Cinecon 48 Wrap-Up Review for the Film Festival

Featuring my reviews for films screened at the Cinecon 48 Classic Film Festival held in Hollywood, California which was held from August 30th to September 3rd, 2012. Screenings were at the Egyptian Theatre, on Hollywood Blvd. The Cinecon Film Festival is held every year over Labor Day weekend and is always lots of fun! Many interesting, rare silent and 1930s/1940s films are shown, plus a selection of shorts. There are also celebrity guests.

August 30, 2012 - Cinecon begins today! Looking forward to what looks like a really great schedule of films this year. My reviews will be posting here next week.

September 4, 2012 - Cinecon is over now, I'm resting up after an enjoyable weekend of films. I saw all but two of the films screened and am currently working on writing up reviews. I will just note now that my favorite films at Cinecon 48 were several of the silent films, especially "The Bedroom Window" (1924), "Sensation Seekers" (1927), "Ladies' Night in a Turkish Bath" (1928), and one of my most favorite Harold Lloyd films, "Hot Water" (1924), which I've seen many times before, but this was my first viewing of this on a big screen with an audience. I've always considered this his funniest film - the audience seemed to love it. I also really enjoyed "The Goose Woman" (1925), which I've seen before (gimme more Jack Pickford!). A few of the talkies I enjoyed the most were the pre-code "She Wanted a Millionaire" (1932), and I was actually taken by surprise by the 1966 film "Walk, Don't Run" - it looked seriously fantastic on the big widescreen, I loved it! Lots of goodies - reviews coming.

September 10, 2012 - Finishing up the rest of the reviews, have posted most of what I've done so far (hopefully will get the rest done in a few days). See below for reviews.

For more information about the festival visit :
Cinecon Classic Film Festival - upcoming Cinecon 49 (August 29 to September 2, 2013)

my Cinecon 49 Page, write-up

Please note the films reviewed below contain plot summaries and may contain SPOILERS.

Movie Screenings Thursday August 30, 2012

  • Always a Bridesmaid (1943) - - PLOT SUMMARY - B-musical comedy starring The Andrews Sisters. The trio work for a Lonely Hearts club radio show, singing on-air and working the registration desk signing up new members. Tony Warren (Patric Knowles), who works for the District Attorney, is sent undercover to try to find out who has been swindling Lonely Hearts club members out of their money. Posing as a lonely bachelor who wants to meet a woman (and dressing himself like a hick, with ill-fitting suit to explain why a handsome guy like him can't get a date), he signs up and meets a pretty blonde, Linda, at the same time. A club social dance is held which the two attend, while at the same time Tony is busy trying to find the con man. Meanwhile, a pack of hep teenage jitterbuggers invade the dance and take over (seems the club made a booking error). And, by the way, is Linda really just a lonely single lady in need of matchmaking services or is she hiding something? (and she's a great swing dancer too!)
    REVIEW - The con man ends up caught, but the heart of this film is, really, all about the music. The film features a number of great vocal performances by The Andrews Sisters (love!). There's also plenty of super fun to watch jitterbugging by those swing kids, The Jivin' Jacks and Jills - I love them. Add to the mix here a very funny Billy Gilbert, in fine comical form here, with comic patter and one-liners that had me laughing out loud a number of times. They've screened several other Andrews Sisters films at previous Cinecon's - I liked this one the best, quite funny and fun. Rating - * 8/10 stars *

  • The Drums of Jeopardy (1923) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent melodrama. In which *everyone* seems to be after the "Drums of Jeopardy", two little drums hooked together, with a priceless emerald earring tucked in each one. It's rumored when you listen to the drums at your ear you will hear native drums beating a warning of a "tragic death". A young man named Jerome Hawksley (Jack Mulhall) is sent to America by a Grand Duke (who thinks of Hawksley like a "son") to retrieve the drums. Hawksley meets a pretty young lady, Dorothy (Elaine Hammerstein), when he's in need of help escaping from some bad men chasing him off the ship from overseas. By coincidence, she ends up being the daughter of the man who is holding the "drums" for safekeeping. The father ends up murdered, Hawksley kidnapped and now under suspicion for the murder since he has disappeared from the picture. Then there's that menacing Russian baddie Karlov (Wallace Beery) who's all over the place to get the drums. Just a bit confusing, but now we get into the big scene at "Cafe Russia", where Dorothy has been put up to a scheme wearing fake emerald earrings, exact duplicates of the pair in the drums, to try to draw out the baddies. It works, as an evil "spider woman" eyes those sparklers right away, tells her companion they are from the drums, then tries to snatch them from Dorothy's head!
    REVIEW - I found this film a bit of a muddled mess, the story hard to follow. The scene in the cafe in "Little Russia", however, is quite fun to see - especially on the drawing power of the lavish gowns and wild headdresses worn by the two women. The character of Dorothy appears in a wow of a slinky, bias-cut art deco gown, with deeply plunging neckline and large checkered pattern on the fabric. The evil vamp character's headdress is particularly spectacular - love it! Wallace Beery is wildly villainous, with leering eyes and a snarl on his face. When we see a close-up of the drums, the shot changes into that of real-life natives visualized on camera beating tiny drums - interesting, that. Rating - * 6.5 to 7/10 stars *

Movie Screenings Friday August 31, 2012

  • Just Around the Corner (1933) - GE promotional short featuring some famous faces of the day. Dick Powell wants to be promoted to office manager, a position that's just opened up. His boss (Warren William) hears that Powell owns a "trout farm" behind his house, so asks for a weekend invite. While the men are out fishing, Powell's wife (Bette Davis) shows off her kitchen to the boss's wife (Ruth Donnelly) - super efficient 'cause it's filled with new appliances from "General Electric" (and if anyone has any doubts on the manufacturer, they show a big old close-up of the "General Electric" tag on the dishwasher). Bette gives a full-on demonstration of the working process of the dishwasher while the other woman stands by in amazement - Bette also keeps indicating how easy it is to run a house because her appliances do all the work for her. When the men arrive home, a restaurant is suggested for dinner - no need though, as Bette has pre-made the dinner the night before. Now all she has to do is set a timer for start and stop time, and the food will be cooked to perfection. And by the way, that roast is SO juicy 'cause it's cooked with electricity - wow! Meanwhile, the boss wonders how Powell can afford all this on his low salary - Powell assures him it was easy using the great GE payment plans with low monthly installments (hehe - yes, they had to get that in there too!). He already owns his GE refrigerator. And by the way, if you're wondering - the boss finds Powell to be such an "intelligent manager" of his home he thinks he will be the perfect new "office manager", with raise to boot! Interesting short - loved seeing several of my favorite stars here, especially Bette Davis and Warren William (I'm a super fan of both) - also another of my favorite's from the time, Joan Blondell, appears very briefly as a golddigger-type girlfriend of a rival up for the office manager job. I get kind of a kick out of these early appliance promotions - fun to see those cool retro kitchen tools! (She's got her little glass coffee percolator going there too.) Rating - * 9/10 stars *

