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I Thank You (1941)
A comedy of chaos set during the London Blitz of WW II
17 February 2020
"I Thank You" is the best of the films that Arthur Askey made. With his friends Moore and Graham Moffatt and Richard Murdoch, Askey romps and stomps his way through mayhem with many laughs and chuckles. They are joined by some talented performers of the day that add a musical production touch to this comedy.

The plot is a fairly simple one, but the hilarious chaos of many scenes makes one wonder if it was all scripted that way, or if the leads were just ad-libbing as they went along. It is clear that they were enjoying the making of this film.

No doubt this and other comedies of the period did a lot to ease tensions during the war. Farce of this type probably helped many in England keep the proverbial British stiff upper lip during the German bombing of London. The closing scene of the troupe entertaining Londoners in a bomb shelter was a fitting tribute to the English and to the entertainers who did their part for the war effort.

This is a fun film that rivals the best of the raucous movies of the Marx Brothers and Three Stooges in America.
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Weak comedy that the supporting cast keeps afloat
17 February 2020
Arthur Askey has the lead in this film, as Tommy Gander, a comic entertainer. Most films that I've seen in which the comedian has a part as a comedian, haven't been very funny. Alas, such is the case in "The Ghost Train." One even begins to empathize with most of the other passengers after a while. They find Gander annoying. That's not the result a comedian wants.

Watching this film many decades later, it's hard to imagine that audiences of the early 1940s found it funny at all. The best thing about the film was the mystery about the ghost train. But that was barely enough to keep one's interest until the small group is marooned for the night in a railway station.

The film has a surprise ending which lifts it from being a total loss. Askey was a very good comic in his day, mostly on stage and live performances. He didn't make many films. They were a mixed bag, with only a couple that very good (i.e., "I Thank You" of 1941 and "Back-Room Boy" off 1942. "The Ghost Train" is not a good one and suffers under Askey's humorless running vaudeville quips and antics. The rest of the cast are good enough to keep the film afloat.
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Under Siege (1986 TV Movie)
This harbinger film is too close to 9-11 to be shown again or put on DVD
15 February 2020
Warning: Spoilers
"Under Siege" is a TV movie about multiple terrorist attacks in the U.S. It aired on NBC in February 1986. Critics with the mainstream media of the day focused on the main government characters, as they mirrored or were similar to real people of the time. Writers often make their fictitious characters similar to real people. But some critics were more concerned about the comparison of these characters than with the underlying plot of the film - terrorism. The New York Times was one source that focused on how the individual characters acted in response to the terrorism in the film. So, Hal Holbrook's President Maxwell Monroe was matched to Ronald Reagan who was president at the time. E.G. Marshall's Harold Stone was matched to Secretary of State George P. Schulz. And, so on.

That's all okay for any film, of course. But in this case, the character comparisons and similarities are lost on future audiences. Especially when they view such a film after similar events have really occurred. So, it must be with audiences well into the 21st century. Most millennials and post-millennial people won't even know who George Schulz was. But they, and all of us born before them in the 20th century will remember vividly the terrorist attacks of 9-11.

Hollywood made many movies with terrorism themes after this one. Usually, they are centered around one hero (i.e., Harrison Ford in "Air Force One" of 1997, Bruce Willis in the "Die Hard" films of 1he late 1980s and early 1990s, Steven Seagal films and others). But no other films have been made about an organized plot of multiple acts of terrorism. Nor has this film been rebroadcast on TV or even made into a DVD. I watched it recently from an old TV recording.

One can understand the fright that many might feel today in watching this film. Every year, terrorists strike somewhere around the globe. Some of the scenes in the film are haunting. It is a portrayal of some human beings who have no sensitivity about harming others. They have a fanaticism and are willing to kill themselves in their violence. So, there are many reasons why this movie has not been shown again.

Now, for a couple of critiques of the film. Some reviewers have commented on the shock of seeing a passenger plane explode in mid-air after taking off. While it is a striking scene, it's the most unreal scene in the film. No amount of explosive could have been carried onto that plane to cause it to totally disintegrate and disappear as the film shows. The explosive that the terrorist carried on board in his case would have blown a hole in the plane and caused it to crash. If it had crashed on land it would have done more damage and killed more people.

A real comparison with the plane destruction in this film was the 1988 explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. A plastics terrorist bomb aboard that flight blew a 20-inch hole in the plane. But, because it was at an altitude of 31,000 feet, the pressure differences cause the plane to break into four large sections. Besides the 259 people on board, the wreckage that fell to earth killed 11 more people on the ground.

Lastly, one wonders about the training and ability of the lead character. Peter Strauss plays the head of the FBI, John Garry. After chasing a terrorist through a crowded amusement park and finally cornering him on a train track where no other people were around, Garry just stands with his gun pointed at the terrorist. He watches for some time as a train is approaching at a slow speed. And he just watches as the terrorist pulls the pin on a grenade he's holding. It explodes as the train hits him, but does no damage to the train.

Why the highly trained FBI director didn't try to shoot him in the leg, or otherwise is beyond me. The terrorist then most likely would have dropped the grenade before pulling the pin, and he would have fallen to the ground. He may have rolled down the side of the track. Or, Garry might have had time to run and pull him off the tracks. He would have had his prisoner then, without any harm to innocent bystanders.

This movie was fiction in 1986. But, in 2001 organized multiple acts of terrorism became a fact when the radical Islamist group Al Qaeda hijacked four passenger planes in the U.S. on Sept. 11.
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He couldn't have said what he said he'd say
15 February 2020
Will Hay was too old to serve in the armed forces during World War II, but he did his part to ease the tension in England with some comedy films until he retired in 1943. "The Ghost of St. Michael's" isn't his funniest movie, but it is a fair comedy mystery that just incidentally has to do with the war.

Again, the comical Hay takes to the classroom where he is a teacher of questionable credentials (and abilities). He plays Will Lamb. This was all shot in the Ealing Studios near London, but the setting is of a castle somewhere on the coast of Scotland. It has been converted to a school for boys (high school age) whose school has been closed during the bombing of London.

The funniest part of the film is the scene of a court being conducted in a barn. Animals keep coming and going to the consternation of the presiding judge. Ducks, pigs, a goat, a chicken and a cow all have cameo appearances. The best lines are from this scene. Here are my favorite lines.

Procurator Fiscal (played by Hay Petrie), "I put it to you, Mr. Lamb. Either you are grossly incompetent to teach chemistry, or you're making a puerile attempt to avoid an accusation of having caused the death of Mr. Humphries."

