Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Texas Lawmen (1951) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

TEXAS LAWMEN (1951) is another solid Johnny Mack Brown Western which is part of the Monogram Cowboy Collection, Vol. 1, from the Warner Archive.

Brown stars as Marshal Johnny Mack Brown, sent to a small, dusty town to attempt to solve the murder of the sheriff (Pierce Lyden) by stage robbers he was chasing.

Johnny meets the acting sheriff, young Tod Merrick (James "Jimmy" Ellison), who's nice enough yet seems to be hiding a secret. Turns out it's quite a big secret indeed.

TEXAS LAWMEN has a tight 54-minute screenplay which, unlike the last Brown Western I watched, isn't overly padded with shots of people racing around on horseback. There are some such scenes, notably the opening stagecoach robbery, but the ratio of horseback riding to dialogue seemed more appropriate this time around!

The Joseph Poland screenplay was based on a story by longtime Western character actor Myron Healey, who also wrote the screenplay for Johnny Mack Brown's COLORADO AMBUSH (1951). Healey costarred in COLORADO AMBUSH. These two films were his only writing credits. It's so interesting to discover an actor like Healey was a man of multiple talents!

As in the other two Brown Westerns seen to date, Lyle Talbot turns up in a small role, this time around as the town doctor. The cast also includes reliable veterans I. Stanford Jolley and Lee Roberts as bad guys.

Brown once more does his own fight scene; he does these very well indeed. I rewound a scene where he takes a fall off his horse and rolls downhill, and there was a quick, unobtrusive cut to the stuntman for that one.

An oops: The sign at the marshal's office reads "Marshall's" with an extra L.

TEXAS LAWMEN was directed by Lewis Collins. It was shot in black and white by Ernest Miller.

Like the other Brown films seen to date from this DVD set, the picture and sound quality are excellent.

I'm really enjoying Brown's Monogram Westerns and look forward to seeing more.

Previous films reviewed from this set: Johnny Mack Brown in OKLAHOMA JUSTICE (1951) and MAN FROM SONORA (1951), along with Rod Cameron in CAVALRY SCOUT (1951).

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 at the Warner Archive website.

Maverick: The Complete Fourth Season - A Warner Archive TV Series Review

I've recently been happy to spend more time with my favorite TV series, MAVERICK, as I have reviewed the beautiful Season 4 release of the show from the Warner Archive.

I reviewed the Season 3 set in late July. Whereas Season 3 contained 26 episodes in one case, Season 4 comes in two cases, "Part One" and "Part Two," with each case containing 16 episodes on four discs.

Like Season 3, Season 4 is a very fine-looking set. MAVERICK fans will be delighted to own it, and I encourage those who don't yet know the series to check it out.

James Garner had left the show by this point, and the very first episode of Season 4, "The Bundle From Britain," introduces Cousin Beau Maverick, played by Roger Moore. (Yes, it's explained why a Maverick has a British accent!) Moore proved to be a fine addition to the show; like costar Jack Kelly (Bart Maverick), Moore was at home in both the lighthearted episodes and the more dramatic stories.

Near the end of the season the show also introduced Robert Colbert as brother Brent Maverick in two episodes, "The Forbidden City" and "Benefit of Doubt." (He's seen below with Kelly and Moore.) Colbert seems to have been chosen for his resemblance to Garner, but the less said about his flat and uninspired performance, the better. Colbert has had a long and successful career as a working actor, including an extended run on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, but he was simply the wrong fit here.

Season 4 also has one final Garner episode, "The Maverick Line," which had been intended as the season premiere before it was realized Garner would leave the show. It's a fun episode with both brothers and Buddy Ebsen as a genial outlaw.

Chief among the Season 4 highlights is "Hadley's Hunters," a Jack Kelly episode with several Warner Bros. TV Western stars making cameos, including Clint Walker, John Russell, and Ty Hardin. The great cast also includes Edgar Buchanan, George Kennedy, and perennial '50s Western villain Robert J. Wilke.

Other favorites include Moore and guest star Merry Anders in "The Town That Wasn't There," in which an entire town moves and then moves again; "Bolt From the Blue," a Moore episode written and directed by Robert Altman; Jeanne Cooper and Michael Pate in "Flood's Folly," a Moore episode with travelers stranded by a blizzard; the Kelly episode "Dodge City or Bust"; and "Triple Indemnity," another Kelly episode which marked Peter Breck's first appearance in his recurring role as Doc Holliday, taking over from Gerald Mohr who played the part twice earlier in the series run.

