Monday, August 2, 2021

The New Deal for Artists (1981)

"One of the horrors of a society... is the break with the past, a lack of continuity. Young people know nothing of the past. For that matter even people who lived in the past have forgotten it... the New Deal, The Arts Project, is a good case in point. It's as though it never existed." — Studs Turkel

Time threatened to erase the history of the WPA (Work Progress Administration) and the impact its artists had on the culture of 1930s America and beyond. Part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, the WPA helped create jobs for many Americans during the throes of the Great Depression. This included unemployed artists who were paid $23.86 a week to create art. Jobs were created for actors, directors, musicians, painters, dancers and photographers. Through their different art forms, these creators told the story of an America that was enduring great strife. Theatrical productions played out social dilemmas for audiences, photographers captured the devastation of the Dust Bowl, painters made an impact by creating murals in public spaces, writers documented American life for present and future generations. Black and indigenous communities as well as other minority groups were encouraged to participate. The work of WPA artists stirred up political sentiment that went on to the scrutinized by communist fear mongers who took action to erase their work. 

Photo courtesy of Corinth Films

Image courtesy of Corinth Films

Photo courtesy of Corinth Films

Photo courtesy of Corinth Films

Just in time for the 40th anniversary, Corinth Films has released director Wieland Schulz-Keil's The New Deal for Artists (1981). In the late 1970s, Schulz-Keil had made a 4 hour film for German television about the United States during the Great Depression. A 90 minute section of this longer film, focusing just on WPA artists, was released for American audiences with narration by Orson Welles. The New Deal for Artists examines a time when artists were documenting and disseminating a pivotal moment in our nation's history. We take social documentary for granted these days but back then it was a new concept. The documentary interviews artists, historians and politicians including John Houseman, Studs Turkel, John Randolph, Nelson Algren, Will Geer, Howard Da Silva and even our beloved Norman Lloyd. Film history buffs will appreciate the fact that this documentary offers extensive background on the Federal Theater Project which Houseman, Welles and Lloyd were involved with.

The film has been remastered for DVD and digital. The DVD release includes a 12-page booklet with original essays by Armond White and Ed Rampell.

The New Deal for Artists (1981) is a remarkable documentary, a veritable time capsule of an era when the US government paid artists to capture American life. It fights against obscurity simply by existing. A must watch for anyone interested in cultural history.

Friday, July 30, 2021

TCM: Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics by John Malahy

Summer Movies
30 Sun-Drenched Classics 
by John Malahy
Foreword by Leonard Maltin
TCM and Running Press
Hardcover ISBN: 9780762499298
June 2021
208 pages

Summer Movies: "an underappreciated category of movies — those that depict the experiences, traditions and delights of the summer season." — John Malahy

Summer is my favorite season and there is just something really special about movies set during this time of year. Whether they depict the joy (or stress) of vacation and travel, different rites of passage, reconnecting with nature, transitions in life or the imminent danger that sometimes comes with hot weather, there is something unique about these films that make them highly watchable all year round. 

In Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics, author John Malahy spotlights 30 summer themed classics from Lonesome (1928) to Call Me By Your Name (2017) (which just happened to be two of my top favorite movies). Each film is selected not only for its summer setting but also for its cultural impact. Each film is presented with 6 pages including an article, photos, stats, Vacation Inspiration which offers advice on how to turn the film experience into a real life vacation, and a companion film. Movie plots are summarized for the main titles which can be either a nice refresher if you've seen the film or give a bit too much away if you haven't. The Make It a Double Feature section was the highlight for me as Malahy perfectly pairs an often lesser known film that ties in beautifully with the featured one. There are lots of gems to discover there. 

Some of the films featured include: Moon Over Miami, State Fair, Key Largo, Rear Window, The Seven Year Itch, Picnic, Gidget, Parent Trap, The Endless Summer, The Graduate, Jaws, On Golden Pond and much more.

The author has a way with words that makes this book a delight to read and the design of the book is just absolutely stunning. It's a compact size which makes it the perfect book to pop into your summer tote bag and bring with you to the beach.

Summer Movies features an introduction by Leonard Maltin. The lack of diversity in the book is addressed in the opening chapter (I really appreciate that this was addressed!). The book offers a light dose of both trivia and context with some wonderful images and quality design. This is another winner from the TCM and Running Press line of books!

This is my second review for the 2021 Summer Reading Challenge.

Thank you to Running Press for a copy of the book for review.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

They Won't Believe Me (1947)


"I can't walk out Harry. You'll have to do the walking."

