Friday, May 31, 2019

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR JUNE ON TCM


"It hurts to be tricked and cheated by someone you loved and believed in, but that doesn't give you the right to take justice into your own hands, trample on the hearts of others and walk out on life."

Helen Walker

Imagine you are an avaricious and scheming woman like Irene Williams played by Helen Walker (Nightmare Alley). You have succeeded in landing a wealthy husband who worships the ground you walk on, bows to your every whim, and gives you every luxury imaginable. Wouldn't you quit while you're ahead?

Brian Donlevy

Imagine you are the luckiest man in the world, which is how industrialist Walter Williams played by Brian Donlevy (Beau Geste) considers himself, and suddenly you are not. You are a potential murder victim at the hands of your wife and her lover, and after defending yourself, a man with no name or home to call his own.

Ella Raines, Brian Donlevy

Imagine you are a young widow running a small town gas station like Marsha Peters played by Ella Raines (Phantom Lady). Fate hits you with a stranger whose past is definitely mysterious and may be shady. Fate also makes this stranger the fellow you happen to fall in love with, and that is just the beginning of Fate's dirty tricks. Marsha is smack-dab in the middle of the Williams' unfinished business, and it is a matter of life and death.

Ella Raines, Anna May Wong, Charles Coburn

All of those disparate threads come together in a mystery for a veteran cop, Lt. Quincy played with a gentle Irish brogue by Charles Coburn (Has Anybody Seen My Gal). Cops aren't supposed to take sides, but Quincy trusts his instincts as Impact's procedural aspects blend with its intrigue, romance, and courtroom drama. Everything may hinge on Anna May Wong (Shanghai Express).

Produced by Harry and Leo Popkin, businessmen turned movie producers who gave us favourites like And Then There Were None and Champagne for Caesar. Impact joins D.O.A. and The Thief in their crime/noir output. Arthur Lubin, who effortless went between Francis the Talking Mule and Abbott and Costello to Phantom of the Opera and Footsteps in the Fog, directed the Jay Dratler (Pitfall) and Dorothy Davenport (Mrs. Wallace Reid) screenplay.

Rise and shine! TCM is airing Impact at 6 AM on Monday, June 10th. The theme for the day appears to be secret or hidden identities with Hollow Triumph and The Scarlet Pimpernel also among the titles.












Friday, May 24, 2019

THE GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON: Brian Donlevy as Sergeant Markoff, Beau Geste (1939)


Karen of Shadows and Satin, Kristina of  Speakeasy and Ruth of  Silver Screenings are hosting The Great Villain Blogathon for 2019. Look for all the baddies on May 24th to the 26th. Day 1 Recap  Day 2 Recap  Day 3 Recap  Wrap-up


P.C. Wren's 1924 adventure novel Beau Geste is a touchstone in the genre, giving us the most honourable and likable of heroes in the Geste brothers, and a villain to scorn through the ages in Sergeant Major Lajaune. Popular sequels followed this novel, but it is the 1924 book which is the basis for the many screen versions of the story, along with its many comic parodies. Familiarity breeds humour while also cementing fond regard for a timeless classic.


My first encounter with Beau Geste was through the Classics Illustrated comic book. My first movie version was the 1939 release produced and directed by William A. Wellman. Therefore, my first film antagonist in the story is the renamed Sergeant Markoff played by Brian Donlevy who remains the definitive actor in that role in my eyes.

Donald O'Connor, Martin Spellman, David Holt, Ann Gillis, Billy Cook
Beau, Digby, Gussie, Isobel, John

Lady Patricia Brandon played by Heather Thatcher maintains Brandon Abbas for her relative, the profligate Sir Hugo. Under her care is Sir Hugo's heir Augustus, her ward Isobel Rivers, and three orphaned brothers, the Gestes. The boys are Michael known as "Beau", Digby, and John. The boys' heads and hearts are filled with games of heroism and loyalty of legend. Stories of King Arthur and of Viking funerals fill their childhood days. They are imaginative and loving youngsters with a strong bond that will carry them through these years to adulthood.