I especially enjoyed revisiting "Substitute Gun" for the first time in years. When I watched the series years ago, the name of guest star Coleen Gray meant nothing to me. Since then I've come to appreciate her film career, seen her speak on two occasions, and had the pleasure of an hour-long phone interview. It was a lot of fun seeing her play opposite Jack Kelly in the episode.

In addition to being a good-looking set, the discs have a nice robust sound quality. The closing theme song sounds terrific.

While it's true that the first two to three seasons of the series are the strongest, for me any season of MAVERICK stands head and shoulders over most other television. I've watched these episodes countless times, and I'll be watching them again in the future, thrilled to have them on DVD at last.

Highly recommended.

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 at the Warner Archive website. Please note that the initial sets of this series sold at the Warner Archive site are traditionally replicated (pressed) rather than burned on demand.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Jealousy (1945) at UCLA

Tonight I spent a pleasant evening in Westwood enjoying a double bill in UCLA's Exile Noir series, which features films with foreign-born directors.

First up was Olivia de Havilland in Robert Siodmak's THE DARK MIRROR (1946), which I reviewed after seeing it at the 2011 Noir City Film Festival. I liked the film in 2011 but hadn't remembered it well so I was glad to have the chance to see it again.

THE DARK MIRROR features de Havilland in a tour de force as identical twins, providing half the characters in what is essentially a four-person psychological crime drama. The film also has a genial performance by de Havilland's GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) costar Thomas Mitchell as a police detective, a sympathetic role for Lew Ayres as a psychologist, and quite remarkable special effects. The script has an occasional "Huh?" moment but all in all it's a fun movie.

I was especially interested in the chance to see the rare second film on tonight's program, a "B" noir from Republic Pictures titled JEALOUSY (1945). It's the kind of relatively unknown film I really enjoy checking out.

JEALOUSY proved to be quite rewarding, with lots of great L.A. atmosphere, terrific cinematography, and a plot twist I admit I didn't see coming, which surprised me yet made perfect sense. (Never fear, it shall not be given away here.) The script by Arnold Phillips and director Gustav Machaty was based on a story by Dalton Trumbo.

JEALOUSY stars Jane Randolph of CAT PEOPLE (1942) as Janet, who works as a cabbie supporting her bitter, depressed Czech immigrant husband Peter (Nils Asther). Peter was a renowned writer in his native country but can't seem to work up the interest in starting over in California, even with his wife's loyal support. Peter threatens to kill himself -- or to drive his wife to do it for him.

Janet meets kind Dr. David Brent (John Loder) when he rides in her cab, and they bond over a shared love of Brahms. David has never married, content to immerse himself in his work alongside his partner, Dr. Monica Anderson (Karen Morley), but now he's finally found love. If only Janet were free...

This 71-minute film is fairly dark -- after a while the audience is ready to kill Peter, if Janet won't! -- but it moves along briskly and has much to recommend it. The black and white photography by Henry Sharp is filled with odd angles, shadows, and interesting shots, such as the startled face of a cat at the moment a crime is committed.

The film does one of the best jobs I've ever seen in conveying the feel of Los Angeles; most of it is done through establishing shots, but they're very well chosen and different from the norm, including Hollywood at Christmas. There's also a fun scene of movie extras eating lunch at a cafe.

Although we were forewarned that the 35mm print was complete but missing "The End," the story still ended a bit too abruptly; a more satisfying ending would have been a nice finishing touch for a well-constructed film which kept me guessing trying to tell good characters from bad for most of the film.

The director, Gustav Machaty, was himself a Czech immigrant. An interesting bit of trivia is that he directed Hedy Lamarr in the infamous ECSTASY (1933); the leading man of JEALOUSY, John Loder, was married to Lamarr in the mid '40s. They had two children; the marriage ended in 1947, the year they costarred in DISHONORED LADY.

The supporting cast of JEALOUSY included actor-writer-director Hugo Haas. Holmes Herbert plays an attorney.

Hopefully this film will one day find its way to DVD so that more noir fans can enjoy checking it out.

I plan to return to UCLA next weekend for more noir!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tonight's Movie: I Live My Life (1935) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

I LIVE MY LIFE (1935) is a pleasant romantic comedy starring Joan Crawford and Brian Aherne, available from the Warner Archive.

