Tuesday, April 24, 2018

2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival Opens in Palm Springs on May 10th

The 2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival opens in Palm Springs on Thursday, May 10th.

The festival, which runs through Sunday, May 13th, takes place at the Camelot Theatres, located at 2300 East Baristo Road.

I'm happy to announce that again this year I'll be providing complete coverage of the festival, with "as it happens" Tweets during the festival and a detailed recap of the festival once it's over.

I was fortunate to attend the Arthur Lyons Festival in both 2015 and 2017 and had a wonderful time. I enjoy attending several film festivals each year, and this one is definitely the most relaxed, with no lines, comfortable seating, and time for a meal at one of the many nearby restaurants in between screenings.

The films are presented by festival host and programmer Alan K. Rode, along with the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller. This year's festival will also feature a quartet of special guests, detailed below along with a rundown of what to expect at this year's festival. (Click any hyperlinked title in this post for my past review.)

Opening night will feature a screening of Robert Mitchum in FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975), with special guest Jack O'Halloran, who plays Moose Malloy in the film. I admit I'm also excited because he was in SUPERMAN (1978)! This will be my first time to see FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, so it's a great way to start the festival.

Friday morning kicks off with a 10:00 a.m. screening of the enjoyable LARCENY (1948), starring John Payne, Joan Caulfield, and Dan Duryea.

After lunch I'm very much looking forward to seeing THE TURNING POINT (1952), starring William Holden, Edmond O'Brien, and Alexis Smith. Paramount Pictures just did a new digital restoration which debuted at the Noir City Festival in Hollywood; I couldn't be there that evening so I was quite happy to see it turn up on the schedule for Palm Springs.

THE UNSUSPECTED (1947), which I saw at UCLA in February, has a marvelous cast, include Claude Rains, Joan Caulfield, Constance Bennett, and Audrey Totter. It was directed by Michael Curtiz, and as I've mentioned here before, Curtiz is the subject of a terrific new biography by festival host Alan Rode.

Friday evening wraps up with a film I've been wanting to see for quite a while, THE WEB (1947), starring Edmond O'Brien, Ella Raines, William Bendix, and Vincent Price. (It's rather fun that Friday alternates between Joan Caulfield and Edmond O'Brien films!) There will be a post-film Q&A with Vincent Price's daughter Victoria.

Saturday morning begins with Alan Ladd in CHICAGO DEADLINE (1949). I enjoyed this one at last year's Noir City Festival; I don't think I could ever get enough of Alan Ladd on a big screen so I'm happy to watch it again.

The second film of the day is a new UCLA restoration of THE RED HOUSE (1947). THE RED HOUSE was directed by Delmer Daves and has quite a cast, including Edward G. Robinson, Judith Anderson, Rory Calhoun, Julie London, and Lon McCallister. I'm really looking forward to seeing this one for the first time.

I'm also enthused about taking a second look at THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (1950), starring Lee J. Cobb, Jane Wyatt, and John Dall. I enjoyed this one tremendously at last year's Noir City Festival, and since that time the film has been restored. I'm looking forward to seeing the restored print, all the more so because last summer I was able to visit one of the movie's key locations, Fort Point in San Francisco.

(Side note for those who can't make it to Palm Springs: THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF will air on TCM's Noir Alley series on June 23rd and 24th, and later this year it will be released on Blu-ray by Flicker Alley.)

One of the other films I especially look forward to is the Saturday night screening of WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957), which I haven't seen in years. The festival will host a very special guest, cast member Ruta Lee, who will reminisce about her experiences working on the film, which stars Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton, and Marlene Dietrich, directed by Billy Wilder.

Sunday, the final day of the fest, is a three-movie day, beginning with UNDER THE GUN (1951) at 10:00 a.m. It stars Richard Conte and Audrey Totter, two names which are certainly enough to get me to the theater bright and early that morning! This is yet another film I'll be seeing for the first time.

Victoria Mature, who was present in the audience at last year's festival, will be present for a Q&A after the screening of KISS OF DEATH (1947), starring her father, Victor Mature, along with Coleen Gray (with Mature at left), Richard Widmark, and Brian Donlevy. KISS OF DEATH is one of my all-time favorite film noir titles, and I've never seen it on a big screen. Seeing it in that format with Victoria there to talk about her father should be a very special experience.

The festival will conclude with another film directed by Michael Curtiz, FLAMINGO ROAD (1949), starring Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott, and Sydney Greenstreet. I had been disappointed I was unable to see this new-to-me title at UCLA earlier this year so finding it on the Palm Springs schedule was a great surprise.

