Sunday, July 05, 2015

Quick Preview of TCM in September

The September schedule was recently posted by Turner Classic Movies!

Susan Hayward will be the September Star of the Month, starting with BEAU GESTE (1939) on September 3rd. 28 Hayward films will be shown spread over four Thursday evenings in September. It's a great series with many excellent titles on the schedule.

On Tuesday evenings TCM will feature a series inspired by the book FIVE CAME BACK: A STORY OF HOLLYWOOD AND THE SECOND WORLD WAR by Mark Harris. The series will spotlight WWII documentaries by a variety of filmmakers, along with feature films by the five filmmakers chronicled in the book, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens, William Wyler, and Frank Capra.

There's also an unusual one-evening retrospective of James Dean's TV roles on shows such as STUDIO ONE, GENERAL ELECTRIC THEATER, and ROBERT MONTGOMERY PRESENTS.

Speaking of Robert Montgomery, I'm excited that TCM is showing two Robert Montgomery films which have long been on my wish list, SO THIS IS COLLEGE (1929) and VANESSA: HER LOVE STORY (1935).

Another notable screening is one of the hits of this year's TCM Classic Film Festival, Colleen Moore in WHY BE GOOD? (1929).

September tributes include Constance Bennett, W.C. Fields, Robert Wise, Anne Bancroft, John Wayne, Irene Dunne, and Conrad Veidt.

Themes include Westerns with "Kid" in the title, Mexico, college, and Agatha Christie.

As an aside, I note that there are a significant number of "newer" films airing in September, with over 30 films released after 1970. There are also a significant number of films from the '60s.

I'll have much more information on the September schedule posted around September 1st. In the meantime, Shirley Temple is the July Star of the Month, with the annual Summer Under the Stars Festival coming in August.

TCM Star of the Month: Shirley Temple

Monday evening Turner Classic Movies begins its tribute to the July Star of the Month, Shirley Temple.

19 Shirley Temple films will be shown on Monday evenings in July, spanning a 15-year period from 1934 to her last feature film in 1949.

The series kicks off on Monday evening, July 6th, with Shirley in the Damon Runyon tale LITTLE MISS MARKER (1934), costarring Adolphe Menjou.

That's followed by NOW AND FOREVER (1934) with Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard, BRIGHT EYES (1934) with James Dunn, CURLY TOP (1935) with John Boles and Rochelle Hudson, and THE POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL (1935) with Alice Faye.

Moving on to Monday, July 13th, there are a number of especially good Temple films. The night starts with STOWAWAY (1936) costarring Alice Faye and Robert Young, then moves on to John Ford's WEE WILLIE WINKIE (1937) costarring Victor McLaglen.

July 13th continues with HEIDI (1937), LITTLE MISS BROADWAY (1938), and A LITTLE PRINCESS (1939). WEE WILLIE WINKIE, HEIDI, and A LITTLE PRINCESS are among Temple's most iconic roles and the "must sees" of the evening.

July 20th features five films from Temple's teen years, starting with two outstanding films set on the WWII homefront, SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944) and I'LL BE SEEING YOU (1944).

Next up on the 20th is the comedy HONEYMOON (1947), costarring Guy Madison and Franchot Tone, followed by THAT HAGEN GIRL (1947), an interesting drama with Ronald Reagan and Rory Calhoun. The evening concludes with Temple starring as another poor little rich girl, KATHLEEN (1941), costarring Herbert Marshall and Laraine Day.

The series concludes on Monday, July 27th, with the delightful comedy THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY-SOXER (1947), also starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and Rudy Vallee.

Shirley reunited with her '30s costar Robert Young in the period family drama ADVENTURE IN BALTIMORE (1948). Also showing on the 27th: THE STORY OF SEABISCUIT (1949) with Lon McCallister and Barry Fitzgerald and A KISS FOR CORLISS (1949) with David Niven. A KISS FOR CORLISS is sometimes shown under the title ALMOST A BRIDE.

Curiously, one of Temple's very best movies, her second film with director John Ford, isn't on the schedule: FORT APACHE (1948). However, it's available on DVD.

