2014 in review

Thank you to everyone who has visited/followed/read/tweeted about/commented on this blog! I’ve had so much fun the past two months and I can’t wait to see what 2015 holds!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 700 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 12 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Countdown to the New Year: Turner Classic Movies

Thank God for TCM.  Where would I be without them?  Crying in a corner most likely…or at the very least despairing over the lack of classic films on television.  For every classic film fan with a cable subscription one question always comes to mind…”What channel is TCM?”, which is followed quickly by “What is on TCM right now?”.  Recently, budget cuts within the Time Warner Company lead to many cut backs and loss of employment for many people associated with the companies various outlets.  Luckily, TCM remained mostly unscathed (though not entirely) which is in part thanks to the fantastic and unique programming that comes from this outstanding channel.  No wonder the fan base of TCM is so loyal and numerous!   Every year there are a variety of shows, movies, specials, and promotions that come out from TCM that make me very happy.  But since we are in the New Year spirit I will try to narrow down the list to my top ten favorite things from TCM this year!

Top Ten Things from TCM in 2014

10.) The Movies – This is sort of a no brainer.  The movies that TCM shows are both well-known classics, lesser known features, and hidden gems.  There is such a variety of programming that every single day you can be sure to tune in and find at least one movie that you just have to see or DVR.  The lineups seem to be created by people who not only know the films, but who love them as much as the fans.  It really shows you how much the channel respects their fans when they invite several of them to pick and introduce some of their favorite films on the air!  A girl can dream…

9.) #DontTouchTCM – From something scary and sad (the Time Warner budget cuts), came something wonderful.  Created by a fan, the #DontTouchTCM was born from an eloquently written letter imploring the Time Warner Company to leave TCM out of the proposed layoffs and budget cuts.  Seemingly overnight fans from all over were posting reasons why TCM should be spared using the hashtag #DontTouchTCM.  The solidarity that was felt among fans must have not only made the people working at TCM feel good, but it also must have had an impact on Time Warner (or at least I like to think it did)!  It was truly something to behold!

8.) Now Playing – I only recently started getting the TCM guide in the mail and I love it!  Not only do I get to see what is coming up for the month (and plan my viewing/DVRing appropriately), but there are great articles and stories to read as well.  And I really like the crossword too.

7.) The Essentials – This has to be one of my favorite TCM programs.  Every Saturday I look forward to seeing what film is the focus of discussion.  I always love listening to the stories and facts that Robert Osborne and his co-host discuss.  His current co-host, Drew Barrymore, is not only part of a great Hollywood family but also a true movie fan.  She and Robert seem to really enjoy their talks before and after the film, and I would love to see the parts that get left on the cutting room floor.  A new co-host will be announced shortly and I am excited to see who will be joining The Essentials in 2015!

6.) Watch TCM – The app from TCM is my newest addiction.  I love being able to watch what is currently showing live on TCM from my iPad!  And it is great to know that when I start watching a film on TCM that I can’t finish or that I catch in the middle, I can go and look it up on the app and watch it there!  I don’t feel like I have fully explored the app and I can’t wait to use it more in the coming year.

5.) Holiday Movies in December – Yes, some Christmas movies were missing (The Bishop’s Wife) but there were so many wonderful movies shown on TCM this holiday season!  Not only was every Thursday night in December loaded with Christmas goodies, there were other films sprinkled in throughout the month.  Thanks to TCM this December I was able to see REMEMBER THE NIGHT, CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT, the 1938 A CHRISTMAS CAROL, and I’LL BE SEEING YOU all for the first time.  And I was able to see some old favorites such as HOLIDAY AFFAIR and THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER again!  All in all it was a merry month!

4.) Private Screenings: Lauren Bacall – To commemorate the passing of Lauren Bacall, TCM began a night of programming dedicated to her movies with this special.  I had never seen this interview before and was completely transfixed from the start.  Not only was it a fascinating interview with a truly remarkable woman, but it provided so much insight into her films and career. I really loved watching this special and hope to find other episodes of Private Screenings on TCM soon.

3.) TCM Remembers 2014 – Many bloggers have covered this special far better than I can.  Let me just say that TCM always does a fantastic job paying homage to the stars, directors, screenwriters, etc. who pass away.  Whether it is for one person or many, the tribute is always respectful, moving, and beautiful.  This tribute is no different.  There are several standout moments, but for me the two that have stuck with me are Lauren Bacall lifting her head to look into her husband’s eyes and hearing him say “I’ll be waiting for you”, and little Shirley Temple singing us out with bars of “Auld Lang Syne”.

2.) Pre-Code Fridays – I have always enjoyed pre-code movies so you can imagine my delight when TCM decided to devote an entire month of Fridays to pre-code movies!  Every Friday was a twenty-four hour binge of pre-code goodness, or badness as the case may be.  My DVR was rapidly filled up and I finally got to see some films that I had been dying to see!  Having Alec Baldwin and Robert Osborne introduce and discuss some of the films was a great bonus, and I loved hearing their thoughts.  It was a great piece of programming that made me very happy all month-long!

1.) Star of the Month: Cary Grant – The TCM Star of the Month is a fun topic.  Some months I learn about actors that I am not as familiar with as I should be, while other months I get to revel in some of my favorite movies from some of my favorite actors/actresses.  The month of December has celebrated one of the all time great movie stars of all time, none other than Cary Grant.  I love Cary Grant, I have since I saw him in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY and to have an entire month to watch his films in is nothing short of heaven.  And let’s be honest, the promo is pretty darn cool.  Just like Cary.

