Friday, March 30, 2018

THE END OF THE WORLD BLOGATHON: When Worlds Collide (1951)


The Midnite Drive-In and MovieMovieBlogBlog are cheerfully hosting The End of the World Blogathon running from March 30th to April 1st. After that...who knows? Click HERE if you dare.


George Pal
(1908-1980)

The creative mind and artistic talent of George Pal gave us the Oscar-winning Puppetoons, fantasy classics such as Tom Thumb and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, and sci-fi favourites The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine.


Pal's first science fiction film 1950s Destination Moon won an Oscar for Best Effects, Special Effects. The Robert A. Heinlein novel Rocket Ship Galileo was the basis for a screenplay he wrote with Alford Van Ronkel and James O'Hanlon. Directed by Irving Pichel (The Most Dangerous Game) and filmed in Technicolor by Lionel Linden (Around the World in 80 Days), Destination Moon owes much of its stunning visuals to matte artist Chesley Bonestell.


The inspiration for 1951s When Worlds Collide is a serialized novel by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer that was first optioned for films in 1932 by Cecil B. DeMille. George Pal enlisted Chesley Bonestell as technical advisor, and this movie, like its predecessor, won the Oscar for Best Effects, Special Effects. Cinematographer turned director Rudolph Mate (D.O.A., Miracle in the Rain) was in charge and his cinematographers John Seitz (Double Indemnity) and W. Howard Greene (A Star is Born) were nominated for the Oscar for Best Cinematography, Color.

Richard Derr, Hayden Rorke
A routine job for the pilot. Doomsday for the scientist.

Dr. Emery Bronson (Hayden Rorke), from his observatory in South Africa, has determined that a star named Bellus is on a collision course with the earth. Also entering Earth's atmosphere, close enough to influence tides and cause earthquakes is the planet Zyra. Daredevil pilot/courier David Randall (Richard Derr) is tasked with bringing the information to Dr. Cole Hendron (Larry Keating) in New York City.

"There isn't any error."
Barbara Rush, Larry Keating

Randall doesn't realize the import of the information with which he has been entrusted, but once delivery is made finds himself involved with the Institute and its plans, and with Dr. Hendron's daughter Joyce (Barbara Rush). The end of the world may be nigh, but people being people, a love triangle develops among Randall, Joyce, and her intended, Dr. Tony Drake (Peter Hansen).

Will it work?

Dr. Hendron and his associate Dr. George Frye (Stephen Chase) have brought their concerns to the United Nations where, for the most part, their fears are scoffed at and their plans rejected. The plan is a bold attempt to build a ship capable of bringing people and animals to the Earth-sized planet Zyra, colonizing a New Earth. It is mentioned that various people around the world are working on a similar plan. It is the only hope.

The money man makes demands.
Frank Cady, John Hoyt

Thankfully, a few industrialists with the money and means to assist are believers. While their own lives will not be saved, it is for the greater good of humanity that they give their resources. Only one man, Sydney Stanton (John Hoyt), a crippled and embittered billionaire will provide necessary funds on the proviso that he be one of the few to leave Earth on a "Noah's Ark" spaceship. Along with his cowed assistant (Frank Cady), Stanton uses his money to control the project.

Now is not the time to speak of love, but it is the only time they have.
Barbara Rush, Richard Derr

Joyce is conflicted by her feelings for Dave Randall, but is able to share her concerns with her father. Dr. Hendron then does what he can to keep Dave in Joyce's life. Dr. Drake almost succumbs to his jealousy, but his better nature takes over. Tony even devises a plan to get Dave aboard the ship.

Will they have the luck of the draw?
Rachel Ames, James Congdon

We watch the preparations for the end of the world and get to know some of the people involved. Only 40 of them will be allowed, by lottery, to make the fateful trip to Zayr. Among the crowd and a young couple in love, Eddie (James Congdon) and Julie (Rachel Ames in her film debut), and when the lottery separates them, Eddie makes the sacrifice of his lottery win which precipitates an emergency.

