Showing posts with label Boxed Set Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Boxed Set Reviews. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Ida Lupino: Filmmaker Collection

Now available from the good folks at Kino Lorber Studio Classics is Ida Lupino: Filmmaker Collection, a Blu-ray boxed set featuring four films directed by Ida Lupino: Not Wanted (1949), Never Fear (1950), The Hitch-Hiker (1953) and The Bigamist (1953). Each of the four films has been beautifully restored and the discs includes a selection of special features. The Blu-rays are available individually too but the boxed set comes with a stylish slipcase and an exclusive booklet which republishes former Variety film critic Ronnie Scheib's article Ida Lupino: Auteuress.

I was particularly excited for this boxed set because I'm very interested in Ida Lupino's work and with bad copies of these films have been making the rounds it was high time they be presented at their very best.

Not Wanted (1949)

Ida Lupino's directorial debut came without an onscreen credit. She had taken over for Elmer Clifton when he suffered a serious heart attack and was too ill to continue. He died shortly after the film was released. Not Wanted stars Sally Forrest as Sally Kelton, a wide-eyed and naive young woman who falls for an older man, a piano player named Steve (Leo Penn). Much to her parents dismay, Sally runs away from home and follows Steve who only has a passing interest in her. Drew Baxter (Keefe Brasselle), a gas station attendant with an injured leg, falls for Sally only to have her runaway again. Turns out Sally is pregnant with Steve's child and hides out at a home for unwed mothers to decide her future. Lupino co-wrote and co-produced the film. This is a fantastic little drama that doesn't cast judgment on its protagonist. Rather it beckons the audience for some sympathy. Lupino's sister Rita has a small role as Joan, a fellow unwed mother who bonds with Sally.

Special features:
New 4k restoration in conjunction with the Academy Film Archive
Audio commentary by Barbara Scharres, Director of Programming at the Gene Siskel Film Center and filmmaker/historian Greg Ford
English subtitles
The Wrong Rut - hygiene reel
Various Kino Lorber Classics movie trailers

Never Fear (1950)

Lupino's next picture Never Fear was a personal one. The film reunites Sally Forrest and Keefe Brasselle as Carol and Guy, a pair of dancers on the brink of success. Just as Guy proposes to Carol and they book their next big job, Carol comes down with a case of polio which partially paralyzes her legs. She's sent to a rehabilitation center, Kabat-Kaiser, where she struggles with feelings of self-pity and despair. There she meets fellow polio patient Len (Hugh O'Brian) who has a much better attitude about his condition. Lupino's sister also appears in the film in a similar role to that she played in Now Wanted as one of the protagonist's peers who offers some perspective with her experience. At the age of 16, Lupino herself suffered from the disease which paralyzed her right hand. This was during one of the major polio outbreaks in California. The polio vaccine was still a few years away and this film was one major way Lupino brought awareness to the disease. Never Fear is a taut and compelling drama that feels authentic even if you didn't know the backstory. It was filmed at the Kabat-Kaiser facility in Santa Monica and the extras were real patients.

Special features:
New 2k restoration in conjunction with the BFI
Audio commentary by film historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
English subtitles
Various Kino Lorber Classics movie trailers

The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

Perhaps Lupino's best known and most acclaimed work, The Hitch-Hiker proves that a female director could work beyond the scope of what would be considered women's pictures. Lupino not only directs but she also co-wrote the screenplay with ex-husband and frequent collaborator Collier Young. The story revolves around three male characters. Roy (Edmond O'Brien) and Gilbert (Frank Lovejoy) are best buds out on a fishing trip in Mexico. They pick up a hitch-hiker Emmett (William Talman) who unbeknownst to them is a deranged serial killer who is targeting unsuspecting motorists. What ensues is a frightening road trip that keeps audiences at the edge of their seats. The dynamic between the three actors is palpable and Talman is absolutely terrifying as Emmett.

