Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Your perfectly nuanced analogies have convinced me...I must see that movie. After all JR Ewing was my spiritual business management mentor and Bobby was my social mentor.....or perhaps I just had the hots for Victoria Principle. Now I'm off to find a copy of The Shining Hour! The promise of 75 minutes of family stye internecine warfare is too darned rich to resist. It just might prove the perfect instrument for honing my emotional sword to an ever finer edge in preparation for the next family reunion. Bwahahaha! What evil lurks in the heart(s) of men,,,,and women? The Shadow knows.

Seriously, thanks for another great review. ;)

PS: Is Joan Crawford using a small fishing creel for a purse? :icon_scratch:
From memory, I think it was a basket with knitting needles, but my memory is vague on it. Joan Crawford, and I know you know this, is the woman to the far left. Also, check out Robert Young's (yes, that Robert Young, standing to the far right) sport coat. It is a beautifully tailored herringbone.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
From memory, I think it was a basket with knitting needles, but my memory is vague on it. Joan Crawford, and I know you know this, is the woman to the far left. Also, check out Robert Young's (yes, that Robert Young, standing to the far right) sport coat. It is a beautifully tailored herringbone.
Indeed, as you say, "Joan Crawford is on the far left" and the gal with the woven basket in hand is Fay Bainter. Clearly I should stay off this site until I have finished my second mug of Joe in the wee hours of the AM! LOL.. :meme:
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
She-Had-to-Say-Yes-1933.jpg

She Had to Say Yes from 1933 with Loretta Young, Lyle Talbot and Hugh Herbert

Behold the pre-code in all its glory: showroom models for a clothing company double as the nighttime "entertainment" for out-of-town clients with the problem being the women have become so greedy and hardcore about it, the men are turned off.

So, the firm tries to recruit comely women from its secretarial pool to "entertain" the men on the assumption they'll be less impersonal and mercenary. If that's not enough, one senior executive whores out his fiancee, yes, his fiancee, to close a deal with a big commission in it for himself. But it gets better, he's two timing his fiancee while she's out at night "working" for him. All this was on screen in 1933.

The title didn't oversell the movie. Surprisingly, though, the company's owner makes a big point to the secretaries that they absolutely don't have to do this as it won't affect their job security to say no. To be sure, there are a hundred things still wrong with this, but it is interesting that the message, "you don't have to do this," was presented as sincere.

Possibly the most underrated actress of the pre-code era, Loretta Young - lithely and delicately beautiful - is the woman asked to answer the call to duty by her two-timing fiance. In a pre-code girl-power move (see enough pre-codes and you'll see plenty of girl power as women, often, didn't take this nonsense sitting down), Young turns the tables on the two-timing fiance and one of the out-of-town clients. It's a wonderful "don't screw with me" moment.

There is a honest love story wrapped inside all of this brutal inhumanity, which maybe was necessary to get it passed the state censor boards (many states had censor boards in the pre-code era that studios worried about). It also provides some relief for the audience from the exhausting non-stop hawking of human flesh going on in She Had to Say Yes.

But even that flicker of decency was presented in a pre-code package as a no-longer-innocent Loretta Young, in complete control of everyone now, kills the Hallmark moment of her desperately apologizing new suitor's proposal:
Desperate suitor: "Will you forgive me [for doubting you at one point] and marry me? I'm terribly sorry"

Young: "I assume it's just a matter of choosing the lesser evil" [one man over another]

Suitor: "Then you will marry me?"

Young: "Of course, silly"
What followed that? Being late at night, the excited young man tells Young they'll go to the Justice of the Peace in the morning and turns to leave. But, Young stops him and, with a seductive look, whispers in his ear. He then picks her up and carries her off to the bedroom.

My guess, "take me now," was her short susurration. And with that, another pre-code movie fades to credits.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
1*amRv0q3ncedbVJyzr28E6A.png

The African Queen from 1951 with Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart

Some movies are all but unbelievable, almost silly when examined closely, yet, like The African Queen, they still work marvelously. At the start of WWI, the brother half of an English brother-sister Christian missionary team in Africa is killed by invading Germans leaving his sheltered, middle-aged sister, Katherine Hepburn, stranded.

Along comes working-class captain, Humphrey Bogart, of the sad, little and dilapidated riverboat, African Queen. A regular supplier of the mission, he comes to assist when he learns of the attack only to find a shattered and isolated Hepburn all but helpless.

Despite a clear class difference between the educated and proper Hepburn and dirt-under-his-nails Bogart, it is Bogart who initially takes charge shepherding numb Hepburn onto his boat as her only chance of survival. Even while doing so, Bogie is sincerely deferential to Hepburn's putative class superiority. Meanwhile, Hepburn is ostensibly respectful, but also obliviously condescending to Bogie showing the power of class distinction in the Empire at that time.

Initially, Hepburn sits queen like under a sun umbrella as Bogie exhausts himself keeping his rickety boat going. But Hepburn emerges from her shock and, showing her English grit, hatches a crazy plan - including makeshift torpedoes and an all but suicide trip downriver - to use the diminutive African Queen to sink the large and forbidding German warship controlling this strategic waterway.

