Sunday, June 23, 2019

THE HOTTER'NELL BLOGATHON: Heat Lightning (1934)


Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog The Sequel is adding to the summertime heat with a blogathon focusing on those movies and shows set under a torturous sun. June 21 - 23 are the days for extra sunscreen. Click HERE as you reach for a fan. 

Aline McMahon, Ann Dvorak

Aline MacMahon stars as Olga, a woman running from her past and trying to make a future. She thinks she will accomplish this in the Mohave Desert where she is the boss of an auto camp/garage/diner. It is a hard, lonely life but that is what Olga feels she deserves and she needs. Perhaps the sun will bake away her past of misdeeds as a party girl with a criminal boyfriend. Perhaps she can keep her beloved kid sister from making similar mistakes. Olga is not taking into account the way life has of catching up with one or the basic truth that you can't live someone else's life for them. 

Myra played by Ann Dvorak is a young woman bored with the isolation of living with her sister. She is longing for her share of life, of fun, good times, and romance. Myra looks upon Olga as a jailer, as someone who doesn't know what fun is, or has forgotten. Perhaps if Olga had explained why that smooth-talker who wants to take Myra dancing is up to no good, they might have had an understanding. Perhaps heartbreak could be avoided. Perhaps.

Willard Robertson, Aline MacMahon

Olga's way station is like a Grand Hotel in the desert with people coming and people going. They get tourists with car trouble such as Jane Darwell and Edgar Kennedy providing a humorous interlude in our story. They get gals who look for and find the fun that Myra is missing.

A frequent visitor is neighboring rancher Everett Marshall played by Willard Robertson. He likes and admires Olga, and what is more, he thinks he understands her. If he doesn't totally "get" Olga, perhaps it is just as noble in that he tries to understand her. 

Frank McHugh, Ruth Donnelly, Ann Dvorak, Glenda Farrell

Things get busy and complicated with the arrival of a Mexican family, and a couple of divorcees fresh from Reno. Mrs. Ashley-Aston and Mrs. Tifton played by Ruth Donnelly and Glenda Farrell are self-absorbed and demanding. They not only demand the best of their hostess, but they each demand the undivided attention of the chauffeur Frank played by Frank McHugh. Can one man keep two women happy? Will he ever get that cold beer he craves?

Ann Dvorak, Preston Foster, Lyle Talbot

Dangerous customers descend on Olga's oasis. Her old boyfriend George played by Preston Foster and his partner Jeff played by Lyle Talbott are on the lam. A robbery went wrong and they left two dead men behind them. More than any other character in the film, it is Talbott's Jeff who feels the heat of his past and of the desert. Jeff isn't responsible for the killings, but he is the one with guilt coming out of every pore. He is a walking bundle of nerves and anxiety. Jeff will either melt or explode.

Aline MacMahon, Preston Foster

George, as Olga can attest, is always a cool customer. Here in the desert, he has found opportunity. He has no doubt about being able to twist Olga to his wants and plans, although he still can't understand why she left him, and she certainly has "let herself go." George believes he has found a perfect set-up here in the desert where his old girlfriend will give them shelter from the law, and there are two rich women waiting to be relieved of their jewellery and car.

Aline MacMahon

Danger is crowding in on all sides; physical, psychological, and spiritual danger from the night, from the heat, from the past, and from George. Whatever happens in the desert will forever alter Olga who sought so much else under the sun.

















31 comments:

  1. This sounds like a pre-Coder, all right -- cramming in all the sex and murder that one movie can carry! Fun review -- thanks for contributing this to the blogathon!

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    1. My pleasure. Thanks for hosting this blogathon and kicking me into gear to write about this movie. Heat Lightning just sneaked in under the pre-code wire and it's a dandy. Shared this with the daughter recently and scored another hit.

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  2. Heat Lightning! My sister and I just discovered this film a few weeks ago and loved it. Preston was such a cutie when he was young. Even though he is no-good, you can see how Olga would yen for him. I thought the movie seemed really ahead of its time....it almost seemed as though it was made in 1949 and not '34. Great choice of picture and I loved your review!

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    1. Thanks. Heat Lightning is indeed a great discovery. Coming upon it is like entering a special club and you can't wait to share it with others.

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  3. If television were around in 1934, this sounds like it could’ve been the pilot for a series.

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    1. People come. People go. Nothing ever happens. Tune in next week, folks.

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    2. Well, the conflict would come from the visitors to the diner, plus whatever recurring characters are there and between the sisters themselves.

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    3. "Nothing ever happens" is an ironic quote from Grand Hotel where too much happens. I think it would be the same way at Olga's place. Your idea has merit.

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  4. I had to go get a paper just to wipe the sweat from my face as I read your review!

