Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It’s my world—you’re just living in it…

Being the first of December, I thought it would be as good a time as any to comment on a few things regarding the blog…in addition to some other notable events that don’t involve me in order that I not appear too narcissistic. The first, as you may have already noticed, is that I changed the banner this month to commemorate the big Bogart festival that will take place on Wednesdays in December courtesy of Turner Classic Movies…which I cannot even begin to describe how pumped I am about. It kicks off tomorrow at 6:00am, and the TDOY DVD recorder will, as you may have guessed, be working overtime to record those Bogie flicks that are missing from the dusty archives (I’ve highlighted these in green). (In some cases, I may have already seen the movie—I just don’t have a copy of it.)

6:00 AM Love Affair (1932)

An heiress' affair with an aeronautical engineer threatens his career. Cast: Dorothy Mackaill, Humphrey Bogart, Hale Hamilton. Dir: Thornton Freeland. BW-68 mins, TV-G

7:15 AM Big City Blues (1932)

A country boy finds love and heartache in New York City. Cast: Eric Linden, Joan Blondell, Humphrey Bogart. Dir: Mervyn LeRoy. BW-63 mins, TV-PG

8:30 AM Three on a Match (1932)

A woman's childhood friends try to rescue her from gangsters. Cast: Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, Ann Dvorak. Dir: Mervyn LeRoy. BW-63 mins, TV-PG, CC

10:00 AM Black Legion, The (1936)

A disgruntled factory worker is lured into joining a secret society out to terrorize foreigners. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Erin O'Brien-Moore, Ann Sheridan. Dir: Archie Mayo. BW-83 mins, TV-G, CC

12:00 PM Bullets Or Ballots (1936)

A cop goes undercover to crack an influential crime ring. Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Blondell, Humphrey Bogart. Dir: William Keighley. BW-82 mins, TV-G, CC

1:30 PM China Clipper (1936)

A flyer sacrifices everything to open a transpacific airline. Cast: Pat O'Brien, Beverly Roberts, Humphrey Bogart. Dir: Ray Enright. BW-89 mins, TV-PG

3:15 PM Isle Of Fury (1936)

A man on the run in the South Seas gets caught up in a romantic triangle. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Margaret Lindsay, Donald Woods. Dir: Frank McDonald. BW-60 mins, TV-G

4:30 PM Great O'Malley, The (1937)

A ruthless cop gets mixed up with a man who's only turned to crime to help his crippled daughter. Cast: Pat O'Brien, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan. Dir: William Dieterle. BW-71 mins, TV-G

6:00 PM Marked Woman (1937)

A crusading DA fights to get a nightclub hostess to testify against her gangster boss. Cast: Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Lola Lane. Dir: Lloyd Bacon. BW-97 mins, TV-G, CC

8:00 PM Petrified Forest, The (1936)

An escaped convict holds the customers at a remote desert cantina hostage. Cast: Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart. Dir: Archie Mayo. BW-82 mins, TV-G, CC

9:30 PM Dead End (1937)

A killer returns to his childhood home to plot his escape from the law. Cast: Sylvia Sidney, Joel McCrea, Humphrey Bogart. Dir: William Wyler. BW-92 mins, TV-PG

11:30 PM Kid Galahad (1937)

A mob-connected trainer grooms a bellhop for the boxing ring. Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Wayne Morris. Dir: Michael Curtiz. BW-102 mins, TV-PG, CC

1:30 AM Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

Childhood friends on opposite sides of the law fight over the future of a street gang. Cast: James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Humphrey Bogart. Dir: Michael Curtiz. BW-97 mins, TV-G, CC

3:30 AM Bacall on Bogart (1988)

Lauren Bacall hosts this extraordinary documentary on her life on- and off-screen with her late husband, Humphrey Bogart. Cast: HOST: Lauren Bacall. Dir: David Heeley. C-84 mins, TV-G, CC

