Cinecon 51 Classic Film Festival Report with Plot Summaries, Movie Reviews and Ratings
Featuring my reviews, ratings (from 1 to 10, 10 being tops), plus plot summary for each of the films screened at the Cinecon 51 Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, California. To be held over Labor Day weekend from September 3rd to September 7th 2015 at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. REVIEWS coming after the event.
For more information about the festival visit :
Cinecon Classic Film Festival
Announced films to be screened (note: subject to change)
Cinecon 51 Schedule
Reviews and write-up
Cinecon 51 is now over, and I saw many of the film's that were screened this year. Currently working on finishing up writing a review for each film seen, I will go ahead and post some of the reviews that are close to completed. There's more, I just haven't gotten around to posting yet! (I know, so slow).
(Please note the films reviewed on this site contain plot summaries and may contain SPOILERS.)
Movie Screenings Thursday September 3, 2015
Movie Screenings Friday September 4, 2015
- It's Your Move (1945) - PLOT SUMMARY - Two-reel comedy short starring Edgar Kennedy. The owner of the house where Kennedy lives wants to sell it for $7500. Kennedy wants to buy the house but seems his wife has secretly loaned all their savings to her brother to open a second-hand furniture store. When a woman comes into the store looking to buy a washing machine, Edgar offers to sell her his own household washing machine (without telling the wifey) for $200 in an effort to raise the cash needed to buy the house. When Kennedy and his brother-in-law arrive to deliver the washer, they can't find the right house - until a woman shouts at them "yoo hooooo!, yoo hooooo!" from the top of a very long and steep set of hillside stairs. Thinking that she is the person they are meant to deliver the machine to, they haul it up the steps - only to find out she only wanted them to mail her gas bill. They carry the washer back down only to have the daffy dame shout for them again, this time it ends up she forgot to put her check in with the bill. Up and down, up and down they go. Meanwhile, Edgar's wife has come up with a scheme of her own to get them the needed cash - she starts a fake rumor that there is a chair for sale in the furniture store that is stuffed with hidden money to the tune of 100,000 bucks. It's a run on chairs, but - unfortunately, Ed gets arrested for his jacked up price on the washing machine sale (above the price ceiling).
REVIEW - This is a moderately good short that reminded me a lot of the famous Laurel and Hardy comedy "The Music Box" (also screened at this year's Cinecon), both filmed in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles and featuring men pushing a heavy item up a set of steep steps (though the stairway featured in this short is not the same stairway as used in The Music Box). There are actually many of these stairways in the hills around Los Angeles and, in fact, I live in one of the older L.A. hillside neighborhoods and there is one of these steep old stairways at the end of my street leading down to the streets below (and it's a tough climb back up if you're out of shape, I know all about it!). As a whole, I enjoyed seeing this short (though watching Kennedy struggling with that machine while wearing suit and tie can be frustrating to watch sometimes) - probably more enjoyable for a glimpse of the old L.A. Silverlake locations than anything else. Rating - * 7/10 stars *
- The Studio Murder Mystery (1929) - PLOT SUMMARY - Early talkie that tells the tale of an actor who is found stabbed to death at the movie studio where he works and the five suspects who are rounded up for his murder. Richard "Dick" Hardell (Fredric March) won a contest that awarded him a role in a movie -- his wife suspects he only entered the contest because he hoped he would meet lots of attractive movie starlets. She certainly wasn't far wrong there, as he is now having a love affair with Helen, the pretty daughter of the studio's night watchman. The wife shows up at the studio and confronts him, telling him that if he ever falls for another woman she will make an "accident" happen (and she gives the appearance of being VERY serious about this!). Helen is in love with him, but the jealous wife confronts the young woman and informs her that her husband has these sort of affairs all the time and it doesn't mean anything to him. The girl is devastated and wants to "hurt him" - by telling him that she doesn't love him anymore. The wife "subtly" suggests she do worse as she waves around this big knife she's holding. Mr. Borka (Warner Oland), the director of the film, thinks that Hardell can't act and regrets casting him - Borka also, apparently, sent his wife to Europe to get away from Hardell's flirtations. When a letter arrives informing him that his wife has died, Borka blames the actor. Borka is also seen wielding a large, pointy letter opener! The police detective (Eugene Pallette) put on the murder case brings in five suspects for questioning - the film director, the wife, and the watchman's daughter Helen. Helen's smart-alecky wannabe boyfriend/admirer from the studio and her crazy taxi-driving brother (who's been ranting about wanting to shoot Hardell) round out the five suspects.
