Monday, September 30, 2013

Sunday Monday Night at the MOVIES!

Apologies for not having this up yesterday—I was preoccupied with some eBay-related doin’s, and I completely forgot about putting together this week’s schedule for the Fox Movie Channel wannabe MOVIES!  (I also forgot to assemble a timely Coming Distractions for October, which starts tomorrow.  Sadly, I have become tres slack in recent weeks.)

Anyway, I’ve decided to start the MOVIES! feature on Mondays from now on, where it will share the blog spotlight with Doris Day(s) once I get back on track doing those write-ups.  So here’s what you can look forward to this week:

September 30, Monday
08:00am The Bounty Killer (1965)
10:00am Hostile Guns (1967)
12:00pm The Assassination Bureau (1969)
02:20pm Rio Grande (1950)
04:35pm Hatari! (1962)
08:00pm Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
12:55am Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
05:45am The Osterman Weekend (1983)

October 1, Tuesday
08:45am J.W. Coop (1971)
11:05am Two Rode Together (1961)
01:30pm Uncommon Valor (1983)
03:45pm The White Dawn (1974)
06:05pm Fighting Mad (1976)
08:00pm The African Queen (1951)
10:15pm Stalag 17 (1953)
12:55am The African Queen (1951)
03:10am Stalag 17 (1953)
05:50am The Last Wagon (1956)

October 2, Wednesday
08:00am Hangman's Knot (1952)
09:45am Last of the Comanches (1953)
11:40am I Deal in Danger (1966)
01:40pm Don't Look Now (1973)
04:00pm White Line Fever (1975)
06:00pm Assassination (1987)
08:00pm Death Wish (1974)
10:00pm Death Wish III (1985)
12:05am Death Wish (1974)
02:05am Death Wish III (1985)
04:10am The Psychopath (1966)
05:55am The Desperados (1969)

October 3, Thursday
08:00am The Last Wagon (1956)
10:10am Sea Wife (1957)
11:55am Backlash (1947)
01:20pm Hanover Street (1979)
03:40pm A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon (1988)
05:40pm Donovan's Reef (1963)
08:00pm From Here to Eternity (1953)
10:35pm Phone Call From A Stranger (1952)
12:40am From Here to Eternity (1953)
03:15am Phone Call From A Stranger (1952)
05:20am An Unmarried Woman (1978)

October 4, Friday
08:45am The Desperadoes (1943)
10:40am Cowboy (1958)
12:45pm Fools' Parade (1971)
02:55pm Irreconcilable Differences (1984)
05:30pm Moscow on the Hudson (1984)
08:00pm Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986)
10:15pm Stir Crazy (1980)
12:40am Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986)
02:55am Stir Crazy (1980)
05:20am Walking Tall (1973)

October 5, Saturday
08:30am Jungle Man-Eaters (1954)
10:00am Kids Programming (FCC-mandated)
01:00pm The Return of the Fly (1959)
02:45pm The Tingler (1959)
04:30pm Dead Men Tell (1941)
05:50pm Dear Brigitte (1965)
08:00pm Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
10:30pm Funny Face (1957)
12:50am Cry of the City (1948)
02:55am Backlash (1947)
04:20am The House on 92nd Street (1945)

October 6, Sunday
06:20am Dressed to Kill (1941)
08:00am A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)
11:00am Mr. Moto's Gamble (1938)
12:35pm Warning Shot (1967)
02:50pm Irreconcilable Differences (1984)
05:20pm An Unmarried Woman (1978)
08:00pm The Rose (1979)
10:55pm Nadine (1987)
12:50am The Rose (1979)
03:45am Nadine (1987)
05:40am King of the Gypsies (1978)

Oh, goody…a night of Death Wish movies on Wednesday.  I know someone’s mother will be very pleased.  (I will not reveal her identity, because it could be embarrassing for me…er, her son.)

Friday, September 27, 2013

“Tired of the everyday grind…?”

Over at the Radio Spirits blog this morning, we reverently doff our caps as we eat cake and ice cream because “The Man of a Thousand Voice” was born on this date today in 1920.  I’ve mentioned so many times on the blog how much of a fan I am of the man who—well, let’s not mince words here: he was the definitive Matt Dillon.  (Apologies to all the James Arness fans out there, but it’s true.  And I say this as an unrepentant TV Gunsmoke junkie.)  Anyhoo, Bill Conrad had one of the most distinctive voices on radio…and yet, he was capable of playing many roles and voicing more dialects than you could imagine.  And if I spot him in an old movie I know that no matter how bad the flick might turn out to be, even money says he’s the best thing in it.  (Try watching Dial 1119 sometime if you don’t believe me.)

