Monday, December 31, 2018

Strange Bedfellows (1965)




"She knew what she wanted when she saw what she wanted."

Strange Bedfellows (1965) stars Rock Hudson as Carter Harrison, a strait-laced American executive living in London. One day he meets feisty activist/painter Toni Vincente (Gina Lollobrigida). The two have instant chemistry and just 24 hours later are married. But they are as different as two people can be. She's an outspoken bohemian with a temper. He's a professional who likes to maintain the status quo. The two separate and don't see each other for 7 years. When Carter is up for a major promotion, his company's PR agent, Richard Bramwell (Gig Young), works on cleaning up Carter's image. They have two weeks to get Carter back together with his estranged wife. However Toni is already engaged to fellow Bohemian activist Harry (Edward Judd). When the two meet again, planning a divorce, they rediscover their undeniable attraction. Their physical chemistry brings them together and their personalities pull them apart. Things begin to escalate as Harrison prepares for his boss' visit to London at the same time Toni is planning to protest against censorship at the American embassy. What results is an outrageous series of events complete with Lady Godiva riding into London on a horse.

This film reunites Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida after their romantic comedy Come September (1961). It's not nearly as good as their first collaboration but it does show what great chemistry and screen presence these two had. This movie is steaming hot. It puts the sex in sex comedy. There are two scenes in particular that are rife with sexual tension. In one the two meet with their lawyers about a divorce and cannot keep their eyes off each other. Toni tries to look away but can't help but steal glances and Carter boldly takes in every bit of Toni's figure while failing to light his cigarette. In another scene, Carter drops Toni off at her place and he makes this seductive walk in her direction and Toni can't help but be completely flustered. It's such a delight to see these '60s icons at their prime.

There is also a lot of gay subtext in this film. Rock Hudson frequently meets with Gig Young while in some state of undress. When Young's character Richard discusses Carter's state of affairs, he proclaims, "no more gay, married bachelor. It's got to be Carter Harrison, family man." There is a ridiculous scene in which Carter tries to communicate to Toni while she's in another cab via their two cab drivers and a radio dispatcher. Willful miscommunication has one cabbie telling another that Carter wants to have a baby with Harry Jones, Edward Judd's character. When the cabbie tells the radio dispatcher that the "husband has shown up" when Hudson enters Lollobrigida's cab, the dispatcher asks "his or hers?" And in another scene Toni invites protestors to stay at her place. Carter thinks he's going to bed with his wife Toni while the protestors sleep elsewhere. But while in bed he turns around to find that he's actually in bed with Harry.

Strange Bedfellows was a collaboration between filmmaking partners Norman Panama and Melvin Frank for their Panama and Frank Productions company. Panama and Frank met while studying at the University of Chicago and worked together for many years. Their collaboration resulted in such films as Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), White Christmas (1954), The Facts of Life (1960), and ended with The Road to Hong Kong (1962). Strange Bedfellows was an original idea by Panama and Frank and Frank went on to adapt the screenplay with writer Michael Pertwee. Frank also directed the film. It was shot on the Universal Studios lot (not in London alas!) and in Technicolor.

The costumes in Strange Bedfellows are to die for. Costume designer Jean Louis dressed Gina Lollobrigida in the most fun and colorful wardrobe. It was a bit too sophisticated a look for her character but made for great eye candy. Rock Hudson looks chic in his professional attire and I love Edward Judd's bohemian wardrobe.

As I mentioned before, Strange Bedfellows is not as good as Come September but worth watching to see Lollobrigida and Hudson together again. The part of an outspoken and feisty artist fits Gina Lollobrigida like a glove, even if her wardrobe doesn't always quite match. And Hudson is in his element as the suave bachelor. The beginning of the film is heavy on the narration which felt unnecessary. And the final 30 minutes of the film are one ridiculous scenario after another. The script tries to be too zany and had the writers pulled back a little bit it might have been more fun with a lot less of the craziness. I wish Judd's character Harry was more of a threat to Hudson's Carter. He seems more like a plot device than an important member of the love triangle. Not a perfect film but still fun if you enjoy zany '60s comedies.






Strange Bedfellows (1965) is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios. You can purchase a copy at my MovieZyng store.



Thank you to Allied Vaughn for sending me a copy of Strange Bedfellows (1965) for review.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Cinema Shame: Get Carter (1971)


I'm ending my 2018 Cinema Shame challenge with a bang! I continue my exploration of Michael Caine's filmography with a first time viewing of Get Carter (1971). While I was expecting a great thriller, what I wasn't expecting was one of the most brutal revenge stories of all time.

Directed by Mike Hodges, Get Carter stars Michael Caine as Jack Carter, a ruthless gangster working in London. When his brother dies in a car accident, he travels home to Newcastle to attend his funeral. But something is fishy about how his brother died. As Carter starts to uncover clues he finds out that not only was his brother's death a murder it was also a personal attack on Carter himself. Carter will stop at nothing to find out what happened and to destroy every one involved. 