Thanks to Robert Osborne, Ben Mankiewicz, all the programmers, writers, producers, staff, and any other fabulous members of the TCM family that I forgot to mention!  TCM is the cornerstone of my classic film fandom and I can’t imagine not having it in my life.  I am truly excited to see what is in store for 2015.

Countdown to the New Year: TCM Party

This year I discovered the fabulous TCM Party on Facebook and Twitter.  As mentioned in a previous blog post, TCM party is basically a live viewing party of various classic films showing on TCM at any given time.  Some parties are official and scheduled while others are more spontaneous and informal.  As we all know it doesn’t take a lot of classic film fans to make a party!  I have had so much fun getting to know other party goers on Twitter and I really get excited when there is a TCM party for a movie that I love or haven’t seen yet.  A huge thank you goes to Paula, Joel, and Trevor who all do an amazing job hosting these events!  In honor of my New Year lists here are the top five best TCM parties that I “attended” this year!

Top Five Best TCM Parties of 2014

5.) The Island of Lost Women – This one happened by accident.  One morning TCM was showing some definite B movies and this one was AMAZING.  One of those movies that you just can’t believe and you keep wanting to turn to someone and say “Are you seeing this?”  It just so happened that two other TCM partiers were on Twitter and watching along, and between the three of us we had a very enjoyable time!

4.) To Have and Have Not – This was my first party and I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous.  Here I was jumping in with a bunch of people who had been viewing together for a long time.  What would I say?  Would I be welcomed?  Would I have anything funny, intelligent, or valuable to say?  But I didn’t need to be worried because I was about to find myself among friends and other classic movie lovers.  I had a blast and was hooked!

3.) The Thin Man – I love this movie.  It is one of my all time favorites!  If I could be Myrna Loy I would be happy, and I strive to have a marriage like Nick and Nora (murders and martinis optional).  There really is nothing better than sharing a favorite movie with people who love it just as much as you do.

2.) Remember the Night – This was a movie I saw for the first time with fellow members of the TCM party.  That night many of us were seeing this film for the first time and the shared experience of discovering a under appreciated classic was wonderful.  We spent much of the night marveling over how good the movie was, quoting dialogue, and wondering how on earth we had missed this hidden gem?

1.) Out of the Past – My top party was for another film that I had never seen before.  The difference from the party at #2 was that this time the majority of those watching along had already seen it with a small handful of us being “virgin” viewers.  Not only did I LOVE this movie, but the attitude of the partygoers was something truly special.  Those of us seeing this movie for the first time were in awe, asking questions of the veterans and gushing over favorite parts.  Those who had seen the film before were both protective, making sure to avoid spoilers for those of us viewing for the first time, and enthusiastic in their enjoyment of the film.  It was a wonderful night with terrific people, all watching an amazing classic film.

I can’t wait to see what parties are in store for 2015!  If you haven’t already joined in the party, make sure you do so soon!  I’ll be there for sure!

Countdown to the New Year: Baby Naps

As we get closer and closer to the New Year I see more and more top lists of movies, TV shows, books, etc.  So, I thought that I would join in on the fun!  But this is going to be a little bit different.  This won’t just be a list of my top classic films of the year (though I am planning one), but rather a group of lists of various top movies of different themes.  This is the first post of a series that I am planning to do up to New Year’s Eve, celebrating the best classic films of the year in a variety of situations and categories.

Why does Baby always wake up when the movie starts to get interesting?

Top Five Classic Films to Watch While Your Baby Naps

As a new Mom, I appreciate the golden moments known as NAP TIME.  All parents know the value and beauty of a sleeping baby, as well as how fleeting that glorious time can be.  So here is a list of my top five classic films to watch during nap time.  The films on this list are either short enough to watch during a nap, give you a lot of “bang for your buck”, and or are easy to stop and start due to a restless baby.

5.) Holiday Affair – This might seem an odd choice, being that this is a Christmas movie.  But this movie is entertaining and enjoyable, and Robert Mitchum is always worthwhile.  Also, the story is fairly straight forward so this movie can be put down and picked up again without losing the thread of the narrative.

4.) Blonde Venus – If you have ninety minutes to spare check out this film!  Marlene Dietrich is at her seductive best, Cary Grant is charming and devilishly bad for you (and YOUNG!), and Herbert Marshall is honorable and very British (which I love).  The story is compelling and definitely gives you plenty of drama, love, and twists to make your afternoon enjoyable.  Plus, once you see what Marlene goes through for her baby your day won’t seem so bad!  🙂

3.) Heat Lightning – At sixty-three minutes this film definitely moves fast!  Not too over the top with the melodrama, it is a fantastic alternative to any soap opera you might be considering.  Ann Dvorak and Aline MacMahone need to be more well known than they are, and this film shows why!  Find this film and watch it (with your sister if you have one)!

2.) Brother Orchid – This one is just fun.  It’s funny, witty, and smart.  Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart seem like they are having a ball and it makes the whole story more appealing.  The ending is uplifting and might even give you a little something in your eye.  Definitely a great movie to watch and unwind to!

1.) Three on a Match – Oh my goodness, where to begin.  Sixty-three minutes of pretty much everything you can think of.  Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, and Ann Dvorak doing fantastic things.  Ann Dvorak blows the roof off and it is really her movie.  This movie packs a definite punch and is most certainly worth your time.  Put the baby to bed, stretch out on the couch with a snack and a beverage, and watch this movie!