There's always room for a puppy.
Peter Hansen, Rudy Lee, Barbara Rush

Scenes of destruction upon the arrival of Bellus and when Zyra enters the Earth's orbit are eye-opening thanks to the award-winning effects, and the sight they offer of a potential future. An orphaned boy Mike (Rudy Lee) now joins those looking to the hope of a planet that may or not support life as the only option for a doomed humanity. Can a puppy be far behind?

The scientist and the industrialist in conflict until the end.
Larry Keating, John Hoyt

Stanton has been predicting that when the end is in sight that the crowd will turn on them in their fear. Dr. Herndon, optimistically believes in the innate goodness which is driving the project.

Dr. Herndon: "This project was started by real humanitarians, Marston and Spiro. They gave their money with no strings attached. You're not here under any special licence. You're always shouting for facts. Remember these facts, our chance of reaching the new world is as thin as you becoming a humanitarian!"

Only imminent destruction will prove who is right in their belief. Imminent destruction also reveals true character between Stanton and Herndon.


A literate and sympathetic script increases the sense of reality in this speculative fiction. The basis for the events and the horror of the unavoidable catastrophe motivates all the action and helps the audience identify with the characters in the movie. The beauty of the Technicolor and the craftsmanship evident in the artwork and effects contribute to a genuinely satisfying 1950s science fiction film experience.

Trivia wrap-up:

Stuart Whitman draws his ticket.
Just make him a star already!

Among the familiar faces in smaller roles in the movie are Queenie Smith (Show Boat) in a cute bit in a restaurant, Leonard Mudie (Foreign Correspondent) as a UN official, Kirk "Superman" Allyn as a frightened man, John Ridgely (Air Force) as a customs official, James Seay (Miracle on 34th Street) as a reporter, Kasey Rogers (Strangers on a Train) as a stewardess, Mary Murphy (The Wild One) as a student, Stuart Whitman (The Mark) as a worker, and the voice of Paul Frees as the narrator and the president.

Peter Hansen, Rachel Ames
Dr. Drake and Julie moved into General Hospital.

Peter Hansen who played Dr. Tony Drake and Rachel Ames who played Julie Cummings would go on to television success as lawyer Lee Baldwin and nurse Audrey Hardy on General Hospital which this year is celebrating 55 years on the air. Peter Hansen passed away in April of last year, and the program honored his character. Rachel Ames, the daughter of character actors Dorothy Adams and Byron Foulger, retired from the show in 2007, reprising her role for special occasions in 2013 and 2015.













Wednesday, March 28, 2018

THE GOOD COP, BAD COP BLOGATHON: City That Never Sleeps (1953)


Eva of Coffee, Classics and Craziness is hosting The Good Cop, Bad Cop blogathon on March 28th to 31st. Click HERE to see who follows the straight and narrow, and who goes for the payoff.

"Night brings our troubles to light, rather than banishes them."
- Seneca the elder

Paula Ramond, Gig Young

Johnny Kelly (Gig Young) has had a full night. He's reeling from a fight with his wife, he's had a fight with his girl, and he's decided to resign from the police force. Perhaps Officer Johnny Kelly's true problem is not love nor ambition. It is that he works the night shift and can never escape the knowledge that Chicago is the City That Never Sleeps.

Chill Wills, Gig Young

Our story opens with a twilight view of the cityscape while the spirit of the city tells us all about it. Chill Wills is the narrator who introduces us to the tapestry of city life and the specific characters involved in tonight's story. The spirit of the city is embodied by Wills as a police sergeant assigned to partner with Johnny Kelly on this night. He is safeguarding Johnny's resignation letter, and perhaps more.

Mala Powers

Johnny is dissatisfied with his job. He didn't want to be a cop, but his dad "Pops" Kelly (Oscar Hulett) is a respected sergeant who wanted Johnny to follow in his footsteps. Johnny is feeling emasculated because his wife Kathy (Paula Raymond) has a career and a large salary. Johnny is feeling pressure from his girl, dancer Sally Connors aka Angel Face (Mala Powers) who wants to give up the nightly grind and start over with Johnny "under the great big crazy sky".

