What is the last film you watched? (2017)

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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boblipton

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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostWed Mar 29, 2017 3:52 pm

Gainsborough Pictures was still trying to crack the American market with Said O'Reilly to McNab, in which American swindler Will Mahoney goes to England, where his son has just gotten engaged to the daughter of retired Scots businessman Will Fyfe. They wrangle and much of the film is wasted with what is supposed to be a humorous golf match. Eventually they go into business manufacturing nostrum reducing pills.

The leads were a couple of stage performers and it isn't until just past the hour mark, when they perform their routines that the film becomes something more interesting than the sort of stock ethnic jokes that had been going on since Year One. Director William Beaudine does a competent job with a standard script and a few bucks in the budget, However, it's easy to see why this film fizzled in the US and Gainsborough decided to abandon their New World ambitions.

Although much of the movie is standard, the stage routines are very good. Mahoney does an eccentric, high-speed tap dance and Fyfe, who was famous for his music hall renditions of "I Belong to Glasgow" -- he hailed from Dundee -- also does a sword dance.

Bob
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostWed Mar 29, 2017 5:22 pm

boblipton wrote:Although much of the movie is standard, the stage routines are very good. Mahoney does an eccentric, high-speed tap dance


Mahoney was quite the tap dancer. When he was in vaudeville, some reviewers considered him to be on a par with Fred Astaire.

Mahoney might have been described as 'the last vaudevillian'. When the form began winding down in America, he went to England; when Music Hall began declining there, he continued on to Australia, where his stage show was a huge hit, and he also made his final film, Come Up Smiling (1939), also known as Ants In His Pants (1939). It's a very amusing picture that includes a surreal Al Jolson impersonation, an exuberant tap dance on the roof of a moving vehicle, an appealing jitterbug dance sequence featuring Mahoney's real-life wife Evie Hayes, who later became a major figure of Australian musical theatre, and the comic stylings of the versatile Alec Kellaway (brother of Cecil). If it doesn’t have the polish of its Hollywood forebears, it has all of the energy. Mahoney and Hayes ended up emigrating to Australia, where they managed a vaudeville theatre in Brisbane for a decade or so.

I understand that attempts were recently made by a new streaming service to secure the rights to this and other Cinesound productions, but the rights holders were not remotely interested. A terrible shame.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostWed Mar 29, 2017 6:03 pm

Brooksie wrote:... featuring Mahoney's real-life wife Evie Hayes, who later became a major figure of Australian musical theatre, ..


...and she was on the telly too. I can still hear her ear-shattering voice doing that awful ad for "Iceberrrrrg Dairrrrrry Frrrrresh Butterrrrrrr". Thanks for that! :(
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Mar 30, 2017 7:45 am

20th Century Women (2016) is centered by a terrific performance by Annette Bening as a middle-aged mother in 1979 coping with a 15-year-old son and the fast-changing times. Bening owns a rambling old house and rents rooms. The other women are a young boarder and a rebellious teen neighbor. Viewpoint shifts as each woman and the kid tell their stories from this time when they were all together. It's sort of a coming-of-age story for all 4 characters. In turns, funny and poignant. Nicely done by all involved.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Mar 30, 2017 11:26 am

At a chance bargain price, I nabbed a full new set (region 2!) of the 1980s BBC TV presentation of all of Shakespeare's plays (all of which I had seen when they first were broadcast in the US)--which is probably not rightfully in the bailiwick of N'ville, so y'all won't be subjected to 37 Shakespearean reviews from me over the coming months. But just a word: I started with the Henry VI plays--I'm probably the only person on Earth who got this set and started with the Henry VI plays!--and they are even better than I remembered. Good stuff. Good packaging too.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Mar 30, 2017 12:17 pm

odinthor wrote:At a chance bargain price, I nabbed a full new set (region 2!) of the 1980s BBC TV presentation of all of Shakespeare's plays (all of which I had seen when they first were broadcast in the US)--which is probably not rightfully in the bailiwick of N'ville, so y'all won't be subjected to 37 Shakespearean reviews from me over the coming months. But just a word: I started with the Henry VI plays--I'm probably the only person on Earth who got this set and started with the Henry VI plays!--and they are even better than I remembered. Good stuff. Good packaging too.


