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Stork Mad

Bobby Ray Is Funny
Stork Mad is a pleasant comedy short from 1926 starring Bobby Ray and Mollie Malone. I had never heard of either actor but this short was tacked onto a DVD I bought, so I watched it. Some nice slapstick and set gags about a baby that is dumped on a couple's doorstep. Malone, who was Australian, worked in films until 1929 and then retired. Ray, who was from New York City, appeared in comedy shorts in 1925 and 1926. Neither one ever appeared in a talkie. Ray, however, continued working in movies as an assistant director thru the mid-50s. Tood bad, because Bobby Ray seemed to have some star potential. He's very funny in this movie.

Street Scene

Two Words: Beulah Bondi
The veteran character actress made her film debut in Street Scene and she is superb as the vicious gossip. This very unsentimental story, based on the Elmer Rice play showcases many excellent performances. The film is well directed by King Vidor and boasts a great score by Alfred Newman (love that jazz music!). The action takes place on the stoop of a New York City tenement. Gossip swirls around one of the tenants who is having an affair. There is also lots of talks about "foreigners" and socialism and of course the heat. As the city swelters, tensions rise and passions flare. Good story. Beaula Bondi takes acting honors as Mrs. Jones. She is so EVIL yet funny. Superb performance. Sylvia Sidney gets the first of her great "tenement" roles. William Collier, Jr. plays the Jewish student. Silent film star Estelle Taylor is wonderful as the lonely woman. Taylor should have had a bigger "talkie" career. John Qualen plays the Swedish janitor. George Humbert is the Italian tenant. David Landau is good as the jealous husband. Ann Kostant, Nora Cecil, Richard Powell, Matt McHugh, Russell Hopton, and Greta Granstedt are all good. Great camera work and sets..... A wonderful film.


The Great Mary Pickford
A superstar of her era, Mary Pickford was a great actress and a great comic. She won an Oscar for her talkie debut in Coquette, but Pickford is better remembered for a string of silent films in the teens and 20s that showed off her amazing abilities and personality. And Sparrows is one of the best. Pickford plays a young girl trapped on a "baby farm" in the middle of a swamp somewhere in the Deep South. The role allows her to be funny, poignant, and plucky---all the things audiences wanted to see in a Pickford picture. Pickford is also a great physical comic in the tradition of Chaplin, Lloyd, and Keaton. Sparrows is funny but also builds dramatic tension as Mary leads the band of orphans thru the swamp to escape the evil owner. The wonderful piano score by William Perry is also an asset. Good film; great star.

Stage Door Canteen

Katharine Cornell's only film appearance
Just one of the reasons to see this film. Along with seeing legendary Cornell doing a brief bit from Romeo and Juliet, this film also boasts cameos and acts from Katharine Hepburn, Ethel Merman, Helen Hayes, Peggy Lee, Ethel Waters, Ray Bolger, Edgar Bergen, Gracie Fields, George Jessel, Ed Wynn, Gypsy Rose Lee, Tallulah Bankhead, Merle Oberon, May Witty, Hugh Herbert, Franklin Pangborn, Paul Muni, and others. The "leads" are OK, with Cheryl Walker coming off best. And that's Marjorie Riordan who played Mrs. Skeffington's plain daughter. Odd that in a blah film career, Riordan got to appear with two of the greats--Hepburn and Bette Davis. Margaret Early plays the Una Merkel-like southern girl. The guys are all duds.


Simply Swell!
Great songs and production numbers make this snappy musical a must for fans

of 30s films. Great cast has Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Guy

Kibbee, Hugh Herbert, Zasu Pitts, Leilah Bennett, Johnny Arthur, and Berton

Churchill in top form. Dick Powell sings "Dames" better than Harvey Fierstein! and Joan Blondell gets a couple numbers here: "The Girl at the Ironing Board" and a reprise of "Try to See It My Way, Baby." Ruby has only one dance number but sports Joan Crawford eyebrows! Pitts, Kibbee and Herbert are terrific in solid support of the stars. The Busby Berkley finale is one of his best as the "dames" go thru their paces in geometric patterns of leg art. The film's big song is "I Only Have Eyes for You" and is well done by Dick Powell----who is unjustly

underrated today.......

Outward Bound

Stagy But Engrossing
Massive stage hit was an early talkie starring Leslie Howard as a man who finds himself on a ship that is "outward bound." Stunning dialog and beautiful cinematography help this allegorical tale of passengers stranded onboard a mysterious ship. A huge stage hit in London and New York, Outward Bound was am ambitious talkie for 1930 and features some wonderful performances (a bit stagy, but wonderful) from Howard as well as the great and underrated Alison Skipworth. Also good are Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Beryl Mercer, Helen Chandler, Alec P. Francis, Dudley Digges, and Montagu Love. Lyonel Watts is a bit much as the vicar. This was remade in the late 40s as Between Two Worlds, starring John Garfield and Eleanor Parker.

