Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Saturday, June 29, 2019


This year is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, what is considered the start of the modern-day Gay Rights/LGBT pride movement. I couldn't let it pass without compiling reviews of some interesting LGBT motion pictures. Not all of these are "gay" movies, as such, but they all deal with LGBT elements in one way or another. Sadly, not all of these are especially memorable, but they do have a place in cinematic and LGBT history in spite of that.  


John Bolger and Richard Ganoung 
PARTING GLANCES (1986). Written and directed by Bill Sherwood.

Michael: "At fifty or sixty impending death doesn't freak you out so much."

Joan: "I bet it does. I bet it's a fuckin' drag even if you're eighty."

Michael (Richard Ganoung) and Robert (John Bolger) have been a couple for some time, but now the latter decides he finds the relationship "predictable"  and has taken an assignment in Africa for two years. Michael is upset over this, and gets mixed signals from Robert, but he also has time to visit and help care for Nick (Steve Buscemi), who has AIDS. During Robert's last night in town, they have dinner with his closeted boss and his wife, and attend a party for Robert given by friend Joan (Kathy Kinney), while a cute store clerk named Peter (Adam Nathan) sets his sights on Michael. But there's an unexpected development, and Michael finds he may have to make a choice.

Steve Buscemi and Adam Nathan
Parting Glances is not the typical boy meets boy romance, but one almost wishes that it had been. The characters and their motivations are not as well-developed as they need to be, the film is slow-paced and simply meanders instead of ever becoming really dramatic, and the attempts at humor are fairly pitiful. On the plus side there are some good dialogue and performances, especially by the two leads and the ever-weird Buscemi. Kathy Kinney, who is also good, later played the obnoxious and wildly attired secretary on The Drew Carey Show. A party scene shows what purports to be a cross-section of downtown types but New Yorkers are more interesting than that! You want to like the two leads and root for their romance to work, but after awhile you just want the darn thing to be over. Buscemi and Bolger -- two straight cast members, of course -- both went on to have many credits afterward.

Verdict:  There's some good potential here but it just isn't realized. **. 


Jimmy McNichol
BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER (aka Night Warning/1981). Director: William Asher.

Since he was left an orphan many years ago, Billy Lynch (Jimmy McNichol) has lived with his Aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrrell of Midnight Lace). Now that Billy is reaching the age where he might leave home to go off to college, Cheryl is becoming more clingy and possessive. One afternoon the frustrated Cheryl comes on to a completely disinterested handyman, Brody (Caskey Swaim), and she winds up stabbing the fellow to death. Cheryl insists that the man was trying to rape her, but there's a decided complication. The victim was gay.

"Are you a fag, boy?" Bo Svenson 
The virulently homophobic Detective Carlson (Bo Svenson) has come up with a theory: Brody and Billy were having an affair, and the latter, who Carlson sees as a psychotic "fag," murdered his lover out of jealousy. Even Billy's girlfriend, Julie (Julia Duffy), begins to wonder. Then there's the fact that Billy's coach, Tom Landers (Steve Eastin), is gay (and apparently had been involved with the victim at some point). But as Carlson and his associate Sergeant Cook (Britt Leach) go in opposite directions, Aunt Cheryl is slowly unraveling, and there will be several victims before her reign of terror is over.

Sick, sick Cheryl (Susan Tyrrell) 
Butcher, Baker has a more interesting plot than the usual slasher film, although it isn't necessarily one of the more memorable examples of the genre. McNichol has to do little more than act a bit confused and distressed, and he does that well enough, although the forever-weird Susan Tyrrell -- when she turns into an imitation of Mrs. Voorhees from Friday the 13th --  overacts to the point that the movie starts to resemble a burlesque. Svenson is fine as the hateful, bigoted cop (not to give things away but this asshole does get his comeuppance), and comedienne Marcia Lewis, of all people, is adept as a neighbor who gets more involved in the lives of Cheryl and Billy than she probably should have. Bill Paxton [Aliens] is vivid in the role of a obnoxious fellow basketball player who picks on Billy. The film cries out for a better score and tauter direction, but it is entertaining enough.  William Asher directed a few films, but is best-known as a TV producer (Bewitched); Elizabeth Montgomery was one of his four wives.

Verdict: Oddball slasher film with some LGBT twists. **1/2. 