In college, whenever I needed to read one of the Bard's plays for a class, I went to the Library and listened instead to the RSC recordings.

Bob
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Mar 30, 2017 1:24 pm

Brooksie wrote: he continued on to Australia, where his stage show was a huge hit, and he also made his final film, Come Up Smiling (1939), also known as Ants In His Pants (1939).


John L. Sullivan's filmography in Sullivan's Travels includes Hey, Hey in the Hayloft and Ants in Your Pants of 1939.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Mar 30, 2017 5:35 pm

Things Are Looking Up (1935) is written, performed, pitched and timed like a one-woman show for Cicely Courtneidge, with Max Miller and William Gargan as her stooges. Miss Courtneidge plays twins; one owns a circus and is general dogsbody because there's no money, and the other is a snobby schoolteacher who has just eloped; there's a third sister, so Miss Courtneidge pretends to be Miss Courtneidge as she goes through various big acts. The general staginess is right in line with director Albert de Courville, who spent most of his career directing stage spectacles. It's not in the least cinematic, but it is a lot of fun,

Bob
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Mar 30, 2017 8:21 pm

I've said before there are certain stars at certain times that I'll watch anything they're in-- Warren William in the early to mid 30s, Charles McGraw in the late 40s and early 50s, etc. Trevor Howard was an old hard-drinking actor doing paycheck roles when I was a kid— Meteor! Superman! etc.— but in the decade or so after the end of WWII he kind of had hardbitten noir to himself in British cinema, and besides the obvious one, The Third Man, there are lots of gems— They Made Me a Fugitive, Green For Danger, The Clouded Yellow, Outcast of the Islands. The Golden Salamander isn't great, but Trevor Howard in a stuck-in-the-deadly-small-town noir filmed on location in Tunisia is enough for decent entertainment.

Howard is some sort of English agent for somebody or other (insurers, I guess) who arrives in a town to reclaim some art which was recovered from a shipwreck, but stumbles on the fact that guns are being run there-- by the rather too obvious wealthy bad guy (Walter Rilla) and his henchman Herbert Lom. He also falls in love with Anouk Aimee, a French refugee whose brother also works for the rich bad guy. Howard is a bit too casual about trying to report this and that to the authorities, the baddies decide to get rid of him, and things proceed more or less as you expect, a Tunisian version of Bad Day at Black Rock or Nightfall... or a non-comic version of Beat the Devil.

The script is a bit weak— people tend to say movie things rather than real life things, and the title and villain are trying to write a Maltese Falcon check that the plot can't cash— but the location filming is flavorful, it's handsomely shot by Oswald Morris and efficiently directed by Ronald Neame. A pleasant enough 90 minutes in Kino's British Noir set.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostThu Mar 30, 2017 9:44 pm

Daniel Eagan wrote:
Brooksie wrote: he continued on to Australia, where his stage show was a huge hit, and he also made his final film, Come Up Smiling (1939), also known as Ants In His Pants (1939).


John L. Sullivan's filmography in Sullivan's Travels includes Hey, Hey in the Hayloft and Ants in Your Pants of 1939.


Ha! I never picked that up! :lol: I'd love to think it was an in-joke, but I suspect it's a coincidence - which is amazing enough in itself.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostFri Mar 31, 2017 4:02 am

On the other hand, Mike, there are some films that all the talent in the world can't fix. With nothing new worth recording, I noticed that Gambling Lady (1934) starring Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea and C. Aubrey Smith, directed by Archie Mayo and shot by George Barnes was on. I had seen it, but had no memory of it, so how could I go wrong? Unfortunately, the script by Ralph Block (later President of the Screen Writers Guild -- yikes!) wanders hither and yon in an attempt to keep up interest, but calling attention to the fact that it's doing so. Even C. Aubrey Smith couldn't save this one.

