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The Unwritten Law

Elaine Hammerstein
Helen (Elaine Hammerstein) loves Jack (Forrest Stanley), but their jealous boss sends him to Mexico on a wild goose chase so he can chase Helen.

Meanwhile, the boss tricks Helen's silly old father into a stock scheme that forces the old fool into forging a check.

The boss then produces some fake telegrams that claim Jack has been killed. He then coerces Helen into marriage even though she tells him she respects him but could never love him.

Jack makes his way back to Chicago and confronts the lying boss at his lavish estate, but when the boss ends up shot to death, who will the police arrest?

Handsome production from Columbia includes impressive sets and even a airplane sequence with Handschiegl (a hand coloring technique).

Stars Hammerstein and Stanley are good. Charles Clary plays the boss, Mary Alden the housekeeper, Johnny Fox the office boy, and William V. Mong the old father.

Hotel Portofino

Off to a Slow Start
Scenery is more interesting than the script so far.

Is it just me or are the costumes and hairstyles wrong for 1926? The Anna Chancellor character dresses like it's 1918 but all the other women look more like 1936 than 1926. All that long hair and long skirts.

Otherwise, this one starts off with a thud. The son still has gaping raw wounds on his back 8 years after the war ended?

Better pick up fast or 23 skidoo.

Auntie Mame

The Superb Rosalind Russell
Auntie Mame started out as a hit novel by Patrick Dennis. It then became a hit Broadway play starring Rosalind Russell. Russell bought the film rights, taking no chances that she would be overlooked when Hollywood came a-knockin'.

It did. And Russell got the starring role and she is superb. She's onscreen almost constantly for the nearly 2 and a half hours, and she has every gesture, every vocal nuance down pat. You just can't take your eyes off her.

But when you can, you notice several terrific supporting players here, chief among them are Peggy Cass as Gooch and Coral Browne as Vera Charles. Each actress stakes out a distinct character and each works seamlessly with Russell.

Also good are Fred Clark as Babcock, Lee Patrick as Mrs. Upson, Connie Gilchrist as Nora, and Joanna Barnes as Glory. Again, they are well cast and they nail their parts.

There's also Robin Hughes as O'Bannion, Roger Smith as grown Patrick, Patric Knowles as Lindsay Woolsey, Willard Waterman as Upson, Pippa Scott as Pegeen, Forrest Tucker as Beau, Carol Veazie as Mrs. Burnside, and Brook Byron as Sally Cato.

The film is filled with witty lines and double meanings, all delivered with precision and humor. Russell wears a dazzling collection of costumes (and wigs), and the set direction is flawless.

In the end, Russell's Auntie Mame is the eccentric aunt you always wished you had when you were a kid. Hell, I wish I had her now!

The story morphed into a Broadway musical by Jerry Herman and that became the widely panned (but really not that bad) film musical starring Lucille Ball and Beatrice Arthur.

But in the end, it's always going to be Rosalind Russell you remember as Auntie Mame.

The Valley of the Giants

Wallace Reid Is Terrific
This 1919 film was shot on location in northern California and is famous for the accident that star Wallace Reid suffered just before filming began. The railroad car he and crew members were riding in fell off the track and tumbled down a hill into a creek. Reid suffered a gash to the back of his skull and had glass embedded in his arm as well as a back strain. The onsite doctor gave him morphine to kill the pain and continued to administer morphine throughout the shoot. By the end of filming, Reid was addicted.

The plot has Reid returning to Sequoia, where is father is being squeezed out of the timberland by a ruthless competitor. Complications arise when Reid takes an interest in the competitor's niece (Grace Darmond).

Since the competitor owns the railroad (which is used to transport timber out of the valley) Reid reveals plans to build a rival railroad ... an idea the competitor does not like.

Along with the drama and romance we get several standout action sequences, including a big fight between Reid and a thug (Jack Hoxie), a runaway train with Reid running along the top railroad cars piled high with logs to reach the brake, and a near riot between rival rail gangs.