Ray Milland, Robert Preston, Gary Cooper
John, Digby, and Beau

The treasure of the Abbas is the Blue Water Sapphire upon whose worth the estate and raising of the children rely. When the sapphire is stolen, the suspects comprise a very narrow field and without a word of confession among them, the Gestes find their way to that place of forgotten men and men who want to forget, the French Foreign Legion.

The Geste brothers are under the command of Lieutenant Martin played by Harvey Stephens. He is a man in the brother's mold, who believes in service with honour. Unfortunately, the immediate supervisor of the recruits in Sergeant Markoff, described by his Russian countryman the weasely Rasinoff played by J. Carroll Naish as a "mad man."

Rasinoff: "He was expelled from the Siberian penal colonies for cruelty. Then he entered the Legion and rose from the ranks."


Brian Donlevy
Sergeant Markoff

Markoff: "I am Sergeant Markoff. I make soldiers out of scum like you and I don't do it gently. You're the sloppiest looking lot I've ever seen. It's up to me to prevent you from becoming a disgrace to the Regiment. And I will prevent that if I have to kill half of you with work. But the half that lives will be soldiers. I promise you."

Lt. Martin does not approve of Markoff. "You're a good soldier, Markoff, but I doubt if you're a good Sergeant. If you're not, you won't last long in the Legion. Watch your step or I'll break you. That's all."

Sadism is not Markoff's only characteristic; he is also greedy. Rasinoff tips the sergeant off to the stolen sapphire when he recounts his eavesdropping of a Geste brothers conversation. Sergeant Markoff has added to his plan of becoming an officer to becoming a wealthy officer. The Gestes are now under his special purview. When it falls to his duty to assign troops in an upcoming deployment, Digby is sent to Fort Tokotu while Beau and John are going to Fort Zinderneuf under the tender mercy of Markoff.

Fort Zinderneuf is the site of much of Markoff's malevolence, and the sad death of Lieutenant Martin. In his heart, Martin must know that Markoff would never heed the admonishment that "The men must be led, not driven."

Markoff: "Lt. Martin is dead. I am now in command. From this moment on, discipline at Fort Zinderneuf will be severe. I promise you!"


Brian Donlevy, Gary Cooper
Sgt. Markoff, Beau Geste

Mutiny now becomes something more than muttered ravings among the men. Desperation leads to a desperate attempt, but Markoff has spies among the men and his plans are not disorganized by fear. It is a critical time for Fort Zinderneuf as the Touraregs attack. Markoff is in his element implementing his counter-attack. He will surely be made an officer for his success. His success includes taunting and torturing the men who so recently tried to overtake his command. He also plans to use the confusion to obtain the almost mythical sapphire which he desires.

Reinforcements from Fort Tokotu, including Digby, arrive at a ghost fort. Fort Zinderneuf is manned by only the corpses of the men. To Major Beaujolais played by James Stephenson falls the obligation of explaining the unexplainable in his report.

Only John has survived and to him falls the obligation of reaching Egypt and then home with the truth behind his brother's grand gesture regarding the Blue Water.

Bugler Digby is the first to enter the fort. To Digby falls the obligation of giving his beloved brother Beau a fiery Viking funeral with a fitting dog at his feet - Sergeant Markoff.


Oscar night: Thursday, February 29, 1940


Brian Donlevy
1901-1972

Brian Donlevy was nominated for the Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Beau Geste.
The Academy Award was won by Thomas Mitchell in Stagecoach.

Hans Dreier and Robert Odell were nominated for Best Art Direction for Beau Geste.
The Academy Award was won by Lyle R. Wheeler for Gone With the Wind.


Bonus (Thanks to Rich):
















Saturday, May 18, 2019

THE COPS BLOG-A-THON: Dragnet, 1954


The entertaining and thought-provoking site Dubsism is giving us The Cops Blog-a-Thon in honour of National Police Week. Our host, J-Dub says "This one is all about your favorite fictional cops." Click here to enjoy the contributions.


