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Winner Take All (1932)
Pretty new to the hollywood scene, James Cagney is Jimmy Kane, pro boxer, on a break at health ranch. He meets up with singer Peggy (Marion Nixon), who really needs money for her ill son. co-stars Virginia Bruce and Guy Kibbee, who were in so many films in the 1930s and 1940s. the usual boy-meets-girl story, and just before the film code was too strong. Kibbee is his manager "Pop", but when he lines up a big time fight, Kane isn't sure he wants to do it, because it might ruin his body even more. a really funny scene when Kane and his helper are practicing meeting various people in new york city. gotta pay attention, or you'll miss it. but now the girlfriend is running cold... she and her best friend are total idiots, and Kane is better off without them! but that's just me. watch the adventure unfold. Directed by Roy DelRuth; he didn't win any oscars, but he got his star on the the hollywood walk of fame, and made some biggies in the 1940s !
Masterson of Kansas (1954)
the usual western
Brings together Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday in an ol western... the usual cowboys and Indians. Stars George Montgomery, James Griffith, and Bruce Cowling. In Dodge City, it's the cattlemen against Merrick, the man helping the native americans, and Masterson is determined to bring justice if he can. kind of ironic that part of it is filmed in Griffith Park, but doesn't seem to be connected to James Griffith. it's the usual western shenanigans. pretty good... very linear story-line. nothing too new here. Directed by William Castle; he had started in westerns... ended up as the horror movie king in the 1950s and 1960s. Castle also directed House on Haunted Hill ( and lesser known The Tingler !) with Vincent Price.
Find the Blackmailer (1943)
all done in under an hour
Jerome Cowan is a private investigator "Trees", hired by local politician John Rhodes (Gene Lockhart). The plot is pretty wacky and convoluted; There's a talking bird. and a blackmailer. and the blackmailer's girlfriend, Mona (Faye Emerson). Emerson was a bombshell actress during the 1940s, and was married to one of the Roosevelt sons, but moved to mostly television after that. Rhodes wants the PI to locate and steal the talking bird, since its words could hurt Rhodes' political carreer. Corny. but thankfully short, at about 56 minutes. The ongoing music is almost cartoon-caperish, and seldom matches the action. Directed by Ross Lederman. odd.. imdb has him married to Doris, but on wikipedia, he's married to June. The lawyer is played by Mark Kent; was a prize fighter who moved into films, but died quite young at 46. "Blackmailer" moves right along, it's all very okay. the writers try to highlight the clever bickering and banter between Trees and his assistant, but it doesn't really work... there just isn't much chemistry there.
The Working Man (1933)
Arliss in Working Man..
A great mix of older, seasoned actor George Arliss and new to the scene Bette Davis. Arliss had played "Disraeli" TWICE already, and easily moved into talkies. Davis was just getting started in hollywood. Reeves (Arliss) runs a shoe company, and takes a vacation. While on vacation, he gets involved in his rival's company, and leaves his own company in the hands of his nephew Benjamin. Reeves had been good friends with the rival, but parted ways years before to run their own companies. and after his own nephew said he's too old to run the business, Reeves is itching to show Benjamin he can still run a business, while helping his rivals' kids at the same time. But there are some twists along the way. Interesting take on how people handled the depression; so many families started with big money. some kept it, some lost it. Directed by John Adolfi, who only made one more film for Warner Brothers before he passed away at age 52. it's a fairly simple story, but has a fun sense of humor along the way.