This digital print from Gosfilmofond was gifted to Library of Congress in 2010 and is in surprisingly good shape. Co-stars include Ralph Lewis as the Colonel and Charles Ogle as the father, as well as Noah Beery, William Brunton, Guy Oliver and Alice Terry (briefly seen as the mother).

Reid is terrific and Darmond is very pretty. This was also an important early feature film for 1920s cowboy star Jack Hoxie. The location shooting is stunning.

Jerry & Marge Go Large

Blah movie about a guy who finds a way to win a lottery game by taking advantage of a mathematical error in the game. Based on a real-life story.

But other than the "competing" group of Harvard students, there's nary a moment of tension or discord in this bland look at small-town America, a town in which everyone agrees and works together (ya, right). No one complains about how the money is used; no one complains about not getting into the syndicate, etc.

How they roped Annette Bening into this nothing housewife role is beyond me. Is she really this desperate for work? Bryan Cranston plays his role like a robot.

The townspeople are bland, the reporter is bland, the lottery people are bland.

But what can you expect from a film in which the biggest family problem is that daddy made the 12-year-old kid count rolls of nickels 20 years ago?

The Extinction of Fireflies

Tracie Bennett Steals the Show
The Extinction of Fireflies (2021) is talky film based on the legend of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his teenage lover Antinous but now recast with Hadrian as a playwright and Antinous as the lead actor's boyfriend.

It's okay and it has its moments, but they all belong to the remarkable Tracie Bennett, the British actress who was best known for playing the daughter in Shirley Valentine back in 1989 and a lot of British TV but had a midlife re-emergence on stage, winning Olivier awards on London's West End for shows like "Hairspray" and "She Loves Me" and scoring Oliver and Tony nominations for playing Judy Garland in "Over the Rainbow." I've seen her in televised versions of "Ruthless" and "Follies" and she most recently starred in a revival of "Mame." Anyway....

This film takes place at the playwright's East Coast beach house and there's much bickering between the writer (Drew Droege) and lead actor (Michael Urie) as they digress from the play to personal stories about their age gap etc. Bennett plays the highly theatrical actress whose role in the play is a sort of Greek Chorus from a funeral urn. The spoiler is Urie's boyfriend (Kario Marcel) who enchants middle-aged Droege and causes trouble.

Bennett steals every scene she's in.

The Women

Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell Are Superb
Legendary MGM film, directed by George Cukor, with an all-female cast and based on the hit Broadway play by Clare Boothe Luce.

The film has a trio of MGM stars -- Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell -- and a lot of other big names like Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard, Mary Boland, and Marjorie Main.

Plot has a gaggle of catty society women in New York who obsess about their men, their upper class status, and their low-down gossip.

Catty Russell is in a frenzy of delight when she learns that perfect Shearer's marriage may be in trouble because her husband has been spotted with shop girl Crawford. The gossip spreads fast and before you know it Shearer is on the train to Reno for a divorce.

But it doesn't stop there when Russell soon shows up because she's lost HER husband to Goddard. The cat fur flies as the bickering women takes sides, especially after Crawford marries Shearer's ex-husband.

Catty, bitchy fun with these society gals in a dither over who's married to who.

Top honors go to Russell as Sylvia Flower in a breakthrough performance and Crawford as Crystal Allen. They are both perfection.

Less good is hammy Shearer as goody Mary Haines, but she has her moments. Goddard plays a brassy chorus girl and Fontaine is a sweet newlywed. Main is a hoot as the owner of the Reno ranch, and Boland is top notch as the much-married Countess.

There's also Phyllis Povah as the pregnant Edith, Lucile Watson as the wise mother, Florence Nash as the old maid writer, Dennie Moore as the gossipy manicurist, Hedda Hopper as the columnist, Ruth Hussey as the secretary, and Virginia Weidler as Little Mary.

Also of note are Muriel Hutchison and Mary Cecil as the gossiping servants, and Marjorie Wood as the attendant.

