Monday, August 25, 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Happy Birthday Mrs Artman!

Patricia Ellis, May 20, 1916 – March 26, 1970

My most recent Mrs. Artman acquisition, this vintage trimmed publicity still for "Bright Lights", 1935

My second most recent Mrs. Artman acquisition, this vintage lobby Card for "Venus Makes Trouble", 1937

Sunday, April 6, 2014

March Movie Madness!

Another month's worth of movies in the can! First I caught up from February, revisiting 6 more films I hadnt seen in many years, then on to "new-to-me" films for the rest of the month. I fell short again only viewing 22 more films so I have to play catch up again in April (9 films), then its back to stuff I haven't seen in a long time...

Artman's rating system:
**** = awesome!
*** = solid!
** = watchable!
* = lame!
BOMB = sucked!

an *asterisk after the year and studio indicates "new-to-me"

March 3rd
“Bullets or Ballots” 1936 WB
Edward G Robinson plays a down on his luck policeman who is enlisted by a special squad to go undercover and expose “the rackets” run by Barton MacLane. Humphrey Bogart as MacLane’s number one man and Joan Blondell as Eddie G.’s sort-of-girlfriend round out the supporting cast. Nicely made, tough and fast-moving little picture. ** ½

“Back in Circulation” 1937 WB
Joan Blondell and Pat O’Brien make the most of this newspaper reporter’s tale. Very fast pacing, rapid-fire dialogue and a great cast make the most of it. This is the kind of film that was done better in the pre-code era buts its still decent entertainment. Joanie looks fantastic! ** ½

March 4th
“Off the Record” 1939 WB
Joan Blondell and Pat O’Brien team up once again for another newspaper reporter type story. This time they’re married and take in a young hood well-played by Bobby Jordan. Fun picture moves right along and once again Joanie is a doll! ** ½

Vintage still from my collection

March 5th
“The Kid from Kokomo” 1939 WB
Joan Blondell is relegated to third billing in her last film with Pat O’Brien at WB (maybe her last at WB, period!). Pat plays a fast (and LOUD!) talking boxing manager who cajoles hayseed Wayne Morris to let him make him the world’s champion, this time by promising to find his long-lost mother! What transpires is ridiculous to say the least but awfully funny at times thanks to the three leads as well as May Robson, Stanley Fields and Sidney Toler. **

March 6th
“Broadway Gondolier” 1935 WB
Dick Powell and Joan Blondell team up again for a silly and fun excuse to let him sing a lot of songs and for her to crack wise and run around looking fantastic! Adolph Menjou is a hoot as a washed up Italian Opera singer. Excellent Art Deco sets throughout! ** ½

“Stand-In” 1937 WW
A Solid, entertaining film wherein Leslie Howard, playing a brilliant but very straight-laced bank accountant, goes out to Hollywood to find out why the studio his firm owns is losing money. Joan Blondell plays his secretary. Humphrey Bogart is a boozing cynical producer. C Henry Gordon, Jack Carson, Tully Marshall and Alan Mowbray round out the supporting cast. Shows plenty of the backstage, behind the scenes goings on in Hollywood. I enjoyed this much more than I did the first and only time I saw it many years ago on AMC. ***

ok I'm all caught up from February...onto the new-to-me titles now!

“East Side of Heaven” 1939 Universal *
Mildly entertaining vehicle for Der Bingle with able support from Joan Blondell, C Aubrey Smith, Jerome Cowan and the hilarious Mischa Auer. As with all Bing flicks, there are too many songs and he is a rather bland sort besides. A cute enough picture but just not my style I guess. **

“The Corpse Came C.O.D.” 1947 Columbia *
Mildly amusing murder mystery/comedy with Joan Blondell teamed up with her old WB alumni George Brent. They play two rival reporters after the same story (of course!) Moves right along and Joanie is adorable! **

