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Enjoyable western, with an exciting, complex, climax.
This B western was directed by the master of B westerns: George Marshall. The title was taken from the book of the same name, by Arthur Gordon, which is centered around the historic lynching of 4 African Americans in GA, in 1946, by a mob of whites. This generated national protests, and induced President Truman to create The President's Commission on Civil Rights, and to promote anti-lynching legislation, which was struck down by a southern Democrat coalition. Of course, no one was convicted. ...........This film is also about sour race relations, but, as expected in a western, the ethnic minority is Native Americans. The villains are the trio of Shipley brothers: Bert, Neil, and Tom. At the beginning, they are on trial for the lynching of 2 Native Americans. Of course, they are acquitted by the prejudiced jury. But, we aren't yet finished with lynchings! The climax of the film centers around an angry mob who breaks Frank Madden(Guy Madison) out of jail to hang him for supposedly shooting Tom Shipley. Ironically, although they think they are lynching a white man this time, Frank secretly is actually a half breed(although he doesn't look it). Also, ironically, the actual guilty is a Native American, who was enacting revenge for killing his wife........The remaining Shipleys have good reason for wanting Frank dead. They had long grazed their cattle on the land that Frank had recently filed a claim on. With Frank dead, they hoped to claim this land for themselves......... Two young single women actually tried to persuade the mob to release Frank. Catherine, played by beautiful, pensive, Felicia Farr, had just been visiting Frank, in jail. The mob leaders wanted to know her objection to their task. She blurts out that she loves Frank. This doesn't dissuade the leaders. However, soon, Indian princess Taini(played by Caucasian-looking Kathryn Grant), steps in front of the mob and yells that Frank is innocent. How does she know?. She tells them that Frank was with her all that night. Everyone, especially Catherine, is shocked. Viewers know that Taini's claim is likely false, as Frank had rebuffed her interest in him, as he didn't want to be known as an Indian lover, possibly bringing into question his own ethnic background, possibly bringing into question his right to own land. Amazingly, the mob accepts Taini's claim as the truth, and soon disperses..........Next, there is an incident between Bert Shipley and the group of Frank, Taini and Frank's Indian grandfather. Then, Frank tried to convince the now stand-offish Catherine that Taini lied, to protect him. But she was hesitant to accept that........See the film(free at You Tube) to learn the details of the post-lynching mob finale...........Kathrine Grant would soon marry Bing Crosby, keeping her in the limelight, while Felicia Farr would later marry actor Jack Lemmon.

The Texan

Young Garry Cooper does a poor acting job in this early talky Western.
Saw part of this recently made-available 1930 film on Encore Western. Before I checked out this site, I was undecided whether or not the protagonist was being played by Gary Cooper. He looked somewhat like the older Cooper I'm used to seeing, and talked somewhat like him. But, he is extraordinarily stiff in this film. Spends too much time just standing around silent with his head pointed downward, often shifty-eyed. True, he's supposed to be an outlaw. I certainly wouldn't have regarded him as a promising actor...........In contrast, Fay Wray, in playing his beautiful Mexican girlfriend, Consuelo, seemed much more at home in her role. Later, she became Hollywood's first 'scream queen', beginning with her much remembered role as the damsel King Kong picked up, causing her to let out a shrill scream. She was also in several other early horror movies.


Shirley, Frank, and Louis play 'Kick the Can' between dance productions and Cole Porter songs.
Shirley MacLaine, ,as Simone, is the glue that makes this film sort of work. She is much sexier than Marilyn Monroe, for example, and is a talented dancer. I found her strawberry golden hairdo very attractive. Her supporting actress: Juliet Prowse(Claudine) is also quite cute and a good dancer. In looks and dancing talent, she much reminds me of Leslie Caron("An American in Paris", "Gigi"). She was front and center in the first two can-can performances, while she and Shirley shared the front and center position in the final can can performance, as the center piece of the finale. Can-can performances were considered lewd, hence illegal. Apparently, dancers lifting their skirts, showing their legs and underthings was then considered lewd. But, keep in mind that sometimes the underthings the dancers wore left the crotch open, thus reinforcing the reputation of the dance as lewd. Of course, this couldn't be shown in the film........Simone(Shirley), being the proprietor of an establishment that sometimes featured a can-can, the police raided the place, and hauled Simone into court. Francois(Frank Sinatra) was her lawyer, as well as boyfriend. Louis Jordan(as Phillipe), and Maurice Chevalier(Paul) were the judges. Fortunately, Simone had bribed the police to claim they saw nothing illegal. Phillipe becomes more acquainted with Simone, and proposes marriage, which Simone hedges around. She then demands that François marry her. But, he gives various reasons why marriage is an undesirable institution, saying it eventually extinguishes love, being replace by arguments. So, why didn't Simone go back to Louis? Apparently, she preferred Francois as a lover. Even at film's end, when Simone is put in a paddy wagon with Francois, she gets the impression that he's asking her to marry him. But, in jest, he says he would be willing to adopt her(she being much younger).......... Before this, a number of leading citizens who severely criticized can-can as lewd were invited to actually see a performance, and found that it wasn't nearly as bad as they had imagined..........Rather early in the film, there was a gymnastic dance involving Simone and 4 men, in which Simone was sometimes twirled around the man's body or thrown around like a rag doll: a very impressive tolerance by Shirley.. I thought the can-can performances were a bore. I've seen women's legs lots of times before! But, presumably, it was a novelty for Parisians of that age. On the other hand, I found the long and complex 'Adam and Eve' dance production, especially featuring Shirley, Julie, and a male dancer, along with a menagerie of dancers dressed as various animals, quite imaginative. Also, the occasional Cole Porter song weaved into the screenplay and some of the dances, is a plus.

It Happened in Flatbush

Moider da ump!!: A good day for the Irish!
The previous year, Fox released "It Happened in Sun Valley". This year(1942), Fox released "It Happened in Flatbush". Flatbush may sound like it's also in the rural West, but actually it's a neighborhood in Brooklyn, and the screenplay is about the seemingly miraculous fictional rise of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team from the basement of the National League to pennant winners(Their nickname: the Dodgers, is never actually used in the film, per an agreement with the actual team brass). The screenplay was motivated by the factual winning of the pennant in 1941 by the Dodgers, after a less successful season(but not bad) in 1940. .......Clearly, this is Lloyd Nolan's movie. As Frank, he plays the Dodger's field manager, and is present in most scenes. William Frawley(Fred Mertz, in the "I Love Lucy" TV series) seems to be the executive manager or president. At first, aging 'Max'(Sara Allgood) is the team owner. But, soon, she dies, and another family becomes the new owners. For some reason?, the youngest member of this family is given the real power. She is Kathryn, played by Carole Landis. I'm used to seeing Carole as a blonde. Thus, I didn't recognize her with her probably brown hair(with the limitations of B&W cinematography). Fans of "Our Gang" or "The Little Rascals" should recognize a slightly older Scotty Becket as the bat boy Squint............Kathryn agrees to invest money in acquiring an ace pitcher and a top-ranked hitter. This pays more dividends than imagined, as pretty soon the Dodgers are leading the league! Incidentally, judging by the names and Irish accents, half the team, including Frank, and various others, are Irish.......... Meanwhile Frank and Kathryn are getting better acquainted in a series of dates, topped by a romantic kiss..........With their winning streak, Frank and the team have become celebrities. Frank is invited to a surprise banquet, where he is the speaker. Unfortunately, he forgets that he has a date with Kathryn at a restaurant, until it is too late. She is angry, and calls off their romance until the end of the film..........Frank makes several impressive speeches in the film. For instance, he was at the trial of a fan who jumped out of the stands to sock the ump in the eye for a bad call at home plate.(This didn't improve the ump's vision!). The judge gave the fan a jail sentence. However, the judge allowed Frank to say his two cents worth, in defense of the fan, and the judge reduced the sentence to a small fine. Later, the Dodgers were in a bad slump. Finally, the players petitioned Frawley to fire Frank. Frank resigned, but Kathryn convinced reluctant Frank to be reinstated. Bravely, he entered the locker room and gave a pep talk. It worked, and we are left with the impression that the Frank-Kathryn romance has heated up again, for a happy ending.