  • Dangerous to Know (1938) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Crime drama starring Anna May Wong who plays "hostess" to notorious racketeer Stephen Recka (Akim Tamiroff), a man with power over who gets to be mayor but a strong desire to be respected and accepted by high society. He plays the organ and loves classical music - but society won't accept him 'cause he's, well you know, a dirty rotten gangster. At his birthday party, a wealthy society couple show up and are taken by surprise when their socialite daughter, Margaret (Gail Patrick), turns up uninvited - all 'cause she's got a notion to see the famous Recka in person. He becomes quite interested in her and in the following days begins to fall in love, but she basically tells him "never". Turns out she has a boyfriend, a bond salesman with little money. Recka comes up with a scheme to bring the boyfriend down and get the woman for himself. He arranges for the man to become a success, then has two bad men pull off a scam by pretending a desire to make a large purchase of bonds only to steal the bonds and take the boyfriend captive - and now he's suspected of stealing the money and taking it on the lam! Margaret makes a bargain with Recka, who agrees to "save" the boyfriend from arrest in exchange for marriage. Margaret agrees to marry Recka but warns him she will do her duty, but basically make his life hell (meanwhile, ruthless Recka wants no competition from boyfriend and plans to have him killed). And in the suspenseful final scene, Anna May Wong's character has discovered what Recka has been up to and decides to "take care" of the situation permanently - and in an unexpected way.
    REVIEW - Interesting film with a lot of expressive facial close-ups, the drama increased with a film noir-like style. The stylish Anna May Wong steals the show - she's absolutely mesmerizing every time her face fills the screen, her presence dominates every scene she's in. Akim Tamiroff gives a memorable perforance here as well - the imagery from this film has stayed strong in my memory as I write this a week after seeing the screening. The final scene in this film is a wow, I did have the feeling that Anna May Wong was serving Recka a poisoned high ball, though that ended up not being the case. The relationship between the two characters is not stated but it is certainly implied that, though working for him in a manner similar to house servant, she is actually his mistress and in love with him. Watch for a young Anthony Quinn as Recka's henchman, put on the job to do lots of his dirty work. Rating - * 8.5 to 9/10 stars *

  • Dollars and Sense (1920) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent melodrama starring Madge Kennedy as Hazel, a chorus girl working in a show about to close. A wealthy man named Stanhope admires the cute "red-head" and wants to ask her out - but his friend advises "she's dead" (that is, she won't be any "fun"). Well, as it happens, Hazel's gal pal has arranged for them to double date with Stanhope and another man that evening (and Hazel's not happy, as she says "I hate men, I hate them"). Some pal! - The friend and her beau leave in a cab, and Hazel is stuck in a separate cab with Stanhope. Though rich, he's not exactly appealing and she shows him she's just not interested (he leaves her his card anyway). Cut to a week after the show closes and Hazel can't pay the rent for her apartment (she even briefly imagines her life with Stanhope, pampered by two maids - but quickly lets that thought go). Out on the streets looking for work, she's down to her last two cents. She uses a hungry stray dog to beg for stale bread at a nearby bakery (2 rolls for a penny). David (Kenneth Harlan), the good-looking young man who owns the bakery, is interested in "good books and good works" and he hates "evil and poverty". He often gives free handouts of bread and money at his bakery and, not fooled by the doggie, is onto her poorness immediately. He slips coins into her rolls, but she's actually offended by the good deed and returns to confront him. Seeing how he's into giving stuff out for free, she asks for a job as bakery manager - with the notion she can get more profit out of the business. For some reason, he goes for the idea. Soon the bakery is succeeding, but he's still giving out the handouts - they start a "bread line" to help the struggling nearby "wage earners", half of them stricken with a flu that's going 'round. David ends up sick himself, and the hospital bill is so large he may lose his business. Of course, David and Hazel have fallen in love by this time. Hazel thinks of David as "more of an angel than a man" and will do *anything* to help him, including sacrificing herself to Stanhope. Stanhope comes through, and Hazel is told to be at his place with her suitcase. But he's not a bad sort, as it happens, and isn't expecting what we think from her. A happy ending for David and Hazel is in the works!
    REVIEW - I quite enjoyed this film, an entertaining watch. Madge Kennedy is a very cute and appealing actress with an expressive face and I have enjoyed Kenneth Harlan's appearances in other silent films, this one was no exception - and he's handsome, which never hurts. Rating - * 8.5 to 9/10 stars *

  • Groovie Movie (1944) - Pete Smith Specialty short film. Basically "learn how to jitterbug" in a few easy lessons. The short gives instructions on how to dance the jitterbug, with comparisons made to different classical dance moves, like the Waltz. After the lesson (all done in fun) we get a dance extravaganza of jitterbugging which is an absolute wow! Really fun to watch - I always get a kick out of watching some great jitterbug dancing (probably loved it ever since my childhood and beyond love affair with the "I Love Lucy" series, I dig that episode with the jitterbugger "King Cat" Walsh - - by the way, he's in "Groovie Movie", and I didn't even realize it!). Dancer Jean Veloz appeared in person for this screening. Rating - * 9/10 stars *

  • You're Next (1919) - Silent comedy short film featuring comic Marcel Perez who gets involved with a cute young lady, getting her into the movies when he says he's her "agent". She gets hired as an actress but insists he be hired on as well. Asked to demonstrate his acting skills we get an amusing romp into silent acting techniques as Marcel auditions "the villian" and "the comic", this with violent slapstick stunt work as he is run over by a car and jumps off a high building without so much as a scratch! After all that, he's only hired as "property manager" and ends up wreaking havoc on the various movies being filmed around the studio. When asked to bring a reel of film to the studio dark room for processing, he wants to bring "more light" into the situation and ruins a bunch of film. Opening part of this short features him in a jail where there's also a pack of criminal types (mostly female, as I'm recalling) with kooky names which I can't remember - but as an example (these aren't the names) something like "Edna the Eel" or "Sadistic Sadie the Worm", funny that. Found this short to be pretty amusing, I'd be interested in seeing more films by this early comedian. Enjoyed the on-location scenes in this, and behind-the-scenes glimpse at a working movie studio. This one was fun. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *

  • Wild Bill Hickok (1923) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent western starring William S. Hart as "Wild Bill Hickok", who lives in Dodge City with his beloved horse "Paint" and assortment of famous historic Wild West figures including Calamity Jane, Bat Masterson, and, well, I'm remembering a Doc Holliday here too. Bill's not workin' the guns anymore, and deals cards at the town "saloon and dance hall". New arrivals in town are Elaine and Clayton Hamilton - she a pretty young blonde, he a sickly weakling - Bill sees them as a brother/sister pair. Calamity Jane loves Bill but she's not jealous of Elaine 'cause she knows Bill is a "woman-hater" - well, not exactly, as he's immediately bit by the love bug and is smitten with the attractive young woman. Ends up that Hamilton is her husband not her brother and Bill is devastated. Aww, poor guy is overcome with emotion one day in her rooms, grabs her and kisses her declaring something like "I love you, I love you, my soul aches for you". The poor man is also going blind. A gang of bad men have started raising trouble in the town. Bill declares "If a town is not fit for a good girl to live in, it needs to be cleaned up!". He gets himself appointed deputy and sets out against that gang of outlaws with fast-paced gun action, two guns blazing! Yay, he's a hero - and Wild Bill and Paint ride off into the sunset!
    REVIEW - This film is pretty good - especially for us William S. Hart fans. Man, do I love that guy - he's so great at playing that tough cowboy who's girl shy and tender with the ladies. And even though he says in the opening credits of this film that he will not try to duplicate the handsome looks of the real-life Wild Bill Hickok - I think Hart is mighty handsome himself! Loved the scene at the end where his guns are going a mile a minute, one in each hand! Rating - * 8/10 stars *