The Big Shakedown (1934)
EARLY bette davis
Stars a young Bette Davis as Norma, girlfriend to Jimmy (Charles Farrell). Jimmy runs the drugstore that the gangsters want to take over. Jimmy doesn't want to sell, but the gangsters want him to start making cheap knockoffs of major pharma products. what could go wrong? co-stars Glenda Farrell (Lil, and Torchy Blane !) and Ricardo Cortez. and of course, the nasal character actor Allen Jenkins. he was in every single gangster movie made in the 1930s and 1940s... sometimes the good guy, sometimes the bad guy. John Wray would die pretty young at 53, but he made some big films in the 1930s. it's a snapshot of the rough and tumble mobster films of the depression, complete with a chick-fight between the two ladies, Lil and Norma. Directed by John Dillon, his last film; died of a heart attack at 49. From First National. He had also directed the 1930 version of Kismet. Shakedown is pretty good.. some huge hollywood names in the early days of talkies. It's in great condition, considering it's from 1934; it must have been restored.
Mountain Justice (1937)
supposedly based on a real case
Apparently based on a real case, according to the Trivia, this court trial film has some big hollywood names -- George Brent, Guy Kibbee, Mona Barrie, and even Margaret Hamilton (a couple years before Wizard of Oz !) Josephine Hutchins is Ruth Harkins, violently abused by her father. it's a little uneven, but does its best to tell the story of a daughter, determined to make her own way and marry who she wants to marry. it's pretty good. purports to show the ways of the appalachian mountain folk. Directed by Michael Curtiz, who made some pretty big films in his day, and won the oscar for Casablanca.
Beat the Band (1947)
meh... musical. songs. returning soldier.
A simple, little show, from RKO. Frances Langford, singing star of the 1930s and 1940s is Anne Rogers. Co-star Ralph Edwards had a whopping seven film credits, so we know this isn't a top drawer production. The biggest names in here are listed at the end of the cast list. musician Gene Krupa. Donald MacBride and Grady Sutton, who were in comedies with the marx brothers and W.C. Fields. so Langford sings a bunch of the songs in here, but that's not enough to zing this one up; Returning soldiers from the war... showbiz, bands. starting over. its pretty slow. there's almost nothing of a story, but the actors all do their best. Directed by John Auer, about mid-career. directed 43 films, but nothing to memorable. ho hum. skip this one.
A Song to Remember (1945)
Paul Muni and Cornel Wilde star in Columbia's story of Chopin. Merle Oberon co-stars as "George Sand". Békássy István is contemporary Franz Liszt. In paris, where they can live, and write, and perform, and celebrate! Light and fluffy. a sense of humor and comedy, having escaped the drudgery of the old life. a grand production, showing the ups and downs of Chopin's personal life. and the interactions with George and Liszt. Living free and as he wishes in Paris, but then his friends start to say he should be doing more for his home country Poland. and some kind of jealousy triangle going on with Sand. Directed by Charles Vidor, who made SO many great films! "Song To Remember" won some awards at the film festivals. was nominated for SIX oscars, but didn't win any; Paul Muni and Cornel Wilde star in Columbia's story of Chopin. Merle Oberon co-stars as "George Sand". Békássy István is contemporary Franz Liszt. In paris, where they can live, and write, and perform, and celebrate! Light and fluffy. a sense of humor and comedy, having escaped the drudgery of the old life. a grand production, showing the ups and downs of Chopin's personal life. and the interactions with George and Liszt. Living free and as he wishes in Paris, but then his friends start to say he should be doing more for his home country Poland. and some kind of jealousy triangle going on with Sand. Directed by Charles Vidor, who made SO many great films! "Song To Remember" won some awards at the film festivals. was nominated for SIX oscars, but didn't win any; or for Gilda, a year later, which really was a ripoff. Vidor was married to Doris Warner, as in Warner Brothers; he died quite young of a heart attack. This one is okay, and pretty much tells the story, in almost a monotone fashion.
Vidor didn't win any for Gilda, a year later, which really was a ripoff. Vidor was married to Doris Warner, as in Warner Brothers; he died quite young of a heart attack. This one is okay, and pretty much tells the story, in almost a monotone fashion.