Procurator Fiscal, 'You couldn't possibly have known that I would say what I've just said." Will Lamb, "Listen, if you're trying to say that I wouldn't have said what I said I'd say, if you said what you said you would've said, well all I can say is fiddle sticks."
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Darling Lili (1970)
Great comedy with WW I songs, flying, and spoofs
18 January 2020
Warning: Spoilers
"Darling Lili" is a superb movie with a fictitious story set during World War I, mostly in France. It's a comedy, musical, romance and drama. It has spying and spoofs of France and Germany of that time. The film has a wonderful plot, tremendous musical numbers sung by Julie Andrews, some very funny scenes and antics, a little suspense over the spying, and a slowly developing love story. The latter is more often filled with humor than it is with romance. On top of that, it has some of the best aerial scenes of vintage aircraft, with aerial combat, crashes and other action.

"Darling Lili" is chock full of the classic songs of World War I and several more tunes, including a couple written for the movie by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. And no other film could have renditions of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag," and "Keep the Home Fires Burning" sung more beautifully than Julie Andrews sings them here.

The entire cast shines in this film. Andrews plays Lili Smith, whose mother was English and father was German. That sort of explains how she became an undercover spy for Germany. She is a prominent and well-loved English singer who entertains the troops and visits hospitals to sing for the wounded. On the side, she dines with the French brass and gets secrets from them that she passes on to her German contact, Col. Kurt Von Ruger. Jeremy Kemp is perfect for the role of her superior and close friend who is in charge of the German spy ring. But Lili's role isn't meant to parody Mata Hari, the exotic dancer and courtesan of WW I who was convicted of spying and executed by firing squad. Rather, this film spoofs that bit of history when Lili discovers that the former girlfriend of her newest assignment is just such a dancer.

Viewers should note that fealty to the Germany of World War I was not the same and was a far cry from such loyalty to the Nazi Germany of World War II. Having used her feminine beauty and skills to charm military secrets from French generals, the glamorous Lili then is set upon the leader of the American Eagle squadrons to learn of the aerial plans and operations of the Allies.

Rock Hudson is that American, Major William Larrabee. Having been a lady's man through his career, he is in for a bumpy relationship when Ms. Smith gets her claws into him. But, of course, she meets her match in a man and romance begins to win the day for them both. This is all as one might imagine for such a story. But this romance is filled with wonderful comedy as well as some light intrigue.

Adding to the comedy are a couple of French military intelligence officers who are investigating the "leaks" of secret information. Jacques Martin and Andre Maranne are excellent and very funny as Major Duvalle and Lt. Liggett. T.C. Carstairs is a boozing pilot friend of Larrabee who seems to wreck about every plane he flies. Lance Percival plays the hilarious Scotsman.

All the rest of the cast give very good performances. Gloria Paul is the hot Parisian singer-dancer, Crepe Suzette. Michael Witney plays a young flier in the Eagle squadrons, Lt. George Youngblood Carson. Carl Duering is the dastardly German head of the secret service, General Kessler. Vernon Dobtcheff plays his henchman and assassin, the equally sinister Otto Kraus. Lili's butler and maid, Bedford and Emma, are played by Bernard Kay and Doreen Keogh.

While the story is fictitious, the film does give a good picture of the World War I setting in France. The costumes, sets, props and everything about the film are superb and lend a touch of history to the film. The movie was filmed mostly in Europe. Due to public riots in France at the time, the bulk of the movie was shot in Belgium. The flying and aerial scenes were filmed in Ireland where the Irish Air Corps Flyers manned the planes and did excellent and believable flying.

The movie received mostly good reviews. It received three Academy Award nominations and three Golden Globe nominations. It won the Golden Globe for best original song, "Whistling Away the Dark," by Mancini and Mercer. Apparently, there was considerable controversy over production, especially concerning filming locations. While Blake Edwards directed the film, he lost control over the whole project. The substantial cast, costly wardrobes and sets, and cost of filming in Europe led to huge cost overruns. Then, Paramount badly managed distribution of the movie. So, while it set box-office records at Radio City Music Hall, the movie was a financial failure.

Paramount re-released the film in a director's cut format by Blake Edwards in 1992. Edwards and Andrews were at the Cannes release, and then the re-release in Los Angeles.

"Darling Lili" is a wonderful, highly entertaining movie that the whole family should enjoy. Besides it's comedy, music, action, romance, and slight intrigue, it has some educational value for WW I and the culture of the period. It has rousing renditions of the popular songs of World War I. And it has several instances of mild spoofing. Germany and the German army get some jabs as do the French government and its military. Imagine, giving a high award to an enemy spy! It also spoofs the Allied pilots and their security. And it pokes fun with a spoof of the Mata Hari episode of WW I.

Here's a favorite line from the film. Colonel Kurt Von Ruger to Lili Smith, "Try to look reasonably happy. After all, it isn't every day that a German spy is awarded the French Legion of Honor."
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An early comedy about wealth and the vices it invites
10 January 2020
"Playboy in Paris" is a Paramount movie that debuted in American theaters in October 1930; and was remade and retitled for release in France after a New York premier on Jan. 20, 1931. The French language version was called, "Le Petite Café." The film I watched had the title covered over with the English title, "The Little Café." This was the American edition with the credits and cast of the original film.

Only one member of the cast is the same in the two releases. Maurice Chevalier plays the waiter, Albert Loriflan, in both films. The most familiar other actors in the original film are Eugene Pallette as the cook, Pierre Bourdin, and Stuart Erwin as Paul Michel, the kitchen helper. One wonders why the film was completely shot a second time with mostly French actors in that version. Because, it too, was filmed on location at Paramount studios in Hollywood.

Frances Dee plays the part of Yvonne Phillbert in this version. She's the daughter of the café owner, and Phillbert is played by O.P. Heggie. One wonders why the Yvonne role wasn't played by Yvonne Vallee in both films, because she was Chevalier's wife at the time. The couple had been married since 1927, and she moved to Hollywood with Chevalier when he went there to break into American films. She was Chevalier's only wife and they divorced in 1935. The American film's Yvonne is played by Frances Dee, who would marry Joel McCrea within three years. Her part seems overblown at times.

The film is a comedy that's also billed as a musical for the couple of tunes that Chevalier sings. The plot is interesting and exploits themes of greed, gold-digging, dreaming of wealth, and the loss of virtues associated with these - envy, pride, arrogance, cheating, lying and more. But, the comedy is just so-so, and there's nothing outstanding about the movie.

The funniest scene is when Albert takes Phillbert off to the side in a fancy restaurant to stop him from divulging his background to his date, Mademoiselle Berengere (played by Dorothy Christy). Albert describes the different types and results of a punch in the nose, when Phillbert finally gets the message. One of the strangest (maybe intended as funny) scenes is early when Albert recommends for breakfast, radishes, ham and bread.

Here are a couple of the funnier lines from the movie.

Mademoiselle Berengere, "Albert, you must calm yourself. Waiter?" Albert, "Yes, madam?" Berengere, "Oh no, dear, I was calling the waiter."

