Cinecon 43 Reviewed

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I Love Silents - Silent Movies

Films I saw screened at Cinecon 43 including plot summary, film review, rating - all screenings were at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California. There may be SPOILERS for some entries.

Cinecon 43 Review - with plot summaries, ratings, opinions:

I had a fun time, as usual, attending the majority of screenings at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood for Cinecon 43. To attempt to get some sleep I, as usual, skipped the three films that started at 11 at night :( - sad to miss anything though, I must say. Anyway, it was over 100 degrees the whole five days of this year's Cinecon - I had some trouble sleeping when I got home (even though I was wise enough to set up my "aerobed" for sleeping in the cool downstairs living room instead of the outlandishly HOT upstairs bedroom - and that's with the air conditioner running!). I believe the extreme heat combined with lack of sleep made me more than usually exhausted this year, but I still managed to stay awake and enjoy most of the movies I saw. Here's a rundown:

  • Beggars of Life (1927) - Visual Appeal! Artfully photographed, dark and riveting silent film following the story of a handsome tramp (Richard Arlen) who has entered a house looking for work, finds a man slumped over at the table and discovers he has been shot to death. A young lady (Louise Brooks) appears at the top of the stairs dressed in male clothing - she admits she killed the man (he "adopted" her from the orphanage two years before - okey dokey), but reasons that she did it to protect herself from being raped. So - they run off together and hitch a ride on a rail car to get out of town. The two of them soon arrive at a side of the railyard hobo camp where they encounter one really hardened, bully of a hobo (Wallace Beery) who actually ends up helping them. When she is recognized by one of the hobos as being a woman, the bunch want to get her away from her fellow and have her for themselves - oh dear, that struck me as a pretty bad/scary situation for a female to find herself in (the looks on these men's faces as they stared in lust at this poor girl were enough to frighten anyone)! Later "Wanted" posters begin to appear on signposts, as they discover she is now wanted for murder with a $1,000 reward offered for her capture. I found this to be a very interesting and enjoyable film, full of some beautifully photographed scenes - Brooks and Arlen in close-up as they hide out one night in a hay loft, Brooks falling from a train into a grassy field, a montage of images in the beginning showing the decadence of the girl's "father" as he paws and pursues her. The plot is, in a few ways, reminiscent of the early 40s comedy "Sullivan's Travels" - the female dressed in male clothing stealing rides on railcars with a male friend/lover, the hobo camp, etc. Interestingly, I thought Louise Brooks looked even more beautiful dressed as a boy than when she puts on a dress! All in all, this is a visual treat and a highly entertaining film. Jon Mirsalis did an excellent job on his piano score for this film, which really added to the experience. 9/10 stars

  • While New York Sleeps (1920) - Highly entertaining silent crime/suspense drama which showcases three vignettes of the city, all featuring the same small group of actors. The first story tells the tale of a woman left home alone one evening while hubby works late. Her baby is scared in bed (and a dream of demons is visualized above the toddler's head), the wife is shaking in her boots for good reason - an unkempt, grubby-looking man suddenly appears in the house who turns out to be her first husband whom she thought to be dead (and at the same time, an actual burglar is in the house, trying to break into the safe!). The second story features a vamp who seduces a man while attending the Follies. He is married but doesn't know *she* is until a man shows up at her apartment just as he is about to cut off the affair - twists to follow. The third story is about "the paralytic", an old man completely paralyzed - he can hear, blink and move his eyes, and that's it. Unable to talk, he simply sits and watches - his only joy, his "heaven" as the title card states, is his adult son, a night watchman who lives with him. A rather seedy local seamstress has a side job caring for the old man for $3 a week - but when she loses her main job after a brawl with another woman, the son convinces her to marry him and have use of ALL his money. In a loveless marriage she soon turns to a secret love affair with a gangster who she has hidden in their attic after he has committed a robbery - and soon they have murdered the husband and disposed of the body (down an oddly placed trapdoor leading to the outside, placed right in the center of the main room of the house), all witnessed by the paralyzed father who can't talk! This film includes lots of twists and turns, each short story in itself quite absorbing and interesting. I especially enjoyed the third story in this - the image of the "paralytic man" has really stuck in my head, quite memorable. Marc McDermott, who plays him, gives a really top-notch performance here portraying his emotions with just his eyes. Beautiful Estelle Taylor is also very good playing the female in each of the three stories. This film is a real winner; well worth seeing. The print of this was 16mm so didn't look as good as many of the other films shown, but the entertainment value of this film made this one of the best silents of the weekend. 9/10 stars

