Random Harvest of Thoughts: UPCOMING STUFF IN OCTOBER AND BEYOND

Just a quick post to update you all on what is coming at the blog in the next few months!

First and foremost get ready for October when I will be watching nothing but silent films!  I am really excited to get into this as silent film is an area where I feel like my cinematic education is definitely lacking.  I am interested to see how this goes and it might just end up being something I try to do every few months!

Second, it will come as no surprise at all that I am taking part in some blogathons over the next few months!  Here are the ones that are coming…

THE CMBA FALL BLOGATHON hosted by The CMBA

I will cover THE LADY VANISHES

THE SWASHATHON hosted by Fritzi of Movies Silently

I will cover THE PRISONER OF ZENDA

THE WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON hosted by Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken & Freckled, and Paula’s Cinema Club

I will cover Robert Barratt

THE CRITERION BLOGATHON hosted by Criterion Blues, Speakeasy, and Silver Screenings

I will cover RIDE THE PINK HORSE

Finally, the fabulous Fritzi of Movies Silently and I are going to be live tweeting another silent serial!  We are starting this Thursday (October 1st) with the first episode of HOUSE OF MYSTERY at 8:30 PM EST so come and join us if you have an inclination!  Judex was a ton of fun and I have a feeling this will be just as good!

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October 2015 Highlights for Turner Classic Movies

October looks to be a great month for viewing on TCM!  Here are some previews of what is coming up, as well as some things that I am excited to see!

The Star of the Month is David Niven!  Every Tuesday night in October will feature his films including one of my favorites A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (aka STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN).  Fridays this October are devoted to TCM Horror.  Twenty-five films such as THE HAUNTING, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE, and THE BAD SEED.  There will also be a documentary entitled MARTIN SCORSESE PRESENTS, VAL LEWTON: THE MAN IN THE SHADOWS.  Silent film fans will want to make a note to set their DVRs for October 18th.  TCM is hosting a night of premieres with four silent films recently found which had been believed to be lost.  These films are THE GRIM GAME, SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE ROUND-UP, and THE LIFE OF THE PARTY.  Nathan Lane will be the TCM Guest Programmer this month and on October 21st will present his four picks which include ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, BEING THERE, and CITY LIGHTS.  Treasures from the Disney Vault will be on display on October 28th with seven films and five shorts.

The big news is that the TCM Spotlight for October is on Trail-Blazing Women; Behind the Movies, Ahead of Their Time which will be hosted by Ileana Douglas.  Tuesdays and Thursdays in October are devoted to women filmmakers with a display of fifty-four movies.  The movies will range from six films by the very first female director, Alice Blanche Guy, to THE HURT LOCKER by Kathryn Bigelow.  Some viewers might be surprised at the more “modern” films show by TCM during this spotlight but I think it is important to note that after the silent film era, women were mostly pushed out of positions of influence and power in films by men.  It wasn’t until more modern times that more and more women had positions that gave them creative input into films, although even today female filmmakers are facing issues of discrimination and prejudice in the field.  I am very excited to see this spotlight and can’t wait to help celebrate the influence of women in the movie making world.  TCM also has a terrific website for the event which can be found here.

This month The Essentials will show THE WIND, NINOTCHKA, ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, I REMEMBER MAMA, and THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY.  TCM Underground is showing RATTLERS, THE SWARM, STREET FIGHTER, THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART II and PART III, SIX MEN GETTING SICK, THE ALPHABET, THE GRANDMOTHER, THE AMPUTEE Version 1 and 2, PREMONITION FOLLOWING AN EVIL DEED, DUMBLAND, and TWICE UPON A TIME.  October is my Month of Silents and so I will definitely be watching Silent Sunday Nights’ offerings with THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, DR. JEKYLL and MR. HYDE, THE GRIM GAME, SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE ROUND-UP, THE LIFE OF THE PARTY, BABY PEGGY: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, and THE FAMILY SECRET.  Finally, TCM Imports is featuring LA CHIENNE, THE GRIM REAPER, NO END, and ANDREI RUBLEV.


Here are some daily themes to keep an eye out for!

October 2nd – Bob Hope and TCM Horror: Haunted Houses

October 4th – William Wyler Westerns

October 6th – Billie Burke

October 7th – TCM Birthday Tribute to June Allyson

October 8th – What a Character – Jack Oakie

October 9th – TCM Horror: Rogue Body Parts

October 12th – Treacherous Spouses

October 14th – TCM Birthday Tribute: Lillian Gish and Robert Osborne’s Picks

October 15th – TCM Birthday Tribute: Mervyn Leroy

October 16th – Happy Birthday!  Angela Lansbury 

October 18th – Lost & Found

October 24th – Starring Oskar Homolka

October 28th – All-Star Casts

October 30th – Hammer Horror Festival

October 31st – Happy Halloween


Here are some films that I am planning to check out in October.  I will highlight the ones that I think you can’t miss!