Pierre Bourdin," Albert, Albert, I just learned from the general that the banker is not the man that I thought he was." Albert, "You mean Gastonet is afraid?" Pierre, "Afraid? I should say not. Before he settled down in the banking business, he was an officer in the 22nd ...And this will make his sixth duel."

Pierre, "You must forget everything I told you yesterday. Your only chance is to shoot first. You can't afford to lose a second." (Pierre is his second second.)
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Bed of Roses (1933)
Rolling (guys) on the river, and elsewhere
10 January 2020
"Bed of Roses" is a film that some who get hung up on the early Hollywood rating code would be quick to call a "pre-code" film. While some such early sound films were quite risqué, the vast majority of them weren't, even by standards of the time. Many modern "R" rated films are far more explicit with sex, nudity, and more. The point is made here because this film has nothing like that. But what it does have is innuendo, suggestion and unspoken sex content. So, it's a good example of what the Hollywood writers would have to be doing in all such films within the next year, when the studios began enforcing their "Breen" code through the Hays office. Those are the names of the men who were the first to handle this task for the movie moguls.

Of course, what makes this a so-called "pre-code" film is its obvious reference to the two female leads as prostitutes from the very opening. Even such a reference would get tougher screening within a year. So, the two female leads are hookers whose livelihoods consist of trying to roll prospects before having to deliver the goods.

It's interesting for that aspect, where so few films were made before the mid-to-late 20th century about such characters. There were many films about gold-diggers and women (and some men) looking for wealthy prospects for spouses. But this is an early look at a couple of women who make their living by rolling dupes.

Obviously, the plot had to be more than that, and so one of the women decides to go straight after she falls for a hard-working river barge operator. The setting is around the Mississippi River and New Orleans. A number of early movies were set on paddle-wheelers (besides the musical, "Show Boat").

The screenplay is somewhat weak in spots, and the direction and editing seem sloppy at times. The cast are okay, but not exceptional. That goes for Constance Bennett as Lorry Evans and Joel McCrea as Dan. John Halliday's Stephen Paige seems a little overboard at times, and wooden at other times. The best performance in the film is by Pert Kelton as Minnie Brown, the girlfriend and fellow crook of Lorry.

The film is a comedy romance and drama. The comedy is mostly in some snappy dialog quips by Lorry or Minnie. The best line is by Minnie, when she says, "Mmm, you know, Mr. Paige, it's too back you wasn't born twins."
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It probably relieved some wartime worry when it came out
8 January 2020
"Bees in Paradise" might have been a good comic diversion for the Brits during WW II. But these decades later, it's mostly a silly film with no more than a couple of laughs. The hidden island isn't filled with Amazon women of mythology, but a tribe that seems to be up to snuff on the world around it.

This version of a woman's world without men welcomes the occasional wayfarers who happen upon the place. But that's just for one purpose -- you-know-what (come now, people didn't talk about sex way back then, although love-making was okay if a little nebulous). After that, the men had a choice of how to dispose of themselves.

The title fits the setting where the head honcho female is the queen bee, and the rest are all worker bees. It doesn't really play out the biological way of bees because the drones (lost males who come ashore or land from the sky) are for any woman who can first snare one. The queen has to snare a man herself if she wants one.

The funniest thing in the film may be the variety of things around the island shaped like bee hives. The cast are okay but nothing special. It's clearly a film made with Arthur Askey in mind for the comic lead.

I can't imagine anyone other than a fellow die-hard old-time movie fan enjoying this film much, or even sitting through the whole thing. In its day and time, "Bees in Paradise" may have been a crowd pleaser; but it's definitely without much luster or humor well into the 21st century.

I did enjoy a couple of lines - but even these don't conjure up more than a mild chuckle.

Askey's Arthur Tucker says, "I can't go seven days without food. What do you think I am, a musician?"

Max Adler, played by Max Bacon, says to Tucker, "Remember what the skipper says about using your discretion." Tucker replies, "Oh, discretion's a thing that comes to a man too late to do him any good."
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Wacky, raucous comedy works with its fine cast
5 January 2020
"The Battle of Broadway" is one wacky movie. It's not a screwball comedy, although it has a rather concocted triangle - or, more like two or three triangles that crisscross or overlap. One would have to search hard to find a single line of clever or funny dialog. The humor is provided mostly by the three male leads who probably had more fun than any other cast making a movie in Hollywood in 1938.

Brian Donlevy and Victor McLaglen make a good team for this kind of farce. They're not like Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello. Their mayhem and mishaps would fit more closely with the Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers. When Raymond Walburn gets in the act, it gets even more silly.

These three are old pals from World War I, with Walburn playing the private doughboy who made a fortune and became the steel king in private life. He usually plays similar roles to his Homer C. Bundy in comedies. Donlevy is Chesty Webb and McLaglen is Big Ben Wheeler. In the Army they were over Homer but now they work for him. But they're all buddies, along with many of Homer's steel workers, and they all belong to the Bundy Post of the Legionnaires.

The film doesn't actually identify their group as being the American Legion, but that's the logical conclusion. And, this is a rare film that shows large numbers of legionnaires marching in parade toward the end. It's even more interesting when one considers that this was a good distance form WW I in 1938. But the outbreak of WW II was imminent with Hitler's rise and actions in Europe, and Japan having already invaded China in 1937.

This also is a look at Gypsy Rose Lee in just her fourth of a couple dozen movies she made. She wasn't much of an actress, but was well-known in burlesque for her strip-tease performances. Here she is fairly good as Linda Lee without the burlesque. Twentieth Century Fox put a good cast together for this raucous display, including a couple of highly regarded supporting actresses of the period who would go on to win Oscars.

Hattie McDaniel plays Linda Lee's maid, Agatha. She would win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance the next year as Mammy in the epoch film of Margaret Mitchell's Civil War novel, "Gone with the Wind." Jane Darwell plays Homer Bundy's private secretary, Mrs. Rogers. Three years later, she would give her Oscar-winning performance as Ma Joad in the film version of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath."

Some of the rest of the cast will be familiar to old-time film buffs. This isn't in the league of great comedies for witty dialog and antics, but most modern folks should enjoy it for the bedlam with the male leads.
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Fun kids adventure film set after WW II in Berlin
3 January 2020
"Emil and the Detectives" is the type of kids adventure stories that Walt Disney Studios made several of in the 1950s and 1960s. They were always fun and somewhat interesting, though no one ever thought any real harm would come to the heroes. Still they could keep kids on the edge of their seats at times.

This is a fun family film that youngsters especially should enjoy. Although older kids who are addicted to video games and non-stop action films will have to learn how to sit still to enjoy it.