I'm very enthused about the schedule, which for me personally will be a great mix of old favorites and several new discoveries. I strongly recommend attending this festival; any classic film fan is guaranteed to have a fantastic long weekend immersed in some wonderful movies.

For those considering attending for the first time, we've enjoyed staying at both the Courtyard by Marriott, which is the official festival hotel, and the Best Western Plus Las Brisas.

Our favorite places to grab a bite between movies include Bill's Pizza, Sherman's Deli, and, for breakfast, Elmer's, the only California location of a chain we enjoy on our visits to Oregon.

Please visit the festival website for additional information and tickets; in addition to the festival "all-access pass," tickets may be purchased for individual screenings.

Hope to see some of my readers in the desert next month!

Tonight's Movie: Comet Over Broadway (1938) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Kay Francis suffers divinely in COMET OVER BROADWAY (1938), just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

As the movie begins, our girl Kay plays Eve Appleton, a simple, gum-chewing young wife and mother who runs a small-town train station magazine stand. Eve dreams of the glamorous acting life depicted in the magazines she sells.

Eve is married to Bill (John Litel), and they have a baby girl (Victoria Elizabeth Scott, later Sybil Jason). Eve and Bill are mostly happy, save for Bill's horrid mother (Vera Lewis), who's constantly denigrating Eve.

Eve stars in a local theatrical production -- look for a young Susan Hayward as a fellow actress -- and a visiting actor in town (Ian Keith) offers to give her some professional advice. When Eve goes to see him it turns out he has more than advice in mind, but Bill arrives in the nick of time. Unfortunately, when Bill gives the actor the walloping he deserves, the man falls and dies and Bill ends up in prison.

Kay Francis being Kay Francis, her Eve has a plan; she farms her little girl out to a new friend (Minna Gombell) and sets out to work her way up through the show biz ranks, from burlesque to vaudeville to Broadway, in order to gain the power and money to set Bill free.

There's just one problem -- on her rise to the top, Eve falls in love with a new man, producer-director Bert Ballin (frequent Francis costar Ian Hunter).

COMET OVER BROADWAY is quintessential Kay Francis melodrama, as she goes through 70 minutes of fast-paced trials and tribulations in an increasingly glamorous wardrobe by the great Orry-Kelly. It leaves the viewer guessing how things will turn out, and honestly I was surprised when it ended somewhat abruptly, especially as there had been a hint that the story would turn out differently.

That said, despite any defects it was fun to watch, and anyone who's a Francis fan will probably enjoy this one; I did!

I've grown to like Ian Hunter, and he's quite sympathetic in this one; Gombell has a nice role as well. Sybil Jason overdoes some of her scenes as Francis's daughter, who's more than a bit confused about her parentage.

Donald Crisp is also on hand as Litel's attorney.

Busby Berkeley directed, along with the uncredited John Farrow. The movie was filmed in black and white by James Wong Howe. The screenplay was by Mark Hellinger and Robert Buckner, based on a story by Faith Baldwin.

The print is rather soft and the sound is somewhat muffled, which required me to turn up my TV volume higher than normal, but all in all it's a watchable print, without major defects. There are no extras.

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Act of Violence (1949) at the Noir City Film Festival

Sunday was a wonderful day, enjoying an annual pre-TCM Festival excursion with friends just arrived in town. We toured Iverson Ranch, where countless movies were filmed, and also visited Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery, the final resting place of both Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Photos from our day trip will be posted here after the festival.

That evening we all attended the last night of the Noir City Hollywood Festival. Closing night feels a bit like the start of the TCM Fest, as a number of people arrange to arrive in town a few days early in order to catch the tail end of Noir City. It was great to say hello to several online friends in person last night!

The closing night double bill consisted of ACT OF VIOLENCE (1949) and NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948). It was such a long day that we didn't end up staying for NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES, but it's a film I love and recommend. I first reviewed it back in 2011, then saw it in 35mm at Noir City in 2013, and then had the ultimate viewing experience, seeing it in nitrate at UCLA in June 2017. I hope that eventually the Criterion Collection will release this special film; star Gail Russell was also in MOONRISE (1948), out next month from Criterion, so perhaps there's hope!

I had never seen ACT OF VIOLENCE and was thoroughly impressed in all respects. It was well written by Robert L. Richards, based on a story by Collier Young, had excellent direction by Fred Zinnemann, and was beautifully photographed at L.A. locations by Robert Surtees. There's even a great shot of the Angels' Flight Railway, a classic staple of L.A. film noir.