I checked Block's other credits and found it an assortment of stuff that I had no memory of and stuff that I wish I couldn't remember.

Bob
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostFri Mar 31, 2017 6:57 am

Watched "Daughters of the Dust" (1991). Need to watch it again. It's on the National Register of Films [for preservation]. It's not just a tad artsy-fartsy, but... The cutting is fascinating; the characters even more fascinating; it's shameless in its rhetorical declamatory style - and even that's fascinating. It would be easy to go on and on. BUT - following the film in any normal way - as with any film made since 1889 or 1890 - is not something one can do. That's where it seems to me to be artsy-fartsy...but I'd still like to give this one another try. Somehow [dammit!] it all works even though it doesn't - and I need to figure out why. I'm not a stupid person, and I've studied the Geechees up to a point - but maybe to the breaking point where a little learning is a dangerous thing, and now I need some more education... The film is invigorating, disturbing, seemingly very historical in its mise-en-scène; the music is very good; it's not plot-less; it's NOT really linear - is that my problem?

Would enjoy hearing comments from others here who've seen the film.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSat Apr 01, 2017 7:08 am

In Once Upon a Dream, Guy Middleton is about to be discharged from the army. He sends his batman, Gilbert Jones, ahead to work as general dogsbody for his suburban home. Meanwhile, Googie Withers, whose clothing shop has just gone bankrupt, comes home to find this strange, efficient man in her home. She quickly comes to depend on him, but when Middleton shows up, tight, and goes to sleep instead of celebrating his homecoming, she dreams of a romantic encounter with Jones. After she wakes, she imagines the encounter was real, and troubles begin.

This British comedy plays like an enjoyable, if mild comedy from a Hollywood producer, with enough touches of Britain to give it a bit of distinction. Indeed, several aspects make it look as if Rank had the American market in mind; the music cues seems typical of American productions and the married couple has twin beds, standard in US production since the enforcement of the Code in 1934. There's little here to astonish the viewer, but if you have a taste for drawing-room comedy from this period, this polite, saucy effort should please you.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Mon Apr 03, 2017 11:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSun Apr 02, 2017 5:27 am

THE SIN OF MADELON CLAUDET (1931) is one of those early Oscar winners, such as CIMARRON, which were semi-forgotten and hard to see for ages. This one, which won an award for Helen Hayes, has an extraordinary cast, including Jean Hersholt, Neil Hamilton, Cliff Edwards, a young Robert Young (predating his TV career as her son, a kindly doctor) an early Charles Winniger, and Lewis Stone, to name a few.

To a modern audience, Hayes does no sinning at all, (the story is told in flashback) having run away with American Hamilton, who has to go home, but stays there, not knowing there is a baby on the way. Her troubles don't end there, as she is proposed to by Stone, whose wealth turns out to be very ill-gotten when he foolishly gives her stolen jewellery. The film then develops into a tale of mother-love, and has some resemblance to MADAME X, as the son is in complete ignorance of his mother and Hayes wants to keep it that way.

I must admit to finding the fist half of MADELON CLAUDET rathe slow and turgid in places, but around the half-way mark, when Hayes's downslide and Young's career progress are contrasted by an unusual technique. Scenes showing Haye's decline into alcoholism, prostitution and poor health are contrasted with Young's progress by a series of shifting scenes, rather like wipes, but not quite. This is rather effective, and I don't recall having seen this employed before. In addition, the plot gets more interesting, giving Hayes the chance to show some versatility. Directed by Edgar Selwyn, a name absent from Andrew Sarris's lists...
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSun Apr 02, 2017 7:11 am