  • Gentle Julia (1936) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Light period drama, set at the turn-of-the-century. The film takes place in the rather idyllic small town of Atwater, where beautiful Julia Atwater (Marsha Hunt) always seems to be surrounded Scarlett O'Hara style with admiring wannabee beaus. But the real focus of this film, though the title says otherwise, is on Julia's little niece - the spunky, rather rambunctious Florence (Jane Withers). On a Sunday at church, where Florence sings in the choir (and her annoying cousin and his pal tack up the back of her skirt), new man in town, Mr. Crum, is introduced to the congregation. Interested in Julia, like all the rest, he gets the one up on the rest to walk her home. He tells her he's from a well-to-do family in Newport. He's actually broke and owing - his plan, to marry the richest girl in town and that's Julia! Lucky for him our Julia has proclaimed her desire to marry rich and get out of this small town to see the world. Young Noble Dill (Tom Brown) is in love with Julia, he's rather an awkward, goof of a fellow - but well intended. His main sidekick seems to be little Florence, who advises him on ways to win Julia's heart. Trying such methods as giving her a dog and stealing an umbrella to give to her grandpa who's caught in a big rainstorm, it's not really working (and grandpa ends up in a fight in the rain-soaked streets with the man who owned the umbrella!). Okay, Florence's cousin (Jackie Searl) is a bit psycho, he keeps a shed full of bugs in jars (for study) and even some live baby alligators - what a little nutter. Julia hosts a big party and to get her away from Crum (hmm, I think that was the motive), Florence and Dill decide to get the bugs and gators and let them loose on the party guests out on the dance floor. All hell breaks loose as the guests go madly scrambling and screaming in panic! With some help from Florence who just doesn't like Crum (he called her "funny face" on first meeting), the truth that he's a phony comes out and all's well that ends well.
    REVIEW - Gentle and enjoyable movie, especially for fans of Jane Withers - the film's really all her. I am a fan, so did find this entertaining. She really brings a whole lot of life and energy into the character of Florence (she of the little sailor dress), who never comes across as annoying even though her antics are often rather pushy aggressive. That kid just sparkles! At the Cinecon 48 screening, two stars from this film were in the audience, Jane Withers and Marsha Hunt (wow, looking good at age 94). Unfortunately, they were not invited up for an interview/Q&A at the end. Rating - * 7.5 to 8/10 stars *

  • Sensation Seekers (1927) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent melodrama, directed by Lois Weber. Set in the town of "Huntington Bay", the film stars Billie Dove as the gorgeous "Egypt" Hagen, dubbed her name by her social set 'cause she's so "pagan". Yeah, she's a wild one - she's also the richest girl in town. She meets a hunk on the beach who she thinks is the "life guard", turns out he's the new town pastor (Raymond Bloomer) and firm believer in building the body as well as soul (yes, he's hot) - the fact he's a pastor doesn't stop her from flirting. He's a good man, so he's just not that interested in a girl like her - yet. Egypt and her set, a wild bunch, all head for the "Black and Tan Cafe" one evening, a speakeasy featuring black shadow dancers. The place is raided by the cops and Egypt arrested - her boyfriend of the week advises her to not give her real name, but as she says "I don't lie" and she ends up the next day's front page headline in the town newspaper. Her ever-suffering mother, with visions of one day seeing her "party girl" daughter in their church pew, is caused a whole lot of grief when she hears of the "booze raid" and arrest. Our good fellow preacher drives Egypt home from jail, she ends up dousing him with her perfume (spraying herself to get rid of "the stink", as she calls it, she picked up at the Black and Tan). A young lady in town smells the perfume on him next day and is suspicious. Okay, we head into the night of the fancy dress ball, held across the street from the pastor's home. Egypt shows up at his place in her sexy costume, and - well - he definitely looks interested. Her friends at the ball find out where she is, and are amused 'cause they think she's trying to seduce the pastor. He tries to coach Egypt to become a good girl and give up her wild ways - but her antics have brought suspicions on the man, and he's now at risk of losing his ministry! Okay, they finally declare their love and he tells her "we are in love, we will marry". But she can't bring herself to become a "minister's wife". Running off with the other boyfriend on his yacht, she plans to marry him. But this just isn't going to happen, what with him pawing all over her ("are you afraid of your future husband?" says he), followed by a storm at sea, with the waves crashing the boat knocking them about, the poor girl praying for her life. Luckily, that real good-looking minister is currently in a boat heading for her rescue!
    REVIEW - This was a good one, a silent film that has it all - interesting storyline with bad girl set against good man, the conflicted attraction/romance, gorgeous leading lady in interesting attire, well done photography including exciting climax at sea, and a very handsome leading man (I was in love with him myself the minute he first appeared on screen, all swim-suited up on the beach!). Egypt's dad likes to "play around" at the speakeasies too - he's there the same night as her "Don't you ever stay home?" he asks, "Do you?!" she answers. Hehe. This is one I would like to see again. Rating - * 9/10 stars *

  • Billy and His Pal (1911) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Early western which was using the title "Bobby and His Pal" here (film discovered in New Zealand film archive a few years ago, retitled for the Kiwis for some reason). In which a youth named "Bobby" is devoted to his best pal Jim (Francis Ford), a handsome cowboy in massive sheepskin chaps. Jim's girl, Helen, isn't quite "ready to consent" to marry him yet (though she's obviously mighty interested). A desperado - a sort of bandito version of a masher - bothers Helen, and Jim comes to her aid. Now Jim's got an enemy in the form of this desperado, who plots with his gang of bad men against him. They rope and kidnap him, but luckily pal Bobby has overheard the plot and gathers a group of cowboys to help rescue his friend. Jim is bound up with rope and left at the bottom of a steep ravine. Cut back and forth between the friendly cowboys on horseback to the rescue (and young Bobby on burro trailing behind) and the bad men digging up this big boulder they plan to throw on top of Jim. Will Jim's friends arrive in the nick of time to save his life?!
    REVIEW - Early western that benefits from it's on-location photography. The character of Billy/Bobby is a bit of an oddity - he appears to be almost jealous of Helen and the attentions she gets from Jim (and the Bobby character is introduced as a "devoted admirer" of Jim, which could actually imply an attraction). Bobby appeared to me as I was viewing this film to perhaps be a female in drag, which I thought would be revealed in the end. But no - the film ends, no reveal of cross-dressing. And it turns out the character IS actually played by a woman, actress Edith Storey. Okey dokey. I found actor Francis Ford to be a rather good-looking bloke in this, with his longish floppy hair and tall, slim look - that I like! An interesting film. Rating - * 8/10 stars *