Wally Cassell, Mala Powers

Sally is a girl with options. Either Johnny does what she wants or she'll hook up with actor Gregg Warren (Wally Cassell) currently working as a mechanical man in the storefront window of the club where they are employed. Mala is stunningly effective as the hostile and prickly Sally, who has an epiphany in this night of nights, and makes us believe it.

Gig Young, Edward Arnold

Johnny Kelly has to decide whether he wants to be a right cop or a wrong guy. He thinks he has made that decision when he accepts an offer from crooked attorney and kingmaker Penrod Biddel (Edward Arnold). Johnny will do some favours for Biddell and money and success is his in return. Funny thing about Johnny is that for a guy who hates the job, he doesn't want to start the new agreement until he is out of uniform the next day.

William Talman, Ron Hagerthy

Thief Hayes Stewart (William Talman) is one who took Biddel up on his offer but now wants to supersede his boss. Reminding Stewart that Biddel is boss is the first of Johnny Kelly's details. Johnny will apprehend Stewart as he attempts to rob the safe in Biddel's office. Johnny will then drive Stewart over the state line where a manslaughter charge awaits. Biddel plans to let Stewart cool his heels in jail for a few months before benevolently getting him released. Johnny is convinced to handle the job when he learns that his kid brother Stubby (Ron Hagerthy) has been palling around with Stewart. 

Thomas Jones, Gig Young, Chill Wills, uncredited actors

All-in-all it appears to be a typical night on the beat for Officer Kelly; delivering a baby, breaking up a crap game, learning to adapt to life on the take, listening to lectures from his new partner.

Marie Windsor, Edward Arnold, William Talman

Out of Johnny's control is the plan of Hayes Stewart and Biddel's wife Lydia (Marie Windsor) to blackmail the lawyer and run away with the money. Shall we call it the human factor, the unexpected or Fate? Whatever we call it, nothing goes as planned. The crooks underestimate the bigger crook. Violence is the result of plans gone awry. It all leads back to the club where Angel Face learns who really has her heart and where Pops Kelly and Lydia Biddel meet their destiny under the watchful eyes of the mechanical man.

William Talman, Gig Young

It is a bigger night in his life than even Johnny Kelly realized. Horrors await in the dark, and revelations. Johnny will be tested. Will he be found wanting?

The screenplay for City That Never Sleeps is by Steve Fisher, the author of the novel I Wake Up Screaming and the moody films-noir screenplays for Lady in the Lake, Dead Reckoning, and Roadblock, etc. There are many interesting citizens in this cityscape, and interesting actors to portray them all.

Gig Young

The glue that holds the narrative together is Gig Young as Johnny Kelly. Young imbues his roles, whether comic or dramatic, with a world-weary sarcasm that is as appealing as it can be disturbing. In Johnny Kelly we have a dreamer; a basically decent guy at a crossroads.

Wally Cassell

Wally Cassell is the standout as Gregg, the tin man who wears his heart on his sleeve. He is in a unique position with his mask that hides the man. He spends his time on display urging people to guess whether he is real or not. Of all these characters who should be out in the sunshine, it is Gregg who deserves most.

William Talman

William Talman adds another to his roll call of villains following Dave Purvis in Armored Car Robbery and Emmett Myers in The Hitchhiker, with Hayes Stewart, a petty thief who didn't know when he was well off, and who goes off the rails.


Trivia wrap-up:

Otto Hulett, Thomas Poston

Check it out. Here's young dramatic actor Thomas Poston as Pops Kelly's partner. In a few years, Tom would start racking up Emmy nominations for his comedy work, winning for The Steve Allen Show, and nominated three times for Newhart.


Cinematographer John L. Russell also gave us the outstanding black and white looks of Moonrise for Frank Bozage, Park Row for Samuel Fuller and Psycho for Alfred Hitchcock. Oscar-nominated for Psycho, Russell would be the cinematographer for 98 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.