This is the story of one man and three women. The man in question, stockbroker Larry Ballentine (Robert Young), is on trial for the murder of one of those three. A flashback takes us to when it all started. Larry was having an affair Janice Bell (Jane Greer), a delicate rose, who is falling in love with Larry but conflicted by the fact that he's still married. The wife in question, Greta (Rita Johnson), has no plans on letting Larry go. Their marriage was more of a financial arrangement for Larry. But when Greta hears that Larry is about to travel to Montreal with his new flame, she tags along to shake off Janice. At work, Larry falls for an employee at the brokerage, Verna (Susan Hayward). Verna is very different from both Janice and Greta, something that excited Larry greatly. When Verna and Larry plot an escape, a way for Larry to finally get a divorce without sacrificing his financial situation, things take a turn for the worst.

Directed by Irving Pichel, They Won't Believe Me (1947) is a captivating film noir and a must see for anyone who loves this style of filmmaking. Produced by Joan Harrison for RKO, this was her first sole producer credit (learn more about Harrison here.) It flips the femme fatale trope on its head presenting us with what TCM's Eddie Muller calls an "homme fatale." Robert Young as Larry has all the traits you would expect from a femme fatale but in a male role. And a credit to Harrison's handling of the project, the female characters are fleshed out and just plain interesting. They Won't Believe Me is based on a story by Gordon McDonnell and adapted to the screen by Jonathan Latimer. The ending is abrupt and a little ambiguous, a way to get around strict Hays Code guidelines of the time.

RKO re-released They Won't Believe Me in 1957 to play as a double bill in theaters. They cut 15 minutes from the film creating a new 60 minute version. The complete movie was elusive for years. Prints languished in archives but the public only ever saw the cut version. Thanks to the Warner Archive's George Feltenstein who championed the restoration, this film noir is now available in its entirety. The Warner Archive collection has released a new Blu-ray restored in 1080p HD from a 4K scan of the original nitrate print. This restoration premiered at the 2021 virtual TCM Classic Film Festival back in May.

If you haven't seen They Won't Believe Me yet, you're in for a real treat. I found myself really engrossed with this one. It hits all the marks I expect a good film noir should. There are a few twists and turns but nothing is over the top. For me, I really enjoyed the different elements like the court room trial, the escape to the countryside, the backdrop of the stock market, the Caribbean cruise, etc. There's a lot going on but it's so streamlined and seamless that it just flows. I'll definitely be watching this one again and again.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I feature titles from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me copy of They Won't Believe Me (1947).

Monday, July 12, 2021

Mae West Blu-rays from Kino Lorber

Source: Kino Lorber

Mae West was a force of nature. Born into a showbiz family, West seemed destined to take the industry by storm at an early age. After a successful career in vaudeville and theater, West made her film debut at the age of 40 with Night After Night (1932). West wasn't conventionally beautiful, she was older than most actresses playing romantic leads and she broke the mold of how a movie star should look and act. The fact that she became such a huge movie star seems to defy logic. But West just had this presence that drew people to her. She was confident, in tune with her sexuality and could deliver a sexual innuendo like nobody else. West was a self-made woman and when she told you she was hot stuff, you believed her. 

West wrote much of her own material and many of her movies are based on her plays, original stories and featured her special brand playful dialogue. West was such a huge star, especially in the 1930s, that she helped her home studio Paramount avoid bankruptcy. Over the years, she battled with censors and many of her films faced heavy editing. The Pre-Code era was her time to shine but she was able to carry on her special brand of sexuality into an era of increased censorship. 

Mae West starred in 12 films and 9 of them are available on Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Below are my reviews of 7 of them (I forgot to ask for two of them hence there only being 7). Each Blu-ray features brand new audio commentary as well as English subtitles. She Done Him Wrong has undergone a 4k restoration for the Blu-ray release.

Night After Night (1932)

directed by Archie Mayo
Starring: Mae West, George Raft, Constance Cummings, Wynne Gibson, Louis Calhern

When Night After Night (1932) came out, star George Raft joked that Mae West stole everything but the camera. West had a small role as a party gal who crashes Raft's club and while she only has a few scenes boy does she make them count. Raft plays a boxer turned club owner during Prohibition. He turns a mansion, formerly owned by Jerry (Constance Cummings) and her family, into said club. Joe is determined to obtain the one thing he doesn't have: class. West was unhappy with the scenes she was given and insisted on writing her own dialogue. This gave her the opportunity to deliver one of the best opening lines for any character ever made: "Goodness, what beautiful diamonds.... Goodness had nothing to do with it, Dearie." This is a subdued little Pre-Code until West arrives and livens up the joint. She's fourth billed but she might as well have been the star. I recommend this curio for its fun little story and West's epic debut.

