Friday, August 29, 2014

In Disney News...

It's time for a Disney news roundup!

...The Fall 2014 issue of Disney Twenty-three magazine is now available. Article topics include the new Ratatouille ride at Disneyland Paris, the art of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954), and a look at a Disney Archives exhibit touring Japan.

...DVR Alert: ABC is airing a special, THE STORY OF FROZEN: MAKING A DISNEY ANIMATED CLASSIC, on September 2nd.

...Disney has applied for patents for drones it envisions using as part of a fireworks spectacular at Disneyland.

...Earlier this year Oswald the Lucky Rabbit began greeting guests at Tokyo DisneySea. As I commented at that time, "Oswald belongs at Oswald's Gas Station on Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure." Fantastic news from MiceAge: Oswald will be on Buena Vista Street beginning September 14th! For those who aren't yet familiar with Oswald, he was created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks for Universal Studios. When Disney quit his job with Universal -- after which he promptly created Mickey Mouse -- he lost the rights to Oswald. Disney regained the Oswald rights in 2006 in a unique trade for sportscaster Al Michaels.

...MiceAge also reports that the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks, last seen in Disneyland in 1999, will return to the park after the holidays, running until the 60th Anniversary fireworks show begins later in 2015.

...The dates for the 2015 D23 Expo have been announced. It will be held August 14-16, 2015 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

...Matt Ouimet, who was very respected when he ran Disneyland, is now the CEO of Cedar Fair, the company that owns Knott's Berry Farm. He was recently interviewed by Jim Hill.

...If you can't find pre-order pages for Disney DVDs on Amazon at present, there's a reason: Amazon and Disney are in the midst of a pricing dispute and Amazon has apparently removed the pages until the dispute is resolved. Films already in release may still be ordered.

...I love this poster for the upcoming Pixar short LAVA (2015).

...Pixar is said to have made extensive changes to the upcoming film THE GOOD DINOSAUR (2015).

...There's terrific new Cars Land merchandise at Disney California Adventure.

...Eye candy: Here's a whole lotta covers of Disney film art books.

...The Disney Insider shared Mary Blair concept art for ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1951), and Eat Drink Films has even more on Mary.

...MALEFICENT (2014) comes to DVD and Blu-ray November 4, 2014.

...There was recently an interesting rumor that Disney intends to release the original theatrical versions of the original STAR WARS trilogy to Blu-ray. It has not yet been confirmed.

...Kevin Costner's Disney sports film McFARLAND USA (2015) has been moved from a November 2014 opening to February 20, 2015. Speculation is it's to keep it from being trounced by the new HUNGER GAMES movie.

...When James Garner passed away this summer, the Disney Parks Blog reminisced about his visits to the Disneyland Resort.

...PBS has announced that a four-hour documentary on Walt Disney will air this fall on AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.

...The next Throwback Thursday event at Disney's El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood will be a screening of THE PARENT TRAP (1961) on October 9, 2014. (I won't be able to attend as I'll be at the Lone Pine Film Festival.) Ticket information is here. The reduced $10 ticket price for Throwback Thursday screeings includes popcorn and a Coke.

...I'm very excited that the El Capitan also announced that they will show SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1960) in a Throwback Thursday screening on December 11th. That's on my calendar to attend! I have fond memories of seeing it in a theater when Disney reissued it when I was a child. (Based on the reissue dates listed here I'm guessing I saw it in 1972.)

...A FROZEN (2013) Sing-A-Long plays at the El Capitan through September 7th, followed by the return of TANGLED (2010) from September 12th through October 8th. Kristen Bell, the voice of FROZEN's Anna, recently surprised the audience at an El Capitan screening.

...A FROZEN Sing-Along DVD is due out November 18th.

...Here are some of the latest park photos posted in the Dateline Disneyland column at MiceChat. Dateline Disney also has photos of the new Haunted Mansion 45th Anniversary exhibit at Disneyland, Ghostly Materials.

