Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Bad Men of Tombstone (1949) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

BAD MEN OF TOMBSTONE is a solid Allied Artists Western produced by Maurice and Frank King, whose next film would be the noir classic GUN CRAZY (1950). BAD MEN OF TOMBSTONE was just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

Barry Sullivan plays Tom Horn, who's thrown into jail after a failed robbery attempt. He falls in with another outlaw, William Morgan (Broderick Crawford), and Morgan's gang (Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Fortunato Bonanova, and John Kellogg). The gang has great success picking up lots of ill-gotten loot, and Tom also spends time romancing and then marrying Julie (Marjorie Reynolds).

Eventually greed splits up the gang, leading to a final showdown between Horn and Morgan.

BAD MEN OF TOMBSTONE is a pretty good Western, although the inherent problem with Westerns focusing on outlaws is that one knows at the outset that they never end well. Especially given the constraints of the Production Code, the viewer can be pretty sure that an antihero lead isn't going to survive to the end credits, which always casts a shadow over such films.

That issue aside, Sullivan is very good indeed as Horn, who's a pretty smart guy, if not always very nice. His romance with Julie, who comes from a similar hardscrabble background, is affecting. It's interesting to note that although the film has plenty of action, most of the official stills taken to publicize the film emphasize the romantic storyline.

Sullivan has some exciting moments of gunplay, including casually blowing three holes in a plate tossed in the sky and later shooting a hotel room door full of holes when someone tries to sneak in. It's a very different role from his clean-cut father in JEOPARDY (1953), seen just last weekend, yet Sullivan is equally appealing in both parts.

Reynolds is good and surprisingly tough at times, although I didn't think she was always filmed to best effect in this movie by cinematographer Russell Harlan; in some scenes she looks a bit puffy and tired beyond her 31 years. Perhaps, though, that fit her character, who has had a rough life.

Character favorite Louis Jean Heydt has a small but notable role as a homesteader whose plans to go West with his wife (Virginia Carroll) cause Julie to yearn for a more peaceful existence, even if it means doing without riches. Carroll, incidentally, was married to actor Ralph Byrd (DICK TRACY, STAGE STRUCK).

BAD MEN OF TOMBSTONE runs 75 minutes. It was directed by Kurt Neumann. The narrator was Gerald Mohr.

The screenplay by Philip Yordan and Arthur Strawn was based on the novel LAST OF THE BADMEN by Jay Monaghan. Screenwriter Yordan, in particular, has an impressive filmography including everything from the delightful comedy JOHNNY DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (1944) to noir and Western classics like THE CHASE (1946), REIGN OF TERROR (1949), JOHNNY GUITAR (1954), and many more.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print, although a number of nighttime scenes seem to have inherently been fairly dark as night scenes go. 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 at the WBShop.

Happy Birthday, Barbara Hale!

The lovely and engaging Barbara Hale turns 93 today.


Hale, best known for her role as Della Street in TV's PERRY MASON series, was born in Illinois on April 18, 1922.

Barbara Hale married Bill Williams in 1946, a happy marriage which lasted until his passing in 1992. They're seen here with Richard Loo in THE CLAY PIGEON (1949):


Hale and Williams had three children, including actor William Katt -- Katt being Williams' real last name -- the star of TV's THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO (1981). Katt also starred with his mother in the long-running series of PERRY MASON TV-movies, playing Paul Drake Jr., the son of the character played by William Hopper in the original TV series.


Hale starred in many enjoyable films, including numerous Westerns. She was both lovely and a fine actress, as demonstrated by her performance as the poor, careworn mother opposite Arthur Kennedy and Bobby Driscoll in THE WINDOW (1949).


For an additional 2015 birthday tribute to Barbara Hale, please visit Vienna's Classic Hollywood. And for good measure, here's a 2010 tribute by Caftan Woman.

Barbara Hale films previously reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: HIGHER AND HIGHER (1943), GOVERNMENT GIRL (1943), THE FALCON OUT WEST (1944), THE FALCON IN HOLLYWOOD (1944), WEST OF THE PECOS (1945), THE CLAY PIGEON (1949), THE WINDOW (1949), AND BABY MAKES THREE (1949), LORNA DOONE (1951), THE LONE HAND (1953), SEMINOLE (1953), THE HOUSTON STORY (1956), THE OKLAHOMAN (1957), and AIRPORT (1970).