REVIEW - I enjoyed this backstage murder mystery, though I did at times feel slightly confused - I think I was mixing up the boyfriend and the brother character in my head as they sort of looked alike. The film features your sort of typical murder mystery / Agatha Christie style set-up with different potential suspects and their possible motivations for wanting to murder this man being revealed to the viewer before the crime happens (and with all those knives and sharp objects being waved about, it's pretty obvious what the weapon of choice is going to be!). Being an early talkie, this film features that typical sort of stage-bound feel to it (which doesn't bother me in the least, actually). All in all, pretty darn good. Rating - * 8/10 stars *
Movie Screenings Saturday September 5, 2015
- Jitterbugs (1943) - PLOT SUMMARY - Comedy starring Laurel and Hardy as the travelling two-man "Original Zoot Suit Band". While on the road they run out of gas and end up mixed up with a sly, smooth-talking flimflam man who cons them into helping out with his shady fake "gas pill" scam. Claiming the gas pill can be dropped into a container of water to produce gasoline, he tricks the boys into thinking it's real - no more "rationing" card needed! Riding into the next small town, they set up a live "medicine show" to sell the pills and swindle the suckers. The crook meets a blonde (Vivian Blaine) and holds her purse while they jitterbug to the band, but he forgets to give it back to her and she chases after them on the back of their truck. They all end up returning to town to help con the con-man who swindled her mother out of 10,000 bucks via a ruse involving switching an envelope with the cash in it to one with fake paper bills.
REVIEW - I saw this movie year's ago and sort of remembered it as not so good (especially compared to the boy's earlier comedy shorts, which I love) - but I actually really enjoyed this. Better than expected, really quite fun. Ollie posing as a rich Texas Colonel to help pull the con is pretty amusing, not to mention Stan in drag! Rating - * 8 to 8.5/10 stars *
- Dancing on a Dime (1940) - PLOT SUMMARY - A New York theatrical musical called "Dancing on a Dime" is performing the show's dress rehearsal before going on, when it is suddenly shut down by a government funding cut. The cast is told to keep in contact in case they can get this show going again and the backstage doorman/theater caretaker, Mac (William Frawley), keeps a light burning. Now cash short with empty pockets, Mac ends up letting four of the now down-on-their-luck hoofers from the show live at the theater. The four fellows set up makeshift bedrooms for themselves using props and furnishings from storage. Lorie (Grace McDonald) is a fresh-faced wannabe musical star with ambitions to succeed on the stage. Standing outside the theater, she overhears the guys tap dancing inside and goes in to watch -- telling them that she came to NYC to pursue her dreams after receiving a small inheritance. This little tidbit sparks the fellow's interest - money! They "audition" her with hopes of getting her to invest in and thus save the show. Too bad, she only inherited 300 bucks (now spent) and, being low on funds herself, is immediately invited to be the newest member of this improvised theatrical "boarding house". They fix her up with her own "special" bedroom created from set walls and complete with early American furniture, canopy bed, and front door. When a couple of gals from the show turn up to visit their beaus, they are jealous by the appearance of this new, attractive, young female living in a frilly room in the same space as the males! The film now moves into some song and dance numbers and a bit with some money they find and hope to use to save the show but, sad for them, the dough is counterfeit!
REVIEW - I found this B-movie backstage musical to be an entertaining watch - unfortunately, I was quite exhausted from lack of sleep over the last couple of days before this and found myself struggling to keep my eyes open during the second half of this one. Darn it, hate when that happens - I was just so, so sleepy! There were some pretty good dance numbers in this which I managed to enjoy before I began to drowse - I believe this ended up with the show going on as planned. Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *
Movie Screenings Sunday September 6, 2015
- Limehouse Blues (1934) - PLOT SUMMARY - In the Limehouse Chinatown district of London, Harry Young (George Raft) is the half-white/half-Chinese owner of a successful nightclub, The Lily Garden, and smuggler on the side. His local rival is a man named Pug. A cute young pickpocket named Toni (Jean Parker) escapes the cops by running into the club, but the cops are right on her tail and Harry comes to her aid. She tricks the cops when she gets frisked - by hiding the pocket watch she has stolen in Harry's coat pocket. She happens to work for her step-father, Pug, who is very angered by her setting foot in his rival's club. Young has an interest in her and offers her a job simply watching over everything and everyone in the club, no specifics given. She takes it (she is rather tired of getting paid by Pug with a beating!) and is given a room upstairs, where a bunch of Chinese artifacts are currently being stored (and she indicates she's a bit creeped out by the weird artifacts - hmmm, that itself is kinda weird). Harry begins to fall in love with the girl, but his advances towards her sparks the jealously of his mistress, the club's sultry girl singer/dancer (Anna May Wong), who feels that he should not be taking an interest in a "white woman". Though Harry has a great deal of pride in his Chinese heritage, he cuts off the long pinky nail he sports when it scratchs Toni. In more efforts to win her love, he offers her money to buy new dresses and she heads for the West End to go shopping. While there she helps round up some puppies that have escaped into the street from a pet shop -- the owner of the shop is a handsome young man and they become "pals". She goes to visit him regularly as love blossoms, but keeps her friendship with this new man a secret from Harry. Jealous Harry, desparately wanting Toni for himself, has one of his henchmen follow her to see what she's been up to everyday, and when he finds out decides to put an end to this - permanently.