The story you about to see is true.
The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

The character of Sgt. Joe Friday is surely the most famous and influential fictional law enforcement officer in an entertainment history filled with such characters. One look at the 1948 film He Walked by Night with 28-year-old Jack Webb as police lab technician Lee Whitey, let's the audience in on the inspiration for Dragnet. Technical advisor Sgt. Marty Wynn, L.A.P.D. encouraged Webb's interest in creating a radio program focusing on a realistic look at police work and paved the way for use of real case files in the recreations.

"Jack Webb supervised every aspect of the show, from its writing to its sound effects to its hiring of actors. He insisted on a naturalistic by-play in both the dialogue and the acting, striving for something sounded "as real as a guy pouring a cup of coffee."
- Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.
Program Guide to Radio Spirits CD release, Dragnet, Crime to Punishment


Dragnet became a phenomenon on the radio from 1949-1957, and on television from 1951-1959, with a 1967-1970  reboot. It inspired homages, spoofs, knock-offs, novelizations, and merchandise.

Such was the popularity of the program that Warner Brothers produced a feature film version, the first for a television show, in 1954. Would an audience spend money on something they can watch or listen to for free at home? Dragnet on the big screen? All those familiar faces and voices from the unofficial Webb Stock Company in WarnerColor? There was indeed an audience.

Richard Boone, Dennis Weaver
Captain Hamilton of Intelligence and Captain Lohrman of Homicide

The murder of a low-level mob collector, Miller Starkie played by Dub Taylor brings five members of the local syndicate under suspicion. Max Troy played by Stacy Harris and Chester Davitt played by Willard Sage top the list. The combined departments of Intelligence, which investigates organized crime, and Homicide are brought to bear on the case. Sgt. Joe Friday and his partner Officer Frank Smith are just some of the officers assigned to the investigation.

Olan Soule
Ray Pinker, Forensics

The gathering of evidence begins with the Forensics team's extensive search of the crime scene. The technicians are able to provide solid information in the way of ballistics, footprints, etc. It will take many more man hours and legwork to build a case sufficient for the District Attorney played by Vic Perrin to take to a Grand Jury.

Stacy Harris, Ben Alexander, Jack Webb
Max Troy, Officer Frank Smith, Sergeant Joe Friday

The suspects are brought in quickly and separately for questioning. In this instance, the entire floor of a hotel is rented with multiple interrogations occurring at the same time. It is a long and arduous process for both sides of the law. In this pre-Miranda era, no lawyers are present but are used by the crooks as a constant threat.

Jack Webb, Ben Alexander, Dick Cathcart
Sergeant Joe Friday, Officer Frank Smith, Roy Cleaver, first trumpet 

Acquaintances and family members of those involved in the crime are interviewed. Many are reluctant to talk to the cops. Some will change their mind. You have to listen to a lot of people say a lot of things in the hopes that something useful will slip. Virginia Gregg plays Starkie's widow. Her help in the form of written records leads circuitously to the motive for the murder. Informants are contacted in the off chance that gossip or happenstance may lead to a break in the case. Friday's informant is a trumpet player played by trumpeter Dick Cathcart. Cue the musical interlude.

Note: I am aware that not all cops are jazz fans, but appreciate that cops played by Jack Webb are tuned that way.

Jack Webb, Ann Robinson, Ben Alexander
Sergeant Joe Friday, Officer Grace Downey, Officer Frank Smith

A restaurant/club partly owned by the main suspect is where the police hope they will find definitive information. It is a place where the syndicate boys can let their hair down and talk freely. A policewoman is wired for sound and sent undercover. The ploy leads to a solid lead and a brief but tense standoff between the cops and the crooks. I like Joe's early version of the Hill Street Blues admonishment to  "Be careful out there." to Officer Grace Downey played by Ann Robinson, "I just want to see you make sergeant."


William Boyett as the Grand Jury bailiff
Future Sgt. MacDonald, Adam 12

A strong circumstantial and evidence-based case has been built against the mob and ready to go to the Grand Jury. There is even an "eyeball witness" who can testify as to the time and whereabouts of a key figure. This witness played by James Griffith is frightened by the publicity the mobsters have received and decides to revoke his good citizenship honours.