Special features:
New 2K restoration in conjunction with the Library of Congress
Audio commentary by film historian Imogen Sara Smith
English subtitles
Various Kino Lorber Classics movie trailers

The Bigamist (1953)

For Lupino to have worked on The Bigamist to me meant she was the ultimate professional. Why? Not only was she the director, she also directs herself as one of the stars. Also she collaborates again with her ex-husband, writer/producer Collier Young who was at the time married to the film's other star Joan Fontaine. I'm not sure I would have been capable of all that but Lupino did so and the end result was this fine drama. Edmond O'Brien stars as Harry Graham, a salesman who travels back and forth from San Francisco and Los Angeles. It turns out he has two different women in each city, his wife Eve (Joan Fontaine) at home and his girlfriend Phyllis (Ida Lupino) in L.A. His secret comes to light when Mr. Jordan (Edmund Gwenn), an adoption coordinator, investigates Harry. The conceit could have lent itself to melodrama but instead Lupino and her crew offer a sensitive portrayal of a man in love with two women. We know how it will all end but we enjoy the journey anyways.

Special features:
New 4k restoration in conjunction with Paramount Pictures
Audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger
English subtitles

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Kino Lorber Studio Classics Ida Lupino: Filmmaker Collection will make a fine addition to your home library of classic films. This is a must-have for any Ida Lupino fan or anyone who enjoys 1940s/1950s dramas and film noir. My one complaint about the set is the formatting of the booklet which makes it difficult to read. I wish some more effort to design it as a proper book had been taken.

Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of this set for review.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Alice Howell Collection

Distilled Love (1920)

Ben Model's Undercrank Productions has released The Alice Howell collection, a two DVD set featuring 12 short films from master silent film comedienne Alice Howell. A mix of screwball and slapstick comedies, Howell knew how to entertain audiences with her knack for physical comedy, her amusing expressions and signature look. Model offers the following description:

"The character that she had developed was a slightly addled working-class girl with a round Kewpie-doll face topped off with a mountain of frizzy hair piled high on her head."

Howell reminds me a lot of British comedienne and actress Dawn French. As as a silent film star Howell pretty much stands on her own. Howell's career began when she and her husband relocated to California when he fell ill. Howell found work as an extra for Mack Sennett's Keystone Film Company. She eventually graduated from extra to supporting cast to leading lady. In addition to Keystone she also worked for L-Ko Komedy, Century Comedies, Emerald Film Co., Reelcraft and Universal. 

Neptune's Naughty Daughter (1917)

The shorts in The Alice Howell Collection have been digitally remastered from 35mm and 16mm print. Sources include the Library of Congress, the BFI National Archive, the Danish Film Institute among others. Each film is presented with an original musical score written and performed by Ben Model himself. A brief intro explains what's been done to restore each film and points out any missing scenes/reels, title cards or notable damage. The films are all offered in the best presentation possible making this collection of early comedies well worth the investment of any silent film enthusiast.

The films in the set include: 

Disc One:
Shot in The Excitement (1914) 
Father Was a Loafer (1915) 
Under New Management (1915) 
How Stars Are Made (1916) 
Neptune's Naughty Daughter (1917) 
In Dutch (1918)

Disc Two:
Distilled Love (1920) 
His Wooden Leg-acy (1920) 
Her Lucky (1920) 
Cinderella Cinders (1920) 
A Convict's Happy Bride (1920) 
Under a Spell (1925)

I didn't know anything about Alice Howell until I received this set and she's been a delightful discovery. My favorite shorts in the set include the boozy and whacky adventure comedy Distilled Love (1920) which features Oliver Hardy in a very early role, the madcap screwball comedy where Howell has triplets (in addition to her four kids) and her loser husband tries to abandon the family with hilarious results Father Was a Loafer (1915) and the backstage comedy (with an explosive ending!) where Howell pretends to be an actress to appear on promotional float How Stars Are Made (1916). Other notable films include Neptune's Naughty Daughter (1917) which is the only surviving film of the six shorts she made with Century Comedies and His Wooden Leg-acy (1920), one of several films Howell made in Chicago and is a side-splitting rags to riches to rags tale.

Alice Howell was a daredevil comedian and some of the stunts she did in the film are as impressive now as they were back then. She's largely forgotten today but is well overdue for a comeback. If you've never heard of Howell but love silent comedies or you're a well-established fan, you need to get your hands on this set!

Thank you to Ben Model for sending me a copy of this set 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)

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.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Boxed Sets

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson DVD sets

We often talk about lost films, those have been destroyed due to fire or negligence. Recovering what we can from the farthest corners of the planet has been our mission in order to restore parts of film history. But what about the history of television? Some shows were neglected in much the same way. They were discarded or in some cases like The Dick Cavett Show or The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, they were taped over with new material. Many of those early episodes with interviews and performances that should have been preserved are lost forever. With The Tonight Show, many of the early episodes are lost but some episodes from the 1970s were recovered thanks to  copies sent to industry executives. These are gems that merit preservation for future generations.