Pocketful of Miracles

Betty's makeup artist should have gotten an award
An unusual variation on the popular fairy tale theme of Cinderella: a Technicolor remake of the 1933 "Lady for a Day". The screenplay was interesting. However, the film was too long and meandering for my liking, and too much attention was given to Glen Ford and his girl friend, played by his actual current girlfriend: Hope Lange. Ford was the producer, as well as the leading man..........The makeup artist did a phenomenal job of making Betty, as street peddler 'Apple Annie', look like a disheveled drunk, probably in her 70s. When it was decided by others to temporarily transform her into a sophisticated society matron for the benefit of her daughter, who was arriving from Spain with her aristocratic husband, the physical transformation was so striking: much more striking than the transformation of 'gutter snipe' Audrey Hepburn, in "My Fair Lady", which came out on film a few years later............This was the last film of the famous director Frank Capra, who reportedly was not very satisfied by the final product. Producer Ford made him replace scheduled Shirley Jones with Ford's current girlfriend: Hope Lange, in the role of Queenie..........This was veteran actor Thomas Mitchell's last film role, as Annie's temporary fake husband. He would soon die.........Shirley Booth was the first choice to play Annie, but she turned down, saying she didn't feel she could compare with the Annie in "Lady for a Day".

So Big

"I must have both emeralds and wheat in my life" : Selina
Such an interesting soap opera! Charismatic Jane Wyman, as Selina(or Lina), foregoes her glamorous image, as she did in "Johnny Belinda" and "The Yearling", to become the wife of a very poor truck farmer, in a small Dutch farming community, just outside of Chicago. A few years later, when her husband dies, she takes over the business, spending much time in the field herself, eventually making the farm much more profitable by selling gourmet vegies, enabling her to send her son, So Big, to architecture school..........People were shocked when this pretty young school teacher decided to marry untutored poor farmer Pervus DeLong. Selina explained that she needed wheat, as well as emeralds in her life. By this , she meant, people involved in producing the basic necessities of life, as well as people who produced or appreciated beauty, such as the arts. Her husband provided the former, but not the latter. Fortunately, she detected facility in art in her young son. Also, she recognized an interest in music in the neighbor child Roelf, thus giving him piano lessons. Unfortunately, when Roelf's mother died, he moved far away. However, near the end of the film, Roelf, having become a famous music composer, returned for a visit, and met an art producer, Dallas, who had moved there recently. They became friendly, but the film leaves us to speculate upon their possible future together........Meanwhile, So Big had gone to architecture school, and begun an apprenticeship. However, he became engaged to the pretty daughter of Selina's childhood friend: Paula. Unfortunately, Paula is an ambitious social climber, and talks So Big into abandoning his apprenticeship for the quicker route to wealth, by becoming a businessman or stock broker. Selina is very disappointed, saying So Big will now be no different from a 1000 other businessmen, rather than exercising his unusual gift as an architect. But, when So Big meets Dallas, he becomes enamored of her, and asks her to marry him. Unfortunately, Dallas declines, saying she wants a husband involved in a hands on profession. Thus, Dallas is much like Selina in her basic wants, and becomes friendly with Selina. Unfortunately for So Big, Paula detected So Big's attraction to Dallas, thus broke off their engagement, finding another prospect. So Big now laments to his mother that he has seemingly lost both his human loves, as well as his preferred profession as an architect. Selina tries to comfort him, saying it's not too late for him to return to being an architect.........This screenplay was ultimately adapted from Edna Ferber's novel of the same name, although there was also a 1932 movie of the same, starring Barbara Stanwick. The book won the 1925 Pulitzer prize for a novel, and was inspired by the life of Antje Paarlberg, who grew up in the same North Holland Dutch community featured in this film(not to be confused with the tiny Dutch settlement of New Holland, in central Illinois).


Just see it!
Whether you are African American, Caucasian, or otherwise, you got to see this! Unless you are lucky enough to catch it on Fox Movie Channel, you can find it at You Tube, in 4 pieces.......Jon Voight, as Pat Conroy(called Conrack or Patroy by the locals): blond, Caucasian, young idealistic teacher, has taken on the Paris Island of teaching assignments, on a small island off South Carolina, inhabited solely by very poor African Americans, except for one other white man.

Mister Scoutmaster

Mixes humor with sentimentality and irony
Cliften Webb exhibits his signature persona, as a starchy aristocratic middle-aged authority figure: Robert Jordan. Not generally fond of children, but his wife Helen(Francis Dee) expresses a desire for a child, and thinks she's too old to produce one herself. Robert reluctantly agrees to look for an adoption. He decides he needs some activity to get him more in touch with the young generation, and grabs the opportunity of scoutmaster. As you can imagine, he soon regards the scouts as a bunch of savages, at least when assembled in a group. They laugh at his newness at the role.........When he goes calling on a prospective scout, he falls over a bicycle in the dark. A tiny girl answers the door, says her mother told her not to let anyone in, and shuts the door in his face. When he rings the bell again, this is repeated. Luckily, the brother happens to arrive home. The girl lets him in , but again shuts the door on the scoutmaster. The boy lets him in........Meanwhile, a small, shy, cub scout(George Winslow, as Mike) has taken a liking to Mr. Scoutmaster., in his frozen face manner. At first, Robert considers him a pest, but gradually warms up to him, with Helen's encouragement. Eventually, Robert visits his home, and meets the woman(pretty , blonde, Vega Ann Borg) who says she is Mike's unofficial guardian, at present. Robert gets the impression that she is rather neglectful of Mike and of the house. On another occasion, Mike unexpectedly shows up for a boy scout meeting. When Robert tells him he doesn't belong there, he leaves. Robert then is afraid he may get lost, and tells the scouts to scatter and look for him. Robert, himself, then goes looking in the place he most fears that Mike may have gone to. The remainder of the film involves a climactic irony or two...........The screenplay depends on a number of unlikely contrivances, but don't most comedies? George Winslow(Mike) was discovered by Art Linkletter , as having an unusual frozen face persona, and unusual voice. Hollywood embraced him as a comedy element. His most remembered role was in the hit "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". He wasn't able to make the transition to teen or adult actor.