Bill’s signature TV series, Cannon, is back on Me-TV (it airs on Sundays at 5pm EST as part of a crime drama block), and the channel also continues to carry The Fugitive on Sundays at midnight, so if you need a Conrad fix and don’t have any DVD’s of the other two shows you’ll have to wait until the weekend.  Someone mentioned to me that Boomerang has brought back Rocky and His Friends/The Bullwinkle Show on Saturdays at 7am; we no longer receive that channel due to Rancho Yesteryear financial cutbacks…but as I patiently explained to Mater when she was sizing up my DVD collection for sale, “the moose and squirrel are non-negotiable.”

In the meantime—nothing much to report here, but I did put together an article on The Bowery Boys over at ClassicFlix…and while you’re there, be sure to check out the rest of the fine articles written by the crème de la crème of classic film writers.  More stuff to come soon.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Holding pattern

Previously on Thrilling Days of Yesteryear:

MELISSA (brandishing a gun): You’re through, do you hear me?  This is the very last time you’ll do dirt to me…you’ve turned my daughter against me…had my mother committed to an asylum…turned me into an alcoholic nymphomaniac, incapable of knowing real love or stopping at one last drink…you sit there in your ivory tower, manipulating people’s lives…well, this is the last straw, Trevor!
ME: It’s Ivan, actually…

And scene!  Yes, that little bit o’nighttime soap drama was inspired by the revelation that the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony Sunday night was unable to single out TV icon Larry Hagman (I Dream of Jeannie, The Good Life, Here We Go Again, Dallas) or past award winner Jack Klugman (Harris Against the World, The Odd Couple, Quincy, M.E., You Again?) for tribute…but did find time to do it up right for Kelly Montieth.  Which, really…oh…I’ve just been handed a note—that’s Cory Montieth.  Anyway, I won’t rehash the outrage that erupted on the Internets from this pathetic attempt to lure young viewers into watching a show they probably have no interest in from the get-go—suffice it to say, I skipped the show and settled in with a MOVIES! double feature of Absence of Malice (1981) and Come Back, Little Sheba (1952).

Last Wednesday, I listed the nominees for this year’s Classic Movie Blog Association Awards (you like this awards show transition thing?  I thought it rather nice) and mentioned that we’d know today who would soon be busting out the Pledge and shining up CiMBAs on their mantles.  Well, I lied.  I lied a lot.  Actually, they decided to extend the voting deadline until the end of this month so it looks like we won’t know the results until early October.  (Plenty of chances to get a bet down in the meantime.)

My friend Harry Heuser, who blogs at broadcastellan, has just had his study Immaterial Culture: Literature, Drama and the American Radio Play, 1929-1954 published…and I thought I’d mention it in passing here on the blog.  Those of you with an academic interest in old-time radio and its impact on popular culture (stage, movies and books) will find much of value in this book (though Harry rather modestly describes it as “me writing about the stuff we like”)—there are discussions on such artists as John Dickson Carr, Lucille Fletcher, Norman Corwin, Leslie Charteris and Arch Oboler, as well as shows and personalities as Amos ‘n’ Andy, Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Lum ‘n Abner and Vic and Sade.  You’ll find the meaty tome here in softcover and e-Book form.

The movies obsessed gang over at True Classics are spotlighting the genius (and that’s really the only way to describe it) of animator Tex Avery this week…and to supplement their splendid posts, they’re running a contest in which some nifty swag will be given away.  Click here to find out the “deets” on how to enter, and I’ll warn you right now—I’m determined to win these goodies, so if anyone gets in my way I might drop a piano on you.

Last year, Aurora at Once Upon a Screen—in cahoots with her partners-in-crime Kellee (of Outspoken and Freckled) and Paula (of Paula’s Cinema Club)—sponsored the What a Character! Blogathon to great success, and so the three of them have planned a sequel (What a Character II: Texas Blood Money) for this November (November 9-11, to be exact) that looks to be every bit as informative and crowd-pleasing as the original.  (Well, you have to say that with sequels—otherwise no one will go see them.)  I’m not sure if I’m going to have the time for this one (I have some outside “bidness” around that date) but I do know that my BBFF Stacia will be contributing an essay entitled Regis Toomey: You Cannot Kill Him, You Can Only Hope to Contain Him.

Annnnnddd…speaking of Stacia (honestly, I should write segueways for a living)—we break out the streamers and noisemakers today because six years ago today, she made a daring escape (yes, I know I used this joke in 2011—but times are tough) from the fetid fever swamp that is Usenet (“a wretched hive of scum and villainy,” as I fondly refer to it) and started construction on She Blogged by Night here in Upper Blogistan.  Though many were disappointed at first (well, they thought it was going to be a Five Guys and a Burger) the naysayers quickly closed ranks and realized that Stacia’s scrap of the blogosphere is one of the funniest and most well-written sites out there.  I am proud to call her my friend and confidante, and wish her many, many more years of productive blogging.  (And even non-productive, which I have sort have cornered the market on here.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Night at the MOVIES!

