Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Repost: Tonight's Movie: Something in the Wind (1947)

NOTE: I sometimes repost older reviews of favorite films when I revisit them, in hopes of introducing them to newer readers. I'm sure Deanna Durbin has had more reviews reposted here than any other performer!

I first reviewed SOMETHING IN THE WIND (1947) in December 2011. When rewatching it tonight I was fascinated to realize that it was written by William Bowers and Harry Kurnitz, who contributed to so many great film noir titles, such as THE WEB (1947), released the very same year as SOMETHING IN THE WIND. I just saw THE WEB at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival and reviewed it here last weekend. Bowers in particular is known for his great way with sarcastic dialogue, and I feel sure that some of the funniest, snarkiest lines in the movie -- such as in a great fashion show sequence -- must have come from his typewriter.

It was especially interesting revisiting this film having seen John Dall in ROPE (1948), GUN CRAZY (1950), and THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (1951) in the intervening years; again, I just saw THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival a few days ago! The timing to rewatch SOMETHING IN THE WIND couldn't have been more perfect.

I think I enjoyed this film even more the second time around. Below is my review as it appeared in 2011, augmented with an additional image of Deanna singing the memorable "Turntable Song" as the movie opens.

Today is the 90th birthday of one of cinema's great treasures, and one of my very favorite actresses and singers, the incomparable Deanna Durbin.

Since I'm down to just a handful of Durbin titles remaining to see for the very first time, I've been spacing out watching them, savoring them bit by bit. Deanna's birthday was the perfect occasion to see one of the last movies on my list, SOMETHING IN THE WIND.

Deanna plays Mary Collins, a disc jockey who becomes mixed up with a wealthy family of snobs. Donald (John Dall) has discovered a recently deceased relative was making payments to a Mary Collins, and mistakenly thinks it's the Mary played by Deanna, drawing all the wrong conclusions. In reality, the Mary was Deanna's Aunt Mary, played by Jean Adair, but it's complicated so we'll leave it at that!

Will Mary find a sponsor for her radio show? Will Donald dump his proper fiancee Clarissa (Helena Carter) when he finds out Mary's really a nice girl? Will Donald's lovelorn cousin Charlie (Donald O'Connor) win Clarissa?

The answers probably aren't in doubt, but what fun getting there! I may be unusual in that I prefer Durbin's '40s films to those she made as a child. She's sassy, confident, and a whole lot of fun to watch.

The film has a strong score by Johnny Green and Leo Robin, starting off in fine fashion with the opening number, the perky "Turntable Song," sung by Mary as she wraps up the latest episode of her radio show.

"You Wanna Keep Your Baby Looking Right" is slyly sung by Deanna to make Donald uncomfortable, and the lovely "Something in the Wind" provides an emotional turning point an hour into the film, as Donald and Mary realize their feelings for one another.

Deanna also duets "Miserere" from IL TROVATORE with Jan Peerce of the Metropolitan Opera, playing a singing policeman.

This was John Dall's second film, following THE CORN IS GREEN (1945). His best-known movies are probably Hitchcock's ROPE (1948) and Joseph H. Lewis's GUN CRAZY (1950). I felt he was rather wooden for much of the film, although a certain amount of that works with his initially stodgy, patrician character. He did warm up in the last third of the film and effectively convey his character's transformation. I thought he was pretty phony in his drinking scene with Donald O'Connor, but the audience probably wasn't supposed to take it all that seriously anyway!

The lively O'Connor adds some energy to the film, singing "I Love a Mystery" and a version of "Something in the Wind," backed by the four Williams Brothers, including Andy.

The film's supporting cast includes Charles Winninger and Margaret Wycherly. William Ching, seen a couple days ago as Marge Champion's beau in GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953), plays the master of ceremonies at a fashion show.

The director was Irving Pichel. The black and white cinematography was by Milton R. Krasner. The costumes were designed by Orry-Kelly. The film's running time was 89 minutes.

SOMETHING IN THE WIND is available on DVD in the six-film Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack, which contains some of her very best films. As I write, it's currently selling at Amazon for a price which is more than a bargain.

It's also been released on a Region 2 DVD and on VHS; the videotape includes two trailers. (Update: SOMETHING IN THE WIND is now available on DVD in the Universal Vault Series.)

Please visit the birthday tribute I posted one year ago today.

