Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Vintage Movie Classics

Vintage Books (an imprint of Penguin Random House) has recently launched a new book series called Vintage Movie Classics. With this series they will bring back into print classic novels that inspired Hollywood movies. This month they launch the series with four paperback and e-book releases and will follow up with four more this Fall.

I was really excited to learn about this new series! I asked Vintage Books for some more information about the new series so I could share it here on this blog. Here is what they shared with me:

Vintage Books: For film buffs, the “classics” are the movies that can be watched and rewatched countless times, each viewing revealing something new—sometimes even a completely different meaning as viewers mature and times change. But even after countless viewings, have you ever wanted to know more about your favorite films? From its earliest days, Hollywood has turned to literature as the inspiration for some of its greatest movies. Now, with Vintage Movie Classics, film buffs can return to the source of some of their all-time favorite films. This spring Vintage Books will launch a new series of titles—Vintage Movie Classics—and re-issue four novels that were the basis of classics movies. The first four in the series are…

9780345805751 - paperback - $14.95 retail
9780345805768- ebook - $9.99 retail

CIMARRON (published in 1929) moves the action to the Oklahoma Land Rush, an explosive and lawless background against which criminal lawyer Yancey Cravat and his well-bred wife Sabra persevere to make a prosperous life for themselves. CIMARRON was twice made into a motion picture, most famously Wesley Ruggle’s 1931 take, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture and was the first film to be nominated for the coveted Big Five Academy Award categories—including nods for stars Richard Dix and Irene Dunne. Edna Ferber’s great-niece and biographer, Julie Gilbert, contributes a new foreword.

9780345805737  - paperback - $14.95 retail
9780307809018 - ebook - $9.99 retail 
(not all e-book retailers have this edition live yet)

SHOW BOAT: Pulitzer Prize-winner Edna Ferber’s SHOW BOAT (published in 1926), brings to life the adventurous world of Mississippi show boats, the grittiness of turn-of-the-century Chicago, and the majesty of Broadway in 1920s New York during an era of immense change. The basis for the revolutionary Broadway musical of the same name, SHOW BOAT went on to be filmed three times over three decades—including MGM’s 1951 blockbuster directed by George Sidney and starring Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, and Ava Gardner. Film historian Foster Hirsch contributes a new foreword.

9780804170802  - paperback - $14.95 retail
9780804170819  - ebook - $9.99 retail

ALICE ADAMS: Booth Tarkington’s 1921 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows the daughter of an impoverished family in a post-World War I Midwestern town. When she finds herself being pursued by a gentleman of a higher social class, Alice’s desperate attempts to keep her lower station a secret reveal the strength of the human spirit and its incredible ability to evolve. Filmed in 1935 by George Stevens, Alice Adams returned Katharine Hepburn to public favor and netted Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Actress. Film writer and Hepburn biographer Anne Edwards contributes a new foreword.

9780804170673 - paperback - $14.95 retail
9780804170680 - ebook - $9.99 retail

BACK STREET: From bestselling author Fannie Hurst, BACK STREET (published in 1931) tells the melodramatic and heart-wrenching tale of Ray Schmidt, a beautiful and talented dressmaker, whose devotion to a married man relegates her to the shadowy “back streets” of a life she’ll never have for herself. An instant success upon publication, BACK STREET has been filmed three times, memorably in a sudsy 1961 Ross Hunter production starring Susan Hayward, John Gavin, and Vera Miles; as well as the 1941 “weepie” starring Margaret Sullavan and Charles Boyer. Film historian Cari Beauchamp contributes a new foreword.

Future Releases include:

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by R. A. Dick
The Bitter Tea of General Yen by Grace Zaring Stone
The Bad Seed by William March
Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds

What do you think of this new series? I love that they are bringing these novels back into print and the packaging is quite stunning! And I also think it's great that these will have added content with  forewords by notable film historians and biographers.

