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Cinecon 46 Film Reviews

Review for the Cinecon 46 Classic Film Festival, held September 2nd to 6th, 2010 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California. - - - The Cinecon Film Festival is held every year over Labor Day weekend and is loads of fun!

September 2010

RATINGS KEY:

10 = Absolutely Fabulous/Superb
9 = Really Good/Excellent
8 = Good
7 = Fairly Good/Decent
6 = So-so, some flaws
5 = Mediocre
4 = Not that good, many flaws
3 = Poor
2 = Very Poor/Stinker
1 = One of the worst BOMBS ever filmed

There may be SPOILERS for certain reviews.

Thursday Evening Screenings - Cinecon 46 Begins! - September 2, 2010
*******

  • Dinner for Eight (1934) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Promotional short film, in early 3-strip Technicolor. All about the modern housewife and her efficient, all new electric kitchen. When hubby calls up at 1 pm (the louse) to inform the wifey that he's bringing home six guests for dinner, no worries - her kitchen is fully equipped with the latest in electric cookware (and there just so happens to be plenty of available food in the fridge including a large enough roast to feed a dinner party for eight!). And here's the rub - she's already got plans to go to the theatre with a gal pal at 2 pm for the matinee. With a "fruit salad" already prepared (fruit cocktail casserole, it appears), she just needs to prep that roast, butter up some whole potatoes and place in her roaster pan. She quickly preps some hideous looking stuffed onions and also has time to make some sort of frozen orange dessert (stored for safe-keeping in the top freezer compartment of her snazzy electric refrigerator). Our housewife feels no stress as she turns on the timer of her electric oven, all set to cook her roast while she heads off for the theatre (and no worries about her roast needing basting or anything like that, since the electric oven "retains moisture"). Dinner is served! - - and hubby is sure to make the "deal" with his business associates, especially since his calm and collected wife has presented such a relaxed, "no lines of stress or worry" on her face, presentation.
    REVIEW - I got a kick out of this short, very cool and the color looked great - - love the look of her pale blue and yellow thirties deco kitchen, and all those neat retro kitchen gadgets. And have to give credit where credit is due - this woman sure can whip up a meal rapid fire while already dressed for the theatre, getting no hair out of place and keeping that pretty kitchen spotless at all times (she's sort of a thirties version of June Cleaver). The film opens before hubby's urgent call, with our housewife shown preparing a "Tomato Soup Cake", using a can of Campbell's tomato soup as one of the ingredients. Um - ugh - sounds bad and looked bad after it came out of the oven (I think there were a few groans from the audience?) - but there are recipes all over the Internet for various versions of this old-fashioned concoction, here's one: Tomato Soup Cake recipes. As the voice-over narration says at the end - who should get the credit for this success of a dinner, the calm and collected wife - or - Thomas Edison. Hehe. For what this was, I give it Rating - * 10/10 stars *

  • King of Burlesque (1936) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Backstage musical. Producer Kerry Bolton (Warner Baxter) wants to get out of Burlesque and become a legit theatre producer, soon bringing a series of hit shows - all named after a girl and starring a bevy of beauties - to the stage. He also forms an interest in meeting a "higher" sort of woman - someone with some class, and when he's at an auction and spots Park Avenue society gal Rosalind Cleve (Mona Barrie) he hits on her big-time, unaware that she's down on her luck and the estate being auctioned off is part of her family. She really seems to find Bolton offensive, but when he makes her an offer of marriage - um - she marries him for his money, and soon encourages him to assist her struggling opera singin' lover, who she hopes can be helped careerwise by successful Bolton. He unfortunately puts the lover in a new high-brow show and becomes a flop, soon sad out of luck and facing hard times. Meanwhile beautiful singer Pat (Alice Faye), his star attraction since Burlesque days (he thinks of her as a "pal"), still holds a torch for him. She secretly hires a man off the street to pose as a millionaire offering to back Bolton's next show (using money put up by Pat). Bolton decides to go all out and create a production that's really different, ending up hiring a whole bunch of folks wanting to get into showbiz we have met along the way - the elevator operator, a tap-dancing shoeshine boy, a telephone operator, etc. And the show goes off a hit!
    REVIEW - The details of this film are now a little hazy - this was the first feature film screened for Cinecon 46 and almost the last one I got around to writing up a review for. What I do know is this - I am a big fan of Alice Faye and ALWAYS enjoy seeing her, especially on the big screen. She is quite Jean Harlow platinum and made up (make-up wise) in this film, I do prefer her forties look better. The musical production numbers in this film were very entertaining, especially the memorable big finale with showgirls on flying trapeze swings performing directly over the heads of the nightclub full of well-heeled patrons, followed by a series of showstopping tap dance numbers and Fats Waller himself - very cool. I liked this. Rating - * 8/10 stars *

  • Down on the Farm (1920) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent comedy, directed by Mack Sennett. The farmer's daughter, the farm hand who loves her, the evil mortgage-collecting landlord, and the mustachioed ad model/bad father, a la slapstick. Down on the farm, young Louise (Louise Fazenda), the farmer's daughter, cavorts with a pack of aggressive geese while a young hired hand hopes to catch her and marry her. The sleazy landlord (Jimmy Finlayson) of the village farms comes around to collect the mortgage - well, Louise's dad (Bert Roach) just can't come up with the dough, but seems the landlord has a real lustful eye for the young ladies and when he spots pretty Louise, he asks to marry her in exchange for the mortgage owed. Dad's agreeable but Louise is not - she spots a photo of a man on an advertisement postcard and decides to make use of his picture. She writes a fake letter from this "man of mystery" in hopes of ruining her own reputation and fending off her unwanted future husband. Relating a tale of a previous marriage to the man, the letter tells her something like "sorry, I was already married to someone else when I married you - so, girlie, move on with your life". It works, she's dumped and the hired hand steps in to marry her, agreeable to all. Meanwhile, the landlord reads a telegram informing Louise she is to inherit $100,000 - okay, no surprise, he wants her back and decides to step in right during the ceremony to the other man. Meanwhile, the mystery man from the ad, by a huge coincidence, has shown up to "collect his child", a toddler boy left on his own to run about the farm unsupervised, getting into mischief and ending up walking a narrow beam high above some roaring water system - lucky for this brat, brave hero Teddy the Dog is on hand to rescue the little lad. Believing her fake letter to be real when they see the man from the ad lurking about, no man wants to marry Louise - as dad says "Won't someone marry my daughter?". Someone does.
    REVIEW - This was a decent film, a bit long for what it was and sometimes seeming sort of pieced together with extra scenes to fill it out, it features quite a bit of fun slapstick humor. Really enjoyed Teddy the Dog to the rescue sequence, there is also a cameo appearance by Ben Turpin in one scene. Jimmy Finlayson is a personal favorite of mine, I think he stole the film - he's smarmingly great as the landlord. The print screened looked quite nice. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *

