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Reviews

Helen's Babies
(1924)

Thanks goodness for film preservation! This family comedy is priceless.
I was lucky enough to see this thanks to CINECON classic film festival. The print was a Library of Congress restoration using multiple sources. The plot set-up has Edward Everett Horton playing the "expert" author of a book on how to raise children. His publisher thought it would be a big seller, not the Horton's character knew anything about kids and he hated the idea of even getting married. When he goes to visit his sister in the country he finds out too late they are dumping the two little girls on him because, after all he's the "expert." But it's not even Horton who is the big star in this delightful family comedy. Long before Shirley Temple, Baby Peggy (Montgomery) was filmdom's favorite moppet. In Helen's Babies, Peggy plays Toddie, the niece of this pretentious author Harry (Edward Everett Horton). Considering himself an expert on child-rearing, Harry finds he knows next to nothing about kids when Toddie is left in his care. Featured in the cast is 19 year old Clara Bow, on the verge of full-blown stardom and soon to be known forever as the "It Girl." After Hollywood could not exploit her anymore, Montgomery grew up to become prolific author (and expert film historian) Diana Cary. Films like this show why she was so popular. It is fun!

All in Fun
(1928)

A fortune from a scale weighs heavy on our hero when all goes wrong while looking for prosperity just around the corner.
Jerry Mandy weighs himself on a sidewalk scale and gets a fortune that says prosperity is just around the corner... well Jerry runs into all forms of trouble, a paint mop in the face, puddles of tar in the street causing Jerry and the cop chasing him to become glued to boards forcing them to continue the chase in unison! This scene is funnier when they ski down hill thru traffic without rear screen and so much more!

Devil and the Deep
(1932)

If you've never seen it, do and but it is best avoid any spoilers to better enjoy this wild ride.
SPOILER ALERT: After you've seen it, read on and see if my summary doesn't fit the bill. Our story opens with a letter being found by Charles Laughton's character. The letter was written to Cary Grant's character by Laughton's wife, played by Tallulah Bankhead. Laughton laughs it off and claims he's not one of those jealous husbands... later at their club Laughton tells bad jokes and Bankhead is bored having heard them all more than once. Grant feels sorry for Bankhead but their posh set read the signals as they are having an affair and it is her fault.

Later at home Laughton shows his truer side and jealously taunts and verbally tortures his wife, trying to get a confession. She distraught as his accusations gives in to his wanting a demonstration of their fidelity. He wants Bankhead to invite Grant over for a private conversation while Laughton eavesdrops seeking the truth. She's at her wits end as he gets even more crazy with jealousy. It seems Laughton not only got Grant (his second in command on board a submarine) fired but also implicated that he was incompetent (seeking to ruin his career.) Grant, innocently enough comes to the house later that night to see if he can help Bankhead. Laughton hides and listens in. Bankhead on pins and needles gives away nothing and Grant proceeds to tell her he only wanted to see if he could help her in some way. He confesses he does not love her or anything like that, it's just seems she was in distress and that people talked about her without knowing anything about her. He compares her to a mistreated puppy dog or a puzzle and then he leaves.

Laughton not hearing the evidence of an affair is angry and claims she must have warned Grant before Laughton could hear. Laughton accuses her of thinking he's insane, and that she is driving him to it. Laughton threatens to ruin them both or kill her!

Bankhead goes out into the night, giving up, but knowing she has to get away. In the dark she falls into the crowded street festival and the crowd carries her along finally reaching whirling dervishes of all things symbolic. Cornered and exhausted a strangers hand pulls her into a shop, it is Gary Cooper wanting now to save her from the crush of the crowd. Cooper wants to know more about her, anything to help her. She does not divulge any secrets but end up walking out into the desert at night. Star gazing they fall for each other amid the calm.

EVEN MORE SPOILERS: Laughton hires the store keeper where they met to later be a witness to try and frame her even more. And it turns out Laughton's new second in command is to be Cooper who of all things is replacing Grant! Bankhead knowing Laughton is nutz goes on board the submarine to warn Cooper. Laughton finds out she is on board demands the set sail ASAP trapping her on board. Once at sea and underwater Laughton guides the sub into the pathway of a large cruise ship he alone sees using the periscope and just before it hits turns the periscope 180 degrees and tells Cooper to look thru it. As the seconds tick by he does not turn it around until it's too late and they are rammed and their ship starts to sink.

