Monday, August 29, 2016

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...This November Le of Critica Retro and Summer of Serendipitous Anachronisms are cohosting the "At the Circus" Blogathon. It's due to take place November 12th and 13th. I plan to contribute a post on THE BIG CIRCUS (1959), which has a terrific cast including Victor Mature, Rhonda Fleming, Vincent Price, Kathryn Grant, Gilbert Roland, Peter Lorre, David Nelson, Red Buttons, and Adele Mara.

...Coming even sooner is the "Things I Learned From the Movies" blogathon, hosted by Kristina of Speakeasy and Ruth of Silver Screenings. It's scheduled for October 14th through 17th.

...The Blonde at the Film has an interesting look at Esther Williams' pre-movie years as a swimmer.

...For those who aren't yet familiar with the blog Sweet Freedom, Todd does some terrific link roundups, and I'm most appreciative of being included. Here are his roundups for August 18th and 25th.

...Here's Leonard Maltin on encouraging efforts to keep 35mm screenings alive into the future.

...Fans of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee will want to bookmark the McCrea Ranch Facebook Page.

...Robert Taylor's 105th birthday was celebrated on August 19th and 20th in his hometown of Beatrice, Nebraska. Taylor biographers Linda Alexander and Charles Tranberg gave talks at the event.

...It's fall cookbook season, with upcoming new titles including Ina Garten's COOKING FOR JEFFREY: A BAREFOOT CONTESSA COOKBOOK, FRENCH COUNTRY COOKING: MEALS AND MOMENTS FROM A VILLAGE IN THE VINEYARDS by Mimi Thorisson, author of the gorgeous A KITCHEN IN FRANCE, and DORIE'S COOKIES by baking expert Dorie Greenspan.

...At Out of the Past, Raquel has posted a thorough review of her experience at Capitolfest.

...A musical based on the movie GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) is playing in London's West End, where it's received strong reviews.

...My friend Joel Williams wrote a wonderful tribute to Jean Arthur as a guest post at Once Upon a Screen.

...Toby has reviewed a new Region 2 Blu-ray of the wonderful Western CANYON PASSAGE (1946) at 50 Westerns From the 50s, and there's more info at DVD Beaver. CANYON PASSAGE has a deep cast which includes Dana Andrews, Susan Hayward, Brian Donlevy, Hoagy Carmichael, Patricia Roc, Andy Devine, and Ward Bond; it was directed by Jacques Tourneur. My 2013 review of the film is here.

...Congratulations to John Greco on the eighth anniversary of his blog Twenty Four Frames.

...Here's an interesting article on the life and career of Marta Kristen of the TV series LOST IN SPACE. She was also in the Disney film SAVAGE SAM (1963).

...LA LA LAND (2016) is a musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone which will be released on December 16th. Some of the artwork I've seen looks neat. Here's a trailer.

...Attention Southern Californians: The Montalban Theatre in Hollywood has a Rooftop Cinema Club. A series of films which inspired Broadway musicals starts on September 15th.

...Notable Passings: In my last roundup I noted the death of Dean Martin's son, Ricci. Ricci's mother, Jeanne, has now passed on as well, at the age of 89. The Martins had two other children together, Dean Paul (who died in a 1987 plane crash) and Gina. Jeanne also helped parent Martin's four children from a previous marriage, including Deana, who announced the death of her "sweet mommy" on her Twitter account...Director Arthur Hiller has died, age 92.

Have a great week!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Coming in October: The 2016 Lone Pine Film Festival

The 27th Lone Pine Film Festival is coming this October!

This is the third consecutive year I'll be heading to Lone Pine, California, for the festival. My coverage of the 2014 festival is here and 2015 is here.

This year's festival runs October 7th through 9th, plus there is an opening night buffet in the Museum of Western Film History on the 6th; the buffet will be followed by a presentation titled Riding the Rails! Trains in Western Films, hosted by movie train specialist Jim Clark.

The 2016 festival theme is "A Vision of the American West: A Tribute to the Western Directors."

The festival made a major announcement a few days ago: Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies will be the host for the Friday and Saturday evening "keynote" screenings. Those titles are yet to be announced.

Mankiewicz serving as the evening host is very big news, and I'm hopeful his participation will help raise the festival's profile nationally. It's a unique festival, taking place where hundreds of movies were filmed, but my sense is it needs to attract younger classic film fans if it is to continue years into the future. The TCM Film Festival has been highly successful luring fans in their 20s and 30s, and it would be wonderful to see more film lovers in that age range come to Lone Pine.