Last Sunday morning, I had the digital sub-channel known as MOVIES! on (well, I was up at 8am—don’t everyone be surprised at once) and was astonished to see that the station runs an occasional two-reeler to fill up the gaps in time (sadly, they do not provide this information at their website’s schedule).  For the curious, they showed The Laurel & Hardy Murder Case (1930)…and anytime I can get my fix of The Boys is a good thing, because I start the day in a pleasant mood and am able to resist the urge to pass out the assisted living brochures among my parents.  Anyway, as part of TDOY’s required community service, here’s what you can watch on the channel this week:

Sunday, September 22
08:40am Diamond Head (1963)
11:00am A Night to Remember (1942)
01:00pm Seven Thieves (1960)
03:15pm Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)
05:40pm The Big Town (1987)
08:00pm Absence of Malice (1981)
10:35pm Come Back, Little Sheba (1952)
12:40am Absence of Malice (1981)
03:10am Come Back, Little Sheba (1952)
05:15am The President’s Analyst (1967)

Monday, September 23
08:00am Bug (1975)
10:10am Cujo (1983)
12:10pm Friday the 13th - Part III (1982)
02:15pm Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)
04:20pm Reprisal! (1956)
06:00pm Hostile Guns (1967)
08:00pm Rio Grande (1950)
10:15pm The Proud Ones (1956)
12:20am Rio Grande (1950)
02:35am The Proud Ones (1956)
04:40am Phase IV (1974)

Tuesday, September 24
06:40am Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation (1939)
08:20am The Molly Maguires (1970)
11:00am Blind Fury (1989)
12:55pm Hard Times (1975)
02:55pm The Italian Job (1969)
05:05pm Chinatown (1974)
08:00pm Against All Odds (1984)
10:30pm About Last Night (1986)
01:05am Against All Odds (1984)
03:45am About Last Night (1986)

Wednesday, September 25
06:20am Cripple Creek (1952)
08:00am The Family Jewels (1965)
10:10am Ship of Fools (1965)
01:25pm Boeing-Boeing (1965)
03:35pm The Rat Race (1960)
05:50pm Do Not Disturb (1965)
08:00pm Sabrina (1954)
10:30pm Good Neighbor Sam (1964)
01:30am Sabrina (1954)
04:00am Good Neighbor Sam (1964)

Thursday, September 26
08:00am Rio Grande (1950)
10:15am 7th Cavalry (1956)
11:55am Comanche Station (1960)
01:30pm The Jayhawkers (1959)
03:40pm Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966)
06:00pm The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
08:00pm The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
11:30pm The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
03:05am Murphy's War (1971)
05:25am Teacher's Pet (1958)

Friday, September 27
08:00am Summer Rental (1985)
10:00am The President's Analyst (1967)
12:20pm The Big Picture (1989)
02:30pm Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
05:40pm Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)
08:00pm Bye Bye Birdie (1963)
10:20pm Wild in the Country (1961)
12:50am Bye Bye Birdie (1963)
03:10am Wild in the Country (1961)
05:40am Pretty Baby (1978)

Saturday. September 28
08:15am Call of the Wild (1935)
10:00am Kids Programming (FCC-mandated)
01:00pm Cujo (1983)
03:00pm Day of the Animals (1977)
05:05pm Good Neighbor Sam (1964)
08:00pm Ship of Fools (1965)
11:10pm Ship of Fools (1965)
02:30am Dangerous Crossing (1953)
04:10am Nightmare Alley (1947)

Journalism in Classic Film Blogathon: Deadline – U.S.A. (1952)

The following essay is Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s contribution to the Journalism in Classic Film Blogathon, currently underway this weekend (September 21-22) and hosted by Comet Over Hollywood and Lindsay’s Movie Musings.  For a full list of the participating blogs and the classic “read all about it” movies covered, click here.  (Warning: this review has spoilers.)

In the bustling newsroom offices of The Day, a major metropolitan newspaper, managing editor Ed Hutcheson (Humphrey Bogart) is sandbagged by an AP wire report announcing that the paper is going to be sold to a competing tabloid by the heirs of The Day’s founder, John Garrison.  Hutcheson attends a meeting in an upstairs conference room and finds the story confirmed by Garrison’s widow Margaret (Ethel Barrymore) and her daughters Alice (Fay Baker) and Katherine (Joyce Mackenzie).  Despite the news, Ed still has a paper to get out; investigative reporter George Burrows (Warren Stevens) wants to continue probing the affairs of racketeer Tomas Rienzi (Martin Gabel), who’s been on the hot seat of late testifying before a state senate committee.  Ed is positive that if the committee hasn’t uncovered anything, neither will The Day; Burrows assures him he’s got a hot lead, and is given an extra three days on the story.

