Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ One Minute to Zero (1952)

One Minute to Zero (1952) is a war drama that explores the conflict between humanitarian efforts and the inherent atrocities of war. This story is told through the lens of the Korean War and magnified through the love story of the two main characters. Robert Mitchum plays Colonel Steve Janowski, an American Colonel fighting to help protect the South Koreans from an imminent North Korean invasion.  Steve thinks he has everything under control until he meets his match with Mrs. Linda Day (Ann Blyth), an official from the United Nations on a humanitarian mission to help in South Korea. Steve has to evacuate all Americans from Seoul but Linda refuses to leave because she still sees much to do to help the South Koreans. They are both fighting for the same cause but have very different points of view on how it should be done.

Steve and Linda begin to fall in love when Steve saves Linda from an air raid. That moment of danger heightens their attraction to each other. Steve keeps having to save the stubborn and reluctant Linda who keeps putting herself into danger. Linda is no damsel in distress though. She doesn't always realize the gravity of the situations she puts herself in but it's because she is determined to carry out her humanitarian mission is sometimes blinded by her will to do good.

Steve carries Linda over his shoulder but she fights him the whole time.

The romantic plot line is at the forefront of the story but this movie does not romanticize war. The film contains a lot of real footage from the Korean War which is both fascinating and often times difficult to watch. There is one very intense scene in which Steve has to reluctantly make a decision about attacking a group of refugees because North Korean rebels have hid themselves amongst a group of them as they march across the border. Linda watches this with dismay. This is a pivotal scene in the movie and very effective. Not only do we mourn the terrible loss of innocent civilians but also the deaths of American troops who leave loved ones behind.

Even with it's very serious subject, there are some light moments too. I think it is absolutely crucial than in any heavy drama but there be moments of respite. A little bit of humor goes a long way. Otherwise you'll be overwhelmed and will not be receptive to the story as a whole. There is a funny scene in the beginning of the film when Colonels Steve and John (William Talman) are getting ready and Steve realizes he needs to get his trousers mended.

Steve steps out of the room to hand his pants to a bellboy and John locks him out of their room. Linda catches Steve in the hallway without his pants on.

Seeing Mitchum both topless and pantless made me smile!

This is a great war drama for those who want a sobering story that really takes a harsh look at the realities of war. Blyth and Mitchum are charming and while their chemistry isn't electric you really do come to appreciate that their characters are meant for each other and they would see that if only they could set aside their differences.

Also, this movie is very relevant today considering the ongoing problems with North Korea and the growing tensions between North and South Korea. It's always great to tie in a classic film to current events especially when you are trying to get someone interested in older movies.

One Minute To Zero from Warner Bros.

One Minute To Zero  (1952) is available on DVD MOD from the Warner Archive Collection.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received One Minute to Zero (1952) from Warner Archive for review.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ So This is College (1929)


So This is College (1929) is fun collegiate romp and comes to us from the early talkie era. Eddie (Elliott Nugent) and Biff (Robert Montgomery) are college roommates at a USC fraternity and best buddies.

Their bromance has carried them through until their senior year. They compete and razz each other all the time but still have a special bond and are a fiercely loyal pair. However, their friendship is tested when they both fall head-over-heels for the new girl on campus Babs (Sally Starr). They've fought over girls in the past but it has never gone this far. Babs relishes the attention both Eddie and Biff smother her with. But she is reluctant to commit to Biff who is the first of the two whom she shows interest in. She likes the control she has over both of them so when Eddie lays off her for Biff's sake, this drives Babs crazy and she starts to turn her affections to him.

It's not very often when you encounter a story that has your rooting for the bromance and against the traditional male-female romance. It was quite refreshing! I enjoyed the performances by Montgomery and Nugent and there were some scenes that bordered on the homoerotic and made me want to see them end up as a couple at the end. If anything, they have a beautiful friendship that really shines through in the story even when they are going through a rather difficult time.

Other notable cast members include Cliff Edwards (aka Ukulele Ike) who has a supporting role as Windy, a ukulele playing fraternity brother with a penchant for jokes and an ear for music. Ann Dvorak and Joel McCrea also have bit parts .

There are not that many full talkies from the 1920s, so each one of them is a gem in my opinion. So This is College sets out to entertain. It's not an All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing! picture but it is a full talkie with all three elements involved. Plus there is the collegiate setting (with lots of freshman hazing), football and a serious love triangle. College football is a big part of the story. Biff and Eddie are the top USC football stars and their friendship is key how well the team performs. Both the friendship and the team are put into jeopardy because of Babs. I wanted to sock Babs in the face (and run off with her cloche hat) in pretty much every scene she was in.