Laughton calmly orders the men to do this and that while he stealthily sabotages the radio before a distress signal can be sent, but Bankhead sees him do it. Cooper is then told by Laughton in front of the men the crash was Coopers fault and he is to stand down. Bankhead has heard too much and speaks up, shocking all the men who did not know she was on board. Laughton tries again to get the men to open doors that would lead not only to more flooding but would kill all those on board. Bankhead speaks up explain to the men, her husband is crazy, maybe she cares for Cooper while married to Laughton, it is Laughton who she saw scuttle the radio and how he did it. The men realize Laughton in his jealous state is trying to kill them all! Cooper takes charge and carefully organizes the men to slowly leave the sub using portable air tanks. In the first group he send Bankhead to the surface, and after almost all have been evacuated he tries to get Laughton to safety, but Laughton dashes behind a door, locks himself in and starts letting more water in... Later at a trial Cooper is found innocent of the accident but is kicked out of the Navy for conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. Cooper goes to find Bankhead and does not mind leaving the service, he plans to make Bankhead happy for the rest of her life. The End.

Don't Get Jealous
(1929)

Two prints of this rare comedy short survive at the Library of Congress.
Carole Lombard appears in this, her final short, final silent and is delightful! The two prints that survive at the Library of Congress are both incomplete, but if and when they are merged together will make a delightful discovery for those who seek it out.

Hugo
(2011)

Before Chaplin, Fairbanks, Pickford and D.W. Griffith became famous, cinemas first superstar was Georges Melies.
Long before film pioneers and legends Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and D.W. Griffith became famous, cinemas first superstar was Georges Melies, whose story is told in this film, Hugo. Though based on a popular children's novel, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" (by Brian Selznick), in which Melies is a character, most of what was written about him is based on fact. It may be hard for some of you to image, but someday - if their films don't survive - future generations could even forget Orson Welles, Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg. Georges Méliès was born in Paris in 1861 and from an early age showed an interest in mechanical things and the arts which led his parents to send him to the best art school in Paris. In 1884, Georges moved to London to continue his studies at the request of his parents. They insisted that he learn English after which they intended for him to work at his father's shoe company. While in London, he developed a keen interest in stage conjury and illusions after witnessing the work of Nevil Maskelyne, a British magician and inventor (it was he who came up with the idea of pay toilets) and Professor George Cooke, inventor of the stage trick of levitation. On his return to Paris Georges worked at his father's factory while continuing to cultivate his interest in stage magic, attending performances at the famous Robert-Houdin Théâtre. The theater had been founded by the French magician Robert-Houdin, who had started the trend of performing in a tuxedo and is considered the father of modern magicians. And it's where Harry Houdini got his name! When the theater was later put up for sale, Méliès managed to raise enough money to buy it. From that point on he worked full time as a theatrical showman whose performances revolved around magic and illusion. When the Lumière brothers held a special private demonstration of their invention, the Cinématographe, on December 28 1895, Méliès witnessed the World Premiere of projected movies. Clearly impressed, he offered the Lumière Brothers 10,000 francs to sell him one of their machines which was a miraculous motion picture camera and projector all in one - but they turned him down. Determined to learn more, Méliès sought out a British inventor, in London and bought his version of a film projector. He began screening other peoples films for the public at his theater - mainly those made by Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope, but after modifying the equipment he also used it as a camera, and he started making and showing his own movies. His first films were one reel, one shot views lasting about a minute. As raw film stock and film processing labs were not yet available in Paris, Méliès purchased unperforated film in London, and personally developed and printed his films through trial and error. Méliès' major contribution to cinema was the combination of traditional theatrical elements to the just invented motion pictures - he sought to present spectacles of a kind not possible in live theatre. In the Autumn of 1896, an event occurred which has since passed into film folklore and changed the way Méliès looked at filmmaking. While shooting a simple street scene, the camera jammed and it took him a few seconds to fix the problem. After processing the film, he was struck by the effect the incident had on the scene - objects suddenly appeared, disappeared or were transformed into other objects, men turned into women, a bus became a hearse! Méliès discovered from this accident that cinema had the capacity for manipulating and distorting both time and space. He expanded upon his initial ideas and devised some complex special effects with the magic of editing. He was now able to pull off illusions on the screen that he was never able to do on stage. He pioneered the first double exposure in his film The Cave of the Demons, the first split screen with performers acting opposite themselves in Four Heads Are Better Than One, and the first dissolve in the 1899 version of Cinderella. Faced with a shrinking market once the novelty of his films began to wear off, and an explosion of competitors, Méliès abandoned film production during WWI. He was forced to turn his innovative motion picture studio into a Variety Theatre and resumed his pre-film career as a Showman. Eventually he couldn't even pay for the storage of his flammable nitrate films. In 1923 he was declared bankrupt and his beloved theatre was demolished. Méliès almost disappeared into obscurity until the gradual rediscovery of his career by film historians began. "Hugo" is unlike any other film Martin Scorsese has ever made, and yet possibly the closest to his heart: a big-budget, family epic and in some ways, a mirror of his own life. Filmed in 3-D, it is worth noting that Scorsese made his first special effects movie about the man who invented special effects. The film's first half is devoted to the escapades of its young hero. The way the CGI and other techniques are used to create the railway station and the city of Paris in 1931 is breathtaking. For a lover of cinema, the best scenes will come in the second half, as flashbacks trace the history and career of Georges Melies. You may have seen his most famous short film, "A Trip to the Moon" made way back in 1902, in which space voyagers enter a ship that is shot from a cannon toward the moon; and the rocket pokes the Man in the Moon in the eye. "Hugo" celebrates the birth of the cinema and dramatizes the importance of the preservation of old films, which is on going and never ending. And it reminds us that sometimes life is like a moving train, or the gears that turn inside a clock, or like the Paris train station filed with all kinds of interesting characters that all matter and make up our story.