I don't know the actor playing the man tending bar but Deadline - U.S.A. shows off its acting talent in this photo with (l-r) Jim Backus, Paul Stewart, Bogie, Dabbs Greer and Barton Yarborough.
The newspaper’s staff holds a “wake” at a local watering hole that evening in observance of the paper’s demise, and afterwards a drunken Hutcheson finds his way to the apartment of his ex-wife Nora (Kim Hunter).  Ed tells her about the paper’s impending sale and promises her that if they get back together things will be different between the two of them.  The next morning, Ed gets a call from the paper—Burrows has suffered a beating at the hands of some of Rienzi’s goons, and will have to be hospitalized…possibly even losing an eye.  This prompts Hutcheson to step up the paper’s investigation into the gangster’s activities, pulling out all the stops with a hard-hitting Page One editorial and cartoons to accompany it.  Ed’s gamble is that with the spotlight shining on Rienzi, it might just be the solution to keep the paper from being sold.

When the Rienzi story is published, the subject of the article is naturally none too pleased and informs his lawyer that he wants pressure put to bear on Hutcheson.  Ed has problems of his own, however; his attempts to reconcile with Nora are not going as well as he’d like (she announces that she’s engaged to be remarried), and a breaking story about a dead woman found drowned and wearing nothing but a mink is spiked by Fenway (Thomas Browne Henry), the advertising manager.  Questioning Fenway, Hutcheson and city desk editor Frank Allen (Ed Begley) learn that the story has been scotched because Andrew Wharton (Tom Powers), one of the paper’s major advertisers, is concerned about the gossip that will get out when readers learn that the dead woman, one Sally Gardner (real name: Bessie Schmidt), was once his mistress.

Wharton helpfully informs Hutcheson that Sally was blackmailing him…but stopped when she hooked up with none other than Tomas Rienzi.  Jim Cleary (Jim Backus) and sports editor Harry Thompson (Paul Stewart) are assigned to dig up the dirt; Cleary finds the evidence that connects Sally to the gangster, but Thompson locates her brother Herman (Joe De Santis) in a dingy apartment and convinces him to talk to The Day before Rienzi gets to him.  Meanwhile, at a court hearing that will approve the sale of The Day, Margaret has second thoughts about signing off on the deal, much to her daughters’ disgust.  Outnumbered two to one, Margaret’s only course of action is to offer to purchase the paper herself…and the judge decrees that he’ll need time to consider her request.

Outside the courthouse, Ed is taken for a “ride” in Rienzi’s car for a little chat; Rienzi makes every attempt to persuade Hutcheson to drop his crusade, but Ed holds firm, and the editor is deposited at the front steps of The Day just in time for Rienzi to see Herman walking in with Thompson.  A Q-and-A session with Ed and Frank reveals that brother Herman was the one who fingered where his sister was hiding and was also with Rienzi when the mobster’s thugs rubbed her out.  Schmidt, promised $1,000 for his story, is encouraged to take it on the lam…but a group of “cops” show up to collect the stoolie before he’s finished signing a statement as to what he witnessed.  The policemen are the same Rienzi goons who killed his sister, and after a scuffle, Herman meets a violent end when he falls into one of the paper’s printing presses. 

With no statement from the dead man and a libel suit threatened by Rienzi, the judge’s decision comes down: the contract is valid and the sale of The Day will continue, despite Hutcheson’s last-ditch attempt to convince the presiding judge of the paper’s importance and how “without competition, there can be no freedom of the press.”  Reporting back to Allen that the paper has been officially sold, Ed learns that the mother (Kasia Orzazewski) of the dead girl wants to speak to him—she has in her possession $200,000 of Renzi’s money and a diary kept by her daughter that will convict the mobster of complicity in her death.

The Day, though still being sold, scores a pyrrhic victory at the film’s end when Rienzi telephones Ed and, against the advice of his attorney, once again threatens him not to print the story in the paper’s final edition.  The printing presses start up, drowning out the conversation between the two men.  “That’s the press, baby…the press,” gloats Hutcheson to Rienzi.  “And there’s nothing you can do about it!”

Esquire political blogger Charles P. Pierce composed a post back in August of 2012 naming his three favorite “newspaper” movies—and encouraged his readership faithful to do the same.  We differ on our choices for number one (Charlie went with His Girl Friday, I personally prefer Ace in the Hole) but our number-two choice was Deadline – U.S.A. (1952).  The movie, released to theaters in March of 1952, has since ended up on a lot of favorites lists…truth be told, I myself might move it up to the top spot depending on what day of the week you ask.

