Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tonight's Movie: The Goose and the Gander (1935) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THE GOOSE AND THE GANDER (1935) is a delightful comedic romp starring Kay Francis and George Brent. It's available from the Warner Archive.

The Archive released this film some time ago, but I was inspired to review it by the Archive's brand-new release IT'S A DATE (1940), in which Francis plays Deanna Durbin's mother. I'll be reviewing that title in the near future.

I first saw THE GOOSE AND THE GANDER back in 2009. I didn't remember it that well but recalled I had really enjoyed it, and that was certainly the case this time around. It's a fun film fans of the cast or romantic comedies will really enjoy.

Georgiana (Francis) is the jilted ex-wife of Ralph Summers (Ralph Forbes). She'd love to have a bit of revenge and hatches a crazy plan for Ralph to find his new wife Betty (the delightful Genevieve Tobin) spending time alone with handsome Bob McNear (Brent).

Betty and Bob end up "marooned" at Georgiana's country house, pretending to be "Mr. and Mrs. McNear." Then a pair of jewel thieves (John Eldredge and Claire Dodd) show up in Betty's stolen car and pretend to be Betty and Ralph. Lost yet? No matter, it's all quite delightful and amusing as identities are gradually untangled and true love conquers all.

Last time I saw the movie I hadn't seen "Wild Bill" Elliott's Westerns or detective movies so didn't know him well enough to pick him out in his many '30s appearances, billed as Gordon Elliott. It was thus a lot of fun to watch him in several scenes as one of Georgiana's swains at a nightclub. He's seen here in a still with Francis and Brent.

Speaking of Georgiana in the nightclub, Francis wears an Orry-Kelly gown in that scene that seems to stay on her by nothing short of a miracle! (It's seen in the same still in which Elliott appears.) She has a fantastic wardrobe, and her country house is also enviable. Oh, to live in the delicious world Warner Bros. created for Francis in this movie!

THE GOOSE AND THE GANDER was directed by Alfred E. Green and filmed in black and white by Sid Hickox. It runs just a tad over 65 minutes.

This is an older Warner Archive DVD from 2010 which doesn't seem to have been cleaned up to the extent of more recent Archive releases. The print is occasionally spotted and speckled, but on the whole it's quite watchable, and I very much enjoyed it. There are no extras.

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.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Boss of Lonely Valley (1937)

I'm very appreciative of my friends John and Maricatrin introducing me to Buck Jones Westerns, as I've been enjoying them very much.

Earlier this year I loved UNKNOWN VALLEY (1933) and especially THE MAN TRAILER (1934), both costarring Cecilia Parker.

Jones's leading lady in BOSS OF LONELY VALLEY (1937) is Muriel Evans, with whom he made a number of films. While not quite as good as the two previously mentioned titles, I still enjoyed BOSS OF LONELY VALLEY quite well.

BOSS OF LONELY VALLEY was produced by Jones for Universal. It's a nicely made film with a good story and attractive locations.

Jones plays Steve Hanson, whose sweetheart Retta (Evans) is being cheated out of her ranch by Jake Wagner (Walter Miller). That may sound like the stuff of typical Western melodrama, but there's an atomospheric subplot about the murder of the local parson; how many times do you see a climactic shootout take place as an organist plays "Abide With Me" while a church bell rings? Great stuff.

Some of the film, perhaps the town set, was filmed in Newhall here in Southern California, but the scenic river locations were apparently filmed outside Kernville in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

I love watching a movie like this and suddenly realizing that Retta's wagon driver is Hank Worden. Such familiar faces make it feel like spending time with old friends.

My only quibble was I have no idea what "Lonely Valley" referred to! Apparently the title came from a novel by Forrest Brown which was the basis of Frances Guihan's screenplay.

It should also be noted this is one of those odd Westerns where the women wear 1930s style dresses but everyone rides on horseback, without a car or telephone in sight.