She Done Him Wrong (1933)

directed by Lowell Sherman
Starring: Mae West, Cary Grant, Gilbert Roland, Noah Beery

She Done Him Wrong sees Mae West in her first starring role and boy does it suit her. West is perfect for a tale set in the Gay Nineties (1890s). Hollywood loved this time period because it was a great way to show revelry in the time frame that's both recent and distant. West plays Lady Lou, a lounge club singer who has caught the eye of many men including an ex-con and a Salvation Army missionary. The latter is really Captain Cummings, an undercover Federal agent, played by Cary Grant. The two films West starred in with Grant are Pre-Code gems. Grant is at the very beginning of his career and just achingly beautiful. 

I'm No Angel (1933)

directed by Wesley Ruggles
Starring: Mae West, Cary Grant, Gregory Ratoff, Edward Arnold

In their second film together, Mae West has an even better opportunity to be seen the handsome and debonair Cary Grant. West stars as Tira, a circus performer who, of course, has caught the eye of many a suitor. Perhaps too many. When she becomes smitten with an otherwise engaged man about town, Kirk (Kent Taylor), she gets in over her head. Kirk's cousin Jack (Cary Grant) comes to the rescue only to discover he's falling in love with the glamorous Tira. It's with this film that you start seeing POC (people of color) characters pop up. They become more and more prominent in subsequent films and unfortunately that means more stereotyping. Libby Taylor plays Tira's personal maid and Hattie McDaniel has a very small role as a maid/manicurist. I'm No Angel and She Done Him Wrong pair well together and if you had to watch any Mae West films, I recommend trying these two.

Belle of the Nineties (1934)

directed by Leo McCarey
Starring: Mae West, Johnny Mack Brown, Duke Ellington, Katherine DeMille, Roger Pryor

It's back to the Gay Nineties for Mae West! She stars as Ruby Carter, a nightclub performer who flees to New Orleans to escape her prizefighter boyfriend Tiger Kid (Roger Pryor). Supporting players include Johnny Mack Brown as one of Ruby's handsome admirers and Katherine DeMille a jealous society girl. This film has a little bit of everything, musical numbers, a jewelry heist, murder, and a lot of Mae West. Belle of the Nineties was based on West's original story It Ain't No Sin, which due to censorship had to change to something more "respectable." West looks her best adorned in period clothing and dripping in jewels. The film lacks in viable leading men and from what I read George Raft turned down the role of Tiger Kid. Duke Ellington performs in one of the musical numbers.

Goin' to Town (1935)

directed by Alexander Hall
Starring: Mae West, Paul Cavanagh, Gilbert Emery, Marjorie Gateson, Tito Coral

Saloon performer Cleo Borden (Mae West) is preparing to marry a wealthy rancher when he's tragically killed in a robbery. Even though they hadn't married yet, she still inherits his estate. It doesn't matter how much money she has, Cleo can't buy status among the snobby elite. This is another example of a West film exploring the intersection between monetary wealth and social status. The story features West traveling down to Buenos Aires and agreeing to marry a degenerate gambler in order to inherit his status. She gets involved in horse racing which is where Taho, an indigenous character played by Venezuelan actor Tito Coral, comes in. I found this one to be quite enjoyable even when the storyline got a bit convoluted.

Go West Young Man (1936)

directed by Henry Hathaway 
Starring: Mae West, Randolph Scott, Warren William, Alice Brady, Lyle Talbot

AmazonBarnes and Noble Deep DiscountKino Lorber TCM Shop

Go West Young Man has the best line-up of supporting male players of all the Mae West films I've seen thus far. West plays Mavis Arden, a much beloved movie star, is bound by her employer, A.K of Superfine Pictures, to not marry. At least until her 5 year movie contract expires. This proves to be too much for Mavis when she falls for both mayoral candidate Francis X. Harrigan (Lyle Talbot) and small town engineer Bud Norton (Randolph Scott). Warren William plays her press agent and caretaker who is constantly trying to prevent her from marrying one of her beaus. There is a fun fish-out-of-water element to this story where we see the glamorous movie star residing at a quaint boarding house in rural Pennsylvania. This is by far my favorite from the batch specifically because of the leading men. Unfortunately, it does feature Stepin Fetchit type character performed by Nick Stewart.