The Big Picture (1989)
interesting mix of stars...early christopher guest
So fun! Kevin's cute little, tiny car. the dirty, dirty, hors d'ovres served at the party. SO many great actors, some old pros, some in their very early days... Kevin Bacon (a couple years AFTER footloose), Martin Short, Michael McKean, Fran Drescher, John Cleese, Roddy McDowell, Eddy Albert. such an odd collection of actors. There's an awkward, paused, weirdness, in almost every scene. The plot is pretty much secondary to the wacky interactions between people as they converse. Bacon is Nick Chapman, who had a quick, early success in a short film, and gets discovered by Allen, a producer. Allen wants to change key details in Bacon's upcoming projects, and the story goes from there. The girlfriend gets jealous of his new friends, Nick doesn't want to compromise his story, and welcome to hollywood. "Carl" is played by Jason Gould, Streisand's son.. only had nine roles. it ain't no shakespeare, but it's entertaining. fun. silly, weird. awesome. early christopher guest. 80's music and hairstyles. the sudden ups and downs of showbiz. The first full length film directed by Christopher Guest! he had been acting since the early 1970s... and this was a couple years after Spinal Tap. Good stuff. Now showing on Turner Classics. and introduced by Martin Short (who was IN it!) and Dennis Miller.
Don't Turn 'em Loose (1936)
ok crime story from the 1930s
Crime story from RKO. when Bat Williams (Bruce Cabot, friend and costar with John Wayne) comes up for parole, his dad, played by hollywood pro Lewis Stone, gives him the thumbs up, that's the start of all the trouble. Cabot was best known for rescuing Fay Wray in King Kong 1933. Co-stars Betty Grable, James Gleason, and Louise Latimer. Latimer quit hollywood the year after making this, but Gleason and Grable went on for MANY more years. so... when Williams returns to his old ways of crime, everything falls apart again. the script, the acting, and the editing are all pretty bad. Grable is Bat Williams' sister Mildred. Grable died quite young.. she was married to musician Harry James for twelve years, and probably best known for "How to Marry a Millionaire". Lewis Stone had been co-star in some REAL big films..Grand Hotel, Queen Christina, Red Headed Woman. James Gleason had made a few silents, but with his dry, sarcastic, sardonic wit, he easily fit into the talkies. it's all very so-so. can't give this one very high marks; it's mildly entertaining, but no surprises or fancy plot in this one. Directed by Ben Stoloff; did some silents, did some talkies, but looks like he didn't win any oscars.
The Naked Hills (1956)
similarities to Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Kind of an odd combination of stars from the 1950s. "Powell" is David Wayne, probably best known for "How to Marry a Millionaire". Jim Backus -- Thurston Howell III, of course. Denver Pyle was the old guy on Dukes of Hazzard tv show...he's the narrator, and part time character. Keenan Wynn is "Wilkins", the bad apple in the group. Everyone trying to get rich quick, out west. and everyone out for themselves! some similarities to "Treasure of the Sierra Madre", where they illustrate how gold fever slowly makes one go mad with greed. It's pretty good. so much fighting. and scheming by both Powell (Wayne) and Wilkins (Wynn). Directed and produced by Josef Shaftel. and this was the second of just TWO films directed by him.
michael douglas and others from the 1970s
Michael Douglas is "Jerry", one of his early film roles, who comes home, and is about to be drafted. co-stars Jack Warden, Brenda Vaccaro, Barbara BelGeddes. Rob Reiner and Teri Garr are also in here. The plot is pretty lame. Jerry, signs up to be a "big brother". Vaccaro is "Vanetta", the love interest. when Jerry gets drafted, he doesn't think he can fight, so of course there's a huge argument with his parentals on the right thing to do. Jerry butts heads with dad, and suddenly, the film is over, and we find out what Jerry decided. quite the abrupt ending. like they lost the last reel of film and had to sum it up in one minute. One of only TWO films directed by british Tony Newley! Newley was a jack of all trades.. musician, actor... and married to Joan Collins for eight years! this one is okay. not anyone's best work.
