Please note the films reviewed contain plot summaries and may contain SPOILERS.
Thursday Evening September 1, 2011
- Hollywood Rhythm (1934) - Promotional short. Song writers Mack Gordon and Harry Revel are seen behind-the-scenes, working together on new tunes for the upcoming musical film "College Rhythm". Brief clips of some of the musical numbers from the film are shown as the men work out the music and lyrics - and song writer Gordon shows off his rather nimble dance moves, really very light on his feet for a large man! Note: The film plugged in this short, "College Rhythm" was screened Friday evening at Cinecon 47. 6/10 stars
- Hollywood Story (1951) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Mystery whodunit in which, after visiting a now abandoned movie studio and the actual bungalow where the crime took place, producer Larry O'Brien (Richard Conte) sets out to make a film based around the long unsolved murder of a famous Hollywood silent film director. While researching the crime he gets involved with an assortment of characters that had ties to the director in the day, as well as Sally (Julie Adams), the attractive daughter of the murdered director's favorite actress/ingenue. A couple of twists as our man works his way into solving the case - but some of those he gets involved with do their best to try and stop him from his investigation!
REVIEW - Mildly entertaining, with a B-movie feel to it - this film is more interesting for the shot on-location scenes of early 50s Hollywood and around Los Angeles including the Hollywood Christmas Parade (called in the film "Santa Claus Lane Parade") on Hollywood Blvd, Roosevelt Hotel sign, old-time restaurants "Jack's at the Beach" and "La-Rue" on Sunset, and the like. Cool stuff. The film also included a brief cameo appearance by several silent movie stars including Francis X. Bushman and William Farnum. The film's story is sort of a take on the real life unsolved murder in the 20s of William Desmond Taylor --I also noticed a scene, where he looks at a painting of the actress, that reminded me of the film noir classic "Laura (1944)", sort of. Actress Julie Adams appeared at the Cinecon 47 screening in person for an interview and Q&A after the film. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *
- Blazing Days (1927) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent comedy western about the pretty girl, her sickly brother, the bad guy, and the tall-hatted, blue-eyed young cowboy (who I gather could charm many a young - or old - lady - or man, if that's his preference - with his looks and twinkle in the eye). Our cowboy star (Fred Humes) has a thing against sheep - - meanwhile, in a nearby town, the bad guy tries to convince the sickly brother to help rob the stage coach that night to help get himself and sis out of the hotel they are unhappily pretty much stuck in for lack of finances. The cowboy's cash is what gets stolen from the stage - the bad guy recommends the brother get into the fresh air to tend some sheep he's just purchased and the three of them end up holed up in a shack that, oddly enough, belongs to the cowboy (and features a dirty enough bed and mattress that by all rights would have turned off anyone from trying to shack up there - um, yuck). When our cowboy hero shows up at his shack and sees the pretty and innocent young woman, his heart goes pitter pat (he don't even mind that she loves lambs). He wants to find a doctor to help the brother as he romances the girl, but feels the town unsuitable to bring "a lady" to - so he recruits "Ma", big brute of a woman and owner of "Ma's Bar" to help clean up the town. She's been wanting to clear out the trouble from town and gladly helps out -- soon Ma's Bar has been converted into "Mama's Barbecue" (and likewise around the town - Mike's Bar becomes Mike's Bargains - another place changes from Bar to "Barber Shop").
REVIEW - Very entertaining western, screened at Cinecon 47 with a great, very clear print - unfortunately, with flash titles here and there, some of the title cards had to be read out loud which can kind of ruin the dream-like effect of a silent film for me - but, though distracting, wasn't enough to alter my enjoyment of this particular film. And hurrah!, I found yet another silent star to be a fan of, good-looker Fred Humes - that kind of boyish charm gets me every time! Australian actress Ena Gregory, who plays the girl character, is incredibly pretty, I thought. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *
- In the Sweet Pie and Pie (1941) - Three Stooges comedy short. Wild slapstick fun that had me (and the audience) laughing out loud more than anything else screened this Cinecon.
Friday September 2, 2011
- Signing Off (1936) - Musical comedy short. In which a detective is in hot pursuit of a "rubber check artist". The "bad check" man ends up hiding out at this radio station where he is mistaken as the MC/announcer and put live on-air hosting a radio variety show (and completely ignoring the written scripts they hand him). Now comes the talent -- three tap dancing sisters (introduced as something like "two sis's and a half-pint), a couple of singing acts, and the big showstopper (well, that would be up to the listener), a hillbilly foursome, singing, dancing, and playing hillbilly style instruments. I found this short entertaining in it's way - silly fun, but quite enjoyed the three tap dancing sisters and the hillbilly group was pretty decent too (though did elicit both applause and some hisses from the Cinecon audience). Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *
- Moon Over Her Shoulder (1941) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Romantic comedy about a famous marriage counselor, Dr. Phillip Rossiter (John Sutton), who gives people advice on how to revive a sagging marriage. His wife Susan (Lynn Bari) overhears her husband advise on his radio show that couples can save a marriage by shipping off the kids to camp or grandma's while they indulge in a second honeymoon. Since her twin 6-year old daughters have just been sent off to camp and she's feeling rather neglected, Susan thinks a second honeymoon would be fab for her too, so buys herself a sexy new black evening dress and, looking stunning, shows herself off to hubby that evening. Dr. Rossiter, though handsome, is a bit of a boring stuffed shirt -- instead of making the moves on his attractive wife like she wants, he advises her to take up an old hobby - painting. Taking his advice she heads out next morning with her easel and paints and ends up on the local "suicide bridge" where a man, Rex (Dan Dailey), driving by mistakenly thinks she's about to commit suicide and rescues her. Taking her onto his fishing boat, a fisherman who has chartered the boat advices she be "put in irons" and Rex obliges by chaining her ankles in the boat's cabin. She befriends the salty old sea captain who steers the boat and paints his picture - then takes over the wheel, though the "ties that bind" her make it hard to steer. But the fisherman catches his biggest swordfish ever and now wants her on the boat every day he fishes! Arriving home that evening, she's sun-tanned and in high spirits, hubby pushes her into continuing with her new hobby since it appears to have been good for her. So - out she goes each day, happy as a clam with her new fishing buddies. Bringing home a fish each evening, it gets served up - though hubby is pretty set in his ways so not super happy to have fish on Tuesday (which he has never had on a Tuesday in his life) rather than his usual lamb. Now a love triangle plot twist as Rex falls in love with Susan (he has no clue she is married) and, as he's rather a good-looking hunk with some charm to boot, she gets a crush on him too!