The entire cast was outstanding, as one would expect with actors the caliber of Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, and Mary Astor. The performance which really blew me away, however, was that of 21-year-old Janet Leigh, her fifth film in an unexpected career which had begun just two years previously, after Norma Shearer spotted her photo at a ski resort.

As the film begins, WWII veteran Frank Enley (Heflin) is riding high: He has a successful business as a home builder, a lovely young wife named Edith (Leigh), a baby boy (Larry and Leslie Holt), a nice house, and an all-around good life.

Having just been honored at a civic ceremony, Frank heads out of town for a fishing trip with a friend, only to become frightened when he learns a man with a limp (Ryan) has been inquiring about him at the lakeside dock. Frank cuts the trip short and hurries home, startling Edith as he locks the doors and pulls the shades.

Joe (Ryan) is a fellow war veteran with a score to settle with Frank. Although Joe initially seems to be the bad guy, terrorizing the family and clearly intending to kill Frank, Frank soon confesses to Edith the reason Joe is after him: Frank had done something very bad when they were in a POW camp. The shocked Edith forgives Frank, but will Joe? And can Frank forgive himself?

Playing the two tormented men, Heflin and Ryan are as good as one would expect, and part of what makes the film so compelling is that each actor plays a fully rounded character, neither hero or villain. Heflin aptly conveys a man caught in a waking nightmare, trying to lock out the terror just outside the door; the sound of Ryan's limping walk only adds to the nightmare quality. The despair on Frank's face near the end, realizing it's unlikely he can hang on to his life with his wife and son, is shattering.

Mary Astor is also due plaudits as a worn-out barstool flunky with odd little tics, such as picking at her fingernails. It's hard to recognize her as the beautiful woman who played Leigh's mother that same year in LITTLE WOMEN (1949), let alone as the mother from MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) half a decade before.

For me, however, the film is anchored by Janet Leigh's performance as the young wife. The film's dramatic arc is continuously mirrored in her expressive eyes, taking her character from the proud wife with shining eyes through worry, fear, resignation, and compassion. I've always liked her, but I was tremendously impressed with her performance in this and suspect working with director Fred Zinnemann helped draw from her an extra measure of excellence. Watching Edith's life collapse around her in the space of hours is heartbreaking; in a sense, it's Leigh's film, as Edith is the one caught between the two men, and she's the one left to pick up the pieces and carry on.

Phyllis Thaxter has a small role as the woman in Joe's life, trying to convince him to set violence aside. Connie Gilchrist plays Leigh's neighbor. The cast also includes Barry Kroeger, Taylor Holmes, Harry Antrim, and Will Wright.

The movie is a fast-paced 82 minutes. Most of the credits, incidentally, come at the end, and they're quite effectively presented in that format.

A fun bit of trivia: "Redwood Lake" was actually Big Bear Lake, and the words "Big Bear" can be seen on a boat in the background when Ryan's character arrives at the lake.

ACT OF VIOLENCE is available on DVD as part of the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4 or in a two-film set with MYSTERY STREET (1950), reissued by the Warner Archive.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Quick Preview of TCM in July

The Turner Classic Movies schedule for July has been posted!

Steve McQueen will be the July Star of the Month.

July will also feature a fun Spotlight theme, "50 States in 50 Movies."

I'm especially excited about a night of Republic Pictures restorations on July 27th, which will feature Mona Freeman in THAT BRENNAN GIRL (1946); Marsha Hunt and William Lundigan in THE INSIDE STORY (1947), which I saw at the UCLA Festival of Preservation in 2013; the memorable film noir CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS (1953); and TRIGGER, JR. (1950), a Roy Rogers Western I just reviewed on Blu-ray.

Saturday morning programming in July will feature early '40s Tim Holt Westerns, followed each week by a Tarzan film starring either Lex Barker or Gordon Scott.

July's Noir Alley titles will include ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950), a favorite film which I just saw at the Noir City Festival; Robert Taylor and Cyd Charisse in Nicholas Ray's terrific "color noir" PARTY GIRL (1958); and a personal favorite, Van Johnson in SCENE OF THE CRIME (1949), to mention just part of the lineup.

Olivia de Havilland will receive a six-film tribute on July 1st, her 102nd birthday.

Another birthday of note: Leonard Bernstein's centennial will be celebrated with his musicals, his score for ON THE WATERFRONT (1954), and, intriguingly, several 1961 OMNIBUS episodes.