Klondike Annie (1936)

directed by Raoul Walsh
Starring: Mae West, Victor McLaglen, Phillip Reed, Helen Jerome Eddy, Harold Huber

Groan! Klondike Annie is one of the most cringe-inducing films I've seen from this era. It's a hot mess with how it depicts Asian stereotypes, miscegenation, religion and female purity standards. West plays Rose Carlton, a nightclub singer in San Francisco's Chinatown who is being held captive by her beau Chan Lo (depicted in yellow face by Harold Huber). In scenes cut due to censorship, Chan Lo is murdered and Rose flees to Alaska via shipping vessel to avoid criminal prosecution. Along the way she falls for the ship's captain (Victor McLaglen) and tends to dying religious missionary Sister Annie (Helen Jerome Eddy) whose identity she takes over. West essentially plays a woman of the world pretending to be a religious figure and it just doesn't work. There's a lot of "othering" here which makes it painful to watch through a contemporary vantage point. 

Also available from Kino Lorber

Every Day's a Holiday (1937)

directed by A. Edward Sutherland
Starring: Mae West, Edmund Lowe, Charles Butterworth, Charles Winninger, Lloyd Nolan, Louis Armstrong

My Little Chickadee (1940)

directed by Edward F. Cline
Starring: Mae West, W. C. Fields, Joseph Calleia, Dick Foran, Margaret Hamilton, Ruth Donnelly

Thank you to Kino Lorber Studio Classics for sending me these titles for review. 
Using the buy links helps support this site. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

2021 Summer Reading Challenge: First Round-Up


I've never been more impressed with the summer reading challenge participants as I have been this year. They have been killing it with some awesome reads and even more awesome reviews. Keep up the good work! Seeing their social media mentions and the #classicfilmreading hashtag pop up and reading/watching/listening to their reviews brings a smile to my face every single time.

Congrats to Woodson for being the first to complete the challenge!

Here is the first batch of reviews!*

Andy of Journeys in Darkness and Light

""a great book for any classic film lover, and perhaps an even better book to read with another classic movie fan, leading to many opportunities for discussion, agreement, or maybe even knock-down-drag-out arguments"

The Art of American Screen Acting, 1912-1960 by Dan Callahan

"Holding has crafted not only a suspenseful tale, but also an examination of relationships, race issues, moral dilemmas, gender roles, and much more."

The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

"provides a good overview of the actor’s life and work and will no doubt make fans want to check out as much of his performances as possible."

Edmond O’Brien: Everyman of Film Noir by Derek Sculthorpe

"Although time and budget were constant woes, the stories of how these creators overcame such constraints are remarkable, compelling, and often jubilant."

Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup by Tom Weaver

"The characters of the kidnappers are less well-developed and their motivations somewhat standard, yet taken as a whole, the novel is a tightly knit page-turner that’s quite satisfying."

King's Ransom by Ed McBain 

Breanna of Bresfilms41

"As a movie trivia lover, this was a treasure trove of information, and I loved every bit of it." 

52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter by Jeremy Arnold

"The discussion between the two directors is relentlessly fascinating, sometimes funny, and occasionally poignant."


"[Vieira's] research is incredibly thorough, and he crafts such a compelling, living image not only of Thalberg but of every other character in his story..."

Irving Thalberg: Boy Wonder to Producer Prince by Mark A. Vieira 

"McGilligan manages to pull back the curtain and create an incredibly compelling narrative study."

Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane by Patrick McGilligan

Brittaney of The Story Enthusiast

"Having now read about Cukor’s life, I can appreciate his pictures even more."

George Cukor: A Double Life by Patrick McGilligan

Carl of The Movie Palace Podcast 

"will prove most satisfying to those who already actively admire the film, because Tarantino uses the novel to expand on various aspects from the movie."

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino

"this book is highly readable, concise and persuasive, therefore I recommend it to all cinephiles who admire Rebecca."

Rebecca by Patricia White

Chuck on Twitter

"The book is a quick read at a slim 144 pages and I was informed and entertained reading it.  It's a irreverent look at this classic film, kind of like the brothers themselves."

Hail, Hail, Euphoria!: Presenting the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup, the Greatest War Movie Ever Made by Roy Blount Jr.

"the book is informative without being overly academic in its analysis."

Source: Jess of Box Office Poisons

Jess of Box Office Poisons

"It's light and refreshing, just like Ann-Margret!"

My Story by Ann-Margaret

Kara on Goodreads

"I came away from this book feeling that I know Audrey Hepburn better and that our world is a poorer place without her in it."

Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen

Lee of Lee Mac on YouTube

"It was fantastic. 5 stars. Amazing. Love hearts raining everywhere." 