Home from the Hill (1960) is a sprawling (and long) soap opera about a wealthy Texan, his estranged wife, and their battle over their sensitive son as he comes of age. There's also an illegitimate son, a pregnant town girl, and a pack of gossiping geezers who cause a lot of harm. Originally slated for Clark Gable and Bette Davis (!), this fell apart when Gable refused to work for MGM (after his long years of servitude) so the producers went with younger parents and ended up with Robert Mitchum, who was only about ten years older than the son played by George Peppard, and Eleanor Parker. George Hamilton pays the boy. Luana Patten won the plum role of the pregnant townie, and Everett Sloane plays her overwrought father. Anne Seymour is the girl's mother, and Constance Ford plays a local tramp. I would guess both their roles were cut down for the film, which runs 150 minutes. Lots of twists and ironic turns in the plot keep this one watchable, and I must say Peppard is very good as the steady and thoughtful bastard son. Takes place in Texas but was mostly filmed in Mississippi to take advantage of swamps and gas clouds.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSun Apr 02, 2017 5:36 pm

The most annoying thing about The Mandarin Mystery (1936) is the music score, which comes up whenever no one speaks for four seconds, and then offers a drop-needle score of irrelevance that produces a bizarre effect.

Otherwise, this is a cheap but adequate version of an early Ellery Queen story, with some interesting talent. Wade Boteler is fine as Inspector Queen and Charlotte Henry has finally been permitted to grow up for the ingenue role. Franklin Pangborn plays a hotel manager, of course, and Eddie Quillan plays Ellery Queen himself; so if you ignore all the production values, both their cheapness and ham-handedness, you are left with a script that is tritely arch.

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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostSun Apr 02, 2017 8:22 pm

Using my “good” eye and a calibration disc, I went through the settings on my player and TV:

https://www.amazon.com/Spears-Munsil-Be ... and+munsil

Then I indulged myself by revisiting The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, and Niagara. All beautiful, viewed with one good eye that is.

But I wanted to talk about something a little more unusual, something that I hadn’t seen before.

Anna Sergeyovna and Dimitri Gurov are two visitors to Yalta in the late 19th century. She wants to get away from her husband. Dimitri married rich and is able to do much of what he wants. They are both unhappy. Anna walks her dog up and down the resort. Several men are interested, but only Dimitri is successful. They have an affair, but can’t forget each other when they go back to their respective cities.

That’s the beginning of The Lady with the Dog (1960), based upon a Chekov story. It is a slow melancholic exploration of this romance and how these two are trapped by the social norms of their time. Very well done, great cinematography and music.

I was wondering why everyone seemed to wear their wedding rings on the right hand; wikipedia explains that this is the custom in many eastern European countries, including Russia. Whew - that could have been embarrassing, if I was ever to go there.

I watched the Facets DVD.

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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Apr 03, 2017 5:04 am

It seems that for a while, London was populated by Americans, with a few servants from the British isles. That's the impression one gets from She Wolf of London (1946), in which June Lockhart believes herself to be the werewolf which is terrorizing a park, It's the tail end of the Universal Horror period, directed by Jean Yarborough, better known for his Abbott & Costello flicks, and pretty routine work as a result.

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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Apr 03, 2017 7:34 am

Enjoyable if slight TV movie called Izzy and Moe (1985) stars Jackie Gleason and Art Carney late in their careers as two ex-vaudevillian feds during the Prohibition Era who don disguises to snag bootleggers. What's really interesting here is that Izzy and Moe were real-life agents and as bizarre as the premise sounds, it's basically true. Gleason and Carney are a breeze with their perfect chemistry and are a joy to watch (even if the YT copy is lousy). This would make a nice big-screen film effort for any number of aging male stars. Co-stars Cynthia Harris as a Texas Guinan type named Dallas, Zohra Lampert, Thelma Lee, and others.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Apr 03, 2017 10:48 am

drednm wrote:This would make a nice big-screen film effort for any number of aging male stars.


Please don't go giving Robert de Niro any more ideas!