October 3rd – SABOTAGE AGENT (6 AM EST), THE WIND (8 PM EST), WOMEN IN THE WIND (1 AM EST)

October 4th – SUSAN AND GOD (6 AM EST), THE KILLERS (12 PM EST), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (12:45 AM EST), SCARLET STREET (4 AM EST)

October 5th – RACHEL AND THE STRANGER (3 PM EST), RAFFLES (8 PM EST), BACHELOR MOTHER (9:30 PM EST)

October 6th – DODSWORTH (6:15 AM EST), THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE (8 AM EST), THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (10 AM EST), DINNER AT EIGHT (4:30 PM EST)

October 9th – THE GENERAL (6 AM EST), BERLIN EXPRESS (12 PM EST)

October 10th – THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS (6 AM EST), THE LAVENDER HILL MOB (10 PM EST)

October 11th – DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (12:30 AM EST)

October 12th – SUSPICION (9:30 AM EST), A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (8 PM EST), ENCHANTMENT (3:45 AM EST)

October 13th – STRANGERS MAY KISS (10:30 AM EST)

October 15th – GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (9:45 AM EST)

October 17th – THE PETRIFIED FOREST (10 PM EST)

October 19th – MY MAN GODFREY (11:15 PM EST)

October 21st – THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (6:45 AM EST)

October 22nd – STORM IN A TEACUP (10 AM EST)

October 25th – THE MAD MISS MANTON (6:15 AM EST), KINGS ROW (7:45 AM EST), THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (4 PM EST)

October 26th – THE ROBIN HOOD OF EL DORADO (3:30 PM EST), MURDER BY DEATH (4:30 AM EST)

October 31st – BEDLAM (5:30 AM EST)


Some great programming coming up in October!  As always head over to Speakeasy and see what picks Kristina has for this month!

Classics From Criterion: GREEN FOR DANGER (1946)

This post is a dual posting in conjunction with Kristina from Speakeasy!  Be sure to check out her thoughts on this film here!

A few months ago I posted about my trip to the Princeton Record Exchange.  Among my DVD purchases for the day were a few Criterion films, including GREEN FOR DANGER.  This was a film that I had seen years ago with my family and one that I had really enjoyed.  Luckily for me, Kristina gave me the perfect excuse to see this film again when she agreed to join me in a dual post!

During the days of WWII, August of 1944 to be exact, the English countryside is under attack from the German Doodlebugs.  “Buzz bombs” as the locals call them are V-1 flying bombs which fly towards their intended targets with a loud buzzing motor before going deathly silent, as the motor cuts out and the bombs glides noiselessly towards the people below.  One such area suffering the scourge of the doodlebugs is Heron’s Park Emergency Hospital, a rural hospital in the southeast of England.

The staff of the hospital work tirelessly, in spite of the constant threat of bombing, to provide care for the sick and injured locals.  Among the staff members of the hospital are the five doctors and nurses who were present in the operating theatre the night postman Joseph Higgins comes in.  There is Mr. Eden (Leo Genn), the attending surgeon with steady hands and a silver tongue.  He has a definite weakness for the ladies, especially nurses, something which Sister Bates (Judy Campbell) is all too familiar with.  Sister Bates tries her best to maintain her cool in her role as head operating theatre nurse but she finds it difficult to forget the past relationship she had with Mr. Eden, especially when she walks in on him kissing Nurse Freddi Linley (Sally Gray).  Freddie has been a bit conflicted of late, she is drawn to Mr. Eden certainly but she also still loves the man she might or might not be engaged to, Dr. Barney Barnes (yes, really).  Dr. Barnes (Trevor Howard) works alongside Nurse Woods (Megs Jenkins) who is the voice of sarcasm and reason more often than not, as well as Nurse Sanson (Rosamund Jenkins) who everyone seems very surprised to see back at work after her “incident” and who Mr. Eden strongly urges to leave the hospital as soon as possible.