I have just four Durbin films left to see for the first time! Links for all Deanna Durbin films previously reviewed here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: FIRST LOVE (1939), HIS BUTLER'S SISTER (1943), NICE GIRL? (1941), FOR THE LOVE OF MARY (1948), BECAUSE OF HIM (1946), MAD ABOUT MUSIC (1938), THE AMAZING MRS. HOLLIDAY (1943), THREE SMART GIRLS (1936), THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939), IT STARTED WITH EVE (1941), CAN'T HELP SINGING (1944), HERS TO HOLD (1943), IT'S A DATE (1940), LADY ON A TRAIN (1945), THAT CERTAIN AGE (1938), and ONE HUNDRED MEN AND A GIRL (1937).

Monday, May 21, 2018

The 2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival: Saturday

Our terrific Friday at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival was followed by a wonderful four-film Saturday!

First up on Saturday: Alan Ladd starring in CHICAGO DEADLINE (1949), introduced by Eddie Muller. Donna Reed and June Havoc costarred, with a large supporting cast.

I first saw this "newspaper noir" at last year's Noir City Hollywood Festival and enjoyed revisiting it. I'm always happy to watch an Alan Ladd movie! It's a solid film, building to an exciting shootout in a parking garage.

Again this year we stopped in for lunch at Sherman's, which has one of the best French dip sandwiches I've ever had. A must for festival visitors!

Then it was time for Alan K. Rode to introduce the world premiere of UCLA's restoration of THE RED HOUSE (1947), which was funded by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation.

I found THE RED HOUSE, which might be called "Gothic farm noir," one of the most memorable films of the festival. It starred Edward G. Robinson, Allene Roberts, Lon McCallister, Judith Anderson, Julie London, and Rory Calhoun. The young London and Calhoun were stunning! Look for a separate review of this film in the near future.

The third film of the day was another title I'd first seen at last year's Noir City festival, THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (1951), introduced by Eddie Muller. The exciting news here was the film was restored since my first viewing! It looked terrific, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it again, especially since I visited the film's Fort Point location in San Francisco last summer.

THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF stars Lee J. Cobb, Jane Wyatt, and John Dall. Look for it to air on TCM's Noir Alley this summer, and it will also have a Blu-ray release from Flicker Alley.

The final film of the day was WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957), which I'd not since since I was a teenager. I remembered enjoying it but little else, so it was pretty much like seeing a new movie.

Ruta Lee, who has a small but important role in the film, was interviewed by Alan K. Rode before the movie. She said that Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester were very kind to her, inviting her to tea in their dressing room and helping coach her on the proper British dialect for her middle-class character.

Lee also remembered director Billy Wilder chanting Marlene Dietrich's lines to try to help give her the mood and tone he was looking for. Like anyone else in Hollywood, she had only good things to say about the film's star, Tyrone Power, a man who seems to have been universally admired by all.

There aren't enough adjectives to describe Ruta Lee, but effervescent, ebullient, and irrepressible would be a good start. In that regard she reminds me of her longtime friend, Debbie Reynolds. She couldn't have been friendlier when I spoke to her before the movie, which was quite a thrill for me since she's one of the dancers in my favorite film, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), and she also appeared in one of my favorite episodes of MAVERICK, my favorite TV series.

More festival coverage coming soon, including a review of THE RED HOUSE and an overview of the final day of the festival.

Tonight's Movie: A Lady Takes a Chance (1943) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

In the mid '40s John Wayne made a couple very good romantic comedies with travel-related themes. One was WITHOUT RESERVATIONS (1946), costarring Claudette Colbert, and the other was A LADY TAKES A CHANCE (1943), in which he starred with Jean Arthur.

A LADY TAKES A CHANCE has just been released on DVD and Blu-ray by Kino Lorber. The Blu-ray is beautiful and was a great way to revisit this delightful film, which I originally reviewed on my blog back in 2009.

John Wayne probably isn't the first person who comes to mind as a romantic comedy lead opposite either Arthur or Colbert, but he's completely at home in this genre. (An interesting side note, he was younger than each of those actresses, but it works fine.) Wayne was as skilled a "reactor" as there ever was on the screen, and watching his baffled yet charmed reactions to the endearing Arthur is a big part of what makes A LADY TAKES A CHANCE so much fun to watch.