  • Diamond Jim (1935) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Period drama set in the 1800s and based on the real-life character of Diamond Jim Brady (Edward Arnold). Jim sets out to get himself a job as a railroad supplies salesman, so - to look like he's already a success - rents a fancy suit of clothes and diamond stick pin for his cravat, then bluffs his way into being hired. Jim ends up a millionaire with a love for diamonds, and he's fallen in love with a Southern belle (Jean Arthur) who, on first appearance on screen, gives him the brush as she informs him she's marrying another. He discovers a singer who he helps make a stage success under the name "Lillian Russell" (Binnie Barnes). Oddly, Jim ends up meeting Jane, an exact lookalike (Jean Arthur) to the belle he loved. Though he's proclaimed he's the type who can "only love once in a life", he falls for her 'cause she looks like his one love. They become a couple, but they seem to like to double date with Lillian Russell and her good-looking beau (Cesar Romero), who Jane begins a love affair with. Meanwhile, Jim enjoys living an extravagant lifestyle, feasting on huge quantities of rich foods and indulging in lavish spending, such as real diamond party favors for all his dinner guests. Jim loses his fortune in a stock market crash, but builds it back again when he invents a "steel rail-car" - and in the film climax, he has set up a train crash (with him strapped inside!) to test the car out.
    REVIEW - Bio-pics don't usually send me, but this film is quite well done and I found it entertaining enough. Edward Arnold's great performance here really makes this film - I love Jean Arthur, her role is sort of bland though. The double date on a bicycle-built-for-four caught my eye - cute scene. And check out photos of the real-life Diamond Jim Brady - I think Edward Arnold looked lots like him in this. Rating - * 8/10 stars *

  • Blonde or Brunette (1927) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent romantic comedy/bedroom farce. Adolphe Menjou plays Henri Martel, just arrived home in Paris and looking forward to having his house to himself for once. But the gang of party-crazed friends that attended his last party enjoyed it so much they never left! One girl, the Brunette, spends her time trying to find a woman for him - by looking in the mirror. But, thinking his home has basically become a "Montmartre nightclub", he's also unhappy with all the "bob-haired, cocktail guzzling, Charleston dancing" women of Paris. So he decides to bid goodbye and head for the country to find a decent girl. Mistaking a carriage for public transportation, it's actually a private carriage owned by a kind old lady who's amused and offers to "share the ride" with him. She ends up inviting him to stay at her place rather than a hotel - while there he meets the Blonde, her lovely-to-look-at granddaughter Fanny (Greta Nissen). When he finds out she's sweet and innocent and doesn't drink or dance the latest craze, he marries her and brings her home to Paris! But he's immediately sent out of town for a month on business and when he returns he gets the shock of his life - his wife, under the influence of his wild circle of friends, has been turned hook, line, and sinker into the biggest flapper in town. Crazy, frizzed out blonde bob, champagne cocktail at her mouth, her feet dancing the Charleston a mile a minute! Not happy, not one bit happy - he soon divorces her and marries the lovelorn Brunette. But grandma would be heartbroken if she knew the loving couple were divorced, so granddaughter lets her know gradually, in a series of letters indicating there are problems (like fights, or that he beats her). Now we get into the bedroom farce part of the story where on a visit to grandma's house, Henri, the Blonde and the Brunette are all there, and forced to dart between beds and bedrooms to keep the old lady from knowing that Henri is sleeping with the Brunette (his wife) and not her granddaughter. Well, turn's out granny is more on the ball than anyone thought - and there's still some sparks between Fanny and he (not to mention, she tucks his photograph into bed next to her).
    REVIEW - A real fun romp that I found quite entertaining, particularly the reveal when Fanny has gone flapper. The role of the Parisian playboy who's become bored with his social set suits Menjou to a tea. Rating - * 8.5 to 9/10 stars *

Movie Screenings Saturday September 1, 2012

  • Backstage on Broadway (1930) - Pre-code short with a focus on chorus girls, as we see them trying out and rehearsing for Broadway and Ziegfield shows. Includes a segment on "what chorus girls do on their time off" - which shows a bunch of girls frolicking at the beach as they play with a large hose and roll about in the water and sand (yeah, a bit weird - the film makes these girls look sort of like a bunch of silly bubbleheads at this point). Rating - * 8/10 stars *

  • Hot Water (1924) - Harold Lloyd - love! Rating - * 10/10 stars *

  • Way Out West (1937) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Laurel and Hardy feature-length comedy. The boys arrive in the Wild West town of Brushwood Gulch, on task to give a young lady named Mary Roberts the deed to her recently deceased father's gold mine - worth a fortune! Arriving in town, after offending the sheriff's wife on the stagecoach with their "flirting", the sheriff orders the boys to leave town on the next stage - or else in a hearse. They head for the saloon to locate Mary, though they have never seen her before - - the saloon owner Mickey Finn (Jimmy Finlayson), finds out about the gold mine and plots to steal it, recruiting his wife Lola, saloon singer, to pretend she's Mary. To trick the boys, she removes those saloon gal feathers and dresses up like a "good girl", bouquet of white lilies and all. The deed turned over to the wrong woman, Stan and Ollie end up meeting up with the real Mary (Rosina Lawrence), penniless chore girl working in the saloon. Chased out of town (in a literal giant cloud of dust) by the sheriff and Finn, they sneak back into town that night to find the deed and give it to the real Mary. Broad slapstick comedy ensues - including efforts to get into the house with one end of a rope tied around Ollie, the other around a mule to be used as a pulley. After Stan gets the deed from the safe, Lola makes efforts to get it back by some heavy tickling.
    REVIEW - I am a big Laurel and Hardy fan, so this is a film I've seen a number of times before. Nice print, it looked real good on the big screen - I actually haven't seen this one in awhile (in recent times I've been trying to watch more in the way of films I've never seen before). Funny film, and I enjoy the couple of music spots featured in this - when the boys first arrive in town they encounter of group of singing cowboys called The Avalon Boys, singing on the saloon porch. Stan and Ollie are in fine form as they playfully indulge in a delightful spontaneous soft shoe dance along with the music! At one point they sing in harmony "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" in which Stan does a gag singing with a very deep voice (Ollie in good voice here, by the way). I like! Rating - * 9/10 stars *