The Valiant (1929)
EARLY paul muni... not so good.. minor spoiler
RIGHT at the beginning of talkies, James Dyke (Paul Muni, in his debut !) confesses to a murder, and gets locked up. Marguerite Churchill is the girl who may or may not be his actual sister. It's a shortie, at only 66 minutes. this started as a play. it's pretty dark. silly, sappy, pretty bad script. and because talkies were just starting, the dialogue and timing were really odd. Not recommended, but in interesting bit of history, as the first acting gig for the two stars. nothing really happens. I'm glad i never paid to see this play! Directed by Bill Howard. interesting only for the history of the stars.
Angels' Alley (1948)
the usual bowery boys antics
Leo Gorcey (and his brother, of course) star in Angels' Alley, another middle episode of the Bower Boys films. His dad, Bernard, isn't in this one... he must have been busy that week! In this one, Frank Darro is "cousin Jimmy", who comes to visit, and of course, they are caught up in his car theft scheme. Huntz Hall is the usual sidekick "Sach". and the usual clever word play and banter, as Jimmy hangs out with all the wrong crowd, and is headed for more trouble. Billy Benedict was called "Whitey" (for his long blond hair) in every secondary role he had. Slip and Sach try to get to the bottom of the car thieves, but of course, they get involved up to their elbows. Lots of silly laughter by the real crooks. it's pretty good.. nothing earth-shattering, but not so bad either. Directed by Bill Beaudine, who had directed MANY of the Bowery Boys films. sadly, both Gorcey and Darro died pretty young.
Angels in Disguise (1949)
another chaptah of the bowery boyz
The usual cast of Leo Gorcey, with his brother, AND his father. Add in Huntz Hall and Bill Benedict, to make up the "Bowery Boys", in this middle chapter of the Bowery Boys films. In this one, Slip is a copy boy at the local newspaper, so he's hearing the good and the bad, first-hand. When he hears of a local robbery, the gang jumps in and starts investigatin'. wordplay. mis-understandings. slapstick comedy. the usual horsing around.... playing to the audience. It's pretty good! Directed by Jean yarbrough; had directed a whole bunch of Bowery Boys films, as well as Abbott & Costello! doesn't get better than that. lots of Yarbrouh's stuff showing on Turner Classics on a regular basis.
Sugar Hill (1974)
race relations film from the 70s.
"Sugar" is played by Marki Bey, who only made twelve films, and all in the 1970s. She had already done "Landlord", with Beau Bridges, which also shows on Turner Classics. This one opens with a voodoo ritual, and even the opening theme is about voodoo, so keep that in mind! When her man gets knocked off, Sugar enlists the help of Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully) and the underworld. it's a combination of horror flick and blaxploitation 1970s film. lots of cleavage. cussing, violence, race relations and language typical of the 1970s. not at all for the kiddies. it's pretty good! solid story, solid acting. Co-stars BettyAnn Rees, Robert Quarry, and Richard Lawson; Lawson has been working steadily since the 1970s. Robert Quarry became king of the cult horror films. Directed by Paul Maslansky, who had done a lot of work on the various Police Academies. and even has ANOTHER on currently in process, as of 2019. Recommended.
Cry Wolf (1947)
they hardly ever show this one
Sandra (the incredible Barbara Stanwyck, post Double Indemnity) appears at the home of Mark Caldwell (the manly Errol Flynn). they were both related to Jim, now deceased. although the Caldwell family doesn't believe that Sandra was married to Jim. and they say no will has been found. Mystery and intrigue. we meet Julie, the sister, and she tells us about Mark, and how controlling he is. he seems to interfere in everybody's doings. Julie and Sandra hit it off, but will that friendship be enough for Sandra to get to the truth? Brother Mark seems to dark and evil, but is he still hiding something? Sandra uncovers the truth, but will she be able to tell people what actually happened? it's pretty good. lots of build up to what could be going on in Mark's lab, but really, no big deal. low key thriller... ten years later, vincent price or someone would be doing Flynn's role, in color. I like the fact that this one is done in black and white.. it adds to the darkness and mystery. good stuff; a rarely shown Stanwyck.