Arthur plays Molly, who leaves New York for a 14-day vacation seeing the west by bus. She leaves behind three suitors, played by Grady Sutton, Hans Conreid, and Grant Withers, to whom she's polite but indifferent; after being courted by the tepid likes of Sutton and Conreid, it's no surprise that when she meets big, strong rodeo cowboy Duke (Wayne) she's a goner.

After spending an evening together Molly misses her bus; the attracted yet exasperated Molly and Duke bicker as she struggles to get to the city where she can catch the bus, but he's obviously falling for her as well, despite claims that he doesn't want to be tied down.

Arthur's line readings in this film leave me in stitches; that voice that director Frank Capra called "a thousand tinkling bells" has the ability to make me laugh in and of itself. Just her gesturing to a motor court manager about "my bus" makes me laugh. She's just plain cute, there's no other word for it. Pair her with the handsome, earnest Wayne and you've got yourself a very engaging movie. I've watched it several times over the years, and I'm sure I'll be watching this Kino Blu-ray again many more times in the years to come. It's never looked better.

The supporting cast includes Charles Winninger as Duke's best friend, Phil Silvers as the bus tour guide from you-know-where, and Mary Field as Arthur's seatmate on the bus. Field has a gem of a scene as she watches, wide-eyed, as Arthur's trio of swains say farewell to her just before the bus leaves.

This film was directed by William A. Seiter and the uncredited Henry Hathaway. It was shot in black and white by Frank Redman. The running time is 87 minutes.

The lone extra is a trailer gallery for half a dozen films available from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Web (1947) at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival

The new-to-me film I most looked forward to at this year's Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival was THE WEB (1947), and it did not disappoint.

THE WEB, a Universal Pictures film not available on DVD, stars one of my favorite actors, Edmond O'Brien. The sterling cast also including Ella Raines, William Bendix, and Vincent Price. That cast slinging around great William Bowers dialogue in an engrossing story made the film a winner for me.

O'Brien plays attorney Bob Regan, who's hired by business tycoon Andrew Colby (Price) as a bodyguard when a former Colby employee, Kroner (Fritz Leiber) is released from jail. How an attorney like Regan ends up as an unlikely bodyguard is a bit of a story, but it involves a $5000 payday and the opportunity to romance Colby's beautiful assistant Noel, played by Raines. Regan should have lived by the old adage that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Sure enough, very quickly Kroner shows up at Colby's house and Regan walks in on him apparently trying to kill Colby, so Regan shoots and kills Kroner with the gun which had been provided by his employer.

Regan's pal on the police force, Lt. Damico (Bendix), had warned Regan about taking the job even while approving his gun permit. The shooting of Kroner is ruled justifiable...but Damico still harbors suspicions about it, and Regan increasingly feels as though he'd been set up.

While both Regan and Damico try to unravel what actually happened, Regan romances Noel, whose initial resistance finally begins to melt...right around the time she and Regan are both framed for murder by their boss, Colby.

This movie was simply grand fun. O'Brien is at his most appealing and engaging, Raines has a good part as a self-confident, beautiful woman, Price is slimy as can be, and Bendix is just as cagey as you hope he'll turn out to be.

The script by Bowers and Bertram Millhauser, based on a story by Harry Kurnitz, has lots of great lines, and the playing of the characters is such fun that it distracts from some of the odder aspects of the story, such as: Why on earth is Raines' personal assistant living with Price? And Bendix's final plotting is...not very believable, though I suppose the outcome makes up for that.

The movie was directed by Michael Gordon and filmed in black and white by Irving Glassberg. It runs 87 well-paced minutes.

After the movie Vincent Price's daughter Victoria was interviewed by festival host Alan K. Rode. You can read a little more about that at the end of my Friday overview.

THE WEB is a film I'd love to see come out on DVD, as I'd definitely like to watch it again. Fingers crossed for a future release!

Tonight's Movie: Hotel Berlin (1945) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

The World War II drama HOTEL BERLIN (1945), released in the final weeks of the war, was recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

HOTEL BERLIN is one of a trio of films starring Faye Emerson released by the Archive in March. The other two movies, reviewed here in recent weeks, were MURDER IN THE BIG HOUSE (1942) and DANGER SIGNAL (1945).

I had high hopes for HOTEL BERLIN, as in addition to Emerson it also stars the very interesting actress Andrea King; the CASABLANCA-ish concept of several desperate people congregated under one roof, looking for ways to survive or escape, sounded intriguing.