  • The Covered Schooner (1923) - Monty Banks comedy short. Monty is a florist trying to close up shop to see his girl, gag involves one customer after the next sneaking under the closing pull-down door forcing him to make one more sale. When he finally makes it outside, he's clobbered by the door and ends up passed out on the sidewalk with flowers in one hand, his hat in the other in a way that makes him look like a blind beggar! Monty loves a girl but has a love rival (pushed on her by daddy) in the form of an aging sea Captain. The Captain tricks Monty by leaving a "Dear John" type letter tacked to the girl's front door which Monty believes is from her. He decides to commit suicide and heads for the shore, where he ties a boulder around his waist to end it all. But a flirtatious young gal walks by, he changes his mind, but ends up in the water anyway. He gets rescued by a fisherman (and a gag has him in this tiny tank with the other fish). He ends up (for some reason that I just can't seem to recall) working on a ship, put in charge of feeding this weird gorilla. He ends up friends with said monkey, and when he's locked in the brig (for some reason that I just can't seem to recall), his gorilla pal helps him escape. He makes it home to his girl just in the nick of time to prevent her from marrying the wrong man! I remember this short more for that gorilla creature than anything else - man in very poor gorilla costume, that is. Eh, kind of funny at that. Yet another of those films where a girl is about to marry the man she doesn't love when she thinks she can't get the one she does love. I do quite like Monty Banks. I noted this one had a really good print. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *

  • Walk, Don't Run (1966) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Romantic comedy set in Tokyo during the 1964 Olympics. Cary Grant plays Sir William Rutland, arriving in Tokyo at the time of a housing shortage brought on by the Olympic games, he ends up renting a room from a young lady, Christine (Samantha Eggar), in her tiny Japanese-style apartment. The girl's a bit neurotic and sets up a rigid timetable for their shared "morning routine", with a few minutes here, a few minutes there set out for showering, shaving, eating breakfast, and the like. Sir William meets a young Olympian/amateur architect, Steve (Jim Hutton), also struggling to find a hotel room. He brings him back to the flat and agrees to share his shared room, splitting the cost 50-50. When Christine discovers the new guy, she's not happy. But she's already spent the rent money she received from Sir William on a new blue kimono, so the men get to stay. William decides to become matchmaker for Christine and Steve, though she already has a "fiance", a sort of Brit twit who works at the British Embassy. She's ready to boot these two out again after she overhears them discussing her virtue, debating on whether she's a "nice or NICE girl" (oopsy there, fellows). A sort of running gag in the film is the fact that Steve won't reveal what sport he competes in - the secret finally comes out on the day of his competition that he's a race walker. Climax of the film taking place on the streets of Toyko, as Steve competes in his Olympics race and Sir William joins the race (in his boxers and undershirt) to try to get Steve to marry Chris (marriage of convenience, to be annulled the next day) and save her fiance's reputation ('cause it's come out his fiancee has a male roommate, I think). Well, Chris and Steve kinda dig each other, so a happy ending for all 'cept the Embassy twit (he is rather a windbag) could just be in store!
    REVIEW - This film is a remake of the forties classic "The More the Merrier" (which I love, by the way), it is also Cary Grant's last film. I am so used to seeing Cary matched with his young female co-star in films (no matter how old he gets), it's rather unusual to see him married and happily playing matchmaker to his younger friend. This film really benefits from all the on-location photography done in Tokyo - - there is a really interesting one-take tracking shot of the two men after they first meet, walking down a crowded and colorful Tokyo street. The Cinecon screening of this, on the huge widescreen with gorgeous looking color print, was a visual treat - I was happy and excited when this film first popped onto the screen and I saw how good it looked! Not to mention, that groovy theme song Happy Feet by Quincy Jones that runs through the film - I love it. Actress Samantha Eggar appeared in person and did an interview/Q&A after the movie. I found her to be a very interesting guest and she looks great too. One thing she mentioned is the Olympics Race Walk scene was completely ad-libbed on the real Toyko streets, with hidden cameras and real-life crowds taken by surprise. Rating - * 9/10 stars *

  • Hips, Hips, Hooray! (1934) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Comedy musical starring the wacky comedy team of Wheeler and Woolsey. In which scantily-clad beauties sell beauty products via Busby Berkeley style musical productions. One salesgirl (Dorothy Lee) is about to lose her job if she can't sell more lipstick, so she recruits her boyfriend, Wheeler, to help. He and his partner Woolsey sell "flavored lipsticks" in a Medicine-Show style wagon on the street. He agrees to help sell her unsold products (then - to escape arrest by the cops - ends up giving all the goods away for free). But the girl and her best gal pal (Thelma Todd), think they're onto something good here, impressed with the flavored lipsticks. In the film climax, Wheeler and Woolsey are in a car race between rival beauty companies, where they end up inside a cyclone, crashing down into the Rockies where they borrow some skis which they attach to their car, skiing their way down and back into the race for the win!
    REVIEW - This pre-code romp is WAY out there silly fun. Most of the plotline has escaped my memory, but there are a few comic gags that stand out, and a couple of entertaining musical numbers - in particular, a cute number sung by Wheeler and Dorothy Lee as they sit on a high balcony ledge singing Just Keep On Doin' What You're Doin'. Good song, and it's still running through my head a week later! A gag where Wheeler gets caught ironing his pants and has to hold them in front of himself to look like he's wearing them was funny. I have only seen maybe one or two other Wheeler and Woolsey films and don't recall being that impressed, but I actually found this one to have lots to entertain me. This movie is about as silly as you can get, but the lead duo Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey seem like good guys and the film is full of slapstick antics and risque comic patter, and gosh, some of those women didn't have much on here at all. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *

  • Upstream (1927) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent drama set in a theatrical boarding house, where lives an assortment of, mostly out-of-work, actors and vaudeville performers including an aging, once successful now down on his luck, Shakespearean actor and the soft shoe duo of Callahan and Callahan. A love triangle has formed between an actor who thrives via his famous theatrical family name of Brasingham (Earle Fox), an arrogant knife thrower (Grant Withers), and a pretty actress named Gertie (Nancy Nash). One day a theatrical producer arrives, offering a job starring in Hamlet on the London stage to Brasingham, desired for his famous name only. He eagerly takes the job and then gazes into a mirror as he imagines himself the great stage actor, his face transforming into pompousness. Unfortunately, he actually happens to be a seriously BAD actor - luckily his fellow boarder, the old Shakespeare actor, is a master of Hamlet and decides to coach young Brasingham who hopefully will be able to bring a great performance with him as he sails for London. Gertie expects to be asked to accompany him, but is left disappointed when he has "something he wants to ask her" (she thinking: marriage) and it ends up he asks to borrow 50 bucks (she: "is that all?"). Brashingham in London, nervous in his dressing room before his opening night performance (visualizing his mentor gives him confidence), ends up a huge success as he receives the nod from the "Royal Box", sealing his future fame as an actor. But the fame goes right to his swelling head as he becomes a conceited ass of a ham actor! Ignoring his old friends, months go by without writing to Gertie who ends up giving up on him and marrying the love rival just as Brasingham is in town and comes to call at the old boarding house (as I recall, only for press publicity). He offers no thanks to his mentor, the man who tutored him into that great Hamlet performance which made him famous, and the old man has a few strong, disapproving words for him. But Brasingham just doesn't care, and goes on his merry way - oh well. And the boarding house season closes for another year.
    REVIEW - Directed by John Ford, I found this backstage drama to be quite a good film. Love some of the expressions Earle Fox gets as he portrays the oh so full of himself actor - as he says "People don't come to the theater to see a performance of Hamlet, they come to see ME", yes indeed, he's a conceited fellow. I believe this film was partly tinted. I am glad it was screened at Cinecon this year as I was unable to attend the screening they had last year at the Academy's Bev Hills theater. A question - why do girls in movies always marry the "other man" ( the one they don't appear that interested in) when it doesn't seem like it will work out with the one they love? Can't they wait until another "right man" comes along. I've seen this happen in hundreds and hundreds of films from the silent era to now. Rating - * 8.5 to 9/10 stars *