On an Island with You

Acceptable escapist fare, with Esther Williams and associates
This is the second film I've seen in which Esther plays a north European version of a South Seas maiden, the other being the subsequent "Pagan Love Song", costarring Howard Keel and Rita Moreno(The King and I", "West Side Story"). The present film has more variety of 'name ' actors and there is more variety in the screenplay. Both films may be classified as light musical romances........Jimmy Durante provides much of the humor, along with being the only one of the principle actors to sing: several times, in his distinctive vaudevillian manner. He also acts as the producer of a film being produced on this tropical island(actually Florida), in which Esther and naval Lt. Peter Lawford play the main characters. Unfortunately, Esther has a generally negative attitude toward Lawford's character, for several reasons. For one thing, he pines for her, even to dance with her, whereas she is engaged to marry Ricardo Montalban's character(Ricardo). Also, as part of a movie scene, Lawford flies off with Esther. But, instead of returning after the scene, he continues flying to a small island he knows, technically kidnapping her. One of the wheels is damaged on the landing, so that they cannot take off. Lawford explains that he wants to dance with her, since she refused to dance with him at the social dance. Angry at first, she gradually simmers down. While Lawford is off visiting a native village , she is rescued by a search plane. Later, he is interviewed by the naval commander(played by Leon Ames). Esther is also present. The commander asks Lawford a series of questions, most of which Lawford answers in the affirmative, but Esther mostly contradicts or mollifies him, not wanting him to be dismissed from the service for his audacious act. Eventually, Lawford gets mad, causing Esther to get mad and leave the room, saying she never wanted to see him again. However, meanwhile , Ricardo has accompanied Cyd Charisse in several stage dances, and dinner dates, causing jealousy in Esther, who eventually cancels the wedding. Now, she is mad at both the men. At the end, she pushes Lawford into the swimming pool as her expression of anger, but then promptly regrets her action..........As in some of Esther's other films, Xavier Cugat's orchestra provides most of the music. Pretty , blond, Betty Reilly sings in some cases..........One of the dances by Cyd and Ricardo is one of the highlights of the film. Unfortunately, Cyd tore the ligaments in one knee in her last dance, causing her to lose her anticipated role in "Easter Parade": Ann Miller taking her place.........In all, a reasonably pleasant escapist experience, but with Lawford maintaining his stiffness throughout, perhaps befitting his status as a naval officer. Durante usually effectively livened things up when things were getting dull.

Three Amigos!

Give me The Three Stooges, or 'The Magnificent Seven"!
Sorry, but I was not impressed with the screenplay or performance as a comedy. The 3 Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Lemmon and Curtis, and various other comedy teams puts this one to shame. In addition, I find "The Magnificent Seven", of which this is supposed to be a parody, to be much more interesting........The actor who was made up as the chief of the villains didn't live up to the English meaning of his Spanish name: El Guapo, which is 'handsome man', perhaps a sarcastic name for him?


Often hilarious lampooning of the historical insane 'Battle of Los Angeles'
Steven Spielberg directs this much elaborated and lampooned take on the historical imaginary Japanese attack on the Los Angeles area, in the hysteria following Pearl Harbor. The film includes a scripted Japanese submarine shelling of Ocean Park, near the end............The film begins with the titillating scene of a beautiful young woman member of the Polar Bear Club disrobing on a deserted beach, and swimming out in the ocean, until she is nearly speared by the tower of a surfacing Jap sub. She clutches to the tower, as it continues to rise, and stays near the top until the sub descends, when she swims away. A more interesting scene would have some interaction of the woman with the Japanese, if it could pass censorship..........Then, near the end, John Baluchi , who had been a fighter pilot for most of the film, has stolen a motorcycle, and drives it off the end of a pier. He then swims out to the Jap sub, climbs aboard and somehow opens the hatch as the sub prepares to submerge. He then descends into the sub and requests "Take me to Tokyo". His motivation for doing such is not obvious, unless he wanted to be killed. It would have been much more appropriate if, instead of descending into the sub, he had dropped a hand grenade down the hatch to end the film!...........I think my favorite section was during and after the USO dance. As you would expect, it ended up in a mega-brawl.

Sex and the Single Girl

Cute feminist romantic sitcom, but with a 'surprising' anti-feminist ending
Screwball romantic comedy, involving 3 actual or potential pairs : two of which are not determined until the last few minutes. This includes Henry Fonda and Lauran Bacall as Frank and Sylvia Broderick: a squabbling middle age couple married for 10 years. Then, there's cute young Fran Jeffries, as Gretchen: an aspiring singer/dancer, who gives us a few samples, including the theme song. Her live in boyfriend is womanizing Bob Weston, played by handsome Tony Curtis, who is a writer for the gossipy sleazy rag 'Stop'. Recently, he has written a critical piece about Helen Brown: 23y.o. clinical psychotherapist and author of the bestselling book "Sex and the Single Girl", her name and the name of the book taken from the recently published book. Her platonic psychologist boyfriend, Rude, is played by Mel Ferrer. In addition, good looking blond Leslie Parrish serves as Bob's secretary and office girlfriend, they sometimes being seen stretched out together on the office couch..........The screenplay may usefully be divided into 4 segments. The first, we might term the introduction or pre-impersonation stage. The long second segment is dominated by Bob's impersonation of Fran Broderick, as an excuse to meet Helen in person, pretending to have several psychological complaints. Bob suspects that Helen's book is based entirely on her readings, rather than personal experience, and that she is probably a virgin. Bob claims to be married to Frank's wife: Sylvia, thus inhibiting Helen from acting on her growing infatuation with Bob. Bob points out that, in her book, she enumerates the advantages of single girls having an affair with a married man. The third segment features a long multicar chase, involving the 6 principals, who occasionally change cars and partners. They are chasing Frank or Helen, who claim they want to go to Fiji, or perhaps Hawaii. In Helen's case, her flight was instigated by the discovery that 'Frank', whom she has fallen in love with, is actually the hated Bob Weston! A motorcycle cop and one of the taxi drivers also get involved in the vehicle switching, to add to the hilarious confusion. This is the favorite section for some reviewers(including me), while others brush it off as mindless slapstick. The brief last segment occurs at the airport, after all the cars have convened. The 'final' romantic pairs are established just before all board a flight over the Pacific.........Sure, there's plenty of unrealistic aspects that one can point out. For example, Natalie overacts her rage at Bob's article about her. Natalie's psychological meltdown at the end, when she is prepared to renounce her profession and become Bob's presumably stay-at-home wife, is pretty unbelievable, yet is an important part of the overall message of the film, meant to dramatize the coming common conflict in women between a challenging career, and marriage and motherhood. After a promising feminist start, Natalie has succumbed to anti-feminist fears and desires. The theme of the film thus is exactly the same as that experienced by Doris Day in the popular 1953 film "Calamity Jane", in which she is an extreme tomboy, who is gradually falling in love with handsome Howard Keel, playing Wild Bill Hickock, who dismisses her as a viable marriage partner until she changes her ways. Like Bob's revelation that Natalie is largely a fake, Hickock complains that Calamity is an obvious fake in trying to show that she is as good as men in doing manly things. Whether she agrees or not, Calamity gets the message, and magically transforms into a feminine '50s bride. ..........Of course, with the coming feminist movement, unlike the black vs. white dichotomy between pro and anti-feminist behavior presented in these films, many women have since managed to juggle a career, sometimes in a traditionally male-only field, along with a successful marriage or sometimes a live in arrangement, including kids. Sometimes, the career and the marriage and kids are sequential, rather than simultaneous........The very next year, Tony and Natalie would again be paired to costar along with Jack Lemmon in the controversial slapstickish film "The Great Race", which continues the battle of the sexes over women's liberation. Although poorly received at the time, it has since attracted an enthusiastic following, including me. I heartily recommend seeing both these films!

