Sunday, March 31, 2019

Movies I Watched in March

So far this year I've already watched four new-to-me movies from the 1970s! Surprising since last year I didn't watch any, not even the few favorites I have from that decade! I'm not saying it's ever going to be one of my favorite decades but I'm glad to have discovered some new films (they have all had actors I know from the Golden Age of Hollywood so... yeah).
  1. The Power of the Press (1928 - Silent) - Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
  2. King of Jazz (1930) - Paul Whiteman, John Boles, Bing Crosby
  3. Supernatural (1933) - Carole Lombard & Randolph Scott
  4. After Tonight (1933) - Constance Bennett & Gilbert Roland
  5. Dancing Lady (1933) - Joan Crawford & Clark Gable, Franchot Tone, Three Stooges, Fred Astaire, Nelson Eddy, Eve Arden
  6. *The Richest Girl in the World (1934) - Miriam Hopkins & Joel McCrea, Fay Wray
  7. Fashions of 1934 (1934) - William Powell & Bette Davis, Frank McHugh
  8. The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) - Ronald Colman & Madeleine Carroll, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Reginald Owen, David Niven, Raymond Massey, Mary Astor
  9. No Place to Go (1939) - Dennis Morgan & Gloria Dickson
  10. Susan and God (1940) - Joan Crawford & Fredric March, Ruth Hussey, Rita Hayworth, John Carroll
  11. Higher and Higher (1943) - Michele Morgan & Jack Haley, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Hale, Mary Wickes, Victor Borge
  12. Hungry Hill (1947) - Margaret Lockwood, Jean Simmons, Dan O’Hurlihy 
  13. The Naked City (1948) - Barry FitzGerald, Don Taylor
  14. Jour de Fete (1949 - French) - Jacques Tati
  15. The Tattooed Stranger (1950) - Walter Kinsella, John Miles, Patricia Barry
  16. Sudden Fear (1952) - Joan Crawford & Jack Palance, Gloria Graham
  17. Blueprint for Murder (1953) - Joseph Cotten & Jean Peters, Gary Merrill
  18. *Valley of the Kings (1954) - Robert Taylor & Eleanor Parker
  19. *The Bellboy (1960) - Jerry Lewis, Milton Berle 
  20. The Rising of the Moon (1957) - Tyrone Power (narrator)
  21. The Alphabet Murders (1965) - Tony Randall, Anita Ekberg
  22. The Bears and I (1974) - Patrick Wayne, Robert Pine
  23. California Suite (1978) - Alan Alda & Jane Fonda, Maggie Smith & Michael Caine, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Walter Matthau
Mary Wickes had some great outfits in Higher and Higher (1943). Check out the sparkly crescent shaped fasteners in that last screenshot!

Least Favorite Film: Hungry Hill was very tiresome. I watched it for Jean Simmons but she was only in a little bit of the first half. Margaret Lockwood couldn't save the story either. Also No Place to Go. I wouldn't have finished it if I wasn't trying to watch all of Dennis Morgan's films but he was barely in it. The old man was good but I'm picky about child actors, especially when the story is centered on them. The Tattooed Stranger was a too slow, especially after watching The Naked City, which was also a police procedural film but with a much better tempo.

I desperately want this hat ♥ Susan and God (1940).

Favorite Film: Lots of great movies this month! I was so happy that TCM FINALLY showed Fashions of 1934 with William Powell. I've only been waiting like 5 YEARS! It did not disappoint. Bette Davis was kind of wasted in her role but Powell was in top form as always :) Also really enjoyed Dancing Lady and The Prisoner of Zenda.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Movies I Watched in February

