Monday, April 24, 2017

2017 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival Opens in Palm Springs on May 11th

The 2017 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival opens in Palm Springs, California, on Thursday, May 11th.

The festival runs through Sunday, May 14th. All festival screenings take place at the Camelot Theatres located at 2300 East Baristo Road in Palm Springs.

I attended the 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival and had a fantastic time. I had to miss it last year as it coincided with our son's college graduation, but I'll be back in Palm Springs to cover this year's festival!

In 2015 I especially enjoyed the way the festival mixed plenty of movies with a relaxed, convivial atmosphere. No need to stand in lines to get into the movies, and there's plenty of time to eat between films; restaurants are just blocks away.

There are also interviews with notable special guests, and film introductions are provided by top film noir experts.

Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation is the festival's producer and host. Additionally, some of the movies at the festival will be introduced by the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller and Foster Hirsch.

The festival opens on Thursday evening, May 11th, with a screening of HOLLOW TRIUMPH (1948), also known as THE SCAR, starring Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett.

Monika Henreid, Paul's daughter, will be the festival's opening night guest. I saw Monika interviewed last year at a Noir City screening of DECEPTION (1946), and she was an interesting and knowledgeable speaker about her father's career.

Friday's slate of four movies starts off with THE CHASE (1946) at 10:00 a.m. THE CHASE is a terrific film starring Robert Cummings and Michele Morgan, seen at left, along with Steve Cochran and Peter Lorre.

Next up is Anthony Mann's moving SIDE STREET (1950), starring Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell.

SIDE STREET is followed by Broderick Crawford in ALL THE KING'S MEN (1949), which I've not seen before. John Ireland, Joanne Dru, and Mercedes McCambridge costar. ALL THE KING'S MEN won Best Picture as well as Oscars for Crawford and McCambridge and a nomination for Ireland.

The evening concludes with what might be my favorite Dan Duryea film, BLACK ANGEL (1946), costarring June Vincent and Peter Lorre. Duryea is superb in a heartbreaking role. His son Richard will be the evening's guest. I've also heard Richard speak at a past event and look forward to hearing more stories about his legendary father.

Saturday morning starts off with SPLIT SECOND (1953), directed by Dick Powell and starring Stephen McNally and Alexis Smith. I've never seen that one and especially look forward to it.

The second film of the day will be Paul Lukas in ADDRESS UNKNOWN (1944), a cautionary tale about Nazis and the dangers of "going along to get along" which I saw a few weeks ago at the Noir City Film Festival.

The day continues with the "jazz noir" MEET DANNY WILSON (1951), starring Frank Sinatra, Shelley Winters, Alex Nicol, and Raymond Burr. I really enjoy this film, which mixes a number of Sinatra standards into the story.

Saturday night concludes with a screening of CHARLEY VARRICK (1973), starring Walter Matthau and Felicia Farr. Costar Andrew Robinson will be in attendance that evening. I saw Robinson on stage with James Whitmore in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER circa 1980 so it's rather fun to be able to see him again in person so many years later.

The festival draws to a close with a three-film day on Sunday, kicking off with another favorite of mine, Anthony Mann's DESPERATE (1947), starring Steve Brodie and the wonderful Audrey Long, seen at left.

Sunday afternoon there's another special treat: Boris Karloff's daughter Sara will be present for a screening of THE BODY SNATCHER (1945), starring her father and Bela Lugosi, directed by Robert Wise.

The festival wraps up late Sunday afternoon with NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950), starring Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney, directed by Jules Dassin.

Please visit the festival website for additional information and tickets.

I strongly encourage my fellow classic film fans to make the trek out to the desert for a long weekend of film noir; a great time is guaranteed!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Other Men's Women (1931)

OTHER MEN'S WOMEN (1931), a Warner Bros. pre-Code directed by William A. Wellman, is the latest film I've watched via the Warner Archive streaming service.