John H. Auer directed six movies for Herbert J. Yates and Republic Studios, and none of them were westerns!


Many thanks to Kristina of Speakeasy for introducing me to this film.









Monday, March 26, 2018

CAFTAN WOMAN, THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY POST

by @JazzysArt

On Wednesday, March 26, 2008 Caftan Woman came to the internet with the posting of this original poem. It is a character piece. Who would you cast as this woman?

TOOLS

The old woman glared.
The glare that had made lovers weep
and children rebel.
We followed in her wake
as the store manager opened the express line.




I used a photo of one of my favourite actresses Esther Howard as Miz Zeffie in Sullivan's Travels for my first profile picture. If you will recall, she is the farm woman who was so warm for Joel McCrea's form. Seemed appropriate.



This beautiful and obsolete machine was my first official logo. It represents how I made my living for many years and the hobby that has enriched my life for many more.

Sharing the love of classic film, and more with the blogging world has proven both a challenging and joyful experience. I am eternally grateful for the friendships and the fun. Thank you for joining me on this journey.








Friday, March 23, 2018

THE 4th ANNUAL FAVOURITE TV EPISODE BLOGATHON: Ellery Queen, The Adventure of Miss Aggie's Farewell Performance (1975)


Terence Towles Canote at his A Shroud of Thoughts site is hosting the fourth annual Favourite TV Episode blogathon, a highlight of the blogathon year. Click HERE for all of the classic memories.

The Ellery Queen TV series from 1975 holds a place in history of which you may not be aware. NBC's cancellation of the program after one season precipitated the only time I ever wrote a letter of protest to a network. I didn't really think an American television network would care about the thoughts of a Canadian teenager. Nonetheless, so strong was my affection for the show that the trouble was taken.

Cousins Manfred Lee and Frederick Dannay
"Ellery Queen"

Frederick Dannay and Manfred Lee's creation of character Ellery Queen in 1928 was a stroke of genius. Many popular novels and short stories followed the career and mysteries solved by their fictional author whose named adorned the book cover as his own storyteller. Ellery's popularity extended to film, radio and five television programs, to date.

Richard Levinson and William Link

Jim Hutton stars as Ellery in this Levinson and Link created series based on the fictional detective/author. The Ellery of this series bears little resemblance to the Philo Vance-ish character of the 1920s and 1930s, but leans more toward the Ellery of the Wrightsville stories who is a more laid back and compassionate character.

Jim Hutton and David Wayne as Ellery and pere

Our TV hero as written is way laid back, depending on the talent and charm of our leading man as the somewhat hyper-focused Ellery. Ellery shares NYC digs with his widowed dad, Police Inspector Richard Queen played by David Wayne. The father-son dynamic feels real and comforting. The stolid Sgt. Velie played by Tom Reese is everything you could want.

There are many eras in the novels that could have been tapped into, but setting the series in the immediate post-war era gave the writers lots of interesting material. The production values and costumes give the audience an opportunity to sink into the joys of another era, forget their cares and immerse themselves in the time-tested joys of mystery fiction.

John Hillerman as Simon Brimer

A Levinson and Link creation that adds greatly to the fun and atmosphere of the series is Simon Brimer played so brilliantly by John Hillerman. Brimer, a fastidious and ego-driven radio star of The Casebook of Simon Brimer has manufactured a one-sided feud with Ellery over which of them is the best amateur detective in the city. When Brimer shows up, his efforts are always to top our Ellery. The fact that Ellery blithely goes on his merry way solving case after case without seeming to care about the "competition" is great fun.

Today's featured Adventure with Ellery was directed by James Sheldon, a familiar name to Boomers with over 100 television episodes to his credit, Sheldon began that career as an assistant director on radio. The story is credited to Levinson and Link, with the screenplay by Peter S. Fischer. Collectively, these fellows have probably entertained more people than Shakespeare!