Into this cocktail of people, relationships, and motives comes Joseph Higgins.  A local postman and member of the town watch, Higgins was brought in quite injured after a bomb landed on his post office.  Due to his injuries, it takes several days before his identity is discovered by the hospital staff.  By that time, however, it has been decided that Joseph Higgins must undergo surgery to repair a fractured leg.  Mr. Eden will perform the surgery, assisted by Dr. Barnes, Nurses Bates, Linley, and Woods, while Nurse Sanson cares for Joseph Higgins on the ward.  We have to start with Joseph Higgins you see.  We have to start with Joseph Higgins because, as Inspector Cockrill (Alastair Sim) dictates in his case report, “he was the first to die”.

Let me start off by saying that I don’t think that anyone does a better whodunit than the Brits.  For me, there is nothing that I love more than a proper English murder mystery.  And GREEN FOR DANGER has to be one of the best that I have ever seen.  I heard a description of this film as one that puts out lots of red herrings during the story but at the end you will still have not guessed the identity of the murderer until it is revealed.  Now, let me say that I do not go into films usually trying to guess the ending,  I prefer to let it unfold naturally.  However, this is not to say that I don’t try to guess the ending before it happens.  Well, as I said I had seen this film before, albeit a few years ago, and I can say that I still couldn’t guess who the murderer was before the end!  My husband joined in watching with me and when we took a break halfway through he told me, quite confidently I might add, who he thought was the murderer.  He was wrong.  As the end credits rolled he said, “That is why it is a Criterion.”

Aside from the fact that it is (forgive the overt British-ism) a cracking good mystery, this film has a cast to die for.  Trevor Howard, Leo Genn, Megs Jenkins, ALASTAIR SIM?!  Does it get much better than that?  The characters never feel forced or like one-dimensional place holders, rather they are all fully fleshed out people that we feel we know.  I think that is part of what makes the ,mystery so good in GREEN FOR DANGER.  We get to know these characters, or at least we think we do, and so we form very definite ideas about who we think could actually be the murder.  We are biased towards our preferred character and when confronted with new evidence find it difficult to condemn them.

The backdrop of WWII is always present in this film, as the droning buzz bombs not only are the catalyst for the whole murder, brining Joseph Higgins to the hospital in the first place, but remain a constant threat overhead.  It is an interesting juxtaposition to see, the hospital staff held at the mercy of a murderer among them, while overhead death could come quickly and indiscriminately with a single bomb.  The staff face each threat in the same way, while resolve to continue on their duties but with a watchful eye at all times.  The war on the home front is  being waged against the German forces but there are still those who find the time to wage war amongst each other.  Is it selfish?  Maybe, but maybe too there is a sense of escapism in finally having something else to focus on rather than the war.  Perhaps the personal problems of five staff members are a welcome distraction from the horrors of war buzzing just above.

Finally, let me just say that GREEN FOR DANGER has a script that is just so clever and so witty that I can hardly stand it.  It is so good.  For example;

Dr. White: I do hope everything can be arranged discreetly.
Inspector Cockrill: Umm, shouldn’t think so for a moment.
Dr. White: Why not? Press? Do they have to be seen?
Inspector Cockrill: Can’t keep ’em out.
Dr. White: Oh, dear.
Inspector Cockrill: I don’t mind; they always give me a good write-up.

Dr. Barney Barnes: I gave nitrous oxide at first, to get him under.
Inspector Cockrill: Oh yes, stuff the dentist gives you, hmmm — commonly known as “laughing gas.”
Dr. Barney Barnes: Used to be — actually the impurities cause the laughs.
Inspector Cockrill: Oh, just the same as in our music halls.

And the best…

Inspector Cockrill: My presence lay over the hospital like a pall – I found it all tremendously enjoyable.

Clearly Alastair Sim gets all the best lines.

This is a terrific murder mystery and wonderful film. My husband, who is not a classic film fan, gave it 4 out of 5 stars and I think it says something that the murder mystery is so well done and surprising even to those who have seen it before.  If you would like to hear a bit more about GREEN FOR DANGER, no spoilers I promise, check out this episode of the Attaboy Clarence Podcast.  And of course be sure to go and read Kristina’s take on this film as well!  Then go and watch it and let me know what you think.  Once you do you might realize that the biggest clue was right in front of you all along!

#LetsMovie TCM Discoveries Blogathon: KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOUR (1937)

This post is part of the TCM Discoveries Blogathon hosted by Nitrate Diva and is also part of the TCM #LetsMovie Celebration.  Be sure to check out the other entries here!

“A British spy tries to get a countess out of the new Soviet Union.”

This is the short synopsis of KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOUR from TCM.  The first time I saw this film was during a Robert Donat kick.  I had just seen THE 39 STEPS for the first time and was totally enamored of Robert Donat.  I still am to be honest, but this was when it was still new and I wanted to see all the films that I could with him in them.  I recorded this film with no idea of what awaited me.