The censors kept a close eye on this one with its fast-paced catty dialog and name calling. Rumors flew as to how Crawford and Shearer would get along. Russell lobbied for star billing (which Shearer was against) and got it (though her name is in smaller letters).

MGM supposedly tried to get Marion Davies to come out of retirement for the role of Sylvia but settled for Russell.

Oddly, the film received no Oscar nominations and was only a modest box-office hit.

Brideshead Revisited

Absolutely Magnificent
This is probably the greatest TV miniseries ever made. There. I said it.

Brilliant adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's sardonic and sad novel, about the friendship between two men who meet at Oxford, become friends, and how that friendship is tested and lost as one sinks into depression and alcoholism.

The series boasts a superb cast (and everything else) and stars Jeremy Irons as Charles, the son of a well-to-do man. Charles studies history and has a deep interest in art. Anthony Andrews plays Sebastian, the pampered son of an immensely wealthy Catholic family. They become inseparable friends.

But when Charles is introduced to the eccentric family of Sebastian, the mother (Claire Bloom) and older brother (Simon Jones) can be seen trying to enlist Charles' help in dealing with Sebastian's wayward behavior (he drinks and is probably homosexual).

The rift widens as Charles becomes ensconced in the family's life. Eventually the mother hires an attendant (the repellent Samgrass) to accompany Sebastian on various trips where his drinking can be controlled ... but of course it never is.

As Sebastian sinks, Charles becomes more closely involved with the sister (Diana Quick) and her world of glittering socialites in London.

The once-close friends eventually go off into their separate lives and destinies, but Charles is forever changed by his association with the family.

Co-stars also include Laurence Olivier as Lord Marchmain, John Gielgud as Charles' eccentric father, Mona Washburne as the aged nanny, Phoebe Nicholls as young Cordelia, Nickolas Grace as the flamboyant Anthony Blanche, Jane Asher as Celia, Charles Keating as Rex, John Grillo as Samgrass, Jeremy Sinden as Boy, and Stephane Audran as Cara.

Andrews and Irons are just plain magnificent and unforgettable. Don't bother with other movie or TV versions; this is the one to watch and savor.

Save the Cinema

Badly Done. It Makes No Sense.
SAVE THE CINEMA is based on a real-life event but the film is not very well made.

A small town in Wales has a downtown theater that was originally a live theater then converted to a cinema in 1935. It's a mostly empty building but for some local stage performances. A dastardly mayor is working behind closed doors with a developer to demolish the theater block and created a mall-type thing (it's 1993). The mayor sneaks it thru an open town meeting, figuring no one will care and blabs about a revitalized downtown, jobs (the usual spiel). But the director of the live theater group fights back to save the cinema.

Samantha Morton plays the gallant lady, Jonathan Pryce plays the old fogy movie fan. Main problem is that the mayor is depicted as a cartoon character. The scenes of the amateur plays are way too long and the actual story is overly simplified, including the phone call from Stephen Spielberg with the OK to show JURASSIC PARK to make money.

Best part of the film is their obtaining a 35 mm print of HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY from a local movie fan (he's had it for 50 years) and the local Welsh audience being in awe of the story. But apparently no one in the town has ever seen a VHS movie or seen an old movie on TV. They gape at it like it was a dinosaur bone. The character Morton plays never even heard of the film or of GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS. Small-town life according to the movies. Everyone is a dope.

And of course the 50-year old 35mm nitrate film has no decomposition even though it's been stored in a closet (highly unlikely) and the Liz character has been working in the theater for decades but never knew there was a projection room? And the projectors, unused for decades, are all ready to go and need no cleaning or repairs? Things seem remarkably well preserved in Wales.

Unfortunately the story and the basic facts have been simplified to the point point of stupidity.

Blue Skies

What a Stink!
This film apparently hit the postwar public at the right moment as this film was supposedly a hit. It is a blend of nostalgia in song and dance built around songs by Irving Berlin. Despite starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, the film isn't very good at all.