Captain Blood: His Odyssey by Rafael Sabatini

Miriam of Cine Gratia Cinema on YouTube

"one of the most magnificent books and cookbooks that I've ever come across... quote me on that."

A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price 

Molly of Classic Mollywood

"As a TCM lover, every time I saw quotes from Robert Osborne I felt enormous joy. It was like hearing Robert talk about these films all over again."

The Essentials Vol. 2 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter by Jeremy Arnold

Nathan on Twitter and YouTube

"Through various anecdotes, he reveals tragedy, humor, and transparency within that fractured world."

Kieślowski on Kieślowski 

"Thomson shines a light with sensibility, wit, and with a love of cinema."

A Light in the Dark: A History of Movie Directors by David Thomson

"an excellent insight from a genuine filmmaker about the process of filmmaking."

Making Movies by Sidney Lumet

"It's not a pretty story, but there's a strength in telling it and I'd implore you to give it a good read."

What Falls Away: A Memoir by Mia Farrow

Raquel of Out of the Past

"paints the portrait of a complicated woman who stumbled upon fame and soon found her calling as an internationally renowned entertainer."

Mean... Moody... Magnificent!: Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend by Christina Rice

(Plus an author interview for TCM!)

Robert of Robert Bellissimo At The Movies on YouTube

"some of these stories are dramatic, engaging and brutal"

Conversations with Ava Gardner by Lawrence Grobol

"a real page turner"

The Marlon Brando Western - The Making of One Eye Jacks by Toby Roan

Sarah on Goodreads

"Reading about her time in Hollywood and her experiences in silent and early film-making were interesting and fun- she was definitely a '20s spirit!"

Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks

"such a fun summer read! This book has a little of everything- animals, starlets, dancers, child stars and more."

This Was Hollywood: Forgotten Stars and Stories by Carla Valderrama

Steve on Goodreads

"This book serves as a testament to how the film was made but also why it will be eternal. It’s a fascinating read for a legendary film. Read it twice."

Singin' in the Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece by Earl J. Hess, Pratibha A. Dabholkar

Woodson on LibraryThing

"Spoto is quite adept at pointing out the many interesting motifs which run throughout the film maker's works..."

The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of His Motion Pictures by Donald Spoto

"This book is a finely crafted balancing act: serious without being grindingly academic, honest without being salacious, adoring the art without basking in the rosy glow of nostalgia..."

Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak 

"Sadly, the author has only written one other book concerning that film world... That he hasn't continued writing about film is the cinematic world's loss" 

The Great Movies by William Bayer

"Though all of the essays would make sense to the layman, this is really more of a work for the hard core cultists. As such, it is wonderful."

Film Noir Prototypes: Origins of the Movement edited by Alain Silver and James Ursini

"Some books tell us a lot. Some books delight us a lot. Quite often the two types don't intersect. By the happiest of circumstances, a book concerning the subject of films which delight is at once informative and as delightful as its subject."

Romantic Comedy in Hollywood: From Lubitsch to Sturges by James Harvey

"In some sense this book is a bit of a parlor game with smart cinephiles identifying films, roles, actors. However, Thomson is also making a big point about that and the very fact of watching as opposed to doing."

Suspects by David Thomson 

*If for any reason you don't see your review here, it's because it's missing from the link submission form. Make sure you submit and it'll be included in the next round-up.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Mean... Moody... Magnificent!: Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend by Christina Rice

Mean... Moody... Magnificent!
Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend

by Christina Rice
University Press of Kentucky
ISBN: 9780813181080
June 2021
392 pages

“The movie star turned out to be devastatingly human.” 

Jane Russell was larger than life. A bonafide movie star. She first made a splash as the sultry lead in Howard Hughes' western The Outlaw (1943). The marketing campaign for that film lasted years thanks to Hughes' penchant for controversy and control. She was dubbed the "motionless picture star" as she traveled to promote her first film for months before its release. The wait was worth it because it cemented her place as a Hollywood celebrity. Russell was an entertainer through and through. She had great screen presence, could sing and had a figure that caught the attention of moviegoers, something Hughes had banked on from the very beginning. Russell was under contract with Hughes for over 30 years, working with him at RKO and beyond, and was often loaned out to studios when she wasn't making a film for her boss. While Hughes was controlling and their working relationship could sometimes be contentious, Russell remained loyal to her boss, a trait that Hughes both valued and rewarded. The pinnacle of her acting career was her co-starring role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) opposite Marilyn Monroe. Taking the role was a total gamble. Russell had to be okay with being overshadowed by her costar. And just like The Outlaw, this gamble paid off. 