Jim
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Apr 03, 2017 12:55 pm

Despite a not-too-good upload which irritatingly goes out of synch around the two-thirds way mark, HARD STEEL (1942) is an interesting and absorbing film, with a religious flavour to it. The latter is unsurprising, as it was directed by Norman Walker, and has Wilfrid Lawson in the lead.

HARD STEEL is concerned with a steelworker (Lawson) who finds he is up for promotion. This gives him rather a swollen head, much to wife Betty Stockfield's dismay. Not only does he want to splash the cash (new house, car, golf club membership) he also intends to slowly drop his loyal, but humble friends, including his old pal, played by George Carney.

In contrast to Lawson's ambitions, Carney has been elected to become a minister on a wage of about £4 a week, something which affects his family life for the better. Lawson's life spirals out of control, with suspected jealousy (a fellow worker, played by John Stuart, who is also a composer, is attracted to the wife, but she remains loyal), ill-treatment of the workforce, and an attitude which leads to a man's death. Rather than show remorse, Lawson is terrified at the outcome of a possible inquest, but is delighted to find himself in the clear, which is the last straw for Stockfield, who ups and leaves, bringing him to his senses.

The theme of HARD STEEL comes out as 'what shall a man profit if he gain the world and lose his soul', although in fact that is not necessarily religious, as it applies to anyone with a spark of conscience, however deeply hidden. The last part of HARD STEEL is concerned with the war effort, and seems a little strained in places, but this is still an interesting character study, with some familiar faces (a young Kenneth Griffith, Hay Petrie) in the cast, and good atmosphere of the mill.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostMon Apr 03, 2017 1:58 pm

Jim Roots wrote:
drednm wrote:This would make a nice big-screen film effort for any number of aging male stars.


Please don't go giving Robert de Niro any more ideas!

Jim


LOL.... Bizarrely, De Niro was exactly who I was thinking of. I think a Warren Beatty/Dustin Hoffman reteaming would be a no go because they're too old now.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostTue Apr 04, 2017 2:30 pm

An unusual Nancy Carroll starrer, THE WOMAN ACCUSED (1933) was seemingly written by several famous American authors, but in what fashion, I have yet to discover. The lovely Carroll plays a young lady looking forward to marriage with Cary Grant until a rather large fly turns up in the ointment in the shape of Louis Calhern, a husband who isn't as ex as she would like.

The beastly fellow is still (understandably) infatuated with her, but won't take no for an answer, making the most dire threats in the process. After a scuffle, he (SPOILER) receives a clout on the head and promptly pegs out. Panicking, Carroll takes up Grant's offer of a short cruise, hoping for some happiness before the law takes over. In the meantime, Calhern's law partner (John Halliday), not realising what a rat his pal is, decides on an unusual plan to get proof of Carroll's guilt.

A shame in a way that Calhern drops out of the picture so soon, as he is very watchable here. The rest of the film takes on some peculiar turns, but is still quite entertaining, if rather dotty, and naturally we are rooting for Miss Carroll to escape the chair.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostTue Apr 04, 2017 2:50 pm

It's 1917 and Jimmy Stuart has no great difficulty in being a rather awkward cowboy from Texas off to become a Doughboy and fight in the Great War via a sojourn in new York. He doesn't have a girlfriend and so, for the benefit of his peers, invents a romance with a theatrical lady (Margaret Sullavan) who's photograph he has sent for.

The picture is "Shop Worn Angel" (1938) and is a lavishly treated M.G.M. romance where most of the punches are predicted, but it is pleasant enough.

Of course we just know that the moment the boys in Jimmy's platoon see a theatre with his sweetheart's name up there in lights - he just has to introduce her to them. And, being an M.G.M. picture we find that the lady in question is quite willing to go along with the rouse for naive Jimmy's benefit.

Jimmy naturally starts to fall in love, because he seems to inveigle his way into more and more meetings with the star. She though is engaged to her manager - Walter Pidgeon, who is really too stiff and strait-laced to venture into comedy, but he does have an amusing scene trying to roll his own. (Funny looking at all these old pictures nowadays for in them everyone is puffing madly on gaspers at any given opportunity).