March 7th
“Cry Havoc” 1943 MGM *
Hard-boiled WWII drama of military nurses and volunteer civilians in a camp in the Philippines. Based on a play, much of the film takes place in the nurse’s bunker where we see the trials and hardships endured in those months leading to the fall of Bataan. Margaret Sullavan, Ann Sothern, Fay Bainter, Ella Raines, Marsha Hunt, Frances Gifford and Joan Blondell make up a very sturdy cast. Grittier and better than I expected. ** ½

March 10th
“Dames” 1934 WB *
Yet another “We’re gonna put on the greatest show ever!” type film to showcase more Busby Berkeley insanity! The plot of this one is thinner than most but Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Guy Kibbee, Hugh Herbert and Zazu Pitts keep it interesting! Once again Joanie is just a dazzling knockout in Orry-Kelly fashions! Her first scene with Kibbee is hilarious! ** ½

March 11th
“Crooner” 1932 WB *
Silly, predictable but still mildly entertaining film stars David Manners as a bandleader-turned-crooner whose swelled head leads to his downfall. The most redeeming aspect of this picture is the presence of Ann Dvorak, sadly underused but still manages to give the film some punch, especially in one dramatic scene where she lets manners know where to get off! She looks great too! **

 My vintage Lobby Card for "Crooner" 1932

March 12th
“Friends of Mr. Sweeney” 1934 WB *
Funny, at times hilarious, film about a milquetoast newspaper editor, played perfectly by Charlie Ruggles, who at the badgering of his old college chum Eugene Pallette, decides to stop being a “Gimpus”! Ann Dvorak plays his sweet, beautiful secretary who of course is in love with him. Episodic and not all together coherent but its too much fun to care! ** ½

“Gentlemen Are Born” 1934 WB *
Interesting drama of four college chums who go out into the real “Depression Era” world after graduation, determined to take on the world, but finding out its not as easy as they thought! The cast is first-rate, with Franchot Tone, Dick Foran, Ross Alexander, Jean Muir, Ann Dvorak and Margaret Lindsay all giving out with fine performances. Sadly Ann’s character was phased out of the story far too soon but she made the most of it. ** ½

Franchot Tone and Margaret Lindsay

“Girls of the Road” 1939 Columbia *
Ann Dvorak takes center stage for a change in this interesting low budget quickie about the problems of women living on the road. Helen Mack and especially Lola Lane match Ann’s performance. Fairly gritty although one cant help but laugh that no matter what happens they always seem to have lipstick and mascara handy! ** ½

Ann Dvorak and Marjorie King

March 16th
“The Lash” 1930 WB *
Richard Barthelmess stars as a Mexican returning home to California after four years to find a much different world from what it was when he left. He ends up as outlaw “El Puma”, hunted by whites and eventually shunned by his own people for bringing more hatred and bigotry to them. Interesting film, never really hits the mark but Barthelmess and also Mary Astor are always worth seeing regardless. ** 1/2

Marion Nixon and Richard Barthelmess

March 20th
“Weary River” 1929 WB *
Fascinating silent/talkie hybrid with a great performance by Richard Barthelmess as a big shot gangster sent to the pen where he changes he ways by exploring his love of music. Betty Compson is wonderful as his very devoted and loving girlfriend and Robert Emmett O’Connor has a great scene as, of course…a cop! The way the film switched from silent to talking and back again was really interesting and served the film well! Nice work by director Frank Lloyd. ***

Betty Compson

March 23rd
“Mary Stevens, M.D.” 1933 WB *
Typical pre-code Kay Francis tear-jerker with Lyle Talbot playing a typical charismatic weakling jerk but its played well and is pretty racy and hard-hitting despite being extremely far-fetched. Thelma Todd has a few scenes and looked dynamite! ** ½

March 25th
“The Cheat” 1931 Paramount *
Silly excuse to have Tallulah Bankhead chew the scenery, which she did in an intense pull-out-all-the-stops courtroom conclusion. **

Tallulah Daaaaahling!