The only actor of any note in this film is Walter Slezak, an Austrian-born character actor who played in dramas, thrillers and comedies. He will be most familiar for his roles in films about WW II when he usually played German officers or high-ranking officials.

Bryan Russell was a fine young actor, playing Emil in this film. But he made only one movie after this, and after a TV series in the mid-1960s, he quit acting.

An interesting aside in this film was its shooting locations in Germany. This was 1964, and it shows some of the rubble yet from World War II. I can attest to that fact, having served in the U.S. Army in Germany from 1962 to October of 1964. I was stationed near Mainz, Germany, and that city still had partial blocks in rubble that had not yet been cleaned up and rebuilt.

While Walt Disney began his film-making dynasty with Mickey Mouse and animated films, Disney moved into real-life film later. He developed a mixed genre that incorporated some animation within live action film. A classic example of that was "Mary Poppins."
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Novel plot idea doesn't have the oomph to be more than mediocre
1 January 2020
"Aggie Appleby" is an early RKO comedy romance that shows the rough quality of filmmaking in the early days of sound pictures. It also has a cast of actors that were mostly forgotten by the mid-20th century. Only William Gargan, who plays Red Branahan, and Zasu Pitts, Sybby, had careers that went much beyond the 1930s.

The plot for this film is somewhat novel, and it could be developed into an interesting, and funny film. But the screenplay is weak and the development of the characters is wanting. The story scenes appear choppy and the actors at times seem wooden, as though they were taking cues on stage.

Charles Farrel in the male lead as Adoniram Schlump did well in silent films, but only made a dozen films after this, ending his career after 1941 in the 1950s with a short-run TV show and playing in a comedy series. He was a good actor, but not a great one, and with a high-pitched voice, he would have needed super talent to thrive in the tallies.

Wynne Gibson, Aggie in this film, was a talented enough actress who couldn't seem to move above the "B" sets. She made a bunch more movies into the early 1940s, mostly in supporting roles. She left acting except for an occasional appearance after that, and instead became a Hollywood agent.

This would have been a good plot with some serious rewriting and casting with some better actors, but I don't think there's been another movie made along the same theme.
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Lots of Hollywood pyrotechnics, violence and gore in this third "Fallen" film
28 December 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"Angel Has Fallen" is the third film in which Gerard Butler plays U.S. Secret Service agent Mike Banning. All three were Hollywood versions of pyrotechnics. As with the earlier two ("Olympus Has Fallen" in 2013 and "London Has Fallen" in 2016), this film is mostly a display of explosions, gunfire, and violence. The six stars are mostly for the technical aspects of such mayhem and making the gore of the bloodshed seem real.

Films like this don't require much acting, just lots of action in the form of quick movements, dodging, jumping, climbing, vehicle chases, and shooting and fisticuffs.

Only two more members of the cast are noted actors, and they both were prominent more two film generations ago. Morgan Freeman (age 82) plays President Trumbull and Nick Nolte (age 78) plays Butler's dad, Clay Banning. This type of film has been a meat and potatoes production for Freeman over the past 30 plus years. He has often been cast as a high government official, a professor, doctor, scientist or magnate of some sort.

The plot is very simple and obvious. While it classifies as a crime and espionage action film, it hardly fits the category of mystery. Most should be able to guess who the bad guys are within a few minutes, and it doesn't take long to figure out who was behind the assassination plan.

The film does make some of the FBI and Secret Service agents as not too smart. Knowing Banning and his capabilities, they so quickly believe all the easy "clues" that make hum a suspect. The grand-daddy of them all is finding $10 million in his off-shore bank account. So, such a capable Secret Service agent as Banning wouldn't know that such a bank account could be discovered easily? There are some other far-fetched aspects of the film, but that's the license of filmmaking.

Those who enjoy lots of action, violence and explosions should enjoy this film. For others, it will be a mixed bag. This should end the "Fallen" series with Butler, though. He's definitely showing his age (50) which is about the max for these types of films.
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The Honey Pot (1967)
A star-studded film with roots in Ben Jonson's 17th century satire
20 December 2019
This is a very good film adaptation of a story that has had a number of permutations. The original source of the story dates to British poet and playwright Ben Jonson's (1572-1637) satirical play, "Volpone." Thomas Sterling's "Evil of the Day" was a 1955 novel, and playwright Frederick Knott then adapted that source into the play, "Mr. Fox of Venice."

The theme of the original work is carried through all the renditions of the story. It's a biting satire on greed, with a complex staged practical joke as the main plot. The comedy isn't of the rollicking laughter type, but in the exaggerations with the drama and the characters themselves. Most of the characters of the Ben Jonson play are carried through all renditions, except that in the 20th century story the three characters of avarice are women instead of men.

Director Joseph Mankiewicz does a masterly job of adapting and then directing the story, with an introduction and closing comments in voice over by the main character, Cecil Fox. He uses this technique very subtly for one other character toward the end. Another reviewer delighted in what he called the "Maltese Falcon" ending. It is fantastic in itself.

The film was made mostly in Rome, with some canal scenes shot in Venice. The producers assembled a first-rate cast to play the diverse roles. All give performances worthy of academy award nominations. Rex Harrison is superb as Cecil Fox, and Susan Hayward dominates her scenes as Mrs. Sheridan - Fox's "Lone Star" mistress from the past. Cliff Robertson adds enough mystery to his dutiful and slyly charming role as William McFly. A nearly 40 Capucine still radiates the sophisticated beauty for which she was known, here playing Princess Dominique. And Maggie Smith shows for the first time on film her deftness for deadpan humor. Her nurse Sarah Watkins is both demure, suspicious and slightly sly.

Adolfo Celi is very good as Inspector Rizzi, who plays some scenarios superbly for comedy. The scenes in his home are hilarious where his family members are glued to the TV watching a Perry Mason mystery show. The Italian voice-over for Raymond Burr's Mason is hilarious - a high-pitched male voice coming out of the tube when Perry speaks.

But the star who provides most of the laughter in "The Honey Pot" is Edie Adams. She plays Merle McGill, an otherwise attractive movie star who, underneath, is little more than a ditzy blonde and opportunist. She was someone Fox picked up off the street years before and turned into a movie icon.

Here are some favorite lines form this film.

Inspector Rizzi, "Miss McGill, I understand the necessity of you to arrive in Venice incognito." Merle McGill, "I wouldn't go anywhere (sic) uninvited." Inspector Rizzi, "I must have used the wrong word. My English is uh...." Merle McGill, "It must be hard for you to imagine, inspector - a man like Cecil Fox and I." Inspector Rizzi, "Not hard at all." McGill, "How can I say it, inspector? He was my first... man. Somehow, you just never forget your first man." Rizzi, "I remember mine, vividly. He also got away."