Additional filmmakers receiving multifilm tributes in July include Barbara Stanwyck, Sally Ann Howes, James Dean, Joan Blondell, Joe E. Brown, Sterling Hayden, Red Skelton, Maximilian Schell, Mark Robson, and Jean Negulesco.

As always, there's an Independence Day theme on July 4th, including HOLIDAY INN (1942), which features Fred Astaire's great firecracker dance. July themes will feature comedy teams, the French Revolution, women doctors, zombies, and murder mysteries involving radio actors. That's certainly an eclectic assortment!

Coming soon: Marlene Dietrich will be Star of the Month in May and Leslie Howard is featured in June.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Dark City (1950) at the Noir City Film Festival

Monday was another great evening at the 20th Annual Noir City Film Festival.

The night's double bill teamed a big favorite of mine, ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950), which I reviewed in 2012, with a new-to-me title from the same year, DARK CITY (1950).

ARMORED CAR ROBBERY, which screened second, is 67 minutes of crime movie bliss, with Charles McGraw as an L.A. cop on the hunt for the man who killed his partner. It's on DVD in the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 5, which has been reissued by the Warner Archive. It's essential noir/crime viewing.

DARK CITY's opening credits say "Introducing Charlton Heston"; DARK CITY was Heston's very first feature film. He was 26 when he filmed his role as a surly young crook.

Heston's Danny Haley is a troubled man. He runs an illegal gambling joint which has just been raided by the cops and is likely to be hit by them again in the near future. He's got a loyal girlfriend, a nightclub singer named Fran (Lizabeth Scott), but he won't commit. Any time she gets too close he pushes her away. In short, his life is going nowhere fast.

While watching Fran sing, Danny meets Arthur Winant (Don DeFore), in town on business with a $5000 cashier's check from his employer in his wallet. Danny gets one look at that check and immediately plots to lure Winant into a poker game with his associates Augie (Jack Webb) and Barney (Ed Begley). They let Winant win big, which draws him back the next night, ready to put the cashier's check on the line. Needless to say, things don't go well for Winant, who goes back to his hotel and does himself in.

Almost immediately, Barney feels that someone is following him...the wheels of a strange justice begin turning, terrifying Barney, Augie, and Danny, but who's responsible? Danny and Augie try to solve the mystery, with Captain Garvey (Dean Jagger) of the local police hot on the trail as well.

DARK CITY has a fairly involved plot which runs 98 minutes, but it's quite engrossing. I enjoyed the movie and would watch it again.

I'm a Heston fan, but I did think his sullen Danny was a bit too one note, though he starts to change late in the film. Scott seems pretty similar film to film, though she's a welcome film noir staple, and she has several nicely performed musical numbers, effectively dubbed by Trudy Stevens (who dubbed Vera-Ellen in WHITE CHRISTMAS). Incidentally, I've been trying to get "A Letter From a Lady in Love" out of my head for the last 72 hours!

Jagger is especially enjoyable as the cagey police detective. The large cast also includes Viveca Lindfors as Winant's widow, Mike Mazurki as his disturbed older brother, Walter Sande as a Las Vegas casino owner, and Harry Morgan as Danny's loyal right-hand man. Seeing Webb and Morgan onscreen together, years before DRAGNET, is a lot of fun.

DARK CITY was directed by William Dieterle and filmed in black and white by Victor Milner. The score was by Franz Waxman.

DARK CITY is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films.

It can also be streamed via Amazon Instant Video.

Wednesday night I returned to Noir City for a wonderful double bill of a pair of films I've reviewed in the past, DRAGNET (1954) and LOOPHOLE (1954). I think I enjoyed both films even more last night than I did via DVD; the 35mm black and white print of LOOPHOLE was especially gorgeous. DRAGNET provided another chance to see the Warner Bros. backlot, including the theater and neighboring alley and one of the Midwest Street houses.

Best of all, Ann Robinson, who plays the lovely policewoman in DRAGNET (seen at right with Webb and Ben Alexander), watched the film with us and was interviewed afterwards. She recounted that the DRAGNET role had already been cast but they asked her to read anyway...and then decided to pay off the other actress and give her the part! She said she had a crush on Jack Webb but he had a girlfriend and didn't give her a second look. Her role was fairly small so she didn't have many memories of being on the set, but she clearly enjoyed being in the film and working with Jack Webb.

I'll be returning to Noir City for closing night this Sunday, a 1948 double bill of ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948), which will be a first-time watch for me, and the great NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948).

Monday, April 16, 2018

The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule

The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival opens in Hollywood on April 26th!