...And please visit my photo post from this year's Labor Day weekend visit to Disneyland!

...The next MouseAdventure game, titled Sugar Rush, is scheduled for Sunday, October 26, 2014, at Disneyland.

For more recent Disney links, please visit the Disney News post for July.

Today at Disneyland: Labor Day Weekend

Most years we start off our Labor Day weekend with a Friday visit to Disneyland, and this year was no exception!

It was an absolutely beautiful day! Click on any photo to enlarge for a closer look.



Several rides were enjoyed today, including the Mark Twain:



...Big Thunder Mountain Railroad...


...and Alice in Wonderland:


Other fun details snapped around the park today included Olaf at the FROZEN "meet and greet" cottage in Fantasyland:


A topiary Dumbo:


I love this! Tomorrowland:


Figaro snoozing in Fantasy Faire:


Ducks paddling along near the entrance to Frontierland:


Coke Corner on Main Street U.S.A.:


The end of the summer season at Disneyland is always bittersweet. Very soon the red, white, and blue summer bunting will vanish from Main Street U.S.A., to be replaced by orange bunting and pumpkins as the park's big Halloween Time season begins.




Fall decorations have already started sneaking into the Main Street display windows:


And this Halloween mug came home with me today. I couldn't resist it since the design includes Chip 'n Dale!


Please also visit past Disneyland Labor Day weekend photo posts: 2013, 2011, 2009, and 2007.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Cowboy and the Blonde (1941)

THE COWBOY AND THE BLONDE (1941) is a very enjoyable 20th Century-Fox "B" film starring George Montgomery and Mary Beth Hughes.

In a story which seems a bit inspired by Montgomery's real-life background living on a ranch, he plays Lank Garrett. Garrett is a rodeo champion invited to Hollywood by Phineas Johnson (Alan Mowbray), the owner of Consolidated Pictures. Johnson wants to screen test the handsome cowboy star, who was recently featured on the cover of Life magazine, to see if he could have a future in the movies.

Lank's screen tests are bombs -- until he's paired with the studio's big star, Crystal Wayne (Hughes). Lank has no trouble putting emotion into a romantic scene with Crystal! Lank and Crystal are taken with each other almost at first sight, but they must overcome her temperamental nature and the jealous Johnson's desire to keep the pair from developing a permanent relationship.

THE COWBOY AND THE BLONDE does exactly what a "B" film should do, presenting a zippy, entertaining romantic comedy in a quick 68 minutes. Montgomery is a hoot in his "bad" screen tests, reading his lines without emotion and nervously pulling at his clothes.

What makes this film especially fun is the "inside look" at filmmaking, with the majority of the story set on the studio lot and in a soundstage. There's some very amusing stuff during the filming sequences, including the relay of progressively louder shouts of "QUIET!"

Mowbray is allowed to be a little smarter than some of his typical supporting characters, which makes him more interesting, and Richard Lane is also good as the head of production. The supporting cast also includes Fuzzy Knight, Minerva Urecal, Robert Conway, John Miljan, and Robert Emmett Keane.

THE COWBOY AND THE BLONDE was directed by Ray McCarey, brother of Leo.

THE COWBOY AND THE BLONDE is available in a very nice print from the Fox Cinema Archives line. The print is so crisp one can make out a dent on Mary Beth Hughes' forehead that the makeup man and cinematographer Charles G. Clarke didn't bother to hide.

The movie can be rented from ClassicFlix.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Homicide For Three (1948)

A few days ago I watched Audrey Long in the new Warner Archive release STAR STRUCK (1948) and Warren Douglas in another new Archive DVD, INCIDENT (1948).  Both crime films were originally released by Monogram.

That same year Douglas and Long teamed up to costar in HOMICIDE FOR THREE (1948) for Republic Pictures.