REVIEW - A fun film, this turned out to be quite good and much better than I was expecting! Amusing, entertaining plot and well done performances - actress Lynn Bari adds some charm to the film and looks quite gorgeous here, the chemistry between her and Dan Dailey works. Cute scene in the "Yacht Club" bar where she has to juggle between Rex at the bar and her husband (having dinner in the upscale dining area nearby), trying to keep the two men from seeing each other - those "Typhoon" passion fruit specialty cocktails Rex has the bartender create for them looked pretty interesting! Okay - I was so busy looking at that "suicide bridge" and surrounding area that I actually missed the details of the "rescue". I was trying to confirm that it was this bridge near where I live that I have been over SO many times - and the amazing part, after seventy years the bridge looked IDENTICAL to the way it is now. I believe this was filmed on the San Rafael Bridge in Pasadena. This film was screened at Cinecon with a very nice looking print, by the way. Rating - * 8.5 to 9/10 stars *
- The Active Life of Dolly of the Dailies (1914) - Chapter 5: "The Chinese Fan". Serial action short starring Mary Fuller as Dolly, star reporter for the newspaper "The Comet", out to help find a kidnapped heiress. Dolly receives a gift of a small "Chinese fan" from office boy "Daddy" which she pins to her dress as she heads off to a Chinatown theater on the job. In the theater she is confronted by rival Tongs who mistake her Chinese fan pin as a gang symbol; caught up in a mini Tong War in the theater she gets herself kidnapped and locked in a room with a sleeping Chinaman doped up on Opium and, of all things, the missing heiress! A fire creates a diversion and the two women make their escape - and without the police knowing anything, the heiress is slipped into the newspaper office where they hold off informing her parents that she has been saved until the next morning so that Dolly and "the Comet" have time to publish their scoop! How great to see a spirited young woman as plucky heroine, a career gal respected in an office full of men at a time when women still couldn't vote! I thought this short film was terrific. Great looking print as screened at Cinecon 47. Rating - * 9.5/10 stars *
- Stronger Than Death (1920) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent melodrama. A tale of the Dancer, the Doctor, and the evil "Half-Breed". In India, a world famous dancer, Sigrid (Alla Nazimova), has arrived to try and find a wealthy husband as her money has run dry. She suffers from a heart condition and has been told by her doctor that "one more dance will be her last". Meanwhile, a cholera epidemic has plagued a nearby village, but the only person who will go there to help out is a man dubbed the "Hermit Doctor". She is intrigued by word of this man and his deeds, so heads to the village to see him. She enters the shack where he lives (with a menagerie of critters) and, curious about the fact he has a framed picture of her on a table, finds out the man has been in love with her since he saw her dance once in England! She later admits she has found her lover in the wildnerness, the doctor, but must agree to marry (in name only) the richest man in town known as the Half-Breed, who is unaccepted by society because of his heritage but feels that a marriage to this well beloved dancer will bring with it acceptance for him by both the Indians and the British. More melodrama in the form of the Doctor's father, a Colonel who is a drunk that beats his wife and at one point ties up his son's dog and shoots the poor little pup (not good, this looked real - I had to look away) - ugh on him. Some more weird stuff rounds out the fun involving the natives, a sacrifice at a temple of ancient worship, and highlighting the escapades is Nazimova as Sigrid, deciding to perform one last dance for the benefit of her lover (I'm blank right now on how this was going to help him). And what a dance - wow, some odd arm movements and not much else, yet strangely captivating! I'm a fan.
REVIEW - This film was HIGH melodrama, with all sorts of stuff going on that was sometimes sort of hard to follow but was interesting anyway. All veils, flowing art deco gowns, and stacked high, well-coiffed hairdos - this film is all about Nazimova, what with her interpretive dance and all those brooding facial expressions, with never a smile even when near the man she loves, she often appears aloof or to be quietly thinking about something. As a fan of outlandish silent melodramas, I quite enjoyed this one. Rating - * 8/10 stars *
- The Open Track (1916) - Serial short. Well, I know I was there but apparently while the body was in the theater, the mind was in Zombieland because I have absolutely zero memory of anything about this film at all - pretty strange, actually.
- One the Night Stage (1915) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent western starring William S. Hart as "Texas", a road agent who robs a stage coach and wants to skip town to Mexico with the loot and his sweetheart Belle, a dance hall girl. But before he can leave, a parson aka "The Sky Pilot", arrives in town and immediately hits up the saloon, corners Belle, and tries to convert her into giving up her dance hall days and going the "good girl" route. We see the two at a saloon table as the parson talks and talks and talks until she decides the parson is right, and she heads for home. A while later and the parson admits he has now fallen in love with Belle, so she marries him! Now dressed in appropriate attire for a parson's wife, she is lured by an old gal pal back into a dance hall where a man named Handsome Jack - highly interested in her good girl appearance over that of your usual saloon floozies - hits on her. He kisses her and her main reaction is "REPULSION!" (as seen in the title card). A few days later she receives a letter from him inviting her to a dance at "Bear Gulch" (or something like that), with threats that if she doesn't meet him he will lie to the parson about her escapades the other night at the saloon. When Texas finds out he sets out to help Belle and save the day, by robbing the night stage one last time and ridding the world of Handsome Jack. And in the end all Texas has left to love his Midnight - his horse!