Additional notable Hale films include THE BOY WITH GREEN HAIR (1948), JOLSON SINGS AGAIN (1949), THE JACKPOT (1950), THE FIRST TIME (1952), A LION IS IN THE STREETS (1953), LAST OF THE COMANCHES (1953), and 7TH CAVALRY (1956).

Happiest birthday wishes to a favorite actress who has provided so many wonderful hours of entertainment!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Black Midnight (1949) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Thanks to an unusually busy schedule attending back-to-back-to-back film festivals here in the Los Angeles area over the past few weeks, I now have a nice stack of several Warner Archive DVDs accumulated to review in the near future! Stay tuned for posts on a number of interesting titles recently released by the Archive.

The first Warner Archive title up for review this weekend is BLACK MIDNIGHT (1949), a 66-minute Western which stars 20-year-old Roddy McDowall. BLACK MIDNIGHT was directed by the up-and-coming Oscar Boetticher, who of course would become better known under the name Budd Boetticher.

McDowall, who was born in September 1928, had a notable history as a superb child actor in films such as HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941) and LASSIE COME HOME (1943). In the late '40s McDowall coproduced and starred in half a dozen films for Monogram Pictures, including two directed by Boetticher, BLACK MIDNIGHT and KILLER SHARK (1950).

BLACK MIDNIGHT begins in promising fashion, with a lovely orchestration of "Shenandoah" playing while the opening credits are shown over scenic shots of Lone Pine's Alabama Hills.

McDowall's Scott Jordan lives with his Uncle Bill (Damian O'Flynn) on a struggling ranch. Bill's black sheep son Daniel (Rand Brooks) arrives home after a long absence with a string of horses he claims to have bought. He's accompanied by Roy (Gordon Jones), his shady business partner who arouses suspicions in the sheriff (Kirby Grant).

Daniel tires of trying to tame a black stallion named Midnight, and Scott buys the horse from his cousin to save him from being shot, then works tirelessly to gentle him. Midnight's future is once again in doubt when Roy is trampled to death -- but Scott has evidence that Midnight killed Roy in self-defense.

Scott is aided by his childhood sweetheart Cindy (Lyn Thomas), who has recently returned to town with her widowed mother (Fay Baker from THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL) after a long absence.

At the outset of the film there's an odd, if memorable, moment when McDowall wakes up and immediately pets the mounted head of what appears to have been his pet dog. That's not something one sees every day (!).

As the film continues, it proves to be engagingly staged, with nice music, some interesting photographic angles, and an especially authentic "fresh air" feel -- you can almost see yourself standing right next to the camera in Lone Pine. The film has some of the best all-around use of the entire Lone Pine area I've ever seen in a single movie. The characters played by Baker and Thomas even live in the "Hoppy Cabin," which I photographed last fall; the well seen in the movie is also still there today.

The black and white photography was by William Sickner. This is a film fans of the Alabama Hills won't want to miss! It's also a great flick for fans of "B" Westerns in general, a real winner for me.

Lyn Thomas began in films in 1948; she was also in McDowall's Monogram production of BIG TIMBER (1950). Coincidentally, she played the wordless role of the woman George Sanders strangles in WITNESS TO MURDER (1954), which I saw just a few days ago at the Noir City Film Festival. Thomas continued acting in films and television until 1961. She passed away in Riverside, California, in 2004.

After his run at Monogram, McDowall worked almost exclusively in television for the duration of the 1950s, but he would later appear as a supporting actor in films such as MIDNIGHT LACE (1960), CLEOPATRA (1963), and THAT DARN CAT! (1965), while also continuing a very busy TV career.

This is the kind of movie I'm especially grateful to the Warner Archive for preserving and making available to new audiences. It's a beautiful print. 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 at the WBShop.

Tonight's Movie: News is Made at Night (1939)

The engaging team of Preston Foster and Lynn Bari costarred in three films for 20th Century-Fox in a three-year period: CHASING DANGER (1939), NEWS IS MADE AT NIGHT (1939), and SECRET AGENT OF JAPAN (1942). I've been wanting to see the first two films ever since I saw SECRET AGENT OF JAPAN back in 2012, and now I've finally caught NEWS IS MADE AT NIGHT.