Doc Severinsen, Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon
Doc Severinsen, Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon

Out of the NBC vault comes two new collections brought to us by Carson Entertainment and Time Life: The Vault Series: Collector's Edition and Johnny and Friends. Each of these DVD boxed sets boast a variety of episodes from the 1970s, '80s and '90s, some never before released in their entirety or at all. Bonus clips consist of episodes cobbled together from existing materials. Special episodes are preceded by a note giving some background on any technical difficulties, quality issues or missing segments. What makes these collections so specials is that they contain full episodes. These are not collection of clips or segments. You get the experience of the full episode presented just the way it appeared on its original air date.

The DVD menu gives you an option to watch the episodes and bonus clips with or without commercials. I implore you to watch them WITH the commercials. They are half the fun of watching these sets. There are lots of vintage commercials from brands such as Pillsbury, Budweiser, Fresca, KFC, Ore-Ida, Sanka, Subaru, RCA, Sears, JC Penney, Revlon, Delta, United Airlines, Alpo and more. Some of the commercials feature well-known actors early on in their careers. There are also Ed McMahon's sponsored spots for numerous brands which are a lot of fun to watch too.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson The Vault Series

The Vault Series set contains 6 DVDs and features 18 episodes and bonus clips (which watch like almost complete episodes). These include anniversary and birthday episodes, notable guest appearances and some serve as a time capsule. For example, 2 discs highlight one week in March 1976.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends

Johnny and Friends set contains 10 DVDs which 3 episodes and bonus clips. Each DVD highlights a particular regular guest on the show. These include: Don Rickles, Robin Williams, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Burt Reynolds, Steve Martin, Rodney Dangerfield, Eddie Murphy and Jim Fowler. Save the Don Rickles DVD for last because it's the best one.

Highlights of both sets include:

  • Ray Bolger song and dance numbers and a performance with Bing Crosby and Marvin Hamlisch
  • Charlton Heston on working with Cecil B. DeMille
  • Michael Caine and Sean Connery promoting The Man Who Would Be King
  • Orson Welles on the power of radio, on the good old days of radio.
  • Lucille Ball and Johnny Carson talking about their sex lives
  • A tipsy Dean Martin
  • Don Rickles insulting Johnny Carson and his guests
  • Don Rickles and Johnny Carson doing sit-ups with Olympian Olga Connolly (Fikotova)
  • James Garner and Ellen Burstyn discuss working together
  • Lauren Bacall discusses her admiration for Bette Davis
  • First appearances by David Letterman, Eddie Murphy, etc.
  • Burt Reynolds and Johnny Carson prank each other
  • James Mason discussing some of his worst films
  • Rodney Dangerfield's stand-up
  • Wildlife expert Jim Fowler and his animal friends
  • Bob Hope's entrances with Thanks for the Memories played by the band
  • Appearances by notable actors including Susan Sarandon, Clint Eastwood
  • Johnny Carson (finally!) performs Rhinestone Cowboy
  • Johnny Carson's skits including Carnac the Magnificent and Tea Time Movie matinee
  • The retro commercials.
  • The "More to Come" art in between commercial breaks often features classic film stars including Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Mae West, Shirley Temple, etc.

Both sets make fantastic gifts for the Johnny Carson fans in your life. If you want to pick only one of these two sets, I recommend the Vault Series over Johnny and Friends. I enjoyed the presentation of episodes more with that one. If you're a classic film enthusiast there is much to enjoy there. However, Johnny and Friends includes 4 more DVDs and a lot of truly excellent content. I wasn't as interested in some of the featured guests but with the full episodes I found plenty of other guests to capture by attention.

Watching full episodes of The Tonight Show, presented with retro commercials, is like taking a time travel trip to a bygone era of television history. These sets are so much fun to watch. I hope you'll give them a try.