BOSS OF LONELY VALLEY was directed by Ray Taylor. It was filmed by John Hickson and Allen Q. Thompson. The running time is 60 minutes.

BOSS OF LONELY VALLEY was shown a few days ago on the Starz Encore Westerns Channel.

I'm looking forward to checking out more Buck Jones Westerns!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Tonight's Theater: The Sound of Music

THE SOUND OF MUSIC is the show I know better than any other in musical theater.

As a young child I saw it with Sally Ann Howes in the '70s, with Anna Maria Alberghetti in the '80s, and Dale Kristien (of L.A.'s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) in the '90s. I also appeared in two different productions, in school and community theater, so it's a play I know inside and out.

I'm thus very pleased to say that the national revival tour of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, currently playing at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, is the best production I've ever seen of the beloved musical. Like the 2010 revival of SOUTH PACIFIC, the show feels fresh and decidedly un-tired, bringing new perspectives and interpretations to very familiar material.

Newcomer Kerstin Anderson is a gangly, slightly awkward but ebullient Maria, who gradually matures into a confident woman, and she's matched by handsome Ben Davis as a very romantic Captain Von Trapp. His Captain is less frosty, more deeply wounded by loss; when his reserve is finally punctured one can almost feel the anguish and relief simultaneously pouring out of him, followed by pure joy.

Paige Silvester plays Liesl on the verge of being either a real problem child or a lovely young lady; she could go either way, and it will entirely depend on whether caring adults step in before it's too late. Her Liesl hangs back in the first two songs, "Do Re Mi" and "The Lonely Goatherd," clearly "too cool for school," participating reluctantly to humor her younger siblings, till she's eventually won over. It's a great example of a performer and director using staging to bring a creative take to the same lines which have been performed for close to six decades.

The show finds the deep notes in the story and the performances, with one of the most profound moments in the show coming at the very end; as the Von Trapp family leaves the abbey, I expected Maria to embrace the Mother Abbess, but instead she throws herself at her mentor's feet, in gratitude, grief, and supplication, receiving a blessing before she follows her new family over the mountain.

I also found poignance in small touches, such as Gretl (Audrey Bennett) carrying a doll with her as the family begins their walk over the mountains. It's always struck me how sad and scary it must have been for the children to leave everything they knew and owned behind, and seeing Gretl carrying the doll -- which I believe had just been given to her when the newly married Von Trapps returned from their honeymoon -- was a touch I don't remember seeing in any previous production.

The Captain's reaction to hearing his children sing for the first time was also unusually moving as performed by Davis, and his performance of "Edelweiss," his voice breaking after he pauses to look at the Nazi flags hanging as a backdrop, was a highlight.

The staging also gives an improvisational feel to "Do Re Mi," "The Lonely Goatherd," and the final concert version of "So Long Farewell." In the first two songs there's a real sense of Maria trying to make up the words for the children as she goes, and "So Long Farewell," sung as the family prepares to flee, was terrifically staged, with Maria whispering a plan to Liesl and the children nervously looking at each other as again they put the number together on the fly.

The revival for the most part uses the original stage show's song placements and score, including two songs dropped for the movie, "How Can Love Survive" and "No Way to Stop It." The one big exception is that the theatrical version's love song "An Ordinary Couple" was dropped in favor of the song Richard Rodgers wrote for the film, "Something Good," but since "Something Good" is the decidedly superior song, I think that was a wise decision. There was a lovely reprise of "Something Good" at the conclusion of the beautifully staged wedding sequence.

With Maria being a candidate to be a nun, religion has always been a significant part of the show, but I felt this production went a step further, somehow managing to more strongly convey faith as an essential aspect of the characters' lives. This includes the wedding sequence, as the children, comprising the wedding party, enter, kneel, and make the sign of the cross. The attention to such details and fidelity to the story and characters is particularly refreshing in an era when some prefer to turn their eyes away from religious faith. Incidentally, the Latin choral music in the wedding scene was a favorite for me to sing "back in the day," and it sounded wonderful here.