February is always a light month due to TCM's annual 31 Days of Oscar. I decided to do a little counting and discovered that out of the 319 films shown this month I have already seen 122 films, I am not interested (at least at this time) in watching 126 films, I want to (eventually) see 71 films, and out of those films I watched 15 of them.
  1. Sadie Thompson (1928) - Gloria Swanson, Lionel Barrymore
  2. A Free Soul (1931) - Norma Shearer, Lionel Barrymore, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard
  3. Morning Glory (1933) - Katharine Hepburn, Adolph Menjou, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
  4. Lost Horizon (1937) - Ronald Colman & Jane Wyatt, Thomas Mitchell, Edward Everett Horton
  5. The Cowboy and the Lady (1938) - Gary Cooper & Merle Oberon, Patsy Kelly, Walter Brennan
  6. Gulliver's Travels (1939) - Sam Parker, Tedd Pierce, Jack Mercer, Pinto Colvig
  7. Brother Orchid (1940) - Edward G. Robinson, Ann Sothern, Humphrey Bogart, Ralph Bellamy, Donald Crisp, Cecil Kellaway
  8. Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941) - Martha Scott, Marsha Hunt
  9. *Random Harvest (1942) - Ronald Colman & Greer Garson, Susan Peters
  10. The Yellow Cab Man (1950) - Red Skelton, Edward Arnold, James Gleason
  11. *We’re No Angels (1955) - Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, Aldo Ray, Basil Rathbone, Joan Bennett
  12. Sayonara (1957) - Marlon Brando, Red Buttons, James Garner, Kent Smith, Martha Scott
  13. The Mating Game (1959) - Debbie Reynolds & Tony Randall, Paul Douglas, Una Merkel 
  14. The Grass is Greener (1960) - Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum, Jean Simmons, Cary Grant
  15. Big Red (1962) - Walter Pidgeon
  16. Billy Budd (1962) - Peter Ustinov, Robert Ryan, Terence Stamp
  17. The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1974) - Jack Lemmon & Ann Bancroft
Notes: The Cowboy and the Lady was delightful - loved the charade scene at the new house, I wasn't wild on The Mating Game though I liked Randall in it, The Grass is Greener was pretty disappointing for such a stellar cast, the kid in Big Red was kind of annoying, and Terence Stamp was great as Billy Budd.

One of the films I was excited about was Sadie Thompson (1928) starring Gloria Swanson. Swanson is one of those actresses you feel you know but have only seen in one iconic film. I recently watched the movie she made prior to Sunset Boulevard (1950), Father Takes a Wife (1941), after being away from films for 7 years. I felt I needed to see her in a Silent film. I have already seen the 1953 version with Rita Hayworth so I was already familiar with the story. It was a tad slow at first but I got really into it near the end and was a little frustrated that the climax was lost and had to be conveyed through stills and dialogue frames. Swanson gave an incredible performance and I highly encourage all of you to keep an eye out for it.

My biggest obsession of the month has been Lost Horizon (1937) and with it a new appreciation for Ronald Colman. I also discovered that Lost Horizon was based on a book of the same name written by James Hilton who also wrote the books upon which the films Random Harvest (1942) and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) were based, both of which I love. And so of course I had to rewatch Random Harvest and then check out all three books from the library. I read Mr. Chips in an evening as it's very short. Lost Horizon, though it had some character changes, was every bit as good as the book (helped by the fact that I could hear Colman's voice as I read it). And now I'm reading Random Harvest. It's a little confusing as the first part has a different character as narrator and it's in a different order than the movie, but so far I'm enjoying it as well. I've discovered also that Knight Without Armour (1937) is based on a Hilton book but to read it I will have to buy it. I also learned that there are two more movies based on Hilton books that I will be keeping and eye out for. He also wrote a biography on Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, which I can surprisingly get from my library. I probably should have just done a whole post on James Hilton... :)

Marathon Blogathon - Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Three years ago, when Virginie of The Wonderful World of Cinema and Crystal of  In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood hosted the first ever Marathon Stars Blogathon, I struggled to think of movie stars that I had seen less than three films in. There were of course a few stars that I, at the time, had no interest in that I could have chosen, but I wanted my marathon to be enjoyable and not a chore. And so, as a Classic Movie Fan who hadn't yet seen Gone With the Wind in its entirety, I chose Vivien Leigh.

