Tuesday, January 23, 2018

90th Annual Academy Award Nominations

The 90th annual Academy Award nominations were announced this morning.

The complete list of nominees may be found here.

It's nice to see some deserved recognition, such as Saoirse Ronan of LADY BIRD (2017) for Best Actress, Gary Oldman for Best Actor in DARKEST HOUR (2017), COCO (2017) for Best Animated Film, and BABY DRIVER (2017) for Best Editing.

That said, it's hard for me to take seriously a slate of nominees which doesn't bother to give a single nomination to WIND RIVER (2017), which had a superb lead performance by Jeremy Renner and outstanding cinematography by Ben Richardson.

I saw many more new films than usual last year, but between the Oscars always making some baffling choices and the ceremony itself tending to feel more like a political rally, my interest is limited to looking over the nominations and letting it go at that. As usual on Oscar night, I'll be celebrating my love of movies by...watching a movie!

Winners will be announced on March 4th.

Previous Oscar nomination posts: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. There was no Oscar post in 2009.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1986) - An Olive Films Blu-ray Review

NUTCRACKER: THE MOTION PICTURE (1986) was released on Blu-ray and DVD by Olive Films just before Christmas.

Thanks to a busy Christmas season I'm just now catching up with this seasonal favorite, which is also known as PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET'S NUTCRACKER.

I was interested in seeing the movie due to my love for dance and the Tschaikovsky music, as well as the fact it was directed by Carroll Ballard, best known for THE BLACK STALLION (1979).

NUTCRACKER was shot by Stephen H. Burum as essentially a theatrical production put on film, framed with some oddball sequences and unattractive special effects. The soundtrack was recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra.

I probably should have been warned off by the fact that the production was designed by Maurice Sendak of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. NUTCRACKER can always be a little "out there," as it's a fantasy with a broken Nutcracker, a Mouse King and such -- but this rendition is quite dark, with frankly creepy sexual overtones I didn't care for.

The ballet is the creation of the toymaker Drosselmeyer (High Bigney), taking place in a miniature theatre he builds, and he and his surroundings are downright ugly, kind of a negative assault on the senses.

The big group numbers are more traditional and some are quite appealing to watch; the Waltz of the Flowers is a superb standout, combining exquisite costuming and dancing. If only the movie were that beautiful for its entire 89 minutes!

Young Clara is danced by Vanessa Sharp, with Patricia Barker as an older Dream Clara. (The ballet seemed to be a dream within a dream within a dream...I lost track!) Julie Harris provides some narration, but most of the soundtrack is simply music; the sound quality is good.

The picture is fairly grainy at times, with miniaturized characters in special effects sequences coming off quite poorly. I suspect that's more how the original movie looked than any fault of the Blu-ray. There are no extras.

It's rather a shame this film was such a misfire...I think I'll go watch the Kirkland-Baryshnikov version from years ago as a palate cleanser!

Thanks to Olive Films for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Tonight's Movie: The Red Danube (1949) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Walter Pidgeon heads a fine cast in THE RED DANUBE (1949), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

I feel THE RED DANUBE, set in Rome and Vienna, fits into the "European postwar film noir" subgenre also occupied by films such as BERLIN EXPRESS (1948) or THE DEVIL MAKES THREE (1952).

I doubt the filmmakers left the MGM lot, but the movie captures a bleak, unsettled time in war-ravaged Europe as the Allies tried to sort out lingering issues. The plot was inspired by Operation Keelhaul, part of the Yalta agreement, when Allied soldiers were forced to repatriate Soviet citizens found in their zones. These Russians very often had no desire to return to the Soviet Union, and some were executed as unfaithful Communists.

A pair of British officers, Col. Nicobar (Pidgeon) and his aide Major McPhimister (Peter Lawford), find themselves having to turn over a young Russian ballerina (Janet Leigh), found in the British zone of Vienna, to the Soviets. This is particularly painful for McPhimister, as he has quickly fallen in love with the girl.

She later escapes and the British soldiers throw the book away and attempt to hide her with the help of a nun (Ethel Barrymore)...but a Russian colonel (Louis Calhern) is on her trail and won't give up.

The cast also includes a bright and chipper Angela Lansbury as a WREN who works with Pidgeon and Lawford. Lansbury and Leigh were about 23 and 21, respectively, when the movie was filmed. The cast also includes Alan Napier, Robert Coote, Melville Cooper, Francis L. Sullivan, and Janine Perreau.