Many thanks to Time Life for sending me these DVD sets for review. Shop The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson sets on Time Life.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ Dr. Kildare Movie Collection

The good folks at the Warner Archive Collection have released a stupendous 9-film, 5-Disc Collection of all of the Dr. Kildare films starring Lew Ayres as Kildare and Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Gillespie.  I was knew very little of the Dr. Kildare films so listening to George, Matt and D.W. talk about it on the Warner Archive podcast, watching the films and doing a bit of research online was a very satisfying way to approach this unfamiliar territory.

The films in the Dr. Kildare Movie Collection include:

Young Dr. Kildare (1938)
Calling Dr. Kildare (1939)
The Secret of Dr. Kildare (1939)
Dr. Kildare's Strange Case (1940)
Dr. Kildare Goes Home (1940)
Dr. Kildare's Crisis (1940)
The People vs. Dr. Kildare (1941)
Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day (1941)
Dr. Kildare's Victory (1942)
Bonus: unaired MGM-TV pilot for Dr. Kildare from 1960 with Lew Ayres

Lew Ayres stars as the young Dr. James Kildare. He's just finished medical school and is on the brink of a fantastic career as a doctor. He's the son of a small town practitioner, Dr. Stephen Kildare (Samuel S. Hinds) whose footsteps he should have followed but instead chose to become an intern at the fictional Blair General Hospital in New York City. He shows promise as a diagnostician and the ornery but visionary Dr. Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore) takes Kildare under his wing. While Kildare only makes a measly $20 a month at his new job, he has access to a top facility, a big medical library, labs and a wide of variety of patients and cases. Dr. Kildare is rebellious and ambitious but at the same time has a generous and kind heart. He truly believes in helping people get better. His rebelliousness gives him an edge but at heart he's the same sweet wholesome doctor his father is. A common thread throughout the entire series finds Kildare breaking hospital rules and regulations in order save his patients.

It's almost unfair to call these the Dr. Kildare movies because what makes these films so special is the cast of unique characters that make up the world of Blair General Hospital and Kildare's hometown.

Samuel S. Hinds as Dr. Stephen Kildare and Emma Dunn as Mrs. Martha Kildare

At home there is Dr. Stephen Kildare (Samuel S. Hinds), Dr. James Kildare's father and the patriarch of the Kildare household. He's very proud of his son even if he is a bit disappointed that he didn't join him in his home practice. Dr. Stephen Kildare is a sweet and patient old man who is well-respected as the community's doctor but isn't as brilliant as his prodigal son.

Mrs. Martha Kildare (Emma Dunn) is the wise mother and matriarch. Nothing gets past her and she's always around to give good advice to her son. Her husband might be oblivious at times but she never is. Most mother characters in these types of serials are often homebodies whose worlds don't extend much past the household and who can be a little flighty and easily confused. Mrs. Kildare is not that type of character. She's as smart as she is charming and easily became my favorite character of the series.

At Blair General Hospital there is Dr. Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore), a crusty old man with a bad temper and gruff personality. However, he has a big heart and is passionate about what he does. Each film features a tender scene in which Dr. Gillespie gives some health and life advice to patient. Dr. Gillespie is so well-respected at Blair General Hospital that his influence gets Dr. Kildare out of hot water on more than one occasion and his stool pigeons are always on the look out for juicy gossip and insider information to bring back to him. While the focus of the series is on Dr. Kildare, Barrymore's portrayal of Dr. Gillespie steals the spotlight. His character is always on the verge of death because of a melanoma on his left hand and elbow. Perhaps this was a convenient plot point in case wheelchair bound Barrymore could no longer continue the series. But Barrymore's Dr. Gillespie continues on through the whole series and beyond (more on that later).

Other characters at Blair General Hospital include:

Laraine Day (left) as Mary Lamont and Alma Kruger (right) as Molly Byrd

Nurse Mary Lamont (Laraine Day) - She's the nurse assigned by Dr. Gillespie to spy on Dr. Kildare in Calling Dr. Kildare (1939). Kildare and Lamont fall in love and become engaged. The climax of their relationship can be seen in Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day. Throughout the series, Kildare grows to rely on her talents as a nurse and as a confidant and trustworthy supporter.

Nurse Molly Byrd (Alma Kruger) - Byrd is the tough no-nonsense head nurse that keeps Blair General Hospital and all of its orderlies, nurses and doctors in check. She's the only person who can put Dr. Gillespie in his place. Byrd and Gillespie are a couple without the romance and rely on each other in matters both personal and professional.