Odd narrative structure has former dancer Astaire, now a radio reporter, recapping the career of Crosby the ne'er-do-well singer. We go back to the late 1910s and get the story of Astaire falling for chorus girl Joan Caulfield. She meets Crosby and falls for him. Astaire and Crosby were once Vaudeville partners. What drones on for 100 minutes is the endless back and forth among the three with Crosby's inability to accept success at the core of it all. He's always opening a club of some sort and then selling it as soon as it becomes a hit. More to the point, it gives the film's plot a series of "backgrounds" against which Crosby and Astaire do an endless number of numbers.

So while Astaire drones on about the various years that pass, various Berlin songs mark the years. The costumers apparently had a terrible time designing for this film since Astaire is talking about "flaming youth" and "the jazz age" but Caulfield never stops wearing 1918-style dresses. Nor do the songs sound anything but like 1946 in their orchestrations.

Astaire, who is rumored to have replaced Paul Draper in the role, looks terribly old and drawn. He announced he was retiring. The film's popularity (and some rejuvenation, I suspect) kept him working. Crosby is Crosby. Pretty Caulfield is a zero in the personality department. There's also Billy DeWolfe as the sidekick. He gets to do his Mrs. Murgatroyd bit (was this ever funny?). Olga San Juan provides some songs and dances (since Caulfield can't). It's notable that the dance chorus working with Astaire is pretty ragged. You can spot a lot of errors.

The Perils of Pauline

Betty Hutton Stars
Betty Hutton stars as the legendary silent serial queen Pearl White in a highly fictionalized (but entertaining) biopic.

Story has White working in a sweatshop in New York City and accidentally breaking into show biz when she's delivering a costume to an actress (Constance Collier). She joins the theatrical troupe headed by a snotty actor (John Lund) ... can romance be far behind.

After being fired, she takes a job with a silent movie company for $5 a day and because of her fearlessness, quickly establishes herself as a stuntwoman. The 1914 serial "The Perils of Pauline" would be a huge success and make White one of the biggest stars of the 1910s.

White starred in many serials but by the end of the decade, the craze for serials lapsed and she struggled to establish herself in more traditional feature films. She made her final film in 1924 and died in France in 1938.

Hutton is a dynamo here as White and is hugely entertaining. Lund and Collier (she takes a pie in the kisser) are also excellent. Then there's William Demarest as the movie director and Billy DeWolfe as the hammy actor.

Of note, during the opening silent movie-making scenes, many stars of the early silents appear. In the scene where Collier makes her entrance, that's Chester Conklin, James Finlayson, and Hank Mann flinging the pies.

In the romantic set they walk thru, that.s Paul Panzer in black. Panzer had played the villain in the original White serial in 1914.

The film captures the frenetic nature of silent movie making and Hutton in terrific in a star performance.

Grace and Frankie: The Beginning
Episode 16, Season 7

When your my age, life seems to be about endings.

To see this series end is yet another ending. The series had its low points but was mostly a joy to watch. The ending episode wraps up the various story threads for the main characters and yes, Dolly Parton finally makes an appearance on the show. To see Parton together again with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin more than 40 years after their fabulous film 9 to 5 was an emotional jolt. So many years, so much has happened.

Many cheers to Fonda and Tomlin for bringing this wonderful series to us. The stars and show never got the recognition they deserved, but hey that's show biz.

The final scene with Tomlin and Fonda on the beach was just about as perfect a way to end the adventure as any I could think of.



Bad Acting
I'll start by saying that I'm very glad to have seen MAMBA, thanks to Kino's new release of a long-in-the-works restoration of what was long thought to be a lost film. A print was discovered in Australia and the Vitaphone discs survived (at UCLA I assume). Apparently only fragments of a silent version had been known to survive. Anyway, the money was found to restore the Australian print and put it all back together ... minus some bits the Australian censors had cut out.