Just 10 more days until classic film fans descend on Hollywood to watch movies 'round the clock from Thursday evening, the 26th, through Sunday night, April 29th.

The theme of this year's festival is "Powerful Words: The Page Onscreen." There are many filmed novels in the festival, plus a series of Shakespeare films.

Once again I'm pleased to be covering the festival as a member of the credentialed media. I'll be attending a pre-festival press conference to glean all the latest TCM and festival news.

During the festival itself please follow me on Twitter for real time "as it happens" coverage including photos and updates on my schedule. After the festival stayed tuned for a comprehensive review, with a series of detailed daily recaps and film reviews.

As usual, I've spent considerable time reading and rereading the schedule, weighing and occasionally changing my choices. My picks were made somewhat easier by seeing OUTRAGE (1950) last weekend at UCLA, and I'll able to see Ruta Lee at a screening of WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1958) at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival next month!

Schedule choices are often narrowed because of logistics; for example, if a film lets out at the Egyptian half an hour before another potential movie starts in the smallest Chinese multiplex theater a few blocks down the street, chances of getting to the multiplex in time to get in aren't good. Mapping out the schedule is a bit like working with a Tetris puzzle! Fitting in one post-breakfast meal per day is a challenge as well; I still haven't found a slot to squeeze in a meal on Saturday! I think this year I'm going to be bringing along a cooler bag with sandwiches as it's the only way I can find to squeeze in some "real food" that day.

And as I've said before, sometimes last-minute substitutions become favorite experiences, so I never worry too much about most of the blocks. Whatever I see, the TCM Festival is always filled with new discoveries and great times with friends.

As a side note, my only real disappointment regarding this year's schedule is a dearth of Westerns which I personally want to see; I've had marvelous experiences in the past seeing films like STAGECOACH (1939) and RED RIVER (1948). I'll frankly never see THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (1943), as I find the story too troubling to be enjoyable, and at least at this point in time ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) doesn't hold interest either. (Also...no Disney feature films! I've seen so many good ones at past festivals.)

Here's a look at my initial plan for this year's festival. (Click on any hyperlinked title for my past review.)

Thursday, April 26th:

The first pick of the night is an easy one for me: The delicious pre-Code FINISHING SCHOOL (1934), starring Frances Dee, Ginger Rogers, and Bruce Cabot. Jeremy Arnold will interview Wyatt McCrea about his grandmother Frances Dee's career prior to the movie. This one is playing in 35mm in the smallest multiplex theater so I plan to be in line for it quite early.

As an illustration of the competing choices in this single time slot: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974), which I'd love to see, having seen last year's remake, plus some of the film's stars will be at the festival and seem likely to show up; DETOUR (1945), a film noir I've amazingly not caught up with yet; the Bogart-Bacall classic TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944); or a poolside screening of THEM! (1954) at the Hollywood Roosevelt.

My second time slot choice of the night will probably be STAGE DOOR (1937) at the Egyptian Theatre; I last saw it 4-1/2 years ago, but it's a favorite which holds up well to repeat viewings, and more significantly, it's the first of four films at the festival screening in nitrate. The wild card, if I decide to stay at the multiplex and try some more adventurous viewing, is Toshiro Mifune in Kurosawa's THRONE OF BLOOD (1957), shown in 35mm. That's an option I'm giving serious thought.

Friday, April 27th:

Friday morning starts for me at the Egyptian, with Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier in Ernst Lubitsch's THE MERRY WIDOW (1934), screening in 35mm. I thought I'd seen all the MacDonald-Chevalier films and was surprised to suddenly realize that somehow I haven't seen this one! (Second choice: Seeing Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN on a big screen for the first time, via a digital print.)

Next a comedy I've never seen, Preston Sturges' THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK (1944). I've avoided it to date as I don't care for Betty Hutton, but it's time to finally see this one, as I enjoy so many other Sturges films. It's a digital print. (Side note: I seem to see films directed by Sturges, Lubitsch, and Hitchcock at every TCM Fest!)

THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK gets out 45 minutes before the next screening in the same theater, HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953). That's my choice if I can get in, because I've not seen more than bits of it and it lets me get in line earlier for the next film on my list. While I'm a Betty Grable fan, the other big draws for me in MILLIONAIRE are Rory Calhoun and William Powell! If I can't get in, my second choice is BLESSED EVENT (1932), a Lee Tracy pre-Code I liked a lot a few years ago. HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE is a digital print, while BLESSED EVENT is 35mm.

