Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Great O'Malley (1937)

Seems like Pat O'Brien spent his career playing cops or priests, and in The Great O'Malley nothing is anything different for him.  From 1937, this touching, 71-minute, William Dieterle drama features Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, and child star Sybil Jason in supporting roles.

James O'Malley (O'Brien) is a New York City police officer with a penchant for handing out tickets.  For Officer O'Malley there are absolutely no gray areas---black is always black.  With his overzealous, no-room-for-discussion ways, he hands out tickets left and right.  Continually citing people for old-fashioned ordinances that no one even remembers anymore, such as too many bells on a wagon or a storefront awning being the wrong length, Officer O'Malley has become a pain in the neck to the people on his beat.  His superior warns him that justice needs to be tempered with mercy, but O'Malley just doesn't get it.

One day, he pulls John Phillips (Humphrey Bogart) over for having a loud muffler on his car.  Although Mr. Phillips asks O'Malley to quickly write the ticket because he is on his way to the first job he's had in years, the officer takes his time about things.  By the time Phillips arrives at his job, he's late, and the job has been given to someone else.  With a wife and lame daughter at home, Phillips is desperate and tries to pawn his gun; however, when the pawnshop owner won't pay the amount of money Phillips wants, Phillips clobbers the man on the head and then robs the store, a crime for which he ends up being sentenced 2-10 years.

Officer O'Malley's superior believes that O'Malley's focusing on minor infractions drove John Phillips to crime...had O'Malley not stopped Phillips for something as petty as a noisy muffler, he wouldn't have missed out on the job and wouldn't have been driven to the breaking point.  The police chief believes that O'Malley needs to get a heart and stop harassing people, and in an effort to either make or break the officer, the police captain demotes O'Malley to the position of school-crossing guard.  And it just happens to be the school which John Phillips' daughter, Barbara (Sybil Jason), attends.

Barbara, who walks with a limp, is a kind and loving child, and she soon has stolen the heart of the gruff crossing guard.  She tells him her father is working in Canada, but when Officer O'Malley escorts Barbara home one day, he sees a photo of her father and realizes that he is none other than John Phillips.  At this point, Officer O'Malley is a changed man, and he seeks to undo the damage he caused the little girl's family.  How everything works out is the balance of the film.

Though not spectacular, this really is a gem of a film.  It's tender and touching and even gets me mildly misty-eyed.  It affords the opportunity to catch Humphrey Bogart before he became the huge star that he did (this film came just after The Petrified Forest); plus, the little girl, Sybil Jason, is adorable.  Also, the message of tempering justice with mercy is a good one. I actually came close to giving this 4 stars, but in the end, I went with 3, simply because in films this short, I don't feel the characters or the story are developed enough.  So, this really is a "could have been 4 stars if it was a bit longer" kind of movie.

TCM will be airing The Great O'Malley on Tuesday, July 15th, at 1:30 p.m. (ET).  Plus, the film is out on DVD as part of the Humphrey Bogart Essential Collection.  I do hope you get a chance to see this, as I think it's worth it.

Happy viewing!!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Because of the Brave!!

In honor of Memorial Day, I wanted to re-run a 2-year old post, about The Fighting Sullivans. This 1944 tearjerker tells the story of a real-life Iowa family, who lost all 5 sons when their submarine went down in the Pacific.  Watching this film is a Memorial Day tradition for our family. It's a great reminder that the freedoms we enjoy today were bought at an enormous cost---the lives of men and women.

If you've never seen The Fighting Sullivans, I highly recommend it.  HERE is the link to my 2012 review of the film.

Happy viewing...and Happy Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931)

In honor of Mother's Day, I wanted to give a brief shout-out about a touching little pre-code tearjerker I caught recently.  The Sin of Madelon Claudet,  from 1931, is what I call a "mommy" movie---you know, a movie in which a mother's sacrificial love for her children shines through. The film, which is adapted from Edward Knoblock's play The Lullaby, stars Helen Hayes, with Lewis Stone, Neil Hamilton, and Robert Young taking on supporting roles. Miss Hayes' husband, Charles MacArthur, was the co-writer of the screenplay.