Friday, March 21, 2014

TCM Film Festival 2014 – Updates and What We're Excited About

The highly coveted full shedule for the 2014 TCM Film Festival was posted yesterday. You can find it here and they also posted the full list of special guests here. I also have TCM’s official press release about the new updates on my Google+ page  (As a side note, I’m posting a lot more interesting content on my Google+ page for this blog. Press releases, interesting links, photos, news bits, etc. I highly suggest you follow it!) The festival’s theme is Family in the Movies: The Ties that Bind  with sub-themes including Dysfunctional Families, Single Mothers, Sister Acts, Aging Parents and Daddy/Daughter films. April marks the 20th anniversary of TCM so there will be various events celebrating that big milestone as well!

My husband and I will be attending the festival again this year. Carlos has a Matinee pass and I have a Media pass. We went through the festival schedule last night and picked out all of the events we were most looking forward to. We gleamed a lot from our experience last year and our approach to working out a schedule will be different this time around. We are trying to keep our schedules more flexible, adding in time to eat, making sure we note the locations and if it’s feasible to travel from one venue to another in the allotted time and allowing for sleep! I know that a lot of folks will cram as much as they can into their festival experience and have fun doing it. That’s just not my style. I wish it were though because I’d get so much more experience in! But alas, I’m that type of introvert who easily gets overwhelmed when too much is going on so I think a more open and flexible schedule works for me. I probably won’t post my schedule for the festival this year but wanted to point out what both Carlos and I are excited about.

Welcome Party/TCM at 20 Exhibit at Club TCM – I’m excited that actress Kim Novak will be there along with many other special guests and Robert Osborne of course! I had a lot of fun at Club TCM last year so I’m really looking forward to spending quality time there this year as well.

American Graffiti (1973) Poolside screening at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel – The poolside screening last year for South Pacific was one of my favorite experiences last year so I’d love to do another one! Actors Candy Clark, Bo Hopkins and Paul Le Mat will be there. This film was part of that early college experience that made me fall in love with old movies (along with Out of the Past, Citizen Kane, Singin’ in the Rain, etc.).

Bachelor Mother (1939) at the TCL Chinese Multiplex – I almost screamed when I saw this! My number #1 favorite movie of all time on the big screen. I can’t miss this.

Charlton Heston Stamp Dedication Ceremony or On Approval (1944) at the TCL Chinese Theatres – It’s a toss up for me for both of these.

East of Eden (1955) at the TCL Chinese Multiplex and Touch of Evil (1958) at the TCL Chinese IMAX – Carlos hasn’t seen either of these films and is eager to watch both of them for the first time! He had to abandon the idea of attending the Zulu (1964) screening which is being presented by Alex Trebek. Seeing Trebek last year was Carlos’ favorite memory of TCMFF.

The World of Henry Orient (1964) at the TCL Chinese Multiplex – Paula Prentiss will be there!

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) at the TCL Chinese IMAX – Actress Margaret O’Brien will be there! It’s not even one of my favorite movies but I do adore O’Brien and am super excited to see her.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) at Grauman's Egyptian – This one is all Carlos!

Double Indemnity (1944) at the TCL Chinese IMAX – Carlos will be taking his chances in the standby line to get in.

A Conversation with Quincy Jones at Club TCM

Blazing Saddles (1974) at TCL Chinese IMAX – 40th anniversary screening with Mel Brooks in attendance. I think this will be one of the most sought after screenings!


Hand and Footprint Ceremony with Jerry Lewis in front of the TCL Chinese IMAX – Last year’s ceremony with Jane Fonda was quite wonderful even though I only got to view it from across the street! I hope to be closer to the action this year.

Father of the Bride (1950) at the Egyptian and The Jungle Book (1967) at El Capitan – These are our back-ups if we don’t get in for the Jerry Lewis ceremony. Both these films have emotional significance to us.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) at the TCL Chinese IMAX – This is number one on Carlos’ list of must-see screenings at the festival. It’s a favorite film of his and seeing it on the big screen will be a personal highlight.

How Green Was My Valley (1941) at El Capitan – Actress Maureen O’Hara will be in attendance.

Bell, Book and Candle (1958) at Grauman's Egyptian – Actress Kim Novak will be in attendance and it’s a quirky favorite film of mine!