My husband and I particularly enjoy the tours given by longtime Los Angeles Times photographer Don Kelsen, and this year we're signed up for his DESERT PURSUIT (1952) and MYSTERY MAN (1944) tours. DESERT PURSUIT stars Wayne Morris and Virginia Grey; the recent Warner Archive release was reviewed by me last February. MYSTERY MAN is a Hopalong Cassidy film.

As in year's past, we'll be watching the tour movies in the high school auditorium on Friday and Saturday mornings at 7:30 a.m., then hopping on a bus immediately afterwards and heading to where the movies were filmed in the Alabama Hills. You simply can't beat the experience of seeing a movie and then standing where it was shot just a few minutes after it ends!

A complete list of this year's tours is on the festival website.

This year's movie lineup is still a work in progress, but I'm happy it includes THE ROUNDUP (1941), starring Richard Dix, Patricia Morison, and Preston Foster. THE ROUNDUP is a loose remake of the silent film THE ROUND-UP (1920), shown at last year's festival with live piano accompaniment.

Other announced films include 3 BAD MEN (1926), THE STOLEN RANCH (1926), 3 GODFATHERS (1948), RAWHIDE (1951), THE STRANGER WORE A GUN (1953), and HELL BENT FOR LEATHER (1960). There will be a total of four silent films, all shown with live piano music. More titles will be announced as October draws closer!

In anticipation of the coming festival, I thought I'd share a few photos I didn't include in last year's coverage.

One afternoon I took a tour of locations for GUNGA DIN (1939), a film I had seen at the 2014 festival, when it was hosted by special effects experts Ben Burtt and Craig Barron.

The GUNGA DIN temple stood here...

...and even today bits of plaster can be found on the ground where the temple once stood.

Something which made the experience extra-special was a volunteer actor recited the entire Kipling poem for us at the site.

There's a GUNGA DIN monument in the area which was dedicated by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in 1992.

Tyrone Power's KING OF THE KHYBER RIFLES (1953) was filmed nearby.

The GUNGA DIN suspension bridge was filmed at another site...

...right where this motor home happened to be parked the day of our tour.

As the volunteer pointed out, the spots where the bridge was anchored to boulders...

...remain in place to this very day, close to eight decades later.

The next day we also took a tour of the sites for THE HIRED GUN (1957), starring Rory Calhoun and Anne Francis, hosted by Don Kelsen:

Don provides booklets with screen shots to help match up scenes in the movie with the locations in front of us. He does amazing detective work and knows the Alabama Hills as well as anyone could.

The Lone Pine Film Festival is a fun, fascinating, and educational event which should be experienced by every classic film fan if at all possible, especially fans of Westerns. It's an intimate small-town event which provides ample opportunity to chat with festival guests, who are there because they wish to be and are happy to talk with attendees.

Last year I fit in eight movies, three tours, a concert, and book signings, yet it's a more relaxed, less tiring pace than the also-wonderful TCM Classic Film Festival, where I typically see 15 or 16 movies. I highly recommend attending the Lone Pine Film Festival.

For more details on the Lone Pine Film Festival, regularly check the festival's website and Facebook page for the latest developments.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Unholy Partners (1941) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Edward G. Robinson stars as a tabloid publisher in business with a mobster in UNHOLY PARTNERS (1941), just released by the Warner Archive.

The mobster is played by Edward Arnold, who backs Robinson's newspaper venture as a silent partner. However, the men increasingly find themselves in conflict, ultimately leading to a violent showdown.

UNHOLY PARTNERS is a pretty good drama thanks to a strong cast and a brisk script, with the film running 94 minutes. With Robinson and Arnold headlining, the film is inevitably interesting to watch, and they're surrounded by a number of interesting faces.

Like BLACKMAIL (1939), reviewed here last week, UNHOLY PARTNERS was made by MGM and features some of that studio's notable players. Laraine Day plays Robinson's loyal Gal Friday, while one of her Dr. Kildare series costars, Walter Kingsford, plays the publisher of the paper Robinson initially comes home to after WWI. Frank Orth of the Kildare movies pops in even more briefly.

Marsha Hunt plays an aspiring singer who's spending time with Arnold -- possibly reluctantly -- while future TV producer William T. Orr is Robinson's righthand man. Hunt and Orr develop a cute relationship, and Hunt also gets the chance to sing "After You've Gone."