The Great Race

Superb follow up on "Sex and the Single Girl"
Just the year before the release of this raucous comedy, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood had starred in the risque-sounding titled "Sex and the Single Girl", in which Tony tries to prove that Natalie, as the author of a book of the same title, was actually naïve about sexual matters, then he hoped to score with her. In the present film, Tony and Natalie are again the romantic leads, and periodically discuss the pros and cons of women's suffrage(this being scripted as 1908), of which Natalie is an ardent supporter. Also, the last portion of the former film featured a Keystone Cops-like auto race to the airport, featuring a number of cars, with changing drivers, which is a compatible lead into the present film, which features a burlesque version of the actual1908 auto race from NYC to Paris, via the Bering Strait, featuring much silent- screen-like slapstick. Near the end, we are treated to the biggest, longest, pie fight you will ever see on screen! ......... I would not be surprised if the main inspiration for this screenplay was "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World", released just 2 years before. Also, somebody knew their auto history........While Tony basically plays himself, as the romantic lead, Jack Lemmon is the dramatic lead, requiring much acting talent. He plays 2 roles. Primarily, he is Professor Fate: made up to look like the archetype villain in silent movies, and plays of that era. He is the primary rival to Tony, usually accompanied by Natalie, in the epic race. Fate's assistant Max(Peter Falk) tinkered with the other cars to make them break down , in slapstick fashion, soon after the race began. Lemmon is consistently loud, especially his frequent raucous laugh. Unfortunately, some reviewers find this characterization annoying, but it much helped to accentuate his villainous nature. When the autos reach Eastern Europe, Lemmon plays the dual roles of Fate, and Crown Prince Hoepnick. .........The actual 1908 race, which involved 6 cars, represented a number of counties. The cars were transported by ship across Bering Strait. But, in the film, they crossed on a tiny ice flow.........Get the DVD or stream it, and enjoy a great and perhaps the longest(at 2hr, 40min) comedy in American cinema.

The Great Ziegfeld

With William Powell as a sanitized Florence Ziegfeld, and a sanitized Ziegfeld follies.
The familiar William Powell is in almost every non-musical scene, as the famous flamboyant Broadway producer of musical extravaganzas, usually glorifying the American woman. Besides Ziegfeld, he is sometimes referred to as 'Flo'(too feminine sounding, to me), or as Ziggy. I don't know Ziggy's personality, but I suspect he was rather flamboyant. But, Powell plays his usual pompous self, for the most part, which irks some reviewers, including me. I suspect someone like Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, or Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. would have made a more appropriate Ziggy.........This Oscar-winning project was begun by Universal, but they soon realized that it was going to require deeper pockets than theirs, so sold it to MGM. In this transfer, several anticipated stars, including Will Rogers, Eddie Cantor, and Billie Burk, were lost to the project. Nonetheless, they were impersonated in the film. Myrna Loy arrives rather late in the film to impersonate Billie: Ziggy's last wife. However, Myrna fails to try to imitate Billie's unique mannerisms. Billie, of course, played the good witch, in the subsequent "The Wizard of Oz". In contrast, A.A. Trimble does an excellent job of impersonating Will Rogers, while Buddy Doyle does his best to imitate a singing Eddie Cantor...........Ziggy was known to sleep with some of his show girls. But, thanks to Billie's insistence, this was not alluded to, except in the case of the charismatic, but, instable, Lillian Lorraine, played by Virginia Bruce. Lillian became his long-term mistress, until she left..........Of course, we see several productions, dominated by chlorines, either dancing or dressed up in period or outrageous costumes. After a while, I get weary of such productions. Perhaps, if some of the girls had been more scantily clad, as apparently was often the case in the originals, my attention might not have wavered!.........Finally, I got to see the most impressive number for me: the unique comical tap dancing of Ray Boger. Ray, of course, served as the scarecrow, in "The Wizard of Oz". I can't think of a more appropriate casting! We also get to experience some of the unique comical personality and singing of famous Fanny Brice. But, the Oscar committee decided the Oscar for best actress should go to the rather unknown Luise Rainer, who played the normally French-speaking real life first wife of Ziggy: Anna Held. While she was cute, dramatic, and sang a song or 2, I failed to see the merit in awarding her the Oscar. Incredibly, she won the same Oscar the very next year, for her part in "The Good Earth", with Paul Muni! Perhaps she was more disserving of that Oscar.........Nat Pendleton stands in for the historic muscleman : Sandow, who was relevant to Ziggy's start in showbusiness. He is often in the early part of the film..........I can't believe that Dennis Morgan's singing of the Gershwin's "A Pretty Girl is like a Melody" was dubbed by Alan Jones, who was an accomplished singer, but so was Dennis!...........Knockout blond Rosie Lawrence plays the singer Sally Manner, who was based on the famous torch singer Marilyn Miller. I was familiar with Rosie as the beautiful brunet, Mary, in the popular Laurel and Hardy film "Way Out West". Now, I find that she was a natural blond, and sometimes played the blond schoolteacher in the "Our Gang" series!..........The charismatic comedian and actor Frank Morgan pops up frequently, as Jack Billings: a competitor, confidant, and financier to Ziggy. Of course, Frank played 'The Wizard', as well as another role or 2, in "The Wizard of Oz". He's the 3rd member of this cast who had a prominent role in that film. ( the others being Billie Burk and Ray Bolger). .......Heck, I'd watch it again, if just to see Ray's incredible eccentric tapdancing.