The story reminds me of Good News (1947) especially with the new girl who doesn't care who she falls for because she just likes the attention. In fact, I'd say that Good News (1947) is like an amalgamation of Good News (1930) and So This is College (1929). I'd say Pat McLellan (Patricia Marshall) from Good News (1947) is another Babs from So This is College!

IMDB notes that real football footage from a USC vs. Stanford game was used in the movie and that Sally Starr was considered to be a vest pocket sized Clara Bow. And even though this isn't Good News (1947), it's interesting to note that Patricia Marshall may be the last surviving cast member from that movie.

So This Is College from Warner Bros.

So This Is College (1929) is available as a DVD MOD from Warner Archive.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I rented So This is College (1929) from Classicflix. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

2013 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge

This week marks Out of the Past's 6th Blog Anniversary! I would like to celebrate by hosting a 2013 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge.

Your challenge, if you choose to accept, is to read up to 6 classic film related books this summer. You can read 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 books total but your challenge is to try to read six if you can! This summer reading challenge starts now and ends on September 15th, 2013. The books must be read and reviewed online before the challenge is over.

What counts as a classic film book?
  • Biography/Interviews/Letters/Autobiography/Memoir of an Actor/Actress/Director/Other Cast or Crew Member
  • Book about films – specific film(s), genre, film-making process, etc.
  • A photography or art book related to classic films, fashion, style or an Actor/Actress/Director/Other Cast or Crew Member
  • Film criticism or analysis
  • 20th Century Novel that was adapted into a Classic Film
  • Novel that is about a Classic film or an actor/actress from Old Hollywood
Check out my list at the bottom of this post for examples of books in each category.

How many books should you read?

You can read one book in each category, 6 books in one category or mix it up. It’s whatever you want! You can read a book you’ve never read before or re-read an old favorite. The book can be brand new or long out-of-print. For me, classic films are ones from 1969 and earlier. If you want to include the 1970s, that’s fine too! I know not everyone has time to read 6 books so I’ll leave it up to you if you want to read less than that. Also, if you recently finished a book or are in the middle of one, you can count that too!

If you do complete all 6 by September 15th , you’ll be eligible to win a prize pack I will be giving away. Details on that to come.

How should you post the reviews?

You must review each book online and you can do this one of two ways. Post reviews on your blog or post reviews on Goodreads. Your review must be public somehow! Reviews on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other general social media forums do not count.

If you have a blog, feel free to add this button to your review post!

Grab button for 2013 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge
<div class="2013 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge" style="width: 250px; margin: 0 auto;"> <a href="" rel="nofollow"> <img src="" alt="2013 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge " width="250" height="197" /> </a> </div>

When should you post the reviews?

Reviews must be brand new and posted from now until September 15th. I will not be accepting links to old reviews (I'll let it slide if it was a review from early June of this year!).

If you are interested in signing up, please add your name, email address and either your blog or Goodreads profile page to the form below. I’ll be checking up on folks throughout the summer and will be sharing links to book reviews on here. The sign up form will be available from now until July 15th. (Form is now closed for entries. If you still want to participate, email me!)


Biography/Interviews/Letters/Autobiography/Memoir of an Actor/Actress/Director/Other Cast or Crew Member 

Spencer Tracy by James Curtis
My Lunches with Orson: Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles 
Unsinkable: A Memoir by Debbie Reynolds 
Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak
Hollywood Unknowns by Anthony Slide
Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes

Book about films – specific film(s), genre, filmmaking process, etc.  
Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang
My Life with Cleopatra: The Making of a Hollywood Classics by Walter Wanger and Joe Hyams
The Night of the Hunter: A Biography of a Film by Jeffrey Couchman
The Noir Forties: The American People From Victory to Cold War by Richard Lingeman
Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture by Peter Kobel
A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film by Richard Barrios

A photography or art book related to classic films, fashion, style or an Actor/Actress/Director/Other Cast or Crew Member
Classic Hollywood Style by Caroline Young 
Hollywood Movie Stills by Joel W. Finler
Icons of Men’s Style by Josh Sims 
Lana Turner: The Memories, the Myths, the Movies by Cheryl Crane and Cindy De La Hoz
Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design by Jennifer Bass 
Weddings and Movie Stars by Tony Nourmand et. al. 