March 26th
“Merrily We Go To Hell” 1932 Paramount *
Fredric March and Sylvia Sidney elevate this tale of a sweet rich young woman marrying a drunken reporter turned playwright who cant seem to let go of his past involvement with an actress. For most of the picture I really hated March’s character’s guts, he was so inconsiderate and weak, but the resolution, brilliantly played out by him as always, saved the whole film for me. At this point in her career Sylvia had to be one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood but she also had a fiery talent and was extremely good in this. The two leads really sparred well but also showed convincing tenderness in the sweeter scenes. Cary Grant was amusing in a small role. ***

Sylvia Sidney

March 28th
“Hot Saturday” 1932 Paramount *
Interesting little film about small town girl Nancy Carol’s life getting turned upside down because of rampant gossip. Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Jane Darwell, Eddie Woods, Lillian Bond and Grady Sutton round out the cast. Its easy to see why Paramount was promoting cutie Carol as the “New” Clara Bow but her screen presence is no where near the level of the “It” girl! **

Cary Grant, Nancy Carol and Eddie Woods

March 29th
“A Notorious Affair” 1930 WB *
Beautiful Billie Dove made her talking film debut in this turgid melodrama. Basil Rathbone plays a rather unlikable violinist and Kay Francis pretty much steals the show as a woman with many dalliances. Both of the women look gorgeous and that is the chief reason to sit through this film. **

“Thirty Day Princess” 1934 Paramount *
Delightful romantic comedy with standout performances from Sylvia Sidney as a princess and an amateur actress who bear an uncanny resemblance to each other! Cary Grant, Edward Arnold, Henry Stephenson and Vince Barnett all do fine work as well. Has the added benefit of a sharp screenplay by the great Preston Sturges. Sylvia is drop dead beautiful and shows she is as adept at light comedy as she is with heavy drama. ***

 Sylvia Sidney

“Passion Flower” 1930 MGM *
Interesting but flawed love-triangle story with first-rate performances by Kay Johnson, Charles Bickford and Kay Francis. ** ½

The great Charles Bickford with Kay Francis

“Three Who Loved” 1931 RKO *
Another love-triangle tale with Betty Compson, Conrad Nagel and Robert Ames. A few interesting story ideas and a nice turn by Robert Emmet O’Connor as a cop (again) make it worthwhile. **

“Street of Women” 1932 WB *
Enjoyable Kay Francis vehicle has her playing the “inspiration” to an unhappily married big city architect. Plot takes some interesting turns and despite how far-fetched it is, its still quite enjoyable. Alan Dinehart, Gloria Stuart and Roland Young give able support. The star of this film however is Anton Grots mind-boggling set for Kay’s apartment. It is Deco heaven brought to an orgasmic level! ** ½

“Day of Reckoning” 1933 MGM *
Richard Dix, Madge Evans, Una Merkel and Conway Tearle elevate this rather meandering melodrama. Has a few interesting plot twists but seems like a film that can’t figure out what story it wants to tell. A rare chance to see Madge play an unsympathetic character, but regardless she is dazzling to look at! ** ½

Madge Evans photographed by George Hurrell

March 30th
“Thoroughbred” 1935 Ravina Studios *
 Toby Wing, in a rare top-billed performance, is the whole show in this fun little Canadian cheapie B-film about an ex-horse track reporter who wins a racehorse while shooting dice.**
(Thank you Robert McKay for making it possible for me to see this film!)

The glorious Toby Wing

“British Agent” 1934 WB *
Well-made but ridiculously far-fetched tale made eminently watchable by good performances from Leslie Howard and Kay Francis and the polished production directed by Michael Curtiz. ** ½

I never did get around to my Esther Williams festival...It's been such a dreary, cold spring so far that the last thing I was in the mood to see were people swimming and cavorting about in the sunshine!