Mamba was touted in 1930 as the first All-Technicolor All-Talkie dramatic film. Produced by Tiffany, it was apparently a success in its day.

Unfortunately, the story of the film's production and rediscovery is almost more interesting than the film itself. The story is set in 1913 in German East Africa just before the war. Boorish landowner August Bolte (Jean Hersholt) is the local rich man (the notes say he's an ivory trader, but I don't recall any mention of ivory), supposedly called Mamba (a deadly snake) by the locals (although I don't recall this word being uttered). There are German and British soldiers in the area. Bolte forces an impoverished German nobleman to "sell" his daughter (Eleanor Boardman) for a sum of money. Bolte snags his bride and heads back to Africa but on the voyage she meets a dashing German officer (Ralph Forbes).

It seems that Bolte rapes his bride on their wedding night (cut by censors) and she lives behind a locked door once they get back to Africa. Bolte tries to win over the local society by throwing a party for his wife but it doesn't work and they soon get word that war has been declared in Europe. Bolte is drafted into the local German army but there is a big native uprising that binds together the Germans and Brits (at least temporarily) against them.

Sorry to say the acting is abysmal. Stiff and hammy and much of the time they seem to be parodying silent acting technique. Boardman spends most of her time wringing her hands and when she speaks (which isn't often) she sounds more like she's from Old Virginy than Old Germany. Hersholt comes off best as the slimy pig. Forbes is a piece of wood with a scar across his cheek. Will Stanton plays the Cockney servant for comic relief.

The color is quite good (2-strip Technicolor or whatever we call it these days) although it's limited to red and greens. Much credit is due to the UCLA restoration team and the various partners. The film looks great, and the sound is very good.

The story reminded me a lot of THE WITNESS FOR THE DEFENSE (1919) with Hersholt on par with Warner Oland's deranged husband in that Elsie Ferguson film.

Other Men's Shoes

Crauford Kent in a dual role
Crauford Kent stars as a mousy minister who is replaced by his rowdy twin brother. The new minister rallies the town's poor to challenge the local mill owner, who has been running the town. The new minister also challenges the mill owner for the love of a woman.

Plot may seem far-fetched but it works within its own framework. Irene Boyle also stars as Irene and John P Wade plays the nasty industrialist.

Harold Foshay (sometimes billed as Forshay) is the snarky Dreener and Edna May Sperl makes her film debut as the factory girl.

Print survives with original tinting.

Without Honor

Hysteria in Suburbia
Without Honor is a 1949 film directed by Irving Pichel and starring Laraine Day as an adulterous housewife in the Los Angeles burbs who has a sort of intervention conducted by her psychotic brother-in-law (Dane Clark) because he's getting even for spurning him and marrying his brother years before.

He arranges for Day and his brother (Bruce Bennett) to be home when Day's lover (Franchot Tone) and his wife (Agnes Moorehead) drop by so he can expose her and get his revenge. Just another sunny day in the burbs.

What Clark doesn't know is that earlier that afternoon Day and Tone had a big fight and break-up and when Day tried to kill herself with a shish-kabob skewer he accidentally fell on it while wrestling it away from her and stabbed himself to death. He's in the laundry room on the floor.

When Clark arrives, he taunts Day, who is about to skip out in a taxi. He goes on and on about how she got him drunk on beers when he was 18 and he made a fool of himself and he's never gotten over it. Day has other things on her mind. Moorehead shows up with no idea why she's there. Bennett comes home from work. Tone is a no-show.

Moorehead has a chat with Day and tells her she knows all about it ... and all his previous dalliances. Bennett pitches a fit, so Day runs into the bathroom and tries to slice her wrists with a razor blade. They call an ambulance but by then they discover that Tone isn't in the laundry room. Keep that ambulance a-comin'.

Everyone in the cast is quite good even if the film is a tad over-the-top. Certainly an interesting post-war take on placid suburbia. Gorgeous cars! Tone drives a 1948 Studebaker convertible and Moorehead drives a 1948 Packard sedan.