East of Eden: Part Three
(1981)
Episode 3, Season 1

Powerful mini-series inspired by a great novel. Dark, violent and seedy but balanced in the end by a moral lesson.
SPOILERS: In this the third and final part of the mini-series the story moves ahead several years, with Cal and Aron as teenagers. They are opposites: Aron is virtuous and dutiful, Cal wild and rebellious. In a parallel situation to Adam and Charles, Cal believes that Adam favors Aron, and acts out to get his father's attention. Cal learns that Kate is still alive and goes to see her. Cal's goodness and professed love for his father makes Kate uncomfortable, and she spitefully tells him that he is just like her. Cal replies that she is merely afraid, and leaves. On his way out, she tells him not to tell Aron. When Adam goes nearly bankrupt after a bad investment, Cal resolves to prove his worth by making the money back. He goes into business with Samuel Hamilton's son Will growing beans, with the expectation that crop prices will skyrocket when the U.S. declares war on Germany. Their plan succeeds and they make a huge profit, which Cal proudly presents to his father. To his dismay, however, Adam rejects the gift as "dirty money". Cal lashes out by taking Aron to see Kate at the whorehouse and introducing her as their mother; Aron is horrified, and runs away to enlist in the war. Racked with guilt, Cal burns the money he made from the investment. Kate, meanwhile, loses her mind. In the following months, Cal and Aron's girlfriend Abra fall in love. Tragedy strikes, however: Adam receives a telegram saying that Aron has been killed in battle, and suffers a debilitating stroke. Cal feels responsible, and confesses to Adam what he did. Lee tells the dying Adam that he must give his only remaining son his blessing so he can live a good life. With his last ounce of strength, Adam says one last word to Cal: "Timshel". Only this last segment shares a similar plot with the 1955 James Dean version that only used the end of the book.

East of Eden: Part Two
(1981)
Episode 2, Season 1

Powerful mini-series inspired by a great novel. Dark, violent and seedy but balanced in the end by a moral lesson.
SPOILERS: Adam and Cathy are living in the Salinas Valley in California. Cathy has given birth to twin boys. Shortly afterward, she told Adam that she is leaving him, and shoots him in the shoulder when he tries to stop her. As this episode begins Adam is devastated, but eventually recovers with help from his loyal Cantonese servant Lee and his old friend Samuel Hamilton. Lee and Hamilton relate to Adam the story of Cain and Abel, and tell him that God's admonition to Cain - "Timshel", Hebrew for "thou mayest" - symbolizes a human being's freedom to choose between good and evil and forge their own path in life. Inspired, Adam becomes a devoted father to his sons, whom he names Caleb ("Cal") and Aron. He tells them that their mother is dead. Meanwhile, Cathy changes her name to Kate Albey and finds work at a whorehouse in Monterey. She endears herself to the madam, Faye, who eventually puts Kate in her will; Kate then murders her and takes over the whorehouse. Adam tries to win her back, but she rejects him and tells him that Charles is the boys' father. (It is left ambiguous whether she is telling the truth.)