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas: I’ll BE SEEING YOU (1944)

Here we are three days before Christmas and I have one more movie for the holiday season.  It seems to be almost poetic that we end with this film because it has something in common with my other favorite under appreciated Christmas movie, REMEMBER THE NIGHT (which was the movie that started us off for holiday movies).  I’LL BE SEEING YOU is not a movie that I had heard of before but I recently came across this post by SisterCelluloid.  She described this movie so beautifully that I had to set my DVR and watch it for myself.  And thank goodness (and SisterCelluloid) I did!

In a train station at Christmas time men and women bustle to and fro, soldiers and sailors on leave chat, buy souvenirs, and rush to catch their trains.  Amidst all this chaos two people drift, just slightly out of sync with the rest of the people around them.  Mary Marshall (Ginger Rogers) and Sgt. Zachary Morgan (Joseph Cotten) are each passengers on the train to Pine Hill, on board which they meet.  Each carries with them a secret, one that makes them social outcasts.  Zachary suffers from shell shock and has been living at the military hospital.  The doctors there have granted him a Christmas vacation away from the hospital to prove to him that he is getting well and will eventually be able to return to the real world.  Mary is an inmate at the Women’s Prison and is on furlough for Christmas, traveling to visit with her relatives.  Of course neither one shares their secret with the other.  Mary pretends that she is a traveling sales girl and Zachary claims he is going to see his sister.  As the train pulls into the station the two disembark together.  Mary climbs into her cab and Zachary asks her name and the address where she will be staying.  He tells her he plans to call her, which Mary happily agrees to and the two part company.  Zachary goes to the local YMCA and Mary arrives at the house of her Aunt Sarah (Spring Byington), Uncle Henry (Tom Tully), and cousin Barbara (Shirley Temple).

Mary finds herself welcomed with open arms, at least by Aunt Sarah and Uncle Henry.  Barbara, with whom she is sharing a room, is friendly but there are not so subtle slights such as separate soaps for each of them and towels marked by names.  Mary notes these slights but makes no mention of them, feeling that it is almost her due because of her situation.  She feels out-of-place in the world having lost three years inside the prison.  She laments to Aunt Sarah her loss of youthful dreams such as having a husband and a child, a home of her own.  She feels that she is out of sync with the rest of the people around her, and she regrets not having something purposeful or meaningful in her life because of her prison sentence.  With three years left to serve it doesn’t seem to Mary that these are things that will change any time soon.  And then the telephone rings.  It is Zachary and he is calling to speak with Mary.  He asks her to come out with him as he has found that his sister is not in town, so he will be all alone.  Mary counters and invites him to dinner, much to Barbara’s delight.

Dinnertime arrives and so does Zachary, and he is instantly made to feel at home.  Barbara is terribly excited to have a soldier over for dinner and it is all Aunt Sarah can do to get her back into the kitchen to help.  Zachary privately confides to Mary that he doesn’t really have a sister in town, he simply got off the train to keep seeing Mary.  Before Mary can respond to this news dinner is served, and conversation turns to Zachary and his many medals.  Barbara notes that he has been awarded the Purple Heart and wonders how he was wounded.  In order to change the subject Aunt Sarah asks Zachary about his sister but just as he is about to tell the truth about his pretend sister, Mary steps in and backs up his story.  All forgiven, Mary and Zachary leave to attend a war movie.  During the film Zachary can barely look at the screen and after he is evasive when answering Mary’s questions about his time in the war.  But, he happily notes, Mary is the first person that he feels comfortable enough with to talk about his experiences.  He is feeling so good that he suggests that they go and get a drink at a local soda fountain.  While there they are served by a soda jerk who was a soldier in the First World War.  He relates to them the story of his own experience with shell shock that has left him with a facial tic.  Zachary becomes more and more uncomfortable during his story, until he finally rushes from the booth and out into the night air.  Mary follows and Zachary apologizes for his behavior but he is unable to tell her the truth behind his emotional reaction.

Back home Mary finds Barbara still awake, writing letters to serve as morale boosters to her list of soldiers.  As Mary goes to put her coat in the closet she finds that Barbara has divided the closet, keeping her belongings separate from Mary’s.  Sensing Barbara’s distrust, Mary relates to her the real story of why she was sent to prison. For those who haven’t seen this movie, I”m not going to spoil this part here.  It is a big reveal and pretty shocking, deserving of the surprise the filmmakers intended.  I think that those who have seen this movie would agree with me.  After learning the truth, Barbara begs Mary for forgiveness and the two cousins make a fresh start.

The next day Zachary calls on Mary and invites her out to the lake.  He wants to explain his behavior from the night before and reveals his condition to her.  He is most afraid of ending up like the soda jerk and becomes frustrated because he knows himself better than the doctors do.  They tell him that he is doing just fine, but he knows his timing and his rhythms and something is still off.  He asks Mary to help him believe in himself just as she believes in herself.  Mary agrees but is distracted because while they have been walking they have gotten closer and closer to the state line.  She encourages Zachary to have faith while subtly steering him away from the border.  Once home she confides in her Aunt Sarah, wondering if she shouldn’t just tell Zachary the truth about her situation.  She feels that Zachary is beginning to care for her, and she obviously cares for him (even if she denies it) so that it might be for the best to be honest.  However, Aunt Sarah advises against it wondering what good would it do as Mary is only on furlough for a few more days and after all “it isn’t as if they were getting married”.  Mary sadly agrees but things take a turn when Zachary invites the entire family to the YMCA for a New Year’s dance.

