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The People We Hate at the Wedding

Woof, What a Heifer
100-minute stinker of a movie with hugely unlikable characters.

Annoying extended family of losers reunite in London for a pretentious wedding. That's about it.

Kristen Bell is way too old for playing the sap having an affair with her jerky boss. Then there's Ben Platt playing a gay dope who breaks up with this boyfriend at the wedding of the bi-racial sister.

Then there's Allison Janney as the ditz mother who seems to be having an affair with one of her ex-husbands. My guess is they're supposed to be screwball comedy tropes but they come off as annoying jerks.

One of the stupidest scenes has the bride and her screeching pals going for a ride in a hot tub on the Thames. Gee, I wonder if they'll fall into the river.

Really bad.

One Delicious Christmas

Tripe for Xmas
The hook on this dead fish of the movie is that Bobby Flay stars as a food critic. Talk about typecasting. CHOPPED it ain't.

Produced by the Food Network for which Flay is a major star with about 300 series all running at the same time, this tripe (stomach lining of an old cow) is a vanity production if ever there was one. Flay is a total embarrassment.

This one has the usual PC cast of 20-somethings, none of whom can act their way out of a paper bag (let alone a plastic one).

The "plot" has a girl inheriting a restaurant/inn and having to hire a chef to run the kitchen because she wants to keep the family traditions alive even though she's clueless.

Pass the tripe; hold the cheese!

A Hint to Brides

Ruth Taylor in a talkie
A HINT TO BRIDES is the only surviving talkie short with Ruth Taylor, famous for starring as Lorelei Lee in the 1928 silent GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES. She has a squeaky voice that reminded me of Mae Murray. In this one she's a new bride married to Johnny Arthur. When their home is burgled by robbers (Lawrence Leslie, Martie Martell) the dumb blonde comes up with the smart idea of offering them the presents they don't want (including the stuffed owl) and calling it even. Taylor's two talkie feature films survive along with several of the silent comedy shorts.

IMDb lists Martie Martell as Margie, but she's clearly billed as Martie in the opening credits. All three of Martell's credits are listed as Martie .... there is no Margie Martell.

Hocus Pocus 2

Bette Midler and Sappy Kids
My memory of the original HOCUS POCUS is shrouded in the mists of time, but I remember thinking the 1993 film focused on a bunch of sappy kids rather than the stars and was lame. Lo and behold, the new version focuses on a bunch of sappy kids rather than the stars. It's like déjà vu all over again.

This one takes up to Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween where a trio of female friends are bickering. They seem to be into magic and so go to the local magic shop, but the owner slips them a candle with a black flame (an evil thing) so that when they're fooling around with a chant, they bring back the dreaded Sanderson Sisters (from wherever they have been, I don't recall). That's when the film comes to life (or as lively as it can get).

Bette Midler has a field day as lead witch Winifred. They have to complete a spell before sunrise in order to live forever (again) with the help of the magic shop owner but of course the kids get in the way. The other sisters are played by Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy, but they are totally secondary. Whereas in the original film, Midler and company sang "Put a Spell on You" with the cameras constantly cutting away from the singers to the audience, here they sing "One Way or Another" with the cameras constantly cutting away from the singers to the audience.

Mild stuff, but maybe OK for a young audience.

Too Outrageous!

Craig Russell
I loved OUTRAGEOUS (1977), a funny and sweet story abut two misfits (Craig Russell, Hollis McLaren) who find each other in a crazy world and who bond together against that world. The film also showcases Russell's great tributes to several great ladies.

This sequel comes ten years later and we find Russell and McLaren still together, with Russell's Robin Turner trying to break into the big time.

The overall plot gets messed up with an unlikable female TV executive and slight nod to the AIDS plague (which would kill Russell in 1990) via a minor character.

David McIlwraith returns as Bob as does Rusty Ryan as Jimmy. It's a huge loss that Richert Easley didn't return as Perry. The major problem, however, is that the structure of the film doesn't allow Russell to perform his ladies.

We get snippets rather than a full act and, sad to say, many of his voices are off. While he does well with Peggy Lee, Mae West, Sophie Tucker, Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, and even Eartha Kitt, his salutes to Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, and Ella Fitzgerald are not very good.

Still, when he's good he's very good. It's too bad it took so long to mount a sequel and that the joy and exuberance of the first film has been lost.

But let's not forget Craig Russell. He was a pioneer and a true artiste.


On the Dull Side
Far-fetched and overly complicated plot gets in the way of stars Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy as a cop posing as a thug and a would-be jewel thief on the lam.

Loy is part of a jewel thief gang but she wants to go straight. She's on her last job and doesn't know the jewels have been planted on her. Tracy is a cop posing as a thug who's helping her escape a rival gang that wants the jewels. Of course they fall for each other in the trains, planes & automobiles race across the country.

Not only is a rival gang after the jewels, but so are a gang of cops. Bad casting here as all these middle-aged actors look alike and no one stands out, so you can't keep them straight.

Film only comes to life when the stars get stuck in a storm and seek shelter in a remote farmhouse where a woman is about to give birth. The frantic father (a marvelous John Qualen) can't reach the doctor because the lines are down. Loy and Tracy pitch in and help in the emergency.

Then the film goes back to its ludicrous plot and plays out as expected. Loy and Tracy don't spark any chemistry and plot holes aplenty don't help. William Powell was lucky to have missed out on this clunker.