Jesse Quinn: "...Besides, I don't see what all the fuss is. The papers all say the fella was a criminal. It don't seem worth the trouble."

Joe Friday: "Yeah. Well, I'm sorry you'd like a dead archbishop. We don't have one. We got a smalltime hoodlum."

Under the circumstances, the Grand Jury doesn't feel they can bring the case to trial. Captain Hamilton of Intelligence is angered by the result, and by the tactic of the mob relying on the Fifth Amendment while under oath, and orders his staff to go after them.

James Hamilton: "All right. Bumper to bumper tail. Put 'em to bed at night and get 'em up in the morning."


Jack Webb, Stacy Harris, Ben Alexander
Sergeant Joe Friday, Max Troy, Officer Frank Smith

Perhaps I should be shocked and outraged as Joe and Frank follow and harass Max Troy. I'm not. We know Troy is guilty and it is not as if the cops are doing anything more than making a nuisance of themselves. One big, pain-in-the-neck nuisance, to be sure, but it rather tickles the snarky side of my personality.

Note: I like to watch Stacy Harris keeping his temper bottled up.

Jack Webb, Ben Alexander
Sergeant Joe Friday, Officer Frank Smith

Joe and Frank let off a little steam by indulging in a bit of fisticuffs with some card playing thugs. Director Jack Webb had fun with this scene. A fist comes right for the camera and the WarnerColor blood is splashed about judiciously. Joe sports a dandy bruise for the rest of the picture. The punch-up made our boys happy. What's a chewing out from the Captain worth?

Note: Don't ask Joe what anything is worth. He's liable to tell you.

The murder and the investigation take its toll as the mob starts to turn on itself. A second out-of-state murder cracks the case. It leads to an irate widow played by Georgia Ellis giving the cops just the evidence needed. It is time for Friday and Smith to arrest Max Troy.


Note: Every case comes to an end, one way or another.












Thursday, May 16, 2019

NATIONAL CLASSIC MOVIE DAY: 5 Fave Films of the '50s


The Classic Film and TV Cafe leads us in celebrating the 5th annual National Classic Movie Day with a blogathon spotlighting cinema of the 1950s. Click here to join the celebration.

I will go out on a limb and suggest that most movie buffs, like me, love a list. Particularly a list that includes the word "favorite", such as - oh, let's say - 5 Favorite Films of the '50s. It sets the heart to beating and the mind to racing. The possibilities for any film fan are varied and endless! I toyed briefly with my 5 favorite 1950s westerns and then considered my 5 favorite 1950s movies beginning with the letter "S". I do believe, however, that it is best in such situations to go with your gut; the first titles that come to mind and here they are!



Shane is the movie that made me love movies. George Stevens' beautiful adaptation of Jack Schaefer's novella tells the story of love and violence as seen through the eyes of a young boy. Location filming in Wyoming and California bolsters the work of the superb ensemble of actors.

The film's Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography for Loyal Griggs, Best Screenplay for A.R. Gurthrie Jr. and for Supporting Actors Brandon de Wilde and Jack Palance attest to its excellence.


I love entering into the Hawksian world as represented by this team of men and women fighting an invasion from space at the top of the world in The Thing from Another World. I imagine myself with such skill and the ability to be so calm in the face of danger.

Truth be told, I probably don't have to watch the old "Thing" every single time it airs because it was committed to memory long ago. Nonetheless, it is fun to get together with old friends and fight our old foe.



I was born in the same year as What's Opera, Doc?. Unlike this favorite Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese short, I was not placed on the National Film Registry in 1992. Mel Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan voice Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd respectively in their inimitable fashion. What's Opera Doc? is a perfect spoof and, oddly enough, a perfect introduction to Wagnerian opera. If you can't view Wagner's work with a jaded eye, you may fall asleep before the night at the theatre is over.

Twenty-odd years ago at a Blockbuster on a busy Friday evening, What's Opera, Doc? was playing on the screen, soundless. A young fellow in the line-up and I began singing the parts, if not to the delight of the crowd, to our own.