  • The Spider (1945) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Film Noir in which a mysterious young lady (Faye Marlowe) meets up with a private detective (Richard Conte) at a night spot, asking to pay him to retrieve an envelope for her. The woman he is getting the envelope from (in exchange for a jeweled brooch) ends up murdered - he is blamed! Finding the first girl performing in a theater mind-reading act (with secret signals used to fool the gullible audience), he gets the scoop that the envelope she was after was supposed to contain proof that her sister, who had disappeared a while back, was murdered. He sets out to not only clear his name, but help solve the mystery of the missing sister (weirdly, a lookalike to her sis, which has no basis in the plot!). Of course, a kiss is in the future for the detective and the girl.
    REVIEW - Nice little crime drama with an interesting mystery, with clues to be solved and a smart dick on the job. There's even a bit of humor - like a scene where the detective and his black servant are getting rid of the body of the murdered woman by putting her in the back seat of the car wrapped in a blanket (and the servant forced to sit next to her, terrified!). Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *

Movie Screenings Sunday September 2, 2012

  • The Bedroom Window (1924) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent murder mystery caper. When Park Avenue man Robert Delano (Ricardo Cortez) is sent a letter from his girlfriend Ruth's (May McAvoy) father telling him to never come to the house again, he goes to visit the man to find out why. When he arrives, he finds the father murdered in his bedroom, a gun on the floor near the window. Delano is immediately under suspicion for murder. A love triangle seems to be in the midst of all this, as the father's private secretary (Malcolm McGregor) appears to be in love with Ruth. Cut to Ruth's "Aunt Matilda" (Ethel Wales), a successful mystery writer who writes under the pen name "Rufus Rome" -- her recent novel, "The Stain on the Carpet" now in it's sixth edition. Her publisher is pushing for another book, but she admits to her maid "I don't have a plot in my head". The maid suggests she read the papers to find her story. That's when Aunt Matilda reads the headlines, her brother-in-law has been murdered! She heads right on over to stay with Ruth and offer support, there she decides to put her skills to the test and try to solve a real-life murder mystery! Soon Aunt M. is piecing together the clues, onto the idea that perhaps the gunshot came from the window across the way - but how to prove it?! She goes so far as to crawl across on a ladder stretched out between the two windows, entering a strange apartment to snoop around. The owner, of course, arrives by surprise (reminding me of a scene in "Rear Window") but turns out he's a fan (and he's been out of town). So - who is the murderer? A couple of other characters play into all this - like the lawyer who is executor of the estate, and that mysterious woman with the European accent who arrives with a $5,000 check from the dead man she wants cashed.
    REVIEW - This is a really good film, most of the fun revolving around the super sleuthing of Aunt Matilda, a colorful, quirky, quite likable character you want to root for. Um, why did I keep getting the feeling though, that she was a man in drag?! The love triangle part of this takes a serious back seat to the solving of the mystery, but that's okay. Really liked this one. Rating - * 9.5/10 stars *

  • So You Want to Know About Joe McDoakes? - Two Joe McDoakes comedy short films were screened, starring George O'Hanlon as Joe and Phyllis Coates as his wife Alice. The first So You Want to Be Pretty (1956), about a married couple with very ugly faces (made to look that way simply by the use of big and hideous crooked false teeth). They can't even kiss 'cause of the teeth! The wife goes away on a two week trip - hubby thinks she's visiting her mother but she's actually getting herself plastic surgery to fix up her face. Weirdly enough, he has secretly gone to the same doctor to have his face fixed. The doctor comes to "unwrap" the bandages (singing "unwrapping we will go, unwrapping we will go!") - her face is revealed and she's beautiful! Hubby gets unwrapped and he looks fab as well. Doc sure knows his stuff (and such quick healing!). The two of them both end up in a bar to celebrate, and - failing to recognize each other - begin to flirt. Both using fake names, Roger and Cynthia, they start dating - - excited about being able to kiss now, they spend most of the dates lip-locked. Two week vacation is over, both are headed home to ask for divorces. Then they get a big surprise when their new found love is actually their spouse! Both are mad 'cause the other was having a secret affair - heh, silly. There's a lot of nonsensical stuff to accept here, like the absurd comical buck teeth, the fast-paced perfect surgery, the fact these two don't recognize each other (not even each other's voice) - but it's all in the name of comedy, so that's okay. Rating - * 8/10 stars *
    The second short screened was So You Want to Play Piano (1956), in which the wife prefers to spend her evenings next door listening to her neighbor man play classical pieces on the piano. Jealous Joe tries different ways to get his wife to stay home - he buys her a classical record album, which she smashes. Then he buys a piano and home music course "Learn to Play in Four Easy Steps" (something like that). His practice sessions fail. He finally hears about this gimmick "Play the Magnetic Way", which is a device hooked under the piano and magnets clipped to his fingers so he can play. This actually works, but the wife is simply not interested! (Could she secretly be crushing on this neighbor man, what's the deal?!) This short is quickly wrapped up when he gets out his old violin and remembers he can play beautifully! Wife: "Why didn't you tell me you could play the violin?" Husband: "You didn't ask me." Amusing running gag in this has everyone that comes by - the milk man, black maid, moving man, a cat - can all play the piano, while Joe struggles on. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *
    REVIEW - Cute shorts, both screened with fabulous-looking prints. I am not super well-acquainted with the Joe McDoakes series of shorts, though there is a familiarity like I've seen these now and again, here and there, through the years (maybe on TCM?). I'd be interested in seeing more. Producer Richard L. Bare (going strong at 99 years old!) and actress Phyllis Coates were here in person for the Cinecon screening and did an interesting interview/Q&A after the film (to her surprise, he brought an album of their honeymoon pictures to show her - apparently these two had a very brief marriage).