REVIEW - Not my favorite William S. Hart film, but still pretty entertaining and, as I am a big fan of his, I did quite enjoy this. The scene in the saloon where the parson attempts to convert the girl is a bit long-winded, just seemed to go on longer than needed. Rating - * 7.5 to 8/10 stars *
- 50 Miles from Broadway (1929) - Musical comedy short about two feuding old-timers, one with a grown son, one with a grown daughter. The young set want to get married while the old guys exchange humor-driven insults with one another (with a style suggesting a couple of comics performing a Vaudeville routine). The gal shows off some unusual dance moves, some more girls, more tap dancing, and - well - that's about all folks. Pretty so-so, very stagy - though the musical acts were decent, as I remember. 6.5/10 stars
- Cinerama Adventure (2003) - Documentary focusing on the history of the three-camera film process Cinerama, producing a widescreen experience popular in the 1950s. I thought this documentary was well done and interesting, though just one complaint - I would have preferred more and lengthier clips of the Cinerama films (and maybe a wee less expert commentary which at times comes across as a bit long-winded, cutting off film clips too short just as I am getting into them). The documentary uses a technique called "Smilebox" for the film clips, which tries to simulate on a flat screen the Cinerama curved screen experience. From where I was sitting (pretty close to the front of the theatre) I thought this worked - I could feel the effect to some extent of the screen curving around and filling my field of vision, really did make these films look like a wow! I was thinking though, even while watching it, that if I was much farther back in the theatre I don't know if the same experience could be felt. Did enjoy this documentary and learned more about Cinerama and the films than I ever knew before. It's really made me look forward to the mentioned (in person) release of some of the Cinerama films on Blu-ray. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *
- Gus Van's Musical Shoppe (1935) - Gus Van owns a music shop where a cute dingbat gal in black and white stripes (created by her mom from one of dad's old suits - tehe) has shown up spewing one-liners and a song or two. They wonder how they can get more customers in the shop and a tap dancing duo comes out from behind a counter to perform. A white jacketed young man enters the shop who proclaims he plays two clarinets at once - and he does, while doing somersaults, no less - a very limber fellow. Hmmm, more hillbillies next (see above for "Signing Off", different group, same effect), and a couple of quite good tap dancers (I think they were in this short) round out the fun. Entertaining enough for a B-movie musical short. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *
- College Rhythm (1934) - - PLOT SUMMARY - B-musical comedy following two college rivals who vie for a blonde's affection, and a weirdo (Joe Penner) who owns the duck that is the team's mascot (they can't win without the presence of the duck). One rival is a cocky football hero known as "Love and Kisses" Finnigan (Jack Oakie), the other a nerdish college band piccolo player, Larry Stacey, nicknamed "Piccolo Pete". Two years later and Finnigan is a bum, while Stacey is working as manager for his father's big department store "Staceys". Unfortunately, Junior Stacey has run the store into the ground with his new-fangled ideas like mini store sign in front instead of large neon lights and hiding the goods from customers until a salesperson *presents* them (more classy?). The rival department store across the street is now thriving! Finnegan comes around, asks and gets a job from his old college days rival, and Senior Stacey, hearing about the football hero working at his store, decides to pep it up via a new idea - salesgirls behind the counters in short skirts, tap dancing chorus girls, giveaways (like hats emblazened with the store name), and football players who will play against the rival department store in a football game finale. Now we get some rather fun musical numbers including an absolute showstopper featuring the song "Take a Number from One to Ten" with choreographed girls in black and white spelling out numbers and the word "Stacey" in rapid motion. Wow!
REVIEW - Though this film is not very good and I found the Joe Penner character beyond annoying, that one musical number made this all worthwhile - a wowzer on the big screen with nice print, with amazing, well rehearsed choreography of the rows of girls. And - the song is still running through my head days later, I keep singing it out loud. Side story in this film involves a cute blonde (different one than the college rivals are after) named Mimi (Lyda Roberti), with pretty face and cute accent, she's lead singer in the film's musical numbers. But how any woman could be attracted to Joe Penner - or Jack Oakie, for that matter (odd casting there) - I can't begin to figure out. Well, I guess it's meant to be comical - oh well. Rating - * 6/10 stars for film -- 10/10 stars for musical numbers *
- Hands Up! (1926) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent period comedy set in the Old West. At the time of the Civil War in 1864, Abraham Lincoln sends a man to bring back some gold from a Western gold mine to help the Union and pay off the National Debt. At the same time, the South sends their own man to hijack some gold for the Confederacy - Jack (Raymond Griffith), rather a dandy with well trimmed mustache, top hat, tails, and cape, arrives at the mine and is soon captured as a Confederate spy and put before a firing squad. With a few tricks up his sleeve and a rather inept firing squad he ends up making his escape with a note pinned to the wall "Til Next We Meet". He makes it onto a just departing stagecoach and ends up sitting directly behind the Union spy and the owner of the gold mine, Silas Woodstock (Mack Swain), who are busy looking over a mine map and making secret plans. And now the fun begins as Woodstock's two very pretty 18-ish year old daughters greet their Papa and take the stage with Jack crushed between the two gals. For reasons unknown (lack of eligible men in town?) the two girls flirt big time with him. A little hand holding, Papa shooting at passing rabbits, a bee in the coach, and finally an attack (with arrows flying through the cabin as the bee is flashing by) and capture by Indians rounds out the fun. While Silas Woodstock is forced to walk on hot coals by the Indians, the Indian chief tries to knive to death Jack but the knive hits the pair of dice he's carrying, which greatly interest the chief. The two indulge in a dice game for stakes, and Jack ends up winning most of the chief's clothes. Soon they are able to make their escape - when Jack teaches the Indian tribe to dance the Charleston! Now he's on to abscond with the gold - but, captured again, he's about to be hung when one of the girl's save him by telling Papa he is her husband. This works until the sister also tells Papa he's her husband - ah, bigamy! Just as he's about to hang the War is declared over.