Reginald Rose's original teleplay of Twelve Angry Men was nominated for the Primetime Emmy in 1955 and his screenplay for the 1957 film release for an Oscar in 1958. It is an impressive script detailing the conflict within a jury and the true meaning of "beyond a reasonable doubt."

12 Angry Men provides well-delineated roles for each of the characters with their interactions feeling organic and truthful as life and death hang in the balance. Proving himself during the Golden Age of Television, director Sidney Lumet made his feature debut with this film. The characters may feel trapped in a room on this wet and humid day, but the audience does not, as the camera subtly moves to bring us close to the emotions when required, and give us the aspect of a distant observer when needed.

Henry Fonda, the producer and the leading player in the fine ensemble, and director Lumet rehearsed the cast for weeks before filming and it is one of those creative touches that make 12 Angry Men as engrossing and timely today as it was when originally released.



Director John Ford fashioned The Quiet Man as an allegory, touching on the history, legends, myths, humor, and humanity of his beloved Ireland. It is a movie that brings burning tears to my eyes and raucous laughter to my lips.

Beautiful location filming and a dream cast are supported by Victor Young's lovely score. Its two Oscar wins out of seven nominations were for Best Director and Best Cinematography for Winton Hoch and Archie Stout.

I love the people of the Isle of Innisfree with all their stubborn pride and open hearts.













Friday, May 10, 2019

JOAN CRAWFORD, QUEEN OF THE SILVER SCREEN BLOGATHON: Grand Hotel (1932)


Pale Writer and The Poppity are hosting this blogathon tribute to Joan Crawford on May 11th and 12th. You can share in all the tributes to the amazing actress's career by clicking HERE or HERE. Thank you, Gabriela and Erica D!


Vicki Baum's successful 1929 novel Grand Hotel became a popular Broadway hit in 1930 as adapted by W.C. Drake. Among the familiar names involved in the long-running production, you will find Sam Jaffe, Sig Ruman, Albert Dekker, Walter Baldwin, Joseph Calleia, and assistant director Fritz Feld. Only one of that cast would make the trip to Hollywood for the 1932 film, Raefaella Ottiano as Suzanne (renamed Suzette), maid to ballerina Grusinskaya.

Grand Hotel, produced by Irving Thalberg is a distinctive film in MGMs history. Directed by Edmund Goulding and photographed by William Daniels, Grand Hotel is the only film to win the Best Picture Academy Award with no other nominations. It was the first of the all-star pictures, excluding revues which would throw everything and everybody at the screen. MGM would boast of having more stars than there were in the heavens and the players which make up the Grand Hotel ensemble had been audience draws since the recent silent era. Audiences to this day thrill as each name appears on the screen bringing these unforgettable characters to life. 

Each finely drawn character presents the actors with the opportunity to leave a lasting impression with the viewer, but perhaps no one took better advantage of the opportunity than 27-year-old Joan Crawford, the "baby" in the group as far as acting experience.

Joan Crawford

Joan was cast as Miss Flaemm, the hotel stenographer called "Flaemmchen." Her character interacts most prominently with Baron Von Geigern played by John Barrymore, Mr. Kringelein played by Lionel Barrymore, and General Director Preysing played by Wallace Beery. Of these three actors, Joan would only team with Lione again, in the 1936 political drama The Gorgeous Hussy.

Joan is outstanding as Flaemmchen, a young woman trained by life to be cynical, yet her heart has not yet hardened as much as it should. She is adorably modern flirting with the Baron, sweetly gentle with foolish and likable Kringelein, and steels herself admirably for all encounters with Preysing. If someone was not yet a fan of MGMs rising star, surely this role would put them firmly in her corner.

"Nobody ever gives you anything for nothing. You have to buy everything, and pay cash for it."
- Mr. Kringelein

We are visiting the Grand Hotel, Berlin for only two days and will peek into many lives. As Dr. Otternshlag, a wounded veteran played by Lewis Stone cryptically remarks "Grand Hotel -- always the same. People come. People go. Nothing ever happens." 

