I have a few items on the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear agenda to deal with before the weekend is upon us, and the first is that today is the sixtieth anniversary of Fritz Lang’s Rancho Notorious (1952), the cult noir western starring Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy and Mel Ferrer. I don’t want to steal my own thunder here because I wrote a little piece about the movie over at Edward Copeland on Film…and More—but I did want to give a generous doff of the TDOY chapeau to Stephen Bowie of The Classic TV History Blog for clueing me that it is possible to watch a Region 2 DVD on my computer if I had the VLC player installed. (The Warner Archive released Notorious to DVD-R in January 2010, but I purchased the Optimum Home Entertainment version [a Region 2 release] four years earlier, so…there you are. DVD Beaver says the visual quality on the WA release is superior, and while I’m not inclined to disagree I’m a little financially strapped right now to re-invest.) What I’m trying to say in my typically long-winded fashion is that I was able to revisit Notorious without the tedious task of setting up my region-free player, which is sleeping peacefully in limbo near the honkin’ big TV the ‘rents and I got for Christmas.
I probably don’t have to explain “March Madness” to college basketball fans out there, but here in Blogtopia, several classic film blogs will be hosting their own version of that august event in the form of…yes, you guessed it: blogathons! First up (and beginning this Sunday) from our good friend The Lady Eve (positively the same dame!)—a month-long tribute to the AMC series Mad Men, which will return for Season 5 on March 25th. Her Ladyship has invited some guest bloggers to give their take on the critically-acclaimed drama (which will be posted at her home blog on Sundays) and then will wrap everything up herownself on April 1 with a personal essay…but she also invites interested bloggers to kick in with their own ruminations all month long.
I wanted to make sure I publicized this because I’m always enthusiastic about getting the word out when it comes to blogathons…the only dark cloud is that I won’t be able to participate because, quite honestly, I’ve only ever watched one episode (“The Benefactor,” the one that referenced The Defenders). (I had someone give me a small bit of static one time when I bemoaned the state of the once-great AMC, telling me I should just quit whining and give their series a try…and while I certainly don't begrudge the channel's shift towards original programming I simply feel that if you’re going to call yourself “American Movie Classics” you should probably show some from time to time. Movies, of course. If not, change the name of your channel. It’s that damn easy.) I really feel bad about having to pass this one up—Eve hosted a month-long Vertigo ‘thon in January that I also had to sit out (but that was because I was up to my arse in alligators with other projects at the time).
Jessica at Comet Over Hollywood will sponsor Gone Too Soon, which will take place on March 9 and 10 and will spotlight contributions from other blogs on those motion picture stars who burned out much too early, leaving this world for a better one before the age of 50. It’s a sensational idea for a blogathon, and had I known about it sooner (this was my fault, of course—I stopped the subscription to the newsletter during my busy month) I would have focused on John Garfield…but Jill (aka kittenbiscuits) of Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence beat me to it. So with a little prodding from J.P., I chose silent film star Renée Adorée as my Gone Too Soon subject, who appeared in so many of my favorite silents such as The Big Parade (1925) and Mr. Wu (1927). I think this will be a lot of fun.
Speaking of sitting on a backyard fence (smooth as glass, I tells ya) Jill herownself will be hosting March-on-March: a fitting tribute to actor Fredric March, and here’s how her blogathon will work. From March 15 to the 31st, guest posts will appear at her blog to contribute essays on some of his best-known films and aspects of his distinguished cinematic career…but on March 25 and 26, a “free-for-all” will allow other interested bloggers to participate at their respective home bases. Jill told me that she had originally planned to invite a few folks to the guest posting thing but soon found herself inundated with requests, which does lead credence to “If you build it, they will come.” I am not on the special guest list—apparently my reputation for spiking the punch precedes me—but I will participate here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, with reviews of So Ends Our Night (1941) and Death of a Salesman (1951) tentatively scheduled for the 25th and 26th, respectively. (Had I been able to crash the guest list, the movie I would have written about, 1941’s One Foot in Heaven, was already taken by the aforementioned Jessica at COH…proving that irony can be really ironic sometimes.)
By now you’re probably thinking: “Whoa! That’s a lot of blogathon action!” But wait—there’s more! Rick at the Classic Film & TV Café will host a blogathon in honor of legendary filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger on March 25-28. This one I was able to get in on from the get-go (probably because Rick e-mailed me), and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you which movie I picked (hint: it has nuns in it). The final details are still in the ironing-out stage, so I’ll return to this when the portrait is finished.
The seminal blogathon event of the season is still a ways off—but both the Self-Styled Siren and Ferdy on Films (along with FOF compadre This Island Rod) will be hosting the third annual For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon from May 13-18. I can’t say enough positive things about this one, particularly since the focus is not only on a great topic (this year the subject will be on the director who was directly responsible for TDOY’s life-long love affair with movies, Alfred Hitchcock) but on film preservation—they hope that the awareness raised for a truly worthy cause will generate enough fundage to arrange for an online streaming of a recently discovered celluloid treasure: three reels (one-half) of the 1924 film The White Shadow, a feature that assistant director Hitch worked on in the capacity of “writing script and title cards, designing the sets, preparing the cast, supervising the costumes and props,” according to Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto. (They’ll need about $15,000…which is antihistamine money. Not to be sneezed at.) I was thrilled to be able to kick on the last two occasions, and I will definitely do so the "charmed" time around as well.
The last item on the agenda: I mentioned last Friday that I had another giveaway here in the works and had planned to announce it Monday…but because I’m not as sharp as I once was, I completely forgot all about it. So, here ‘tis: I wrote the liner notes for a Radio Spirits collection of Phil Harris-Alice Faye broadcasts (Private Lives, a 10-CD set containing 20 shows) a while back and for reasons unexplained, found two sets hidden away in a drawer somewhere (I probably put them there during the move last year and forgot all about them). They’re brand-spanking new, never been opened…and contain some of the most hilarious radio comedy you will ever listen to, honest to my grandma. I’d like to find these sets a good home, and all you have to do is shoot me an e-mail with “Phil & Alice Giveaway” in the subject header to igsjrotr(at)gmail(dot)com. You can hold off giving me your snail-mail information until you’ve been a confirmed winner if you so desire…but get your entry to me before next Thursday (March 8) at and I’ll choose two lucky people via Random.org and get their swag out to them as soon as I can. (If you’ve been a winner here at TDOY within the past thirty days, all I ask is that you sit this one out to let some other folks have a chance of winning goodies.) The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show is probably in my top three favorite radio sitcoms—it is really fitfully funny stuff, and would make a great gift for any OTR fan…or you could keep it for your very own, especially if you happen to be friendless.
A quick re-read of all this indicates it’s going to be an eventful month here at TDOY…busy, busy, busy!