Sunday, November 10, 2019

THE SEND IN THE MARINES BLOG-A-THON: Hail the Conquering Hero, 1944


In celebration of the November 10, 1775 founding of the U.S. Marine Corps. the websites Dubsism and RealWeegieMidget Reviews are hosting The Send in the Marines Blog-a-thon. Click HERE  or HERE to begin reading. 


Aunt Martha (Elizabeth Patterson): "Well, that's the war for you. It's always hard on women. Either they take your men away and never send them back at all, or they send them back unexpectedly just to embarrass you. No consideration at all." 

Only the genius that was writer/director Preston Sturges could successfully spoof heroism, motherhood, romance, and democracy in the middle of a war, moving the audience from cynical laughter to sentimental tears.


From the opening tracking shot that leads from a bouncy up tune and an energetic tap dancer to an elegant singer and backup quartet unironically singing Home to the Arms of Mother, through a crowded nightclub to a dejected civilian, Woodrow Truesmith (Eddie Bracken) kibbitzing with a bartender (George Anderson) we are given a glimpse at the ride Sturges has planned.


Waiter: "Yes, Gentlemen."
Sgt. Heppelfinger: "One Beer."
Waiter: "One beer?"
Sgt. Heppelfinger: "One beer and no cracks." 

Out of the fog come six Marines. Down to their last 15 cents, they try to wrangle eats from the nightclub Manager (Paul Porcasi). He has been through this sort of thing before. Woodrow pays for their food and libations so naturally, they want to thank him. Nothing will be the same.

Woodrow was raised to be a Marine, having been born almost at the moment his father was killed at the Battle of Belleau Wood in WWI, receiving a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor. Woodrow's new friend, Sergeant Heppelfinger (William Demarest) had been in the same battle and now feels an obligation to his old Sarge's son. One month after enlisting, Woodrow was medically discharged for chronic hayfever. Out of shame, he has delayed his homecoming. Working at a shipyard, Woodrow has let everyone thing he has been on active duty the past year.


Bugsy (Freddie Steele) is one of the Marines befriending Woodrow. Bugsy is an orphan and thinks Woodrow has acted shamefully toward his mother (Georgia Caine). Bugsy phones Mrs. Truesmith at home in Oakridge, California and tells her Woodrow is returning the very next day.

SgtHeppelfinger: "You gotta wear something. You can't come back from the Solomons with nothing. Not the son of Sergeant Truesmith." ... "I don't even remember what I got it for. I think it was for pulling a Frenchman out of a creek."

Sergeant Heppelfinger and the others come up with an ingenious plan to save Woodrow's face. He will be loaned a uniform with medals, and sneak home - mom will be happy and no one will be any the wiser. Woodrow is helpless in the face of this gung-ho's group desire to do him some good.


SgtHeppelfinger: "Lies! Those ain't lies! Those are campaign promises! They expect 'em!" 

Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and men! The entire town is at the railway station. Bands are playing. The mayor (Raymond Walburn) makes a speech. Woodrow's girl Libby (Ella Raines) pretends not to be engaged to the mayor's son Forrest (Bill Edwards). His mother's mortgage is forgiven, a statue is being planned, and the opposition party presses Woodrow to run for mayor. Sergeant Heppelfinger and crew perpetuate the fiction of Woodrow's heroism.


Jake (Al Bridge): "This is a free country. They can vote for whoever they like."
Mayor Noble: "But, that's disgraceful!"

The Sturges stock company of Demarest, Walburn, Bridge, Jimmy Conlon, Esther Howard, et al, are out in full force. Whether he fashioned his dialogue for their talents or it was the other way around or a bit of both, a Sturges film guarantees a myriad delight of language and acting.

Whether it is an intimate scene such as one between the mayor, his campaign manager and a dinner tray or a crowded railway station with four bands and an opera singer (Ida Kitaeva), Sturges is in full control of the movie and what he wants it to say. One viewing is hardly enough to capture all of the wit and the layers in the performances.

The comedy of misunderstanding is Sturges' forte and the misunderstandings and complications, plus the contrasting intentions keep mounting until the expected blowout and the unexpected lump in the throat end. Hail the Conquering Hero is a wild ride.


SgtHeppelfinger: "Give me those six tickets, will you? We still got a little work to do in our own line. So long, kid."
MrsTruesmith (to Bugsy): "Goodbye, dear."
Woodrow: "Will you come back?"
SgtHeppelfinger: "Well, we always come back before. So long, everybody. See youse in church."