The Grand Hotel is currently the residence of the famous Russian ballerina, Grusinskaya played by Greta Garbo. She is lonely and deeply depressed, longing for the days of gone by before the Revolution. Baron Von Geigern is a down-on-his-luck aristocrat tasked with using his skill as a hotel thief to relief Grusinskaya of some of her jewellery.

Mr. Kringelein is a poor soul with a medical diagnosis of impending death. He has cashed in his savings and insurance and plans to spend his remaining time in the lap of luxury. Mr. Kringelein has spent his career as a bookkeeper for a textile firm run by the ambitious and ruthless Preysing. Preysing is also at the Grand Hotel in hopes of concluding a very important merger for his company.

Wallace Beery, Joan Crawford

Flaemmchen is a stenographer with scruples, but no illusions. If extra money and trips can be had for the price of being nice to businessmen, then a girl must do what she must. A lobby flirtation with the Baron introduces Flaemmchen to someone she considers fun and a real gentleman. A girl can also dream. Baron Von Geigern is indeed a kind man and he lavishes his kindness on little Kringelein and Flaemmchen. Perhaps Von Geigern feels a kindred spirit in Kringelein, the lost soul from another station in life. He genially teases Flaemmchen, understands her predicament with the dishonest Preysing, and refers to her as the "poor kid."

Greta Garbo, John Barrymore

The Baron is unsuccessful in his bid to steal from Grusinskaya as he has fallen in love. It is "the real thing" that Flaemmchan denies exists. His love is returned and to the lonely ballerina, he shares his history and his life as a thief.

"You know, when I was a little boy I was taught to ride and be a gentleman. Then at school, to pray and lie. And then in the war to kill and hide. That's all."
- Baron Von Geigern

The Baron and the dancer plan a future together, at least as far as a vacation. Now he must find money for he will not share that of a woman he started out to rob.

Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore

Flaemmchen is sad to have lost a chance with the Baron but knows she enjoys his friendship and joins him in taking little Mr. Kringelein under their wings. Nonetheless, duty in the form of money calls, and she accepts the offer of Preysing to continue as his stenographer and more when he makes a trip to England. The trip is a desperate measure on his part as Preysing has lied to advance his business cause and certain failure awaits him.

These characters lives will clash and meld unforgettably as desperation overtakes them all. The Baron and Preysing will meet in violence. Mr. Kringelein and Flaemmchen will come together in grief and longing. The dying man and the "poor kid" will travel until his inevitable end. Flaemmchen is still soft enough to imagine a future where the right doctor will be found to cure the little man. Next stop is the Grand Hotel, Paris.

"There's a Grand Hotel everywhere in the world."
- Mr. Kringelein












Tuesday, May 7, 2019

THE HOLLYWOOD GANGSTERS BLOGTHON: Charlie Chan on Broadway (1937)


Annette Bochenek of Hometowns to Hollywood is hosting The Hollywood Gangsters Blogathon from May 6th to the 8th. Click HERE for all the tough guys and molls.

Inspector Chan (Warner Oland) and his son, Lee (Keye Luke) of Hawaii plan to be nothing but tourists when their ocean liner docks in New York City. However, they will soon be deeply involved with gangsters, graft, and murder. The attractive woman in the next stateroom, Billie Bronson (Louise Henry) is about to embroil the Chans in their next case.

A year ago nightclub entertainer Billie was a desired Grand Jury witness, along with her diary detailing activities of her gangster boyfriend and the local mob. The "boss" Buzz Moran (Leon Ames) sent her on a European vacation until things cooled down. After a year, Billie got tired of waiting, tired of being stiffed on her part of the take, and tired of her boyfriend, the nightclub owner and racketeer Johnny Burke (Douglas Fowley) stepping out with another gal.

Keye Luke, Warner Oland, Louise Henry

When Buzz got word that Billie was coming back to "blow the lid" off the town, he sent underling Tom Mitchell (Marc Lawrence) to get the diary and to get rid of Billie. Shipboard neighbours the Chans became involved with one of Mitchell's attempts to get the diary. Billie then cleverly concealed her diary in the Inspector's luggage planning to retrieve it later at the hotel.

