Friday, March 26, 2010

Movies and stuff I’ve stared at recently during my convalescence

"I'm hoping he is using his "lay low" time to rest up and on, what we all know must be, piles and piles and piles of movies." -- Pam R

I’d like to be able to report that I’ve been diving into the aforementioned piles and piles and piles of movies…but that would be a falsehood. You see, my mother is staying with me at Rancho Yesteryear during my recuperation, and what entertains me doesn’t always tickle her fancy, so I try to find something we can both enjoy.

As I’m typing this, Mom’s in the other room watching Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943). She positively adores the Rathbone-Bruce Holmes films, and since I acquired her MPI DVD collection through shrewd guile and deceit she insists that I “put one on” for her at least once a day. (This is cool with me, as it allows me to collect my thoughts and whip up something for the blog.)

I caught Side Street (1950) this morning, even though I have it on DVD—it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, however, and it’s a capable little noir starring the hapless Farley Granger as a postal carrier who stupidly steals $30,000 from a crooked lawyer (Edmon Ryan) and then finds himself…wait for it…in big trouble. Cathy O’Donnell—Granger’s co-star from They Live by Night (1948)—plays the devoted spouse here (though she’s given bupkis to do) and there are plenty of TDOY faves present and accounted for, like Jean Hagen (as a torch singer who can lap up the booze), Charles McGraw (as one of the detectives working the case), Adele Jergens, Harry Bellaver (as a crooked cabbie), Whit Bissell and uncredited contributions from James Westerfield, Herb Vigran, Sid Tomack, Ransom Sherman, Sarah Selby and King Donovan. I particularly enjoyed director Anthony Mann’s use of close-ups in this one, as well as the climactic car chase through Washington Park.

I also watched Warren William, Mary Astor and star of the month Ginger Rogers in a curio entitled Upperworld (1934) that was certainly worth the hour-and-thirteen-minutes I invested (though the ending is a bit weak). William is surprisingly likeable as a railroad tycoon who gets involved with Rogers when wife Astor has no time for him. The supporting cast is particularly engaging in this concoction as well: Andy Devine, Our Ganger Dickie Moore (as William and Astor’s son), J. Carrol Naish, Sidney Toler (and not as Charlie Chan), Robert Greig and John Qualen…who was a bit scary-looking in his youth. Later that afternoon, I introduced Mom to the wonder that is Hobson's Choice (1954; I wanted to see if she recognized Prunella Scales as the youngest of Charles Laughton’s daughters…and she did not) and to my surprise, she enjoyed it.

Monday night, Mom and I sat down to watch one of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s favorite movies (well, he was hosting the program along with Bobby Osbo), The Big Sleep (1946). Maybe it was because I’ve seen the movie so many times or maybe I was just antsy but I didn’t enjoy Sleep as much as I have in the past. If you really look at the movie, I think you’ll find that the only purpose it serves is to allow Bogie and Bacall to flirt with one another for two hours. The plot is confusing and at times just plain dull; the characters uninvolving—I remain convinced that Murder, My Sweet (1944) is the best cinematic representation of Philip Marlowe (and Mom and I watched it the next day so I could prove it to her); Bogart is aces as Sam Spade but as Marlowe he leaves a lot to be desired. After Sweet, we sated our noir appetites with Gun Crazy (1950)—which, again, I was surprised that Mom took to even though the only person she knew in the movie was Russ Tamblyn.

Yesterday, I opened up one of the I Spy box sets from Image Entertainment and watched three episodes as a mini-tribute to the late Robert Culp: “Carry Me Back to Old Tsing-Tao” (09/29/65), “Danny Was a Million Laughs” (10/27/65) and “Affair in T’Sien Cha” (12/29/65—actually the series’ pilot). The episodes confirmed for me just how great an actor the man was and how truly devastating is his loss—though Mom was a bit underwhelmed by the presentation (Mom: “Where are they supposed to be?” Me: “Hong Kong. In fact, I think all these episodes are set in Hong Kong.”) (And Bill Crider made me laugh out loud this morning when he reminisced about the “Hobie, Hobie, Hobie” joke.)

While I was scribbling down these thoughts, I was delighted to receive a dozen red roses from my friend Maureen. I couldn’t close out this post without mentioning this generosity—thanks, Doll.

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5 comments:

Pam said...

What a classy dame that Marg..er..Maureen is.

Stacia said...

I recorded "Hobson's Choice" (hey, Prunella AND Charles!) and went to watch it last night when I got waylaid by "Interiors" instead. Oof. Never again, Woody Allen. Never. Again.

You're lucky to have your parents, Ivan. Not only are my parents long since gone (dad when I was 28, mom when I was 33) but they also didn't like old movies. They couldn't stand me even mentioning movies, and would never have tolerated just hanging out and watching an old film.

In conclusion, I'm jealous. There, I said it.

VP81955 said...

Knowing you're a "Gunsmoke" fan, I was wondering what you thought about the plans by CBS Films to do a movie version of the series; Brad Pitt and Ryan Reynolds are reportedly frontrunners to portray Marshal Dillon. As someone who really likes the radio version of "Gunsmoke," I wanted your thoughts on the whole matter.

Here's what I recently wrote about it:

http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/289360.html

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Knowing you're a "Gunsmoke" fan, I was wondering what you thought about the plans by CBS Films to do a movie version of the series; Brad Pitt and Ryan Reynolds are reportedly frontrunners to portray Marshal Dillon. As someone who really likes the radio version of "Gunsmoke," I wanted your thoughts on the whole matter.

Oh, this is just perfect. I can’t think of anything better than casting the guy from Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place as one of TV’s iconic figures, Matt Dillon. The only benefit from such a boneheaded move would be that maybe CBS DVD-Paramount would release the series’ fourth season (split-season, of course) as the show has been in limbo since May of last year.

Bill James, one of the sound effects (“sound patterns”) men on the radio version of Gunsmoke, once commented: “Even after all these years I have never been able to bring myself to watch even one episode of the TV version…to me, those performers are nothing but impostors.” I’d love to be a purist like that but when I was growing up, Gunsmoke was one of those television shows—like The Lucy Show and Bonanza—that just seemed to be on our television set all the time, like tap water. I still maintain that the radio Gunsmoke is far superior to its television counterpart.

Not only are my parents long since gone (dad when I was 28, mom when I was 33) but they also didn't like old movies. They couldn't stand me even mentioning movies, and would never have tolerated just hanging out and watching an old film.

In conclusion, I'm jealous. There, I said it.


Then allow me to reciprocate the jealousy by confessing that when you wrote about your parents’ love of Jack Benny in your January post on The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945) I myself was green with envy. My father grew up during the Golden Age of Radio but anytime I would ever ask him about it he would always tell me about how he never engaged in such frivolity and instead would tell stories so depressing you’d begin to understand why they called it “The Great Depression.” (My mother caught the tail end of Radio’s Golden Age; every now and then she likes to talk about how she’d stay over at her grandmother’s and listen to the radio because she didn’t have a TV set.)

Stacia said...

Your dad's comment about "such frivolity" is absolute gold! My mom's family was extremely poor and, now that you mention it, I'm not sure that they had a radio. She was also over a decade younger than dad, so she knew Benny mostly from TV. Dad, however, came from the kind of family that had a huge Philco and replaced it every few years, and he listened to the radio constantly as a kid. That was what decided our TV viewing; if reruns of an old show that had begun on radio were on, then by gum we were watching that TV show.