Rational Bogie tries to talk Hepburn out of this insanity, but her force of will and his class deference breaks his resistance. Soon, these two middle-aged oddballs are heading downriver in the least threatening looking boat ever to plot an attack on a warship. With its persnickety boiler, a frail tiller and a general rot that argues against it even staying afloat, it would appear the German Navy should have other things to worry about.

The joy in this one is less the moonshot plan than the chemistry between patriotic and well-meaning-but-obstinate Hepburn and I-just-want-to-live-to-see-tomorrow and carefree Bogie cohabiting for days on a tiny boat. As Hepburn rolls up her sleeves and works (and gets dirty) versus just dreaming up crazy plans and Bogie shows surprising mechanical and boating skills and courage (between periods of drunkenness), their class divide fades into mutual respect and then, believable, sexual attraction.

Kudos to director John Huston for making a very not-Hollywood movie that has the audience rooting hard for these two lost souls to, not only succeed in their cockamamie plan, but overcome their own resistance to romance. A sexual awakening in two reticent middle-aged people is a tricky business, but Huston, Hepburn and Bogart are up to the challenge.

Showing an intimate understanding of the material, Huston resolves both the crazy attack plan and the love story in a masterful climax that leaves the audience smiling at the whimsy and joy of it all. Is it believable, ehhhh, but it's a heck of a movie anyway.


N.B. Look for the moment when hope is all but lost and missionary Hepburn turns to the power of prayer - a prayer God answers in a very different way than requested by Ms. Hepburn. This happy agnostic enjoys a time when Hollywood would still make a movie with a positive Christian message. Cliched as it is, when the sun broke through the clouds symbolizing God's resolve, a tear might have formed in someone's eye; I'm not saying it did, just saying, it might have.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 56844
The African Queen from 1951 with Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart

Some movies are all but unbelievable, almost silly when examined closely, yet, like The African Queen, they still work marvelously. At the start of WWI, the brother half of an English brother-sister Christian missionary team in Africa is killed by invading Germans leaving his sheltered, middle-aged sister, Katherine Hepburn, stranded.

Along comes working-class captain, Humphrey Bogart, of the sad, little and dilapidated riverboat, African Queen. A regular supplier of the mission, he comes to assist when he learns of the attack only to find a shattered and isolated Hepburn all but helpless.

Despite a clear class difference between the educated and proper Hepburn and dirt-under-his-nails Bogart, it is Bogart who initially takes charge shepherding numb Hepburn onto his boat as her only chance of survival. Even while doing so, Bogie is sincerely deferential to Hepburn's putative class superiority. Meanwhile, Hepburn is ostensibly respectful, but also obliviously condescending to Bogie showing the power of class distinction in the Empire at that time.

Initially, Hepburn sits queen like under a sun umbrella as Bogie exhausts himself keeping his rickety boat going. But Hepburn emerges from her shock and, showing her English grit, hatches a crazy plan - including makeshift torpedoes and an all but suicide trip downriver - to use the diminutive African Queen to sink the large and forbidding German warship controlling this strategic waterway.

Rational Bogie tries to talk Hepburn out of this insanity, but her force of will and his class deference breaks his resistance. Soon, these two middle-aged oddballs are heading downriver in the least threatening looking boat ever to plot an attack on a warship. With its persnickety boiler, a frail tiller and a general rot that argues against it even staying afloat, it would appear the German Navy should have other things to worry about.

The joy in this one is less the moonshot plan than the chemistry between patriotic and well-meaning-but-obstinate Hepburn and I-just-want-to-live-to-see-tomorrow and carefree Bogie cohabiting for days on a tiny boat. As Hepburn rolls up her sleeves and works (and gets dirty) versus just dreaming up crazy plans and Bogie shows surprising mechanical and boating skills and courage (between periods of drunkenness), their class divide fades into mutual respect and then, believable, sexual attraction.

Kudos to director John Huston for making a very not-Hollywood movie that has the audience rooting hard for these two lost souls to, not only succeed in their cockamamie plan, but overcome their own resistance to romance. A sexual awakening in two reticent middle-aged people is a tricky business, but Huston, Hepburn and Bogart are up to the challenge.

Showing an intimate understanding of the material, Huston resolves both the crazy attack plan and the love story in a masterful climax that leaves the audience smiling at the whimsy and joy of it all. Is it believable, ehhhh, but it's a heck of a movie anyway.


N.B. Look for the moment when hope is all but lost and missionary Hepburn turns to the power of prayer - a prayer God answers in a very different way than requested by Ms. Hepburn. This happy agnostic enjoys a time when Hollywood would still make a movie with a positive Christian message. Cliched as it is, when the sun broke through the clouds symbolizing God's resolve, a tear might have formed in someone's eye; I'm not saying it did, just saying, it might have.
At risk of being identified as one needing to get a life, I must tell you I have viewed the movie The African Queen at least five times...it is one of my favorites, for sure! And you, my friend are a truly gifted story teller and wordsmith. Your review of this iconic movie is the absolute best literary synopsis of this film that I have seen. It is well written, flows naturally, builds to an emotional climax and leaves the reader with a need, yes need, to watch the movie...again! Thank you......I think? ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
At risk of being identified as one needing to get a life, I must tell you I have viewed the movie The African Queen at least five times...it is one of my favorites, for sure! And you, my friend are a truly gifted story teller and wordsmith. Your review of this iconic movie is the absolute best literary synopsis of this film that I have seen. It is well written, flows naturally, builds to an emotional climax and leaves the reader with a need, yes need, to watch the movie...again! Thank you......I think? ;)
I'm blushing, thank you for your very kind comments.