Other key Temple films not showing on TCM this month, including THE LITTLEST REBEL (1935), CAPTAIN JANUARY (1936), REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM (1938), and SUSANNAH OF THE MOUNTIES (1939), are all available on DVD. The '30s films were all for 20th Century-Fox which are more expensive for TCM to license.

For more on TCM this month, please visit TCM in July: Highlights and TCM in July: Summer of Darkness, along with the TCM schedule.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

I spent part of Independence Day 2015 watching my first-ever Marvel superheroes movie, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011).

I became a bit curious about the series because the Marvel franchise is owned by Disney and the rest of my family enjoys the films. The WWII setting made CAPTAIN AMERICA a good entrance point for me into the Marvel world.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a scrawny young man who wants to join the army and fight for his country, but he's turned down as 4F. It's worth noting that Evans' thin appearance in the early scenes is thanks to CGI but that aspect is fairly seamless.

Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a U.S. government scientist, sees something special in Steve and not only gets him into the army, he also puts him into a top secret program. Steve is injected with a serum which makes him a "super soldier," ultimately known as Captain America.

Steve joins Col. Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones), Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), and inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) fighting a Nazi spinoff organization called HYDRA, headed by Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), who (of course!) plans world domination.

The above is an attempt to describe a sprawling 124-minute film as succinctly as possible. The movie's running time is both a blessing and a curse; the movie is a bit too long, yet there is lots of back story and information missing. Viewers are told next to nothing about important characters like Carter and Stark; sure, there was a secret program underway but I would have loved to know what on earth a female British agent was doing commanding male troops in the U.S., let alone fighting in combat!

Of course, I went into this film with zero knowledge about Marvel superheroes, so it's possible some background info may have been absorbed by audiences elsewhere along the way.

Evans does a good job, successfully conveying the formerly short, insecure man who still exists inside a newly powerful body. He may be a superhero, but, among other things, he still doesn't know how to talk to women.

I also thought Atwell and Jones were excellent, and I enjoyed the bits of humor they added to the film. I also liked that Atwell's character was simultaneously feminine and tough. Atwell brings a fresh film persona and a unique character to the movie, which I appreciated.

The movie's biggest drawback is the lack of a good musical score. My husband calls the scores for these superhero movies "wallpaper," and he's right. You don't even notice the score is there. I can't help remembering how my friends and I left the theater humming John Williams' SUPERMAN (1978) theme when that movie came out; a top-drawer score can do so much to lift a film to another level of excitement, and that aspect was sadly missing here.

A side note, the final sequence has definite echoes of RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983), what with the speeders in the forest and trying to break into a bunker. I later learned that the film's director, Joe Johnston, was the art director for RETURN OF THE JEDI so that seems to shed some light on the similarity!

All in all I thought CAPTAIN AMERICA was a pretty good film of its type; it had a solid story with humor mixed in, and it avoided taking its violence to a level I wouldn't want to watch. I also liked the WWII setting, although that won't be a factor in other Marvel films. I enjoyed the movie enough to be interested in watching the sequel, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014) or another film in the Marvel series. I'll also probably check out the AGENT CARTER TV series.

CAPTAIN AMERICA was directed by Joe Johnston and filmed by Shelly Johnson.

Parental Advisory: CAPTAIN AMERICA is rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action."

CAPTAIN AMERICA is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Tonight's Movie: That Other Woman (1942)

THAT OTHER WOMAN is a fun little "B" romance from 20th Century-Fox, starring James Ellison and Virginia Gilmore.

Emily Borden (Gilmore) works as the secretary to architect Henry Summers (Ellison), and she's pined after handsome, woman-chasing Henry for years.

Emily's Southern Grandma (Alma Kruger) comes up with a plan for Emily to capture Henry's attention by sending him anonymous notes from the "Pink Lady." The mysterious Pink Lady professes her admiration of Henry, and the plan is that, having caught Henry's notice at last, eventually Emily will reveal herself as the sender of the notes. However, matters end up spiraling out of control in ways that Emily and Grandma didn't anticipate.

Further complicating matters is Emily's Southern beau Ralph (Dan Duryea), who'd like to marry Emily himself. Ralph believes, with some cause, that Henry is a potential threat to Emily's reputation, not to mention his own hopes to marry Emily.