Crawford plays Kay Bentley, a spoiled rich girl sailing with her father (Frank Morgan) and a retinue of friends and servants off a Greek island. When Kay goes ashore she meets archaeologist Terry O'Neill (Brian Aherne); she's terribly attracted to him, but doesn't disclose her true identity, as Terry has made it clear he's not interested in the types of people who travel by yacht.

Terry wants to marry Kay and eventually follows her to New York, only to learn she's not a secretary named Ann Morrison. Terry and Kay realize they are madly in love but first must work past her flightiness, her fiance (Fred Keating), her father's debt crisis, her dragon of a rich grandmother (Jessie Ralph) -- and his loathing of office jobs. Can Kay be happy following her husband to dig sites around the world?

I LIFE MY LIFE is an enjoyable film, though at 97 minutes it's definitely too long waiting for Crawford and Aherne to finally make up their minds to marry. It's not what I'd call a lighter-than-air comedy -- Crawford riding a mule at the outset is a case study in trying too hard to be funny -- but despite some flaws the movie has a number of good things in it and held my interest. The journey is made especially worthwhile by the cast -- and if a viewer gets bored there's always Crawford's bizarre wardrobe by Adrian to goggle at. Those collars!

Crawford's immature character can be annoying, but because Terry is so likeable and loves her, we want to like her too. Aherne makes the movie -- deeply in love, funny, and not willing to take any guff. He has a couple very good speeches early on, encouraging Crawford that if she's not happy, she doesn't have to accept herself as she is, and he makes the devotion he feels for a woman who's admittedly rather an airhead believable. It's hard to understand why Crawford doesn't go for such a handsome, understanding, and intelligent man immediately, but if she had, there wouldn't have been a movie!

Aherne was in a number of other good romantic comedies including MERRILY WE LIVE (1938), HIRED WIFE (1940) and A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1943).

Eric Blore and Arthur Treacher threaten to steal the film as battling butlers. Sterling Holloway is a worker at Aherne's dig site, Aline MacMahon plays Aherne's business associate, Esther Dale is a housekeeper, and Hedda Hopper has a tiny role as one of Crawford's relatives. Although she's not listed at IMDb, I believe Marcia Mae Jones is one of the children at the Christmas party at the end.

Other familiar faces with small roles include Shirley Ross, Jason Robards Sr., Etienne Girardot, Lionel Stander, Tom Dugan, Vince Barnett, Frank Conroy, Nella Walker, and Leonid Kinskey (quite amusing as a soup-drinking waiter).

I LIVE MY LIFE was directed by W.S. Van Dyke (THE THIN MAN) from a script by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. It was filmed by George Folsey and the uncredited William H. Daniels. The score is by Dimitri Tiomkin.

The Warner Archive DVD is for the most part a fine 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 at the Warner Archive website.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Fort Osage (1952) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Western fans will like FORT OSAGE (1952), an entertaining Rod Cameron Western available as part of the Monogram Cowboy Collection, Vol. 2, from the Warner Archive.

Last night I reviewed another Cameron film in the set, the entertaining WAGONS WEST (1952), and I thought this one was even better. Western specialist Lesley Selander directed FORT OSAGE with his typical vigor, making it an enjoyable 72 minutes.

Cameron plays wagonmaster Tom Clay, who arrives in Fort Osage with news that the Osage are on the warpath. He advises wagon train organizer Arthur Pickett (Morris Ankrum) against sending the wagon train on its way to California until the situation with the Osage tribe is resolved.

It turns out that Pickett's confederate George Keane (Douglas Kennedy) had encouraged Pickett not to give the tribe goods due to them as part of a treaty, and without Pickett's knowledge five Indian braves were murdered by Keane and his men.

Clay tries to untangle the problems of the tribe and the westward-bound settlers, and meanwhile he's also got his eye on pretty Ann Pickett (Jane Nigh).

Like WAGONS WEST, FORT OSAGE was written by Daniel Ullman and photographed by Harry Neumann in Cinecolor, but this Walter Mirisch production feels stronger overall, with a more coherent script which includes a sympathetic treatment of Indians. Director Selander also stages a strong fistfight between Cameron and a would-be assassin (Fred Graham).

The DVD looks absolutely terrific; it has the usual strong Cinecolor greens, browns, and oranges, but the print is more stable than some Cinecolor prints, and the film's look will really appeal to Cinecolor buffs such as myself. The colors do fade in and out a bit during a scene where Cameron goes to meet the Osage, but for the most part this is one of the best-looking Cinecolor prints I've ever seen. It was a real pleasure to watch it.