Douglas and Long play Peter and Iris, a naval officer and his wife celebrating their first anniversary and honeymoon all in one. Peter had left for service immediately after the wedding ceremony, but now he's on three days' leave in Los Angeles just in time for their anniversary. All Peter and Iris want is to be alone in a hotel room!

Unfortunately there's a convention in the city and it's difficult to get a room, but then a nice woman at a hotel reception desk overhears their plight and offers them use of her room while she's out of town. Little do Peter and Iris know that their honeymoon will instead be spent dealing with all sorts of problems including the murder of Iris's lookalike cousin, Mona...

HOMICIDE FOR THREE is more lightweight than the Monogram films with Long and Douglas I just reviewed, but it does have something good going for it. As a reviewer noted at IMDb, "...it's worth noticing the very real, honest presence of the main actress, a lively and natural Audrey Long." Long is on screen for most of the movie, and I enjoyed it as a chance to see a bit more of her work.

The story gets a little confusing, but it's over and done in a quick 60 minutes, and there are a couple of things which people who watch a lot of movies will especially enjoy. I burst into laughter when perennial '50s villain Robert J. Wilke showed up at the end as an exasperated police officer! That's the kind of thing that's not part of the script, but looking at it in historical retrospect, it tickled my funnybone. The other cop was stuntman/bit player Chuck Roberson, who turns up in countless John Wayne films.

Lloyd Corrigan, who played kindly but befuddled businessman Arthur Manleder in the Boston Blackie detective series, here plays a famous criminologist, which I found an amusing change of role.

The supporting cast also included Grant Withers, Stephanie Bachelor, George Lynn, Tala Birell, Benny Baker, and Benny Curtis.

HOMICIDE FOR THREE was directed by George Blair and filmed in black and white by John MacBurnie.

The screenplay by Bradbury Foote was based on the novel PUZZLE FOR PUPPETS ("A Peter Deluth Mystery") by Patrick Quentin. Per IMDb, Patrick Quentin appears to have been a pseudonym for Richard W. Webb and Hugh Wheeler.

Sincere thanks to John Knight for helping me to see this film.

HOMICIDE FOR THREE can currently be streamed at Amazon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Hunted (1948) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

One of my all-time favorite discoveries at the annual Noir City Film Festival in Hollywood was THE HUNTED (1948), a spellbinding romantic noir.

I was thrilled when I learned that the Warner Archive had released this Allied Artists film on DVD. I've wondered if I would love the film as much on repeat viewings as I did the first time I saw it in 2011, and the answer is decidedly yes.

THE HUNTED stars the unexpected romantic team of Preston Foster and Belita, who share a crackling passion and longing for one another despite mutual mistrust. Their relationship, combined with iconic noir imagery (trenchcoats and fedoras never looked better) and the unusual inclusion of an ice skating sequence, makes THE HUNTED a top-flight "B" noir. In fact, I'd simply call it a top-flight noir, period. I love this movie.

Foster plays cop Johnny Saxon, who trails newly released parolee Laura Mead (Belita), back in town after a four-year stint in jail. Johnny had sent Laura to jail as an accessory in a diamond heist, despite her protestations of innocence, but he's never been able to shake his deep feelings for her.

It's a dark and stormy night, and Johnny and Laura both end up in his apartment, where they discuss their past history in a deeply felt scene which not only provides exposition, it makes clear they both still love one another. Now that Laura's done her time, will she and Johnny be able to find their way to happiness? Or is she a femme fatale who's going to follow through on the pledge she once made to kill him?

The film is both swooningly romantic -- I've never looked at Preston Foster the same way since -- and the ultimate in noir, with its shadows and a certain fatalism; Johnny knows he's either going to happily love Laura or be killed by her, but he's powerless to stop whatever's going to happen.

The skating sequence works extremely well in the context of the film. Belita, a former Olympic skater, is very talented and beautiful to watch, and the movie wisely filmed her routine with a harsh noir look, skating alone in a spotlight. The juxtaposition of her elegance with the gritty background of the hockey rink is very effective, and the routine not only fits, it helps to distinguish the movie as something a little bit different. Belita had actually starred in an earlier film noir, SUSPENSE (1946), which is likewise available from the Warner Archive.