REVIEW - This is a very good film, quite amusing and memorable - love the ending involving bigamy and the Mormons! Star Raymond Griffith is quite the comical fellow and gives a nicely done performance here, and he kept reminding me of French silent comedian Max Linder (perhaps the outfit?). Rating - * 9/10 stars *
Saturday September 3, 2011
- Many Sappy Returns (1938) - Charley Chase comedy short. A case of mistaken identity causes taxi driver Charley to believe an escapee from a sanitorium for the insane is his fiancee's father. He drives around the lunatic, while the father - owner of the taxi company - waits to be picked up. That's about all I'm remembering about this film at this time, it's just sort of jumbling together in my head with all the other films I saw over the Cinecon weekend. Not my favorite Charley Chase short, but cute and seemed entertaining enough. Rating - * 7/10 stars *
- An Arabian Knight (1920) - Silent film involving a weathly English Egyptologist and his aging spinster sister living in Egypt who get involved with Ahmed (Sessue Hayakawa), a young local man who tends donkeys (and has ancestral ties to Napoleon, according to his father). The sister believes she is the reincarnation of an Egyptian princess who lived 2,000 years before, and when she sees Ahmed one day she is "sure" he is the reincarnation of her beloved prince from the distant past. So - she hires Ahmed as her new butler. Okey dokey. My memory of the rest is a bit vague now, I think there was a girl - or two - and some bad men, and some Hashish, that figure into the plot. This was one I failed to takes notes on and now, a week later, have semi-forgotten. I thought the film was okay, but there were lots of silents I saw at Cinecon this year I liked better. Mid-range melodrama with some comedy thrown in. 7.5/10 stars
- By Right of Purchase (1918) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent melodrama/love triangle starring Norma Talmadge as Margot, she loves bad boy/good-for-nothing Dick Derwent (William Courtleigh Jr.) who is poor and struggles at the stock market to convince people he's got some "good inside information" for sale. Another man, the wealthy Mr. Himes (Eugene O'Brien), is in love with her and wants to ask her to marry him but fears he will be rejected and never able to have her. His friend advises him to offer her a marriage of convenience - a two year marriage on trial at which time, if she is not yet in love with him, he will release her - with a large settlement. He makes her the offer, now SHE's torn on what to do - her mom lets her know their finances have run dry so she should accept a marriage offer from this rich man (Mama also doesn't think much of the character of Dick Derwent) - - and Margot's own love Dick suggests she go ahead with the two year offer and they'll be together when the trial is over (and thus get himself a share of the dough!). So - Margot marries Himes under the promise that it's "in name only" (in other words, no funny business), then they head on their "honeymoon yacht" trip where she locks herself in her quarters to be sure her new hubby keeps out. But a storm at sea scares her and she lets him in for comfort - um, hugging her he loses all control and begins to kiss and paw her as she pushes him away repulsed! Now some powerful overacting as he attempts to pull it together and contain himself from his overwhelming lustful urges! Back home and Margot starts writing checks for Dick to help with his struggling "business" (but finds out later the only business he's involved in is gambling). While hubby grows to feel his marriage is nothing but a farce, Margot is gradually falling in love with him - hmm, who would have thought?! One day Margot goes to visit Dick and outside the front door of his flat overhears him saying he only takes checks from Margot so he can use the money to take out a show girl! So she's finally got it straight - the one she thought she loved is a cad, her own hubby turns out to be a loving, great guy - and, yes in deed, with plenty of money to boot! I guess Mama knew best after all.
REVIEW - Melodramatic silent film that I found quite entertaining (I like this kind of stuff!) - Norma Talmadge plays it pretty subtle, in quiet contemplation she sometimes lightly furrows her brow, deep in thought over the struggles she faces in juggling two men. No smiles, but with her troubles (yeah, pretty much of her own making) why should she. Just at the time of the release of this film, actor William Courtleigh Jr died. As stated in a newspaper from the day (dated May 4, 1918): "William Courtleigh, jr., well known to local picture fans, is the latest film player to succumb to pneumonia. He was last seen here this week, playing in Norma Talmadge's "By Right of Purchase". Sad, was quite young. This film was not originally on the schedule for Cinecon 47 but was a last minute substitution for the scheduled Andrews Sisters film that was sent missing the last reel. I love The Andrews Sisters but was very happy with this as I definitely prefer seeing a silent film I've never seen before (not to mention one starring Norma Talmadge!). Very pleased - this was actually one of my more favorite films of the weekend. Rating - * 8.5 to 9/10 stars *
- They All Fall (1925) - Comedy short subject starring Bobby Ray as a janitor who works at a movie theater where Babe Hardy is manager. Hardy takes a day off to get married to the cashier, while the janitor posts flyers around town (and glued to people's backs) advertising the theater's next showing. Hardy has forgotten to bring the marriage license, the janitor sets out to help, and they all end up in a car chasing wildly around the streets of L.A. Cute, entertaining short filled with lots of neat 1920s Los Angeles street scenes which makes the whole thing worthwhile! The film includes the obligatory slapstick slip on a banana peel (which is moving around via mouse) and an interesting look at Oliver Hardy before he became a comedy team with Stan Laurel. Rating - * 8/10 stars *
- East Side, West Side (1927) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent romantic drama starring George O"Brien as John, working on a New York City river barge owned by his mom and step-father, he longs to go into the city and pursue his dream of becoming a builder. A storm and barge accident suddenly kills his family, and the young man sets off alone to find a new life in the big, unfamiliar city. He gets bullied by a group of rough guys right off the bat 'cause, after the accident and fall into the dirty East River, he's not exactly smelling like a lily. He hides in a basement where he is found by the Lipvitch family who live above - well, the twenty-ish daughter Becka (Virginia Valli) convinces the family to take him in as he's "just a boy" ("boy" my eye - her eyes just couldn't help but take in what a strapping hunk this guy is). Becka immediately volunteers (no surprise here) to help him get cleaned up, by drawing him a bath and filling the tub up with lots and lots of soap. Our hunk is a bit shy though and everytime his shirt is about to come off she pops back in through the door, bringing him to the decision to lock it! She convinces her father the tailor to give our boy a gently used new suit and shoes from the family used clothing store. Soon John is working for the family in the shop while some mutual flirting is going on between himself and Becka (who, while on a ladder stocking shelves, pulls up her skirt even higher as John stands below admiring the view). After taking up boxing, a wealthy man named Van Horn realizes that this boxer is the real son he never knew and under his patronage, John gets hired on by a promoter with plans to turn him into a champion. John carries a huge grudge against his real father for leaving his mother when he was born - he wants to kill his father if he ever meets him and hasn't a clue that Van Horn is that man! Meanwhile, the two hit it off big time as they wrestle together at the practice ring. Van Horn helps his son get into his dream career in architecture and poor Becka is advised to give him up as his now rising career could be brought down by association with an "east side girl", and she agrees to make the sacrifice for his sake. They each hook up with someone else and then we get into the odd, grand finale in which Van Horn ends up killed while on an ocean voyage on the Titanic (hmm, thought this was the 1920s not 1912), leaving his son to forever think of them as "just friends". And somehow it works out between John and Becka (I'm blanking on how that all came about right now).
