Thursday, May 21, 2020

THE CMBA SPRING BLOGATHON: Classics for Comfort


These days are trying and many of us are looking for comfort. Movie magic soothes the soul. With this obligation, we're asking that you generate a "TOP 5" list of comfort movie recommendations to enjoy as the CMBA presents the CLASSICS FOR COMFORT Blogathon running from May 19-22.  Contributions can be found HERE.

A comedy, a mystery, a western, a "girl's picture", and a classic family drama make up my compilation of beloved familiar and comfortable movies. 



Pack Up Your Troubles, 1932 written by H.M. Walker, Stan Laurel, and Ray McCarey, and directed by George Marshall and Ray McCarey.

It is 1917 and, despite their best efforts, Stan and Ollie are headed "over there." The bane of sergeants, generals, and cooks alike, eventually they blunder into heroism. The bright spot in the lads' duty is their friendship with Eddie Smith. Eddie is a single father whose estrangement from his folks is keeping his daughter separated from her grandparents. Stan and Ollie want to do something about that, but Eddie becomes another wartime statistic before they discover his parents' whereabouts.

Jackie Lyn Dufton (Jackie Lynn) as Eddie's baby

Back in the States, Uncle Ollie and Uncle Stan rescue "Eddie's baby" from the strangers who have been providing dubious care and set about locating "Mr. Smith." How the boys go from doughboys to caterers to the elite to bank robbers is the fun in the film. Their relationship with "Eddie's baby" is the charming part of the film. Familiar character actors: James Finlayson, Charles Middleton, Mary Gordon, Grady Sutton, Tom Kennedy, and Richard Tucker are simply added comfort.



Charlie Chan at Treasure Island, 1939 written by John Francis Larkin and directed by Norman Foster.

Veteran performer Sidney Toler won the role of the venerable inspector following the death of Warner Oland in 1938. Pairing the 65-year-old Toler with 23-year-old Victor Sen Yung brought a fast-paced modern dynamic to the popular film series. 

Charlie Chan at Treasure Island finds the great detective and his number two son Jimmy in San Francisco tracking the murderer of a friend to the Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939-1940. The man-made Treasure Island is the site of an entertainment complex that includes magicians, psychics, and blackmailers; suspects all.


Combining the elements of a backstage whodunnit with the occult creates a mystery that is as entertaining on its first viewing as on its hundredth or so. The solid cast features Cesar Romero, Douglas Fowley, Donald MacBride, Douglass Dumbrille, Sally Blane (Mrs. Foster), Pauline Moore, Billie Seward, June Gale, Louis Jean Heydt, Charles Halton, Trevor Bardette, and Wally Vernon.



RKO's Stage to Chino, 1940 written by Morton Grant, Arthur V. Jones, and Norton S. Parker, and directed by Edward Killy is filled with much I find comforting in the B western milieu.

- Corporate espionage: In this case, a stagecoach line, a mail contract, and the swindling of prospectors.

- Undercover agents: The athletic and ever-appealing George O'Brien is a postal inspector on the case.


- A pretty and spunky heroine: Virginia Vale and George O'Brien teamed up in 6 movies. 


- A smoothie-type villain: Roy Barcroft at your service.

- Ever henchmen: Glenn Strange and Harry Cording.

- Comedy relief: Hobart Cavanagh as a particularly observant traveling salesman.


- Riding, shooting, saloon brawls, and saloon singers*Pals of the Golden West* differed from the other groups you'll find in singing cowboy movies in that they featured a female lead vocalist. You'll enjoy Nora Lou Martin, Bud Jackson, Larry Shaw, Slim Russell, and Art Wenzel.



Margie, 1946 based on stories by Ruth McKenney adapted by F. Hugh Herbert and directed by Henry King in Technicolor.

Margie is filled with sweet-natured laughs, heart, and music. It has been a favourite since childhood and the nostalgia of the movie has become mixed with the nostalgia of my life.


Jeanne Crain is Margie, relating her high school years to her teenage daughter Ann Todd. We flashback to 1928 where Margie is being raised by her outspoken suffragette grandmother Esther Dale. Her well-meaning and distant father Hobart Cavanagh is an undertaker. Her friend Barbara Lawrence is a flirty flapper with a cool boyfriend, Conrad Janis. Margie, on the other hand, is on the debate team and her beau is Alan Young with the sniffles and an Adam's Apple. Glenn Langan is the dreamy new French teacher who has captured the affection of all the female students with Margie no exception. Margie's life is just one long embarrassment and she never has a safety pin when she needs one.

Alfred Newman was the musical director and the soundtrack is filled with 1920s song hits. I'm crazy for A Cup of Coffee a Sandwich and You, April Showers, Button Up Your Overcoat, and more. My Nana taught me some of those songs. Honest. I wasn't born until much later.



It's a Wonderful Life, 1946 written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and directed by Frank Capra. 

George Bailey played by James Stewart in his first great post-war performance, has been the good son, the good husband, and the good neighbour. His hard work and his life have become undone by the perfidy of a greedy businessman. About to end his troubles, the prayers of his friends and family bring George the Heavenly assistance of a well-meaning rookie angel, played by Henry Travers with a gentle whimsy.