I've been having something of a Mary Astor festival this week, watching her in a series of films with "woman" or "women" in the title! She was the heroine as the wronged wife in SMART WOMAN (1931) and a calculating shrew in WOMAN AGAINST WOMAN (1938).

In OTHER MEN'S WOMEN Astor falls somewhere in between, playing a good woman who makes a momentary bad decision.

Her character, Lily, is happily married to railroad engineer Jack (Regis Toomey)...but when Jack's coworker Bill (Grant Withers) moves in for a few months after his latest bout with the bottle gets him kicked out by his landlady, sparks eventually start flying between the sobered-up Bill and Lily.

Bill and Lily try to do the honorable thing and Bill moves out, but when Jack learns the truth about Bill and Lily's feelings for one another, tragedy results.

OTHER MEN'S WOMEN is an engrossing melodrama, made with the brisk toughness typical of Wellman's Depression-era films. The movie features strongly delineated, imperfect but interesting characters and has tremendous atmosphere; the location photography at a Southern Pacific Railroad yard called to mind Wellman's later WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD (1933).

One of the interesting little bits in the film is Bill's habit of hopping off a train as it slowly heads through a yard; he runs into a diner and grabs some food, counting the cars as they go by, then runs out and hops back on the caboose. From there he clambers roof to roof over each car until he's back in the engine!

An odd aspect to the movie is it's the first time I can recall a blind character walking around with his eyes always closed. No explanation is given, and it seemed a bit peculiar.

In addition to Withers, Astor, and Toomey, there's strong support from James Cagney, appearing in his third film as Bill and Jack's coworker, and Joan Blondell as Bill's sometime girlfriend, a diner waitress named Marie. The cast also includes J. Farrell MacDonald, Fred Kohler, and Walter Long.

OTHER MEN'S WOMEN was filmed by Barney McGill. It runs 70 minutes.

OTHER MEN'S WOMEN, which was part of a 2009 Forbidden Hollywood DVD set, is one of roughly 20 pre-Code titles currently available to stream from Warner Archive. The print looked crisp and clear. Closed captioning is available.

I've previously reviewed another pre-Code title which currently streams at the Warner Archive site, BIG BUSINESS GIRL (1931). The titles periodically rotate so these films will likely leave the service at some point, replaced by a batch of fresh titles.

Thanks to Warner Archive for providing reviewer access to their streaming service. Warner Archive is available on desktop at WarnerArchive.com as well as via Roku, Apple TV, and iOS and Android apps.

Tonight's Movie: Wanted! Jane Turner (1936) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Lee Tracy and Gloria Stuart are an engaging detective team in WANTED! JANE TURNER (1936), recently released by the Warner Archive.

I first saw this film last August, and I was so taken with it that I expressed the hope that it would eventually be released on a Warner Archive DVD. Happily I didn't have very long to wait, and I've now enjoyed it all over again thanks to this new release.

Tracy and Stuart start in this quick 66-minute film as Tom Mallory and Doris Martin. Tom and Doris are postal investigators who enjoy a friendly rivalry. They bicker and argue as they work but clearly get a kick out of it; there's some real chemistry between the two.

What's more, they're professional equals, and at movie's end Tom tells his boss that he can count on "the Mallorys" for future investigations. (I wish there had been a sequel!) It's an interesting contrast from the end of the previous year's ORCHIDS TO YOU (1935), viewed last week, which ends with the heroine planning to give up her thriving flower shop for homemaking.

That said, Doris is also a great cook, and Stuart ended up cooking in publicity for the film, seen at right.

In WANTED! JANE TURNER Tom and Doris are on the trail of Phil Crowley (RKO's ubiquitous Paul Guilfoyle), who murdered a mail delivery truck driver. The trail leads from the East Coast to Los Angeles, where they gradually close in on Phil and his henchmen.

The cast includes Frank M. Thomas in a nice part as a general delivery mail clerk. Also in the film are Barbara Pepper, Judith Blake, John McGuire, Irene Franklin, Patricia Wilder, Willard Robertson, and Selmer Jackson. (This is at least the third film I've seen with Jackson in the past week!) Watch for Bess Flowers as a hotel mail clerk.