  • The Voice of Hollywood (1931 - 1932) - - Three short films were screened; all feature newsreel type snippets with cameos of various celebrities of the day. For me, the best of the three shorts was one starring ultra-cute Marjorie White, who appears as a young radio news reporter flying above Los Angeles in a dirigible as she give her two cents while spotting various movie stars below, and hovering directly over Hollywood Blvd and the Hollywood Bowl (where what looked like a bunch of amateur tap-dancing school girls performed on stage to quite a large audience). These rare flms were ultra cool! Rating - * 9/10 stars *

  • I Like It That Way (1934) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Fun pre-code romp. Salesman Jack Anderson (Roger Pryor), top graduate of the Sure-Fire School of Salesmanship, can manipulate anyone into a sale - particularly the ladies ("get the dames first, the men will follow"). His blondie girlfriend has a job at this nightclub where she works the wealthy male customers for money and performs late night in "Midnight Frolics" style musical productions featuring scantily clad young beauties. Jack has an innocent, pretty blonde kid sister Jean (Marian Marsh) who he is extremely protective of. He tries to keep her from talking to his girlfriend 'cause of her bad girl career, but Jean - bored by her work as a telephone operator - gets together with the girlfriend and ends up secretly quitting her job so she can work at the nightclub (run by a lecher with an eye for young blondes, it seems). Meanwhile, Jack meets yet another blonde (Gloria Stuart) and chases after her relentlessly, finally she succumbs to his "charms" (ick) and goes out with him. He thinks she's a "good girl" but - surprise, what he doesn't know is she's the headliner star at the same nightclub his other semi-girlfriend and sister work! He's none too happy when he finds out the truth about what little sister has been up to and the scoop on his new girl's real career (he's been wondering why she always has to go home early), especially since he has already presented her to his family as his future wife.
    REVIEW - I really enjoyed this film - the art deco musical numbers are great fun to watch, especially a bathing beauty number that moves from the girls in turn-of-the-century swimsuit attire, to thirties bathing suits, to - Nudist Camp attire (costuming and props strategically placed so you can't actually see anything). Gloria Stuart is ravishing in an absolute wowzer of a sexy black with white polka dot gown in one part - love it. This was the late night film of the evening, which I usually skip, but since this was the first evening of Cinecon and I was feeling wide awake and ready to watch lots of films, I stayed. Really glad I did as this was one of my favorites of the weekend. Rating - * 9/10 stars *


Friday Screenings - September 3, 2010
*******

  • Rhapsody in Wood (1947) - - PLOT SUMMARY / REVIEW - George Pal Puppetoon in Technicolor. Musician Woody Herman, as himself, relates the story of how his clarinet came to be, visualized for us on the screen via puppets. His grandfather was a wood chopper who one day encountered a talking blue flame in a tree he was about to chop down. The flame asks him to create something special instead of merely chopping down the tree, so he uses his trusty axe to turn the tree into a clarinet, where the flame still lives inside. Then follows a "Pied Piper" dance of chopped trees to clarinet. The grandfather as puppet even interacts with the real life Woody in the end part. Entertaining short film, neat live action/puppet animation, and the Technicolor looked nice on the big screen. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *

  • Bombshell (1933) - - PLOT SUMMARY - coming
    REVIEW - Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *

  • Tennessee's Pardner (1916) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent western melodrama. While journeying west in a wagon train, a mother runs off with another man "Romaine", leaving behind her husband and her baby girl named Tennessee. The husband sets out after her and is shot dead by Romaine, who keeps what he's done secret from the woman he's run off with. Before he died, the husband was able to write a note naming his killer ("Romaine did this") and leaving his outfit to Jack Hunter (Jack Dean), a friend from the wagon train, the money to be used in helping care for his daughter as she grows up. Jack decides to make baby Tennessee his lifetime "partner", to get half his earnings if he ever strikes it rich. Leaving her to be raised by the Padres and Indians at a nearby mission, he heads off to the gold mines to seek his fortune. He writes to Tennessee as she grows up, pretending he is her father (so she won't feel so "lonely"). But this leaves her wondering why her father never comes to visit! Fifteen years later and Jack has struck gold big time, now owner of the "Nugget Mine" he sends for Tennessee so she can claim her half ownership. But wait - a problem! She's expecting to meet her "father", and there's none to be had! Or should he just admit he lied - that he doesn't want to do, for some reason (I found that a bit odd, seemed like she'd be the understanding sort). On the way to the gold mine, Tennessee's stagecoach is hit by a robber gang led by Romaine, who is informed the young lady is about to be rich. Cute, frizzy-haired Tennessee soon becomes a hit with the men of the mine camp (and is told her dad has gone on some excursion away from camp); meanwhile Romaine turns up at the mine with Tennessee's mother and encourages the woman to befriend Tennessee and win her over so he can somehow get ahold of her wealth. Tennessee soon refers to this older woman as "her first female friend", unaware the woman is actually her mother.
    REVIEW - Rating - This film was a good watch, excellent on-location cinematography and an entertaining plot - - not to mention the screening featured a really nice looking print! Fannie Ward as seventeen year old Tennessee was apparently in her forties when this film was made - well, perhaps she didn't exactly look like a teenager here but she did look amazingly youthful and pulled this off quite well, I thought. Interesting note - Jessie Arnold, the actress who plays Tennesee's mother, was - according to dates in the IMDb - close to fourteen years younger than Fannie Ward. I love Westerns, in general - and I love Westerns from the teen era. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *

  • The Freshman (1925) - - When I first became interested in silent film, as a teenager - it was the late-Seventies and it was hard to find any way to view these films for me. I had no family or friends with any interest or knowledge of silent film, there was no Internet, no Amazon.com - - but luckily, a few Harold Lloyd films were screened on PBS at that time and I got them on Beta tape. One was "The Freshman" - since this was one of the first silents I had for myself for viewing as often as I liked, this is actually the silent film I have seen more times than just about any other. I have already written a review for this film, written in 2005 - - I feel the same now as that writing, so am just going to post that here with the added note that it was nice to see this film looking so great on the big screen, as shown at Cinecon 46. Of course, Harold Lloyd happens to be my favorite of the silent comics - it would be hard not to love any of his films shown.
    From April 4, 2005 PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW - - - Watched "The Freshman (1925)", a film I have seen many, many times before - but love! Harold Lloyd plays Harold "Speedy" Lamb, college freshman at Tate College who wants more than anything to be popular. Speedy admires more than anyone else Chet Trask - football captain voted most popular man on campus for 1924. Speedy dreams of being voted "most popular man for 1925". He imitates a chant and jig he saw in a movie called "The College Hero" - "I'm just a regular fellow - step right up and call me Speedy", which he does as a greeting to the mean guys and gals at school, soon becoming the "College Boob". Part of his effort towards gaining popularity is to try out for the football team - which includes an amusing scene involving a tackling dummy. Poor Speedy is told he made the team, but really is only the water boy. Earlier, on the train to college, Speedy meets a pretty "good girl" named Peggy (Jobyna Ralston) and flirts with her over the newest craze - a crossword puzzle. Later, he ends up living in a room at her Mom's boarding house, and they soon fall in love, as she kindly keeps the secret that he is the school laughing stock from him. My favorite part of this film is when Speedy steps up to host the "Fall Frolic" and arrives with a suit only "lightly basted". So as he is dancing, pieces of the suit keep falling off, and the old drunkard tailor who created this masterpiece follows him around to restitch it when needed. Quite funny. I do love this movie, though it has a bit too much football in it for my taste, and it seems really sad that Harold cares so much about being liked by this pack of complete jerks, who only end up liking him when he helps win a football game. Oh well. Rating - * 10/10 stars *