REVIEW - Okay, this is quite a good film boosted up by the oh so hunky actor George O'Brien - I not only enjoyed his performance here but do find him pretty darn gorgeous, even though not my usual type. Yeah, he's hot. The photography is well done and the glimpse of a 1920s New York City was nice to see, especially memorable is a skyline shot at the opening of the film with O'Brien seen from behind, seated as he dreams over the magnificence of the big city. The recreation of the sinking of the Titanic was actually done quite well, including scene where the ship hits the iceberg as the people stand watching it slide by the side of the deck (not looking all that unlike a similiar scene in the more recent 1997 Titanic film) all the way to the ship tipping and finally heading bow down into the water (done via miniature) as survivors watch from their lifeboats. Okay, they never actually say this is the "Titanic" but the visualization of the disaster is identical. A good, solidly entertaining silent film. Rating - * 8.5 to 9/10 stars *
- Henry Aldrich, Editor (1942) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Comedy starring Jimmy Lydon as high school student Henry Aldrich - just chosen as editor of the school newspaper, our boy reporter is out to double circulation via more sensational stories. After hearing about a fire in town, he just misses seeing the action first hand but gets advised by a reporter he meets on the street to create his own version of facts for his paper. While on the scene he meets "Nero" (Francis Pierlot), an insane little man who is (unknown to Henry, at least at this point) actually the pyromaniac who set the fire (he likes to watch the pretty flames). Henry writes up his "story" for the school paper, with made-up headline to create a sensation "Mysterious Fire of Sinister Origin", plus hints that the owner of the building set the fire himself. This later becomes a scandal and the school's hit with libel suits. When Henry runs into Nero again, Nero thinks Henry is a fellow "Fire Bug" and tips him off to where to see the next one (which Nero, of course, has plans to set himself). Henry keeps ending up with the inside scoop, via Nero, on where the next fire in town is going to occur, leading to the mistaken notion by the authorities that Henry is the arsonist! In the big finale, Henry sets out to stop a fire (after escaping his court trial dressed in drag!) and at the same time, prove himself innocent.
REVIEW - Okay, didn't remember that I had actually seen a Henry Aldrich film before - but when the movie started I immediately recognized all the different actors and characters, especially Henry and his pal Dizzy (Charles Smith). Must have been years and years ago that I saw any of these films though. The Henry Aldrich films are a series of light comedies made mainly in the forties (sort of in the same idea as Mickey Rooney's "Andy Hardy" series of films - precursors to TV family sitcoms of the 50s and onwards). There are eleven films in the series, produced between 1939 and 1944. I enjoyed this film as a light, B-movie level entertainment and thought Jimmy Lydon gives off a very likable persona, adding to the charm and enjoyment of the film as a whole. Actor Jimmy Lydon - now 88 years old - appeared in person for this Cinecon 47 screening at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. He gave an interesting interview after the film and seemed to be doing great! Rating - * 7.5 to 8/10 stars *
- Sunday (1961) - Documentary short shot in an afternoon on the streets of NYC in sometimes grainy black and white and focusing on a gathering of beatniks who are protesting their anger at the authorities for disallowing them to assemble at a park to play folk music. Mildly entertaining and photographed in a stylish way featuring lots of close-ups, but I found the youths they focus on to be sort of whiny and annoying to the point where I just didn't seem to care about their cause anymore. Sort of a bunch of crybabies attempting to be hip as they look down on the older generation ("waaaa, they just don't understand us"). Worth seeing once though. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *
- Practically Yours (1944) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Romantic comedy in which a WWII fighter pilot, Daniel Bellamy (Fred MacMurray), becomes a war hero after heroically dive bombing his plane into a Japanese aircraft carrier in a suicide mission to sink the boat. Well, he lives - but not before the world thinks he's dead and his final words, left in a message taped before he crashes, are read over the radio in which he wishes he could be back working at the typewriter company where he could see "Peggy", take her on a walk through Central Park, kiss her on the nose. The romance becomes the sensation of the country and office accountant Peggy Martin (Claudette Colbert) is stunned that this good-looking man she barely ever spoke to LOVES her (and since she carried the torch for this fellow in their office days, pleases her immensely). She becomes famous over the airwaves, especially when she faints on newsreel camera after hearing her man is alive! For the benefit of the newsreels, the two are reunited and taken to stay at a mansion where it is arranged that they will be married in the next two weeks. Okay, here's the rub - while she's gosh darn excited, he reveals secretly to her that it wasn't "Peggy" he wanted to see again but "Piggy", his dog! Wow - what a colossal misundertanding. He's a wolf/ladies man with lots of girlfriends and no interest in marriage to a girl he barely knows (no matter how attractive she may be) but agrees to keep playing the charade that the two are a couple in love because they have now become a national symbol for the homefront, inspiring women to stay strong as they wait and hope for their man to return home from war. Meanwhile, his cute little dog Piggy has arrived and been quickly renamed "Porky" so no one catches on to the ruse, but the poor doggie doesn't take to his new name so everytime someone says the name "Peggy", the dog thinks he's being called and jumps on them. As days go by, our man has got to figure out a way out of this wedding - so he reveals to his hosts his fiancee is getting cold feet. A love triangle element enters the plot mix via a fellow office accountant, the rather nerdy Albert (a possessive jerk when it comes down to it), who has asked Peggy out several times before and been rejected but is now being pushed as her new love interest. Comical mishaps including a raft inflating on the subway ensue. Probably can be guessed how this all ends!