The blogathon however had started me thinking and I made as thorough a list as possible of stars I had seen only three films are less. This is what I came up with in 2016:

Since then I have crossed off many names as well as added more stars as they came to my attention. You may notice there are few stars known primarily for Silent Movies. However, they are mostly the big name ones that have remained in the public's mind for close to a century. There are of course many more that I have never heard of but, at some point and time, surely will whenever I begin to delve more deeply into that period of filmmaking (which may be soon as I've discovered several of William Powell's and Ronald Colman's silent films online). And so, here is the list as it appears today:

When Virginie and Crystal announced the Second Annual Marathon Stars Blogathon, now also joined by Samantha of Musings of a Classic Film Addict, I pulled out my handy chart and decided who it was that I wanted to explore and whose films I had fast access too. Since I already had one Douglas Fairbanks Jr. film in my TCM queue, and since I was planning on checking out The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) for my current Ronald Colman obsession (sadly/not sadly I had already seen 4+ films of Colmans), I knew who my subject would be.

"Oh I think you'll discover that I'm much more than a pretty face!"

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was under the 2 Films category: the classic Gunga Din (1939) and Having Wonderful Time (1938). I love Gunga Din but it is definitely Cary Grant's movie. I watched Having Wonderful Time last year and enjoyed it but it didn't make any kind of impression on me. However, from the first two films I watched for this marathon, I immediately came to appreciate the acting ability of DFJ (as I will refer to him for the rest of the post), and see him in a variety of genre's and roles. Here are the films in the order I viewed them in (I'm focusing on DFJ's performance rather than the plots):

Morning Glory (1933) - This film is really about Katharine Hepburn (she won her first Oscar for her performance) but DFJ holds his own against the new star with his tender, quiet, and thoughtful performance.

Here are some DFJ's memories of the film (from I Know Where I'm Going: Katharine Hepburn, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler):
"They showed me some photos of her [Hepburn], saying she had very unconventional looks. They said it rather apologetically, because she certainly didn't look like everyone else, or even anyone else. I thought she was beautiful. I hoped it wouldn't just be an example of those touched-up pictures the studio specialized in. I hoped she would look just like those pictures when I met her. Well, she didn't look just like them. She was even more beautiful.
"The moment I met Kate, I fell madly  in love with her. In those days I fell madly in love rather easily. I found her adorable and I adored her.
"There were some people who said she wasn't beautiful. Well, they needed vision tests and new glasses.
"Adolphe Menjou and I were with her in the film, and we were asked to help her out as much as we could. She won the Oscar.
"The original script for Morning Glory, included the fantasy dream sequence in which Miss Hepburn and I would play at least two scenes, and possibly a third, of the greatest scenes between Romeo and Juliet. That certainly intrigued and tempted me. It seemed a unique opportunity for me to play Romeo, a dream part.
"She was wonderful to play with in our Romeo and Juliet scenes. Every time I tried to work my thin frame into my tights, I wasn't certain I'd make it. I tried to stop eating much. Then, I tried to stop eating at all. Unfortunately, the more I tried to stop eating, the hungrier I felt and the more I thought about not eating, the more I ate and the tighter my tights got. I tried every position to enter them, including lying on the floor with my legs in the air. There was no lock on the door, and I got caught once. Someone opened the door, but I was too busy trying to extricate myself from one leg of the tights to see who it was. The person was too embarrassed by the sight to linger.
"We did the scenes from Romeo and Juliet for small invited audiences, and we both felt we were 'of the theater.' "

Kate's memories on her favorite scene:
"a great scene in the film which no one saw because it was cut out. It's my favorite and it's Douglas's too. It was from Romeo and Juliet. Douglas was Romeo and one guess who was Juliet.
"It was done like a dream. We were both very good, but Douglas was better than I. He looked more like Romeo than I looked like Juliet.
"I like the picture, but the most wonderful thing I got out of it was Douglas, a dear, dear friend throughout my life."

I certainly wish that scene had been left in the picture! There was a scene where the two recite a few lines and it was one of the best parts of the film (see a snippet above). And the fact that DFJ was in love with Hepburn but she didn't really love him back in the same way, really came across in their scenes together in the film. My favorite moment is when Hepburn's character touches his hand and walks away, and he tenderly touches his hand where hers had been. You can watch it below.

The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) - I've already seen the shot-for-shot 1952 remake starring Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, and James Mason (I've never understood the appeal of Granger - most of his films I've seen were viewed for his leading ladies). While it was very good I enjoyed this one, starring Ronald Colman and Madeleine Carroll, much more.