The picture is enhanced by the appearance of Hattie McDaniel as Ms. Sullavan's maid. She is her usual no-nonsense self and there is no way she is going to make the role demeaning. Good on her, she brightens up any picture she is in.

M.G.M. hopes to keep everyone on the edge of their seats guessing whether Ms. Sullavan will choose Walter or Jimmy - and how that all ends up is all quite ridiculous if we compare it to real life, but I suppose we go along with it all for the sake of it being entertaining. It's all a bit of fluff and unusually, has a rather sad ending.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostTue Apr 04, 2017 3:12 pm

I often wonder how they dream up some of the stories in pictures and "Wise Girl" (1937) is another one of those amazing concoctions which has to be seen to be believed. Anyway Miriam Hopkins is the rich daughter of Henry Stephenson and both of them are trying to wrench his grand-daughters away from Ray Milland who was the husband of his now deceased daughter. They have to do this because Mr. Milland is living the life of a Bohemian, and, shock, horror is an artist to boot.

Miriam goes to Greenwich Village and slums it in a flat near to where Ray is living. She is travelling incognito and wants to find out all she can about Ray so she can use the information against him. This being a picture, the photoplay causes her to slowly fall in love with him and he her - but there is a lot of business along the way before all this falls into place and it is all this business, that despite being somewhat off the wall here and there, which makes the story entertaining. It is also a chance for a lot of capable supporting players to come in and do their stuff - amongst them Margaret Dumont, pontificating magnificently once again and James Finlayson doing his double takes and being generally disagreeable. Both minor roles, but they come over big on screen.

It's interesting to see Mr. Milland in a light-hearted role for we are more used to him in his later dramatic outings. Ms. Hopkins just breezes along and gets the best out of her role. Nicely directed by Leigh Jason.

So, who gets the children? I hear it on your lips - well, you'll just have to watch the picture won't you, to find out! :D
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostTue Apr 04, 2017 4:40 pm

If good publicity is when they spell your name right, why didn't Sam Katzman take credit on The Rogue's Tavern? It has a pretty good cast for a Poverty Row production, including Wallace Ford and Barbara Pepper as a couple of hotel detectives looking to get married to each other, Joan Woodbury and Clara Kimball Young. It takes place at a hotel across the state line where the couple can get married without delay, but there is a series of murders, which seem to be committed by a police dog.

This being a Sam Katzman production, there are problems. Director Robert Hill seems to be unhappy with sound; all the actors speak very loudly and clearly in group shots, as if they are in a cavernous theater. The dialogue is moderately dopey. The editing by Dan Milner is moderately brisk; he would work as an editor into the 1960s and even directed a few movies, including From Hell It Came, which is probably best remembered for the review "And to hell it can go."

Bob
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostTue Apr 04, 2017 10:46 pm

boblipton wrote:If good publicity is when they spell your name right, why didn't Sam Katzman take credit on The Rogue's Tavern? It has a pretty good cast for a Poverty Row production, including Wallace Ford and Barbara Pepper as a couple of hotel detectives looking to get married to each other, Joan Woodbury and Clara Kimball Young. It takes place at a hotel across the state line where the couple can get married without delay, but there is a series of murders, which seem to be committed by a police dog.

This being a Sam Katzman production, there are problems. Director Robert Hill seems to be unhappy with sound; all the actors speak very loudly and clearly in group shots, as if they are in a cavernous theater. The dialogue is moderately dopey. The editing by Dan Milner is moderately brisk; he would work as an editor into the 1960s and even directed a few movies, including From Hell It Came, which is probably best remembered for the review "And to hell it can go."

Bob


This film is a hoot, and is one of Clara Kimball Young's most memorable talkie parts.

