This is an example of an extinct musical sub-genre, the operetta. You get a dashing hero, a hissable villan, and a damsel in distress in any typical example. THE DESERT SONG has all these, plus, what I feel is one of the loveliest of all operetta scores, in this case, composed by Sigmund Romberg. This is the third film by Warner Brothers of this show. A few details have been changed from the 1926 stage show, but that is not important. The story flows along with Kathryn Grayson and Gordon MacRae bursting into song in true operetta fashion. Allyn McLerie does an exotic dance, and there are some gorgeous settings and scenery. I saw this years ago on a vhs tape, and, the Technicolor was a bit washed out. It is stunning on the Warner Archive dvd, and the glorious voices of Grayson and MacRae are perfectly recorded. Indeed, this was one of the last operettas filmed in the early '50s. They're out of style, and, I suppose, laughable to more sophisticated audiences of today, but they and this one in particular possess a great deal of charm, not to mention talent. If you want to escape to another world, far far away from the problems of today, immerse yourself in the soothing melodies of THE DESERT SONG.
The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953)Amazing, wonderful and waaay ahead of it's time
25 March 2017
THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T is a movie that simply has to be experienced to be appreciated. Tommy Rettig is Bart, a normal little boy who emphatically does not want to be tied down to his piano lessons. His teacher is a grueling taskmaster whom the boy loathes. He drifts off into a nightmare prison world where he is being commanded to play. His Mother has been hypnotized into assisting Dr. T, and Bart tries to enlist the help of the friendly plumber, August, to free her. Heloise, the Mother and August are winningly played by real life husband and wife team Mary Healy and Peter Lind Hayes. Bart is played by Tommy Rettig, and Dr. T is played with flamboyant relish by marvelous Hans Conried, and he steals the show. This film was conceived by Dr. Seuss, and I must say there is nothing else ever filmed to compare it to. A huge flop when first released in 1953, the film today has a well-deserved cult following. The beautiful Technicolor pops off the screen in the blu ray version that I saw this on.
The Boy Friend (1971)Pictorially Beautiful Classic
16 March 2017
This film has never looked or sounded better than on the newly-released blu ray. Twiggy makes an enchanting screen debut in a totally unique contribution to the musical. The slim story tells of a run down theater troupe putting on a production of THE BOY FRIEND. Assistant Stage Manager Polly Brown (Twiggy) has to go on in place of the injured star (A marvelous, unbilled Glenda Jackson). This means Polly will have to play love scenes with a leading man she has had a mad crush on. (Christopher Gable). The house is near empty, and the star won't be missed too much, but wait! A Mr. DeThrill has arrived to scout out the performance! This gives director Ken Russell the chance to show us some stunning dream numbers which pay homage to early Hollywood musicals like SHOW OF SHOWS, (1929), FLYING DOWN TO RIO, (1933), and in particular, the work of Busby Berkeley. This is a totally unique show, but one that is worth warming up to.
Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956)Sparkling musical has something for everyone.
11 March 2017
MEET ME IN LAS VEGAS comes in toward the end of MGM's golden age. A fun story here about a gambler (Dan Dailey) who only has luck while holding the hand of ballerina Cyd Charisse. Cyd has several gorgeous dance numbers here, including a stunning "Frankie and Johnny" with vocal by Sammy Davis, Jr. The film is crammed to the gunwales with guest stars including Lena Horne, Jerry Colonna, Frankie Laine, and an adorable young Japanese singer named Mitsuko Sawamura. There are many fleeting cameos, too including Peter Lorre, Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds. Special mention should be made of Cara Williams' smashing rendition of "I Refuse To Rock And Roll," where she sets the screen on fire. Agnes Moorehead is effective as Dailey's Mother. A sharp eye will notice Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou from THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW) in a tiny part. This film is a product of 1956, set in the US's gaudiest city, and the colorful decor is properly gaudy. Car lovers will swoon over the red 1956 Lincoln convertible Dan Dailey drives in the picture. This is done in Eastman Color, which is notorious for fading, but this print has gorgeous color that could easily be mistaken for Technicolor. The sound is clear and robust, and does justice to the many musical numbers. You could find many worse ways to spend two hours than by enjoying the many charms of MEET ME IN LAS VEGAS.