The next two slots are my favorites of the festival, starting with Deanna Durbin in THREE SMART GIRLS (1936). LADY ON A TRAIN (1945) is the only Deanna film I've seen on a big screen to date, so the chance to see THREE SMART GIRLS is a great opportunity! (It's a killer time slot: I'll have to miss Marsha Hunt introducing NONE SHALL ESCAPE and a Chinese Theatre screening of a more recent favorite, THE RIGHT STUFF, with Veronica Cartwright and Mary Jo Deschanel appearing. Having been blessed to see Marsha in person on a number of occasions helped me make the choice...but perhaps it will turn out to be a TBA and I'll get to see that one as well!) Director Henry Koster's son Bob will be at THREE SMART GIRLS, interviewed by Susan King, who formerly covered the classic film beat for the L.A. Times. There's no indication of the format on the TCM site.

The last slot of the evening might be the most important to me of the entire festival, seeing LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945) and its amazing Technicolor photography in a 35mm nitrate print at the Egyptian! It stars Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, and Jeanne Crain (seen at left).

Saturday, April 28th:

My first screening on Saturday will be a 35mm print of LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (1938), which somehow I've never seen all the way through. This film also positions me best timewise to get in line for the next time slot. Second choice: A digital print of A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949), a longtime favorite which I've never seen in a theater.

Next up, one of the films I most want to see, THIS THING CALLED LOVE (1940), a new-to-me romantic comedy starring Rosalind Russell and Melvyn Douglas, introduced by his granddaughter Illeana Douglas. And it's in 35mm!

Then I head down to the Egyptian for the rest of the day! WIFE VS. SECRETARY (1936) with Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, and Jean Harlow, is a lot of fun, and it's showing in 35mm. The only reason I might not see this is otherwise I'm probably not going to have time for an actual meal after breakfast on Saturday! Hence my considering bringing a bag with food I can eat in line at some point...

WIFE VS. SECRETARY gets out only 45 minutes before the next highly interesting film, but since the Egyptian seats over 600 people hopefully I'll get in for the pre-Code GIRLS ABOUT TOWN (1931), starring two huge favorites, Kay Francis and Joel McCrea, along with Lilyan Tashman (Francis and Tashman are seen at left). Wyatt McCrea will be on hand to discuss his grandfather's work; I'm delighted TCM asked him back this year, as he's an excellent speaker. This one screens in 35mm.

Then I'm very excited to see the Marion Davies silent comedy SHOW PEOPLE (1928) for the first time, a 35mm print with musical accompaniment by Ben Model. Leonard Maltin and blogger Lara Fowler will introduce it; Lara is working on a Davies biography.

Then I finally get to see some Hitchcock! I plan to see the nitrate 35mm print of SPELLBOUND (1945), starring Ingrid Berman and Gregory Peck, also showing at the Egyptian.

Sunday, April 29th: Sunday is always a bit uncertain due to the five "TBA" slots, which are typically filled with sellout titles from earlier in the festival. Last year, for example, I changed my original plan to see SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) in order to see the repeat screening of Lubitsch's ONE HOUR WITH YOU (1932), starring Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier. It was a gorgeous tinted print, and I was very happy with that schedule change!

The first time slot of the day is the only one without a blank "TBA" spot on the schedule. I'm currently leaning toward the Warner Bros. version of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935), shown in 35mm, as it would be interesting to see the Oscar-winning cinematography on a big screen. (Only write-in Oscar winner ever, if memory serves!) Dick Powell, Olivia de Havilland, James Cagney, Anita Louise, and Mickey Rooney are among the all-star cast. The only other option for me in that time space is Tracy and Hepburn in WOMAN OF THE YEAR (1942), which has some great moments but I find hasn't held up that well.

Next up, it's a TBA or MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939), which I've seen numerous times, but not on a big screen since I was a teen in the '70s! I'd be perfectly happy spending that time with James Stewart and Jean Arthur if a more tantalizing option doesn't appear on the schedule. This one is a digital print.

The third slot of the day is a three-way contest between Kevin Costner in BULL DURHAM (1988) in 35mm, Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in SILK STOCKINGS (1957) in a digital print, or one of a couple TBA titles. Then there's actually time to grab some dinner!

Finally, unless I pick a film from one of the remaining two TBA slots, I'll see William Wellman Jr. introduce the fourth and final 35mm nitrate print of the festival, A STAR IS BORN (1937). I've honestly never liked that story very much, in any version...but nitrate! And Wellman is always interesting; I've been very fortunate to see him speak at a number of venues over the last few years.