The world is full of all types of heroes. Some of them wear uniforms. The raucous and foolhardy marines in our movie are soft enough to help out the son of an old pal. I'm sure their counterparts can be found in real life.


Of note

Freddie Steele, 1936 and 1937 World Middleweight Boxing Champion who played "Bugsy" was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1989.


Veterans Day note

The following members of the Hail the Conquering Hero company served with the United States Army during World War One: Preston Sturges, Raymond Walburn, Franklin Pangborn, William Demarest, Al Bridge, and Robert Warwick.












Friday, November 1, 2019

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR NOVEMBER ON TCM


Perhaps the movies didn't like Clifton Webb or Clifton Webb didn't like the movies, but after a few film appearances ending in 1925, Mr. Webb confined his career to the stage. He made a triumphant return to the screen at the age of 55 as Waldo Lydecker in the 20th Century Fox 1944 production of Laura based on Vera Caspary's novel. The character of the acerbic writer was a role Webb was born to play, and he basically played it again in his follow-up feature The Dark Corner. He then played the snobbish and shallow Elliot Templeton in the film version of Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge.


The question now seemed to be whether Clifton Webb's disdainful and witty delivery could be translated into a comedy. Gwen Davenport's 1947 hit novel Belvedere provided just the character test for the actor and his audience.


"Mrs. King, I happen to dislike all children intensely. But I can assure you that I can readily attend to their necessary though unpleasant wants."

Lynn Belvedere is a genius. The King family needs a genius. They simply don't realize it yet. Robert Young and Maureen O'Hara star as Harry and Tacey King. He is a fledgling lawyer and she's a busy housewife. They have three rambunctious children played by Anthony Sydes (Tony), Larry Olsen (Larry) and Raymond C. Hair Jr. (Ronny, the baby). These energetic youngsters have frightened away babysitters and their latest housekeeper is leaving in a huff.

Through correspondence only, Lynn Belvedere is engaged in the position of housekeeper/childcare provider. Mrs. King is shocked to realize her new hirer is not a woman. Of course, it is ridiculous! Whoever heard of such a thing! It can't last, but it does. Mr. Belvedere proves to be perfection in the role of "nanny". Still, questions arise. Why would a genius want to move to ---

"Hummingbird Hill which is a typical suburban community ... where everybody knows a little more than a little about everybody."

Aha, could it be that insight into the life of the typical suburbanite is necessary for Mr. Belvedere's upcoming book? In the course of completing his own goal, Mr. Belvedere becomes an essential and beloved member of the family, and Hummingbird Hill will never be the same.

Maureen O'Hara, Robert Young, Clifton Webb

Sitting Pretty is Domestic Comedy at its most delightful with just a touch of food for thought; not enough to cause indigestion. F. Hugh Herbert was awarded the Writers Guild of America prize for Best Written American Comedy in adapting Ms. Daveport's novel.

You might go into it thinking that Clifton Webb is the whole show, and he is, but don't overlook the rest of the cast. Robert Young and Maureen O'Hara handle their roles with their customary ease which belies the work.

Richard Hadyn, Maureen O'Hara

You'll get a kick out of Ed Begley as Harry's boss, and Louise Allbritton and John Russell as the King's friends. Betty Lynn is a teenager crushing hard on Harry and will be a treat for fans of her work as Thelma Lou on The Andy Griffith Show. If the rest of the cast hadn't stayed on their toes, the whole shebang would have been stolen out from under their noses by Richard Hadyn as the neighborhood snoop, Clarence Appleton.

There would be more comedies in Clifton Webb's movie future (Dreamboat, Mister Scoutmaster), including the sequels Mr. Belvedere Goes to College, 1949 and Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell, 1951. Walter Lang, the director of our movie and Mr. Webb would work together again in Cheaper by the Dozen, 1950.


Gwen Davenport's character has legs that carried him to a 1985-1990 television sitcom starring Christopher Hewett. Earlier attempts to bring the character to television featured Reginald Gardiner, Hans Conreid, and Victor Buono. Will the genius be revived in the 21st century?


TCM is screening Sitting Pretty on Thursday, November 28th at 8:00 PM on a day devoted to Family Favorites. I think you will find it a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, and you will adore Lynn Aloysius Belvedere.