The Organization (1971)
the awesome sidney poitier does it again
Part three of the Mister Tibbs detective chapters. Sidney Poitier in another who-dunnit, this time in san francisco. which was also the setting for his "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" ! After a huge heroin robbery, Tibbs is brought in to figure out what's going on. Graham Jarvis is the employee "Martin". he was awesome in New Leaf and What's Up Doc ? Max Gail (Barney Miller) is in here as Rudy. keep an eye out for Daniel Travanti from "Hill Street Blues." and from The Rookies, Gerald O'Loughlin. those actors will be in all kinds of cop shows. Tibbs isn't sure who to trust, so he starts keeping secrets from his own boss, and from Narcotics, when they get involved. of course, that makes it look like HE was the guilty party. it's all pretty well done. quite rare, that a third chapter could be so good. Directed by Don Medford. he did mostly television after this one. Not bad.
The Phantom of 42nd Street (1945)
interesting, if only for historical value
From PRC, Producers Releasing Corp, comes the moidah of an actor. Dave OBrien is "Tony", mister suave reporter, who is trying to solve the case. Kay Aldridge is the actress Claudia, who may or may not be involved. lots of talking, talking with suspects, who may or may not be suspects. O'Brien certainly did it all; writer, actor, director. probably best known for "Reefer Madness", 1936. Met Harry Truman. died quite young at 57 from a heart attack. Keep an eye out for Cyril Delevanti... was the old guy in "Night of the Iguana". Directed by Al Herman; this was one of his last films. had started in silents, doing short films, and moved into the talkies. the sound and picture quality is pretty bad, but there ARE captions, so i guess we're lucky it's watchable at all, after eighty years. showing on FilmDetective streaming channel. it's okay. that about all.
maryAnn from gillians island
MaryAnn from Gilligan's Island! Dawn Wells seems to be the biggest name in this yawner. apparently, it's based on a real event, where someone terrorizes lover's lane in Texarkana,Texas. The narrator here is a little distracting.... keeps breaking up the action, Dragnet-style. the acting is pretty lame, and the story is over the top. and they keep playing tin-soldier marching music, as if Barney Fife is making a citizen's arrest. Everything is coming from the Low Budget store. Directed by Charles Pierce, cult movie king. had written Sudden Impact for Clint Eastwood in 1983. he's also Patrolman Benson in this film! it's all okay. nothing too special. and barely based on a true event from the 1940s. this one is "fair to middlin." and nothing more.
Private Parts (1972)
cheesy but fun
This was Ayn Ruymen's first role.. as Cheryl. She runs off after stealing her friend's wallet, and finds her aunt Martha. She gets a room in Martha's hotel, where each and every guest is a strange, mysterious character. she starts poking around the other guest rooms, which she will probably regret. her friend Judy (Ann Gibbs) comes looking for her, and that's just the beginning of things hitting the fan. she makes friends with Jeff (Stan Livingston)... you'll recognize him from My Three Sons, and Ozzie and Harriet. Lots of creepy, mysterious music. Co-stars the prim, upright, Lucille Benson. what family secrets will be unveiled at this goofy hotel ? when Cheryl meets George, things start to get even more strange. John Ventantonio only had five roles, and disappeared after that. it's all pretty goofy, and mostly slow.. suspense... some violence, some sexual content. Directed by Paul Bartel. this was one of his first directing roles; he was probably best known for "Eating Raoul", ten years later.
