Cinevent 49 and Beyond

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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Cinevent 49 and Beyond

PostTue Jun 13, 2017 9:29 am

Here is my Cinevent review:

First off, I went to the Wexner Center. (Thankfully my husband agreed to pick me up late after my tire popped trying to park at a meter prior to the screening.) They showed two films: You'll Never Get Rich and Her Man.

You'll Never Get Rich is a pleasant enough Fred Astaire movie. He's paired with Rita Hayworth who from the very beginning has eyes for him, but things keep coming up to keep them apart. I felt they had very good chemistry together and danced beautifully as a pair. I loved the opening credits for both of the Wexner Center films; this one opens with Robert Benchley in a car telling the driver to slow down, and the credits go by on billboards outside his window. At the end he tells the driver to speed up and the movie begins.

The credits for Her Man are done in the surf. Everything is written in the sand and then wiped away in the waves. This movie is a splendor to behold. The camera moves constantly and there is sound everywhere, which is highly unusual for a film from 1930. Phillips Holmes is the best I've ever seen him as a winsome sailor and although she is more histrionic, Helen Twelvetrees is likeable and pretty as the "good girl" prostitute. This is definitely a pre-code film; it is very frank about its characters and their vices. But it isn't done in a gratuitous way. I was very impressed.

I had never seen a Lynn Bari movie before, or at least I hadn't realized I had, and after talking with her biographer Jeff Gordon in 2015, I wanted to, so I was excited to see Chasing Danger first thing, a short film promising to be quick, exciting and full of action. It didn't quite live up to my expectations. First, the plot is somewhat convoluted, revolving around a newspaper photographer trying to latch onto a story about a traitorous and beautiful woman hiding a wealthy man presumed dead in the middle east and smuggling jewels to fund an uprising there. Bari kept referring to the Arabs as her people, so I can only assume she was supposed to be middle eastern but they certainly didn't try very hard to make her look so. They made a better attempt with Joan Woodbury, although all of the Arabs were caricatures, especially considering our extensive exposure to that culture in modern times. The character of Fatima was perhaps the most offensive, a giggling and hefty simpleton used mainly for comic relief. It wasn't a bad movie but it wasn't especially good either.

I wrote the notes for A Medal for Benny in the program relying solely on notes, so I was excited to get to see it. It shows a small poor fishing village in California populated by Mexican and Native American people. One of their ruffian youths is in the military and commits an act of heroism so he wins the Medal of Honor. Local government leaders try to turn the publicity into an opportunity for them to make money, although they doctor everything to suit their will. Dorothy Lamour wrote in her autobiography that she was proud of her accent in this movie, but it goes in an out at her discretion. Arturo de Cordova and J. Carroll Naish are much more believable; Naish is outstanding as Benny's father, a simple kindly man. He was nominated for an Oscar for this performance. The movie meanders, which may partly be an attempt to capture the leisurely lifestyle of Latin cultures, but it is pleasant and definitely polished.

The print of The Lucky Devil that was screened is the slightly shorter version in circulation, but the cuts have relieved it of any slow spots. The movie moves and moves and keeps moving. It has laughs, action, romance and lots of different locations so it is impossible to get bored. The cast is a lot of fun too; Richard Dix is the leading man, Esther Ralston is his potential sweetheart and Edna Mae Oliver is the comical aunt. I almost didn't stick around for this one because even though I hadn't seen it, I felt like I had after writing the notes, and it is sometimes hard to sit that long in those conference room chairs. I'm glad I did. This was one of the best films of the weekend.

I was disappointed when I sat down to what I thought was the Charley Chase program and saw Lupino Lane on the screen. I remember one of my first Cinevents they showed some Lupino Lane and I had never even heard of him, and I haven't "discovered" him since. I don't think he's terribly funny. I got a few laughs but nothing like what I would have gotten from Charley Chase. Luckily there was one Chase short shown, Midsummer Mush, and it was a lot of fun. Charley is a boy scout leader who gets himself into some trouble when he swipes a lick of ice cream from a moving vehicle. He manages to befriend the victim of his gluttony and they all agree to camp together. Charley manages to wind up in the lake time after time trying to impress a cute blonde. It is a fun and charming short. There is nothing like those Hal Roach films.

Towed in a Hole is a fun movie. Even though I've seen most of these movies before, it is great fun to watch them with an audience. There is also something about that Leroy Shield music.

Where's Charley? was one of the most anticipated movies of the convention because of its rarity, and it almost didn't make it to showtime! Luckily it did and we got to see it, although the print was fading so the color wasn't as vibrant as it would have been upon release. No matter. This movie is the musical version of Charley's Aunt, a popular show about cross dressing set in the Victorian Era when manners meant a lot more than they do now. I was especially excited to see this after reading Carleton Carpenter's book and his many memories of working on the stage with Ray Bolger (positive and negative). I hadn't seen him in much and I figured this was probably a pretty good spotlight for him considering it was his favorite. I liked the movie, but it didn't live up to the hype for me. Just like the Jack Benny version, it has slow spots, and this one was less frantic than that one so therefore less funny. However, it has a lot of charm. I really liked the scene in the beginning when the girls come to the room but decide they need to leave because there is no chaperone (even though the door is standing open) and they sing "Better Get Out of Here." I wasn't bowled over by "Once in Love With Amy" during the movie (although there was a cute part where Bolger encourages his audience to sing, and some did), but I found myself humming it later when I was home.