A Hard Day’s Night (1964) TCL Chinese IMAX – Alec Baldwin and Don Was will be in attendance. Carlos loves the Beatles and music from that era in general so this is a must-see for him. It’ll also be tricky because he’ll have to try to get in on standby.

The Women (1939) at El Capitan – There’s no way I’m missing this one! One of my favorite films of all time, a beloved classic and Norma Shearer!

The Pawnbroker (1964) at Grauman's Egyptian – Carlos won’t be able to attend the Club TCM event with Quincy Jones so he’ll take his chances in the standby line for this one.


Fiddler on the Roof (1971) at the TCL Chinese IMAX – I don’t have much interest in this film except for the fact that it’s directed by Norman Jewison and he will be in attendance! Who knows, maybe this will become a new favorite?

Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival at The Montalban Theatre – They haven’t announced the guest for this yet. Isn’t that strange? I wonder if they are holding out for someone really big. If it’s who I think it is I will clear the schedule and set up camp at the entrance to be one of the first to get in. I attending this 2 hour filming last year with Eva Marie Saint and had a blast. Here’s a tease from TCM:

TBAs – There were some great movies chosen for the TBA slots last year so I'm looking forward to see if I can attend any of these.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) in 3D IMAX at the TCL Chinese IMAX – Both Carlos and I are super excited about this one. I was skeptical at first at the idea of this film in 3D and on IMAX until George Feltenstein from Warner Archive personally recommended it on the Warner Archive Podcast.

Closing Night Party at Club TCM 

I’m sad to miss out on some of the screenings I was initially looking forward to. I really wanted to see Grey Gardens, The Best Year of Our Lives, Double Indemnity, etc. They’ll have to be back-ups. I know for sure that I will NOT be at the Make Way for Tomorrow or The Quiet Man screenings. We plan on having plenty of back-ups. It's all about having a plan but leaving room for change too. I'm sure there will be more announcements and we'll have to shuffle a few things around.

Are you going to the festival? Which screenings or events are you looking forward to the most?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Marriage and the Movies: A History - A Free Online Course by Jeanine Basinger

 Thank you to of Crítica Retrô for the heads up about this!

Wesleyan University is offering a free 5-week course called Marriage and the Movies: A History taught by professor Jeanine Basinger, author of I Do and I Don't: A History of Marriage in the Movies. I reviewed the book back in November.

This 5-week course starts on April 21st and features 10 films, 22 lectures and you are expected to do about 4-6 hours of classwork a week. I'm not sure about credits but you do receive a Statement of Accomplishment after you complete the course.

This looks like a wonderful online course for classic film fans so I highly suggest you check it out!

Here are the films in order of how they appear on the syllabus:
Wild Orchids (1929)
Made for Each Other (1939)
The Marrying Kind (1952)
Adam's Rib (1949)
Brief Encounter (1945)
Vivacious Lady (1938)
Suspicion (1941)
Since You Went Away (1944)
Heartburn (1986)
The War of the Roses (1989)

You can find more information about the course here including the full syllabus. There is a short video of Jeanine Basinger discussing the objective of the class too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ Brother Rat (1938) and Brother Rat and a Baby (1940)


Many moons ago I caught the tail end of the film Brother Rat (1938) on TCM. I was particularly drawn by the film's youthful cast, the collegiate setting and the slapstick humor. When I went to search for a way to watch this film in its entirety I discovered that the film and its sequel Brother Rat and a Baby were not available on DVD. I immediately went to the Warner Archive Twitter and Facebook pages and asked if these films were going to be future releases but did not get any response in the affirmative.

Fast forward months later and the Warner Archive released both films on DVD-MOD. Boy, was I excited! This was an opportunity to watch both of these films and to add to my repertoire of classic collegiate movies.

Brother Rat was a successful Broadway play written by and about cadets at the Virginia Military Institute, affectionately referred to as the "West Point of the South". The term "Brother Rat" refers to upperclassmen at the school. Freshman are referred to as just "Rats"and it's expected of them to be at the beck and call of the Brother Rats. The young Rats endure hazing and are given embarrassing and menial tasks in order to earn respect when they advance to Brother Rat status. The Broadway play starring Eddie Albert in the title role of Bing Edwards was such a hit that Warner Bros. got rights to the script and acquired Albert to reprise his role. This would be Eddie Albert's screen debut. Warner Bros. also retained Broadway actor William Tracy (or Tracey depending on the billing) for his role of Misto Bottome, a freshman Rat who desperately seeks approval from the older Brother Rats.