Crooks and Coronets (1969)
T Savalas robs an old lady
Telly Savalas ! a couple years BEFORE Kojak. here he's a prisoner, just getting released from jail. and Sergeant Hulka from Stripes! (Warren Oates). Together, they come up wtih a scheme to rob the eccentric British Lady Sophie (Edith Evans). now they just need to convince their old crime boss (Cesar Romero) to finance it. They manage to get inside, and find its more complicated than they thought. a very slow, simmering, boil of a comedy. Turns out Lady Sophie is a wild woman, and they might just have a hard time keeping up with her. she likes a bit of adventure, herself. Savalas plays it very lightweight, and a little over the top, and it all works. a couple surprises along the way. Written and directed by Jim O'Connolly. Only directed a few things. this one is also known as Sophie's Place. i hadn't heard of the other films he did, but he was a british director, so i probably wouldn't know them.. This one's pretty good. a different kind of story.
The Landlord (1970)
race relations... landlord versus tenants.
Some hollywood royalty in this one from 1970! a very YOUNG Beau Bridges. Pearl Bailey, Louis Gossett. Bridges is Elgar, spoiled son of a wealthy family, and when he decides to buy a building, things don't work out as planned; originally, he wants to knock down walls, kick the renters out, and remodel the place... but things don't seem to work out that way. he slowly meets the tenants, and it's 1970, so there are lots of beads and flower power, baby. Some great scenes of brooklyn around 1970. pretty rough time, anywhere in new york. the film gets kind of trippy about halfway through... mind trip about race and race conflict. especially when Elgar dates the tenants. Diana Sands is Fanny, another renter. Sands died quite young from cancer, but was also a force in showbiz. Lee Grant (plays Elgar's mother) will win an Oscar for Shampoo! and Hector Elizondo, in his third film role. Directed by Hal Ashby. directed some HUGE films! Harold and Maude. Being There. and Shampoo, with Lee Grant and of course Warren Beatty. "Landlord" was his first directing role. according to wikipedia, there was liberal use of drugs. and by the time he got his cancer checked out, it was way too late, and Ashby died young at 59. Novel by Kristin Hunter... seems to be her only novel turned film. Pretty good stuff! Warning... blackface, violence, rough language, cussing, and some brutally serious discussions of race relations and bigotry. snapshot of the time. and just about a year before All in the Family television show.
Prairie Law (1940)
law in the old west
Shenanigans! Local judge Curry (Paul Everton) is up to no good in the new west. selling land that won't support cattle or farming. Brill Austin (George OBrien) has the only water around, and he knows that Curry is lying to folks. New arrivals, the Brambull family has been suckered in, but they don't seem to want Austin's help. and Cilla Brambull (Virginia Vale) keeps changing her story. clearly, they are up to something... Can the side of right win out over all the corruption and town officials on the take? moves pretty slowly, but mostly a pretty solid story of the old west. It does get a bit silly near the end... a gun fight breaks out during the jury deliberations, and they keep on deliberating, clearly for humor. O'Brien had started in the silents, and was pretty busy in films until the end of the 1940s. Directed by David Howard. he died quite young at 45. not much information on him anywhere.
Lilly Turner (1933)
chatterton and brent
Talented Ruth Chatterton could play any role, but would only have appear in thirty two films. Getting into pictures later than some, she jumped in feet first and made some biggies. Probably her best known are Female and Dodsworth. In Lilly, she starts out wide-eyed and innocent, and quickly learns that men can't be trusted. They have always shown her the worst, so she starts giving the worst in return. Then she meets Bob (George Brent), and they seem to be a really good, loving match. of course, fate steps in, so it remains to be seen if they live happily ever after. (Although Chatterton actually did marry Brent, even if only for two years.) some good strong co-stars.... Guy Kibbee, Frank McHugh, and even Grant Mitchell for about thirty seconds. We get a really good idea of how tough times were in the depression, everyone scratching and living a hard, gritty, life. Very well done. no new stories in here, but the story and strong performances keep it together. and surprisingly good picture and sound. must have been restored. definitely worth watching.