The Flame and the Arrow

Better titled "The Sword and the Arrow"?
A less remembered Robin Hood-like tale than Warner's classic "The Adventures of Robin Hood". There are about 8X as many reviewers at the IMDB site for the latter film than for the present film. I suspect there are a number of reasons for this. First, tales of Robin Hood had been handed down for centuries, and published in popular children's books. The tales take place in England, rather than in the rather obscure(to English readers) Italian province of Lombardy, in the 12th century, part of the rather nebulous Holy Roman Empire. Then, my impression is that the colors were much more saturated in the Robin Hood film, giving it a greater feeling of reality. Next, Errol Flynn presented a somewhat more handsome and personable central figure than Burt Lancaster, in the present film. Also, I would judge Olivia de Havilland to be a more beautiful prize for Robin Hood, than was Virginia Mayo for Burt(Not that Virginia wasn't also beautiful!). Also, Olivia had more and better facial closeups........But, one thing Burt clearly had over Flynn: his background in circus gymnastics provided him with the skills for more awe-inspiring gymnastic stunts. In fact, I would say that this is the chief reason for watching the present film, if you have already seen "The Adventures of Robin Hood"(unless you are really into watching Virginia)........Now, why do I suggest that "The Sword and the Flame" might be a better title than the given one? While it is true than Burt, and his sidekick, Piccolo, did (implausibly) fight off a squad of royal soldiers with torches, Burt killed the traitorous Machese, in a sword duel as exciting as the prominent one in "Robin Hood". In contrast, he killed his enemy, Count Ulrich, with a very precisely aimed arrow to the chest, while the Count was holding Burt's son as a human shield. On the other hand, if 'flame' in the title is meant to refer to Burt, as a 'live wire', or to Virginia, as his 'flame', then the title should stand as is.......Nick Cravat: Burt's friend from his circus days, played Piccolo, his constant companion in the film. He was characterized as being mute, because Nick had a very annoying regional accent Burt didn't want exposed. Nick took part in 9 of Burt's films: some not as a mute. Burt's wife, Nonna, had previously run off to Count Ulrich, who, in the film, captures her son with Burt, to Burt's great distress. Burt's chief goal in the film is to reclaim his son, and perhaps, in the process, to kill the Count. Meanwhile, Burt meets the blond German princess Anne(Virginia Mayo): an unmarried cousin of the Count. At first, he keeps her chained, with an iron collar around her neck. Gradually, he warms up to her, but then has a sudden change of heart, and bad mouths her. Later, they have a reconciliation, and are a pair by film's end, when Burt has regained his son.

Inside Daisy Clover

Unlike others, I don't see Hollywood producer Ray Swan as particularly evil.
I found this to be an entertaining, unusual, film. Although 27y.o. Natalie Wood playing 15y.o. lonely, lay about, chain-smoking, tomboy, wharf waif Daisy Clover, is a stretch of credulity, aside from the age gap, I found her well equipped to play the part. Ruth Gordon plays Daisy's lonely solitaire-obsessed mother, apparently supported by Daisy's boardwalk business of selling photos of celebrities, with fake autographs she made. Thus, her business, as an extension of Hollywood, is just as fake as Hollywood stars themselves, among whom she will soon be numbered, briefly. I don't see her mother as being a necessary nor interesting character. Likewise, I don't see the inclusion of Daisy's much older sister: Gloria(Betty Harford)as a needed character. Unlike Daisy, she much reminded me of her mother. Although she is certified as Daisy's guardian, I never saw Daisy living with her! ...........Young Robert Redford's actor character: Wade Lewis(or vice versa)serves as a warning that rushing into marriage with a superficially ideal-seeming mate risks bitter disappointment. Knowing his sexual preferences, I fail to understand Wade's motive for marrying Daisy after wowing her with his looks and sailboat, and hints of a jet set life. After a one night stand on their wedding night, he abandons her in a lonely desert motel, and makes off for the UK: a lesson for Daisy that people aren't always what they seem to be. This shock perhaps reminds us of Natalie's real life shock at this age, when she was brutally raped by a trusted high profile actor. The film is otherwise somewhat autobiographical, in that Natalie too was a child actress. She also chain-smoked. Daisy's nervous breakdown and suicide attempt have correlations in Natalie's real life experiences of multiple suicide attempts, dependence on prescription drugs, and constant psychoanalysis. Hmm.... In general, this was also true of Judy Garland, who became a child star in the mid-late 1930s, when this film supposedly takes place!..........Otherwise, the essence of the film is certainly found in the interactions between Daisy and Hollywood producer Ray Swan(Christopher Plummer).Most reviewers label Swan's interest in Daisy as purely self-serving exploitation. I don't see it that way. Having heard a sample of her singing on a record she somehow produced and sent to him, he was impressed enough to send a limo to her seaside shack to return with her for an audition. Seems he thought he had found another potential Judy Garland(who was being 'discovered' at this scripted time, in the mid-'30s). Swan soon began a build up and promotional program for her, including a brief look at her ancestors, and a film sample of her singing and acting. He emphasized her origins as a virtual orphan, knowing that people always liked a true rags to riches story(check out Shirley Temple and Orphan Annie stories in the '30s). In general, he treated her as a special daughter. When Daisy was moping over her abandonment by Wade, he tried to comfort her, picked her up, cradling her, as they engaged in an apparent heart felt mutual kiss and hug. When she had her traumatic nervous breakdown, while trying to sing to her lip-syncing in the movie, requiring many retakes, he whisked her off to her beach bungalow, and supplied her with a nurse. He visited her twice, encouraging her to return to finish the nearly completed picture. The second time, he kissed her twice, before slapping her, and saying threatening things. He was upset that his wonder ragamuffin had buckled under the stress of being the lead player, and thus was costing him a fortune in an unfinished picture. By her silence, he correctly surmised that she didn't want to be a movie star any more, after all the effort and expense he had put into her...........Despite it's many faults: some enumerated by others, I generally enjoyed the film, even including the finale, in which Daisy symbolically severs ties with this segment of her life, in a most dramatic fashion!


Rather amusing Dale Robertson railroad western.
Caught this on Encore Western. Dale Robertson, as Ben Calhoun, is a gambler who walks the line between being a 'little engine that could' hero, and a brazen bragging buffoon throughout the film, after winning a tiny, one locomotive, bankrupt railroad, in a card game. He immediately starts acting as if he is the wealthiest tycoon in the West, throwing $10. bills into a crowd, and commandeering the nearly finished private rail car made for aristocratic Burton Standish(John Anderson), who was elsewhere at that time. Inside this railcar, Calhoun is astonished that it includes the bedroom for a pretty girl.(Diane Hyland as Marta). However, she's not impressed with the unexpected owner of her bedroom, and continuously lets this be known to him. She finds him a letdown from her portrait of a distinguished-looking Mr. Standish. In fact, in the end, she rides off in a buggy with Mr. Standish, after Calhoun had just won an important legal case relating to his? railroad, vowing to continue building his railroad. No matter. In the meanwhile, he had found another girlfriend in Sandra Smith, as Joana..........In the beginning, Calhoun found that his work crew had gone on strike because they hadn't been paid. Calhoun didn't have such money, so he offered them shares in the railroad, pointing out that it would partly be their railroad that they would build. Amazingly, they eventually accepted this deal..........Actually, I think of this film as a western comedy, driven by Calhoun's amusing sense of self importance, and facility in getting out of tight situations...,,,,,Available at YouTube, both via streaming and pay per view.