This is such a wonderful movie, I really hope it becomes more well-known.  Ginger Rogers is terrific and shows every reason why she is an Oscar award-winning actress.  Too often I think Ginger Rogers gets pushed aside and categorized simply as a dancer or Fred Astaire’s partner, but she was an extremely talented actress.  I liked her in KITTY FOYLE, for which she won said Oscar, but I LOVED her in this.  Mary is guarded, sad, grateful, loving, and fragile.  The emotions she shows feel honest and real, and it never feels like acting.  Joseph Cotten is wonderful, really showing a different side of himself.  I’m used to seeing him in roles such as GASLIGHT or THE STRANGER, roles where he is completely self-possessed and confident.  But as Zachary Morgan, he shows such a vulnerability and brokenness that he seems to be a different man altogether.  Together, he and Ginger are just magic.  It’s more than just chemistry, it’s believability.  You honestly feel that these are two real people and you are simply watching their lives unfold.  I loved this movie and I hope to find a copy for my own collection soon, which is a bit difficult as it is out of print.  Hopefully it gains a larger audience, especially now that TCM has added it to the rotation.  This might be a Christmas movie, but it is a film that is beautiful, poignant, and touching any time of year.

The Awesomeness of the Warner Archive Podcast

Being a classic film lover in these modern times often means that we are finding new and technologically advanced ways to express, share, and cultivate our collections and enjoyment of classic films.  In days past there were fan clubs, magazines, records, VHS tapes, running home to set your VCR for the movie playing that night, and radio shows.  Today we have blogs, DVDs, Blu Rays, DVRs, Twitter accounts, Facebook, and of course the podcast.  I am always on the look out for enjoyable and informative podcasts, especially those that relate to my love of classic films and television.  A few months ago I discovered the Warner Archive podcast but have only recently begun to fully appreciate the awesomeness of the thing.  For those who haven’t had the chance to experience it for themselves allow me to inform you just what makes this podcast so great.

The Films

This sort of goes without saying, but let’s say it any way.  I have been a fan of the Warner Archive for a long time, pretty much since it’s inception.  As a young twenty-something, while my friends were spending money on shoes, clothes, or dinners out…I was buying the 1929 version of THE LETTER and a copy of RIPTIDE.  I remember spending hours sitting in front of my computer with my copy of Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie guide browsing the latest additions to the Archive.  I was always able to find something that piqued my interest or captured my attention, and this still remains true when listening to the podcast.  Inevitably, at least once during the episode I will hear some movie mentioned that I have never seen before but one that just sounds too good to miss out on!  And now with the ability to watch these films on my iPad…well let’s just say that my spare time could be taken up very easily.

The Fan Interaction

Not only can you post a question on Facebook or Twitter and get an ANSWER, but it will be from a real person!  And it will be in a reasonable amount of time!  But wait, there’s more!  Fans are invited to send letters in to the podcast to ask questions, request titles, or just talk about what movies are in their DVD collection, and they will all be read on the podcast!  Not only that, but if people send a self addressed stamped envelope along with their letter, I have heard tell that they will receive a gift from the podcast in return.  This might not seem like a big deal but I have found the fan interaction a real joy and a big component of the enjoyment I get from the podcast.  Part of being a fan of anything is being able to not only share your enjoyment with other fans, but also those “powers-that-be” for lack of a better word.  It really makes the entire experience more like a one-on-one conversation with a fellow enthusiast versus lip service from a corporation.  And at the end of the day, the classic film fan community is more like a family and this easily accessible communication definitely has friendly feeling.

The Hosts

George, DW, and Matt are really the linchpin of the whole podcast experience.  If the hosts aren’t good then usually the podcast won’t work as well as it could.  Luckily, this trio is fantastic!  They each have their own areas of expertise, but they all have a great deal of knowledge about the films and television shows that they talk about.  Listening to them discuss various movies or shows, you feel like you are sitting around listening to three friends chat, argue, and share their thoughts and opinions.  But for me, the thing that really makes this podcast special is the palpable enthusiasm coming from these three.  It is a situation where you don’t always have to like the subject or movie being talked about, just the passion and glee that George, DW, and Matt have when talking about them will suck you in.  And at the end of the day, isn’t that what you want in a podcast?

Every week I look forward to listening to a new episode of the podcast, and luckily there are plenty of old episodes backed up to get me through during the interim.  It’s is definitely a podcast that all classic movie fans would enjoy and I definitely recommend it highly!  So, thanks George, DW, and Matt!  I’m a big fan!

I’m always on the look out for new classic film podcasts to enjoy so tell me, what podcasts do you listen to?  Let me know in a comment below what podcasts you think are great and what ones you think I should give a listen to!

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas: HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949)

Well, here it is only eight days until Christmas and we have what may very well be my last Christmas themed post of the season.  I have one or two more that I would like to be able to watch and blog about before the big day, but that will be contingent on whether or not the presents get wrapped, the house gets cleaned, and the car gets packed for our road trip next week.  So, if I can post another Christmas movie I will but if I can’t we are ending with one that I really enjoy!  I stumbled across this movie a few years ago, initially attracted because Robert Mitchum was in a Christmas movie!  From 1949 and directed by Don Hartman, it’s HOLIDAY AFFAIR!

Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum) is working at his job in the Crowley Department Store toy department, entertaining young children with the latest model train under the disapproving watch of the floor walkers.  He is approached by Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh), who asks to purchase said train without asking any questions.  Steve is slightly suspicious and he has good reason to be.  Connie takes her newly purchased train and along with her other bundles, hurries off to the nearest phone booth.  Connie works as a comparison shopper for one of Crowley’s competitors and she has bought the train as part of her assignment.  After giving her report over the phone, Connie heads back home where she is greeted by her six-year-old son Timmy (Gordon Gebert) aka Mr. Ennis.  Timmy is the man of the house, a role he had to take on after his father was killed during World War II.  He and Connie live alone in a small apartment, calling each other “Mr. Ennis” and “Mrs. Ennis”.  Connie unloads her packages and sends Timmy off to wash up while she gets dinner ready.  Timmy can’t contain himself and sneaks a peek, and finding the train set assumes it is for him.  He is so excited for his Christmas present, until Connie (who doesn’t know that he has looked) tells him that there will be no train set under the tree this year.

That night Timmy and Connie are joined by Carl Davis (Wendell Corey), a lawyer and a suitor of Connie’s.  While Timmy gets ready for bed, Connie and Carl wash the dishes.  It is over the dirty dishes and bubbles that Carl proposes to Connie.  She doesn’t give him an immediate answer and Carl leaves asking her to think it over.  Connie tells Timmy that Carl has proposed and, not surprisingly, Timmy is less than thrilled about the entire situation.  As she is leaving his room, Timmy tells Connie that if she marries Carl “she won’t be Mrs. Ennis anymore”.  The next day Connie goes back to Crowley’s to return the train set and who should appear to wait on her but Steve.  He lets Connie know that he is aware of who she really is and who she is working for.  He is supposed to call the store detective and report her but, after hearing Connie’s story and learning that she is the only income for her small family, decides against it and lets Connie go with a warning not to return to Crowley’s and a full refund.  This does not go unnoticed by the floor walkers and Steve loses his job.  Connie feels terrible for causing Steve to become unemployed so close to Christmas and Steve asks her to join him for lunch as a way to make it up to him.

Steve takes Connie to eat in Central Park, keeping company with the seals, and the two share stories of their lives.  Connie is impressed with Steve’s plans to design sailboats with a friend in California and Steve is eager to hear about Timmy and Connie’s life.  The two have a very pleasant time talking and lose track of time, causing Connie to be late going back to work doing more comparison shopping.  Steve offers to help her make her deadline and the two head off together.  A few hours later, now loaded down with packages, they rush to catch the bus but are separated in the holiday crowd.  Connie returns to her apartment with only half of her purchases to find Carl and Timmy trimming the Christmas tree together.  Connie begins to tell them about her day when there is a knock at the door.  It’s Steve!  He managed to track her down through various tactics and is now here to return her packages.  Carl is suspicious of Steve, but he remains polite.  Timmy is thrilled by Steve and takes an immediate liking to him.  But Timmy is still upset about the loss of the train and it causes him to fight with Carl, in front of Connie and Steve.  Connie begins to send Timmy to his room but when Carl picks up the angry little boy, Connie yells at him to take his hands off her son.  Frustrated and hurt Carl leaves the apartment and Connie sends Timmy to bed with no supper.  She apologizes to Steve for the scene he just witnessed.  Steve surprises her by suggesting that Connie is partly to blame because she is constantly trying to turn Timmy into a miniature version of her late husband.  Connie angrily asks Steve to show himself out and goes off to wash the dishes.  Steve stops by to say good-bye to Timmy, who then tells him all about the train.  Steve encourages Timmy to always aim higher than his dreams and, perhaps taking his own advice, passionately kisses Connie before leaving the apartment.  Carl returns and Connie, prompted by Steve’s kiss, decides to accept his proposal.

Christmas morning dawns and Timmy leaps into bed to cover his mother with kisses.  He keeps thanking her over and over again, saying that she has giving him the best Christmas present and she really had him fooled.  Confused, Connie goes out into the living room and finds Timmy playing with the electric train that she had returned the day before.  The package was sitting in the hall outside their apartment, with a card on it to Timmy from Santa.  She can’t think where it came from until Timmy reveals that he told Steve about his wish for a train for Christmas.  Realizing that Steve has given her son the train, Connie decides to go and confront Steve.  She finds him in Central Park, almost completely broke.  Steve refuses her offer of money, saying that he wants Timmy to have the train so that he will believe in the possibility of dreams coming true.  Connie asks what he will do now and Steve reveals that he is going to travel to California to design boats, once he has money for a ticket that is.  Connie presents Steve with a loud necktie as a Christmas present (something Timmy encouraged her to do) which he is thrilled by.  Taking off his old tie, Steve offers it to a passing bum who accepts it gleefully.  A few moments later a little girl on roller skates (because she didn’t get ice skates for Christmas) with a balloon on her hat approaches Steve and presents him with a salt and pepper shaker, a present from the man he gave a necktie too.  Connie reveals to Steve that she and Carl are going to be married, prompting Steve to talk again about Connie’s need to let go of the past and embrace the future.  Annoyed by Steve’s lecture, Connie leaves the park and returns to her home where Timmy and her in-laws are waiting.