Russell collaborated with Robert Mitchum on two noirs for RKO: His Kind of Woman (1951) and Macao (1952). The two had great chemistry on screen and off-screen became lifelong friends. Russell was great to work with and even had a core team from RKO that she took with her on other studio gigs. She married three times, first to Robert Waterfield, a professional football player with whom she later ran Russ-Field Productions. Russell was deeply religious, passionate about adoption and lived to perform. After making Darker Than Amber (1970), she retired from films. In the years that followed, Russell performed on stage and on television, wrote a memoir, gave interviews about her career and made countless appearances. She passed away in 2011 at the age of 89.

Jane Russell and Robert Mitchum in His Kind of Woman (1951)

June 21st marks the 100th anniversary of Jane Russell's birth and to celebrate we have Mean... Moody... Magnificent!: Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend, a delightful book from the capable hands of librarian, researcher and archivist Christina Rice. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a big fan of Rice's biography Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel. It's one of my top favorite classic film biographies so needless to say I had high expectations for Rice's biography on Jane Russell. Rice did not disappoint.

Mean... Moody... Magnificent! paints the portrait of a complicated woman who stumbled upon fame and soon found her calling as an internationally renowned entertainer. As Rice says in her book, Russell was "more of a movie personality than a serious actress,... [she] could electrify a screen and was a true star of the old studio system.” I really admire how Russell found her confidence to perform even as she was being objectified for her naturally curvy body. One could say that Russell and her body type paved the way for curvaceous entertainers to come, like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. 

Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

“During production Jane adopted Marilyn as a kind of kid sister, exhibiting a tremendous amount of empathy for Monroe, who was experiencing the same type of amped-up sex symbol publicity Jane had been enduring for over a decade.”

Russell's religious beliefs were often in conflict with her actions, something Rice adeptly explores in the book. There is lots to garner from this biography including how Hollywood packaged and promoted their movie stars for public consumption, how sometimes movie stars were made from being in the right place at the right time, and how networking and close working relationships were key to survival in this cutthroat industry. This biography is laid out chronologically with each chapter focusing on a particular theme. This made the book flow very well. Rice's research shines through and her storytelling skills make this for an engrossing read. There's lots of great behind-the-scenes information, especially as it relates to how Russell was styled for her movies. Even if you're not particularly interested in Jane Russell as a person, this is still a must read for anyone who loves stories from old Hollywood.

This is my first review for the 2021 Summer Reading Challenge.

Thank you to University Press of Kentucky for a copy of the book for review.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Physical Media Tour

Ever wonder what's inside the collection of a classic movie fan? Here's an opportunity to explore my big collection of DVDs, Blu-Rays and boxed sets (and a few extras). Over the years I've collected lots of great classic movies, many of which I've reviewed here. In this video you'll see goodies from the Warner Archive Collection, Kino Lorber Classics, the Criterion Collection, Olive Signature and more. Take a peek!

Friday, May 21, 2021

2021 Summer Reading Challenge


The warmer days of summer are just around the corner and that means it's time to announce the 2021 Summer Reading Challenge. (Winter Reading Challenge for my friends on the southern hemisphere!). 

Since 2013, I've been hosting a classic film themed summer reading challenge. I ask participants to read and review up to 6 classic film related books. If you don't think you can read all 6 that's fine! Read as many as you can. However, if you do complete the 6 books by the September 15th deadline, you are automatically entered into a giveaway to win one Kino Lorber DVD or Blu-ray. 

Visit the official Summer Reading Challenge page for all of the details including the sign-up form, link submission form and which types of books qualify.

Here are some basic details:

2021 Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge

May 21st to September 15th, 2021

  • Sign up for the challenge (see form on the official page)
  • Read a classic film book
  • Write a review and post it on your Blog, Podcast, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LibraryThing or Goodreads profile (must be public).
  • Use hashtag #classicfilmreading
  • Submit your review link (form will be posted on the official page after June 1st)
  • Repeat until you have read and reviewed 6 books!
  • Review 6 and be automatically entered to win a prize. (open internationally)

And for fun make sure you share on your blog or social media what books you plan to read for the challenge.

Happy reading!

Friday, May 7, 2021

TCM Classic Film Festival: Nichols and May: Take Two (1996)


Premiering tomorrow on TCM as part of the TCM Classic Film Festival is Nichols and May: Take Two, director Phillip Schopper's documentary on the famous comedy duo. It previously aired on PBS back in 1996 but it has been unavailable for many years. This will be the first time TCM is airing it.