THE RED DANUBE is a somewhat interesting and even educational film about a brief time in postwar history, although it runs too long at 119 minutes. A tighter script and editing might have resulted in a better film if it were about 15 minutes shorter; I grew impatient for the wrap-up in the final half hour.

That said, the movie does have its rewards, including Pidgeon's atheist military man, bitter at losing a son and an arm, having deep religious discussions with the Mother Superior. That doesn't seem like something likely to be found in a modern film. That said, reducing or eliminating that angle also might have resulted in a better-paced movie.

The film was shot in black and white by Charles Rosher (SCARAMOUCHE). Most of the film has a stark, drab look, but Rosher periodically inserts loving tight closeups of the glowing young Leigh and Lawford, who bring some beauty and romance to what is for the most part a rather tough film.

This was one of a half dozen releases Leigh was in in 1949, including LITTLE WOMEN (1949), which also starred Lawford; Leigh and Lawford also later worked together on a minor romantic comedy, JUST THIS ONCE (1952).

The screenplay by Gina Kaus and Arthur Wimperis was based on the novel VESPERS IN VIENNA by Bruce Marshall. Producer Carey Wilson also did uncredited work on the script.

The movie was directed by George Sidney. Miklos Rozsa composed the score.

The Warner Archive DVD is a remastered print which looks very good, even downright outstanding at certain points. The only extra is 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 or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...It's been quite a while since my last link roundup. Here we go with some catching up!

...Friday evening I rewatched Van Heflin in GRAND CENTRAL MURDER (1942), which I reviewed here in 2007. Kind of a silly plot, but the movie looks great and has a marvelous cast, including Virginia Grey, Sam Levene, and Cecilia Parker; you can guess it will be a fun film when names like Tom Conway and Stephen (aka Horace) McNally don't even show up until around tenth billing! Even further down in the credits are marvelous character actor faves like Millard Mitchell, Frank Ferguson, and Arthur Space. The first time I saw the movie was thanks to TCM; it's now available from the Warner Archive.

...The annual O Canada Blogathon is coming up! It will be hosted by Kristina of Speakeasy and Ruth of Silver Screenings from February 9-11. I'm signed up to write about the Russell Hayden-Adele Mara "B" Western ("Northerner"!) RIDERS OF THE NORTHWEST MOUNTED (1943).

...Another great-looking blogathon is on tap for February: The Singing Sweethearts Blogathon, celebrating Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, will take place at Pure Entertainment Preservation Society from February 12-14.

...TCM's FilmStruck streaming service will be going international. TCM is teaming with Warner Bros. on the venture, which will be branded FilmStruck Curzon in the UK.

...A very exciting series is coming to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York next month: Martin Scorsese Presents Republic Rediscovered: New Restorations from Paramount Pictures. The series takes place February 1-15, with a second part scheduled for August 9-23. Paramount is currently restoring the Republic library, which will be "returned to wide distribution." Kino Lorber has been releasing some great-looking restored Republic titles of late, with the wonderful Ray Milland Western A MAN ALONE (1955) among the titles coming this year. Toby Roan of 50 Westerns From the 50s has worked on commentaries for some of the Kino releases, including the upcoming SINGING GUNS (1950), and says "the quality of the material coming out of Paramount is incredible."

...Speaking of Toby, he's providing the commentary for Kino's February release of the silent film THE COVERED WAGON (1923), which I anticipate reviewing here next month.

...A batch of pre-Codes is on the way from the Warner Archive in early February, including Loretta Young and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in I LIKE YOUR NERVE (1931) and Warren William, Joan Blondell, and Genevieve Tobin in GOODBYE AGAIN (1933). Check out the Archive's pre-order page for upcoming titles.

...For those who love "Malt Shop Novels" by authors such as Anne Emery, Lenora Mattingly Weber, Rosamund du Jardin, and Betty Cavanna, the New York Times recently ran an article on Image Cascade, which has been republishing the books for the last two decades.

...Fantastic news: THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (1950), which I loved at last year's Noir City Hollywood Festival, has now been restored by the Film Noir Foundation and UCLA. It will screen on Turner Classic Movies in June, to be followed by a Blu-ray release from Flicker Alley, with extras produced by the Film Noir Foundation. Flicker Alley and the FNF did a fantastic job on their Blu-ray releases of TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949) and WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950) so this is great news all the way around. THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF stars Lee J. Cobb, Jane Wyatt, and John Dall and features great San Francisco locations, which I visited last summer (photos here).

