as a lady to get in free! This one was interesting, but, at the same time, very similar to the earlier Chew-Chew Baby, with Woody dressing up as a girl to get some easy food. The main difference here is the song “The Woody Woodpecker Polka,” sung by the Starlighters during the opening credits and through part of the short itself. There are a few laughs to be had, but, at the same time, I’ve certainly seen better from Woody before this.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Recently discharged from the army, former writer David Hirsh (Frank Sinatra) finds himself on a bus to his hometown of Parkman, Indiana after a night of drinking. He discovers that he has been accompanied by Ginnie Moorehead (Shirley MacLaine), whom he had invited along in his drunken state. Still confused by everything, he gives her money to go back to Chicago and then goes off to check into a hotel. Even though he hasn’t been in Parkman for sixteen years, word gets around town that he is back, with his older brother, Frank Hirsh (Arthur Kennedy), being one of the last to find out. Frank goes to see David and tries to invite him to dinner with his family. Initially resistant to the idea, David finally agrees to join them later. In the meantime, he goes to Smitty’s Bar and Grill, where he meets gambler Bama Dillert (Dean Martin), who invites David to join him and some buddies in the back room later that evening for a game of poker. When David joins Frank at his home, they discover that Frank’s wife, Agnes (Leora Dana), has invited Professor Robert Haven French (Larry Gates) and his daughter, Gwen (Martha Hyer) to join them for dinner. David is smitten with Gwen, but she is only interested in critiquing his writing and spurns his advances. After David and Gwen part, he joins Bama for that game of poker. He finds that Ginnie has stayed in town, but has been followed there by her abusive ex, Raymond Lanchak (Steven Peck), who picks a fight with David (and loses, especially when the police get involved). The next day, Frank gets on David’s case about the fight and what it means for Frank’s reputation in town, while also admitting to paying for David’s bail. David later goes to the home of the Frenches, where he shares his unfinished story with Gwen. She likes it, and recommends that he submit it for publication. He tries to flirt with her again, but she turns him down. After several further failed attempts at romancing her, David decides to go on the road with Bama to various other cities for gambling purposes, along with Ginnie and Bama’s girlfriend. At a bar in Terre Haute, David discovers his niece, Dawn (Betty Lou Keim), who is out on a drunken binge in order to get back at her father (whom she had secretly caught making out with his secretary). David helps her get a bus ticket to go back home, advising her to avoid making any major life changes until he gets back. Throughout the trip, David unsuccessfully attempts to call Gwen, until she hears good news from the publisher about his story, and finally starts to soften up towards him. However, that is short-lived, when Ginnie comes to visit her secretly, and reveals that she had been on the trip with Dave and Bama (which causes Gwen to decide not to see David any more). Meanwhile, Bama had gotten into trouble on the trip when a sore loser gambler picked a fight with him. Although the resulting injury wasn’t serious, Bama learns from a doctor that his lifestyle needs to change because he has diabetes, which leaves David worried about his friend. With Gwen refusing to see him or go out with him, David starts to consider Ginnie, who has been there for him all along, and reluctantly decides to marry her. With this decision increasing the divide between him and Bama, not to mention all the other troubles with David’s family, will everything end in tragedy, or will they be able to come together?

With James Jones’ debut novel From Here To Eternity proving to be a best-seller with his readers and an equally big hit when adapted to the big screen, he of course wanted to keep writing. For his follow-up, he wrote Some Came Running, which was published in 1957. After seeing the success that Columbia Pictures had with the earlier film, MGM bought the film rights to Some Came Running close to a year before it was even published. When it was published (at a length of 1266 pages), it wasn’t received as well by the critics, but MGM stuck to their guns. Producer Sol C. Siegel at first pondered Glenn Ford for the starring role, but decided to go with Frank Sinatra instead (since the earlier film had been such a big hit for him in particular). Frank, in turn, brought in Dean Martin to play Bama, and suggested Shirley MacLaine for the role of Ginnie. Vincente Minelli was brought in to direct the film, and it took a lot of work to get the overly long story condensed into a shorter, more cinematic form. A lot of filming took place in Madison, Indiana at first, before returning to the soundstages to finish up the film. Upon release, it was received well critically (with several Oscar nominations, particularly Shirley MacLaine for Best Actress), and audiences took to it as well (although not enough to offset the high costs of filming it).