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  5. I could see JOAN CRAWFORD playing Olga. If they had done a remake they could have got RUTH ROMAN. She was good at playing working women-she played a waitress in CHAMPION with KIRK DOUGLAS and later on MURDER, SHE WROTE she was Loretta, the beauty shop owner. Also if they had done a remake a long time later I think ELIZABETH ASHLEY would have been really good in that role. Im basing that on the part that she played in the MURDER, SHE WROTE ep where she played waitress Vera with MIKE CONNORS. I think her daughters name was Flora.

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    1. Ruth Roman and Elizabeth Ashley would be very interesting in such a role. I can't see Crawford as Olga though.

      I love that Truck Stop episode of Murder, She Wrote. It makes no sense but just throws in a lot of film noir cliches for a great time.

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  6. GLENDA FARRELL had a son that was an actor-TOMMY FARRELL. He guest-starred on some of the most popular shows of their time. (A lot of them are still popular). He did 6 episodes of PERRY MASON. He did 2 eps of THE LUCY SHOW and later 6 eps of HERES LUCY. Tommy was on 5 eps of THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS. Also mother and son GLENDA & TOMMY were both in the ELVIS PRESLEY movie KISSIN COUSINS which also had PAM AUSTIN, YVONNE CRAIG and CYNTHIA PEPPER. I just remembered it had a character actor that we both really like-JACK ALBERTSON. I haven't mentioned it before but I am a big fan of ELVIS-not only his music but also his movies. He was a good actor in his dramatic roles but also his comedic/musical roles. Being you are a huge fan of ANN-MARGRET I bet you saw her in VIVA LAS VEGAS.

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    1. Glenda Farrell is somewhat of an idol of mine. I think you will enjoy these articles by a friend:

      https://thoughtsandramblingsofhardwickebenthow.wordpress.com/glenda-farrell-her-life-and-legacy/ and

      https://thoughtsandramblingsofhardwickebenthow.wordpress.com/glenda-farrell-in-her-own-words/

      I remember Kissin' Cousins with Farrell, mother and son. It was a nice bit of fun directed by Gene Nelson.

      I adore Ann-Margret. I like Elvis. I even like William Demarest. However, Viva Las Vegas bores me to tears. I don't know why it doesn't work for me, but of all of Elvis' outings, this one which should inspire just leaves me cold.

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  7. Paddy Lee, a really good write-up of another movie that I don't think I've ever seen before. So, I'll probably search it out. I've always liked the Warner Bros. movies of the 1930's and 1940's. I see that it was filmed in Joshua Tree country. This would have been before it became a national park.

    My father, uncle, cousins, and friends stopped at places like Olga's on their overland trips to California in 1946-47 on the famous route 66 Highway.


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    1. The Warners pictures of this era had a certain immediacy to them. The interesting female lead character here made a particular hit with my daughter.

      Heat Lightning shows up on TCM every once in a while so it is worth keeping your eyes peeled.

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  8. This was a great little pre-Coder; as with so many 1930s films, they knew how to tell a big story without dragging out the running time. And Aline McMahon and Ann Dvorak -- what two fabulous actresses they were! And how much they got from their characters! They really don't make 'em like this anymore.

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    1. Sad, but true. We're lucky that once upon a time they did make movies like Heat Lightning.

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  9. Speaking of MURDER, SHE WROTE earlier I want to mention BRIAN KEITH-he was on the first ep as I stated before. After FAMILY AFFAIR he did a comedy for 2 seasons where he played a pediatrician in HAWAII. The first season it was titled LITTLE PEOPLE, then it was changed to THE BRIAN KEITH SHOW. I thought I didn't know the work of SHELLEY FABARES until the early 80s then years later I found out that was her as his daughter in that show. VICTORIA YOUNG, the wife of Brian Keith, played a nurse on the show. She was born VICTORIA LEIALOHA in HAWAII. She and Brian were married from 1970 until his passing in 1997. They had 2 children. Brian was married twice before and he and his second wife were the parents of 5. So he had at least 2 things in common with JOHN WAYNE-three marriages and 7 children.

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    1. I enjoy Brian Keith very much in movies and on television. I particularly like his short-lived series, The Westerner.

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  10. Speaking of SHELLEY FABARES she is the only actress that did 3 movies with ELVIS-GIRL HAPPY, SPINOUT and CLAMBAKE. She was in that 2-part MURDER, SHE WROTE episode with JEAN SIMMONS. She was on an ep of THE INCREDIBLE HULK with BILL BIXBY. She was in a TV-Movie that was a true crime story DEADLY RELATIONS(1993) with ROBERT URICH, GWYNETH PALTROW and ROXANNA ZAL for ABC. One thing I remember is when one of the daughters snuck out for a date when she was grounded the other girls were watching TV and you could see and hear the theme song to THE LUCY SHOW (after VIVIAN wasnt on it anymore). BILL BIXBY & ROBERT URICH-both good natural actors, likable and attractive. Do you know their work? Also SHELLEY played FRANCINE WEBSTER on ONE DAY AT A TIME and her real-life aunt NANETTE FABRAY played Anns mother and the grandmother of BARBARA & JULIE. (I think I mentioned one time that NANETTE was in a M.S.W. ep with MAXWELL CAULFIELD about horses.) Lastly on ONE DAY(1975-84) Julie did an ep where she got a job as a waitress so it goes back to the topic of waiting tables.