I'm especially pleased with how many of my choices are in 35mm this year; I could end up seeing a significant majority in that format, which pleases me as I prefer seeing a format which can't be seen in my living room when I attend a festival. In 2016 only a third of my picks were in 35mm, but that jumped to over 50% at last year's festival, and it looks like it's climbing even higher this year.

It's always interesting to see how the final numbers of films seen shake out after the festival. I saw 11 movies at the 2013 festival, 14 in 2014, 16 films in 2015, 15 in 2016, and 17 (including a slate of cartoons) at the 2017 festival.

Just a few of the interesting screenings not already mentioned which I'm potentially (and regretfully) passing up: Animation historian Jerry Beck hosting a slate of PINK PANTHER cartoons; Eddie Muller introducing THE SET-UP (1949), which I've never seen; Muller introducing two more films I want to see, POINT BLANK (1967) and BULLITT (1968); Alan Rode introducing THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE (1936); Nancy Olson at SUNSET BLVD. (1950); Nancy Kwan at THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG (1960); Claude Jarman Jr. at INTRUDER IN THE DUST (1949); Disney historian J.B. Kaufman on "Mickey in Hollywood" at Club TCM; Craig Barron and Ben Burtt doing one of their justly lauded special effects presentations leading into THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) at the Chinese Theatre; Eva Marie Saint interviewed at GRAND PRIX (1966) at the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard; Suzanne Lloyd doing a presentation on "Harold Lloyd in 3D" at the Academy's Linwood Dunn Theater on Vine Street; and Alan Cumming (my favorite actor on THE GOOD WIFE) introducing HAMLET (1948). And there's more...much more! The TCM Classic Film Fest is sort of a Disneyland for classic film fans, if that comparison makes sense...for a few days it's "the happiest place on earth"!

For looks at the schedules created by other bloggers, please visit these lists by my fellow classic film bloggers:

Aurora at Once Upon a Screen

Kim at I See a Dark Theater

Kristen at Journeys in Classic Film

Danny at Pre-Code.Com

James at Thirty Hertz Rumble

Jocelyn at Classic Film Observations & Obsessions

Angela at The Hollywood Revue

Daniel at Movie Mania Madness

Nora of The Nitrate Diva

Toni at Watching Forever

Diane at Classic Movie Blog

Chris at Blog of the Darned

KC at A Classic Movie Blog

Raquel at Out of the Past

Stanford at Movies Past and Present

Anyone not included in the list above is most welcome to post the link to their plans in the comments! (P.S. Chris Sturhann of Blog of the Darned has written a great festival Survival Guide.)

For a look back in time, my post on the 2017 schedule is here. Please also visit my posts on the schedules for 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Trigger, Jr. (1950) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The Roy Rogers Western TRIGGER, JR. (1950) will be released this week on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber, and it looks spectacular.

Kino describes it as a brand-new HD master from a 4K scan of the original 35mm Trucolor nitrate negatives from the Paramount Pictures Archives. That's a mouthful, but all I can say regarding the resulting picture is "Wow!" We can only hope more such great-looking films will be forthcoming from Kino. As many Western fans are aware, Roy's films haven't always had the best care over the years, and Kino is doing film fans and film history a great service by presenting his films in such beautiful condition.

The story of this Republic Pictures film, such as it is, finds Roy and his wild west circus show setting up for an extended stay at a ranch owned by Colonel Harkrider (George Cleveland). The colonel lives with his daughter Kay (Dale Evans) and his young grandson Larry (Peter Miles of THE RED PONY), son of another daughter who died.

There's a range war of sorts going on, with villain Manson (Grant Withers) and his "Range Patrol" operating a protection racket which would make New York mobsters proud.

It's a pretty short film, with the action wrapped up in 68 minutes. There are some colorful bits, including trapeze artists, but plotwise, I confess TRIGGER, JR. didn't do a great deal for me compared to other Rogers films I've seen.

First and foremost, I'm not particularly fond of films focused on horses, though I'll watch them, but this film had horses in peril, injured horses, masked horses, and even a creepy nightmare for young Larry, who's terrified of horses. It was all a little much. More music and fewer horses, please!

The film had some other sour notes, such as the embittered colonel, who at one point tells his grandson that he's turning into his no-account father. Nice granddad!

Additionally, while I loved watching Roy and Dale in TV reruns as a kid and have read countless books on the Rogers family by both Dale Evans and her stepdaughter Cheryl Rogers Barnett, Roy and Dale don't have any chemistry in this one. It's not just the absence of a romance, but you'd think there would at least be a sort of connection between them, some spark in their dialogue, but if it's there I didn't see it.