After her lover (Neil Hamilton) returns to America and is railroaded by his family into marrying a more suitable woman, French farm girl Madelon Claudet (Helen Hayes) gives birth to their illegitimate son. By becoming the mistress of the wealthy Carlo Boretti (Lewis Stone)--who unknown to Madelon is a jewel thief--- she is able to send money to the friends who are caring for the little boy.

A few years later, just as Carlo---who has known about Madelon's child's existence all along---is about to marry her and bring the youngster to live with them, his real identity as a jewel thief is discovered.  Rather than go to jail, Carlo shoots himself, leaving Madelon unable to prove that she was not his accomplice. Convicted, she is sent to prison for ten years.

Upon her release from prison, Madelon wants to spare her son the shame of having a "jailbird" mother, so she allows him to be told that she has died. Wanting to do all she can to give the boy a good future, Madelon falls into prostitution, providing her earnings to a friend who sees to it that the young man goes to medical school.   Years later, when Madelon is very old and sick and her son (now played by Robert Young) is a successful doctor, their paths cross again.

The Sin of Madelon Claudet is definitely worth seeing.  While the subject matter (illegitimate children) is, of course, dated, the story of a mother's sacrificial love is timeless. Helen Hayes---in what is essentially her film debut---is brilliant in her portrayal of Madelon, and that is not just my opinion.  The Academy thought so too, for Miss Hayes' performance graced her with a Leading Actress Academy Award win. Also worthy of mention is Lewis Stone's performance, as well as the work of the makeup artist.  The job of aging Miss Hayes, who was 30-years old at the time of filming, was spectacularly done. I highly recommend this film and am going with 4 stars on it.

Out on DVD, this film ought to be fairly easty to track down.  I do hope you get a chance to see it.

Happy viewing!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Happy Birthday, Gary Cooper!

Regular readers of They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To know that Gary Cooper is one of my great loves.  As one of my "terrific ten," he's right up there at the top of my favorite actor list. So, of course, I simply must acknowledge his 113th birthday.  (May 7, 1901 - May 13, 1961)

To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite photos of ol' Coop.

What a profile!!

The guy could sure wear a suit!

An older Coop---still looking very handsome.  Is it any wonder so many people of that generation (including all 4 of my grandparents) smoked?

Yes, Shirley, you surely have reason to smile!

So deep in thought...wonder what he's thinking about?

A man is not fully dressed without his hat.

Bow ties work for me too!

From You're in the Navy Now---How do you improve on Coop's fabulous good looks?  Put him in Naval dress blues!

From Souls at Sea---a film I've been yearning to see but have not yet tracked down.  Like Abandon Ship, which I reviewed for the Tyrone Power 100th birthday blogathon, this film is loosely based on the 1841 account of the William Brown.

From The Plainsman---a film I haven't seen in quite a few years.  I just love this photo.

From Bluebeard's Eighth Wife---a little too slapstick/screwball for my taste, but I love this photo

From Meet John Doe---Coop and Barbara Stanwyck had terrific chemistry in their 3 pairings

Gary Cooper was an incredibly handsome, wonderfully photogenic man, and I have dozens more favorite photos of him.  In fact, I could fill an album with favorite photos of Coop---but these dozen are among the cream of the crop, and they are my way of celebrating him on his special day.  I'll also be watching A Farewell to Arms and Ten North Frederick in the coming couple of days.

NOTE:  All photos obtained from Doctor Macro (HERE) and Golden Age of Hollywood (HERE)

Monday, May 05, 2014

Happy 100th Birthday, Tyrone Power

Happy 100th birthday to one of my top 10 favorite actors---one of my "terrific 10"---the tremendously under-rated, incredibly handsome Tyrone Power  (May 5, 1914 - November 15, 1958)

In some ways, my love affair with Tyrone Power began the day I was born.  Yes, it's true---Tyrone Power has occupied a special place in my heart for over five decades now, even before I ever saw one of his films.  That's because one of my grandfathers (who was 3 years Powers' senior) was always told he looked like Tyrone Power.  Even though Power had been dead since 1958, he was still very much in the hearts of my grandparents' generation in the 1960's, and people of that age regularly remarked on the resemblance between my grandfather and the movie star they loved. As I grew up, conversations about the resemblance inevitably took place around the dinner table, and those conversations took root in my memory.  When I watched my first Power film in 2007, I immediately saw the resemblance between him and my beloved Pap, and those long-ago dinnertime conversations were relived afresh.  So, for me, Tyrone Power and my precious grandfather are somewhat one and the same.  When I watch a Ty Power film, I actually think of my grandfather; similarly, when I look at a photo of my grandfather, Tyrone Power often comes to mind. So, is it any wonder that Power is among my 10 most beloved actors?