"Leapin' Lizards": It's Shirley Temple all over again: sort of.
There are various obvious similarities between Annie, as here characterized, and a typical Shirley Temple, in her juvenile films, as well as a few differences. Not that the S.T. films were necessarily a model for constructing the screen play for "Annie". Most of the main characters for "Annie" were taken from the "Little Orphan Annie" comic strip, which began in the mid-20s, whereas S.T. films didn't begin until the mid-30s. Thus, we might wonder if the typical screen play of S.T. films wasn't lifted from the Annie comics or the 1932 film "Little Orphan Annie"!..........The first difference we notice between "Annie" and S. T. films is that the latter were filmed in B&W vs. the color of "Annie". Of course, most S.T. films have since been released in a colorized form, reducing the significance of this difference. While both are cute, and have strongly curly hair, Annie's is appropriately red(actually orange), whereas Shirley's is brown, when colorized. ........Shirley's juvenile films were all released in the 1930s. Likewise, "Annie" was also clearly set in the '30s, increasing the impression that "Annie" was modeled after the S.T. films. In most Shirley films, she has little or nothing to do with other kids, at least, for most of the film. While Annie interacts with the orphans in the first part of the film, thereafter she pretty much only interacts with adults. Shirley usually had a bossy or grumpy older adult to interact with, as least, for part of the time. Likewise Annie had to endure bossy, demented, Miss Hannigan(Carol Burnett) while at the orphanage. Shirley usually made friends with, and sometimes was adopted by, an older man or sometimes couple. Likewise, Annie made friends with old Mr. Warbucks(Albert Finney), who adopted her, as well as with his private secretary(and lover?) Grace Farrell(Ann Reinking).........Both girls at least sometimes sang and/or danced, although not in all S.T. films, and Annie sang much more than Shirley, as, unlike S.T. films, "Annie" was billed as a musical, with Annie doing most of the singing and some of the dancing. Annie even did a bit of tapdancing, which was Shirley's forte..........Yes, Annie and Shirley had lots of things in common. But the film "Annie", was , in various ways, more elaborate, as well as 30min. longer than the typical S.T. film. It cost a good deal more to make than S.T. films, and barely turned a profit the first year.......... While Shirley was younger than 10 in most of her films, Annie was 10, and thus had a better singing voice, if still clearly 'girly'. ............I found the first part of "Annie", where Annie interacts with the other orphans, more interesting than the remainder of the film......... Shirley never encountered someone as demented as Miss Hannagan. I'm sure viewer reactions to Miss Hannigan vary from amusement to disdain. My reaction similarly varied across this spectrum.............Why couldn't they find a real East Indian to play Punjab? It was obvious that Punjab was being played by an African American!

High Road to China

"I only made one mistake: I should have sold you while I had a chance" : Selleck to Bess, to end the film.
Despite some serious reality flaws, this still is one of my favorite films. Bushy-faced, brooding, drunkard ex- WWI ace Tom Selleck, and wide-eyed, pixie-like, heiress Bess Armstrong are perfect as an unlikely reluctant buddy pair, who alternatively fight, cooperate, and occasionally show some caring for the other, in a roaring '20s epic flight in 2 WWI fighter biplanes, from England to several exotic locations across Asia, hoping to find Bess's wanderlust father, to prove that he is still alive, so that his business partner: Bentik(Robert Morley) wouldn't declare him legally dead, and usurp his half of their business partnership. In the end, Bess's father is found in a remote Xinjiang village, helping to fend off a rapacious war lord army. Although they are victorious, both planes are destroyed or crippled, leaving the 3 eccentrics with no apparent means of returning to show that Bess's father is indeed alive, before Bentik's stated deadline: a strange ending for the heros! But, the father explains why he and Bess shouldn't be worried. Nonetheless, Selleck is worried about the 100,000 British lbs. that Bess has promised him: that is, unless they decide to hook up as man and wife...........Besides the war lord, they had battled a previous Asian enemy in the Afghan Suleman Khan, played in an over-the-top performance by the larger-than-life Brian Blessed. Their hair-raising battle and escape from his followers is one of the highlights. By the way, how did 3 people fit in the 2 seats of their escaping plane? During flight, we see Jack Weston(as Struts: Selleck's mechanic) with Bess. But upon landing, we see Nepalese Alessa emerge from Strut's seat!? Alessa is crucial in directing them to Bess's father's probable present location. Also, the flight over the Himalayas is presented as a cake walk. In reality, in an open plane, oxygen would have been limiting. Also, it would have been frigid and very windy, possibly blowing the light plane into a peak. In fact, all the flying and other activities took place in Yugoslavia, which also has some rugged mountain scenery.........Bess tellsSelleck that the Nepalese are Buddhists. However, the great majority are Hindus(I've been there). Nonetheless, I did see a few distinctive hats of Buddhists from Ladakh..........The evil Mr. Bentik, Bess's father's business partner, dispatched hit men on several occasions, to kill Bess. One instead destroys one of Selleck's planes, before Selleck can recover and get his other plane airborne, for a dog fight. The machine gun on his plane is housed on the upper wings so that the bullets don't shoot off his propeller. Later in the war, planes were equipped with a synchronizer that timed bullets so that they went between the propeller blades, allowing the machine gun to be housed directly in front of the pilot, for better aim........ Some reviewers claim that there are too many boring stretches. But, I only found one: when the 2 planes landed at a British camp in England. I don't know why, but it gave Selleck a chance to drink with some buddies and tell some war stories, while Bess fumed..........I don't understand the significance of the first scene in the film, where a would-be assassin is creeping into a room, gun in hand, but is, instead, shot by an unseen person..........I should mention that I love the theme music!

New Orleans

The resistance , and eventual acceptance , by some whites, of early African America jazz and blues
This film of special historical significance because it is one of the few, or, often, the only Hollywood film, that showcases some of the early African American luminaries of jazz and blues, including noted singer Billie Holiday. As such, some reviewers complain about the major intrusion of whites into the story, and the placement of the major African American players near the end of the list of credits, rather than where they should be: near or at the top. I agree with the latter complaint; however, not the former one...........To me, it's clear that the intent of the film is 4 fold:1) To acknowledge the importance of the New Orleans Storyland, in the development of American jazz and blues. 2)To document the importance of the transfer of the center of jazz and blues development from N.O. to Chicago, with the enforced disbanding of the Storyland district 3)The difficulty in convincing polite white society and the music establishment that African American jazz and blues was an art form worthy of being taken seriously and enjoyed. 4) The symbolic acceptance of jazz and blues by many of the white establishment, and the intrusion of all or mostly white bands as jazz bands. I believe the screen play largely succeeds in these goals by incorporation of whites as well as African Americans as major players in the story.........In the film, the N.O. city council and white establishment is blamed for legislatingA the dismemberment of Storyland, due to the attraction of the jazz emporiums to a certain debutant, as foreshadowing similar attractions of other gentile young whites, to their detriment. The film doesn't make it crystal clear that Storyland was primarily legally established to concentrate prostitution there, to better regulate it. However, historically, actually, it was the federal government that demanded that the district be disbanded, due to the deaths of a number of army trainees who visited the area. Clearly, it was regarded as a high crime area. Presumably, jazz establishments concentrated there because they too were only marginally accepted by the power elite, and because patrons of the brothels were also probably more likely patrons of the jazz emporiums..........Dorothy Patrick plays one of the major characters: Miralee Smith, a singer of classical music, who arrives by steamboat from Baltimore, to visit her mother and sing some classical music in an auditorium. However, she clearly is attracted to Nick(Anturo de Cordova): the owner of the best jazz and blues emporium in the city. He hosts Louis Armstrong's band, and singer Billie Holiday. Also, he is white. Billie, who serves as the maid at the Smith's home, offers to chaperone Miralee to Nick's establishment, where she becomes more familiar with Nick, which eventually leads to them discussing possible marriage. However, Nick declines to take Miralee with him when he moves his business to Chicago. The disappointed Miralee then moves to Europe, where she performs classical music. But, before she leaves, she gives a concert, in which she tacks on a song she learned at Nick's: "Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans", which serves as the de facto theme song of the film. The patrons are horrified, and boo her off the stage. The only trouble, to my mind, is that this song was not played as jazz or blues, but rather as a perfectly normal ballad!..........Well, eventually, Armstrong takes his band on a tour of Europe, and eventually meets up with Miralee. He tells her that Nick is doing well in Chicago, and that he pines for her. She decides to go to Chicago and meet Nick(surprise!). There, she gives a classical music concert, and again sneaks the film theme song in at the end. This time, she is relieved that the audience generally expresses their acceptance, rather than booing. Symbolically, this denotes the growing acceptance of jazz and blues by whites. However, as I previously noted, this song again wasn't played in a jazzy or bluesy manner, thus I fail to see the intended symbolic significance! It's certainly not classic dixieland or swing jazz..........Woody Herman and his white band play a couple of jazz numbers ,thus symbolically demonstrating that some white bands were doing at least some jazzy or bluesy numbers, helping to further acceptance of these music forms among whites. All in all, it's not a bad film, and, at least, we get to see and hear some of the big names in the early jazz scene.