Bonus:  Lux Radio Theatre, Mr. Bevedere Goes to College, 1950












Tuesday, October 29, 2019

DARK AND DEEP: THE GOTHIC HORROR BLOGATHON: The Hound of the Baskervilles, novel and 1939 film


Pale Writer Gabriela is giving us a Hallowe'en treat with Dark and Deep: The Gothic Horror Blogathon. Click HERE for your autumn chills.


Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles with illustrations by Sidney Paget was serialized in The Strand Magazine in 1901/1902 and published as a novel in 1902. The Sherlock Holmes mystery has been continually in print and is considered a favourite tale of that most favourite character.

The Gothic setting and nature of this murder mystery tinged with the supernatural reach out from the pages as Dr. Watson recounts the unfathomably suspicious events and the gloomy atmosphere of Grimpen Mire and Baskerville Hall. The dread which weighs on our friend and storyteller makes every footstep in the dark, every flickering candle an object of suspense.

On a brisk evening in October, consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. John Watson are visited by a Dr. Mortimer of Devon. The recent death of Sir Charles Baskerville of Baskerville Hall has been blamed on heart failure, but was there something sinister behind that heart failure?


Dr. Mortimer relates the legend of the Baskervilles in which an evil ancestor, Hugo, kidnapped and caused the death of a neighbour's daughter. Hugo was then overtaken by a supernatural hound and himself killed, dooming the future line of Baskerville. Sherlock Holmes obliges Dr. Mortimer's request for protection for Sir Henry, the new heir arriving from Canada. He will send Dr. Watson to observe and report. The idea may be too fantastic for a modern man of science, yet Dr. Mortimer has kept secret something he saw on the grounds of Baskerville Hall near Sir Charles' body.

"Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound."
- Dr. Mortimer



"A few minutes later we had reached the lodge-gates, a maze of fantastic tracery in wrought iron, with weather-bitten pillars on either side, blotched with lichens, and surmounted by the boars' heads of the Baskervilles."
- Dr. Watson

Watson recounts to Holmes the various people of the household and village in his daily reports to Holmes. This includes the news of an escaped convict evading capture on the moors. Sir Henry proves himself an amiable host, master, and friend. He even has hopes of romance. However, in the gloom and isolation, and mysterious actions among servants and acquaintances, it becomes very easy to believe in the legend of the hound.


"The fellow is wary and cunning to the last degree. It is not what we know, but what we can prove. If we make some false move the villain may escape us yet."
- Sherlock Holmes


"A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face which broke upon us out of the wall of fog.
- Dr. Watson

The story is perhaps overly familiar to many of us after all these years, but on a brisk October evening, such as the one on which Dr. Mortimer recited the legend, there is nothing better than to sit in a circle of light with your favourite beverage at your side as you travel with Dr. Watson to the treacherous Grimpen Mire.



The instant popularity of Sherlock Holmes on the page naturally led to popularity and success on the stage and screen. Universally acknowledged as one of Hollywood's finest years, 1939 saw lasting movie magic. One piece of superlative casting occurred when Darryl F. Zanuck of Twentieth Century Fox had the idea that versatile Basil Rathbone would make a perfect Sherlock Holmes. The studio was noted for several worthy literary adaptations and historical dramas such as Kidnapped and Lloyds of London. It was time for The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Holmes was in place, and now they needed a Watson. In Nigel Bruce's unpublished memoir Games, Gossip and Greasepaint (found online), depressed when his 1938 gig in a Broadway play closed too quickly, a telegram from Mr. Rathbone cheered Mr. Bruce. "Do come back to Hollywood, Willie dear boy, and play Doctor Watson to my Sherlock Holmes. We'll have great fun together."


Nigel Bruce, Lionel Atwill, Basil Rathbone, Richard Greene

The outstanding cast surrounding this new team included Richard Greene as Sir Henry, Lionel Atwill and Beryl Mercer as Dr. and Mrs. Mortimer, and Wendy Barrie and Morton Lowery as the Stapletons. John Carradine and Eily Malyon play the Baskerville Hall servants whose names were changed from Barrymore to Barrowman. Barlow Borland is the contentious neighbour Frankland. E.E. Clive is a delight as a London cabbie. The doomed Sir Charles was played by Ian Maclaren, Seldon the convict by Nigel De Brulier, and the wicked Sir Hugo by Ralph Forbes in a flashback/storytelling sequence. Mary Gordon made the first of seven appearances as Mrs. Hudson with Rathbone and Bruce. 