A.J. Fothergill (Robert Donat) is a reporter in exile.  Sent to live in Russia as punishment for an article he wrote, Fothergill has been there for six years.  His fluency in Russian has not gone unnoticed and he soon receives an offer from the Secret Service.  A ruined career behind him, Fothergill agrees to forgo British protection and join the Secret Service.  He takes the identity of Peter Ouranoff and enlists in a revolutionary group lead by a bookseller named Axelstein.  When one of the group’s members bombs a carriage carrying the father of Countess Alexandra Vladinoff (Marlene Dietrich), he is chased by police and shot.  He manages to make his way to Fothergill’s apartment where he later dies, while Fothergil is arrested and sent to Siberia for his trouble.

World War I breaks out and Countess Vladinoff is left a widow, while Fothergill has spent two years in the frozen tundra.  Axelstein predicts that the war will lead to a revolution thought Russia and in 1917, when the Siberian exiles are freed, he is made a Commissar of Khalinsk.  He asks Fothergill to assist him in his new world order.  One morning the Countess Vladinoff awakens to find that all the servants have left.  Masses of people swarm the mansion, looting the household and taking the Countess prisoner.  Soldiers take members of the elite and members of the Vladinoff household away for execution.  Axelstein arrives and demands fealty of those assembled.  He also gives Fothergill the task of taking the Countess Vladinoff to Petrograd to stand trial.

The two are unable to take a train as the rails are no longer running.  This doesn’t bother Fothergill as his plan is to take the Countess over to the White Army and to safety instead.  They reach the White Army and all seems well until the next day when the Red Army soundly defeats the White.  The Countess is captured once again and now Fothergill has two problems.  One, he much find a way to free the Countess and get her to safety and two, he is deeply in love with her.

This was the first time I can truly say that a film left me breathless.  KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOUR just stopped me in my tracks.  The story was compelling and so well done, the acting superb, and the visuals stunning.  But the most amazing thing to witness is the relationship between Robert Donat and Marlene Dietrich.

Let me start off by saying that I love Robert Donat.  He has such a gentle and kind spirit, a real honest generosity that comes through in his acting that I just can’t help but fall for him just a little bit each time I see him.  Don’t worry my husband knows and he is OK with it.  Fothergill is a man of principle, a man who does what must be done for what is right, and for King and country.  But he is also a man deeply affected by the suffering he sees around him, a man who is strong without being brutish, a man who is tough without being hard, and a man who is a warrior without losing his heart.

Robert Donat was the first draw for me in viewing this film but he wasn’t the only one.  Marlene Dietrich usually seems so aloof, so unknown, so dangerous almost in her portrayals that you don’t always feel as if you have a handle on her.  But in this film she brings a sadness, a fragileness, and a humanness to the Countess.  She is at once bewildered to what is happening around her and understanding of what must be done in order to survive it.  She is a refined woman but able to be humble when necessary.  And the love that grows between her and the truly gentle gentleman played by Robert Donat is a stunner.

The real power in this story is the love story between the Countess and Fothergill.  Without that the story of their journey would not have nearly as much impact.  When I first saw KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOUR I was riveted.  The relationship grows slowly but deeply, having moments of open affection before being tucked away and hidden from view.  Just like in A BRIEF ENCOUNTER, it is the moments where they cannot say or do what they wish with all their heart to that mean the most.  Watching this film we find ourselves just as invested in their relationship as the characters are themselves.  We want them to find safety with each other but we don’t know how that might happen.  There is a moment that I still remember all these years after seeing it for the first time.  Fothergill has returned to find the Countess whom he has left hidden for safety.  When they find each other the two embrace and Fothergill almost whispers to her, “Did you think I would not return…for you?”  It gets me every time.

As TCM celebrates #LetsMovie I have to take this moment to say thank you.  Over the years TCM has changed in some ways while staying the same in others.  At the core of the channel there is a feeling that while there will be films that are more “mainstream” than others, there will still be these little gems hidden amongst them.  Come to see Robert Donat in GOODBYE MR. CHIPS or THE 39 STEPS, but stay to see him in THE CITADEL or KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOUR.  Basically, TCM gives us all the chance to see films that we might never have had a chance to otherwise.  Be they from the 2000s or 1900s, I am always grateful when TCM introduces me to a film that I have never seen before but end up loving.  There is nothing better than finding a film that takes your breath away, just like KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOUR did for me.  So…#LetsMovie

Shhhh! A Month of Silent Film…Coming in October

Since starting this blog I have been exposed to so many fabulous classic film bloggers, amazing classic film podcasts, and a whole new world of films that I had never heard of or seen before.  This has sparked in me a desire to improve my film education, which lead to an increase in my film and book collections, and it has also lead me to decide to do a theme month this October.