It's another plus that the movie's Southern California exteriors are free of annoyances such as rear projections and day for night shooting. This is a very nice-looking low-budget film.

The cast is filled with faces who feel like old friends. In addition to Cameron, Kennedy, Ankrum, and Nigh, the cast includes John Ridgely, always a favorite of mine, plus Myron Healey, Stan Jolley, Dorothy Adams, Lane Bradford, Barbara Woodell, and Iron Eyes Cody.

Pretty Anne Kimbell, who has a small role as Annie Winfield, was also in last night's film, WAGONS WEST (1952), as Noah Beery Jr.'s pregnant wife. Kimbell was busy on screen throughout the '50s; IMDb indicates she retired for life as the wife of a foreign service officer. She also worked at one time for the University of Southern California. Kimbell now writes spy thrillers; she has an Amazon page. She is also the President of the Board of Directors of the Westcliffe Center for the Performing Arts in Colorado. What a very interesting life!

The Rod Cameron Westerns in Vol. 2 of the Warner Archive's Monogram Cowboy Collection have made this set a winner for me thus far. Look for reviews of the set's Whip Wilson films here in the future, as well as additional reviews of Vol. 1 films starring Jimmy Wakely and Johnny Mack Brown.

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 at the Warner Archive website.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Wagons West (1952) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

WAGONS WEST (1952) is an enjoyable Western starring Rod Cameron and Peggie Castle. It's available as part of the Monogram Cowboy Collection, Vol. 2, from the Warner Archive.

Cameron plays Jeff Curtis, a kindly wagon train guide hired by Cyrus Cook (Frank Ferguson). Cook and his nephews Clay (Henry Brandon) and Gaylord (Riley Hill) are unfortunately nasty types, the kind who would order a boy to shoot his dog rather than bring it on the journey west, and they're also the types who would smuggle guns to sell to the Cheyenne.

What's more, Clay has it in for Jeff when Jeff takes a shine to Ann (Castle), and Clay is even more enraged when Ann gets past her initial skepticism of Jeff and returns his affection.

WAGONS WEST has a strictly paint-by-the-numbers plot and at 70 minutes could have stood to have a few more scenes explaining characters and building relationships, but I had quite a nice time watching it. Simply put, it stars actors I like in the kind of story I enjoy.

This pleasant, undemanding but entertaining film was a great way to wrap up a relaxing day's movie watching. (With temperatures here hovering over 100 degrees, taking it easy with some movies made for a perfect Sunday.) I expect my fellow Western fans will probably like it as well.

It's no secret here I'm a fan of both Cameron and Castle, and I really enjoyed them paired in the leads. Noah Beery Jr. heads the supporting cast as a man with a mysterious past and a very pregnant wife (Anne Kimbell). The personable Beery always adds a little something extra to the Westerns in which he appears, and this film is no exception.

Michael Chapin plays Peggie Castle's younger brother; Michael was the brother of child actors Lauren (FATHER KNOWS BEST) and Billy Chapin. Sara Haden of the ANDY HARDY series plays Frank Ferguson's wife. Other familiar faces include Glenn Strange and I. Stanford Jolley.

The movie was shot in the inexpensive Cinecolor process, and the colors in the early scenes are quite variable. It seems to settle down as the movie goes on, or perhaps I just got used to the film's look after a while! The cinematographer was Harry Neumann. The movie was almost entirely shot outdoors on Southern California locations.

The film was directed by Ford Beebe from a screenplay by Daniel Ullman. Ullman is a recurring name in my viewing in recent months, providing a number of enjoyable films including the Warner Archive's WICHITA (1955) and CANYON RIVER (1956).

WAGONS WEST is one of two Cinecolor Cameron Westerns included in Vol. 2 of the Archive's Monogram Cowboy Collection. It's a fine print, given the inherent limitations of Cinecolor. There are no extras.

The other six films in the set star Whip Wilson, an actor whose work I don't yet know. Look for more reviews of films in this set in the future.

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 at the Warner Archive website.

Tonight's Movie: The Moon is Blue (1953) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THE MOON IS BLUE (1953) is a very entertaining romantic romp starring William Holden, Maggie McNamara, and David Niven. It's available from the Warner Archive.