Michael Caine's Jack Carter is one of the most cold-blooded and merciless characters I've ever encountered in a film. Several scenes sent chills up my spine. While Carter is sadistic in his actions he's not completely unsympathetic. He's clearly affected by the death of his brother and it's the motivation for everything he does in the film. And one element in his complicated revenge plot is the discovery that his niece, Doreen (Petra Markham), was involved in a pornographic film with the same people who sought out her father's death. If Carter wasn't already mad, this discovery set him on a course of no return. 

Caine's performance as Carter is brilliant. He's cool, calm and collected but there is a fury behind his eyes that lets you know every single move is a calculated one. And Carter is one sexy gangster. He's got a way with women it's no wonder why they all fall victim to his charm. He seduces several women including Britt Ekland as Anna, Geraldine Moffat as Glenda and Rosemary Dunham as Edna. The biggest victim of Carter's wrath is Dorothy White's Margaret, his brother's girlfriend and a key accomplice to the gangsters who were out to get Carter.

SPOILER STARTS HERE

 It's too bad about the ending. It makes sense for the story arc because its clear that Carter was on a path of destruction and there was no turning back. But had he survived this tale, Jack Carter films would have made a nice 1970s franchise. 

SPOILER ENDS HERE





Get Carter was remade in 2000 with Sylvester Stallone. Some of the actors from the original, including Michael Caine, appear in the remake. It would be interesting to see the 2000 version but I'm in no particular rush to do so.

While I didn't finish all of my 2018 Cinema Shame movies I tackled quite a few and will finish the rest on my own time. I'm excited to work on my challenge for 2019. Big thanks to Jay of Cinema Shame for hosting and encouraging us cinephiles to finally see those films that have been on our to-be-watchlist for way too long.


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Ask Us Anything About Movies



I so enjoyed doing the Ask Me Anything: Classic Movies Edition that I decided it would be fun to do a couples version with my movie-loving husband Carlos! I solicited questions from Twitter and Instagram and we got some great responses. Some thought-provoking prompts and some fun questions too. A big thank you to everyone who participated.

Here are the questions that were asked (edited for clarity):

  • What were the first movies you watched so many times that you could recite all the lines? What films would you consider “your movies” as a couple - mutual favorites, films that evoke memories in your relationship, remind you of each other ... ?
  • What's one film you wish your spouse didn't like?
  • What's one film you wish you could watch again for the very first time?
  • What are your fave romantic comedies?
  • What's the first movie you watched as a stay at home date together?
  • Can you each choose one film from each decade 1940-1990 that holds a special place in your heart?
  • What's your favorite Pre-Code?
  • What's your favorite noir?
  • Who is your favorite on-screen couple?
  • As a couple, is there a movie pair that you aspire to emulate?
  • What movie makes you cry the most (or makes you the saddest, if you aren't a crier)?
  • Most disappointing film you waited years to see?
  • Name a character who reminds you of your spouse - either in traits, looks, quirks?!
  • Thoughts regarding Classic Films on Blu-ry and how titles in that format compare in quality to their DVD releases.  Is there any significant reason to choose one over the other when purchasing a film produced decades ago??
  • How would you cast a new remake of Maltese Falcon? Also would you set it today or back in the 30s or 40s?
  • Last movie you two watched together? Worst classic film aimed at a female audience?
  • Among the films that you introduced to each other, what is a movie that Carlos was reluctant to watch but ended up loving, and a movie you were reluctant to watch but ended up loving?
  • Which films you introduced to each other and thinking the other would?
  • What film do you (or Carlos) pull out that makes the other groan because you (or Carlos) just can’t stand to watch it one more time.
  • What film(s) do you guys like to watch when you’re feeling down and need a pick-me-up?
  • What is a classic film that you both would love to see remade now?
  • Do you insert tag lines or favorite quotes into your daily conversations?

Enjoy the video! And if you'd like to watch more of my videos, please make sure to visit my YouTube channel and subscribe.


Monday, December 24, 2018

Lisbon (1956)


Lisbon: City of Murder, Intrigue and Excitement!

Captain Jack (Ray Milland) is a professional smuggler with an eye for the ladies. He goes by a strict code of ethics: no murder, no narcotics, just straight smuggling. When Jack arrives at Lisbon port he finds Inspector Fonseca (Jay Novello) hot on his trail. But luckily Jack and his shipmate Tio Rabio (Humberto Madeira) hide their loot before the Fonseca and his team can find it. In Lisbon, Jack meets with career criminal Mavros (Claude Rains) who has an assignment for him involving the wife of an American imprisoned in a Communist country. Jack is to arrange for Sylvia Merrill (Maureen O'Hara) to have a clandestine business meeting with Mavros and to help Mavros' team smuggle Sylvia's husband Lloyd Merrill (Percy Marmont) into Portugal safe and sound. However Captain Jack is about to get more than he bargained for with this new job. He's equal parts smitten and confused by the beautiful Sylvia. It's clear that she married her much older husband for money. Is she really concerned about her husband's well-being or are her efforts to ensure her financial security? Sylvia quickly becomes enamored with Captain Jack. And she's not the only one. Mavros' live-in girlfriend/employee Maria Madalena (Yvonne Furneaux) also develops an affection for him. But the mercy of her boss and the infatuated Seraphim (Francis Lederer). When Mavros plants an idea into Sylvia's mind to ensure that her husband doesn't make it back alive, she dismisses the idea at first. But $24 million dollars and the chance at real romance with Jack is much more alluring. Will Jack break his code of ethics or will he stay true to himself?