Miss Hunt will be 99 in October. I've been privileged to hear her speak a few times, and even better, I had the chance to sit at her table at a reception last fall. She is a simply lovely, positive person with a wealth of fascinating stories to share, beautiful inside and out.

Side note, the women's hair and clothing styles don't seem to fit the 1920s setting!

The cast also includes Don Beddoe, who is billed more prominently than usual and has a nice big part as one of Robinson's key employees. Charles Halton, Charles Dingle, Emory Parnell, and Frank Faylen round out the cast.

UNHOLY PARTNERS was directed by Mervyn LeRoy. It was filmed in black and white by George Barnes.

There is a noticeable streak in the picture in a couple of early scenes, but otherwise it's a good print. 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.

Disneyland: Summer Fun

A few days ago members of our family took the day off work and enjoyed a beautiful summer day at Disneyland. We arrived when the park opened and stayed until the fireworks had ended that evening!

Here are a few photos from a delightful day, beginning with this early morning view of the Rivers of America, close to the site of...

...Star Wars Land construction:

It was fun being able to photograph Fantasy Faire without anyone else there!

A closer look at the Rapunzel tower in the center of Fantasy Faire:

A quiet morning with Sleeping Beauty Castle hiding in the distance:

We went on one of my favorite rides, the Storybook Land Canal Boats.

This "quilt" seen on the Storybook Land ride was inspired by the Disney Silly Symphony LULLABYE LAND (1933), which coincidentally was released 83 years to the day before our visit. LULLABYE LAND may currently be seen on YouTube.

Another look at the quilt, with Cinderella's Castle and the Casey Jr. Circus Train in the background:

King Arthur's Carrousel awaits passengers:

This carrousel horse is Jingles, dedicated to Julie Andrews in appreciation for her work as the park's 50th anniversary ambassador.

A look at some of the details on Jingles. I attended the 2008 dedication of Jingles with Julie Andrews present; photos are here.

I took my first ride on the Autopia in a long time!

Snow White's Grotto is one of the prettiest spots in the park. The original marble statues were removed for safekeeping in 1982 and replaced with replicas; my photo of of the originals, displayed at the 2013 D23 Expo, may be seen here.

Pixie Hollow is one of the most beautifully landscaped spots in the park:

Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Blazing Sixes (1937) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

I've been watching quite a bit of Johnny Mack Brown, Bill Elliott, Buck Jones, and George O'Brien in recent weeks, so tonight I returned to the Warner Archive's Dick Foran Western Collection.

I've previously seen half a dozen films from this 12-movie set and found them enjoyable entertainment. The Foran films aren't on the same level as O'Brien and Jones, in particular, whose films tend to have more compelling, energetic storytelling, but I've found them good standard-issue "B" Western entertainment. BLAZING SIXES was more of the same.

Foran is introduced at the end of the opening credits singing a few lines of "The Prairie is My Home," which I suppose could be considered his theme music, given how often the song appears in these films. It's a pleasing tune which shows off his fine voice to good effect, so I'm always happy to hear it again!

Foran plays Red Barton, who is working undercover with his partner, Peewee Jones (Glenn Strange), to discover who's behind a string of stagecoach robberies. It's a plot that's been done time and again, but the particular fun here is seeing perennial Western villain Strange on the side of justice for a change. Strange, incidentally, is billed as Glen rather than the usual Glenn in the opening credits.

There's a pretty gal named Barbara who's new in town, played by Helen Valkis, who was billed as Joan Valerie later in her career. Barbara likes Red but is concerned when the real villain, Jim (John Merton), suggests Red might be the bad guy. Barbara's aunt (Mira McKinney), meanwhile, seems to be sweet on Peewee.

Needless to say, all is resolved satisfactorily in the movie's brisk 54-minute running time.

BLAZING SIXES was directed by Noel M. Smith. It was filmed in black and white by Ted D. McCord.

Previous reviews of films from this set: MOONLIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE (1935), CALIFORNIA MAIL (1936), TRAILIN' WEST (1936), THE CHEROKEE STRIP (1937), GUNS OF THE PECOS (1937), and LAND BEYOND THE LAW (1937).

BLAZING SIXES is a good print, and the trailer is included.

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.

Tonight's Movie: Who Killed Gail Preston? (1938)

The Columbia Pictures programmer WHO KILLED GAIL PRESTON? (1938) starts strong but ultimately fizzles after the murder of the title character.

