Back from a Break! Random Movie Thoughts

Ahhh, it feels so good to be back writing for my blog again! I’ve been taking a bit of an unplanned break from blogging lately so it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. My writing skills have gotten a bit rusty so I thought I’d start with something simple just to get myself going again.

I’m basically going to list some of the movies I’ve watched recently and include some random thoughts and/or resource links related to each movie.

In no particular viewing order, here are a few of the movies I’ve watched recently:

Princess O’Rourke (1943)

  • I couldn’t believe it when I realized it, but it took me over half the movie to recognize Jane Wyman! I think it was because I’m so used to seeing her with bangs (like the picture on the left below) but instead her hair looked more like the picture on the right.
  • Jack Carson was someone I never really cared for in the past, but I really liked him in this movie! I suspect that I was unfairly overlooking his talent, and I look forward to watching more of his movies.
  • This was a charming comedy that I think fans of co-stars Olivia DeHavilland, Robert Cummings, Jack Carson, Jane Wyman, or Charles Coburn would really enjoy. The DVD is currently available for purchase from the Warner Archive.

     

Chance at Heaven (1933)

  • I chose to watch this movie because I realized I have not watched many Joel McCrea movies, and I simply wanted to change that. One of my first impressions when I saw him onscreen was that I didn’t remember him being so handsome. :-)
  • I just discovered that Joel McCrea will be the Turner Classic Movies star of the month for May. Too bad I don’t have TCM! :-( You can read Robert Osborne’s thoughts on Joel McCrea here.
  • This interesting but very short (71 minutes) pre-code which also starred Ginger Rogers in one of her earliest film roles, is also available from the Warner Archive

The Apartment (1960)

  • This had been on my to-watch list forever! I had heard so many great things about it and of course it won the Academy Award for Best Picture so I finally gave it a try.
  • I definitely waited far too long to watch this! What a great movie and well deserving of the Academy Award!
  • After watching this movie, I came away with a new found appreciation for Shirley MacLaine, who I wasn’t really sure I cared for all that much and for Jack Lemmon, whose acting I wasn’t very familiar with.
  • There was a live reading of The Apartment‘s script that took place yesterday at the Times Center in Manhattan. You can read more about this event, which was organized by filmmaker Jason Reitman and included actors Paul Rudd and Emma Stone in this New York Times article. I have to admit, I’ve never heard of something like that being done.

Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

  • I was so enamored with Jack Lemmon’s performance in The Apartment, that I followed it up with this movie which he starred in with actress Lee Remick, who I also really admire.
  • As a movie about an alcoholic couple struggling to stay sober, it was a darker film than what I’m used to watching, but once again Jack Lemmon’s acting had me riveted.
  • It’s a shame Jack Lemmon didn’t win the Academy Award for Best Actor for this part, but I’m sure Gregory Peck was equally deserving in his role in To Kill a Mockingbird, a movie which I must shamefully admit I have never seen. I must change that soon, I know!

Borderline (1950)

  • Ever since I realized last year that I LOVE Claire Trevor, I’ve been trying to watch as many of her movies as I can. I can’t exactly say this was a great movie, but I enjoyed her performance and it was another chance to watch Fred MacMurray, an actor who I also really like.
  • One funny coincidence in this movie: Claire Trevor ordered a frozen daiquiri when she was with Fred MacMurray’s character just as Shirley MacLaine had done in The Apartment, which I had just watched a few days before.

 

Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938)

  • I didn’t get quite enough of Tyrone Power when I wrote a blog post about him last month so I decided to watch him in this delightful Irving Berlin musical, which I enjoyed very much.
  • The DVD’s special features contain a biography of actress Alice Faye, who co-starred with Tyrone Power in this movie. I didn’t realize before watching her bio that she was such a popular actress at the height of her career.
  • In 1939, Alice Faye was named one of the top ten box office draws in Hollywood. I found her life story to be very fascinating. Check it out if you get the chance!

Somewhere in the Night (1946)

  • This was my first time watching a movie starring actor John Hodiak, who I later learned was once married to actress Anne Baxter. Sadly he died much too young at the age of 41.
  • Even though her acting skills in this movie were very raw, there was something about actress Nancy Guild that really intrigued me. I was surprised to find out that she was signed to a 7-year contract with 20th Century Fox but only ended up making a few movies before retiring from films in 1953.
  • The DVD features commentary by Eddie Muller, founder and president of The Film Noir Foundation. This was my second time listening to one of his commentaries (the first one was when I watched Road House) and it won’t be the last! I think I enjoy listening to his thoughts more than I like watching the movies! :-)

Ring-a-Ding Girl (1963) – Episode of The Twilight Zone

  • Okay, so this isn’t a movie, but I wanted to mention it anyway since it starred actress Maggie McNamara, who appeared in the movie Three Coins in the Fountain (1954) among others. This episode was written by Earl Hamner, who is probably best known for his work with the television show The Waltons.
  • I was recently introduced to Maggie by Kristen from the blog Journey’s in Class Film when she wrote about her for the Gone Too Soon blogathon that we participated in last month.
  • I hadn’t watched an episode of The Twilight Zone since I was a young girl! It definitely brought back memories, and I would like to watch more in the near future. If you know of other episodes starring classic movie actors or actresses, please let me know!