Nigel Bruce, Beryl Mercer, Richard Greene, Wendy Barrie, Barlowe Borland

Ernest Pascal (Lloyds of London) adapted the novel and Sidney Lanfield (Station West) directed. Gwen Wakeling (Samson and Delilah) designed the costumes. Each character looks appropriate for each scene and the gowns for the ladies are beautiful and detailed. Eerie music from 20th Century Fox stalwarts Cyril Mockridge, David Raksin, David Buttolph and Charles Maxwell contributed greatly to the evocative atmosphere of the film.

Baskerville Hall

The movie clocks in at 80 minutes and with not one wasted moment. We are introduced to Holmes and Watson in their Baker Street abode and treated to some exciting and witty London scenes. When the action changes to Baskerville Hall the superb work of art directors Richard Day (Dead End) and Hans Peters (The Picture of Dorian Gray) truly comes to the fore with its Gothic nature. The set for the Dartmoor countryside and Baskerville Hall took up an entire soundstage and is filled with hills, caves, and the dangerous marshland. A persistent fog was created and pumped onto the set, adding to the atmosphere of suspense and dread. Cinematographer J. Peverell Marley (Suez) creates an inky palate keeping us off-guard and looking over our shoulders.

Richard Greene, at 21-years of age, was top-billed as Sir Henry, followed by Basil Rathbone as Holmes. Leading lady Wendy Barrie was next and then Nigel Bruce as Watson. Perhaps this indicates that the studio was not certain if the audience would take to this new team. Certainly, the audience would be more than aware that they were going to see a Sherlock Holmes story. The film proved to be such a great success both at home and internationally that before the year was out, an adaptation of William Gillette's play was underway, and we had Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as the stars of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce

Sherlock Holmes: "Murder, my dear Watson, refined, cold-blooded murder. There's no doubt about it in my mind. Or, perhaps I should say in my imagination. That's where crimes are conceived, and where they're solved, in the imagination."

The team of Rathbone and Bruce would make 12 modern-day set Holmes films for Universal Studios between 1942 and 1946, also performing in a popular radio series. For many of us, these actors were our introduction to the world of Baker Street and the films from 20th Century Fox are a special treat for giving us the characters in their true Victorian/Edwardian setting.















Friday, October 25, 2019

THE HONEYMOONERS BLOGATHON: Musical Moments from the Classic 39


Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlogII is at it again! This time it is The Honeymooners Blogathon and HERE is where you can join all the madcap fun.

Jackie Gleason
1916-1987

A strong sense of musicality permeates the entertainment legacy of Jackie Gleason from his alternately brash and sensitive characters to his popular orchestral albums to the enjoyable musical versions of The Honeymooners in the 1960s.

The musical moments from the classic original 39 episodes begin with Gleason's composition You're My Greatest Love, the familiar theme to The Honeymooners ("with the stars Art Carney, Audrey Meadows, and Joyce Randolph").




THE $99,000 ANSWER
Original airdate: January 28, 1956


Herb Norris (game show host): "Tell me, have you discussed this at home? Have you talked it over with your wife?"

Ralph Kramden (contestant): "Yes, I did and regardless, I am going for the $99,000 answer!"

Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden's success is assured. A contestant on a television game show, The $99,000 Answer he must answer questions on the subject of popular songs that will take him over hurdles from $600 to $99,000.

If there is one thing Ralph knows, it is popular songs. He wasn't like those other bums in the neighborhood growing up, hanging around poolrooms and the corner. Every night in the week he was up in some ballroom listening to a dance band!

Alice would be very happy if Ralph came home with easy money from the easy questions offered in the first couple of hurdles. Ralph sees only his dreams coming true and leaves nothing to chance. A week of work (unpaid) is taken off for study. Tons of sheet music is purchased in advance of the winnings. Mrs. Manicotti of the apartment building tests him on songs from Italian classics. Mr. Garrity, another neighbor, doesn't murder Ralph for keeping everybody up all night. A piano is rented for his pal Ed Norton to play and test Ralph's knowledge. Of course, Norton's quirk of limbering up with the same tune annoys Ralph to excess, but that is a price that must be paid.