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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostWed Apr 05, 2017 4:32 am

greta de groat wrote:
boblipton wrote:If good publicity is when they spell your name right, why didn't Sam Katzman take credit on The Rogue's Tavern? It has a pretty good cast for a Poverty Row production, including Wallace Ford and Barbara Pepper as a couple of hotel detectives looking to get married to each other, Joan Woodbury and Clara Kimball Young. It takes place at a hotel across the state line where the couple can get married without delay, but there is a series of murders, which seem to be committed by a police dog.

This being a Sam Katzman production, there are problems. Director Robert Hill seems to be unhappy with sound; all the actors speak very loudly and clearly in group shots, as if they are in a cavernous theater. The dialogue is moderately dopey. The editing by Dan Milner is moderately brisk; he would work as an editor into the 1960s and even directed a few movies, including From Hell It Came, which is probably best remembered for the review "And to hell it can go."

Bob


This film is a hoot, and is one of Clara Kimball Young's most memorable talkie parts.

greta


I understand why you say that. I consider it sad.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Wed Apr 05, 2017 4:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostWed Apr 05, 2017 4:50 am

Joan Crawford is Possessed in a 1931 film in which she plays a factory girl in Smalltown USA who gets fed up with her job and her doltish boyfriend (Wallace Ford) and heads for New York City for a better life. There's a truly great scene early on when she goes down to the train yard and watches the slow-moving trains to learn how the rich people live by looking into the windows. By chance she meets a dissolute rich man (Skeets Gallagher) who gives her champagne and an invite to the city. She shows up on his doorstep (it's a fabulous apartment actually) much to his surprise, but she hangs around long enough to meet Clark Gable, another rich man but this one with political ambitions.

Three years later, she's ensconced in Gable's apartment (and life) as a Mrs. Moreland (to avoid scandal) and everything's fine until Ford comes to town to get a contract. Seems Joan has been sending money back home and her mother has given it all (?) to Ford to start a contracting business. Being 1931, Ford has no clue as to how Joan has earned her money and he foolishly expects her to marry him. This is where the story unravels on its way to the expected ending. Crawford is stunning and sings nicely in one scene. Others include Clara Blandick as the ma, Marjorie White as a coarse gold digger, John Miljan, Frank Conroy, and Wade Boteler.
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Re: What is the last film you watched? (2017)

PostWed Apr 05, 2017 2:13 pm

Basil Dearden had a long, interesting, and variegated career in the movies as a producer, scriptwriter, and mostly a director. He started at Ealing and worked on a couple of Will Hay comedies, shifted over to drama and suspense films, teamed up with Michael Relph to make Stanley Kramer-ish “social problem” films, continued with both the comedies and the suspense efforts, and eventually ended up making Hollywood semi-blockbusters like Khartoum, Only When I Larf, and The Assassination Bureau.

Criterion has laudably rescued Dearden’s social problem period by bringing out a four-pack under its Eclipse series brand. Made between 1959 and 1962, this is a very intriguing set from a director not widely known in our day and not deeply respected in his own day.

It is inevitable that Sapphire (1959) gets compared to Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967), but note the dates: Dearden beat Kramer to the interracial-romance punch by almost a decade. A “coloured” beauty who passes for “white” gets murdered, and the prime suspects are the family whose son was planning to marry her. Adding to the mix is her brother, who turns out to be as black as can be; like Sidney Poitier’s character in Kramer’s film, he’s an accomplished and impeccably dressed medical doctor working for poor communities and being a perfect gentleman and “a credit to his race”. (Have you heard that expression used lately?) You tell me which director is stealing from which.

The characters are almost all really well-drawn and acted effectively. It’s done mostly as a police procedural, with Nigel Patrick playing the type of stolid, trenchcoat-and-hat-wearing English police detective that we’re still seeing today in many a BBC TV series. A solid film.