5:00 AM One Fatal Hour (1936; a.k.a. Two Against the World)

A radio-station manager tries to keep tabloid journalists from reviving a 20-year-old murder case. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Beverly Roberts, Henry O'Neill. Dir: William McGann. BW-56 mins, TV-G

TCM ran The Great O'Malley last month as part of a birthday tribute to child star Sybil Jason and I have to admit I liked this one a lot despite the presence of Pat O’Brien, who sometimes has a tendency to come on a bit too strong in his films. Pat and Syb had a wonderful rapport, and no one—with the exception of country singer Conway Twitty—can greet an individual with “Hello, darlin’” with as much charm as O’Brien. (Bogart has a small but important role as Jason’s father, a man who gets an extended stay in The Big House courtesy of O’Brien.)

Radio Spirits has released/will release three new CD sets of classic OTR broadcasts that I had an active hand in; the first is a very entertaining compilation entitled Jack Benny: The Gang’s All Here which contains some classic Benny programs spotlighting his “gang”: Mary Livingstone, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Don Wilson, Phil Harris, Dennis Day and so many others. My particular favorite Benny show on the set is a May 28, 1950 broadcast in which Jack reminisces on how he put his team of regulars together—the sequence where Jack and Mary pay a visit to Phil at his “nightclub” literally had me howling with laughter. But in addition to the Benny shows, there are also broadcasts from The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show (including one of their early Fitch Bandwagon programs that I did a write-up about two years ago), A Day in the Life of Dennis Day, audition shows for spin-offs featuring Rochester and Mr. Kitzel (Artie Auerbach) and many more.

The other two sets (one of which will be ready to ship Saturday, December 5) highlight the antics of two of the Golden Age of Radio’s best-remembered comedy teams. In Burns & Allen: Beverly Hills Uplift Society, the ever put upon George Burns finds himself at the mercy of his wife Gracie’s titular (and meddlesome) women’s group: “an organization of women…for women…by women,” as Gracie describes it. Eight wonderful broadcasts from 1942-47 are on this set, and provide yet more evidence that George & Gracie’s lengthy stint on radio was sheer comedy gold.

The other set is Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy: Ladies’ Men; a ten-CD set starring radio’s most famous ventriloquist and his wisenheimer dummy in sixteen broadcasts that range from the sixty-minute The Chase and Sanborn Hour in the late 1930s (a star-studded comedy/variety show that also featured Nelson Eddy, Dorothy Lamour, W.C. Fields and master of ceremonies Don Ameche) to the streamlined Chase and Sanborn Show from the 1940s; a consistent resident in the top-five comedy shows list of that era. The guests on these programs are all of the same female gender and include notables like Bette Davis, Hedy Lamarr, Lana Turner, Judy Garland. There’s also a novel broadcast from December 14, 1941 in which Chase & Sanborn regular Lou Costello is forced to miss the broadcast to a bout with laryngitis…and Mickey Rooney acts as his replacement! (And as an individual who’s not much of a Rooney fan, I must admit he does a hell of a job.)

I wrote the liner notes for all three collections, but I’m particularly proud of the George & Gracie and Bergen & McCarthy sets because I picked the lineup of shows for those as well. So if you’re an OTR comedy fan, you’re definitely going to want to add these to your collection. Meanwhile, Dr. Harlan Zinck and his loyal minions at RadioArchives have conjured up another collection of swinging big band music in The Big Bands on One Night Stand, Volume 3. Containing ten hours of twenty One Night Stand broadcasts, fans of the big band sound will be able to enjoy a remastered set of treasures that feature the likes of Freddy Martin, Woody Herman, Charlie Spivak, Stan Kenton and so many more. There’s no shortage of old-time radio goodies during this holiday season, so the official “They’re-so-hard-to-buy-for” excuse has been rendered null and void until 2010.