The dock at New York is a busy place. Inspector Nelson (Harold Huber) has been sent to officially welcome Inspector Chan to the city and reporter Speed Patten (Donald Woods) is always looking for a scoop. Did he notice photographer Joan Wendall (Joan Marsh) snapping proof that Billie Bronson is back in town?

The slang and fresh patter set the tone for the remainder of the movie.

Inspector Nelson: "I'm Inspector Nelson, Mr. Chan. Greetings from New York's finest. The bigwigs expect you to tear a duck apart with 'em tonight."

Charlie Chan: "So sorry. Come again, please?"

Speed Patten: "You'll have to excuse the inspector's English, Mr. Chan. He's a Brooklyn immigrant."

Joan Woodbury, Harold Huber, Warner Oland, Douglas Fowley

Newspaper editor Murdock (J. Edward Bromberg) is anxious to wrap up a deal he thought he had made a year earlier for the rights to Billie's diary. Billie has raised her price and is equally anxious. All she has to do is get that diary out of Chan's hotel suite.

Billie's suspicious behavior has piqued Lee's curiosity and he follows her to her old haunt, The Hottentot Club. The club is featuring their popular candid camera night and one of the favourite photography subjects is Johnny's new squeeze, dancer Marie Collins (Joan Woodbury).

Leon Ames

Speed and Joan are taking in the sights at the club as well which include Marie, Johnny, Billie, and Buzz Moran. Before the night is through Billie Bronson is shot in Johnny's office, and Lee becomes a suspect. Buzz surreptitiously leaves the club as the police arrive, and a lights-out melee allows Johnny the opportunity to take it on the lam.

A missing hotel key leads the Chans back to their lodgings where they find the body of Tom Mitchell and a page from Billie's diary. In Billie's room, on the floor above, they find Murdock with an ever-changing story of his meeting with the doomed diarist.

Moran and Burke have a violent confrontation. True to their nature, these gangsters aren't above using guns. Moran is convinced Burke brought Billie back in a takeover bid. Burke proves he couldn't have murdered Billie and that puts Moran back in the hot seat.

Douglas Fowley, J. Edward Bromberg, Keye Luke, Donald Woods
Joan Marsh, Warner Oland, Leon Ames, Harold Huber, Joan Woodbury

These crooks are used to running things their own way. Their graft includes the police and local politicians. Their intimidation of the visiting Inspector is very real with very real consequences. Chan will not be deterred in his search for the truth, and the film wraps up tidily with the guilty party trapped by his own hubris.

Charlie Chan: "Police of New York and Honolulu have one thing in common. Both live on very small island, but while we have small volcano, you have biggest shakeup."

The movie world of Charlie Chan finds him often dealing with cunning murderers and spies, but Charlie Chan on Broadway is the only time in his 20th Century Fox period where he dealt with bona fide gangsters.

Douglas Fowley as Johnny Burke plays the rat-a-tat tough guy whose nightclub tuxedo isn't fooling anyone; he's nothing but a hood. Leon Ames plays Buzz Moran as a cool, quirky character. He mildly sticks to milk at the club, but he is not averse to gunplay. Marc Lawrence was perfect casting for Mitchell. He was born to play those guys the big fellows send out on a job. 


Bonus:

A 2011 contest by Best for Film awarded second place to my humble haiku.

The gathered suspects
Tremble 'neath Inspector's glare
You are murderer















Sunday, May 5, 2019

AUDREY AT 90: THE SALUTE TO AUDREY HEPBURN BLOGATHON: Charade (1963)


Sister Celluloid salutes Audrey at 90 with a blogathon running from May 4 to May 7, 2019. Click HERE to share the love for the actress and humanitarian.



When a young widow (she doesn't know it yet) with a killer wardrobe (Givenchy) meets an older and intriguing (he knows it) man with a killer wardrobe, things are just naturally bound to happen; things of a mysterious and thrilling nature. When the young widow is played by the ever-appealing and inspiring Audrey Hepburn and the intriguing man by the dashing Cary Grant, audiences are just naturally bound to enjoy themselves.