We hear snippets of Return to Sorrento, Shuffle Off To Buffalo, Don't Fence Me In, Melancholy Serenade and Swannee River before being treated to one of the greatest punchlines in television history.


YOUNG AT HEART
Original airdate February 11, 1956

Add caption
Ralph: "Let's face it, Alice, we've been out of the age range of roller skating since Alf Landon stopped being presidential timber."

A couple of teenagers (Suzanne Miller and Ronnie Burns) convince Alice that she and Ralph are in a rut. She wants to go out and do the things they used to do. She wants to feel young again. There is no reason why they can't go dancing and roller-skating. Ralph feels ashamed for making fun of the idea and plans to make it up to Alice. However, Ralph's ideas of what is "hip" coalesced twenty years ago, so Norton takes up the task of teaching Ralph a new dance. Kay Starr's record The Hucklebuck gives Art Carney and Jackie Gleason a chance to strut their stuff.


The elegant The Skaters Waltz poses no problems for Alice, Trixie, and Norton. However, Ralph has a dreadful time on roller-skates. His embarrassment turns to laughter as he learns the less painful lesson of staying young through memory.


MAMA LOVES MAMBO
Original airdate March 3, 1956


Ralph: "Wait a minute! If I told you once, I told you a thousand times, not to carry a heavy wash like that! Now the next time you have a heavy wash like that, make two trips!"

Ralph Kramden is a man of extreme emotions. When he hears that the new neighbor has grey hair and lives alone, his heart is filled with compassion and pity. He makes plans to visit after dinner and play a game of checkers with the old fellow. Ralph's pity turns to jealousy when he sees that Carlos Sanchez (Charles Korvin) is more silver-haired than grey and that he dances in a night club and will be home during the day with Alice. When the suave dancer teaches the ladies of the building the Mambo Ralph orders him and every ardent dance student out of the apartment.

When Carlos admonishes Ralph, Norton, and Mr. Manicotti for not treating their wives politely and kindly for all the things they do, Ralph is sincerely chastened. Of course, his efforts to be a better husband are so extravagant that Alice begs him to go back to being the old Ralph. At least, Ralph did get Carlos to teach them all the Mambo.

Carlos uses the Tito Rodriguez record Claves for Mambo to teach his neighbors the dance.




YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN
Original airdate: March 24, 1956


Ralph: "You know something? I did hit that high note once: The day I married you."
Ralph aims for the high note. "Well, that's a little piece of it, Alice."

Ralph is in a reflective mood. The lack of major success in his life is exemplified by coming across his old cornet. Ralph sees his failure in never sticking with anything long enough to become a success. He wants to hit that high note at the end of Carnival of Venice.

A visit from former tenants of the apartment, an elderly couple called the Gunthers brings it all home. Mr. Gunther had taken stock of his life forty years ago, enumerating his weak and strong points, and became a business success. Ralph tries following Mr. Gunther's example and takes a Civil Service exam in hopes of advancing his career. When he fails the exam, Alice helps Ralph to see what good has come out of his attempt to better himself.

Alice: "I like the new Ralph Kramden and I'm not gonna let you give up. And if the old Ralph Kramden ever shows his face around here again, I am gonna hit him right on top of the head with this cornet."













Tuesday, October 15, 2019

CMBA 2019 FALL BLOGATHON, ANNIVERSARIES: Stray Dog, 1949


The Classic Movie Blog Association (CMBA) celebrates its 10th anniversary with the Fall 2019 blogathon, a salute to film anniversaries. HERE is the link to the contributions.


Stray Dog was my introduction to Akira Kurosawa; an introduction that occurred far later than it should have or, perhaps in the grand scheme of things, when the timing was right. The groundbreaking Japanese film is 70 years old this year and is a perfect time capsule of an era and startling fresh filmmaking. Kurosawa and frequent collaborator Ryuzo Kikushima first wrote Stray Dog as a crime novel before turning it into a screenplay.

The contemporary (1949) crime drama could easily be subtitled The Coming of Age of a Cop. A stifling heatwave has the entire population on edge, no one more so than rookie Homicide detective Murakami (Toshiro Mifune). The necessary urban scourge of public transportation put strangers in uncomfortably close quarters, both cops and crooks. The result of Murakami's transit journey finds his department-issued Colt revolver pinched. The former soldier presents himself to his superior in abject disgrace, expecting the worst for his transgression.