The Office Wife

Have a Cigar?
The Office Wife is one of those early talkies that seems to be missing something. This one runs only 59 minutes and was directed by Lloyd Bacon with Michael Curtiz hired to re-shoot some scenes. My guess is that Natalie Moorhead's affair with Brooks Benedict was mostly axed.

Anyway, ambitious secretary Dorothy Mackaill is brought in as a replacement secretary to the boss (Lewis Stone) of a publishing house after his old secretary (Dale Fuller) keels over when he says he's getting married (to Moorhead). The running gag is that a mannish cigar-smoking writer (Blanche Friderici) is writing a book abut how secretaries are really office wives and spend more times with the husband than the real wife does.

Mackaill has a dud of a boyfriend (Walter Merrill) and a peppy sister (Joan Blondell in her first film) and of course falls for old Stone but he seems oblivious. Of course he really is oblivious since Moorhead is openly carrying on with Benedict in her few scenes.

Mackaill is always easy to watch and Moorhead finally gets a scene when she tells Stone she's filing for divorce. He doesn't care. Blondell's next film, Sinner's Holiday, was released before this one was.

This one has the usual pre-Code interest in women's lingerie and legs with Mackaill and Blondell in various poses.

Life in Squares

Confused look at the Bloomsbury Group over several decades. This 3-part miniseries jumbles the narrative time and the actors so that it's a confusing mishmash. Some actors play the same part over time and others change. The various actresses who play Virginia and Vanessa look nothing like each other and the dumbest bit is Eve Best (a dead ringer for Virginia) playing Vanessa.

None of the people are particularly likable and maybe they weren't in real life. They come off as self-absorbed boobs. Maybe they were. But this makes for an unappealing 3 hours.

Some viewers may be shocked at the sexual escapades among the group members but sex existed even in this post-Victorian era.

Shetland: Episode #7.1
Episode 1, Season 7

So they gloss over Perez' destroying evidence (Donna's mug) but Duncan is in jail. Perez gets away with it. Sandy has still not been punished for his neglect of a prisoner that led to his suicide (with a pen Sandy gave him) or for leaking crime scene photos (Tosh is complicit in this also). These cops are all tainted.

Safe in Hell

Dorothy Mackaill
Lurid and excellent pre-Code film starring Dorothy Mackaill as a New Orleans prostitute who escapes the city after she burns down a hotel and kills a man who has attacked her.

The island is noted for not extraditing criminals so its only hotel is filled with sleazy old killers and crooks. It's also noted that Mackaill is the only white woman on the island and so the old men all lust after her. They line up their chair to watch her come down the staircase, looking up her dress.

Worst of the bunch is the local prison warden (Victor Varconi) who decides to frame Mackaill after she refuses his sexual advances. While she's on trial for killing a man (the same man she was accused of killing in New Orleans, but who didn't die after all), she gets word that her old boy friend (Donald Cook) is coming to get her.

But there's a twist ending.

Notable among the co-stars are Clarence Muse as the porter, Nina Mae McKinney as the hotelier (she sings a terrific "Sleepy Time Down South"), Charles Middleton as the lawyer, Cecil Cunningham, John Wary, and Ralf Harolde.

Mackaill was originally from Hull, England and had a remarkable rise to stardom in silent films, She made the transition to talkies and made several excellent films, but her career faded after Warners/First National didn't renew her contract.

Till the Clouds Roll By

June Allyson, Judy Garland
Interminable fake biography of Jerome Kern is punctuated by some great musical interludes featuring some of MGM's top talent.

Robert Walker stars as Kern and way too much time is spent on his boring story of "young composer grows up" what with his friendship with Hessler (Van Heflin) and his marriage to Eva (Dorothy Patrick). Almost better to fast forward through this bosh and get to the musical numbers.

Chief among them are Judy Garland singing "Look for the Silver Lining," "Sunny" and "Who" and June Allyson singing "Till the Clouds Go By," "Leave It to Jane" and the funny "Cleopatterer."

Other good numbers feature MGM stars like Van Johnson, Virginia O'Brien, Lena Horne, Kathryn Grayson, Angela Lansbury, Frank Sinatra, Tony Martin ... and even Dinah Shore shows up. There's also a brief bit with Gower Champion and Cyd Carisse. Ray McDonald appears in the Allyson numbers.

Then there's Lucile Bremer. First off, she's dubbed by Trudy Erwin. Secondly, her dancing is nothing special. Why MGM tried so hard to make Bremer a star is anyone's guess. But this film is the perfect showcase to show why she never became a star.

The non-musical cast also includes Mary Nash as the housekeeper, Paul Langton as Oscar Hammerstein, Harry Hayden as Charles Frohman, and Paul Maxey as Victor Herbert.

Why such a big deal about English vs. American accents is made is anyone's guess, especially when Dorothy Patrick plays the British wife with NO British accent.

Other notable bits and pieces include Caleb Peterson singing "Ol' Man River" and Esther Williams in a cameo mobbed by autograph seekers. Former MGM silent star May McAvoy appears as a well-wisher after the "Roberta" number and the inclusion of "Till the Clouds Roll By" from the Broadway production of "Oh, Boy" may be a nod to MGM superstar Marion Davies, who appeared in the original production in 1917.

Overall, the musical numbers are terrific and the biographical narrative sections are deadly dull.

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.

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