THE MOON IS BLUE is based on a 1951 Broadway play directed by Otto Preminger, which starred Barbara Bel Geddes, Barry Nelson, and Donald Cook. Preminger also directed by film version, from a screenplay by the original playwright, F. Hugh Herbert.

The screenplay was notorious in its day for using words such as "seduction" and "virgin" which weren't approved by the Production Code. Preminger refused to trim them, so the film was released without Production Code approval. Despite this "scandalous" background, the film was a success, including receiving three Oscar nominations.

The movie definitely shows its theatrical origins from time to time, with limited sets and being something of a talk fest, but it transcends the staginess and proves to be quite an engaging ride. The Oscar-nominated McNamara can be a bit exhausting, as she never seems to stop talking -- in a rather high pitch -- and some of her dialogue is a bit too precious, but those are minor quibbles.

The three lead actors propel the action forward in a fast-moving 99 minutes. Though it might have been considered racy in its day, now it just seems cute, with the dialogue underscoring that the heroine is actually quite a proper young lady with marriage on her mind.

Architect Donald Gresham (Holden, at his most attractive) notices cute Patty O'Neill (McNamara) in the Empire State Building and follows her to the observation deck, where he chats her up. Before you know it, Patty is sewing on his button and cooking dinner for Don at his apartment, confounding him with her very frank and direct questions and observations. He can't quite decide if she's charming or has a screw loose, but he's enjoying figuring it out.

Don's bachelor neighbor David (Niven), who also happens to be the father of Don's ex-girlfriend Cynthia (Dawn Addams), comes to see Don and before the evening is over he's proposing to Patty, which makes Don jealous. And then Patty's protective Irish cop father (Tom Tully) arrives...

There's a whole lot more to the story, which takes place in the span of just 24 hours, and it's all quite fun. Holden is so charming it's completely believable that a sweet young girl he picks up would agree to accompany him to his place, and towards the end of the film Niven works himself up to a couple of laugh-out-loud funny moments.

Although at times I felt she would wear me out trying to keep up with her character's chattiness, McNamara keeps you watching, and it ends up being completely believable that Holden would fall for her. Despite her Oscar nomination, McNamara had a surprisingly sparse screen career; her other best-known film is probably THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN (1954). She died in 1978. A couple of years ago Kristen wrote about McNamara at her blog Journeys in Classic Film as part of the "Gone Too Soon" blogathon.

An odd bit of trivia: Preminger also filmed a German version of this story, DIE JUNGFRAU AUF DEM DACH (1953). The stars of that film are the couple who want to use the Empire State Building telescope William Holden is monopolizing in the last scene of THE MOON IS BLUE. Holden and McNamara returned the favor in the German film.

The Oscar-nominated title song was written by Herschel Burke Gilbert and Danny Kaye's wife, Sylvia Fine -- an interesting coincidence since I also watched Kaye's THE KID FROM BROOKLYN (1946) today.

The Warner Archive DVD is a typically nice print showing off the black and white cinematography by Ernest Laszlo. 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 at the Warner Archive website.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

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

...Coming this month from the Warner Archive: a remastered DVD of Nicholas Ray's THE LUSTY MEN (1952), starring Robert Mitchum, Susan Hayward, and Arthur Kennedy. The initial copies will be pressed, rather than burned, "in anticipation of high consumer demand."

...Yesterday was the anniversary of Mel Torme's birth on September 13, 1925. Scott Johnson has a great tribute at Power Line. As I've mentioned before, Mel was a great classic film fan and was in the audience a couple times when I saw movies as a kid, including at the Filmex Film Festival in Century City.

...For anyone who may have missed the news in my preview of December on Turner Classic Movies, there's a new book out in late December, CHARLES WALTERS: THE DIRECTOR WHO MADE HOLLYWOOD DANCE by Brent Phillips. Can hardly wait to get my hands on this one!

...Next month's Jack Webb Blogathon hosted by Toby at The Hannibal 8 is taking shape! Click on over and sign up. :)

...Nora shares 26 favorites in Pre-Code A to Z. A terrific pre-Code primer.

...Requiem for the iPod.

...Royalty Watch: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child. Prince George turned one in July.

...Every single episode of GILMORE GIRLS will be available for streaming on Netflix beginning October 1st. Here's a list of 18 key episodes. This eminently quotable GILMORE GIRLS is one of our most-used DVD sets.

...Reese Witherspoon has a Peggy Lee bio in the works.