Toshiro Mifune

Murakami's employers have more understanding than the young man has for himself. He is quickly forgiven and offered guidance with the investigation. Experienced department heads and fellow workers in records and forensics give practical sympathy and point promising avenues to follow. Those avenues will include much pounding of the beat.

"apres guerre"
The French term for the post-war years used by Chief Detective Sato when discussing Murakami's situation.

The post-war Japan setting presents the opportunity to present two sides of the young returning veteran. Detective Murakami saw much beastly behavior and upon returning to Tokyo had his knapsack stolen. Bitterness filled his heart yet he turned his face toward justice and his current career. An introverted young man named Shinjiro Yusa (Isao Kimura) was traumatized by the war and by the theft of his belongings upon returning to Tokyo. He turned to crime. Eventually, he would come into possession of Murakami's pistol and use it in increasing violent robberies, culminating in murder.

Noriko Sengoku, Toshiro Mifune

One of the pickpocket gang was a "middle-aged lady" and the mug shots lead to Ogin (Noriko Sengoku). While the pickpocket and Officer Ichikawa (Reikichi Kawamura) reminisce about their old days, the young detective observes and learns. Anxious to discover more about his gun from the tight-lipped Ogin, Murakami follows her. Filmed on city street locations, it is a chase that is amusing for the detective's doggedness in the face of Ogin's increasing frustration. Eventually, the pickpocket joins the ranks of the protective superior officers at headquarters. She offers the tired young detective a cold beer and the benefit of good advice for the next phase of the investigation.

Murakami sets out to find those who deal in contraband firearms. He becomes a down-and-outer, roaming the back alleys with a desperate and haunted look, waiting for someone to reach out with an illicit offer. Once more, Kurosawa and cinematographer Asakazu Nakai film the seedier sections of Tokyo capturing the atmosphere, the faces, and even evoking the smells of the underworld. Murakami's headstrong anxiety about his stolen gun clouds his judgment and in arresting a contact, misses his man. A victim is wounded by the gun in a robbery and Murakami feels he must resign.

Lt. Nakajima (Gen Shimizu): "Bad luck either makes a man or destroys him. Are you gonna let it destroy you? Depending on how you take it, bad luck can be a big break."

Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Awaji

Murakami is placed on a team with Chief Detective Sato (Takeshi Shimura), a much-respected officer with many commendations. Sato's reputation has Murakami's built-in respect and the relationship between the two characters flourishes.

Once more Kurosawa takes his camera to a unique setting as a gun-runner named Honda (Reizaburo Yamamoto) is traced to Korakuen Stadium. Filming an actual baseball game must have been interesting for film and baseball fans of the day, nostalgic for a later generation, and interesting history for still later viewers. It makes for a tense and exciting incident in the film.

The investigation takes a deeply emotional turn as Sato turns to murder during a break-in. The grief of the victim's husband wounds Murakami deeply. Sato tries to help his young protege navigate the pitfalls of becoming too involved with crime victims or alternately hardening your heart against any emotion. The necessities of investigating citizens at such a vulnerable time must be dealt with as the team learns about Yusa's home life and background. They discover the soft spot in his heart for childhood friend Harumi Namika (Keiko Awaji). Harumi is a young chorus girl and this avenue brings varied and quirky show business characters into the officer's circle.

Murakami is asked to "tough it out" on a rainy night as the tumultuous mother/daughter relationship between Harumi and her single mother may lead to Yusa's whereabouts. Sato investigates a possible lead at a hotel. He has left his gun with Murakami and must face the frightened Yusa alone.

Toshiro Mifune, Isao Kimura

Detective Murakami thrives and matures during the incident of his stolen pistol. He uses his head when confronting Yusa, yet his heart still feels the pain.

Detective Murakami: "They say there is no such thing as a bad man. Only bad situations. Come to think of it, you have to feel sorry for Yusa."

Chief Detective Sato: "Oh, no. Thinking like that won't get you anywhere as a cop. It is easy to develop delusions, chasing criminals all day. We can't forget the many sheep a lone wolf leaves wounded."

Whatever the future holds for Detective Murakami, he will be a different cop from the one who lost his pistol on that crowded streetcar. His lessons and experiences will mold him. In some ways, he will be like his mentors, but in other ways, the war years will continue to shape his character.

The familiar mean streets of film-noir are waiting for you in Stray Dog with the added cinematic experience of stepping into another place and time through the artistry and technical skill of Akira Kurosawa.