Leslie Howard always seemed to be wasted in blah film roles and its nice to see him here in a worthy role. And Skipworth is a total delight in any film you can catch her in...... Here she plays a most unusual part, and plays it beautifully. All her little hmmms and gutteral sounds add fathoms to the dialog. And note her first name is misspelled in the opening credits.

Call Me Madam

Superb Ethel Merman in an OK Musical
Blah musical boasts the great Ethel Merman recreating one of her stage hits.

Merman missed out on Gypsy and Annie Get Your Gun, but does well here as

Washington hostess (Pearl Mesta in real life) assigned an ambassadorship to a small European country. Merman gets to belt out a few tunes like "I'm the

Hostess with the Mostess," "You're Just In Love" (with Donald O'Connor), and a few more. O'Connor is good in a few production numbers paired with Vera

Ellen. But George Sanders seems phony, and the remaining cast is negligible.

Merman gives it her all and was a swell comedienne as well as a towering

musical talent. The Irving Berlin songs are all good, with "It's a Lovely Day Today" one of his best. Cast also includes Lilia Skala, Percy Helton, Charles Dingle, and Billy DeWolfe.

The Bishop Misbehaves

Gwenn, Watson & Girardot...
steal this neat little film from "stars" Maureen O'Sullivan and Norman Foster, although they aren't bad. Edmund Gwenn has the title role and is wonderful.

Lucile Watson is his daffy sister, and she's been less stuffy. Etienne Girardot is hilarious as the parish priest who clicks and clucks at everything. Also good are Reginald Owen, Robert Greig, Melville Cooper, Lillian Bond, Iris Lee, Dudley

Digges, and Charles McNaughton as Frenchy (why he is Frenchy no one knows). Fun all around.

Good News

A medicine man I met, said don't get yourself in a sweat!
Goods News was an antique when MGM dusted it off for this 1947 musical. Big,

splashy, colorful, and with great music and dancing, Good News is one of

MGM's most underrated musicals. The 1940's sensibility added to the Roaring

20s theme makes for some anachronistic moments, but June Allyson is

wonderful in the lead, Peter Lawford is surprisingly good as the football hero. I always thought Lawford was tacky, but he seems to enjoy himself in this film and it shows. Joan McCracken is superb in "Pass That Peacepipe," one of my all- time favorite dance numbers, with Ray McDonald also excellent. Mel Torme,

Patricia Marshall, Connie Gilchrist, and Donald McBride are all fine. Allyson and Lawford are fine in the "Varsity Drag" finale and Allyson does a nice job on "The Best Things in Life Are Free." Great Technicolor, costumes, etc give Good News a BIG, bright look and takes it miles from the 1930 version, which starred Bessie Love and Penny Singleton. Good News would make for a great retro- Broadway musical. Pay especial attention to "Pass That Peacepipe" and notice

how FEW cuts there are!!!! Almost all one take. GREAT!!!! A medicine man I met, said don't yourself in a sweat....

Madam Satan

DeMille never knows when to end...
Way too long, but bizarre enough to keep you interested. Madam Satan is domestic drama, musical, disaster film, and comedy all rolled up together.

Elements of The Boy Friend and I Married an Angel along with the Hindenburg disaster. Kay Johnson, Roland Young, and Lillian Roth are fun, but Reginald Denny is a dud in a role better suited to Robert Montgomery or William Haines. All the famous DeMille excesses are here but to no great effect. As in all DeMille films, every scene seems to long, and this 1930 talkie demonstrates that DeMille never quite got the hang of pacing a scene in a talkie. Still, it's entertaining on several levels, and Kay Johnson is fascinating. She came to films to star in DeMille's 1929 talkie, Dynamite, and had a so-so starring career for a while. Lillian Roth is the real surprise here tho, funny, energetic, and sexy. See this one.

Hit the Deck

Pretty Awful...
.,, except for the underrated Ann Miller who breathes a little life into this leaden musical. Miller's "bayou woman" number is fun, but Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Walter Pidgeon, Vic Damone, and the god-awful Tony Martin and Russ Tamblyn just lie there like dead fish. The Fun House number with Reynolds and Tamblyn is a pale copy of the one in A Damsel in Distress, which featured Fred Astaire, Gracie Allen, and George Burns. Powell is at her sugary worst; Damone looks embarrassed throughout. Even dependable Gene Raymond, Jane Darwell, and J. Carrol Naish don't add much zip. Lousy production numbers abound, and the set decoration looks like a yard sale. Stinker!

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