I’m a big fan of Deadline because it approaches the subject of journalism and newspapers with a healthy mix of both idealism and cynicism.  The cynical portion of the film rings true today: viewers will have no problem identifying with the central plot, in which a once-great newspaper is on its deathbed, scheduled to be sacrificed to its tabloid-like competitor.  A certain Australian media mogul (Okay, it’s Rupert Murdoch—just don’t say his name three times in succession in front of a mirror in a darkened room) has done that with several established publications in the United Kingdom (The Sun, The Times) and United States (The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal).  The idealism resides in the fact that we’d like to believe that newspaper editors like Humphrey Bogart’s Ed Hutcheson are still around today: an individual who understands that the job of a paper is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” (a phrase made famous by humorist Finley Peter Dunne, though others—including W.E. “Ned” Chilton III, the legendary editor of The Charleston Gazette—have used that phrase a lot as well).

The idea for Deadline seems to have come to writer-director Richard Brooks from two separate newspapers.  In Tough as Nails, a biography on Brooks written by Douglass K. Daniel, the author claims that Brooks based the decision to sell the paper by the heirs of The Day on real-life events involving The New York World, which closed in 1931 after the sons of Joseph Pulitzer wanted to sell the paper rather than see it continue.  The New York Sun, which stopped its presses in 1950, also provided inspiration for Brooks’ screenplay (originally called “The Night the World Folded” and “The Newspaper Story”); its longtime editor Benjamin Day, would see his last name borrowed for the film’s fictional publication (and not the New London, Connecticut paper that shares the same name).  To prepare for his role as Hutcheson, Bogie began hanging out with reporters at the The New York Daily News…who lent its printing plant and newsroom for some of the movie’s location shooting.  All of this lends an authentic feel to the over atmosphere of the film, and the opening scene—with the mobster Rienzi assuring his inquisitors “I’m in the cement and contracting business”—echoes the recent events of the Kefauver hearings into organized crime (which turns up in several movies of that era, including The Captive City and The Turning Point).

There is endlessly quotable dialogue in Deadline, and much of it rings true today.  My favorite scene in the film is the “wake” held by The Day staff upon learning of the sale, as each reporter stands up (as if at a revival meeting) and “testifies”:

ALLEN: I see the light, Brother…
(The crowd breaks out in a chorus of huzzahs and hallelujahs)
THOMPSON: Purify your soul, sinner!
ALLEN (holding up a copy of The Standard): Save your tears…this is what the readers want…
CLEARY (as the others drown Allen out with catcalls): Throw the atheist out!
ALLEN: Don’t sell it short—it’s got twice our circulation and three times our advertising lineup…
(Hutcheson takes the paper from Allen and stares at it)

THOMPSON: Well, it’s yellow…but it’s not exactly a newspaper…
CLEARY: It keeps its people working
(More choruses of “Hallelujah”)
HUTCHESON: Well, maybe if I’d given you this kind of paper you’d still have jobs…there’s a place for this kind of sheet…
CLEARY: Where, Daddy?
HUTCHESON: All right, so it’s not your kind of paper…who are we putting out papers for?  You?  (Pointing to others off-camera) You?  You?  (Laughs) It’s not enough anymore to give them just news…they want comics, contests, puzzles…they want to know how to bake a cake, win friends and influence the future…ergo, horoscopes…tips on the horses…interpretation of dreams so they can win on the numbers lotteries…and if they accidentally stumble onto the first page… (Slamming the paper on the bar) News!

The actor playing Bellamy, the journalism student, would make a few more movies before deciding to work on the other side of the camera.  William Self would become the man in charge of 20th Century-Fox television in the 1960s, overseeing such hit shows as 12 O'Clock High, Lost in Space, Batman, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Peyton Place and Daniel Boone.
After the “wake” winds down, Hutcheson is approached by a journalism student (William Self) who presents a letter of introduction from his professor and informs the editor that he wants to be a reporter.  In his typically cynical style, Bogie-as-editor peppers the greenhorn with questions—particularly when Johnny Journalism announces his intention to become a foreign correspondent—but after giving the kid his baptism by fire, tells him to come around and see him in the morning (he eventually is assigned to “rewrite desk, lobster shift”—Bogie’s secretary [Barton Yarborough] explains to the kid that they call it that because “after midnight, we serve lobsters—thermidor, naturally”)…and delivers the one line that stays with you after the picture is finished: “…about this wanting to be a reporter—don't ever change your mind.  It may not be the oldest profession, but it's the best.”