Peter Stone's screenplay begins with the delightful premise of romance and crime, no doubt inspired by Dashiell Hammett's Nick and Nora Charles of 30 years earlier. Director Stanley Donan and Stone upped the ante with the spice of a thriller and location filming in Paris.

George Kennedy, Dominique Minot, Audrey Hepburn
James Coburn, Jacques Mari, Ned Glass

It turns out that Regina "Reggie" Lampert didn't know her husband Charlie very well, if at all. Charlie was murdered by confederates seeking the ill-gotten WW2 booty they were to share. The gang is after that loot still, believing Reggie to know all about it. Reggie is desperate to trust the intriguing man with the killer wardrobe, and she does, but it is a little unnerving how he keeps changing his name. At least, she has her friend Sylvie and her little boy Jean-Louis to turn to for some sense of normalcy.

Walter Matthau, Audrey Hepburn

Reggie definitely needs help dealing with the highly motivated men with whom her late and unlamented husband kept company. Played by James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass, Reggie would be well-advised to keep her distance. Perhaps she can find dependable assistance from the CIA agent played by Walter Matthau. After all, it couldn't hurt to have someone official on your side, could it?

Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn

Reggie is a delightful and quirky character stuck in an unfamiliar and dangerous situation. Do not mistake "quirky" for "silly", as Reggie is a bright woman who works as a simultaneous translator. She may not always make the right choice in her current circumstances, but these circumstances keep escalating until a girl might not know whom to turn to or where to run.

Audrey Hepburn is extremely likable in the role of Reggie. She has panache and the ability to convey an intrinsic wit under her fear or is it intrinsic fear under her wit. Things happen very quickly in the world of Charade.

While criminals plot their plots and frighten our heroine, we are free to enjoy a romantic boat ride on the Seine, a stroll through a bucolic market and riotous fun at a nightclub as Reggie and the intriguing Peter/Alexander/Adam/Brian, etc. fall under each other's spell.

Everything about Charade brings us under its spell as well, from the glamorous location to its witty dialogue, and the delightful chemistry between its leading players. Charade is a perfect movie and it would be foolish to long for further adventures of Reggie and whats-his-name or another sort of film with Audrey and Cary, but one can't help oneself. At least "We'll always have Paris."


Here's a treat! Blossom Dearie singing Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer's Oscar-nominated theme:




Once and future Charade Oscar winners:

Audrey Hepburn, Best Actress winner for Roman Holiday, 1953
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (posthumous), 1993
Nominee: Sabrina, The Nun's Story, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Wait Until Dark

Cary Grant, Honorary Award, 1970
Nominee: None But the Lonely Heart, Penny Serenade

Director Stanley Donen, Honorary Award, 1998

Writer Peter Stone, winner for Father Goose, 1965

Walter Matthau, Best Supporting Actor winner for The Fortune Cookie, 1967
Nominee: Kotch, The Sunshine Boys

George Kennedy, Best Supporting Actor winner for Cool Hand Luke, 1968

James Coburn, Best Supporting Actor winner for Affliction, 1999

Composer Henry Mancini,
winner (song) Moon River, 1962, The Days of Wine and Roses, 1963
winner (score) Victor/Victoria, 1983
Nominee (song): Bachelor in Paradise, Charade, Dear Heart, The Sweetheart Tree, Whistling Away the Dark, All His Children, Come to Me, It's Easy to Say, Life in a Looking Glass
Nominee (score): The Glenn Miller Story, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Pink Panther, Darling Lili, I girasoli, 10

Cinematographer Charles Lang, winner for A Farewell to Arms, 1932
Nominee: The Right to Love, Arise, My Love, Sundown, So Proudly We Hail!, The Uninvited, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, A Foreign Affair, Sudden Fear, Sabrina, Queen Bee, Separate Tables, Some Like It Hot, The Facts of Life, One-Eyed Jacks, How the West Was Won, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, Butterflies Are Free












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...