Elsewhere, KC at Classic Movies directed me to a blurb over at Home Media Magazine that announces Fox TV/M-G-M’s plans for an on-demand movies-on-DVD service to be featured at Amazon.com’s CreateSpace. Among the classic movie titles to be offered (that are mentioned in the article): Return to Paradise (1953) with Gary Cooper, Trapeze (1956) with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, and Two for the Seesaw (1962) which stars Big Bad Bob Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine.

One movie mentioned in the post that I would seriously be interested in acquiring is Between the Lines (1977), an independent feature directed by Joan Micklin Silver (Hester Street, Crossing Delancey) about an independent Boston newspaper about to be acquired by a larger publisher, much to the dismay of its staff. It’s been years since I’ve seen this but what is truly amazing about Lines (and this includes its strong screenplay by future My Family creator Fred Barron and direction by Silver) is that so many future “stars” are in the cast: John Heard, Lindsay Crouse, Jeff Goldblum, Jill Eikenberry, Stephen Collins, Gwen Welles, Bruno Kirby, Jr, Lewis J. Stadlen, Marilu Henner, etc. According to the Home Media Magazine article, these films will be offered to the DVD-buying public at $19.98 a pop and will contain a brief introduction from the Dick Cavett of film directors™, Peter Bogdanovich. (I knew there was a catch in there somewhere.)

That’s all I have for now, but before I depart I wanted to direct your attention to this nice review over at “Uncle” Sam Wilson’s Mondo 70: A Wild World of Cinema of Son of Dracula (1943), the classic Universal B-pic which stars Lon Chaney, Jr. as the famed bloodsucker (without giving too much away, I can tell you the film’s title is misleading) and was directed by TDOY idol Robert Siodmark. Now, I like Son a great deal (an example of what “horror noir” looks like) but have always felt that Chaney’s performance weakens the overall result; Sam (and his good friend Wendigo) disputes this from a different perspective that I will readily confess is a damn good argument:

Creighton has been lambasted for being miscast, for looking like Farmer Greenjeans playing a vampire, for being stiff, uncomfortable, incompetent in the role. Wendigo sees things a little differently. He can't deny Junior's awkwardness and discomfort, but he thinks that "Count Alucard" should seem uncomfortable as he finds his way in a new land. He should seem alien if not hostile on his predatory mission to steal America's younger, stronger, more virile blood. He's obviously not a seductive vampire, and only goes after one woman in the entire picture. But this story presents him as more of a Mephistopholes than a macho seducer, a partner in a Faustian bargain rather than a ravisher.


He's no Lugosi, nor even a Carradine, but then again those two weren't making the kind of film Lon was.

Indeed, I have always believed that John Carradine would have been better in the role, but Wilson/Wendigo soon put the smackdown on that:

…it's not as if Carradine was exactly masterful in House of Frankenstein; as Wendigo says, Dracula was Karloff's bitch in that film, and a pretty hapless one at that.

Well played, sir. Consider me sold.

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KC said...

I'm so pleased you found something useful in my classic links list! I get a kick out of digging up that info. The Bogie-fest looks like it will be amazing. Just seeing the title of Black Legion gave me the chills though; that movie is brutal.

Leigh Russell said...

Great blog!

Stacia said...

Serendipitous once again. I'm recording the heck outta the Bogey films tomorrow, mostly Bogey and Bette Davis films, truth be told.

And speaking of Jack Benny, I just watched "Chasing Rainbows" with him in it today. It's really creaky and missing its 2-strip Technicolor footage, but Benny was (a) hysterical and (b) surprisingly hot.

Rick Brooks said...

I enjoyed Chasing Rainbows, too, and thought Marie Dressler was A) hysterical and B)...uh, hysterical.

I think Bogart is the best movie star of all time, and I'm also thrilled about this month on TCM.

Between the Lines was just on a channel called MGM HD, and since I'm lucky enough to get it even though I still have glorious low-def, I'll have to try to check it out next time it's on.