  • The Patent Leather Kid (1927) - Heartthrob Richard Barthelmess gives a standout performance as a hard-boiled, cocky young boxer who won't stand up and salute the flag. He meets and begins to date a brash young woman who admires him, even as she taunts him on, during one of his boxing matches. WWI starts and men are enlisting right and left, but our boxer is not interested in the War at all - though his girl keeps pushing for him to join up. Patriotic to the end, she heads for France to sing and dance as she trains to be a nurse; he is finally drafted so heads over there too. Shaking with fear the night before battle, he ends up being seriously injured. When he's brought into the army camp hospital, the nurse who tends him ends up being his girl from back home who still loves him terribly - and in a very dramatic and memorable scene, she pleads with the rather unwilling doctor to perform a surgery to attempt to save his life. SPOILER: his life is saved, but he is now a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic who desires to salute a passing flag but can't move his arms. Then in a most memorable moment, he strains to move his hands, he does it, he stands, and he salutes the flag - fade out, the end. I found this to be quite a good film, a bit slow through the middle (mainly battle/war scenes that didn't completely hold my interest). I thought Molly O'Day, who plays the girlfriend, gave a really terrific performance here, especially shining in the scenes where she begs for her man's life. The screening of this featured a really nice-looking black and white print. 9/10 stars

  • Man, Woman, and Wife (1929) - Interesting and melodramatic silent film packed to the gills with enough soap opera drama to keep me totally entertained. A man named Ralph (Norman Kerry) is married to his love, Helen, but a floozy named Rita (she of the feathers and tight satin gowns, a former girlfriend of his) arrives to kiss him goodbye as he heads off to war. He is thought to have been killed in action, but one day at a speakeasy run by "Smiling Bill", a bum/drunk is thrown out onto the street - and recognized as Ralph by Rita, who is now "Smiling Bill's" girlfriend. Seems he was a coward during battle and deserted - now a nameless shame living on the streets. He goes off to live with Rita, who is still carrying the torch for him big-time. But when Ralph reads in the papers his wife is to remarry (an old flame of hers, Ralph's former rival!), he shows up at the wedding - though ends up he loves her too much to stop it, so goes ahead and allows her to become a bigamist. This film is an enjoyable watch - well photographed, engaging and fun. It includes the original (rerecorded) Movietone score that is excellent and suits the action to a tea. 8/10 stars

  • Branding Broadway (1918) - The New York City Cowboy. Enjoyable silent romantic comedy/western starring William S. Hart as a wild west Cowboy who gets in a barroom brawl in an Arizona bar after finding out the state has gone "dry" (and he just arriving with a taste for a "pail of liquor", oh no), he's then sent heading out of town by rail, hog-tied. Well, he reads about a job in NYC to be "guardian" for a wealthy man's 27-year old playboy son, the duties to mainly entail going out drinking and brawling with him - right up his alley, oh boy! So he hightails it to the big city, promptly gets hired, and is put into white tie, tails, and top hat - all ready for the nightclubs (and let me just say, Hart cleans up real nice - swoon). A real duck out of water, so to speak, he ditches the top hat in favor of his cowboy hat as soon as he can - next thing you know, he is enlisted by the dad to get ahold of some "love letters" that the son's pretty girlfriend (Seena Owen), a waitress (not desirable to dad), is holding. He heads over to the "Wheat Cake Restaurant" where she works, and lacking the courage to actually come out and ask for the letters, he ends up eating 18 pancakes but never quite works up the nerve. Poor guy, he's become completely smitten with this woman! In a fun climax to save the letters, now in the clutches of a detective hired to get them when Hart continually fails at the task - our cowboy commandeers a New York City police horse for a wild west style ride through Central Park to save the day. This is a quite entertaining film, the screening I saw of this, at Cinecon 43 in Hollywood, featuring a clear, great-looking sepia tinted print. William S. Hart is one of my favorite stars from that era, he seems to always play a rugged cowboy who has a real soft side and boyish bashfulness when it comes to women, which I find very appealing. His portrayal here is charming, sensitive and well done, the film itself very entertaining and fun to watch. 8/10 stars

  • Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1924) - Entertaining swashbuckler, a sort of family feud Medieval style - The Vernons versus the Rutlands circa 1500s England. This period costume drama follows the tale of young Dorothy Vernon (played by Mary Pickford), engaged by contract in childhood to young John Manners, a Rutland - the marriage to take place when she turns eighteen. But while young John is away all those years at a school in France, the girl's father decides to break the contract and has made arrangements for his daughter to marry her cousin, Sir Malcolm of Scotland - whom she has never seen. Well, our Dorothy is a high-spirited, fightsy spitfire with a will of her own - she vows she will NOT marry Sir Malcolm if he is plain. When she meets who she believes to be him, it turns out to be John Manners, back in England and looking mighty young and handsome! She, of course, falls for him immediately. But dad still insists on her marriage to the cousin - now she must figure out a way to prevent that sad task from happening. A subplot involves cousin Malcolm in his plot to remove Queen Elizabeth from her throne and replace her with Mary Stuart, who has been recently brought into the country by Rutland. When the stern-faced Queen arrives at the Vernons estate to attend the wedding, Sir Malcolm attempts to kill her, but little Mary helps save the day - she evens goes so far as to help Mary Stuart at one point by switching dresses with her (and even though there is a large difference in their sizes, the switched dress fits her like a glove!). With lavish costuming, fun scenes full of swashbuckling action, and a nice-looking tinted print - plus wonderful Mary Pickford as the star, this film couldn't help but be entertaining. While not one of Mary's best films, I still found this to be a good watch, worth seeing. 7/10 stars

  • For Alimony Only (1926) - Silent romantic comedy/farce starring Leatrice Joy who plays Mary, a young art student who meets a man, Peter (Clive Brook), in a book shop who thinks she is a boy (she's dressed in the exact same male haircut and mannish outfit with sensible shoes worn in Leatrice Joy's previous film "The Clinging Vine"). Having just gone through another divorce where he must now pay his golddigger of an ex-wife $5 a month (or was it a week) alimony - he tells the "boy" how easy it is to get along with another male compared to a female. Oops - when he finds out she's a woman, he decides to date her (what's that all about?!). Well, they are very soon married, but struggling financially to keep up with the $5 alimony payments which the blonde vixen of an ex-wife is constantly making demands for (she even has him jailed when his payments are past due) and all the while she is busy dating a leech without a job. Mary must take work as a decorator to help make ends meet, and, coincidentally, meets via her job the same leech man/boyfriend of the ex-wife, and he continually hounds her for a "date". To try and get his ex to reduce the alimony, Peter must agree to go out with her (fickle?, what's that all about?!) - and while this is all being arranged, Leatrice is in the background doing a curtain decorating job for his ex! - and they end up at this inn where they dine in a "private" room - the inn, apparently, infamous for trysts as the cops are soon there to bust things up, but smart Leatrice/Mary works out a way to end the alimony forever! This film is pretty entertaining, Leatrice Joy seems to be an expert at making herself look masculine and her performance here is very well done; Lilyan Tashman smoothly brings the golddigger to life. I saw this almost a week ago and the memory of what Clive Brook even looks like in this is completely gone (and I've seen this man in several other films, I still can't place his face) - so not exactly a memorable performance there. All in all, a light, fun film - not great, but quite an enjoyable watch. 7/10 stars