Merle McGill, "OK, shamus, so what's on your mind? Or, to be exact, on both your minds?" Inspector Rizzi, "Shamus? You use too many American idioms I do not know."

Merle McGill, "When you do talk to Princess Dominique, you know what she's gonna tell ya?" Inspector Rizzi, "If I had such capability, I would never get out of bed." McGill, "She's gonna say that she and I were here, in my room, all night, playing gin rummy together. That'll be a lie. For one thing, she can't even play gin rummy." Rizzi, "Fascinating! Now why would she choose a game she could not play?" McGill, with a "caught" look on her face, "Yeah, that was stupid of her, but the name of the game isn't important."

Princess Dominique, "I have no need for Mr. Fox's money." Inspector Rizzi, "That is what truly baffles me. This incredible wealth which nobody needs and everybody wants."
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Rollercoaster (1977)
Good title for a good nail-biter with a top cast
18 December 2019
"Rollercoaster" is a good nail-biter of an action and crime movie. This isn't in the genre of good mysteries, because there's little suspense about who the bad guy is and why. But it is in the realm of action thrillers with the big questions of when and how will the good guys stop the culprit.

With its different and somewhat original plot, and some fantastic filming of rollercoaster rides, this film is quite entertaining. The acting isn't anything special - it's hardly ever in films like this with the development of hairy plots and/or lots of action taking up film time. But, the cast has top notch actors of the time - several in their later years.

Gorge Segal provides some light humor as Harry Calder. Richard Widmark is the lead FBI agent on the case, Hoyt. The culprit is known only as the young man, played by Timothy Bottoms. Henry Fonda has a smaller role and Harry Guardino is part of the pursuers. Some female parts and other male characters figure in the story.

Anyone who likes action thrillers should enjoy this film.
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More a culture of Hollywood than of society of the time
17 December 2019
Hollywood had a fixation on the press in the 1930s. It had other fixations too, when it came to making certain types of movies. Jimmy Cagney became a star and built a career on gangster films, although he was talented as a dancer as well. But "Back in Circulation" is one of the big productions of the studios that focused on the press.

It's true that there were press scandals, just as there was a gangland culture that included some corrupt elements of law and order. The latter were associated to a great extent with prohibition and organized crime. The former fed the latter. In the press scandals, sensationalism and competition drove much of the journalism before World War II.

While Pat O'Brien has first billing in the film, "Back in Circulation" is mostly a Joan Bennett film. As Bill Morgan's (O'Brien) star reporter on the Daily Express, Timmy Blake (Blondell) is a one-woman production with multiple skills. Besides her reporter's nose for news and her female intuition, she can investigate, play attorney, ply coroners and otherwise stage crime and accident scenes.

The best thing of this film is Blondell's character. The bantering, arguing and exchanges between Timmy and Bill are almost standard scripts of films of this genre in the 1930s. "Front Page," "His Girl Friday," and the myriad others of the genre all had the city editor/news room quandaries with the reporters. So, O'Brien's role isn't anything special. But the script for this film has a huge hole that hurts it and Blondell's performance in the end. Except for the very opening at a train wreck, there isn't another scene involving the police anywhere to be found.

So, what this turns out to be is a film in which the press - reporters and photographers and editors, follow leads, conduct investigations, solve crimes and bring the criminals or culprits to trial. None of the great comedy-crime films of the Golden Age presumed such a high regard for the press and low regard for the justice system. The police were always seen as being on the job, even if they were a move or two behind the movie's hero. But the plot of this film proceeds as though the press were the purveyors of law and order, and there were no police to be found anywhere. That considerable absence or oversight from this film stretches its credibility and strains the ability of the audience to appreciate the film.

It's worth watching just for Joan Blondell's performance, and the bit of intrigue toward the end. Otherwise, "Back in Circulation" joins the ranks of the mostly forgettable "press" movies of the period.
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Devil Winds (2003 TV Movie)
A good job of weaving CGI into real storm formations
17 December 2019
Although CGI was needed for a film like this, "Devil Winds" manages to weave it in seamlessly with considerable real film footage of forming storms. The result is some action with nature on the rampage that comes very close to reality. The reality of CGI is still in the back of one's mind, but it doesn't overpower the video action taking place. So, one has a sense of watching the real terror of nature on the rampage in a tornado.

And, that is the best thing about and reason for watching this film. The cast are all okay, but nothing special, and the plot is so-so. It's too bad that the producers couldn't use some real funnel footage - it's out there, and I've seen it on news casts and on videos. I've also watched real tornadoes myself from a distance. Still, the storm action and tracking scenes are the reason for watching this movie that was made for TV.
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Mild comedy look at the culture of the day
9 December 2019
"Father Was a Fullback" is loaded with talented actors of the mid-20th century. The story is a good look at the culture of the time from a few points. Teenagers began to be more heard and families seemed to be conflicted over the changing relationships that emerged in the years after the war (WW II). College football had a completely different look from the sideline benches, with the alumni, and in other ways.

This isn't about anything heavy or startling, and modern audiences may not find it that interesting. Even for someone who lived - that long ago, the plot of this film is just so-so. The best thing about it is the cast. Fred MacMurray and Maureen O'Hara, as George and Elizabeth Cooper, were stars who would continue in that lofty realm for at least two more decades. But this film also has some supporting players who would become household names in the years ahead. Among these are Thelma Ritter as Geraldine and Jim Backus as "Sully" (Professor Sullivan). And, this is just the 11th film of 11-year-old Natalie Wood. She would be one of the few child stars to become a major star as an adult before her mysterious ocean drowning in 1981 at age 43.

There may have been a clever thought behind the title, but it escapes one today. Cooper is a college football coach who's in dire need of a fullback. The film may seem very slow to many. But, for those interested in what life was like back then, it should provide mild entertainment.
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Pseudo espionage tale is mostly a slow, staged drama
14 November 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Only because some of the cast are prominent, first-rate actors, does this film earn even five stars. Without the presence of Robert Morley and Richard Attenborough in major roles - and Derek Jacobi and a couple of others in smaller parts, "The Human Factor" would be a washout. Since it's based on a novel by Graham Greene (which I have not read), one must conclude that the book was a much better read than this story as told and shown in film.

In the first place, this is a very minor espionage film. The lead character, Maurice Castle (played by Nicol Williamson), is only a passer of minor information as gratitude for a friend's help in getting his Black wife and her son out of Africa. The friend, Matthew Connolly (played by Tony Vogel) was a Communist organizer in South Africa. So, Castle wasn't a Communist or disgruntled Englishman who wanted to work against or overthrow his country.

From the espionage angle, this is more of a story about the "firm," which is the British Secret Service or MI-something. And, it is shown as a loosely disorganized entity with mostly eccentric old-timers in top positions. Morley, especially, plays his part well, and Richard Vernon is very good as Sir John Hargreaves.