DFJ was absolutely perfect for the role of the swashbuckling villain. He wasn't sure he wanted to be a supporting player to Colman so he sought out his famous father's advise. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. told him that ""not only is The Prisoner of Zenda one of the best romances written in a hundred years and always a success, but Rupert of Hentzau is probably one of the best villains ever written" (The Salad Days: An Autobiography, DFJ). DFJ's devil-may-care approach to the character makes his the showiest part of the film. See all my screenshots on my blog facebook page.

The Power of the Press (1928) - I wanted to make sure I covered a wider selection of DFJ's filmography so I was happy to find The Power of the Press (1928) directed by Frank Capra online. It shouldn't surprise anyone that a Capra film is set at a newspaper office. DFJ writes the weather for the paper but wants to do more. There's a humorous scene where he writes a flowery description of the weather and shows it to the editor saying, "If you change a word of it you'll ruin it." The editor then proceeds to cross out everything but the initial forecast.

DFJ's chance comes when the paper gets a call about the murder of the District Attorney and there are no other reporters in the office to send to the scene of the crime. DFJ gets a scoop and is a big man at the office until it is proven wrong. He is fired but doesn't let that stop him from solving the crime himself.

There's a fascinating sequence that shows how the front page is changed when a scoop comes through, from typewriter to printed paper. It is very Capra (as well as his last silent film). In Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success by Joseph McBride, it mentions that "former paperboy and Los Angeles Times stuffer" DFJ was able to "indulge vicariously his fleeting youthful ambition of becoming a reporter (201)."

A brief biography:

Born Dec. 9, 1909. Son of famous actor Douglas Fairbanks (he added narration to one of father's silent films). His stepmother was famous silent actress Mary Pickford. Pickford and Fairbanks instituted the Academy Awards. Married to Joan Crawford from 1929-1934 (divorce, no children). He held the Silver Star and the Legion of Merit with V for valor in combat device from the U.S. government for his combat service in PT boats and gunboats. Was awarded the British Distinguished Service Cross, the French Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre with Palm for his services during World War II. Created an honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1949. Has 100 acting credits. Died May 7, 2000 of a heart attack.

Movies I Watched in January

The New Year has started off with some pretty good movies! Here's my usual list and, if you keep scrolling I've written mini-reviews for some of the films (was going to do all of them as I went along but got "behind")!
  1. Dust Be My Destiny (1939) - John Garfield & Priscilla Lane
  2. Over the Moon (1940) - Merle Oberon & Rex Harrison
  3. Midnight Shadow (1940) -  Frances Redd, Buck Woods, Richard Bates (all African American cast)
  4. The Body Disappears (1941) - Jeffrey Lynn & Jane Wyman, Edward Everett Horton 
  5. Keeper of the Flame (1942) - Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn, Daryl Hickman
  6. In Our Time (1944) - Paul Henreid & Ida Lupino 
  7. The Sea of Grass (1947) - Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn, Melvyn Douglas, Harry Carey, Robert Walker, Phyllis Thaxter
  8. Big City (1948) - Margaret O’Brien, George Murphy, Danny Thomas
  9. John Loves Mary (1949) - Ronald Reagan & Patricia Neal, Jack Carson, Edward Arnold, Wayne Morris
  10. *Battleground (1949) Van Johnson, Marshall Thompson, George Murphy, Ricardo Montalban 
  11. Border Incident (1949) - Ricardo Montalban, George Murphy
  12. Right Cross (1950) - Ricardo Montalban & June Allyson, Dick Powell, Lionel Barrymore, Marilyn Monroe
  13. The Tall Target (1951) - Dick Powell, Adolph Menjou, Marshall Thompson 
  14. Macao (1952) - Robert Mitchum & Jane Russell, William Bendix 
  15. The Caine Mutiny (1954) - Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray
  16. Gaby (1956) - Leslie Caron & John Kerr
  17. Operation Mad Ball (1957) - Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs
  18. The Proud Rebel (1958) - Alan Ladd, David Ladd, Olivia de Havilland, Dean Jagger, Cecil Kellaway
  19. Cactus Flower (1969) - Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, Goldie Hawn
  20. Catlow (1971) - Yul Bryner, Richard Crenna, Leonard Nimoy
  21. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) - Brendan Frasier
  22. The Little Mermaid (2018) - William Moseley, Shirley MacLaine, Claire Crosby
James Stewart, Robert Mitchum: The Two Faces of America (2017) - documentary (very good!)