The League of Gentlemen (1960) must not be confused with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a wretched 2003 miasma that has no relation at all to the earlier film. Jack Hawkins handpicks a collection of his fellow disaffected WW2 veterans to apply their military training towards the theft of an enormous pile of money from a bank. Richard Attenborough shows up as one of the lot; Nigel Patrick puts in another appearance as well. Some of the others are unlikely physical specimens for the job, being either too old or too doughy to be credible, but the actors put a brave face on it.

There’s a slight stretching of credulity, too, in the kind of semi-blackmail utilized by Hawkins to force these men to accept his invitation to participate. They are all saddled with a black mark on their military records; that this would be an effective hold on them – especially when a few of them are already known petty criminals – is rather far-fetched.

The plans are executed successfully in an engrossing style, with the inevitable out-of-left-field tiny error tripping them up in the end (I’m not really spoiling it for you: you know they’re not going to get away with it).

A notable cameo appearance is made by Oliver Reed as a very camp gay dancer, which segues this review neatly into the third film, Victim, a 1961 expose of the insanity of the anti-homosexual laws that stayed in force in England until the late Sixties. Dirk Bogarde, then huge due to the popularity of the Doctor series of comedies, put his career on the line to portray a successful lawyer who leads a double life and finds himself enmeshed by a wide-ranging blackmailer.

There is a genuine mystery as to who the blackmailer is, and this mystery contributes nicely to the main tension, which is whether Bogarde will sacrifice everything he has worked for in order to break the predators. Well-done and recommended.

Last in the set is All Night Long (1962), an updating of the Othello story to a community of jazz aficionados. This is the only disappointing film in the set. The story is tedious and its development is unconvincing as well as uninteresting. Why adapt a play about interracial marriage into a modern environment where interracial relations are treated as being so normal that no one even mentions it in the movie? And doesn’t it further undermine the play’s point when the cat’s-paw of the Iago character is a white man who is himself preparing to marry a black woman?

Unless you get a kick out of seeing Attenborough playing a rich but curiously asexual jazz enthusiast – and some will – there are only two reasons for watching.

One is the ever-popular Patrick McGoohan in the Iago role. He displays some surprising flair as a drummer. The other reason is the equally surprising appearances of a couple of genuine jazz superstars in their prime: Dave Brubeck and Charles Mingus. Tubby Evans and “Johnny” (as he was then labelled) Dankworth also have notable turns. There is a lot of good jazz played throughout, yet Dearden doesn’t want us to overlook the tepid storyline; he keeps cutting away from the musicians to the six or eight major characters going through their motions.

Dearden loved to start off these films with a bang. Most effective is the start to Sapphire, in which the dead body of the title character is whomped down from out of nowhere upon the pile of leaves that the camera had been lovingly fixed upon. The baffling opening of League of Gentlemen – Hawkins, in a tux, emerges from a sewer grate and sneaks over to his own parked car – is never explained; presumably we’re supposed to guess that he’s so bored by his non-military life that he indulges in fantasy covert night patrols just to stay sharp. It certainly grabs our attention. Victim jumps off with Peter McEnery high up on a construction site, spotting a police car pulling up below him, and immediately fleeing in desperation. Attenborough launches All Night Long by driving up to a warehouse loft in his tux and finding Mingus practicing his double bass inside. Mingus is not wearing a tux.

Dearden treats the social problems of racism, homophobia, social anomy, and disaffection with impressive good taste and intelligence and sensitivity. Victim and Sapphire both have to pause for the station identification of explaining that “coloured” people and “inverts” are real human beings too, and that they “can’t help being what they are” – lectures that make a modern audience roll their eyes, but lectures that were fresh, daring, controversial, and very much needed in their own era. They never quite reach the self-sanctifying preachiness of Stanley Kramer’s moral fables.

If Dearden’s direction is seldom exciting, it does prove often that he was underappreciated for angles, movement, and lighting, and that he was an excellent director of actors. His style is smooth and understated, almost always effective.

If you, like me, had never heard of Basil Dearden before (even if, also like me, you had unknowingly watched some of his other films in the past), this set is a really worthwhile introduction.

Jim
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