  • This Is the Life (1935) - - PLOT SUMMARY - B-movie/ child star vehicle for Jane Withers who plays a famous child stage star Geraldine aka "Gerry", tap dancing and singing on stage but lonely for companionship and outdoor playtime with other children. Poor little Gerry, once an orphan, but now adopted by a couple of meanies is forced to spend her time in the hotel room practicing her routines ("get out your tap mat", "practice those routines" hisses her evil female guardian), and eating her room service meals on a tray all alone in the room (these two are also swiping a large percentage of her earnings a la Jackie Coogan). With the adoptive parents/guardians gone out to dinner on their own, a man appears on the fire escape while she's eating and asks her for water - apprehensive, she gives it to him, but - hey - he's handsome with a kindly face so she invites him into the room for some of her spinach (no worries about child kidnappings or perverts in these innocent thirties films). She befriends this man, Michael, who is actually running from the police on false charges. When he makes his escape from the room, with her help, she decides to run away with this man she's taken such a shine to - and disguises herself as a boy in order to get him to agree to the deal (touching scene here when she kisses her beloved doll goodbye). On the lam, they steal rides in freight cars, join a fun picnic with strangers where Gerry gets to play baseball with the other kids, get dirtied up and have the "best day of her life". The two end up on this farm and are helped by the people who live there. When Michael ends up imprisoned, Jerry and her new friends decide to put on a show to raise money to get him out of jail.
    REVIEW - Very enjoyable watch boosted up by a charming, well done performance by Jane Withers, a very likable young actress with a wonderful screen presence. You just want things to work out for her character - she may not be quite as cute as Shirley Temple, who made similar films in the day, but Jane Withers has just as much enthusiasm, charisma and charm. The film includes some really fun to watch production numbers including one where she sings/dances as a Scottish Lass, and a tear-jerking climax when the man she now loves like a father is taken off to jail. Jane appeared in person for this screening at Cinecon 46, did a Q&A after the film, and was just bubbling over - she's still got it! - what a neat lady. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *

  • His Wedding Scare (1943) - - PLOT SUMMARY - B-Comedy short. El Brendel has just married a gal named Susie (Louise Currie). What he's soon to find out is she's got a stack of ex-husband's lurking about, and while he's trying to be alone with his new wife they keep running into one of these men! And apparently none of Susie's previous marriages ended on any sort of bitter note, as her and all her ex's still seem to dig each other (much to new hubby's dismay). Upper and lower berth humor, followed by a fire station overnight rendevouz where they are given a room (by one of her ex's who just can't quite get the message to leave the room and give the newlyweds some alone time) with the actively used fire pole room center. Finally our new couple ends up venturing to "Paradise Island", the tiniest island in the world, literally about six feet wide. Who would think that a submarine would end up right there carrying yet more of Susie's old "friends".
    REVIEW - Hehe - this was actually a pretty amusing short film, silly fun and I quite liked El Brendel in this. Louise Currie appeared in person for the screening of this short at Cinecon 46. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *

  • Tireman, Spare My Tires (1942) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Short comedy in which a runaway heiress (Louise Currie) ends up picked up by Harry Langdon, tires are removed from his car at a wartime road closure, and the two (driving off on the car's rims!) end up at this Auto Motel. The majority of the comedy here now revolves around the preparation of a meal for the two. The Heiress proclaims herself to be a fantastic cook when in fact, as we the viewer are about to find out, she appears to have no clue whatsoever about preparing a recipe from scratch. While Harry makes attempts to prep the coffee (spilling most on the floor but using it anyway), she proceeds to make an omelette, and in addition to cracking eggshells into the bowl along with the eggs, doesn't notice that the page of the cookbook she is referring to has been blown by the breeze coming in the window to a different recipe (how often have I seen that happen in old films/tv?!). So now she's putting the ingredients for a salad dressing (oil, vinegar, tabasco and the like) into her omelette. Um - this woman is also unable to light a stove and pours the omelette batter directly into the oven's broiler pan to bake!
    REVIEW - I enjoy films with comic cooking scenes - this short actually reminded me of the scene in the Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy film - "Woman of the Year", I believe - where Hepburn is attempting to prepare breakfast for her man but doesn't really know how to cook or use the kitchen equipment. Silent star comedian Harry Langdon is quite middle-aged in this short, he's not real memorable in it but I still enjoyed seeing him as I do quite like his silent era films. Entertaining little short, worth seeing. Louise Currie appeared in person for the screening of this short at Cinecon 46. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *

  • The Way of the Strong (1928) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Twist on a Cyrano style love triangle, a silent film directed by Frank Capra. Tiger Louie, head of a mob of bootleggers, is none too happy with "Handsome Williams" (Mitchell Lewis), tough mobster/owner of a speakeasy and responsible for the hijacking of some of Louie's liquor. "Handsome" hates mirrors 'cause of his ugly scarred face, featuring a big lumpy nose, cauliflower ear, and what appeared to be a V carved in one cheek (all this perhaps from one too many rival mob fights?). Tiger Louie gets his girlfriend to spy on Handsome to find out when he's alone so he can shoot him - she does and spots Handsome at night on a lonely city street where he likes to come each night to hear Nora (Alice Day), a beautiful young blind girl, play the violin as he quietly stands nearby to admire her. Next night while watching his pretty young street musician, Tiger Louie's gang does a drive-by shooting and our poor little blind girl faints as she gets caught in the middle. Handsome scoops her up and carries her unconscious to his rooms, she wakes up and they quickly become friends. He takes her out, falls in love with her, and she hasn't a clue what he really looks like (and that's the way he likes it!). One day, curiosity gets the better of her (like in "The Phantom of the Opera") and she asks to touch his face. He backs away, horrified - if she knew about his appearance, perhaps he may lose the friendship. But just at that moment, Dan, the handsome-faced speakeasy piano player steps in the door and Handsome pushes his face towards her waiting fingers. So - she thinks Handsome is "really handsome" and begins to fall in love with him. Meanwhile, both Handsome Williams and Dan the piano man are in love with Nora - but every time Dan is in the room she touches his face and thinks it's Handsome.
    REVIEW - Okay - I really liked this film, probably my favorite silent film (that I hadn't seen before) of the weekend. SPOILER SPOILER --- But I really didn't think that Handsome Williams was as hideous as all that, so sort of thought the girl would find out in the end what he really looked like and still be in love with him anyway (after all, he has been very kind to her and she doesn't actually even know Dan). Not to be (the girl ends up pretty much repelled when she touches the real Handsome - "You're not my Handsome!" - and ends up in the arms of Dan, Handsome driving away and shooting himself in the face over lost love). Aside from all that, the film is very well done and memorable. This film had the kind of story that could have starred Lon Chaney, it is also reminiscent of the later Charlie Chaplin silent film "City Lights (1931)". Rating - * 9 to 9.5/10 stars *