As your multiple viewings attest - it's a heck of a movie. I will watch it the next time it's on to try to start to catch up to you.
 
Last edited:

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
release-date-june-1-1946-movie-title-one-more-tomorrow-studio-warner-F6DRDM.jpg

One More Tomorrow from 1946 with Dennis Morgan, Ann Sheridan, Alexis Smith, Jane Wyman and Jack Carson

Halfway through One More Tomorrow, I couldn't stop feeling an odd deja vu as I was pretty sure I had never seen this movie, but somehow, the story felt familiar. Then it hit me, it is a reworked-for-the-Motion-Picture-Production-Code version of the outstanding 1932 pre-code movie Animal Kingdom (which a quick trip to Google confirmed).

Animal Kingdom is the story of a man who has an artist girlfriend that, in pre-code fashion, he sleeps with as they spend time at each other's apartment. His wealthy and proper father wants him to marry a socially acceptable woman, which in a moment of weakness, he does.

In the 1932 version of the story, while the man is fond of his new wife, she, like his father, is conventional and concerned with "society;" whereas, he had more fun with his "not respectable" bohemian girlfriend whom he misses. The rest of the movie is watching the man decide if he's willing to settle for an okay marriage or if he'll blow it all up to be with his former girlfriend. It's an adult movie that handles sex, relationships and hard decisions in a mature, nuanced and, even to us today, modern way.

But fourteen years later, with the Motion Picture Production Code in control, the adult elements of the story had to be altered - no casual sex, no sleepovers, no honest discussion of a man having to choose between a nice-but-passionless marriage and an avant-gaurd girlfriend.

Instead, Dennis Morgan is the liberal scion of a wealthy industrialist who invests in a floundering leftist magazine in part, to thumb his nose at his conventional father (that he uses his father's "tainted" money to invest doesn't seem to bother him).

He then falls in love with the periodical's photographer, free-spirit Ann Sheridan. She, ultimately, rejects his offer of marriage believing she wouldn't fit into his society family. Morgan, on the rebound, marries gold-digging society woman Alexis Smith.

The rest of the movie, in the 1946 version, is watching Morgan slowly realizing his wife is a social-climbing manipulative shrew who only married him for his money and position.

That, along with an off-the-shelf subplot about Morgan's liberal magazine potentially exposing a defence-contract scandal involving his Dad's friends, sparks the movie's climax where Morgan has to choose between his "values" and his "social position." Yawn. You know long before Morgan does what he's going to do.

A mature story from 1932 about a man torn between two decent women became a cardboard story in 1946 about good liberals and artists fighting evil businessmen and snobby society types. Even written to make the Dad look bad, I had more sympathy for Morgan's father who seemed to truly love his son than Morgan who came across as another rich liberal kid willing to denounce his Dad, but still (sometimes) take his money.

A genuine and moving love-triangle story from 1932 lost its excitement when it was desexed and turned into a flat good-versus-evil narrative to meet the demands of the Motion Picture Production Code and Hollywood's liberal lean. One More Tomorrow argues that not every story could be harmlessly nipped and tucked to fit the code.


N.B.1. Despite a dull story, there is some witty dialogue that felt "added in," which probably is what happened as the Epstein Brothers - the guys who wrote much of Casablanca's memorable humor - were brought in as writers on this one.

N.B.2. Ann Sheridan, known as the "Oomph Girl" for her sexual allure, is, in truth, only average pretty for Hollywood, but her appeal comes from her being smart, funny and in on the joke. Few can deliver a sarcastic aside faster and with humor, not asperity, better than Ms. Sheridan. The below clip is from a different movie, but watch Ms. Sheridan absolutely destroy George Raft with the line at the end in They Drive By Night:

 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
ev woods-lindsay.jpg

Merry Wives of Reno from 1934 with Guy Kibbee, Margaret Lindsay, Glenda Farrel and Frank McHugh

This is not a good movie, but - but there are no buts - this is not a good movie. Even some of the better talents from Warner Bros stable couldn't stand this one up on its hind legs. Other than some time-travel fun for us today plus a look at Reno's divorce system in its heyday, there's just not much here.

Two wives, owing to misunderstandings with their husbands, head off to Reno for divorces with said husbands fast on their heels trying to change their wives' minds. The misunderstandings - a mix up about overcoats - is too silly to set this entire event in motion, but even that is further confused by another couple involved where the husband has a sheep with him for, one guesses, comic relief.

After this circus lands in Reno, the confusion continues as the women stop and start divorce proceedings time and again depending on if they believe their husbands' excuses and apologies at that moment or not. Thrown into the mix is a hotel bellboy, Frank McHugh, who has a side business doing everything for the guests from getting them into card games to, umm, satisfying the women. In the end, most of the problems sort of work out, but you really don't care much at that point.