George Chandler has a nice role as Johnny's bartender confidante. The cast also includes Frank Ferguson, Larry Smith, Edna Turner, and Russell Hicks. And just when you think the movie can't get any better, here comes noir star Charles McGraw as a police detective.

This 88-minute film was directed by Jack Bernhard (DECOY) and evocatively shot by Harry Neumann. The screenplay is by Steve Fisher, who wrote the novel which inspired I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941).

THE HUNTED was also recently reviewed by Matt Hinrichs at DVD Talk ("excellent, naturalistic performances") and KC at A Classic Movie Blog ("moody, romantic"). I loved KC's comment "I had to go back and check it out again, as if I couldn't believe what I saw." She also appreciated Preston Foster, calling him "a compelling romantic" and delightfully concluding "You get the feeling he's really good to his mother."

Please visit my 2011 Noir City review for more thoughts on this film and additional links, including a link to a biographical piece on Belita.

I wrote in 2011, "My only regret regarding this movie is that I loved it so much and it might be very, very difficult to ever see it again, especially in such pristine condition." I'm very grateful to the Warner Archive for putting that worry to rest with the release of this lovely DVD.

THE HUNTED is most highly recommended.

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 at the Warner Archive website.

Tonight's Movie: Why Worry? (1923) at the TCM Classic Film Festival

It's time for another entry in my periodic series looking back at individual screenings from the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival!

This year's TCM Classic Film Festival offered many special viewing experiences, but the most memorable for me was the Egyptian Theatre screening of Harold Lloyd in WHY WORRY? (1923).

WHY WORRY? was screened on Friday, April 11th, the Festival's first full-length day. It especially stood out among the 14 films seen as it was shown with a live orchestra performing a new score by Carl Davis.

The theatre was packed for an evening which began with Leonard Maltin briefly interviewing Harold Lloyd's granddaughter, Suzanne. Suzanne has been tireless in her work to preserve her grandfather's film legacy, and she was clearly thrilled to be present for such a special experience, with a large, enthusiastic audience buzzing with anticipation at the prospect of seeing the movie. The excitement grew with the appearance of Maestro Davis and the start of the film.

WHY WORRY? tells the story of Harold Van Pelham (Lloyd), a wealthy young hypochondriac who embarks on a South American sojourn for his "health," accompanied by his nurse (Jobyna Ralston) and valet (Wallace Howe).

Once in South America, Harold finds he's wandered into the midst of a revolution -- which he finds an annoyance as it's interrupting his vacation! Harold energetically attempts to put an end to the fighting so he can resume his rest...the end result being the realization by all that Harold is perfectly healthy.

WHY WORRY? may not be classic Lloyd on the level of titles like SAFETY LAST! (1923), GIRL-SHY (1924), or THE FRESHMAN (1925), but this 90-year-old film delighted its audience. Some of the film's sight gags are laugh-out-loud funny; the unexpected moment when Harold climbed a friendly giant (John Aasen) caused me to laugh until I had tears in my eyes. I just couldn't stop chuckling over it! There are many similarly funny moments.

As is the case in several other Lloyd films, lovely Jobyna Ralston is delightful as Harold's devoted, if perhaps skeptical, nurse. For much of this short 63-minute film her role takes a back seat to Harold and the giant, but she finally moves front and center towards the film's climax.

The live score was so perfectly synchronized that at one point I was startled to realize that I'd forgotten the music was live! Davis's score was charming, with slight Latin riffs here and there, in keeping with the film's South American setting. When the film came to its end the audience jumped to its feet and cheered its appreciation for Davis and the other musicians.

WHY WORRY? was directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor.

Those not fortunate enough to see WHY WORRY? at the TCM Fest or when it was screened on Turner Classic Movies a few weeks later can watch it as part of the outstanding New Line DVD set The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection Vol. 1.