The Hit Parade (1937)Pleasant enough Republic musical has some pretty good music
5 February 2017
This was apparently an 83 minute film when it was originally released in 1937, but the version I got is 67 minutes long and re-titled I'LL REACH FOR A STAR. Phil Regan and Frances Langford fall in love and exercise their vocal chords to a good effect. Pert Kelton is on hand to deliver some wise cracks, and there is an unfortunate black face sequence with two performers named Pick 'N Pat. If they had to cut this version down for television distribution, I would think the film could have sacrificed this part. But you do get some big name orchestras helmed by Duke Ellington and Eddy Duchin. And, Carl Hoff and his Hit Parade Orchestra. (Most likely from the radio show.) The best tune in the picture is the catchy "Love Is Good For Anything That Ails You." Which was good enough to be dusted off for Steve Martin's dark musical, PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (1981). This is a direct relative of those "big broadcast" pictures that Paramount favored in the 1930s. Not a bad way to kill a little over an hour, and the music IS hummable. This supposedly cost little Republic about half a million bucks, which would be a lot for the studio that specialized in Saturday matinée serials.
This Could Be the Night (1957)Underrated musical has charm, great '50s period piece.
3 February 2017
THIS COULD BE THE NIGHT is an earlier effort for director Robert Wise. He does a good job in this "nightclub musical." Tony Franciosa and Jean Simmons have a great chemistry together in this, and Paul Douglas is very good as the former bootlegger with a heart of gold. There are many fine character actors in this, namely Joan Blondell, Frank Ferguson and, in one scene, Zasu Pitts. Julie Wilson smoulders in her musical numbers, and Neile Adams pops off the screen in hers. It's interesting to see an integrated school classroom here, as there weren't many seen on the screen or on television in 1957. Rafael Campos plays a bus boy who is taunted because of his middle-eastern lineage. He wants desperately to pass algebra so his Father will allow him to change his name. He does a good job here, although today, he would have to show more pride in his name, rather than try to Angelicize it. The colorful characters here are well- drawn, and we care about them. That's what makes spending a little time at the Tonic night club an enjoyable experience. I had the opportunity to see the late Julie Wilson perform in Chicago in 1999. It was while seeing her that I learned about the existence of this movie. She talked about "this little movie I appeared in" as if she had a tiny role. So I was surprised to see that she not only had a substantial part, but sings in several spots in the film, including over the opening credits. A breezy, fun musical from the end of MGMs glory days.
Broadway (1929)Good looking, good sounding and watch something else instead.
19 January 2017
I finally saw this film after hearing about it for years. It has good photography for an early talkie, the art deco settings and the imaginative costumes are lovely to behold, and the acting and direction in the dialog scenes are putrid. Paul Fejos may have been a great visual director in silents, and, as I say, this film does have good visuals, but there are so many bad dialogue scenes, mainly by the men involved, that this becomes just another bad early talkie. Evelyn Brent, whom I admired so much in THE SILVER HORDE, has little to do here but scowl in her performance. Betty Francisco, as Mazie, comes off best of the females. None of the men turn in good performances, with the prize for worst acting going to the actor playing McCorn, the cop. He reads his lines in a flat monotone while he looks off camera as if for cue cards. The sound recording is good except for one scene when it totally drops out for a few seconds, and the print quality is pretty good, save for the Technicolor finale which looks pretty bad. This was apparently a hit when it came out. Practically anything with sound was in 1929, but take away the pretty trappings, and you have a pot boiler that would have lost money if, say, Tiffany had made it. Watching this suddenly elevates films like THE Broadway MELODY and ON WITH THE SHOW! to absolute greatness.
Uncle Joe (1941)Modest, Enjoyable Programmer
18 September 2015
At 51 minutes running time, UNCLE JOE is a shorty, like the Hal Roach Streamliners of the era. With old pros like Slim Summerville and ZaSu Pitts, the enjoyment factor is high. This was one of Gale Storm's very first pictures, and she shares several scenes with ZaSu, who would be her co-star 15 years later in THE GALE STORM SHOW. There are several songs in the picture. The first, Woogie Hula, is competently sung by the Tanner Sisters, whom I recognize from ALL American CO-ED.The second, sung very nicely by a singer known as Honey Lamb, is The Land of Nod. This song has possibly the most bizarre lyrics ever heard in a picture. Gale Storm does not sing here, but she does play the accordion. In all, this pleasant little picture will give you a few chuckles in it's brief running time. If you like Gale Storm, ZaSu Pitts or Slim Summerville, this will appeal to you.