I enjoyed all of these movies to varying degrees, but my favorites were probably The Apartment and Alexander’s Ragtime Band.

What are some of your favorite movies that you’ve watched recently?

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12 Responses
  1. Karen says:

    Welcome back, Ginny! Enjoyed your post and your random movie thoughts. I’ve never seen the Joel McCrea pre-Code — I’ll have to keep an eye out. I share your opinion of Days of Wine and Roses — it was really dark, but Lemmon and Remick were simply outstanding. The Apartment is great, too — I especially like Fred MacMurray, playing such a horrible guy. He was a better actor than he got credit for!

    • Ginny says:

      Thanks Karen! I totally agree about Fred MacMurray! He doesn’t get mentioned very often in discussions about great actors, but his performances in The Apartment and Double Indemnity were both brilliant in my opinion.

  2. Kristen says:

    Happy to have you back blogging Ginny! So proud that you saw The Apartment and Days of Wine and Roses. Along with Some Like It Hot they’re my favorite Jack Lemmon movies! Two totally diverse performances. And thank you for the blog plug, happy to inspire you to seek out more from Maggie!

    • Ginny says:

      Thanks Kristen! Some Like It Hot is definitely one I have to watch soon. It will be interesting to see Jack Lemmon in a much less serious role. And you’re welcome. I’m always happy to tell people about other great movie blogs! :-)

  3. John says:

    I am really glad you are discovering the great talent of the actor, Jack Carson. He was a special person and died way too young of stomach cancer at the age of 52. I really miss him.

    But thankfully we have his films to look back on. He appeared in many screen classics such as Arsenic And Old Lace as the the aspiring author/policeman. Carson shined late in his career in the classic Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. He lent ample support in the classic film, Gentlemen Jim with Errol Flynn. I have probably seen about 30+ Jack Carson films and was never disappointed in one of them. The quality of films and list of great actors and actresses he appeared with is endless.

    Although passing away at the age of 52, Carson had an extensive film career. Him and Jane Wyman appeared in six films together. I really enjoyed them in Larceny Inc.. Although they are not the main players in this film, they do steal many scenes in this Edward G Robinson gangster spoof, a must see. Another Carson/Wyman gem is Make Your Own Bed where he plays a detective, Jack’s first starring role!

    Jack also paired with actor Dennis Morgan in many films with the film drama classic, The Hard Way being the best of the lot in my opinion. Here, Jack plays the husband of actress Joan Leslie. Ida Lupino gives one of her best performances as Leslie’s domineering sister. Another favorite Jack Carson film of mine is Blues In The Night. This is a drama/musical and has Carson playing in a band as a “trumpet” player.

    Jack Carson made so many quality films especially with Doris Day who considered him a very good friend. The duo made screen magic together in the films: My Dream Is Yours, Romance On The High Seas, and It’s A Great Feeling.

    His résumé of films are quite impressive. Appearing in such classics as Love Crazy with Myrna Loy and William Powell. Also, Mr. And Mrs. Smith with Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery. He had a bit part in Bringing Up Baby. He also appeared late in his career with Judy Garland in a Star Is Born. The list goes on and on of quality films. But the film Jack probably got his most accolades from and most deservingly so was for his role in the movie Mildred Pierce which co-starred Joan Crawford.

    Carson made a couple of films with one of my favorite actors James Cagney. The Bride Came C.O.D. which costarred Bette Davis is a comedy that is not a great film but well worth a watch. With very little screen time Carson makes his presence felt. The better film where he appears in with Cagney is definitely The Strawberry Blonde where he plays the brash cocky Hugo Barnstead, what a great character name. Here he as a hand in sending Biff Grimes(Cagney) an aspiring dentist to jail. The ending is priceless when Biff gets revenge pulling Hugo’s tooth.

    The Good Humor Man is a film Jack did late in his career. It is a mediocre movie but a film that he starred in. One last film of Carson’s I would like to recommend is where he plays Roz Russell’s husband in the hidden gem and comedy drama, Roughly Speaking. You have to make it through the first 45 minutes of the film before Russell’s character remarries and Jack Carson enters, but it is well worth the wait.

    Jack Carson had vaudevillian roots and also loved making people laugh. In the 1940’s, he would go incognito for weeks at a time as a clown appearing in The Clyde Beatty Circus. They never knew it was him and he made people laugh, something Jack Carson knew had to do well.

    Carson could do it all, comedy and drama and never miss a beat. He is one of my favorite actors and always will be. Carson usually played a wise cracking, brash character but even in these roles you couldn’t help but like him. I believe Warner Bros. underutilized him and he could have made a fine leading man during his career. But such is life and the breaks we are some times dealt.