From left to right: Conover (George Reed), Dr. Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore),
Nurse Parker (Nell Craig) and Dr. Carew (Walter Kingsford)

Dr. Walter Carew (Walter Kingsford) - Dr. Carew runs Blair General Hospital and is the enforcer of its rules and regulations. He often butts heads with Dr. Kildare, who doesn't care for hospital rules, and on a couple occasions even fires or suspends him. Carew greatly admires and respects Gillespie. His character's main purposes to contrast with Kildare's.

Conover  (George Reed) - Conover is Dr. Gillespie's personal orderly and his right-hand man. He loves gambling, maybe a little too much. Conover often has to trick Gillespie for the doctor's own good.

Nurse Parker (Nell Craig) - This bug-eyed nurse lives in constant fear of Dr. Gillespie who loves to bark orders at her and confuse her from time to time. She's the polar opposite of Molly Byrd.

A scene from Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day (1941) includes Sally, Mike Ryan, Maisie, Vernon Briggs,
Conover plus other minor characters.

Wayman (Nat Pendleton) - Paramedic who assists Dr. Kildare on emergency cases. When Dr. Kildare takes the rap for Wayman's neglect of a particular patient, Wayman feels he owes a lot to Kildare. When Wayman isn't flirting with Sally, he's often found helping Dr. Kildare out of a jam. He's in the first 6 films then mysteriously disappears only to return in the three Dr. Gillespie films that followed.

Sally, the telephone Operator (Marie Blake) - Sally is the wise-cracking dame who fields hospital calls (mostly complaints or propositions) as well as the amorous attentions of Wayman and orderlies. She and Dr. Gillespie have the funniest lines of dialogue in the series.

Mike Ryan (Frank Orth) - Mike Ryan is the Irish bartender at the convivial Sullivan's Hospital Cafe who strikes a friendship with fellow Irishman Dr. Kildare. Ryan eventually takes over the cafe and rebrands it with his own name. He loves to flirt with Mrs. Martha Kildare and is always trying to get the interns and orderlies to eat his special Irish grub.

Nurse Maisie (Gladys Blake) - Nurse Maisie is Sally's back-up and manages the hospital intercom. She's Sally's rival for the orderlies' attention and is a big flirt.

Vernon Briggs (Red Skelton) - Skelton provides comic relief in two of the series most dramatic films. He's the orderly who thinks he's a wise guy but is always getting fooled. I wish they had introduced Skelton earlier and kept him longer in the series. Every scene he's in is a delight to watch.

Notable guest appearances include Tom Conway, Bonita Granville, Nils Asther, Robert Young, Lana Turner and Gene Lockhart.

The Dr. Kildare movies were always meant to be a series. At the end of the first film, Lionel Barrymore and Lew Ayres come out and announce that there will be many films to come. The Dr. Kildare series ended in 1942. Lew Ayres was a conscientious objector to WWII and because of public outcry did not appear in films during the war. The series was popular enough that they continued on without Ayres and what followed was three Dr. Gillespie films:  Calling Dr. Gillespie (1942), Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant (1942) and Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case (1943). The second film introduced Van Johnson as Gillespie's new assistant. I really think that Warner Archive should have either included those three movies in this set or at least followed up quickly with a single Dr. Gillespie set. One of those films includes Susan Peters, one of my favorite actresses.

The Dr. Kildare movies are a delight to watch and Lew Ayres and Lionel Barrymore are a dynamic duo. There are some outdated notions about medicine and treatment including a controversial approach to epilepsy and insulin shock therapy. However, the theme of the entire series focuses on preventative care and mind-over-body which still applies today. The overall gist I got was that medical science has advanced in leaps and bounds but there are still improvements waiting on the horizon.

This series isn't perfect though. I don't want to spoil things for you but one of the later films in the series is a shocking let-down. Also, I found the Dr. Kildare character difficult to connect to. He comes from a privileged situation. If anything goes wrong during his internship at Blair General Hospital, he has a cozy position at his father's home practice waiting for him as a fall back plan. This allows Dr. Kildare to take some risks. Not all of us have this convenience. I think his character would have been much more interesting if he had everything to lose.