Connie’s in-laws have heard from Timmy that his mother is to be married, and they assume it must be to this Mr. Steve Mason they have heard so much about from Timmy.  Connie denies this, and tells them that she is to be married to Carl which doesn’t thrill them nearly as much.  Speaking of Carl, he soon joins the Christmas party and is greeted by everyone, including Timmy who has apologized for his bad behavior the other night.  Another unexpected guest soon comes to the door, but it is not anyone they could have expected.  This is a city detective looking for the Connie Ennis who just met with Steve Mason in Central Park.  It seems that morning a man was mugged in Central Park, robbed of money and a set of silver salt and pepper shakers, and tied up with a necktie.  Not only was Steve found with the salt and pepper shaker on his person, but it was his necktie that was used to tie the poor man up!  Connie, Carl, and Timmy head down to the police station to alibi Steve.  Connie backs up Steve’s story, little girl with roller skates and a balloon on her head and all, and the police release him.  Timmy asks Connie if they can invite Steve back to their home for Christmas dinner.  Though resistant at first, Connie finally relents and so it is that they all gather around to share a Christmas feast.  After dinner is finished, Connie’s father-in-law starts the speeches by thanking his wife for their many wonderful years together.  Carl then gets up to thank them all for welcoming him into their family and he hopes that next year he will finally be able to have the wife and son he has longed for.  After some prodding, Steve stands up to give his Christmas speech.  He says what he was always going to say, thank you and goodbye, but he adds something else.  He is in love with Connie and when a man is in love with a woman he should say something.  And he doesn’t think that Connie should marry Carl, rather he thinks she should marry him.

I really do love Robert Mitchum.  I have always had a soft spot for him, which I think started with HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON.  He is a “bad boy” but not in the conventional sense.  By that I mean, he definitely has a devil-may-care attitude but it doesn’t come with a lack of respect or concern.  He is so completely sure of himself that he doesn’t care about what other people think simply because he knows who he is and what he wants and he doesn’t need validation from anyone.  Robert Mitchum so rarely got roles in anything like a romantic comedy, let alone a holiday movie, so I can only imagine that he jumped at the chance to play a different character.  From what I have read it seems that Don Hartman, the director, really encouraged ad-libbing and freedom in the actors during this film.  In fact per Gordon Gebert, one of the main scenes between Timmy and Steve was almost completely ad-libbed.  I think that is part of what makes this film so enjoyable.  You really see Mitchum having fun in his role, and it seems like there is a lot of Robert Mitchum in Steve Mason.

Janet Leigh is lovely in one of her first major roles and Gordon Gebert is adorable as her son.  Wendell Corey is great as Carl, and this is one of the first times that while you are rooting for Steve (Robert Mitchum, I mean COME ON!) there is still something redeeming in Carl.  Honestly, you know that he is truly a good person and really cares for Connie.  But again, Robert Mitchum…nothing else needs to be said.  I am so glad that this movie has become more well-known over the last few years, thanks in part to an increase in airings on TCM.  It is definitely one that should be seen and enjoyed during the holiday season.  Because…Robert Mitchum at Christmas.  Does it get better than that?

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas: IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE (1947)

Recently I came across a list of lesser known holiday movies.  Among the entries was a movie that I had seen bits and pieces of over the years, but one that I had never sat down to watch in its entirety.  I didn’t even know the name of this film until I sat down to watch it for this blog post.  IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE is a film from 1947, directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Don DeFore, Ann Harding, Charles Ruggles, Victor Moore, and Gale Storm.

Walking down Fifth Avenue in New York City is one, Charles T. McKeever (Victor Moore) and his dog Sam.  As he walks, tour buses drive by showing passengers onboard the mansions of the great and powerful families of the city.  One house in particular is of interest, that of Michael J. O’Connor (the second richest man in the world).  The boarded up mansion sits on the corner of Fifth Avenue and it is to this house that Mr. McKeever is going.  He and Sam head along the back wall of the garden and find their way inside through a loose board.  Once inside the great house, Mr. McKeever sets about setting up shop.  He winds a few clocks, takes a bath, gets some new clothes, and rigs up a system whereby whenever the front door is opened all the lights in the house go out.  His preparations complete, Mr. McKeever (now dressed in Michael O’Connor’s Sunday best) sets out for a walk with Sam.

Meanwhile, across town a landlord is attempting to evict his last tenant.  The apartment building has been scheduled for demolition to make way for more O’Connor construction and all the tenants have left, all but one.  Jim Bullock (Don DeFore), an out of work veteran, is making a stand for his rights and his apartment.  Unfortunately for Jim, his stand involves handcuffing himself to his bed which is then promptly picked up and carried out by the movers.  And so it is that Jim is living on a bench in the park when Mr. McKeever and Sam come walking by.  After hearing how Jim has lost his home and now has no place to live, Mr. McKeever invites Jim to come live with him.  The two return to the O’Connor home and Jim is in awe, believing Mr. McKeever to be Micheal O’Connor.  Mr. McKeever admits that he is not the owner of the house, merely a “visitor”.  Michael O’Connor is spending the winter in Virginia as he does every year and will not return until spring.  The two men have free reign over the great house for the whole season!