The movie has some nice L.A. location shooting, plus the film opens in one of RKO's typically gorgeous '30s Art Deco sets, in this case a hotel.

The film also provides some interesting peeks into life as it was in the past, whether it's hotel mail chutes and full-time hotel mail clerks or the passing parade at the general delivery window.

WANTED! JANE TURNER was directed by Edward Killy and filmed by Robert de Grasse. It runs a quick 66 minutes.

The DVD print is fine. There are no extras.

For more on this movie, please visit KC's review at A Classic Movie Blog; she enjoyed it as well and found it "a snappy, high-spirited 66 minute window into what the world would be like if everyone thought of that clever remark before they went home for the night."

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDS and Blu-rays are sold.

The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Five

Sunday, the final day of the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival, was bright and sunny, the better to offset everyone's sadness that the festival was almost over!

First thing Sunday I made one more trip to the Egyptian Theatre, this time to see a digital print of THE EGG AND I (1947) starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert.

Here's a shot of Disney's El Capitan Theatre and the neighboring Ghirardelli shop which I took during my walk to the Egyptian. The El Capitan hasn't been a festival venue the last couple of years, but I hope it will be again in the future!


10:15 was the latest I began my movie watching days during the festival, which gave me plenty of time to check out of my hotel before heading off to a four-movie day.


THE EGG AND I was introduced by Tiffany Vazquez, who interviewed Kate MacMurray, daughter of Fred MacMurray and June Haver.


Kate spoke of her parents in glowing terms, relating charming anecdotes about Fred showing up to fix June's plumbing at the start of their courtship; early on he also filled June's fairly empty refrigerator with groceries. When she protested that he'd brought over things she didn't eat, he said, "No, but I do!" -- letting her know he was serious about spending lots of time together. Here's a shot of MacMurray and Haver at home:


Kate also said she had visited his sets only rarely, as he viewed a movie set as a "place of business."

Kate said that her father didn't think it was polite to talk about favorite leading ladies, but that enough years had passed she thought it was all right to say that his favorites were Carole Lombard and Claudette Colbert.


A nice surprise was that THE EGG AND I was preceded by a Merry Melodies cartoon which tied in to the movie's "chicken" theme. I'd love to see this done at the festival more frequently, although I imagine the schedules are already tight enough it might not be easy to pull off.

After THE EGG AND I it was time to head to the "big" Chinese for another Colbert film, THE PALM BEACH STORY (1942). Like THE EGG AND I, THE PALM BEACH STORY was a digital screening.


Before the film Cari Beauchamp interviewed Joel McCrea's grandson Wyatt, who did a wonderful job sharing some stories about his grandfather. Something I'd never noticed before is that the part in McCrea's hair changes midway through the film; McCrea changed it and director Sturges never noticed!

I loved that the Chinese interviews were also put on a big screen this year!


We visited McCrea Ranch with a few other bloggers the Sunday before the festival started; here's a shot of Wyatt I took on the front porch of his grandparents' home. A video interview with Wyatt should be available at Classic Movies and More in the near future.


As for THE PALM BEACH STORY, it's one of my all-time favorite comedies. What a joy to see it with a big crowd laughing along! (And something I never noticed before: The maid of honor in the opening wedding scene is the ubiquitous "dress extra" Bess Flowers.)


Some of Mary Astor's family were on hand along with members of the McCrea family, and Astor received big applause when she first appeared.


On my original schedule I planned to see SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) at this point unless there was a "Sunday repeat" I wanted to see more. It just so happened that the Lubitsch film ONE HOUR WITH YOU (1932), starring Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier, was shown in the Chinese multiplex, and I couldn't pass it up!