Film criticism, analysis or theme 
Being Rita Hayworth: Labor, Identity and Hollywood Stardom by Adrienne McLean
Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood by Mick LaSalle
Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein
I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies by Jeanine Basinger
The Leading Man: Hollywood and the Presidential Image by Burton W. Peretti  
Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics by Steven J. Ross

20th Century Novel that was adapted into a Classic Film  
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Young Man with a Horn by Dorothy Baker

Novel about a Classic film or an actor/actress from Old Hollywood 
Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton by Matt Phelan
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (Louise Brooks)
The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg
The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe by Andrew O’Hagan
The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson  (Errol Flynn)
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Robert Osborne interviews Ann Blyth at a screening of Mildred Pierce (1945)

Ceiling of the Grauman's Egyptian Theatre

Press Photo
I had the privilege of attending a special screening of Mildred Pierce (1945) at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood as part of the TCM Classic Film Festival. This event was #1 on my list of all the events and screenings I wanted to attend.

I will try to transcribe the interview that happened before the screening to the best of my ability. It's not word-for-word and some paraphrasing is used.

Robert Osborne introduced Ann Blyth and said she was one of the sweetest nicest people in the world. But we all know her as Veda, the evil daughter in Mildred Pierce (1945). He encouraged us all to hiss and boo at her now and get it over with. To which Ann Blyth responded "I don't care."

Robert Osborne: Osborne notes that Blyth was so wonderful as the evil Veda but she was never typecast because of that role. It's kind of a miracle given Hollywood tendency to typecast during that time period. After Mildred Pierce, Blyth went on to play very lovely ingenues, very nice ladies, etc. Osborne asked Blyth how she came to play Veda in Mildred Pierce.

Ann Blyth: Blyth had to test for the part and she learned much later that a lot of actresses tested for the same role. She says that she was the lucky one and mentions hitting it off with director Michael Curtiz. Joan Crawford did the test with Blyth which was very unusual for a star of Crawford's stature at that time. It made a huge difference in how Blyth started to think about the character having the actress who will be playing opposite her as her mother doing the test with her.

Osborne: We hear so many negative stories about Joan Crawford

Blyth: "I have nothing but wonderful memories of her." Blyth said it was a wonderful learning experience working with Joan Crawford. Crawford was kind to her all during the making of the movie and in private afterwards for many, many years.

Osborne: Blyth was an actress on Broadway and was in Watch on the Rhine as a very young girl.

Blyth: Blyth noted that that was what brought her to Los Angeles and Universal Pictures.

Osborne: Osborne notes that Blyth was loaned out to Warner Bros.

Blyth: And every other studio too! Paramount, 20th Century Fox, etc. She was sent to London to do a picture with Tyrone Power [I'll Never Forget You (1951)]. Blyth got excited talking about Power and remembering his beautiful face and gorgeous brown eyes.

Osborne: Osborne pointed out that Blyth had a batch of handsome leading co-stars.

Blyth: Someone had asked Blyth years ago who she would want to be stranded on a deserted island with. They started listing all the names of the men she had co-starred with and she responded "well, couldn't I take them all with me?"

Osborne: Osborne noted that Blyth's last film was with Paul Newman.

Blyth: Blyth said Newman was a dream and was always well-prepared and professional. That film was The Helen Morgan Story (1957) which was also directed by Michael Curtiz.

Osborne: Osborne asked if she had a favorite among the men she worked with.

Blyth: They were all so different, so talented each in their own particular way. Blyth noted that they were all so good looking and that was the easy part for her. It would be very hard for her to chose a favorite. Can't she chose them all? She had some of the best experiences with actors like Farley Granger, Gregory Peck, etc.

Osborne: Osborne pointed out that Blyth had made a few films in which her leading men were much much older than her. He included Charles Boyer as an example. Boyer was 29 years Blyth's senior [A Woman's Vengeance (1948)].

Blyth: It never entered her mind that these actors were much older. She just appreciated working with such wonderful and talented people. Age had nothing to do with it.

Osborne: Blyth has a wonderful singing voice but wasn't used in musicals for a long time.

Blyth: Blyth noted that she sang in her very first movie. Chip off the Old Block (1944) with Donald O'Connor. Universal didn't use her in musicals after she did Mildred Pierce but she did do a lot of musicals when she moved to MGM.

Osborne: Osborne asked Blyth if making musicals was fun for her.

Blyth: She replied yes especially because of all the beautiful music she was able to sing and called it a "hell of an experience."

Osborne: Osborne points out Kismet (1955), The Student Prince (1954), Rose Marie (1954) in particular. After Blyth treated us with a few musical notes, Osborne asked her why did she stop making films right after The Helen Morgan Story (1957).

Blyth: Things were really beginning to change a lot at that time. However, she did make a serious mistake because there was interest in her doing The Three Faces of Eve (1957) which she turned down. She reminisced that it would have been extraordinary to do that film. The role eventually went to Joanne Woodward.