The other aspect of the film is mostly melodrama involving Castle and his wife, Sarah (played my Iman) and Jacobi's Arthur Davis. Some of the film, in flashback, takes place in Africa, but most is in London. Yet the whole picture has a feel of being filmed on sound stages. It may be the direction or the screenplay or the sets - most likely a combination of them all, but many scenes have the feel of being on stage.

I'm not one who can very long stand the constant action and mayhem movies of the 21st century, but this film is just way too slow, long and drawn out, with so little substance. Especially after some intriguing and lively espionage films, such as the 1979 TV movie, "Philby, Burgess and Maclean," this film is tame and nearly maudlin as an espionage tale. It would be wrong to call it a thriller. The only thing that keeps it from being a complete bore is wondering how it turns out for Castle and his family.

The ending helps it earn the fifth star. It's not likely that many folks today will be able to sit through this full film. Even aficionados of spy films won't find much in this movie.
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Enjoyable background film on Dickens and "A Christmas Carol"
12 November 2019
"The Man Who Invented Christmas" is a fictional biographical look at famed English author, Charles Dickens, and the circumstances of his life and time that led to the writing and publication of "A Christmas Carol." The full title by Dickens then was "A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost-story of Christmas." Dickens first published it himself in 1843, after a falling out with his regular publishers.

From start to scratch, it took Dickens just six weeks to give the world what would become one of the great classic stories of all time. At least, that's the premise of the film, which itself is based on a 2011 novel of the same title by Les Standiford. The book's subtitle explains a little more, lest there be any confusion regarding the much older Christmas origins of St. Nicholas and of the birth of Jesus. It's about "How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits."

According to some reviews, Standiford did considerable research for his book. The background on Dickens's family, his writing to that time, and his precarious financial situation then is likely in public records. Still, much of that part of the story is interesting and probably not that well known by most people, including fans of Dickens books. The very colorful segments of imagination in this movie are another matter. How much of that may have been able to be traced to notes by Dickens himself, or to other sources, is uncertain. But, this serves as a very good technique for the author, and the filmmakers, to get across to a non-writing public how a great story teller may come to the plots and characters of a book he or she will write. After all, who can't remember a time as a child when one's thoughts roamed freely into a world of make-believe?

So, what we would come to call day-dreaming, is a very likely and real way that Dickens, and some other authors like him (surely, the great story-tellers, at least) would have thought up and developed their plots and characters. And, the interplay of the hero's daydreams here with constant interruptions from family and friends, helps one understand the frustrations and difficulties Dickens had as he hurried to get out a Christmas book in time - something his publishers deemed would not fly. Of course, everyone knows the outcome, but this story is well done, and the film is very good.

The acting is mostly superb throughout "The Man Who Invented Christmas." Dan Stevens gives believable life to the character of Dickens. He even looks very much like Dickens from a portrait of the author around that age - 31. Justin Edwards is very good in the role of Dickens's friend, John Forster. Forster was himself a writer, and it was his 1872-74 biography of Charles Dickens that is the best and most authoritative source on Dickens. Moryfdd Clark plays Dickens's wife Kate, and Jasper Cotter plays Charles's father, Walter Dickens. Christopher Plummer plays the character of Scrooge in Dickens's daydreams. That and some other small parts lend some humor to the story.

There are some small deviations in the script from the real background in Dickens's life. For instance, it implies that he didn't like reporting or journalism work and calls it names. In real life, he was a reporter, general writer and editor of newspapers and magazines. One interesting thing to note is that this film was shot entirely in Ireland. The cast is mostly made up of English and Irish actors, with an occasional Italian or French actor here or there. And, while they aren't mentioned in the movie, the three "flops" alluded to, for which Dickens was now in dire straits, would be: "Nicholas Nickleby" of 1838-39, "The Old Curiosity Shop" of 1840, and "Barnaby Rudge" of 1841. Of course, all have been published since then, and none are considered flops.

"A Christmas Carol" must top any serious list of Christmas movies, and there are a number of variations with prominent actors playing the different roles over the ages. This film, about the author and origin of the classic novella, is a very good and most enjoyable story to add to one's Christmas collection. An ideal family situation at yuletide might be to show this film first and then watch the favorite (or two) renditions of "A Christmas Carol" movie.

But, however one enjoys this film and others by its subject, it's sure to help take the humbug out of the Christmas season as it restored the spirts in England on that Christmas of the mid-1800s.
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Funny script overcomes silly, unfunny female lead
10 November 2019
"There's Always a Woman" is a comedy crime and romance film that stars Joan Blondell and Melvyn Douglas. They made three films together, but they don't have the "chemistry" that makes for great comedy. Douglas had it with all his other leading ladies in comedies, but Blondell seemed to be hit and miss on that score.

In this film, Blondell's Sally Reardon is more silly than funny. In one long scene, she is being interrogated for many hours by the police. She is all sparkly and chipper with big grins while they are all rundown and exhausted. That sort of silliness doesn't quite register as comedy to most. Her role is like that throughout the film - she overacts and has a persona of a solo role. Husband Bill Reardon (Douglas) and all rest of the cast are just along for the ride.

The irony is that Blondell has very few of the witty lines. Most of the clever dialog comes from Douglas and others. It's because of a significant amount of funny dialog that I give this film six stars. Without that, it would probably bore most movie fans.

Here are some favorite lines form the film. For more funny dialog, see the Quotes section under this IMDb Web page on the movie. Miss Jacobs, "I, I don't mind anything, but your husband shouldn't have called me that name." Sally Reardon; "What'd you call her, Bill?" Bill Reardon, "I didn't call her any name." Miss Jacobs, "You did too. You called me a stenographer and I'm a private secretary."

Bill Reardon, "Listen, I gave her a week's salary. Why the extra $5?" Sally Reardon, "$10... for being here six months without flirting with you." Bill, "Oh, yeah. Lady, you've been robbed." Sally, "Why that little.... Well that settles it. From now on I'm your secretary."

Waiter, "Your wife?" Bill Reardon, "You wanna make anything out of it?"

Sally Reardon, "Are you angry at something, Bill?" Bill Reardon, "Me? Noooo. What have I to be angry about?" Sally, "Well, I don't know. You just look like you're ready to sock somebody in the jaw." Bill, "Oh, no. I got over that an hour ago. Now I'm looking for an ax.

Sally Reardon, "I think it's silly getting mad at a waiter."

Sally Reardon, having fallen back in her chair at the nightclub, "Well, why don't ya pick me up, ya big lummox?" Bill Reardon, "I picked you up once - now look at me."