A few notes: the lead actress in Midnight Shadow was the worst actor in the entire movie, The Body Disappears was surprisingly delightful, Ida Lupino was a strange choice for In Our Time - it was much more a Joan Fontaine type of role, Patricia Neal's performance in John Loves Mary made me think of Eleanor Parker, finally got my brother to watch Battleground, Border Incident definitely gives one food for thought, Gaby lacked the emotional impact of Waterloo Bridge, The Proud Rebel made me weep, I LOVED Bergman in Cactus Flower - definitely doing "the dentist" at my next dance, the third Mummy movie desperately needed Rachel Weisz and once the yeti appeared I was done...


1. The Tall Target (1951) - When it's a Caftan Woman recommendation you know it's going to be good. While aboard a train Dick Powell tries to stop an assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln who is on his way to give his inaugural address. It reminded me of something that could happen on Timeless (if you follow me on twitter you're definitely aware of the twice-cancelled show saved by the fans to a satisfying conclusion wrap-up movie) but without the time travel. I thought the way it was filmed was interesting, especially the tracking shots following Powell up and down the train. Look out for Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver) as a passenger!

2. Right Cross (1950) - Last year I watched Battleground (1949) and Mystery Street (1950) for the first time and discovered that Ricardo Montalban was more than just a "Latin Lover." When I saw he was in this movie and that there was boxing involved - I'm a big fan of Rocky (1976) - I thought I'd give it a go. Up until the match at the end was pretty good - a rare on-screen inter-racial romance, a secret and probably career-ending injury, and a mind battle between racial prejudices. The main weak link for me was June Allyson as Montalban's chemistry. They had no chemistry and she just didn't quite seem right for the role, except in her scenes with real-life husband Dick Powell - no lack of chemistry in those scenes! The thing that made the film change from fair to wow for me was the final boxing match. I'm no expert but I thought it was masterfully choreographed and shot and it appears that it was actually Montalban throughout the entire scene. It was well worth a watch. Montalban looked pretty good too ;)

3. Keeper of the Flame (1942) - A public figure beloved the world over dies in a freak car accident. Spencer Tracy, an investigative reporter, comes back from covering the war in Germany to write the story of his life. He finds difficulty in trying to see the widow, Mrs. Forrestt (Katharine Hepburn), yet once inside finds the atmosphere to be very mysterious. Everyone seems to be hiding something, from Mrs. Forrestt herself to the gatekeeper. The film is engrossing, moody, full of suspicions and queer characters. Throw in a little WWII propaganda and you've got yourself a top-notch film.

It's a pity how easily people can be fooled.

4. The Sea of Grass (1947) - Another Tracy/Hepburn film. The first half was interesting, the second half was tiresome (bull-headed Tracy is my least favorite Tracy), and the end had me in tears.

5. The Little Mermaid (2018) - Knew about this film from my favorite Youtube family, the Crosbys. Their oldest daughter Claire, who has been on the Ellen DeGeneres Show multiple times, is an amazing little singer and her and her siblings are adorable. She has a very small part in this film, which had an intriguing premise but not the best acting - the villain wasn't scary at all. Shirley MacLaine was in it though! It's on Netflix.

6. Catlow (1971) - I didn't watch a single film from the 70s last year but I was intrigued with the cast of this Western: Richard Crenna (Our Miss Brooks) and Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, with Yul Brynner in the title role. The first 30 minutes felt very much like a John Wayne movie. However, there were a lot of different things going on in the movie which made it feel somewhat episodic: stolen mavericks, Indian attacks, a party with a grateful Mexican family, gold, and a bounty hunter. WARNING: There was scene in which Nimoy was completely nude, which I did not know going into the movie. However, I was able to guess when it was about to happen and, when you're watching on an ipad it's easy to cover the screen with your hands ;)

I wrote a few more reviews by hand but no longer feel like typing them up...