I have grown to really love the Annual Animation Program. I am not an animation buff, so I often see things I've never heard of before. My interests lean heavily toward the Fleischer cartoons, so it is no wonder two of the cartoons I liked the most were from that studio. First was "Betty Boop & Grampy," a simple short about Betty Boop getting an invitation to a party at Grampy's house, inviting the neighborhood, and then attending. I like Grampy, who I know from "Christmas Comes But Once a Year," an inventive old man who can turn any trash into treasure. He does that here making all sorts of things into fun gadgets for the party. There is lots of music and not much plot but it is charming and entertaining anyway. Another Fleischer I really liked was "Musical Memories," about an old couple reflecting on their past together. It goes through a number of turn-of-the-century songs illustrated on the rotoscope. It is very nostalgic, and we at Cinevent are nostalgia junkies, and the toon fit right in. "Daffy Duck in Hollywood" probably got the biggest laughs (from my friend Rodney) which made it all the more enjoyable. I love those old cartoons set in and around Hollywood with lots of movie star caricatures. This fits that bill nicely and although I'd seen it before, it was better with an audience.

Carmen was the worst movie I saw all weekend. I've never been able to understand Pola Negri's appeal. To me she's mousy and dull and I can't for the life of me see the temptress she was supposed to represent. I've read some of her autobiography and I know she worked really hard at becoming a professional dancer, but you'd never know it from this film. Her dancing is laughable and not seductive in the least. The story seemed to drag on forever too. It was pretty obvious what was going to happen and it wasn't particularly enjoyable watching it.

Thicker Than Water was another hilarious Laurel and Hardy movie, and one I don't think I'd ever seen before. I always cringe when people lose their money, even when it is done for comic effect, but this one still made me laugh in spite of that.

The Trial of Vivienne Ware was my favorite film of the whole weekend. It was quick, stylish and had a great cast. The camera moved which kept things going. Joan Bennett was insanely beautiful, and I haven't seen much of her early work. She's of course gorgeous here as a blonde socialite who falls for the wrong man. He ends up dead, but we aren't told who did it or how it happened, only that she is up for murder and the man who wanted to marry her becomes her lawyer. The courtroom scenes are relatively accurate to a real courtroom, although some is altered for drama's sake. (You'd be hard pressed to get so many weapons into a courtroom now, although security probably wasn't nearly as strict back then.) The play between Zasu Pitts and Skeets Gallagher as radio hosts is really funny and adds another layer to the story.

The Magic Box is a biopic about William Friese-Greene who invented the kind of movie camera still in use. I had never heard of him before, and I think most people haven't heard of him. His claim to film history is disputed but this film pays tribute to several of the pioneers in the beginning. It is told backwards first at the end of his life, then his life with his second wife, and then his life with his first. The program book claimed this film was a who's-who of British casting but apparently I'm not well versed in British films because I didn't recognize most of them. I enjoyed the movie a lot though, even though it was mostly melancholy in tone. I was especially impressed with Maria Schell who besides being beautiful played vulnerability very well.

I saw fewer movies this year for a few reasons. I missed the excellent lineup Saturday night because of my cousin's wedding, which was a real bummer because I not only love The East Side Kids/Dead End Kids/Bowery Boys, I especially love Leo Gorcey. I am also an autograph hunter and I have one from Gloria Jean, and I haven't been able to see many of her movies. Top that off with my deep love for all things Hal Roach, and you'll understand how sad I was to miss it. I also skipped the movies I'd already seen (The Music Box, I Love Melvin, Rogue's Regiment, Feel My Pulse), which I usually do so I can gab, another reason I missed a few movies. Sometimes you get rolling on a good conversation and you just can't break away to sit in the dark. I wish I would have gone to see Jazz Mad, Two Living One Dead and The Ghost of St. Michael's but time got away from me. I also left earlier than I usually do now that I have a baby and he wakes me up pretty early in the morning. I had to choose sleep and I figured it was better to do it in my own bed than in the screening room.

Jim Lane wrote an excellent recap on his website chronicling some of the films I missed:

Next year will be a very big year for the convention because it will be the 50th year. To celebrate, we are talking about doing a 50th Anniversary Commemorative book with tributes to the founders, photos from past events, and articles about it. If anyone has materials they would like to submit, please contact me ([email protected]) or Michael Haynes ([email protected]).

Any additional feedback is welcome.
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Re: Cinevent 49 and Beyond

PostTue Jun 13, 2017 11:49 am

Thanks for the reviews. I probably speak for most fans on the west coast when I say that if these festivals weren't so far away, I'd go to many more of them!
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Jim Roots

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Re: Cinevent 49 and Beyond

PostTue Jun 13, 2017 1:08 pm

Leonard Maltin calls The Trial of Vivienne Ware "incredibly fast-moving" and "possibly the speediest film ever made". Did you get that same sense?

I'd love to see it ... with captions, of course!

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Re: Cinevent 49 and Beyond

PostTue Jun 13, 2017 1:19 pm

I saw The Trial of Vivienne Ware and was very impressed by the flash cuts. It's a technique that has fallen out of favor in the movies, although still in use in tv.

Last edited by boblipton on Tue Jun 13, 2017 5:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Dean Thompson

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Re: Cinevent 49 and Beyond

PostTue Jun 13, 2017 1:39 pm

Thanks for the great write-up, Maliejandra. The Trial of Vivienne Ware was my favorite this year as well; it screamed by with such unrelenting speed that when the lights went up afterward, I wanted to cheer and then take a pill and lie down!


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Re: Cinevent 49 and Beyond

PostThu Jun 15, 2017 11:36 am

maliejandra wrote:"Daffy Duck in Hollywood" probably got the biggest laughs (from my friend Rodney) which made it all the more enjoyable. I love those old cartoons set in and around Hollywood with lots of movie star caricatures. This fits that bill nicely and although I'd seen it before, it was better with an audience.

I may resemble that remark....

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