The children were all strong singers, with the concert version of "Do Re Mi" ("Jam and Bread") being another highlight. At times they were slightly quiet, but there were never any notes that were clunkers. This was a group of singing children who were extremely well trained. The boys (Jeremy Michael Lanuti and Austin Levine) were especially engaging personalities.

I was disappointed that Ashley Brown, who originated the role of the Mother Abbess in this tour, was not in the show when it arrived in Costa Mesa; I've had the privilege of seeing Brown, Broadway's MARY POPPINS, sing at Disney events, and her "Feed the Birds" is always a showstopper.

That said, Melody Betts was a fine Mother Abbess, though I confess I struggle a bit with colorblind casting when it comes to history and logic. Just as I was confused by a black Queen Victoria in MARY POPPINS, it took me mentally out of the show pondering how a black woman became the head of a convent in 1930s Austria. However, when she began singing my mind stopped wandering over such matters and I simply enjoyed her soaring voice!

Merwin Foard was a good Uncle Max. Teri Hansen might have been the only semi weak link in the show as the Baroness, as it was hard to see anything the Captain could have liked about her. Their only commonality seemed to be they were part of the same social set. I thus appreciate how quickly the Baroness is disposed of in the stage production; the Captain realizes they think differently in the song "No Way to Stop It," Maria returns, and boom, Elsa is gone.

The set design was superb, and one of the joys of modern-day smooth, quick computerized set changes is that shows such as THE SOUND OF MUSIC are able to edit out the "crossover" scenes, those little bits of business in front of the curtain which do nothing to advance the story but were created to have something happening on stage while the sets were being pushed around. (One example would be in the original show there's a sequence in front of the curtain where the children are getting ready for the party, tying sashes on dresses and practicing dancing. In fact, in this production they wear their sailor uniforms to the party, which was different.) The action flows more smoothly and "cinematically," as the director of SOUTH PACIFIC said, and I don't have any issue with the lack of complete fidelity to the original script.

I've seen a dozen or so stage productions in the last few years, and I would place THE SOUND OF MUSIC in the top tier along with SOUTH PACIFIC, WHITE CHRISTMAS (one of the most unexpectedly delightful surprises ever), WEST SIDE STORY, and THE LION KING. I highly recommend this touring production. A two minute "sizzle reel" can be found on the tour media page, along with a shorter musical montage video.

Update: There was one negative aspect about the performance at Segerstrom Hall, and that is that many patrons brought alcoholic beverages and glass water bottles into the theater after intermission. This meant that we were distracted by the strong smell of alcohol all around us (we're non-drinkers, so it's not a pleasing aroma), the noise of glass bottles tipping over and rolling multiple times on the hard floor, and the general distractions of people around us sipping away as though they were in a movie theater.

I assumed this was an aberration so didn't initially write about it, but I've just received an email from Segerstrom indicating "We have actually recently changed our policy and now allow drinks into the theater for many of our performances, including Broadway productions. Allowing drinks into the theater is now more commonplace in the industry. So far, audiences have been very receptive to the change."

Frankly, I'm floored. I don't spend $50-100 for a theater ticket to be distracted by people who can't manage to finish consuming their drinks during intermission. I've been attending theater my entire life and never run into this. Have others found this is actually now commonplace?

I'm going to be investigating other theater venues such as the Pantages and inquiring about their policies. I've seen virtually all the shows reviewed below at Segerstrom in the last several years, but I have no desire to do so sitting in the equivalent of a bar, so I may be rethinking future patronage.

Update: Segerstrom's own FAQ admits that drinking is a distraction for patrons and performers, in contradiction of their policy. So is it a distraction or isn't it? It obviously was for me.

The Pantages website indicates no alcohol is allowed inside the theater.

Update: Positive reviews from the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times.