Edmund Donovan  and Matthew Frias
AKRON (2015). Directed by Brian O'Donnell and Sasha King.

Interested in athletics and each other, college students Benny (Matthew Frias) and Christopher (Edmund Donovan) begin dating. All goes swimmingly for a while until Chris takes Benny down to Florida to hang out and meet his mother, Carol (Amy da Luz). Unfortunately, Carol feels compelled to tell Benny that she was the woman driving the car -- with a much younger Chris in the back seat -- when she accidentally hit and killed Benny's brother years ago.

Matthew Frias and Joseph Melendez
Things begin to unravel, with Benny's parents, who had liked Christopher, objecting to the relationship because Chris' presence will be a constant reminder of the tragedy. Benny, for his part, reacts in an immature fashion. But will the two boys be able to overcome what seems like an insurmountable difficulty in their relationship? Akron sets up an interesting situation, but doesn't do that much with it, coming off at times like a lightweight "after- school special." Benny's mother seems completely unforgiving of Carol, even though she was apparently neither criminally nor legally liable for what happened. Akron can at least boast some excellent performances from the two men in the leads, as well as da Luz and especially Joseph Melendez and Andrea Burns as Benny's parents. Akron is a step in the right direction, but it's too low-key and non-dramatic to make much more than a minor impression. The film's depiction of a loving family that is fully supportive of its gay son is refreshing and admirable, however.

Verdict: Nice try, but ...  **1/4. 


Derek Jacobi and Julian Kerridge
BREAKING THE CODE (1996). Director: Herbert Wise.

Brilliant mathematician Alan Turing (Derek Jacobi of The King's Speech) knows his knowledge of cyphers and science can help the British war effort during WW2, and he's chosen to find a way to break the code of the German's Enigma machine. His genius also eventually brings about the creation of digital computers, but his work and worth are diminished in his later years simply because he is gay and apparently unapologetic about it. He pays a hard price for his indiscretion.

Prunella Scales and Derek Jacxobi
Breaking the Code is based on the successful and heralded 1986 play by Hugh Whitemore, and Jacobi reprises his acclaimed stage performance in this TV adaptation. Despite Jacobi's being nearly sixty at the time (Turing died at age 42), Jacobi's performance is excellent, although some may feel his frequent deliberate stuttering (not employed by Benedict Cumberbatch, who later played the same role in Imitation Game) is a bit of a distraction. There is also fine work from Prunella Scales [The Wicked Lady] as Turing's concerned mother; Richard Johnson [Zombie] as Knox, who interviews and hires him; Julian Kerridge as a man with whom Turing dallies; and Amanda Root as a colleague who falls in love with him in spite of his orientation. While Jacobi shows the feisty and slightly arrogant side to Turing's nature, he also lets his amiability and sweetness come through as well.

Verdict: Despite some technical explanations that go on a little too long, this is altogether admirable. ***.


Benedict Cumberbatch
THE IMITATION GAME (2014). Director: Morten Tyldum.

Genius mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch of Star Trek Into Darkness) joins, and eventually takes over, a group of crypto-experts who are trying to crack Germany's Enigma Code. At first Turing is disliked because of his rather obnoxious, superior personality, but eventually he wins the respect of his peers, not only cracking the code but building technology that will eventually lead to the creation of modern-day computers. Unfortunately, he doesn't get his due until long after his death due to his conviction on a homosexual morals charge ...

The Imitation Game is the second film about Turing after the superior Breaking the Code (which also has the much better title with its double meaning), which came out nearly twenty years earlier. This is a splashier, longer, opened-up and bigger-budgeted version but it does not at all improve on the earlier picture. Benedict Cumberbatch gives a good enough performance, but perhaps makes his character more repellent -- especially in the earlier sequences -- than he needs to be; he almost plays it like an old-fashioned "bitchy queen." He is not as good as Derek Jacobi was in the earlier film. A bigger problem with this fictionalized biopic is that it not only tries to deal with his orientation as little as possible -- there are absolutely no sequences showing him even having conversations with other gay men -- but strips the film of true drama (his conviction, trial, etc.) and substitutes some events that I found very suspicious. Dramatic license is one thing, but Imitation just makes up sequences out of whole cloth (like the one when Turing and the others decide not to warn a convoy that is about to be bombed because then the Germans will know they've cracked the code. Sounds reasonable, until you really think about it. )