Unfortunately the film is a bit of a muddled mess, without clear heroes and with Emerson in a relatively small role; neither Emerson or King, or indeed most of the cast, are sympathetic. Even Helmut Dantine as a member of the German underground on the run from the Nazis is rather cold and doesn't particularly engender emotional investment from the audience.

Emerson plays a hotel employee who will do just about anything for a new pair of shoes, including informing on others to the Nazis, while King is a famous actress who's also the sometime lover of von Dahnwitz (Raymond Massey), an army officer. von Dahnwitz, who was part of a plot to kill Hitler, has just been informed by Baron von Stetten (Henry Daniell) that he's under orders to kill himself, or the Third Reich will do it for him.

Also wandering about the hotel are Peter Lorre, George Coulouris, Alan Hale (Sr.), Helene Thimig, Steven Geray, Kurt Krueger, and Peter Whitney.

The movie begins abruptly with a chase through the hotel, and the script initially provides little for the viewer to latch on to in terms of being able to follow a story, other than the need for Richter (Dantine), the escapee, to hide. The film's attention is scattered among several characters but, as mentioned, they don't command much sympathy or interest. Being interested in the careers of both Emerson and King, I'm glad I can check off seeing it from their filmographies, but that's about it.

Of historical note, at the end of the film's 98 minutes, is a note from Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin about the Allied goals, which were not to do away with the German people but to eradicate the Nazis and their war-making ability.

HOTEL BERLIN was directed by Peter Godfrey and Carl Guthrie. There are some oddball shots here and there, such as Massey filmed through the bottom of a brandy snifter, that seem out of keeping with the story. The score, which I found overly bombastic at times, was by Franz Waxman.

The print is mostly okay but there are a couple slightly abrupt scene jumps and a few scenes which are darker or have flaws.

The trailer is included on the disc.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

Patricia Morison Dies at 103

Actress-singer Patricia Morison died earlier today, May 20th.

The star of stage and screen, who among other accomplishments originated the title role in KISS ME, KATE, was 103.

I'm fortunate to have seen Morison in person on multiple occasions. As a child I saw her play the Baroness in a Los Angeles theatrical production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC.

In more recent years, I saw her interviewed at a 2015 Noir City Hollywood screening of THE FALLEN SPARROW (1943), which took place shortly after she celebrated her centennial birthday.

Just last September Morison appeared at a Cinecon screening of UNTAMED (1940), in which she starred with Ray Milland. She shared her memories of liking working with Milland -- and freezing while shooting the film's blizzard scenes in an ice house!

For more on Patricia Morison, including numerous photos and links to all my reviews of her films, please visit my 2017 birthday tribute to the actress.

Obituaries have been published by the Los Angeles Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, Broadway World, and The New York Times.

I send my sincere condolences to her friends and colleagues, with gratitude for many hours of wonderful entertainment, both past and future.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Burn 'Em Up O'Connor (1939) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Dennis O'Keefe has an early starring role as a race car driver in BURN 'EM UP O'CONNOR (1939), just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

O'Keefe plays brash Jerry O'Connor, a driver who hooks up with a racing outfit run by Pinky Delano (Harry Carey Sr.) after becoming attracted to Delano's daughter Jane (Cecilia Parker). Jane and Jerry "meet cute" when he runs her car off the road, and needless to say she's not impressed.

One of Delano's drivers, "Rocks" Rivera (Alan Curtis), is unable to make a turn in a race and killed. Shortly thereafter two more drivers (Tom Neal and Tom Collins) meet a similar fate after being blinded while driving. Jerry's mechanic pal Buddy (Nat Pendleton) turns detective...meanwhile, as a precaution, Jerry practices making turns while "driving blind."

With a cast like this one, it should be a fun "B" movie, but the script by Milton Merlin and Byron Morgan is dull and the whole thing never really gels.

I've shared here that I'm a big fan of lead actor Dennis O'Keefe, but some of his early leading roles are problematic; as with a film he made the same year, THE KID FROM TEXAS (1939), he's stymied by an inferior script and his own performance. Occasionally we see the bright, more interesting man underneath the rash exterior, but he plays much of the role with the same annoying yokel style as in THE KID FROM TEXAS.