My friend Aurora was also in the audience at WHY WORRY? and wrote about it at Once Upon a Screen.

After WHY WORRY? there was another memorable moment, as KC, Angela, and I literally ran down Hollywood Boulevard to get to the Chinese multiplex, hoping to make it in time for the screening of the pre-Code EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE (1933). Happily, we did make it in time, and we also enjoyed a special "Pre-Code 101" lecture by Bruce Goldstein of New York's Film Forum prior to the showing.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Force of Arms (1951) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

FORCE OF ARMS (1951) is a WWII romance/battle film which was released on DVD a few years back by the Warner Archive.

Like all Archive titles, FORCE OF ARMS is "manufactured on demand" and so never goes out of print.

FORCE OF ARMS stars the team of William Holden and Nancy Olson, who had previously costarred in Paramount's SUNSET BLVD. (1950) and UNION STATION (1950); the same year Warner Bros. released FORCE OF ARMS, they would also costar in one more Paramount film, SUBMARINE COMMAND (1951).

Since I'd seen Holden and Olson's other three films, I was glad to catch up with the fourth of their films together. They're a remarkably good team, and it would have been nice if somehow they'd been able to work together again beyond their quartet of films of 1950-'51.

FORCE OF ARMS starts in fine style with a stirring Max Steiner theme. Holden and Olson play Pete and Ellie, who meet while serving in Italy, as the U.S. Army marches closer to Rome. He's just back from the front, having been promoted to lieutenant after leading his squadron under fire following the death of his commanding officer. She's a lieutenant in the WACs.

He's battle weary and stressed out, and she's mourning the death of the soldier she was going to marry. Initially combative, they're all wrong for each other, and yet so very right.

Time is short and emotions are heightened as Pete and Ellie quickly admit their love for one another. But Pete's got to return to the front...

This is, quite simply, a lovely romance, well written by Orin Jannings, and portrayed with aching beauty by Holden and Olson. He's rough around the edges and at first thinks he wants a quick, meaningless fling while on leave, but he can't get the sweet, clear-eyed, and nervy young woman off his mind. And she quickly sees past his defenses to the real person underneath, recognizing a man worthy of love, who will love her.

Some of the scenes were so moving and beautifully played that I rewound and watched them again immediately, unwilling to move on in the story without more fully absorbing the scene I'd just watched. That's not how I typically watch a movie, but it speaks to the special way this film connected with me.

As part of the story, the film deals in a limited but moving fashion with what we now call PTSD. It seems to have been fairly rare for that subject to be addressed in that era, although, off the top of my head, it does come up in I'LL BE SEEING YOU (1944).

The only parts of the film I didn't enjoy watching were the gritty battle scenes, and there are three such extended sequences. However, these scenes do serve to show exactly what Pete goes through in battle and helps the viewer to better understand his character.

As a side note, it's interesting, I love submarine and aircraft carrier films but have a harder time watching ground combat. FORCE OF ARMS was based on a story by Richard Tregaskis, who wrote the book which inspired another movie about soldiers in combat, GUADALCANAL DIARY (1943).

Frank Lovejoy plays Pete's friend, Major Blackford. The cast also includes Gene Evans, Paul Picerni, Katherine Warren, Ross Ford, and Argentina Brunetti. If you don't blink you'll spot Phil Carey, who has a bit role as an MP who shines his flashlight in Holden and Olson's jeep.

This 99-minute film was directed by the very talented Michael Curtiz. It was filmed in black and white by Ted McCord.

The Warner Archive DVD includes the trailer.

Recommended.

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 at the Warner Archive website.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...The big news for classic film fans last week was the news that Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide is ceasing publication after 45 years. The 2015 edition, due out later this year, will be the last. The guide has suffered declining sales due to younger film fans, in particular, relying on the internet for information on films. A ray of sunshine is the news that there will be a third edition of his CLASSIC MOVIE GUIDE in 2015.