Related posts: Tonight's Theater: The Phantom of the Opera; Tonight's Theater: My Fair Lady; Tonight's Theater: South Pacific (October 14, 2010); Tonight's Theater: South Pacific (October 22, 2010); Tonight's Theater: Beauty and the Beast; Tonight's Theater: Mary Poppins; Tonight's Theater: West Side Story; Tonight's Theater: A Christmas Carol; Tonight's Theater: White Christmas; Tonight's Theater: The Lion King; Tonight's Theater: 42nd Street; Tonight's Theater: Wicked.

Tonight's Movie: The Saint in Palm Springs (1941)

THE SAINT IN PALM SPRINGS (1941) was George Sanders' final time to star as the Leslie Charteris crime solver, Simon Templar.

It's a middling film in the series, as Templar does a favor for Inspector Fernack (Jonathan Hale). Templar ends up in Palm Springs, where he needs to deliver expensive rare stamps to lovely Elna Johnson (Wendy Barrie).

It's very much a soundstage/back projection Palm Springs, with Templar golfing, bicycling, and horseback riding in front of back projection screens and inside a soundstage. The only horseback riders who actually filmed in the desert were doubles!

Further, one suspects that the resort swimming pool in the soundstage was only two or three feet deep. The movie thus doesn't present a very colorful depiction of the desert resort, although the ways the movie cut corners can be a bit amusing.

The story moves along at a pretty good clip, as villainess Linda Hayes and cohorts try to get the stamps themselves; after 66 minutes the movie ends almost abruptly as Templar says farewell to Elna and rides away, whistling.

Paul Guilfoyle, seen here last weekend in BEHIND THE HEADLINES (1937), reprises his character from THE SAINT TAKES OVER (1940).

It's interesting, as many of the same people worked on both series, but on the whole Sanders' Falcon Mysteries strike me as livelier and more engaging than the Saint films.

Jack Hively directed THE SAINT IN PALM SPRINGS, with black and white photography by Harry J. Wild.

THE SAINT IN PALM SPRINGS is available on DVD in the Warner Archive's George Sanders Saint Movies Collection. I've previously reviewed the other films in the set, THE SAINT STRIKES BACK (1939), THE SAINT IN LONDON (1939), THE SAINT'S DOUBLE TROUBLE (1940), and THE SAINT TAKES OVER (1940).

THE SAINT IN PALM SPRINGS is also out on a Region 2 DVD. Additionally, it was released on VHS as a "TCM Double Feature," paired with THE SAINT MEETS THE TIGER (1943), starring Hugh Sinclair as Templar.

In the future I'll be taking a look at Sinclair in THE SAINT MEETS THE TIGER and THE SAINT'S VACATION (1941), which are part of a Saint Double Feature from the Warner Archive.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Notable Passings: Lisa Gaye and Garry Marshall

...Actress Lisa Gaye has passed away at the age of 81.

Gaye, who was born March 6, 1935, was the youngest sibling in an acting family which also included Teala Loring, Frank Griffin (who later became a makeup artist), and the best-known of the foursome, Debra Paget.

Gaye danced in ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK (1956) and SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROCK! (1956).

I think of Gaye primarily as a Westerns actress, so it was interesting when my dad pointed out today that her only Western feature film was DRUMS ACROSS THE RIVER (1954) with Audie Murphy, which I reviewed in 2014.

Most of Gaye's many Western appearances were in TV shows, including my favorite series, MAVERICK ("A State of Siege"), plus ANNIE OAKLEY, ZORRO, HAVE GUN - WILL TRAVEL (seen below), BLACK SADDLE, TOMBSTONE TERRITORY, WAGON TRAIN, BRONCO, and more, including ten episodes of DEATH VALLEY DAYS. Her last screen appearance was in 1970.

Oldest sibling Loring died in 2007. Gaye is survived by Paget, Griffin, a daughter and grandchildren.