Elaine May and Mike Nichols were a powerhouse comedy team in the late 1950s and the late 1960s. In an era when the culture was breaking away from conventionality, they shone with their wit and humor about subjects that were considered taboo. They had a synchronicity that made them electric. Nichols and May took America by storm with their best-selling comedy albums and various television appearances. They were new, fresh voices on the comedy scene and influenced the work of many comedians that followed. 

Nichols and May: Take Two captures the magic and subsequent influence of this comedic duo with four archival comedy sequences and interviews with comedians Richard Lewis, Steve Martin and Robin Williams. Also interviewed in the film are Tom Brokaw, Jules Feiffer, Arthur Penn, as well as their manager. The skits are shown in full which allows audiences unfamiliar with Nichols and May to really get a sense of their special brand of comedy.

The documentary airs Saturday at 11;45 AM ET on TCM for their virtual TCM Classic Film Festival and includes an introduction by Mike Nichols' biographer Mark Harris.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

TCM Classic Film Festival: Doctor X (1932)


This year's virtual TCM Classic Film Festival kicks off with some special presentations including the late night premiere of Doctor X (1932), recently restored by UCLA Film and Television Archive and The Film Foundation in association with Warner Bros. Entertainment. Doctor X was the first of three horror films, including Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and The Walking Dead (1936), that director Michael Curtiz made for Warner Bros.

The film stars Lionel Atwill as Doctor Xavier, one of several scientists who are being probed for their possible involvement in a string of murders. A killer is on the loose, searching for his victims during the full moon, brutally murdering them and mutilating their bodies afterwards. Doctor X theorizes that the murderer is triggered by a past trauma and that this will help them solve the mystery. Newspaper reporter Lee Taylor (Lee Tracy) is desperate to get the scoop and infiltrates the home of Doctor X to get insider information. There he meets the doctor's daughter Joanne (Fay Wray) who is protective of her father yet concerned about his involvement in the matter. Doctor X rounds up all the scientists including Wells (Preston Foster) Haines (John Wray), Duke, (Harry Beresford) and Rowitz (Arthur Edmund Carewe) for an unusual experiment to uncover the identity of the Moon Killer.

Doctor X is a wonderful mad scientist mystery with plenty spooks, a few laughs and some sex thrown in for good measure (it is a pre-code film after all). The film was shot in black-and-white by Richard Tower and in two-strip Technicolor by Ray Rennahan. The color version was considered lost for years until a print was recovered in Warner Bros.' executive Jack L. Warner's belongings after he died in 1978.

The restoration of Doctor X (1932) in its original two-strip Technicolor premieres tonight on TCM as part of their late-night line-up for the TCM Classic Film Festival. Film historian and Michael Curtiz biographer Alan K. Rode will be presenting the film. Rode will explain how Doctor X fits into Curtiz' filmography, the history of Warner Bros., its importance as an early horror film and a side-by-side comparison of the old and new print. The restored Technicolor version of the film looks incredible. This is a real treat and one you won't want to miss.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Warner Archive Mega Haul


When it was announced that the WBShop was closing down in its current form and that they would be having their last 4 for $44 sale for Warner Archive titles, I pounced. On March 12th I bought a whopping 32 discs. I used both the sale and a special 15th anniversary coupon code for an extra deal. Then on the last day of March, I bought 4 sets that weren't part of the original sale but I could still use the coupon code for. While we don't know what the future holds for Warner Archive, I did want to buy what I could before it was too late. Warner Archive titles are currently available at a variety of online stores including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Deep Discount, TCM Shop and more and they have new releases scheduled throughout this year. Shop while you can!

Now on to the haul.

Did you partake in the Warner Archive 4 for $44 sale? If so, what did you get?

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (16)

I'm way overdue for another new book round-up. Better late than never! Get ready for a wave of new classic film books!

Are you new to my list? Here are the details. The books include biographies, memoirs, scholarly texts, coffee table books and more from a variety of publishers. Publication dates range from January to July 2021 and these are subject to change.