Tiffany Vazquez provided the intro to ONE HOUR WITH YOU:


I first saw ONE HOUR WITH YOU as a teenager at L.A.'s Vagabond Theater, and I revisited it a few years ago via DVD. Seeing it at the festival was a great experience; it was screened in UCLA's 35mm print, complete with some scenes in blue and sepia tints!


The very last film of the festival was Harold Lloyd in SPEEDY (1928). SPEEDY was shown in digital format.


My friend Jandy and I got in line very early, as the movie was showing in a somewhat smaller venue and we didn't want to risk missing out! I was the seventh in line, and I was happy to spend a couple of hours waiting, knowing I'd be in the audience for this special closing night screening.


SPEEDY was presented by Leonard Maltin and Harold Lloyd's granddaughter Suzanne, who shared the same duties three years ago presenting the Harold Lloyd film WHY WORRY? (1923).


The movie was accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra, a three-person ensemble which accompanies silent films at both live screenings and on DVDs. Here they take a deserved hand at the end of a very entertaining movie:


And just like that the 2017 festival was over! Time for a quick spin through Club TCM at the Hollywood Roosevelt to say goodbye to the many friends who are, year after year, the very best part of the TCM Classic Film Festival. What a joy to share so many great movies in a warm community of like-minded film fans from across the country and beyond.

Then I headed for home, with countless happy memories, already looking forward to seeing what's ahead at the 2018 festival!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Ladies of the Jury (1932) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Last week I spent three days serving as a juror on a civil trial, so the timing couldn't have been better to watch LADIES OF THE JURY (1932), recently released by the Warner Archive.

Edna May Oliver stars as wealthy Mrs. Livingston Baldwin Crane, who is summoned for jury service in a murder trial and promptly takes over the proceedings.

Mrs. Crane, who is not used to taking no for an answer, constantly interrupts the judge and even directly quizzes the defendant, a young woman named Mrs. Gordon (Jill Esmond).

Mrs. Gordon, a French former chorus girl, is accused of killing her husband. At one point in the trial Mrs. Crane even begins questioning Mrs. Gordon in French because of the delicate subject matter. The exasperated judge (Robert McWade) frequently defers to Mrs. Crane, but he draws the line at testimony in French!

Mrs. Crane is initially the lone "not guilty" vote, but one by one she wins the other jurors to her side. It's sort of an early, more lighthearted version of 12 ANGRY MEN (1957).

Alas, the concept is terrific but the execution leaves much to be desired. I was quite enthused to see this film, as Oliver is perfectly cast in the role, but it alternated between being too silly or too dull. Some of the other jury members are quite odd, yet not very interesting. The movie's saving grace is it's just 63 minutes long!

Jill Esmond, who plays the accused murderess, was married to Laurence Olivier at the time she appeared in this film. The cast also includes Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Roscoe Ates, Ken Murray, Cora Witherspoon, and Florence Lake.

A few years later LADIES OF THE JURY was remade as WE'RE ON THE JURY (1937), starring Helen Broderick. Robert McWade reprised his role as the judge in the remake!

LADIES OF THE JURY was directed by Lowell Sherman and filmed by Jack Mackenzie.

The print of this early '30s film is scratched and faded at certain points but, as is usually the case with Warner Archive DVDs, it's perfectly watchable. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDS and Blu-rays are sold.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Four

After a busy Friday watching five movies and a cartoon program, I was back at the Egyptian bright and early Saturday morning!

My second full day at the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival consisted of five films, with the first starting at 9:00 a.m. and the last one starting at 9:30 p.m.

As I mentioned in my festival overview, RED RIVER (1948) was probably my favorite of many wonderful festival experiences. It was screened in a beautiful 35mm print on the Egyptian's huge screen.


A pause to admire the fabulous Egyptian ceiling. The theater will celebrate its centennial in 2022.


Despite being such a huge fan of Westerns and John Wayne, somehow I'd only seen RED RIVER once, so long ago I didn't really remember it. What a movie! The music, the locations, and all those great character actor faces had a big impact on me.