Capable in both comedic and dramatic roles, Mr. Power was an actor who never got the praise and recognition he deserved.  While he gave wonderful performances in many films, not a single Academy Award nomination ever came his way.  I think that is very sad...and a definite oversight on the part of the Academy.

In addition to excelling at both comedy and drama, Power was also quite adept in adventure and swashbuckling films...Blood and Sand, The Mark of ZorroPrince of Foxes, to name just a few.  Perhaps it was fitting that it was while doing just that, Mr. Power died.  While in Spain for the filming of Solomon and Sheba in 1958, Ty succumbed to a sudden heart attack in the midst of a dueling scene with George Sanders.  He died enroute to the incredibly talented man gone far too soon at the age of 44.

Besides entertaining audiences with a wonderful variety of films, Mr. Power also faithfully served his country as a pilot in the Marine Corp.  He saw action in the South Pacific in the Second World War, taking part in "the air supply and evacuation of wounded from Iwo Jima to Okinawa."  The California State Military Museum has a page about Mr. Power's service in the Marines HERE.

My all-time favorite Ty Power film continues to be Witness for the Prosecution (reviewed HERE). Besides this being what I deem possibly the very best performance of Mr. Power's career, it is also his final completed film, as he would die while making his next movie.

Rounding out my list of five favorite Tyrone Power films are:

2.  Abandon Ship!  (with Mai Zetterling and Lloyd Nolan---reviewed HERE)

3.  The Eddy Duchin Story  (with Kim Novak---reviewed HERE)

4.  I'll Never Forget You  (with Ann Blyth---reviewed HERE)

5.  The Mark of Zorro  (with Linda Darnell and Basil Rathbone)

Quite honestly, Blood and Sand and The Long Gray Line could also occupy the #5 position.  I enjoy them both as much as I do Zorro.  I also have high hopes for Untamed, Power's second pairing with Susan Hayward.  A blog friend provided me with a copy of that film, and I'm hoping to watch it this week.

While I don't count it among my top-5 Power films, I just have to make mention of The Black Swan. As part of Maureen O'Hara's 93rd birthday bash last August, The Black Swan was shown on the big screen of Boise, Idaho's historic (and very beautiful) Egyptian Theatre.  (Miss O'Hara currently lives in Boise.)  As a Boise resident, I attended the event and was able to catch The Black Swan in this incredible environment.  I'm tellin' you, until you've seen Tyrone Power "up close and personal" on the big screen, you are missing out.  Truly, that is how he was meant to be seen!

There is a movement underway to bring about a Tyrone Power postage stamp.  HERE is the Facebook page for more information about how to help the dream become a reality.  I would definitely love to see Mr. Power honored with a postage stamp, and should that happen, I can assure you, it's the only stamp I will be using for as long as it is available.

So, Mr. Tyrone Power, here's to you on your 100th birthday. You were a wonderful, completely under-rated actor, and you will always be one of my favorites.  And, in the words of George Eliot, "Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them."  Since we have not forgotten you (nor will we ever!), you do, indeed, live on! Thanks for enriching my life with so many incredible films!!

NOTE:  This article is part of the Power-Mad, Tyrone Power 100th birthday blogathon being hosted by The Lady Eve's Reel Life and They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To. Go  HERE or HERE to check out all the other fantastic entries.

Abandon Ship! (1957)

Near the top of the list of my favorite Tyrone Power films and what I deem one of the absolute best performances of his career is 1957's Abandon Ship!.  A meaty, intense British drama---also known as Seven Waves Away---Abandon Ship! features Mai Zetterling, Stephen Boyd, and Lloyd Nolan in supporting roles.  Produced by Tyrone Power and directed by Richard Sale, the film is loosely based on the 1841 incident of the William Brown.