  • The Circus Man (1914) - Silent melodrama. The memory of this one is vague in my head, and I didn't manage to get any notes down on this one. It was about a young man wrongly accused of murder who hides out in a circus as a clown. He is immediately embraced by the close-knit group of circus performers who seem to trust right off he is telling the truth of his innocence. Seems to me there's a girl he likes, and a jealous hunchback. As I recall, the murder mystery part of this film is wrapped up halfway through the film and after was a muddled story I couldn't follow. Unfortunately, I think I was a bit drowsy during this screening, so wish somehow I could see this one again as maybe I would like it better. Rating - * 7/10 stars *

  • Fearless Fagan (1952) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Light family drama about a man who is so devoted to his tame pet lion, he brings him to boot camp with him! Carleton Carpenter plays a young man named Floyd Hilston, circus clown and owner of Fagan the lion, raised by Floyd since babyhood. One day he's almost arrested for draft-dodging, but the circus moves around a lot and he never got his notice. He has one day to enlist - but what to do about his beloved Fagan?! The mean lion tamer wants to put him in his act, but Fagan is a tame, gentle lion who is used to being well treated, not whipped. So - - Floyd decides to bring the lion with him when he joins his Army troop, hiding Fagan in his cage underneath some foliage in the nearby woods. Unfortunately, a young singer named Abby (Janet Leigh) arrives to perform for the servicemen, comes across Floyd and the lion, agrees to keep it secret, and then tattles! The Army agrees to help find a home for Fagan, but in the end nothing works out. Fagan has a way of opening his cage with his paw, and he ends up on the loose at some point, attacking a man and getting shot at. Poor Fagan - and poor Floyd, who feels it his duty to kill wounded Fagan and end his suffering. In a sudden turn of events, Abby helps bring about a possible happy ending for Fagan.
    REVIEW - Okay film, would have liked it better when I was a kid probably. It sort of has that Disney animal movie feel to it. The character of Abby was kind of annoying and disagreeable, I must say. Floyd feels that he has fallen in love with her but he comes across as such a naive, innocent boy - a sort of Peter Pan who never grew up - so any thought of romance here just doesn't really work. The lion is a real sweetie, the way he rolls and plays like a kitten. So cute! This film was based on a true story. Actor Carleton Carpenter appeared in person for this Cinecon screening for a Q&A - he came across as a very genuine, sweet guy. Rating - * 7/10 stars *

  • The Bluff (1916) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent comedy. Louis (Clarence Kolb) is a janitor who works at a chemist laboratory. One evening, after hours, he gets the notion to change around a formula the chemist's are working on into his own forumula to turn scrap into gold. And he decides to actually put the chemicals together, causing an explosion that blows up the top ten stories of what happens to be the oldest building in town. He heads for the next town of "Solemn", 50 miles away, and hooks up with a local named Mike (Max Dill) owner of a soda fountain/candy shop (and beloved by all the kiddies). Louis and Mike team up, hoping to make a fortune with the "gold" formula (yes, Mike is a gullible sort, easily persuaded). Meanwhile, a young millionaire crashes his racing car into the shop, causing quite a lot of damage. While in town, he becomes interested in the pretty school marm - but she thinks he's an "idler" and desires someone who can become successful on his own rather than getting his riches from family money. So he gets his lawyer to plant a phony headline in the papers, saying he's lost all his millions. Then he joins up with the wacky duo of Louis and Mike to from a corporation called "The Big Three" in which they plan to "bluff" suckers into investing money in their gold scheme. The plan works! But before a big company is ready to invest millions in their gold formula, a chemist is hired to test it out and see if it will really make gold. Uh oh - "The Big Three" actually seem to hold out hope it works, it doesn't. But the formula does make something else of value - "puncture-proof rubber". Hurrah, our millionaire is back in the dough and gets the girl too.
    REVIEW - This film was interesting, reasonably entertaining. But one thing odd about this film is the two main characters of Louis and Mike both speak with Dutch accents via title cards, which I found made it harder to follow with the accented wording. The title cards featured cute little drawings to match the storyline, nice! I can't say I really wanted to root for any of these characters since they actually seemed to be swindlers out to make riches. And our millionaire gets his money to win the girl simply by the luck of the formula turning out to be of value. Actors Kolb and Dill were a vaudeville comedy team that did a few films together in the mid-teens. Amused by the little fellow "Freckles" who keeps ending up in the dunce cap at the front of the one room schoolhouse where our young school marm teaches. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *

Movie Screenings Monday September 3, 2012

  • Hollywood on Parade (1933) - Short featuring Buster Keaton times two, narration done in rhyming verse. One Buster prefers modern styles, the other prefers the gay old days of the 1890s - they argue out their point as each directs an orchestra, one modern, one old-fashioned. Then numerous stars of the day pose for the camera wearing turn-of-the-century attire - the ladies look particularly uncomfortable and embarrassed being seen before the public out of the latest fashions! Interesting to see. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *

  • Hello, Everybody (1933) - - PLOT SUMMARY - In which baddies from the Water & Power are trying to force a farming community to sell their farms so they can build a water damn through town. Kate Smith is the good-hearted, quite overweight gal who owns a farm, occupied by a family group including Pa, Ma, pretty sister (Sally Blane), a couple small kids, and assorted relations. The sister meets hunky Randolph Scott, Water & Power man, put in charge of convincing the family to sell. But romance gets in the way as he falls in love with sis - he quits his job and decides to help the family. Kate convinces the town to pool their money, herself putting in the lion's share, to hire an attorney and sue the Water company to save the town's farms. But the lawsuits are failing, the townsfolk losing all their money - luckily Kate has a great singing voice and is offered a job in New York City, singing on a radio show. Though she hates to leave the farm, she takes the job for the cash and now we get to hear her singing on the radio, with her on-air greeting "Hello, Everybody".
    REVIEW - Light fare with a B-movie feel to it, boosted up by the great vocals of Kate Smith. Unfortunately for her, she's made the brunt of a few "fat" jokes in this and her character is given no option of having a romance (and also shows no interest in it), simply 'cause of her weight. Though she's young, the only man who shows interest in her is a grizzly old-timer. Kate sings several songs in this, all enjoyable to hear - I especially liked "Twenty Million People". Well, there's one song which came off as rather racist, sung to all the "little colored children" at a local orphanage. We watch the kids listen to the radio as Kate sings "Pickaninnies' Heaven", which in song tells the captivated kiddies all about a heaven full of watermelons and pork chops (uh boy). Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *

  • Ladies' Night in a Turkish Bath (1928) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent romantic comedy starring Jack Mulhall as a construction worker known as "Speed" 'cause he's such a "fast worker in and out of the job". Speed likes to put the women he dates "back into circulation" after one go around, he's not the type to settle for one girl anytime soon. That is until he meets cute Helen (Dorothy Mackaill) who sells "Ma and Pa Box lunches" at a stand nearby, a successful family business (Ma cooks, Pa packs 'em, and Helen sells 'em). Speed flirts and she falls for our charming blue-eyed boy - next thing you know, "that wonderful thing called love, can't be altered except at the altar"! They're engaged. Ma and Pa (James Finlayson) suddenly decide to sell the business and move "uptown". Living in their new apartment, Ma gets influenced by the woman who lives across the way to go on a diet. Helen meets the woman's nephew (a man who likes women two ways "married and unmarried") and begins to be influenced by him to become more sophisticated. She starts to romp about town with "bare legs" and gets herself a stylish new dress which the nephew loves. Speed, however, tells her she "looks awful" and she throws back his engagement ring. Now the film sort of switches gear into farce comedy when Speed and his sidekick from work, Sweeney (Guinn Williams), go to see a "hoochie koochie" dancer who, apparently, removes all seven of her veils! They spot, of all things, Pa and the neighbor man there too. The place gets raided by the cops and they all run to the Turkish bath next door to hide. But, wouldn't you know it, after they get inside they realize - it's ladies' night, and Ma and Helen are both there! Now Speed and Pa are running around, hiding in changing rooms and showers, trying to not get caught in the place. Pa ends up in a steam room, where Ma comes in to get a steam for herself - later he ends up on a massage table disguised as a woman (and those dark, hairy legs don't give it away?!). And of all things, the cops are lurking about outside and end up arresting Ma as a "koochie dancer"!
    REVIEW - I really enjoyed this one, especially the later part of the film in the Turkish bath. Very funny - especially Finlayson (man, do I love that guy! He gets such great expressions on his face). Jack Mulhall is quite appealing in this, the part suits him. Rating - * 9/10 stars *