If there is one area of classic film that I feel like I don’t have enough experience it would be silent films.  Growing up I watched the films of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin but that was pretty much it.  After starting this blog I found amazing bloggers such as Fritzi of Movies Silently and Olive of Star Nitrate, who have such a passion for silent film that you can’t help but be sucked in.  After taking part in a few of Fritzi’s blogathons and writing about silent films my interest was piqued.  So, I have decided to make October my month of silent film!

As a challenge to myself, I am going to watch nothing in October except silent films.  I will be taking part in the CMBA blogathon so there will be that, I will be writing about THE LADY VANISHES, but otherwise it will be only Marion Davies, Milton Sills, and Pola Negri.  I hope you will join me!

That’s A Wrap On The William Wellman Blogathon!

william-wellman-blogathon-bill

The William Wellman Blogathon is now at an end and what a four days it has been!  We had over forty entries posted celebrating the life and works of William A. Wellman!

I want to take a moment and say thank you!

Thank you to all the bloggers who signed up for, posted entries for, read posts for, and helped promote this blogathon!  I wasn’t sure what sort of response to expect and I couldn’t have asked for a better one!  Thanks to all of you!

Thank you to Fritzi over at Movies Silently for making the fabulous banners!  She is one of my blogging idols and a Photoshopping, gif making wiz!  She also was a great sounding board when I was considering this blogathon, as was Kristina of Speakeasy and Ruth of Silver Screenings.  Thanks ladies for your helpful hints!

Thank you to William Wellman Jr. not only for his support of this blogathon but also his fabulous biography that inspired it all!

Finally, thank you to William A. Wellman for a lifetime of amazing films and the attitude, courage, intelligence, and integrity to make them.

So, that’s all folks!  If you want to see all the great posts again the roster is here with updated links!  And let me know if you enjoyed this blogathon enough to do it again next year…

The William Wellman Blogathon Has Arrived!

At long last The William Wellman Blogathon is here!  Are you excited?  I know you are!

william-wellman-blogathon-wings

Listed below is the complete roster of the blogs that have signed up to take part.  Keep checking back throughout the next few days (September 10-13th) as I will be updating the list with links to the various posts as they go live!  Enjoy the blogathon and thank you to everyone for coming together to celebrate a great American director, Mr. William A. Wellman!


Roster

Now Voyaging – Lady of Burlesque

Speakeasy – Yellow Sky

Movies Silently – The Boob

Silver Screenings – The Ox-Bow Incident

CineMaven – Safe in Hell and Beggars For Life

Shadows and Satin – Lilly Turner

Stardust – Wings

Old Hollywood Films – The Public Enemy

Sister Celluloid – Frisco Jenny

Criterion Blues – A Star Is Born (1937)

Once Upon A Screen – The Purchase Price

Silents And Talkies – Heroes For Sale

The Stop Button – Magic Town

A Shroud of Thoughts – Beau Geste

Twenty Four Frames – The Ox-Bow Incident

Immortal Ephemera – Wild Boys of the Road

Movie Movie Blog Blog – Nothing Sacred

The Motion Pictures – Bill, the Director and Barbara, the Star

That Classic Movie Life– The Call of the Wild

Critica Retro – Nothing Sacred

Caftan Woman – Goodbye, My Lady

Laura’s Misc Musings – Wild Boys of the Road

Moon In Gemini – Westward The Women

Second Sight Cinema – Safe In Hell

Portraits By Jenni – The Story Of GI Joe

Pre-Code.Com – College Coach

Girls Do Film – Other Men’s Women

Vitaphone Dreamer – A Star Is Born (1937)

The Movie Rat – Night Nurse

Comet Over Hollywood – Battleground

Movie Classics – Thunder Birds

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood – The Great Man’s Lady and Island In The Sky

Wide Screen World – So Big

Pop Culture Reverie – The Happy Years

Mike’s Take On The Movies – Island In The Sky

Back To Golden Days – The Iron Curtain

Barry Bradford – The Story of GI Joe

Noir Girl – Love Is A Racket

Serendipitous Anachronisms – Roxie Hart

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies – Blood Alley

The Cinematic Frontier – Wings

Defiant Success – The Ox-Bow Incident

Nitrate Diva – Beggars of Life

Louise Brooks Society – Beggars of Life

Wolffian Classic Movies Digest – Roxie Hart

B Noir Detour – Lady of Burlesque

Mildred’s Fat Burgers – Track of the Cat

Cinema Dilettante – Midnight Mary

Losh-Man’s Hollywood Classics – Across The Wide Missouri

Spellbound By Movies – Maybe It’s Love

Grand Old Movies – The Next Voice You Hear


Thank you so much to all the bloggers who have come together to not only contribute fabulous posts celebrating William Wellman, but who also have made my very first blogathon a greater success than I could have imagined!