The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929)A Fun Time Capsule
23 July 2015
This is the very first of the all-star, no-plot revues that proliferated during 1929 and 1930. Just about every star at Metro is featured, and there are many fun sequences to be savored in this film. The most famous one is probably the Joan Crawford segment, where she sings and dances to "Gotta Feeling For You". Her singing is passable, and her dancing is, well, "energetic". Marion Davies seems quite nervous in her "Tommy Atkins On Parade" number, but Bessie Love is pretty good in her wild acrobatics. Marie Dressler is fun, as always, and you can glimpse Carla Laemmle as the pearl in the oyster during "Tableau Of Jewels", which opens the second half. John Gilbert's speaking voice dosen't sound nearly as bad as had been rumored, even when considering the antiquity of the recording. The "Singin' In The Rain" number is fun, and offers a good contrast to the more famous one in the film of the same name. There are some special effects and two-color Technicolor that must have wowed the audiences back then, and it's been said that during the premiere, the theater put a gallon or so of orange-scented perfume into the ventilators during the "Orange Blossom Time" finale. In all, this film is well worth a look if you are into early sound films of historical value.
The Colbys (1985–1987)Too Close For Comfort
8 September 2014
This show just should never have been. Introduced with much ballyhoo in the fall of 1985, The Colbys had all the strengths of it's parent show, Dynasty. Good production values, great actors in the lead roles, a dynamite theme song........it was just too much like it's parent show for anyone to care. The characters are almost identical to those on Dynasty. Have Blake married to Alexis and pining after Krystle on Dynasty, and you've pretty much got the show in a nutshell. The great Barbara Stanwyck was wasted in this show, no wonder she bailed after the first season. The infamous series finale need not be discussed here except to say it was probably a logical conclusion for this illogical series. The producers would have better utilized their talents in improving the steadily declining Dynasty at this point. That series was all downhill from the Moldavian wedding massacre episode. And no, I didn't like season 9 of that show, which many people see as a huge improvement over what went before, including several cast members from the moribund The Colbys.
Glorifying the American Girl (1929)A Rare Film Supervised By Ziegfeld
20 May 2014
Glorifying The American Girl gives us a rare glimpse into Ziegfeld's world of the American showgirl. We see Gloria, a sheet music sales girl, yearn for the big time, and reach it, but at a cost. Gloria is played by genuine Ziegfeld star, Mary Eaton, an actress who didn't fare too well in real life, and died in 1948. She was sister to both Doris Eaton, another Ziegfeld star, and Pearl Eaton, who choreographed musicals at RKO back in the late '20s and early '30s. Gloria has a monstrous stage mother, played by Sarah Edwards. She says "dammit" several times during the proceedings. Other cast members are Edward Crandall and Dan Healy who I believe hail from the New York stage. The "guest stars" are Helen Morgan, Rudy Vallee, and Eddie Cantor, who perform in the revue section at the end of the film. There is a completely restored version moulding away at UCLA Film Archive, but unless you go there or to a film "event" that is featuring it, you'll never see it. The DVD print that is out there generally runs 94 out of 96 minutes and presents the revue section in black-and-white instead of two-color Technicolor. The early sections of the film are rather sharp in clarity and contrast, with the black-and-white versions of the color footage grainer and less sharp. It's still an enjoyable film for buffs even in it's public domain version. The upside is that it is not at all expensive like, say, On With The Show, a 1929 Warners Technicolor film which also exsists only in black-and-white, and coming from Warner Archive is considerably pricier. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it's fun for us buffs, and a bargain, at that.
Hook Line and Sinker (1930)Very Funny
24 February 2014
This Wheeler and Woolsey comedy manages to be one of their best and funniest. I watched this with a friend who normally doesn't laugh too much during early-talkie films, but he was roaring with laughter while watching this. This may be the only one of their films without any musical numbers, but the non-stop comedy makes up for it. Jobynna Howland is hysterical as cute Dorothy Lee' s imposing mother. Ralf Harolde is his usual villainous self, and Natalie Moorehead is very funny as a fake countess. I understand that this film was one of RKO's biggest profit-makers, released in December, 1930. The backlash against musicals was in full-force here, and even the opening credits have no music, a roaring motorcycle and blaring siren underscoring them. There is a brief bit of music during a party scene, played by an orchestra seen on-screen, and a brief fanfare over the end credit, and that's it. Again, I have to say, even though I am pre-disposed to musicals, this is so funny that I rank it over some of W&W's more musical efforts. If you want a good laugh, check this out.