East of Eden: Part One
(1981)
Episode 1, Season 1

Powerful mini-series inspired by a great novel. Dark, violent and seedy but balanced in the end by a moral lesson.
SPOILERS: Following the Civil War, Union crippled veteran Cyrus Trask has two sons: Adam, a gentle, idealistic soul; and Charles, a hellraiser. Cyrus favors Adam and Charles is very aware of it, creating friction between the brothers. Cyrus, later becomes an influential diplomat who has amassed a fortune by probably embezzling from the government, pulls strings to get Adam into West Point. Adam rebels, however, and goes off to lead the life of a vagabond. Following Cyrus' death, Adam returns to the family farm in Connecticut and mends his relationship with Charles, with whom he shares a large inheritance. The series also concerns the life of Cathy Ames, an evil woman who delights in manipulating and destroying people. At 16, she drives her Latin teacher to suicide by toying with his affections. She then murders her parents and runs away, eventually becoming the mistress of a whoremaster named Jules Edwards. When Edwards realizes she is using him, however, he gives her a severe beating and leaves her to die. Adam finds her and nurses her back to health, and soon falls in love with her. Charles sees through her, but soon he too succumbs to her charms and sleeps with her. Adam and Cathy move to the Salinas Valley in California, where Cathy gets pregnant and gives birth to twin boys. Shortly afterward, she tells Adam that she is leaving him, and shoots him in the shoulder when he tries to stop her.

Staking His Life
(1918)

Some of this film appears to have been found at Still Mostly Lost, 2020.
NOTE: The following is a synopsis that describes the plot. I did not see the whole film, but the 10m or so that I did see thanks to Mostly Lost matches the beginning of this plot which I believe makes this a significant find. SPOILERS: Bud Randall, the son of an invalid widow, takes a liking to gambling, and after her death he is raised by gambler Jim Carew. Carew's premature death, for which Randall holds a member of the clergy responsible, turns the boy against religion. Years later, Randall (William S. Hart) runs a casino in a tough Western town. Frank Hamilton, an ailing minister, arrives in Randall's town but finds that Randall's opposition to religion prevents the townspeople from attending his services. In a suicidal gesture, the sick Hamilton slaps Randall's face, but Bubbles, a dance hall girl and Randall's sweetheart, intervenes to save Hamilton's life. Bubbles nurses Hamilton back to health, and Randall permits Hamilton to hold a Sunday service at the casino. During a gunfight between Randall and a ruffian called The Horned Toad, Hamilton steps in front of a bullet aimed at Randall, who then allows Hamilton to conduct, with his dying breath, the marriage ceremony for him and Bubbles. Converted to religion, Randall closes his casino.

Love on Toast
(1937)

Super soup saleswoman Linda Craven (acting teacher and legend Stella Adler in her first of only three film roles) !
Super soup saleswoman Linda Craven (acting teacher and legend Stella Adler in her first of only three film roles) gets the job of promoting the hot stuff during a heat wave in New York City. Her no brainer idea is to have a contest to find Mr. Manhattan and Miss Brooklyn. Luis Alberni plays Joe Piso an Italian soda fountain owner who submits an entree for handsome soda jerk Bill Adams (John Payne) without his knowledge. This premise sets up another forgotten screwball romantic comedy complete with snappy dialogue and pie fights. Turns out to be better than expected mostly because Miss Adler is great and reminds this reviewer of fast talking Rosalind Russell from His Girl Friday which would not come out until three years later. John Payne as always is watchable and has a low key charm. The rest of the cast also has some spit and polish: Isabel Jewell has clever lines to deliver; Franklin Pangborn gives us his slow burn and exasperated put-upon fellow; and Arthur Houseman (again) is drunk. Sadly this little Paramount gem is now owned by Universal who could care less. But for a short while it can be seen on YouTube!

Sneakers
(1992)

Amazing bit of trivia in the middle of this film makes it even more entertaining today!
At a key point in the plot, the device that might be able to get past any computer encrypted password needs to be tested. Carl (River Phoenix) is asked what is the hardest computer to hack into, "give me the number for something impossible to access." He answers, "The Federal Reserve transfer node, Culpeper, Virginia." Mother (Dan Aykroyd) adds, "900 billion a day goes through there."

Between December 10, 1969 and July 1992, this same building in Culpeper housed four computers through which the majority of transactions of the 5,700 US banks were processed. It was also a bomb bunker that stored about four billion dollars cash. These cash reserves and computers could be used to keep business transactions going on throughout the eastern half of the United States in the event that Washington DC was bombed in a nuclear war making cash there radioactive and unusable. Interestingly this build was decommissioned in June of 1992 just months before the film "Sneakers" opened in September of 1992. Since 2007 this building has been home to the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center at the Packard Campus of the Library of Congress where over 6 million items of the nation's audio recordings, television and motion pictures are stored and preserved, including the copyright print of "Sneakers."

Venus de fuego
(1948)

A 35mm nitrate copy of the rare Mexican feature survives at the Library of Congress.
Venus de fuego is a Mexican film directed by Jaime Salvador . It was released in 1949 and starring Meche Barba and Fernando Fernández . PLOT: A young man, employed by a pearl company, falls madly in love with a woman they call "The Venus of Fire" and she is involved in a crime. He is accused of murder and is forced to flee to a distant place. Significance: In this film, the Mexican rumbera Meche Barba forms a cinematographic couple for the first time with the Mexican actor and singer Fernando Fernández, who will eventually become his inseparable acting partner in all kinds of cabaretil arrabal dramas.