The man who wants to take Hutcheson's ex-wife with him to Albany.  Ed sees a picture of him in Nora's apartment and cracks: "I don't like him...I'll think of a reason later."
In a way, I can understand why His Girl Friday and Deadline – U.S.A. were Mr. Pierce’s choices for greatest and second-greatest newspaper movies; Deadline is really a more somber version of Friday.  Like Walter Burns pulling all the stops out to get ex-spouse Hildy Johnson back, Ed Hutcheson attempts to win back his estranged wife Nora even though it’s been The Day who’s acted as co-respondent throughout their marriage.  (As Barrymore’s Garrison says to Ed at one point in the film: “You wouldn’t have had a wife if that newspaper had beautiful legs.”)  Ed has even got his own Bruce Baldwin in the form of Lewis Schafer (played by Philip Terry, Ray Milland’s “good” brother in The Lost Weekend), whom Nora plans to marry (he’s her boss at the advertising firm where she works).  Ed gets a visit from Schafer (and like the Cary Grant-Ralph Bellamy scene in Friday, Bogie keeps holding Terry off at arms-length because of the office hustle-and-bustle), which allows him to give him the once-over…and when Lewis explains to Hutcheson that he’s there on behalf of protecting Nora he’s verbally cut off at the knees by Ed: “Well, that’s not only ridiculous, that’s insulting—you’re not that much of a prize.”  (Later, Ed asks the paper’s top researcher, Miss Barndollar [Florence Shirley], to go digging into Schafer’s background…and is disappointed when the investigation reveals his wife’s fiancé to be squeaky-clean.)

Like His Girl Friday, politics and corruption plays a huge role in Deadline – U.S.A.; the Rienzi storyline gives the movie sort of a noir feel but there’s also a suggestion that both elected officials and the police aren’t entirely on the up-and-up—Begley’s Allen is asked by a plainclothes detective investigating Herman Schmidt’s death: “Can’t you tell the difference between a hoodlum and a cop?”

The actress' name (Kasia Orzazewski) does not come trippingly off the tongue...but it's the same lady who plays the scrubwoman trying to free her son in Call Northside 777 (1948), another newspaper favorite here at TDOY.
“In this town?” Allen hesitatingly asks before deciding discretion is the better part of valor by replying “Yes, sir.”  The film’s admittedly deux ex machina ending also seems borrowed from His Girl Friday (the part where editor Burns muses that newspapers are protected by a “higher power”), in which an innocent babe-in-the-wood brings down the villain simply by being honest.  Deadline even has a hard-boiled female reporter in the Hildy Johnson mold; as played by Audrey Christie, she goes only by “Willabrandt”—but it’s her tenacious, patent-shoe-leather investigating that sparks the discovery of the connection between the dead Bessie Schmidt and gangster Rienzi.  She also has one of the loveliest moments in the movie, when she gets up to “testify” at the paper’s wake:

WILLABRANDT (looking at a copy of The Day, adorned with candles): It’s a lovely corpse…alas, poor dear—I knew it well…and why not?  I gave it the best fourteen years of my life…and what have I got to show for it, huh?  Eighty-one dollars in the bank…two dead husbands and… (Her voice softens) Two or three kids I always wanted, but never had… (Her voice rises) I’ve covered everything from electrocutions to love nest brawls…I’ve got fallen arches, unfixed teeth and…you wanna know something?  I…I never saw Paris…but I wouldn’t change those years… (Now choked with emotion) Not for anything in this world…

Christie is just one of the incredible cast of character performers in this film: there are tons of familiar TV faces and scads of recognizable voices for us old-time radio fans in the audience.  Barton Yarborough, who played the best damn partner Dragnet’s Joe Friday ever had made this movie his cinematic swan song, and you’ll also be able to pick out Parley Baer (as the headwaiter at the restaurant Bogie takes Kim Hunter), Willis Bouchey, Lawrence Dobkin (as the Rienzi lawyer), Dabbs Greer, Norman “Mr. Fenton” Leavitt, Tudor Owen and Frank Wilcox…plus so many others.  Ed Begley, Jim Backus (in a nice serious role with moments of levity), Paul Stewart and Joe De Santis are also first-rate…and I’m always tickled by Martin Gabel’s performance as the racketeer Rienzi because he looks more like an accountant (which was probably why he was cast; a man in his position would want to keep a low-profile)

The only flaw in the film is that outside of Christie's Willabrandt and Ethel Barrymore’s marvelous character, there aren’t too many strong female personages in the film; Kim Hunter is sadly wasted, though she does bring whatever she can to a thankless role…and it’s interesting to note that despite Nora’s weariness at having had to play second fiddle to The Day all those years she’s never wavered in her support of her ex-husband (she encourages him fiercely to pursue the Rienzi story with everything he’s got).  Nora informs her ex that she’s backed out of marrying Schafer, but whether or not there’ll be happy ending in their future is speculation by the audience. 

The movie is pretty much Bogie’s all the way (he was Brooks’ only choice even though the studio wanted Gregory Peck or Richard Widmark) though the experience of working with the actor wasn’t quite as pleasant for Brooks as it had been previously (Brooks co-wrote the screenplay for Key Largo).  The director later attributed Bogie’s difficulties and snappish behavior to Bogart’s gradual decline in health; an oft-told story has the actor throwing a star tantrum during the filming of a scene with Barrymore, with Bogart resisting the way Brooks wanted to stage the sequence.  Barrymore finally yelled at him “Humphrey, will you for Christ’s sake do it!”