Till the Clouds Roll By (1946)"More Stars Than There Are In Heaven"
17 December 2013
This was MGM's slogan throughout most of it's heyday, and it's never more apparent than in this lavish Technicolor film, which was the studio's big Christmas 1946 release. This may have been released somewhat earlier, if not for a strike at Technicolor which held up sufficient release prints for a general release. If some criticize the story for taking liberties with Jerome Kern's less-than-thrilling real life story, this is more than made up for by showcasing MGM's finest talent in a Niagara Falls cascade of terrific musical numbers. The first section of the film is devoted to a capsule digest version of "Show Boat", and that whets the appetite for the many now-classic numbers which follow. This film exemplifies why the MGM musical is held in such high regard. Beautiful orchestrations, top-talent, and an overall lavishness that would have made Ziegfeld himself proud. Back in 1973, this film made headlines with the fact that the MGM lawyers failed to renew the copyright on this picture, so it, along with Royal Wedding and several others, have made it, over the years, to the public-domain VHS and DVD releases. This is one of many classic all-star films which MGM released over the years. While this film is rather long, it goes by quickly due to the constant stream of great musical numbers contained within. If you love "classic" talent, the kind our parents and grandparents grew up with, you will enjoy "Till The Clouds Roll By".
The Sound of Music (1965)One Of The Great Classics
7 December 2013
This has to be one of the most-loved (along with The Wizard Of Oz) films ever made. I saw it when it was originally released at one of the big downtown Chicago movie palaces which sadly, do not exist anymore. I remember still, the excitement of the justly-famous opening sequence, with that gorgeous Austrian scenery, exploding on the big screen with beautiful color and sound. The cast of this joyous musical was letter-perfect, and the film is timeless. I last saw this on a big screen a few years ago at one of the Grant Park "Movies In The Park", where an appreciative audience sang along with the songs (although this was NOT the sing-along version) and applauded at the conclusion of various songs and scenes. It always astonishes me when I hear that some critics dislike this film. I love it, and have also had the privilege of seeing the live stage show back in 1962, as well as the recent live television adaptation. The Sound Of Music is a story which should appeal to old and young alike.
The Sound of Music Live! (2013 TV Special)Very Good
6 December 2013
In 1962, when I was nine years old, I saw The Sound Of Music which was my first live play. It was at the old Shubert Theater in Chicago, and I was very much enthralled with this production. I knew that this NBC production would be taken more from the source play, rather than the film version (which I have also loved for nearly 50 years). The fact that this show was presented live did transmit a bit of excitement to me. I have seen the film umpteen times and own the DVD of it, but it was indeed a treat to see again the stage version, with it's differences from the film after all this time. I did remember the two tunes which had been cut from the film, reinstated here, and the position changes of some of the other tunes. Carrie Underwood had difficult shoes to fill, indeed, as Maria. Her singing was flawless, and that overcame her unsureness in her acting. (For me). Audra McDonald blew me away as the Mother Abess. Her "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" was beautiful and moving. Did anyone else notice the resemblance between the actress playing Liesl and Angela Cartwright who played Brigitta in the film version? Or the disquieting resemblance of the gentleman who played Max (Sorry, I don't know all the names of the cast) to cult director John Waters? This was a glittering production, with superb direction, beautiful settings and an excitement that only a live telecast can exude. I can only hope that NBC, as well as the other networks will see the successful ratings of this production as a beacon of hope that we can expect more quality programming like this in the future. Perfect? Maybe not. But pretty darn good.
Scarface (1932)Top-Notch Gangster Thriller Still Packs Punch
10 November 2013
This is a rarity, a classic old film from the early talkie days which I have never seen, prior to tonight. Howard Hughes did things in a big way when he made films. His Hell's Angels of 1930 was a top-notch aerial epic. Scarface, made in late 1930, but unreleased until 1932 is a top-notch gangster picture. Beautifully directed by Howard Hawks, the film's dark and brooding cinematography glistens. The performances by all concerned are first-rate. Paul Muni was truly a great actor, and he infuses his character with life. Karen Morley is very good as the girlfriend, but Ann Dvorak is simply great as the sister who is looked after just a little too carefully by Muni's Tony. There are many killings throughout the picture's 94 minute running time, but people looking for blood-and-guts had better head for the Brian DePalma 1983 remake. The violence, and the tension leading up to some of the killings are there, all right, but things were a bit more subtle in the early '30s than they were 50 years later. There is a symbolic "X" theme which runs through the picture which is quite interesting and something I've not seen too often. Boris Karloff has a small part in the proceedings, and while this film was released in April, 1932, which was after Karloff's star-making turn in Frankenstein, Scarface was filmed and completed before the famous Universal horror flick. Scarface is a satisfying gangster picture which is rightfully regarded as one of the very best in it's genre, regardless of year. The DVD print is very good, and there is an alternate ending included which lends a more properly moral tone. I liked the original ending as seen in the released film better, but you can judge for yourself when you see it. This is a film which is well worth your time.