  • Easy to Take (1936) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silly musical comedy, I can only remember the bits. In a wealthy woman's will, a kiddie show radio personality known as "Uncle Roddy" (John Howard) has been named guardian of a spoiled, bratty kid named Wilbur (Douglas Scott). Uncle Roddy is heard as a wise, older man who tells his adventure tales on the air - in reality, he's young and has never done any of these things. Wilbur has a pretty older sister, Donna (Marsha Hunt), who is pursued by Roddy who she believes has been behind some unwanted publicity stories about her in the papers. In the end part of the film, a Children's Radio Talent Show is put on the air, with several kids - including Wilbur (I think, though I can't for the life of me remember what he did for his act) - performing.
    REVIEW - This film was sort of mediocre and forgettable, I thought. I did enjoy seeing Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, of Our Gang/The Little Rascals fame, performing as one of the acts in the kiddie talent show - he sings off-key and is identical in every way to what you see when he sings in Our Gang shorts, but still interesting. I thought the film was actually stolen by young Douglas Scott who plays rich boy Wilbur to a tea - an arrogant brat who spouts off quite a few zingers. The actor is so memorable to me as the arrogant younger Hindley in the 1939 version of "Wuthering Heights", I kept seeing him in that role - actually the two roles are similar (though his part in "Easy to Take" is more comedic). Actress Marsha Hunt and Marilyn Knowlden (who appears in the film as a nine-year old singer, befriended by Wilbur - "why were you watching me, is it because you think I'm beautiful?" she says to him) were on hand after the screening for a Q&A. Rating - * 7/10 stars *


Saturday Screenings - September 4, 2010
*******

  • WARNER ARCHIVE Program - Two obscure short films were screened as part of the Warner Archive Program, both starring African-American Vaudeville comic team Miller and Lyles (Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles) performing in blackface. The shorts, particularly the first one, appeared to be their stage routines brought to film - they both feature an all-black cast. These films are pretty out there outrageous - but I thought fascinating, a glimpse at the past not often seen. The content of these shorts should obviously be looked at for the time period in which they were made - - I loved the opportunity to see these two really rare, historic films.
  • The Mayor of Jimtown (1928) - - PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW - This was not very good, came off somewhat amateurish as far as filmmaking and sound quality are concerned, but interesting in any case. The new Mayor of Jimtown is in his office making up new laws - his first law as mayor to be "no black cats", um that is, if him or his assistant can figure out how to spell the word "cat". In the office is a secretary pool of pretty gals in satin dresses who look more like chorus girls and seem to have the main purpose of standing in a row and being part of his gag line "you all have 5 minutes to go out to dinner, but I want you back in 4". (and that's about all I remember).
  • Jimtown Cabaret (1929) - - PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW - This was the better of the two shorts (much better actually). Miller and Lyles want to go into a nightclub "Ball", but the doorman informs them they must have an escort - - so (after some patter back and forth about the meaning of the word "escort") - one of them dresses in drag as a "lady", and is escorted into the club by the other. Of course, in the way of all films featuring men in drag, this lady looks particularly hideous and masculine - which nobody seems to notice. Some jazzy tap dance numbers follow, ending with the two men on the dance floor and the skirt pulled off the one in drag by an angry woman after her skirt. The film opens with the two men standing on a street corner, discussing a la comic patter, a dining experience - accusing the other of racing greedy into the dining room, gluttony, bad table manners, stealing food, and the like (the short got better when it moved on to the second half involving the dance, I thought).

  • SATURDAY AT THE BIJOU - Featuring a cartoon sing-a-long, short, a serial, and prizes too. (details coming)
    Feature film shown as part of this program was:
  • The Thrill Hunter (1933) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Modern day Western spoof. Buck Jones plays handsome cowboy lug "Buck Crosby" (all-testosterone, no brain power it seemed to me), who rides to the rescue as fast as lightning to save a young lady on a runaway horse - she turns out to be a famous movie actress named Marjorie Lane. She befriends her new hero and invites him to join her group for dinner that night where he's soon regaling the dinner party with tall tales of his life behind the wheel of a racecar and magnificent feats of flying. The movie producers decide to put Buck in Miss Lane's next movie. Soon he's on the studio lot, being fitted for wardrobe - and he ends up dressed up like a dimestore cowboy looking more like he's about to be a dancer in a musical production of "Oklahoma" rather than a range ridin' cowboy, much to Buck's embarrassment (and leading to a fight with the tough cowboy extras gathered outside the dressing rooms). Buck soon finds out the producers want him to perform some of the daredevil stunts he bragged about - unfortunately, he doesn't really know what he's doing and takes all instruction given him a bit too literally. He ends up racing on an auto track like it was a demolition derby, injuring another driver. When he's asked to fly a plane the next day, Buck gets himself a book called "Learn How to Fly at Home" and heads to a local amusement park where there is an airplane ride -- he buys enough tickets for hours of rides and attempts to learn to fly inside this moving fake plane! Buck is finally revealed to all to be a liar, but when Marjorie ends up kidnapped by a bad man over a locket given to her by Buck (which actually contains a map to some sort of loot, unknown by Buck) he uses his new-found piloting skills to fly a plane to her rescue, shooting down the bad man from the air!
    REVIEW - Well, I didn't have very high expectations going into this B-western - I actually ended up finding it a light, enjoyable watch. Not great, but not so bad either. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *

  • FILM PRESERVATION Program -
  • Framing Youth (fragment); KEEPER OF THE FRAME (documentary); and A THIEF CATCHER (1914) - - coming

  • The Case of Becky (1915) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent melodrama. Blanche Sweet plays a young lady with a duel personality who works for hypnotist The Great Balzomo (Theodore Roberts) - on stage she reads cards he holds to her forehead and relates hidden messages written on slips of paper from the audience. "Dorothy" is her nice girl personality, but sometimes she becomes "Becky" - and as she becomes Becky she opens up her blouse a bit, snarls a little, and turns into a scowling and sarcastic, gum chewing bad girl. Jealous of Balzomo's favoritism to Dorothy, Becky runs away and seeks employment at a Lunch Diner. Things are okay when she's Dorothy but, unfortunately, when Becky takes over she gets fired from the job. Trouble holding any job as rude, bad Becky ruins it every time. Dorothy finally ends up as companion to a local medical specialist's sister. This medical man, Dr. Emerson, happens to specialize in using hypnosis to heal, helped by an adept and rather good-looking younger assistant, Dr. Arnold (Carlyle Blackwell). By an odd coincidence, a numbers of years before, Dr. Emerson lost his wife and child to hypnotism when during a performance by Balzomo, the wife is hynotized and Balzomo then runs off with her and the baby. The doctor never sees his child again - or does he? Dr. Emerson and Dr. Arnold soon become aware of Dorothy/Becky's mental disorder - of course, Dorothy is romanced by young Dr. Arnold but he doesn't really like her when she becomes bad-mannered Becky! So - Dr. Arnold uses hypnosis to try and kill off Becky.
    REVIEW - I thought this film was pretty good, fun to watch, with ultra melodramatic plotline typical of films from this time. The print looked nice and there was some interesting cinematography special effects superimposing the ghost image of Becky leaving the body of Dorothy, and also a superimposition of the image of Dr. Emerson's now deceased wife, haunting the evil Balzomo who was responsible for her death. I am rather a fan of teen era matinee idol Carlyle Blackwell and his films are so hard to see - he is handsome, for sure, but I do think he needed to loosen up that stiff collar a bit in this film. He always gives an impression of formal classiness, in the theatre tradition, but there's a film I saw screened at Cinecon 43 and as I wrote in my review from that film "On Dangerous Ground (1917)" - "Carlyle Blackwell looks pretty darn hunky when his shirt is all ripped and hanging off of his body" (yeah, wouldn't have minded to see a bit of that in this film!). I thought Blanche Sweet did a good job switching personalities here, okay it's a little hokey when her face starts to twitch into a snarl as she becomes Becky - but hey, it worked, she seemed like two different girls. I was trying to figure out what actress she reminded me of - I think perhaps a cross between Meg Ryan and Sue Lyon circa Lolita. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *

  • A Pair of Silk Stockings (1918) - - I was happy to see this film on the big screen, the print shown was very clear and tinted (if I am remembering correctly) - looked great. I have seen this film before and have previously done a write-up of the plot so will put that here. I would just like to add that the film stars one of my most beloved stars of the silent era, the original Harrison Ford, popular and adorable leading man of romantic comedies mainly in the late teens/twenties (and no relation to the current day actor Harrison Ford). While this particular film isn't one of my most favorites of his (perhaps because his face is covered by a ridiculous goofy-looking beard for half the film, not to mention a bag over his head in one part!) - I love anything he's in. I also adore Constance Talmadge.
    From October 7, 2005 PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW - - - Silent comedy/bedroom farce about a couple whose marriage is in a rut. Sam Thornhill (Harrison Ford, darling in monocle) wants a touring car but his wife Molly (Constance Talmadge) - who "hasn't been nice to him in a week" - wants a shiny new roadster. Sam gives her money hoping she'll realize how nice he is and go ahead and buy the touring car - she buys the roadster. SOoooo - he comes up with a very misguided idea - he buys this really expensive ermine and sable fur coat (apparently this guy just has oodles of money to burn) for a woman he doesn't even know, then gives it to her as a gift from an "anonymous secret admirer" and leaves the bill out for Molly to see. His plan backfires - hoping Molly will think he turned to another woman only because she hasn't been treating him well - instead she is furious and divorces him! Then the plot really comes loose - with Molly arriving at a house party where guests are, for their amusement, rehearsing an Ibsen play, and Sam is there, disguised in beard and cap for the play. Misunderstandings and mistaken identities ensue as Sam comes up with schemes to win Molly back, Molly spends the night in the bedroom of out-of-town Jack (she was once engaged to him, but now he is engaged to another) and she catches him climbing in the window (missed his train), they both catch a burglar (who is really bearded Sam hiding in the bathroom), tie him up with her silk stockings (and a bag over his head), then have to explain to all what Jack and her were doing in the bedroom together when the burglar "disappears". Yeah, pretty silly - but kept me amused. Rating - * 8/10 stars *

  • The Sea Wolf (1930) - - PLOT SUMMARY - A dark tale at sea. "Master" of his domain (no, not like "that" fellow Seinfeld fans), hated ship Captain Wolf Larsen (Milton Sills) dominates over the operations of his vessel with an iron fist - intelligent but extremely brutal to the men who work for him, yet he also likes to collect books and spend time in his cabin reading and drinking. While in port he picks up a bar girl (prostitute) and invites her on board to sail with him - she accepts 'cause she wants to follow Allen (Raymond Hackett), a young man she just met in a seaside pub who just got himself shanghaied as crew for Larsen's ship. Wolf Larsen agrees to separate quarters for himself and the girl (he likes a challenge and is willing to "wait", though there does come a point when the waiting is over for him and he's about to rape her). Jealous when he comes to the observation that his woman has an interest in the young "recruit", Captain Larsen forces Allen to climb to the top of the sails - a high climb indeed, inducing vertigo and causing him to cling helplessly at the top about to fall. He is rescued by one of the sailors (who is apparently then killed by cruel Larsen). Meanwhile, the ship cook has a rivalry with Allen, and Larsen goes crazier and crazier with his mean nastiness, bringing the men to the point of mutiny.
    REVIEW - This is a well done, interesting early talkie version of this story - the psychological interaction between the characters is what's key here; there's also some well done stunt work at sea. Milton Sills is fine as well in his portrayal of the self-absorbed, merciless Wolf Larsen. I am a fan of the 1941 version of "The Sea Wolf" (starring Edward G. Robinson in a powerful performance as Wolf Larsen), which I have seen a number of times and as it happens - I watched that film on TCM only a month or two ago (oh gosh, I looked in my notes and while I did see the 1941 version within the last year it was more than a month or two ago - March 4, 2010 to be exact - boy time goes by quickly these days!). While this earlier film version isn't quite up to the Edward G. Robinson film, it was still a good watch - though following the same basic story outline, the two versions do have a number of differences in plot elements. Okay as far as films go in general - I do love an adventure at sea, especially those featuring cruel sea captain versus crew - pretty much figured I'd like this. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *

  • The Testing Block (1920) - - PLOT SUMMARY - William S. Hart plays outlaw Sierra Bill, wanted dead or alive with a $1,000 reward offered for him or any of his bandit gang of bad men/horse thieves. The men hide out in the rugged mountain terrain, but after seeing an advertising poster promoting a travelling theatrical troupe's upcoming performance starring pretty young violinist Nellie Gray (Eva Novak), they head into the nearby wild west town to see the show. Sierra Bill falls for Nellie - so does an evil "bad man" gang member (but that man's thoughts are more "lustful", shall we say, towards her). That night all the men, with the exception of Sierra, get blind drunk on whiskey and the bad man formulates a plan in his booze-soaked head for three of them to ride into town and kidnap the three young ladies who performed in the show earlier. Sober Sierra B. overhears their scheme and steps out with a plan of his own - one on one fight between himself and each man until only one man is left standing - that man will ride into town and take the woman of his choice, the rest will abandon the gang. It's agreed, but only if Sierra gets himself as drunk as the rest, which he does. He wins, beating every man in camp - then rides to town and straight to Nellie's room, where she is sleeping. He brings a preacher with him and forces the poor young thing to marry him right then and there - hey, he wants it all legal. Cut to three years later - and - um, Nellie has seen Sierra Bill for his true self: sensitive, loving and decent, with a heart of gold inside (never mind that forced marriage/rape business that brought them together - all forgotten it seems) - they even have a small child (we were already shown in earlier scenes that perhaps our rugged outlaw did indeed have a tender side, based on his nurturing of his prized pretty horse "Paint"). But trouble comes when that former evil gang member who still wants Nellie comes back into town, and angry at Sierra for taking "his girl", sets out to get even (and maybe still get that gal for his own!). With some help from his new "companion" Rosita, he sets out to make the happily married couple each believe the other secretly wants out of the marriage. A melodramatic whirlwind finale with Nellie walking out on him, their baby on his deathbed, Sierra thrown in jail for previous crimes, followed by jailbreak all bringing the film to it's climatic conclusion.
    REVIEW - I quite enjoyed this film, well done on location Western scenery and favorite William S. Hart, who always brings such a sensitive touch to even an outlaw role. There's always that tender man waiting to come out when he meets a nice girl in Hart's films. Eva Novak is cute, enjoyed her in this film. I just always seems to get such a kick out of Hart's work - would love to see even more! Rating - * 9/10 stars *