After hitting a mine in the waters of the South Atlantic, a luxury liner explodes, and in seven minutes, all but just over two dozen of its 1,156 passengers perish.  Those few had managed to get into one of the ship's dinghies before the ship went down.   One of the survivors is ship's officer, Alec Holmes (Tyrone Power), who is given command of the small boat just before the captain dies.  With the words, "Save as many as you can," Holmes becomes the captain and assumes responsibility for the lives of his passengers.

The small craft, which was meant for nine passengers, is filled far beyond its capacity.  A total of 26 people are depending on the tiny vessel for life...some of them are in the water and desperately hanging onto the side of the craft.  Since there had not been time to send a distress signal, reaching the African coast---1,500 miles away---is their only hope.  Overloaded as they are, and with only one gallon of water, a tiny amount of canned food, several serious injuries, and an upcoming storm, can they possibly reach land?

Although some of the people believe that it is the duty of the strong to protect the weak, a well-respected ship's officer counsels Alec to evict the tenants who cannot pay the rent, to save half of them instead of losing them all.  Much as it horrifies him to do so, Alec may just have to begin choosing which passengers will remain in the boat and which ones will not.

This is an incredibly powerful, thought-provoking, "discussion piece" kind of movie---you know, the kind that makes you really think about the hard questions in life.  Was Holmes right in his actions? Or was he wrong?  What would you do if you were in his shoes?  Tyrone Power is totally stellar in this role; in fact, I think this is up there with Witness for the Prosecution and The Eddy Duchin Story as one of his absolute best performances.  He is thoroughly believable as the reluctant captain who was forced to make the hardest decisions anyone could ever make. For those who say Power couldn't act, see this film, and your mind will be changed.

As stated above, Abandon Ship! is loosely based on an actual incident.  In 1841, the William Brown departed Liverpool for Philadelphia, 65 passengers aboard.  After hitting an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland, the ship sank, taking nearly half its passengers to their watery graves.  The entire crew (including one Alexander Holmes) and the remaining passengers took to two boats, but before their eventual rescue, many of them would be sacrificed in order to lighten the load.  For more information about the incident, check out this Wikipedia article or this article from the County of Tyrone Ireland.

To my knowledge Abandon Ship! is not available on DVD; however, it is available in VHS format and is on YouTube in its entirety (HERE).  Also, TCM does air it periodically. Definitely catch it if you can.  When comparing this film to the similar Lifeboat, Abandon Ship! easily comes out on top for me.  In fact, in my opinion, it's a 5-star, gem of a film.

Happy viewing!!

NOTE:  This article is part of the Power-Mad, Tyrone Power 100th birthday blogathon being hosted by The Lady Eve's Reel Life and They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To. Go  HERE or HERE to check out all the other fantastic entries.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Welcome to Power-Mad, The Blogathon Celebrating Tyrone Power's 100th Birthday

After several weeks of planning and anticipation, Power-Mad---the eagerly-awaited Tyrone Power 100th birthday blogathon---is finally upon us.  Monday, May 5th, we'll be celebrating one very under-appreciated actor, and I, for one, am thrilled.  Mr. Power so deserves the honor and recognition. (Participants, please include a link to this page somewhere in your post, and then either leave as a comment or email me or my co-hostess (Patty, the Lady Eve) the link to your article, so we can include it on the page.)

Participating in the event are two dozen Tyrone Power enthusiasts.  With swashbucklers, romantic comedies, Westerns, and dramas being highlighted, we're sure to get a great cross-section of Power's film career---hopefully, you'll discover several titles you want to track down. Also, Maria, of the Tyrone Power website, will be giving us a glimpse into her incredible memorabilia collection. This is sure to be a fantastic event, so I hope you get a chance to visit all the entries (even if it takes all week to do so!).