Announcer: "At this moment Vera Bethune is playing the last scene of her life. Who killed her? Was it her unhappy costar? Her agent? The ambitious announcer? The organist? The young actress? The worried writer? Or was it someone else? Match wits with Ellery Queen and see if you can guess who done it."

Bert Parks, Paul Shenar, Nan Martin, Eve Arden

Eve Arden plays Vera Bethune, the lead character of the beloved principal of Middleville High, Miss Aggie, on a popular radio program. Few watching this episode would miss the allusion to Eve's popular radio and television series Our Miss Brooks. The studio feels like a less than welcoming place this day with sniping performers and a gloomy organist. Is it a surprise that our leading lady collapses after ingesting poison from a water carafe?

Jim Hutton, Betty White, Eve Arden

The murder attempt has made headlines and caused an outpouring of affection from fans. Vera's agent, played by Betty White, knows this will be a boon in negotiations with the show's producer played by John McGiver. Miss Aggie, as Vera asks to be called, persuades Ellery to look into the case while ignoring Inspector Queen's offer of police protection. Mistake! In the middle of the night, the beloved Miss Aggie is shot.

Sidney Miller, John Hillerman

Simon Brimer has been desperate to reach a deal of his own with the Miss Aggie's producer and immediately starts nosing around the case. Should he solve it, Simon believes his career plans are assured. Here he is at the coroner's office with Sidney Miller in the white coat. Old movie fans will recognize the actor as a teenager in Andy Hardy movies, City for Conquest, etc.

Nina Roman, Jim Hutton, Gerald Hiken

Ellery determines through interrogating the writers of Miss Aggie (and The Family on Elm Street and Shadows of Tomorrow and Kindly Dr. Keene, etc.) that the cold suffered by the character could be cured by a suitable contract negotiation or turn deadly if needed. Ellery and his dad also learned that a younger, and less expensive and less demanding actress on the show is in consideration for the leading spot. H'm.

Jim Hutton, Beatrice Colon

A highlight of the episode is the amusing conversation between Ellery and the studio organist Mary Lou Gumm. She is uncomfortable speaking face to face, or indeed speaking without the sound of her Wurlitzer in the background. Ellery sits with his back to Mary Lou as she relates her soap opera experience of life in the big city.

John Hillerman, Paul Shenar

There are no lengths to which Brimer will not go in pursuit of suspects. Here he confronts Miss Aggie announcer Wendell Warren played by Paul Shenar. Do you remember Shenar as radio legend Orson Welles in The Night That Panicked America?


Joseph R. Sicari, Tom Reese, Jim Hutton

Meanwhile, Ellery has been following his own clues which lead to a hospital janitor, enforced confinement, and a fence. Aha! There was a dying clue that will tell all!

Jim Hutton

It is the moment all fans look forward to because we are matching wits with Ellery Queen. It is the moment all fans dread because the episode is almost over.

Ellery: "Now, I'm pretty sure I know who killed Vera Bethune, but how about you? Was it Lawence Denver, Miss Aggie's co-star, or Anita Leslie, the young actress who's gonna replace her? It might have been Wendell Warren, the announcer, and don't forget that Mary Lou Gumm was in the studio that morning. Or it might have been someone else, someone who wasn't in the studio. It's possible."


Bert Parks, Nan Martin, Nina Roman, Beatrice Colon, Paul Shenar, John Hillerman

Simon Brimer is about to solve the crime on live radio, with the Inspector on hand to make the arrest. All are assembled, and Simon is poised for his great triumph until Ellery shows up and utters one simple pronoun. Drats! Foiled again!

Betty White

Now, what do you suppose she's so upset about?

Ellery, as expected, solved the crime with his customary erudite manner combined with a becoming modesty. Ellery and his dad leave the studio with Mr. Pearl, the producer, begging our author/detective to accept the sort of radio show offer that Simon Brimer can only dream about.













THE GREATEST FILM I'VE NEVER SEEN BLOGATHON: Modern Times (1936)

Debbie Vega at Moon in Gemini is hosting the genius blogathon  The Greatest Film I've Never Seen  from November 16th to 18th. What ...