Sunday Screenings - September 5, 2010
*******

  • Do Detectives Think? (1927) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Laurel and Hardy silent comedy short. A judge (James Finlayson) sentences a tough as nails throat-slasher (Noah Young) to prison, but the man makes an escape and - seeking revenge - comes after the judge to kill him. Stan and Ollie, the two most inept, bumbling detectives in the world, end up getting hired to protect the judge! Meanwhile, the escapee has been hired at the judge's mansion as new butler (hehe - I guess they didn't bother to check references?!). This guy is after everyone's throat with a giant knife - but he's really none too bright. The judge hides under the water in the bathtub and keeps popping up, but the slasher is unable to see him somehow, though he's standing right there! Stan and Ollie spend the night and all sorts of trouble breaks loose - especially when the judge, wrapped in a sheet, falls face first onto this mask that ends up on his face and makes him appear to be a spook on the loose. The result is of the old comic spooky house variety, with everyone running around the house scared, in and out of rooms and the like.
    REVIEW - I am a huge fan of Laurel and Hardy and thought this was quite funny. I laughed out loud a number of times - I actually think (oddly, as I've certainly seen most of their films, some many times) this may have been my first viewing of this short (or at least first in a whole lot of years). You really can't go wrong with a comedy short from The Boys - more, more, more hopefully at future Cinecons! Rating - * 8.5 to 9/10 stars *

  • The Breaking Point (1924) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent film in high melodrama. A famous stage actress, Beverly Carlysle (Nita Naldi), has a husband - and a well-to-do admirer/lover named Judson "Jud" Clark (Matt Moore), a regular audience devotee at her performances (he's also funded the show, apparently). Beverly Carlysle's business manager has found out he is actually Judson Clark's brother, given support only (for some unstated reason, or one I can't remember) by his guardian/Jud's father. He's mad 'cause Jud gets all the wealth and nothing for him! Meanwhile, Beverly's hubby is very jealous and in a drawing room argument with Jud, ends up being shot dead. Jud runs off into the blizzard outside, and is lost in the snow - presumed dead. He actually has complete amnesia and no memory of who he is and ends up in a small town getting treatment by one Dr. Livingstone, who takes in this man (earlier the middle-aged doctor and his wife did ponder about how incomplete life is without children) and Doc decides to form the man with no memory into a completely different person. Um - it works, Judson is passed off as the doctor's "nephew", sent to medical school, and becomes a young doctor/Livingston's protegee. Jud is very happy in his new life, especially with his pretty new girlfriend played by Patsy Ruth Miller. When Beverly Carlysle performs on stage in their town one day, Judson and his girlfriend go to see her. When Ms. Carlyle spots Judson in the audience from the stage - she faints, and someone calls out "Is there a physician in the house?" - guess who steps up?! Beverly and friends think Judson is playing some sort of game with them, not realizing he has lost his memory!
    REVIEW - Well - I know that this film didn't go over well with most of the cinephiles in attendance at the Cinecon 46 screening, but I actually got a kick out of the over-melodramatic, outlandish, implausible, sometimes a bit hard to follow soap opera plotline - a sort of throwback to the melodramas of the teen era, an era of films that are special to me. And I do think Nita Naldi is absolutely fabulous - she looked gorgeous here, and oh what gowns and interestingly coiffed hairdos (and she doesn't look fat to me, as was indicated in a contemporary article about her appearance in the film, read before the screening). I would have liked to have seen more of her in this film; the two main male characters caused me some confusion at points 'cause they looked too much alike (well, they are meant to be brothers). Rating - * 8 to 8.5/10 stars *

  • Mister Big (1943) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Fast-paced B-musical/comedy. The old one, about a group of talented kids that want to put on a show. Students at this stuffy theatrical high school (the kids are not allowed to "swing") owned by a strict old bitty, Mrs. Davis (Florence Bates), who guards over her pretty niece Patricia (Gloria Jean), also a student, wanting her to stick to the "serious arts". The other kids think Patricia's not "hep", so avoid her - turns out she's plenty hep and wants to join the others in an upcoming show they are planning. School antics seem to be led by Donald (Donald O'Connor), dancer, singer, and teen heartthrob chased by every girl in school in spite of the fact he's "young Frank Sinatra" skinny and wears an ill-fitting suit to school (hey, perhaps all the rage in his city) - well, maybe the chicks dig those baby blue eyes of his.
    REVIEW - Energetic, fun to watch musical numbers filled to the brim with fantastic dancing is what this film's all about - - the story is really just there to sort of tie together the dance acts, which is all that really matters here! This film stars "The Jivin' Jacks and Jills", a talented Forties teen dance troupe just bustin' at the seams with energetic enthusiasm - love! Featuring Donald O'Connor, who is SO full of talent and charisma (as they all are) - and I have always loved skinny, cute, and quirky Peggy Ryan, she is so much fun to watch. Bobby Scheerer is an absolutely terrific dancer, only about thirteen years old in this - and he appeared in person for this screening at Cinecon! I was wowed by his performance every time he came on screen. How great would a DVD set of "The Jivin' Jacks and Jills" films be?! Rating - * 7.5 to 8/10 stars for the film - 10/10 stars for the musical numbers *

  • The Boy Friend (1928) - - PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW - Max Davidson silent comedy short. Max and his wife think their twentyish daughter is too young to marry, so pretend to be insane when her new boyfriend comes to call in hopes of scaring him away. This wasn't my fave of Max Davidson's short, but it was still pretty good - I think I had seen this one before, somewhere. Rating - * 8/10 stars *

  • From Hell to Texas (1958) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Western in CinemaScope. Don Murray plays Tod Lohman, a well-meaning young cowboy who unwittingly gets involved in a fight at a barn dance ending in another man accidently falling on his knife and dying. The dead man's father, a powerful rancher known for evil, wants to make it an eye for an eye and sets out, along with his remaining sons, to kill the cowboy. Lohman is on the run, with the vengeful bad men in hot pursuit to kill him. Our young cowboy is befriended by an older man and his twentyish tomboy daughter who goes about in britches rather than a dress (though it is the 19th century). Of course, the girl flirts and falls in love with our handsome hero immediately. Most of the film is spent with our naive young cowboy travelling along in the rugged wild west, trying to avoid getting killed with a little help from his friends. At one point, he has to shoot down a big boulder which falls on one of the brothers who was in the rocks trying to kill him - our cowboy has scruples and swore he wouldn't kill, but when it came down to it he had no choice. An act of heroism in the fire-driven finale makes the father rethink his attitude towards Lohman.
    REVIEW - This film looked terrific, screened at Cinecon 46 in all it's widescreen CinemaScope splendor. Cool to see this on the big screen and a very entertaining watch - and hey, I love Westerns. Actor Don Murray appeared in person and did a quite long (close to an hour?) Q&A after the screening. Rating - * 9/10 stars *