Unter der Laterne
(1928)

I recommend Under The Lantern as a revelation of sincere drama with powerful performances.
A friend recommended this silent German film to me without telling me the plot, so I too will recommend you see it before reading more about it.

SPOILERS: But if you must know the plot I will tell you if that will get you so seek out this stunning film. It begins with a young man, Hans paying a street musician to play a popular song recommending we drink, forget our troubles and be happy. A young woman, Else living above opens her windows to hear the music and sees handsome Hans. Because her father is raising her alone he is very protective and does not allow her to go out. Else only sees that her father wants her to only clean and cook for him.

Against her father's will, young Else goes out dancing with her friend Hans. When the despot realizes this, he locks his daughter out of the apartment. Else is forced to move in with Hans, who sells cigarettes out of a street cart, and his friend Max, who sells trinkets on the street. When the trio put on a vaudeville act as a horse and its pretty handler, they become an instant success. That leads Hans to talk about marriage. But Else is still a minor. When the cops show up at his apartment, sent there by her father to drag her home, Else takes flight. Out of desperation, she accepts an invitation from her sleazy cabaret manager for dinner only at his place if he will notify Hans and Max where she is. The manager has no plans to notify anyone and charmingly gets her to drink glass after glass of champagne.

When Hans finds out about it, and breaks in on them just as the manager is forcing himself on Else, Hans comes to the wrong conclusion and blames her. Forced into the street again she has to hide from her father's detective searching for her and yet get a job supporting herself. She ends up working in a dance hall as a hostess, but that does not last as she won't take being pawed by strange men. Thrown into the street again she is taken in by a prostitute who kindly offers her shelter. But when the prostitutes man comes home and assaults this new younger girl the prostitute blames Else and tosses her out again.

Try as she must to survive and since everyone is accusing her of being a fallen woman she finally gives in to a pimp who gets her a room. Meanwhile Hans and Max are feeling guilty for not looking after her and for being the reason she disobeyed her father they finally seek her out. Now bitter and hopeless it takes much effort to talk the ill Else into taking money from the now married Hans to go to the country for her health. While she is packing the pimp comes in finding her money and steals it. Realizing what he has done and that this is her last hope she fights him with all her strength. He nearly beats her to death.

Hans goes back to his wife and child oblivious to Else's condition, Max who also had loved her once gives up on her. Now a bedridden cripple Else only wants to feel the sun on her face one more time and neighbors carry her bed to the sidewalk where acquaintances are shocked at her condition. Slowly as her life fades away a small crowd gathers and wonders why she had not taken better care of herself. And why she had no friends or family who could have lent a helping hand. The film ends as a street musician playing the song about drinking and forgetting your troubles, just be happy.

A tale of the classic descent into prostitution. Set in the Berlin of the 'small people,' the film focuses a not unattractive light on the entertainment district of dimly-lit beer halls and nightclubs, with its cheap sparkle and flickering neon. After recovering from its spell I gave this tragedy four stars out of four. Thanks for reading my description.

Strictly Modern
(1930)

The film is lost but the plot and Dorothy Kackaill makes it worth looking for....
Kate (Dorothy Mackaill) is a novelist who writes "modern" novels about sex, romance and relationships. She thinks that since she is a strictly modern women she knows everything about men. When she falls in love, she plans to act exactly like the heroines in her novels and expects her future boyfriend to do likewise. Kate attempts to apply the methods that uses in his books to her own life and the lives of those around her. As the film begins, we find out that Mackaill's cousin, Aimee (Johnston) is about to be married to Heath Desmond (Sidney Blackmer).

Two days before their marriage Aimee, apparently a prude, tells Heath that there will be no passion in their marriage and that they will strictly observe the sanctity of the Sabbath. Heath, quickly realizing what is in store for him, deserts Aimee and takes the next train out of town. Judge Bartlett (Richmond), who was to marry the couple, consoles Aimee. Meanwhile, Kate, who is on her way to the expected wedding, meets Heath on the train. Not knowing who he is, Kate quickly falls in love with him.

When Kate learns that Heath is her cousin's fiancé, she pretends that she had only been flirting because she thinks that falling in love with a man who is about to marry someone else is not appropriate. She vows to act in the proper way, the way in which the characters in her "modern" novels would. She does her best to bring Heath and Aimee back together again, even though she still loves Heath.