As O'Keefe moved into the '40s and '50s he had better material, including some scripts written by himself, and he developed a much more appealing and compelling screen presence, whether playing romantic leading men or the occasional noir anti-hero or villain. Seeing his earliest leading roles, which he received after several years of toiling in the industry as a bit player, is rather interesting when placed in the context of his successful career.

In the right hands O'Connor's love-hate relationship with the pretty Parker could have had potential, but she spends so much time fending him off that it's almost unbelievable when she finally gets around to liking him. Parker is delightful in Westerns opposite actors like Buck Jones and George O'Brien, and of course she was also in the long-running ANDY HARDY series; she's lovely here but doesn't have much to do but pout.

Carey offers his usual smoothly professional, likeable performance -- his grin sure lit up the screen -- and Pendleton has more to do than he often does, playing a man who's dumb like a fox, but all in all it's kind of a long 70 minutes.

BURN 'EM UP O'CONNOR was directed by Edward Sedgwick. It was filmed in black and white by Lester White. The supporting cast also includes Charley Grapewin, Frank Orth, Addison Richards, Helen Jerome Eddy, and Si Jenks.

The Warner Archive DVD has a good picture and sound. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to attending three film festivals in a month's time, I have quite a backlog of DVD and Blu-ray screeners, so stay tuned for even more reviews in the coming days and weeks, along with my ongoing festival coverage!

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

Tonight's Movie: The Famous Ferguson Case (1932) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THE FAMOUS FERGUSON CASE (1932), a pre-Code newspaper drama, remains as timely today as it was the year it was filmed. It was just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

When Mrs. Ferguson (Vivienne Osborne) is found tied up next to the dead body of her wealthy banker husband (Purnell Pratt) at their summer home, the New York newspaper media descend on the small town of Cornwall en masse.

Some reporters, especially Martin Collins (Grant Mitchell), are committed to doing an honest and accurate job of reporting, simply being a "mirror" reflecting the facts.

Other reporters, like alcoholic Bob Parks (Kenneth Thomson) and his pal Jim Perrin (Leslie Fenton), are more interested in being able to write sensational stories. They manipulate the county attorney (Clarence Wilson), badger the pregnant wife (Miriam Seegar) of a suspect (Leon Ames, billed as Leon Waycoff), and generally try to shape the story and create what we might today call "fake news."

It all comes crashing down on the unethical reporters thanks to the dogged work of young small-town reporter Bruce Foster (Tom Brown).

I haven't yet mentioned top-billed Joan Blondell, who starts out as one of the hard-bitten crew who arrives in town but gradually has second thoughts about her life and career. She also tries to warn off Bruce's colleague Toni (Adrienne Dore) about the insincere and unreliable Bob, but Toni chalks it up to jealousy.

Blondell often ends up near the top of the list for the actress whose films I see most in a given year, and fast-paced, zippy films like this one are a big part of the reason why. I really enjoy a story which can be told in a quick 74 minutes, and it goes without saying that Blondell is always compelling.

Mitchell and Ames, always pros, are also quite good.

The film begins with a card saying the film is "built upon the contrast between legitimate journalism and unprincipled scandal-mongering," and this is the most interesting aspect of the film; indeed, the focus on this angle pushes aside the actual details of the crime, which receive fairly scant attention.

While I enjoyed the film and found it worthwhile, it's not perfect. The "gee whiz" Brown is okay but on the bland side, and I've always found Fenton annoying. I also thought the conclusion was a bit hard to buy, as it seems unlikely that even being embarrassed by blowing reporting on the case could sufficiently impact Thomson's Parks to make him a better reporter, let alone give up the bottle.

Flaws aside, anyone interested in the media or "newspaper films" should find this worth a look. The main theme really resonated with me, and it's both fascinating and rather sad that "the more things change, the more they stay the same," close to 90 years after this was made.

THE FAMOUS FERGUSON CASE was directed by Lloyd Bacon and filmed by Dev Jennings.

The picture is somewhat soft, as DVD prints of films from this era are apt to be, but it's without major defects and has a strong soundtrack. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

The 2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival: Friday

After a terrific opening night at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, we were up bright and early Friday morning!

We started off with a stop at our favorite place to eat breakfast in Palm Springs, Elmer's, and then, since we'd seen the first movie of the day in a theater within the last few years, my husband decided to do one of his favorite things and go on a horseback ride.