A Korean War version of WWII's "Hollywood Canteen": star-studded variety show.
As was true of the 1944 "Hollywood Canteen", this star-studded variety show presumably was especially meant to entertain US servicemen, overseas or stateside. Thus, we begin with servicemen Ron Hagerthy and funnyman Dick Wesson at Travis Airforce Base, CA, hoping to meet up with a Hollywood star or 2, rumored to be visiting the base. Eventually, they meet a few. The first half of the film supposedly takes place at this airforce base, before moving to Hollywood, with occasional returns to the airforce base. These 2 nobody soldiers will be with us, on and off, through the whole film. But, the 'star' with the most screen time is ingenue Janice Rule: this being only her second film. Along with Ruth Roman, she often acts as a greeter to the servicemen, one(Ron) of whom she flirts with, in an on again, off again, relationship, generating some drama. At least this subplot is not very obtrusive, as was the comparable romantic dabbling in "Hollywood Canteen" She is attractive and personable. She also had stage dancing talent, and dances to 2 numbers with athletic dancer Gene Nelson: among the highlights. Despite screen versatility, she was not much used by Hollywood, finding a more accepting medium in TV for a while, before quitting acting to become a psychotherapist. The only other 'name' actresses who get to do a bit of dancing are Virginia Mayo and Virginia Gibson, who portray a South seas maiden, and saloon girl, respectively. The latter 2 teamed with classical music songstress Lucille Norman to form the Dillon Sisters, in "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine", released that same year. Sexy, blond, Lucille teams with familiar baritone and leading man Gordon MacRae in singing Cole Porter's "What is this Thing Called Love". Later, Gordon solos the inspirational "On the Good Green Acres of Home"............Gene Nelson sings Doris Day's recent mega hit "It's Magic", after which Janice accompanies him in dancing to it. I much prefer D.D.'s singing rendition!. Speaking of D.D., she briefly appears several times to sing "You Ought to be in Pictures", or "You Do Something to Me", or, with Gordon, "You're Going to Lose Your Gal". She and Gordon also got to sing periodically in several movies they did together during this period, before they both became really famous..........Hold on, we have a couple more star singers to point out. Although Jane Wyman was seldom presented in film as a singer, before she became a movie star , she was a professional singer, and was allowed to sing a bit in several movies I am familiar with, including "Hollywood Canteen", and the present one. In fact, she is the only star I recognize that was in both these films.........And, let's not forget Errol Flynn's sometimes wife: Patricia Wymore: always a striking, elegant, big-eyed presence , with her singing and dancing: here to "Lisa". For a few years, she was a Warner's player: mostly a second or third lead: often 'the other woman', or a villainess..........There were a few scattered non-musical skits, none of which I will comment on.........All in all, a moderately interesting musical variety show that may be worth your time, if presented on TV or it's DVD release. Just be forewarned that the well known stars won't spend much time on screen "

Painting the Clouds with Sunshine

So,where's Jack Carson?
Jack Carson was a frequent co-star of the leading man here: Dennis Morgan, but is not found here, although he was included in several early Warner Doris Day films around this time.............This musical comedy is the first of 3 released from 1951-53 that included Virginia Mayo and Gene Nelson among the stars. I would say it's probably the most entertaining of the 3, certainly in terms of memorable music, although the songs were retreads...........Dennis Morgan was a first-rate tenor, while guest star Lucille Norman was also a first rate singer,as well as a looker blond to rival Mayo. I always think of Dennis as an Irish tenor, although I discovered that he actually has a Swedish heritage! In any case, he begins this film by singing the standard "When Irish Eyes are Smiling". Gene Nelson can also sing professionally, although his main claim to fame is his athletic dancing style. .........Although Mayo (as Carol) is first billed among the actresses, she doesn't really stand out here. Her musical forte was always stage dancing, her singing always being dubbed. In fact, I would say that Lucille Norman(Abby) is more like the leading lady. ........Abby, Carol, and June(Virginia Gibson) comprise the Dillion Sisters singing trio, although they claim that they aren't really sisters. My favorite of the songs they sing is their first: "A Man is a Necessary Evil" Nelson(as Ted Lansing) then immediately pops up and begins to sing and dance to the standard "Tiptoe Through the Tulips", with the sisters eventually joining in. Interestingly, this song as well as their prior "A Man is a Necessary Evil" were composed by the team of Sonny Burke and Jack Elliot........Dennis(Vince) plus Lucille(Abby) sing 2 of the most memorable standards: "With a Song in my Heart", composed by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart for the musical "Spring is Here", as well as "Jalousie"(Jealousy, in English),composed by the Danish Jacob Gade, also in the '20s. Meanwhile, Carol(Mayo) sang "The Birth of the Blues", while Nelson danced around her, while supposedly chiming in with a trumpet..........Supposedly, the film was sort of a remake of Warner's "The Gold Diggers of 1933)". The first song in that film: "We're in the Money" was appropriately the last song in the present film, after the girls had snared their millionaire beaus and hoped-for husbands. I didn't notice any other song the 2 films had in common.........Of the 3 Dillion Sisters, June(Virginia Gibson) was the least prominent . However, in the Western festival, she demonstrated that she too had appreciable stage dancing skills, while clowning with Nelson..........There are also a number of non-musical supporting players. English-challenged 'Cuddles' Sakal, as 'uncle' Felix Hoff, is the owner of the Golden Egg Casino, of Las Vegas, where most of the action, except the first part, takes place. He has strange dealings with eccentric knife-throwing desert rat cowboy Sam Parks(Wallace Parks). The latter sleeps on the floor, with a small log for a pillow, so that he "will sleep like a log"(sorry). He follows Cuddles around because he wants to buy into the casino business. At one point, he wants to kill Cuddles with his knife throwing. These 2 are supposed to carry much of the humor..........Then, there is aristocratic Tom Conway, as Bennington: Nelson's cousin and president of a family bank in the East, which is the main source of Nelson's considerable wealth. He arrives at the Golden Egg to try to break up the impending marriage of Nelson and Abby by devious means...........As I mentioned, the Dillion girls came to LV to find millionaire husbands(a very familiar plot, as in "How to Marry a Millionaire", at a time before women owned more wealth than men in the USA). In the finale, the girls each have a promising wealthy beau and all are singing "We're in the Money". A fun upbeat film! See the film(on DVD) to find out who apparently ends up with whom(as if you cared!).