...The multi-talented Garry Marshall, the man behind HAPPY DAYS and MORK AND MINDY, has died at 81.

Marshall did it all: writing, directing, producing, and even acting, in both television and feature films.

Early in his career Marshall wrote many episodes of the classic THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, and I was fortunate to see him speak at the 50th Anniversary tribute to the show at the Egyptian Theatre in 2011; I wrote about it here. He's at the left in this photo with Van Dyke and Reiner (behind the microphone).

I'm not completely certain, but I believe Marshall was also at the HAPPY DAYS filming I attended; as I've related here in the past, I was present for the filming of the studio scenes for the infamous episode which contributed the phrase "jumped the shark" to the American lexicon.

Among Marshall's films, I'm especially appreciative of THE PRINCESS DIARIES (2001), with Julie Andrews, Anne Hathaway, and Hector Elizondo, which remains wonderfully entertaining after multiple viewings.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...TCM has announced the special guests for this November's cruise: Leslie Caron, Mitzi Gaynor, Kim Novak, Diane Baker, Dick Cavett, and Jerry Lewis, with hosts including Eddie Muller, Illeana Douglas, Craig Barron, and Ben Burtt. That's sure a group I'd like to cruise with!

...Carleton Carpenter (TWO WEEKS WITH LOVE) turned 90 a few days ago. He recently reminisced about his career, including his time at MGM, at The Spectrum.

...Paul Rudd (ANT-MAN) will star in the fact-based WWII thriller THE CATCHER WAS A SPY.

...Also of interest, coming in September: SULLY (2016), with Tom Hanks as the heroic "Miracle on the Hudson" pilot, directed by Clint Eastwood.

...Raquel has a new list of upcoming classic film books posted at Out of the Past. I'm particularly curious about a book on director Henry Hathaway.

...Thanks to Jacqueline for the tip that the rare Ann Blyth film KATIE DID IT (1951) is currently available on YouTube.

...Also on YouTube: Linda Darnell and Stephen McNally in THE LADY PAYS OFF (1951). Movies can and frequently do disappear from YouTube very quickly so those interested should make haste to check them out.

...I loved the recent live stream of the Broadway revival of SHE LOVES ME, starring Zachary Levi, Laura Benanti, and Jane Krakowski. The CD goes on sale later this month.

...I have a nice backlog of older links to share, and here's a fun one: Jacqueline writing on the Automat as seen in the movies at Another Old Movie Blog.

...I'm very enthused about ROGUE ONE (2016), the STAR WARS film coming this Christmas. It's the story of how the Death Star plans were obtained that Princess Leia put in R2-D2 at the beginning of STAR WARS (1977); it's even got James Earth Jones voicing Darth Vader! This week a new "sizzle reel" and poster were released.

...Here's a nice piece at Pop Matters on UCLA film noir restorations now out on DVD.

...Julie Newmar recently linked on Twitter to some photos from SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), including a candid rehearsal shot of the "brides" I'd never seen before.

...Speaking of SEVEN BRIDES, getTV has begun showing the one-season TV series SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, which aired in the early '80s and starred Richard Dean Anderson (GENERAL HOSPITAL, STARGATE SG-1). It was very loosely inspired by the movie. As in very.

...Attention Southern Californians: Sophia Loren will be appearing in person in Cerritos, California, on September 16th in An Evening With Sophia Loren.

...More for Southern Californians: I'll be seeing the touring revival of THE SOUND OF MUSIC this Wednesday evening in Costa Mesa. It's playing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts through July 31st.

...Notable Passings: Mary Ann King, "Miss Mary Ann" of ROMPER ROOM in late '60s Southern California, has passed on at the age of 86. She's a very early childhood memory, along with Sheriff John...Noel Neill (seen at right), who for many will always be Lois Lane, passed on at the age of 95...Former child actor Teddy Rooney, the son of Mickey Rooney and Martha Vickers, died at 66. Rooney's roles included playing Doris Day's son in IT HAPPENED TO JANE (1959).