This is a cute little 75-minute movie directed by Ray McCarey. Its breezy, lightweight style and tone is fairly similar to other "B" romances McCarey directed for the same studio, such as THE COWBOY AND THE BLONDE (1941) and THE PERFECT SNOB (1942).

Virginia Gilmore, previously seen in BERLIN CORRESPONDENT (1942), does a good job in the lead role. She reminded me uncannily, in both looks and voice, of Jane Greer, whose film career had not yet started. Rather surprisingly, Gilmore's film career petered out within a couple years of this film being released, though she continued to occasionally work in television; she married Yul Brynner in 1944 so perhaps she intentionally cut back on her career. It's a shame, as as I can imagine her being as effective a leading lady in film noir as Jane Greer.

I've always liked James Ellison, but I found Duryea's "other man" Southern gent more appealing! Duryea definitely ups the film's energy level in any scene he's in.

Having watched so many Dr. Kildare films in recent months, it was a lot of fun watching Alma Kruger as Emily's Grandma. Her performance in this gave me an appreciation for just how good an actress Kruger was, as the drawling Grandma is quite a different character from starchy Head Nurse Molly Byrd.

Curiously, Lon McCallister is sixth-billed yet I don't recall him or anyone by his character's name showing up on the film!

The supporting cast includes Janis Carter, George Chandler, Charles Arnt, Minerva Urecal, Paul Fix, Mike Mazurki, and Ann E. Todd.

The script for THAT OTHER WOMAN was by Jack Jungmeyer. It was filmed in black and white by Joseph McDonald.

THAT OTHER WOMAN is available on DVD in a lovely print from Fox Cinema Archives. Although some of the FCA DVD prints have been iffy, I've found the black and white films of the early '40s in this series generally look very good.

I rented the DVD from ClassicFlix.

Happy Independence Day!

Here's Ava Gardner in a patriotic pose, one of countless publicity photos she shot in the '40s and '50s.

May God continue to bless and protect our nation. Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 03, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Dr. Kildare's Victory (1942) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

DR. KILDARE'S VICTORY (1942) is a strong entry in MGM's long-running Dr. Kildare series. It was also Lew Ayres' ninth and final film in the series. All nine films are part of the Dr. Kildare Movie Collection from the Warner Archive.

Dr. Jimmy Kildare (Ayres) is still dealing with grief owing to the tragedy which befell him in DR. KILDARE'S WEDDING DAY (1941). He copes by burying himself in work, and in his free time he mentors a young doctor (Robert Sterling) and nurse (Jean Rogers) who want to get married.

Said doctor and nurse run afoul of regulations regarding the emergency room "territory" of Blair General Hospital and a neighboring hospital.

Meanwhile Dr. Kildare is wooed by flashy socialite patient Cookie Charles (Ann Ayars), who has fallen head over heels for the good doctor and won't take no for an answer.

There are some touching moments, but the film's overall mood is much lighter than in DR. KILDARE'S WEDDING DAY (1941), and there are some nice bits of comedy, with Dr. Carew (Walter Kingsford) and Nurse "Nosy" Parker (Nell Craig) having some amusing moments to shine.

Around this time Ayres became embroiled in controversy over his conscientious objector status. He had one other film released in 1942, FINGERS AT THE WINDOW (1942), and then was offscreen for the duration of the war, returning to films with THE DARK MIRROR (1946). During the war he served as a medic in the South Pacific as well as a chaplain's aide.

Ayars, made up to look somewhat like then still rising MGM actress Ava Gardner, comes on too strong, but Sterling and Rogers are an appealing young couple.

Regular cast members on hand include Alma Kruger, Frank Orth, Marie Blake, George Reed, Gus Schilling, Barbara Bedford, and Eddie Acuff. Familiar faces in the supporting cast include Louis Jean Heydt, Barry Nelson, Frank Faylen, Mary Field, and Edward Gargan.

DR. KILDARE'S VICTORY is unusual in that it was directed by W.S. Van Dyke, rather than Harold S. Buquet, and it also has a longer running time than most of the Kildare films, clocking in at 92 minutes.

The movie was filmed by William H. Daniels.