REVIEW - One of the better films screened at Cinecon 47, with a quite gorgeous print to boot. Of course, Claudette Colbert is always a favorite, and along with Fred MacMurray the two match up to bring us an A-level performance and entertaining film all around. A romance mixed with comedy, top stars, and a bit of war propaganda (typical of films made during this period) made for an enjoyable watch. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *
- Finders Keepers (1928) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent romantic comedy set during WWI and starring Laura La Plante as Barbara, daughter of a Colonel and "Godmother" of an Army Canteen. She's cute, she's sweet, she's blonde (like an earlier version of Sandra Dee), she dances with all the officers and soldiers who visit the Canteen and wears a collection of rings around her neck, "engagement rings" given to her by lonely soldiers who want her to write them and wear their ring until they return from War duty - she just can't turn these boys down. One evening two young soldiers come in, the rather sure-of-himself youth Carter (John Harron) and his buddy "Blondy". Carter is immediately onto the "beautiful blonde" for a dance, then proceeds to keep dancing her into a curtain to grab a kiss (and getting a slap in the face for his trouble). But, hey, apparently she goes for the overly aggressive type as she falls for him. Later that evening she tells her Papa the two are in love and want to be married before Carter is sent overseas. But arriving at the Army camp the next morning, she finds that access has been restricted - no civilians allowed. Desperate, she exchange her dress with Blondy's uniform and, dressed in drag as a soldier, gets admitted into the Base (while Blondy in drag gets immediately hit on by a man, what'd you expect?!). Finding her man and hoping to marry him, instead she ends up by his side in drill practice where she struggles to follow commands and keep pace with the men (her little legs running double time to keep up with the much larger fellows). Next comes inspection, and of all things, her father is doing the inspecting. With her baggy pants that keep falling and blonde hair coming out of her tipped cap, how will she ever fool her own dad? Funnily enough, it's really the lace slip peaking out under her buttoned jacket that gives her away. He agrees they can marry on the troop train carrying the soldiers to War the next day, but the train leaves a touch early and she just can't catch it (literally, at the back of the train - too late!).
REVIEW - One of my favorite films of the weekend, I really enjoyed this. Laura La Plante looked really adorable, the story quite cute - and I always seem to love a scene done in drag. Jack Oakie appears in a small part as an Army Private who like to shoot BBs at others necks - ouch. The print of this, as screened at Cinecon 47, looked great - nice and clear. Good one. Rating - * 9/10 stars *
Sunday September 4, 2011
- Little Billy's Triumph (1914) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Keystone Kids comedy short film. Half-pint Little Billy asks his mom for a dime so he can join the pack of kids across the way who are buying small ice cream boxes off a cart. Meanwhile a trio of bad little boys, in need of money to buy Punch and Judy puppets for their one cent theater, see small Billy and decide he's a great target to rob. They steal his dime and the show goes on, a packed theater full of kids filling the house for the puppet show. While the "box office" is unguarded, Little Billy (with much debate over his cute little face - "should I or shouldn't I?") takes the cigar box full of coins and runs! He heads right on over to the ice cream cart and buys a whole bunch of ice cream, only sharing it with one - his pal, the neighborhood cop on the beat. Soon the bad kids are onto the robbery and give chase to Little Billy - but too late, the cash is spent and the ice cream is dripping all over!
REVIEW - I absolutely loved this wonderful little short - such a step back in time, seeing all those kids dressed in their circa 1914 attire including one or two boys in early 1900s boys tunic popular in the day and one of the toughs is dressed with long ringlet curls (what I used to call "boing boing curls") and Little Lord Fauntleroy suit - wow. What a charming glimpse into the past. Child actor Paul aka Little Billy Jacobs is as cute as a button here - quite adorable. He was born in 1910 and lived until ninety-four years old. This short is very reminiscent of the later "Our Gang" series, right down to the "kids putting on a show" plot including ramshackle clubhouse/theater with children's scrawled writing on the front. Very cute short all around. Rating - * 10/10 stars *
- The Hope (1920) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent melodrama. In England, a young lord named Harold (Jack Mulhall) aka "Lord Ingestre" (of all things) and two young ladies partake in the privileges allowed to members of society (polo anyone?). He's engaged to Lady Brenda (Marguerite de la Motte) -- the other girl, Olive (Ruth Stonehouse), is only in society because her father, a notorious loan shark, bribed a duchess (good social reputation, no money) to introduce his daughter into society in exchange for wiping clean her considerable debt to him. Olive has been kept in the dark about her father's real business. A smarmy man at the polo match recognizes Olive as the loan shark's daughter and proceeds to blackmail the dad for money - he than decides to seduce the girl. The men go to India with their regiment - the ladies end up following and later the blackmailer hurts Olive deeply when he rejects her as unworthy, telling her he will NEVER marry her - and for some reason she loved him, so flees the country to whereabouts unknown. Meanwhile, Lord Ingestre's mother is also in debt to the loan shark and, being pressured to pay up her overdue mortgage, she encourages her son to marry the rich girl. Hmm - a servant mistakenly gives two letters to the blackmailer - one for him from Olive relating how evil he is and how her life is ruined - the other addressed to our young Lord. Our oily fellow exchanges the envelopes and gives the wrong letter to Lord Ingestre, making him suddenly the scourge of society, abandoned by all social circles! When Olive is located in Italy, Lord Ingestre and company head there to find out the truth about the letter - um, while there Mt. Vesuvius erupts causing what looked like an earthquake (no shaking, just collapsing buildings) and sudden death to the plot's evil villian - applause everyone!!
REVIEW - Okay film that I found a bit muddled and hard to follow (perhaps from over tiredness? - not sure). The film suffers from lack of star power, especially the two younger women whom I found pretty non-descript. Jack Mulhall is okay in his way, but he doesn't really fit into the plot much until later in the film. Enjoyed the wild volcano and earthquake finale, done pretty well - a sort of hokey bit of fun. Rating - * 7/10 stars *
- Down Mexico Way (1941) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Musical western starring Gene Autry, the singing cowboy. Autry finds himself and the good folks of Sage City swindled out of a wad of cash by a couple of phony movie producers, so heads down Mexico way with his sidekick Frog (Smiley Burnette) and goofy Mexican cook Pancho, as area guide, in search of them. They hear about a wealthy Mexican rancher in dealings with these same producers, so head to his Ranchero in hopes of encountering the two con men. There they meet the beautiful Maria Elena (Fay McKenzie), the rancher's daughter and actress set to star in the upcoming film. A fiesta with music and dance, some stunt-driven chases, and Gene Autry performing a few songs fills up this B-western.