An Evening with Fred Astaire (1958 TV Special)Excellent Special With Great Historical Value
2 November 2013
This NBC special, from the fall of 1958, was the first full-fledged special program to be produced on color videotape. The tape is well-preserved and the old Chrysler cars are fun to look at. This is a piece of television history which, thankfully, has survived in pretty decent condition. That said, the show itself is a wonderful variety hour top-lined by Fred Astaire, who, here in his late 50s, still could weave the magic he did so well in his many musical movies. His dance partner is Barrie Chase, a remarkable and beautiful dancer who holds her own, and then some. Jonah Jones adds some great jazz to the program, and when one is done viewing this, one is tempted to say the old cliché, "They don't make 'em like that anymore." This has not been released on DVD or any home video medium, but the entire program can be viewed in five parts on YouTube. The clarity of videotape gives the program an almost spooky immediacy that you can't quite get with a filmed program. This program was aired live on the east coast, and then the videotape was shown three hours later on the west coast. Videotape in the early days was considered very hard to edit, so this recording is just like seeing the live eastern broadcast. The YouTube download looked pretty good streaming on my 40-inch flat screen, which is a testament to the restoration of the tape. I have no idea how videotape is "restored", but there are few digital artifacts present, and the picture is very good and the sound superb. A wonderful show.
The Great Gatsby (2013)Better Than I Expected
2 November 2013
Okay, I am one of those who, when I found out who was doing this version of the famous Fitzgerald story, was prepared to hate it. Hip-hop music in a 1920s story? The director from Moulin Rouge!? I was wrong. This is a good version of the oft-filmed story. Leonardo DiCaprio, never one of my favorites, does pretty well here as Gatsby. The script is very much like that written for the 1974 version, which is my favorite. The photography glistens and I didn't mind the hip-hop music too much! The running time is exactly the same as the 1974 version, and the period details are pretty well done, outside of the fact that Gatsby's beautiful car is about ten years too young for the 1920s. An infamous misspelling of "Ziegfeld", noticeable in the first trailer, has been thankfully corrected for the actual release. I have always been a fan of the 1974 Paramount filming of this story, but I do appreciate the workmanship and the quality of this latest version.
Moulin Rouge (1952)Stunning!
8 October 2013
This is a gorgeous Technicolor film which tells the tale of Tolouse Lautrec, admirably portrayed by Jose Ferrar. The atmosphere is perfectly drawn by director John Houston, who recreates the Paris of the late nineteenth-century to a T. Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was quite young and beautiful here does fine in a rather flashy part. The theme song was quite the hit when it charted over here. Special mention must be made of the fine use of Technicolor, which was used in a manner mindful of Lautrec's paintings. The colors are warm and vivid, and everything has a kind-of look as if you just stepped out of a time machine. The beautiful hues aside, this is a film which will entertain by virtue of it's fascinating story alone, and to me, is a far better film than the 2001 feature of the same name. It's not really fair to compare the two, though, as the two films are quite different in story, sharing only the title. A one-of-a-kind film and a rewarding one.
My Living Doll (1964–1965)Pleasant Sixties Fantasy Comedy
20 September 2013
I remember this series from it's original run during the 1964-65 season. It fit right in there with other similar fantasy comedies which were successful and not so successful during the mid sixties. Seen today, the show is most comparable to I Dream Of Jeannie, which came along the year after this did. Swinging bachelor lives secretly with a gorgeous female who is compliant to practically every wish. The show comes off as humorous, with good scripts and performances, but it just dosn't quite hit the button the way Jeannie did. This is probably because of the extraordinary chemistry between Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman, which is not quite matched between Bob Cummings and Julie Newmar here. This show lasted but one season, and was marred by the departure of Cummings toward the end of the season, effectively scotching any chance the show may have made it to a second season. The DVD producers have salvaged 11 of the original 26 shows, and hope to secure more for a future release. While this series remains a "cute" show, it is really no more remarkable than The Baileys Of Balboa or The Cara Williams Show from around the same time.