Have a great week!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Count the Hours (1953) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

COUNT THE HOURS (1953) is a crime drama directed by Don Siegel. It was just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

COUNT THE HOURS was released three years before one of Siegel's most famous films, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956). It's also particularly notable inasmuch as it reunites Teresa Wright and Macdonald Carey, who had costarred in Hitchcock's classic SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943) a decade earlier.

Wright plays Ellen, the pregnant wife of George Braden (John Craven). The Bradens are itinerant farm workers whose latest employer has just been murdered. After the couple is interrogated for many hours, the innocent George confesses in order to spare Ellen and their unborn child.

Attorney Doug Madison (Carey) takes George's case, thinking he's going to assist him to plead guilty. Doug ends up convinced of Braden's innocence and tries to help clear his name. It's not easy, given the lynch mob mentality in the local community; even the D.A. (Edgar Barrier), who should be more concerned with justice than winning, sometimes doesn't seem to care whether or not he's convicting an innocent man.

I only found this film so-so, but it has elements which make it worthwhile, starting with Wright and Carey as appealing lead performers. I did wish Wright didn't have to spend so much of the film playing a single note, as the distraught wife, but that's what the part required. Carey is quite likeable as the initially skeptical attorney who ends up so dedicated to his clients that he spends the night at the hospital when Ellen's baby is born.

There's also a terrific performance by Adele Mara as a poor, trashy girl who receives gifts from the real killer (Jack Elam in one of his trademark scary psycho roles). I've always liked Mara, and this was a very different role for her which she knocks out of the park. Additionally, Dolores Moran (TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT) is striking as Carey's fiancee.

Another factor which makes the film worthwhile is that it was filmed in black and white by the great John Alton. He makes terrific use of shadows in a number of scenes; in contrast, the courtroom and forensic lab scenes are shot in a starkly flat docudrama style.

Overall this 75-minute film is fairly well-paced, but the characters and story don't register as strongly as they should. The viewer has the sense that the script by Doane Hoag and Karen DeWolf needed some fleshing out. The film has the underpinnings of a good story, but ideally it would have been told in a richer, less perfunctory fashion.

The DVD is a good print. 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.

Tonight's Movie: No Questions Asked (1951) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

A good MGM cast makes NO QUESTIONS ASKED (1951) a fun watch. It's just been released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

NO QUESTIONS ASKED has a screenplay by Sidney Sheldon, based on a story by Berne Giler. It's the tale of Steve Keiver (Barry Sullivan), an attorney who toils at an insurance company. It's going to be a slow climb up the ladder of success, which Steve resents even more when gorgeous Ellen (Arlene Dahl) breaks off their romance to marry a wealthy man (Dick Simmons) she met at Sun Valley.

Steve creates a new, lucrative job for himself recovering stolen goods for the insurance company; the company pays off the mob types in return for getting back merchandise, and Steve gets a finder's fee of sorts. Steve's successful business seems increasingly unsavory, as he's more part of the robbery racket than on the side of the good guys.

Police Inspector Duggan (George Murphy) and Detective O'Bannion (Richard Anderson) begin to monitor Steve's moves as they try to break the criminal rackets, which also impacts his income.

Meanwhile lovely secretary Joan (Jean Hagen) pines after Steve, but knows he's still hung up on Ellen -- who returns to town and promises Steve she'll divorce her husband.

NO QUESTIONS ASKED isn't a top-drawer drama, but it's absorbing, and MGM fans in particular will enjoy taking a look at it. The movie rather reminded me of MGM's THE ARNELO AFFAIR (1947), a Murphy film of a few years earlier, in terms of being an interesting middle-of-the-road crime drama.