Lisbon (1956) was shot on location in Portugal for Republic Studios. Filming in Europe was big business for Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s and this film has the notable distinction of being the first film entirely shot in Portugal. The story was based on an original idea by Martin Rackin and was adapted for the screen by John Tucker Battle. Paramount held the rights to the story before it was purchased by Republic.

Ray Milland not only stars in the film but he also produced it and directed it. In the credits he goes by R.A. Milland for his producer role and R. Milland for the director role. After making Dial M for Murder (1954), Milland took his career in a different direction and Lisbon was the second film he directed and the only one in which he received credit as producer.

I'm half Portuguese so for me Lisbon (1956) was like time traveling back to my dad's home country around the time he was living there. He emigrated from Portugal in the late 1950s and moved to Brazil before moving to the United States in the early 1960s. I've spent time in Lisbon and it's a gorgeous city. And 1956 Lisbon looks beautiful shot in Naturama and Trucolor. There are lots of great shots of the city and Milland used a variety of Portuguese actors in the film including Vasco Santana, Joao Benard da Costa, Humberto Madeira and singer Anita Guerreiro. Nelson Riddle composed the music for the film and his rendition of Lisbon Antigua was a huge hit in the US. It's a  fado song (a type of traditional Portuguese folk music) and is sung by Guerreiro in one of the scenes.

Story-wise, Lisbon was kind of a disappointment. It took too long to get to the point and when it did I didn't care much. The beginning and ending scenes were great. I loved the resolution to the story. It's very satisfying for Milland's character. And the opening scene shows Claude Rains as the heartless Mavros as he lures and kills a bird to feed to his cat. It gives us some insight into his cruel nature. Maureen O'Hara is absolutely stunning in this film. She has the most complex character of the cast which isn't saying too much because a lot of these characters are rather two dimensional. It's worth watching Lisbon for the beautiful on location shooting by Jack A. Marta, the brilliant color made even more beautiful with the newly remastered Blu-ray, for the great cast and O'Hara and Furneaux's amazing wardrobe.




Lisbon (1956) is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Kino Lorber. When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thanks!

The Blu-Ray comes from a new high definition master from a 4K scan of the original Trucolor negative. It also includes audio commentary by film historian Toby Roan and a variety of Kino Lorber related trailers.

Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of Lisbon (1956) for review. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Wallflower (1948)

Robert Hutton, Joyce Reynolds and Janis Paige in Wallflower (1948)

Sisters Jackie (Joyce Reynolds) and Joy (Janis Paige) are polar opposites. Joy is the flirtatious fun-loving one, always getting attention from the opposite sex. Jackie is the sensible one. A bit too sensible. She scares all the guys away with her straightforward demeanor. While on leave from college, Jackie and Joy are back home with their rather ditzy but well-meaning parents Mr. Linnett (Edward Arnold) and Mrs. Linnett (Barbara Brown). Jackie is excited to see her old pal Warren James (Robert Hutton). Warren is smitten with Jackie and the feeling is mutual. After having not seen each other in 5 years they both are surprised and pleased to see each other again. However, the voluptuous Jo, clad in a scintillating bathing suit, catches Warren's eye. Much to Jackie's chagrin those two start dating. When Mr. and Mrs. Linnett sponsor a local country club dance, everyone's got a date except for Jackie. Will Jackie be able to come out of her shell and blossom from wallflower to desirable match for Warren? Will Warren realize that Jackie, not Joy, is the girl for him?

Released by Warner Bros. Wallflower (1948) is a whacky screwball comedy. Just the sort of light fare needed for a post-WWII generation. It's directed by Frederick De Cordova who is best known as the longtime executive of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He worked on the show for 22 years and stayed on in an advisory capacity when Jay Leno took over and did so until his death in 2001. In the mid-to-late 1940s De Cordova was mostly working on romantic comedies. Wallflower was based on a play by Reginald Denham and Mary Orr. It was adapted to the screen by husband and wife team Henry and Phoebe Ephron. The Ephrons worked together on numerous films including There's No Business Like Show Business (1954), Daddy Long Legs (1955), and Captain Newman M.D. (1963). They're also the parents of one of my favorite directors/writers Nora Ephron.

The story starts off as a sweet family comedy about two very close sisters, as different as can be, and their meddling yet clueless parents. When Hutton's Warren steps into the picture it escalates into a screwball comedy complete with a drunken attempt at elopement. Several scenes in the film reminded me of Good News (1947) and It's a Wonderful Life (1946). There's nothing earth shattering here. This is light 1940s fluff for people who love 1940s fluff. And if that's not your thing then this movie is not for you.