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    1. I never really got into One Day at a Time. Nonetheless, I do admire Nanette Fabray and enjoy Shelley Fabares. Bill Bixby and Robert Urich were both longtime faves of mine. I just loved My Favorite Martian when I was a kid.

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  11. Im a big fan of BILL and ROBERT too. To me Bill was attractive in a guy next door way and Robert in a hunky way. I just realized that SHELLEY got to work with Bill twice-in an episode of THE INCREDIBLE HULK(like I stated earlier) and Bill was also in CLAMBAKE.(He worked with ELVIS again in SPEEDWAY.) Did you see his DISNEY movie THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG with DON KNOTTS & TIM CONWAY? It also had SUSAN CLARK, DAVID WAYNE and HARRY MORGAN. I loved Bills show The Incredible Hulk. Mariette Hartley did an ep titled MARRIED. I also saw them on a comedy that they did later-GOODNIGHT BEANTOWN.

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  12. I saw BILL BIXBY in a TV-Movie SINS OF INNOCENCE on CBS in the mid to late 80s. He played a widower who marries a divorced woman with a teenage daughter. Bill has a teenage son in the movie. It had Dee Wallace Stone as the wife. The boy and girl become secretly involved even though they are step-siblings. They were played by DERMOT MULROONEY and MEGAN FOLLOWS. JAMES NAUGHTON played the ex-husband to Dee and the dad to Megan. Bill did an ep of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW as a rich boy who caused an elderly mans vegetable truck to tip over or something like that. His character was 17. He did a DIAGNOSIS MURDER TV-Movie before it was a series. It was titled DIAGNOSIS OF MURDER. It was the first of 3 Movies that DICK VAN DYKE did before the series. So Bill worked with ELVIS(twice), DICK VAN DYKE, ANDY GRIFFITH and DON KNOTTS(twice-on ANDY and later APPLE DUMPLING GANG). Bill was a long-time friend of LEE MERRIWETHER, best known as BETTY JONES, the daughter of private detective BARNABY JONES(BUDDY EBSEN). I believe Bill and Lee went to school together.

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  13. I meant to say BETTY JONES was the DAUGHTER-IN-LAW of BARNABY JONES. Lee is another one that I really like her work. She is another guest-star from MSW. She was a guest star on HOTEL, MANNIX and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. She was married at one time to actor FRANK ALETTER. They had two daughters LESLIE and KYLE. I saw Lee on a commercial over 10 years ago and Ive seen her picture different times lately. She has had white hair for quite a long time now. She looks great!

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    1. 1. I haven't thought about Good Night, Beantown or, for that matter, The Apple Dumpling gang in ages. Fun stuff in very different ways.

      2. I don't recall the pre-Diagnosis Murder TV movies. Thanks. That is something I will have to check out.

      3. Barnaby Jones is an old fave of mine. I was a fan of most of the Quinn Martin shows. Lee Merriwether is a beauty inside and out.

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  14. Whoa – this sounds like a terrific flick. I know I'll thoroughly enjoy it..ESPECIALLY if it has the fab Glenda Farrell.

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    1. Glenda and Ruth are quite the tag team, and when you throw Frank McHugh into that mix, it's pure Warner Bros. gold.

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  15. BARNABY JONES was my favorite detective show when I was a kid. I also really liked CANNON with WILLIAM CONRAD. I know you said you never got into MATLOCK with ANDY GRIFFITH but you would probably like a 2-part one they did the first season titled THE DON. The guest stars are William Conrad as the D.A., JOSE FERRER as the mob leader(the don) and JOE PENNY as the dons son Paul. It also has SHEREE NORTH. Even though Bill Conrad and Joe Penny aren't on the same side this episode is how they got the series JAKE AND THE FATMAN on CBS. I never saw that show. P.S. On that ep THE DON the daughter of Ferrers character is played by DORAN CLARK that you may remember from MURDER, SHE WROTE. She did 3 eps. The first one was the first hour long ep-it had HOWARD DUFF as her dad and DACK RAMBO is married to her sister(CASSIE YATES). The second one is where Jessica is on the jury. The third one has KEN KERCHEVAL.

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    1. You know me too well. The cast in that Matlock would certainly be a draw.

      I was very busy during the time when Jake and the Fatman aired so never got into it. It looks like I've saved a lot of shows for my "golden years."

      That Howard Duff episode of Murder, She Wrote was terrific. A fine first season entry.

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