Like the earlier telefilm, this movie goes back and forth in time when a linear narrative might have been more compelling. There are some good supporting performances from Charles Dance [Victor Frankenstein] as Commander Denniston, and young Alex Lawther as Alan at school (he has a wonderful scene trying not to show how devastated he is by a loving friend's death), among others, but on the whole the picture is a big disappointment and somewhat on the dull side. Perhaps the worst thing is that this film simply accepts that Turing was a suicide when the first film, and some biographies, have suggested that he might have died by accident or even been killed off as a security risk. Who knows? The film was highly acclaimed and made a great deal of money, but since then many people have noted its glaring inaccuracies.

Verdict: Stick to Breaking the Code. **. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019


Edward Judd
THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE (1961). Producer/director/co-screenplay: Val Guest.

Two nuclear bombs are detonated at the same time, and before long there are serious changes to the weather -- flooding, devastating winds, and a massive heat wave along with thick fog. London reporter Peter Stenning (Edward Judd of Island of Terror) tries to ferret out exactly what's going on with the unwitting help of a ministry employee named Jean (Janet Munro of Life for Ruth), who gets angry when Stenning's paper publishes the alarming fact that the blasts have not only shifted the tilt of the earth, but caused an 11% shift in orbit that has the earth moving closer and closer to the sun!

Edward Judd and Leo McKern
The Day the Earth Caught Fire is one of the best science fiction films of the sixties. The movie has a documentary-like feel with overlapping dialogue (a la The Thing from Another World) that makes it even more compelling. Edward Judd was "introduced" in this film but he actually had had numerous credits before this. He is excellent playing a bitter divorced man who is not especially likable or pleasant except when he's romancing Jean, well-played by an appealing Munro. Leo McKern is also notable as Stenning's associate at the paper, Bill Maguire.

McKern, Judd, Munro and Gene Anderson
One thing that especially sets Caught Fire apart from similar films is the superb widescreen cinematography of Harry Waxman [Stolen Hours], whose images of panicking city dwellers, dried up river beds, and a thick fog covering the city are always strikingly effective. The first few minutes, as well as the last few minutes, of the film are tinted sepia to illustrate the extreme heat.

Happier times: Janet Munro and Edward Judd
The Day the Earth Caught Fire also benefits from a literate and intelligent screenplay written by Wolf Mankowitz and Val Guest. The characterizations are solid and there is some well-crafted dialogue, such as when Stenning comments on the suicidal feelings engendered by the approaching disaster. I could quibble about a couple of things: perhaps the collapse of the likable copy boy who drank black market water and gets sick could have generated more pathos, and the last shot of the film is the hoariest of cliches. Other than that, this is an absorbing and very well-made motion picture. This movie was undoubtedly influential on a later and somewhat similar disaster film entitled Crack in the World.

Edward Judd was married at the time to Gene Anderson, who plays the saucy barmaid May. Tragically she died four years later.

Verdict: This is probably the best film Val Guest ever made. ***. 


When will he remember? Greer Garson and Ronald Colman
RANDOM HARVEST (1942). Director: Mervyn LeRoy.

Towards the end of WWI, an amnesiac and shell-shocked soldier named "John Smith" (Ronald Colman) is institutionalized in a small British town, but he escapes during the melee when the end of the war is announced. He meets up with a sympathetic music hall entertainer named Paula (Greer Garson), and the two eventually fall in love, get married, and have a child. But when "Smithy" goes to Liverpool for a job interview, he is struck by a taxi and his memory comes back -- he is really a wealthy man named Charles Rainier. Unfortunately, he goes back to his old life with absolutely no recollection of his wife and baby. Will Paula ever be reunited with the man she loves?

Greer Garson 
Random Harvest is based on a novel by James Hilton, and in some ways its story is just as absurd as anything in Lost Horizon. (It's not surprising the movie was spoofed on The Carol Burnett Show. For one thing, the notion that a blow to the head can both cause and cure amnesia is utterly ludicrous.) I haven't read the novel, so I'm not going to blame Hilton for any deficiencies in the screenplay, which he didn't write, but the structure of the film had to be changed from the book. In the novel the true identity of the woman Rainier marries when his memory is restored comes as a surprise.  But before I get to that, I'll examine the film itself and what it offers the viewer.