Kate manages to get them to the altar, but just before the marriage is solemnized Kate, realizing that Aimee is in love with Judge Bartlett, gives the judge a drug. The judge faints and Aimee declares her love for the judge. When the judge recovers, he is married to Aimee, leaving Kate and Heath free to pursue their romance.

American Experience: The Feud
(2019)
Episode 7, Season 31

The Feud, finally gets the true facts together and tells the actual story. Not the myths.
This documentary is well researched and documented about life before the Hatfields and McCoys feud during and after. Finally all the myths that sold newspapers, books and bad made for TV versions can die. The truth is both sides were right and wrong at different times.

The Hatfield-McCoy feud, also described by journalists as the Hatfield-McCoy war, involved two rural families of the West Virginia-Kentucky area along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River in the years 1863-1891. The Hatfields of West Virginia were led by William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield while the McCoys of Kentucky were under the leadership of Randolph "Ole Ran'l" McCoy. Those involved in the feud were descended from Joseph Hatfield and William McCoy (born c. 1750). The feud has entered the American folklore lexicon as a metonym for any bitterly feuding rival parties. And this modern documentary shows how the facts got blown out of proportion and need to be set straight. It is a shame people of this area have been made fun of for years.

William McCoy, the patriarch of the McCoys, was born in Ireland around 1750 and many of his ancestors hailed from Scotland. The family, led by grandson Randolph McCoy, lived mostly on the Kentucky side of Tug Fork (a tributary of the Big Sandy River). The Hatfields, led by William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield, son of Ephraim and Nancy (Vance) Hatfield, lived mostly on the West Virginia side. The majority of the Hatfields, although living in Mingo County (then part of Logan County), West Virginia, fought on the Confederate side in the American Civil War; most McCoys, living in Pike County, Kentucky, also fought for the Confederates; with the exception of Asa Harmon McCoy, who fought for the Union. The first real violence in the feud was the death of Asa Harmon McCoy as he returned from the war, murdered by a group of Confederate Home Guards called the Logan Wildcats. Devil Anse Hatfield was a suspect at first, but was later confirmed to have been sick at home at the time of the murder. It was widely believed that his uncle, Jim Vance, a member of the Wildcats, committed the murder.

The Hatfields were more affluent than the McCoys and were well-connected politically. Devil Anse Hatfield's timbering operation was a source of wealth for his family, while the McCoys were more of a lower-middle-class family. Ole Ran'l owned a 300-acre farm. Both families had also been involved in the manufacturing and selling of illegal moonshine, a popular commodity at the time.

The Fire Brigade
(1926)

Well told drama with real characters facing danger, being tested and exciting ending.
The Fire Brigade casts our hero Charles Ray as the youngest in a large and rambunctious family of Irish-American firemen. These men are filled with laughter, the love of life and horse-play which balances out the danger they face when the alarm bell rings. Retired fire captain Grandpop O'Neil conducts a rookie school, complete with horse drawn a fire wagon which includes his grandson Terry (Ray). While his two older brothers busy themselves with extinguishing blazes, (their father had already died in a fire before our story began) Ray spends his time in training. Innocent Ray is stunned speechless by lovely May McAvoy, the daughter of a wealthy absentee landlord at a public event where firemen compete in feats to test their skill and bravery. The flame of love at first sight will soon smolder into a blaze as they spend more time together. McAvoy invites Ray to a society party and they soon confess their love to each other but her father's guilty conscience forces him to separate them. SPOILERS: The blaze in which one of Terry's brothers loses his life leads Fire Chief Wallace to suspect the building was flimsily erected by a contractor favored in bidding for city jobs. When he protests the contractor's working on a new orphanage, the chief is removed by the town political boss. But before the chief's last day he ask Terry to investigate the construction of the new orphanage which leads Terry to shocking discoveries and to tell the town's philanthropist (McAvoy's father again) of the shoddy construction. This dramatic scene contains several surprise punches this reviewer cannot reveal. Later, a gigantic fire sweeps the city, and Terry is called into action with the antiquated horse-drawn equipment. Ray makes a valiant rescue even though his brother, Joe, dies from the flames. The climax of The Fire Brigade is a spectacular conflagration, expertly blending authentic fire footage, double exposures, and flawless miniature work. As a bonus, the final scene boasts a bizarre vignette in which the ghosts of firemen killed in the line of duty urge Ray on to rescue a helpless child stranded on the roof! The thrilling shot from this film of the fire engines racing thru the streets of New York was extracted and used in the opening montage sequence used in the opening credits of every episode of the Kevin Brownlow documentary HOLLYWOOD (1980) a 13 part mini-series.