After dropping him off at the stables I had some extra time so I drove past the former home of one of my favorite actresses, Loretta Young, which was just a minute or two from Elmer's:

It was fun to take a quick peek at the exterior. Readers may recall that last year we stopped by Frank Sinatra's famous home, Twin Palms.

Then it was time to head to the Palm Springs Cultural Center for the 10:00 a.m. film! The day kicked off with LARCENY (1948), starring John Payne, Joan Caulfield, Dan Duryea, and Shelley Winters. (Click any hyperlinked movie title for my corresponding past review.)

I'd been fortunate to see LARCENY on a couple prior occasions, including at the 2014 Noir City Film Festival, but I was happy to revisit it.

Payne and Duryea play con artists out to fleece wealthy widow Caulfield; Winters, in a ferocious performance, plays Duryea's mistress, who'd prefer to have Payne as her boyfriend.

LARCENY isn't a perfect film -- I always feel like it could have been a bit longer than its 89 minutes -- but it's highly entertaining, and I enjoyed watching it again. It's of note that LARCENY was one of several films screened at the festival which is not available for home viewing in any format.

The next film, THE TURNING POINT (1952), was screened at this year's Noir City Hollywood festival, but I was able to save a trip to Los Angeles since I knew it was on the schedule for Palm Springs! It was shown in a restored digital print by Paramount Pictures, one of only two digital films screened at the festival.

THE TURNING POINT is a solid film in which prosecutor Edmond O'Brien and reporter William Holden team up to bring down a mobster (Ed Begley Sr.), aided by Gal Friday Alexis Smith. Although set in an unnamed city, there's fantastic location filming in Los Angeles, including the Angels' Flight Railway (seen in screen shot at right). This was a much better print than I had seen via Netflix streaming a few years ago, and it was very worthwhile to watch it again.

No word on when or if this restoration will come to DVD or Blu-ray, so here's hoping.

We decided to skip the third film of the day, THE UNSUSPECTED (1947), only because we had just seen it at UCLA in February! It was the only one of the festival's 12 films which I didn't see.

THE UNSUSPECTED has a great cast, including Claude Rains, Audrey Totter, Constance Bennett, and Joan Caulfield, who was also in LARCENY. It's an entertaining film which I recommend; it won't be too long before I'm ready to see that one again. For those who'd like to check it out, it's available on DVD via the Warner Archive.

After dinner it was time for one of the films I most looked forward to seeing at the festival, THE WEB (1947). THE WEB is another not-on-DVD film which stars Edmond O'Brien, Ella Raines, Vincent Price, and William Bendix. I'll have more on this film in a separate review soon. (Update: Here is my review of THE WEB.)

Following the film Price's daughter Victoria was interviewed by Alan K. Rode. An articulate and positive speaker, she particularly emphasized how her father was able to help many other actors and artists over the years, usually behind the scenes without others knowing. Price was a man of many interests, including not just acting and art but also cooking, and we were fortunate to have his daughter share some of her memories with the audience.

Victoria is the author of VINCENT PRICE: A DAUGHTER'S BIOGRAPHY, which I purchased as a gift for my husband when it was published a few years ago. As a Price fan he enjoyed it a great deal.

Coming soon: A review of THE WEB and an overview of Saturday's screenings.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Farewell, My Lovely (1975) at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival

The 2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival opened on Thursday evening, May 10th, with a screening of Robert Mitchum in FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975). The screening was followed by a reception on the theater patio.

Our own day began well ahead of that, as my husband and I visited The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert early Thursday morning. Temps were hovering around 100 that day but we got in and out of the zoo early enough that it was a pleasant visit. I expect to share some photos at a future date.

Later we checked into our room at one of the official festival hotels, the Courtyard By Marriott, where we had a very good experience again this year, and we also stopped for dinner at Bill's Pizza, which we've never found less than excellent. Then it was off to the Camelot Theatres, now known as the Palm Springs Cultural Center, for opening night!

Jack O'Halloran, who memorably plays Moose Malloy in FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, was the night's special guest, and I was quite thrilled to meet him. O'Halloran, who made his screen debut in FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, shortly thereafter played the scary villain Non in SUPERMAN (1978) and SUPERMAN II (1980). As I wrote here back in 2006, SUPERMAN was a key film of my teen years, which I've seen numerous times, so it was great fun for me to meet someone from the cast. (Very sadly, SUPERMAN'S Lois Lane, Margot Kidder, would pass away later that same weekend, at the age of 69.) O'Halloran is pictured here before the screening with festival producer and host Alan K. Rode.