Susan Peters and Ronald Colman
Random Harvest is essentially a well-produced (MGM) soap opera with fine photography by Joseph Rutternberg, an effective score by Herbert Stothart,  and an excellent cast. Garson is splendid throughout, and Colman, although basically too old for the part, is also first-class. They are matched by Susan Peters [The Sign of the Ram] as Kitty, a young woman who falls for Charles and nearly gets him to the altar. Peters is especially great in a sequence when she looks at Charles, realizes his mind is elsewhere, and that marrying him would be a mistake for both of them. Una O'Connor, Arthur Shields, Arthur Space. Elisabeth Risdon, Reginald Owen, Alan Napier, and Philip Dorn, among others, enrich the supporting cast.

Ronald Colman
SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading if you haven't seen the picture. Random House must be taken with a grain of salt. It works beautifully on an emotional level, and has a moving conclusion, but the fact is that it is so contrived as to be nearly comical. After "Smithy" disappears, Paula tracks him down and begins to work for him under an assumed name. Years go by. Not only does he not recognize her, but he never develops any particular feelings for her. He eventually marries Paula, more as a "merger," as he puts it, than a romantic gesture, because he needs a "good wife." Three years go by during which Paula becomes the perfect hostess and loving wife, yet Charles still doesn't recognize her and still never develops any special feelings for her. Now this begs the question: since Paula is the same person she always was and has the same qualities that drew Charles to her in the first place, why on earth doesn't he fall in love with her all over again? One can argue that it was circumstances that made the difference, but come on! It isn't until he finally remembers her that he realizes he's in love with her. Or does he? (Thank goodness they avoided the cliche of him being hit on the head again.)

Verdict: Well, if you can just suspend disbelief Random Harvest has its rewards. For romantic souls only! ***. 


Mamie Van Doren, Jeanne Carmen, Lori Nelson
UNTAMED YOUTH (1957). Director: Howard W. Koch.

Two sisters heading for Hollywood -- Penny (Mamie Van Doren of The Girl in Black Stockings) and Jane (Lori Nelson) -- are arrested for vagrancy and sent to a work farm for thirty days by Judge Steele (Lurene Tuttle). The farm is owned by Russ Tropp (John Russell), whose housekeepers are girls who offer certain services in exchange for "special privileges." Tropp orders his latest "housekeeper," Lillibet (Jeanne Carmen) back to the barracks with the other girls, resulting in a catfight. The judge sends her son, Bob (Don Burnett), to work at the farm as a regular employee -- he doesn't know that his mother and Tropp are secretly married. And the judge doesn't know about the deplorable conditions at the farm ...

Cougar? The judge (Tuttle, right) hankers for Russell
Untamed Youth is a hoot. Wayward girls, handsome guys, Mamie Van Doren, John Russell, catfights, a female judge who's a cougar -- all this and the movie is a musical, too! Yes, there are several snappy if unmemorable rock 'n' roll numbers supposedly warbled by Van Doren, who zestily shows off her impressive figure when dancing all over the place. The matronly Tuttle and hunky Russell certainly make a comically mismatched pair, Carmen is vivid as Lillibet, and Burnett [Damon and Pythias] is appealing as the sensitive Bob, who falls for Jane.

Mother and son: Don Burnett and Lurene Tuttle
And then there's Mamie, in a role best suited for her talents. In this she's a good girl, not a slut, and she resists advances by Russell. Her performance is more than adequate and she has an out-sized personality that helped her get a minor foothold in Hollywood B movies. Lurene Tuttle gives the best performance as the middle-aged woman who falls in love not at all wisely but well. Wally Brown makes his mark as the deceptively sympathetic cook, Pinky (even if he feeds the kids dog food!) and Michael Emmet [Attack of the Giant Leeches] shows up as a kindly doctor who treats one ill-fated pregnant girl, Baby (Yvonne Lime of Dragstrip Riot).

With a better script Untamed Youth might have emerged a credible melodrama instead of the somewhat campy exploitation picture it is. But on that level, the movie is fun.

Verdict: Catch Mamie doing "Slimy as a Salamander!" **1/2. 