As of the publication of this article, female leads Joyce Reynolds and Janis Paige are still with us. This is quite remarkable for a film from the 1940s! Reynolds had a very short lived career with Warner Bros. Just as she was getting more starring roles in films, she abruptly retired from the film industry after making her final movie Girl's School (1950). Paige went on to have a long career in TV and film. Reynolds and Paige are a delight in Wallflower. I love that their characters are not pitted against each other even with their differences and competition for the same man. There's no real animosity between the two.




Wallflower (1948) is new to DVD and available from the Warner Archive Collection. When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thanks!

George, Matt and D.W. discuss Wallflower on the Warner Archive Podcast's October Sweet Horror episode (about 18 minutes). George Feltenstein calls the film "buoyant and charming".

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me a copy of Wallflower (1948) for review!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers





curated by Shelley Stamp



In collaboration with the Library of Congress, Kino Lorber and film historian Shelley Stamp have curated an impressive and comprehensive collection of early female directed films. Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers is a 6 disc Blu-ray set (also comes in DVD format) that contains over 50 films ranging from shorts, feature films and incomplete movies. The set also includes 8 short informational documentaries, various commentary tracks and original music. What began as a Kickstarter campaign now is is a bonafide piece of film history that any movie buff would be proud to own.

We talk about Pre-Codes, that time period after the silent film era and before the strict enforcement of the Hays Code, when filmmakers had more free rein on releasing films with explicit content. But what about the pre-studio era of silent films? In the early days of motion pictures, the art form wasn’t taken seriously. This opened doors for African-American, Jewish and Female filmmakers to use their creative talents in a new field. Being a film director was a viable career for women because there was no set gender standard. According to film historian Cari Beauchamp, there were over 100 movie studios in the 1910s and between 1920 and 1933 those consolidated into only 7. Along with the male-dominated unions and guilds that sprung up during this time, female filmmakers were shut out making room for the male directors who would take over Hollywood. For one glorious period in early film history however, there was an output of great films that ranged in breadth, depth and subject matter.

“The films that these female pioneers wrote, produced, and often directed have an emotional depth one doesn’t find in other films.” – Ileana Douglas

Included in Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers are 58 of these films, each offering a look into an incredible time in the early history of film. Each disc is arranged by theme and a handful of the films included are exclusive to the Blu-ray set which makes that one even more valuable. With 80% of silent films lost, it’s incredibly important to appreciate what we have and that includes incomplete films. According to Rob Stone, Moving Image Curator for the Library of Congress, fragments tend to languish in vaults and are even more forgotten than whole surviving films. I’m grateful that the Pioneers set includes fragments as well films with some damage, restored to the best of the ability of the preservationists who worked on this project.

Each of the 6 discs contains extras, either commentary tracks or documentaries, averaging about 15 minutes each, on different subjects. These documentaries add real value to the set and I encourage you to watch them before tackling any of the films. They provide context and background information that is crucial to appreciating the movies you are about to see. The talking heads in these docs include principal curator Shelley Stamp as well as other curators, film historians, experts, archivists, preservationists, etc. My only small critique is that these extras start rather abruptly and could have used a short intro for more ease in viewing.

In addition to the docs and commentary is a 76 page booklet which includes an introduction by Ileana Douglas, an essay on the history of female filmmaking by Shelley Stamp, essays on the restoration and spotlights on one particular film and one particular filmmaker, information about the Women’s Film Preservation Fund and a thorough index of credits for the films included in the set. It’s a substantial booklet that reads like a film history book on its own. Another element that adds a lot of value to the set is the original music by silent film accompanists and composers such as Ben Model, the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, Renee C. Baker, Makia Matsumura, Maud Nelissen, Dana Reason, Aleksandra Vrebalov, etc. I was particularly struck by the score for Back to God’s Country (1919) by Dana Reason and Salome (1923) by Aleksandra Vrebalov.

Going through the Pioneers set was an education in itself. It’s feminist film history in a box. These trailbrazers set a precedent that film history has forgotten and it’s up to us to make sure those lessons are not lost. The subject matters range from gender identity, marriage, adultery, birth control, religion, sexual abuse, etc. However not all of these directors were progressive proto-feminists. Lois Weber for example was a former missionary and had very conservative views. As we’ve learned over the years of studying the history of film, the more perspectives the better.

Some of my favorite films in this set include Mabel Normand’s comedies, Alice Guy Blache’s rags-to-riches-to-rags short A Fool and His Money (1912), Zora Neale Hurston's ethnograph vignettes of African-American life in rural Florida circa 1928, Lois Weber’s controversial feature Where Are My Children? (1916) (starring Tyrone Power Sr.!), Weber’s marital drama Too Wise Wives (1921) (featuring a very young Louis Calhern), Nell Shipman’s Back to God’s Country (1919) (she’s my favorite of the early female filmmakers) and Nazimova’s fantastical Salome (1923).

The Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers set contains the following:

Disc 1: Alice Guy-Blaché 
Disc 2: Lois Weber
Disc 3: Genre Pioneers
Discs 4 & 5: Social Commentary
Disc 6: Feature Films Era

Directed by Alice Guy-Blaché 
Greater Love Hath No Man (1911)
Tramp Strategy (1911)
Algie the Miner (1912)
Canned Harmony (1912)
Falling Leaves (1912)
A Fool and His Money (1912)
The High Cost of Living (1912)
The Little Rangers (1912)
Burstup Homes' Murder Case (1913)
The Coming of Sunbeam (1913)
A House Divided (1913)
Matrimony's Speed Limit (1913)
The Ocean Waif (1916)

Directed by Lois Weber
On the Brink (1911)
Fine Feathers (1912)
From Death to Life (1912)
Hypocrites (1912)
The Rosary (1913)
Suspense (1913)
Lost By a Hair (1915)
Sunshine Molly (1915)
Idle Wives (1916)
Scandal (aka Scandal Mongers) (1916)
Where Are My Children? (1916)
Too Wise Wives (1921)
What Do Men Want? (1921)

Directed by Helen Holmes
Hazards of Helen Ep. 09: Leap From the Water Tower (1915)
Hazards of Helen Ep.13: The Escape on the Fast Freight (1915)
The Hazards of Helen Ep. 26: Wild Engine (1915)

Directed by Grace Cunard
Purple Mask, The; Episode 5, Part 1 (1917)
Purple Mask, The: Episode 12 (Vault of Mystery) (1917)
Purple Mask, The; Episode 13, Part 1 (The Leap) (1917)
A Daughter of "The Law" (1921)

Directed by Mabel Normand
Caught in a Cabaret (1914)
Mabel's Blunder (1914)
Mabel Lost and Won (1915)
Mabel and Fatty's Wash Day (1916)

Directed by Nell Shipman
Back to God's Country (1919)
Something New (1920)

Directed by Ida May Park
The Risky Road (1918)
Bread (1918)
Broadway Love (1918)

Miscellaneous
49 - '17 (1917) directed by Ruth Ann Baldwin
The Colleen Bawn (1911) script by Gene Gauntier
That Ice Ticket (1923) directed by Angela Murray Gibson
Ethnographic Films (1929) directed by Zora Neale Hurston
The Call of the Cumberlands (1916) directed by Julia Crawford Ivers
Motherhood: Life's Greatest Miracle (1925) directed by Lita Lawrence
Eleanor's Catch (1916) directed by Cleo Madison
Her Defiance (1916) directed by Cleo Madison
The Song of Love (1923) directed by dir. Frances Marion
Salome (1923) produced by Alla Nazimova
The Red Kimona (1925) directed by Dorothy Davenport Reid
Linda (1929) directed by Dorothy Davenport Reid
When Little Lindy Sang (1916) directed by Lule Warrenton
The Cricket (1917) directed by Elsie Jane Wilson
The Dream Lady (1918) directed by Elsie Jane Wilson
Curse of Quon Gwon: When the Far East Mingle with the West (1916) directed by Marion E. Wong

Extras/Short Documentaries
An Introduction to Series
About the Restorations
Alice Guy-Blache
Lois Weber
Mabel Normand
Serial Queens
Social Commentary
The End of an Era








Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers for review.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Christmas in the Movies: 30 Classics to Celebrate the Season by Jeremy Arnold

Christmas in the Movies
30 Classics to Celebrate the Season
by Jeremy Arnold
Turner Classic Movies/Running Press
Hardcover ISBN: 97807624924801
October 2018
208 pages

Amazon — Barnes and Noble — Powell's— TCM Shop


You can’t watch 30 Christmas movies in one day. But you can experience them all in one afternoon with Jeremy Arnold’s new book Christmas in the Movies: 30 Classics to Celebrate the Season. Starting with Miracle on Main Street (1939) and ending with Love, Actually (2003), this new genre book from Turner Classic Movies’ joint imprint with Running Press captures the spirit of the holiday with the most beloved of the beloved Christmas classics.

Each of the 30 films gets a 5-6 page treatment with photos, credits, an overview of the plot, and information on how the movie came to be made and how it uses the holiday to tell its story. There is also a Holiday Moment aside which describes a particularly Christmassy scene from the film. All the classics are here including Remember the Night (1940), Holiday Inn (1942), Meet Me In St. Louis (1944), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), White Christmas (1954), etc . And my personal favorites Christmas in Connecticut (1945) and Holiday Affair (1949) are in here too. Arnold spotlights films that either completely framed within the holiday or they feature Christmas in a significant way. Some of the latter include The Apartment (1960), Gremlins (1984), and Die Hard (1988) (which people love to proclaim is or is not a Christmas movie). Modern classics featured in the book include Little Women (1994), Elf (2003) and Love, Actually (2003) among others.








Why are Christmas movies so enduring? Arnold explains that they conjure up feelings of nostalgia, they focus on family dynamics, they lend themselves to the rituals of the holiday and their feel-good vibes and happy endings make them utterly enjoyable to movie going audiences.