She's Back on Broadway

Virginia Mayo and Steve Cochran are at it again, in this 'minor' musical drama
This is the last in what we might think of as a trilogy of 'minor' musicals which included Warner's Virginia Mayo and Gene Nelson among the star, released in 1951, '52 and '53. The others are "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine" and "She's Working Her Way through College". This one is more talky than the others, with drama more important. Also, unlike the other 2, for most of the film, the musicals are staged as backstage rehearsals, rather than finalized shows. Near the end, we do finally see parts of the first public performance of the play "Breakfast in Bed". .......... Although Nelson technically is the male lead, Cochran is the de facto male lead. The drama mainly consists of the troubled relationship between Catherine(Virginia Mayo) and Rick(Steve Cochran), and the equally troubled relationships between Rick and his male associates. ...........The film begins with Catherine, as a former Hollywood star, frustrated with the recent dearth of roles for her. Her agent suggests she abandon Hollywood, and try to return to her roots on Broadway. She takes his advise, and soon we find her negotiating with her former director and presumably lover: Rick. Rick is still miffed that she abandoned him 6 years ago for a better offer from a Hollywood studio. If he hires her, he is afraid she may abandon him again. After she tries to assure him that she won't wander again, he finally gives her a chance to star in his next show. As in the other 2 films of this trilogy, Virginia and Nelson sometimes sing and/or dance together or separately. Virginia's singing was always dubbed, as she was primarily a dancer and actress in musicals. Sometimes, Patrice Wymore replaced her as the lead singer/dancer in a number. Patrice was, for a time, Errol Flynn's wife, and he promoted her film career. Virginia discovers that Patrice(Karen) is living with Rick. Surprisingly, Karen didn't seem too disturbed when she saw Rick and Catherine kissing. She was even willing to move out of the way, when she sensed that Rick had a stronger attraction to Catherine than to her. But, Catherine complicates things again. See the film to find out what happens...........From another reviewer, I understand that this was hardly the first film in which Virginia and Cochran were, at times, a romantic couple.

Vera Cruz

Is this a toothpaste commercial?
Yes, those big pearly white choppers flashed by Burt Lancaster's frequent sarcastic smiles tend to dominate many scenes in this fast moving complicated film. All the twists and turns in this story , set in a Mexico in political turmoil, provide an exciting and unpredictable drama, although you can bet the 2 stars will fight a duel in the finale.........Cooper(Ben Trane) and Lancaster(Joe Erin), provide an interesting reluctant buddy pair. Lancaster seems much younger than his 40 years, while Cooper belies his 52 years. Thus, their sudden relationship superficially resembles the young, impulsive, hero/old-timer relationship common in westerns. But, actually, it doesn't turn out that way. Ben, as well as Joe, is still a remarkable shot. And, Joe is no hero material, just a greedy, swashbuckling, bully. In contrast, Ben is a former southern gentleman, dispossessed by the Civil War.............The buddy/rival relationship starts off rocky, as Joe nearly shoots Ben when the latter pulls his weapon to kill his injured horse. Joe sells Ben a stolen horse, then the owner militia show up to reclaim it. Ben's horse is eventually shot dead from under him, and Ben plays dead, as well. Joe comes to strip Ben's body of valuables, but Ben surprises Joe with a gun in the face. Ben rides off on Joe's horse. However, Joe is impressed with Ben's daring and shooting, and rescues him from a bad scene with Joe's friends, who accuse Ben of Joe's presumed murder........Later, Joe asks Ben why he stepped in save his skin during an ambush by rebel forces. Presumably, Ben would have gotten all their combined salary if Joe had died. " Don't do any favors, take any chances, trust anybody, you don't have to" advises Joe(Sounds like a speech from a quintessential anti-hero). In a nutshell, that tells us the basic difference between the 2...........Like several others involved, Ben sometimes considers trying to make off with the gold secretly stashed in the carriage he is involved in escorting to Vera Cruz. But, under the influence of the lovely Sarita Montiel, and her rebel friends, he is finally persuaded that he is not that kind of thief, and that the gold should go to the rebels, minus his (exorbitant) cut..........In the finale, Ben is visibly upset that he couldn't tame Joe's greed, meanness and impulsiveness, as unacceptable flaws for a partner that outweighed his exceptional bravado and skill as a gunslinger. Ben had to decide whether to shoot Joe while he had his rifle trained on him, or whether to give Joe an even chance in a classic gun draw duel. Yep, it's "High Noon" time again.

Down to the Sea in Ships

Perfect marriage of an adventure story with character study
Although this largely forgotten adventure story could have used a better title the main characters of aged whaling ship's captain Bering Joy, his young grandson, Jed, and first mate and Jed's tutor, Dan Lunceford, are played to perfection by Lionel Barrymore, Dean Stockwell, and Richard Widmark, respectively. .........Captain Joy must have seen the writing on the wall that this might be his last voyage as captain. Thus, he took his cabin-boy aged grandson along, to get him familiar with operations, in hopes that he will eventually become a whaler and captain. Part of Dan's job is to teach him 'the ropes', as Bering spent much of his time in his cabin, resting or charting their voyage..........During the last hour, several physical or personality crises occur. ..........The whale boat that includes Jed is long overdue back at the ship. Thus, Dan asks the Captain's permission to lower the other whaling boat to search for them. But , he knows it's the captain's policy not to have both boats at sea at the same time. As expected, the captain denies permission. But, after further delay, Dan takes it upon himself to launch a rescue mission, while the captain was in his cabin. Dan found that the other boat had somehow broken up, and that the survivors were clinging to flotsam. After returning to the ship, the captain initially commended Dan on his successful rescue. But, then he chastised him for disobeying orders, relieved him of his position, and said he would be put ashore at the first port. Although Dan takes this punishment in stride, Jed is very upset about the harsh punishment. Later, he comes to the captain and requests that he be put shore with Dan. Request denied. This matter is finally resolved when Captain Bering announces that he feels too sick to continue as captain, and that he is appointing Dan as acting captain, since Dan has training to be ship's captain.........Another crisis arises when the ship strikes a glancing blow with an iceberg, in the fog. Dan sees that a sizable hole has been torn just above the waterline. He and another are lowered on a rope with a skin patch in hand. But, the patch is only partially attached before the other man is crushed to death, and Dan suffers a serious injury, as well. Dan is hauled up and administered to. Thus, another crewman announces that he is acting captain, and orders the crew to abandon ship. But, Bering emerges from his cabin, and announces that he is resuming as captain, and that there will be no abandonment of the ship. He is lowered down, and secures the patch, before being hauled up, and taken to his cabin for a long rest. In the finale, Dan has recovered, and is once again captain. He and Jed are smiling, as another whaling vessel approaches. Asked who is captain of this ship, Dan answers " Captain Bering Joy"

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