Carol Kane
WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979). Director/co-writer: Fred Walton.

Babysitter Jill Johnson (Carol Kane of The Mafu Cage) is terrorized by a caller who keeps asking her if she's checked on the kids. When the police manage to trace the call Jill gets an unpleasant surprise. Years later John Clifford (Charles Durning), a former cop on the case, is hired by the children's father to find Curt Duncan (Tony Beckley), the psychopath who turned his life upside down and who has escaped from an asylum. Clifford tracks Duncan down, but can he stop him permanently before he goes after the terrified babysitter, Jill, who is now a grown woman with children of her own?

Charles Durning
I believe that When a Stranger Calls was expanded from a short film, The Sitter, which comprised only the chilling opening sequence of this movie. The middle section of this film stills holds interest, as it focuses on Duncan, his interactions with barfly (but not drunken) Tracy (Colleen Dewhurst of Annie Hall), and Clifford's efforts to track down Duncan, whom he intends to murder. (A powerful scene has Clifford telling Tracy exactly how Duncan killed two innocent young children.) The final section of the film is another chilling sequence with Duncan, Jill, and her family. In fact the climax may outdo the prologue in creepiness.

Colleen Dewhurst and Tony Beckley
When a Stranger Calls manages to sustain tension via generally good direction and Dana Kaproff's simple but very effective musical score. There are also solid performances, with Beckley and Dewhurst as standouts, although there is very good work from Durning [Sisters] and a mush-mouthed Carol Kane. Rachel Roberts has one scene as a psychiatrist in the institution that Duncan escaped from, and Ron O'Neal is on the mark as a cop colleague of Clifford's. The atmospheric photography is by Don Peterson. One wishes that there was more character development, however, both of the psycho and of Tracy. What little we learn of the latter is due chiefly to Dewhurst's performance. This was busy British actor Tony Beckley's last film; he died the following year.

A very good sequel, When a Stranger Calls Back, came out in 1993. And there was a remake in 2006.

Verdict: Absorbing horror-suspense film. ***. 


HOLLYWOOD PICKS THE CLASSICS: A Guide for the Beginner and the Aficionado. Afton Fraser. Bulfinch; 2004.

This guide to classic film is divided into chapters such as "Must See," "Drama,"  "Suspense," "One of a Kind" performers such as Carmen Miranda and Jerry Lewis, "Screen Teams" and so on. The main asset to this book is the many, many photographs from the movies. It falls short as a work of film scholarship for two reasons: most classic movie fans will already be familiar with most of the material in the book. Also, there is no analysis of the individual films, just a brief synopsis and sidebars on the cast, Oscar wins or nominations, and factoids about the famous players. On that level, the book is still a good bet for young movie enthusiasts who might wish to learn more about films released many, many years before their births. Indeed, the author makes the case that, say, a film from the 1980's can';t really be called a "classic." The included movies are generally the ones you would expect -- no "B" movies or forgotten gems -- along with a few that have always been over-rated.

The book was written by Afton Fraser, the wife of actor Brendan Fraser [Looney Tunes: Back in Action] and mother of their three children. Sadly, four years after this book was published the couple ended their ten year marriage. Also an actor Ms. Fraser now goes by Afton Smith.

Verdict: Recommended for readers who don't know much about classic film. ***. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019


Luise Rainer
THE TOY WIFE (1938). Director: Richard Thorpe. Screenplay by Zoe Akins.

"A woman is like a postage stamp. Once there's a black mark on her, she's no good to nobody." -- Pick.

In pre-Civil war Louisiana, two sisters live on a plantation with their slaves and their father. Gilberte, or "Frou Frou" (Luise Rainer) is the pretty and somewhat muddle-headed younger daughter, and Louise (Barbara O'Neil) is the more practical and less attractive older daughter. The young mountebank, Andre Vallaire (Robert Young), wants to propose to Frou Frou, but he is too late, as she has already decided to accept a proposal from the lawyer, George Sartoris (Melvyn Douglas). The trouble is that Frou Frou doesn't love George, but Louise does ... and Andre will not forget Frou Frou. Things come to a boil when George asks Louise to come and run the household, as Frou Frou --  a "toy wife," in his estimation -- seems incapable of doing so.