The contributors are as follows:

Barry Bradford---The Razor's Edge
Citizen Screen---The Black Swan
Citizen Screen---Tyrone Power on the Radio
Classic Film Freak---The Mark of Zorro
Critica Retro---Lloyd's of London
Greenbriar Picture Shows---100 Years of Tyrone Power
Hamlette's Soliloquy---The Sun Also Rises   (she's having a giveaway of this film)
Immortal Ephemera---Tyrone Power and Alice Faye
Kevin's Movie Corner---Son of Fury
The Lady Eve's Reel Life---Tyrone Power and Loretta Young
Lasso the Movies---Jesse James
Laura's Miscellaneous Musings---This Above All
Movie Classics---Witness for the Prosecution
The Nitrate Diva---Day-Time Wife
Old Hollywood---King of the Khyber Rifles
Shadows and Satin---Blood and Sand
Sidewalk Crossings---Crash Dive
Silver Screen Modes---Johnny Apollo
Slightly Shabby---Marie Antoinette
They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To---Abandon Ship!
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear---Nightmare Alley
Twenty Four Frames---Rawhide Power, King of the Disaster Movies Very Special Memorabilia Collection  Tyrone Power and Annabella, Tyrone Power and Linda

Have fun celebrating the great Tyrone Power!

A huge thanks to my co-hostess, Patty, of The Lady Eve's Reel Life.  Actually, Patty was much more than a co-hostess---she did the lion's share of the work for this event, including creating the blogathon's beautiful banners.  It was a real joy getting to know her better these past few weeks. Thanks also to each person who spread the word about the event, each person who contributed an article, and each one who visited the blogs and read the entries.  This celebration would not have happened without the participation of all of you!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Jackpot (1950)

This article is part of the James Stewart Blogathon hosted by the Classic Film & TV Cafe. You can view the complete blogathon schedule here.

The Jackpot, from 1950, is a little-known Jimmy Stewart comedy which I discovered on Fox Movie Channel a couple years ago.  It's a film I had never even heard of, let alone seen, but since my family adores Jimmy Stewart, when I saw this on the FMC schedule, I just had to set the DVR.  It's really a charming movie, and even I---drama-lover that I am---enjoyed every minute of it.  The film also stars Barbara Hale, while James Gleason and a young Natalie Wood have minor roles.  

Bill and Amy Lawrence (Stewart and Hale) are just an average, everyday family---that is, until bandleader Harry James changes their life for the worse.  Of course, it wasn't Harry James's fault--- his name just happened to be the answer to a radio show's "Mystery Husband" contest.  Though Bill at first thinks his phone number being chosen to play the game is nothing more than a gag, he soon discovers it is all very real, and he more than gets into playing along.  When, by the flip of a coin, Bill decides that Betty Grable's husband is the mystery husband and that by knowing that, he has won $24,000 worth of prizes, total mayhem descends upon his formerly mundane life.

Bill and Amy's prize package includes an assortment of goodies, some practical, some hilarious---a diamond ring, a palomino pony, a complete home makeover, a grand piano, several thousand cans of soup, a trip for two, a portrait appointment with an artist, and on and on.  The chaos begins when the Lawrences are informed that they are responsible for the income tax on everything.

When all is said and done, they owe $7,000 in taxes for all their loot, and that's where the fun of this film comes in.  Adding to their dilemma of trying to sell their winnings in order to raise the money for the tax, Amy begins to suspect that Bill is having an affair with the French artist painting the portrait.  How it all plays out is the balance of the film.

The Jackpot is just a sweet, loads-of-fun movie.  It's certainly no Academy Award winner, but it's a delightful film the whole family can enjoy . . . yes, even the little ones ought to get a huge kick out of this.  Jimmy Stewart is his usual, totally wonderful self; I feel quite sure that all Stewart fans will want to see this 4-star, little-known gem.

While this film is not out on DVD, it is on VHS.  Additionally, it is available on YouTube, in its entirety (HERE).  Definitely try to see this if you can...I'm sure you will enjoy every minute of it.

Happy viewing!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Right of Way (1983)---Better Late Than Never, The One and Only, Late-Career Pairing of Bette Davis and James Stewart

Impossible as it may be to believe, it wasn't until they were both 75-years old, that screen legends Bette Davis and James Stewart ever made a film together (both were born in 1908). While both are extremely beloved, iconic stars of the golden age, it took until 1983 for their film paths to cross for the first (and only) time.  That film, an emotional, heart-tugging, made-for-Cable-TV drama called Right of Way, also stars Melinda Dillon.  Based on Richard Lee's play of the same name, Right of Way is my addition to the "Diamonds and Gold Blogathon" hosted by Wide Screen World and Caftan Woman.  This event---dedicated to celebrating stars who were working well into their senior years---is sure to have a multitude of terrific entries.  You can access all the other articles HERE.