Osborne: Osborne asked if it was different at each of the several studios she worked at.

Blyth: The movie she made with Tyrone Power was filmed in England so her experience with 20th Century Fox Studios didn't amount to very much. Blyth grew up at Universal so she has distinct memories of that studio. They had a little schoolhouse she attended. She had marvelous teachers when she was there and felt very cared for. They would be with her on the set of different films. Universal was a small studio in comparison to MGM and Paramount.

Osborne: Osborne pointed out to us that Blyth still stays in touch with a lot of her friends from her Hollywood days.

Blyth: Jane Powell, Jane Withers, Joan Leslie, etc. They get together at least 4 times a year especially during Christmas time (My interjection: CAN I HANG OUT WITH YOU LADIES TOO?!).

Blyth says that she feels very blessed and Osborne notes that we were all very blessed to have her there that day. And I agree! It was such a wonderful experience to hear Blyth talk and to watch her on the big screen in Mildred Pierce!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Unsinkable: A Memoir by Debbie Reynolds

Unsinkable: A Memoir by Debbie Reynolds
April 2013
William Morrow
320 pages

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In 1988, Debbie Reynold's autobiography Debbie: My Life was released. It depicted the often times tumultuous life of the perky and vivacious movie star who became famous with her roles in films such as Singin' in the Rain (1952) and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964). At the time of that book's publication, Reynolds was newly married to Richard Hamlett. Little did she know that more trials and tribulations were waiting around the corner.

Unsinkable: A Memoir picks up in the timeline of Debbie Reynolds life when she married Hamlett in 1984. Reynolds describes her tumultuous marriage to Hamlett, the messy divorce that followed, the rise and fall of her Las Vegas hotel, her daughter Carrie Fisher's emotional and physical problems, her relationship with her son Todd and the repeated disappointments and financial hardships she endured in trying to create a museum for her vast collection of movie memorabilia.

The book is divided into two parts. Part One follows Reynolds life from 1984 to 2011. Part Two kicks off at 2012 and dips back into time following her movie career from 1948 until 2013. It's mostly a continuation of her first autobiography but she does include plenty of information about her early movie career and her troubled marriages to Eddie Fisher and Harry Karl.

Reading Unsinkable was quite an interesting experience for me. Debbie Reynolds is very candid. Some readers might be a little uncomfortable with some of the things she reveals. I don't think I'll ever look at Tony Randall the same way after reading this book. But that very open and sharing nature is just Debbie Reynolds' style. Her personality definitely comes through, whether the writing is mostly hers or that of her co-wrieter Dorian Hannaway. Reynolds also makes some big revelations including the fact that she thinks her third husband Richard Hamlett tried to kill her.

Debbie Reynolds spends a lot of time in this book discussing her passion for movie memorabilia and how she treasured the costumes and props she purchased or collected over the years. In 2011, Reynolds was facing financial difficulties and after years of trying to create a museum for her memorabilia she made the controversial decision to sell the pieces at auction instead. The most famous piece was the white dress that Marilyn Monroe wore in the subway grate scene in The Seven Year Itch (1955). Reynolds spends a lot of time talking about the memorabilia, her attempts at creating the museum, her regrets and how it pained her to auction off all those pieces. She seems genuine enough but sometimes I wondered if she was trying to seek validation from her readers and her skeptics.

By Part Two, I wasn't sure if I would find much value in this book. Her stories were interesting and I was especially intrigued to read about her very complicated relationship with Elizabeth Taylor. However, one chapter into Part Two and I discovered the real value of the book. Starting on page 183, Reynolds goes back to 1948 to her very first movie and reminisces about (almost) each and every movie she made up until her most recent one Behind the Candlelabra (2013) in which she plays Liberace's mother (with whom she was good friends in real life). This part was the most interesting to me. She shares her personal experiences and memories from each of those films. This is what separates a biography from an autobiography in my opinion.

This book has its bias. Reynolds is not afraid to pass judgment on certain people in her life and with some of her over sharing I wonder what she is hiding as well. I tried to take most things in the book with a grain of salt. With that said, Debbie Reynolds is quite charming so it's very likely she'll win you over with her candid style.

So what do I really think of the book? If it wasn't for that movie-by-movie rundown in Part Two, I wouldn't have liked the book at all. That really saved it for me. I would recommend reading Unsinkable if you are very interested in Debbie Reynolds as an actress and a woman and definitely if you had read her first book. It's also for those of you who are curious about Debbie Reynolds' decision to sell her memorabilia and want to know her side of the story.

Thank you so much to William Morrow for sending me a copy of Unsinkable for review!

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