NEWS IS MADE AT NIGHT is a lightweight 70 minutes, made more interesting by a deep cast and the fact that it's a newspaper movie, which always has appeal.

Foster plays irascible newspaper editor Steve Drum, who will do pretty much anything to get a story. Steve's ideas of journalistic ethics include publishing a phony affidavit and faking a call regarding a man on death row.

Steve clashes repeatedly with Maxine Thomas (Bari), as he chauvinistically doesn't believe in women reporters and Maxine always seems to accidentally mess up his stories. However, Maxine charms young Albert Hockman (Russell Gleason), who is acting as publisher in his father's absence, and Albert keeps going to bat for Maxine, even going so far as to put her on his personal payroll after Steve fires her for the umpteenth time.

The plot, concerning a man unjustly sentenced to death row, was not always entirely clear, but that didn't matter too much. My focus was on enjoying the sparring between Foster and Bari, and it's also a great film for people watching, given that the cast includes many familiar faces such as George Barbier, Richard Lane, Charles Lane, Minor Watson, Charles Halton, Paul Harvey, Paul Fix, Paul Guilfoyle, Irving Bacon, and Robert Emmett Keane.

Russell Gleason, who does a good job as the goofy young publisher, was the son of character actors James and Lucile Gleason. He would die tragically in 1945 due to an accidental fall from a window while serving in the U.S. military. He made over 50 movies before his passing.

NEWS IS MADE AT NIGHT was written by John Larkin and directed by Alfred L. Werker. It was filmed in black and white by Ernest Palmer.

Given that it's fairly flimsy as "B" movies go, NEWS IS MADE AT NIGHT will appeal the most to fans of the cast or newspaper films.

For more on this film, please see Steve's 2012 review at Mystery File.

Thanks to Maricatrin for the big assist in seeing this one! It was great to check it off my list after looking for it the last couple of years. I hope to also review CHASING DANGER before too long.

Quick Preview of TCM in June

The tentative June schedule for Turner Classic Movies is now available online.

There is a special theme for the June Star of the Month, focusing on "pin-up girls" and sex symbols. Movies screened on Wednesday evenings including Betty Grable in PIN-UP GIRL (1944), Rita Hayworth in GILDA (1946), Ava Gardner in THE KILLERS (1946), Veronica Lake in THE GLASS KEY (1942), Esther Williams in BATHING BEAUTY (1944), and Jane Russell in THE OUTLAW (1943).

The first two Wednesdays focus on the '40s, then the series shifts to the '50s and films such as Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1943), Jayne Mansfield in WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? (1957), Diana Dors in I MARRIED A WOMAN (1958), and Mamie Van Doren in UNTAMED YOUTH (1957).

The last Wednesday of the series focuses on the '60s and '70s, including films with Raquel Welch and Jane Fonda.

Fridays in June will be nothing short of amazing, with 24-hour film noir marathons every Friday. Will we see the return of the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller as host of the Friday Night Spotlight? It was recently reported on Twitter that he had visited TCM in Atlanta so that's my expectation. He also hosted the Friday Night Spotlight last June.

Richard Dix fans can look forward to a six-film primetime tribute to the actor, and Don Ameche receives a primetime tribute as well. There's also a most interesting evening devoted to films directed by Dick Powell, and another evening showcasing the Bulldog Drummond detective series.

Other May tributes will include Frank Morgan, Merle Oberon, Alexis Smith, Fritz Lang, Lassie, MacDonald and Eddy, Evelyn Keyes, Esther Williams, Paul Newman, and Montgomery Clift.

May themes include rain, monsters, WWII resistance fighters, and Father's Day.

I'll have a more detailed look at the June schedule around the very end of May. In the meantime, Anthony Quinn continues as the April Star of the Month, with Sterling Hayden ahead as Star of the Month for May.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tonight's Movie: The Fallen Sparrow (1943) at the Noir City Film Festival

Tonight's double bill at the 17th Annual Noir City Film Festival paid tribute to novelist Dorothy B. Hughes. Two films based on Hughes' books were screened, RIDE THE PINK HORSE (1947) and THE FALLEN SPARROW (1943).