REVIEW - A running gag involves everyone in Mexico putting their hands up when they see Pancho (hinting he's some sort of famous bandito). This film was sort of a time filler, not really my cup of tea -- but actress Fay McKenzie appeared in person for interview and Q&A after the screening, which was interesting. This film was screened from video rather than film, but it looked okay. Rating - * 6/10 stars *
- The Hobble Skirt (1910) - Comedy short film. A woman receives a note saying "Ladies, please attend tomorrow's *Sick Baby Fund* meeting - and wear your hobble skirts!". A group of women arrive at the meeting, but a man (Ben Turpin) who has seen the note crashes the meeting in drag wearing hobble skirt and then proceeds to accost the ladies, basically. Cute, mild slaptick fun, though nothing great - entertaining enough for it's step back to the past. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *
- Beauty's Worth (1922) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent comedy starring Marion Davies as Prudence, a young lady being strictly raised a Quaker by her two well-to-do spinster Aunts. Kept on a tight chain, she lives a sheltered lifestyle and is made to conform to the Quaker style of dress. Long-time family friends come for a visit including childhood pal Henry (Hallam Cooley), who flirts a bit with Prudence in the garden - she secretly loves him 'cause she's "always looked up to him". She's invited and allowed to spend the summer season at a seaside resort for the wealthy, where Henry will be. On arrival though, Prudence is immediately seen by all the snobbish society youth as an unstylish "Plain Jane" Quaker girl to be looked down upon. One of the popular set, Amy (June Elvidge), is out to find herself a "gold-lined husband" and has set her mark for Henry. On seeing Prudence dressed in an old-fashioned swimming outfit, she cattily suggests to Prudence to "avoid the water or she'll sink in all that fabric" - and Henry finds he admires Amy's stylish bathing suit over what old friend Prudence is wearing (and has just come to the realization that he is more interested in a female for her "dressmaker" than anything else - um, what's going on with that?!). A painter (only there for the scenery he can paint) loathes the shallow society folk who fill the resort but, on seeing simple Prudence, finds he admires her as a "diamond in the rough" (all she needs is a "platinum setting" to make her shine). He soon becomes her Svengali, helping her to try and win Henry's love by changing her style of dress. The resort youth want the Painter to host an evening of "Charades", which at first he refuses but then decides to use it as a vehicle to promote Prudence and the new look he plans to create for her. He designs some stylish new gowns for her to wear and a week later the Charades are on - a "Pantomime in 3 Acts" in which the audience must guess two syllables and the word being created on stage. Okay, the lavish gowns have been created lickety-split, and Prudence appears in them as the star of all 3 Acts. Well what do you know, it worked - she's a hit! Now suddenly popular in fashionable attire (those new creations just keep coming!), she spends her time at poolside surrounded by a circle of male admirers, including Henry. But is Henry really worth all that - and will she ever see him for his true, shallow self?
REVIEW - Really fun film boosted up by the star quality of Marion Davies, who puts her whole energy into her performance with her natural comedic flair - love her! Funny scene when the aunts make an arrival at the resort and observe their niece smoking, dressed like a floozy (in their eyes anyway - they attempt to cover her up with a blanket), and surrounded by drooling men. Okey dokey - from the eyes of life in 2011 I really couldn't see a whole lot of difference between the two bathing suits the girls wear - even Amy's looked close to turn-of-the-last-century to me. Rating - * 9/10 stars
- The Brasher Doubloon (1947) - Film Noir.
Monday September 5, 2011
- Diplomacy (1926) - Silent melodrama. A mess involving spies, a missing Treaty, state papers, Russia, a Countess or two, and yet another gal who has a mother pushing her to marry rich 'cause they've run out of money. Only saw this yesterday and I am now blank on the details of the plot. Just couldn't get into this one - kind of confusing.
- Our Gang at Home (1925) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Presented as a bonus short. "Our Gang" director Bob McGowan sits in a chair next to a table where the gang in miniature, via camera special effects, are gathered on table top. The gang is asked via title card what they want to be when they are grown up. Now the use of trick camera work shows each kid in turn on screen, often in triplicate. Pretty Mary Kornman wants to be a dancer and we see three Mary's on screen performing a quick dance. Little Jackie Condon is too young to know what he wants to be, he justs wants to "jump". Again, three Jackie's jump on screen, often in slow motion. "Fatty" aka Joe Cobb wants a giant sucker (or did he want to "be" a giant sucker?), Mickey Daniels is stretched out via trick camera work and three Farina's are seen in what looks like a fun house mirror (can't remember what Mickey and Farina wanted to be). Then the title cards ask "Vote for your favorite Gang member" and the faces of the six current "Our Gang" main kids circa 1925 are shown on screen a la the opening of "The Brady Bunch" with each kid looking up, down, and around.
REVIEW - Oddly, Johnny Downs is shown in the beginning scene on the table and the end "Brady Bunch" montage, but not featured in the middle, career-choice segment. This cute and rare short was likely intended as a sort of advertisement promoting the Our Gang shorts. Interesting novelty and a bit odd. The print as screened was so-so, but as an "Our Gang" fan I was very happy to see this fun, rather curious silent film. 8.5/10 stars
- The Mad Martindales (1942) - - PLOT SUMMARY - B-movie comedy set in 1900. Jane Withers stars as teenager Kathy, a young feminist who dreams of rights for women - she's the younger daughter of an eccentric father (Alan Mowbray) who owns a house full of antiques and a clutter of objects he's purchased (he's just brought home another piece - a painting called "The Lady and the Unicorn") but can't keep up with his mortgage payments. While he's out-of-town, Kathy dresses up in her older sister's clothes and takes over as lady of the house with plans to scrape up the money to pay the mortgage so they don't lose their home. With her goofy boyfriend Bobby (Jimmy Lydon), they find an oriental antique dealer who appraises the household goods and appears to buy everything but the corner player piano. The grumpy mortgage collector (Charles Lane) comes around to collect and Kathy has the cash on hand, but unfortunately reveals they have a second mortgage with the "Helping Hand" company, and this guy is lawyer for them too - now they owe another 8,000 bucks! The handsome fiance (Gig Young) of Kathy's sister arrives at the house and helps Kathy get the money by visiting his rich, no-nonsense grandmother who mistakenly thinks Kathy is his intended future wife. Grandma expects them to kiss and turns her head away waiting to hear the smack - he kisses Kathy on the cheek, but after grandma sets off to retrieve the needed cash from her mattress, he suddenly gives Kathy a real kiss (she looks surprised and a wee bit love dizzy). Jealous boyfriend Bobby observes the kiss through the window, and back home big sis has a second beau, an Italian musician short on cash, who arrives causing more problems. And Kathy gets her man - who do you think?