Michael O’Connor (Charles Ruggles) is indeed in Virginia where he is currently trying to buy Camp Kilson, a deserted army camp, in an effort to create a huge air cargo network.  Word reaches him that his daughter Trudy (Gale Storm) has run away from her finishing school and she is now nowhere to be found.  Worried, O’Connor hurries back to New York to look for her.  Trudy has made her way back to the family home on Fifth Avenue, and is going through the clothes in her room when she is discovered by Jim and Mr. McKeever.   Jim believes that Trudy is a thief and wants to call the police, which Trudy is only to happy to let him do.  But Mr. McKeever stops him, and takes Jim outside to explain the situation to him.  He wasn’t completely honest with Jim, he isn’t so much a visiting friend of Mr. O’Connor as he is a drifter who has settled into an abandoned home.  Jim, who is no great fan of Michael O’Connor, thinks that this is all very amusing.  Neither man sees Trudy listening in to their conversation, and she decides to play along with the idea that she is a thief and not reveal her true identity.  Jim and Mr. McKeever return and Trudy pleads with them to not call the police or kick her out.  She is homeless and hungry, she claims, and she was only trying to get some nice clothes for a job interview that she has the next day.  The two men agree to let her stay, but just then all the lights go out.  The night watchmen are coming through for their nightly check of the house.  The three guests hurry off to the icebox to hide, with Jim lending Trudy his bathroom and his arms to help keep her warm.  Trudy is already starting to fall for Jim, and resolves to maintain her fake identity in order to prevent Jim from falling in love with her just for her money.

The next day Trudy gets a job at a local music shop, playing the piano and singing for the customers.  On her way home she runs into Jim and the two walk back together.  Along the way Jim runs into the wives and children of Hank and Whitey, two of his old army buddies.  Hank (Edward Ryan) and Whitey (Alan Hale Jr.) are trying to find an apartment to live in but are having troubles in the post war housing crisis.  The current landlord they are trying to get an apartment from refuses to allow children in the building and it seems that the two men and their families will be stuck living in their cars.  Jim invites them back to the house to live with him, Trudy, and Mr. McKeever.  Speaking of Mr. McKeever, he is not at all pleased with the sudden increase in population in the house.  He doesn’t think that they can support so many people and still keep their stay a secret.  But once he sees how cute the babies are, and they really are quite cute, Mr. McKeever welcomes them all with open arms.  The group settles in to a contented routine, and Jim and Trudy set about falling in love.

One morning as Trudy leaves the house for work, a man calls to her from a nearby car.  It is her father, who has come back to New York looking for her.  He tries to convince her to return to school but Trudy won’t hear of it.  She is happy now and in love with Jim, after having spent her whole life feeling lonely she finally feels content.  O’Connor wants to meet the man who his daughter speaks so highly of, and reluctantly agrees to pose as another drifter.  Trudy and her father act out a meeting in the park and Trudy invites Mike the tramp to come home with them.  Once there, O’Connor is shocked to see the state of his home and just how many people are living there.  He is also less than pleased by Mr. McKeever wearing his clothes and smoking his cigars.  Mike is put to work washing the dishes and doing other chores about the house which annoys him to no end.  At the same time he must still maintain his business ventures, including the purchase of the army camp.  Little does O’Connor realize that Jim and his friends are also interested in buying the property.  Jim wants to use the army barracks as model homes for the displaced and homeless families of other veterans so he, Hank, and Whitey decide to bid on the property as well.

It doesn’t take long before O’Connor is fed up with the abundance of guests in his home and with having to pretend to be a tramp.  He threatens to call the police, but Trudy calls her mother instead.  Mr. and Mrs. O’Connor divorced several years prior, when it became clear to Mrs. O’Connor that her husbands first priority was his money.  Upon hearing her daughter’s distress, Mrs. O’Connor offers to come to the house as yet another vagrant.  And so the house gains Mary as a cook, much to Mike’s distress.  Mike only becomes more upset as the price for the army camp keeps increasing thanks to a bidding war which has broken out.  He also is frustrated because of Trudy and Jim.  His attempt to woo Jim away with a well-paying job to Bolivia failed, and now it seems more likely than ever that Trudy and Jim will marry.  Then one evening, as the group gathers to decorate the Christmas tree, Mike discovers that the group he has been bidding against is not a huge corporation but the three men who now sit around him making popcorn garlands.  And how will he be able to explain to Trudy and to Mary, that his company has finally outbid them and Jim will now be unable to complete his plans for the barracks?

IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE is a Christmas movie that really should be better known than it is.  Charles Ruggles is fantastic in every scene he is in, really giving Michael O’Connor depth as well as humor and wit.  His frustration at the complete chaos his house and life have become is really well done, and a character that could have easily been one-dimensional is much for fleshed out and sympathetic.  Ann Harding is terrific as his ex-wife, showing the frustration of a woman who still loves the man that she left.  Don DeFore and Gale Storm are charming as the young couple in love, as are all the supporting characters.  Victor Moore is Mr. McKeever, there is no question of that.  He so wholeheartedly inhabits the character that you no longer see an actor playing a part, you simply see Mr. McKeever complete and in the flesh.

This movie is really a joy to watch!  Yes, there are a few moments of clunkier dialogue but they go by quickly and don’t distract from the overall quality of the story.  It is the story that makes this movie so unique.  This is just a genuinely nice movie, with a good-hearted intention and message.  It might sound strange to say it, but this is a sweet story and a truly kind movie.  And what better qualities could you have for the holiday season?