  • On Dangerous Ground (1917) - Reasonably entertaining spy melodrama about an aggressive woman who uses her wiles to get what she wants. At the brink of WW1, an Alsatian woman (Gail Kane) desires to escape Germany - along with a secret vile she is to bring into France. A good-looking young American doctor (Carlyle Blackwell), at school in Berlin, is leaving Germany and has the much-needed Passport to get himself out of the country. Well, next thing you know, her bagful of mainly undergarments is in his hotel room on his way out of town (he bashfully sorts through the bag) - seems her plan for escape is to pretend she is his wife, though they have never met. She promptly arrives at the room, tricks the hotel bellman into thinking they are a real couple, and forges his passport by adding on the words "accompanied by wife" (no name needed, hmm) - and he goes along with all this, I guess 'cause he really wants a girlfriend or something. Now we get a series of situations in which they must convince various authorities that they are married. The film, of course, includes the two of them being forced into a room overnight featuring one smallish bed and one rickety wooden chair (you can probably guess who ends up on which). Anyway, the inevitable happens (no, I don't mean THAT) as romance blooms and he nicknames her "His Little Comrade". A German friend from his past helps out when all seems lost. By the way, one thing I learned from watching this film - Carlyle Blackwell looks pretty darn hunky when his shirt is all ripped and hanging off of his body for part of the film. Could I be remembering wrong - or is the point where the shirt gets ripped up about the point where she starts to fall for him?! The attractiveness of this once popular teen era matinee idol was enough to hold my interest in this film and keep it enjoyable - other than that, it is mildly entertaining fare. 7/10 stars

  • The Showdown (1928) - In the tropics, a man named Cardan (George Bancroft) works his oil well and brawls with another fellow/rival who works a competing well. Soon arrives a young man and his wife, a real prim and proper lady. On their arrival a floozy from a nearby canteen, Goldie, has already planted herself at the camp, flirting and carousing with Cardan and the other men. She is promptly sent on her way as the prim young wife gives her a real cold glare! But while her husband has gone off to work on *his* well, leaving her alone at the camp, the young wife soon begins to go crazy as the tropics starts to "get to her", her hair goes wild, the men begin to lust after her - and she evem attempts to befriend Goldie. This is quite an entertaining film, though perhaps not as good as similar "Red Dust", a talkie version of this done a few years later.

  • Her Wild Oat (1927) - Starring Colleen Moore as an orphan who inherited a dog and a lunch wagon, which she now runs to earn her living. She meets a man who comes to her lunch counter in a ragged workers uniform - she thinks he's poor, but actually he's a rich Wall Street/Yale man who has somehow lost his clothes (can't remember the details here). Well, he even ends up losing his last dime - so has to wash dishes to pay for his meal. And a romance has begun! She very soon finds out he's one of the rich set, then poses as a duchess at one of his fave spots "Plymouth Beach" (where the top 10,000 go - for the lavish amount of $30 a day!). This seemed like a pretty good movie and the print looked great - unfortunately, it was one of those Cinecon screenings where I just couldn't, though try as I might - and I tried hard, stay awake. This is not a reflection on the film - it is a reflection on my extreme exhaustion at this point. I am sad as I was looking forward to this one! (no rating as I drowsed too much during this one)

  • Interference (1928) - Dullish drawing room silent melodrama starring William Powell - saw this, but didn't manage to get a review written up.

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  • War Hunt (1962) - Dark, atmospheric, stylish film telling the story of combat as seen through the eyes of a newcomer, baby-faced Robert Redford, at a wartime trench camp in Korea, 1953. The story basically follows this man's experiences dealing with the others in their little platoon barracks - particularly a very odd man (played by John Saxon) who first appears on screen in a most memorable style - his mud-covered face suddenly appearing in close-up, completely filling the screen. This man likes to go out alone at night with his face darkened, on his own private "war hunt" as he knifes to death Koreans hiding in trench holes. This man's sidekick at camp is a young, orphaned Korean boy who seems to worship the older man. At one point, we watch Redford's character as he faces great fear during his first experience in combat; he also desires to help the young boy and faces many confrontations with the "war hunter"/mud man. This is a very unusual film - powerful, gripping and interesting, the story moved along via voice-over narration by Redford as his character relates his experiences. The film features excellent, thoughtful camerawork including many facial close-ups, and many dark, night-time scenes that gives a haunting feeling to the action. The background music reminded me in style of that often heard during "Twilight Zone" or even "Star Trek" episodes - a sort of 60s sci-fi feeling to it, in a way. The film opens and closes with a nicely done, sentimental chorus of Korean children. An excellent film all around. 9/10 stars