Luise Rainer and Alan Perl 
Had The Toy Wife starred, say, Bette Davis, it would probably not be a nearly forgotten film today. Luise Rainer, who is outstanding in the film, had already won back to back Best Actress Oscars (for The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth) before appearing in this film, but for various reasons her career faded out soon after and long-lasting major stardom never materialized. Douglas, Young and especially O'Neil are also very good in the film, along with Theresa Harris [The Flame of New Orleans] as Frou Frou's maid and companion, "Pick," Libby Taylor as the housekeeper Suzanne, and Alma Kruger [Saboteur] as Andre's disapproving mother. Little Alan Perl is a charmer as George and Frou Frou's son, Georgie.

The Toy Wife's patronizing treatment of black characters is typical of the period, unfortunately, but the film is still absorbing and has a very touching conclusion. There is first-rate cinematography from Oliver T. Marsh and a nice score by Edward Ward.

Verdict: Memorable, well-acted, and unpredictable drama. ***.


Dick Powell
SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1954). Director: Frank Tashlin.

Screenwriter and bachelor Mark Christopher (Dick Powell of Pitfall) finds himself with an unusual Christmas "present." Two cops of his acquaintance want him to babysit a 17-year-old girl, Susan (Debbie Reynolds), over the holiday so they won't have to actually book her for some minor offense on Christmas Day. Mark reluctantly agrees but this causes problems for his sort of fiancee Isabella (Anne Francis), and upsets his household, which consists of secretary Maude (Glenda Farrell) and his old Navy buddy, Virgil (Alvy Moore). But is the middle-aged author more drawn to lovely, very young Susan than he would care to admit?

Farrell, Moore and Reynolds
One thing this comedy has going for it is some excellent performances. Debbie Reynolds, who was actually twenty-two at the time, is simply outstanding. Powell --fifty playing thirty-five but not getting away with it -- is no slouch, either. Farrell uses all she learned about acting since the thirties to make a distinct impression, and Moore manages to emerge an almost poignant figure, although his chief function is to get more laughs. Anne Francis also scores in the thankless role of the fiancee who is treated rather badly but whom Mark apparently never took seriously to begin with. Maidie Norman [What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?] and Les Tremayne [The Monolith Monsters] are also good as, respectively, Mark's maid and lawyer.

The characters at least seem a little more dimensional than in most comedies of this type, but that may be due to the performances. The picture goes on about twenty minutes too long, and there is a very tedious dream sequence in which Susan imagines Annabella literally snaring Mark in her web. (You would think that Powell and Reynolds would actually dance together, but they never really do.) Red Skelton has a funny cameo. This was Dick Powell's last theatrical film; he appeared strictly on television thereafter.

Verdict: Strangely appealing May-December romantic comedy that shouldn't work but does. ***. 


Bing Crosby and Donald O'Connor clown around
ANYTHING GOES (1956). Director: Robert Lewis.

Broadway veteran Bill Benson (Bing Crosby) and hot shot TV star Ted Adams (Donald O'Connor) are teaming up to do a Broadway show. They each decide on a leading lady, unaware of what the other has done. So on a boat back to New York from Europe, they have to contend with the fact that they promised the plum role to two different women: Patsy (Mitzi Gaynor) and Gaby (Zizi Jeanmaire). Complicating matters is the realization that each man has started to fall in love, not with the woman they chose to star with but with her rival!

Mitzi Gaynor and Donald O\Connor
Twenty years earlier Crosby did a previous version of Anything Goes that co-starred Ethel Merman. This new version throws out the plot of the Broadway musical it was based on but uses some of Cole Porter's songs, along with a few new ones by Cahn and Van Heusen. (You can tell which are whose fairly easily). This is a one-gimmick plot but it does add some suspense to the proceedings, and Paramount studios manages to give the flick some of the gloss you associate with MGM, thanks to Technicolor, VistaVision, some excellent art direction, and cinematographer John F. Warren. More importantly, the performances by all are adept and enthusiastic.

Zizi Jeanmaire with chorus boys
Zizi Jeanmaire (billed in this only as "Jeanmaire") was a French dancer and actress who did most of her work in Europe. She is quite good in Anything Goes and is given one zesty number as well as a featured ballet with little boys, sailors and several lookalikes. The production numbers include the title tune choreographed by Ernest Flatt, "I Get a Kick", and the finale, "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," which features the four stars in a striking tableau.