Links go to Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Powell's. I receive a small commission if you shop through some (not all) of my buy links. With that said if you're going to buy from any of these links, make sure you click through to Larry Edmunds Bookshop and support that fantastic book store!

 by Cicely Tyson
432 pages— January 2021

The Killer 1940s
by Kimberly Truhler
GoodKnight Books
288 pages— January 2021

A Career Chronicle and Biography
by Allan R. Ellenberger and Robert Murdoch Paton
226 pages— January 2021

A Life from Beginning to End
by Hourly History
46 pages— January 2021

Gangster Noir in Midcentury America
by Robert Miklitsch
University of Illinois Press
304 pages— January 2021

by Terri Simone Francis
Indiana University Press
216 pages— January 2021

by Scott Allen Nollen and Yuyun Yuningsih Nollen
484 pages— January 2021

Quick Takes: The Movie Musical
by Desiree J. Garcia
Rutgers University Press
110 pages— January 2021

by Karl K. Kitchen and edited by Paul Duncan
256 pages— January 2021

A Complete Guide to the World of Film (New Edition)
by Ronald Bergan
360 pages— February 2021

A True Story
by Mike Sager
The Sager Group LLC
 172 pages— February 2021

Vernacular Jazz Dance in American Film, 1929-1945
by Susie Trenka
John Libbey Publishing
256  pages— February 2021

Florence Deshon, Max Eastman, and Charlie Chaplin
edited by Cooper C. Graham and Christoph Irmscher
Indiana University Press
474 pages— February 2021

Mike Nichols
A Life
by Mark Harris
Penguin Press
688 pages— February 2021

Second Edition
360 pages— February 2021

Paramount's Classic Western
by Aubrey Malone
BearManor Media
184 pages— February 2021

Harold Pinter's Screenplays and the Artistic Process
by Steven H. Gale
University Press of Kentucky
538 pages— February 2021

A Cultural Timeline from the Magic Lantern to Netflix 
 by Ian Haydn Smith
Thames and Hudson
272 pages— March 2021

by George Chakiris with Lindsay Harrison
Lyons Press
232 pages — March 2021

An Unquiet Life
New Edition
by Stephen Michael Shearer
520 pages— March 2021

Ride the Pink Horse

by Dorothy B. Hughes
American Mystery Classics
288 pages— March 2021

Melodrama and Visibility in Latin American Silent Film
by Juan Sebastian Ospina Leon
University of California Press
252 pages— March 2021

Six Iconic Photographers, One Legendary Star
by various
Acc Art Books
288 pages— April 2021

Dispatches from Weimar Berlin and Interwar Vienna
edited by Noah Isenberg
Princeton University Press
224 pages— April 2021

Consider Your Ass Kissed
by Ruta Lee
Briton Publishing
274 pages —April 2021

Filmmaker and Philosopher
by Robert B. Pippin
Bloomsbury Academic
168 pages— April 2021

The Mysteries of Cinema
Movies and Imagination

by Peter Conrad
Thames and Hudson
320 pages— April 2021

An Anatomy of the Master of Suspense 
by Edward White
W.W. Norton and Company
 336 pages —April 2021

A Celebration of Cars at the Movies
by Giles Chapman
The History Press
128 pages —April 2021

A Daughter's Love Story in Black and White
by Kitt Shapiro with Patricia Levy
Pegasus Books
288 pages —May 2021

The Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship
by Charles Casillo
352 pages —May 2021

A World History of Horror Film
by Brad Weismann
University Press of Mississippi
256 pages —May 2021

A Director's Life
by Ira Wells
The Sutherland House Inc.
400 pages —May 2021

Yellowface and Chinglish by Anglo-American Culture
by Sheng-mei Ma
Bloomsbury Academic
264 pages —May 2021

by Patricia White
BFI Film Classics
120 pages —May 2021

30 Sun-Drenched Classics
by John Malahy
TCM and Running Press
208 pages —May 2021

by Sean French
New Edition
BFI  Film Classics
80 pages —May 2021

The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made
by Josh Hull
256 pages —May 2021

by Peter William Evans
New Edition
BFI Film Classics
80 pages —May 2021

A Filmography, 1928-1962
by David A. Redfern
249 pages —June 2021

Film Noir, the Western and Other Genres
from the 1920s to the 1950s
275 pages —June 2021

by Jim Cullen
Rutgers University Press
180 pages —June 2021

Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend
by Christina Rice
University Press of Kentucky
392 pages —June 2021

The Women Who Made British Cinema
by Melanie Bell
University of Illinois Press
288 pages —June 2021

Postwar Anxieties and Hollywood Films, 1947-1960
by N. Megan Kelley
University Press of Mississippi
288 pages —June 2021

by Dahlia Schweitzer
Rutgers University Press
188 pages —June 2021

In the Wee Small Hours
by Tony Oppedisano and Mary Jane Ross
320 pages —June 2021

The Lost World of Film Noir
Revised and Expanded Edition
by Eddie Muller
Turner Classic Movies/Running Press

A Complete Illustrated Biography of America's Comedy Queen
Centennial Books
192 pages —July 2021

Photographed by Terry O'Neill
by James Clarke
Acc Art Books
224 pages —July 2021

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