...Coming in May from Rowman & Littlefield: THE ESSENTIAL JAMES GARNER by Stephen H. and Paul J. Ryan. "This book looks at the key feature films, made-for-television movies, and television episodes of Garner’s career...The authors also highlight the best episodes of Garner’s two iconic television shows, MAVERICK and THE ROCKFORD FILES."

...Coming to public television's MASTERPIECE THEATRE in May, the BBC's new production of LITTLE WOMEN. Emily Watson plays Marmee, Michael Gambon is Mr. Laurence, and Angela Lansbury portrays Aunt March. Dylan Baker, who memorably played suspected murderer Colin Sweeney in several episodes of THE GOOD WIFE, is an interesting casting choice as Mr. March.

...I periodically link to the Mystery File blog and encourage my readers to check it out regularly, as periodically there are some interesting film reviews, such as CRIME WAVE (1954), SEVEN WAYS FROM SUNDOWN (1960), and A GENTLEMAN AFTER DARK (1942).

...Attention Southern Californians: The series Working Girls: America's Career Women on Screen opens at UCLA on Friday, February 2nd and runs through March 24th. The series will run concurrently with the ongoing Michael Curtiz retrospective. Titles include WORKING GIRL (1988), SHE MARRIED HER BOSS (1935), BABY FACE (1933), DESK SET (1957), THE BEST OF EVERYTHING (1959), and 9 to 5 (1980).

...Notable Passings: Bradford Dillman, whose career in films and TV spanned four decades, has passed on at 87. His passing comes less than a month after the death of his PIRANHA (1978) costar Heather Menzies. Director Joe Dante Tweeted a nice photo of Dillman and Menzies on the set along with Kevin McCarthy...Mouseketeer Doreen Tracey passed on at 74. I was fortunate to meet her at a Destination D event back in 2010; a couple of photos are at the link...Actress Heather North recently died at 71. North starred with Kurt Russell in Disney's THE BAREFOOT EXECUTIVE (1971), voiced Daphne in the SCOOBY-DOO cartoons, and appeared in DAYS OF OUR LIVES. Her husband was the late soap opera producer-director Wes Kenney...Actor Rance Howard, the father of Ron and Clint Howard, died in late November at the age of 89...A belated tip of the cap to actor John Hillerman, who was so memorable on the ELLERY QUEEN (1975-76) and MAGNUM, P.I. (1980-88) TV series. Hillerman passed on in November at the age of 84.

Have a great week!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Battle Cry (1955) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Aldo Ray and Nancy Olson head an excellent cast in BATTLE CRY (1955), recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

BATTLE CRY is a film I've been wanting to catch up with for quite a while now. I love the cast, and it came highly recommended by both my father and my friend Blake Lucas. It did not disappoint!

Watching it this weekend was all the more appropriate given that one of the stars is Dorothy Malone, who passed on yesterday. Today I enjoyed a Malone double bill in her honor, also watching her in the Tim Holt Western SADDLE LEGION (1951). Incidentally, BATTLE CRY still has a number of surviving cast members, including Olson, Tab Hunter, L.Q. Jones, Allyn Ann McLerie, and Tommy Cook.

BATTLE CRY was directed by Raoul Walsh from a screenplay by Leon Uris, based on his novel. It's the story of a green class of Marine recruits who go through training in San Diego right after Pearl Harbor. Over the course of just under two and a half hours we get to know the men and see how the war impacts their relationships, which are begun, ended, or tested due to wartime upheaval and travels.

The film moves somewhat episodically through the different men's stories. Danny (Hunter) briefly has a fling with an officer's wife (Dorothy Malone) he meets at the USO, but soon comes to his senses and returns to his loyal sweetheart (Mona Freeman) back home.

Quiet Marion (John Lupton), an aspiring writer, meets a mysterious girl (Anne Francis) on a boat, later learning shocking news about her, and Ski (William Campbell) is crushed by a Dear John letter from his girlfriend (Susan Morrow). I especially liked Lupton's character, a bookworm who goes his own way and eventually strikes up an unlikely friendship with the unit bully, Joe (Perry Lopez).

Eventually the film lands on the best story, which it tells in the greatest depth: Love 'em and leave 'em lumberjack Andy (Ray), who laughs at the idea of being a one-woman man, falls head over heels for a sweet war widow (Olson) in New Zealand.