Ragtime
(1927)

This silent lost feature about Tin Pan Alley loves, jealousy, theft and talent has just been found!
REVIEW from the day: "First Division Distributors picture, "Ragtime," being a story of New York's Tin Pan Alley, with the theme built around the two songs, "Thinking," and "O What a Mama You'd Make."

This is, all things considered, one of the smoothest comedy dramas it has been my pleasure to witness lately. Not so much because of its story, nor its direction, nor the photography, but because the capable players throw themselves so wholeheartedly into their performance. As with the spoken word, which means much or little according as to how it is spoken, the portrayal of an actor reflects his spirit. In "Ragtime," without exception, everybody appears to be in fine fettle, having a thoroughly enjoyable time and anxious that you should enjoy their party. You do. The scenes are laid in and about "Tin Pan Alley," where "the ghosts of great composers return to find themselves in jazz" - something like that the subtitle says - and you are given a sort of theatrical boarding house squint into the activities of a company who not only use slang - AND some - but live it. They are a brassy, jazzy, cheap shrewd lot. But in their midst is one who yearns for better things. Ted Mason, who plays the piano in the notorious Jail cafe. Ted has a nice mother and he would compose music - not as ragtime row knows it, but as Beth Barton, cultured and studying for a musical career under a great teacher, knows it. Beth comes into Ted's life via a slumming party. Also into that of "Slick" Martin, professional dancer at the joint, who has been long and scrappily married to a twelve minute egg you could easily believe to be a thirteen minute one.

Will you please give a thoughtful O. O. to the work of Robert Ellis as "Slick"? I think there has never been a more finished impersonation of the sort of character he starts out to portray. You've run into his "Slick" time and again - and never without experiencing a jungle urge to crush and kill. (This, by the way, is the same Robert Ellis who used to make our hearts go pitty pat in love scenes of not so long ago! Times and changes.) There's no space for further comment and, anyway, what can I say, dears, after I've said - "Ragtime" is a humdinger of a comedy? - Exhibitors Hearld (Jun-Sep 1927)

Führe uns nicht in Versuchung
(1922)

A farmer takes in a homeless man, then a traveling jeweler... this drama's title is Do Not Tempt Us.
Translation of German title is "Do not tempt us." Story of man who takes in a homeless man. Then later he takes in a traveler who has lots of money. At night the home owner cannot sleep and thinks about robbing the traveler. His thoughts nearly drive him mad before the ending of the story teaches him a lesson.

"Cast of Characters" Karel Lamac as Alex Koslowsky...a land owner. Sybill de Brée as Vera Koslowsky (wife of Alex) Kleo Sasse as Ossip Koslowsky (11 year old son of Alex & Vera) Karel Lamac as Ossip Koslowsky (26 year old son of Alex & Vera) Teddy Kolieb as George Arlenoff, a money lender. Carlo Rittman as Ilya, a wood-chopper Kleo Nathan as Sonya, (7 year old daughter of Ilya) Anny Ondra (listed as Anna Ondrakowa) as Sonya, (26 year old daughter of Ilya)

Luke Warm Daze
(1926)

A nitrate print of this 2r title survives at the Library of Congress waiting for preservation.
Little is known about this series, The McDougall Kids. It was a knock off of Hal Roach's Our Gang comedies produced by J.R. Bray Studios and directed by Harry L. Fraser. Among the case of the McDougall Kids, were some child actors who appeared in the Our Gang series but needed more work. Perry Murdock plays a character named Luke Warm. Cleone Deaver plays a young woman, this is her only film. Louise Carver (the old pro in this film appeared in 162 titles) a popular character actress of the day appears as The Gypsy.

Heading one of the first American animation studios, J.R. Bray had already branched into live action in 1917, when he took over the "Pictographs" film magazine, combining travelogues and educational material with his cartoons. In 1926 he launched several two-reel comedy series, traveling to Hollywood to make a distribution deal with Joseph P. Kennedy's Film Booking Office of America. For the McDougall Alley Kids he secured veteran comedy producer Joe Rock, who'd recently completed a series starring Stan Laurel.

However a review from an industry paper said, "Steer clear of this if you are trying to run a decent house. The "Comedian," Lord preserve us, pulls a stunt which would have been to raw even in the lowest of the low variety dives fifty years ago.

For Valour
(1937)

Absurd British comedy, perhaps not the biggest laughs, but a constantly cheerful crooked farce.
In this British comedy, set during the Boer War, a foot soldier saves his major's life. The officer is most grateful and puts the soldier in line for a Victoria Cross (a medal for valor). Unfortunately the well-meaning major's actions cause the soldier to be extradited back to England where he must stand trial for a series of crimes he committed before he joined the military. Later the major scours the British jails in search of the heroic lad. He finally finds him recruiting soldiers for WW I.