Reading about each of these movies taps into the pleasure that the films themselves. I really enjoyed Arnold’s narrative voice which is very welcoming. The book goes down easy like a cup of hot cocoa with extra marshmallows. While the articles featured are not ground-breaking, I found some nugget of information to take away from almost every single one. You may know everything there is to know about Christmas movies (or can easily Google the information you need) but I don’t think that will hamper your appreciation of this book. I learned the most from the Love, Actually article, a film I used to adore but have grown to dislike over the years and have been meaning to revisit, and was interested in the background of how the story came to be. And there are a few films I had never seen before, including Miracle on Main Street and The Holly and the Ivy (1952) that I bookmarked for future viewing.

Some interesting tidbits include:


  • The original and final lyrics for “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", the song written for Meet Me In St. Louis, are presented side by side in the book. I’m glad they were changed because the original song was quite dark.
  • There was a backlash against Alastair Sim starring as Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1951 adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge
  • Warner Bros. threw a parade in Norwalk, CT for the premiere of Christmas in Connecticut.
  • I got a newfound appreciation for how TV was instrumental in making so many overlooked Christmas movies into widely appreciated classics.
  • The idea for The Apartment came to Billy Wilder after he saw one particular scene in Brief Encounter (1945)


Christmas in the Movies is a keepsake treasure perfect for gift giving. And it’s very likely that if your loved one doesn’t watch classic movies that they’ve seen several of the classic Christmas films listed in the book. It’s beautifully designed and I particularly liked its more compact size. If you’re looking for a coffee table type book this is not it. It’s better suited on your mantle next to your Elf on the shelf and above your Christmas stocking.

Thank you to Jeremy Arnold and Running Press for sending me a copy of Christmas in the Movies for review.

Monday, December 3, 2018

2018 Classic Film Holiday Gift Guide



Another holiday season is upon us and if you're looking for a gift for the classic film lover in your life you've come to the right place. Today I present to you my 2018 Classic Film Holiday Gift Guide. Here you'll find a variety of gift ideas that would make for great stocking stuffers or wrapped presents under the tree. Or if you're looking for great products to buy for yourself with gift cards or holiday cash, I have some nice selections for you. Yay for physical media!

The guide is split into two sections. These are some of the products that I've enjoyed over the past year. The second section is my personal wish list of items I have my eye on.

When you use my buy links to do your holiday shopping you help support this site. Thank you!

As always, I'd love to hear from you. In the comment section below tell me which of these items appeals to you or would make a great gift for a loved one. And I want to know what's on your holiday wish list this year!






Kino Lorber's Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers Blu-ray Set

An ambitious project resulted in one of the most impressive film boxed sets ever released. A must have for film historians and feminists alike, this set includes a variety of female directed silent films and a bunch of amazing extras. Review to come!


And if you're passionate about supporting women in film, check out Alicia Malone's latest book. 

The Female Gaze Essential Movies Made by Women by Alicia Malone (Review)




Warner Archive Blu-rays

2018 was an especially good year for Blu-ray releases from the Warner Archive Collection. They keep cranking out some great discs and I'm forever grateful. Here are four of my favorites from this year. No surprise that two of them are Fritz Lang films!

Harper (1966) Blu-ray (Review)

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956) Blu-ray (Review)

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) Blu-ray (Review)

While the City Sleeps (1956) Blu-ray (Review)



Warner Archive DVDs

The good folks at the Warner Archive Collection keep digging into their vaults to find more treasures for us classic film lovers to enjoy. Whether it's a film new to DVD or one that's gone out of print, access is key and WAC is making that happen. Here are three previously unreleased films now available on DVD-MOD.

Hide-Out (1934)

Comet Over Broadway (1938) (Review)
Amazon  — TCM Shop — WB Shop

Tender Comrade (1943) (Review)



Kino Lorber Blu-rays

Kino Lorber has been growing their classic film Blu-ray and DVD releases for their main catalog and also for their Studio Classics line. A lot of these are independent releases, not attached to a particular studio, and it's great that KL has stepped in to give these films the release they deserve. Here are some of my favorites from this year.

Lisbon (1956) Blu-ray

The Woman in the Window (1944) Blu-ray (Review)

Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939) Blu-ray (Review)

Trapeze (1956) Blu-ray (Review)



Olive Films Blu-rays

Olive Films continues to release unique offerings that keep us cinephiles happy. Whether it's their super deluxe Signature Editions that sell like hotcakes or their regular Blu-ray and DVD releases jam packed with extras, there is much to enjoy from their catalog. Here are some of my favorite Olive Films Blu-ray releases from 2018.

Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) Blu-ray (Review)

The Miracle Worker (1962) Blu-ray (Review)

Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) Blu-ray (Review)

Mr. Capra Goes to War: Frank Capra's World War II Documentaries Blu-ray (Review)




TCM and Running Press Genre Books

Running Press' joint imprint with Turner Classic Movies keeps cranking out some really great classic film books. I feel like they're hitting their stride with these two genre books. 