Best of all, there was an interview with FALLEN SPARROW costar Patricia Morison, who just turned 100 in March.

I had had mixed feelings about Robert Montgomery's RIDE THE PINK HORSE (1947) when I saw it in 2011, and I was pleasantly surprised to thoroughly enjoy it on this viewing. It's a dreamlike film requiring close attention -- one of those movies which simply plays better on a big screen in the dark than on the smaller screen at home. I found it also helped to have a better understanding of what would happen at the outset, as it's a fairly unusual movie.

I was interested to find that in 2011 I had written "I have a feeling this is a movie which might play better the second time around," as that proved to be very true. I plan to buy the Criterion Collection DVD, which includes a commentary track and a Lux Radio production, in the next Criterion sale.

At intermission Patricia Morison arrived to be interviewed by Alan Rode. I was seated at quite a distance so don't have a very good photo -- hopefully a camera with a better zoom lens is in my future! -- but here's one just to give a flavor of the moment:


We should all live to 100 and be as sharp and savvy as Morison! She told some very engaging stories, including Louis B. Mayer proposing marriage to her through an intermediary and being cut out of her role as Victor Mature's first wife in KISS OF DEATH (1947) because the Production Code would not allow her suicide to be shown. (Morison's name remained on some of the film's posters.) She also discussed meeting Cole Porter and being cast in the title role in the original Broadway production of KISS ME, KATE, as well as working with Yul Brynner in THE KING AND I, where she replaced the ailing Gertrude Lawrence in the Broadway cast.

Morison was one of three actresses who starred in the evening's next film, THE FALLEN SPARROW. She played Barby, the upper-crust ex-girlfriend of Kit McKittrick (John Garfield). As the movie begins, Kit has recently left a sanitarium where he was treated for what we would now call PTSD, as he recovers from a horrific experience as a prisoner of war in a Fascist prison camp in Spain.

The film also stars Maureen O'Hara, who might be a woman in distress or might be an enemy operative, and Martha O'Driscoll (CRIMINAL COURT) as a society songbird who is Kit's friend. It was nice to think that not only Morison but O'Hara (age 94) are still with us today. O'Driscoll died in 1998.

Kit returns to NYC to investigate the "suicide" of a cop friend who had helped him escape the POW camp. Kit believes his fall from the upper story of a highrise wasn't an accident and that it's likely a woman lured him to his doom. But which one, and why?

The plot, frankly, is on the muddled side, making it difficult to describe in more detail, and the film also has its distasteful moments, with Walter Slezak gleefully describing methods of torture. That said, the film is still interesting and has a great polished noir style, between Nicholas Musuraca's gleaming black and white photography and the elegant ladies of the cast, not least Morison.

Morison is absolutely gorgeous, gowned by Edward Stevenson, with her trademark long, dark hair done up in elaborate styles. I wished she'd had even more screen time as she's a very interesting and rather unique film personality.

O'Driscoll is also engaging in a substantial part which gives her a chance to sing. O'Hara might actually be the least interesting of the three ladies, as she's simply beautiful but mysteriously icy, right up till the end.

THE FALLEN SPARROW is an RKO film which was directed by Richard Wallace and edited by future Oscar-winning director Robert Wise. The Warren Duff screenplay of this 94-minute film was based on the novel by the previously mentioned Dorothy Hughes.

The supporting cast includes Hugh Beaumont, Bruce Edwards, John Banner, and John Miljan.

THE FALLEN SPARROW is available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

"Chewie, We're Home"

Like many classic film fans, I have a deep and abiding love for the three original STAR WARS films. I've seen them all many times, including multiple theatrical screenings, and in particular I consider THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) one of the all-time great films, which perfectly exemplifies the magic of the movies.

How much do I love STAR WARS? John Williams' "The Throne Room" was our wedding recessional, and we named one of our dogs Luke.

I shared additional STAR WARS memories back in 2007, on the 30th anniversary of the first film's release.

The 1999 and 2002 "prequels" left me with bad feelings; I saw them only one time apiece, and I never even bothered to see REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005). I prefer to forget they exist.

I've not been paying much attention to the new Disney STAR WARS film, especially given family members' discontent with the new movie undoing the literary world created by Timothy Zahn and others.