Honestly, it was mostly a coincidence that I ended up going with both of Frank’s 1958 movies for this month (owing as much to the idea that they were the only two films of his that I have on physical media and hadn’t reviewed yet). This was my first time seeing Some Came Running, and I have to admit that I liked it! It’s only their first film together, but Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin both work together quite well! It’s definitely more dramatic than any of their later pairings that I’ve seen, but they both show that they can handle it quite easily! Now, it really should be said that very few characters in this film are that likable, and this applies especially for the men. Frank’s David is very aggressive towards Martha Hyer’s Gwen in that he constantly ignores her rejections and her pleas to let her be. Dean’s Bama is definitely very sexist, and neither of them treats Shirley MacLaine’s Ginnie very kindly for most of the film. Honestly, Gwen and Ginnie are the only two characters for whom I really feel any sympathy. Still, I think everybody did quite well here with their performances. I will admit that I prefer some of the later, more comedic pairings for Frank and Dean, but this film is still good enough that I would recommend it highly!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Some Came Running (1958)

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection utilizing a transfer from a 4K scan of the original camera negative. Put simply, it’s a typical Warner Archive Blu-ray, with good color, great detail and an image cleaned up of all scratches, dirt and debris. In short, the best way to enjoy this wonderful movie!

Film Length: 2 hours, 16 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Kings Go Forth (1958)Frank SinatraNever So Few (1959)

Road To Bali (1952) – Dean Martin – Ocean’s 11 (1960)

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 (June 2022)” Featuring Frank Sinatra in… Kings Go Forth (1958)

Now that I’m here for my first post on Frank Sinatra (my Star Of The Month for June 2022), I’m going for his 1958 war movie Kings Go Forth (based on the 1956 novel of the same name by Joe David Brown), co-starring Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Wild And Woody! (1948)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 40 seconds)

In the town of Rigor Mortis, Arizona, outlaw Buzz Buzzard has a habit of killing off every sheriff. However, Woody Woodpecker decides to take the job, and gives Buzz a run for his money! Like the earlier Woody Woodpecker short Wet Blanket Policy, this one gives Woody a very definite villain. And this time, I like the interplay between Woody and Buzz Buzzard much better! I like the various gags (including Buzz shooting the one sheriff on a golf course), and the ending was quite hilarious! I know this is one that I certainly would love to see again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In World War II, a platoon of soldiers has marched into southern France. This group, led by First Lieutenant Sam Loggins (Frank Sinatra), has just had some much-needed replacement soldiers sent their way. One of these newer recruits is Britt Harris (Tony Curtis). At first, Sam doesn’t really trust him (since Britt comes from wealth and seems to get everything he wants), even when Britt helps rescue some soldiers that get injured in a minefield. However, Sam later comes to respect him when Britt single-handedly manages to help them capture a German bunker. All the men get some rest when the Colonel (Karl Swenson) learns that they’ve been under fire for a long time, and offers them some time to rest up in Nice. While exploring the area, Sam meets a young American girl named Monique Blair (Natalie Wood). They talk for a while, and Sam hopes to meet her again. She says that it will not happen, but he still leaves the offer open to meet in another week. He shows up at the arranged time and place, but she doesn’t. Instead, Sam finds himself talking to an older woman (Leora Dana), who asks him a lot of questions. Satisfied with his answers, she reveals herself to be Monique’s mother, and invites him to join them at their home. Over the next few weeks, Sam grows fonder of Monique, and proposes marriage. Monique is reluctant to accept, and reveals to him that her late father was black. This blindsides Sam, who then spends the next week agonizing over the decision of whether to go back to her or not. Much to the happiness of both Monique and her mother, he does decide to come back. Sam takes Monique out to a jazz club, where they find Britt, who joins the club’s musicians for a trumpet solo. To Sam’s dismay, Britt falls for Monique (and she for him). The next few weeks, Monique and Britt spend a lot of time together (with Sam along as the third wheel), and they eventually become engaged. While Sam doesn’t like this turn of events, he reluctantly offers his congratulations to the couple. However, when he and Britt are given a mission to sneak into a nearby town controlled by the Germans, Sam also finds out that Britt, who had submitted a marriage application to the army (at Sam’s insistence), had been hiding the fact that he was approved (and had been blaming the “delay” on the army). Sam forces Britt to tell Monique that he had no real plans to marry her, which leaves her overwrought to the point of trying to commit suicide (which she is stopped from doing). Now stuck with Britt on their mission, Sam makes it plain to him that he will try to kill him. But, with an important mission on the line, can the two get along long enough to complete it, or will they be caught by the Germans?