All this said, TRIGGER, JR. has some strong advocates among my fellow Western fans, so as the saying goes, "Your mileage may vary." It could be this one just didn't quite hit me the right way but others will find more to enjoy.

The supporting cast includes Gordon Jones, Pat Brady, I. Stanford Jolley, and Stanley Andrews.

The movie was directed by William Witney, who directed a previous Roy Rogers Kino release from the same year, SUNSET IN THE WEST (1950). I thought SUNSET IN THE WEST was wonderful so hopefully the next Rogers film I see will strike me more like that one!

This week I'll be listening to the commentary track by Toby Roan and Jay Dee Witney, son of the director. I've listened to every one of Toby's Kino commentaries, and they've all been excellent. The addition of Witney should be a nice bonus.

There's also a trailer gallery for four Westerns available from Kino Lorber.

Coming soon, a review of another Western from Kino Lorber, SINGING GUNS (1950) with Vaughn Monroe, Ella Raines, Ward Bond, and Walter Brennan. I'm really looking forward to checking this one out! Like TRIGGER, JR., it's from a brand-new HD master and will be available as of April 17th, 2018.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Tonight's Movie: L.A. Confidential (1997) at the Noir City Film Festival

The second night of this year's Noir City Film Festival featured a sold-out screening of a relatively new film, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997).

Prior to the film, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL novelist James Ellroy was honored with the Film Noir Foundation's "Modern Noir Master" Award, presented by Eddie Muller. The award itself, incidentally, was designed by Samantha Fuller, daughter of director Samuel Fuller.

Muller interviewed Ellroy before the screening (seen below). Ellroy's language and subject matter were frankly too raw for me to find enjoyable, as he gleefully and repeatedly violated norms of considerate public discourse. Enough said.

I did glean one interesting tidbit, when Ellroy said his dream cast, if the story had been filmed in the year it was set, 1952, would have been Sterling Hayden, Steve Cochran, and William Holden in the roles played by Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, and Guy Pearce. I think Cochran would have been particularly apt casting.

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL was grittier and more graphic than I typically care for, but fortunately the moments I didn't want to look at were telegraphed enough in advance that I was able to avoid looking! Aside from that issue, I found the film an engrossing and worthwhile 2 hours and 18 minutes. The screenplay by Brian Helgeland and director Curtis Hanson, based on Ellroy's book, had the feel of a sprawling, meaty novel, with various criss-crossing subplots which initially seem unrelated yet tie up neatly in the end.

It was particularly fun watching the movie in the heart of Hollywood, as the audience applauded nearby locations such as the Frolic Room, a bar located next to the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, or the Formosa Cafe on Santa Monica Boulvard. I saw some of the locations on the TCM Los Angeles Movie Locations Tour a few years back.

Spacey, Crowe and Pearce play a trio of L.A. cops. Spacey is Jack Vincennes, the sleazy one, in cahoots with a magazine publisher (Danny DeVito) to stage flashy celebrity arrests for under-the-table payoffs. Crowe plays the perpetually angry Bud White, who provides no-questions-asked "muscle" for Chief Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) and has an affair with a high-class call girl (Kim Basinger) who resembles Veronica Lake.

Pearce is Ed Exley, the nerdy straight-arrow cop who wants to quickly move up the departmental ranks, but only doing things by the book, to the annoyance of his "old school" boss Chief Smith, who believes loyalty to fellow officers supersedes honesty and doing the right thing. Exley's ethics also make him unpopular with some of his racist coworkers, though eventually some grudgingly give him his due.

Several execution-style murders at the Nite Owl Coffee Shop intersect with other crimes, including a murder at a motel, to start the trio of cops on the path to uncovering a major crime ring. A dilly of a plot twist around 75% of the way into the movie changes everything.

While I wouldn't want to revisit the exceedingly sordid world of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL anytime soon, it was definitely worth taking a look, especially for the period setting and extensive location shooting. I enjoyed the three lead actors; incidentally, you'd never know that two of them, Crowe and Pearce, were originally from Down Under. No traces of accents at all.

The film has a couple of particularly satisfying moments when various members of the trio put aside differences to solve an ever-growing tangle of crimes, and the previously referred to twist provided one of the more shocking moments I've seen in a movie. I appreciated the way the many different stories were all pulled together in the end, thanks to a deft screenplay.

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL was filmed by Dante Spinotti and featured a score by Jerry Goldsmith.

I'll be returning to Noir City Monday evening for a double bill of DARK CITY (1950) and ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950).