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!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

February Movie Mania...

This month I spent revisiting films I havent seen in a few years to upwards of more than a decade! It wasnt my initial intention but it ended up basically being "Joan Blondell Month" as all but ONE of the 22 films viewed had her in the cast!

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

February 3rd
“I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang” 1932 WB
The great Paul Muni gives the performance of his career as James Allen, a decorated WWI veteran, falsely accused of robbery and sentenced to hard labor on a chain gang. The harrowing and tragic true story of Robert Burns is taken as a base and fashioned into one of the most potent and unforgettable Hollywood films ever made. First rate direction, editing, screenplay, cast and performances and a knockout finale that will leave you stunned! ****

Paul Muni received an Oscar nomination for his incredible performance but lost out to Charles Laughton for "The Private Lives of King Henry the VIII"

February 7th
“Sinner’s Holiday” 1930 WB
Interesting early talkie about carnival life was the screen debut of James Cagney. He is quite good even though he did go a bit over the top in the more emotional scenes. This was also the first pairing of Cagney with Joan Blondell and she is totally perfect as a bottom of the barrel floozy. Evalyn Knapp is fine but Grant Withers goes a bit overboard with the Eddie Cantor style bug eyes. I like the carnival atmosphere and quirky characters. Good little film. ** ½

February 8th
“Other Men’s Women” 1931 WB
James Cagney’s first film with Wild Bill Wellman is an engaging and fast moving little drama. Star Grant Withers gives a much better performance in this than “Sinner’s Holiday” and with people like Mary Astor, Reegis Toomey and of course, Cagney and Joan Blondell in the cast you really can’t miss! Joan and Withers did a great drunk scene together. As always Wellman added those special visual touches that set him apart from all other film makers. ***

“The Public Enemy” 1931 WB
James Cagney deservedly became a star with his powerhouse performance in William Wellman’s tough, fast moving gangster classic. Top-notch support from Joan Blondell, Mae Clark, Eddie Woods, Leslie “Nails Nathan” Fenton and Robert Emmett O’Connor. The only off note is Jean Harlow, she just does not fit in this picture at all in my opinion but she can't bring it down! For a 1931 production Wellman’s camera was amazingly mobile and the overall energy and toughness of the picture remains potent to this day. ****

February 10th
“Blonde Crazy” 1931 WB
Fast-moving, fast talking pre-coder with James Cagney and Joan Blondell hooking up as a team of con-artists working their way from small town to big city and getting into all sorts of money and trouble along the way! Flirty, sexy and highly enjoyable! This picture is one of the best showcases for Joanie and Jimmy’s wonderful chemistry! *** ½

February 11th
“The Crowd Roars” 1932 WB
Fast-paced Howard Hawks film set amidst the sport of car racing. First-rate cast with James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Eric Linden and especially Ann Dvorak all giving out with fine performances. The story is nothing new but its well-done and entertaining. Blondell and Dvorak are both so fucking easy on the eyes! **1/2

February 12th
“Footlight Parade” 1933 WB
The apex of the 1930’s musical is this near manic-paced masterpiece about the ups and downs of a Prologue production company, run by James Cagney and his ever so devoted secretary Joan Blondell. Many of the best of WB stock company fill out the cast including Frank McHugh, Guy Kibbee, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Claire Dodd, Ruth Donnelly, Hugh Herbert and on and on it goes! Three show-stopping Busby Berkley numbers finish off the film in grand style! Masterfully directed by the great Lloyd Bacon! It just doesn’t get any better than this! **** 

Joan Blondell, James Cagney and Ruby Keeler in "Footlight Parade"

Joan Blondell behind the scenes during the making of "Footlight Parade"

February 16th
“He Was Her Man” 1934 WB
James Cagney and Joan Blondell team up for the very last time in this odd downbeat melodrama about a safecracker looking to get back at the guys who let him take a rap for something he didn’t do. A chance meeting with down-on-her luck Joan Blondell complicates things. A good cast makes the most of the material. It is rather leisurely paced, especially considering that it was directed by Lloyd Bacon, but I enjoyed it much more this time than when I first saw it many years ago. ** ½

A Lobby Card I WISH I Owned!

“Havana Widows” 1933 WB
Highly entertaining, over the top tale of two Gold Diggers, played by Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell, high-tailing it down to Cuba to hook a millionaire or two. Silly, fast-paced and a whole lot of fun and Joan is shown in some of Orry Kelly’s most revealing and outrageous fashions. She’s pure sex on a stick! ***

Frank McHugh, Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, Lyle Talbot, Ruth Donnelly and Glenda Farrell in "Havana Widows" 1933

February 17th
“Were In The Money” 1935 WB
Silly, light-hearted fluff with Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell getting into all kinds of mischief as process servers. Hugh Herbert gets a bit tough to take after a while with his over the top hoo-hoo antics but it’s all in fun and the gals look fantastic! **

Joan Blondell with Ross Alexander in "We're in the Money" 1935

“Three On A Match” 1932 WB
Ann Dvorak gives a tour de force performance in one of Warner Bros. most quintessentially “WB” films of the 1930’s. The remaining cast – Joan Blondell, Bette Davis, Warren William, Lyle Talbot, Humphrey Bogart, Allen Jenkins, Jack LaRue and Edward Arnold are all superb as well but this was Ann’s moment to shine and she is utterly compelling. The film itself is a marvel of economic storytelling showing the lives of three women from childhood to adult and what happens when their paths cross. A fantastic picture on every level. Should be required viewing for any classic film fan! ****

Joan Blondell and Bette Davis out on location while filming "Three on a Match" 1932

February 18th
“Night Nurse” 1931 WB
Ultra-hard boiled William Wellman picture with the always excellent Barbara Stanwyck playing a night shift nurse. Joan Blondell is her gum-smacking sidekick, Ben Lyon a bootlegger with the hots for her and Clark Gable, in a rare “Heavy” role, really lets her have it on the chin! Off-beat picture has plenty of Wellman visual touches and humor, plus Babs and Joanie spend a good percentage of the picture in their shreddies! And on top of everything else my coveted Art Deco “DESK” makes an appearance! ***

Ben Lyons, Joan Blondell and Barbara Stanwyck in "Night Nurse" 1931

I think Joan Blondell spent more time on-screen in her underwear than any other actress of her era!