Sally Reardon, "I thought I married a gentleman." Bill Reardon, "Well, live and learn."
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First sound film for Dix and all of the cast
7 November 2019
"Nothing But the Truth" is one of the first talking pictures by Paramount and the first by the studio's male lead from the silent films of the previous decade, Richard Dix. This is a good film to study the changes that sound would bring to the cinema. Dix was a good actor and a handsome leading man whose films and career improved with sound. But in this first Paramount sound film, one can see him overacting and still having some silent traits that appear very hammy. He pauses and makes very deliberate moves, including projecting himself. So, it gives an appearance of mixed hamming it up, overacting and woodenness.

Most of the rest of the cast are okay, but all of the main male cast - the men in the stock brokerage office, seem a little wooden. Their early office scenes actually appear very stagy. That's understandable from the fact that this story is based on a novel and the stage play that was written from it and performed on Broadway in the mid-19 teens.

The story has a good plot that is a natural for humor. Dix's Robert Bennett must go 24 hours without telling the slightest lie or untruth in order to win a huge bet with three men from his firm. There are some strings attached to the money he puts up, and he risks everything for the love of his girl and a good cause. A very good Hollywood rendition of the story was made in 1941. It starred Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. Other versions of the story were made in the languages of various European countries.

The best thing about this film is the comedy. Even with the rough quality and crude technical aspects, this movie remains watchable and notable just for the witty and funny script.

This 1929 Paramount movie was the first sound film made by all the members of the cast. All of the male actors continued on with substantial careers, although Louis John Bartels who plays Frank Connelly would die in 1932 of a stomach ailment at just age 36.

It was a different story for the actresses, however. This was their very first film for three of the actresses. And, it was the biggest roles for two who would have very short movie careers. Madeline Grey plays Mrs. E.M. Burke, but she would appear in only 10 more films -all but one in uncredited roles, ending her film career in 1945. Helen Kane who plays Mabel Jackson would appear in just half a dozen more films in bit parts, ending her film career in 1931. Only Wynne Gibson, who plays the other nightclub sister, Sabel Jackson, would go on to have a substantial film career. She had leads in several films and notable supporting roles in several more, ending her career in 1956 on television.

One of the female leads, Dorothy Hall, who plays the love interest of Dix's Robert Bennett, had her start in silent films and was on the rise when sound came out. She had the female leads in her first three films before this one. While she may have been a good actress for silent films, she couldn't make the jump to sound with her very squeaky voice. With her voice, she comes across here as something of a hair-brain, and one has to stretch credibility to think that Dix would fall for her. She appeared in just three more films after this, all minor roles that included one short. Her Hollywood career ended in 1931.

Until a scene about halfway when the police raid a night club, I had forgotten that the movie was made during Prohibition. And one curiosity that stood out was E.M. Burke driving his car from the right side. I don't know what kind of car it was, but it clearly was driven from the right side. Here are some favorite lines from this movie.

E.M. Burke, "Oh, you're a smart little fellow, aren't you?" Robert Bennett, "My mother thinks I am." Burke, "You wouldn't want to buy any of this stock yourself, would you?" Bennett, "Oh, I, I don't want to change my mother's opinion."

Frank Connelly, "By the way, when do you think of getting married?" Robert Bennett, "Constantly!"

Robert Bennett, "Hello, Mr. Van Dyke." Clarence Van Dyke, "How are you, Mr. Bennett? Thanks for that tip on V.K." Bennett, "Oh, not at all. Not at all. I was only too glad to take you in."

Clarence van Dyke, "When I was nine years old, I told my mother the truth about something that happened at school. What happened at home cured me."
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Cagney's loud gangster persona quells the little comedy there is here
5 November 2019
The best reason to see "Jimmy the Gent" is for the attractive young Bette Davis. Jimmy Cagney's loud persona of the tough guy from the streets was in full mode by the time of this film, and he would carry that most of his career. It worked for the shoot-em-up gangster films for which he was best known. But it doesn't go over very well in comedies. Which is probably why he wasn't cast in more than a couple such films.

Cagney mellowed by the time of his last few films in the 1960s and thereafter. So, he was very good as Bull Halsey in "The Gallant Hours." And, in the Soviet satire, "One, Two, Three," he was good with his frantic movements without the overboard shouting and street tough guy.

On the other hand, Bette Davis was fast building her star status in many films in these first years of her career. She showed her talent and versatility in a variety of roles and films - including comedy. Her Joan Martin comes across as a lively, sharp, and interesting young woman capable of handling the likes of Jimmy.

While the plot may not be hot for this film, the story and screenplay are worse. The idea was okay, but this film just didn't have all the right stuff to make it work - starting with a sharp script. What little comedy it has is mostly flattened by the overly boisterous Cagney character, Jimmy Corrigan.

The rest of the cast are so-so, but Allen Jenkins deserves credit for playing Louie and having to bear the brunt of Jimmy's outbursts and temper tantrums.

It's too bad that Cagney was so sold on his tough guy image, because he had considerable talent as a song and dance man and actor. Audiences got a couple of glimpses of what he could do in "The West Point Story" of 1950 and "Come Fill the Cup" of 1951,

Unless one is a particular fan of Davis or Cagney, this film probably won't be very entertaining.
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Excellent look at conflicting home front views during WW II
5 November 2019
Warner Brothers assembled a fine cast for this World War II homefront melodrama. Holywood and British Cinema made a number of films about the homefront during World War II. Mostly, those showed the home work force, families and businesses doing their part for the war effort. Many dealt with sweethearts, husbands, sons and daughters gone for the war.

"The Very Thought of You" is in a very small sub-genre of war and drama films. It looks at the emotional side of the dread by some for the war's toll. That sometimes translated to dislike or even disdain for servicemen. Beulah Bondi's Mrs. Harriet Wheeler plays such a role here. She doesn't want daughter Janet to take up with Dennis Morgan's Sgt. David Stewart. Her reasoning is because there's no future in it, where he will just go back to the war and be killed or maimed for life.

Her daughter, and Janet's sister, Molly (played very well by Andrea King), is already married to a sailor. Molly has developed a similar bleak outlook and assumed that her sailor, Fred (William Prince) probably won't come home. She had quit writing him two years ago, and now goes out on dates. A brother, Cal (John Alvin) was rated 4-F and couldn't go into the service. But, his melancholy and bitterness about GIs and his sister, Molly, further hardens the family.

This family is close to drowning in its own pathos, and the film could become a depressing washout but for the several upbeat characters who counter the hopeless lot. Henry Travers as Pop Wheeler stands up to his wife, and sister, Ellie (Georgia Lee Settle), is full of excitement for Janet when she invites Sgt. Stewart to dinner. Janet herself, and Sgt. Stewart, his friend, Sgt. "Fixit" Gilman, and Janet's friend Cora Colton (Faye Emerson) are realistic but hopeful and upbeat.