Almost everybody is miscast in this one. Talented Guy Kibbee is one of the husbands in trouble because he's a womanizer. This is ludicrous as he's fat, bald and older looking than his fifty years - young women aren't falling for this guy. The lovely Margaret Lindsay is out of her element as an angry wife in a screwball comedy and even outstanding Frank McHugh seems uncomfortable playing a slicker-than-heck schemer who is also the hotel's resident Lothario.

It is neat to see how Reno's economy - including hotels filled with women trying to establish residency and office buildings chocablock with divorce lawyers - is set up to handle a good chunk of the country's divorce business back then. Also, there's some neat 1930s cars, trains and architecture, but it's not enough as, even at just over an hour, this entire effort drags.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
yFOm7O3decb8kp8hexPQP1fKLNv.jpg

The Last Flight from 1931

"Isn't he just sorta wasting himself?"

"On the contrary, he's trying awfully hard to get hold of himself."


The Last Flight is an incipient "talky," but it's also an early and powerful movie instantiation of PTSD veterans or, as these Great War former servicemen were known then, "the lost generation."

Four airmen with physical and mental injuries face returning to civilian life at the end of the war. The army physician who signs their release papers sends them off with kind wishes and advice, but can offer no ongoing support. Turning to a fellow doctor, he describes these men as "spent bullets" who were "taught to kill not live."

The men make their way, not home, where they'd have to "adjust" to civilian life, which they know intuitively they can't do, but to Paris. They hide their anguish behind a front of partying and a devil-may-care attitude. With various combinations of eye tics, burnt hands and thousand-yard stares, these broken men support each other as best they can as they drink their days away.

Along the way, they meet cute, flighty, but sensitive Nikki, played by Helen Chandler (a wonderful slip of attractiveness). They "adopt" her into their group, not for sexual pursuit, as that's too much for these men right now, but as a faint flicker of what women and pre-war life used to mean to them.

This character-study not plot-driven movie has a Hemingwayesque feel as the group spends its days in an alcoholic haze taking trips here and there for no reason until finally winding up in Portugal. There, climatic trips to a bloody bullfight and a carnival shooting gallery bring back the horrors of war, shattering their fragile stability.

While these men wear tailored suits, go to nice bars and have physical injuries that are tamped down for the movie audience, as was done then, The Last Flight is a powerful and heartbreaking study of a World War I version of what would come to be called post traumatic stress disorder.

These physically and mentally damaged men truly are, as noted by the army doctor, spent bullets moving with whatever is left of a flagging forward trajectory they no longer fully control. We tend to think it is only more-modern movies that are willing to take on provocative issues, but The Last Flight was made ninety years ago in the insanely valuable and too-short pre-code era.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 57052
The Last Flight from 1931

"Isn't he just sorta wasting himself?"

"On the contrary, he's trying awfully hard to get hold of himself."


The Last Flight is an incipient "talky," but it's also an early and powerful movie instantiation of PTSD veterans or, as these Great War former servicemen were known then, "the lost generation."

Four airmen with physical and mental injuries face returning to civilian life at the end of the war. The army physician who signs their release papers sends them off with kind wishes and advice, but can offer no ongoing support. Turning to a fellow doctor, he describes these men as "spent bullets" who were "taught to kill not live."

The men make their way, not home, where they'd have to "adjust" to civilian life, which they know intuitively they can't do, but to Paris. They hide their anguish behind a front of partying and a devil-may-care attitude. With various combinations of eye tics, burnt hands and thousand-yard stares, these broken men support each other as best they can as they drink their days away.

Along the way, they meet cute, flighty, but sensitive Nikki, played by Helen Chandler (a wonderful slip of attractiveness). They "adopt" her into their group, not for sexual pursuit, as that's too much for these men right now, but as a faint flicker of what women and pre-war life used to mean to them.

This character-study not plot-driven movie has a Hemingwayesque feel as the group spends its days in an alcoholic haze taking trips here and there for no reason until finally winding up in Portugal. There, climatic trips to a bloody bullfight and a carnival shooting gallery bring back the horrors of war, shattering their fragile stability.

While these men wear tailored suits, go to nice bars and have physical injuries that are tamped down for the movie audience, as was done then, The Last Flight is a powerful and heartbreaking study of a World War I version of what would come to be called post traumatic stress disorder.

These physically and mentally damaged men truly are, as noted by the army doctor, spent bullets moving with whatever is left of a flagging forward trajectory they no longer fully control. We tend to think it is only more-modern movies that are willing to take on provocative issues, but The Last Flight was made ninety years ago in the insanely valuable and too-short pre-code era.
"The Last Flight." Your well written, insightful review has convinced me this is a movie well worth watching. Thanks! ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
JEM2.jpg

Jeanne Eagles from 1957 with Kim Novak, Jeff Chandler and Agnes Moorehead

Prior to this movie, these are the major things I knew about 1920's stage-and-early-screen-star Jeanne Eagles (1890-1929):
  1. She was arrestingly beautiful
  2. She had major drug and alcohol problems
  3. The one performance I saw of hers, 1929's The Letter, was captivating even with her substance abuse all but on display (she died later that same year)
After seeing this 1957 movie and having a sense that it played fast and loose with the facts, I read the Jeanne Eagles Wikipedia page (knowing Wikipedia has its issues, but still, the outline of the biography is probably somewhat close to reality).