Previously reviewed films also available in the Warner Archive's Dr. Kildare Movie Collection: YOUNG DR. KILDARE (1938), CALLING DR. KILDARE (1939), THE SECRET OF DR. KILDARE (1939), DR. KILDARE'S STRANGE CASE (1940), DR. KILDARE GOES HOME (1940), DR. KILDARE'S CRISIS (1940), THE PEOPLE VS. DR. KILDARE (1941), and DR. KILDARE'S WEDDING DAY (1941).

The DR. KILDARE'S VICTORY DVD includes the trailer and an unaired pilot for a DR. KILDARE TV series starring Lew Ayres.

As I conclude watching this set, I highly recommend the Dr. Kildare Movie Collection which has provided many hours of most enjoyable entertainment.

Next we'll turn our attention to the Dr. Gillespie Movie Collection!

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop. Please note that the initial sets of this series sold at the WBShop are traditionally replicated (pressed) rather than burned on demand.

Tonight's Movie: The Dark Horse (1932) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THE DARK HORSE (1932) is a diverting pre-Code political comedy released last month by the Warner Archive.

Warren William, perhaps the greatest pre-Code scoundrel of them all, plays Hal Blake, a campaign manager so great at salesmanship that he's confident he can elect an utter nitwit, Zachary Hicks (Guy Kibbee), as governor.

Hicks is so dense that Blake says of him "Every time he opens his mouth he subtracts from the sum total of human knowledge." (That line alone might have made the movie worthwhile!) Despite that problem, Blake convinces the public that Hicks is a plainspoken "everyman," and he cements that impression with a campaign short on substance and long on photo ops. In that regard, the campaign doesn't seem so different from some which are run today!

Hal is aided by two assistants, Joe (Frank McHugh) and Kay (Bette Davis). Hal wants to marry Kay but she's convinced he only loves the thrill of the campaign and would become bored with her once he lands her. Case in point, Hal's ex-wife Maybelle (Vivienne Osborne), who is constantly hounding him for unpaid alimony.

THE DARK HORSE isn't a top-flight film, but it's entertaining enough, and it's rather fascinating how much of it still seems relevant over 80 years later.

The movie is also a good example of pre-Code style, blatantly cynical and ever so slightly raunchy.

William is terrific in a role which seems tailor made for him. He has a great scene where he realizes the opposing candidate has cribbed the same Lincoln speech he'd planned for Hicks to recite, and after a moment of panic that the addle-brained Hicks will have nothing to say, he solves the problem by exposing the other man's plagiarism, avoiding any need for Hicks to speak at all!

I always enjoy seeing Davis's early work at Warner Bros., when she wasn't yet a "diva" but was nonetheless a fresh and interesting personality. She has the chance to play a woman as quick-thinking as her boss, who sees an opening for him to take the campaign job and helps make it happen -- despite the fact that Hal is in jail due to falling behind on his alimony! She loves Hal yet is clear-eyed about his flaws, and for most of the movie has no intention of marrying him, another "pre-Code" aspect of the film.

I confess Kibbee isn't one of my favorite character actors; when he puts the moves on pre-Code ladies, as he does in this film, I cringe, though that was probably the intended effect! While there are many actors I enjoy more, he was good at what he did, and he's perfectly cast in the title role.

McHugh is a welcome supporting player, and he's backed by familiar faces such as Robert Emmett O'Connor, Robert Warwick, and Berton Churchill. Louise Beavers turns up in a scene as Kay's maid; was it only in the movies that someone making a secretary's pay could afford a maid?!

THE DARK HORSE was directed by Alfred E. Green and filmed by Sol Polito. It runs 75 minutes.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print, especially considering the film's age. The DVD includes the trailer.

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.

Tonight's Movie: Two O'Clock Courage (1945) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE has been one of my favorite "B" movies since I first saw it in 2010. I'm delighted that it was just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE was loosely based on a "B" film of nearly a decade earlier, TWO IN THE DARK (1936), which starred Walter Abel and Margot Grahame. The original inspiration for both films was a novel by Gelett Burgess.

TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE was one of the earliest films directed by Anthony Mann. Although I just saw the movie a second time last year as part of a Mann tribute at UCLA, I was glad to revisit it once more thanks to the Warner Archive disc.

In this fast-paced 68-minute film, Tom Conway (aka the Falcon) plays Ted Allison, who starts the film as an amnesiac. Ted has a "cute meet" with a taxicab driver named Patty (Ann Rutherford) when he stumbles in front of her cab.