  • tom thumb (1958) - Rich, colorful musical fantasy based on a Grimms fairy tale that is delightfully fun to watch. Telling the tale of a woodsman who is granted three wishes by a very beautiful blonde fairy, the Forest Queen, after he agrees to not cut down a giant oak. But he blows it on the wishes (gee, who could have guessed that would happen?!), much to the chagrin of his patient wife, by blurting out a wish for a sausage, which ends up on his nose via another wish, forcing him to use the last wish to get it off his nose - okey dokey. Luckily, the Forest Queen is very patient, apparently, for they are given a fourth wish - they would like to have a young one to play with their room full of toys, someone they can love even if he is no bigger than their thumb. Well, next thing you know, Tom Thumb (played by Russ Tamblyn) has come knocking on their door - he's tiny, but he sure can dance! He's bedded down for the night by his new "parents" and wakes up to have a magical dance party with his toys, now come to life via some really wonderful special effects. Another fun musical number features a village dance where all the dancers have purchased "talented shoes" from the cobbler that keep dancing as long as there is music. Later poor Tom gets mixed up with two villians who force him to steal bags full of gold (this part of the film was the one segment that I thought dragged the story down a bit). There is also a subplot involving a local music man (Alan Young) who is in love with the Forest Queen and doesn't realize that he can turn her into a mortal via a kiss. As a whole, this film is really a lot of fun - with great dancing, brightly colored period costumes, and trick photograghy which really succeeds in making Tom look small. All the actors are great in this - but Russ Tamblyn really steals this film with his marvelous, amazing, athletic skill at combining dance with gymnastics - really a fantastic talent. The music in this is fairly good, although nothing spectacular - though I must say that I saw this screened at Cinecon 43 in Hollywood four days ago (it looked great on the big screen, by the way) and I still keep finding myself humming one of the tunes from this all day long, it's really stuck in my head. Alan Young appeared in person for this screening and proved to be highly funny and entertaining during an interview after the film was shown. This would be a terrific movie for children to see, for adults I also find this film to be quite entertaining - I am partial to fantasies, this was a treat to see. 9/10 stars

  • Only Yesterday (1933) - One Night Is All It Takes! Excellent melodrama following the story of a woman, Mary Lane (Margaret Sullavan), who has arranged to be escort at a dance for a man (John Boles) she has loved from afar for two years. He goes for it - they spend an evening of romance together (all the way it seems). But it's WW1 and he goes off to battle, she anxiously awaiting his return to her. When armistice is declared, he comes home leading a parade of returning soldiers, but when she approaches him - uh oh - he doesn't remember her! This turns out to be a pretty bad thing for her as she keeps a secret from him - for years - that they have a son together from that one night. Her son starts to grow-up and they are very close, but she still holds the torch for her former lover - then at a fun-looking New Year's Eve party years later they get together for a second fling, she just can't seem to get this man out of her head! SPOILER SPOILER: she actually ends revealing to this guy via a letter from her death bed that he is a father. END SPOILER. This film is highly entertaining, soap opera at it's best. Margaret Sullavan really hits the mark in her first film role - she is completely wonderful in this, giving a very memorable, emotional performance. 9/10 stars