As is Hollywood's wont, it created its own Jeanne Eagles story inside the broad sketches of her life. Watching the movie, even without knowing her bio until afterwards, you could feel the "Hollywood treatment" as the story fit too neatly into a typical fifties' Hollywood "star succumbs to substance abuse" template.

In the movie, Eagles, played with gusto by Kim Novak, jumps from carnival "actress" to major Broadway star in one big leap. In real life, Eagles seemed to have worked her way up through both the theater and Hollywood. It happened quickly, but not as in the film, in one giant jump when she "steals" a role from an aging alcoholic actress (the foreboding was heavy handed).

Real-life Eagles' was married and divorced twice; whereas, fictional Eagles married and divorced once, but all the while carried a torch for the one true love of her life, good-guy Jeff Chandler. It's a nice Hollywood story, but apparently not true.

Eagles' alcohol and drug abuse is presented lightly in the movie as, yes, an alcohol issue, but the drugs are "prescribed" by a shady doctor, which makes movie-version Eagles almost a victim. No lighters, spoons, syringes and needle tracks in this movie. In real-life, Eagles seemed an early version of Keith Richards' chosen "booze and pills and powders" lifestyle.

Even Novak, who maybe looks, ehhh, a bit like Eagles, misses the one key Eagles physical feature - her early heroine chicness. Eagles, at least later in her short life, had that drug-user wan fragility that became oddly popular in the 1990s, but healthy-as-heck Novak, despite heavy dark eyeliner, simply looks vibrantly sanguine.

If you accept that the movie only brushes against the real Jeanne Eagles biography now and then, it's okay for what it is: a 1950s-style rise-and-fall morality tale stamped out of Hollywood's assembly line. In another five years, Hollywood would show more ugly reality in its drug- and alcohol-abuse movies, but in the mid '50s, most, like Jeanne Eagles, were handled with a gentler touch.

Maybe a 1920s stage and film star is too remote for a modern audience. And God knows, it's not as if present-day Hollywood hasn't saturated us with substance-abuse tales, but there might be a new period movie waiting to be made from the Jeanne Eagles story.


Ms. Eagles herself.
1-portrait-of-jeanne-eagels-edward-steichen.jpg
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
James Cagney signalling to Myrtle.jpg

Sinner's Holiday from 1930 with James Cagney and Joan Blondell

At one hour in length on the dot, you look back and wonder how they jammed so much plot into sixty minutes, but Warner Bros. pre-codes, in particular, did that.

A matriarch who runs a penny arcade in a Coney-Island-style amusement park tries to keep her adult kids - two boys and a girl - on a short leash, but she clearly has a favorite, and weak spot for, younger son James Cagney.

Unfortunately, somewhat unbeknownst to momma (she sees no evil when it comes to son Cagney), he's rum running out of the arcade next door while romping around with arcade worker Joan Blondel - no favorite of momma's. Thrown into this mix is momma's daughter who is dating (and denying it to momma) a ne'er-do-well arcade roustabout with too-high an opinion of himself.

With the police poking around the amusement park looking for the bootleg operation they know is there but can't quite find and Cagney, maybe, shorting his mob boss, it's all about to explode and, then, does. A murder, a dead body stuffed in an arcade, a planted gun and a false alibi leads to a lot for the police to sort out all in less than a quarter of an hour, but Warner Bros. never saw multiple plot entanglement it couldn't address in mere minutes.

Poor momma has to come to terms with who her favorite son really is and who her daughter is really dating. After that emotional moment, it's back to running the penny arcade as, well, it's the Depression and the business has to open.

The real fun in this pre-code is not the plot, but the time travel to an early thirties amusement park (even if only to a Hollywood-set version). Also revealing of the period, the man dating momma's daughter acts with exaggerated (for the day) homosexual mannerism that seemed to slip into a lot of thirties movies. One assumes those gestures flew past many viewers, but were delivered, with a wink-and-a-nod, for those in the audience who got it.

Finally, this is Cagney's film debut and the first movie he'd do with regular partner Joan Blondel. Cagney is still perfecting the "Cagney persona" here, but you can see it forming. His rapid body movements and warp-speed-dialogue delivery are a bit herky-jerky, but within a few movies, full-blown Cagney would burst to stardom. It's fun to see him just before all that is about to happen.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 57188
Sinner's Holiday from 1930 with James Cagney and Joan Blondell

At one hour in length on the dot, you look back and wonder how they jammed so much plot into sixty minutes, but Warner Bros. pre-codes, in particular, did that.

A matriarch who runs a penny arcade in a Coney-Island-style amusement park tries to keep her adult kids - two boys and a girl - on a short leash, but she clearly has a favorite, and weak spot for, younger son James Cagney.

Unfortunately, somewhat unbeknownst to momma (she sees no evil when it comes to son Cagney), he's rum running out of the arcade next door while romping around with arcade worker Joan Blondel - no favorite of momma's. Thrown into this mix is momma's daughter who is dating (and denying it to momma) a ne'er-do-well arcade roustabout with too-high an opinion of himself.