Elderly and long-married Teddy and Minnie Dwyer (Stewart and Davis) have recently learned that Minnie is afflicted with a terminal blood disorder.  Although there are complex treatments which could possibly buy her a bit more time, Minnie's prognosis is bleak, and the couple, who have lived together as one for years, have determined that they will die together as one.  Wanting to inform their daughter, Ruda (Melinda Dillon), of their plans, Teddy phones her and requests that she come for a visit.

Shocked by her parents' suicide plan---yet unable to talk them out of it---Ruda contacts Human Services, and after a social worker visits the Dwyer's unkempt home, Teddy and Minnie are rendered unable to care for themselves.  Knowing it is only a matter of time until they are under the state's care and no longer free to do as they please, the couple realize they will have to act quickly if they hope to be in control of when and how they die.  How it all plays out is the balance of the film.

It seems amazing to me that the only pairing of these two screen legends did not take place until the tail-end of both their careers.  While I don't know how they got along on set (Bette Davis, Larger Than Life doesn't say), they gave every appearance of being a loving, devoted, decades-married couple. The tender scenes between them easily reminded me of my own parents, grandparents, and in-laws.  I found Jimmy and Bette both to be wonderful and very believable in their roles.  Bette was typical Bette---sharp-tongued and not inclined to tolerate any foolishness.  Jimmy, too, was his usual self---lovable, slightly confused, somewhat-stammering. If I closed my eyes and just let my mind go, I would have thought Margo Channing and Elwood P. Dowd had come together.  What a testament to both of them that their iconic All About Eve and Harvey characters could still be envisioned at the end of their careers.

While patient suicide and euthanasia generate much controversy here in the 21st century, back in the early 1980's, they did even more so, making Right of Way quite bold for its time. I want to make clear that while I enjoyed this film and give it 4 stars, because of my faith, I absolutely cannot condone euthanasia or patient suicide.  However, the subject is handled with dignity and sensitivity and makes for a powerful discussion-piece kind of film.  Also, with many of us Baby Boomer/Generation X'ers currently watching our own parents age, Right of Way will probably hit close to home for the bulk of us.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that Right of Way is out on DVD; it is, however, available on VHS, as well as on YouTube (HERE).  I do hope you get a chance to see it, especially if you are a Bette Davis or Jimmy Stewart fan.

Happy viewing!!

Monday, March 31, 2014

March's "New to Me" Viewings (Part 1)

This past month, I was back in my classic-film-viewing groove.  After not watching many classics in February, it was a real thrill to have enjoyed one at least four nights each week this month.  I was able to catch many "new to me" films, nine of which were 3-star or higher.

1.  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  (1931)  Truth be told, I started this film well over a year ago; however, at somewhere around the 20-minute mark, the disc glitched and I was unable to finish. I forgot all about watching it until I saw it on the TCM schedule during 31 Days of Oscar.  So, I'm calling this a "new to me" film; however, it isn't totally.  The classic story of the good Dr. Jekyll and his alter-ego, the evil Mr. Hyde, this film is amazing.  The transformation scenes (from Jekyll to Hyde) are absolutely terrific---hard to believe this is a 1931 film.  Fredric March's performance is outstanding, very definitely Oscar worthy.  I'm going with 4 stars on this, but that's because this is not my genre.  I don't do horror at all, and while this may be considered mild horror to some people, I have to admit that it frightened me.  In fact, after getting out of bed around 2:00 a.m. on the night I had watched it, I nearly ran back to my bedroom (and the safety of my husband) because the memory of Mr. Hyde came to mind while alone downstairs.  So, though, 4 stars from me, if I liked horror, I'm sure this would be a 5-star film.

2.  Tenth Avenue Angel (1948) Starring Margaret O'Brien, Angela Lansbury, George Murphy, and Phyllis Thaxter, this is a sweet, sentimental, heart-tugger about a little girl's faith in God and her family. When she learns that the fantasy stories her mom has been telling her are just stories and not truth, and when she discovers that a beloved family friend has been in prison and not on an extended trip as she had been told, the little girl's heart is hardened and her faith in God and her family grows cold.  How she gets it back and brings love to those around her plays out in the remainder of this very touching film.  (I was brought to tears on several occasions).  The climax of the film takes place on Christmas Eve, making this a delightful addition to one's Christmastime viewing.  I'm going with 3 stars on this, but it's close to 4.