It's been nearly 40 years, after all, and it hasn't seemed likely THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015) could recapture the magic of the originals. And besides, it's impossible to imagine a STAR WARS movie opening without the 20th Century-Fox fanfare and especially Alfred Newman's "CinemaScope Extension" theme which follows.

And then, like so many STAR WARS fans, partway through this new trailer I burst into tears of happiness -- because it has been nearly 40 years, and it's all there: The iconic score, the play on lines from RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983), the amazing shot of ancient wreckage of a star destroyer and X-wing, and finally...



Maybe, just maybe, you can go home again?!

We shall see.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Berlin Express (1948) at the Noir City Film Festival

Tonight was a celebration of director Jacques Tourneur at the 17th Annual Noir City Film Festival, with a double bill featuring Tourneur's CIRCLE OF DANGER (1951) and BERLIN EXPRESS (1948).

I first reviewed CIRCLE OF DANGER in 2012 and liked it even better the second time; knowing the ending from the outset was a plus for me, and I found the movie a little easier to follow this time around.

CIRCLE OF DANGER stars Ray Milland as an American who travels all over England, Wales, and Scotland searching for answers regarding his brother's mysterious death during the war. In his spare time he romances a lovely children's author played by Patricia Roc. Marius Goring is particularly memorable as the sharp-tongued commando-turned-ballet choreographer. The movie was screened in an excellent 35mm print. I very much hope this movie will come out on DVD at some point in the future.

The second film of the night, BERLIN EXPRESS, was also set in postwar Europe. The slightly muddled plot concerns efforts by Nazi renegades to kill a German intellectual, Dr. Bernhardt (Paul Lukas), who is considered important to the effort to cooperate with the Allies to build a peaceful postwar Germany.

A multinational group of people on a train become involved in attempting to save Dr. Bernardt's life, including an American from the Agriculture Department (Robert Ryan), a Brit (Robert Coote), and a Russian soldier (Roman Toporow). Dr. Bernardt's secretary, Lucienne (Merle Oberon), is also a key player.

BERLIN EXPRESS was interesting, particularly given its up-close look at postwar Germany, but although I enjoyed it, I couldn't shake the feeling that a better film was hiding somewhere inside it. I am second to no one in my love for suspense films set on trains, but the movie never fully leveraged this setting for maximum suspense despite the opening and closing sequences being set on the train.

The film also suffers a bit from too many characters introduced in too short a time, without a chance for the audience to get to know them. It helps that the "types" are played by actors like Robert Ryan and Robert Coote, but the theme of international teamwork works against the movie a bit as the audience isn't particularly invested in any one character. They're pleasant enough to watch but it's more of a surface relationship between viewers and characters, although a couple of harrowing moments near the end do provide an emotional jolt.

One of the real "stars" of the film is the powerful look at the rubble of postwar Germany, marred only a bit by the random mixing of actual location shots with the use of back projections; that said, the back projections are better than average. The location work gives the film a unique tone and is thus also an interesting bit of history.

In his introduction, Alan Rode said that camera equipment was in such short supply in postwar Germany that Billy Wilder had to wait for cinematographer Lucien Ballard and company to wrap up filming BERLIN EXPRESS before he could start shooting another film notable for its postwar Germany locations, A FOREIGN AFFAIR (1948).

It's interesting to note that BERLIN EXPRESS has some overtones of early Hitchcock, inasmuch as it's a "train" film with one of the stars of THE LADY VANISHES (1938), Paul Lukas. The movie also felt a bit like the postwar flip side of FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940), what with the kidnapping of a key figure in a peace movement.

BERLIN EXPRESS runs 87 minutes. The supporting cast includes Charles Korvin, Richard Powers (aka Tom Keene), Reinhold Schunzel, and Charles McGraw, with narration by Paul Stewart.

For more on director Tourneur, please visit my review of the book JACQUES TOURNEUR: THE CINEMA OF NIGHTFALL by Chris Fujiwara, which includes links to my reviews of additional films directed by Jacques Tourneur.

BERLIN EXPRESS is available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The TCM Classic Film Festival: Day Five

All too soon it was Sunday, March 29th, the very last day of the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival.