...Leonard Maltin's daughter Jessie offers video thanks for everyone who has shared what her dad's MOVIE GUIDE has meant as it ceases publication after 45 years. The Classic Movie Guide continues with an edition next year!

...This book has an interesting topic, as my parents and grandparents all lived in Long Beach in the '40s: FIGHTING FEAR: LONG BEACH, CA, IN THE 1940S. It's by Claudine Burnett, via the self-publisher AuthorHouse. Visit the author's website for more information.

...The USC School of Cinematic Arts is hosting an exhibition of photos taken by actor Dennis Hopper from September 2nd through November 26th.

...Vanessa Hudgens (HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL) is due to star in a new Broadway production of GIGI, which will play the Kennedy Center next January and February before moving on to New York.

...At the Classic Film & TV Cafe Rick writes on "7 Obscure Movies That I Curiously Remember," including Jock Mahoney in JOE DAKOTA (1957), which has been recommended to me by others.

...A home once owned by Ginger Rogers and Lew Ayres is for sale. It's fun to see the photos, although the current "mod" decor in that setting is, shall we say, very unfortunate.

...The Ohio State Marching Band has a fun field show devoted to TV themes. I was clueless on the newer TV shows but loved the clever tributes to old favorites.

...The Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Christmas starts this year on November 1st, plus there's a preview on Halloween. The dozen new Christmas movies airing on the channel this year include stars such as Jane Seymour, Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, Teri Polo, and Candace Cameron Bure.

...Glenn Erickson reviews the new Warner Archive Blu-ray of THE GREAT RACE (1965) starring Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, and Jack Lemmon.

...Alicia Mayer, a friend to all in the online classic film community, will be hosting a new online radio show, Hollywood Time Machine, which debuted yesterday. It can be heard live on Saturdays or later via streaming. Alicia is the great-niece of Louis B. Mayer. The first show has a guest co-host, our friend Will McKinley. Guests include Victoria Wilson, author of the recent biography of Barbara Stanwyck, and Susan King of the L.A. Times.

Have a great week!

Tonight's Movie: The Kid From Brooklyn (1946) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THE KID FROM BROOKLYN (1946) is another colorful musical comedy which is part of the Warner Archive's wonderful set Danny Kaye: The Goldwyn Years. This four-film set is part of the Archive's Samuel Goldwyn Classics series.

THE KID FROM BROOKLYN is a remake of one of Harold Lloyd's sound-era comedies, THE MILKY WAY (1936). I've never seen the original and have pulled my Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection Vol. 1 set with the intent of watching THE MILKY WAY soon.

One of the fun things about THE KID FROM BROOKLYN is that Lionel Stander repeats his original 1936 role as the trainer, Spider Schultz. Another connection with THE MILKY WAY is that THE KID FROM BROOKLYN director Norman Z. McLeod had done uncredited work on the original film.

Danny Kaye plays Burleigh Sullivan, a milquetoast milkman who through a series of unusual incidents becomes a boxing champion. Virginia Mayo plays Burleigh's sweetheart Polly, met when he needs a phone in the middle of the night to call a vet for his beloved milk wagon horse.

Vera-Ellen plays Burleigh's sister Susie, and a young, very handsome Steve Cochran has a rare comedic role as Speed McFarlane, a middleweight champion who's sweet on Susie.

The cast also includes Walter Abel as Burleigh's manager, Eve Arden as Abel's wisecracking girlfriend, Fay Bainter as a matron who sponsors a charity fight, and, in the final scenes, Jerome Cowan as the ring announcer. Clarence Kolb owns the milk company. Bess Flowers sighting: Look for Hollywood's best-known extra ringside at the first fight.

I had previously seen this film only once, as a child, and I think I liked it even more than the previously reviewed UP IN ARMS (1944) and WONDER MAN (1945). The cast is simply fantastic, and there's plenty of room for everyone to shine, whether it's Abel convincing Kaye to fight near the end, Cochran being knocked out by Kaye's horse, or Bainter taking fighting tips from Kaye. There's some dazzling dancing from Vera-Ellen, and Virginia Mayo is gorgeous performing "You're the Cause of It All" (dubbed by Betty Russell). Kaye's comic routines were also toned down a little and didn't take as much screen time, which I think made for a better movie overall.

The color is absolutely stunning, and every aspect of this film combined for a most enjoyable afternoon of movie watching. I watched much of this film with a smile on my face.