I thoroughly enjoyed these films and would watch them again. In addition to the 9 Dr. Kildare films and their trailers, there is also a 26 minute unaired 1960 MGM-TV pilot for a Dr. Kildare show starring Lew Ayres. It features a very young Robert Redford which is probably the main draw for contemporary viewers. Lew Ayres portrayal of an older Dr. Kildare is charming. He's kind of half Kildare, half Gillespie. This pilot is bittersweet to watch. Lew Ayres was all set to play Dr. Kildare but made it clear that he wouldn't continue if the network was going to show cigarette ads during the commercial breaks. This unfortunately was a deal breaker and Ayres was dropped. The series was re-fashioned with Richard Chamberlain as Dr. Kildare. While I couldn't connect with Dr. Kildare as a character, I find Lew Ayres as an actor and as a man endlessly fascinating! The recently published biography Lew Ayres: Hollywood's Conscientious Objector is now at the top of my wish list.

The Dr. Kildare Movie Collection is available in a 5-Disc DVD-MOD set from Warner Archive. You can also purchase it at the TCM Shop.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received the Dr. Kildare Movie Collection from Warner Archive to review.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

2013 Classic Film Holiday Gift Guide

This year's holiday gift guide is exclusively made up of items that I own and love plus a couple of extras. I think these will make great gifts for classic film lovers of all kinds. My guide does include some affiliate links. You don't have to shop with them but if you do thank you! And now on to the gifts...

For the Patriotic film buff who loves WWII history…

Warner Bros. And The Homefront Dvd from Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. and the Homefront DVD Collection contains three WWII musicals boasting an incredible array of talent including Bette Davis, John Garfield Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, S.Z. Sakall, Humphrey Bogart, the Andrews Sisters, Ida Lupino, Eddie Cantor, Joan Leslie, Ronald Reagan, Olivia de Havilland and more. It's a great set of entertaining movies which demonstrate how Hollywood used their talents and resources to support the war effort.

For the Gone With the Wind (1939) devotee…

Kendra Bean's book Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait is a labor of love and a great tribute to the actress best known for her role as Scarlett O'Hara. Many Gone With the Wind fans are enamored with Vivien Leigh and would love to have this gorgeous book as part of their library. This book details the actress' life and career and showcases many never-before-seen photographs. It's a collector's item as well as an informative read.

For the serious student of film history…

Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe, and the Scandal That Changed Hollywood is one of my favorite books from 2013. Author Greg Merritt carefully examines the scandal that shook up Hollywood and changed film history forever. This makes the perfect gift for the studious film scholar who wants to learn everything there is to know about the early history of Hollywood. Read my full review of the book here.

For the movie musical fan who wants to grow their collection...

Introduce them to the wonders of movie musicals with this Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Musicals set. It includes various WB and MGM musicals from The Jazz Singer (1927) to Hairspray (1988).  Read my full review of this boxed set here. This is a fun set for a musical movie marathon. You wont be able to watch them all in one day but it would be ideal for a (really) long weekend or staycation.

For the parent who wants to introduce their child to old movies...

Bluffton: My Summer with Buster Keaton by Matt Phelan. This graphic novel takes place in Bluffton, a small neighborhood in Muskegon, Michigan. A young Buster Keaton travels with his family to Bluffton each year to spend the summer. Keaton meets a local boy and the story is told from that boy's perspective. A little bit from my review:

Bluffton is intended for children ages 9-12... It's a great way to introduce children to an important figure in film history and to show them a time before electronic devices in which work and play were exclusively physical. Adults will revel in the nostalgia and the history and everyone will be transfixed by the amazing illustrations. This is a great choice for reluctant readers because of the accessibility of the illustrations, the story and the text.

For the very generous gift giver who wants to treat someone to something extra special…

Best Of Warner Bros. 50 Film Collection (Blu-ray) Blu-Ray from Warner Bros.

Best of Warner Bros. 50 Film Collection (Blu-ray) Blu-Ray from Warner Bros. This set is amazing and one of the treasures in my home library. It retails at just under $600 (you can probably find a good deal online) so this is definitely for the gift giver who has some room in his or her wallet. It contains 50 movies plus extras on 52 Blu-Ray discs. Two flip-books holding the discs are inside and the movies are organized in chronological order. There are extra goodies including a fold-out poster and collectible postcards. The entire folds out and holds together with a magnetic closure. I've been meaning to review this one for a long time and I will soon! Movies include: Grand Hotel, Gone with the Wind, Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Singin' in the Rain, A Streetcar Named Desire, Casablanca, Ben-Hur, North By Northwest and plenty more . Years covered are from 1932 to 2010.