I first heard of the film when it was announced for Blu-ray a number of years back, and Frank’s presence in the film, plus that of Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood (whom I liked together in the 1965 comedy The Great Race) made it sound like a movie I would enjoy. I found that I enjoyed it. So far, of the four Frank Sinatra war dramas that I’ve had the chance to see (the other three being the 1959 film Never So Few and the 1965 movies None But The Brave and the not-yet-reviewed Von Ryan’s Express), I consider this one my least favorite. Frank is very good here, solidly convincing us that his character is unpopular with the ladies (a better performance than his more awkward characters from his early years at MGM), and he does equally well as a character who finds himself caring for Natalie Wood’s Monique, even after he finds out her black ancestry. I admit, him getting over his previously racist way of thinking seems a little too quick, but I blame that on the film’s writing. Both the other leads do very well here, with Tony Curtis’ Britt proving himself to be a bit of a scoundrel (but not as likeable as his character in the following year’s Operation Petticoat), and Natalie Wood doing well as the young Monique (even if, as a white Russian woman, she wouldn’t get cast in the role of a mulatto if the movie were made now), who gets too emotionally tied to Britt (making his eventual betrayal much crueler). I do think the film is at its best in the not-frequent-enough war scenes, while it drags a bit through the love story itself. Still, it’s an entertaining film that I’ve enjoyed seeing a few times, and certainly would suggest giving it a chance!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time (available at www.screenarchives.com) and on DVD from MGM.

Film Length: 1 hour, 51 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Pal Joey (1957)Frank SinatraSome Came Running (1958)

Tony Curtis – Operation Petticoat (1959)

Marjorie Morningstar (1958) – Natalie Wood

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“Screen Team (Bob Hope And Dorothy Lamour) Of The Month (May 2022)” Featuring Bob Hope in… My Favorite Spy (1951)

We’re back for one final film as part of May’s Screen Team Of The Month featuring Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour! To finish it off, we’ve got one of Bob Hope’s solo outings, the 1951 comedy My Favorite Spy, also starring Hedy Lamarr!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Wet Blanket Policy (1948)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 25 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker is pushed by insurance salesman Buzz Buzzard into signing an insurance policy… with Buzz as the beneficiary! This one was an entertaining short, with a different slant than usual for a Woody Woodpecker cartoon. Usually, he’s the one being the pest for everybody else, but here, Buzz makes him look like a good guy! This time, Woody is mostly on the run from Buzz, who just keeps coming back after Woody hits him. I won’t say that it’s the greatest Woody Woodpecker cartoon, as the interplay between Woody and Buzz falls short of that between Woody and Wally Walrus. Still, it provided a few good laughs, making it worth returning to in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