With the police poking around the amusement park looking for the bootleg operation they know is there but can't quite find and Cagney, maybe, shorting his mob boss, it's all about to explode and, then, does. A murder, a dead body stuffed in an arcade, a planted gun and a false alibi leads to a lot for the police to sort out all in less than a quarter of an hour, but Warner Bros. never saw multiple plot entanglement it couldn't address in mere minutes.

Poor momma has to come to terms with who her favorite son really is and who her daughter is really dating. After that emotional moment, it's back to running the penny arcade as, well, it's the Depression and the business has to open.

The real fun in this pre-code is not the plot, but the time travel to an early thirties amusement park (even if only to a Hollywood-set version). Also revealing of the period, the man dating momma's daughter acts with exaggerated (for the day) homosexual mannerism that seemed to slip into a lot of thirties movies. One assumes those gestures flew past many viewers, but were delivered, with a wink-and-a-nod, for those in the audience who got it.

Finally, this is Cagney's film debut and the first movie he'd do with regular partner Joan Blondel. Cagney is still perfecting the "Cagney persona" here, but you can see it forming. His rapid body movements and warp-speed-dialogue delivery are a bit herky-jerky, but within a few movies, full-blown Cagney would burst to stardom. It's fun to see him just before all that is about to happen.
Paraphrasing a line from Jerry McGuire, "You had me at the mention of James Cagney!" Anything with James Cagney in it is worth watching and Sinner's Holiday is on my list. ;)
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
DxUOdeXWwAAgQbK.jpg

Murder, My Sweet from 1944 with Dick Powell, Claire Trevor (above left, revealing a lot of leg) and Anne Shirley

Powell as Marlow (sniffing the air): "Is that you?"
Ann Shirley: "Is what me?"
Powell: "That nice expensive smell."

It took until this, probably my third viewing in thirty years, to finally appreciate Murder, My Sweet. It doesn't have the insane perfectness of The Maltese Falcon, the prurient bookshop scene from The Big Sleep or Edward G. Robinson picking Fred MacMurray apart stitch by stitch in Double Indemnity, but it does do just about everything film-noir right.

Powell wears the Phillip Marlowe private investigator role with weary comfort and a wonderful balance of cynicism and fatigued morality, the only honest philosophical combination adulthood leaves a sentient being.

Hired to find an ex-con's former girlfriend, Powell's investigation morphs into a ride-along for the payoff of a stolen jade bracelet, which results in the murder of a bag man. This leads him to a wealthy and broken family comprising an older husband, a young straying wife, Claire Trevor, and her angry adult stepdaughter, Ann Shirley.

It's another entry in the popular noir subgenre of rich people living in mausoleum-like mansions. Oftentimes, as in Murder, My Sweet, these families have too many pretty and, umm, "unsatisfied" young women with nothing to do so they get themselves involved with dandy men and murder (see The Big Sleep and Born to Kill amongst others).

As Powell continues to dig by instinct in the dark, almost everybody tries to hire, fire, pay off, beat up or kill him (sometimes all five) anytime he gets close to the truth. Nobody, save maybe, the two-steps-behind-it-all police, wants the real story coming out.

But since Powell has the noir-era PI code requiring a private investigator or lawyer (see Perry Mason), who takes on a client, to stay with that client no matter how dishonorable the client may be, he just keeps getting up, brushing himself off and going back in for more. It's a code of personal integrity, not charity, which is why it feels foreign to us today.

After a bunch of head bonking and gunfire, a lot of sexual tension in the Powell-Trevor-Shirley love triangle, a few rough police interrogations and too many lies to keep track of, Powell unravels this murder, jewel-heist and unrequited-love mystery and makes off with the not-guilty woman.

It's a solid noir ride from beginning to end as nobody is totally honest, some are horribly dishonest, sex is used as a weapon, often by the women, streets are dark and wet, men carry guns and truncheons and you know whom you are rooting for, but not always why. It took me a few viewing, but now I fully appreciate the noir wonderfulness of Murder, My Sweet.


N.B. 1. Claire Trevor, a noirland regular, might have broken the land-speed record for aging as she goes from middle-aged seductress in this one to withered alcoholic four years later in Key Largo.

N.B. 2. While it only appeared briefly in the movie, check out, below, the insane Art Deco grill on the wonderfully named 1931 Isotta Fraschini (which sounds to me more like an Italian cinema sex goddess than a car).
i071360.jpg
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
leatherheads-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000.jpg

Leatherheads from 2008 with George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski and John Price

If I'm not the target audience for this movie, I don't know who is. Yet, that is the problem as Leatherheads feels like a movie designed to appeal to me - a fan of Classic Hollywood movies from the thirties and forties - instead of being a modern period movie that is simply well done.

In the twenties, aging football star, George Clooney, in the incipient days of the NFL when the game's survival is still in question, recruits John Krasinski, a college star (the popular football league of that era) and WWI hero, to save the professional league. Just as Krasinski signs up, star reporter Renee Zellweger pursues rumors Krasinski's war record is fabricated.