“Why should I?” he snapped at her.  “Because Humphrey,” she replied, “the Swiss have no navy.”  Bogart broke up at this, and finally agreed to do the scene the director’s way.  Later, when Brooks confronted his friend in his dressing room, Bogie admitted that he’d been making rather merry with some friends the night before and hadn’t learned the speech in that scene.  He had been too embarrassed to admit it in front of the other cast members.

Despite the grief Bogart dished out on Deadline – U.S.A., it’s always been one of my favorites of his films (I know, it only seems that I say that about every Bogie movie); his weariness in the role (much of it left over from the demanding shoot that was The African Queen) helps to define his jaded character, a dedicated man who’s only got one more battle in him and he has to make it the best.  It’s interesting that this is the rare film where the chain-smoking actor never lights a cigarette (though he does reach for a pack in one scene before he’s interrupted), but Bogart demonstrates that one doesn’t need to smoke or carry a gun to be a tough guy; his character’s steeliness comes from the fact that he buys his ink by the barrel, and that he truly believes in the nobility of his profession.  As he tells the journalism student: “A profession is a performance for the public good…that’s why newspaper work is a profession.”

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

“Oh, boss…come now!”

Over at the Radio Spirits blog this morning, I wrote up a little birthday tribute to the one and only Eddie “Rochester” Anderson (born on this date in 1905)—comic sidekick/second banana beyond compare, and faithful “valet” to the one of the funniest men to ever walk the planet, as my friend Jeff was often fond of saying.  (That’s Jack Benny, in case you didn’t recognize him in the above photograph.)  Anderson also gets a shout-out via a scheduled ClassicFlix tweet now available at a Facebook or Twitter feed near you, so if you’re not already subscribing why not check it out?

Hot on the heels of the successful Gish Sisters Blogathon, Movies, Silently has another project underway in the ol’ blog kitchen—a ‘thon to celebrate the 88th anniversary of The Phantom of the Opera (1925).  The Chaney Blogathon (“Two men…thousands of faces”), underway from November 15-18 and co-hosted by TDOY fave The Last Drive-In, will cover the careers of Lon, Sr. and Lon, Jr.—Thrilling Days of Yesteryear will kick in with a review of one of my favorite Lon, Jr. turns: the 1952 western classic High Noon.  (After this event, Movies, Silently will enter a treatment program to kick their blogathon addiction.  Okay, I’m just kidding about that.)

Speaking of blogathons (smooth as glass), two film reviews that I wrote here for my BBFF Stacia’s Camp and Cult Blogathon, Seconds (1966) and The Court Jester (1956—in tandem with The Hollywood Revue’s Paramount Centennial Blogathon), have been nominated for two prestigious “CiMBA” awards, bestowed by that august organization of classic film bloggers known as The Classic Movie Blog Association.  To those folks who nominated TDOY—words simply cannot adequately express my gratitude; I know it sounds like a time-worn cliché but it really is an honor to be nominated.  Here’s the full list of nominees:

Scarface: The Shame of a Nation, Once Upon a Screen
31 Days of Oscar: The Rains Came (1939), The Lady Eve’s Reel Life
CMBA Fabulous Films of the 1940s Blogathon: My Darling Clementine (1946), Caftan Woman
The Black Cat (1934), Pre-Code.Com
The Camp and Cult Film Blogathon: Seconds (1966), Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

The Paramount Centennial Blogathon/The Camp & Cult Blogathon: The Court Jester (1956), Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon: Ball of Fire (1941), Old Movies Nostalgia
Caftan Woman's Choice: One for December on TCM (Babes in Toyland, 1934), Caftan Woman
Review of The Doll (1919), Movies, Silently
Search for Beauty (1934), Pre-Code.Com

Top 10 Oscar-Less Dames and Their Oscar-Worthy Roles, Shadows and Satin
Sunset Blvd...It IS Big!  Once Upon a Screen
Fashion in Film: Shanghai Express (1932), The Lady Eve’s Reel Life
The Man Who Saved Cinerama, Jim Lane’s Cinedrome
My Ten Favorite Classic Foreign Film Actors/Actresses, The Movie Projector

Happy Birthday, Olivia de Havilland! Backlots
Tyrone Power's Acting Lineage, Java Bean Rush
Julie Adams Chats with the Cafe about James Stewart, the Gill Man, Elvis, and Her Autobiography, Classic Film & TV Cafe
What a Character! Blogathon Canadian Edition: Miss Lucile Watson and Miss Maude Eburne, Caftan Woman


TCM Pre-Code Pick of the Month, Shadows and Satin
Luck of the Irish: Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Jim Lane’s Cinedrome
Women Warriors, Another Old Movie Blog
Silent Take, Movies, Silently

James Cagney Blogathon, The Movie Projector
Coverage of the TCM Classic Film Festival, Backlots

Worthy candidates, one and all—voting is now underway (it’s limited to CMBA members—so don’t try any funny business) and we should know the results by next Tuesday.  So good luck to the nominees!