REVIEW - Though nothing great by any means, I did find this to be a lightly entertaining, cute film, mainly 'cause of the star quality of perky and spirited Jane Withers, who appeared in person for this Cinecon screening along with co-star Jimmy Lydon - both now well into their eighties and still going strong! Rating - * 7/10 stars *
- At a Premium (1916) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent comedy short starring real life husband and wife comedy team, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew. The Drews both like to collect coupons to use for buying things out of a premium catalog. She's trying to save enough coupons for a carved glass punch bowl, he's saved up enough for a comfy leather chair. Mrs. Drew doesn't have enough for her punch bowl yet but plays Poker with him to win some coupons - and loses. Yet a few days later there are two deliveries at the door - first the chair, then the punch bowl (with stand and matching cups, no less)! Mr. Drew wonders how his wife came up with enough coupons - - but after he overhears her on the phone inviting someone over the next day he seems to think (for reasons I can't remember) she is having an affair with a man, so next day he grabs his gun and heads for home for the confrontation. Surprise - Mrs. Drew is hosting a Poker game for the ladies, who are gambling their premium coupons from various packages and products ("I'll bet four Soap Flake coupons and raise you ten Smashed Wheats") - and she has learned enough about Poker to win the whole pot! Whew! is he relieved, and he puts his gun away.
REVIEW - Pretty entertaining (and I always enjoy that step back in my time machine while viewing these older silents) - I quite enjoyed this rather charming film. Cute when they're at the table in the beginning of the film, excitedly looking over the goods in the catalog - just like we used to do with the Blue Chip stamps. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *
- The Coward (1915) - 1861 Virginia, young Frank Winslow (Charles Ray) flirts with his girl over a hummingbird's nest on an idyllic afternoon, but when the two venture into town all the young men are excited as the Civil War has begun and they are all going to the recruitment office to enlist. Charles suddenly fears something about himself he never realized before - he may just be a coward! His ruffle skirted girl pushes him to join the others and enlist, so he reluctantly goes with them. But at the office he backs out and runs off - and when his father finds out he tells him sternly "You are going to enlist" will a scowl that could scare even the bravest of men. A "Yes Sir" and he does. When Frank is sent off to battle he runs away, and heads for home a deserter. Silent star Charles Ray always gives off a handsome, boyish charm in his films, making him one of my favorites.
- Glamour Boy (1941) - A fresh idea is needed on what to do with child star and genius Billy Doran (Darryl Hickman) for his next film, as his latest "Oliver Twist" fell flat. Former child star Tiny Barlow (Jackie Cooper) works at a Hollywood soda fountain where he overhears patrons, Little Billy's agent and his dad (William Demarest), discussing ideas and Tiny suggests remaking his hit film "Skippy". They go for the idea, and hire on Tiny to help coach Billy for the part.
- Le Bonheur (1934) - "Happiness" - - PLOT SUMMARY - French film, with English subtitles. Charles Boyer plays Philippe Lutcher, a handsome, though rather arrogant and mysterious, cartoonist and self-declared "Anti-Social" with a repulsion for celebrity worship. Clara Stuart (Gaby Morlay), a famous and wildly popular film actress, arrives back in Paris after a stint in America and receives a roaring crowd welcome as she steps off her train. She performs on stage that evening to a packed house, wowing them with her vocal renditon of the song "Happiness". When leaving the theatre she is suddenly shot, though it ends up being a simple shoulder wound. Turns out Lutcher is the perpetrator of the crime and was attending the performance on the evening of the shooting, escorting an attractive young woman who successfully pursued him on the street and got herself a date (though it took her a couple weeks, she couldn't get eye contact - hmm, what charms he must hold for the ladies). Caught and put on trial, he refuses to speak and simply stares, indifferent to the scene before him while our actress asks why he did this to her. Eventually sent to prison, on release she is there to pick him up at the prison gates and a most odd romance begins between the two!
REVIEW - I was very happy to see this film on the schedule as I love classic French films. I believe this is the first film that I have seen at a Cinecon screening in a foreign language with sub-titles. Unfortunately for me, this was the last film (screened late afternoon on the Monday) I saw at Cinecon 47 - and after days of films and lack of sleep I was quite drowsy during this screening (though luckily, didn't fall asleep). Thought the film was quite good but would love to see it again when I am feeling more awake. The film is artistically photographed, though hard to get the full effect of the camerawork at the screening as the print shown was a bit dark and muddy toned. I definitely found the film to be unusual and intriguing, with it's quirky crime of passion theme. Boyer gives a mesmerizing performance here that grips your attention and I find is hard to forget. Rating - * 8.5 to 9/10 stars *
Cinecon 47 The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Summary
- THE GOOD - -
1. I had a great time, as always, and really appreciate the opportunity to see these rare films on the big screen, the silents complete with fab live piano accompaniment. Most of these films I had never seen before.
2. No line at ladies rest room, yet again, same thing every year - love it! The men's rest room is another story, sometimes a lengthy line all the way down the hallway.
3. Much cooler weather than usual for Labor Day weekend - felt my first raindrop ever felt while attending a Cinecon, on the Monday morning while walking along Hollywood Blvd. (I love cool weather so much, a lovely "Winter" Cinecon in February or thereabouts would be a neat idea in my mind - hmm, I wouldn't mind two Cinecon's a year).
4. I thought the short subjects were better this year than usual.
- THE BAD - -
1. Well, not that big a deal, but some of the meal breaks (particularly Monday's lunch break) were rather on the short side requiring me to wolf down my food or face missing part of a film - indigestion, anyone?!
- THE UGLY - -
1. This is not related to Cinecon itself and I believe this is the same "Ugly" I had last year - but that walk down Hollywood Blvd to the theatre is pretty nasty, what with the pack of tourists (many stopping suddenly to take photos of the Hollywood Walk of Fame stars) and, in the evening particularly, the "youth gone wild" - - and worst of all, those guys pushing you to take a Hollywood Tour ("Wanna take a tour?) every few feet - um, ugh!! Seems to get worse every year.