In 2014 my Sunday morning started off in cheery style with the romantic comedy SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963), and this year I was able to kick off the festival's last day in similarly sunny style with Doris Day in an old favorite, CALAMITY JANE (1953).

CALAMITY JANE joined MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, THE PROUD REBEL, and SO DEAR TO MY HEART in my "Top 4" experiences of the 16 films seen at this year's festival. The audience was clearly filled with people who adore Doris and love musicals, and the response to the movie was terrific. I teared up a bit when Doris launched into "Secret Love," out of sheer happiness.


I had actually seen CALAMITY JANE on a big screen a couple times as a teenager, at the Wilshire (in Fullerton) and Vagabond Theaters. I don't think those prints could have looked as fantastic as the restored digital print I saw at the TCM Festival! While I've had some occasional reservations about black and white digital prints during the festival, seeing occasional tints of red or green on the screen during a couple of the screenings, CALAMITY JANE looked nothing less than fantastic.


Next I went to REIGN OF TERROR (1949), one of the films which had sold out its initial showing and was awarded one of the Sunday "TBA" slots. I had seen REIGN OF TERROR (1949) at the 2012 Noir City Film Festival (reviewed here) but was quite happy to see it on a big screen again!


REIGN OF TERROR is such a visually stunning movie, thanks to John Alton's cinematography, and it's filled with interesting performances, with direction by Anthony Mann. Definitely a film which deserves repeat viewings!

Although I "only" saw four films on Sunday, compared to five the preceding two days, Sunday was the one day I never managed a meal after breakfast! As soon as REIGN OF TERROR was over it was time to hurry out and get in line for THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940) at the Chinese Theatre.


Like many classic film fans, I've seen THE PHILADELPHIA STORY numerous times; the last time on a big screen was at the Balboa Theatre here in Orange County circa late '70s. It's always fun to see a familiar classic like this one through fresh eyes after not seeing it for several years, with an appreciative audience. On this viewing I especially noted the fine contributions of Ruth Hussey and Virginia Weidler.


Since I love THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1992) I especially enjoyed that Madeleine Stowe joined Illeana Douglas to introduce THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. Stowe spoke of her love for classic movies and TCM, deftly turning the conversation back to TCM when Douglas asked Stowe questions about her career. It was nice to see an actress one enjoys so enthused to share her love for classic movies.


(Photo of Illeana Douglas and Madeleine Stowe courtesy of Turner Classic Movies.)

All too soon it was time for the grand finale, Sophia Loren's appearance at a screening of MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE (1964), where she was interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz. Ben clearly appreciated the magic of the moment and admitted to being a bit nervous!


(Photo of Sophia Loren courtesy of Turner Classic Movies.)

Sophia was charming and down to earth, a real delight. This was a special event for everyone involved, the rare chance to see a true icon of the cinema in person, and the audience responded as enthusiastically as one might expect.


As for MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE (1964), it was very different from the kinds of films I typically watch; I'm not sure I'd precisely say I liked it, but it was an interesting and broadening viewing experience. All in all I was glad I attended it, especially for the chance to see Sophia.

Sunday's tally, for those keeping score, was three digital films and one (REIGN OF TERROR) in 35mm. The total breakdown for the festival was six films in 35mm and ten digital; the other 35mm prints were QUEEN CHRISTINA, REBECCA, SO DEAR TO MY HEART, AIR MAIL, and CHRISTMAS IN JULY.


(Photo courtesy of Turner Classic Movies)

After MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE it was time then to convene once more in Club TCM, this time to say goodbye to all my classic film blogging friends and express our hopes to meet again in 2016! I'm very grateful that blogging has led to so many wonderful experiences with such terrific people!

As my coverage of the currently ongoing Noir City Film Festival draws to a close this weekend, I'll be revisiting some of the movies seen at the TCM Festival in greater depth via reviews of individual films. I'll also be writing a column on the festival for ClassicFlix.

My fellow classic film bloggers continue to share great posts -- here's a final roundup of some additional links! It's by no means comprehensive, and many of the bloggers I've linked to previously have additional posts up at their sites.

"Travels With My Parents: TCMFF Through New Eyes" by Jessica at Comet Over Hollywood

"TCM Classic Film Festival 2015: Arrival" by Kendahl at A Classic Movie Blog; and I was envious Kendahl saw one of my favorite film historians, Jeanine Basinger, on Day Two!