The play and the movie have somewhat different story lines. Brother Rat (1938) focuses more on the character Billy Randolph in order to showcase Wayne Morris whom Warner Bros. was grooming to become a big star. Billy Randolph (Wayne Morris), Bing Edwards (Eddie Albert) and Dan Crawford (Ronald Reagan) are roommates at VMI. Billy Randolph is the son of a wealthy publisher who is careless with his money (and other people's money too), is always breaking VMI rules and is completely smitten with the Southern debutante Joyce Winfree (Priscilla Lane). He's tireless in his efforts to woo her even though he's up against her disapproving grandmother and another rival suitor and fellow cadet. Bing Edwards is having much better luck in his romantic life with his sweetheart Kate Rice (Jane Bryan). In fact they are secretly married and expecting a baby! Edwards must keep their marriage and their future baby a secret from VMI until commencement. Edwards is also a talented pitcher and expected to win the big baseball game. He's also expected to pass his Chemistry test so he can graduate. Needless to say there is a lot of pressure on Bing Edwards and he's not handling it all very well.


Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan are the third couple in this scenario. Their real life romance which started with this film and lead to an engagement during the filming of Brother Rat and a Baby, eclipsed the other stars including Wayne Morris and Priscilla Lane who have top billing. Ronald Reagan's Dan Crawford is a level-headed cadet who loves to play baseball and spends much of his time trying to put out the fires started by Billy Randolph. Jane Wyman plays the nerdy and bespectacled Claire Adams. She has a knack for Chemistry and hides the fact that she's really Claire Ramm, daughter of Colonel Ramm one of the superiors at VMI. Claire is smitten with Dan but he's not quite sure about her. However, she wins him over with her tenacity and her clever solutions to his roommates' problems.

Brother Rat (1938) follows the story of Billy, Bing and Dan as they navigate collegiate life in their final year at VMI and also explores their romantic lives and their stints as top level Brother Rats and talented college level baseball players. It's interesting to note that the focus here is on baseball whereas so many collegiate films before and after this one have showcased football as the ultimate college sport.

Brother Rat (1938) was so popular that it spawned an original sequel. While listening to the Warner Archive podcast, I learned that sequels during this time era were very rare. Productions either resulted in stand-alone films or serials. Warner Bros. must have seen a really good opportunity to bring back all the top stars of their box office smash and gave birth to Brother Rat and a Baby (1940).

The cast of Brother Rat and a Baby (1940) Source

Brother Rat and a Baby picks up the story several months after the three roommates graduate from VMI. Billy Randolph is at his dad's publishing company and getting into problems with the law. Dan Crawford is working hard and trying to keep out of trouble so he can have a bright future. Bing Edwards is a baseball coach whose new baby is causing him and his wife Kate much joy and consternation. Their baby was named Commencement because of the key moment in Bing's life in which he was born and also upon Dan Crawford's suggestion. Commencement (played by infant actor "Peter B. Good") is a happy little boy who loves shiny objects and has a propensity to swallow them. Quarters, diamond rings, etc. He causes much chaos which only exacerbates the chaos already being created by Billy Randolph.

It's difficult to explain the plot of Brother Rat and a Baby because it's all over the place! Billy Randolph is still trying marry Joyce and Claire is still after Dan. Billy gets Bing an opportunity to be a baseball coach at VMI but the baby and Billy cause a lot of problems along the way. It's definitely not a collegiate film which may be a reason why it wasn't as popular as Brother Rat (1938). The plot is unnecessarily complicated and feels rushed. Some of the dialogue is delivered at such a rapid pace that I had to rewind and play key moments again in order to hear everything that was said! This film tries very hard to be a screwball comedy.