Personal Collection of Classics: THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB (1970)

I think that my Mom might have an inner cowgirl.  I recently found the James Stewart Signature Collection at a discount store, so of course I had to take it home.  When I was telling my Mom what movies were included in the collection, I mentioned the film THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB.  “You have to watch that movie!  It has to be your next blog post” she exclaimed.  I was skeptical, not being a huge western fan myself and this movie is definitely more “modern” than most of the classic films that I watch, but I decided to give it a try.  Starring Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda, and directed by Gene Kelly (yes, THAT Gene Kelly) comes the story of THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB.

John O’Hanlan (Stewart) is working as a cowhand in Texas alongside his good friend, Harley Sullivan (Fonda).  Being that they are out working on the open range, news and letters don’t travel fast.  In fact the day that John receives a letter is the first time that any man in the company has gotten one.  The letter is from a lawyer in the town of Cheyenne, Wyoming telling John that his brother DJ has died and has left him something in his will.  John immediately sets out for Cheyenne with Harley close behind.  One year and several thousand miles (and hundred thousand words from Harley) later the pair arrives in town and makes for the lawyer’s office.  Their arrival is a surprise for the lawyer, as DJ has been dead for two years and no one thought that John was coming to claim his property.  However, now that John and Harley are here the lawyer is more than happy to hand over the deed to the property that John has inherited.  DJ had become a business man and has left John his company, The Cheyenne Social Club.

John and Harley head off to find their new property but no one can tell them just what the Cheyenne Social Club is.  The women of the town seem offended when asked and the men just smile.  When they finally arrive at the house it suddenly becomes clear just how social this social club is.  Yes, DJ had been running a brothel and apparently expects John to continue on.  The madam of the house is Jenny, played by Shirley Jones, and she gives John the rundown of the girls.  There is Opal Ann, Pauline, Carrie Virginia, Annie Jo, Sara Jean, and of course Jenny.  The women are thrilled to have John here, hopeful that he will take care of them like DJ used to.  Harley sets about making himself at home and making friends with the girls, but John is completely resistant to the idea of running a brothel.  He heads out to get a drink at the local bar where he is welcomed with open arms by everyone (once they learn he is DJ’s brother and the new owner of the Cheyenne Social Club), except for one nasty individual who has a problem with Jenny.  This man was insulted because Jenny wouldn’t let him touch her unless he cleaned up, and so he doesn’t like Jenny or John.

John isn’t too happy with his situation, and he is even less happy when he breaks the news to the girls that he plans to close down the club and fire them all.  The reason John is unhappy is because no matter how many times he tells them, the girls make no indication that they are planning to leave at all.  The townsfolk get wind of John’s plans and let their displeasure be known (through a bar room brawl).  Even Harley tries to change John’s mind, as he is thoroughly enjoying his social time.  But John won’t relent in his ambitions to be an upstanding citizen.  He goes to see the lawyer again and expands on his plans to reopen the club as a boarding house.  But there is a hitch in his plans because the land that the club is sitting on is owned by the railroad  DJ was able to strike a deal with the railroad in that so long as the ladies remain at the club the club remains open.  If the ladies leave, the land reverts back to the railroad’s control.  Stymied, John returns to the club only to find that Jenny has been badly beaten.

With the town doctor attending to Jenny, John demands to know who did this to her.  Harley tells him that it was Corey Bannister, the unpleasant man from John’s first night at the bar.  Furious with what has happened, John storms off to the bar to confront Bannister.  Harley goes with him, protesting all the time that John is a terrible draw and “no hand with a gun”.  At the bar, John confronts Bannister demanding that he pay for what he has done to Jenny.  It will come down to who is the quicker draw and it doesn’t look like it will be John.  But through a lucky series of events John is able to shoot and kill Bannister, “Just like DJ would have done” marvels the barkeeper.  Back at the home, Jenny is recovering well and John has resigned himself to running a brothel.  The next day the sheriff rides up to tell John that Bannister’s kinsmen are riding to town to kill him, and recommends that John leaves town as soon as possible.  Harley thinks that this is an excellent idea and begins packing.  Much to his surprise John does not agree and insists on staying in Cheyenne to defend the ladies of the social club from the incoming Bannisters.  Not wanting to die, and seeing no reason to stay, Harley bids goodbye to John and rides off.

Harley can’t understand why John feels the need to stay behind, and reasons that he will be outnumbered ten to one when the Bannisters arrive.  How could ten to two make any difference?  Coming up over a ridge, Harley finds a group of about ten men gathered around a campfire.  He joins them for a rest and a cup of coffee and gets to talking.  Conversation turns and Harley realizes that the men that he is talking to are in fact, the Bannisters traveling to confront John.

As I said, I am not a huge fan of westerns but this film is more a “western lite”.  It plays more like a comedy with a western setting and is actually a pretty fun ride for an afternoon.  I love Jimmy Stewart always and seeing him play alongside his lifetime friend, Henry Fonda (who Stewart recommended for the role of Harley), is great.  You almost get the feeling that the two of them are just ad libbing actual conversations that they have had into the scenes.  The political subplot was definitely added in due to the real life political differences of Stewart and Fonda, and it would be interesting to know how much more of their relationship influenced their characters.  It was also interesting to watch a movie that was directed by Gene Kelly, as I have enjoyed some of his other directorial projects such as A GUIDE FOR THE MARRIED MAN and of course SINGING IN THE RAIN (although he was co-director for that one).

THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB isn’t a great film by any means.  But it is a fun and silly bit of storytelling that really lets the relationship between Stewart and Fonda shine.