Patty is sympathetic toward the injured man and spends the evening helping Ted trace his lost identity -- and his possible connection to a murder! Patty doesn't believe Ted could possibly be a murderer and never gives up helping him dig for clues. The debonair Conway and the effervescent Rutherford make a very appealing team in a fun little mystery.

The fine supporting cast adds to enjoyment of the film, including Jane Greer (billed Bettejane Greer), Jean Brooks, Richard Lane, and Emory Parnell.

Watching this film again, I was struck by some similarities TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE and the original TWO IN THE DARK have with the recently seen PACIFIC BLACKOUT (1941) starring Robert Preston and Martha O'Driscoll. Preston and O'Driscoll meet in a park, just like the couple in TWO IN THE DARK, and she doesn't believe he could possibly be a murderer... The WWII era plot of PACIFIC BLACKOUT does diverge but they're all very enjoyable "couple on the run solving a mystery and falling in love" movies.

TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE was filmed in gleaming black and white by Jack MacKenzie.

The first part of the film is a little more speckled, with bits of debris, than the typical Warner Archive DVD, but for the most part the disc looks fine, and it's certainly a completely watchable disc, with excellent sound. There are no extras.

Recommended for my fellow "B" mystery fans!

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.

A Birthday Tribute to Susan Peters

Luminous actress Susan Peters was born in Spokane on July 3, 1921.

Like Gail Russell, Peters had soulful eyes and a sort of glowing fragility on screen. And like Russell, she was gone all too soon: a hunting accident, paralysis, and an early death at the age of 31.

Susan Peters only made 19 films and a couple of shorts, but in her brief career she achieved a nomination for Best Supporting Actress in RANDOM HARVEST (1942).

Peters' work, including her brave wheelchair-bound role in THE SIGN OF THE RAM (1948), makes a classic film fan ache for what might have been.

I especially loved her in SONG OF RUSSIA (1944), which is somehow simultaneously wacky (Susan teaching children to make Molotov cocktails!) and moving (including a fantastic musical score). She's seen here with Robert Taylor:

With Jean-Pierre Aumont in ASSIGNMENT IN BRITTANY (1944):

With Lana Turner and Laraine Day in a publicity photo for KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY (1945):

For more information on Susan Peters, a biographical article is currently available online from Films of the Golden Age.

Susan Peters left us far too soon, but happily for movie fans, the work of a brief, shining career lives on.

Susan Peters movies reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: SUSAN AND GOD (1940), THE BIG SHOT (1942), YOUNG IDEAS (1943), ASSIGNMENT IN BRITTANY (1943), SONG OF RUSSIA (1944), KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY (1945), and THE SIGN OF THE RAM (1948).

Thursday, July 02, 2015

TCM in July: Summer of Darkness

The "Summer of Darkness" continues this month on Turner Classic Movies!

As was the case in June, every Friday in July will feature a 24-hour film noir marathon, with the evening hours hosted by the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller.

Below is the entire TCM lineup for Fridays in June. There is also a special Summer of Darkness microsite which contains the schedule.

A majority of the films shown this month have been previously reviewed here -- very often at "big screen" showings hosted by Eddie Muller! Click any hyperlinked title for my review of the movie.

Again this month I've chosen two films I especially recommend for each day of the series, labeled with stars (***). Given how many great films are airing this was no easy task, but I chose films which I've found extra-enjoyable, usually on multiple occasions.

If I were to recommend a single film noir title for July, I'd go with THE NARROW MARGIN (1952) on July 24th, one of my all-time favorite movies.

July 3rd:


KEY LARGO (1948)


***THE BRIBE (1949)








***HIGH WALL (1947)


MARLOWE (1969)

July 10th:





CAGED (1950)

D.O.A. (1950)



RED LIGHT (1949)






RAW DEAL (1948)

July 17th:

***TENSION (1949)










99 RIVER STREET (1953)


KLUTE (1971)

July 24th:

***ROADBLOCK (1951)

THE STRIP (1951)




MACAO (1952)








July 31st:


***SUDDENLY (1954)







***CRISS CROSS (1949)





For more on Turner Classic Movies this month, please visit TCM in July: Highlights and TCM Star of the Month: Shirley Temple.