Congratulations to founder Rick Armstrong and the Classic Movie Blog Association on the milestone of its 10th Anniversary.
















Friday, October 11, 2019

THE SECOND SPENCER TRACY AND KATHARINE HEPBURN BLOGATHON: Keeper of the Flame (1942)


Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood is co-hosting with Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood The Second Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn Blogathon. The celebration runs from October 11 - 13. Check out the interesting contributions HERE.


The 1942 release Keeper of the Flame is an intellectual thriller that relies on its sterling cast and atmospheric filming to maintain the audience's attention. The political nature of the script was unusual for MGM at the time. While war movies of a morale-boosting nature were among their output, only The Mortal Storm in 1940 stands out as facing harsh political realities.

I.A.R. Wylie
1885-1959

Donald Ogden Stewart, Oscar-winner for The Philadelphia Story, adapted the 1942 novel by I.A.R. Wylie. Ida Wylie was an Australian-born author whose Hollywood career began in 1915 and ended in 1950s television. It is assumed that the genesis for Ms. Wylie's story was the infamous "Business Plot" of 1933. A retired Marine General brought claims to the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities of an attempted Fascist Coup attempt against Franklin Roosevelt. Major General Smedley Butler said that he had been approached by wealthy businessmen eager to create a fascist veteran's organization with him as the figurehead. No prosecutions arose out of the allegations.

Keeper of the Flame was the second film starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn following their success with the romantic comedy Woman of the Year. The resulting film shows a struggle between the political theme vs. the romance. However, director George Cukor, working for the first time with Tracy and the 6th with Hepburn, obviously had a way with the actors and the talkie material. Cinematographer William H. Daniels created a fine moody backdrop for the unfolding tale of deceit and secrets.

Robert Forrest has lost his life in a tragic accident. Robert Forrest was an honoured veteran of WWI and a political force who founded the America Forward Association. Robert Forrest was the idol of thousands of youngsters and a beacon of light for many lost adults. One such adult is reporter Steve O'Malley played by Spencer Tracy. O'Malley has been covering the war in Europe and now he is in the small town which houses Forrest's estate to write the life story of that great man. O'Malley wants to keep the beacon burning bright.

Audrey Christie, Stephen McNally

Gloom permeates the town now crowded with newspaper reporters. Gloom is in every headline, and gloom on the faces of the people. Everyone seems to be caught up in the Robert Forrest mystique. Only reporter compatriates Jane Harding played by Audrey Christie and Freddie Ridges played by Horace (Stephen) McNally keep the detached attitude necessary to do their job.

Steve O'Malley befriends the young son of the Forrest Estate's groundskeeper, and this is his entre to the widow of Robert Forrest. Young Jeb Rickards is played by Darryl Hickman and the youngster is wracked with guilt that he didn't stop the accident. His father is played by Howard da Silva, who served with Forrest in the war and seems strangely bitter.

Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy

Christine Forrest played by Katharine Hepburn is by turn oddly aloof and effusively forthcoming. The dynamics of the household are a puzzle as Forrest's secretary played by Richard Whorf seems to hold uncommon sway, while also answering to unseen forces. Among those who lead Steve O'Malley down unexpected and terrifying revelations is a philosophical cabbie played by Percy Kilbride, a clear-eyed doctor played by Frank Craven, an angry young cousin of Christine's played by Forrest Tucker, and Margaret Wycherly as Robert Forrest's quite mad mother. These many subplots are given short shrift which tends to give the film a lopsided feel, but the core mystery retains its interest to the end.  

The chemistry between Tracy and Hepburn lights up the screen, while the romance between Steve and Christine is underplayed for the sake of the tension and secrecy. The true nature of Robert Forrest and his political ambitions will not be revealed without tragedy and loss. Steve O'Malley will write an entirely different story than the one he started out to produce.

Keeper of the Flame is, sadly, a most timely story of the manipulation of the masses for nefarious goals. The film tells its story with great polish and an atmosphere of dread that should engross many viewers.












Friday, October 4, 2019

THE UNEMPLOYMENT BLOGATHON: Gold Diggers of 1933


Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlogII is hosting The Unemployment Blogathon. We've all been there, and so have the movies. Check out how many right HERE.


The Warner Brothers Studio output in the early 1930s had a gritty and realistic touch that extended from their crime pictures and dramas to their musicals; backstage fare like 42nd Street that highlights the precarious and competitive existence of the troupers, gypsies, and vaudevillians.