Monday Screenings - September 6, 2010
*******

  • Goddess of Spring (1934) - - PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW - Disney Silly Symphonies cartoon, in Technicolor. An operatic cartoon showing the story of the lovely blonde "goddess of spring", who delights all the forest creatures and gnomes, until she is kidnapped by Satan and brought down to Hades. While the world above is now constantly frosted over and all the beings are sad, Satan wonders what he can do to make the Goddess smile - she asks that she be allowed to return to Earth and bring spring back to the land - he agrees but only if she spends only half the year above, and half down with him. Done deal, and that's why there's no spring for part of the year. Really nicely done animation in this - wow. I really liked this one (makes me long for someone to create animation like this nowadays - I'm not super keen on the computer animation that dominates now). For such fine animation, I give this Rating - * 10/10 stars *

  • Blood Brothers (1930) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Early talkie melodrama. In a turn-of-the-century orphanage, two identical twin brothers are separated at birth (well almost, they looked about 6 months old) - one is given to the orphanage director's "wash woman", the other to a wealthy family. The two boys have been kept in the dark about their twindom as we cut to 30 years later - - poor brother Eddie plays piano in a city slum speakeasy called "Oily Joe's Cafe". His twin brother Bob, raised rich, is now a successful attorney. A convict released from prison and now staying in a room above the speakeasy wants to seek revenge on the lawyer who failed in his defense - yeah, that's right, it was Bob ("I did my best"). For some reason that escapes my memory, Bob goes to Oily Joe's to speak to the ex-con, who ends up getting murdered - - Bob is seen fleeing the scene by a man in the hallway who pegs the murderer as lookalike Eddie. Eddie is put on trial, and Bob is asked to come to his defense - being informed for the first time that he has a twin and that twin is Eddie - hmm, how can he refuse?! Thanks to some slick defense work by Bob during the trial, Eddie is released (Um - Eddie is still unaware, I think, that his lawyer is his twin - wow, how weird is that?!) - - - and Bob ends up having a total mental breakdown, landing him in a seemingly permanent state in the hospital. In a weird turn of events, Eddie is asked by Bob's dad to secretly pose as Bob in the family mansion (Bob's adoptive mom: "Bob, you've changed for the better since your breakdown - you're somehow kinder and gentler now"). Eddie does a pretty good impersonation of his twin - or does he? He seems to be attracted to Bob's fiancee (Dorothy Sebastian) enough to kiss her (but it's the kiss that gives him away!).
    REVIEW - Pretty good, though the story is way out there and often makes no logical sense whatsoever. Actor Bert Lytell plays the dual role of twin brothers Eddie and Bob - he's fine enough in his part (though will most likely never sit amongst my favorite actors). I guess all works out pretty darn well for this Eddie - portrayed as a better man than his brother, the concept being that wealth doesn't necessarily create a better or a happier man. Rating - * 8 to 8.5/10 stars *

  • The Seventh Day (1922) - - PLOT SUMMARY - A yacht party full of the well-to-do young social set/reckless youth of the roaring twenties are living it up on a sea excursion out of NYC, but the yacht gets engine troubles and ends up having to stop near this remote Maine fishing village where there's no hotel and nothing to do. Yet the villagers seem happier then these new city folk, somehow. Handsome young fisherman John Alden (Richard Barthelmess) is immediately taken with one of the party as she comes ashore, spoiled and attractive Patricia Vane, who he quickly befriends. John's naive kid sister, Betty, is enthralled with this modern, sophisticated young society set, especially the fashionable young ladies. One of the young men flirts with Betty and she falls for him - Betty tries to emulate the attire she's seen on the city girls, none too successfully. When John heads on board the yacht to visit Patricia, he indulges in cocktails and a whirl on the dance floor with her - and boy does he do it nicely! Betty's new flame is, unfortunately for her, already engaged to one of the other young women - Betty is heartbroken when she finds out, but everything seems to work out for both John and Betty and the yacht party too (they who don't even recognize a Sunday church bell when they hear it), who become quite a bit more tolerant of the village "hicks" as they get to know them.
    REVIEW - This film was screened in the morning of the last day of Cinecon 46 and I was feeling pretty worn down by this time after days of not enough sleep, so did have a slight bit of trouble fully focusing on the story - - main thing I'm remembering about this film is that there is some nice on-location scenery and that Richard Barthelmess looks *very* boyishly handsome and is fun to watch dance! I see this as a decent silent film, not great, but an entertaining watch especially for Barthelmess fans (count me in!). Rating - * 7.5 to 8/10 stars *

  • Cadet Girl (1941) - - PLOT SUMMARY / REVIEW - B-musical propaganda-ish film. This was my last place film of Cinecon 46 - it wasn't bad and does have some entertainment value, but is really a pretty forgettable B-film. The main thing I remember about this is that beautiful Carole Landis appears in one fab forties dress after another, cool for those interested in vintage clothing (like me). One more thing too - near the beginning of the film there is a scene shot in a NYC Automat - neato, I love it! (Here's an Automat history small photo gallery I found.) Rating - * 6.5/10 stars *

  • Crooked Streets (1920) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent mystery/melodrama. An antiquarian, Dr. Griswold, seeks to hire a secretary to accompany himself and family to China, where he plans a search for historical relics. A waiting room full of prospects for the job, Griswold's grown son gets rid of them all after spotting a pretty blonde named Gail (Ethel Clayton), who he pushes dad into hiring. Though Griswold Sr.'s wife (Josephine Crowell) doesn't "trust blondes", Gail heads with them to Shanghai and soon Griswold Sr. heads into the crooked streets of the old slum quarter to a little shop where he purchases a selection of antique vases. While in the shop a strange white Englishman (Jack Holt) dressed in Chinese traditional garb is seen lurking about, it's soon revealed he also speaks fluent Chinese. The next day, though it's declared dangerous for a woman alone, Gail sets out by rickshaw to locate the shop where her employer purchased the vases. Into the crooked, narrow streets she goes, where every eye in these bustling, seedy alleyways looks upon her with suspicion. She ends up being accosted by a swarm of drunken sailors on leave (who even the Chinese on the streets avoid like the plague), but luckily, the Englishman has been watching her and comes to her rescue. A final twist reveals that some of the players here are not who they seem to be!
    REVIEW - I thought this film was very good - okay, actor Jack Holt actually does nothing for me (I find him a bit of a stiff), Ethel Clayton is okay here - but the real star to me was the neat on-location scenes of the real, quite exotic looking Shanghai of the twenties, with the real life people on the streets who kept walking by and looking at the cameras. And I wish I could see the film again to confirm this, the scene went by really fast so I'm not completely sure, but I could have sworn one Chinese man stuck his tongue out at the camera as he quickly walked past! The story here started slightly slow, but ended up with enough twists to make for a quite entertaining watch. Nice looking print too, as screened at Cinecon 46. This film was accompanied on the piano by Dean Mora, who was terrific. Rating - * 8.5 to 9/10 stars *