"Blow, Gabriel, Blow." Jeanmaire, Crosby, Gaynor, O'Connor
Anything Goes, however, goes on for a little too long, and there are some dull stretches, including a nightclub bit wherein Crosby plays a mind-reading Rajah that becomes tiresome rather quickly. In spite of that, the movie is fun and colorful for the most part. Phil Harris [The Patsy] is cast as Gaynor's father, Steve, and Kurt Kasznar [Land of the Giants] as Crosby's agent, Victor Lawrence.

Verdict: Talented cast helps put this over. ***. 


AMERICAN PRINCE: A MEMOIR. Tony Curtis and Peter Golenbock. Harmony; 2008.

Apparently not being satisfied with the first book, this is the late Curtis' second autobiography. Never forgetting a slight, real or imagined, in this volume he settles scores. Since his first wife, Janet Leigh, had passed away by then, he feels free to dissect their marriage and highlight her alleged faults as a wife. (One can't imagine that this endeared him to his daughters by Leigh, including Jamie Lee Curtis.) One gets the impression that Curtis had no real interest in honest reflection nor in seeing things from other people's pov\s. He is the very personification of the self-absorbed movie star.

Curtis traces his early years and his bad relationship with his parents; the tragic deaths of his two brothers -- he never balances his basically successful life with the brother who was placed in a mental institution and eventually wound up homeless and beaten to death --  his determination to make it in Hollywood, and his cinematic triumphs in such as Sweet Smell of Success (arguably his greatest performance) and Some Like It Hot, among others.  Curtis doesn't shy away from detailing the years afterward, when he was forced to take virtually any role in any piece of crap just to pay the bills, including alimony and child support. He also writes about his cocaine addiction and his many marriages (at least one wife never gets mentioned at all).

Curtis never lost the chip on his shoulder. Part of this is due to the fact that he never felt he was really taken seriously. Part was also due to the fact that no matter what the role he generally came off as dead-common. This book didn't help him shake off that image.

Verdict: Not a bad read, but it leaves a sour taste. **1/2. 


Judy Garland
EVERYBODY SING (1938). Director: Edwin L. Marin.

Judy Bellaire (Judy Garland of Presenting Lily Mars) belongs to a theatrical family, but she keeps getting thrown out of one school after another because she prefers swing music to classical and is therefore considered a "corrupting" influence. The rest of the household consists of her playwright father Hilary (Reginald Owen); her actress mother Diana (Billie Burke); the housekeeper Olga (Fanny Brice), who used to work in vaudeville; and the handsome cook, Ricky (Allan Jones of Reckless), who is moonlighting as a singer at a posh cafe. Judy also has a sister named Sylvia (Lynne  Carver), who is struck on Ricky and vice versa. Judy wants to help get needed money for the cash-poor family by singing at the same cafe, but has to resort to subterfuge when her parents deny her permission to do so. Meanwhile Hilary tries to mount his own show but objects to his wife's acting partner, Jerrold Hope (Reginald Gardiner).

Bus song: Garland, Carver, Jones and Gardiner
This aptly-titled MGM movie is a real charmer, thanks to the cast, some good song numbers, and an amiable disposition throughout, although Judy's attitude (as expressed in one of the song numbers) that classical music is passe is obnoxious. She gets to sing the snappy "Melody Fair," Jones warbles "The One I Love," much of the cast does an operatic pastiche -- based on Verdian melodies -- on a bus; and Fanny Brice [The Great Ziegfeld], who is wonderful, does "Dainty Me," as well as a Baby Schnooks number with Garland. Jones also reprises "Comsi Comsa" from A Night at the Opera. Monty Woolley shows up briefly as a producer and he adds to the fun as well. When they made dithery Bille Burke, they certainly broke the mold.

Verdict: Not just for Garland fans, but they will especially enjoy this. ***.

Thursday, June 6, 2019


Remember, my brother blog B Movie Nightmare publishes every other week, alternating with Great Old Movies. This week it's time for B Movie Nightmare -- two weeks' worth, in fact. You can also sign up there for email notifications, which is the best way to catch all that B Movie Excitement over at my other blog, LOL!

Thanks for reading!