The William Wellman Blogathon: LADY OF BURLESQUE (1943)

This post is part of The William Wellman Blogathon hosted by me!  Be sure to check out the other entries here!

william-wellman-blogathon-beau-geste

Chances are that if you are a classic film fan you have at some point or another come across the Hayes Code.  Coming into strong effect in 1934, the Hayes Office and their code monitored and censored the subject matter of Hollywood films.  All blunt and open mentions of sex, drugs, and otherwise “less than desirable” behaviors were removed from films and writers, directors, and actors needed to find clever ways to insert their racy material.  Which leads me to LADY OF BURLESQUE, a film made at the height of the Production Code but one that still manages to keep its more mature material thanks to a burlesque tease of its own.

Dixie Daisy (Barbara Stanwyck) is the latest and greatest attraction at the Old Opera House on Broadway.  New owner S.B. Foss has changed the format of the opera house to that of a burlesque revue.  Dixie is the big draw for the crowds, wowing men and women alike with her singing and dancing.  She is also a big draw for comedian Biff Brannigan (Michael O’Shea) who ardently admires her, though she is somewhat less impressed with him.  Biff and Dixie are doing one of their best bits, all about a man who buys a woman-attracting charm in the form of a pickle on a string (infer at your leisure), when Dixie notices a squad of policeman filing into the back of the hall.  Backstage everyone is in a panic as the red light that is supposed to go off when police enter the building has been cut deliberately.  Pandemonium erupts as the police attempt to arrest everyone and Dixie makes her way toward the basement coal chute to hide.  On her way there however, she is grabbed around the throat.  She blacks out but her assailant is interrupted by a policewoman chasing a stage hand.  Dixie comes to but her attacker has vanished.

The entire company is packed off to jail where they are promptly bailed out by Foss.  At a group dinner later that night Foss tries to raise everyone’s spirits by giving each of them stock in the opera house.  Not everyone is mollified however, as Dixie points out that not only has her attacker vanished without a trace but that clearly someone is trying to shut down the opera house.  A few nights later ex-racketeer Louis Grindero comes by the burlesque show and finds his girlfriend Lolita, a stuck up songbird, rehearsing lines with one of the other comics who just so happens to be in love with her.  Louis takes out his displeasure on Lolita, beating her in front of everyone.  The screams from backstage can be heard onstage as well causing Dixie and Biff to ramp up the volume and antics of their performance.

Dixie comes off stage annoyed.  Lolita is already not a favorite among the other burlesque dancers.  Cocky and stuck-up, Lolita can’t seem to get along with anyone except the photograph of her mother she keeps on her vanity.  She has already had run-ins with Dixie, other dancers, and even Mr. Wong across the way.  The girls like to get their dinners from the local Chinese restaurant but Lolita decided it was a good idea to throw a bottle at the men standing by the open window, beaning Mr. Wong leading Dixie to go across to make peace and save their dinners.  The only person who is less liked than Lolita is the Princess Nirvena.  Recently returned from shady circumstances to once again thrill crowds with her act of clothes versus whip and her own version of a Greta Garbo impression, the Princess is someone not even Lolita can tolerate.  And now Lolita is fouling up Dixie’s act with her backstage drama.

Dixie goes upstairs to her dressing room expecting to find Lolita there.  Instead she finds some red wax on a closet door and no sign of the wounded songstress.  Lolita’s cue is coming up and Dixie calls down that she isn’t in her dressing room.  The stage manager comes upstairs to check just as Dixie pulls open the closet door and finds Lolita inside dead, strangled by her own G-string.  Yes, really.

LADY OF BURLESQUE was the first film made after the reopening of Hunt Stromberg’s independent movie studio.  Based on the book “The G-String Murders” by Gypsy Rose Lee, though thought to be ghost written by Craig Rice, this film was written by James Gunn and directed by none other than William A. Wellman.  Contrary to what you might think, Wellman was thrilled when offered the chance to direct by Stromberg.  He had never yet made a film that was a musical and was eager to showcase his range and ability.  Range and ability would be important because LADY OF BURLESQUE was part musical, part murder mystery, and part romantic comedy.