The Lady Refuses (1931)Good Film Highlights Betty Compson
5 September 2013
I saw this film on YouTube and was rather impressed by it. The adult themes of the interesting story held my attention, but what really sold me was, to me, the always-good Betty Compson, an actress whose heyday was in the silent films, and though she couldn't sing or dance, became quite popular in the early talkie days by virtue of the fact that she not only had a fine speaking voice, but she could really act. She's just fine playing the street girl with the heart-of-gold here, and the story and settings are good as well. If I can fault the production, it's in the fact that, despite being set in London, no one (save for Daphne Pollard) speaks with anything like a British accent. I chalk this up to it's "early talkie" status and the fact that, perhaps in those days, the producers weren't sure that a genuine British accent would go over with a "Yank" audience. The theme music over the opening and closing credits is "My Dream Memory", from Betty's 1929 picture, Street Girl. In that picture, Betty did her own playing on the violin of that song.
Hawk of the Wilderness (1938)A Superior Serial
26 August 2013
This may be one of the least known of the famous Republic serials. And that's a shame since it's one of their very best. It's little known, perhaps, because it may still have a copyright holding it back from much exposure. Unlike Undersea Kingdom, S.O.S. Coast Guard, Robinson Crusoe On Clipper Island or the other public domain serials readily available on a variety of DVD labels, you can only find this on an out-of-print VHS double tape set. Hawk Of The Wilderness features beautiful locations and a very good, original music score by William Lava. It also features lively action, a terrific shipwreck in the first chapter, and good performances by a good cast. The version I've been watching seems to be taken from the old VHS tape, and that version was a superior print with crystal-clear picture and sound. The clarity of the film print heightened the majesty of the truly beautiful locations, artistically photographed. There is a good script and a few surprises for those who find the screenplays of such serials predictable. This is one old serial worth seeking out for fans of the genre. I'm not saying where I'm getting this from, since I believe Paramount still holds the rights to it. All I can tell you is: "Seek and ye shall find".
JFK II: The Bush Connection (2003 Video)A Pile Of Trash
26 August 2013
This documentary is without doubt the most poorly constructed and presented thing I have ever seen. The theories are presented in such a god-awful, tabloid style as to render them completely meaningless. Ridiculous pop-up cartoons of the "villans" of the piece will have you rolling on the floor with laughter. My favorite one was of George H.W. Bush as a child in a Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit, holding a balloon with a Nazi Swastika on it. A key witness's name is misread by the narrator so it comes out like Sophia Loren! There are long, lingering autopsy photos of Kennedy's blown-apart head, in faux-color and black-and-white, put there to satisfy the half-wit's need to see blood. A half-wit would be the only type to take this piece of garbage seriously. I saw this under it's reissue title Dark Legacy on Netflix. The sad part is that this film does have it's defenders. A sad commentary on the gullible nature of today's viewer.
Something to Sing About (1937)Pleasant Musical Highlighted By Cagney's Dancing
25 August 2013
This is the film that supposedly sank fledgling Grand National Films after an only three-year existence. Supposedly costing $900,000, the failure of this film sealed the studio's fate. While this is an enjoyable film with pleasant songs and attractive players, I find it hard to believe that cost assessment. The settings are attractive, but not lavish, and aside from James Cagney, there are really no box-office champs here that would require a hefty salary. Evelyn Daw was charming and a very good singer in this, and she supposedly made just one other film before yawing into oblivion. She deserved a better chance at success. There are some familiar faces among the supporting cast such as William Frawley and Gene Lockhart. Phillip Ahn has a surprisingly non-stereotypical role as Cagney's man-Friday, and Mona Barrie is good as a temperamental co-star for Cagney. The print on my DVD is clear and in pretty good shape. A good example of cinema from the mid-to-late '30s.
Captain Calamity (1936)Not-Bad South Seas Programmer With Good Color
25 August 2013
This film was made by Grand National Films, a company with a brief existence from 1936 to 1939. They were trying to become a major player by signing up James Cagney, but his second film for the firm, Something To Sing About cost a fortune for the company and laid an egg at the box office, effectively bankrupting the fledgling firm. Captain Calamity sounds like it would be a comedy film, but it is not. There are some attractive players here, like George Houston, who goes through much of the film with no shirt on, and Movita, a player whose character suffers a surprising fate. The color is a version of Cinecolor which favors blue and red and really looks quite lovely on the unrestored but very watchable print I viewed. Most prints have the first section of credits missing, and cuts in for the shots of the cast poking their heads through a life preserver, with their names printed on the preserver. A good example of early, good-looking color from a company other than Technicolor.