I was particularly impressed by John Ireland as gunslinger Cherry Valance, and I wish Hawks hadn't dealt with his character so abruptly at movie's end. If legend is true, Hawks was annoyed that Ireland was romancing Joanne Dru, who became Mrs. Ireland a year after this film was released.


RED RIVER also has a memorable scene for Coleen Gray, who would rib John Wayne for the rest of their lives "You should have taken me with you!"


Then it was time to head to the "big" Chinese Theatre for the first of two films I'd see there during the festival, THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937), starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. This was a digital print introduced by Alicia Malone, a host on TCM's Filmstruck screening service.


I'm a huge fan of both Grant and Dunne but this has probably been my least favorite of their films together. In the past I think I found their characters' split-up too immature to be fun, and I was a much bigger fan of the riotous comedy MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940) and the dramatic PENNY SERENADE (1942). However, like the first night's screening of LOVE CRAZY (1940), this film plays much better with a big audience laughing along.


And just as the audience had applauded the entrance of Harry Carey Sr. earlier that morning in RED RIVER, Joyce Compton received enthused applause when she appeared for her memorable scene singing "Gone With the Wind." I love that about TCM Fests!

I hadn't seen BYE BYE BIRDIE (1963) for years, and at the time I selected it, it looked like it might be my only chance to see a musical at the festival. It was a digital screening in the Chinese multiplex.


I saw BYE BYE BIRDIE years ago at the Sherman Theater. It's a musical I keep returning to thinking maybe this time it will be better, but in the end it always strikes me as half of a good movie. Most of the good stuff has to do with Ann-Margret and the dancing. But there are some parts of it that are simply leaden; a romantic lead (Dick Van Dyke) who's a spineless mama's boy just doesn't work, and Maureen Stapleton's mother character stops the movie in its tracks every time she comes on screen. It would not be too strong to say that I loathe her character.

But then Ann-Margret lights up the screen with her powerhouse personality, and all is forgiven!


Next up, my second Irene Dunne film of the day, THEODORA GOES WILD (1936), shown in 35mm at the Egyptian.


THEODORA was introduced by Illeana Douglas, the granddaughter of costar Melvyn Douglas. At the pre-festival party I told her I wondered what he would have thought filming it in the '30s if he could have seen the future and know that a huge crowd would be thrilled to see it decades later -- and that it would be introduced by his granddaughter!


I'd seen THEODORA at the Vagabond Theater in the late '70s -- it's entirely possible it was in nitrate -- so this was my second time to see it on a big screen. Unlike BYE BYE BIRDIE, THEODORA is a film which I've found improves on further acquaintance; each time I like it more. Dunne and Douglas are superb, and I find the film's themes interesting, as first Douglas "saves" Dunne and then she returns the favor.


Finally it was time to head to the Chinese multiplex for Preston Sturges' UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (1948), which I very briefly reviewed here back in 2006. I wasn't a particular fan of it at the time, but I was intrigued that this film was Eddie Muller's contribution to the festival's comedy theme, and as a Linda Darnell fan I wanted to give it a second look.

In his introduction Eddie provided interesting background, including the information that Sturges wrote it in the '30s but wasn't able to film it until darker movies -- i.e., film noir -- were in vogue in the late '40s.


The 35mm print was absolutely beautiful, Linda was divine and her gowns by Bonnie Cashin and Oleg Cassini were gorgeous, and Rudy Vallee and Barbara Lawrence were fun, but this movie still doesn't work for me; it's a one-joke film which wears out its welcome early on. Still, I'm glad I saw it again under such wonderful conditions.


After that it was time to rest up for the final day of movies! My final festival recap post will be coming soon.

TCM Discontinues Print Edition of Now Playing Guide

Turner Classic Movies is discontinuing the print version of its Now Playing guide.

Clicking on the "magazine" button at the top of the TCM website now takes subscribers to an announcement by Palm Coast, the company which services subscriptions.

The notice says that the print edition will be discontinued as of August 2017, with prorated refunds given to subscribers in July.