The film came out in October 1944 when the war was far from over. Combat soldiers didn't get leaves to go home during the war, but David and Fixit were demolition experts assigned to a special unit. They had been on the front lines, but now had a leave before being assigned elsewhere. Janet and Cora worked at a parachute packing plant in or near Pasadena, CA. One wonders if that plant was actually there during that time. If so, they likely were packing the chutes that were used to drop equipment, material, food and medical supplies in battle torn areas across the South Pacific.

While the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment on Feb. 16, 1945, jumped onto Corregidor to take it from the Japanese, most of the airborne combat operations and jumps were in the European and African theaters. This is a fine movie about life among the people working and worrying on the homefront. And, about those hoping and praying. And, it's a good love story as well.

Here are some favorite lines from the film.

Sgt. Fixit Gilman, "How come they made you a demolition expert?" Sgt. David Stewart, "You can build 'em, you can knock 'em down."

Sgt. David Stewart, to Janet, "It takes more gizzard to be a soldier's wife than it does to fight. You've got to be braver than I'll ever be."

Sgt. David Stewart, "Goodbye, sweetheart. All my love, all my life."
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Stingaree (1934)
A little bit of all genres in this fairy tale film
4 November 2019
"Stingaree" is a comedy romance with drama, mystery, crime and even music. Much of it takes place in the wilds of Australia, so one might consider it also a Western. Then there's a fairy tale aspect of the mean step mother and the oppressed girl. It struck me also as a sort of Robin Hood of the bush. One can see bits of all sorts of genres in this film. It's a sort of swashbuckler romance with an outlaw and a fair maiden with a beautiful singing voice.

So, what's not to like about a film that gives an early look at a very talented Irene Dunne with a talented leading male actor from the silent screen age, Richard Dix? The filming location in Sherwood Forest of California represents the pastoral setting of Australia. The scenes of Hilda Bouverie's (Dunne) theater performances were filmed at Universal studios.

Dix and Dunne give good performances, as do all of a fine supporting cast. They include a young Andy Devine, old hands Mary Boland and Henry Stephenson, and Conway Tearle, Una O'Connor and Reginald Owen. As others note, this is one of several early films in which Dunne gets to use her beautiful voice for a number of songs.

This is an entertaining film that most movie buffs should enjoy - including the fairy tale ending. To some it may be preposterous, but to those of us who are still young of heart, it's a nice fairy tale for adults.
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Very funny mid-life, mid-century film set in Wales
3 November 2019
"Only Two Can Play" is a sophisticated comedy and drama set in the fictional town of Aberdarcy, Wales. Peter Sellers is a librarian who's going through a mid-life crisis. In the mid-20th century, it was variously known as the seven-year itch. These and other such terms (marital wanderlust coming closest with its "lust" ending) described a phase some married men went through when they began to have thoughts about women other than their wives.

Sellers' John Lewis is married and has two children. The affection he shows his kids, and the relationship he has with his wife, Jean, portrays him as a decent chap who loves his wife and kids. There's just that temptation he gets frequently when he looks at very attractive women.

Virginia Maskell is very good as Jean Lewis, and judging from their discussions, John's problem is something she's aware of. This is a rather candid look, with comedy, at this sort of travail that befalls a number of men and marriages after a few years. It's something any number of couples must have faced as the 20th century moved past the middle and divorce rates climbed significantly.

The comedy here is mostly in some very funny dialog that involves Lewis, his wife, and some others. But there are also a couple of hilarious scenes in which Lewis is waylaid in his amorous pursuits of another particular woman. Mai Zetterling plays the part of Liz very well. She is the wife of a wealthy member of the landed gentry, Vernon Griffith-Williams. Some other actors have delightful parts that contribute to the humor. John Le Mesurier as Salter and Richard Attenborough as Gareth Probert have some very funny roles. Maudie Edwards is a hoot as Mrs. Edna Davies, the Lewis's landlady.

Don't look for Sellers in an Inspector Clouseau role here (from the Pink Panther series). This is one of his more astute comedy roles. He is at his best in such a role as a subtle, knowing and sharp John Lewis who just can't seem to keep from muffing things. But, he's on his toes otherwise and able to spar verbally with foe and friend alike.

Here are some favorite lines from the film. For more humorous dialog, see the Quotes section under this IMDb Web page of the movie. And, oh yes, the name of the play that Probert wrote and is directing at the Aberdarcy community playhouse, is "Bowen Thomas, Tailor of Llandilo."

John Lewis, showing a book to a library patron, "It's got quite a history, this one. It was only taken off the banned list in 1959. Since then, of course, it hasn't been asked for."

Mr. Hyman, returning a book to the library, "You got any more books like that?" John Lewis, "Well, not exactly like that, My Hyman, no. Not quite so many egg stains."

John Lewis, "You know what they say, don't you? A page a day keeps the analyst away."

John Lewis, "There's no doubt about it. I'd be much better off as a road sweeper."

Gareth Probert, "How are you, Lewis? Still peddling trash to the masses?" John Lewis, "Yes, that's right, yes. How about you -- still writing it?"

John Lewis, "Well, as dramatic critic of the Aberdarcy Chronicle at 10 bob a time, I suppose I should agree with you, sir. However, in my own opinion, I think he's a puffed up, under-sized, four-eyed little twit. Excuse me, won't you?" Vernon Gruffydds-Williams, "Fascinating."

John Lewis, to Gareth Probert, "I was plowing through your novel again the other day."

Mrs. Gruffydds-Williams (Liz), "You wouldn't like to go with some of us for a drink tonight, would you?" John Lewis, "Well, uh, that's very kind of you but, uh, unfortunately it's the children. You see, it's illegal to leave them unattended after dark."

John Lewis, "Um, how will I find you again?" Mrs. Gruffydds-Williams (Liz), slipping off her shoes, "I'll leave a trail."

John Lewis, "They should have used you in the tank corps." Mrs. Gruffydds-Williams (Liz), "They did."

Mrs. Edna Davies, "In for the night, are you Mr. Lewis?" John Lewis, "If I was going out for the night, I'd be pointing the other way, Mrs. Davies."

Gareth Probert, "Boy, tied to a man like this must be unspeakable hell." Jean Lewis, "No, I wouldn't say unspeakable."

John Lewis, "If I might be allowed to sum up a gem of exquisite Welsh prose, 'Push off while you are still in one piece.'"

Mrs. Edna Davies, "Oh, going out are you, Mr. Lewis?" John Lewis, "Oh, very observant of you, Mrs. Davies." Mrs. Davies, "Leaving the children alone, I suppose?" Lewis, "Yes. I put the oil stove close to the cot and I turned the wick on." Mrs. Davies, "You are not fit to have charge of children the way you carry on, Mr. Lewis." Lewis, "Well, I must get on with my boozin' now, Mrs. Davies. I have enjoyed our little chat."
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