James Stewart, Henry Travers

Given the chance to see how the world, his world, would be without him, George learns to appreciate his life. It isn't the life he thought he wanted or what he expected, but it is no less wonderful.

Master storyteller Frank Capra fills George Bailey's world with the best character actors to bring the fictional town of Bedford Falls to life for generations of audiences. Capra created a world whose reality, like ours, is often troubled yet we and George are given a message to embrace it all to find the wonderful.















38 comments:

  1. I wouldn’t mind looking at that Charlie Chan movie for the World’s Fair footage. I did a post several years ago about World’s Fair movies and that was one of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I first saw Chan/Treasure Island when I was a kid, the thing that impressed me most was Caesar Romero. Wow, it's the Joker! It must have been the beginning of putting all those classic Hollywood careers together.

      Delete
  2. Swell picks, all of them. I still have to catch up with Charlie Chan and Number 2 Son at Treasure Island. I love how that series is matched with what were then current events. And this on MARGIE - "It has been a favourite since childhood and the nostalgia of the movie has become mixed with the nostalgia of my life." Sweet. I've been meaning to blog on that one for ages and never get around to it. I suppose for many of us our comfort movies are ones we've seen over and over again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ... and over!

      Thank you, JT. Is it the story or the people? What is it that makes a movie rewatchable? I suppose it is different aspects at different times.

      Delete
  3. A lovely post! Like Jacqueline I love what you wrote about the movie becoming mixed with the nostalgia of your life. There are certain movies where that's especially true for me as well (especially THE SOUND OF MUSIC). MARGIE and STAGE TO CHINO are particular favorites for me as well. So grateful for the comfort of movies during this unusual and difficult spring.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Laura.

      Quiet time alone or sharing with a loved one, movies have never been more of a comfort.

      Delete
  4. I love how you don't forget to feature lesser known films. I love being introduced to titles I might not have paid attention to without your recommendations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. The depth of the studio output in that era leaves many gems waiting to be discovered.

      Delete
  5. NORMAN FOSTER directed RACHEL AND THE STRANGER which starred WILLIAM HOLDEN, ROBERT MITCHUM and LORETTA YOUNG(the sister-in-law of Norman). Norman also directed some eps of THE LORETTA YOUNG SHOW and THE NEW LORETTA YOUNG SHOW.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like Foster as an actor, but I love him as a director. His many Charlie Chan movies and The Mark of Zorro for Disney have entertained me often through the years. I like that he found a part for Chan pal Victor Sen Yung (a good part) in Woman on the Run, 1950.

      Delete
  6. Before NORMAN FOSTER married SALLY BLANE he had been married to CLAUDETTE COLBERT. Claudette came out of retirement in 1987 to do the NBC mini-series THE TWO MRS. GRENVILLES which also starred STEPHEN COLLINS and one of your favorite entertainers ANN-MARGRET.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A YouTube interview with Loretta Young's children had them referring to "Uncle Norman" and that is how I have thought of him ever since. I recall that mini-series but I have thought of it in years. Thanks for the memory.

      Delete
  7. CW, you sure know your comfort films. I especially was happy to see Margie. I haven't seen it in years, but just the thought of it fills me with happiness. Well done!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope the happiness Margie brings us was reflected on the shoot back in the day. Thank you for the smile you gave me.

      Delete
  8. Very diverse and interesting selection of comfort films, personal to you but offered to us with such high recommendations. It's a Wonderful Life and Frank Capra are national treasures. And you can't miss with Laurel and Hardy Over There. I don't know Margie but I'm a fan of Jeanne Crain's so I'll have to look for that one. Thank you for participating in the blogathon CaftanWoman. Christian, silverscreenmodes.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a pleasure to choose those movies that are a balm for me and to share them. Margie is a special little movie that seems to work a magic spell on a lot of people. Maybe you're next on her list.

      Delete
  9. I think my favorite detail about your post is the Charlie Brown/Snoopy picture about movies in general. The sentiment could have been the subtitle to the blogathon. And the title of my life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And so say all of us! The movies we share are a wonderful bond with friends and loved ones.

      Delete
  10. Not to nitpick or anything …

    Sidney Toler was born in 1874, which made him 65 at the time CC At Treasure Island was filmed.

    That said, I recall … Treasure Island as the first Charlie Chan movie I ever saw.
    Channel 9 here in Chicago had started running the Chans on Saturday afternoons in the fall of 1964; I was home that day, and just tuned in out of curiosity.
    Lifelong fanhood was the result - and continues to the present day.
    Ch9 alternated Sidney Toler and Warner Oland at the time; the movies weren't shown in a fixed order - which made not a bit of difference to me.
    The Chan movies were where I really began reading cast credits - and noticing that many of the actors I was seeing on nighttime TV had started out in movies from many years before.
    Not just that, but when Batman came on TV a couple of years later, and I saw that some of the early episodes were directed by Norman Foster, whose name
    I'd seen on the Chan movies … well, you can take it from there.
    Good thing that nobody back then had ever heard of demographics …

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We fit no known demographic.