In the future there will be a free email version with the printable schedule and some of the same editorial features.

The link regarding the end of the Now Playing guide was shared on TCM's message boards yesterday. After finding the link there, I broke the news to the classic film community on Twitter last evening.

Although the information originated on the TCM website, one wonders if some at TCM were caught off guard by the timing of the Palm Coast news release, as TCM wasn't "out in front" presenting the news to fans. To my knowledge TCM had not made a more formal public announcement with details on the changes, other than the Palm Coast page linked at their site, nor were subscribers contacted concurrent with the news being made public. TCM says direct communication with subscribers will be coming in the future.

This afternoon TCM responded to disappointed subscriber feedback on Twitter with a Tweet saying "Classic film fans, NPG is not going away; it's transitioning to digital with your fave features and more.  Stay tuned for more info."  TCM also Tweeted that it "hopes" to include the crossword puzzle in the new digital edition.

As has often been discussed at TCM Classic Film Festivals, TCM is much more than just a cable station, it's a lifestyle. The Now Playing print guide was an important part of that lifestyle for many of us, who will miss the attractive covers, glossy photos, and having all the month's info in a compact print form sitting next to our TVs. Some TCM fans, such as my friend Jessica, have maintained collections of old guides. Seen here is my collection of Now Playing going back over a decade, always at the ready for research -- and also serving as mementos of countless happy movie memories.

We all know print magazines of all kinds are struggling but for now can only guess that factored into TCM's decision-making process. Now Playing was an outstanding representative of the TCM network in our homes for many, many years, and it's going to be missed.

I'll be watching for future announcements on this topic from TCM and share the information here as it develops.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Woman Against Woman (1938) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Mary Astor and Virginia Bruce square off over Herbert Marshall in WOMAN AGAINST WOMAN (1938), newly available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Just a few days ago I saw Astor as the wronged wife in the Warner Archive release SMART WOMAN (1931). In WOMAN AGAINST WOMAN, she's also abandoned by her husband, but instead of the devoted wife she played in the earlier film, this time around she's a nasty manipulator -- and wonderfully entertaining!

I saw this film almost seven years ago and enjoyed it as much or more the second time around. It's a breezy 61 minutes in which Herbert Marshall's attorney, Stephen Holland, walks out on his bossy, belittling wife Cynthia (Astor); soon thereafter he finds love with with sweet Maris (Bruce).

Stephen and Maris wed after a quick courtship and are very happy, but Cynthia constantly uses little daughter Ellen (Juanita Quigley) to manipulate both Stephen and his mother (Janet Beecher). Maris also finds it difficult fitting into Stephen's small-town social circle, especially as Cynthia is given to creating scenes to drum up sympathy from mutual friends. Can this marriage survive?

This very short movie could have stood being another ten minutes or so longer, but what's there is highly entertaining soap opera, with strong performances by the three leads.

From film to film Astor had the remarkable ability to swing from highly sympathetic characters to awful women you almost want to smack, and she plays the latter type of character here. Bruce is believable as the long-suffering Maris; I'd put up with a lot for Herbert Marshall too!

There's also terrific comic relief by Marjorie Rambeau as a society matron constantly reacting to the goings-on with Stephen and the women in his life. Beecher offers strong support as Maris's mother-in-law, who's initially in Cynthia's camp but is ultimately fair to Maris as well.

Juanita Quigley is cute as the little girl Cynthia uses as a tool to control her ex-husband. Quigley was born in 1931 and according to IMDb is still with us today.

The supporting cast includes Zeffie Tilbury, Sarah Padden, Morgan Wallace, Dorothy Christy, Joseph Crehan, Marie Blake, and Betty Ross Clarke.

This film was directed by Robert B. Sinclair and filmed in black and white by Ray June.

The print has a few random scratches but on the whole looks very good. The trailer is included on the DVD.

WOMAN AGAINST WOMAN is polished MGM fun. Fans of the cast will want to check it out.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDS and Blu-rays are sold.

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