  • Wake Up and Live (1937) - Fun musical comedy starring Jack Haley as part of a vaudeville team who have come to try out their act at a radio center, but he blows the audition because of "mike fright" - and his female partner, apparently really lacking in patience or loyalty, immediately drops him. He gets hired on as a guide there, and one day sings into a mike, not realizing that his vocals are going out live on the air. He has a great voice and is an immediate sensation, but since no one knows who did the singing, he becomes famous as the "Phantom Troubadour". Meanwhile, he meets a beautiful female singer (Alice Faye) whose radio show "Wake Up and Live" has just been canned by the network for lack of jokes. She decides to help him get over his mike fright - by having him come to her place each day to "practice" singing into a microphone, which unknown to him is putting his voice out live on the air every day! With enjoyable, catchy songs (particularly the title song), a couple of fabulous tab dance numbers, Alice Faye looking absolutely gorgeous on the big screen, funny and likable Jack Haley, plus a fantastic looking print shown at a screening at Cinecon 43 in Hollywood, this film proved to be a real winner and a treat to see. A subplot in this film involves a feud between real life personalities Walter Winchell and orchestra leader, Ben Bernie, who appear as themselves. Character actors Patsy Kelly and especially Ned Sparks (who is hilarious here) add a touch of humor to the mix. A very entertaining film. 8/10 stars

  • The Rider of Death Valley (1932) - Not Enough Water! A top-notch early western. A gold rush hits a western town, now booming - and soon cowboy Tom Mix arrives on his wonderful horse Tony. When a man is murdered for his gold mine at the hands of two bad men - Tom takes charge of the dead man's now orphaned little girl (Edith Fellows) and she's soon all dolled up in a fancy dress and telling him how much she enjoys being "washed and dressed" by him - then Tom proceeds to tell her "remember, that's our little secret" (okay, what's that all about?! - I believe these lines didn't have the intention or meaning they seem to have today, but this caused a big reaction from the audience at a live screening at Cinecon 43 in Hollywood). Well, the child's young, attractive aunt (Lois Wilson) arrives in town to take over and and is none too happy to find the little girl in a saloon ("mixed drinks - 2 bits") at the bar, alongside a beer-drinking saloon gal (Mae Busch in much too small a part). The dead father has left a map to his gold mine (intended for his family), which the two bad men have got ahold of. But smart Tom gets it and divides the map into three pieces, one for each of them. They trek out into the Death Valley desert to find the mine - but a wagon accident leaves the three men, plus the aunt, stranded in the blazing hot desert with close to no water. Of course, while Tom and the woman are "strong and brave", the two bad men keep trying to steal water - the only one who can really help them out is Tony the horse, sent back out across the desert to the rescue! A riveting, gripping, suspenseful film that really held my interest, especially memorable are the later scenes in the desert - the extreme thirst, the debilitating heat, the parched throats, the madness, all expertly and realistically brought to life. Tom Mix is an engaging star who gives a nice performance here, young Edith Fellows is an adorable child, but I must say, it is really Tony the horse who completely steals this film - what a neat horse, and he's the real hero here too! A very entertaining watch. 8/10 stars

  • The Gilded Lily (1935) - 30's Love Triangle. Entertaining romantic comedy starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray as a pair who have a "date" each Thursday meeting on a city bench to eat popcorn together, sans shoes. He seems to be in love with her, but she longs to meet her dream man for her idea of an ideal romance. And she does - in the form of handsome Ray Milland, who assists her in a crowd situation on the subway. They have a fun date together at Coney Island where the camera takes us on a wild ride on the roller coaster with them; they fall in love instantly. She thinks he's out of a job - he doesn't tell her he is a Lord (and has a fiancee back home in England!). But when she sees his picture in the paper (coincidentally attached to a story done by MacMurray, a reporter) she believes she's been duped. Follows a series of publicity newspaper stories, out of her control, which causes her to become famous as "The No Girl" for saying "no" to a lord. Then he thinks she was just in the whole relationship with him for the publicity. Well, based on her huge public fame, she is amazingly hired to sing and dance in her own solo nightclub act - even though, as seen in a quite amusing performance scene, she has zero talent! This is a fun, enjoyable romp - a little frustrating in the way of many romantic comedies in which you feel like you know a couple should be together, but misunderstandings have caused them to remain apart. The ending of this was not particularly what I hoped to see either. But - Claudette Colbert sparkles as always, she's great. Fred MacMurray also does a fine job in his part, Ray Milland looks very young, handsome and, well, rather dashing! One thing I wondered about in this film - why are the Colbert and MacMurray characters so satisfied with just a date on a bench once a week, how come they never desire to get together for a dinner out, go to a movie, or any other normal type activity?! Seemed a bit odd to me. All in all, a quite enjoyable film. 7/10 stars