3.  Whirlpool  (1934)  Starring Jack Holt, Jean Arthur, and Donald Cook.   Petty crook Duke Ralston receives a 20-year prison sentence for manslaughter.  Wanting his pregnant wife, Helen, to get on with her life, he forges a letter from the warden, informing her that Duke had been drowned in an attempted prison escape.  Sometime after giving birth to Duke's daughter, Sandra (Jean Arthur, when grown), Helen marries a successful lawyer.  Years later, Sandra happens upon Duke, recognizing him at once from the photo her mother has.  Father and daughter are reunited, but for a variety of reasons, the future for them is bleak.  An interesting, exciting, 3-star film.

4.  The Hook  (1963)  Starring Kirk Douglas, Robert Walker, and Nick Adams, this meaty drama tells the story of three U.S. soldiers who are ordered to execute their Korean prisoner in the waning days of the Korean War.  (I reviewed this 4-star film HERE)

5.  Pushover  (1954)  This Double Indemnity-style noir stars Fred MacMurray and introduces Kim Novak, with Phil Carey, Dorothy Malone, and E.G. Marshall offering support. Directed by Richard Quine, Pushover finds the usually-affable Fred MacMurray, once again, pulled from the straight and narrow due to his attraction to a beautiful woman.  This time, rather than an insurance agent, he's a cop, assigned to follow the girlfriend of a gangster who just pulled a huge heist.  Fred's passion for the moll, coupled with his desire to fill his own pockets with the stolen funds, are his undoing.  I'm between 3 and 4 stars on this, so I'm calling it 3.5.

Later this week, I will share four more "new to me" films I watched in March, one of which joins I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang as a 5-star film discovery of the year.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Let's Celebrate Tyrone Power's Centennial

Hey classic film bloggers, are you ready for one more blogathon?!  I hope so, because Monday, May 5th, is the 100th anniversary of Hollywood mega-star Tyrone Power's birth, and Lady Eve of The Lady Eve's Reel Life and I will be hosting Power-Mad, a one-day-only event in celebration of the actor's life and career.

Participants are invited to review Mr. Power's films (one blogger per film, please), post a photo spread or a biographical essay (you might cover his life in general or strictly his movie career, his military service during World War II or his post-war stage career, or...) - basically, feel free to get creative.

This blogathon is not limited to CMBA members, so any and all of you are welcome to participate. (The more the merrier). If you'd like to be involved, you can get in touch in one of two ways---either leave me a comment on this post, or send an email to my co-host (Lady Eve, at  In your email, please include your name, your blog's name and address, and the title/subject of your entry.

100th birthdays deserve parties and fanfare, so Lady Eve and I are hoping for a huge turnout for Power-Mad.  We look forward to having you celebrate with us.

Lady Eve has created these four gorgeous banners to advertise the event.  Please grab one for your blog, and help us spread the word.

Here is the list of participants:

Barry Bradford---The Razor's Edge
Citizen Screen---The Black Swan
Classic Film Freak---The Mark of Zorro
Critica Retro---Lloyd's of London
Girls Do Film---The Black Rose
Hamlette's Soliloquy---The Sun Also Rises
Immortal Ephemera---Tyrone Power and Alice Faye
Kathleen Nemec---The Long Gray Line
Kevin's Movie Corner---Son of Fury
Lasso the Movies---Jesse James
Laura's Miscellaneous Musings---This Above All
Movie Classics---Witness for the Prosecution
The Nitrate Diva---Daytime Wife
Old Hollywood---King of the Khyber Rifles
Shadows and Satin---Blood and Sand
Sidewalk Crossings---Crash Dive
Silver Screen Modes---Johnny Apollo
The Skeins---Prince of Foxes
Slightly Shabby---Marie Antoinette
They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To---Abandon Ship!
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear---Nightmare Alley
Twenty Four Frames---Rawhide Very Special Memorabilia Collection  Tyrone Power and Annabella, Tyrone Power and Linda Power, King of the Disaster Movies

NOTE:  To access all of the blogathon entries, go HERE.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Old Maid (1939)

Working my way through the titles highlighted in Majestic Hollywood, The Greatest Films of 1939, I recently enjoyed a re-watch of The Old Maid, a period drama starring Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins.  George Brent gets third billing, although he is only around for the first fifteen minutes or so.  Based on Zoe Akin's Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, The Old Maid features Donald Crisp and Jane Bryan in supporting roles.