Three Women

Two Women More Like It
Lew Cody stars as a scheming cad who happens to meet a rich millionairess (Pauline Frederick) at a party. He's told she's worth three million dollars. He gets an introduction.

Frederick is an aging woman (she about 42) who's afraid of getting old, so she pretends to be younger and starts an affair with Cody. Alas, she has a college-aged daughter (May McAvoy) who is away at school but who shows up suddenly.

Frederick is angry that she comes home and of course as soon as Cody spots her, he dumps the old lady and goes after McAvoy, especially after he learns her trust fund is worth more than a million dollars.

As soon as he marries silly McAvoy, he starts playing around with a floozy (Marie Prevost in a VERY brief role) and ignoring his wife.

Onto the scene comes Fred (Pierre Gendron) McAvoy's old boyfriend from college. He happens to be at a nightclub where Cody and Prevost are living it up, but when Cody gets conked by a bottle of champagne, the good Gendron (now a doctor) takes him home, where all is revealed (including Frederick's past affair with Cody).

Cody goes wild and gets his comeuppance.

Stars Pauline Frederick and May McAvoy are especially good, Cody is appropriately sleazy, and Prevost is fun. Gendron plays the stalwart leading man. There's also Raymond McKee, Jane Winton, Max Davidson, Mary Carr, and Tom Ricketts (as the butler).

Supposedly, future star Charles Farrell is among the party revelers.

Odd errors in this one include intertitles with bad sentences that make no sense and the fact that Cody's character is called George but referred to in a courtroom scene as Edmund.

The music has too much percussion and tends to drown out the action.

Murder in Provence

Phony Baloney or should I say Balogne?
Almost as bad as that other mystery series set on Martha's Vineyard.

This one has three episodes so far, long dull affairs set against the backdrop of southern France. We have an unmarried couple who investigate the local murders. He (Roger Allam) is a judge (investigator) while she (Nancy Carroll ... not the film star of the 1920s and 30s ... is a psychologist).

Together, they swan about in an ugly Citroen and drink wine and eat croissants and baggettes and always meet in a brasserie because it's France.

Of course EVERY single character has a French name but talks with an English accent. The PC casting is tiresome.

No name actors in this one. I guess they spent all their filming budget on French food. No matter. The stories aren't terribly interesting anyway.

The Gilded Age

Vapid and Phony
Not much story and almost no authenticity. CGI city with lots of phony smoke is the background. The characters are more caricatures, a bunch of silly women huffing and puffing about their social status while the men are relegated to the background to make the money that gives the silly women their status.

The heroine (Louisa Jacobson) is rather frumpy and too old for the "babe in the woods" role, while Christine Baranski acts like she's playing a warden in a women's prison movie. Cynthia Nixon continues to play Julie Harris (and not very well).

The Black subplot isn't very interesting, and the money-making schemes of Russell (Morgan Spector) are so glossed over that they make no sense. The main social climber, Mrs. Russell (Carrie Coon), is unlikable although I suspect we're supposed to see her as a champion.

Lots of Broadway stage people in this (out of work because of COVID): Audra McDonald, Kelli O'Hara, Donna Murphy, Nathan Lane, Katie Finneran, etc.

Overall, the acting is flat and the enunciation is unbearably phony and crisp. Of course we all talked like that in the 1880s and no one had any kind of regional accent.

The Julia Child Challenge

Antonia Lofaso and guest judges assign various cooking challenges to a group. The twist is that the challenges all come from Julia Child's famous cook book. There are also many clips of Child from various TV shows.

Main problem is that the format is dull and the competitors are not very interesting. More low key than other Food Network cooking competitions.

Lofaso tries but she can't force much life into this dead fish of a show. The most interesting part is the barrage of Child clips.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Interesting People on Christopher Street
Episode 4, Season 4

Tony Shalhoub's character is more annoying than ever. He's not twirling in a cape in this episode but the writers find more ways for him to be annoying and without any redeeming values.