  • How's About It (1943) - Fun, Loose Plot - Great Music. A-okay WWII musical featuring a very loose plot strung together with loads of snappy patter and enjoyable song numbers done by the Andrews Sisters. They appear as three elevator operators at a music company where a song publisher (who likes to take showers at the office!) has just been sued by a cutesy blonde for stealing her calendar "poem" for use as music lyrics. In order to get the lawsuit canceled, he hires her as a song writer - which she proves to have zero skill at doing (but he romances her anyway). Shemp Howard appears as a side character who fancies but is set down again and again by Patty Andrews with some rather mean one-liners - but his continual pursuit of her actually succeeds (why does this kind of aggressive pursuit of women always seem to result in success in the movies, though is seemingly unrealistic in real-life?!). There are some additional entertaining musical numbers in this film featuring Buddy Rich and His Orchestra as well as a thirteen-year old named Bobby Scheerer who is very pleasing as he plays a tap dancing office boy (he appeared in person at a screening of this last week at Cinecon 43 in Hollywood). As a whole this film is lightly entertaining, peppy fun. 7/10 stars

  • A Man Betrayed (1941) - A man (John Wayne) arrives in town to investigate the alleged "suicide" of a friend from his own hometown who he believes has actually been murdered. Plot action seems to mainly revolve here around a nighclub called the "Inferno", an oddish hot spot where patrons have to arrive inside via a slide and waiters dress in Red Devil costumes. As he tries to find out what happened to his friend he also romances the beautiful daughter (Frances Dee) of a politician who is busy stealing votes in order to win the upcoming election. This film was mildly entertaining, boosted along by a fabulous looking print on the big screen. 6/10 stars

  • Ain't Misbehavin' (1955) - Mediocre Technicolor musical boosted up by a few cute dance numbers. About a dancer of many skills - she's a gal who can shuck oysters, score baseball, and play pool with the best of them. She attracts the attention of an advertising executive looking for someone to dance on TV (his company has just purchased an oddity that is a zoom-in device/color adder for your TV set) - and she decides to chase after him for his dough, but then falls for him. They move into his Nob Hill home and now she must deal with the societry matrons/snobs who look down their noses at her (she never heard of "Madame Butterfly"). So - she starts taking lessons in art, music, history, etc. to try and fit in.

  • Women of All Nations (1931) - Very silly farce about two guys who join up in the army just to travel and meet girls, basically. The film features a seriously loose plot strung together by some rather painful to watch scenes plus a few amusing scenes here and there, mainly those involving a cute, blonde Swedish woman who flirts with all the men by purring "meow" to them (and they "meow" back - heh). But these guys get themselves into a bit of trouble via her big Swedish boyfriend, Olaf - a sort of bad-tempered lug. Then later she shows up in Arabia (still meowing) as the newest favorite wife of this angry, knife wielding Arab. A mediocre film at best. 4 stars

  • Air Hawks (1935) - A mad scientist invents this ray machine to zap airplanes out of the sky. Ralph Bellamy, pilot for IPT airlines, has a competitor who buys the machine and attempts to ruin IPT's business - by using the machine to cause planes to crash making it look like IPT has faulty equipment! This featured a really great looking print - unfortunately, I was very drowsy during this one, so found it hard to follow as I drifted in and out of sleep - seemed decent though. Marian Edwards from Our Gang appears in this a the little daughter of one of the pilots. (no rating as I slept too much during this to judge)

  • Cafe Metropole - saw this, didn't manage to write this one up.

  • Trail of the Vigilantes - saw this, didn't manage to write this one up.

  • Essaney Comedies - - These weren't great, but I always get a certain amount of enjoyment watching teen era (or earlier) films and they looked very nice on the big screen - so, yes, I liked both of these.