If there was any actor in a uniform more adorable than Ray in this film and the same year's THREE STRIPES IN THE SUN (1955), I don't know who it could be. He's completely winning, paired with Olson, an actress who can do no wrong. I would have been satisfied with a movie which was only about their characters, although it's to the movie's credit that the rest of it continues to be enjoyable even when we leave their story from time to time.

The cast is rounded out by Van Heflin as the commanding officer and James Whitmore as a sergeant, with Raymond Massey briefly turning up as Heflin's superior. Fess Parker is also on hand as one of the Marines, occasionally strumming a guitar in the background.

The entire cast does well, including Malone, whose character throws caution to the wind and breaks out of her "responsible club woman" mold due to her attraction to Danny. Her shock when she realizes their fling will come to an end is quite affecting. Malone's character disappears once the men ship out of San Diego, but she's not forgotten.

Freeman is also appealing as Danny's hometown love, who has her suspicions about Danny's behavior when he was in San Diego but continues to love him anyway. Freeman and Hunter surmount an incredibly fake beach set in order to play a moving love scene.

I've read a couple reviews which felt that viewers are shortchanged by the abbreviated battle scenes, but those scenes being limited is one of the reasons I liked it. It's not so much a war film, though of course the war is always present, but rather it's a film about navigating relationships during a time in everyone's lives like no other. In theme and tone it rather reminded me of Robert Wise's UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957), which like much of this film is focused on the romances of soldiers in the Allied forces who are stationed in New Zealand.

BATTLE CRY was effectively scored by Max Steiner.

The movie was shot in CinemaScope and WarnerColor by Sid Hickox. The Warner Archive Blu-ray print looks terrific. The disc includes the trailer as the lone extra.

I really enjoyed this film, and while it's still early days, I wouldn't be surprised if it were to end up on my annual list of Favorite Discoveries. Recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

Tonight's Movie: Saddle Legion (1951)

It seemed fitting to watch a movie this weekend in honor of Dorothy Malone, who passed away yesterday.

Thanks to my friend Jerry for reminding me that Dorothy was in a Tim Holt Western I hadn't seen yet, SADDLE LEGION (1951), which is available from the Warner Archive in the Tim Holt Western Classics Collection Vol. 3.

SADDLE LEGION is a typically good-looking Holt Western, largely filmed at the Jack Garner Ranch in Southern California's San Jacinto Mountains. The Holt films regularly filmed there, as well as much further north in Lone Pine.

Dave (Holt) and Chito (Richard Martin) sign on as cowhands with Fred Warren (Cliff Clark). They uncover a plot by several crooks to fool Warren into thinking his cattle have a deadly disease, after which the bad guys plan to make off with the herd.

The villains include perennial Western baddie Robert J. Wilke; seeing his familiar face always makes me smile. Wilke appeared in a number of Holt's Westerns.

Dorothy Malone plays a frontier doctor who comes to share Dave and Chito's suspicions about the herd's "disease" and helps to unravel the mystery. Malone makes the most of her scenes in this short film, which runs only an hour long. It's nice to see her confidently playing a character who was groundbreaking for the era, decades before Jane Seymour's DR. QUINN made it to TV.

Also in the cast is Movita as a saloon dancer who flirts with Chito. Movita had played Tehani in MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935). She also appeared in the Holt Western THE MYSTERIOUS DESPERADO (1949).

The cast also includes Robert Livingston, Mauritz Hugo, James Bush, Stanley Andrews, Dick Foote, and Monte Montegue.

SADDLE LEGION was briskly filmed by Lesley Selander, with attractive black and white filming by J. Roy Hunt. The Warner Archive print is really beautiful.

Incidentally, I have no idea why the movie was named SADDLE LEGION. Sometimes it seems like the studio was desperate to come up with Western titles and used anything!

I have several more Dorothy Malone films in my "to watch" stack and hope to review another of her films soon.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Notable Passings: Dorothy Malone and Jean Porter

Very sad news today for classic film fans: Oscar-winning actress Dorothy Malone has passed away at the age of 92.

She would have been 93 on January 30th.

Malone would doubtless be beloved to Golden Era fans if only for one scene, wherein she plays the bookstore clerk who memorably flirts with Humphrey Bogart in THE BIG SLEEP (1946):

Her career, of course, was much more than that, including her Academy Award winning role in Douglas Sirk's WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956) and her work in so many enjoyable Westerns and film noir titles, such as SOUTH OF ST. LOUIS (1949)...