So now he's sponging off the daughter in her apartment but still pontificating to anyone who will listen and going off the deep end over stupid things. Why would anyone put up with this pompous ass?

I wouldn't ... even if he is bipolar.

The Apple-Tree Girl

Shirley Mason Stars
Shirley Mason stars as the "ugly duckling" cousin who has to go live with her snotty rich cousin (Joyce Fair). While the cousin is popular and has many boyfriends, Mason is not, so she makes a list and declares that she will be popular, famous, and marry a millionaire.

At school she meets a poor boy (Raymond McKee) who wants to be a doctor but the cousin makes fun of them as being "raggedy" as she cavorts with her rich friends. Mason is eventually forced to teach in a one-room schoolhouse.

She learns how to play golf and McKee becomes a doctor. Will Mason achieve her goals? Will there be a happy ending? Will the cousin get her comeuppance?

Shirley Mason (sister of Viola Dana) is charming and pretty. McKee and Fair are good in their roles. There's also Jessie Stevens as Madame Bazin and Edward Coleman as the "town catch."

Filmed mostly in rural Connecticut.

Love for Lydia

Achingly Beautiful
LOVE FOR LYDIA is a leisurely paced and meticulous miniseries of the old school. It's based on a semi-autobiographical novel by H. E. Bates and chronicles the lives of several young adults in the mid-1920s in a small town in the north of England.

Lydia Aspen (Mel Martin) is at first a shy and awkward young heiress who comes to town to live with her old maiden aunts (Beatrix Lehmann, Rachel Kempson) and the brutish uncle (Michael Aldridge) in their isolated mansion. The Bates character, Edward Richardson (Christopher Blake), is sent to interview the reclusive aunts on the death of their brother (Lydia's father). The aunts take a shine to the shy young man and encourage him to take Lydia out (ice skating, local dances). Of course the boy is instantly smitten with Lydia, but she is not quite what she seems and as she comes into her own, we find that she is willful, eccentric, and more than a little cruel.

The series is about more than the fumblings of young love. It's also a sharp look the British social norms of 100 years ago. The Aspens are a socially untouchable family in their stone mansion. Their isolation is broken only by trips to church. There's not really a "middle class" at this time in England, but Richardson represents a working class that has some education and upward mobility, as opposed to the "laborers" in the system who are uneducated and simply grind away at their menial jobs. Richardson and his group are just as snobbish to their underlings as Lydia is to Richardson's group.

The cast includes a very young Jeremy Irons as Richardson's friend Alex, who spends all his time drinking and roaring about in his roadster. There's also a farm family (Peter Davison, Sherrie Hewson) who have gone through the school system. Beneath them is the brooding Blackie (Ralph Arliss) who works as an auto mechanic and part-time driver. Among this group, we see rivalries for Lydia, love won, love lost, and the changing fortunes of all as we head toward the Great Depression.

Don't be fooled. This is not a sappy love story. This is a complex story with complex characters. It's an achingly beautiful look lives intertwined.

Issued as a DVD set many years ago. I don't believe this has ever been "restored" or issued on Blu-ray.

Vita & Virginia

Artsy Fartsy with the Emphasis on the Latter
I can see why Eileen Atkins had her name removed from this pretentious and dull story based on the love letters of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West.

Ridiculous casting from the get-go has 6-foot 3 amazon playing mousy little Woolf and a glamour puss playing the dour Sackville-West. These real-life writers were plain, unattractive women. The movie casts them as fashion models swanning about.

Boring narrative has them falling into a lesbian relationship while their husbands stand around. Everyone is so intellectual and mannered that you couldn't care less about them.

Woolf was nearly 50 when she published "Orlando"but is played here as a 30-something. Nothing rings true. Amid the dull acting we get endless scenes where the women stare blankly into the camera lens and read bits from their boring letters.

There's not an ounce of joy in these women. And what's with the damned animated vines growing (CGI) in living rooms? Another boring film directed by a woman trying to be all artsy fartsy.