"Who I Met, Who I Saw and My Thoughts on the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival" by Raquel at Out of the Past

"TCM Classic Film Festival Diary, Sunday" by Kristina at Speakeasy, and don't miss her "TCM Classic Film Diary, Wrap-Up," which has lots of great tips for those planning to attend in the future

"Dead on Arrival at the TCM Film Fest" by Will McKinley at Cinematically Insane


(Photo courtesy of Turner Classic Movies)

"TCMFF - A Social Affair" by Aurora at Once Upon a Screen, followed by "TCMFF The Movies - Melancholy Laughs Part 1"

"2015 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival Diary, Day 3" by Stephen at Classic Movie Man, followed by Day 4

"A Personal Look at the TCM Classic Film Festival 2015" by Marya at Yam

Theresa on THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) screening at CineMaven's Essays From the Couch

Plus a look at Ben Burtt & Craig Barron's special GUNGA DIN (1939) presentation by Kim at I See a Dark Theater

For more links to my coverage of the festival, please visit The 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Jeopardy (1953) at the Noir City Film Festival

Last night's Barbara Stanwyck double bill at the 17th Annual Noir City Film Festival began with the very enjoyable WITNESS TO MURDER (1954), then continued with the suspense film JEOPARDY (1953).

Stanwyck and Barry Sullivan play Helen and Doug Stilwin, who as the movie begins are driving south into Mexico for a fishing trip with their young son Bobby (Lee Aaker). They plan to camp on a deserted piece of coastline Doug had visited once before.

Plans quickly go awry when an old pier collapses, trapping Doug's leg. Helen needs to go for help -- including a sturdy rope that can hopefully be tied to their car to move the lumber and free Doug, before the tide rises and Doug drowns (!).

Things go from bad to worse when Helen thinks she's found a young man (Ralph Meeker) who can help them, but it turns out he's a murderer on the run from the Mexican police. Talk about having a bad day!

JEOPARDY is a short, fast-paced movie, clocking in at a brisk 69 minutes. From my perspective it was a good thing it was short, as I couldn't have stood the tension any longer!

I can't say I really enjoyed the storyline of this one very much -- could it be any more heartbreaking when the dad is hesitantly trying to make clear to his little boy that he might not be around in the future? -- but it did have some memorable moments, chief among them the surprising scene where Stanwyck turns seductive on Meeker in order to obtain his cooperation to save her husband's life.

I also wondered about things such as when Stanwyck was having trouble communicating her need for a rope to some rural Mexicans, why didn't she try asking them for the police? There had been some in the area who might have been able to help. Or she might have tried asking them to come with her. But if she'd tried harder to bridge the language gap and obtain their help I guess there might not have been a movie!

Stanwyck and Sullivan do a good job presenting a portrait of a happy marriage in a short time frame, and indeed, it's one of Sullivan's more appealing performances; when he's in a movie you never know whether he'll be a hero or villain. I did think his character chose a rather odd vacation spot to take his wife and son, being so extremely remote (and probably not an outhouse in sight), but of such things movies are made. He was clearly a good dad and husband, and it's a nice performance.

Young Lee Aaker is a particularly good child actor; he's previously been seen in films such as THE ATOMIC CITY (1952) and HONDO (1953).

Incidentally, differences in child rearing over the last few decades are particularly apparent in this film, as Bobby climbs from the backseat to the front of a moving car, with nary a seatbelt in sight, and waves around a handgun. Such little moments reflecting the culture of the day added to the film's interest.

JEOPARDY was directed by John Sturges. The screenplay was by Mel Dinelli, from a story by Maurice Zimm. The movie was filmed in black and white by Victor Milner, with location work in California's Pioneertown.

As a side note, the movie's publicity stills are amusing; in some shots Meeker's holding a gun on Sullivan, with Stanwyck not looking too worried, but there's also a photo of Sullivan holding the gun on Meeker and Stanwyck!

JEOPARDY is available on DVD in the Barbara Stanwyck Signature Collection.

Update: In a nice coincidence, Colin just wrote about JEOPARDY at Riding the High Country.

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