...and PUSHOVER (1954), below with Phil Carey:

For more on Dorothy Malone's career, I invite my readers to visit a birthday tribute I wrote three years ago.

Survivors included her two daughters from her marriage to actor Jacques Bergerac (GIGI).

Obituaries may be found at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

A few days ago the death of effervescent actress Jean Porter was announced. She was 95.

Porter, the widow of director Edward Dmytryk, was in a number of MGM films of the '40s, including THE YOUNGEST PROFESSION (1943) and TWICE BLESSED (1945), and she had a terrific supporting role in the film noir CRY DANGER (1951).

Porter also had typically bubbly roles as "the girl next door" to Guy Madison in TILL THE END OF TIME (1946) and as Shirley Temple's best friend in THAT HAGEN GIRL (1947).

She was survived by two daughters and a stepson.

An obituary was published by The Hollywood Reporter.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Undertow (1949)

I've been meaning to watch UNDERTOW (1949) for quite a while now. It's a Universal Pictures film noir with an appealing cast. I finally pulled it off the shelf thanks to my friend John Knight including it on his list of 2017's Favorite Discoveries at the Rupert Pupkin Speaks blog.

For me it's hard to beat a movie starring Scott Brady and John Russell, who costarred the same year in a favorite little Western, THE GAL WHO TOOK THE WEST (1949), along with Peggy Dow and Dorothy Hart as the leading ladies. Both actresses have short filmographies and I hope to eventually work my way through both lists!

For those who may be unaware, Brady is the younger brother of noir icon Lawrence Tierney (DILLINGER, BORN TO KILL). Brady himself was a reliable noir lead with titles like the classic HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948) as well as I WAS A SHOPLIFTER (1950) among his credits.

Brady plays Tony Reagan, a recently discharged vet who plans to go into business with a deceased buddy's father at a lodge outside Reno. First, though, he needs to fly from Reno to Chicago and reunite with his long-unseen fiancee Sally (Hart).

There's only one problem: Sally's Uncle Jim, a bigtime mobster, turned down Tony marrying Sally years ago. Sally suggests that they elope but Tony plans to be up front and ask Jim's permission again; however, before he can do that, he's framed for Jim's murder. His only help comes from Ann (Dow), a nice Chicago-area teacher he'd briefly met in Reno, and his old pal on the Chicago police force, Detective Reckling (Bruce Bennett).

The movie is a brisk 71 minutes and it's pretty easy to guess whodunit, although I admit I was confused by one character initially seeming to be on Tony's side even when on camera alone. Shouldn't we have been clued in to the fakery in those moments? Of course, then it wouldn't have been such an interesting reveal later on in the movie...

The four leads are all good, with particular kudos to the fresh-faced, earnest Dow in her film debut. She only made eight additional films, including THE SLEEPING CITY (1950), HARVEY (1950), and YOU NEVER CAN TELL (1951); she retired after 1951 for marriage and motherhood, raising five sons in Oklahoma.

Hart similarly was out of films by the mid-'50s, after which she moved to New York and worked with the United Nations; she had one son.

I always enjoy Bennett, who was in the terrific MYSTERY STREET (1950) right after this one. Even more fun: A detective who walks in and discusses evidence with Bennett is one Roc Hudson, in his second film. It looks like this was the only film in which his name was spelled that way, if IMDb is accurate.

Character actors who pop up in the film include Thomas Browne Henry, Almira Sessions, Marjorie Bennett, and Francis Pierlot. The telegraph clerk was Anne P. Kramer, who was married at one point to director Stanley Kramer.

UNDERTOW was directed by William Castle. It was filmed in black and white by Irving Glassberg and, per IMDb, the uncredited Clifford Stine.

UNDERTOW is available on DVD from the TCM Vault Collection as a single title or in the Dark Crimes: Film Noir Thrillers Vol. 2 collection.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Tonight's Movie: All the Brothers Were Valiant (1953) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, and Ann Blyth star in the seafaring adventure ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT (1953), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Thanks to recent discussion in the comments here I intend to review Taylor and Granger's Western THE LAST HUNT (1956) in the fairly near future. Before watching that for the first time, however, I wanted to return to ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT, which I hadn't seen in over a dozen years.

ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT tells the story of Joel Shore (Taylor), a seaman from 19th century New Bedford, Massachusetts. Joel returns home from a long voyage to discover his brother Mark (Granger) didn't come back from his last voyage and is presumed dead. Joel also finds Priscilla (Blyth), the beautiful granddaughter of his friend Captain Holt (Lewis Stone), all grown up and eager to marry him.

Joel is named captain of Mark's old ship and takes his bride Priscilla with him on his next whaling voyage, which is anticipated to last at least a couple of years. When the ship arrives in the South Pacific, who should turn up but Mark. Unfortunately things don't go well between the brothers...Mark had routinely taken away Joel's toys when they were children, and now he wants two things which are much more important, his ship and his wife.

There is much to like about this film, starting with the stirring theme music by Miklos Rozsa; I'd go so far as to say it might be worth watching the film at least once just for the score! The film was beautifully shot in Technicolor by the Oscar-nominated George Folsey, and the Warner Archive DVD looks especially good. I suspect it may be a remastered print but could not find confirmation.

When I first saw the movie years ago it was one of the first Taylor films I'd seen, and I found his character a little too stoic compared to the more flamboyant Granger. Viewed now, with more context, I really appreciate Taylor's restrained performance. Both actor and character have a quiet confidence which contrasts effectively with Granger's animated persona.

Blyth is enjoyable as Priscilla; I especially liked her exuberance in a scene where she climbs to the ship's crow's nest for the first time. Her character is young and innocent enough that it's believable she's able to be somewhat manipulated by Mark. Blyth looks beautiful in Technicolor, wearing dresses by Walter Plunkett.

Where the movie falls short is in its central conflict between Joel and Mark. I like Granger tremendously in films such as KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1950), SCARAMOUCHE (1952), and GUN GLORY (1957), but here he's entirely too believable as a total heel, to the point I grew weary of his character's screen time.

Mark is briefly sympathetic in a mid-movie romantic flashback sequence with Betta St. John, playing an unnamed native girl; however, that sympathy only goes so far -- what kind of man marries a woman and doesn't know her name? Unfortunately the flashback sequence goes on so long it becomes tedious and rather grinds the 95-minute movie to a halt.

Mostly, the viewer just wants Mark to go away and leave Joel and Priscilla to be happy again. Mark is a bad boy without much rhyme or reason; I suppose he was just born that way, but his special brand of evil isn't all that interesting.

Honestly, the movie would have been a lot more fun if it had simply been Joel and Priscilla's adventures at sea! All in all it's a film I enjoy and found worth watching a second time, but it's not wholly successful.

It is worth noting that the special effects for this film are quite good; a whaling sequence obviously uses process shots and a tank, but it's done particularly well. Likewise a storm scene manages to be quite believable despite being filmed on a soundstage. Location scenes were filmed in Jamaica.

The movie was directed by Richard Thorpe. Harry Brown's screenplay was based on a novel by Ben Ames Williams.

The supporting cast includes Keenan Wynn, Lewis Stone, James Whitmore, Leo Gordon, Michael Pate, Kurt Kasznar, Peter Whitney, James Bell, and John Doucette.

For more on this movie, please visit a typically thoughtful analysis by Jacqueline at Another Old Movie Blog.

The Warner Archive 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 or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Young in Heart (1938) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The classic comedy THE YOUNG IN HEART (1938) has just been released on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber.

I hadn't seen this film since I first reviewed it here nearly a decade ago. Shortly after I first saw the movie, I had the amazing experience of seeing the movie's stunning car, the "Flying Wombat," at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. Photos of the car may be found here; one is also at the end of this review.

Revisiting this film via Kino Lorber's beautiful Blu-ray was a real treat. This David O. Selznick production is quite delightful. I've always been a bit surprised this film isn't better known, and seeing it again underscored that impression. I hope new audiences will find this film thanks to this great-looking Blu-ray release.

The somewhat unusual story is about the Carletons, a family of fortune hunters, with Roland Young and Billie Burke the parents of George-Anne (Janet Gaynor) and Richard (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.).

When the Carletons are particularly down on their luck they meet the appropriately named Miss Fortune (Minnie Dupree), who takes them into her home. The Carletons determine to act like "normal," honorable people so that the elderly Miss Fortune will want to name them in her will...but then they find themselves actually enjoying things like...gasp...working for a living!