The movie opens with an apparent prison breakout -- until we realize it's actually part of a nightclub dance number. It's pretty clever, the more so when the camera pulls back to reveal that the nightclub is designed to look like a prison, with the private booths in jail cells around the edge of the dance floor. This set design is one of the highlights of a movie which is more sluggish than it should be.

Gail Preston (19-year-old Rita Hayworth, dubbed by Gloria Franklin) is the star singer at the nightclub. One evening Gail phones Detective Kellogg (Don Terry) and asks him to come to the nightclub. Just after Kellogg arrives, Gail is murdered in front of the nightclub audience right after finishing a song, but no one can figure out how she was shot without the killer being seen.

There are plenty of suspects, as Gail was beautiful but not very nice. Ultimately Detective Kellogg figures out the clever way Gail was killed and re-enacts the night of the murder to nab the killer.

Hayworth is fun to watch but the second part of this 61-minute film is quite slow, with a collection of characters who simply aren't very interesting. It's half of an entertaining "B" movie, worthwhile for those interested in taking a look at Hayworth's work before she became a superstar.

The cast includes Robert Paige, John Gallaudet, Wyn Cahoon, Marc Lawrence, Gene Morgan, and James Millican. Look for Nell Craig (Nurse Nosey Parker from the Dr. Kildare series) as a nightclub patron in the opening and closing sequences.

The movie was directed by Leon Barsha and filmed by Henry Freulich.

I saw WHO KILLED GAIL PRESTON? thanks to getTV. It hasn't been released on DVD or VHS.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

TCM Announces 2017 Festival Dates and Theme

This afternoon Turner Classic Movies announced the first details regarding the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival.

The Hollywood Reporter was the first to break the news that the 2017 festival will be held in Hollywood from April 6th through 9th.

The theme will be "Make 'Em Laugh: Comedy in the Movies." That presents a nice counterpoint to this year's "Moving Pictures" theme, which included a number of tearjerkers in the lineup.

The festival website says "From lowbrow to high, slapstick to sophisticated comedies of manners -- we will showcase the greatest cinematic achievements of lone clowns, comedic duos and madcap ensembles."

For my part, I'm particularly hoping to see some classic screwball comedies, as well as the chance to see more of Harold Lloyd on the big screen. Lloyd's WHY WORRY? (1923) with a live orchestra was an especially memorable experience in 2014.

TCM usually manages to find some interesting rareties to screen at each festival, and I'm curious what will turn up at next year's festival!

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel will again serve as festival headquarters and the location of Club TCM's panel discussions and other gatherings.

While there were no price increases for this past year's festival, most of the 2017 prices will be increased. The Classic pass, which many festival-goers consider the best deal, will be $649, up from $599 the last couple of years.

The Essential pass goes from $749 to $799, while the priciest Spotlight pass surges from $1649 to $2149.

There is no increase for the $299 Palace pass, good only on screenings in the big Chinese Theatre, the Egyptian, and poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt. Details on each pass are on the website.

I wonder if the significant $500 increase for the Spotlight pass, which guarantees entry to all screenings, is in part to help address the issue which cropped up this year, where so many Spotlight holders took up seats for the more "rare" films in the 177-seat Theater 4 that at times it was a challenge for other passholders to get in.

There's a short promo video on the TCM Facebook page. Passes go on sale in November! (Update: It was just pointed out to me that I'm actually in the video for a second, in the bleachers along with my friend KC.)

I booked my hotel room shortly after the news broke, and it's safe to say that I'm already looking forward to next April. Every year TCM outdoes itself providing classic film fans with an unforgettable time. For many of us, the chance to experience films with friends in historic venues provides some of the happiest days of the year. Anyone who's been on the fence about attending is highly encouraged to come!

Please visit my overview of the 2016 Festival for a look at the TCM Classic Film Festival experience. Links to my coverage of past festivals may be found at the bottom of that post.

Those interested in the festival will want to monitor the Festival website and the TCM Twitter account for updates.

Incidentally, last week TCM announced that the sixth annual TCM Classic Cruise, which takes place this November, will be the last TCM Cruise. It was sad news for those who have enjoyed it and those who hoped to attend one day. I have not yet heard the reasons behind the decision; it seemed particularly curious as this year's cruise will be a couple days longer than previous TCM cruises.

Hopefully the TCM Classic Film Festival will be continuing long into the future!