Clooney, Zellweger and Krasinski quickly form a love triangle amped up by Clooney's career being threatened by the younger Krasinski. Thrown into the mix are a cookie-cutter corrupt agent, John Price, a hard-as-nails newspaper editor, a drunk reporter and a bunch of football player caricatures, meaning all the elements are here for a fun, lighthearted movie.

But that's the hitch as it all feels constructed to mimic the screwball romcoms of the thirties - think Bringing up Baby or His Girl Friday. Leatherheads is almost a checklist of those older movies: love triangle, check; fast witty dialogue(well, kinda), check; cardboard bad guys, check; comic relief character, check; wacky chases and getaways, check; happy ending (not a spoiler as you just know this from the beginning), check.

It's not bad as the story is serviceable, the actors talented and the period details insanely enjoyable; it just has no heart. It feels reverse engineered from a dissection of its thirties antecedents.

Maybe it could have overcome all that if for a second you believed that Clooney and Zellweger or Krasinski and Zellweger are in any way, shape or form attracted to each other, but in that triangle, only Clooney and Krasinski seemed to have any genuine connection.

Perhaps director Clooney should have asked Robert Redford to have taken the reins as Redford seems to have a firmer hand than Clooney at making period movies redolent of Classic Hollywood without having them slide into weak parody. Still, Leatherheads is worth the watch for the incredible twenties clothes, trains, architecture and early football ephemera alone.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
BeautyandtheBossStill.jpg

Beauty and the Boss from 1932 with Warren William, Marian Marsh, Charles Butterworth and David Manners

"We were all wrong, you see. You're a girl of the evening whom I only met, unfortunately, in the daytime."

- Warren William firing his secretary so he can keep her as a mistress.

I have no doubt the romcom goes back to the old nickelodeons, but we can date the modern "talkie" movie version of them at least as far back as Beauty and the Boss in 1932.

All the basic elements of the romcom are here. A man and a woman who have no interest in having a meaningful relationship with anyone are thrown together at work. He's a hard driving businessman who treats women as playthings and she's a serious secretary with no time for romance. Then, after a bunch of misunderstandings and denials of true feelings, they finally come together right at the last minute when it looks like all hope is lost.

It's a ridiculous formula that has been incredibly successful for, again, in talking pictures, ninety years because it's fun as heck to watch unfold. Warren William is the businessman with no time for romance and Marian Marsh is the cute, serious and frumpy-dressed whizbang secretary who makes William's work life incredibly efficient.

She's indifferent, at first, to his peccadilloes and he sees her as nothing more than an office machine. But as their feelings slowly grow, Marsh, for reasons she doesn't understand immediately, becomes perturbed about William's "dating" habits. When she starts to intentionally muck-up his personal life, he is mildly annoyed, but neither one of these two has yet to recognize what is happening - as in any good romcom.

After that, it's what would become more standard romcom stuff: he tries harder to enjoy his frivolous relationships but becomes angry when they no longer please him, while she shows interest in other men trying, without fully realizing it, to make him jealous. A bunch of other nonsense also goes on about mixed up business meetings and men and women chasing each other around a restaurant with Marsh escaping in a waiting horse-drawn carriage. To this day, romcoms love horse-drawn carriages.

As in any successful romcom, this one works because you like the characters and are rooting for them to get together. Playing to what would become formula, she's cute as heck and he's a handsome bumbling idiot without her. In an early scene where she arranges his merger meetings, Marsh's acting is impressive as she delivers dialogue like machine-gun fire with William, her boss, struggling just to keep up. You know, right then, who the smarter one in this relationship will be.

It all happens in just over an hour, but in the 1930s, Warner Bros. could probably have condensed War and Peace to just over an hour without dropping too much story. Proving how Beauty and the Boss set the formula for so many romcoms to come, the ending has William dictating a letter to unaware Marsh asking her to marry him. Different versions of the surprise dictated-letter-proposal have popped up in numerous romcoms ever since.

It's silly, predictable and a bit clunky (it's an early talkie), but also great fun to see a quick romcom that, even in 1932, already had many of the key elements of its genre in place. Jennifer Aniston and Meg Ryan might or might not know it, but their hugely successful careers in the 1990s as romcom stars owe more than a hat-tip to Marian Marsh in Beauty and the Boss.


N.B. Speed Drill: Look for William's insanely cool Art Deco office / note the pre-MeToo moment where William fires his secretary, pays her a large severance and, then, sets her up as his mistress as he explicitly won't mixed business and pleasure / catch the always enjoyable Charles Butterworth tossing off lines like this as a compliment to Marsh's genuine business talents, "The Barron's [William's] other secretaries were fast too, but not around the office."
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
View attachment 57350
Beauty and the Boss from 1932 with Warren William, Marian Marsh, Charles Butterworth and David Manners

"We were all wrong, you see. You're a girl of the evening whom I only met, unfortunately, in the daytime."

- Warren William firing his secretary so he can keep her as a mistress.

I have no doubt the romcom goes back to the old nickelodeons, but we can date the modern "talkie" movie version of them at least as far back as Beauty and the Boss in 1932.