The father is so successful selling automobiles that he's eventually named branch manager, and Richard finds work at an engineering firm, where he's soon spending his spare time reading up on the business and making discreet inquiries about night courses. It rather reminds me of LARCENY, INC. (1942) a few years later, where crooks take over a business in order to have access to the bank vault next door, but then they discover they like running a store!

Although the scenes with Miss Fortune could easily be saccharine, the combination of Dupree's sincere performance and the film's overall humor keeps things from getting too sticky.

The cast couldn't be better, with Fairbanks at his most dashing and Gaynor pulling off an ingenue role despite being in her early 30s. Young and Burke, who also played a married couple in the TOPPER movie series, are delightfully droll.

Richard Carlson makes his film debut as George-Anne's Scottish love (he gets an "introducing" card in the credits), and Paulette Goddard plays an American businesswoman working at Richard's firm. Carlson and Goddard are both wonderful, and one of the refreshing things about the film is that both love interests are "on" to the family situation from the early going, so there are no dramatic negative revelations; instead, both Carlson and Goddard keep hoping their respective loves will reform.

Also of note: Goddard's role as a savvy, confident career woman is surprisingly modern and a nice surprise to find in a film of this vintage.

The film is a well-paced 90 minutes, although I've felt from the first time I saw it that there might be some scenes with Gaynor and Carlson which were left on the cutting-room floor, more's the pity. I'm not sure if the still above is a publicity photo or a missing scene; Gaynor wears this dress in other scenes in the movie.

Henry Stephenson plays Miss Fortune's lawyer. Smaller roles are played by Lucile Watson, Walter Kingsford, Irvin S. Cobb, and Margaret Early.

THE YOUNG IN HEART was directed by Richard Wallace. It was filmed by Leon Shamroy and, curiously, three uncredited cinematographers: William H. Daniels, Bert Glennon, and Ted D. McCord. The production design was by William Cameron Menzies.

For more on the history of the movie's "Flying Wombat," please visit this informative post.

The lone extras are the trailer and a gallery of four additional trailers for films available from Kino Lorber.

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

Tonight's Movie: A Royal Winter (2017)

A ROYAL WINTER (2017) is a charming entry in a favorite Hallmark Channel subgenre, "I Didn't Know the Cute Guy I've Been Dating is a Prince." (See also: A ROYAL CHRISTMAS and more, which will doubtless be reviewed here in due course.)

Maggie (Merritt Patterson) is a recent law school grad who takes a winter vacation with her friend Sarah (Rhea Bailey) in the small European kingdom of Calpurnia.

Maggie "meets cute" with A.J. (Jack Donnelly) when he accidentally runs over her hat with his motorcycle. They enjoy getting to know one another, but then Maggie happens to visit the local museum, where the prince in the portrait gallery looks suspiciously like A.J. A quick Google on a smartphone fills in the rest.

Maggie and A.J.'s relationship continues, but his mother Queen Beatrice (Samantha Bond) disapproves of her son dating an American. The Queen also worries that A.J., whose real name is Adrian, isn't ready to be crowned as king -- not knowing that he has a secret life working on projects such as a children's foundation.

Meanwhile Maggie needs to decide whether to return to her "real life," beginning a new job at a law firm, or take a gamble and give her romance with A.J. a chance by remaining in Calpurnia.

It's quite well scripted by Ernie Barbarash and Mark Amato; Barbarash also directed. The film has particularly strong production values, filmed by Viorel Sergovici on location in Romania. Since most of the Hallmark films are produced in Canada, the European locale is a particular plus.

The two leads are charming and sympathetic, and Bond, who was Moneypenny in the Pierce Brosnan 007 films, adds some gravitas as the Queen. Ryan Ellsworth is particularly fun as a hotel manager who turns out to be a key ally for Maggie.

For those who think such a romance is unlikely, consider the story of Mary, a young Australian woman who met a handsome man named Frederik in a pub during the Sydney Olympics. The man was Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, enjoying an evening out with a group which included his cousins Prince Felipe of Spain and Prince Nikolaos of Greece. (All those intermarriages of Queen Victoria's descendants means many of the royal families are related.) Mary is now Crown Princess Mary of Denmark; 13 years after their wedding, she and Frederik have four children.

And then there's Meghan Markle, an actual American Hallmark movie actress (WHEN SPARKS FLY and DATERS HANDBOOK) who will be marrying Britain's Prince Harry in May!