  • Cross Country Cruise (1934) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Pre-code cross country bus trip melodrama with a touch of the macabre. When the lingerie of a young woman named Sue (June Knight) falls out of the top of the NYC double decker bus she's riding, it lands right on the head of hotshot Norman (Lew Ayres), driving below. Well - she's a pretty girl, he's an aggressive, sure-of-himself playboy who likes to chase the ladies - so he's soon in hot pursuit of her (another one of those "he just can't take no for an answer" plots). She is soon heading to California by bus to follow her "lover", Steve, and his wife (she has just discovered this man is married, and is not real happy). The bus is filled with an assortment of odd characters not limited to Eugene Pallette, who likes to play tour guide with his trivial knowledge of every stop along the route and Alice White as a cute, flirtatious young gal who uses her wiles to entice the bus drivers into giving her free fare. Norman takes his place as fellow passenger on the trip to California just to meet the girl. Norman's bodyguard (hired by dad to keep Norman away from the ladies) joins him and is later kept drugged on sleeping powders by Norman (just so he can continue the chase - some men just never give up). Sue's "boyfriend" Steve is certainly no prize and far from being a "good guy" - not only did he mislead Sue into having an affair with him, but he and his wife are a couple of con artists who spend their free time at each stop along the route across country, pulling the old "Bible sales" scam (like seen in "Paper Moon" 1973) - um, and it gets worse, much worse! SPOILER SPOILERS - - The film turns into a murder mystery when Steve kills his wife in a department store with a bow and arrow - and props her "eyes wide open" body in the store's front display window.
    REVIEW - This film was really good - the total plot details have escaped me a bit since viewing this at the Cinecon screening, but I really liked this one a lot. Almost the last film of the last day, I would love to be able to see this again at home, when I'm fresher. SPOILERS - - The most vivid memory I have, aside from the fun of watching an assortment of characters interacting while taking this cross country trip, is the visuals of the dead woman with an arrow coming out of her, eyes open in shock (and then propped in that window display) - kind of Hitchcock "Frenzy" creepy. Rating - * 9 to 9.5/10 stars *

  • Career Woman (1936) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Claire Trevor stars as Carroll Aiken, a young law student who (along with a couple of student pals including actor Sterling Holloway - is that guy in everything?!) worships this successful, cocky lawyer named Barry Conant, who does whatever it takes to win a case, not limited to coming into the courtroom in wheelchair or wrapped up in bandages. He spots attractive Carroll during the trial and attempts to get one of his assistants to "get the phone number of that blonde", then at the courtroom elevator, tricks her into helping him home by pretending to pass out - she's not interested. After graduating, our new young female lawyer returns to the small town where she grew up, where the narrow-minded are the norm and women lawyers are looked on with suspicion. She immediately befriends an old friend, Gracie (Isabel Jewell), a poor young woman who delivers groceries and has a stern, god-fearing father who sets his foot down on her ever having any sort of a boyfriend (and also likes to beat her on occasion - yikes). Poor Gracie - she's secretly in love with a local town rich boy, but can't see him or talk to him 'cause of dad, not to mention her own embarrassment about her "poor girl" attire. Carroll offers Gracie a choice between any of her own pretty dresses - Gracie chooses an evening dress which she wears to attract her boy at the upcoming town picnic. Well, she gets herself made fun of by the town mean girls and gossips, but hooks up with the fellow anyway. Unfortunately, seen and reported to angry dad, he turns up, brings her home, and ends by whipping the poor young lady until she resorts to using a hairbrush to hit him away, leading to dad's death when he falls out of the house rafters to the ground below. Follows a murder trial with Gracie defended by her friend Carroll who, as a lawyer is quite green, but Barry Conant (still chasing after Carroll?) arrives in town and steps in to help save Gracie!
    REVIEW - This is a well done, fast-paced courtroom melodrama, Claire Trevor gives an excellent performance here - but Isabel Jewell, in my mind, steals the film with a stand out performance as Gracie, emotional and memorable. As I write this it's nearly a week after the Cinecon screening of this and it is her character that I am remembering the most about the film. By the way, that's a big trunk full of stylish new dresses Ms. Carroll Aiken has, for a woman just out of law school. Rating - * 8/10 stars *


Cinecon 46 Summary
*******

    What I really love about being at Cinecon is just being in my seat, watching one rare film after the next - surrounded by others who appreciate these old films and the movie stars of yesteryear. It feels really good to be there. I always love movie marathons, but I guess when I'm at home after a couple of films I always seem to feel like I need to get back to my work, or get dinner prepped etc. At Cinecon I'm free to indulge in movies all day long with nothing else to think about!

  • THE GOOD - -
    1. A bunch of entertaining films were screened, looking great, with fabulous clear prints - how neat to see some of these real rarities looking like they were filmed yesterday. There was no film shown this year that I didn't enjoy to some extent. The silent films are screened with lovely live piano accompaniment.

    2. A number of my favorite stars were represented at this year's Cinecon including my beloved Harrison Ford the original, William S. Hart, Harold Lloyd, Carlyle Blackwell, Jean Harlow, Alice Faye, and Hal Roach Studios shorts with Charley Chase, Thelma Todd, Max Davidson, and Laurel and Hardy.

    3. No line at ladies bathroom - again.

    4. I wasn't sick at all during this year's Cinecon - no sprained ankle, no headache, no tummy pain, no etc. etc. like years before. And didn't fall asleep once. Yay!

    5. And this is totally terrific - the weather over the Cinecon weekend was, as a whole, the coolest ever for Cinecon. The Monday was definitely the coolest weather ever for any day of a Cinecon I have attended. A big, super Yay! (It felt so much better to not be walking around in 100 degree heat followed by freezing in the air conditioner of the Egyptian - maybe that's why I didn't get a headache this year.)

  • THE BAD - - I hate to be negative about an event that I love, but would like to mention just one item.
    1. Too much talking during movies - - I sit near the front in an effort to try to be as isolated from the noise as much as possible (I hear lots of noise coming from towards the back where the majority sit) - but some Cinecon attendees seem to behave more like they are at their high school reunion than watching a film, chit-chatting in the middle of silent films is the worst (a couple not far from me in full voice during a couple of the films). I pretty much expect this at screenings with the regular public, but I find it even more surprising from people who are supposed to love film (you would think people would know it bothers some others to hear the talking and wouldn't do it - whats the deal? I can't ever begin to figure out why there are so many rude people at public events - raised by wolves, my only explanation). (Bag crinklers - hmm, almost every movie or theatre event I go to, there seems to be one near me including at Cinecon.)

  • THE UGLY - - not related to Cinecon, but to the walk down Hollywood Blvd.
    1. Those guys pushing me with "Wanna take a tour? - movie stars homes and the Hollywood Sign" about every ten feet started to get on my nerves. I tried to be polite, but I was probably asked if I wanted to take a tour over the course of the five days of Cinecon close to a hundred times (or that's how it felt). Ugh. I've lived in L.A. for almost fifty years - no tour!!

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