All the basic elements of the romcom are here. A man and a woman who have no interest in having a meaningful relationship with anyone are thrown together at work. He's a hard driving businessman who treats women as playthings and she's a serious secretary with no time for romance. Then, after a bunch of misunderstandings and denials of true feelings, they finally come together right at the last minute when it looks like all hope is lost.

It's a ridiculous formula that has been incredibly successful for, again, in talking pictures, ninety years because it's fun as heck to watch unfold. Warren William is the businessman with no time for romance and Marian Marsh is the cute, serious and frumpy-dressed whizbang secretary who makes William's work life incredibly efficient.

She's indifferent, at first, to his peccadilloes and he sees her as nothing more than an office machine. But as their feelings slowly grow, Marsh, for reasons she doesn't understand immediately, becomes perturbed about William's "dating" habits. When she starts to intentionally muck-up his personal life, he is mildly annoyed, but neither one of these two has yet to recognize what is happening - as in any good romcom.

After that, it's what would become more standard romcom stuff: he tries harder to enjoy his frivolous relationships but becomes angry when they no longer please him, while she shows interest in other men trying, without fully realizing it, to make him jealous. A bunch of other nonsense also goes on about mixed up business meetings and men and women chasing each other around a restaurant with Marsh escaping in a waiting horse-drawn carriage. To this day, romcoms love horse-drawn carriages.

As in any successful romcom, this one works because you like the characters and are rooting for them to get together. Playing to what would become formula, she's cute as heck and he's a handsome bumbling idiot without her. In an early scene where she arranges his merger meetings, Marsh's acting is impressive as she delivers dialogue like machine-gun fire with William, her boss, struggling just to keep up. You know, right then, who the smarter one in this relationship will be.

It all happens in just over an hour, but in the 1930s, Warner Bros. could probably have condensed War and Peace to just over an hour without dropping too much story. Proving how Beauty and the Boss set the formula for so many romcoms to come, the ending has William dictating a letter to unaware Marsh asking her to marry him. Different versions of the surprise dictated-letter-proposal have popped up in numerous romcoms ever since.

It's silly, predictable and a bit clunky (it's an early talkie), but also great fun to see a quick romcom that, even in 1932, already had many of the key elements of its genre in place. Jennifer Aniston and Meg Ryan might or might not know it, but their hugely successful careers in the 1990s as romcom stars owe more than a hat-tip to Marian Marsh in Beauty and the Boss.


N.B. Speed Drill: Look for William's insanely cool Art Deco office / note the pre-MeToo moment where William fires his secretary, pays her a large severance and, then, sets her up as his mistress as he explicitly won't mixed business and pleasure / catch the always enjoyable Charles Butterworth tossing off lines like this as a compliment to Marsh's genuine business talents, "The Barron's [William's] other secretaries were fast too, but not around the office."
Sounds like an entertaining/interesting , yet also familiar plot. It's on the list, but last evening SWMBO and I popped our DVD copy of North by Northwest in the player. and spent the evening with Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason. Every time we watch the movie, I can't make up my mind what most impresses me...the classic styles, the mediocre acting that comes off so well it thrills us every time, the $2 ticket Roger Thornhill gets for Drunken and Reckless Driving, Eve Kendall being seduced by the CIA to spy on her boyfriend after they told her he was an international spy and suspected murderer. and the list goes on and on.

However I am pleased to report that my wife and I have had the past good fortune to visit the the location that the airplane chase scene in the movie takes place; the intersection of routes 30 and 41 in Northern Indiana. The 360 degrees of cornfields and the intersection are still there, but with great big reinforced concrete cloverleafs planted in the middle of it all. One never tires of the classics, but this one always leaves me with the unrequited desire to visit Mount Rushmore and explore the wooded areas at the top of the monument...some day it's going to happen! LOL. ;)
 
Last edited:

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Sounds like an entertaining/interesting , yet also familiar plot. It's on the list, but last evening SWMBO and I popped our DVD copy of North by Northwest in the player. and spent the evening with Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason. Every time we watch the movie, I can't make up my mind what most impresses me...the classic styles, the mediocre acting that comes off so well it thrills us every time, the $2 ticket Roger Thornhill gets for Drunken and Reckless Driving, Eve Kendall being seduced by the CIA to spy on her boyfriend after they told her he was an international spy and suspected murderer. and the list goes on and on.

However I am pleased to report that my wife and I have had the past good fortune to visit the the location of the airplane chase scene in the movie takes place; the intersection of routes 30 and 41 in Northern Indiana. The 360 degrees of cornfields and the intersection are still there, but with great big reinforced concrete cloverleafs planted in the middle of it all. One never tires of the classics, but this one always leaves me with the unrequited desire to visit Mount Rushmore and explore the wooded areas at the top of the monument...some day it's going to happen! LOL. ;)
Watching "North by Northwest," and those other "big" Hitchcock movies are like visiting with old friends. It's great that you and your wife can enjoy those together.
 
Your email address will not be publicly visible. We will only use it to contact you to confirm your post.

IMPORTANT: BEFORE POSTING PLEASE CHECK THE DATE OF THE LAST POST OF THIS THREAD. IF IT'S VERY OLD, PLEASE CONSIDER REGISTERING FIRST, AND STARTING A NEW THREAD ABOUT THIS TOPIC.