...It's impossible to overstate the importance of Maltin's Movie Guide over the last few decades; along with the late Stephen Scheuer's MOVIES ON TV, Maltin's guide was a key resource for many of us before the prevalence of online references such as IMDb. I continue to rely on Maltin's guides; various editions are scattered all over our home. I don't always agree with the opinions, but I always find them interesting, and the book continues to be invaluable to quickly check release dates and running times.

...I wondered why the "app" version of the Maltin book wasn't updating anymore on my iPhone and found an explanation from Leonard that I somehow missed seeing earlier this year.

...Thanks to Kristina for making me aware of the Rod Cameron TV series CORONADO 9. It's a half hour P.I. series which was filmed in part at the famous Hotel Del Coronado; lots of good guest stars including Coleen Gray, Patricia Medina, Nan Leslie, and Elaine Riley. Fortunately it's available on DVD from Shout! Factory/Timeless Media, and I just received my set.

...Last week I mentioned that actress Julie Adams would be throwing out the first pitch to Tommy Davis at an L.A. Dodgers game. Photos from the event are now available at Adams' Official Facebook page.

...Here's a fantastic photo tour of Fred MacMurray and June Haver's farmhouse, along with stories from their daughter Kate.

...Coming soon from the Warner Archive: Two versions of THE DESERT SONG, the 1944 version with Dennis Morgan and Irene Manning, and the 1953 edition with Gordon MacRae and Kathryn Grayson.

...Greenbriar Picture Shows takes a look at WAGON TRAIN (1940) starring Tim Holt, Martha O'Driscoll, and Ray Whitley: "The Tim Holts as a group rank at the tip-top of series westerns."

...Aurora just attended the Capitolfest Film Festival in Rome, New York, and wrote about it at her blog, Once Upon a Screen. William Powell was the festival's featured star. The 13th annual Capitolfest festival is scheduled to take place August 7-9, 2015, with Nancy Carroll as the featured star.

...The many great reviews in the recent Build-Your-Own-Blogathon included BEND OF THE RIVER (1952) by Jennifer at Virtual Virago, T-MEN (1947) by Caftan Woman, and CRY OF THE CITY (1948) by Karen at Shadows and Satin. Do check out these posts as well as the many other fine posts which were part of the blogathon!

...Debbie Reynolds will receive the 2014 Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. The presentation will take place in January 2015.

...Raquel has reviewed A LIFE OF BARBARA STANWYCK: STEEL-TRUE 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson at her blog, Out of the Past.

...New at Riding the High Country: A look at JOE DAKOTA (1957) starring Jock Mahoney, Luana Patten, Charles McGraw, and Barbara Lawrence.

...Received last week from Amazon UK: KING'S RHAPSODY (1955), which is apparently a musical (?!) starring Errol Flynn, Anna Neagle, and Patrice Wymore (Mrs. Errol Flynn). Looking forward to checking it out.

...Gigi Garner was interviewed about her father James Garner's recent passing by The Oklahoman. She said "We were astonished" by the outpouring of love and condolences from fans around the world: "They were all so heartfelt and kind. It’s just unbelievable how much people really connected with him and how much he became part of their lives. I certainly didn’t realize that, and I’m sure my father didn’t either...It is a source of comfort for us to know that he meant so much to other people and that we are not grieving alone."

...Attention Southern Californians: A brand-new Roscoe's House of Chicken & Waffles has just opened near Disneyland. I've never been to one but look forward to checking it out sometime.

...More for Southern Californians: Rodgers & Hammerstein's CINDERELLA is coming to the Ahmanson Theatre at the Los Angeles Music Center next spring, March 17 through April 26, 2015.

...Also in 2015: Screenings of Hitchcock's VERTIGO (1958) with live accompaniment by the Pacific Symphony replacing the film's musical soundtrack. The screenings will take place at Segerstrom Hall in Orange County from April 30-May 2, 2015.

Have a great week!

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