THE KID FROM BROOKLYN runs 113 minutes. The Technicolor cinematography was by the great Gregg Toland.

This Warner Archive DVD is an outstanding print. The disc includes the trailer.

Coming soon: A review of the final film in the set, A SONG IS BORN (1948).

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 at the Warner Archive website. Please note that the initial sets of this series sold at the Warner Archive site are traditionally replicated (pressed) rather than burned on demand.

Today at Disney California Adventure: Meet Oswald the Lucky Rabbit!

There was a nice-sized line waiting on Buena Vista Street early this morning for the first-ever appearance of Oswald the Lucky least during regular business hours. Oswald recently made a brief appearance at an Annual Passholder event.

Many in the crowd were wearing Oswald shirts or ears, and when he appeared an enthusiastic cheer went up.

Disney was well prepared to handle the crowds and had two to three people manning the cameras, snapping pics on cell phones and personal cameras along with the official PhotoPass photos. They also allowed each guest to snap quick solo shots of Oswald.

There was obviously quite a bit of interest in seeing Oswald today, and hopefully that will continue in the weeks to come.

For those who aren't yet familiar with Oswald, he was a pre-Mickey Mouse creation of Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, but Disney lost the rights when he left Universal Studios, after which he created Mickey Mouse.

Decades went by and Disney finally regained the rights to Oswald in a unique trade for sportscaster Al Michaels in 2006. Oswald's Gas Station was part of the brand-new Buena Vista Street which opened in 2012, and now two years later Oswald himself has arrived at the park.

To learn more about Oswald, I recommend the 2007 Disney Treasures DVD set The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. It includes a featurette, "Oswald Comes Home," and a 1999 documentary on Disney colleague Ub Iwerks.

We had a short but very successful trip this morning, enjoying breakfast at Flo's, walking right on Radiator Springs Racers via the single rider line, and using a FastPass to quickly get on Grizzly River Rapids. We left after that, as Anaheim could reach 104 degrees this afternoon!

Earlier this weekend: Today at Disneyland: Halloween Time 2014.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Today at Disneyland: Halloween Time 2014

September 12th marked the start of this year's Halloween Time festivities at Disneyland.

Unlike last year, there was no Friday the 13th kickoff event, which kept the crowds manageable, although the park was still quite busy due to both Halloween Time and Dapper Day; the park was filled with hundreds of people dressed to the nines, many wearing vintage styles.

Since we don't really get weather "seasons" in Southern California -- it's mid September and we're heading into a week of temps over 100 degrees! -- it's nice to experience seasonal changes at Disneyland.

The Ray Bradbury Halloween Tree has returned to Frontierland again this year:

Dia de los Muertos at Zocalo Park in Frontierland:

Space Mountain once again has the Ghost Galaxy overlay:

New holiday popcorn bucket and travel mug:

The submarine lagoon has been refilled and will reopen soon!

It's wonderful seeing that part of the park come back to life. Now if only they would do something to wake up Tomorrowland, which is a rather sad-looking area of the park the last few years.

We enjoyed Fantasmic for the first time in a couple of years!

As my daughter remarked, this was "Fantastic Lite"; no dragon, no Flotsam and Jetsam, and with the Mark Twain in drydock, Disney characters came out on Tom Sawyer Island for the grand finale, which is decidedly less impressive than the Mark Twain suddenly floating into view.

We also enjoyed the Remember fireworks show. It's hard to believe that show is nearly a decade old.

We had a nice moment after the fireworks when my daughter, who had come straight from work in Hollywood with no time to eat, tried to buy a pretzel. The Fantasyland location had just closed, but the Cast Member surprised her and handed her two free pretzels he still had on hand, saying "Magic Moment!"

It's going to be an unusually hot weekend in Southern California, but we may try to head out to Disney California Adventure for a bit on Sunday to take a look at Oswald the Lucky Rabbit's triumphant arrival as a character who will be greeting guests on Buena Vista Street. I'm delighted that this historic early Walt Disney creation will now be part of the park.

Update: Today at Disney California Adventure - Meet Oswald the Lucky Rabbit!

Previous Halloween Time Posts and Photos: September 29, 2006, September 30, 2006, October 21, 2006, September 28, 2007, October 12, 2007, October 17, 2008, October 9, 2009, October 15, 2010, plus the 2011 Annual Passholder Private Party (October 17, 2011); October 21, 2012, September 13, 2013, and October 18, 2013.