And I hate to close this one out on a sad note…but yesterday, there was much buzz on the Facebook about the passing of a true Chicagoland legend: Jerry G. Bishop, the original Svengoolie, died this weekend at the age of 77.  R.I.P, Mr. Bishop.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mother-Henning an idea for a post

As part of my ClassicFlix duties, I whip up a few birthday shout-outs to celebrity notables of the past on both Facebook and Twitter—today, for instance, actress-singer Janis Paige turns ninety-one…and I wrote a mercilessly short bio, mentioning a few of the movies that were graced by her amazing presence.

Sometimes there are people that I’d like to single out for mention but they get lost in the cracks—either because I’ve already got too many birthdays or I can’t find a decent photo of them on the Internets or in my collection.  Case in point: writer-producer Paul Henning was born on this date today in 1911.  The name is no doubt familiar to TV fans, since Henning was a major-type mogul in the world of television with series like The Dennis Day Show and The Bob Cummings Show (a.k.a. Love That Bob) to his credit…and then in the 1960s, executive producing the bucolic trilogy of The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres.  Henning started out as a radio scribe; he cut his teeth assisting Don Quinn on Fibber McGee & Molly and then went to work for Joe E. Brown and Rudy Vallee before becoming Burns and Allen’s head writer in the 1940s (he also penned many of their TV scripts).

I bring up Paul Henning (and not just to make a bad pun in the title) because I got a pair of e-mails this weekend from announcing that the third season of Petticoat Junction and the fourth season of The Beverly Hillbillies are coming to DVD the first of October…in what are being termed “Walmart exclusives.”  Whether or not this means that the brick-and-mortar behemoth will be the only ones selling these sets I do not know; it may be one of those deals where the collections make their debut there before being released in a more inclusive fashion.  Still, I decided not to take a chance on this and so I ordered both sets, even though I will probably burn in a fiery hell for the rest of eternity shopping Walmart online.

Cultureshark proprietor Rick Brooks mentioned to me via Facebook that TSOD’s decision to announce the Hillbillies and Junction releases was influenced by a lively give-and-take at the Home Theater Forum, in which the webmasters from TSOD attempted to explain their decision not to give people a heads-up about the sets and were drowned out by loud cries of “Bullsh*t!”  I wasn’t aware of the fracas (any bulletin board that winds up driving Stephen Bowie away is probably not one I want to frequent) so I won’t labor over the details but I’m offering a doff of the TDOY chapeau to Messrs. Lacey and Lambert (The Men from T.S.O.D.) or TV Guide or whomever for changing their minds and letting folks know the news (again, I don’t frequent HTF as much as I did in the past because the administrator has a particularly annoying habit of curtailing people’s speech freedoms just when the conversation starts to get interesting).

There was a discussion on the HTF Beverly Hillbillies thread about the show itself and why it seems to have done so poorly with regards to DVD sales…particularly since it was the biggest thing to happen to CBS since they put I Love Lucy on the air.  There’s always been a stigma attached to the program—one I’ve never completely comprehended because I don’t think Hillbillies gets enough credit as being both a funny sitcom and a nice little slice of social satire.  My take on it is that if you’re familiar with George and Gracie’s radio show, you’re probably a fan of Beverly Hillbillies because the same “illogical logic” permeates both programs; the Clampetts, being the “fish out of water,” often take simple misunderstandings and make mountains out of them…and thereby producing classic comedy.  I think Green Acres also takes a lot from Burns & Allen (even though Henning was only the executive producer—Jay Sommers created it) as well—the character of Oliver Wendell Douglas is essentially a man trapped in a town populated by Gracies.

The other birthday I didn’t get to single out today is that of OTR actor Lawrence Dobkin, born on this date in 1918.  With Larry, it’s never a question of what did he do on radio…it’s more like “what didn’t he do.”  He’s best known as one of radio’s Ellery Queen’s—and for high-profile appearances on The Adventures of the Saint, The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe and Gunsmoke—but he also worked on such series as The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, Broadway is My Beat, Escape, Family Theatre, Jeff Regan, Investigator, Let George Do It, The Lux Radio Theatre, The Man Called X, Night Beat, Richard Diamond, Private Detective, Suspense, The Whistler and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Dobkin would later work in movies (Sweet Smell of Success, North by Northwest) and TV—he even became a noted small screen director with episodes of The Rifleman, 77 Sunset Strip, The Donna Reed Show and Star Trek to his credit (as well as a couple of episodes of the show featured here on the blog, The Doris Day Show).  Every Sunday night at 1am, I enjoy hearing Larry’s best-known TV gig on Me-TV—as narrator of the hour-long Naked City.  (“There are eight million stories in the naked city…this has been one of them.”)