      Not a nitpick at all. I thought I might have been off (in the back of my head), but forgot to backtrack and check. I am terrible with numbers! I have no idea how old I am (how convenient). I shall amend immediately and I thank you.

      Whatever magic was in the air when those Chan pictures were put together was potent stuff with so many devoted fans.

      Credit reading is the staff of life.

      Delete
  11. It has been a long time since I've seen a Charlie Chan movie but way back in the day I think I saw them all. Should I venture there again now that an opportunity with no end in sight presents itself? Also, a long time since seeing Margie...but L&H, always a go-to for a chuckle, laugh or outright guffaw. Wonderful Life is perfect for the time, maybe for anytime, and just the other day, when feeling a bit down, I had a "George Bailey" moment and snapped out of it. Great stuff, Paddy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those George Bailey moments will sneak up on us.

      Go for a Chan flick. Those from 20th Century Fox are as good as you remember.

      I adore Esther Dale as Margie's grandmother, raising Margie to be the first woman president.

      Delete
  12. I am not surprised to see a Laurel & Hardy comedy nor a Charlie Chan mystery on your list! Charlie Chan at Treasure Island is one of the best of the series. It may be my favorite Sidney Toler movie (though I'm also fond of Castle in the Desert).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Castle in the Desert is neat with its isolated setting and interesting cast. Being as it is the last of the Fox Tolers, it is the end of an era.

      Delete
  13. Aha! I knew there would be some new-to-me films on your list, and there are: Margie and Stage to Chino.

    Have you ever thought of writing a book, e.g. "The 100 Best Films You've Never Seen" kind of thing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. H'm. A book, eh? I don't like to be presumptuous about what other people have seen or not, but I do like to tell people what to watch, don't I? H'm.

      Hobart Cavanagh is Margie's dad and the sidekick in Stage to Chino. Maybe I've got next year's What a Character! blogathon entry.

      Delete
  14. What are some other western movies that could be on your list of comfort classics? I know one would be BEND OF THE RIVER with JIMMY STEWART, ARTHUR KENNEDY and JULIE ADAMS. It also had FRANCES BAVIER who is best known as AUNT BEE from THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. Do you know MISS BAVIER from very many things? She also had a part in the movie BENJI that starred PETER BRECK(NICK BARKLEY from THE BIG VALLEY).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know Ms. Bavier from the movies Sally and Saint Anne, Man in the Attic, Horizon's West, and The Day the Earth Stood Still.

      The B westerns with Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers are comforting to me. In the bigger budget films True Grit has a definite spot, John Ford's Rio Grande and My Darling Clementine. Western Union with Randolph Scott, and Union Pacific with Joel McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck. I can't forget to include William Wyler's The Big Country.

      Delete
  15. I love how you include all of these films I haven't seen, and make me want to watch each one! I've never seen a Charlie Chan film. Looks like I have a lot to look forward to!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chan fans are devoted, and there is a reason. The movies made at Twentieth Century Fox with Warner Oland/Keye Luke and then Sidney Toler/Sen Yung are well made and have a "family" feeling.

      Be prepared to be charmed when you see Margie!

      Delete
  16. Musicals are a good source for comfort TV watching. Ive mentioned that Im a fan of BETTY GRABLE and JUNE HAVER. Some of Bettys movies-MY BLUE HEAVEN, MOON OVER MIAMI, CONEY ISLAND and SWEET ROSIE OGRADY. JUNE HAVER-OH, YOU BEAUTIFUL DOLL and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. Betty and June-THE DOLLY SISTERS. I remember you telling about MARK STEVENS(Oh, You Beautiful Doll) and you found out later that your mother had a crush on Mark(I think). He WAS a cutie as was WILLIAM LUNDIGAN that June worked with in at least two movies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is something special about those Twentieth Century Fox musicals. It must be the talent. Thanks for reminding me that I recorded Three Little Girls in Blue but haven't gotten around to it yet. This weekend might be the right time.

      Delete
  17. Whenever It's a Wonderful Life is on TV, I stop to watch a bit - it's s inspirational. Also, Jeanne Crain makes me smile in all her movies, she's a doll. Shockingly, I had never heard about Stage to Chino until now!
    Kisses!
    Le

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you came to visit.

      I'm not surprised Stage to Chino hasn't passed your way. The world of B movie westerns can be rather niche, but it is also very comforting.


      Delete
  18. Wonderful choices, thank you for such a great selection!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks.

      This was a wonderful exercise. The spring blogathon and all of the choices across the board will have me thinking for a long time.

      Delete
  19. I love "Pack Up Your Troubles" ! My favorite part is when Stan and Ollie show up at the little girl's grandparents' home and their servant does that weird rolling thing with his eyes. Stan tries to do it, his eyes get stuck, and he starts crying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to practice control not to try it myself. My eyes get sore just thinking about the bit.

      Delete

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR JUNE ON TCM

John P. Marquand's serialized novel  Gone Tomorrow was published in McCall's m agazine 1940/1941 and released as a film by MGM ...