At an airport, Eric Augustine (Bob Hope) is trying to evade some agents trying to capture him. He manages to get away, and the agents turn to the local police to help them catch him. The police pick up vaudeville comedian Peanuts White (Bob Hope) (who greatly resembles Eric). Peanuts tries to convince them of his identity, but they don’t believe him. That is, until they receive word that the real Eric is still hiding at the airport, so they let Peanuts go. However, they have to turn to Peanuts for help when the real Eric is injured in a shootout with the agents. They need Peanuts to impersonate Eric, who was going to buy a top-secret microfilm, but Peanuts, a bit of a coward, wants nothing to do with their spy intrigues. It takes a phone call from the U.S. President Harry Truman to convince Peanuts to go through with the whole charade. The agents help make him over to look more like Eric, and help him learn not only how to act like Eric, but who all Eric’s “friends” and enemies are. Upon getting him through enough training, Peanuts is sent off to Tangier. Upon arriving, he narrowly escapes an assassination attempt before ending up in a cab with Eric’s on-again-off-again lover (and fellow spy), Lily Dalbray (Hedy Lamarr). She quickly resumes her romance with “Eric,” but what Peanuts doesn’t know is that she is working for his nemesis, Karl Brubaker (Frances L. Sullivan). The plan is for her to steal the microfilm from “Eric” when he gets it, and have him killed. At the hotel he is staying at, Peanuts meets Tasso (Arnold Moss), another agent posing as “Eric’s” valet. Peanuts only has eyes for Lily, so Tasso has to keep reminding him that anybody could be passing him info on when and where he should meet with Rudolph Hoenig (Luis Van Rooten), the man who possesses the microfilm. Of course, while all this is going on, the real Eric has gotten away from the agents, and is making his way to Tangier. With all the double-crossing going on around him, can Peanuts successfully get the microfilm AND get out of the country alive? And will Lily fall for him, or follow through with her plan to have him killed?

With both My Favorite Blonde (1942) and My Favorite Brunette (1947) doing well for him, of course Bob Hope was going to return to this “series” again. For My Favorite Spy, he went back to spoofing the spy genre. Joining him for this third go-round (without any reference to her hair color in the film’s title) was Hedy Lamarr, whose own career was waning at this point. She hoped that, by working with Bob (then one of Hollywood’s biggest stars), she might be able to reverse that decline. Of course, the initial idea for the film was slightly different than what we got, with Bob’s character of Peanuts initially envisioned as being a schoolteacher (instead of a vaudevillian) being sent to Cairo (the movie’s working title was Passage To Cairo). But, things changed as they went along. Reportedly, Hedy Lamarr proved more adept at comedy (possibly even upstaging Bob Hope), resulting in Bob having some of the movie re-edited to make him the funnier one. The movie’s premiere took place at the home of Anne Kuchinka in Bellaire, Ohio (she had won a radio contest through Bob’s program in which people wrote letters giving reasons why the premiere should be held in their own home).

I’ve seen this one once or twice before, and I will admit that it’s one that I enjoy. As usual for a Bob Hope film, he’s certainly got his quips throughout, which usually land pretty well for a few good laughs. One of the film’s most memorable moments is when Bob’s main character, Peanuts, gets a dose of truth serum, with unexpected results (since the bad guys still think that he is the spy). I also enjoy the final chase sequence, which with its fire truck antics, is reminiscent of similar moments in the classic comedies Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (1941) and In Society (1944) (although, unlike those two films, it doesn’t share any footage). The film isn’t without its faults, though. For one thing, there’s no cameo from Bing Crosby (outside of a veiled reference). I’ll grant you that it’s not a major thing, since he didn’t make cameos in every Bob Hope film, but his presence is missed after he did make appearances in the other two “My Favorite” films. Another problem for me is that it feels like they really underused the “real” Eric Augustine in this movie. For the most part, he’s really not there a lot, and when he is around, he really doesn’t speak much, if at all (which is certainly enough to make you pause and wonder how everybody else mistook the far chattier Peanuts White for him). I don’t know how much of that is the tech (and its cost), but it just takes away from what could have been something more. It’s certainly far from a perfect film, but I think it provides enough humorous moments that I don’t mind coming back to it every now and again. Maybe for others, it might be better as a rental, but I think it’s worth recommending, anyway.

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Olive Films.

Film Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)Bob HopeSon Of Paleface (1952)

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!