    If people want to know more about Jack Carson there is a Classic Images article about him you could probably order a back issue of. He also has a small web site.

    I really have enjoyed many of his wonderful films and hope you get to enjoy more films of Mr. Carson in the future. Jack Carson was a special guy.

  4. Ginny says:

    Thanks John for your great insights on Jack Carson! Even though I have seen a few of the movies you mentioned, I didn’t realize just how prolific of a career he had. I’ll have to rewatch some of those, especially Mildred Pierce which is one of my favorites. I also want to watch some of his movies with Doris Day since she is one of my favorite actresses.

  5. John says:

    One last thing I failed to mention about Jack Carson and I think it is the most important was his dedication to our men and women in uniform during WW2. He and Dennis Morgan visited many hospitals and entertained our troops all over the world. Jack tried to enlist but had a heart murmur.

    This website below shows some great pictures of him on USO tours.

    http://mlvb.net/jackcarson.atspace.com/uso.html

  6. John says:

    
    I am far from an expert on John Hodiak films but your blog made me examine his career again. Age 41, wow so young when he left this earth.

    Only seeing maybe 10 or so of his films, the ones that really stood out to me were A Bell For Adano, Battleground and Lifeboat. A Bell For Adanao and Battleground are two great war films. Battleground is really one of my favorite all time war films. I think it is Van Johnson’s best film. So many stars along with Hodiak in here for sure,”that’s for dang sure.” If you ever watch the film you will know what I mean by that last line. A Bell For Adano has Gene Tierney and I know you like her very much. There is also a film in which Hodiak appears called Malaya with Jimmy Stewart and Spencer Tracy starring in it. I hope you get to see these John Hodiak films Ginny if you haven’t already.

    I always knew he was married to the actress Anne Baxter. I have had the movie Sunday Dinner For A Soldier for many years. I think it is about time I sat down and watched it. Thanks for saying a few words about John Hodiak, he was a fine actor.

  7. John says:

    I thought Nancy Guild gave a nice performance in Somewhere In The Night. She is a very beautiful actress and she sort of reminded me of a combination of Gene Tierney and Dorothy McGuire in regard to her looks.

    It is always nice to see Richard Conte in a film, although it takes a good half hour before we see him in this movie. Two Richard Conte films I highly recommend are 13 Rue Madeleine with James Cagney and House Of Strangers with EG Robinson. Both great films.

  8. John says:

    Been watching some Joel McCrae films recently on TCM and just rewatched Stars In My Crown. Great small town community film. Robert Osbourne says it was probably McCrae’s favorite film. McCrae brings peace to a small Tennessee town.

    Earlier this month I caught McCrea in two nice espionage thrillers: Shoot First with Evelyn Keyes who I think is a pretty underrated actress. Here McCrea accidentally kills a man or did he? The second film, Espionage Agent has McCrea fighting Nazi espionage agents with his mysterious new wife Brenda Marshall or wait, is she helping him or not? It is for you to find out.

  9. John says:

    Just caught the 90 minute Busby Berkeley musical, Dames the other day. I really enjoyed the film. It features the song “I Only Have Eyes For You” which Dick Powell sings to Ruby Keeler on the Staten Island Ferry. I have probably been on that ferry a few thousands times in my life. The song is also featured at the end of the film for more than 10 minutes in one segment.

    Berkley’s use of symetry is ahead of it’s time. The close-ups on Keeler and all the smiling girls are fun to watch. Berkeley did so much with so very little technology back then. Hugh Herbert provides his usual comdeic moments.

    We also see Joan Blondell and Guy Kibbee along with Keeler and Powell. These four players seem to have made so many of these Berkeley films, but it never seems to get old. Not much story here. As always it’s about the songs and elaborate sets.

    I have a growing appreciation of Berkeley films lately. They are refreshing escape any classic film should enjoy.

  10. John says:

    I just saw Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan in The Racket. Ryan plays the mobster who has seem to bought off everybody in the city with the exception of one honest cop, Mitchum. Also has Eddie Muller commentary.

    Muller did a lot of these commentaries for Fox Noir.

    Here is a list of films he does commentary on:

    Angel Face
    Born to Kill , with audio interview excerpts of director Robert Wise
    Crime Wave , with crime novelist James Ellroy
    Fallen Angel , with Susan Andrews (daughter of actor Dana Andrews )
    The House on 92nd Street
    The House on Telegraph Hill
    I Wake Up Screaming
    The Lineup , with crime novelist James Ellroy
    Macao , with screenwriter Stanley Rubin and actress Jane Russell
    Mau Mau Sex Sex , with director Ted Bonnitt
    No Way Out
    The Racket
    Road House , with film noir historian Kim Morgan
    The Sniper
    Somewhere in the Night
    They Live by Night , with actor Farley Granger
    Where the Sidewalk Ends

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