Guy's Chance of a Lifetime

Bad ... Really Bad
Guy Fieri launches a show to award a chicken franchise to one of a group of unlikable dopes who preen and mug for the camera as they "compete" in a series of stupid stunts.

This is NOT a cooking show so don't be fooled. Whoever wins the franchise sure as hell won't be wearing a paper hat and cooking in it. It'll be staffed by the same under-educated people you see in every fast-food franchise.

The contestants are all self-obsessed blowhards and the "judging" is beyond ridiculous. A show for the selfie generation.

The Cat's Meow

Blame Orson Welles
For whatever reason, Welles never let go of his vendetta against William Randolph Hearst. As if CITIZEN KANE was not enough, he continued to spew lies and rumors about Hearst for the rest of his life, probably because Hearst fought back against Welles' movie.

THE CAT'S MEOW is based on a rumor Welles purred into the ear of Peter Bogdanovich. Welles said that Kane was better than Hearst because Kane was not a murderer. He then claimed that Hearst had murdered Thomas Ince in 1924, blah blah blah.

Welles merely repeated the unfounded rumor that had been floating around for decades, spiced with a few lies, about the ill-fated yachting trip in November of 1924.

Yes the yachting trip included Hearst and Ince along with Marion Davies, Charlie Chaplin, Elinor Glyn, Louella Parsons and others. Welles had it that Hearst shot Ince, thinking he was Chaplin, in a jealous rage. More likely, Ince suffered a stomach ailment (he had ulcers) and became ill and died several days later.

Welles' story, elaborated by Bogdanovich, then claims that Parsons witnessed the story and blackmailed Hearst into a lifetime job. Hearst then supposedly had the power to demand the silence of everyone else onboard. Hmmmm, what could be wrong with this scenario?

So many holes in this plot. If Hearst was so jealous of Chaplin, why have him on the yachting trip? If Hearst was so jealous of Chaplin, why was Chaplin a frequent guest at San Simeon and Marion's famed Ocean House for the next decade?

The film would have you believe Chaplin wanted Davies for a supporting role in THE GOLD RUSH. Davies was a major star and NEVER got anything less than first billing. Davies would never have taken the saloon girl role under Chaplin. Davies had been the #1 female box office star of 1923. And Chaplin never appeared with a female star of equal stature.

The film casts Hearst as a maniac, totally out of control. There's no evidence that supports this. Hearst was so powerful via his media empire, he didn't have to pitch fits.

The film places Margaret Livingston onboard. Livingston, best remembered as the City Woman in SUNRISE, always denied she was there. Davies stated in her memoir she had never met Livingston. More likely, Davies' sisters and friends like Aileen Pringle, Eileen Percy, and Seena Owen were there. Hearst and Davies famously traveled with Davies' showbiz friends like Dorothy Mackaill and William Collier, Jr.

At the time of this trip, Hearst was not a big power in Hollywood since he and Davies had only moved to Hollywood that year. They didn't join MGM until 1925. While Hearst had his media power on the West Coast, it didn't extend to the movie colony.

Welles published an "apology" to Davies in the foreword to her memoir THE TIMES WE HAD, which was published more than a decade after her death, in which he claims he had never meant to demean her talent in KANE by his portrayal of her as the no-talent Susan Alexander character (but apparently he never said anything while she was alive). And Bogdanovich does Davies no favors in THE CAT'S MEOW.

In the movie she IS having an affair with Chaplin and admits she's just a gold digger and doesn't really love Hearst. In the clip of the movie they watch (it's supposed to be YOLANDA), Davies is depicted as a bad actress who clowns around constantly while filming. She's portrayed as the typical blonde bimbo. In real life, Davies was a hard-working actress and was a savvy film producer and businesswoman.

Don't even get me started on the atrocious Eddie Izzard as Chaplin.

Bottom line: what damage Welles inflicted on the careers and reputations of William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies, Bogdanovich repeated and cemented with this film of lies.

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