Aline MacMahon, Joan Blondell, Ginger Rogers, Ruby Keeler

Carol King (Joan Blondell), Trixie Lorraine (Aline MacMahon), and Polly Parker (Ruby Keeler) are our Gold Diggers of 1933, out of work chorus girls. They had a job, or they thought they had a job. The show was about to open but a legal attachment to collect for credit has put producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) out of business, and everyone dependent on the show out of luck.

Barney: "This is our dress rehearsal. I got a great show. It opens tomorrow night. You can't do this to me. Just because I don't pay a few bills. When the show opens I will pay up."

It's the way of the world, isn't it? A little more time and a little more money and everything will work out, but time and money always seem to be in short supply.

Carol, Trixie, and Polly have been through this routine before. So have hundreds of other girls. It's a tough world in 1933 with U.S. unemployment at 25 percent and the closing of 5000 banks. As if the show business wasn't enough of a struggle!

Trixie: "I can remember when that alarm clock used to ring. Those were the good old days when you had to get up. Come on, let's get up and look for work."

Life goes on. Girls have to eat, even if it means stealing the neighbour's milk bottle. And, of course, romance will play its little games. Polly and songwriter Brad Roberts (Dick Powell) have been exchanging longing looks and witticisms. When Barney comes to commiserate with the girls he gets an earful of Brad's songs and the producer is inspired for another show. If only they could get their hands on the dough. 

Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler

Money, apparently, is no problem for struggling songwriter Brad who offers to front the show if they keep his name out of it. Brad's struggles have nothing to do with the practicalities of life as experienced by his newfound friends. Brad's struggles are with his snobby, and terribly rich, Back Bay family who object to his show business aspirations. The secret of his familial shame leads Trixie to convince everyone that Brad is a crook who is backing the show with ill-gotten gain.

Where Brad came by his money is a decent complication, but Gold Diggers of 1933 add to it when Brad's family catches up to him. Older brother J. Lawrence Bradford (Warren William) is tasked with bringing the errant musician back to the Arrow shirt collar fold. The stiff-necked Mr. Bradford is accompanied to New York by Faneul H. Peabody (Guy Kibbee), who is overtaken by nostalgia for a youthful dalliance with a chorus girl. More complications are coming our way.

Joan Blondell, Warren William

J. Lawrence Bradford mistakes Carol for Polly, the "hussy" who is luring kid brother away from his rightful place in society. The gang lets the deception continue in order to teach J. Lawrence Bradford a thing or two. Lawrence falls for the Carol, the phony Polly, and Carol, sap that she is, falls for the stubborn millionaire.

Aline MacMahon, Guy Kibbee

Meanwhile, Trixie takes "Fanny" Peabody to her heart and pocketbook. He's looking to recapture his youth and she's looking for a little security. They are a perfect pair. Brad and Polly were always fated and, with not a minute to spare before the big finale, all romantic entanglements are untangled.

The trenchant dialogue by David Boehm (Employee's Entrance) and Ben Markson (What Price Hollywood?) is a pleasure to the ears under these actors directed by Mervyn LeRoy. The musical aspects of Gold Diggers of 1933 has the finest of pedigrees with production numbers created by Busby Berkeley and songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.

Ginger Rogers

The movie opens with Miss Fortune (Ginger Rogers) singing The Gold Diggers Song (We're in the Money) in Pig Latin. The lovely melody of Shadow Waltz is set to a mesmerizing choreographic display. The risque Pettin' in the Park is the epitome of pre-code cheek. I've Got a Right to Sing a Torch Song would become a studio staple in the coming years featured both instrumentally and vocally in a number of other features. All of these incredible musical numbers lead up to the highlight of this film of highlights, Remember My Forgotten Man.

Etta Moten

Harry Warren's driving melody and Al Dubin's downbeat lyrics paint a picture of true-life despair and desperation. Joan Blondell gives an aching performance along with featured soloist Etta Moten, who dubs Blondell for the final verse in Remember My Forgotten Man. The imagery of marching soldiers and cheering throngs followed by humiliation and breadlines must have spoken all too clearly to the audience of the day as it speaks all too clearly to the audience today.





The National Film Preservation Board, USA placed Gold Diggers of 1933 on the National Film Registry for culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films in 2003.













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