Both Walls and Lynn played dual roles of two Boer War veterans and their son and grandson respectively. It was the last time the two actors, who had been one of the most popular film comedy teams of the decade, appeared together on screen.

Fine Feathers
(1937)

A cute little British romantic comedy about mistaken identities.
I was only able to see the 39m version that survives on YouTube from a Pathe 9.5mm Pathescope print.

The notes there read: In addition to cinema shorts, many cinema feature films were also released in the UK on the 9.5mm 'home movie' film gauge by Pathescope. Generally the features were shortened to four, five or six reels.

Here is a 1937 comedy entitled "Fine Feathers" starring Renee Houston and Donald Stewart with Robb Wilton. It is a production from the 1930s British Lion company, whose total 1930s film output is virtually all 'lost' on the 35mm cinema format (supposedly a direct hit during the war on their temporary film store of original material and cinema prints) Many of these features and shorts do still survive, (the features drastically cut though), on the 9.5mm 'home movie' film gauge.

We can just follow the story of Teenie McPherson (Renee Houston) who takes refuge in a country house where she agrees to impersonate a Crown Prince's lover. There is one song "I'll Step Out Of the Picture" (at 34 minutes), but maybe others were cut from the 9.5mm print..

Ich war Jack Mortimer
(1935)

Anton Walbrook shines in this excellent mystery as the wrong man who must save him self by becoming the course.
A taxi driver meets a wealthy woman stuck by the side of the road. He helps her with her car and she hires him to be her chauffeur. But first he has to spend one more night as a taxi driver before he can finally move up in the world....

SPOILERS: The jealous star conductor Montemayor knows that his beautiful younger wife, Winifred, is cheating on him with an American named Jack Mortimer. After the concert rehearsal, he takes a taxi to the train station, sees Mortimer and shoots him at an intersection from the backseat of his taxi. The shot is not heard during the traffic noise. The taxi driver, Sponer (Walbrook), sitting in his car with the now-dead Mortimer, goes into a panic. He tells his boss about the incident; but he thinks no one will believe that he is innocent of the murder. So, he places the corpse in a different place and takes the murdered man's luggage to the deceased's wife, Marie Mortimer, and tells her about the incident, too. He comes up with the idea to play the role of Mortimer, so he will not be missed, because some other luggage of his has already been delivered to his hotel in advance. In the hotel room, Winifred Montemayor is looking for Mortimer. She sees that the taxi driver is not Mortimer and suspects him of killing Mortimer. Will the truth save him or will he be executed as a murder or killed by the jealous husband?

The Fighting Kentuckians
(1920)

1920 version is over looked because of later John Wayne film with same title.
Ned Catlin, a young Kentuckian, joins the army during World War I and is sent to France, leaving his sweetheart, June Reeves, behind him. A villainous neighbor who also covets June is drafted and returns with the false news that Ned is dead. Returning just as the villain is about to win June, Ned is ambushed and shot by the villain, but June knocks the villain senseless and rescues Ned. The lovers are united.

Financial Jitters
(1934)

Reminds me of the Boyfriends series of grown up Our Gang members trying to be funny.
Two frat boys need money so they appeal to a wealthy uncle for funds, for an excuse they claim it's because his nephew just got married. Unfortunately there is no time to find a girl, so one of the boys puts on a dress and a wig and hides his Adam's apple. It gets more awkward as the Uncle played by Franklin Pangborn flirts with the boy in drag. The worn out print I saw could be missing a few minutes, but we may never know if whats missing makes it better or just longer.

Fifty Roads to Town
(1937)

Another cute but contrived rom-com from the golden age of Hollywood.
I found this rare title on YouTube and it is silly and charming. And if you don't want to know too much plot, just watch it and stop reading. Now. But if you are still interested here the facts: SPOILERS: Two cases of mistaken identity complicate matters when a woman he believes to be a process server comes across a man she believes to be a criminal.

A warrant out on him, Peter Norstrand flees his New York City home and heads north. Hiding out, he is spotted by lodge guest Millicent Kendall, who grips a document when she comes to a room. Peter pulls a gun on her and makes her burn it, unaware that it is actually a marriage license.

Millicent is a missing heiress, planning to elope with her fiancé. Peter forces her to spend the night in his cabin so as not to inform on his whereabouts. When she attempts to escape in the snow, he takes away one of her shoes.

A sheriff and his deputies begin a search for an actual fugitive, Dutch Nelson, and are mistaken for trappers by Peter, who fires a gun to scare them away. The lawmen respond with machine guns and tear gas. Peter reveals to Millicent that the warrant is just to force him to testify in a friend's divorce. As she falls in love with him, the real Dutch turns up.

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