REVIEW - Entertaining and highly atmospheric film, set in the old Chinatown area where seedy characters roam about on narrow foggy streets and the music in the background is always the Blues. George Raft does a really good job in this, giving a believable and interesting portrayal of this half-Chinese man obsessed with a woman who he probably, at this period in time, can never have. I love Anna May Wong in this film, perfectly cast as the exotic, slinky-gowned, mysterious club dancer. This was one of the better films screened at Cinecon 51. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *
Movie Screenings Monday September 7, 2015
- The Deadlier Sex (1920) - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent film starring Blanche Sweet as Mary, the daughter/comrade of a railroad tycoon, an honest man determined to always do right by his stockholders. His rival is a man named Judson, the sort of fellow who does just enough wrong while still staying just within the law to make sure he increases his stockholdings. Mary tells dad it's just about that time of year to go on their "annual hike" - with premonitions of his very near future, apparently, dad says he'll soon be taking that "big hike". He dies within minutes and, even though he never had a son, still feels good about leaving his daughter in charge of the company. Judson the Rival calls up and tells her he was negotiating a deal with the dad and would like to continue negotiations with her - she hangs up on him (or something like that). She then comes up with a plan to teach him a lesson about living a life without money. With a little help from her friends, the guy is doped and kidnapped, waking up in the wilderness baffled and muttering "How the heck did I end up in Central Park". He offers money to the cantankerous old-timer that lives at a nearby cabin, hoping he can help him get back to NYC. This old-timer "Don't need no money"! Mary, dressed in her best outdoor girl attire, is introduced as his niece. Judson : "What a niece!". A fur trapper (Boris Karloff) arrives in the area and Mary offers him cash to fight Judson to prove he's a man. The trapper clobbers him (Mary: "I asked you to fight like a man, not a beast") and then proclaims that where he comes from when you fight a man for a woman you have "won her". Yikes. Judson continues several times to try to bribe that old-timer into helping him with basic comforts needed in the great outdoors - wants to buy his mosquito net, wants to buy breakfast - the old-timer won't bite. He finally offers the guy some big bucks (something to the tune of $100,000, I think) for help but, again, old-timer: "Nope, someone will slit my throat for that kind of money". Okay, my mind is now blank on how Judson ends up getting out of this situation (there's definitely a "message in a bottle" somewhere in this plot), but let's just say that he is rather hunky so the obvious thing to happen - and did - is that even though the Mary character dislikes Judson, they end up a couple.
REVIEW - Cute, moderately good film showcasing some nicely photographed outdoor locations. The plot seemed a little repetitive during the outdoor scenes, perhaps a bit muddled which is likely why I'm having trouble remembering it. (I often wish I could get a chance to see some of these rarer films again, just to be able to watch at home without having just watched a whole bunch of movies in a row - might make the film easier to fully enjoy.) Rating - * 7.5/10 stars *
- Ladies in Love (1936) - PLOT SUMMARY - Melodrama telling the story of three young ladies who decide they are tired of living on the wrong side of town, so join forces in pooling the rent for a swanky Budapest apartment. Each girl is in pursuit of a man and her career - mainly a man. Martha (Janet Gaynor) likes her showers steaming hot (really, I've never seen that much steam coming out of a bathroom!) and works odd jobs to scrape together the dough -- currently she feeds rabbits owned by a good-looking young doctor (Don Ameche) who uses the poor bunnies for his experiments. Susie (Loretta Young) keeps a house plant for a pet and falls in love at first sight with a seriously handsome Count (Tyrone Power) who, unfortunately for Susie, is engaged to a Countess. Yoli (Constance Bennett) has a boyfriend who wants to spend the evening alone with her, but she is more interested in attending parties thrown by a wealthy playboy who likes to show beautiful young women his "Jade collection". Martha needs more money so tries selling neckties, ending up as part of Sandor the Magician's act - he performs magic while she tries to make a sale, right on the stage! She ends up taking a job with the pompous magician, working as his valet/dresser. When the doctor finds out she took this other job, he is jealous of her interest in Sandor and fires her. Yoli's boyfriend is leaving for South America and she wants to follow him there, but he is losing interest in her after a seductive schoolgirl (related to him by marriage in some way, he calls her his "cousin") runs away from school and proclaims her love for him. The girl is underage, he's middle-aged - so this seems to work perfectly for him, as she asks to accompany him and - practically drooling at the thought - he insists on marriage. As for Susie, she sees a letter written from the Countess to the Count, telling him that her family has consented and they can now be married at once - then Susie sees the two of them together at some nightclub and realizes her days with her true love are now over. The poor girl is devastated and gets drunk on champagne, all leading to a near tragedy.