“The Famous Ferguson Case” 1932 WB
Hard-boiled look at sensationalistic journalism pulls no punches right to the end! A fantastic performance by Joan Blondell and an ace supporting cast with ever the slimeball Kenneth Thomson, Leslie Fenton, Grant Mitchell, Adrienne Dore, Vivienne Osborne, Leon Ames and Tom Brown. Unflinchingly shows what can happen when newspapermen start “making” the news instead of reporting it! I like to call this the small town version of “Five Star Final” ***

Joan Blondell, Kenneth Thomson and Adrienne Dore in "The Famous Ferguson Case" 1932

“Miss Pinkerton” 1933 WB
Fun little comedy-mystery film with Joan Blondell as a nurse working in a house full of odd people and even odder goings on! George Brent is a detective investigating a murder/suicide that occurred in the house. I get the distinct impression this was meant to be a series but never made it past the first film. **

“Union Depot” 1931 WB
Joan Blondell, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Guy Kibbee excel in this fast-moving drama that takes place during one day at a train depot. When a drunken Frank McHugh accidentally leaves his suitcase in the men’s room, hobo Doug gets to play “Gentleman for a day”.  Excellent performances, gritty atmosphere and no cop-out at the finish make this a winner. ***

February 19th
“Kansas City Princess” 1934 WB
Silly, fast-moving nonsense with Joan Blondell and Glenda Farrell up to their gold digging antics again. Robert Armstrong, Hugh Herbert and Vince Barnett all give broad performances as various types of dim wits. Once again, Joan is dressed by Orry-Kelly and looks killer! ** ½

February 20th
“God’s Gift To Women” 1931 WB
Fairly limp Frank Fay comedy vehicle is of interest mainly for the rare talking film appearance of Louise Brooks. She looks great but still, Joan Blondell takes top honors in the looks department and has a really funny scene with Fay about midway through the picture. There’s also a nice catfight with Joan, Louise and Yola D’Avril! Of other interest is the stunning Deco art direction by Robert M Haas, including my beloved “DESK”!!! **

February 21st
“Lawyer Man” 1932 WB
The one and only teaming of Joan Blondell with William Powell is this fun, fast-moving little film about a, you guessed it…Lawyer! Joanie is his faithful, devoted and of course ever-loving secretary that he is, of course, completely clueless about. Supporting cast includes Claire Dodd, David Landau and an uncredited (and unlisted at IMDB!) appearance by Patricia Ellis as one of Powell’s other secretaries. This info is now in the process of being added to the IMDB Database! ***

February 23rd
“Gold Diggers of 1933” 1933 WB
Joan Blondell, Warren William, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Aline MacMahon and Guy Kibbee star in this spectacular depression era musical extravaganza. Three showgirls trying to find work stumble into all sorts of interesting situations while producer Ned Sparks tries to “put on the show”! Several Busby Berkeley numbers throughout, including the opener “We’re in the Money”, where Ginger Rogers spouts pig-latin and the absolutely jaw-dropping, show-stopping, unforgettable finale “My Forgotten Man”. A first-rate job by director Mervyn LeRoy! ****

February 24th
“Smarty” 1934 WB
Joan Blondell and Warren William team up for the last of their four films together and its one of the most whacked and bizarre of the entire pre-code era! I wouldn’t think of giving away the plot (if you can call it that) but it’s certainly a unique picture with a great supporting cast including Edward Everett Horton, Frank McHugh and Claire Dodd. Joan’s anatomy is generously and gloriously on display for pretty much the entire film! ** ½

A publicity pic I own for the TV release of "Smarty" in the 1950's signed by Joan.

“Goodbye Again” 1933 WB
Silly, sexy, fast-moving fun with Warren William as an author being reunited with the woman, wonderfully played by Genevieve Tobin, who thinks she is the inspiration for his novels. Joan Blondell is of course his devoted, loving and under appreciated secretary. Great supporting cast with Wallace Ford, Hugh Herbert, Helen Chandler and Hobart Cavanaugh. Despite this being a comedy, the dramatic scene where Joan gives Willy a piece of her mind (and two slaps in the face!) is the best part of the film! ** ½

Helen Chandler, Wallace Ford, Genevieve Tobin, Hugh Herbert, Warren William and Joan Blondell in "Goodbye Again" 1933

February 26th
“Blondie Johnson” 1933 WB
An ace cast including Joan Blondell, Chester Morris and Allen Jenkins makes the most of the uneven story of a down on her luck dame getting wise and going for the dough at all costs! This could have and should have been a better film but its still decently entertaining and of course Joan looks fantastic! ** ½

To date this is my one and only Joan Blondell Lobby card. I've had it for about 15 years now.

In March its back to "New to Me" films including a slew of Esther Williams films I have on deck! I figure if Esther cant get me ready for spring NO one can! But I'm 6 films behind for February so first up is to play catch up on a few more films I havent seen in a while!