William Wellman offered the part of Dixie to his favorite actress, Barbara Stanwyck.  The two collaborated on five films together and both had great respect and affection for each other.  Wellman always spoke highly of Stanwyck’s talent and professionalism.  Of Stanwyck he would say, “…(She) not only knew her lines but everyone else’s…I love her.”  For her part, Barbara Stanwyck was equally excited as Wellman to play a character so completely different from any that she had done before.  She also was looking forward to showing that her talents extended to singing and dancing as well.  Watch her in this clip and you tell me, is there anything Barbara Stanwyck CAN’T do?

The censors, not surprisingly, were all over this film.  They were very specific about what camera angles could be used, what dialogue could be permitted, and how little clothes the strippers…ahem, I mean…dancers could have on.  Still, Wellman manages to slip quite a bit past the censors from the opening number of “Take It Off The E-String, Play It On The G-String” to Dixie’s bumping and grinding just below the frame.  The dialogue is pretty risqué as well with such lines as;

Man: Did I startle you?  /  Dixie: Are you – kidding?  I’ve been startled by experts.

Biff: When we get around to that date, you’ll have to wear your working clothes.  /  Dixie: I’ll wear a suit of armor, brass knuckles, and hobnailed boots!  And where’s that prop you swiped?  /  Biff: The muff?  I’m gonna have it stuffed and hang it over my mantlepiece.

And let’s not forget the pickle on a string.

LADY OF BURLESQUE was a huge hit and brought in $1.85 million, as well as earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Musical Scoring of a Drama or Comedy Picture.  A lesser known film today it is still great fun, a dark comedy celebrating a dead art form, as by 1942 burlesque had been driven from cities and towns alike by the soldiers of the Legion of Decency.  The movie has a little bit of everything, all filmed with the Wellman touch.  There is never a sense of judgment from Wellman in any of his films.  He simply tells the story that he would like to hear.  The women and other members of the burlesque company are just people going about their daily lives.  We are never given the feeling that we are any better or worse than they are, they just are.  The people who are nasty people are nasty because of who they are as a person, not because of what their job is.  Lolita would be an annoying prima donna even if she was a librarian and Louis would still be a jerk even if he was a respectable business man.  I feel that in another director’s hands there is a chance that the film would take on a feeling of moral high ground or even overly cartoonishness to diminish the impact.  Another director might be tempted to downplay the seriousness of the crimes simply because, well what do you expect when you live that sort of lifestyle?  Wellman and his film are refreshingly devoid of stereotypes, from the burlesque dancers to the Chinese cooks and waiters across the street.  Mr. Wong speaks English without a hint of an accent or incorrect grammar.

Part of what makes this film work is the feeling of enjoyment you get while watching it.  I know it sounds crazy to say that about a film where people are being murdered, but it is true.  Watching this film I felt like Wellman and Stanwyck were having fun, enjoying trying out something new and out of their comfort zones.  Is this the best film that William Wellman ever made?  No, and I doubt he would say it was either.  But I do feel that this is a film that deserves a second look.  LADY OF BURLESQUE showcases some of the best qualities of both Wellman and his favorite leading lady.  And if nothing else, you have a fine excuse to watch Barbara Stanwyck do the Boogie-Woogie.

September 2015 Highlights for Turner Classic Movies

September is here and that means that it’s time for another look at what is coming up on TCM, as well as what I am excited to see!

The Star of the Month is Susan Hayward!  Tune in every Thursday night during September to see such films as The Lusty Men (a personal favorite), Beau Geste, and They Won’t Believe Me.  Every Tuesday in September the TCM Spotlight will be on Five Came Back.  Based on the 2014 book by Mark Harris, who will be serving as co-host, TCM will showcase 47 films demonstrating how WWI changed and impacted five filmmakers who witnessed it first hand.  The films will feature the works of John Huston, William Wyler, Frank Capra, John Ford, and George Stevens, and twenty-seven of the films will be TCM premieres.  I am planning on reading Harris’ book during the month to go along with the programming, so hopefully I will be able to have a review up at some point.  I am very excited for this TCM Spotlight and cannot wait to see the films TCM has in store.

September 4th is all about W.C. Fields and 100 years in Film.  TCM will show four films including It’s A Gift, You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, and The Bank Dick.  September 7th will celebrate the Telluride Film Festival with twenty-four hours devoted to twelve movies and one special in tribute.  A major director of the French New Wave moment, Jean-Luc Godard will be featured on September 16th with seven films.  James Dean will be the focus on September 25th with eight shows demonstrating his television legacy.  On September 30th the TCM Guest Programmer will be Diahann Carroll, whose picks include Claudine, Glory, and Gilda.