REVIEW - I thought this movie was quite good, though the whole concept of the girls moving into the "upscale" apartment plays very little into the actual plot. The three main female stars are all pleasing in their respective parts and play off of each other well (the fact that they are meant to be three "gal pals" seems real enough here). Tyrone Power is definitely swoon-worthy gorgeous - man, is that man good-looking! Simone Simon, though playing a "schoolgirl", was actually in her twenties when she made this film and so is able to give a level of sophistication to the young girl character trying to be grown-up and mature (though jumping up and down on the couch like a child when her man says he will marry her). An interesting film. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *
- You're My Everything (1949) - PLOT SUMMARY - Period musical set in the 1920s. Anne Baxter plays Hannah Adams, a star-struck Boston flapper in hot pursuit of Tim O'Connor (Dan Dailey), talented hoofer currently starring in a local theatrical production called "The Girl from Vassar". She attends the show daily, getting herself a front row ticket to ogle her idol as he performs. Determined to get her man, she waits in a rainstorm outside the stage door, then ends up inviting him to dinner at her family home (though he's under the impression they are going to a restaurant). Hannah is really pretty, so it doesn't take much to get the fellow interested in her - they are soon dating. Though she's a blue-blood with Mayflower ancestors and he's from the wrong side of the tracks (and has a fifth grade education), Hannah's Aunt Jane (Anne Revere) helps get the marriage ball rolling and, now a married couple, Hannah takes a job in the chorus of his show. A talent scout is in the audience one day and asks Tim to come to Hollywood for a screen test - wow! Hannah is asked to help out by performing the female role opposite her husband in the screen test and, surprise (not really), she is offered a film contract instead of him. Hannah hesitates, protesting that she is not an actress - but she gives in and they move to Hollywood where Hannah becomes a big silent movie star (with lots of similarity to Clara Bow) known as the "Hotcha Girl". When Talkies hit, she does not want to continue with her contract but suggests to the studio head that they audition her hubby for a new musical in the works. He is hired and takes the spotlight, and a baby girl comes along who grows into a little hoofer with a very strong resemblance to Shirley Temple. This cute little moppet dances a duet with dad and is given a contract to star in "Rebel in Crinoline" where she sings "The Good Ship Lollipop" alongside her own dad in blackface. Meanwhile, Hannah didn't want her baby to be in show biz and now their marriage is on the rocks.
REVIEW - This is an entertaining enough musical, and looked good on the big screen in Technicolor (though that blackface with Dan Dailey's light blue eyes popping out did look rather grotesque). The duplication of several silent era films was very well done (with the character of Hannah appearing in what looked like versions of Wings and Joan Crawford's Our Dancing Daughters), and even includes a cameo appearance by the real Buster Keaton. The film features several very entertaining tap dance numbers. Rating - * 8/10 stars *
Cinecon 51 Thoughts and Tidbits
1. This year's Cinecon was a bit different than in past year's in that it featured no guests stars with any of the screenings and there was not a celebrity banquet. I am there to see the rare films and silent movies I have never had a chance to see before, so this was fine for me. I actually thought it was a good idea as it makes the festival potentially able to focus more on the more rare films and less on screening more common titles simply because a guest celebrity is appearing. Plus, without the banquet it gave an extra evening to show more movies.
2. The weather was hot, as usual being that this festival is held over Labor Day weekend, but it wasn't "unbearably" hot so I guess that's a good thing?! (I always think I would rather Cinecon be held in the winter, but I guess I wouldn't so much like heading over there in the rain either).
3. There were more films and shorts screened this year that I had already seen before (I'm counting nine) than there usually is. I guess the older I get, the more and more movies I keep adding to my "seen" list.
4. I was more sleepy/drowsy than usual for this year's Cinecon and ended up having to skip the Sunday evening so that I could actually be awake and fully enjoy the movies on Monday (it worked). I did have to miss Harold Lloyd's "The Kid Brother" on the big screen - it is actually the first feature-length silent film I ever saw (I have seen the film many, many times since my first viewing of it in the 1970s).
5. I thought the movies shown this year were, for the most part, sort of all the same quality level - all pretty good, nothing really great (I guess that's why almost everything I've rated here is between 7.5 to 8.5). No ten stars (though, "The Kid Brother" is definitely a ten-star movie - but I missed that).
6. The Saturday Morning Animation Program was a treat - more of that, please!
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