  • 1. Versus Sledge Hammers (1915) - About Count Bon Ami and his "dumb" valet (Ben Turpin) - they arrive at this small Wild West hotel where the Count believes a woman who is a millionaire lives. Though no great beauty he pursues her for her money, she already has a beau (but doesn't seem to mind the attention from another man) - slapstick ensues.
  • 2. Billy McGrath on Broadway (1913) - About a theatrical troupe about to put on a production but their actresses can't stop fighting. All the actors end up leaving and no replacement actors are sent. So - they round up the stagehands and other behind-the-scenes people working at the theater to be in the play resulting in some pretty homely women as the heroines - one in particular, as she's played by a man in drag (reminding me of a bit of Arthur Askey in "Charleys Big-Hearted Aunt").

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  • The Big Squirt (1936) - Charley Chase comedy that was pretty funny. He plays a soda jerk who makes ice cream sundaes while he's reading detective magazines. He imagines himself a great detective, he spots criminals on trollies - and he has a mother-in-law who thinks he's a dope (but manages to get into the idea of being a detective herself). Our Gang alert: Sidney Kibrick appears in a soda shop scene where he and another boy come in to share a soda but can't come to an agreement on whether they want chocolate or strawberry (and Kibrick ends up with a black eye in the deal - then bully boy twists the straw end so he can't get any drink through the straw - Chase gives the poor lad some free ice cream to make up for his trauma).

  • Scrappy's Added Attraction - Animated, I have close to no memory of this.

  • There's No Business Like Show Business - Another Buster Keaton industrial short, this one in which they are promoting auto repair shops to do more complete repairs (and thus make more profit) using the antics of Keaton as he portrays a lackadaisical repairman. Nice to see Keaton, but this prolonged ad was boring.

  • Boobs and Babes - The baby carriage mix-up. While a mom goes shopping she puts her hubby (comedian Larry Semon) in charge of their baby carriage, parked in front of the outside of a shop - but this man is easily distracted by a flirtatious nanny who is in charge of a baby carriage of her own. The carriages are mixed, then another mix-up - when a black woman parks her carriage in front of the shop and the dad takes it by mistake (politically incorrect humor now, based on them now having hold of a baby who is black). The cops get called in, the three carriages continue to end up in the wrong parents hands (one wonders after all these mix-ups why these people don't take a peak into the baby carriage before walking off with it). Pretty amusing - while not spectacularly funny or anything, I thought this was the best short of the weekend.

  • Mind Doesn't Matter - a jumble in my head right now.

  • Running Hollywood - Featuring many cameo celebrity appearances.

  • Hello, Napoleon - didn't get this one written up.

  • Plus three dreadful chapters of the serial "The Iron Claw" - will this thing ever end (this seems like a real waste of three 20-minute time slots each year that could have been better filled by some more short comedies and such - how 'bout more Charley Chase or, better yet, some teen era comedies).


Stuff I Learned This Year - - 1. the Egyptian Theatre is really really cold so pants (not to mention a sweater in tow) are de rigueur for these screenings (well, I knew that - but it was so darn hot I did try out wearing a dress the first night this year), 2. Mel's Diner has really slow waiters, 3. the streets of Hollywood seem to be getting more crowded with "youths gone wild" than ever before (gosh, hope that doesn't make me sound like a fogey - but I seem to feel more comfortable around people my age to much older), 4. there always seems to be someone snoring nearby during each movie screened proving that I'm not the only one who gets really sleepy and exhausted during Cinecon (then again, I heard snoring nearby during almost the very first film shown "War Hunt" - and the snoring always seems to come from the same direction, don't tell me it's always the same person?!)

Themes - - girls dressed as boys (Beggars of Life, For Alimony Only); men who go to war (Patent Leather Kid, Only Yesterday, War Hunt, Man, Woman, and Wife); Our Gang kids in bit parts (The Big Squirt, Air Hawks), Bigamy (Man, Woman, and Wife, While New York Sleeps, Interference)

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