“Screen Team (Bob Hope And Dorothy Lamour) Of The Month (May 2022)” Featuring Dorothy Lamour in… Lulu Belle (1948)

Since we started off the month of May a few weeks ago with a movie featuring our Screen Team Of The Month (Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour), it’s time to dig into their solo films! So, going with the principle of “ladies first,” we’ll start with one of Dorothy Lamour’s films, the 1948 Lulu Belle (based on the 1926 play of the same name by Charles MacArthur and Edward Sheldon), co-starring George Montgomery!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Woody The Giant Killer (1947)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 47 seconds)

With a housing shortage, Woody Woodpecker can’t find a place to stay. Buck Beaver gives him some magic beans, and a beanstalk takes him up to the giant’s castle in the clouds. This one was fun, although, at the same time, it wasn’t enough. It’s fun seeing Woody’s version of “Jack And The Beanstalk,” as the gags themselves are quite fun. The problem is there is too much exposition and not enough interplay with Woody and the Giant (who spends a good chunk of his appearance sleeping through Woody’s antics). Still, I had a few good laughs with this one, and certainly look forward to revisiting it in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In Natchez, Mississippi, young up-and-coming lawyer George Davis (George Montgomery) visits the Blue Catfish bar and café on behalf of one of his clients. While he is wrapping up his business, one of the performers, Lulu Belle (Dorothy Lamour), is getting abused by her former lover, and George steps in to fend him off. Lulu is instantly interested in him, but George (an engaged man) manages to turn her down. However, she wants what she wants, and she later visits him at his office, where she causes trouble between him and his fiancée. He later comes back to Lulu after his engagement is ended, and the two get married. He gets rid of his law practice, and they move to New Orleans, where they live lavishly in a hotel. George struggles to find work, while Lulu takes up a new relationship with boxer Butch Cooper (Greg McClure). At one of Butch’s boxing matches, she meets successful gambler Mark Brady (Albert Dekker), whom she convinces to give George work as a boxer (out of town, of course). Mark, meanwhile, offers Lulu a job as a singer at his club, where he can keep an eye on her. George sees all this going on, and begins drinking heavily. Lulu begins yet another relationship with married millionaire Harry Randolph (Otto Kruger) when he visits the club (since he has connections on Broadway). Between this and Butch’s continued teasing, George has had enough and picks a fight with Butch, with the fight ending when George stabs Butch in the eye with a fork. George runs from the scene, but is caught and sent to prison for a few years. During that time, Harry takes Lulu to Broadway, where she becomes a big sensation. However, even though she had divorced him, she slowly comes to the realization that she loves George and not her career. However, all the men that she has had a relationship with have come to town, and she and Harry end up being shot. Police Commissioner John Dixon (Addison Richards) is in charge of trying to find out who did it, but can he find out the truth from everybody?

Like all of Dorothy Lamour’s solo films (those outside of the Road series and her films with Bob Hope), this one was new to me. I will readily admit that I liked Dottie in this film! In general, I found myself comparing her character here to her character in Road To Zanzibar (1941). In that film, she is a manipulator in that she tries to get what she wants out of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope’s characters (as she attempts to make her way to a richer suitor), and she takes things even further here, without any trace of conscience whatsoever (at least, not for most of the early part of the film). Apart from her performance, though, I find myself with mixed feelings towards this movie. Dottie is very much the femme fatale here, but, at the same time, this movie never really quite hits the film noir aspects very well. In general, that’s not helped by her more musical moments (mostly, they just consist of her singing on stage or in nightclubs). The movie also tries to veer into murder mystery territory, but it’s not that effective there, either. The whole tale is essentially told in flashbacks by George Montgomery’s George Davis and Lulu’s friend Molly Benson (as played by Glenda Farrell), and really doesn’t leave too much room for some of the others involved, all of whom are “suspects” at the end when the police commissioner tries to finally figure out who did it. In general, it just feels like the writing is where it all fails, which ruins some of the characterizations for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an enjoyable movie, especially as a chance to see more of Dorothy Lamour as an actress. It’s just one that I would come closer to recommending as a rental instead of a purchase (outside of a really good sale price).

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Olive Films.

Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes

My Rating: 6/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Road To Rio (1947)Dorothy LamourHere Comes The Groom (1951)

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!