  • She Wanted a Millionaire (1932) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Pre-code melodrama about a small town girl named Jane (Joan Bennett) who - you guessed it - wants to marry a millionaire, especially after her father is killed in an accident and the family left broke. She gets "picked up" by William Kelley (Spencer Tracy), railroad engineer, one night walking home on the railroad tracks after a date with one "millionaire" goes bad (he wants to take her back to "his place", she's not that kind of girl). Jane's new best pal, William decides to mail a photo of her in her swimsuit to be entered in a beauty contest, and next thing you know she's been chosen as "Miss Missouri" and is on her way to Atlantic City to compete in the "Miss Universe" contest. Her chaperone (Una Merkel) accompanies her on the trip - and why not, she's the newspaper beauty editor who chose her! Jane meets the very wealthy Roger Norton (James Kirkwood) on arrival by train, literally falling into his arms. He has a hand in the judging of the contest and our Jane is selected as "Miss Universe". She breaks a date with William (in Atlantic City to see her in the contest) to meet Norton in his suite and becomes instantly engaged to him (told you she wanted a millionaire!). Huge mistake - Roger Norton turns out to be one of the most vile, cruel human beings ever! First clue to her should have been when he revealed he was married several times before, blaming the women for the failed marriages (one even committed suicide). They move to his estate in Paris where Roger indicates dissatisfaction with Jane's appearance (hmm, he liked it plenty enough when he chose her to win the beauty contest) - he forces her to become a blonde and pluck her eyebrows. He won't let her see her old friends - and it gets worse. He is filled with jealousy, suspecting Jane's encounters with every male (he fires her riding tutor simply because they're talking). Norton bugs her room and has spy holes he peeks through to see what she's doing, he beats up his dog and abuses his manservant. What a dirty creep this guy is! Silly Jane sticks it out 'cause Norton sends money to help her family. When she finally comes to her senses and wants to divorce him, he threatens to throw her to his hounds.
    REVIEW - This is an excellent film, one of the best screened over the weekend. Spencer Tracy gives such a great performance here, as usual - he always seems so natural and real. I sort of thought Una Merkel stole the show here - cracking amusing one-liners every scene she's in. I must say, it's a bit hard to feel sorry for a girl who gets herself into such a mess as our Jane has done, marrying a man she doesn't know for his money. But - this guy really takes the cake, so I did sort of feel for the poor gal. The beauty contest was a bit of an oddity - cities, states, and countries all represented. I saw a "Miss Hollywood", a "Miss Memphis", a "Miss New Zealand", and then of course our own "Miss Missouri". I liked this one a lot. Rating - * 9.5/10 stars *

  • Strawberry Roan (1933) - - PLOT SUMMARY - B-movie western featuring a singing cowboy, Ken Maynard. A beautiful wild horse known as "The Strawberry Roan" is suspected of raising havoc with his mares, so the owner of the "Double Bar Ranch" offers up a contest to the local cowpokes - whoever can conquer and tame the strawberry roan wins the deed to the ranch! The horse is roped and penned (poor fellow), and the contest begins - with names drawn out of a hat to see which cowboy gets to ride the horse next. But a bad ranch foreman has motives to keep all this from happening, causing a stampede of wild horses and almost causing our wild horse to be shot to death. Luckily cowboy Ken is there to save the horse, and win his girl to boot (yes, you just *know* there has to be a girl).
    REVIEW - Well, I do love westerns, but I'm not super gung-ho for these sort of B-movie cowboy flicks. This particular film is boosted up by some great scenic shots in the wild west areas of California, and interesting photography in places, like the filming of the stampede. In typical fashion of movieland, you can guess who is going to be the good guy and the bad guy here by the prominent black and white cowboy hats (yeah, our man Ken wears the white one). This film is just sort of "okay". (I also think it ended up having the smallest audience of all the films screened this year.) Rating - * 5.5 to 6/10 stars *

  • Love Under Fire (1937) - - PLOT SUMMARY - Stylish jewel thief caper. On his way to Spain on vacation, Scotland Yard man, Tracy Egan (Don Ameche), ends up in the wrong train compartment where he meets a beauty named Myra (Loretta Young) who's in the correct compartment. They romance, the next day he gets a call to track down a woman who has stolen a pearl necklace back in the UK and escaped to Spain. Yes - it's Myra! Now, as a man of Scotland Yard, he feels obligated to bring her in. Just at the same time, a revolution breaks out and the place is being shot up by machine gun fire. Meanwhile, another piece of jewelry has gone missing, a valuable necklace belonging to Spain (sort of like their version of the crown jewels) and the military is out to recover it. a Lieutenant is blamed for the loss and about to go before a firing squad - but he makes his escape, then poses as a waiter at the hotel where Tracy and Myra are camped out. Then there's that Englishwoman who seems to be some sort of government operative. Basically, they all want to get out of Spain with the jewels and without getting arrested or worse.
    REVIEW - The film is a pretty good one - the last filmed screened at Cinecon 48 so I was a bit tired from so many movies, the plot is a bit shaky in my memory now. There is this weird comical harmonica group that performs in this - Borrah Minevitch and his Harmonica Rascals - a real oddity, seemed sort of just tossed into the mix here for no real reason. But I must say, Loretta Young looked absolutely beautiful in this film! Rating - * 8/10 stars *

My Notes, List of Stuff - Random Thoughts

1. Note to self: Avoid Hollywood Blvd Mcdonald's if you don't want a belly ache while watching movies after eating.

2. I guess I will mark this down in my memory as the Cinecon of the rainstorm - though most attendees probably never encountered it. On the Thursday, I was a few blocks away from the North Hollywood train station when a huge freak thunderstorm started up and it was POURING!! I parked at the station, put on my hoodie with hood up, tried to make the short walk into the building, um - slipped and fell in the mud. Jeans all muddy, my old Cinecon bookbag all muddy, back to the car to wipe off the mud as best I could with no time to return home or I might miss the first film. I took the short 8-minute train ride to Hollywood and - it was completely sunny and close to 100 degrees there! Weird summer storm for L.A. That jacket was still wet the next day!

3. Cinecon idea - I think some catered sandwiches at lunchtime available in the lobby, with vintage cartoon screenings instead of lunch two hours would be a cool alternate for those who want it.

4. How 'bout a cocktail closing hour for those who want it after the last Cinecon screening. Just a thought.



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

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