There is an interesting appearance by Humphrey Bogart's third wife Mayo Methot has a small role in Brother Rat and a Baby as a sour-faced woman on a bus whose diamond ring is swallowed by Commencement. Those of you familiar with Bogart's life will know that his relationship with Methot was very volatile.

There are a couple of rather risque moments in the films which I found to be welcome curiosities. In the first film we find out that Kate and Bing are expecting a baby. We immediately assume they are unmarried. However, it’s only a good 10 or so minutes later that we find out that Kate and Bing were secretly married. My mind was reeling the entire time wondering how they got this past the censors. The delay of information proved to be quite titillating and a clever way to be both Hays Code friendly and suggestive. In the second film, there is a scene in which Claire’s father Colonel Ramm interrupts couples Billy and Joyce and Dan and Claire in what seems to be a more sexually suggestive situation that it really was. In fact, Dan and Claire (Reagan and Wyman) come out of a bedroom with their hair and clothes in disarray after playing with baby Commencement. However, Colonel Ramm interprets this as something very different which adds some spice as well as humor to the scene!

I made the unfortunate decision to watch both of these films right after watching a film noir masterpiece.  I still had the noir in my mind and started to have unrealistic expectations. I set the Brother Rat films aside for a few days and then picked them up again. They were much more enjoyable on my second viewing.

Brother Rat and Brother Rat and a Baby are light comedic fare. They are perfect for anyone who is a fan of the era, a fan of any of the cast members and Brother Rat especially should be a must-see for anyone who likes collegiate films.

Brother Rat (1938) and Brother Rat And A Baby (1940) are available on DVD-MOD from Warner Archive. You can also purchase them at the TCM Shop.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received the Brother Rat movies from Warner Archive to review.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

God Speed Stanley Rubin (1917-2014)

Stanley Rubin (1917-2014)
Producer and Screenwriter Stanley Rubin passed away on Sunday at the age of 96. According to his wife of 59 years, actress Kathleen Hughes, he died in his sleep of natural causes. The news of his death made me very sad but I'm glad to know he lived such a long life and that he died peacefully.

Last year at the TCM Classic Film Festival I had the honor of attending a screening of Stanley Rubin's film River of No Return (1954). It's an understatement when I say this was one of the most memorable and moving film experiences of my life. I still tear up thinking about it. You can read my in-depth post about Leonard Maltin's interview with Stanley Rubin at that screening here.

River of No Return (1954) is very special to me and I'll be forever grateful to Stanley Rubin for that fine film. Rubin was such an interesting fellow. He attended UCLA in 1933 and left just a few credits shy of graduating. Rubin had an amazing business opportunity he couldn't pass up and then went on to have a successful and long career in the industry as a screen writer and producer in TV, radio and film. He was the first person ever to receive an Emmy. Besides River of No Return, he produced the film noir classic The Narrow Margin (1952).  Rubin has worked for Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios, Columbia Pictures, RKO, 20th Century Fox, MGM, CBS, NBC and he was also an independent film producer.

Stanley Rubin might his wife during the production of River of No Return and that film marks the anniversary of their meeting and relationship. He was the mediator between temperamental director Otto Preminger and actress Marilyn Monroe during the filming of River of No Return and faced many challenges on location as they filmed in the Rocky Mountains' Athabasca River.

Rubin's exit of UCLA just shy of graduation is the perfect example of how life happens when you are making other plans. Stanley Rubin returned to UCLA in 2005 to finish his degree and graduated in 2006.

How wonderful is that graduation photo?! I admire Rubin greatly for both taking advantage of a good opportunity for his career and also for finishing what he started at UCLA so many years ago.

Below are some photos I found earlier this morning on my camera. They are from Leonard Maltin's interview with Stanley Rubin and his wife Kathleen Hughes last year. I really wish I had taken video but I have an audio recording of that interview that I will indeed treasure forever.

God Speed Stanley Rubin!

Further Reading and Sources:

Emmy Legends website video interview with Stanley Rubin
L.A. Times Obituary
Leonard Maltin interviews Stanley Rubin at TCMFF
Stanley Rubin Bio IMDB
TCM's bio on Stanley Rubin for TCMFF 2013

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