Sullivan is usually a compelling actor, and he manages to make Steve simultaneously sympathetic and sleazy. Dahl is really good as the femme fatale; at first she just seems hungry for the finer things in life, but the lengths to which she ultimately goes in the pursuit of money leads to a fairly shocking sequence.

Hagen shines as the knowing but loyal girlfriend Steve wants to "take care of" but doesn't fully appreciate until it may be too late.

Westerns fans will enjoy seeing perennial baddie Robert J. Wilke in a scene as a police sergeant working alongside Murphy. Character actor Tol Avery is another of the cops.

"Dress extra" Bess Flowers has a significantly larger role than usual, with several scenes as a society matron who's robbed in a theater lounge, one of the movie's more memorable sequences. She even has dialogue!

The cast includes Moroni Olsen, Howard Petrie, and William Reynolds. The movie was directed by Harold F. Kress. It runs 80 minutes.

The Warner Archive print looks good, showing off MGM's usual black and white gloss, photographed by Harold Lipstein. 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.

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

The Happiest Place on Earth opened 61 years ago today, July 17, 1955.

I'm fortunate to have spent my entire life living close enough to Disneyland to tell time by the sound of the fireworks each evening.

Most importantly, I have Walt Disney and Disneyland to thank for my husband and family, as my husband and I met while working there during our college years.

Here's a look back at last year's Diamond Anniversary, and here are a few more favorite photos from my 59th Anniversary post.

And here's Walt Disney himself, greeting guests on Opening Day, 1955: "To all who come to this happy place, welcome!"

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Criminal Lawyer (1937) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

CRIMINAL LAWYER (1937) is the second film reviewed from the Warner Archive's new Lee Tracy RKO 4-Film Collection. It follows last night's review of BEHIND THE HEADLINES (1937).

CRIMINAL LAWYER, at 72 minutes, is the longest film in the set. It's a pretty good story about an ambitious attorney, Barry Brandon (Tracy).

Defense attorney Brandon is in the pay of mobster Larkin (Eduardo Ciannelli), but he soon moves on to serve as district attorney. Brandon's wealthy girlfriend Betty (Betty Lawford) and her father (Frank M. Thomas) plan to push Brandon all the way to the governor's office.

Poor but honest Madge Carter (Margot Grahame of NIGHT WAITRESS and TWO IN THE DARK) meets Brandon in night court and soon becomes his secretary and occasional cook. Brandon falls in love with Madge but to his chagrin he marries Betty one night while he's drunk.

All aspects of Brandon's life are clarified when Madge is forced to testify on Larkin's behalf when he's charged with murder.

This was an enjoyable film with a nicely modulated performance by Tracy. The fast-talking Tracy could be loud and obnoxious in some of his films, but he shows well-rounded acting talent in some quietly moving scenes in this film.

Grahame is appealing as the secretary carrying a torch for her boss. Incidentally, Lawford, who plays the other woman, was a cousin of Peter Lawford; her film career was mostly over as of the year CRIMINAL LAWYER was released, save for a pair of films in the mid '40s.

The supporting cast includes Erik Rhodes, doing one of his "Fred and Ginger" type characters as an accented crooner. Look for the great Charles Lane in a small role as a defense lawyer.

CRIMINAL LAWYER was directed by Christy Cabanne and Edward Killy. It was filmed by David Abel.

As with BEHIND THE HEADLINES, CRIMINAL LAWYER is a good print. There are no extras.

Coming soon, reviews of the other two films in the set, CRASHING HOLLYWOOD (1938) and FIXER DUGAN (1939).

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.

It's Blog Anniversary Time Again!

July 16th is always a happy day here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, as it's the anniversary of when it all began, back on July 16, 2005.

As I celebrate the blog's 11th anniversary, I pause to reflect once more on how appreciative I am of all the wonderful people I've met thanks to this blog.

The friends I've made and the opportunities I've had make blogging a great joy and privilege, and I look forward to continuing for a long time to come.

Onward into Year 12!

Previous blog anniversaries: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.