Must See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World by Sloan de Forest (Review)

Christmas in the Movies: 50 Classics to Celebrate the Season by Jeremy Arnold (Review coming soon!)



TIME Life Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In

Earlier this year I celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In with a look back at the history behind this zany and hilarious show. TIME Life has released individual seasons in DVD boxed sets and the second season happens to be my personal favorite.

Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In: The Complete Second Season DVD Set (Review)
Complete collection available at TIME Life







Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes' Hollywood
by Karina Longworth

I'm endlessly fascinated with Howard Hughes and his impact, both negative and positive, on Hollywood. And being familiar with Longworth's podcast You Must Remember This, I know her new book will be well-researched and juicy!




Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
by William J. Mann 

Hearing Vanessa Buttino discuss this book on the Movie Palace Podcast made me move it up further on my wish list of must have books! Watch her Book Talk on YouTube for more details.

Amazon — Barnes and Noble — Powell's 



Notorious (1946) Criterion Collection Blu-ray

My husband and I realized we don't have a copy of this Hitchcock classic so we're holding out for the upcoming Criterion release which looks amazing. Just look at

Coming January 2019


Fandango Gift Cards

I love watching movies on the big screen but it can get pricey. I was treated to a few gift cards this year and I felt absolutely pampered.

Fandango Shop


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Big Steal (1949)




This post is sponsored by DVD Netflix.

In 1949 RKO found themselves in a bit of a bind. Their latest project, The Big Steal, was already in the works when their star, Robert Mitchum, found himself in the clink for possession of narcotics. A couple of years earlier RKO had purchased Richard Worsmer’s short story from Columbia Pictures. They had planned to make the film with their star Chester Morris. When RKO bought the rights they turned to Daniel Mainwaring (aka Geoffrey Homes) to adapt the screenplay. They needed a leading lady and RKO made a deal with Hal Wallis for him to loan out Lizabeth Scott. But with Mitchum’s headline making scandal Scott and Wallis wanted nothing more to do with the project. No one knew exactly what effect Mitchum’s incarceration would have on his career. RKO chief Howard Hughes wasn’t about to his star Jane Russell be associated with Mitchum. At least not for a few more years when Mitchum and Russell made His Kind of Woman (1951) and Macao (1952). Hughes and his team needed what The Washington Post called “a bankable last-minute casting replacement.” And that replacement was Jane Greer.



Mitchum and Greer had starred together in the film noir Out of the Past (1947). It was a natural fit to reunite them for The Big Steal. “The woman with the Mona Lisa smile” had fond memories of working for RKO and would tell stories of the family atmosphere of the studio. They groomed their stars and had an active role in training them and building their careers from the ground up. In the early days of her career she auditioned for several studios and moguls but it was independent producer Howard Hughes who signed her up for a contract. Hughes was obsessed with Greer and would deny her work when she didn’t return his affection. She managed to get out of that contract and sign up with RKO. However Hughes bought RKO a few years later and was back in control of Greer’s acting career. In an interview with journalist James Bawden, Greer said,

“He had bought RKO and I figured I was through. But he was still fixated with me. When I was well enough to work, he simply stopped sending scripts. Had to pay me or the contract would have blown up. But just to get at me, he sent the checks and no work offers. Refused to loan me out. He was going to punish me for marrying someone else. He was going to make me suffer.”

It’s sad that we can’t discuss Jane Greer’s work without talking about all the times Hughes tried to sabotage it. In the case of The Big Steal, Hughes placed in a precarious position of starring alongside an actor with a potentially tarnished reputation. But little did Hughes know that Mitchum’s arrest would have the opposite affect on his career and that audiences would embrace seeing Greer and Mitchum on screen once again.

“Never mind where you’ve been just worry where you’re going.”

The Big Steal stars Robert Mitchum as Duke Halliday, an army lieutenant on the run from his captain Vincent Blake (William Bendix) who thinks Duke stole $300,000 cash from the Army. Blake follows Halliday to Mexico where Halliday is on the chase for the person who actually stole the money, Jim Fiske (Patric Knowles). Along the way Halliday meets Joan Graham (Jane Greer), Fiske’s girlfriend and another victim of Fiske’s double-crossing schemes. Halliday and Graham do not get along. It’s a battle of wits between these two. Just as Halliday has Fiske in his grasp, he’s thwarted by police inspector General Ortega (Ramon Novarro). Halliday hitches a ride with Graham, much to her dismay, and the two set off on a wild goose chase through the Mexican countryside in search of Fiske. With Blake on their tail and a lot of obstacles in their way, this unlikely pair are about to find out that not everything is as it seems.