For the frugal gift giver who wants their dollars to go the extra mile…

Give the gift of a TCM Greatest Classic Films or Greatest Classic Legends collection is a great way to treat a classic film fan to something special without breaking the bank. The Greatest Classic Film sets are by theme, director or pairing and include Literary Romance, Busby Berkeley Musicals , Family, Holiday, Astaire and Rogers , Hitchcock Thrillers, Murder Mysteries and more. The Greatest Classic Legends feature four films starring one classic film actor or actress. I own the Jean Harlow and Kirk Douglas sets! Some out-of-print titles can be found in these sets too making them even more valuable. You can usually find these for 30-50% off the retail price at Barnes and Noble or at the TCM Shop. Walmart has an exclusive line with 2 films instead of 4 which is even less expensive.

For the TCM fanatic…

TCM Bistro Mug - Green . I don't have this one yet but thanks to a kind friend who gave me a TCM gift certificate for my recent birthday, there is one on it's way to me! For a gift recipient who loves hot beverages and watching classic movies, there is no better way to show off their TCM pride than with a branded mug.

You could kick things up a notch and upgrade your gift to the Classic Cocoa Gift Set which includes the Bistro Mug, a blanket and hot cocoa mix.

For the film buff who lives for extras…
Lawrence Of Arabia: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray  PLUS Exclusive Gift with Purchase!
Lawrence of Arabia: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray. I asked Carlos if he wanted to suggest something he owned for my holiday gift guide and he picked this. It's one of his most treasured possessions. It's a stunning boxed complete with a coffee table book, an individually numbered 70mm mounted film frame, a soundtrack CD and three Blu-Rays with the film and enough extras to keep you busy for several hours. If you buy the set at TCM's shop, they offer a set of magnets and a gift with purchase.

For the film trivia expert who thinks they know everything…

The Man Who Seduced Hollywood The Life and Loves of Greg Bautzer, Tinseltown's Most Powerful Lawyer by B. James Gladstone. Maybe your loved one and friend has read every book about every major movie star and director? Well, have they heard about Greg Bautzer the legendary lawyer whose list of Hollywood romances was as impressive as his list of elite clients. Read my full review of the book here. (Stay tuned as I'll be posting an interview with the author on this blog soon!)

For the discriminating classic film fan who is impossible to shop for…

A rental or streaming service! I have subscriptions to Netflix (streaming and 2 DVDs at a time) and Classicflix (1 DVD at a time). There is also the Warner Archive streaming service which is growing in leaps and bounds. I love having services like these available to me for random projects and for quick access to new-to-me films I learn about. Netflix offers gift subscriptions. If your recipient already has any of these services, you can always offer to pay for a few months on their behalf.

Now here are some of my favorites from Warner Archive...

For the lover of American nostalgia…

Andy Hardy Collection, The: Volume 1 from Warner Bros.

Andy Hardy Film Collection, The: Volume 2 from Warner Bros.

Spend some time with the Hardy family. There is Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney), he's got energy to burn and skirts to chase, Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) who is the voice of reason even if he sometimes gets sidetracked and who can forget Mrs. Hardy (Fay Holden), Aunt Milly and Marian Hardy. The series evolved over time but many things stayed constant. Andy Hardy's many romances gave some young starlets including Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Esther Williams and two of my personal favorites: Bonita Granville and Susan Peters a chance to shine.

For the B-movie detective enthusiast

Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, The Volume 1 from Warner Bros.

The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, Volume 2 from Warner Bros.

Spend some time with the Falcon as he solves murders and makes the ladies swoon. Actor George Sanders plays Falcon in the first three films until his brother Tom Conway takes over in the fourth film and in the ones that followed. Both Sanders and Conway are excellent in these B-murder mysteries and these films are great for rainy days.

For the Robert Benchley fan or lover of film shorts…

Robert Benchley Shorts from Warner Bros.

These are hilarious! Robert Benchley was the quintessential humorist of the early 20th Century. This three disc set includes 30 of his humorous miniatures from 1935 to 1944. Some of my favorites include How to Sleep, How to Train a Dog, A Night at the Movies and How to Read. You might not love them all but you'll find plenty in this set to enjoy. Fans of Robert Benchley's brand of humor will love to have this set in their home library.

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