The Essentials will feature Now, Voyager, The Nun’s Story, The Red Shoes, and The Man Who Would Be King.  TCM Underground is showing The Born Losers, It’s Alive, The Mack, and Hausu.  Silent Sunday Nights is back with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (!!!), Kurutta Ippeiji, The Kid Brother, The Mysterious Lady, He Who Gets Slapped, and Laugh, Clown, Laugh.  Finally, TCM Imports will present Hakuchi, The Face of Another, Eyes Without A Face, Amarcord, and The Confession.


Here are some daily themes that look interesting!

September 2nd – George Cukor

September 4th – Hollywood on Hollywood

September 11th – Robert Osborne’s Picks

September 15th – Birthday Tribute to Agatha Christie

September 16th – Divorce Comedies

September 21st – TCM Memorial Tribute: Omar Sharif

September 22nd – Robots

September 23rd –  TCM Birthday Tribute to Walter Pidgeon

September 29th – Irene Dunne


Now here are some films that I am excited to see!  I will highlight the films that I think are must sees!

September 2nd – A WOMAN’S FACE (1PM EST), IT SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU (6:30 PM EST)

September 3rd – BEAU GESTE (8PM EST), ADAM HAD FOUR SONS (10PM EST), MY FOOLISH HEART (5AM EST)

September 4th – THEY WON’T BELIEVE ME (6:45AM EST), SHOW PEOPLE (1:45PM EST), DAVID COPPERFIELD (12:30AM EST)

September 5th –  THEODORA GOES WILD (12PM EST)

September 6th – PENNY SERENDADE (8AM EST), BERLIN EXPRESS (10:15AM EST), HEAVEN CAN WAIT (2PM EST), THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (12AM EST)

September 8th – THE LADYKILLERS (6:30AM EST), A CAROL FOR ANOTHER CHRISTMAS (11:45 AM EST)

September 10th – I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE (8PM EST), THE LUSTY MEN (4AM EST)

September 12th – THE MOUSE THAT ROARED (12PM EST)

September 14th – THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (2:45PM EST)

September 15th – HOW TO OPERATE BEHIND ENEMY LINES (10:30PM EST)

September 17th – I’LL CRY TOMORROW (12AM EST), I WANT TO LIVE! (2:15AM EST)

September 19th – JAMAICA INN (8AM EST), THE RED SHOES (8PM EST)

September 20th – THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET (6AM EST), WESTWARD PASSAGE (8:45 AM EST)

September 24th – BUTTERFIELD 8 (6:15AM EST)

September 27th – A TALE OF TWO CITIES (6AM EST), TEA AND SYMPATHY (10:15AM EST), HE WHO GETS SLAPPED (12:15AM EST),  LAUGH, CLOWN, LAUGH (1:30AM EST)

September 28th – WHY BE GOOD? (8PM EST), FIVE AND TEN (12:30AM EST)

September 30th – I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING (11:30AM EST), A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1:15PM EST)


It looks like it is going to be a great September on TCM!  For more monthly guide goodness head over to Speakeasy and see what Kristina has in store this month.  Some other great guides come from Angela of The Hollywood Revue, Danny of Pre-Code.com, Cliff from Immortal Ephemera, Laura of Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, and Lindsey of The Motion Pictures.

The William Wellman Blogathon is Almost Here! Info for Participants and Those Who Want to Join…

william-wellman-blogathon-wings

In just a little more than a week we will celebrate the life and works of William A. Wellman in The William Wellman Blogathon!  So many fabulous blogs have signed up and I can’t wait to see what everyone has in store!  Also check out this fabulous video intro that Cinemaven created!


For those who haven’t signed up yet…

There is still time to sign up in case you haven’t done so yet and would like to join in the fun!  The announcement post with updated roster can be found here.  Duplicate subjects are acceptable but here is a list of films that haven’t been claimed yet!

For those who have already signed up…

Thank you!  I will be putting up a post on September 10th which will have the complete roster.  As I get links throughout the blogathon I will update the roster with the available posts.  Participants need only comment on that post, tweet at me, or send me an email with the link to their entries for the blogathon.  I am also planning to put up daily recaps of all the posts I receive each day!


So, what is there left to do?  Not much except get excited!  I can’t wait to see what everyone has in store for what I am sure will be a fabulous celebration of a great American director!