Misses Davis and Hopkins portray cousins, Charlotte and Delia Lovell.  As the film begins in the early 1860's, Delia (Hopkins) is about to be married, and on her wedding day, her former love, Clem Spender (George Brent), arrives back in town and stops by for a visit.  Clem had left town a few years before---off to make his fortune---and when he didn't return, Delia assumed he no longer loved her and, thus, made plans to marry another man---one who was wealthy and socially prominent.  When Clem, who is still in love with Delia, declares his intent to make a scene at the wedding, cousin Charlotte (Bette Davis), in love with Clem herself, sets off to reason with him.  Wanting to comfort him, she ends up spending the night with him; the next day, however, Clem, now part of the Union Army, sets off for war...and he never returns, having been killed in battle.

Fast forward a few years...Charlotte, now engaged to Delia's husband's brother, is running a home for war orphans.  It is expected that when she marries, she will give up the home; however, there is one particular child---a girl named Tina---whom Charlotte has no intention of giving up.

On Charlotte's wedding day, Delia discovers that Tina's full name is Clementina and that she is Charlotte's own child, from a man who died in the war; putting two and two together, Delia realizes that Tina is Clem's child...a fact that enrages her.  To think that Charlotte had been with Clem---her love---is more than she can stand; determined to make Charlotte pay, she lies to her brother-in-law and he calls off the wedding.

After Delia's husband dies several months later, Charlotte and Tina are invited to come live with her.   Since Charlotte was never married and cannot publicly call Tina her child, Tina calls her "Aunt Charlotte."  Delia becomes rather a mother to the little girl, and once, to Charlotte's incredible heartbreak, she even calls Delia "mommy."

Fast forwarding several more years, Tina has become a young woman (played by Jane Bryan), and Delia, not Charlotte, receives her love, praise, and affection.  Aunt Charlotte, who has sacrificed for years, is despised and mocked by the girl.  Yet to tell Tina the truth---that the unwed Charlotte is her mother---would destroy all hopes for a legitimate beau, so Charlotte says nothing, all the while being totally brokenhearted because the daughter she loves has rejected her and now calls Delia "mother."  Will Tina ever change?  Will Charlotte's broken heart ever heal?  These are the questions which will play out in the balance of the film.

Pairing two such strong, formidable actresses, who already had hatred/jealousy issues between them, found director Edmund Goulding "more often refereeing than directing; filming went slowly, as each woman fought for every scene she was in.  One co-worker said "Working with these two ladies is a slow drag."  Goulding himself was to say, "There were times when they behaved like perfect little bitches". . . However, the women's intense dislike for each other did have a positive side, for it not only added to their pleasure in making the picture but also proved so mutually stimulating that Warners production chief Hal Wallis planned to team them again."  [1]  The women were paired again, in Old Acquaintance.

A huge Bette Davis fan, I enjoy having the opportunity to catch Bette in a sympathetic role for a change. She's terrific here---as she is always.  What I find so impressive about Bette is that beyond her brilliant acting, she was always willing to take on unglamorous roles and be seen as dowdy, ugly, and unsophisticated.  Her acting was so great that she didn't have to get by on looks alone.

The Old Maid is a lot like one of my top 25 films, Stella Dallas, in that it is the story of a mother's sacrificial love for her daughter.  However, while I give The Old Maid 4 stars, I do prefer Stella Dallas, mostly because of the daughters' character.  Here in The Old Maid, Tina is selfish and obnoxious, whereas Lolly, Anne Shirley's Stella Dallas character, is loving and caring.  Because of Clementina's attitude, I just never had the affection for her that I had for Lolly.

Out on DVD, The Old Maid should be fairly easy to track down.  I hope you get a chance to see it.

Happy viewing!!

[1]  Majestic Hollywood, The Greatest Films of 1939, by Mark A. Vieira, Running Press, 2013.