Before the screening the Mayor of Palm Springs welcomed us and shared the good news that the abandoned mall next to the Palm Springs Cultural Center would soon be razed and become a new campus for the College of the Desert. The new campus will include a digital media and film program. This was great to hear as the empty mall, pictured here, has always looked so forlorn since I began visiting the festival three years ago. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

This was my first time to see FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, with Mitchum starring as detective Philip Marlowe, based on the book by Raymond Chandler. It's set in 1941, with Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak providing a framing device which I especially enjoyed.

Marlowe is struggling along, getting older and barely scratching out a living, when a big lug named Moose Malloy (O'Halloran), newly released from several years in prison, pays Marlowe to search for his long-lost girlfriend, "my Velma." Marlowe starts the hunt, through the seedier parts of the city; simultaneously he's hired by someone else (John O'Leary) to ransom a jade necklace, which ultimately leads Marlowe to interact with the highest echelons of Los Angeles society. The two seemingly disparate cases will eventually merge in unexpected ways.

Along the way Marlowe meets with a host of interesting characters, including the Lauren Bacall-esque sexy wife (Charlotte Rampling) of an elderly judge (Jim Thompson); a boozy ex-nightclub singer (Oscar nominee Sylvia Miles); and the henchman (Sylvester Stallone) of an infamous madam (Kate Murtaugh). Keeping tabs on Marlowe is his old friend, the simultaneously exasperated and sympathetic Lt. Nulty (John Ireland), along with the less friendly -- and less ethical -- Detective Rolfe (Harry Dean Stanton).

The film reminded me a bit of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997), which came out a couple decades later and which I also just saw for the first time recently. Both films feature complex plots with many strands which somehow all tie back in with each other by movie's end, and both films also feature extensive location shooting in Los Angeles.

Each film is also fairly violent, which is one reason I'd skipped them up to this point. In each case those moments are telegraphed in advance and fairly easy to avoid watching; FAREWELL, MY LOVELY is bloody yet otherwise not very graphic.

While I'm focused on the "R" rated aspects I'll mention that the only aspect of FAREWELL, MY LOVELY I really didn't appreciate was some nudity; I sometimes think movies of the '70s did this more frequently than recent movies just because filmmakers wanted to push boundaries after the demise of the Production Code. These moments added nothing to the story, and I wish they'd been left on the cutting room floor.

Otherwise I found this film quite absorbing and enjoyable and was very glad I finally caught up with it. I especially enjoyed watching the two "old pros," Mitchum and Ireland, and their interactions. Ireland has a great moment near the end of the film where he decides being a good cop is more important than being on the take, and I wanted to cheer!

O'Halloran makes an unforgettable Moose Malloy, and it was also fun to see the young Stallone, just before he hit it big in ROCKY (1976).

Mitchum is in almost every scene, which means the movie is extremely watchable, because Mitchum is never less than an interesting actor. Add in L.A. locations and a baseball theme, and there was much for this viewer to enjoy.

FAREWELL, MY LOVELY was directed by Dick Richards and filmed by John A. Alonzo. It runs 95 minutes.

After the film O'Halloran sat for an interview with Alan Rode, which delved into his very interesting life, including boxing, acting, and learning that his father was mobster Albert Anastasia, a fact he discovered after Anastasia's death.

O'Halloran recounted that he had commented to Mitchum that maybe he should get acting lessons, and Mitchum in so many words told him he was doing fine and not to mess up the good thing he had going! O'Halloran spoke very highly of Mitchum as a person and a mentor.

In a nice bit of serendipity, O'Halloran shared that while they were filming Mitchum discovered a label in one of his suits which indicated it had previously been worn by Victor Mature. That was quite fun since Mature's daughter, Victoria, was in the audience Thursday evening.

I believe the complete interview should be available for viewing later in the year on the Film Noir Foundation website, so be on the lookout!

Now I'm quite curious to see Mitchum's second film as Marlowe, THE BIG SLEEP (1978), which fortunately was released on Blu-ray along with FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, just a few weeks ago. I've ordered it and hope to watch it soon! THE BIG SLEEP has a very interesting cast which includes Richard Boone and James Stewart along with Mitchum.

Coming soon: An overview of Friday's festival screenings and a review of Edmond O'Brien in THE WEB (1947), with more to follow!