Film historian James Ursini refers to The Big Steal as “screwball comedy meets film noir.” You may watch this film and wonder what’s so noir about it. It’s truly a hybrid film, much lighter fare than Mitchum and Greer’s Out of the Past (1947). This was an opportunity for the two to tap into their comedic talents. Greer’s lost a bit of her youthful glow and not as soft and deceptively innocent looking as she was in the role of Kathie Moffat. Greer’s Joan Graham is wise and world-weary. She has the ingenuity to keep things moving along especially when Duke stalls. Their scenes together are playful. Halliday calls her “Chiquita”, Spanish for small. He makes fun of Graham’s driving only to discover that his sexist remark is completely unfounded: she’s a more than competent driver and can tackle the winding roads at great speed. She's the sidekick he needed. They don’t trust each other at first but soon develop a sweet affection for each other that blossoms into a romance but also makes them protective of each other. Theirs is a hate-love relationship whereas in Out of the Past it was very much love-hate.

Shot on location in Mexico, relative newcomer, director Don Siegel, had to keep production going while Mitchum served his time in the LA County jail. In an interview, Greer remembers, “We all sat around for two months getting paid and waiting for our leading man to reappear.” Any scene that could be shot without Mitchum or with a stand-in was filmed. Mitchum was released from jail in March 1949 and it was full speed ahead for production. There was another time crunch to deal with. Greer was pregnant with her second child and starting to show. What resulted was a taut little 71 minute movie, a non-stop chase movie with some continuity errors but no room for needless lingering. One notable aspect of the film is the depiction of Mexicans in the film. They are wary of tourists, especially American ones. Graham chastises Halliday for treating various Mexican characters in an abrupt manner. It’s clear that Graham and Halliday have to work with the locals rather than have the locals work for them. As a Latina, I look for the representation of Latino characters in film and I found these scenes kind of refreshing.

For fans of Out of the Past (1947), seeing Mitchum and Greer together again, albeit in a very different type of movie, is a treat. It’s not a great film but it’s enjoyable viewing for Noirvember. Stay tuned because I have an in-depth article on Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum coming up in the annual "giant" issue of The Dark Pages newsletter.



Disclaimer: As a DVD Nation director, I earn rewards from DVD Netflix. You can rent The Big Steal on DVD.com.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Female Gaze by Alicia Malone


The Female Gaze
Essential Movies Made by Women
by Alicia Malone
Various Contributors
Hardcover ISBN: 9781633538375
Mango
November 2018

AmazonBarnes and NoblePowell's

“I think there is still a misconception that all directors are Cecil B. De Mille types with a loud voice and a whip. Perhaps maybe that’s why there’s always been some puzzlement about a woman in the director’s role.” – Gillian Armstrong

TCM host and film expert Alicia Malone's follow-up to her book Backwards and in Heels, is a comprehensive guide to the history of female directors in Hollywood and beyond. The Female Gaze: Essential Movies Made By Women catalogs over 50 films, directed by women, in chronological order from 1906 to present day. The book is a mix of articles written by Malone as well as a variety of female film critics and experts.

Malone's articles in particular are in-depth studies of particular films with an examination of the plot, behind the scenes information and biographical details on the woman director. Malone also focuses on the director's career, especially before, during and after making the discussed film. A common thread in her research, something Malone will tell you herself, is that the success of a movie made by a woman director does not necessarily open doors to other work. Looking at the chronological order of the book we see far more female directed films in this century than in the previous one. However, even today, women directors still face an uphill battle to get their movies made.


“With conversations about women’s experiences in Hollywood currently at fever pitch, I am often asked how to best support women in film. The answer? Watch movies made by women.” - Alicia Malone

Why does this matter? If you're a woman on film Twitter, you've had a man try to explain to you (i.e. mansplain) that there is no difference between a male and female director in terms of the end product. But the truth is that there is a difference. A big one. Representation matters and having a diverse group of voices helps us avoid the reinforcement of stereotypes and caricatures and gives us new perspectives that both enlighten and inform. Malone's book is invaluable not only in that it spotlights the female filmmakers but it also explains how their visions made their film unique. Reading each essay, especially about the films I hadn't seen, felt like uncovering a new treasure.

In addition to Malone's articles are a variety of short form pieces by other female film critics. I was happy to see familiar names including friends Marya Gates, Farran Smith Nehme, Danielle Solzman and so on. In a few cases one movie is discussed twice and because the pieces are by two different writers it gives a nice balance of perspectives. And for those of you worried that the book is too one-sided, there are quotes from male voices too including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Robert Osborne, Roger Ebert, Barry Jenkins, etc.

The Female Gaze is more skewed to 21st century films but there are some fine articles about early movies that classic film fans will enjoy. Pieces on Alice Guy-Blache's The Consequences of Feminism (1906), Germaine Dulac's La Souriante Madame Beudet (1922), Dorothy Arzner's Dance, Girl, Dance (1940), Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker (1953). I wish there were a few more articles about classic female film directors. Maybe one on my favorite early female director Nell Shipman would have been a nice addition. If you picked up Kino Lorber's Pioneers First Women Filmmakers boxed set (review coming soon!), a collection of silent films made by female film directors, Malone's book would make for a nice companion.

Alicia Malone’s The Female Gaze shines a much needed spotlight on female filmmakers and their movies. This is an indispensable resource for film historians and feminists alike.

Thank you to Mango for sending me an electronic copy of The Female Gaze for review. 

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